How to Create the Perfect Zen Area for Your Morning Routine

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I’ve never been one of those people who jumps out of bed in the morning eager to start the day. In fact, no matter how much sleep I’ve gotten the night before, I’ve always been a snooze button addict, which means constantly rushing, missing breakfast and showing up late to work meetings or brunch dates with friends.

Because I’m constantly striving for self-improvement, I decided I needed to change this bad habit once and for all. Contrary to the popular belief that it takes 21 days to form a habit, studies show that it takes 66 days to form a habit—which was pretty daunting for me. I decided to make my morning routine as streamlined and stress-free as possible; that way I’d be setting myself up to for success, and just maybe I could become a morning person. Here’s how I did it.

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First, I started meditating—but probably not in the way you’d expect.

For me, the problem (and the bonus) of meditation is that it relaxes me to the point of sleepiness, which is why I don’t normally attempt it in the morning. A personal trainer friend of mine told me how she likes to “meditate in motion,” which is a type of meditation that runners enjoy, too. Meditation requires intense focus to clear your mind, and exercise is a great time to work on it.

I started getting up an hour earlier than usual to hit up local parks and trails with my pups. I ditched my usual headphones so that I could enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature, like the birds chirping and water running along creeks. Not only did this experience happily wear my dogs out, but I found myself starting my day with a big smile on my face and a strong sense of gratitude. 

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Second, I made breakfast—and all my meals—a priority.

I hate spending money (and calories) on quick-fix hunger solutions from a vending machine that add nothing in the way of fiber, protein or vitamins. That’s why I took the huge step of meal-prepping breakfast and lunch meals for the week on Sundays. It took a lot of work, scouring food blogs for recipes that weren’t too complicated for my novice cooking skills and that I’d actually want to eat for a week in a row. Having the appropriate containers was also something I hadn’t thought about, and I will admit that in that first week, my meal presentation was much more “creative use of tin-foil” than Martha Stewart!

None of the meals I prepared—from egg muffins loaded with veggies to warm quinoa with berries and just a little bit of maple syrup for breakfast—were very complicated, but they were delicious and healthy. It was the same for my lunchtime turkey taco bowls and Greek chicken with veggies. With a large workload and heavy deadlines at work, moving deadlines, it was a relief to not only have a plan for this area of my life but to know I was also taking care of myself health-wise and financially.

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Third, I ditched my morning news shows.

I like to be informed about current events, and my job requires me to be able to carry on conversations with people from all walks of life, so I had always started my day flipping between morning news shows. That can be really depressing though—I found that the excess of bad news left me feeling very unmotivated.

If you are a TV news junkie like I was, try switching to a print or digital subscription of an outlet you enjoy, and limit yourself to reading it only on your lunch break. Without the scrolling banner of tragedy, menacing music and “breaking news” graphics you may be able to achieve a little bit more balance—seeing the good in the world, the things we can celebrate, and the areas where we need to improve. For a more positive morning routine, I switched to listening to my favorite music (I dare you to listen to Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing” and still have the morning grumpies).  Use that newfound free time to call a loved one or write a letter- pen and paper, old school style- to a friend. Whatever you decide, just think about starting your day in a way that reminds you of what makes you happy. 

Lastly, before bed each night, I minimized clutter and any other potential distractions.

I used to be easily side-tracked in the morning. Dishes in the sink? “Sure, I can spare 10 minutes to load the dishwasher.” Dusty bookshelf? “Might as well do it now,” I’d say.

I always underestimated how long these tasks and decisions would take me, and so they contributed to me running late and starting my day very flustered. Now, before I go to bed, I do a quick sweep of my apartment, folding up blankets on the couch, wiping off kitchen counters and even making sure there is a bag in the trash can. I also pick out my outfit for the next day—and, not to brag, but sometimes I do it for the whole week! This has saved so much time and even provided me with a confidence boost about my appearance when I head to work. After this Zen experiment, I may still not be a morning person, but I enjoy my de-stressed mornings more than ever. 

How do you create your perfect zen in the morning?

Danielle Hegedus is an Atlanta-based writer. She is a regular contributor to Modernize, as well as a variety of lifestyle and home design websites. Danielle recently finished her first cookbook, in collaboration with Chef, Kamal Grant for Atlanta’s beloved, Sublime Doughnuts.

Unboxing SimpleMD Mediterranean Protein Bars

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Red wine and delicious olive oil are 2 key ingredients to this Mediterranean diet-friendly snack bar. If that sounds as amazing to you as it does to us, then you need to hear about SimpleMD’s protein bars that were inspired and created by a leading cardiologist.

First, we should probably get into a little about what the Mediterranean diet actually is – unfortunately, it’s not all red wine and delicious carbonaras. According to the Mayo Clinic the Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that is based on the typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking. This includes olive oil, fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains and of course, tasty red wine in moderation. While this sounds like common sense dieting, it’s actually in the portioning of these types of foods that makes the difference in the Mediterranean Diet. By replacing butter with healthier fats like olive oil, and swapping red meat for more fish, you increase your intake of Omega-3 and healthy fatty acids. Combining these swaps with primarily plant-based foods can actually help reduce the risk of heart disease and help lower LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol!

Eating well is hard. Especially if you’re like us and live a lifestyle that involves work, family, friends and finding time for yourself. This fast-paced lifestyle often leads to unhealthy snacking which unravels all the hard work we’ve put in with our healthier meal choices. SimpleMD Original Mediterranean Bars has been our secret snack, helping to keep us on track; and they seriously taste like a dessert. What’s great about these protein bars and separates them from the rest is that each bar is only 130 – 140 calories and contains both extra virgin olive oil and red wine! So you get the antioxidant and flavanol benefits in a delicious snack.

SimpleMD combines these classic Mediterranean diet ingredients with chocolate, almonds, coffee, or dates to make this a guilt-free treat so you don’t ever have to sacrifice taste for nutrition. Check out SimpleMD’s full line of Original Mediterranean Protein Bars here.

Have you tried the Mediterranean Diet and lifestyle?

Recipe: Healthy Breakfasts

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via The Creative Bite

1.Protein Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 large, ripe banana 
  • ⅛ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  • In two clean bowls, separate the eggs carefully so none of the yolks gets into the egg whites. Beat the egg whites on high for 2 minutes until they form soft peaks. 
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the egg yolks and beat until smooth. Gently fold ⅓ of the egg white mixture into the banana mixture until roughly combined. Fold half of the remaining eggs whites into the mixture and finally the last portion until everything is well combined.
  • Scoop ¼ c. of the mixture onto the skillet and cook for 60-90 seconds on each side.
  • Serve!
  • OPTIONAL: Top with fresh fruit, plain non-fat Greek yogurt or honey.

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via Fueling a Fit Fam

2. Homemade breakfast bars

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¾ cup mashed ripe banana (2 ripe)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish. 
  • Stir the oats, whole wheat flour, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.
  • Whisk in the honey, mashed banana, oil and vanilla. Whisk in the egg.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and stir until well combined. Stir in the mini chocolate chips or blueberries. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Lay a piece of parchment on top (to prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands) and firmly press the mixture down into the pan; remove and discard the piece of parchment.
  • Bake in the oven for 32-35 minutes, until set and lightly golden. Let cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting into bars.
  • Store granola bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

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via Dessert Now Dinner Later

3. Green Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup soy or almond milk
  • 1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 generous handful of spinach (about 1 cup, packed)
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
  • 1 frozen banana

Directions:

  • Put all ingredients into blender 
  • Blend until smooth
  • Enjoy!

 

Healthy City of the Month: Austin

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If you have friends who live in Austin, you may envy their unparalleled access to live music and delicious tacos, but SHAPE magazine also reports that Austin’s young, highly active community experiences some of the lowest rates of chronic diseases like asthma, heart disease and diabetes in the country. This is perhaps unsurprising for the city that launched Whole Foods and has such an array of delicious healthy restaurants that even meat-eaters find themselves craving the barbecued tempeh!

This embodies the spirit of us here at Modernize, as well as our city altogether. We’re proud of our healthy and environmentally friendly way of living, but we also love indulging in all the fun and food of the Lone Star state capital. Here’s some of the best our city has to offer—from healthy restaurants to beautiful landscapes that will make you look forward to getting active.via Eater Austin 

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Photo via Eater Austin 

Where to Eat: Austin is full of delicious restaurants, and locals are happy to make recommendations. If making smart food choices is important to you, these spots take healthy options to the next level on the tasty scale!

  • Cenote: The coffee and patio alone would make Cenote a local favorite, but the locally sourced ingredients that go into the Southwest Caesar (can all caesar salads include pico, please?) or the GoBeet (which has single-handedly changed my life-long no-beet policy) truly seal the deal!
  • Koriente: This Korean restaurant proudly proclaims that you won’t find a microwave or a fryer in their kitchen. You’ll also find minimal sugar, oil, and salt in their food and absolutely no MSG. Prices are so reasonable, you can splurge on some edamame and miso soup to complement your entree.
  • Baby Greens: In a hurry and looking for a quick bite before a show? A drive-through can be a time-saver but skip the greasy hamburger and fries. Baby Greens serves tasty salads and wraps that fill you up! Pack on the protein with grilled chicken, tofu, and walnuts. I personally love adding avocado to everything.

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Enjoy the Outdoors: According to the Austin Parks and Recreation Departments 2016 Annual Report, residents of Austin enjoy:

  • 300 parks—including 12 dog parks and 147 playgrounds
  • 227 miles of trails
  • 20,254 acres of green space
  • 35 swimming pools
  • 26 recreation and senior centers, including numerous tennis and basketball courts baseball fields and golf courses

Explore Austin’s Iconic Zilker Park

Zilker Park is a great place to get active, or just find a shady spot to take a nap—we won’t judge! The park sits on 350 acres of lush green. It boasts plenty of walking trails to explore, Barton Springs pool—the perfect place for a dip on a hot summer day, whimsical gardens to fuel the imagination, and the chance to discover Austin’s unique culture at one of its epic festivals. Zilker Park is a mainstay in the life of Austinites with hundreds of activities for every member of the family to enjoy (pups included)!

During your next visit to Zilker Park, check out the entrance to the newly opened first 6 miles of the Violet Crown Trail. When construction is complete, this 30-mile trail will be the longest of its kind in Central Texas. Follow the trail to see some of the most stunning views of Barton Creek, Campbell’s Hole, and The Flats.

What are some of your favorite healthy spots and activities in Austin?

Danielle Hegedus is a freelance writer who loves spending time in Austin, TX with friends. A day in Zilker Park, shopping on South Congress, and going to Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza are some of her favorite activities.

Kombucha- Should You Be Drinking It?

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Maybe you’ve heard of Kombucha from your yoga-obsessed friend or you’ve seen it on the shelf at Whole Foods. But do you know what it is? Or the benefits of drinking it? Kombucha is more than a trend, it’s been around for two thousand years. Researchers believe it started in the Far East, maybe China.

Kombucha has become popular in the U.S. because of its health benefits. Kombucha drinkers claim these benefits include aiding in digestion, sleep, weight loss and detoxification; stimulates the immune system, prevents cancer, stops hair loss and improves liver function.

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