The Healing Power of Food

A Doctor’s Journey from Disease to Health.

Originally posted on Sep 26, 2018, 10:36 am. Updated on Oct. 16, 2019.

If you’re doubtful of the healing power of food, just ask Brooke Goldner, M.D. When she was 16 and diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Nephritis with stage four kidney disease, she never thought she would reach the age of 40. Now she’s healed, healthy and was featured on the cover of Vegan Health & Fitness magazine’s Fit Over 40 issue in April 2018. That’s a transformation that she credits almost entirely to the way she eats. Today, as a best-selling author, the founder of, and creator of the Hyper-Nourishing Nutrition Protocol for Lupus Recovery, she’s helping others to heal themselves with food as well.

As I was interviewing Dr. Goldner for my post on Exploring a Plant-Based Diet, she shared her story with me. There was simply no way I could fit in all of the powerful information she gave me into that one post, so I decided to begin my new profile series on the Healing Power of Food with Dr. Goldner’s journey from disease to health. She reveals the not-so-secret way that she overcame her debilitating and potentially deadly disease and some things you can do to heal your body and feel your best.

** The end of this post was updated in October 2019 with information about the amount of nutrition training U.S. doctors get in medical school.

Photo of different types of greens on grocery store shelf that serve as healing foods
Photo by Madison Inouye from Pexels
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10 Healthy Snacks for Adults

Get Energized the Healthy Way!

Snacks are a key component to staying healthy as far as I’m concerned. In fact, there’s no better way to sabotage how I want to be eating than to get hungry or tired in the middle of the afternoon with nothing around but chips or sweets. That’s why I think it’s just as important that we stay well-stocked with healthy snacks for us as it is to have plenty of snacks for our kids. Sometimes the two may overlap, but other times we may want something a bit more… adult. The main thing is that we have options for getting energized the healthy way, which is why I wanted to let you know my 10 favorite healthy snacks for adults. 

Please Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through some of the links included in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.

1. A Handful of Nuts

The key to eating nuts is that you really do want to keep it to a handful and that you don’t eat the kind that have been roasted in oil and salt. According to the Mayo Clinic, a serving size of nuts is considered to be 1/3 cup. It’s important to stick with that as a general rule because nuts are high in calories. They also have a higher fat content, but it’s the healthy kind – monosaturated fat and omega-3 – so you don’t need to worry about that as much if you keep to the recommended service size. I only buy and eat raw, organic nuts because those that are roasted in oil and salt can start to get fairly unhealthy. 

2. Energy or Protein Balls

Energy or protein balls of any kind are a great afternoon pick-me-up. Since these are usually made with some type of nut butter or dates, you’ll want to eat only one ball for your snack. That may sound like it wouldn’t be enough, but trust me, it is! These Raw Chocolate Balls from Raw Food Recipes are my favorites, but I have plenty of others that I can recommend here as well. 

3. Dark Chocolate

Many of you know how I feel about dark chocolate, but in case you don’t, I love it! It’s a great, healthy afternoon boost that I eat nearly every day. You can find out the secret to eating chocolate every day in a healthy way here.

4. Piece of Fruit

Fruit is a great snack because many types don’t need a lot of preparation, and they provide natural sugar as well as plenty of nutrients. The Mayo Clinic says that “Examples of one serving include one medium fruit, or 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit.” If you’re eating a piece of fruit with an edible peel, leave it on if possible. You definitely want the fiber and other goodness it contains. If you find that you need a little more umph! than what a single piece of fruit provides, registered dietician Carol Aguirre from Nutrition Connections recommends eating it with peanut butter or some other type of nut butter to add protein. I love an apple or banana with Simple Truth organic peanut butter. 

5. Trail Mix

There are so many different types of trail mix that you can buy or make yourself. While I do have a few store-bought favorites that I’ll get every now and then, I highly recommend a homemade mix so that you can have control over the ingredients. One of the main things to remember with trail mix is portion control. I don’t know about you, but I could easily sit down with an entire bag or recipe and munch until I’ve eaten the whole thing. To keep from doing that, measure out one portion into a bowl and put the rest away. Here’s the link to one of my favorites – Healthy Homemade Nut Free Trail Mix from Better With Cake. 

6. Rice Cake with Peanut Butter

I was reminded of this easy and healthy snack by Carol Aguirre as well. Talk about a simple and satisfying energy boost! Most peanut butter says that 2 tablespoons is a serving, but honestly, I think that’s a lot. One tablespoon is all I usually need to give my rice cake a thin covering that adds taste, flavor and protein. 

Photo of vegetables and hummus as an example of healthy snacks for adults

7. Cut Up Veggies and Hummus

The sky is the limit as far as I’m concerned when it comes to veggies that are good to dip in hummus. You have sliced bell pepper, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and many more. Making your own hummus is so easy and budget friendly. It also puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding which ingredients you do and don’t want. If you need a good recipe, be sure and try Linda Watson’s Hummus from Wildly Affordable Organic (Affiliate Link). 

8. Crackers and Bean Dip

Crackers and some type of bean dip are a fantastic, portable healthy snack for adults that gives you both some energizing carbs as well as protein. The key is making sure that your crackers are whole grain or made with a grain-free flour so that they provide you with complex and not simple carbs. My favorite cracker and bean dip combination is the Irresistible White Bean Dip with 4-Ingredient Paleo Crackers by Dreena Burton and published on the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s website. 

9. Boiled Egg

A boiled egg makes a great protein-packed snack. Simply boil a bunch at one time, peel them when they’re cool and have them ready so that you can pull out one at a time when you need it. 

10. Spicy Chickpeas

Spicy chickpeas are a fabulous way to add flavor, protein and plenty of other healthy stuff to your afternoon. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, chickpeas are rich in protein, folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Just like with everything else though, portion control is key. My favorite version is this Spicy Roasted Chickpeas recipe from Natural Chow.

Bottom Line on Healthy Snacks for Adults

The bottom line on healthy snacks for adults is remembering that the point of a snack isn’t to be another meal. It’s to take the edge off your hunger and boost your energy so that you can do everything that you want to do until it’s time for your next meal. If you find that you’re consistently wanting heavier snacks, you may want to re-think what you’re eating for your meals. If it is a true snack that you’re looking for, hopefully the suggestions listed here will give you some ideas. Happy healthy snacking!!

Seasonal Produce Spotlight: The Health Benefits of Cauliflower

How to Eat Cauliflower and How Much It Costs.

There’s a reason why cauliflower is everywhere these days. It’s so versatile! It’s a vegetable and a carbohydrate substitute all rolled into one. While I was late in being convinced of the merits of broccoli, I’ve always loved cauliflower and am glad to see it get its time in the spotlight. Besides, the health benefits of cauliflower are so numerous, what’s not to love?

Photos of cauliflower (whole and minced) as an example of the health benefits of cauliflower

What is Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, which means that it belongs to the Brassica family2. Other cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, bok choy, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Cauliflower is a cool weather crop and is in season in the spring and fall3 – before it gets too hot and after the heat of summer has passed. An interesting fact is that the white part of the plant that we eat is called a “curd3,” which makes sense because that’s the word that always comes to mind when I see it. 

Nutrients in Cauliflower

The nutrients in cauliflower are numerous. In fact, it’s ranked 24 on a list of what the CDC calls Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables. These fruits and vegetables provide, “on average, 10 percent or more daily value per 100 kcal of 17 qualifying nutrients.” Those nutrients are potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K1

Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Of course, the fact that cauliflower is low in net carbs is why it has suddenly surged in popularity recently. Because it’s so versatile, it can easily be used as a substitute for rice, mashed potatoes and even pizza crust. While I’m more of a fan of making healthy eating part of your lifestyle and not a huge supporter of any so-called “diet,” the fact is that many of us eat way too many starchy foods that offer little to no nutritional value. One way of addressing the many health problems that can be caused by this is portion control. Another, and the main way that I’ve found back to better health, is adding more nutrient-dense foods like cauliflower and reducing the foods that don’t add much benefit. 

One of the reasons that cauliflower is so low in net carbs is that it’s high in fiber. Eating more fiber helps to lower our risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and gastrointestinal disease5. The primary way of figuring out net carbs in a food is to subtract the amount of fiber from the amount of carbohydrates. That means that our example above of 1 cup of raw cauliflower has approximately 3.2 grams of net carbs. 

Besides being high in fiber, the number of other nutrients associated with vegetables in the Brassica family2 mean that there are many additional health benefits of cauliflower as well. Studies show that the vegetables in this family help prevent oxidative stress, stimulate the immune system and decrease the risk of cancer6. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these include breast, pancreatic, bladder, lung, prostate and colon cancers2

How to Prepare Cauliflower

Here are some of the healthiest ways that you can prepare cauliflower. 

  • Steam it to have as a side dish alone or with other vegetables.
  • Roast it to have as a side dish alone or with other vegetables.
  • Sauté it in olive or avocado oil in a stir-fry.
  • Raw. Even as a child, cauliflower was one of the few vegetables that I would willingly eat raw because it was somewhat crunchy. You can eat it raw by itself, on salads or simply dipped in some type of sauce or dressing. 

Other, and probably more exciting, ways to prepare cauliflower include the following.

Budget Benefits of Cauliflower

If you’re buying whole, fresh cauliflower, the most budget-friendly way to do it is to buy it in-season. That again is in the spring or fall. You can usually find a large head at that time for under $3. If it’s not in-season, it usually costs between $3-$4. Depending on how it’s fixed, I usually get 4-5 servings out of a large head. 

If you’re trying to limit chemical exposure to your food while also keeping grocery costs as low as possible, it’s important to know that cauliflower is on the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen list. That means that its pesticide-load is low and doesn’t necessarily need to be organic.

One of the biggest questions I had when I started making cauliflower rice was whether it was cheaper or just as cheap to buy the pre-riced fresh or frozen versions rather than to make it from a head. While you can buy it frozen cheaper in bulk at a shopping club, unless it’s on sale, you will usually get more for your money if you buy a whole head fresh and mince it yourself. 

If having the time or energy to cut up the cauliflower seems to be a challenge for you, you can easily prep it over the weekend and then quickly mince it when you’re ready for it. You can also mince it when you do the rest of your food prep for the week and have it ready as a quick and easy convenience food whenever you need it. 

Bottom Line on the Health Benefits of Cauliflower

However you prepare it, cauliflower is a great budget-friendly vegetable to have as part of your regular eating habits. The nutritional value packed into one head will always make it one of the healthiest foods available, whether it’s part of the latest diet trend or not.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Crunchy and Cruciferous: You’ll Love This Special Family of Veggies.
  3. University of Illinois Extension. Watch Your Garden Grow: Cauliflower.
  4. USDA. Food Data Central.
  5. Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, Waters V, Williams CL. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x. PMID: 19335713.
  6. Kapusta-Duch J, Kopeć A, Piatkowska E, Borczak B, Leszczyńska T. The beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on human health. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2012;63(4):389-95. PMID: 23631258.

How to Eat Healthy While Traveling by Car

9 Tips to Take on the Road for Holiday Travel or Anytime.

If you’re going to be traveling this holiday season, you very well may have decided to go by car in order to have more control over your surroundings and situation. If that’s the case, continuing to maintain healthy eating habits while you travel will help you to feel your best and ensure that if you are exposed to any viruses, your body is in a good place to tackle them head on. As someone who has done this both successfully and learned the hard way why it is so important, I’m sharing my top 9 tips for how to eat healthy while traveling by car for holiday travel or anytime. 

Photo of car with cooler sitting beside it as example of how to eat healthy while traveling
Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

Please Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through some of the links included in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.

Keep eating as normally as possible while on the road

Continuing to eat healthy while traveling is quite simply less of a shock to your system than loading up on convenience store and fast food if that’s not something that you’re used to. While I’m usually fairly good about this, I did the opposite recently and was not in a good place by the return trip home. I did not plan ahead and thought that I would be able to find plenty to eat along the way. There was plenty to eat, but it was not healthy, and my digestive system suffered. 

Take a cooler

A large cooler is a healthy traveler’s best friend. I’ve taken food for an entire week before while living out of a hotel room and been just fine. It allows you to take plenty of food for the road as well as if you need to buy and store items when you arrive at your destination. Pre-made salads, hummus, beans, cut up chicken and vegetables are suddenly an option just by having a good cooler. It also lets you store sandwich meat, which isn’t necessarily the healthiest choice but is better than much of the fast food that you might get. 

Use ice packs, not bags of ice

It took me a while to figure this one out, but ice packs are much easier, cleaner and less expensive than packing your cooler full of ice. The brand that I highly recommend is Cooler Shock (affiliate link). I have 4 of their 10 x 10 mid-size freeze packs, and they really do stay cold for the advertised 24 – 48 hours. 

Stay in a hotel with microwave and mini-fridge

If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure when you’re making your reservation that it has a microwave and mini-fridge. If you do this, eating healthy while traveling is easy. That’s especially true in 2020, when most hotels that might usually serve hot breakfast options are having to serve items that can easily be packed to go instead. If you need some ideas on how to best make use of your microwave and mini-fridge, be sure to check out The Fun Sized Life’s 30 Healthy Meals to Make in a Hotel Room While You Travel

Take lots of snacks

Whether you usually snack or not, you can count on doing it more than normal while traveling. That’s why it’s important to have plenty of healthy options on hand for everyone that’s traveling with you. Not only is this healthier for you overall, it’s also much cheaper than buying snacks at a convenience store. My general rule of thumb is to take twice as many snacks than I feel like I would normally need because as I mentioned, we simply snack more when traveling, especially by car. 

Take refillable water bottles

Toting around cases of plastic water bottles may seem like the easiest option when traveling, but it’s not good for our health and it’s certainly not good for the environment. Taking two large refillable water bottles per person is a much better way to do it. These can be filled up at the beginning of the day and stored in the cooler. They can then be refilled as needed at restaurants or convenience stores. While I love Klean Kanteen’s Classic Stainless Steel 40-ounce Water Bottle (affiliate link), I can also recommend Takeya’s Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle(affiliate link). My son has one of these, and it literally still has ice in it the next day. 

Plan stops for meals

If you’re going to stop for a meal or go through a drive-thru, plan ahead enough that you can gauge where you’re going to be at the approximate time that you’ll want to stop. That way, you can look ahead to see what types of restaurants are available that serve healthy or healthier options. You can even place a “to go” order that will be ready when you arrive as opposed to having to settle on whatever is available at the exit where you happen to stop. 

Take griddle

If you have a griddle, your ability to eat healthy while traveling just expanded greatly. While you don’t want to cook anything that will give off a lot of smoke in a hotel room, scrambled eggs, protein pancakes, whole wheat toast and healthy hash browns are all potential meals. If you have a car outlet adapter, you can even pull off at a park or rest area, plug in and make your meal there as well. 

Stay in a hotel with a kitchenette

If you’re in a hotel with a kitchenette, the sky is the limit when it comes to eating healthy while traveling. While I would limit fixing major meals to when you are not on a rushed timeline, making simple meals can be a time and money saver in addition to a way to eat healthy. My recommendation is to buy the food you’ll need ahead of time and store anything perishable in your cooler so that you can simply pull it out when you arrive at your hotel. After a long day of traveling, the last thing that you’ll want to do is to stop at a grocery store and then fix your food. 

Bottom Line on Eating Healthy While Traveling

The goal of eating healthy while traveling is not to be too strict with yourself. If you can only do it part of the time, that’s certainly better than not doing it at all. The goal is that you’re able to feel your best and enjoy the experience. 

If you have any other tips for eating healthy while traveling, feel free to add them in the comments, so that we can all learn from each other. 

How and Why You Can Eat Chocolate Every Day

The Secret to Eating Chocolate Every Day in a Healthy Way.

1:30-2:00 p.m. That’s the time that my energy usually starts to slump or that I just simply need a pick-me-up. What do I turn to? Chocolate! That’s right. Nearly every day. I can do this because I eat the healthier kind – dark – in a very intentional but delicious way. If you crave chocolate or just need something sweet to give you an afternoon boost, I’m here to tell you how and why you can eat chocolate every day in a healthy way.

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

What is Dark Chocolate?

According to a tour of Switzerland’s Maison Cailler chocolate factory, there are three main kinds of chocolate. Those are dark, milk and white. For our purposes, we’re focusing on dark. The National Confectioners Association says that dark chocolate is “simply chocolate liquor (the centers of cocoa beans ground to a liquid), extra cocoa butter, sugar, an emulsifier (often lecithin) and vanilla or other flavorings.1” Bittersweet chocolate is the darkest of eating chocolate and has the highest amount of chocolate liquor. You can get a fairly good idea of what that amount is from the cacao percentage listed on the packaging.1 70 percent or higher is the best. In addition to high amounts of chocolate liquor, dark chocolate also contains less sugar than milk or white chocolate. 

Why You Should Eat Chocolate Every Day

Here are my top reasons for why I feel strongly that it’s okay to eat dark chocolate every day.

It’s a small hit of sugar to increase energy

Let’s face it, most of us have a time during the day when our level of energy dips. If it’s a large dip or you regularly feel like you’re dragging through the afternoon, you should definitely take a look at the amount of sleep that you’re getting, your eating habits overall and the amount of water that you’re drinking2. It’s also important to keep in mind that while a large amount of sugar may quickly increase your level of energy, you’ll probably feel a fairly dramatic “sugar crash” after. If it’s simply that you feel like you need a little something to help you shift into a different gear, a small amount of sugar from eating dark chocolate can do the trick. With the way that I eat it, we’re talking about a VERY small amount of sugar that does not result in that dreaded crash later. 

Dark chocolate may be a mood booster

If you’re feeling down, a study published in Depression & Anxiety shows that eating dark chocolate may help boost mood and reduce symptoms of depression3

It’s an easy and relatively healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth

If you have a sweet tooth, the last thing that you want is to feel like you’re depriving yourself. In most cases, that only increases the chance of binging on your favorite sugary food at some point. Letting yourself enjoy a little something each day or on a regular basis, prevents any feelings of deprivation. In addition, that small amount becomes your satisfying norm. 

Dark chocolate has health benefits

Studies show that even 1-2 small squares of dark chocolate every day can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes4

How to Eat Chocolate Every Day

I usually buy dark chocolate with a 70-85% Cacao content that comes in a bar with rows of three pieces. The nutrition label says that 10 pieces are a serving size. Unfortunately, that includes 190 calories, 15 grams of fat (9 of them saturated) and 7 net carbs with 4 grams of added sugar. That’s all a bit much for me for a small snack. However, if I break off and eat one row of three pieces, that’s 57 calories, 4.5 grams of fat (2.7 of them saturated) and 2.1 grams of net carbs with 1.2 grams of added sugar. Those aren’t unhealthy amounts at all and honestly, it’s just the right amount to help me round the curve for the afternoon. As an added bonus, doing it that way makes one bar last for 10 days, making it a very affordable treat. 

Pro Tip: You’ll note that I said I break off the row that I’m going to eat. You don’t want to sit down with the entire bar and assume that you’ll stop yourself. It eliminates any temptation if you break the row off, wrap the bar back up, put it away and then enjoy your chocolate.

Organic and Fair Trade Chocolate

It’s important to note that when we’re talking about chocolate, I believe that buying a brand that is organic and Fair Trade is the way to go. While heavy pesticide use on cocoa is not as prevalent as it once was, if chocolate doesn’t indicate that it’s organic, it was probably sprayed with chemicals at some point. Since the International Cocoa Organization said as recently as 2015 that application practices remain one of the most neglected and “weakest links” in pesticide use, I prefer knowing that my chocolate had little to no chemical exposure5

In addition, the Fair Trade symbol tells you a lot about your chocolate. It means that it was grown in a way that supports responsible companies, treats farmers and workers fairly and protects the environment. To me, that makes eating chocolate every day all the more delicious. 

My Favorite Brand of Dark Chocolate

My favorite brand is by far Green & Black’s organic 85% dark chocolate. It’s organic, fair trade and delicious! While it can cost up to $3.50 in the grocery store, you can buy a pack of 10 bars through Amazon. (Not an affiliate link. Just a great price!) Remember though, if you make it last for 10 days, even paying $3.50 is only 35 cents a day. 

Green & Black’s is the one that has the nutritional values mentioned above.

Bottom Line on How to Eat Chocolate Every Day

You certainly don’t have to eat chocolate every day, but hopefully you’ve seen here that you don’t have to avoid it either. You just have to be strategic in how you get your daily dose of indulgence.

If you enjoy eating dark chocolate, let us know in the comments below what your favorite brand is.

The Role of Nutrition in Positive Body Image

A Nutrition Professional Shares Her Inspiring Story of Change and Body Acceptance.

There are a lot of very strong opinions and messages out there when it comes to body image these days. So much so that it’s enough to make our heads spin. Is it okay to want to change if we’re physically not feeling healthy or is it not? If we really don’t want that piece of chocolate cake, is it okay to say no or is that giving in to diet culture? What does the term “positive body image” really even mean? The questions, the doubts and the polarizing messaging can be deafening. So, who are we women supposed to listen to? It turns out that our body has many of the answers; we just have to know how to hear them. 

That’s what Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant and Precision Nutrition Level One Coach Jenna Lessner from over at Simply Nurtured teaches from a place of first-hand experience. Through a journey to what she calls self-love and food freedom, she was able to lose 132 pounds after nearly hitting 295 pounds on the scale. Now, she’s helping other women learn about the role of nutrition in positive body image as they come to their own place of body acceptance. She was kind enough to share her thoughts and expertise on this in a Q&A with me. 

Photo of a woman's hand holding up a sticky note saying "You are beautiful" as an example of positive body image

Peppermint Tea & Me: What is your story and how did you decide that this was the profession for you?

Jenna Lessner: For as long as I can remember, I’d used food for comfort. When I graduated university with a Bachelor of Science degree in 2010, my weight had climbed to 295 pounds. The day that I stepped on the scale and saw that number staring back at me, I think that was a big turning point in my life. I vowed that I wouldn’t reach 300 pounds. 

Photo of Jenna Lessner
Jenna Lessner,
Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant
and Precision Nutrition Level One Coach 

That vow came at the price of a vicious cycle of deprivation and binge eating. Three years later, I was still in that same perpetuating cycle. I was extremely unhealthy physically and mentally. I was full of self-loathing, and I hated myself. In 2013, something shifted in me, and I knew that I could no longer live like that.

I began to heal the relationship that I had with food by allowing myself to actually feel the emotions instead of numbing them with food, and I began moving my body and connecting with my body like I never had before. I also realized how the foods that I was choosing to eat on a regular basis were impacting my energy levels, my sleep, my mental health and my emotional health. That was really the aha! moment that lead me to a 132-pound weight loss and to study nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in Calgary.

PTM: What do you consider to be a positive body image?

JL: I think body image refers to how an individual sees their body. It’s your own perception of your body and what you believe about your appearance. It’s also how you feel and move in your body. So, I think a positive body image is more than tolerating what you look like. It means to truly accept yourself and appreciate your body. It means that you aren’t trying to fit your body into this box of what you think it should look like. 

PTM: What is meant by “diet culture?”

JL: I think that it’s this belief that thinness or being skinny equates to our worth or is tied to our health. It prioritizes weight, shape and size over wellness. I think that there is a distinct difference between those things. I feel that there is this very large misconception in the diet industry that if you just lose that 20 pounds, you’ll be happy, and you’ll love yourself. That’s not even close to being true. Happiness is a feeling or showing of pleasure, and it’s a sense of confidence or satisfaction. The definition of happiness does not mention one’s weight or body size, no matter where you look that up. 

PTM: What role does diet culture play in body image?

JL: I think that diet culture promotes this idea that restricting food or punishing ourselves with maybe exercise will result in weight loss and in turn will provide you with those feelings of worthiness, acceptance and being enough. It distracts people from really connecting to their bodies and tuning into how specific foods will make their body feel. Diet culture replaces that with a regimented prescription for a smaller body. It also invites in food shaming and body shaming with questions and statements such as, “Are you really going to eat that?” or “I thought you were on a diet.” That type of culture is damaging to our mental and emotional health. 

PTM: What is the difference between healthy eating habits and diet culture?

JL: I believe that it comes down to intention. When we look at the purpose and objective behind our actions, it changes how we view the situation or how we even view food. If you choose to eat a salad, the intention could be, “Oh, I need to lose weight in order to accept my body. This salad is really low calorie, and it’s going to help me get there.” Or, “I’m choosing to eat this nutritious salad because I love my body and I want to provide it nourishing foods so that it feels really good.” The intention behind any action, I think is the key. 

PTM: How do healthy eating habits, a positive body image and a healthy lifestyle all fit together?

JL: I think that when you intend to take care of your body, live a healthy lifestyle, and choose healthy eating habits, it comes from a place of love and appreciation. You choose to eat foods that energize you and make you feel good and that support your wellbeing physically and mentally. You choose to exercise frequently and rest when you need it. I also think that when you provide your body with nourishing foods that it needs for optimal function and vitality, your body feels really freakin’ good. When you love yourself, you provide your body with nourishing foods that it needs for optimal health and vitality. 

PTM: In this day and time, when there is so much emphasis on calling out fat shaming and recognizing the role that negative body image plays in eating disorders, women are being told to accept themselves just the way they are. While that’s a good thing, in many cases, women of all sizes are being made to feel like they shouldn’t want to change their weight or body size and if they do, they’re giving in to diet culture. What are your thoughts on a woman recognizing that she doesn’t feel good or healthy in her body and that she wants to make changes, including losing weight and how she eats? 

JL: I think Rachel Hollis said that “Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.” It’s a beautiful statement but can be hard in reality when you are dealing with that. I also believe that people project their own insecurities onto others. If someone is shaming you for your weight or desire to get healthier so you feel more comfortable in your body, is it possible that they’re struggling with their own body issues and struggle with food? I don’t think people should be shamed for the size of their body, and I don’t think people should be shamed for choosing to eat a healthier way so that they feel good in their body. 

As someone who has formerly been almost 300 pounds, I know what it’s like to receive those judgmental stares or comments or be the brunt of someone’s cruel joke. I also know how physically hard it is to carry that much weight. Walking up a single flight of stairs to me felt like I was out of breath, and I needed to take a little break before I could proceed. There were times when tying my shoe was a chore, my knees always hurt and dropping something on the floor left me wondering if I really need that anyway. It was uncomfortable. So, I understand that desire to shed weight so you do feel healthier and can actually move in your body and do the things that you want to do. 

Where I struggle with some of the positive body image messages is that we’ve taken this 180-degree turn in the opposite direction because some of them are promoting being overweight and living an unhealthy lifestyle and then shaming weight loss. You can’t call that body positivity if you’re shaming someone for something else. 

PTM: If you do have that desire to lose weight, does that mean that you no longer have a positive body image?

JL: I don’t think so. I think that you can love yourself and still want to change because that’s called growth. I work with people every day that desire to live in a smaller body, and I really ask them to define their why. Often people tell me that they want to be able to move better, that they want to be able to feel good in their bodies, to have a healthy lifestyle and to be around when their children start having grandchildren or doing things with their children right now instead of watching them from the sidelines. I think that why you want to change is really a key indicator and motivator in any change.

PTM: What are the first questions that you ask a woman who comes to you and says that she’s not happy with the way that she feels and/or she’s not happy with her body and she wants to make changes in how she eats?

JL: One of the first questions I ask any client is why. Why do they want to make this change now?  I think that intrinsic motivation is huge. When you can make an emotional connection to why you want to make any change, it empowers you in your choices. 

That’s basically what I did in 2013. I got super clear on why I wanted to lose weight. It wasn’t just an arbitrary number or a goal to be healthier. I realized the life that I wanted to live and with that, something needed to change. I had this vision of being 70 and climbing mountains, running marathons well into my 60s and then chasing my grandchildren around a playground instead of watching them from a park bench. None of that would be possible if I didn’t make some changes. So, I also ask clients, “How do you want to feel in your body? What is that feeling that you’re really seeking through weight loss, and can you tap into that right now?”

PTM: What are the first steps that you would advise a woman in that situation to take in changing how she eats?

JL: To bring awareness of how the food that she’s currently eating is making her feel in her body. Getting curious as to which foods make her feel alive and energized and which foods are leaving her feeling lethargic or bloated. A symptom from a food could be pretty much anything. Fatigue is a number one symptom that I see but even digestive issues, bloating or elimination issues. Also, just getting curious and asking your body, ‘What am I feeling after I eat this? What am I noticing?’ and creating that awareness. If you can become aware of how different foods affect your body and become aware of the thoughts that you’re having about your body that are on repeat, you are well on your way without even changing anything. 

My Thoughts on Positive Body Image

I love Jenna’s message so much because it’s all about nurturing, caring for and appreciating our bodies whatever our shape or size. Positive body image is about loving ourselves. It’s our foundation as we work toward and achieve our own version of real health. I have learned and am still learning with each new phase of life what that feels like for me, and I strongly believe that each of us deserves the space to do the same. I hope you find at least some of that space and support here at Peppermint Tea & Me. All are welcome!

Best Allergy-Friendly Candy for Halloween

Healthier and Not-So-Healthy Allergy-Friendly Options.

Let me start with a disclaimer. This post is not about healthy Halloween candy. It all has some type of added sugar in it, so none of it can be classified as healthy. But come on, it’s Halloween! I’m definitely of the enjoy in moderation mindset. That aside, what this post is about is helping you kind souls who can’t stand when a child comes to your door and says they can’t have any of your candy because of food allergies. As the mother of a child who used to be allergic to six of the eight major food allergens and who still has several major food allergies, I’ve been asked many times over the years about what’s the best allergy-friendly candy for Halloween. This post is to answer that and to give you some healthier and not-so-healthy options to make yours the favorite house on the street

Images that show some of the allergy-friendly halloween candy

Please Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through some of the links included in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.

2020 Halloween Note

While Halloween and trick-or-treating will look very different in most communities this year, if you’re buying or planning to give out candy, this post will still be useful. Be sure and check with your local and state governments for guidance on celebrating Halloween in your area. The CDC also has advice on how to celebrate safely. 

Important Note About Allergy-Friendly Candy and Halloween

Before I get to the treats, it’s important to point out the tricky part of Halloween with food allergies. I strongly believe that it is not your responsibility to make sure that someone else’s child doesn’t eat something that they’re allergic to. That is the job of the child’s parents. They know everything that their child can and can’t have, and they’re the ones that have to read every ingredient label whether it’s the first time their child has had a food or the one hundredth. Ingredients change all the time, and you can’t be expected to be a professional label reader if allergies aren’t a regular concern for you. 

Along those same lines, the candy listed here is based on manufacturer and ingredient label research for items sold in the U.S. as of early October 2020. Those ingredients may change tomorrow, but I can tell you that the candy listed here has fairly reliably stayed the same as far as allergens go over the past 13 years. Still, it’s up to parents of children with allergies to check the ingredient label of every piece of candy their child eats. All you can do is to make an effort to accommodate them if that’s what you would like to do, the rest is up to their parents. 

If you do try to accommodate children with allergies, I strongly advise against assuring parents that you have candy that their child can definitely eat. If you know a child has allergies, you can certainly let the parents know that you tried to include candy that their child can have but remind them that they’ll still need to check the ingredient labels to be sure. 

Okay, enough with the spooky stuff, now on to the treats! 

Peanut and Tree Nut-Free Allergy-Friendly Candy

While peanuts are not nuts, it’s often easier to group them with tree nuts in terms of talking generally about food allergies. The allergy-friendly candy included in this list should be safe for either. 

  • Tootsie Rolls 
  • Milk Duds
  • Skittles Original Bite Size Candies
  • Dove bars
  • Fun Dip
  • Whoppers Malted Milk Balls
  • Smarties
  • Starburst Fruit Chews
  • Jolly Rancher
  • Nerds
  • Dum Dums

Dairy and Egg-Free Candy

Dairy is a tough one for Halloween. If the candy is made of chocolate, it probably has dairy in it. That’s why the sugary, hard candies are best for this allergy. The allergy-friendly candy included in this list should be safe for both dairy and egg allergies. 

  • Skittles Original Bite Size Candies
  • Smarties
  • Fun Dip 
  • Starburst Fruit Chews
  • Jolly Rancher
  • Nerds **Dairy-free but may contain eggs
  • Dum Dums

Wheat/Gluten-Free Allergy-Friendly Candy

Wheat and gluten-free options are probably more numerous than you might think. Since some of these overlap with other categories, you should be able to find at least several options that accommodate more than one type of allergy or sensitivity. The allergy-friendly candy included in this list should be safe for both wheat allergies and gluten sensitivities.

  • Tootsie Rolls 
  • Regular M&M’s Fun Size 
  • Milk Duds 
  • Milky Way Minis
  • 3 Musketeer Bar
  • Skittles Original Bite Size Candies
  • Dove bars
  • Snickers Minis
  • Heath Bar
  • Fun Dip
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar
  • Butterfinger
  • Baby Ruth
  • Smarties
  • Starburst Fruit Chews
  • Jolly Rancher
  • Nerds
  • Dum Dums

Soy-Free Candy

  • Smarties
  • Fun Dip 
  • Starburst Fruit Chews
  • Jolly Rancher
  • Nerds
  • Dum Dums
  • Skittles Original Bite Size Candies

Peanut, Tree Nut, Eggs, Dairy, Soy, Wheat/Gluten and Red Dye Free Allergy-Friendly Candy

Since many kids have more than one thing that they’re allergic to, these options are for the kids allergic to seemingly everything. Hello my youngest at 3 years old! I’m specifying red dye here because that’s one of the most common dye allergies and that’s the one that I have experience with. The allergy-friendly candy included in this list should be safe for peanut, tree nut, egg, dairy, soy, wheat/gluten, and red dye allergies. **Yes, some of the Smarties do have red dye, but you can take them out. The colors don’t bleed like they do with Skittles, so we’ve always found this candy to be a safe option.

  • Smarties **Yes, some of the Smarties do have red dye, but you can take them out. The colors don’t bleed like they do with Skittles, so we’ve always found this candy to be a safe option. 
  • RazApple Magic Fun Dip (it’s blue and comes in a box with packages of Like-M-Aid Fun Dip Cherry Yum Diddly)
  • Starburst Fruit Chews **Some do have red dye, but those are easy to avoid since they’re individually wrapped
  • Dum Dums **You have to look carefully to find the ones that don’t have red dye

Healthier Options for Allergy-Friendly Candy

As I mentioned earlier, there is no such thing as healthy store-bought Halloween candy. If you want to get “healthier” versions though that are safe for most allergies, there are options. These take a little more planning because they’re not available at many stores. Here are some options and links to where you can find them. 

  • Candy Corn from Yum Earth (Free of fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, soy, artificial food dyes, high fructose corn syrup and wheat. Does contain eggs) – Target carries
  • Halloween Organic Variety Bag from Yum Earth (Free of soy, egg, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, artificial food dyes, high fructose corn syrup and wheat) – Target carries
  • Organic Lollipops, Assorted Flavors from Yum Earth (Free of soy, egg, dairy, fish, shellfish, peanuts or tree nuts, artificial dyes, wheat/gluten, and high fructose corn syrup) – Amazon (Affiliate link) and Vitacost carry 
  • Organic Fruit Snacks & Organic Vitamin C Lollipops from Yum Earth (Free of soy, egg, dairy, fish, shellfish, peanuts or tree nuts, artificial dyes, wheat/gluten, and high fructose corn syrup) – Amazon (Affiliate link) and Vitacost carry 
  • Enjoy Life Halloween Chocolate Minis (Free of gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts) – can order from Vitacost

Bottom Line on Allergy-Friendly Candy for Halloween

Given the options on this list, accommodating children with food allergies is not as hard as you may think. The main thing to remember is that if you do want to do this, all you can do is try. Since many children are allergic to more than one thing, there is absolutely no way for you to be able to fit the needs of everyone. If there are specific children that you really want to make sure have something, contact their parents and ask what some safe candy is for them. Then you can put it in a baggie and set it aside. 

As the mother of a child who loved simply getting to go trick-or-treating with the rest of the kids, I always appreciated the friends and neighbors who tried to accommodate him, but I certainly didn’t expect it. We had our own system worked out so that he always had more than enough even if it was limited in variety. So, thank you on behalf of allergy parents, if this is something that you’re even considering. 

Lean on Your Community

If you know of parents who are just starting out with food allergies and aren’t sure how to handle Halloween, feel free to have them get in touch with me. I’m happy to share the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the last 15 years of navigating the world of food allergies. 

The Importance of a Daily Schedule

How Planning Your Day Lets You Live in Abundance Instead of Lack.

Frustrated, frazzled, overwhelmed, stressed, adrift, easily distracted, and scattered. If any or all of these describe how you’re feeling even some of the time, then it may be time for you to re-think or develop for the first time a daily schedule. I know that I recently realized that I was feeling all of these things more times than not. No matter what I was doing, I always felt like I should be doing something else. That’s when I realized that my daily schedule needed an overhaul. 

If you’re in the same boat, this is definitely no way to live. The constant state of stress it creates is incredibly harmful to our physical and mental wellbeing. That’s why we’re taking a look at what exactly a daily schedule is and how planning your day lets you live with a sense of abundance instead of lack. 

Photo of a weekly planner app on a tablet as an example of a daily schedule.
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My Journey in Transitioning Off Birth Control Pills

Setting My Body Up for Success.

I’m going to share with you a very personal, intimate decision. After 26 years of being on birth control pills, I’ve finally decided to transition off them. I’m sharing this with you because it’s a big decision that many of you are also making. My situation is a little more complicated than most, but at the end of the day, I’m a strong believer in that if this is something that we’re going to do, we need to set our bodies up in the best possible way. 

Photos of packs of birth control pills

My Birth Control Pill Story

I started on “the pill,” when I was 22 because PMS had always been a huge issue for me. We’re talking both physical and emotional misery. My doctor assured me that birth control pills were the answer and would help to “balance” my hormones. I now know from “In the Flo” author and women’s hormone expert Alisa Vitti over at Flo Living that if I was experiencing PMS that badly, my hormones were definitely out of whack. I also know now that I could have addressed the issue in a more natural way1

Two kids and 16 years later, I started having debilitating migraine headaches. They were so bad, the doctors at first thought they were a type of seizure that ultimately ended up happening an average of 28 days out of the month. Suspecting that there may be a hormonal component to it, my neurologist told me to start taking the pill continuously. It wasn’t until we found the right medication though 6 months later that the migraines stopped. It’s unclear what role, if any, taking the pill continuously had to do with that. 

Where I Am Now

Flash forward 11 years to today. I’m 49 years old, well into perimenopause and still taking birth control pills continuously. I changed to a healthier diet long ago (including giving up caffeine). I strongly believe that because of my diet changes, I was able to stop taking the headache medication that I was told I would be on for the rest of my life.

I’ve been wanting to quit birth control pills for several years but have been hesitant because of fears that the migraines will come back. It’s been more than evident though lately that my hormones are running “amok,” and my body is telling me it’s time to do this. My gynecologist is fully behind it. She does have some concerns about the migraines returning, but that’s why I’m going into it as carefully as possible. 

Transitioning Off Birth Control Pills

While I’ve always been a believer in getting all of the vitamins and minerals I need from food as opposed to supplements, I fully recognize that I’m probably going to need an extra boost in getting my hormones balanced while I make this transition. That’s why I’ve started taking these supplements as suggested by Alisa Viti for the following reasons. No, she doesn’t have an exact formula for women in my situation, but this is what I’ve pieced together as a good place to start.

  1. B-Complex vitamins – Low levels of B vitamins can cause low energy and fatigue. B6 also helps to boost progesterone production and works with the liver to remove extra estrogen from the body. 
  2. Evening Primrose Oil – This is a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which helps with prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are hormones that control inflammation and blood flow2. It’s also a popular natural therapy for helping to ease PMS symptoms and hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause. 
  3. Vitamin D3 – Foundational for hormone balance and overall health. 
  4. Alpha Lipoic Acid – Promotes optimal liver function for getting rid of excess estrogen. It also reinforces healthy weight maintenance by supporting healthy blood sugar and insulin balance. 
  5. Probiotic – Supports healthy gut function, which is essential for managing hormones. 
  6. Tulsi (Holy Basil) Peppermint Tea and a nighttime Tulsi Sleep Tea – Holy Basil supports a healthy adrenal response, helps to stabilize blood sugar and supports liver function. 
  7. Ashwagandha – An herb that helps to reduce oxidative stress and supports a healthy stress response. Alisa also says it’s been shown to safely improve sexual function and low libido for some women. 

Bottom Line for Transitioning Off Birth Control Pills

Hormones at this stage of life are no joke, but we don’t have to resign ourselves to “just waiting it out.” We can be proactive in trying to help our bodies and our minds feel as good as possible. Transitioning off birth control pills, taking supplements to help with that, regular exercise and maintaining my healthy diet are just some of the ways that I’m doing that. 

If you’re transitioning off birth control pills or are considering it, tell us about your experience in the comments below. We don’t need to do this alone!

Money Saving Tip: Strengthen Your Emergency Fund

Reduce Stress Associated with Financial Emergencies.

There’s no getting around it. Financial emergencies are stressful. It could be the loss of a job, a work slowdown because of a pandemic, an unexpected home repair, a medical bill or a car breaking down. Simply dealing with the impacts of these things is stressful enough, let alone the fact that trying to figure out how to pay for them often leads to a cascading financial fallout. The state of chronic stress that results not only makes it hard to make good decisions, it’s also bad for our health. That’s where an emergency fund comes in and why strengthening it as soon as possible will save us money in the long run and is imperative for our overall wellbeing. 

**Important note: The information given here is not meant to be financial advice. I am not a financial advisor. This information is based on 25 years of personal money management experience. There’s no doubt that maintaining an emergency fund at all times has saved us what’s sure to have been tens of thousands of dollars and prevented us from what would have been plenty of sleepless nights. If you have specific questions about your particular situation, I highly recommend contacting a financial advisor. 

Photo of white piggy bank with emergency fund written on it in red ink beside stacks of money

Please Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through some of the links included in this post. You can read my disclosure policy here.

What is an Emergency Fund?

An emergency fund is meant to be cash that you can access quickly if needed. It’s not a nest egg, and it’s not a vehicle for necessarily making money. (Although any interest it’s making while hopefully just sitting there is a welcome addition.) It’s meant to pay for essential household repairs, doctor’s bills, to help cover costs while looking for a new job, or any other “unexpected” expenses that might otherwise have you turning to credit cards or taking out loans. 

You’ll notice that I put unexpected in quotes. That’s because these things are all part of life. Life happens, and we know it’s going to. We may not know what form these emergencies will take, but the fact that they’re going to happen at one point or another is just the way it works. We can plan for them to some extent by having an emergency fund. 

Because this money should be easy, but not too easy, to get to, money market or savings accounts are among the best and most accessible ways to save. That way it’s kept separate from your regular money but can easily be moved over and withdrawn if an emergency comes up. It’s also easy to put the money back when you’re able to do that. 

How Much do You Need in an Emergency Fund?

The general rule of thumb for the amount to have in an emergency fund is enough to cover 3-6 months of expenses. If you’re starting at nothing or if the recent economic downturn has left you with little to no extra money each month, that can seem fairly overwhelming. Remember, 3-6 months is the ideal goal. The reality though is to start where you can. $500 – $1,000 is definitely better than nothing. If it means the difference between being able to pay for a car repair in cash rather than putting it on a high interest credit card, it can mean everything. 

In fact, personal finance expert Rachel Cruze and money guru Dave Ramsey both suggest that if you have debt, start with an emergency fund of $1,000. Once you’ve paid off your debt, you can fully fund your emergency fund. 

Ways to Save

Here are some of the many things that we’ve done over the years to give you some ideas on how to get started. 

  1. Determine how much you need and what a reasonable amount of time is that it would take to save for it, then divide by that many months. The result is the amount of money that you need to put away each month to reach your goal.
  2. Skip buying coffee out. Invest in a good travel mug (affiliate link), make your coffee at home and take it with you.
  3. Take your lunch.
  4. Reduce the number of times that you eat out to once or twice a month. 
  5. Go through your monthly expenses and find any other seemingly small ways that you can cut costs. It adds up!
  6. Treat your contribution to your emergency fund like a regular bill. Create a line item in your budget for it. 
  7. Move money into your emergency fund automatically. You may notice it at first, but once you’ve adjusted your spending to only what you have coming in, you won’t miss it. 
  8. If you have to use some of the money from your emergency fund, develop a plan right away for paying your fund back. While this doesn’t need to be a cause for stress, it should be one of the first things that you do once you’re out of the emergency situation. 
  9. If you have an influx of money such as with a tax refund or for a birthday or Christmas, deposit most of it into your emergency fund. This will help you reach your goal faster. **Pro tip: Be sure and keep out a little for a small treat for yourself. You don’t won’t to feel deprived. 

Bottom Line

As we’ve seen here. Having an emergency fund has everything to do with fostering good health and taking care of yourself. It doesn’t mean being pessimistic and only expecting the worst. It means being realistic and knowing that things are going to happen. Your health and mental wellbeing will thank you if you’re prepared.  

The 5 Best Healthy Food Blogs

Resources to make eating healthy so much easier.

If sitting down to plan your meals for the week is one of your least favorite tasks, we need to get you some better resources. I’m not saying that it’s my absolute favorite thing to do, but it definitely doesn’t need to be something that we dread. In fact, meal planning should be one of the most creative things we do. To help it become more of an inspired process and less of a chore, I’ve come up with a list of what I consider to be the 5 best healthy food blogs. 

The recipe creators on these sites will give you plenty of options to get you started or keep you going. If you just need a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing, they’ve got you covered. Or, if you need step by step instructions for every meal and snack of the day, they’ve got you covered as well. Most importantly, enjoy getting to know them and definitely appreciate the work they put into these labors of love that will help make eating healthy so much easier. 

Images of healthy meals from examples of the best healthy food blogs.
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