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.

 

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.