What I learned in Italy: The Food Edition!👩‍🍳

What I learned in Italy: The Food Edition!👩‍🍳

Coming off a 10-day vacation in Italy with a 9.5-hour plane ride, a couple of blog ideas were bound to happen. For starters, the trip we had truly was a trip of a lifetime.

My family and our significant others rented a villa in Tuscany for 8 days.  We took day trips to the local towns, Florence, Luca, and Cinque Terre.  Then we ended the trip with two nights in Rome.

We were toured around by locals, taught how to cook pasta and pizza by a local chef, had multiple wine tastings at local Chianti wineries, and had some really interesting tours in the big cities.  We drank unlimited wine, Aperol Spritz’s, and ate homemade pasta and bread and oil Every. 👏Single.👏 Day👏.

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The best part was that the wifi and service at the villa totally sucked and I didn’t buy an international phone plan.  Therefore, for 7 nights I had little to no access to the internet, email, texts, and social media.  At first, it was infuriating but by day 2 I started to appreciate the lack of service because it truly forced me to unplug, focus and soak in all my surroundings.  It ended up being my blessing in disguise.

Being completely out of touch with my life back home, while experiencing new places, people and things, really makes you start to think about things more clearly.  It opens your eyes to another way of life and allows you to learn new things.  It’s one of my favorite parts about traveling.  Everything seems to get really clear for me.  Really simple. That happened on this trip.

 

I started to notice several things were different from my own lifestyle and the states back home, and since I am a blogger, I, of course, wanted to talk about it! 😊

There were two major differences I noticed when comparing Italy to the states.  As I am sure you can guess, one was the food because it’s Italy. Then the other was the lifestyle because again… Italy. I wanted to break it up and into two blogs so I can break down what I saw and learned!

 

Since Italy is most known for its food, I thought I would start there.

 

IMG_8407To give you a quick back story on me.  I am a food and health junkie; I love to eat healthy delicious food and I am passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  At home, I don’t eat any dairy and little to no meat and primarily fish and eggs.  For carbs, I mainly eat sprouted bread, quinoa, and sweet potatoes.  I even try to buy oil sprayers so that I don’t use too much oil.  I try hard to make as many healthy choices as possible in my day to day life.  I’ve watched one too many documentaries and have read too many books on the topic do otherwise.

So when I was heading to the pasta, bread, meat and cheese capital of the world, I was a little nervous about how it would affect my body because I obviously wasn’t going to pass up on any of it while I am there.

Not to mention that the last time I went to Italy with my best friend I gained over 10 pounds and it took months to work off.  Granted we were fresh out of college and totally reckless eating Gelato at 11 am, but it still happened!

Though, I had heard multiple times from a lot of people that the food is different in Italy.  The ingredients are fresher, and they don’t use the chemicals that we do.  I believed all of that to be true, but I still questioned how my body would react.

Would I still get breakouts when I ate the dairy products? 

Would I get bloated and sore after eating the bread and pasta like I did at home?

 Would I get super hungover from 2 glasses of wine?

 

But once I got there and ate and drank ALL of the things… I didn’t.  I didn’t have any reaction at all. I was perfectly fine, the entire time.

 

This was my first lesson.

The food is LEGITIMATELY better in every single way.

When I say we ate pasta, bread, and cheese every single day, I am not kidding.  But it img_8784.jpgwasn’t because we were in Italy, but there really weren’t that many other options.  Salads were available, but nothing fun like we do in the states with craisins, nuts, quinoa, and other veggies.  It was straight up lettuce tomato and maybe some cucumber.

It was the same with the vegetable options, they were very limited. They DID have unlimited options for cheeses, meats, bread, and pasta, so that’s what we ate.  So, as a result of my surroundings, I ate all the things that I almost never eat, every single day, and I was totally fine.  I didn’t have one break out or a hangover and never felt the bloated achy feeling that I get when I eat bread at home.

I want to say it was mind-blowing… but it’s really wasn’t.   I knew exactly where all the cheeses, meats and wines were coming from and how they were being made.  Then the bread would start to go stale after being out for just a couple of hours. You couldn’t even bite into day-old bread.  Compared to the states, where I have no idea how they make the cheese, preserve it or where it comes from, and then the bread lasts for weeks without going bad…sketch.

One morning we went on an olive oil tasting and the woman who gave us the tasting said that she stopped buying chicken from the store because she didn’t know where it was coming from or how the chickens were being treated. It mattered to her to know what she was eating was coming from.  I think that is a major difference. We DON’T really know where our food is coming from or how it’s being prepared.  So much of what we eat, and buy is made for convenience, speed, and cost.  But because of that something gets lost (or added) in between and we are physically affected because of it.

The whole experience just made me stop and think about the foods I was putting into my body in an entirely different way.

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Speaking of the lady from the Olive Oil tasting, she made a huge impact on me in the short time we were together so the next two lessons are from what I learned in my conversations with her.

To give you back story on her, she and her husband own an olive tree farm.  The farm was passed down to them, it has been in the family for hundreds of years.  It is 99 acres of olive trees that his family would organically produce into olive oil.  They continued to keep that tradition alive and produce thousands of cans of olive oil every year.  So, she clearly knew a thing or two when it came to olive oil.  What I found most interesting was what TYPE of olive oil you should buy.

 

My next lesson was on Olive Oil Purchasing.

She taught us that once olive oil is made it needs to be kept in cold and dark places so that it doesn’t oxidize and lose the nutrients and vitamins.  Because of that, we should NOT be buying any olive oil unless it is in either a tinted glass bottle or a tin can.  She told us that anything that ISN’T in a tin can or tinted glass bottle is NOT 100% real olive oil and has some sort of chemical or additive in it to keep it the golden yellow color, and it doesn’t have the same vitamins and nutrients that real olive oil has.

She also said that you should NEVER buy olive oil that is in a plastic container because the chemicals from the plastic seep in.  After she said that we all gave each other a guilty look because we all knew that we ALL buy the jumbo plastic olive oil containers from Costco…

So pretty much all the olive oil I have ever eaten hasn’t been the best quality…which is nuts to think about because I pride myself on buying high-quality foods but at least we all know now so we can make better choices moving forward!

 

Moving on to my next lesson learned…

During our tasting, the woman told us that she gave cooking lessons, so I was excited to hear about the different meals she made.  In that conversation, she mentioned how in Italy the foods they cook change every season and went on to describe the foods that they eat in each season.

They ate for the season.  That was my next lesson.

They ate what was available to them at that point in time-based off of what was growing IMG_4550that season.  They ate tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer, and then the peppers and eggplant in the fall, and broccoli and cauliflower in the winter months.

They didn’t have a grocery store full of cauliflower crust pizzas or a plethora of options of vegetables, fruits, and foods to choose from. They primarily ate what was grown and picked last week from the farms.  For whatever reason, that made me stop and think for the first time when should I be eating certain foods.

Is a tomato you eat in summer as flavorful and full of nutrients and vitamins as the tomatoes you eat in the winter?  Where are the broccoli and cauliflower coming from that I am eating all summer long when it’s not in season until wintertime?

I am not a nutritionist and I didn’t try to go find the exact scientific answer to these questions. But if you look at it simply, we probably should be eating fruits and vegetables when they are in season, local, and freshly picked because that IS when they are at their best.

From that conversation, I am much more interested in not only learning more about eating for the season but also, what vegetables and fruits are best in what seasons so I can start to implement more of that in my own life.

 

 

Then the final thing I noticed, which ended up being my last lesson was that there was,

NO Snacking.

If you think about a typical US grocery store there are aisles and aisles dedicated to different snack bars, to-go packets of nuts, chips, cookies, and crackers. There are loads of it and we are constantly craving it.  Partially because it’s filled with sugars that we are addicted too, but more so because it’s a part of our culture.  Snacks between meals is a common thing that most people do in the US.

In Italy, they don’t do snacks.

There were few snacks available to buy at small-town grocery markets or at the convenience stores of the side streets.  They didn’t have chips for you to buy or bars or snacks.  They had meals.  They had bread, pastries, a slice of pizza, and all types of sandwiches with prosciutto, but there is very little else to buy outside of that.  They are more focused on eating meals and more “real foods”.   Think about how differently your own day would be if your only option for food was “real” food.  Food that didn’t come out of a package or freezer…

 

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Overall, I truly believe that submerging yourself in another culture is one of the best educations you can get because you are seeing and experiencing it firsthand.

 

Those were just a few of the details I noticed and the lessons that I learned while we were away.  I hope that you were as intrigued as I was, and it taught you something new or simply was just some food for thought. 😉

 

Auntie Carol’s Secret Salad Equation

Auntie Carol’s Secret Salad Equation

Coming off of a long Fourth of July party weekend I am feeling like I shouldn’t be eating anything BUT salads.  This past weekend I way overindulged in s’mores, wine, Twizzlers and chips, guac and blueberry buckle. It’s how we celebrate the fourth, like total gluttons, and I love every second of it.  #balance

 

But when you get whiplash from snapping back into reality Monday morning, I am almost ALWAYS reluctant to putting greens back into my system, especially salad. 

 

When I graduated from college and started working full time, I was still figuring out how to make healthy food that I actually loved eating that wasn’t totally basic and awful.  At the time I cared more about calories and less about if I would actually enjoy what I was eating. My salads consisted of romaine lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes with a balsamic dressing and a protein.  BORINGGG.  

It’s no wonder that after a year of eating that for lunch Every. Single. Day.  that I had sworn off salads for lunch forever. I brought myself to the point where I hated salads.   But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can load up a salad with veggies and fruit making it delicious AND healthy.  I just simply didn’t know how, but Auntie Carol did and does. 

 

As I mentioned in my blog, “Summer Picnic Essentials”, my Auntie Carol makes THE BEST salads of all time.  I kid you not, every time her salad comes out, people flock, everyone gets second helpings and it is one of the few dishes that is completely gone at the end.  They are just so freaking good. 

 

A couple of weeks ago when I was writing the other blog I emailed my Auntie Carol asking for her Secret recipe.  I told her, THE PEOPLE MUST KNOW!! And then asked her permission to share this equation with you. There is a science behind this all, a method to her madness!  She was kind enough to let me share it with you. This may very well change your world entirely, so in advance, ‘you’re welcome’, and THANK YOU to the GOAT of salad making, Auntie Carol. 

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These guidelines are a direct copy and paste from my Gmail conversation with her.. here we gooooo!!

 

Here are the main guidelines for salad dressing.

 1). Everything needs to be chopped into small cubes (even lettuce, spinach etc.).  No one should have to have to use a knife when eating it.  

 2). Salad should consist of Half lettuce & Half fruit or vegetables.  I usually use green & yellow zucchini (cut into cubes).

 3).Cut grape tomatoes evenly into ¼

 4).  Add something interesting with the vegetables. (figs, green apple, orange, blueberries, avocado, red cabbage, thawed frozen green peas)

 5).  Add something with texture (chopped nuts, bacon, etc.)

6). Mix it all together.

 

 These are my guidelines to make your own salad dressing:

 2/3 cup oil, 1/3 cup vinegar, 2 tablespoons of Dijon Muster, 1 tablespoon of Honey …. basic mix and then can change it up….

 Ways to change it up

Add 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, hummus, or an Avocado to make a creamy dressing

Add 2 tablespoons of citrus, ex. lemon, lime, orange”

 

I really think this deserves a round of applause.   Exact, simple and clear guidelines on how to make a salad that everyone will love. 

 

One really important part that you don’t want to forget is to make your own salad dressing.  This truly is a game changer with all salads. It tastes amazing and is WAY healthier for you than almost all store-bought salad dressings.  Bottled dressings are full of extra chemicals and sugar. Yes, they add sugar to their salad dressing. 

 

Auntie Carol’s salad dressing recipe can be made in a mason jar where you just shake it up on your own.  Or if you want to go next level throw the ingredients into a magic bullet and whip it up. The magic bullet turns it into this creamy goodness that makes your mouth water. It thickens as you mix.

 

I personally also add salt, pepper, and chopped garlic to my salad dressing because I am Italian and more garlic makes everything better. 

So there you have it!! The world’s best salad equation at your fingertips!   I hope you enjoy and let me know what you think once you try it out! 

 

Until next time, Bon appetite! 

 

 

Summer Picnic Essentials

Summer Picnic Essentials

Since this past weekend was Memorial Day, that means the summer barbeques and picnics have officially begun!  Praise the Lord our 3 months of warm weather is FINALLY here!!

Summer is my favorite time of the year for many reasons, but one of the things I most look forward to is parties with friends at the beach.  While this is super fun and an awesome time, it can be a little taxing on some of us with our health goals. Having pasta salad and hot dogs is great in May and then mid- July comes and you’ve already eaten 10 hot dogs over the recommended ‘1 hot dog a year’ limit, and it feels that if you just look at another pasta salad your shorts may bust open.  Or at least this is how I feel…

 

To keep myself on track with my healthy lifestyle during the summer party sessions, I make sure I always come prepared.  I come with healthy food options. I offer to bring foods and side dishes to share so that I know that I will always have healthy choices.  

 

Making these dishes delicious is a must so that you don’t feel deprived and everyone loves it and wants you to bring your “dish” to every summer party. Win/win. 😉

 

I am going to share with you my Summer Picnic Essentials, four things that are perfect for picnics, dishes that everyone loves and will be begging you to bring again and again.

 

A Salad the people can’t refuse.  

mediterranean-chickpea-salad-fb-ig-1.jpgI really appreciate a good salad.  Mostly because salads could really suck if you don’t put love and care into it.   My best friend Rachel and My Auntie Carol make the BEST salads, and if they make it, everyone’s eating it, even the guys.  They were my inspiration for this picnic essential because I have watched as people swarm around the salads that they bring to parties.  These are always healthy and delicious leaving you completely satisfied.

This weekend, for example, My Aunt Carol made a salad that we were all raving about.  It was a chopped salad with romaine lettuce, raw zucchini, blueberries, sliced radishes for a crunch, edamame and a poppyseed dressing… It was unbelievable.  We ate it on Saturday and couldn’t stop talking about it until, well, today. I am still talking about it and decided to base a blog around it.  It was that good.  Never underestimate the power of a good salad.

Some killer Kabobs

barbecue-barbeque-blur-604660I have always loved kabobs with chicken or shrimp.  Partially because it’s a fun thing to say, the pronunciation of ka-BOBs automatically puts a smile on my face, but it’s also fun and easy to eat.  When prepping for picnics I try to think about what would be the easiest dish to bring. A dish that’s either totally prepared or would be easy to cook once I get there with the least amount of prep and clean up needed.  Kabobs are a great option. All you have to do is defrost the shrimp, and cut up the chicken. Throw it in a bag of olive oil and an Italian seasonings packet or a teriyaki sauce, and mix it all up so it’s entirely covered and coated in the sauce.  Stick the shrimp or chicken on the skewer then pack it all up.  Grill it once you get there. Easy peasy, and a great way to get the protein in.

 

 

Guac and Veggies

guacamole-foto-heroe-1024x723-500x500Guacamole and cut up veggies is the best appetizer to have at any party all year long, but especially during the summer.  For starter’s, almost everyone I know loves guacamole. At any party, once the guacamole comes out people swarm around it, and you better run over too or it’ll be gone before you get there.  It’s a serious concern at every party we have.

You can serve it with tortilla chips or veggies.  Nothing really beats a tortilla with guac on it, but a cut up carrot or celery stick is still pretty freaking great and a healthier option.  Even if you bring both cut up veggies and chips, just decide to eat mostly the veggies with a just couple of chips. #balance. It’s all about balance and making small healthier choices.  

 

Cut up watermelon

blur-close-up-delicious-1070858.jpgNothing screams summer more than biting into a juicy ripe watermelon and having the sweet red goodness streaming down the sides of your mouth.  Having watermelon at a picnic is the ultimate summer essential. It’s the perfect dessert that leaves you hydrated, full and satisfied. I prefer to have watermelon up cut into chunks, but some prefer the quarter moon cuts.  Whatever tickles your fancy, or is easier for you, people will love it either way. It’s the great healthy dessert option for you to have over the plethora of sugar-filled store-bought baked goods that everyone else will be bringing.

 

Coming off a four day weekend, with three beach days filled with friends and family, partying and picnicking, I would definitely say that these are the four summer picnic essentials that will help you to continue choosing healthy options and staying on track with your healthy lifestyle.

 

I hope you enjoy and this helps you make healthy choices all summer long, but more than that, I hope you enjoy every minute of this summer time season.  It only comes once a year, so get outside, feel that glorious vitamin D seeping into your skin, play, laugh and let the good times roll.

 

Happy Summertime. =]

 

 

My Top 10 Trader Joe’s Treasures

My Top 10 Trader Joe’s Treasures

If you follow me on social media, you would know that Trader Joe’s is totally my jam.  For those of you who are not familiar, Trader Joe’s is a neighborhood grocery store. That’s where I do all of my grocery shopping every week and I freaking love it. I am lucky enough to have one in two of the neighboring towns and I take FULL advantage of it.

 

It’s my favorite place ever because it’s so fun inside, they always have tons of beautiful flowers, your typical grocery store staples, AND “fun” food.  Fun food is something I totally made up, but it will make sense soon.

 

My definition of fun food is healthy food that has a fun twist!  For example chips, queso, pizza, and candy are all junk food.  They are fun to eat but they are junk and do nothing for us. Trader Joe’s has created different “fun” food that is similar to junk food except that it is actually good for you and you don’t have to feel bad after you eat it!

 

I am always on the hunt for the next fun food that I will find at Trader Joe’s, there is ALWAYS something new.  It makes shopping there even more enjoyable because it’s like you are on a treasure hunt every time you’re there, trying to find your next piece of gold.  

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The best part is that the fun food they have is not only good for you, it actually tastes good too.  In life, I am generally always on the hunt for the “fun” food and am more than often disappointed. The “fun” food I find typically tastes terrible or they put a million bad ingredients and chemicals into it making it not even worth trying.  For the most part, that doesn’t happen at Trader Joe’s. The food there is fun and different tastes great and is good for you.

 

Today I wanted to share with you my Top 10 Trader Joe Treasures.  These are ten of the gems that I have found during my shopping escapades at Traders that I truly can’t get enough of and I need the whole world to know my love for them!!

 

So here they are…

 

1.Red Lentil Pasta  

  • Before I found this pasta, I pretty much swore off pasta at that point in my life.  It’s red-lentils-pasta.jpgsad and my Italian grandma is probably rolling in her grave right now, but it’s true.  I try to eat very little to no gluten products, and normal pasta and even wheat pasta just didn’t give me the return I wanted after eating it.  Yes, I am thinking of the ROI I get from what I eat, I take my health very seriously. So when I found this pasta and saw that its only ingredients were red lentils and water, I had tears of joy in my eyes which was immediately followed by a happy dance in the middle of the aisle. Because….. PASTA!!!! I COULD EAT IT AGAIN and NOT feel guilty!!! Best.Find.Ever.
  • I now buy 1 or 2 bags every single week. #sickomode

 

  1. Cauliflower Pizza Crust
  • This find was another game changer for me.  Pizza was another food that I just didn’t eat anymore.  I love pizza with my whole heart and soul, but I don’t love how it makes me feel after.  I have tried gluten free crust but very few places make a cauliflower-pizza.jpggood one, so I just didn’t eat it.  Or I should say I drastically cut down how often and how much I ate it. I can still remember the day I found their Cauliflower pizza crust.  I read the ingredients and it wasn’t perfect but still pretty freaking good.  Then, I looked around me to see who was looking, like a total sketchy criminal, and then I quickly put three crusts into my carriage and then abruptly walked away.  I truly felt like I was stealing because I couldn’t believe that it existed and I couldn’t get my hands on enough of them.
  • This is now a weekly purchase, and what my sister and I base our Friday nights around. Pizza Friday is back.

 

  1.   Almond Cheese
  • I can’t talk about pasta and pizza without cheese.  Over the past two years, I have come to the sad, sad realization that I can’t eat cheese or really any dairy products. almond cheese Two years ago I like suddenly realized I had as much acene as a high schooler and wanted to clear up my face for my wedding.  My sister read an article about the correlation between dairy and breakouts, so I tried to cut it out to see if it would help and it did, drastically.  Since then I really haven’t eaten much dairy, which is the most depressing thing ever, especially when making pizza. I have tried vegan cheeses and other weird stuff I have found and it tasted like garbage.  Then, I found the almond cheese and felt like my prayers were answered! Now I must preface that’s still not normal cheese, it doesn’t get gooey and oily deliciousness but it does melt, taste goods and is perfect for pizza.
  • This is also a weekly purchase for me.

 

  1. Cauliflower Gnocchi
  • This was another fun find because it’s also in the pasta group and gnocchi was another delicious pasta that I wasn’t eating.  I was super skeptical when I first cauliflowe gnocchifound this one because I just didn’t understand how they could make gnocchi out of cauliflower, granted there is flour in this find, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around it so I totally thought it would taste terrible.  I bought it regardless but held off trying it. When I finally did I was kicking myself for waiting so long. It tastes GREAT! You just need to make sure that you follow the instructions on how to cook the gnocchi because you saute it frozen which is much different than normal gnocchi. Besides that, it tastes amazing with sauteed onions and mushrooms.
  • This one is perfect for a dinner date night at home. =] I always have a bag in my freezer but save it for special occasions.

 

  1. Eggplant Garlic Dip and Red Pepper Dips
  • Growing up, Happy Hours on Friday’s were a religious ritual.  My aunts and my mom would sit at the counter talk about the week while eating appetizer/picky pepper dipfoods and drinking wine. It’s my most favorite memory growing up.  Because of that tradition, anytime I see friends we ALWAYS do some kind of happy hour spread. Sometimes it’s a pathetic attempt, and other times we get fancy. Trader Joe’s Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip is perfect for both types of Happy Hour!  To start it is FREAKING DELICIOUS and you can eat it with crackers and cheese or, cut up bell peppers or cucumbers to dip into it. One time I even put it on a sandwich as like a condiment spread, and my goodness that was delicious.
  • I don’t buy this every week, but I almost always buy it if I am going to or hosting a happy hour.

 

  1. Almond Jalapeno Lime Dip/Spread
  • Since we are on the topic of dips and spreads I can’t NOT talk about my most recent find that I can’t get enough of… THE Almond Lime Jalapeno dip.  As I mentioned, I almond dipam always on the lookout for fun foods at Traders and was near the hummus section hoping that I would find some kind of non-hummus hummus dip.  I knew there were edamame dips and other bean dips in the world so I wanted to see if they had anything similar there. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but I was NOT disappointed.  This dip is like the combination of hummus flavored jalapeno dip with the consistency of the alloete brand cheese. I can’t get enough of it right now. I haven’t played around with the different ways to eat it yet, but for now, I am FULLY satisfied just eating it on a cracker.  I have done that every day since I have bought it.
  • This will be a staple in my home.

 

  1. Date Bites
  • I am a total sucker for Lara Bars and dried fruit.  These date bites are like mini Lara date and nut bitesbars. They are individually wrapped in little small squares and are a perfect snack before a workout class or if you need a little something to hold you over until your next meal.   I used to make these protein ball things that I would eat before a workout, but when I found these they were essentially the same thing and lasted longer and I’ve been completely addicted since! They come in three different flavors and I have tried and like them all. My favorite is the citrus flavored one.
  • This is a staple that is ALWAYS in my home, that I eat before every morning workout class.

 

  1. Oat Bran Vegan Blueberry Muffins
  • Now I am not much of a baked good person.  I pretty much never ever buy them but that’s mostly because I love them so much I won’t be able to stop myself from oat-bran-muffins.jpgeating all of it.  Growing up my mom would always buy my dad muffins from Stop n Shop as a Saturday morning treat. She would always buy bran muffins because that was his favorite and because they were always around we also ended up loving bran muffins.  So one day when I was on my treasure hunt in Trader Joes I found these Vegan Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins. My first thought was, “no way these actually taste good, that would be too good to be true”.  I bought them anyway because I had friends staying over that night and my GOODNESS they were amazing.  These muffins are nice and dense and have the perfect berry ratio.
  • This would not be an every week purchase for me, but definitely, a once in a while treat.

 

9.Chocolate Coconut Almonds

  • I couldn’t write this blog without slipping in at least ONE chocolate treat. =]  If you chocolate coconut almondshave been to Trader Joe’s you will know that they have an incredibly tempting sweet’s and treats section.  I have also purchased a number of those “just to try” and then accidentally ate the whole thing in a weekend, so I try to steer clear.  But when I do splurge, I get the Chocolate Coconut covered almonds. They taste like a mini Girl Scout Samoa Cookie, and they are completely addicting.
  • As long as you like coconut you absolutely need to try these the next time you go.

 

  1. Everything but the Bagel Seasoning
  • This isn’t necessarily a food, but I promise you this seasoning makes everything IMG_7302taste better.  I have friends that actually have this in their purse at all times, just in case there is an opportunity to use it, and I totally get it!  It literally makes anything you eat taste like an Everything Bagel, and I don’t know anyone who DOESN’T love an everything bagel. Throw it on roasted veggies, chicken or steak, avocado toast, eggs, the options are endless.  
  • When it comes to cooking healthy, half the battle is trying to make regular bland vegetables taste delicious.  This seasoning is a solution to that. Because of that, I have this seasoning with me at all times, one in my house and one at my desk at work.

 

Bonus Buy: The Flowers

  • Walking into Trader Joe’s you are always immediately greeted by their beautiful display of flowers.  There is no better welcome. Trader always has flower arrangements and different flowers for each season.  Some you can even mix and match to get Pinterest worthy bouquets.flowers.jpg 
  • I always buy flowers because they make me really really happy.  To me, they are like a ray of sunshine in my home.
  • Besides the fact that I just love them, one of the main reasons I love buying flowers from Trader Joe’s specifically is because they are so affordable, have a great selection and once they can no longer sell them, they donate them locally to different hospitals and senior centers.  
    • One of the workers at Trader’s told me that they always donate everything that they can’t sell while most grocery stores just throw them out.  If that doesn’t melt your heart and make you believe that Trader Joe’s is the best place around, I don’t know what will.

 

So there you have it!  My Top 10 Trader Joe’s Treasures and my Bonus Buy.  Next time you go to Trader Joe’s try to have a little fun with it.  Take your time and look around to see what treasures you can find. 😉

Until next time, happy treasure hunting!
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P.s. Keep your eyes out for some fun recipes I have made from these fun foods!

My Top 3 Healthy Work Habits

My Top 3 Healthy Work Habits

Health and Wellness is extremely important to me. It has been and always will be a top priority for me in my life.

At home I have (almost) perfected my healthy habits and created a healthy environment to live in. I clean my house weekly, workout daily, have a Britta pitcher always filled with water, buy lots of fruits and vegetables, keep my pre-packaged food to a minimum and do not buy things I don’t want myself to eat, not even for a “treat”.

Your environment and habits play a huge part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Believe it or not, it’s easy to make those changes at home. The question here today is how do we keep that up at work?  The place that many of us spend more time than our actual homes. A place that you don’t own or have total control over.

When I first started working, I was at an accounting firm and people bought lunch often. There were candy bowls everywhere for a midday “pick-me-up” and everyone worked long hours.

I am sure to many of you this sounds very familiar.

At first I thought nothing of it and fell right in line, following the habits and ways of others. I bought lunch at least once a week, would go for random sugary coffee breaks, took an M&M break every day at 3 pm, and sat on my a** all damn day.

I was still following my home life healthy habits of waking up at 5 am every morning to make sure I got my workout in before lunch and was eating (mostly) healthy foods. And yet, after a couple months on the job I started to notice that I was actually gaining weight, was always tired, and couldn’t keep a clear mind all day. At first I thought this is just what working in the real world felt like, but after reading different articles about health and habits I realized I was wrong.

At that point I started making small changes like no longer eating the 3 pm candy and no more fun sugary coffee breaks. On top of that, I began researching the topic of healthy habits at work and eventually started implementing what I was learning to my daily work habits.  I found that those changes had a huge impact on my energy levels and my production at work.

 

Today, I have 3 core healthy habits that I always follow to ensure I stay on track with my health goals and increase my productivity and energy levels at work.

 

 

  1. Track your water intake

bottle-drink-glass-113734.jpgThis is so important for many different reasons. For starters, being fully hydrated makes you more awake and alert than coffee actually does. We are all roughly 60% made up of water and we need sufficient water intake to ensure our body performs at its best.  A lack of water leads to fatigue, a foggy mind, and hunger.  Yes, I said hunger. Believe it or not most of the time when we think we are hungry we are actually just thirsty. Drinking enough water will actually make you less hungry and help you realize when your body actually does NEED food. As a test drink a bottle or glass of water and see how hungry you are after.

How to do this?

  • We should be drinking at LEAST half our weight in ounces of water each day.  If you weigh 120 pounds then you should be drinking at least 60 ounces of water.  Make sure you always have a water bottle on you (preferably a reusable one so we can save our planet!) and refill it as many times as needed.

 

  • You can even make a mental note of how much you should be drinking throughout the day.  
    • For example, I always try to drink a full water bottle before I get to work, a full bottle after my coffee is gone, two more full bottles before 5 pm, and then 1 or 2 at night.  Having that mental map of when and how much I should be drinking keeps me on track and helps me get back on track when I am behind. I would be lying to you if I said that I do this perfectly every day because I absolutely do NOT. But, it does put me in a way better place than if I didn’t try at all.

 

  1. Pack and prep ALL of your snacks and meals

When I leave the house for work in the morning I’m typically out the door at 6:30 am and most nights I won’t return until 8 or 9. In that time frame, I eat my breakfast, two lunches, and dinner. I never skip a meal, so when I leave at 6:30 am I have all of my food in tow.

Prepping and packing those meals ahead of time ensures that I am eating healthy foods, that I am eating the correct portion size of foods, and that I don’t snack on anything else in the office.

When you eat out at lunch or grab those little snacks / treats in the break room you can close-up-colors-container-1640767.jpgeasily lose track of how many calories you are actually consuming in a day and are likely eating things your body really doesn’t NEED. Even though we all know we don’t NEED M&M’s, if you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated and have your healthy snacks already packed you are less likely to go for that mid-afternoon treat.

Another thing to consider is that most days we are just sitting at our desks all day long. You really aren’t burning through THAT many calories so you don’t NEED that many calories or snacks to get you through the day. If you have a desk job it’s not like your lifting anything or moving much at all. What your body NEEDS is nutrient dense foods to keep your body and mind moving and grooving all day long without any roadblocks or detours.

The How:

If you need help on how to meal prep or what to meal prep check out my previous blogs “Meal Prepping 101” and “Meal Prepping 102: What’s inside?” for ideas.

 

  1. Move more and take mindful breaks

adult-autumn-casual-663437.jpgI can’t stress the importance of moving more enough.  Think about the daily pattern of a typical 9-5 job. You are sitting on the drive to work, siting once you get to work for 8 hours or so, sit on the drive home, sit for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sit on the couch at night.  Maybe you have an hour or 30 minutes of movement for some kind of exercise.

Our bodies are designed to move.  And yet, it’s so easy to forget the importance of that. We get lost in our work and caught up in the idea that we “don’t have enough time” to take a break. I am here to tell you that is all simply not true. It will actually do the opposite. Taking a break to move will increase your productivity later. Trust me, give it a shot, you might be surprised.

There are studies that demonstrate the average brain loses concentration in 52 minutes and taking a break increases your productivity by 30%.  Research says that we should take a 1-7 minute break every 25, 52 or 90 minutes.    Yes, it may take a few minutes to pick everything back up, but you will come back recharged and ready, producing better results than you did before.

Now how will you put this into play?

  • What you can do is set an alarm on your phone for an hour and then take a quick break where you are physically moving. It really doesn’t matter where or for how long, just that you are actually doing it.

 

  • Walks during your lunch breaks is another great opportunity to move your body.
    • This is something I put into practice two years ago and I’ve become totally addicted. Every day at lunch when the weather permits, I will walk for 30 minutes to an hour outside. I’m to the point where I will make sure I get to work earlier and use my time more wisely so I can get this break in.

 

Those breaks do so much for me mentally and physically. It gets my body moving, puts me out in nature, and really forces me to shut off my brain and emotionally detach myself from my work for a minute.

I am the type that can get very emotionally attached to work and am always battling the fear that I am not doing enough. In some ways this can be a very painful trait and a thought process that is hard to get out of.  When I physically remove myself from a situation, taking time away and then coming back, it clears my mind and makes me less emotionally charged so I can look at a situation more objectively. Plus, who doesn’t love seeing a little nature after hours in an office?

It truly is a gift that I give to myself.

 

Which brings us to a perfect place to end this blog.  Taking care of your physical and mental self, inside and outside of work is one of the best a gifts you can give yourself. But, it takes work.

Prepping your meals and snacks takes time. Constantly reminding yourself to drink water throughout the day takes dedication. Allowing yourself to take a break and move your body seems like a lot of extra work, but I promise you it will all pay off.  You will feel better and you will produce better work.

These are all changes that YOU have to DECIDE to do and then COMMIT to doing it. They seem hard at first and you may be wondering how you can actually put these habits into practice. But remember, everything seems hard at first until it’s not.

These habits have increased my productivity, my overall health and my peace of mind in the workplace.   Apply these three healthy habits to your day and I promise you, you won’t be sorry. =]

 

The Marie Kondo Movement – Sparking Joy

The Marie Kondo Movement – Sparking Joy

Good Morning!

I am not sure why, but how fast a picture, video or movement can go viral and spread like wildfire, STILL amazes me.

About two weeks ago my mom started telling me about this cute little woman, Marie Kondo, and her organizing and decluttering lessons.  My mom often gets into these kicks of learning something new and then completely masters it overnight, like she will literally stay up all night doing it… and then talks about it, a lot. I do the exact same thing and typically follow everything she does in life, because she is the actual GOAT.  

Marie Kondo was no different than so many other of my mom’s new obsessions. Since she talked about it so much, I had to do some digging on my own.  Who is this little woman and what is she all about?  Oddly enough I came to find that she is the author of a book that had been on my Audible wish list for over a year, “The Magic Art of Tidying Up”.  She also has a Netflix show featuring different families she has helped with her lifestyle advice and methods. Continue reading “The Marie Kondo Movement – Sparking Joy”