Wholistic Melissa

It's That Time Of The Year Again...Back To School!

I don't know about you, but I always have mixed emotions about back to school. I love being able to hug and kiss my kids on demand during the summer, I also love the unstructured evenings (other than a couple of activities) of no homework, I love letting them sleep in and veg out if they want to, and I love just having them home. Those are the GOOD days; then you have days like yesterday when the entire day was spent yelling at every insane sound they made, it was like watching cats play all day, just a swirling ball of madness! So yea, I'm conflicted! 

The other downside of school, will be the sheer craziness of our afternoons. I'll have two kids in jiu jitsu and one swimming and playing drums. Doesn't sound like much, but sprinkle in homework, tutors, and any other pop-up events and it's going to hit the fan real fast! Oh and running two businesses, let's not forget about that:)

SO, it got me thinking. Am I the only one reviewing her Pinterest board for go-to slow cooker recipes??? Probably not right!? Then I thought, I should totally compile my favorites and share them! Maybe I can get some good ones from you guys too! It takes a village people! Not the ACTUAL Village People, just a village, oh you know what I mean:)

So without further or do, here's 12 of my fave back-to-school slow cooker recipes!

My Heart Beets - Chicken Curry

chicken-curry-crockpot_mediumthumb


Know Kitchen - Chicken Tacos

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Skinny Taste - Balsamic Pork 

Skinny Taste - Balsamic Pork


Skinny Taste - Kid Friendly Chili

Skinny Taste - Kid Friendly Chili

The Kitchen Wife - Whole Chicken 

The Kitchen Wife - Whole Chicken

Rachael's Good Eats - Stuffed Pepper Soup 

Rachael's Good Eats - Stuffed Pepper Soup

Modern Christian Homemaker - Sausage & Peppers

Modern Christian Homemaker - Sausage & Peppers
 
Healthy Slow Cooking - Lentil Quinoa Tacos

Healthy Slow Cooking - Lentil Quinoa Tacos

Real Simple - Slow Cooker Lasagna

Real Simple - Slow Cooker Lasagne

Cooking Classy - Chicken Tortilla Soup

Cooking Classy - Chicken Tortilla Soup

I Heart Eating - Garlic Rosemary Chicken

I Heart Eating - Garlic Rosemary Chicken

Wholesomelicious - Paleo Turkey Meatballs

Wholesomelicious - Paleo Turkey Meatballs

I hope you're enjoying these last few weeks of summer (if you haven't gone back already) and these recipes help you ease back into the routine of school days. 

Be Well,
Melissa










Wholistic Melissa

Why Choose "Pasture Raised or Grass Fed" Anything???

It's no secret that I love Costco and shop there weekly for many of our grocery and household needs. I have found numerous high quality products and foods from brands I trust and my family loves. They even carry my favorite brand of Kombucha! 

I had been buying Nellie's Free Range eggs from Costco for months. I was so happy when I found them because of the quality and value. I don't eat eggs every day but at least 3 times a week. The kids love them scrambled or hard boiled, so they are great for lunches or snacks. And at the rate we consume them, it only made sense to purchase in bulk if available. 

I don't know what prompted me to browse Nellie's website one day (I'm always looking something up), but I came across their info page about their chicken raising practices. I WAS SHOCKED at what I read! According to their site, all of their chickens have access to forage but aren't forced to go outside and if they choose to stay in the hen house (which most likely they will because they are social creatures), they will feed on grains. And not just any grain but non-organic, non-gmo grains. GASP! I know, don't make fun of me, I can't help but get annoyed in these situations. 

My frustration stems from the fact that all of this labeling of grass-fed, grass-finished, free range, cage free, pasture raised, non-gmo, vegetarian fed, can sometimes amount to nothing, or at the very least, not what you expected. There is enough push back from large beef, dairy and poultry farmers regarding these terms and their significance, that when companies like Nellie's have blatant sub-par practices and loose definitions, it only adds more suspicion to the validity of pastured farming. 

So why am I sharing this with you and why does it matter anyway? 

I wholeheartedly support evidence that suggests eating locally, organically and pasture raised is healthier for us. "WE ARE WHAT THE ANIMALS EAT THAT WE EAT". It makes sense that a cow fed a diet high in processed genetically modified grains would produce meat that is higher in saturated fat content, while grass fed beef is leaner and contains higher amounts of the beneficial fats (omega & CLA) as well as antioxidants and minerals. I also agree that sustainable farming and agriculture is better for the environment and the animals. 

However, for every study in favor of grass-fed, pastured or organic you'll find another rebutting the very same facts with their own evidence. Often times these studies are funded by the very industry they are trying to support (eh hem, big agra) but THAT'S a whole other issue!

So what's the take away? 

Do what you can for your family and your economic situation. Can you afford to buy better quality eggs and meat from local sources and maybe do with less? Then do that! Can you afford to do one or the other and maybe dabble in organic produce? Then do that! 

If nothing else, work to incorporate LESS processed food, sugars and dairy in your diet. Simply eating more whole plant based foods and less factory meat and eggs will help keep you, your family and our world healthier. 

Lastly, my hope is that organizations like American Grass Fed continue to push for tighter regulations and standards and that each industry follows suit. Transparency is key for consumers to be able to make informed decisions about the health and wellness of their families. 

Be Well,
Melissa

P.S.  here are a few local (to PA) farms that have pastured products.
Cherry Grove Farm
Birchwood Farm
Beechtree Farm 







Wholistic Melissa

Why I Care So Much About My Gut Health (and so should you)!

First, THANK YOU for reading my very first blog! This is something I have been wanting to explore for quite some time, so I hope you enjoy reading and learning along with me. 

Wow has this summer been a whirlwind for our family! We've been eye balls deep in activities, family visits and much more. I recently flew to Minneapolis to see my sister and celebrate her upcoming wedding with a shower and bachelorette party. I had an A M A Z I N G time and can't wait to do it all over again for the wedding (albeit a lot smarter this time around).

Something that wasn't so amazing though, was my body after traveling, indulging in a baseball cap filled with nachos (so good though) and quite a few vodka sodas. Like I said, I had a fantastic time! By the time I arrived home, I was exhausted from non-stop fun and very little sleep. I don't know about you, but when I'm sleep deprived and have had too much to drink, my body goes into this mode where I have an insatiable appetite. I treat anything carb related (eh hem, pizza) like it's kale and water. Between the alcohol (it's SOOOOO bad for your gut) and the continued food insults, my GUT was a DISASTER. I had sharp pains in my belly no matter what I ate, I was all over the place with my bowel habits (TMI, but so necessary to share) and I just felt like crap. Rewind to 1996 and you'll find that this has been my life in a nutshell for the nearly 2 decades since. I have always suffered from food sensitivities, had irregular bowel habits, and a wacky menstrual cycle (that's for another blog). It was just a norm for me though. IBS was treated with medications without figuring out the root cause. Depression and anxiety were never linked to gut health. Hormone imbalances were attributed to my make-up or worse, treated with the pill. 

Finally, in 2014, I decided I had had enough, so I made a doctors appointment. I figured they could shed some light on my persistent fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, irregular menstrual cycles and digestive discomfort ( I was basically looking for a miracle).  They did their blood tests and proclaimed that I had a clean bill of health. WHAT??, I said quietly to myself. Seriously, how can there be nothing wrong with me when I feel like absolute poo! Of course, the crazy didn't end there and I was totally blown away by what came next. The nurse practioner then proceeded to offer me a prescription for Prozac. Again, WHAT??. Prozac? Are you kidding me? I'm sitting here telling you that I can't eat without pain, my knees ache like I'm 90, and I'm either terribly constipated or have diarrhea, and you are offering me Prozac? Needless to say, I politely said no thank you, left the office and never looked back.

That my friends was my starting point. The place where I decided my health was worth more than prescription and I was going to get to the bottom of it.

I did what I know how to do best; research and read. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I listened to webinars, podcasts, and seminars galore. The term that kept popping up with the most relevance was "Leaky Gut". Along with that I learned that 90% of our body's serotonin (the feel good chemical) is made in our gut. YES, IN OUR GUT! Unhappy Gut = Unhappy Body. It seemed too simple, heal my gut and heal my pain and anxiety? What did I have to lose?

(In case you are wondering about Leaky Gut...here's the quick and dirty before I move on)

LeakyGutCourse

I can't even remember one website, book or podcast that I can pinpoint as my savior. I gathered what I could from all of them and began my journey. 

Step one for me was eliminating gluten and starting probiotics. If I can offer any simple advice for those of you struggling with gut issues that are permeating your well being, it would be these two things; get rid of gluten and rebuild and repair your gut with good bacteria. Within a few short months, I was free of joint pain. By years end, my digestive system had begun to right itself. I felt EMPOWERED. I also knew it wasn't the end of my journey to optimal health.

Since that time, I have stopped drinking coffee, have gone completely grain free, limit my alcohol intake, try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, have taken up yoga and continue to go to the gym. All in an effort to feel better.

So often this is the most difficult concept for people to understand; eating and living a certain way to feel better. Because, much like me two decades ago, the way people feel tends to be their norm. They either don't have anything to compare it to or can't recall a time in their lives when they felt great. I'm sharing my story with you today because I believe it is possible to reach optimal health at any age, stage or point in your life. And sometimes, it's as simple as taking 1 or 2 steps or making a change to one meal. 

Whichever path you choose, keep your eye on YOUR health and remember; YOUR GUT IS YOUR GATEWAY TO OPTIMAL HEALTH.

Be Well,
Melissa