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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Trigger Healthy Habits

At the end of the day, it’s all about habits, isn’t it? If on one day you skip your exercise routine or eat a triple cheeseburger at McDonald’s, you may feel a little down, but it’s not going to kill you. But it takes multiple conscious decisions, every single day, to keep you living at your healthiest and happiest. And that’s the difficulty of making healthy choices.

One of the best pieces of advice for making healthy habits part of your regular routine is to focus on one habit at a time, which is the focus of Leo Babatua’s book, The Power of Less. Decide one small change you can make, take it from being something that you’re hoping to fit into your life and turn it into something that is as natural to you as putting on your pants in the morning. And then begin again with the next small change. A very worth endeavor, but how do we get from doing the habit once to doing it once per day (or hour, or week, or whatever metric you set)?
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Natural spring allergy relief

Spring Flowers
Spring Flowers in Durham, NC

So if you receive my newsletter (shameless plug -you really should sign up -it’s awesome!), you know that I am blissfully happy about the return of Spring. I love feeling of warm sun on my skin, hearing the birds chirping, and seeing the beautiful flowers and new plants popping up everywhere. But the pollen that has invaded North Carolina? Not so nice. There is a fine green powder which has coated every outdoor surface for the past few days, and even though I don’t suffer from seasonal allergies, my throat is scratchy, and my breathing feels bothered when I am outside. I can only imagine how the true allergy sufferers are feeling.

Even though Spring gives us amazing weather and delicious vegetables, we also need to help our bodies protect itself from the not-so-nice parts of Springtime.  Some strategies for allergy relief after the jump…

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Lean Back: Revolved Side Angle Pose

Sometimes you have to go off balance to be in balance.

Revolved Side Angle Pose (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana)
Revolved Side Angle Pose (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana). Courtesy of

Revolved Side Angle Pose. It’s a tough one, right? You’re trying to keep your balance, and you’re all twisted around…the temptation is to round your shoulders, crunch in, and protect yourself from falling. It’s understandable that you’d fear falling…your body is not used to being in such a precarious position!

But what if you press your belly to your spine, feel your tailbone lengthen towards your feet, and envision your breath filling up your side body and back? Rather than bringing your off center, these motions help you bring integrity and strength to the pose. Even though it seems further off balance, you actually get stronger and feel more secure in the position. Crazy right?

Reminds me of the work of Brene Brown. Continue reading…

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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.

Continue reading…

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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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