Living with Intent

blog posts

Intent Noun
intention or purpose.
      “with alarm she realized his intent”
syn: aim, intention, purpose, objective, object, goal, target

“Be careful about what you think, your thoughts run your life” -Proverbs 4:23

 

surmzF-how-to-make-your-mind-happy-5-pdhD.jpeg

I am not a yogi. I am not a psychiatrist. I am not a dietician. I am happy. I am whole. I am living with intent. In an ever evolving journey to near a holistic lifestyle, I find it comforting that little things make a big impact on how I feel. Brussels sprouts make me feel satisfied. Sunlight brings me joy. Peppermint soothes my stomach. But what about your mind? I am constantly telling myself “it’s okay”. We always hear “our mind is powerful thing”, but what exactly can it do? Just like mastering a sport or instrument takes a lot of practice, so does training your mind. And in order to train your mind, you must live with intent.

What is living with intent?

In my little world, it’s the act of being present. Being here, not there. Being open, engaged and grounded. It’s not an easy thing to do and it doesn’t happen all the time. Some ways you can practice this are by putting your phone away when you’re out to dinner, pausing what you’re doing to listen to a coworker, or by eating your food slowly.

I should probably stop here and master these seemingly simple tasks because I haven’t yet (cue eating an entire bag of popcorn in three handfuls). In my yoga class, we practice noticing things. Noticing how my body feels in a certain pose, noticing how the room sounds, noticing where my mind goes in savasana. I’ve started noticing things outside of class, too. Like how I’m constantly on my phone, how I ‘multitask’ while talking to people, how I finish my food before I even know what I ate. Certainly not engaging acts, but the fact that I am aware makes me able to be more intentional in fixing them.

 

now-clock

How else can you live with intent?

There are a million ways to live intentionally. Some people chose to practice yoga several times a day. Some people chose to eat only organic foods. Some people only check their phone at the end of the day. I chose to cultivate my relationships by checking in with my friends regularly. I try to eat wholesome foods to fuel my body, not my mind (because my mind wants to eat everything under the sun). I **try to react slowly to things that easily cause anger (i.e. someone cuts me in traffic, “was that really a big deal? No. Am I fine? Yes. Does it actually matter? No.”). This is a big one for me. I am typically wired Type A, which causes me unwarranted and unwanted stress. Over what? I don’t know. And that’s exactly the point. I am proud to be competitive, driven and proactive. But controlling, worried and impatient are traits I’m working on mending. How? By living with intent 🙂

Take what you can get and be grateful for what it is.
Pass small stuff with ease.
Seek happiness and own it.
Clear your conscious.
Be here.

11 Purchases at Trader Joe’s You Won’t Be Mad About

blog posts

If you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s near you, then you probably know what I’m talking about when I say it’s the most fun place to shop. Grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do in the first place, but there’s just something special about TJ’s and all their fancy treats. Living in downtown Chicago, I walk to get my groceries. This means I can only buy what I can carry. Trader Joe’s is the closest to me, so I do most of my shopping there. So much self-control not to buy the entire store! (Unless I bring my boyfriend, then a million more items are added to my *our* baskets. I have some go-to items that I always pick, but you know you can’t go there and NOT sample the treat of the day! So I usually buy whatever that is too…. Don’t you?

If I had to narrow down my list of top picks:

Just Mango Slices (dried, chewy mango with no added sugar)

 

creamyalmondbutter.jpg

Creamy, no salt.

 

Trader-Joes-Trail-Mix.jpg

It’s the same price for the individual packs. Perfect for work or on-the-go.

5386d43c93280c19591fbf929e736261

I dare you not to eat the entire bag.

 

licorice

Strawberry Austrailian Licorice

 

 

 

2 Buck Chuck- but who am I kidding, any wine will do.

 

 

spicy-peanut-dressing1

Thai Peanut Dressing (Hint: perfect for homemade pad thai)

 

 

beets1.jpg

Baby Beets- ready to slice into a salad

d4d5f1e80e1a4ca62076ce34eec92f71.jpg

Great with the savory crackers!

 

Trader-Joe-Gone-Bananas.jpg

A slighhht waste of money since they’re gone in 2 seconds but still worth it.

Veggie and flax tortilla chips– for all chips and guac needs.

I’m not really sure there’s something I don’t like at this store. But as all groceries go, I try to stick to the perimeter of the store where the fresh and healthiest items are. Okay, and the free samples and wine. Trader Joe’s has great options for all food needs and also the coolest treats ever. Am I right?!

Homemade Granola

Recipes

Obsessed with granola but have no clue how to make it? Or you’re like me and don’t want to pay $5 for what seems like a handful of healthy granola. Well, you’re in luck. I didn’t realize how easy this treat was to make. Most of the ingredients I already had in my pantry, so it was pretty painless to whip up. And guess what? You can add in just about anything you want! Make it your own.

1273

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
3 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp flax seed
1 cup rice puffs (I didn’t use this the first time, but a good addition)
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup coconut oil
Dried fruit of your choice (I used apples)
cinnamon
unsweetened coconut flakes
almond and/or vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

The list goes on…

Directions: preheat oven to 250. Mix oats, chia seeds, salt, puffs and half the coconut oil, spread out on a large baking sheet. Cook for about 25 min. Take out, stir, add in nuts, extracts, honey and cinnamon (nuts burn easily). Cook for an addition 15 min. Take out, stir, add honey, the rest of the coconut oil, and dried fruit . Cook for an additional 15 min. At about an hour total, it should come out warm and delicious. Add more honey to make it clumpier. Enjoy!

 

Why I Stopped Counting Calories

blog posts

Do you obsess over calories? Do you not care at all? Either way, calories are very real. But they are also different from one another. 200 calories of broccoli is going to treat you body much better than a 200 calorie candy bar.

I used to count calories on MyFitnessPal. It’s an awesome app filled with recipes, blog posts, and every tool you need to start a healthier lifestyle. It really helped me realize what I was eating and what I thought was a great healthy day, actually had treats and snacks that I had completely forgotten about. Go figure. Writing down what I ate gave me a great sense of my overall health and what I was putting in my body. It helped me pass up a second helping, or second treat if I had already had something “bad” that day. But it also made me completely obsessed with counting calories. On all calorie counting apps and devices, it generalizes what your body needs and how much you burn on a personal level. I was constantly worried about going over my “recommended” amount of daily calories to stay “on track”. What does that even mean? I would reach my recommended number before the end of the day, and still need to eat dinner. This would always consume my thoughts and I would worry about being in the red on my app.

I stopped tracking what I ate and stopped focusing on calories. With a much clearer head, I now focus on what I’m eating, not how many calories I’m going over my limit. I focus on eating real food, made from real ingredients. You can’t really go wrong with that. By sticking to mostly veggies, proteins and whole grains, I don’t feel the need to rack up the calorie count. I still like to use my app, to continue getting the whole picture of what I consume in a day. I don’t look at calories, but at the foods I log. It helps me stay on track and see patterns in how I feel, what food make me crave others, and what times of day I eat. Which are all helpful things to keep in mind.

If you don’t write down what you eat, try it! Without focusing on the numbers, take a look at everything you eat in a day- maybe even record how you felt that day. Were you tired? Did your stomach ache? Did you feel energized and happy? These can all reflect what you ate.  It’s fun to see the patterns and how food affects you.

Smoothie Queen

Recipes

Smoothie Queen- that’s me. I drink a smoothie almost every day. I dream about the cream and cookie shakes I used to drink when I was at the mall with my mom growing up. But these are different (and taste just as good… okay pretty close). In fact, this smoothie is very healthy and a great way to start the day. The best part is? You can’t mess it up.

This is what I use, mostly because I often have these ingredients at my house.

Green Smoothie076cda82-92ce-4321-8afb-7e97db65a032
¾ cup plain greek yogurt
2 cups spinach (yes, stuff it full!)
5 frozen strawberries
1 banana
1 cup Ice
½ cup water
Dash of cinnamon
Your favorite Vanilla protein powder (optional)

If you don’t have a super duper blender, blend yogurt, spinach and water first, to get the spinach reduced down all the way. Then add additional ingredients. Pour into a mason jar for easy travel or whatever protein bottle you have. This is good to make the night before, but drink within a day or two. Play around with variations of this… frozen blueberries, raspberries, freeze the banana (without the peel), chocolate protein, almond butter, chia seeds, you can’t go wrong!

A serving of protein, veggies and fruit all at the start of your day? Yes, please. I like to prep this at night so I don’t have to get all these ingredients out in the morning. Sometimes I even make a little extra and drink it for a bedtime snack or part of my dinner. I personally like to drink my spinach because, frankly, salads don’t fill me up, and let’s be honest, they taste better when someone else makes it for me. This is a great way to get in a veggie in the blink of an eye. Whichever combination you chose, don’t forget the spinach.

5 Swaps to a Healthier You

blog posts

Fortunately, there a million ways to get healthier and stay healthier. Some are harder than others, like putting down that ice cream. But most can be simple swaps that will go a long way in your healthy journey. Here are a few:

 

  1. Drink Water

This may be the most obvious swap of all, but it also makes the biggest difference. I make a point to stick to water and coffee, and an occasional sparkling water when I need some bubbly. Okay and an occasional* glass of wine. Sugar filled juices and teas are the easiest way to add additional calories and junk into your diet, and they come at a hefty unhealthy price. Stick to water only as your primary liquid, it is your friend. And makes a huge difference in your awareness, muscle performance, and overall wellbeing. I drink about 90oz of water per day, that’s about 5 plastic bottles worth. How much water do you drink a day?

 

  1. Get your Chef on

For those of you who say you aren’t good at cooking, or don’t know where to start in the kitchen, try cooking your favorite restaurant meals at home. Is your restaurant go-to chicken fingers and fries? Try panko-crusting chicken and baking it in the oven with sweet potato fries. Maybe you’re like me and can always go for the fish tacos? Think up those ingredients (tortilla, fish, aioli mayo, cabbage) and construct your own masterpiece. Cooking at home not only saves a huge penny in your bank account, but it’s also much healthier- and fun! Obviously (well, hopefully) you won’t have that greasy goodness dripping down your chin from a giant burger, but there’s something satisfying about building your own concoction in your kitchen. What? No time to chat over sangria and artichoke dip?

 

  1. Stove top

How did people live without a microwave? I try to heat all my food on the stove instead of the microwave when I’m home. Not only do I think it tastes better, but it also gets what was crisp, crisp and keeps more nutrients in the food. Overheating/cooking food removes nutrients your body needs.

 

  1. Take a Lap

No, not a nap. Take a lap- around the grocery store. I’m sure you’ve heard that the healthiest food at grocery is around the perimeter- cue the beer drinkers confirming their cooler along the perimeter is healthy. This is not just a coincidence at some stores- it’s really a thing. Try shopping only around the edges, getting fresh produces, fresh meats, dairy and deli products, skipping the very middle where the hostess snacks live.

 

  1. Oil Up

 

Swap butter for olive oil. Olive oil has more health benefits than butter, and is a more versatile ingredient. If butter is your thing, make sure it’s real butter and not margarine. As with both yummy ingredients, use them in moderation. Or if you want to get serious, try not using them at all. They are high in calories, which is okay, but neither are something your body needs. You can avoid them by steaming veggies, cooking meats in their own juices, and eating toast dry.

Processed Sugar

blog posts

 

What a hot topic! Nearly every food we encounter, whether “healthy” or not, has added sugar. And that’s really a shame that the food industry has gone to such extremes to get us hooked on their products… emphasis on products, not food.

When I was in college, I was seeking ways to get lean and toned over the summer before heading into a new season of swimming. I knew that no “diet” was going to cut it for a college athlete heavily in training, so I wanted some simple ways to clean up my nutrition. Man, do I wish I learned what I know now sooner.

One of the simple rules of thumb is to be mindful of sugar and to try to stay under 10g per serving of whatever I was having. Sounds easy, right? EVERYTHING has sugar! And not just some sugar- tons of sugar. Although this is now how I prefer to eat, it was extremely hard to navigate at first. I now feel so much better overall and I don’t get those high-energy/ high-crash spikes anymore. I challenge all of you to try it.

Processed sugar= high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, starch syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, sorbitol, and 56 others names.

To much of my surprise:
Per Serving (which, by the way, who follows that?):
Chobani Flip PB&J- 20g
Chobani Black Cherry- 16g
Honest Green Tea- 19g
Pure Leaf Tea Sweetened- 42g
Nature Valley Oats & Honey Protein Granola- 12g
Nutella- 21g
Gatorade- 21g
Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness Smoothie- 26g
QuakerOats Instant Oatmeal Packet Maple Brown Sugar- 12g

~Fun Fact~
4g of sugar = 1 teaspoon

Starbucks lovers read no further….
In a Grande:
Starbucks Black Tea Lemonade (yum!)- 31g
Starbucks Iced Coffee Sweetened- 20g
Starbucks bottled Iced Coffee + Milk- 21g
Starbucks Caramel Macchiato- 32g
Starbucks Flat White- 17g
Starbucks Skinny Mocha- 17g
Starbucks Vanilla Latte- 35g
Starbucks Strawberry Granola Parfait- 20g

Healthier options:
Chobani Plain- 4g
Nature Valley Protein Bar Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate- 6g
Pure Leaf Tea Unsweetened- 0g
Starbucks coffee unsweetened- 0g
LaraBar Cashew Cookie- 18g*
Water- 0g
Fresh fruit
Fresh veggies
(Okay, I know this list is much shortened than the giant list of bad things, but practice checking for yourself and seeking more of these options).

*Larabars, are made from dates and cashews, so this high dose of sugar comes from a naturally sweet fruit, which is different than refined sugar.

Note: Don’t substitute sugar for “sugar-free” foods (spoiler alert: it’s chemicals).

Why shouldn’t you eat sugar?

  1. Sugar intake can affect immunity against infectious diseases.
  2. Sugar is strongly linked to diabetes and obesity.
  3. Sugar causes intense swings in blood sugar and hunger, but also in moods as well, sometimes causing depression.
  4. Sugar is an empty calorie, meaning it has absolutely no nutritional value.

That may be the world’s shortest list of the negative effects of sugar. But the list of benefits in a low-sugar lifestyle is also endless. Check out 10 of them from MyFitnessPal: The Surprising Benefits of Cutting Back on Sugar.

In many ways, sugar is like a drug. It’s easily addicting, gets into your bloodstream quickly, and it is very hard to avoid. The American Heart Association recommends women eat no more than 24g of process sugar per day (what? That’s like one drink at Starbucks). For men it’s 36g.

In today’s world (jk, just America) it’s very hard to avoid sugar completely. But, it only takes about 3 days for your body to lose its “addiction” to sugar. Could you go 3 days with no processed sugar? It’s time to be mindful of what you’re putting in your body.

 

Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potato Hash

Recipes

 

IMG_3846

This is great brunch with eggs on top! Also great for weekly lunches.

3 tbsp olive oil
3 cups chopped Brussels sprouts
3 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 sweet onion
1/4 cup water
spices (cumin, garlic salt, pepper)

Preheat oven to 400 degree
Dice 3 medium sweet potatoes (I heat them in the microwave for a couple minutes to soften)
In 13×9 baking pan, add potatoes
Sprinkle olive oil, salt and pepper, cook
While those cook, make Brussels sprouts on stove (same as about but cut into smaller pieces)
In separate pan, dice 1/4 onion and saute in olive oil
Once onions and Brussels are done, mix in with potatoes, sprinkle olive oil as needed
Let hash cook for an additional 15-20 min (about 35 min total)

Maltodextrin-what?

blog posts

 

After researching and diving a little deeper into the reason I believe what I do, it’s clear that there are widely different opinions on all things health. I suppose you can’t take any as a rule of thumb, but rather a suggestion or piece of thought.

With that, one of my general rules of thumb: If you don’t know what is it, your body doesn’t either.

 Perhaps you’ve heard this before, or another similar message. And maybe you already do this- which is awesome. But if you’re not one to read ingredients or have never realized the junk that’s in our food (not including junk food), it’s time to do some digging. Let’s look at a few samples of common household foods you may not have thought twice about.

 

For example, check out this ingredient list for your favorite pastime snack. Warning- this is a sad one. If I had to choose what ingredients were in Goldfish it’d look something like MADE WITH SMILES AND AMAZINGNESS, DELICIOUSNESS, CRUNCHINESS AND MORE SMILES. With my utmost regret, I must tell you that these fishes, along with just about everything else in its class (Cheez-itz, Ritz, etc) is not on the “yay all these ingredients are natural” list. As stated in this article, Goldfish come from several sources of artificial and processed ingredients, such as folic acid, enriched flower, and GMO cheese. Are they the worst things ever? No. But they certainly don’t make the cut to feed your body with only things it likes.

Another childhood favorite? Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

GRANOLA (WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, BROWNSUGAR, CRISP RICE [RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, SALT, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT],WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED WHEAT, SOYBEAN OIL, DRIED COCONUT, WHOLE WHEATFLOUR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SOY LECITHIN, CARAMEL COLOR, NONFAT DRYMILK), SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, COCOABUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA EXTRACT), CORN SYRUP, BROWN RICE CRISP(WHOLE GRAIN BROWN RICE, SUGAR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, SALT), INVERTSUGAR, SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, GLYCERIN, SOYBEAN OIL. CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SORBITOL, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, WATER, SOY LECITHIN, MOLASSES, NATURAL ANDARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), CITRIC ACID.

RED ALERT! This recipe says “sugar” 8 times. In that teeny little bar, there is all this junk. Don’t get me wrong, they are so tasty, but it’s a whole lot of things your body doesn’t need. And let’s be honest, whether these “bad ingredients” are worth is a different story. Ice cream? Worth it. A basically bite-sized granola bar that you need 3 entire boxes to actually make a dent in your hunger? Maybe not worth it.

Or the classic ingredients in Ketchup, which does not consist of any tomatoes (yes, really. Google it).

Consider checking the ingredients before putting these snacks in your cart and indulging in a little treat. It seems silly and time-consuming but it’s well worth the extra few minutes at the store to ensure you’re treating your body right. If you want other grocery store tips, check out my next article about the grocery store map. Try it out!

It’s a sad realization. I grew up on a bag of Goldfish a day, and it’s now one of those things that is hard to go back to, knowing my body doesn’t agree. But don’t let me fool you. As with all my thoughts and posts, they are just mindful tips and it is not to say I sneak a handful of crackers and fish occasionally (because they are in my office and I can’t walk by without sneaking some).

By the way, Maltodextin is a food additive commonly found in chips, pop, starch and many processed foods.

If you don’t read anything else: try sticking to food that has natural ingredients (it’s quite surprising what you’ll find).

Brussels Sprouts

Recipes

I.Love.Brussels.Sprouts.

These may be my favorite vegetable ever, and I eat them all the time. Growing up, they were the absolute worst, but I learned it’s all about how you make them (as it is with most things). Here is one of my favorite ways to make this delicious and filling veggie:

 

IMG_3169

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped Brussels sprouts
spices (cumin, garlic salt, pepper)
1/4 cup water

In a medium sized sauce pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil
Cut sprouts in quarters (hot dog style), about 2 cups
Add sprouts to pan, pour 1/4 cup water over and cover
Cook covered for 3-4 min over medium/high heat
Remove lid, stir
Add spices- pepper, garlic salt, cumin
Continue cooking for 2-3 min without lid
Brussels sprouts should be lightly browned, soft, but not mushy
Enjoy!