As we're literally just days away from 2021, I figured that this would be as good a time as any to share with you some of the food trends that are gonna be pretty big next year. The thing that I really like about each of these is they are thoughtful, healthy and something that you can easily incorporate into your diet and lifestyle, regardless of what your budget may be.
So, are you ready to discover what you should be spending more of your time on, along with what should be going on your grocery shopping list for the next 12 months?
1. Black-Owned Restaurants
Something that I found myself saying a lot in 2020 is, a company couldn't care less how much we don't like its practices so long as we keep giving it our money. That's why, when I found out which companies that supported Trump's campaign, I stopped shopping there (I also don't give money to billionaires who refuse to give their employees sick pay; just saying).
On top of that, I am more intentional about supporting Black businesses than ever. That's why I smiled when I saw that a big 2021 food trend is backing up Black-owned restaurants. You can find the ones in your own city by either going to your favorite search engine and putting "Black-owned restaurants" along with your city and state in the search field. Or, you can support another Black-owned company and download EatOkra; it's an app that specifically helps you to locate Black-owned restaurants. Dope.
2. Virtual Cooking Classes
Even with the COVID-19 vaccine, folks are still gonna have to wear masks and a lot of companies are still going to require their employees to telecommute. You know what this means, right? Zoom is gonna be here to stay for quite some time. If one of the things that you promised yourself was you were going to be more health-conscious and that you were going to save more money in 2021, why not sign up for some virtual cooking classes? If you get a friend to join in with you, they can actually be a lot of fun and make you quite the at-home chef by the time 2022 rolls around. For a list of some of the best online cooking classes, click here, here and here.
3. “Other Oils”
If you're someone who cooks with olive oil, good for you. Not only is it rich in oleic acid (which helps to keep bodily inflammation down) and antioxidants, it's the kind of oil that helps to reduce your chances of having a stroke. Plus, olive oil contains antibacterial and anti-cancer properties, and it has the ability to keep your blood pressure low and keep your blood vessels healthy and strong.
If you want to add a few other oils to your cooking collection, 2021 would be the year to do it because different kinds of oils are another thing that's going to be pretty popular. For instance, pumpkin seed oil can help to put you into a good mood while also providing your hair with natural sheen. Walnut oil works to improve both your blood sugar as well as your cholesterol levels. Sunflower seed oil promotes heart health, improves digestion and strengthens your immune system. Avocado oil contains the antioxidant lutein which is great for your eyes and contains properties that are good for your skin. Sesame oil is also loaded with antioxidants, has nutrients that can protect your skin from harmful UV rays, it helps to reduce your stress levels and, if you use it for oil pulling, it can work to maintain oral health too.
4. Sugar Alternatives
Personally, I don't know too many people who don't have some sort of a sweet tooth, even if it's just every once in a while. Problem is, between the high caloric count and the fact that consuming too much sugar can lead to things like bodily inflammation, high blood pressure and diabetes, refined sugar is something that you should keep to a bare minimum. That's the bad news. The good news is another popular food trend for 2021 is sugar alternatives. What are those? They're ways to make your food sweet without all of the drama that comes with white sugar. Some that top the list include honey, coconut sugar, monk fruit extracts (sweeteners that are made from fruit), maple syrup and molasses. The cool thing about alternatives like these is they contain more nutrients while still being able to appease your desire for something sweet. Try some in your recipes. Let us know how they go.
5. Fruit Jerky
What the heck is fruit jerky? Think of it as being similar to the Fruit Roll-Ups that a lot of us used to snack on as kids, only it doesn't come with all of the extra preservatives. While I never really thought of it as being a "jerky" before, when I did a little research on this, I realized that it's basically dried fruit that is stretched out. For instance, I really like mango jerky. Anyway, it's a huge food trend in the upcoming year and it is something that you can make from the comfort and convenience of your own home. By the way, some people call them "fruit leathers". Anyway, you can get tips on how to make your own here or you can find some at your local health food store.
6. Spiked Kombucha
I'm gonna be honest, I can take or leave kombucha. If you've never had it before, the long-short of it is, that it's fermented tea. The reason why a lot of people like it is because it has some pretty impressive health benefits including the fact that it's high in antioxidants and probiotics, and the acetic acid in it is able to kill bad bacteria that may be residing in your gut (your gut is where 80 percent of your immune system is, so that's a good thing), and consuming it can help to lower your type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk.
While kombucha has been all the rage for health enthusiasts for a few years now, for the next several months, it's gonna be all about spiked kombucha. In many ways, it's similar to hard seltzer because it's a drink that has a low amount of alcohol content. Anyway, if this is something that you'd like to try, some spiked kombucha brands to consider trying to include June Shine Hard Kombucha, Loona Bay Booch, and Jiant Kombucha.
7. Super Spicy Stuff
If you're someone who has a taste for spicy foods, 2021 is definitely gonna be your year because something that you're gonna see pop up more on restaurant menus and food blogs are meals that have more than a little bit of a kick. The great thing about this particular trend is there are several benefits that come with adding ingredients like chili peppers, turmeric, cumin, ginger, and garlic to your recipes. Spices like these are able to increase your metabolism, help to kill bacteria, reduce inflammation, fight off cancer cells and they can even help to ease depression-related symptoms (thanks to the component capsaicin which can help to give your endorphin levels a boost). So, if spicy is your thing, have at it (in complete moderation, of course).
8. Coffee-Flavored Eats
If you're looking for something that will give you more energy, make you more attentive, help to burn body fat, provide you with a good amount of magnesium, potassium and phosphorus (even a little bit of calcium), and even help to decrease your mortality rate, coffee is able to do that. Keeping all of this in mind, something else that will be a big trend for a while is not just having a cup of java but eating foods that taste like coffee too. So, if you adore the taste of coffee, the next time that you're in the store, be on the look out for items like coffee milk, coffee yogurt, espresso vinegar, coffee shortbread and even coffee spreads. Now, more than ever, stuff like this will be so much easier to find.
9. Comfort Food Breakfasts
Since 2021 will still have a lot of us working from home and our kids doing school online, it actually makes a lot of sense that breakfast would be a big food trend. Not only is breakfast still considered to be the most important meal of the day, but now that you're not rushing to get to the office or to school, you have more time to make some pancakes, French toast or a loaded omelet. While it's important to not indulge in these kinds of foods every single day (certain foods can really pile up when it comes to calories), setting aside a weekday to have a comfort food breakfast can give you one more thing to look forward to every week.
10. Fermenting and Canning
Pickles. Miso. Sauerkraut. Yogurt. Sourdough bread. These are just a handful examples of fermented foods. The reason why they are so good for you is because they're rich in probiotic bacteria (good bacteria). Also, since 80 percent of your immune system is in your gut, they are foods that can keep your immune system and overall health in great shape. So, definitely make sure to put more of these on your grocery list.
Also, since canning (a method that helps you to preserve foods for a longer period of time) is also a huge 2021 trend, how about learning how to pickle some of your own veggies from the comfort and convenience of your own home?
You can read how to do it here. Or, if you'd prefer to watch a video, I've got one for you right here.
11. Farmers Markets
Growing up, it was fairly common for my family to go to our local farmers market, at least a couple of times a month. All these years later, it's still something that I enjoy doing. Not only can you find some pretty amazing-looking produce at a super cost-effective price, there are other benefits that come from going the local route too. The food is organic (which means it tastes better and is more nutritional). And, it's one of the best ways to support your community; more specifically, your local farmers. If you'd like a bit more of a breakdown on why going to a Farmers Market on a consistent basis in 2021 is one of the best decisions that you could make for the sake of your overall health and well-being, Mohammad Modarres's right-at-six-minutes TED Talk will be sure to convince you. Check it out here.
Like I said earlier, taking the precautions that we did in 2020 to keep ourselves safe aren't going to be letting up any time soon. So, whether your city still hasn't opened up its restaurants or you're just not ready to eat inside of any of 'em yet, remember that there is always takeout. Before you order, 1) try and go with one of the Black-owned restaurants that we touched on; 2) read "10 Safety Practices For Ordering Takeout (During A Pandemic)" and 3) definitely invest in an air fryer. Nothing warms up day-old fries quite like it will, plus air frying is another food trend for 2021. Eat up and enjoy, y'all!
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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The Unhealthy 'Unconscious Contracts' We Make With Our Parents (And How To Break Them)
I’m a quotes kind of girl. Unapologetically so. I think I like them so much because they’re a way of packing in a lot of wisdom and insight without giving an entire speech (or writing an entire article). And if there’s one quote that I know I use at least three times a week, it’s “Adulthood is surviving childhood.”
It’s not a good thing either because, basically, what the quote is saying is a lot of us experience so much trauma as children that many of our adult years are actually spent trying to figure out how to survive it all. In fact, I recently read a Guardian article entitled, “Survivors of childhood trauma often grow up believing they are unworthy,” which had a line in it that summarizes a lot of why I do what I do for a living: “Jane now understands that she was conditioned as a child to see toxic relationships as almost normal.” I’m here to reprogram a lot of counterproductive stuff that a lot of us don’t realize we are doing…as best as I possibly can.
And yes, believe it or not, a part of the reason why we get into then tolerate then endure the oftentimes pure suffering of unhealthy relationships with other people — personal and professional, romantic, platonic and familial — is due to something known as unconscious contracts. Boy, when I first learned about unconscious contracts and what they entail, it was like I had a new way of helping to free up so many people from their hamster wheels of dysfunction with other individuals.
Okay, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself. If you already feel drawn to or even triggered by the intro of this article alone, please set aside some time tonight or this weekend to dive into what it means to sign an unconscious contract, how it typically ends up working against you, and what you can do to change it ASAP.
What Is an Unconscious Contract?
I like giving credit where credit's due, and when it comes to the entire concept of unconscious contracts, one of my instructors taught it to me. She said she learned it from a neuroscience educator by the name of Sarah Peyton.
The gist of an "unconscious contract" is it's an agreement that you made, oftentimes in order to get through living with your toxic parent (or parents), that ended up being an unhealthy habit or approach to dealing with other people as you grow and develop into adulthood (you can watch an intro video about it here that is pretty damn enlightening if I do say so myself).
According to Sarah and her findings, a lot of our full dependence on our parents (especially our mother since she's usually the primary caregiver), as far as communication goes, happens around four months of age and, without us even noticing it, we find ourselves figuring out what needs to be done in order to get along with them — even if it's ultimately to our detriment.
An article that dives deeper into all of this is "When Relationships Fall Apart: Conscious and Unconscious Agreements in Relationship." The authors speak on the fact that a conscious contract is an agreement where both parties know the commitment that they are getting into, while an unconscious contract is usually unspoken, although what transpires is one person decides to suppress their thoughts, feelings, and needs in order to make another person happy (or it at least makes getting along with them easier to do).
Now I'll already tell you that if you read this and thought, "Isn't that just compromising?" you just revealed that you are someone who definitely needs to continue on with this piece because, no, suppression is not compromise; suppression is you denying a part of who you are in order to keep the peace — or avoid abuse — and there is nothing compromising about that. It is destructive and definitely the kind of "unconscious contract" that you need to break…immediately if you can.
Before I break down how to do that, let's go a bit deeper into all of this.
How an Unconscious Contract Affected Your Childhood Development
Last fall, Newsweek published an article entitled "Why Adult Children Are Cutting Off Their Parents More Than Ever." Now for the record, no parent is perfect, and since some people like to throw around words like "toxic" as if they are confetti, let's look into some signs that you definitely had a toxic parent as a child/teenager — and that you may still have one now:
- They didn't respect your privacy/boundaries
- They pressured you to agree with them even when you didn't
- They were harder on you than they were on other children (especially outside of the home)
- They found a way to make everything about them
- They wouldn't let you ask questions for clarity (and/or they lashed out when you did)
- They were controlling
- They didn't shield you from trauma (and they oftentimes caused it)
- They used religion to justify their toxic behavior
- They used you as a makeshift therapist/counselor (told you too much information)
- They were verbally and/or emotionally and/or physically and/or sexually abusive
- They were emotionally unpredictable
- They weren't supportive (or you felt like they were competing with you)
- They kept you walking on eggshells
- They deflected from taking accountability for their mistakes (or poor choices)
- They either used guilt or withheld love in order to get their way
If any of this resonated with you, yes, on some level, you are a survivor of a toxic parent — again, not an imperfect parent; more like someone who put you in a position where you dealt with some level of trauma on a consistent basis. And because it's a parent's job to help you to become a holistically healthy individual, when the opposite happens, it can stifle you on some level.
For instance, I grew up with parents who didn't know how to respect a boundary or take accountability if it hit them square in the face. I don't even have the time to get into how deep it all went. For now, I'll just give one example of how it played out in my adult years — recent ones. One parent was so toxic that they really should be in prison. Because they're not, they had the nerve to email me acting like they were doing me some favor by leaving me alone…like I had told them to do for almost two decades now, that they still had moments when they would disrespect the boundary. And where did they get my contact information? From the other parent. WILD. Not you out here enabling my abuser.
Boundaries are limits, and limits (when they are not used to weaponize or manipulate) are put into place to keep us safe. People who don't respect your boundaries are unsafe individuals.
When I think about how my boundaries were constantly being dishonored as I was growing up affected me all through those years. One way is I didn't know how to set healthy boundaries with other people. As a result, I had some of the most toxic female friendships known to man (no joke). Another result is I had a tendency to be controlling to certain other people too. Control is what was modeled to me (suffocatingly so), all the while being told that it was love, and so… that's what I thought it was.
I had written an "unconscious contract" with my parents that allowed them to railroad my space, my body, and my feelings. My needs were basically the "rent" that I had to pay to live in their home and have my basic material needs met. And so, I thought that's what relationships looked like — that I had to go above and beyond while overlooking what I deserved in order to keep people around, OR I had to control the narrative in some way as a way of expressing my "love" to them. And I lived just like this for many years.
How an Unconscious Contract Affects Your Relationships Now
Before the end of the year is out, I'll be finishing my third book. One of the things that it's going to touch on is just how emotionally abusive one dynamic with a certain guy was. I'll give you an example. One time, I helped him put on an event. I got him the venue for free. I made the programs. I set up the slideshow. I ran the slideshow. He didn't pay me a dime. Because the venue was about an hour away and we left unbelievably late (in separate cars), I asked him if he would stay on the phone with me because I was sleepy. He yelled at me, told me that I needed to find someone else, and hung up. And the next day, what did I do? I texted him to make sure that he was okay. AMAZING. He never apologized, even when I brought it up. Instead, he deflected and justified his behavior. Also AMAZING.
In hindsight, I know this is the fallout from unconscious contracts that I had "signed" with my parents, several of them. Something in me thought that if I just loved that man enough, eventually, he would stop mistreating me. Yet, I know him well enough to know that he has his own unconscious contracts that need to be broken, so while I was over-giving, he was over-hustling. He also was being ungrateful and narcissistic (and narcissism is also oftentimes the result of a traumatic childhood; it's a cryptic way of protecting oneself). Yeah, because I still had some "live contracts" going on, folks were able to get away with all kinds of stuff.
I'll give you another example. I have a girlfriend who keeps picking materialistic and shallow women as friends (check out "7 Signs Your Friendship...Actually Isn't One"). Her mother was exactly that way. It's wearing her out now because she feels like all she has in common with her circle is shopping and, inconsequentially, debt. Yet, until I introduced the concept of unconscious contracts to her, she didn't realize that all she really had in common with her mom — and the only time her mom ever really spent quality time with her — was when money was involved (including her mom feeling entitled to her money in present time).
Again, adulthood is surviving childhood. So, take a moment and think about the list that I provided as it relates to whether or not you had a toxic parent. Where the points apply, ponder what your adult relationships look like these days. Where are there patterns? Where are there mirror reflections of the relationship that you had with your mother and/or father and/or caregiver? Where do you see the same kind of unhealthiness…even now?
When we're children, we are innocent and a blank slate. We rely on our parents to show us how we are to see ourselves, along with how we are to live out our lives. So yeah, without some serious inner work (and oftentimes therapy), the contracts that we became a part of as children will continue in our adult world — that is, until we break them.
What Can You Do to Break an Unconscious Contact
I already know — this is some pretty heavy stuff (which is why I implied at the beginning that it's not exactly lunchtime reading). Yet you know how the saying goes, knowledge is power, and if you could relate to any of this, how freeing is it to get to some of the roots, to receive confirmation that you're not crazy (sis, you're not) and then be provided with tips on how to get up out of these, what seem like lifelong binding agreements, that are not serving you (and never really were)?
Okay, so now that you know what an unconscious contract is, how you found yourself being a part of one, and how much damage they ended up doing, what can be done to break the contract? Good question.
A PDF that I was given (via Sarah Peyton's site) is what my instructor shared with me. I have edited it a bit so that it can make a bit more sense (if this is your first time hearing about unconscious contracts):
Step 1. Determine what the contract initially was.
“I (your name), ________________ , solemnly swear to you (parent/caregiver),___________________
to (whatever the self-defeating behavior was) ________________________ in order to protect you/honor you/survive, no matter the cost to myself. “
Step 2. Was the vow heard? (In order to feel validated in this exercise, you should get someone you trust to serve as a representative to act as the parent/caregiver you are speaking to.)
“Parent or caregiver, did you hear this vow?”
“Parent or caregiver, do you like this vow?”
Step 3. Can the vow be released? If so, release it.
If yes, the representative says, “I release you from this vow and I revoke this contract.”
(If the vow cannot be released, like your parent lives with you and they are still doing the behavior, you may want to seek therapy to figure out what boundaries need to be set up, especially if your parent tends to go full gaslight or full denial whenever you bring trauma or their past mistakes up.)
Step 4. Create a blessing to break the unconscious contract.
The representative says, “And instead of this vow, I give you my blessing to...(create the blessing)”
In a perfect world, you could talk to your parent about all of this, and no representative would be needed — yet honestly if that were the case and your parent was truly self-aware, apologetic, and willing to make amends, they would probably approach you first about the harm that they caused. That's why a representative can be helpful. They are symbolic, and while you may never get this kind of release from your actual parent, the validation and affirmation that comes from the exercise may be enough for you to fast-track your way to healing and to feel stronger in saying "no," setting limits and requiring that your needs be met from your parents — and to offer up consequences when that is not the case.
This is an exercise that can reduce fear and stagnation so that you can start to get on with how to have healthier relationships with others moving forward.
The Benefits of Ending Unconscious Contracts…and Creating New Ones
A wise man once said, "My word is my bond." That said, to tell you the truth, the only way that breaking an unconscious contract is going to work is if there is integrity behind your words. You need to identify them, vocally acknowledge them, and have your representative acknowledge you/them. You need to receive the blessing, and then, what I recommend is setting up a new contract — this time between you and yourself.
For instance, if your childhood unconscious contract was all about you walking on eggshells, the new contract needs to say something along the lines of, "I will no longer put my own feelings and needs aside whenever I feel bullied or even dismissed. My voice matters, especially when it comes to what directly affects me, so I will speak up when necessary." Whew. Can you see how empowering that is?
It can't be said enough that there is plenty of data out here to support the fact that at the age we are traumatized, oftentimes we remain right there emotionally until we heal — and healing can include breaking our unconscious contracts. Only, in my opinion, it's not enough to break one…you need to then replace it with another; otherwise, you could find yourself slipping back into what's familiar…even if you know it's not what's better/best for you.
This really is something that I could go on for days about because it’s the kind of topic that is so freeing once people are able to apply it in their own world. For now, I’ll just say that contracts are binding agreements. Yet, the good thing about unconscious contracts is you can let yourself off of the hook, knowing that you, as an adult, now have the space to live as you wish. You don’t have to “go along to get along” in the midst of super crazy, super counterproductive, super toxic ways.
You can write new contracts — ones that will strengthen you, validate you, and give you the kind of life that YOU want to live. Not the one that your toxic parent(s) made you think you had to settle for.
So, what unconscious contracts are you going to break today?
What new ones are you going to put into motion?
There’s no time like the present to start fully living YOUR life.
Amen? Hallelujah. For real.
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