Never Make a Boring Salad Again

When I was growing up, my dad did all of the cooking. My mom's contribution was to make a salad to go along with dinner every night. She meant well. Adding a side salad to your meal increases your fiber intake (most Americans don’t get enough), vitamins and antioxidants to your meal. But often these salads were the same three or four ingredients, along with a few different options of store bought dressing to chose from. It got pretty boring to be honest, (sorry, Mom), and I think that's why salads have a bad rep. Remember the episode of the Simpson's when Lisa becomes a vegetarian? Here, I'll refresh your memory. 

 
 

 

Poor Lisa, I can relate. A bowl of veggies usually just isn't as popular as other more flavorful (but probably unhealthy) food. Most people think having a salad as a meal won't be filling enough, worry they won't feel satisfied, and they just want something heartier and more, well, interesting. If you go to a restaurant, the solution to this is to add a protein, usually meat or fish, occasionally tofu at the more vegetarian friendly places. And while that's always an option to help your salads be more filling, there's so much more we can do to actually get us excited about having all those veggies we know we should be eating!

Whether your goal is to eat more vegetables, bring your own lunches to school or work, cut down on processed food or just get out of your food rut, this post is for you. I want you on Team Salad! For people who don’t like to cook or don’t have a lot of time, salads are the quickest and easiest way to get more servings of veggies into their day. My hope is that by mixing it up a bit and adding more variety, you'll not only boost the nutrients in your diet, but also get inspired to play a bit in the kitchen, and actually be happy to eat a salad. Let's prove Homer Simpson wrong, shall we?

 

20 ingredients to help jazz up your salads, make them more satisfying, and maybe even win some friends. 

  1. Roasted veggies like sweet potatoes, beets or cauliflower (Pro tip: Meal prep these to have them ready to go anytime you want.)

  2. Sauerkraut

  3. Kimchi

  4. Beans, like garbanzo, white beans or kidney

  5. Lentils

  6. Avocado

  7. Hard boiled egg

  8. Nuts, like walnuts, almonds or pecans

  9. Seeds, like sunflower, hemp or pumpkin

  10. Fresh herbs like parsley, basil or cilantro

  11. Olives

  12. Artichoke hearts

  13. Sun-dried tomatoes

  14. Hearts of palm

  15. Grilled corn

  16. Change up your greens, adding massaged kale, arugula, or spinach instead of using only lettuce.

  17. Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)

  18. Falafel : homemade, or I like the frozen ones from Eat Gud.

  19. Veggie patty : homemade, or with quality ingredients like Hilary's Eat Well.

  20. Leftover quinoa or brown rice

 

 
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Never make a boring salad again.

 

Now, let's talk dressing. I think we all know that if we're trying to be healthy by eating a salad, but then drown it in Ranch dressing, it pretty much defeats the purpose. My go-to homemade dressing are a simple vinaigrette and a tahini dressing. Both are simple and delicious, and taste good on a variety of salads. Make a batch and store for a week in the fridge, so they're ready to go when you need them. 

 

 

Tahini Dressing

1/2 cup tahini

1/4 cup warm water, more if needed to attain desired thickness

juice of half a lemon

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/4 tsp. turmeric

1 small pinch of sea salt

 

 

Herbed Vinaigrette

1/4 cup organic, extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. dijon mustard

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, basil, thyme or chives

Small pinch of sea salt

 

If you've got some other favorite salad fixings, I'd love to hear! And as always, if you're curious about specific foods that might help support your personal health, please send me a message and let's talk!

 
 

Ok, one last time. It’s just so catchy.

 

Support Your Immune System and Get Sick Less

It happens every year. The weather gets colder. The holidays come. We spend more time going out, eating poorly, drinking alcohol, and sleeping less. Our healthy habits fall by the wayside. And then, we get sick. From a holistic health perspective, its not at all surprising. Of course if we don't rest, eat crappy, and drink a lot, we get sick. When we aren't supporting our bodies and especially our immune system, it just can't do its job effectively.

I don't know about you, but I hate being sick. Admittedly, I turn into a big, grumpy, whiny baby.  Luckily for everyone around me, it hardly ever happens. I don't mean to brag, I just usually manage to avoid the winter colds, flus and various bugs that often take down the people around me. Sure it happens occasionally, but honestly it's pretty rare, and I can't remember the last time I was sick for more than a few days or had to miss work because of it. I'm not telling you this to be self-righteous or make you feel bad if you do tend to get sick often. I'm only telling you this to let you know that the right diet and lifestyle choices can HUGELY improve your immune system, lessening the amount and severity of illness in your life.

With so many people getting sick this winter, I wanted to share some simple preventative strategies for supporting immunity on a daily basis. If you do find yourself getting sick, amp up the suggestions on the list. There are also a number of herbs and supplements that can help shorten the duration and severity of your cold or flu, feel free to contact me for more information on those infection fighting super boosters too!

Everyday Ways to Boost Your Immunity

INCREASE YOUR NUTRIENT DENSE FOODS

To be completely frank, if you're eating the standard American diet, you are not getting enough nutrients. Sadly, most people have depleted nutrient reserves, showing test results with lower than optimal amounts of numerous vitamins and minerals. The most important nutrients for immune support are vitamins A, C, E and the minerals zinc and selenium. Eating foods with these vitamins and minerals every day will support not only your immune system, but also your skin, heart and overall well being. Here's how to do it:

  • Eat colorful plant foods. Eating a variety of colors also means you're getting a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (compounds that act as antioxidants to protect our cells) to keep the body healthy. Focus on eating fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices every day. Challenge yourself to get as many colors as you can on your plate in each meal from real, whole foods. 

  • Vitamin C protects against free radical damage and is well documented in its protection against the common cold. Broccoli, papaya, kiwi, bell peppers and strawberries are all extremely high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is not stored in the body, so it is important to replenish it through the diet on a daily basis.

  • Carotenes, the form of Vitamin A found in plants like sweet potatoes, carrots, kale and spinach, play an important role in protecting against unwanted pathogens. Animal sources of vitamin A are referred to as retinoids, and include eggs, yogurt and salmon. 

  • Despite Vitamin E being a potent antioxidant, most of the population fails to meet even the minimum recommended amount. Actually a name for 8 different nutrients, sources of vitamin E include almonds, avocado, sunflower seeds, spinach and swiss chard. 

  • Sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, sardines, crimini mushrooms, asparagus and organic tofu. We don't require a lot of selenium (RDA is 55 mcg for adults), so you don't need eat a large amount of these foods if they are in your diet regularly. Foods high in zinc include pumpkin and sesame seeds, lentils, shitake mushrooms and spinach. Zinc is hugely important for a healthy immune system, as well as hundreds of other actions in the body, and can be helpful to take as a supplement if you do feel a cold coming on.

  • Immunity booster super foods: Some foods just pack a big healthy punch in a small package. These include lemons, ginger, turmeric & garlic. Sure its great to take these as an immunity shot from your favorite juice bar when you feel a cold coming on, but having them in your diet on a regular basis is even better. They provide antioxidants, fight inflammation, are antibacterial, anti-fungal, and have powerful immune boosting properties. Make a fresh lemon ginger tea, add some turmeric to your tomato sauce, eggs, and curries, and add an extra clove of garlic to your salad dressing, pesto or sauteed veggies. 

  • Essential fatty acids: Healthy fats like omega 3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the body's defense system response to a perceived harmful stimulus. In small doses, it is necessary and helpful. But chronic inflammation can contribute to disease, and can sometimes be misdirected. Foods like flax, hemp & chia seeds, walnuts, sustainable cold water fish like salmon or sardines, or spirulina are important sources of omega 3's. 

STAY HYDRATED

Without enough water, the body struggles to continually flush out toxins, making it harder to fight infections. When we don't drink enough water we often feel tired and headachy, which might affect our sleep or desire to exercise, two things that on their own also impact our immunity. Most people don't drink enough water, and really notice an improvement in how they feel when the drink adequate amounts. It's usually the first recommendation I make to clients, and luckily its simple, easy and free. In fact, take a second right now to get a glass of water!

  • Drink at least half your weight in oz. of water every day, plus an extra glass for every half hour of exercise, or in warm weather. Adding lemon to the water helps absorption and adds extra vitamin C.

  • Drinks with caffeine and alcohol dehydrate the body, so avoid those if possible, and if you do have either one, compensate by matching it with an extra glass of water. 

  • Other recommended beverages include herbal and green tea, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, and broths.

 

KEEP YOUR GUT HEALTHY

Did you know that an estimated 70 % of your immune system lies in your gut? Think about all the foreign matter (food) your digestive system has to sort through every day, determining what is nourishment for your cells, and what is an antigen (a foreign substance that triggers an immune reaction) like bacteria or viruses. Simply put, if our digestive system is weak or out of balance, our immune system is compromised.

  • Eating fermented foods provides your gut with healthy bacteria, necessary for immune function, digestion, vitamin synthesis and so many other essential processes in the body. When the "good" bacteria in our gut are reduced, the "bad" bacteria can overgrow, leading to infection, skin disorders, headaches and even depression. Boost the healthy bacteria with foods like whole fat, unsweetened yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha (watch the serving size and amount of sugar - see below) miso and tempeh. If you can't eat these foods regularly, it may be worth taking a probiotic supplement to correct any imbalances. 

  • Enhance your digestion: Too much or too little stomach acid, altered pH and intestinal permeability can all compromise digestion and absorption of nutrients.  The use of medications, alcohol, stress and even age can all hinder digestive health, and therefore affect your immune system. If you experience bloating, indigestion, stomach aches, or numerous food intolerances, I recommend speaking to a health practitioner. If you suspect your digestion is not as efficient as it could be, shoot me a message and I'd be happy to make some specific suggestions. 

 

AVOID DEPLETING FOODS

  • Sugar: In addition to the roller coaster ride sugar takes with our energy levels, excess amounts of sugar can inhibit the immune system. It takes nutrient reserves from the body to metabolize sugar, yet provides zero nutrients back to you. Even if you don't think you eat a lot of sweets, consider all the hidden sugar and refined flour hidden in your food. If you eat bread, pasta, crackers, baked goods, pre-made sauces and condiments, commercial yogurt, sports drinks or bottled juices regularly, chances are you're consuming unhealthy amounts of sugar. Start taking a look at your labels and skip anything that has more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. 

  • Any food you're allergic or sensitive to: Very few people have really severe allergic reactions to food, such as hives or finding it difficult to breathe. Usually the reactions are much more mild and subtle, but are still triggering an inflammatory response. For example if you get heartburn when you eat pizza, or a stomach ache after eating dairy, I highly recommend avoiding those foods. Even though you may think of these minor symptoms just as an inconvenience, they are signs that your body is not able to digest, metabolize and assimilate that food, which leads to inflammation, an immune system defense. Ignoring those signs only continues to tie up your immune system, taking it away from its real job of keeping actual germs at bay. 
 Turmeric and lemon, both great immunity boosters

Turmeric and lemon, both great immunity boosters

 

LIFESTYLE MATTERS

  • Sleep more: Second to our diet, sleep probably has the biggest effect on our immune system. People who do not get enough quality sleep are more likely to get sick, and may have more trouble recovering from sickness. Most adults should aim for 7-8 hours a night. 

  • Stress less: Stress increases cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. Try to schedule in stress reduction techniques into your day, such as meditation, yoga, walking outside, or even a bubble bath. A massage is not only a great way to increase relaxation, but also stimulates the lymph system, an important part of our immunity! Be conscious of your thoughts, and do your best to take deep breaths when you start to feel overwhelmed.
  • Exercise (moderately): Most of us know that one of the benefits of exercise is a that its good for the immune system. But overdoing the workouts can actually have the opposite effect, stressing out your body and decreasing your immunity. Moderate exercise on a regular basis is the best for your immune system, bonus points if its outside and if you actually enjoy it!

  • Sunlight: Many people don't produce enough Vitamin D. This nutrient is really more like a hormone, our body produces it with the help of sunlight, and can modulate our immune system. Try to get outside and get some direct sunlight on your skin (without sunscreen) for about 15 minutes a day.

Sometimes despite our best efforts, we still get sick. It's just a part of life. If you've done all you can, take it as a cue to bundle up, relax in bed with a cup of tea, binge watch trashy TV and chill out. Give yourself a break from your endless to-do list, and take a few days off to give your body the rest it needs. 

If you feel like you catch every cold that goes around, or you tend to get sick more often than others, there might be something more serious going on. For chronic infections I recommend seeing your doctor for testing, and learning more about how modifying your diet may be able to improve your health long term. I'm here to help if you want to chat, I always offer a free phone consultation to talk about how I can best support your health!

Here's to your health!

-Amber

 

Holiday Survival Guide

Oh man, the holiday season is almost here!  Are you ready? Ugly sweater parties, cookies, cocktails, office parties, dinners, shopping, family parties, baking, wine, and did I mention parties? Many of us have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. It's great getting together with friends and family to celebrate, but it can also be really stressful, physically exhausting and emotionally draining. For those of us that are trying to eat healthy, it can seem almost impossible to stay on track. I hear people say things like, "Well I'm giving up now, but I'll get back on track after Christmas", or "There's too much going on, I can't commit to eating well until after the New Year".  It doesn't have to be like that - why let the holidays derail you and your health?

Going crazy with indulgences one month will only make it harder to change the next. Wouldn't you prefer to feel energized, looking and feeling great throughout the holidays, rather than falling into bad habits, fighting fatigue and gaining 5 pounds in cookie weight by the time New Year's Eve rolls around? Eating well and taking care of yourself will also keep your immune system strong, helping to avoid those winter colds and flu that often go around at this time of year. So give yourself the gift of health this holiday season (sorry, couldn't resist the cheesiness) and end 2017 feeling good!

How to Stay Healthy Throughout the Holidays 

1. Get Sleep

OK, I know you want to stay up all night partying with your friends, but sleep is really a lifesaver. Without sufficient sleep, our hormones become imbalanced, leading to an increase in appetite, stress and even depression. The last things we need more of during the holidays, right? The next day we turn to caffeine and sugar to keep up our energy, which throws off our blood sugar regulation, and the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and stimulants often continues. Personally, exercise often goes out the window if I'm tired, I'm way less likely to make that morning yoga class if I didn't get enough sleep the night before. Commit to getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night, even if it means leaving a little bit earlier than others, or not scheduling anything early the next morning. And on the nights you can get more, sleep up to 8. If you feel like you need a nap, aim for either 20 minutes, or 90 minutes to avoid waking in the middle of a sleep cycle, which could leave you feeling even more groggy. 

2. Bring Something Healthy

Of course, check with the host first, but most people are happy for you to contribute food to their event. That way, you know you have at least one healthy option. I usually bring a big seasonal salad, maybe with roasted veggies or quinoa to make it more filling.  Or maybe its a gluten free or low-sugar banana bread for a healthier desert option. If it's not an event you're able to bring food to, don't despair. Just eat a small amount of healthy food before you go. Having a small bowl of veggie soup, a salad, or a hard-boiled egg beforehand means you're way less likely to over eat the unhealthy party food options. 

3. Boost the Nutrients

Let's be honest, you're not eating party food and drinking cocktails for every meal this month. So for all those meals you do have control over, choose extra healthy options! Load up on veggies of all colors, healthy fats like avocado and raw nuts and seeds, and clean protein. Avoid packaged and processed food. Maybe even take a probiotic or multi-vitamin. Do not let Sunday's cookie exchange extravaganza be an excuse to eat crap all day Monday. Get back into your healthy eating groove right away, and take advantage of all the times you do have healthy options. Cooking meals at home is the best way to ensure you're getting the healthiest ingredients. If you're looking for convenient ideas, check out this information on meal prepping

4. Stay Hydrated (watch the alcohol)

Most of you are probably saying, "Ha, yeah right". I know it's the holidays, and booze is everywhere. Aside from the dangers of excess alcohol consumption, drinking negatively affects our sleep and appetite, so the effects last longer than just that one party. Imagine how you'd feel this month without any hangovers? Amazing, right? So my suggestion is simply to drink less alcohol and drink more water. After every glass of alcohol (wine, beer, spirits, whatever), have a glass of water. This will keep you hydrated, reduce hangovers, and ultimately reduce your total alcohol consumption. Instead of spending the day post-party on the couch eating potato chips, you'll have the energy to stick to your exercise routine, be productive and make healthy food choices. 

5. Don't Deprive Yourself

Let's be real, you're going to have some less than healthy food this season. And that's OK! Just don't overdo it. Be selective about what you choose, indulging in the things you really want, not just the things that happen to be in front of you. Cut yourself a small piece of pie. Try the best looking cookie, not all of them. Remember you don't have to eat everything on your plate. You'll feel a lot happier if you allow yourself to have just a little bit of the "bad" stuff instead of completely missing out.

6. Exercise & Practice Self Care

Exercise reduces stress, increases our good mood hormones, and helps us avoid gaining extra holiday weight. As your calendar fills up with parties and events this season, be sure to schedule in time to exercise as well. Maybe take that friend who's in town visiting to a workout class with you instead of going to the bar? Or suggest a walk or hike with your family, instead of another dinner? As things get busy, commit to making time for this, otherwise it probably won't happen. This really holds true of all types of self care - make sure you're saving a little time for yourself, to do whatever it is that recharges your batteries. It's totally normal for the holidays to bring up feelings of loneliness or depression, so practices like journaling or meditation can be really helpful.  If you're feeling depleted or overwhelmed give yourself permission to decline an invitation and spend a quiet evening drinking tea and taking a bath.  

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I hope you find this list helpful and realistic, so you can set attainable goals this holiday season. Try these suggestions out and let me know how it goes! If you've got a specific challenge coming up, or a question about your health, shoot me a message, I'd love to help! 

Happy (and healthy) Holidays! 

Eating for Energy

One of the complaints I hear most often from clients is that they wish they had more energy. I get it. If I don’t get enough sleep, am under stress, say yes to too many obligations, or am not eating well, I turn into a cranky, french-fry craving zombie. It's not my best look. Trying to do it all and fit our busy lives into 24 short hours can be overwhelming if we don’t have the energy that is demanded of us. So we rely on coffee and energy drinks, afternoon sweets, or even medications to help us wake up, and then again to sleep, so that we can still do EVERYTHING. This is really no way to live. Ignoring the problem and relying on quick fix-its to power through can lead to more serious health conditions. There is a better way, I promise.

While there are a variety of reasons and health issues underlying why we may experience low energy, there are some simple things we can all do to address the foundations of energy. Clearly, getting adequate sleep is essential, as is exercise, stress management and simply just learning to say no. These are all very important issues, and could each easily make up their own blog topic. For the sake of brevity, this post will focus on the nutritional requirements and advice for giving your body what it needs (and eliminating what it doesn’t) to run optimally and provide us with the energy we want to live life to the fullest!

When we talk about energy and nutrition, its helpful to have a little background info. We obtain energy from the food we eat, mainly carbohydrates, which we use as glucose for ATP, but our bodies can also use protein and fat for energy. Our hormones are responsible for regulating our blood sugar, through an intricate system that moves glucose from the food we eat out of the blood system and into the tissues. This is done mainly by insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas. When we eat, our blood sugar increases and insulin is released to move the glucose into the liver, muscles and fat tissues for storage. High spikes of insulin will lead to dramatic drops in glucose (hypoglycemia), which leave you feeling tired and sluggish. Think of how you feel after eating something sugary, like birthday cake. Initially you may feel pretty great, but an hour or so later your energy drops, you feel cranky, or may even get a headache. Your liver, initiated by specific hormones, can then generate and release glucose which will raise the blood sugar level. This system is constantly working to keep blood sugar fairly even. Our diet and lifestyle can either help it along, or make it work harder. For instance, the standard American diet, full of refined flours, sugar and low in vegetables and fiber, can contribute to insulin resistance, wherein the cells stop responding to insulin, blood sugar remains high (hyperglycemia), and the body then releases even more insulin in response. Stress also raises our blood sugar with cortisol, another reason managing stress is so essential for weight and health. 

If you feel like you're constantly tired or swing between extreme highs and lows, keeping your blood sugar balanced is essential. It will help to keep your energy balanced throughout the day, avoiding that all too common 3 o’clock slump, or feeling tired but wired at night when you are finally ready to rest.

Here are my tips on how to eat to gain more energy. It's not a comprehensive list, but its a fantastic start to addressing basic nutritional issues that could be zapping away your energy. For more guidance, personalized analysis, and targeted nutrients and supplements, I highly recommend working one on one with a nutrition consultant for the support you need.

Eating for Energy

1. Remove any foods that are harming you.

This starts with eliminating the obvious culprits: processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar & white flour.  These foods literally drain your body of energy, using up nutrients to be digested, but providing you none in return. Sure you’ll get an immediate boost from the sugar, but the long term effects lead to a crash in energy, imbalances in your body’s blood sugar regulation systems, and a dependency on sugar to feel awake. No good.

It is also essential to remove any foods that you are sensitive or allergic too. Anything you are allergic or intolerant to triggers your immune system, causes inflammation, and drains your energy. It can also cause a number of seemingly unrelated symptoms such as eczema, headaches, or digestive disorders. Sometimes it can be a food we think of as healthy, but it triggers a reaction in your body. Discovering these foods can be a little tricky, even if you’ve had a IGE allergy test, there can still be more subtle intolerances that the test doesn’t catch. The first two to foods to eliminate are gluten and dairy. Try taking them out of your diet for 3-4 weeks and see how you feel. This is something I work carefully with clients to do, as its a process that takes some detective work. Discovering foods that may be inflammatory to your body with a supervised elimination diet, along with healing any digestive system damage, is key.

2. Eliminate caffeine and alcohol.

I know, I know. Don’t hate me - it's just temporary! If you are dependent on caffeine to wake you up, it may be time to hit the reset button. Is coffee inherently evil? Of course not. I love coffee and drank a cup a day for about 20 years. There are even studies that demonstrate that people who drink a moderate amount of coffee live longer than those that don’t. But if you’re depending on it to wake you up every day, you’ll never be able to regulate your energy naturally. Caffeine increases cortisol, which increases your blood sugar. As for alcohol, it can disrupt your sleep cycle and appetite. How often do you wake up after a night of drinking, tired and craving greasy food? Additionally, alcohol is sugar, carrying with it all the problems discussed above.

You don’t have to go cold turkey, and it doesn’t have to be forever. I recommend cutting the amount of caffeine and alcohol in half for a week or two.  You can drink decaf coffee, or substitute coffee with green tea, which has less caffeine, and lots of antioxidants and health benefits. Then, try going caffeine and alcohol free for two weeks. Initially you may feel tired, but if you stick with it, it will help your body reset its natural cycles. If you continue to drink either one, have them with food and never on an empty stomach.

3. Increase your nutrient density. 

Focus on a variety of vegetables & fruit, nuts & seeds, herbs & spices to get the phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs. Plant foods provide fiber, which is incredibly important for detoxification, as well as slowing down carbohydrate metabolism and keeping you off of the blood sugar roller coaster. Support the liver with cruciferous veggies, such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts, as well as bitter greens like dandelion and watercress. Leafy greens, nuts and seeds are high in magnesium, associated with improved metabolism and glucose tolerance. Berries are low in sugar and high in antioxidants to protect your cells. Starchy veggies like potatoes, corn and peas have their place, but for the purpose of regulating blood sugar, best to eat those in moderation. Cinnamon helps to improve your insulin sensitivity, add it to smoothies and sauces often.

4. Eat 3 meals a day.

This helps to regulate your blood sugar levels, normalizing insulin and cortisol and avoiding any extreme spikes and crashes that go along with skipping meals. Hanger (Hunger + anger) is real. It’s also important to eat enough, but not too much. Over stuffing yourself with larger meals means higher blood sugar, more insulin, and can exhaust your regulation system. Don't worry too much about counting calories, just try not to let yourself become too starving, or too full. 

If you tend to have a fast metabolism, exercise excessively, or have low blood sugar, then include two snacks a day as well.

5. Include protein and fat with every meal and snack. 

Protein promotes satiation, leaving you feeling full and satisfied, helping to avoid sugar cravings. Fat will help to slow carbohydrate metabolism. For instance, a slice of bread with almond butter will increase blood sugar less and take longer to process than a slice of bread alone. Fat should come first from whole food sources, such as avocados, nuts and seeds. A limited amount from oils like olive oil and coconut oil, but all refined vegetable oils should be avoided. Pasture-raised, organic eggs and sustainably caught cold-water fish are options if you eat animal products. 

The exact of amount of calories and macronutrient ratios depends on factors such as weight, age, and activity level, and can be best determined with the support of a qualified health practitioner.

6. Stay hydrated.  

Try to drink half your body weight in oz. of water daily. Not all at once, the key here is have about a cup of water every hour or so. If it makes you feel full, drink it away from meals. Add an extra cup for every serving of caffeine or alcohol. Add lemon for extra liver support and hydration. Our bodies need water. Even mild dehydration can affect our mood, performance and energy levels. Often we confuse hunger with thirst, leading to overconsumption of food. This is really the easiest (and cheapest) thing you can do yourself every day.


Ok, time to get cooking! Some great energy boosting meals include tempeh tacos, a veggie filled coconut milk curry with chickpeas or tofu, or a Buddha bowl. Buddha bowls are basically a fun way of saying: throw a bunch of ingredients together in a bowl and drizzle sauce on it. They are really versatile, and a great meal when you're looking to use whatever is left in the fridge. I recommend the following guidelines when putting together your bowl:

Basic Buddha Bowl

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  • At least three different colored veggies.
  • A whole grain like brown rice or quinoa, or a gluten free noodle like buckwheat soba.
  • Clean protein, like egg, tofu, or bean.
  • Healthy fat, like avocado, almonds or pumpkin seeds.
  • Sea vegetable, like wakame or dried seaweed seasoning.
  • Fermented food, like kimchi.
  • Include a sauce, like tahini, miso-ginger, or peanut.

 

 

Energy can be a tricky thing, and its affected by so many factors, not just food. It will naturally change from day to day, season to season. Start to pay attention to things in your life that give, or take your energy. Keeping a food journal along with noting your energy level each day can be helpful in tracking your food sensitivities and noticing patterns. If you're looking for help figuring this all out, let's talk!

I hope you find this information helpful, and motivates you to begin taking care of yourself. I love hearing from you, so feel free to reach out with comments or questions, and let me know how these tips work for you!

How to Eat Healthy (And Still Keep Your Family Happy)

Tell me if you can relate: You’re serious about being healthy, you’ve gotten rid of the processed food and stocked the fridge full of fresh produce, and you’ve just made a super nutritious meal for your family to enjoy together. Unfortunately, no one else is impressed. Your kids don’t want to eat veggies, your husband doesn’t want to try anything new, or maybe whomever you’re sharing a meal with just has really different tastes than you.

I've been there. When I first started dating my husband, we would often make dinner together. We both liked to cook, the problem was we had totally different ideas of what “good” food was. I was used to making simple, fresh meals. Admittedly, my cooking might have been a little bland, but at least it was healthy. He liked to make really decadent meals, usually full of cheese, breading and butter. Delicious and impressive, but not healthy.  It took some work, and lots of conversations about food, but over time we have both adjusted our styles a bit – I make meals that are a little more hearty and flavorful, and he’s gotten pretty creative with vegetables and healthier ingredients. 

I often talk about this issue with clients who are working hard to improve their health, but face opposition from their family or significant others who aren’t quite ready or willing to embrace change. It’s hard enough to stay on track without the added stress of fighting over what's for dinner or having to make separate meals for everyone, right? Right. 

Well, I'm here to help. I promise, there IS a happy medium somewhere.  I’ve put together some super helpful ways for you to have your veggies, and eat them too! This isn't about trying to convince others to eat like you, resisting peer pressure, or what to order when you're eating out (all important topics, but I'm trying to stay focused here), it's about finding a way for you to make and enjoy nourishing food, without alienating yourself at your own dinner table. You can still stick to your healthy diet and keep the peace at dinnertime.

6 Ways to Eat Healthy, Even if Your Family Doesn't

1.     Make customizable meals. Everyone loves to top their own pizza and make their own tacos.  The key is to provide a variety of options so there’s something for everyone. For pizzas, try adding pineapple, olives, mushrooms, spinach, fresh tomatoes and bell peppers to the menu. For your taco bar, include fillings like black beans, roasted cauliflower, sautéed onions with bell peppers and even an alternative taco “meat” from tofu or tempeh.  Toppings like tomatoes, shredded cabbage, cilantro and avocado are more nutritious additions to the usual cheese and sour cream. 

2.     Make satisfying meals with protein and healthy fats to increase the “hearty” factor.  Even though a salad can fill you up, lots of people have it stuck in their head that healthy food just isn’t filling. Prove them wrong by including protein like beans and whole grains, tofu, or pastured eggs, and healthy fats like avocado, olives or olive oil, nuts and seeds for a satisfying and hearty meal that is still really good for you.

3.     Swap traditional ingredients for healthier alternatives.  You can still make your classic stand-by meals that everyone loves, but upgrade some of the ingredients for a healthier version. For example, swap burgers for portobello mushrooms, zoodles (spiralized zucchini) for pasta noodles, and brown rice or quinoa for white rice. They might even like these new versions better! 

4.    Don’t skimp on flavor – Many people don’t like vegetables because they haven’t been cooked properly or are bland, thrown on the plate as an after thought instead of getting the attention these disease fighting, nutrient dense plants deserve. Adding lots of dried or fresh herbs, spices, garlic, ginger and simple sauces like the pesto recipe below can transform boring veggies into tasty treats.  Experiment with different cooking methods such as steaming, sautéing or roasting, to see which your family likes best.

  5.     Give over some control – Allow your dinner dates to pick one ingredient or aspect of the meal.  For example, if you tell your kids they have to eat a vegetable, then they get to pick which one it is. Or maybe your dinner date wants steak, but you serve it as a steak salad.  It’s about finding a compromise that allows you to stay on track with your healthy eating while letting others still have a say in the food they’re eating too. When people feel included in the process, they are more likely to enjoy the outcome. 

6.     Lead by example – I am firm believer that you can’t control anyone or anything but yourself. People change when they are ready, not because we want them to. Remember that you are taking care of yourself first, which allows you to show up the best you can for others. Nobody else has to agree with, or even understand the choices you're making when you know what's right for YOU. I've noticed that when you are healthy and happy, people notice, and naturally want to follow in your footsteps. Soon you’ll be hearing, “I’ll have what she’s having!” 

As mentioned above, here's a delicious and easy to make zoodle recipe. Some whole wheat pasta once in awhile isn't necessarily unhealthy, but swapping for zucchini provides more water, fiber, and nutrients, without the refined flour and gluten of wheat noodles. This will leave you feeling satisfied, without the heaviness of blood sugar spike of traditional pasta. And zucchini are still in season for about another month!

Zoodles with Kale Pesto

Gluten Free, Soy Free, Vegan

2 medium zucchini  

1 1/2 cup basil leaves

1 cup kale leaves

2 tbsp. raw pumpkin seeds

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. nutritional yeast

2 cloves of garlic

A pinch each of sea salt and black pepper (or to taste)

Additional options: Fresh or sun dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, chopped greek olives, sauteed greens like chard or broccolini. 

Blend all pesto ingredients together in a food processor or blender. 

If you have a spiralizer, use for the zucchini noodles. If not, you can use a vegetable peeler, just discard the center core with the seeds. 

You can lightly sautee the zoodles for just a few minutes in a bit of olive oil and pinch of salt, but they are good raw too! Top with the pesto and any other desired toppings. Enjoy!

 
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Try these suggestions out, and let me know how it goes! Or if you've found any other methods that have helped, I'd love to hear your experience. I hope this helps you to have a happier, healthier meal time with loved ones. 

Mindful Eating

I think we can all agree that eating well is important to our health. Extremely important. But sometimes just as important as what you eat, is how you eat. Most of us don't put a lot of thought into it, we just get the food in our body and move on. However a lot of digestive complaints, and subsequent health issues, stem from improper digestion caused by the way we eat. 

Our bodies do a lot of work when we consume food. They release hormones, secrete enzymes, move muscles, and communicate to other cells to digest the food, assimilate nutrients, and store energy from our meal. All of this happens without any conscious participation from us. This happens thanks to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS has three branches, enteric, sympathetic, and parasympathetic. We won't get into the enteric nervous system now, but its also really important for digestion.

Our sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for reacting to real or perceived stress. That’s right: whether you’re running from a cheetah, or getting yelled at by your boss, your body has many of the same responses. Mainly, your blood gets pumped to your extremities (and away from organs like your stomach) in case you need the extra energy to run. It also releases cortisol and excitatory hormones and neurotransmitters. The take away message for today is: it slows down any processes not necessary for immediate survival, in other words, digestion. 

The parasympathetic nervous system is also known as “feed and breed”. It handles those other activities we need to survive in the long term, once that cheetah has gone away. This is the state we want when we are eating and digesting.

So how do we attain this? Doesn’t our body just do it naturally? Not necessarily. Our body is constantly taking in information from our environment that will dictate how it reacts. Without getting too much into the physiology of it all, we basically have to create an environment where the body can relax and fully focus on the task at hand, in this case, eating and digesting. Because if we’re running from a cheetah, our body isn’t worried about digesting that meal you just ate. Remember how I said our bodies respond the same to real or perceived stress? Well, guess what. If you’re feeling stressed or upset about something while you eat, your body won’t be focused on digesting your meal either. So when eating right after an argument, while worrying about your loved ones, or even feeling sad or mad about the state of the world, you won’t be optimally digesting your food either.

So, why does all this matter? Just about every client I work with at some point or another complains of some digestive issues, like bloating, gas, constipation, or stomach pains. Certainly food sensitivities, imbalanced gut bacteria, and a variety of other things can cause these symptoms. But how you are eating should be first on the checklist when trying to improve your digestion. It's the easiest to change really, and doesn't even involve a trip to the grocery store or a fancy supplement. 

Mindful eating is the solution. It is simply a way of being aware not only of what, but of how you’re eating. Here are some techniques you can try to set yourself up for optimum digestion and assimilation of your food and nutrients. 

1.     Chew Your Food – Seems so obvious, right? In reality, most people don’t chew their food enough. Chewing mixes the food with digestive enzymes in the saliva and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Different types of food require different amounts of chewing of course, but try to chew until the food is all soft and blended, no small bits left. You can start by counting your normal amount of chews on the first bite, and then add 5 more on the next, and so on until your food is liquid before swallowing. 

2.     Pay Attention – So many of us eat distractedly. We eat at the computer, watching TV, while driving texting or doing 17 other things at the same time. While this might seem efficient in terms of saving time, it is totally inefficient for your digestion. When your brain is focused on other things, it can’t fully focus on all of the actions necessary for digestion. The result? Undigested food that can cause bloating, gas, and decrease nutrient absorption. Instead, try to pay attention to your meal. Enjoy the smell of your food, savor the flavors, notice the colors and textures. 

3.     Be Grateful, Calm and Present - Avoid eating when feeling upset or stressed out. I often suggest to clients to take 3 deep breaths when they first sit down for a meal. Deep breathing helps to calm down the nervous system and relax us. Whether you say grace before or a meal or not, taking a moment to be thankful for even having food in the first place, can help bring yourself into the present moment and allow other worries to fall away. Try to let go of anything nagging you from the past or concerns about the future, and focus on the present moment while you enjoy your meal.

4.     Eat Slowly – This is key not only for optimum digestion, but for weight loss as well. It takes 20 minutes for the body to register it is full. The fast food revolution has done as no favors, and certainly normalizing quick meals is one of its drawbacks. Food is meant to be enjoyed and appreciated. If you’re a fast eater, try putting your fork down every 3 bites. If you’re with other people, take time to converse during your meal, taking breaks between bites. Once you start chewing your food more and eating without distraction, meals naturally take longer. But if you’re curious, eat your next meal in typical fashion and time it. Then, try to make the meal after that last 5 minutes longer.

5.     Stop Before You’re Full – In Okinawa, Japan, one of the world’s Blue Zones, where its citizens live longer than most, many people practice Hara Hachi Bu. This ancient teaching says to eat until you are 80% full. When you eat slowly enough to notice signs of fullness before you’ve overdone it, not only will you feel better and avoid that uncomfortably full feeling, but you’ll avoid overeating and weight gain from oversized portions.

 
 This beautiful and healthful bowl of food is from  Palette food and juice . hard not to appreciate and slow down when eating a meal like this!

This beautiful and healthful bowl of food is from Palette food and juice. hard not to appreciate and slow down when eating a meal like this!

 

Becoming more aware of how we're eating really can have profound effects on our health.  Give these suggestions a try, and notice how you feel. It may not happen right away, but over time you'll train yourself to eat in a more relaxed, mindful state. You may notice you feel less discomfort after meals, have more energy, or even lose a few pounds. You may also be more aware of how the meal you've had makes you feel, a great tool for eating the foods that are right for your body. 

As always, I love hearing feedback from you, so leave a comment! If mindful eating seems impossible, contact me for more support.

Happy eating!