How do you eat?
What I mean by this is: what are your rules of thumb for keeping yourself on track? A few years ago, as I got serious about my health, I figured out that I would need some sort of a formula for making quick decisions about what I could eat. How much of a treat was too much and how much was just enough to help me feel satisfied? How much water did I really need every day? What was my "poison"? I came up with the lifestyle diet I've been following for the past 3 years:
-No refined sugars or flours on weekdays
-Only (or as much as possible) organic animal products and produce from the dirty dozen list
-From Friday evening-Sunday evening, anything goes
Now you may be thinking, "Really? A health coach who lives by an 'anything goes' mentality...even if it's only a few days out of the week?...that's counterintuitive!" I did start this lifestyle diet with tighter boundaries because I had to wean myself off of sugar. However, I found that after many months of not eating the refined sugars or flours (my poison), my appetite for foods with those ingredients was significantly more controlled. When I got to a healthier place and loosened up my lifestyle diet boundaries to where they are now, I found that when the weekend came, my dessert cravings were often already curbed. I didn't crave massive portions of ice cream, french fries, or sugary coffee drinks like I once had! A small handful of a treat on a Saturday evening was enough to leave me feeling satisfied and "treated".
However, I realized that my formula for eating well did not always work when my schedule was varied. For instance, when traveling, it can be incredibly difficult to stick to a diet...even if it's a lifestyle diet you're very used to managing. I developed a few tips for keeping myself on track in situations like travel:
-I always try to start the day with a high protein breakfast and never neglect hydration. The above photo is an example of my breakfasts in Spain. While there on a missions trip, I didn't have access to a lot of nutrients at cafes, since coffee and pastries are the normal breakfast time snack. So I grocery shopped for a small supply of healthy snacks. I found fiber bars that were low in sugar (once you learn to read a nutrition label, it's pretty easy to recognize what's what--even if it's in a different language!), fruit, and unsweetened yogurt. Eating a breakfast like this one got me started on the right foot for the rest of the day.
-I trick myself into a full plate by starting with vegetables. This means I typically try to fill at least half of my plate with vegetables so that the other half, even if it's rich and unfamiliar food, will not overwhelm my body.
-On vacations, in particular, I love to indulge. I have found, however, that only controlled indulging is enjoyable. Uncontrolled indulging may feel good in the moment, but our bodies will quickly correct this mistake with sluggishness, irritability, and indigestion. To keep treats in check on vacations, I shoot for just one dessert per day. This may still sound pretty permissive for someone who is trained in nutrition, but keep in mind these are my guidelines for those times in life when schedule is less controlled. Again, I've found that even when I'm traveling, if I start the day off with a healthy breakfast, stay hydrated, and fill my plate with vegetables first, my appetite for treats is not out of hand and I can fully enjoy one small portion of something totally decadent.
So, I return to the question: how do you eat? Enjoy experimenting with you perfect lifestyle diet today!
An elimination diet may sound boring and gross...but don't be turned off straight away. What is it, exactly? An elimination diet is simply a tool for helping people discover food sensitivities and even allergies by temporarily removing common allergens, then gradually reintroducing them, keeping track of any positive or negative symptoms experienced along the way.
The most common allergens can be summarized into 6 categories:
Gluten (the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye)
Dairy (all milk-based products)
Seafood (specifically fish and shellfish)
Nuts (specifically tree nuts and peanuts)
What are some signs that an elimination diet might be a good idea for you? If you are experiencing negative symptoms such as excessive gas, frequent breakouts, fatigue, irritability, bloating or other digestive problems, or difficulty loosing those "last 10 pounds", you may have a food sensitivity. If you are considering an elimination diet, I would recommend setting yourself up for an 8 week project. In a proper elimination diet, the individual goes off of all 6 common allergens for 2 weeks. For each week following, he or she reincorporates one of the possible allergens. For instance:
Weeks 1 and 2: Remove all 6 possible allergens.
Week 3: Reincorporate dairy, noting any changes in mood, weight, complexion, respiration, and digestion.
Week 4: Follow the process with gluten,
Week 5: ...then eggs,
Week 6: ...then seafood,
Week 7: ...then soy,
Week 8: ...and finally, nuts.
The reason I mention preparing yourself for an 8 week project is because although such a restrictive diet can be intimidating, if you go in with a positive mindset, knowing your pantry and recipe arsenal are stocked for successful, tasty meals within these bounds, the process can be less than painful. It can be enjoyable, even. After all, you're taking an incredible, natural step toward healing yourself with food!
If you think you may have a food sensitivity and are looking for someone to help guide you through an elimination diet, please consider reaching out to contact me. I'd love to enroll you in a 6 month program with a special elimination diet track, if it's what you need!
Here's to feeling healed, whole, and symptom free!
What's the deal with organic foods? Some nutrition experts may urge you to eat all organic because it's important to reduce chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics in the diet, while others may say organic foods are unnecessary because they don't deliver any more nutrients than conventionally-grown/raised food. Like any nutritional decision, the amount of organic food you eat is up to you: your food sensitivities, your budget, and your convictions. Today I'll share with you what works for me when it comes to choosing organic.
I personally do not have the budget to eat all organic. Nor do I live close enough to a specialty grocery store that offers all organic foods. My biggest concern when it comes to conventional food is the non-food added to keep a product fresh, big, or cheap. For that reason, I look to trusted research from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to find which foods have the highest levels of these non-food (chemical, hormonal, or antibiotic) additives. If you've heard of the dirty dozen list, it was born out of an idea like this one. Which produce items come delivered with the most amount of toxins? Here's my version of the list, in an easy-to-remember format:
Berries (strawberries and domestic blueberries)
Peppers (sweet bell & hot)
A-B-CCC, G-N-PPP, S! S! ...it's a little helpful (albeit nonsensical) chant to recite to yourself when you're in the grocery store trying to remember which produce items to buy organic.
Corn is another category in an of itself. Although not officially on this dirty dozen list, I prefer organic corn. I could write an entire blog post on corn, but for the sake of space, let's just say that most corn in our country is genetically modified. Without even getting into the political issue of government subsidies on food, I'll claim my stance on GMO food: it's less than ideal for your health. I'd like to eat my food the way God created it. For this reason, I choose organic corn and corn products!
Now when it comes to animal products, I do my best to avoid hormones and antibiotics and while you can do this by reading labels carefully, the easiest way to ensure that your animal products were raised responsibly and naturally is to buy certified organic meats and bi-products. Farms have to pay to obtain and keep their organic certification, which means these farms are closely monitored for humane practices, as well as healthy food and natural living areas for their animals. Certified organic animal products cost more than conventionally-raised animal products, but they do tend to taste better and you can definitely eat them with a greater peace of mind, knowing the meat or bi-product you're consuming came from a healthy animal.
Other than organic produce from the dirty dozen list, organic corn, and organic animal products whenever possible, the rest of my food is conventionally grown. At this point in my nutritional research, I do not find it necessary to buy organic when it comes to most grains, non-animal proteins, spices, and other basic pantry items. These are my recommendations on organic choices, but my most important piece of advice would be to not let an inability to buy organic keep you from eating whole, nourishing foods. Eating conventionally-grown vegetables is better than eating none at all! Our bodies are resilient and will know what to do with nutrients and toxins.
Now go enjoy organic strawberry season!
Ironically enough, I came down with a terrible head cold the week I launched my health coaching business! I didn't let it get my spirits down though. I'm meant to help people feel their best, so I was determined to get myself feeling better with a few of my go-to food remedies. What does a health coach eat when plagued with sinus headaches, sore throat, and fatigue? Well, "fluids and rest" was my theme for the week and I'm about to share my tricks with you in case you're finding yourself in a similarly sick situation.
Peppermint green tea--Hot tea loosens up congestion and peppermint soothes the throat. I love going with a peppermint green tea because while I don't always feel like having my morning coffee on a sick day, I do appreciate a little caffeine boost to clear up the fog. Did you know that part of the reason we feel foggy when we're sick is because less oxygen is getting to our brains? In that case, I'll take all the natural focus help I can get.
Raw honey and apple cider vinegar--These two ingredients both have natural anti-bacterial qualities, so they're great to ingest when you feel a cold coming on, or to take down an existing sinus infection. Lots of people make a tonic with these ingredients mixed into warm water, but I find it pretty repulsive to drink when too concentrated. Instead, I dilute 1 Tablespoon of ACV in a cup of cold water. I'll eat a teaspoon of raw honey straight, letting it coat my throat, then follow with the diluted beverage. It may not be the most familiar experience, but it does the job!
Tomato soup--This has long been my go-to comfort food and for good reason. Tomatoes are high in vitamin C, which is what our bodies need to boost immunity and get over illnesses more quickly. I prefer to make my own so the nutrients are still fresh and dense, but if canned is all that's available, just look for a tomato soup with minimal ingredients.
Fruit juice popsicles--nothing soothes a sore throat like a cold popsicle...but most are loaded with added sugar and food dyes. I like to pour 100% juice into a small cup, throw in a plastic spoon, and freeze that puppy for a few hours. Voila! You've got yourself an all natural popsicle to help your throat feel better and satisfy any craving for sweetness you may be feeling.
Whole wheat bread--I don't know about you, but when I'm heaping on the fluids in an attempt to heal quickly, my stomach sometimes gets to feeling a little imbalanced. My body needs a little bit of a bland carb to help me digest all the extra fluids I'm feeding it. As per my usual diet, I choose a whole wheat bread with butter, but you can do any whole grain that sounds appealing to you: brown rice, organic corn tortilla, or even whole grain crackers.
Of course it can be tempting to eat junkier comfort food when sick and I certainly gave myself permission to indulge a couple of times, but I would encourage you to listen to what your body is craving for healing, not what your mind is craving for comfort. It's a tough discipline and there's always grace to veer off your regular dieting habits when sick, but overall, fueling your body with the nutrients it needs will get you feeling back to normal sooner! Here's to a healthier allergy season for all of us!