lifestyle

12 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

It’s a misconception that eating healthily has to be expensive. In fact, it’s very manageable to have three all-organic healthy and nourishing meals (plus snacks!) each day no matter what your grocery and food budget may be -- I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this concept and testing out new ways to eat well for cheap. There are ways!

If you don’t know where to start, follow these tips for eating well on a budget:

1. Cook As Many of Your Meals as You Can

This is at once the simplest and the most difficult tip: commit to cooking your meals rather than eating out. Not only does eating out add up quick, but it tends to be less healthy than what you would cook at home. Depending on your habits, you could save roughly $180 - 250 each month by not eating out. How’s that for savings?

2. Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

Once you’re committed to cooking at home more, try planning your meals for the week ahead of time. Make use of versatile ingredients that you can use in multiple different dishes throughout the week, and stick to simple meals that don’t require too many ingredients. Doing this helps with a few things:

  • You can buy bulk, which saves you on the total cost of items.
  • You’ll have less chance of unused ingredients going bad in your fridge and, as a result, you’ll waste less.

  • You’ll put more thought into what you’re eating and how much you’re spending, which will help you keep to you stick to your good eating and spending habits.

3. Eat What's in Season

This might seem like a no-brainer, but in-season foods are always cheaper than out of season foods, which were likely imported from elsewhere in the world.

So, to save money, focus on foods that are in-season. Learn to love cabbage and citruses in the winter, and go crazy with squashes and root plants in the fall. For a full list of in-season produce and recipe suggestions try Wise Breads’s post on seasonal produce. The Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture also has a very good, comprehensive chart.

Above all, avoid pricey pre-packaged foods. These foods will not only be pricier but also most likely contain ingredients that are not health-enhancing. Remember to read the ingredient list if you are purchasing packaged foods.

4. Take Advantage of Farmer’s Markets, CSAs, and Imperfect-Looking Vegetables

Some of the best places to find cheap and delicious in-season produce is at your local farmer’s market. Try going at the end of the day and asking for deals to save even more. If you don’t have a farmer's market close to you, try an online farmer’s market such as GrubMarket - they deliver straight to your door!

If you have a CSA in your area, you can also save money while getting ultra-fresh produce (sometimes things you’ve never even seen before!) by ordering from them.

Similar to a CSA is a new produce delivery service, Imperfect Produce, which delivers totally edible -- but “too ugly for supermarket” -- fruits and veggies for super cheap. For example, you could order a 7 - 9 pound box, which will last at least a week, of produce for roughly $12. Awesome!

5. Look for Sales and Take Advantage of Them

For the non-produce staples (and, okay, even some produce) keep an eye out for sales and take advantage of them. Be open to adjusting your weekly meal plan to accommodate a good deal you found at the supermarket or stocking up on dry goods when they go on sale.

Hint: in some supermarkets, if you buy one item that’s on a “2 for $3” sale, you’ll still be able to get it half off. Don’t buy both if you don’t need them.

6. Shop at Ethnic Markets

Want a cheap box of coconuts? Go to Chinatown or your nearest ethnic grocery store. Even for some more common items like rice noodles, or a bag of apples, ethnic grocery stores often still have good quality items for cheaper. Keep in mind that organic is ideal.

7. Focus on Plant Foods and Make Fewer Meat-Centric Dishes

I advocate a high plant-focused way of eating in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, but it's also a way to save money if you know how to balance your non-meat meals appropriately.

For those of you who don't want to omit meat entirely (and you don't necessarily need to - your body knows best!), try eating fewer meat-centric dishes. Rather than serving up a steak with a side of broccoli, make meat a compliment, rather than the focus. Cook a quinoa dish with a bit of ground turkey, or a veggie stir fry with some slices of lamb.

8. Start a Garden

Whether you’ve got a yard or a windowsill, starting a garden is the ultimate way to lower your food spending. After all, it’s free (well, almost -- you might still have to make a small upfront investment in seeds, pots, and soil).

Certain things, like arugula or bok choy, are super easy to grow for first timers, whereas others, like tomatoes, require a bit more care and attention. No matter what you grow, gardens are a great way to get a constant supply of nourishing food. Not to mention, there’s no fresher food than what you’re growing outside your front door.

9. Learn to Love Your Freezer

This tip goes back to that whole idea that by letting food go bad, you’re wasting money. Which is why any health-nut on a budget should really learn to love their freezer. There’s two big ways this can help:

First, you can freeze leftovers if you know you won’t be eating them in the next couple of days. Personally, if something’s been in my fridge for 2 days, I’ll either eat it or freeze it to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. Just make sure to mark when you put them in.

Second, if you’ve got a garden, weren’t able to eat all the food you got in your CSA or last week’s grocery store run, you can preserve a lot of fruits and veggies by either canning, pickling, or -- yes -- freezing them.

One of my favorite things to do is to take greens (arugula, parsley, etc.) and turn them into a pesto. Stick them in an ice cube tray and freeze them. That way, you’ll have a stash of homemade pesto you can easily pop on pasta for the rest of the year.

10. Embrace the Health Value of Super Basic Foods

You don’t have to be splurging on obscure and expensive health foods to be healthy. Some of the commonly available foods (brown rice, apples, broccoli, bananas, spinach) are incredibly healthy for you (when organic).

I think that expensive, trendy health foods like chia seeds or acai are part of the reason people assume eating well needs to cost money. Yes, I may be into these more trendy ‘superfoods', but in reality, some of the best stuff for you is downright common and unexotic — you can find amazingly cheap organic produce for less than $1 at the farmer’s market.

To add to that, these more expensive 'superfoods' can go a long way. You only need small amounts to reap the health benefits of these foods, so you won’t need to be purchasing them all that often.

11. Make Your Own Drinks

Buying beverages can get pricey quick -- not to mention, you might not have any control of the amount of sugar and other ingredients in them or whether or not they’re organic.

Personally, I prefer getting around this problem by making my own drinks. Especially since frozen organic berries are cheaper than fresh ones, buying a few big bags of organic frozen berries is an easy way to get my berry fix without breaking the bank. Simply toss some in a blender with water (or milk), lemon juice and a bit of honey (optional) and voila!

12. Get Creative with Your Recipes

This might be the best tip I can give you - There are no rules in the kitchen! Did you know you could make chocolate with mushrooms? Well, you can. And if mushrooms can be a core ingredient for one of your favorite dessert foods, then you should absolutely get creative with leeks, turnips, boysenberries, or whatever else is most affordable at the moment in your supermarket/farmers market.

Brunch Club: Farewell Winter Harvest

APL_BrunchClub_Jan17_6

Change isn’t always easy, but all we can do is embrace it and CELEBRATE it. At Brunch Club we’ll be saying farewell to the winter harvest before welcoming the bright vegetables of spring. Come enjoy a three-course meal and learn about the importance of eating for the seasons. All ingredients are organic, local, vegetarian friendly, and free of gluten and refined sugars. You’ll take home new recipes and connect with some awesome people. Check out photos from January Brunch Club to see what you’re in for.

There’s also an optional yoga practice before brunch (10am). Francesca Gobeille will be starting us off with a gentle, all-levels yoga practice to ease in the day. Visit Francesca's website to learn more about her teaching practice.

Hope this menu makes you ‘MMMMMmmmmmm’ as much as us!

FIRST COURSE

Green Winter Smoothie

A balanced blend of seasonal fruits and vegetables with an added superfood bonus of spirulina, seeds, and raw honey.

Kombucha by House Kombucha

Lavender lemonade House Kombucha.

Grindstone Bakery Gluten-Free Bread with Homemade Almond Butter

Served with sides of fresh bananas and ground cinnamon.

SECOND COURSE

Sweet Potato and Brussels Sprout Scramble (Vegan Option Available)

Organic eggs and vegetables cooked in coconut oil and seasoned with warming spices. Topped with herbs and served with avocado.

Grapefruit pancakes with coconut whipped cream

Coconut flour pancakes with fresh grapefruit zest and cinnamon. Topped with coconut whipped cream, pure maple syrup, and sliced kumquats.

THIRD COURSE

Apple pie breakfast bars

Raw dates, apples, coconut, almonds, cinnamon and sea salt.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?! Get your tickets on Feastly. See you on 2/22 .

APL_BrunchClub_Feb22
APL_BrunchClub_Feb22

Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas

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As we all know, the holidays can be a stressful time with traveling, cooking, gifts, and trying to remain calm through it all. I used to stress about buying gifts for my family and friends, until I realized that gifts don't need to be something expensive or even material. In my opinion, the best gifts are usually good company and sweet memories. That said, of course I still get the urge to gift my loved ones something, but it's different now. Now I gift things that I make myself because I know they will enjoy especially because they're made with love.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite gifts that I've made in the past that will still make your loved ones smile, but won't leave your wallet hurting. Plus, you'll be giving them something nourishing that will support their health.

  • Dark Chocolate Bark - Find my recipe for 5-minute homemade chocolate here. To make into bark, pour mixture onto a flat dish lined with parchment paper and then add any toppings of choice to make it festive. Refrigerate until firm and then break into pieces. Recommended toppings: chopped nuts or seeds, coconut flakes, cinnamon, cacao nibs, goji berries.
  • Lavender-scented Coconut Oil Moisturizer (or flavor of choice)
Lavender coconut oil
Lavender coconut oil

Ingredients:

1 cup melted coconut oil

Handful dried or fresh lavender flowers

A few drops of lemon essential oil (optional)

Procedure: Mix lavender flowers into coconut oil and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Drain lavender and mix in a few drops of lemon essential oil if desired. Place in a glass jar with lid and let sit on counter until solid. Use as you would any lotion. If too solid when ready to use, grab a spoonful and let it melt in your hand for a few seconds before applying it.

  • Coconut & Cinnamon Granola - recipe here - Never fails to impress.
  • Creamy Sunflower Seed Butter - recipe here.
  • Prepare a DIY gift for someone with all the ingredients they need - I did this last year and it was a hit. Simply choose a fun recipe and get all the ingredients together in a container along with the recipe for your loved ones to make themselves. Fun examples are chai (picture below), granola, baked goods, or homemade beauty products.
chai gifts
chai gifts
  • Coupon book! -  This one seems silly, but it can be the most fun. Make a coupon book for someone you love with coupons for special gifts they like such as a massage, a picnic, their favorite food/dessert, and day trip somewhere, a movie, or anything else your heart desires to give.

I hope you enjoy making your own loving gifts. Get creative, there are no limits.

Happy Holidays!

Giovanna

Foods for Beautiful and Radiant Skin

APL_BeautyPost

What is beauty?

Let's be real, we all want to be beautiful, but what exactly is that?

In my opinion, beauty is not physical. We are each individually beautiful, whether we think so or not.

Beauty comes with being giving, accepting, vibrant, happy, passionate, and kind - because when we practice this, we glow inside and out.

There are many thoughts and circumstances that we go through daily that make us feel not beautiful, and might even suppress our highest potential in life. But there are many things that can help us let go of those negative thoughts and drive us to our most vibrant self.

One thing that makes us beautiful is the food we eat. Believe it or not, radiant skin begins from the inside out. In fact, our skin reflects what is going on internally. Notice when we are stressed, we might have pimples, rashes, dryness, or blemishes pop up in our skin.

We look to buy the perfect cream or serum for our skin to be smooth, but our food plays such an important part of our inner and outer beauty. When we are accepting and loving, we tend to nourish our body with the best foods out there because we know that will only enhance those feelings and actions.

On the contrary, when we feed ourselves nutrient-deficient foods, we don't quite feel that acceptance and happiness. Eating foods that aren't good for us reflects on our skin and body, and as a result, can reflect in our attitude toward ourselves - we're more likely to talk poorly about our image or feel uncomfortable in our own skin.

I'd like to share with some of the best foods for beauty, which just so happen to be nutrient-rich foods, but these in particular will support beautiful and vibrant skin (& hair - bonus!):

  • Leafy greens
  • Avocado
  • Coconut oil
  • Lemon & lime
  • Berries
  • Extra-virgin olive oil & olives
  • Nuts & seeds - best if sprouted (soaked and dried)

Feel free to browse around the blog for tons of recipes with these ingredients such as the Mojito Protein Smoothie, Avocado Garbanzo Bean Salad, and Coconut and Cinnamon Granola. You can also grab a free copy of my 'Beauty Smoothies' ebook on the home page.

If you're in the Bay Area, you can personally come enjoy a wholesome (and beautifying) meal prepared by me at my next brunch event on October 26th.

Get your glow on!

Giovanna

 

Captures of Our First Community Brunch Club

brunchclubpancakes

I'm so excited to say that our first brunch club was a success!  The room was filled with like-minded and inspiring individuals. If I've learned anything in the past 4 years that I've been a nutrition & health educator (and going through my personal health journey), it's that health is so much more than 'what to eat and what not to eat.' It's truly about community and surrounding ourselves with people that are also on the path to optimal health and well-being.

I loved sharing this experience with everyone and opening up the opportunity for people to connect and support one another. The location was amazing as well - 18Reasons, it made the event that much better.

Thank you to everyone that attended, supported, and participated in making this day happen. Below are the beautiful captures of the September brunch club, taken by my lovely friend Erica Bean.

I cannot wait for the next one this month! Stay tuned for the date.

Xo,

Giovanna

How Stress Is Affecting Your Health + My Tips To Reduce Stress

Meatbeach

Stress puts a huge toll on our health and we don't even realize it. Let me explain what happens when we stress. When we are stressed, our brain signals the release of stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Cortisol is the primary "fight or flight" stress hormone that provides us with a rush of energy to help us fight or run away from a dangerous situation. The release of cortisol causes an increase in blood sugar, increase in blood pressure, and weakens the immune and digestive systems. This increase in blood sugar causes insulin to be excreted, which is the hormone that takes sugar from the blood and stores it for later use. In our modern world, our brain identifies most situations as dangerous and/or very stressful. We stress over little things such as having a full email inbox or waiting in traffic. This was not the case hundreds of years ago.

Our body does not differentiate between physical and emotional stress, so it reacts to both by producing more and more cortisol.

When cortisol is elevated for long periods of time, it can lead to chronic health issues such as weight gain (even if you're eating healthy and exercising), diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, Candida, insomnia/sleep issues, IBS, cancer, and increased risk for heart attacks.

Stress also affects our mood, attitude, productivity/focus, language, work, and relationships. It carries on to all areas of our life even if we don't intend it to or don't realize it.

Most people come to me because they want to lose weight and adopt healthier eating habits. I like to start by looking at their stress levels and address that fist if needed, because no matter how healthy we eat, we cannot lose weight if our cortisol levels are constantly high.

Under stress, our body feels like it's being attacked and it holds onto fat to protect itself. Stress = weigh gain.

Here are my top tips for reducing stress:

  • Yoga & Walking – We know that exercise can help lower stress levels. This is true, however, strenuous exercise such as running and biking actually create more stress in the body and have the same effect as mental or emotional stress do. To really melt stress off, take a yoga class or go on a long walk. This type of movement will help keep your cortisol levels low and also help you burn more fat.
  • Deep breathing & meditation – Whenever you feel stressed and overwhelmed, pause and 5-10 some deep breaths. A deep breath consists of inhalation through the nose that fills the belly completely, and then slowly the air is released through the nose as the belly contracts again. As simple as it sounds, this completely calms the body and brain and puts us in a state where we can actually think about our actions and rationalize better.
  • Aromatherapy oils - You can simply smell them, dab them on your neck, burn them, or dab them on your nose. Read labels to make sure it's okay to apply on skin. My favorite blends are from Moonrise Creek Herbal Apothecary: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MoonriseCreek.
  • Get more sleep – Sleep deprivation creates stress in the body. It is important to get a good night sleep to stay healthy.
  • Drink herbal tea – Tea has calming and relaxing components that could help you through times of stress. Make yourself a pot of tea while you work, or better yet, take it outside and enjoy it under the sun.
  • Call a friend or a family member– Sometimes we just need someone to talk to about what we are experiencing. Don’t hesitate to call a friend or a family member before you reach for that sugary drink or food item. Maybe all you need is support or a different perspective on a subject.
  • Journaling – This is a great way to get rid of negative thoughts and patterns that are getting in the way of your success. Write down your thoughts, but also visualize what you want for yourself and connect with 3-5 things that you are grateful for in your life. When we focus on what we are grateful for, we have no space for feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
  • Relax – Plan for relaxation. Whether it’s a day of lounging around your house, going on a family hike, or getting a massage, make sure you make this time for yourself. When we are stressed, we feel like we have no time to relax, but relaxation is what will actually. help .you feel balanced and keep cortisol levels at bay.
  • Stay well nourished (Eat your greens!) – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Food directly affects our mood, thoughts, productivity, and stress levels. It’s common that we crave sweets and fatty foods when stressed because we often relate them to comfort. These foods in particular will actually feed cortisol levels and keep you on a vicious sugar-craving roller coaster. Instead, stay well nourished throughout the day to avoid crazy mood swings and stress eating. Take a look at some of my recipes for meal and snack inspiration.
  • Have a dance party - Probably my favorite one of all so these. Really, just get up and dance when you're stressing at work or at home. My sister and I do this a few times a day and it's the best way to snap out of it. Even if it's only for one song, it's worth it.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. Try a few and see which you like best and you can implement into your daily life.

Xo

Giovanna

 

 

 

 

Probiotics + Sauerkraut Recipe

Sauerkraut featured image

Our digestive tract contains both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are what we call the friendly bacteria, which promote a healthy digestive system and are essential for good health. There are hundreds of types of probiotics. Some of the largest and most common are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These two support colon health and promote healthy bowel movements. Why is this important to know?

Well, the gut is the heart of most health conditions and we don't even know it. A happy gut is one that has a good balance of good and bad bacteria. The average american tends to feed the 'bad bacteria' more than the good. This provides a imbalanced or highly acidic environment in the gut, which comes form sugar, wheat, alcohol, processed foods, high-stress, birth control pills, radiation exposure, over-the-counter medications, and antibiotics.

A bacterial imbalance in the gut results in:

  • Impaired immune system
  • Impaired digestive system
  • Malabsorption of vitamins and minerals from food - vitamin deficiencies
  • Yeast and fungal infections (Candida)
  • Digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea, IBS, Chron's disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Skin issues
  • Fatigue
  • Food allergies

This is why it's crucial to eliminate foods and lifestyle habits that destroy the gut lining, and incorporate more fermented foods that are packed with probiotics to help rebalance the bacteria in the gut. There are also probiotic supplements, but having the real deal (fermented foods) is the best way to get them.

My favorite fermented foods are:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Coconut water kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Coconut yogurt

If you're new to adding probiotics into your diet, start slowly because your body will go into a state of detoxification and you might experiences symptoms such as bloating and possibly skin issues, but you will soon be feeling great and seeing a great difference in digestion and overall health. Then you can move up to having them with every meal (recommended!).

I've been experimenting with making my own ferments at home, and reality is that they're so easy to make and so much more cost effective.

Today I am sharing with you the simplest sauerkraut recipe ever. Hope you enjoy making it!

Ingredients Sauerkraut

1 head purple cabbage, shredded, save outer leaf

1 Tablespoon Sea salt (must be unrefined sea salt)

Procedure

  1. Place the shredded cabbage in a large glass bowl.
  2. Sprinkle with sea salt and massage with hands until wilted and juice covers bottom of the bowl, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Start filling a glass jar by scooping some of the cabbage with it's juice into it with a wooden spoon. Best to use glass or wood because any type of metal will kill off beneficial bacteria. Press down firmly with spoon after each scoop to pack it in tightly. Add remaining cabbage juice to fill jar. Take cabbage leaf that you initially saved, fold, and place at the surface of jar to keep air out and keep cabbage submerged in juice (press down).
  4. Cover jar tightly, making sure no air gets in. Leave on counter and press down on cabbage each day for about 3 days. Taste after 3 days (with wooden spoon). You can ferment it until it reaches your desired taste. Foam and bubbles on the surface are normal and signs of healthy fermentation. When done, cover with a lid and keep in refrigerator.

Enjoy!

Are you new to fermented foods? What are your favorite probiotic-rich foods?