February is Heart Month: Resources, Tips and Recipes

My beautiful Mother, Earnie

February is heart month designated by the American Heart Association in an effort to raise awareness of the risk of heart disease and stroke in women. Their mission is to promote healthier living, free of cardiovascular disease.  That single purpose drives all they do.

My parents, and grandparents, had cardiovascular disease including stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attack.  My biggest shock came when my mother suffered a stroke in 2007.  Her best friend, Margaret, called my sister and told her, “Your Mother doesn’t seem right” and wasn’t making sense on the phone.  I stopped by Mother’s house on the way to work and took one look at her and knew she was suffering from a stroke. The entire side of her face was drooping and she had a blank look on her face.  Still able to function we rushed her to the hospital where she stayed for about a week. Fortunately, Mother was able to regain her abilities, but some damage was irreversible. She lost her ability to write clearly –oh, she had beautiful penmanship and loved to send letters and cards to friends, she became easily fatigued, swallowing food was a challenge sometimes, she found it difficult to find the right words when putting a sentence together — something referred to as “word salad” and could no longer safely drive her car.   It was a huge adjustment for her but she did it with a smile and positive attitude! Thankfully, our family made the adjustments needed and that’s when my parents came to live with us.

What I remember most about that day in the ER with Mother was this:  As they were assessing Mother’s blood pressure, I couldn’t believe the result.  The nurse and I looked at each other, then looked over at Mother.  The nurse asked her, “Do you have hypertension?”  I expected Mother to reply no, but she told the nurse she indeed had been diagnosed with hypertension several years prior and was taking medication for it.  I had to pick up my chin off the floor.  How had I missed this?  Why did she not tell me this? Come to find out, this was partly true.  The nurse called her physician to confirm hypertension, then followed up with the pharmacy only to find that Mother had not filled her prescription in over a year!  When the nurse reported this back to Mother, her only response was she felt fine and didn’t think the medication was necessary.

Heart disease and stroke are the world’s two leading killers, and more than one in three U.S. women live with some form of cardiovascular disease. But studies show 80 percent of cardiac events and strokes are preventable. Please familiarize yourself with a heart attack and stroke symptoms here.

High blood pressure affects one out of three adults over the age of 20. There is a reason it is referred to as “the silent killer”  because most of the time there are no symptoms.  What is hypertension?  Here is an article to explain what it is with a helpful quiz to direct you for additional resources.  A lot of times it’s considered a man’s disease so women don’t think they can be affected.  Mother never liked to take medicine even after she came to live with me.  In the beginning, when I’d hand her medication to her, I’d watch her try to put it into her tissue.  I was always very respectful but would point out she needed to take it.  Reluctantly, she would.  Another factor that caused her non-compliance was that she devoted all her time and strength to caring about Daddy and didn’t give herself the same attention.  Caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people. An excellent resource from the Mayo Clinic provides tips for caregivers.

More women die from heart disease than from all forms of cancer. It’s not rocket science, but why do we try to make it more complicated?  Our prescription is not complex — eat smart and exercise.  There are some factors that are unpreventable, but we can all agree that diet and exercise are two things we do have control over.

If you love to cook and want recipe inspiration the AHA has an extensive library of delicious and healthy recipes here. While you are there, scroll to the bottom of their recipe site for fun cooking skills classes.

Love cookbooks? Why not add an American Heart Association Cookbook to your library. Visit their site for current books here.

Speaking of classes – since are all involved in digital learning right now, the AHA has a series of weekly programming with health experts. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the home page for the next class coming up on February 15 at 11 a.m. CST.

If it has been a while since you have seen your physician and had lab work, do yourself a favor and give yourself this gift.  As a healthcare professional, I am a huge advocate of an annual physical examination from a family practice physician or internist AND an annual gynecological appointment.  Of course, it can be argued that your family physician can do your GYN exam, but I feel that women’s needs are best met, especially peri and post-menopausal, by a GYN.  Just my opinion, but so far it has served me well. We only get one pass in this world and you might as well make it the best you can.  We make appointments for our loved ones — children, spouses, and parents, yet why are we always at the bottom of the “to do” list?

A new resource I have added to my library is Heart Smart for Women: Six S.T.E.P.S in Six Weeks for Heart-Healthy Living . The book is easy to understand and a terrific introduction to the changes needed to live a long and healthy life. It would be the perfect book for someone who has recently been diagnosed with heart disease.

Here is a helpful link from The Heart Foundation with additional resources.

And if you love to listen to podcasts, here is a link to the American Heart Association podcasts on a variety of heart health topics including Strokes and COVID.

I hope this helps you. Please share this post with a friend or on Facebook. It could save their life.

Tips for Caring for Winter Skin

Oh, my goodness. Is anyone else really struggling with dry, itchy, sensitive skin right now? I’ve never struggled with dry skin, but I guess since we are spending so much more time indoors due to COVID, the heat in the house really zaps your skin of it’s natural moisture.

So, I went to work gathering up supplies and doing the research on the best products to help skin retain its moisture during the winter. My main problem is I developed dry, scaling, itchy patches under my eyes and on my eyelids.  My eyes were dry which meant they itched and burned. I headed to CVS and loaded into my cart a small Vick’s humidifier for next to my bed, Aquaphor advanced treatment ointment, and Flonase. I started this regimen, along with eye drops, on Sunday and I noticed an improvement by the next morning. Because I saw such quick results, this will be my routine for the foreseeable future.

Then, I did some reading and found this helpful article from Harvard Women’s Health Watch on “What To Do About Dry Skin in Winter.” I’ll hit the highlights –

Dry skin occurs when skin doesn’t retain sufficient moisture — for example, because of frequent bathing, use of harsh soaps, aging, or certain medical conditions. Wintertime poses a special problem because the humidity is low both outdoors and indoors, and the water content of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) tends to reflect the level of humidity around it. 

Think of the epidermal skin cells as an arrangement of roof shingles held together by a lipid-rich “glue” that keeps the skin cells flat, smooth, and in place. Water loss accelerates when the glue is loosened by sun damage, over-cleansing, scrubbing, or underlying medical conditions — or by winter’s low humidity and the drying effects of indoor heat. The result is roughness, flaking, itching, cracking, and sometimes a burning sensation.

Skin moisturizers, which rehydrate the epidermis and seal in the moisture, are the first step in combating dry skin. They contain three main types of ingredients.  Look for these on the label – humectants, which help attract moisture, include ceramides, glycerin, sorbitol, hyaluronic acid, and lecithin. Another set of ingredients — for example, petrolatum (petroleum jelly), silicone, lanolin, and mineral oil — help seal that moisture within the skin. Emollients, such as linoleic, linolenic, and lauric acids, smooth skin by filling in the spaces between skin cells.

In general, the thicker and greasier a moisturizer, the more effective it will be. Some of the most effective (and least expensive) are petroleum jelly and moisturizing oils (such as mineral oil), which prevent water loss without clogging pores. Because they contain no water, they’re best used while the skin is still damp from bathing, to seal in the moisture. Other moisturizers contain water as well as oil, in varying proportions. These are less greasy and may be more cosmetically appealing than petroleum jelly or oils.

What you can do –

Here are some ways to combat dry skin that are effective if practiced consistently:

  • Use a humidifier in the winter. Set it to around 60%, a level that should be sufficient to replenish the top layer of the epidermis.
  • Limit yourself to one 5- to 10-minute bath or shower daily. If you bathe more than that, you may strip away much of the skin’s oily layer and cause it to lose moisture.
  • Use lukewarm water rather than hot water, which can wash away natural oils.
  • Minimize your use of soaps; if necessary, choose moisturizing preparations such as Dove, Olay, and Basis, or consider soap-free cleansers like Cetaphil, Oilatum-AD, and Aquanil.
  • Steer clear of deodorant soaps, perfumed soaps, and alcohol products, which can strip away natural oils.
  • Bath oils can be helpful, but use them with caution: they can make the tub slippery.
  • To reduce the risk of trauma to the skin, avoid bath sponges, scrub brushes, and washcloths. If you don’t want to give them up altogether, be sure to use a light touch. For the same reason, pat or blot (don’t rub) the skin when toweling dry.
  • Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing or after washing your hands. This helps plug the spaces between your skin cells and seal in moisture while your skin is still damp.
  • To reduce the greasy feel of petroleum jelly and thick creams, rub a small amount in your hands, and then rub it over the affected areas until neither your hands nor the affected areas feel greasy.
  • Never, ever scratch. Most of the time, a moisturizer can control the itch. You can also use a cold pack or compress to relieve itchy spots.
  • Use sunscreen in the winter as well as the summer to prevent photoaging.
  • When shaving, use a shaving cream or gel and leave it on your skin for several minutes before starting.
  • Use fragrance-free laundry detergents and avoid fabric softeners.
  • Avoid wearing wool and other fabrics that can irritate the skin.

I went a step further and researched the best skincare products to help combat dryness. My favorite on this list is the Aquaphor. It comes with two small tubes – one for my bedside table, one for my purse. I apply it several times a day in the eye area and the dryness and redness went away!

Let me know your favorite products or winter skin survival tips.

The Healing Power of Exercise During Menopause

If you follow me on social media you saw a recent post of me in my swimming pool sporting a purple ala Doris Day swim cap hinting that I am celebrating a milestone. Well, that milestone is I just finished my first year of menopause. Woo hoo! It’s hard to believe after forty-two years of having a period, it just stopped last June. I held my breath the entire next year hoping I wouldn’t have to start the clock over, but it didn’t. So I can say farewell to the tampon industry.

Interesting side effects replaced my periods. I have always heard about them, from older than me, friends and on television. Hot flashes. Actually, I refer to mine as “puffs” of heat. I didn’t turn beet-red or feel drenched from sweat, but I was very aware that I was the hottest gal in the room.  My puffs were more noticeable in the first six months and tapered off once the cold weather moved in last fall.  They’ve returned only slightly this summer. One thing I started as soon as the flashes started affecting me last summer is the over-the-counter multi-symptom Amberen. I didn’t realize Mary Lou Retton was a fan, so that’s good news. I noticed an improvement pretty quickly, and when I mentioned to my OBGYN during my annual visit that I was taking Amberen, she supported my decision and said it works for a lot of her patients.

I’ve been doing some reading from a great resource written by Dr. Christiane Northrup The Wisdom of Menopause.  As Dr. Northrup has championed, the “change” as not a collection of physical symptoms to be “fixed,” but a mind-body revolution that brings the greatest opportunity for growth since adolescence. The choices a woman makes now—from the quality of her relationships to the quality of her diet—have the power to secure vibrant health and well-being for the rest of her life.

I literally jumped into swimming laps after I read her chapter of the Role of the Lymph. I am just going to share what she said:

One of the main reasons why exercise has such healing powers is that it vastly increases the lymph circulation in your body. Lymph is the clear fluid that drains from around your body’s cells into the lymphatic system, a network of thin-walled vessels found throughout every organ and tissue in your body. The function of the lymph nodes is threefold: to filter out and destroy foreign substances, such as bacteria and dust; to produce some of the white cells called lymphocytes that help fight tumors and other invaders; and to produce antibodies that help in the body’s immune surveillance system.  

So the three things every woman must do is:

  1. Don’t sit for long periods of time. Women who sit for long periods of time at sedentary jobs are more likely to get heart disease because the lymphatic flow through their thoracic cavity is limited.
  2. Breathe deeply and regularly. Breathing fully in through your nose and inhaling air down into the lower lobes of your lungs followed by a brisk exhalation massages the thoracic duct and all the lymph vessels and nodes in your chest cavity, which helps HDL get to the places it needs to go to do its work.
  3. Move. Lymph flow depends upon the muscles in the body to move it along. Every time you walk, swim, do yoga, breathe deeply, run or move your muscles briskly, you are helping move the lymph along. The average turnover time for proteins in lymph is once to twice per day. When you exercise regularly, you can increase this figure to three to five times per day. So exercising gives your body three to five times more opportunity to get rid of excess cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels around your heart.

Since I started swimming I feel so good! I am breathing deeply with every stroke, hearing my breath underwater. And my muscles can really feel the resistance against the water. I am already up to 1/2 mile, with a goal of a mile by August 29 – my birthday. What a great birthday present to myself, right?

Healthy matters at any age. I’d love for you to set a goal to do something active with me between now and August 29. What can you do to put yourself first and foremost? I’d love to hear what it is and we can encourage each other along the way!

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Salad

Eating meals outdoors always seems to lift my mood and the weather has been so nice dinner alfresco.  I love the smell of meat cooking on the grill while sipping a good glass of wine.  I’m sharing a recipe I found on Pinterest for Grilled Lemon Herb Mediterranean Chicken Salad.  The recipe originates from Cafe Delites and if you don’t follow her blog you should.  In fact, I am sure you have already seen many of her recipes on Facebook.

The best thing about this recipe is that the marinade is also the dressing for the salad.  You prepare it, then use half for the chicken and pour the other half into a bowl or dressing bottle.

Marinade — plenty of fresh ingredients
Marinating chicken

While the chicken marinates in lemon juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar and fresh herbs, I prepared the salad.  Instead of plating everyone’s portion separately, I decided to plate it from one big platter.

Starting with romaine lettuce, then avocados, cucumber, red onion and tomatoes.

Tip:  Always let your grilled meat sit on the counter for at least 5-10 minutes to allow the internal juices to set which keeps the chicken moist. Slice the chicken and arrange on top of the salad platter. Drizzle remaining dressing over the top.

I served it with a bottle of Pedernales GSM 2014 from Pedernales Cellars that I picked up in Fredericksburg during a wine trip I took last fall.  This Rhone-style blend incorporates Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache from their estate Hill Country vineyard and partner vineyards in Texas. Described as a “medium-bodied blend brings together the diverse character of these three varieties into a fantastic balance that delivers aromas of raspberry, fennel, mushroom, and molasses. This is a rich red wine with significant oak and a soft finish.”  It really is one of my favorite wines to sip in the evening.

So if you were wondering what to make for dinner, this salad and wine along with a good crusty warm french bread would be the perfect way to celebrate spring.

Be sure to follow my Pinterest salad board.  I have over 150 recipes for fresh salad inspiration.

Finding Your Fit – Get Creative With your Fitness Routine

I had just started getting into my groove of an exercise routine that was working for me. I set a minimum of three days a week of exercise with the goal of five days for the win.  I learned that my best way to achieve this is to take my gear with me to work, change at the end of the day into my workout clothes and go straight to the gym from work – do not pass go for home! My friend/trainer Jess made fitness cards for me with a daily workout already planned to take the guesswork out of it. I walk into the gym and know immediately what my plan is. Boom. I was on a roll.

Enter CoVid19. I made the decision to stop going to the gym – even though the staff was doing a great job of keeping it clean and reminding guests to clean machines after use. I decided to be safe and work out from home.

Enter the change of routine. I have my cards, but I don’t have a treadmill to get my heart rate up. I was really enjoying the 20-minutes of jogging, then my 20-minute circuit, ending with 10 minutes of jogging. I felt great. Now, I am finding other ways to get my heart rate up.

Plan B. Jess made me cards for patio workouts using the hula hoop, medicine and stability balls, and a jump rope. So, hopefully, I can get into this like I did a workout at the gym. I have to say that this morning it was fun to workout poolside. I ran laps around the pool with Hazel and if you watch this YouTube video, you too can master the Hula Hoop aka – the waist whittler.

My Pinterest fitness board features over 500 ideas. Pick three new things from this board every day to mix things up so you don’t get bored. Also, I just signed up for Chris Freytag’s Get Healthy U to access on-line videos for only $20 for the entire year. She has all sorts of resources other than fitness videos – things like recipes and articles, and I like her because she is a 50-something woman like me. I can also stream it from Roku.  Since I have a TV on the patio, I can pull up a video and do everything from a 10-minute upper body workout to Yoga, to a step routine.  Use offer code ChrisGold20 for an annual Gold membership of just $20 (normally $149).

I have been enjoying daily walks with Hazel. Yesterday, we took a completely different route and it was so much fun exploring a new area of my neighborhood. I shoot for at least a 3-4 mile walk. You could try a walk and then add a 10-minute session on either your upper or lower body.

The point is this – do something. Yes, I agree this is a very scary, weird time in our lifetime. But taking good care of yourself is something you have total control of.  Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Your first wealth is health.”

The Healthy Way to Start the Day – From Ritual

This article, from Ritual, is too good to not share with you – word for word.

Extolling the virtues of a nutritious breakfast? We know—groundbreaking. But even if you don’t need to see yet another study that measures the influence of “the most important meal of the day” on our physical well-being, can we point out that starting things off on a healthy note can have a fresh psychological impact, too?

A quick reminder: Research tells us that good habits tend to breed good habits, so there is something to be said for setting the bar high as soon as you wake up and riding that wave of motivation. But the pressure doesn’t have to be high—it can come down to simple decisions like waking up, drinking some water, taking your vitamins, and whipping up a nutritious breakfast recipe you actually enjoy (avocado toast, Greek yogurt parfait, veggie frittata, or blueberry smoothie, anyone?).

In other words, it’s not just about striking a solid balance of protein, energy-sustaining carbs, and healthy fats—the mindset of doing something beautiful for yourself can also really make a difference.

This is the kind of philosophy dietitian and maternal nutrition expert Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN, likes to emphasize with her clients. “The initial hours of the day before heading to work are so crucial—I see them as the time to make conscious decisions that guide the rest of your day,” she says. “It sets the tone for the rest of your day and can be integral for sound nutrition. It gets your mind and body going in a healthy way.”

And you can bet that Diamond practices what she preaches. Keep reading for a look inside her morning routine—as well as a few easy breakfast ideas. (Spoiler: she has vegan-friendly and gluten-free suggestions, too.)


“I have three main things I focus on in the morning.  The first thing I do when I wake up is drink a glass of water that is waiting for me on my nightstand from the night before. Focusing on adequate hydration is something I need always to be conscious about, so knowing I have already consumed 8 ounces before 8 am makes me feel accomplished—I’ve already contributed to my hydration goal for the day.”

“I have a little boy, so the next thing I do is breastfeed him. I love the early morning snuggles, just the two of us. During his early morning feeding, I try to be completely present with him. I stay off my phone, keep the lights dimmed, and spend time talking to him about the day ahead. I love the feeling of being able to leave for work in the morning, knowing I already had special one-on-one time with him.”

“And finally, I enjoy a nourishing breakfast, of course. I love sitting down to have a yummy breakfast, no matter how long I have—5 minutes or 30 minutes. Sitting down and nourishing myself before I leave for work is something I look forward to daily. It helps give me the energy I need for the day as well as some time to focus on myself before I head out the door.”

“A nourishing, sound breakfast is also key from a nutritional standpoint. You may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true. Studies show that skipping breakfast can have a significant impact on our health (1)—and it’s the perfect opportunity to fill up on whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies.”

“I am really into overnight oats right now. I use One Degree Organic Foods sprouted rolled oats—their oats are free of glyphosate, a common herbicide—and add in a bunch of nuts (almond butter, peanut butter, walnuts), seeds (flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds), and fruit (whatever berries that are fresh from the farmers market). I also love a good smoothie in the morning. I currently love the New Mom Blend from Seedlyfe, which I mix with almond milk, greens, and any fresh fruit I have on hand.”

References: *Rong, S., Snetselaar, L. G., Xu, G., Sun, Y., Liu, B., Wallace, R. B., & Bao, W. (2019). Association of Skipping Breakfast With Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Curating Your Best Self – Being Brave

I had a Mother moment yesterday where I truly felt like I rocked at womanhood.  Miss Bee called me in frantic tears. She had a job interview and her dad had taken the car to run an errand without thinking she was going to need it. “My interview is in 30 minutes,” she said. I told her it will be fine. Call the manager at your interview, tell them you might be late, I’m on my way.  Before we hung up she sobbed, “Oh, and I can’t find Wilson anywhere (the cat).”

No problem, I ran to my car, dialed Mr. Bee who was in route to the house.  He got her to her interview. I arrived home and searched high and low for Mr. Wilson – in the bushes “Please, Lord, I don’t want find a dead cat today,” I stood on our front porch and called him. I looked under every sofa, chair, desk, you name it, I turned it over. Finally, I found him locked in a closet in the guest room. Crisis adverted.  I even managed to change three litter boxes while I was at, and I was back at my desk within the hour. I got a call from a calmer Miss Bee, “I got the job.” My work here is done.

But, there are also days when I feel out of control, that I’m not my best self and it makes me feel uncomfortable, unsettled, unworthy.  How quickly we can turn away from the empowered self to the destructive inner critic.

I adore the teachings of Brené Brown.  She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She’s the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of ImperfectionDaring GreatlyRising StrongBraving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead.  She also has a powerful Netflix show you can view here.

Here she offers “5 Ways to be Brave” in a Forbes magazine article. I love this part…

Come Off The Blocks

Dr. Brown tells a story about her daughter joining a year-round swim team, and how the coach assigned her to the 100 breast stroke, which is a tough race, and not her daughter’s strongest stroke. She was upset and said her friend told her she could scratch her heat, which means she could pretend not to hear her heat get called and miss her race. She asked Dr. Brown if she would get grounded if she scratched her heat, Dr. Brown said no. Her daughter said, “I’m never going to win this race,” Brown responded, “You will never win this race, but maybe winning for you is getting off the block and getting wet.”

The day of the race comes, her daughter shows for the heat, and it was ugly. She was so behind that everyone was out of the pool and waiting for the next heat to start by the time she finished. She was devastated and crying, when she reached Dr. Brown. She looked down and said, “But I was brave and I won.” Brown summarizes the meaning of the story, “Vulnerability is hard and it’s scary and it feels dangerous. But it’s not as hard, or scary or dangerous as getting to the end of our lives and having to ask ourselves: What if I would’ve shown up? What if I would’ve said ‘I love you?’ What if I would’ve come off the blocks? Show up, be seen, answer the call to courage and come off the blocks. Because you’re worth it—you’re worth being brave.”

She’s also very vocal about her sobriety saying this, “I celebrated 23 years sober this month – May 12 to be exact. About a year ago, I was talking to a dear friend who was newly sober, and our conversation shifted something in me. For the first time in my life, I realized that my sobriety isn’t a limitation. Sobriety isn’t even a “have to” – it’s a superpower.”

For those of you hurting or struggling with how to do life, reach out and ask for help. Find a meeting. Get a therapist. Call a friend. We don’t have to do this alone. We were never meant to.

Be sure to check out her website and sign up for her weekly inspirational emails.  She shares a wealth of wisdom, beautiful downloads and helpful videos.  Here is Brené’s Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted

Monday Motivation: Transform your wellness with meal planning

Rise and shine, it’s Monday!  Another week to start new goals, work on current ones and celebrate the week ahead.  Our goal at Home with a Twist is to redefine Monday and make it the best day of the week.  Let’s dive in with some ideas.

Meal Planning:  This “new to me” practice has been very effective in my health and wellness journey.  It is a tool that is discussed a lot in my Noom community (Noom is an online weight-loss app you read about here).  The importance of meal planning is that it allows you to know in advance what you will be eating so that you are more likely to make healthier food choices.  Meal planning also helps you keep food costs down because there is less “hangry” food impulse buying.  Here is a terrific article on meal prep 101 .

One thing to consider is you don’t need to plan elaborate menus for the week.  If you like to cook, and that’s how you want to approach meal planning, then go for it.  Since I work and I am now in graduate school, my free time is not as conducive to cooking every night of the week even though I enjoy it.  Here’s how I approach meal prep:

Sunday — Mr. Bee and I discuss what our schedule looks like for the week and what evenings we have free to sit down together for a meal.  Let’s say this week we’ve got Monday, Tuesday and Friday evenings free.  After church we shop at Trader Joe’s and get all our fresh groceries for the week.  Maybe this is another day for you like Saturday.  The point is to pick a day that is your start of the week and stick with it.  The other days of the week we eat leftovers or a sandwich, or we might go out one night a week for dinner.

Dinner — We will go around the store and brainstorm three dinner meals always making sure to include a protein and lots of fruits and vegetables.  It might be their spatchcocked chicken (which is the THE most read of my blog posts.  I get comments on it daily and I wrote that post over two years ago. If you google Trader Joe’s Spatchcocked Chicken my blog is usually the third or fourth on the list.  I know!  Who knew a chicken would make me famous.).  Anyway, back to the current story.  Put the chicken in your cart, throw in a box of brown organic rice, which has enough servings for three meals, and a package of Brussels sprouts from produce.  Boom meal one done.  And you will probably have enough left over for lunch the next day.  Another great resource — the TJs staff.  They love to help.  Ask them for ideas for a quick and healthy dinner.  Maybe it’s ground turkey or chicken and one of their sauces and pasta (or spaghetti squash).  Add a bag of salad and there’s meal two.  We usually make omelets at least one evening of the week.  Toss in lots of veggies, herbs and some low-fat mozzarella cheese.  Add a slice of whole wheat toast and you have a well-rounded meal three.  So, there are three dinner ideas for you this week.

Lunches — I also shop for my lunches for the week like a fresh loaf of whole wheat bread, sliced turkey breast and veggies.  They sell the most delicious bag of tiny colorful bell peppers.  Slice those into strips and measure their hummus into a small container and you have a healthy side for your sandwich.  Add an apple for fiber for good measure.  TJs has lots of lovely pre-made salads that are $5-$7 you can stock up on for the week, too.  You can grill a few pieces of chicken on the weekend and have those for lunch during the week with a baked sweet potato.

Breakfasts — Studies have shown that breakfast eaters are all-around healthier, less likely to be obese, more likely to have good blood sugar levels, less likely to be hungry later on in the day, and may have improved cognitive function.  Embracing, and not skipping, breakfast kick starts your metabolism and boosts your energy after a long fast.  I love TJ’s steel-cut oatmeal in the freezer section.  Add in a tablespoon of almond butter for your protein and partner it with a hard-boiled egg and you will have a power breakfast that will keep you full for hours.  Here’s a guide to healthy breakfasts for the week.    Overnight oatmeal is so delish — here’s a recipe I have tried from Kathy Eats Real Food.  Unlike the crock pot oatmeal I made that tasted like barf (if you want that recipe click here and God, bless).

I’ll come back another time for healthy snack ideas to inspire you.  But, for now try these tips to make your Monday matter!

Move to Bloom: Using Noom to Achieve my Wellness Goals and Promo Code

True story: I did not workout one day in 2018.  By the end of the year, my body ached, I wasn’t sleeping well, my clothes didn’t fit, I had no energy and I felt blah.  Plus, if you tuned into my podcast I was also struggling with some painful issues with my feet.  Thankfully, I’ve got myself back in gear with the new year. I joined a brand new gym and took their very first spin class on their grand opening day.   And, I’ve found that the spin class has actually helped with my foot pain, so that’s a bonus!

I also joined Noom — which as been coined as the “Millennial Weight Watchers.”  Noom is a wellness program that is designed to help you live a healthier life by guiding you to create better habits.  Unlike other weight loss programs that focus just on the physical aspect of losing weight, Noom focuses on the mental aspect. For many, struggles with weight loss has a lot to do with personal thoughts, habits, beliefs, triggers and emotions that tend to be barriers.  Noom’s goal is to help you overcome these barriers by helping you become more aware of poor habits and creating better ones.

Here’s how I use it and what I like about it.  You wake up every morning with at least 5-6 “activities” waiting for you in the Noom App from quizzes, simple strategies to try, and quick tips on what to focus on for the day.  This program is very much geared toward helping you figure out why you eat what you eat, identifying your personal triggers for making less than healthy food choices, strategies for overcoming barriers and breaking habits.  A lot of what they teach you is based on scientific studies and everyday it seems to track the exact information I need.

You are assigned a coach that helps you determine your “Ultimate Why” and who also checks in weekly to see how you’re doing and to set a new goal.  You log your meals and snacks everyday and the food is broken down into “green, yellow and red” zones so you can gauge where you did well and what needs improvement.  You are also assigned to an accountability group to share ideas and offer encouragement.  Like to cook, but you’re not sure what fits in the program?  Noom has an extensive collection of healthy recipes.   Meal planning is a big idea in this program because by planning your meals ahead of time — including breakfast and lunch – you are more likely to eat healthier.  This has helped me significantly and I’ve spent less money by not going out to eat.

While exercising is important and you’ll see better results if you combine moving and better eating, Noom doesn’t push you with any specific workouts, that’s up to you.  But, you do earn credits toward your calorie budget on the days you exercise and it connects with your fitness device like a Fitbit to track your movement.  Noom offers two programs, one for weight management and the other for diabetes management which focuses more on carbohydrate intake.

Everything is done directly through the app you upload on your phone once you sign up.  Membership costs vary based on current promotions, but it is a 16 week program for about $32 dollars a month.  This is a helpful article to answer all your questions.   And you can also visit Noom to take a free 30-second evaluation.

Here’s the best part — Just for my followers I have a 20% off promo code you can use toward your membership!

Use this link https://friends.noom.com/YVJNSThEMlNCOmNm when you sign up and you get 14 days for free + 20% off your membership!

I can’t wait to share more with you in the future on my #movetobloom goal for 2019!

The FriYay Fit — Aaptiv Fitness App

Despite the fact that working out makes you feel amazing after you’ve finished, it’s a mind game getting motivated to keep that appointment with yourself at the gym.  I get bored easily with the same-ol-workout, so when I found the app, Aaptiv, it’s been a game changer!  And I’m sharing a free guest pass at the end of this post.

“In 2015, Ethan Agarwal was trying to stay fit during his business travels. It wasn’t easy—he found it difficult to stay motivated during runs. He wanted an audio-based guide that would be with him every step of the way. Not finding a product that suited his needs, Ethan started Aaptiv. Today, Aaptiv is the top audio-based fitness app on the Apple App Store, and the fastest-growing mobile fitness product on the market.

At Aaptiv, we believe that everyone deserves personalized fitness instruction, not just the few who can afford their own personal trainer. We’re not about six-packs, thigh gaps, or so-called “beach bodies”—everybody is welcome on our beach. We help people feel the joy of moving their bodies, the satisfaction of completing a workout, the thrill of beating a personal best, and the health benefits of fitness. We embrace all paths: a morning run, a midday yoga session, an after-work gym class, or a bedtime meditation.

Our vision is simple: we want to improve the lives of millions through fitness. Our journey begins with a magical combination of scientifically effective programming, empathetic trainers, and uplifting music. As we grow, our members can count on us to deliver the most convenient, personalized, and fun way to work out—an always-there partner that guides them to their healthiest, happiest lives.”

Basically, it’s trainer-led, music driven audio workouts.  It’s like having a personal trainer standing right there with you, coaching, prompting and encouraging you through your workout.  They have thousands of workouts loaded, and add 25+ new classes each week.  You select your skill level, interests, how much time you want to devote to a workout, type of equipment you want to use – literally, there are endless options.  Right now, I am following a Cardio for Weight Loss segment that runs for four weeks.  There are four workouts per week and after you complete each one you tag it as finished, balloon emojis set out and you get a congratulations email from the trainer that led that session!  This segment includes the elliptical, stairclimber, indoor cycling, weights, rowing and the treadmill.

If you don’t work out at a gym, there are home programs.  Want to take a run or walk outside, there’s something there for you, too.  There’s stretching and Yoga sessions and the list goes on.  The best part for me is I do something different every day and the time passes quickly because I am not looking at the clock!

If you want to give a try – use this free 30-day guest pass code .  If you decide you want to join, they are always running discounts on memberships.  I believe when I joined I signed up for a year membership at 50% off.  But, you’ve got 30-days to find out for yourself.  It’s available on the App Store and Google Play.  Let me know what you think!