Saying no to unhealthy food

Saying no thank you sign

Saying no is hard to do. It feels so mean! So definitive! So dismissive! Because we get caught up in worrying about the other person’s feelings or perceptions of us, we become willing to overextend ourselves, double book, and invest in projects that we don’t have love or commitment for.

However, whenever you say yes or no, you’re also sending a message to yourself and to others about what your values and priorities are. And by pretending and bending your priorities to align with what others want can result in feeling guilty, sadness, stress, or like we don’t have agency in your own lives. Plus, it can erode at your confidence in what your priorities are and your ability to make decisions that are good for you.

Saying no is difficult when we’re interacting with our bosses and loved ones, but why do we feel a pang of guilt when we tell a waiter at a restaurant “no, I don’t want fries with that”…”actually, I don’t need another glass of wine”….”no dessert tonight, thanks”. Why do we think that these people actually care whether we take them up on these offers? Continue reading…

Why can’t I get to sleep?

Happy Sleeper

Let’s talk about sleep. Sleep is being mentioned everywhere in the news these days: getting enough sleep has been linked to increased happiness and productivity, weight loss, lower diabetes risk….you name it!

Due to all of this research, however, there’s also a plethora of “how to sleep better” articles and tips around the web. The problem I always run in to when reading these articles is that sleeping problems are not created equal! Some nights, I can’t fall asleep easily because I’m agitated or stressed. On others, I’m blissfully happy, but (being in North Carolina), my belly is full of barbeque and I just can’t get comfortable. These two causes are completely different and require different techniques to overcome!

Luckily, taking some time to figure out what is underlying your sleeping issues can make it much easier to take the right steps to bring you closer to some happy Z’s. Continue reading…

Bringing lunch to work

Lunch containers
During the work week, there are lots of reasons why we choose to go out for lunch, rather than bringing food from home. It can feel a little like elementary school to bring a brown paper bag and a peanut butter sandwich. There’s a bit of hassle involved because it takes time to put your lunch together, and there is more to carry during your commute. I would argue, however, that the main reason why we like to eat out so much is because it’s the only time during the day when many of us get up from our desks, walk outside, and take a break from work.

That break time is so important! Taking time away from our desks is important for our productivity and creativity, but if it leads to consuming an excess of salt, sugar, and fat, bringing lunch to work starts to sound pretty good. But you might as well make it easy on yourself, right? Below are great ways to make it easier to have delicious, homemade meals at work.
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What to do when you miss a workout

When I miss a workout, I am a pain to deal with. During high school, I listened to a yoga podcast and would practice every day after school. My sister, who is two years younger than me, would often barge into the room, as sisters do, to ask a question or talk with me. Naturally, in the midst of my calming practice, I would yell and hurl expletives at her until she left the room. So yogic of me, right?
I remember that story whenever it’s raining so hard I can’t go running, or I overeat because of stress or mindlessness. Whatever the trigger was that set me off my normal routine, whether it was my fault, someone else’s, or no one’s….what matters is not what happened, but how I react to it.

Sometimes a small step off of your healthy path causes other unhealthy choices (“I already screwed it up anyway”). We often get caught up in an “all or nothing” thinking that is so detrimental when inevitable mistakes or missteps occur.

However, with the right frame of mind, a negative circumstance or less-than-perfect day can actually strengthen your dedication and determination to your healthy practice. Here’s how it works: Continue reading…

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Grocery Store Shopping Series: Happy Healthy Tip #2

Welcome to the healthy grocery store shopping series! Last week we discussed how shopping hungry, tired, or stressed can negatively impact your grocery store shopping experience. Hopefully, you were able to take note of your mood and hunger levels before you went shopping and realize if you need to switch up your pre-shopping routine.

Waiting outside trader joe's
Waiting in line at Trader Joe’s in Manhattan (photo via The Unbiased Eye)

Today we continue the series with another tip for a healthy, happy grocery store shopping experience: Know When To Go
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How to start making healthy choices

Building healthier choices into your life can be a daunting task. There’s exercising every day, getting enough sleep every day, feeding your family right every day. None of these goals are easy to achieve, and particularly are hard to implement every single day. Because we phrase our goals in this way, it can be difficult to even imagining incorporating these practices into our current routine.

In chemistry, in our bodies, and in our lives, every action needs activation energy. Activation energy is a term used in chemistry for the really high amount of energy that chemical reactions need to get started. After the activation energy is reached, similar to pushing a rock up a hill, the reaction tumbles forward, and your energy to remain in that state plateaus at a normal, stable level. In chemistry, requiring high activation energy is a matter of protection! You don’t want things firing off all the time, making molecules, breaking apart, disrupting the balance. There has to be a clear and strong call to action before the infantry in your body get moving.
Activation energy

When it comes to the decisions we make every day, that high activation energy can stop us from taking the first step towards reaching our lifestyle goals.
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Grocery Store Shopping Series: Happy Healthy Tip #1

Healthy grocery list
Let me begin by confessing to you the lowest point of my grocery store shopping skills:

I walked in to Whole Foods around 6pm, ready to be inspired to plan a delicious dinner. The place was packed with last minute shoppers, and despite the multitudes of kale, apples, and other perfectly palatable food that would have made a nutritious dinner, I could not make a decision. And so I wandered the aisles, not even realizing that there was tons of prepared food and a salad bar right across the store where I could have just eaten. When I walked out of the store 25 minutes later, I realized that my grand haul, which cost me $25 was a pound of candied ginger, some Kalamata olives, and some tea. Needless to say, dinner that night was less than satisfying.

I’m a little ashamed of that story, experienced grocery-store veteran that I am. But I share it to let you know that we have all been there. We’ve all walked into the grocery store with the best of intentions, and have had it quickly unravel into a stressful, unproductive (and costly) experience.

Because I hope you never experience a candied ginger dinner like I did – I’m putting together a series of posts on how to get the most out of your grocery shopping experience. We’ll talk what to do before you go, how to navigate those tricky aisles, and your post-shopping de-briefing to keep you healthy and satisfied. Maybe you’ll even come to like grocery shopping so much, you could dance!

Dancing in the grocery
Dancing in the grocery aisles (Via the Stamford Advocate)

I’m very excited to walk through this with you – the grocery store is like the gatekeeper for home cooking. Once you get the food into your kitchen, you’re much more likely to use it! As I go through this series, please let me know if there are any particularly troublesome aspects of grocery store shopping you’d like to discuss – Drop me a line at samantha.attard[at]!

So let’s get started today with Tip Number 1: don’t shop hungry, stressed, or unhappy.
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Make breadcrumbs at home

toasted cubes of bread

This week’s PSA is brought to you by delicious, leftover sourdough from Monday night’s dinner: There is no reason, I repeat, no reason!, to ever buy breadcrumbs again.

I’m going to let you know up front – making breadcrumbs is easy and the results are delicious: just cut bread into small chunks, douse in olive oil and spices, roast in the oven until crispy, and take them for a ride in a food processor or blender. Store in the freezer until needed!

That’s pretty awesome, right? Keep reading if you need more convincing (and for a more detailed recipe!) Continue reading…

What are complete proteins?

black bean burger photo
Gratuitous photo of a complete protein dinner: This black bean burger includes feta, eggs, and wheat!

In the contentious world of nutrition, protein seems to be the macronutrient everyone can agree upon (more or less). Unlike fat or carbohydrates, there is no “low protein” diet plan that is supposed to bring you ultimate health, weight loss, and vitality. And there’s a good reason why the madding crowds are silenced in the face of protein: we can’t function without it! Protein is not just a source of calories, it is responsible for proper cellular growth, repair, and functioning (through enzymes). And while eating too much protein can eventually lead to sugar production and fat storage, that only occurs after your body has made well sure that the amino acids (protein building blocks) can’t be used for growth or repair elsewhere.

In my recipe for mujadarra, I brought up the notion of a complete protein, that is, a protein that contains all of the amino acids we need to keep our body functioning correctly. 9 of these 20 amino acids are essential – we have to get them from our diet. The other 11 we can synthesize in our own bodies, though it takes a bit more work. (more about amino acids here)

Amino acids are not stored in the body – we need to consume those essential amino acids daily, so they will be available for use when needed. If a needed amino acids is missing, even if we have tons of other amino acids, we may be unable to adequately build and repair whatever cells need help!

Getting all of the needed amino acids Continue reading…

Easy dinner menu: Mujadarra and Laban

Mujadarra with laban

Rice with beans are a staple meal for countries across the world. Across India and the Middle East, the legume of choice is lentils. Combining lentils with rice is great because together, they make a “complete protein”, meaning it provides all of the essential amino acids your body needs for cell growth and repair. In India, a traditional lentil and rice dish, Khichdi, is also touted for its balancing qualities – its suitable for all body types and constitutions.

Lentils and rice are super delicious on their own, but it’s always nice to throw in some different spices and flavors to the mix. And that’s where Mujadarra comes in.
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