Healthy Fall Whole Foods Grocery Haul

Grocery bag on counter

I can’t believe we are already a month into Fall. The weather is a bit cooler, the leaves are changing, and pumpkin-flavored food and beverage items are seemingly everywhere again. While I am partial to the warmer Summer weather, Fall is definitely my second favorite season. And I am a total sucker for Fall flavors and foods like pumpkin, cinnamon, apples and squash and all the comfort foods like soups, chili, hot drinks, and hearty dishes. With Fall flavors and foods in mind, I was so excited to place my Whole Foods grocery delivery order last week.

If you have a Whole Foods store in your area, I highly recommend using their delivery and/or pick-up services. It will save you a ton of time and, if you choose delivery, your grocery items will be delivered right to your door. This comes in handy for me during the work week. I often work crazy long hours during the week and ordering my groceries online saves me from having to waste precious weekend time in the grocery store. Below are some my favorite Fall weather healthy grocery finds. (And here are some other great all-season Whole Foods healthy food finds.)

Healthy Breakfast Items

  • Nut Pods Pumpkin Spice Almond + Coconut Creamer
Nut Pods Pumpkin

Fall is the time year when I switch from my beloved cold brew to piping hot cups of coffee. While a pumpkin latte at Starbucks and Dunkin’ are a fabulous, once-in-a-while Fall treat, both companies include sugar and other suspect ingredients in their pumpkin latte recipes. Plus they don’t offer unsweetened oat, almond, and coconut milk options.

It’s so much healthier (and cheaper!) to make pumpkin lattes at home. This limited edition pumpkin spice creamer from Nut Pods is next level. It includes no sugar, is completely dairy free and its simple ingredient list includes coconut cream and almonds. For extra flavor, I also add vanilla collagen powder for a bold, pumpkin-vanilla flavor extravaganza in my morning cup of Joe. Since this is around for a limited time, grab this while you can! At my Whole Foods, this creamer was $2.25 for 11.2 ounces.

  • Honorable Coffee Creamer Mention: Laird Superfood Creamer
Laird Superfood Creamer

Although not technically a Fall-flavored creamer, Laird offers one of the cleanest creamers around for your coffee. And it includes some functional mushrooms (such as chaga, lion’s mane and cordyceps) which are immune boosters and super important as we enter the Fall and Winter cold and flu season. Coconut cream is the main ingredient of this tasty creamer. The creamer is lightly sweetened with coconut sugar, although Laird also sells an unsweetened version. I was able to purchase this on sale for $3.15; it typically retails for about $5 for 16 ounces. (Laird also makes an excellent hot chocolate, which I reviewed here.)

  • Gingerbread Larabars
Gingerbread Larabar

Larabar is the perfect on-the-go breakfast bar. I tend to grab one to eat when I have a super hectic morning schedule. It’s probably the healthiest bar available in grocery stores. There is no sugar added to the bars, it’s non-GMO and only features eight simple ingredients. I challenge you to find a better bar out there. Larabar has a lot of tasty bar flavors available, including some favorites perfect for Fall including gingerbread, pumpkin pie, and apple pie.

Note: I can usually find these bars at Target at a better price point, but they are also readily available at Whole Foods.

  • Eggs Benedict (or Sort of)

Although I eat eggs year round, Fall is the time year where I swap my basic scrambled eggs for heartier egg dishes like Eggs Benedict. I start with Vital Farms pasture-raised eggs which have more nutrients (and a brighter yoke color) compared to standard eggs. Sometimes I will fry the egg and other times I will poach the egg. Either way this recipe turns out delicious.

I use my favorite Keto bread, Base Culture, instead of an english muffin. Base Culture’s new sourdough bread is amazing and works well with this dish. Base Culture bread is a bit pricey at Whole Foods (typically around $10), but I stock up on this frozen bread when it goes on sale. (It’s presently on sale for about $8!). I place a slice of the frozen Base Culture bread on a frying pan with some olive oil and heat each side for about 2 minutes.

Once the egg is cooked to my liking. I top the Based Culture bread with the fried (or poached egg) and some Primal Kitchen hollandaise sauce (a super clean, cashew-based sauce). It’s beyond delicious!

Eggs Benedict

Lunch & Dinner Foods

  • Pacific Foods Organic Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
Pacific Foods Chicken Soup

This hearty, tasty soup from Pacific Foods will warm you up on chilly days. It’s the perfect lunch or dinner on days when you don’t have time to take a break to cook a meal. This soup is obviously not going to be as good as homemade soup, but it is darn close. The ingredients are super clean, gluten-free, and includes 10 grams of protein to help prevent afternoon snack cravings. Plus the entire container is only 230 calories. It’s a quick and healthy lunch option. (Often or when I have time, I will add some additional seasonings and fresh herbs to spice it up a bit.)

  • Rice Bowls

Rice bowls are an excellent lunch or dinner option if you have a little extra time. I usually use Whole Foods frozen “instant” jasmine rice as the base of my rice bowls. It’s one of the few heat and eat rice options that don’t include inflammatory oils or other suspect ingredients. You simply heat up the rice in the microwave or on the stove. The rice tastes great and doesn’t have the weird after taste that is often associated with instant, pre-cooked rice. (I made this rice for someone once who asked me if I made the rice in a rice cooker!)

Beyond the rice, I typically include some sort of meat such as bacon (the no-sugar Applewood Farms bacon is my go-to bacon when I am out of my Butcher Box bacon), ground beef, or organic sausage (such as the Bilinski’s organic sausage pictured or Whole Foods also makes a good organic sausage option). While the meat is cooking, I’ll typically cut up an onion or shallot and dice an avocado. I’ll then add the meat, onion, and avocado to the rice. I’ll top off the rice bowl with some arugula or cilantro and a touch of salt and olive oil. This filling rice bowl is just as good as a Chipotle rice bowl in my humble opinion.

Note: To make these bowls Paleo friendly, use cauliflower rice instead.

  • Cappello’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Cappello's Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Cappello’s makes arguably the best gluten free pasta available at Whole Foods or in any grocery store for that matter. Their certified paleo pastas feature A+ ingredients and all of their pastas are made from almond flour. I truly believe that Cappello’s pastas are closest in taste to wheat pasta.

The downside is Cappello’s pasta is that is very expensive. On a positive note, Whole Foods often offers great sales on these products. So, I tend to stock up when the price is right. (Cappello’s also makes one of the best gluten free crusts, which I rave about here. Cappello’s products are currently on sale at Whole Foods.)

The sweet potato gnocchi pairs well with a variety of sauces. I like it with my homemade tomato, roasted red pepper and herb sauce. Regardless of sauce, this is a delicious meal that cooks and will be ready to eat in about seven minutes!

  • Squash Side Dishes

Nothing screams Fall quite like squash dishes. And Whole Foods has quite a few squash options on their shelves.

The newest and most exciting one is the Solely One Whole Organic Spaghetti Squash Pasta. This “pasta,” which has 85% less calories and carbs than traditional pasta, features only one ingredient: dried spaghetti squash. You cook it just like traditional pasta. It is a delectable, guilt-free side. While it is definitely not similar in taste to traditional pasta, adding marinara sauce or your preferred seasonings makes this a must-try side dish for your Fall table.

In addition to this pasta, I often buy the Whole Foods brand frozen, organic butternut squash in the Fall and Winter months. The organic frozen cubed butternut squash is more affordable compared to the fresh organic diced squash available in the store. Plus, the frozen squash lasts a lot longer. I use this frozen butternut squash to make creamy soup, or I roast the squash in the oven with a bit of olive oil or avocado oil and some pumpkin pie spice for a superb Fall-flavored side dish. (I love the Whole Foods brand organic spices because they don’t include any preservatives or other sketchy ingredients.)

Dessert/Snack

  • Hu Grain-Free Snickerdoodle Cookies
Hu Cookies

No Whole Foods grocery haul is complete without at least one snack or dessert option. That’s where Hu Grain-Free Snickerdoodle Cookies come in. These paleo cookies have no added cane sugar, are gluten free and dairy free, and include no refined starch. The spices and flavor of these cookies make it a delicious and guilt-free option when are craving something sweet. In addition to eating these as cookies, I think these cookies ground up would work great as a crust or sprinkled over baked apples. (Hu also makes top-notch chocolate bars and treats, which are currently on sale at Whole Foods. Their chocolate also available for typically a lower price point at Target.)

Well, those are my latest Whole Foods grocery Haul Fall finds. I’ll be on the lookout for other new items when shopping for future orders. Stay warm!

A Rich, Delicious and Super Easy Paleo Brownie Recipe

Brownies in a pan

It’s Valentine’s Day – a holiday where we celebrate love, or for some of us, we get to embrace our love of chocolate. Valentine’s Day is one of the few days annually where the large majority of Americans (over 80% by some accounts) consume chocolate in some form or another to celebrate. It’s crazy to think how much money the chocolate and candy companies rake in on this one day alone.

Maybe it’s been all of the Valentine’s chocolate advertisements over the past few weeks, but I have been really yearning for chocolate lately. And not the crappy chocolate in the heart shaped boxes. I have been craving homemade brownies. So, it will probably come as no surprise that I spent yesterday tinkering with my gluten free, Paleo brownies recipe to make it even better.

The Secret Ingredient: Ghee

4th & Heart Ghee

Paleo brownies can be hit or miss. Sometimes they can be too grainy or not sweet enough. (BTW, I choose not to use any cane sugar or coconut sugar at all in my brownie recipe and instead use maple syrup and honey as the only sweeteners.)

I think I found the secret sauce to take the brownies to the next level. It’s drumroll … ghee. But not just any ghee, a top notch grass fed ghee from 4th & Heart infused with vanilla.

In case you are not familiar, ghee is a clarified butter that separates the oil from the dairy in the butter. It is typically well tolerated by people who cannot consume dairy since it does not contain any casein or lactose. I purchase this vanilla bean ghee from Whole Foods. It’s also available on Amazon or other online retailers if you do not have access to a Whole Foods. This flavorful ghee coupled with the cacao powder helps to make these brownies taste just like regular brownies that do contain gluten and dairy. (Just FYI – I purchased a large, 16 oz bag of organic cacao at Walmart for $8.49 but any high quality cacao/cocoa powder will do.)

A Knockout List of Ingredients

All of the ingredients

I believe I found the perfect combination of ingredients that will make you not miss regular brownies. Here goes:

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cacoa/cocoa powder
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 scoop vanilla collagen powder (optional)
  • a pinch or two of salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup melted vanilla bean ghee
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • 5 squirts of raw unfiltered honey from a squeezable honey container
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter or peanut butter (without any sugar or oil added)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

The dry ingredients, wet ingredients, and brownie pan
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Oil a brownie pan or baking dish. (I like to use avocado oil.)
  3. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix together. Set aside.
  4. Melt the ghee on the stove or in the microwave. Let it cool for a few minutes.
  5. In a KitchenAid bowl or separate mixing bowl, add all of the wet ingredients (minus the ghee) and mix everything together until smooth and fluffy on the mixer’s medium setting.
  6. Once cool, mix in the melted ghee.
  7. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, 1/2 cup at a time. Continue to mix until it is smooth and without any lumps.
  8. Pour the mix into the greased baking or brownie pan.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, checking after 25 minutes. Test the brownies after 25 minutes with a fork. Continue baking until the brownies are firm.
  10. Cool and Enjoy!

These amazing brownies are delectable are rich, chocolatey … and best of all, your friends and family will never guess that these brownies are paleo, cane sugar free, dairy free and gluten free.

Brownies on 2 different plates and in the pan

2021 Healthy Whole Foods Grocery Haul

A photo of all of the food items and drinks referenced in the article

Whole Foods has come along way in the last few years in terms of affordability, access and selection. As many of us know, for years Whole Foods was widely referred to as “Whole Paycheck” due to the exorbitant costs of grocery shopping there. I feel like things changed for the better and costs definitely went down when Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon a few years ago. Now, it’s possible to shop for staples at a similar cost to most traditional grocery stores. Plus, there is no better store to find the most innovative, healthy foods out there.

Whole Foods has been a life saver during this pandemic. They were one of the few stores by me that had delivery and/or pick-up slots even during the early stages of the pandemic. This was back when it was tough to get groceries (or toilet paper) anywhere at all. While I haven’t shopped in a large food store since March 2020 thanks to the abundance of delivery and pick-up options available, Whole Foods was previously one of my favorite food stores to shop and explore. It was the last large grocery store that I stepped food it in before the pandemic.

Shopping via the Amazon App is Super Easy

What I love the most about shopping for Whole Foods groceries online is the convenience of shopping right through the Amazon app (which, let’s face it, most of us are on almost every day). From the Amazon app (or website), you simply click on “Whole Foods” on the top left corner. It’s super easy to navigate through the virtual store. You can even use any Alexa device to add items to your grocery lists or orders.

The app/website allows you to select your store, opt for delivery or curbside pickup, shop past orders and explore items by department. Plus, you can view all weekly sales and specials as well as view items recommended for you from past orders. And every Prime member benefits from an additional 10% off sale items sold at the store. While your assigned shoppers are working on your grocery order, they will communicate with you as needed via text message if any substitutions of out of stock items are required.

A picture of the Amazon/Whole Foods app

Amazon Prime members benefit from free pickup or delivery (although, a gratuity is expected for delivery and I often try to give the employees at the store tips for curbside pickup.) Lately, I have been opting for the Whole Foods pickup option which allows for either pickup of items in the store or employees will load them directly in your car. For the car loading option, you simply alert Whole Foods via the app when you are en route to pickup your groceries, you park in a designated spot, let them know your car make/model and they will bring out to your car in a matter of minutes.

Just one tip: If you opt for pickup and live in a multi-story apartment building or anywhere that requires you to park a distance from your home, you might want to bring a couple of sturdy reusable shopping bags. The Whole Foods stores by me all staple the tops of paper bags (that have no handles) – making it difficult to carry more than 2 bags at a time. When I park in my parking garage, I transfer the contents of the stapled bag to the reusable bags for ease of carrying the groceries upstairs.

Without further adieu, I am so excited to share my latest health Whole Foods grocery haul, which include many items that were on sale!

1. Primal Kitchen Beef & Mushroom Bowl

Primal Kitchen Beef & Mushroom Bowl package

I like to cook or prepare fresh meals whenever possible, but sometimes that is not an option with my crazy work schedule. I had been dying to try Primal Kitchen’s new frozen meals for a while, but they have been hard to come by at my local Whole Foods. I finally scored this beef and mushroom bowl as part of my latest Whole Foods order.

Primal Kitchen is one of my favorite brands for barbecue sauces, steak sauce, marinades, salad dressing, avocado oils, etc. It’s hard to find a brand with cleaner ingredients out there. And I am so excited that they have expanded their product line to include frozen meals. I love that this beef and mushroom bowl includes grass fed beef, is paleo friendly, and includes no sugar, sketchy oils or ingredients. This frozen meal was a bit pricey ($7.99) but it would have cost me a lot more to order in food with not as healthy ingredients. This is a win for an every once in a while purchase.

2. Base Culture Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Base Culture Cinnamon Raisin Paleo Bread Package

Okay, so full disclosure, this amazing grain free, gluten free, preservative free, dairy free paleo bread is a bit expensive. (You’re probably thinking – wait, I thought you said that Whole Foods is more affordable these days. And that is true for many items that will follow in this list. I figured that I get most of the more expensive items out of the way first.)

Base Culture produces top notch frozen paleo breads. I have not encountered any bread with cleaner ingredients that tastes this good. It is a bit expensive at $9.99 for a loaf. I justify this purchase because it is not something I eat everyday; it can remain frozen and you can use/defrost a slice or two at a time. It will satisfy your craving for bread without consuming a gluten free bread with crappy ingredients.

I don’t own a toaster, so I cook this bread on the stove with a touch of ghee or olive oil. In the picture below, I used the vanilla bean flavored ghee (see the next item on this list) which really accentuates the cinnamon and raisin flavors of the bread.

Base Culture bread cooking in a pan on the stove with some ghee

3. 4th & Heart Grass-Fed Ghee – Vanilla Bean

A jar of 4th & Heart Ghee - Vanilla Bean flavored

I don’t use ghee too often, but it is a great alternative to oil for cooking, sauteing and baking. In case you are not familiar with ghee, it is a clarified butter that is made from heating butter and separating the milk solids from the oil. Because there is no casein or lactose in the clarified butter, ghee is tolerated by many people like myself who cannot consume dairy due to allergies, intolerance or other reasons.

4th & Heart is a top shelf ghee. This vanilla bean flavor ghee that I purchased here is perfect for baking or using with paleo breads like the Base Culture bread. (I would stick to plain or seasoned ghee for use with vegetables.) I purchased this ghee with the intent of baking paleo brownies for a small family gathering set for Super Bowl Sunday (today), which has since been canceled due to another snow storm passing through my area. I made the brownies anyway ūüôā …. the recipe can be found here. UPDATE: This ghee is amazing on the Birch Benders Paleo pancakes.

homemade paleo brownies on a plate

4. Purely Elizabeth. Cauli Hot Cereal

Cauli Hot Cereal package

Although there are some higher priced items at Whole Foods (as evidenced above), you can also find some amazing deals. It’s no secret that I am a fan of Purely Elizabeth.’s grain free Cauli Hot Cereal, as evidenced in my review here.

I usually purchase this hot cereal at Target, but Whole Foods had an unbelievable sale ($1.79 each) when I placed my order – so I added a few to my online cart. I now have an easy, healthy breakfast option for a few mornings this week.

5. Kite Hill Unsweetened Greek Style Almond Milk Yogurt

Kite Hill Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk Greek Style Yogurt Package

Whole Foods carries my favorite brands of dairy free unsweetened yogurt, Lava and Kite Hill. This vanilla unsweetened non-dairy almond milk yogurt is the closest in texture (not taste) to greek style dairy yogurt. I love that it does not contain any added sugar or troubling additives found in many dairy free yogurts.

To make this yogurt taste a bit better, I typically add berries, grain free granola and/or a little maple syrup. It’s another great breakfast option to break up the monotony of eggs and bacon.

Yogurt with grain-free granola and berries

6. Cappello’s Grain Free Naked Pizza Crust

Capello's grain feww naked pizza crust

Capello’s makes the best tasting paleo pizza crust out there. I previously shared my quick (mostly) paleo pizza recipe which is a fabulous option when you crave a pizza but are trying to eat healthy. I was overjoyed to see that this crust was on sale when I shopped for my latest grocery haul. If I had more room in my freezer, I definitely would have picked up more of these tasty frozen crusts. (The price was that good!)

I made this pizza for lunch yesterday, instead using a spicy organic pizza sauce instead of traditional pizza sauce. And wow, it was amazing!

Healthy pizza

7. Whole Foods 365 Organic Spicy Pizza Sauce

Whole Foods brand organic pizza sauce

Tomatoes are on the dirty dozen list, meaning it’s something that you should try to buy organic whenever possible. However, it’s often hard to find a really good organic pizza or marinara sauce (without sugar or bad oils) that tastes good and comes in at a good price point.

Whole Foods’ 365 brand offers a lot of good organic and tasty options at a lost cost. This spicy pizza sauce is no exception. It definitely has a kick to it, so keep a beverage close by when consuming. As mentioned above, I used this when making my almond crust pizza today. You won’t be disappointed! And it’s only $2.99 – which is a great price for such wholesome, organic ingredients.

8. Whole Foods 365 Unsweetened Organic Almond Milk

Whole Foods Unsweetened Organic Almond Milk Package

Speaking of the Whole Foods 365 brand, they offer a best-in-class unsweetened, organic almond milk for only $2.99. I love that this almond milk has really clean organic ingredients and does not contain carrageenan, an ingredient that is not good for our digestive systems. Also, as an added bonus, this almond milk froths a lot better than most non dairy milks. (I use an affordable handheld, battery powered frother purchased via Amazon.)

Coffee cup with frothy coffee

9. Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips – Nacho

Siete grain free tortilla chips dairy free nacho package

Siete is one of my favorite brands. They allow people who try to avoid grains to enjoy tasty grain-free, clean snacks and other items. I often purchase their taco shells and seasonings (see next item on this list). While I don’t purchase their grain free tortilla chips as often (I have a weakness for salty snacks), I am never disappointed when I do pick them up. These tortilla chips are incredibly tasty and are made with avocado oil instead of inflammatory canola or other vegetable-based oils.

I purchased these online because Siete chips were on sale at Whole Foods at the time, and I was planning on making nachos for a small family Super Bowl gathering today – which has since been canceled due to snow. Another time!

10. Siete Taco Seasoning – Mild

Siete taco seasoning mild packet

Siete makes a variety of paleo and Whole 30 approved seasonings, including this mild taco seasoning packet. As mentioned above, I was planning on making nachos for Super Bowl Sunday today. (I had planned to use this seasoning on some grass fed ground beef from Butcherbox to go on top of the nachos.) However, since the weather had other ideas, I will pivot and instead use this healthy seasoning when I make tacos later this week.

Like the tortilla chips, this season features best in class ingredients. While I would love if these ingredients were organic, the ingredient list is simple and there are no preservatives or mystery ingredients like many taco seasonings on the market. A packet is under $3.00 – although I see it is on sale for $1.97 this week. You might want to snatch a packet or two this week at this amazing sale price.

11. Whole Foods 365 Organic Oven Roasted Turkey Breast & Grain Free Almond Flour Tortillas

Whole Foods 365 brand organic turkey breast and grain free almond flour tortilla packages

In addition to pizza sauce and almond milk, Whole Foods’ 365 brand offers some excellent and healthy lunch options.

Applegate Farms Organics offers high quality lunch meats, but they are incredibly expensive. I am so excited that Whole Foods’ 365 brand now offers an organic turkey breast option that is $2+ cheaper than Applegate Farms. Unlike most lunch meats on the market, this 365 organic turkey does not contain sugar or other suspicious additives. The ingredients are simply: organic turkey breast, organic distilled white vinegar, sea salt and a trace amount of organic honey. You can’t get much cleaner than that!

Siete also makes almond flour, cassava flour, and chickpea flour tortillas, but they are really expensive (usually $7.99). Whole Foods now offers almond flour and cassava flour tortillas for $5.99 (or $2 cheaper than the Siete brand). The Whole Foods 365 brand tortillas are just as tasty as the Siete brand, although they are a bit smaller in size.

For lunch, I like to add the organic turkey breast, arugula, some broccoli slaw, avocado and a bit of hummus or vinaigrette to a slightly warm tortilla. It’s a quick, tasty and health lunch!

12. Hope Hummus – Original

Hope Hummus Container

I love that this delicious hummus from Hope is organic and non-GMO. It’s one of the high quality and cheapest organic hummus options on the market. Plus, it’s made with extra virgin olive oil instead of inflammatory seed or vegetable oils found in many other hummus brands. I love to spread this hummus on my turkey tortilla sandwiches as mentioned above or on almond flour crackers.

13. Noble Made Medium Buffalo Sauce

Noble Made by the new primal medium buffalo sauce container

For Super Bowl Sunday, I also planned to make chicken wings a few different ways as an appetizer. I had ordered chicken wings as an add-on to my ButcherBox order last month. Even though my very small Super Bowl family gathering is a no-go today due to the weather, I still went ahead and made some buffalo ranch paleo wings and dropped off a few to my sister yesterday. (She gave them high marks!)

Like Primal Kitchen, Noble Made makes super clean sauces and marinades that taste out of this world. You would never guess that this Medium Buffalo or their other sauces are so healthy. Better yet, this Noble Made Buffalo Sauce is Whole 30 approved, has 1 g of Carbs and no sugar added. (Check out their other sauces too; their Classic BBQ sauce is one of my favorite barbecue sauces on the market.)

Picture of chicken wings on a plate

14. Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers – Rosemary & Sea Salt

Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers Package

I think I found arguably the tastiest and healthiest gluten free crackers on the market. These crackers taste beyond amazing and are the perfect snack size for dairy free cheese or hummus. I don’t buy these crackers often but they always are a hit with everyone – even those who can consume gluten.

The ingredients are super clean and are certified GMO. The only ding is that they use sunflower oil, albeit it’s organic. I would prefer that they used avocado, coconut or olive oil instead. Regardless, these crackers are delectable for consumption every once in a while.

15. Violife Just Like Mozarella Shreds & Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Pepper Jack Cheese

Violife & Miyoko's Vegan Cheese Packages

I have previously raved about the Violife Just Like Mozarella Shreds and use this “cheese” in my pizza recipe. (click here for that recipe.) Violife makes the best dairy free cheese that I have found so far.

A close second is Miyoko’s, which is an oat milk based cheese alternative. This delicious pepper jack cheese goes perfect with the Simple Mills crackers described above and is also great in omelettes. Please note that these cheeses are not technically paleo but are good for every once in a while when you have a cheese craving.

16. Vital Farms Pasture Raised Organic Eggs

Vital Farms Pasture Raised Organic Eggs Package

Speaking of omelettes, whenever possible, I try to purchase pasture raised organic eggs. These eggs have the best nutritional profile compared to regular or just organic eggs. The Vital Farms eggs are definitely more expensive than traditional eggs but I think they are worth the splurge. I can sometimes snag these Vital Farms at a lower price at Walmart – although they are often out of stock there.

17. Rebbl Protein and Adaptogenic Drinks

An assortment of Rebbl drinks

As mentioned in my previous blog post which reviewed Laird Superfood Hot Chocolate, I am a huge fan of adaptogens and medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga, Lion’s Mane, etc.

Rebbl makes some of my favorite protein drinks and beverages available in stores I love that they swap cane sugar for coconut sugar instead. These drinks are very tasty and keeps you full with the good amount of protein and other healthy ingredients. Whole Foods regularly puts these drinks on sale, like recently, which is why I picked up so many.

18. Organic Produce

Whole Foods Organic Produce

Last but certainly not least, Whole Foods carries a broad assortment of organic produce that now rivals the prices of Walmart or other lower cost retailers. I suspect that the acquisition by Amazon helped reduce the prices of the organic produce at Whole Foods.

I love that I can purchase a bag of organic Arugula for $1.99, which is even better than the price at Aldi. Plus, Whole Foods often has organic produce on sale which makes it more accessible to the masses. Lately, I have been purchasing a lot of organics and produce for my smoothies. My go-to smoothie recipe at the moment is this one.

Whole Foods always has new finds and surprises. These are just a few of my recent purchases and discoveries. I look forward to sharing my recipes based on some of these ingredients above and future Whole Foods grocery finds!

A Total Game Changer for Your Barbecues: Coconut Aminos

It’s officially barbecue season! If you are looking to elevate the food at your get-togethers this summer, look no further. Coconut Aminos is the browning sauce/marinade that you didn’t know you needed in your pantry.

I first discovered this gem while scrolling through Instagram a month ago. My interest was piqued when a zoomed-in picture of this mysterious bottle made an appearance on my feed. This sauce was described right in the caption as a flavorful alternative to soy sauce without the bitter soy aftertaste. I needed to find this sauce!

So during my next shopping trip at Trader Joe’s, this bad boy earned a spot in my cart and journeyed home with me. Since then, I have poured this sauce on just about everything … and I have yet to be disappointed. Here are some of the best ways to pair this sauce with your favorite barbecue fare:

1. Grass-Fed Beef Burger Marinade

Wow! Using coconut aminos as a burger marinade will take your everyday barbecue burgers to the next level. Kick it up a notch further by pouring an extra bit of marinade on the burger after you take it off the grill. Your palate will thank you!

2. Fried Plantains

Fry some thinly sliced plantains in some of this flavorful sauce for a tasty and nutritious dessert. Expect compliments from your family and friends after they dive into this sweet and savory treat.

3. Brussel Sprouts with Paleo Bacon

This recipe couldn’t be easier. Add some brussel sprouts and 2 tablespoons of Coconut Aminos to a frying pan. Cook on medium heat until tender, remove from heat and place the brussel sprouts in a bowl. In a separate pan, brown two slices of paleo (sugar free) bacon until crisp. Break the bacon into small pieces and sprinkle the bacon on the brussel sprouts. Add more Coconut Aminos to taste, if preferred. Enjoy!

4. Chicken Marinade

Coconut Aminos also makes a sensational marinade for chicken. Add a handful of fresh cilantro with a pinch of sea salt and pepper to the marinade and you won’t be disappointed.

5. Dressing for Salads

Take a break from your usual go-to salad dressings and toss your salad with a mixture of Coconut Aminos and olive oil instead. It’s bound to be a crowd pleaser!

6. Glaze for Strawberries

Feeling adventurous? Drizzle some sliced strawberries with this delectable sauce. It’s an awesome substitute for balsamic vinegar.

It‚Äôs Snack Time: Treat Yourself with These Healthy, Paleo Finds!!

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Dessert can sometimes be a somewhat foreign concept if you are cursed with multiple food allergies, follow a strict Paleo diet or have other dietary restrictions. The following scenarios ring true for many of us who fall into these buckets:

Scenario 1: You are celebrating a¬†milestone¬†event with friends and family at a¬†swanky restaurant. Dinner plates are cleared and it is time for dessert and coffee. Naturally, there is almost nothing on the dessert menu that you can tolerate.¬†The waiter takes orders and returns a few minutes later with a tray of mostly decadent treats and after dinner drinks. You look around in sheer awe of the masterful cakes, mousses and ice creams at your table. Then, you look down at your plate of … wait for it … fruit. Suddenly, a strong wave of disappointment hits you as you gaze longingly at the spectacular dessert plates in front of everyone else at your table.

Scenario 2: You are invited to a backyard barbecue birthday party¬†at a friend’s house. Everyone surprises the birthday girl or guy with a sheet cake, candles and of course, the Happy Birthday song.¬†All of the guests line up to¬†grab a piece of cake …except for you. You sit there watching everyone enjoying every last crumb of their cake slices. A guest even asks you if you think you are Gwyneth Paltrow or something because you are skipping dessert. (Yes, I was actually asked that exact question at a party once.)

Let’s face it; dessert time can be¬†awkward for those of us who have restricted diets. It often forces us to disclose our food allergies publicly or make other excuses for shooing away the sweet treats.

Dessert time doesn’t have to be a bummer for us, though. With some careful planning, we too can join in on the sweet after dinner fun. Here are five dessert ideas that offer the perfect indulgences¬†on special occasions:

1. Frozen Banana “Ice Cream”

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, Paleo or follow a Low FODMAP diet.

During the dog days of summer, there isn’t anything¬†more satisfying than a bowl of ice cream. While plenty of non-dairy ice cream options are¬†readily available¬†in¬†most grocery stores and health food stores, these “ice creams”¬†are often loaded with added sugar, chemicals and other ingredients that we just don’t need to consume – even on special occasions.

No need to fret! Would you believe that there is actually a healthy, allergy friendly¬†“ice cream” option available¬†with zero added sugar? This fabulous “ice cream” includes just one key¬†ingredient: frozen bananas! I must say I was absolutely amazed at the creamy texture and ice-cream like taste the first time that I tasted blended frozen bananas. Best of all, it is incredibly easy to make. This is also the perfect recipe if you are trying to limit the sugar intake of your children; they will never know this is a healthy treat!

Kitchen Tools/Items You Will Need:

  • Blender
  • Knife
  • Ziploc Bag

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas make 1 serving¬†(peeled, sliced and frozen for several hours)
  • Topping of your choice

Instructions

  1. Peel 2 ripe bananas.
  2. Cut into small pieces.
  3. Place banana pieces in a Ziploc bag.
  4. Freeze banana slices for several hours.
  5. When ready to make the “ice cream”, dump the bag of banana pieces into the blender. Blend for 20-30 seconds (more time might be needed for less powerful blenders).
  6. Pour into ice cream dish and add the healthy topping of your choice (slivered almonds, raspberries, blueberries, etc.). Enjoy!

While a bag of frozen bananas would not be appropriate to bring to a restaurant for obvious reasons,¬†these frozen¬†banana bags¬†can be easily brought to the homes of friends and family. Almost everyone has a blender handy and this recipe can be made with almost no fuss. If you don’t feel comfortable showing up to a party with frozen bananas in hand, simply save this treat for when you get home.

2. Barnana Banana Bites

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free, Paleo or follow a Low FODMAP diet.

Sticking with the banana theme, I recently stumbled upon my new favorite treat, Barnana Organic Chewy Banana Bites, while running a quick errand at my local drug store. The Barnana packages were placed in close proximity to the registers at the front of the store and caught my attention right away.

I guess I’ve always been a sucker for¬†clever packaging,¬†products advertised as being organic and anything banana flavored (as evidenced by my number one¬†desert pick above). I didn’t realize at the time I first purchased these bites that they were actually a healthy snack.

If you don’t look at the¬†ingredients closely, you will probably assume like I did¬†that you are eating something¬†naughty¬†because the¬†bites¬†are so sweet and chewy. These banana bites have only two ingredients, though: bananas and water. You can’t get more natural than that! The bananas go through a dehydration process that is described in detail on the product packaging.

Consider bringing these along with you to your next dinner engagement or party. Dessert time might be much more enjoyable if you have these delicious bites to chew!

Barnana Organic Chewy Banana Bites are available at many drug stores, grocery stores, vitamin stores and health food shops. Although they offer several different flavor options (including plain, chocolate, coconut and peanut butter), I keep things simple by opting for the plain variety.

Prices can vary by store. One store by me sells a bag for close to $7, while another offers them at $4.99. Online retailers offer the best deals by far; some like Amazon offer amazing prices on packages of three or subscription services.

3. RXBARs

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and Paleo. These bars ate not Low FODMAP diet friendly because they contain dates.

For the longest time, it was nearly impossible to find a protein bar that was healthy, grain-free and tasty. Most protein bars out there have a lot of junk in them (sugar, chemicals, etc.) or taste like cardboard.

I was beyond excited when I discovered RXBARs last year. The company markets these bars as whole food protein bars with no B.S. And that is totally the truth!

Although available in 12 different flavors (chocolate sea salt, blueberry, apple cinnamon, mint chocolate, coconut chocolate, peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate, maple sea salt, chocolate chip, mixed berry, coffee chocolate and pumpkin spice), they all (with the exception of the peanut butter bars) contain the same 4 basic ingredients: 3 egg whites, 6 almonds, 4 cashews and 2 dates. I recommend avoiding the peanut butter bars and peanuts in general for reasons discussed here. All of the other flavors are solid options, though! (And no, they do not currently offer a banana flavor option.)

I usually drop one of the bars in my purse before heading out to a¬†big event. Although not quite the same as¬†a chocolate cake or other heavenly dessert, these bars provide a respectable alternative to¬†the many¬†desserts that you can’t eat at most restaurants or parties. My favorite flavors are the chocolate sea salt (if you are craving something salty, sweet and chocolate) and blueberry (if you are in the mood for something just sweet) options.

Best of all, these RXBARs are popping up everywhere. The cheapest option, though, is to order online here or here.

4. Hu Bars from Hu Kitchen

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free or follow a Paleo diet. Most of the bars are Low FODMAP diet friendly.

Hu Kitchen has started a food revolution in New York City. They operate two popular restaurants in Manhattan that focus on pre-industrial, healthy, non-GMO, organic and gluten-free foods. They also make out-of-this-world Paleo and vegan friendly chocolate bars.

Hu chocolate bars are one of my favorite treat options for special occasions. Hu Kitchen offers 8 different chocolate bar options, including hazelnut praline, crunchy banana, crunchy mint, salty chocolate and simple chocolate. All options have no refined sugar, cane sugar, gluten, dairy, emulsifiers, stabilizers, soy or GMOs.

Each bar is made from a few simple ingredients. For example, the salty chocolate bar contains just cacao, sea salt and organic coconut sugar. I challenge you to find a healthier chocolate bar!

Besides having only natural ingredients, these bars are absolutely scrumptious. I almost can’t tell the difference between these bars and some high-end chocolate bars that are loaded with sugar and crappy ingredients.

Those of you in the greater NYC area can pick these tasty bars up at Hu Kitchen restaurants, Fairway markets or Whole Foods. If the bars are unavailable in your location, Hu Kitchen also offers the option to purchase these bad boys online.

5. Healthy Hot Chocolate with Barlean’s Greens Chocolate Silk

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Appropriate for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, Paleo or follow a Low FODMAP diet.

Most of us with dairy allergies have to skip the coffee or hot chocolate at restaurants or gatherings because non-dairy¬†milk options are not usually available.¬†We can now indulge in a hot chocolate treat when we get home! Barlean’s Greens Chocolate Silk¬†powder¬†mixed with the heated unsweetened nut milk of your choice offers a healthier and more nutritious option compared to standard hot chocolate. On hot summer nights, you can even make iced drinks with this versatile powder.

This Greens powder packs a healthy punch as it features 50 super foods, supplements and antioxidants. The silky chocolate flavor is thanks to 100% natural cocoa powder. The whole family will benefit from sipping this drink hot or cold. The best part of this powder, besides the oh-so pleasant chocolate flavor, is that there is zero added sugar. In fact, it is only sweetened with natural stevia extract.

Barlean’s Greens Chocolate Silk powder is available in most vitamin and health food stores. Some retailers like Whole Foods also carry this powder. For the best bang for your buck, purchase this powder online here.

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Note for those of you following a Low FODMAP diet: Mix the powder with 1/2 cup of nut milk only and fill the rest of your glass/mug with water. It’s just as delicious and Low FODMAP diet¬†compliant this way.

Cheers to Having Dessert Options!

I hope that these options provide you with some new dessert ideas to avoid feeling left out of future celebrations! Although these desserts are fabulous and delicious (and mostly very nutritious!), all of these treats are probably best consumed only every once in a while. Do you have any other allergy friendly or diet friendly dessert hacks? Feel free to share your treat ideas in the comments section below.

Sweet dreams!!

Getting Your Veggies In … Even on Super Bowl Sunday!

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So, it’s Super Bowl Sunday – an unofficial national holiday practically devoted to Americans gorging our faces with wings, nachos, burgers, chips and beer. At first glance, it’s probably not the most fitting day¬†to run¬†a blog post about adding more vegetables into our daily meals. On second thought, though, I think we can all benefit from sneaking in more vegetables¬†daily – even on days like Super Bowl Sunday. So,¬†here we¬†go!

As many of you are aware, the standard American diet typically falls short of the recommended servings of fiber-rich¬†vegetables. Vegetables not only contain fiber, which is super important for gut health, they are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and¬†minerals that help keep us healthy and ward off disease.¬†Yet, many of us are skipping these healthy vegetables for tastier, empty calorie comfort foods. Let’s face it, we could all¬†use more veggies in our lives.

One of my personal goals for 2017 is to try to eat a healthy serving of vegetables with each and every meal. Yes, even breakfast. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been tough to accomplish every day, especially with a brand new job and a lot going on since the beginning of the New Year. I have been pretty successful in meeting this goal thus far, though.

The good news is that I have found a lot of easy and crafty ways that you too can get your “veggies on” every day. Here are three suggestions to help you add more vegetables on the sly with minimum effort:

1. Make Vegetables the Focus of Your Smoothies

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I’m all for juicing, but sometimes drinking cold pressed juices gives me a bit of a sugar rush. And the juicer is a giant pain in the neck to clean. These are just a few reasons why I usually blend vs. juice.¬†One significant reason as to why¬†I prefer smoothies to juices¬†is because¬†smoothies also¬†contain fiber¬†– which is lacking from most juices.

Smoothies are not always healthy. The biggest mistake that many people make is adding too much fruit to smoothies. I try to make vegetables the star of my smoothies and the fruit has much more of a supporting role.

The fabulous thing about smoothies is that you can really think out of the box when adding vegetables and make up recipes on the spot. I rarely make the same recipe twice. And my smoothie is always dependent on what I have in stock in my fridge or freezer at the time. Here are some vegetables that I regularly add to smoothies:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Beets (usually frozen)
  • Celery
  • Squash (whichever kind is in season)
  • Parsnip
  • Turnip

I usually add a bunch of vegetables from the list above to my blender, along with a 1/2 cup of coconut, almond or cashew milk. For a slight bit of sweetness, I add a small amount of wild frozen blueberries, pineapple or acai. To give my smoothies an added boost, I often add:

  • Fresh or powdered ginger (for a little spice)
  • Organic cacao powder¬†(for a healthy chocolate kick)
  • Green Superfood powder (you can never have too many greens)
  • Cinnamon (for a warm flavor)
  • Fresh aloe (helps with digestion)
  • Collagen powder¬†(helps with the gut, skin, hair and more)

As always, consult with your physician before incorporating any of the supplements above.

2. Consider Purchasing an Air Fryer for Quick, Healthy Vegetable Frying

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If you don’t yet own an air fryer, you don’t know what you are missing.

This past Christmas, I was pleasantly surprised when I received an air fryer as a gift from my sister Katie. At first, I thought it might be a fun new appliance that I would tinker with only on occasion. It turns out, though, that I use my air fryer several times a week these days.

Like the name suggests, an air fryer uses air as opposed to oil to fry/cook foods. So, what results is healthy, flavorful fried vegetables.¬†(You can use a smidgen of oil if you prefer in the air fryer, although none is required for most foods.) You can actually cook meats, fish¬†and other foods in the air fryer as well – although I haven’t been that daring yet to test the air fryer with these kind of foods.

I have cooked a number of vegetables (kale, butternut squash cubes, carrots, etc.) and starchy foods (shredded potatoes, sweet potato chunks, etc.) in the air fryer. Most vegetables and potatoes take less than 15 minutes to cook in the air fryer. And the air fryer tray is super easy to clean and maintain.

I typically will put a large portion of vegetables in the air fryer in the evening, eat some with dinner and reserve the rest for lunches I prepare for the next few days. I pair the veggies/potatoes with some form of protein for healthy, nutrient-packed daily lunches.

The best news is that you can snag an air fryer for less than $100. The model I use, pictured, is available at Amazon for $81. Trust me, it will change the way you cook.

3. Substitute Carb-Heavy Sides with Vegetables

When you eat out at restaurants, entrees are most commonly served with sides such as white rice, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pasta, fries and other heavy foods. These options are definitely comfort foods that you almost expect to see on your plates when eating out. Many folks think of sides in the same way when cooking meals at home. But these carb-heavy sides can make an otherwise healthy meal significantly less healthy very quickly.

On a positive note, many restaurants are offering healthier, less heavy side options that focus more on vegetables and herb ingredients rather than empty carbs. At home, you too can incorporate more tasty vegetable sides into your daily menus. One such substitute¬†is cauliflower rice. Below is a tasty cauliflower rice recipe that incorporates turkey bacon and herbs that¬†will make you forget about white rice (I’m serious).

Savory Cauliflower Rice with Turkey Bacon, Herbs and Balsamic Vinegar

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If orange is the new black, than cauliflower rice is the new kale. Cauliflower rice seems to be everywhere these days Рeven on the menus of fancy restaurants. For the longest time, you could only find riced cauliflower in stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Nowadays, even Walmart carries frozen cauliflower rice. And it is very affordable in all stores.

Back on Christmas day, I wanted to make a new, healthy vegetable side recipe to accompany the usual Christmas sides. So, I devised the recipe below. It is a very flexible recipe so you can use the herbs and seasonings that you have on hand at home.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower rice (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 strips of uncured turkey bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or avocado oil)
  • 2.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water (if fresh cauliflower rice is used)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Fresh herbs (In the past, I have used a couple of fresh basil leaves or some fresh rosemary. Use what you have on hand.)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Over medium heat, add saucepan with 1 tablespoon oil to stove.
  2. Stir in two cups of cauliflower rice (if using frozen cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water; if using fresh cauliflower rice, add 1/4 cup of water).
  3. Add balsamic vinegar to sauce pan. Add thyme, parsley, Cajun seasoning and rosemary. Add fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Stir regularly
  4. On a separate pan, cook two strips of turkey bacon until crisp. Add pieces of bacon to the cauliflower rice.
  5. Continue to cook over medium heat for 12-15 minutes and stir often Рuntil cauliflower rice is tender.
  6. Add additional seasoning to your taste preferences

Enjoy and Happy Super Bowl!

 

One Last Pumpkin Recipe for the Season!

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Wow, Thanksgiving was already over a week ago! Tis the season that time truly does seem to fly.

Presumably like you, I spent the holiday weekend consuming heaps of Thanksgiving leftovers, spending time with loved ones and shopping up a storm. Also like many of you, I had a ton of ingredients left over from my holiday baking and cooking feats. So, I put on my thinking cap and began to concoct some new recipes to ensure the ingredients did not go to waste! Here is one recipe that I devised, which uses one of my favorite ingredients of all time Рpumpkin:

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Beginning in September, manufacturers, coffee shops, juice joints and restaurants seem to add “pumpkin spice” to just about everything. It’s ubiquitous! As the calendar moves into December,¬†most of the population seems to be “over” the pumpkin craze and already have moved on to December flavors like peppermint, cinnamon spice, gingerbread, etc.

Not me! I¬†consume pumpkin all year round.¬†It’s a staple ingredient¬†in my smoothies, baking¬†and other recipes. Pumpkin is actually one of the healthiest vegetables around. This exciting vegetable, which is part of the squash family, is low in calories and packed with fiber, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and¬†flavonoids galore. These nutrients are why I try to use pumpkin as much as possible in my cooking/recipes. Click here to learn more about the amazing benefits of pumpkin.

The one recipe I’ve always wanted to tackle¬†is a pumpkin pancake recipe. It’s been years since I’ve¬†eaten pancakes, although I have often craved them. I have never been a fan of the pre-packaged, gluten-free¬†pancake mixes due to some of¬†the suspect ingredients¬†added to the mixes. My only alternative to ever enjoying pancakes again was to make my own.

So, I experimented and came up with the recipe below. Since this recipe is a bit rich, I only suggest reserving it for special occasions, holidays or to satisfy a fierce craving. I also tend to make the pancakes on the smaller side – to prevent from over-indulging.

Pumpkin Spice Pancake Recipe with Toasted Pecans Recipe

What you’ll need:

  • Baking sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Mixing spoon
  • Griddle/skillet

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2¬†tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup coconut or almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk or cashew milk or blend)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 teaspoon real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (Trader Joe’s has an excellent one)
  • Pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350¬į.
  2. Spread pecans on an ungreased baking/cookie sheet. Sprinkle olive oil over pecans and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the almond milk, eggs, canned pumpkin, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Mix together.
  4. Stir in coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice and the pinch of sea salt. Mix until lumps have disappeared.
  5. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Add coconut oil to the skillet or griddle. Once coconut oil melts, add pumpkin pancake batter to the skillet or griddle at the size that you prefer.
  6. The first batch will take longer than subsequent batches. Watch the first batch closely, when the bottom appears to lightly brown (typically takes about 4 minutes with the first batch), flip the pancake until the second side is lightly browned. With subsequent batches, it should take about 2-3 minutes for each side to lightly brown. Add more coconut oil if needed.
  7. Once finished, sprinkle each pancake with a few toasted pecans and drizzle the pancake with real maple syrup.
  8. Enjoy!

I may be late to the Pumpkin Spice party this year, but this is a recipe that can be enjoyed all year round! The pumpkin transforms these pancakes into a recipe that packs a healthy dose of nutrients. Now, that my pumpkin pancake craving is satisfied, I am suddenly craving peppermint….hmmm.

Start Your Day with a Healthy Protein Punch – Almond Butter Cup Protein Smoothie

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Breakfast truly does set the tone for the day. In fact, many nutritional experts agree that it is the most important daily meal. With that being said, breakfast is probably the easiest meal to veer off the healthy eating course.

And it is not difficult to do so! Think about it; many common breakfast foods like cereals, pancakes, muffins, granola bars, tarts and even most yogurts are loaded with sugar and other garbage. Eating these foods at breakfast sets you up for a day of blood sugar spikes and potential crashes by mid-day. This is the last thing we need during our busy days!

A Healthy Way to Start Your Day

There are much better ways to start your day. Why not add some healthy protein power to your mornings? Below is my Almond Butter Cup Protein Smoothie recipe that is not only protein-packed (which will keep you full until lunch) but is healthy, features no added sugar and tastes like a decadent dessert.

It’s called Almond Butter Cup because it tastes similar¬†to the popular peanut butter cup candy – except the recipe features almond butter instead of peanut butter. (Almond butter is much healthier than peanut butter for reasons described in my earlier blog post here.)

Chocolate plant-based protein powder serves as the base ingredient of this recipe. Taste is subjective; so, find a protein powder that tastes great to your palate. Also, look for one without any added sugar and unnatural ingredients. (I also make sure any protein powder I purchase is gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free.) Below are some protein powders that I recommend:

Rebuild Protein Powder – Chocolate

Orgain Plant-Based Protein – Creamy Chocolate Fudge

Sunwarrior – Warrior Raw, Plant-based Protein – Chocolate

Bulletproof Chocolate Collagen

Almond Butter Cup Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk, cashew milk or almond milk/cashew milk combination
  • 2 scoops of chocolate plant-based protein powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cacao powder (make sure it does not contain added sugars; I use this one.)
  • 1 handful of spinach (or you may use a scoop of green powder if you prefer)
  • 1 handful of shredded carrots
  • 8 frozen or fresh blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (or you may use one small banana instead)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of almond butter (pick one without unhealthy or unnecessary added ingredients. Click here for guidance in selecting healthy nut butters.)
  • A pinch of pumpkin pie spice
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

The instructions couldn’t be any easier. Just place all ingredients in your blender and blend away. A few seconds later, you will have a rich, creamy and protein-packed smoothie that keep you full for hours.

A Tasty Staple in Any Morning Routine

This is one protein smoothie that I can’t get enough of each morning. I literally wake up looking forward to making this tasty treat every day. This smoothie satisfies salty, chocolate and sweet cravings at once – which is rare for a beverage or food. Plus it is not only loaded with plant-based protein,¬†it includes a one-two punch of¬†vitamins and fiber. It’s a must try for anyone who loves peanut butter cup candies!

Just Breathe: 8 Tips to De-Stress During Hectic Days

As the song goes, “Mama said there’ll be days like this.” Days when nothing seems to go right and when stress seems to get the better of us.

We’ve all had these kind of days. Days where we are pulled in multiple directions,¬†get shaken by¬†bad news, have to wear multiple hats¬†or when 24 hours in a day just doesn’t seem to be enough. Even events like the unsettling presidential election and the seemingly unending cycle of disheartening world news can add additional stress to our already overburdened lives.

When life gets hectic, we have been conditioned by TV shows, commercials and movies to reach for a pint of ice cream or a glass of wine to soothe our heavy souls. While there is nothing wrong with imbibing with a glass of wine from time to time or indulging with a little ice cream on occasion, these items only provide us with temporary comfort. In fact, if you have too much of either, they could make you feel much worse.

Why make your stress any worse? Instead, try one of these¬†healthy tips to insert some calm in your life, brighten your mood … and perhaps salvage your day!

1) Take a Walk Around the Block

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A simple brisk walk (or any exercise for that matter) can do wonders for your mood and stress. Exercise helps release endorphins, which in turn can help improve your mood. So, stretch your legs and take a little walk around your neighborhood. You might return home feeling refreshed and less stressed.

Click here to learn about how walking can help improve your mood and decrease stress.

2) Incorporate Meditation into Your Routine

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Meditation may seem out there at first. Trust me, it took me a long time to get into it. Finding just 10 minutes a day to let go and meditate¬†can help you tackle your stress. Don’t rely just on my endorsement, though. Some of the nation’s largest institutions, such as Mayo Clinic and Harvard,¬†promote meditation as an excellent stress reliever.

Unsure of how to begin? Guided meditations are available for little or no cost. Subscribe to Hay House Daily Meditations podcast on iTunes or Google Play for free meditations. YouTube also offers a vast catalog of no cost guided meditations that you can peruse.

Lastly, if you crave more structure with your meditations, consider a subscription to apps like Headspace or Calm; these meditation apps offer a multitude of meditations to choose from, help track your progress and send you notifications to motivate you to meditate daily. Both apps offer several subscription plans based on your needs.

3) Relax with Essential Oils

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Taking a whiff of essential oils like lavender, mint and eucalyptus has been known to provide an almost instant calming effect. That’s why places like spas and yoga studios – places where people specifically go to relax – often¬†feature a strong aroma of essential oils when you walk through the door.

These days, essential oils are extremely accessible and affordable. You can find them in places like Whole Foods, vitamin stores, health stores and pharmacies. In fact, I recently picked up a lavender essential oil roller ball applicator at CVS.

As an added bonus, essential oils work wonders for other ailments as well, such as headaches, colds and more.

Need ideas as to how to use essential oils for relaxation? Check out these tips from mindbodygreen.

4) Add a Cup of Chamomile Tea to Your Bedtime Routine

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Chamomile has been used as medicine in some cultures for centuries. Research shows that drinking a cup of chamomile tea not only helps your body relax, it also soothes your digestive tract and can even help you sleep better.

Although not recommended for consumption during the day because of its relaxing effect, chamomile tea might be just what you need to unwind at bedtime. Click here to learn more about the benefits of drinking chamomile tea.

5) Treat Yourself to a Facial or Massage

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There is almost no place more serene than a spa. The aroma, the calming spa music and the overall pampering provide a soothing escape of our everyday stresses. It’s common to leave a spa with the feeling that the weight of the world has been lifted from our shoulders.

Although a splurge, many coupon sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial make facials and massages much more affordable. In fact, it is often easy to find spas offering coupons for facials and massages for $50 or less. So, pamper yourself today!

6) Watch Your Caffeine Intake

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When we are stressed, we often also feel drained and tired. Our instinct when this happens¬†is to grab anything in sight that is loaded with caffeine for some “instant pep.” Proceed with caution, though. Consuming one cup of coffee or tea is probably not going to make your stress any worse; however, a few cups of caffeinated beverages can quickly make you jittery and anxious. Reach for some soothing decaffeinated tea or hot water with lemon instead!

7) Paint or Color!

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Adult coloring books and group painting classes are all the rage now! These activities not only give us nostalgia for our childhood art classes, several studies actually show that coloring or painting can help us relax and de-stress. If you haven’t tried it for yourself, why not pick up an adult coloring book (they’re everywhere these days) or sign up for a¬† painting class.

8) Try Acupuncture

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Most people tend to look to the Western world for stress relief remedies, but you may find relief from giving Eastern medicine remedies like acupuncture a try. Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese medicinal practice that includes pricking the skin in strategic places with fine needles, has long been touted as a panacea for musculoskeletal pain relief, infertility, digestive issues and hormonal imbalances. Studies also suggest that acupuncture may help with stress and anxiety.

Acupuncture has done wonders for me. I see an acupuncturist weekly for pain relief, but have found that my Friday pre-work appointment also ensures that at least one hour of deep relaxation is on my schedule each week. I often leave feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Acupuncture can be pricey; however, more and more insurance companies are covering (or at least offering steep discounts for) acupuncture services as part of standard health plan benefits. In addition, some community acupuncture centers offer acupuncture for as little as $25 per session. If you are interested in trying acupuncture, I recommend calling your health insurance company and researching practitioners in your area. Look for a licensed acupuncturist with advanced Eastern medicine schooling, one with favorable online reviews and a provider with a clean and comfortable office.

Don’t Let Stress Get the Best of You!

So, the next time you are feeling a bit stressed, keep these¬†tips in your back pocket. There is no need to suffer in silence. Find what works for you and keep stress relief strategies¬†in your arsenal for handling future stressful days. Here’s to less stress and more relaxation!

 

Say What? Affordable Organic and Healthy Food Options at Aldi

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It seems like Aldi is kind of hip now. Last weekend, one of the largest newspapers in NYC, the New York Daily News, featured an article called, “8 reasons why you should shop at Aldi.”

While I hadn’t shopped at an Aldi store in a few months, the article convinced me that I needed to hop in my car and head back there ASAP. In fact, I literally drove to my nearest Aldi within a few hours of reading the article. And I’m glad that I did! Upon perusing the Aldi¬†aisles, my eyes almost popped out of their sockets when I saw all of the new organic and healthy food options – at beyond amazing prices. To say I was pleasantly surprised¬†is an understatement.

The Aldi Experience

For those of you who are not familiar with Aldi, it is a “no-frills” German supermarket chain that seems to be popping up everywhere. In fact, at least 10 stores¬†are now¬†open within 10 miles of my home. Go back a few years, and maybe there were only two stores in my area. You can even find an Aldi¬†in Manhattan! Beyond my immediate area, Aldi stores seem to be¬†expanding in most U.S. states and throughout Europe.

The author of the Daily News article says it best when he described Aldi as the “Jan Brady of supermarkets.” When you first enter an Aldi store, you kind of have to get used to the “no-frills” concept of the chain. You are not going to see the beautiful produce displays¬†and neatly stocked shelves of supermarkets like Whole Foods, Fairway or Trader Joes. In fact, most items are haphazardly placed in cardboard boxes or containers at Aldi.

Aldi has some interesting quirks. Shoppers must insert a quarter to gain use of an Aldi shopping cart. (You get the quarter back upon returning the shopping cart, though.) Also, the store charges for all plastic shopping bags. This policy, though, encourages shoppers to bring their own reusable shopping bags (which I remember to bring with me most of the time).

Aldi stores also carry mostly unique brands. They offer several brand lines that you can only find at Aldi stores, such as Simply Nature (natural and organic products), Fit & Active (food and beverages for healthy lifestyles), liveGfree (gluten-free line), Friendly Farms (dairy and dairy alternatives), Never Any! (meat without antibiotics, hormones or by-products), Little Salad Bar (vegetables/salad items) and more. Aldi stores also carry a limited and rotating stock of name brand items found at traditional supermarkets.

While kind of odd for a supermarket, these unique policies, unstructured looking aisles and limited brand options help Aldi keep overhead low. For example, they don’t need to hire as many employees for stocking shelves and no employees are needed¬†for parking lot cart retrieval. The money they save on¬†overhead translates into better prices for us consumers!

The “New” Aldi

Aldi had somewhat of an undeserved bad rap¬†a few years ago. Back then, Aldi’s brand game wasn’t as strong and their shelves¬†featured less healthy options. However, most notably there seemed to be somewhat of a stigma associated with shopping at Aldi a few year back. I remember shopping at an Aldi store¬†in 2012 and overhearing a conversation between two neighbors who ran into each other unexpectedly¬†at the store. Both ladies were acting somewhat embarrassed to be “caught” shopping at Aldi and were overtly making excuses as to why they weren’t shopping at the “regular” supermarket instead. Their exchange was almost humorous.

Back then, Aldi stores were not very crowded. Fast forward a few years later and Aldi stores are now super popular. Parking lots are jam-packed and the aisles are crammed with frugal-minded shoppers. Shopping at Aldi definitely seems more mainstream today.

Aldi’s low prices (especially when standard supermarket prices continue to rise) along with the expansion of healthy and organic food options continue to attract new shoppers and keep returning customers like me¬†satisfied. As we all know, it’s very expensive to eat mostly organic and healthy foods – so Aldi’s incredibly low prices make healthy eating more accessible for everyone.

And there are so many great finds available at Aldi now! I am excited to share some of the organic and healthy items purchased at my recent Aldi shopping run:

Organic Arugula

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Arugula, which¬†is hands down my favorite kind of salad green vegetable, is only $2.49 at my Aldi store. And it’s organic! Most supermarkets seem to offer organic arugula (with the exception of rare sales) at a price point of $3.99 or greater. My savings: at least $1.50

Organic Spinach

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Spinach is my go-to green veggie for juicing and smoothies. Organic baby spinach at Aldi is only $2.49 (compared to over $3.99 at standard supermarkets). My savings: at least $1.50

Organic Frozen Blueberries

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Blueberries are packed with antioxidants. Frozen organic blueberries are a regular staple item in my freezer. While packages at standard supermarkets could cost you around $4.99, Aldi sells frozen organic blueberries for only $2.79. My savings: around $2.20.

Organic, Antibiotic Free Chicken Breast

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This one is a total steal. It is hard to find affordable organic chicken at grocery stores. While some chicken will be marketed as antibiotic-free, the chicken will often not be organic. Aldi sells organic, antibiotic-free chicken breasts for an incredibly low price. The large chicken breast that I purchased (enough for two full servings) was only $5.33. I have been unable to find anything similar in standard supermarkets for under $10. My savings: approximately $5.

Organic Baby Carrots

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Baby carrots are fabulous in the juicer, in smoothies and are the perfect afternoon or anytime snack. Aldi sells a 16 ounce bag of organic carrots for $1.89. Compare this to $2.49 at a nearby standard supermarket, and I saved 60 cents by shopping at Aldi. Below is a juice that I made with these carrots:

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Pure Coconut Water

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Stores like Whole Foods sell pure coconut water for about $3.99 a pop. (Pure coconut waters need to be refrigerated and aren’t as widely available compared to¬†the shelf stable¬†coconut waters.)¬†Trader Joes offers a great deal for pure coconut water for $2.99 a bottle; however, Aldi offers even a better deal at $2.29 per bottle! That is a saving of¬†at least¬†70 cents per bottle. Needless to say, I stocked up on these coconut waters¬†during my last Aldi shopping trip.

Unsweetened Almond Milk

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I love almond milk. The unsweetened almond milk varieties are a must for my smoothies and protein shakes. I can’t believe that unsweetened almond milk is only $2.29 at Aldi! The brand I typically buy at other supermarkets is at least $3.29. My savings: $1 or more. Note: They also sell coconut milk at Aldi, but I didn’t see any unsweetened varieties available.

Other Sweet Deals at Aldi

  • Slivered Almonds $2.99 – These almonds are usually very expensive at standard supermarkets. I am talking at least $5.99 at other stores. I use these almonds in many recipes including my carrot slaw and Asian salad recipes.
  • Bag of Lemons $3.29 – I use lemons often in hot water and to dress my salads. Lemons can be pricey at regular supermarkets. This Aldi bag featured a whole lot of lemons at a great price!
  • (Whole) Pineapple $1.99 – Wow! The cheapest price I have found outside of Aldi for a whole pineapple¬†is $2.99.
  • 24 Pack of Spring Water $2.49 – I love the taste of Aldi spring water and the water comes in BPA free plastic containers. As an added bonus, the water bottles are made of recycled plastic.

A Word of Caution

While I have focused on the healthy food and beverage items that I have purchased, keep in mind that Aldi also carries a lot of junk and heavily processed foods also at great prices. Just like any supermarket, these not-so-healthy foods are definitely abundant at Aldi. I encourage all shoppers to carefully read labels of products before purchasing them. I tend to stick to certain Aldi brands, such as Simply Nature, Friendly Farms (for unsweetened almond milk only), Little Salad Bar, etc. to ensure that I am selecting only healthy and/or organic items.

Keeping Aldi in Mind for Future Shopping Sprees

While I can’t rely on Aldi for everything on my shopping list, it is a fantastic spot to save money on the healthy items above and more. I’m definitely going to try to shop there more often! Aldi is also a great store to shop at for large parties or holiday meals – which can often set you back hundreds of dollars at other stores. You can definitely save a bank load of money on key staples and ingredients¬†at Aldi¬†compared to traditional supermarkets.

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Some of the fabulous organic and healthy food finds that I picked up at Aldi.