Whether logging miles in the car or stuck on a cross-country flight, we’ve found that a good podcast can really help the time fly by. We’ve compiled our list of go-to podcasts that are entertaining, inspiring, AND educational. Happy listening!
It’s now been over a year since we took the plunge and launched Siren Snacks. As newcomers to the food industry, we’ve learned a ton about how this world operates and what really goes on behind the glossy labels of your favorite CPG brands. Today we’re dishing out the good, the bad, and the ugly secrets of the food industry:
With the influx of robotics and smart devices slowly taking over the world (hello, Alexa), many people assume that food production has also been passed on to big machines and robots. But don’t let your SciFi fantasies go wild - most food production is still done with real hands by real people.
As food industry newcomers, we had a LOT of questions when getting started. Our #1 resource to get our questions answered? Other food companies and founders! It’s been amazing to see how supportive and open this community has been when it comes to giving advice and sharing wisdom. From our experience, the sentiment amongst food start-ups is camaraderie, not competition.
It’s inspiring to see so many food companies using their businesses to give back to their communities. From donating proceeds to Camp Fire victims to offering Siren Snacks to San Francisco food shelters, we’ve make a conscious effort to support our city. We’re definitely not alone, with dozens of generous, mission-driven food brands making a difference.
Ever wonder why some brands have labels and certifications like “Non-GMO Project Verified”, “Certified Gluten-Free”, or “Certified Vegan”, and other don’t? These labels demonstrate that a third-party has reviewed the brand’s ingredients and production process...but this certification process also comes with a hefty price tag. The Non-GMO Project Verification process can set a company back nearly $4,000, and certifications like Vegan and Gluten-Free can cost over $1,000 annually. Don’t get us wrong, we see a ton of value in these certifications - but for very early stage brands, they can be prohibitively expensive. So, if a new brand doesn’t have that Non-GMO seal, don’t automatically assume that the brand is using genetically modified ingredients. There’s a good chance they’ve chosen to hold off on their certifications until they can afford it.
Ingredient suppliers and packaging manufacturers give substantial discounts to the larger brands who are buying ingredients in larger quantities. So, when you “shop small”, the prices are often higher because new brands cannot benefit from economies of scale.
You can work backwards from the price tags in a grocery store to understand the actual cost of an item. A good rule of thumb - the price you see in the store is about 3x the cost to produce that item. So, your $6 box of crackers probably cost about $2 to make. The 3x mark-up comes from the manufacturer’s margin, distributor markups, and grocery store markups.
See an item on sale in the grocery store? Don’t go thanking the store for those awesome deals. Chances are the brand is actually paying for that discount, not the store selling the product. In order to get that “sale” tag on the shelf, brands must either (1) sell their product to the store at a discount (and that discount is passed on to the customer), or (2) the grocery store will “charge back” the brand for all products that are sold at a discount.
Lately, we’ve seen lots of products positioning themselves as “healthy” because they align with a trendy ingredient or popular diet (think keto, CBD, or low carb). Just because a product is “keto-friendly” doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be good for you. We’ve seen plenty of ‘on-trend’ products that are still made with questionable, low quality ingredients.
We’ve worked closely with lawyers specializing in food safety to make sure our products are FDA compliant, and the process has taught us SO much about regulations on serving size, packaging claims, and nutrition labels. Did you know that depending on the category of a food product (ie: cookies, cakes, bars, granola, etc), there are specific rules outlining the legal serving size for that item? For example, the FDA requires that products classified as “crackers” have a serving size of 30g. But it’s not uncommon to see crackers with a much smaller serving size, which makes calories, sugar, and carbs appear lower than other competitors following the FDA guidelines. Additionally, there have been several stories emerging about products inaccurately reporting their calories and macronutrients on their nutrition labels. Scary stuff, right?
We believe all brands have the responsibility to be truthful and transparent with their customers. There will always be some ‘bad actors’ out there breaking the rules, but for us it's important to build and maintain customer trust. We like knowing what’s in our food, and if you’re reading this then there’s a good chance you do, too!
Thanksgiving has always been one of our favorite holidays - its a time where we fully disconnect and get to focus on family, food, and celebrating all the GOOD stuff from the past year. Read on as team Siren Snacks reflects on why we're grateful, our favorite holiday traditions, and what's on our holiday wishlists.
Ah, collagen - scroll through Instagram or any wellness blog and you’re guaranteed to uncover endless posts featuring this ingredient and touting benefits like stronger hair or improved digestion. Brands have done an incredible job positioning collagen as a superfood ingredient, and in the process have developed products with pretty pastel packaging that look like something you’d find in a high-end beauty store.
As someone who’s been following a plant-based diet for years (and therefore avoids animal-derived collagen), I’ve watched the rise of this ingredient from the sidelines and wondered, what about a plant-based collagen? Is there a way for vegans and vegetarians to still get the touted benefits without actually consuming an animal-derived product?
To answer this question, let’s take a closer look at WHAT collagen actually is and HOW it works in our body.
According to New York Dermatologist New York dermatologist Whitney Bowe, collagen is a protein found in the cartilage, bone, and tissues of animals, fish and humans. Humans have the ability to naturally produce collagen, but Bowe notes that “as we get older, we break [collagen] down faster than we can replace it.” This gradual depletion of collagen contributes to changes in our skin, joints, and muscles that we typically associate with aging. According to collagen brands like Vital Proteins, consuming collagen protein (derived from either fish, chicken, or cows) helps us replace and restore the collagen that our bodies naturally lose as we age.
To understand whether a plant-based form of collagen is possible, we need to nerd out on protein chemistry for a minute. Basically, protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids, and different types of protein (whether its egg-derived protein, pea protein, or bovine protein) all contain a different mix of amino acids. Turns out that collagen protein has a unique set of amino acids found only within the skin and tissue of animals, and this amino acid combination does not naturally occur in plants.
But thanks to some groundbreaking new research, scientists have been able to re-create the amino acid structure of collagen by breaking down various plant proteins (like hemp, soy, and pea protein) and re-combining specific amino acids to mirror the amino acid structure of collagen. So basically, they’re taking little snippets of amino acids from different proteins and re-combining them to form a new protein that resembles collagen. There’s been a handful of new beauty products on the market that are using “plant-based collagen” created with this technique, although we’ve yet to see any supplements or edible products using this re-constructed, plant-derived form of collagen.
While the world waits for the first edible, plant-derived collagen, there are a number of vegan supplements providing similar benefits - no animal-derived powders necessary.
A promising plant-based alternative to collagen is silica, a mineral that can be taken as a supplement or consumed through silica-rich foods like rice, oats, and bamboo tea. Similar to collagen, silica has been shown to strengthen bones, teeth, and ligaments. Another promising alternative is biotin, which can also be consumed in supplement form or absorbed through biotin-rich foods like nuts, seeds, and avocados. (Side note: I’ve personally been taking a biotin supplement for several months, and have legitimately noticed my hair and nails growing faster than before I began taking the supplement.)
In addition to supplementing with silica and biotin, new brands are offering plant-based products that provide “Collagen Support” to help your body protect and maintain its natural collagen supply. Earlier this year, Moon Juice launched a ‘Beauty Shroom Vegan Collagen Protection’ that, according to Moon Juice, helps “preserve your natural collagen while hydrating skin from the inside out”. Another well-known supplement brand, Garden of Life, now offers a supplement called “Organic Plant Collagen Builder”, which “supports healthy-looking skin with a blend of nutrients designed to support collagen production”.
We’re calling it now - the future is ripe for new products that allow vegans and vegetarians to experience the benefits of collagen without actually consuming any animal-derived products. But this type of innovation also opens a debate on the use of science to manipulate ingredients and alter the way our food is produced. Is it better to consume a plant-based (but lab-derived) alternative to collagen, eat the real thing, or just avoid it altogether? We’ve seen these questions asked in the context of controversial “clean meat” alternatives (like Memphis Meats and Impossible Foods), and are curious to hear your thoughts regarding plant-based collagen supplements!
For us, living our best life means being thoughtful about what we put in our bodies. Which got us thinking: we consume more water each day than we do anything else. And tap water is not only affordable and convenient, but it also arrives plastic-free. So, we decided to get to the bottom of a question we’ve had for quite some time: Should we be filtering our tap water?
We had the pleasure of speaking with an expert on the subject, Nneka Leiba, Director of Healthy Living Science at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Long story short? Yes, according to EWG, everyone in the U.S. should be running their tap water through some kind of filter. Everyone!
The good news? Buying a great filter for your home won’t break the bank. But more on that later.
“Last year, EWG concluded a decade’s long analysis that found hundreds of contaminants in the U.S. drinking water,” says Ms. Leiba. “Many of which are linked to cancer plus reproductive and developmental issues.”
Officially, the tap water in the U.S. is safe to drink. Yes, our water has contaminants – most of them agricultural- and industrial-borne – but federal and state governments keep these contaminants at healthy levels. In theory, drinking tap water is not dangerous to our health. Unfortunately, Ms. Leiba says it’s not that peachy.
“The vast majority of consumers don’t know this. But legal limits are set not just on what is
healthy but on feasibility and cost,” she says. “If a certain chemical is hazardous to your health but also very costly to remove, the legal limit [for that contaminant] increases.”
She says part of the issue is that we don’t protect our source water. “Industrial and agricultural pollutants can freely enter our waterways,” she says. “Which means the utilities have to add more and more chemicals to get the contaminants to a level below what is required by the EPA.”
Chlorine, a chemical commonly used to disinfect public water, is a big part of the problem. “When water has anything organic in it — decaying leaves or trees, manure — the chlorine reacts [with these elements] to form disinfectant byproducts. Many of which have been linked to cancer,” she says.
Here in the Bay Area, most of our water comes from snowmelt that flows into the Hetch Hetchy watershed in Yosemite National Park. There’s no two ways about it, our tap water is downright delicious. We were curious, is better tasting water safer to drink?
“The way water tastes mostly has to do with its mineral content,” says Ms. Leiba. “Hard water" tastes harsh because it contains more minerals. The icky things in water we want to avoid don’t necessarily have a taste.
We found this news to be rather alarming. Staying hydrated is fundamental to our health. In case you haven’t checked lately, experts now recommend men and women drink 15.5 and 11.5 cups of water a day, respectively.
Luckily, it turns out household filters are both cheap and effective.
“We at EWG believe tap water is a perfectly good resource if you have the appropriate filter on your tap,” says Ms. Leiba.
Carbon activated filters – many of which run in the $20 - $30 range – do a great job at removing most contaminants. Brita water pitchers, for example, use a carbon activated filter.
EWG has made it their mission to help consumers buy the right water filter. They used data from 30 million water utility records across the U.S. to create a tap water database. Just enter your zip code to see what contaminants have been found in your area. They also have a water filter guidelines page where you are given all the information you need to make an informed purchase.
In the city of San Francisco, EWG found only three contaminants above healthy limits. While many areas in the country have far more to worry about, SF did test positive for Chromium-6, the same cancer-causing element Erin Brokovich famously sued PG&E over.
Even if your area happens to come up clean of contaminants, EWG urges the use of a filter. “It’s unclear for most areas if water travels through lead-based pipes before it arrives in your tap,” she says. “It’s always beneficial to run your water through a filter.”
This week we celebrated Siren’s first birthday and wow, what a year it’s been. We’ve had some crazy experiences, like nearly getting banned from a tradeshow, sneaking into the “Authorized Personnel Only” zone at the US Postal Service headquarters, riding the Siren Snacks tricycle across San Francisco at 3am, and lugging an empty bathtub across New York City. There’s also been so many highs, like seeing our product on shelves for the first time, getting fan mail from happy customers, and hearing from our dream retailers that they will be introducing Siren Snacks as a new item.
Our biggest takeaway? Nothing can really prepare you for what it’s like to start a company. We literally eat (yes, we eat a lot of Siren Snacks), sleep (the Siren dreams started happening about 1 month in), and breathe (if you’ve accidentally inhaled monk fruit or pea protein, you’ll know what we mean) it 24/7. Regardless of whether you were a business major or read all the books on entrepreneurship, there’s nothing quite like the putting yourself out there, getting your hands dirty, and doing the damn thing. Starting this business has challenged us, brought us to tears (many more times than we’d like to admit), and taught us WAY more than we ever learned in school.
We’ve compiled a list of our biggest takeaways and learnings from Year 1:
No one can tell your story as effectively as you can. This means that YOU need to be the one out there dropping off samples and talking to everyone who will listen about your product. We’re both introverts and nothing makes us more uncomfortable than cold calling, but cold calls and talking to strangers about Siren has been an essential part of our jobs over the past year.
In the CPG world, you need to make sure the product you taste straight out of the mixing bowl is just as good as the product your customer purchases across the country in 6 weeks. The products and recipes we launched last year are different from the product we sell today, and we’re confident that our products will continue to evolve in the next year.
Get out there and talk to your customers - what do they like about your product? What do they think can be improved? We’ve done over a hundred demos over the past year, and the feedback we’ve gathered has allowed us to continue to iterate on and improve our products based on real, unbiased feedback.
Get confirmation from the buyer that they are going to bring you into their store? Great! Take a moment to celebrate, but realize that it is just the beginning. With thousands of products in every store, every brand has to fight for the best spot on the shelf. Be ready to support your accounts with demos and promotions, because if your products don’t sell, there is another company waiting to take your spot on the shelf.
Don’t be surprised if your stress from work starts to creep into your dreams (don’t even ask us how many times we’ve dreamt of pea protein)… so it’s important to find a way to disconnect, even just for an hour or two. Take a yoga class, go for a run, or maybe just sit outside and take a few deep breaths. We're definitely still working on this, but have learned that we're so much more productive when we make time to take care of ourselves and keep our stress in check.
We’ve found that the best advice comes from other founders who have recently gone through some of the hurdles and challenges we’re currently experiencing. While it can be inspirational to connect with more senior executives at larger companies, we’ve received the best tactical advice from companies who are just slightly ahead of us.
We’re not trying to be pessimistic here, but the reality is that errors happen and things don’t always go as planned. Shipments get delayed, orders get lost in the mail, and people can get flaky or change their mind. We’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff and to always have a Plan B.
Starting a food company is not as glamorous as it looks. In the first year we’ve had to wear ALL the hats, including the delivery guy, the packaging and production worker, and even the janitor. If you’re only interested in working in powerpoint or spreadsheets, this is not the job for you (maybe try consulting?).
Sometimes it’s ok to play the “sorry, we’re a startup!” card.
In the early days, we rushed into some hiring decisions and learned that, as a small company, adding just one person who was not the right fit took a toll on our goals, productivity, and culture. We’ve learned how important it is to really get to know each candidate before making a hiring decision - check references and get know them beyond what’s on their resume.
Almond, cashew, or coconut? No, we’re not talking about potential toppings for your fro-yo. When we steer our carts to the milk section at the grocery store, we sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed and confused by the countless creamy, white options. Selecting a carton is now more complicated than choosing between skim, full-fat, and two percent. In addition to these dairy varieties produced by cows, dairy-free milks derived from soy, oat, hemp, and more exist. Even Starbucks and other coffee chains have almond and coconut milk for the dairy-wary.
So, how’s a gal to pick which milk to blend her smoothie with or add to her iced coffee? We interviewed Stefanie Adler, a certified nutrition consultant, holistic chef, and founder of San Francisco-based Bright Bean Health, to get the DL on dairy-free milks.
Stefanie: There has been a growing awareness about food sensitivities and allergies, as well as animal welfare practices. Since dairy is a very common food sensitivity and many people would prefer to not support conventional dairy production practices, there has been a rise in popularity of non-dairy milks.
Stefanie: Dairy can be a food that influences our hormones and is often associated with many skin conditions and other issues in the body. Even individuals who find they can eat fermented dairy products like cheese and yogurt often have side effects from dairy milk. Since dairy is a common food sensitivity, switching to a non-dairy alternative can clear up acne, eczema, or other skin problems. It may even help with brain fog for some.
Additionally, non-dairy milks have a different nutritional profile than dairy milk which can provide a diversity of nutrients. Non-dairy milks can also add flavor without needing to artificially flavor a product. For example, hazelnut milk makes a wonderful natural, seasonal coffee creamer! Why use an artificially-flavored hazelnut creamer when you have actual hazelnut milk?
Stefanie: Ultimately, it depends on the person and what their dietary and nutritional needs and preferences are. But the three I recommend are coconut milk, almond milk, and hemp milk.
Coconut milk is low allergen, thick and creamy, and high in lauric fatty acid. When lauric acid is digested, it forms a substance called monolaurin. Both lauric acid and monolaurin can kill harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Coconut milk also contains natural electrolytes and many other nutrients, like magnesium, manganese, iron, potassium, and phosphorus that support muscles and brain health. Coconut milk improves digestion by lining the gut with electrolytes and healthy fats, helping symptoms caused by IBS.
Almond milk contains high amounts of vitamin E and D. Vitamin E protects skin from aging, inflammation, and sun damage. Studies show it may also contribute to hair growth. Vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium and keep our bones, muscles, and immune system strong. Almond milk also contains magnesium which supports nearly every body process and is considered the “relaxation mineral.”
Hemp milk, which is made from hemp seeds, is known to balance hormones, improve skin health, and support brain health. I also recommend hemp milk because of its high Omega-3 to 6 ratio. Both Omegas are fatty acids important to our diet, but omega 3s produce an anti-inflammatory response in the body while Omega-6s produce an inflammatory reaction. Hemp milk has more Omega-3s than Omega-6s, which allows you to consume these beneficial nutrients while keeping inflammation low. Additionally, hemp milk is rich in zinc, which is vital for a strong immune system, healing wounds, learning and memory capabilities, and fertility. Did you know that hemp is also a complete plant protein that contains all 20 amino acids?
Stefanie: Coconut is the most heat stable and the creamiest, therefore the best for cooking and baking. It’s great for making soups extra creamy, using in curries, or making non-dairy ranch dressing. A combination of almond and coconut milk can often be good for baking. Hemp and almond milk are my go-to favorites for coffee, to use as a milk substitute for granola, in smoothies, or to simply have a glass of on their own. Though, sometimes an iced coffee with coconut milk is super decadent.
Stefanie: Making coconut, almond, or hemp milk at home is actually really fun and simple. Check out this overview from Minimalist Baker if you’re interested in doing this.
Coconut milk is best from the can. Look for cans with the fewest ingredients possible listed on the back, usually just coconut, filtered water, and sometimes guar gum which is a natural preservative. Choose full-fat, organic, and BPA-free, too. The best almond and hemp milks will have two ingredients: almonds or hemp seeds and filtered water.
I recommend buying refrigerated almond, hemp, and coconut milk. This means it is less likely to have stabilizing preservatives, which can be tough on the digestive system. Check the ingredients for carrageen, a known carcinogen that is sneaking its way into our food and should be avoided. Try to steer clear from milks that are fortified with nutrients—good dairy-free milks will be filled with nutrients already. The nutrients that are added in aren’t easy for our body to use and absorb. Last but not least, always look for unsweetened non-dairy milks. If you want to add sweetener, doing it at home will allow you control the type of sweetener and amount you use. Coconut, almond, and hemp milk all help to stabilize blood sugar as long as they aren’t laced with added sweeteners.
We’ve been noticing so many sound healing and sound bath and healing events popping up across San Francisco. First, some background: During sound healing, musicians play instruments like gongs, singing bowls, chimes, tuning forks, and chanting to put attendees in a relaxed, meditative-like state — similar to savasana at the end of a yoga class. Most of the time, sound baths are held in spaces like yoga studios, concert halls, or healing centers. Participants can sit in meditation or lie down to experience the music.
Since we love nothing more than healing our bodies through what we put in our mouths, we were intrigued by the idea of improving our health through sound. As city dwellers, the noise of fire trucks, horns, and construction are the norm. (And we’re guilty of occasionally having our music turned up way too loud.) After experiencing the calming effects of crickets chirping, yoga chants, and classical music, we get how jarring urban sounds could be stressing our bodies out, perhaps without us even realizing it, because it’s so present. Ever jumped at the sudden sound of siren or noticed your heart rate go up when a car’s brakes screech on the pavement? Us, too.
We decided to do some research on sound healing and even attend an event to give you the DL on this new wellness trend. Is it for real, or is it just another noisy fad (pun intended)? Here’s everything you need to know.
While there’s little evidence pointing to the benefits of sound healing and sound baths specifically, there is science that supports why certain sounds are calming. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that those who listened to classical music before a stressful event recovered from the stress more quickly than those who listened to sounds like rippling water. So next time you’re about to hit traffic, try cranking some Beethoven on Spotify. Though most sound bath experiences don’t include the same instruments you’d find in a classical orchestra, many do rely on percussion instruments and chimes. This may provide a similar healing effect to listening to classical music.
What’s even more fascinating is that producing certain sounds yourself may be more healing than passively listening to them. Get this: A 2012 study split 39 participants with a high-stress job into two groups. One group listened to relaxing music for 12 minutes daily for two months. The other practiced kirtan kriya, a meditative form of yoga that is centered around chanting and singing, for 12 minutes daily for two months.
Drum roll: While both groups experienced an improvement, 52 percent of the chanting and singing group reported better mental health scores at the end of the study. Only 19 percent of individuals in the group that listened to calming music reported improved mental health. Though the study’s sample size is small, this might suggest why sound healing and baths — which often incorporate chanting and singing — can have therapeutic benefits.
A few months ago, we attended our first sound bath experience at The Pad Studios in San Francisco. The event started with an hour-long vinyasa yoga class lead by instructor Nicole Cronin, and was followed by a sound bath from musician Lucia Lilikoi. After a strong, grounded flow, we were asked to take savasana. For the next 30 minutes, Lucia played crystal bowls, chimes, and the harmonium (an instrument that’s similar to an organ or keyboard) and sang in a soulful, ethereal voice. (Seriously, this woman has the voice of an angel.)
We should mention that in this case, there wasn’t any chanting except for “Om” at the beginning and end of the class. This effort made us feel like part of a community. It also helped us relieve and let go of some pent up stress — maybe it’s like the yogi version of screaming into a pillow?
OK — back to the bath: After just a few minutes of “bathing,” if you will, we were transported into a deep, meditative state on our mats, supported by comfy props like blankets. Lucia’s voice and the music truly washed over us (finally, the term “sound bath” actually made some sense). When we exited the room, we felt energetically cleansed, at peace, and utterly calm.
We won’t lie: As we floated out of the studio and into the busy, noisy Cow Hollow neighborhood, we totally walked into a crosswalk without looking both ways. But despite the loud honk and screech of the brakes, we didn’t tense our shoulders, get goosebumps, or feel a negative emotion like irritation or embarrassment. We were still on a cloud with Lucia and her harmonium, hearing the sound of her voice and crystal bowls in our head.
If you ever find yourself craving solace from the sounds of the city or desiring an ability to manage the stress that can come along with all the noise (on the streets or in your own head), we highly recommend sound healing.
Ever wish you could take a peek into a health and wellness guru’s cabinet or refrigerator? After all, there’s nothing quite like the euphoric, reassuring feeling of realizing you use the same supplement or brand of almond butter as your favorite health influencer. When we asked Eryn Marshall, a health coach who works with busy, professional women to achieve hormone balance through nutrition, to let us look inside her kitchen, we secretly hoped we’d have some of the same items. But most of all, we wanted some inspiration for our next grocery shopping outing.
Eryn gave us healthy ideas and more — she even offered to cook us a homemade meal using some of her kitchen staples. While the cauliflower roasted in the oven (she used one of her favorite recipes), Eryn took us on a behind-the-scenes tour of her studio apartment’s kitchen. She showed us everything from the snacks she travels with to her favorite beverages (she has almost an entire shelf full of colorful kombucha bottles — a woman truly after our own heart).
Of course, we eagerly jotted down each and every item. We’re even more excited to share the following list with you, along with some pro tips from Eryn.
Consider printing out Eryn’s list the next time you go grocery shopping — it’ll be like she’s right there shopping alongside you, gently steering your cart towards the organic produce. Speaking of which, if you’re in San Francisco and interested in actually grocery shopping and meal prepping with Eryn in real life, she’s currently accepting taking new clients. You can email her to set up a consultation. Take our word for it — our pantry and refrigerator have never looked healthier, and her roasted cauliflower melts in your mouth.
When we’re making our weekly round at the grocery store, we often find ourselves debating if we should toss a certain item in the cart. Anyone else ever have trouble deciding between two seemingly identical brands of unsweetened vanilla almond milk? It’s moments like these when we wish we had a nutrition expert to accompany us up and down the aisles.
We asked Bright Bean Health founder, nutrition consultant, and natural chef Stefanie Adler to go shopping with us at Rainbow Grocery, one of our favorite stores in San Francisco. We enjoyed every second of perusing the shelves with Stefanie and listening to her rationale. Needless to say, we picked up plenty of tips and tricks as well as a few new kitchen staples.
“I mostly keep to the perimeter of the grocery store, where whole foods like bulk seeds and grains, produce, dairy, eggs, and meat are located. I usually only wander into the packaged food aisles if I need things like olive oil, canned coconut milk, or quality dark chocolate.”
“The first thing I do when I come to Rainbow Grocery is go straight to their bulk fermented food section. Fermented foods are so gut-friendly. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s important to get a wide variety of probiotic sources. If you eat or drink the same fermented foods on a regular basis, you’re always getting the same strain of bacteria. Mix it up with with kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, or pickles. Try to add a tablespoon or two of a fermented food to every meal.”
“It’s always better to buy in bulk for price, but also for freshness. If the grocery store is busy, this means they’re frequently replenishing bulk items like nuts, seeds, grains. In other words, you’re getting fresher stuff. If it’s not a busy store, ask an employee about the last time they refilled the item. Nuts, for example, can mold if they’re stored for too long. If you decide to buy in bulk, make sure to read the ingredient list. Dried fruit, granola, and even some nuts have sugar added to them.”
“I recommend soaking any dried beans, grains, and legumes before eating them so they sprout. This process increases how bioavailable the nutrients are to you. Think about something like corn: Since your body doesn’t digest it, you see it when it comes out in your poop. That’s because plant-based foods like corn and beans want to survive themselves — their goal is to be pooped out so they can continue living. You need to do a little extra work to get the nutrients out out of them and fully digest them. Soaking and sprouting is a simple, effective way to do this.”
“I’m all for golden milk and adaptogenic lattes, but you can reap the benefits of these health trends for less money and without purchasing all the fancy, expensive elixirs and mixes. For example, I tell my clients to buy a can of unsweetened coconut milk and add spices like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon for the perfect golden milk that helps reduce inflammation.”
“If possible, always buy refrigerated milks rather than choosing them from the shelf. Preservatives have usually been added to them in order to help them last on a shelf. If this isn’t possible for you, the main ingredient to avoid is carrageenan. This is a controversial ingredient in the nutritional world right now, but it’s been shown to be carcinogenic in certain studies.”
“Cacao butter is an awesome fat to keep at home. You can buy this in bulk or packaged from Navitas Organics. You can make your own chocolate with it! I bought silicone soap molds online to do this. Mix cacao butter, maple syrup, and cocoa powder, heat them in a double boiler, pour them in the molds, and let them cool. You’ve made your own chocolate with zero refined sugar. The Tcho 99% Dark Chocolate Critters, which are unsweetened cacao, are perfect for snacking. They’re rich and give you that deep, chocolate flavor, so you only need a few to feel satisfied. The animal shapes are fun and cute, too!”
“When available, choose produce that’s grown locally. It actually has more nutrients because it’s traveled less far. Each day produce is out of the ground, it’s losing nutrients. This is why eating something that’s locally grown versus something that’s been flown in from Mexico is a healthier option. When people say to me, ‘Oh you’re a nutritionist? What’s the one thing I can do to improve my health?’ I always tell them to start buying organic.”
“When you’re shopping, visualize the week ahead. There may be times when you need to rely on more snacks that are suitable for commuting or traveling. I’m heading on vacation this week to Montana, so I’m keeping an eye out for healthy airport and plane snacks. I love Siren Snacks for this! They’re perfect if you’re on the go and are craving something a little sweet.”
Want to do your own shopping trip with Stefanie or learn about her holistic approach to wellness? Schedule a complimentary wellness consult here and follow her on Instagram for daily cooking and health tips. In the meantime, keep her practical and eye-opening advice in mind during your next grocery adventure — perhaps we’ll bump into you in the produce aisle.
At Siren Snacks, we’re counting down the days until we take our summer vacation. (TBH — we may or may not already have our OOO message written and ready to go.)
As much as we enjoy the time off to relax and explore, we occasionally find ourselves feeling a little “off” without our regular sweat sessions. But just because our favorite studio or trainer is staying home, our commitment to health and wellness can go through TSA right along with us. We’ve put together the following list of ways to move your body while traveling. Plus, did we mention that none of the options include stepping foot in a hotel gym? After all, an important part of traveling is immersing yourself in a different culture and seeing all there is to see (which doesn’t have to include a treadmill — you can see that at home).
If you’re near water, go kayaking or canoeing. Often, there are sports equipment shops to rent everything you need, from paddles to life vests. Talk about an oblique workout.
Speaking of renting equipment: Try biking rather than taking public transportation or cabs. You can even book a biking tour and pedal around your vacation spot.
Want to keep equipment to a minimum? Walking tours are the way to go. Walk from attraction to attraction or along the beach. See ya, au revoir, adios, addio, Uber!
Like we said, who needs a hotel gym? Use your hotel room furniture. Desk chairs are perfect for tricep dips. Got a minute before pool time? Do a 60-second wall sit.
There’s a good chance the city or town you’re visiting has a gym or exercise studio. You might learn what “squat” or “downward dog” means in a different language by signing up for a class or dropping into a gym. Now that’s an immersive experience!
Take the stairs. If you’re sightseeing abroad, challenge yourself to climb to the top of a cathedral, castle, or temple. Anyone else prefer history with a dose of cardio?
Whether it’s doggie paddling or butterflying, just a few laps in the pool or strokes in the ocean will leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated.
Choose an activity that lets you experience the culture. Tourists love hiking in Muir Woods when they visit San Francisco. If you’re in Hawaii, you’ve got to hula! Hike to Piazzale Michelangelo, which offers a breathtaking view of Florence. You get the picture.
Most destinations have a playground or park for kiddos. Turns out, playgrounds and parks make fantastic gyms for grownups. Use the monkey bars for pull-ups. Benches are perfect for push-ups, jumps, or step-ups.
Resistance doesn’t have to mean weight — it can also mean sand. (It’s Mother Nature’s version of ankle weights.) Take your run up a notch by jogging on the beach.
Last tip: You know what makes a perfect travel and airport-friendly snack? You guessed it — Siren Snacks. Though your workout might look a little different while traveling, your go-to snacks don’t have to. Throw a couple of bags in your suitcase or carry-on. Along with your dedication to health, they’ll breeze through security with you, too. Thanks for letting us tag along on your adventure. We’ll be here to welcome you home, too.
That’s right: You’ve finally got the best tips all in one place. We scoured countless websites, magazines, and interviews to curate this list of nutrition, fitness, mindfulness, and sleep hacks from the industry’s most well-known female health influencers, like celebrity nutritionist Kelly LeVeque and self-love and sexuality guru Carly Morgan Gross. Next time you need some inspiration, turn to this list for ways to feel your best and live your healthiest life.
Kelly tells Healthline: “If you were my client tomorrow, I’d ask you, ‘How many hours of sleep did you get last night?’ And I ask this question to every client, whether they’re getting ready to walk the red carpet for an award show, preparing for a movie role as a superhero, or simply trying to lose the last of their baby weight. Consistent sleep is integral to my clients’ success in hitting their goals — every time!”
Laura Lea tells Shape: “Fat, fiber, and protein: Make sure this trifecta appears in your meals to keep your blood sugar balanced and your stomach satiated, so you don't continue to overeat.”
Carly tells Vidya Living: “Stress and fear hurt the body, the digestion, and the heart more than a BigMac from McDonalds.”
Lauren tells Siren Snacks: “The moment I wake up, I drink hot water with lemon. Waking up with warm water is something that makes my whole body feel good.”
Jordan tells The Skinny Confidential: “Exercise is a huge component in leading a healthy lifestyle. You can’t just eat healthy without exercising and expect to live a healthy life, and you can’t just exercise without eating well either. They are the yin and yang of health. My best advice when it comes to exercise is to find the type of exercise that you love so that you will be consistent with it. Our exercise is our play time, our me-time.”
Melody tells Siren Snacks: “I have a sweet tooth, too! I enjoy snacking on dried mango or coconut date rolls, which are made from coconuts, dates, and walnuts, when I have a craving. If my body wants it—I let it have it.”
Ariana tells CNBC: "Take a colleague and go to a cafeteria or go to a table away from your desk in your office and have lunch. Even if you take 20 minutes to do that, it's more recharging than what so many of us do which is eating lunch while working. It just makes a difference to how the rest of your day goes.”
Simone tells Women’s Health: “Pre-workout I love drinking Core Power; it's a recovery drink. And then a banana and peanut butter because bananas have potassium, which helps with muscle cramps. And then afterwards, I like having a good fish, like salmon, and rice and carrots.”
Tosca tells Siren Snacks: “I have the things I need to perform my health rituals close at hand—my journal, a pen, a spiritual book, a water bottle filled with water, or my meditation CD. Whatever you need to make your ritual real, have it there on your nightstand. Put whatever isn’t a part of your routine or that isn’t serving you farther away.”
Kayla tells Marie Claire: “If you say to yourself, ‘Oh, I want to look like her,’ that will never happen. You want to look like the best version of you. Set yourself small, achievable goals like, ‘I want to be able to squat for longer.’ I do a lot of box jumps with clients and they always start out saying, ‘I will never be able to jump on that box,’ but then a few weeks later they do it.”
One last tip (this time from us): If you’re like us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or perhaps even motivated to make a bunch of changes at once after scrolling through so much great advice from wellness experts. But there’s no need incorporate all of these philosophies or suggestions at once (or any at all, for that matter — you’re the ultimate expert in you). Creating lasting, sustainable habits takes time. Identify one or two tips that really resonate with you to try out this upcoming week. From there, you can slowly add more over time if you’d like.
Yoga teachers’ commitment to wellness, mindfulness, and balance often extends far beyond the mat. In fact, it can even show up in their grocery bags and refrigerators. While this may look like a bowl of greens and glass of kombucha, it can also look like a glass of wine and piece (or two...or three) of dark chocolate. “Philosophically, the core of the practice of yoga is to learn what works for you and honor that,” says Lauren Cohen, a yoga instructor in San Francisco. “In terms of nutrition and food, I believe in listening to your body, trusting what it wants, and giving it what it wants, within reason.”
Considering that yoga, from the poses to Instagram hashtags, can sometimes feel unattainable and exclusive, we were drawn to Lauren’s flexible, mindful approach that emphasizes moderation and nourishment. We sat down with Lauren, who teaches public and private yoga classes and leads international retreats, to learn about how she chooses to fuel herself.
Lauren: After my first few years of living in San Francisco working an intense corporate job and teaching yoga part-time, I decided to take a leap and start teaching full-time. I felt disconnected at my job but felt the complete opposite in the yoga studio. That transition was nearly three years ago.
I teach about 10 public classes per week at The Pad Studios, Equinox, Glow, and Yoga Tree, in addition to corporate and private classes. I would describe my classes as soulful vinyasa flow. I’m now focused on expanding my yoga offerings by leading retreats all over the world.
Lauren: Absolutely. I see food as fuel to do what I love, nourishment for myself, and an opportunity to connect with life, whether this is enjoying vegetables from a garden or having a deep conversation with a friend over brunch. I believe what we put in our bodies is the foundation for how we care for ourselves, care for others, and live life. I also enjoy grocery shopping, cooking, and exploring San Francisco’s culinary scene—this is one of my favorite parts of the city, outside of the yoga community.
Lauren: I eat mostly a vegetarian diet but I do enjoy fish, sushi, and eggs. I’m obsessed with sushi—I’ll never give that up! I would say my diet consists of a lot of greens, vegetables, fruits, beans, and the occasional piece of fish. I value eating high-quality, local, farm-to-table, and organic ingredients, too.
Lauren: Growing up, I never liked meat, so I never ate it. I’ve always preferred plants. When I started getting more into yoga, there was a point where I took things to the extreme. I tried to be vegan, but it didn’t work for me. I constantly felt depleted and had low energy. Looking back, I realize I was eating this way because someone else said I should. My journey with my diet is constantly evolving. But ultimately, I eat what I love and what makes me feel good. It’s a mindfulness practice.
Lauren: I have a sweet tooth and am a self-proclaimed chocolate addict! I love a glass of pinot noir, but find the sugar in alcohol impacts my sleep. But part of having a healthy relationship with food is having the occasional indulgence. I don't frequently enjoy sweets or wine, but when I do, I truly let myself.
Lauren: The moment I wake up, I drink hot water with lemon. Waking up with warm water is something that makes my whole body feel good. After an hour or two, I make oatmeal with a banana or berries, chia seeds, hemp seeds, a bit of almond milk, and a bunch of cinnamon. I also have a cup of green tea. Later in the morning, I’ll eat a piece of fruit as a snack.
Lunchtime usually looks like a big salad filled with roasted vegetables, a soft-boiled egg, quinoa or chickpeas, and avocado. I try get enough healthy fat and protein. A few hours later, I’ll snack on nuts, veggies and hummus, or a rice cake with avocado. Dinner varies each night, but a lot of the time I’ll make a vegetable stir fry with protein like tempeh or fish. I drink a lot of water throughout the day, though I prefer sparkling water and kombucha.
Lauren: I most frequently shop at Whole Foods, Bi-Rite, and the farmer’s markets at the Ferry Building and Fort Mason.
Lauren: Spinach, kale, apples, quinoa, avocado, garlic, lemons. And dark chocolate, of course.
Lauren: Terzo has a delicious calamari appetizer and some of the best hummus in the city. I love Nopa’s salmon dish, vegetable tagine, and any of their veggie side dishes or apps. I also like their chicken dish, though chicken is not something I typically eat. But if I’m with someone who orders it and they ask me if I’d like some, I’m not going to be like, “No, I don’t eat chicken.” I think anything to an extreme is problematic. I believe in moderation.
From Soul Cycle and reformer Pilates to Barry’s Bootcamp and Pure Barre, there’s a reason these brand name workouts have cult-like followings: People love them and they produce results. (OK—we said one reason but there are actually quite a few.) The instructors are top-notch, the music is motivating, the showers remind you of the spa, and the workout is killer. But when the class drop-in rate is $35 and package deals cost hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars, the price rather than the workout makes you sweat. Fortunately, there are ways to enjoy your boutique fitness habit without breaking the bank. Here are our top three tips.
Many studios run introductory deals that let you take a few classes and try it out without committing to an expensive membership or class pack. A friend told us she saved money by signing up for different studios’ discounted introductory packages for several months. As soon as one package ran out, she’d find another studio with an intro deal. And repeat. She tried every fitness trend: acro yoga, boxing, ballet, Olympic powerlifting, krav maga, and more. The best part? Because she was exposing her body to so many types of movement, she got in incredible shape.
Sites like Groupon are great for this approach, too. You can purchase discounted packages at top studios. All it takes is an open mind, some Internet deal stalking, and a little attention to detail. Before signing up for these offers, read the fine print in the contract or terms. Some studios automatically enroll new clients in a regular package when their intro package runs out, unless you remember to call and cancel. There’s also nothing worse than having classes expire and wasting money. Mark the package expiration date on your calendar to avoid this.
By assisting the studio with maintenance or business-related tasks, you could get free or discounted classes or memberships. Most studios need help checking clients in at the front desk, cleaning and organizing equipment, or maintaining marketing channels like social media, Yelp, and the website. If you’re a marketer or writer, ask the studio if they need a hand with the newsletter. Love photography? Offer to take pictures of the instructors, space, or public classes for the studio to use for Instagram. If you have a flexible schedule, coming to class early or staying late to make sure the space is in tip-top shape is another option.
We get that asking for this can feel awkward, but remember: the worst someone can say is “no.” They’re not going to ban you from the studio. If you feel uncomfortable asking about work trade opportunities in person, try contacting the studio at their general information email address.
Boutique fitness studios are called “boutique” for a reason. After you finish your tough HIIT class, you’re greeted by the clothes, food and beverage, equipment, and other products in the lobby. “I just worked my butt off,” you tell yourself. “I deserve a new colorful sports bra.” But if you’re looking to save cash, try to only spend money on the workout itself. This means skipping the “Namaste in Bed” tank, $5 electrolyte-enhanced water, or smoothie bar.
If you’re a regular yogi or cycler, consider investing in your own equipment. Spending $2 on a mat, towel, or shoe rental can quickly add up. Using this money for your own mat or spinning shoes can save you money in the long-term if you’re truly committed to the exercise. Plus, they are yours and haven’t been previously worn by anyone else. We’re all about decisions that benefit our wallet and hygiene.
Next time you sign up for a hot fitness class, keep these tips in mind. First, visit the website to check for new client specials. Does Groupon have a deal? We know the essential oil-infused towels are tempting and oh-so-refreshing, but why not bring your own from home and save a couple of bucks? Last but not least: Don’t forget to thank the instructor or person working the front desk. Hey, why not introduce yourself while you’re at it? Who knows, you may negotiate a sweet work trade deal the next time you come.
Sometimes it seems like bottled water is the only healthy option at airports. Fresh produce, green smoothies, and matcha lattes are unfortunately hard to come by in the terminal. While your best bet is to pack your food (some of our plane-approved favorites are popcorn, celery sticks, packets of nut butter and, of course, Siren Snacks), we get that travel can be hectic and planning ahead isn’t always realistic. Plus, there’s zero chance your almond milk is making it past TSA. Though that McDonald’s Egg McMuffin may look and smell tempting, keep these three tips in mind to satisfy your hunger while also maintaining your health goals.
We know what you’re thinking: Chips and margaritas? Seriously? Nope, not this kind of Mexican. Many Mexican restaurants have a bowl, salad, or platter menu option that contains grilled veggies, a protein source, and a healthy fat like avocado slices or guacamole. Even if there are only burritos and tacos on the menu, ask if you can sub the tortilla for a bed of lettuce or get all of the “inside” ingredients served in a bowl, plate, or to-go container. To keep your diet as clean and fibrous as possible, skip the rice, cheese, and any sauces. Try asking for extra vegetables instead. Did we mention that guacamole, pico de gallo, or a couple of squeezes of lime (or all three mixed together) can be a great dressing?
The plain whole-grain oatmeal at Starbucks is a simple but satisfying breakfast option. Though the oatmeal comes with toppings like brown sugar and dried fruit, we suggest enjoying the oatmeal plain to avoid a blood sugar spike. If you’re craving something crunchy or more filling, grab a bag of unsalted nuts or pre-packaged fruit from the nearest Hudson News. Mixing almonds, cashews, walnuts, or sunflower seeds into your oatmeal will increase the healthy fat content and keep you fuller for longer. Fruit is a natural source of fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
Like the Mexican joint, many smoothie and juice bars let you customize your beverage to something similar to what you might blend at home. Our go-to smoothie recipe is one that contains fiber, protein, fat, and greens. Celebrity nutritionist Kelly Leveque believes this combination balances our blood sugar and turns off our hunger hormones, so you’re not grabbing pretzels and cookies from the flight attendant. In Jamba Juice terms, this might look like: kale, cucumber, or spinach (greens), chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, or fruit (fiber), peanut butter (fat), protein powder (protein), and water to blend.
That Dunkin’ Donuts glazed original may be calling your name, but you don’t necessarily have to abandon your healthy habits just because you’re at the airport. Even if you accidentally left that Ziploc bag of carrot sticks and package of hummus at home (we’ve all been there), a little hunting and customization can go a long way. No matter where you’re flying to, sticking to your clean eating routine can make anywhere feel more like home.
Did anyone else have a New Year’s resolution to start meditating? Us, too. But considering that we’re just now telling you about it, we clearly didn’t get off to a strong start. Entrepreneurs and celebrities we admire, like Arianna Huffington, Jeff Weiner, Lena Dunham, and Kristen Bell, swear by meditation’s ability to calm and quiet their busy minds. The Mayo Clinic says that meditation can help you focus on the present, reduce negative emotions, and increase patience and creativity. It can even improve anxiety, stress, high blood pressure, depression, sleep issues, chronic pain, headaches, and conditions like cancer and heart disease.
Despite our best efforts to sit cross-legged in stillness for five minutes back in January, LIFE just seemed to get in the way. When faced with the option of more sleep or a guided meditation, sleep tends to win out. Determined to get our meditation goals and habits back on track, we tried and tested three of the most popular meditation apps in hopes that you can find some inner peace a bit faster than we did.
Our favorite thing about Headspace is getting to listen to Andy Puddicombe, the founder and CEO. Andy leads listeners through the app’s meditations in his adorable British accent. We appreciate that Headspace has a free 10-day basic series, which caters to newbies like us. Many of the meditations include animations that give us something to focus on other than what we want for dinner. We also love reward systems (it goes back to the days of getting gold stars in first grade). Now that we’ve we subscribed and started paying, we can unlock additional content as we use the app more.
Three words: Adult bedtime stories. OK—so this isn’t technically meditation, but Calm’s short narratives lull us to sleep each night. Calm offers meditations at various lengths and for many topics, making meditation customizable to our unique schedules and lives. For example, on a jam-packed day, we only had five minutes to squeeze in meditation between meetings. We also liked that you can select recordings based on specific intentions, such as forgiveness. Our main piece of feedback for Calm is that some of the meditations can get repetitive. During a 15-minute meditation, we don’t need to constantly be instructed to inhale and exhale—a few reminders will suffice.
First, we appreciate the straightforward name. In addition to taking us through meditations that can be catered to different levels and time intervals, the app sends frequent reminders to be more mindful. While we were in a Lyft during rush hour, a notification asked us to “Notice any areas of tension in the body.” I immediately released my clenched fists—which I didn’t even realize were clenched. The coolest part? The app lets you create our own personalized meditation. We select the background music, instruments, and introduction. Our only critique is the homepage, which can be confusing and frustrating to navigate. After all, the last thing you want to feel is frustrated when using a meditation app.
We think we’ve found a new workout (ahem, meditation) buddy in Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe. The fact that Headspace is so accommodating to beginners won us over from the start. The animations are especially useful since we still have trouble closing our eyes without having our mind wander. Plus, they’re pretty darn cute (but not in a childish way), which makes the overall user experience a pleasure.
Who knows, maybe we’ll get to the point where we’re watching Headspace animations more often than Instagram stories. For the time being, we’re just glad this resolution has resurfaced with some help from technology. Meditation makes us feel like we’re more successful at managing stressful moments and difficult emotions, whether it’s a tough relationship, a new problem that arises at Siren Snacks, or simply San Francisco traffic.
Spring has officially sprung. We love filling our vases up with seasonal daffodils and filling our refrigerator door up with wedding invitations.
While we love nothing more than celebrating love while sipping on a signature wedding cocktail, we’d be lying if we didn’t get nervous about maintaining our health goals while navigating an open bar or dessert station (we’re suckers for a gooey lemon bar) at a wedding. Plus, after a glass or two of champagne, it’s much harder to say no to the post-party grilled cheeses and warm donuts. The day after a wedding, we often find ourselves feeling tired, heavy, anxious, or guilty. Um...and aren’t weddings supposed to be about love?
To keep the feelings of love (which includes self-love, too) flowing, we decided to put together this healthy wedding season guide. Based on our own experience and advice from experts, here are some tips that will help you fully enjoy yourself and stay on track with wellness.
We’re a proponent of tasting and enjoying in moderation, but try not to go overboard on fried hors d'oeuvres (we’re looking at you, pigs in a blanket), flatbreads, BBQ chicken skewers, and cake frosting. Turns out, a little can easily lead to a lot. As celebrity nutritionist Kelly LeVeque explains, eating too much of these carbohydrate-rich foods can cause low blood sugar, which makes us feel tired, hungry, weak, shaky, light-headed, or anxious. Meaning, we’re more likely to reach for more of the food that got us feeling this way to begin with.
Instead, LeVeque suggests keeping blood sugar levels stable which leads to more informed, healthy decision making. Before arriving at the wedding, try eating a fat, protein, and fiber-rich snack, like celery sticks and peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg with half an avocado. When you’re at the wedding, reach for protein-rich appetizers like ceviche. Fill half your plate with veggies and the other half with a piece of seared salmon. After enjoying, you’ll be in a more stable biological state to assess if you want to go back for the mac ‘n cheese or potato salad. If you decide to go for it, you’ll be more likely to indulge in moderation.
Attending weddings with judgmental relatives or friends you haven’t seen since high school can bring on distressing situations and difficult emotions, which can lead to unhealthy decisions like drinking too much or emotional eating. But just because you’re in a different environment and not hanging with your usual crew doesn’t mean you can’t rely on the tools that keep you grounded. In fact, they become even more important when our everyday flow is disrupted by new places, people, and situations. Do you practice yoga during the week to manage stress? Does your daily gratitude journal or meditation practice keep you positive and steady?
Try taking five minutes to do a few sun salutations in your hotel room before getting ready for the wedding. Toss your journal into your bag before catching your flight. During the wedding, take a minute for yourself to meditate or breathe deeply in a bathroom stall or go on an outdoor stroll for some fresh air. Tuning in with yourself can help you focus on the positive and remind you of the big picture, instead of spiraling into negative emotions and behaviors.
It can be hard to squeeze in a workout when you’re traveling or have dedicated most of the day to celebrating. Fortunately, one of the most fun parts of a wedding can be getting to enjoy a live band or DJ. Harvard Health reports that a person who weighs 125 pounds will burn 180 calories dancing at a fast pace for just 30 minutes. (Fun fact: That’s roughly the equivalent to dancing to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”—our favorite wedding staple—six times in a row.) Even if your dance moves are more “mom” than modern, moving your body is a proven way to release feel-good endorphins that will keep you feeling the love—not the guilt from that second piece of cake—all night long.
Lately, we’ve been noticing CBD-infused products popping up everywhere - from CBD skin creams, to CBD-enhanced drinks, and even CBD chocolates. And these products aren't just on college campuses. The CBD trend is visible on the shelves of premium grocery stores like Erewhon, and we've even spotted CBD-infused cocktails at several upscale bars in San Francisco. Curious to learn what the hype was all about, we consulted the experts with a long list of questions: Is CBD legal? Will I get high? Is it right for me? And if I do try it, how much should I take?
Once we got our questions answered, we tested out a variety of CBD-infused products to experience the “buzz” firsthand. Read on to find our reviews on CBD and tips for how it can be incorporated into your own wellness routine.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is a part of the cannabis plant. The oil from the cannabidiol part of the plant (AKA CBD oil) can be extracted and infused into a wide variety of products. For hundreds of years, cannabis and its various properties have been used to treat health-related conditions. Today, CBD is shown to help patients get relief from acne, anxiety, pain, arthritis, schizophrenia, cancer, and much more. Though CBD is still being extensively studied by researchers and doctors, the benefits and potential are hard to ignore.
No—cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis. (“Non-psychoactive” is just a fancy, scientific way of saying that it won’t get you high or stoned.) On the other hand, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol—try saying that five times fast) is the psychoactive component of the plant. THC is also known to help with a number of medical conditions. However, for those that don’t want the high, CBD is the recommended choice.
CBD is shown to be safe. Based on this 2017 review of the clinical research on cannabinoids that looked at 132 studies, researchers agree that it has a “favorable safety profile.” That being said, many of the studies on CBD so far have small sample sizes or were only conducted for a few weeks. And there’s yet to be any clinical trials on how CBD interacts with other drugs.
CBD oil can be taken topically (think gels and cream), or oral (from chocolate bars and to drinks and lozenges). The topical options can be used to specific areas of the body, such as the muscles where its applied, whereas oral doses provide a full-body effect.
Ok, so I’m interested in trying some - how much do I take? What is the right dose for me?
Most experts recommend starting with a dose of 10mg CBD and working your way up from there based on how you experience its effects. Some products offer doses up to 50mg, although these higher doses were targeted towards combating conditions like stress and anxiety rather than for everyday use.
Great question. Hemp and marijuana are both part of the cannabis family, so they both contain CBD. The primary difference is that hemp has very little THC while marijuana usually contains TCH in larger quantities. Which source is better for CBD oil? Franjo Grotenhermen, who sits on the board of the International Association of Cannabinoid Medicines, has been quoted saying, “CBD is CBD. The human body does not care where the molecule comes from.” Though we live in San Francisco where marijuana-derived CBD oil is illegal, we’ve only tried hemp.
This is where things get complicated. If the CBD oil is derived from hemp, it’s legal in all 50 states. You can order these products online (by the bulk, if you want) and not have any reason to worry. But if the CBD oil is derived from marijuana, it’s technically a marijuana byproduct. This makes it legal only in states where marijuana is legal. It can also depend on if the CBD is being used recreationally or medicinally. To tackle this topic in more depth and figure out what’s up in your zip code, check out this guide. We found the chart with each state listed extremely helpful.
You know it! We bought these oil drops by Plus CBD Oil at The Scarlet Sage Herb Co. in San Francisco a few weeks ago. The friendly and knowledgeable salesperson told us she recommends placing half a dropper’s worth of oil into the mouth daily. We especially like that the drops are vegetarian, non-GMO, and gluten free. We first tried this before getting into a Lyft around rush hour. About 20 minutes into the ride, we felt calm and relaxed—similar to savasana at the end of a yoga class. Since then, we’ve continued to use the drops when we’re feeling a little anxious. It helps takes the edge off in a totally natural and safe way. We also tried out Ananda’s ‘Spectrum 200’ Hemp Oil and Vital Leaf’s CBD Chocolate Bar and would recommed both. For an ultra premium option, check out CAP Beauty's The Daily Hit, which is a blend of CBD hemp oil with adaptogens and other herbs to help with stress management, focus, and energy.
Last tip: Similar to how we approach our snacks, make sure to read label and select clean CBD products without GMOs, corn syrup, or artificial ingredients.
At Siren Snacks, we like to think that we’re pretty on top of our game when it comes to natural beauty. We remove our makeup and moisturize with coconut oil, rely on Dr. Bronners soap to suds up in the shower (the peppermint scent is our favorite), and get a genuine thrill from raiding the beauty aisle at Whole Foods. But as my makeup bag have gotten a clean and green makeover, I've struggled with one beauty staple: deodorant. As much as I'm eager to jump on the natural beauty bandwagon, it was difficult finding an effective alternative when I've been using Secret Clinical Strength for my adult life. I'm wary of the aluminum, parabens, and chemicals lurking in many deodorant brands, but I'm almost just as wary of B.O.
It’s easy to find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard (not to mention smelly) place when it comes to natural deodorant. To save you time and money, here’s what we learned after testing four of the most popular brands. Plus, find out which stick we’re sticking with for the time being.
The first thing I noticed about this deodorant was the scent. There’s something undeniably uplifting about citrus, especially first thing in the morning. The deodorant was slightly uncomfortable to apply—it felt rough and dry on my skin. After about an hour of wearing it, my armpits started to itch. Google informed me it could be the amount of baking soda in the product, which may irritate more sensitive skin. Despite the itching, it did keep me smelling like freshly-squeezed OJ and feeling dry the entire day without reapplying.
Later that evening, when I stretched my arms behind my head after a big dinner, a friend remarked, “What’s that white stuff in your armpits?” After investigating in the bathroom, I saw the deodorant had clumped up into tiny white balls in my armpits. Honestly, it kind of looked like porridge. Unfortunately, the porridge covered the inside of my silk blouse, too.
I had high hopes for this deodorant since I love the Weleda Skin Food moisturizer. While this smelled like walking through a rose garden and felt refreshing to apply, the scent only lasted about 10 minutes. After a trip to the grocery store, I gave my pits a whiff and realized I already needed to reapply. There’s no way this spray could get my through a sweaty HIIT class. This was especially disappointing because the label reads it lasts 24 hours. A more accurate label for this product would be “body spray” rather than “deodorant.” Plus, after shaving, the alcohol in the spray made my armpits sting.
I’ve been devoted to Tom’s of Maine’s toothpaste for years, so why not give their deodorant a try? The drugstore price tag was great on my wallet and the lavender scent was subtle. While this did a fantastic job at preventing wetness, it did not mask B.O. As I lifted my arms during a yoga sun salutation, I noticed a rather off-putting smell. One downward dog later, I realized my armpits were responsible for stinking up the studio. I blamed it on Tom.
I almost purchased the Unscented option, but swapped it for the Coconut & Vanilla at the last second. This. Smells. So. Good. I had a hard time not eating it. (Good thing it’s natural.) It’s sweet-smelling but not cloying—what Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar always wanted to be. While some deodorants feel like rubbing sandpaper on your pits, this is incredibly moisturizing because it contains shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, and beeswax. Because of its buttery consistency, it left a few white marks on our camisole after pulling it over our head.
This continued to smell awesome and keep me dry from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., which included a nerve-wracking presentation and post-work gym session. My boyfriend, who has supported (and smelled) me through our many trials and errors with natural deodorant, even approved.
Though all of these natural deodorants had positive attributes, from invigorating scents to refreshing formulas, Native Deodorant is the only one I’ll likely repurchase. It’s effective and smells like vacation and dessert in a stick. The primary perk? I'm happy and confident that the ingredients in our deodorant are clean, just like Siren Snacks.
We’d love to know: Have you tried any natural deodorants that work? Share an excerpt from your own natural deodorant diaries in a comment below, along with which brand is your favorite.
Looking for some recipe inspo or unique tips to keep your healthy habits on track? This week we’re honoring some of our favorite female influencers (serious girl crushes on this list) who keep us feeling inspired and fill our feed with drool-worthy creations each and every day. Plus, all of these ladies emphasize a plant-based lifestyle that’s on par with our own food philosophy of eating real, plant-based foods here at Siren.
At the age of 30, Chloe Coscarrelli has already accomplished more than most of us might hope for in an entire lifetime - from opening restaurants to writing award winning cookbooks, to winning Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, and the list goes on. We love how this vegan chef makes plant-based eating both delicious and accessible by creating easy and flavorful dishes everyone will love.
Claudine is a San Francisco-based chef, caterer, and gastronomy geek who refers to her work as “the art of living deliciously.” That’s a mission we can get behind! She showcases the colorful meals she creates for clients on her Instagram, along with the occasional motivational quote that will make you say, “Hell yeah!”
Though her feed is filled with bright smoothie bowls and refrigerator snapshots, we especially admire Jordan’s vulnerability when it comes to health and wellness. Her stories about living with eczema and chronic hives and recovering from an eating disorder show that she’s committed to always keeping it real.
If you watch Angela’s videos or read her captions, you’ll get the sense that she’s the warmest, sweetest person in the world. Pregnant, postpartum, or thinking about having a baby? Make sure to check out Angela’s nutrition tips and recipes based on her own journey into motherhood. (If you’re wondering, her recipes are definitely picky kid-friendly, too.)
Get this: Steph is only 18 years-old! Despite her young age, Steph knows her way around the kitchen. Her spirulina ice cream and coconut date rolls are mouth-wateringly delicious. We love her overall message of self-care and “follow your bliss.” Steph recognizes that our emotional and physical health are very much intertwined.
If you’re in college or don’t have the funds to spend a fortune at Whole Foods, Toni and Michelle have got your back. These ladies prove that you can be plant-based on a budget and even save money. Don’t miss their free meal plans and guide to shopping at Walmart on their website.
From Lena’s perfect avocado roses (and hearts) atop toasts and salads to her adorable kiddos, Lena proves that eating plant-based isn’t just a diet, it’s a family-friendly lifestyle that can exist at home or on the road. After recreating a simple fruit pizza from her feed, we now consider it an appetizer and hors-d'oeuvre staple.
When you first glance at Chef Mary’s Instagram feed, you’ll think to yourself: “There’s no way this is plant-based.” But her broccoli and cheese casserole and crispy Carolina mustard BBQ sweet potato bites all fit the plant-based bill. Mary’s sarcastic and funny commentary will keep you laughing as much as you’re drooling.
Ella’s journey into plant-based cooking started when she was diagnosed with a serious illness in 2011. She found a remedy in whole foods. Ella’s most popular recipe is her cacao and almond energy balls, which are now even sold in some Starbucks locations. (P.S. Did we mention that Ella has an adorable British accent?)
We love how Ali never holds back when it comes to the toppings - think decadent toast that’s loaded with avocado or pancakes literally dripping with syrup and nut butter. Speaking of butter, Ali recently launched a line of Granola Butters that are seriously fit for a Kween and make the perfect topping for well...pretty much everything.
Dana’s motto is “simple foods, simply delicious.” All of her recipes have 10 ingredients or less, require 1 bowl, and 30 minutes or less of preparation. We rely on Dana’s cauliflower pizza crust on the regular, which we load up with the week’s leftover veggies for Friday night Netflix rituals.
This Nashville-based foodie is all about plants and the science behind them. McKel offers hundreds of recipes along with down-to-earth content like “The Best Wedding Diet” that emphasizes the importance of self-care, sleep, stress management, and support, not deprivation (what McKel jokingly refers to as “The Bridal Hunger Games”).
Go ahead, press “Follow” to stay up to date on these amazing women’s plant-based pursuits. Though Women’s History Month may be limited to 31 days, we celebrate these ladies and you every day of the year at Siren Snacks. We’re always here to keep you feeling nourished on your own journey.
At Siren, we’re all about clean snacking. That’s why our bites are free of dairy, gluten, grain, soy, nuts, and GMOs, but full of ingredients you can actually pronounce like coconut oil, flaxseed, and dates. While putting wholesome ingredients in your body is key for optimal well-being, putting them on your body is important, too. But to be honest, it took awhile for our bathroom to catch up with our kitchen.
Nevertheless, we’re excited that our medicine cabinet and makeup bag (along with our refrigerator and pantry) is slowly becoming more full of clean, green, and natural products. Zit zappers powered by chemicals have been replaced by tea tree oil. Our armpits stay stink-free with a deodorant full of essential oils and baking soda, rather than aluminum and parabens.
Here’s what we’ve learned along the way about transitioning to clean beauty.
It’s natural (pun intended) to want to toss every product in your bathroom that contains a chemical into the trash. While we admire the “go green or go home” philosophy, taking this extreme measure can leave you not only feeling overwhelmed, but also with an empty wallet. Instead of throwing out half-used bottles and tubes, the next time you run out of mascara or body wash, try buying a clean alternative to replace it. Over time, you’ll build up an arsenal of natural products without breaking the bank or shifting to a totally unfamiliar routine.
Think of it this way: Some nutrition experts recommend that those who want to transition to a vegetarian diet start out slow, perhaps with a meatless Monday. From there, maybe they’ll try it three days a week. The person slowly transitions to plant-based, rather than immediately going cold turkey (last pun, we promise) on meat.
We believe life’s about balance. Eating clean 100 percent of the time may work for some, but it’s unrealistic for many—us included! Sometimes we want that margarita or slice of wedding cake. So, we enjoy it and don’t beat ourselves up for doing so. In other words, there’s a time and a place for your favorite body wash that smells like Skittles, even though it’s not totally clean.
As natural beauty becomes more popular, there are more resources available to help consumers make informed decisions about purchases. Unfortunately, there are brands claiming to be “green” but are actually more of a...well...murky green. For example, some products have the word “natural” on the label, when in fact they only contain a single natural ingredient.
When in doubt, check out the ingredient list, the same way you would for packaged food. If there’s something you don’t recognize, Google it to see if it contains phthalates, parabens, plastic microbeads, or other unclean ingredients you don’t feel great about using.
Siren Tip: The FDA requires brands to use standardized International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) language on their product labels. "Cocos Nucifera" is the INCI term for coconut oil, for example. If you plug the INCI term into Google, you’ll be able to figure out whether it’s a natural ingredient like coconut.
It’s also helpful to do your research on what terms like “organic” and “natural” really mean.
Websites like the USDA, Leaping Bunny, Safe Cosmetics, and EWG can help you learn terminology, recognize product labels and seals, and even look up products to figure out if they’re up to par with your standards.
If you’re already on the clean eating bandwagon, you may have already done some prep work to start successfully transitioning to clean beauty. The bag of oatmeal you have sitting in the pantry, for example, can be a fantastic addition to a bath because it helps relieve dry and itchy skin. Did you know the jar of organic, virgin coconut oil from Trader Joe’s that you currently use to saute veggies and make bulletproof coffee can double as a makeup remover?
Now, before you move your entire kitchen into your bathroom, don’t forget: Go slow and do your research, both on the ingredients listed on labels and those you find in the kitchen. And, most importantly, try to have fun. That’s what beauty’s all about. After all, what’s better than good, clean fun?
Whether it’s adding a scoop of plant-based protein powder to a morning smoothie, enjoying a salad topped with beans and quinoa for lunch, or unsealing a bag of Siren Snacks as an afternoon pick-me-up or post-gym treat, consuming enough protein is important for optimal health.
But while we know that protein is critical for aiding digestion, supporting our bones and muscles, and fueling our workouts, exactly how much should we be eating? Does it change depending on our health goals or the amount of exercise we’re getting? And what about type of exercise—do Crossfitters require more protein than yogis?
Briana Menendez, an integrative nutritionist and health coach at Urban Wellness SF, lended us her expertise and helped us understand more about protein’s many powers.
Protein is made up of about 20 different amino acids composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen atoms. More than half of the amino acids are nonessential, which means that our bodies can make them on their own. But there are nine essential amino acids that our bodies either can’t synthesize or can’t make enough of to meet our needs. Therefore, they must be supplied through diet. If you ever hear the phrase, “complete protein,” that means that the protein contains all nine essential amino acids in the quantity that our bodies require.
Protein serves many roles in the body! They are the building blocks of the body’s cells—our muscles, blood, skin, hair, etc. Some proteins act as enzymes that help break down substances during digestion or build up substances like bones. Proteins also function as hormones, maintain the body’s fluid balance, transport vitamins, minerals, and oxygen around the body, fight against disease through forming antibodies, and more.
I recommend getting protein from a variety of foods. Quality is important when determining best protein sources. A high-quality protein is easily digestible and has all nine essential amino acids. The digestibility of most animal proteins is 90-99 percent versus 70-90 percent for plant proteins, with the exception of soy and legumes, which are also over 90 percent. Here are a few of my favorite high-quality plant proteins:
Hemp hearts: 2 tbsp, 6g protein
Edamame: ½ cup, 6.5g protein
Chickpeas: ½ cup, 7g protein
Black beans: ½ cup, 8g protein
Peanut butter: 2 tbsp, 8g protein
Quinoa dry: ¼ cup, 6g protein
Wild rice dry: ¼ cup, 6g protein
Lentils: ½ cup, 9g protein
These can be combined with complementary foods that together will provide all nine essential amino acids, such as legumes and grains.
Finding a good balance is key because chronic protein deficiency can negatively affect our brain and kidney function, immune system, and nutrient absorption while excess protein can result in weight gain, compromised bone health, and progression towards heart disease. Adequate protein can help your body function properly and can help with weight loss and maintenance by keeping you fuller, longer. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend getting 10-35 percent of your daily calories from protein or at least 65-70 grams per day. For example, if you eat about 2,000 calories per day the protein should be 200-700 of those calories or 50 to 175 grams.
Protein is always listed on the nutrition label, which is helpful to look at, but I would encourage you to not get caught up in meeting exact numbers everyday since this can be overwhelming and stressful. Instead use it as an average knowing that some days you might get less and some days you might more, which is perfectly okay—and healthy!
The recommended daily intake for protein is the same for people regardless of activity level. Compared to sedentary people, more active people should eat more protein but that’s because they also should also be consuming more calories throughout the day to fuel their activity.
Does this vary based on the amount of exercise we're getting? What about type of exercise?
Eating more protein doesn’t equal growing more muscle but it certainly supports muscle growth. Muscle tissue develops in response to physical activity so make sure to get in strength training two to three times per week if you’re looking to build muscle. Additionally, when you overeat protein, your body will first replace normal daily losses but any surplus remaining will get stored as fat, so there’s no need to increase your protein just because you’re working out more.
Getting enough protein is easier you think it may be! I recommend including a bit of protein in each meal of the day instead of trying to get it all in one meal (which is typically dinner for most people) because it can help you feel satiated and maintain steady blood sugar. I also recommend setting up your plate with ¼ protein, ¼ whole grain or starchy carbohydrate, ½ vegetables (or fruit if it’s breakfast), and one to two tablespoons of healthy fats.
It’s hard not to find a wellness account or blog that doesn’t have an article touting the benefits of eating healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and coconut oil. And yes, there’s a reason why we use coconut oil as a key ingredient in Siren Snacks.
But taking a step back, what exactly does the phrase 'healthy fats' actually mean? We were advised for so long to consume low-fat foods (remember the days of Snackwells Fat-Free Cookies?), so why are nutritionists and Instagram influencers now sauteing with ghee and dipping spoons into thick, full-fat yogurt? We sat down with Briana Menendez, an integrative nutritionist and health coach at Urban Wellness SF, to learn more about healthy fats and what you need to know.
BM: The human body needs healthy fat to function. You may have heard of the omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. These fats are talked about a lot because they are important to a well-balanced, healthy diet and we can’t make them on our own. This means they must be supplied through food. Omega-6s can protect heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and improving insulin resistance. Omega-3s can lower blood pressure, prevent blood clot formation, promote heart health, help fight depression, support memory and brain function, and reduce inflammation.
The main fats you want to avoid are the artery-clogging trans fats that are often found in commercial baked goods like donuts, cakes, cookies, fried foods, processed snack foods like chips and crackers, margarine, and non-dairy creamers. The best way to avoid these fats is by checking the ingredients list. If you see the phrases “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated,” then steer clear.
BM: There are many great options for healthy fats. Here are a few of my favorites in each category.
Monounsaturated: Avocados, nuts and nut butter (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios), olive oil, olives, and sesame seeds are all fantastic sources of monounsaturated fats.
Omega-6 Polyunsaturated: Try eating sources like pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Most meat has omega-6 in it, too. Choosing grass-fed meat, as opposed to grain-fed, offers nutrient advantages of being higher in omega-3s.
Omega-3 Polyunsaturated: Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, trout, oysters, sea bass, sole), walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds are rich sources of this type of fat. Although not as powerful as the foods listed above, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, hemp seeds, and eggs are good sources, too.
Saturated fat: Healthy sources of saturated fat include grass fed butter or ghee, pasture-raised bacon, coconut oil, grass-fed meats, cheese, and dark chocolate (aim for 72 percent or darker).
BM: The US Dietary Guidelines don’t encourage a low-fat diet—and neither do I! They suggest that about 20-35 percent of our daily energy intake (calories) should come from healthy fats. Thinking about dietary fat percentage isn’t very helpful for most people, so I like to recommend including one to two tablespoons of fat with every meal.
A typical day of eating with healthy fats might look like two tablespoons of almond butter with breakfast, a drizzle of olive oil and a tablespoon of flax seeds in a lunch salad, and one fourth to one half of an avocado with dinner. I personally love fats and my body feels best when my diet is abundant in healthy fat. Having an avocado tree in my backyard would be the dream!
BM: Healthy fats can be expensive and aren’t always an available option at work or restaurants. I like to plan ahead and pack my healthy fats. If I know I’m going to buy a salad for lunch, I might pack the avocado. If I’m going to snack on an apple in the afternoon, I’ll pack walnut butter to go with it (I like walnut butter because it’s higher in omega-3s). Packing your fats will save money and ensure optimal nutrition!
BM: I would encourage them to start small. They can add in snacks with healthy fats like a handful of nuts and dark chocolate, a piece of avocado toast, hummus and veggies, cheese and crackers, etc. When that becomes a more regular part of their routine, they can include fats at breakfast, and so on. In my experience, once clients start incorporating more healthy fats into their diet, they love the effects and the flavor!
Whether you spend your free time crafting jewelry, dreaming up a new line of snacks (hey, we’ve been there!) or working on a future best-selling novel, the activities we pursue outside of our full-time job say a lot about our true passions. Of course, if you’re inspired by your full-time job—lucky you. But for many of us, our hobbies leave us truly fulfilled.
If this is the case, have you ever considered turning your side hustle into your 9-to-5? While it’s easy to spend hours daydreaming about this possibility, it’s much harder to quit your current gig, craft a business plan, go back to school, leave a cushy salary, switch industries, or even figure out the best first step. We spoke with English Taylor, a former corporate content marketer who recently started her own freelance writing business, to get her insider tips on turning your passion into a full-time job.
SS: Congratulations on starting your own business! Tell us more about what you used to do and what you’re currently doing.
ET: Thank you! I used to work in marketing for various startups in San Francisco. Now I’m running my own freelance writing business. I help various brands and publications, primarily in the women’s health space, with articles and blog posts. Some of my clients are LOLA, THINX, Schmidt's Naturals, BINTO, Equinox, Apartment Therapy, and Modern Fertility.
SS: Has writing always been your passion?
ET: I’d say that women’s health and wellness is my passion. But I am skilled in writing and really enjoy it. I went back to graduate school to study marketing. I happened to take a few journalism courses—it’s helpful to be a strong writer if you want to work in marketing or communications. My journalism professor encouraged me to send my final project, a long-form article, to The Atlantic. They published it! Because of that piece’s success, I started freelance writing for Refinery29 and NYLON just for fun and to make some extra cash.
I kept up this side hustle for nearly five years while working various marketing gigs. It was so fun to write about nutrition, sex, fitness, and beauty—all things I love—and just happen get paid for it. I remember working on stories at my full-time job instead of doing work.
SS: Was there a moment or point when you knew you wanted to quit your former job?
ET: I guess you could say I had a quarter life crisis of sorts. I realized I was spending twelve hours a day working for a company and in a profession that I just wasn’t excited about.
When your personal values and interests aren’t aligned with how you’re spending your time, that’s when things go south. I knew I had to do something else, otherwise my physical, emotional, and mental health would suffer. To be honest, they already were.
One night during this rough patch, my partner gifted me a journal. The cover said, “Trust your crazy ideas.” I had been toying with turning writing into a full-time gig. This sweet gesture made me feel more supported and confident. I decided that night that I was going to quit.
SS: Was it difficult to quit? What was the hardest part?
ET: It was very difficult. I’m incredibly risk-averse. The hardest part for me was letting go of what other people thought. I remember not being able to sleep because I was afraid of what my coworkers would think and how they would react. Fortunately, I have a very supportive partner, group of girlfriends, and family. Surrounding myself with them the week I quit and during the transition was vital. Most of my coworkers were happy for me, anyways, so I’m not sure why I was anxious.
SS: Describe the process of turning your side hustle into your full-time job—I’m guessing it didn’t happen overnight.
ET: Ha! No, it didn’t. Because this was my side hustle for a few years, I had formed long-term relationships with some editors. When they found out I was available to work with them more frequently, they immediately assigned me more stories and connected me with editors at other places.
I also created a massive Excel spreadsheet with a list of nearly 300 publications and brands I wanted to write for. I sent cold emails and pitches to respective editors or content managers, whose email addresses I found through a lot of Internet stalking. Many of these publications are now places I regularly write for, like THINX and Apartment Therapy.
SS: What’s the most challenging part of working for yourself?
ET: I’m an introvert and now have more energy than ever, but the isolation and loneliness can be hard. I don’t miss long days interacting with coworkers in back-to-back meetings, but I do miss being around people. Working at coffee shops has prevented me from going crazy!
I’d say another challenging part is wearing so many hats. I don’t have a finance background, for example, so figuring out things like taxes, cash flow, expenses, and my rates is tough. And gosh, navigating the healthcare system as an independent professional is beyond complicated and frustrating.
SS: And the most rewarding?
ET: In terms of working for myself, the most rewarding part are the rare moments I have time to look at what I’ve built. Like, holy crap, you’ve built a successful business by yourself. That’s pretty cool.
In terms of what I do, reading the comments on my articles makes me feel so fulfilled. I recently wrote an article about menopause. A woman commented that it helped her feel less alone and that she was happy publications were addressing this stigmatized topic. That feels rewarding in a way that I’ve never experienced before.