What One Serving Of 7 Popular Healthy Snacks Looks Like

When your stomach grumbles between meals, a healthy snack will keep you sane—and prevent you from downing half a pizza once dinnertime finally rolls around.

Serving sizes still count for even the healthiest of snacks, though, and you can dig yourself deep into a calorie hole if you overdo it on the good stuff. (Okay, maybe you can’t overdo celery, but…). That’s why nutritionists recommend reaching for snacks that clock in between about 100 and 200 calories—which should be enough to satisfy you without becoming a full-on meal.

We know keeping portions in check can be tricky—so we did the work for you. Below are eight nutritionist-approved snacks, exactly how much of each will land you in that 100 to 200-calorie range, and what that serving actually looks like. Follow this guide and your snacks are guaranteed to fill you up (but not out) the next time hunger strikes.

1. Roasted Edamame

Have a hankering for chips? Reach for edamame instead. “If you are craving something crunchy and salty, this snack is a home run,” says Keri Gans, R.D.N., author The Small Change Diet. “It’s packed with fiber and protein, two necessary nutrients to help keep you full.”

One serving: 1/3 cup roasted edamame

171 calories, 17 g protein, 14 g carbs, 5 g fat, 12 fiber, 3 g sugar

2. Almonds + Apple

Nuts pack a lot of calories, so they’re a real doozy if you eat too many. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid them! Nuts are packed with healthy fats, along with other nutrients. “Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, which protects your body’s cells from damage,” explains Rachel Meltzer Warren, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian.

Healthy Snacking Staples

“Nuts also pack protein, which, especially combined with the fiber in the apple, makes this snack a filling combination,” she says.

One serving: 1/4 cup almonds + one small, fist-sized apple

237 calories, 6 g protein, 28 g carbs, 13 g fat, 7 g fiber, 16 g sugar

3. Cottage Cheese + Berries

Cottage cheese and fruit is a naturally sweet and creamy combo. Plus, cottage cheese is packed with filling protein (more than 20 grams per cup!), calcium, and B vitamins, while antioxidant-rich blueberries add a dose of fiber, says Gans.

One serving: 1 cup two-percent cottage cheese + 1 cup blueberries

253 calories, 23 g protein, 27 g carbs, 6 g fat, 4 fiber, 21 g sugar

4. Crackers + Nut Or Seed Butter + Banana Slices

This crunchy, creamy, sweet, and salty snack is the ultimate trifecta of good-for-you ingredients.

“The combination of fiber from the crackers and banana and protein from the sun-butter makes for a satisfying snack,” says Meltzer Warren. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of magnesium, an important mineral that many of us fall short on.

One serving: 2 high-fiber crackers (like Wasa whole-grain crispbreads) + 1 tablespoon of sunflower seed butter + 1/2 a banana

213 calories, 7 g protein, 31 g carbs, 9 g fat, 8 g fiber, 9 g sugar

5. Yogurt

Yogurt is a great calcium-packed snack—but it’s hard to find a flavored option that’s not jammed with sugar, says Ansel. That’s why she recommends reaching for skyr, an Icelandic-style yogurt that contains more protein and less sugar, instead.

One serving: 1 cup of low-fat skyr, like Siggi’s Non-Fat Vanilla Icelandic Skyr

110 calories, 15 g protein, 12 g carbs, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 9 g sugar

6. Air-Popped Popcorn

Popcorn is a whole grain, so when you eat it you’re not just scratching that snack itch, but you’re also giving your body fiber and valuable nutrients, says Meltzer Warren. Thing is, though, many packaged varieties are cooked in tons of oil and topped with a hefty dose of salt, so you may end up eating a lot more calories than you expect.

The solution: Make your own! “I love air-popped popcorn drizzled with a little olive oil and some spices,” says Meltzer Warren. Just as satisfying as pretzels or chips—but much more health and waistline-friendly.

One serving: 3 cups of air-popped popcorn + 1 tablespoon olive oil + pinch of sea salt

249 calories, 2 g protein, 13 g carbs, 22 g fat, 2 g fiber, 0 g sugar

7. Veggies + Guacamole

For a savory crunch, munch on vegetables and creamy guacamole, suggests Keri Glassman, M.S., R.D., founder of Nutritious Life. Avocados are a great source of heart-healthy fats that can help tame your hunger.

Glassman likes to dunk brightly-colored veggies—like carrots and red pepper slices, which are great sources of beta-carotene—into guac. This plant pigment converts into vitamin A, which is great for your vision, immune system, and skin. These veggies are also super low in calories, making this an ideal snack if you’re looking to lose weight, according to Glassman.

One serving: ½ cup sliced carrots + ½ cup sliced red peppers + 4 tablespoons guacamole

119 calories, 2 g protein, 17 g carbs, 8 g fat, 7 g fiber, 7 g sugar

What Is African Black Soap—And Why Does Everyone Swear By It?

There are plenty of trendy health and natural skin-care products on the market (hello, apple cider vinegar!) these days—and black soap (a.k.a. African black soap) is now emerging as the latest star. Purported to provide ultra-deep cleansing of the skin and praised by people with skin conditions like rosacea and eczema, black soap is quickly accumulating super-fans, with beauty experts extolling its virtues.

A quick scan of the beauty-care aisle will tell you that black soaps, like Shea Moisture’s Organic African Black Soap, contain a few leading ingredients: plant ash (such as cocoa pod ash), shea butter, and various oils. Each brand may carry products with slightly different ingredients, but it’s the ash that plays a core role due to its skin-cleansing abilities.

Originating in West Africa, black soap comes from something called agro-waste—or, parts of plants (ashes from shells, husks or barks of plantain, palm, cocoa pod, or shea trees) left out in the sun to dry. The ash from these parts is mixed with water, shea butter, and oils (like coconut oil or palm oil), and is then cooked, saponofied (made hard, like sap), and cooled.

Though more conclusive studies are needed on African black soap’s seemingly magical skin-cleansing properties, research in the Journal of Bioresource Technology found that the ash in black soap, which gently exfoliates the skin due to its makeup from dried plants, offers “excellent solubility, consistency, cleansing, and lathering abilities.”

On top of its skin-cleansing properties, the shea butter in African black soap is lauded for its moisturizing abilities. “Shea butter can help soften cracked dry skin on heels, elbows, and knees,” says Brian Tanzer, Manager of Scientific Affairs at The Vitamin Shoppe. “It also contains essential fatty acids, along with vitamins A and E, which help maintain your skin’s elasticity and suppleness.”

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The oils found in black soap, which can vary by the region in which the soap was made, are also highly moisturizing.

Who Should Use It?

Most people can use African black soap on their face and body for general skin cleansing. And according to a survey published by the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, people also use it for minimizing acne, dark spots, and razor bumps. This could be due to its deep-cleansing abilities, although more research is needed to validate its mechanisms and its effectiveness on specific skin conditions.

Exactly What To Do For A Pulled Muscle

If you’re engaged in any sort of regular exercise regime (that includes you weekend warriors!), you’ve probably experienced a pulled muscle. You know how it goes: You’re on a roll, feeling strong, and then it hits—ouch!

The pain can rate anywhere from a dull (but totally annoying) ache to holy-cow-that-hurts throbbing, with every movement a reminder of the injury. You may even experience limited mobility. With either situation, listening to your body and responding swiftly is key so that you can safely resume your everyday activities.

Understanding the Injury

“When people refer to a ‘pulled muscle,’ what they are really referring to is a muscle strain,” says Chris Falcon, a Chicago-based certified personal trainer and founder of Reactive Performance Enhancement Center.

So what actually happens to the muscle? “Due to a multitude of factors, the muscle tissue has been stressed beyond what it can handle, and different degrees of tearing or damage has been done,” says Falcon.

Not all pulled muscles are created equal, but there are two main kinds of common muscle strain:

“A Grade 1 strain is less severe and requires a couple weeks to heal,” says Falcon. “A Grade 2 strain is more severe, but does not include a complete rupture of the tissue. There are Grade 3 strains, but I don’t classify these as muscle pulls. These are when there is extensive damage, and surgery could be possible.”

Fast Action

So do you hop into a hot shower and hope for the best? Or do you stretch it out? Neither, actually.

Cold is king right after an injury takes place. Mayo Clinic advises using the R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) plan of action, which includes icing the muscle and then resting it (yep, this actually means you need to refrain from using that muscle!).

Immediately, you’ll want to “discontinue the exercise or activity before they do more damage to the muscle,” says Robert Herbst, personal trainer and powerlifter.

In tandem with resting the area, you’ll want to apply ice for 20 minutes to reduce bleeding and inflammation. You can do this every few hours, daily.

You can use an ice pack or even a bag of frozen peas, or you can get into an ice-slush bath. This will relieve swelling while also helping to minimize the pain. Herbst warns to limit icing to 20 minutes, though, as after that amount of time the cold can have the opposite effect on the body—increasing blood flow to the area (painful!) in order to prevent frostbite.

Next, you’ll want to compress the area: “They can wrap the area with a bandage to reduce blood flow to the area and to provide support,” says Herbst, using the example of a person who has pulled a hamstring but still needs to walk.

Lastly, you’ll want to elevate the area. In the event of a pulled calf, for example, lying down with one’s foot up on pillows would be ideal. The strain should be elevated above heart level to continue reducing blood flow.

Treating the Symptoms

To combat discomfort, you may want to use an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, or you can go the more natural route:

1. Arnica

Homeopathic supplements, like Arnica Montana 30C, are commonly used help relieve symptoms related to muscle aches and swelling. If you prefer a topical approach, Arnica Gel is a fast-absorbing option for the temporary relief of pain, stiffness, and swelling.

2. Tiger Balm

You can also turn to Tiger Balm, which is a centuries-old ointment that utilizes camphor and menthol to send a soothing, icy-hot sensation to the pain point.

3. Movement

“After 24 hours, they can consider, depending on the pain, doing light exercise to flood the area with blood to promote healing, followed by ice,” says Herbst. This might look like a careful stretch or a series of slow, gentle yoga sequences.

4. Castor oil

Mindy Solkin, professional running coach and founder of The Running Center in Philadelphia, PA, uses castor oil for pain reduction. First, she pours the castor oil onto a flannel cloth or paper towel. She then places it over the muscle, wraps it in Saran wrap, places a heating pad on top (medium heat), and leaves it there for about 15-20 minutes.

Note that if the swelling continues, or if there’s a significant loss of mobility, bleeding, or a change in the shape of the muscle, you should head to the doctor. These may all be signs of a more serious issue.

Avoid Future Injury

In terms of prevention, you want to make your warm-up a priority. “Everyone knows that it’s best practice to stretch thoroughly before exercising, but it’s also really important to stretch after you’ve finished your workout,” says Dr. Jae Park, a physical therapist at Advanced Wellness in NJ. “This helps increase blood flow and reduce muscle fatigue, leading to a faster recovery that prevents future injuries.”

It doesn’t need to be overly choreographed, though. Falcon suggests keeping the intensity low and movements simple.

Another way to keep your muscles in tip-top shape: Stay hydrated. “This not only includes drinking water, but also eating nutrient-dense superfoods, to ensure a balance in osmotic pressure at the cellular level,” says Falcon.

7 Stretches That’ll Help Fix Your Slouchy Shoulders

If you spend eight plus hours hunched over your desk at work, sit some more while you commute, and spend an hour or two watching Stranger Things before bed, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, Americans spend an average of 13 hours a day sitting.

While a sedentary lifestyle may seem ‘normal’ these days, it’s definitely not good for our bodies. Sitting all the time tightens up the muscles in our chest, neck, shoulders, back, and core, and can lead to muscle weakness, limited flexibility, joint and back pain, headaches, and a generally slouchy posture, says Marina Mangano, D.C., founder of Chiro Yoga Flow.

Our posture also affects how our blood circulates, which hormones our body releases, and how we generally feel. Research out of Harvard University found that study participants who slouched while sitting in a chair (called a ‘low-power position’) before an interview fared worse than participants to stood tall (called a ‘high-power position’). According to the study, low-power positions are associated with feelings of anxiety and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

No matter how many years you’ve spent slouching, you can fix your weak posture, stop feeling as tense as a marble statue, and have a better range of motion. How? Stretching, of course! “Just fifteen minutes a day can make a real difference” says Axia Goodrich, D.C., F.M.P., of South Florida Chiropractic Center.

Try these seven yoga poses—which work together to open the chest, loosen the shoulders, and strengthen the back—to increase your body awareness, relax, and gradually realign your body and improve your posture.

1. Active Child’s Pose

Child’s pose helps you explore the range of motion in your shoulders and lengthen your spine, explains Gabrielle Morbitzer, yoga and mobility instructor for ICE NYC. Plus, it’s soothing as heck.

How to do it: Start on your hands and knees. Widen your knees so that they are more than shoulders-width apart. Press the tops of your feet into the mat and touch your big toes to each other. Crawl your hands forward, and either extend your arms straight out towards the front of the mat, reaching through your fingertips, or drape them on the floor alongside your body. Slowly drop your hips back to rest on your heels and rest your forehead on the floor. Breathe here for five to 10 deep breaths.

2. Cat-Cow

Your core and pelvis should drive the cat-cow flow: “As you inhale you create an anterior tilt to the pelvis so that your tailbone is facing the ceiling, and as you exhale you create a posterior tilt so that your tailbone is turned towards the ground,” says Morbitzer. This movement sequence helps increase spinal awareness, which is a large part of less-than-perfect posture, she says.

How to do it: Start on all fours with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, your hips stacked over your knees, and the tops of your feet pressed into the ground. Look down a few inches in front of your fingers and lengthen from your head down to your tailbone.

To begin the ‘cat’ phase, use your abs to curl your spine up towards the ceiling tuck your tailbone under using (making the shape of a Halloween cat) as you exhale. Lengthen your neck and allow your chin to reach down and in toward your chest so your ears come down by your biceps.

To begin the ‘cow’ phase, swoop and scoop your pelvis so your belly drops down to the floor as you inhale. Broaden across your shoulder blades, drawing your shoulders away from your ears, and lift your chin and chest to gaze up toward the ceiling.

Cycle through cat-cow a few times, keeping tension and pressure out of the head and neck.

3. Camel Pose

Camel is a back-bend pose that helps improve arm strength and shoulder flexibility, says Mangago. It forces you to completely open up, countering the position you’re in all day at work.

How to do it: Kneel on the floor so your knees are stacked over your hips and the tops of your feet press into the ground. Zip your hands up the side of your body until your thumbs reach your armpits. Hook your thumbs into your pits for support, engage your core, and slowly begin to lean back so your chest opens up towards the ceiling.

Our Go-To Yoga Accessories

In this position, reach your hands back one at a time and grab onto your heels. (If you can’t reach your heels, tuck your toes under or use a block.) If it feels good, drop your head backwards and open your throat towards the ceiling. To intensify the move, bring your hips forward so they’re stacked over your hips. Hold this position for one minute, or about 10 long breaths.

4. Cow Face Pose

This pose opens the hips, shoulders, and chest. The best part about it, though? “While there is a hip opening component, people can practice the top portion of the pose at their desks,” says Mangano. Try practicing the top portion of this pose for one minute every hour during the work day, she suggests.

How to do it: Sit on the floor in a cross-legged position with your right leg over your left. Slide your knees in toward your center line so the right knee stacks directly on top of the left—or as close to this position as possible. Then, reach your left arm straight up towards the ceiling and bend your left elbow so that your left palm is facing the back of your neck. Raise your right arm out to the side, bend your elbow, and slide your right hand up the center of the back with your palm facing away from your body. If you can, clasp your hands. If you can’t, grab each end of a yoga strap, small towel, or T-shirt, and try again. Hold for 10 breaths, then release the pose and repeat with the left leg and right arm on top.

5. Downward Facing Dog

This staple pose, which opens up the chest and shoulders, can help relieve posture-related neck and back pain and help you stand up a little straighter, says Morbitzer.

How to do it:  Start on all fours. Tuck your toes, push your knees up off the floor, and lift your hips high, reaching your tailbone towards the ceiling. You should look like an upside-down V. Reach your heels back toward the mat and drop your head so that your neck is long. Press into the knuckles on your forefingers and thumbs to alleviate pressure on your wrists and make sure your wrist creases stay parallel to the front edge of your mat. To alleviate the pressure on your wrists, press into the knuckles of your forefinger and thumbs. Hold this position for at least three deep breaths.

If you don’t have the upper-body strength needed to hold this pose (it requires a good amount!), you might compensate by scrunching your shoulders up to your ears. If you notice yourself doing this, create space in your neck by actively drawing your shoulder blades down your back. If your shoulder blades begin to tense up, bend your knees and lower into child’s pose to rest until you’re ready to hold down dog again.

Related: Bad Posture Leads To Big Problems—Here’s How To Fix It

6. Plow Pose

This pose helps lengthen the upper-back, and, depending on the variation, open up the shoulders, notes Mangano. This is a deep stretch, so don’t force your body to do too much too soon.

How to do it: Lie on your back with your arms beside you and your palms facing the floor. Inhale and use your core muscles to lift your feet off the floor and raise your legs vertically so they form a 90-degree angle with your torso. Keeping your legs straight, lift your butt and use your abs to bring your feet up and over your head until your toes touch the floor behind your head. Then, either press your palms into the floor behind you or interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten your arms. Focus on pressing your shoulder blades into the floor. Keep the neck straight and the look upwards. If your hands are clasped, try to hold the position for five deep breaths. If your palms are pressed into the floor, try to hold for ten breaths. To come out of the pose, release your arms, lift your feet up off the floor, and roll the spine one vertebra at a time to slowly bring your legs back around and lower them down to your mat, while keeping your legs straight and feet together.

7. Bow Pose

“Bow pose help to counteract slouched shoulders by opening up the front of the body and strengthening the back of the body,” says Mangano.

How to do it: Begin lying flat on your stomach with your chin on the mat and your hands resting on either side of you. Then, bend your knees and bring your heels as close to your buttocks as you can. Reach backwards with both hand and grab onto your outer ankles. As you inhale, lift your heels up towards the ceiling so that your chest, thighs, and upper torso lift up off the mat. To intensify the stretch, try to lift your heels higher while keeping your tailbone pressed into the mat. Look forward and draw your shoulders away from your ears. Hold this position for 10 breaths. Release on an exhale by slowly lowering your thighs, and then the rest of your body, to the ground.

Related: Support your routine with all sorts of yoga accessories.

10 Things That Will Help You Get Your Hygge On

If your favorite thing to do during the wintertime is drink a warm cup of cinnamon tea by the window, tucked under a baby-soft blanket—or if you’ve decorated your whole apartment with distressed wood and tiny candles, chances are you’ve probably already fallen in love with the trendy concept of hygge.

Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a Danish word that can’t exactly be translated into English—although it’s both a noun and an adjective that falls somewhere in between cozy and content, especially as it relates to mindfully indulging in simple pleasures (think: listening to the rain fall, or reading a good book in bed while still in your pajamas). Fun fact: The Germans have their own version of this word (gemütlichkeit) and the Dutch do, too (gezelligheid). To the Norwegians, it translates to “well-being.”

Want to conjure some hygge for yourself? It’s more than a mindset—you’ve got to set up your space for ultimate warmth and comfort, and we’re here to help you do just that.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Himalayan Crystal Salt Lamp

Beloved for their supposed air-clarifying properties, salt lamps are probably the most hygge light source of all—aside from the actual sun on a snowy day. With their natural, orange glow, even small salt lamps can fill a room with magic and calm.

Related: Should You Jump On The Bandwagon And Buy A Himalayan Salt Lamp?

2. Golden Milk

A nice cup of chamomile tea or a mug of hot cocoa are both superbly hygge, but Golden Milk takes the award for coziest of all. First off, its scent is enchanting, as it’s blended with spicy turmeric, ginger, honey, cinnamon, and cardamom. On top of that, the turmeric promotes a sense of well-being. Simply mix with warm coconut milk or any other milk base, and you’ve got a saffron-colored winter-weather concoction that’s good for the soul.

3. Pumpkin Banana Bread

If you take a moment to google “hygge,” you’ll find loads of gorgeous food blogs out there, brimming with delectable treats displayed on candle-covered long wooden tables. Now you can make your very own hygge dessert—one that is both tasty and Instagrammable. #hygge.

4. No Cow’s Fluffbutter

This brownie batter-flavored fluffbutter is the equivalent of eating a pink cloud. Step one: Wrap yourself up in a big, wool blanket. Step 2: Eat this stuff by the spoonful. Infused with both pea and rice proteins, you’ll have yourself a delicious and healthy hygge snack.

5. Ashwagandha Extract

Beyond décor and Instagram-friendly hygge aesthetic is the core concept of self-care via simplicity and coziness. Basically, if hygge were a supplement, it’d be ashwagandha—and that’s because this popular and powerful adaptogen promotes natural feelings of energy, vitality, and emotional well-being. Used to adapt to stress, sooth the nervous system, and support sleep, you can bet this little herb will inspire hygge from the inside.

6. SpaRoom Aromascape Diffuser & Essential Oils 

Hygge is all about the sensory. From the feeling of a fluffy puppy to the pitter-patter sounds of rain, you want to settle down and take it all in. And with this SpaRoom Aromascape diffuser, you can do just that in a scent-sational space. Its glass-blown sculpture is super-pretty to look at, since its spectral color-changing ability adds major ambience. You can pick any scent you want—but we recommend lavender or vanilla oil for a truly hygge vibe.

7. Nubian Heritage’s Patchouli Body Wash

Pour yourself a very hygge bath with Nubian Heritage’s patchouli and rosehip body wash. Simply pour a bit under the water, sink into the bubbles, and enjoy the skin-softening goodness of this calming, aromatic wash.

8. Natural HBC’s Peace Pearl Pillar Candle

This lavender-and-tangerine-scented candle has been hand-crafted in small batches—and ain’t it darling? The combination of these aromas is sure to leave you feeling relaxed and soothed, while the candle itself will pretty up any living space.

9. Love My Coloring Books’ Love Is…

Coloring books aren’t just for kids! This beautiful little book is made for anyone looking to get creative. Settle in for a weekend evening with a few Crayolas—and prepare to escape.

For any cat lovers out there, we’ve also got you covered.

10. Gaiam’s 3MM Purple Mat

Hygge isn’t just about cozying up under the blankets. For you, it might mean pulling out the yoga mat, putting on some soft music, lighting a few candles, and moving through the poses. Make your yoga experience more comfortable—and much more pretty—by using this comfy mat by trusted brand Gaiam.

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7 Protein Pancake Recipes That Justify Eating Pancakes Every Single Day

Even the nuttiest of health nuts can’t deny the appeal of a giant, warm stack of pancakes topped with a generous pat of butter and absolutely soaked with syrup. That stack, though, easily puts you almost 1,000 calories in the hole (especially if you really love your syrup), so it’s typically reserved for special occasions, like when you can afford to lie on the couch in a sugar coma for the rest of the day.

Given that, what we’re about to tell you may be a little shocking (in the good way): You can actually eat pancakes every single day. No sugar crash, no all-day stomach ache, no guilt.

If you swap your average pancake batter for one made with healthy, whole ingredients, and balance it out with a little protein powder, you can cook yourself up a well-rounded breakfast that still tastes like a treat morning after morning.

Not convinced? See for yourself. We’ve rounded up a full week’s-worth of the most delightful protein pancake recipes the internet has to offer—so grab your go-to tub of protein and fire up the griddle.

photo: Protein Treats By Nicolette     

1. Vanilla Blueberry Cake Protein Pancakes

With 38 grams of protein (woah) and just 13 grams of sugar in the entire batch, these pancakes from Protein Treats By Nicolette are a far-cry from IHOP’s sugar bombs. Six simple ingredients (vanilla protein powder, oat flour, egg whites, almond milk, cashew butter, and blueberries) transform into thick, fluffy cakes that taste like blueberry clouds. Make your meal feel extra-fancy by whipping up her homemade blueberry jam topping and vanilla protein glaze.

Quest’s Vanilla Milkshake protein powder bakes beautifully and adds just the little something-something these pancakes need.

photo: Friday Love Song

2. Confetti Cake Protein Pancakes

Birthday cake everything is on fire right now—so why not turn your breakfast into a celebration? Friday Love Song’s recipe is loaded with fiber, protein, and (of course) sprinkles to satisfy your belly and your taste buds.

To make these truly birthday-worthy, try using Body Tech’s Birthday Cake Whey Tech Pro 24 whey protein.

photo: Peanut Butter and Fitness

3. Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes

These pancakes by Peanut Butter And Fitness are just about as luscious as a peanut butter fudge mousse cake from your favorite bakery. The entire stack (peanut butter fluff topping, included) packs over 40 grams of protein from ingredients like whey protein powder, egg whites, Greek yogurt, and peanut butter.

Level up the chocolatey goodness of the pancakes by using Optimum Nutrition’s Double Rich Chocolate Gold Standard 100% Whey protein powder.

photo: Dashing Dish

4. Pumpkin Spice Protein Pancakes

Whether Thanksgiving is a week or six months away, we’ll never say ‘no’ to a little more pumpkin spice in our lives. At just 100 calories, one gram of sugar, and 14 grams of protein per serving, this stack from Dashing Dish is an especially calorie and macro-friendly breakfast.

We like BPI Sports’ Snickerdoodle Whey HD protein powder for these—plus a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top, of course!

photo: Jennifer Meyering

5. Carrot Cake Protein Pancakes

Do these count as veggies for breakfast? (We vote YES.) Jennifer Meyering’s carrot cake protein pancakes incorporate good-for-you ingredients like ginger, cinnamon, and, yes, carrots, for a colorful stack of pancakes complete with cream cheese frosting—because you can never skip cream cheese frosting.

Make these pancakes with Garden of Life Sport’s Vanilla Grass-Fed Whey protein powder for a little extra vanilla flavor from a quality source.

photo: Sprinkled With Health

6. Cookies And Cream Protein Pancakes

Eating cookies for breakfast might seem like a no-no, but this cookies and cream protein pancake recipe from Sprinkled With Health is your ‘go-ahead’ to go ahead and do it! You won’t feel a shred of guilt knowing this breakfast is loaded with wholesome ingredients like oat flour, coconut flour, plain Greek yogurt, and egg whites.

PES Cookies ‘N Cream Select Protein powder really takes these dessert-inspired pancakes to the next level.

photo: The Big Man’s World

7. Cinnamon Bun Protein Pancakes

You can go to Cinnabon and tear through almost 900 calories and 60 grams of sugar as you lick icing off your fingers, or you can whip up this stack of cinnamon bun protein pancakes from The Big Man’s World. These sticky-sweet pancakes are high in protein and low in sugar, so you can feel like you’re indulging without actually indulging.

Make these with Dymatize’s Cinnamon Bun Iso-100 whey protein powder for the most cinnamony cinnamon bun cakes you ever did taste.

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How To Boost Your Post-Workout Calorie Burn

When you think about burning calories, you probably think about burning calories during your workouts—like while you’re on the treadmill or under the squat rack.

Depending on your workout, however, you also continue to burn calories after you leave the gym—especially important if you’re trying to shed fat. These calories, which you’ve probably heard referred to as the ‘after-burn,’ come from excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC.

EPOC, simply put, is the amount of oxygen (and therefore calories) that your body churns through after your workout to restore your body to its previous state. Your body uses this post-exercise oxygen to restore the glycogen (energy) in your muscles, lower your body temp, and repair damage to your muscles, says Pam Geisel, M.S., C.S.C.S., C.P.T., exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery’s Tisch Sports Performance Center in New York City. EPOC gives your metabolism gets a nice little boost, which can last anywhere from three to 24 hours after you leave the gym.

The Higher Your Intensity, The Higher Your EPOC

To really ramp up your EPOC, how hard you work out is more important than how long you work out for and what type of exercise you choose.

For instance, according to one 2016 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, when guys performed sprints and other high-intensity intervals, they burned 110 and 82.5 calories in the three hours after their workouts, respectively. Meanwhile, when they performed longer bouts of steady-state cardio, they burned just 64 calories in the three hours afterward.

“Think of intense exercise like trashing a hotel room and jogging like dropping the TV remote on the floor,” says Anna Swisher, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., director of education and performance at Eleiko. “It will take hours to repair the whole hotel room, but just a few seconds to pick up the remote. More damage takes more energy to clean up.”

Related: 7 HIIT Workouts That Incinerate Fat

While your age, sex, and fitness level do affect how long your after-burn lasts, exercise intensity is still your best tool for maxing it out. Incorporate these six must-try strategies into your workout plan to really ‘trash the hotel room.’ (Just take it slow if you’re used to lower-intensity, steady-state exercise, and think about ramping up bit by bit from week to week.)

1. Focus On Your Body’s Biggest Muscles

Moves that work larger muscles, like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and pullups, require more energy to perform and create a greater EPOC compared to moves that hit just one or two smaller muscles, like bicep curls, Swisher says. So focus your strength training efforts on these large compound moves as much as possible.

2.Lift Heavy

One Sports Medicine review found that when exercisers performed three sets of eight moves with 80 to 90 percent of their 1RM (one-rep max, or the most weight they could lift for a single rep), they had significantly greater EPOC compared to when they performed four sets of eight moves with 50 percent of their 1RM.

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What that means for you: When performing these big lifts, make sure you’re picking up something (really) heavy, Swisher says. You should only be able to pull off four to eight reps per set.

3. Perform Isolation Moves As Supersets

Isolation work—like bicep curls and tricep extensions—can still have a place in your routine. To reap the most EPOC benefit, save them for the second half of your workouts, after you’ve given your more demanding lifts your all. Superset moves that work opposing muscle groups and perform them back-to-back, with no rest in between, to up the intensity, suggests Geisel. (Since isolation moves tend to put all their stress on one joint, use a weight light enough that you can perform more than six reps.)

4. Slow Down Your Lifts

Performing strength exercises slowly and under control cuts down on how much momentum you use and increases the demand placed on your muscles to boost your after-burn. Eccentric movements (a.k.a. the lowering or ‘negative’ part of a move) cause greater muscle damage, and can increase both the intensity and duration of your EPOC, according to one ISRN Physiology review. Pay special attention to slowing down the eccentric phase—like lowering into a squat or raising the lat pulldown bar back to start—of each exercise.

5. Increase Cardio Speed And Resistance

If you’re more into cardio than weights, swap your regular steady-state jogs for all-out sprints or turn the nob on your spin bike way to the right. Doing so increases the resistance against which your muscles have to work—and how hard your body will have to work to recover, Geisel says.

6. Cut Back On Rest Intervals

Whether you’re a lifting lover or a cardio bunny, reducing the amount of time that you rest between sets and sprints ups how hard your anaerobic energy systems have to work to fuel your workouts, Geisel says. As a general rule, your rest periods should be just long enough that you’re able to give each set or sprint your all while maintaining proper form, she says. Any longer and you’re limiting your EPOC potential.

Related: Add a protein supplement to your post-workout routine to support strong muscles.

Who’s Good: Meet Yoga Guru And Best-Selling Author Sara DiVello

These days, all you need is a basic knowledge of superfoods and an iPhone upgrade to be deemed a social media influencer. So how do you distinguish between the people on Instagram who can provide solid info, inspiring ideas, and encouragement along your own health and wellness journey and the many one-trick ponies filling feeds with butt selfies? We can help you cut through all the noise (and smoothie bowls).

Welcome to Who’s Good, a regular interview series from the editors of What’s Good that catches up with the best, brightest, and boldest social media has to offer.

Up this week: We talked to Sara DiVello, yoga instructor, Athleta brand ambassador, and author of the best-selling book, Where in the OM Am I? One Woman’s Journey from the Corporate World to the Yoga Mat. You may have seen her work in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Marie Claire, or MindBodyGreen, where she shares inspiring, friendly advice on how to bring Zen to a busy lifestyle. (More on that below!)

Sara, thanks for chatting with us! Let’s start with your yoga practice. How did you come into it, and what are your focuses as a yoga instructor?

Tuesday Truth: an Open heart is a brave heart. 💙

A post shared by Writer • Speaker •Yoga Teacher (@saradivello) on

So happy to chat! I love The Vitamin Shoppe and find myself in-store a healthy number of times per week. I started doing yoga because my heart was broken—I continued because it gave me tools to manage my anxiety and insomnia, which totally changed my life. The full story is, my boyfriend at the time dumped me, and shortly thereafter, I got laid off when my company was acquired by a much-larger one. Talk about a personal-professional double-whammy! I felt rejected in both spheres of my life and plummeted into depression—and the fact that it was a dark, dreary, freezing cold winter in Boston probably didn’t help. The post-practice peacefulness I felt after yoga helped me through that. I then stayed with my practice for next 17 years because of the ways yoga changed my life. It helps me feel calm, grounded, and centered, which is literally life-changing for a chronically anxious person like me!

My focus now as a teacher is to share the same tools that helped me. I lead a slow, mindful, therapeutic-oriented practice, and I set a tone that is warm, welcoming, and accepting of ALL, regardless of age, ability, or experience. I have people in their 70s and 80s in my classes and I also have super-flexible professional dancers. Often, I have people who tell me they hate yoga but somehow like what I teach. But they’re all there because something resonates with them in some way.

My theory is that when you set a tone of welcoming acceptance, and give people the tools to slow down, tune in to the deepest parts of themselves, and—in the process—connect to something sacred, you provide a key that they can use for their unique journey and healing.

I don’t teach, preach, or practice any of the “cool stuff” you may see on Instagram (like headstands or arm balances). I’m here to give myself and others the tools to slow down, connect, and heal anxiety, insomnia, and the terrible sense of being chronically overbooked and undernourished when it comes to time, energy, and resources.

Tell us a little about your book, Where in the OM Am I?One Woman’s Journey from the Corporate World to the Yoga Mat. It was an NIEA winner for Best Memoir and Shape Magazine selected itas a best book. Who is this book for?  

OM is for anyone wondering where they are in their life, what the heck is going on, and if this is all there is. It’s for people feeling stuck, who have a gnawing sense of deep-down dissatisfaction, or a gentle yearning for more. It’s also for people who just need a good laugh. One of my favorite reviews said it’s “The Devil Wears Prada meets Eat, Pray, Love….” And, I would add, “with some humor from The Office thrown in on the side.”

All kidding aside, the book is about finding what you want to do in life, as told through my transition from working in financial services to teaching yoga, and all of the super-crazy “characters” in both worlds. It also addresses how women can be so mean to other women both in the workplace AND in the yoga world (and let me tell you—the yoga mean girls really caught me off guard!).

Overall, I wanted readers to know that they’re not alone, that this is their one glorious life and they deserve to pursue what would make them extraordinarily happy. And, that if I can make a shift, anyone can.

Tell us about your work as a brand ambassador for Athleta.

✨I'm taking over @athleta's National Instagram Stories today! 🙌🏼✨ And to celebrate I'm also launching a Power of She Absolute SelfCare Challenge! Swipe left 👈🏼 ✨ For 10 days I'll be sharing my top wellness tips, tricks, hacks, and recipes to enhance your Absolute SelfCare starting with food today (scroll left for recipes and details)✨ To Enter: 1: Follow me (obv) 2: Comment below with questions or what you're excited to try (or even just a ☺️ to let me know you're here) 3: Follow along Daily for my tips (and to see new prizes added). Winner will be picked on Day 10! #powerofshe #absoluteselfcare . . . . . . . . #athleta #athletaambassador #athletanewbury #sponsored #athletaxsorel #YogaJourney #YogaJunkie #YogaLifestyle #YogaGram #YogaLife #YogaGirl #Author #AuthorLife #AuthorsOfInstagram #Wellness #Health #MindBodySpirit #HealthyLiving #Bewell #Inspiration #Empowerment #HealthAndWellness #HiVibeTribe #GoodVibesOnly #GirlBoss

A post shared by Writer • Speaker •Yoga Teacher (@saradivello) on

I was incredibly honored when Athleta chose me as one of seven U.S. yoga ambassadors when they launched their ambassador program in 2015. I continue in this role today. As an ambassador, I provide free health and wellness events to the Boston community, which is super-important to me. I fully believe in Athleta’s mission to support and empower ALL women—of all ages, sizes, abilities, and backgrounds. Athleta also provides educational opportunities to the women who manufacture and sew their clothes, and that is equally important to me.

You recently spoke at the WELL Summit, an event series aimed toward self-improvement. As a keynote speaker, what did that mean to you—and what did your speech revolve around?

Even though I do it all the time, I’m actually a very nervous public speaker, so to get up in front of 500 people and share an intimate story is vulnerable and scary for me, but it’s also deeply meaningful. I passionately believe in the power of storytelling—in each person’s ability to positively impact someone else’s life. It’s the same foundational belief I have about writing a book—if you have a story and are called to share it, you probably should. Because if you can open someone else’s eyes, heart, and mind, you can change their life–and that is one of the best and most powerful things we can do in our lifetime.

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My speech was about creating and embracing your best life. I focused on how my mother’s terminal breast cancer diagnosis made me committed to living each day fully, to dreaming big dreams and pursuing them with unyielding focus and unrelenting dedication, because to do so is to honor the gift that we have each been given and that is the gift of another day. That commitment is part of what motivated me to leave my “safe” career in financial services and risk going after my dream to be an author.

You do a lot of free events and workshops. Can you tell us about why you offer communities services like these?

I grew up poor and consequently didn’t have access to a lot of opportunities that I would’ve wished for. I was the first in my family to go to college and I worked my way through. I’m so grateful to have had that opportunity and for all the opportunities that came about as a result of it. So now I’m committed to doing what I can to give back.

Yoga, health, and wellness can get pretty pricey, which can squeeze out a lot of people. So as an Athleta ambassador (and in other volunteer/donation capacities), I provide complimentary yoga, meditation, mindful eating, and other health and wellness events and classes to the community, in an effort to make these accessible to ALL.

I’m really excited because I just completed my fourth year of teaching Yoga on the Charles for the Esplanade Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining green spaces in Boston, where they then host free health and fitness classes for the community.

It’s one of my favorite things to do. We gather between 300 to 600 people each week, and it’s so wonderful to be outside, breathe fresh air, and do yoga together as the sun sets over the Charles River. The sunsets are spectacular and the classes, while always wonderful, are also always unique. One time the mounted police rode two horses past the class and we all kind of paused to laugh (and take photos)!

But whether I get 600 people, or 16 at a more-intimate event, what really matters to me is seeing that spark of awareness click on. That “Ohhhh…Yes! This feels good! I can do this!”

Speaking of horses, you recently talked to Elite Daily about a new trend called HORSE YOGA (we didn’t know that was a thing). We actually published an article on eight adventurous yoga styles, but this is a new one. You must give us the scoop.

That was so fun. I love Elite Daily and the writer who interviewed me is hilarious. But when it comes to horse yoga, my take is this: I love horses and I love yoga. I also love spaghetti and ice cream, but I do not love these things smooshed together.

I’m a yoga traditionalist. My focus is on getting people out of pain and in that state of profound stillness, where they can connect to the deepest parts of themselves. In that stillness and connection, they can calm, ground, restore their energy, and rejuvenate.

Again, I don’t teach, preach, or practice any of the “cool stuff” you may see on Instagram, like horse yoga or balancing on one pinky over a ravine. I don’t need it. I’m here to relax, rest, and recharge (and to share those tools with others).

What are your top three tips for living a well-balanced life, especially for the busy folks out there?

1.    Don’t try to do it all as defined by anyone else. Do what feels good for you.

2.   Take time for the deep breaths every day.

3.   Get enough sleep and eat well. I know I’m a wreck without sleep and I need to eat every few hours—sort of like a two-year-old (but taller). If you’re well-rested and well-fed, everything else is possible. But you’ve GOT to have that strong foundation.

Do you have any go-to vits, supps, or smoothie recipes that keep you feeling high-energy?

Yes! I take a women’s multivitamin every day, as well as fish oil, and vitamin D supplements (again—I live in Boston. It gets dark a 4:30 p.m. during the winter! I need extra vitamin D!). And I start every day with a cup of green tea and honey, followed by a protein-packed, fiber-filled smoothie.

What can we expect to see from you as the year goes on?  

I’ve got a ton of awesome events coming up. From the Nantucket Yoga Festival July 9-10, to Yoga on the Charles in Boston every Wednesday July through September (free!), Day of WELLness in Boston in April, WELL Summit 2018 in NYC, and many more events up and down the east coast and around the country. Come hang with me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or my website where you can sign up for my mailing list and be the first to learn about what I’ve got cooking (not to mention—you can get my friends and family discounts!).

When I’m home, I’m working on my next book—it’s actually a true crime murder mystery, so stay tuned! All this and more is on my social media and newsletter so follow me if you like healthy recipes, yoga you can do at your desk, restful sleep hacks, and other tips, tricks, and tools you can weave into your day to help live your best life. I also do a lot of giveaways.

Lastly, I truly LOVE what I do so if you’ve got questions, send me a message! As you may have noticed, I like to chat.

Try This Skin-Loving DIY Charcoal And Turmeric Face Mask

You’ve got a lot going on this holiday season, from office parties to New Year’s celebrations—so why not treat yourself to a facial with this decadent DIY mask? It’s got all the natural ingredients you know and love, like apple cider vinegar (which can tone your skin), turmeric (which can soothe your skin), and tea tree oil (which can cleanse your skin). Plus, it includes two buzzy beauty products everyone should have in their arsenal: Aztec Secret’s Indian Healing Clay and Ancient Earth Secrets’ Activated Coconut Charcoal Powder. 

You’ll need:

Ready for healthy, glowing skin? Watch this video for step-by-step instructions:

5 Mistakes People Make When They Go Keto

There are lots of misconceptions about the ketogenic diet swirling around out there—you know, like the idea that eating tons of bacon is totally okay, or that you can slather absolutely everything in oil. Or that keto’s just about cutting out bread. But this increasingly trendy diet is a tad more complicated than that.

Here are the basics: Keto requires eating close to 80 percent of your calories from fat, about 15 percent from protein, and just five percent from carbs. This shifts the body into a state called ‘ketosis,’ in which the body burns fat (in the form of ‘ketones’) for fuel instead of sugar. (You can learn more about the keto process here.)

First developed to treat epilepsy and now used as part of treatment plans for health conditions like PCOS, infertility, diabetes, epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, the ketogenic diet has been said to improve energy, mental clarity, and focus. It’s also become a popular means of weight management for some people.

Eating keto means cutting out processed foods, sugars, and starches—including bread, beans, potatoes, and fruit—and eating way more healthy fats than you’re probably used to. Foods like meat, fish, eggs, non-starchy veggies, and all sorts of fats are game—in the right amounts.

With so many foods off the table and such a high fat quota to hit, it’s no wonder so many keto newbies have trouble making the diet sustainable. It is doable, though! Make your keto lifestyle more balanced and successful by avoiding these common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Approaching It As A Temporary Fad Diet

Once you’ve nailed down your reason for going on the keto diet—whether you’re managing an illness, want to fuel your distance running differently, or want to lose weight—you have to seriously consider how realistic keto is for your lifestyle.

“Ketogenic dieting is not a halfway pursuit; it’s all or nothing,” says Kristen Mancinelli, M.S., R.D.N., who specializes in low-carb diets. Especially considering the fact that it takes more than cutting out bread and sugar for a week to shift your body to ketosis. It can actually take up to a few weeks to shift into using fat for fuel (during which you may feel tired and moody)—and because your body’s instinct is to use sugar for fuel, all that hard work can be undone with just one higher-carb meal. So keto really isn’t one of those diets you can follow Monday through Friday and ditch on the weekends.

Plus, if you use keto for weight loss and end up restricting your calories, you’re even more likely to regain lost weight (and then some) when you go off keto, according to Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. This is even more likely if you’re using keto to keep yourself from going overboard on foods you consider weaknesses (like pizza or slice-and-bake cookies), because you’ll likely dive face first into these foods the minute you’re ‘done’ with keto.

If thinking of keto as a long-term lifestyle doesn’t seem sustainable for you—or enjoyable, for that matter—it may not be right for you.

Mistake #2: Eating Too Many Carbs

Even if you think you’re slashing carbs, they can often creep into your diet and throw you out of ketosis. This can happen if you don’t measure your portions, eat something without knowing its exact ingredients, or don’t track your carb intake closely, says Sarah Jadin, M.S., R.D., C.S.P., C.D., C.N.S.C, of Keto Diet Consulting. (The experts aptly call this issue ‘carb creep.’) Even medications and supplements, which commonly use carbs as fillers, can push your intake over the edge.

Keto done right means just about 20 to 50 grams of carbs total per day. To stay in that range, your carbs would have to come from non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower, according to Mancinelli. (A cup of broccoli, for example, contains four grams of carbs.) Even these a-okay veggies can push you over your carb limit if you’re not careful, though. While a cup of kale contains just about five-ish grams of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber), a typical kale salad packs three or four cups of kale and clocks in at close to 20 grams.

As little as just a quarter cup of sweet potatoes (20 grams of carbs) or a medium apple (23 grams of carbs) could max out your carbs—or push you overboard—for the day.

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Mistake #3: Mismanaging Your Veggies

Given the carb issue, maintaining a balanced intake of veggies on the ketogenic diet can be tricky. With many nutritious, higher-carb foods like sweet potatoes, lentils, beans, and quinoa off the table, you’ll have to work a little harder to build a balanced diet with the foods that are a-okay. If you ditch all veggies in favor of fat, you’ll just leave yourself wanting for a number of important vitamins and minerals, says Megan Ware, R.D.N., L.D., owner of Nutrition Awareness.

To keep your eats as nutritious as possible, look up the net carb content for the 10 vegetables you eat most often, so you can see how they’ll fit into your keto lifestyle, recommends Mancinelli. On top of that, try to incorporate nutrient-rich greens, like baby kale and spinach, into every meal, adds Ware. As always, use a food tracker to monitor your carb intake, and keep portion sizes in mind. To fill any remaining nutritional gaps, people living the high-fat life may also want to consider a multivitamin.

In the first few weeks of keto, when you lose water weight from slashing carbs, your electrolyte levels may drop a bit and you may be hit with what the community calls the ‘keto flu.’ If you experience any fatigue or muscle issues, Mancinelli recommends supplementing with electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Spinach, baby kale, and avocado also provide potassium, while hemp seeds, spinach, and oysters offer magnesium.

Mistake #4: Eating Too Much (And The Wrong Types Of) Protein

Many healthy eaters and fitness enthusiasts tout the benefits of high-protein diets—but too much protein is a major (and overlooked) no-no on the ketogenic diet. Your body can actually turn protein into glucose, so eating too much of the stuff can pull you out of ketosis and back into sugar-burning mode, says Mancinelli.

Keto allows for moderate protein intake, which would be about 0.5 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight a day for an active dieter (between 75 and 112 grams for someone who weighs 150 pounds). For reference, a small piece of chicken or three eggs provides about 20 grams of protein.

Though you’re trying to load up on fat, you still need to take care of your heart health, so your protein should come from sources like chicken, turkey, and fish, instead of processed foods like bacon, says Clark.

Mistake #5: Not Eating The Right Fats

When fat needs to make up about 80 percent of your total calories, it’s all too easy to add coconut oil to everything or eat nothing but nut butter—but maintaining a balance and eating the right types of fats is key to a healthful keto diet.

It’s crucial to get plenty of unsaturated fats, says Jadin. Nuts (like peanuts, walnuts, and pecans), seeds (like flax, chia, and hemp), avocados, fatty fish (like salmon, trout and sardines), are all great sources of unsaturated fats. Plant oils like avocado, flax, grapeseed, and hemp oil, all also provide unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

What about saturated fats, which you’ll find in your beloved coconut oil? There’s been a lot of back-and-forth here recently, with some research questioning just how they impact our health long-term. As much as we love our coconut oil, the Harvard School of Public Health still stands by the advice that emphasizing unsaturated fats over saturated fats in your diet better supports your heart health long-term. For now, spoon out your coconut oil in moderation and keep your saturated fat intake to about 10 percent of your total calories (that’s 22 grams in a 2,000-calorie diet).

7 Healthy Alternatives To Ranch For People Who Love To Dip Things

Whether you’re at a football tailgate, a holiday party, or simply standing in front of your refrigerator, few things are more fun to eat than dip. Something about dipping, scooping, and dunking your food is just so satisfying.

Dips have a pretty bad rep, though—and that’s because they’re often loaded with calories and not-so-healthy ingredients like refined oils and added sodium. A quarter cup of your average ranch dressing clocks in around 260 calories and 27 grams of fat—yikes!

Fortunately, though, fun, flavorful, and nutritious dips are easier to make than you think. Here are seven nutritionist-approved dips so you can get to dunking, guilt-free.

photo: Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N.

1. Guac-Humm-Mole

Can’t decide whether to have guac or hummus? Now you don’t have to! This simple recipe jazzes up any store-bought hummus with a few fresh ingredients.

½ cup plain hummus
2 avocados, mashed
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp onion, chopped
2 Tbsp parsley or cilantro
1 lime, juiced
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
3 plum tomatoes, chopped

Add everything except the tomatoes to the food processor. Combine until creamy, and then add three chopped plum tomatoes. Pulse a few times and voila!

Related: 5 Protein Myths—Debunked

The hummus provides some fiber and protein, the Greek yogurt adds a boost of protein and creaminess, and the avocados offer heart-healthy fats. Taub-Dix likes serving her guac-humm-mole with a bunch of veggies or baked chips.

Our Dipper Pick: Beanitos Sea Salt Restaurant Style White Bean Chips, made with whole beans and whole-grain rice

photo: Judith Scharman Draughon, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.

 2. New Holiday Fit Dip

This creamy cashew-based dip from Judith “Judes” Scharman Draughon, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., author of Lean Body, Smart Life, is creamy, delicious, and versatile. All you need is a blender and a handful of super-simple ingredients.

1 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup water
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic
1-2 Tbsp fresh dill, thyme, basil OR 1-2 tsp dried seasonings
½ tsp sea salt and pepper
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar

Soak the cashews in water for 15 minutes, and then combine in the blender with the other ingredients. Blend until creamy and stash in the fridge. Scharman Draughon serves this heart-healthy, vegan dip with fresh veggies or pita bread.

Our Dipper Pick: Mary’s Gone Crackers Organic Super Seed Crackers, made with seven types of whole grains and seeds

photo: Catherine Brown, R.D., L.D., C.D.E.

3. Almond Butter Lime Dip

This yummy, Asian-inspired dip is low in fat and full of flavor—and unlike many similar sauces, it’s no issue for those with peanut allergies.

¾ cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp ginger, minced
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 small red chili pepper, finely chopped
½ cup almond butter
2 limes, juiced and zested
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl or blend together until well combined. Chef and culinary nutritionist Catherine Brown, C.D.M., C.F.P.P., loves serving this dip with veggie sticks or grilled potato skewers, or drizzling it over sticky rice balls.

Our Dipper Pick: Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips, which balance beautifully with this flavor-packed dip

photo: Sarah Schlichter, M.P.H., R.D.N.

4. Lemon Tahini Lentil Dip

This hearty dip from Sarah Schlichter, M.P.H., R.D.N., is unique because it’s satisfying and nutritious enough to be eaten all on its own—though it’s plenty delicious as a dip.

1 cup green lentils
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup tahini
2 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp curry
1 sprig rosemary
1 large tomato, diced
2 cups kale, or other green

While cooking the lentils, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and add garlic. Once fragrant, add the rest of the ingredients and cook for a few minutes over medium-low heat. From here, spoon it up straight, serve it over greens or quinoa, or scoop it up with whole-grain chips.

Just a quarter cup of lentils provide about 20 percent of your daily iron needs, half of your daily fiber needs, and a solid 13 grams of protein, says Schlichter.

Our Dipper Pick: Way Better Snacks Sweet Chili Whole-Grain Corn Tortilla Chips, made with sprouted whole grains and seeds and natural seasonings

5. Best Ever Four-Layer Veggie Dip

A healthier take on your usual seven-layer dip, this four-layer dip offers a variety of flavors and textures without sending you into calorie overload.

2 cans black beans, drained
2 chipotle peppers, canned in adobo sauce
3 limes, juiced
1 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tsp cumin
4 avocados, mashed
½ cup Greek yogurt
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 hothouse cucumber, chopped
½ cup red onion, chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
1-3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped

Combine beans, chipotle peppers, juice from two limes, half a cup cilantro, and cumin to the food processor. Blend until smooth and spread into a casserole dish. Then, mix together mashed avocados, remaining lime juice and half a cup cilantro. Spread on top of the beans. Then, spread Greek yogurt on top of the avocado layer. Finally, mix together chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and cilantro, and spread on top of the yogurt. Serve cold with tortilla chips, cucumber or zucchini slices, or carrot sticks.

You’ll scoop up fiber and protein from the beans, extra protein and calcium from the yogurt, healthy fats from the avocado, and plenty of crunchy produce from the top layer, says Jennifer Bowers, Ph.D., R.D. Plus, you can tailor the heat level by adding more or less chipotles or jalapeños.

Our Dipper Pick: Frontera Lime & Sea Salt Tortilla Chips, the artisan-quality version of your favorite lime-y tortilla chips

photo: Judy Barbe, R.D.

6. Roasted Red Pepper Dip

This tangy and fun Middle Eastern-inspired dip from Judy Barbe, R.D., author of Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being is chock-full of the good stuff. It’s truly a powerhouse: Red peppers provide antioxidants (vitamins A and C), walnuts provide protein, fiber, potassium, and omega-3 fats, and the spices offer their own antioxidant power.

7-8 oz roasted red peppers (drained if jarred)
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp red chili flakes
½ tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp + ½ tsp olive oil, divided

Toast walnuts on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except the half teaspoon of olive oil in the food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and drizzle the remaining olive oil on top. Barbe likes serving this dip with cucumber or jicama slices, or whole-grain crackers. You can also spread it on sandwiches and burgers, or toss it into cooked pasta.

Our Dipper Pick: Simple Mills Rosemary & Sea Salt Almond Flour Crackers, which pack an extra punch of nutrition from healthy fats

photo: Bethany Frazier, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.

7. Healthy Queso Dip

You’ll never know this cheesy, creamy dip is a lot lower-calorie—and a lot more nutrition-packed—than your average queso. This nacho-worth queso from Bethany Frazier, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., contains a secret, health-boosting ingredient: pumpkin.

1 ½ cups low-sodium broth
1 15 oz can pumpkin
¼ cup flour
2 tsp cumin
½ tsp dried chipotle powder
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium post, whisk together all ingredients except the cheese and tomatoes over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir until thick, then stir in cheese and tomatoes. Frazier likes to dunk broccoli, carrots, or tortilla chips in this lightened-up classic.

Our Dipper Pick: Protes Zesty Nacho Protein Chips, which level-up the dip’s cheesy flavor and protein power

Check Out All Of Our Favorite Chips And Crackers

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday HealthBetter Homes & GardensWomen’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label To Table.

14 Mantras To Help You Conquer Life, One Day At A Time

Stress is no joke—and its detrimental effects are on rise. According to the American Psychological Association (APA)’s annual Stress in America survey, 2017 has seen a significant increase in the percentage of Americans who have experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month, from 71 percent in 2016 to 75 percent this year. Of the symptoms reported by adults were nervousness or anxiety, irritability or anger, and fatigue due to their stress.

If you’ve ever experienced any of these symptoms (and let’s be honest—who hasn’t?), you may do well to explore new stress-management techniques. One of the simplest: speaking or meditating on a mantra. Research published in the British Medical Journal notes that mantras “may have evolved as a simple device to slow respiration, improve concentration, and induce calm.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Related: Shop our range of stress-busting essential oils, from lavender to rose. 

Here, 10 wellness experts share their go-to mantras for feeling more centered, empowered, and successful. Feel free to make any one of these your screensaver!

“I am.”

“It’s basically representative of who we are without labels, without judgment, without right or wrong, good or bad, without opinions or beliefs. It’s a part of us that exists before all that thought about not being good enough. When we go back to the root of who we are, we’re not attached to all those labels that we’ve given ourselves and the world has given us. We’re coming back to the root of our true nature, the love that we are, the peace that we are. We often think about it, as ‘I am… blank.’ We identify as mother, anxious, sad, teacher. But ‘I am’ [translates to] I just exist, and there’s nothing else attached to me, and I’m standing at this point of creation where anything is possible. It’s my favorite mantra to use throughout the day. I actually have a tattoo of it.”

 —Jamie Wozny, intuitive healer, spiritual life coach, certified Reiki Master, and meditation guide

“I am enough” and “Sat Nam Wahe Guru” (“My true identity brings me from darkness to the light”).

“The first one is great for beginners, as it is simple and true and very easy to either repeat or focus on in the mind’s eye. The second is a Kundalini Yoga mantra designed to help the chanter find balance, personal power, and grounding.”

Natalie Feinblatt, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist

You have the power” and “Whatever I do today is enough.”

“The first reminds me that I can make it happen. The power is in my hands to get it all done today, this week, whatever. This makes me feel empowered to push through when I’m feeling overwhelmed. The second: It can be hard when you feel like you have a million things on your plate or, at the end the day, there are still items unchecked on your to-do list. I have to remind myself, it’s okay if I don’t get it all done. I will figure it out, I will make it work, and whatever I did today is enough.”

Jessica Thiefels, certified personal trainer

“Om namah Shivaya” (“I bow to Shiva”).

“It’s a Sanskrit mantra that helps evoke your inner light—that never-ending and radiant light that’s available beyond any situations and circumstances. This light is like an inner smile, coming from a place where all is well, no matter what!”

Claudia Matles, certified wellness coach and yoga instructor

“I am grateful for the abundant flow of joy, health, love and wealth.”

“I encourage using gratitude. This mantra enhances the concept of the law of attraction, focusing on the positive aspects that you would like to bring into your life. I also tell patients to pick two or three strong words that they love for a specific reason, i.e. ‘I am healthy, safe and strong,’ ‘My immune system is always working for me,’ ‘I am loved and lovable,’ or ‘I am inspired to do my best.’ The important thing is that it is easy to say and repeat throughout the day. Many people feel silly at first saying a mantra, but they can be very empowering! They really help with self esteem and staying focused on a goal.”

Jill Howell, ATR-BC, LPC, registered, board certified art therapist, licensed professional counselor and author of Color, Draw. Collage: Create Your Way to a Less Stressful Life

“Relax the body to calm the mind, calm the mind to open the heart.”

“This brings balance to our body, mind, and heart. When we can balance these three, we think more clearly and can speak from our truth. With a calm mind an open heart, there is no problem we can’t solve! I would also suggest that when someone repeats a mantra they connect it rhythmically to the breath. On the inhale, let the breath sink into the belly or bottom of the lungs as this has a positive physiological response on the parasympathetic nervous system.”

—Paula Stephens, Certified Wellness Coach, E-RYT, and author of From Grief to Growth

“I am loved. I am loving.”

“It helps me to remember that I’m always supported in the universe and the people around me are doing their best and do care about me—even in those moments when it doesn’t seem like it!—and that inflow of love facilitates the outflow of love. This keeps me grounded, centered, and peaceful. It’s an easy go-to and fills my heart within a few repetitions.”

 —Jennifer Lyall, spiritual mentor, intuitive teacher, and authentic living guide

“I allow my mind to relax and be at ease, knowing that today will take care of itself.”

“It is powerful, because it allows us to let go of the illusion of control. We all live a hurried stressed out life, so this mantra allows us to breathe and realize that things really do get taken care of, and we can finally let go. It also helps people who have trouble falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night with one simple change: ‘I allow my mind to relax and be at ease, knowing tomorrow will take care of itself.’”

—Miriam Amselem, holistic nutritionist, yoga instructor, and fitness trainer

“Here, now.” 

“This one of one of my favorite mantras, because it’s simple and I can connect it to my inhale (here) and exhale (now). This mantra reminds me that everything is temporary, and that the now is all I really have. When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I tune into my breath and repeat it mentally to myself to quickly change my perspective. It’s also a great mantra to add to your meditation practice to help create a mental focal point to induce the relaxation response that counteracts stress and its effects as well as enhance cognitive function.”

—Tiffany Cruikshank, L.A.c., MAOM, RYT, founder of Yoga Medicine

“I move through the world with cool and calm confidenceone moment at a time.”

“It’s important to remind ourselves we already have the confidence we need to rise to just about anything life throws at us.  Take a moment to remind yourself something you rose to the occasion or were able to learn how to do something that seemed difficult at first, whether it was learning to how to read when you were little or making it through a divorce.  These are reminders that you can handle whatever life throws your way. The ‘one moment at a time’ part reminds us to be mindful which helps us to avoid the anxiety of focusing on too many tasks at once.”

—Mike Dow, Psy.D., Ph.D., author of the upcoming book, Heal Your Drained Brain (February 2018)

“I trust myself to let go of whatever doesn’t serve my highest good.”

“When you’re having a difficult time trusting that it’s okay to let go of something or someone that you’ve outgrown or are no longer in alignment with, and you feel guilt or fear about letting go, [try] this mantra. I’ve found it to be fairly magical in helping me calm down when feeling anxiety or stress over the letting go.”

Kris Cahill, healer, teacher, coach, and writer

“I honor my needs” and “Everything is unfolding as it should”

“The first: You deserve to honor your needs in any moment. Taking responsibility for the self-care of your mind, body, and spirit isn’t selfish; it affects how you show up in the world. Getting to a place where you honor everything about yourself (from the foods that you eat, to the way that you speak to yourself, to your relationships with others) is essential for a healthy self-care practice. The second: You are right where you’re meant to be in this moment. Whether you know it or not, your relationships, your work, where you live, and the experiences that you have every day are contributing to your growth and journey in life. Just think back at all of the experiences that have brought you to where you are today. Trust that everything is happening for a reason and that beautiful things are waiting for you with every turn.”

Naima Woodson, holistic health and fitness practitioner and instructor, writer, consultant, and speaker and certified yoga teacher

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Here’s What It Really Takes To Get A Six-Pack

Whether you’re male, female, a regular gym rat, or a weekend warrior, achieving defined abs is often considered the Holy Grail of fitness. But scoring—and maintaining—a six-pack is no joke. Getting there requires boatloads of commitment and discipline both in the kitchen and in the gym—and it’s easier for some people to achieve than it is for others.

Here’s everything you need to know about what it takes to shred up your midsection, straight from abdominal-sculpting experts themselves.

Genetics, Discipline, And More Discipline

Before you pump out a single workout or switch to kale smoothies for breakfast, your genetics determine your natural aptitude for abs. “Genetics play a role in how much muscle our bodies naturally form and how much fat we store in certain areas,” says Molly Kimball, R.D., of the Ochsner Fitness Center in New Orleans. But that’s not to say you should throw in the towel if your genetics don’t seem to be in your favor: “Your genetic makeup can make it easier or harder to get a six-pack, but it’s not going to make it impossible,” she says.

While you can’t change your DNA, you can change your workout routine and eating habits—two key factors in revealing abs, regardless of your genetics.

Work Out With A Purpose

If you want to ride the fast track to fab abs, zoning out on a cardio machine (hello, elliptical Netflix session) every once in a while just isn’t going to cut it. Generally, you’ll need to sweat it out about five days a week to really make your abs pop. Those workouts should include a balance of strength training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which will help you build muscle, rev your metabolism, and really see results.

Go for intensity, not time. Instead of spending hours slugging away at the gym, kick up your intensity. High-intensity cardio and strength training whittle away fat to help reveal your six-pack muscles, says Tina Haupert, C.P.T., nutrition coach and co-founder of Designed to Fit Nutrition.

When you alternate between intervals of hard work and rest, you burn more calories throughout the day and better challenge your body’s abilities than with longer bouts of lower-intensity exercise. In fact, research suggests that HIIT is more effective at reducing subcutaneous and abdominal fat than any other type of exercise. Swap out your usual hour-long jog for an interval session and you can torch calories and hit the showers in a half-hour or less. (Not sure what to do? Try one of these seven HIIT workouts.)

Grab a barbell. Strength training, which helps you build muscle, skyrocket your metabolism, and burn fat is non-negotiable if you want to get ripped—and working with barbells can ramp up the emphasis on your midsection. When you perform staple moves (like squats) with a barbell, your entire core lights up in order to protect your spine, explains Ashley Borden, celebrity trainer on Khloe Kardashian’s Revenge Body. Make the barbell one of your go-to tools in the weight room, focus on big exercises like squats and deadlifts, and use weight that challenges you, and you’ll see those abs shine through, she says.

Turn up the heat with circuit-style training.  Circuit training can help you challenge and strengthen different muscle groups while engaging your core and shooting your heart rate up for an all-in-one cardio and strength workout, says Borden. Try this quick but tough circuit the next time you’re short on time but still want to maximize your six-pack progress. Choose a weight that challenges you and perform five rounds of the following four moves with as little rest in between as possible.

  • 5 deadlifts
  • 10 pushups
  • 15 jump squats
  • 1-minute forearm plank

Trade crunches for planks. Classic as they may be, crunches only work one of the muscle groups in your core—the rectus abdominis. Planks, though, attack all 360 degrees of your core, hitting muscles like your transverse abs and obliques in addition to those middle six-pack muscles as you work to keep your spine stable, says Borden. When you want to show your core a little extra love, try different planks, mountain-climbers, and even pushups.

Supplement with sleep. To see the most benefit from the work you do in the gym, you need consistent quality sleep. “Getting deep sleep is one of the most overlooked keys to keeping body and belly fat low,” says Borden. When you sleep, your brain releases growth hormone, which helps your body repair hard-worked muscles and maintain a strong metabolism.

When you miss out on sleep, though, you may end up with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which signals your body to hang onto extra weight, says Haupert. We all have different sleep needs, but aim for at least eight hours of shuteye a night to support Operation Six-Pack.

Eat For Abs

While your exercise efforts do make a difference, more than half the battle for abs takes place in the kitchen. “There are guys and girls who pound the pavement, hit the gym, and go to classes all the time, yet still have this layer of fat around their middle because of what they eat and drink,” says Kimball.

Think of it this way: The few hundred calories you burn off in an hour at the gym can be eaten in a matter of minutes. The food choices you make either catapult you closer to abs or sabotage your progress.

Taking an “everything in moderation’ approach to food can keep your health in order, but it’s probably not going to cut it if you’re trying to see a six-pack, says Kimball. “It’s different for everyone, but for the majority of the population, there needs to be at least an 80/20 commitment to clean eating and, for many, 90/10,” she adds. That means eating for results 80 or 90 percent of the time, and indulging on treats (pizza!) 20 or just 10 percent of the time.

Beyond that, consider the following nutrition guidelines your six-pack bible.

Build well-balanced plates. Your abs eating plan starts with one basic principle: Every time you eat, your plate should contain lean proteins, healthy plant-based fats, and vegetables. Choose proteins like chicken, eggs, and fish, fats like avocados and olive oil, and non-starchy vegetables like spinach and kale, says Kimball. If you’re worried about bloating, steer clear of broccoli or cabbage.

Time your meals wisely. As soon as you start getting nit-picky about calories, you may feel like you’re on a diet—which can drain your motivation and throw off your abs-seeking efforts. Instead, hone in on the timing of your meals and aim to eat every four hours to keep your energy and metabolism steady, says Kimball. “If you focus more on that and the types of foods you eat, the amount of calories you consume will usually be in line with your goals,” she says. After all, you’re not as likely to overeat chicken, asparagus, and sautéed spinach as you are sugary vending machine snacks.

Cut down on carbs. A lot of people wonder whether they should cut down on certain foods when they want to trim down their midsection—and carbs are often the first to go. Why? “Carbs cause us to hold onto fluid,” says Kimball. We store three parts water for every one part carbohydrate—and that retained water may make you feel bloated while softening up the appearance of your six-pack.

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Here’s the thing, though: You don’t need to swear off all carbs, kiss fruit goodbye, and give up your morning oatmeal. Just steer clear of sugary foods and white processed carbs, which are the biggest bloat culprits, Kimball says.

Related: 8 Foods That Pack A Surprising Amount Of Sugar

Limit the booze. Much like carbs, alcohol causes fluid retention and bloating, explains Kimball. Plus these empty calories do nothing but sabotage your waistline. Stick to one drink a day max if a sleek stomach is top priority, and choose drinks like wine or vodka soda, which contain fewer calories and little sugar, suggests Kimball.

The Bottom Line

Unveiling and maintaining a six-pack is a lot of mental, physical, and emotional effort. “For some people, having washboard abs captures their commitment and dedication to having a certain physique,” says Haupert. But that accomplishment can come at a price—which may involve obsessing over food, avoiding food and drink-related social events, and missing out on fun to hit the gym or get to bed early.

If your sights are set on scoring a ripped middle, be honest with yourself about the effort it will take and ask yourself whether it’s worth the potential sacrifices. You may be up for the challenge, but you can still live a totally healthy lifestyle without having washboard abs. “Many of us have a lot of room for improvement with our habits, so even some tightening up nutritionally and exercise-wise can yield big results,” says Kimball.

5 Easy Ways To Add Meditation To Your Day

In a world where we’re accessible almost all of the time, it can feel nearly impossible to shut down, even for a few minutes, in an effort to engage in a little self-care. Smart phones, for example, are definitely affecting our mental health—and that’s because our texts and emails are always right there, begging us to look, scroll, and respond.

On top of being so digitally connected that we end up feeling disconnected, about 18 percent of Americans also have anxiety or depression, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which can be caused by any number of factors—including our genetics and lifestyle choices. This is where meditation comes in.

A study published in the journal BMC Complementary Alternative Medicine looked at why people choose to meditate. According to their findings, 92 percent of meditators used their practice for stress management, while other highly-rated reasons included emotional well-being and the promotion of other healthy behaviors.

Meditation can literally change our brains; as a daily practice, it has the potential to increase regions of the brain associated with emotional regulation and response control, according to a study published in the journal NeuroImage.

The fact is, most of us can’t drop everything and go to a meditation class or do an hour-long meditation each day. However, there are tried-and-true ways to incorporate beneficial meditative practices into your everyday life and larger mental health strategies—helping you to connect with yourself and disengage from the overwhelming fast pace of modern life.

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1. Use an app

Sure, your iPhone might be a source of your overwhelm—but it can also be a tool for good. Meditation apps are ideal for anyone looking for a little zen in between zipping (or slogging!) through meetings and deadlines. Whether you’re totally new to meditation or you simply find a guided session makes it easier for you to stay accountable, a slew of digital options exist to help you achieve a little peace.

“Often times, the people who don’t have time to spend 10 minutes a day to meditate are the ones who need it most,” says Michael Acton Smith, co-CEO and co-founder of Calm.com and the app Calm. “It’s less than one percent of your day, but doing so will make the other 99 percent better.”

Acton Smith notes that his company’s “Daily Calm” feature is popular in its simplicity: It offers a new 10-minute meditation each day.

“I find that the best way to make it a habit is to do it before or after something you already do (e.g. brush your teeth, showering, etc),” he says. “It’s a wonderful and healthy way to start the day.”

Other apps include Headspace, Stop, Breath, and Think, and Insight Timer. When using these apps, you’ll typically have the option to choose a guided or unguided meditation for a duration (five, 10, or more minutes) of time that works for you. These apps offer meditation topic choices (for example, gratitude or happiness) or open-ended meditation sessions. You can even set a timer to remind you to step away and find your zen a few times per day. Easy-peasy.

Related: 4 Reasons Why Meditation Can Be Life-Changing (Science Even Says So)

2. Eat your way to Zen

If you’re super-busy, you can even use mealtime as a chance to unwind. Sure, it may seem easier to wolf down a sandwich in your car while en route to a meeting, the office, or home, but really focusing on your meal is a chance to practice meditation.

“If you take a moment and think of each bite—this is a great way to bring mindfulness and an eating meditation into your life,” says Tal Rabinowitz, CEO and founder of The Den Meditation, a neighborhood meditation studio with two Los Angeles locations. “It’s something you would have been doing anyway!”

Focusing on what’s on your plate and eating in a meditative way isn’t only good for the soul, but for your entire body. In an article published in the journal Health Psychology, researchers looked at ways mindful eating could affect otherwise unhealthy food choices. They concluded that “mindful eating is a beneficial strategy to reduce impulsive food choice, at least temporarily, that may impede weight gain.”

Here’s how, according to Harvard Medical School, you might mindfully eat during a meal: You’ll want to start with a small portion. Before eating, silently think about your gratitude for the food and for the experience. Mentally log the color, texture, and scent of the food, taking small bites which you chew 20 to 40 times.

3. Take A Time Out

According to Beth Stone, an Orlando-based yoga instructor who works with the Young Yogi Program, it’s key to make time to press reset.

“We all have busy lifestyles but life on the go doesn’t have to translate into a forfeit of self-care,” she explains. “When we take a few minutes to ground, center, and reset, we are much more likely to think clearly, act from a place of compassion, and act from our highest available vibration.”

She suggests finding a place (that might even be a bathroom stall) where you can sit with your back against a wall—ideally a corner where two walls meet. First, just breathe.

“Take nice, slow inhalations,” she advises. “Connect your physical body to the earth and the space around you.”

Related: Shop aromatic candles to de-stress and beautify your space.

Next, place one hand on the front of your belly and the other hand on your lower back. Continue taking slow, deep breaths into your front hand, filling up all the space you can into your hand.

“Exhale and allow the belly to flatten towards the back of the spinal cord,” instructs Stone. “Breathe into the back hand, filling the back hand up as much as possible.  With the exhale, allow the back of the spine to relax back in toward the spinal cord.  Continue this breathing pattern for three to five cycles.”

Breathing exercises do more than slow you down and force you to disconnect, though. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Cases, this sort of breathing may “positively impact our compensatory mechanisms to restore functional cognitive reserves.” It goes on to say, “It is very likely that meditation and intentional rhythmic breathing may, in part, reduce the overall physiological strain and mental workload on these human systems.”

4. Imagine a warm light washing over you.

We already know how powerful breathing can be—but couple that with creative visualization and you have a beautiful routine at the ready.

For this exercise, you’ll want to find a place where you can breath and visualize for a for moments—whether that be at your desk or in your bed before falling asleep. “You can wear whatever you want and you can be anywhere,” Rabinowitz says. “Sit in a chair, on the floor, on your bed. Zero props required.”

To do this, “[For the] first breath, breathe in deep and relax your shoulders on the exhale,” says Rabinowitz. “With the second, third and subsequent breaths, picture a warm light washing over you. This can really help you detach from the insanity and calm down. This doesn’t mean your brain is going to shut off, but it can bring you down from a 10 to a three.”

Related: Shop antioxidant and mood-boosting herbs like ashwagandha.

5. Take a walk outside.

Earthing (also known as grounding) is the act of putting your body in direct contact with the earth—whether it be water, soil, sand, or any other natural element. A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America showed that grounding can have an immense neurological effect on our well-being. In the study, people who walk in a wooded area (for 90 minutes) were less likely to feel stressful and anxious.

While outdoors, you might want to do a simple walking meditation. During this, you’ll want to deliberately notice your steps and pace, you’ll tune in your breathing, and you’ll take note of the sights and sounds—the crunch of leaves, the sound of water—all around you.

7 Healthy Foods You Might Be Overeating

Let’s face it: Eating healthy all the time can be tough. Nearly half of Americans fall short on the daily recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains put forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. On top of that, many of us regularly chow down on processed and sugar-laden foods that can wreak havoc on our waistlines. So if you’re already swapping out French fries for carrot sticks and double cheeseburgers for quinoa bowls, you’ve achieved a major victory.

As healthy as your grub may be, though, you do still need to consider calories. While experts agree that calories are not all created equal (a handful of high-fiber, high-protein almonds contains as many calories as six sugary ginger snaps, for example, but the almonds keep you fuller longer and ward off overeating later), our bodies still like to stay in a state of energy balance. This means that the calories we eat and drink should equal the number of calories we burn through living and breathing, digesting food, and being physically active.

Take in more calories than we burn and we often gain weight—even if those extra calories come from healthy, nutrient-dense foods. The following seven good-for-you foods are some of the easiest to overeat, so double-check your portions to keep your healthy diet on point.

1. Granola

A staple for yogurt lovers everywhere, this delicious combo of oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit adds a satisfying crunch to your breakfast or snack, along with some fiber, protein, iron, potassium, and heart-healthy fats. But that doesn’t mean you can treat hearty granola like regular cereals.

While a serving of regular cereal is about one cup, a serving of most granolas is just about a quarter cup, says Marjorie Cohn, M.S., R.D., personal trainer and owner of MNC Nutrition. Granola is very calorically-dense, so that quarter cup often packs between 120 and 150 calories, while a full cup could clock in at close to 600.

While a quarter cup may not look like much, it goes a long way in satisfying your hunger. To get the most bang for your buck, look for a granola that lists added sugar as far down in the ingredients list as possible, Cohn says. If you need more crunch than a serving of granola can provide, try adding some low-sugar cereal to your yogurt.

2. Quinoa

This trendy superfood is definitely wearing a health halo right now. After all, one cup of cooked quinoa packs almost 10 grams of protein—nearly double that of grains like barley, couscous, and brown rice—while coming in around 200 calories per cup, which is calorically equivalent to other whole grains. Yes, it’s got more protein and sometimes more fiber, but you can still overeat it and it can still contribute to weight gain, says Cohn.

For example, many popular quinoa bowl recipes contain close to a cup and a half of quinoa, in addition to other ingredients, like avocado, black beans, chicken. These meals can clock in at more than 800 calories, with nearly half coming from the quinoa. So, quinoa super-fans, stick to a serving of one cup to keep calories in check while still getting its good-for-you nutrients.

3. Hummus

No party—or fridge—is complete without hummus. This creamy chickpea-based dip contains fiber and protein—a nutrient combo sure to help keep you satisfied. The problem is that it’s so darn addicting, making it way too easy to overeat.

Two tablespoons of hummus, depending on the variety, come in at somewhere between 50 and 70 calories. “I’ve seen people at parties scoop that amount of hummus with a cracker in one dip,” exclaims Cohn. While hummus is nutritious, be weary of how much you scoop up (a 10-ounce tub contains upwards of 500 calories). Kick-up your hummus game another notch by dipping with vegetables—like cucumbers, carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, or broccoli—which are more nutrient-dense than crackers and save you both salt and calories.

4. Coconut Oil

A superstar at health-food stores everywhere, coconut oil has become a popular cooking staple after a number of studies found that a specific type of fat it contains—medium-chained triglycerides (MCTs)—is used as a source of energy, bolsters “good” HDL cholesterol, and supports weight management.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

However, not all experts agree on these touted benefits. “Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, and while this plant-based fat may not be as harmful for heart health as animal-based saturated fats, the jury’s still out on its overall health impacts,” says Jen Bruning, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

For now, use coconut oil in moderation and remember that this oil—like all other fats—contains a whopping nine calories per gram. The U.S. government recommends limiting saturated fats to less than 10 percent of our daily calories (that’s 200 calories on a 2,000-calorie diet), so keep in mind that two tablespoons of coconut oil contain 240 calories and plan your daily grub accordingly.

5. Chicken Breast

Skinless chicken breast is a lean, high-protein meat choice that’s easily paired with a side or two for a quick, delicious, and healthy meal. But if you eat the whole breast, or even two-thirds of it—which is common if you’re cutting back on carbs or ramping up your protein intake to build muscle—you may be getting more of it than your body can handle at one time.

A cooked whole chicken breast is typically around 10 or 12 ounces, according to Cohn. That’s about 500 calories and 103 grams of protein. That’s a lot of protein; experts recommend active individuals eat about two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (about 136 grams for a 150-pound person) throughout an entire day.

The issue is, our bodies lack a storage system for protein outside of our muscles, so if we eat more than our body can use at one time, that surplus protein is just extra calories that can be stored as fat, explains Cohn. Even eight ounces still packs 334 calories and 69 grams of protein, which is a little much for one meal.

That’s why research suggests splitting up your protein needs throughout the day to maintain and build muscle. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, people who ate 30 grams of protein (about four ounces of chicken) at each meal synthesized 25 percent more proteins in their muscles than people who ate 90 grams of protein primarily at dinner.

Sick Of Chicken? Try These For Protein

Follow this protein rule of thumb: Stick to between three and six ounces of chicken—about the size of the palm of your hand—per meal, suggests Cohn.

6. Bean Chips

A newcomer to the snack aisle, bean chips are a healthier alternative to potato chips because they contain more fiber, protein, and less fat per serving. That said, they’re not exactly a ‘health food’ and they don’t provide the same benefits as eating actual beans, says Cohn.

Whether made from potatoes or beans, a serving of chips still typically clocks in around 150 calories. So while bean chips are a better alternative to greasier varieties when your salty cravings hit, stick to a snack bag-full per sitting—not a party bag-full.

7. Avocados

If you’re an avocado super-fan, this is going to be guacward. Yes, your beloved avocados are full of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber—but those benefits come with a higher calorie count.

An entire avocado packs about 322 calories, while a serving of fat equates to just about an eighth of a fruit, which is about 40 calories, says Cohn. Not much, we know! Sadly, this means you can easily down a day’s worth of fat in one chips and guac snack sesh.

To keep your serving size under control, spread your guacamole on toast or bulk it up with larger chunks of chopped peppers and tomatoes.

Related: Shop a variety of heart-healthy cooking oils, like avocado oil.

Millions Of Americans Have Autoimmune Diseases—Could You?

You probably hear people talking about autoimmune diseases a lot these days—and that’s because there’s much more awareness around the millions of Americans who live with them. In fact, they’re a leading cause of death in young and middle-aged women, according to research published in the The American Journal of Public Health.

Understanding autoimmune diseases isn’t easy, though—especially since they’re not all common (and there are over 100 of them!), many aren’t well-researched, and some of the diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis) don’t look anything like others (such as psoriasis, lupus, or type 1 diabetes).

At the core of every autoimmune disease is inflammation—which is why the terminology “autoimmune diseases” is sometimes used interchangeably with “autoinflammatory diseases.” There is a slight difference between the two, however, which is identified by the underlying cause of the disease. In short, autoinflammatory diseases are thought to stem from a malfunction in the innate immune system (which attacks antigens immediately and without a specific course of attack), whereas autoimmune diseases are thought to stem from a malfunction in the adaptive immune system (which reacts to specific antigens with specific courses of attack).

Fortunately, more and more research is being done around inflammation’s massive effects on our health.

The Deal With Inflammation

Quick science lesson: We all have immune systems—they keep us healthy by shielding our bodies from diseases and infections. When your body comes into contact with harm, your immune system sends out its troops (a.k.a. our white blood cells), which rush to surround the effected area. This is called acute inflammation.

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So, does that mean inflammation is a good thing? Yes and no. Although acute inflammation is necessary for our health, its bad rap isn’t entirely undeserved. In the case of people with autoimmune diseases, the issue is chronic inflammation.

“Autoimmune diseases arise when the immune system is triggered to produce antibodies [inflammation], which, rather than defending the body, instead begin attacking the body’s tissues,” says Hospital for Special Surgery rheumatologist Medha Barbhaiya, MD. It’s sort of akin to going into battle when there is no enemy. Those inflammatory responses create diseases that affect many parts of our bodies (everything from our eyes to our joints to our kidneys and hearts).

The diseases are all different and require varying modes of treatment, depending on the disease itself, the person, and the symptoms.

Why do people have autoimmune diseases?

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast answer. “Extensive research efforts are currently being dedicated to identifying potential underlying mechanisms that trigger such an abnormal response of the immune system,” says Dr. Barbhaiya.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 23 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disease. However, statistics from the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association put that number at around 50 million. What gives? “While we do not know why the prevalence is so high, both hereditary and environment-lifestyle factors may play an important role in determining who develops an autoimmune disease,” says Dr. Barbhaiya. “In fact, the current disease paradigm being investigated is one of a ‘two-hit’ hypothesis, suggesting that an environmental and lifestyle exposure may trigger disease in those with an underlying genetic predisposition.”

Related: What It’s Like To Have Arthritis In Your 20s

According to Dr. Kimberly Sanders, a licensed Naturopathic Physician at Arthrowell, some of those lifestyle and environmental triggers may include ”poor digestion, digestive tract infections, blood infections, toxins, hormone imbalances, stress, and more.” Sanders says that the accumulation of all of these triggers is enough to set a person’s disease-carrying genes off—leading to symptoms.

Could you have an autoimmune disease?

The short answer: It’s hard to know. If you think understanding the reason why people get autoimmune disease is complicated, you should know that getting a proper diagnosis isn’t always easy either.

According to an article published by the University of Virginia, many people—including some doctors—downplay autoimmune disease pain or symptoms. In fact, plenty of people with autoimmune disease convince themselves that what they’re experiencing is “all in their heads”. On top of that, it’s common to have a few autoimmune disease at the same time. And some people’s autoimmune diseases masquerade as other illnesses and are misdiagnosed.

According to the NIH, the classic physical sign is inflammation, which can present as pain, swelling joint pain, digestive issues, fatigue, or recurring fever. The problem? This might seem like the flu, or general muscle aches, or simply feeling run down. People with autoimmune diseases may also experience unpredictable flare-up periods and total remission periods.

To further complicate things, most autoimmune disease don’t have reliable screening tests, Dr. Barbhaiya explains. This means that by the time the sickness disrupts your lifestyle, you wouldn’t even know it was there. “What complicates things further is that there is a subset of the population who may test positive for certain disease-specific antibodies, but never actually go on to develop any clinical manifestations,” Dr. Barbhaiya says.

Related: Shop our whole range of immune support products.

If you do have a family history of autoimmune disease or suspect that something isn’t right—like you’ve had joint pain and fatigue for months—see your primary care physician first, and ask for a referral to a rheumatologist.

Dr. Sanders also suggests you find a “naturopathic autoimmune expert to run blood tests and catch the early expression of autoimmune diseases.” While many doctors treat the symptoms, it’s important to seek the cause or root of the issue—and see a doctor who practices functional medicine, which addresses the underlying causes.

Is there a cure?

There is no official cure for autoimmune diseases and each disease must be treated differently, but doctors may prescribe medications like corticosteroids, NSAIDS, biologics, immunosuppressants, and chemotherapy. In some cases, as with lupus, kidney transplants have been necessary.

Additionally, supplements, diets, exercise, stress-reduction techniques, and physical therapy can help people manage their symptoms. There is evidence, for example, that some diets are beneficial to people with certain autoimmune diseases, according to an article published in Current Allergy and Asthma Reports. Other autoimmune diseases may benefit from certain types of exercise.

“There is much work to be done to better understand the underlying biology and risk factors for autoimmune diseases in order to improve prevention strategies and ultimately help find a cure,” says Dr. Barbhaiya.


4 Ways You May Be Negatively Impacting Your Hormones—Without Even Realizing It

When we hear the word “hormones” we may think back to awkward days spent in junior high sex-ed class—but that’s just the beginning. Hormones are responsible for far more than our libidos and body hair.

Hormones act as signaling molecules (also known as chemical messengers) that help to regulate a lot of our key bodily functions, affecting our moods, metabolism, appetites, sleep cycles, and so much more. They’re responsible for a significant amount of our physiology and behavior, and without even realizing it, there’s a lot we can do to throw our hormones out of balance.

But before we get into how that might happen, let’s break down how it all works.

First, hormones are created in our endocrine glands, including—but not limited to—the hypothalamus (regulates sex drive, temperature, mood, hunger), the pancreas (produces insulin), the thyroid (controls calorie burning and heart rate), the pineal (produces mood-affecting serotonin and sleep-regulating melatonin) and the pituitary (controls all the other glands and is sometimes referred to as the “master gland”). On top of those, there are several other glands, including the ovaries and testes.

All of these glands work in tandem to manage your hormones—which include many you’ve probably heard of, like the main sex hormones estrogen (in women) and testosterone (in men), progesterone, cortisol (or, the “stress hormone”), melatonin, along with others. These hormones then travel through the bloodstream to our tissues and organs.

When your hormones are thrown off, you can end up feeling fatigued, anxious, depressed, and you may experience hair loss, infertility, and weight gain.

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Here’s how your hormones can get thrown off:

1. Eating Poorly

Our diets play a role in almost every aspect of our health, and our hormones are no exception. The impact of hormonal disruption can be significant, leading to everything from weight gain and exhaustion to digestive issues.

For example, when we eat way too much sugar, our bodies can become insulin-resistant. (We need insulin, a hormone, because it moves the sugar we consume into our bloodstreams to be used for cellular energy). Too little insulin could lead to metabolic disorder or type 2 diabetes.

So what to do?

“The most important aspect of food is quantity,” says Dr. Spencer Nadolsky, a board-certified family and obesity physician for SteadyMD and author of The Fat Loss Prescription. “Most people who are consuming too much energy are getting it through highly processed, high-calorie ‘junk’ foods like chips, candies, donuts, etc.” These foods are high in carbohydrates, sugar, and fat while also being low in protein.

Related: Here’s What A Day Of Clean Eating Actually Looks Like

Does this mean you have to kiss that weekend-morning pancake stack goodbye? Not at all. “Enjoy those foods as a treat once in a while, and eat less-processed foods whenever possible,” Dr. Nadolsky advises. “Focusing on a more whole-food approach while still being mindful of portions will help you lose belly weight and improve your hormones.”

2. Not Getting Enough Sleep

Our hormones impact the function of our sleep cycles (the reason you get sleepy at night and wake up in the morning—thanks, melatonin!) so getting enough sleep is key, according to an article in the journal Endocrine Development. In fact, says Dr. Nadolsky, her patients with hormonal imbalances often deal with sleeping issues.

Related: Here’s Exactly What To Do At Night To Have A Great Sleep

A lack of sleep can disrupt testosterone and cortisol levels, and it can throw our hunger cues off as well, Dr. Nadolsky explains. “The issue isn’t as sexy as nutrition or exercise, so it doesn’t get the spotlight it should. When a patient’s sleep is off, this is usually where I start to help them improve their health—specifically their hormonal status.”

How much sleep should you be getting? Aim for seven to eight hours (nine or more is too much, though). Also: You should also put away the iPhone while lying in bed (no thanks, blue light), find a relaxing and intentional nighttime ritual, and cut the caffeine after your morning cup, if possible.

3. Stressing Out

Similar to the way disrupted sleep patterns can alter the balance of our hormones, chronic stress also plays a role, too, according to research in the Journal of Pharmacy and BioAllied Sciences. Ongoing stress can alter hormones in ways that impact growth, promote mood disorders, and lead to other health issues.

And remember how we said food can affect our hormones? Well, chronic stress can also affect how we eat: “Changes in our cortisol regulation and hunger hormones can occur from chronic stress,” says Dr. Nadolsky. This can create an insidious cycle: Stress can lead to an increase in hunger hormones, potentially driving us to eat more highly processed foods, which leads to additional weight gain, which then disrupts our hormones even further, Dr. Nadolsky explains.

Your plan of attack? Adopt a lifestyle that allows you to seriously de-stress. Whether that’s through adopting a quiet daily yoga regimen, performing periodic breathing exercises, turning to an essential oil routine, meditating in the morning before commuting, or taking an Epsom salt bath before bed, it’s key to regulate those stressful emotions.

Related: It’s Time To Stop Being So Scared of Meditation

4. Using Certain Plastics

Food, sleep, and stress are critical components when it comes to balancing our hormones better, but we also have to pay attention to the products we use—especially plastics. Industrial chemicals like BPA and phthalates are found in polycarbonate plastics that we frequently use to package our food and water, which means they easily get ingested.

These endocrine-disrupting chemicals have a significant impact on our hormones. “More and more studies are showing these may really be a threat even at low levels despite what we thought was maybe safe before,” says Dr. Nadolsky. There’s growing evidence, according to a statement released by the Endocrine Society, that shows endocrine disruptors can affect reproduction, cancer growth, thyroid function, metabolism, and obesity, as well as cardiovascular endocrinology and neuroendocrinology.

While total eradication of these synthetic compounds from our packaging and products may be unrealistic, there are many steps we can take in our day-to-day lives to help reduce our exposure and help keep our hormones in check. These include using ceramic and glass for cooking and food storage, limiting canned and processed foods, and buying products that are labeled as BPA and phthalate-free.

The Bottom Line

Regulating your hormones is important for your health, and like any health regimen, you’ll see the most success by starting with small, manageable changes.

“The biggest bang for your buck will be trying to maintain or achieve a healthier weight and waist circumference through proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep and stress management,” says Dr. Nadolsky, but that won’t happen overnight. Be kind to yourself, and work on incorporating these changes into your lifestyle one day at a time.

If you feel you do have a hormonal imbalance, an endocrinologist can help.

Here’s a useful guide to keeping your hormones healthy:

Are You Neglecting These Two Glute Muscles?

The benefits of a strong behind know no bounds. You’ll nail bigger lifts like squats and deadlifts, feel booty-ful (sorry, had to) in your favorite pair of jeans, and move through life—whether hiking, chasing your dog around, or just carrying heavy groceries—more easily.

To build powerful and well-rounded glutes (literally), there are three muscles you need to focus on. First, the major gluteal muscle, the gluteus maximus, which helps you extend your hips (like when squatting) and rotate your legs and toes out to the sides. This muscle covers pretty much the entire surface of your butt, and if you strength train, chances are you’re already showing these big muscles some love.

But there are two smaller—and lesser-known—gluteal muscles that also deserve some attention: the gluteus medius (above the glute maximus) and gluteus minimus (beneath the glute maximus). These muscles help your hips move laterally away from your body, like when you step from side to side.

Meet The Medius And Minimus

Why are these two glutes muscles overlooked? “They are substantially smaller than the maximus—the medius is about half the weight of the maximus, and the minimus is even less—and are less visually apparent because they reside underneath the maximus,” explains Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D, C.S.C.S.-D., assistant professor in exercise science at CUNY Lehman College and author of The M.A.X. Muscle Plan.

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Just because these muscles are small, though, doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Both muscles help stabilize your hip joints, helping you run, rotate, and shuffle.

Aside from their functional feats, these two other glutes muscles can make your butt look better. “Increasing the development of the medius and minimus contributes to overall glute size, so they are most certainly important from an aesthetic standpoint,” says Schoenfeld.

Related: Your Glutes Are Begging You To Do This Workout

Plus, if you have weak medius or minimus muscles, you can land yourself with a number of surprisingly common issues, like ‘hip drop’ (when one side of your hips lowers because the opposite side is weak) or ‘knee valgus’ (when your knees cave in), says Schoenfeld. People with weak gluteus medius and/or minimus muscles may also experience low-back pain because their back takes on the stress of rotational movements instead of their glutes and legs.

Target The Tiny Two

To prevent injury, increase booty gains, and strengthen your hip muscles, add these four exercises—hand-picked by Schoenfeld—to your routine. You’ll isolate your glute medius and minimus muscles to effectively build strength.

 1. Side Lying Hip Abductions

Lie on a bench on your side. Allow your top leg to cross over your bottom leg and stretch as far as possible over the side of the bench, without touching the floor. Engage your glutes to raise this leg as high as comfortably possible, and then return it to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

2. Cable Abductions

Set a cable machine with an ankle cuff attachment to the lowest setting. Stand next to the cable machine with your left leg closest to it. Attach the ankle cuff to your right ankle and take a comfortable step away from the machine. Hold onto the cable machine with your left hand for stability and allow your right ankle to cross over your left to bring your right ankle closer to the machine. Engage your glutes to pull your right leg back across your body and extend it as far out to the right as is comfortable (keep your leg straight), and then return it to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

3. Lateral Band Walks

Place a looped band around your shins. Step your feet shoulders-width distance apart and slightly bend your knees and hips to assume a slight squat position. Step laterally (to the side) with your left foot, and then allow the right foot to follow. Take a few more steps to the left, and then reverse your direction and step to the right.

4. Clamshell Raises

Lie on your left side with your knees bent, your right leg over your left, and your feet together. Engage your glutes to raise your right knee up as high as comfortably possible, and then return it to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

All About Your New Favorite Cleanser: Micellar Water

If you’ve shopped for skin-care products any time within the past year, you’ve undoubtedly spotted the beauty industry’s latest darling: micellar water. Just like regular ol’ H20, micellar water is a clear liquid—but what is it, exactly? And how do you even pronounce it?

Have no fear, beauty junkies—we had the experts break it all down for you. (And for the record, it’s my-SELL-ar.)

What is it made of?

Micellar water is made with something called micelles, which are tiny balls of molecules that react to water.

“Micellar water is micelles suspended in soft water, creating microscopic oil molecules that are great for cleaning the face by attaching to dirt, grime, and makeup,” says Dr. Rhonda Klein, a board-certified dermatologist with the Connecticut Dermatology Group. “Unlike soap, micelles dissolve impurities without stripping the skin, and since it has the same viscosity of water, the face feels clean and rejuvenated after treatment.” Also, unlike soap, it doesn’t require water in order to work, so no rinsing is necessary.

The product isn’t a new concept, despite its recent rise in popularity. In fact, its origins trace back to the coveted beauty regimen of a certain European country: “The French have been using micellar water for ages,” says Dr. Klein.

Is it a toner, a cleansing water, or a makeup remover?

There are a lot of cleansing products on the market and it can get confusing! So what’s the difference between cleansing water (another popular item) and micellar water? Micellar water contains those oily micelles, while cleansing water is usually made up of purified water.

Related: Shop skin-loving micellar water products. 

And then there are toners. Toner is usually used after cleansing to refresh and tone the skin (although many contain alcohol and leave skin feeling dry and tight, unlike micellar water). While micellar water is primarily used to cleanse the skin, many beauty enthusiasts happily use it as toner, as well.

Bonus: It can also remove makeup (although heavy makeup is probably best removed with traditional makeup remover).

Should you Try it?

Given that the main ingredient in micellar water is water, it’s a safe option for most people. (Other ingredients might include vitamins, glycerin, and rooibos, like in this Derma E micellar water.)

“Almost all skin types can use micellar water without risk of drying out—even those with acne or oily skin can use micellar water to clean skin thoroughly without inflamed acne pimples,” says Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. However, if your skin is very oily or covered in extremely thick foundation, micellar water alone may not be strong enough to remove all of the impurities.

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According to Dr. Nazarian, micellar water’s biggest benefit is that its oil droplets are hydrating (but don’t feel oily)—without disrupting the natural pH of skin, a problem that comes with some classic foaming cleansers.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, it was shown that micellar cleansing water “showed lower irritation potential than traditional high-lather face cleansing formats.” The research also noted that the pairing of micellar’s moisturizing benefits and its low potential for irritation makes it a promising option for those with sensitive skin.

Related: The Best Skin-Care Tips And Products For Your 20s, 30s, And 40s

“The fact that it doesn’t require scrubbing makes it great for sensitive skin, which tends to be easily irritated by harsher scrubs or rubbing typically needed to remove makeup,” she says.

A word of warning for anyone allergic to surfactants (which is a scientific word for “oil in water” molecules): Avoid micellar water. It’s not dangerous, but someone with an allergy might become red, itchy, or puffy with repeated use.

How Do You Use It?

Using micellar water is just as straightforward as its ingredients.

Dr. Nazarian recommends saturating a cotton ball with the micellar water, then gently swiping it over your skin. Use a second dry cotton pad to wipe over your skin to absorb the micelles, which will have attached themselves to the dirt and oil on your face.

Whatever you do, don’t scrub your skin while using the product. These little work horses take the elbow grease out of washing your face, so just let them do their thing. Simply repeat until the cotton ball appears clean, at any time of day.

Should You Upgrade Your ACV To Fire Cider?

By now, we’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard about all the health-boosting power of apple cider vinegar. The pungent golden liquid is an all-star ingredient for promoting heart health, immune health, and healthy blood sugar. Plus, it packs antioxidants and B vitamins, along with the minerals calcium and potassium.

From salad dressings to straight-up shots, people are getting their fill of ACV—but there’s a new bevvie on the block that’s about to bring the heat: fire cider.

First thing’s first: Fire cider (a.k.a. ACV’s wild cousin) may be a new trend, but it’s been around for ages. In fact, the concoction—made by steeping ingredients like garlic, onion, honey, and hot peppers in apple cider vinegar—has long been a folk remedy used to promote immune health.  You can use it just like you’d use apple cider vinegar, but it’s more brazen, more intense, and even more packed with good-for-you-ness. The idea is, all of these ingredients—each health-promoting in their own right—come together to form a tonic that’s beneficial for your health as it is eye-watering.

With the internet chock-full of recipes for homemade fire cider, the tonic has become so popular that you can even buy it bottled now (three cheers for Shire City Herbals’ Fire Cider). Here are the details about fire cider’s powerful ingredients—and how the drink can boost your health.


Found in DIY recipes and bottled fire ciders alike, garlic is part of a group of vegetables known as ‘alliums.’ (It also includes shallots, onions, chives, and leeks.) Allium vegetables are rich in organosulfur compounds (a.k.a. sulfur) that support heart health, blood pressure, liver function, and gastrointestinal health. Research suggests these organosulfur compounds also have antioxidant properties and stimulate the immune system.


Like garlic, onions also contain organosulfur compounds and offer antioxidant benefits. Plus, onions contain a specific flavonoid (a type of antioxidant) called quercetin, that helps to mitigate inflammation-triggering compounds in the body.

Chili Pepper

Many fire ciders also contain some sort of chili pepper. (Shire City Herbals’ blend uses habañero peppers.) These peppers get their kick from a compound called capsaicin, which not only contributes to their flavor, but also contributes to health in multiple ways. Capsaicin stimulates our metabolism, supports blood vessel function, and bolsters our immune system by mediating the production of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines.


You may also find honey in fire cider because it’s a great natural way to sweeten things up. And if the honey used in a fire cider tonic is raw, it offers perks beyond tasting delicious, as raw honey contains antioxidant compounds called polyphenols and flavonoids.


Shire City Herbals fire cider tonic adds a few extra ingredients to their recipe to really punch up the power of their drink. One is a spice you probably already know in love: turmeric. This warm, golden spice contains an antioxidant called curcumin that both promotes a strong immune system and eases digestive issues.


Didn’t think there were any super-spicy ingredients left to be added to this intense tonic? Think again. Shire City Herbals also adds horseradish—yet another antioxidant-packed plant—to their concoction. Horseradish root contains the antioxidants kaempferol and quercetin, and also contains sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates that support liver detoxification.

How To Get Fired Up

“Fire cider is a fantastic way to incorporate many functional foods into your routine all at once,” says Kathleen Jones, M.S.A.C.N., C.N.S., nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe. You can take shots of the tonic straight, mix it into tea or warm water, or even add it to savory recipes for extra kick. Jones likes adding fire cider to homemade chili, and using it in seafood marinades and salad dressings.

Ready to bring on the heat? Try Shire City Herbals’ fire ciders for yourself!