Nesting & Investing in the New Year

It’s true what they say about pregnancy and nesting, but the New Year actually brings an even better excuse to clear out the old and make room for the new. Just like we cleanse our bodies of toxins, we can all benefit from cleansing our living space, workspace, and head space of clutter. We’re already spending the majority of the winter months inside, we might as well clean up a little, right?! Nesting is about simplifying and making space for what’s to come, investing in a new year of new possibilities. Whether you’re welcoming a baby into your household, just having house guests, or you have the desire to declutter your life, these tips are for you!

Let go of extra “stuff.” Sometimes we hold on to stuff that we may not even use because we have this fear of not having enough. Having “stuff” can make us feel secure in a way, but do you know what feels so, so much better? Getting rid of the extra stuff and making space – clarifying and simplifying things. That “stuff” can actually weigh us down and hold us back; after all, you know what they say: less is more. Once you clean out the stuff you don’t need, you’ll get it.

Where to start? Choose one small space at a time to make it manageable – your desk, the kitchen pantry, or a closet. Clean out everything you no longer need and organize the rest. Complete each space before moving on to the next.

When we declutter the space around us, we make space both mentally and physically for clarity and new opportunities. Use this open head space to visualize your goals for the New Year. Replace your resolutions with concrete goals and inspiration. Center your focus around inspiring words, mantras, and measurable tasks to ensure that you make progress. You may be inclined to change the decor of a room for a fresh start as well; try painting the walls, rearranging the furniture, or getting a new tool to help organize (anything from a file cabinet to a new mug for your pens.) This physical change may help instigate psychological change as well.

One Healthy Breakdown: get nesting, get focused, and get happy. Do it!

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!

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!