8 Ways to Befriend the Locals While Traveling


One of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in a different culture and have a unique travel experience is by befriending the locals in a new city. They can show you things you would have never found on your own and share with you insider pieces of knowledge. They can show you what daily life is truly like for the average person in that area, as opposed to your run-of-the-mill, sugar-coated tours. Yet, making friends is difficult, especially in a foreign country. Here are some ways to break through these barriers. And remember that learning about the local culture and being open-minded can greatly help your chances!

travel friends locals

Hanging out with the locals in Kilkenny, Ireland

1.) Reach out on social media

You might be surprised by how many friends-of-friends or distant relatives live in the destinations you want to visit! And more often than not, they will be happy to let you into their world and show you some local treasures.

2.) Stay with locals

Couchsurfing and Airbnb are two great resources for finding locals willing to spare a bed (or couch). Read through the host’s reviews to see if they prefer to be more independent or if they are the type to introduce you to their friends and show you around town.

3.) Stay in hostels

There are multiple ways to make local friends by staying at hostels. First, I’ve found hostel owners to be some of the kindest and most knowledgeable people I meet in most cities I go to. Especially at smaller hostels, they may be willing to show you around, introduce you to friends, or simply give you advice on where the locals hang out. Second, befriending other hostel goers is a great way to make connections. Their hometown just might be your next destination. Finally, I have occasionally met people from neighboring cities who were trying to save a few bucks while traveling for work. You really never know who you will meet!

4.) Go solo to local pubs

Hitting up a bar or pub for dinner and a drink is a great way to mingle with the locals. Whether it’s the bartenders or other patrons, let’s face it: people are most open to outsiders when they’ve knocked back a few. This is especially effective in smaller towns and cities in Europe, where pubs are often very much a part of the local culture. I think it’s also important to go alone and sit at the bar. Going with friends or acquaintances seems to hinder your chances of actually connecting with new people. I frequently did this in Ireland and I made many new memories, such as being invited to a party by members of the Irish navy.

5.) Try WithLocals

Currently available in Asia and select European cities, WithLocals site allows you to book unique experiences, such as home-cooked meals or arts and crafts, with a city’s locals. Some of the most unique options include sleeping in a cave with your host in Malaysia and net fishing in Cambodia.

6.) Couchsurfing events

Couchsurfing also hosts events where travelers and locals can connect in a fun, no-pressure environment. Also, since most Couchsurfing hosts prefer to board members with good reviews, these events are a great opportunity to gain positive references and make a name for yourself in the community.

7.) Think outside of the box

Look for opportunities that put you in contact with the locals, rather than traditional tours. When I was in Colombia, I located a tour of Santa Marta that was produced by a local who introduced us to his home and served us lunch. It was an incredible first-hand experience of the local culture and living conditions. It just takes a bit of deep research on the internet to find these unique experiences.

8.) Join clubs or volunteer

If you’ll be staying in a city for an extended period or are moving abroad, try joining clubs, meet-up.com groups, or volunteering. You’ll be ditching the other tourists and you’ll be connecting on an entirely different level since you’re being united by a common interest or goal. Language exchange programs are also great for this!


‘Tis The Season…To Get Sick


getting sick immune system boosters remedies foods to eat nutrition health

Sure, you’re eating right and exercising daily and you feel great. You’re the healthiest you’ve ever been…until you come down with the cold or flu. Here’s how to deal.

The Best Foods to Eat

1.) Eggs are very high in zinc, which is one of the most important minerals for your immune defenses. Plus, they’re much more pleasant tasting than taking a zinc supplement. In addition they pack a nice protein punch, which is necessary for building antibodies and general immune function.

2.) Fermented foods. Foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and natural sauerkraut are rich in probiotics. Probiotics promote good bacteria in the gut, which can help fight the bad bacteria that makes you sick.

3.) Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which the body needs to make Vitamin A. It’s also high in Vitamin C. Both of these are key in boosting your immune system.

4.) Chicken soup. It may be cliche, but it’s for good reason. Chicken soup helps to fight the inflammation that occurs with the common cold as well as aiding the nasal cavity in keeping infections from entering the body. Chicken soup also usually contains onions and garlic, both of which have antiviral properties. But more on that later. Finally, as previously mentioned, protein is key in developing antibodies. So slurp away!

5.) Fatty fish. Salmon and other fatty cold-water fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. They’re also a great source of Vitamin D and deficiencies of Vitamin D have been linked to frequent sickness. Finally, they have heaps of protein.

6.) Nuts. Like fish, nuts are also a good source of omega-3s. In addition, different types of nuts are rich in different vitamins and minerals. Almonds are high in Vitamin E, cashews are high in zinc, brazil nuts are high in selenium, and pistachios are high in vitamin B6.

7.) Tea. Like chicken soup, it’s very soothing when you’re feeling sick. But it also packs important health benefits. In addition to their powerful antioxidants, one study suggests that most teas contain chemicals that prime the body for fighting bacteria and fungi that could make you sick. But avoid the heavy chai teas from Starbucks (they’re too high in sugar) and go for a plain green or herbal tea when you’re feeling less than optimal.

8.) Beef. Believe it or not, beef is an immunity powerhouse. Like eggs, it has high amounts of zinc and protein.

9.) Turmeric.This spice, found in curry dishes, contains curcumin which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and for supporting the immune system. Studies are even beginning to advocate its importance in treating immune disorders.

10.) Water. It sounds self-explanatory, but I keep running into more and more people who “don’t like water.” Too bad. You should be drinking a lot of it all the time, but your body needs it even more when you start feeling ill. Fight dehydration and gulp away.

The Low-FODMAP Dilemma

So many of the foods that promote good immune functioning are no-no’s on the low FODMAP diet and may aggravate digestive issues. BUT I highly recommend eating them anyway when you feel sickness coming on. Of course, speak to your doctor first, but I’d personally prefer a day or two of stomach pain to a week or two of illness. In addition, when your immune system is compromised you’re more susceptible to further complications. These foods are great for fighting illness:

  • Garlic is a powerful immune system aid. It’s known for its antioxidants and is argued to be just as potent as some antibiotics.
  • Onions also contains antioxidants with antiviral properties. This makes them such an important component of chicken soup for fighting the cold.
  • Mushrooms help in white blood cell formation and general immune health.

What to Avoid

1.) Sugar. Instead of drinking orange juice, eat oranges. Sure the juice has vitamin C, but it’s at the cost of a much higher concentration of sugar, which may lead to inflammation and further weaken the immune system.

2.) Exercising. Your body needs rest. Sure you might be worried about your progress if you’re trying to build muscle or lose weight. But adequate rest is necessary so you can get back to the gym with full energy.

3.) Eating too little. Starving a fever is actually not the way to go. When you’re sick, your body needs even more calories to function normally because your metabolism speeds up. You need to give it adequate nutrition in order to get better.

What are your go-to remedies when sickness strikes?

Disclaimer: This is not intended to replace medical advice.


6 Habits That Kept Women Slim in Decades Past


past slim thin women decades 50s history weight loss tips

It’s no secret that Americans are much heavier now than we were in the past. People like to blame it on a host of things, from fast food to plain laziness. But it goes much deeper than that. And there are many differences in modern society that we don’t have a lot of control over, such as office jobs and hectic schedules. Fortunately, there are some habits women had in the past that we can learn from in order to be leaner and healthier.

1.) Instead of high-intensity cardio, they walked everywhere

walking cardio hike hiking nature

It seems they were ahead of their time in knowing that steady-state cardio could be more effective. I know what you’re thinking. It’s not always practical to walk everywhere, especially if you lived in a spread-out area. But there are still many practical ways to incorporate more walking into your daily routines. Bring your own lunch to work and use your break for a stroll instead. Take the stairs. Take a walk around the block whenever you’re early or stuck waiting (appointments shouldn’t be a waste).

2.) They exercised for fun instead of out of obligation

Instead of pushing themselves through that workout class, activities like tennis, biking, and ballet were more common. And since they were done for fun instead of out of obligation they were probably easier to stick too!

3.) Going out to eat was an event

It wasn’t an everyday thing. And take-out/delivery was nearly nonexistent. Plus, the focus on celebration and social gathering ensured that people focused more on their company rather than overeating. And appetizers/desserts were a rarity.

4.) They didn’t diet!

diet low fat dairy obesity epidemic high carb

Dieting doesn’t work. It ultimately leads to gaining more weight than before. In decades past, people didn’t always eat the healthiest foods, but everything was more in moderation and more natural than “diet” foods. In fact, many researchers attribute the obesity epidemic to the low-fat diet craze which started around the same time. This makes sense and we now know that fat doesn’t make you fat. Still many people avoid full-fat foods. Unfortunately, diet foods are more likely to be high in sugar, which is much more likely to cause weight gain than fat.

5.) They consumed fewer processed foods

In the past, regular consumption of processed food was mostly limited to dairy and deli meats. Everything else was cooked or prepared. That’s not to say that they didn’t occasionally eat cereal, but shelf-stable foods made up a much smaller portion of their grocery lists.

6.) They got more sleep

Sure, you could always argue that your life is too hectic and you don’t have time to get enough shut-eye. But if you make it a priority I think you can fit it in somewhere. In almost every other time and culture, napping was a regular habit. Study after study has found that adequate sleep is necessary for weight loss.



5 Last-Minute Healthy Thanksgiving Dishes


healthy Thanksgiving last minute easy recipes dishes diet holidays

It’s that time of year! Crisp air, cozy sweaters, and…oh crap Thanksgiving is tomorrow! Thankfully (pun?) there are plenty of super easy, last-minute, healthy Thanksgiving dishes you can put together. They don’t even require a real recipe and you’re still sure to impress! Plus, they’re the perfect way to sneak some lean, green, and clean foods onto the table. Want dessert? Check out my easy, healthy Pumpkin Chia Pudding recipe

‘Real’ Cranberry Sauce

Skip the canned stuff this year! Simply mix some fresh or frozen cranberries in a bowl with a few spoonfuls of maple syrup or honey. Squeeze in some juice from a fresh orange. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes, or until thick. Bam!

Nutty Green Beans

Thanksgiving green beans healthy easy recipe eggplant

Why add the all the loaded extras of a casserole when green beans can taste delicious on their own?! Spread frozen green beans as flat as can be (no overlapping) on a foiled baking sheet. Drizzle on olive or coconut oil. Sprinkle sesame seeds, slice almonds, or whatever else you have. Bake for 20 minutes or until slightly crispy. Grilled eggplant is also a great addition (pictured above).

Mashed Butternut Squash

butternut squash thanksgiving cooking recipes easy last-minute

Obviously not my hands

This also works with sweet potatoes if you prefer. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Using a fork, mash to desired consistency. Mix with plain greek yogurt. Mix in chopped pecans. Optional: add cinnamon or ginger.

Cranberry Walnut Quinoa

quinoa thanksgiving cranberry walnut recipe easy healthy

Bring quinoa to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add cranberries and let simmer for another 5 minutes. Drain and mix in chopped walnuts. Voila! If you’re not low-FODMAP, baked apples would also be a tasty addition.

Thanksgiving Salad

Just have fun with this one! Incorporate whatever you have left over from your other dishes. Carrots, apples, turkey slices, nuts, cranberries, yams, pumpkin, green beans, etc. Go crazy!


5 Reasons You Should Watch ‘Hungry For Change’

hungry for change documentary health food eating obesity weight loss

Image via ‘Hungry For Change’

Hungry For Change is a powerful documentary that you can now watch on Netflix. It talks about the food industry, the diet industry, and the rising obesity epidemic. I think almost everyone would benefit from watching it. Even if you’re familiar with the concepts/facts, they’re presented in a very inspiring way. I will say that it’s definitely not perfect. I didn’t like how some of it was very anti-meat/pro-juicing and some of their claims seemed a little less scientific than others. However, it was still a great and eye-opening film that I highly recommend. Here are some of my favorite points made throughout the movie.

1.) Food kills more people than drugs

This is pretty shocking to write out. But it makes sense if you think about it. Food and obesity-related diseases are one of the most common causes of death in America.

2.) 90-95% of people who go on a diet will gain it back plus some

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t diet. It’s destined to fail for so many reasons. I’d rather just live a healthy lifestyle always. The documentary cites a study performed by UCLA that found this statistic through a meta-analysis of 31 long-term studies.

3.) To lose weight, add food instead of taking it away

This seems counterintuitive, but hear them out. Most diets operate on the basis of eliminating certain foods and often even entire food groups (like the failed low-fat movement of the 80s and 90s). Hungry For Change suggests the novel idea of adding healthy foods instead of restricting yourself. When you restrict yourself, you’re going to want food even more than you did before. But if you eat enough fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, you’re going to be too full (and if you cook them right, satisfied!) to have much of the bad stuff. Plus, you won’t even be thinking about it.

4.) It’s not about willpower. Sugar is an addiction

I think this one is pretty powerful since so many struggle with binge-eating. The first part of the documentary really focused on how bad our society’s dependence on sugar is and how highly addictive (even comparing it to heroin) it can be. And it’s not just the obvious sugar from sweet treats. All processed food is filled with addictive chemicals. But if you can cut those processed foods out and eat real food, you’ll get to the point where you won’t crave the bad stuff anymore (I sure did!)

5.) We’re “overfed, yet starving to death”

This is so simple, but it really drives the point home. We’re always going to be “hungry” if we keep eating these processed foods without nutrients. Throughout most of history, people ate fairly low-calorie diets with a high percentage of nutrients. Now society lives on a high-calorie diet that’s near devoid of nutrients.


Health and Fitness News You Missed This Week


trx fitness gym kettlebells workout exercise

I read a ton of fitness/nutrition news every week so I figured why not share it all in one place? I don’t always agree with the findings and health research results are never black and white. Nonetheless, it’s always a fun read and you may just learn something new!

How much sugar is too much?

The FDA has declared a recommended cap of 50 grams of sugar a day for adults. In addition, they have plans to make nutrition labels start differentiating between added sugar and naturally occurring sugar. While I’m not a fan of processed foods in general, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Walking vs Running

A new study found that walking could actually be more beneficial for weight loss and weight maintenance than running. More proof that it’s simply not necessary to force yourself to be a running person.

“Skinny Fat” may be more deadly than obesity

The term “skinny fat” resurfaces and this time it’s deadly. Another study confirms that carrying weight around your midsection is dangerous for your health. This study also suggests that it could even be more dangerous for a skinny person with a fat stomach than a generally obese person.

Is working out harder really better?

Is our obsession with bootcamp and military style workouts healthy? Maybe not. While I don’t personally see anything wrong with it, this article makes a good point that you shouldn’t have to force yourself to do a workout you hate. You should find a workout you enjoy.

Do stronger legs mean a stronger brain?

A new study confirms previous findings that exercise works more than just your muscles. It can also improve brain health! Exercise your body and exercise your mind.


Fitness Positivity: We ALL Work Hard



fitness positivity positive health motivation

It’s time for a bit of a rant, but I think it’s something that doesn’t get said enough.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I share how proud I am of myself and my progress and someone responds with, “But…you were always skinny.” Or if I’m showing someone my “before” photo and they say “But…you still weren’t fat.” I’m definitely not bragging in either situation and I don’t bring it up often. But sometimes I just want to share my excitement and get some support! How come it’s okay for a formerly overweight girl to post a before photo and get hundreds of comments of encouragement, but someone’s progress is smaller it goes unrecognized? I know that I should be proud of my own accomplishments and not need that recognition. And that’s all fine and good because I do this for myself. But sometimes, it would be nice! I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

This brings me to another related pet peeve. And I think that all women who focus on fitness and nutrition probably get this. When I’m out and refuse to get dessert or eat something unhealthy, without fail, at least one person will make a comment. They’ll ask “Why do you need to diet? You’re so thin” or they might even go as far as to hint towards an eating disorder. First of all, I don’t diet, and I don’t think anyone should. I just try to eat healthy. And I do still indulge at least once a week. But if I were to indulge everytime someone said “It’s just one night,” I wouldn’t be so thin and I definitely wouldn’t be healthy.

And this goes both ways. There are plenty of people who work their asses off and don’t see results. Generally, this means they may not be doing something right (i.e.: too much cardio and not enough strength training), but other times it can be due to a medical condition that drastically slows metabolism. Either way, seeing someone who is overweight does not mean that they’re lazy! They could be working out every day while some thin girls don’t work out at all. You just never know!

Basically, don’t judge anyone else’s progress. Support everyone. Keep it positive.


12 Tips for Frugal, Healthy Eating


frugal healthy eating budget cheap diet food

In one of my very first posts I discussed how I shop for groceries for just $20 a week! I figured it’s about time I go into some more detail with additional tips for frugal, healthy eating for those of us on tight budgets.

1.) Only buy organic when it matters. Honestly, for a lot of food it doesn’t make much difference, including bananas, avocados, asparagus, peas, eggplant, etc. Click here for the full list of foods that should always be bought organic and those that don’t matter as much.

2.) Re-prioritize. Focus on getting the most quality (aka nutrients) for your buck instead of the most quantity. We often think a deal is getting a ton of food for a few bucks. But wouldn’t that money be better spent getting a smaller amount of nutrient-dense food? This post from Nerd Fitness discusses how to reevaluate your way of thinking about deals.

3.) Come up with interesting combinations and ways to use cheap, healthy foods in your cooking. “Good and Cheap” author Leanne Brown says that using popcorn in salads is a tradition in Peru for those who are gluten-free. Likewise, baked potatoes can be a substitute for breads. Creativity is especially helpful when you’re on a low-FODMAP diet.

4.) Buy fruits/veggies when they’re in season. Want them all year round? Freeze them and you’ll always have them in stock.

5.) Buy brown or basmati rice in bulk. They may not be as in vogue as quinoa, but they’re still high in nutrients and much cheaper!

6.) Befriend your local produce sellers. I buy my produce from the same guy down the street all the time and he’ll often give me awesome discounts! A smile and a little loyalty goes a long way.

7.) Check out some local ethnic markets. Asian markets, for example, often have a good (and unique) variety of produce, meats, and fish for very reasonable prices. I’ve seen many vegetables that I’ve never even heard of before at these shops (and they were delicious)!

8.) Compare unit price rather than overall price in order to find the best deals. $2 isn’t always a better deal than $3!

9.) Avoid pre-cut and pre-washed produce. It will take less than three extra minutes to do it yourself and you’ll easily save up to 30%!

10.) Potatoes are your friend. They may get a bad rep since they’re a bit higher in carbs and calories than most other veggies, but they’re still healthier than most things you put in your mouth and they’re only a fraction of the cost!

11.) Consider a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You basically buy a share of a farm and get fresh, local produce every month at a reduced price.

12.) Protein powder can actually be pretty cheap when you buy a big tub and it’ll last a heck of a long time. It shouldn’t make up the bulk of your protein, but it can be a great supplement.

What are your tips for healthy eating on a budget?



Healthy Pumpkin French Toast


Happy early Halloween everyone! Here’s a great, festive recipe for Pumpkin French Toast to try out this weekend (or anytime really because…pumpkin). It’s easy, cheap, and healthy so there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying this delicious breakfast treat! And it’s low-FODMAP to boot! Also see my Pumpkin Chia Bowl recipe for more Fall goodness!

pumpkin french toast healthy recipe low calorie treat


  • 1 egg or 3 tbsp egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin
  • 2 slices of gluten-free bread or ekeziel bread
  • Optional: protein powder, walnuts or pecans, fruit for topping


  • Mix eggs/egg whites, milk, pumpkin, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in a wide, shallow bowl. Beat and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  • Dip in bread, making sure to thoroughly cover both sides of each slice.
  • Cook on a lightly oiled (tastes best with coconut oil) skillet/frying pan until slightly browned on each side.
  • Optional: Drizzle with a bit of honey or pure maple syrup.

The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Eating Clean


I go through periods where I love to cook, bake, and prepare healthy foods. And then I go through other periods where I just can’t be bothered. I’m going through the latter right now. Heck, I don’t even want to make smoothies because it would require cleaning the blender. But here’s how I’ve been staying clean without spending a fortune on prepared foods.

No Prep Required


1.) Nuts are one of my favorite snacks. As long as you keep portion sizes in mind this really is one of the best “no effort needed” snacks. I personally like the single portion sized bags.

2.) You can find healthy and cheap snacks at the store when you’re on-the-go. Check out my guide to healthy convenience foods.

3.) Other than rinsing, most fruits don’t require any prep work (save for cantaloupes and other large ones). And they’re so flavorful that you don’t need to add anything else for it to be satisfying.

4.) Many people think of celery, bell peppers, and hummus when they think of clean eating. That makes me shudder! There are veggies that are super tasty all on their own and don’t require a dip to cover up a lack of flavor. One of my favorite snacks is frozen peas! Yep, straight out of the bag. Reminds me of Dippin’ Dots. Baby carrots are another favorite of mine.

Minimal Preparation Needed

easy meals cheap turkey burger clean eating healthy

5.) Need a quick dinner? Frozen turkey/chicken burgers are so easy to make. Just pop them on the stove for about 5 minutes and you’re done! Just make sure to read the box to check that there are no unnatural ingredients or excess sodium. Serve on a bed of lettuce with a drizzle of olive oil for the perfect lazy meal.

6.) Whether you throw them in the microwave or cook them for a bit more flavor, frozen veggies are your best friend. I especially love browned green beans!

chia pudding easy meal lazy recipe healthy

7.) This recipe for Warm Banana Chia Pudding takes just 2 minutes of prep and 2 minutes of cook time before you have yourself a satisfying treat! Perfect for the cold weather ahead!

8.) Eggs are such an easy food to make, but they can easily get boring as well. Spice them up! I’ve found that omelets and scrambled eggs are a great place to throw in veggies that you would otherwise throw out. Mushy tomatoes take on the taste of sun-dried tomatoes if you throw them in. Wilted greens are the perfect addition for some extra texture (and throw in some basil for good measure!)


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