5 Healthy Habit Recommendations for the New Year

Friends!  I hope you don’t mind my health related posts. I’m hugely passionate about trying to be healthy, which I feel grateful for as I know that desire doesn’t come easy for many. I guess infertility has made it impossible to ignore the health of my body, which has been a huge side benefit all these years. But at this point, I’m not planning on “one day getting pregnant” anymore (though I know many people are hoping for it, including my dear husband!!  ๐Ÿ™‚ So, it’s very, very new for me to care for my body just for ME. My whole entire life there was always the idea that one day I’d carry a child (which was a hugely motivating factor.) That really affected nearly every thought related to health. So now that I’m directing my energy and motivations and thoughts elsewhere, it’s more like I need to be healthy just to be my best. (I have always desired that, too, but it’s just different now without the baby factor included.) I’m trying to get used to this different kind of motivation. It’s a bit strange, I’ll admit. It just feels very, very different. But luckily the motivation is there. We have big plans to eat super healthy in Ecuador (we’re even taking our awesome Breville juicer.) Though while we’ve been packing and working out a million logistics for moving abroad, I have hardly eaten a vegetable. oye. But that’s ok. We’ll get back to our vegetables soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

On that note, I thought I’d share with you 5 new healthy habits I’ve been doing this last year…and I love them all. I included the tricks I use to make them all happen.

(And after the jump, please share any healthy habits that you’ve worked in, too!! Isn’t it such a triumph to actually change the way you do things in this crazy busy life?)

1. Greens With Every Meal

I used to pretty much never, ever buy greens other than spinach. I guess I just didn’t have experience with preparing them. But now we buy several bunches of greens every time we go to the store or farmer’s market. Our favorites are green chard, rainbow chard, kale, spinach, bok choy, turnip greens, collard greens, or mizuna. I store them in those awesome green vegetable storage bags and they REALLY, REALLY WORK!!! I can’t recommend them enough and think that every household should have them. They will save TONS of money as you’re less likely to have to throw out unused vegetables. Every time we have someone over for dinner these bags usually make an appearance when I’m getting things out of the fridge and so I usually turn into a bag sales lady. I tell all my friends to buy these. ๐Ÿ™‚


1. We sautรฉ any green with tons of olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh garlic.
My secret:  I particularly like the edges to be a bit seared, so I turn it on HIGH right towards the end. I also LOVE to sprinkle freshly chopped basil to the plate once it’s done – it tastes amazing! We also use so much olive oil during the week that we keep (2) of these olive oil dispensers next to our stovetop and have to fill them up regularly so we can cook all our greens.

2. I add handfuls of chopped greens to soups.
My secret: I add them at the very end once the soup is done (this way they stay bright green and make your soup look amazing!)

3. We have greens as a side dish to just about every meal.
My secret:  Even at breakfast (with an egg).

4. I also make greens as the main entree.
My secret:  I make a “green stir fry” and include every green I have on hand plus broccoli, green onion, zucchini, sometimes just a bit of Italian sausage, chicken, or beef, and fresh chopped basil sprinkled on top. We both love this dish so much.

5. We add PILES of greens to our homemade pizzas.
My secret: We sautรฉ and season the greens (with olive oil, s/p, raw garlic) on their own to ensure proper flavor and texture and then we pile the cooked greens onto the finished pizza once it’s out of the oven. We use at least an entire bunch of kale for a medium pizza + whatever other vegetable or green we have on hand.

2. RAW Garlic With Every Meal

You guys all know that raw garlic is super healthy, right? OK, I used to always think you should sautรฉ the garlic in your olive oil…then add your veggies. The problem is, this will cook the heck out of your garlic and it will lose all of it’s kick-butt health properties and flavor.

My secret:  I now sautรฉ or roast my vegetables FIRST and then when they’re done and off the heat, I mix in fresh, chopped raw garlic. The heat of the veggies will warm the garlic JUST ENOUGH to add the most perfect amount of flavor. Plus you get some of the benefits of raw garlic. My chef husband is totally sold on my new technique and LOVES it. We need to try this same technique in our soups, too. (Here’s a great article about the health benefits of raw garlic.)

3. Mineral Salt Instead of Table Salt 

Table salts are processed and are stripped of any mineral content that they may have contained.  They also contain additives to prevent clumping and caking.

My secret:  I now use mineral salts exclusively for everything as they are not processed and have more minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Himalayan is our grinding salt (I order this one in bulk from Amazon) and I use this Celtic sea salt for baking.  I’m so happy with them both.  Plus I make fewer messes than I did with the Morton salt container (the Celtic sea salt comes in a bag, but you can also store it in a jar, which is handy. ๐Ÿ™‚

4. Lemon Water Daily

Lemon water is supposed to have so many benefits. Here are a few: It balances Ph (it is very alkaline!), it boosts the immune system, it’s a natural energizer, it aids digestion, cleanses your body, clears acne. (See here for tons more about lemon water.)

My secret: Every time I go to the store I usually buy a bag of lemons.  Throughout the week I squeeze them into my water. (I don’t mind doing a full lemon in a glass of water.) And in the meantime, the lemons look so cute on my counter. I see them as part of my decor. ๐Ÿ™‚  (And long time readers know I love yellow. Just see my crazy yellow Pinterest board. ๐Ÿ™‚

(image from Brooke at the amazing blog, Inchmark)

5. Kefir!

My friends Linsey and Camilla got me onto kefir. It’s seriously such a healthy, healthy thing to consume because it’s FULL of probiotics, which helps you to have a healthy gut and immune system. Families who take this regularly swear that they hardly ever get sick and have such healthier…plumbing. ๐Ÿ™‚ Even people with Crohn’s disease have had great success with it. I use Inner-Eco coconut water kefir as it’s dairy free (you take just one tablespoon a day). It’s available at all Whole Foods near the vitamins and the refrigerated probiotics. You can also make your own kefir at home very cheaply (my friend recommends Cultures for Health for good quality kefir starting kits.) I plan to try this soon (from Ecuador!) and will report back.

My secret:  I add the kefir to a green smoothie or a glass of my lemon water.

What are some healthy habits that you have pulled off? Have you added anything new to your routine (or is there something you want to try)? Of course, I’d love to know. ๐Ÿ™‚ I love trying new things.

(The photo of me above looks rather calm compared to how I feel right now. ha! We are in the final stretches of all the major logistics involved in this move. Right now Danny is planning out how many bags we can take on our flight. oye. All these logistics are so tricky.)

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  1. Elizabeth January 15, 2014 at 1:27 am - Reply

    I don't love dairy, so instead of Kefir I do Kombucha every day. I SWEAR it keeps me healthier. I LOVE all your tips and need to add more greens and raw garlic to my diet for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • mara January 15, 2014 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      OK, I keep hearing about Kombucha. You have given me a good reminder that I totally need to check that out… thank you!

    • Anonymous January 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      hi Mara, you can make your own Kombucha. All you need is the mother.

  2. Delona M. January 15, 2014 at 3:01 am - Reply

    I am really missing pizza since attempting to avoid dairy. What do you do about pizza?

    • mara January 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      Ha! I just never ate it for the longest time. But then I figured out that a gluten free crust with NO CHEESE, just sauce, pepperoni, and loads of vegetables actually tasted AMAZING. Now Danny, too, it hooked and loves eating it this way more than normal pizza. And that's saying a lot. It's so good I've been wanting to write a post about it – with recipes. Hopefully soon.

    • Delona M. January 15, 2014 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      Oh please do!

  3. rachel January 15, 2014 at 3:32 am - Reply

    I've been focusing on self care as my theme for 2014, and so far, I've been working on drinking more water, getting more sleep, getting back into my meditation practice, taking acv daily and oil pulling. Baby steps in a healthier direction!

  4. Kristin Brown January 15, 2014 at 3:46 am - Reply

    I looooove this post! So helpful for me as I just never know what to do with vegetables to make them taste halfway edible. ๐Ÿ™‚ I like your ideas about sautรฉing the greens especially… thank you thank you!

  5. Chelsea January 15, 2014 at 5:51 am - Reply

    I love the Inner Eco kefir! I like to use RealSalt which is an ancient sea salt which is high in trace minerals and tastes sooooo yummy!

    Loved this post!

    • mara January 15, 2014 at 6:51 pm - Reply

      Thx for the tip about RealSalt! Sounds awesome.

    • kharper January 15, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      ditto about realsalt – it tastes amazing ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Delona M. January 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      Double ditto on the RealSalt and I take it even further and buy the $15 25 lb. bag at IFA, meant for animals and grind it in my BlendTec. It's even darker in color, full of even more nutrients. Regular RealSalt can be purchased at most grocery stores in Utah as it is mined in Southern Utah. Their Redmond Clay is also great for a multitude of purposes.

  6. Anonymous January 15, 2014 at 6:25 am - Reply

    Have you tried cooking with avacado oil? It's a great substitute for olive oil. I use avacado for cooking and olive oil for any dishes not heated such as salads.

    • mara January 15, 2014 at 6:52 pm - Reply

      Yes! I fairly recently purchased some avocado oil. I guess it was before we knew for sure we were moving and now I have a whole jar of it. I really like it! Also, they sell it in Ecuador so I might be using more of it…

  7. marlene January 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I love this post! You've inspired me on some other fronts too — I started using coconut oil as my daily cleanser and I really like it a LOT. My skin is much smoother and it's just simpler than and cheaper than most other products. Best part – it's all natural! In the last 6-8 months I've basically adopted most of the tips you've described above. We have a Breville juicer too and I love it. Another fave way to prepare kale — kale chips! Delicious, easy and way cheaper than the $7 store-bought kind! Another thing I started eating recently — Trader Joe's seaweed snacks in the wasabi flavor. They're totally delicious and packed with vitamin A. We also try to avoid any food that has ingredients that sound like they were prepared in a lab! Thanks for your post!!

  8. Butterscotch January 15, 2014 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    I love flavoring my water with lemon, but I stopped after reading an article how the acid can erode the enamel on your teeth. ๐Ÿ™

    I do go to the dentist regularly and do not have sensitive teeth, but now instead of everyday I enjoy my lemon water every now and then.

    • Lauren January 15, 2014 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      Yeah, I had heard the same thing. Maybe drinking it through a straw would help prevent that?

  9. Toronto Lotus January 15, 2014 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Have read a few articles recently on how eating too much kale, or using raw kale(juicing) can negatively impact thyroid, especially for hypothyroidism. It's worthwhile reading. You can google and find the links, as I don't have handy.

    • Amy Poulson January 15, 2014 at 5:45 pm - Reply

      The articles, however, typically say that you will be fine if you eat kale, and other such cruciferous vegetables, cooked or in moderation. I have Hashimoto's and love my kale and have done a bunch of research on this issue and consulted my doctors. They all just say, don't over do it, and mix it up by cooking instead of always consuming it raw.

    • mara January 15, 2014 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks for this info., you guys. I should really take note of this and be careful. I feel so lucky that my hashimotos has been stable (according to blood tests, at least) and at the moment I don't have hypothyroid. Hoping it will stay that way!

    • kharper January 15, 2014 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      this is true, it happened to me this summer when the kale in my garden went crazy and i started eating it like crazy! it took a few weeks to build up in my system but once it did i started feeling really tired and eventually one day i passed out. crazy right! now i just make sure to mix it up (i was eating like 4 cups of raw kale a day, everyday, for weeks) with spinach, chard, collards, etc. moderation in all things right?? ha!

  10. Katie Elizabeth Hawkes January 15, 2014 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    My friend swears by Kefir and I always tease him that it's like having those little seamonkey pets that you keep in a jar of water. Ha. But seriously, good tips. I need to eat more greens! I went gluten free for all of 2013 (with no plans to stop), so that's the biggest health-related thing I did last year ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. dervla @ the curator January 15, 2014 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    I'm going back to coconut oil pulling as i had great success with that a few months ago – it totally made my tooth sensitivity go away and i liked the taste!

    • mara January 17, 2014 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      So great to hear this…I'm so curious about oil pulling and love hearing any story about it that I can -especially from people I know. So thank you!!

  12. Jill January 16, 2014 at 3:44 am - Reply

    I love love your health posts. Thank you!

  13. leslie January 16, 2014 at 4:36 am - Reply

    If you had to choose between buying a Breville juicer or a Vitamix blender for juicing and smoothies which would you buy? Thanks.

    • danny January 16, 2014 at 4:54 am - Reply

      Good question, I can't say that I have the correct answer…in fact I was just looking this up as we happen to have both, and were wondering if we should bring both of them with us to Ecuador.

      I found this article most helpful as I was researching, and it summed up a lot of the info I'd seen elsewhere – http://www.rawfoodlife.com/juicing_vs_blending.html

      As for us…we haven't used our juicer much primarily because it is too dang expensive to be buying all that produce…especially in NYC. Seriously, one time I was out and saw a single head of broccoli for $6. Those prices make juicing unreasonable, and least here where it is difficult to get cheap produce.

      But since our produce is going to be so inexpensive and fresh down there…we really are thinking about bringing that juicer along and incorporating it more into our diet.

      I think a Vitamix is more practical, and more versatile for all the other things it can do…and if I had neither I'd probably get it first.

  14. Diana January 16, 2014 at 6:18 am - Reply

    Thanks for the reminder about lemons. Growing up my midwestern, healthy grandparents (now 90+) years old would always have a glass of warm lemon water when they first got up. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Last year my aunt gave me a ton of lemons off of her tree. I squeezed them all and put them in ice cube trays, froze them and then popped them out and put them in a baggie. Now I can heat up water, toss a cube or two of lemon in and be on my way ๐Ÿ™‚ I need to start doing this again!

  15. Aaron January 16, 2014 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    Mara, love this, this is right in line with the hottest healthy living book out right now: The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor. He basically suggests 10 servings of green veges a day. Check out the video here: http://thebailorgroup.com I've been doing it for the last 10 days & it's a great program.

  16. Anonymous January 17, 2014 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    I say this in the most gentle way, but have you ever considered an alternative to the large amount of olive oil you both consume each week? Yes, good fat is necessary in our diets, but not two bottles between two people per week. A very good, and tasty alternative, is using broth to saute veggies and greens.

    The amount of calories and fat isn't just a concern for people wanting to lose some weight, it should be taken into consideration by all. Anyway, just a suggestion for you and/or your readers. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • mara May 16, 2014 at 1:28 am - Reply

      Hi Anon – I personally never shy away at all from olive oil and coconut oil. I use them very generously and have for years and years. I find that the more food is stripped of healthy oils, the more hungry you will be. We eat so many vegetables that the thought of just sauteeing them in broth does not sound satisfying enough. Also, we don't consume two bottles of oil per week. But, we do go through a bottle rather quickly. I guess I don't ever think about calories. For me, that way of life feels like torture (though I am sure others may like it). On my end, I just think about eating as many whole foods and healthy fats as I can until my body feels satisfied.

  17. Cindy January 18, 2014 at 6:00 am - Reply

    Do you find you end up smelling…garlicky…when you eat so much of it raw? I know it has health benefits, but I don't want to smell like a clove!!

    • mara May 16, 2014 at 1:20 am - Reply

      I just was looking at this post and realized I never responded. So sorry! But no- I guess I don't notice that I smell garlicky. I never notice it on Danny, either. though who knows, maybe we're just walking around in a cloud of garlic and don't know it! ha.

  18. Tena Nembhard January 19, 2014 at 3:08 am - Reply
  19. Meg January 21, 2014 at 6:03 am - Reply

    So many great ideas! I'm going to try the raw garlic and greens. I need to be much better about eating my greens. I love reading about the different things that you try and adapt into your lifestyle. I would love to hear about this pizza!

  20. Lisa | Happy By January 22, 2014 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    I missed your valuable advices so much Mara. Thank you for this great post. It seems like everyone (on the blog world, at least) is trying to be more healthy this year and it feels great to be in the middle of a healthy tornado, surrounded with advices, recipes and support.
    Hope you go through your final stuff with ease and looking forward to new reports from Ecuador ๐Ÿ™‚
    Good luck!

  21. Anonymous January 23, 2014 at 6:54 am - Reply

    Apple cider vinegar tea – boiling water, 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar and honey. It aids digestion, boosts immunity, improves skin…

  22. gosia. February 23, 2014 at 8:24 am - Reply

    healthy posts ! The best thing at the morning: glass of water with lemon inside yess!

  23. Thanks for these all good tips..

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