It’s Cool to Cook at Home

What’s for dinner? Should we go out? Will you pick up take out? Most nights it seems SOOOO much easier to let someone else do the cooking. However, one of the surest ways to lose weight and be healthy is to prepare the majority of your meals at home. By doing so you avoid the plentiful fat, sugar, and calories of prepared and restaurant foods, you know where the ingredients are coming from, and you can control portion sizes. Plus it’s a heck of a lot cheaper.

audrey hepburn

Here’s the hardest part for most of us: in order to cook at home you have to plan ahead. Your best results yield from a full pantry, fresh produce, well-stocked spices and condiments, confidence and an occasional spark of creativity.

Most of the time I buy plenty of fresh produce, make sure my supplies beans, grains, pastas, and nuts are topped off, and stock up on favorites from Trader Joe’s. However, lately I’m flying by the seat of my pants. If I’m being kind, I like to think of it as stretching my creativity. I might challenge myself to come up with a meal for four using the last bag of pasta, ¼ cup of feta cheese and some blueberries (just kidding!). So this post is a reminder to you, and me, to do ourselves a favor and make time to plan a few meals and shop for the ingredients. Going to the store every afternoon around 5 p.m. to pick up a few things for dinner (guilty!) is a time suck.

Have a few go-to recipes that are tried and true. One of my favorites is Mexican Black Bean and Veggie Tortillas. Rotate several others seasonally (chilis and soups in the winter, cold salads and grilled favorites in the summer). With a basic plan, you’ll know what to have on hand and can fairly quickly create something scrumptious. With good, fresh ingredients, it doesn’t have to be complicated!


Who Loves You?

Cute Babies (14)If you’re lucky, many people admire and care for you. If you are extremely fortunate you have people in your life who accept you for all that you are, at your best and at your worst. Do you count yourself among them? In other words, do you give yourself the same self-compassion that is such a prized gift from those who love you?

What Is It?

Compassion is a “deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.” To practice self-compassion is to soothe and support yourself when you experience pain, disappointment or fear. It can range from giving yourself time and space to grieve after the end of a relationship, to being okay with your jiggly thighs instead of hating yourself for them.

Self-compassion is a foreign concept to most of us. We tend to be our own harshest critic. You may believe that being kind and forgiving toward yourself is a sign of weakness. How will you ever be motivated if there is no backlash inside your brain at every failure, misstep, or lack? Research shows that constant inner negativity will ultimately lead to withdrawal and maybe even depression. Self-compassion, however, helps us to relax, grow, and ultimately flourish

self-compassionKristin Neff, Ph.D., positive psychologist and author of Self-Compassion, describes her topic as embracing negative feelings (instead of trying to replace them with positive ones) and adding to that awareness, self-care and connectedness. We need to recognize that suffering is universal and human. Treating ourselves with kindness begins the healthy cycle of positive emotions.


Benefits of Self-Compassion

1) Self-compassionate people are better able to form close, meaningful and mutually supportive relationships. A highly self-critical person will tend to assume their partner is judging them as harshly as they judge themselves. This leads to unnecessary conflicts and hypersensitivity. (p. 30)

2) As a parent, modeling self-compassion is an enormous gift to your children. (Where do you think that harsh voice in our heads usually originates?) More than likely, you’ve berated yourself out loud, saying something like, “I’m so fat,” or “I always get lost!” Instead say something like, “That was really stupid, but I love you anyway.” It will feel strange and your kids will probably laugh at you, but imagine how the tension of the moment will evaporate!

3) Allowing for self-compassion opens you to more authenticity. By accepting your human frailties, you’re better able to embrace your individuality. You can let go of the need to conform to avoid being judged by others.

self compassion quote

4) Now that you’ve got your own back, you can feel safe and centered. Because you’re not expending energy berating your impulsive purchase or the angry words you let fly at work, you have more energy to focus outward. You’re better equipped to grow in a positive direction and meet your goals with a calm self-assurance.

5) By now you should be feeling pretty good! And that’s what positive psychologists have found, as well. Self-compassion promotes a feeling of mental well-being as it protects against anxiety and depression.

Negative self talk is a bad habit, but you can change it. Awareness is always the first step. Recognize how you react to your own mistakes or faults, and practice an alternative, more compassionate voice. It may help to actually give that voice another identity. What would your best friend say to you?

More soon on the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem.

Further Reading

Neff, Kristin, Ph.D., (2011) Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, New York, William Morrow.

photo of baby from

The Pros and Cons of a Juice Cleanse

A million dollar industry in America, it has as many fans as detractors. A juice cleanse or juice fasting involves limiting your diet to fresh vegetable and fruit juices plus water for a few days to a few weeks. Claims range from significant weight loss, clearer skin, bolstered immunity, body detoxification, and cancer prevention. What should you know before undertaking a juice cleanse?

The amount of information and varied opinions on the web is enormous! I waded through a lot of it to distill this post down to some simple key points. Several recommended articles are listed at the end, and I’m sure you can find many more (but always consider the source).


1. If you’re cleansing or fasting with juice, you’ll probably lose weight. But you’ll be losing mostly water. A reduction in bloating is well-known benefit of juicing. (see Con #5)

photo from Flickr, courtesy of Luxomedia

photo from Flickr, courtesy of Luxomedia

2. If you undertake a juice cleanse (shorter is preferred, i.e. 4 days or less) and see it through, chances are you’ll feel great at the end of it. You’ll have a real sense of accomplishment, and you’ll look at your regular diet with fresh eyes.

3. By spending a few days ingesting only fruits and vegetables, you are avoiding highly processed foods that have solid fats and added sugar. If you have a strong habit of making unhealthy food choices, a brief juice cleanse may help you break them.

4. If you diet rarely includes fruits and vegetable, juicing is an easy way to increase your daily intake. Keep in mind that if you’re really lacking in this department, substituting one glass of juice for a meal each day, will dramatically boost the quality of your diet.

5. Again, if you’re not a fan of green side of the food pyramid, juicing can help retrain your taste buds to enjoy fruits and vegetables.

6. Many of us reach for carbs, sweets, chips or alcohol when we’re bored, sad, lonely or anxious. These foods are off-limits on a juice cleanse. So the process of undertaking a whole new diet, briefly, can put you in touch with your body and it’s automatic habits.


1. You’ll find little to no protein and fat in fresh pressed juice. Some commercial juices contain added nut milk that contributes a small amount of fat and protein and helps with satiety. But your body will suffer from going for more than a few days without sufficient protein — the raw materials to build new tissues. Low-fat diets are notoriously hard on the skin and hair. Don’t forget that fat is also necessary to processes fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

2. Common side effects from a juice cleanse include dizziness, blood sugar spikes, headaches, constipation, fatigue, irritability, nausea. The symptoms occur as your body releases glycogen (stores of carbohydrates). Ultimately, many people report feeling “amazing,” which is explained by the body going into ketosis (glycogen stores are used up and the body begins burning fat). Though you may experience a decrease in your appetite (that makes things easier), ketosis can cause nausea and bad breath, and ultimately organ failure.

3. A juice cleanse is not safe for everybody, especially people undergoing chemotherapy, diabetics, anyone with nutritional deficiencies or kidney disease. Check with your doctor is you have any medical conditions that a cleanse might impact.

4. Juicing removes some of the fiber and nutrients found in whole fruits and veggies (those in pulp, skin and seeds). Because there is less fiber in juice, more of the fructose is absorbed by the body, so lean toward more vegetables than fruit. Less fiber will also leave you feeling less satisfied. Keep in mind that a juicer removes fiber, but a blender, masticating or triturating juicers help retain more fiber and nutrients.

photo from Flickr courtesy of

photo from Flickr courtesy of

5. You’ll lose weight but most will be water weight. People love that they feel less bloated (and they do), but if you’re looking to lose fat and keep it off, a juice cleanse is not the answer. The majority of people put the weight right back on after the cleanse.

6. Any calorie-restrictive diet will lead to some weight loss. Yet your body will respond to prolonged “starvation” with calorie conservation. This screws with your metabolism, lowering it. If you put your body into starvation mode too often, you risk permanently lowering your metabolism (i.e. metabolic syndrome).

7. A big claim among juice fasting systems and products is that it will detoxify your body. Many medical experts disagree with the idea that humans need help detoxifying our bodies. The liver, kidneys and intestines are highly evolved bodily systems that rid us of the toxins we ingest or encounter in the environment. We excrete them in our urine, feces, breath, and sweat.


  • A maximum length of three to four days is advised.
  • Health and wellness is a booming industry. Lots of people want to make money from your desire to lose weight and get healthy fast. If you buy a pre-made juice cleanse system make sure it is reputable! Check that the produce is carefully cleaned and the juice is made in small fresh batches to avoid bacterial growth. Pasteurized juices are not advised. Follow a reputable plan if you are making your own at home.
  • If you have any doubts that a juice cleanse is right for your body, please check with your physician.
  • There’s no proof that eating liquefied fruits and veggies offers an advantage offer the same ingredients in their whole state. If you’d like to increase your intake, try swapping fresh juice for your regular breakfast, or as a mid-afternoon snack. Meanwhile, stick to a balanced diet including adequate amounts of fat and protein.

Have you had experience with juice cleansing? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section.

MORE INFORMATION, Do Juice Cleanses Work? 10 Truths About The Fad, by Melissa Valliant, 03/21/2012., My Body Knows the Way: My Experience With a Juice Cleanse, by Robin Hoffman, 05/15/2013., Is Juicing Healthier than Eating Whole Fruits or Vegetables? by Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D., Jesus and Moses Went on Cleanses;That Doesn’t Mean you Should, by Judith Shulevitz, 06/21/2013

Juice fasting by a Dietitian, Laura Oliver, from

A Coaches Journey

Watch this inspiring video for a powerful explanation of what coaching allows people to achieve. The two coaches featured are personal trainers (which coincides nicely with health and wellness coaching, thank you!) yet their message is about fundamental changes in the person, not just the body. Find your “why.”

A Coaches Journey ~ a film by Michael Hanson from michael hanson on Vimeo.

Homemade Protein Bars

This is no low-calorie treat, but these protein bars are a delicious and natural alternative to the many packaged bars you’ll find on grocery store shelves. Feel free to tailor this recipe to suit your taste and what you have on hand. They are crumbly, delicious, and perishable, so please store them in the refrigerator.

Homemade Protein Bars


IMG_12783 cups oats
1/2 cup whole sesame seeds or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, preferably organic
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey
1 cup organic peanut butter (or use almond butter or the nut/seed butter of your choice)
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified if solid
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped apricots, raisins, figs or other dried fruit (optional – will add sweetness)
up to 1 cup protein powder (optional – use less or omit if you dislike the taste or the idea of protein powders)


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with a little coconut oil or organic butter.

2. Combine dry ingredients (oats through brown sugar) in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (Greek yogurt through coconut oil).

4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined, and then mix in the chocolate.

5. Taste a little of the homemade protein bar mixture. Is it tasty? You can add more peanut butter or the optional nuts at this point if you like. Is it sweet enough? If not, you can add more sweetener or some of the optional dried fruit. Now is also the time to add in the protein powder if you are going to use it. Mix well using very clean hands (warning–it will be sticky!)

6. Spread the mixture into your prepared dish and bake for 15 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven, let them cool a little, and then slice the bars as you desire. Your homemade protein bars can be sliced into squares, or into the more typical bar shape you would purchase, if you prefer. Spread the bars onto a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes more. Allow to cool, and then wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Download a PDF of this recipe.

This recipe is from Healthy Green Kitchen