How do you tell if a certain food or lifestyle habit is working for you? I am a scientist by training, so I love to run little experiments with myself when I’m thinking about switching up my diet or physical activity routines. I’ve previously talked about changing a lifestyle habit when I cut out my afternoon cup of coffee a few months ago, but I recently had an “a-ha” moment when I recently started to dig deeper into my relationship with peanut butter …hopefully from this you can glean insight into how to run these little experiments with yourself and what to do with the results!
Isn’t it true that the message you need is the one your receive?
The themes of presence and focus have been weaving their way into my daily interactions with family and friends, in my yoga and meditation practices, and in my work. After a few weeks of this…I realized that the world is trying to tell me something.
When I sat down and reflected on the lack of focus or presence, I realized that there are not large structural issues – I am truly grateful for everything I have in it. I love my relationships, my work, my yoga practice, cooking, biking….I am so glad that I am able to share my love of health and wellness with others, and that I have such a beautiful home life.
But I realized that though I am grateful for my life on a macro level, I don’t often meet each moment with gratitude.
I have not given the every day aspects of my life the care and attention they deserve. When I saw the following quote by Omar Khayyám, an Iranian mathematician and poet, I realized it was time to make another iPhone wallpaper to remind myself to focus and love the present moment. The full quote is:
Drink wine. This is life eternal.
This is all that youth will give you.
It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends.
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.
In particular for me, “this moment is your life” is the reminder that my life is happening right now. Even in the mundane of typing, washing dishes, or commuting to work. At the moment I am doing these tasks…that is my life. The present moment is what is real, and I can and should treat the present with greater care.
If you could use a little reminder to respect and love the present moment as it is, please download this picture and follow the directions below! It has been a beautiful reminder for me to live each moment as I want to live my life. Enjoy!
To get the iPhone wallpaper:
Simply download this picture and save the image to the camera roll on your phone. Then, open your camera roll, select the photo and choose “set as wallpaper”. Note that you’ll need to resize the photo (zoom all the way out) to make it display correctly.
I am loving this makeover for my lock screen and homescreen, and I hope you like it too!
What does “this moment is your life” mean to you? Please share below!
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.
Most of us grow up learning that there are three meals. We eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with perhaps an afternoon snack thrown in. Eating 2-3 times per day is the traditional eating structure for much of world, but there is a scientific literature suggesting that higher meal frequency, i.e., “nibbling” throughout the day, is associated with lower weight than eating infrequent, large meals (a great review of this literature can be found here). But as we’ve discussed before, there’s a difference between what you “should” do for your health, and what actually works best for your body and routine.
So how many meals is best for your health?
Morning routines get a lot of press. Everyone has an opinion about how you should start your day.
We’re supposed to exercise, but also get our creative energy flowing by doing the most important work of the day! Or, it probably is best to separate ourselves from work by meditating, taking a walk, relaxing with a coffee, and…don’t forget that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!….I’m ready to go back to bed just reading that list.
The result of all these opinions about what we “should do” can turn into morning anxiety – we want to make the best use of our time, but instead, we end up thinking about all the things that we’re NOT doing but feel like we should. I hate morning anxiety, particularly because morning is my favorite time of day! I get a delicious cup of coffee, the world is a little quiet, it’s nice and cool even in the summer…there’s so much possibility. But I have decided: it’s time to take back our mornings! Because the best morning is not the morning where you do all of the things you “should” be doing.
The best morning is one in which you are doing whatever supports your priorities and goals. Same as your noon, afternoon, evening, and night.
In this post, first I discuss how to build your best morning routine. Then, I include a handy workbook you can download to keep you on track with your best morning routine. Even if you’re happy with your morning routine as it currently stands, I invite you to read through the article before you use the workbooks, so you can check in with your morning routine and ensure it is still fitting your needs. I’ve found that I sometimes hang on to routines that aren’t serving me anymore, so it’s a great idea to make sure your morning routine is still working best for you.
Ready to get your best morning routine? Let’s get started!
Hello! Today we’re finishing our series about getting vitamins from food and supplements. Over the last two weeks, I’ve told you about why it would be best to get vitamins from from dietary sources or from supplements.
Today, I’m going to put it all together and give you actions you can take to start the best vitamin or mineral supplementation program for you.
Getting vitamins and minerals from the best sources:
Today we continue our conversation about a heavily debated topic: “Should I be getting my vitamins from food or from supplements?”
Last week, I discussed some reasons why getting your vitamins from food versus supplements could be beneficial. To recap, consuming your vitamins through food versus supplements may be best:
1. If you have a varied, whole foods diet without large dietary restrictions or special needs.
2. Because the combination of chemicals within food (versus isolated like in supplements) may be important for vitamin absorption and efficacy.
3. Because vitamin supplements are not well regulated, and there are contamination and labeling concerns for many supplements currently on the market.
However, there are a host of reasons why it would be better to get vitamins from supplements versus food:
1. Poor food combinations can actually hinder absorption of essential nutrients.
2. The vitamin composition of foods is far from consistent: it varies according to soil quality, plant source, food processing, and cooking method.
3. If you have a specific dietary restriction or deficiency that needs to be remedied, supplements may be a more efficient way to attain normal vitamin levels.
Let’s look at these reasons to consume vitamins from supplements versus food one at a time. Continue reading…
Healthy food can carry a bad wrap. The most common complaints I hear? That it’s bland and unsatisfying (as if we’re all eating raw tofu without anything on it). In contrast, I’ve actually seen good-for-you, plant-based food that’s more flavorful, inventive, and delicious than a more traditional Western diet. (See Heidi Swanson’s, Jess Murnane’s, and Claire Ragozinno’s recipes for some prime examples).
The one area where I have found the healthy alternative to be lacking is granola. Though touted as a healthy alternative to pre-packaged cereals, granola can actually be less than angelic: many granolas have a large amount of oil and sugar on them, and granola in itself can be drying and hard on your digestive system because of the raw oats, dried fruit, and unsoaked nuts and seeds.
For my digestive system, the most troublesome part of eating traditional granolas are the raw oats. My belly just gets bloated and unhappy with all that roughage, and mixing in dried fruit just exacerbates the problem. A great way to make digestion of granola easier is to soak the oats, nuts, and seeds before you bake them. But the majority of soaked granolas are pretty ugly and pretty bland (you can google this for yourself). I decided it was time to give soaked granola another try, with an emphasis on making sure it was a delicious alternative to regular granola. The results were a rousing success!! (It was even approved by my boyfriend). If anything, I even prefer this granola to the regular type because it is full of clusters, has a great flavor, and keeps my tummy feeling good.
The secret to delicious soaked granola?
1. Enough salt.
2. Draining the oats after soaking and before baking.
2. Enough (but not excessive!!) sugar and oil.
3. Baking the granola way longer than you think you should, and breaking up the granola as you bake it.
First – Why soak oats and nuts before you use them for granola?
I feel like I am talking about this all the time, but it’s a message that bears repeating: Soaking grains is important because they contain phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of important vitamins and minerals and proper digestion of these grains. Incomplete digestion in the stomach is what ultimately leads to bloating in the intestine. Luckily, most grains have a naturally occurring enzyme, phytase, which breaks down the phytic acid, so you can keep that bloating at bay. How do you activate the phytase enzyme and reach digestive bliss? Just soak the grains (usually 8-24 hours) before you cook them!
Oats are a special case because they don’t naturally contain enough phytase to break down the phytic acid, so you have to add some wheat or rye flour while you soak the oats to get rid of the phytic acid.
Nuts on the other hand, contain enzyme inhibitors in their skins that similarly block your body from properly digesting and absorbing all the nutrients they have to offer. For nuts, soaking them in salted water for ~8 hours neutralizes those inhibitors. For all the information you’ll ever want or need on soaking grains, legumes, and nuts, please see Sally Fallon’s amazing book, Nourishing Traditions and resources on from the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Soaked Granola that Actually Tastes Good
A small note: there are a lot of parts to this recipe, but don’t be alarmed! Each step is fairly simple, and like all granolas, there’s a lot of latitude – feel free to experiment with different oils, sugars, nuts, and seeds to find the perfect granola for you!
2.5 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup rye or wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sorghum syrup (you can substitute honey or maple syrup!)
3 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup olive oil
The night before bake time (or ~24 hours before):
1. Combine oats and wheat flour in a bowl with water. Make sure the water comes 1-2 inches above the oats because they will expand!
The morning of (~8-12 hours before):
2. Combine chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl with water. Once again, make sure the water comes 1-2 inches above the nuts and seeds.
1 hour before bake time:
3. Drain the oats/flour mixture using a fine mesh sieve (or cheese cloth). Let the oats sit in the sieve above a bowl or pot for 1 hour to drain the excess water.
At Bake time:
3. Preheat your oven to 300 F.
4. Drain and rinse your nuts/seeds, and combine them in a large bowl with the drained oats.
5. Add cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and flax seeds.
6. In a small saucepan, combine the molasses, sorghum, and olive oil, just heating to combine them all together.
7. Stir the wet ingredients into the nuts and oats until well combined.
8. Lay out the granola on a baking sheet, spreading it evenly across the pan.
9. Bake in the oven for ~ 1 hour, then take your granola out of the oven and cut into squares (like you were cutting brownies). Flip all the squares over and put back in the oven for ~1 more hour.
10. Flip the squares again, and use a knife (or your hands) to break up the granola into smaller pieces. The great thing about this granola is that you’ll DEFINITELY have clusters, and you can choose how big you want the clusters to be!
11. Turn the oven down to ~200 F and keep in the oven for about another hour.
12. Take the granola out and taste it – is it still soft and squishy in the middle? If it’s still really soft, consider breaking up your clusters more, and keeping it in the oven at that 200 F for another hour or two. When the clusters are a little soft in the middle, similar to a cookie, then you can turn off your oven. I leave the clusters in the oven overnight to harden. What you’re looking for is crispy crunchy granola, so you can store at room temperature.
After a night in the (turned off) oven, I store the granola for up to 3 weeks in mason jars!
In this form, you get a crunchy, delicious snack that’s great for when you’re on the go. I love that this granola has big clusters, which makes it much more portable than other granolas. In milk, with yogurt, with fruit, or dried, it tastes awesome. You can also add dried fruit after cooking if that’s your jam. Endless possibilities.
Would you give soaked granola a try? Your stomach will thank you! I’d love to hear what you think about this soaked granola that ACTUALLY tastes good!!
Hello again! Thanks for the great comments on my post about dietary sources of calcium. I’m glad you found it helpful and understandable. Have a nutrition question you’d like to see answered? Let me take a crack at it! Email me at samantha.attard[at]gmail.com. Today’s question is a complex one, so I’ll be splitting it up into a series of posts over the coming weeks.
Today’s question: “Should I be getting my vitamins from food or from supplements?”
This is a tough question that the nutrition community has been debating for decades. I think it became such a big issue because humans have been using food medicinally for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that we began identifying the active chemical compounds (like vitamins and minerals) that were responsible for these beneficial health effects. Once we did determine that scurvy was due to low vitamin C, or that rickets was because of a vitamin D deficiency, we naturally became interested in isolating these compounds from food and selling them to people to improve health. But we are far from knowing whether it’s best to get your vitamins and minerals from food or from supplements…there are pros and cons to each method. Today, we’re going to tackle the reasons why it may be better to get your vitamins from food versus supplements.
Reasons to consume your vitamins from food versus supplements
1. If you have a varied, whole foods diet without large dietary restrictions or special needs, there may be little beneficial effect of adding vitamin supplements to your diet.
2. The combination of chemicals in food (versus the isolated compounds found in supplements) can improve vitamin absorption and efficacy.
3. Vitamin supplements are not well regulated, and there are contamination and labeling concerns for many supplements currently on the market.
More detailed explanations of these reasons to consume vitamins from food versus supplements can be found after the jump! Continue reading…
I was writing up a little ditty for last week’s newsletter, and I wanted to share it here because it was a powerful reminder for me about why food plays such an important role in my life and career.
I remembered just how intricately intertwined food is with our memories and experiences. Yes, the experience of eating invokes sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and textures…it is a physical act. But eating it also is about atmosphere, socializing, and mood. We have nerve cells in our stomachs, and what we eat can truly affect our emotions! I find it particularly powerful that a simple meal can transport us to our past, and I find it lovely to know that there is this consistent force in our lives that can ground us to the present moment as well as our life story.
From the newsletter…
During dinner one night, I was reminded of the the connection between food and memory. I was a little too tired and hungry when I was devising the night’s meal, and the only thing that would come to mind were recipes that I hadn’t seen or tasted for years.
The flavors of my childhood and the meals my mother used to serve were all I could think of. Those recipes and flavor combinations were imprinted on my brain. And the dinner, because it was steeped in so many memories, tasted glorious. (FYI – I made a fresh tomato sauce with zucchini and chickpeas, as well as a vinegar-rich salad with cucumbers and peaches).
It is beautiful how a bite of a dish can send us 20 years in the past, yolking us to where we came from, and still be fresh and new.
Each time we experience a dish, it is slightly different, and we add another bead to a string of memories all about a particular meal or dish. Though places and objects and smells all have a power to transport us to the past, there is something about food – which nourishes our mind, body, and soul – that makes it particularly potent in this regard.
We are what we eat, and it’s amazing how a simple meal can transform how we feel physically and emotionally.
Remembering this connection between what we eat and who we are is what pushes me to carefully choose my ingredients, my recipes, and to eat mindfully. It is why I pursued my PhD in nutrition, and it’s why I now teach healthy eating to others. Food is fuel, but eating is an experience to be savored.
[Tweet “Food is fuel, but eating is also an experience to be savored. @HappyHealthySam”]
Take a moment to think about your last meal – did you like it? Did you even notice it? Was it prepared with care by you or someone else? No judgment either way! Instead, simply recognize that what and how you eat can be a reflection of how you’re feeling, and can also affect how you’ll feel in the future.
With that knowledge, aim to eat food that nourishes both your body and mind, and realize the gift you are giving to yourself when you treat your body with care.
Now I’d love to hear from you…what dishes instantly transports you to your past?
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.
Every time I tell someone I’m in nutrition, I get a question or comment about food, the latest diet craze, or my favorite nutrition habits. I realized that for every person that does ask me a question, there are a lot more who are wanting to know the same thing, but were too afraid to ask.
In this new series (as of yet unnamed), I’ll be answering the most frequently-asked questions I receive about nutrition as well as your questions! Have something you’d like to see me write about? Email me at samantha.attard[at]gmail.com!
Today’s Question: What are the best dietary sources of calcium?
If I was to ask a group of people what the best dietary source of calcium is, undoubtably most people would answer – Milk! This unanimous uproar of support is a product of the truly amazing marketing campaigns from the Dairy Council over the last few decades. However, as Michele Simon and Andy Bellatti point out in their report, dairy products like milk are not the only dietary sources of calcium.
But is dairy the best source of calcium?
Calcium is found in a variety of plant- and animal-based foods including milk, cheese, kale, broccoli, almonds, black beans, sardines, and bok choy. Per serving, milk and dairy products have some of the highest levels of calcium, but the plant-based sources are not far behind, and particularly with a varied diet, it is possible to match the calcium levels of dairy foods while still eating a dairy-free.
There are a few important points we have to consider if we’re trying to find the best dietary sources of calcium:
1. Calcium absorption is more efficient and lower calcium intake levels.
2. Calcium absorption in the intestinal lumen requires adequate Vitamin D; Magnesium is required to adequately store calcium in bones rather than soft tissues.
3. Some calcium in plant-based sources is less bioavailable because the calcium is bound to oxalate and phytate.