More stories

  • in

    5 Ways to Eat More Vegetables (That Aren’t Just Eating More Salads)

    It’s the topic you’ve pondered since your mom tried to bribe you to eat broccoli when you were a kid: how to eat more vegetables. We all know that spinach, red peppers, and Brussels sprouts are good for us, but what’s a girl to do when spicy vodka pasta exists in the world? The answer: a few easy tips and tricks to sneak more in. Veggies are not just something we try to eat because we’re supposed to but because nutrients in vegetables can help us feel our very best. And feeling our best doesn’t have to mean eating boring salads or entirely transforming our diets. Read on for five easy tips that make eating more veggies a breeze. 

    1. Get your meals delivered
    TBH, the hardest part about eating your veggies is making the decision to. When you’re at the grocery store or planning out recipes for the week, it’s easy to stock up on frozen pizzas or plan for tasty pasta dishes without thinking of fitting in fresh produce. Plus, we all know the produce section can be overwhelming AF (sorry, how many kinds of squashes are there?). The fix: Get your meals delivered. Blue Apron offers wellness options like vegetarian, 600 calories or less, WW-approved, and carb conscious, so you’ll have veggie-loaded dishes that you didn’t have to think about prepping or grocery shopping for delivered to your doorstep. The best part is that you’ll be cooking with a wider variety of veggies that you never would have thought to cook for yourself (I just made a recipe with kohlrabi and shishito peppers for the first time this week, thanks to Blue Apron!). 
    Get 8 free meals and free shipping when you switch to Blue Apron!

    2. Add leafy greens to two meals a day
    You get it at this point: What can’t leafy greens do? Since leafy greens pack a whole lot of health benefits, one of the simplest ways to eat more veggies is to add greens like arugula, spinach, and kale to at least two meals a day. Try making a side salad with dinner or adding it to your smoothie in the AM. If you’re bored with the same old salad or smoothie, there are lots of tricks and tips to incorporate greens into the meals you love. For example, replace a wrap with a collard green or bib lettuce, make a pesto sauce out of kale, or add spinach to your omelet.

    3. Eat the rainbow
    Incorporating reds (tomatoes, apples, red pepper), oranges (sweet potato, butternut squash, tangerines), yellows (spaghetti squash, bananas, corn), greens (leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, zucchini), blues (blueberries, blackberries, blue potatoes), and purples (purple cabbage, eggplant, grapes) is the easiest—and prettiest—way to ensure you’re getting an abundance of phytonutrients and the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. As an easy hack, try to add at least three different colors to each meal or keep in mind each color of the rainbow while grocery shopping.

    4. Try one new food every week
    While having a go-to grocery list is necessary for us busy people (and my other lazy people out there), it doesn’t always set you up for the most inventive meals. Challenge yourself to try one different veggie that you’ve never tried before. Maybe you saw a delicious butternut squash recipe and have never cooked butternut squash, or maybe you saw beets at the grocery store and want to Google how to prepare them. Or perhaps you came across a new leafy green at the farmer’s market that you’ve never tried but want to eat. Trying (or cooking) something new will make your meals more exciting, and having a wider variety of food means a wider variety of nutrients. Plus, you might like something so much that it ends up on your go-to grocery list. 

    5. Add them to sauces, soups, and smoothies
    A truth that will inevitably change your life: You can add vegetables to just about anything you’re going to blend. Even your strawberry banana or peanut butter and chocolate smoothie could get a major upgrade with some spinach or cauliflower without a difference in taste. Beyond just smoothies, you can toss a wide variety of veggies into sauces or soups to not only make them more nutritious but also to make them more flavorful or creamy. A butternut squash soup tastes decadent even without cream, and arugula adds a peppery element to cauliflower or broccoli soup. For sauces, add spinach, kale, broccoli, or even beets to pesto, purée carrots or red bell peppers and add them to a marinara sauce, or make a creamy sauce a little healthier by including cauliflower or hearts of palm.

    Health Experts Share Their Favorite Salad Recipe

    This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Blue Apron, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board. More

  • in

    Is a Pre-Workout Supplement Actually Necessary? We Asked the Experts

    So the last thing you want to do after a long day is work out. The supplement industry knows that. Pre-workout supplements are no longer reserved for bodybuilders or professional athletes; just a quick scroll through “What I Eat in a Day” videos on TikTok or the #fitspo hashtag on Instagram might be enough to make you feel like you’re missing out on a workout staple. But what’s really in all those powders and drinks, and do they really make a difference? Honestly, I have no clue, so I did what any good wellness editor would and went to the experts. If you’ve ever been confused about the endless world of supplements or asked yourself if a lack of a pre-workout drink is the reason you’re not seeing results, this one’s for you. Read on for my deep dive into pre-workout supplements and find out what the experts have to say.

    In this article

    What is a pre-workout supplement?
    While there are hundreds of brands and types of products intended to be consumed before a workout, it turns out most of them share the same basic ingredients intended to benefit energy, endurance, or results. “Pre-workout supplements often contain ingredients like amino acids, vitamin B, caffeine, and creatine,” explained Dr. Eva Gamallo RMT, MD, a medical consultant for Sensible Digs. In summary, the purpose is to maximize the time you spend at the gym by increasing benefits and results. “Pre-workouts are a combination of biochemically active products designed to improve energy, focus, blood flow, and energy to muscles and enhance recovery potential,” explained Dr. Shaffer Mok MD, a gastroenterologist and medical adviser to Sovereign Laboratories. Many people take them purely for energy (especially early-morning gym-goers), while weight-lifters and marathon-trainers take them to speed progress. So can a powder or liquid shot really help us reach our fitness goals?

    Does taking a supplement before a workout really make a difference?
    The short answer: maybe, maybe not. While there are many studies that conclude that individual ingredients commonly used in pre-workout supplements might increase performance (for example, caffeine has been shown to potentially increase speed and power output), there’s not enough research on the supplements themselves, so athletes, trainers, and doctors are left to their own personal experience and research. “There is still limited data on how these common ingredients may benefit athletic performance, so there’s an ongoing debate among experts (about) whether or not they actually make a difference. Some advocates swear they improve energy and have fitness benefits, while others believe in dangerous effects of taking these supplements,” Dr. Gamallo explained.

    What are the potential harms?
    If I haven’t already stated this enough, here’s a quick reminder: With any vitamin or supplement, it’s important to do your own research and talk to your doctor before trying for yourself. Here’s the reason why: Many experts I spoke to believe many of these products could have potentially harmful ingredients. “These dietary supplements are not always closely regulated, and many contain artificial sweeteners,” Dr. Gamallo said. Dr. Mok agreed, pointing out that even if a product doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, an unnatural or excessive dose of common “good” ingredients can have a negative effect. “Be wary of high doses of caffeine in unnatural sources, as it can significantly alter your sleep (at any time of day), which is the most critical part of any exercise regimen.” 
    Plus, pre-workout supplements were intended for major athletes or serious marathon runners. Not to undermine your workouts (trust me, a hot yoga class or HIIT session is tough as hell), but if you’re not routinely pushing your body to the point of exhaustion or working out for a couple of hours every day, you probably don’t need a pre-workout supplement and may not even notice a difference, since a healthy body should give you all the endurance and energy it needs for a standard workout sesh. “If you’re a recreational exerciser and are just working out to stay in shape, you probably don’t need a pre-workout,” said Ashlee Van Buskirk BSN, a personal trainer, health coach, and founder of Whole Intent. 

    The verdict
    Some experts I talked to add a scoop of powder (like Vital Proteins) to their water before a workout and feel a difference in energy levels, endurance, or speed, but most declared pre-workout supplements are unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. To determine what’s right for you, talk to your doctor and experiment to find what’s best for you. “A lot of training is psychological,” said Jake Harcoff MS, CSCS, TSAC-f, CISSN, head coach, and owner of AIM Athletic. “If pre-workout use helps you get in the gym more consistently, feels good for you, and is something you’ve discussed with your doctor, it might be worth sticking with.”
    The point that I believe is most important is that a healthy body shouldn’t really need a pre-workout supplement. If you’re lacking energy or feel like you can’t challenge yourself during workouts, a supplement is not the answer. “The key is understanding your body,” said Serena Poon, a celebrity nutritionist and wellness entrepreneur. “A lack of energy during workouts could be caused by an array of factors and may not be something that can be fixed with supplements.” In other words, if your workouts are lacking, look into your overall diet, sleep quality, vitamin levels, gut health, recovery days, and stress levels before opting for a pre-workout supplement.
    Still swear by your pre-workout mix or dying to try the new supplement your favorite fitness influencer posted about? You know what to do: Talk to your doctor. Dr. Jaydeep Tripathy, a primary care doctor at Doctor Spring, explained that he doesn’t personally recommend pre-workout supplements to patients, but if a patient wants to try a product, they’ll take a look at the ingredients together to decide if its right. “I explain each ingredient and the possible implications, and then let them decide on their own if they want to continue using it (with precaution, of course).”

    More options to boost your workout beforehand
    While experts disagree on pre-workout supplements and not enough research has been done to either fully support or discourage them, there is something every expert can agree on: the benefits of real, whole foods. “In my opinion, the best way to attain the benefits of pre-workout supplements is by eating a nutritious and balanced diet with the same active ingredients found in supplements.” Dr. Gamallo said. Try pregaming workouts with whole foods that contain the same ingredients supplements offer, like coffee and tea, which contain caffeine to increase energy and alertness during exercise, or watermelon, which contains L-citrulline, an amino acid commonly used in pre-workout supplements that increases blood flow in tissues for better muscle performance.
    Likewise, Dr. Tripathy recommended water (duh!) because staying hydrated will help with recovery, and natural drinks like coconut water can help replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Poon also said to never underestimate the power that good ol’ fashion carbohydrates can bring to your workout. “Carbohydrates store in your body as glycogen, which is your main power source for exercise,” she explained. “Eating a small meal that contains carbohydrates, such as a piece of whole-grain peanut butter toast or a banana can help boost your energy for your workout.” Bottom line: Sure, pre-workout can be super beneficial in getting the most out of that gym time, but it doesn’t have to be from a supplement. 

    How to Actually Get the Most out of Your Workout, According to a Fitness Trainer

    10 Things to Do Before + After to Maximize a Workout More

  • in

    We Asked Experts if Aphrodisiacs Actually Work

    “How can I improve my sex drive?” is the question heard around the world and frequented on Google searches. One of the most common answers is, of course, the mystical “aphrodisiac.” It’s like we’re all having sex life FOMO, thinking there’s some pill we can take or food we can eat to achieve that “mind-blowing sex” we all hear so much about. As a nutrition nerd myself, I have a lot of questions about whether or not food can truly boost libido—basically, I want to know if we should be buying oysters and dark chocolate in bulk. Since there’s so much controversy over the topic, I grilled sex and nutrition experts to find out what aphrodisiacs really are and if they work. Spoiler alert: The answer might surprise you. And on that cliff hanger, read on for my deep dive into aphrodisiacs and a few key takeaways that can help you improve your sex drive. 

    What really are “aphrodisiacs?”
    So you’ve heard the word before, but who came up with the idea that food can help you have more (and better) sex? Turns out, aphrodisiacs have a long history and are certainly nothing new. Herbs and spices (like basil, mint, and cinnamon) were used in ancient and medieval times as “love potions,” and legend has it that Aztec ruler Montezuma II drank more than 50 cups of chocolate before “entertaining a woman” (sign me up for the chocolate—no entertaining necessary!). Plus, the word itself comes from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Many cultures around the world have a long history of using foods and concoctions to enhance sexual desire.
    Beyond the ancient legends, aphrodisiacs have been talked about in recent history as a supplement or food that can help boost desire, drive, or pleasure. “Aphrodisiacs refer to substances such as food, drinks, drugs, or medications we put into our bodies with the goal of facilitating sexual arousal and desire,” explained Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at The Kinsey Institute. Aphrodisiacs have been used to describe foods that are pleasurable and therefore stimulate other pleasure in the body (like chocolate), ingredients that ignite the senses (like spices and herbs), or foods that are said to contain nutrients that actually spark or increase arousal (like oysters). So is there any truth to the ideology that’s been around for thousands of years?

    Source: We Vibe | Unsplash

    Do aphrodisiacs work?
    The short answer: maybe, maybe not. Of the experts I talked to, most agreed that there is not enough evidence to back up the fact that figs can turn you on or strawberries can help you have a better orgasm (sorry room service, but we’ll still take the champagne!). “There is little scientific research to support that aphrodisiacs benefit an individual’s sex life,” said Dr. Azza Halim, a board-certified anesthesiologist and physician. “There’s a lot of debate about whether aphrodisiacs actually work as intended,” Lehmiller agreed. “The evidence is scarce and more research is needed. The data we have suggests that some aphrodisiacs don’t work at all, others do, and others only work due to placebo effect.” In other words, stay tuned. More research needs to be done on if foods can have a libido-boosting effect, and the research so far is not enough to confirm or deny. 
    But what I found really interesting was that many experts focused not only on if aphrodisiacs work but also why we’re looking to aphrodisiacs in the first place. After all, libido is a vital sign—a low sex drive could be the body’s way of communicating that it needs something. Therefore, the question is not just how can we improve our sex drive, but why is our sex drive lacking in the first place? Dr. Halim recommends always speaking to a medical professional if you’re experiencing low sex drive, since it can be caused by a multitude of factors like medications, poor body image, hormonal changes, and stress.
    “Several aspects of a woman’s life may have an impact on her sexual desire,” agreed Dr. Tara Thompson PharmD, a pharmacist, medical advisor, and sexual health educator. “Menstrual cycles, hormonal contraception, breastfeeding, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal states can send the libido packing. Lifestyle changes, psychological difficulties, relationship problems, and switching or discontinuing medications may also keep sexual feelings at bay.” Sure, the idea of aphrodisiacs sounds sexy and alluring, but think about it: We shouldn’t need to improve our sex drive if it’s healthy in the first place. “Aphrodisiacs are not a quick fix or instant solution to low sex drive,” confirmed Lovneet Batra, a celebrity nutritionist and author. Bottom line: We don’t know much about whether or not foods can truly boost desire, arousal, and pleasure, but we do know that low levels or lack of desire, arousal, and pleasure should be treated at the root rather than opting for a “boost.”
    So with the lack of research around aphrodisiacs and the focus of treating the root cause of a low libido, it may not be the best idea to buy asparagus or cinnamon in the name of having an orgasm. However, experts agree that there are lessons we can take from aphrodisiacs that can help you make the most of and tap into the sex drive you already have (after you talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing low libido, of course). Below are some of the things I learned from talking to experts about aphrodisiacs that might actually help your sex life. 

    Source: Christina Rumpf | Unsplash

    5 ways to make “aphrodisiacs” work for you:

    1. Personalize and define your own aphrodisiacs
    We can redefine the word to be less about “oysters contain zinc which boosts blood flow to genitalia” or “chocolate turns on pleasure signals in the brain” as we’ve typically talked about aphrodisiacs and turn it into what makes you turned on instead. Sex doesn’t always have to be so scientific—it can be (and should be) as simple as what feels good to you. “Aphrodisiacs can be less generalized and more customized to the individual, based on their past experiences and psychology,” suggested Dr. Jared Heathman MD, a Houston-based psychiatrist. “A meal prepared like the food at someone’s wedding reception can stimulate subconscious thoughts and emotions that put someone in a pleasurable mood.”
    Think about what tastes and scents are pleasurable to you or spark a pleasurable memory. Maybe a glass of red wine tastes (and smells!) decadent, or a tropical fruit like papaya and mango remind you of that steamy vacay you took with your significant other when you were first dating. Basically, use your senses more regularly and indulge in the things that bring you pleasure, and your sex life will follow suit. 

    2. Eat an overall healthy diet for a healthy libido
    So here’s the good news if aphrodisiacs are still alluring to you: It can’t hurt to incorporate foods considered “aphrodisiacs” like pomegranates, dark chocolate, watermelon, and artichokes into your diet. Whether or not they boost sex drive, they’re still good for you. But technically, any whole foods like fruits and veggies can be good for the libido since a healthy libido is a sign of a healthy body. “Any food that increases your health in general can help with sex drive,” explained Dr. Carol Queen PhD, Staff Sexologist at Good Vibrations. “Your diet plays a large role in your sex drive,” agreed Heather Hanks MS, a nutritionist based in Michigan. “Eating a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods (such as fruits and vegetables) can help regulate hormones and reduce inflammatory symptoms and conditions that may reduce sex drive.” In the end, any foods that are good for you are good for your libido too. 

    3. Focus on the nutrients
    Another interesting thing I learned is that oysters or chocolate are not magical foods put on this earth to make you horny (sorry ’bout it!). Instead, certain foods are considered aphrodisiacs only because of the vitamins and nutrients they contain. “Honey is known as an aphrodisiac because of its high content of vitamin B, which is essential for the secretion of testosterone. Oysters are a clichéd aphrodisiac because they contain zinc, which is necessary for the production of testosterone in men and prolactin in women,” explained Candela Valle, resident nutritionist for MYHIXEL. 
    “Bananas have a high level of B-vitamins and potassium, and pomegranate is rich in Omega-5s and antioxidants that are good for hormonal balance,” Batra added. Why does this matter for your libido? Because knowing that it’s the nutrients rather than just magical superfoods tell us that an overall healthy diet with a variety of fruits and veggies will give you the needed amount of antioxidants and nutrients to keep your sex drive healthy. The “aphrodisiac effect” actually comes from healthy levels of vitamins and minerals, not from specific foods. If you’re lacking or deficient in any of these, talk to your doctor about supplementing or changing up your diet rather than loading up on one food. 

    Source: Charisse Kenion | Unsplash

    4. Be aware of the power of the mind
    Let me rant about the concept of the “placebo effect” for a sec. “Placebo” has gotten a bad rep these days. We use the word when referring to being tricked into shelling out $$$ on trendy wellness supplements, to define the “sugar pill weeks” in a birth control pack, and to explain why we feel better after only one Advil (everybody knows taking one Advil is like having just one bite of cake: It does nothing). We also use it when questioning if aphrodisiacs truly work or if they’re “just placebo.” But I don’t see placebo as meaning failure; it’s actually proof of how powerful the mind is. In other words, if you eat spicy food and have passionate sex afterwards, does it really matter if it’s physical or psychological? To be frank, what matters is that you had passionate sex. 
    “The power of belief is strong, so if you take something you think is an aphrodisiac and you believe it will affect you a certain way, it just might.” Dr. Lehmiller agreed. Essentially, if you something (whether it’s a food, outfit, or playlist) makes you feel more sensual, who cares why? I say screw the science and lean into whatever makes you feel good. 

    5. Be intentional about habits and rituals (they can have an “aphrodisiac” effect too!)
    It’s time we stop defining “aphrodisiacs” as just food and supplements and instead start looking at how habits and rituals can increase our sex drive too. “Certain healthy habits can not only affect your mood, but can also be advantageous to regulate sexual activity,” Valle said. In short, anything that makes you feel happy and good is also doing something for your sex life. For example, regular exercise, actively managing stress, getting regular check-ups with your doctor, and prioritizing self-care are all habits we know can improve libido, simply because they work to treat or prevent common causes of low libido like stress, feeling disconnected from relationships, or chronic symptoms in the body.
    I’ve learned a lot from the many different opinions from various experts, and I think the bottom line is this: A healthy sex life is actually not a mysterious legend we constantly have to be searching for. It’s truly as simple as taking care of our bodies and leaning into what feels good for each of us. Whether or not dark chocolate and red wine are part of that is completely up to you. More

  • in

    7 Hacks That Have Transformed My Cooking Routine

    I’m a firm believer that when it comes to cooking, you either love it or loathe it, and that’ll never change. For most of my life, my feet were firmly planted on the side of hating cooking—that is, until I started relying on cooking hacks that would easily transform raw ingredients to a meal on a plate.
    Unless I’m cooking with friends or family, 99 percent of the time, I want to get it over with as quickly and efficiently as possible. I envy people who enjoy chopping and grating and treat cooking like the ultimate form of self-care—I’m just not one of them. So instead of forcing myself to be, I use a few go-to tricks to make homemade meals in a way that doesn’t make me feel like it took all day.
    Ready to transform your cooking skills? These are some hacks I use in the kitchen that have transformed my cooking experience from dreaded to enjoyable.

    1. I treat myself to Blue Apron

    One of my biggest issues with cooking used to be that I would eat the same five or so meals over and over again. Even if they’re five meals I really like, it quickly gets boring and makes the cooking process feel redundant. To curb kitchen boredom, I’ve turned to Blue Apron to push me out of my comfort zone and introduce me to new, delicious meals.
    With up to 35 meal options available each week, there’s something for everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions or taste preferences. If there’s something about the recipe you don’t like or can’t have, you can add, swap, or upgrade your ingredients to make it perfect for you.

    My favorite part of Blue Apron is how much it’s made me look forward to cooking. The parts I don’t like (last-minute grocery store runs and searching the aisles for hard-to-find, expensive sauces I might not ever use again) are already done for me , and I can truly look forward to having a well-made, delicious meal that I can make in my own kitchen. None of them are too difficult or time consuming, since most of the recipes can be prepared in under 35 minutes. If I’m busy or out of town, Blue Apron is flexible and allows me to skip weeks or change my plan with zero hassle. Blue Apron’s meals have taught me to enjoy the process of cooking, and it spices up my weekly meal without takeout or delivery fees.
    Get 10 free meals and free shipping when you switch to Blue Apron!

    2. I turn to my air fryer to do the heavy-lifting

    There’s nothing that I use in my kitchen more than my air fryer. I’ve always been a bit weird about meat, and while I’ll eat it, I absolutely hate preparing it. With my air fryer, I can season my meats and veggies however I want. Then I toss it in, and it does everything for me, leaving me with the perfect crispy-but-tender results every single time. From homemade french fries to baked oats, my air fryer makes delicious foods like a little chef who lives in my kitchen and makes everything just a bit better than I can. 

    Compact Air Fryer
    I have a small kitchen, and this is the air fryer I bought to save space. I absolutely love it and find that despite it’s smaller size, it does the job just as well as my parent’s larger, full-size one. I’ve recommended this to just about everyone who will listen.

    3. I freeze my herbs

    It took way too long to realize that the reason my cooking was so underwhelming was because I wasn’t using enough spices and herbs to give it flavor. To solve this problem, I started growing a few of my own—basil, mint, and cilantro—on the windowsill in my apartment to always have access to a few fresh ones. To make sure none of my precious harvest ever goes to waste, I regularly trim them and keep what I’m not using in Ziploc bags in my freezer. That way, I always have them ready to add to soups, sauces, and smoothies—no trip to the grocery store necessary, and no waste in sight. 

    4. I pay attention to the order I measure ingredients in

    One of the least beloved parts of cooking is obviously the cleanup process. I used to measure my ingredients any which way, but now, I pay close attention to the order so cleaning up isn’t so tedious. 
    When I’m using wet and dry ingredients, I measure the dry first to make sure I’m not putting dry ingredients into an already-wet measuring cup where they’ll be sure to stick. If I’m using any sticky ingredients (like honey or agave), I’ll measure the oily ones first, which helps the sticky ones slide right out when it’s time to wash dishes.

    5. I prep sauces and dressings in bulk

    While I’m not opposed to using pre-made dressings and sauces, I usually like knowing what’s going into mine to avoid any unnecessary additives. I often turn to a few easy, go-to combos—like mayo and sriracha or olive oil and lemon juice—to top off my meals.
    It isn’t difficult to reach for a couple of different bottles, but when you’re doing it every day, it can add to the headache of cooking. For sauces and dressings I use multiple times a day, I’ve started making them in bulk and keeping them in glass jars in the fridge to speed up the process. I’ve noticed that when I’m hurrying to throw together a meal during my lunch break or at night before a workout, this little change makes all the difference.

    6. I shortcut halving produce

    Cutting produce like cherry tomatoes or small potatoes can feel tedious, so when I do need to do it, I place them between two plates, then hold the top one down and slice through the middle. It makes the entire halving process take less than 10 seconds, and anything that speeds up chopping is an immediate yes from me.

    7. I pre-prep smoothie ingredients

    I drink a smoothie almost every day, most of them a mix of both fresh and frozen ingredients. Rather than pulling them all out every day, at the start of each week, I throw single-portion ingredients into plastic baggies (which I keep to re-use every week) and put them in the freezer. Then when it’s time to make my morning smoothie, all I have to do is grab the baggie and put the ingredients in my blender with some almond milk, and I’m good to go. 

    An Editor Shares the 6 Easiest Meals She Makes on Repeat

    This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Blue Apron, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board. More

  • in

    13 Health Experts Share Their Favorite Salad Recipe

    You might hear “salad recipes” and think of dull greens and boring veggies. But this roundup is not about lackluster healthy food. No, this article is for those who don’t particularly like salads, who don’t believe anything healthy can also be delicious, and who are struggling to keep up with a healthy diet. You see, the true experts know that the key to staying healthy is not to force yourself to eat the same dull foods like chicken and broccoli or—you guessed it—a plain salad.
    The actual key to sticking to a healthy lifestyle is to turn good-for-you foods into delicious meals that you’ll crave all the time (read: “Salad Pizza”). I quizzed some of my favorite nutritionists, doctors, and all-around wellness gurus for the salads that not only pack a nutritional punch but are also so good that they can’t get enough. Read on for some much-needed salad inspo. Your meals are about to get so much more green.

    1. McKel Kooienga, MS, RD, LDN, Author and Founder of Nutrition Stripped

    “My favorite go-to salad is my Eggs, Beans, and Greens Salad Bowl. Salads can easily be unsatisfying or leave you hungry. This salad uses my Foundational Five system for creating a balanced meal, ensuring you’re consuming the nutrients you need to support digestion, steady energy, sound sleep, clear focus, and long-term health. What I really love about this salad (aside from how easy it is to make) is the homemade dressing, which brings it all together in a really flavorful way. Get the full recipe here.” 

    2. Berrion Berry, Period Educator, Practitioner, and Founder of The Flo Academy

    “I’m obsessed with Caesar salads, but they’re not always the most nutrient dense, so I’ve jazzed it up to be a lot more Flo-friendly and liver-loving. Instead of a traditional romaine for the base, I like to use kale (hot tip: massage the kale to make it easier for digestion). Swap the croutons for roasted chickpeas, add nutritional yeast for cheese, and top with your dressing. I like a dairy-free caesar dressing made with Dijon mustard, lemon, water, and tahini. Mix it all together and it’s the best of both worlds: classic but packed with nutrients.
    You can also do a lot with a Caesar salad to make it your own. For example, I have recently been adding Loona Seeds (which are perfect for seed cycling) and it’s taken my salads to the next level. Click here for the full recipe.”

    3. Dr. Mona Vand, Pharmacist and Digital Creator

    “Whether you’re fully plant-based or not, getting in your raw greens just does the body (and skin) good. I have a sour palate because I grew up eating Persian food, which includes a lot of lemon, lime, and sour flavor. So this salad has a salty and sour taste–it’s so yummy! Find the full recipe here and my favorite salad dressing here.”

    4. Dr. Alejandro Junger MD, Cardiologist and Best-Selling Author

    “The Superfood Rainbow Salad is perfect for summer! It uses a rainbow of colors and is so fresh. Try this salad on its own, or pair with your favorite protein. For the full recipe, click here.”

    5. DJ Blatner, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and NOW Wellness Expert

    “My favorite salad is a salad pizza with lemon-flax vinaigrette dressing. This super summery salad pizza is made with thin raw zucchini, arugula, tomato, fresh basil, and ricotta cheese and topped with lemon-flax dressing for a dose of healthy vegetarian omega-3 fats. Whatever salad doesn’t fit on the pizza, I eat on-the-side. For the full recipe, click here.”

    “This refreshing Cucumber and Hijiki Salad is a delicious alternative to the traditional seaweed salad. It contains hijiki, which is black seaweed that is used in many Japanese soups and salads. Hijiki is revered in Japan as a food that enhances beauty and adds strength and shine to your hair. It’s the most mineral-dense of all seaweeds, and the highest in iron and calcium. I love this salad because it’s easy to make, highly nutritious, and has the most yummy crunch. You can make it with dried hijiki, one large cucumber, half a red bell pepper, and green onions. Combine rice vinegar, soy sauce, finely minced ginger, olive oil, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and salt and pepper for the dressing, and enjoy!”

    7. Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN, Health Coach and Founder of BZ Nutrition

    Source: The Infatuation
    “My favorite salad is the Insalata Verde from Via Carota in the West Village, NYC. It’s such a simple green salad, and yet, it is so flavorful and filling. I always aim to have 2-3 cups of green veggies (raw or cooked), so this salad does the trick, and it is packed with filling fiber to keep me satiated. The variety of greens contain extra hydration (especially for hot summer days) and are a great source of folate for any mommas-to-be. Thanks to this NY Times recipe, I can recreate the salad at home.”

    “This Crispy Buffalo Chicken Salad combines a few of my favorite things: buffalo sauce, fresh veggies, and cilantro ranch. I love this salad because not only does it feature some of my favorite flavors, but the air fryer chicken nuggets add the protein content that takes this salad to the next level. Salads that keep you full for a few minutes are a thing of the past: with the protein from the chicken nuggets, the healthy fats from the avocado, and the fiber from all of these delicious vegetables, this salad will have you feeling fueled up and energized for hours.
    To make, toss air fryer chicken nuggets with buffalo sauce, and then combine chopped romaine, cabbage, carrots, diced celery, and avocado. For a dressing, pulse together Bolthouse Farms Ranch Dressing and cilantro into a food processor until well-combined.”

    9. Maya Feller MS, RD, CDN, and Cookbook Author

    “I love this salad because the pairing of sweet, sour, and tangy flavors of in-season ripe tomatoes with peach and strawberry is just perfection. It’s also quick and easy to prepare, and bursting with nutrients. Find the full recipe in my book, The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook: Over 100 Recipes for a Healthy Life.”

    10. Dr. Steven Gundry MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon and Best-Selling Author

    “A Green Mango Lectin-Free Salad is so fresh and tangy, and has a delicious vegan salad dressing. Once you make this salad, you’ll never go back to boring old lettuce and ranch dressing again. For the full recipe, click here.”

    11. Megan Roosevelt, RDN and Founder of HealthyGroceryGirl

    “Caesar salad is one of my favorite salads, thanks to the the crunchy romaine and flavorful dressing. My go-to recipe has a delicious brazil nut dairy-free parmesan and a creamy egg-free Caesar dressing. Click here to check out the recipe!”

    12. Dr. Poonam Desai

    “I love what I call a ‘balanced’ salad, which includes veggies, protein, carbs, herbs, and even fruits. I do about 8-12 veggies (kale, spinach, onions, sugar snap peas, radishes, fennel, celery, carrots, beets, broccoli, tomatoes, avocados, etc.), a protein (chickpeas, lentils, bulgar wheat, tofu, etc.), carbs (like sweet potatoes or quinoa), herbs (dill, parsley, mint, basil, etc.), seeds and nuts (pumpkin, sunflower, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds), and fruit (strawberries, dried cranberries, oranges). Many store-bought dressings have added sugar, artificial flavors, and preservatives, so I like to make my own. My go-to dressing is simple: apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, a dash of celtic sea salt, and a little black pepper.”

    “This Warm Salmon Citrus Salad is one of my absolute favorites because hits all three of my salad criteria: balanced nutrition, full of hearty textures, and packed with flavor. It’s a great balance of proteins, fiber, and leafy greens. You get high-quality protein from both the salmon and edamame to keep you full and satisfied for hours, and, once you cook the salmon, the salad comes together really quickly. It’s also versatile enough for those who are vegan, too: swap in tofu using the same marinade or take it out completely since the edamame has enough plant-based protein. For the full recipe, click here.” More

  • in

    I’m Dairy Free—Here Are the Delicious Alternatives I Swear By

    Several years ago, it would’ve been a cold day in hell before I gave up my beloved bagels and cream cheese, Alfredo sauce, and grilled cheese sandwiches. I had suspected dairy to be the cause of my digestive woes for some time, but it wasn’t until after becoming immediately sick from a single bite of milk and cereal that I decided to get tested for an allergy. Sadly, my suspicions were right—my body had other plans for me—and I could no longer ignore what had been staring me in the face for months: I’m allergic to dairy. Luckily, we live in a world where dairy alternatives are aplenty.
    Immediately after receiving the official news, I dove headfirst into research. I was shocked to learn that not only was there a world of options at my fingertips, several of the dairy alternatives didn’t just taste the same as my tried-and-true—some tasted even better.
    If you have a dairy allergy, are lactose intolerant, or simply want to swap your dairy staples for some ever-so-slightly healthier options, here are some products I love and wholeheartedly recommend. And if you haven’t seen these exact products at your grocery store of choice, I encourage you to take a closer look on your next trip. You may just find they’ve had their own dairy substitutes all along.

    1. Simple Truth Organic Plant Based Sour Cream

    Sour cream was the first thing on my list to find a suitable substitute for. Chipotle-style burrito bowls are a staple recipe of mine, and I would’ve been absolutely devastated if I had to give them up. To my surprise, this Simple Truth Organic Plant-Based Sour Cream was hiding right next to the Daisy and Knudsen brands at my nearest Ralphs; I’d just never needed to look for it. While it doesn’t have quite the same consistency as the kind you’re probably used to, the difference in taste is pretty much indiscernible. 

    2. The Honest Stand Nacho Plant Based Dip

    I had pretty much given up all hope of having a good plate of nachos ever again (vegan cheese just doesn’t melt the same), but this spicy nacho cheese dip is a real game changer. Maybe I just can’t remember exactly what real nacho cheese tastes like, but to me, this truly tastes the same.
    3. Primal Kitchen Avocado Alfredo Sauce

    I have been loyal to Alfredo sauce since I was a kid making Pasta Roni for myself several nights a week (I thought it was cool that I cooked). Even after I grew out of Pasta Roni, I made pasta with Alfredo sauce all the time. Needless to say, losing Alfredo was a shock to my system. 
    I’ve tried switching to marinara (but I don’t love it), homemade varieties (the taste is never right), and foregoing sauce altogether in favor of olive oil (fine, but boring). When I saw the Primal Kitchen Alfredo Sauce on the shelf at Whole Foods, I knew I had to try it, even though it costs $8 a jar. It’s not a perfect substitute (it’s lighter, less creamy), but it is very good. While I hate the price point, I find myself buying two or three of these every time I go to the store. I use it with pasta or Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi (a favorite of mine) whenever I want a tasty, easy, and quick meal.
    4. Kite Hill Cream Cheese

    I know I’ve described every dairy loss as a heartbreak like none I’ve ever felt before, but bagels were another regular dairy-centric part of my routine. I was extremely determined to prevent them from completely disappearing from my life, so I tried every cream cheese alternative I could get my hands on. The Kite Hill options are really the best; they certainly do the trick whenever I’m in the mood for bagels (which is often).

    5. Daiya Provolone Style Slices

    I’m seriously underwhelmed by the vegan cheese offerings of the world. They’re fine, they work, but they’ll never be a like-for-like substitute. I use Daiya shreds as a topping for my burrito bowls (though I’ll get whatever vegan shreds are available at the store I happen to be shopping at), but I found the Daiya slices to be a great option for dairy-free grilled cheese sandwiches. When cooked in a pan on the stove, the cheese actually melts really well. 

    6. Country Crock Olive Oil Butter

    Every time I have to remind my grandma of my allergy, she says, without fail, “so, you can’t have butter?” To her, it’s the end of the world. I’ve explained countless times that right next to her favorite tub of butter at the grocery store is usually a dairy-free alternative. I use the Country Crock avocado or olive oil butter and they’re perfect for all of my cooking needs. But honestly, a spread on some toast? I’d pass on this and make an avocado spread instead.

    7. Silk Almond Dairy-Free Yogurt

    At this point, I don’t know why I’m surprised to find dairy-free products hiding amongst your everyday grocery items. But when I found the Silk Almond Yogurt, I was so excited to try it, I threw caution to the wind and immediately bought five. I used to have yogurt, granola, and fruit in my breakfast rotation, and this option from Silk was the perfect way to bring it back. More

  • in

    5 Ways I Get Excited To Cook When I Really Don’t Feel Like It

    So you like cooking. Maybe you even like it enough to read about cooking tips (like this article) or at least don’t hate it enough to allot a medium-sized fortune into your UberEats budget. But after a year when going out to eat was nonexistent, sourdough bread recipes were a bigger part of your life than pants with a zipper, and to-do lists get longer and longer by the day, you might be battling a twinge of cooking fatigue. If “cooking fatigue” was in Webster’s Dictionary, it would likely be defined as “cooking so freaking often that you are bored, tired, and so over it.” While I can’t speak for Martha Stewart or Ina Garten, I can confidently say that we’ve all wanted to break up with our kitchens at one point or another.
    But cooking does not have to be a chore. In fact, cooking should feel–dare I say–fun. This might be the most unrelatable thing about me, but I rarely get tired of cooking. Like I purposefully don’t meal prep so that I have to take a full lunch break to cook an entire meal because that is the happiest moment in my day #HumbleBrag. But I didn’t just pop out of the womb with a frying pan and a spatula excited to cook (yeah, I also hated that imagery); there are a few key strategies I use so that cooking always feels exciting, fun, and stress-free. How, you ask? Read on for five secrets that help me stay excited to cook. 

    1. Utilizing meal delivery kits

    When you’re finding the recipes, making the grocery lists, going to the grocery store, and prepping the ingredients, of course you’re going to get exhausted. One of my secrets to keep cooking interesting is that I love to order from Blue Apron. That’s right: even people who love to cook can utilize a meal delivery service too. Not only does a Blue Apron box at the door give you a (much-needed) break from grocery shopping and meal prepping, but their delicious and inventive recipes serve as some major cooking inspo.

    They offer recipes and cuisines that you might not ever think to make for yourself, and you will be shocked when you find out how easy they are to cook IRL. Bonus: Blue Apron offers wellness options like vegetarian, WW-approved, etc., so you’ll feel good about what you’re eating too. Trust me: order a box today, and you might find your new favorite go-to recipe (without the hassle and time-suck of cooking on your own). 
    New customers: click here to get $80 off across your first four boxes!

    2. Reading cookbooks

    Maybe you get your meal inspo from screen-shotting Instagram accounts, or maybe you go off of TikTok trends to spice up your cooking (feta pasta, you have my heart). While I love social media for inspiration, I attribute my unwavering love for cooking to reading cookbooks. That’s right: those old-fashioned things your mom keeps on a shelf are not just meant to be gifted when you need a classy housewarming present; they can be a useful tool to make cooking more exciting. While other people are reading a thriller or romance novel, I’m devouring a cookbook (yes, that does mean reading front-to-back). Feeling immersed in a cuisine and learning everything the chef, author, or nutritionist offers about their meals makes me so much more excited to cook them. Bottom line: reading a cookbook turns cooking from a chore into a learning experience. Not sure where to begin? Here are my favorites. 

    3. Trying one new food every week

    Stuck in a food rut? Get out of it by trying a new star ingredient. While we typically stick to the same grocery lists and the same sections of the store, getting out of your comfort zone at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods doesn’t have to be difficult and can spark creativity in the kitchen. When I go to the grocery store, I challenge myself to pick up one new fruit or vegetable that I’ve either never tried before (looking at you, Japanese sweet potatoes) or have never cooked before (example: I love a good beet salad at a restaurant, but have never cooked with beets). Sometimes this requires a little bit of research (googling “how to roast beets” or “Japanese sweet potato recipes” typically does the trick), but it is a little hack that has prevented cooking from ever feeling routine. Plus, I’m getting a wider variety of nutrients by exploring a wider variety of produce.

    4. Experimenting with new tools

    Since changing up what I’m cooking helps keep it exciting, I thought it might be time to update how I’m cooking. Whether it’s an air fryer, spiralizer, or poached egg maker, there’s a wide variety of affordable, easy appliances and tools that can transform lean proteins and healthy veggies into meals you could have never imagined to be as healthy as they are. Low key, the air fryer completely changed my life, and a salad chopper somehow turns boring salads into drool-worthy creations. The truth is that healthy cooking is easy when you have a kitchen full of tools to help you do it. Simultaneously make healthy cooking easier and challenge yourself to get creative by not only changing up what you cook, but the way you cook it. For some products to try, click here. 

    5. Perfecting a couple of easy recipes I love

    Yes, getting excited about cooking is all about trying new things, but it’s also about knowing when to pull out your old-faithfuls. One of the main reasons I still love cooking so much (after doing it on a nightly basis) is because even my go-to recipes don’t feel boring or repetitive. For example, I will never get tired of cooking (or eating!) pasta. I love the experience of boiling water, chopping up garlic, and letting a simple tomato sauce cook on the stove while the spaghetti boils.
    Plus, I can make it with any pasta shape or switch up the sauce with a few easy swaps. It’s simple and easy for the days where I don’t have time (and energy) to revert to my cookbooks or experiment with something new, but it feels comforting rather than boring. Don’t settle for mundane frozen food or a basic recipe you don’t even enjoy, even on your busiest days. Instead, perfect an easy recipe that feels fun to make, and cooking will become your escape instead of a chore.

    This post contains a sponsored inclusion of Blue Apron, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.

    I Fell In Love With Cooking This Year—Here Are 12 Recipes I Love More

  • in

    Nutritional Psychiatry: How What You Eat Can Actually Boost Your Mood

    So you might already know that the way you eat can affect your gut or even help change your skin health. However, nutritional psychiatry shows that food not only helps the body feel its best, but may help the mind feel its best too. That’s right: there’s a connection between food and mood beyond getting hangry if you haven’t eaten in a while or craving Ben & Jerry’s after a breakup. While it sounds like two very different worlds colliding (nutrition? And psychiatry?), the concept makes perfect sense to me. As a holistic nutrition coach, I always work to connect the dots between diet and emotions. 
    Think about it: the brain works 24/7 to keep the body running optimally. Food is fuel for the body, but the brain is the wheels that keep the car driving. Premium fuel is not only better for the car, but helps the wheels run smoother. Confused? Since I’ve never been a car person, I’ll just let science explain: an emerging field in psychology known as nutritional psychiatry supports the connection between what we eat and how we feel, which means a direct correlation between diet and mental health. You are what you eat, but you may feel what you eat too.

    What is nutritional psychiatry?
    The field of nutritional psychiatry has been growing rapidly after emerging over a decade ago. In 2010, a study found that women whose diets were higher in vegetables, fruit, fish, and whole grains, were less likely to have depression or anxiety than women who consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and other processed foods. Since then, multiple studies (like the “SMILES” trial or identifying “antidepressant foods“) have made way for an emerging field that combines nutrition with psychology and the body with the brain. In fact, google “nutritional psychiatry study” and the results alone are pretty impressive. “Nutritional psychiatry means using food, supplements, vitamins, exercise, meditation, etc., in conjunction with standard psychiatric medications to optimize the potential of all treatments,” explained Dr. Sheldon Zablow MD, a nutritional psychiatrist and author based in San Diego.
    What makes the field unique is that it acknowledges and works with the gut-brain connection (more on that below). While nutritional psychiatry traditionally looks at how nutrients that go into the gut (i.e. through food and supplements) affect mental health, many nutritional psychiatrists are also acknowledging the role that everything from exercise to meditation plays in mental health for a more holistic view. “It’s important to address mental health through diet and lifestyle, because the body has nutritional needs,” agreed Dr. Ellen Vora MD, a board-certified psychiatrist. “When we’re malnourished physically or psychospiritually, our mental health suffers.” Nutritional psychiatry is not intended to replace prescription medication, but rather to support a treatment plan and help patients heal using every route possible. 

    Source: Tim Samuel | Pexels

    How does the gut-brain connection work?
    While we typically consider the mind and body to be two separate entities, nutritional psychology acknowledges that they’re intrinsically connected. “The gut directly connects to the brain through the vagus nerve, and the brain is also indirectly impacted by the gut microbiome,” explained Dr. Gonzalo Laje, MD, MHSc, FAPA, a clinical professor of psychiatry based in Washington. “Think of the vagus nerve like a two-way highway connecting the brain and gut,” agreed Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist and author of This Is Your Brain on Food. “Chemical messages from the food we digest are communicated along the highway. Following a healthy meal, the ‘communicators’ are also healthy and help the gut and brain to function at their best.”
    The “two-way highway” is also known as the gut-brain connection, or the link between gut health and mental health. Besides just the communication between the two, our moods can be affected by chemicals in the gut microbiome, showing that the brain and gut might be one and the same. For example, gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin (AKA the happy hormone). Is anyone else’s mind blown (pardon the pun)!? Besides just the benefits that come with a good gut, the gut-brain connection also means there might be a price to pay when you’re not feeding your gut with the good stuff. 
    “Inflammation triggered by certain foods (like highly processed foods, added sugar, etc.) has a direct impact on brain functioning,” Dr. Laje said. “Nutrition is the source for building blocks that the brain needs to function, so if there are any deficits, the brain can’t function optimally.” You’ve probably heard of the word “inflammation” and might know that fried food or a couple of daily sodas might be to blame, but do you know what inflammation means? “Inflammation in the gut leads to inflammation in the brain over time, which is a major underlying cause of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, cognitive problems, and more,” Dr. Naidoo explained. “A poor diet, therefore, can worsen mood.”

    So what does a nutritional psychiatrist “prescribe?”
    So you get that what you eat matters, but is it as simple as just eating more fruits and veggies and less processed foods? The short answer: kind of. When it comes to a nutritional psychiatrist’s role, they work with each patient individually to come up with a treatment plan for specific needs, using both prescription medications as well as diet and lifestyle changes, as needed. For example, Dr. Laje includes diet as one of the essential elements in treatment plans for every patient, explaining he incorporates nutrition in his practice through food education (i.e. learning how to make better choices and understanding what those choices do to the brain).
    As for what exactly to eat? Holly Klamer, MS, RDN, recommends clients follow a similar eating style to the Mediterranean diet, which is high in omega-3 foods and plants, and supports brain health. She also encourages clients to eat probiotic-rich foods (like sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods) for optimal gut health. Meanwhile, Dr. Naidoo recommended a wide variety of plants. “A basic pillar of nutritional psychiatry is eating the colors of the rainbow, which brings rich antioxidants from plant foods to supply the gut microbes with fiber to help reduce gut inflammation,” she said. Bottom line: fill your plate with a variety of fruits and veggies, eat your omega-3s (like salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, etc.), and prioritize gut health to make your diet more brain-friendly. 

    Source: Sam Lion | Pexels

    Interested in nutritional psychiatry? Here’s how to try for yourself.

    IMO, nutritional psychology is cool because it proves that nutrition is way more powerful than just being about calories or weight loss/gain (duh!). This article is not intended to stop you from eating all of your favorite foods or to think food is the only type of “cure” you need when feeling down, anxious, or stressed. A spicy margarita or a bag of movie theater popcorn here and there likely won’t do any damage, just like one salad among an entire diet of processed foods won’t make a difference. Also, when dealing with anxiety, depression, chronic stress, or any other mental health condition, talk to your doctor about the role that food or gut health could play in your healing plan, knowing it is usually meant to support treatment, not to be the treatment.
    If you are interested in learning more about nutritional psychiatry for an overall mood boost, Dr. Naidoo suggested starting small and simple, since consistency is most important when it comes to mental health. “Start with just one eating habit you want to change or take on,” she suggested. For example, try adding leafy greens to each meal, or replace your go-to frozen pizza with a cauliflower crust option. “Another easy win is focusing on whole foods and limiting processed foods. However, remember that it’s about finding the right formula for you, so speak to your doctor before making any changes.”

    Please consult a doctor before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article. More