Halloween remains my least favorite holiday of the year.

It all starts out innocently enough in what I like to call the “primary years” of Halloween. As a child I have very fond memories of these years; a half day of school complete with class parties and a costume parade, my parents throwing a Halloween party for our family and friends where my dad would get dressed up in the most elaborate and funniest costumes, and finally, trekking through the neighborhood, collecting a huge pillowcase full of candy, sorting and eating it, and getting to stay up “late.” Congratulations, young child, you have now hoarded enough processed junk to have a piece in your lunch box every day and a piece after dinner every night until Thanksgiving. Halloween is like a child’s dream.

But then things take a turn for the worse; the “awkward years” of Halloween begin. You know you’re too old to get dressed up and go trick-or-treating, but your parents deem you too young to go to a party. I spent a year or two hanging out, watching my little sisters dress up, and answering the door for trick-or-treaters, all while trying not to get candy stuck in my braces.

And then the “partying years” begin and Halloween goes from eating processed junk to drinking processed junk. The costumes also make a 180 turn and go from adorable to inappropriate. I never really cared for this side of Halloween and it only got worse during college because my least favorite day turned into my least favorite week, as wearing and admiring scantily clad outfits and binge drinking is like a college kid’s dream. I avoided it the best I could and would succumb to one night of this nonsense by throwing on a festive hat and having a few cocktails but could never really get into it. I think Halloween may be one of the reasons I graduated early, but unfortunately I’ve heard this type of behavior continues through the postgrad years.

As I have become more and more health conscious I’ve gone full circle with my Hallohatred. Yes, I am still not a fan the “awkward years” and the “partying years,” but after reading this story last year about how one women is handing out “fat letters” to overweight and obese kids instead of candy, my feelings about the “primary years” of Halloween have even changed. Sure, this woman may have been wildly offensive and inappropriate, but she raises a good point. Are we simply feeding into one of the biggest problems our country faces by celebrating this holiday?

And in more recent times, as I have become more educated on the effects of childhood obesity, passing out copious amounts of processed sugar to kids is sending the wrong message. Needless to say Halloween is not a very healthful holiday, no matter what age you are. Although other holidays have unhealthful habits attached to them, such as eating too much on Thanksgiving and drinking too much on New Years Eve, I can find the good in those experiences, such as family time and resolutions. But Halloween remains a bit more of a challenge to find the good in.

Luckily, I have found it. By re-“vamping” some Halloween treats, I have turned Halloween in Health-o-ween. As my culinary skills and my health consciousness have increased, every Holiday is a reason to get into the kitchen and cook up some nutrients. From vegan fajitas on Cinco de Mayo to butternut squash hummus on Rosh Hashanah, holidays are a great excuse to break out your culinary best and attempt to get family and friends on the healthy eating bandwagon. Halloween is no exception.

This year, I made “Caramel Apples.” A 100% whole food, plant based treat that tastes like the real deal. I was inspired to make this recipe after listening to an episode of the Rich Roll Podcast featuring Chef AJ, this episode touched on turning the focus of Halloween for kids more on creative costumes and fun games, rather than candy. Of course, not even Health-o-ween would be complete without some sort of treat so that’s where the “Caramel Apples” come in.

The recipe involves using soaked medjool dates and water for the “caramel,” apples (I used Honey Crisps) and a variety of crunchy toppings (I went with crushed peanuts.)

Stick a popsicle stick in an apple, slather on the date purée and roll it in the crushed peanuts, and you have a delicious, all natural, refined sugar free Health-o-ween treat. No tricks here.

You can find the original recipe here.


However you decide to celebrate this year, have a Happy Health-o-ween!


Eating Healthy on a Budget

This post is the second installment in the natural health and wellness blog post series I will be writing weekly for the Summit Chiropractic blog.


Eating Healthy On A Budget

It seems as if in today’s day and age, with the world’s knowledge at our fingertips and healthy options popping up everywhere you turn, it would be easier than ever to live a healthy lifestyle, but that’s not the case.

According a recent Huffington Post article, people claim that the biggest reason for why it is so difficult to eat healthy is not lack of willpower, lack of knowledge, or even lack of access to healthy foods, but cost.

In a world where a cheeseburger at McDonalds costs less than a salad, it’s no wonder people get derailed and have a hard time sticking to a healthy diet while also sticking to their budget.

So read on for my favorite tips on how eat healthy on a budget.

Go almost plant-based

Vegan, or “plant-based,” diets have been getting a lot of attention in the media lately. A plant-based diet is one free from all animal products; including meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy. This may sound a bit extreme to some, but the benefits of a plant-based diet definitely weigh out the cost, both nutritionally and financially.

Think about how much less expensive a serving of oatmeal, banana slices, a sprinkle of nuts and a dash of cinnamon is than the standard American breakfast of eggs, bacon and an English muffin. How about topping your salad with beans for protein instead of grilled chicken or feta cheese? Or how about a small coffee with a splash of soymilk instead of a fancy nonfat milk latte? These small changes will leave you with a lighter body and a heavier wallet.

The best way to incorporate the benefits of a plant-based diet without giving up your old favorites is the “Vegan Before Six” (VB6) approach. By eating a fruit, vegetable, whole grain or legume based breakfast and lunch, you’ll have more energy throughout the day and still be able to have all of your omnivorous favorites for dinner.

Get to know your local farmer(s’ market) 

Have you ever noticed that a tiny carton of raspberries at the grocery store cost upwards of $5 in the winter, but in the summer you can get a huge carton at the farmers’ market for $2? Buying seasonally and locally is always cheaper. If you’re not sure what’s seasonal where you live, check out this handy guide. You can seriously score some great deals at the farmer’s market. If you shop right before clo670px-Help-Poor-People-Eat-Healthy-on-a-Budget-Step-3sing time the farmers may even discount their items further.

Bulk up

Bulk bins, that is. Most health food stores have a bulk section where you can pick and choose how much (or how little) of each item you want. Because there is no packaging or advertising involved, you can get dried beans, grains, spices and specialty “superfoods” for a fraction of the cost as their packaged and brand name counter parts.

I have literally eaten meals for less than a dollar when shopping in the bulk section. Bulk beans and grains coupled with some veggies from the farmer’s market make for an excellent meal. If a healthy recipe calls for a teaspoon of a spice you don’t think you’ll ever use again, buy a pinch in the bulk section rather than wasting money on a whole jar.

Cooking in bulk also saves you time and money, make a big batch of dried beans and a whole grain every Sunday so you can reheat or use as salad toppers throughout the week.

Trader Joes

Don’t have time to cook in bulk or visit your local farmers market this week? No worries, Trader Joes offers awesome health food products for low price. They have a large selection of organic canned beans, frozen packets of brown rice and quinoa that are ready in 3 minutes, precooked lentils in the refrigerator section and a large variety of vegetables, both fresh and frozen. “Trader Joe’s” brand products are almost always less expensive than mainstream brands at other grocery stores.

Chill out

 Speaking of frozen, frozen fruits and vegetables are a great substitute if you can’t get your hands on fresh ones. They are always frozen at peak ripeness, so they contain the highest amount of nutrients and flavor possible, and are usually the cheaper option. Frozen fruits are a great option for smoothies, in oatmeal or just eaten as a snack. Frozen veggies work nicely in soups, stews or mixed into grain and pasta dishes. Plus, they keep for a long time so it is unlikely they would go to waste.

Know when to splurge

Recently, the subject of healthy eating made a splash on the cover of Time Magazine, with the headline “What To Eat Now: The Truth About Home Cooking.” Food journalist Mark Bittman attempts to get Americans away from restaurants, take-out and delivery and back into their kitchens.

Cooking at home is always healthier and cheaper than eating out. With the money you will inevitably save by not eating out as much, you can afford to splurge on organic meat and seafood, treats like high quality dark chocolate or other specialty products rather than a restaurant meal.

When you readjust your priorities and you will begin to see the cost of healthy eating in a whole new light, most of us don’t bat an eyelash at a $10 cocktail at a restaurant, but roll out eyes when we see a green juice in the health food market for the same price.

Weigh out the costs

Think of a healthy lifestyle as health insurance. Would you rather spend your money now in the produce section or later at the pharmacist?

If you have any further questions about eating healthy on a budget or want more tips about how to make these healthy and budget-friendly foods apart of your lifestyle, contact Natalie at nataliegray@me.com.

Natalie Gray is currently on her way to becoming a certified health coach at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is passionate about health and wellness.


Recipe Roundup: Squash

Squash season. I have talked about my favorite fall and winter vegetable so many times on this blog so far that it may be starting to get old. But I thought I’d put a fresh spin on things and do a Squash Recipe Roundup from some of my favorite blogs. I have made all of these recipes before and they are tried and true. So, without further ado…

Here is a handy guide to winter squash from OhMyVeggies!


Photo Gallery: Kink Squash It Premiere

Recipe: Superfood Pumpkin Smoothie Bowl


In the foodie world, this word is synonymous with “pumpkin-spice season.”

As a health nut and a person who considers themselves to be more complex than basic, there are other fall food that tantalize me more than pumpkin flavored things, such as winter squash, for example. But, there is just something about “pumpkin-spice” that is so warming, soothing and fall-y.  So for that reason, I do like to keep a couple of cans of pumpkin and a jar of pumpkin-spice blend on hand for homemade pumpkin-spiced treats.

One of my favorite ways to get my pumpkin fix, especially in early fall when its not frigid yet, is a pumpkin smoothie. I took this version to new heights, by serving it “smoothie bowl” style and adding toppings for extra nutrition and a crunch.

Superfood Pumpkin Smoothie Bowl

In a blender combine:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/3 cup of canned (or fresh!) pumpkin purée
  • About a 1/2 of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extra
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional, but make for a great thickener and nutrition boost)
  • 1 medjool date (optional, if you want a sweeter smoothie)

Blend on high until smooth, pour into a bowl and top with

  • pumpkin seeds (rich in magnesium, zinc and Omega-3s)
  • hemp seeds (for a dose of plant-based protein and healthy fats)
  • bee pollen (one of “nature’s perfect foods,” an amazing protein source that provides a nice buzz)





Recipe: Adzuki Beans with Kabocha Squash

This is a recipe I have been loving lately.

I was first introduced to the work of Alicia Silverstone during the introductory lesson of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. You know who I’m talking about, the former clueless star turned radical vegan. While I admit her speech was a little extreme, I definitely picked up what she was putting down and really enjoyed her vibe.

The day after I felt a connection with her speech, I was on the Forks Over Knives recipe page and Alicia Silverstone had just posted a recipe! Talk about synchronicity! The recipe featured kabocha squash, so I knew I had to make it immediately. While this particular variety of winter squash is not as widely available as acorn or butternut, the flavor, texture and health promoting properties are absolutely out of this world, so I suggest you get your hands on one ASAP if you haven’t already (Trader Joes just started carrying them this season.)

This recipe also stars the adzuki bean, which comes with a whole host of health properties of its own. Adzuki beans are well known in Traditional Chinese Medicine for their healing properties, they are also said to be the most “yang,” or warming, of all the beans according to macrobiotic diet theories.

The recipe calls for the beans to be soaked and boiled with kombu, a nutritional sea vegetable that contains enzymes which assist in making beans easier to digest. You can find kombu in most health food stores or Asian markets.

You can find the link to the recipe here!

Adzuki Beans with Kabocha Squash from Alicia Silverstone and Forks Over Knives

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 2.56.16 PMScreen Shot 2014-10-19 at 2.56.37 PM

Although the recipe calls for the squash to be boiled in with the beans, the second and third time I made this, I roasted the squash on a lightly olive-oiled pan with a little sea salt for about 30 minutes on 400°F. I find the flavor and texture of the squash is truly enhanced when roasted vs. boiled. I also used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce and enjoyed this dish served atop brown rice.


Thats all for now, hope everyone has a relaxing Sunday!

Reducing Inflammation in the Body Through Diet

This post is the first installment in the natural health and wellness blog post series I will be writing weekly for the Summit Chiropractic blog. 

Reducing Inflammation in the Body Through Diet

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is one of our body’s critical defense mechanisms; it’s our body’s way of telling us that something needs attention. There are two types of inflammation, primary and chronic. Primary inflammation is constantly working to detoxify, repair, and naturally protects our bodies each and every day, there is no pain or symptoms associated with this type of inflammation.

But chronic inflammation on the other hand, is a whole different story. This is the type of inflammation that brings out the symptoms of local redness, heat, swelling and pain. Inflammation can eventually lead to serious illness; including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and many types of cancer.

Most people deal with inflammation by popping over-the-counter Ibuprofen or a prescription anti-inflammatory drug. The problem with these medications is that they simply mask the symptoms of inflammation, while still allowing you to live an inflammatory lifestyle and not addressing the root cause.

Natural remedies

If you are reading this blog, chances are good that you’re already familiar with some of the natural ways to reduce inflammation; such as chiropractic care. But there are other ways to naturally reduce inflammation in the body beginning with the foods you eat.

Diet and lifestyle play a huge role in inflammation. Processed food, sugar, hydrogenated and trans fats, stress, malnutrition, obesity and excessive exercise all contribute to chronic inflammation. There are certain foods to include in your diet and certain foods to avoid if you want to reduce inflammation in the body.

Foods to include

A diet abundant in a variety of fresh, whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, is the best way to combat inflammation, but these particular foods and supplements are inflammation-fighting superstars.


Berries, especially blueberries, are incredibly rich in nutrients that function as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in the body. Fresh or frozen berries are a great addition to cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, salads, or just eaten by themselves.

Cruciferous vegetables

Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale are all members of the cruciferous vegetable family and are all anti-inflammatory powerhouses. These veggies contain many anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer phytonutrients, such as chlorophyll and sulfur-based compounds.


Avocados are packed with a bounty of anti-inflammatory nutrients; such as phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants, vitamins C and E, minerals such as manganese, selenium and zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Avocados’ rich and creamy texture makes them the perfect substitute for high-fat cheese on salads or sandwiches.


Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA. ALA is converted to omega-3 fatty acids in the body, which have been shown to calm inflammation.

Chia, Flax and Hemp Seeds

This trifecta of super seeds are all very high in omega-3 fatty acids (“the good fats”), which act as anti-inflammatory compounds in the body. You can sprinkle a tablespoon of any of these seeds on cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, salads, soups, or blend them into smoothies.

Ginger and Turmeric

Studies have shown that ginger contains pharmacological properties of anti-inflammatory drugs as well as antioxidant properties.

Turmeric, often referred to as “the golden spice,” contains the active ingredient curcumin, which has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Add either of these spices to your soups, stir fries, teas, dressings, smoothies or juices, or take them in supplement form.


Staying hydrated throughout the day is crucial to combating inflammation. I find that keeping a reusable water bottle with you and refilling it throughout the day is the easiest way to make sure you are drinking enough. If you are constantly drinking water, you will naturally crowd-out more inflammatory beverages, such a pop and dairy-based drinks.

Foods to avoid

These processed, unhealthy foods should always be avoided or only enjoyed occasionally in moderation, but should definitely be avoided if you are suffering from chronic inflammation.

White flour and sugar (think bread and processed snack foods)

High fructose corn syrup

Saturated fat (found in butter, high-fat dairy products, unskinned chicken and fatty meats)

Margarine and vegetable shortening

Natalie Gray is currently on her way to becoming a certified health coach at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She is passionate about health and wellness.

If you have any further questions about these naturally reducing inflammation through diet or want more tips about how to make these anti-inflammatory foods apart of your lifestyle, contact Natalie at nataliegray@me.com.


Click here to check out Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammtory Diet


HuffPost Healthy Living

Recipe: Homemade Pumpkin Spice Almond Milk

There is nothing better than a crisp, fall Saturday when the sun is shining and being outside in in a light jacket is neither too hot nor too cold. Pure bliss.

And speaking of fall, we are now in what seems to be the heart of time where you cannot step foot outside of your home without seeing some sort of “pumpkin-spiced” something. I swear it’s been getting more and more over the top each year, I’ve even seen some funny (and inappropriate) “pumpkin-spice spoofs” online. And with Starbucks’ infamous seasonal treat and the original pumpkin spice item, the Pumpkin Spice Latte, getting some negative attention in the media after the recent Food Babe investigation, it seems like pumpkin spice is on the forefront of every foodie’s mind right now.

Call me basic, but I enjoy my fair share of pumpkin each fall too. Whether it be a little bit of canned pumpkin purée and “pumpkin spice” stirred into oatmeal, a smoothie or vegan pancake batter, or a baked good recipe, or one of Trader Joe’s many pumpkin products (this year I’m digging the Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Herbal Blend tea, last year it was the Pumpkin Butter.) Last week I dabbled in making some vegan pumpkin baked french toast, which was absolutely delicious. The challenge I normally face when working with pumpkin is how to sweeten it up without a lot of processed sugar. I normally go the ripe banana route, but for this particular french toast recipe, I was all out of bananas and used blended medjool dates with the pumpkin purée instead. Turns out, this was a match made in heaven. I will probably end up making a whole pumpkin pie from this combination (with a little vanilla, nondairy milk and spices) because it was just THAT good.

So it got me thinking… what else can I pumpkinify with the addition of dates as a sweetener. And then it dawned on me, homemade pumpkin spiced almond milk.

If you are familiar with the almond milk making process, then this recipe will be a breeze to you. This milk is truly something special. Just a splash of it will turn a boring cup of coffee into a healthy version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte, it makes for an excellent base for an indulgent seasonal chia pudding and of course its amazing chugged straight out of the bottle. So without further ado, Home Pumpkin Spice Almond Milk.

1 cup of raw almonds (soaked overnight or for at least two hours)

3 cups of filtered water

6 medjool dates

5 Tbsp.pumpkin purée

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. cinnamon

a pinch of sea salt.

Blend all ingredients in a Vitamix or similar high speed blender, straight through a nut milk bag or cheese cloth and enjoy!