Ask Health Coach Maria: How Do You Start a Healthy Lifestyle?

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Have a wellness question for Health Coach Maria? Ask her here

My sister is 65 now, and all along, she never took care of self but never was sick. Now she has high blood pressure and is obese! She really needs to start healthy lifestyle and soon. How would you advise she starts? 

-Concerned younger sister

Starting a healthy lifestyle may seem overwhelming, but if you break it down into manageable steps, it’s a lot easier than you’d think. So, instead of doing a complete overhaul overnight, there are three simple changes your sister can start with that will have a huge impact.

First, is to add in more dark leafy greens.  Dark leafy greens include things like kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, dandelion, arugula, and spinach. They are some of the most nutrient-dense foods and calorie-poor foods on the planet.

Lotus Stem Salad

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While lotus stems may be abundant in Southeast Asia, they are quite uncommon in the U.S. When in season, asparagus makes a tasty substitute. String beans may be more available and work equally well. This is an easy and flavorful salad that can be made ahead.




Serves 4-5


  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
  • 3 shallots or 1/2 purple onion, cut into half-moon slivers
  • 1 or 2 red chilies, seeded and cut into thin slivers


  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 Tablespoons red miso
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan sugar 
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed


  • Few sprigs cilantro
  • 1 small red chili, very finely minced


3 Natural Ways to Protect Against Stretch Marks

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Stretch marks: most people have them…nobody likes them. Known to dermatologists as striae, stretch marks are scars that develop when your skin has to accommodate rapid growth. Often first appearing as reddish or purple lines on your thighs, hips, or belly, stretch marks fade over time but, like any scar, may never disappear completely.

Why do we get stretch marks? Your skin stays supple thanks to the proteins elastin and collagen, but when it becomes overstretched during puberty, pregnancy, or times of sudden weight gain and hormonal imbalance, the dermis layer of your skin tears and stretch marks form. Women are particularly prone, but stretch marks also commonly plague obese people of both genders.Your personal susceptibility to developing stretch marks is mostly genetic, and unfortunately, there’s no way to completely prevent them. Don’t waste your hopes or money on lotions and creams; stretch marks form from within and nothing you apply topically can counteract the process (if only that weren’t true!).

The good news is that you can boost your defenses against stretch marks by eating foods and leading a lifestyle that help the skin to maintain its elasticity. Even better, these measures are excellent for all other aspects of your health, too!

24 Healthy Living Bloggers to Follow

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Need a little inspiration to get back to healthy this summer? Look no further than the Internet!  Whether you’re seeking healthy recipes, new workout ideas, or simply some wellness words of wisdom, these healthy lifestyle blogs will be your new go-to reads!


My New Roots  - Sara focuses on seasonal ingredients to create her truly beautiful, vegetarian dishes. This blog will have you excited to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market this weekend!

Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes  - Heather has mastered the art of creating simple, beautiful and healthy recipes! Her photos alone will inspire you to start cooking healthier this summer. 

Oh She Glows – Angela creates meat and dairy-free recipes, many of which are also free of gluten, soy, and processed ingredients. At first glance, you would never know how healthy her recipes are with the truly crave-able food photos she posts.

Video: What is Gluten?

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The gluten-free diet has become all the rage in recent years, but many people don’t know what gluten actually is. What foods contain gluten? How does gluten affect your body? Should you go gluten-free? 

In this video, Jade from Wellness Today lays out all the facts about this much maligned protein. Learn why gluten sensitivities have become more widespread, the difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, and why gluten causes digestive upset for so many people. Watch below! 

Though bread, pasta, and baked goods are the most common offenders, gluten can sneak its way into marinades, salad dressing, sauces, and canned food. 

Grains that contain gluten:

  • Barley
  • Bran
  • Durum
  • Farina
  • Farro
  • Graham
  • Kamut
  • Oats*
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Seitan
  • Spelt
  • Wheat Germ
  • Wheat Bran

*There is no gluten in the oats themselves, but most commercial oats are produced in factories where they are contaminated by the gluten from other grains.

Foods to Watch Out For:

You’ll Never Shop for Produce the Same Way: Decoding PLU Numbers

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You eat a fresh apple, and you peel off the sticker before washing it. But have you ever stopped to think about the purpose of that sticker? Maybe you should take a look before tossing it into the trash next time. 

That sticker is like a fingerprint; it indicates certain characteristics of the produce, such as how and where the crop was grown and its variety. Learning how to decode the digits on the sticker—Price Look-Up (PLU) numbers—can significantly impact your health and make you a more conscious consumer.

Thankfully, learning produce language isn’t very complicated, so you can be a savvy health consumer in no time.

PLU 101

Each PLU number is composed of either four or five digits. While shopping, you should be most concerned with the first number, which signifies the growth methodology. The methodological possibilities are Conventional (Non-Qualified Produce), Organic, and Genetically Modified Organism (GMO).

Big Rocks: How to Manage Your Time More Effectively

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When I was a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, one of the best skills that I learned was time management. This probably isn’t what you were expecting! Finding the healthiest foods or learning how to cook new grains might sound more like the expected benefits from a nutrition school, and trust me, I learned that, too. But the skill that has helped me the most in all aspects of my life is time management! More specifically, IIN founder Joshua Rosenthal taught us about a simple concept called “Big Rocks” that has changed the way I manage my daily and weekly schedule.

The concept of “Big Rocks” is based on principles outlined by educator and author Stephen R. Covey, who wrote the popular book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea is that in your life, you have all kinds of responsibilities and tasks that need to get done each day. Some of them are critical and must get done in order for you to reach your goals. These are your Big Rocks and they are usually ongoing projects that cannot be rushed, like finding your ideal career path or nurturing a relationship.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About...Organic Farming

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It always amuses me that produce doused in toxic chemicals is called “conventional.”  The word conventional means “in accordance with what is generally done or believed.” 

Organic foods, the ones grown naturally without the use of synthetic chemicals, are regarded as “premium,” but they are actually fruits and vegetables the way nature intended them. 

As more people learn about the detrimental effects of pesticides and herbicides on our bodies and planet, organic foods are becoming more popular than ever. Thanks to this newfound interest, they are also more widely available.  

Aside from the fact that they taste better and reduce your exposure to hazardous chemicals, here are 7 facts I bet you didn’t know about organic farming. 

1. All agriculture was organic until the 1920s: Before this time, farmers used natural means to control pests and nourish the soil. During the 1920s, research turned towards chemicals, but it wasn’t really until the 50s, after World War II, that farming methods changed dramatically towards the “new normal” where nearly everything became covered in chemicals. 

4 Reasons to Try Underwater Spinning

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If you thought spinning was trendy, get ready for the next big thing: underwater spinning. It’s just what it sounds like, which means it involves even more water than most sweat-drenched spin classes. Yes, you heard that right: you can now cycle in the pool, combining the low-impact nature of swimming with the hardcore exercise of a spinning class.

If you love spinning but feel like you’ve mastered the traditional version, then it might be time for you to give this new trend a try.

The concept of underwater spinning is really simple: it’s a static bike class, with the exception that the bikes are located in a swimming pool. Your legs and hips are submerged in the water throughout the class, while your head and shoulders are kept safely above water level. Underwater spinning classes might be popping up at a studio near you soon, so here are four reasons why you might want to give this new trend a try.

Farmers’ Market Find: Sweet Corn

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One of my all-time favorite summer vegetables is sweet corn. Nothing says “summer” quite like corn on the cob! The first weekend in July always has me dreaming of all the corn dishes I’ll be making throughout the season.  

Unfortunately, sweet corn gets a bit of a bad rap because of the prevalence of GMO’s in the production of field corn. However, these two varieties of corn are very, very different. Field corn is virtually inedible and is mass produced in America to make other food products (like corn syrup), ethanol gas, or livestock feed.

Sweet corn, on the other hand, is grown much more ethically and is packed with nutrients! It is full of antioxidants that actually increase in effectiveness when the corn is cooked, so don’t shy away from throwing your corn on the grill! It is also high in fiber, and is a great source of lutein, which is very helpful in promoting healthy vision.

Another reason some people shy away from corn is the false notion that it is high in calories, even though an ear of corn has fewer calories than an apple. However, keep in mind that typical toppings like butter, salt, and cheese could make your sweet corn less than healthy.