musings

Practicing Gratitude

By on November 20, 2019

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The Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner and in my MOP’s Facebook group we have been answering certain thankfulness questions. This has caused me to remember when I thought gratitude was just an expression of thanks in a mannerly way. Gratitude is something I recognized as powerful several years ago, so it is fun to participate and recognize gratitude in many different aspects of life. Gratitude is actually the opposite emotion of fear.

When I married Gus, my friend and wedding officiant told me to thank Gus for being him. Be grateful for who he is and what he brings to my life and our family (I’m paraphrasing, however that was the gist). At the same time, I also started keeping a small gratitude journal in my bedside table. Each night for about a year, I wrote down 3 things I was grateful for in my day.

It wasn’t a “quick fix”. Over time, I started feeling better in my body. An anxious feeling I carried a lot in my chest, a questioning of sorts was lifted. The desire to be more, to do more (in a hardcore, unpleasant way) shifted and I started feeling more secure in my life and my decisions.

What is gratitude?

dictionary.com defines it as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.

How does gratitude change things?

When we feel grateful, we feel full. We feel full of love, inspiration, ideas, and creativity. This is actually quite powerful. We are born to create, we have the ability to create a life of our own design. Sometimes it is difficult to find the light in life when things look or feel bleak, but taking just a moment to recognize and feel gratitude can start to shift our perspective, and even what crosses our path. And there’s actual research that feeling gratitude can literally reduce the risk of heart disease.

I hope I can gift my children with the knowledge of the power of gratitude. I know as an adult, feeling the true sense of gratitude took practice, especially when “getting over” any sort of trauma or emotional pain. I hope I can model gratitude as more than just saying “thank you”.

Here are a few ways to recognize gratitude and practice it for yourself or with your family and begin to shift and fill your cup.

A Gratitude Journal: a simple tool, nothing fancy– just recognizing 3 things each evening before bed and writing them down.

Thank You Cards: in our digital age texting a thank you may be the simplest way to communicate. I have always valued thank you cards and write them myself. My oldest is good about doing it too, and I want him to truly appreciate others and what they do. Instant gratification and expectation is a tough habit to break and writing things out in a personal note can open up a stronger awareness.

Gratitude Alphabet: This is fun and something I read in a book when my oldest was a little guy. Write down the letters of the alphabet and write down something we are grateful for that begins with each corresponding letter. We will do this right before Thanksgiving and display them on our dining room wall just for a tangible reminder.

These are 3 simple things that can be incorporated in daily life or family rhythm and can foster an open heart so that kindness comes naturally. In my world, I am now grateful every evening. It hits me after I put the kids to bed, do the final clean up and take a moment to look around my house. I truly feel grateful for my home and who’s in it and for the process it took to achieve this kind of peace. It is a good feeling and something I want to maintain and expand on. How do you express gratitude and what have you noticed from it?

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pregnancy | women's health

Third Trimester: Woes and Remedies

By on March 16, 2019

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I am now a week into the third trimester. I can feel my body starting to slow down. My mental clarity and creativity are downshifting. Daily I have more aches and pains, and general discomforts. I am trying to work *with* my body. The show must go on in our family and in work. I can not just pack it up and nap for 9 more weeks. Life is actually busier than ever too. Chasing a 2 year old is no joke, my teen is wrapping up his final weeks of 8th grade, and we have work plans on the schedule until birth-day.

Mental Fatigue

Pregnancy brain is REAL! The physiological hormone changes reduce the amount of gray matter in a woman’s brain. I’ve left car doors open while taking yoga classes, put groceries in the wrong spot, forgotten to trim one toenail, and the list goes on. Clumsiness is also possible as weight is distributed differently in the body, and again HORMONES.

  • Utilize your phone to keep your brain going- Take notes on a note taking app. When you feel creative or have a brilliant moment, record it as soon as it occurs. Set alarms as reminders to do things (ahem, pick kid up from school).
  • Prioritize and Focus- For me, I have several goals that I would like to achieve before May 20th. I have my day plotted out on multiple calendars so that I know exactly what steps to take daily and I can check it off as I go. It is a structure and a discipline, and it keeps me accountable for my to-do lists.
  • Rest- This is tough for me. What I have done is know that I am in my peak performance hours when I wake up until between 12-2. I am now giving myself permission to relax, nap, or just prop up my feet for a few when I feel the slump. Often, during the third trimester night time sleep is disturbed as well, so a rest may be necessary to take you into the evening.
  • Minerals- Minerals are an important supplement for every stage of life. Our soil is deficient, our food travels a long way to get to our plate, which reduces it’s natural vitamin/mineral content.

Aches and Pains

  • Chiropractic care-This pregnancy and my last I utilized chiropractic care to rid myself of many aches and pains. It is incredibly useful to keep yourself aligned as body weight and posture shifts and changes. I look for a chiropractor that uses torque release or activator methods of adjustment.
  • Massage- So, my husband is my current massage therapist and I have been so incredibly pleased with his work! During my last pregnancy I had prenatal massages pretty frequently. This time, it isn’t in our budget or schedule so he is doing the work. It really helps keep tightness at bay and promotes relaxation.
  • Collagen- Again, I sing praises of my collagen. I feel much better in general, and collagen is a wonderful support for skin, hair, nails, and joints.
  • Essential Oils- There are many, many oils for physical discomforts. I could write an entire blog on just recommendations for that. I will narrow the list down to my two personal go-to’s. I love the blend Deep Relief and the single oil Copaiba. I use roller balls on the bottles and apply directly to where I feel the discomfort. If you have not purchased oils before, understand how to get them here for 24% off.

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Leg Cramps

  • Again, the beloved minerals. A friend of mine reminded me of this yesterday. She recently had her baby girl and said her cramps disappeared when she added minerals to her regimen. I did it myself last night and viola! A night charley-horse free!
  • Magnesium + Calcium is also known to be helpful. Finding magnesium in the citramalate form seems to work the best for me.
  • Hydrate drinking 3-4 quarts of water per day during pregnancy means you are adequately hydrated. This is probably the first pregnancy that I have actually managed to do it. Hydration is important for every single bodily function!
  • Foot Soak. I like to do this with about a half cup of Himalayan pink salt with a few drops each of geranium, lavender and cypress essential oil.

Varicose Veins/Hemorrhoids

During pregnancy these are related maladies, and are often linked to constipation. Heredity also plays a role in this issue.

  • A diet high in fiber and an adequately hydrated body can help relieve some of the pressure that is intensified by a sluggish colon and extra uterine weight.
  • Essential oils- Diluted lavender or helichrysum is wonderful for hemorrhoids. And a blend that is known to help with varicose veins: 30 drops of cypress, 20 drops of lavender, 10 drops of lemon and 20 drops of lemongrass with 60ml of fractionated coconut oíl.
  • Compression stockings- these can be helpful, as long as they are not cutting off circulation. The compression from the stockings will help recirculate blood flow so that it is moving toward the heart, and moving out of the lower extremities. Some insurance companies will cover the cost too, and can be ordered through sites like aeroflowbreastpumps.com.
  • Change your position frequently- avoid sitting or standing in the same postion too long. Take breaks, shift your position and avoid sitting with crossed legs, or with legs tucked under you.
  • Elevation- elevating legs periodically throughout the day can also help with circulation.

Heart Burn

Argh, this is one of my biggest complaints. I have tried all of the remedies during my 3 pregnancies. The things I have found the most useful are:

  • A natural alkalinizing supplement- I can drink this and immediately feel relief.
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals- I have to be very mindful of my eating patterns, and what I am consuming. I avoid acidic or spicy foods and make sure I have digested before lying down.
  • Essential oil- Peppermint oil is helpful as well. I will apply on my esophagus where I feel the burn, and sometimes will ingest a drop or two of peppermint vitality.
  • Digestive enzymes- these are also a nice supplement to add in to aid in the digestion and assimilation of your food.

Pubic Bone Discomfort

The hormone relaxin is something women naturally produce during pregnancy to aid in pelvic joint mobility, so that the baby can fit through the pelvis at birth. Sometimes the joints become misaligned and the pelvis too loose which can cause tremendous discomfort. This pregnancy is the only one where I have experienced this and my go-to remedies are.

  • A yoga therapy ball-. I can put this where I feel the discomfort a few minutes per day. This will relieve some of the pressure.
  • A SI belt this is designed to support the sacroiliac joints and will relieve instability in the hips.
  • A chiropractic adjustment- again a chiropractor can adjust the pubic bone or any of the surrounding areas that are misaligned and causing discomfort. Just look for someone who is well versed in prenatal adjustments.
  • Ice therapy- icing can be a great relief. My husband suggests it all the time, and often I ignore him. However, when I actually listen, I feel relief for quite some time. It is also nice to ice after a chiropractic adjustment or using the yoga therapy ball.
  • PT- Some women need to see a Physical Therapist, and finding one that is well versed in pelvic floor therapies is ideal.
  • Homeopathic Remedies- I have heard several midwives suggest the homeopathic remedy of Rhus Toxicodendron 30C from Boiron. This can be found in health food stores, or online. I have never actually tried this myself, it is just something I have heard from multiple people in the birthing community.

Pregnancy is a time of tremendous change, and the female body is amazingly adaptable. Many of the typical complaints rebound very shortly after delivery. In my opinion, it is lovely there are so many natural remedies out there to help us along the way. I always opt for natural choices over medications and synthetics, and I’m even more hypervigilent about this during pregnancy.

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postpartum | pregnancy | women's health

Preparing for Postpartum: Mama Essentials

By on March 4, 2019

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I had a moment of clarity that I was never preparing for postpartum the way I was preparing for my births.  January Harshe

I ran across this quote on Instagram and thought it was genius. I have had two boys, and of course spent a lot of time and energy preparing for their arrival. Both boys were born early, and as I shared in another post– I didn’t even have a hospital bag prepared. It is amazing how the third pregnancy is so different. I am not stressing anything. We have clothes, a bed, some accessories and I feel we are good to go. I do not have endless baby “to-do” lists, and it is quite a freeing feeling.

The thing I am preparing for is postpartum. With our last birth, I was out of sorts for many months after delivery. I could not quite get my balance back after my c-section, Ezra’s NICU stay, and adjusting to a newborn and sleep deprivation. This time I am going to make sure I have my main bases covered so that when I return from the hospital, our family can easily adjust to our “new normal”.

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Postpartum Recovery

Regardless of how the birth occurs, vaginal or cesarean, it takes the body 6 weeks or so to heal. Pregnancy stretches and changes our anatomy over a 9 month period and it takes time to rebound and recover.

A c-section is a bit slower recovery since we are dealing with an incision and surgical healing. Either way, there are many support tools to have around to aid in the recovery and make things feel as comfortable as possible.

  1. Postpartum Girdle— This was a newbie for me after my last birth and it made a world of difference with mobility. Some insurance companies will even cover the cost of one. I’m in awe with this bellefit girdle and am excited to try it after Mira’s birth (yeah, I know I’m weird). It doesn’t matter if you have a vaginal or c-section delivery, I’ve read many reviews on how the support helps with body mechanics, getting back into pre-pregnancy clothing quicker and general post-delivery achiness.
  2. Perineum careHerbal sitz bath, perineal spray, padsicles or ice packs. If you have a vaginal birth, these are a MUST. Caring for this delicate area and helping aid in healing is important and these tools will help you bounce back faster.
  3. Pads/disposable undies— Tampons and menstrual cups are a no-no and you will likely have a pretty heavy flow for some time. I like organic, chlorine free pads and have even been known to use mama cloth.
  4. Peri Bottle— This is an important tool for mama’s, no matter how you delivered. So important that they send you home from the hospital with one. The fact is, we all will have about 6 weeks of lochia, which is the bleeding and discharge after birth. It is nice to have something to help rinse it away from delicate skin after a vaginal birth and just for extra hygiene post-cesarean. I have heard great things about the Fridet by FridaBaby
  5. Water Bottle— Hydration is a necessity, I love my stainless steel cup and straw or a big mason jar with a stainless steel straw. I know that drinking 4 full glasses per day I’m staying hydrated and after birth and while breastfeeding the more water, the better!
  6. Constipation Remedies— I’m crazy about my probiotic and fiber supplements. They have withstood pregnancy constipation and will be the remedies I use postpartum. Drinking plenty of water is important to reduce constipation, I mentioned some essential oil remedies in this post, as well as the constipation tea from Pink Stork.
  7. Walking— Staying active and moving around after delivery actually speeds up recovery. Muscles will rebound quicker, and your joints and fascia will stay in top condition. Walking around the neighborhood with the baby in a carrier or stroller can do wonders for the psyche. I live near the beach and that was a place we frequented for fresh air and vitamin D.
  8. Meal Prep or Healthy Food Delivery Service & Healthy Snacks— I am prepping 2 weeks of dinners for postpartum. This is something I have not done with my past pregnancies and have learned this is an essential step for ease during the postpartum period. It is nice to not think too much about groceries, cooking and cleaning for the first days when you are bonding with baby, sleeping very little, and trying to regain strength. A food delivery service is another idea, and a gift we received after our 2 year olds birth. It was extremely helpful and took a lot of pressure off of meal prep. There are many food delivery services to cater to different dietary specifications and where we live, we have several local services. Stocking the pantry with healthy, nutrient dense snacks is also vital. Birth and breastfeeding is very depleting, so making sure to things readily available takes the mindlessness out of snacking.

What to Do After the Initial “Recovery” Period

I have never completely felt human until month 3 or 4 post delivery and will often put exercise on the back burner. It is a priority! Things to do after you are physically recovered are moving gently back into an exercise program. I plan on doing a Postpartum Recovery Class which targets pelvic floor and core.

I also kept chiropractic care in my routine, my body was misaligned for quite a while after my c-section and the chiropractor was a major help. Even carrying a new baby, sleeping differently, and nursing a baby can throw the body out of alignment, so maintenance checks are life-savers.

Making the decision to get out and join mommy and me groups, finding a tribe was another biggie for postpartum recovery. New mommyhood can be isolating and redundant (and full of joy and beauty, don’t get me wrong). Women need women, so making time for friends does wonders for healing and rebounding from birth.

Emotional Healing & Helpers

Being prepared for the emotional shift that happens with childbirth is also important. Baby blues is completely normal, however postpartum depression and anxiety are also very real. If your emotions feel out of control, please talk to your doctor and get support from trusted friends or family.

  1. Natural Mood Boosters— Essential oils are my go-to’s for mood uplifting. I use Young Living only, and my favorites are Valor, Peace and Calming, Joy, Frankincense.
  2. Enlist Help– Friends and family are invaluable. Having someone over to hold the baby so you can shower or nap is helpful. A postpartum doula is also a wonderful resource. An additional pair of loving hands can ease pressure and help you find balance in your “new normal”.
  3. Nutritional Support– I suffered from postpartum anxiety, and my major relief happened when I found that I was having many triggers from the food I was eating. I have posted about this many times in my blog. For me healthy fats, removing grains, sugars and processed foods and filling up on good veggies did a world of good for my anxiety. My baby also benefitted greatly, the of my milk improved, his weight improved and his jaundice reduced. Adding some additional supplementation was also a necessity.
    • B-Vitamin Complex– I wrote an entire post about the importance of b-vitamins. Research is now pointing to a vitamin-b deficiency as a link to postpartum depression/anxiety.
    • Probiotics– Oh my goodness, not another recommendation for gut-health. But, yes. There are actually strains of bacteria in our guts that affect our mental health. The probiotic I use is quite potent and contains all of the necessary strains for balanced mental health. The thing is, not all probiotics– no matter how wonderfully packaged and the price-tag– can survive the digestive juices and acids. Which means that you can take a probiotic and never actually receive the benefit. Clearer mind and a calmer emotional state are the first things I noticed with my current choice.
    • Collagen HA- I wrote another post all about collagen. This has been a game-changer in my life. Period.

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Nursing Mamas

Choosing to breastfeed is wonderful, and I am partial to it. Being prepared for it is important as well. Nursing a newborn is a round-the-clock experience and can be challenging at first. Having adequate support and supplies makes the transition much easier.

  1. Comfortable Nursing Clothes–  I basically live in nursing tanks and yoga pants those first few weeks. Being able to be accessible to the baby, having plenty of skin-to-skin contact and mobility make a difference.
  2. A Good Pump– A good pump is great to have around. Most insurance companies will cover the cost of one. I’m not a daily pumper, but I do like having a stash and I use a pump to increase supply when needed. It is also nice to have one to relieve engorgement.
  3. Cabbage Leaves– If engorgement does occur, which mine always happens around day 6, putting cold cabbage leaves in my bra alleviate it very quickly. I did not believe this would be the case, but am always happily surprised.
  4. Milk Production Support– There are many galactagogues, or things to help enhance milk production. My favorites are fennel essential oil, Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk Tea, and power pumping. Having some yummy lactation cookies are also nice to make, freeze and have on hand. Most of the commercial brands are loaded with junk, so making my own or using the brand I linked above is my preference.

This post is quite long, and full of information and recommendations I have found and researched over my 3 pregnancies and doula life. I will follow-up with some freezer meal ideas, more breastfeeding tips, and anything else that is helpful that I find along the way.

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gut health | women's health

Gut Health: The Delicate Balance to Ultimate Health

By on February 16, 2019

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Gut health and the human microbiome have been recurring themes in my blogging. On Monday, I received my 25 week pregnancy update and in the article it stated that during these next few weeks of pregnancy, the baby is establishing and developing her immune system. I started thinking, and researching what to do to make sure her immunity will be the best it can be.

Maternal Microbiome

All of the research pointed back to gut health, and the microbiome. Ah-ha! Something I am familiar with. Why is gut health so important? Our guts are literally our second brain, there are over 100 million neurons that line our digestive tract. Our guts house more neurons than our spinal cords! That is pretty incredible! These neurons, along with over 100 trillion bacteria need to stay in perfect balance to help maintain our health.

When the “bad” bacteria is abundant, we see many problems. Compromised immunity, skin issues, trouble achieving and maintaining our ideal weight, brain-fog, lack of focus, and even our emotional/mental health are linked back to this delicate balance of gut bacteria. Craving sugar, wheat, starches and gluten is a warning sign that the bad bacteria is “louder” than the good bacteria in our gut. When this happens, it is possible to starve out the bad bacteria and nourish the good to begin to find that balance. Removing grains and sugar from the diet will starve the bad guys. Foods that nourish the good bacterias are fermented foods, such as keifer or sauerkraut, and fibers from dark, leafy green veggies.

Knowing what your “second brain” is telling you by listening to your food cravings is a great way to build your own immunity, which in turn will give baby a heads up as she develops in-utero, and if mom’s microbiome is functioning well, baby will receive what she needs during the birth process and the “good-guys” will colonize quite quickly. When our microbiome is uninterrupted, that is when we are in “good” health.

The Antibiotic Conundrum

When our immunity is compromised it is easier to pick up viruses and bacteria and suffer their ill-effects. We see our doctor and are often prescribed an antibiotic. An antibiotic may kill the bacteria that is making you ill. However, it also wipes out the delicate ecology in the gut. Have you ever been sick after a round of antibiotics? Maybe started having digestive or skin issues? Possibly a yeast infection? All of your “good” guys have been destroyed and now need nourished and fed.

In the medical community, it is often suggested to take a probiotic immediately after taking an antibiotic. This is good advice, although restoring the microbiome to its original homeostasis can take up to 18 months after 1 round of antibiotic. And, no. I am not saying do not take an antibiotic if you are truly ill with a bacterial infection! The moral of this information is to get your microbiome and immunity in tip-top condition by taking care of your gut health to prevent the need for an antibiotic.

The Body’s Biggest Job

All day, every day our bodies are working on ingesting food, digesting food, assimilating the nutrients from the food, and eliminating the remainder. This is another piece of the puzzle that will boost immunity and microbiome for mom and baby. In our gastrointestinal tract, having an appropriate balance of digestive enzymes supports the digestion and assimilation process.

We need support breaking down proteins, carbs, and fats from the foods we eat. The Standard American Diet, along with commercial farming practices and cooking methods do not allow us to receive adequate enzymes from our food alone. One of the benefits of adding additional digestive enzymes to the body is increased energy. This is because our body is adequately breaking down and assimilating food without increased energy output going to the GI tract just for digestion.

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Postpartum & Beyond

Knowing that gut health is linked to so many disorders of the human body really is great information when it comes to postpartum health and beyond. No matter who you are, pregnant or not, male or female, young or old, gut health is the place to start when wanting to achieve wellness.

For me, learning that certain strains of gut bacteria are responsible for emotional and mental health was quite enlightening. After delivering my second son I suffered from postpartum anxiety. Luckily, I was able to change my diet and add a few good supplements and I received relief from my symptoms very quickly. Knowing this information, I can prepare myself for what’s to come postpartum with this birth by adequately nourishing and supplementing during my pregnancy. So, my supportive methods are supplementing my diet with fiber, digestive enzymes, and probiotics. The benefits for me are increased immunity, better skin and slower aging.

If any of these issues spark your interest, or you know your gut is something you are needing to rebalance and restore. Feel free to email me and I am happy to help you with get started choosing food, supplements, or even just to point you in a direction to do your own research.

 

 

 

 

 

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diet | recipes

Simplifying Dietary Changes

By on January 17, 2019

The Struggle is Real

The holidays are over and I am still having trouble getting back on track with my diet. These are the thoughts that have been floating around in my mind:

Carbs taste good, I’m pregnant, just one more day, it’s just “social” eating, one more treat, I’m tired of cooking, cleaning, planning, purchasing.

There ya have it. All excuses to not be my best self. Have you ever had that dialogue floating around in your mind?

I KNOW changing my diet changed my life. I found a healthy, stable weight, my periods returned like healthy clockwork, my son’s medical issue resolved, my feelings of anxiety released, and countless other benefits.

Why, oh why are bad habits so hard to break? Why is convenience more important than health?

Last night, I really had to give myself a reality check. I’m going to deliver a baby in just a few short months, and I do not want a repeat of my last birth experience. Plus, I want my body to bounce back so that I’m not telling another story of postpartum depression or healing difficulties.

Three Tips to Simplify

Simplifying the diet is key. I’ve had to adapt so that I’m not cooking and cleaning all day, or having to run all over the state finding appropriate ingredients.

How have I simplified?

1. Shopping in bulk and mail order has been #1. I found a local source for high quality meat, and place a big order about every 2 months.

Our Costco membership has also been amazing and saves quite a bit of money. We can find compliant cheeses, vegetables, grain-free products in bulk, nice cooking oils, avocado oil mayo, almond flour, compliant salad dressings and several other staples. Scheduling this every 4-6 weeks keeps our pantry stocked and minimizes our trips to run out for just an item or two.

Amazon Prime or Thrive Market are excellent sources to find items that aren’t as accessible in the mainstream market. For me, I would have to drive an hour to a grocery store or health food store that carries compliant baking items.

2. Meal planning is also important. I used to be able to replace a meal with a protein shake to lighten my cooking load. Being pregnant has required that I eat 3 meals and only use shakes for protein rich snacks. Have you ever tried planning 21 meals a week? Its laborious.

Batch cooking and freezing is a good method to lighten the load or just having a plan for dinner by 10 am tends to work for me. Unthawing meat, knowing what veggies need prepped and just general timeline can make the task easier.

Cooking enough food to have leftovers for lunch is also a time saver, or cooking a bigger batch of a favorite that can be eaten over the course of several days for lunch.

3. Instant Pot

I have had my instant pot for about a year and wasn’t sure if I loved it or not. It is not something I use daily but it works wonders to cook a good, healthy, nutritious meal very quickly. I love it for soups and stews or to cook a perhaps frozen chicken very quickly to use for multiple meals.

These are just my tips and tricks that help me stay focused and on task with what I’m putting in my body. I am going to share one of my favorite lunch, batch cooking recipes. I make enough for several days and serve on a bed of greens with a few Simple Mills grain-free crackers. It’s both healthy and satisfying.

Lemon Tarragon Chicken Salad

2 lb. pasture raised chicken breasts

3 stalks of celery, diced

lemon juice

4 Tbs chopped, fresh tarragon

avocado oil mayo (Chosen Foods brand, I buy at Costco)

handful of dried, unsweetened cranberries

1. Drizzle chicken breasts with avocado oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 min.

2. Cool and dice chicken breasts.

3. Add diced celery, tarragon, salt, pepper, and enough mayo to coat thoroughly. Approximately 1/2-3/4 c. Mix well. Add 1-2 Tbs. lemon juice and cranberries and mix again.

4. Chill and serve.

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