9 Smart Ways To Reduce Back To School Stress

9 Smart Ways To Reduce Back To School Stress

It seems like in a blink of an eye summer has ended and back-to-school is calling our name.

Saying goodbye to summer is always bittersweet, and getting back into school mode can be a stressful transition — especially when we’re used to the long and oftentimes lazy days of summer. You could be stressed about having to get back into the classroom (are midterms really that close?) adjusting to dorm living or commuting, new social situations, and more. Luckily, we have some tips below that can help reduce some of these common anxieties so you can make the most of your new semester.

Remember: The start of the school year is a chance to begin anew and kick off the school year in good spirits. A new semester is a path of exciting opportunities that will give you room to grow, allow you to make new friends and solidify current friendships, and become more confident in yourself. There’s a way to shift a stressed mind to one that is more optimistic and excited. Here are some tools to help you ease your mind.


9 Ways to Reduce School Stress

Here are nine tips you can incorporate today to make this start of the school year less stressful and more fun.


Get on a new sleep schedule. There’s a good chance your summer sleep schedule is different than your school sleep schedule. While it might be hard to say goodbye to long nights out and sleeping in, it’s important to get your body on a new sleep schedule that accommodates your classes, activities, and still allows you to get those 7-8 hours a night. Don’t wait to get on a new schedule, and try your best to keep this schedule every day, no matter when your first class starts. If you go to bed and wake up at the same time every morning, your body will better adapt to this sleep schedule and you’ll feel less tired and more energetic throughout the day.


Tackle your assignments in manageable pieces. You might find yourself easily overloaded with essays, papers, exams, and reading assignments. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, try to break your work down into management portions. For example, if you need a read an entire book in a week, focus on how many pages you need to read a day. If you have to complete an essay, don’t sit down to try and write the entire thing in one go. Set yourself smaller goals, like research, write an outline, and complete an introduction paragraph. You can also reward yourself after you finish each milestone!


Don’t rush your mornings. School mornings are notorious for being rushed; how fast can you chow down on a bowl of cheerios in the dining hall before making your 8AM class? Or worse, some skip breakfast in order to get extra sleep. Instead, we recommend making the most of your mornings and slowing down. Give yourself ample time to wake up, make a cup of coffee or tea, and even find time for meditation, journaling, or any other morning routine that calms your mind before getting thrown into the chaos of the day. Then, be mindful of breakfast, and choose something with a good mix of protein and carbs to keep you satisfied and to give you a good boost of energy. This could be a veggie omelette, bowl of oats, or some whole-grain toast with almond butter and jam.


Start with a fresh wardrobe. There’s nothing like a little retail therapy to turn lemons into lemonade. To start school off on the right foot, treat yourself to some new clothes and accessories. This could be a fun pair of shoes or sneakers, a new backpack, or even a killer pair of sunglasses. Focus on what makes you feel confident, comfortable, and authentic. Who knows, you might become more excited for your 8AM math class if you’re pumped to wear a brand new jacket.


Organize supplies. Get all your papers, pencils, bags and other supplies in order! You’ll probably be bombarded with a lot of “books”, too: textbooks, notebooks, Macbooks, and book-books. Set up your desk area so all your supplies are easy to reach and are organized in a way that helps you, versus causes you more stress. A decluttered desk often leads to a decluttered mind.


Journal about last year. When you’re kicking off the new semester, a helpful thing you can do is remember and recall all the wonderful experiences that happened during your last school year. Find a moment to journal about the good times — the class events, your favorite teachers, the evening parties, and all the new and cool things you learned. Forcing yourself to literally write down good memories from school will help get you excited and eager to relive those experiences in the semester ahead.


Breathe! Whenever you’re under stress, one of the most convenient tools you can use is your own breath. If you find yourself getting anxious, try closing your eyes and inhaling for a count of five. Hold your breath at the top for five seconds, and then exhale for five more counts. Do a few rounds of this and see if your heart rate starts to go down. You can also incorporate mindful breathing in your daily life, whether that’s through a meditation practice or going to a yoga studio.


Find a good extracurricular. If you’re one of those bookworms who spends most of your time in the library, remember that school is an experience that goes beyond your classes. Try to join an activity as a way to meet new people and put your physical body or creative mind to work. This could be a range of things, from a club sports team to a music group, art club, or advocacy group.


Plan a long weekend away. Treat yourself to a weekend away to decompress, unplug, and have something to look forward to when you’re in the middle of cramming for your next exam. Luckily, there are a handful of holidays in the fall, and your school might even have designated days off where you can go away for a few days to hit the restart button.


Take one — of all — of these tips into consideration as you head full-force into the new school year. You’d be surprised to realize that a few, small and subtle changes can really lower your stress levels and make you feel excited to tackle the semester in high spirits!

Gut Health & Good Vibes: 7 Foods For A Healthy Gut

Clean gut, happy gut. That’s what they say, right?! While it might not be the sexiest of topics, our gut health is connected to so many other aspects of our health and well-being. The bacteria that lives in our digestive tracts — microbiomes — can have a big impact on our overall health, from inflammation levels and fat loss to anxiety and depression.

To maintain great gut health, doctors say it’s best to eat foods that contain lots of fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics. Let’s break those terms down quickly for you:

Fiber: Fiber is a plant-based nutrient that helps regulate the speed at which food moves through our gut. It’s actually an indigestible part of plant foods that travel through our digestive system, absorbing water and improving our bowel movements.

Probiotics: These are “good” live microorganisms that can combat “bad,” infection-causing microbes. Probiotics are naturally occurring and have shown to fight off digestive disorders and upset stomachs.

Prebiotics: While probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria, pre-biotics are non-digestible fibers found in foods like bananas, onions, and garlic. Prebiotics go through a fermentation process in our digestive tract that helps increase the number of good bacteria in our digestive system.

Now, let’s dive into seven foods that are essential for a healthy and happy gut.

Eat This, Not That, for a Healthy Gut


Kimchi a staple side dish from Korean cuisine. It’s made from salted and fermented vegetables, such as radishes and  napa cabbage. The magic of kimchi occurs because it’s fermented, which is what makes it a probiotic. It’s also a great source of fiber, too. You can find kimchi at many Korean restaurants, or you can get creative and make it in your own kitchen. As an easy (and just as good-for-you) alternative, make your own sauerkraut. Simply combine sliced cabbage with kosher salt and then cover for a minimum of three days. The bacteria on the cabbage leaves will ferment the vegetable’s natural sugars into lactic acid, creating powerful probiotic qualities for your gut.


Okay, this isn’t a single food item, but all legumes are really good for your gut, so we have to mention them all. Think: chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, split peas, and white beans. The protein, fiber, and carbohydrates in legumes are found to exert beneficial effects when it comes to GI.. However, soaking beans before cooking them makes them less likely to cause bloating and gas, so stick to making your legumes from scratch versus buying the canned version. Legumes go great on summer salads, with quinoa or rice, or inside a tasty burrito.


Here’s an example of a prebiotic food to add to your grocery list. Garlic promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria called bifidobacteria, which is found in the gut. It also prevents disease-promoting bacteria from growing in our digestive system. The beauty of garlic is you can add it to almost anything (well, maybe not ice-cream) and it only makes your dish taste better. You can roast it, pan fry it, or even eat it raw. There’s never a bad time to eat garlic bread either, so do it knowing you’re treating your gut well!


These small, versatile fruits pack a punch when it comes to health benefits. Raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are all filled with antioxidants, fiber, and naturally-occurring sugars. Their fiber content also helps promote a healthy digestive tract. Top them on a morning bowl of oatmeal (for extra fiber!) eat them straight from the carton, or indulge in a homemade mixed-berry pie.

Barley, bran, and bulgur.

These three “B” grains are whole grains that are chock-full of fiber to ensure things stay movin’ and groovin’ down below. All of these grains are forms of soluble fiber and have shown to help with bowel irregularities while lowering the risk for developing diverticular disease. Many of these grains are found in other foods, like cereals, soups, or risotto. You can also find them on their own in a grocery store and cook them to your liking. Top these cooked grains with healthy veggies and a yummy homemade dressing.


Almonds are another prebiotic food that helps improve our digestive health by increasing levels of the “good” bacteria found in our gut. Lucky for us, almonds are also chock-full of other awesome health benefits, helping to lower blood sugar levels, reduced blood pressure, and support maintaining a healthy weight. Snack on them raw, add them to a bowl of oatmeal, or slice them up and include in an Asian stir-fry.

Yogurt and kefir: Another probiotic option for your gut is a fermented dairy food, like yogurt and kefir. These are both cultured milk products that are known for their tart and slightly sour taste. They contain beneficial bacteria that help break down sugars, making them easier to digest while helping to fight off gastrointestinal diseases. Kefir has a thinner consistency than yogurt and is typically sold as a beverage, whereas yogurt is thicker and normally eaten with a spoon. While both are great for gut health, kefir typically contains three times the amount of probiotic cultures than yogurt.

What’s interesting about this list is there are many ways to combine these ingredients into one larger meal that will be super healthy for your gut. Almonds with yogurt? Legumes with barley? Kimchi with berries? (Okay, maybe not that last one.) All of this is to say that these foods — plus many more — are great as standalone food items for your gut, but make an even better contribution to your health if they’re part of a larger meal. Don’t be shy when it comes to eating fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics. Your gut will surely thank you.

Foods That Harm Your Gut

Now that we know a handful of foods and nutrients that promote a healthy gut, it’s also important to learn about certain foods we should avoid that can add more harm than good to our digestive tract. Foods that are heavy in gluten (white bread, pasta, etc) are said to increase inflammation in the body and cause uncomfortable bloating. Soy products, like tofu and edamame, are often mass-produced and are genetically modified (GMO), which can lead to dysbiosis (an imbalance in your GI tract) and leaky gut. Corn is another tricky food that often contains GMOs and can make things funky in our digestive systems. Lastly, stay away from excess sugar! Sugar can cause a lot if issues in our gut, feeding on bad bacteria, causing yeast growth, and helping promote dysbiosis.

At the end of the day, if you focus on fresh, organic, and whole foods, you can count on your body being fed with the right nutrients for a healthy body. Focus on a smart balance of fiber, protein, and carbs, and add in pro and prebiotics to the mix.

Seven Summer Superfoods To Help You Beat The Heat

Seven Summer Superfoods To Help You Beat The Heat

With summer in full swing, there is no shortage of fresh produce that is good for your body and also quite tasty. An extra benefit of certain superfoods is they can literally refresh you, which is much needed this time of year when the temps skyrocket and you’re craving flavorful foods that will make you feel hydrated, light, and satisfied.

We’ve rounded up our top seven summer superfoods that are perfect to eat this time of year. Continue reading to learn about all the nutritional benefits you’ll receive from them, along with creative ways you can fit them into every meal.



Cherries are filled with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can ward off chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. If you’re an athlete, tart cherries — and specifically tart cherry juice — use their anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce pain and recover faster after a hard workout. Another cool benefit is cherries have a lower glycemic index than other fruits, meaning they are less likely to trigger spikes and crashes in your blood sugar and insulin levels. Diabetics, rejoice!

Cherry pie, scones, or crumbles are a classic way to enjoy this summer superfruit. For something a bit healthier, add cherries to a stone-fruit salad, which would include peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots. Top with sliced almonds for some added protein. For a yummy summer cocktail (or mocktail!) muddle four pitted cherries with fresh lemon and lime juice, a handful of mint leaves, and ½ ounce of simple syrup. For those who are 21 and older, enjoy with a shot of rum and a dash of bitters.



Fresh, frozen, raw, or cooked — blueberries are delicious in any form. They are also filled with fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. This is a lot to take in, but basically, all of these nutrients help with heart and skin health, bone strength, blood pressure, and cancer prevention. They are known to help with mental health, too.

Use blueberries for any of your baking needs — whether that’s muffins, scones, pies, biscuits, or waffles. For something that can serve as a side, add them to a salad with goat cheese, red onion, and fresh tomatoes over greens. And if you’re looking to get crazy-creative, consider adding them to pizza! Bake them with whipped ricotta and caramelized shallots, or cook up a dessert pizza with sweet cream-cheese sauce. Of course, you can never go wrong with eating them raw, one handful at a time.



Raspberries are a versatile and super flavorful berry that when in season, can easily become an addicting snack. These berries pack a punch when it comes to nutrients, too; they contain specific antioxidants which are known to fight cancer, heart and circulatory disease, and age-related decline. These antioxidants include Vitamin C, quercetin, and gallic acid. Raspberries are also high in something called ellagic acid, which is a chemo-preventative. If that’s not enough, they also contain anti-inflammatory properties. Not bad for something that tastes so good.

Enjoy raspberries on their own, in a fruit salad, or mixed in with your morning bowl of oatmeal (seriously, try it). You can cook raspberries, too! Unlike strawberries, raspberries don’t sag when you cook them, making them a great option for homemade jam or jelly. To do so, bake a pint of raspberries with sugar (use equal weight for both the berry and the sugar) at 325 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. This is a quick and easy way to make homemade jam! You can also bake a raspberry pie, or top them on a light and airy angel food cake.



Peaches are filled with vitamins — 10 in fact! Eating just one peach will render 10 different vitamins: A, C, E, K, and six B complex vitamins. Vitamin A is great for eye health, Vitamin C and E are powerful antioxidants, and Vitamin K helps to prevent blood clots. Vitamin B complex punches various and specific health benefits, all of which help convert our food into fuel so we can stay energized throughout the day. Peaches also include a hefty load of fiber and potassium!

Just like raspberries, you can’t go wrong eating a peach straight out of your hand. They also work super well as a peach pie, crumble, or cobbler. However, if you’re craving something savory and out-of-the-box, one of our favorites is a grilled cheese and peach sandwich. You can either lightly cook the peach in a pan (grill for 2-3 minutes on each side) or you can add them raw to the cheesy, melty goodness. Lastly, for something that’s super simple yet still a party-impressor, you can grill an entire peach on the barbecue. Simply remove the pit and brush each side with olive oil. Grill cut-side down for 4-5 minutes over medium heat. Flip and cook the other side and until you see those desirable grill marks.



Here’s a cool fact about watermelons: They are 92% water. Still, this by no means makes this fruit taste boring. They have enough natural sugar to satisfy your taste buds and keep you feeling hydrated and refreshed. Another interesting benefit of watermelon is they are super low in calories. One cup renders 42 calories. In that same cup, you’ll also receive a handful of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, A, Potassium, Magnesium, and Vitamins B1, B5, and B6.

The easiest way to eat watermelon is by simply cutting it up and enjoying. You can also cut the watermelon up into cubes, and add red onion, feta, and mint for a classic watermelon salad. Shrimp salads with watermelon is a party favorite, as are big slices of watermelon with mint and lime sprinkled on top. If you want to get really hydrated, place chunks of watermelon into an ice cube tray, and play the tray in the freezer. Now you’ll have watermelon ice cubes, which will add a little pizazz to your plain glass of water.



While we’re mainly focusing on fruits, we can’t ignore some refreshingly-delicious veggies to add to this list. Asparagus is filled with a ton of nutrients and is especially fresh in the summertime. Their spears are a great source of Vitamin K, which is important for bone health and blood clotting. Asparagus also contains antioxidants which fight heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

A favorite way to eat asparagus is to grill or roast them (cook at 425 for 12-15 minutes), followed by refrigerating them. The cold and cooked spears go great on their own as a side dish or are equally as yummy chopped up with fresh cherry tomatoes and a sweet balsamic vinegar. They also cook super well in frittatas or inside a breakfast burrito if you’re looking to change up your morning bowl of cereal.



Last but not least: cucumbers. If you’re looking for something refreshing and light to eat, look no further than this veggie, which, as you know, is where the “cool as a cucumber” phrase got its name. Similar to watermelon, cucumbers are filled with water — some say up to 95%. They are chock full of Vitamin K, B vitamins, copper, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese, have anti-inflammatory properties, contain antioxidant superpowers, and can even manage mental health.

For the ultimate rehydration, consider juicing a cucumber. Add an apple, lemon, and ginger, to give it some kick and a hint of sweetness. Slice them up raw in any type of salad, or put your chef’s hat on and get creative. Grill some hearty bread, and add burrata, sliced cucumbers, and mashed fava beans on top for the ultimate toast. Or, take another superfruit — peaches — and grill them alongside raw cucumbers, making a sweet and savory salad that will easily become a fan favorite.


When you head to the kitchen this summer, focus on fresh fruits and veggies that are locally sourced and chock full of vitamins, refreshing flavors, and great taste. You’ll soon realize there are infinite`ways to incorporate these superfruits and foods into every single meal.

Meats Free From Antibiotics: Why Do They Matter?

Meats Free From Antibiotics: Why Do They Matter?

Consuming meat continues to be a hot health topic. Is it healthy? And how can it be healthier — better for the animals, our environment, and our bodies?

Antibioticfree meat became high on our radar back in 2015 when Subway announced they were going to begin only serving only animal proteins that have never been treated with antibiotics. Since then, antibiotic-free meats have become popular vernacular in the health and food world. But what does it truly mean? And how does it differ from the other labels we see, like organic, grass-fed certified, and others?

This article will break down everything about meat, how it can be treated, and why animal protein free from antibiotics is an important label to look for in the grocery aisle and on your food menu.

Why Do People Use Antibiotics & Why Are They Harmful?

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Out of all the antibiotics used in the United States, it’s estimated that 80% are given to animals in their feed or water. Antibiotics are typically used to promote growth or to prevent diseases — both factors that often result from animals being overcrowded and existing in unhygienic and poor living conditions.

The problem with using these antibiotics is they can result in “superbugs,” which are bacteria that have evolved over time to resist these antibiotics. Another term for these “superbugs” is “antibiotic resistance.” When the animal is being slaughtered, these superbugs end up in the animal’s meat, and often in the consumer’s kitchen. The next place they end up? Our own bodies.

This bacterial resistance can result in life-threatening illnesses and is now one of the most urgent threats to our health. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause dangerous illnesses; once we have them in us, we are more vulnerable to developing antibiotic-resistant infections. Moreover, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are typically more expensive and challenging to treat. The more alarming fact is the CDC reports that 2 million people are infected and 23,000 people will die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria — every single year.

Still, there is hope. There currently is no government ban on giving animals antibiotics, but there are actions we can take. We can support farming practices that don’t use antibiotics and practice other farming methods, like organic and certified humane. The question is this — how do we know what meat is raised in a healthy and safe environment?

How to Shop and Eat Better Meat

Not all meat is created (and raised) equal. The next time you want some meat, here are the labels you should look for and what they mean.

Certified Organic. Meat (and fruits and veggies!) that are labeled organic must check the most health boxes. Organic food is defined as food grown from a farming system that avoids human-made fertilizers and pesticides, and most organic foods must generally follow guidelines like avoiding synthetic chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, and food additives) and being physically distant from non-organic products. Organic farmers also undergo regular on-site inspections. For organic meat specifically, the meat cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics and must be fed only organically grown feed that does not contain any animal byproducts, persistent pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. Organic meat animals (think: “happy cows”) have to have access to the outdoors, too.

Raised Without Antibiotics. This means exactly what you’d think: No antibiotics of any kind were used — whether in their feed, water, or by injection— in the raising of that animal. This includes ionophores, which are antibiotics that are used only in animals and not used in medicine for humans. This label also certifies that animals that become sick and require antibiotics are removed from the “no antibiotic” grouping of animals and are not processed with the “raised without antibiotics” label. One interesting difference between this label and organic is that producers send documentation to the USDA to support their “no antibiotic” claim, but there are no inspections and audits unlike organic meats and produce. The one caveat is this: If there is also a USDA Process Verified label on the package, this means that USDA inspectors have indeed visited the farm to confirm no antibiotics were used. However, you don’t need this extra label to deem your meat as “raised without antibiotics.”

No Medically Important Antibiotics. This one’s a little different from “Raised Without Antibiotics.” This label means that antibiotics only used to treat people (for medically inclined folks, this includes amoxicillin, erythromycin, and tetracycline) have never been used on animals. This, then, does not include the ionophores antibiotic we explained above. In other words, this allows for the use of antibiotics that aren’t used on humans, which can still lead to the antibiotic-resistant issue.

No Critically Important Antibiotics. This label means that no animals were given antibiotics that are claimed as “medically important” within human medicine. You probably won’t see this label very often, but if you do, it’s best to find meat that has the entire “raised without antibiotics” seal instead.

No Growth-Promoting Antibiotics. If you’ve ever picked up a  Shady Brook Farms or Honeysuckle package, you might recognize this seal. The “no growth-promoting antibiotics” label means that no antibiotics were fed to the animal for one sole purpose — to speed up growth. This means that antibiotics could still have been used to help prevent the animal from becoming sick. The weirdest part is that technically, all antibiotics can be used to prevent illness, so this practice hardly an improvement over the current standards in the meat industry.

American Grassfed Certified. This label means that animals were only given grass and forages like hay, for its entire life. They are also raised on pasture versus having to eat in a feedlot. However, there’s a caveat here, too. The label is regulated by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS), a third party regulator, and it isn’t strictly enforced. More importantly, this label refers only to the animal’s diet. Animals can still receive antibiotics and other hormones from an injection. Lastly, this label only refers to beef, bison, goat, lamb, and sheep — chicken or turkey are excluded.

Certified Humane. Being “Certified Humane” means that the animal was never confined in a cage or crate. This doesn’t mean they have access to a pasture or an antibiotic-free diet. In fact, antibiotics can be used to treat a sick animal. However, the benefit here is the label means the animals were slaughtered “with minimal suffering.”

Everyone Benefits

While no meat is created equal, it’s also apparent that no label is created equal either. While organic and antibiotic-free labels are best, all of these labels above are better than the industry standard, which is arguably dangerous for our animals, our environment, and our health.

Moreover, not only is antibiotic-free, organic, or other humane labels safe for the consumer. A recent Consumer Reports survey found that of over 1,000 people, 43 percent said they “always or often” buy meat raised without antibiotics at the grocery store. Moreover, nearly 6 in 10 people are more likely to eat at a restaurant if the meat and poultry were raised without antibiotics. They would pay more for a “no-antibiotic” burger, too/. This means that antibiotic-free meat is beneficial for farmers, grocers, and chefs — so they should get on the antibiotic-free train, too.

Bring on the Bacteria

With the rise in digestive woes and diagnosed digestive disorders, scientists, doctors, and the general public are learning to get more comfortable talking about all things gut related. One of the biggest and buzziest topics regarding gut health these past few years has been probiotics. It seems that this food trend is here to stay. So, let’s take a look into exactly what probiotics are, if they could be of benefit to you, and how you can start to incorporate them into your diet.

Bring on the bacteria!

First off, it’s important to understand that we all have trillions of bacteria currently residing in our bodies. Most bacteria are living in our large intestines. With today’s trend of recommending everything from our food to our hygiene practices being “clean” you might assume that this gut-bacteria is something we should be wiping out too- not so! These intestinal bacteria help digest our food, produce beneficial byproducts, and protect us against harmful bacteria. We want to keep these good buggies around. Sometimes, due to infection, sickness, travel, stress, or heavy antibiotic use, the scales can tip towards an unhealthy balance of bacteria. This, my friends, is why probiotics are so important.


What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when ingested, extend health benefits to the host. These microorganisms are usually live bacteria, but some can be yeasts or molds. In non-science-y speak: probiotics are “good” bacteria that if you consume them may benefit your health, yippee!

Currently, one of the most studied areas of benefit is probiotics’ ability to reestablish a healthy gut, such as one that may be suffering from chronic diarrhea, slow gut transit, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal pain, bloating, or ulcerative colitis. This makes sense because if one of these above digestive tract woes is being caused by a harmful pathogen or compromised digestive tract lining, we would want to introduce beneficial probiotics to help chase out the bad bacteria, reduce inflammation, and produce more beneficial by-products to alleviate the uncomfortable GI symptoms.

Probiotics are also being studied, and recommended in some cases, to be used as an immune-system support for allergies, and for benefits to the reproductive tract, oral cavity, lungs, skin, gut-brain axis, and glucose metabolism.

Going through this list of ailments may have you thinking, “well shoot, maybe I should be taking a probiotics pill, I’ve got issues in at least one of these areas!” But before you go out and pick up any old bottle of capsules from your drug store, it’s important to understand that there are numerous strains of bacteria and not all of them are shown to necessarily be helpful for every issue. Before a stop at the pharmacy, I recommend a stop at the grocery.


What foods contain probiotics?

I first recommend consuming probiotics through food sources, and the important thing you’ll want to look for is that a product says it contains “live active cultures” on the label. By ingesting the live bacteria they have a better chance of reaching the areas of your gut that need them the most. Some of the common sources of probiotics are fermented foods such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Kombucha

Other food sources of good bacteria, but not living cultures, are sourdough bread, beer, wine, chocolate, and soy sauce. Probiotic supplements are certainly a popular area of interest these days, but again their efficacy and specificity lead me to recommend choosing probiotic foods over capsules at this point unless guided by a dietitian or doctor.


A note on prebiotics

Less commonly known, but I feel just as deserving as all the hype, are prebiotics. You can think of prebiotics as the “food” for the good gut bacteria that will go on to benefit the person who consumes them. Prebiotics can help to selectively balance the health-promoting vs. disease-promoting pathogens, and they work especially well in the large intestine. Much like probiotics, once prebiotic foods are fermented in the gut they can help improve IBS symptoms and diarrhea duration. Prebiotics are most commonly found in non-digestible food sources or foods that contain high levels of resistant starch (meaning the starch is not fully broken down into glucose) such as:

  • Dried beans and legumes
  • Garlic
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Artichokes
  • Green bananas
  • Sunchokes
  • And somewhat in wheat, bananas, yams, and sweet potatoes


Practical tips to boost your intake

Regardless of if you currently suffer from digestive or immune system woes or not, it’s a great idea to build up you intestinal defenses by including probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods in your diet on the regular. If you’re struggling for ideas on how to incorporate some of these funkier foods, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Add spoonfuls of kimchi or sauerkraut onto salads and grain bowls
  • Make a marinade or salad dressing with miso
  • Spoon of yogurt on a GFMS Chipotle Poblano Breakfast Bowl
  • Stir kefir into the GFMS Oatmeal Bowl
  • Toss chopped asparagus into the GFMS Cavatappi Bolognese


Article compliments of Casey Seiden MS, RD, CDN, CDE 

Adding Food to Your Skincare Routine

If you have a passion for skincare, it is no surprise that food is often incorporated into skincare products. However, food plays an integral part in the natural complexion of your skin. Similar to drinking water, various foods can target certain aspects of achieving healthy skin such as hydration, clarity and nourishment. Below we break down the 101 on incorporating foods into your skincare routine.

Add Avocado to Your Routine

If you’re as avocado obsessed with us, this is nothing but good news. Among its long list of benefits, avocado is great for keeping your skin moisturized and supple. Avocados have high levels of vitamin E and monounsaturated fats, which allows your skin to create a barrier and retain its natural moisture. The reason why avocados are important to healthy skin is due to the vitamin E. Essentially, vitamin E consists of antioxidants and has the ability to protect your body from oxidative stress. According to Healthline, oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the body’s antioxidants and oxygen molecules. A couple outcomes of oxidative stress include inflammation and aging. So, if keeping your skin full of life is a priority for you, load up on those avocados! By no means do you have to only eat avocado on its own. In fact, one of our favourite ways is to add it to a breakfast sandwich!

Oats to Help Your Skin

While there are many skincare products containing oats, they work wonders when you eat them too! Oatmeal naturally contains vitamin B-6, which in turn helps with the balance of stress and depression. It is no secret that stress, anxiety and depression can lead to impurities of your skin such as acne, wrinkles and rapid aging. Thankfully, the vitamin B-6 levels in oatmeal aid in the reduction of stress and increase of serotonin. If you do not typically start your day off with oats, they are super easy to implement into your daily diet. One of our new favourite ways to enjoy our steel cut oats is by adding savoury ingredients. Our savoury oat bowl is perfect because you can cut out all added sugar (which has been linked to negative impacts on your skin). Who knew oatmeal had a place in your skincare routine?

Red Bell Peppers and Skincare

When it comes to keeping your skin firm and strong, red bell peppers are probably the best food for the job. Red peppers are extremely high in vitamin C, which in turn creates collagen. Collagen is extremely important for your skin as it assists with keeping it firm, hydrated, and reduces fine lines. Keeping your skin bright and youthful is something we all aim for when forming a skincare routine. However, an effective collagen serum can range anywhere from $20 to over a couple hundred. While that might be affordable for some, we firmly believe a healthy skincare routine and feeling good should not cost a bundle! What better way to increase your collagen levels than to grab a bunch of red peppers for a few bucks? To make things even easier for you, we have a stuffed pepper recipe you are sure to love.

Save Your Skin with Tomatoes

If you enjoy spending time in the sun, we recommend introducing tomatoes into your weekly diet. Tomatoes contain a carotenoid called lycopene and can prevent anti-aging of your skin due to sun damage. While this does not mean you can stop wearing sunscreen, it does mean you can take extra precautions to protect yourself from sun damage. According to Women’s Health, lycopene levels in tomatoes increase when they are heated and cooked. Our Egg White Patty Pizza recipe is an easy way to use tomato sauce – eat some pizza and protect your skin at the same time!

Your Skincare Routine and Walnuts

If you don’t have a nut allergy, walnuts might become your new favourite snack. Walnuts are packed with various vitamins and minerals including Omega-6 and zinc. Omega-6 is a healthy fat that your body loves because it helps limit inflammation – bye bye puffiness! The zinc in walnuts does wonders as well. Zinc aids in forming your skin’s natural barrier to keep bacteria out. This is great if you have acne-prone or sensitive skin and want to keep your pores clear of unwanted bacteria. We recommend adding walnuts in their natural state to snack plates like these. Other ways you can introduce walnuts into your meals include adding them to your oat or yoghurt bowls.

Next time you’re thinking of adding a new product into your skincare routine, we suggest adding the above ingredients into your diet. There are so many benefits to adding whole foods into your diet and now you can focus on skincare through your meals! Focusing on what you eat can definitely help you avoid overspending on those pricey skincare products too. We hope you adopt this new approach and implement food into your skincare routine!

Does Exercise Really Make You Healthier?

While it might seem obvious that yes, exercise does correlate with a healthy life, many people work out and never see a certain result: weight loss. While shedding a few pounds is a completely normal motive for exercise, there are numerous, additional benefits going on in the body when you break a sweat that isn’t reflected on the scale.

We’ll examine the various health benefits of exercise below, and address how a certain diet also plays a key role in your health and wellbeing.


How Much Exercise Do I Need? The Guidelines

Before we jump into exercise health benefits, you might be wondering how much sweat-time is needed to know you’re doing your body some good. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommends that 18-64 year olds exercise moderately (think: brisk walking or water aerobics) for at least two hours and 30 minutes a week, or exercise vigorously (running, swimming, or  cycling) for at least an hour and 15 minutes weekly. When you think about it, this amount of movement isn’t that much; it comes out to either 20 minutes of moderate exercise or 10 minutes of vigorous exercise a day. Other experts say to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, but additional exercise is probably needed to meet more aggressive fitness goals. Finally, there’s another camp of experts who focus more on the intensity of the exercise than the length. For example, high-intensity intervals (like short sprints) can get your heart working and fat burning more quickly than if you were to go on a slow, long jog.

Based on the specific health goals you’re trying to meet, it’s best to talk with your doctor and/or a certified fitness trainer.


Exercise and Health: The Benefits

Here are some incredible benefits of exercise that indeed show how daily movement can promote a healthier you.


A Healthier Heart

Multiple studies throughout the last decade have proved that exercise can lower our risk of heart disease. This is especially true for aerobic exercise, since getting your heart rate pumping through jogging, biking, or swimming can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure.

How exactly does a heart pumping workout help our heart? When someone is working out, the heart muscle continually contracts, which can help increase blood flow through the arteries and relax our blood vessels. This typically leads to a lowered resting heart rate and lower blood pressure, both of which will decrease the chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Meanwhile, movement and sweat can also block inflammation in the body to avoid arteries hardening around the heart, which causes heart attacks. Lastly, regular exercise can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase our HDL (good) cholesterol, which means less artery clogging and a lowered risk of heart problems. Researchers say that moderate exercise can reduce LDL cholesterol by up to 10 percent and increase HDL cholesterol levels by between 3 and 6 percent. Heart-warming wins all around!


Brain Booster

Who knew that exercise could make you smarter?! Recently, researchers discovered that exercise increases levels of specific molecules in the brain that are critical for cognition. A randomized clinical trial published in 2008 found that people 50 years and older with memory problems who were assigned to exercise programs scored 20 percent higher than their sedentary peers.They even maintained a 10 percent edge one year after the study was over! Meanwhile, studies in rats show that physical exercise boosts levels in the hippocampus, the part of our brain connected to learning and memory.


A Reduced Cancer Risk

Many recent studies discuss how exercise is connected to a reduced risk of multiple cancers, such as breast, colon, esophageal, liver, stomach, kidney, leukemia, blood, rectum, bladder, and lung cancer. Yet, while we’ve seen that exercise can lead to a healthier heart, scientists have only found a connection between exercise and a decreased risk of cancer.

There are multiple, solid theories for the connection; physical activity helps lower cancer risk by helping to control weight and reduce insulin levels. Both of these factors are connected, too — people who are overweight or obese tend to have higher circulating levels of insulin, which has been linked to a handful of cancers due to its role in creating new tumors or making current tumors grow.

Lastly, multiple studies show that working out could also reduce the risk of cancer by boosting the body’s immune system.


Weight Loss

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the relationship between exercise and weight loss is a tricky one. Contrary to popular belief, working out at the gym every day will not necessarily lead to weight loss, since people can easily make up for the calories lost by spending too much time in front of the fridge. In other words, exercise alone will unlikely lead to the instant results most people want. (If you’re really focused on losing a healthy amount of weight, caloric intake over burning calories through exercise is way more effective). Interestingly, some studies reveal that exercising could help us crave healthier and unprocessed foods versus the ones processed with salts and loaded with sugars. All in all, a regular exercise routine coupled with healthy eating could help you see the results on the scale you’re looking for.

Fall Foods In Season

Fall Foods In Season and Their Benefits

With Fall fresh upon us, it is time to start thinking of adding fresh, seasonal produce into your weekly meals. It can be difficult to stay nourished and energized during the Fall and Winter season due to shorter days. Thankfully, a lot of Fall produce is high in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients and are easy to incorporate into simple recipes!

In Season: Sweet Potatoes

Let’s be honest, sweet potatoes are great in any form and at any time of day. Sweet potatoes are very easy to find during the autumn months as they are harvested when the weather is colder. Sweet potatoes are incredibly versatile and there are many ways to cook them. Some benefits of eating sweet potatoes include improving gut health, potential cancer-targeting agents and improving your vision.

Gut health is important and does not just have to come from fermented foods. Due to their high levels of fiber, sweet potatoes assist with digestion and increasing good bacteria in your gut. It seems easy to overlook and forget to focus on gut health. However, gut health impacts many aspects of your body such as weight, mental health. Sweet potatoes are a simple way to implement gut-healthy foods, especially if you do not like fermented foods.

While it’s not 100% confirmed, it is speculated that sweet potatoes might protect against some types of cancer. The reason for this is due to antioxidants in purple sweet potatoes that tend to decrease the rate in which cancerous growths form. Additionally, the levels of beta-carotene have been found to protect from cancers such as prostate and colon cancer.

Similarly, the beta-carotene also helps improve your vision. When you keep the skin on orange sweet potatoes, you will be sure to find the most beta-carotene. The vitamin A from sweet potatoes has been found to protect your eyes from damage and can decrease your chances of blindness.

One of our favorite ways to include sweet potatoes in our diets is by stuffing them. Here is our Steak and Black Bean Bowl Stuffed Sweet Potato recipe that takes no more than 5 minutes to make!

Season’s Best: Squash

The main kinds of squash that are in season throughout the Fall are varieties of winter squash. Squash is a nutrient-dense veggie and is high in calcium, vitamins, and minerals. Some benefits of eating winter squash include regulating your blood pressure and improving your immune system.

High blood pressure is known to lead to health risks such as stroke and heart damage. Luckily, because squash is high in potassium it can assist in lowering blood pressure. This is huge if you are susceptible to high blood pressure or heart issues. According to the American Heart Association, potassium decreases tension within blood vessels, which leads to a drop in blood pressure.

In addition to blood pressure, squash is great for boosting your immune system. Due to its high levels of vitamin C, winter squash has the ability to protect you against immune deficiencies. Some of these immune deficiencies include the flu, common cold or even a bacterial infection. So, go ahead and make this Steak Black Bean Stuffed Spaghetti Squash and dive into all the benefits squash has to offer!

Fall Fav: Zucchini

Zucchini is an extremely versatile (and healthy) veggie that is packed with nutritional benefits and harvested through the Fall. Some of these benefits include improving eye health, boosting your energy and weight loss.

That’s right – carrots are not the only veggie that promotes eye health! In fact, zucchini also contains antioxidants that help improve and protect your eyes. Custom Kinetics explains that including zucchinis in your regular diet can protect your eyes against cataracts or rapid degeneration that comes along with aging. If you know you are prone to vision issues or simply want to protect your eyesight, zucchini is very accessible produce to add to your weekly food plan.

Another great reason to eat zucchini is due to its ability to increase your energy levels. Zucchini contains various vitamins and minerals but the vitamin-B in this Fall veg helps spike your energy levels and can improve your overall mood. Vitamin B6 helps your body convert food into energy. Consequently, this could potentially improve your mood and assist in decreasing fatigue. If you find yourself love on energy, adding zucchini to your meal prep doesn’t sound like a bad idea!

Weight Loss and Zucchini

If you are focusing on weight-loss or a low-calorie diet, zucchini has got you covered! Zucchini is high in fiber as well as water content, both of which keep you full for longer while eating less. Not only will you feel full after eating it, but it also is very low in calories. Health.com says that one cup of zucchini has about 40 to 50 percent fewer calories than other veggies like broccoli.

Depending on your weight loss goals and or diet, zucchini may help you fuel your body while keeping weight off. Even if you are not focusing on a weight loss lifestyle and want to keep track of calories, zucchini is a very healthy option to cook up and devour. One way we love to cook up zucchini is by turning them into enchiladas! Our Southwestern Zucchini Enchiladas recipe is quick, easy and perfect for Meatless Monday.

While there is much more Fall produce in season, these are a few of our favorites and they are simple to integrate into your diet. Depending on your personal preference and lifestyle, there is sure to be a Fall veggie to fit your food plan and the vitamins and minerals your body needs!

Avoid Overeating at the Dining Hall

Summer is flying by and college move-in day will be right around the corner before you know it. Whether you are a first year or transfer student it can be extremely daunting to navigate the dining halls. The majority of dining halls are all-you-can-eat buffet style or provide students with the ability to choose an unlimited meal plan. This means that students can eat multiple plates and enter the dining hall as many times as they desire. Just like other aspects of college life, it can be exciting to have a new sense of freedom. This is especially true when it comes to what you eat. If you are concerned about how to balance your meals and avoid overeating at the dining hall, make sure to check out our college hacks below!

Hack 1: Balance Your Plates

We get it – grabbing as many plates as you can to try new foods is super tempting. This is a very common habit among college students and can often lead to a lot of food waste. Instead of overloading your plates and piling them on at once, we suggest balancing your plates throughout your meals. For example, start with your fruits or veggies and the protein of your choice – this should be one plate. When you start with one plate, you will be working toward reducing food waste.

Additionally, you will be fueling your body with essential vitamin and nutrients first. This might fill you up quicker than you thought and help avoid overeating. If you are still hungry or want to try something new, try eating a small portion. By eating a smaller second plate, you will be giving your body time to digest what you just ate. This is extremely important to avoid overeating and listen to your body when it tells you it’s full.

Hack 2: Eye Your Options

Before settling on the first thing you see, walk around the dining hall and scope out what is being served that night. It might be tempting to grab couple slices of pizza but there might be a more filling and guilt-free option on the other side of the dining hall. Usually, dining halls serve up multiple starches for a single meal. We recommend seeing what carbs and starches are being served that night before you settle for one. This is extremely helpful if you follow a certain diet or are trying to be more mindful of what you are eating. By adopting this habit, you are one step closer to avoid overeating at the dining hall. Additionally, you will learn to customise your meals instead of settling for a food you do not want. If you go to a school with a larger dining hall, this tip is key to making sure you create a balanced plate with the foods you want to eat. This tip will also help you get a feel for portion sizes that work best for you.

Hack 3: Take Some For Later

This tip is great if you tend to snack late at night or if you get hungry easily. Usually, dining halls allow students to take fresh fruit or small baked goods back to their dorm. We recommend that you take full advantage of this! By taking some fruit, baked goods or smaller snacks back to your dorm, you will not have to spend money on going grocery shopping for snacks. Many studies have researched health benefits of healthy snacking. Specifically, fruit provides necessary vitamins and nutrients to your body and can reduce your risk for certain diseases. So, if you ever get hungry at night, you will have fresh produce on hand to munch on! This will help you avoid late night trips to the dining hall or ordering a pizza at 11 PM. That’s not to say you should not fuel your body late at night, but if you are a mindful eater, it does not hurt to have fresh fruit on hand! Not to worry if you ever overindulge, especially at night – there are ways to get back on track and continue aiming to avoid overeating at the dining halls.

Hack 4: Write Up a Plan

A more proactive way to avoid overeating at the dining hall is to form a meal plan.  Not every meal plan is going to be the same – we recommend creating a plan that is best for you. For instance, if you are looking for weight gain, you can create a plan that allows you to factor in more protein, fats or carbohydrates. The amounts of each will depend on your personal preference, diet, intake levels and appetite. You can do the same thing if you are working towards weight loss or low-carb meals. That is the best part of creating your own meal plan – you can tailor it any way you like. This is a good habit for students to adopt even if they do not follow a diet or have dietary restrictions. By mentally preparing yourself for the endless options of the dining hall, you will not feel as overwhelmed about deciding what to eat. Instead, you will feel prepared and empowered to tackle the dining hall and choose the best options for your body and goals.

Thankfully there are many tips to avoid overeating at the dining hall for college students. While all these tips might not be relevant to your eating habits or goals, there is a lot of freedom to decide what works best for you. It’s just a matter of time until you are comfortable getting into the swing of things in a new dining hall. Once you do, you will naturally find yourself adopting habits to avoid overeating and eating what makes you feel good!

How to Stock a Dorm Room Fridge

Ah, the infamous college dorm fridge. While it’s awesome to have access to a refrigerator, knowing how to stock a dorm room fridge can be hard. How come?

For one, it’s usually a mini fridge, meaning your space is limited. There’s a good chance you’re sharing it too, which leaves you only with enough room to stock the essentials. Or you could have access to a dining hall, in which case you might think the dorm room fridge is not necessary. Yet, the life of a college freshman can be stressful and unpredictable, so it’s best to be prepared for any unexpected food cravings once the dining hall is closed. Learn how to stock a dorm room fridge to prevent unwanted headaches, expanded waistlines, or an emergency call to Dominos.

With limited space and budget, let’s look at the best things to stock a dorm room fridge with.


Healthy Fridge Foods

Whether a full meal or a snack, here are the best things you can fit in a fridge to satisfy any craving!

Veggies to snack on. Stock your fridge with tasty vegetables that don’t take up a ton of room or require prep. Choose things like baby carrots, cucumbers, snap peas or cherry tomatoes. They’re great to snack on, are packed with good nutrients, and won’t take up a ton of space. They also will last a long while so you won’t have to worry about a super short shelf life.

Foods to fill you up. Sometimes you need a hearty snack that will keep you full while fighting a late-night deadline. If a craving strikes, choose a snack with a good amount of protein, like cheese strings, plain yogurt (hold the sugar!), or a premade bean burrito.

Items to make meals. Lunch meat is a great addition to a mini fridge to make a quick sandwich with some sliced bread or a wrap. Or hold the bread and simply roll the meat up with some cheese! Keep mini jars of peanut butter and jelly on hand for an easy-to-make lunch.

Freezer Finds

This article isn’t only about how to stock a dorm room fridge. If your fridge comes with a freezer, you need to take advantage of it too! Freezers are a great way to store leftovers, have healthy meals on hand, and keep your favorite treats properly stored.

Frozen meals. Frozen meals can be a life changer when you’re hungry but don’t have time (or energy) to whip something up. Besides, frozen meals today are packed with fewer preservatives, sugars, and salts. Look for healthy bowls, burritos, entrees, and more in the frozen aisle, and keep them on hand for emergencies.

Sugar cravings. To satisfy your sweet tooth, keep some handy “sugary” treats in your freezer. Frozen fruit like mango and grapes and yummy to snack on. Indulge with some frozen yogurt, too! Just pay attention to portion size.


Hydrating, Good-For-You Beverages

Staying hydrated is super important, but that doesn’t mean you need to fill your fridge with a 12-pack of plastic water bottles. Instead, consider buying a reusable water bottle and filling up at water fountains and drinking stations around campus.

Still, other liquids could be great for your health and can help satisfy your stomach if you’re craving something with a little flavor.

Fruit and veggie juice. While fruit juice contains a ton of sugar, a lot of healthy food brands now sell fruit and veggie blends to offset all the sweetness. Plus, these juices are way better for you than a sugary soda. Just make sure to check the label and see how much sugar you’re drinking. It might be in your best interest to only drink a little at a time.

Dairy-free milk. This might be essential, especially if you’re an avid coffee drinker in the morning. There are many dairy-free alternatives which are not only good for your body but also tend to keep longer than cow’s milk. Choose from soy, almond, coconut, or oat milk, and add it to your coffee, morning bowl of oats, or drink it on its own! Some brands even carry chocolate-flavored milks which can be a nice treat at the end of a long school day.

Coconut water. What’s great about coconut water is it can be super hydrating — and could even help prevent a hangover. Unlike good ol’ regular water, coconut H20 is a great source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and several important minerals. If you don’t like how it tastes on its own, you can buy coconut water that is infused with other flavors, like pineapple, lime, or even chocolate. They often come in small, recyclable bottles so you can easily store it in your mini-fridge.