Life Hack: The Daily Dozen App

I recently discovered an app I really think is great called The Daily Dozen. On it is a list of foods you should be eating every single day, with spaces for a checkmark next however many servings of that food you should be having. For instance, there’s three spaces next to beans, one space next to berries, and two spaces next to greens. You can check in to the app throughout the day to keep track of the “superfoods” you’re eating and over time, hopefully you’ll have trained yourself to put the healthiest foods first in your diet.

There’s a section for grains on there, and I think that’s important to note. A lot of people avoid grains these days because they believe they are inflammatory or cause weight gain. Here’s what I know about whole grains (I’m talking about things like brown rice, oats, and barley here, not Froot Loops with “whole grains”). Eating whole grains is associated with lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Read here  for more information on whole grains and heart disease. Read here for more on whole grains and blood pressure. And read here for more on whole grains and other foods that lower cholesterol. If you are trying to avoid grains in the short term, I support that. Sometimes avoiding a certain food for a month or so can help reduce inflammation and de-sensitize you to that particular food. Then you add the food back in in small amounts to ensure your sensitivity is gone. There are doctors like Dr. David Perlmutter (author of The Grain Brain) who have profited mightily by telling people all grains are bad for you, but I really don’t subscribe to that thinking at all. I *do* believe we Americans have too many grains in our diet, and that most of those grains are of low quality and low nutritional value (think a slice of white bread or a bowl of sugary cereal). However, whole grains have many proven health benefits.

Back to the app. What I love about this new tool is that it also includes things like spices, flaxseeds, and Vitamin D. These recommendations are all rooted in science and have been proven to be beneficial for one or more reasons.

Daily Dozen was created by Michael Gregor,  M.D., who is the founder of NutritionFacts.org and has a podcast called Nutrition Facts with Dr. Gregor.

I think it’s a great daily tool you can use as a fun challenge to clean up your eating habits and add some solid nutrition that will help reduce your risk of disease. Win/win!

You might also like:

Chicken Apple Sausage and Bean Soup

That’s A Wrap for the May Bee (And Why Drinking Coffee Cuts Your Risk of Dying!)

 

Why Would I Spend Money To Do A One Mile Race In The Cold?

Every May for the last three years I’ve paid $20 to enter a 1 mile sprint race in Minneapolis called the Medtronic 1 Mile put on by Twin Cities in Motion. Three out of the three years it’s been windy and cold. And yet I keep coming back each year. “But why” people ask me, “would you spend money to run one ridiculous mile?” I can understand their skepticism. There’s rush hour traffic to battle, anxiety about finding a parking spot, and standing out in the cold waiting for the race to begin. It’s at night, so I’m tired and  my legs aren’t exactly fresh.

But here’s the thing: each year I set a new goal for myself (sometimes it’s a PR and sometimes it’s to finish strong), and it’s a really fun way of pushing a different kind of exercise. Normally I don’t train for sprints. If I’m training for a run it’s usually a 5k or 10k, which is about pacing and tempo. With a 5k or longer race, you take the first mile to get into a rhythm and adjust your thoughts from “why did I do this” to “I’ve got this”. With a mile, it all has to gel very quickly and you can’t spend any time in that negative mental space. This year I failed to train much for the sprint and I spent the entire time cursing my jagged breath and my bad form. I also slowed down just before the finish. Why would I do that?! Next time I will make sure to go strong till the very end.

So will I be back next year? You betcha. It pushes me to use a completely different set of skills that I rarely put into action. Plus, it’s super fun to watch the professional runners crush a mile in 4:03. My phone died as I was recording the women, but here’s what it looks like when you’ve just run a mile in 4:03 (p.s. I look the same way after I run my mile. Professional athletes, they’re just like us!)

My friend Deb and I have been doing the race together the last two years, and while the first year she was super skeptical about it, as soon as she completed her mile she was hooked. She crushed her PR last night and got to ring the bell! Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer during her very first mammogram at age 40 and has been through so much over the past couple of years. She has used running as a tool to deal with all the challenges a cancer diagnoses comes with, and I really couldn’t be prouder of her grit and determination. Deb tells me “The one mile is a ton of fun. And while I’ll never be fast, it’s inspired me to be faster and has made me push myself a little harder in longer runs as well.”  Well, Deb, YOU inspire ME!

Deb ringing the PR bell
Deb ringing the PR Bell

This month, I am calling for you to come up with a challenge that gets you out of your comfort zone. Is it speaking in public? Or trying a new sport? Maybe it’s something as simple as trying to cook a new meal (here’s an easy one if you are new to cooking but want to nail it on the first try). Just pick one thing and give it a go. I want to hear from you: What did you choose? And how did it turn out for you?

Maybe Deb and I will see you next year in the Twin Cities for the 1 Mile!

MEL AND DEB MEDRONIC 1 MILE VERSION 2

You might also like:

My Summer Fitness Plan

Run, jog, slog

Summer Intentions

Every time the seasons change, I use it as an opportunity to reevaluate my routines, habits and goals. I’m what I guess you could call a “serial improver”. For example, setting an intention to eat at least six servings a day of fruit and vegetables several years ago has stuck, and I’ve built on that goal to the point where now I’m regularly eating 9+ servings a day.

Some people are part of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” camp. I am squarely in the other camp. To me, it’s fun and exciting to think about new ways to do things, which is why I obsessively read health and wellness articles and studies. The idea that I can “hack” my health (whether it’s physical or mental) or find new ways to do things like make cooking for my family easier, gets me very excited.

So, I thought I would share what my goals and intentions are for this spring and summer. I would love to hear what yours are, so please make sure to leave a comment at the bottom!

  1. Meditate daily.  This is *always* on my list and I have yet to accomplish a consistent daily practice. And yet, meditating really does benefit me in many ways, such as reduced anxiety, more focus, and better sleep. I love the Headspace app and have been using it for years. With some meditations as short as two or three minutes, there’s really no excuse for not doing it daily.
  2. Blog more consistently. Someone just said to me recently “I really miss your weekly cocktail recipes!” And even though I see the metrics of how many people read my blog each day and I know that I have people logging on from all over the world to read Cultivate Wellness, sometimes I still find it hard to believe. That comment sparked my commitment to be more intentional about my posting schedule.
  3. Add strength training to my weekly routine. I hate it. Like, I really hate it. I have yet to find a way to include it in my workout schedule so that I will actually follow through on a long term basis. Have advice for me? Please share! It’s going on my list, as it always does, because I’m sure that one day I will find a way to do it. It’s very important for people over 40, especially women, to include strength training. Read here for more information on why. One possibility is this 9 Minute Strength Workout.
  4. Stop being the cruise director. This one goes against everything I am. I have been told by lots of friends that one of my strengths is bringing people together and planning new and fun things to do. If a reservation needs making, concert tickets need buying, or trip needs planning, I’m usually the one to step up. I truly do enjoy doing this, but sometimes it feels more like a job than a pleasure. So, I am intentionally going to take a step back from that for the next few months and see what happens. Maybe I’ll free up some energy to strength train 😉

I’m sure I will add more intentions to my list but this seems like a good start. Please comment below with your spring/summer intentions!

You might also like:

New Year’s in September?

Maybe Some New Goals

Friday Night Cocktails: The Watermelon Mint Agua Fresca

agua fresca

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, it’s a new cocktail recipe! But first, if I asked you what the significance of Cinco de Mayo was, would you be able to answer? If you said “Mexican Independence Day” you’d be…not right. Mexican independence is actually celebrated Sept.16. Instead, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. It has really become more of an American holiday excuse to drink margaritas.

Today I would like to introduce you to the Agua Fresca, which is a traditional Mexican drink that when translated means “fresh water”. Aguas Frescas are designed to beat the heat of summer and are refreshing and delicious. They are typically made of fresh fruit, water, and optional sugar. If you want to know more about aguas frescas, click here.

This delicious recipe would be perfect for a BBQ, and I guarantee the kids would love it. To make it “adult”, add a shot of vodka or gin to each serving.

Not for nothing, but watermelon is full of lycopene (actually it has the most lycopene per serving than any fruit or veggie) which is a powerful antioxidant. The lime juice has a good deal of vitamin c and mint is great for soothing the digestive system, which is perfect if you’ve overindulged at the BBQ. If you add just a bit of sugar it makes for a yummy treat that doesn’t include artificial colors, flavors or other additives.

This recipe, adapted from Epicurious, serves about 6.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup sugar

5 cups peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped watermelon (from about a 2 1/2-pound watermelon). Make it easy on yourself and buy pre-chopped watermelon if you desire.

1/4 cup fresh lime juice. I( also like prepared lime juice such as this one. I do this about 50% of the time)

Mint sprigs for serving

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine mint leaves, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small pot. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar has dissolved. Transfer mixture to a heatproof container and chill, uncovered, until cool, about 30 minutes.

Strain mint syrup into a blender; discard mint leaves. Add watermelon and lime juice and blend until very smooth. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain into a pitcher; discard solids. Add 2 cups water and stir well to combine. Serve with mint sprigs. If bubbles are desired, top off with a splash of soda water.

Aqua fresca can be stored in an airtight container and chilled for up to 1 day.

 

Enjoy!

You may also like:

Weekend Cocktails: The Ginger Margarita

Weekend Cocktails: Watermelon Frosé

 

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

Portobello “Burgers”

Last night was Sunday, which made it Crappy Dinner Party night. Haven’t read about our weekly CDP? I recommend doing that right away, and then laying plans for your very own regular Crappy Dinner ASAP.

It was my husband’s birthday this week, so we hosted. He wanted to grill burgers and dogs, which are super yummy and yes please to all of that. However, if you are trying to reduce your red meat consumption or are vegetarian or vegan, I find portobello burgers to be a really worthy substitution. (Recent studies seem to show a correlation between eating meat of any kind of your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Studies also show that eating meat raises your risk of cancer and heart disease. This is not to say you have to give up meat entirely, but rather substitute some of your meat choices for vegetarian choices instead. Click here for an explanation and some tips.) You still get the meaty texture when you bite down, and the mushrooms soak up any delicious marinades you throw their way. Top with sautéed onions, a slice of cheese, and pickles and I guarantee you will enjoy your experience!

Here’s the marinade I use to make my portobello burgers.

INGREDIENTS:

4 portobello mushroom caps

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil (avocado oil has a higher smoke point)

1 large garlic clove, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Mix all ingredients together and pour over the mushroom caps, turning every 15 minutes until time to cook, making sure to pour the mixture into the underside of the mushrooms before grilling. Throw on the grill and cook until desired doneness.

If you’d rather put them in the oven, preheat to 425°, place mushrooms stem side down in a baking dish, and roast for 18-20 minutes.

portobello grilled

You might also like:

New Recipe! Pan Fried Tofu

Easy Posole

Chicken Apple Sausage and Bean Soup

chicken apple sausage and bean soup
Yesterday, I had a package of chicken apple sausage and a craving for soup. I also had beans, onions and diced tomatoes in the pantry and carrots and celery in the fridge. I had a little bit of pesto that needed to be used. So, I created this recipe for dinner last night, which came together with about 15 minutes of prep and the amount of time it took for my InstantPot to go through the “soup” cycle.
The result was a delicious, hearty and healthy soup that my whole family enjoyed. My 13 year old rarely eats a large portion of soup, but she gobbled this one up. My husband went back for seconds.
The thing about chicken apple sausage is that it’s a great ingredient to have on hand, and it lasts a long time in the fridge. I make this easy roasted sausage and vegetable dish about once every other week because it’s hearty and healthy and SO SO EASY.  I have also used it to make this chicken apple sausage pasta. But it’s fun to try new dishes for the same old ingredients, which is how this soup came to be.
The fantastic thing about this soup is that you can add whatever beans you have, whatever veggies you have (diced potatoes, parsnips, whatever other hearty veggies you like) and any seasonings your family enjoys. This recipe is a loose guide, so do whatever sounds good to you. If you prefer chicken broth over veggie, great! If you hate pesto, no worries. If you are a newer chef, once you get the hang of using recipes, you will start to feel more confident in adjusting them to your tastes.
This soup is full of very good things: beans are a wonderful source of protein and fiber and are a great example of a complex carbohydrate (complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly and supply a lower more steady release of glucose into the blood stream, which help you feel fuller longer). The carrots and celery are high in antioxidants and fiber and contain vitamins and minerals like beta carotene and vitamin B6. Garlic and onions are from the allium family and have been linked to reduced risk for breast and colon cancers, not to mention that garlic is a natural antiviral and onions are anti-fungal.  The tomatoes are high in lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant thought to protect the body against many different diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. You can feel good about making this soup and serving it to your family, not just because it’s delicious but because it’s nutrient rich.
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 x 15 oz cans of beans, any variety (good choices include white beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans and black beans) drained and rinsed
  • 16 cups water or broth (if using water, see next ingredient)
  • 4 tsp vegetable base (I like Better Than Bouillon)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juices
  • 2-4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced (to taste)
  • 4 oz prepared pesto (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 package fully-cooked chicken apple sausage (I like Aidells)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive or avocado oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Sauté carrots, celery, garlic and onion on medium high for about 5 minutes in oil, until starting to soften.
  2. Add beans, tomatoes, water, and bouillon and stir.
  3. Add the chicken apple sausage and stir.
  4. Cover and cook on medium low for about 30 minutes, until flavors come together.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in pesto until fully incorporated (pesto is optional)

RECIPE NOTE: You can use an Instant Pot for this recipe. Simply follow instructions 1-3, and then put the lid on and set to “soup” setting. If you want to use a slow cooker, follow instructions 1-3 and put on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6.

This recipe should serve 6-8.

 

You might also like:

Nourishing Lentil, Ham and Potato Soup

One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta

Vegetarian Wild Rice Salad

Your Immune System

allergy-cold-disease-flu-41284.jpeg

Flu season is rampant this year, with a strain that isn’t well matched to the vaccine (current estimates place it at about a 10-30% match). While getting the flu vaccine is at the top of my family’s to-do list every fall (here is a good overview on why we believe in the flu vaccine), there are other things we do to support our immune system, like eating healthy foods, getting exercise, and supplementing with Vitamin D. I also take a daily zinc supplement (read here about why zinc is important).

There can be many reasons for why our immune system isn’t functioning at optimal levels, including drinking too much alcohol, having high stress levels, and eating too many refined carbs/sugars. While getting sick from common viruses like colds and enterovirus (aka: stomach flu) is quite normal, if you find yourself getting sick often, it’s worth it to get checked out for underlying causes.

Even though I know all the things to do in order to keep my immune system in good shape, I still get sick a couple of times a year. We can’t always nip our stress in the bud as quickly as we would like, or it’s the holidays and we are partaking in more rich food and alcohol than we normally do (not to mention our exercise routines tend to go out the window in November and December). Keep this handy info page taped to your fridge or mirror to remind yourself of all the ways that you can naturally help your immune system be stronger.  And remember, this information should never take the place of a discussion with your doctor or trusted health professional, and never start a supplement without first talking to your medical professional.

immune system page 1

Immune system page 2