Choose a healthy restaurant

For me, dining at restaurants serves two purposes: entertainment or utility. I love it when restaurants are for entertainment – it is fun to get dressed up, try new places, or to indulge in foods I would never have the skills or wherewithal to make at home. Dining out becomes a matter of utility, however, when the fridge is completely empty, I don’t have time to cook, or I just want to get out of the house. Especially when I am eating out because I am unable to cook at home, I still want to have a healthy, nourishing meal and stick to my health routine. But these are the nights that I have the hardest time choosing a restaurant or place to eat.

A great tip I learned from my sister is to be prepared for these occasions by designating your default healthy restaurant – a place you can go to whenever you are eating out because that is your only option. Continue reading…

Plan dinner while you commute!

A delicious, commute-planned dinner: omelet, toasted baguette, and an Italian-seasoned salad.
A successful dinner developed during my commute home: simple omelet, toasted baguette, and an Italian-seasoned salad. Delicious.

As you may have guessed, I think about food. A LOT. But every few weeks, I have a day where I find myself on my commute home with absolutely NO idea of what I am going to make for dinner. I can hardly remember what I have in my fridge, let alone know what I am in the mood to eat. Depending on how hungry I am, a sense of panic may ensue.

Some days go better than others. Sometimes, after my initial shock, I remember that I have leftovers in the fridge, or a vegetable that I am particularly excited to roast. Other days…I am just not inspired.

On those days, I turn to my 4-step plan for designing dinner. I go through the steps in this way to get the emotions out of the decision-making process, and to prioritize the most important parts of my meal.

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Ustrasana and the wall

Ustrasana at the Wall. Photo courtesy of

I had an amazing yoga class at Yoga Tree in San Francisco. One of the highlights was this variation of Ustrasana, which I hadn’t seen before. In this variation, you do Ustrasana with your thighs facing the wall. This variation has great benefits: by pressing your legs against the wall, you bend backwards with your abdominals rather than just throwing your head back. It helps you integrate your ribs with the rest of your front body and is a great way to focus on ab strength in your backbends! And we all could use a little more core.

How to:

  1. Fold your mat in half 3 times and place it next to the wall to get a nice cushion for your knees.
  2. Kneel in front of the wall with your legs pressing into the wall.
  3. Bring your hands to your low back, fingers facing up or down.
  4. Lean backwards, focusing on pressing your thighs and hip points to the wall, keeping length in your lower spine, and tightening your core muscles. The point of this variation is not see how far back you can bend, but to feel the backbend coming from your abdominal muscles.
  5. After a few breaths, return to upright, and try it again!

What do you think about this variation? My lower back felt great in this pose, and I’m very excited to integrate this variation into my regular practice for a while.

  Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,   samantha attard sig
samantha attard happy healthy humanSamantha 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.

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Surprise! How to make your leftovers better than the original

LeftoversOminous photo of the leftovers currently in my fridge.

Leftovers get a bad wrap because they can be…well…less than spectacular. Unfortunately, I constantly have a plethora of containers taking up space in my fridge from both home-cooked and restaurant meals. But having leftovers can be downright useful! They make the easiest lunches and dinners on those days when you don’t have time or energy to make a brand new meal.
So how to combat the problem of having leftovers languishing in the fridge, uneaten, until way past a time when they’re palatable?
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Healthy Travel Tips

Lemon Tree from my recent trip to San Francisco
Lemon Tree from my recent trip to San Francisco

When you travel, it can be easy to let a lot of your good habits go out the window. And it’s not your fault – it’s difficult to keep up those habits when you’re in an unfamiliar place, and likely have a busy schedule! A lot of the burnout and snowballing of unhealthy habits can be averted if you maintain some of the healthy habits that refresh and recharge you. It may be more difficult to make healthy choices while you’re away versus when you’re at home, but a little preplanning can help you maintain your core habits make you feel really good, even in an unfamiliar place.
The bonus: maintaining these habits will help you feel good while you’re traveling, have you functioning at your peak both mentally and physically, will encourage you to continue to make healthy decisions, and keeps you on track to wellness.
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Tip for a better salad dressing

I am always looking for ways to shorten cooking time, particularly on those mornings I am running a bit late. I often bring raw food for lunch – throwing a bunch of salad mix or kale into my trusty stainless steel container, quickly slice some vegetables into it, and then dousing the entire salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. I snap up the lid and I’m good to go, right?!

Unfortunately, I was missing a crucial step.
Continue reading…

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You’re doing better than you think

I find that I am hardest on myself when I believe that it is a skill that should be “under my control”….my health, my job, my relationships. I often don’t appreciate all of the tiny decisions I make throughout the day that are nourishing both physically and emotionally. So in case you ever feel that way too….

realize that we all have our deficits, our soft spots, or the things we technically could improve. But more importantly, acknowledge how far you have come, and how many great decisions you make every day that improves your health and happiness.

You are doing an amazing job taking care of yourself and those around you. You are awesome! Keep up the good work!

Let’s do this – what is something you did today that you are proud of?

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Pro Tip: Turn up the heat

The most direct way to make eating at home take less time: cook it faster. I know, easier said than done, but rather than trying to hasten your cutting skills (a little dangerous and it takes some time), just turn up the heat!

Many people err on the side of cooking things too slow because we’re afraid of burning our meal. But  cooking things at a slower pace can be frustrating, can make your food not taste as good (we’ve all been subjected to limp vegetables at one time or another), and may even make it less healthy (foods cooked slowly in oil, for example, absorb more fat than those that are cooked at a quicker pace).
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Let go of everything you don’t need.

When my yoga teacher said this yesterday while we were in standing forward fold, I almost laughed because it was so appropriate. But it’s probably just as relevant at all other times of the day too.

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Stock up: Spice Blends

Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

Stocking your pantry for the first time can be painful financially. Particularly if you go to the spice sections, where there are easily 100+ options of different spices and blends, all at $3-4 each.

Don’t stress about making sure you have every since spice you could ever want. My advice is to start small. And the best way to do that, and still have some delicious meals at home, is to invest in a few key spice blends. That way, you get a balanced composition of flavors without having to shell out for each herb separately. Bonus: by seeing what actually goes into each spice blend, you’ll learn more about what flavors do go well together and are found in specific dishes or regional cuisines.
Continue reading…