The easiest sweet avocado breakfast recipe on National Avocado Day

Considering my last Instagram post, it’s no secret that I’m obsessed with avocados.  Like, really obsessed.  So imagine the thrill of opening National Day Calendar to find that today is National Avocado Day…basically Christmas morning.  It’s a nutritionist’s dream.  Prep yourself for all the avocado content you’ll find in the online nutrition world today.  Call off work, kids.

Business first.  Why do I recommend that almost all my clients eat avocados regularly?  Let me count the ways…
  • Heart health: Yay, MUFA’s, yay!  (Monounsaturated fatty acids)
  • Weight loss: Blood-sugar & insulin stabilization, discourages abdominal fat
  • Antioxidant action: Boo, cancer, boo.
  • Vitamin content: A, E, K (fat-solubles) and B, C (water-solubles)
  • Multiple trace minerals.  Did you know that 1 avocado has as much potassium as 2 bananas?!
  • Digestive health: Yes, I’m talking about poo & bacteria.  Welcome to my world.
  • Skin, eye, hair health:  Cue cat calls.
  • Hormone balance: Depression, mood disorders, fertility

Now why do I personally looooove avocados?  Well I don’t discriminate when it comes to cravings.  Both sweet AND salty cravings are my constant companions, and avocados push my buttons in all the right ways.  When I left my parents’ home at age 14 to go off to boarding school, I was surprised to learn that most Americans eat avocados in a “salty” way…in salads, as guacamole, on sandwiches.  I was thrilled because this expanded my avocado horizon.  I come from a Filipino home where we ate avocados in “sweet” ways.
My favorite and easiest dish is one I often have for breakfast even though it’s called a dessert.  I asked my mom what the tagalog word is for this dish, and she said, “It’s basically an avocado shake, but it’s not.”  On the island my mom is from, few families could afford blenders or had access to fresh milk, so they simply scooped the avocado meat into a bowl, poured in canned evaporated milk, and sprinkled white sugar over the whole lot.  I’ve had this traditional version, and, holy guacamole, it’s delish.  But to work this into my own kitchen, I make some healthy swaps for the refined white sugar and dairy.
I know “sweet” avocado sounds strange to most Americans, but give it a shot.  Being able to use avocados with a whole new flavor palate is a GAME CHANGER.

Matamis na abocado (Avocado "dessert")
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Filipino
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 serving
 
This is my rendition of the Filipino avocado dessert. Traditionally, evaporated milk and white sugar are used.
Ingredients
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 cup nut milk
  • drizzle of maple syrup (No-sugar alternative: Stevia can just as easily be used)
Instructions
  1. Cut avocado in half, and use the half without the pit. The other half can be saved for later. Keeping the pit in gives the saved half a longer life.
  2. Scoop out spoonfuls of avocado into a bowl. I use a teaspoon because I like little bite-sized pieces.
  3. Drizzle your desired amount of maple syrup over the avocado.
  4. Finish by pouring the nut milk over the dish.
  5. Optional: I like to chill my dish for about 30 minutes. Others add ice cubes. Whatever makes you purr.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 bowl Calories: 203.65 Fat: 13.5 Saturated fat: 1.68 Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 21.3 Sugar: 12.4 Sodium: 187.9 Fiber: 5.4 Protein: 2.6 Cholesterol: 0
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Surviving Summer Series: Chlorine. Top 3 foods for swimmers.

 

Memorial Day has disappeared in the rearview mirror, folks. We’re neck-deep in swimming pool season (*stifles excited squeal*), so let’s get real about staying healthy as we increase our exposure to America’s sweetheart…chlorine. Chlorination is the most popular method for disinfecting swimming pools in the United States [1], and we’ll leave it at that for now. (Yes, there is a heated debate about the safety and ethics of using chlorine—Get curious, and investigate!)

Many of us have heard about respiratory problems and skin/eye irritation from swimming in chlorinated pools, but researchers are now investigating other associated dysfunctions including liver toxicity and metabolic stress.

While the chlorination process kills the “bad bugs” in our swimming pools, it also forms toxic compounds called disinfection by-products (DBPs). Interest is mounting in the building evidence connecting DBP-exposure to increased liver burden, impaired energy production, cell destruction, altered construction and function of proteins and fats, and unbalancing the body’s acid-base profile [1].

So what can we do? Well, you’re not going to keep me from testing out every single swimming pool in my new neighborhood, so let’s give our bodies some heavy ammunition to counteract the chemical exposure.

  1. Shellfish, especially scallops, mussels, and clams. How perfect is this?! Cravings for shellfish skyrocket during summer months. Maybe our bodies are telling us to head to the ocean for all our warm-weather needs. Shellfish, along with dark poultry meats, contain the amino acid taurine—a potent antioxidant and a suggested key player in the body’s attempt to safely process and eliminate DPBs [1].
  2. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous vegetables, protein-rich foods, allium vegetables (garlic, onions, leeks, chives), and eggs are all sulfur-rich foods that contribute to the body’s ability to detoxify toxic compounds [2]. Our sulfur resources are depleted when the body is faced with the added stress of detoxifying DBPs.
  3. Berries—goji berries, wild blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, and blackberries. Five out of the “Top 10 High Antioxidant Foods List” are berries, so this makes things easy for us when deciding on delish poolside snacks.

So what might a summer vacay meal plan look like? Let’s throw one together now:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs & Brussels sprouts
Mid-morning snack: Whole milk yogurt topped with dried goji berries
Lunch: Finger foods packed in the cooler! Broccoli & cauliflower florets, other chopped veggies, olives, nuts, chilled meats, and your favorite dips.
Mid-afternoon snack: Handful of mix of blueberries & cranberries
Dinner: Scallops sautéed in butter and garlic. Use leftover veggies from lunch for a quick stir-fry on the side.

Now, my friends, dive into this summer season with the confidence that you’ve stocked your body with nutrients to help minimize the risks associated with swimming in chlorinated pools.

Would you like to talk to a nutrition professional about your environmental exposures and how you can minimize your risks?  Call 703-679-7958 or e-mail angelamaricns@gmail.com.

 

References

[1] Li, J.-H., Wang, Z.-H., Zhu, X.-J., Deng, Z.-H., Cai, C.-X., Qiu, L.-Q., … Lin, Y.-J. (2015). Health Effects from Swimming Training in Chlorinated Pools and the Corresponding Metabolic Stress Pathways. PLoS ONE, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0119241

[2] Mercola, J. (2011, September 12). Are you getting enough sulfur in your body? Mercola. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/12/the-third-abundant-mineral-in-your-body-are-you-getting-enough.aspx

[3] Wójcik, O. P., Koenig, K. L., Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, A., Costa, M., & Chen, Y. (2010). The potential protective effects of taurine on coronary heart disease. Atherosclerosis, 208(1), 19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2009.06.002

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Favorite recipes: April 2016

As I mentioned in my last post, Grocery haul: when I don’t have time to meal plan, life happens, and sometimes you just have to wing it. But as I learn to prioritize self care, I’m finding out that squirreling away 30 minutes every week to map out a meal plan and grocery list pays off BIG TIME. I save money — I stay true to my nutrition values — I feel accomplished.

When I first committed to cooking for myself (nearly) everyday, I’ll admit that it was a time-consuming endeavor to find recipes that appealed to me and that were within my cooking comfort zone. I would Google an ingredient that was on my mind and endlessly sift through recipes. I wasted so much time. On top of that, I would choose an elaborate meal for each and every day; I was exhausted. After months of failures (and successes!), I’m prepared to share a few tips that I wish I’d stumbled across earlier in my journey:

  1. Start a recipe binder (or folder or box or whatever).  I’ve been printing out each recipe I try and adding it to a binder I keep in my kitchen.  If I make any changes to the recipe, I write it on the page.  If I hate it, I toss it.  Well…I recycle it.  So after doing this for several weeks, I had a binder full of recipes I love.
  2. Repeat your favorite recipe from the week before.  This serves three purposes:  1) You become comfortable with the recipe.  Eventually, it will be one of those meals you can cook on-the-fly.  2) While it’s fresh in your mind, you have the opportunity to make all the changes you were thinking about while eating your first try.  3) This cuts down on the “planning burden.”  Been there; done that!
  3. READ THE COMMENTS.  In all probability, other readers have test driven the recipes before you, and so many people are generous enough to share what worked for them and what didn’t.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.  Read the comments at the bottom of each recipe post, and you’ll find out how to adjust if you’re cooking a 12-serving meal for two, if you have a food sensitivity, or if you want to know how to appeal to a picky eater.
  4. Reinvent your leftovers.  This is a big one for me, especially since I’m on such a tight budget right now.  Food waste is money in the trash.  I often double-up the recipe so I can use part or all of the meal for tomorrow.  Example:  One-Pot Enchiladas.  The next day, I take those wonderful enchilada innards, throw them in a bowl, top it with a fried egg & guac, and that’s breakfast, ladies & gents.

With all that said, here are a few of my favorite recipes from the past month.  All have earned a permanent spot in my recipe binder.

Bibimbap by Korean Basing

They don’t have gosari where I shop, so I often replace this ingredient with shiitake mushrooms.  I also like to add a drizzle of Sriracha at the end.

Baby Carrot Soup from myrecipes.com

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My boyfriend LOVED this.  He doesn’t even like soup.  This one probably goes on my Top 10 Favorite Recipes list that I don’t even have.  Does anyone know if this would be good to can?

Chocolate Mousse by Vegan Magic

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This is another one that has really blown my mind.  I have an insatiable sweet tooth.  This is a staple desert recipe for anyone who is working to eat more (good) fat, minimize carbs & sugar, or simply transition to a whole-foods diet.  The recipe calls to sweeten with dates, but I often get lazy about this and sweeten with some maple syrup.  That’s the beauty of this recipe: As long as you have the coconut cream, you can switch out the other ingredients.  My favorite combo = coconut cream + cinnamon + maple syrup + vanilla extract.  Have mercy.

As I say time and time again, be easy with yourself.  Don’t stress over finding a different recipe for every day.  Don’t worry if you can’t come up with your own original recipes.  Others make a living doing it.  Celebrate their talent by enjoying their work.  And remember, it gets so much easier when you have your go-to recipes.

Any favorite recipes you’ve discovered this month?  Let me know; I’d love to have a go at it!

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Grocery haul: when I don’t have time to meal plan

Those of you who know me can vouch for my Type A personality; I love to meal plan, make lists, cross of completed tasks…the works. It’s not always a reasonable way to live, as I found out this week.

I often get the question, “So what do I do when I don’t have time to meal plan?” The answer is not in the Arby’s drive-through (dat beef & cheddar, doh). Just wing it. Be confident in your nutrition values. I like to shop according to these basic principals:

– Whole foods, whole foods, whole foods
– Grass-fed, free-range animal products
– Organic, natural, blah blah blah (when I can afford it)
– Relax; anything is better than fast food.

When life gets busy, just do your best. Be gentle with yourself. Trust what you’ve learned during your health journey. There will be weeks when you can be mindful of your macronutrient ratios or choose foods based on more specific nutritional goals, but if this weeks isn’t one of ’em, everything will be okay. You will surprise yourself.

I literally just purged my grocery bags onto my kitchen counter to give you a peek into my unplanned trip to the local co-op market. (Sorry for the bad pic; the lighting was so weird.)

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Few of my faves:

Alvarado Street Bakery’s Sprouted Wheat Bagels. I tend to lean towards a low-carb diet, but I LOVE bagels. I love them so much that I know I’ll be tempted to swing by Panera during a busy week if I don’t plan ahead for my cravings.
– Avocados. I eat guac with EVERYTHING.
– Turmeric root. There are so many reasons to add turmeric to your diet. I’m upping my intake to support my memory & joint health. My favorite way: Steeping turmeric & ginger roots in water + milk + black pepper + cinnamon + vanilla extract.

How do you handle your busiest weeks?

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YouTube top three

On a light and fun note, I want to share three of my YouTube guilty pleasures. A couple of weeks ago, I did a study on play and how it can be a part of your own self-care routine. Some of us type-A personalities (and others!) can be so hard on ourselves to accomplish so much in a single day. I’ve found myself planning every single minute that I’m awake with some task or another, so the study of play let me indulge in some activities that aren’t on my to-do list, like catching up on my favorite YouTube channels.

I’m very picky with my subscriptions. I only have a handful, so I’m absolutely sure these girls are worth a little chunk of your relax time. If you like my recommendations, I’ll be happy to share more in the future.

makeupTIA – That is all
Ashley was the very first YouTuber I watched, and I never ever miss her new Wednesday videos. Hers is mostly a makeup channel, but what I really love is that regardless of what she’s talking about, I am immediately uplifted by her smile, sweet voice, and happy outlook. I love that she’s started to review some natural makeup and skincare products, which is what I gravitate towards, and she has introduced me to other must-watch channels as well as my latest obsession…vitacost.com. She lives in the NOVA area, so I’m just dying to run into her one say at Sephora.

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Savannah K Wallace – Maiedae
First things first: her hair.  How beautiful & courageous are those colors?!  And then the lipstick and eyes?!  I need a minute.  So when you click “pause” and just take a look at her funky style, you think you may be overwhelmed with an in-your-face personality, but let me tell you something.  Her voice is soft and sweet and kind.  I wish she’d record a meditation video because I would listen to it all day to keep myself in a happy place.  She’s recently a momma for the second time, so every now and again she sprinkles in some baby product reviews, but for the most part, her reviews are beauty-based.  I tend to gravitate towards her lifestyle product reviews like her purses and trinkets and things.  She also has a candle line called Lindbergh Candle Co.  I haven’t gotten my hands on one yet, but it’s on my wish list!

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Meghan Livingstone
Meghan is one of my newer finds.  While I enjoy watching lifestyle & beauty channels, my own life is simpler and more casual.  I feel like I’m watching a kindred spirit when she talks about the healing benefits she’s found in food and when she shares her grocery hauls and favorite products.  Meghan is a nutritionist in Canada and has followed a similar path to the one I’m on now.  I’m using so many of her recipes myself and use her as one of my own nutritional resources.  It’s so inspiring to see the strength in the integrative health movement!

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What are your favorite YouTube channels?  I love recommendations for my precious free moments!

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Starting my Sleep-deprivation Protocol

Tea tray on bed
Good sleep has been an elusive fairy.  No matter how clean my eating or how energizing my exercise routine, I’m still at risk for so many sleep-related performance and health problems:
  • Slowed physical & mental reaction time
  • Increased errors
  • Decreased vigilance
  • Reduced motivation
  • Increased thyroid hormone that can lead to chronic thyroid disease
  • Depressed growth hormone that can lead to obesity, lean muscle mass reduction & insulin resistance
  • Increased afternoon & evening cortisol levels
  • Impaired immune function
  • Increase in inflammatory chemicals
  • Impaired carb & glucose tolerance linked to memory loss
  • Abdominal pattern obesity
  • Increased blood clotting tendency
  • Increased triglycerides
  • Increased risk for type II diabetes & high blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart attack – 5-10x risk of having high LDL cholesterol!!!
I’m particularly noticing developing memory loss, reduction in motivation, and weight gain.  I had attributed the weight gain only to holiday binging, the reduction in motivation only to depression, and the memory loss only to deep defense mechanisms from childhood trauma.  As my study of sleep progresses, I’m realizing that without addressing sleep deprivation, I will remain far from achieving optimal wellness and preventing disease.
The good news is that my studies have led me to what I believe is a solid plan of attack.  The bad news is that resolution doesn’t come in the form of an easy pill to take.  For someone who has been diagnosed with psychosomatic insomnia and who struggles with self-discipline and addiction to technology, improving my sleep naturally will not come easily.
I’d like to start by sharing my starting point in the form of a 24-hour schedule.  Some notes are action items, and others are for awareness’ sake.
  • Wake – lunchtime: Consume 80% of daily protein intake during first two meals.  Protein increases the body’s heat production, which you want to avoid when approaching bedtime.  Exercising early in the day will also reduce heat in the evening.
  • 8am: Breakfast supplements to include fish oil w/vitamin E & 5,000 IU vitamin D
  • 12pm:  Lunch supplements to include 400 mg magnesium.  No more caffeine.  Exposure to bright daylight with outdoor activity.
  • 6pm:  Dinner supplements to include 400 mg magnesium.
  • 7pm: No more carbs (within 3 hours of bed), preferably no food (5-6 hours before bed is ideal).
  • 9pm-10pm: No bright lights, best to limit light after sunset.  No more computer, smart phone, or TV use.  Sip bedtime tea (scullcap, passion flower, valerian, or hops).  Horizontal 30-60 minutes before bed.  Turn on essential oil diffuser with calming & relaxing oils (lavender oil, for example).
  • ~Release the events of the day.  Give thanks.~
  • 10pm-7am: Ideal sleep time, sleep before 11pm.
  • 10pm-1am: Deepest sleep (1st 3 hours), surge in growth hormone.
  • 4-6am: Melatonin peak, lowest body temperature.
  • Pre-8.5 hours: If you wake early, go back to sleep; stay in bed.
As I find what works for me and what doesn’t, I’ll alter my personal routine.  Changes may come when I discover what’s reasonable within my lifestyle.  Brad and I are night owls, so I’m sure there will be evenings when I want to indulge in some snacking with a late game of Star Realms, and in those cases, I will have to weigh my priorities depending on how severe my sleep deprivation is at the time.
I will also consider daytime tinctures and teas:
  • American ginseng to cool, moisten & slightly sedate
  • Vervain to sedate without inducing sleepiness, promote relaxation through parasympathetic engagement, reduce exhaustion from long-term stress
  • Chamomilla and lavender to relax
  • Lemon balm to lift the mood, ease mild depression & create a relaxed alertness
I’d love feedback on this sleep plan and will report back with my own experiences.  This is the start of the development of my Sleep-deprivation Protocol, and I’d appreciate any comments of personal experience or research that will improve how I treat my own sleep deprivation as well as how I advise my future clients.
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Bergner, P. (2003). Sleep debt: pathophysiology and natural therapeutics. Medical Herbalism: A Journal for the Clinical Practitioner, Volume 13 (3).  Retrieved from http://medherb.com/bi/Issue-133-Spring-2003.pdf.pdf
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The ugly & the beautiful of 2015.

Two thousand and fifteen was one of those years when the bad and good danced together as if they didn’t know they were so different from one another.

I felt sorrow that left me hopeless and with no intention to face the days ahead.

  • My Lolo passed away in April.
  • Brad’s aunt passed away in September.
  • Mom’s diabetes worsened.
  • I lived without my best friend.
  • I fell into the deepest depression I’ve ever faced.
  • My parents split up.
  • My relationship was tested by the devil himself.

In spite of each sorrow taunting me with its ruthlessness, I finally began to open my eyes to the happy moments that accumulated; there were so many happy moments.

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So what do I do with this two-faced nostalgia?  I remember and learn and get excited and accept.

Although bemindfulandhappy.com launched in 2015, I can’t wait to get elbow-deep in this community in 2016.  I’ve become so humbled that my favorite bloggers have shared their worlds and wisdom with me; I’d like to do the same.

Happy new year, my sweet friends!  May you be mindful in all of your happy moments.

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Organic food is so damn expensive.

Money can be hard sometimes for full time students, anyone really.  When I chose to go back to school, I knew I’d be sacrificing some luxuries I’d grown used to: for one thing, fairly expensive grocery trips.  I’d buy all organic, free-range, grass-fed food.  I still prioritize including good animal products in my budget, but I’ve had to make other compromises.  I found this really great organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  Its “mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.”  I’ve been using their app “Dirty Dozen” to highlight the produce on my shopping list that I should buy at our local organic market, and they rest of my list I pick up from the discount grocery store.

The EWG publishes a list of the “Clean Fifteen” and the “Dirty Dozen.”  As you can imagine, the Clean Fifteen is a list of popular produce items that are least likely to have pesticide residues; I choose the lowest prices for these items.  The Dirty Dozen, on the other hand, is a list of produce items that are very likely to have high pesticide loads, so for these foods, I buy organic.

For those who can afford it, I absolutely suggest choosing organic, local, grass-fed, free-range, non-GMO foods where available.  I’d like to be in that position sooner rather than later, but for now my efforts are to make the best choices given my resources and information at hand.  The EWG totally helps.

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Pleasure to meet you, friends.

I’ve been anticipating this post for months now and am finally blessed with the circumstances to follow my dreams. Let’s start on October 9th when I resigned from the job I’ve had since 2008; it’s been my only “real job” since college. I won’t go into too much detail about what I did, but I will say that it was a major negative contributing factor to my stress level, anxiety, social and family life, happiness, and health. I began to hate my life and came to the awful realization that none of my daily actions were leading me towards what I have in mind for myself. Two weeks after my resignation, I said goodbye to my career and hello to the unknown.

So, what now? I’m enrolled as a full-time student working towards a Masters in Nutrition and Integrative Health, and I’m so psyched about it. If there’s any interest, I’d be happy to share more about my coursework because it is and will continue to be part of my journey over the next two years. You see, my two-year career goal is to earn my Masters degree, pass my Board certification to become a Certified Nutrition Specialist, and open my very own integrative health practice.

Now let’s back up to the present and start talking about how bemindfulandhappy.com comes into play by talking about my short term goals.  This gets into the uncomfortable nitty gritty of my current self and my ideal self. I’m just going to lay it out.

This is me NOW:

  • I’m unhealthy.
  • I’ve lost touch with nature and movement.
  • I suffer from moderate depression and anxiety.
  • I’m a psychosomatic insomniac.
  • I’ve lost the ability to be present in everything that I do.

This is my IDEAL self:

  • I eat not only for enjoyment and convenience; I eat to thrive.  I’ve been on a paleo kick for the past two years, and while I’m still very much in that camp, I’d like to shift my focus to whole foods.  How can I maintain the integrity of the whole food while still enjoying the rich flavors I love so much?  How can I use food to heal my body and mind?
  • My lungs are filled with fresh air.  My skin is kissed by the sun and tickled by the breeze.  I slide into bed at night with not only a tired mind but a well-used body.
  • I’m happy and at peace.  I wake up in the morning with anticipation.  I’m prepared to face the stressors, disappointments, relationships, and beauty of the day.
  • Bedtime is the sweet ending to my day.  The bedroom is dark and quiet.  My mind slows down without any unnatural encouragement.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll slip into my dreams before my boyfriend does (so unlikely).
  • I am present in every moment.  I allow myself to feel pain when it comes.  I embrace and savor happiness.  I put down my cell phone.  I enjoy even the mundane life of a “housegirlfriend” and student.

I’d like to use bemindfulandhappy.com in two ways: as a memoir of my journey to wherever it is I’m going and as the start of my career as a healer.  The first use is self-explanatory, so let me explain the second.

I’m seeking certification as a Certified Nutrition Specialist to establish legitimacy in the healthcare industry.  I also hope to make my services accessible to those who can’t pay for out-of-pocket appointments by accepting insurance reimbursement.  I will be eligible to sit for my boards in 2017, but until then, I’d like to start a dialog with my peers and interested internet friends about health, happiness, and science.

Things to look forward to at bemindfulandhappy.com:

  • Musings on my developing models of health, wellness, disease, and illness
  • Product reviews
  • Suggested reads, watches, tastes, and listenings
  • Recipe reviews, suggestions, and modifications
  • Pleas for help with things I’m really bad at: gardening, baking, tons of stuff really
  • Requests?

I’ve been looking forward to joining the health blogging movement for years now.  I already feel like part of the family as a reader and am ready to start sharing my own voice.  Pleasure to meet you!

Find me on Instagram @elosogigi and on Twitter @bemindfulhappy

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