6 Simple Steps to Start a Fast (for Anything)

A fast is simply abstaining from something for a period of time.  Fasting is a time honored, often spiritual, tradition.   Though it is often associated with food, there are many elements that can insidiously insert themselves into our lifestyles when we are not paying attention.  Bad habits happen to all of us.  .

Fasting in all of its forms, is an exercise in self-control.  Whether it is caffeine, sugar, video games, shopping, cybersurfing, social media or television – pick your “vice.”. And self-control holds benefit for all—regardless of your spiritual background.

Here’s how to start:

  1. Choose your element – ask yourself what is the one thing you don’t think you could live without.
  2. Choose a timeframe – I recommend starting small and working your way up – can be one day, a week, a month, or even one day per week.
  3. Prepare yourself for the commitment you have made for yourself. If you decide to give up coffee, you might want to ensure you have an alternate beverage to replace it with. If you decide to give up eating out, you will need to make sure you take the time to prepare your meals.
  4. Expect it to be difficult – especially at the beginning. Let it be hard, accept that the difficulty is part of the process. If you don’t find it difficult, maybe your choice wasn’t as much of an issue for you as you may have thought.
  5. Be gentle with yourself. If you don’t manage to achieve your goal, be humbled by your efforts to try.
  6. Once the fast is over, then re-introduce the item back into your life gently and consciously. Let yourself decide if and/or how much this space this item/habit is permitted in your new routine. Choosing to do/eat something consciously changes the experience completely. Moderation will often be the “new normal.”

Fasting isn’t sexy, but it is of great value.  You will discover things about yourself from this practice.  You will regain self-control over all of the elements in your life.  You will feel better about yourself – you deserve it.

 

5 Tips to Help you Keep your New Year’s Resolution(s)

The beginning of a new year always holds such promise – an era of newness, filled with the optimism to better oneself.  A chance to start fresh, yet change is hard.  Many of us come up with all sorts of New Year’s resolutions – whether it is increasing your physical fitness, losing weight, saving more money or learning a new language.  The reality is only 9.2% of people actually achieve their goals and manage to break free from their bad habits.  The vast majority of us don’t even manage to make it past the first month!

Often we fail because we are not making the right resolutions.  This year, make a real difference by implementing this SMART strategy to make lasting change in your life, not just in  your resolutions, but any goals you might have in life (at any time of the year).  I hope you find them useful to increasing your chances for lasting success and a healthier more fulfilling life.

  1. S is for specific. Make your goal absolutely clear – eg. if you want to save more money for your RRSP, decide what specific amount of money you would like to save and by when
  2. M is for measurable. It is incredibly important not only to write down your goal, but also to log your progress.  Whether you use old fashioned pen and paper, or track your results on a suitable app, the difference between tracking your results and not will significantly affect your ability to successfully achieve your goal
  3. A is for achievable. There is nothing wrong with setting big goals for yourself, but you are more likely to realize your goals if you break it down into smaller goals. When you tackle a larger task, it may interfere with your lifestyle in such a way as to really affect its sustainability. We are much better at implementing small changes successively, rather than tackling a big goal for a few days (or weeks) and then ultimately fail at it.
  4. R is for relevant. You need to ask yourself what your motivation is for your goal – is it intrinsic (and therefore based on a value that is important to you), or something that someone (or society) thinks you should do better? Ask yourself what are your reasons for working towards this goal.  When it is important to  you, you will find it much easier to make to implement changes.
  5. T is for timebound. We often are not very kind to ourselves. I think one of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight.  We give ourselves plenty of time to gain weight, but then want to lose it in a matter of weeks, or even days!  Giving yourself enough time to reach your goal, with plenty of intervals to measure the intermediate success along the way.  In this way, you building a better habit for years, instead of a short term fix over a few months.  Remember, it takes 66 days to change a habit.

Mini Chocolate Pies

Ingredients:
Chocolate Coconut Cookie Crust:

1/2 cup almonds or nut of choice
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut shreds
3 1/2 Tbs raw cacao powder
3 Tbs maple syrup*
3 Tbs coconut oil**
1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Water if needed to help blend

Chocolate Filling:

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand is dairy-free, use Lily’s for sugar free option)
1 1/4 cup canned coconut milk shaken
3.5 Tbs maple syrup to taste*
2.5 Tbs coconut oil melted**
1 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Whipped Cream:

1 13.6 oz coconut milk solid cream only (Thai Kitchen brand)
1 Tbs maple syrup*
1 tsp vanilla extract

*maple syrup can be substituted for sugar-free maple syrup for sugar free option
** use refined coconut oil if you don’t like the coconut flavor

Instructions
To make the crust:

Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until sticky crumbles form.
Press into a silicone muffin pan OR use parchment liners. Set in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling:

Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan on the stove (or glass bowl in the microwave), heat coconut milk to just boiling.
Pour hot coconut milk over the chocolate chips and let it sit for about 5 minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk smooth.
Add in the remaining ingredients and stir until well-combined. Taste and adjust for sweetness.
Pour chocolate mixture over crust and freeze for 2 hours or until solid. Remove from muffin pan.

To make the whipped cream:

Refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight. Scoop out the solid cream into a mixing bowl. Add maple syrup and vanilla.
Whip with a hand mixer for about 1 minute until light and fluffy.
Spread whipped cream on top of each pie. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This recipe is from: http://prettypies.com/recipe/mini-chocolate-pies/

Grain Free, Dairy Free Easy Blender Pumpkin Spice Muffin Recipe (with Sugar-free option)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nut butter
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (try making your own!)
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey (or other sweeteners such as maple syrup, stevia, etc.)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. You can also use a stick blender if you have one.
  3. Blend until well mixed.
  4. Pour batter into a greased muffin tin. You can also use a mini muffin tin to make 24 mini muffins.
  5. Add additional toppings of your choice to each muffin and lightly stir into each cup
  6. Cook time: 15 minutes for full size muffins and 10 minutes for mini muffins.
  7. Reheat in a toaster oven for about 4 minutes at 350 degrees F, or eat at room temperature.

15 Household Spots You Should Be Cleaning

There are about 150 different species of bacteria found on the average human hand – some harmless, some beneficial and some capable of causing serious illness. Germs get spread every time you touch something.  On average, about three hundred different surfaces get touched every thirty minutes.  Regular household germs are thought to be responsible for causing over 65 percent of colds, 50 percent of diarrhea and 50-80 percent of food-borne illness.  Frequent hand washing is probably one of the simplest and most effective strategies for keeping household germs at bay.  Another is ensuring germ hotspots get cleaned regularly – here are fifteen household sources that are easily overlooked.

    1. Toothbrush

      According to researchers at the University of Manchester in England, your toothbrush is home to more than 100 million bacteria including E. coli and staphylococci (Staph) bacteria, including fecal germs. Every time you flush, bacteria are released into the air and can travel up to five feet away. The fix: Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or more frequently if bristles are frayed, if you experience illness or your immune system is weakened.  For an electric toothbrush, replace the head as frequently as you would a regular disposable brush. Children’s toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often than adult brushes. If possible, store your toothbrush in the medicine cabinet (it still needs to be upright) or at least as far away from the toilet as possible.  Allow your toothbrush dry between uses (some people have a different morning and a bedtime brush).  Close the toilet lid when you flush.  Avoid using toothbrush protectors as they can harbour bacteria.

    2.  Toothbrush holder

      Given its location in the bathroom (and close to the toilet), it comes as no surprise that the toothbrush holder also showed high levels of bacteria (27% coliform, 14% staph, 64% had mold/yeast contamination).The fix: Either wash manually in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher twice per week. Better yet, get rid of it and store your toothbrushes (upright) in a covered part of the bathroom (like the medicine cabinet).

    3. Bath Mat

      Bath mats sit on the bathroom floor (one of the most contaminated parts of the bathroom) and provide a moist dark environment where mold spores, bacteria and fungus can thrive and survive for weeks.  The fix: Launder mats once per week on the highest heat and with bleach (follow manufacturer’s instructions).  Launder separately from bedding or other clothes.

    4. Hand towels

      Towels are such great bacteria traps because every time you use a towel, you transfer your natural skin bacteria, and any other germs you’re carrying, onto their surface. Towels are made to absorb water, which is great for drying your skin, but not so great when it comes to discouraging bacterial growth.  Face, hand and bath towels spread bacteria and viruses among family members who use the same towels.  To add insult to injury, most people don’t wash their hands properly – so you end up rubbing bacteria into an ideal growing environment. In one study, nearly 90% of bathroom towels were contaminated with coliform bacteria and about 14% carried E. coli. The fix:  Use your own individual towel (for face, hand and bath).  Wash all towels after two days of use, in hot water and bleach for best results.

    5. Loofah

      Like a kitchen sponge (full of holes and crevices), your loofah is a prime place for germs to accumulate.  It picks up germs from your body, plus anything it might contact from shower surfaces.  Using a germ-ridden loofah sponge can also contribute to acne.  The fix:  It is probably better not to use one at all, and swap it out for a washcloth instead.  But if you must, rinse them with super hot water at the end of a shower, allow them to dry between uses and always, always replace them every three months.

    6. Tub & Shower

      Your bathtub may have 100 times more bacteria than the trash can, according to an in-home bacteria study conducted by the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community. The fix: Disinfect tubs and showers twice per week to get rid of dead skin cells left in the tub that can carry germs too.

    7. Sponge

      Your kitchen sponge is ironically the germiest item in your home.    In a recent study, 77 percent harbored coliform bacteria, and another 86 percent contained yeast and mold and another 18 percent contained staph bacteria. Bacteria flourish in moist environments offered by kitchen sponges and rags.  Using a dirty sponge or rag to wipe kitchen counters only transfers bacteria from one place to another.  The fix: Sponges should be replaced frequently, ideally weekly. Use a clean rag every day or two.  Dry sponges and rags between uses (ensure they are free of organic debris before drying). Kitchen rags and towels should be laundered in hot water with bleach for best results.

    8. Coffee Maker

      Fifty percent of reservoirs swabbed for the study had mold and yeast, and nine percent had coliform bacteria.  The fix: A simple way to disinfect it while also removing mineral buildup? Fill the water chamber with half vinegar/half water, then “brew” a pot halfway. Turn the pot off and let it sit for 30 minutes before finishing the brew. Run a clear water mixture through next (do this step twice) and you’ll have a clean coffee pot ready to brew delicious coffee.

    9. Oven handles/light switches/microwave screens

      Since a lot goes into cooking a meal/food preparation- handling uncooked meats and unwashed produce, cutting boards, opening cabinets/refrigerator/oven/microwave, it is easy to see how germs could be transferred from one surface to another.  The fix: Disinfect frequently used kitchen surfaces, especially before and after meal preparation   Keep a spray bottle of diluted vinegar and clean rags on the counter for easy access.

    10. Kitchen faucet

      After you handle raw meat in the kitchen, naturally you turn on the tap to wash your hands, and may not realize the transfer of bacteria that are left on the faucet (this also holds true for bathroom faucets)  More than half of faucets in American homes are covered in bacteria.The fix: Disinfect all surfaces regularly using hot water and soap or a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water.

    11. Dishwasher

      Dishwasher detergents are designed to clean your dishes, but are not effective in keeping the insides of the dishwasher sanitized.  Food particles, soap scum and grease cling together and create an ideal breeding ground for various microorganisms.  In one study, 62% of the dishwashers tested positive for fungi, 56% of which were black yeasts. The fix:  Regularly run your dishwasher empty with a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda, and don’t forget to clean out the trap regularly.

    12. Remote

      The TV remote – gets dropped on the floor, coughed on, sneezed at and handled by every household member.  A remote control’s surface were found to be one of the germiest surfaces in the household (consider this when travelling in hotel rooms too). Almost half of remotes tested were contaminated with cold viruses.  The fix:  Clean the remote regularly using a microfiber cloth, a solution of 50/50 rubbing alcohol/water, a toothbrush to clean with and a cotton swab.  Buy a remote with a flat design for easier cleaning.  When travelling (remotes to be shown second only to a bathroom counter in the average hotel room for bacterial counts), don’t use the remote and use the TV on/off button instead.

    13. Makeup and makeup Brushes

      With every touch, you transfer all of the microorganisms from your skin into your product.  Same holds true for any brush or applicator.  So over time, your makeup becomes a ripe source of  microbial contamination, which gets spread around with every time you doll yourself up. 60% of women rarely wash their makeup brushes, if at all.  One survey revealed that 39% of women wash their brushes less than once a month and 22% admit to never washing them.

      The fix:  Clean your makeup (think pressed powders, foundation, metal tools and makeup bag liniing) with a small spray bottle filled with isopropyl alcohol (allow to dry before using) on a weekly basis.  Use alcohol wipes for items like lipstick, concealer, eye and lip liners and metal tools.  Wash makeup brushes and sponges brushes in warm soapy water on a regular basis. Discard and regularly replace expired products (every three months for mascara, every six months for liquid liners and foundations and every year for gloss, creams).

    14. Purse/Backpack/Computer Bag

      One study of office workers found that women’s purses were one of top three dirtiest things they touched throughout the day, with E. Coli on 25 percent of purses tested.  This holds true for any type of bag that is being used on a daily basis.  The fix: Don’t rest it on the bathroom floor, use the hooks provided in public restrooms whenever possible.  Clean the bottoms of all bags regularly with a disinfectant wipe (vinegar and water will suffice) every few days.  Purchase bags with a non-permeable fabric on the bottom for more effective cleaning.

    15. Keyboard/Tablet/Smartphone

      For most people, the cellphone is probably the one items that gets touched the most.  One study found one in six phones was shown to be contaminated with fecal matter (we have our own unwashed hands to blame).  The fix:  Power down the device once per week (more during cold and flu season) and wipe with a disinfectant cloth.

5 Steps to Kick the Habit

I started drinking coffee in my mid-20s and have been trying to quit since (now more than 20 years later).  It is easy to tell yourself, or a little bit can’t hurt, but before you know it, an innocent one cup a day habit can easily turn into 4 or even 8 cups/day.  Whether it is coffee, certain foods (think sugar), social media, cigarettes or alcohol, everyone has a tendency to addiction.  The good news is that we now have a better understanding of the underlying brain chemistry that makes us susceptible.  Following these five strategies will help rebalance your brain, and make it that much easier to overcome addiction.

Simple Gluten-free, Dairy-free Bread

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole tahini butter (from ground sesame)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt

Directions:

  1.  Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix together tahini and eggs until very smooth
  3. Add in apple cider vinegar, baking soda and salt
  4. Transfer batter to pan greased with coconut oil
  5. Bake at 350° for 35 – 45 minutes depending on your oven.
  6. Enjoy!

 

5 Ways to Boost your Brainpower

It was once thought that brain decline happened due to brain cell (neuron) death or cease of function.  Recent research now shows that the neurotransmitter dopamine can trigger the formation of new neurons in adult brains. Not only do neurons regenerate, they are also able to reorganize themselves and form new neural connections (called neuroplasticity).  With our current knowledge, not only can we slow down cognitive decline,  but we can prevent it outright.  Try the following dietary and lifestyle tweaks to boost your brainpower, prolong your mental health and ultimately,  make yourself smarter.

1. Exercise

The brain is only 2% of our body mass but it consumes 20% of our oxygen and nutrients.Aerobic exercise improves blood flow and increases oxygen levels, which increase neuron growth. Exercise also increases the volume of white and grey matter in the brain. A minimum of 30 minutes three times a week is recommended.

2. Eat dark chocolate and other brain foods.

The brain is comprised of 70% fat. Healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, MCT oil, fatty fish (like salmon and tuna) and/or supplement with a high quality fish oil. Foods like cocoa, blueberries, red wine and grapes contain compounds that have been shown to be beneficial for brain health.  The polyphenols in green tea have been shown to improve memory.  Egg yolks are a rich source of choline which is needed to make one of your brain’s main neurotransmitters.  Eating for best brain health also includes eating balanced meals (meals that include roughly equal amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fats – this is especially important at breakfast).  Avoid food additives like aspartame and food dyes, which have been shown to damage neurons.  Eliminate, or ideally, avoid consuming sugar due to its affect on blood sugars which is a known risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s (some researchers now call it Type III Diabetes).  

2. Sleep.

Sleep is needed not only to regenerate cells, but also helps strength synaptic connections. How many of us wake from a good night’s sleep with a new solution to an old problem?  That is because sleep allows your brain to analyze problems from a different perspective.  Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep for adults and 8.5 – 9.25 hours for teens.

3. Try something new.

Challenge your mind by continuing to learn.  Activities that use both sides of your brain – like learning a new language, painting, dancing or playing an instrument are all particularly beneficial for brain growth.  Listening to music and reading fiction are also proven ways to enhance cognitive function.  Travel and engaging in social activity have also proved beneficial.  Doing puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku are also useful in keeping your neurons active.  Using the internet has also been shown to activate regions of the decision-making and complex reasoning parts of your brain, making it a much better choice than passively watching TV.

5. Fast

According to the Society for Neuroscience, there are many benefits to calorie restriction/intermittent fasting, such as increased synaptic plasticity,  neuron growth, decreased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and improved cognitive function.  Some popular methods of intermittent fasting include fasting for 24 hours (only drink water) once per week, the 16:2 model in which eating is restricted to an 8 window every day (thereby “fasting” for 16 hours/day), or restricting your calories to 500 (for a woman) – 600 (for a man) calories per day 1-2x/week with five days of regular dietary intake.

With knowledge comes power, so I hope these tips inspire you to make changes that will improve not only your mental health, but ultimately your overall health, for years to come.  Hopefully, this article has already left you just a little bit smarter.

 

How to Be Sun Savvy

Summer’s here!  What feels better than a bright sunny day?  However, don’t forget the sun is still a force to be reckoned with, and as with many things, moderation is key.

Here is the what you need to know about keeping you and your family healthy for all of your summertime fun:

1. Skin cancer is not prevented by using sunscreen.

Despite increased use of sunscreen, the rate of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – have tripled over the past 35 years.  Most scientists and public health agencies  have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer.  What sunscreens do, when used correctly, is help prevent sunburn – a major risk factor for melanoma.  Sunscreen is only one measure, of several, needed for optimal sun protection.

Action plan: Prioritize other measures of self-protection, including:

  • wearing lightweight long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin from the sun’s rays
  • moderating your time spent outdoors mid-day, when the sun’s rays are the most direct and the hottest, which is good for vitamin D production, but also the time when you are most vulnerable to sun damage
  • doing outdoor activities in the shade
  • considering the UV index when making your plans
  • wearing sunglasses protect your eyes

2. Beware products with a high SPF rating.

Products with high SPF numbers pose many problems.  The formulations are usually slanted in favour of only protecting against UVB radiation, without offering balanced protection against  the skin damage that is caused by UVA radiation.  There is a high degree of discrepancy in the range of SPF offered by any products depending on testing methods and amount of product used, which worsens as SPF numbers increase.  Consumers also get lulled into a false sense of  security when using high SPF products and tend to use too little and too infrequently to obtain the sun protection required for their exposure.  At present, the FDA is considering banning the sale of sunscreens with SPF values greater than 50+, calling higher SPF values “inherently misleading.”  Australia, Europe, Japan and Canada already cap their labels at a maximum of “50+”.

Action plan: Choose products with an SPF between 30-50 and don’t forget to liberally reapply often based on your exposure/needs. Skip the spray-on sunscreens, since they evaporate too quickly to be consistently effective.

3. A common vitamin A sunscreen additive can actually speed development of skin cancer.

The sunscreen industry adds a form of vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) to 16 percent of beach and sport sunscreens, 14 percent of moisturizers with SPF and 10 percent of lip products.  An excess of preformed vitamin A has been known to cause cause a number of health problems, including liver damage, brittle nails, hair loss, osteoporosis and hip fractures in older adults.  Though normally added to products for its antioxidant qualities, studies indicate that retinyl palmitate may trigger development of skin tumors and lesions when used on skin in the presence of sunlight.

Action plan: Avoid sunscreens and other cosmetic products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, and retinoic acid.

4. Improve your UVA protection by going European.

European sunscreen makers can formulate their products with any of seven chemicals that filter UVA rays, compared to their American counterparts that use only three.  Therefore, American made products do not offer the same protection for UVA rays.

Action plan: Choose a sunscreen with a wide range of UVA and UVB protection.

5. SPF measures protection from sunburn, but not all types of sun damage.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can generate free radicals, accelerate aging, cause sunburn and may cause skin cancer.  Sunscreen does mitigate some of this damage, but it is mostly effective in preventing sunburn, reflected by its SPF.

Action plan: Be careful about how much sun exposure you get, regardless of sunscreen use.

6. Be wary of sunscreen ingredients.

Sunscreens are either “chemical” sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and often contain hormone disruptors, and “natural” sunscreens, made from zinc and titanium, that may contain nanoparticles to prevent you from looking like Casper the Ghost on the beach.  Since it only takes seventeen seconds for any substance you put on your skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream, be discerning about what kinds of sunscreens you are using for you and your loved ones.

Action plan: Use mineral-only products (offerings have doubled since 2007)  which offer protection against both UVA and UVB,  generally don’t contain harmful additives. Not sure?  Click here to check out your favourite brand’s rating.

7. You need sun exposure to make vitamin D.

Vitamin D, technically a hormone, strengthens bones and the immune system and reduces risks of breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancers and perhaps other disorders. It is estimated that about a quarter of North Americans have borderline low levels of this important nutrient.  Persons with darker skin, breast-fed infants and the elderly are more prone to having less than optimal levels for good health.

Action plan: Check your blood levels for your vitamin D status and supplement accordingly.

Follow these guidelines for a safe and enjoyable season.  Happy summer!

 

 

10 Health Myths Debunked

10 health myths debunked

Amidst all of the marketing and hype and information overload, it can be difficult to really know what to believe.  If you regularly consume these “healthy” choices, you just might want to reconsider…

1. Fruit Juice

Juice seems like it should be healthy, right?  In reality, it is concentrated sugar.  It takes 2-4 oranges to make one cup of juice.  It is unlikely that you would eat that much fruit in one sitting, yet it is not uncommon for someone to consume multiple servings of juice in one day.  Since you are drinking and not chewing, it is difficult for your system to register the caloric (and sugar) intake.  Fruit contains fructose, a special type of sugar, that bypasses the liver and goes straight into your bloodstream, which makes it very easy to overconsume.  Opt instead for whole fruits, since the fiber found in fruit slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and limit yourself to one to two pieces per day for optimal health.  Your best beverage options continue to be water or herbal tea.

2. Foods Labelled “Low Fat” or “Fat Free”

Most low fat/fat-free foods have had the fat replaced by sugar and/or chemicals to compensate for the change in flavor that fat provides.  Sometimes, this change doesn’t even mean the product is lower in calories!  Not only does your body need healthy fat, fat is what helps satisfy your appetite.  Every year, the food industry tries to dupe us into believing eating fat makes you fat, when in reality, we continue to eat our “low-fat” and carb-rich diets and get heavier every year. If you are going to eat store bought mayonnaise, buy the best (& healthiest) one you can afford and enjoy it.

3. Antibacterial Soap

Antibacterial soap contains triclosan, a known hormone disruptor that contributes to antibiotic resistance.   Opt instead for regular soap and water, as it is equally effective in washing away bacteria as antibacterial soap.

4. Bottled Water

Plastic water bottles are simply not sustainable. It is estimated that it takes 450 years on average for the earth to digest a single plastic water bottle.  Add to that the chemicals that leach into the water as it gets packaged and transported (even if it is not BPA) before consumption.  And to top it all off, bottled water itself has fewer, if any, regulations that ensure it is healthy drinking water.  Some brands are nothing more than tap water that has been filtered and repackaged for you.  From both a health and financial standpoint, you are better off carrying a reusable glass or stainless steel bottle for when you are out and getting a good quality filter (I like Santevia) for the tap water you have at home.

5. Frozen Yogurt

We think of yogurt as a health food.  Even the non-frozen variety is often candified, unless you choose plain quality yogurt.  What people don’t realize is that frozen yogurt often contains more sugar than ice cream.  If you are buying it from a frozen yogurt boutique, that means you are likely indulging in bigger portions with added toppings (usually candy or chocolate) that increase the sugar content even more. Not all yogurts contain probiotics and even when they do, it is not usually in an amount that makes any noticeable impact on your health.

6. Scented Candles/Air Fresheners/Incense

Scented candles and air fresheners are a quick and enjoyable way to either mask unpleasant odors or create ambience.  The scents in these products are created by hazardous substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, and phthalates, which have been shown to cause hormone imbalance, respiratory difficulties such as allergies and asthma, and even DNA damage.

Most candles are made from paraffin wax, which emit toxic toluene and benzene when burned (both known carcinogens).  When lit, scented candles also give off formaldehyde and contribute to indoor air pollution (the air inside your home is 10X more polluted than the air outside).  Their wicks are often contain heavy metals like lead which also get airborne when burned.

A better choice is to buy candles made from soy wax or beeswax (which help to improve indoor air quality) and/or an essential oil diffuser.   Other ways to improve your air indoors is to get a good quality air filter (I like IQair), have indoor houseplants (your best choices are weeping fig, Boston fern, peace lily and English ivy) and use salt lamps regularly.       

7. Sushi

Generally, sushi is considered a healthier eating option. The reality is, depending on the sushi you choose, eating two sushi rolls is like having six slices of white bread!  Sushi rice is so tasty because it has added sugar.  A better choice is to have sashimi (or at least sushi made with brown rice instead of white) with reduced sodium soy sauce and skip the tempura or rolls made with heavy sauces.  Don’t indulge too often though, as tuna tends to be high in mercury.  Salmon and shrimp are better options.

8. Protein/Meal Replacement Bars

A protein bar or meal replacement bar will never outperform an actual meal or snack.  Sometimes it is convenient to have something you can have on the go.  But not all bars are created equal.  Be careful to look at the ingredient list, the number of ingredients, the added sugars and the overall calorie count. Choose a bar with a small list of ingredients that you can identify, with low sugar content and depending on whether you need it as a snack or as a meal, calories that range from 200-400.  Otherwise, you might up with something that is no better for you than a candy bar.

9. Smoothies

Smoothies from a juice bar or a restaurant are usually loaded with fruit with additional sugar added and can end up as calorie (and sugar) bombs.  Make them at home instead, being careful to use an unsweetened base milk or water, low glycemic index fruit (like berries), an added serving or two of health promoting leafy vegetables, some healthy fat (like avocado, nut butter or seeds) and protein for a balanced meal.

10. Honey/Maple Syrup

People seem to think that if they make treats with honey or maple syrup, somehow that has made them sugar-free, which of course, is not the case.  Treats are treats and while it is certainly better for you to have ones that are homemade with quality ingredients and less processed types of sugar, sugar is still sugar.  If you really want to make a serious impact on your health, you could omit eating baked goods/desserts completely, and opt instead for fruit to satisfy sweet cravings.  Barring that, don’t kid yourself into believing that if it is made with honey or maple syrup, that a muffin is suddenly transformed into a health food, because, well, it is still a muffin.