July’s Tiny Change: Creative Hydration

This post is part of Kale & Chocolate’s #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one super small, super doable change…over a year, it really adds up! You can read about it here and share your progress on instagram – tag @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley with the hashtag #12tinychanges for a chance to win some cool prizes!

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: we should all be drinking more water. And yet here we are – many of us walking around in a state of low-grade, chronic dehydration.

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How do you know if you’re dehydrated? Perhaps you’re feeling a bit unfocused or sluggish, maybe you feel hungry all the time, or your skin isn’t looking its best. It’s entirely possible that you aren’t actually hungry, or unfocused, or having skin problems; chances are, you’re thirsty!

Our bodies are 65% water, and our brains are 73% water. No wonder we feel better when we stay hydrated! Yet it’s easy to forget to drink in the midst of our busy and active lives. This month, we’re going to fill up our cups and keep our bodies happy with more water and better hydration. If you’re not exactly keen on chugging eight glasses of lukewarm tap water every day, read on!

Make it fun (and delicious!)
Not everyone loves plain old water. If you aren’t a fan, don’t worry – there are many other ways to stay hydrated! Toss together a pitcher of spa waters (they’re so easy and colorful!) or load up the freezer with fruity ice cubes and add them to your water or herbal iced tea. Save your leftover smoothies, filling up popsicle molds, and create beautiful (and hydrating) smoothie pops!

Drink easy.
If you spend most of your time in your office, get a pretty glass that you can keep on your desk. If you’re always in the car, find a reusable water bottle and don’t leave the house without it!

Drink a superfood snack
Chia seeds are a miracle food, especially when it comes to keeping us hydrated. These teeny, tiny seeds are hydrophilic, which means that they can absorb approximately 10 to 12 times their weight in water. This powerhouse superfood can also prolong hydration and retain electrolytes in body fluids, protecting against dehydration.

Incorporating chia seeds into your diet is incredibly easy: simply stir a heaping tablespoon to your morning juice or smoothie, and you’re set! For a real treat, try peppermint mocha chia pudding or have a super yummy energy bite!

Drink your eats (no, really!)
Hydration comes in many forms, not just from water! All raw fruits and vegetables contain water, particularly cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, celery, and radishes. Try this watermelon cucumber cooler on for size!

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Drink your potassium
Why do we need electrolytes, including potassium, to stay hydrated? Our muscles use them with water to make sure that the electrical charges in our bodies work properly. Potassium balances the fluids and electrolytes in our bodies. All this is to say: eat plenty of bananas and drink some coconut water. These two foods are inexpensive, widely available, and they’ll help you maintain the proper nutrients after a workout or on a hot summer day.

See? Hydration can be fun and delicious! And once we fill up with the proper amount of fluid, our minds and bodies are so much more effective. We think better, look better, and feel better.

One Healthy Breakdown: create and hydrate!

June’s Tiny Change: Slow Down

This post is part of Kale & Chocolate’s #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one super small, super doable change…over a year, it really adds up! You can read about it here and share your progress on instagram – tag @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley with the hashtag #12tinychanges for a chance to win some cool prizes!

When was the last time you did…nothing? Can you remember meandering around town without an agenda? Or taking the dog for a walk just because the sun’s out? Or actually stopping to smell the flowers? Really stopping, breathing, sniffing, inhaling the aroma without a care in the world, somewhere to be, a to-do list to check-off, or a photo to post online?

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Doing nothing can be surprisingly difficult…yet incredibly rewarding! So many of us hide in our “busy.” As a society, we love getting as much done in a day as possible. We feel accomplished and clever when we manage to eat our lunch while replying to emails. The reality is that we’ve found ways to multitask just about every moment of every day…which means we’re missing half of this thing called life! Being “busy,” “plugged in,” and “on” isn’t actually healthy, or sustainable. It’s not good for our bodies, our minds, or our relationships. So, let’s change that!

This is usually the part of the #12tinychanges post where we assure you that this tiny change is really easy and totally doable. And while slowing down is doable, (and important!) it will require more from you than some of our past challenges, such as starting the day in a powerful way, getting more sleep, or eating more color. Slowing down requires you to really commit (mentally and emotionally) to not committing. Although it might feel counter-intuitive to “make time” for down time, it’s just as valuable as those bustling, busy hours (maybe even more!)

slowReady to slow down a bit? Here are five ways that you can ease the pace of your life just a little:

  1. Say no.

It’s hard to slow down if our calendars are filled with obligations and meetings, but when we say “no” to things that don’t excite us, we get to say “yes” to ourselves and to better self-care.

This month, let’s (politely) turn down requests or obligations that just don’t feel right. You know when our bodies tell us “no,” but we say “yes” anyway? Listen to your intuition next time! Can you coordinate this or plan that or be here or meet there or brainstorm for…? No. No. and No.

2. Schedule unstructured time into your calendar.

Yes, really. Open your calendar right now, look at today, find a 20-minute window and schedule time to do nothing. When that calendar notification pops up, treat it the same way you’d treat a meeting: step away from your desk and go do nothing.

Cuddle your pet. Lay in your backyard and stare at the sky. Take an aimless walk through the neighborhood. Make yourself a matcha latte and savor it outside. Page through family photos. Meditate. Whatever you do, resist the urge to turn this unstructured time into cleaning, working, stressing, or doing of any kind. Just do nothing and enjoy!

3. Try doing something the “old fashioned” (or “less convenient”) way.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about accomplishing things without technology. What if you explored a new city using an actual, paper map and asking locals for their recommendations? What if you mixed your brownies with a big wooden spoon and a bit of elbow grease instead of relying on the food processor? What about spending the day at a pick-your-own farm or orchard, plucking fruits and vegetables, instead of grabbing them at the store? Or how about free-writing in an actual journal with an actual pen or pencil?

When we choose to put away our phones and use our minds and bodies (instead of smartphone apps or kitchen appliances), we reconnect with life and the world around us.

4. Do one thing at a time.

Maybe you usually listen to podcasts on your daily walk or catch up on email between activities? Whether it’s calling friends from the car when you have a long drive or using meal times to check in on social media, chances are, you’re doing more than one thing at once.

What if you did just one of those things with that time? The walk or the podcast, the email or the soccer game, the meal or Instagram? We’re so used to multitasking, but it’s not always as effective as devoting your time and energy to just one task at a time. In fact, it’s been proven that multitasking results in lower quality work, and it takes us longer to complete a task when we spread our attention too thin.

5. Literally, physically slow down.

Ever noticed yourself pacing around, talking too fast, speeding, or breathing quickly for no reason other than stress, busyness, and habit?

Often, we can change the way we feel emotionally by changing the way we feel physically. We can often calm our minds by taking deep breaths, releasing our shoulders, and choosing to speak, move, drive, and act with intent. Next time you feel stressed, check in with your body and attempt to literally slow everything down. You’ll instantly feel better!

Slowing down can be tricky. It’s easy to fill our schedules or fall into the pattern of multitasking. But when you learn to slow down with purpose, you regain control of every aspect of your life. Remember, a slower life is a healthier, more centered, present, and efficient life. Your hurried body and mind will thank you. Let’s put the brakes on our hurried lives and sloooooow down!

One Healthy Breakdown: here’s to slowing down and feeling up!

April’s Tiny Change: Eat More Color

This month, our #tinychange is to add more color to our plates. There are lots of reasons to load up on deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables, but for me, one the best reason is that it makes me happy! We feel invigorated and energized just looking at brightly colored meals (not to mention all the health benefits our bodies get from eating them!)

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Consider this the food version of tucking away your black winter sweaters and dull wool coats and pulling out your bright, colorful sundresses and fun tops: we all look better and shine brighter with a pop of color, even our meals. Here are my five favorite reasons to add more color to your plate:

1. Count colors!
Counting carbs, weighing food, and tracking calories can be effective for some, but they’re surefire ways to suck the joy and fun out of eating. The act of measuring and counting also reinforces the beliefs that healthy living is hard, time consuming, and unenjoyable. Not true!

Healthy foods are colorful foods. Think about it: Black wild rice and brown rice are healthier than white rice; orange sweet potatoes are filled with more phytonutrients than white potatoes; dark green spinach is better for us than light iceberg lettuce; freshly spiralized green zucchini noodles are more nutritious than white noodles. When you choose your foods based on color, making healthy choices is as easy (and fun!) as stocking your fridge with the vibrant colors of the rainbow.

2. Color Crowds Out Clutter
Balance over (hence the name Kale & Chocolate!) but the reality is: we have limited space on our plates and in our stomachs. When we add more color to our meals, there is less room for the not-so-healthy colorless clutter.

Rather than telling yourself that you can never eat pasta again, what if you made yourself a big green salad and tossed your pasta with colorful grilled vegetables? You’d need a lot less pasta to feel satisfied, your plate would be filled with nutritious, colorful foods…and you’d still get to eat the pasta that you love! It’s not about taking away food, it’s about adding color!

Swap your plain store-bought hummus (most likely chemical ridden) for this pretty Beet & Basil Hummus with a rainbow of chopped veggies!

3. More Color = More Nutrients
I’m fascinated by the science of healthy eating; it’s one of the reasons that I studied plant-based nutrition. When we eat colorful foods, we consume more micronutrients (the vitamins and minerals that are vital to development, disease prevention, and well-being).

If you want to make sure you’re getting sufficient nutrients, but you’re not particularly interested in reading labels or researching which foods are high in which vitamins and minerals, simply add a variety of colorful produce to your plate. When you eat all the hues of the rainbow, you’re naturally eating a micronutrient-rich diet. It’s that easy!

Swap bland protein shakes for a beautiful vibrant smoothie bowl with fun toppings.

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4. Food Love is Self-Love
Think about plain old beige oatmeal versus gorgeous, colorful, creative, and nutrient-dense carrot cake oatmeal. Which meal has more love? Like the vibrant hues of spring, color brings warmth and comfort to your plate. Show yourself love by preparing beautiful, colorful meals.

Swap a simple salad for a Super Summer Salad for more colors, flavors, and nutrients!

5. No Season is More Colorful than Spring
As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, more and more amazing foods appear at the farmers’ market: spears of tender asparagus, creamy avocados, red beets, green broccoli, and gorgeous strawberries are coming into season right now. There is no better, easier, more delicious, and more affordable time to add color to your meals!

*This post is part of Kale and Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge, implementing one monthly small, super doable change-over a year it really adds up! Read about all changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges tagging @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley! Yes, there are prizes involved!

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One Healthy Breakdown: Here’s to eating the colors of the rainbow and a bright, vibrant spring!

March’s Tiny Change: Notice Your Subconscious Thoughts About Food

*This post is part of Kale and Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one small, super doable change-over a year it really adds up! Read about all changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges. (Did I mention that there are lots of theme-related GIVEAWAYS each month?! Read on!)

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For the last six months, we’ve been making teeny, tiny, totally doable changes in the direction of creating and sustaining healthier lives. So far, we’ve talked about how we fuel our bodies (eating breakfast every day, trying plant-based foods, cooking at home, and moving and resting our bodies.) But a perfectly fueled, well-rested body won’t do us any good if it’s home to a negative, pessimistic, self-critical mind.

Have you ever found yourself having unkind thoughts like these?

“I can’t believe I ate all that pasta. Gross. I’m so weak.”

“How do I keep screwing this up? I told myself I wasn’t going to overeat and here I am, stuffed, unhappy, and guilty. I should be better than this.”

“I know that dairy upsets my stomach, but I just ate half a pint of ice cream. I’m so bad.”

I recognize them myself because this is something that I struggled with for ages. If I ate too much, I’d say mean things to myself. If I didn’t eat enough vegetables, ate mindlessly, or if told myself that I wasn’t going to finish the rest of the hummus and then when I did—I’d berate myself.

This food-related stress and anxiety isn’t just emotionally unhealthy: it’s physically unhealthy. Marc David, my mentor and founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, explains that our thoughts quite literally affect how our bodies function. Guilt and other negative, stress-related emotions trigger the release of cortisol, which can cause us to store more calories as body fat.

Thinking negative, stress-inducing thoughts after a meal impacts our digestion and nutrient assimilation and removes any pleasure we might have experienced while eating the food. To put it simply: the thoughts we think about the food we eat instantly become the reality in our bodies via the central nervous system.

By now, we’ve heard “you are what you eat,” but you are also what you think! This month, let’s commit to stopping unkind thoughts before they even start. We can rewire our mind to be more positive. Here are three steps to help you release negative food and body chatter, once and for all:

1. Take note of when and how you say these things to yourself.
For many of us, these unkind thoughts are mental background noise. We’ve heard them so many times, playing on repeat in our heads, that we don’t even notice them anymore. Whether we are aware of them or not, they affect our self-esteem, our choices, and the chemicals in our bodies. Noticing these thoughts is the first step to healing our relationships with food and our bodies.

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2. Speak to yourself the way you’d speak to a young child or a dear friend.
We would never, ever tell a friend that she was “weak” for having a second serving of brownies, but for years I’d say things like this—and worse!—to myself. When I finally realized that my negative self-talk was a problem, I struggled to find positive, supportive things to say to myself. If you’re in the same boat, talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a dear friend or a young child.

“You’re doing your best.”

“You made the most of a tough situation.”

“You’re doing a great job—keep it up!”

“I’m proud of you.”

When we give ourselves the same amount of love and attention that we give other people, our internal dialogue begins to shift. This can feel a little awkward at first, but keep the conversation going! Training a new behavior takes time, and once it’s ingrained, you’ll have swapped a harmful, unhealthy, and counter-productive habit for a positive, uplifting, healthy one. Using kind, supportive language in your conversations with yourself will help ease the food stress—and more!

3. Remember that you are the creator of your thoughts, so you can change them.
When we tune into our inner dialogue, it’s easy to feel out of control. It can seem as though we’re being forced to listen to a radio station where a mean (or even spiteful!) DJ isn’t taking requests.

But it’s important to remember that our thoughts—both good and bad—originate from us. We are the creators of our thoughts, so we are capable of changing them. I can say to myself, “That’s how I was for the last XX years, but I don’t want to be like that any more. This changes now.”

Your mind is a one-person radio station—and you are the only one who gets to choose the playlist. Believe it or not, it’s all up to you! You can even try this trick for re-routing your internal monologue: The next time you start to hear the same unkind chatter that plays on repeat, I want you to actually think (or say!) the words: “Stop. Change the station.”

Imagine reaching out toward the knob on your car radio and turning the dial. Or imagine pulling the headphones out of your iPhone and being greeted with glorious (and peaceful!) silence. Try it. You won’t believe how effective this can be!

Changing the way you think is a journey that requires a lot of focus and effort. Be gentle with yourself during this process and try not to get down on yourself when and if you have those negative thoughts again. They’re bound to resurface occasionally. Awareness is the first step here!

To help you have kinder & more loving thoughts, I’ve teamed up with some incredible partners to give you awesome and supportive tools for this month’s challenge. Simply join the conversation #12tinychanges on instragam and tag @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley.

One Healthy Breakdown: What you think is just as important as what you eat. And the only person who can change your mind is YOU.

February’s Tiny Change: Eat More Plants

*This post is part of Kale and Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one small, super doable change-over a year it really adds up! Read about all changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges!

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You’ve probably heard about the health benefits associated with eating a plant-based diet, like reducing your risk of heart disease, lowering your blood pressure, and adding years to your life. Food experts, nutritionists, and dietitians may disagree about the right diet, but amidst these debates, they have always been able to agree on at least one thing: MORE PLANTS = GOOD.

This month’s tiny change is just that – tiny. No need to cut foods out, restrict, or diet. Simply add more plant-based foods and recipes to your cooking repertoire. If you’re already eating a largely plant-based diet, wonderful! Try something new and interesting like DIY nut milk. If you’ve yet to dip your toe into plant-based cooking, start easy with something like chia seed pudding.

You don’t have to eat less or cut out anything. Just add more vibrant colors, nutrients, and variety to your meals. If a few of those delectable plant-based dishes happen to replace the less-than-healthy ones in your repertoire, that’s just a bonus! So what constitutes “plant-based,” exactly? Great question! Fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, and oils are all fair game – all things that originally stem from plants (pun intended!)

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Here are five ways you can make this tiny change easy and awesome!

1. Incorporate these plant-based foods into the way you already eat

The best thing about plant-based foods? You can fold them into absolutely any eating style – they’re totally inclusive! Eating Paleo? Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Locavore or seasonal eater? Great, simply add more plants to your daily routine!

2. View this as an opportunity to experiment with new recipes + types of food
Consider this a little nudge to explore new recipes or make reservations at a new restaurant. Asian, Indian, and Ethiopian cuisines include lots of plant-based dishes, many featuring interesting spices and flavor combinations. Give them all a try!

Instead of trying to plant-i-fy existing dishes, why not try something totally different? We’re much more likely to enjoy a recipe (and make it again) if we eat it with an open mind…rather than thinking “this was much better when I made it with a whole stick of butter…” This tiny change gives you the perfect excuse to push yourself toward easy experimentation and more adventurous eating.

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3. Know that this isn’t just about smoothies and salads
Gotta love a good green smoothie, but there are tons of luscious, decadent plant-based foods out there. In fact, if you want to try just one new plant-based recipe a week this month, how about some delicious oatmeal, hummuscookies, PB & J, sweet chocolate avocado mousse, and even ice cream?! Plant dishes can be sweet, savory, warm, chilled, and satisfy just about any craving!

4. Swap in one plant-based dish for one meat or dairy dish

Rather than overhauling your entire meal, try just swapping one dish. Munch on a batch of homemade veggie burgers and sweet potato fries for your Friday night Netflix marathon or warm up with butternut squash soup for meatless Monday. Whip up a balanced meal, use DIY nut milk in your smoothie or make guacamole instead of french onion dip. Just one tiny swap at a time; you’ll be amazed how easy it is to eat more plants!

5. Choose plant-based dishes when you’re eating out or grocery shopping

Now, you know I’m a huge advocate of DIY-ing, but most of us are short on time and long on obligations. Who among us hasn’t picked up dinner on the way home from a hectic day?

Remember, there are a surprising number of plant-based options at your local grocery store, and maybe even your favorite restaurant. Grab a tub of guac, baba ganoush, hummus or even black bean dip. Check out the salad bar for freshly prepared veggies, grains, and plant-based proteins to add to a bed of greens.

When you’re eating out, soups, salads, and vegetarian entrees are often plant-based, (and delicious) so give it a try. To help kickoff this tiny change, you could win amazing prizes and tools to fill up your plate with as many colors and nutrients as possible. You’ll be amazed by how simple it is to eat more plants. And the best part? This easy, delicious tiny change can set you on the road to a healthier heart, longer life, and happier body!

One Healthy Breakdown: Crack open you cookbooks and get ready to veg out!

January’s Tiny Change: Do It Yourself

OHH Intro: we couldn’t be more into this month’s challenge to DIY (do it yourself!) You’ll save money, eat way healthier, spend way less time grocery shopping, and shock yourself with how good it feels (and tastes!) Read on for Kale & Chocolate’s rundown of how to become a DIY’er…

If you’re just joining us, this post is part of Kale & Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one super small, super doable change—it really adds up over the course of a year! You can read about all the changes here. Share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges for a chance to win awesome prizes!

Welcome to 2016! Most people think of January 1st as the one and only day to turn over a new leaf, but if you’ve been participating in the #12tinychanges challenge, you’ve been building healthy habits since September (go you!) And if you’re new to the challenge, welcome to the simplest, least painful habit-shifting program you’ll ever tackle, #12tinychanges challenge.

blog-images-chocolate-barkAfter the holidays, when so many of us fall off of our routines, we may be tempted to kick off the new year with some BIG promises to ourselves, but it’s really, really, really hard to stick to BIG goasl for the long haul. The population at the gym has already cut in half since January 1. Instead of being one of those, get on board this tiny change and bite off exactly what we can chew. Sound good? Let’s spend a little time in the kitchen in DIY mode making delicious items we may ordinarily buy.

Are you already asking why on earth you’d complicate your life by hand-making purchasable foods? It probably seems more convenient to just grab things off the grocery store shelf and plunk down some cash. But once you try making some of these everyday items on your own, you’ll be amazed by how easy (and delicious) it can be! Why waste precious time and energy running to the store for almond milk when you can make your own tastier version in five minutes right in your own kitchen? What about your morning smoothie? How about that $15 jar of almond butter we all know and love?

IMG_3513You might think it will be boring, time-consuming, or expensive to DIY. Guess what – it’s not! It’s actually fun, significantly cheaper, and far healthier than buying everything pre-made.

Why should you try DIY-ing something you’d normally buy?

It’s incredibly satisfying + fulfilling. Few of us have ever made our own bread, nut butters or jams. (Hello, awesome homemade PB & J!) Contemplating the processes of making these items can feel intimidating, totally understand. Until I started creating my own staples, there were so many recipes I avoided because I feared their complexity. Why should I spend time learning how to DIY something when I could just toss it into my cart and buy it instantly?

Making your own staples can actually have a ripple effect through your whole life. Confidence and capability in one area often trickle over into other areas of your life, in the kitchen and beyond. Once you’ve mastered whipping up your own almond milk or putting together mason jar salads, there’s no telling what you’ll attempt! If you think something is out of your reach or beyond your skill set, it’s extremely satisfying to finally try it, figure it out…and then work it seamlessly into your weekly routine.

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When you make it yourself, you can customize it. Have you ever bought a granola bar and thought, “Hmm, I wish this was a tad less sweet…or why does this have 20 grams of sugar and tons of chemicals in it?!” When you make your own bars or bites, you can customize them to taste exactly the way you like…without the chemicals!

Create your own trail mix exactly how you like it. Add more of the things you love while skipping the unnecessary sugar, salt, and fillers found in the packaged versions. When you DIY, you know exactly what’s going in…and you control exactly which not-so-healthy ingredients you leave out!

You can view DIY-ing through the lens of curiosity + experimentation. This tiny change is just that: tiny. You don’t have to replace every store-bought condiment or staple in your house. You don’t have to make everything you eat from scratch. You don’t have to whip up award-winning sauces or a picture perfect superfood smoothie bowl the first time you try, just take it one step at a time.

Consider how making from scratch improves the quality of the food you eat, and how much you’ll learn about your ingredients. Notice how much more you appreciate your meals when they include your homemade staples, this will lead to more mindful eating and enjoyment!

If you’re really interested in kicking up the DIY challenge a notch or two, check out my book, Whole Food Energy. It’s packed with 200 easy-to-make recipes designed specifically for busy, active people who want to stock their kitchens & pantries with healthy homemade snacks and light bites to eat on the go. It’s pretty much a DIY goldmine!

Remember to go slowly and pick one or two DIY projects a week. Once you experience a homemade latte, (best part, you don’t have to leave the house!) sweet potato fries, (better than take out!) or the best brunch around, you’ll be hooked.

Lastly, I want to give you the tools to get going. I’m giving away amazing prizes each week throughout January on Instagram. Think: signed copies of my book, superfoods from Windy City Organicsc to enhance your creations, and much more! Just tag #12tinychanges to enter and follow @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley while you’re at it!

One Healthy Breakdown: No time like the present, start gathering your ingredients and get ready to dig in!

November’s Tiny Change: Get More Sleep

OHH Intro: Sleep refuels and rejuvenates us, allowing us to keep on keepin’ on. This is the perfect tiny change with substantial lasting effects on all aspects of our health and happiness. Read on for Kale & Chocolate’s rundown of how to get a better night’s sleep, every night.

SammyIf you’re just joining us, this post is part of Kale & Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month we’re implementing one super small, super doable change—it really adds up over the course of a year! You can read about all the changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges.

We’ve turned our clocks back and the sun is setting on darkness earlier and earlier as we approach winter. Our internal clocks will be re-setting, gearing up for what feels like hibernation, while our lives remain full of plans, hectic schedules, and the upcoming holidays. So it makes sense that this month’s 12 Tiny Changes Challenge is all about sleep!

By now, you probably know that you should be getting more sleep. In fact, there is evidence that only 40% of Americans are getting the recommended amount of shuteye! We can do better. Our lives and our bodies deserve better.

Lack of sleep has a cumulative effect. It reduces our immunity and slows our metabolism. It makes us more prone to stress and raises our cortisol levels. It makes us grumpy, irritable, and more likely to make less-than-great decisions.

Waking up poorly-rested can trigger a domino effect that throws off your whole day. You hit the snooze button (three times), rush through your hair and makeup routine, and gulp down a less-than-healthy breakfast (if anything at all.) You then stumble into work with low blood sugar, a foul mood, and a messy ponytail. Is it a surprise that your meeting goes poorly, your lunch is a whole pizza, and you road rage on the way home? It may seem like a no-brainer, but when we’re well-rested, these things are a lot less likely to happen.

If you know you should be getting more sleep, you probably are familiar with the basics of how to do it. No caffeine after 2 pm. Put down the phone. Shut off the TV. Make sure your room is dark, cool, and relaxing.

Here’s another tool to your ‘more sleep toolbox’. I call it: the nighttime ritual. A nighttime ritual is any set of behaviors or activities that help you wind down and decompress before bed to get you ready for the eight hours of sleep you need. These are things that calm and center you, preparing you for that deep, restorative sleep that will make the next day easier…and more productive!

Here are some of my favorite nighttime rituals.

1. A soothing evening snack or drink.
We are all familiar with the wisdom to “eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch, and a pauper for dinner.” Although we do sleep better on a stomach that isn’t too full, we don’t want to wake up at 3 am starving. I like to keep my dinners light, so if I need a nighttime snack, I’ll munch on a handful of walnuts or cherries, both of which are natural sources of melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness).

If you like to wind down with something comforting & cozy, you can’t beat the extra TLC you feel with a healing turmeric latte or a warming cup of herbal tea. An apple with nut butter gives you a generous serving of fiber with a bit of healthy fat and protein, while bananas are filled with magnesium, potassium and tryptophan—minerals that relax your body to help you get a bit more shut eye. (A little nice cream, anyone?)

2. Get tomorrow out of your head and onto paper.
Do you do that thing where you lay in bed, stare at the ceiling, and mentally compile pages of to-do lists? Yeah, me too. Let’s stop. If you take five minutes each night to write down your next-day tasks, you won’t have to lie awake worrying that you forgot something.

For bonus points, write your to-do list on paper (so you won’t get sucked into your computer or phone) and do this somewhere other than your bedroom. Then leave it there – far, far away from your bed. Total game-changer!

3. Prepare for tomorrow so you can truly relax once you’re in bed.
Your future self will thank you for this! Spend 20 minutes laying out your clothes for the next day and making sure you have what you need (and enough time) for breakfast. When you prep ahead, you eliminate any thoughts about stressful mornings that could keep you up at night in addition to maximizing your sleep the following morning!

4. Try a little bit of stretching or gentle movement.
I like to move through a few yoga poses before bed, or even just sit on the floor and stretch. It helps me work out the kinks of the day and signal to my body that we’re slowing down. Even just a few conscious deep breaths may be enough to make that shift.

5. Make your preparations for bed as lovely and luxurious as possible.
I know it’s tempting to quickly wash your face and then pull on some old sweats, but it’s so much nicer to make bedtime into a sweet, relaxing ritual. What if you spent half an hour relaxing in the bathtub? Or found a pair of cozy pajamas you really liked? Or made your moisturizing process into a mini massage? What if you splurged on Egyptian cotton sheets and a few pillows that perfectly meet your fluffiness needs? You’re a lot more likely to get ready for bed in a timely matter if you actually enjoy the process!

6. Practice gratitude.
A gratitude practice can help put things in perspective, especially if you’re feeling a little low. It can be done by writing your thoughts down in a special journal, sharing the highlights of your day with your partner/roommate/pet, or just mentally thanking life for the good things it served up today. If you’re stuck, remember you can be grateful for anything. I’ve even written, “I’m thankful that my dogs are happy and healthy.” This is such a great practice to do, not only around Thanksgiving!

7. Feel good with soothing essential oils.
Essential oils are one of my favorite pantry staples, but I use them for more than salad dressing! Rose and lavender oils relieve stress and bergamot is said to alleviate mild anxiety. Of course, you can simply breathe in your essential oil of choice, but you can also add a few drops to a bath or to the floor of your shower. I love these recipes for calming essential oil face mists.

8. Cuddle someone who loves you.
Your cuddle buddy can be your kids, your partner, or your pet! Whomever you cuddle, the benefits are the same; cuddling has been shown to boost immunity, lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol levels. Plus, it’s a fun and calming and the perfect way to end your day.

This month, I’m doing the challenge right alongside you. Getting enough sleep is something that I really struggle with. So, I’m ready for more + better sleep!

To help get you excited for this month’s challenge, Kale & Chocolate will be giving away some awesome sleep-inducing prizes, including bath powders, essential oils, eye-masks, and more. To enter, simply share your nighttime rituals on instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges and tag (and follow!) @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley. Show us your cup of tea, your meditation space, your fur babies, your nighttime snack…anything that helps you feel calm and centered before dosing off to sleep. So, tuck yourself in and sleep tight!

One Healthy Breakdown: in order to live life to the fullest, we must sleep in between!

October’s Tiny Change: Eat Breakfast

OHH Intro: Breakfast is something OHH REALLY stands behind! No, not only on Sundays, but Every. Single. Day. It’s HUGE…and delicious! So, if you’re not a breakfast eater, take the next few weeks to become one (and, no, a cup of coffee does NOT count as breakfast, sorry people!) It may be easier (and yummier!) than you think after scrolling through Kale and Chocolate’s deliciousness below!)

If you’re just joining us, this post is part of Kale and Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one super small, super doable change-over a year it really adds up! You can read about all the changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges, and don’t forget, there will be giveaways!

kale-and-chocolate-pb-j-oats-1Since October is my favorite month of the year and breakfast is my favorite (and most important!) meal of the day, I decided to turn our attention to how we take care of ourselves first thing in the morning. After all, it’s hard to feel amazing throughout the rest of your day if you’re getting up when it’s still dark and heading out the door on a cup of coffee and an empty stomach!

When we make the time to eat something nourishing and healthy first thing in the morning, we’re setting the tone for the rest of the day! We’re making ourselves the priority, not our schedules or our to do lists. We’re also balancing our blood sugar and metabolism, giving ourselves an energy source to draw on, and taking a few moments to center ourselves before we venture into the fray.

So with that in mind, here are a few tips that will help you navigate this month’s 12 Tiny Changes Challenge. Let’s do this! If you’re not eating breakfast:

1. Figure out why it’s not happening.
Do you dislike traditional breakfast food? Do you feel like you don’t have enough time? (Number one excuse!) Does eating early in the morning turn your stomach? Once you know your “why”, you’ll be able to make changes accordingly!

2. Try different dishes if you don’t like breakfast food.
You’re not actually required to eat pancakes for breakfast – or eggs or smoothies. Make your own rules! Or just move your breakfast from the sweet to the savory end of the spectrum. (It may also help reduce sugar cravings later in the day!)

sweet-savory-breakfasts-lg3. Prep your breakfasts ahead of time.
In September, our theme for the #12tinychanges was to devote a few hours to meal prep each week. When we think of meal prep, we’re usually focused on getting dinner on the table, but guess what? You can prep for breakfast, too! Make yourself one huge batch of overnight oats, pumpkin pancakes, breakfast quinoa, or berry good oat bars and eat them every morning. Chop and peel all your fruits and veggies so they’re ready for smoothies or whip up a big batch of chia seed pudding. You get the idea, it’s about setting yourself up for breakfast success!

4. If you truly can’t eat breakfast, then have a mid-morning snack ready.
There are a few people out there who really feel sick if they eat first thing in the morning. Try starting with a really mild, simple breakfast (like sprouted toast). If that doesn’t work, make sure you have snacks ready to go for when you do get hungry so that you’ll have energy to get through the day.

If you’re already eating breakfast every day, up your game! Breakfast Criminals has been a major influence and has inspired me to take my breakfast to the next level. If you, too, are already nourishing yourself in the morning, but you want to do even better, give these a try:

1. Double-check that your go-to breakfast is serving you.
Many of us (myself included) are creatures of habit. If you’ve been eating the same breakfast for years, why not make sure that it’s right for you? Who knows – maybe you’d have more energy and focus if you started your day with a protein-rich vegetable frittata, baked avocado with eggs, or seeded almond flour bread. Experiment with different types of breakfasts and take note of how you feel for the rest of the morning. Changing your breakfast can change your day, plain & simple!

2. Make your breakfast more interesting (and nutritious!)
If you’ve found a few breakfasts that are easy to make—and help you feel great—experiment with your faves. There are so many delicious, healthy ingredients that you can sprinkle over and stir into your oatmeal, smoothies, parfaits and more! You can see my long list of favorite nutritional boosts here. Have I convinced you? Breakfast can (and should!) be easy, energy-giving, and delicious. Happy breakfast-ing!

One Healthy Breakdown: let’s make this year amazing, starting with our morning meal!