Keystone Habit graphic

Everybody has their one thing. Something that when you do it, it makes other good decisions happen. That’s your keystone habit and it is the secret to unlocking a healthy life.

You know those days when everything just seems to click. You are on fire! Maybe you started your day with a really healthy breakfast. Maybe you got in an amazing workout or broke away for a mid-day yoga class. Maybe you spent the first 5 minutes at your desk pinpointing your top 3 must-do priorities for your day instead of checking email. Whatever it is, there is a magic in finding your keystone habit.

In one of my favorite books, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, numerous studies are cited about willpower and discipline. Just reading those words can feel exhausting, right? One more thing to do? And this time of year, when most of us have reached the end of our willpower bucket trying to achieve often lofty resolution goals, it can feel overwhelming to think about creating another habit.

But the beautiful thing about building a habit is that it automates and makes doing a task easier. Who doesn’t want life’s daily tasks to be easier?

Tweet: By creating a habit, you automate a daily task – making it easier to complete with less effort.

And a keystone habit has a unique ripple effect. The research shows that when we make one right decision – like getting in that morning workout instead of hitting snooze, we strengthen our willpower muscle, if you will. We then have the ability to resist the donuts at the office with greater confidence. We are better able to filter comments to that annoying coworker. And we have the discipline to have a glass of sparkling water when we get home rather than a glass of wine.

So what is your keystone habit? For me, it is working out in the morning…but not just any old workout. When I do an intense workout – like Insanity (my current favorite because the results are sick!), I find that I want to eat a healthy breakfast, I start drinking much more water than I normally would have and after several days I have more energy that makes me want to move throughout the day.

Of course you don’t magically become a healthy decision machine after one bowl of oatmeal. But after practicing your keystone habit for several days (see the discipline building in that?), then you have the muscle to make more right decisions.

So now I’m dying to hear from all of you. What is your keystone habit? Join the Facebook conversation about this topic. Share your best tips. You don’t want to miss the discussion.



photo credit: Keymaster (HDR) via photopin (license)


We all seem to be a little more environmentally-conscious these days. Even if we aren’t really doing anything to improve our carbon footprints, we at least know what one is.

We’ve heard reports about ice caps melting, we’ve seen crazy weather patterns dumping feet of snow in certain areas of the country (sorry Boston), and we’ve been told that our habits are going to lead to the eventual doom of our planet.

In our day-to-day lives though, it can seem that the problem is too large to solve with a simple switch from paper towels to a cloth towel on your kitchen counter. And while turning off the water when you brush your teeth might help reduce your water bill and help you feel better about yourself, there is one real solution that few people are talking about but could be the key to substantial change.


I’m talking about eating less meat.


Let me be clear, I am not a vegetarian and I am not asking you to be one either. To me a life without cheese isn’t worth living.

So if you don’t go cold-turkey(less) entirely, will the occasional meatless meal really make a difference? You might be surprised!

Eating meatless just one day a week has a greater impact than eating 100% locally-sourced foods. It is the equivalent to driving 1,000 fewer miles per year. And for those diving in “whole-hog”, going vegan has a greater impact than trading your gas guzzling SUV for a Prius.

Why pick on meat? Meat consumption accounts for 18% of total world-wide greenhouse gas emissions. Producing that steak on your plate takes more land, water, and energy resources than a plant-based protein entrée would. And per calorie, red meat ranks higher than chicken, eggs or fish in its impact on the Earth.


All of this mentions nothing about the proven health benefit of a plant-based diet. We know that half of our plate volume should come from vegetables and fruits, but imagine the impact of your health by rounding out that meal with whole grains and plant-based proteins like beans, lentils or nuts. You’d be saving the Earth and rocking your figure at the same time! Go, you!

This approach of not really being a vegetarian but just trying to eat meat less often actually has an official name – it’s called being a Flexitarian. I love this term because it seems so forgiving. You aren’t forced into an all-or-nothing lifestyle to be healthy and make a difference.
You can still have the occasional burger and save the planet too. Graham Hill, founder of explains his Weekday Vegetarian approach quite beautifully in his TED talk – which happens to be one of my favorite TED talks. If you are still on the fence, check it out.

How does this translate into your daily choices?

Here are some very concrete ways to get started eating in a more flexitarian, Earth-friendly way.

• Make Meatless Mondays a routine in your household
• Consider being a 2-day Veg(itarian) or a Weekday Vegetarian like Graham Hill
• Limit red meat to no more than once a week and opt for pasture-fed or “free range” beef when you eat red meat
• Eat sustainably farmed seafood at least twice a week
• Increase the number of “go to” recipes you have for lentil, high-protein grain, bean and nut-based entrées.
• Start a small garden to promote eating more plants. I built my own and love that my kids think cherry tomatoes are tempting enough to eat straight from the vine as they walk by. You can get my simple construction plan here.
• Eat plants that are in season from your local Farmers’ Market since they are often more flavorful and nutritious when fresh and in season. When produce has to be flown in from half-way around the world, it is often bland and has lost nutrients – not to mention the increased cost!

So challenge yourself to be an Earth Day Flexitarian. Saving the planet one plate at a time shouldn’t feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders. Taking a more flexitarian approach is about making slow, mindful improvements on how and what you eat. The impact on your budget and your waistline are often equally as rewarding.


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Photo credit: Creative Commons Cows Grazing author Frank Vincentz

Earth Day Flexitarian pin

I am a lucky girl. I have a wonderful family, comfortable home, amazing friends and yet I struggle with the same pull for perfectionism as many of you.

Yet, my luckily life brings me harsh lessons at seemingly perfect times. This week I had the great fortune of meeting Glennon Doyle Melton, the refreshingly honest blogger behind Glennon makes speaking from the heart seem effortless and comical and essentially sweet all at the same time. Thanks to my friend Laurie and an amazing (spontaneous) group of women, we formed a “book club” that allowed us to meet Glennon from the comfort of her closet…I mean, how could you NOT love this lady?

Book Club with Glennon

In the midst of our conversation about her book, it’s raw and revealing stories, and her underlying message of love I was struck by her pull to start a blog so that she could write about the truth…well, actually the “truthiest truths” as she calls them. Those messages that are at the heart of every one of us.

It was a slap to the face for me, because that is EXACTLY what I wanted to do with this blog – except with a health spin.

I have worked for years in health care, helping people to find wellness through better nutrition, physical fitness, and healthy ways of managing stress. Yet, it was the struggle and feeling of futility in the quest of many following fads diets and trendy programs that made me want to help people see the TRUTH of living well.

Lately, I have been in a state of apathy over my blog, not “feeling it” anymore because it didn’t feel like a reflection of what I wanted to do. It seemed too pretty, too perfect and that was certainly not the expectation of nor the pressure I wanted to add upon my readers. Thanks to Glennon, I have remembered my original pull to write!

So my lovely readers, I am going back to telling the truthiest truths about health. You will see some changes coming with the layout and hopefully the “flair” in which the information is presented. And in the spirit of truth, I’m going to be honest…I’m no techie, so this transition may take some time. Hang with me and I promise, I’ll help you find the truth about how you can live well – not perfect, but well.

And feel free to share what you want to see on this blog too. It’s intended for you, after all. Let’s get to the truth together!


Be Happy for your Heart

We finally got snow in the Portland area – I know that many of you want to throw a snowball at your computer at that statement, having suffered a brutal winter! As I was sledding with my son yesterday, I was reminded of how important it is to be happy! And not just because I saw this heart-shaped patch of roadway showing through the snow last night…you see it, right?

Heart in snow

Today is also Wear Red Day, a national awareness campaign to remind everyone that heart disease is the #1 killer of women – not breast cancer…heart disease! Having had two loved ones close to me suffering strokes and a family history of heart disease, I know how important it is to live a heart-healthy life.

While I work to exercise regularly, control stress and eat right, the best thing I’ve found that supports heart-health in my life is being happy.

Of course happy people tend to eat better, sleep better, and do all of the things that are better for your heart anyway. But science has proven that happiness, in and of itself, is protective for your heart.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at over 200 studies that showed optimistic people have a 50% reduced risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event, as compared to people who are much less optimistic. One researcher went so far as to say “The most important aspect of well-being is how individuals feel about themselves.”

We are so quick to look at all of our weaknesses, to focus on areas we have failed rather than to celebrate our victories – no matter how small! Want to do your heart a favor today? Celebrate the fact that you got a good night sleep because you went to bed on time when you were tempted to check out your Facebook updates. Celebrate the fact that you drank more water this week than you have been drinking and drank far fewer sodas -regular or diet. Celebrate that you went to the gym twice, even if your goal was to go 5 times this week, because twice is better than none at all! Celebrate that you stopped, took a deep breath, and didn’t reply with emotion to that upsetting email at work this week. You did these things…YOU!

When we are able to be kind to ourselves, our hearts soften to the ability to be kind to others too. Practicing understanding, not assuming we know someone else’s story, and giving people a break. Most of us are just trying. And that some days is worth being kind. It’s amazing how that kindness-karma comes back to you!

I was recently talking to Macey, a fellow blogger (at a PDX Bloggers meeting – happy to share a shout out) about a new project she has taken on. Realizing that we are all in a state of trying to “complete ourselves” (curse you, Jerry Maguire!), she has created an online magazine called [IN]Complete – genius, right? It’s about loving yourself where you are. It doesn’t mean that you can work on being better, but it means that you don’t loathe yourself during the process. Wherever you are, you can find happiness!

Personally, if I need a happiness boost, I turn to music. Here are 3 of my favorite songs lately that are oozing with happiness.

  1. Be Okay by Oh Honey
  2. Happy from Despicable Me 2
  3. Best Day of My Life by American Authors

So on this heart-healthy day in this heart-healthy month, be proud of what you have accomplished and focus less on the areas where you need to improve…you can work on being even more awesome, but acknowledge that you are awesome.  Every story has adversity. Sure there will be challenges for the hero or heroine in your story, but you will prevail. Love yourself for that.

What do you want the next chapter to be? What are you proud of? Take a minute to leave a comment to share your successes below. Your heart will be healthier for it!


 DeliciouslyWell successful goal setting and coaching

I hear so many people say that they don’t make resolutions anymore because they know they will fail. Yet, I’m a firm believer in making or revising goals in January. It is a perfect time to reflect on what you really want to achieve in the upcoming year.

So why do we have such a hard time reaching our goals?

It’s true we often set goals that are too vague and without any kind of timeline. We also fall short in determining the steps needed to actually achieve the goal and fail to schedule the time to do the work needed.

But I believe the surprising reason we often fall short of our dreams is the lack of vision around our goals.

It’s easy to buy into commercialized promises of what life will be like when we reach our goals. If you drink that detox beverage for the next 30 days, will you really be prancing around in a bikini? Or will you spend the next 30 days irritable and in the bathroom, only to follow the 30-day starvation with a binge?

Rather than listening to commercials, think of what you ultimately want? We set goals to lose weight or to exercise more, but what is it that we really hope to achieve? We think we are “supposed” to do these things because it is good for us, so we set a goal and lose momentum…all because our vision is unclear.

Maybe we have a blurry idea of what we want. We hold on to general concepts like “being happy”, but we aren’t specific enough in what that kind of life looks like on a daily basis.

Really take a minute to think about what you want. Consider how your life will be different when you achieve your goal. If you lose weight, what will that mean? Yes, your doctor will be happy with you and maybe your spouse, mom, or whomever might stop pressuring you, but what will it mean to YOU? Maybe it will give you the freedom to travel without being embarrassed when trying to buckle the seatbelt in the plane. Maybe it will give you the energy to play with grandkids or kids without having to sit on the park bench and watch. Maybe it will make you feel more attractive and confident because you can dress in clothes that make you feel sexy again.

The point is that we should set goals for a reason. A possible benefit we hope to achieve (or a negative consequence we want to avoid…like Diabetes). When we can envision our lives after having reached the goal, we can tell if it is a goal that WE truly want (as opposed to one that someone else tells you to strive for) AND it gives us insight to our deepest motivators. No cash incentive or free gym bag is going to be better than that.  A clear vision also allows for us to know when we’ve successfully achieved the goal. Reaching a certain number on the scale might not bring the results you are looking for, but going shopping and trying something on from the rack that actually makes you feel awesome will be all the confirmation you need.

If you need a little help determining what your ultimate goals are and how to make them a reality, check out a little more about my individual coaching services. And please take a minute to leave a comment below about your goals, your vision, or your obstacles. We all have them! I would love to hear what works for you and what greatness you have planned.

photo credit: Victor Björklund via photopin cc

How To Be Ultra Efficient this Holiday Season

This goes against everything I have told you about time management so far. It might even go against what I believe as a health professional. But holidays are an insanely busy time like no other, so my recommendations are like no other time during the year.

Normally, I believe that to-do’s and tasks should be placed on your calendar so you can block out the time needed to accomplish them without the stress of a mile-long to-do list that is never complete. Normally, I believe in saying “no” and respecting the boundaries of what you can realistically do in order to maintain your health. I still believe in these things, but holidays are not your normal routine. Expectations are high and the pressure to do more is very real.

I still believe that everyone can benefit from streamlining and simplifying to that which is really most important during the holidays, but I know that many of you are reading that and thinking “blah, blah, blah…tell me how I’m going to get it all done.” So, I felt the need to share some of my strategies for being ready to tackle some serious task management at a moment’s notice.

I want to remind you that you can’t please everyone; there may be some things that you have to accept will be cut from your list. Most importantly, you will NOT have the energy to make it through the holiday season without getting sick or worse unless you take good care of yourself. Being ultra-efficient means you are going to have to eat right, exercise, get sleep and take a minute or two on your busiest days to stop. To breathe. To go to a quiet place – bathroom, closet, where ever you have to retreat to find peace and quiet.

Now that you have been properly oriented, let’s get started. Holiday efficiency is all about organization. If you have to go back to a store and wait in a painfully long line twice because you forgot something on the first trip, you just cost yourself some precious time. Whether it is shopping, party planning, or traveling, being prepared is the secret to a smooth holiday season.

To help you be the perfect planner, I have created a few worksheets that will really help. The first is my Ultra Efficient Holiday Task Planner – this one is updated for 2014! I broke down November and December into individual weeks and included some common task reminders. There is extra space for you to add your own personal to-do’s – church pageants, family traditions, and other engagements. The more you work this planner, the better off you’ll be. Get in the habit of making to-do lists for all of that holiday metal clutter. When you have a mind full of chatter, it is hard to focus and accomplish anything.

Plan to complete tasks a week or two before you need them done to prevent the stress of unexpected delays. Keep your list with you so you can cross something off when even 10 minutes unexpectedly opens up or you are running an errand and the chance to accomplish a task is available. You might want to put these pages in a binder with other supplies and information to help further maximize your time. For instance, if you have holiday cards, stamps and printed address labels with you when are waiting for a doctor’s appointment or on mass transit during your morning commute, you can knock out assembly.

Ultra Efficient Task Planner

The second worksheet is my Holiday Budget Planner. There are two sizes – a large format (8.5”x11”) or a smaller version that is perfect for carrying with you for impromptu shopping opportunities.  It is not only a great place to keep track of who you need to buy for and ideas on what and where you buy those gifts, but it helps you stay within your pre-determined budget. This will save you a lot of stress in January! Be sure you take the time to list everyone you will buy for, including extra gratuities and donations you plan on making, then total and make sure it is a number you can afford. Don’t forget to include the cost of decorations, gift wrap and shipping, holiday traditions and outings, and extra food or hostess gifts. Aside from our gift giving alone, we can spend a lot of money other ways during the holidays and you don’t want to be surprised by the added expense.

Holiday Budget Planner

Remember that some of the most thoughtful gifts can be the ones that cost the least – giving of your time, something thoughtful from your kitchen or a photograph or letter from a memorable day. Gifts should reflect your heart-felt sentiments rather than a dollar value.

Taking the time to use these worksheets will save you in the long run. Be sure to take care of yourself and save some time for actually enjoying the season. We put so much work into making holidays special that we should savor the joys that this time of the year brings.

 Savor Your Food Mindfully

I  recently returned from the International Food Blogging Conference (IFBC) with a full tummy and a spinning mind. While my to-do list has mushroomed with ideas of all the exciting ways that I can improve this blog for you, my dear readers, I am most impressed by the fellow bloggers I met at the conference.

As a Dietitian, so many of the conferences I go to are very technical and all of the food is healthfully served with the calorie-conscious in mind. This isn’t to say in any way that Dietitians lack an appreciation for food, but go to a Food Bloggers conference and you will see people who REALLY love food. And they are not just enjoying the food, but sampling and dissecting each ingredient with every taste bud they can muster all while they are imagining endless ways of reinventing the dish in a variety of new ways. It was an environment that seemed free of the endless mind-chatter that usually occurs over food.

We have become a society of bipolar eaters with schizophrenic tendencies. We either dive into eating with little regard for thought or consequence, or we scrutinize every morsel with painstaking guilt and remorse. One in 5 people admit that meal times “are a battle in my head”. What a shame for something that we do multiple times each day.

Food is meant to be enjoyed. Say it with me – Food is meant to be enjoyed. We have taste buds for a reason. Yes, a healthy diet is still about balance and moderation, but it is also about the joy that comes from the aromas bellowing from a kitchen, the masterpiece of a colorful presentation and the mouth-feel of the first bite. Mealtime shouldn’t be reduced to a mental debate about what to eat or not. If any of the following seems all too familiar, it is time to stop and take a serious look at how we behave around food.

  • Eating in private or secrecy
  • Feeling out of control when food is available
  • Inability to concentrate on or participate in conversation in social situations with food
  • Feeling guilty for hours after consuming food
  • Feeling hate, disgust or shame after eating

I know in my years of working with people, especially in the area of weight loss, that healthy eating is about so much more than the foods we choose. Healthy eating is about how we use food in our lives. If you are going to eat something decadent, I want you to choose a reasonable portion (the size of your head is too much) and I want you to slowly take in eat bite with all of your senses. Enjoy it with friends, talk about the experience, be grateful for the food. That is the behavior I observed last weekend being surrounded by fellow food bloggers. The goal is to be educated, be in control, and be secure in the decisions you make. Don’t be embarrassed to seek the help of a trained professional. We should all be able to enjoy the daily joy of food.



photo credit: .craig via photopin cc

Back to School Survival Guide

Living in Oregon, my kids are lucky to have one of the later back-to-school seasons of the entire country. Yet, it is official…summer schedules of camps, relaxed meal times, and slightly lazier mornings have come to an end. While kids are joining forces in a collective “noooo”, parents are doing a little happy dance…that is until the realities of back-to-school kick in.

Having endured the hunt to obtain all items on the ridiculously-detailed list of school supplies, many parents are reminded of the tighter morning routine, after school activities, homework and the dreaded packing of lunches. Have no fear! I have a few simple tips, tricks, and resources that are going to make back-to-school a breeze.

Back-to-School Survival Tip 1 - Routine

 P.M. Routine

I believe a good day starts with a good night…and a good night, starts with a good afternoon. Create an after school snack station with easy to grab snacks, a fruit basket, or allow your children to make their own trail mix. Have juices and chocolate milks or good old water available too.

After School Snack Station


Establish a homework time and no tv/electronics times and zones to allow for uninterrupted work.
Let your kids burn off pent-up classroom energy by being active.

Allow for some time to play outside or if weather is a factor, determine indoor options for letting them run and play.

Before going to bed, make sure to lay out clothes, prepack as much of the lunch as possible (more below), and get a good night’s sleep.

A.M. Routine

Hectic mornings are much more tolerable when you don’t have to make as many decisions. Have list of possible breakfast options that are easy and realistic – no Pinterest pressure here! You’d rather your kids have a low stress morning than bring on the craziness that comes with trying to create a Belgium waffle bar.

Have backpacks and other bags/supplies in designated spaces (see below) – this includes you, mom…have place for keys, purse, etc. to help everyone get out the door on time.

Adjust Your Routine as Needed

If something isn’t working, make an adjustment. Maybe you aren’t able to get everyone ready and out the door on time? Wake up 15 minutes earlier or turn off all TV’s (news too) 30 minutes before it is time to go. Even subtle distractions can slow you down.

Remember that each teacher, each school year is different. What worked last year may not work as well this year. Every new after school activity can also cause a change in the routine. Be willing to make adjustments each season to keep things running smoothly.

Back-to-School Tip 2 - Organize 

Every well-organized home has some type of launch pad, or area near the point of entry that contains the items needed to head out the door. For Back-to-School survival, your launch pad should contain not just backpacks, keys and purses, but shoes, jackets, even sporting equipment need a designated place to return and be found.

Consider adding a file box to contain papers brought home from school. Keep a calendar in this area so everyone is reminded of appointments and activities.

Back-to-School Tip 3 - Lunches

Lunch Idea Round Up

There are a TON of examples of cute little bento box lunches and other healthy lunch ideas, so I felt no need to recreate that wheel. I will however, give you a roundup of these links so you can easily peruse these for inspiration.

As a warning, some of these links are MUCH cuter and time consuming than I would possibly tackle, so don’t feel bad if your kids get a lunch that isn’t picture-perfect.


Wendolina – a great blog that gives healthy lunch ideas, reviews products, you name it!
100 Days of Real Food – This site is full of great ideas for healthy lunches
Easy Lunch Box Lunches – A Pinterest page FULL of mouth-watering ideas and adorable lunch boxes
Laptop Lunches – Unbelievable amount of ideas for all members of the family, all seasons of the year.

Sometimes making lunches look so darn appealing comes down to cute containers that are as fabulous as they are functional. Here are a few of my favorite lunch box essentials.

Lunchbox Essentials

1. Bentos are all the rage, but I think kids love the divided sections that allow for foods to have their own space. This YumBox bento is a favorite of mine because the compartment labels help you pack a well-balanced meal. BPA-free disposable version is an inexpensive and cartoon-character free option for slightly older kids (and adults).

2. Smoothies are popular for breakfast, but freezing them for lunch works too. Using these silicone tubes in bright, fun colors are a nice alternative to a boring sandwich.

3. Sometimes, you need dips, sauces, or salad dressings to go with your lunch. Having separate containers or even this salad dressing dispenser keeps crisp food fresh for lunch.

4. On cold days, nothing is better than soup, so a thermos is a must for lunch boxes and this one is a perfect size for kiddos.

5. Lunchbox Love cards – there are some mornings that inspiration is not with me, but I want my kids to get a cute little message in the middle of the day…these cards are PERFECT for a busy mom.

6. Kelly Lester of Easy Lunch Box Lunches teamed up with Trader Joe’s for a clever lunch cookbook

Packing in the Nutrition

Regardless of appearance, the more important part is that the lunches are healthy…so here are some tips and reminders. Basically, your little kiddos only need about 400-700 calories* in food (*individual calories needs are highly variable for kids depending on age, activity and more. Talk to your pediatrician or a Dietitian for a more specific number for your child), so don’t overwhelm them by packing the kitchen sink of options.

Lunches should contain about half produce -fruits and/or veggies. Go with what your kids will really eat, but present it in attractive ways to encourage actual consumption.

One-fourth of the lunch should be the protein. This can be meat, beans, eggs, soy like edamame, nuts or nut butters. If your child is allergic or has a nut-free school, look for seed-butters as an alternative.

The last one-fourth of the lunch should include a high-fiber, whole grain. Think of high-fiber crackers like Triscuits, the bread or wrap you use as a sandwich or whole wheat pasta.

You can always throw in a bonus small item that they really enjoy – although don’t feel like this needs to be a sweet treat every time. School days are usually full of plenty of treats and sweets, so make sure lunch is a good foundation to fuel an afternoon of intense learning.

Use Weekends Wisely

On weekends (I think Sunday afternoons are perfect), pre-make any items needed that can help you during the week, have kids make own trail mix, stock beverages, freeze ice packs, and re-stock the snack drawer.

Make any baked goods (like banana bread muffins or granola bars), hard boil eggs or make soups.
Have your kids help you to plan their meals while teaching them what a healthy meal contains. My kids will say “…and for my protein, I’ll have…” because they understand the components of a healthy meal – GREAT lessons to learn when they are young and not swayed by the latest diet book!


There you go…back to school can be an easy 1-2-3! With a little planning, you and your kids can have a smooth transition into a new school year and “less stress allows for more success”! (A little too cheesy with the rhyme? I thought so too!)



photo credit: Merelymel13 via photopin cc


Building a Strong Social Network

When we think about a healthy lifestyle, we often think about eating right or being physically active. We might even consider getting enough sleep and managing our stress. These are certainly keys to a long, healthy life. Yet, having a strong network of friends and family is another key part of health that is often overlooked.

I just returned from a family reunion that consisted of 55 aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins all laughing and genuinely enjoying time together. It is a bi-annual tradition we started to keep many families spread over several states connected to our roots and values. Upon returning, I was overwhelmed with the requests from friends to squeeze as much summer fun as possible in the few weeks left until our kids go back to school (got to love that about Oregon). I am struck by how lucky I am to have so many dear friends and family in my life.

Whether you believe that it “takes a village” to raise a child or you subscribe to the idea that “no man is an island”, it is clear that the health benefits to a strong social network are many. People with a strong web of friends and family have decreased risk of depression, heart disease, and some cancers, and they have an increase sense of purpose, higher immunity and can manage stress better than those who feel lonely.

The friends you choose can also have a strong influence on your choice in health habits. If you surround yourself with others who eat well, are active and avoid risky behaviors, you are more likely to do the same. Of course, relationships that feel draining often are on your health. While you can’t choose your family, you can choose with whom you spend time. You are looking for a network that will support you, encourage you, and inspire you to be your best…and you should do the same for them!

Having a strong network isn’t about how many “likes” you have on Facebook or how many Twitter followers you have. Sherry Turkle’s book Together Alone refers to this illusion of connection that social media can provide (check out her Ted Talk too). You can’t get to know someone’s aspirations, beliefs and values in 140 characters or less. A text is not meaningful conversation.

Garnering the health benefits is not dependent on having a large number of friends or family either.  It’s about establishing the deep connections that allow you to confide in, rely on and enjoy the company of others.  You have to be willing to be vulnerable enough to introduce yourself to others, to get out there and be a part of crowds and socialize. Join groups with interests similar to your own, ask friends to help you meet more friends, take a cooking class or a spinning class and actually TALK to others in the room. BE a good friend and good friends will come your way. It not only promotes a healthy, long life, but it makes the journey all the more enjoyable.



photo credit: eflon via photopin cc

6 Simple Steps for Weekly Meal Planning

Meal Planning

Taking the time to plan meals each week can save you so much money buying random items at the grocery and later throwing away spoiled food, time spent running out for last minute grocery items or take-out, and stress at the end of the day when you are hoping for dinner inspiration as you open your cabinets.

It has been said that for every hour you spend in planning, you save four hours in your actual day. That’s a pretty impressive return!

While we know that meal planning is a great idea, I find many people don’t quite know how to get started…or they think it is going to be too restrictive.  I’m going to debunk that myth and share my streamlined method for realistic meal planning.

1. Pick a time each week that is least stressful and most reliable. For me, this is on Thursday, since I do my grocery shopping Fridays. Come armed with your calendar of the upcoming week’s events + any store ads and/or coupons you’d like to use + any recipes you’d like to try. Caution: Don’t try to pack in too many new recipes into the week’s plan, especially if you are a novice in the kitchen or are strapped for time.

  • Your calendar – you need to know what nights you are going out for business dinners, when you need to plan a special meal, whether you are having company over to your house or whether you need something cooking in the slow cooker while you are at soccer practice.
  • Grocery circular – look for meat, poultry or fish on sale and any produce bargains to give inspiration to your meal planning. For instance, if you know that chicken is on sale, you can fill in one of your favorite chicken dishes or go online to find new recipe ideas for chicken.  I think it also helps to take a quick glance in your fridge, freezer and pantry for items you already have and need to use.
  • Coupons – it helps to pair those coupons with sale prices for the biggest benefit. If you prefer a particular brand of peanut butter and you see that it is on sale this week at your grocery, now’s the time to use that coupon!

2. Once you’ve reviewed your schedule and sale items or possible recipes, start plugging dinner ideas into a meal planner sheet. As you add a meal idea, fill in the grocery list for items you will need to make that meal (obviously omitting anything you already have).

3. I start with dinners, but don’t forget about other meals and snacks too. This is where many other meal planning services and tools fall short. You don’t have to “prepare” breakfast every morning, but you should have a general idea of a few possible breakfasts that you and the rest of your household can eat. Make sure you jot down these ideas and add items to your grocery list. You can ALWAYS move things around. Just because you filled in Monday morning with scrambled eggs, you don’t have to stress when little Jimmy wants a bowl of cereal instead.

4. Be sure you consider leftovers too. You may be able to have leftovers for a dinner one night or use them for lunches the next day. I know many people who have “clean out the fridge” dinners on Friday. It beats ordering a pizza in cost and health!

5. Don’t forget to add any food items that you need to bring to other people – like an extra bottle of wine for a hostess gift or snacks for the t-ball team.

6. In addition to building a grocery list based on meals, I keep a running grocery list in our kitchen during the week for staples and weekly favorites. When any member of the family uses the last of something (such as sliced cheese or mustard), that goes immediately on the grocery list.

There you have it! Six simple steps that will help you to eat healthier, save you time and stress, and help you save money spent eating out or on wasted food. Try it and leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about any additional tips you have to share!


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