Love Yourself

Fall is such a wonderful time of year. You first start to feel the summer fade when the mornings and evenings cool down a bit and the sun gets a little lower in the sky. You pull out your light jackets, fall boots, and chunky scarves to revel in the cooler weather ahead.

Walks outdoors and jogs through the park become all the more pleasurable with the chillier air and the gorgeous trees surrounding your every step. With the sun rising a bit later, it’s easier to catch a glimpse of the sunrise upon waking up in the morning, or a beautiful sunset as the sun goes to sleep earlier in the evening.

On top of all the natural beauty, fresh food emerges: crisp apples, pumpkin-everything, warm soups, and roasted veggies line our fall cooking repertoire and make us feel healthy, comfy, and cozy.

Not only that, there are a number of activities to do in the fall that will have you smiling all season long. From apple picking to tree-peeping to simply walking around outdoors more often, fall is a beautiful time to enjoy the scenery around you. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of fall activities that you simply must add to your seasonal bucket list before the weather gets too chilly and the busy holiday season sets in.

Make the most of your autumn and enjoy our top twenty activities to take advantage of all the season has to offer:

  1. Visit the farmers market before it closes for the season, and cook with your bounty
  2. Decorate your home with fall flair (pumpkins, apples, hay)
  3. Add squash or pumpkin to one of your classic recipes
  4. Take a ghost tour
  5. Capture family photos
  6. Go apple picking at a local orchard
  7. Plan a weekend getaway in the mountains
  8. Enjoy a brew at the local Oktoberfest celebration
  9. Achieve your longest run of the year, or sign up for a fall race
  10. Go to a local, or professional, football game
  11. Douse apples in caramel
  12. Can your summer produce
  13. Make your hiking bucket list – and cross a few off!
    Take a drive to the best fall foliage in your area
  14. Fill your home with the aroma of freshly baked pie
  15. Travel to a fall festival
  16. Go to a harvest fair
  17. Master your go-to soup recipe for the colder weather ahead
  18. Go cider tasting (whether you prefer alcoholic or non-alcoholic cider!)
  19. Enjoy an outdoor concert
  20. Check out a slew of books at your local library (perfect for cozying up on the couch!)

How do you enjoy making the best of fall? What are your favorite fall activities? Let us know in the comments below!

Did you know that the average American eats 100 grams of sugar a day? It takes some comparison to make sense of that number: the American Heart Association recommends that women eat 25 grams a day and men consume around 37 grams. The takeaway? We’re eating too much sugar!

Why is that? It isn’t just because it’s so delicious (although that plays a big part). Studies show that concentrated sugars can be addictive and stimulate similar parts of the brain that drugs do. Your cookie cravings don’t just stem from your love of them; your brain is literally hardwired to crave that sugar!

On top of that, it’s hard to avoid – sugar is used in around 75 percent of packaged foods in America. And while it may seem harmless, it’s not: a diet filled with too much sugar contributes to cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and more.

Convinced you should try to limit your intake of concentrated sugars? Let’s get started.

Eat Natural Foods
First things first: concentrated sugars pop up most in packaged foods. The sugar found in natural foods like fruits and veggies are paired with good-for-you nutrients and fiber that balance the sugars and lessen their addictive nature. Packaged foods, however, are manufactured with artificial sugar to improve the taste and shelf life. In starting to cut out sugar, the absolute best way to do so will be to transition much of your diet to natural foods like fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, legumes, and whole grains.

Shop Smart
One tactic we love? Stay on the perimeter of the grocery store. Stores tend to keep all the packaged foods in the middle aisles, while the natural foods stay on the outside. Do your shopping around the perimeter first, then head to the middle as needed.

Check the Label
Of course, some packaged foods contain more sugar than others. Always check the label on something before you buy it to ensure that you know what you’re putting in your body. Cereal is a huge culprit; many cereals that are marketed as healthy have too many added sugars to be truly good for you. Look for cereals that have less than 5 grams of sugar, for example, to maximize the health benefits of the food.

Read the Ingredient List
Sugar sneaks into places you might not expect. Ketchup, soups, whole wheat bread, fruit juices, and nutrition bars can all be full of added sugar despite their healthy marketing and lack of sugary taste. Always look at the ingredient list before purchasing an item, and keep on the lookout for the various ways in which companies list sugar (corn syrup, malt sugar, molasses, corn sweetener, and high fructose corn syrup are all ways to list concentrated, artificial sugar).

Try Substitutions
When you’re out of the grocery store and in the kitchen, try substituting spices instead of sugar to flavor your foods. For instance, ginger, cinnamon, or nutmeg can sweeten and flavor a dish in a more complex and nutritious way than sugar can. Slowly transition sugar out of your coffee and tea, and cut back on the amount you add to baked goods (their flavor won’t suffer too much – we promise!). But don’t go cold turkey: evidence shows that cutting sugar out of your diet completely can increase cravings, making it even harder to quit in the long run.

Overall, cutting even a bit of sugar from your diet can improve your health. Try one or two of these tactics this week and let us know how it goes!

We could talk all day about the benefits of exercise. A longer life. Lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Stronger, toned muscles. Less body fat. Mental stability and clarity. You name it, exercise can help accomplish it!

While working out might not be your favorite pastime (and if it is, you rock it!), the lucky thing is, there are so many ways to get your heart rate up that it’s easy to find the right one that works for you. The opportunities are endless: jogging, walking, tennis, cycling, pilates, yoga, swimming, weightlifting, zumba… the list goes on and on.

While your workouts are critical to wellbeing, what you do after your workout may be just as important. Many people exercise and then go on with their days, not knowing the vital steps needed to make the most of their workout session. Not only that, there are certain things you should be doing to avoid injury and build added muscle. These include:

  1. Stretch the muscles you worked. When you work your muscles, they automatically tighten and shorten. It is vital, therefore, to stretch the muscles you used during your workout to get them back to their normal length. This helps muscles grow and keeps them from getting sore. Stretching also helps you cool down and relax. Aim to stretch each muscle you worked for at least a minute after each workout.
  2. Eat lots of protein. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles and need to be replenished after a tough exercise session. As you’re using your muscles during the workout, they tend to rip and tear, and the rebuilding process that happens afterwards is part of what helps you grow stronger. Replenishing proteins helps with that muscle growth and recovery. Eat more protein for higher impact workouts – like running or heavy lifting – and less for lower intensity workouts, like walking or pilates.
  3. But even more carbs. The fitness community often touts the benefits of protein in muscle growth, but carbs are equally if not more important. In fact, studies show that for every gram of protein you eat post-workout, you should be consuming three to four grams of carbs. Carbohydrates get a bad reputation, but are absolutely essential to muscle repair and growth post-workout. The carbs you ingest help proteins enter the muscles; this complementary nature is what makes food so essential in taking advantage of exercise.
  4. And always consume water. Oftentimes, many people do not replenish their fluids and electrolytes well enough after an intense workout. Aim for at least 18 ounces after an hour-long sweat session to replace all the fluids you’ve lost. If you did a particularly intense workout – say, a half marathon – replenish electrolytes, too, with a sports drink. In this case, it’s most important to replenish your sodium and potassium, so eating cheese and a banana can also do the trick.
  5. Remove your sweaty clothes and shower. You know how much you sweat during a workout session? That sweat sticks around and makes its way into the fibers of our clothing – making for nasty odors and bacteria growth. Always change out of sweaty clothes as soon as you can, and clean the sweat off your body with a shower. Gyms are a haven for germs and bacteria (those weights and mats aren’t cleaned as often as we’d like!), which thrive in hot and sweaty environments. In addition, make sure to wash your workout clothes in hot water (separate from your other clothes) to clean them fully.

 How do you recover post-workout? Let us know in the comments!

healthy-cheap-food

You head to the grocery store or out to eat with the best of intentions. You know eating well – namely plants and protein – makes you feel good, increases your longevity, and keeps your energy up. Perhaps you stock your cart with lots of fish and veggies, or grab a salad out to eat rather than a burger. These decisions feel good!

Sometimes, though, when money’s feeling a little tighter than normal, it can be difficult to prioritize your health. The fresh fish at a restaurant, for instance, is bound to be double the price of your favorite burger. A bag full of delicious, organic produce and protein from the farmers market can add up to a pretty penny, while the baked goods are a lot cheaper — and look scrumptious.

We’re here to tell you that, luckily, healthy eating can be inexpensive and cost-effective – you just need to know where to look! All that money saved can go towards the things you really want: vacations, a new home, or that pair of shoes you’ve been saving for. So what foods should you add to your cart this week for a cheap receipt and a healthier life?

  1. Eggs: For $0.99 to $3.99, a dozen eggs can save your week. Even cage-free or organic versions end up costing about $0.30 per egg, which can contribute to the healthiest of meals. Eggs are versatile, filled with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and go well with just about anything. Try quinoa-fried rice, a veggie-packed frittata, or a florentine egg sandwich on a wheat English muffin for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
  2. Beans: These small legumes pack a powerful protein punch and are filled with fiber that keeps you fuller, longer. From black beans to white to pinto, each variety has its own flavor and can easily zest up a meal. Canned beans are only a dollar and can provide a full meal, while dried beans are the best bang for your buck.
  3. Tofu: Flavored with the right spices, sauces, and veggies, tofu can be truly delicious. We recommend draining all the water out of the tofu each time for maximum texture appeal. A whole package of tofu can run at $2.99 or less, and the protein-packed food can be thrown into anything: stir-fries, scrambled eggs, sandwiches, or salads. Our favorite? Blending it up and adding it to soups to increase creaminess and protein power.
  4. Oatmeal: We recommend buying in bulk here to maximize your cost-effectiveness. While the smaller packets aren’t that cheap and can be filled with sugar, bulk oats are filled with stomach-filling fiber that will keep you full all day long. Add fruit, nuts, or a little bit of maple syrup to maximize flavor potential.
  5. Bananas: These 100-calorie snacks typically cost about $0.50 each and are packed with good-for-you nutrients like fiber and potassium. They’re a great choice when you need an afternoon pick-me-up. They’re also versatile and can be added to many baked goods to substitute sugar and wet ingredients!
  6. Seeds: These little pods pack a powerful nutritional punch. Often filled with fiber, vitamins, and protein, they add some crunch to salads and soups and go well as a plain, salty-craving snack. Buy them in bulk to maximize your money’s worth!

What cost-effective, healthy foods do you put in your grocery basket? Let us know in the comments!

If you have a garden, you are well aware that summer produce is absolutely teeming right now. Even if you don’t grow produce at your home, it’s evident in local farmers markets and grocery stores that fruits and veggies are at an all-time high this time of year – and we love every second of it.

During the summer months, juicy fruits like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, and grapes make their gorgeous debut and line our bowls of cereal, Greek yogurt, salads, and smoothies alike. Crisp, sweet vegetables like corn, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers make their way into our meals, whether they’re raw, baked, sautéed, or better yet, grilled.

With so much life budding around us in the summer, it’s hard to not feel inspired to take in all that color and vibrancy and incorporate it into your meals. Whenever we peruse the farmers market tables, we feel the need to scoop up as much produce as possible and find a way to cook it – even the fruits and veggies we don’t know how to cook yet!

Not only does it taste delicious, in-season produce is teeming with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that keep our bodies strong and healthy. The more local and in-season a piece of produce, the more chock full it will be of the good stuff your body needs to thrive.

This summer, we encourage you to use all the fresh produce that surrounds you and make the most of it by incorporating it into each and every meal! Add berries to your breakfast, a fruit-and-veggie salad to pair with your lunch, and a grilled medley of fresh veggies at each dinner. With that in mind, be creative! It’s nearly always a success when you try new recipes with naturally delicious foods.

If you need some ideas, try these recipes out this August, and let us know how it goes.

  1. Snap Pea Skewers with Soy Ginger Sauce by Naturally Ella
  2. Summer Caprese Salad by Two Peas and their Pod
  3. Watermelon Poke Bowl by Love and Lemons
  4. Almond Peach Blueberry Crumble by Vegetarian Ventures
  5. White Zucchini Corn Pizza by Damn Delicious

Chances are your commute isn’t necessarily the best part of your day. Whether it consists of crowded trains or high-traffic roads, commuting to work can be stressful. This stress sets a tone for your day that can be hard to shake, and the last thing you need when heading into a high-pressure day is anxiety on the way there!

The time you spend commuting also takes up valuable hours in your day that you could be using for other things, such as exercising, making healthy meals, or spending quality time with your friends and family. A lack of time can also add to your stress levels, as you don’t get to do the things you truly enjoy.

That said, commuting is inevitable. Luckily, there are a few ways to make your commute less stressful – and perhaps even enjoyable.

  1. Turn off technology. If you’re like many people these days, you may spend a lot of time looking at screens. Use your commuting time to give your eyes a break and do those activities that you enjoy. If you take public transit, do a crossword puzzle or meditate. If you drive, use that time to take some deep breaths. Don’t hop on your phone and start working – use the time for something you enjoy.
  2. Learn something new. If you’re on a train, use that time to read a book you’ve been meaning to read. You can also download podcasts on a wide range of topics to listen to on your commute; many of them might even offer you a laugh or two to brighten your day. Music can also teach you new things, whether you relate to the lyrics in a song or learn to pick out the instruments in a jazzy tune.
  3. Stretch beforehand. This tip is especially important if you sit at work all day, as your muscles tighten as the day goes on. In order to make your commute more enjoyable, take a few minutes to limber up before you get in the car or on the train. Your body (and de-stressed mind) will thank you.
  4. Take alternative transport. If you have the option to walk, run, or bike on your commute, take advantage of it! Running or biking home can work wonders in relieving all the stress that built up throughout the day. If you live too far from work to do so, consider cycling, running, or walking to the local train station a few times a week, or to a key location within your carpool. Starting and ending your day on an active note can provide added health and happiness benefits.
  5. Stock smart snacks. When the stress of a high-traffic commute kicks in, it’s easy to reach for the Cheetos, especially if your commute takes longer than you thought and the hunger pangs are loud and proud. Stock your car or bag with healthy snacks to get you through even the worst commute. Nuts and fruit are always great options.

How do you make the most of your commute to stay happy and healthy? Let us know your ideas in the comments below!

If you’re anything like us, you’re doing some serious running around this week. Between work, school, appointments, your kids, and errands, the week tends to fill up fast with things to do and people to see. It feels as though your evenings fly by each night, but your to-do list doesn’t get all that much smaller.

If you’re feeling this way now, take advantage of the coming weekend to finally tackle that to-do list. While the weekends can tend to book up, a little planning can set you on the right path to checking items off your list. But how?

  1. Wake up on the early side. Weekend mornings tend to be much slower than weekday mornings and therefore become a great time to get stuff done. Weekend mornings also offer fewer distractions than the afternoons and evenings do, as fewer people are up and about to make plans and suggest unproductive (albeit enjoyable) activities. Set your alarm on the earlier side to maximize productivity.
  2. But sleep if you need to. While waking up early is a key part of productivity, accomplishing your to-do list while sleep deprived isn’t a recipe for success. If you didn’t get much sleep this week, add “getting some zzz’s” to your weekend to-do list. The more well-rested you are, the more likely you’ll be to get stuff done.
  3. Prioritize: pick the tasks on your to-do list that will have the highest impact, then accomplish those first. If your to-do list is dauntingly long, it will feel like it’s too difficult to make a dent. However, by accomplishing those tasks that will benefit you most in the long run (even if they might take the most time), you’re maximizing your free time and productivity. Plus, it will benefit you during the week ahead to know that you accomplished an important to-do this weekend rather than a bunch of little ones that could’ve been done in spare minutes throughout the week.
  4. On that note, allocate a specific amount of time to accomplishing your to-do list, then stick to it. Set a timer if you need to! Trying to beat the clock frees your mind from distractions and makes it more likely that you’ll stick to accomplishing your list.
  5. Pick one day to be obligation-free. While it’s always wonderful to check things off your to-do list, you also need to use the weekend for fun and relaxation! Enjoying yourself is just as important as accomplishing your goals, particularly as a way to avoid burnout and, most significantly, find joy in your life. One way to do this? Use Sunday for crossing off errands and to-do’s from your list, and delegate Saturday as your fun, relaxing day!

All in all, listen to your brain’s signals and enjoy the weekend for what it is. If you feel fatigued, sleep. If your mind is itching to get stuff done, follow the steps above to maximize productivity. No matter what you make of it, enjoy your weekend feeling accomplished, rested, and joyful; after all, that’s what the time off is for!

With warmer summer weather comes the time for leisurely vacations. Whether your kids are finally out of school, work is slowing down, or you simply want to enjoy the weather this time of year, the time is now to take that vacation your body craves. After all, with how hard you all work every day, we know you deserve it!

So many vacations start out with the best of intentions. With all the free time – no workload, appointments, or kids’ schedules to manage – it’s easy to have a positive attitude about staying active and healthy during vacation. I’ll have so much more time to jog!

And then: after five days and many fun happy hours, decadent dinners, and days of beachside lounging, it turns out you never got in a workout. You go home feeling rested yet sluggish, and slightly anxious that you didn’t stick to your fitness routine.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Vacations are for rest and relaxation, yes, but they can also be a time to let your body decompress through fitness – swimming, running, yoga, meditation, and cycling are all stress-relieving in some way or another. Luckily, by making a few tweaks to your vacation, you can find ways to prioritize fitness while still having the enjoyable, relaxing time off you dreamed of.

First, surround yourself with good company. You’ll be way more likely to work out if your fellow travelers also make it a priority. If you’re with a crew that isn’t into that sort of thing, invite your favorite workout pal along (it may even help you get closer!). If that isn’t an option, text those you’re traveling with prior to the trip and remind them to bring their workout clothes – just in case!

On that note, the more prepared you are to fit in fitness, the more likely you are to do it. Set yourself up for success by packing all your necessary gear – no matter how much space it takes up in your suitcase. Compile multiple tops, bottoms, and pairs of socks, your sneakers, your headphones… maybe even a yoga mat. Whatever you need to motivate you, bring it along for the ride!

Incorporating fitness in this way helps you find a healthy balance between working out and indulging. It can be motivating to continue to remind yourself that, no matter how many desserts you choose to have (which you totally deserve!), you’re staying healthy in another way. Staying active makes it easier to truly indulge in the things that make you happiest (a second glass of wine, anyone?).

One way to always fit in fitness? Wake up earlier. Not only will you be more likely to squeeze in a workout if you do it early in the morning (no mid-afternoon cocktails getting in the way of your motivation!), you’ll also get to see some beautiful sunrises and enjoy the morning light, which can be incredibly soothing in itself.

Achieving fitness doesn’t only have to focus on running or other activities – your overall wellbeing and holistic fitness matters, too. Take some time to take care of yourself by treating your body to the best spa in town. Massage your muscles, take care of your skin, and clip down your nails. Being your healthiest self doesn’t stop with exercise!

If these tips still seem difficult for you to incorporate into your typical vacations, consider trying a wellness retreat. On those vacations, they set up the fitness and healthy eating for you, so you don’t have to worry about a thing. They take care of nourishing your body, you take care of the relaxation.

How do you stay active and healthy on vacation? We’d love to hear your best tactics!

Fitness lovers rejoice! It’s finally getting warm enough to consistently work out outside in shorts and a t-shirt. The sun is out, the temperature is slightly warm, and the breeze is slight. We’ve seen more runners, bikers, and yoga aficionados out and about these past few weeks than we have in the past few months in total.

If you’re anything like us, you’ve been taking advantage of the beautiful weather and emerging into the great outdoors for your exercise. Getting back out into the open for workouts can be challenging (we covered the best ways to safely transition from indoor to outdoor workouts here), but once you’re there, the sessions can be glorious.

After a few weeks of wonder, however, it can be easy to stagnate. Your body easily gets used to repetitive activity, and while it might be comfortable for you to run or bike a few miles at your normal pace, that comfort isn’t helping you consistently improve your health.

So how can you step up your game this summer and ensure that you’re consistently improving in your workouts?

  1. Change it up. If you want to keep improving, you can’t run the same distance and pace every single day. Deliberately vary the difficulty of your workouts (do a fast-paced run one day, sprints the next, and a long, slow jog after) to ensure you’re making the most of your time on the pavement. In that vein, stick to your plan: if you set out to do a fast run, don’t ease up. If today’s a restful yoga sort of day, don’t push yourself. There’s a place and time for each type of variation, and sticking with the plan will keep you on track.
  2. Add strength training to your routine. While elite athletes spend a lot of their time running, they also always incorporate lifting and core work during the day to keep their muscles up to par with the vigor of their workouts. Consistently working out is demanding, and you need to make sure you’re taking the time to strengthen the muscles that make them possible.
  3. Stay consistent in mileage. Whether you’re training for a race or not, it’s important to try and stick with the same number of miles each week to continually strengthen your body and improve your fitness. Your running, biking, kayaking, or other favorite fitness activity will constantly improve the more you do it; like many things, practice makes perfect! If you need, stick with a training plan to keep yourself on track.
  4. Eat well and sleep tight. Yes, this advice may seem fairly generic, but we promise – it’s essential to improving your workouts! We all know how bad it can feel when you’re out for a run after you had a less-than-stellar meal or only a few hours of sleep. Less sleep can even make your muscles lazier and make you more prone to injury. Don’t let that happen: stay consistent with your sleep schedule and nourish your body with healthy, whole foods to help in other aspects of your health regime!

With these quick tips, you’ll find yourself increasing in mileage, pace, and aerobic capacity in no time this summer.

How do you consistently improve your workouts? Let us know in the comments!

If you’ve been thinking all morning about pouring yourself a fourth cup of coffee, you’ve come to the right place. How much sleep did you get last night? Was it quality sleep, or did you find yourself tossing and turning the whole night through?

With our busy, hectic lives, it’s easy to forgo solid sleep in lieu of the many demands on your time. Even if you do get to bed early enough, stress can play a factor in the quality of sleep you get, and a restless night’s sleep isn’t going to do you any favors.

Luckily, there are a few easy tricks you can try to improve your sleep and feel rested, energized, and happy all day long.

  1. Reset your mind. If you’re struggling to sleep, get up and walk around the house for a few minutes. It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes simply resetting and trying again can be the trick to get those zzz’s. At the same time, don’t spend a ton of time trying to sleep – the pressure can actually make it more difficult to do so.
  2. Keep your phone out of sight. The blue light emitted by electronics – particularly your phone – can keep you awake for hours on end, as it signals the brain that it’s time to be awake. Plus, your phone contains many stressors (social media, email, texts from friends and family galore), that can stress your mind and take it out of sleep mode. Keep your phone away from your bed, or, better yet, out of the bedroom.
  3. Prioritize a bedtime routine. The more you can standardize your pre-snooze activities, the more your mind will get used to those signals and find it easier to doze off. Read a book each night to calm your mind. Wear actual pajamas – or get into a routine of wearing similar clothes each night – to signal your brain it’s time to sleep. The more you can get your body into a rhythm with your bedtime routine, the easier you’ll find it to get to sleep when the time comes.
  4. Reserve your bed as a haven for sleep. Avoid work, laundry, entertainment, and socializing in bed. Use this place as a sanctuary and a safe haven for sleep alone. This will signal your brain that when you’re there, it’s time to get some shut eye.
  5. Try some meditation. Anxiety keeping you awake? Take a few deep breaths and think peacefully. There are many guided meditations you can buy to listen to before bed if you aren’t sure how to do it yourself. Alternatively, try writing down what’s making you anxious and work it out on paper. Sometimes writing it down is just what you need to get your problems out of your head.
  6. Smell some lavender. The delicious herb is said to decrease blood pressure and calm you down. One trick? If you can sew, make yourself a small pillow laced with lavender and keep it on your bed.
  7. Fit exercise into your daily routine. Many studies show that those who are active get better sleep and find it easier to fall asleep. If evening exercise tends to keep you awake longer (which makes sense, as your body is in “active” mode later in the day), try switching your routine and working out in the mornings.

How do you get the best night’s sleep possible? We’d love to hear your best tricks in the comments!