Tagged "healthy living"

Spring Cleanse Series: Your Diet

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

Spring cleaning: Whether it's emptying out our sweater-filled closets, engaging in some serious Swiffer-ing (yes, that's a verb), or embarking on a new clean-eating plan, we all attempt to do it in some capacity. But, let's face it, the motivation to full-on cleanse doesn't necessarily come naturally. That's why we're sharing our tips to how clean up all areas of your life in our new, ongoing Spring Cleanse Series. First up? Your diet!

(PS: Watch the space for a revamped BusyHappyHealthy cleanse comin' atcha soon...) 


Spent the winter hunkered in, fortified by cheese and wine? It's time to back away from the brie and Bordeaux and use the new season as an opportunity to shift habits.

Below is a plan of attack, which focuses consuming quality, whole foods, eliminating toxins and addictive substances, and staying super hydrated. While doing all of these things at once might seem overwhelming, they really are best instituted in tandem. With that noted, any progress is great progress, so feel free to slowly integrate each change until you're in full Spring Cleanse mode. Godspeed. 


Begin by upping your daily water intake, which is a supremely easy -- and effective -- way to stay healthy and detox. We recommend you drink about half of your weight in ounces daily; increase that amount if you happen to be very active. If you're feeling bored with plain old H20, add a bit of alkalizing fresh lemon juice to your water.


Refined carbs -- you know, the fun stuff like cookies, white bread and rice -- are certified diet killers. They'll spike your blood sugar, throw your hormones out of whack, and keep you from functioning like a lean and mean fighting machine. But this doesn't mean you need to go entirely carb-free. Opt for quality, complex carbohydrates that won't send your blood sugar skyrocketing. Think: Ancient grains like quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, or gluten-free rolled oats.


Your beloved "healthy" granola bar might seem like a cleanse-friendly selection, but it is likely filled with processed ingredients and loaded with sugar. This isn't to say that there aren't great bars (or packaged foods) out there, it's just to underscore that many of them aren't so great. Use this cleanse to eliminate them entirely; if that's too difficult, allow yourself 1-2 packaged items per week. 


Eating a diet heavy in plants -- from leafy greens to colorful veggies -- is a cornerstone of a clean, healthy eating plan. Doing so ensures you're getting all of the essential vitamins, antioxidants and minerals you need, helps keeps calories in check and maintains a healthy blood sugar level. 


Yes, we want you to eat plenty of plants while cleansing. But that doesn't mean that meat needs to be the enemy. In fact, lean and organic meats are wonderful natural sources of protein (which keeps you fuller longer), along with other vitamins and nutrients. Along those lines, healthy fat is awesome, too. Eat regular servings during your cleanse to further nourish your body and keep you satiated. Need a benchmark serving size? Go for one-fourth of an avocado or a tablespoon of olive oil per meal. 


New research continues to show that refined sugar is basically like poison to our bodies.  Okay, that might sound sort of extreme, but here's the deal: Eating too much sugar causes a cluster of symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome. These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, increased blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure. This is why it's more important than ever that we regulate our sugar intake, particularly refined sugar -- you know, the kind that goes straight into your bloodstream. If you are using sugar while cleansing, use only natural sweeteners like agave, honey, and dates... and use sparingly. 


We saved the worst news for last. Sorry. While we won't entirely demonize coffee and alcohol, they are highly addictive substances and can contribute to a slew of health problems -- from adrenal fatigue to weight gain. If if you really want to Spring Cleanse, these two have got to go in order to have our body function optimally and for you to see the cleanse magic actually happen. Cheers! 

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Food Allergies Vs Food Intolerances: The 411

Posted by Amina AlTai on

It seems to be a modern epidemic. Dinner with a group of women in New York will immediately point to it. It seems the world (or at least NYC) is suffering from food allergies -- gluten, dairy, nightshades... the list goes on.  If fact, it’s estimated that 12 million to 15 million Americans suffer from said allergies. Common culprits include peanuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, sesame, wheat and soy.  But what’s the big deal with allergies?  Are they different to food intolerances? How do we know?


What exactly are food allergies? 

The medical community strictly defines food allergies as anything that creates a specific immune response within two hours of ingestion.  Those immune responses -- either IgE antibody mediated or delayed non-IgE mediated allergies -- are reactions caused by the immune system. They are limited to hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea and most severe of all, anaphylaxis; any response that falls outside of these reactions are labeled as food intolerances. 


What are food intolerances?

Food intolerances are less severe than food allergies, but still troublesome. While they are not an immune-related response, symptoms can range from gas and bloating to headaches and can impact one's quality of life as much as an allergy.  However, the onset of symptoms is much slower and can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  While they might be limited to GI upset, they can cause chronic inflammation if left unchecked, which can then lead to disease down the line.  Even obesity, type II diabetes, eczema, psoriasis, headaches and autoimmune diseases are linked to food intolerant sensitivities.  So, they’re no joke.


How do you know for certain you have food allergies or intolerances?

If you have food allergies, you likely already know.  The symptoms are usually too severe to ignore or you’ve already gotten a food allergy test. Food intolerances, on the other hand, are a bit sneakier and can require a bit more detective work.  Here’s a few ways you can identify your triggers.


  1. An IgG test: As mentioned earlier, food allergies are discovered through IgE blood tests.  However, you can also determine food sensitives through an IgG test.  These tests are used to look for antibodies usually associated with food allergies.  If the serum IgG antibodies exist, it’s likely there is a food sensitivity. 
  2. An ALCAT test: An ALCAT (Antigen Leukocyte Cellular Antibody Test) test is a blood test that looks at your white blood cells and tests them against up to 450 substances in a process know as flow cytometry and cell impedance methodology. This is considered to be fairly accurate when it comes to food intolerances.
  3. An ELISA test: ELISA is an abbreviation for Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay and is usually less preferential than the ALCAT test. Much of the literature I’ve read, along with first-hand accounts from colleagues, points to this test being directionally accurate but not 100% correct.  The benefit is that it can be done by a nutritionist versus a doctor, as it’s a blood spot finger-prick test and not a full blood draw.
  4. An Elimination Diet: The trouble with the aforementioned tests is that even if you don’t produce allergy-specific antibodies to a food your body might still react to it! How can that be, though? In some cases, people don’t have the ability to digest certain types of foods which can thereby lead to inflammation. Such is the case with people who have FODMAP sensitivities due to IBS or SIBO. Your body might not be reacting to the protein, but it is indeed having an inflammatory response.  That’s where an elimination diet would come in.  An elimination diet is one where you would remove common allergens and suspected intolerances for a period of time and then work them back in one by one to identify the actual culprits.  Read more about how to do an elimination diet here.

Food allergies and sensitivities are serious medical ailments and we always recommend checking in with your healthcare provider before starting a new regimen. 


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How To: Healthy Shopping on a Budget

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

Buying healthy foods may be the best way to spend your money, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it can be pretty pricey. This is especially true if you’re seeking out top-quality ingredients like organic produce and grass-feed, free-range, and/or hormone-free meats. Indeed, in today’s fast food economy many people simply can’t afford to eat healthfully. But this issue isn’t insurmountable – there are ways to shop for top-rate ingredients on a budget. Ahead, we’re sharing some of them.


Get to know your butcher

With meat, it’s best to go to the source. Not only are you getting a higher quality product, you have the option to buy in bulk. You can save upwards of 35% if you do so; look to split the cost (and the meat!) with your family and friends. If you really get to know your butcher, discuss regularly buying in bulk for a preferred rate.


Hit the farmer’s market

Farmer’s markets are an amazing way to support local industry, shop affordably, and get access to the freshest ingredients out there. I love the farmer’s market for produce, but also for staples like milk, eggs, bread, and even fish and meats. A trick I have is actually to hit the market at the end of the day. Yes, the selection is more limited, but you’re more likely to be able to strike up a deal and get products at a discount, including "ugly" or lightly bruised fruits and veg. (Also, I have found fishmongers are willing to bargain with you in order to sell off inventory at the day’s end.) Signing up for a CSA or negotiating a bulk discount rate with your local grower are two other smart ways to save money, too.


Buy staples in bulk

Shopping the bulk section of the grocery store is a must if you're trying to save money. I use this area to buy things like nuts (and nut butter!), seeds, legumes, oats, and grains. These staples are always more competitively priced than their branded and packaged counterparts.


Check out ethnic markets

These are great places to pick up things like spices, seasonings, and condiments like tahini or tamari at a more affordable price. Amina loves hitting them to shop for things like exotic fruits, too -- noted! 



Grocery stores and health markets alike always have items on discount. Seek out those sales and meal plan around them. Alternatively, if a product you know and love goes on sale – such as your favorite olive oil or peanut butter – buy a bunch at a time and save yourself some money down the road.


Get thee some canned fish

Supermarket seafood is notoriously expensive, but canned seafood is a whole different story. There is plenty of really delicious, high-quality canned fish out there for a fraction of the price. One of our favorites is Wild Planet Foods, which operates sustainably and uses BPA-free cans.


Go frozen!

Buying fresh fruits and veggies can be really expensive, which is why it’s worth checking out their frozen counterparts. Not only are they more affordable, new research suggests that they’re more nutritious, too. That’s because frozen fruits are picked ripe and then frozen, making them more nutrient-rich than their fresh counterparts that have been hanging around on a shelf (or on an airplane) for days.


When in doubt, DIY

Don’t have the dough to shell out for a fancy protein bars or prepackaged snacks? Make them at home! From almond butter cups to protein snowballs, we have plenty of suggestions for DIY snacks on the blog, or check out this protein bar recipe Amina just posted on her Instagram. By making your own snacks like these, you’ll save money and be healthier, too.

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Meet Amina, BusyHappyHealthy's Founder

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

As a marketing professional whose career was skyrocketing in her mid-twenties, Busy Happy Healthy’s founder, Amina AlTai, seemingly had it all: The titles, the accomplishments, the “success.” But underneath her high-achieving professional persona existed someone who was utterly struggling, health-wise. Not only were her chronic health issues debilitating, they were infringing on her all-important happiness. So after years of (taxing) success, Amina decided to take a step back and embark on the most important to-do of her entire life: Wellness. 


Busy Happy Health is the manifestation of Amina’s belief that busy, ambitious people of all stripes do not need to sacrifice their health and, consequently, their happiness in the pursuit of “success.” Ahead, we conduct a much-overdo interview to talk to Amina about her wellness journey and health philosophy, her favorite snacks, and her surprising spirit animal. Read on. 




Hey! Who are you? 

Serious but silly middle child. Type A minus.  Lover of all things natural and healthy. Peacekeeper and perfection-hater.  Super curious, well accessorized and a good time.  


How does the mission of BHH pertain to your own life story? 

I once believed that what I did was who I was.  I believed it so strongly that I almost worked myself into the ground.  I started my first company at 22, wrote my first book at 25 and became a director that same year. On paper, I was very successful, but I felt terrible. I developed two autoimmune diseases and was having memory troubles by the age of 26.   I was so deprived of proper nutrition that I nearly went bald (no joke).  That was enough for me. We often put ourselves and our needs last in service of others; thinking that taking care of ourselves is somehow selfish. But something about that is counterintuitive; because if we want to live our best, most inspired lives we need to feel our best. Right?
As it turns out, our greatest challenges are our greatest gifts. My struggles with weight and disease were my body telling me something about my lifestyle and who I was meant to be. I searched high and low to find the right help. After visiting seven different doctors who looked at me like I was crazy, I finally found one who was willing to partner with me.  After a long recovery, I realized there was a major knowledge gap.  No one was teaching us how to take care of the most important assets we’ll ever possess: Our bodies.  So, I went in search of certifications and schools that could help me use my story for the highest good.   

I knew right away that I could be of service to corporate America. Everyone is working so hard and there’s no time or proper information to support our well-being.  And changes have to start at the top.  A healthy work culture is pervasive and it needs be a c-level decision to invest in people and working well.  


How did you discover / uncover your passion for wellness? 

There are several reasons. To begin, both of my parents are in allopathic medicine.  They wanted me to be a doctor but I didn’t like the hospital environment. It always felt so sterile and absent of real healing vibes.  But I’d always been interested in wellness and preventative medicine.  I used to read their medical books (and freak out over any weird skin ailments!), along with Shape and Fitness magazines starting at the age of ten.


From there, I’d say nutrition was my lead-in. I struggled with weight during my adolescence and woke up one day and decided the baggage was too much to bear.  So, I taught myself how to eat healthy and exercise (thanks, Shape! Seriously!) and I lost 60 pounds in one year. Now I’ve been the same weight most of my adult life; family members would always come to me for meal plans. So while most girls were going on their first dates I was reading about Gary Null and Dr. Andrew Weil.  #MegaNerd


Eventually, I started reading more about the mind-body connection. The Dalai Lama piqued my interest in meditation when I read his books at seventeen. But, like most of us, I lost myself a bit in my early twenties and had to go really far wrong in order to come back to my wellness roots.  


What is training with you like? 

It depends, as every dynamic is different depending on whom I’m coaching and what we’re working on. (But if you come to my spin class you’ll likely get a fun but no mercy – or bitching! – work out.)   


With that said, if you’re engaging me for nutrition coaching there’s lots of “hand holding,” but I’m no pushover.  If you want to change your body and your mind, you’ve got to work for it.  On the other hand, I am known for mailing my clients surprise healthy snack packages and cards. I always try to think what I’d want out of a coach—someone who is going to get me results and leave me better than they found me and have a bit of fun along the way. I look forward to working with my clients and I want them to feel the same way.




In your opinion "wellness" means...

I believe everything is balance.  It’s healthy relationships, managed stress, good eats, sound sleep, workouts, a job you love, play time etc.  If just one area of your life is off, it can wreak havoc on everything else.  


Your favorite wellness foods are... 

Kombucha, seeds (they’re so great for women!), all the berries #CantGetEnough, wild fish, and what lady doesn’t love dark chocolate? 


Your favorite workout is...

I love spinning and biking.  I’ve had a bike since I could speak. Seriously.  At the age of three I dragged my mom into a store and told her I’d be her “best friend” (#manipulative) if she got me a red, shiny bike.  Needless to say, she caved and I’ve loved riding ever since.  Indoors or outdoors, I get the same sense of freedom.  I love it so much. It doesn’t always feel like a full body workout so I’ll do my own spin boot camps at home where I’m hopping on and off the bike to do abs, arms, etc.  


Your go-to snack is... 

Blackberries.  I try hard to rotate my snacks but berries are so great!  I put them in a little Tupperware and tote them around with me wherever I go.  Also, I recently wrote a post on my fave travel snacks you can see here. And, finally, I’m very into Santosha chocolate right now, not necessarily as a snack. A square or two for dessert is heaven. 


Your favorite self-care activity is... 

I LOVE working out. Nothing helps my stress or my brain more.  But one of my 2017 goals is to “do less and be more” so nowadays if I have an extra fifteen minutes I don’t bang out another blog post or do some squats, instead I just straight up sprawl out on the ground. Nothing feels more grounding than laying face down on the floor. (I hope my chiropractor doesn’t read this, he’ll kill me.)


Your favorite healthy restaurant is...

Ahhh, so many!! I love Dirt Candy for a special occasion, Candle 79 because it’s where I had one of my first dates with my hubs, Peacefood for being so convenient and consistently good, Jivamukti for an awesome Buddha bowl, Bliss Café for killer veggie bowls and Modern Love for awesome vegan comfort food.  Can we also chat about desserts? Because Erin McKenna’s Bakery is EVERYTHING! I also used to love One Lucky Duck. RIP. 


Your not-so-healthy but still-kinda-healthy treat is... 

I had to put myself in a nut butter time out. And I see this with a lot of healthy ladies… it’s good fats, right, so what’s the big deal? But when we eat it by the bucket load (I’m looking at YOU!) it becomes a tad unhealthy. At the height of my love for it, I was making nut buttercups and they’re actually too good to put in words. You can see the recipe here.




Zodiac sign? The best sign of all, Scorpio!  


Favorite place on earth? Wales. I’m half Welsh and nothing feeds my soul more than the Welsh countryside. Sheep for days.

Desert island movie, book, and song? Movie: Wizard of Oz, Book: Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl because I’ll likely need a good laugh. Songs are so hard. If you know me, you know that I sing at least a dozen different songs to myself at any given time. So I guess I’d be my own iPod.


Spirit animal? Betty White.

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What's The Deal with Hypothyroidism and Adrenal Fatigue?

Posted by Amina AlTai on

Each week women pour into my office tired but wired; stressed out and reporting symptoms such as hair loss, sensitivity to cold and difficulty losing weight. Doctors used to consider these classic hypothyroid symptoms, but only now practitioners examining the role of our adrenals in this complicated health conundrum.

The adrenals are the masters of all hormones. They regulate our body's stress response, also known as our fight or flight response. They work to secrete some of our most important hormones such as pregnenolone, adrenaline, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol. When our bodies are in a constant state of stress, we tax our adrenals and it can cause a hormonal ricochet effect. And low adrenal function (due to ongoing taxation) can cause a diminished thyroid function to become much worse.

According to my dear friend and doctor of Chinese medicine, Dr. Sarah Emily Sajdak, hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue are often caused by  “Spleen Qi Deficiency.” In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Spleen is in charge of receiving food and fluids we ingest, and transforming them into useful nutrients needed to fuel our body. When the Spleen underperforms, you might experience fatigue, low appetite, and generally feel “slow.” Untransformed fluids will build up, causing weight gain, puffiness, bloating and/or constipation.  

So what can we do about it?

Remove stimulants:

  • 86 the caffeine as it’s likely part of the reason your adrenals are fatigued to begin with.  Caffeine stimulates the brain and each sip of coffee sends a message to your pituitary glands signaling your adrenals to produce cortisol and adrenaline.  As a result, on-going consumption of coffee causes our bodies to be in constant fight or flight mode.  No thanks!


  • Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen and is a strong choice when it comes to adrenal support as it works to lower cortisol, the stress hormone. Holy basil and licorice roots are two other adaptogens know to provide powerful adrenal support.
  • Get your B vitamins on: Low levels of B vitamins, especially B12, are linked with adrenal stress. (FYI, low levels of B vitamins are found commonly in women and also in vegetarians.
  • Magnesium has also been reported to be a strong support when it comes to healthy adrenals. Plus, it can also lessen symptom of PMS and support sleep.

Manage your stress:

  • Being under constant stress can make adrenal fatigue and thyroid issues go from bad to worse. Here at BHH we’re big proponents of meditation and breath work to manage stress. Getting yourself into a daily practice can really go a long way. See some of our exercises here.

Eat sea vegetables:  

  • For my hypothyroid patients, I commonly recommend a regimen that includes iodine-rich foods such as sea vegetables.  Kelp, arame, hiziki, kombu and wakame are all iodine-rich options that can be worked into salads, buddha bowls or as great sides.  They contain anywhere from 10-2000% the recommended daily value of iodine so they’re perfect foods for thyroid support.  

Avoid raw cruciferous vegetables:

  • Hypothyroid sufferers should be wary of cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, kale and broccoli.  These foods, though very healthy for some, contain goitrogens which can prevent the absorption of iodine—a much needed mineral for healthy thyroid function.

Try acupuncture:

  • Using acupuncture and Chinese herbs, I will usually boost the Spleen’s energy so it can better perform its function of transforming nutrients into energy,” says Sarah. “This can be roughly translated as boosting and strengthening the digestive system and overall metabolism.” Sounds good to us!

Check in with your doctor:

  • Thyroid imbalances, especially hyperthyroidism, can be extremely dangerous.  If you suspect you may have thyroid impairment, schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable endocrinologist in your area.  They will likely test your TSH, T3, T4 and reverse T3 to get the full picture of how your thyroid is functioning.  


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