Giving Thanks

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Happy Thanksgiving folks! Today is one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love the gathering of family and friends over delicious food. I love how everyone in my family contributes something to the meal. I love the two days I get off of work. I love how this weekend officially kicks off the holiday season. I love helping my parents decorate their house for the holidays. Most of all, I love the spirit and meaning around Thanksgiving.

What does this holiday mean to you? For me, it is a day of family, relaxation, fun and good food. But most importantly, it is a day to reflect and acknowledge what and who in my life I am thankful for. Personally, I don’t think I do this enough. It is easy to get swept up in the craziness that is my life and not express gratitude regularly to those things and people in my life that truly deserve it. While I love this holiday, I don’t think I should need a specific day to remind me to do this. It should be a regular thing that is just part of how I think and how I interact with those in my life who are important to me.

In an effort to bring the spirit of Thanksgiving to the forefront of my thoughts on a more regular basis, I have done a little soul searching and came up a list of the top ten who and what in my life that I am most thankful for.

  1. My Parents – My parents are amazing people and an inspiration to me on a daily basis. They met as teenagers and have been married for over 40 years. They drove me all over the country when I played soccer in my youth and never discouraged me from pursuing my dreams. They supported me when I decided to move to California and both flew out to help me move into and out of my apartment in San Francisco. They have been with me through my highs and lows and are always there to provide advice and/or a shoulder to cry on. They have been so encouraging of my desire to pursue my passion to become a holistic health coach. My dad sends me article ideas for this blog and my Facebook page and my mom and I have recently started exploring essential oils together.  I am so thankful that I am back on the same coast and living near them again.
  2. My Siblings – I am the baby girl of the family and grew up playing outside with my two older brothers. They taught me the meaning of friendship, loyalty, adventure, imagination and fun.  I remember jamming out to classic rock in car rides on the way to high school. I remember when they came home from college to surprise me for my 16th birthday.  I remember when they came to watch me win the state soccer championship in 11th grade. Now I have a new sister-in-law and couldn’t be happier. My brother picked a good one. The four of us cheer for different English Premier League clubs (Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United – we’ve got ‘em all covered), so it is always a good time when our teams play each other. I can’t wait to see what is in store for us in the years to come.
  3. My Extended Family – I have a large, loud, and extremely fun family. Most of my cousins are the same age as my brothers and I, so we all grew up together and have so many memories from when we would visit them all in upstate New York. Now a lot of these cousins are married and some have children of their own. It is fun to see them in these new roles; it makes me realize how far we’ve come. My aunts and uncles are each amazing individuals. They make me laugh, cry (in a good way), smile and feel loved. When they are around I’m normally not the loudest in the room!
  4. My Friends – I am the type of person who prefers to have a smaller group of close friends compared to a large number of acquaintances. I have known my best friend since 3rd grade.  She has been there for pretty much everything and sometimes I feel like she knows me better than I know myself. She has the best of advice for almost any situation and is always there to talk through my latest and greatest, normally over a glass of wine. She is my person.
  5. My Dog – Tucker is my four-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I never grew up with dogs and decided to get one after I got an intuitive feeling that it was what I needed in my life. I met him when he was about 6 weeks old, knew immediately he was the one and took him home only a few weeks later. Boy did I not know what I was getting myself into. We have come a long way in four years. I never knew that I could love something so much. He drives me crazy but is the brightest star in my day. He was my steadfast companion in California and is there to wag his tail and lick my face every day when I get home.
  6. My Body – If there is anything in my life that I do not appreciate enough, it is my body. I have struggled a lot with body image in the past ten years and have only realized lately how harsh and judgmental I am towards my body. It is not a skinny, model-like size 2. It is athletic and strong and powerful. My legs protected my knees and supported me through a soccer career that spanned 20 years. They now support me through long runs and hours of sun salutations. These days I try and make a point to focus on loving my body exactly the way that it is.
  7. My Yoga Mat – My yoga mat is my happy place (well, one of them). I am not a religious person in the conventional sense of the word, so yoga is my form of spirituality. It teaches me patience and how to be one with my body and helps me to quiet my busy mind. Yoga makes me feel both strong and light as a feather at the same time. I leave my mat with a sense of peace, calm and happiness. Every single time. I dream of one day having the opportunity to teach yoga to others and maybe, just maybe, running my own studio.
  8. My Health – I have learned through experiencing a period of health issues how precious our health is and how much we can take advantage of it. Even though what I went through is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through (see my first blog post for more on this), I know that I got lucky and have been lucky for the majority of my life. Our health can be taken from us at a moment’s notice. Without it, nothing else on this list could exist.
  9. My Laugh – I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love to laugh. The type of laughter that makes your stomach hurt and makes you happy all the way down to your toes. Really loud, soul-filling laughter. A sense of humor is one of the main things I look for in people that I date. My laugh is loud and is one of my favorite aspects of my personality.
  10. My Drive to Succeed – For those who personally know me, I don’t give up easily. I give everything my all, whether it is my relationships, my career or my workout regimen (to name a few). While sometimes I can exhaust myself if I don’t give myself a break, I am confident that my work ethic will take me far and help me to realize my dreams.

I encourage you to take some time today to reflect on what and who in your life you are most thankful for. Tell those people how you feel and how much you appreciate them. Life is precious and should be celebrated every day, not just on holidays. Hug those you love.

Peace, love and pasture-raised turkey,

The Yogi~Foodie

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For the Love of Pumpkin [Granola]

Fall is the season of pumpkin. We carve them for Halloween and roast their seeds, we drink it in our lattes and beer, and we eat pumpkin bread, pancakes and, of course, pumpkin pie. This year I started buying pumpkin to cut up and roast with the rest of my veggies (why did I never think to do thisc5b2fe0c99f0eadc4994a042391a444e before??). I honestly don’t think I could ever get sick of pumpkin.   It is what makes fall so special for me (in addition to the beautiful turning leaves, crisp fall air and the anticipation of the upcoming holiday season). One of the hardest things for me while I lived in California was the absence of the fall season that is so incredibly beautiful in Virginia.

Lucky for me and all you pumpkin lovers out there, pumpkin is really good for you. Mind you, I am talking about real pumpkin, not the “pumpkin flavor” put in your latte at Starbucks (sorry folks). Here are a few fun health facts about my favorite orange squash:

  1. Pumpkins are high in vitamin A, which aids in vision, particularly in dim light. They are also rich in carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which give them their orange color and the body converts into a form of vitamin A. So you get double vitamin A. Yay! Beta-carotene may also play a role in cancer prevention. Bottom line, eat your orange veggies!
  2. Pumpkins are high in fiber and low in calories, with one cup having three grams of fiber and only a whopping 49 calories. Fiber keeps you full for a longer period of time, so people consuming fiber-rich diets tend to eat less overall. Fiber is the reason why you can last longer before getting hungry again after eating an apple compared to drinking apple juice, as the skin of the apple is the source of all of its fiber. So, if weight is something you are working on, pumpkin is a good vegetable to add to your regular fall eating regimen.
  3. Pumpkin seeds are rich in certain plant-based chemicals called phytosterols, which have been shown in studies to reduce LDL (aka bad) cholesterol. They are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan (yes, the same tryptophan in turkey). This amino acid is important in the production of serotonin, which plays a major role in helping to boost your mood. No wonder I am always happy after Thanksgiving dinner… 😉
  4. Ever eat a banana after a tough workout? Potassium helps to restore the body’s balance of electrolytes and repair muscles. Pumpkins actually have more potassium than a banana, with a cup having 564 milligrams to a banana’s 422.
  5. Pumpkins are high in vitamin C, providing 11 milligrams for every 1 cup. This is about 20% of the recommended daily milligrams of vitamin C for women. As we enter the cold and flu season, keep this in mind in case you wake up with the sniffles.

I created the pumpkin granola recipe below by taking my favorite aspects of two other granola recipes I am lucky enough to have been given, one by IMG_1728my father and the other by a good friend. I will give them full credit for the recipes that inspired my hybrid. This is a simple recipe to make, contains common ingredients, and will only take about 30 minutes of your time. You can play with different nuts in the recipe to find what taste and consistency you prefer. It makes about 7-10 servings, depending on the amount of granola you like in your yogurt (I personally pile it on!). This version is not sugar free but certainly has far less sugar than the granolas you will see on supermarket shelves. You can always drop the dried fruit to make it sugar free, but I like the punch of flavor they add. I love to eat this with plain Greek yogurt, but play around and see what you like best.

Everyday Pumpkin Granola

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups nuts, chopped (my favorites are walnuts, pecans and cashews)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 tbsp coconut oil (I recommend an organic, non-hydrogenated version)
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dried fruit (my favorite is dried cherries)
  • 2 tbsp cacao nibs

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F
  • Combine the oats, nuts, chia seeds, ground flaxseed, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl.
  • Melt the coconut oil and pumpkin in a pot on the stove. After the mixture is melted, remove it from heat and add the vanilla extract. Stir to combine and then add the oat/nut mixture, stirring until the contents are all evenly coated.
  • Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet and spread flat
  • Bake for 15 minutes and then gently stir with a spatula. Bake for about 10 more minutes or until golden brown.
  • Let it cool completely on the pan before adding the dried fruit and cacao nibs. Store in a glass jar.
  • ENJOY!

Peace, love and all things pumpkin,

The Yogi~Foodie

The Beauty of Doing Nothing

943c050fedefed1d2d4a09dacd11b538I am a To-Do list kinda girl, always juggling multiple things at once and often times prone to stretching myself too thin. The only way I can keep myself straight is to write it all down in a list and throw it on my calendars (paper and electronic). To-Do lists keep my head on straight and help me manage my busy life. I enjoy the little boost of positivity and satisfaction I get when something gets crossed off. Sometimes I write an item down on my To-Do list that I have already done, just so I can have the joy of immediately then crossing it off (you know you’ve done it too, admit it).

I have been managing quite a lot these days in my personal life, school and my career and lately I have noticed that I am not really living in the moment. This could be at any particular time, such as when I am having a meal, playing with my dog or doing yoga. My mind is constantly thinking of the next thing I have to do, organizing my week and fitting everything I need to get done into its designated space. Like a puzzle clicking together. As you can probably imagine, this gets quite exhausting. Sometimes I feel like I am letting my life pass me by. In my mission to find a fulfilling career and pursue my passion for health and wellness, I have overlooked the beauty and simplicity of just living each day. I so easily get caught up in what needs to get done to achieve my goals that I forget to just stop and smell the roses.

Due to these wonderful personality traits of mine (which often do come in handy, I won’t lie), I have a hard time just doing nothing. Of waking up to the sun instead of an alarm, putting the email away and just having a day with no goals or lists. A “go with the flow” kinda day. If I do end up having one of these days, it is often due to exhaustion from a week filled with non-stop activity. I never truly enjoy them because they are the result of me being so tired I can’t possibly do anything more, not the result of me not having anything to do or just wanting to do nothing. These don’t end well and ultimately my mind goes back to the To-Do list and what I should have gotten done instead of being a vegetable on the couch binge-watching TV.

I start most weekends with a lengthy list of things I need to get done. Of course some of those items are positive ones that I look forward to (my schoolwork, workouts and when I meet up with friends), but most relate to household chores, grocery shopping and various other items. These lists and the schedule they create have dictated most of my recent weekends. I have certainly gotten a lot done, but if I look back on these weekends and ask myself if they tipped the scales more towards fun or just okay, my answer is a resounding just okay. When we look back on our lives, are we going to remember the just okay weekends? No, we will remember the ones where we had fun. Where we truly lived.

This past weekend was a break from the norm. A weekend filled with fun, beautiful weather and friends. My best friend and I took a little road trip a few hours south to Richmond, VA for a cider festival and to meet up with some friends and family we know there. Now, any time my best friend and I are together, it is guaranteed to be a good time. But when we travel somewhere (near or far), it is guaranteed to be a great time filled with a lot of pictures, laughing, really good food, innocent shenanigans, the occasional drink (or two…) and memories that I will have for life. She helps me to live in the moment, appreciate all that I have and be okay with exactly where I am in my life. When we travel we don’t have much of a schedule, we just do what we want and see where it takes us. This weekend was a “go with the flow” type of weekend and it was exactly what I needed after weeks of non-stop To-Do lists.

On Sunday while my best friend spent time with her sister, I spent time with an old friend of mine I rarely get to see. We slept in (which for us is 8 am), took the dogs for a walk, went to Whole Foods, and drank coffee while sitting on the couch doing nothing. Well, we did watch the movie Armageddon, which I haven’t seen in years (Ben Affleck looked so young), but I digress… It was wonderful and for once my mind was silent and content. I was doing exactly what my body wanted and needed. Sometime during that morning I realized that I hadn’t checked my email in over 24 hours, which is a huge accomplishment for me. I had no goals. I just lived and caught up with my friend.

Reflecting back on this weekend, I have realized that I need a little more balance in my life. As much as I love school and working on my business, sometimes I need to just give my mind and body a little break. Put away the list and do something different that I truly want to do. Get out of the house, cease the vacuuming and just go live for a few hours. The lists will always be there when I get back and I will be ready to tackle them with renewed energy and a fresh perspective.

We all have things we need to get done in our lives. It is easy to let them take over and dominate our thoughts. When this happens, set aside time to relax and do nothing. We all need a lazy Sunday every once in a while. Sometimes the beauty of doing nothing is that you actually end up accomplishing something you never set out to do in the first place. I’d be willing to bet that it will involve fun and what truly makes you happy. And that is what life is all about.

Peace, love and veggies,

The Yogi~Foodie

Celebrating the Victories

My awesome and amazing sister-in-law recently told me about a philosophy she follows that I immediately wanted to share. It is the concept of little victories. Of breaking down each day into pieces, finding the positives within those moments and holding on to them so that, overall, your day feels more like a win. These tiny wins could be anything: eating whole grain toast for breakfast instead of a donut, hearing your favorite song on the radio out of the blue, smiling and saying hello to a stranger, drinking a big glass of water instead of a soda or fitting in a 15 minute workout during an otherwise busy day. These many small wins help to offset the tough stuff and make the harder times a bit more bearable.

Our minds enjoy being dramatic. They love to find that one thing to latch on to that will consume all of our energy and completely change the tide of our day. If that thing happens to be good, then most likely your day will end up being fantastic (aren’t those days awesome?). But most of the time it isn’t something that is good. We obsess about it, let it rule our thoughts and cloud our day. Our dwelling on it starts to impact how we8c9b720fadc449a09a00d3553380fcb3 perceive the rest of our day. We are more likely to find what we don’t like in a situation or hone in on some negative feeling we have about ourselves. Once this thought pattern grabs hold, we tend to give up and let the cloudiness rule the rest of our day. Sounds like something that has happened to you?

This idea of tiny victories is a way to combat the cloud. Next time something not so good happens, try to switch your pattern of thinking and focus on something positive that happened during your day. This will knock your negative thinking pattern off track. Continually think back to these tiny wins and, with practice, they may start to pop up in your mind without you even consciously thinking about them. You will start to see the tiny wins in every aspect of your day. Celebrate those and let them propel you towards your goals and dreams. One baby, tiny win at a time.

And when you achieve a big goal, celebrate the hec out of that too 😉

I had a big win this week. For the past few years I have dreamed of owning my own business, taking what I have learned about health and nutrition and sharing it with others, maybe someday incorporating my love for yoga as well. But I was scared. I had never created a business before. What if it failed? What if no one wanted to work with me? Those thoughts swirled around in my head, trying to beat me down. But slowly, through encouragement from those I love, I gained courage. To take a chance and dive into the unknown, knowing that maybe, just maybe, it will lead me to ex8ab894d724757a5509e9f093fa8516a1actly where I want to go. How would I know if I never tried? So tried I did. And from that effort was born my dream.

I am so happy to officially announce the name of my burgeoning holistic health coaching business, Wholesome Balanced Wellness with Anna L. Young. This business was born from my passion for nutrition and health. It has grown from an idea, a hope that I could take what I have learned throughout my life and as a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to a full-blown reality. And I could not be more ecstatic. You seriously may find me on the street jumping for joy with a huge grin on my face. This is a new journey for me, which is scary. But it is also exciting. I cannot wait to get started.

Wholesome balanced wellness is all about finding what feeds your soul and nourishes your heart. Whether that is food, relationships, career, exercise, spirituality, sleep, you name it. It’s about discovering what in life makes you feel your best, full of energy and on top of your game. Finding your ideal state of balance with everything that is important in your life. Feeling naturally more positive, confident and content. I like to call the achievement of this state “finding your flow”. And, of course, it is about seeing those tiny wins in your daily life and building upon them to achieve larger goals and dreams.

My website is still a work-in-progress so in the meantime, you can follow me here, on Twitter @ youngn219, on Instagram @ youngn219 and on Facebook at Wholesome Balanced Wellness with Anna L. Young.

Peace, love and veggies,

The Yogi~Foodie

My Five Go-To Ingredients

I love to cook. In the evenings after work you will find me dancing around my kitchen whipping up something yummy with my favorite tunes playing and a glass of red wine poured (did I mention I like to dance too?). On Sundays I like to try new recipes that I can use as lunches during the week. Cooking is my creative outlet. My “me time”. I don’t make anything fancy, just simple, good, healthy meals.

As a lover of health and wellness, the quality of food and how it is prepared matters a great deal to me. I consider a meal prepared with love and happiness to be healthier than that same meal prepared in a busy, loud restaurant kitchen. Now if only I could teach my dog how to do the dishes…

Below are a few of my favorite go to ingredients/sides/spices that I use regularly in my kitchen.

  1. Coconut Oil: This puppy is a staple in my kitchen and also my bathroom, where I use it as a lotion and make-up remover. It is a high heat oil, meaning it can be cooked at a higher temperature before it burns, so you can safely sauté with it on the stove. It helps boost HDL (the good) and lower LDL (the bad) cholesterol.  It contains lauric acid, which helps to prevent various heart problems like high blood pressure, and its Coconutantimicrobial properties can help to fight off bacteria and fungi (try using it in place of Polysporin next time you have a cut, it works). It also aids in the absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. There are so many benefits the list can go on and on, so I thought this handy dandy picture would help. I use it in place of butter on my gluten free toast, in my morning smoothies, in my high heat stove top cooking, as a binding agent when I make my granola and as a replacement for other oils in recipes. Even my dog loves it; when I open the jar he comes running over for a treat.
  1. Turmeric: Turmeric has been used in India as a spice and medicinal herb for thousands of years. It is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help counteract the effects of chronic inflammation, which is now thought to be one of the leading causes of many common diseases in our society today. Curcumin is high in antioxidants and is beneficial for your brain and your heart. Studies have shown that curcumin is beneficial in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s, arthritis, depression and cancer. I use turmeric when I cook fish and also when I roast vegetables (it is especially good on sweet potatoes when paired with paprika and curry powder). Still in search of a good curry recipe…
  1. Greek Olives: I never really liked olives growing up and actually did not start eating them until about two months ago. While there are many different types of olives that I have yet to try, Greek kalamata olives are my current favorite, probably due to my daily use of olive oil for at least the past five years. Most of us have heard the benefits of olive oil, but what is beneficial about the olives themselves? Kalamata olives have anti-Kalamata_Olivesinflammatory and antioxidant properties and a phytonutrient called hydroxytyrosol has been linked to cancer prevention and potentially helping to prevent bone loss. While olives are higher in fat, the majority of this fat is monounsaturated, which has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating olives helps to satisfy my craving for saltiness. I eat them plain, put them in salads and also eat them with roasted vegetables. Olives are actually a fruit and beware of the pits when you eat them.
  1. Garlic: I love garlic. Not garlic powder, legit garlic. I chop it up and roast it with my vegetables every day. Garlic is a powerful antioxidant with antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral agents. It is eaten to help treat colds and the flu, chest infections, digestive disorders and fungal infections. Some research supports the idea that garlic supplementation can help reduce cholesterol and is beneficial for your heart. Allicin is the active ingredient in garlic that is responsible for its medicinal properties. It loses some of its potency when it is heated so eating raw garlic gives you the most bang for your buck. As most people don’t want to chomp on a raw garlic clove, try crushing it and adding it to some olive oil for a dip or salad dressing.
  1. Tahini: Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. For those of your who have never heard of it, it is one of the main ingredients in hummus. Hummus is one of my favorite sauces, so discovering my love for tahini was a pretty natural progression. There are two different types of tahini, hulled and unhulled. Unhulled is the best type, as it is made from the whole sesame seed, leaving its nutritional value intact. Hulled tahini is stripped of many of its nutrients. Tahini is rich in phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron. It is a great source of calcium, high iTahiniBowl660n E and B vitamins, and helps to prevent anemia and maintain healthy skin and muscle tone. It is higher in protein than most nuts, high in unsaturated fat (the good fat!) and is easier for your body to digest due to its high alkaline mineral content. In addition to hummus, tahini is great in salad dressings, tossed with roasted vegetables (what don’t I eat with my roasted veggies??), can be eaten plain as a dip for raw vegetables, and is a good swap for nut butters when eating apple slices.

I hope learning a little more about these five favorites of mine has stirred your creative cooking juices and maybe given you some new ideas of things to try. If you aren’t much of a cook, look for these items on the menu at the next restaurant you go to. They certainly don’t disappoint when it comes to flavor, health and overall deliciousness.

Peace, love and veggies,

The Yogi~Foodie