wellness

Your Health in Action: 5 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Sleep Hygiene

5 Tips for Better SleepWhen it comes to sleep, it often feels like we just don’t get enough of it. When I first started wearing a FitBit, I was astonished to learn how restless I can be at night and how little sleep I tend to get on average. Lack of sleep affects every aspect of my world, from my productivity at work to my concentration in grad school (which is difficult enough after a traditional 8-hour day!), and even plays a major role in weight loss and food choices. One of my resolutions for 2017 has been to clean up my sleep hygiene, and while this is an ongoing process, I’m excited to see how much better I feel as I incorporate more of these healthy habits into my routine!

Check out these five tips for better sleep hygiene, and share your own in the comments section below!

1. Incorporate essential oils into your bedtime routine.
I fell in love with essential oils last year, when I attended an aromatherapy workshop at East End Market, and not long after that, I began using them at home. (After all, when you’re cooking alotof cauliflower, diffusing peppermint oil in your kitchen can be the perfect way to mask the smell.) I used the oils to help with headaches, immune health, and cravings. What I didn’t realize was that oils like lavender can actually help with relaxation, so I have now begun diffusing lavender in my bedroom about a half hour before I go to bed. The scent does provide a sense of calm, but it also makes my room smell amazing!

2. Keep work out of your bedroom.
Save work and school assignments for another area of your home. It can be tempting to work from your laptop in bed, but it will also cause you to associate your bedroom with actual work, which can keep your mind racing after your head hits the pillow.  Find another place to get your work done, whether it’s in another room or out of the house.

3. Eat clean.
Did you know that certain vitamin and nutrient deficiencies can be linked to shorter sleep duration? Lack of sleep is also correlated to overeating and junk food cravings, so this can become a vicious cycle. Break it by sticking to a more balanced diet and including a lot of variety in the carbs and proteins you consume. Avoid the processed frankenfoods out there and save them for special occasions only – not only can they disturb your sleep patterns, but they can also be bad for your skin, digestion, heart, and waistline. (Also, does anyone else remember that time on Hey Arnoldwhen Helga ate pork rinds before bed and ended up sleepwalking to Arnold’s house? Please don’t eat pork rinds before bed… or ever.)

4. Get some exercise.
Research shows that even 10 minutes of exercise each day can improve your sleep and overall stress levels. Whether you decide to hit the gym hard or simply go for a short walk, incorporating more physical activity into your routine can be a major game changer when it comes to the quality of your sleep.

5. Stay away from electronics.
If you’re anything like me, you’re still glued to your phone when it’s time for bed. Often I’ll lie awake, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, guided by the nearly blinding glow of my screen in the dark. Common sense alone will tell you this is not good for your sleep quality or for your eyes. Try to shut off electronics about a half hour before you go to sleep if you can, but at the very least, refrain from using your phone in bed – this will help your brain to shut off as well.

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Following these tips will help you to create the perfect sleep environment for you. Another way to improve your overall sleep environment? Making sure you have the right mattress! It’s important to change out your mattress every 7-10 years. If you’re in the market, check out Leesa and learn about their luxury mattresses.

Looking for more tips for excellent sleep hygiene? Check out this awesome infographic from Leesa and read more about their mattresses here.


What are some of your tips for better sleep? Share in the comments section below!

Introducing: No Stress November

funny-no-shave-november-no-job-decemberHey readers! Can you believe it’s practically November? In the past month, we’ve experienced a major hurricane, countless Halloween parties, and the devastating aftermath of the Brangelina split — and yet somehow, it feels like October went by in a flash.

November tends to be one of my busiest months of the year at work and in school, with my calendar filling up with events and deadlines well before the month even begins. This year, to stay sane at an admittedly crazy time, I’m implementing No Stress November, a 30-day wellness challenge designed to decompress for a few minutes each day. I invite you to join me!

Below is my list of 30 items to complete throughout the 30 days of November. The rule is to do at least one of these things per day (with repeats allowed!), and you are welcome to customize the list to meet your own needs. Planning to tag along? Use the hashtag #NoStressNovember on social media and share what you’re up to! 🙂

Below is my list for the No Stress November challenge. Feel free to use all of these or switch them up based on your personal preferences. I’ll check in throughout the month with my own progress and reflections. Enjoy!

  1. Go for a 30-minute walk outside.
  2. Cook a meal you’ve never made before.
  3. Color in an adult coloring book.
  4. Donate your time to community service.
  5. Get your hair professionally done.
  6. Spend 30 minutes meditating.
  7. Take a full day away from social media.
  8. Lay out by the pool.
  9. Buy yourself fresh flowers.
  10. Test out a new makeup tutorial.
  11. Practice 30 minutes of yoga.
  12. Visit a place you have never been before.
  13. Go out for brunch.
  14. Perform a random act of kindness.
  15. Clean out your purse/briefcase.
  16. Lift weights.
  17. Write a love letter (or kind note) to yourself.
  18. Watch a documentary or TED Talk.
  19. Take extra time to pamper yourself.
  20. Write down 50 things you are thankful for.
  21. Connect with an old friend.
  22. De-clutter an area of your home.
  23. Make a list of places to visit in the next five years.
  24. Dedicate 30 minutes to writing.
  25. Create a fun playlist.
  26. Revamp your monthly budget.
  27. Build something with LEGOs.
  28. Watch stand-up comedy.
  29. Use essential oils.
  30. Spend the day with family.

Participating with me? Let me know in the comments section below, and share your progress on social media with the hashtag #NoStressNovember!

Summer Snack Challenge: Fun Fruit Sliders

Hey there, readers! Today marked the last day of my first semester of MBA school, and I can’t believe how quickly the time flew by. Juggling two graduate-level business classes with a full-time job was no joke, so I’m definitely looking forward to having a nice little break from school between semesters. July may be nearly over, but it feels like my summer is just getting started! 🙂

Every good summer requires a trip to the beach, time spent outdoors, and at least one cookout with family and friends. I love creating fun little side dishes to bring out to social gatherings, so when I heard that Nuts.com was holding a recipe contest to create a summer snack using specific ingredients,  I knew I had to participate! 🙂

From there, these fruit sliders were born. Sprinkled with super foods like goji berries, which are filled with antioxidants, and chia seeds, which are rich in Omega-3, this snack is the perfect combination of healthy and delicious. These fruit sliders are so easy to make that they barely require a recipe, and the best part is, you can swap out the fruit depending on what you are in the mood for. I chose bananas, but apple slices would also go great with these ingredients!

This recipe serves one person as an individual snack, so adjust your quantities accordingly.

Healthy Fruit Sliders

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Peel and slice banana.
  2. Spread each slice with cacao butter as desired.
  3. Top with cacao nibs and goji berries (about one goji berry per banana slice should suffice, depending on how big your slices are).
  4. Sprinkle with chia seeds.
  5. Serve. (It’s really that easy!)

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For more fun summer recipes and other cool food products from a family owned business, visit Nuts.com. 🙂

 

The Weekend Five: Movie Night Snacks That Won’t Throw Your Diet Off Track

Ever since I began my MBA program in May, schoolwork has consumed a lot of my free time on the weekends that I would normally spend with family or friends. As I start to develop more of a routine, I look for little ways to add balance to my life so that work and school aren’t my only focuses. From a beach day with one of my best friends to berry picking adventures in Ocoee, I still try to make time for myself to enjoy the world and everything it has to offer.

On the weekends when it’s harder to get out, there’s nothing better than a night in with the perfect movie, a warm blanket, and delicious snacks. Of course, when we think of movie-related snacks, we tend to think of super-buttery popcorn (admittedly a guilty pleasure of mine), giant soft drinks, and boxes of Junior Mints — all very high in calories and not particularly good for you. Luckily, I’ve mastered the art of selecting guilt-free movie night snacks that still pack a lot of flavor, and I’m excited to share those with you this week!

The Weekend Five: Movie Night Snacks That Won’t Throw Your Diet Off Track

Healthy Movie Night Snacks1. SkinnyPop Popcorn.
Anyone who has ever lived within a 5-mile radius of me knows how much I love popcorn. What I don’t love is seeing how much my skin breaks out and how bloated I feel after I eat it! SkinnyPop has been a deliciously satisfying alternative for me. Their popcorn is low in calories (just 39 calories per cup) and doesn’t have any of the hard-to-pronounce artificial ingredients that comprise so many of our grocery stores’ snack aisles. They offer several flavors (the white cheddar is another one of my favorites!), and they also sell individual 100-calorie packs if you want to have them pre-portioned for you. SkinnyPop was the perfect treat for last night’s viewing of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!

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2. Bowl of fruit.
I love to wash a bowl of grapes for an easy, no-mess movie snack, but the world is your oyster. Slice up a banana and combine with strawberries and blueberries for another healthy choice, or raid your fridge to mix up a fun fruit salad. That way, you’re getting plenty of nutrients while still enjoying yourself, and even if you go a little overboard, you probably aren’t doing yourself a whole lot of damage.

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The Better Chip3. Vegetable chips.
I’m obsessed with The Better Chip‘s Spinach and Kale chips, which have very few ingredients and still fulfill any chip cravings you might have. They have a variety of flavors to choose from, or you can go ahead and make your own. Love sweet potatoes? Try the Minimalist Baker’s Sweet Potato Chip recipe for something healthy, delicious and homemade.

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4. Veggies and hummus.
I don’t know about you, but I love to dunk baby carrots and other raw veggies in hummus! Hummus is filling enough that you’re likely to stop yourself from going completely overboard, and although there is some debate on the health benefits of legumes (sorry, paleo friends!), there is no denying that they taste absolutely amazing. 🙂

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ApplePizza5. Apple pizzas.
Cut up some apple slices, lather with almond butter, and sprinkle on raisins, unsweetened shredded coconut, and cinnamon! I could eat these for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but they also make for a delicious movie night snack. These are as much fun to make as they are to eat. They are filled with fiber and healthy fats, but will still satisfy your sweet tooth when you are looking for a healthy dessert.

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What are your favorite guilt-free movie night snacks? Share yours in the comments section below! 🙂

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back on TrackFor many of us, the beginning of a diet program can often feel like the beginning of a relationship. We’re excited to embark on something new, enthusiastic about the changes in our lives, and looking forward to the possibilities ahead. Of course, after that honeymoon period runs its course, sometimes it can be difficult to maintain that same level of enthusiasm toward the program, as we become complacent or begin to recognize the uncomfortable moments more often than we used to.

I began experimenting with a paleo lifestyle back in 2014 by completing my first Whole30, and since then, the program has played a significant role in my health and wellness. However, I sometimes struggle with motivation and consistency, and find my health journey to be a work in progress. The more that I talk to others in the Whole30 community, the more that I learn that a second, third, or fourth Whole30 can often be much harder than the first, because many of us do have difficulty staying on track even after we’ve experienced positive results.

Sounds a little counter-intuitive, right? Luckily, I’ve dedicated the better part of 2016 thus far to really focusing on ways to re-motivate ourselves once the magic wears off. Read below for my tips on keeping up with your program and remaining empowered even after the honeymoon period is over! 🙂

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals On Track

How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track1. Dedicate time for meal prep.
Let’s face it — eating healthy can be time-consuming! You’re preparing most of your own meals from scratch, avoiding a lot of the quick but nutrient-deficient shortcuts a lot of us fall victim to. Because of this, it can be so easy to give up after a long day of work and other responsibilities, and order takeout instead. An easy way to save time and take out a lot of the guesswork is to create a meal plan ahead of time and do a lot of the prep work early. For me, Sundays are the perfect day to decide what I’m going to eat each day (and yes, I do incorporate my social outings into that plan), buy the appropriate foods at the grocery store, and begin prepping those foods.

So what does “meal prep” mean to me? Typically, I’ll put on some vintage Keeping Up With The Kardashians (or another show that entertains me but doesn’t require too much concentration), and set aside an hour or two to chop up veggies for dishes I’ll eat throughout the week, wash fruit for easy grab-and-go access, and hard-boil some eggs to have a convenient protein source available at any time. Your meal prep can be as elaborate as you choose — some like to prepare all of their meals to reheat, and that works too! For me, having my veggies pre-washed and pre-chopped makes it easy to just throw them on the stove or in the oven later in the week, and saves me a ton of time!

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2. Make things exciting in the kitchen.
Browse Pinterest for cool recipes you can try (check mine out here for inspiration!), or invest in a new kitchen gadget you look forward to using. Find ways to spice things up in the kitchen — literally! When I started to grow sick of scrambled eggs, I started adding cumin and turmeric for a bold new flavor profile. When I’ve enjoyed a new ethnic dish and wanted to make a healthier version of it at home, I’ve often searched “lightened up __” or “paleo ___” to expand my culinary horizons. Figure out those routine favorites that you can make quickly and regularly, but continue to branch out so that things don’t become too stale. Why not aim to try one new recipe each week?

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How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track3. Incorporate positive mantras into your program.
I’ve struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember.  Since I was in middle school, I always associated health and weight loss goals as something negative, something to be ashamed of, instead of as a way to improve your overall well-being. A few months ago, I decided to flip the switch on that mindset by giving myself motivational notes to wake up to each morning. These quotes and messages give me a positive affirmation to focus on throughout the day, and remind me of how far I’ve come. The notes were so successful for me that they even went viral on the Whole30 Instagram page! 🙂 I try to create new words of encouragement for myself each and every month.

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4. Hide the scale.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve let that little number either make or break your whole day. One of the rules of the Whole30 program is to not weigh yourself for the entire 30 days, but over the years, this was the rule I always broke. I found that if I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, then even if I felt other positive changes from my diet (better skin, more energy, etc.), I often gave up halfway through the month. This January, I finally stowed the scale away in my guest room (out of sight, out of mind) and fully avoided it for the entire month. Taking a break from weighing myself multiple times per day was extremely helpful for me and showed me just how unhealthy my relationship with the scale truly was. If you consider yourself overly dependent on the scale, I challenge you to hide it for a month!

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5. Find accountability partners.
Use social media or find people in your real life with whom you can be accountable! I belong to a few private groups on Facebook, some dedicated to Whole30 and some more focused on clean eating as it differs by individual, and having a strong support system makes it that much easier to stay on track. Whether you join one of those private groups or simply find a gym buddy to keep you on your toes, find others who are just as health-focused and turn to each other!

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What are your tips for staying motivated? Share yours in the comments section below!

Adventures in Florida: Be a “Resolutionary”

I stopped by the East End Market in Orlando a few weeks back as part of my 25 at 25 Bucket List Challenge. Ever since it opened back in 2013, I have heard great things about the market’s merchants and cool, artsy atmosphere. When I turned 25, I decided that a visit to the market was a must.

East End Market

For my first visit, I decided to check out one of the East End Market’s classes — and my selection did not disappoint. My friend Beth and I attended an expo event called Be A Resolutionary!, which provided free classes throughout the morning and early afternoon. The classes were mainly centered on health and wellness, and were designed for those hoping to stick to their New Year’s resolutions (hence the name “resolutionary”). 🙂

We started with an hour-long barre class. I’m no stranger to yoga or pilates, but this class kicked my butt! I learned that it’s a great way to work out those small muscles you don’t usually focus on, but maybe not the best exercise option if you haven’t worked out in a while. (I could barely walk for the next few days!) Still, it was a fun experience — the energy was upbeat and positive, and there were modifications for all comfort levels. (I just happen to be stubborn and don’t always modify my exercises when I should.)

After the class, we hobbled over to the courtyard for the first presentation of the day. “How To Live, Love and Move” by Nikki Blanton from Our Sole Intent was a great reminder of the importance of movement throughout the day, and she focused on the power of connection through your body, your heart and the Earth. The presentation also piqued my interest in essential oils, which I’ll be attending another seminar on later today!

Skyebird Juice Bar | East End Market

After the presentation, we popped into Skyebird’s Juice Bar for smoothies. I tried Skye’s Fave, a mix of almond milk, kale, banana, blueberries and chia seeds, and it was a delicious pick-me-up! We loved our smoothies and appreciated the Mason jars they came in, which we were able to keep. The juice/smoothie bar is vegetarian and vegan — perfect for those trying to avoid dairy, which can be difficult at a lot of smoothie places.

We visited two other presentations throughout the day as well. “Greening Up Your Home,” hosted by Porch Therapy, focused on the health benefits of having plants in your home. As someone with a lot of allergies and a not-so-great immune system, this was definitely something that appealed to me. I had no idea that there could be so many toxic chemicals like formaldehyde in our homes, or that indoor plants could make you both happier and healthier. A houseplant will be one of my next purchases, and I’m excited to learn how to care for it!

We ended the day with “Resolve to Eat Healthy” with Dr. Samadhi Artemisa. I really enjoyed her food demo (I had never tried a kumquat before!) and learning about heirloom plants and the importance of eating locally. Her presentation definitely encouraged me to start looking for local farmer’s markets to get the most nutritional bang for my buck, and I was excited to learn more about how to keep my body healthy.

Overall, we had a fantastic time at the East End Market, and I’m looking forward to my next visit! 🙂

Readers, have you ever taken a class at the East End Market? What are your bucket list goals for the year? Share in the comments section below!

Turmeric Scrambled Eggs

One of my biggest struggles on the Whole30 over the past few rounds has been making sure I get enough protein into my diet — and the easiest source of protein for me has been eggs. Eggs are a fantastic superfood, can be hard-boiled in large batches for portable nutrition, and don’t require the same level of attention as handling raw meat.

Of course, eggs get a bad rap by Day 10 of a Whole30, as we start to grow sick of the monotony. After all, many of us feel like we’re eating Gaston-level portions of eggs! When I’m not following Whole30, I love scrambling my eggs with a little cheese, but because my diet is currently dairy-free, I’m stuck with a really boring breakfast.

Recently, I started experimenting in the kitchen to make a better, more flavorful scrambled egg dish. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, while cumin is a good source of iron and may be beneficial for diabetics and asthmatics. This “recipe” is so easy that I can barely call it a recipe, but too delicious not to share!

Turmeric Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • A few shakes of turmeric (to your liking)
  • A few shakes of cumin (to your liking)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Melt your ghee over medium heat.
  2. Crack in your eggs and stir.
  3. Sprinkle on turmeric and cumin to your liking, and mix.
  4. Scramble until eggs are as well done as you prefer.
  5. Salt to taste.
  6. Serve.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

Healthy Veggie-Loaded Hash Browns

These healthy veggie-loaded hash browns are also Whole30 compliant!

When I think about hash browns, the first thing that comes to mind is the side dish at one of those diners where you always end up ordering way too much food and waddling back to your car. The second thing that comes to mind is a delicious potato recipe fried on a high heat with bad oils and more butter than Paula Deen would know how to handle. I love hash browns, but I hardly think of them as a healthy meal.

Of course, several rounds of Whole30 have required me to get a little creative (by the way, I’m on Day 1 today!), and after a recent hash brown craving, I wound up creating this masterpiece. White potatoes are considered Whole30-compliant — Hallelujah! — so why not add to the party by mixing other veggies to make a fabulous breakfast bowl?

Paderno Spiralizer

I use my Paderno 3-blade spiralizer to quickly shred my potatoes for this dish. If you’re considering a paleo lifestyle or embarking on a Whole30, I highly recommend you invest in a spiralizer like this — it’s a great way to integrate more veggies into your diet and enjoy a new texture. (As someone who misses pasta terribly, I love the noodle consistency that the spiralizer gives many of my compliant foods.)

Add in a couple of eggs prepared to your liking, and you’ve got a full meal! This recipe feeds one hungry person (myself) but could also serve as more of a side dish for two, especially if you’re cooking up a big breakfast. Adjust the quantities accordingly!

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole white potato, peeled
  • 1 cup broccoli slaw (mixed package of shredded broccoli, carrots and cabbage)
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced (whichever color strikes your fancy!)
  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: Garlic to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add broccoli slaw and diced bell pepper to the pan.
  3. Spiralize your potato with the thinner blade. Chop up the spiralized pieces afterward so you don’t end up with 12-foot potato noodles!
  4. Add the spiraled potatoes, paprika, salt and garlic powder (optional) to the pan.
  5. Cook on medium for about 20 minutes or until it reaches desired crispiness, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and serve. Bon appétit!

I hope you enjoy today’s hash brown recipe! Test it out and let me know what you think. Don’t forget to share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies! 🙂

Aloo Gobi (Curried Cauliflower & Potatoes)

If you’re anything like me, you have a few favorite comfort food recipes that regularly make it into your meal rotation. In my case, I can’t get enough of this aloo gobi recipe — I make it at least once (if not two or three times!) per week. This Indian-inspired dish mixes cauliflower and potatoes and is not only easy to make, but it’s Whole30 compliant! In other words, it’s healthy and packed with flavor.

Aloo Gobi Recipe - Whole30 Compliant!

One of the great things about this meal is that you can easily customize it to match your taste preferences. Add in turmeric, garam masala, or tomatoes to switch up the flavor profile. Oh, and did I mention that it pairs amazingly with my curry and coconut crusted chicken bites? You can thank me later. 😉

I live alone and generally cook for one, so this recipe is meant to serve one fairly hungry person or two less hungry people with no sense of adventure (kidding). Adjust the quantities based on your needs!

Aloo Gobi Recipe - Whole30 Compliant!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp ghee/clarified butter (or regular butter if you’re not following Whole30)
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • Sprinkle of chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: A few spoonfuls of petite diced tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Melt your ghee or butter over medium heat.
  2. Add in cauliflower florets and diced potato.
  3. Drizzle on olive oil, then mix in curry powder, garlic powder, chili powder and salt.
  4. Cook on medium for about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.
  5. Remove from heat, take a million photos of it until you can get the lighting right, post on Instagram with a few decent hashtags, and serve.

Bon appétit! If you try this recipe, let me know what you think. 🙂 Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

Whole30 Beauty Bowl

When you’re following a program like the Whole30, it can be easy to overcomplicate things. After all, there are few things more satisfying than mastering a difficult recipe and sharing it in all its glory on your Instagram! 🙂 However, sometimes when you’re in the middle of big lifestyle changes, you need to simplify your meals once in a while. That’s what my Whole30 Beauty Bowl is all about.

BeautyBowl09

Why a Beauty Bowl? Believe it or not, I did not call it a “beauty bowl” because of its vibrant colors (although they are definitely beautiful in their own right). Rather, the meal is packed with vitamins that promote beautiful skin, good vision and a healthy immune system. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make and is filled with flavor. You’ll want to add this one into your rotation!

BeautyBowl06

Some would call this an “ingredient meal” because it barely requires a recipe, just ingredients! However, today I’ll share my method for a flawless (and delicious!) beauty bowl. This recipe feeds one person, so you’ll want to make sure you adjust your ingredient quantities accordingly!

Whole30BeautyBowl

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • A few handfuls of broccoli slaw (mixed package of broccoli, carrots and cabbage)
  • Cooking fat of choice
  • Rosemary (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 1 hard boiled egg
  • Handful of blueberries

Instructions

  1. Heat up your oil of choice over medium heat. (I used extra virgin olive oil.)
  2. Add in chopped sweet potato and broccoli slaw.
  3. Drizzle on a little extra cooking fat, and sprinkle on rosemary and salt to taste.
  4. Let cook on medium for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When finished, add in blueberries and hard boiled egg.
  6. Enjoy!

Let me know what you guys think! Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies! 🙂