Blog

Samantha Pollack, Holistic Health Coach, Insider Wellness

I’ve been cooking for a long time.

My sister and I always had to help with dinner. (I was in charge of the salad.)

When I moved into my first apartment, I thought, “Crap! I don’t know how to cook anything. I’m gonna starve and/or eat Ramen noodles every day.”

My mom gave me a handwritten recipe book of all her family dinner staples. And you know what? I was halfway into my first batch of chicken picatta when I realized — I DO know how to cook. I’ve been learning for years.

Sneaky moms. 😉

Over the years, I’ve gotten better. Faster. And… lazier.

There are certain cooking-related tasks that are just a pain in the assss-paragus, if you know what I mean.

 

Here are my favorite, can’t-live-without-them, hacks for making cooking WAY more fun.

1. Not chopping onions. I decided a couple years ago, I would never chop an onion again. I cut them in half long ways, then slice into half moons. ALWAYS. If you need smaller pieces you just slice really really thin half moons.

2. Give your greens some air. You know how greens get all slimy and gross-smelling when they sit in the fridge for too long? It’s because they need to breathe. Poke a few holes in the plastic bag before storing in the fridge. The same works for sprouts.

3. Smash garlic in a dish towel. UGH. Peeling garlic is the worst. To save time (and get some crazy out of your system), wrap the entire clove in a dish towel, then bang the heck out of it against the counter. Open it up, and all the garlic will be separated from the peel. Save what you don’t need in a sealed container in the fridge. You’re welcome.

4. How to clean mushrooms the right way: Use a damp dish towel to gently wipe the dirt off each mushroom. Don’t run them under water; they’ll turn slimy. (Bonus tip: save the stems for chicken stock!)

5. The easiest chicken stock ever. Place a 3-4 pound chicken in your slow cooker, on a bed of celery, carrots, and onion (just rough cuts; no need to chop). Cook for 4-6 hours on low. Remove the chicken, carve, and eat, leaving the veggies, drippings, etc. in the pot. Return the carcass to the slow cooker, with 8 cups of water, some bonus vegetable scraps (like those mushroom stems), and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Cook on low for 8-12 hours. Cool, strain, and you’re done.

6. Speaking of chicken stock, add it to everything. If you have homemade stock on hand, add it to all your home-cooked dishes for a flavor boost. Add a splash to your stir fry. Steam your greens in it. Simmer beans with some onions and peppers for an easy weeknight meal. Cook your rice in half stock and half water. The applications are endless.

7. Only cook with wine you’d actually drink. Okay, so this isn’t really a hack, but wine is important. Don’t use weeks-old wine or $1.50 swill. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t put it in your food.

8. Sharpen your knives at Ace hardware. Okay — those “sharpening sticks” that come with most knife sets? They’re actually called honers, and their job is to keep your knives true — as in, not crooked. To get them sharpened, let the professionals do it. Your local hardware store will do it for about $7 a knife. You’ll have to live without said knife for a few days though, so plan ahead.

9. No-peel applesauce. Most people don’t make their own applesauce because of all that peeling. Well, you can skip that step. Check out the recipe here.

10. How to separate leafy greens from their stalks: Hold the bottom of the stalk in your right hand. Grip the stem with your left hand, just above the right. In one quick movement, pull the entire stem, hard, with your right hand. The leaf should stay in your left hand, and the stem will remain in your right. This works best with curly kale and other firm greens, but it’ll work for all of them.

11. Frozen vegetables. Vegetables are frozen at peak freshness, so you’re not skimping on flavor or nutrition by going frozen. I always have a couple bags of broccoli, green beans, butternut squash, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Just stick to plain old veggies (none of these weird flavor explosions), and you’re good. Great on busy weeknights.

12. Blend your smoothies for a really long time. When you make a smoothie, does that smooth, creamy texture seem to elude you in favor of blueberry skins and tiny pieces of spinach that stick in your teeth? Blend your smoothie for at least one full minute, sometimes two, to eliminate even the tiniest chunks.

13. Clean your coffee pot with lemons, ice cubes, and salt. This is an old trick from the restaurant industry, and nothing works better. Cut a lemon in half. Squeeze the juice into your coffee pot, and throw the lemon halves in there too. Add ice cubes and kosher salt, and swirl around until the stain goes away. Then rinse really well, so your coffee doesn’t taste like a lemon drop. This will also work on tea stains or dingy soup pots.

Got some kitchen hacks of your own? Don’t be stingy — share!

How to Eliminate Soda in 4 Short Weeks (and Never Miss It!)

Soda!

Now that you have an arsenal of soda alternatives, you’re well on your way to ditching it forever (just in time for summer)!

If that doesn’t sound so exciting to you, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered.

This four-week plan will wean you off gently and easily. It’s designed to minimize cravings and withdrawal, and if you stick to it, you could be soda-free in four short weeks!

WEEK ONE

We’ll start by cutting your soda intake by a third (roughly). You can do this in one of two ways:

  • Drop a serving completely (I’d start from the end of the day and work your way up), or…
  • Consume about 1/3 smaller serving each time.

Do this by diluting your soda with seltzer, or simply enjoying a smaller amount.

Also, before you consume each serving of soda, drink at least 8 ounces of water FIRST.

WEEK TWO

Reduce your intake by another third. Apply the same methods as week one.

If you’re only consuming one serving of soda a day, you can probably shorten this whole process by a week, or even two. You can only wean yourself so far until you run out of soda. 🙂

Continue to have your 8+ ounces of water before each serving of soda. And this week, add one glass of water to your overall intake.

WEEK THREE

Wherever you are, reduce your soda intake by half.

If you’re still consuming enough soda that diluting it makes sense, go for it.

Otherwise, you’re probably at the point where a 50% reduction equals dropping one of your servings completely.

If you’re already down to one serving per day, don’t reduce the soda itself; but do drop a day, so you’re only having it every other day.

Add a second additional glass of water to your day as well. The best way to ensure you’re consuming enough water is to start each day with a pint glass of water, before you do or drink anything else.

(And yup, still drinking water before soda. You may find that after the water, you no longer want the soda as much.)

WEEK FOUR

Here’s where we rip the band-aid off, y’all.

If you’re already down to every other day, switch to every two days. (Or, if you’re ready, try to go completely soda-free, treating your go-to soda beverage as just that — a special treat.)

Implement two — or three, or even four, if you’re ready — soda-free days this week. Have as many soda alternatives as you need to, but stay away from the hard stuff.

If, with the recent water additions, you’re still consuming less than 8 glasses of water a day, add one more glass to your day.

BEYOND

Continue to drink water first thing in the morning, and whenever you have a craving. Especially if you decide to give into that craving — drink water first.

Because soda is so addictive, it’s really easier to just institute a never-ever-drink-it policy. It’s pretty painless to maintain. Even at barbecues and restaurants, there’s always an alternative. Iced tea, seltzer, etc. Not hard to come by.

And unlike some more “extreme” dietary changes, like going gluten-free or dairy-free, kicking soda is a widely accepted positive change for your health. Meaning: lots of people are doing it, and your peers and loved ones will have an easier time supporting you.

And remember, ANY reduction in your soda intake is good.

Because it’s not about being perfect.

It’s about feeling better, all the time.

 

7 Things You Can Drink Instead of Soda — And Love

Iced Tea

If you drink soda on a regular basis, count yourself lucky — you are officially in possession of the most accessible, most bang-for-your buck, most inexpensive lifestyle change I know of.

Cutting back on your soda intake (and yes, diet soda counts here*) makes a massive impact on weight loss. It’s a one-two punch: cutting down a huge source of sugar, plus upping your hydration levels.

That combination leads to long-term benefits like:

  • Reduction in joint and muscle pain
  • Better mental clarity and cognitive function
  • Reduced food cravings
  • Appetite regulation

And even better news? You’ll start to see most of these changes within the first week of cutting back your soda intake.

*Attention diet soda guzzlers: The artificial sweeteners used in diet soda are one of the top contributors to sugar cravings. Which lead to increased consumption of things like baked goods and alcohol. Which leads to weight gain, and the opposite of all those bullet points you see above.

But giving up soda is no small feat. Both diet and regular sodas are formulated to be addictive, so you’re probably addicted to it. Plus, if your tastebuds are accustomed to that level of saccharine sweetness, everything else is going to taste super boring.

Try these 7 alternatives to soda to help you step down.

1. Cut your soda with seltzer water. This is the same approach I use for people who need to wean themselves off juice – start cutting it with increasing amounts of water. With soda, you can do this by adding seltzer water. Start with a 2:1 ratio of soda: seltzer. After a few days, go to 50/50. Gradually increase the amount of seltzer until you reach a 1:3 ratio.

2. Ginger beer. A great step-down from soda, because it still tastes more or less like ginger ale. Most ginger beers are sweetened with natural sugars (make sure to find one that is), but it has a greater proportion of ginger. This is my favorite ingredient for mocktails (see below).

3. Mock-mojito. In a tall glass, muddle together 3 basil leaves, 2 mint leaves, and a lime wedge. Pour in ginger beer to about the halfway mark, and fill the glass with ice. Give it a little stir, and finish with a splash of seltzer. Drink with a straw to avoid a mouthful of basil leaves.

4. Herbal tea spritzers. Brew an extra-strong batch of herbal tea. My favorites are chamomile, peppermint, and relax-y type blends. You could also use the fruity flavors and/or sweeten with a bit of honey if you like. Chill in the fridge. To make a spritzer, pour about 1/2 – 3/4 a glass of tea over ice, then finish with seltzer and a wedge of lemon.

5. Apple cider vinegar cocktail. Apple cider vinegar will directly help curb your soda cravings, because it alkalizes your body and satisfies that need for sweet. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a glass of sparkling water. Sweeten with honey if you prefer, and garnish with a lemon wedge. It’ll take you a couple days to get used to the taste, but once you do, you’ll start craving this as much as soda.

6. Flavored seltzer waters. (Noticing a theme here? We’re keeping the fizz.) I know from experience that die-hard soda fans kind of hate these drinks. But I have to include them, because there are so many flavors now, and they’re just such a better option. Keep trying different kinds until you find one you like.

7. Kombucha. This fermented, fizzy beverage has all the sweetness of soda, without all the crap. It’s so IN right now; you’ll find endless flavors to choose from at your local health food store. Plus you’ll get a hefty dose of probiotics, which aid digestion, support your immune system, and help curb cravings.

We get it — that afternoon craving for something cold and fizzy is powerful stuff. And nothing satisfies like an ice-cold can of Coke. (That used to be my preference, back when I was “using.”)

We’re not wagging fingers or waving the shame card in your face. We just want you to feel better! And we know (’cause it’s our job) that cutting back on your soda intake will have a direct, almost immediate impact on that.

Give one or two (or all) of these alternatives a try for ONE WEEK and see how you feel. And let us know about it!

 

Could You Have Allergies You Don’t Even Know About?

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Ugh. Just looking at this picture makes my eyes water.

“The pollen is extra high this year.”

Call me a jaded Northerner… but don’t people say that every single spring? Seems to me, people who have allergies just have them. And people who don’t? Well, don’t.

Or do they? (Muah ha ha)

You don’t hear about it much, but seasonal allergies lead to a multitude of symptoms, and they’re not just limited to scratchy throats, clogged-up sinuses, and itchy eyes.

You might have allergies… and not even know it.

Lesser-known symptoms of seasonal allergies:

  • Muscle soreness & joint stiffness (chronic)
  • Depression — like an inexplicable “funk” you just can’t seem to shake
  • Irritability, impatience, short temper. Sometimes it’s just ’cause you really don’t feel well, but can’t put your finger on why. Other times it’s just… yeah, allergens make you cranky.
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia

It’s hard to say whether these issues are a part of the allergic response itself, or secondary symptoms created by the inflammation that occurs when you’re exposed.

Either way, treatment for these more insidious, less “popular” allergy symptoms is the same as that for the usual ailments.

For natural options, drink nettle tea every day (about 16 ounces), incorporate unheated local honey into your diet, and rinse your sinuses with a neti pot every night.

If you’re serious about fighting your allergies sans drugs, you’ll have to deal with your diet too.

Oftentimes eliminating dairy does wonders for allergy sufferers. Same goes for gluten, soy, corn, and sugar. (In fact, your true allergy may be to one of these foods; all the pollen floating around just exacerbates it.)

And of course, if all else fails, or if you just want to feel better like, now, then by all means — medicate. You could even use a non-drowsy brand as an experiment: Take one, and see if your depression lifts, or your head clears a little, or your mood lightens.

If it does, then you know: You’ve got allergies! 

WAMP wamp. (Sorry.)

The good news is, now that you know, you can make it better.

Because nobody likes a cranky-pants. Especially in the spring.

7 Little Things You Can Do to Get A Better Night’s Sleep

Doggie sleeping

We all know — we need to get more sleep. We hear it everywhere we go. Need to lose weight? Get more sleep! Stressed out? Sleep more! Getting sick all the time? You need to rest!

So, duh. Sleep rules, we don’t get enough of it, and we need to fix that.

But life is stressful and full of computer screens. Our modern lifestyles are not very conducive to a solid night’s sleep.

So I — a bona fide insomniac for three years running, I’m sorry to say — have compiled a list of the 7 things that have helped me the most. Some might be old hat, but one or two should be brand new.

Especially #7. That guy’s awesome.

7 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

1. Turn out the lights. Your sleeping chambers should be pitch dark at night. Like, can’t see your hand in front of your face. No more night lights or leaving the door open a crack. I’m talking blackout curtains, getting rid of any electronics with glowing lights, sleep masks, and whatever else you have to do to achieve optimal blackness. You’ll be way less likely to wake up in the middle of the night.

2. No electronics, especially before bed. Make your bedroom an electronics-free zone. No smartphones. No laptops. If you like to read or use a sleep app, put your device in airplane mode. Avoid looking at a screen at least an hour before bed. It messes with your melatonin (which is what makes you sleepy).

3. No sugar at night. Blood sugar (too high OR too low) is a major culprit behind disturbed sleep. Try to avoid sweets at night. And if you know you’re hypoglycemic, eat a few bites of protein before bed. Like a slice of turkey or a handful of nuts.

4. Eat more protein. This goes back to the blood sugar (see #3 above), but it also helps muscle recovery, appetite, and seratonin production. (Seratonin isn’t just a happy-making neurotransmitter; it’s also essential for a good night’s sleep.)

5. Separate covers. If you share a bed with someone, lots of problems can ensue. Separate covers can eliminate a big one — the motion transfer you feel when your partner tosses and turns. Snuggled in your own personal covers, you won’t even notice. Also, bonus: this lets each sleeper cover up according to his/her temperature preferences, which can vary wildly from one person to another.

6. Keep it cool. We sleep better when we’re a little cold. Try to keep your room a couple degrees colder than feels comfortable. You can always turn the heat up in the morning, or let the sunshine in to warm things up.

7. Andrew Johnson apps. This guy is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. (Don’t tell my husband.) A gentle Scottish man talks you into a deep relaxation, then whispers sweet nothings to your subconscious mind, helping you to sleep, drink more water, or…actually I don’t really know what he says, because I’m always out cold by this point. It’s like having Shrek read you a bedtime story.

There we go!

Have any sleep strategies I missed? Share them in the comments below.

Sleep can be some elusive, slippery prey. But with these tools in your arsenal…

I think you’re about to catch some.

 

Get Glowing Skin at Any Age (Without Chemicals)

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The other day, my 10-year-old nephew came in from outside and said, “Hey Aunt Sam. Your epidermis is showing.” (Snark snark.)

Ah, kids.

He had a point though — it was showing. It’s always exposed, to sunlight, air pollutants, the chlorine in my water, and who knows what else.

(In case you’re feeling secretly out of the loop right now, epidermis is a fancy word for your body’s largest organ: your skin.)

You’re never too old to start loving up your skin. Sure, it’d be great if we were taking care of it all along, but hey. Live and learn.

Today I’ve got the mother lode of skin care tips. Take what you will; they’re all fairly simple, and any one of them will make your skin happier.

FYI, I’m not talking about “anti-aging.” That is just a ridiculous concept to me. Everything alive ages. And sure, nobody loves to discover a new wrinkle. But what I’m talking about here is your health.

I’m talking about upping the glow, amping up the brightness. Improving your skin’s elasticity and overall appearance. Preventing sunspots and skin cancer. A few wrinkles? Just means you like to smile. 🙂

Sam’s favorite skin care quickies:

Apple Cider Vinegar cocktails. This little miracle is alkalizing (which means it has loads of other health benefits), and it’s been shown to improve some pretty serious skin conditions like Psoriasis and Eczema.

Drinking this daily will help your skin glow and shine, partly because it improves your digestion. Put two tablespoons of ACV in a pint glass of water, and drink up. And make sure to get the raw, unfiltered kind, with the “mother” still floating around in there. You can add lemon or honey for taste.

Skin brushing. Use a medium, natural-bristle brush and brush your skin all over (except your face) before you hop in the shower. Start at your toes and fingers and work towards your heart in short, quick strokes and/or circles.

This exfoliates dead skin, and the vigorous rubbing brings blood to the surface of your skin, which improves circulation and lymph flow.

More water! It’s almost a joke at this point, how I keep bringing up the water. Almost. Because healthy skin is well-hydrated skin. No two ways about, kemosabe. You can up your hydration by drinking aloe juice and/or coconut water, but at the end of the day there’s no substitute for good ol’ H2O.

More skin care tips:

Truly great skin is a reflection of a healthy body. Your skin is the last place in your body to receive nutrients, so if you’re deficient in some way, guess where it shows up?

On the other hand, if your diet is abundant in veggies, fruits, healthy fats, and clean food, your skin will shine.

I’m not an expert on supplements, but vitamins E, A, and C are super important for healthy skin.

Eat plenty of healthy fats. Add a fish oil / Omega-3 supplement to your regimen, and stock up on the coconut oil and avocado. Healthy fats are what gives your skin that glow.

Extra credit: Down a shot of olive oil before bed. Hardcore! (But not as nasty as you think.) Down a shot glass of olive oil, with a lemon water chaser, at night. This not only lubricates your intestines and helps with healthy bowel movements, it also lends a buttery glow to your skin. (The higher quality oil you get, the better it tastes.)

Bathing & beauty:

Swap out your soap, moisturizer, and deodorant for natural alternatives. Many commercial soaps dry your skin, depriving it of its natural oils. They also contain fragrance and other chemical — and all that gets absorbed through your skin.

Get rid of fancy body washes and anti-aging “formulas.” (Unless you’re using something specific, like tar shampoo for scalp issues, or acne treatments.) Mostly this stuff is just a rip-off, to be honest. The more natural, the better.

You can moisturize with natural oils. Sesame and almond are both nice, and coconut oil is awesome after a sunbathing session. Alternatively, try a plant-based lotion (you can find some at your local health-food store).

Get a shower filter. Bad news: all that chlorine you’re filtering out with your Brita? Is getting absorbed through your skin every time you take a shower. Filtering your shower water reduces the need for moisturizer. It can also help alleviate Eczema or severely dry skin, reduces rashes and irritation, and calms Psoriasis.

Quit bathing so much. Really, it’s overrated. If you’re covered in dirt from the garden, or stinking after a long run, sure. But day-to-day, you don’t actually need to wash with soap. Every other day is sufficient. This will help your skin retain its natural moisture.

Cool down your showers. Super-hot water feels great, but it can be irritating to the skin. Try warm showers instead.

Hot/cold plunge. Woooo! This one’s daring. At the end of your shower, run the water as hot as you can stand it for about a minute, then as cold as you can stand it for a minute, then repeat as many times as you can take it (I usually bail after two.) This draws blood to the skin’s surface and encourages circulation and drainage. It’s also good for your pores.

Experiment with natural alternatives to makeup and perfume. Makeup has come a long way here – there are some really great options out there. For fragrance, try essential oil blends instead of alcohol-based perfumes. For more info, visit two of my favorite online resources:

Summer’s right around the corner. Which means you’ll be showing a LOT more epidermis to a LOT more people.

Make ’em jealous.

 

 

Much of this material was originally posted at TheNotMom.com.

 

Image sourced from ThisOldHouse.com.

‘Tis the season… for achy backs, cranky knees, and shoulder knots that rival the tightest nautical techniques any sailor’s ever seen.

Yard work. Pulling weeds. A long hike in the woods.

All these activities are great, and your body definitely appreciates the usage.

But after a long, sedentary winter, you can pay a pretty hefty price for your weekend adventures. Here’s how to relieve and/or prevent the sore muscles and joints that tend to accompany daffodils and tulips as harbingers of spring.

1. Morning stretching. Build 20 minutes of gentle stretching into your morning routine, and your whole day will be so much better. Find a manageable yoga routine (like the one below), or just run through a head-to-toe joint mobility series. Think neck circles, knee bends, shoulder rolls, and twisting back and forth from your spine.

Image courtesy of bosu.com.

2. Evening stretching. Your evening routine can really just be a repeat of your morning movements. But you can also hold longer stretches in the specific areas you worked that day. My favorite? Lie on one side, with a bolster or several pillows propped under the opposite side. Hold for five minutes each side. Like that lady.

3. Drink more water. How many times have I told these people to drink more water? (I wondered while writing this post.) A LOT.  The thing is… it’s important! Dehydrated muscles stay sorer for longer. A lot longer. And they’re more likely to become sore in the first place. Just do it.

4. Take more breaks. This seems like a no-brainer (and it is), but the frequency of your breaks is directly proportional to the happiness — or unhappiness — of your muscles and joints the next day. Set a timer on your phone (and HONOR it). Stand up, stretch, walk around the block, drink some water… and get back to it! (See how that works?)

5. Epsom Salt baths. My personal favorite. Epsom salt is rich in magnesium, which helps your muscles relax, thus reducing soreness. The hot water is great for sore backs and necks (like, the best), and if that’s not enough, epsom salt helps draw irritants and allergens out, so they’re a key element in allergy relief too!

The more love you give your bones (and muscles, and joints), the better able to be to keep doing all those things that made you so sore in the first place.

You’ll be able to weed for hours! (Oh joy). You’ll summit that mountain like it was nothing!

Because when you take care of your body?

It takes care of you.

Change Is Good. Even When It’s Sad.

Sargeant Ross Flat

We close out National Transition Month with the granddaddy of transitions — losing another AFF family member to the great wide open.

That’s right — in case you haven’t heard, Ross is moving on. Before he starts the grueling Physical Therapy program at Western Carolina University this fall, he’s spending the summer visiting family, from L.A. to the Philippines. (And apparently summer starts in April in Ross-land.)

But get this. Not only is he leaving us to traipse across the country in an old Subaru Outback, he’s not letting us go without a final butt-whooping.

Wanna join us in sending him off?

Last Chance Bootcamp starts April 4th and runs Monday- Thursday (at a not-for-the-faint-of-heart 7:30 AM) through the 14th. (Which also happen to be his last two weeks at AFF).

Sign up at the front desk, or register online. (He’ll need the extra money in case he gets stranded in the desert.)

It sounds intense, but it’s adaptable to all levels. There will be some running drills, body weight strength, and….who am I kidding? I don’t know what all he has in store.

But I’ll be there, because it’s Ross.

And we love Ross.

Even though we don’t want him to go. 🙁

These 5 Little Life Changes Will Make You Feel Like a Kid Again

Photo courtesy of staticflickr.com

Photo courtesy of staticflickr.com

Coming out of a long winter, your body can feel a little…old.

Dry skin. Stiff joints. Sluggish energy. A day of enthusiastic yard work can leave you sore for a week. And it doesn’t help that the allergies kick in right about now.

This year — in honor of our self-proclaimed National Transition Month — we offer five simple changes to your daily routine that will help you shake off the cobwebs, ease your sore muscles and joints, and make you feel young again.

1. Hot lemon water every morning. Lemon water aids weight loss because it helps your liver process food & toxins. It also stimulates peristalsis, which helps you poop more regularly (and nothing says “young” like a satisfying poop). It also helps clear your skin. And it’s practically free. Win-win.

2. Epsom salt baths. If you’re an allergy sufferer, heads up. Salt baths draw toxins and irritants out of your system. The salt is rich in magnesium, which helps relieve soreness, and helps you sleep. (Come to think of it, magnesium also helps you poop. Maybe my next post will be about pooping).

3. Nighttime yoga. Try this gentle, beginner-friendly routine to ease out of your day and knead out the kinks before you get into bed. You could easily repurpose this for a morning routine as well.

4. Drink more water. I wonder how many times, in how many different ways, I’ve told you to drink more water? Why do you think that is? Because it’s like the easiest, most no-brainer change you can make, and it yields the biggest return on investment (health-wise) I know of. More energy. Better digestion. Appetite regulation. Reduced cravings. Improved mood and sleep. All these issues could be coming from dehydration. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!

5. Stop watching TV in bed. In fact, make your bedroom a no-electronics zone, and make it as pitch dark as you possibly can when it’s time to hit the hay. One of the keys to restful sleep is allowing your body’s natural melatonin to kick in, which can only happen when your brain isn’t stimulated, and there’s no bright light. Give it a try for one week and see what happens.

They say you’re only as old as you feel.

Let’s shave a few years off that, shall we?

Mediterranean Meatballs recipe

The biggest “obstacle” between you and the healthy, green-eating lifestyle you want?

“But I don’t like it.”

This is the most infuriating stonewall of an argument. There’s no comeback — you don’t like it; you don’t like it. Nothing to be done. (This objection can be lodged by anyone, by the way — your spouse, your kids, even yourself.)

Here are three uber-healthy recipes that defy even the most stubborn un-likers out there.

Mediterranean Meatballs

Serves 4 (about 24 meatballs)

Prep Time: 15 minutes. Cook Time: 20 minutes (You can multi-task some of this.)

Meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground lamb (you can substitute beef if you want)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T gluten-free bread crumbs, or ground flaxseed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Sea salt & black pepper to taste (a bit more than you think)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 T honey
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • A bit of water to thin out (if needed)

Greens:

  • 2 bunches Lacinato kale, chopped

Heat some coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine all meatball ingredients (except lemon juice) in a bowl and mix by hand. Form into ping-pong-sized balls. When the oil is hot, drop the meatballs into the pan. Cook for about 8 minutes, tossing frequently. Squeeze lemon over cooked meatballs.

Heat an inch of water in a large pot over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, add the chopped greens and toss until wilted. Steam uncovered, tossing frequently, until greens are wilted and water has evaporated. Toss with some olive oil and sea salt.

While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the sauce. Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Add water and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Sausage & Kale Soup

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes. Cook Time: 35 minutes.

  • 1 package (1lb.) spicy Italian sausage, sliced
  • 1 package pre-washed/pre-trimmed curly kale
  • 1 onion, sliced into half moons
  • 2 or 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced
  • 6 C chicken stock + water as needed
  • Salt to taste

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, about five minutes. Add onions and celery cook another 10 minutes, until soft.

Add chicken stock and sweet potatoes and bring to a low boil. Dump in the kale and stir to combine. Cover, turn heat to simmer, and let cook about 25 minutes.

Add salt to taste. You may want to add a little water if the soup is too thick, especially after it sits in the fridge overnight. (The fat from the sausage will thicken it up.)

Meatless Shepherd’s Pie

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes. Cook Time: 25 minutes + 30 minutes bake time (unattended).

I still make this with lamb too – just swap out the mushrooms & quinoa – but this one time I didn’t have any, and now it’s one of my favorites. If you’re cooking for one, you can freeze your leftovers.

  • 3 Portobello caps, diced
  • 2 carrots, cut into rounds
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, cut in quarters and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2/3 C frozen peas
  • 4-5 collard greens, chopped
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1/2 C cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 C water or homemade stock
  • 1 tsp each dried oregano & basil
  • Sea salt & black pepper to taste
  • 3 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Large pat of butter (coconut oil for dairy free)
  • 1/2 C plain yogurt (sub coconut milk for dairy free)
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 2 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place parsnip and potato chunks in a pot and cover with cool water. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook, partially covered, about 25 minutes, until completely softened. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile: In a large, deep skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook about 10 minutes.

Add mushrooms and garlic, cover and cook another 6-7 minutes. In a small bowl, mix tomato paste with stock or water.

Add greens and cook another 3-4 minutes, until bright green and wilted. In a small bowl, mix tomato paste with stock or water.

Add tomato paste mixture, quinoa, herbs, salt and pepper to the pan. Mixture should be pretty thick, which you want. As you cook, if it gets too thick (like sticking to the pan), add a little more liquid.

Stir in frozen peas until heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings, then remove from heat.

To the potatoes: add garlic, butter, yogurt and salt and mash with a fork or potato masher.

Spread vegetable mixture into a pie dish. Spread mashed potatoes over the top, like frosting. Bake for 30 minutes, or until sides are bubbling and/or potatoes being to turn brown. If you want more of a toasted top. broil for two minutes before removing from the oven.