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Sam Dobson Writes: March 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

People Food To Share With Your Dog

People food you can share with your dog.
Hades inspecting a carton of eggs. 
Enduring a little begging from soulful pleading eyes is just a normal part of being a dog mom. It can be too hard to ignore those big puppy dog eyes staring up at you and sometimes we succumb to those sweet faces and give in. The problem is that much of what we eat can be harmful or even toxic to our dogs' health. If you're a sucker like me and want to share the food wealth with Fido, go for a snack that won't hurt his tummy or better yet, go for one with added health benefits. Here are a few "people foods" you can share with your pup guilt-free.

Raw carrots are one of my go-to healthy snacks, for me and my pups. Carrots are jam packed with vitamin A along with a little bit of vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium. Aside from the nutrients, carrots are also good for canine health. Those crunchy raw carrots help remove plaque build-up. These really are a guilt-free snack.

Yogurt is not only delicious, but it's loaded with good stuff like vitamins, protein, calcium, and potassium among other things. Added bonus: yogurt with active bacteria cultures can act as a probiotic to help with your dog's digestive system. Make sure you buy  plain yogurt with no added flavors or artificial sweeteners for Fido.

Sweet Potatoes
This super food is quickly becoming a popular dog treat and for good reason. This colorful veggie is a great source of fiber to help maintain a healthy GI tract. Sweet potatoes are also brimming with potassium, iron, calcium, and lots of vitamins. Peel and cook to mash up with your dog's kibble or slice and dehydrate to make healthy chews.

These neat little packages of protein can be helpful digestive boosters for dogs with sensitive stomachs. For easy feeding, hard boil the eggs and use as treats. Many raw feeders recommend supplementing your dog's meal with raw eggs, shell and all, for added nutrition. Consult with your vet before feeding raw eggs as some warn against it.

This flavorful fruit is not only tasty but very nutritious with loads of amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, fiber, and magnesium. Your pup won't be able to resist this sweet treat. Bananas make an easy and healthy snack for you and your pup.

Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber and can relieve many of your dog's digestive issues including diarrhea and constipation. Pumpkin can also be used as a supplement to help your dog maintain a healthy weight. If you choose to go the easy route and buy pumpkin puree, just make sure it's not pie filling as many brands contain artificial sweeteners and other additives. To read more about the health benefits of pumpkin for your dog, click here

Peanut Butter
Peanut butter has long been a canine favorite and is chocked full of vitamin B, vitamin E, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and is a good source of protein. Let your pup lick a spoonful of peanut butter clean or fill a Kong with it to keep your puppy busy.

Okay, I'll admit that this one is just for fun. I'm a popcorn addict and with my air popper, I can keep it light and healthy. My dogs have come to love popcorn too, because I can't resist those ridiculous yearning faces. Make sure to skip the butter and salt for your pup and don't overdo it (a few popped pieces will do) as too much could upset your pup's diet.

* Just like people, some dogs have sensitive stomachs or food allergies and may not be able to tolerate certain foods. As you should when introducing any new food source into your dog's diet, consult with your vet before sharing snacks.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Health Benefits Of Lemon Water

I love coffee, so much so that on any given weekday I'd easily drink a few cups a day. A normal morning consisted of one cup while I got ready for work and then another two to three cups once I got to work. I know, I know, that's a lot of coffee. All that coffee never did much to make me feel any more energized. I'm convinced the cravings were all in my head, it was all mental. Recently I started to cut back on the coffee.

That's right, I've cut down to just one cup in the morning while I get ready for work. What?! I'm not quitting altogether. After all, I'm only human. One cup is a good balance, it's doable. Instead of sipping on coffee all morning long, I've been drinking lemon water. I've always enjoyed a cold glass of lemon water but it was never a daily habit, until now. It may be all psychological, but I feel a little more energized than I used to. I've always heard that lemon water is good for you but I never put much thought into it. Turns out, my new citrus habit has loads of health benefits.

Health benefits of lemon water

Flushes Out The Toxins

Lemon juice can help cleanse your system (liver, kidneys, and gallbladder) by enhancing enzymes and stimulating your liver. In fact, the liver can make more enzymes out of lemon than any other food. Time to start treating your liver right, now that those partying-college days are behind you.

Boosts Your Immune System 

Lemons are chocked full of vitamin C and potassium. Vitamin C will give your immune system a little boost and may even help relieve the effects of stress. Who couldn't use a little stress reliever during a hard day's work? Oh, and potassium helps produce red blood cells, reduce free radicals, control blood pressure, and stimulates brain and nerve function.

Fights Viral Infections

My husband always loads up on lemons when one of us is feeling under the weather. Warm lemon water can help fight sooth soar throats and other viral infections. Plus, I just pointed out how lemon juice can boost your immune system. Seems like a no-brainer.

Decreases Inflammation

Lemon water can help reduce acidity in your body, mainly uric acid in your joints, which is the main cause for inflammation. People suffering from inflammatory conditions such as asthma or arthritis can benefit from adding lemon water to their daily diet.

Improves Skin Condition

Lemon water can help prevent wrinkles (promotes collagen production), decrease blemishes, and keeps the skin refreshingly hydrated all thanks to the loads of vitamin C in that lemon juice. Seeing a pattern yet?

Helps You, Um, Stay Regular

That's right, lemon water can help you poop when your tummy isn't quite right. Lemon juice can help flush your digestive track and encourage the production of bile. This can alleviate an upset stomach due to constipation and help keep you regular.

Promotes Overall Wellness

Many experts agree that drinking lemon water can keep you feeling energetic, hydrated, and refreshed. Use this citrus as a tool to help curb your caffeine habit and your appetite when trying to maintain a healthy weight.

health benefits of lemon water

Side note: Lemon is a citrus and citrus can break down the enamel on your teeth over time. If you are drinking lemon water frequently with high amounts of lemon juice, rinse or brush after drinking. 

The goal is to stay healthy, body and mind. If you feel healthy physically, you feel happy mentally. Lemon water may be an effect aid in getting yourself to that point. Whether you use it fight a cold or to stay hydrated, the many benefits of lemon water can give you a wellness boost.

Do you drink lemon water? What sort of health benefits do you notice when consuming this citrus water on the regular?


Sunday, March 15, 2015

How To Choose Healthy Dog Treats

I'm a picky dog mom and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I won't feed just anything to my dogs and I would never be caught dead giving them those fake bacon strip treats. I'm just as choosy with treats as I am with dog food and for good reason! My boxer has always had a very sensitive stomach. Let's just say she's susceptible to offensive gas and bad diarrhea after eating anything of poor quality. Yes, I will admit that on occasion I have used Hades's sensitive tummy as validation for being a crazy dog mom. However, I would argue that I don't really need to.

As I said, I'm a picky mom and that's okay. I wish more dog moms were aware of what they were feeding their pups. Just as you should care what your toddler eats, so should you care what your dog eats. Similar to dog food, dog treats come in many shapes, sizes, and qualities. Unfortunately, there are plenty of well known treats out there that are terrible for your dog's health. Many popular treat products on the shelves of the local market are extremely processed with a laundry list of ingredients that I can't even begin to pronounce. So, what kinds of treats have my dog snob approval?

How to choose healthy dog treats

First things first, flip over that package and check out those ingredients. The simpler, the better. For example, each flavor of Riley's Organics Dog Treats contains just 5 to 6 ingredients and guess what, I am very familiar with every single ingredient! There are no crazy chemicals or unnecessary preservatives.

How to choose healthy dog treats
The ingredient list for Riley's Organics Sweet Potato Recipe.

The ingredients themselves are also important to me. Different ingredients have different health benefits, so I opt for treats with certain ingredients. Pumpkin is a favorite of mine and my dogs. Pumpkin can help regulate the digestive system, maintain a healthy weight, and are loaded with lots of important vitamins and minerals. Another fan favorite is coconut oil, which improves skin and coat conditions, aids in fighting infections, and even promotes healthy thyroid function.

More healthy and tasty ingredients to look for include sweet potatoes, apples, and peanut butter. Sweet potatoes are an expert-agreed super food with tons of helpful vitamins and minerals and a great source of fiber. Apples are another great source of fiber and are chock-full of vitamins A and C. Peanut butter is a good source of protein and heart healthy fats; plus it's fun to give your dog a mouthful and watch him lick the air in happiness.

I also try to choose treats that are grain free. If your dog has a sensitive stomach or suffers from itchy allergies, chances are that he may be allergic to grains. The first thing I did when I noticed my terrier was super itchy and my boxer had soft stool was switch to a grain free food. To compliment my dogs' grain free diet, I try to always choose grain free treats.

Finally, you'll want to search the packaging for those tiny little words "Made in..." If the treats in question are not made in the USA, proceed with caution. While we are on the subject, if the treats are labeled as "USDA Organic", it's a slam dunk.

How to choose healthy dog treats
My dogs enjoying a Riley's Organics treat on our trail walk. 

It may seem daunting to try to find treats of this quality, but don't be discouraged. There are actually plenty of nutritious and healthy treats out there. Riley's Organics, as I briefly mentioned above, fit's the bill with all of my criteria (including recipes with all of the ingredients mentioned). I would never promote a product that I would not give to my own dogs. In fact, my dogs have been munching on Riley's Organics like it's their job! But I understand that every dog is unique and what may work for mine may not work for yours. The most important thing is to provide your dogs with a healthy diet- and to give them lots of belly rubs!

As always, consult your veterinarian should you have any questions regarding your dog's diet and nutrition.

*This post was sponsored by Riley's Organics.


Monday, March 9, 2015

5 Ways To Make Early Mornings Easier

One of the biggest adjustments I've had to make to accommodate my new job is a daily wake-up call of 6 am. I know, that doesn't seem like a sacrifice but with my previous job I had the luxury of making my own hours. Naturally, I didn't bother setting an alarm on most days and allowed myself to wake up naturally. Now that I literally have an 8 to 5, setting an alarm is necessary. 

I'm not naturally a morning person, but I've sort of forced myself to become one. During the first few weeks of my job, the early rising was brutal. Most days I felt like a walking-zombie until lunch time. It's been over a month since I began my new schedule and it's gotten easier overall yet I still have those zombie days once in a while. I've gotten into a specific routine and it has helped tremendously. Here are a few things I do (and you can do) to make early mornings easier. 

5 ways to make early mornings easier
Iggy and I are not morning people. 

Resist the urge to press the snooze button. It turns out that old adage is true; you snooze, you lose. Turns out, every time you push snooze and get ten more minutes of half-ass sleep is actually making it harder for you to get up. Experts agree that hitting snooze several times, or even once, can cause fatigue during the day. 

Leave your curtains open so that your room fills with sunshine in the morning. Sunlight signals to your body that it's time to stop the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes you tired and encourages sleep. Thus, encouraging your natural sleep cycle and making it easier to get up in the morning. 

Prep what you can the night before. To make my mornings a little easier, I prep my coffee machine the night before so that all I have to do is push the brew button in the morning. It's not much, but it saves me a few minutes and the hassle of making coffee while half asleep. I also shower and blow dry my hair at night; this alone saves me an hour. If I plan on taking my lunch to work, I'll prep and pack it the night before. For those of you that have struggle with style, pick out your outfits ahead of time. 

Try to fit in a short workout. If your morning allows, fit in some sort of physical activity. Morning workouts will not only wake you up and get your feeling refreshed for the day, but it will also help you get a better night's sleep. Added bonus: all those free-flowing endorphins make for happy days. Really don't have time for a full-blown workout? That's okay, just take the dogs for a stroll around the block. 

Squeeze in some "me" time. You did it; you woke up early without abusing the snooze button. Good for you! Now take some time to relax before you head off to work. Sit down with a cup of coffee and your daily crossword puzzle or read a chapter of your current book. Even better, combine your "me" time with your workout and enjoy a morning yoga session. However you choose to do it, reward yourself when you conquer the early morning hours. 

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Monday, March 2, 2015

DIY Party: Succulent Gardens

So this past weekend was my best friend Devin's birthday. Her live-in boyfriend works on boats in Alaska for a few weeks at a time and he just so happened to be away for her 28th birthday. That meant we would be celebrating as girls only. Had this been a few years ago, we'd have taken our time getting ready while sipping cheap red wine before going out for a long night on the town. Not that we don't still enjoy those nights once in a while, but for this occasion we had a lovely, relaxing (age appropriate) girls' day in honor of our beautiful friend.

This particular friend is an event planner by day so naturally she hosts the best gatherings. We arrived at Dev's house late Saturday morning. She had planned a therapeutic DIY paired with a sappy chick-flick. Top that all off with champagne and you've got the ultimate ladies' day. The plan was to plant little one-pot succulent gardens. I think we all did a fabulous job if I do say so myself.

DIY Party: Succulent Gardens

Before we get our hands dirty, let's start with refreshments. We started with some of my favorite necessities; champagne, berries, cheese, and crackers. We did go on to more substantial food including a delicious tortellini soup prepared by another bestie, Emily. Don't worry, I'll update you when I get that recipe.

DIY Party: Succulent Gardens

Okay, enough with the tasty details and back to the DIY part.

Devin lined her kitchen table with brown crate paper and labeled a spot for each of us. With champagne in hand, we each picked out one of our favorite succulents to start with.

DIY Party: Succulent Gardens

We used pieces of broken pots to line the bottom of our pots. Apparently this is necessary for proper drainage. (I learned a lot about how to keep succulents alive during this party. Yes, the struggle is real for me.) 

DIY Party: Succulent Gardens

After the bottom of our pots were proper lined with jagged ceramic and then topped with soil, it was time to plant our succulents. 

Devin had us add pebbles and rocks to our gardens for aesthetics and drainage, of course (it's all about the drainage, apparently). 

I think all of our succulent gardens turned out beautifully and it really was a relaxing and therapeutic day with some of my favorite people. After we admired our handiwork, we cuddled up on the couch with some tortellini soup, hot tea, and a Rachel McAdams love story. We all agreed that we need to do stuff like this more often. 

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