Thanksgiving Favorites

Thanksgiving is just a week away my friends! I know, it’s hard to believe how slowly the moments seem to pass sometimes, but when you look back, time has flown by so quickly!

I haven’t finalized my menu for this year just yet, but I wanted to share some Thanksgiving favorites and staples in our family!

Let’s first start with the days leading up to Thanksgiving with some comforting, but easy meals. These can be made earlier and frozen and then used this week so you can cook less! Or you can make these in a big batch and use throughout the week this week!

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gumbo

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red beans

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pasta-less veggie lasagna

Now let’s talk healthy Thanksgiving dishes!

I always recommend (and try to bring) a simpler vegetable of some sort, just to lighten up the offerings from all the casseroles that will be available. It is also a nice option for any family and friends that have food allergies or sensitivities or who have specific preferences to or against certain foods {thinking vegans, vegetarians, etc}. My two absolute favorites are:

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Roasted Vegetables

Simple roasted veggies that have been drizzled with olive oil, a touch of kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper is a festive and nutritious way to incorporate some veggies to the day! I roast mine at 425 for about 20-35 minutes, depeding on the size of the veggies. I check them often, toss frequently, and take them out only once they’ve gotten a nice char on them.

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Another fall favorite is a pear + pecan salad. The blue cheese adds a nice touch of richness and creaminess, but you can omit for your friends that are sensitive to the flavor or do not eat dairy products.

pear pecan and blue cheese salad

For the starchier sides, I prefer fiber rich options that at least provide fall-flavors but are still nutritious, and of course, they have to be delicious. Pumpkin and sweet potato flavors top my list! What are your favorite sides; whether they are healthier or not? This is the time to pick what you love and have it without feeling bad – not that you should every feel bad about what you’re eating…

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pumpkin cornbread dressing

Sweet Potato Casserole Makeover

And we can’t forget about beverages and cocktails! This mocktail would be a perfect addition to your table!

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festive mocktail

Don’t worry, I wouldn’t forget about desserts, especially lightened up desserts like these pumpkin cheesecakes and mini pecan pies.

This year I’m honestly thinking of going to Whole Foods and buying slices or half-pies of pumpkin, apple, and pecan for all the different taste buds and preferences in our house. Did I mention it’ll just be the three of us this year? Well I guess you can count a 4th for baby M, but yea, what can I say, I want options and a little bit of each!

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pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes

 mini mock pecan pies 

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And for any of your favorites that you didn’t eat enough of or want to try in a different way, how about using up leftovers with something like cornbread sammy’s seen here with my pumpkin cornbread muffins with ham, cheese, and chutney!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I’m so thankful for you!

xo,

Becca

 

 

Beer Braised Pot Roast

Gearing up for the arrival of another Baby M along with the holidays all while trying to meal plan for a family has me thinking to make this perfectly delicious family favorite originally inspired by Southern Living’s Beer-Braised Pot Roast recipe.

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This was a recipe my mom found & then made for us shortly after bringing Lillian home almost 3 years ago in January! Everyone just loved this dish; warm, comforting, and just a perfect winter-y dinner that everyone enjoyed.

Since then we’ve made it numerous times and even made it our own based on my more simplistic cooking style. I love it because it has all the essentials: lean protein, some veggies, and flavorful sauce that can all be done mostly in a pot for searing and then the slow cooker. It pairs perfectly with whole grain grits (yes, they do exist!) and when your 2 year old daughter who is practically a vegetarian will eat it, then it’s a meal to enjoy and repeat.

It’s also freezer friendly! So if you’re not feeding a crowd, eat off of it for a few days, then anything that’s remaining that your ready to temporarily move on from, just add to a ziploc bag, label it, press out any extra air and store flat in  the fridge until later.

I’ve already made it this fall, but I think I’m going to add it back into the meal plan soon just so I can freeze some and have for an easy meal post baby’s arrival.

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Beer Braised Rosemary Infused Pot Roast

Ingredients:

1 (3- to 4-lb.) eye of round, fat trimmed

2 pinches kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons instant coffee

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

4 garlic cloves, minced

1.5 cups unsalted beef stock

1 (12- oz.) bottle dark beer (I used pumpkin beer)

2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1-2 tablespoons beef consomme (I use Better than Bouillon beef base)

1 pound carrots, peeled and quartered (or sub with baby carrots)

3-4 onions, quartered (I switch between red, vidalia, yellow, or even pearl onions depending what I can find at the store or have on hand)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

hot cooked stone ground grits, cooked according to package directions

reduced fat (2% cheddar cheese), tablespoon or two garnish per serving

Directions:

Sprinkle the roast with salt, pepper, and the coffee grinds. In a large pot or pan (with deep sides at least 2-3 inches), warm the oil over medium heat. Sear the roast until nicely browned on each side (about 3-4 minutes per side- and don’t forget the ends). Place in the slow cooker.

In the same pot used to cook the meat, add the tomato paste and garlic, allowing to quickly saute in the drippings for about a minute. Slowly add the stock and beer whisking to get more of the drippings off the bottom of the pan – being careful not to splash and burn yourself. Stir in the beef concentrate and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
In a mixing glass, whisk the vinegar, cornstarch, and a splash of water together. Add to the simmering stock mixture, and allow to simmer for another minute or so.
Pour the mixture over the roast in the slow cooker. Top with the carrots and onions. Toss in the rosemary sprigs. Cook on low for 8 hours until the roast is easily shredded with two forks.
Serve with warm, cooked stone ground grits, topped with 2% cheddar cheese.
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Enjoy!
xo,
Becca

Classic Chili

 

IMG_6345There are certain foods that I grew up not really liking as a kid. Chili was one of those ones that I didn’t really love. In fact I didn’t really love a lot of dinners simply because it was a meat-heavy world and at the time I didn’t care for the dense flavor and texture. Everything felt rough and dry. Perhaps that’s why I loved (correction, love) carbs. That’s one reason why we all love carbs. They’re sweeter, flakier, softer.

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Now though chili is one of my favorite foods. It’s easy; oh-so-easy! And it’s nutritious! Plus it does remind me of my childhood, so what’s not to love and enjoy about that? This chili recipe has spice and warmth and when you add your fixin’s it’s got the crunch, the creaminess, (those carbs and fats) that we all may be wanting or needing!

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With anything in life it’s all about balance. With food and nutrition, it’s the same; balancing not only nutrients (especially nutrients like proteins, fats, carbs) but also textures & colors. Mixing chewy with crunchy and creamy. Combining various colors like deep hues from browns and reds with brighter oranges, yellows, and greens.

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Classic Chili

Ingredients:

1 lb extra lean ground beef

1/2 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

15 ounces (1 can) no salt added black beans, drained & rinsed

15 ounces (1 can) no salt added pinto beans, drained & rinsed

about 1 quart (4 cups) low sodium tomato or V8 juice

1 14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes

10 ounces (1 can) no salt added Rotel with lime and cilantro

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Extras to taste: avocado or guac, reduced fat cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt, cilantro, lime, red onion, corn chips or beanitos

Directions:

In a large pot, add the meat, onions, and garlic. Brown over medium heat, until the meat is fully cooked. There shouldn’t be much fat in the pan, but if there is you can wipe it away with a paper towel if desired.

Add the remaining ingredients, cover and bring to a light simmer. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes to an hour. It can be ready to go as soon as everything is heated and combined together. But if you are using it later, just let it stew and simmer on low for hours.

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Modifications & Notes:

Heart Healthy: I’d still consider this recipe heart healthy, but if you prefer not to use beef, for whatever reason, you can substitute the extra lean ground beef with ground turkey breast

Vegetarians/Vegans: Make a vegetarian/vegan version by removing all the meats, and simply using various beans: white, black, red or kidney beans, pinto, chili, lentils, etc.

Sodium/Salt watchers: if you can’t find can’t find no salt added beans, really thoroughly strain and rinse the beans.

Picky Eaters: I blended the tomato products together before adding it to the meat and beans. This is for my hubby who doesn’t mind tomato flavor, but does not like the chunky texture. You can add other veggies like cooked squash, carrots, mushrooms, even eggplant to this process to bump up the nutritional value and sneak in more veggies.

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As easy as it is to throw all these ingredients into the pot, this is a great slow cooker recipe! It’s fabulous to make ahead for the holidays (Halloween or Thanksgiving week), large gatherings, or simply tossing together before running out to an event with the kids. It also a fabulous freezer friendly meal that can be gifted to an older loved one, families with new babies, or a friend going through a hard time. I think that’s another reason why I love it so much. It’s comforting and can be such a special gift for someone you’re thinking about.

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So just remember, just because you don’t think you like something, you might try it again. And try it in a new way.! You’d be surprised how your taste buds have changed and adapted over time. This is a continual process we need to become familiar with to enhance our palates and prolong our success with eating better.

What are your favorite foods now that you didn’t like so much as a kid?

Happy Fall!

Becca

 

 

Nursing & Nutrition

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You {or a friend or loved one} have just welcomed home your new baby. You’re overwhelmed with love and adoration! And you’re tired. Oh so tired. Already!

Your parenting instincts have already kicked in – no matter how much you feel they haven’t. And just when you’re about to go brew some coffee for yourself, your new baby awakes and it’s time to eat.

Nursing your new baby can have its challenges at first and proper nutrition & hydration are helpful elements to sustain longterm success.

Many people focus on specific supplements or nutrients to promote milk supply as time goes on and the baby is growing, especially to help moms that may be struggling, but the truth is pretty simply.

Eating good and staying hydrated is really all that may be needed {and has the strongest evidence base to support} for the health of your milk production.

There are some evidence to support, although conflicting and limited, that fenugreek may helped to boost milk volume. Similarly, moringa is another herb that has inconsistent and contradictory research to show it may help with milk supply as well. However, despite the limited data to back these up, both of them can be taken as teas rather than powders or capsules, so if you’re interested, drinking a cup of tea 2-3 times per day with either of these herbs may not be a bad idea. Especially considering that tea is a fluid, which is hydrating, and hydration is one of the most vital components of a sustained milk supply.

So back to eating well and keeping hydrated, which can be hard enough on their own, not to mention when you throw in the fatigue of new parenting.  That cup of coffee you wanted earlier, it’s cold now. Hope you wanted to make it iced.

Eating well helps pass those essential nutrients into the mama’s milk supply and hydration helps to support a healthy volume of milk that is needed by the baby.

If you’re a new mama, get in the habit now of always carrying a big bottle of water with you. No matter where you go. From one room to the next. And refill it. This will help now as your nursing, but also later when you have to share your own water when taking a walk with your then toddler or when heading to the zoo and your tot gets thirsty as well. What’s yours is theirs. And will always be so just get used to it now.

For eating well, clients share with me all too often their reliance on eating out. Now while you can find healthier (or request) options when dining or getting take out, getting in this habit now is not necessarily something that will be good for everyone if continued long term.

So here are some of my favorite recipes that I want to share with you that are nourishing and can be made ahead of time. These would be great gifts to take to new parents, or if you’re in your final trimester, start making some of these for dinner now and freezing some {or a second batch} so you have a freezer stocked to reheatable meals for whenever you may need once baby arrives.

No Pasta Lasagna

Butternut squash soup

Chili

Pulled Pork Tenderloin

Brunswick Stew

Spaghetti Squash Crusted Quiche

Spaghetti Squash Crusted Quiche

You may not be as equipped to plan out your day right now, especially when it comes to what you’ll eat. So we can’t forget about healthful snacks. Having easy + fast, not to mention good-for-you snacks on hand is also key to helping you stay nourished in this phase. Some of my favorite snacks include:

Fruit + Cheese or Nuts or Nut Butter

Smoothie

Greek Yogurt Parfait

Chocolate Protein Muffins

Protein bars such as Oatmega, No Cow Bar, KIND (low sugar), or homemade ones!

Kashi Go Lean cereal

Van’s 8 grain waffle with almond butter (or a homemade waffle or pancake you can freeze and reheat)

Hopefully now you feel a bit more equipped to handle the nutrition portion of your new life. If you’re a a seasoned new mom, do you have favorite recipes that helped you to add to this list? I’d love to hear your experiences!

xo,

Becca

 

 

 

Fall Harvest Spritzer

The recipe redux theme is upon us and this month we are highlighting gut health and the benefit for our immune system, perfectly timed for the peak of cold and flu season!

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One of the best ways to support our GI system is through daily consumption of probiotics. And while there are many sources of gut-boosting bacteria in our foods, mine happens to be Greek yogurt. It’s perfect as a snack or dessert, provides protein, calcium and fluid all in one food item, in the nutrition world we call that nutrient-dense!

I’m also a fan of kombucha, especially for my vegan friends and clients! It’s fermented tea which provides those helpful bacteria. It’s also a lightly sparkling beverage that is great for mocktails!

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Since the weather is finally cooperating and feeling appropriately fall-like, my recipe highlights the benefits of kombucha with some seasonal flavors to add to the festivities! It’s perfect for tailgating season, holiday season, or just a fun beverage to drink for no reason at all!

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Fall Harvest Spritzer

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 apple, diced

1 pear, diced

1/2 cup cranberries

1/2 cup apple cider

2 cups (16 ounces) cranberry kombucha

1 1/2 cups club soda

ice

cinnamon sticks for garnish

Directions:

In a large pitcher, combine the fruit and liquids. Stir to combine. Top with ice and serve cold with cinnamon sticks in each glass.

If you want to make this ahead of time, combine everything but the kombucha, club soda and ice and set in the fridge. Just before serving, add these final three ingredients (to  keep it bubbly) and serve.

Super easy not to mention nutritious and festive! Above all, it’s delicious!

Nutrition facts: 20 calories, 0 fat, 25 milligrams sodium, 5 grams carbohydrates, 0 fiber, 3 grams sugar, 0 protein

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Bottle it up and share with friends, teachers, or coworkers for a special surprise and I’m sure a much-appreciated thank you gift!

Happy Fall Y’all!

xo,
Becca

 

For other immune & GI-supportive recipes check out my fellow members of the recipe redux!

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Butternut Squash Soup

 

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This is a truly all-time favorite recipe.

I know I say that a lot. But this is so true.

The original version and inspiration for this recipe is Cooking Light’s Golden Winter Soup.  It’s so delicious and already pretty light and healthful that it doesn’t even need to be modified.

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But in my constant effort to make recipes even more nutritious and sneak in more vegetables (that my two year old just refuses to eat), a soup like this is a good go-to that makes me feel good about what we are both eating.

My version is very similar to Cooking Light’s where it has butternut squash as the base. But rather than adding potatoes, I add roasted veggies like carrots, parsnips, even cauliflower. The roasting brings out the natural touch of sweetness in the veggies and also lightens up the starchiness a bit. Not that a two year old can’t benefit from the potatoes, but this is where we are going for both of our goals here.

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This recipe freezes well so it’s perfect to make in a big batch, eat for a few days, and freeze any remaining portions for a later time when needed. I’m doing this a lot these days in prep for baby M #2.

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It also pairs perfectly with some sort of cheesey-toast. The original sliced baguette with gruyere works well. However, I tend to take some sort of whole grain toast- because it’s more fiber and nutritious – and always on hand, top it with whatever cheese is in the house, and simply grill it or broil it.

Recently, I even made a pimento-cheese like version where I mixed Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree (hidden veggies), with shredded cheese all topped on Dave’s Killer bread and toasted it.

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I was secretly rejoicing as everyone ate it without complaint- even the hubby- and he is by far my hardest client. Well, he and Lillian are very close rivals, but regardless he said it was good and when I hesitantly shared my secret (although rather pridefully), he continued to say how good it was and that he couldn’t taste the pumpkin! This will become a go-to now for the little one. We’ve already made quesadillas, too, and we are on 5 continuous days of some sort of vegetable consumption! Needless to say, I’ve been breathing easier and worrying a little less.

Other pureed “neutral” veggies would work well too- thinking yellow squash, zucchini, cauliflower, even leftover baby food or pouches!

And now onto the very special and successful recipe.

Butternut Squash Soup

Serves: about 8

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 leek, sliced

2 cups veggies of choice

4 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 cup half and half

freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large dutch oven melt the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the butternut squash and toss and saute for about 5-10 minutes. Add the leeks, additional veggies, and stock.

Bring the mixture to a simmer and cover. Let it cook, stirring and tossing the veggies occasionally, until the butternut squash becomes soft and easily mashed by a fork or whatever utensil you are using to stir everything.

Remove from the heat. Carefully blend the mixture in a blender or use a handheld blender to puree everything together until you reach your desired consistency (I go with a pretty smooth mixture here as I’m trying to get the daughter to not realize it’s veggies, but otherwise I might like a fairly chunkier texture).

Stir in the half and half and black pepper. Sprinkle some cinnamon or ground nutmeg with an extra touch of half and half drizzled on top.

Garnish with chives or rosemary.

 

Nutrition facts: 150 calories, 6 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 110 milligrams sodium, 19 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 6 grams sugar, 4 grams protein

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Variations:

For the veggies, you can roast them (great to use up leftovers, especially after a holiday like Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas) or just throw in any veggies you like from potatoes (sweet or white), cauliflower, yellow squash or zucchini, carrots, turnips, parsnips (thinking root veggies that are in the white-orange- yellow color wheel).

For the stock, chicken or vegetable works well, especially the latter if looking for a true vegetarian recipe. If not, bone broth would be a super nutrient rich choice and adds some nice protein to the recipe!

For the half and half, I would also use Fairlife milk as an option, especially if I don’t have half and half on hand- like when the hubby puts the empty carton back in the fridge.

 

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Happy Fall, y’all!

xo!

Becca

Pain, Priorities, and Progress

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I came home last night to her and her daddy painting together in the living room. A simple task of playing with her but it teaches her so much at the same time. Love. Family. Time together. Cherished moments. The joy in her squeak as she gets a new paint color is so simple but so powerful. If only we could remember and reflect on these moments more. At the end of the day all I want is a happy, healthy, and kind baby girl, to teach her to love everyone, and to find joy in the simple things especially on dark days like these. – posted on my instagram earlier this week –

 

If you follow me on here you tend to know I post mostly about food, recipes, meal planning, and nutrition information. Sometimes I throw in some mama & baby friendly chat because that’s just the season of my life right now and it’s on my brain a lot. When I’m working with someone one on one for nutrition counseling or educating a group, I often talk about setting priorities for oneself. That could be food-related or overall wellness related like daily exercise, importance of sleep, and whole body self-care like finding things you like doing and spend your valuable time with people you love.

But today, as I was trying to figure out what recipe I wanted to share or nutrition topic I wanted to write about, I was scrolling through my facebook feed (no judgements please as I know there can be an overwhelming amount of negative -for lack of a better word- crap on there) and noticed a story about a young man’s marriage proposal plans ruined during their recent trip to Vegas.

And after a pretty chaotic and stressful work week, this felt like the first time I had really been able to sit down and emotionally process what terrible news we’ve all been digesting this week. It was really the first time I had gotten to sit down a read one of the stories from the victims. I shouldn’t do this. I know it will make me upset and make me cry. But I want to know these people. We spend so much getting to know the person that commits the crime and but not as much getting to know all the 58 victims.  And right now, my heart (and eyes) just burst with pain for them especially as they story shared how they had plans to start a family right away.

It makes me think about what if I had never had the chance to get married,  have kids, and to know that kind of love and joy. All that I am right now, is my family. I do everything for them. Work. Prepare food. Carve as much time as humanly possible to be with them- all while still trying to keep myself sane.

And I just got to thinking, how could someone possibly think they ever have the right or control to take that away from them?  You shoot blindly into a crowd of people trying to enjoy an evening, away from the stress and worry of their daily lives.  You are so angry at the world that you think- what? – that hurting others will make you feel better? That complete strangers are the source of your pain? Doing this evil will solve any of your problems?

We may not ever know what this man was thinking. And I realize this is a complex and emotional issue for everyone, but even above my pain and sadness for the victims and their loved ones, I am so angry.

I’m angry that these families and friends have to endure such grief. I’m angry that our country is so divided and cannot come to together on most issues a majority of the time. Sure we may be unified during these times of tragedy, but very quickly we can become separated and not have empathy or understanding for others’ beliefs, values, and opinions. I’m angry that we have second thoughts now about going out to events with our families and friends in fear that we – or our children- or may not come home.

So why do we do the things we do? Why do we stress about work; tire ourselves endlessly to put our children in the best schools, have the best food, be the best that they can be?

When I reflect on this, I find that I live the way I do for my child (soon to be children) so they can have not only happy and healthy lives, but also to be honest, hard working, KIND and LOVING people one day. So that maybe the world can be a better place one child at a time.

Is this the ultimate prevention of evil in the world- raising a world of loving and compassionate people? Probably not, but wouldn’t it be nice to just have everyone strive for something so simple that would better us all? Maybe then the world would be a better place?

All I know is that we just gotta keep doing what we can. The best we can. Everyday. For our children! Work hard, be honest, caring, compassionate, educated individuals who are willing to listen and work towards positive change for all.

This may not be directly food & nutrition related, but it’s health-related. It’s a priority. It’s our lives and our future. Change is hard; we all know this. But we must progress towards a change.

I hope you have a relaxing, enjoyable and stress-free weekend with your loved ones.

xo,

Becca