Food and Feelings

As much as we all like to keep food and feelings separate – they are often intimately intertwined in more ways than we may realize.  We all have at one point or another reached for food to suppress or enhance an emotion.  When you come home after a stressful day of work, do you like to sit on the couch with a bowl of popcorn or tub of ice cream?  When you have a fun night out with friends, do you often order extra appetizers or dessert, even when you’re not hungry?  There’s nothing wrong with you if you connect food and feelings – it’s a natural part of being human.  But in order to be our most vibrant selves, we must learn to keep the two separate.  When it’s time to eat, our minds must be focused on the pleasure of eating balanced with satisfying hunger and nutrient needs.  When your mind is filled with emotions, you must find the proper, not food related, outlets for those emotions.

Think about the last time you overindulged in your favorite comfort food (think pizza, mac and cheese – for me, bean burritos).  You were probably very happy leading up to and during the act of eating.  Your brain was probably flooded with dopamine as you bit into the comfort food.  But think about what happened 10-30 minutes after you finished.  Did you feel sluggish, bloated, slow, low… depressed?  You’re not alone.  And yet, we still go back to these “comfort” foods, even though they leave us feeling terrible.  Why is that?  Well, why does an alcoholic drink every night, even when they are left with a hangover?  It’s an addiction.  We’re addicted to the high we get when eating so much that we forget the low that occurs afterwards.

Have no fear!  You can overcome this cycle!  It simply takes determination and patience.  This addiction can be overcome using mindfulness.  Mindfulness simply means being aware of your physical and mental reactions, rather than the outside influences.  For instance, next time you are face to face with that jelly-filled donut (or pick your favorite sweet), rather than being influenced by external factors and thoughts regarding the donut, dive inside and do a physical scan.  Begin with your stomach, ask yourself “am I hungry?  Is my stomach truly empty?”  If your stomach is not asking for food, then you are experiencing mental “hunger”, which will diminish over time if it is ignored.  Next, think back to the last time you ate a similar piece of food, and think about how it made you feel – not just in the moment, but afterwards.  Did the food hurt your stomach?  Did the food make you bloated?  Did you end up with an energy crash?  Next, evaluate your emotional state.  Are you stressed and looking for food to comfort you?  Are you sad and needing an emotional boost?  If you’re reaching for food to comfort you, then put your hand down and seek a more appropriate outlet.  Find a friend to chat with, soak up some Vitamin D outside in the sun – find whatever works for you.

So, next time you find yourself reaching for “comfort” food, use that as a trigger to turn up your mindfulness meter.  Overtime, you will find that your feelings will be associated less and less with food.  Your emotional needs will finally be met, and you may even notice a bit of weight loss!  With enough patience and determination, you will have a more meaningful and vibrant life.

Ayurvedic Cleansing: A Natural Detox

According to the school of Ayurveda, cleansing is essential to finding balance in the body.  Cleansing reduces toxicity in the body, leading to a healthier life!  One of the cleansing techniques used in Ayurveda is by eating a monodiet of a dish called Kitctchari.  It is recommended to partake in this monodiet for three days in order to experience its benefits which include:

  • Better digestion
  • Higher metabolism
  • Healthy body weight
  • Improved energy
  • Increased clarity
  • Better sleep
  • Increased overall health

It is recommended to perform this cleanse while on vacation (not working), because during the actual cleanse, you may experience lower energy.  However, it is not recommended for pregnant, breastfeeding, or menstruating women, nor for people who are very sick or disabled.

To perform the cleanse, you will cook and consume Kitchari (my favorite recipe is provided below).  You will eat this dish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, allowing at least three hours between meals.  You must not drink alcohol or caffeine during the cleanse!  They negate the benefits of the cleanse.  You may drink ample amounts of room temperature water and herbal teas, as needed.

After the cleanse, try to transition slowly in order to maximize the benefits.  You can start by introducing steamed vegetables and fresh fruits, eventually bringing back grains and alternative legumes.  Try to enjoy the process of the cleanse by journaling and meditating, staying conscious of the transformations occurring in your body and mind.

Kitchari Recipe

Provided by The Ayurvedic Institute

Ingredients

1/2 cup basmati rice

1 cup split yellow mung dal

6 cups water

1/2 to 1 inch ginger root, chopped or grated

¼ tsp mineral salt

2 tsp. ghee

1/2 tsp. coriander powder

1/2 tsp. cumin powder

1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds

1/2 tsp. mustard seeds

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

1 pinch hing

Handful of fresh cilantro leaves

1 and 1/2 cups assorted vegetables

Method

Carefully pick over rice and dal to remove any stones. Wash each separately in at least 2 changes of water. Add the 6 cups of water to the rice and dal and cook covered until it becomes soft, about 20 minutes.

While that is cooking, prepare any vegetables that suit your constitution. Cut them into smallish pieces. Add the vegetables to the cooked rice and dal mixture and cook 10 minutes longer.

In a separate saucepan, sauté the seeds in the ghee until they pop. Then add the other spices. Stir together to release the flavors. Stir the sautéed spices into the cooked dal, rice, and vegetable mixture. Add the mineral salt and chopped fresh cilantro and serve.

 

References:

www.banyanbotanicals.com

www.ayurveda.com

 

 

Are Adaptogens for Me?

 

Adaptogens are herbs that are used to cure the body of a variety of ailments.  Adaptogens are special because they protect the body from physical, mental, and emotional stress.  For this reason, they are widely claimed to help prevent and recover from cancer!

 

Using adaptogens to heal the body is a practice that has been performed in China for thousands of years.  They are a strong backbone of Chinese Medicine Theory.  And now, adaptogens are becoming available in the western world!  Here are a few adaptogens that you may be interested in trying:

 

  • American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius): used to treat and prevent the common cold
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): known for reducing anxiety, stress, and cortisol
  • Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng): also used to treat colds
  • Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis): used to increase libido
  • Dang Shen (Codonopsis pilosula, C. tangshen): increases appetite and energy
  • Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus): boosts brain performance
  • Green Chirayta (Andrographis paniculata): helps cure colds and respiratory infections
  • Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum, O. gratissimum): balances the body’s systems and reduces stress
  • Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum): lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, G. uralensis): antiviral and anti-inflammatory
  • Reishi (Ganoderma ludicum): supports the immune system
  • Rhaponticum (Rhaponticum carthamoides): increase energy and stamina
  • Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis): treat infections and improve skin health
  • Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus Senticosus): increases mental performance

 

If you’re interested in experimenting with adaptogens, it is always best to consult your doctor first.  Once you know you’re good to take these herbs, I recommend purchasing from a reliable vendor such as Gaia Herbs.  

Healthy Fats for Weight Loss

There are 3 main macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  And you need all 3 in order to live a healthy life at a healthy weight!  So if you have cut fat out of your life in an attempt to lose fat from your body: think again!  Including fat in your diet is critical for weight loss.  But there are many different types and sources of fat, so if you want to increase your health, try to stick with the healthiest forms of fat.

 

Fat helps you lose weight by keeping you fuller longer and by decreasing the insulin that occurs after a sugar spike in your body.  When you feel full, you are much less likely to reach for the 3 p.m. snack or to gorge on ice cream at midnight.  If you eat less, you will naturally lose weight!  And insulin is what regulates the amount of fat stored in your body.  So, decrease the insulin, and the fat on your body falls off!

 

So, what kinds of fat should we eat to stay healthy and lose weight?

 

Well, it is 100% recommended to avoid trans fats – these are the types of fats that clog your arteries and cause heart disease.  You’ll find them in highly processed foods.

 

With saturated fats, it’s best to limit consumption.  You can find the recommended daily allowance on any nutrition label.  Saturated fats are found in foods like meat and high fat dairy.

 

The golden fats are mono- and poly-unsaturated fats.  These are found naturally in vegetables and have been known to increase overall health: better skin, better heart, better brain, better sleep, and more!

 

A few GREAT sources of these fats are listed below:

 

  • Avocados
  • Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Flax Oil
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Almonds
  • Nut butters
  • Seed butters

 

Just remember, you don’t need a lot of fat to feel satisfied!  A typical serving is 1-2 ounces, and that’s really all you need to make your meal taste great and keep your tummy happy while shedding pounds!

Meal Prep Ideas

Everyone these days seems to be so crazy busy that they don’t seem to have time for anything.  This seems to be especially true for Moms.  They often put everyone else’s needs first and forget to take care of themselves.  They often tend to neglect their health and do not get the proper nutrition that they need to maintain their health.  As a result, they tend to put on weight and can’t seem to get it off.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Simply planning ahead can actually save you a lot of time and stress.  And, you will be eating healthy nutritious meals all week long.  It will also save you money from eating out.

The benefits are seemingly endless: all your meals are organized for the week ahead, there’s no last-minute fussing about what to cook, and you’re less tempted to reach for chips or takeout when you have a nutritious option ready to go. When you’re prepared, you are going to make getting out of the door every morning a stress-free breeze.  

I find that I have the most success when I prepare all of my meals the night before and go shopping once per week.  I just get all of the cooking out of the way so that I can spend the next day or two reaping the benefits.  Try doubling a recipe so that it will last for more than one day.  And have fun looking for new, healthy recipes to try!

Breakfast

  • Frittata

From www.foodnetwork.com: Ingredients: 1 small zucchini, 1-inch-diced, 1 red bell pepper, seeded and 1 1/2-inch-diced, 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1 1/2-inch-diced, 1 red onion, 1 1/2-inch-diced, 1/3 cup good olive oil, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves), 12 extra-large eggs, 1 cup half-and-half, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (3 scallions), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese.  Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place the zucchini, peppers, and onion on a sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and toss well. Bake for 15 minutes. Add the garlic, toss again, and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the oven to 350 degrees.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  In a 10-inch ovenproof saute pan, melt the butter and saute the scallions over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Add the roasted vegetables to the pan and toss with the scallions. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cook for 2 minutes over medium-low heat without stirring. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the frittata for 20 to 30 minutes, until puffed and set in the middle. Sprinkle with the Gruyere and bake for another 3 minutes, until the cheese is just melted. Cut into 6 or 8 wedges and serve hot.

  • Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie

From www.allrecipes.com.  Ingredients: 1 cup soy milk, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 banana, 14 frozen strawberries 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Directions: In a blender, combine soy milk, oats, banana and strawberries. Add vanilla if desired. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

  • Overnight Oats

From www.minimalistbaker.com.  Ingredients: 1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened plain almond milk, 3/4 Tbsp (9 g) chia seeds, 2 Tbsp (32 g) natural salted peanut butter or almond butter (creamy or crunchy), 1 Tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup (or sub coconut sugar, organic brown sugar, or stevia to taste), 1/2 cup (45 g) gluten free rolled oats.  Directions: To a mason jar or small bowl add almond milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, and maple syrup (or other sweetener) and stir with a spoon to combine. The peanut butter doesn’t need to be completely mixed with the almond milk (doing so leaves swirls of peanut butter to enjoy the next day).  Add oats and stir a few more times, then press down with a spoon to ensure all oats have been moistened and are immersed in almond milk.  Cover securely with a lid or plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 6 hours).  The next day, open and enjoy as is, or garnish with desired toppings (see options above).  Overnight oats will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, though best within the first 12-24 hours.

Lunch

  • Protein-Packed Salad

From theveggieindian.com.  Ingredients: 1 can chickpeas, 1 can red kidney beans, 1 piece small of ginger grated or shredded, 1 medium onion diced, 2- 3 cloves garlic, 1   tbsp olive oil, A pinch of red chili flakes, 3-4 spring onions green part only, chopped, scallions
1 cup chopped parsley OR coriander I used cilantro, Juice of one lemon, 150 g  feta cheese – almost half cup size, Salt and Black pepper  Instructions:  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the red onion till lightly golden. Do not overdo it and the onions should still be crunchy.  Add garlic and chili and cook till the garlic is fragrant. Set aside to cool so it doesn’t melt the feta when you mix it in.  Drain the chickpeas and red kidney beans, rinse and place in the salad bowl. Add crumbled feta, spring onion, parsley ( or coriander )  and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper.  Add the cooled onion and garlic mixture and remaining oil and mix well.

  • Hummus and veggie wrap

From www.foodnetwork.com.  2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, Pinch freshly ground black pepper, 1 cup store-bought hummus, 4 pieces whole-wheat wrap bread (about 9 inches in diameter), 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced, 2 ounces baby spinach leaves (2 cups lightly packed), 1/2 cup red onion thinly sliced into half moons.  Directions: Preheat the grill or grill pan over medium heat. Brush both sides of the zucchini slices with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Grill until tender and slightly browned, about 4 minutes per side.  Spread 1/4 cup of the hummus over each piece of bread. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of pine nuts on top. Top with 3 slices of zucchini, 2 pieces of red pepper, 1/2 cup of the spinach, a few sliced onions, and 1 tablespoon of the mint. Roll each of them up and cut in half on a diagonal.

  • Lentil Soup

From ohsheglows.com.  Ingredients: 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 cups (280 grams) diced onion (1 medium/large), 2 large garlic cloves, minced, 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1 (15-ounce/398 mL) can diced tomatoes, with juices, 1 (15-ounce/398 mL) can full-fat coconut milk*, 3/4 cup (140 grams) uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained, 3 1/2 cups (875 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste, Freshly ground black pepper, to taste, Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, to taste (for a kick of heat!), 1 (5-ounce/140-gram) package baby spinach, 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, or more to taste.  Directions: In a large pot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and sauté over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes until the onion softens.  Stir in the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom until combined. Continue cooking for about 1 minute, until fragrant.  Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), entire can of coconut milk, red lentils, broth, salt, and plenty of pepper. Add red pepper flakes or cayenne, if desired, to taste. Stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil.  Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer, uncovered, for about 18 to 22 minutes, until the lentils are fluffy and tender.  Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach until wilted. Add the lime juice to taste. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted bread and lime wedges.

Dinner

  • Rice and Beans with your favorite veggies

From nomeatathlete.com.  Ingredients: 1 cup dry brown rice, 1 can drained and rinsed beans, or 2 cups cooked, 1 onion, chopped, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tbsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies a thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, minced, 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro.  Directions: Cook the brown rice in a rice steamer or follow the directions here.  Heat up the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and fry the onion for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and fry for an additional 5 minutes.  Stir in the beans and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve with rice.  Stir the curry powder and cinnamon into the chickpea and onion mixture.  Fry for a minute, than add the ginger and tomatoes and their juices.  Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw.  Stir the cilantro into the rice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • Baked Tofu with veggies

From epicurious.com.  Ingredients: , 1 block (14 ounces) extra firm tofu, 4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons canola or sesame oil, 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced, 8 stalks fresh asparagus, hot pepper oil.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Drain the tofu of excess water. Cut the block of tofu in half horizontally, and in half again to make four “steaks.” Place between paper towels and press to get any remaining water out. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and oil. Place the tofu on the baking sheet and brush with the marinade. Let sit for at least twenty minutes or up to two hours in the fridge, letting the juices soak in. Toss the asparagus and red pepper in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and arrange on the baking sheet next to the tofu slices. Season everything with a generous sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake in the oven for about one hour, turning once, until tofu is golden and crispy. The edges should look crispy and glazed and the vegetables should be caramelized. Brush any extra sauce over top if necessary. Remove from the oven and plate the tofu slices with the vegetables. Serve with a drizzling of hot pepper oil. *** Make your own hot pepper oil by heating 5 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper in a small saucepan until the oil starts to bubble and brown. Place in a lidded container and set aside for a few days so the infusion has time to really come alive and age. Use sparingly to add flavor and spice to any dish. But be careful, this is going to be spicy!

 

  • Veggie burger on whole grain bun

 

Ingredients: 1 cup (155 g) cooked brown rice*, 1 cup (120 g) raw walnuts (or sub bread crumbs), 1/2 Tbsp grape seed or avocado oil, plus more for cooking, 1/2 white onion (~55 g | 3/4 cup), finely diced, 1 Tbsp (~8 g) each chili powder, cumin powder, and smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper, plus more for coating burgers, 1 Tbsp (12 g) coconut sugar (or sub organic brown or muscovado sugar), 1 1/2 cups (227 g) cooked black beans*, well rinsed, drained and patted dry, 1/3 cup (22 g) panko bread crumbs (if gluten free, use gluten free bread crumbs), 3-4 Tbsp (51-68 g) vegan BBQ sauce.  If your brown rice isn’t cooked yet, start there by following this method for the best results. Otherwise, move onto the next step.  Heat skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add raw walnuts and toast for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden brown. Let cool and move onto the next step.  In the meantime, heat the same skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1/2 Tbsp oil and onion.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper and sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until onion is fragrant, soft, and translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.  Once walnuts are cooled, add to blender or food processor with chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and coconut sugar and blend until a fine meal (see photo) is achieved. Set aside.  To a large mixing bowl, add drained, dried black beans and mash well with a fork, leaving only a few whole beans (see photo).  Next add cooked rice, spice-walnut mixture, sautéed onion, panko bread crumbs, BBQ sauce, and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon for 1-2 minutes, or until a moldable dough forms. If dry, add extra 1-2 Tbsp BBQ sauce. If too wet, add more panko bread crumbs. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  For larger burgers, divide into 5 patties (1/2 cup in size), or form 10 smaller burgers (1/4 cup in size). To help form the patties, line your 1/2 or 1/4 measuring cup with plastic wrap and pack with burger mixture. Press down to pack firmly, then lift out by the plastic wrap’s edge, and slightly flatten with hands to form a 3/4-inch thick patty. Set on a baking sheet or plate for grilling.  If grilling, heat the grill at this time and brush the grill surface with oil to ease cooking. Otherwise, heat the same skillet you used earlier to medium heat.
Once skillet is hot, add just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of your skillet, then add your burgers – only as as many as will comfortably fit in the pan. Otherwise, add burgers to the grill and close lid.  Cook for 3-4 minutes or until well browned on the underside, then flip gently. They aren’t as firm as meat burgers, but will definitely hold their shape. Reduce heat if cooking/browning too quickly. Cook for 3-4 minutes on other side.  Remove burgers from heat to let cool slightly, and prepare any other toppings/sides at this time (such as grilling/toasting your buns).  Serve burgers as is, or on toasted buns with desired toppings. Leftovers keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. See notes for freezing/reheating instructions.

Snacks

  • Hard Boiled Egg with salt and/or pepper

78 calories for one large egg. Keeps in fridge for up to one week, store in lunch cooler or fridge. Consider writing the date on each egg to keep track of how long it will be good for.   Food Network Directions: “Place your eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover, remove from the heat and set aside 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, cool in ice water and peel.”

  • Homemade Trail Mix

In-Shell Pistachios (extra work shelling nuts reduces mindless snacking), almonds, mixed nuts, add fruit for added boost of vitamins. Look for no sugar added dried fruits, apricots, raisins, cranberries, and lychee are all good choices for vitamin bonus. You can also add 1 ounce of extra dark chocolate for an indulgent snack.

  • Kale Chips

Allrecipes says: “Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.”

  • Apple Cookies

Taken from the recipe found at OneLittleProject blog: Take your favorite kind of apple. Core apple using an apple corer. Then slice the apple width-wise (side to side). Take of excess moisture with a paper towel. Spread your favorite all-natural nut butter spread on each slice. Top with chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes. Place in small tupperware container. Refrigerate. Enjoy!

 

  • Frozen Grapes

A semi-indulgent snack to curb a sugar craving. Bodybuilding.com says to freeze them on a foil-lined baking sheet and then store in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Red grapes are preferred because they have more antioxidants than green grapes.

  • 8 oz. Plain Skyr or Plain greek yogurt.

Siggi’s Skyr has 150 calories per 8 oz, Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt has 200 Calories per 8 oz. Keep in the fridge for a quick and satisfying yummy snack.

  • Green tea, Blueberry, and Banana Smoothie

Ingredients: 3 Tbsp water, 1 green tea bag, 2 tsp honey, 1½ c frozen blueberries, ½ med banana ¾ c calcium fortified light vanilla soy milk.  Prevention.com says: Microwave water on high until steaming hot in a small bowl. Add tea bag and allow to steep for about 3 minutes. Remove tea bag. Stir honey into tea until it dissolves. Combine tea, berries, banana, tea and milk in a blender and blend ingredients on ice crush or highest setting until smooth. (Some blenders may require additional water to process the mixture.) Pour smoothie into tall glass and serve. (269 cals, 2.5 g fat, 0.2 g sat fat, 52 mg sodium, 63 g carbs, 38.5 g sugars, 8 g fiber, 3.5 g protein)

  • Orange Dream Creamsicle Smoothie

Prevention.com says: Combine 1 peeled navel orange, ¼ c. fat-free half-and-half or fat-free yogurt, 2 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate, ¼ tsp vanilla extract, and 4 ice cubes in a food processor and blend until smooth. (160 cal, 3 g pro, 36 g carb, 3 g fiber, 28 g sugars, 1 g fat, 0.5 g sat fat, 60 mg sodium)

  • Oatmeal Raisin Energy Bites

From getcreativejuice.com: Ingredients: 1 cup rolled oats, ½ cup steel cut oats, ¼ cup ground flax seed, 1 cup raisins, 1 tsp cinnamon, dash nutmeg, dash salt, 2 tsp vanilla, 1½ Tbsp honey, ½ cup almond butter.  Instructions: Add dry ingredients into a bowl and mix to combine evenly.  Add the remaining vanilla, honey, and almond butter and mix to form a sticky dough.  If the dough is too sticky, add more rolled oats. If the dough is a bit too dry, add more almond butter to get just the right consistency.  Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls.  Enjoy! Keep in refrigerator and enjoy for up to a week!

 

  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Balls

 

From dailyburn.com: 2 scoops Vanilla Protein Powder, 1 cup almond meal, 1/2 cup nut butter (ie: almond butter), 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup dairy-free mini chocolate chips.  Preparation:  Place protein powder and almond meal in a medium-size bowl and mix.  Then, add in nut butter and maple syrup and mix again. At this point the batter should be just like cookie dough.  Finally, add in chocolate chip and mix one last time. Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop out dough into your palms and roll into balls. Repeat.

How to Start Juicing

Juicing has been becoming super popular – and for good reason!  It’s an easy way to feed your body the nutrients it really needs.  However, buying pre-made juices can get pricey ($4 for 12 oz? no thanks!).  So that leads us to juicing at home!  

You will have to invest in a juicer, but if money is an issue, you can purchase a used one at a discounted price.  Next, you will have to stock-up on produce: fruits and veggies!  Be sure to invest in organic produce for your juices.  Remember, when you drink your produce, the nutrients are absorbed more quickly into your body.  That means that if there are any toxins (pesticides) in your produce, those will also be absorbed more quickly!  In this case, organic is worth the investment.

One point of caution: juicing is not recommended for those who struggle with blood sugar.  Since the juices of the produce are being quickly absorbed by your body, this can lead to a blood sugar spike, which is not desirable for those struggling with diabetes.

Now it’s time to start juicing!  You can explore the internet for a wide array of delicious juice recipes.  My go-to juicer is Kris Carr, but I like to experiment with other as well.  When you first start juicing, you’ll probably use more fruit (like lemons and apples) to cover up the taste of the more bitter greens, but as you become accustomed to the taste, you will need less of the sweeter fruits.

One of the great benefits of juicing is that you feel the effects immediately!  The energy from the juice is easily extracted by your body (since you have removed the fiber from your produce).  You may even notice that the energy boost supersedes your typical caffeine boost!

Juicing can also help you fight inflammation and heal your body.  These fresh juices are rich with antioxidants and other nutrients to help your body’s cells repair and grow.  But there’s no need to wait until you’re sick to start drinking your nutrients – start now!  Your overall health will greatly improve.  You may even start notice a glow around you – and others may notice, too!

So take that leap of faith – try out juicing for a couple weeks and see how it affects your body.  Feel free to comment below with how juicing made you feel and your favorite juicing recipes!

Should You Drink Kombucha?

Kombucha is becoming a wildly popular elixir in the health community – but most people have no idea what it is!  Kombucha is fermented tea.  Typically, it is made from a base of black or green tea sweetened with sugar.  Once the tea is brewed, a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) is added to the tea and it is fermented for several days.  The SCOBY “eats” the sugar and caffeine from the tea and we are left with a slightly sour drink full of probiotics and other goodies.  Oftentimes, the kombucha is brewed a second time in a closed container with fruits and herbs in order to add flavor and carbonation.  We are then left with a deliciously sour, bubbly drink!  

 

Kombucha has been claimed to improve a number of illnesses including AIDS, cancer, diabetes, immune system problems, libido problems, and gray hair.  However, none of these claims have been proven scientifically.  Personally, I drink kombucha because I can immediately feel my mood boost, my energy levels rise, and my digestive system improves!  You’ll have to try it yourself to see how it affects your body.

 

Kombucha also contains many great nutrients!  Just check out some of them below:

 

  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • Vitamin B12
  • EGCG (epigallocatechin gallata, a catechin found in green tea)
  • L+ Lactic Acid (a good bacteria)
  • Acetic Acid (a good bacteria)

 

However, Kombucha also contains a small amount of caffeine and alcohol – so anybody with sensitivities to these should avoid them.  Kombucha is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, children under 4, or people with poor immune systems.  

 

If you’re still curious to try this health elixir, I would recommend by starting with GT’s Original Raw Kombucha.  It has a great flavor, and is very neutral on the kombucha scale (not too sweet, not too sour).  If you love it after the first sip, then start experimenting with different brands and different flavors – you’ll be amazed what the world of kombucha has to offer!

Probiotics and Your Health

Probiotic (or prebiotic) rich foods with a medicine pill jar in the background

Probiotics started being well-known in the mid 1990’s, and are now found in a wide variety of foods and known for improving digestive health.  But what are probiotics?  They are live bacteria and yeasts found in some foods, supplements, and inside your body.  Bacteria… sounds gross!  

 

Your body – and especially your digestive tract (your gut) contains plenty of bacteria.  There are good types of bacteria and bad types of bacteria – probiotics are good!  Your body is constantly trying to balance your microbiome – and taking in a healthy amount of probiotics helps your body with this process.  Probiotics are especially important to take after taking antibiotics (because antibiotics strip your body of good and bad bacteria).

 

According to WebMD, taking probiotics can help improve a number of conditions including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Infectious diarrhea
  • Antibiotic-related diarrhea
  • Eczema
  • Urinary problems
  • Oral health problems

 

So how can you increase your intake of probiotics?  Try your favorites from the list below!

 

  • Yogurt: stick to low-sugar, high protein varieties.  Plain is best!
  • Kefir: try to buy organic varieties with low sugar.
  • Sauerkraut: also rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E!
  • Dark chocolate: yes, it’s true, some high-quality varieties contain ample probiotics
  • Microalgae: think spirulina and chorella
  • Miso: also helps stop the effects of carcinogens in the body!
  • Pickles: yum 🙂
  • Tempeh: an awesome meat substitute AND probiotic source!
  • Kimchi: spicy and oh-so-good
  • Kombucha: an all-around health elixir!
  • Beer & Wine: always consume in moderation…
  • Natto: a strange, but seriously healthy fermented dish
  • Sourdough Bread: wheat is fermented in order to make this bread
  • Kvass: a Russian drink also known as “children’s beer”
  • Probiotic Supplements: if it’s difficult to eat the foods above, you can always supplement!

 

Have fun incorporating probiotics into your diet.  Your digestive system (and consequently, your entire body) will thank you!

For more information on this topic, check out this link from Health Ambition.  https://www.healthambition.com/health-benefits-yogurt/

 

Planning for Success

The #1 tip I have for achieving your health goals is simple:

 

Plan Ahead

 

After a long day of work in a sedentary job, even those of us with bountiful motivation have a hard time going to the gym, then buying healthy groceries, then cooking a wholesome dinner.  So don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble with this, too!  But don’t fret, I have a solution!  A bit of planning can make a world of difference.

 

Start by planning your meals.  Figure out everything you want to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week.  Next, think about what healthy snacks you can have on hand.  Make sure you’ve planned to eat enough calories to keep yourself from being hungry.  Eating too few calories can decrease your metabolism and lead to overeating.  Have your calendar handy when planning your meals (you won’t need to cook dinner on Friday if your friend invite you to their birthday celebration!).  Once you’ve planned your meals, write all the ingredients on your grocery list.  Try to do the bulk of your shopping (if not all of it) on the weekend.  If you need fresh produce in the middle of the week, you can plan for a short grocery run.  Use the weekend to prep your food and to cook any labor-intensive recipes.  Remember, leftovers are your friend!  So try to cook double batches in order to minimize your time in the kitchen.  If you plan ahead, you’ll know exactly how much time you have to cook, so you can figure out what days are best for cooking your wholesome meals!

 

Next, plan your workouts.  Figure out what time of the day is best for you to workout.  Do you have time in the evening before dinner?  Or maybe you like to use your lunch break to workout.  I find that the best time to workout is in the morning, before work.  This way, there is no way to skip your workout, no matter what happens throughout the day! It does require an earlier wake-up time, but the body is quick to adapt.  Once you’ve figured out when, start planning the what.  What do you want to do during your workout?  You’ll want to plan several cardio and several strength training workouts during the week to ensure a complete fitness regime.  Get your workout equipment (shoes, clothes, water bottle, yoga mat) ready the night before you need it.  Working out is hard enough without making it a chore – so plan ahead by settling all of the logistics of your workout ahead of time.  You will be much more likely to complete that 6 a.m. run if your shoes are waiting for you at the side of the bed.  You won’t even have time to think before you find yourself in the middle of your workout!  

 

So when it comes to nutrition and fitness, the best results come to those who plan ahead.  Use the tips above, or modify for whatever fits your lifestyle.  The more thought you put into your health, the more success you will find.

Sample Vegan Meal Plan

So, you are ready to start a vegan diet! (or at least curious about it)  If you haven’t already, read through our previous post, Starting a Vegan Diet, then come back to see what a nutritious day of vegan foods looks like.  The following meal plan is just a sample in the day of the life of a healthy vegan.  It should not be followed every day – you need a wide variety of foods to ensure you get all of the nutrients that food has to offer!  The following meal plan was input into Cronometer to determine the nutrient intakes, and all daily needs were met except Potassium (which was 82%) and Calcium (which was 94%).  The total caloric intake was 1288 – so there is still room to supplement with other calcium-rich and potassium-rich foods!  Here’s the meal plan:

 

Breakfast: Protein Smoothie

  • Frozen berries
  • Spinach
  • Vegan protein powder
  • Coconut water

 

Snack: Fruit and Nuts

  • Banana
  • Walnuts

 

Lunch: Vegan Broccoli and Cheese Soup

 

Dinner: Avocado Boats

  • Avocado
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Liquid Aminos All Purpose Seasoning

 

Dessert: (yes, dessert!!) Chia Seed Pudding

  • Chia seeds
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • Unsweetened Almond Milk

This is a very basic day of eating that will leave you full of life, energy, and nutrients!!  Once you become more comfortable with eating vegan, you can start experimenting with whatever meals and snacks work best for you while satisfying your nutritional needs.  Have fun on your plant-based journey!