As a busy mom that I am I’m always looking for that super easy portable snack. The one that is healthy on top of it. Now that I’m totally conscious of what I put into my body- and my daughter’s- it’s amazing to me how 90% of our bars out there are not the healthiest for us. Many are packed with processed ingredients and a TON of sugar. Reading labels is a new hobby for me and I’m glad because protein bars are probably one of the most deceptive products on the market. And everywhere including health food stores has rows of them. So here’s a quick peek of a few bars that I’m choosing to stay clear of and then my favorites on the street.
LUNA Bars – one of my favorites back in the day. Specifically, the Nuts Over Chocolate bar. 10 years ago I thought they were made for me, as a woman. That I would be “healthy” by eating it. That’s how they marketed to me at least. And every ingredient starts with the word “organic” – which unfortunately doesn’t mean squat when it comes to nutrition.
- The first ingredient is what they market as “LunaPro” which is their concoction of processed soy, AKA soy protein isolate, and rice flour.
- Now their sugar content is 10g which isn’t terrible but they list “other carbs” at 11g. Not sure what “other carbs” are.
- Amongst other OK ingredients are the sugars in disguise to include cane syrup, brown rice syrup, oat syrup. AKA sugar. And again more processed soy in the form of soy lecithin.
- There are about 25 ingredients in the bar. To me, that’s just too much going on.
Clif Bars- same company that makes LUNA Bars. There’s a person climbing a mountain. SO MUCH ENERGY! So strong! So healthy. Right?
- Let’s go for over 25 g of sugar in many of their bars (under 10g is a great goal to have). Let’s try the Carrot Cake. 25 g of sugar. Then we have the FIRST ingredient as brown rice syrup. But it says it’s organic, doesn’t that mean it’s healthier? Nope. Sugar is sugar mi amiga.
- Now they have their “ClifPro” which is also soy protein isolate and other processed ingredients.
- Then more processed soy.
- Then some cane syrup, more sugar.
- Then some soy white chocolate (more soy? Do we need any more?), some soy butter, soybean oil and soy lecithin. How much more estrogen can my ovaries handle?
- Ahh, I see some raisins, carrots and coconut. But they’re way at the bottom.
Think Thin Bars- which won’t make you thin by their ingredients. Their website markets their bars as GMO Free, Gluten Free, Vegan, Kosher… none of which are true nutritional benefits. GMO Free is appreciated and definitely important. And for those with gluten intolerances and celiac, great to know there’s no gluten. Doesn’t mean it’s good for you though. Vegan and Kosher? Those don’t make it healthy either. Oh and they say no refined sugars which I’ll talk about below. Now their website has their nutritional labels but for the life of me I cannot find their ingredients on any of their bars. I did find them on www.nutritionexpress.com though.
- They all have 0g of sugar- and they market their products as having no refined sugars. That’s great, thanks. However read that label and you’ll see 11g of sugar alcohol. Not only do I not want to be bloated and holding in my farts all day (and getting a stomach ache), but I don’t want all that fake stuff in my body. And the body treats the fake stuff as if you’re eating the real stuff so “sugar free” is not freeing at all. There is way too much controversy on artificial sweeteners as well.
- Protein blend to include processed proteins like soy protein isolate
- Malitol which is your sugar alcohol- (aka your farts)
- More processed soy
KIND Bars: I appreciate that the KIND Bars have come out with their low-sugar line and I will be honest, I sometimes pick up their dark chocolate sea salt bar. Great nutrients but the only ingredient I’m “eh” about is the soy. It’s at the bottom of the list but it’s still there. I just try to avoid the world of heavily processed soy as much as I can. But eating one day a month won’t kill me.
My picks for the BBOTB…
Lara Bars- www.larabar.com (Various stores and online) These contain natural and minimal ingredients but I do have these in moderation. They are date-based bars which have a lot of fiber and nutrients, but also quite a bit of sugar. So just watch your sugar intake the rest of the day.
Perfect Bar – www.perfectbar.com (Fruitful Yield & Whole Foods have in refrigerated section). Or you can buy online.
Two Moms Bars- www.twomomsintheraw.com (Whole Foods and online)
Simple Squares Organic Snack Bars- www.simplesquares.com
Trader Joe’s grain free bars: This bar is 100% grain free and full of nuts and seeds. It’s also made with coconut oil versus the refined vegetable oils that most bars are made with.
I’ve also made my own nut-butter based bars and balls on a Sunday night and freeze them. Here’s a fast and easy recipe you can try: http://www.healthy-liv.com/no-bake-4-ingredient-peanut-butter-energy-bites/ You can use almond butter with this recipe as well. I use gluten-free oats.
Let’s just put this out there for my faves above- most ingredients are non-GMO, gluten free, organic, real, you know the rest.
So in conclusion- keep it simple, keep it real. Put as much real food into your body. The longer the list, the harder to pronounce, the more processed, the nutritional value just goes down, down, down. There are options out there. Just read your labels.
Snack smartly and live well-
Meal planning is being talked about in so many areas to include getting healthy, alleviating stress, making your week flow better, helping your budget and getting your life organized. Life’s crazy for everyone and cooking has become less of a ritual than it has been in the past. That’s part of the problem with the way we’re eating and our health- we aren’t in the kitchen as much. We’re over-scheduled. We eat on the fly. We have other people making our food. And most times we don’t know what’s in it. Big problem. So how do you look at the words “Meal Planning” and not roll your eyes or dread it?
What Is It Exactly?
Simple. It’s anything you create that will…
- Create amazing, nutritious, clean meals and at the same time…
- Ease anxiety, dread, or fear of creating them.
- Saves you time in the kitchen.
- It’s your customized plan that works for you and your family.
- You can choose to plan all meals, or just the ones that are the most challenging for you to cook.
The reality is, planning is essential for healthy eating and living. Otherwise you have a huge risk of making fast, spontaneous, and unhealthy choices on the fly. Having meals ready and waiting will ease anxiety and give you the confidence that you’re providing the best meals for you and your family.
Just know- and remind yourself, that any habit or lifestyle change takes a few weeks to make it part of your groove. Where you don’t have to think about it or feel it’s a chore. So today make the commitment to this commitment- and be patient. Second, have the goal of putting yours and your family’s health at the forefront. The only way to do this is to choose the right foods & prepare them yourself. Health is your WHY where creating these meals is your HOW. Tips? Check out my top 5 – and reach out to me directly for more (I have so much more!).
- You have to block a time for choosing (30 min), shopping that week (an hour) and a time for prepping (2-3 hours). And follow it as if you had a boss. I prefer prepping all at once and getting some Pandora playing on a Sunday night after Brooklyn has gone down. TV kinda stinks lately and I know I’m not missing anything. Do what works for you when it comes to time. If a Sunday afternoon is best where the kiddos are with your partner or maybe the grandparents, awesome. A Saturday night once everyone is down and you have peace and some chamomile tea? Great.
- Involve your friends! Have a batch prep night where your friends all come over with ingredients for their favorite meal. Everyone preps in someone’s kitchen and you exchange meals. So if you invite 6 of your friends, you all walk away with 7 meals to include recipes. Get the tunes playing and wine flowing! We all complain that we’re too busy and never see our friends, well… this solves one problem!
- When choosing your meals, have your family join you and help select the meals. Depending on age, you can have everyone come to the table one night with their favorite meal. Or if you want to make sure they are choosing something healthy, you choose and print out 10 meals where you allow them all (including your partner!) to choose a meal or two they would like that week. Take them to the store with you, give them their meal with ingredients, and have them shop. Again, depending on age. Don’t assume they won’t do it, or that attitude & energy will transfer to them and then…they won’t. Assume that they will, exude that energy and confidence that they can contribute to the family, and you’d be surprised what they can actually do. I don’t have my 3.5 year old go around with her Trader Joe’s cart (I have a love/hate relationships with the independence and chaos of those carts) but I do ask her what she wants to eat based on what I’ve planned to cook that week. With our Green Chef meals we get, I show her the recipe cards and photos and ask her what she wants to make that night. She loves making decisions and feeling like a big girl.
- Find the meal(s) that bring you the most stress. The ones where you are running out the door grabbing anything you can find. The ones you don’t have time for. Those are the meals you need to plan for.
- When you are starting, make a list of 2-3 days of meals that you have made before and love. Don’t try anything new or complicated when you are just starting out.
Bonus! Finally- do what works for you. A little bit of meal prep is better than none at all. If you find it too challenging to prep the amount of meals you’re attempting, then scale it down. Start small so as to not overwhelm yourself and quit. Planning, prep, and budgeting properly are THE only ways to get healthy meals into your home. The resources are out there for you to choose the healthiest options and if you’re stumped on what to make or try, that’s what I’m here for! I wish you all the best and am rooting for you all the way.
Energize Your Life-
When I had Brooklyn, I thought that simply being a health coach and eating well myself would be the key to Brooklyn eating healthy. She was an amazing eater when we started solids. In fact, she ate everything with no challenges. I thought, “I got this!” and like many of you, a toddler fooled me. How do they do this so well?! We think we have the system down and then they surprise us. Where we feel we need to start all over figuring them out.
So instead of feeling frustrated, confused, or alone, let’s talk about it! Below are MY tips from not only experience but also some tough talks with our pediatrician. Good news is that the road to your children eating better will actually make your life easier, not harder.
- Expose, expose, expose. It’s all about putting things in their life to show them the beauty of foods that nourish them. The more you give them and have them experience, the healthier foods they will eat.
- Cook ONE meal. So many women I talk to make or buy separate meal options for their kids. They are so focused on the child eating SOMETHING that they are willing to exhaust themselves cooking an entirely separate meal. (This does not apply to children with food allergies or intolerances) The dinner you cook is for your family. Everyone eats it. If your child chooses not to eat it, that is their choice. But there is nothing else offered. And after dinner is done, there is no other food. No snacks, no fruit, no string cheese, nothing. There will be things they legitimately won’t like (just like you have things). But the area of manipulation plays a hand in this and food is definitely a form of control for kids.
- Try again in a week. Maybe that day your son isn’t in the mood for broccoli. It happens to us as adults! He simply may not be in the mood for it or have the taste for it. Or maybe he had too much of it that week. So try again in a week or two. If his taste buds just don’t like it, try in a couple weeks but don’t give up. It can take over a dozen times for his palate to like it.
- Eat with your children. Sit down as a family and be the example of eating the wonderful food you prepared. Talk and connect. Laugh. Enjoy your food together. Without the TV, phones (have a phone basket that your kids put their technology in during dinner), or distractions. This goes for restaurants as well. It saddens me (I don’t judge b/c I get it) when I see a family at dinner with children all on their phones playing games or headphones and an Ipad on while eating dinner. Or dad on his phone with work. Or mom on Facebook or texting. Meals need to be a time of connecting. Reconnecting. I understand that you may want a peaceful dinner without your toddler needing your every 2 minutes but putting them on an Ipad isn’t the solution. Get a sitter so your child can have healthy play and interaction while you and your partner enjoy the quiet meal you want.
- Mindful eating and conversation. I love talking to Brooklyn about what certain foods do for her in a way she can understand. “This spinach will give you so much energy to play with your friends at school today!”
- Do not force if they don’t want or like it. I don’t make food a big deal. If she’s done, she’s done. I tell Brooklyn to listen to her body and when she’s full to stop. My goal for her is to try things once and I tell her she can always spit it out if she doesn’t like it. That it’s OK not to like something.
- “I Tried It!” card. Brooklyn has this card where she gets to put stars down for every new food she tries. When she gets to 10 stars, she gets to do something special with me or we head to the Dollar Store for an item.
- Do not reward eating healthy with eating crap. We grew up with this. You eat your dinner, you get dessert. Don’t counteract the healthy choice with an unhealthy choice. I’m all for dessert on occasion but it shouldn’t be the key to your child eating healthy.
- Get away from children’s menus at restaurants. I still don’t get this separate meal thing with kids. I wish that restaurants would offer “kid portions” of the same things that are on their menu for adults. So if I order a salmon entrée with freshly steamed veggies, I’d like to order one for her as well. I usually just give her some of my dinner as the portions at restaurants are ridiculous as it is. But why should children be eating overly processed and fried chicken fingers, refined grains and sauces loaded with sugar, carb-loaded options, along with no entrée options with vegetables (unless they offer veggie sides)? Most children’s meals at restaurants are disgusting in my opinion.
- Give them choices. With every meal, have at least one option you know that they love and try to give some options for them to choose a couple from. So have 3 veggie options for them for example. Or if you know she loves chicken, make that. Having at least one new item for them to try.
Still having challenges? Just reach out to me and we can talk it through. You don’t have to do this alone.
Inevitably you feel it coming. Crying at a commercial, snapping at your partner, patience is thinner than ever, and you analyze your life and everything that you’re not doing. Your elevated mood is real, raw, and on fire. Both you and your partner blame it on the popular PMS excuse.
“Are you getting your period?” (Cue the GRRRRRR and maybe some tears)
Most symptoms that occur from hormonal imbalance issues are the result of excess estrogen- “Estrogen Dominance” is what it’s called. Estrogen Dominance is one of the main causes of gynecological issues- from uterine fibroids to endometriosis to yes, PMS. PMS is not normal and you shouldn’t have to deal with it. It’s a sign of imbalance. Did you know there are foods that support the metabolization and elimination of excess estrogen? Choosing the right foods and making the right choices for your body, you can elevate your body’s ability to metabolize estrogen and you can just watch your dreaded PMS symptoms fade away. The goal is to balance your blood sugar, eating fiber-rich foods so your liver can get rid of the excess estrogen, avoiding refined sugar and processed foods, paying attention to endocrine-disrupting foods and products, managing stress, and getting proper sleep.
I didn’t realize this but we have been educated and guided to eat based on a male body. Why aren’t we learning and focusing on how to eat and live specifically as a woman? Our bodies are completely different and function differently. For example, did you know that intermittent fasting is actually harmful to a woman’s body? I’ve also been learning more about eating based on your menstrual cycle- and knowing your cycle. You have 4 phases and the length of each phase can be different for each person. The key is tracking and knowing your cycle, eating, and making the right lifestyle choices for each phase. Each phase has different hormonal activity and emotions attached to it. Knowledge of each stage of your cycle and how to eat for that particular cycle is the key to open the door. And closing it to the PMS monster! Reach out to me to find out how.
Energize Your Life-
I speak to so many women about their goals to become healthy and one theme that keeps coming up is fear. I can feel the energy where the sense of urgency, being lost, and even a bit of panic clouds over them as they wonder…
Where do I even start?!!!
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was your career, your family, or the person you are today. There were events, mistakes, and risks that occurred that built the foundation. I truly believe that the BEST way to make lasting change is to start with small steps, build, gain momentum, face your fears, create bursts of confidence, all leading to more (and more) intelligent decisions that will create the masterpiece. And it will last a lifetime. When something is unrealistic, overwhelming, or things change too fast, we then get frustrated, confused, a bit insecure, and we revert to what is familiar and comfortable. We don’t face our fears.
Here are 5 ways to start your health journey- by keeping it simple:
- Try meal planning for just 1 meal that week. Look for some easy and clean recipes that won’t overwhelm you. Simply baking some wild caught fish with lemon, dill, and olive oil along with roasting some gorgeous green veggies at the same time is a meal in itself!
- Try crowding out the junk in your life by making small decisions each week on what to eat versus what you’ve been eating. One week try quinoa instead of white rice. The next time try organic blueberries instead of conventional. Another time try whole wheat flour for your baking instead of the white flour.
- Go on one walk for 30 minutes around your neighborhood. Take in the sights. Play an inspirational podcast. Or simple “be” and pay attention to the thoughts in your head.
- Instead of soda, swap it out one day for sparkling water and add some mixed berries. There’s still sugar in the berries but the natural sugar is better than the artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup.
- On the run? Be prepared! Make a nut mixture for the car for those “hangry” moments. If you have a drive-through moment, try making a better choice that night by going through Panera or perhaps Chipotle.
Your goal with your health should be re-connecting with nature and all it provides. Not what a factory makes or mass-produced fast food. Eating whole, real, delicious foods that are closest to their natural state, cooked the right way, which allows your body to absorb all the goodies. If you treat your body well, it will thank you and return the favor.
Energize Your Life-