Continuing Family Traditions – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 22, 2014

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 42 — family traditions.

My mother used to drive us a little crazy on Christmas Day. She made my sister and me take the exact same pictures every year before we could begin opening gifts. First, we had to sit side by side in the “gold” chair, which was upholstered in a lovely 70s-era crushed velvet. It was later reupholstered to a trendy 80s floral, but we still called it the “gold” chair. Then we had to sit under the tree, holding matching packages that were painstakingly wrapped with intricate homemade bows.   Then we had to sit on the fireplace hearth. Then….you get the drift.

photo 3With each picture, both our excitement and impatience grew until it reached a near frenzied state by the time we actually opened gifts. As a child, and especially as a teenager, I’m sure I rolled my eyes at this “nonsense” and swore I would never subject my own children to the same type of torture. Yeah. Right.

It turns out, however, that I was blessed with children who actually embrace tradition. They have many fond memories of traditions on both sides.

photo 2We carried on one of our most important rituals this past Saturday night. When my husband’s mother passed away more than 30 years ago, my father-in-law was determined to carry on the tradition of gathering the family at his home for a holiday dinner. However, the only dish my father-in-law knew how to cook was chili – a far cry from the elaborate meals his wife used to make. The first year, I think everyone was a little skeptical, but over the years, it’s become a sacred tradition. My father-in-law, himself, passed away a few years ago. Now, we gather at my husband’s sister’s house instead. There’s been occasional talk of changing the menu, but believe it or not, the kids protest. For them, the thought of a Robinson family Christmas without Grandad’s chili is blasphemous.

We had the pleasure of welcoming a new little member to the family this year. As our family expands, it occurred to me how thankful I am for the commitment to tradition that builds special connections and makes it possible for our distinct family history to pass on to the next generation.

photo 1What are some of your favorite family holiday traditions?

Health by Chocolate – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 19, 2014

Regular readers know I’m doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 41 – dark chocolate.

As many of you know, I’ve drastically cut back on sugar this year. However, I have continued to eat one ounce of dark chocolate every other day or so. I’ve seen a lot of research saying that dark chocolate can lessen cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods and make it easier to stick to a healthy diet.


This article in Women’s Health outlines several other health benefits as well:

  • Cardiovascular: In a 9-year Swedish study of more than 31,000 women, those who ate one or two servings of dark chocolate each week cut their risk for heart failure by as much as a third.
  • Diabetes: In an Italian study, participants who ate dark chocolate once a day for 15 days saw their potential for insulin resistance drop by nearly half. “Flavonoids increase nitric oxide production,” says lead researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., a professor at the University of L’Aquila in Italy. “And that helps control insulin sensitivity.”
  • Stress: Swiss scientists found that when very anxious people ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate every day for two weeks, their stress hormone levels were significantly reduced and the metabolic effects of stress were partially mitigated
  • Brain Power: A University of Nottingham researcher found that drinking cocoa rich in flavanols boosts blood flow to key parts of the brain for 2 to 3 hours, which could improve performance and alertness in the short term.

I can certainly use help with the last two this time of year. It’s important not to go crazy, though. I try to limit myself to one ounce per day. I also look for varieties that are not more than 65 percent cacao. Higher percentages can be higher alkaline and supposedly cause heartburn and inflammation.

My favorite brand is Chocolove. It comes in 24 flavors, and you can eat 6 squares (1/3 of a bar) within the one-ounce guideline. The company also recently donated $50,000 to the World Cocoa Foundation, which in turn gave to the International Federation of Red Cross program in West Africa. The IFRC is one of the most active organizations at work in West Africa at this time in the fight against the ebola virus.

Eating chocolate and fighting disease at the same time – can’t beat that.

Trimming the Tree – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 18, 2014

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 40 – veggie Christmas ornaments.

If you’re like me, mild panic is setting in as you still have several items remaining on your Christmas to-do list. It seems like small gifts for neighbors, work gift exchanges, etc. usually cause me more stress than bigger items.

One of my colleagues, Shelley Porter, gave me a gift this morning that is perfect for me and maybe for the healthy eater on your list too — veggie ornaments from Sur la table.

These little crocheted delicacies are cute enough to leave out all year. I especially love the asparagus.


I have long admired Sur la table as a brand that makes life better.   Their tagline, “The Art and Soul of Cooking” captures a brand essence that brings people together around great food. I just checked the website. They have several more affordable foodie gifts as well.

I still have a few more gifts to go. Please send your ideas my way.

Getting Oily – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 16, 2014

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 39 – essential oils.


Essential oils may be the hottest craze going right now. I’ve been invited to several educational events – both online and in person. One brand in particular, Young Living, seems to be doing a stellar job of establishing itself as the market leader in terms of quality. I’ve been intrigued but also skeptical, as Young Living is distributed as a multi-level marketing plan.

Young Living’s social media strategy is quite impressive. It claims to “produce products at the intersection of cutting edge research and ancient wisdom,” touting its organic origins and strict testing protocol.

Indeed, essential oils have been part of traditional healing practices since at least Biblical times. Young Living and other brands have extensive guides about diffusing, ingesting and topically applying oils for just about any ailment you can imagine.

After watching the success my friend, Susie (whom I trust implicitly), has had with oils, I recently decided to invest in a starter kit.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Diffusing is awesome. My son has recently had the flu, so I used a combination of two oils called “Purification” and “Thieves.” Purification smells like clean laundry, and Thieves is a luscious concoction that smells like red hots and is designed to boost immunity. I have also put a few drops in my tea and rubbed it on the bottom of my son’s feet on the recommended reflexology pressure points.


  • Several drops each of lavender and lemon oils mixed into a coconut oil base makes the most amazing dry skin cream I have ever used. And the lavender promotes great sleep too.
  • Several drops of an oil called Pan Away rubbed on the temples and the back of the neck seems to be an excellent headache remedy.
  • A drop of peppermint oil in water soothes indigestion very quickly.

Early indications lead me to believe these products are pretty legitimate – not just snake oil from some pyramid scheme. I really like what I’ve seen so far. And while my family has been teasing me a little, I got a request last night to diffuse Thieves oil in the room of a certain high school senior who was studying for finals. If you have jumped onto the Essential Oils bandwagon, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Rethinking the Wish List– Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 12, 2014

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 38: healthy holiday gifts

I’m WAY behind on my Christmas shopping this year. For one thing, most of the people on my list don’t really need anything. For another, I just can’t seem to get motivated. But the clock is ticking.

I decided to investigate items that would be in keeping with my #healthy50 theme, and I found some great options compiled by the folks at myfitnesspal.

My favorite is the Contingo® Kangaroo water bottle. It features a built-in compartment so you can carry keys, an ID, money, etc. when you’re at the gym or on a walk. This BPA-free water bottle also features a one-touch AUTOSEAL® lid that automatically seals between sips to eliminate spills and leaks.


For the gamers on my list, I think Lumosity is interesting. A personal trainer guides the user through over 40 online games designed by scientists to improve cognitive skills. You can play the games any time and track your progress.

And for the head sweaters (who shall go unnamed, but you know who you are) on my list, the LuluLemon® Flyaway Tamer Headband could be a great choice. It has a four-way stretch and silicone grips to keep your hair from slipping out without pulling. And it also wicks moisture away from your head.

See the complete list here. Okay, so I’ve made a little progress, but I’m nowhere close to done. Please share your best holiday finds.

Healthy Holiday Appetizers – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 10, 2014

Regular readers know that I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 37 – healthy holiday appetizers.

It’s no secret that we’re in the season of “danger theater” (to coin my husband’s phrase) when it comes to healthy eating. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m navigating a minefield. We have so much food in our office from business partners right now, and it seems like I have a holiday event almost every day between now and Christmas.

I’ve worked too hard this year to completely blow it in the next few weeks. Therefore, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect healthy holiday appetizer.

I invented one out of desperation that gets rave reviews. I was standing in Costco trying to figure out what I could take to a last minute get together, and here’s what I came up with:

Mediterranean Layer Dip

1 large container of hummus

1 jar of olive tapenade or bruschetta topping

1 block of feta cheese

Spread hummus in the bottom of a round glass dish. Next spread the olive tapenade or bruschetta topping. (I’ve successfully used both.) Top with crumbled feta and serve with raw veggies or pita chips.

This dip is incredibly easy to make, but it looks pretty, and people love it.

Here’s another list I found from Eating Well, a great brand for healthy eaters. I think the Roasted Beet Crostini and Apricot Canapes sound worth a try. What are some of your favorite healthy holiday appetizers? Please share.



Trying Another New Vegetable – Tips for Healthy Brands and Healthy Living

December 5, 2014

Regular readers know I am doing 50 healthy things this year in honor of my 50th birthday. Here’s number 36 – Sunchokes.

I always think I’ve eaten almost every food. So when a new one comes my way – especially a vegetable, I get pretty excited. I had a special treat in my CSA bag this week – Jerusalem artichokes, AKA sunchokes.


Sunchokes are tubers, like potatoes. They look kind of like ginger root. They are members of the sunflower family and have a nutty, somewhat sweet taste. They are good raw, but roasted, they are amazing. Here’s an easy recipe.

As some of the reviewers note, though, this recipe calls for too much oil. I just eyeballed it and added enough to lightly coat the sunchokes. I love All Recipes for several reasons. First, you can find a recipe for just about anything. But second, I find the reviewer feedback on this site to be much more helpful and practical than many cooking and recipe sites.

Let me know if you try sunchokes or if you have another new vegetable to try.






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