Coffee Alternatives: Why You Might Want to Try Them and What to Try!

I don’t drink coffee. And not because I don’t like it. I LOVE it. And not because it isn’t healthy, it is.

The sad state of affairs is that when I drink coffee I get reflux and nausea. Every. Single. Time. But more than that. For me, it also leads to anxiety.

This is something I see commonly with my patients and clients. Yes, even with “just” one cup in the morning. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not vilifying your coffee. There are many benefits (I’ll get into that in another post). But if you have anxiety, headaches, reflux, fatigue, or high blood pressure it might be worth seeing what life is like without coffee. After all, you can’t make an educated decision if you don’t know how you feel without it. 

Here are some of the reasons that people tell me they drink coffee (and my typical counterargument for those who may do better without it.)


  • It’s delicious. (So are sour gummy bears, I don’t have those every morning.)
  • Without it they feel tired. (You don’t have a caffeine deficiency, something is making you tired and you should address that.)
  • It gives them an extra edge/they get more done. (So would cocaine. I mean it’s not going to be laced with fentanyl, and it’s legal, and has lots of benefits but if this is why you are drinking coffee ask yourself if that is ok with you? If so…good! If not, let’s look at why and what else can give more of an edge.)
  • If they don’t drink it they get headaches. (That’s withdrawal. Cutting down slowly will prevent this.)
  • The term “coffee alternatives” makes them cringe.
  • It’s a habit. (Is it a habit that is harmful to you? If so, there are lots of ways to break habits!)
  • They need it to poop! (Sure, yes. But you should be able to poop without coffee, let’s address your digestion.)
  • A family member drinks it and it’s too tempting not to when the smell is wafting through the house. (Fair…but a good enough reason? There are compromises that can be made here.)
  • A hot drink in the morning is soothing, part of a morning ritual. (There are lots of lovely drinks that can be part of a morning ritual.)

And these are all reasonable. Unless they aren’t. (more…)

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Overcoming Overwhelm: Why Thinking About Health is Imperative.

[this is an excerpt about why you may want to deal with your health concerns from my book Overcoming Overwhelm]

When you are suffering with chronic pain, imbalanced hormones, digestive complaints, fatigue, or pretty much any other ailment, you’re not only suffering through these symptoms, but also using your energy reserves to deal with them—energy that you might direct toward other things (such as, ahem, making changes and developing new habits). 

It’s Just Easier to Ignore It (Right?!)….

So often people just put up with symptoms because it feels like it will take more energy to deal with them than they have to spare. Or they may not even realize how much of an impact the symptoms are having. By getting clear about what your health concerns actually are, and looking at precisely how reducing or eliminating them (feeling your best) would substantively decrease your overwhelm, you can craft a plan to make those health-related changes that will have the biggest impact on your life.

And if you employ a holistic perspective to get to the underlying issues—addressing causes in addition to symptoms—you may be able to stop both downstream impacts as well as preventing new health conditions from occurring down the pike. Back pain can impact sleep, for instance, and too little sleep makes for more overwhelm. Not all back pain can be fixed, but there are options—chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy, regular exercise, losing weight, or even surgery in the rare cases where it’s indicated. Addressing your back pain will benefit you not only by decreasing the stress of dealing with pain, but also by positively impacting your sleep quality, increasing your energy, and helping prevent a plethora of other health issues related to lack of sleep.

Ready to drink your fourth cup of coffee today?

Another scenario: If your iron stores are low—a common situation for menstruating women—you may be tired and have less energy to deal with the ups and downs of your life. Because you’re tired, you drink a pot of coffee to get more energy. If you’re someone prone to negative effects from drinking too much coffee—such as acid reflux, high blood pressure, anxiety—you now have even more issues to deal with. 

The takeaway:

Remember that your overwhelm impacts your health and your health impacts your overwhelm.

Addressing your health concerns will decrease your load, and decreasing your load will help you address your health concerns. You want to know what health issues are impacting you so you can pull as many of them as possible out of your bucket. You may not be able to handle everything, but you can target those things that have the biggest impact on your overall health and that you can manage to deal with right now. And you’ll know what you still need to do in the future.

Yours in Health,



PS.  I’m here to help….you don’t have to do this alone. If you want a guide to navigating the science of putting common sense into action, I’m here and ready to help. Visit my virtual consults page to learn more — my favorite part of this? We can work together from anywhere in the world!

If you’d like to read a full chapter excerpt from my book Overcoming Overwhelm, please click here.

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Overcoming Overwhelm: You Can’t Fail at Self Care

[this is an excerpt on true self care from my book Overcoming Overwhelm if you would like a full chapter (for free! just click here.]

Dr Samantha's book Overcoming OverwhelmThere will always be times when you get off track—times you accidentally oversleep and don’t get to the gym, times you forget to plan for dinner and end up going out, or times you lose it and eat a bowl of ice cream even though you know it will make you sick. There will always be unexpected losses and disappointments, and there will always be situations you don’t handle as well as you’d like. There will always be bad days—sometimes even bad weeks, months, or years. And that’s okay. 

My Chip and Ice Cream Moments

I remember when I was struggling with my weight and compulsive overeating. Every day I would wake up thinking, “Today will be the day I finally won’t fail. It will be the day that I will finally become the new me I’ve always wanted to be.” But then when the day would be coming to a close, I inevitably found myself neck-deep in a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips. I’d failed. Again. 

What I now know is that those weren’t failures. Far from it.

Learn from ‘Failure’

I was learning what I needed to do to get underneath my problem so I could solve it for good. I was learning that I needed to deal with the psychological issues that were driving my overeating. I was learning that the foods I was eating were triggers for me. I was learning that in addition to wanting to make changes, I needed to accumulate the skills or support necessary to make them. Overcoming overwhelm is a process of learning what is most important so you can make choices and tweak them over time to assure they’re lining up with your values and goals, even as the values and goals evolve over time. You can’t do it all, but as long as you are making empowered decisions, you can’t help but go in the right direction. If you get off track, you recalibrate. It’s as simple as that.

Picture of ASL letter blocks Y E S

So from here on out, look at your ‘failures’ as experiences that teach you. If you want to start exercising, but stop after six weeks, ask why that happened and what you can do about it, rather than just writing it or yourself off as a failure. You need to figure out what roadblock got in your way and how you can get around it. And if you do all of that and still aren’t able to get back to your exercise plan, maybe now isn’t the time for a new exercise program. 

In any case, in all cases, getting off track is not a failure. Self-care is a process, not a goal. You absolutely cannot fail.

Yours in Health,

PS. You don’t have to do this alone! If you would benefit from having the accountability of an appointment to look at your habits, let’s talk. Visit my virtual consults page to learn more — my favorite part of this? We can work together from anywhere in the world. Hit me up if you have any questions.



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5 Rules for Choosing the Right Protein Powder

Some people feel that using protein powder to get protein levels up is cheating. I disagree.

Given that getting enough protein is an important part of steady energy, even mood, and stable blood sugar, I personally feel that it is often a great option for a boost.

You can check out another post I wrote about getting enough protein if you like but TL;DR the lion’s share of my patients and clients think they are getting enough protein but would do better with significantly more. I’ll add that people tend to be pretty resistant to this idea but over the last 20+ years of my practice I’ve seen it to be true more often than not.

My approach to individualized care is always- ‘let’s try it and see how you feel’. Almost all the time people feel better from increasing protein. Much better.

The rub though is that not everyone wants to eat meat at every meal. And although there are vegetarian sources of protein (and I’m not opposed to vegetarian diets on principle) most of the vegetarian foods that we think of as protein (such as beans and nuts) are more fat or carbs than protein. You can find specific examples here.

So, for many of my vegetarian patients and clients, or those who simply want a boost to their diets, I suggest protein powder.

When I started my practice twenty years ago there were only a few options for protein powder—soy and whey. And usually they tasted terrible.

Now we have so many different kinds of protein powder that it’s easy to get lost in the weeds trying to figure out what’s what.

My 5 rules for selecting a protein powder:

Rule #1: Don’t buy protein powder with a half naked weightlifter on the bottle.

Rule #2: Avoid protein that has a sweetener that ends in –ol.

Rule #3: Avoid protein powder with a laundry list of ingredients. (more…)

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My Favorite Macro Balanced Smoothie


A smoothie is an easy way to get a little bit of extra protein in your day, And adding it in around your workout can help with muscle gains! Until recently I really tried to get that protein within 20 minutes after a weightlifting workout. We’re beginning to find that it’s ok before as well!  And anything that makes it more convenient to get what you need is a good thing.

The catch with smoothies is that it is super easy to fall into a sugar trap. People often load their smoothies with fruit. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to vilify fruit, but if you are trying to watch your sugar/protein balance it’s suuuper easy to overdo the fruit/sugar. 

Of course even a fruit laden smoothie is a healthier choice than a snickers bar, juice, or even a sweetened yogurt, but when a smoothie is carb and sugar heavy it may wipe out some of the benefits that you’re shooting for.

Why High Protein Smoothies?

• Higher protein is good for muscle building, weight loss, energy, sustained blood sugar and preventing inflammation.

• It’s an easy peasy meal.

• It’s super refreshing.

• It’s a healthy meal choice!

My Staple Smoothie Recipe

Please note you may have to get used to the less sweet taste. Trust me, it will happen pretty quickly!
Also, of course feel free to mess around with the recipe and/but if you’re shooting for balanced macros make sure to plug in the changes so it’s in line with what you’re shooting for. 🙂Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 1.12.36 PM

  • 1/2 banana OR 1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)- you can leave this out for an even higher protein:carb ratio
  • 1 cup unsweetened nut or seed milk (I like Pacific brand vanilla hemp milk and Califa almond-coconut best.)
  • 2 tsp chia seeds or 1 TBSP ground flax seeds (or both!)
  • 1 TBSP almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 30 g of protein from protein powder: organic whey protein if you eat dairy, pea protein, veg protein or egg white protein or hydrolyzed collagen protein. Click here and scroll to the bottom for the brands I tend to use. Click here for a blog post on protein powders.
  • Ice and additional water to taste and texture (ice can really hide the protein powder texture!)
  • Spinach or other dark greens to taste. Put in as much as you can stand! If you’re using kale make sure to strip the leaves off of the stems. And note that spinach is easier to blend in if you don’t have a power blender like a Vitamix. You can get 3-4 handfuls in before you even notice a change in the taste!
  • Other optional add-ins: 1 tsp spirulina, local bee pollen, acidophilus powder, ground flax seeds, avocado if you’re trying to get your calories up.

The Nutritional Profile

Here is the nutritional profile (calculated in My Fitness Pal) for this recipe with and without the banana. If you use blueberries instead of banana it’s the same profile just 2 g lower for the carbs. Note also I chose different almond butters by happenstance in putting these recipes in, and there is a small difference in calories on the almond butter. It’s always good to double check the nutritional panel when you’re tracking food!


Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 1.19.07 PM

And no thank you, I would not like to submit this recipe to the MyFitnessPal recipe database!





My Favorite Pre-workout, Post-workout, or Anytime Smoothie
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The Top Three Mental Traps that Keep You Stuck in Overwhelm

Today I’m back with a pretty bold statement:

The cycle of overwhelm, stress, fatigue, burnout, and ill health is epidemic in our culture.

It’s not that society’s demands to do-it-all (and with a smile) are causing our ill health or symptoms, but these demands pile on top of all of the other things that we may not even realize are causing us stress—leading to physical, mental, and emotional overwhelm.

Once this happens, we lack the bandwidth to do what we need to do to take care of ourselves, and even more important, to deal with the inevitable stresses that are a part of modern life.

Today, I want to talk about three of the common mental traps that keep you stuck in this cycle.

These are so conditioned into our culture that you may not even realize they’re part of the problem.

🧘Trap #1: Adding self-care to your to-do list (without taking anything out).

Everywhere we look, we’re told a happy healthy life is just around the corner if we would just prioritize self-care. But the problem is that carving out the time and sustaining the commitment to do the work of self-care often means adding another layer of overwhelm to our already high-pressured, overcommitted lives.

Daily exercise, mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation—all of the things that are supposed to fix the problem miss the bigger point because they are characterized by their focus on managing the stress we experience, rather than on decreasing whatever is producing the stress in the first place.

But then when we stay at work just 10 minutes too late to make yoga, or are too rushed in the morning to meditate, we feel guilty for not following through.

Even worse, if there is a financial investment as well—a class pass, exercise equipment, supplements, etc., now we feel like we’re throwing money away. Our money guilt piles on top of the overwhelm we’re already feeling.

Tip: In order to truly feel better, you have to first decrease your overall load so you have room to deal with the inevitable stresses that you face day-in and day-out.

🙆 Trap #2: Comparing your stress levels to those around you.


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