When the folks from Silk asked me to write a post about a healthy living topic, it didn’t take long for me to figure out what I wanted to say. I’ve had the most wonderful summer, you see, and that’s due in part to a healthy habit I’ve been building. So I want to tell you about that habit, and talk about building healthy habits in general.

Are you dying to know what the habit is? Do you think it’s perhaps something super special or extraordinary? Honestly, it’s not: the habit is taking my dogs for a walk everyday. So simple, but for me, it’s been really powerful and transformative. That’s the beauty of healthy habits: they can be small, but life changing.

I’ve always loved walking. And by always, I really do mean always: growing up in New York City, walking around different neighborhoods was one of my favorite things to do. As I got older, and traveled and moved around to different places, I continued to “pound the pavement” as often as possible in order to learn about the areas in which I was spending my time. And in my twenties I also did a lot of hiking and backpacking: I discovered that I adored exploring nature on foot.

Thinking back, I believe I was still walking quite regularly until about 5 years ago, then things started to change. I had two really big dogs at the time who got plenty of exercise running around our yard. And I had two kids who kept me busy doing what young kids do. So the walks became less frequent…much less frequent…and soon they weren’t happening much at all.

Enter Ozzie, the puppy we brought home this Spring. The girl’s got some serious energy! No matter how much we play in the yard, no matter how much she runs around with my older dog Jake, she’s still got tons of gas in her tank. For a while, I was at my wits end with how hyper she was…until it dawned on me. We needed to start going for walks! And sure enough, I’ve found that getting her out for a good long walk really helps to calm her down, and it’s been a great way for us to bond.

But the walks aren’t just good for Ozzie…turns out Jake loves them, too. He’s nearly 10, but all I have to do is say the word “walk” and he runs out to the car, eager to get going. He had gotten a little overweight in the past few years, and especially since his buddy/my dog Jezebel died last summer, but walking everyday has really slimmed him down.

And then there’s the way I feel about the walks: I LOVE them. At first we started walking for 15 minutes just a few times a week, but then on the days I wasn’t walking, I felt like something was missing. So the walks became an everyday thing, and they go longer, and now I can’t imagine it any other way. I love being outside, moving, for anywhere between 30 minutes and 2+ hours (the 2+ hour walks happen on the weekends, when my husband joins us). I love having time to think without other distractions. Sometimes we walk in our neighborhood, but more often we hit one of our favorite trails within 15 minutes driving from our house. And I didn’t set out to do it, but I’ve lost a bit of weight- about 5 pounds- from all this walking, too.

Lake Minnewaska- pictured in these photos- is one of my favorite places to go. It’s not too far from my house and while I am sort of embarrassed to say that I’d only been there a handful of times before this summer, I’ve made up for that now- I think I’ve been there more than 20 times in the past 2 months! There’s a trail around the lake that takes us about an hour and I try to take the dogs there a few times a week. I like going there in the evenings when it’s cool and there aren’t too many other people….it’s really beautiful and I enjoy feeling as if we have the whole place to ourselves.

So…how did I go from not walking much at all to walking every day for a minimum of 30 minutes, and sometimes much more? How did I build this healthy habit? I focused on the following:

1. I started small, by walking down my block a few times a week. It’s best to to start building a habit by making a tiny change, one that requires very little motivation.

2. I took note of the positive things that resulted from our walks, and these were incentive for me to go more often, for longer. Focusing on the benefits you receive as you build a habit, no matter how small, can help you stay motivated.

3. I ditched the all or nothing mentality: I know that a 10 minute walk is better than no walk, and that no walk isn’t the end of the world. Aim for consistency, not perfection..

4. I am preparing for setbacks. I know that when it’s no longer summer (when my schedule will be more full and the weather may not be cooperative), I may not want to walk as often. When setbacks happen, don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge that you’ve taken a step backward, then keep moving forward.

Thank you to Silk for giving me the opportunity to reflect on how I’ve built a new healthy habit. I hope this post inspires you to create a new habit, whether it’s related to eating, exercise, or some other aspect of your lifestyle, too: healthy habits are absolutely essential to a healthy life.

Related reading:

Healthy Green Kitchen: Small Steps

Zen Habits: The Four Habits that Build Habits

Lifehack: 18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

quick tomato sauce + 50 more ways to use fresh tomatoes | healthy green kitchen

I never tire of eating the tomatoes I grow in my garden. Our tomato harvest has been positively phenomenal this year (you can see some instagram photos of my tomatoes below), so I thought it would be fun to write up an epic tomato blog post. I’m going to give you one of my new favorite recipes for fresh tomatoes, along with 50 other ideas (from my blog archives and other bloggers) for using them!

mixed tomatoes 4mixed tomatoes 1mixed tomatoes 2mixed tomatoes 3yellow tomato

Let’s talk about the quick tomato sauce first. In past years, I have water-bath canned my own tomato sauce and wasn’t that thrilled with the results. I far prefer to make and enjoy this sauce when tomatoes are abundant, and to freeze any leftovers. (Now if someone can tell me how to make a home-canned sauce that tastes like Rao’s, I’ll be ecstatic!).

quick tomato sauce | healthy green kitchen

I make this with my homegrown San Marzano tomatoes. San Marzanos are a type of plum tomatoes: they have thicker flesh and fewer seeds than other tomatoes, and I grow them every year because they have terrific flavor and are perfect for making sauces, tomato paste, etc. If you don’t have access to San Marzanos, use a variety of plum tomatoes that’s easier to find- such as Romas- for this sauce.
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apricot and lavender tart | healthy green kitchen

I’ve been a big fan of Anya Kassoff’s blog Golubka for a long time. It’s a lovely site full of gorgeously-photographed, health-promoting recipes, many of which are vegan and raw. Anya’s new book The Vibrant Table is just as beautiful and inspiring as her blog.

the vibrant table cover

the vibrant table interior

I received The Vibrant Table from publisher Roost Books a few months back. I’ve flipped through the book many times, reading Anya’s intriguing stories and “ooh”ing and “aah”ing over the photos (taken by her talented daughter Masha Davydova), but I could not decide what to make. I recently settled on the Apricot and Lavender Tart, and was so happy that I did…it’s fabulous!

Anya’s tart crust recipe is gluten-free and while I changed up the flours, mine is gluten-free, too. This recipe is also vegan. It’s the perfect dessert for when you want something that’s very visually appealing, but isn’t particularly over the top in terms of calories. This tart is actually very light, though you can certainly up the decadence factor by serving it with some vanilla ice cream.

apricots | healthy green kitchen

Be sure to use very ripe apricots, otherwise your tart won’t be as flavorful as it could be. I found organic apricots at my local natural foods store and used those; I bought my dried lavender flowers at my natural foods store, as well. If you don’t need the tart to be vegan, I imagine butter will work well in the crust.
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