Meal Prep: The Shortcuts You Need to Know

A big part of feeling successful in your healthy eating regime is planning and preparing your meals ahead of time — so you’re not tempted to just stop at the fast food drive-thru on your way home from work!

So, why not bring back the tradition of good ‘ol home cookin’ and start eating healthier, more nutrient-dense meals… at home?

I know you are saying “Heidi it’s way too time-consuming to cook all meals from scratch.” However, if you plan in advance AND do at least some of the meal prep ahead of time, healthier home-cooking habits can be established far more easily than you think!

It really doesn’t matter what type of diet you follow either – whether it’s vegan, gluten-free, keto or diabetic-friendly. Nor does the size of your kitchen need to limit you – just a few basic pieces of cooking equipment is all you need to get started.

Believe me I know you’re busy, busy, busy and time really can feel like a luxury these days. So, I’ve chopped, diced, and puréed everything you need to know about MEAL PREP, including all the best shortcuts.

What is meal prep?

Meal prep does involve planning ahead and preparing your meals in advance. Basically, you’re cooking complete or near complete meals in advance so all you have to do is reheat them at meal time. This generally works best for lunch & dinner, but I’ll show you how to do it for breakfast too.

However, the prep part can’t really happen until your meal planning is done first. This can be hard for some so keep a running list of meals as ideas pop in your head during the week. Then during the meal planning process, you need to decide what meals you’re going to prepare, make a grocery shopping list, and then buy all the ingredients. Then you get to prepping! (more…)

Prolonged Sitting: Danger to Your Posture – and Your Whole Health!

Nowadays, sitting all day, every day is becoming more and more of a reality. We’re sitting for far too long, and far too often – and it’s wreaking havoc on our whole health!

Just think of all the occasions that you’re also likely slouching, hunching and craning your neck during the day: while driving, at your desk, checking your computer, in front of a computer – all usually done while sitting.

So, is it any wonder that your neck, back, hips & knees (and head!) are left aching and sore by the end of the day? And it’s not just about the position of your neck that’s the issue with sitting, and often staring at a screen for so long – it’s the full-body chain of events that gets kicked off.

Sitting, Poor Posture & Physical Health

Good posture, also known as neutral spine, means that the muscles surrounding the spine are able to support the body more equally.

By having better posture while sitting and standing, you’ll reduce the incidences of the following health issues, often associated with or as a result of poor posture & prolonged sitting.

  • Poor sleep quality & daytime fatigue
  • Low back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Headaches
  • Neck & shoulder tension
  • Pelvic pain
  • Poor circulation
  • Sluggish digestion
  • Poor workout form

As you probably already know, posture is very important to balance, and it allows us to center our weight directly over our feet. When the body is in correct alignment, this offers good form for workouts, with less incidence of injury and this, in turn, increases athletic and performance gains. Win!

Poor Posture & Mental Health?

Mood in the dumps, slouched posture? Or is it the other way around? Maybe it’s a bit of both!

It has been documented that people with depression often slouch, as if their drooping body is a mirror of their mood + mind slump. So, what happens if they simply sit up or stand up straighter, head held higher?

Apparently, they may feel more upbeat and less fatigued!

Research indicates that slouching can negatively impact a person’s mental health, and conversely, it was also demonstrated that good posture can build confidence, improve energy, and alleviate depression.

What is good sitting posture?

If you must sit, do it better! Here’s how…

  • When sitting, your feet should be flat on the floor, with weight distributed through both hips.
  • Your back should be quite straight – but you’ll have natural lumbar, thoracic and cervical curves obviously
  • Shoulders should be back but down/relaxed

Ears should line up over your collarbones, i.e. chin slightly retracted.

We also found a great resource for easy exercises to improve your posture, balance and alignment. These will allow you to reap the health benefits of maintaining neutral spine, and could even reverse the adverse effects you’ve accumulated from prolonged sitting.

Posture exercise resource HERE.

Be sure to try all 12 of them — and you’ll want to use the DIY Tension Tamer essential oil blend while you’re crushing those self-care goals!

Are you looking for support on your journey to get healthy? Join my free Facebook group, a safe place for tips, healthy recipes, fun challenges, and coaching with no judgement.

RECIPE: DIY Tension Tamer EO Blend

(for tight neck & shoulder muscles + headache & migraine relief)

Ingredients

Blend the following pure essential oils with a *carrier oil of choice, diluted by ~5% total volume of EO’s:

4 parts Lemon or Peppermint for a different aromatic experience and cooling sensation
2 parts Lavender
2 parts Geranium or Bergamot
2 parts Roman Chamomile
2 parts Frankincense

*Sweet almond works well, but you can also use grapeseed or olive oil that you may already have in your kitchen cupboard!

 Uses: Apply to the temples while gently massaging them, being careful not to get peppermint EO, if using, too close to the eyes or other mucous membranes!

Tension Tamer Blend can also be used on the following areas:

  • Forehead
  • Back of the neck (at the hairline)
  • Bottom of your feet
  • Webbing of your hands or feet
  • Shoulders and upper back
  • Behind the ears
  • Sinus areas
  • Apply to both wrists
  • Neck pulse points

Apply every 15-30 minutes as needed for up to 2 hours until symptoms subside. Better yet, carry it in a roll-on bottle and take it everywhere with you!

How Exercise Impacts Your Energy Levels

When you’re completely exhausted, the last thing you want to do is lace up your shoes for a workout. But if you’re tired of being tired all the time, you may want to rethink the idea of regularly exercising.

Exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have for increasing our energy levels and you don’t need to do a lot to reap the benefits.

In fact, a University of Georgia study found that performing 20 minutes of low intensity exercise could decrease fatigue by up to 65%!

A physical activity as simple as walking, yoga or a leisurely bike ride (for only 20 minutes!) can do so much more for your energy than a cup of coffee or an energy drink ever could.

So how does exercise actually increase energy?

There’s a lot of amazing things going on in your body during a workout session. When you exercise, your body increases its production of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine — all of which are powerful mood boosters.

Dopamine, in particular, has been found to make us feel more alert and motivated. This is exactly why it pays to take that 20-minute walk during your lunch break instead of scrolling through your social feeds.

In addition to releasing these helpful neurotransmitters, exercise has been found to help us sleep better.

When your body gets the rest it needs on a regular basis, you’ll have the energy to get through your busy day — and maybe even have some to spare!

But, can exercise actually works against you?

While a regular sweat session is typically a great thing for your body, there are some circumstances where a workout can actually affect your energy in a negative way.

Working out at night can make it difficult to wind down and get a restful sleep. Experts recommend avoiding vigorous exercise up to 3 hours before bedtime.

For those with especially hectic schedules, this can be a challenge since it may be the only time of day they can fit in a workout.

However, consider moving your workout to the morning to increase your energy for the whole day. But if you simply can’t, try sticking to a lower intensity nighttime exercise routine so you can wind down when it’s time to sleep.

Too much of a good thing

Yes, you can get too much of a good thing. Exercising too much can actually have the opposite effect on your energy levels.

One study looked at the effects of over-exercising. Participants were put through a rigorous physical training regime for 10 days followed by 5 days of active recovery.

Not only did participants notice a decrease in performance, they also complained of extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping.

So how much exercise is enough?

It is recommended by many healthy lifestyle experts to get approximately 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous exercise each week to maintain good health. You’ll know you’re getting the right amount of exercise if you notice your energy levels are increasing.

If after up-leveling your exercise efforts you’re (still) feeling lethargic or are having difficulty sleeping, there’s a good chance you may be over-training.

One last point about Exercise & Energy — the food you eat also plays a huge role in your energy levels! In addition to getting regular exercise, be sure to fuel your body with whole foods throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and maintained.

Are you looking for support on your journey to get healthy? Join my free Facebook group, a safe place for tips, healthy recipes, fun challenges, and coaching with no judgement.

RECIPE: Energizing Power Balls

This recipe is a great way to fuel your body pre-workout or to give you a mid-afternoon energy boost.

Ingredients

1 cup of rolled oats (gluten free)
½ cup of nut butter (use sunflower, pumpkin seed or hemp butter for a nut-free option)
¼ cup of unpasteurized honey or pure maple syrup
½ cup of hemp hearts or chia seeds

Optional additions: add a handful of chopped dried fruit and/or unsweetened shredded coconut

Preparation

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Roll dough into balls, approximately the size of 1 Tbsp.
  3. Chill and enjoy; place a few in the freezer and enjoy them frozen for a slightly different taste experience!

Life “Hacks” of the Longest-Lived People

Think living a long and healthy life well into your nineties or even one hundred years old is only for those lucky few who hit the genetic lottery? Think again. Lifestyle factors, i.e. the things you do every day over the long-term – can add up to increase the number of quality years in your lifespan.

Look no further than the people of Blue Zones for proof of how powerful everyday habits are when it comes to staying healthy for the long haul.

Blue Zones are regions around the world where people have very low rates of chronic disease and live longer compared to other populations. They are located in regions of Greece, Sardinia, Costa Rica, Japan, and California.

Because these communities are home to the greatest number of people who live healthfully into their nineties and even hundreds, researchers have studied them to determine just how they age so healthfully.

Do you have to live in an actual Blue Zone to guarantee longevity? No you don’t! You can adopt some of the well-studied lifestyle traits of these folks to promote health and longevity right where you are.

Here’s the top 5 life “hacks” of the world’s longest living people:

Eat a Plant-rich Diet

Blue Zone residents eat a mostly plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Animal foods aren’t avoided – they eat smaller portions of meat a handful of times per month.

You don’t have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but it’s important to eat a variety of plant foods daily – they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and protect you from chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

A simple rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Yep, every meal!

Include Healthy Fats

Eat heart healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, avocados, and fish.

Getting enough omega-3’s helps decrease disease-causing inflammation and keeps your heart and brain healthy.

Eating enough fat also keeps you feeling fuller longer, which can help prevent overeating that leads to weight gain – bonus!

Stop Eating Before You Feel 100% Full

This can be the tough one. Avoid the clean plate club. Eating slowly chewing your food thoroughly gives your brain and stomach time to register that it’s had enough to eat. Blue Zone communities avoid overeating and eating beyond feelings of fullness, which again, can help prevent weight gain.

Drink Red Wine

Enjoying a glass of red wine once a day increases your antioxidant intake, which is thought to decrease inflammation and help prevent heart disease. Of course, moderation is key. Four ounces of wine is considered a glass and drinking more than that is associated with negative health effects.

Move Your Body Throughout the Day

Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? As in, it’s not good for your health to sit for extended periods of time. Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain, obesity, and increased mortality. Be sure to look for opportunities to add movement into your regular routines.

You might try:

  • Stretching while you watch TV
  • Take an after-dinner evening walk
  • Park farther away from your destination
  • Choose stairs over elevators
  • Take standing and stretching breaks at work
  • Use a stand-up workstation, and fidget while you work (or dance!)

The world’s longest living people live active lives that include daily physical activities, like gardening, walking, and manual tasks.

Are you looking for support on your journey to get healthy? Join my free Facebook group, a safe place for tips, healthy recipes, fun challenges, and coaching with no judgement.

RECIPE: Mediterranean Bean Salad

 Ingredients

2 15-oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (use black, cannellini, kidney, or garbanzo beans)

1 English cucumber, chopped with skin on
1 bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomato, halved
1 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
¼ cup virgin olive oil (= longevity oil!)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 whole cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh herb
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Combine beans, cucumber, pepper, onion, tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl or sealed jar with a lid, whisk or shake together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper.
  3. Toss salad with dressing and enjoy at room temperature or refrigerate unused portions.

 

REFERENCES

Power 9: Reverse Engineering Longevity

Why People in “Blue Zones” Live Longer Than the Rest of the World

13 Habits Linked to a Long Life (Backed by Science)

The True Health Benefits of Exercise

Exercise. It truly can improve your health on all levels. We’re not just talking about losing weight, being fitter and stronger, although that is definitely an added bonus. We’re talking about overall health and longevity.

Regular exercise improves your heart health, brain health, muscle and bone health, diabetes, and arthritis. Beyond those, it also reduces stress, boosts moods, increases your energy, and can improve your sleep.

Convinced yet?

The benefits of exercise come from improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation and blood sugar levels. They come from moving your muscles (including your heart muscle) and pulling on your bones.

And you don’t need to go overboard on exercise to get these amazing health results. As little as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days/week is enough.

You don’t have to do a particular kind of exercise. All four types of exercise have health benefits. They are:

  • Endurance (brisk walking, jogging, yard work, dancing, aerobics, cycling, swimming)
  • Strength (climbing stairs, carrying groceries, lifting weights, using a resistance band or your body weight, Pilates)
  • Balance (standing on one-foot, Tai Chi)
  • Flexibility (stretching, yoga)

Don’t forget, all exercise counts, even if it’s not doing a sport or happening in a gym. Weekend hikes, walking to the store, and doing household chores also count towards your weekly exercise goal.

Let me take a minute to prove to you how healthy exercise really is. Here are a few key points. (more…)

Productive or Just “Busy”? 17 Ways To Be More Productive Every Day

Noun: ‘productivity’ The state or quality of producing something; the effectiveness of productive effort.

How many excuses do you hear yourself saying every day? “I couldn’t get this done today because… OR I didn’t have time to do that because…”

Sometimes all it takes to be more ‘productive’ is to simply stop sabotaging yourself and get out of your own way. Yep I said it – get out of your own way! By not confronting procrastination and all the “I’m too busy” excuses are shining examples of ‘standing in your own way’.

“Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now!” ~ Tim Ferriss

So, you have got to prioritize achieving results ahead of staying in your comfort zone and stop making excuses! You’ve probably also heard the phrase, “work smarter, not harder”?

Well, in this post I’m going to give you a ton of ideas on how to do just that… without making excuses.

Here are 17 “no excuses” ways to be more productive every single day:

  1. Clean out the clutter in the space intended for productivity – whether that’s your office, the kitchen or anywhere in your environment that requires you to GSD (Get Sh*t Done)!
  2. Use positive instead of negative self-talk. You would be surprised how impactful negative self-talk (which fuels our limiting beliefs) can be for flat-lining productivity!
  3. Make your goals manageable – not unrealistic and unreachable.
  4. Set out the next day’s goals the night before. Revisit them for 5 minutes in the morning.
  5. Systems and routines (over “goals”) are always the answer. Make priority lists not ‘To Do’ lists – and make it “tickable”. Checking off that box can be so rewarding!
  6. Create a plan that’s designed for action and automate repetitive tasks – again, systems!
  7. Don’t multitask – I know, this probably goes against everything you have ever done and what you’re actually trying to do now but consider that doing multiple things at once (too many balls in the air) causes you to do each task much more slowly and less efficiently than if you were to just focus on just ONE task – and do it really well!
  8. Spend mornings GSD’ing, i.e. do your most important tasks before lunch.Follow the Pareto Principle as it applies to productivity: “80% of the output or results will come from 20% of the input or action.” Think of it as 80% of your work is done in 20% of your time. For most people, that time is right after waking up, so try to take advantage of the first few hours of your day.
  9. Robin Sharma says, “Get up at 5 am. Win the battle of the bed. Put mind over mattress. This habit alone will strengthen your willpower so it serves you more dutifully in the key areas of your life.”
  10. Identify your time thieves and energy vampires. It’s exactly how it sounds 😉Do this: identify the activities and tasks that distract you, interrupt your workflow or send you down the “rabbit hole”. Curtail all those bad habits that keep you from performing at your best and you’ll dramatically improve your results!
  11. Avoid distractions, e.g. turn off your phone notifications (aka, time thief!)
  12. Check email in the afternoon and set aside a specific time period to do social media (more time thieves are afoot!) – trying not to peek & peck at both of these all day long, i.e. don’t spend your day simply putting out fires!
  13. And if possible, focus on what you do best and delegate the rest, so you can really optimize your productivity.By delegating the things that you’re not so stellar at, and that someone else can do better in a fraction of time or cost – isn’t that just the definition of ‘productivity’
    = the effectiveness of productive effort.
  14. Recognize your accomplishments and build in rewards for effort – but not necessarily for the achievement itself.
  15. Drink more water.Did you know that being just mildly dehydrated can lower your work performance by 25-50%?!
  16. Get an accountability partner – someone to literally keep you on task and moving forward.
  17. And finally… don’t say ‘yes’ to everything. ‘No’ is perfectly acceptable once in a while 🙂

RECIPE

 When you need a brain boost and just a touch of bliss in your day, grab one (or three!) of these dark & delicious beauties and you’ll be feeling energized and inspired in no time 😉

Bliss + Brain-boosting Choco Bites

Ingredients

½ cup coconut oil, unrefined
½ cup cacao powder, unprocessed (not Dutch)
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup finely shredded coconut, unsweetened

*If you’re allergic or just don’t like coconut, you can substitute it with a combination of flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and/or coarsely chopped almonds – but do a combo and not the full amount of any one of those substitutes.

Note: flax & chia will both draw moisture and will make the bites drier.

Preparation

Heat coconut oil and cacao powder in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until smooth and coconut oil has melted, then remove from heat.

Whisk in maple syrup and vanilla extract until well blended.

Add shredded coconut (or other nut/seed combo), and stir vigorously until well combined. It will look soupy!

Cover mixture and place in fridge until firm enough to easily form small bites (~ 20 mins).

Line a flat storage container with parchment, and shape the chilled chocolate “dough” into 1-inch balls – or larger if you dare!

Place on prepared surface, and loosely cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer until firm (~ 30 mins).

Enjoy straight from the freezer or store bites in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 10 days. They can also be frozen in a freezer-safe airtight container for 2-3 months. (But they’ll never last that long!)

 Dark chocolate benefits:

  • Can lower blood pressure
  • May improve blood flow
  • Helps lower the risk of heart disease
  • Can enhance cognitive processing, learning, memory, and recall

 

REFERENCES

Healthline – 17 Healthy and Practical Ways to Break Out of Laziness

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-stop-being-lazy

Forbes – 7 Ways to Be More Productive

https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbridges/2018/07/26/7-ways-to-be-more-productive/#8648417d9f78

Lifehack – How to Be More Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks That Will 10x Your Productivity

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/more-productive-4-ways-that-really-work.html

Medium (The Startup) – How to Be Productive: 10 Ways to Actually Work Smarter

https://medium.com/swlh/how-to-be-productive-10-ways-to-actually-work-smarter-16fea8087ead

Actioned – How to Be More Productive: The Ultimate Guide

https://www.actioned.com/how-to-be-more-productive/

AquaCooler Direct – 10 Facts: Dehydration and Its Effect on Productivity at Work

https://aquacoolerdirect.com.au/blogs/news/10-facts-about-dehydration-and-its-effect-on-employee-productivity

University Health News Daily – Chocolate Benefits for Your Brain: Memory and Mood Improvement

https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/memory/2-chocolate-benefits-for-your-brain-improves-memory-and-mood/

Creating a Mindset for Health

So much of health is all about habits and actions, but where do these all stem from? What if we don’t have to make as many changes as we think we do? What if there was one powerful thing that makes a lot of difference?

That thing is mindset.

Mindset is sometimes called “the story we tell ourselves.” It’s our attitude toward things in our life. And we have control over our mindset. Yes, we do.

And research is showing that it may be far more powerful than we thought.

Here’s a quick story about a fascinating mindset study.

Researchers at Stanford University looked at a bunch of people’s health and wellness lifestyle habits, as well as health markers.

What they found was that the people who thought they were a lot less active had a higher risk of death than the general public. And, they also had up to 71% higher risk of death than people who thought they were more active. Even if they actually weren’t less active!

How is this even possible that people who simply thought they were less active had higher risks, even if it wasn’t true? (more…)

10 Signs You May Have a Hormone Imbalance

Hormones are like chemical messengers that govern nearly every cellular action in our body.

While very important, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are actually not essential for our survival. They are responsible for sexual functioning and fertility, as well as in more of a “beauty” capacity – keeping our skin, hair & nails vital, and youthful looking.

On the other hand, stress hormones (like cortisol & epinephrine, also known as adrenaline) are critical to our survival because they synthesize proteins, maintain cellular electrolyte balance, regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, and transport glucose into our cells – essentially feeding our brain. These hormones are so crucial, that in times of chronic stress, cortisol (the “hormone of stress”) will be made at the expense of sex hormones.

No wonder we can start feeling whacked out at certain stages of life!

So, what happens when hormones stop playing nice together?

We often experience a ripple effect, even when there’s a slight hiccup in hormone function. Also, due to the fact that the interconnected nature of your endocrine system, one hormonal imbalance can lead to an additional one, causing multiple symptoms and overlapping health issues.

The 10 most common signs that you probably have a hormonal imbalance

  1. Poor sleep – not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep
  2. Fatigue that’s not alleviated by sleep
  3. Night sweats and hot flashes
  4. Resistant excess weight and body fat, especially around the belly
  5. Low libido or sexual dysfunction
  6. Acne or other skin issues
  7. PMS symptoms
  8. Foggy thinking (brain fog!) and difficulty concentrating
  9. Mental health issues – depression and anxiety in particular
  10. Mood changes like irritability and anger

(more…)

What the numbers on the bathroom scale really mean

We all know the frustration of working hard to maintain a healthy body weight, only to step on the bathroom scale and see the numbers going in the wrong direction – or not quickly enough in the right direction! Been there?

Here are 6 truths about those annoyingly normal daily weight fluctuations:

1) Scale weight is not a true measurement of your health. It is simply one of many variables you should be taking into account to determine if you are approaching or maintaining your optimal body weight.

2) When you wake up after fasting – usually for around 12 hours, you’re completely dehydrated and at your lowest weight of the day. This is why it’s recommended to weigh yourself first thing in the morning after you’ve voided, and before you eat or drink anything.

3) Speaking of voiding… you can experience daily weight fluctuations of 1-3+ pounds due to waste that could be lingering in your large colon. Who knew poop could be so heavy?

Be sure to keep the bowels moving with plenty of fluids, plant-based fiber, and targeted supplementation, if necessary. (more…)