Sweat Outdoors for a Mood-Boosting, Stress-Busting Workout!

by Nkechi Njaka, Msc.

I am not a gym person. I cringe at the very thought of having a membership to sweat indoors. When I have belonged to health clubs, it was more for the hot tub, the sauna and the occasional yoga class (before I discovered studios, and before I was a yogi). But yeah, the gym? Soooo not my thing. Never has been.

As a runner, I’ve always enjoyed my cardio done outdoors. And studies are showing that there is something to that!

image

There have been several studies done where researchers found that their volunteers enjoyed outdoor activities more than indoor activities. Furthermore, when psychological tests were administered, these same volunteers scored significantly higher on measures of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem. All great, happy things! They also happened to display lowered  depression, tension and fatigue after their outdoor activity. [Source]

few small studies have found that individuals, after an outdoor activity, displayed lower levels of cortisol–a hormone we know to be related to stress– when compared with with an indoor activity. Another cool thing that happens when being outdoors is that we are directly exposed to sunlight (oh hey there, vitamin D!) which has been known to positively affect mood. [Source]

Perhaps I am spoiled. I live in San Francisco, one of the most beautiful cities in the country and in the world. And in said beautiful city, I live in the woods near the beach. I mean, who needs a gym when there are trees and ocean? These are simple, natural things that our planet and our bodies need. Simple things that cannot be found indoors.

You know what would be cool?  An outdoor gym…

I live in a world (and a city) of possibility; I wonder if we can make that one happen.

Continue Reading

Eco-Friendly Boho Floral 1st Birthday!

Well, we did it! We pulled off what was essentially a mini wedding, complete with the ENTIRE family in town (including not one, but two great-grandmas). But it was all so worth it, for the memories alone.  It was so amazing so have our families, friends, and all of M’s adorable little baby buddies that we’ve gotten to know and love over the last year together to celebrate a year of her amazing life (and a year of us being parents). Let’s face it, babies don’t remember their 1st birthday parties, and honestly, 1st birthdays are really a big “we did it!!” for the parents, and an excuse for some great photos that we can all look back on for years to come.

Boho Floral 1st Birthday | The Organic Beauty

For the theme, we went for a boho floral 1st birthday, which we thought was appropriately girly, while still super stylin’, just like our little birthday girl! Check out our inspiration board, which I think we came pretty darn close to!

Our location was in the picnic area at Will Rogers State Park in Pacific Palisades, which is a lovely little tree-lined spot near the horse stables and polo fields.  It’s our favorite hiking spot to hit up with little M (which we also visited a lot while I was pregnant), so it was super fitting to celebrate her birthday there!  Because we were in a state park (and because I’m all about walking the Organic Beauty walk), we strived to keep the party as eco-friendly as possible, using recycled paper products and sustainable bamboo serving ware.

Boho Floral 1st Birthday | The Organic Beauty Blog

We partnered with Minted for all the paper products, which really set the tone for the decor and colors of the party.  I’ve always loved Minted’s beautiful paper products, designed by indie designers, but what appealed to me just as much was the option to print those lovely designs on recycled paper! (Scroll to the bottom to enter to win a $150 credit on Minted.com!)

Even though Minted has the absolute cutest Kids Birthday Party Decor, we ended up using a beautiful party decor collection that was intended for weddings (like I said, her party was a pretty much a mini-wedding).  I absolutely loved the pale, neutral florals on a black background of the Botanical Wreath collection, which felt super sophisticated, while still boho and rustic.

Boho Floral 1st Birthday | The Organic Beauty Blog

Once we had the palette and paper products all figured out, everything else just fell into place.  I found a print invitation that had a similar feel, and loved that we could include a photo from a recent photo shoot.

Boho Floral 1st Birthday | The Organic Beauty Blog

Minted also recently launched online invitations too, which we just HAD to try.  So we ended up going half print, half digital.  (I know, I’m crazy!)

In keeping with our boho floral theme, I kept flowers really simple and rustic — just some beautiful cream and peach blooms in mason jars and apothecary bottles, scattered around the space.  We decorated the picnic tables with flowers and beautiful, personalized table runners and table confetti.  And I got M and I matching floral crowns, which she (of course) refused to wear.  But at least I got to wear mine!

Boho-Floral-1st-Birthday-The-Organic-Beauty-Blog

I extended the theme to include a couple of lovely cream colored teepees for the babies to play in, which I draped with some peach silk flower garlands.  I hung sweet little dreamcatchers from the trees (custom-made on Etsy, links below), which added to the dreamy atmosphere — and the coolest thing is that they doubled as our party favors!  As guests left, I just cut a dreamcatcher down and put it in a little muslin tie bag (also adorned with a dreamcatcher) for the babies to take home.  I thought that was such a fun little touch!

Boho-Floral-1st-Birthday-The-Organic-Beauty-Blog

I also strung some twine between two trees and hung up photos of little M with tiny little wooden clothespins — on one side were her monthly photos I took throughout her first year, and on the other side were just some favorite photos of her growing and changing.

Boho-Floral-1st-Birthday-The-Organic-Beauty-Blog

But I think the food table was the other star of the show (other than the birthday girl, of COURSE!).  Crowned by the loveliest custom bunting, I thought the spread was appropriately rustic, girly, and naturally, super healthy.  We ordered super healthy and delicious sandwiches and salads from Mendocino Farms, which prides itself in sourcing the highest quality, seasonal ingredients from local farmers.

Boho-Floral-1st-Birthday-The-Organic-Beauty-Blog

Since we live in LA, the capital of dietary persnicketiness (of which I myself am probably the most guilty), We used the place cards from our Botanical Wreath paper collection to make little placards for each of the dishes, denoting the presence of gluten, dairy, or nuts ; )  I put these in little wooden card holders, which matched the tree trunk trays I used throughout.

Boho-Floral-1st-Birthday-The-Organic-Beauty-Blog

Boho-Floral-1st-Birthday-The-Organic-Beauty-Blog

The baked goods I made entirely from scratch, and all of them were paleo, and gluten and dairy-free.  I made little cupcakes and baby muffins, and of course, my crowning baking achievement, a paleo naked birthday cake with a vegan almond meringue and strawberries, that was entirely baby-friendly!  I am NOT a baker, so this is a pretty astounding achievement for me!  Check out my baby-friendly paleo birthday cake and cupcake recipes here.

For the plates and serving ware, we went with all-natural, eco-friendly, 100% compostable plates made from palm leaves and compostable birchwood flatware, which also contributed to the rustic feel of the affair.

Boho-Floral-1st-Birthday-The-Organic-Beauty-Blog

We stressed out a bunch about how to keep the babies entertained, but in the end we settled for some scattered blocks and balls and a bubble machine (which we painted gold to match the theme), and honestly, the babies were perfectly happy!  Eating their paleo zucchini muffins certainly helped to keep them occupied as well ; )

I’m not going to lie and say the party went off without a hitch (there were bees!  Oh so many bees!) or that the process wasn’t a bit stressful, but just to see M’s sweet little face light up when we put her in her birthday place of honor, by her birthday teepee, under the swaying dream catchers hanging from the trees above, it was so worth it.  It was truly a day at least I will remember forever!

PAPER PRODUCTS AND INVITATIONS: MINTED  |  DREAMCATCHERS: DREAM LANDZ ON ETSY  | FLOWER CROWNS: LILLY JO FLORAL ON ETSY  |  BABY ROMPER: BEE YANG COUTURE ON ETSY  |  BABY MOCCASINS: FRESHLY PICKED  |  CAKE TOPPER: AMAZON  |  WOOD CAKE STANDS AND CARD HOLDERS: SAVE ON CRAFTS  |  ECO-FRIENDLY PARTY SUPPLIES: AMAZONPhotos: Kate Hauschka

 

Please note, I include affiliate links within this post to support the maintenance and development of this site.  I received paper products from Minted to review for this post, but all opinions expressed are my own.


Ready to design your own gorgeous party?Enter to win a $150 credit to use on Minted!Click here to enter!GIVEAWAY ENDS SEPTEMBER 3RD, 2016

Continue Reading

2016 #skingoals: 5 Rules to Drive Away Dry Skin

5-rules-for-dry-skinHow do you like my clever use of alliteration?  Sweet, huh? I’m going to try to keep it up for the whole #skingoals series.. Just to keep you entertained!

So dry skin is the number one skincare complaint I hear about from you guys.. and I’m with you! It seems like pretty much October-March spells dry, lackluster skin, be it from the cold weather, the dehydrating indoor heating, or less moisture in the air.  Either way, it sucks.  Personally, I managed to drive away my dry skin a few years ago with the tips I’ll share below, until they all came back after I had little M. A few weeks after I gave birth, my cheeks, chin and jawline got insanely dry, and it took months of experimenting with different hydrating techniques to really make a difference.  But my pain is your gain! I was able to further refine my remedies to suit even the most stubbornly dry skin.

Follow these dry skin rules and you will be a beautiful, hydrated, goddess in no time at all! (And by no time at all, I mean anywhere from 1-3 weeks… true beauty takes time, people).

5 Rules for Dry SkinDry Skin Rule #1: No more face wash!

News flash: Even face washes that claim to be moisturizing are not, my friends.  The additives that “clean” your skin start by sapping it of all moisture and washing away the beautiful natural oils that keep your skin hydrated, healthy, and youthful.  Face wash is not your friend.  The solution? Switch to face cleansing oil! Oils deep clean your skin without drying it out, and leave your face hydrated and happy.  How can an oil clean, you ask? Well, oil sticks to oil! It actually deep cleans your pores by drawing out the nasty, dirty, oiliness, and replaces it with happy, radiant skin. I’ve been using the oil face wash method for a few years now and managed to completely clear up my skin (no more pimples!), drive away dryness, and maintain a healthy, youthful glow year round.  Seriously, this is a miraculous game-changer.  It’s also great for acne or breakout prone skin, aging skin, rosacea, and more.

Fave product: Sunkissed Dream Sun Goddess Cleansing Oil + Makeup Remover

Dry Skin Rule #2: Exfoliate weekly

Over-exfoliating your skin can definitely cause problems, but not doing it enough leaves your skin dry and flaky.  Once a week, in the shower, when skin is wet with pores steamed open is the perfect time to exfoliate.  But say bye-bye to all those harsh, chemical scrubs or beads, which are awful for your skin and the environment.  Instead, go for a natural, fine grain or kernel based scrub that sloughs off dry, dull skin, without tearing up your face.

Fave product: Buff Her food-based exfoliation

Dry Skin Rule #3: Hardcore hydration

A great moisturizer is obviously critical for hydrating your skin, but sometimes just using a moisturizer isn’t enough.  After toning and antioxidant serum, use a moisturizer that is suited for your specific skin type.  I’m a big fan of organic ingredients like jojoba and coconut oils, shea butter, and calming rose hip for all skin types.  For aging skin, look for sea buckthorn and frankincense.  For breakout prone skin, look for rosemary and tea tree oils.  For sensitive skin, look for aloe and chamomile.  But your hydration doesn’t end there! For dry spots, an oil-based balm is key for sealing in moisture and keeping those areas hydrated.  Use balm on your dry spots day and night, and even use a little extra before exposing your skin to sun, wind, cold, or swimming.

Fave products: Odylique Timeless Rose Moisturizer and Ultra Rich Balm

Dry Skin Rule #4: Use the right masks

A weekly, super hydrating mask is an amazing tool for driving away that dry skin, but not all masks are created equal! Masks that are clay based without the addition of hydrating oils are going to dry out your skin even more.  Steer clear of masks labeled as clarifying, pore refining, or tightening if you have dry skin.  Instead, opt for masks with hydrating ingredients like baobab and avocado oils, shea butter, and alpha hydroxy acids, which slough off dead skin cells without over drying.

Fave products: Earth Kiss Hydrate Sheet Mask

Dry Skin Rule #5: Hydrate from within

Lastly, your diet plays a HUGE role in your skin’s hydration.  Make sure you’re drinking tons of water (at least half your bodyweight in ounces a day), and eating foods rich in healthy fats every day.  Avocado, wild caught salmon, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut and kombucha.  And of course, try to minimize dehydrating elements like caffeine and alcohol (obvi!).

 

{Photo via Pinterest}

Continue Reading

3 Healthy Natural Sweeteners (and 3 Toxic Sugar Substitutes to Avoid)

By: Stephanie Heino and Natasha Uspensky, CHHC


When it comes to satisfying the occasional sweet tooth, I am very anti artificial sweeteners (Aspartame!). The trouble with these no-calorie additives is that they are essentially invisible to your brain’s satiety center, so they really don’t fix the sweet craving you have, and usually makes you crave real sugar even more and you end up in the cookie jar, anyway. Plus, they have been linked to cancer and other serious health concerns. Today “natural” sweeteners are covering the shelves as a great substitute, but it can be confusing, to say the least, to actually know which one is the best for you. You are probably familiar with the many varieties of natural sweeteners that line the supermarket shelves: agave, turbinado, stevia, maple syrup, brown sugar, organic brown sugar, coconut sugar, blue agave, honey. Quite overwhelming, right? It seems that within the past few years, more types of sweeteners are available and are increasingly popular. Along with this growing popularity comes confusion. Will sweetening my plain yogurt with blue agave syrup make it healthier for me? Is it better than using honey? What about Stevia? I hope to clear the air on this issue a little by describing the three different types of sweeteners that I recommend when it comes to sweetening things up!

Healthier Sweeteners

Agave. Agave is a type of sweetener that comes from the same plant used to make tequila (whoa!). The agave plant has many different species found in Mexico, South America and the southern United States. Agave syrup is made from the core of the plant and is typically added to drinks and energy bars. You can also buy agave syrup to add to foods and drinks at home. It is similar to the texture of maple syrup and comes in a light or dark color, both differing in flavor. Nutritionally, agave nectar contains 60 calories per tablespoon or 20 calories per teaspoon. So don’t load up on it if you plan on squeezing into your favorite skinny jeans. It is one sweetener that is considered to be a low glycemic index food (doesn’t raise your blood sugar as fast or as much as sugar!), but according to the American Diabetes Association, agave should be consumed in moderation even though it is lower on the glycemic index than other sweeteners. I like to use it in baking, but stick to another of the sweeteners below for things consumed daily, like your tea or coffee.
Stevia. Stevia is a type of plant or shrub found in South America. Once considered a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration, stevia was approved for use in food products in 2008. However, the FDA only approves specific highly refined stevia products, such as those manufactured by McNeil Nutritionals and Cargill. Stevia is many times sweeter than regular sugar, so is used in very small amounts. It comes in individual packets as well as liquid form. You might also see it in some processed food products. Stevia is “virtually” calorie-free. In other words, the product does contain calories, but it is negligible when the amount consumed is taken into account. My favorite brand is NuNaturals, preferably the alcohol-free liquid stevia. It is very sweet, but does not have the aftertaste of artificial sweeteners such as most of the other stevia brands I tried. Stevia is perfect for daily use in beverages!
Honey. Honey is much like maple syrup in that there are many types of varieties. Honey can take on different flavor profiles depending on the honey bee’s plant source. You may have noticed clover honey, blueberry honey or orange blossom honey, as well as many others. Nutritionally, the types and flavors of honey are the same. One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories or appoximately 21 calories per teaspoon. I recommend using a raw honey, which will give you the ultimate nutrients. Honey contains vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, vitamin B-6, folate, niacin, riboflavin and panthothenic acid, which makes it very nutritious. Remember though, honey should not be given to infants because it can lead to a dangerous type of food poisoning known as botulism!

The point to remember when evaluating various types of sweeteners is that they all contain calories and should be consumed only in moderation. Just because a food is made with agave nectar, does not mean it is necessarily better for you than a food made with another type of sweetener. I recommend you to continue to inspect food labels and take all calories into consideration when searching for your best sugar substitute. When deciding on what you will use, look at the nutrients, glycemic index (the lower the better!) and calories.

And just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock the past couple of years, we want to make sure you know which sugar substitutes to avoid like the plague!

Toxic Sugar Substitutes

Bad Guy #1:  Splenda.  Now I know this has been the fake sugar du jour for awhile, but newsflash guys… it’s no good!  Splenda is sucralose, which has been proven in animal studies to be SUPER unhealthy when used regularly (even one little packet a day!).  It has been linked to reproductive issues, increased risk of anxiety and depression, and gastrointestinal problems.  Avoid!  (Dr. Mercola)

Bad Guys #2: NutraSweet and Equal.  These two are both made from aspartame, which is a highly toxic and carcinogenic, AND can cause all kinds of reproductive problems and birth defects.  Most people avoid these blue packets these days in favor of Bad Guy #1 above (which I hope we all now know is not better!), but will use one in pinch when stuck with no other alternatives.  Unless you are diabetic, it is safer to use sugar (again, once in a blue moon, in a pinch) than resorting to these guys.  Avoid!  (Natural News)

Bad Guy #3:  Sweet n’ Low.  This perpetrator is made of saccharin, the third in our trifecta of horrible artificial sweeteners to avoid.  Even though the FDA has deemed saccharin safe (but come on, the FDA is pretty much on par with Pinocchio in terms of credibility), which has stalled a lot of the definitive research that has been going on, there have been enough animal studies linking it to various cancers that it is SO not worth the risk!  So add these pink packets to your list of banned substances… Avoid!  (Lifescript)

{Image: Pinterest}

Continue Reading

Freshly Picked Giveaway – A Stylish Baby Must-Have

I’m not gonna lie, dressing a baby is pretty much the most fun thing in world. And when that baby is a little adorable chunk monster with pudgy little legs, that pleasure is amplified.

I’ll admit, I had a Pinterest board and Instagram feed teeming with adorable baby style loooooong before I had little M, like, embarrassingly long.  And Freshly Picked Moccasins have been topping out my must have baby items for quite some time.  These little puppies are durable, made of high quality leather and non-toxic materials, and most importantly, stay on little tiny chubby feet!

Freshly Picked Giveaway | The Organic Beauty Blog

We style our cream and gold ones with much of little M’s neutral toned wardrobe, but I have to say, I’ve had my eye on a bunch of other colors as well.

Freshly Picked Giveaway | The Organic Beauty Blog

Not only are Freshly Picked moccs the cutest around, they also have an awesome story behind the brand. Made by Susan Peterson, a fellow mom, who was frustrated with the lack of quality baby footwear on the market. Using her baby as a moccasin model, she started experimenting with soft-soled leather shoe designs that looked cute and stayed on her baby’s little feet. She launched her now thriving company on a shoe-string budget, after selling off some aluminum window frames to a scrap yard for a meager $200.

We love a good origin story, and we especially love supporting other fellow mompreneurs.

Freshly Picked Giveaway | The Organic Beauty Blog

I’m so excited to offer a pair to giveaway to my beautiful readers!  Enter below!

Freshly Picked Baby Moccasin Giveaway!

Continue Reading

2 Multipurpose Products for Gorgeous Skin and Hair

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Argana Vita

Being a bit of a lazy girl, I am all about easy, multipurpose products.  And I get even more excited when these amazing do-it-all products work even better than the 20 individual things they can completely replace.

Argana Vita makes just two amazing products, but these puppies are so powerful, effective, and versatile that you can literally toss out half the content of your bathroom!

First, start with their 100% Pure Organic Argan Oil.  Lusciously silky in texture and clean smelling, this natural beauty powerhouse gives you clear and radiant skin, beautifully hydrated hair, and even works wonders on your nails, callouses, and cracked heels.  It’s loaded with vitamin E, omega fatty acids, phenols and sterols, and squalene, making it super effective for a variety of beauty quandaries. Use it as your:

Moisturizer for faceAnti-aging serum for facePost-shower hydration for bodyHealing for itchy skin, bites, burns, and rashesTreatment for psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitisHealing treatment for stretch marks and scarsLeave-in conditioner and heat-style protectant for hairHydrating serum for split endsScalp cleanser and hydrator to promote hair growthHot oil deep conditioning treatment for hairTreatment for dandruff or itchy scalpCuticle oilNail brightener and strengthenerSoothing treatment for feet

Then, add to your weekly beauty regimen their Rhassoul Moroccan Lava Clay, which comes in either plain or lavender infusion.  Rhassoul clay is deeply clarifying, detoxifying, and nourishing for skin and hair, and like the argan oil, can replace so many products in your life!  It’s loaded with vital nutrients like silicon, iron, magnesium, potassium and sodium, and is amazing for extracting toxins and impurities through it’s high negative ion concentration. Use it as your:

Weekly pore clearing anti-aging mask for faceSpot treatment for pimplesTreatment mask for body, especially for break-out prone areas like back and chestScalp mask and exfoliator for deep cleansing hair follicles and promoting hair growthDeep cleansing shampoo for eliminating product build-up and boosting shine

Is the lazy girl in you doing her happy dance?  Mine sure is!

Argana Vita supports Berber women in their sustainable business practices, promoting literacy and self-sufficiency.   They also donate 1% of all sales to spana.org, an organization that provides free medical care and services to working animals in the third world. Read founder Elisabeth Yvrot’s inspirations story here.

Continue Reading

Skin Perfecters from the Sea of Galilee

Lavido Skincare on The Organic Beauty

The Sea of Galilee has long had a reputation for benefits to beauty, health, and even spirit. The volcanic thermal springs and mineral rich waters from this mythical body of water and it’s surroundings make for an intensely healing base for an amazing line of natural skincare products, especially when combined with raw, plant-based ingredients.  This is Lavido, and I have been falling more and more in love with this line every day that I’ve used it!

Starting with the Gentle Exfoliator Cream, with cold-pressed pomegranate seed oil, lemon, and macadamia nut, which smells heavenly, and delivers beautiful exfoliation paired with deep hydration, renewal and brightening. Followed by the Alert Eye Cream, with plant-based hyaluronic acid, cold-pressed avocado oil, and citrus oils that keeps eyes looking younger, more awake, and totally de-puffed in a light, creamy formula.  And, of course, my favorite, the Invigorating Facial Serum, with cold-pressed evening primrose oil, frankincense and rose hip that prevents aging, deeply hydrates skin, and I kid you not, smells like aromatherapy heaven.

Not only are these beautiful products clinically proven to work wonders on your skin, they’re also lovingly concocted with the utmost attention to detail.  Every ingredient is chosen for maximum benefit (and of course, the crucial olfactory element).  My skincare routine has taken on a heavenly spa-like feel with these luxurious beauties.  I can’t wait to try out the whole line!

 

Continue Reading

Super Yummy Lactation Balls!

Yummy Lactation Balls

Continuing on our lactation kick here at The Organic Beauty, we have a new delicious recipe from a beautiful mama, my friend Tara at Tara Josette Snacks.  Tara is part of the amazing community of new mamas that I’m so lucky to be a part of here in LA, and she’s always bringing these super duper yummy lactation balls to our mommy playdates.  No joke, you guys, these things are FOR REAL.  After eating a couple delicious little balls, my milk got flowing like crazy, which was especially crucial after my supply took a hit when I starting my period again : ( (For more ways to naturally boost milk supply, click here).

The delicious lactation balls have a bunch of ingredients that are amazing for milk supply (like brewer’s yeast and oats) and quality (like coconut oil and nuts).  They are naturally sweet and are perfect for satisfying a sugar craving healthfully.  They’re loaded with healthy fats, protein, and whole grains, so they’re also awesome for keeping you full and stabilizing blood sugar. The long and the short of it.. They’re awesome.  Here are a few words about them from the lovely Tara:

Tara and her own little sweet!


Raw bites are so popular and with good reason, I’m a huge fan of these high nutrition little orbs of energy and have many different versions in my arsenal. Free of gluten and dairy and naturally sweetened with dates, they are so easy to whizz up and keep on hand for little emergency pick me ups. Or dessert. They have a ton of good fats and can be packed with superfood ingredients to charge up their nutritional profile.

I wanted a version that would do even more for me, returning to work soon milk supply is on my mind, so lactation balls were born. They have a cacao and peanut butter base because well, that’s just a delicious situation right there, and it creates a robust enough flavor-backdrop to absorb the magic lactogenic ingredient –  brewer’s yeast –  which some people find a bit funky (although I happily eat it on toast with avocado). They are also packed with oats, nuts and sesame which are all known to increase milk supply. Finally they have a ton of coconut oil which improves the quality of breastmilk, packing it full of lauric acid which is great stuff for your baby. The recipe is simple but It’s key to use the most high quality ingredients you can and organic if possible, great quality cacao, peanut butter, dates and virgin oil will make these taste insanely good. Food as medicine.Yummy Lactation Balls1/2 cup gently melted virgin coconut oil1/2 cup salted peanut butter1/2 cup walnuts1/2 cup raw cacao1/4 cup Brewers yeast10 medjool dates1 tbsp tahini2 cups whole oats2 tbsp chiaFor Rolling in:1/4 cup chia1/4 cup sesame seedsGently melt the coconut oil (if necessary) but do not overheat. Combine all ingredients in food processor, pulsing until fairly smoot. Roll into teaspoonful sized balls and coat with a crunchy mix of chia and sesame seeds. Refrigerate or freeze for an even better, fudgier texture.

Continue Reading

5 Ways to Deal with Winter Darkness

The other day, I went to bed at 9:30.  Now if you know me, you know how totally crazy that is.  I used to be the world’s biggest night owl.  Even as that started to change, I’ve never voluntarily gone to bed before 11pm.  Bonkers.  Now, do I feel super lame and old? No! Was it because I had nothing better to do? Of course not!  Rather, this insanely early bedtime was a result of my listening to my body and taking steps to combat winter blues, lack of energy, and general malaise.  And guess what?  It worked!  I woke up before my alarm, to bright sunlight streaming through my window.  I had tons of time for myself in the morning to get outside with the pup and relax into my day.  I was super energized for an early yoga class (which I rocked, dare I say). And I was super productive and motivated all day long.  So what’s my secret?

This time of year, as the days get shorter and darker, it can get a lot harder to motivate yourself to stay healthy.  The lack of sunlight puts us in a foul mood, zaps our energy, and can wreak havoc on our immunity.  And all this, in turn, can make it nearly impossible to hit the gym, stay away from fatty, sugary comfort foods, and stay motivated to take care of our bodies.

This impulse to hibernate is natural.  Our bodies and metabolisms naturally start slowing down.  We need more sleep to stay energized.  And the decrease in sunlight certainly can lead to depression (seasonal affective disorder), food cravings, and general crankiness.

Unfortunately, we are not bears.  So we can’t just peace out until March rolls around.  But there are some crucial adjustments that we can make to our lifestyle, eating, and supplementation that substantially decrease the negative impact of dreary winter darkness on your body and mind.  And believe me, they work!  Here are my 5 ways to deal with winter darkness

1. Adjust your schedule.

The number one most important thing you can do to increase energy and boost your mood in the winter is to get the plenty of sleep at the right time of night to maximize your daylight hours.  If you’re sleeping until the last minute, forcing yourself out of bed, and rushing through your morning, you are robbing yourself of those crucial morning daylight hours, which can spell the difference between being a moody mess for the next 4 months, or being your usual, happy self.

To maximize your morning, you NEED to get to bed earlier.  It’s dark, it’s cold, what do you really have to do at night anyway?  Keep those Netflix binges down to just one or two shows and get thee to bed before 11pm, OR just listen to your body!  If you’re starting to feel sleepy way earlier than that, don’t fight it! That’s a prime example of your body telling you exactly what it needs, so do yourself a favor and heed it’s call.

With your new early bedtime, you can wake up earlier, giving yourself more time in the morning to maximize daylight, before you hunker down at your desk for the next 8 hours.

Have trouble getting to sleep early? Check out How to Sleep Better Naturally for all my best tips!

2. Maximize your sunlight.

First thing when you wake, you need to get some light on you to set your circadian rhythms up for an energized day.  Open those blinds and stand in front of your sunniest window for a few minutes!  Go take your dog for a longer walk outside.  Go for a run in the fresh air.  Exposing yourself to natural light in the morning combats winter depression, fatigue, and boosts your immunity!

You also need to get some light during the day.  Leave the office for lunch, run out for tea instead of making it in the office, take breaks to walk around the block and breath in some fresh air.  If you can get a total of 20 minutes time spent outdoors in the daylight hours, you will definitely feel a difference in your body and mood.

If you suffer from bonafide seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or if you have trouble getting out into the daylight every day, you may need to supplement with a sunlamp.  These puppies simulate the sun and do wonders for your mood.  Use your lamp for 30 minutes in the morning, and you can even give yourself a few energizing bursts of light during the day as well! (Just not after 4pm).  Check out the NatureBright SunTouch Light and Ion Therapy Lamp.

3. Supplement smartly.

One of the biggest causes of cold weather colds, moodiness, and lack of energy is vitamin D deficiency.  In the northern hemisphere, it is completely impossible to get enough vitamin D from it’s natural source (sunlight) during the winter months, and deficiency in this crucial vitamin is at the root of host of unpleasant health problems.  Make sure to get 4000 IU of vitamin D daily, preferably in a liquid, sub-lingual formulation that is absorbed most efficiently by the body.  My favorite is Biotics Bio-D-Mulsion Forte.  Just 2 drops under your tongue every morning, and you’re good to go!

4. Move that thang!

Moving your body is crucial during these cold, dark months.  It boosts your mood, immunity, and heats you up from the inside out.  The morning is the best time for exercise in the winter, so make good use of your extra time in the morning to go for a run, hit a yoga class, or do some spinning.  If getting out of the house is just too hard, than pick a sunny spot by the window and workout at home!  Check out my Youtube playlists for Quick Morning Workouts.

If morning workouts just aren’t feasible during the week, than pick one or two nights a week to exercise after work, put them in your calendar, and bring your gear with you so you don’t have to go home first.  Aim for being done by 8pm at the latest, so you’re not too wound up for an early bedtime.  Then add one or two workouts during the day on the weekend to make up for the rest!

If you’re really bothered by the cold, shoot for heating workouts like hot yoga or anything intensive where you’ll work up a sweat.  Shoot for at least 180 minutes of movement a week, broken up in whatever configuration that works best for you.

5. Up those healthy comfort foods.

Eating seasonally does wonders for boosting mood, energy, and immunity in the winter, and thankfully, there are tons of great seasonal comfort foods that totally do the trick!  Put those cold salads and smoothies on hold for a few months (they are way to hard on your body in the cold weather), and opt instead for comforting soups, stews, and hot dishes.

Increase your healthy whole grains like brown rice and buckwheat — this is the time of year when your body loves them best!  Up your healthy fats like coconut oil and avocados, which are awesome for energy.  And load up on all that awesome seasonal produce like sweet potatoes, gourds, and root veggies that are hearty, sweet, and utterly comforting.

There are also some healthy, seasonal desserts that can feel particularly good this time of year.  Things like gluten-free apple crisp and cranberry walnut banana bread are my faves.  Check out my healthy seasonal fall recipes!

BONUS STEP: Increase the coziness factor!

Making your home feel warm and cozy is crucial for improving your mood in the colder months.  Opt for warm lighting, candles, fluffy blankets and pillows, and make sure the temperature is just right.  Sip hot teas at night, and take time to curl up with a great book.  Trust me, it makes all the difference.

{Photo: Pinterest}

Continue Reading

Skincare Good Enough to Eat!

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Botanic Organic Skincare

My mantra when it comes to skincare is: If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your face.

Now, obviously I can’t stay true to this all of the time (sometimes a pimple requires a bit stronger action), and I’m certainly not advocating eating your face wash.  But making sure that everything you put on your skin is natural, and preferably organic, leads to not just radiant, glowing skin, but a healthy and balanced body.

I’m happy to say that at this point, about 90% of my skincare routine is pretty much good enough to eat!  And a lot of that is thanks to the amazing natural beauty line, Botanic Organic.  I’ve been using their line of all natural, unrefined products for a few months now, and I have to say, I’m obsessed.  Best of all, the whole line is totally affordable, so you don’t have to pay and arm and a leg for high quality, natural products!

As you know by now, I am all about using oils to wash my face (learn about the Oil Face Wash Method here), and I have been LOVING the Botanic Organic Tangerine & Lemon Facial Cleansing Oil for my nightly cleansing. With jojoba oil and castor oil to unclog pores and clear up skin, apricot kernel and sunflower oils to soften and hydrate, and citrus oils to energize and exfoliate, my face is one happy camper.  I’ve also been super into their double cleansing method, which follows the facial cleansing oil with Honey & Licorice Root Cleansing Grains for even deeper cleaning at night.  This fine powder is gently exfoliating, healing, and deep cleansing, with the added benefit of anti-inflammatory and anti-aging coconut, honey, and licorice.  I swear, my skin smells to yummy after cleansing that I literally want to lick it!

I follow my cleansing with one of their delicious facial mists — I use the Cucumber & Calendula Nutrient Mist after washing my face with only warm water in the morning, and the Rosemary & Geranium Hydrating Mist after my double cleansing routine at night.  The facial mists are made from pure, organic plant distillates that deeply nourish, heal, and balance the skin.  My morning nutrient mist has antioxidant green tea extract, which is awesome for protecting skin from damaging UV rays, and my evening hydrating mist restores pH balance and promotes cell repair.  These delicately scented beauties pack a powerful protective punch!

After I’m all cleansed, toned, and hydrated, it’s time for some serum action, and I am in LOVE with the Pomegranate & Argan Antioxidant Oil Serum.  Not only is it deeply nourishing and hydrating, but it also helps heal breakouts, irritation, scarring and redness, and slows and reverses the signs of aging.  Now that is one powerful little serum.  Plus, as with all Botanic Organic products, it smells heavenly, and is literally good enough to eat.

The last step in this delicious routine is moisturizing.  In the morning, I use the Raspberry & Green Tea Daily Defense, which is super lightweight, loaded with antioxidants and vitamins, and offers great natural protection from UV rays and other environmental damage.  At night, I use the Calendula Blossom & Rose Night Cream, which is beautifully repairing and anti-aging, deeply hydrating and healing.

My skin looks amazing, my bathroom smells like a spa, and I feel like I am taking such gloriously good care of myself and my body by using these high quality, non-toxic, natural, plant-based products.  But don’t take my word for it, try Botanic Organic for yourself!  Pick up the Essential Six Starter Kit that serves as a lovely introduction to a lot of these products, and will have you craving the whole line in no time!

This skincare line is perfect for acne prone skin, sensitive skin, aging skin, as well as normal skin, and is totally customizable to give you exactly the healing and protection you need.

All I have to say is… YUM!

Continue Reading