Sweeten the Deal This Valentine's Day: Our Top Picks for Healthy Chocolate
Posted by Amina AlTai on
Put Down That Donut: Our Favorite Healthy Office Snacks
Posted by Julia McVeigh on
In my first job out of college, I worked at an advertising agency in the media department. Now, media is one of those businesses where you’re constantly being wined and dined, schmoozed, and generally solicited; after all, you are buying expensive ad space from commission-hungry sales representatives. As such, there were constantly (and I do mean constantly) goodies being sent our way in order to curry favor. I’m talking about designer cupcakes, fresh cookies, obscure bacon-flavored everything, and plenty of seasonal popcorn. As you can imagine, our department snacked a lot. Me included!
That novelty eventually wore off when I realized that my daily afternoon cookie-cupcake combo didn’t just leave me bloated, it left me feeling depleted of energy and, puzzlingly, hungry. Even if you don’t work in a business where goodies galore are always available, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: That afternoon witching hour comes, you “treat yourself” to a donut / sugary latte / Pop-Tarts from the vending machine (after all, you’ve worked so hard today) and you feel awful thirty minutes later. An hour later, you’re starving and exhausted. WHY!?
That, my friends, is not because you’re snacking – it’s because you’re noshing on the wrong things. Sugar and refined carbohydrates cause your blood sugar to spike rapidly, resulting in a “crash” afterward. Hence: You’re hungry, irritable, tired, and craving more sugar… again.
Fear not, brave office snackers. Ahead, we’re sharing some of our favorite office-friendly snack – read on!
LEMON & WATER
I’m sure you’re all like, is this for real? WATER!? It is, people. Because the first thing many of us don’t realize when we go a-snackin’ is that we’re not hungry, we’re just thirsty. So now our go-to snacking technique is to down a glass of lemon-infused H20. Lemon is detoxifying, plus gives the drink a little pizazz which makes it feel more like a treat and less like… water. Drink an 8 ounce glass, wait 10-15 minutes, and if you’re still feeling hungry, it’s snack time.
A FOURTH OF AN AVOCADO & SEA SALT
Rich in healthy omega-3 fats, avocados are a great work-friendly snack for several reasons. For one, they leave you feeling fuller and more satiated for longer, which is great news if you’re a serial snacker. In fact, one study showed that eating them could even help curb hunger. They’re also a bonafide brain-friendly food, loaded in Vitamins K, B, and C, as well as folate – which can help improve cognitive function and concentration. Furthermore, healthy fats like avocado have even been found to help boost mood. For anyone who has suffered through the 4pm doldrums, this is great news. We like to sprinkle ours with a nice salt, such as Pink Himalayan or Maldon because we’re fancy (AF: Can we remove this. We are casual but this is a smudge too basic for us.)
A CUP OF BLUEBERRIES
Blubs are infinitely snack-able fruit with a low glycemic index, meaning they won’t trigger the dreaded sugar spike-and-crash. Add in the fact that they’re full of protective antioxidants and soluble fiber, and you’ve got yourself the perfect satisfying office bite. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, trying pairing your blueberries with roughly 1 teaspoon of almond butter on top (eat with a spoon) or a scoop of full-fat and/or coconut plain yogurt.
This one goes out to all of you crunchy-savory cravers who love a good-old fashioned bag of vending machine pretzels. Chickpeas are an awesome alternative, thanks to the fact that they’re fiber rich and filled with protein. But because there is nothing more depressing than eating one of these guys straight from the can, we recommend roasting them with your favorite spices; we love rosemary and lemon or chili, cumin, and turmeric to provide some antioxidant activity. They’ll come out nice and crispy and zesty…and will totally make you forget your old friends Rold Gold and Synder’s…
Our ongoing obsession is with homemade protein balls, aka little bites of goodness that keep you full and are fun to eat, too. These Cashew-Coconut-Vanilla Balls are a great choice; they’re loaded in good fats, high in protein (duh), and have just enough sweetness to satiate your inner cupcake fiend. Because after all, you deserve a little treat.
How to Protect Yourself From That Office Cold
Posted by Julia McVeigh on
Is there anything more disheartening than learning that a nasty cold is slowly and ominously circulating its way through your office? Ugh. Just thinking about it makes us shudder a little. This year, don’t brace yourself for the worst – be prepared to be your best. Ahead, we’re sharing some smart tactics for avoiding the dreaded office cold. Read on!
Eliminate Bad Bacteria…
It’s something you learned in kindergarten: Germs spread. And they’ll accumulate and flourish if you don’t take the measures to eliminate them, particularly in the midst of an office-wide sickness outbreak. While good personal hygiene goes a long way here (we don’t need to tell you to wash your hands after the bathroom), you’ll need to be more vigilant about your personal surroundings, too. So use this as an opportunity to clean your desk thoroughly.
Begin with your computer: Keyboards and mice are notoriously dirty, with one study finding that they contain more harmful bacteria than a toilet seat. Woof. Next, wipe down all surfaces, ideally using a non-toxic cleaner (we love Seventh Generation) and/or a diluted antibacterial essential oil like tea tree, oregano, or eucalyptus. Toss any old trash, clean out old food (you’d be shocked what you find in a desk drawer), and generally try and keep as spick-and-span as possible during this time.
…But Embrace Good Bacteria
Modern research like this continues to point to the very important role our gut bacteria – also known as our microbiome – plays in supporting a healthy immune system. To summarize a complex concept simply, a flourishing microbiome can help regulate proper immune function; oppositely, a disruption in healthy gut bacteria is now linked to autoimmune issues. It’s critical, then, that we eat to support our “good” bacteria, particularly during times of vulnerability. Fermented, probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso are all good bacteria-supporting choices. Bad choices? Refined sugars, processed or fried foods, red meat, and gluten. Why not swap your afternoon coffee for a kombucha?
Watch Your Stress Levels
This is always good advice, as the medical community at large acknowledges that prolonged stress can ravage the immune system and suppress its response to bacteria and viruses. So managing stress well is particularly prescient during ye olden office plague outbreak. This means taking plenty of mental breaks, engaging in mindfulness activities (from breathing to stretching to walking), and making time outside of work for self-care. We love evening baths, yoga, and reading: All great activities when it’s chilly outside.
It seems like counterintuitive sickness-prevention advice (after all, shouldn’t you be cozied up in bed?), but working out is an excellent way to ward off a cold. Indeed, one study found that women who engaged in 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days per week were three times less likely to develop a respiratory infection than their non-exercising counterparts. So, unless you’re feeling sick yourself, don’t use the threat of the sniffles as reason to excuse yourself from getting your sweat on.
Sip While You Work
Feel something coming on? The old adage of “lots of liquids” is still sound advice here. Not only do they help break up mucus (sorry) and keep you hydrated, selecting the right fluids can boost your immunity, too. Both research and your grandma make an argument that bone broth (aka old-fashioned chicken noodle soup) as an amazing immune system supporter. We’re also huge fans of lemon, manuka honey, and hot water: Lemon is detoxing while manuka honey has antibacterial properties. Drink up!
How The Specific Carbohydrate Diet is Helping Heal My Gut
Posted by Amina AlTai on
I became a health coach partly as a way to learn the information I'd need to manage my own health. As a marketer with a big career in NYC I was overstressed, developed two autoimmune diseases and really needed to reimagine my relationship with food and, well, everything.
While my celiac disease and Hashimoto's are under control thanks to a clean diet, stress management, and a kick-ass workout schedule, I still have good days and bad. The last few months I've been working to manage a bacterial infection, parasites, and ongoing allergies thanks to a leaky gut. I've tried every supplement, every leaky gut protocol and every healer (I'll seriously spend money on anything promising to get me well!) but there are still a few niggling things that just don't feel right. Namely, mega stomach cramps and major water retention mostly in my face. And while my grandmother swears said cheeks will keep me looking younger for longer, no one wants #MoonFace. So, I decided to try a SCD or Specific Carbohydrate Diet.
"What on earth is that," you ask? As you might have guessed, the SCD is about eating very specific types of carbohydrates based on their molecular structure. While it was designed mainly for those managing conditions such as Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease and other chronic ailments, when implemented correctly, it can be a healthy and helpful approach to eating for most people. The approved carbohydrates are monosaccharides which have a single molecule structure allowing them to be absorbed much easier than disaccharides and polysaccharides as complex carbs are not easily digested; in fact, they actually feed the bad bacteria in our gut -- thus perpetuating inflammation and harmful bacteria. Thanks but no thanks.
So, what exactly is allowed? Foods like almond butter (woo!), lentils and grapes fall in the "yes" category while agave syrup, chickpeas and pasta all fall into the "no" bucket. You can see a full list here. While I'm only a few weeks into my SCD, I already feel noticeably better and my cheeks well, smaller. But don't take my word for it. A recent study found that SCD in patients with IBD had notable changes in their microbiome—which impacts everything from our immunity to dopamine and serotonin levels. So, if you've tried everything and nothing has worked, it might be time to give up the quinoa.
Bye, Meal Kits – How To Pre-Plan (and Cook!) Healthy Meals
Posted by Julia McVeigh on
If you’re a busy professional – or full-time parent – pulling together a week of healthy meals can feel downright heroic, if not impossible. After all, doing so requires both time and energy: Precious commodities when your day feels packed from sunrise to sunset. As such, “meal kits” have become popular solutions to that problem; some enable you to easily prepare a healthy meal while others deliver a pre-prepared, ready-to-eat solution at your door. Genius, right?
Well, anyone who has used a meal kit service knows there are downfalls, the main one being price – they can be prohibitively expensive. For example, one unnamed organic meal delivery service costs over $80 per day. Even those of us who are cooking newbies understand that number is very, very high.
We’re here to tell you that you don’t need to choose between wellness and price to have a week of healthy meals ready. It all comes down to words: meal prep.
Ideally this happens on Sunday afternoons, a time where you have more bandwidth to prep and cook. And we’re not talking super-complicated dishes here; these are simple, batch-style items that you can mix-and-match throughout the week. Ready? Let’s do this.
START WITH PROTEIN
Take chicken breast, for example: This is a versatile ingredient that can be prepped hundreds of ways. We recommend creating three different varieties – for example: lemon and rosemary, jerk seasoning, and tarragon and thyme – and cooking them all at the same time using tin foil as a separation tool for your baking tray. Use this protein as a meal centerpiece at dinner or as a salad topping at lunch.
ROAST DEM VEGGIES
Cut up sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower…whatever type of veggie you love. We’re all about staying seasonal here, so right now we’re cooking wintertime root vegetables. Dress ‘em with quality extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and/or whatever additional spices you fancy. Pop the whole thing into the oven for 30 minutes on high heat (425 degrees Farenheit) and boom! You have five days worth of gorgeous vegetables to nosh on all week. Consider these your standby ingredients throughout the week – snack on them, eat them at lunch in a big bowl, or use them as dinner sides.
While you are prepping your roasted veggies, reserve some chopped, uncooked ones for the week ahead, too. These are great for snacking and for use in a lunchtime salad. Oh yeah, lest we forget: Be sure you have some regular old salad materials on hand – spinach, arugula, and kale… whatever you prefer. Wash them on Sunday so that they’re ready to use throughout the week.
GET YOUR GRAIN ON
Make a big pot of quinoa or a similar grain to be your go-to starch for the week; we use it in everything from a quinoa cereal to an evening stir-fry. We also love cooking big batches of legumes (chickpeas, black beans) on Sundays; they’re an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber and will keep you fuller longer. Vegetarians, be sure you’re consuming plenty of ‘em!
MAKE YOUR SMOOTHIE (BAG)
If you’ve purchased ingredients like berries and spinach for your morning smoothie, why not prep it ahead of time? Just place the fruits and veggies necessary for a single smoothie in a sandwich bag pop it in the freezer. Come the morning, you’ll pull it out, add milk and/or any dry ingredients, and you’re ready to rock. Or blend. Whatever.
PREPARE PROTEIN SNACKS
We are all familiar with the afternoon crash – the one that has us chugging coffee and snacking on donuts. Well, keeping lots of filling, low-sugar protein snacks on hand can help you avoid that. We love items like hard-boiled eggs or protein balls (here’s a great recipe if you’re unfamiliar with the latter). For those of you who are super low maintenance, try pre-bagging protein-rich nuts – almonds, walnuts – for quality snacking on the run.
SLOW COOKERS ARE YOUR BFF
Sundays were made for slow cooker meals, right? Luckily, these are the types of dishes that actually get better when you refrigerate or freeze them. We love making things like beef chili, hearty bean-based soups, or slow-cooked proteins for Sunday dinner and then popping leftovers into the freezer. Pair them throughout the week with some of your grains and roasted vegetables and you’ll have a downright easy and delicious meal.
LASTLY: STAY BASIC AF
Are you an almond butter fiend? Do you go through coconut oil like it’s your job? Are rolled oats your morning jam? Be sure you always stay stocked up on these go-to ingredients, using Sundays to check up on your inventory and repurchase, if necessary. We prefer to buy them in bulk, particularly when they’re on sale – Thrive Market is a great resource for this.