The Perfect Healthy Entertaining Recipe: Sweet Potato Bites 3 Ways (for the omnivore, vegetarian & vegan)

I love entertaining, but it can be tricky to keep everyone happy with your choice of food/appetizer, while also keeping the preparation fairly easy.

For me its key to have a healthy “Balance with Mariana” approved dish, while also pleasing everyone else, including the guys who need something a bit more substantial after a few gin tonics.

 I’ve come up with the PERFECT entertaining appetizer recipe that’s fairly easy to make, yet seems super “gourmet” and of course, it’s DELICIOUS. The only part that takes long (the pulled pork) can be done the day before. And I use the same base ingredients to make 3 different appetizers – one to please vegans, one to please vegetarians, and a third version to please the omnivores (probably the majority, so make extra of these!).

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February Love Food: Beets

Many times people fear beets because of their sweetness and high sugar content, but by cutting them out of your diet, you’re missing out on all their awesome, healthy-boosting properties.

And actually, beets can help you stay slim, have balanced hormones, balanced energy, and more.

READ MORE to learn more about the awesome benefits, HOW to eat beets, and get my super easy hormone-balancing juice recipe.

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10 Ways to be Healthier in 2019

 I wanted to share some of my best tips to help you have a healthier year in a DOABLE and SUSTAINABLE way.

The key lies in finding your happiness, destressing, and learning to enjoy more healthy foods and healthy habits that sit well with you. The idea is NOT to stress about what you haven’t done, or to do something that will cause more stress in your life. Instead, be kind with yourself this year, and know that any little steps you take will be making you healthier and deepening your sense of wellness.

Here are 10 key ways you can start improving your Health and overall Wellness this year. Choose one or two steps to start, then build your way up!

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HEALTHY COOKWARE. TOSS THAT TEFLON & PLASTIC!

Apart from watching WHAT you eat, it’s just as important to monitor 1) the QUALITY of your food (are you getting organic where possible, avoiding excess pesticides, GMO ingredients, harmful ingredients, etc?) 2) how and when you’re eating, AND 3) what you use to COOK AND STORE YOUR FOOD.

Did you know that your favorite nonstick pans and plastic tupperware are hurting your health??

Exposure to harmful chemicals that are present in your everyday cookware can have hormone-disrupting and organ-damaging effects, which sets the stage for serious health issues including cancer, heart disease and more.

So it’s important to start NOW to clean up your kitchen, swapping your toxic cookware for “cleaner” options,  which ultimately can make a huge difference for your future health.

pots and pans.jpeg

Here is my mini-guide on how to get started cleaning up your kitchen and choosing safer cookware (and food storage ware):

1.      Get rid of Teflon

Sadly Teflon is toxic and must be avoided! YES Teflon pots, pans and non-stick skillets are VERY convenient. Food doesn’t stick and clean-up of these pans is super easy. Problem is, when the heat gets high on Teflon, it releases toxins, sending particles through the air, onto kitchen surfaces and into anyone who happens to be in the immediate vicinity. Plus, teflon has been linked to cholesterol, fertility and thyroid problems. Read more here: http://www.ewg.org/research/pfc-dictionary

2.      Rethink your Plastic containers.

Most people are aware that heating food in plastic containers is a major safety no-no. But even us more health-conscious guys and gals are using plastic wrap, bags and containers for our meal prep, and it comes at a cost. Plastic containers are packed with hormone-disrupting chemicals that leach into food, not to mention poisoning land and sea – with a host of toxins. So next time you’re storing your leftovers or prepping food for the week, use clear, stackable GLASS containers instead. Read more HERE for a bit more ideas for how to avoid plastic and choose nontoxic containers.

3.      Toss the Plastic Wrap (and if possible, almost any plastic that is touching food).

Plastic wrap may seem extremely useful, BUT it’s made of a type of plastic that contains endocrine (hormone) disruptors, takes hundreds of years to decompose, dumps chemicals into the ground, poisoning the environment and sickening or even killing creatures who are unlucky enough to ingest it. Instead (again) use glass containers, mason jars and glass bottles with metal lids, even silicone containers are better, and/or wrap with parchment paper. I recently bought these silicone adaptable lids that easily replace plastic wrap and are great for putting on to of any bowl/plate/cup/baking dish etc that you need to store in the fridge and doesn’t have its own cover.

4.      Increase your Glass, Cast-Iron and Stainless Steel.

  • GLASS: Glass is great for storage, taking meals on-the-go, kitchen prep and baking. Glass bakeware and mixing bowls stand up to heat, whisking and even some chopping. It’s durable, relatively low-cost, sustainable and easy to clean, making it my #1 pick. Just note: after removing from a hot oven always place on a dry, heat-safe surface, towel, cutting board or cooling rack to prevent cracking.

  • CAST-IRON: Cast iron cookware is a classic safe cookware option that’s been used for generations. A well-seasoned skillet or pan can act similarly to non-stick versions, and provide even heat throughout the cooking process, both for the stovetop and oven. They do however require specific clean-up and seasoning after each use, plus they’re heavy. If you want a nicer-looking version that doesn’t require so much clean-up/seasoning, go for high-quality, porcelain-enameled cast iron cookware such as Le Creuset, which is an easier-care alternative. They’re my personal favorite. I love them and use them more than any other brand.

  • STAINLESS STEEL: Stainless steel is a great, more eco-friendly option, that resists stains and corrosion, and is relatively easy to clean. However yes it requires cooking with oil, but that’s ok as long as you use the right kind. And when things start to stick you can always add some water to avoid it. It just takes some getting used to. I also recently learned that there are different levels, and buying the right quality of stainless steel helps. Look for pieces marked 18/8; 18/10; ‘300 series’ or ‘304 grade’ which I’ve read indicates higher quality and less corrosion. Another great (more expensive) option is titanium cookware.

    Some good “cleaner” cookware brands include: All-Clad, Calphalon and again Le Crueset (for stainless steel as well as their traditional cast-iron)

 

What else to AVOID?

  • Plastic cooking utensils. Aim for stainless steel (but beware of scratching your pans), wooden utensils and silicone.

  • Aluminum pots and pans -  as it may cause aluminum to leach into food

  • Most nonstick pots and pans – as they can release toxic gasses when exposed to high heat (even if they say they’re free of Teflon)

  • Any chipped ceramic dishware or bakeware. The glazes used in ceramic dishware often contain lead and cracked or chipping glazes may be more likely to leach lead into foods and liquids.

  • Dish racks made of plastic-coated wire. If possible, substitute with stainless steel dish racks.

Did You Know...? Why I Avoid PEANUTS and what to eat instead

Nuts are the perfect snack, filled with nutrients (including B-vitamins, zinc, magnesium and vitamin E, with the nutritional profile differing slightly depending on the nut), healthy fats, fiber and protein. They fill you up and nourish you. And they’re so yummy and versatile – great for adding a crunch to recipes, to make pestos, creamy sauces, and more.

However, many people mistakenly put peanuts under the same category as tree nuts  - when actually, peanuts are NOT tree nuts, they are LEGUMES. While they do carry some of the above benefits of tree nuts, they also have many qualities that personally keep me away from peanuts.

READ MORE to learn two key reasons to AVOID Peanuts, AND get two delicious peanut-free nut butter recipes.

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I Just Finished the Whole30 Challenge - Here are my 10 Takeaways

I am a believer in avoiding fad diets. Instead, I believe in finding the eating style that works for you longer-term. One that helps you reach and maintain your health goals.

But on top of that, when you feel you need a short-term boost to your health (and waistline), food-based detoxes are optimal.

In the toxic world we live in, we can all benefit from a light cleanse here and there. While they may not be necessary if you already eat a very clean diet, I find that the benefits outweigh any negatives, for almost everyone.

And, if you do have a particular health concern, doing a longer-term detox – like a 30 day elimination diet – can be EXTREMELY beneficial. And that’s what led me to trying the Whole30.

READ MORE to learn more about the Whole30, my takeaways, recommendations, and lessons learned!

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Why You Should Try a 30-day Alcohol-Detox

I strongly advocate for living and enjoying a balanced life, and that means giving in to your guilty pleasures (in small, safe amounts) from time to time.

For me, enjoying a glass or two of wine is part of my balance, and luckily, there are tons of benefits that come along with small amounts of wine consumption.

However, there are even more reasons to go on an Alcohol Detox for a month. This means not one drop of alcohol for 30 days. Which YES is hard for most of us, but 100% worth it.

Read more to learn 6 Benefits of a 30-Day Alcohol Detox, and a few tips to get you started and help you commit!

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Did You Know...? Importance of B-Vitamins

The 8 B-vitamins - B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 (referred to as B-complex) - play a very important role in keeping our bodies functioning properly. These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, giving us energy. They're also KEY for hormonal balance, a happy mood, strong and healthy hair, for proper detoxification, and more!

READ MORE to learn where we get these nutrients, what are signs that we're deficient, when we should supplement (and why!)

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16 Smoothie Boosters for a Exceptionally Nutritious Smoothie

A smoothie is an awesome way to get a shot of nutrition for breakfast, and can serve as a fully balanced meal that will boost your metabolism, give you tons of energy while keeping your blood sugar stable.

Read more for my favorite 16 healthy additions to your morning smoothie (all of which I use!), that will make your smoothie more anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, hormone balancing and gut-healing.

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Getting Started on Your NO-SUGAR Plan: 3 Life-Changing Tips

Every day, more studies are proving that SUGAR plays a crucial role in the development of many of those illnesses we fear most, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and obesity to name a few.

And I see it.

In my health coaching practice and in my detoxes, I continually find that sugar is one of the main problem causers in people, keeping them from reaching their health goals.

While small, infrequent amounts of processed sugar is not a health risk for most people, studies show that refined sugar may have addictive properties, and many of us struggle with limiting our sugar intake.

The problem is that refined sugar is found in virtually every processed food on the market, and you may be consuming more than you think...

Read more to learn about the benefits of quitting sugar and how to get started today on your "no-sugar" plan!

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8 Tips for Relieving Headaches

Do you ever get bad headaches? Maybe you had too much wine last night? Maybe its “that time of the month” or you’re going through hormonal changes? Maybe you’re detoxing from sugar and coffee (or other addictions) and you’re feeling the effects with a pulsing headache? Maybe you’re not sure what it is, but come mid-afternoon, you get an annoying headache….?

Many of us are used to just popping a pill and praying it subsides. However, as most of you know, I’m no longer a fan of popping a pill because you’re not addressing the root cause and that headache will keep coming back. Plus, all pills have side-effects. Instead, I’d like to share with you some more natural tips when you’re suffering from headaches.

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My Beginner's Smoothie Guide

By popular demand from my readers, I wanted to share what I call my “beginner’s smoothie guide”.  I LOVE my morning smoothies (as all my ex-coworkers know very well and would make fun of me for!) because while they look green and weird, my recipes are actually delicious, and of course, they are the quickest way to get a nutritious breakfast that revs up my metabolism and leaves me satisfied for hours.  

I make sure to include a combination of organic greens, low-glycemic fruit, clean protein and healthy fats, so this way, my smoothies won't cause a spike in blood sugar levels the way most other quick breakfast options do, like cereal and even oatmeal (especially if it’s the quick oats you get on-the-go).  And of course, green smoothies are an easy way to get 1-2 servings of greens into your day!

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Want a Flat Belly? 5 Things to Avoid

In my 6 Secrets to a Flat Belly WEBINAR last week, I shared 6 of my best secret tips to a get and maintain a flat belly. But even applying those (effective & proven) habits aren’t enough if you don’t start by AVOIDING THE KEY TRIGGERS that are leading to those extra pounds around your midsection. I always believe in starting by finding the ROOT CAUSE behind your health issues. And in the case of excess belly fat and bloat, it’s usually centered around inflammation as well as sub-optimal digestion.

Here are the 5 key things to AVOID (that will address the likely root cause of your belly fat) and what to eat instead:

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10 Tips for Eliminating Cellulite

Unfortunately, it's extremely common to develop some cellulite on our bod, particularly on the booty, upper legs and abdomen.

And while we shouldn’t be ashamed, it’s still something that no one likes. Let’s be real, we all want it GONE. 

First - what causes cellulite?

Cellulite is essentially fat deposits just below the skin, and it can be attributed to your diet, lifestyle, hormones, and partly also age and genetics. Usually it’s a combination of these things, but the first two (diet and lifestyle) are always at least partially responsible. Certain diet and lifestyle factors can lead to a buildup of toxicity in your body, and these toxins are stored in your fat, and help contribute to the “dimples” of cellulite.

So it is incredibly important to start detoxifying your body in a gentle way to get rid of these stored toxins, and then implement healthier habits in your day to day to minimize further accumulation of toxins.

On top of that, it helps to strengthen the connective tissue of your skin, and reduce fat overall. 

Here are my 10 BEST TIPS FOR ELIMINATING CELLULITE:

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Your Guide to Healthy Fish - Which to Eat & Which to Avoid

Fish is a great source of protein and healthy fat, and in my view, an integral part of a healthy diet. In comparison to other types of meat, fish is generally lower in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, and easier to digest (which is key, as optimal digestion is the cornerstone to optimal health and weight loss!).

Most importantly, fish contains Omega-3 fatty acids that are ESSENTIAL for your overall health (especially brain and heart health!).

However, its important to be aware that fish contains mercury, which in large amounts, can be toxic to our bodies. Excess mercury has been linked to neurological development issues in babies, as well as many GI and hormonal problems for adults. So it’s absolutely key to limit your intake of high mercury fish.

Also, you must be careful of how the fish is sourced. When the fish is “farm raised”, it's fed substances that can be harmful when ingested. Certain fishing techniques are also posing threats to the environment.

Read more to learn my basic guidelines when eating fish, and the TOP 5 FISH TO EAT & AVOID.

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How to Make Homemade Almond Milk (video)

You’ve maybe heard by now that cutting out dairy (or at least cutting back on milk and cheese in particular) has a lot of benefits. 

I personally saw a huge improvement in my digestion when I cut out dairy (and gluten) from my diet. Now I may enjoy it in small amounts from time to time, but for the most part, I stick to non-dairy alternatives when I need some dairy, which is mostly for my tea/coffee or breakfasts (oats, smoothies or chia puddings).

Almond milk (like other nut and seed milks) provides a healthier alternative to regular milk - it’s lower in calories, fat and sugar, plus rich in fiber and B vitamins. Almond milk is also a lower glycemic option to rice milk, and doesn’t have any hormone disrupting properties like soy milk (which is also usually derived from GMO soy beans).

The problem is that the store-bought nut milk versions are prepared with preservatives to extend the shelf life, and often have added sugars, as well as other ingredients like carrageenan to alter the consistency.

For that reason, I had been wanting to make homemade nutmilk for a long time. I had heard it was easy, creamy and delicious, so finally gave it a try.

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An Effective Way to Overcome Your Sugar Addiction

Nowadays, we're eating more and more sugar without even realizing it. 

Sugar is being added to EVERYTHING these days (in packaged foods, supplements, restaurants, etc). It's often disguised as different names, including: honey, agave, cane sugar, date sugar, beet sugar, turbinado sugar, but also less obvious ones like: malt (barley malt or diastatic malt), syrup (corn syrup, maple syrup, carob syrup, rice syrup), evaporated cane juice, maltose, sucrose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltodextrin, and more!

And natural sugars also add up. So even if you're not big on desserts, chances are you're still consuming a lot more sugar than you think. (I bet that if you were to actually count the grams of sugar that you eat in a day, you’ll be shocked!)

And the hard truth is - sugar is bad for everyone, not just people at risk of diabetes.

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My Favorite Breakfast Smoothie Recipes

By popular demand and as a follow-up to my Beginners Smoothie Guide from last month, today I'm sharing some easy and super healthy smoothie recipes that I make almost every morning.  These smoothies make a filling and delicious breakfast that will keep your blood sugar stable, rev up your metabolism, and serve as a great tool for weight loss.  Plus, they're quick to make and easy to take on the go!

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