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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Favorite Non-Toxic Body Care Products


The more I've immersed myself into the holistic health world, the more I've come to learn that what we put on our body is just as important as what we put in our bodyOur skin, our largest organ, absorbs a large percentage of the products we slather on it, meaning many of the ingredients in those products enter our bloodstream. According to a study done by a natural deodorant company, Bionsen, the average woman applies 500 chemicals to her body a day! And many of those chemicals have been linked to cancer, allergies and birth defects. Yikes. 

According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, the cosmetic industry is the least regulated industry under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The FFDCA does not require safety testing of cosmetics before they go on the market. Issues are only addressed after the products are released and on shelves to be sold to consumers. Even more, The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reported to the government that 884 of the chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products are hazardous to our health, contributing to genetic damage, mutations and cancer. 


Because there is limited regulation, the cosmetic industry consistently uses misleading advertisements and false claims. We often see "all-natural" or "chemical-free" thrown around on various product labels, not just on personal care products but on food and home products as well. The ironic thing is, many organic or "green" products have chemicals in them too. Most all products do. Even zinc oxide, used in mineral-based sunscreens and known to be the safer alternative to other chemical sunscreens, is a chemical. It all boils down to the chemicals level of severity and potential for serious health risks. The point is, very few products are truly "all-natural." 

Since we clearly cannot count on the cosmetic/personal care industry, or any industry for that matter, to protect us from harmful chemicals, it's crucial that we take responsibility for our own health and read labels to distinguish the good from the bad so that we can make the best decision possible for ourselves and our families.

Purchasing cosmetics and personal care products is like voting. Are you voting for good health & integrity or illness & deception?

Ingredients to avoid in cosmetics/personal care products:

Aluminum - commonly found in deodorant and antiperspirants. This deodorant is my favorite.
Artificial fragrances - companies are not required to list all of the chemicals used for synthetic fragrance, meaning there may be hundreds of chemicals used yet only listed as 1 ingredient often seen as 'fragrance'
Artificial dyes & colors - made from petroleum and coal tar... bleh, that just sounds disgusting. You'll often see them listed as letters followed by a color & number much like FD&C Red No. 40
DEA, TEA, MEA (diethanolamine, triethanolamine, monethanolamine)
Formaldehyde - commonly found in nail polish
Lanolin - can be contaminated with the neurotoxic pesticides DDT, dieldrin & lindane
Oxybenzone, octyl methoxycinnamate & retinyl palmitate - found in chemical sunscreens. Opt for mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. This sunscreen is my favorite.
Parabens, including methyl, propyl, butyl, & ethyl parabens
Petrochemicals (PEG), including mineral oil, toluene (found in nail polish) & petroleum oil
Phthalates (DBP, BBP, DEHP)
Propylene glycol
Sulfates (sodium lauryl & sodium laureth)
Talc - commonly found in make-up
Triclosan
Ureas - may also be listed as DMDM hydantoin & sodium hydroxymethylglycinate

* Sources: EWG, Cinco Vidas, CPC

Also important - avoid companies that test on animals. It's truly unnecessary now that scientists have the ability to effectively test cosmetics in other ways without causing distress to and the suffering of an innocent animal.

Luckily, we can reduce our toxic load by choosing to eat nutrient-rich foods, consisting of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, drinking plenty of filtered water, and by using high-quality, gentle skin care products that nourish our skin without the use of unnecessary chemicals and additives.

Below are a few of my very favorite holy-grail body products including two body washes, a moisturizer (body oil) & an exfoliant. I've been on the hunt for the best effective but non-toxic skin care for years. And like many, I've spent an embarrassing amount of money on products that have been both ineffective and harmful to my health due to the plethora of dangerous chemicals they're loaded with. Recently, I've discovered a few gems that have become staples in my daily body skin care routine and I couldn't be more relieved! My face skin care routine is soon to come, but for now...

Please join me in welcoming my latest and greatest VIP (Very Important Products)!

Dr. Bronner's Tea Tree Bar Soap: Tea Tree Oil has developed a loyal following the past several years thanks to its natural antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. This versatile oil is highly effective in treating skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis and psoriasis, as well as dandruff, burns and rashes. I've been using this soap for several months on my chest to treat dermatitis, and on my neck, shoulders, and back to treat acne. Dr. Bronner's tea tree soap has worked wonders for me! It has cleared the dermatitis on my chest, the acne on my neck, and greatly reduced the acne on my shoulders and back. It is a million times more manageable now and I've been able to move on with my life a lot less stressed knowing those problem areas have been taken care of, and in a healthy manner to boot.

The liquid form works just the same too and is probably preferred. You only need a few drops - it lathers beautifully.


Click here for reviews by some consumers who swear by Dr. Bronner's castile soap for acne treatment. :-)

* Even with all of the benefits of tea tree oil, I want to share this enlightening article on how even natural ingredients should be used with some caution and in lower concentrations to avoid resistance to the ingredient or resistance to antibiotics. I typically switch up my products after I've used them for awhile to avoid overuse. Use at your own discretion.


• Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Liquid Soap (16 oz.): I love & adore this soap so much because I can rest assured that all of the ingredients are working to not only clean off the day's dirt and grime but are actually nourishing my skin as opposed to stripping my skin with preservatives and other chemicals. The bottle claims that it has 18 uses, though I have only tried a few of those uses -- I use it as a body wash and hand soap. From what I've read on other blogs, it's useful as a produce wash, shaving cream, shampoo, laundry liquid, and general house cleaner. This soap gives a tingly, cooling sensation to the skin, as you would expect from peppermint. Dr. Bronner's offers several other scents too. I hear the almond variety is divine.

Dr. Bronner's is easily one of my all-time favorite brands. For one, they use certified fair-trade and organic ingredients and they're 100% vegetarian. Also, their products have a short ingredient list of names that you can pronounce and are familiar with. Minimal ingredients that are both gentle and effective? That's a slam dunk in my book. Dr. Bronner's represents the 3 E's: Economical, Environmentally-friendly & Effective. Boom!

You can choose from a variety of sizes and scents on their website with options for babies too (including unscented). I first sampled the soap by buying a 4 oz. bottle before buying a larger bottle just to test it out, which is an awesome option to have.

Other retailers that carry Dr. Bronner's: Amazon, Target, Walgreens, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and The Vitamin Shoppe.

• SheaMoisture Raw Shea Butter Body Wash (13 oz.): I've been using this body wash for a month now and couldn't be more impressed! It claims to be anti-aging, hydrating & rejuvenating. With a blend of organic raw shea butter, coconut oil, and frankincense & myrrh extracts, no wonder my skin feels so lusciously moisturized and soft after use. Raw shea butter has been used for centuries to heal, hydrate, and repair the skin. It contains vitamins A and E, which work to maintain supple, smooth skin and help to rebuild collagen. Frankincense & Myrrh possess anti-inflammatory properties to heal the skin. And the coconut oil gives the skin an extra boost of nourishment with Vitamins E and K and essential fatty acids.

SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Bath, Body & Massage Oil (8 oz.): I use this oil as my daily moisturizer all over my body except for on my face. It claims to brighten and tone the skin with the help of coconut oil to moisturize, hibiscus flower to heal and soothe & Vitamin E to protect from free radical damage. It smells like a tropical paradise with an obvious coconut scent, meaning it ignites a piƱa colada craving every time I get a whiff. ;-) I massage it into my skin right after I get out of the shower to lock in the moisture. Honestly, my skin has never looked or felt better. And the only reason I can co-sign it 100% is because it's formulated without harsh chemicals. It's also the perfect complement to their body wash.

SheaMoisture is a new discovery of mine and man am I glad that I found this company! Besides bath and body products, they also offer hair products. SheaMoisture uses certified organic ingredients that are ethically traded and sustainably produced. And again, their ingredient list is small and contains only healthy ingredients, no harsh chemicals, like most products on the market today. The side of the body wash bottle states: No parabens, phthalates, paraffin, gluten, propylene glycol, mineral oil, synthetic fragrance, PABA, synthetic color, sulfates, or animal ingredients. I would argue that this company is close to being as "all-natural" as it gets.

SheaMoisture is currently re-designing their website due to growing demands for their products but you can find them at these online retailers: Target.com, Walgreens.com & CVS.com. Their products can also be found in all Walgreens stores and select Target, CVS, Bed Bath & Beyond, Buy Buy Baby, Christmas Tree Shops, Harmon Face Values, Duane Reade and Meijer stores. *I found mine in stores at Target. I've seen their products at Walgreens stores too.


Whipped Sugar Scrub: This is my favorite body exfoliator due to its minimal ingredients sans any unnecessary additives. It is made up of olive oil, shea butter, coconut oil, raw, organic sugar, peppermint oil, & vanilla beans - that's it! The sugar is effective in ridding the skin of dead skin cells while the oils seal in  moisture. This scrub has one of the best scents I've ever smelled. I want everything to be made of this scent - body oil, candle, lotion, body wash, laundry detergent... everything!

I was delighted to discover this small but rapidly growing business through Twitter. All products are made with familiar, organic, raw ingredients suitable for all skin types, especially sensitive skin. It's no wonder Whipped Body Goods has been so successful in such a short amount of time. Their high-quality products include everything from body butters and oils to cremes and scrubs for the face, body and hair - including products for men. Each product is hand made and whipped to perfection. Dare I say... a body care love affair. Most definitely.

Research the ingredients in products before you buy them HERE! I use this resource religiously.

Until next time!


"Skin is a body organ, like the heart. We must treat it with the same respect." Britta Aragon

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Almond-Flax Cinnamon Porridge + Ugly Truth About GMOs

Almond-Flax Cinnamon Porridge (vegan, gluten-free & sugar-free)


Breakfast has always been my favorite meal. I grew up starting my day with french toast, pancakes, waffles, breakfast burritos/omelets with eggs, cheese, & bacon/sausage, oatmeal, pop tarts, cereal... and many times even ending my day with breakfast. Breakfast for dinner anyone? Between you and me, that's the way to my heart.

But things have changed. I cannot ignore the knowledge I have acquired regarding what goes into our food and the ugly truth about agribusiness (large-scale farming involved in producing, processing, distributing, & marketing agricultural products). The truth is, the big corporations that grow, supply, and advertise the food we eat, are making us sicker and sicker. Just look at Monsanto (click this link to watch the documentary exposing them), one of the United States' largest agricultural biotechnology companies. Monsanto produces genetically modified seeds claiming that farmers will be able to control weeds and reduce costs by spraying these genetically modified crops with their notorious pesticide product, Roundup herbicide, the best-selling weed killer in the world.

Genetically modified foods have been available for less than two decades and the long-term effects are unknown; however, growing evidence shows that there is more harm than good being done to the environment, consumers and farmers. For example, Roundup has caused herbicide-resistant weeds called "superweeds", which now grow on over 14 million acres along with genetically enginereed soy, corn and cotton crops, according to the Environmental Working Group. To combat this problem, chemical companies want to create more GE seeds that will withstand even stronger pesticides. Huh?!? If that's the case, we're all going to turn into one big blob of a chemical and then drop dead.

With food allergies and chronic illnesses on the rise, denaturing the very thing that sustains our health with genetic alterations and chemicals is absurd and is driven by greed and profit. Your health and the health of our children is of no concern to these giant food and pharmaceutical corporations.

60+ countries have required the labeling of genetically modified foods, however, the United States has not. Millions of U.S. citizens, including myself, have expressed concerns over the right to know what's in our food. According to the University of Florida, it is estimated that 60-70% of the food in grocery stores contain genetically modified ingredients. That is downright frightening.

Let me step off of my soap box and move on to the delicious breakfast recipe at hand...

Before I eat anything, I always start my morning with warm water (not boiling as you don't want to destroy its vitamins and enzymes) and the juice of half a lemon (or 1 Tbs). This is the electric tea kettle I use and absolutely love! Lemon is a powerful fruit. It works to cleanse your body of toxins by flushing your liver, which is our largest detoxifying organ. According to A.F. Beddoe, author of "Biological Ionization in Human Nutrition," lemons assist the liver in producing more enzymes than any other food. It also gives your immune system a boost thanks to its vitamin C content. Ongoing cleansing is vital for optimal long-term health and proper assimilation of nutrients - consuming lemon with warm water first thing every morning is a great way to incorporate this principle into your life!

With my transition to a clean diet, I've had to seek out healthy alternatives to my favorite breakfast foods that wouldn't leave me feeling dissatisfied or hungry. 

Almond-flax cinnamon porridge has been a staple breakfast for me. It's packed with protein, fiber, and calcium. The cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Plus, it's light so it doesn't weigh me down. I realized that eating a heavy meal for breakfast for so many years drained me. I felt tired mid-day even after getting plenty of sleep. When I lightened up my breakfasts, my energy soared. Since adopting this healthy lifestyle, I haven't needed nor desired caffeine to get me through the day. A clean diet of whole, unprocessed foods and eating light to heavy has restored my vitality. Drink a green smoothie (my recipe coming soon) before eating the porridge if you think you'll still be hungry. I typically do this to keep me satiated.



Almond-Flax Cinnamon Porridge

YIELD: 1 serving


INGREDIENTS
• 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
• 3 heaping Tbs ground raw unsalted almonds, whole almonds soaked overnight *See note
• 1 heaping Tbs ground flaxseed *See note
• 1/4 tsp - 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I add a lot of cinnamon)
• 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
• Liquid stevia, to taste

Optional toppings *See note
• 1/2 green apple
• 1/2 banana
• 1/2 pear

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the almond milk, ground almonds, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Stir occasionally.
2. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the porridge starts to thicken.
3. Pour into a bowl and add liquid stevia and fruit, if desired. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

NOTES
• To soak the almonds, place in a bowl or container and fill with enough filtered water to cover them, about 1 or 2 inches above the almonds. Put them in the refrigerator to soak overnight. Rinse thoroughly before you dry them and grind them. Nuts and seeds (I don't soak flaxseeds, see note below) need to be soaked in order to remove the toxic enzyme inhibitors coating them. Doing this makes them easier to digest and activates essential nutrients you would miss out on if unsoaked. The purpose of enzyme inhibitors is to keep the nuts and seeds from sprouting too soon. When moistened, they're given the green light to germinate (grow or develop) into a plant.
• The reason I don't soak flaxseeds is because they swell up and become gel-like when combined with a liquid, much like chia seeds, which makes them impossible to grind. So I grind them dry, just the way they are. Any tips for this?
• I grind the almonds in a coffee grinder as shown below, or you can use a food processor or bullet. 

























Through experience, I've found that it's best to eat fruit on an empty stomach or with greens when possible, which is why fruit is optional here. When fruit gets stuck trying to digest behind heavier foods, it can cause gas and bloating. Also, it makes sense that you may reap its nutritional benefits more effectively when eaten alone since it digests so quickly. I've noticed a big difference in my digestive health when practicing this principle. But I understand that everyone will have a different preference! Do what makes you feel best. :-) I have to admit, this porridge tastes wonderful with all of the fruits suggested.

"An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it's going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming." -Unknown

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Raw Almond Butter Chocolate Fudge (single-serving)

Before I take off on a little vacation to visit my brother, I wanted to leave you all with an incredibly simple but satisfying single-serving raw fudge recipe that you can whip together in under 5 minutes. I know! It sounds too good to be true. But it's not. It's incredible.

I've been battling my out-of-control sweet tooth for awhile now as I've tried to clean up my diet and clear my skin. I see a massive difference in my emotional and physical health when I forgo sugar. But it's been extremely difficult to kick. That's where this recipe fits in perfectly. Raw desserts like this make me hopeful that I can overcome my addiction to sugar. If a dessert can taste this decadent without the intense cravings, guilt, stress, energy fluctuations, and everything else that comes with sugar, I'm all in. 

This recipe does call for pure maple syrup (grade B if possible), but I just used liquid stevia. However, if a little bit of sugar doesn't bother you, by all means include pure maple syrup or raw coconut nectar to amp up the flavor.


I first stumbled upon this recipe on Detoxinista's blog. After making a few small changes, and eating almost half of it before putting it in the refrigerator, I knew I had to share it on my blog, too!

The fudge mixture didn't even make it to the freezer to firm up like the typical fudge does... I just ate it straight from the bowl. That's precisely why I don't have an aesthetically pleasing picture of the fudge. You'll understand.

Raw Chocolate Almond Butter Fudge
Adapted recipe from Detoxinista

YIELD: 1 serving 

INGREDIENTS
• 1 Tbs raw almond butter
• 1 tsp unrefined coconut oil, melted
• 1 tsp raw cacao powder
• 1 tsp raw coconut nectar or pure maple syrup *See note
• 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
Liquid stevia, to taste (5 drops max.)
• A pinch of fine Celtic sea salt

Optional:
• Chocolate Chips (dairy, nut & soy free)

DIRECTIONS
1. Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. Place the mixture on a plate with parchment paper. Put it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before serving or enjoy straight out of the bowl right after mixing the ingredients together.

NOTES
• If you're looking for a sugar-free dessert, skip the raw coconut nectar/maple syrup and add more liquid stevia. You could also use raw honey if you'd like.

Be back next week! :-) Have a beautiful weekend.

"Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you." -Unknown

Monday, June 10, 2013

Brown Rice & Roasted Vegetable Salad


The reason that I love this brown rice & roasted vegetable salad so much and go back to it time and time again is that it's a flexible dish that you can adjust according to your preferences by adding or subtracting whatever you'd like. And it's so simple, and simple recipes are what I generally gravitate towards. Not to mention it holds up perfectly for leftovers, which is often a deciding factor in whether or not I make a recipe - the less time I have to spend thinking of what I'm going to have each night for dinner, the better my mood and the more time I have to spend on other things! Plus, any recipe with roasted vegetables draws my attention immediately... as long as you have your delicious raw wildcard salad first. ;-)

If you're at the beginning stages of transitioning to a healthier diet, integrating roasted vegetables into your meals is the perfect way to ensure that you stay on track. You can turn an ordinary dish into a spectacular dish by simply roasting veggies with unrefined oil, high-quality sea salt and pepper (and other herbs and spices too, if you're feeling adventurous). Roasted vegetables are so delightful and tasty because they're heated above 330°F, which allows them to caramelize and thus unleashes their naturally sweet, rich flavor.¹


Veggies all prepped and ready to be roasted. This might sound crazy but roasted vegetables are like french fries to me, only better and a million times healthier of course. It's such a relief when you come to the realization that adopting a healthy diet doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavor. It just takes patience and experimentation but it's beyond worth it. :-)

Steamed vegetables are an excellent option too, and maybe even ideal over roasting for nutritional preservation purposes, since they require less time to cook while at a lower temperature (no higher than 212°F). There's also no use of oil when steaming. However, consuming vegetables period is better than not at all, especially if you're trying to find ways to incorporate them into your diet so that it makes them palatable and more likely for you to continue making healthier choices. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Baby steps.

I used (organic) brown rice like the original recipe calls for, but I'm sure quinoa would work beautifully too. You could add squash, bell peppers, zucchini, etc.

In today's ingredient spotlight, I present to you...

• Onions, which are a detoxifying vegetable that cleanse the liver, skin and blood. Certain cultures are known to use them as a natural medicine since they possess antibacterial properties.² 

• Broccoli possesses many beautifying vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc as well as vitamin A, which helps to smooth and repair the skin. This vegetable is full of anti-aging antioxidants and fiber, which help the body to expel toxins. Broccoli also contains calcium, which is actually leached from your bones when you consume acidic foods like dairy, (we've all been led to believe dairy builds strong bones - it doesn't, but that's a whole other discussion for another day). Your body is trying to maintain balance so the alkaline mineral, calcium, is leached from your bones to neutralize the acidity. Luckily, we're able to retain calcium better with this plant-based form of calcium, as it leaves an alkaline residue in the body.³

• Due to its content of vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids, cauliflower helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which is a cause of most chronic illnesses and cancers. It also contains powerful antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, manganese, and carotenoids, which prevent free-radical damage.



TIP: Buy brown rice, quinoa & other whole grains, nutritional yeast, beans, nuts, seeds, etc. in bulk in the bulk aisle of health food stores (or online) to cut down on costs!

Brown Rice & Roasted Vegetable Salad
Adapted recipe from this recipe

YIELD: 2 servings as an entree, 4 as a side dish

INGREDIENTS
• 1 cup short grain brown rice
• 2 cups filtered water
• 1 Tbs grapeseed or coconut oil *See note
• 3/4 tsp + 1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt
• 2 heads broccoli (approx. 2 1/2 cups cut florets)
• 1/2 head cauliflower (approx. 2 1/2 cups cut florets)
• 2 carrots
• 1/2 white or yellow onion
• 1/4 tsp black pepper
• 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
• 1/3 cup chopped parsley or basil (I prefer basil but it's up to you!)

DIRECTIONS
1. Combine the water, rice and 3/4 tsp sea salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Set aside for 45 min to an hour, or until the water is absorbed.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.
3. Cut the broccoli and cauliflower florets into 1-inch (bite-size) pieces. Peel and cut the carrots into 1/2 inch dice. Chop onion.
4. In a bowl or large plastic bag, toss the vegetables with 1 Tbs oil, 1/2 tsp sea salt and black pepper.
5. Spread vegetables evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast vegetables for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Roast until vegetables are golden and start to soften.
6. Combine the rice and vegetables together and add lemon juice and herbs. Toss together.
7. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Note: I'll do another blog post on cooking oils at a later time. I'm still researching this important topic. I am aware that grapeseed oil isn't ideal. Coconut oil is the best choice, but some dislike the coconut flavor mixed with some vegetables. It's difficult to find an organic, unrefined oil that can be heated to high temperatures without going rancid, but no worries, we'll get to the bottom of it.

"Every 35 days, your skin replaces itself. Your liver, about a month. Your body makes these new cells from the food you eat. What you eat literally becomes you. You have a choice in what you're made of. You are what you eat." -Unknown

Sources
1.http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_techniques/kitchen_tips_techniques/roasting_vegetables_technique
2. Snyder, Kimberly. "Beautiful Skin." The Beauty Detox Foods. Ontario: Harlequin, 2013. 109. Print.
3. Snyder, Kimberly. "Beautiful Body." The Beauty Detox Foods. Ontario: Harlequin, 2013. 132. Print.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Welcome & Daily Wildcard Salad

Hi! Welcome to Healthy Fare with Claire. Check out the "my story" page to read more about who I am and my purpose for this holistic health/lifestyle blog. Here, I'll give you a condensed version for first blog post purposes... For all of my life, I watched my mom suffer from chronic illnesses and have personally experienced more minor illnesses related to my skin and digestion. I've had persistent adult acne for 3 years and have been on a difficult but empowering journey getting to the root of the problem by changing my diet, lifestyle, and other unhealthy habits and relationships.

Within the past year and a half, I've completely transformed my diet. Let me tell you... there have been and (still are) growing pains and it's been a slow transition, but it has vastly improved my immune system, energy level, digestion, emotional health, and the superficial but important outward indicators of what's going on internally, my nails, hair, and (still working on) my skin. For the majority of my life, I've eaten processed, greasy, chemical-laden, denatured, fast, cheap "foods", which are really only food-like substances as Michael Pollan points out in his enlightening book, In Defense of Food. Now I eat unprocessed, mostly organic, fresh, whole foods and I cook my own meals 90% of the time, giving myself a little room to indulge eating a meal out once or twice a week at most and even then I usually choose a healthier option. Yea... I'm that person. ;-) 

Dessert is my weakness, however, and refined sugar has been the hardest vice to kick. But I've immersed myself into the "healthier dessert" realm and find it to be completely satisfying... even more so knowing I'm using high quality ingredients without sacrificing flavor. Whoa. Tasty dessert that's good for you!? I'm here for it! I cannot wait to share some of my favorites with you.

I am a vegetarian (update: as of November 2013, I am 100% vegan), working my way to 100% veganism, and strictly limit dairy, gluten/wheat, refined starches, and refined sugars, which are never in the meals I cook for myself. Never will I ever go back to my old way of eating or living... we are never, ever, ever getting back together, processed "food"... especially after having done some research over the years discovering how corrupt our commercial food, cosmetic, marketing/advertising, and medical industries are. I care too much about the Earth, our collective health and our future to keep quiet. I feel compelled to share what I know, continue to learn from you, and help others reclaim their power over their health! Food is the perfect place to start.

With that, I will leave you with one of my staple, everyday recipes. Thanks to Kimberly Snyder who changed my life and opened my eyes to this new way of thinking and eating, I've made it a habit to start out lunch and dinner with a large salad to ensure I'm getting an abundance of raw vegetables in my diet. I try to make my salad the largest portion of my meal and I eat it first since it contains water-based foods that digest quickly and are packed full of nutrients that my body can assimilate and absorb more readily instead of getting stuck trying to digest behind heavier foods that take longer to break down, like protein or carbs. The simpler our meals, the happier our digestive system will be. I change up my salad often so that I ensure I'm consuming a wide variety of veggies and so I don't get bored. I've also provided the recipe for my go-to dressing that is both healthy (imagine that) and delicious!

Wildcard Salad

My current wildcard salad: super greens (shown in image below) red pepper, cucumber, carrots, zucchini, red cabbage, flaxseed, & avocado.



















YIELD: It varies. About 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS
• 3 cups any combination of greens, such as spinach, kale, chard, arugula, etc.
• Any combination of vegetables, such as red/green/yellow/orange pepper, zucchini, cucumber, carrots, cabbage, celery, onion, etc.

Optional individual serving toppings:
• 1/2 avocado
• 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
• Nutritional yeast

DIRECTIONS
1. Wash and chop vegetables of your choice.
2. Place greens and vegetables in a large bowl and mix together.
3. Enjoy immediately and toss with dressing and/or place plastic wrap over top and place the bowl in the refrigerator, if using for a few days.
4. Top your salad with any optional extras right before serving.


NOTES
• If you love avocados as much as I do, I highly recommend always including 1/2 of one in your salad. I can't go a day without an avocado. I'd absolutely consider them a superfood. Filling, delicious, with an impressive nutritional profile - they are high in healthy monounsaturated fats, Vitamin E, fiber, B vitamins, and potassium just to name a few. 

























The Vitamix blender, which is easily one of the best investments I've ever made, is awesome for wet and dry chopping. As you can see here, I put a few carrots in and it chopped them up for me in just a few seconds.




Mixing some flaxseed in your salad is a great way to get your omega-3s, fiber and lignans (antioxidants). This tiny seed is known to decrease bad LDL cholesterol, stabilize good HDL cholesterol and has cancer-fighting properties.

Oil-Free/Balsamic-Free Italian Vinaigrette Dressing
Recipe from author Kimberly Snyder's book, The Beauty Detox Solution 

YIELD: About 1/2 cup

INGREDIENTS

• 2 1/2 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
• 1 tsp organic Dijon mustard
• 1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt
• 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
• 1/2 cup filtered water

DIRECTIONS
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together well.
2. Pour amount desired immediately on an individual serving, or over the entire salad, if eaten in one sitting, and toss.
3. Store leftovers in a jar and place in refrigerator.
4. Shake well before using.

NOTES
• I pour the dressing on the individual serving right before eating instead of pouring it over the entire salad, which makes it soggy if sitting in the refrigerator for a few days.
• I double the dressing recipe so that it'll last me a little over a week.

The beauty of this daily salad is that it allows you to be creative. You're free to customize it exactly the way you want it. I eat it over a period of 2 days and pull it out for lunch and dinner.

Phew. I think I've about used up all of my words today. I hope you'll continue on this journey with me. Here's to nourishing ourselves from the inside out. Cheers. :-)

What are your salad staples?
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