Guest Post: Getting Back To Goodness By Learning To Say No, Dining Outdoors, & Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

This is a guest post by Brooke Benlifer.

At this point, Brooke doesn’t need much of an introduction.

This is her 8th installment of her Back To Goodness series here on The Wellness Bucket.

Learning to say no, dining outdoors, saying yes to an Apple Watch, and making lemonade from the lemons that life gives you at times – it’s all in there.


Here we go again Brooke – Take it away!

Thanks Mike, so great to be here again… twice in one week!

September was great in so many ways.

In addition to full-on family dance parties, my husband and I had the opportunity to experience a trail run through a beautiful canyon and some quick sand (OK, it was regular sand but it FELT like quick sand).

We’re looking forward to the largest beach run in the nation next month too where thousands of us will be running a 5K along Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.

I am already imagining seaweed being flung here, there and everywhere. And if we get too hot, we can literally jump in the ocean. I’ve never been able to say that about a race before.


Getting Comfortable With Saying No

The one thing that kept me (half) sane this month was the ability to say NO, a polite NO, but a NO nonetheless.

We had one day where we had been invited to three different parties.

Normally I would have scrambled and turned myself inside out and backwards to make it to all three. This time though, I took a cue from my wise husband, who is a big fan of keeping it simple.

I fought against my inner extrovert and decided to simply attend one party, the one that we were invited to first, and to decline the other two invites even though I would have liked to have gotten together with everyone.

In the end I was happier for it.

I even ended up being able to see some of the others the following week.


Making Time For Downtime

If you have ever taken care of multiple toddlers full time, you know exactly what I mean when I say, life is NON STOP!

I make it a point (otherwise I regret it) of laying my head down on a pillow, not to fall asleep, but just taking a few deep breaths and wind down for at least five minutes while my kids nap.

Whenever I skip this, I definitely pay for it later when I am mentally and physically weary just as my kids are winding up full speed ahead.

It’s challenging to turn off the mental to-do list but it is restorative to take a step back, re-prioritize and focus on the present.


Focus On Nutrition 

The Kids

I keep my kids’ meals fairly simple, while ensuring that they get plenty of nutritious, wholesome food.

Lately, breakfast has been some fruit, and veggies at times, mixed with almond butter (e.g. berries, spinach and kale blend or applesauce and cinnamon, stirred into some almond butter).

Lunch is usually a soft, fatty fish (kids get great brain and body benefits from omega 3’s) in olive oil and some fruit.

Dinner is generally lentil soup with vegetables.

Snacks vary from dried fruit or snap pea crisps to fruit and veggie squeeze pouches or hummus and guacamole.

They drink water and unsweetened vanilla almond milk.


My Nutrition

I’ve been enjoying lots of tuna, especially drizzled with a good blackberry balsamic and mixed with avocado oil mayo from Primal Kitchen.

My husband and I both love stuffing red bell peppers with organic chicken meatballs with sun dried tomatoes and roasted garlic.

(Note from Mike: YUM! I am definitely going to have to try this.)

We also enjoy recreating dishes that we’ve dined on at restaurants.

I often make a toasted sandwich on cranberry walnut bread, spread with coconut oil and blood orange and blackberry fruit spread, topped with loaded chicken salad, that has dried cranberries, almonds and celery in it.

My husband loves this for dinner or a brown bag lunch on a busy weekday.

This past weekend, we went to a local German restaurant and to our delight, the kids were eating red cabbage and sauerkraut by the handful.

Well, my son was while my daughter on the other hand enjoyed the hunk of white bread that came with the meal the most!

It was fun to expose them to food from my husband’s German heritage.


Things I Am Loving This Month



This place rocks! If you live in Los Angeles or San Diego, it is a must experience café.

First off, they encourage sampling. How many places do that?!

I tried four different selections, settled on two and then added a generous portion of salmon for good measure.

There are tons of combinations, from Paleo (pineapple chicken, green beans, coconut, jalapeno, jerk dressing) to vegan (avocado, cherry tomato, pine nuts, lime) and everything in between.

If you enjoy eating, you’ll love this place.



I am a big fan of probiotics for good immunity and digestive health. I like Nordic Probiotic (from Nordic Naturals) and I give my kids Culturelle Kids Probiotic packets.


Sparkling Water

Carbonated water has become so popular that some refrigerators actually dispense it in addition to “flat” water. I grew up mixing sparkling water with juice and graduated to drinking it on its own.

My husband and I drink it by the case.

Thank goodness it isn’t real soda otherwise we’d have a real problem.


Apple Watch

This was a very unexpected purchase. I have never been one to spend a lot of money on a watch and I have never had even the most basic of activity trackers.

My reasonably priced and beloved Fossil watch had slowly been signaling me that its demise was near.

First, the date feature stopped working. No big deal right? I just had to keep reminding myself that it was really Sept 7 instead of Sept 8.

Then the second hand popped off and kept getting stuck in the hour and minute hands.

And if that wasn’t enough… half the time the watch band was full of peanut butter, diaper rash cream, and had to be thoroughly cleaned on a daily basis.

My husband got the Apple Watch sport version when it first debuted and raved about it.

I hemmed and hawed and finally jumped on the bandwagon and bought the least expensive version of the Apple Watch (38mm sport).

I love it!

BTG #8It really is worth it for all that it does. I pretty much set it on silent, and minimal vibration notifications.

One of my favorite features is the activity tracker. It is amazing to see your activity mapped out in such a detailed way on a daily basis.

Most interesting to me is not the workout tracker but all of the other daily activity that accumulates during a typical day.

I literally only do 20 minutes of “formal exercise” on a daily basis.

Other than that, I am taking care of my kids, and doing lots of cleaning up messes, lifting the kids in and out of the crib, tub, and car seats.

In addition, making meals, wiping lots of peanut butter off of windows and magic marker off of floors, walking to the mailbox at about 1 mile per hour pace while holding a toddler’s hand.

What’s amazing is that despite the lack of an hour long workout at the gym, I still end up averaging well over 3 miles walked/run and an average of 13 flights of stairs climbed.

Little changes really do make a positive difference.

If you’re skeptical, I would encourage you to, at the very least, get an inexpensive but accurate pedometer and track your steps.

It’s almost to the point where the Apple Watch has a personal relationship and a vested interest in my health and well being.

I was surprised to receive words of encouragement this morning for getting a head start on my activity goal for the day.

Pretty cool if you ask me.


Dine Outdoors

Even though summer is technically over, you certainly wouldn’t know it here in San Diego where temperatures have been in the 80s quite often.

One of the things I love about where I live is the view, especially early evening, when you can often see hot air balloons in the distance.

Admittedly, without my glasses, they look like big white blobs in the sky, but who cares? I know what they are, and that makes them seem magical and special.

Plus, the light reflecting off the mountains is gorgeous. Hence why I make it a point to eat many of my meals outside.

I also let my kids run around in their diapers outside like little, wild people. It gets really messy, but hey, we’re outside right? I can just hose everything (and everyone) down when we’re done. 🙂


Do What Matters To You & Makes You Happy

I’ve been taking on a lot this month, including a lot more work with clients. It’s definitely a balancing act and one that I have to constantly restructure to make fit with the other aspects of my day.

I truly love what I do and being able to help others take better care of themselves and enjoy good food really makes me happy.

Two of my favorite aspects of work are taking clients grocery shopping and cooking for them.

I’ve been able to meet with clients when my husband is available to be with the kids and to do a lot of the research and meal planning and recipe development in the evenings at home.

In between, I’ve been studying for my personal training exam.


When Life Gives You Lemons, Do Something Fun

A few weeks ago, after getting the kids fed, in the car, bags packed, diapers changed, etc., we headed out for their annual flu shots.

After unloading and assembling the double stroller, unloading and loading the kids into the stroller and making our way across the parking lot to the doctor’s office, we arrived only to find out that they had run out of flu shots the hour prior.

Frustrating? Yes. Disastrous or worth getting upset about? A resounding NO.

We decided to make the most of a very hot afternoon at the local mall. I normally despise malls, but when it’s almost 90 degrees, its marble floors and sale racks suddenly sound delightfully appealing.

I let the kids run around while I window shopped. Made for a great time and we all left with smiles on our faces. A win win!


Be Grateful

I mentioned last month that I donated my DietBet winnings to the UCSD NICU.

I added an additional donation (NO amount of money could match the gift of healthy children) and wrote a special message to each of the three primary nurses that cared for my kids.

The nurses wrote back to me too. It made my day to know that each had in fact, been recognized for their hard work, dedication and loving care.

That’s my month of getting Back to Goodness! I’d love to hear about yours!


BrookeBenlifer1Brooke Joanna Benlifer, RD is a Cornell University graduate and Registered Dietitian. She currently lives in San Diego with her husband and twins.

“My passion is preventative health through optimal nutrition. I want to lead people toward healthier, more fulfilling lives.”

To connect with Brooke, please leave a comment below.


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