Gratitude: More Than a Warm, Fuzzy Feeling

How often do you pause and feel grateful? Do you take the time to express it? With an entire holiday centered on giving thanks, it seems that perhaps we aren’t feeling gratitude enough throughout the year. We have a holiday devoted to a form of expression that could, and should, be ubiquitous throughout the year.

Gratitude is not only beneficial for the recipient, but also for the person expressing gratitude. Although it may sound trite, there is robust research to back up such a claim. Studies have shown that individuals who kept daily or weekly notes of what they were grateful for had a significantly increased positive affect. Focusing on the happy events of the day and recording three items you are grateful for can create a positive glow for the whole day.

In addition to increased personal well-being, expressing gratitude is predictive of forming and sustaining interpersonal relationships. Gratitude benefits friendships, colleague relationships and romantic relationships. A study showed that couples that express gratitude for one another are more likely to engage in behaviors that promote the maintenance of a healthy relationship. Expressions of gratitude can range from a “thank you” to a larger display of affection; it takes little energy and scientific literature has shown the benefits for mental health and relationships. The simple act of writing a brief letter of gratitude has been shown to increase happiness and life satisfaction, while decreasing symptoms of depression.Recent studies have even found physical benefits, such as decreased risk of heart disease and lower levels of inflammation. This decreased risk could be due to decreased levels of stress.

This Thanksgiving, as you spend time with those you love and take a moment to give thanks, think about little ways to express gratitude throughout your daily life beyond this holiday season. If you are unsure where to start, try writing down three things you are grateful for before going to bed or write a letter to someone you are grateful for in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Editor’s Note: Originally published at Destination Health EU. 

Pumpkin 101: How to Attack the Pum’kin

So it’s well into fall…which means PUMPKIN EVERYTHING. This is great, but the canned stuff cannot compare to the taste of freshly roasted pumpkin. It’s intimidating to see a whole, hard little squash and know how to handle it, but I’ve compiled a guide of my favorite tips to make the process as easy as possible! Get ready to get your pumpkin on.

Step 1: Microwave your little pumpkin for about 6 min and if it’s still hard keep microwaving for one minute intervals. (I usually microwave the biggest squash for 9 minutes!) Now is a great time to set the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or 400 if you like it crispier).


Step 2: Cut your (now soft) pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. I usually use both a fork and spoon to tackle all the string-y bits and seeds! Place the seeds in a bowl to roast later.

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Step 3: Chop your pumpkin into 1 square inch chunks and place on a greased cookie sheet.

Step 4: Roast squash at 375 for 25-30 minutes or until soft and golden brown.


Step 5: To get the most bang for your pumpkin buck, definitely don’t forget the seeds! I recommend you wash the seeds with water, let them dry, then lay them on a greased cookie sheet and roast at 425 for about 7 minutes or until they are golden-brown and crisp.

Step 6: Enjoy your roasted pumpkin on its own as a side, or feel free to puree it and use it in any recipe that calls for pumpkin! The seeds are great as a quick snack or tossed in a salad.

Happy Fall!

Let’s talk sugar

There’s a lot of buzz around sugar. It’s easy to jump on the “sugar free” train, but should you? I have been interested in sugar’s villainization for a few years now, but I have finally found the evidence that has convinced me of sugar’s dangers. I am a proponent of making dietary choices based how your body responds to foods and how you feel, but sugar’s addictive nature can be deceiving.

The same brain reward pathway that lights up in addiction to drugs lights up in response to sugar. This parallel is disturbing and shows that those “sugar cravings” is not due to weakness of any kind–it’s a function of biology. Additionally, sugar is pro-inflammatory in the body. It increases inflammation in the body; this inflammation contributes to a spectrum of diseases: autoimmune disorders, allergies, obesity, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and numerous others.

The evidence is powerful, and I personally feel better when limiting sugar in my diet. Luckily, there are some great products out there that make this easy. I recently was lucky enough to sample Yummy Snack Bars, a healthy candy alternative, and I fell in love!


These bars are way lower in sugar and incorporate healthy resistant fiber that helps feed healthy gut bacteria. Additionally, these bars include Omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory (opposed to Omega-6 fatty acids that are pro-inflammatory and common in processed foods). My personal favorite was the peppermint chocolate bar–it tasted even better than a York Peppermint Patty!


A close second would have to be the chocolate bar flavor. It had a great hint of coconut and hardly tasted like a “healthy” alternative. If you can’t go without your candy bars, definitely give these a try! IMG_8366


#Strangebutgood Salads: the manual

My Instagram is a dead giveaway that I typically pack a salad every day. It is cheaper, tastier, and healthier than most quick options on campus and I love tossing them together. Every Sunday, I prep about 5 large salad containers with kale and whatever roasted or fresh veggies I have on hand. Every morning I just think about what flavors I’m craving (or blindly reach into the spice cabinet) and come up with a new creation! Never feel afraid to try something new–if it’s gross, it’s only one day and you learn a valuable lesson. Here are some of my favorites:


A photo posted by Hannah (@craving_happy) on

This was my salad yesterday! An easy kale salad with mushrooms, grilled chicken breast,raspberry vinaigrette, chopped pickles (I was running low on veggie options…), some pepper, and a dash of cinnamon! It was perfectly savory-sweet.

A photo posted by Hannah (@craving_happy) on

The toppings on this one aren’t too unusual, but I added some chopped celery tops. I hate eating them plain, but you can’t even taste them when they are mixed into a big salad!

A photo posted by Hannah (@craving_happy) on

This is one of my favorite ways to mix up a salad! Tuna is super-cheap so that is my go-to protein choice for salads. To keep it exciting, I mix the tuna with a dressing, some apple cider vinegar, and a ton of spices! Here I mixed up half a can of tuna, turmeric (high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory), and italian seasoning.

Do you play around with your salads?

Caramelized Banana Chocolate Cake

Here is my #BetterBodyBlends entry for Week 4! It has been tried and tested and is a fan favorite out of my previous recipes. Nothing beats chocolate, especially not chocolate banana! I used a 3:1 ratio of coconut flour to almond flour for the perfect texture.IMG_0032


1/4c Almond Flour

3/4c Coconut Flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 chia eggs (2 tbsp chia seeds + 6 tbsp water) (or regular eggs)

1/4c sweetener of choice

1 small banana, mashed

1/2c water or almond milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

“Upside Down” Topping:

2 tbsp coconut oil

3 tbsp sweetener of choice (I used xylitol)

1 small banana


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Combine 2 tbsp coconut oil (melted) and 3 tbsp sweetener of choice in the bottom of a greased circular 9in pan.
  3. Slice one banana small banana into coins on top of the oil/sweetener mix, covering the bottom of the pan with a layer of banana coins (this will be your topping!)
  4. Combine all cake ingredients and mix well in a large bowl.
  5. Spread cake batter carefully over the banana, coconut oil, sweetener mix.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes or until firm to the touch.
  7. Top with chocolate sauce, nut butter, or more banana, and enjoy! I topped mine with a mix of Better Body Foods agave nectar and cocoa powder
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