The 5 Worst Ways To Start Your Day

How you feel in the morning has a huge impact on your mood the rest of the day. A relaxing morning makes it easier to stay positive during your workday. Feeling stressed or angry puts you on edge. Is your morning routine helping or hurting you? Here are five of the worst morning habits to avoid.

1. Checking Your Phone Right Away

Many people keep their phones next to their beds. When they wake up in the morning, the first thing they do is check text messages or respond to work emails. Unfortunately, flipping on your phone first thing is a great way to ruin perfectly good morning:

  • Anxiety: The second you go into “work mode,” stress starts to kick in. People who look at their phones right away in the morning have a lot more anxiety than those who don’t.
  • Negativity: Instead of the positive feelings of wellbeing you would normally have after waking up from a good night’s sleep, checking work messages turns on your inner critic. This negative voice makes you worry you’re not doing enough or something bad is going to happen.
  • Productivity problems: Believe it or not, reading work emails first thing can make you less productive, not more. It can distract you from important tasks with other things that aren’t that urgent.

Give yourself a break! Make your morning routine a phone-free zone. If there’s something truly urgent, co-workers or family members will call you anyway.

2. Skipping a Healthy Breakfast

You wouldn’t dream of driving your car to work on an empty tank of gas, right? That’s exactly what skipping breakfast is like for your body and mind. Breakfast kickstarts your metabolism.

Do you tend to feel drained of energy or sluggish all day? Do you have trouble concentrating? Those are signs you’re not getting enough fuel. A healthy breakfast with plenty of protein is the best pick-me-up!

3. Watching TV

If you work from home, you may be tempted to flip on the TV in the morning while you get ready. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a laugh to start your day, but the problem is that TV shows are purposely designed to take up at least 30–60 minutes of your time. Once you start, it’s hard to stop, and you can end up “watching” your entire morning disappear.

4. Hitting the Snooze Button

"Just five more minutes," you say. Your body doesn't understand what that means. Hitting the snooze button throws off your internal clock, your metabolism and your normal sleep routine. This makes you more sleepy than if you had just gotten up right away!

5. Getting Angry

It’s not always easy for moms and dads (or couples for that matter) to avoid little irritations in the morning. Kids can make a mess or your significant other can leave the toothpaste tube squashed the way you hate again. If possible, push those things out of mind until later.

Create an enjoyable family custom in the morning that everyone likes. It can be as simple as a hug and kiss before leaving, or sharing a cup of coffee.

A Healthy Morning Routine

Set aside time for yourself in the morning. It's worth investing 15 minutes for stretching your legs, eating breakfast, breathing fresh air and making someone smile. The benefits for the rest of your day are amazing.

How do you start your day off right? What makes you smile in the morning? Share your ideas in the comments below!

6 Best Foods To Support Healthy Aging

We may not be able to stop aging, but what we can control is how we age. Eating a variety of delicious foods with essential vitamins, powerful antioxidants and good fats can support better health whether you’re 25 or 65. What are the best foods for feeling great at any age?

1. Carrots, Sweet Potatoes & Tomatoes: Smooth Skin

Carrots, sweet potatoes and tomatoes may all look different, but they have something important in common: antioxidant vitamins called carotenoids. These nutrients are essential for youthful skin.

Cooked or fresh, these colorful veggies help protect your skin against harmful UV rays and premature signs of aging skin. That way you don’t have as many wrinkles or “crow’s feet” around the eyes.

2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO): Overall Health

When you think of Italy and other places in the Mediterranean, images of extra virgin olive oil drizzled over salads and pasta probably come to mind. It’s no surprise that the average life expectancy for many places in Europe is over 80 years.

Why is EVOO so good for aging in style? This delicious oil can lower your risk of countless health problems:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Some cancers

Even doctors encourage people to eat lots of EVOO. It's rich in healthy fats that protect your heart.

3. Fatty Fish: A Happy Mind and Body

The people of Iceland also live a long time. The island's entire population has an average life span of about 82 years. Their diet probably plays a big part. Icelandic dishes feature a lot of fresh fish, veggies and wild berries.

Salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, herring and mackerel are more than tasty. They’re full of omega-3 fatty acids — healthy fats that help your heart, nervous system and other organs.

Omega-3s are phenomenal for fighting inflammation and stiffness. Including more fatty fish on the menu can even help your mood, chasing away depression and giving you feelings of calm.

4. Blueberries: Wrinkle Defense

Raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and other red berries have a high level of antioxidants for protecting your cells. These tangy berries support aging in a big way by slowing down the amount of collagen you lose over time. You can enjoy healthier, more elastic skin and stronger joints.

5. Papaya: A Healthy Gut

When your gut is happy, you’re happy. You feel more comfortable and get more benefits from the foods you eat. Take good care of your digestive system with fresh papaya.

This tropical fruit helps with gut troubles such as bloating, heartburn and constipation naturally. Just half a papaya has a whopping 30% of the total fiber you need in a day.

One special enzyme in papaya, called papain, is so good at alleviating stomach upset that it’s included in many over-the-counter products. You won’t believe how fast tummy inflammation goes away.

6. Red and Yellow Peppers: Sharp Eyesight

You probably already know that vitamin C is a super-vitamin for aging, but what you may not know are the best places to get it. Juicy citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C, but red and yellow bell peppers have even more — over 150% of your daily needs!

When you get lots of vitamin C, it lowers your risk of cataracts and other age-related eye problems. You can take great care of those lovely peepers and enjoy tastier meals at the same time!

Functional Foods: What Are They, and Why Should You Be Eating Them?

The concept of “functional foods” is growing in popularity and as society becomes increasingly focused on health, wellness and self-care. Though all foods are functional to an extent in that they satiate appetite, provide taste and offer some nutritional value, there are certain foods that are so high in vitamins and nutrients that they have powerful health benefits. Evidence suggest that these foods — known as functional foods — may safeguard against disease, promote healthy growth and development, and prevent nutrient deficits. So, which foods are considered functional and what kind of value do they really provide? Find out below.

Defining “Functional”

Though a buzzword in recent years, functional foods are not a new concept. The term originated in Japan in the 1980s when, in response to rising health care costs, the country’s government began approving certain foods for their health benefits. Once the concept caught on in the United States, where the FDA regulates what manufacturers can and cannot say regarding the health benefits of certain foods, health organizations began attempting to come up with a definition. Below are two definitions of functional foods, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Functional foods are those that provide benefits that go beyond its basic nutritional value because of what it contains. For instance, soy is considered functional because it is a protein that is proven to reduce cholesterol levels — a benefit that goes beyond its nutritional value.
  • Functional foods are also foods that have been fortified to add health benefits. A common example of a fortified “food” is orange juice, which is often calcium-fortified to improve bone health.

Though the latter types of foods are healthy, most people can agree that foods that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals are better for the body.

Examples of Functional Foods

There are two types of functional foods: conventional and modified. Conventional foods are simply those that naturally contain vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy fats and antioxidants. Modified foods are those that are fortified with additional ingredients to boost their health benefits. Examples of conventional foods are as follows:

  • Fruits and vegetables, particularly cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale, apples, oranges, bananas and berries
  • Nuts, such as cashews, macadamia nuts, almonds and pistachios
  • Whole grains, such as oats, brown rice and couscous
  • Seeds, such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds
  • Seafood, such as salmon, mackerel, cod and sardines
  • Legumes, such as black beans, navy beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • Herbs and spices, particularly cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, ginger and pepper
  • Certain beverages, such as green tea, black tea and coffee
  • Fermented foods, such as kombucha, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir

Examples of modified foods include several dairy products, fortified grains, fortified juices, fortified eggs and fortified cereals.

The Benefits of Functional Foods

There is ample evidence proving that those foods deemed as “functional” do, in fact, have several health benefits beyond their nutritional value. Though some foods have more and more powerful benefits than others, many conventional and fortified functional foods help to correct nutrient deficiencies, promote healthy growth and development and prevent disease. A few examples of functional foods at work include those that contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation, promote heart health and boost brain function; iron-fortified foods, which reduced rates of childhood anemia in Jordan by nearly 50%; and foods that are rich in folic acid, which can help to reduce the prevalence of neural tube defects by as much as 70%.

Incorporating Functional Foods Into Your Diet

Incorporating functional foods doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — difficult. So long as you maintain a well-balanced diet rich in whole foods, your body should get the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. To fill nutrient gaps, add fortified foods to your diet where necessary.

This Is Why Is I Don’t Buy My Salad Dressing at the Store

The idea that most store-bought salad dressings aren’t healthy may sound strange. “What about low-fat, fat-free or organic?” you’re probably asking. The shocking truth is that they’re almost as bad as regular versions!

1. The Fat-Free Trap

Fat equals flavor. I’m not saying you should eat full-fat dressings, just that they tend to be more flavorful. Food manufacturers know this.

Do you know what they do to compete with other brands? Instead of adding high-quality herbs or healthy ingredients, they put extra sugar and sodium in dressings marketed as low-fat or fat-free. All of that sodium is bad for your blood pressure and your heart.

Some dressings slap the word “organic” on the label to make it seem healthier than it really is. Calling something organic only means it hasn’t been grown without pesticides, but it doesn’t mean the ingredients are good for you. Many contain tons of saturated fats, salt and sugar.

2. “Healthy” Vinaigrettes That Aren’t

What about vinaigrettes and Italian dressing? Aren’t they supposed to be healthy? Well, when you make them at home, they’re absolutely amazing for your health. Most of the time, store-bought varieties aren’t.

All you need to do is take a quick look at the ingredients list for some of these dressings to understand what I mean. You’ll find preservatives, food colorings and other weird ingredients that can mess with your body. Like, what in the world are “calcium disodium EDTA,” “potassium sorbate” and “xanthan gum”?

These processed ingredients can make inflammation worse and trigger digestive troubles. If you have gout, arthritis, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) or other types of chronic pain, tossing out prepared salad dressings should be at the top of your to-do list.

3. Organic Salad Dressings With Cheap, Processed Oils

Another trick I’ve seen manufacturers use is mixing a really healthy oil with a really cheap one. Extra-virgin olive oil is a nutritious, high-quality oil with healthy fats that protect your heart. It’s also expensive.

To make more money, companies put a little EVOO in the dressing and a bunch of cheap soybean oil or vegetable oil. The label has “EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL” in huge letters, but the dressing actually contains mostly vegetable oil.

Soybean oil and other highly refined vegetable oils are completely lacking in nutrients. They’re bad for your heart instead of good, and they increase inflammation.

What Should You Do?

Don’t get me wrong. My tastebuds jump for joy with a tasty salad dressing. These four practical tips let you have your salad dressing and eat it too:

  • Make your own salad dressing: Tossing together a vinaigrette with EVOO, herbs, and balsamic vinegar only takes a few minutes. You can find good recipes online for a huge variety of healthy dressings.
  • Choose dressings with simple ingredients: If you only have time for store-bought dressing, the fewer ingredients, the better. Cold-pressed dressings made with EVOO, fresh-squeezed juices, veggies and natural ingredients can be healthy.
  • Know what a serving size looks like: Put your dressing in a measuring spoon to see what that low-cal serving size really is.
  • Serve dressing on the side: You can get some dressing on each bite without overdoing it by dipping your fork into dressing instead of pouring on top.

A crispy, veggie-packed salad is the perfect complement for everything from turkey sandwiches to spaghetti. It's too bad that most bottled dressings undo the benefits you get from eating salad in the first place.

My Favorite Juices for Health

Have you noticed how the entire world is focusing more on health now than seemingly ever before? If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, it’s time to! Good health is essential for overcoming illness and staving off disease. Not to mention the fact that you feel so much better when you take good care of your body and give it the nutrients it needs.

 Recently, I’ve been experimenting with different juices to see how they make me feel. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve come up with a list of juices that help me feel healthy and vibrant while giving me a little extra pep in my step. I decided to share this list with you so you can benefit from these incredible juices as well! So check out this list of my favorite juices for optimizing my health

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Watermelon Juice

Who doesn’t love the sweet, invigorating flavor of watermelon? If you like fresh watermelon, you’ll probably love watermelon juice. It’s full of lycopene and beta carotene (which are both powerful phytonutrients known to boost the immune system and help neutralize free radicals in the body). In fact, you won’t find another fruit that has more lycopene in it than watermelon.

Watermelon is also very hydrating since it’s comprised mostly of water (approximately 91%). Since most of us are dehydrated at least some of the time without even knowing it, drinking watermelon juice can help keep us properly hydrated (especially those of us who have a difficult time drinking plain water).

Spinach Juice

I thought I’d lead out with watermelon juice before talking about a juice that seems much less appealing. If you find yourself grimacing at the thought of spinach juice, just hear me out. Spinach juice is one of my very favorites to drink, though I usually combine it with other ingredients to mask its flavor.

Spinach is one of the most nutritious ingredients you can consume. It’s also very low in calories, which is a huge plus if you’re watching your weight like I am. In just 3 cups of spinach, you can get as much as 340% of your daily vitamin K content and up to 25% of your vitamin C needs.

 Usually, I put one or two cups of spinach in my blender with one cup of water, then blend it until it’s smooth. After that, I’ll often toss in a small handful of blueberries or strawberries, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a small apple and blend it all together. This makes a pleasant, but not overly sweet juice that’s packed full of immune-boosting nutrients. I prefer to drink this juice first thing in the morning, as it energizes me and helps me feel ready to tackle my day.

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Carrot Juice

If you’ve never had carrot juice made from organic, subtly sweet carrots, you’re in for a treat. I like to buy my carrot juice from my local health food store, but you can make your own carrot juice if you have a good juicer at home.

Carrots are a great nutritional choice for mature adults because they contain a lot of beta-carotene, which is important for good eyesight. Carrot juice also contains vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and many other nutrients. If you don’t think straight carrot juice is sweet enough for your tastes, try adding a small amount of stevia to sweeten it without adding harmful sugars.

 These are three of my favorite go-to juices for good health. I tend to drink the watermelon juice in the summer and the other two juices year-round. None of these juices are calorically dense enough to be a meal replacement, but you can drink them along with a meal or as a light snack to give your body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and energetic.

3 Healthy and Fun Halloween Treats

Growing up, people connect Halloween with spookiness and sweet, sugar-filled treats. While candy is delicious and fun, it can also be addictive and set a precedent for improper eating. Candy in moderation is OK, but pillowcases filled to the brim are a bit excessive. The great news is that at home, you can still make sweet and delicious Halloween-themed treats, but they are healthy.

1. Apple Monsters

Who doesn't love an apple? To get the kiddos and adults enthusiastic about the fruit, consider mixing the traditional green apples with nut butter and strawberry slices for a spooky-inspired snack. Let your creative juices flow as you create unique and fun little faces. 

Ingredients:

  • Two green apples, quartered 
  • 32 sunflower seeds (teeth) 
  • Two to three strawberries, sliced (tongues) 
  • Sunflower butter 
  • Homemade googly eyes

Googly Eye Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar 
  • ¼ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch 
  • 2 teaspoons non-dairy milk 
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup 
  • Mini non-dairy chocolate chips 

Googly Eye Instructions:

  1. Whisk the cornstarch and powdered sugar together. Add in all remaining ingredients except the chocolate chips. You want to mix until you have a thick paste. 
  2. Using a Ziploc or piping bag, squeeze out a tiny dot of the mix onto a baking sheet. Do not forget to line the sheet with wax paper.  
  3. Top each dot with a chocolate chip. Let the googly eyes set for a minimum of 24 hours. 

Putting It All Together:

  1. Create a mouth in each quartered apple chunk by cutting the middle out. Fill the gap with sunflower butter. 
  2. Place four sunflower seeds along the top of the cut, creating teeth. Don't worry about even spacing or gaps — these are monsters, after all. 
  3. To create the tongue, take a slice of strawberry and place it along the lower edge.  
  4. Finally, put one or two eyes at the top of the snack. Glue them in place with a bit more sunflower butter.

2. Orange Jack-O-Lanterns 

Many families make a day of picking pumpkins and carving jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. As part of the festivities, why not bring a creative, healthy snack. Oranges make the perfect mini pumpkin stand-in. However, do not fill the "pumpkin" with its guts until two hours before the party. 

Ingredients: 

  • Enough navel oranges for everyone 
  • A mix of your favorite fruits (grapes, cherries, apples, pineapple, etc.)

Instructions: 

  1. Using a sharp knife, slice off the top section of the oranges. Use the blade to separate the innards from the sides. 
  2. Remove the orange segments and set them aside for later. Carve a cute face into each hollowed-out orange. 
  3. Soak up the remaining juices by place a paper towel inside. Remove the towel and fill the oranges with your choice of fruit, including the orange segments from earlier.

3. "Candy Corn" Parfaits

If you are looking for another quick and easy Halloween treat, look no further than the "Candy Corn" parfait. Made with pineapple, orange slices, and whipped cream, no snack is sweeter than this. 

Ingredients: 

  • Mandarin oranges 
  • Pineapple chunks 
  • Candy Corn 
  • Whipped cream 
  • Mason jars or plastic cups

Instructions: 

  1. In a plastic cup or mason jar, layer in the fruit and whipped cream. The pineapple goes on the bottom, followed by the oranges, and is topped with whipped cream. 
  2. If so desired, you can place a single Candy Corn on the top.  

While candy is excellent in moderation, not every Halloween treat needs to center around a sugar high. Do you know of any other tasty and healthy Halloween treats? Leave a comment.