Recipe: Chocolate Banana Smoothie

I am in the middle of taking the October Unprocessed Challenge (a challenge to eat only REAL foods for the entire month of October.)  I have been drinking lots of smoothies this month, and I have discovered a new one that I love!  This  smoothie tastes great, and it’s made with ingredients I usually always have on hand.  So, when I plan to make another smoothie and discover that I’m out of yogurt or berries, this is usually what I’ve been going to.  It tastes a lot like chocolate milk to me, only without the added sugar!

chocolate-banana-smoothie-logo

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz milk (cow’s milk, almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk…use whatever you prefer)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey (preferably raw & local)
  • 2 Ripened Bananas, frozen
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

 

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Enjoy!

This makes approximately 16 oz (2 servings)

February Wellness Challenge – Acts of Kindness

February Acts of Kindness Challenge promo

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself what REALLY makes you happy?

When I asked myself that question last month while I was taking The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge, my answers surprised me.  But, what didn’t surprise me was that HELPING OTHERS was on the top of my list.

If helping others brings you joy and happiness as well, I would love to invite you to join us in the February Acts of Kindness Challenge. I promise you it will be a rewarding experience!!

How the Challenge Began

When I think of the month of February, the first thing that comes into my mind is Valentine’s Day.   And when I think of Valentine’s Day, I am reminded of love.  So, I thought it might be fun to challenge myself and my family to spread our love during the month by performing at least one act of kindness each day.

When I first suggested the idea to my family two years ago, they were all really excited. I’m sure their excitement probably had something to do with me mentioning a reward at the end if we were able to complete it, but the real reward turned out to be the experience in itself. We took the challenge again last year.  This will be our third year, and we are all on board and excited about doing it again!

I invite you to join us and many others in spreading love and kindness all month!  Feel free to make up your own rules, or follow our guidelines:

Act of Kindness Challenge Guidelines:

  1. Prepare.  Print out this February 2016 Acts of Kindness Log for each member of your family.  Use it to record your acts of kindness throughout the month.  Also keep track of the acts of kindness performed toward you each day.  You might be surprised to actually see how many nice things people do for each other each day. 🙂  We put ours on the refrigerator so it stays in view and is easy to remember.
  2. Identify a Reward to keep You Motivated.  If you are taking the challenge with others, take a vote to see how you want to reward yourselves once you have completed the challenge!  In the past, we have rewarded ourselves by going out to dinner together as a family (something we usually only reserve for birthdays or special occasions.)  Come up with something that works for you and your family and that will motivate you to complete the challenge.  Don’t skip this step.  This is the step that keeps my kids motivated to keep going throughout the challenge.
  3. Spread your love!  Each day in February, perform at least one act of kindness and write it down on the log.  Try to come up with something different each day.  My definition of an Act of Kindness is:  any action you take to brighten someone’s day without expecting anything in return.  Also, write down any acts of kindness others performed toward you.
  4. Encourage each other and keep each other accountable.  Each day, share your ideas with your family members or loved ones who are also participating in the challenge.  Talk about the acts of kindness you performed.  Also, feel free to share your ideas and inspiration in our February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook group so we can continue to support and encourage each other and keep each other accountable.
  5. When the month is over, share what you learned from the experience.  Feel free to share your stories with us as well in the February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook group.
  6. REWARD YOURSELF!!  Don’t skip this step, either.  For many of us, the real reward is the experience in itself, but make sure to recognize your accomplishment and follow through on the reward you set in step 2.

I invite you to join us in this challenge and spread your love. It only takes a small act to make a big impact. Let’s make a difference together! “Like” the Facebook page February Acts of Kindness Challenge for inspirational stories and quotes each day, or join the Facebook support group at February Acts of Kindness Challenge to share your ideas and inspiration. 🙂

Feel free to do more than one Act of Kindness a day.  Don’t be afraid to write them all down.  You may already do several acts of kindness each day without even realizing it.  The point here is to become aware of all the good things you already do and realize the impact it has on others.  You may also want to try to take it a step further and do some things you normally wouldn’t do.  When we make a small effort to brighten someone’s day out of love (not obligation), we are rewarded with happiness.  Anything done out of obligation is not an act of love and will only cause you to feel resentment.  It doesn’t matter whether your acts of kindness are random or intentional, but to honor your own self-care, please make sure they are performed out of love.

As you perform more acts of kindness, you may also notice yourself becoming the recipient of more acts of kindness.  Learn to accept these gifts with gratitude.  Many times it is more challenging for us to receive than it is to give.  We may resist acts of kindness toward us because we may feel like we will owe the other person, but when you let people do nice things for you, you are actually giving them a gift.  Learning how to let others help you might be just what you need to learn from this challenge…I know from previous years it was exactly what I needed to learn.Act of Kindness Aesop

RESOURCES

If you run out of ideas at any point during the challenge, this Random Acts of Kindness generator is fantastic!

Check out this link for some great Random Acts of Kindness ideas!

“Like” the Facebook Page The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Check out the inspiring movie, The Letter Writer. It is a great reminder of the impact our actions have on others, and the difference one act of kindness can make.  If you have some suggestions for more inspiring movies about kindness, please let me know about them in the comments below.

Random Acts of Kindness week is a 7-day celebration of kindness.  This year it falls on February 14-20, 2016!

Check out this inspiring 5 minute video to see how one small act of kindness can make a big impact.  

Do YOU have any kindness ideas, quotes, videos, or inspiration you would like to share? Feel free to leave them in a comment below or share them on the February Acts of Kindness Challenge Facebook support group. Thank you! 🙂

kindness mark twain

 

The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge is Now Available!!

Do you want to live a more authentic, peaceful, and purposeful life? Do you want to live your life to the fullest and use your natural gifts and talents to make the world a better place?  If so, I am SO excited to introduce you to my very first book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge!

The_31-Day_Self-Love_Cover_for_Kindle

This 31-day guided journal will help you learn to recognize your worth, identify your purposes in life, and develop the habits necessary to become healthy in body, mind, and spirit.  It is intended for anyone who is starving for a little bit of alone time, or anyone who is willing to dedicate a little more time to get to know and love yourself more. If you know anyone who could benefit from this book, I would be grateful for your recommendation. It is currently available through Amazon here.

Also, if you enjoy inspiring quotes or would like to follow my journey as an author, please “Like” my FB Author page Stacy Rancourt.

Strawberries: 9 Reasons to Pick Your Own

strawberries 9 reasons to pyo

Nothing says summer like fresh strawberries!  Pick-Your-Own Strawberries is just beginning in our area of Massachusetts this week, and we couldn’t be more excited!  Yesterday, my daughters and I just went on our first berry-picking excursion of the season at our favorite local berry farm.  I’m sure it will be the first of many because strawberries don’t stay around for long in our house before my girls devour them!

Here are 9 reasons why we love to pick our own strawberries:

June 22, 2014 051

1.  It’s fun! 

Strawberry picking signals the beginning of summer for me, and it is like a little scavenger hunt finding the perfect strawberries to feed my family.

2.  It costs less.

A quart of strawberries at our local farm stands cost about $6.50, but if you pick your own and bring your own containers, you can get considerably more strawberries for the same price.  You may be able to get them “on sale” at the grocery store for much less, but the quality is nowhere near that of the strawberries you pick for yourself.

3.  They are fresher.

June 29, 2014 007

Can’t get any fresher than picked right off the plant!

4.  They taste better.

Picked at the peak of ripeness, my girls think strawberries taste better than candy! (I LOVE that!) 🙂

5.  Great pictures.

I LOVE taking pictures, and strawberry fields are a wonderful location to get some great shots!

6.  Support local farmers.

Keeping your money in the community and helping other local families is always a good thing!

7.  Healthier – fewer chemicals.

Even if your local farm isn’t “certified” organic, many of them do not spray pesticides directly onto the fruit, especially if they are allowing you to pick your own.  Talk to your farmers to find out their exact procedures, but generally in talking with my local farmers I have found that their practices are much safer than that of commercially grown produce.   Just being able to talk to the farmer is a benefit in itself.  Although strawberries are part of the “dirty dozen” and it is recommended to always buy organic, I would buy local strawberries that are not organic over organic strawberries in the supermarket any day!

8.  It’s better for the environment.

Buying local reduces your carbon footprint.  Make sure to bring your own containers to save money and eliminate the need for packaging.

9.  You get to choose the strawberries you like best! 

There’s nothing worse than paying a premium price for strawberries in the grocery store, only to have to throw away half the container because the strawberries are rotten or not suitable for eating.  Picking your own ensures that you are only paying for the BEST strawberries.

If you’re wondering what to do with all of the delicious strawberries you have picked, be sure to check out my blog post Strawberries: 9 Ways to Eat Them.

Note:  This was also posted on my blog Journey To Complete Wellness.

Movie Review: The Tapping Solution Documentary

The Tapping Solution

The Tapping Solution

My Rating **** (4 out of 5 stars)

Why Did I Watch?

I watched the Tapping Solution Documentary because I am a big believer in tapping, and I know from experience that it works.  I used tapping with my daughter to help her completely overcome physical and emotional pain and anxiety that she was going through last year.  The Tapping Solution Documentary was available for free during the Hay House World Summit, so I decided to check it out.

Summary (from The Tapping Solution)

In this movie, you’ll meet 10 people from around the country with a variety of challenges, such as PTSD, chronic back pain, fear of public speaking, Fibromyalgia, abundance blocks, weight loss, smoking, grief and more. You’ll follow their journey as they learn EFT Tapping (and you do as well) and then dive deeper into the keys to changing your life.

The movie teaches how to release physical pain, how our emotions affect our body, releasing trauma, how our childhood is affecting us today, how to clear limiting beliefs, using Tapping to make the Law of Attraction work for you, and much more!

See more about the film here.

View the trailer here:

What Did I Think?

I enjoyed this documentary.  I laughed and cried along with the participants, and it kept my interest for the entire time.  It was deeply moving and inspirational, and I am so grateful that this movie is helping to spread the knowledge of this invaluable tool.  I already had knowledge of tapping prior to watching the movie, but I think it would be just as helpful, if not more, to those are introduced to the wonderful world of tapping through this documentary.  You have the power to heal your life, and this is one tool that can help you do that!

10 Tips to Begin Eating Healthier

10 tips to begin eating healthier2If eating healthier is one of your goals but you don’t know where to begin, I will share some tips that have helped me along in my journey to eating more REAL foods and minimizing the amount of processed foods in my diet.

What IS a REAL Food?

Any food that comes from nature and can be purchased without a label is a REAL food (fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, seeds, etc.)  REAL foods will help to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs.  Ideally, you want to strive to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.  Foods that have been packaged usually have been processed in some way, so you want to choose REAL foods without packaging whenever possible.  Many REAL foods are also labeled as SUPERFOODS.  I have discovered this excellent resource that lists 50 Superfoods and their benefits.  It also suggests healthy recipes to help you integrate these SUPERFOODS into your everyday diet.  I always find it helpful to focus on the foods I should be eating rather than those I should not be eating, so I highly recommend checking out that list from skinnyms.com and printing it for future reference.  Once you know which foods are ideal to eat, here are some tips to help you incorporate those foods and to minimize the amount of highly processed foods in your diet.

1.  Learn to Read Ingredient Labels.  If you’re striving to eat healthier, this is the first step I would recommend.   If you prefer more variety in your diet than just foods without a label, it is very important to learn to read the ingredient labels on your foods.  The nutritional information label can sometimes be helpful, but I think it is much more important to look at the ingredients.  If there is anything on a label that you cannot pronounce or you don’t know what it is or where it comes from, you most likely do not want this food to be a part of your regular diet.  The same thing goes for foods with a long list of ingredients.  When comparing processed foods, you generally want to choose the product with the fewest number of ingredients.  A few ingredients you particularly want to avoid include corn syrups, artificial colors and flavors, and hydrogenated oils.  Also, be weary of any foods that make health claims on their packaging.  For example, I always choose the full fat versions of foods rather than those with the “Fat Free” label.  “Fat Free” foods are often a poor choice because additional ingredients generally need to be added to the product to make the food taste good once the fat is removed.  Here is an excellent video from 100 Days of Real Food to help you learn to read ingredient labels.

2.  Clean out your kitchen/pantry.  If your goal is to eat healthier, it would be a good idea to remove all the unhealthy foods from your home.  Otherwise, you will be tempted each time you open the pantry.  Take everything off your shelves.  Discard anything that is expired.  Donate anything that you don’t plan to use before the expiration date, and donate all highly processed foods (those with a long list of ingredients or a lot of unpronounceable ingredients.)  Oftentimes, we eat food just because it is there.  If a food is not in your house, it will be that much more difficult for you to eat it.  If you get a strong craving something, you will have to go out of your way to get it.

3.  Don’t buy processed foods.  It all starts in the supermarket.  Don’t buy the junk foods.  Again, if you don’t bring it into your house, you can’t eat it. You may have heard these food shopping tips before, but they are worth repeating:  don’t shop when you are hungry, go prepared with a shopping list and DO NOT stray from the list, and stay on the outer perimeter of the supermarket.  The inside aisles mostly contain the processed foods.  If at all possible, go shopping without the kids.  Mine certainly have a way of getting me to buy unnecessary (and often unhealthy) items that are not on my list.  Also, keep in mind that when you buy a food item, you are voting with your dollar.  Vote for to support REAL, healthy foods!

4.  Find Healthy Replacements.  Find healthier replacements for foods you commonly eat.  For example, use REAL butter instead of margarine, use coconut oil instead of canola oil, make your own popcorn instead of buying bagged microwave popcorn, make your own salad dressing instead of the store-bought dressings loaded with high fructose corn syrups, or even start by making your own cookies instead of buying store-bought cookies loaded with trans-fats.

5.  Become accountable.  Find a buddy who is also interested in eating healthier, or join a support group on social media for people who share a common goal with you.  Share recipes and support each other,   For example, the 100 Days of Real Food Mini Pledge Program group on Facebook will help you cut out processed foods in 14 weeks.  Members share recipes and tips, and they encourage and support each other with their struggles throughout the challenge. I am also a member of the October Unprocessed community, which is also wonderful and supportive.  October Unprocessed is a challenge I participated in for the past two years, and the goal is to go through the entire month of October without eating any processed foods.  The challenge was a very inspiring, eye-opening, and educational experience for me.  In fact, that is what inspired me to begin this blog! 🙂  I would encourage everyone to participate in October Unprocessed 2015, but don’t wait until then to begin eating healthy.  You can start taking small steps today!

6.  Track your progress with a blog or journal, or track your nutrition through an app such as MyFitnessPal.  For more ideas on how to track your progress, check out my previous post 5 Tools to Track your health and Fitness Goals.

7.  Get into the habit of making a smoothie for breakfast every day.  A smoothie (or green smoothie if you’re a little more adventurous) is a nutritious way to start the day and to help you get more fruits and vegetables into your diet, and it will keep you full until lunch.  Not sure how?  Here’s one of my favorite recipes.  Adapt it to your liking with your favorite fruits and vegetables.  There are so many different combinations you can try!  Visit Simple Green Smoothies for more smoothie recipes and tips.

My daily smoothie is something I look forward to, and I am so happy I have implemented it into my daily routine and made it a habit.  Give it a try, and you may even find that it is an easy way to get more fruits and vegetables into your kid’s diets!

8.  Don’t completely deprive yourself of the foods you love.  Start slow.  Try to find healthier replacements to satisfy your cravings.  If you love chocolate, maybe you could opt for a handful of Ghirardelli chocolate chips instead of a full candy bar.  Just be careful.  It is still sugar, and sugar is HIGHLY addictive. Once you start eating it, you will want more.

9.  Become educated.  Learn WHAT you are eating and WHERE it is coming from.  There are some excellent books and food documentaries on this topic.  Click the links for my reviews on the food documentaries Food, Inc, What’s on Your Plate?, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and Fed Up.  If you’re interested in learning about the source of your food, some excellent books I have found on this topic include The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  Animal Vegetable Miracle also contains some wonderful recipes, and it will teach you how to eat seasonally and how to preserve your food so you can eat from your garden or local farm stand year-round.  I have found all of these books and movies to be inspirational, and some of them were even life-changing for me!

10.  Find REAL food recipes.  Visit my Recipe page on Journey to Complete Wellness for my favorite REAL food recipes, or check out the extensive list of REAL food recipes on 100 Days of Real Food.

Please keep in mind that this journey to a lifestyle of eating REAL foods is a process.  Everyone does it at their own pace.  I feel like I’ve learned so much and I’ve come a long way from the way I used to eat, but I have still have SO far to go.  I still eat plenty of junk food (as you might see from some of my favorite recipes on my blog Stacy Loves), but when I do, I try my best to choose the healthiest options and make it myself when I can.  As with everything in life, I believe balance in all areas is the key to optimal health.  Good luck! 🙂

**This post was also published on my blog Journey to Complete Wellness.

Movie Review: Food, Inc.

Food, Inc.

Food Inc cover

My Rating **** 4 out of 5 stars

Why Did I Watch?

I find food documentaries fascinating.  Since I started becoming more health conscious, I have taken an interest in knowing exactly WHAT it is I am eating and WHERE my food is coming from.  This is a perfect movie to watch if you want to discover the truth about food in America.  I recently saw it available streaming on Netflix, so I decided to watch it again.

Summary

Have you ever wondered where supermarket food really comes from?  If so, Food, Inc. is a must see!  The movie takes a close look inside America’s supermarkets, slaughterhouses, chicken houses, and more to reveal the truth about our nation’s food industry.  Here are a few highlights I took away from the movie:

  • The industry doesn’t want you to know the truth about what you’re eating…because if you knew, you might not want to eat it.
  • Our food is coming from enormous assembly lines where the animals and the workers are being abused.  And the food has become much more dangerous in ways that are being deliberately hidden from us.
  • The modern American supermarket has on average 47,000 products.  It may seem like a large variety of choices, but in reality, there are only a few companies involved and only a few crops involved.  Michael Pollan followed that food back to its source, and he always ended up in the same place…a cornfield in Iowa.  Most of the processed items in the supermarket can be traced back to corn or soy in one form or another.
  • There are only a handful of companies controlling our food system.  The top 4 beef packers control 80% of the beef market.
  • Processed foods are cheaper than produce, leading consumers to purchase the unhealthy foods.
  • Foods are being engineered to lengthen shelf life.
  • There is an overabundance of corn in the US.  Animals, and even fish, are being fed corn even though it is not their natural diet.
  • Research indicates that feeding cattle a high corn diet results in E.coli that are acid resistant.  These are the more harmful E.coli.
  • Regulatory agencies are being controlled by the very companies they are supposed to be scrutinizing.
  • In the 1970’s, there were thousands of slaughterhouses in the US.  Today, there are only 13 that process the majority of beef that is sold in the US.
  • Meat packing is one of the most dangerous jobs in America.  Many of the workers are illegal immigrants.  The government is arresting the workers, but nothing is happening to the company for hiring them.
  • Processed foods contribute to obesity and health issues.
  • It is against the law to criticize the food industry’s foods.
  • Monsanto created and patented a Genetically Modified soybean seed.  By 2008, over 90% of soybeans in the US contained this patented gene.
  • There are virtually no public seeds anymore.  Monsanto sues farmers for saving seeds.

What Did I Think? / My Recommendation

I found this documentary to be extremely eye-opening.  In my opinion, anyone who eats food in America should watch this.  While it did not turn me into a vegetarian, it did steer me away from buying the products of the big name companies mentioned in the movie.  I first watched this movie about 2 years ago, and I have not knowingly purchased one product by those companies since.  Every time we buy an item of food, we are voting.  I have chosen to vote with my dollar, and I encourage others to do the same.

I was surprised to learn that our government is more concerned about protecting the food industry than it is about protecting our health.  That is very concerning to me, and just reinforces to me that we need to be the ones to take the initiative to educate ourselves and pay attention to WHAT we are eating by closely reading ingredient labels.  The best way to know where your food is coming from is to buy local and seasonal whenever possible.  Or better yet, grow your own garden!

Overall, I applaud everyone who had a hand in the making of this movie because the truth about America’s food industry needs to be known.  I am going to do my part by continuing to spread the word and vote with my dollar.  If everyone does the same, we can make a difference!

As an additional note, if you want to go more in depth on any of the topics mentioned in the movie, I would highly recommend reading the book The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  The book is not an easy read as it is EXTREMELY thorough, but if you are looking for more details on any of these topics, I feel the book is a perfect companion to the movie.

For more information about the movie, additional reviews, and information about where to find the movie, check it out on IMDb here.