Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup

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Tortellini is NOT a typo in the recipe title. I have an easy Vegan Tortilla Soup that you can check out HERE. This delicious recipe is a mashup of Mexican and Italian cuisines to create a uniquely flavorful dish.

My daughter Adriel shared the original recipe with me and I successfully “veganized” it to create a yummy, satisfying soup that’s free of dairy products and meat.

Try out Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup this week. Trust me, you’ll want to make it again.

Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup title

Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup

I LOVE soup. Although I especially enjoy a bowl of hot soup during fall and winter, I’ll make up a pot of soup any time during the year. I like having the leftovers in the fridge for a quick meal. And most soups continue to blend flavors after they cook so they taste even better after a day or two.

Because of my fondness for soup, I’m always looking for new recipes to try. When my daughter and son in law told me about a recipe they tried and gave it high marks for ease of preparation and flavor, I knew I wanted to try a vegan version.

This soup simmers in a slow cooker, making it very easy to prepare. Plus, you get the benefit of the incredible aroma wafting through the house as it cooks.

Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup recipe

Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup

Savor the blended flavors of the Mexican soup with an Italian twist
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine Italian, Mexican
Servings 8

Equipment

  • 1 Slow Cooker

Ingredients
  

  • 2 12 oz pkgs Impossible Ground "Beef"
  • 2 10 oz cans Diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
  • 1 32 oz Veggie broth
  • 2 10.5 oz cans Tomato soup, condensed
  • 1 15 oz can Non GMO corn, drained
  • 1 15 oz can Black beans, drained
  • 1 1 oz pkg Taco seasoning
  • 1 8 oz pkg Vegan cream cheese with chives, softened
  • 1 18 pkg Refrigerated vegan cheese tortellini, uncooked

Instructions
 

  • In a non stick skillet, brown Impossible ground "beef" until it is no longer pink. Add taco seasoning and diced tomatoes with green chilies. Cook over medium heat for five minutes. Transfer mixture to slow cooker.
  • Add veggie broth, tomato soup, corn and black beans to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW heat for 4 hours.
  • Stir soup and then gently stir in vegan cream cheese with chives and vegan cheese tortellini. Cover and continue cooking on LOW heat for one to two hours. Check soup after an hour to see if tortellini is heated through.
    Makes approximately 8 servings.
Keyword Italian, Mexican, Soup, Vegan

 

Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup in slow cooker
Vegan Mexican Tortellini soup in slow cooker.

Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup Tips

I appreciate how quickly this soup comes together. Once it is in the slow cooker, I can focus on other things.

I use a high quality non stick pan to brown Impossible ground “beef”. It doesn’t contain fats so it can stick easily. I thaw out the packages, if purchased frozen, and crumble and brown just like regular ground beef.

You can make your own veggie broth or purchase it.

Use Rotel brand diced tomatoes with green chilies or your favorite alternative. Don’t drain.

For the vegan cream cheese and cheese tortellini, I purchased the Kite brand. It’s made from almond milk. I found both at my local Natural Grocers. The cheese tortellini was in the frozen food section. I purchased two 9 ounce packages and allowed them to thaw in the refrigerator before using.

Use your favorite brand of condensed tomato soup. Don’t add water. Just add the contents of the cans to the slow cooker.

When I made the soup, the tortellini was perfectly cooked through in an hour, making a total cook time of five hours.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator. The soup was even more delicious the next day.

Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup ready to eat
Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup – ready to eat

The Taste Test

This soup is amazing! The combination of tomato soup with a hint of spiciness and the vegan cheese tortellini is so delicious and satisfying. The added vegan cream cheese with chives makes it extra creamy.

Greg loved this soup too, as did my mother. I took her a container of the soup to try. We all agreed, it’s a keeper recipe! And it’s so easy to prepare.

I’ll be making Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup often!

Does this sound like a soup you’d enjoy?

Vegan Mexican Tortellini Soup in bowl

 

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Walk in Sunshine

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I’ve mentioned before that days and days of cloudy gray skies have a negative effect on me. Those symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder? I get those during the winter.

After an abundance of overcast skies this month and days of freezing cold, I was ready to get out of the house when the sun shone brightly today and temps reached the low 60s. I knew exactly how to beat the winter blues and boost my health at the same time.

This is walk number 26, Walk in Sunshine.

Walk in Sunshine title

Discovering Healthy Sun Practices

We owe cats our gratitude. Thanks to a cat that Danish scientist Niels Ryberg Finsen observed, sunlight became recognized as a source for healing.

Finsen suffered from a metabolic illness that would eventually end his life at age 44. However, 20 years before that, as a young medical student, he noticed that cats tend to gravitate to sunny locations. His observations led him to experiment on himself with the sun’s rays. Finsen concluded that sunlight has a useful effect on health.

Finsen won the 1903 Nobel Prize for his light therapy work. As his studies spread, 36 heliotherapy centers, also called sunbathing clinics, sprang up in the Swiss Alps. Patients exposed to sunlight often experienced encouraging results.

Today we tend to avoid sunlight, for good reason. Too much time in the sun isn’t good for us. However, up to 70% of the population is deficient in sunlight’s best known by-product, vitamin D. And scientists now know that isn’t the only benefit from limited sun exposure.

Walk in Sunshine sculpture garden
A place to walk in sunshine, the sculpture garden at Mercy Park.

Vitamin D

Although it’s only one of the benefits of sun exposure, let’s start with how important vitamin D is.

This essential vitamin is created when ultra violet light in sunlight touches the skin. The manufactured vitamin D travels to the liver and then the kidneys before becoming a hormone called calcidiol. This hormone regulates levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body, mineralizes bones and helps with the assimilation of vitamin A. However, calcidol has a relatively short life span in the body so we need frequent “doses” of sunlight to maintain adequate levels. Scientists recommend three to thirty minutes of sunlight a day, depending on skin sensitivity.

We learned during the recent COVID pandemic that vitamin D is crucial to the immune system. The immune system fights off pathogens by creating antibodies and also protects against everyday exposure to germs and viruses. The stronger the immune system, the better the body can resist illnesses during the winter months.

Additional Benefits of Sunlight

But there is more!

Heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, several types of cancers, depression, dementia and multiple autoimmune disorders are linked to low levels of vitamin D AND lack of sufficient sunlight. A 20 year study of 30,000 Swedish women identified a significantly higher death rate for those who avoided the sun.

It is now believed that sunlight activates T cells beneath the surface of the skin. These defender cells move into the blood, circulating throughout the body, boosting health.

Sunlight also plays a vital role in producing melatonin which helps us to sleep well and wake refreshed.

And sunshine triggers the feel good hormone serotonin. That’s another reason why we feel so good when we are outdoors in sunlight.

Walk in Sunshine - Mercy Park
Walk in Sunshine – Mercy Park. The pond still has a thin layer of ice on it.

Walk in Sunshine Tips

To benefit most from the benefits of sunlight, take a short walk whenever the sun shines, with sleeves rolled up and skin free from sunscreen.

Wear sunglasses or a wide brimmed hat to shield eyes from too much light.

Avoid sunburn by covering back up after 10 to 30 minutes, depending on skin type and sensitivity. Out walking, set a timer. When it goes off pull sleeves back down, cover up with a lightweight shirt or jacket and/or apply sunscreen.

Avoid highly polluted areas. Air pollution significantly reduces the amount of UVB and weakens the formation of vitamin D.

Morning sunlight helps to set circadian rhythms and improves sleep at night.

If your skin isn’t used to direct sunlight, build up exposure slowly. Start with five minutes and work up to 10 to 15 minutes.

If you are concerned about not wearing sunscreen, apply a mineral sunscreen that protects from UV rays without hindering the production of vitamin D.

My Walk in Sunshine

I felt an immediate boost in mood today when I woke to sunlight streaming in through the window. In the late afternoon, I drove to my favorite walking location, Mercy Park. Temperatures hovered around 62 degrees.

Carrying my metal water container and pushing my shirtsleeves up, I walked around the park for about 20 minutes, savoring the feel of sunlight on my face and arms. It felt SO GOOD to walk in sunshine. Apparently others thought so too. Dozens of people walked the path around the pond.

Health Boost

I needed that walk in sunshine today, as much as I needed nutritious food. I’ll be watching the weather forecast as we move into a new month and taking advantage of all the sunshine filled days.

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, then 52 Ways to Walk is for you!

The activities in the book are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And Walk with a Map at this LINK.

Are you getting outside on sunny days and boosting your health?

Walk in Sunshine rays on my face.

 

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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

Lentil Potato Stew

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I enjoy soup year around. However, I especially appreciate it during soup season…the winter months when temperatures drop and the days are short.

I’m also always looking for a new soup recipe. I tried this one recently, Lentil Potato Stew, and declared it a success. This simple recipe is adapted from one I saw online. With a few changes I made it vegan, gluten free and perfect for those on the Blue Zones lifestyle.

Lentil Potato Soup title

Making Lentil Potato Stew

This recipe uses readily available ingredients. You probably have everything needed in your pantry. And it comes together in minutes. Because lentils and potatoes cook quickly, you can have this delicious stew on the table in about 45 minutes.

Lentil Potato Stew bowlful

Lentil Potato Stew

Hearty stew that comes together in minutes.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 6 Servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 large potatoes, diced
  • 16 oz dry red lentils, washed and drained
  • 1 cup kale, washed and stemmed May substitute baby spinach
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 32 oz vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water

Instructions
 

  • Heat olive oil in large soup pot, over medium high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute until veggies are soft.
  • Add lentils, potatoes, kale, turmeric and black pepper. Stir to coat lentils and potatoes in oil.
  • Add tomatoes, broth and water. Bring to a boil, cover pot and reduce heat. Simmer 20 - 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add salt and additional black pepper, if desired. Makes approximately 6 servings.
Keyword Potatoes, Red Lentils

 

Lentil Potato Stew ready to eat
Lentil Potato Stew simmering

Lentil Potato Stew Tips

This stew is easily adaptable. Switch red lentil for brown. Remove the greens or substitute baby spinach for kale. Fresh greens or frozen work equally well.

Decrease or increase turmeric, as desired. Make your own vegetable broth or purchase ready to use. And you could add chopped squash if desired.

I use a mini vegetable chopper to quickly create diced veggies. This one HERE is similar. And I own a set of three stainless steel soup pots. I used the middle one for this recipe.

Lentil Potato Stew spoonful
Lentil Potato Stew – ladling it up

The Taste Test

Greg and I tried this recipe for dinner and found it full of flavor, satisfying and filling. I like using lentils for protein and pairing lentils with potatoes so I really enjoyed this stew. I also shared the stew with my mother and she liked it as well.

I’ll definitely serve this stew again. It’s easy to make, uses simple ingredients and I love that it’s perfect for my plant based, Blue Zones lifestyle.

Do you love soup during the winter months? Give this nourishing stew a try!

Lentil Potato Stew bowlful
Lentil Potato Stew – bowl full of goodness

 

Other lentil recipes you might like:

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Madras Curried Lentils

Lentils & Brown Rice

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Walk With a Map

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Whenever I travel, I browse through my fun book, 52 Ways to Walk, to see if I can find one that works with my trip. So far, I always have.

On my recent trip to Savannah, Georgia, I selected number 24, Walk With a Map. With my illustrated map of historical downtown Savannah packed in my carry on, I looked forward to carrying out this activity.

Check out why using a map in an unfamiliar area is actually beneficial!

Walk with a Map title

Imagining a Place

In her book, author Annabel Streets tells the story of a young woman who finds herself homeless in Paris in 1924, after her brother disappears. Phyllis Pearsall quickly learns how to navigate the city, even though the only map she possesses is one she memorized. Covered with newspapers at night, camped under a bridge, Phyllis pulls up that mental map and practices finding her way around Paris.

As she explores, she learns landmarks and comes to recognize what time of  day it is by the scents she sniffs in the air. Baking bread and hot chocolate mean it is still morning. Chicken and galettes signal midday. And frying fish, garlic and meat cooking mean evening has arrived.

Phyllis eventually becomes one of the most successful mapmakers in the world. She creates the first A – Z map of London and then the Geographer’s A – Z Map Company.

She is a testament to what neuroscientists have now learned: every walk is an opportunity to grow the brain.

Walk with a Map study
Walk with a Map – studying mine every evening at the hotel.

How Walking With a Map Boosts the Brain

Neuroscientists suggest that the hippocampus, the part of the brain used for navigation, grows as we use it and shrinks in size when we don’t.

Studies of London cabdrivers, who must learn to navigate that huge city, have oversized hippocampi, due to their skills in finding their way through London.

Sadly, technology today takes away our ability to navigate by landmarks or maps. It’s too easy to pull up GPS to find our way to an unfamiliar destination.

Our reliance on technology is shrinking essential parts of our brains, making us more prone to dementia. How can we keep our brains more healthy?

Walk with a map. The hippocampus stores place memories. In a new location, we begin to create spatial memories that are stored in special cells. We create a brand new mental map as we walk and gather information.

Additionally, researchers found that the region of the brain responsible for spatial navigation also plays a part in prediction, imagination and creativity. It also helps with social navigation and building relationships.

Walk with a map landmarks
Walk with a map – landmarks such as City Hall in Savannah helped me build my mental map of the city.

Tips for Walking with a Map

In a new to you location, start with a general idea of your destination, without setting a time limit on getting there. Cities are good because they offer multiple ways to get to a place.

Study the map of the area before beginning the walk. Note the direction you’ll travel and try to stay away from overly busy highways or freeways.

As you walk, identify landmarks such as tall buildings, large trees, church steeples and anything that catches your attention because of interests you have. Using landmarks to navigate is known as landmark-based piloting.

And finally, use your senses. What do you hear as you walk? A chiming clock in a tower is good or the smell of bread baking in the corner bakery. Refer to your map to mark where those sounds or smells are and let those places serve as locational markers.

Pause as needed to get your bearings. Sit in a park, and remember that park as a marker. Study the map. Resist the urge to pull up GPS.

Once you find your destination, congratulate yourself! Well done. Now….see if you can find your way back to your hotel…or to another destination in the city.

Walk with a Map presbyterian church
Walk with a Map – church steeples make excellent visual markers.

My Experience on my Walk with a Map

I love the illustrated maps from Karpovage Creative. I have one for Charleston and Savannah and I’ve used them in both cities. One of the reasons I appreciate them is because they have historical buildings and locations marked on the map. That helps me find those visual markers more easily.

Every evening, I studied my map and made notes about what I wanted to explore the next day. It became a nightly ritual that I enjoyed as I sipped a cup of hot tea.

One of my planned activities was to find all 22 squares in Savannah’s historical district. They are laid out in a grid, so once you find one, you can figure out where the next one is.

However, more than once, I wandered away from the square I’d located. After realizing I had no idea exactly where I was, I’d pull out the map and study it to head in the right direction for the next square. I found them all.

The map also helped me get an idea of where the restaurants were that I wanted to try and how far the walk was to the meeting place for the ghost tour.

Walk with a Map pulaski square
One of the squares I located, Pulaski Square.

My Mental Map of Savannah

After spending five days in Savannah, and using my map as needed, I feel like I have a very good mental map of Savannah. Landmarks such as City Hall near River Street, Johnson Square, the Cathedral Basilica of St John and the Mercer House all became visual markers that helped me navigate. I knew I was headed in the direction of the river when I heard the barges or the cry of seagulls. And I could tell about what time it was by the trolleys going by and the delicious scents wafting from restaurants. I hope that means I came home with a bigger brain!

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, then 52 Ways to Walk is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And Take a 12 Minute Walk at this LINK.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And tell me. Do you enjoy walking with a map?

Walk with a Map mercer house
Walk with a Map – Mercer House

Interested in Savannah?

Check out these posts:

Vegan Eats in Savannah

Fun Things to Do in Savannah

Ghost Stories from Savannah

 

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Vegan Eats in Savannah

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For most travelers, enjoying the local cuisine is an important part of the travel experience. It is for me as well. However as one who lives a plant based lifestyle, I carefully research restaurants and cafes before I travel, for vegan options.

My research pays off. I travel with a list of possible eateries in the area.

Even southern cities like Charleston or Savannah, famous for comfort food, offer plant based options.

Check out these vegan eats in Savannah for your next trip to the city, if healthier eating is important to you.

Vegan Eats in Savannah title

Vegan Eats in Savannah

All of these restaurants are in Savannah’s historic district and very walkable if your accommodations are there as well. I stayed at Indigo Hotel and walked to all of these locations.

Most of these eateries are not specifically vegan, however they do offer vegan and vegetarian options.

Here are my top five favorites plus a list of other possible restaurants on my list.

Olympia Cafe

My first meal in Savannah took place at this restaurant near the river. Located only blocks from my hotel, it was perfect after a day of travel.

Located at 5 East River Street, Olympia is a cheerful Greek cafe serving authentic fare. Their food is prepared from scratch daily and they offer entrees such as Mousaka, Dolmades, Pastisio and Spanikopita.

They do offer a variety of healthier options as well. Browse the menu or ask your server for suggestions.

I enjoyed fries and a falafel wrap with fresh veggies, no cheese. It was delicious!

Vegan Eats in Savannah olympia cafe
Vegan Eats in Savannah – Olympia Cafe
Vegan Eats in Savannah olympia meal
Olympia Cafe falafel wrap with fries.

Kayak Kafe

This cafe at 1 E Broughton Street is a locally owned casual restaurant in the heart of the historic district. They specialize in freshly prepared salads, sandwiches, tacos and plant based cuisine.

Kayak Kafe serves locally sourced foods and use organic produce as much as possible. They also offer quality cocktails.

Whether you stop by for lunch, dinner or a drink, you’ll enjoy Kayak Kafe’s outdoor dining. The location is perfect for appreciating views of the city or people watching.

I love their vegan taco salad! It was so filling that I took half of it back to the refrigerator in my hotel room.

Vegan Eats in Savannah kayak kafe meal
Vegan Eats in Savannah – vegan taco salad at Kayak Kafe.

The Olde Pink House

I chose this restaurant, even though their healthier options are limited, because it’s one of the most famous in Savannah.

Located at 23 Abercorn Street, this restored Colonial mansion houses an elegant restaurant on the upper floors and a fun pub style tavern in the basement. The Olde Pink House serves up Southern cuisine and lots of charm. The wait staff is amazing and happy to share the history of the building, the oldest house in Savannah. Because of its popularity, you must make a reservation.

I made my reservation HERE before I traveled. Seated near a window in the spacious ballroom, I savored a vegan burger with avocado, served up with an order of crispy onions. After my meal, I toured the rest of the house, which is reportedly haunted, and the tavern in the basement, where, according to my server, most of the ghosts hang out! (Read Ghost Stories from Savannah!)

Vegan Eats in Savannah - the olde pink house
Vegan Eats in Savannah – The Olde Pink House
Vegan Eats in Savannah the olde pink house meal
The Olde Pink House vegan burger

b. matthew’s eatery

This classy, updated vintage space, at 325 E Bay Street, was a planned stopped for dinner, right before a scheduled evening ghost tour.

Their cozy interior offered a welcomed space to sit, after a full day of exploring, and eat a leisurely meal before my tour.

b. matthew’s eatery serves classic and new American fare for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner in the historic district near the river.

I ordered their vegan Summer Risotto, loaded with veggies. It was perfection!

Vegan Eats in Savannah b matthews eatery
Vegan Eats in Savannah – b. matthew’s eatery
Vegan Eats in Savannah b matthews eatery meal
b. matthew’s eatery vegan risotto.

Flying Monk Noodle Bar

My last full day in Savannah ended with a delicious dinner here at this Asian restaurant located at 5 W Broughton Street.

I LOVE noodles and Flying Monk did not disappoint.

Pho and other Asian noddle dishes are offered in this trendy storefront eatery with outdoor seating available as well.

I had the veggie Singapore Noodles, a gluten free and vegan meal. And I lingered over it because it was so good.

Vegan Eats in Savannah flying monk noodle bar
Vegan Eats in Savannah – Flying Monk Noodle Bar
Vegan Eats in Savannah flying monk meal
Noodles at Flying Monk.

Other Vegan Eats in Savannah

Here is a list of other restaurants in Savannah that offer healthier meal options:

Fox & Fig  321 Habersham Street

Naan on Broughton  114 E Broughton

Hungry Vegan  2 E Lathrop

The Sentient Bean  13 E Park

Namaste Savannah  8 E Broughton

Henny Penny  1514 Bull Street

The Vault Kitchen and Market  2112 Bull Street

Java Burrito Company  420 E Broughton

I didn’t have time to eat at all of these restaurants. That gives me an excellent reason to return to this beautiful city!

Have you visited Savannah? What was your favorite restaurant?

Sidewalk dining
Sidewalk dining at Kayak Kafe.

 

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The Hungry Monkey

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Don’t you love cute downtown cafes? I do, especially those that offer fresh, delicious meals AND have vegan options.

In Downtown Joplin MO, a new restaurant is getting rave reviews and repeat diners who are enjoying the fun laid back atmosphere and the scrumptious food.

I got to try The Hungry Monkey over the weekend for the first time and I was not disappointed!

The Hungry Monkey title

The Hungry Monkey

This island inspired eatery, located at 905 S Main Street, offers freshly prepared tacos, sandwich melts, wraps and poke bowls along with Hawaiian shaved ice, cocktails and mocktails.

Owner Daniel Campbell worked in the food industry in Maui for more than a decade and also worked with Ritz Carlton before specializing in small restaurants and food trucks. He recently moved to Joplin with the desire to create a fun place to eat.

There are tables for dining in the cute, island themed interior and a counter with barstools. The restaurant is clean and filled with light from the large front windows. Help yourself to ice water near the order counter or choose from an assortment of drink options.

Poke bowls, a staple of the restaurant, are a popular rice and fish dish in Hawaii. Seasoned with onions and soy sauce, poke bowls feature an assortment of veggies along with a protein of choice and often seaweed.

At The Hungry Monkey you can order a particular poke bowl or create your own.

The Hungry Monkey interior
Order counter at The Hungry Monkey

What I Ordered at The Hungry Monkey

I love a good poke bowl because I can eliminate the fish or other meat proteins and substitute tofu or omit protein completely.

For my first Hungry Monkey meal I ordered a poke bowl with rice, veggies, avocado, seaweed, onion, jalapenos and grilled tofu. It was SO fresh and delicious. And even though I ordered a small bowl, I took home leftovers to enjoy the next day.

I added an unsweet tea to my meal as well.

The Hungry Monkey poke bowl and unsweet tea
Poke bowl with grilled tofu, rice and veggies and an unsweet tea.

I’ll Be Back!

I enjoyed this fun restaurant. There are so many options for meals and choices for what you want in those meals. I’m looking forward to going back and trying the veggie wrap and the Hawaiian shaved ice.

If you are in the Joplin Missouri area, stop by The Hungry Monkey. They are open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11:00 – 6:00, Friday and Saturday 11:00 – 8:00 and closed on Sunday and Tuesday.

You can dine in, order for curbside pickup or receive no contact deliveries.

Have you had a poke bowl? What was in your bowl?

The Hungry Monkey poke bowl
The Hungry Monkey – poke bowl

 

Check out more fun things to do in Joplin MO HERE!

Interested in making your own poke bowls? Order this book.

Or make this easy Quinoa and Broccoli Bowl!

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Take a 12 Minute Walk

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I recently realized that it has been a minute since I experienced a stroll from the book 52 Ways to Walk. And with the realization came the determination to browse through the book and select a new walk to try.

July in Missouri is hot and humid. I didn’t let that stop me from choosing Walk #7,  Take a 12 Minute Walk. In fact, the muggy weather inspired this choice. Even with the late afternoon heat I felt I could handle a 12 minute walk.

Why 12 minutes?

Check out the post for the reason behind this particular time.

Take a 12 Minute Walk title

Why Take a 12 Minute Walk?

Sometimes, due to stress or busyness or life situations, we push the activity of walking to the “I’ll get back to it soon” list.

This chapter in the book encourages us to stop postponing this incredibly healthy activity and get back out there by walking for just 12 minutes a day. According to a study from Massachusetts General Hospital, walking for 12 minutes is enough to dramatically improve health.

Researchers tracked 411 middle aged men and women, measuring the levels of 588 metabolites in their blood. These molecules are biological markers within the body that gauge the current state of health.

By monitoring the participants’ metabolites before and after walking, researchers could determine the amount of exercise required before changes took place.

They found that after 12 minutes of brisk walking, 80% of the metabolites in the participants’ bodies showed positive change.

Take a 12 Minute Walk mercy park
Take a 12 Minute Walk – Mercy Park in Joplin

Changing Health for the Better

One of the metabolites that changed dramatically was glutamate. The brain creates glutamate when the body is under stress or exposed to toxins. Too much glutamate in the body is a biomarker for heart disease, diabetes and a shorter life span. Excess glutamate is also linked to brain shrinkage, a common cause of dementia.

Researchers discovered that just 12 minutes of walking, or other exercise, reduced glutamate levels by 29%. They also found a metabolite associated with liver disease and diabetes dropped 18% while another metabolite known to attack fat stores increased 33%.

This rather brief burst of walking or other exercise significantly affects the level of metabolites that governs bodily functions such as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity.

Armed with this important information, a daily walk of 12 minutes is extremely beneficial for health.

The study found that the best 12 minute walk to enhance health was a brisk or vigorous one.

Take a 12 Minute Walk pond
Take a 12 Minute Walk – standing by the pond

Take a 12 Minute Walk Tips

Walk briskly, building up stamina over time. A brisk or vigorous walk is characterized as taking 100 steps per minute.

Start by setting a timer on your phone for 60 seconds and then counting steps until you reach 100. Try picking up the pace if the timer sounds before reaching 100 steps.

Build up speed by alternating brief bursts of acceleration with regular walking. Do 15 second bursts of speed, then 30 seconds, then 60. Then return to normal walking for one to two minutes. Repeat.

Walking correctly with the right posture helps in walking faster. For tips, read the post Improve Your Gait.

Time a 12 minute route in your neighborhood or at a favorite park or walking location so you know exactly how far to walk.

Then set apart a time to walk. Early morning person? Walk before breakfast. More of a night person? Walk in the evening. Twelve minutes is a very doable amount of time to set aside for something as important as better health and wellbeing.

Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. And take along a container of water to stay hydrated.

Take a 12 Minute Walk happy
This painted rock on the sculpture made me smile. Happy? Yes, happy to take charge of my health.

Taking a 12 Minute Walk

My days are very full right now. However, I know walking is crucial. This chapter reminded me of just how important it is to make time for walking and other forms of exercise, daily.

I chose nearby Mercy Park for my first 12 minute walk. The park just added seven new sculptures to the grounds and I was eager to see them.

During my walk I alternated brisk bursts of walking with normal walking. I’ll have to work on improving my speed.

After my brisk walk, I made another, slower loop around the park so I could take photos and admire the sculptures. In spite of the heat, a steady breeze helped keep me cool and a fine mist off of the pond fountain was refreshing as well.

My intention is to take a 12 minute walk every day for the next 30 days and beyond. I’ll do a follow up post to share the results!

Take a 12 Minute Walk reflection
Take a 12 Minute Walk – beautiful reflection

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Cold at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share highlights of some of the walks.

Are you ready to take a 12 minute walk this week? Where will you walk?

Take a 12 Minute Walk mural
At the end of my 12 minute walk.

 

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

Health Tips for Road Trips

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

It’s the season of road trips. School is out, summer approaches, adventure beckons. It’s the perfect time to load up the car and head off down that highway. I just recently completed my first road trip for the year, to beautiful Blue Ridge, Georgia in the mountains.

As Greg and I prepped for a 700 mile drive across five states to reach our destination, I did more than pack clothes and fill my daily medication holder with supplements. I also prepared for a long ride in the car, with the desire to make it as supportive of my health as possible.

The trip was a success, in terms of the enjoyment I experienced exploring a new to me place and doing well riding for hours in the car.

Try these simple health tips for road trips on your next long distance adventure.

Healthy Tips for Road Trips title

Wear Comfy Clothing

As with flying, when riding for miles and hours confined in a car, it’s important to wear loose fitting, comfy clothing. This isn’t the time for constricting clothes that can cause discomfort by interfering with blood flow. Lightweight, flowing pants or shorts, a loose fitting shirt and sneakers are perfect.

If you have trouble with restless legs or muscle cramps in calves while riding long distances, try compression socks. There are cute ones available, if that lessens the perception of wearing compression socks. They help with circulation, and prevent swelling, which can keep legs more comfortable as you travel. I bought these before my last international flight and they helped so much!

For extra fun, wear a graphic travel tee with ADVENTURE spelled out across the front of it or has ROAD TRIP vibes.

Protect Eyes with Sunglasses

Eyes are exposed to sunlight and glare while riding in the car. Protect them with sunglasses. Polarized with UV protection is a good choice. Amber, grey, brown or grey are the best lens colors, to reduce brightness while not distorting colors. Blue and yellow lenses cause color distortion.

Additionally, reducing glare with sunglasses increases visibility while driving, keeping you and other drivers safer.

Health Tips for Road Trips sunglasses
Health Tips for Road Trips – wear sunglasses for eye protection and better visibility

Buckle Up

Along with wearing comfy clothes and protective sunglasses, wear a seatbelt. It just makes sense for everyone in the car to wear a seatbelt while traveling. The cross body and around the hips belts keep the body from being thrown around the car in an accident, or worse, ejected through the windshield. Seatbelts also prevent injury or even death from a rapidly inflating air bag.

The bottom line is, seatbelts save lives and prevent getting stopped for a violation. Ensure you arrive safely to your destination by buckling up.

Stay Hydrated

To feel your best while traveling, stay hydrated by drinking enough water. I know. Most people on a long car trip do the opposite, fearful that drinking water makes them have to stop too often for bathroom breaks. First of all, that’s the next tip: stop every couple of hours to stretch and move. And secondly, drinking enough water while on road trips helps the body to function better meaning you feel better.

Adequate hydration regulates body temperature, keeps those joints that are often bent while riding in the car lubricated, delivers nutrients to cells and keeps all your organs functioning properly.

You’ll feel less tired when you arrive at your destination and less thirsty as well.

Health Tips for Road Trips stay hydrated
Health Tips for Road Trips – stay hydrated

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen

Sun exposure happens while riding in the car, especially on the face and arms. Use an SPF 50 sunscreen. It’s more about protecting the skin than preventing sunburn. A good rule of thumb is, when outdoors, use sunscreen.

Pack Healthy Snacks

One of the fun activities while road tripping is munching on snacks. Instead of bags of potato chips, cookies or candy bars, take along healthy choices to fuel your body.

Good suggestions include fruit such as apple slices, bananas, grapes and oranges, cut up veggies, nuts, unsalted airpopped popcorn and low sugar treats such as Munk Pack bars.

As a bonus, I packed groceries for our trip since we knew we would arrive late to our accommodations. The cabin offered a full kitchen and groceries on hand meant I could easily cook healthy meals there. However, more than once on the drive we broke into our box of groceries for a light meal.

Health Tips for Road Trips healthy snacks
Health Tips for Road Trips – pack healthy snacks

Take Breaks to Stretch and Walk

While it might seem like it takes too much time away from the journey to stop every couple of hours, getting out of the car even for a few minutes is good for the body.

Stretching, walking and moving gets blood circulating, eases tight, stiff muscles and keeps you alert, especially when you are the driver. It’s a great time to take that bathroom break as well, after drinking your water. Stretch out the spine, roll shoulders, walk around the car or into a convenience store or restaurant. Loosen up those muscles and you’ll ride better when you return to the car.

Put the Phone Down

If you are the driver, this is a must. Keep attention on the road and traffic and off of the phone. A driver is 23 times more likely to have an accident while sending text messages than if he or she is driving only.

You can still use your phone’s GPS for driving directions by starting the app and then placing the phone in a holder or the console. Listen to music or podcasts but don’t text or try to use the map while driving. Designate a passenger in the car as the message sender, map adjustor, music selector and keep eyes alert and attention focused.

Do You Have Other Tips?

Are you headed out on a road trip this summer? What is your destination?

I hope these health tips for road trips are helpful. Do you have other tips that you find useful? Add them to the comments.

Health Tips for Road Trips no texting
Health Tips for Road Trips – have a designated phone person to text, FaceTime and adjust the map. No texting and driving.

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

Health Benefits of Hugging

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

“I have learned that there is more power in a good hug than in a thousand meaningful words.”  Ann Hood

Did you know that the simple act of hugging someone, holding someone in your arms, is not only a crucial part of human development but also creates positive effects in the body?

It’s true. Hugging raises the energy level in the participants as it promotes wellbeing.

Check out these eight health benefits of hugging…and then embrace a friend or loved one.

Health Benefits of Hugging title

20 Second Hug

According to psychotherapist Virginia Satir, we all need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs daily for growth.

On average, when people hug the embrace lasts for three seconds or less. And while a short hug is better than no hug at all, those longer hugs bring the most benefits. Strive for at least 20 seconds. The feel good hormone oxytocin is released during a sustained hug, which strengthens connection and heightens the health benefits.

What are the benefits? Here they are.

Oxytocin Reduces Anxiety and Stress

Oxytocin released through hugging reduces anxiety and stress in both participants. That’s why we instinctively gather up a hurt child or embrace a friend who is struggling. That act of holding another…and being held…comforts while also demonstrating compassion and support.

Hugging also stimulates dopamine, another feel good hormone that helps boost mood and combat depression. Serotonin is released as well, easing sadness and pain and even prolonging life.

Health Benefits of Hugging goodbye
A hug goodbye as a child begins college.

Hugs Protect Against Illness

The stress reducing effects of hugging help to promote overall health.

In a study of 400 adults, researcher found that hugging reduced the likelihood of the participants becoming sick. Those who felt the most supported experienced greater health and fewer illnesses. And those who felt most supported who did get sick displayed less severe symptoms than those with little or no support.

Hugging also decreases autoimmune disease symptoms and lowers glucose levels in children with diabetes.

Improves Heart Health

An affectionate relationship with another, that includes frequent hugs, is good for heart health.

In a study, scientist divided 200 adults into two groups.

In he first group, romantic partners held hands for 10 minutes followed by a 20 second hug.

During time together in the second group, romantic partners sat in silence for 10 minutes and 20 seconds.

Those in group one showed greater reductions in blood pressure levels and heart rates than those in group two.

Health Benefits of Hugging Day and Fin
Health Benefits of Hugging – improved health

 

Hugs Lessen Fears

Hugging helps to reduce anxiety in those with low self esteem along with fears about their existence. It helps to calm other fears as well. Even hugging an inanimate object such as a stuffed animal has a beneficial effect.

Hugs Make Us Feel Happier

Oxytocin is sometimes called the cuddle hormone because levels rise when we hug. Women seem to experience this boost to feelings of happiness the most, especially when receiving hugs from their partners and when they hug and cuddle their babies.

Health Benefits of Hugging couple
Health Benefits of Hugging – greater feelings of happiness

Pain Reduction

Hugging and other forms of touch can help to reduce pain.

In a study with fibromyalgia patients, people received six therapeutic touch treatments that included hugging and light touching of the skin. Participants reported less pain and an increased quality of life.

Hugging Improves Communication

Communication occurs verbally and also through facial expressions and through touch. Hugging for at least 20 seconds is a way to communicate love, acceptance, support and comfort through physical touch. During an extended hug, both participants experience relaxation in addition to slower breathing and heart rates. The pair often begin to breath in sync as they embrace.

Strengthens the Immune System

A hug puts gentle pressure on the sternum, stimulating the thymus gland which regulates the body’s production of white blood cells. These cells help keep the body healthy and free from disease, boosting the immune system and creating a greater sense of wellbeing.

Health Benefits of Hugging cousins
Health Benefits of Hugging – strengthened immune system

Be a Love Pharmacist…Dispense Hugs

Have you had a dozen 20 second hugs today?

In our oft times busy lives, with school, work and appointments, we call out a quick “I love you” and give a peck on the cheek as we dash out the door or before collapsing exhausted onto the sofa at the end of a long day.

What if we intentionally gave hugs throughout the day, taking time for a full contact, 20 second embrace? If 12 hugs a day seems too many at first, start with four and then increase to eight and finally, to a dozen.

How might that not only improve our health and wellbeing but shift the energy of our days? And how might the recipients of our hugs respond and feel?

I’m willing to find out. Are you?

Health Benefits of Hugging group hug
Group hug!

 

Free Hugs T Shirt…click photo to order.

 

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

Improve Your Gait

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

This week’s walk, from the book 52 Ways to Walk, intrigued me. I’ve experienced issues with my walk since my toddler days.

I toe in, a condition that others jokingly called “pigeon toed” during my childhood. As a tiny tot barely mobile, I wore braces on my feet at night, in an attempt to point my feet outward rather than inward. They didn’t work, because it’s a hip/leg connection problem, not a foot one.

I broke my right leg twice and surgery removed a benign tumor from that same leg, all by age five. Those incidents required hip to toe casts and later a walking cast, which severely hampered my activity level for a while.

And a serious car accident in my late 30s injured my low back and began a 20 year journey of unrelenting pain, stiffness and inflammation in my back and legs. Eventually, I used a cane to walk and faced the prospect of using a wheelchair. Thankfully, a plant based lifestyle ended the pain and inflammation and greatly reduced the stiffness in my legs.

All of those situations throughout my life has left me with a walk that is less than perfect. Although I’ve accepted my unique stride, I welcomed the challenge to be more mindful as I walk.

This Walk #2, Improve Your Gait.

Improve Your Gait title

Improve Your Gait

After Canadian scientists studied 500 walkers, they came to a startling conclusion. With a 70% accuracy, they were able to identify which walkers had early cognitive impairment, just by watching their gaits.

Their findings agree with earlier studies. Our walking gait, at age 45, can predict our chances of getting Alzheimer’s. The takeaway: how we walk provides a hint about the health of our brains. The question scientists are still studying…does gait affect the brain? Or does the brain affect the gait?

The Long Term Effects of a Sedentary Life

One of the factors contributing to cognitive decline and the need to improve gait is a sedentary lifestyle.

We sit for long periods of time, so much more than our parents and grandparents did.

Our bodies lose strength, balance and flexibility due to hours hunched over a laptop followed by evenings camped out on the sofa. For some women, add in tight, ill fitting albeit fashionable shoes with high heels and our feet suffer.

Those bones, muscles and joints in the feet get out of whack, tighten up and lose the ability to walk gracefully and smoothly.

Sports scientist Joanna Hall also believes that a sedentary lifestyle affects HOW we walk. Sitting for too many hours every day shortens and tightens the hip flexor muscles and encourages the abdominal muscles to slacken.

Leaning over computer keyboards forces the neck and head forward, unnaturally, restricting back muscles and tightening the spine. And poorly fitting shoes cramp toes and stiffen the joints and muscles of the feet, causing us to walk with a flat plod that Joanna calls a passive foot strike.

So is it important to improve and correct gait, even if we’ve been walking since age one? Yes!

Improve Your Gait stance
I’ve paid attention to my walk this past week.

Tips to Improve Your Gait

Joanna, who works with people helping them with gait, recommends relearning how to walk properly to avoid injury and joint pain and to enable us to walk faster and for longer periods of time.

Her tips include:

Pushing off from the back foot, using the muscles in the back of the legs.

Rolling through each foot, from heel to toe, using the toes to power us forward.

Lifting the ribcage and lower back to strengthen abdominal muscles and create space in our core.

Lengthening and straightening the neck which frees the spine to move as we walk while relieving stiffness in the neck and shoulders from hunching over a desk or computer.

Swinging arms freely from the shoulders as we walk. Hands should be relaxed, not curled into fists.

Look 10 to 20 feet ahead and use the eyes to look downward, not the head.

And swivel hips slightly, which boosts power to the stride. Focus on shorter steps, so as not to overextend the legs, however take more steps.

Wear properly fitting shoes.

Improving My Gait

Walking comfortably is important to me, as is endurance. When I travel I love to walk all over a city or area, exploring and taking photos, learning the history of the location and getting a feel for the culture.

An improved gait helps create a smooth walk and also increases the ability to walk faster, longer and farther. This is exactly what I desire.

For the last week, I’ve mindfully noticed how I walk. I’m implementing the tips, one by one, noting how an improved gait feels.

As this chapter in 52 Ways to Walk suggests, ingrained poor walking habits can shift, with “a little work”. I’m discovering this is true.

Improving my gait felt a little awkward at first. And seriously, my legs muscles became sore. That means I’m using muscles in different ways than I did before.

Overall, I like what I’m experiencing. I stand taller. I’m more mindful and aware. As my leg muscles adjust to my improved gait, they will grow stronger and perhaps, less stiff.

I’m excited to see how I’m walking…and feeling…in a month.

Improve Your Gait library
Improving my gait at the Joplin Public Library, where I snapped photos.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Cold at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share highlights of some of the walks.

Have you ever consciously thought about your gait and the way you walk?

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.