Proteins That Pack a Punch

When I say protein, I know most immediately think “meat.”  I’m not just talking about meat!  Protein is found in far more than meat so, for the sake of this discussion, I hope you will not simply note the information provided here to be a recommendation to “eat more meat,” as it most certainly is not!  Eating too much meat can have many serious health consequences.

Many like to treat animal protein as far superior to plant protein because of it’s complete amino acid profile.  However, the body doesn’t just absorb whole proteins and add them to muscle mass.  It has to break them down into their amino acids to construct its own proteins.  While we won’t delve too deep here, know that proteins that don’t get broken down completely can birth inflammation and disease while too much animal protein can do also be harmful to the bones, teeth, kidneys and other vital organs.

Protein is not only essential for muscle mass, but also for spurring on a plethora of physiological processes (as enzymes that break down food and catalyze reactions; as antibodies that fight off foreign invaders). While carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source (see our article on Carbohydrates:  Foods that Fuel), protein can also satisfy the body’s energy needs and will in fact do so over the body using it for protein synthesis.

Protein is calorically dense but because proteins are harder for the body to break down than starches, it is not quite as efficient as an energy source as carbohydrates.  This is why high-protein/low-carb diets are such a trend.  The body burns more energy attempting to convert protein to energy, thereby aiding in weight loss or so is the theory but it has to be understood that carbohydrates are necessary to support this energy conversion process.  The lack of adequate carbohydrates is why most find that they’re diet/weightloss efforts come to a screeching halt as the body lacks the resources needed to convert alternative energy sources from amino acids/proteins and fats.

It should be thoroughly noted: more protein does not necessarily equal more weight loss.  Animal proteins are often packaged with excessive fats and other health hazards.  Even too much of the leaner cuts can still lead to weight gain as an excess of calories is an excess of calories (energy which gets converted and stored as fat).  This may only be worsened as an excess of animal protein can cause acidity and constipation, which stalls weight loss and health efforts.

For many looking to consume more protein out of a desire to increase visible muscle mass, remember: a lack of muscle mass is more commonly due to lack of demand placed on those muscles than a lack of resources for them.  Simply consuming protein will not in itself, increase muscle mass. There must be a demand placed on those muscles for the body to determine it must make them larger to perform the tasks demanded of it.  The body is incredibly efficient.  If nothing is signaling to it that it needs more muscle, it won’t build it.  On that same line of thought, a lack of muscle mass is not always indicative of inadequate protein intake.

All this considered, proteins are an essential part of a healthy diet and should be gathered from a variety of sources.  Just as not all sugars are created equal, so is the same with protein.  There are healthful and unhealthful sources.  For example, a steak may be loaded with protein but may also be loaded with saturated fats.  Ham may be loaded with protein but also overloaded with fat and salt (not to mention the parasites…).  It’s important that you seek to get your proteins from the healthiest, cleanest sources possible to help your family maintain a healthy weight and an overall healthy body.

Proteins are found in every cell of the body, in bones, skin, hair, muscles and every other body part and tissue.  They give us the enzymes that power a multitude of chemical reactions throughout the body and the hemoglobin that transports oxygen in our blood.  It takes at least 10,000 different proteins to build and sustain you!  It’s certainly worthwhile to be sure you’re getting the best sources possible.

Sources

close up of salad in bowl

Proteins are comprised of amino acids.  These amino acids are found in every whole food, in varying amounts and proportions.  Fruits, vegetables, grains, greens, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, fish and dairy all contain amino acids. In animal products, the proteins are generally considered “complete” only meaning that all of the amino acids needed for protein synthesis are present.  Essentially, the animal you are consuming has harvested all of the amino acids for you.

Plant-based proteins are often considered “incomplete” only because most individual plant sources do not contain all of the amino acids needed to make protein in that one single source (though there are some “complete” plant protein sources, such as hemp).  However, these amino acids can be easily acquired by eating a variety of healthful, plant-based foods.  THIS DOES NOT MAKE PLANT PROTEINS INFERIOR TO ANIMAL PROTEINS.  It only means that you should aim for diversity among sources which you should be doing with your diet anyways.

HERE’S THE FACT:  Protein deficiency in the United States and most of the world is incredibly rare!  Deficiencies are typically seen in parts of the world where starvation is a real issue.  Most people, especially in the United States would need NO ADDED PROTEINS in adopting most any exercise protocol.  Most people are already consuming more than enough protein to support the growth of muscle mass WITHOUT added supplements, protein shakes, and extra chicken with their chicken.

On a personal note, if I’m going to have a (plant-based) protein shake, it would be either pre-workout where I don’t want to heavy my stomach with a full meal, or post-workout when I’m on the go and won’t likely be eating for a while.  (Post-workout is actually a perfect time to grab a Complete Shake while the muscles are primed and ready to rebuild and replenish nutrient levels.)  Protein rich foods and beverages can be great for staving off hunger and promoting the rebuild – just be sure you don’t get caught up in the head game of “I exercised therefore I need more protein.”  What you do really need post-workout are carbohydrates.   Not a ton, but consuming some within an hour of working out is great for restoring glycogen levels in the muscles so they’re ready to rock again when you are.

It was once thought foods had to be properly combined in one meal for the body to utilize those amino acids in protein production (such as in combining beans and rice).   This has since been found to be false.  While they can be consumed this way, the body will acquire amino acids throughout the day and assemble them as needed.

Essential vs. Non-Essential Amino Acids

What’s also key to understand here is the difference between essential and non-essential amino acids.  An essential amino acid is one that we must get from food. The “non-essentials” are not un-needed, but are those that don’t have to be acquired from our diet as the body can convert other present amino acids into the ones it needs to comprise the proteins.  (Didn’t God just make you so awesome?!).

While many try to depict plant protein as being “inferior” to animal proteins, nature shows us this is simply not true.  The largest animals on the planet (elephants, giraffes, cattle, etc.) only eat plants. Even the omnivores we’re most closely biologically acquainted with, such as gorillas, only eat enough small animals, eggs and lizards to comprise about 1% of their diet.  The rest of the proteins that build up these powerful creatures all comes from plants.

Don’t Get Duped!

While I am not trying to tell you to not eat meat, I do want you to see that your family can get loads of clean protein from healthful plant sources.  Quite frankly, I’ve had enough of the marketing schemes and tactics employed by the meat and dairy industry duping family’s out of their health and into doctor’s offices and pharmacies.

There are many myths and misunderstandings surrounding digestibility and bio-availability, nutritional needs and more so be mindful when reading articles telling you why you should be eating more protein, as well as in recommendations as to which kind.  Our capitalist culture places the burden on the consumer to consider who is making the recommendations and why.  Too much of even a good thing can be bad for you.

These industries would have us believe that we really have to make an effort to get enough protein, (i.e., that we should buy their products to aid us in our deep need).  Protein deficiency, especially in America, is ridiculously rare. Even the CDC states that most Americans get more than enough protein and should be more focused on an overall healthy eating plan that consequently incorporates plenty of proteins along with many other essential nutrients.   Again, excessive amounts of animal protein have been linked to numerous diseases and health problems.  If you’re looking to boost overall proteins, look at ways you can broaden your nutritional horizons and get them from whole food plant sources that will simultaneously boost your intake of healthy fiber and other key nutrients/phytonutrients.

For now, look to acquire your protein from a wide variety of lean, nutritious sources but fret not over acquiring enough.  Be sure to incorporate plenty of beans, greens and other plant sources such as hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, asparagus, cauliflower, peanuts, mung bean sprouts, almonds, spinach, broccoli and quinoa to get a broad array of amino acids and other amazing health benefits!

12 Tips on How to Get That Butt Back in Gear

If there’s one challenge I think most moms face among the many other challenges of parenting, its how to stay motivated to keep fitness a consistent part of an already jam-packed life.  When we do find a few free moments, working out is often the last thing we want to do.

 One thing I’ve learned in parenting is that fitness is not just key in taking our bodies back, it is unbeatable when it comes to relieving the accumulated day-to-day stress.  Still sticking to it can be a real struggle.  Here are my tips on how to maintain motivation, even amidst the chaos.

1. Fix Your Inner Dialogue

adult attractive black and white face

The biggest part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is fixing your inner dialogue (and that WILL require ongoing maintenance).  That means changing how you talk TO and ABOUT yourself.  Negative talk and a negative view will negate your efforts and make any health & fitness plan unsustainable. Any time you start thinking things like “I’m fat and out of shape” shut it down with “no.  I’m healthier than I’ve been in a long time and steadily getting stronger/faster/fitter/hotter.” In the strain of it, reject “I’m tired…it hurts…I can’t do this…”  Envision the results you WILL attain and remind yourself “I’ve got this!”

2.  Schedule it!

You and I both know that if you don’t make time, you won’t find time!  Schedule other meetings and appointments around it.  You’re already booked for that block of time.  Be dressed and ready on time!  Getting out of those comfy pants in the morning and into those sneakers can really help reset your mindset and get you geared for what you’ve commited to do.

3.  Commit to 10

Commit to at least 10 minutes, agreeing with yourself that even when you don’t want to do it at all, you’ll do at least 10 minutes.  Odds are high that you won’t just quit by that point, you’ll keep pushing and even if you don’t, you still brought the effort and reinforced making fitness a daily/weekly habit.  Trust me.  There are days when it’s the last thing I want to do but sometimes I just have to pop that disc in and have it staring me in the face for me to say ug!  Alright, alright already…I’ll do it!

4.  Find Your Soul Mate Workout

woman punching red heavy bag

If you hate it, you’ll dread it. I’ve done so many different kinds, yet I keep going back to that TurboFire because it’s fun to me. I love kickboxing and dancing so it’s right up my alley. When I’m wanting to take it slow but get a good sweat, I break out PiYo or Body Beast.  (Not trying to promote BeachBody.  I don’t sell it.  These are just my personal faves.) Some prefer running solo and using the time to escape while some prefer a class setting where others push them to work harder. You’ve got to find this for yourself and when you do, it won’t seem so much like work but something you feel proud to be good and getting better at.

5.  Mix It Up

Even when you really love one workout in particular, you still need to mix things up to keep it from getting boring and to maximize your results.  Many find that they “plateau” after a long period of doing the same workout.  Make sure you shake things up a bit and get a fair share of stretch, strength and cardio work.

Also, don’t miss opportunities to slip movement in throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Tell your body it’s time to step up its game by placing more demands on it. It will do what it’s been made it to do.

6.  Watch Where You’re Going

Look more at your progress than the distance yet to be traveled.   Looking ahead should be with hope, excitement and determination, not with overwhelm. Looking at it in terms of how far you are from where you want to be makes it to easy to ditch the effort.  Thinking in terms of how much closer you are to where you want to be is a good motivator to stick to it.

When you say “no. I’ve already lost 10 lbs and I AM NOT going back,” it will help you stay on track and may just give you the boost you need to take each work out to a whole new level.

7.  Clear the Closet

shallow focus photography of clothes

Get rid of the clothes you’ve shrunk out of and buy at least one thing you love one size too small.  I’ve steadily done this from a 16/18 to a 4/6. Keeping the big clothes “just in case” is the same as giving yourself permission to go back and undo all you’ve worked so hard to achieve!  It’s another way of calling your ability to stick to it into question which ABSOLUTELY primes you for failure and self-loathing.

Getting rid of the old is a way of determining you’re not going back there so there’s no point in keeping “the big girl clothes” while buying the new will help with motivation and make you feel ecstatic and really good about yourself when you get to wear it for the first time.

8.  Fuel Up

If you want to crush a workout, you’ve got to fuel for it!  Under-fueling amidst a workout routine is a key factor in failure.  If you don’t have the energy to do it, you will feel like it is an impossible feat.  You’ll drag, ache and burnout quicker than a matchstick if you don’t give your body the fuel it needs to power through.  While a calorie-deficit will help you lose weight, inadequate caloric-intake prior to a workout may just break you.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source – especially simple ones!  Think fresh fruits and smoothies.  If you’re in for a long-haul, adding complex carbs (like oats or whole grains) can help you fuel up with sustainable energy.  Proteins are harder to break down, taxing more energy for digestion and, consequently, leaving less energy for you to step up and bring it.  Fatty foods (even healthy ones), pre-workout, slow the body down even more so than proteins.  Simple carbs will provide your body with that quick burst of energy it needs as you step onto the track, into the gym or up to the plate in your own home.

9.  Set the Pace

Think about a fitness plan in terms of what you’re establishing not just for yourself but in your kids’ lives as well. Think about the kind of life you want them to live and realize that one of the best things you can do for them is to lead by example.  You want them to be healthy.  You want them to be strong.  And, you sure don’t want them to be afraid to grab the bull by the horns to accomplish their greatest goals in life.  Show ’em how it’s done!

My daughter has become my favorite workout buddy and her younger brother has been getting in on the action too.  When we go for it, even on the days that its evident to all that we REALLY don’t want to, we teach our kids valuable lessons about what can be accomplished by pushing past the I-don’t-wanna’s and holding tightly to “I CAN AND I WILL!”

Exercise is not just about weight!  It will boost their immunity, intellectual capacities and their confidence!  Now tell me that in itself isn’t worth it!

10.  See the Line Between Self-Sacrifice & Self-Neglect

You’re a mom.  I get it.  You give and you give and you give.  You try to put your family’s needs before your own and because of that, it’s often hard to justify taking time away from their needs to focus on you.  Still, there’s a great deception at play here.  What we so often fail to realize is that in taking that little extra time and effort to care for ourselves protects our capacity to continue to serve our families at our best.  It also helps to relieve them of the future burden of caring for us as they would if we let ourselves go, especially when the consequences eventually render us incapable of taking care of ourselves.  That may seem like it’s a long way ahead but you can’t even count those who’ve watched time slip through their fingers only to find themselves later where they’d hoped they’d never be, saying “I wish I’d have taken better care of myself back then.”

11.  Know When to Press & When to Rest

When starting a new fitness plan, it can be so tempting to go all in day-in-day-out.  We get frustrated and say, “that’s it!  I’m nipping this in the bud right now!”  While determination is absolutely a good thing, be mindful of what your body can and can’t handle.  Here’s the thing – too many people have a tendency to set unrealistic goals only to find themselves soon swimming in regret, frustration and feeling like a failure.  There’s an old saying “Slow and steady wins the race.”  If you know you can crush it, go for it!  But, be careful that you don’t push yourself right into a rapid burnout by trying to climb too high too fast.

You won’t get results without a challenge, so, by all means, challenge yourself.  But, if you start feeling overly burdened to the point that you’re thinking about quitting, pull back a bit but keep moving forward.  Start with just a few days a week or give yourself some “easy” days where you commit to doing something while feeling like you’re catching a break.  As you move forward, you’ll get stronger and find that you have an easier time committing to more intense workouts.

Also, if you’re under the weather and feel like you’re fighting something other than laziness, don’t be afraid to lay back and let your body do what it needs to to get you back up to speed.  It’s better to miss one day and be refreshed the next than to overdo it one day and be down the next week.

12.  Remember That You’re Awesome & Be Kind to Yourself!

You’ve been through a lot and are in your upswing.  Stop beating yourself up every time you have an off day!  It’s so easy to miss a day and say “screw it” the rest of the week because you blew your “perfect record.”  Instead, let the off-day establish the certainty that you will be right back on your game the next.  Fitness isn’t about punishing yourself.  It’s about loving yourself and your family enough to take care of your body.

So many people throw in the towel and resign to the slippery slope of just letting the body fall apart as the years tick by.  Not you!  You’re crushing it!  You’re bringin’ it!  You’ve got the Healthiest Mom on the Block Award coming your way!

10 Ways to Save Money by Eating Better

Yes, eating healthier is likely to cost more than eating very poorly.  You wouldn’t expect to buy better gas for your car for less than the cruddy gas would cost; we can’t very well expect to fill our bodies up with “Premium” fuel for less than the bottom-of-the-barrel offerings.  With that said, there are ways to save money on eating healthier and here’s how you do it:

1.  Keep an Eye Out

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Produce departments will often mark things for clearance that are actually PERFECT. Bananas are a big one here (So many people think the brown spots mean they’re bad when it actually means they’re ripe).  Bananas are fairly cheap anyhow but I have gotten them by the bag-fulls for just a couple bucks a bag.  I then get them home, peel them, drop them straight into a freezer bag and freeze them for later use in smoothies or to throw in the food processor for an easy alternative to ice cream.  Green beans, sliced carrots, peas, berries, stone fruits, avocados and countless others freeze very well with little effort. Many fruits can be bought nearly at a steal when in-season, from grocers, farmers’ markets or straight from the grower.

2.  Offset Your Expenses AND Boost Your Health With Our Favorite Budget Savers

  • Dried Beans & Lentils

Beans & lentils are loaded with energy, fiber, and many body boosting vitamins while providing an abundance of protein without the extra fat found in animal products.  Dried beans are super affordable (even buying them organic is cheaper by the pound that meat alternatives), are ridiculously easy to prepare (soak & boil.  Yep, that’s it!) and are extremely versatile.  Beans & lentils can be used to create everything from traditional soups, stews & sides to veggie burgers to cream sauces…even to desserts like brownies.

  • Whole Grains

With all the dietary trends making villains out of grains, we run the risk of missing out on a powerhouse source of energy and nutrient.  Grains have been staples of the human diet across thousands of years, and have even been the saving factor for entire nations that otherwise would have starved to death in times of famine.  Grains can be an inexpensive way to fuel body and brain.  Whole wheat (whole grain and flours), hulled barley, millet, buckwheat groats, brown rice, wild rice, specialty rice…the list just goes on and on.  Grains are versatile and can be added to just about any dish – soups, stews, one-pot wonders, you name it.

  • Spuds

potatoes

Seriously, I really don’t know that I could ever wholeheartedly trust anybody who doesn’t like a good spud at least every now and then. I mean, come on!  Who doesn’t love potatoes?  All joking aside, potatoes are seriously awesome.  They tend to be inexpensive, easy to cook and go with just about anything and any meal of the day.  Roasted, baked or boiled, potatoes make a delicious dish loaded with nutrients (especially those much-needed minerals) and easy on the wallet.  We buy these organic because pesticides and herbicides are absorbed directly into the potato itself from the surrounding soil.  Still, even organic potatoes typically run only about $1.00/lb when buying in bags of 5+ lbs.  A 5lb. bag of potatoes is enough to make potatoes alongside or mixed into multiple meals.  Alternatively, a full bag can be prepared as mashed potatoes to serve fresh and save.  Freeze in quart-sized freezer bags for easy sides later.

  • Rolled Oats in Bulk

Repeat after me:  “No more Instant Oats!”  Instant oats often have very little remaining nutritional value, are much more expensive on the whole, and are typically chock full of added sugars and junk flavorings.  Rolled oats are every bit as quick and easy without these cons.  A pinch of cinnamon, a little almond milk and a splash of honey or maple and you’re in business, my friend.  Steel Cut Oats still boast maximum nutritional value, as far as oats go, but for those that simply do not have the time, rolled oats are a good runner up.  My favorite way to eat them is with cinnamon, maple and fresh sliced banana.  No cooking necessary.  I like the slightly chewy texture over the mushy, cooked consistency.  Either way you like them, oats are a great way to boost nutrition while saving time and money.

3.  Opt for frozen over fresh when watching that bottom dollar

supermarket refrigerators

…especially when shopping “out-of-season.”  “Freshest is bestest!”  Still, when fresh produce isn’t available or affordable, be sure to check out what’s in the freezer section.  This can also be a good way to get a better quality for your buck too.  You can often save money by buying things like organic frozen green beans instead of the conventionally grown alternatives found in the produce section.  Is it always an even swap culinarily speaking?  No, but most of the time the exchange can be made with little detection or compromise in your favorite dishes.

4.  Opt for quality over quantity

This is especially key with meat and dairy.  Too much meat and dairy is unhealthy.  Period.  No further elaboration needed there.  (We’ve really already talked on this in  our article on Proteins that Pack a Punch or Dairy if you need reasons why).  With that said, you may find that you’re able to afford organic or better quality choices by reducing the family’s overall consumption of animal products. Most people easily eat in a day, the most they would need for a week.  Other protein options, such as beans can cheaply replace meats with many meals.  Reducing the portion size is another way to save on the expense (giving you more money for better quality) while boosting your family’s overall health.  Higher quality foods of all sorts provide more nutrients.  This means you can eat less while gaining more in terms of nutrition.

5.  Shop Smart & Know your Dirty Dozen & Clean 15

Eating organic and watching a budget can be a real challenge.  Get acquainted and educated on which foods tend to be the most highly contaminated and which tend to be the cleanest.  This will help you get a better idea of which foods are worth the splurge and which you can more safely save a little moola on.  Be sure to print out your lists of the Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15 to take with you on your next shopping trip!

6.  Stock up & Save on Staples

Some items may be used so much that paying the high price of buying a little at a time makes no sense whatsoever.  When possible, by larger volumes of items, such as a good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which can be transferred into a smaller vessel, as needed, for ease of use.

7.  Compare Unit Prices

Bulk is often a good way to save money but there are times when the bulk runs more per pound or ounce than even the very same product & brand, in a ready-to-go package.

8.  Take inventory of your time & resources

Be sure you check your fridge and cupboard before venturing out to buy more. You may have forgotten those peppers you picked up last week or missed how perfectly they’d pair with a little tomato or cucumber the couscous you already have in the cupboard for a delightful, refreshing couscous salad.  Throw in a cup of those peas you happen to already have in the freezer and Bam!  That’s one less meal you have to plan to buy food for this week.  Sometimes you’re all set to rock your face off with what you already have on hand.  This helps to reduce food waste and frustration, save money, and maximize your grocery budget.

Also, be sure to be realistic about the time you have in the coming week. If your schedule is already booked, you may not want to buy all you need to make something that would demand hours of your time in the kitchen.  The last thing you want to do is spend a chunk of your budget on something you just don’t have time to prepare, only to watch it turn into one of those creepy science experiment looking things that not even the dog would eat.

9.  Plan Ahead

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Let me tell you what I personally find frustrating – Meandering through a grocer for over an hour, emerging $20 OVER-budget and getting only half-way through the week before I realize I have a house full of groceries and nothing to make for dinner.  {insert one big, fat frowny face right here}  It sucks.  And I must admit, I am not one to always sit down and plan ahead each meal.  I like the freedom of going with my gut on what I’m going to have for dinner.  What if I plan spaghetti for Thursday and decide I want tacos?  Here’s the thing, at the very least, making a list of things you must have to make some good, whole meals and other household staples is a good way to keep you on point and under-budget.  This will save you time and money while shopping.

10.  Don’t Shy Away from Replays or Retakes

Keep an eye out for foods that can do double time.  And I’m not just talking leftover-city.  For example, I may make one large pot of beans and divide them.  Some may go on salads, some seasoned and served as a side with dinner, and some pureed to make cream sauces or bases for other dishes.  This saves time and money while making the most of and reaping the most from the foods we buy.


We hope these tips have been a great help to you.  If so, please don’t forget to SHARE this article with other friends and family who stand to benefit from it as well!  Thank you!

3 Reasons You Should STOP Cooking So Much

In this day and age, with jam-packed schedules and seldom enough energy to go around, many people have been looking for an “out” on the whole cooking business.  No doubt, take-out is considered a “life-saver” for taking at least one thing off the proverbial “plate” of our daily lives, even as it has a way of generating more heartache and headache in the long run.

 Yeah, that’s not the “out” I’m giving you but I am giving you a perfect excuse to dial down the burners and STOP cooking so much.  The bonus?  Your family is going to reap MEGA bonuses in terms of their health!

Wielding nothing more than a knife and a cutting board, you too can whip up a number of delicious, no-cook dishes that can have your family rockin’ and rollin’ with good health!

THE BENEFITS

Raw foods are nutritional powerhouses!  No – I’m not talking raw chicken, beef or eggs.  (I clarify because, yes, I’ve had people actually look at me with utter disgust when I say “eat more raw foods” and for whatever reason their minds race to raw meat.  Gross.  No.  If you’re going to eat meat, cook it.)

What I am talking about is piling that plate high with fresh, raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  Raw foods not only support better digestion and assimilation of nutrients but also provide a wealth of other health benefits from supporting detox and reducing inflammation, to helping many overcome serious diseases and obstacles in their health.

No, you don’t have to go fully raw or full-on raw vegan.  BUT, we do all stand to benefit from increasing our consumption of fresh plant foods being as close to their natural state as possible.

Enzymes

Considered the “power of life,” enzymes are rich in raw foods but destroyed by processing and heating the food above 118°F.  “Eating an enzyme-rich diet is thought to increase vitality and slow the aging process. According to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D., ‘Enzymes can even help repair our DNA and RNA.’”2

Science is steadily trying to catch up with enzymes and to fully understand their functions yet each marker toward that understanding only underscores their great importance.  (I absolutely loved reading over this article by Dr. Mercola.)

The short of it?  It is recommended that 75% of our diet come from raw food consumption to ensure we are getting plenty of enzymes to support vitality and our disease-fighting superpowers.

Phyto-Nutrients

(Phyto – “plant”)

Plant foods contain a plethora of vitamins and minerals to build strong bones and give you great hair but that’s not all folks.  That’s not all!

Plant foods also contain thousands of phytonutrients that support more mechanisms than you can count.  We’re talking nutrients that fight cancer, balance blood sugar, support heart health and countless more that quite frankly rock my nerdy little nutritional world!  You just can’t get that anywhere else.

If you’re amongst those that’ve been taking comfort in some man-made multivitamin, thinking you’ve got the fam covered, I hate to be the one to break it to you but you’re not.  We need whole food nutrition.

The nutrients found in plant foods must not only be present but also consumed as part of a package deal.  The nutrients found throughout whole foods often work together synergistically to accomplish far more than they could ever accomplish on their own.  Some of these increase the functionality of the other.  Some are needed for better assimilation of other key nutrients.

Conclusion – Eat whole food plant food, dude!

Hydration

This may not be one that gets a lot of thought but, yes, our food should also be helping us meet our needs for water.  Most American foods can be very dry, dehydrating the body as it has to use it’s own fluids to digest the foods, contributing to the constipation and other digestive woes that come with our traditional way of eating.

Raw fruits and vegetables contain an average of 82-89% water, helping to re-hydrate your body as it simultaneously supercharges it.  That may not seem like much but it certainly adds up throughout the day.  As a real plus, the water in organic fruits and vegetables can be much cleaner and purer than anything you’ll ever get out of a tap or a bottle; not to mention that it acts as a perfect carrier for all those water-soluble nutrients you’re getting from the food.

While you may not exactly be chomping at the bit to give up all your favorite, hearty cooked meals, I hope you’ll make it a point to finish with a raw apple or start with some raw greens.  Still, it’s really not all salads and apple slices.  Healthy, raw food recipes are in no short supply.  You don’t have to go fully raw to enjoy the benefits of simply eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Every little bit helps and even just a small effort to add a little more raw to each meal can pay off in dividends.

So, there you have it.  STOP cooking so much!  Back away from the burners and whip up a healthy blend of fresh chopped produce for dinner or lunch.  What do you say?

Resources:

1 https://draxe.com/raw-food-diet/

2 http://kristensraw.com/why_raw_details_benefits.php

3 https://draxe.com/raw-food-diet/

http://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/raw-foods-diet

How Time-Strapped Goal-Diggers are Crushing Their Health & Fitness Goals

Article by LaTricia Morris, Author and Illustrator of The Good, The Bad & The Broccoli and It Came from the Cupboard, Founder of See Kids Thrive and Eden Life Ministries, Certified Integrative Wellness Counselor and Personal Trainer. 


Overwhelmed?  Overloaded?  Running nothing but a gauntlet?

You’re not alone!

This seems to be the anthem of the average American adult.  Between work, family, volunteer work, and all the other tidbits that pile on our calendars, having a shower and a cup of coffee in the same morning can ring with great triumph.  With so many things demanding of our time, how on earth could we possibly add fitness and food prep on top of it all?

The reality is, with all that’s weighing on you, and for all those counting on you, you can’t afford to not make nutrition and fitness a greater priority in your life!

Deep down, I think you know that and I’m quite certain that’s why the header on this article peaked your interest – because you know it’s critical and you’re daring enough to believe it also possible.

So, how do other time-strapped goal-diggers pull it off?  Glad you asked…

  1. They value opportunities presented throughout the day.

Research supports our need to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.  However, that doesn’t have to be all at one time and you should not underestimate the value of added movement throughout the day.  Skipping the elevator to take the stairs, parking at the back of the lot, or keeping a set of weights in the garage to remind you to crank out a set getting into or out of your car are all ways you can stack fitness efforts throughout the day.

Time-Strapped

  1. They know when to double-time it.
essential-oils
We absolutely love Eden’s Garden Essential Oils. What a joy to get quality oils from a company that sows back into the lives of others!

Any goal-crusher LOVES a good opportunity to crush two birds with one stone (metaphorically speaking, of course.  No bird-pelting going on here.  …sweet little birdies…).

Yes, I totally planked my way through my kitchen as I hand wiped my floors instead of mopping just hours ago.  Which brings me to this point:  in fitness, remember, you don’t have to gym up for every fitness activity.  Look for fun ways to incorporate added movement into even simple tasks.  Waiting for the coffee to brew?  Knock out a set of squats.  Got some reading to do?  Get to walking while you read.  (Environment permitting, of course.  Please, don’t let it be my fault you were walking and reading only to step on a lego or walk off a cliff.)  Speed walk your errands or hot step it up the stairs, ditch the shopping cart in favor of carrying the basket, or make cleaning your house fun and challenging by layering in fitness moves – lunges in reaches, squats when cleaning the low stuff, and plank holds when working floor level.  Get creative and have fun with it!

When it comes to food, thinking just a little bit ahead can make a HUGE difference in a week’s worth of eats.  Even if you don’t do a full afternoon of meal prep, look for ways to double time it in your kitchen.  Example:  When making slower-to-cook grains like brown rice, I like to make 2-3 times what I’ll need so I can stash the rest in the fridge or freezer for quick meals through the week, like a healthful veggie fried rice, beans’n’rice with sautéed onion, or a quick and easy mixed veggie pilaf.

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  1. They know a worthy time-saver when they see one.

“Fast foods” are a no-go for this group but every once in a while, it’s worth it to have someone help with all that peeling and chopping.  With the rapidly growing demand for fresh foods in the marketplace, more businesses are looking for ways to help patrons bridge the gaps between time, money and a need for incredibly scrumptious (but healthier) foods.  Stores like Whole Foods stock plenty of fresh pressed, raw juices and pre-cut produce to allow you to shave that added time off your meal prep.  While I am ABSOLUTELY all for watching the budget and knowing that “freshest is bestest,” I also see the need to regularly make some real assessments when weighing value.  If it’s affordable to do so, and it enables you to make healthy eating a reality in your household, it’s certainly better money spent than an money saved on cheaper but less healthful defaults.

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FINALLY! A low maintenance home garden without the time or work of a garden!
  1. They get in and get it done.

We were all excited to find out that we could actually reap incredible benefits of exercise in just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of exercise.  We were even more stoked to learn that even in those crazy, totally time-crunched weeks, we could reap many of those fitness benefits by cranking up our efforts and going full throttle for 75 minutes per week (25 minute sessions, 3 days a week at high intensity).

Even when the to-do list seems to be getting out of hand, that quick break to get that heart rate up and get that body moving may give you just the boost you need to power through everything else on your list.

Schedule

  1. They don’t leave it to chance.

Health isn’t happenstance.  It’s not the sort of thing we just kindly “get around to” when everything else in our lives makes room for it.  Oh, if you could but get your hands on the calendar of a true goal-digger!  This crew doesn’t wait for it to become convenient.  Because they recognize the significance of it getting done, they plan to do it.  Schedule – Execute – Repeat.  Food and fitness efforts go on the calendar as non-negotiable as anything else.  This isn’t to add another rigid layer to life.  They recognize that having a dedicated time to focus on these areas frees them to be more productive in every other area as they can better focus  in the now and enjoy the time being invested today to make every day to follow incredibly better.livelife.jpg

Truth is, for the grand majority of Americans struggling in their health today, it’s simply a matter of priority (that goes for our time, finances and every other resource we have access to).  If we have time to regularly watch a TV show but “no time” to get in that half hour of exercise…  you fill in that gap.  Wishing and hoping don’t get results.  Successful goal-getters recognize the GREAT value in carving out time in their calendars to invest in health and wellness efforts, not because it’s convenient but because it’s important.

  1. They Close the Gap

As much as we all try so hard to get it right, the reality is, we just don’t nail it all the time.  There are days when they meant to have 13 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables and instead, they had a 12 inch sub, a bag of chips and a cookie instead (not that you would fall for such things).  It’s helpful to know we have ways to bridge those nutritional gaps.  Look for ways to add in extra fruits and vegetables throughout the day!  Grab a green vegetable, stash a Complete shake to have on hand and look for ways to upgrade your plate.  In a “bigger is always better” culture, it’s refreshing to know that all those small daily investments stack up and payback in dividends over time.

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They see the line between an investment and an expense.

In line with points 3 & 6, people really on a mission in their health tend to be better with making strong distinctions between an expense and an investment.  Here’s the reality:  Fast food and processed foods are an expense that will keep costing you well beyond the meal.  Healthful foods and quality supplements that help to meet your family’s nutritional needs is an incredible investment that pays off for a lifetime.  The investments you make now in your family’s fitness and nutrition efforts will continue to pay back in spades in terms of finances (you may spend more now but you save so much on medical bills not accrued in the future) and quality of life.  Whether it’s buying more organic, taking the leap and getting JuicePlus+ for your family, or going for that gym membership, these are all very worthy investments you’ll never regret making!

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Finally, a totally plant-based Omega Blend offering the perfect balance of omega 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9 fatty acids, containing DHA, EPA and ALA, derived from fruits, algae and seed oils. 

In other words, investing more heavily into healthier foods and things that will support your efforts to eat better and move more ARE NOT A THREAT to your financial future, they are a fortress for it, protecting your finances in the future and your capacity to flourish in every other area of life.  Whether it’s buying more organic or going for that gym membership, these are all very worthy investments you’ll never regret making!

Juice-plus-complete1-copy
Think you have no time for nutrition?   Make your day Complete with grab’n’go goodness! Non-GMO – Vegan – Low Fat – No Cholesterol – No Artificial Flavoring – No Coloring – No preservatives – No Wheat, Dairy or Eggs – No Added Caffeine or Herb

So, what’s standing in your way?  The success of your health and wellness goals is in your hands.  All that’s left is to decide – to crush or not to crush?

Healthfully Yours,

LaTriciaMorris

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How to Stop The New Year’s Flop & Drop the Weight for Good

Article by LaTricia Morris, Author and Illustrator of The Good, The Bad & The Broccoli and It Came from the CupboardFounder of See Kids Thrive and Eden Life Ministries, Certified Integrative Wellness Counselor and NASM Personal Trainer. 

It’s the New Year and the gyms are getting pretty crowded.  While some people roll their eyes at this wave of “resolutioners” that come pouring into the gym after the holidays, I found myself somewhat appreciative in a sense that, if nothing else, this time of year serves as a reminder to us all of the importance of giving better attention to our health.  In that, we have such a great opportunity to cheer others on toward success, to help them enjoy being there and to be a part of this year being different for them.  What a gift, right?

{I admittedly found myself quite reluctant at first to even touch on this topic as I hate the mindset and self-hatred it tends to cater too but then, I suppose this is all the more reason I just had to chime in on this discussion as my heart is for you to break free from all the garbage and the defeat, and truly walk in triumph FOR GOOD this time!}

No doubt about it, establishing new goals, new schedules and new plans is hard enough and the commitment it takes to see it through to being a true transformation comes in no small package.  It’s no surprise we see so many struggle to maintain those new commitments once the luster wears off and life lays into us once again.

Still, by being mindful and intentional, it is absolutely possible to not only achieve great and lasting success but to actually REALLY learn to enjoy it too.  Not that I could possibly cover it all here but below are some things I’ve learned along my journey and know will be of great value to you too.

Prep Your Body

Clean Over Lean

Running on all we heard growing up, we often think the first place to start is by trimming the fat.  While scaling things back and being mindful of intake may very well be in order, it is better to start by focusing on whole foods, eating as clean as possible.  This means ditching processed and refined foods, buying organic where we can and eating plenty of fresh, local, seasonal produce.   (This is especially important as many processed foods tend to disrupt the endocrine system and interfere with the body’s natural hunger/satiety mechanisms and how it handles food, stored fats and more.)

In order to prepare the body for weight-loss, it is especially important to support the health and function of the detoxing organs, namely, the colon, kidneys, and liver but let’s not underestimate the importance of the body’s detoxing system as a whole.

Adipose tissue (fat cells) doesn’t just store fat, but is also used by the body to “stash” toxins in the system that it’s otherwise unable to eliminate and which could be very damaging to the organs if not dealt with somehow.1  

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READY TO TAKE HEALTHY BACK?  CLICK HERE TO START LEARNING HOW.

Eat Clean:

Fiber Up

Fiber works to stave off hunger, scrub the walls of the digestive tract and to absorb toxins in the system for elimination from the body.  (Be mindful to gradually increase so as not to overly stimulate the colon.)

Drink More Water

The body uses water for many things, including the removal of toxins and all sorts of waste from the body.  Staying adequately hydrate will help the body as it flushes things out of the system via the colon and kidneys.  This, of course, is in addition to it helping to reduce hunger (remember, hunger is another sign of dehydration as the body seeks to get the water it needs wherever it can, in food or liquid form).

Eat More Raw

Raw foods contain fiber, water, enzymes, and a wealth of phytonutrients to support all of the body’s processes.  Because they’re so water-rich, they help to hydrate the body and better help with satiety while consuming less calories.  The enzymes in the food aid digestion and free the body’s own enzymes to do more clean up work, helping to restore optimal function throughout the system.

Nutritional-Density over Caloric-Density

In our culture, we give very strong consideration to how much food we’re going to get (and not in a good way).  We get obsessed with big portions and often give little thought to the nutritional value being provided in what we’re eating.  What we have to understand too is that, as we have cravings, the body is not always just looking for calories but can also be looking to meet it’s other nutritional needs (such as for iron, calcium, manganese or magnesium).  In aiming to meet the body’s nutritional needs, we typically also well meet our caloric needs and the system finds its way to homeostasis.

essential-oils
We absolutely love Eden’s Garden Essential Oils. What a joy to get quality oils from a company that sows back into the lives of others!

Helping the body to eliminate excess waste will prepare it to better work to eliminate toxins and to re-establish balance throughout the system.  Even where we may need to watch intake, it should be much easier to scale it back without the crazy voracious appetite turning you all hangry and driving you to ditch your efforts.  As the body’s natural mechanisms are restored and nutritional needs are met, hunger should start to scale back and be more self-regulating, helping us to overcome compulsions to overeat, and helping the body to naturally work its way back to a healthy weight.

 

Make Sure You’re Eating Enough

This may seem counter-intuitive because we well understand that, in order to lose weight, we need to take in fewer calories than we expend.  However, a common error in weight loss is to come in way under the caloric budget which ultimately slows the body’s metabolism and primes us for an eventual binge.  What’s worse is that once normal food intake resumes, the slower metabolism makes it all the easier for the body to accumulate those extra pounds all over again.

I try to especially emphasize fueling appropriately for the work demands I’m placing on my body.  I try not to show up to the gym under-fueled as I find this self-defeating.  Instead, I strive to take in plenty enough calories to power through an intense workout and let that post-workout metabolism roar.

While it may not promise to get you there quite as fast, maintaining only a slight caloric deficit of 200-300 calories, but no more than a 500-calorie deficit, per day will lead to sustainable weight loss and set you well on a path to long-term success.

 

Make a Move

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Fresh food at your fingertips without the time, space and work of tending a garden.  GO FRESH.  GROW VERTICAL.

While it may be tempting to go all “couch-to-5k” over the next month, it’s incredibly important to be mindful of where we’re at, what we’re capable of (mentally and physically) and to never underestimate the cumulative effects and possibilities in making even small but intentional efforts toward our health and wellness goals.

One tip that stuck with me years ago was to “Commit to 10.”  In other words, even when you don’t feel like doing it or even when you feel like you really don’t have the time, commit to doing at least 10 minutes of intentional movement to exercise the body.  Most of the time, by this point, you’ll be revved and ready to power through the rest of the workout.  Even if you don’t, you will still know you have done something for the day and reinforce your intentions to be more active.  This is a great way to avoid missing three days in a row and calling the whole week a bust or feeling like you’ve already gotten off track.

Get up and go for a walk down the hall.  Park at the back of the lot.  Make the extra trip up the stairs and back.  It doesn’t have to be a half day at the gym.  While you DO want to keep that train going and build up to a strong exercise regimen, don’t underestimate the power of making those small, intentional moves toward those goals.

Prep Your Brain

Stop Giving Yourself a Way Out

So many resolutions start with “I’m going to try” or “I hope to…”  While trying is a good thing, it’s not as powerful a declaration over your intentions as determining now that you will, in fact, do just what you said.  Learn to catch your own excuses as you make them and reset your thoughts, words and actions toward the victory you aim to take hold of on the other side of your efforts.

Get Real & Get S.M.A.R.T.

Too many people flop on their New Year’s Resolutions because they set goals that set them up for failure.  This may seem like an obvious statement but too many people still miss it.  In order for you to be successful, the goal should be realistic.

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Think you have no time for nutrition?   Make your day Complete with grab’n’go goodness! Non-GMO – Vegan – Low Fat – No Cholesterol – No Artificial Flavoring – No Coloring – No preservatives – No Wheat, Dairy or Eggs – No Added Caffeine or Herb

 S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable (being challenging but not too extreme)

Realistic (yes, something humanly possible) and

Timely

Set goals out by establishing the ultimate long-term goal then decide what milestones you’d like to reach each quarter or month, then decide what steps you’re going to take this week to move you toward that goal.

Count Your Victories and Just Focus on Taking the NEXT Step

When you find yourself getting overwhelmed about the distance yet to be traveled, turn your attentions instead to the victories you’ve already achieved (even if it was just that you made it all the way through yesterday or the past week) and determine now to take the next step toward your goal.   That may mean just making it through lunch, staying on plan, or making it a point to do at least 10-15 minutes of intentional exercise in sticking with your commitment to move more this year.  As you do this, you will help to reinforce the truth that you can do this and you will.

Respect the Process

It’s easy to get incredibly frustrated with the time it takes to achieve our health and wellness goals, especially when we want that weight gone like yester-month.  I know, for me, God has shown me so much through the process and done some pretty incredible things along the journey.  There is much greater reward to be had than finally reaching that goal.  While I have been glad to get closer to where I’d like to be physically, I cannot begin to articulate the treasure God has given me in all I’ve learned through the process – great things that spill over to the benefit of so many other areas of my life.

Remember, your body isn’t just looking to get rid of extra fat.  As you embark on a journey to reduce weight, get back in shape and work toward being the best/healthiest version of yourself possible, your body is busy doing much work to cleanse, heal, rebuild and restore.  It is an incredible gift and we should be grateful God made our bodies capable of performing such tasks.  Stop hating your body and start appreciating it.  Respect all that it’s working to accomplish and make sure you’re providing it with all it needs to do so.

Show Some Love

Even if you’re the “newbie,” you can still play a key role in making someone else’s gym time a joy and in turn, you’ll find you enjoy that time more.  I find it incredibly helpful in my effort to stay on point and maintain that commitment, that I truly look forward to seeing the people I work out with week after week.  I love having the chance to cheer them on and their push pushes me to bring my best with each class.  It really gives me a great reason to not want to miss out on those classes.

Make it a point to establish a strong network of support and, where possible, lock arms with others on their journey to health freedom too.

Wherever you’re at today, know that you absolutely can achieve lifelong success.  Whether you’re looking to lose weight, get shredded, overcome a health malady or just to be intentional about walking in vibrant health, I wish you all the best in your efforts and cheer you on with great anticipation, looking forward to hearing all about your successes!

 

Be sure to follow this blog and give the Eden Life Ministries page a like so we can stay connected and you can be among the first to know when fresh content comes your way!

 

Resources:

Toxicological Function of Adipose Tissue: Focus on Persistent Organic Pollutants,
Michele La Merrill, et al., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3569688/

A Dozen Gift Ideas for the Health Nuts in Your Life

While we may seem to be a little on the picky side, we health-minded (obsessed) folk really aren’t that hard to shop for.  Here is a quick list of ideas to get those gears turning as you look to gift those you love, not just with more stuff, but with the kind of gifts that show love, thoughtfulness and support.

1. The Big Grab Baskets

What health enthusiast wouldn’t love a basket full of goodies? Of course, we’re not talking about cookies and brownies in a jar, or those mega baskets of cheeses and smoked meats. We’re talking about a bounty of life dropped right in their laps. Here are some things we would LOVE to see in some gift baskets:

The Edible Basket:

  • Goji Berries
  • Dried Blueberries or Dried Fruits without sweeteners or preservatives
  • Medjool Dates
  • Date Rolls
  • Raw Cacao for Smoothies or Shakes
  • Probiotic Dark Chocolate
  • Nut Butters
  • Kale Chips
  • Flax Crackers
  • Organic Popcorn + Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Trail Mix (real deal, no added sugars, sulfites, hydrogenated oils or canola, or candies)
  • Salad Jar filled with portioned crunchy/mixed toppings (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or chopped walnuts with raisins or chopped dried figs)

A recipe book or two would make a great addition to this basket to really round it off.

The Superfood Basket:

  • Acai
  • Goji Berries
  • Dried Blueberries
  • Raw Cacao (Nibs or Powder)
  • Hemp Hearts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Almonds
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds

The Blender-full Basket:

  • Mini-blender
  • Long, narrow silicone spatula so we can get every last drop of that smoothie out of the container
  • Acai
  • Raw Cacao (Powder)
  • Hemp Hearts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Bee Pollen (unless they’re vegan)
  • Spirulina, Moringa or other Greens Powders
  • Liquid Stevia
  • Fresh fruit (if you’re packing it up soon before gifting it off)

The “Ready to Go Remedies” Basket

The “Hot Cup of Joe (or Tea)” Basket

  • A pair of nice mugs
  • Organic Coffee
  • Organic and Specialty Teas (Green, Ginger, Oolong, Jasmine, Chamomile… there are really so many to choose from)
  • Stevia or Xylitol
  • A gift card to their favorite bookstore to nab a new title

The Home & Self-Care Basket

  • Essential Oil Hydrosols (especially great for those who have little ones in the home)
  • Natural, Toxin-Free Soaps, Lotions and Lip Balms
  • Soy Candles made with Essential Oils and Natural Fragrances (don’t you dare drop Febreeze in that basket!)
  • Natural Room Fresheners (They won’t likely be so glad to get the Glade)
  • Essential oil diffuser

2.  Complete Shakes with a Mini-Blender or Cool Shaker Bottle

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Health & Fitness Freaks have the hardest time finding shakes that taste great, have a great texture and come without all the junkity-junk found in so many products these days.  JuicePlus+’s Complete Shakes are crazy delicious (French Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate with variety packs also available), super smooth (yes, even when just mixed in the shaker bottle) and are chock full of all sorts of nutritional goodness.  I really love that they can be bought in a large bag or single-serve packets that make them uber convenient too.  Did I mention that there also vegan-friendly?  Seriously, I don’t care how much I have stock piled, I would totally squeal at getting these as a gift!

3.  Essential Oils & Diffusers

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Company’s like Eden’s Garden offer spectacular gift sets of all shapes and sizes, making it easy to grab a box set that’s sure to put a smile on most any natural wellness gal’s (or guy’s) face.  Our favorite are the Biblical Set, the Be Blessed Set, the Everyday Essential Oil Set, and their Synergy Blend Set.  Of course, their “Create-Your-Own” Sets are a great way to save money nabbing a collection of your favorite 2, 6, 12, or 32 oils.

The Simple Start Set also makes a great gift as it comes with extra basic bottles, roller bottles, personal diffusers,  and coconut carrier oil in addition to 6 incredible essentials.

If you REALLY want to knock the socks off your essential oil enthusiast, you can go Uber big with the Supreme Set that gives them 10 ml each of 64 different oils or you can go UBER UBER big with their Complete Set which has them set with 128 essential oils.

Their “Ok for Kids” collection makes a great gift for the kiddos too with blends that smell so good that mother dearest just may nab them too.



4. Eco-Friendly Travel Mugs, Water Bottles & Travel Containers

Glass bottles with the beautiful silicone grips, eco-friendly mugs to sip some hot green tea out of and some travel containers for all our healthful nibbles’n’bits always come in handy and are always super appreciated!

5. A Super Schnazzy Fitness Tracker

There are so many great fitness trackers on the market today, from MyZone (which I love because it has a band to wrap around the torso, keeping it out of the way and from getting smacked around during intense training) to FitBit, Garmin and Apple’s iWatch.

woman-girl-technology-music.jpg6.  The Gift of Music

This one is really for the one that loves to just pop their earbuds in and jam out like an all-star in the gym.  Gift cards for downloads or a subscription to apps like Spotify can be a great gift or stocking-stuffer.

7. The Gift of Killer Fitness Wear

Any gym-junkie would love getting some super stylish fitness wear, especially if that gym-junkie happens to be a female of most any age.  If you don’t know sizes, opt for a gift card that gives them permission to pick their faves.

I personally love all the great fitness wear that keeps coming out with powerful scriptures and declarations on them like:

  • “They shall soar on wings like eagles.  They shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not grow faint.”
  • “She is clothed with strength and dignity, she can laugh at the days to come without fear of the future.” and
  • “I can do ALL things through CHRIST who strengthens me.”

Of course, there are many other really cute ones out there bring faith and fitness together in some really awesome fitness wear.  Some inspiration with their perspiration, you know what I’m sayin’?

8. Kitchen Equipment

Whether your health nut likes to cook or not, there are a ton of gadgets, gizmos and appliances out there that can make quick work of healthy, homemade meals.  These are just a few things we would love to have land in our laps.fresh-healthy-kitchen-2994-830x550

  • Smoothie jars with special smoothie lids
  • Salad jars with those cute little containers for our favorite sauces
  • Meal prep bowls
  • Food processor
  • Blender (personal or larger countertop models)
  • Juicer
  • Vegetable spiralizer
  • Choppers & cutting boards
  • Good knives
  • Ulu with a gorgeous salad serving set
  • Nice eco-friendly cookware (without the toxic coatings, please!)
  • Bamboo or other wooden serving sets

9.  1-Month to their Favorite Gym or Group Fitness Class

I know this one may seem to cross a line or break some cardinal rule.  Be sure you know how the person you’re buying it for and that he/she understands the heart in which it is being given.  This would be great accompanied with a new journal and a note of encouragement in how proud you are of this special loved one for being such an inspiration to you and others in how they bring such effort to really stepping it up in their health.  Let this be a tool to cheer them on and show them your support.

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10.  Fitness Gear

Whether we’re hitting the gym or working out at home, there’s most always something we could really use or would love to introduce.  These things can be small like resistance bands or toe-sox or bigger like a heavy bag, inexpensive as a new mat or a killer investment like that TRX band set we’ve been eyeballing for months.  Do a little digging to find out what kind of fitness activities their into and nab a piece of gear that really resonates with that inner warrior of theirs.

11.  A Tower Garden

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I guarantee you – this will be the one they talk about for YEARS to come!

I realize this one may be a big buy but it is sure to be the gift of the year for anyone passionate about healthy foods. A tower garden will give them year round abundance of fresh, vibrant foods with very little cost to maintain. It’s even loved and well-enjoyed by people who otherwise struggle with getting anything to grow. Kids LOVE them and they make it too ridiculously easy to have healthy, homegrown foods indoors and out, year-round. If you’re looking to give the gift that totally beats out all others for the year, GO FOR THE GARDEN!

12.  Gift cards to their favorite Health & Wellness Store

We love when someone gives a free pass to hit the Health Food Store and just shop for whatever wellness goodies we can get our hands on!

Whatever you end up going with, we thank you for your thoughtfulness and for using this as a time to show your support!  The gift of wellness is truly a gift that keeps on giving.  

Praying you and your family a Very Merry Christmas, filled with more joy and blessings than you can count or contain!

Your turn.  What are your favorite health & wellness gifts to give or receive?



*Note, this article does contain affiliate links to products for which I receive a small commission for purchases at no added cost to you.  The links to products featured are not just for profit – these are products I personally use and absolutely love!

Sick of being sick? I was too. Here’s what I did about it.

Sick of being stuck in a rut of crap eating and poor health?  I was too.  For too long, I’d believed the lie that sickness, disease, depression, obesity and lackluster living were all just part of the life I’d grow to live.  I thought it was just in our family’s DNA.  What a crock!

Something had to change.  I had to change.

Wielding little more than a sharp knife, a couple of delicious-looking recipes and a handful of scriptures, I dove into my first 11-week intensive health initiative.  Yes, I probably should have had my head examined.  Yes, I prayed my way through those last few 10 weeks and 5 days, wondering if I’d ever make it.  No, I’ve never been the same.  

While I could write a list probably a good 39.25 miles long on all the things I’ve learned on this journey, I shall refrain and simply offer these 5 key concepts that have helped to radically change my health and that can radically improve yours too.

1. Realized it wasn’t my doctor’s job

I know this is where I tend to step on a lot of toes.  (Before it has some of you coming after me, I am not telling you not to see your doctor.  It is your right and responsibility to seek out competent healthcare and team up with well educated health professionals to accomplish your health and wellness goals.)

What I am saying is that anybody who assumes that it’s their doctor’s job to fix them (not taking the initiative to invest in their own health), is going to have a very hard time ever achieving true wellness.

It’s in taking a proactive approach that you’re going to find yourself more empowered and better equipped to live your life to its fullest.  

That’s not someone else’s job.  That’s your job.

As well educated as any physician may be, if you refuse to do what you know you should be doing, i.e., eating right, exercising, and adopting healthy lifestyle choices, there really isn’t much of anything anybody can do for you.

When we take our health as our own, personal responsibility, we are better able to team up with the right health professionals in our effort to achieve real health and wellness without the use of (or with at least minimal use of) any sort of met medication/remedies whatsoever.

2. Changed my mind a time or ten.

I believe there is a GREAT deal to be said for reassessing old ways of thinking and, where needed, giving ourselves a mental overhaul.  When we really think about it, are we willing to pay the price of poor eating?  I think not.

I used to think like a lot of people.  I thought of certain foods as “treats” until I realized that a food that would do my body as much harm as conventional eats do, isn’t really “treating” myself anyway I want to be “treated.”  

Now, I enjoy taking great delight in foods that love me back while tasting absolutely scrumptious.

I could really go on here but you can fill in your own blank.  What are some things you’ve caught yourself thinking and/or saying that you know really doesn’t align with your current health goals or line up with the kind of life you want to live?

3. I got more of the good stuff.  

Like most people, when I decided to step it up in my health, I thought I had myself covered with a simple multivitamin but soon enough learned, they ARE NOT all created equal.

I started flooding my body with the highest quality nutrition I could, emphasizing prevention over medicine.

An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!

While I’m ever working to maximize my plate, I know that having something to help my family bridge the gap between the fruits and vegetables we should be eating and the ones we actually are is really helpful (let’s face it – 7-13 servings a day can sometimes get past the best of us).  

For a long time, I invested in high quality supplements boasting a broad range of vitamins and minerals.  As great as these were, I jumped off this wagon and got our family hooked up with JuicePlus+ to give my family an excellent added source of whole food nutrition.  (Mega awesome that we get it for our kids totally free.  Even more awesome that you could be getting it free for your kids too.)

In addition to JuicePlus+, we are ever working to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to every meal.  Organic isn’t always accessible or affordable but we do strive to buy organic and eat as clean as possible.

If in doubt, check the label.  Even better – focus on foods that don’t need a label.

4. Stop taking shortcuts

When was the last time you caught yourself racing to beat that other car to the spot closest to the door?

Come on… we’ve all done it.  Now, knock it off!  

Some days we’re in a REALLY big hurry and some days we’re in no hurry to get moving.  Wherever you’re at, I hope you’ll start making it a point to stop taking the easy route and look for opportunities to add movement into your day.

Yes, scheduling time to workout is great and something we should all be doing.

Still, whether you’re at the gym at 6am or not, you can and should be looking for every opportunity to challenge your body and get that blood flowing.  Don’t underestimate the benefits of taking a few extra stairs or walking a little further.

5. Made it my job to help others do the same.

You may think this one is not for you.  Maybe, maybe not.  But, don’t think that you have to start a blog or jump in to health coaching to be able to help others in achieving their health and wellness goals.  Teaming up with others is a great way to keep ourselves on point.  

You may think you’re in no shape to be helping someone else get healthy.  

I STRONGLY disagree.  

You may not be where you’d like to be but the life you live can be a great testimony to others, inspiring them to eat better and live better.   

Whether you’re just getting started or feel like you’ve been at it for eons, you really can make a huge difference in your own health and in the lives of those around you as you realize you totally can take the steps to a healthier more vibrant you!  

What steps are you taking today toward the you you want to be tomorrow?

 

Forget “Willpower.” Here’s What You Really Need.

The day was shear madness!  I had finally had enough. Stress levels were through the roof and I felt like was on the brink of flipping my e v e r – l o v i n g – l i d. Then came the overwhelm. I just couldn’t take it anymore.   

At the time I was a good way through a big health initiative but in that moment, I could care less. My hand was on the fridge as I was ready to pitch it all by the wayside to cushion the borage of emotional blows with one massive bowl of pasta that’d been stashed, unintentionally, for just such a moment.  Because, you know…nothing really chases away the worries of a stressful day quite like a face full of carbs, right?

Almost. I almost went for it but then I didn’t. I didn’t because it was in that moment, just as that lovely refrigerator light started to break free from the door, I reminded myself that the food didn’t cause the problem and it wasn’t going to fix the problem. In fact, it was only going to make me feel worse when it was all said and done. The day had been bad enough. The last thing I needed was to end it in more defeat.

How many times I’ve heard women tell me they want to eat better and live more healthfully but they just don’t have the “willpower.”  If this is you, hear me loud and clear here – IT’S NOT ABOUT WILLPOWER.  Or, as I remember hearing some time back ago – “It’s about the food but it’s not about the food.

While there a number of factors that can come into play and things that can make some food cravings more intense than others, I think one of the biggest things we’re lacking isn’t willpower, it’s perspective.

When I hear the term “willpower” the image of arm wrestling comes to mind. Are we going to sit, pushing and pulling back and forth with it or do we gather enough sense to just walk away from the table?

Have you ever wondered why some people let themselves slip into alcoholism or drug addiction?   We rack our brains, perplexed at how anyone would consume or use something they know is going to destroy their bodies and wreak havoc in their families. Come on. I mean, we know that when someone starts using that stuff it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” it’s going to come back to bite them in the rear. The chances are VERY good that it will result in sickness and/or death.

Yet many do it every day with the food and beverages we bring into our homes and think so little of it. We’re killing ourselves slowly with a fork and calling it a delight. 

You may be thinking “whoa…that’s a bit harsh…” When you think about it, is it really?  Many physicians now agree that anywhere from 70-90% of all disease could be prevented or cured through proper diet and lifestyle choices. We know, for a fact, that processed, refined, and chemically treated foods damage the gut, harm the brain, raise blood pressure, and promote diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Yet, we look away thinkin we don’t have time to be bothered with it or we don’t think that we are capable of implementing a better plan because we think it would take too much of that “willpower” stuff we’re sure we don’t have enough of.

The problem has never been the willpower.  What we’ve really needed is some better perspective, better understanding and some personal responsibility in hopping to the helm and turning that ship around.

The most pivotal moments in my health have come on the other side of me changing my mind about the food I was eating and the way I was living. I’m still ever growing here as I learn new things. {I think we should ever strive to learn and grow!} 

I think a big one here, as we gain perspective, is redefining what we call food. 

You and your family are incredible and incredibly important. Your bodies have certain needs that should and must be met through the foods you eat.  

When someone says “I just don’t have enough willpower,” what they’re really getting at is that they’ve either not fully understood the implications of how their food choices impact their lives OR that they’re still not ready to commit to eating for purpose over pleasure.

When I say you should learn to eat for purpose over pleasure, understand that that doesn’t mean you have to relegate yourself to a lifetime of eating foods you hate.  As you place the purpose (you and your family living healthful, vibrant lives) at the forefront of your decision-making process, you’re going to see a lot of changes in how you want to eat. Your body will soon love being nurtured by all the healthful foods you’re eating and your palate will change.

When you learn to eat for purpose over pleasure, you will soon enough find great pleasure in the things that feed the purpose.

In no area of our lives are we called to place pleasure at the forefront of our decisions. That is not to say we should avoid anything we enjoy. That’s just to say that it shouldn’t be the leading factor. Think about it. When pleasure (especially immediate satisfaction) is priority number one, we can make some really dumb decisions that, quite often, we only regret later. Whether we spend too much on that stupid thingy-ma-bob that just looked so cool in the store or binge on cheesecake (or pasta), we have to recognize that placing pleasure front and center in our thinking and behavior is not freedom, its recklessness.

I think this is one area where some may take me as harsh or where I’m not always fully understood in how I think or how I pray for people. It truly breaks my heart to see people, especially Jesus-loving believers, run down with sickness and disease. It hurts to see them wrestle to understand why God would want them to be sick and carry these diseases when I don’t believe that’s the issue at all. For that, I can’t pray the same way I hear so many others pray. I would never seek to diminish or question the heartfelt prayers of my brothers and sisters. As we’re talking about here, I’m merely talking about a matter of perspective.

We have a measure of responsibility in our living. It may seem fanciful to pray “God, take away my cravings for bad foods.” But we have to be willing to step to the plate (or back from it) in an effort to live the ways we know we should.  There are many factors that can come into play; many variables that can add great weight to the struggle.  We absolutely need God’s help to navigate these waters as we set out on such a quest.  I truly believe that where it’s our hearts desire to live healthfully and to live a life that brings Him glory, He is absolutely 100% there to help. Still, we have our choices to make.

Are the choices you’re making today lining up with the things you’ve been seeking God for, or the things your heart has most deeply longed for, or are they working in opposition to them?

Perspective.

Open eyes.

Understanding.

How I pray God gives us them all.

I truly believe that incredible things are before you, but, I also believe that before many of us can take hold of those things, we have to be willing to take a step back and honestly evaluate how we’re living and what/Who we’re living for. 

Make up your mind and move forward.

Don’t ponder. Don’t pace. Can the “What if’s,” the “maybe’s,” and the notion that you somehow have to muster up the power to “wrestle down” those cravings/inclinations. Yes, there may be a struggle for a time but once your mind is made up, it’s just up to you to walk it out. Soon enough, it won’t even be an issue any more and you’ll be right back on track to changing the world.

So, how about it?  What are some things that have come into light lately for you and how are those things helping you to realign your life with how you’d really love to live?

How to Eat Healthier without Really Trying

Some of us have no trouble taking hold of healthy living with the embrace of a child around a life-sized stuffed unicorn.  Some others, not so much.

Let’s face it.  Some of you are still in a place where you think health foods suck and whole foods just bite the big one.

NEWSFLASH!  You’re palate can totally be retrained to love health food.  It just takes a little bit of time and intentional effort.  However, the intentional effort doesn’t have to be so painful as some of you may be thinking.

Today’s discussion – a few little tricks you can stash up your sleeve to have you eating healthier without giving it much thought.

Mash’n’Spread

So maybe you don’t like the textures of things like avocados, beans or sweet potatoes.  These are some of my favorites but, if they’re not yours, that’s cool.  You can still reap the benefits and learn to love them.

Cook them down until soft, puree them in a mini-chopper or food processor or just mash them with a fork.  Use in place of mayonnaise or other sandwich spreads in wraps and sandwiches or serve as a dip on the side.

Chop ‘Em into Tiny Bits

Just because you don’t link massive chunks of celery and onions or whatever else, doesn’t mean you’d mind them if they’re chopped smaller.  Foods like squash, zucchini, broccoli, onions, celery, carrots and, well, a whole lot of other stuff, can easily be added to soups, stews and sauces with little detection or objection.

Making a wrap, sandwich or tacos?  Just sprinkled those teeny veggies right on top and nosh away, my friend.

Pulse It Out

Beans + Peas + Lentils = Pulses

Pulse it out!  Keep prepared beans, lentils and peas on hand to easily add to salads or whatever else you have on your plate.  The lighter flavor makes them an easy addition to most any addition.

These babies can also be dressed up with your favorite herbs, spices or sauces to play the lead role for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Okay, maybe not so much on breakfast, unless you’re just into that sort of thing but they can steal the show for lunch, dinner and snacks.  {Crunchy Chickpeas?  Yes, please!!!}

Keep Healthy On-Hand

Some of us have some serious snacking tendencies.  If you stay busy like I stay busy, you’re probably not even really present when you’re doing it.  You just gnaw on those nibbles’n’bits while your brain continues to process billions of calculations.

Or, maybe you’re just lazy.  Not judging.  Just saying, this works for you too and maybe even more so.

Just quit bringing the junk in or, at the very least, stash it in hard to reach places.  Keep fresh fruits and vegetables prepped and placed for easy grab’n’go snacks.

Just Add ‘Kraut

Okay, so maybe you’re not much of a sauerkraut fan (but then, maybe you are).  Point is, I’m willing to bet you have at least one totally healthy dip or topping that just rocks you’re ever-loving world.

Run with it!  Really…just schmear it on everything!

Guacamole, Sauerkraut, Avocado-based Green Goddess Dressings, Kimchi, Salsa, Pico, whatever rocks your boat – try it paired with other health foods you may have previously not been quite so crazy about.

Get a little saucy and sassy with it.

So, there you have it – a handful of tips on how you can eat a little better each day without making it overly complicated.

Now it’s your turn – what are some of your favorites ways to make healthier eating a little easier?  How do you sneak those scrumptious, healthy eats under your own radar?

 

 

8 Super Hideable Healthfoods

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By LaTricia Morris, Author, Illustrator, Integrative Wellness Counselor and Founder of See Kids Thrive & Eden Life Ministries

So, we understand a healthy diet is critical to our growth and wellbeing.  No need to sugar-coat it anymore.  The Standard American Diet is a slow poison that’s killing us.  We know we need to be getting more fruits and veggies (especially now that the daily rec’s are 7-13 servings a day [16-18 for athletic types]).  Yet, between time and taste buds, we find it incredibly difficult to get NEAR that much.  

What on earth is a mother to do?  Right?  

Well, I guess you could duct tape them to a chair and threaten those wee little tots with a lifetime of slop’n’biscuits if they don’t make those peas vanish STAT!  

OR, you could spare yourself the drama and the chaos (and maybe the fun of it) and opt to help their bodies grow to appreciate those fresh fruits and veggies by slipping some extras under the radar.  

Get crafty with these easy to hide foods that “power up” any meal.

 

Avocados

To some, these creamy, dreamy babies are perfect with anything sweet, savory, spicy, tart… okay, with everything.  To some others, that green, mushy madness is a straight no-go.  

While we love avocadoes sliced, diced and straight off the spoon, we also love their versatility (along with their incredible health benefits).  Try mashed avocadoes in place of mayo in wraps and sandwiches; drop it in a food processor with some cacao and raw honey/agave for a chocolate pudding that will rock your world, or throw it in the blender to make a decadently creamy smoothie or shake.  

Zucchini

This summer beauty is delicious raw or cooked but the waxy texture of zucchini and squash can be a little off-putting to some.  Mix things up by throwing thin slices on a pizza or mixing it into pasta.  Spiralize it and use it in place of pasta in spaghetti or fettuccine.  Slice it lengthwise and layer it into a lasagna.  Slice and bake them into Zucchini Chips or puree them and bake them into cookies, muffins and {sweet} breads.

Beans

Beans beans, good for the heart; the more you eat, the more you… Hey, knock that off!

I love beans and always seem to find ways to incorporate them into all sorts of things.  So, you kid doesn’t always like straight beans… who cares?  There are LOTS of scrumptious ways to enjoy them.  One of my kids’ favorites right now is to enjoy them in salad blends that would remind you of, say, a fish or chicken salad but without all the meat’n’mayo action.  Instead of mayo, you simply use a combination of tahini, cider or wine vinegar and a touch of maple and salt.  Instead of the meat, you coarsely mash your drained beans in a medium bowl with a fork or spud-masher.  Sauce it up with your mayo substitute and mix up the flavor with some of your favorite combos such as minced carrots and celery, sweet pepper and scallions, or cranberries and walnuts (drop the crazy-brow – it’s absolutely delicious in a chickpea salad).

Add a bean mash to wraps, paninis and other handhelds or sweeten the deal by incorporating them into cookies, brownies or truffles.  

Pumpkin, Sweet Potato or Apples

These harvest time favorites seldom need hiding as they truly shine on their own.  Still, where you’re looking to slip in a little extra of these nutritional powerhouses, you just may find yourself having a little too much fun with all the recipes that allow you to incorporate them.  Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and Apple purees can be incorporated into brownies; used in place of oils or liquids in cookies, breads, pancakes and waffles; or whipped into a deliciously festive fall soup.  Drop them in the blender for smoothies or for a fun twist on your favorite pasta sauces.

Broccoli

You may wonder how on earth you’re going to get those tell-tale florets on that plate all “incognito” but fret not, my dear, fret not.

While most reach no further than the cheese drawer to bring the broc, there really are so many more healthy ways to enjoy it.  Case in point: pasta sauce.  Open blender, drop in favorite organic sauce and some steamed or frozen-but-thawed broccoli florets and puree away.  Dump in saucepan to heat and you are in business!  Like pesto?  Break out the mini-chopper and pulse in some broccoli.  Dips & spreads?  Broccoli!  Cake?  You guessed it!  Broccoli!  Wait…what?  Okay, kidding, don’t put it in a cake.  (Though, I’m sure if you’re like some Cupcake Wars star, you could pull it off.  Otherwise, let’s just not go there…)  Hey…you can use them for broccoli and sweet potato cakes!

Pizza, stir-fry, ramen, soup…  So many possibilities for these green gems and even some for their stems as many markets are now also offering broccoli slaw mix which turns into an out of this world side dish when dressed in a maple balsamic vinaigrette with cranberries and walnuts.

Cauliflower

Yes, there really are more ways to enjoy it than steamed and drowning in cheddar.  

Serve cauliflower up buffalo-style.  Throw it on a pizza or whip it up as a hash.  Throw it in the blender for a delicious, creamy, low-cal retake on a classic alfredo sauce.  Pulse it into cauliflower rice or to make up a delectably dippable batch of cauli-tots.

As much as I’d love to keep going here, all this food talk is making me a little hungry and I happen to be sitting right next to the kitchen.  So, yeah, um… your turn!  What are some of your favorite ways to get those extra fruits and veggies in throughout your day?

 

Sock Rockin’ Fall-to-Winter Minestrone

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Ingredients

Good olive oil

1/4-1/2 cup Dry-Packed Sundried Tomatoes, Chopped, optional

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions

2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) carrots (3 carrots)

2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) celery (3 stalks)

2 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) peeled butternut squash

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves OR 1 tsp dried thyme leaves

1 (26-ounce) can or box diced tomatoes, such as Pomi

8 cups organic vegetable stock

1 large bay leaf

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups cooked small pasta, such as tubetti

8 to 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup good dry white wine

2 tablespoons pesto (may substitute for 1-2 tbsp dried basil, adjusting for taste)

Fresh Grated Asiago, optional, for serving

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven.

Add the onions, carrots, celery, squash, garlic, and thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, the bay leaf, thyme, sundried tomatoes, a strong pinch of salt, and fresh cracked pepper to the pot.  If using dried basil instead of the pesto, you’ll want to add that now as well.

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaf. Add the beans and cooked pasta and heat through. The soup should be quite thick but if it’s too thick, I add more vegetable stock.

Shut off the heat, add the spinach, and toss with 2 big spoons (like tossing a salad). Cover and let set about 5 minutes, jjust until the leaves are wilted. Stir in the white wine and pesto.

Sprinkled with fresh Asiago or a sprinkling of Nutritional Yeast, drizzle with olive oil and serve hot.
NOTE:  If making ahead of time, stop just before adding the spinach.  When ready to serve, heat the soup back to a simmer, shut off heat and complete the remaining steps.