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The two things you absolutely MUST have on your Thanksgiving menu

I do like pie, I'm not going to lie! But in all likelihood pie is already on your menu---maybe even several varieties! So, I'm going to suggest a couple of things that you may not have thought of just yet. How did I settle on the two items you should add to your table? As I trained to become a health coach, I studied 100 different diets. As a fitness professional, I have read countless periodicals, journals, and magazines, all of which feature studies and all kinds of information exploring the effects of various foods on our bodies. And just last week I attended the Wise Traditions conference in California, where I learned more about the most nutrient-dense and nourishing foods.

All of this to say, I'm not just pulling these ideas out of thin air. I've boiled all of that info down to just two MUST-HAVEs to add to this year's Thanksgiving feast. Cranberry relish and stuffing! Just kidding. The two are listed below.

First, something FRESH! You are as alive as the food you eat. Think of the difference between being at a live concert and listening to a cd. Eating food from the supermarket is the cd--shiny and attractive but tasteless and difficult to digest. Eating food from a farm or your garden is the live concert--delighting and stimulating your tastebuds...and your whole body!

By the way, when I say fresh I don't mean something labeled "fresh" or a product with a cow drawn on the label or a cutesy illustration of a farm. I mean something that doesn't come in a package, food that you did not buy in a brick and mortar store. I'm not saying everything on your menu needs to be this fresh. But what if at least one menu item were that fresh?

You can get fresh food from your own garden if you have one or from a local farmers market. If you don't know of one, just google it or go to farmmatch.com. I bet there's one within a 10-minute drive or walk from your home!

Once you buy your one fresh item, get cooking, but keep it simple. There's no need to gussy up your ingredient by making it into a casserole or putting marshmallows on it. Farm fresh foods--like the sweet potatoes we had for dinner last night--don't need a lot of adornment. We just stuck them in the oven for an hour or so and slathered butter on them and they were absolutely delectable.

Note that this was only the initial butter I slathered on!

One of my daughters takes hers completely naked---the sweet potato, that is! The freshness is the condiment that takes them over the top. Of course if you want to get fancy, you may. You could make sweet potato gnocchi. Be my guest. Or better yet, invite me over and I'll be your guest.

The second must-have menu item is something FERMENTED. The Standard American Diet (also known as S.A.D.) doesn't often include fermented foods, but most all other diets around the world do! The bacteria and enzymes from fermented foods enhance your digestion, boost your immune system, and help you avoid chronic disease. At Thanksgiving, we're most interested in the first benefit on that list: aiding digestion. In other words, it'll be easier for your system to handle all the food coming its way, if you eat something fermented.

So what should it be? The choices are practically endless! Try pickled green beans, just plain pickles, krauts, kimchi, kalechi. Warning: you can't just buy something at your local grocery store and assume it's been fermented. (Even pickles aren't always pickled; they may just be cucumbers sitting in vinegar.) So be on the lookout for brands that indicate that they are fermented like Bubbie's pickles and sauerkraut. You can find brands like this one at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or Moms Organic Markets.

Serving suggestion for the pickled beets

Or go local with fermented foods (see point number one). Number 1 Sons has some amazing fermented foods that have made me fall in love with veggies in a whole new way---like okra and green beans. They sell their vast array of foods at many area farmers markets in the DC metro area.

So that's it: fresh and fermented foods. Were you surprised by these two suggestions? Did you already have these kinds of foods on your menu? If not, go for it! Yes, serve the usual suspects: turkey, stuffing, green beans, and mashies. But add a dash of life and spice by adding the fresh and fermented foods to the mix! Your family and friends will love you and thank you for it! And so will your body!

Scales are for fish: why I didn't step on the scale today and neither should you

Drum roll, please!