Cozy Self-Care Rituals to Try During the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — yet it also might be one of the most stressful. The holidays are usually jam-packed with stuff — ranging from lots of food and family time to holiday parties, evening events, gift giving, and trips to visit loved ones.

When you jam a lot of good into a month or so, it begins to take a toll on your mental and physical health. Whether you love or loathe the holidays, you’re going to undoubtedly feel tired, stressed, and most likely in need for some solo chill time.

It’s important to take care of yourself so you can stay energized and joyful as we head towards the new year! Rather than simply describing a few typical self-care tips, here are some especially comfy ones you can do to feel extra cozy and cared-for this holiday season.

7 Cozy Self-Care Rituals for the Holidays

Meditate lying down. Meditating is a hard but super rewarding habit to form. Yet no matter how seasoned of a meditator you are, it’s sometimes uncomfortable! (I’ve been there: trying to keep my back upright, my shoulders relaxed, and instead I’m thinking about my aching spine and hips.) I recently discovered that meditating while lying down allows me to focus way more on my breathing than my body. It’s also way more comfortable! So give it a whirl; lie down on a soft floor (carpet works great) and focus on counting your inhales and exhales. For some guided support, use an app like Headspace or Calm. Keep it cozy by wearing warm socks, and if you have it, turn on a diffuser that’s filled with peppermint and lavender oil to really set the mood.

Enjoy a cup of tea before bed. Tea is scientifically proven to be calming and relaxing while packing a punch when it comes to nutritional benefits. In the cold months, get into the habit of sipping on some herbal teas, which can be great for fighting colds, boosting your immune system, and improving digestion. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably eating a bit more than you normally do during the holidays — so anything to help your stomach digest food is an A+ in my book!

Take a warm bath with essential oils. Nobody can bother you when you’re in the bathroom. Put your tub to good use and start taking more bubble baths! The warm water will soothe your body and mind, and the quiet time will allow you to disconnect from others. Leave your phone behind and take a book with you to the bath instead. For some extra calming effects, add a drop or two of eucalyptus oil. You’ll feel like you’re at a spa.

Up the ante on your sleep. Sleep is always super important, but it might be even more critical during the holidays. Stay cognizant of how many Zzz’s you’re getting a night, and try not to lose sleep no matter how packed your schedule might be. Squeezing in some afternoon naps may help, too, so if you have the flexibility to doze off for a bit during the day, take advantage of that as a way to recharge.

Try yin yoga. Yoga is always a great tool for relaxing your mind. Yin is especially a helpful way to give yourself some self-love. Yin Yoga involves variations of seated and supine poses that are typically held for 3 to 5 minutes, with the goal of accessing deeper layers of the fascia tissues. It’s both intense and extremely rejuvenating; you’ll leave the class feeling like you have a new set of muscles!

Do things by candlelight. For some reason, the flickering of a candle adds a mood to the room that’s both calming and soothing. Decorate your home with candles throughout the house, and use them when you’re reading at night, while you’re taking said bubble bath, or when you’re having a romantic dinner with friends or loved ones. Dim the lights and break out the wicks — the atmosphere it creates will most certainly make your spirits soar.

Eat well with room for indulgence. Food is often the main attraction during the holidays. And while nobody can argue that holiday cookies aren’t delicious, the number of sweets and salts we eat can become stressful. Rather than worrying about an uptick in your cookie consumption, give yourself a healthy bout of room for indulging, while focusing on eating healthy whenever possible. You can eat that extra slice of pie, and then perhaps make yourself a healthful veggie omelet the next morning. Maybe skip the second glass of wine and instead make a cup of hot tea to enjoy before bed.

At the end of the day, the holidays are all about balance: balancing social stuff with solo-time, eating both salads and sweets, and checking in with yourself to see if you’re taking on too much. Hopefully, these self-care suggestions can help you feel a little bit more ease and allow you to enjoy all the fun and love that encompasses this time of the year.

Simple Tips for Reducing Mealtime Stress

While eating around the dinner table might be relaxing, getting the whole family there with a healthy and home-cooked meal on everyone’s plate might be quite the hassle. Especially with school and fall in full-time force, you need to bounce hectic schedules, shorter days, and most likely a picky eater or two.

We’re here to help. Mealtime, whether that’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, doesn’t need to be full of stress. If you enjoy cooking, we want you to keep it that way! Here are some tips to bring back the fun in food and ensure that the whole family is appreciative and relaxed when it’s time to dig in.

Let’s Toast to This: How to Ease Meal Time Anxiety

Set a routine.

The easiest way to make something a habit is to form a routine. While your schedule may vary day-to-day, consider how you can set a schedule for when you start cooking and who is helping out.

For example:

  • Set a time to start cooking every evening. If you’re home from work by 5:00 pm and the family doesn’t have any evening activities on Mondays and Wednesdays, use those evenings to start cooking at 5:30 pm, so everyone is happy and fed by 7:00 pm. If there are other days when the family is getting home later, you can adjust your schedule accordingly. The main thing is to stick to whatever times you create for yourself.
  • Prep in the morning. If morning meal prep is your fancy, enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning and scan the internet for fun recipes you can make at night.
  • Get ahead of schedule. Sometimes, making lunches the night before is a lot easier than doing it the morning of. While this might be a harder habit to start, try to prepare lunches while everyone is (hopefully) in the kitchen helping you clean up from dinner. That way it’s one less thing to worry about the next morning.

Meal prep!

The easiest way to help stick to a routine is to prep your meals. This could look like a few different things:

  • Carve out an afternoon. A lot of people enjoy using Sunday’s as a meal prep day. You can take an afternoon to make a big batch of soup, roast a few pans of veggies, make some meatballs, and cook up quinoa or couscous. This will help to make the actual meal a lot easier during the week, and will especially assist when it comes to packing lunches for school.
  • Make a list. Instead of scanning the aisles at the grocery store, figure out what meals you want to make during the week and create a grocery list that hits on all the ingredients you’ll need. That way you’ll have just enough of everything and will be less likely to splurge on unnecessary foods and will save some money, too.
  • Freeze big batches of food. Lastly, a lot of folks enjoy making meals and freezing them. If you know you have a busy few weeks coming up, you can make things like lasagna, homemade veggie burgers, soups, and burritos, and then stick them in the freezer. These are always great to have on hand if you run into a busy evening and don’t have time to whip something up yourself.

Get a helping hand.

You should never have to go it alone. Involving your family is a way to take all the burden off of you while making cooking a fun, family activity. Here are some ways to get some extra hands in the kitchen:

  • Assign roles. A fun thing for a partner or kid to do is to assign them the “sous chef” role. This means they can do some of the chopping, prepping, blending, and mixing in the kitchen, while you focus on cooking the meal.
  • Assign days. Give different people in your family cookies responsibilities throughout the week. Make Friday night “date night,” where you and your partner take turns cooking meals for one another. If one of your kids wants to learn how to make pasta, give him or her the chance to on Wednesdays. Pancakes are always a hit, too, so assign that to someone for a lazy Sunday morning.

Consider a meal kit service.

If you love to cook but hate coming up with the meals, or simply don’t enjoy getting the ingredients, then a meal service might be a great thing to consider. They’re also fun because you get to learn how to cook things you might never have thought to make yourself. Some meal services include Blue Apron, Sun Basket, and Plated. If you want to skip the cooking and have fresh, organic meals right in your own grocery aisle, we can’t help but suggest Good Food Made Simple.

Streamline breakfast.

While breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it can also be the most hectic, especially if everyone is trying to get out the door. Don’t worry about trying to put together a gourmet meal before 7 am; instead, streamline the process. Here are some tips:

  • Make overnight oats! The night before, you can put together a batch of overnight oats that will be creamy and delicious in the morning. For one serving, grab a jar and add ½ cup of oats. Pour in one cup of milk (almond milk works great, too!), two tbsp of nuts, a tsp of cinnamon, and a quick squeeze of honey. You’ll have an instant yummy and nutritious breakfast in the morning. Or better yet, use our frozen organic oatmeal to create a fast oatmeal parfait like this!
  • Blend your breakfast. Smoothies are awesome because they’re quick to make and packed with lots of vitamins and minerals. Invest in a good blender, and add a mix of frozen fruit, almond milk, protein (whether protein powder or nut butter) and a handful of spinach. Make a big batch, blend and let everyone enjoy!

Treat yo’self to takeout.

Three meals a day, seven days a week…all that cooking adds up! It’s nearly impossible to make meals all week long, so you should allow yourself some wiggle room. Here are a few fun ideas:

  • Make Mondays a takeout night. While Sunday’s are notorious for some Chinese or pizza delivery, Monday’s are typically the most stressful night of the week. To ease some of that chaos, give yourself a break and order takeout at the beginning of the week.
  • Look for healthy options! It’s easy to succumb to fried food when ordering in, but explore some of the healthier, to-go choices in your town.
  • Rotate who chooses what meal each time. In order to give everyone a voice, each week (or however often you decide to eat-in) allow one person to choose where you’re ordering from. This lets you mix things up and is a fun way to give someone a yummy responsibility.

Making meals should be fun. Hopefully, some of these tips take the stress out of the kitchen and allow you to enjoy the process, savor the delicious and nutritious food, and ensure that the whole family is involved in mealtime prep and planning.

How to Eat Mindfully During the Holidays

With the holiday season in full-swing — Thanksgiving spreads on the table, Christmas cookies in the oven, and Hanukkah latkes in the frying pan — it’s easy to equate this time of year with fun, family, and a lot of food. While indulging during the holidays is perfectly okay, and we shouldn’t stress about putting certain treats in our bodies, it’s easy to go overboard and lose complete control of how and what we eat.

There’s a way to enjoy the rich and delicious holiday feasts while still being mindful of what we’re putting it into our bodies, and balancing it with fresh, whole foods. By doing this, we won’t have to worry about making any new year’s resolutions around losing weight or getting our eating habits back on track; if we start now, we can exit the holidays and enter the new year feeling better than we do today!

First Up: What Is Mindful Eating?

Before we dive into the holiday health tips and tricks that will allow us to eat more mindfully and feel more in control during the holidays, let’s take a step back to clarify what mindful eating really is.

To do that, let’s take yet another step back and talk about mindless eating. Mindless eating is when you start eating food while distracted — you’re not enjoying the taste or noticing how much you’re consuming. Think: going through a whole bag of potato chips while scrolling your phone and not even realizing it. Mindless eating can lead to weight gain and obesity, along with feelings of anxiety and depression.

On the flip side, mindful eating is when you are paying attention to what you’re feeding your body. You’re enjoying it, too, and eating slowly and with awareness. The best example of mindful eating is to eat a bowl of oatmeal without a laptop or smartphone nearby. Simply notice how each bite tastes, feels, and smells. You’ll most likely eat a lot slower, feel more satisfied, and not feel the need to indulge in a chocolate croissant afterward.

How to Eat Mindfully During the Holidays

Here are some ways to practice mindful eating so you can feel in control, satisfied with your food, and be more confident in your body.

Eat when you’re hungry! This might sound obvious, but it can be a real tough one for us. Before you unravel a blueberry muffin “because it’s 8 am,” tune into your body and figure out if you’re actually hungry. If you’re not, wait until your hunger cues kick in. And once you do start to chow down, eat slow enough so you know when your body is satisfied and you don’t overeat.

Drink a glass of water before every meal. It’s easy for us to confuse hunger with thirst. Before every meal, drink a nice glass of water; not only will it help with digestion, it will also allow your body to absorb nutrients and prevent you from stuffing yourself with too much food. A morning glass of water with lemon in it is also a nice way to jumpstart your digestive track.

Control your portions. During the holidays, there is usually more food on the table than necessary. Before getting a big scoop of everything (we’re looking at you, Thanksgiving dinner) pay attention to portion size.

Reconsider seconds. Speaking of portion size, in addition to going in for too much food, we also love to help ourselves to seconds, or even thirds! Before you dive in for a second serving of mashed potatoes, sit back and take a few deep breaths. Notice if your body is actually still hungry and needs that second helping, and if it doesn’t, say no thanks and make yourself something soothing, like a cup of hot tea.

Keep the electronics away. It’s easy to start eating mindlessly when we’re distracted by our phones, computers, or tv screens. Whenever you eat a meal, whether alone or with a group, turn off any and all electronics and keep ‘em out of sight.

Slow. Down. The best way to eat enough and know when you’re truly satisfied is to eat slowly. This will give your body enough time to send signals to your brain that you have eaten enough, and don’t need three more heaping servings of pecan pie. While you eat slowly, pay attention to how the food really tastes — you’ll be surprised to notice how much more enjoyable that bite really is.

Keep a food diary. In order to truly understand what you’re eating all day long, consider keeping a food journal! This will allow you to track every single thing you eat  — yep, even those handful of M&Ms and roasted peanuts — throughout the day. You might be surprised at how much you eat, especially between meals, and it could help you clean up some habits and start to eat with more awareness and control.

Start and end each day with some fresh. Begin and end your day on a high note. For breakfast, go for a piece of fresh fruit and a spinach scramble bowl over a processed baked good, and end your evening with some herbal tea. If you still feel hungry before hitting the hay, slice up a banana or eat a handful of raw almonds.

Give yourself some wiggle room! This last holiday health tip is the most important one. Remember: It’s okay to not eat perfectly during the holidays. While being mindful is important, you also have to be flexible. Sure, you might not be starving when you go for a second Christmas cookie, and that’s okay. (Just don’t make that a daily habit!) While this shouldn’t be the norm, you have to carve in some small space to stuff yourself silly — my favorite is on Christmas Eve — or else you’ll deprive yourself and be more likely to binge on all the sweets later on. Be mindful when you eat, be kind to yourself when you slip up, and enjoy the holidays for everything they offer.

Snacks Versus Meals

There is often a split between people when it comes to snacking or eating full meals. We believe that meal time should be stress free and align with your personal preferences. While it often gets a bad rap, it is actually helpful to implement snacks into your lifestyle.

To some, snacking is an easier way to meal prep for the day or a more convenient way to get in daily nutrients. To others, snacking is simply a personal preference. Overall, it is important to break the stigma that all snacking is bad. After all, food freedom allows us to incorporate foods into our personal preferences and lifestyles!

What is snacking?

Typically, snacking is characterized as consuming food/beverage between your regular meal times (breakfast, lunch, dinner). With this board definition, it is obvious that snacking or snack times are different for everyone. As there is no universal definition, it is surprising that there is (more or less) a universal stigma.

Unfortunately, snacking does have a negative connotation. Specifically, that it involves overly processed, packaged and “unhealthy” foods. Further, negative messages are often circulated around the idea that snacking could be to blame for weight gain and health complications. As a result, snacking often leads to guilt and food insecurities.

However, snacking doesn’t have to equate to consuming “junk food.” One of our favourite ways to focus on cleaner snacks is to build a snack plate. The best part of a snack plate is that you can pretty much add whatever you like!

If you are a picky eater, snack plates allow you to fill up with the foods you enjoy most. The variety and options snack plates provide you are literally endless.

If you find yourself craving some chips or sweets, you can totally incorporate them into your balanced snack plate. By mixing in fruits, veggies, protein and carbs, your snack plate is perfect for nourishing your body and listening to your cravings, too!

Are there benefits to snacking?

The short answer is: it depends. As aforementioned, there is no uniform definition of snacking nor is there a right or wrong way to snack. Therefore, the benefits of snacking depend on your personal health, preferences and lifestyle.

As explained by Eliza Martinez, snacking benefits can include increasing your nutrient intake and energy. As a result, your concentration levels may be boosted due to fueling your body between meals.

Martinez says that a balanced snack can “increases your energy levels for a longer period of time than sugary snacks do.” Essentially, by consuming balanced snacks, you are slowly fueling your body throughout the day and keeping your energy levels up.

There are many different opinions and perspectives regarding the effects of snacking. However, conflicting views on snacking shows that there is no right or wrong way to incorporate snacks into your routine!

It’s still important to eat full meals

Snacking is certainly an important factor to integrate into your daily meal routine. However, it is just as important to make sure you are eating enough full meals to fuel your body.

Eating complete, nutritious meals ensures that you are consuming the daily recommended nutritional intake. As such, it is important to note that both meals and snacks are a good way to fuel your body – you don’t need to eliminate one or the other! So, don’t be tricked into thinking you should only be eating one meal a day, or replacing all meals with just snacks!

That being said, meal time doesn’t have to be stressful or overcomplicated. Just like snacks, meals can be pretty easy to make! Some of our favourite simple meals include:

Structuring snacks or meals into your routines

Implementing snacks into your dietary lifestyle is all relative to your personal preferences. Some of these can include your hunger levels, dietary restrictions and daily cravings. Planning to incorporate snacks into your diet is all relative to you! Sometimes the best way is by experimenting what snacks work and don’t work for you. From there, you can decide: are you more of a snack or meal person?

4 Ways to Honor Heart Health Month

While some think of Valentine’s Day during February, we also need to remember that it is Heart Health month, too! According to WebMD, when your heart isn’t getting the proper care it needs, serious issues occur and can lead to “heart attacks and blockage of blood flow in the arteries.”

This month, we propose you look out for your heart! Some small ways you can do so include exercise, controlling cholesterol levels, limit stress levels and eat heart healthy foods.

Get your heart moving

It is no secret that movement and exercise is great for heart health. After all, cardio is one of the best ways to put your body (and heart) into motion! If you aren’t into fast-paced exercising, that’s okay – you can still find a type of exercise that fits your preferences and helps your heart.

John Hopkins Medicine lists aerobics as a great form of exercise to promote heart health. They explain that aerobics “improves circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate.” Some of these aerobic exercises include brisk walking, swimming and cycling/spin.

Aerobics is not the only type of exercise you are limited to when focusing on heart health! Believe it or not, strength/resistance training is also recommended by the American Heart Association.

Healthline explains that “when combined with aerobics, strength training will help to raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol [which] can also reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.” Strength training includes using free weights (dumbbells, barbells), weight machines, resistance bands and body-resistances (sit-ups, squats).

While exercise is definitely one of the key methods to promoting heart health, you don’t need to be locked into one kind of routine. We recommend finding a type of exercise that fits your lifestyle and preferences best!

Control those cholesterol levels!

Cholesterol – we all have it, most of us have heard about it, and some of us actually know about it. Usually, cholesterol has a bad rap. However, there are two different types of cholesterol – LDL and HDL, which are known as bad and good cholesterol, respectively.

The American Heart Association explains that LDL is typically viewed as bad because “it contributes to fatty buildups in arteries.” In contrast, they claim “experts believe that HDL [carries] LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where the LDL is broken down and passed from the body.” Essentially, LDL rids the body of bad cholesterol, which is why it is often considered as good.

So, what are some ways you can keep your LDL levels under control? The short answer is to incorporate heart healthy foods and exercise into your daily routines. While this may seem oversimplified, we recommend finding exercise routines and recipes that work best for your preferences.

However, Mayo Clinic provides a few helpful guidelines when focusing on heart healthy foods. Some of the guidelines listed include:

  • Reducing saturated fats
  • Eliminating trans fats
  • Increase Omega-3 fatty acids

As always, the best place to receive recommendations about maintain your cholesterol is through your primary care physician/doctor.

Cut that stress out!

It is no secret that the inevitability of stress plays a role in your mental and physical health. Evidentially, stress can lead to factors that impact heart health or increase your risk for heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, elements such as “high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, physical inactivity and overeating” can be caused by stress and lead to a decrease in heart health.

The AHA recommends learning to manage stress in order to promote heart health. It is a good idea to take a step back if you find that you are stressed or feeling overworked. By prioritising healthy habits, you are closer to protecting your heart and all that comes with it.

Protect your heart through food

Maintaining a well-rounded diet is one of many ways to manage a health heart. While all foods fit and are good in moderation, there are specific foods that are more beneficial to heart health. As identified by CNN Health, some of these heart-friendly foods include oats, low-fat dairy, leafy greens, nuts/seeds and avocados.

An easy way to start the day with a heart healthy breakfast is by whipping up a bowl of our Steel Cut Oatmeal. CNN Health explains that oatmeal contains “a special type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan,” which reduces cholesterol levels. Steel cut oats are a great breakfast because you can top it off with anything! If you’re into savory oatmeal, you can double up and top your oats with leafy greens and avocado.

Breakfast isn’t the only meal you can incorporate heart healthy ingredients into. We love using low-fat yoghurt to make a Pancake Puff Banana Split! Top it off with some nuts or seeds, and you’ve got yourself a heart-healthy dessert.

If you are trying to introduce more heart healthy ingredients into your diet, we recommend choosing what fits best for your lifestyle! Honoring your heart can take many shapes in forms. By combining exercise routines, mental health promotion and heart healthy foods, you are sure to be on the right track to honoring your heart!

3 Snow Day Workouts Anyone Can Enjoy

Let’s set the scene. You wake up snuggled under your warm bed. You had grand plans the night before to get a good workout in today, but once you wake up, you look out the window and see it: snow. Piled high. There’s been a snow storm.

While it’s perfectly reasonable to use snow days as a chance to stay inside all day, that doesn’t mean you still can’t get your heart rate up. Without equipment, coaches, or studios, consider dedicating just 20-30 minutes of your snow day to your body and mind.

Continue reading for a few different snow day workouts to get the heart pumping before you jump back into sweats and enjoy the rest of the day on the couch with some Netflix. We’re not judging — we’ll be right beside you!

3 Snow Day Workouts Anyone Can Enjoy

HIIT(high-intensity interval training) is a great way to do a lot with a little. It involves alternate spurts of vigorous activity with short recovery periods to burn lots of calories in less time. Whether you’re a fitness pro or just startingout, HIIT can be adapted to anyone. The key to doing HIIT well is doing the moves with proper form, so don’t rush too quickly through them, but also don’t move too slowly. Listen to your body to find the right pace and rhythm.

20-minute No Equipment HIIT Routine

Here’s a 20-minute HIIT routine you can do practically anywhere. Go through this sequence four times, and do each exercise/move for 45 seconds. Rest between moves for 15 seconds.

Push-ups: To do a traditional push-up, start with your hands shoulder-width apart in plank pose. Bend your elbows and lower toward the ground, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body. To modify (no shame!) try doing them with your knees on the ground.

Squats: Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Make sure to keep your feet directly under your hips, and place your hands on your hips. Tighten your core as you start to sit, lowing your booty to the floor.

Mountain climbers: Get into a plank position, and then bring your right knee to your right shoulder. Switch sides. Start moving faster so it’s as if you’re running in place, though in plank formation!

Tricep dips: You’ll need a low table or chair for this one. Place your hands on either said chair or table with your back facing it. Put your legs straight out and hold onto your surface with your palms. Lower as far as you can, bending from the elbows. Come back up. You should feel this in, surprise, your triceps.

Jumping lunge. Start standing tall with your feet staggered, your right foot a bit in front of your left. Keep your knees bent in a slight lunge. Push off the bottom of both feet into a jump, and switch the position of your feet mid-air, landing in a basic lunge with your right leg in front. Without stopping, repeat this movement, alternating which leg is in front.

The Science-Backed 7-Minute Workout

If you’re crunched for time (to start baking cookies…) then you can, at the very least, do this 7-minute workout. The sequence first became known in 2013, when The New York Times published the workout, along with some scientific validation behind it. This workout includes 12 exercises and calls for a chair, a wall, and your own body weight. Each exercise should be done for 30 seconds with only a few seconds of rest between each.

  1. Jumping jacks
  2. Wall sits
  3. Push up
  4. Abdominal crunch
  5. Step-up to chair
  6. Squats
  7. Tricep dips
  8. Planks
  9. High knees running in place
  10. Lunge
  11. Push up with rotation
  12. Side plank

If you’re feeling fiery, repeat this sequence as many times as you fancy!

Stay-Inside Yoga Flow

If you’re not feeling anything too intense, not a problem at all. You can still move a bit with a nice yoga sequence in order to relax your muscles, stretch your ligaments, and clear your head. There are a ton of resources online to find the exact type of flow for you, from something more restorative to one that is a bit more intense. Youtube is a hub for many yoga recordings you can listen to (and watch!) or you can also download an app, like FitStar Yoga or Daily Yoga. The sky’s the limit when it comes to free resources, so get downloading and down-dogging!

After your snow day workout is complete, give yourself a nice pat on the back. You deserve to cozy up and enjoy the rest of your afternoon inside, staying nice and warm. However, if you’re really looking for more, you can always shovel the driveway —that counts as a workout, too!

How To Start Meal Prepping

Often times, the biggest thing getting in the way of a healthy and hearty meal is, well, cooking it. Yet if one of your commitments to yourself in 2019 is to eat well, this has to include getting your healthy game on in the kitchen.

One of the most powerful and helpful ways to eat well without the hassle is to meal prep. By dedicating some time in the kitchen to prepare, plan, and prep healthy creations, you’ll thank yourself for weeks, or even months to come. Here’s your foolproof guide to meal prep like a pro and fill your plates with healthful and nutrient-rich food every day and night.

Your 8-Step Guide to Meal Prep Paradise

Create a schedule. The most important part of meal prepping is creating a schedule that works for you — and sticking to it. Many people tend to meal prep for a chunk of the afternoon on Sunday in order to have meals for the week. Others love doing it on Wednesdays. It doesn’t really matter when the meal prepping happens, just as long as it gets done. And sticking to the same day and time every week helps make it a habit and a fun tradition.

Start with good containers. When you meal prep, you’ll have a lot to store away. It sounds silly, but having handy containers, from various-sized Tupperware to mason jars and Ziplock bags, will become your number one friend once everything is ready to get stored away. Make sure you have an array of sizes for your food, from tiny Tupperware for dressings and toasted nuts to large containers for cooked rice or quinoa.

Get your kitchen in order. A clean and organized kitchen is a very, very happy kitchen. Start with a clean space, and clear off all your counter space. Invest in a few cutting boards, good knives, and the appliances you like, like a blender, food processor, rice cooker, and crockpot.


Prep your entertainment. You’ll likely be spending at least a few hours in the kitchen, so get yourself psyched with some good entertainment. This could be listening to a book on tape, tuning into a podcast, or having a special meal prep playlist on Spotify. If your entertainment comes from other people, recruit helpers in the kitchen: partners, friends, children, or neighbors! 

Stock up on staples. While every week’s creations might look different, they will probably all include some of the same ingredients. Considering buying certain staples in bulk, like olive oil, various vinegar, uncooked grains (oatmeal, rice, quinoa, couscous), salt and pepper, bags of frozen spinach, bread crumbs, canned beans and veggies, maple syrup — the list goes on! You’ll have a good idea of what you’ll use based on the foods you typically like to make. Over time, buying in bulk will save you lots of time and money.

Build a meal list for the week. Now that you are stocked with staples, it’s time to get the rest of the ingredients. The easiest way to get exactly what you need from the store is to decide which meals you’ll be making. For example, if you have a list that contains sweet potato soup, Mediterranean quinoa salad, turkey burgers, spinach and ricotta pizza, and a buddha bowl, it’ll be easy to break those meals down and notate every ingredient you’ll need to get if it’s not already in the pantry or fridge.

Master multi-tasking. You’ll most likely be making a lot of meals. Instead of focusing on one thing at a time, get into multi-tasking mode! While onions are softening in the pan, get your ingredients chopped for whatever is going in the crockpot. As one thing is cooking, another thing can be stirring. The beauty of multiple cutting boards and burners, along with enough counter space, means you can work on a bunch of things all at once and finish in half the time.

Freeze, freeze, freeze! After you’ve cooked everything up (congrats!) it’s time to decide what goes in the fridge and what goes in the freezer. While preparing meals for the week is great, others like to prepare vats of soups, burgers, and stuffed peppers that can go straight in the freezer and be ready for those evenings when you simply don’t want to cook. Freezing food is never a bad idea, just remember to defrost anything ahead of time that you plan on eating that day.

If you can accomplish these eight steps, then consider yourself a meal prep mastermind! Not only will you save time and money, but you’ll also be able to eat healthier with way fewer road blocks in your way — building amazing and healthy habits for the new year.

Don’t Make Resolutions. Build Habits.

It’s January, which means one thing is certain — we’re trying desperately to stick to our ambitious, and often guilt-driven, new year’s resolutions. With the new year happening right after the holiday season, we more often than not make grand plans to lose weight, exercise more, and never sleepless than eight hours a night. However, these resolutions are usually a product of late-night holiday parties, big feasts, and a healthful serving of cookies. In fact, in 2017 nearly 50% of people said their new year’s resolution was to lose weight. Think about it though: If the new year happened after summer —when we’re more active and spend lots of time outdoors — do you think you’d make the same resolutions?

In addition to just the odd timing of resolutions happening after an indulgent holiday season, the elephant in the room is that people have a hard time sticking to their resolutions. One large survey found that 80% of resolutions don’t even stick until February, which signals there might be a flaw in the system, rather than in our intentions.

Why Resolutions Don’t Work

Often, our resolutions are really big, visionary goals. Think: lose 10 pounds, save $10,000, or get six-pack abs. These visions are really hard to turn into daily actions, and we end up being at a loss with how to realistically attain these big resolutions.

That’s why building habits might be the better way. Habits are rituals and behaviors that we automatically perform, which allow us to carry out essential activities that are vital to our lives, like showering, getting dressed, and even reading before bed. Now, imagine if packing your workout clothes for the gym was as simple and mindless as brushing your teeth at night!

Habits are more reliable than resolutions because while they take time to form, once you do create them, it’s harder to let it fall to the wayside. While establishing habits isn’t always the easiest, it’s definitely attainable. Here are some guidelines for how to develop healthy habits for the new year.

Your Step-by-Step Habit Forming Guide

1. Start with a small action that will start the domino effect of establishing your habit. For example, say you want to cook more meals versus eating out. A good action to start with is to write a grocery list on Sunday morning that is filled with fresh and healthy ingredients.

2. Pick an anchor behavior that will trigger this new action. For example, brushing your teeth can trigger you to floss. For this grocery list example, maybe you always write one on Sunday morning while drinking your first cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

3. Make sure this behavior is easy and even fun! If you like writing lists by hand, maybe buy yourself some fun paper and a pen for your grocery-list writing. If you’re more of a digital person,  search for and download an app on your phone. Consider bookmarking some of your favorite recipe blogs on your computer so you can enjoy time searching for delicious meals to make. Or invest in a few good cookbooks. This will inspire you to cook and eat healthier.

4. Stay consistent. Habits are easier to form if you do them in the same place around the same time. Don’t write your grocery list on the fly, in between a million other tasks. Take time and make this a ritual.

5. Give yourself a pat on the back. Even if you may think this habit is small, it’s helping you reach a bigger goal: eating healthier. So when we tell ourselves “good job!” we get a little shot of dopamine to the brain which triggers our reward system. This not only feels good, but gives us a better chance of continually replicating our action and truly turning it into a habit.

6. Repeat, repeat!  While the grocery list creation might only need to happen once a week, other habits can happen daily. If you want to get stronger, you could start a habit of doing 50 pushups in the morning before you eat breakfast. If you want to create this habit, do it in the same room in between your other morning tasks, whether that’s brushing your teeth, making coffee, or checking the news. The repetition helps make this habit become automatic.

By taking small steps and creating habits, you could see some big results. So instead of making huge resolutions, consider focusing on habits that you can stick to every day that will help you make lifestyle changes you can adhere to for life.

Superfoods for Preventing Colds

We hate to break it to you, but it’s officially fall, which means winter is right around the corner. And depending on where you live, the cold temps might already be in full swing. Cold weather often comes with cold and flu season, too, a sad side effect to the approaching holidays, snow-filled days, and opportunities to cozy up next to a fireplace.

Don’t let cold-season sideline you from the snuggly temps that are approaching! Luckily, certain foods can help stifle those sneezes, runny noses, and yucky flus we’re unfortunately vulnerable to catch as the seasons shift.

Here are nine foods that will help strengthen your immune system during the cooler weather months. They’re also quite delicious and versatile, so you shouldn’t have a problem fitting them onto your plates and into your diet.

Eat This, Not That


If you feel a cold coming on, soup is a great way to combat feeling crumby. In addition to it feeling comforting and warm, you can add so many different things to the pot that have immune-boosting qualities. Chicken noodle soup is a classic, and for good reason — chicken is filled with zinc and iron, and carrots are rich vitamin C. These are all nutrients your body needs to fight off toxins and germs. The broth also helps secrete mucus which protects the body against new germs coming in. An ultimate immune boosting soup includes ingredients that we’ll mention below, but we’ll tell you them now: kale, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, turmeric, and garlic. Lastly, it goes without saying that soup simply helps soothe your body.


Mushrooms are often thought of as medicinal since they’re naturally grown and have a lot of amazing health benefits. In addition to keeping your immune system in check, they’re also amazing at boosting brain power, packing a punch of antioxidants into your body, and even helping with your hormones. There are a lot of different mushrooms out there. Skip the white button ones you often see in the grocery aisle and choose ones that are more “exotic” sounding that contain potent phytonutrients. These include mushrooms like shiitake, reishi, enoki, and maitake. You can add them to soup, stir fry’s, salads, or sautee them in olive oil and enjoy as a side dish!

Green tea

Green tea has a laundry list of health benefits, one of which is boosting our immunity. Tea is filled with polyphenols, which are plant antioxidants that help protect your body against colds and flus, and can even speed up the healing process if you’re already sick. One of the most powerful parts of green tea is a compound called EEGCG. Not only does it help speed up your metabolism, it also wards off infections. And here’s an amazing bonus: EGCGs have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. And just like soup, tea is warm and cozy to consume, and will make you feel good simply by sipping it.


Vitamin C for the win! Vitamin C is important for cold prevention because it stimulates the function of your white blood cells that attack foreign bacteria and viruses that enter our bodies. In other words, Vitamin C helps reduce our chances of getting sick. Other citrus fruits, like grapefruit, lemons, and limes, are packed with vitamins as well. The best part is it doesn’t take much to get the vitamins you need; just one orange contains 120 percent of our recommended dietary intake. Slice up an orange and eat it on the go, add it to an Asian salad, or throw it in a smoothie! Just don’t only rely on orange juice as your source of Vitamin C; fruit juices contain a lot of sugar that your body doesn’t really need.


The sweet thing about honey is it can help soothe your throat and keep coughing at a minimum. Plus, the phytonutrients in raw honey are known for having antibacterial and anti-viral properties that can give your immune system a healthy boost and ward off colds and flus. Honey also provides a natural shot of energy, and its antioxidants can fight bad cholesterol and free radicals in the body. Add a spoonful to your morning oatmeal, use it as a sweetener in coffee or tea, or add some to a morning slice of toast!


Garlic is filled with potent antioxidants that block germs and keep your body protected. This pungent-tasting bulb also has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties that prevent sickness. The superstar is allicin, garlic’s key compound that has all those potent and germ-fighting properties. The best way to capture all of garlic’s health benefits is to eat it raw. While they might be too potent for most, you can try chopping it up and adding olive oil and salt for a raw garlic “dip.” Another option that’s a little easier to swallow is adding raw garlic to homemade guacamole or hummus. Of course, you can cook it too, adding sauteed garlic to nearly any savory dish for a burst of flavor while fighting off pesky germs.

Sweet potato

Similar to oranges and other citrus fruits, sweet potatoes have high amounts of vitamin C. That said, sweet potatoes also contain a large amount of  beta-carotene, which scientists say helps increase help increase “T cell activity,” which help fight infection. Lastly, Vitamin A is also found in sweet potatoes, which strengthen our mucus membranes found in the nose and throat. You can bake, roast, or pan fry potatoes. They’re also great in soups and on salads. And if you’re feeling really creative, use them as a base in a homemade veggie burger!


Ginger is spicy, warming, and full of flavor. It also breaks down mucus in our bodies which helps clear the respiratory tract and feel less congested. Ginger also contains those well-known phytochemicals that fight off viruses and keep colds far away. You can make your own ginger tea with raw ginger or add it to virtually any stir-fry or soup. And if you have a sweet tooth, treat yo’self and make an immune-boosting sweet potato pie baked with ginger. Extra points if you use honey as your sweetener!


Last but not least: yogurt. Yogurt is filled with probiotics which is “good bacteria” your body needs to ward away bad bacteria in your body. That bad bacteria can easily make you sick by weakening your immune system. Just beware of yogurts that are filled with added sugars. The easiest thing you can do is buy unsweetened yogurt and add a touch of sweetness with immune-boosting honey.

Nobody likes getting sick. While sometimes it might feel inevitable, there are natural things you can do for your body that’ll help protect you from feeling crummy. In addition to your diet, also make sure to stay super hydrated, avoid processed foods, and get a good amount of sleep every night!

Managing Your Seasonal Depression

After what most of us wish was an endless Summer, the majority of the contiguous U.S. turn their clocks back an hour for daylight saving time. Despite the initial feeling of gaining an hour of sleep, the sun setting at 3 or 4 PM often brings feelings of seasonal depression. This blog will explain what seasonal depression is, the signs and effects it has, and how to combat it.

What is seasonal depression?

Seasonal affective disorder (informally referred to as seasonal depression) is a form of depression that’s impacted by the change in season. In most cases, seasonal affective disorder occurs in the Fall and Winter months but can also emerge in the Spring.

According to Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms of seasonal depression include:

  • Feeling depressed throughout the day on most days
  • Having lost interest in hobbies or activities you previously enjoyed
  • Feeling low energy
  • Changes in your sleeping habits (oversleeping or insomnia)
  • Feeling easily agitated
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Changes in your appetite

While these symptoms may overlap with those of clinical depression, seasonal depression often starts and ends around the same time each year. In contrast, major depression doesn’t have a “clear” cut off for when symptoms will end. Those that seasonal depression impacts may be able to easily identify it if it occurs persistently.

Causes and sources

Typically, seasonal depression is understood to be caused by the change in season, weather and amount of sunlight. However, some scientists believe that hormones are at play here. As stated by Web MD, chemicals such as serotonin and melatonin are impacted by the change in seasons.

During the Summer, when sunlight occurs throughout the majority of the day, your serotonin levels are more or less regular. Serotonin is a chemical hormone produced by the brain and it helps to regulate your mood and emotions. 

Due to the decrease in sunlight throughout the Winter months, your brain may make and release less serotonin. As a result, symptoms of seasonal depression such as feeling down, depressed or fatigued.

Another hormone that may cause seasonal depression is melatonin. Similar to serotonin, melatonin is a chemical hormone produced by the brain in response to darkness/nighttime. Ultimately, it helps to regulate your circadian rhythms or body’s internal clock. 

In the darker Fall and Winter months, your body slows its production of both of these hormones. Since it becomes darker earlier in the day, your body’s melatonin is released way sooner than normal. If you find yourself feeling exhausted before the workday even ends, this is probably why.

Additionally, the lack of sunlight reduces your serotonin levels. When combining the lack of serotonin with the reduced levels of melatonin, your brain reacts by feeling depressive emotions or thoughts.

Ways to manage seasonal depression

Coping with seasonal depression can seem difficult at first glance. However, there are 3 simple things you can do during your daily routine to mitigate some of the side effects. These include staying active through movement/exercise, eating foods that boost serotonin levels, and exposing yourself to as much light as possible.

Since some of the common side effects include feeling fatigued, lethargic, and low-energy including movement throughout your day can combat these feelings. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to start training to run long-distance (although, it’s a great form of exercise). Movement and physical activity include exercise like yoga or simply getting your steps in throughout the work day.

Food & seasonal depression

Another way to soften the side effects of seasonal depression is to include serotonin in your diet. According to Medical News Today, there are a number of foods and ingredients that contain tryptophan, an amino acid that assist in the formation of serotonin. These foods include:

A third effective method to cope with seasonal affective disorder is to invest in light therapy. By using a light box with a white or blue light bulb, your brain is directed to produce more serotonin as it believes it’s day time. Light boxes help to mimic outdoor light or sunshine with hopes of combating the side effects of seasonal depression.

If you are unable to invest in a light box, simply finding ways to expose yourself to sunlight will help mitigate the side-effects. Try waking up earlier, taking a morning or afternoon walk, or sitting outside on sunny days.

Seasonal depression is extremely common and you’re not alone in feeling this way during the Fall and Winter months. By listening to your body and recognising the symptoms, you are one step closer to finding coping mechanisms that work for you. Whether that’s eating foods that boost your serotonin, staying active, or reaching out to your doctor about light therapy – it is definitely possible to manage your seasonal depression.