happy labor day + 5 ways to stay healthy at a b.b.q.
can you even believe it’s already the end of august? i have no idea where the summer went and i am not looking forward to the downward spiral into cold weather, winter jackets, avoiding the outdoors by any means necessary and total misery that’s inevitably going to begin within the next few weeks. sometimes i seriously wonder why i haven’t moved to a city where seasons aren’t a thing…
anyway! since it’s labor day a.k.a the last long weekend of summer, i expect that many of us will be spending the weekend drowning our sorrows in food and alcohol, so i thought it would be helpful to chat about how to stay healthy at a barbecue. here are 5 ways to stay healthy at a b.b.q. while still enjoying yourself and letting loose, regardless of what your plans are this weekend!
- b.y.o.f. (bring your own food). no, no, no. i don’t mean you should pack up a little lunchbox full of “good” foods just for yourself that you’ll whip out when everyone else digs into the spread of chips, burgers, and desserts. seriously… who does that? basic b*tches, that’s who. [okay. fine. i’ll admit that i’ve shown up to many-a-barbecue with my own box of veggie burgers, but that’s where i draw the line.] what you should do is make an awesome dip or a healthy dessert to bring to share with everyone. there are tons of quick and easy recipes out there, so finding something that everyone will like won’t be hard. check out my pinterest boards for inspiration!
- scope out the buffet before digging in. before you start piling food on your plate, check out the buffet and see what you’re working’ with. i would say that about 99% of all buffets at picnics and barbecues include some sort of fruit and veggie spread, so you can fill your plate up with some watermelon and raw cucumbers, leaving a little room for that pasta salad and dessert at the end.
- wait before going back for round two. no matter how delicious that burger was or how badly you want a second slice of that key lime pie… wait. take some deep breaths, drink a glass of water and give yourself some time to digest everything before running back for seconds. if you’re still hungry 30 minutes later, go back and serve yourself a small second portion of something you really enjoyed.
- eat a light, healthy breakfast before the party. start your day off with a light, healthy breakfast, such as a smoothie or chia seed pudding, so that you don’t arrive at the party starving. this way, regardless of what your options are, you’ll get in a healthy, nourishing meal no matter what direction the rest of the day takes, if you know what i mean!
- drink water. okay, i cannot stress how important this is, especially if you plan on drinking alcohol. to keep myself hydrated in the heat and help avoid a massive hangover the next morning, i try to drink at least one glass of water for every alcoholic drink i have. i’ll be honest… this doesn’t always happen… we can all get carried away… but, if you can maintain this little policy throughout the day your body will really appreciate it the next day.
so, there you have it! five pretty simple ways to stay healthy at all of the picnics, pool parties, beach cookouts and barbecues you’re headed to this weekend! personally, i’m off to philly tomorrow morning for made in america with one of my girlfriends, so be sure to check out my instagram for videos of my favorite performances and a few philly editions of #eatingfortheinsta. in true bananas + bellinis fashion we have a few healthy and few absolutely not healthy spots mapped out for our food tour of philadelphia. do you have any recommendations for us?
what are your plans for labor day weekend? whatever you’re doing, i hope you have as much fun as these guys did!
photo courtesy of m.w.r. hawaii
homemade almond milk
last week, food babe kinda dropped a bomb on me with this article about a scary little ingredient found in many, many organic food products including most milk alternatives. we’re talking soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut water… the list continues… from all different brands, including the organic ones.
the ingredient is carrageenan, a food additive derived from red algae, and when it degrades in the digestive tract, it becomes a carcinogen a.k.a. it can cause cancer. after reading the article, i got pretttyyyyy pissed off. how are we supposed to know what we can and can’t eat anymore in a world full of processed foods and g.m.o.s? and, of course, my next thought was: “what am i supposed to make my smoothies with now?!”
i immediately started doing my research and while cornucopia released this [really confusing] list to help us navigate to the safe products, i decided my best option, everyone’s best option, was going to be making my own almond milk from scratch. yes, you heard me and yes, i have officially gone off the deep end, but it’s actually a lot easier than you would think.
i thought it would be fun to share with you guys the recipe and instructions for how to do this so you can all try it out for yourselves! i recommend reading through the whole post before getting started, as the almonds need time to soak and they are a few steps that seem strange at first. you will need:
- 1.5 c. whole, blanched, raw almonds
- 4 c. water
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1.5 tbsp. raw honey or pure maple syrup
- dash of cinnamon
- pinch of sea salt
- a blender
- nut milk bag or cheesecloth
*please note that all ingredients should be organic, if possible.
i followed the basic instructions provided on the nut milk bag packaging and modified it to my taste with the honey, cinnamon, vanilla and sea salt, which you can do, too, if you feel comfortable! the instructions are super easy to follow:
- place the almonds in a bowl and cover with water. let them soak for a minimum of four hours [I let mine soak overnight].
- after they have soaked, drain the almonds with a strainer and place in a blender with 1.5 cups of water and blend until you have a smooth purée [about 1-2 minutes].
- add vanilla, honey/maple syrup, cinnamon, sea salt and the remaining 2.5 cups of water to the blender and blend for another 2-3 minutes, until you have a smooth, frothy mixture.
- give it a little taste test and adjust the ingredients to your liking, if necessary.
- place the nut milk bag in a medium bowl so that the bag stays open. if you are using cheesecloth, you will probably need 3-4 sheets layered in the bowl.
- pour the almond mixture into the bag/cheesecloth, allowing the liquid to drain through, then gather up the bag/cheesecloth and gently squeeze all of the remaining liquid out. volià! you have made almond milk!
the final step is to transfer the milk to containers for storage [this makes 4-5 cups and will keep for four days] and refrigerate. i, of course, used mason jars!
see, wasn’t that easy?!
3 reasons why balance is better than perfection
in my early 20s, being “perfect” was something that i strived for. this desire manifested itself most prominently in my quest for the perfect body through a strict, vegan diet that eventually morphed into orthorexia. while i had the best of intentions, i became so obsessed with being perfect and healthy that i completely lost sight of who i was, how to take care of myself and how to enjoy my life… the biggest problem was that i didn’t even realize it.
eventually, as quite often happens in these cases, i reached a point where i just couldn’t do it anymore. i was exhausted, stressed out and just generally miserable, even though i had reached a weight i considered “perfect” and had the healthiest diet of anyone i knew. i decided to seek help and was able to work through my issues in a way that was healthy, productive and sustainable. in the years since, my goal is no longer to be perfect, but to be balanced. i work to maintain a lifestyle that makes me happy, keeps me healthy and doesn’t create unnecessary stress in my life. do i have my moments? of course. who doesn’t? but, the difference is that now i know that happiness is achieved through balance, not perfection. here are 3 reasons why balance is better than perfection:
1. balance doesn’t allow for “cheat days” because it’s impossible to cheat. when you are working around the clock to maintain a perfect diet and avoid “bad” foods, a well intentioned “cheat day” can easily turn into a full-on binge where you inhale every cookie within a 10-mile radius because, “it’s okay, i’ll be good the rest of the week”. when you’re balanced, you eat the cookie if you want to eat the cookie no matter what day of the week it is. you skip the gym to go to happy hour with your girlfriends if that’s what you want to do. and you know what? it’s fine. one cookie or one skipped gym session isn’t going to derail everything you’re working for. eating every cookie in the tri-state area? that could cause some problems.
2. balance alleviates stress and anxiety. letting go of the idea of perfection is seriously liberating. as soon as i stopped trying to be perfect, the feeling of anxiety that always consumed me was just not there anymore. i could go about my day without spiraling into a panic over what i was eating for lunch, when i was going to be able to make it to the gym or if the shirt i was wearing made me look fat. when you’re not stressed out over trivial things, you can focus your energy on things that are important, like spending quality time with your friends, getting work done productively and accurately and pursuing hobbies that you are interested in.
3. balance is sustainable. when i was attempting to maintain a strict vegan diet, i had this terrible habit of getting drunk, housing an entire pizza and spending the next day mentally bashing myself and swearing that i would never do it again. i’m sure you’ll be shocked to find out that it did happen again. many, many times. what can i say? i love cheese and was forcing myself to completely avoid something that i really enjoy, all in the name of trying to be perfect. now, i maintain a mostly vegan diet and when i feel like having a slice of pizza, i eat the damn slice of pizza and i rarely go overboard. when you deny, deny, deny all the time, you’re bound to overdo it when your self-control eventually wears thin, and this goes for anything, not just food. perfection is not sustainable over a long period of time… listening to your body, however, is.
so, here’s the thing. “perfect” doesn’t exist. and the chances of you being happy, healthy, enjoying life and maintaining the lifestyle you’ve created in the pursuit of perfection are slim to none. you’re allowed to be obsessed with green juice and yoga while also being obsessed with pizza and taking naps. i am. and not only is it okay, it’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of. once you let go of the idea of being perfect and find a level of balance that you can maintain, your life will take on a new form and you will be the happiest, healthiest, most perfectly imperfect version of yourself possible. i promise.
if you’re struggling to find and maintain healthy balance in your life, i can help! as a part of my health coaching practice, i help my clients to develop healthy habits that allow them to live a happy, healthy life in a way that is realistic, maintainable and allows for those necessary indulgences every once in a while. If you would like more information, email me at email@example.com to find out more about my services and to schedule your free initial consultation!
photo courtesy of steph brescia photography
blueberry coconut bliss chia seed pudding
over the past year, chia seeds have become a staple in my diet. i always have them in my kitchen and use them in pretttyyyy much every meal i eat. chia seeds are one of those super trendy superfoods that we hear so much about these days… but not without good reason! here’s a quick rundown. chia seeds:
- contain lots of different nutrients including fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium and omega-3s
- are naturally gluten free
- are low in calories [about 140 calories in two tablespoons]
- are loaded with antioxidants
- support healthy weight loss due to the high fiber and protein content
best of all, they are really, and i mean really, easy to work into your diet. personally, i like to sprinkle them on toast, salads, and oatmeal and incorporate them into my baking experiments, but my favorite way to eat them is by making this delicious blueberry coconut bliss chia seed pudding that can be eaten for breakfast or dessert depending on what kinda mood you’re in! this chia seed pudding is vegan, gluten free and only contains natural sugar, but is still sweet and decadent enough to make you feel like you are indulging just a little bit. wanna give it a try? thought so! these measurements will make four servings [feel free to cut it in half or double it depending on how many you are cooking for] and you will need:
- 2 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/2 c. chia seeds
- 1/4 c. pure maple syrup [raw honey or another natural sweetener of your choice is fine, too!]
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 c. fresh blueberries, puréed in a food processor
- extra handful of blueberries for garnish
- unsweetened coconut flakes for garnish
first, purée the blueberries in a food processor and set aside. in a mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, chia seeds, maple syrup and vanilla, add the puréed blueberries and mix together well. pour the mixture into mason jars [small bowls or mugs will work just fine, too] and refrigerate overnight, stirring the contents of each jar after several hours [or once the pudding has thickened a little bit] to re-distribute the chia seeds, as they tend to float to the top. in the morning, garnish with blueberries and coconut flakes before serving and, as always… enjoy!
relax with a detox bath
well, it’s finally friday. after a particularly brutal week, when the clock hits 5, i plan on heading straight home and just relaxing. i know we all have those weeks where friday night = sweats, couch, seamless, netflix. i’ll be honest, this is how most of my friday evenings are spent these days. friday night is the perfect time to unwind, put the week behind you and head into the weekend on the right foot. if your friday night relaxation routine could use a little something extra, a detox bath might be just the thing you need.
a detox bath is a great way to cleanse your system, reduce the physical and mental manifestations of stress and stimulate the metabolic process by draining toxins from your system, replenishing important minerals and re-balancing your pH. ready to [literally] jump in?! you will need:
- 1 c. epsom salt
- 1/4 c. sea salt or natural, organic bath salts [i use this one]
- 1/4 c. baking soda
- 1/3 c. raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil [i love lavender or lemongrass]
draw a bath as hot as you can stand so that you can sweat all the toxins out [i like mine super hot] and pour all of the ingredients into the tub. swirl the water around with your foot a few times to make sure that everything is evenly distributed. light a few candles, put on some relaxing music, [optional: pour yourself a glass of wine] and soak for 30-45 minutes. i like to rinse off in a cool shower after i soak, but this isn’t necessary. also, make sure you drink plenty of water before and after to avoid dehydration.
photo courtesy of green chi cafe
so, mondays are just the worst. mondays mean waking up to an alarm, endless catching up at work and more often than not, coming to terms with what you ate and drank over the weekend. weekends are all about indulging, especially when you consider how hard we all work during the week. if you’re feeling a little down on yourself [and your jeans are fitting just a little tighter] after the stack of chocolate chip pancakes and the 12 mimosas you had at brunch yesterday, give this anti-bloating tonic a try. the ginger and cumin will speed up your metabolism, the sea salt will help flush any water you are retaining, the turmeric fights inflammation and the fennel seeds support healthy weight loss. Iill be honest, it doesn’t taste great, but the benefits are worth it. you will need:
- 1 c. water
- 1 pinch of ginger, cumin, sea salt, turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. boil for 5 minutes, serve hot. you’ll be feeling like your beautiful, skinny self in no time!
guilt-free banana oatmeal cookies
this recipe is one of my favorites and these. banana oatmeal cookies. are. bangin’. if i’m looking to satisfy my sweet tooth [without the guilt that is typically involved with doing that], this is my go-to. my friends, co-workers, and family go crazy for them and i just know you will, too!
i almost always have all of the ingredients that you need on hand and sometimes i’ll swap some of them out for other things, like nuts, seeds or dried fruit. these are 100% vegan, super healthy, and can be eaten as a sweet mid-day treat or a healthy breakfast cookie! they also make a good pre- or post- workout snack to give you some extra fuel. this recipe yields 12-15 cookies and takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. you will need:
- 2 medium bananas, ripe
- 1 c. quick oats
- 1/4 c. almond butter
- 2 tbsp. chia seeds*
- 2 tbsp. unsweetened coconut flakes*
- 1/4 vegan carob chips*
*these ingredients are optional and can be swapped out for raisins, sunflower seeds, walnuts.. .whatever you like!
first, pre-heat the oven to 350° and grease a baking sheet with coconut oil or line with parchment paper. place the bananas and oats in a medium bowl and mash together with a fork until well combined. add almond butter, chia seeds, coconut flakes and carob chips to the banana-oat mixture and mix well. form the “dough” into 1″ balls and place onto the baking sheet. bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. they are best served warm or after being chilled in the refrigerator.
3 ways to ditch your digital addiction + get reconnected
ferris bueller, one of my ultimate [fictional] crushes, was right when he said it and i think now it’s more relevant than ever: “life moves pretty fast. if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” don’t believe me? let me ask you this: how many times have you found yourself sitting at dinner or at a bar with a group of friends, maybe even your significant other, only to realize that no one is talking and everyone is on their phones, sending a text message, browsing instagram or updating their facebook status? i’m guessing more times than you would like to admit.
last week, i read this article in the new york times about how disconnected our society has become from just about everything in the age of social media and smart phones. it really opened my eyes and got me thinking about my own habits when it comes to these things. i think that most of us can admit to being at least a little overly attached to our phones. we use them to kill time, fill awkward silences and even to avoid conversations that would be really uncomfortable to have in person. i’ve done all of these things and i’m sure everyone reading this has, as well. [don’t worry, no one’s judging you… at least not yet.]
it seems kind of backwards that things that should be keeping us more connected are actually doing the exact opposite. we’re not only pre-occupied and distracted when we’re with our friends and family, but we are also no longer present with ourselves when we’re alone.
after reading this article, i decided that i wanted to make a conscious effort to reduce the time i spend on my phone. don’t get me wrong, i love instagram and being able to see what my friends and family are up to, especially the ones i don’t get to see very often, but i want to be fully present with these people when i am with them and with myself on a regular basis. i think that we could all benefit from unplugging here and there, so i came up with three things we can all do to put down our phones and experience what’s going on around us a little more:
1. stop checking your phone first thing in the morning, right before bed and in the middle of the night. not only will this give you a chance to ease into your day, you’ll sleep better, too. the light from phone screens can have a negative affect on our sleep, especially right before we turn in for the night. experts say it’s best to avoid looking at your phone for at least one hour before you go to bed.
2. step away from your phone for at least two hours each day. whether you leave your phone in your purse/bag when you first get into work or leave it at home when you run out to do errands, two hours a day really isn’t that long.
3. turn off all social media notifications. doing this will help you to resist the urge to see what’s happening on social media all the time, ultimately reducing your phone-in-hand time.
this might seem a like a lot to take on all at once, but that’s okay! if you need to, take it one step at a time and at a pace you are comfortable with. i know that disconnecting from social media and stepping more than five feet away from our phones can be scary, but, you will be okay and i have proof in the form of a real life example. one of my close friends gave up all forms of social media – cold turkey – for lent and guess what? not only did she live to tell about it, after two weeks she said that she didn’t really care anymore. life is still happening, even if that meal, selfie or check-in doesn’t make it to social media. you just might actually enjoy yourself more if you’re not worrying about how many “likes” your status/check-in/picture/tweet is getting. give it a try and see what happens… i would love to know how it’s going for you!
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