Butternut Squash Soup – Winter Comfort Food

Butternut Squash SoupDuring the winter months, warm meals become extra comforting. Here is a quick butternut squash soup recipe for you all to try at home. It is one of my personal favorites, and is perfect to pair with a green salad or roasted veggies. This recipe is from Wellness Mama.


Ingredients you will need (6-8 servings):
•  1 butternut squash
•  1 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)
•  1 cup chicken or veggie stalk (plus more to thin soup of needed)
•  1 sweet onion
•  2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
•  Salt and pepper to taste
•  ½ teaspoon garlic
•  ½ teaspoon nutmeg
•  A sprinkle of thyme


Instructions:
1. Cut top and bottom off of butternut squash and use knife to carefully cut remaining skin off.
2. Cut in half and scoop out seeds (they are great roasted!)
3. Chop squash into small cubes and dice onion.
4. In a large stock pot, melt the butter and add diced onion.
5. Saute 3 minutes until starting to soften and add squash.
6. Saute an additional 5 minutes until squash starts to brown.
7. Add coconut milk, stock, and spices and bring to simmer.
8. Simmer about 20 minutes until soft.
9. Use a blender or hand blender to puree until smooth.
10. Serve warm or make ahead to reheat for a fast meal addition.

Enjoy!

 

Walker Tracker’s Favorite Podcasts

10 Podcasts Walker Tracker is Addicted To

At Walker Tracker we’re all about motivation to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to working out sometimes that involves listening to music to get just the push you need to get up and get moving. But for me, music isn’t always my best motivation. I often find I’m listening to my favorite podcasts during my workout or when I’m sitting at home. I knew I couldn’t be the only one with a minor podcast addiction, so I asked around the Walker Tracker office and received an overwhelming response of podcast suggestions that I’d like to share with you.

Below is Walker Tracker’s 10 favorite podcasts that we can’t get enough of.  Check out our list and let us know what other podcasts we should add to the list.

 

The Curiosity Podcast
Each week, The Curiosity Podcast interviews experts on a variety of compelling topics. Curiosity has something for everyone. You can find stories about Science and Technology, Amazing Places, Food and Culture, and Mind and Body. That’s just the beginning. Curiosity is the podcast to listen to when you want to learn something new every day.

Lore
Not for the faint of heart, Lore is a critically acclaimed podcast that focuses on real-life scary stories. If you love sitting around a campfire and listening to hair-raising tales then this podcast is for you. Each episode explores the darker side of historical events, places, and people.

The Moth
The Moth broadcasts storytelling from live events they’ve held around the globe. This podcast is famous for its authentic stories of the human experience. Each show has a unique theme and different storytellers who share their personal experiences. One story may bring you to tears while the next can keep you laughing. You’ll never what to expect with The Moth.

Philosophy Talk
“Question Everything” is the best phrase to describe Philosophy Talk. This weekly podcast led by several Professors from Stanford University encourage their listeners to join them in examining a broad range of subjects. Their goal is to challenge their listeners to not only recognize their own beliefs and assumptions but also view issues from a new perspective.

Radiolab
Radiolab investigates a variety of topics on science and philosophy while presenting them in a unique and fun storytelling style. Episodes are broken into a combination of stories, musical cues, and interviews. The interviews are with experts in the field or with people that have an interesting story about the show’s topic.

Song Exploder
If you love music and are looking to learn more about your favorite bands and how they are inspired then give Song Exploder a try. This podcast asks musicians to deconstruct their songs and share their influences and their creative process. Song Exploder has talked with an extensive list of artists from Björk to Metallica. They have over 100 guests bands for you to choose from.

Ted Radio Hour
Ted Talks are famous for their inspiring speakers and subjects. This tradition continues with the Ted Radio Hour. An engrossing podcast that touches on a diverse mix of topics, ideas, and perspectives. Its thought-provoking content will give you something to contemplate throughout your day.

This American Life
This award-winning podcast has been going strong since 1995. Each week This American Life shares stories that follow a specific theme. Well known for its engaging storytelling the show isn’t afraid to experiment by creating unique episodes such as taping a show for 24 hours in all night restaurant or putting a band together from classified ads. With over 600 episodes you’ll find something that piques your interest or check out the host, Ira Glass’ recommended list of episodes:  “New to This American Life”.

The Tim Ferriss Show
You may know Tim Ferriss as a “self-experimenter” and best selling author of “The 4-Hour Work Week”. You can now follow him via his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show. In his show, he interviews notable professionals in a variety of fields and breaks down the steps they took to reach their success to help listeners find tools and strategies that may work for them.

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me
NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me is a quiz show which may cause you to laugh out loud. Each week call-in contestants and the show’s guests, which are experts in the news and entertainment industry, are asked to determine which provided news stories are true and which are made up. You may be surprised by which stories are actually true.

 

These are just a few of the many podcasts that we at Walker Tracker are listening to.  Do you have a podcast you listen to regularly? Share your favorites with us.

Harnessing the Power of Intention for a New Year’s Revolution

Walker Tracker would like to introduce you to Christa King the Founder of Fitlandia and 30 Days to Thriving. Christa has agreed to be a guest blogger and share some of her insights on being healthy in the New Year.  Thank you Christa!

 

You read the title right – a New Year’s Revolution v. a Resolution!

Throw out everything you grew up learning about going on a diet in the new year. We all know by now that quick-fixes and short-term diets don’t work. Yet there’s still something powerful about the intention of making a fresh start and recommitting to yourself that can’t be ignored.

The energy and spirit of resolutions can be married with sound lifestyle changes to make reaching your goals easier and sustainable for life. Let’s get your mind (and body) ready for a reset by understanding why diets fail and practical steps to making change last.

 

Diets FailWhy Diets Fail

Our Thought Patterns Are Powerful. Did you know that over 108M people in the US are currently on a diet, yet nearly 70% will fail at reaching or maintaining their goals? Why? It’s because willpower does not last. That all-powerful emotion has an expiration date and can’t be sustained. Once major stressors hit (job change, divorce, move, loss of a loved one, etc.), our primal brain kicks in to make us feel safe, taking us back to known pleasures in sugar, alcohol and refined carbs (and other things that fire up the pleasure center).

Over the years, we’ve carved some deep neural pathways to provide a temporary relief from uncomfortable. Without creating new thought patterns in response to stress, we will naturally fall back into an old pattern as our brain strives to make us feel grounded again.

It’s in Your Gut. The other reason diets fail us is because we have unresolved gut dysbiosis (overgrowth of bad bacteria) sending messages to our brain to go get its preferred food source: sugar, refined carbs, alcohol, dairy, and fruit. This can generate intense cravings for these foods, making it incredibly challenging to avoid. In fact, most “diets” allow for fruit and so most people end up removing “bad” foods, only to find they’re loading up on bananas. The bottom line is that you must first starve the bad bacteria to reduce these unmanageable cravings.

There’s so much power in knowledge so just understanding that your unconscious thought patterns drive 90% of your behavior (that can be changed!) and that you can reduce sugar cravings through a thoughtful detox can go a very long way in setting you up for a successful lifestyle change.

 

The Four Cornerstones of Fitness

There is something so very exciting and powerful about entering a new year. The hope, determination, motivation, and inspiration around us can have a significant influence on our desire to change. So, take advantage of it, but do it the right way by harnessing the four, necessary components to making a permanent lifestyle change including:

Good Nutrition1. Good Nutrition. Ready to clear up that gut, get off processed and packaged foods and start feeling great? Proper nutrition is key and it starts with a whole foods diet. That means reducing and removing (as often as possible) any food with a label on it, and instead, adopting a practice of preparing your own meals. This will ensure there are no additives and preservatives that could be messing with your hormones, robbing your body of needed nutrients, or causing you to be addicted to certain foods. Take a break from sugar, refined carbs, and alcohol, as well to starve the bad bacteria and get your body back on track.

2. Daily Movement. We were meant to move! Make daily movement a part of your everyday routine. Unlike previous dieting myths, you do not have to follow the old “no pain, no gain” mentality. You cannot out train a poor diet so no amount of pushing yourself in the gym will give you permission to binge. Instead, look to exercise as support for your brain health, releasing endorphins, relieving stress, and boosting cognitive function. And for heart health, you don’t have to put in an hour at the gym each day. Even a regular routine of brisk walking can have terrific cardiovascular benefits. If you’re short on time and want to take your workout to the next level, try a 7-minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout that you can do anywhere.

3. Positive Thinking. We are what we think. Take that in for a moment. We are, what we think. If you think you don’t have time to cook your own meals or get in exercise, guess what? You’re right. You must adopt healthy thought patterns to drive your behaviors. So, here’s what I want you to do… start catching your negative thoughts and immediately state it into a positive thought. For example, if you catch yourself saying, “Ugh, I hate exercising,” immediately restate it saying, “I absolutely love and look forward to daily movement.” You don’t have to believe it at first. BUT, I want you to attach an emotion to that new thought. Ask yourself how you would feel if you did believe it. Then repeat this practice and watch things start to shift like magic. Just try it for a week, catching yourself each time, restating it into a positive and attaching the good emotions to it. You’re creating a new neural pathway for your brain to follow and your desire and actions will follow!

Community4. Community Connection. Did you know that you’re three times more likely to reach your goals when you’re connected with a like-minded community? Harness this time of year, and find your tribe. Connect with people who you can gain and give motivation and inspiration to, as well as navigate challenges together. This is a powerful force to move you beyond the weight loss.

As you think about the New Year and your intentions for change, know this – you can reach the goals you desire. This is an incredibly powerful time to take the leap and harness the energy around you for change.

If you’re feeling unsure where to start or need an extra boost of support, you can join the next session of 30 Days to Thriving and get everything you need to start your journey of transformation off right.

 

Christa King, CEO & Founder of FitlandiaChrista King is the CEO & Founder of Fitlandia. You can learn more about Christa and 30 Days to Thriving via her website Fitlandia.

 

 

Please, share with us your ideas, revelations, and plans for your New Year’s Revolution!

Boost Your Mood This Winter

Tracking MoodAs the weather begins to change and the day turns to night earlier and earlier, many of us feel the effects of winter on both our mood and bodies. Here are a few things that I do each week to make myself feel refreshed and chill.

MusicListen to your favorite song.
We all have that one song that instantly makes us want to get up and dance, or even just gets a cheesy grin going. Take a few minutes to re-energize and throw on your favorite tunes.

ShowerTaking a hot bath or shower.
Indulging in an extra long shower or steaming hot bath can help our blood begin to circulate better, making you feel more energized and ready to take on anything. Not to mention the steam will provide your skin with much appreciated spa-like treatment.

1. ExerciseGet moving.
Even just a single set of jumping jacks can leave you with more energy. Walk up and down the stairs at work a few times, do lunges across the hall or take 5 minutes of your lunch to power walk around the block.

InspirationSurround yourself with things that inspire you.
Add plants or vibrant pieces of art to your workspace, glancing at these items a few times a day can remind you of the things that make your heart full.

Meditate.
Take 5 minutes each morning to breath, smile without reason, and say a short mantra that directly reflects your intentions for the day.  

VolunteerVolunteer.
Take a few hours each month to donate your time to your community. Food banks, local YMCA clubs, libraries or soup kitchens are all places that accept and welcome help from those in their community.

Finding Slumber

In my previous post about the importance of sleep, I encouraged you to keep track of how much sleep you are getting. I have been using my activity monitor to track my sleep for the past couple months. I am able to see how many hours of sleep I average per night. When I get less sleep, it’s usually because I get in bed late. Holidays and vacations can disturb daily routines, such as bedtimes. Missing out on a party or other holiday event may not seem appealing, but sometimes we have to make compromises with ourselves. Consider leaving an hour earlier than you would normally, or taking a nap beforehand.

Even if we can get in bed at a decent hour, many people suffer from occasional or chronic insomnia. From as far back as I can remember, I have usually had difficulty falling asleep. I know others who find it hard to stay asleep. A few simple lifestyle adjustments could be the solution. Here are a few tips I have found useful if you are looking to improve your sleep hygiene.  

Watch What You Drink and Eat
Caffeine is effective in keeping you alert in the morning, but it will interrupt the flow of melatonin, the well-known sleep-inducing hormone. If you are feeling sleepy in the afternoon, try getting up and moving around, or eating a healthy snack, like fruit or nuts. Also, sugary junk foods can interfere with sleep. If you are craving a snack before bed, try carb-rich foods that promote sleep, which include yogurt and fruit.

Exercise
Better sleep quality is just one of the many benefits of exercise. The body’s temperature drops after exercise, which promotes sleep. Also, exercise can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms that can trigger insomnia. However, avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime. Instead, consider movement that promotes relaxation, such as yoga and simple stretching.

Power Off Electronics
The light from your computer or smartphone screen can delay the release of melatonin, inhibiting sleep. Computer and TV time can also be stimulating activities. Consider downloading a bluelight filter app on your devices and turning them off an hour before bed. Try performing an activity that you find relaxing, such as reading or journaling, and you will be preparing your mind and body for bed.

Sleep-promoting Environment
Create an environment where your body and mind can wind down. Keep your bedroom dark and cool. While many people prefer quiet, there are others who sleep best when listening to calming music or soundtracks. You can also try aromatherapy. Lavender and chamomile are two sleep-promoting scents. Finally, invest in a comfortable mattress. Your sleep is worth it!  

 

Of course, everyone’s body is different; so you may not experience results with all of them, but I encourage you to test any of these techniques. You can make notes in your sleep log and track how your body responds to any adjustments you make. In my case, I find that lavender essential oil in the diffuser and on the bottoms of my feet help me relax before bed.  

Prioritizing your sleep is prioritizing your overall health. As we get deeper into the cold and flu season, our bodies will need to be as strong as they can to defend against illness. Also, sleep and mood are closely connected. With more gloomy, cold weather in the forecast for many of us and the stress of the holidays, getting enough sleep can help enhance our emotional well-being and deter anxiety or depression. Why wait? Try getting good sleep tonight. Your body and mind will thank you!

Holiday Food Hacks

Cooking TogetherAs the holiday season gets fired up, so does baking, gifting and the sharing of delicious food. I’ve always been a fan of finding healthy swaps for baking and cooking, and have completely wowed my biggest food critics (aka my vegan sister and other carnivorous family members). There’s nothing quite like taking a classic recipe and making it even better and healthier by making a few quick easy ingredient swaps.

I think the biggest challenge when it comes to holidays are avoiding all of the sweets that seem to pop up everywhere. I’m a firm believer in moderation and therefore do not steer myself away from the array of holiday goodies that cross my path. However, when I go to make a baked good that will be shared, I turn to vegan treats. Most people are blown away by the simplicity of ingredients (and also effort) most of these recipes have. Below is a list of my favorite recipes for you to try out next time you try your hand at baking. There are also tons of fun vegan recipes on Pinterest.

• Quick and easy, One Bowl Chocolate Zucchini Bread 
• Check out these simple, Vegan Coconut Macaroons
• Pumpkin fans, here’s a recipe for Pumpkin Cookies

I will admit, I’ve had my fair share of vegan baking fails. Part of the fun of vegan baking is adapting ingredients depending on the type of recipe you are following. The biggest subs are for eggs, butter, oil and milk or cream. My favorite swap is unsweetened applesauce for oil (1:1 ratio). This works especially well in cakes and brownies. Eggs can be replaced by whipping up a flax egg, or chia seeds (learn how here).

Making your shopping listHere a few more ideas you can try out for a healthy alternative to everyday ingredients.

  • Sour Cream → Greek Yogurt
  • Pasta → Zucchini Noodles  
  • Milk Chocolate →  Dark Chocolate
  • Heavy Cream →  Coconut Milk
  • White Flour → Nut Flours (almond, chestnut…)
  • Cheese →  Nutritional Yeast
  • Milk → Almond, Hemp or Coconut Milks
  • White rice → Quinoa
  • Mayo →  Avocado
  • Sugar → Agave, Pure Maple Syrup, Vanilla Extract

Perks of Caffeine

Cup of Coffee

As I sit here in my favorite coffee shop, sipping a cup of hot holiday brew, I got inspired to write a quick article about my favorite beverage, coffee. There’s nothing quite like sitting on a quiet porch in the waking hours of the morning, sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I love starting out my morning with this ritual, and studies show that just about 83% of all adult Americans do too. If you find yourself in that percentage, you may be wondering how a daily dose of caffeine affects your mind and body.

Here is a quick list of the benefits you may be getting from that cup of morning brew.

1. It can help you burn fat. Pretty much every over the counter “fat burner” supplement and pre-workout supplement contains caffeine and for a good reason. Due to its stimulant status, caffeine jumpstarts your metabolism and creates quicker oxidation of fatty acids (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

2. It helps protect your liver. Studies found that a few cups of coffee daily can help reduce the risk of liver cancer by 40% (Science Direct).

3. Coffee contains loads of antioxidants and nutrients. Now we aren’t talking about white chocolate mochas here, strictly black coffee. Surprisingly, coffee has more antioxidants than any fruit or veggie in the American diet (Healthline).

4. Coffee improves memory. Much like its fat burning properties, caffeine helps improve mental acuity (National Center for Biotechnology Information).

5. It makes us happy. This is my favorite reason. Like most psychoactive brains stimulants, it boosts our mood. I couldn’t forget to mention that it’s delicious as well!

Be Social For Your Health

When I visit my family back in California, my sister and I always try to go out for at least one walk together. Sometimes our lives can get so hectic we need time to catch up and share what we are each excited, worried, or just thinking about. We escape from our busy lives and return to the times when we lived together and could go for walks several times a week. We would treat our walks like appointments. “What time are we going to go for a walk?” I would ask her. After I moved away, we kept walking together, but talking through our phones. My gift to her before I left was a pair of headphones for this purpose.

When it comes to creating healthy lifestyles, we do not have to do it alone. Our relationships can give us confidence and motivation to create an active lifestyle. The best way to gain support for your new fitness goals is to let others know your goals and also to encourage others to be more active with you. Friends help keep you accountable to yourself. Trying a new gym class, like yoga or Pilates, can be intimidating, but it can be easier if you go with a friend. A hike or walk is a fun and easy hangout. Why not ask a coworker to go for a walk to a coffee shop a couple of blocks away, instead of the one in your building? Do you know someone who goes swimming regularly? Ask if you can join them. You can also invite friends over for a low-key workout/dance party. There are so many opportunities to get moving with others.

Having a walking or exercise buddy will not only help you reach your fitness goals, but it will also strengthen your relationships. Relationships are built on shared experience. When you work out or go for a hike with your spouse or friends, you are strengthening your physical health and emotional connections. Emotional connection allows us to build trust and grow in our relationships. Our social relationships can be a great help in building an active culture of wellness where we all can thrive. The key is to take the initiative and seek out social interactions that promote physical activity.

Your challenge for the week: Ask someone to join you on a walk or any other type of physical activity. Who have you not talked with in a while? Who would you like to get to know better? Who do you want to enlist as your next fitness ally?

 

Quinoa for Lunch!

Quick, Easy and Healthy Quinoa Recipes

Cooking with Quinoa

By doing a quick search on the web, you can find millions of awesome ways to prepare your food for the busy week ahead, all the while saving money and staying healthy. I love being able to sleep in for an extra 20 minutes each morning knowing that lunch is already made and ready to go for the day. One of my all time favorite, nutrient packed lunch staples is quinoa. It is extremely versatile, you can cook it up in a huge batch, and it packs good amounts of fiber as well as protein. Try prepping a few of these recipes on Sunday to kick start your week!

Quinoa SalmonSalmon, Quinoa and Cucumber Bowls
For this meal, I typically make three days’ worth at a time. Its very simple, and only requires two cups cooked quinoa, 3 pieces of pan seared salmon, a cup sliced and halved cucumbers with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and splash of rice vinegar. I equally distribute the reviewed ingredients into 3 to go containers, and store in the fridge until I’m ready to run for the day.

Mexican QuinoaMexican Quinoa Salad
This meal is great along side slow cookers chicken, made by adding 2 chicken breasts and a 12oz jar of salsa into a slow cooker for 8 hours. Cooking chicken this way basically guarantees restaurant quality shreds without the added sodium. Combine your chicken (or any choice of protein) with three cups of cooked quinoa, a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), half a cup of corn, sautéed mushrooms, peppers, onions, or any veggies of your choice. Mix in 2-3 tablespoons of taco seasoning, and top with avocado when ready to eat

Quinoa SaladFeta and Quinoa Greek Style Salad
The combination of cucumber and feta always reminds me of summer with its fresh and appealing flavors. For this meal, combine three cups quinoa, a can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed), one cucumber sliced and halved, one tomato diced, half cup of feta cheese, and a quick dressing consisting of olive oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning and pepper to taste.

I hope you found inspiration within this post to switch up your daily lunch routine. As always, these are simply suggestions, and I hope that you can add your own flair to them as well! Lets us know what other ways you stay healthy during lunch hour!

Keep Hydrated

Drink More WaterRemembering to drink enough water throughout the day can be difficult when life gets busy. However 60%, of our body is made up of water, and we need to remain fully hydrated throughout the day to keep all bodily functions working properly. Daily water consumption should be around 2 liters, or 8, 8oz glasses, but there are many factors that may alter consumption recommendations such as gender, weight, activity level and climate. Here are a few ways to keep your body properly hydrated. 

Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Keep a glass by your bed, or leave a water bottle on your nightstand to serve as a reminder first thing to start your day.

Try creating infused water or ice. Use any combination of lemon, cucumber, strawberries, blueberries, chia seeds, orange, fresh rosemary, mint or basil to craft a lightly flavored water. Infused water is a great substitution for drinks that have higher sugar content such as soda or juice. Simply add to your water bottle, or make a batch in a pitcher to enjoy all day. Here are some combinations to try: Lemon and strawberry, basil and strawberry, mint and lime, cucumber and lemon. You can also create flavored ice cubes with these ingredients as well. Just add desired ingredients to ice tray with water before freezing.

Carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times. By simply having water with you, you will drink more.  

Use a water tracking app. There are many apps to help you keep track of how much water you have consumed each day. Having a bit of accountability can help you stay motivated and remind you to drink enough water. Try using the water tracking feature on the Walker Tracker app, My Water Balance, iHydrate, Water Reminder or Plant Nanny.

Include snacks in your day to boost water consumption without noticing. Most fruits and veggies serve as a supplemental way to consume more water. Celery, cucumber, cantaloupe, tomato, grapes, zucchini, strawberries and watermelon are all great options.