The other day someone asked me, “Do you eat salad every day?” To which I replied “I do. Don’t you?” I sometimes forget that most people don’t eat a pound of vegetables a day. A lot of people don’t even really give much thought to what they eat on any day. And I get it, because I was once like that too.

We are living in a time when almost 10% of Americans have Type II diabetes, nearly 70% of American adults are either overweight or obese, 22.7% of adults have some form of arthritis, and Alzheimer’s is now the sixth-leading cause of death in seniors in the U.S.

What is going on? How can people be dying of conditions like these in a time when medical advancements have people with life-altering spinal-cord injuries walk again?

Food. That’s what’s wrong. We have given up on eating good-for-you, nourishing food. Instead of going to the garden to pick lettuce, tomatoes, green onion and a cucumber to make a lunch salad, we are dumping the contents of a box into a bowl and popping it in the  microwave for five minutes. We are eating foods that provide the bare minimum of nutrition. We are creating inflammation in our guts simply by eating food that is, quite literally, bad for us. This is also known as leaky gut syndrome and it’s as awful as it sounds.

The good news is we can change it. How? Eat better food. Simple, right? Apparently not. Many people’s attachment to food seems stronger than their attachment to people. I’m not kidding. If I suggest to someone that they stop eating grains (bread, pasta, bagels, cookies, muffins, oatmeal, cereal, etc.) for four weeks, I might as well have asked them to cut off their left arm. It’s just food, people. Food that is probably doing you more harm than good. But the only way you are going to know that is if you stop eating it for a period of time. If you feel better without it then chances are it is causing inflammation in your gut. And if you haven’t heard, the medical community has come to realize that good health starts in our gut. And the best food for your gut? Vegetables, animal protein, healthy fats, fruits, nuts and seeds.

Here’s your mission should choose to accept it: stop eating food that comes from a box or a package. That means avoiding premade meals and pre-packaged food with so many ingredients listed on the box you need a magnifying glass to read them all. Stay out of the middle of the store. Do most of your shopping in the produce section and at the meat counter. Or better yet, hit up your local farmers market. Get to know who is growing your food and where it comes from.

The practice of being mindful takes just that—practice. I still practice making the best nutritious, and most importantly, delicious, choices when it comes to what I’m eating every single day. And because of all that practice, long gone are the days of feeling bloated all the time, aches and pains every time I moved, constant brain fog and having absolutely no energy to do anything. I feel as good now in my late 40s as I did in my 20s. Probably better.

So before your next meal, take a minute to really think about what you’re going to eat. If you’re not sure, have a salad.

Blueberry-Apple Avocado Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Hands on: 10 minutes | Total: 15 minutes | Serves 1–2

Salads are a dish where you can and should let your imagination run wild! Take your cue from one ingredient and see where it takes you from there. Some might call this a fruit salad, but when you add in hard-cooked eggs, avocado, tomato and nuts, this is a salad that eats like a meal. It’s a nutrition powerhouse with plenty of protein and good-for-you fats that will keep you fueled and full for whatever your day brings.

Ingredients (salad)

4 handfuls organic spring salad mix

1 red apple (like Gala or Fuji)

1 pear

1 cup blueberries

2 hard cooked eggs

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes

1 clementine or navel orange

1 avocado

½ cup raw pecans

Ingredients (Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette)

¼ organic olive oil

2 tablespoons blueberry balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

Salt & pepper to taste

• Place eggs in a pot and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, covered for approximately 12 minutes (less if you prefer the yolk to be softer). Drain and cool immediately running under cold water or plunging into an ice bath. This will prevent the grey ring from forming around the yolk.

• Wash your salad greens. Even if they say pre-washed it’s a good idea to give them another rinse. Place in large salad bowl (so you have lots of room to toss everything together).

• Chop apple and pears. Put in a small bowl and cover with cold water to prevent browning.

• Using a sharp knife, slice the avocado open vertically and remove the pit. It is easiest if you slice the avocado while it’s still in the skin. Make 3 or 4 cuts in each direction. Using a thin spoon, scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin.

• Cut tomatoes in half or thirds.

• Peel orange and slice crosswise to make rounds.

• Rinse and dry blueberries.

• Rough chop pecans.

• Chop eggs.

• Add all ingredients to the salad greens.

• Mix the olive oil, vinegar, mustard powder and S & P in a glass measuring cup. Whisk well to incorporate ingredients together.

• Pour over salad and toss.

• Plate, serve and enjoy!

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"The practice of being mindful takes just that —practice. "