Monday, May 22, 2017

35 Reasons Why Mal is the Best Human I Know + Funfetti Smoothie Recipe

Happy Tuesday and, more importantly, HAPPY 35th BIRTHDAY TO MAL!!!

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When I think about really amazing people, Mal will always be the first person who comes to mind. He’s the greatest husband, father, friend, and honestly, he’s just an awesome human. He’s been stuck with me for 20 (!!) years – married for 9, together for 14, and friends since high school. It is an incredible honor to have Mal by my side, and I can’t imagine life any other way. He’s the best person I know in every since of the word. To celebrate 35 years of Mal, here are 35 reasons why I love him so very much:

  1. What you see is what you get. Mal is straight-forward, honest, and doesn’t have a phony bone in his body.
  2. Related: He not a fan of sugar-coating anything. He’ll tell it like it is – no matter what the situation!
  3. He’s a “glass half full” kind of guy and always sees the good in things.
  4. Mal is an awesome dad. I truly couldn’t have asked for a better father to my child.
  5. He likes to act silly with Quinn. And Murphy. And me.
  6. He’s wicked smaht, especially when it comes to history and current events.
  7. He always has something to say. (At times this is considered a negative. Haha!)
  8. Mal can hold a conversation with just about anyone.
  9. He’s friendly and has no problem making new friends.
  10. Related: He’s good about keeping in touch with old friends.
  11. Mal is a really fun guy (fungi) and enjoys goofy puns.
  12. He’s also a really funny guy. Well, ok, Mal and I have actually talked about this extensively in the past, and we’ve determined that he’s an averagely funny guy, but I just happen to think he’s hilarious!
  13. He’s always up for an adventure – unless it’s Friday night and then he wants to park his butt on the couch with Quinn and me (and Murphy in his bean bag).
  14. Mal likes to travel.
  15. He’s a good traveler and goes with the flow.
  16. He enjoys good food, both healthy and not-so-healthy.
  17. Mal isn’t a picky eater, which makes dining out a lot of fun with him.
  18. Mal has a fantastic sense of humor and loves to laugh.
  19. He’s not easily offended and doesn’t take life too seriously.
  20. He always gives people the benefit of the doubt.
  21. Mal is an animal lover and shows great compassion for them.
  22. He’s a good athlete, especially as a runner. I mean, who runs their first marathon in 3:15 with barely any training?! Seriously.
  23. Mal loves technology and often “updates” our home with the coolest new stuff. Things often just appear, but I can’t say that I hate it! 🙂 He also updates my iPhone. And laptop. And, well, my whole life. Technology is not my thing.
  24. He’s handsome!
  25. He dresses well and inspires me to not look like a slob all the time! 🙂
  26. Mal is an excellent teacher. Students, staff, and parents all love him.
  27. He’s meticulous and does things the right way, the first time.
  28. He knows how to relax and enjoy life.
  29. Mal can laugh at himself.
  30. He’s organized.
  31. And clean. I never have to worry about him leaving a huge mess. Just receipts. All over the house.
  32. He makes some killer cake-like pancakes.
  33. He’s kind to everyone he meets.
  34. He goes above and beyond for his family and friends.
  35. Mal makes me feel loved everyday.

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As some of you might know, Mal loves anything Funfetti. In honor of his special day, I whipped up a Funfetti protein shake, so you can quite literally have your cake and eat it too! 🙂 I hope you guys love this smoothie as much as we do. It totally hits the spot when we’re craving something sweet!

Ingredients:

  • 1 scoop (30g) of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tablespoons sprinkles + more for garnish
  • whipped cream (optional)

Directions:

1. In a blender, combine vanilla protein powder, banana, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, vanilla extract, vanilla almond milk, honey, and sprinkles. Blend until smooth.
2. Spread remaining 1 tablespoon Greek yogurt on a plate. Dip the rim of your glass into the yogurt. Sprinkle sprinkles onto rim.
3. Pour smoothie into a glass and serve cold. Whipped cream optional!

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Is There Really A Healthy Ice Cream Brand?

I love ice cream! When I want a treat, ice cream is one of my favorites! But take a walk through the typical ice cream aisle and you’ll find a minefield of risky (and sometimes dangerous) additives mixed with factory farmed milk. I’m a firm believer that everyone should still enjoy treats from time to time, but don’t consider it a treat to poison myself with heart-wrecking trans fats, carcinogenic poisons like glyphosate, and additives linked to gut inflammation. I’ve learned that you can enjoy treats (even ice cream!) that won’t destroy your health and pack on the pounds, but you just need to know what to look for. 

There are now some brands that seem healthier like Halo Top and Arctic Zero, and many people have been asking me if they are TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. I’ll get to them in a moment, but first let’s check out what you’ll find in the major ice cream brands.

If you see any of these additives in ice cream, do yourself a favor and put it back on the shelf…

Gut wrecking emulsifiers: Most ice creams are full of emulsifiers that have been shown to disrupt the good bacteria in your gut and can lead to disease and obesity. Companies use these because it’s cheaper than filling their product with 100% whole food ingredients. Of course the main ingredients in ice cream (cream and sugar) are also linked to obesity, but when you eat the real thing you feel more satisfied and are less likely to down an entire pint. 

Some of the worst emulsifiers in ice cream…

Artificial Colors: Whenever you see a color like Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5, or Blue 1, these are derived from petroleum and linked to several health issues including allergies, cancer, and hyperactivity in children

Mono and Diglycerides (or Partially Hydrogenated Oils): These contain trans fat which is strongly correlated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The CDC has linked trans fat to at least 20,000 heart attacks per year and the Institute of Medicine says there is no safe level to eat. This additive is often found in low-fat ice creams where they are trying to make up for what they took out, but you’ll find it in many others too!  

Sugar Alcohols and Zero-Calorie Sweeteners: “No Sugar Added” and “Carb Smart” ice creams are packed sugar alcohols like maltitol syrup and sorbitol. These are associated with destroying gut heath, and a healthy gut is the key to good health and a slim waistline. Artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda) and acesulfame potassium have been shown to contribute to weight gain by encouraging sugar cravings. When you eat something sweet – even when it has no calories – your brain is tricked into wanting more calories because your body is not getting enough energy (i.e. calories) to be satisfied. So you keep craving sweets, eating sweets, and gaining weight. They also come with serious health risks

Artificial flavors: These synthetic flavors are made from proprietary chemicals to make fake food taste real. This is not a single ingredient – each flavor may contain of up to 100 ingredients, including synthetic chemicals, solvents and preservatives such as BHA, propylene glycol, MSG, parabens, and more.

These ice cream brands look healthier… BUT…

Natural Flavors: The only difference between natural and artificial flavors mentioned above, is that natural flavors are derived from things found in nature (such as beaver glands). Just like artificial flavors, they are created in a lab by a team of scientists and can contain up to 100 hidden ingredients. The bottom line: You have no idea what you are eating – and it might be propylene glycol, BHA, and parabens.

Soybean Oil: This unhealthy oil increases the risk of obesity, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. When it comes to organic Soymilk ice creams, an abundance of soy itself is not healthy in the diet as it can disrupt hormones and lead to disease. Soy also has an abundance of phytic acid that leaches calcium and other vital minerals from your body.

Cottonseed Oil: I was shocked to find cottonseed oil in LaLoo’s Capraccino Almond Fudge Ice Cream. This oil generally comes from GMO cotton crops that require an intense application of agricultural chemicals and have been called the “World’s Dirtiest Crop”. Residues from these pesticides can remain in cottonseed oil and cottonseeds are subjected to intensive chemical refining with toxic hexane, bleach, and deodorizers. I consider it one of the worst ingredients in food.

“Sugar” Instead of “Cane Sugar”: The majority of sugar in this country comes from GMO sugar beets and not from cane. These sugar beets are Roundup-Ready, which means they are sprayed with the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) and don’t die. Whenever an ingredient list just says “sugar” instead of “cane sugar” that indicates it’s from GMO sugar beets. When my team contacted LaLoo’s Goat Milk Ice Cream they said their ingredients are “clean” and that they’re currently working on getting verified by the Non-GMO Project. But, unless you see that label on there, consider it unverified

Conventional (not organic) Dairy: Some brands like Breyer’s, Tillamook and Häagen-Dazs have some flavors with cleaner ingredient lists with fewer additives, but they don’t use organic cream or milk. I outline all of the reasons to only choose organic dairy products in this post

Häagen-Dazs has a non-GMO claim on their ice cream, but that doesn’t apply to the cream, milk, or eggs, in that the animals were likely raised on GMO feed. Their non-GMO claim is 3rd party verified by SGS and their standards don’t apply to animal feed – and a rep from Häagen-Dazs confirmed this with us. Ben and Jerry’s is another brand that uses non-GMO ingredients, but admits the cows are still fed GMO grains (but are trying to transition and hopefully will).

Why to avoid dairy from GMO-fed cows:

  • Almost all non-organic dairy cows in this country are fed a diet of GMO grains on a factory farm. I call this “Monsanto Milk” because it is produced with a lot of GMOs which put more money in Monsanto’s pocket (and I don’t want to donate any money to them!). 
  • Testing has found other pesticides, antibiotics and drugs (sources: 1, 2) in conventional milk (including ones that are banned), and this is what you could be eating when you eat non-organic ice cream.

Organically raised cows are only permitted to eat organic non-GMO food and organic grass. Ultimately, you want to look for certified organic ice cream to avoid dairy raised with herbicide-laden GMOs, hormones, antibiotics and all the drugs that are prohibited on organic farms.

Let’s discuss HALO TOP Ice Cream…

I’ve gotten a lot of emails about Halo Top because they market themselves as a healthier alternative to regular ice cream that’s low-calorie, high-protein, and low-sugar… and they are REALLY POPULAR right now. This brand has a real “Health Halo” around it (haha), but I’m not buying it. They’ve done such a great job marketing it as healthy ice cream that some people are even treating it like a diet food and the founder says he eats it every morning… which sounds just crazy, but who wouldn’t like to have ice cream for breakfast, LOL. Here’s why that really isn’t a good idea (sorry guys!)…

  1. Halo Top does not use organic cream or milk, which means it is likely made with Monsanto Milk (from cows fed GMOs). Their ice creams also contain non-organic eggs, which likewise, probably comes from chickens fed a diet filled with GMOs and possibly other drugs.

Email from Halo Top (May 2017): “We do use only non-GMO ingredients in Halo Top, and the cows from which we get our dairy ingredients are never treated with growth hormones (like rBST). We’re not yet at a point, though, where we can guarantee the makeup of the grain for the cows’ feed across the supply chain. Working on it though!”

  1. Halo Top uses natural flavors and won’t tell you what’s in them. While this is true for pretty much everyone who uses natural flavors because they are considered proprietary, a member of the Food Babe Army sent me the response they got from Halo Top:

“Hey Vani I felt like this was something that needed to be shared. Halo ice cream that I feel like has been pitching themselves as a healthier ice cream won’t disclose what their “natural flavoring” is. Thought you’d like to know their cop out response: Hi Alyssa! I inquired into the flavorings for you, and it turns out that apparently the flavorings industry is highly competitive, and the flavoring makers we work with keep their exact formula proprietary to themselves for competitive reasons. Even so, we of course require confirmation that the flavors are indeed all-natural, gluten-free, kosher, etc. I know it’s not exactly the answer you were looking for but I hope it helps a little!”

  1. Halo Top uses the sugar alcohol erythritol as its primary sweetener. As more people are recognizing and avoiding artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, food companies are replacing it with erythritol… but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. This additive can wreak havoc on healthy gut bacteria. This can lead to a whole host of diseases and if you’re trying to lose weight or stay slim, keeping your gut healthy is vital! Erythritol is also a powerful insecticide known to cause diarrhea, stomach upset, headache when consumed in “normal amounts”.
  1. Why add fiber to ice cream? This just makes it all too easy to think of Halo Top as some sort of health supplement, when in reality, ice cream shouldn’t be eaten every day (or for breakfast!) and we should be getting our fiber naturally from fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, and not from processed fiber additives that were manufactured in a lab. The industry calls these “functional fibers” but they do not function in your body the same as fiber in real food. 

Is Arctic Zero Healthier? 

Arctic Zero is another “healthy” ice cream that really isn’t. They claim their whey comes from a “GMO-free region” but that doesn’t guarantee how the cows are fed:

Email from Arctic Zero (May 2017): We have no control over what the cows are fed, but please know we get all our whey protein from a GMO-free region. Our whey protein is GMO-free certified before added to our product and our final product is tested for GMO and it is GMO-free. Please know that our whey protein is not produced from genetically modified organisms, and does not consists of, or contain genetically modified organisms. Therefore, our whey protein is certified GMO-free”.

Arctic Zero is not 100% organic, the whey isn’t from organic cows, and it also contains processed “functional fiber” additives and not-so-natural flavors, so I don’t consider this a good choice. 

When shopping for ice cream, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it certified organic?

  2. Is it flavored naturally with vanilla bean, lemon, cinnamon, cocoa, etc.? Or, did they take a shortcut with “natural flavors”?

  3. Is it made entirely with whole food ingredients? Or, does it contain additives you don’t have in your kitchen like carrageenan, yellow #5, erythritol, and mono and diglycerides?

If a product doesn’t meet that test, seek out a better brand (there are several!) Here are some of my favorites…

NOTE: Not every flavor by these brands is perfect and you still need to read the ingredient list to make sure you know what you are eating.

  • Three Twins Organic Ice Cream – This is my favorite store-bought organic ice cream and they have a lot of flavors to choose from. A few of them contain natural flavors, but most are flavored naturally with real ingredients like banana, vanilla extract, cinnamon, peppermint extract, etc. – Just check the ingredient list!
  • Alden’s Organic Ice Cream – Know that they do use guar gum, locust bean gum and xantham gum, so not exactly the best choice but they are widely available to most people.
  • Local Organic and Grass Fed Ice Cream – Your local farmers market or natural food stores may carry ice cream made from grass-fed cows on small family farms in your area. Seek these out.
  • Homemade Banana Ice Cream – Just add frozen bite-sized pieces of a very ripe banana to a powerful blender or food processor and puree until it comes to a creamy consistency. This may take a few minutes. It’s that easy and really satisfies an ice cream craving! You can try adding coconut milk, nut butter, cinnamon, cocoa, or vanilla to change it up. Just blend these in after you puree the bananas well. 

What’s your favorite ice cream brand? Tell me in the comments!

Share this post with all of your ice cream loving friends and enjoy a (healthier) bowl of ice cream with them soon! 

Xo, 

Vani

 

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Dear Mark: Roundup Safety and Polyamory to Monogamy

Tractor spraying wheat field with sprayerFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m covering two entirely different topics. The first is a fairly familiar topic to readers of this blog—whether a popular pesticide is actually dangerous or not. The reader asking the question thinks the data is clear, and Roundup is safe, but I’m not so sure. Second, I discuss the evolutionary underpinnings of our transition from polyamory to monogamy.

Let’s go:

Moreover, the research they reference has been reviewed to death by every regulatory agency on the planet, and none of them are convinced that glyphosate is dangerous, unless anyone here plans on drinking it.

Humans simply aren’t exposed to enough of the pesticide to experience any negative health effects. See the most recent EPA report on the subject: http://src.bna.com/iE2

Thanks for the pushback. I hear what you’re saying—folks on either side of the issue can really misrepresent the facts. There’s nothing I hate worse than unfounded fear-mongering. And even when the fears aren’t totally unfounded, the amount of worry and stress the mongering provokes can be worse than the thing you’re supposed to be fearing.

But with glyphosate, or more accurately Roundup, I just don’t agree with your assessment.

Pesticides aren’t just single chemicals. They’re actually collections of various chemicals called formulations, which contain the declared active principle (glyphosate) and some adjuvants. The adjuvants are supposed to be inert, but they’re not. Just like the supposedly inactive ingredients in toothpaste can have some physiologically significant effects, the adjuvants in pesticide formulations can alter the effect of the active principles.

If adjuvants were truly inert—if they did nothing—they wouldn’t be included. Everything costs money and everything adds up, especially when you manufacture at scale. So these “inert” adjuvants must be fulfilling an important role. Some are surfactants that allow the pesticide to penetrate the cellular walls of organisms. Others are thickeners or emulsifiers to improve the distribution and resiliency of the pesticide (nothing like a smooth, velvety Roundup reduction) in the face of rain, runoff, or extreme heat. Adjuvants increase dermal absorption, too. In other words, they make pesticides more effective, more resilient, and more damaging to pests. And according to a recent paper, many adjuvants also amplify the toxic effects of pesticides on human health.

Using isolated human cells, the researchers compared the effects of nine popular pesticide formulations with those of their isolated principle ingredients on mitochondrial activity and membrane degradation. In 8 out of 9 instances, the commercial formulations were on average hundreds of times more toxic than the principle alone. Roundup and glyphosate were both tested; the former was 125 times more toxic than the latter.

If the EPA used studies of the commercial formulations in their safety assessments, I’d be more likely to accept them. But they don’t. Most of the safety tests study the active principle, not the full pesticide formulation we’re actually encountering in our food and our environment.

In a 2000 review of the human and animal toxicology evidence that concluded Roundup posed no risk to human health, there were some glaring issues. Out of the dozens of studies they reviewed, the only one that actually used fully-formed commercial Roundup was on dermal absorption. All of the other ones tested glyphosate or one of the “inert” components of Roundup in isolation—never together. That’s not how this works. That’s not how biology works.

This isn’t a new problem, either. Some researchers have criticized allowing largely untested adjuvants into the food system via regulatory backdoors as far back as 2006.

It seems like common sense. If you’re going to talk about the toxicity of Roundup, you have to test the toxicity of Roundup. Right?

Here’s what happens when you do test the commercial formulation against the primary chemical:

Roundup kills rats more quickly and frequently than glyphosate alone.

Roundup kills piglets. Glyphosate does not.

Doesn’t fill me with confidence.

One aspect of ancestral health that I have not seen you address is Sexuality. I am surprised, as I think we can all agree that it is a very important part of our health and well being. I just finished reading the book by Dr Christohper Ryan, “Sex At Dawn” (he also has a TED talk), and I was blown away by the general premise of the book. The book argues, with compelling anthropological evidence, that humans are naturally promiscuous, and that prior to agriculture, human tribes/groups were very egalitarian. According to Dr Ryan, marriage and monogamy are as recent as our agricultural diets. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and I think that the Primal Lifestyle is missing a cog in the wheel without addressing this important aspect of human health.

I’m a big fan of Christopher Ryan’s podcast, Tangentially Speaking (which I discuss in this post), but oddly enough haven’t read his book yet. I think I’ll do that before I comment on his argument.

However, I can discuss the shift away from polyamory toward monogamy. Why’d it happen?

As is the case with other novel environmental inputs like dairy, there is some degree of genetic adaptation to monogamy. If the society is set up for monogamy, “monogamy genes” will be selected for. That may be what happened in the largely monogamous agricultural societies of Europe and Asia, where land ownership and successful transfer of assets to one’s offspring were the foundation of reproductive success. The more wives you have, the more offspring you’ll have, the more diffuse the inheritance you bequeath. A farm, 300 cattle, and a dairy divided 12 ways isn’t nearly as helpful to your reproductive legacy as a farm, 300 cattle, and a dairy divided two ways.

A recent paper suggests that socially-imposed monogamy arose due to changing disease dynamics. In the smaller group sizes of paleolithic hunter-gatherers, the sexually-transmitted infection burden remained low enough to allow polygamy. As populations settled down and grew, the STI burden increased, making polygamy incredibly dangerous. This was compounded by the shift away from nomadism. If you’re on the move, you’re less likely to get bogged down with disease. Our ancestors in their smaller groups were largely nomadic and thus inoculated from the STI risks of a settled population.

Polyamory isn’t my thing. Whatever your thing is, though, it’s got to come down to basic human decency. Be true to who you are and what you want. Don’t hurt others. Be honest. Be safe.

What more can one say?

That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading. I’d love to get your feedback on today’s questions and answers.

I’m especially interested in your experiences or insights into the polyamory/monogamy matter. That could make for an interesting future post.

Be well.

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How One Simple Vending Machine Tweak Could Prompt Healthier Choices

You’re at work, feeling a little hungry, low energy or just in the mood to take a break, so you stroll down to the vending machine in search of a snack. You feed some cash into the machine and choose something that catches your eye. A few minutes later, you’re sitting at your desk with an empty bag, greasy fingers and an unmistakable sense of regret. Why didn’t you choose something healthier?

 

Making snack decisions in a snap doesn’t always bring out the healthiest eater in us. To quantify this truism, researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago created a device that can be installed in vending machines that delays the dispensing of unhealthy snacks (candy and chips, for instance) for 25 seconds and but allows healthier snacks (nuts, popcorn) to be dispensed straightaway. A sign on the vending machine lets people know unhealthy snacks will take extra time to receive.

 

Guess what happened when the experimental machines were made available around campus? Yep, people began to choose healthier snacks.

 

“We saw a roughly 5 percent change in the proportion of healthy snacks” sales, Brad Appelhans, the associate professor of preventative medicine who led the project, told NPR.

 

It’s unclear whether people were inclined to pick healthier items to avoid the delay (and skirt the inconvenience) or because of it (more time to consider), but even those of us who don’t have access to the tricked-out vending machines can benefit from hitting the pause button when making our food choices, says Philadelphia-based registered dietitian Marjorie Nolan Cohn, MS, RDN, CEDRD, CSSD, ACSM-HFS. Implementing a snack delay — just allowing ourselves a little extra time to consider our options and their potential effects on our well-being — may allow us to break unhealthy habits.

 

“A simple wait period that allows someone to reevaluate their decision internally could be very beneficial,” she says. Being mindful of the sodium content of foods or considering total fat and calorie content, she adds, may be especially important for those who have high blood pressure or are trying to lose weight.

 

Cohn also recommends planning snacks ahead as well. “Even if you change course throughout the day from your plan, simply having a plan will promote more thought of what one is choosing to eat,” Cohn says. “And when someone thinks about what they eat — from a health perspective — they tend to choose foods that are better for their body.”

 

So next time you’re craving that midday candy bar, try counting to 25 and think about how it will affect your body and how you will feel afterward. You may just find yourself opting for a handful of nuts or some fresh fruit instead.

 

Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. She’s a regular contributor to many publications, including ReadersDigest.com, Shape.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Dr. Oz the Good Life, Runner’s World, and more—as well as WeightWatchers.com, where she was a longtime editor. She also pens a recipe-focused blog, Amy’s Eat List.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.



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Celebrating Mal’s 35th Birthday

Good morning and happy Monday to you! I hope you had a lovely weekend! 🙂

Saturday morning started with our usual CrossFit + donuts and iced coffee from Coffee Shack… but the workout was ridiculous this time. Holy quads. I paired up with my friend Marisa and thank goodness that I had her to keep me going. I was struggling at points, but I made it… without dying… just barely. I mean, Karen (150 wallballs) + 50 Squats Cleans? Um, yea, I’m still insanely sore today!

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Post-CrossFit, Qman and I hit up Coffee Shack for an iced coffee and donuts.

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We shared a chocolate frosted one – his favorite!

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And then brought home a glazed donut for Dada – his favorite!

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Back at home, we did a few things around the house to get ready for Mal’s birthday party and then I headed out to Whole Foods to pick up our catering order and a few last-minute items (while Mal put Quinn down for a nap).

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When I returned home, it was just about party time!

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Before long, our hometown friends (+ their families) arrived to celebrate Mal’s birthday.

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There were lots of yard games.

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And kids!

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And food! Mal asked for wings, mac & cheese, and Caesar salad for his party menu and that’s exactly what he got! (I like that he kept things simple for me!)

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And, of course, Mal’s birthday wouldn’t be complete without Funfetti!

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These three are my whole world. <3

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I love that Quinn eats his cupcakes the same way that I do! 🙂

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Once everyone had cupcakes, we played in the yard for awhile more before settling down on the porch. We had a fire and listened to some tunes before saying goodbye to the hometown crew. Mal said he had an awesome time celebrating his birthday, so I’d say his party was a success! 🙂

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Question of the Day

Would you rather the frosting or cake or both? 

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It Takes Guts To Live Healthier

This post is sponsored by Swanson Health Products, but all opinions are my own

As I mentioned last week, later today I will be boarding a plane to head to Los Angeles for a big media tour with Swanson Health Products. I’m so excited for this trip, but I’m also nervous! Please send me good vibes!

I want to take the time today to tell you a bit more about this new line of probiotics! Simply put, probiotics are the “good” bacteria that promote the ideal conditions for your digestion to take place, helping to break down food and promote a healthy immune system and GI tract. If your gut bacteria, a.k.a. flora, is out of whack, you might have symptoms ranging from occasional gas and bloating to stress and mood fluctuations along with possible skin and dental health concerns. As Hippocrates famously said, “all disease begins in the gut.”

Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods like kombucha, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. Ideally, you’d eat these every day, but many of us don’t consume them on a daily basis. I eat yogurt frequently, but I can’t say I have kimchi or kefir all that often. Taking a probiotic supplement is a simple and convenient way to proactively help ensure that your GI tract is healthy, just like a multivitamin can fill the gaps in your general nutrition.

I have taken probiotics on and off for years, especially after a round of antibiotics or sickness to help replenish the good bacteria that got depleted along with the bad. I took them after I had Mazen because I had IV antibiotics while in the hospital, and I gave Mazen some baby probiotics then, too.

Swanson Health Products has been a leading e-commerce retailer of Swanson brand and National brands of vitamins and supplements for nearly 50 years. This probiotic line is their newest offering, and they sent me the whole line to share with you all.

The Everyday Wellness Solutions are great for those who want a general dose of colony forming units (CFUs) for general digestive and immune health and flora support, keeping the good guys strong for optimal gut function. There are seven options in this level:

      • Swanson Probiotic for Daily Wellness
      • Swanson Probiotic for Digestive Health
      • Swanson Probiotic for Kids
      • Swanson Prebiotic for Friendly Flora Support
      • Swanson Probiotic+ D for Daily Wellness
      • Probiotic+ Enzymes for Digestion
      • Swanson Probiotic+ Prebiotic Fiber for Friendly Flora Support

I’ve been taking the Probiotic+ D since my vitamin D levels were low last year. Mazen is loving the chewable tablets for kids, and Thomas is taking the Probiotic+ Enzymes for Digestion. I am eager to see if I notice any difference in my body over time.

In addition to daily wellness, Swanson caters to those with specific needs for digestion and immune support with a condition-specific line of specialty blends, as well as those with the highest potency and the largest number of strains for peak performance in its Ultra category. This includes an Ultra Probiotic designed for Women and one for Seniors.

It’s crazy to me how small bacteria are, and that billions of CFUs can fit into one small capsule. The number of bacteria in each dose ranges from one billion to 66 billion CFUs across the line!

I’ve been taking my probiotic on an empty stomach with a big glass of water first thing in the morning (as per the bottle instructions). This little ritual has made me think more about my morning routine. I’ve been working to make our mornings at home as peaceful as possible now that the weather is warm enough to enjoy coffee out on the deck and throw open a window! Here are five ways to add a little zen to your morning and start the day with the best foot forward:

Set your alarm 10 minutes earlier than you need. A good morning starts at night. If you want to build in a few extra minutes in the morning, you need to wake up rested and refreshed, so be sure to get a full night’s sleep by going to bed on time and setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier. This will keep unpredictable events from causing delays and will leave you feeling calmer.

Stretch and move. While it would be ideal to start every day with 15 minutes of yoga, that is not realistic for most people. Rather, find ways to multitask by adding stretching into your morning routine. Stretch your calves in the shower, lunge while zipping your jeans, do a forward fold while drying your hair. Move your body to energize your mind!

Drink water and take a probiotic. About 20-30 minutes before you sit down for breakfast, drink a glass of water to hydrate and take a probiotic supplement. Taking probiotics prepares your gut for a day of defense as you tackle the world, so be sure to build up that army before leaving home!

Add in some peaceful touches. There’s a reason we all love spas the candles, music, and quiet vibe all foster a sense of calm. While I know some of you moms are rolling your eyes, remember that something is better than nothing. Light a candle in the kitchen while you make breakfast or put on soothing music while you shower and get dressed. “Fake it until you make it” is my favorite mantra!

Eat a healthy breakfast. Head to food blogs to find quick, easy, make-ahead breakfasts that are healthy and packed with goodness. Overnight oats are a crowd favorite because they take no time to make and are easy for breakfast on-the-go. Eating well for your first meal ensures that you start the day off right and if you’re well-nourished, you’ll be less likely to hit the sweets in the conference room at 10am.

Obviously, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, so I am always sure to make it a good one!

Have you ever taken or do you take a probiotic? What is your favorite part of your morning routine?

Thanks to Swanson Health Products for sponsoring this post

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