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Beware of These Berries!

I love fresh, juicy berries, don’t you? I eat frozen berries year-round in my protein shakes, but because there’s a short season for fresh berries, I savor them all summer long. Blueberries are my favorite, with raspberries a close second… but I love strawberries and blackberries, too. And berries are so good for you! They are nutrient dense, contain a broad range of antioxidants, boost brain power, promote heart health, are cancer protective, high in fiber, and low in sugar. So, what’s not to like?

For the second year in a row, strawberries were #1 on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen, a list of fruits and vegetables containing the highest levels of pesticides.

Some of the tested strawberry crops had 20 different types of pesticides, and even worse, strawberry growers often use poisonous gases to sterilize their fields before they plant! Of the 74 different pesticides strawberry growers use in various combinations, some are linked to cancer, hormone disruption, neurological problems, and reproductive and developmental damage.

The solution? Make sure that you don’t eat strawberries and other produce on The Dirty Dozen list unless you know that they are organic. Other fruits and vegetables that made the Dirty Dozen list are spinach, nectarines, grapes, and cherries. You can view the entire list here. Along with the Dirty Dozen you’ll find the Clean Fifteen, a list of 15 types of conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables that were found to be very low in pesticides.

I’ve been buying both fresh and frozen organic berries at Costco. They carry a variety of organic vegetables as well, and they are delicious and affordable. All of the produce at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is organic, but if you’re shopping at Whole Foods, Sprouts, or anywhere else, read the signs carefully to make sure that the fruits and vegetables you’re buying are indeed organic. And if you’re eating in a restaurant and strawberries are on your plate, think twice about eating them. Chances are they were conventionally grown unless otherwise noted.

Enjoy your summer and delicious organic berries!

 

 

 

 

What's for breakfast?

When you’re trying to make healthy changes to your diet, breakfast can get a little challenging, especially if you’re used to eating traditional breakfast foods like cereal, toast, and bagels—all processed grains that quickly turn to sugar in the body. A high-protein breakfast, like eggs with avocado and berries, is a better choice that will keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable. But how many days in a row can you eat eggs? And sometimes something sweet just sounds so good!

My daughter, Shayna shared this porridge recipe with me and I absolutely love it! The base of the recipe is cauliflower rice and coconut milk. You can make your own riced cauliflower in a food processor, but I buy organic cauliflower rice at Costco, and the porridge is ready in minutes! Leftovers keep for several days and this morning I ate it cold; it was just as good! Feel free to experiment a little. I’ve added cardamom, cinnamon and a little mashed banana, and it was delicious. The recipe is loaded with coconut milk and coconut flakes so you’re getting plenty of healthy fat. You might want to eat some bacon, turkey bacon or sausage along with it to add some protein. I made a batch of turkey sausage patties and heated a couple of them up each morning to eat with my porridge.

Instead of beginning the morning with a grain that turns to sugar, you’ll be starting your day with a healthy serving of cauliflower; a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, known to be cancer fighting. Cauliflower is a superfood that contains the following:

  • Sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to activate detoxification, kill cancer cells, and slow tumor growth.
  • Indole-3-carbinol, an anti-inflammatory compound.
  • Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, B6, folate, and manganese.
  • Choline, a B vitamin that can improve memory and cognitive function.
  • Fiber for healthy digestion and elimination.
  • Antioxidants that protect your cells from free radical damage.

Hmm… a breakfast that’s easy to make, is full of nutrients, and tastes amazing? You can find the recipe for Warm Porridge with lemon and berries here.

What are you having for breakfast?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going on a diet? Again?

Even the sound of “going on a diet” sounds drastic.  It often means giving up everything you love and entering a world of deprivation.  By the end of the diet, you’re so darn tired of being restricted that you can’t wait to dive back into the foods that bring you pleasure!   Unfortunately, the pounds you’ve worked so hard to lose quickly come creeping back.  You’ve been there a time or two, right?

What if we approached it differently?   Think about it this way.  If what you’re currently eating is causing excess weight, low energy, and is keeping you from feeling sexy and wearing clothes you love…and if making some different choices and finding healthier substitutions could lead to weight loss, more energy, better health, and feeling good in (and out!) of your clothes…would you be in?

You don’t have to change everything all at once.  But doing this ONE thing will make a BIG difference.

Cut way back on sugars and processed grains.   I know you’ve been told that whole grains (cereal, bread, pasta, etc.) are good for you, but most processed grains and flours create the same response in the body as sugar.  Whole grains like wheat berries and oat groats, once pulverized into flour, are rapidly digested and converted to glucose (sugar).  They wreak havoc on your health and result in:

  • Blood sugar highs and lows (causing you to secrete insulin and cortisol, both fat storing hormones)
  • Inflammation
  • Suppressed metabolism
  • Cravings and binge eating
  • Increased fat storage
  • Destabilized growth and sex hormones
  • Disrupted healthy gut bacteria

As you can see, much more than weight gain is at stake.  So, if you’re ready to take a step, here’s one healthy, easy substitution.  Next time you want to eat pasta, try substituting spiralized zucchini, spaghetti squash, or Capellos Almond Flour Pasta.  You’ll be amazed how good they taste!  If you give one of them a try, let me know what you think!

 

 

 

 

Why Drink More?

You know you should drink more water so you carry a water bottle wherever you go…but how much water do you actually drink every day?  When you’re thirsty water tastes great, but other times it can taste a little boring.  Rather than reaching for a sugary drink, how about making your water taste more appealing?

Sometimes I squeeze fresh lemon or lime in my water or add a little apple cider vinegar, but recently I’ve been adding a few drops of essential oils.  I love it!  I especially like adding lemon, peppermint (keeps your breath fresh), or orange.  Sometimes I get crazy and add lemon and orange—there are no rules!  If you want it sweet you can add a little stevia, but sometimes just the essential oils alone are perfect.  Make sure you’re only using organic oils that are safe to consume.  I use Doterra and Numa essential oils.

How do you know if you’re hydrated?  One easy way to tell is to note the color of your urine output.  It ideally should be colorless or pale yellow.  Staying adequately hydrated is important. We can live for about three weeks without food, but only three or four days without water. The first signs of dehydration are often fatigue and a headache.  When the body begins to dehydrate, the cells and tissues aren’t getting enough water and enzymatic activity slows down.  The good news is once you drink a glass or two of water, your headache will go away and you’ll feel more energized again.

Not drinking enough water can also cause constipation because without sufficient fluids you can’t eliminate the food you’re digesting.  Being constipated can lead to an overload of toxins in the body and digestive complaints such as gas, bloating, and stomach pain.  Not fun.  And sometimes when you’re slightly dehydrated you may feel like you’re hungry.  Rather than eating extra food that you don’t need, try drinking a big glass of water.  It will often do the trick and you’ll feel satisfied!

Happy Spring!

 

Valentine's Day Chocolate Truffles!

I love Valentine’s Day!   I know, it’s silly, but it’s true.  And what’s Valentine’s Day without love and a little chocolate?  I want to give you both, so I’m sending you love, and although I can’t deliver the chocolate in person, I’m sending you this awesome Chocolate Truffle Recipe!  And of course, it’s a healthy one…made with dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher), coconut oil, coconut milk, vanilla, and a little shredded coconut or unsweetened cocoa to roll them in.  That’s it!

The first time I made these, my daughter Jessica called just as I was ready to roll them into balls.  With my phone in my hand I didn’t have two hands available to roll them, but my free hand allowed me to keep scooping out little bites.  I had to make sure they were good, right?  I finally had to physically remove myself from the kitchen before I ate the whole batch!  They’re that good!

I used my favorite dark chocolate bar, Equal Exchange Organic Panama Extra Dark.  Because it isn’t very sweet, I added a little NuNaturals Vanilla Stevia to taste.  (I like the “to taste” part because it gives you an excuse to keep tasting until it’s perfect!).  Next time I make them I’m going to use a Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans bar…how good does that sound?!  Another idea is to use plain dark chocolate and add a few drops of mint essential oil.  Oh!  The possibilities!  Just remember to make sure the chocolate bar is 70% cacao or higher…the lower the cacao, the higher the sugar.

You can find the recipe here!

Happy Valentine's Day with love!

 

Let's Make This Year Different!

I love January!  The beginning of the New Year always feels like a fresh start to me—an opportunity to look at what I want to change and start anew!  Can you remember your New Year resolutions from last year?  Did you actually accomplish what you wanted to?

Did you know statistics show that only 8% of people are actually successful at accomplishing their resolutions?  We start off with a bang, but quickly lose steam. Life gets busy, we start making excuses, and pretty soon we’re back where we started.  I think one of the reasons we fall into that pattern is because our resolutions are too big, too vague, and feel overwhelming.

“I’m going to go to the gym seven days a week.”  So does it count if you go in the gym, grab a protein drink and leave?  Or what if you park in front of the gym for a few minutes and check messages on your phone before you head to Starbucks?  I mean, technically you went to the gym, right?  J  Or how about, “I’m going to eat healthy and lose 20 pounds”.  So that half a bag of cookies you just ate is okay, isn’t it?  I mean they were gluten-free and you got them at Whole Foods, didn’t you?  I’m on to you guys…

I like breaking down the big goals into small, manageable, bite-sized (so to speak) pieces--and l want it to be somewhat appealing!  No one wants to sign up for torture.  And it would be nice to get a little positive feedback and some results along the way, wouldn’t it?

This year one of my goals is to eat more nutrient rich vegetables, so I started making juice in the morning.  I make a big batch and drink it a couple of times a day.  Today I made a drink with a  cucumber, a handful of parsley, two big stalks of celery, an orange, and a cup of frozen pineapple—all organic.  I added enough clean, filtered water so it would blend easily.  You can make it as thick or thin as you’d like.   I used my Vitamix, but a powerful blender would work, too.  You can change up the vegetables and fruit and add extras like ginger and fresh mint.  It’s fun to experiment!  Just make sure you use more vegetables than fruit so you aren’t getting too much sugar from the fruit.

Give this a try and you should notice some differences right away!  Your digestive system will love the fiber,  you’ll feel more energized, less hungry, and the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients will hydrate your skin and give it a healthy glow!

 

Does Holiday Fun Mean Tighter Jeans?

'Tis the season…holiday gatherings, cocktails galore, Christmas cookies, eggnog, and pecan pie…oh my.  Too bad you can’t take back the extra pounds like you return the sweater from Aunt Mary.

Now, you might think I’m going to try and take away all of your fun, but I’m not that kind of girl.  Holiday parties should be enjoyable, but starting the New Year feeling sluggish and carrying around ten extra pounds isn’t fun at all.  So, I’d like to share some strategies with you so you can whoop it up (sort of) and not gain a pound.  Deal?

Have you ever starved yourself the day of a party so you can eat and drink whatever you want later?  It’s not a good plan, guys, because if you arrive at the party hungry you’re more than likely going to overeat and overdrink.  Not to mention that alcohol on an empty stomach is probably not the best idea.  It’s fun at the time, but not so much later.

A much better plan is to eat well the day of the event.  Start the morning with a large glass of clean, filtered water with fresh squeezed lemon juice (1/2 to a whole lemon), one tablespoon apple cider vinegar and ¼ teaspoon of sea salt. The lemon juice helps flush toxins from the liver, the vinegar helps regulate blood sugar and breaks up mucus, and the sea salt contains trace minerals that keep you hydrated. I actually really like the taste and drink it most mornings. Drink it before you have anything else to eat or drink and continue drinking plenty of water during the day so you’re well-hydrated when you arrive.  Alcohol is dehydrating and besides, you want your skin to look good in your party clothes, right?

Eat balanced, whole food meals during the day that contain protein, vegetables and good fat.    Skip the chips, cereal, tortillas, and bread, and stick to protein like meat and eggs, and fats like coconut oil, olive oil, olives, and avocado.  Don’t be afraid of the fat!  It won’t make you fat and will keep you satiated.  Be sure to include vegetables and have some fresh fruit if you’d like.  Eating a snack that has protein and fat (maybe a little leftover chicken and avocado or unsweetened Greek yogurt with a few nuts and berries) an hour or so before the party is a good idea so you aren’t starved when you arrive.

Try having a glass of water between alcoholic beverages.  Trust me on this one…you’ll feel much better in the morning.  When you’re making your plate, you can indulge in food you love, but take smaller portions, and eat slowly, savoring every bite.  You won’t feel deprived, and you won’t feel stuffed!  It’s a win-win!  The morning after the party, have another glass of water with lemon, vinegar, and sea salt.  Your body will be happy.  🙂

Happy Holidays with love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delicious Paleo Fig Newtons!

I was running errands recently, hadn’t eaten for hours, and was starving.  Okay, not really starving, although you couldn’t have convinced my brain otherwise.  My last stop was TJ Maxx and as I waited in line with my stomach rumbling I spotted a package of organic figs.  The last time I had eaten figs was fifteen years ago when I stayed in a house in Tuscany and ate figs right off the tree in the front yard.  Yum!

Well, now I was in TJ Maxx and as I remembered how good they were I decided to grab them.  Sometimes you pick them off a tree, sometimes you pick them off the shelf.  J  I ate one and it tasted delicious!  It immediately reminded me of Fig Newtons.  Now, I probably haven’t had a Fig Newton in over 30 years and I don’t really remember liking them that much, but now I was craving them!

Well, let me re-state that.  I wanted a Fig Newton made without white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat), and artificial flavors.  If you take time to read labels, junk food becomes much less appealing…

As soon as I got home I googled “paleo” fig newtons and chose a recipe that looked simple and didn’t call for added sweeteners.  I like paleo recipes because they typically use grain-free almond and/or coconut flour rather than using flour made from grains that quickly turn to sugar.  And almond and coconut flour are gluten free and add protein and good fat to the recipe!

Here’s the link:  Paleo Fig Newtons

I’ve made two batches now and love them!  If you try another fig newton recipe you like, let me know!

 

 

I Can Make That!

When I go out to eat and I taste something I like, I always want to see if I can duplicate, or even improve it.  Recently I went to Mod Market.  Have you tried it?  I like it because they use antibiotic-free meat, they have many gluten-free options, and all of their ingredients are GMO free.  It’s healthy fast food.  I ordered a Thai Chicken Salad.  It’s made with mixed greens, cucumber, sliced chicken breast, and the best part…shredded, cooked yams and finely shredded dried coconut.  Yum!  The dressing was a little sweet for me so I dressed it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I like a plethora of textures and flavors in my salad to keep it interesting.  I like my rendition of the Thai salad even better!  I shredded a yam with the skin on for added nutrition. (Just scrub it with a vegetable brush, rinse, and pat dry).  I cooked it in coconut oil and oh, the flavor!  I wanted to eat the yam all by itself but I only took a bite (okay two) and restrained myself.  I added it to the salad while it was warm which added to the variety…cool greens, warm, shredded yam.

Instead of mixed greens I used sprouted sweet pea greens that I found at Whole Foods.  I’ve never tasted them before but they were delicious and added a unique flavor.  I used chicken but you can use any protein you’d like; hard boiled eggs, salmon, roast beef, turkey, etc.  And you can add whatever vegetables you happen to have in the fridge.  There are no rules!  I topped it off with a few peas, celery, radishes, cucumber and walnuts.  I always like to add a few nuts or seeds to my salad for the crunch and flavor, and if you roast them in a pan for a few minutes they’re even better.  Oh yes, and some flaked coconut that I put in the food processor to make it the consistency of parmesan cheese.

I’ve made the salad several times and if I don’t happen to have yams or don’t want to wait to cook them I’ve added sliced McIntosh Apples.  I wait all year for McIntosh and Jonathan apples—my favorite!!  They’re only available for a short time in the fall so I eat them every day while I can.

As the weather’s getting cooler, sometimes it’s more appealing to eat something warm like soup rather than a salad.  But adding a warm vegetable or two can be a good way to transition to a fall salad…and enjoy the goodness of both raw and cooked vegetables!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Don't Make Me!

Eating healthier doesn’t have to be stressful and you don’t have to make a lot of changes all at once.  Changing too much, too quickly, can feel overwhelming and it can be a darn good excuse not to ever want to start at all! But what if you begin with some small changes that aren’t so painful? Just think about making the best choice you can, wherever you are.

Let’s look at your morning cup of coffee. Let’s say you hit Starbucks on your way to work in the morning. I can hear you now...”Don’t mess with my Starbucks!” Just hear me out. Maybe you’re the one who loves, loves, loves, a daily Carmel Macchiato (contains 33, count em’, grams of sugar). How about a White Chocolate Mocha? (59 grams of sugar). Maybe you’re trying to be good, so you order green tea for the beneficial antioxidants. Tazo Green Tea Frappuccino, (63 grams of sugar). Holy moly!

Don’t look at the calories...look at the grams of sugar! And remember...four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar. So, your Tazo Green Tea with 63 grams of sugar contains just under 16 teaspoons of sugar!!! Yikes--a little coffee with your morning sugar?!

But you love and depend on your coffee in the morning...so now what? Try ordering your coffee black or with steamed half and half, milk, coconut milk, or almond milk (the coconut and almond milk at Starbucks contains sugar so use it sparingly). Or order an espresso or latte but make sure it’s unsweetened. You can sweeten it as much as you want with a little stevia (carry it with you) and sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on the top if you’d like. If you want something cold, try an iced coffee.

For those of you who haven’t tried stevia, it comes from a plant that is native to Paraguay. It doesn’t raise blood sugar or contain harmful chemicals and it's much sweeter tasting than sugar, so start with a very small amount, taste, and then add more if you’d like it sweeter.

“Well, wait a minute, you’re thinking...I thought you said we weren’t going to make this stressful. You’re trying to take away something I love!” Don’t think about never again being able to have a Carmel Macchiato... but instead of drinking five of them a week, try treating yourself to one on the weekends...or one on Monday morning (that’ll help get you out of bed)!  Eventually you’ll become more aware of how the sugar makes you feel. Try to eat, or in this case drink, healthfully the majority of the time...and treat yourself now and then.

If you drink your coffee at the office, do you ever use those cute little non-dairy creamers? Those little creamers typically contain high fructose corn syrup (worse for you than sugar), partially hydrogenated oil (nasty trans fats), and other synthetic ingredients. Not so cute after all, huh? It’s a much better choice to have organic half and half or milk, or unsweetened almond, coconut, or cashew milk.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!