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Simple Meal Planning Tips + Recipes for Families

Simple Meal Planning Tips + Recipes for Families

There are several aspects to maintaining the health and wellness of your family, many of them you can find in the first two blog posts of this series on family health (here and here). The thing that is going to help you implement all of these recommendations, however, is planning – meal planning to be exact!

Life gets busy, but you don’t have to sacrifice healthy eating because you and your family have busy schedules. You can get a healthy meal on the table after a long day of work or school with a little preparation.


Meal planning and prep will save you time and money!


Often we settle for take-out because we don’t have the time or energy after a long day of work and school to prepare a healthy meal for our family to eat, but if you set aside one day each week to plan and prepare your meals for the week, healthy eating during the week becomes a lot less challenging.   


Here’s how it works:
  1. Set aside one day each weekend for meal planning. Use this time to decide what your family will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week.
  2. Make a grocery list complete with all the ingredients you need for each meal.
  3. Head to the grocery store to stock up on all the food you’ll need for the week.
  4. Spend some time in the kitchen preparing for the week:
    • washing, chopping and roasting veggies
    • pre-cooking chicken, turkey, beans or other proteins
    • cooking carbohydrates, like oats, rice, quinoa, and cauliflower
  5. Store everything in BPA-free storage containers and refrigerate

It may take you an hour or two to plan meals and prepare, but it takes the guesswork out of weekday meals, making healthy eating much easier and sustainable.

It’s also an activity that everyone in your family can do together.


Prep once, eat all week long!


The trick here is to keep it simple.

When putting your meals together, think protein, veggies, starches, and healthy fats.

Your plate should be composed of 25% protein, 50% veggies, 20% gluten-free grains or starches, and 1-2 Tablespoons of healthy fat, like avocado or olive oil.


To make your meal planning experience a little easier, here are some of my favorite recipes:



Paleo Breakfast Bowl

Turkey Sausage Patty with Eggs

Toasted Coconut Baked Oatmeal  



Asian Almond Chicken Salad

Turkey Club Chopped Salad with Aioli Vinaigrette

Curry Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Kale Salad



Vegan Red Lentil Chili

Instant Pot Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Perfect Roasted Chicken

Fish en Papillote with Citrus, Ginger, and Shiitake


I hope these recipes inspire you to start meal planning with your family. I promise it will make healthy eating less stressful for you and your family.

In the next (and last) post in this series on family wellness, I’ll be discussing toxins and how to ensure the health of your family by removing toxins from your home.

With toxins lurking in everything from skincare to cleaning products, this is an essential part of your family wellness plan, and a blog post you don’t want to miss!




How to Maintain Family Health During Stressful Times

How to Maintain Family Health During Stressful Times

One of the most common questions my patients ask me is, “how do I keep my family healthy?”

It’s a question that comes up often during times of transition – before traveling, sending kids back to school, or when seasons change.

What all of these transitions have in common is that they create or heighten stress levels, which can significantly impact family health and wellness.

Since I get this question so often, I want to formally address it as part of this month’s series on family health.

How can you maintain family wellness during times of stress?

Family can be the greatest joy in your life, and it can also be your greatest stressor, even more so during major life transitions, but there are a few things you can do to keep your family healthy and well.

1. Be Kind and Compassionate

When times get tough, one of the first things that wanes is our patience and understanding, especially with family. However, making an effort to be kind and compassionate with ourselves and our families will help everyone to feel emotionally nourished and supported. Remember, the mental and emotional health of your family is just as important as their physical health and wellbeing.

2. Slow Down

One of the most important things you can do during busy, stressful times for your health and your family’s health is to slow down and create space in your day to take breaks and breathe. You can do this alone, but it’s a great practice for the whole family because it helps to regulate the nervous system and lowers cortisol levels, which allows everyone to respond to stressors from a place of presence and proactivity.

3. Create Joy

It’s easy to get into our daily routines and let stress get the best of us, but make a conscious effort to add joy to your day. Set aside time to play a board game together, watch a funny television show, or read a book together. You can even make mealtime one of celebration and joy by having everyone share one moment from their day that they are proud of and celebrating that moment with them.

Don’t wait until vacations and days off to incorporate joy into your life, make it a non-negotiable part of your daily family health and wellness routine.

Everyone’s health and wellness will improve because of it.

4. Stay Hydrated

Mild dehydration can adversely affect mood, energy levels, and concentration, so it’s important to make hydration part of your family health plan. If you have children and they’re in school, pack a refillable water bottle in their backpack and encourage them to drink water throughout the day. This will help them to be more focused and have the energy they need to get through the day. Similarly, as a parent, you’ll also have more energy and maybe even be a little more present, kind, and compassionate if you are well hydrated.

5. Take these 4 Essential Supplements:

  • Probiotics for gut health, regular bowel movements, and immune system support
  • Fish oil to support mood stability and brain health
  • A high-quality mineral formula to keep you hydrated and help restore the minerals most commonly depleted during times of stress – magnesium, zinc, and selenium
  • Methylated B Vitamins to support energy production, and immune, cardiovascular and neurological health

These supplements will support the overall health and wellness of your family during stressful times.


As you can see family health and wellness isn’t just about the food you eat, it also includes our emotional health and the ways in which we interact with each other.


Incorporating the tips shared in this blog post along with my recommendations from the first blog post in this series on family wellness will help you keep everyone in your family happy and healthy.

I haven’t forgotten about the more physical aspects of family health, however. In the next blog post of this series on family wellness, I’ll be sharing recipes and meal planning tips to help you keep your family healthy and well fed. If this is something that you struggle with, stick around for more recommendations and resources!




The Essentials for Family Wellness

The Essentials for Family Wellness

We talk a lot about wellness as it relates to you, as an individual, but no woman (or man) is an island and it’s impossible to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit without community, so this month I want to address wellness in the context of family.

Whether it be a more traditional biological family, a chosen family, or a soul family, for many of us this is the most important community we will ever belong to, and our relationship to that community can greatly impact our overall health and well-being (1).


In this blog post I’m sharing a few ways that we can be well and healthy with our families, but before I dig into the topic in-depth, I want to define family.

Many of us are taught that family has a very specific look and definition – two married adults and their children – but family can be defined in many different ways. There are same-sex partners, unmarried partners, and single men and women with or without children, and while they may not fit the traditional image of family, they are still a family.

We can also belong to a family that isn’t biological, a group of individuals that we chose to be in close community and partnership with – our chosen family.

Personally, I belong to three families, my biological family, and two non-traditional family units.

My biological family is more traditional, composed of my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, and cousins.

I also recently married an amazing man and became a stepmother, or “soul mother” as I like to call it. I didn’t give birth to my stepchildren, but I consider it an honor and privilege to love and care for three amazing humans. They are my family.

In addition, I have my chosen family here at Vitality Natural Health Care. I consider everyone in this community, from patients to staff part of my family. As staff members at Vitality Natural Health Care, we spend at least 8 hours a day with each other, working together in community. We are a family, and we welcome and treat each one of our patients as if they are a part of our family.


So my first piece of advice for you in the context of family wellness is to find your family.


Studies have shown that people who feel lonely and isolated are at a much greater risk of developing illness (2, 3), so even if you have to think outside the box to create your family unit, make the effort to do so. Familial bonds and a sense of belonging are essential to your health – physical, mental, and emotional.

My second piece of advice, once you’ve defined your family unit is to examine your relationship to your family – is it loving, supportive, and nourishing? Or is it causing you unmanageable stress, pain, and suffering?


It’s not enough to simply have a family. In order to be well, your experience as part of your family has to be healthy. For that to happen, you must first have a healthy relationship with yourself.  


If your relationship with yourself is not balanced and healthy, it can negatively affect your family and the ways that you interact with and engage with others. It can also impact and influence the way your family engages with you.


Once you’ve established your family unit, here are some things that you can do together to maintain your overall health and well-being:



Support your family in getting quality sleep, 7-9 hours each night. Setting a family bedtime and creating the time and space to decompress at the end of the day or at mealtime will help everyone rest more peacefully.  

Eat Together

We’re social creatures, but sometimes we can get so caught up on our phones and other technological devices that we neglect in-person connection. Make mealtime time a tech-free zone, a time to converse and share challenges and positive experiences from the day. This helps strengthen family bonds and creates a truly nourishing mealtime experience.

Move Your Bodies

Movement is essential for your overall health. It’s also essential for a healthy family. Find activities that you can enjoy together 2-3 times each week, like yoga, biking, or taking family walks.

My husband and I make time each week to hike the mountain behind our house. It gives us time to connect with each other and with nature, enhancing our quality of life and our health.

Have a Joint Spiritual Practice

Having a spiritual practice can enhance our health, by giving our lives greater meaning and purpose. Instead of practicing alone, invite your family to participate. You can meditate together or pray as a family. Whatever your spiritual practice, come together as a family to nourish your soul. Family wellness is not just about the physical.


The journey to good health and wellbeing doesn’t have to be one you take alone, so let’s move into Fall with a focus on community and family health.

I’ll lead the way with three more blog posts over the next month full of information and resources to help keep your family well!




A Naturopathic Doctor’s Favorite Clean Beauty & Skin Care Brands

A Naturopathic Doctor’s Favorite Clean Beauty & Skin Care Brands

In the last blog on toxic skin care ingredients to avoid, I shared the top 10 chemicals that are often found lurking inside of conventional beauty and skin care products. But don’t worry – in the last few years the clean beauty industry has boomed – and there are dozens of great brands, offering healthy and effective alternatives to the chemical-laden ones you might be used to.

If you want to avoid unnecessary chemical exposure, and all the associated health risks, cleaning up your beauty routine is an important step.

I know it can be overwhelming to sift through all of the information out there, so I thought it might be helpful to share a bunch of my favorite brands here – to help you kick-start your clean beauty lifestyle.

So what clean beauty products should you be using?
Here are my favorites…


This is my favorite clean beauty skincare line. I’ve used it myself for the past 10 years and recommend it to clients often – with great results. All of their products are organic, biodynamic and plant-based, perfect for cleansing and nourishing your skin.

Tata Harper

This organic line of clean beauty products is extra special because they grow and formulate all of their products on their farm in Vermont. I love their products because they are certified 100% natural and never include synthetic chemicals or other toxins. Plus, they smell absolutely delicious!

Kjaer Weis, RMS Beauty and La Bella Donna Cosmetics

These are my favorite clean beauty cosmetics and the brands I choose when I choose to wear makeup.

Kjaer Weis is a leading high-performing, luxury makeup that is, as everything should be, organic and sustainable. The company was founded by Danish-born makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis and embodies the Scandinavian aesthetic of minimalism while still feeling luxurious. The compact packaging is refillable, which makes it eco-friendly and also great for travel.

RMS Beauty is formulated with raw, food grade and organic ingredients. This means that the ingredients are used in their natural state, allowing their living, healing attributes to penetrate and rejuvenate the skin. Think of RMS as skincare with mineral pigments. It’s a beautiful line with an incredibly flattering color range.

Similarly, La Bella Donna Cosmetics is a luxury cosmetics line that creates mineral based products free of harmful, chemicals, dyes, and fragrances. All of these products are pure, gentle and designed to support the health of your skin.

True Botanicals

If scientific evidence is your thing, True Botanicals is the clean beauty skincare product line for you! The entire line is MADE SAFE certified, meaning a team of third-party scientists has tested and analyzed all of their products to ensure their safety. Their skin care products are certified pure.

Juice Beauty

Like all the skincare products I recommend, Juice Beauty products are certified organic and toxin free. What makes them special, however, is each of their products contains freshly squeezed, organic juice blends and fruit acids that literally feed your skin. 

Herbivore Botanicals

Herbivore Botanicals is committed to using high-quality, organic, food-grade ingredients in all of their products. They understand that everything we use on our skin gets absorbed into our bodies, so they source only the finest raw and natural materials. In addition to creating products that offer noticeable results, they also create their products with personal rejuvenation and a little indulgence in mind. I love their philosophy that daily bathing and skincare rituals should be enjoyable — a way to carve out some much-needed downtime.


This is my favorite deodorant because it is made with ingredients that I can pronounce, and none of them are chemicals. It also absorbs odors well.

EO Products

A pioneer of clean beauty products, EO products are certified organic, free of GMOs and gluten-free. They are also free of synthetic fragrances but smell amazing thanks to all natural essential oils. Bonus: they’re easy to purchase at just about any natural market like Whole Foods. I love their body wash as well as their hand sanitizer and deodorant wipes.


Local to us here in Arizona, this clean beauty skincare line is made from organic, wildcrafted, and sustainably procured ingredients that are combined to deliver a plethora of nourishing phytonutrients for luminous skin. All formulations are 100% natural and nature-derived, scented and preserved with essential oils and plant extracts, packaged in glass, and never tested on animals.


As your largest and one of your most vital organs, your skin deserves the best care that you can give it.

I hope you’ll use the wealth of information I’ve shared with you about skin healthto develop and maintain healthy, radiant skin, heal your acne, avoid toxins and incorporate more clean beauty products into your daily skincare routine. Making these changes will not only support the external health of your skin but the internal and overall health of your body.




10 Toxic Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid

10 Toxic Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid

Since most skin care products found in your local drugstore or grocery store contain toxic ingredients, in this blog post in our series on skin health I want to share the top 10 toxic skin care ingredients to avoid when making a purchase. This list isn’t exhaustive, but these are the biggest and most common offenders.

Remember, skin is your largest organ, so if you want healthy skin, you have to pay just as much attention to what you put in your body as what you put on your body.

Skincare products include everything from facial cleansers, body wash, shampoo and conditioner to lotions, deodorant, and makeup. Anything that you use to clean and maintain healthy skin is included in this category. Unfortunately, conventional skincare products are full of chemicals that are best avoided as they can be absorbed into your skin and negatively affect your overall health, causing hormone imbalances, infertility, and cancer.

Here is a list of ingredients you want to avoid when choosing skin care products:


Parabens are widely used as preservatives in skin care products since they prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast. They also disrupt hormone production, an effect that has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer development (1). Avoid products that list any of the following on the ingredient label: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and isobutylparaben.

Synthetic colors

These are typically derived from petroleum or coal tar and have been linked to hyperactivity in children and are a suspected to be carcinogenic (2, 3, 4). While the European Union has banned their use, they are still present in many American beauty products and can be identified on a label with the letters FD&C or D&C followed by a color and a number. For example, FD&C Red 40.


In order to protect proprietary blends, the fragrances used in skincare products are often unspecified, which means you could be putting any number of harmful chemicals in and on your body on a daily basis. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) the chemicals used in fragrance mixtures have been associated with respiratory distress, dermatitis, and allergies (5).

For healthy skin, it’s best to choose unscented products or those containing natural fragrances.


Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer and birth defects (6, 7). The most common phthalates found in skincare products and cosmetics are dibutyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, and dimethyl phthalate. This list isn’t exhaustive, however, since phthalates are often included in “fragrance” and may not be listed on the ingredient label.


Often found in deodorants, soaps, and toothpaste, triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical. It is also an endocrine disruptor known to negatively affect thyroid function and weaken the immune system (8, 9).

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)

SLS is a common ingredient in shampoos and soaps since it traps oil from the hair and skin, making it easier to rinse away with water. It’s also a foaming agent, providing the rich lather that most of us have come to expect when we wash our hair. According to the Environmental Working Group, SLS/SLES is a toxin that has been linked to brain and organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption (10).


A study conducted in 2010 found that at least ⅕ of all cosmetics contain formaldehyde, a preservative that helps to prevent the growth of bacteria (11). Unfortunately, the U.S. government and World Health Organization have classified formaldehyde as carcinogenic when its fumes are inhaled. It is also a potent skin sensitizer and known allergen (12).


Toluene is often found in nail polish and hair dyes as it is a potent solvent able to thin and dissolve paint. Exposure to toluene vapors can cause mild headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea. It can also be irritating to the skin, eyes, and lungs (13).

Propylene glycol

This organic alcohol is most commonly used as a skin conditioning agent. It has been classified as a skin irritant, associated with causing dermatitis and hives and is often found in sunscreens, makeup, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and hairsprays (14).

Sunscreen Chemicals

Benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate, and methoxycinnamate are ingredients added to sunscreen to absorb ultraviolet light. These chemicals, like many of the others listed, can disrupt endocrine function and increase the risk of developing cancer (15).

You can’t avoid all toxins, but a general rule of thumb when choosing skin care products is to follow the same rules that you follow when choosing healthy foods – look for clean beauty products with unprocessed ingredients, free of toxic chemicals and artificial ingredients.

The more natural your skincare products are the better! Speaking of natural skincare products, be sure to check out my next post, where I highlight a bunch of my favorite brands.




Acne: True Root Causes and Natural Treatments

Acne: True Root Causes and Natural Treatments

This blog post is the third in a series of four on skin health. In this post, I’ll be focusing on how to heal acne.

The information in the first two blog posts of the series may come in handy as you’re reading this, so feel free to check out the very first post all about skin basics and the second post which is full of helpful information to help you keep your skin healthy, so you’re up to speed.

Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting 50 million people each year.

While anyone can develop acne, it affects teens and young adults most frequently, with an estimated 80 percent of people ages 11- 30  experiencing at least a minor acne breakout during this time period (1).

It’s no wonder with these statistics that I treat patients for acne frequently in my clinic!

My approach to treating and helping my patients heal acne differs from most medical doctors. Typical acne treatment can include over-the-counter creams, cleansers, and prescription antibiotics. These treatments don’t address the root cause of the acne, however.

As you know from the last blog post, your skin is an external reflection of what’s happening inside your body. If there is an imbalance internally, it can show up externally on your skin.

This brings me to the first cause of acne:

Hormone Imbalances

Having too much or not enough of certain hormones can cause acne, especially a rise in androgens, like testosterone.

A rise in androgen levels can cause your body to produce more sebum – a yellow, oily substance that is secreted by the sebaceous glands to keep your skin and hair moisturized. It can also cause changes in skin cell regeneration, inflammation, and build up of a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), all of which can lead to acne (2).

Hormonal acne can also be caused by:

The treatment?

If you want to heal acne caused by a hormonal imbalance, the first step is to have your hormones tested. Once you’ve had your hormones tested, your health care practitioner can recommend the best course of action. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy may be needed. If so, insist that your health care provider prescribe only natural, bio-identical hormones. Herbal supplements may also be an option.

Toxins and Heavy Metals

We are exposed to a plethora of chemicals on a daily basis – environmental pollution, heavy metals, pesticides, preservatives, and other chemicals that increase our risk of developing illnesses, like cancer. They also contribute to skin irritation and acne, especially cadmium, zinc, and copper (3).  

I personally experienced acne and breakouts after eating California greens grown in soil that was contaminated with thallium and arsenic.


You can’t avoid all toxins and chemicals, but do your best to control what you can. Be mindful of the food you put in your body and the products you use on your skin. Choose organic, sustainably farmed fruits and veggies when possible, and use skin care products that are free of phthalates and parabens.

If you suspect that you may have been exposed to heavy metals, request a blood or urine test through your healthcare practitioner to check your toxin levels.

You can also support your body’s natural detoxification process by incorporating regular saunas into your routine since sweating helps to release toxins and bacteria from the lymphatic system. Supplementing with glutathione may also be beneficial.

Gut Dysbiosis

It’s easy to forget that your skin is a functioning, vital organ. Part of your integumentary system, which also consists of your hair and nails, the health of your skin can reveal lots of information about what’s happening inside your body, in your digestive tract specifically.

Your gut contains trillions of bacteria, good and bad. When the bad bacteria begin to take over, it creates inflammation in your body, which weakens your immune system. When the immune system is dysfunctional due to an overgrowth of yeast or parasites, your skin will reflect that dysfunction in the form of acne and other skin conditions.   


Clear skin starts with a healthy gut, so doing what you can to populate your gut with healthy bacteria is essential to heal acne. You can do this by supplementing with a high-blend probiotic, and eating probiotic foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.

Saccharomycin, a probiotic yeast that supports the health and integrity of the gut, can also be beneficial if the direct cause of your acne is due to an imbalance of gut flora (4).


When you experience a stressful situation, adrenaline and cortisol production increases in your body. Glucose is released into the bloodstream to give you a boost of energy and your digestion and immune functions slows down.

During a real crisis, these systems would come back into balance after the crisis was over – you would fight or flee to resolve the problem. However many of us are subjected to stress on a daily basis and never undergo this process of resolution, causing us to operate in a constant state of emergency, with no end in sight.

Such prolonged stress creates hormonal imbalances, imbalances in gut flora, and puts considerable strain on your adrenal glands, all of which can contribute to skin irritations and eruptions, like acne (5).


Make stress management a priority by incorporating the following into your daily life:

  • Meditation
  • Adequate sleep (7-9 hours)
  • Laughter

Supplementation to help support the balanced production of stress hormones may also be an option. Be sure to check with your healthcare professional before adding medications or supplements to your routine.

Poor Diet

A diet high in refined sugar, vegetable oils, processed foods, gluten, dairy, soy, and overconsumption of alcohol can affect the health of your skin since it creates imbalances in gut flora.


Clean up your diet.

Choose low-glycemic fruit, like berries over refined sugar. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, chard, collards. Avoid processed foods as much as possible and limit your alcohol consumption.

For a list of some of the foods I recommend for a healthy diet, click here!

Inflammatory Diseases

Autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto’s, Lupus, and Lyme Disease, can cause skin eruptions and acne as they disrupt hormone balance and gut flora, and are often accompanied by internal inflammation.


This is one of the most difficult types of acne to treat, and while there are options, it’s best to work with a trained physician during treatment.

Since this type of acne can be stubborn, I sometimes recommend topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatory gels. These can help with redness, itching, and burning that often occurs. In less severe cases, turmeric, ginger, and fish oil may also help.

As you can see, the causes of acne are varied and there is no one size fits all way to treat it. In order to determine the root cause of your acne, work with a trained and qualified healthcare professional. They can help you get the testing you need, and offer treatment options that may mirror some of the ones mentioned in this blog post.

Remember, your skin is your largest organ. In order to keep it healthy, it’s important to be mindful of what you put in your body as well as what you put on your body.

In this blog post, I discussed ways to maintain the health of your skin and heal acne from the inside out. In my next blog post in this series, I’ll offer some solutions that will help maintain the health of your skin from the outside in by providing you with information about some of my favorite skin care products.




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