Wellness Junkie Confession: My Sugar Habit

sugarIf I look back on what I was eating 5 or 10 years ago, it’s mind-blowing how my diet has changed and how much better I feel.  Like anything, making long-lasting changes to your life require small, baby steps.  It’s your willingness to make the effort every day, in little ways and stick to it over the long run that brings about sustainable change.

So, after many a juice,  detoxing heavy metal chelation, saying goodbye to gluten, limiting dairy, limiting meat, banning processed foods and GMOs (if I know about them)…. I’m feeling great.  But…there’s one more thing that has to get under control: sugar.

I’ve always had a sweet tooth…and I remember racing through meals so that I could get to the best part: dessert.  After entering into the 40 Club, I’ve noticed changes in my body, my metabolism that I’m not liking and it’s caused me to jump over this last obstacle to my healthy, balanced eating and that’s my sugar addiction. There, I said it….I am addicted to sugar.

I couldn’t elaborate better than this video:  How Sugar Affects the Brain

So…I’ve started with just a few baby steps that made sense to me:

  • Dessert/Sweets are SPECIAL treats, reserved for a once in a while treat or to celebrate a special occasion and NOT an everyday or every meal occurrence (BIG mindset change for me)
  • In addition to being just a special treat, I will continue to avoid processed, refined, high fat cheap sweets. Only the good stuff in tiny amounts.
  • I’m reading all labels on everything I buy for sugar content in grams, as well as those sneaky sugar words like evaporated cane juice, agave nectar and anything ending in -ose.  When we’re more aware we make better choices.
  • I’m paying special attention to foods that I eat everyday like what I put in my coffee and what I have for breakfast.  Yes, for those that regularly read this blog, you may remember that I was coffee-free for awhile, but I’ve allowed coffee back in, in moderation and have made the decision to not eliminate coffee and sugar at the same time…I’m sure those closest to me are happy about this decision.  So, I’ve cut sugar from my morning coffee and added just a very small amount of stevia, a natural sweetener.  For breakfast, I eat a half grapefruit and a bowl of GF steel-cut oats with 1/2 banana, handful of walnuts and handful of berries.  So far, it’s working for me…the oatmeal in the morning is satisfying and the berries give it just a bit of sweetness.
  • I’m not going overboard and limiting all sugar… Fruit, in moderation, is good for you.  I’m just paying better attention to which fruits and how much sugar they have.  Sometimes the antioxidants or other nutritional benefits of the fruit make it worthwhile.  And, if I’m going to have sugar, I want to enjoy it in a bowl of berries and not hidden in our pasta sauce.
  • I’ve cut the sugar in my green smoothies and made them a bit more green.  We planted a garden this winter and have been enjoying homegrown kale and swiss chard which has been amazing.  So my typical green smoothie recipe looks like this:

1 cup coconut water,  4-5 leaves of greens, stems removed, handful of berries, 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple, 2 T. yogurt (I use coconut plain yogurt), 1 scoop of non-GMO protein powder ( I like Tera’s Whey or PlantFusion)

Here’s a good article on sugar and its connections to inflammation and other chronic health issues:  http://experiencelife.com/article/sugar-breakdown/

Here’s an article from one of my favorite health news resources about healthy foods to eat to cut sugar cravings:  http://www.naturalnews.com/041463_sugar_cravings_healthy_foods_appetite.html

So…I’m sure I’ll be writing more on this topic in the future.  What about you all?  Any sugar elimination/reduction success stories out there to fuel the rest of us on?



Chia Seeds

If you haven’t tried chia seeds yet, please do!  They have many nutritious benefits and are easy to incorporate into your diet.

Chia SeedsSalvia hispanica, commonly known as chia, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala.  Remember the chia pets in the 80s?

Chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber and antioxidants.  One ounce (about 2 tablespoons – which is about what I try to consume daily) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals.  And these days, they’re going mainstream.  You can find them at Trader Joe’s, Costco and most grocery stores.

Typically, I mix chia seeds into my smoothies.  That way, you don’t really notice them.  It’s easier for our bodies to digest chia seeds vs. flax seeds.  We sprinkle chia seeds on cereal and oatmeal or just as a snack.   They have a mild nutty taste.

Chia seeds can also be used as an egg substitute.  We’ve been inching closer to vegan/plant-based eating and chia seeds have been great for those baking recipes that call for an egg or two.  Here’s the best chia egg substitute recipe for baking that I’ve found.  This is the equivalent of 1 egg:

1 Tablespoon Chia Seeds  and 3 Tablespoons Water

Combing and let sit until the chia seeds look more like a gel substance (about 10 minutes) and use as you would an egg.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes… oh and if you have any favorite recipes with chia seeds, do share…

My Wellness Story and Why Baby Steps Matter

I consider it a compliment that friends, family and clients ask me a ton of wellness questions.  Have you heard about Oregano Oil?  Do you take CoQ10?  What kind of protein do you put in your smoothies?

I am by no means an expert on wellness.  I read and research a lot of different sources, try a lot of things and choose what works best for me.  And you can do the same.  There is no one silver bullet for great health.  It’s about progress.  And a funny thing happens along the way.  It changes you.

Today, I’m going to share more about my wellness journey so you can see what I mean.  This is me at a high school yearbook camp with my friend, Mindee (I’m on the left).

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While I may look like a normal, healthy teenager on the outside, I was drinking 2-3 Diet Cokes every day, addicted to sugar (I can see that now, looking back) and eating a typical American diet (plenty of meat and carbs, not very many vegetables).  But at that age, I was motivated for school, college and life so it didn’t seem to affect me.  Fast forward to my mid-twenties.  I had a stressful corporate job, and had now moved on to way too much coffee and a diet of convenient processed foods with an occasional salad.  This can only last so long, my friends, until your body screams for help.

The screams I heard came in the form of recurring headaches, digestive stress and fatigue.  Looking for pain relief and more energy started me down the path that I’m still on today… just enjoying a way better view!

So.  Here’s my point:  baby steps matter.

When I look back, there wasn’t one pivotal action that POOF! made me see the light and I instantly became more healthy.  It was a series of small actions that added up over time.  While stressed in my corporate job, I decided to take a yoga class with my mom.  That was 1996.  This small action rekindled my passion for movement and teaching which later led to my quitting my job and starting my own yoga business in 2004.

SAMSUNGThe list goes on and on.  I made the switch to a naturopath who opened my eyes to many holistic treatment options and the wonder of healing with whole foods.  I bought a juicer and a high-speed blender.  I quit drinking soda and coffee and I feel more energetic and more alert!  I tried gluten-free for 3 weeks and never went back because I felt so much better.

I began to crave more of the healthy stuff and less of the junk.  In fact, when I had moments of weakness and went back to indulge in some decadent food from my past life, it didn’t have the same effect on me.  It didn’t satisfy.

The same is true today.  My husband and I eat a mostly plant-based diet.  Every once in a while, the idea of something else tempts me.  Sometimes I stay on course and sometimes I give in.  But I’ll warn you, when I give in, that once tasty thing doesn’t satisfy anymore. Eventually…giving in is just silly.  I already enjoy the best foods — whole, real, awesome food.

DSCN1184All of this to say….be encouraged!  Don’t look at the whole giant challenge of getting healthy…instead, take one step.  Choose one thing that you can do today that’s not so difficult.  And tomorrow, do it again.  And the next day.  It does add up and you will build momentum.  You can do this.  Here are just a few examples of baby steps…I know you probably have your own list too.

  • Move for 20 minutes — go for a walk, put in a fitness dvd or just dance around your house!
  • Shop the perimeter of your grocery store
  • Eat at least 2 meatless meals a week.  Gradually increase that number.
  • Confide in a friend about your health & wellness goals – it always helps to have a buddy!
  • Eat more vegetables.
  • Drink more water.
  • Drink less soda.
  • Get outside more (weather permitting)
  • Just get started. Take that first step….



Natural Remedies for the Flu

Happy New Year!  Yes, I know it’s January 14th but I’ve been down and out with this flu since December 31st so I’m still in the New Year frame of mind.  Not sure about you, but up until this recent bout with the flu, I wasn’t always fighting my symptoms au naturel.  I’d try the over-the-counter options that would just make me feel drugged up but not better.  This year, I went to my trusted naturopath and learned all kinds of new things to share with you on natural remedies for the flu.   Before you reach for those OTC drugs, try these:

Bio-Vegetarian Immune System Supplement:   This supplement worked great.  It has high doses of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, along with B vitamins and herbs to help you naturally fight the flu and boost your immune system.  You’ll want to consult your doctor first and if you’re pregnant, you can’t take this supplement.

Cold Sock Therapy:  I know.  It’s counter-intuitive.  Who, in their right mind, would put on cold, wet socks when they’re sick?  But it totally works.  This, singlehandedly brought down my fever, relieved congestion and afforded me the best nights of sleep during my bout with the flu. AMAZING.  Here’s a link that tells you how to do cold sock therapy.

Hot Water, Lemon & Honey:  Rather than suck on sugary cough drops, this caffeine-free tea really helped.  If you’re feeling nauseous, add an inch of fresh ginger root to the mix.  If you’re wanting more of an immunity boost, add a 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric which is a natural anti-inflammatory. Bring water to a slow boil.  Add juice from 1/2 lemon and a teaspoon of raw honey.

Elderberry Extract: This is definitely the best tasting flu remedy I’ve tried.  Elderberry extract works to fight the flu virus and reduce the severity of your symptoms.  You can find Elderberry Extract at most health stores or healthy grocery stores.  Here’s our review of Elderberry Extract.

Avoid sugar at ALL COSTS:  I will say that this is my weakness, but when you’re sick, you have no appetite anyway.  Sugar deflates and weakens your immune system.  Avoiding or severely limiting your sugar intake will help you get better faster and can help strengthen your immunity to avoid getting this awful bug in the first place.

Happy Herbivore Abroad Cookbook Giveaway

As we finish up 2012, are there healthy eating resolutions & goals on your 2013 list?  If yes, today’s giveaway may just be for you! We are so excited to be included on the Happy Herbivore Abroad Blog Tour and you should be too because we’re giving away a copy for one of our lucky readers! I’ve been on a happy plant-based cooking frenzy since I received my copy of this great cookbook, Happy Herbivore Abroad.

What I like about Lindsay S. Nixon’s Happy Herbivore cookbooks is that the recipes are relatively straightforward and use easy to find ingredients.  The cookbook includes over 135 fat-free & low fat vegan recipes from around the world.  Having enjoyed several of the cities that Lindsay highlights in the book, it was fun to reminisce about my own travels and recreate some favorite international dishes.

Whether you’ve been on a plant-based diet for awhile or are just contemplating one, the Happy Herbivore cookbooks are a great resource and I believe Happy Herbivore Abroad has become my new favorite.  Over the Christmas holiday, I served German Lentil Soup and received rave reviews.  We also loved the Taco Soup (added some gluten-free pasta for more of a taco chili feel) and Swedish Split Pea Soup.  I think the Decadent Brownies are a huge improvement from the Black Bean Brownies (which are good – but these Decadent ones are wonderful!)  The Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe has a nice mild curry flavor and was a nice change of pace from my usual quinoa, cranberry, walnut concoction.  What’s so fun is that there are so many more recipes I can’t wait to try.

I found myself reading off these recipes to my mom over the phone so she could try as well.  After several times of this, I just ordered an additional copy for her.   It’s that good.

I’ve included more on our transition to a plant-based diet here.

This giveaway is now closed. The winner will be notified via email. Thanks!

We are giving away one copy of Lindsay S. Nixon’s Happy Herbivore Abroad, her latest cookbook.  We will pick our winner on January 1, 2013 and notify them via email.  Only U.S. and Canada folks are eligible to enter. 

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this blog post sharing your favorite plant-based dish OR one of your 2013 resolutions.

As part of the blog tour,  I was able to interview the author of Happy Herbivore Abroad, Lindsay S. Nixon:

1.  Congratulations on your new book, Happy Herbivore Abroad.  Do you have a favorite travel experience or funny story from your preparations and research for the book?  

Lindsay: Those stories are in the book :)

From WellnessJunkie: After reading through my copy, my favorite would be Lindsay’s story about getting lost in Granada…mostly because I have my own “getting lost in Rome/relying on kindness of strangers” story…

2.  I’m so thrilled for your growing success with working with Engine 2 and Forks Over Knives, your cookbooks and continued media opportunities. As you are enjoying more and more success and your schedule gets busy, how do you stay grounded and in balance?

Lindsay: I try to take in and enjoy every opportunity, but sometimes it gets shuffled into my day-to-day. My primary concern is my fans — the Herbies — I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and they’ll be there long after the Dr. Oz episode ends. Everything I do, I do for them. They keep me grounded.


3. One of the things I love about your first two books is that most of the ingredients are readily available and not too hard to find.  Was this an easy thing to maintain for Happy Herbivore Abroad or did the international aspect make this more challenging?

Lindsay: I’m very passionate about using everyday ingredients and didn’t want to change that with this book – so I didn’t. You get all the international flavor but without the fuss.


4.  What advice do you give “pseudo” herbivores that are eating about a 90% plant-based diet, but haven’t gone all in? Are there strategies that you’ve learned to help folks get to 100%?

Lindsay: Just do it. Take it a meal at a time. Don’t get caught up with over thinking. Worry about this meal, right now — not what you’re doing tomorrow, or next week or next Christmas. Never think in “Can’t haves” — it’s not that you can’t have it, it’s that you’re choosing not to. Also, focus on all the food you can have, not what you’re choosing to give up. I eat a wider variety of food now on a plant-based diet than I ever did on an omnivorous one!

This giveaway is now closed.

To enter our Happy Herbivore Abroad cookbook giveaway, please leave a comment sharing your favorite plant-based dish or one of your 2013 resolutions.  We’ll pick our winner on January 1, 2013 and notify them via email.  U.S. and Canada folks only, please.

6 Baby Steps to Wellness

Baby steps to healthy living are more sustainable.

I have a friend back home that I was able to spend some great quality time with when I was back for a visit.  She mentioned that she wasn’t feeling great and had given in to convenience over healthy eating with the busy season.  We talked about baby steps to eating more healthy and I thought I’d share a few here.

The busy holiday season can send many of us off our healthy course.  Just yesterday, I was roasting nuts for holiday gifts and I didn’t feel like making a healthy lunch and opted for a frozen pizza.  Yes, it happens.   Now I’m not going to say never eat frozen pizza again, but I will say that my days of eating “beige subfood” are fewer and farther apart than they used to be.  In the afternoon, I had to pull out the Vitamix for a green smoothie to just perk up and finish my nut roasting project.  The more healthy I eat, the less I crave the bad stuff…but I am human.  It takes a little time but your tastes change.

  • Think about what you can/should eat MORE OF first and then begin to EAT LESS of the bad stuff.So I like to tell folks to focus on eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day (making sure that 3 of the 5 are veggies and at least of those three veggies are green).  We’ll want to up that number in the future, but for now, 5 is great place to start. People notice that they’re feeling more full, more satisfied with more complex carbs and fiber, that they’ll eat fewer empty nutrient foods.
  • Get enough protein.  Everybody is different and has different protein needs.  Yes, you can get enough protein on a plant-based diet…but if you’re a meat eater, try to stick with lean proteins like fish or chicken.   Rice and beans or quinoa and greens salad are great healthy ways to get a complete protein. Also, always put a scoop of non-GMO protein powder in EVERY smoothie.  This is an easy way to sneak in some protein, especially in the morning.   I love PLANT FUSION and Tera’s Whey Proteins.
  • Move more.  Whatever you’re doing today for exercise, try to add 2 to it.  Maybe it’s walking 2 more days during the week for 30 minutes.  Maybe it’s 2 more trips to the gym.  Or 2 more fitness DVDs that you pull out and actually do. The key is to start somewhere and inch a bit in the right direction.  If you overdo and injure yourself, you’ll be back to 0 days.  Baby steps, people.
  • Try at least 2 meatless meals.  It’s easy to do and it’s kind to your budget.  Try to eat two meatless meals a week.  I will warn you that my husband and I started with 2 meals a week and soon we’re 90% plant-based…BUT we feel great.  We’ve lost weight, have more energy and sleep better.
  • Be mindful of what you eat. After a few weeks of getting 5 fruits or veggies a day, start to really notice what you eat and how you feel after.  If it’s easier, keep a food journal.  Once you’re paying attention, the areas for improvement will jump out at you:  less sugar, less alcohol, less fat.  For the not-so healthy items, choose one category to focus on at a time.  For example, if you’re a daily soda drinker, focus on decreasing, eliminating and/or replacing your soda with water with cucumber or lemon or green tea.  Don’t try to eliminate soda, chocolate, cheese and coffee in the same week.  One at a time will help you build sustainable change.
  • Grace.  Remember to give yourself a break on the frozen pizza days.  Over time, you’ll see the progress if you make small, achievable changes…Slow and steady wins the race.

What is your best piece of advice for friends wanting to eat healthier?  Leave your comments here…


Cherry Kale Smoothie

Cherry Kale Smoothie

My usual rule for smoothie making is to remember your paint color mixing from preschool and avoid making brown drinks when possible.  Go for pretty bright green, red or purple ones. Often, it’s hard enough to get your spouse, kids, friends to try your latest concoction…And, if it’s brown, game over.

But this morning, I forced myself into a brown smoothie.  I usually pair pineapple or peaches with kale.  Or, I’ll combine blueberries with my greens for a purple smoothie.  Today, only organic sweet cherries (frozen) were staring back at me.  Cherries are actually really good for us.  Here are some of the benefits of cherries:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Improves your natural sleep cycles
  • High in beta carotene
  • Heart healthy
  • Antioxidant properties

So cherries it is and I will say it tastes so good.  If the brown color gets in your way, just close your eyes and enjoy!

Cherry Kale Smoothie

1 1/2 c. coconut water or filtered water

1 handful of kale, stems removed

1 small handful of parsley

1 banana

1 c. of frozen organic sweet cherries (or other berry)

Option: if you’re using fresh fruit, add 1 c. of ice

1 scoop of favorite non-gmo protein powder

Blend in your Vitamix or other high speed blender and enjoy!

Mom-to-be Shares: Chocolate Kale Smoothie, Part 2

This week’s Wellness Junkie, Carrie

Earlier this week, I posted my interview with Carrie Putman, who in the last year has completely transformed her health and wellness by starting with simple, doable steps.  Go here to read that interview.

We promised to share her daily chocolate shake…so here you go – Happy Friday!

Carrie’s Daily Dose of Chocolate Shake (serves 2)

2 c. chocolate almond milk  (if you have regular almond or non-dairy milk, just add 2 T. of cocoa or cacao powder for every cup)

2 T. pure virgin organic coconut oil (if you’re in a cold climate, you may want to set the jar on the counter for awhile to soften back into a liquid)

2-3 leaves of kale

1 handful of carrots (Carrie uses the organic baby carrots, but you could also use one large carrot or two small ones)

1 scoop protein powder (look for a non-GMO powder, or  see my reviews of protein powders.)

1/4 cup of ice

Blend in the Vitamix or other high-speed blender until smooth.

As always – you can add to or modify however you need.  If you want a sweeter shake, consider adding a tablespoon of agave nectar or honey.



Mom-to-be Shares her Steps to a Healthier Lifestyle

Are you a wellness junkie? If so, we want to hear from you!  We’re talking to people – all ages, from all over about the changes they’ve made in their life to be more healthy.  Leave a comment below with your email if you’d like us to profile you.

Meet Carrie Putman, 41, married, entrepreneur and expecting her first baby…congrats!

This week’s Wellness Junkie, Carrie with her Veggies & Chocolate Shake

Describe your eating and wellness habits before we met.

Well, I never exercised.  I drank big Starbucks drinks every day.  We ate out about 5-6 times a week.  A healthy meal at home was pasta with Ragu.  I had to have my gall bladder removed and I had really bad digestive problems, mostly constipation.  Overall, I just didn’t feel great.

What prompted you to seek out a healthier lifestyle?

I had been wanting to make a change for the last eight years, but didn’t really know how to cook and it just didn’t seem easy.  Growing up, a “healthy” meal was McDonalds… Walking into Trader Joes or Whole Foods, I was embarrassed and overwhelmed.  I didn’t know where to start. Then, I met you at the dog park and we started talking more about wellness…

How did you get started?

Purchasing the Vitamix Blender was really the first step that I took and it was life-changing. It was an investment, but I was able to purchase a refurbished one to save some money and received free shipping through Wellness Junkie.  Having a shake every day with fruits and vegetables has made it easy to get whole food nutrition in my body.  This way, I know that I’m getting a daily dose of kale and other veggies every day.   I also drink a ton more water than I used to.  I changed out all of the beauty products that I put on my body, such as lotions, soaps and shampoos to more natural, organic products free of chemicals and other toxins.

So, what’s changed about your life since making these changes?

Well, I’m expecting!  I’ve been with my husband 18 years and had never conceived.  We were always told everything was fine – but had never gotten pregnant.  We’re just thrilled…and super excited to raise our baby on whole foods from the very beginning of her life.  Also, my energy levels and digestion are great and I’m not on any medication.  I’m walking twice a day with our dogs and doing yoga regularly.

What would you tell someone who’s contemplating a healthier lifestyle but they’re not sure how to do it?

I really think investing in the Vitamix gave me momentum and made it so easy.  Initially, when we went to the grocery stores together and you pointed out different foods to try and showed me what to put together for meals, it was so helpful…so finding someone who’s already made those changes and learning from them works well too.  Also, surround yourself with like-minded people who you can share ideas and recipes with.  And, it really helps to be organized for meal planning…have a plan before you go to the store for meals that week.

Any final words of advice?

For those that think they have to give up their favorite foods and do without, you really don’t.  You can have the flavors that you love – just in a different format.  I really like chocolate so instead of candy bars, I have cocoa powder or chocolate almond milk in my daily shake with kale and other veggies.  Or instead of buying a store bought cake, I choose the one at the farmer’s market with only five ingredients.  You can eat what you love, just in a different and better way.

Check back with us on Friday for Carrie’s Daily Dose of Chocolate Shake…(yum!)

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

It finally feels like fall here in Arizona!   I’m loving all of the pumpkin recipes and just made Happy Herbivore’s Pumpkin Bars  this week which are very tasty. I think I like them even better after they’ve spent some time in the freezer – so good!

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

But, one of my biggest pet peeves is wasting food.  So, when a recipe calls for a cup of pumpkin (vs. using the entire can), I’ve got to find a way to use that extra pumpkin before it goes bad.  So, after a little experimenting, here is my yummy Pumpkin Spice Smoothie recipe.  Let me know what you think!

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

1 cup almond milk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

1 banana

1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 t.  cocoa powder (or cacao)

1 scoop of your favorite (subtle or no flavor) protein powder

1 t. chia seeds  (or other hidden gem like ground flax seeds)

1 cup of ice