There are so many fad diets these days that it quite boggles the mind! The five-bite diet, raw-food diet, Alkaline diet, Atkins, South Beach, blood-type diet, and even the werewolf diet or the cabbage soup diet. Seriously. Fad diets try to be flashy and promise big changes while you're on them; They even work hard to find some celebrity who will endorse the diet as the next best thing. But as soon as you 'finish' the diet, any weight that might have come off often comes right back on again! And they certainly don't offer any realistic long-term changes to lifestyle and habits. In fact, many have components that are simply unhealthy for you, particularly in the long run by cutting calories, eliminating fat, or starch. Or they’re expensive and require you to purchase their product in order to achieve success. For this reason, I don't recommend that people take part in these types of diets.
Then there are some who believe that in order to be healthy, you must abide, in it's entirety, to a specific way of eating: Paleo, Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten Free are some of the most popular choices these days. But the problem is that most of these diets don't address the root causes of our poor health in and of themselves. It is entirely possible to be vegetarian and consume a terrible diet. Or to eat a gluten free diet by replacing wheat cookies with gluten free cookies. I hate to break it to you, but you're not going to be any better off. Now don't get me wrong, I believe there are healthy aspects to all of these ways of eating, and I employ aspects of all of them into my own eating habits. But to believe that you have to be exclusive of anyone of them, or even worse, to use them as an "excuse" to be a picky eater doesn't work.
So what's the best "diet"? Well, it's not really a diet at all, but a change in how we view food and our relationship with how it's grown. And that is to eat sustainably. By eating sustainably grown and produced food, immediately we're going to go back to the basics: whole, fresh ingredients that are not laced with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics or other toxic chemicals; eating primarily veggies and fruits; choosing meats and eggs that are healthy for you and the environment; calorie dense foods; reduced numbers of grains and increased nuts and seeds; and limited packaged and processed food.
Now let’s put this into an eating plan:
To be sure, there are a lot more details that go into this. And for anyone who is struggling with weight issues or illness, there may be other considerations that need to be made. But for everyone, if we take these ideas and apply them as much as we can to our food choices, the result will only be positive. If you would like to dive into this deeper, or get some help in implementing this to your own life, give a holler!
If you’re like me, you often find yourself wishing you could wave a magic wand and have a delicious and nutritious meal sitting in front of you. Poof! Alas, that’s not how this works. Sure there’s convenience food that you can buy that will satisfy any taste, but really that just ends up being a waste of money and a whole lot of added garbage that you don’t need or want in your body. No thank you!
So what to do on those days when time or inspiration is failing us? My solution has been to cook in bulk and save ingredients or whole dishes for future use (have I mentioned how much I LOVE my chest freezer!). This can be as straightforward as doubling the spaghetti sauce recipe and then freezing half in large jars for future dinners. Or, one of my favorite techniques is to cook more of any variety of ingredients and then make them into something new the next day. What does that mean? Well, for example, I can take leftover roast chicken and chop into a soup, stew or stir-fry. Or cook extra beans for chili one night, tacos the next! I do this regularly with a lot of different foods: veggies, lentils, quinoa, beans, chicken, meat and fish. It may not sound like a lot… but believe me, the time saved while putting together the next meal is noticeable for sure.
One of my favorite meals made with leftover ingredients is my Roasted Chicken and Veggie Salad. This is a salad that could easily be whipped up for lunch but is also hearty and filling enough to be dinner. Even if you’re not a ‘salad person’ you really should give this a try. It’s sooooo much more than just a salad.
And it only takes 5 minutes to make!
Toss all ingredients into a bowl and eat!
Homemade fruity vinaigrette recipe:
Combine all ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Make sure lid is well sealed and shake vigorously to combine. Dressing can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the refrigerator for months.
“Bone broth isn’t just broth. And it isn’t just soup. It’s concentrated healing.”
– Kellyann Petrucci
When we talk about food being the best medicine, bone broth is near (or at) the top of the list. And the beauty is that it’s not hard to make. The key though, is the ingredients you use. But we’ll talk about that later. Right now, let’s talk about the reason we should all be consuming this amazing tonic.
9 Reasons Bone Broth is AMAZING!
1. Helps heal your gut. The gelatin in bone broth (a hydrophilic colloid) helps to seal the lining of your gut by protecting the mucosal lining.
2. Promotes healthy digestion and nutrient absorption. The gelatin also keeps your digestive juices where they’re supposed to be, aiding in the digestion of nutrients.
3. Reduces inflammation. Which for many of us is a major key to health. Bone broth is a natural supplier of glucosamine, which can help stimulate the growth of collagen and reduce joint pain. It is also full of amino acids that have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects (glycine, proline, and arginine).
4. Encourages bone repair and growth. The calcium, magnesium and phosphorous are great for healthy, strong bones.
5. Helps prevent and fight disease. Not just an old wives tale, research has shown that soup indeed has medicinal qualities for fighting infection by reducing the number of white blood cells (which cause flu and cold symptoms).
6. Good for strong hair, nails, and healthy skin. Both the gelatin in bone broth and the broths ability to stimulate your own production of collagen increases the strength and health of our hair and nails, and can reduce wrinkles and increase firmness of skin.
7. Helps you relax and maybe even get a better night sleep. The amino acid glycine has been found to have calming effects, which can help lead to relaxation and better sleep.
8. Better than supplements. Bone broth is cooked at a relatively low heat, which preserves the nutrients in a way that high-heat extraction used for many supplements doesn’t. It is also more comprehensive in it’s makeup of nutrients as it’s made from whole foods, and isn’t just the parts that we’ve deemed as the “healthy” bits.
9. It’s cheaper than buying broth, and very easy to make. As long as you can get your hands on good bones and a crock pot, the set up takes about 15 minutes and then you just leave it be until it’s done (4-48 hours). And it’s a lot less expensive than buying cartons or cans of broth, which don’t have nearly the same health benefit!
So, how do you make this magical potion? If you search online for bone broth recipes, you’ll find oodles of them. But they all have a few key components: Good bones (i.e. from free-range, organically fed animals is best), a few veggies, water (filtered if you have it), and time in a slow-cooker (4-48 hours depending on the type of bone you're using). You can cook bone broth on the stove, but then you have to be home and watching it occasionally which can be a hassle considering how long it cooks. A slow-cooker or crock pot allows you to set it up, and walk away until it’s done. Here’s my go-to recipe:
Chicken bone broth:
Dump everything into your slow cooker except the fresh herbs. Turn on and leave for 6 - 8 hours. Add the fresh herbs in for the last hour. You will likely notice some frothy bubbles at the top of the pot after a few hours. Scrape this up with a large spoon and discard. It’s normal, and totally fine.
When it's done cooking, strain through a colander, and distribute the liquid into quart jars to refrigerate or freeze. If freezing, make sure you leave enough space at the top for the liquid to expand, and freeze with the lid off to avoid the glass breaking. If you have a dog, you can throw the cooked gizzards onto their food for a seriously tasty treat. And I can usually pick off enough meat from the discarded bones to make a chicken soup.
For other types of broth (beef, fish, pork, etc.) I follow the same recipe but you’ll need to increase the time the bigger the bones. Fish bones (using a whole fish is the best) = 4 hours; Pork & Beef bones = 24-48 hours. Large bones should be hollowed out by the time you’re done cooking them.
Don't be shy! If you have questions feel free to leave them in the comments below, or shoot me a note. But I promise you, if you give it a try, you'll be so happy you started this habit of broth making. The broth is delicious! Much better than anything you could buy in a store. And it will likely become a staple in your house like it is in mine!
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it means that generally, work/life has been busy and generally rewarding! But it’s bad, because, well, I miss it. So here we are, all of a sudden in January, a new year is upon us! How crazy is that.
With January always comes the sometimes abrupt and shocking return to routine after the holidays. Even if you don’t participate much in holiday life the over indulgence, friend and family gatherings, kids out of school and general over stimulation is hard to ignore completely. This can lead to crawling our way into January wondering where the extra 5lbs and sleep deprivation came from and why we didn’t notice it creeping up on us earlier. But it also gives us the perfect opportuity to implement realistic resolutions to kick start our new year. So why not give that exercise routine a shake up and get yourself into a grove that will last all year.
Here are four critical tips when figuring out a good exercise routine for yourself. (And this applies to beginners and advanced fitness gurus alike.)
1. Mix it up!
Most of us think of cardio workouts as the “go to” exercise, and yes, it’s a good place to start, but it is not the ONLY thing you should be doing each week. There are 4 areas of exercise: (1) aerobic (cardio), (2) anaerobic (strength training), (3) flexibility (increasing range of motion), and (4) stability (balance and core), and EVERYONE should be doing at least one thing in each category…every week.
Why you ask? Many reasons. First, if you all you do is run or bike or practice yoga, then inevitably you will end up with injuries, and there will be aspects of your health that you are completely ignoring. To keep things simplified (because lets face it, most of us don’t have a ton of time to devote to this), there are many activities that will cover more than one area of exercise.
For example: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is both an aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Plus it activates your core muscles as well. Here’s one of my favorite beginner guides to HIIT (http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/06/21/interval-training.aspx)
Yoga and Pilates can also be workouts that cover a wide range. Some yoga classes will offer a workout in all 4 areas (increased heart rate over a long duration; strength training of certain muscle groups; encouraging a wider range of motion; and a core workout). If you’re unsure what your exercise class is doing for you, just ask your teacher. And if they don’t know? Well… they should. Tell them to go find out and get back to you.
You can also call me and we can figure out the best type of routine for you!
2. Build rest to your routine
With 4 different types of exercise to cover, and endless choices within each type, it probably feels like you could spend your whole life exercising and you might just cover the basis, right? Well, the next key is to make sure you’re scheduling in rest as well. What??? Rest??? Crazy right? But, the fact of the matter is, if you workout the same muscle groups and in the same way every day, you won’t allow your muscles to repair themselves, and in turn, this will lead to injuries, or in some cases, a weaker body than what you started with. Rest doesn't mean just go and be lazy and sedentary all day... Rest, in this case, refers to giving muscle groups a chance to recover from a workout. However, the best way to rest is usually a mild activity: restorative yoga, walking, neighborhood bike ride, etc.
Now, the type of workout really dictates the amount of rest (i.e. time off for a muscle group). But the general rule of thumb is the more intense the workout, the longer the rest needs to be. Take the HIIT I referenced above. It’s a major workout, and if you tried to do that everyday you’d run into serious trouble. It’s recommended that you take at least 2 days of rest in between each HIIT. And that goes for strength training as well. And in between those intensive workouts is a great time to get in some work on your core and flexibility. Or just take a walk to let your muscles work, but not so strenuously.
3. Get enough protein
Here’s a rule that most people either don’t know, or generally forget about. To skimp on protein is to deprive your body of the building blocks it requires for building and maintaining strong and healthy muscles. The CDC currently recommends that we eat approximately 0.8g/kg/day of protein. This works out to 45-60g per day. Now, here’s why I think, for many of us, this number is too low. When the CDC is making these recommendations, they are thinking of the 'average' American who, frankly, is eating a terrible diet. Processed foods, meat from CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Opperation), fast food, huge amounts of sugar, and a sad amount of fresh veggies; all of which lead to an overconsumption of calories, period. So for these individuals… then yes, 45-60g is fine, along with a reduction in pretty much everything else (except veggies!).
However, if you’re exercising regularly, then research shows us that this may not be enough protein. One key is to find good sources of protein to consume: beans, lentils, sustainable seafood, range meat, eggs, yogurt & cheese (from range cattle), nuts & seeds. There is research that recommends your intake to be closer to 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg/day. If you’re an endurance athlete (running, biking, hiking), then focus on the lower end of this range; if you’re main focus is strength and power training, focus on the top end; and for intermittent (i.e. soccer, basketball, HIIT), you should sit somewhere in the middle. Here’s a great journal article for reference: http://www.jissn.com/content/4/1/8
What does this look like?
170 lb individual doing intermittent exercise: 170lb = 77kg x 1.7g/kg = 131g/day
130 lb individual doing endurance training: 130lb = 59kg x 1.4g/kg = 82g/day
In terms of how to get this? Here’s the protein amounts of some good sources:
4. Sleep is one of the greatest healers
Finally, we sometimes need to be reminded of the importance of getting good zzz’s at the end of the day. I know that sometimes it can feel like a waste of a perfectly good 8 hours (I mean, come on! Think of all the things we can get done during 8 hours!). But the truth of the matter is, there’s a good reason we’re supposed to spend a third of our life sleeping. It’s not just because we get tired, and we’re not just wasting time.
We do some of our most important work while we sleep… and if you don’t, then your body will suffer. Aside from being hugely detrimental to your brain, lack of sleep also prevents your body from recovering fully in between your workouts. This is the time that muscles repair themselves and build strength from those great workouts that you’ve started. And this includes your heart as well (your most important muscle!). So make sure you don’t skimp on sleep!
Here’s a great quote from the sleep foundation that I use regularly: “The one-third of our lives that we spend sleeping, far from being “unproductive,” plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be.”
Feeling motivated yet? Coming up with a productive, healthful and easy to stick with fitness schedule can be daunting. When you tackle this, try to factor in the 4 tips mentioned above, and if you’re feeling stuck, drop me a line. I’m always happy to help!
During the colder winter months I'm a sucker for one-pot meals. Especially when there's not a lot of initial prep or cooking. Throw it all in and, viola! Dinner.
Well, this is a recipe I came up with a few weeks ago, and we've had it twice already. It's easy, and so delish. It's also a great one to freeze for later, or alter quantities for big parties or small dinners. It can be done on the stove or in a crockpot, depending on when you want to spend the 30 mins of prep time.
The inspiration for this was to create a twist on a pork chili recipe using a different flavor palate. I love Brazilian cooking, especially the focus on black beans, cilantro, mangos and garlic. You could serve it over rice, or quinoa, but we just serve it with warm, soft corn tortillas or chips to scoop and eat.
This recipe serves 8 adults. The reason I make so much is that’s the size of the pork shoulder that I get. I like the meat, but I wanted the recipe to be more weighted to the beans and veggies, and have the meat just for flavor. It’s wouldn’t be hard to cut it by half or more, but in my opinion it’s just so easy to freeze for later, why would you do that?
In a large dutch oven, heat bacon drippings over medium heat.
Add pork and season with salt, pepper, paprika, onion & garlic powder (or use your favorite savory flavored salt). Sear 5 – 10 minutes, until brown all over and juices start to release.
Add in onion, garlic, carrots and chili peppers. Stir and cook 5 minutes.
If using a slow cooker, transfer mixture to cooker.
Add in canned tomatoes, black beans, leafy greens, and cilantro. Stir to combine. Add any broth needed to make a stew consistency. Remember you’re still adding more ingredients at the end and factor in how long it’s going to cook.
Cover and simmer on very low for 30 mins to 1 hour on the stove, or 5 (high) – 8 (low) hours in the crockpot.
Add the corn and mango during the last 15 mins of cooking.
Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with any combination of cheese, avocado and cilantro and serve with chips or warmed corn tortillas.
Is life stressing you out?
We all have stress and it comes and goes in varying degrees and from multiple sources. This time of year, it often increases. I happen to love the holidays; fun cooking and craft projects with my kids, an abundance of friend and family gatherings, cool crisp days that require tea or hot cocoa… Mmmmmm. But, I know this is not the case for everyone.
And whether you love the holidays, or dread them (or are somewhere in between), chances are, they come with an additional helping of stress: willing some extra money to magically appear for presents; fending off yummy treats and those extra pounds; finishing work projects in time for the holidays; family gatherings with your crazy, or wonderful (or both) family and in-laws; fitting in “required” holiday parties and other events; or the feeling of loneliness that seeps into our souls if we're having a hard day and everyone else is frolicking gaily. Try as we might, it’s easy for this time of year to get out of control, which inevitably leads to more stress.
You always hear people touting the importance of managing your stress, and offering those helpful little tips like “Stay Positive” (um, yea, thanks for that), but here are some reasons WHY it’s important, and my own helpful little tips for how to achieve perfect harmony…or something like that.
Stress (whether sudden or chronic) plays a major part in your immune system and cognitive function  . It negatively impacts blood pressure, cholesterol levels, brain chemistry and blood sugar levels. It creates a constant “fight or flight” response in your body, which in turn overworks and fatigues your adrenal glands. This can then lead to autoimmune disorders, fatigue, and compromised emotional health like depression. Stress has also been linked to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Whew! Have I stressed you out enough yet? No? Ok, I’ll go on…
One of the most interesting things about stress is that it’s also highly contagious. Similar to happiness, but in the negative the more you’re around stressed out people, the more stress you will feel as well. And this doesn’t just have to do with those you know or are in close contact with, like your family and coworkers (although I’m sure they can stress you out plenty). It’s anybody you come into contact with and observe. You can be watching a reality TV show where the participants are under stress, and your body will respond like you’re under stress as well. Ever wonder why so many confrontations happen between strangers shopping on Black Friday and not the rest of the year? They’re all feeding off of each other’s stress, and in turn that fight or flight reaction is coming out full strength as they turn around and sock the person behind them for trying to get the last Tomas the Train before they do.
On the flipside, happiness is also contagious and even more so than stress. It’s also been shown to extend out to 3 degrees of separation. For example, you’re happy and flash a golden smile at your neighbor while on your morning walk, who in turn passes some of that happiness onto their spouse with an extra hug, who then greets their coworker with an exceptionally bright hello at the office, making the coworkers day seem a little brighter.
Bottom line? Surround yourself with happy, calm people and try to avoid those who cast a dark cloud everywhere they go (or only visit them when you’re feeling particularly excellent to try and help spread some of your happiness their way).
The other interesting thing about stress is that chronic stress is largely self-inflicted. Sudden stress comes from an external event (death of a loved one, car accident, etc.), which we have little to no control over in the moment. However, chronic stress is the stress that lingers or comes from the day to day, and so often we hold onto this stress and forget to let it go. I’m not saying that the day to day (financial issues, relationships, opinionated children, or work) can’t be stressful, but how we respond to them is our choice, and that determines if the stress from our daily lives sticks around, or evaporates into the night.
So the next time you get that lovely advice to “Stay Positive”, know that what they’re really saying is “make the choice to let your stress go”. Take ownership and control of the pieces that matter to you, and let go of the rest. Some of us have a harder time than others at letting go of those pesky pieces we don’t have control over, and in my opinion, finding your way of doing that is the key to reducing your stress. Whether it’s getting out for some fresh air and exercise, taking a nap, reading a book, playing with your dog or having a cup of tea, find something that allows you to quiet your mind, take deep breaths, reframe the situation if necessary, and let go of the control you want, but don’t have. We all like to walk around thinking of ourselves as flexible and compromising individuals. But the truth is, our level of stress is likely positively correlated to our inability to quiet our mind and stay positive about events in our lives, even when they’re challenging.
Stress relief doesn’t have to take hours of your time, and really, as you practice and find the things that work for you, they can be integrated into your daily life, and into almost everything you do. Here are some to try:
1. Just Breath. It sounds simple, but most people will go through a whole day without noticing their breathing patterns. There are different breathing techniques that can help to focus your breath, and calm your body. This can help regulate your nervous system and make sure your providing your body with the oxygen it needs.
2. Exercise regularly. Exercise has an anti-depressant effect on our mind and body. And studies have shown that during times of high stress, those who exercised regularly had significantly less physical symptoms of stress than those who didn’t.
3. Spend time in nature. People who live in more green areas show and report less stress than those who don’t. And the effect is immediate. Even a few minutes outside gazing at the trees and taking deep breaths of fresh air can help you reduce the harmful effects of stress.
4. Learn to meditate. 10 minutes of quieting your mind each day can help to induce a relaxing state of mind and can help you weed out the noise from the things that are important to you.
5. Eat well . Around the holidays it’s so easy to get inundated with junk food and ‘treats’. But a healthy gut helps us fight bacteria and viruses, and eating the right food and in the right way (sitting, not rushing around) not only helps with this, but also boosts our psychological well-being and mood.
6. Connect with loved ones. Even with the increase in social events during this time of year, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the people who matter most to us as we’re all rushing around at top speed. Make sure to set aside time to enjoy the people who matter. Schedule a cup of coffee with a friend, plan a date night with your partner, or go for a bike ride with your child.
7. Get Sleep. Trouble sleeping and increased stress can be a vicious cycle. Not getting enough sleep can lead to irritability, and an increased stress response. Increased stress in turn can lead to insomnia as your mind is racing and unable to stay quiet. Make sure you get enough sleep over the holidays, so those little stressors stay…well…little.
8. And yes, stay positive. Make a list of things you’re grateful for (maybe that even includes your sometimes annoying in-laws and their weird holiday habits), smile a little extra, and look at life through an optimistic lens.
So for these holidays, remember that it’s ok to relinquish control, to let things slide, to not be perfect. Go ahead and laugh out loud, be goofy with your kids, give someone a hug (or two), sip a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and take the time to enjoy yourself. You might find that the holidays can actually be a perfectly stress free and happy time of year! Well, mostly.
What you ask? Is that even possible? Why yes! Yes it is.
I continually hear things like “oh, you’re so lucky to have time to cook from scratch, I wish I did”, or “when I go to the store I just don’t know what to buy! So I buy the easy thing”. Well, I’m here to tell you that no matter your situation, how many people you’re cooking for, or your budget, there are certain things you can do to help yourself (and your family) eat more healthily and on a budget. And cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time. Mostly, it just requires a little planning.
1. Plan out meals for the week:
It’s annoying, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a great grocery store/market down the street or near your work, but it will end up saving you more money than perhaps anything else you do. When you plan your meals, you buy less and therefore waste less food.
Every Sunday I look ahead to the next week. Is my husband on a work trip? Do the kids have soccer practice? Do I have a late meeting? It allows me to figure out how much food I need to prepare, plan for nights when leftovers or crockpot dinners are helpful, or enlist someone else to spearhead dinner for an evening or two.
Does the unexpected come up and throw my plans out of whack? Of course… this is life after all. But when I have a plan, it’s easier to deal with those days as well. And worst-case scenario is that we pick up dinner one night, and the rest of the meals get bumped back a day. And really… is that so bad?
2. Make a list when you go shopping
Really this is just an extension of tip #1. Once you have your meal plan, you can check out what you need to buy and what you already have. Add in any breakfast and lunch items and viola! Then when you go to the store (do it AFTER you’ve eaten, not before when you’re hungry), stick with your list. You won’t end up buying food you shouldn’t be eating, or won’t use and you’ll discover how much of your previous food budget was spent on those “extra” items.
3. Buy whole, fresh food whenever possible
Most of us know that fresh, whole produce, meat and grains are better than their processed counterparts. But many people are scared of buying them because they fear having to do something with them when they get home. Don’t be afraid. With a little knowledge, it’s super easy to cook from scratch and doesn’t have to be some time consuming or scary adventure.
Need an example? Here it goes:
Begin with 3 or 4 veggies of your choosing (ex: kale, mushrooms, onion & carrots)
Choose a source of protein (beans, fish, chicken, etc.)
If you need bulk in your meals, add a whole grain (quinoa, rice, polenta)
Cook protein, add and cook veggies, add seasoning or sauce and serve with grain.
Total time from start to finish: 30 minutes
4. Avoid large amounts of carbohydrates (i.e. starch, sugar, and even grains)
Most of us are not blessed with digestive systems that burn a million calories while sitting still. So unless you’re one of these people (like my husband), then you really shouldn’t be eating much starch (maybe one serving per day – not meal – day). Where your body and digestion are concerned, starch or carbohydrates are just a fancy way of saying sugar. You may think you’re eating a wonderful whole grain slice of bread (and you are), but when it’s broken down in your body, it’s dealt with like sugar. And if you’re wondering about fiber and other healthy parts of whole grains, the truth is you can get that elsewhere, in your fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, without the negative cost to your health.
Sugar might be lovely to taste, but really it is awful for all of us.[i] [ii] Even if your body seems to handle it just fine, it really is mad at you for consuming those large quantities. And believe it or not, it’s our sugar intake, not our fat intake that makes us put on weight, loose sleep, feel sluggish and in general wreak havoc on our digestive & immune systems.[iii] [iv] Put very simplistically, sugar (and carbohydrates in general) is used as energy by our bodies. A good thing right? But when we eat more sugar/carbs than we burn, our liver takes the extra and turns it into fat to store.[v] So if you’re training for an ironman, then by all means, eat healthy carbs that you need for energy. But still avoid the sugar and reach for the grains and legumes instead. There are a whole other host of reasons why sugar itself is bad, but that will have to be another discussion.
5. Learn how to read labels
**Sugar hides everywhere: Processed foods in particular are typically full of sugar hidden under unassuming names (glucose, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup, cane sugar, HFCS, maltose, and a whole host of others[vi]). When you look at the sugar content of something, look at the entire carbohydrate content (minus the fiber) to really get a good idea of how much sugar you are actually consuming. And not all sweeteners are created equal. When choosing, reach for one of these instead: Raw honey, coconut sugar, or stevia (with no additives).
**Avoid GMOs: No matter what your stance is on GMO labeling and the like, there are some certainties when it comes to GMOs that can’t be denied. And they are not good. The environmental, and resulting health impacts of GMOs are now well documented. Here’s a brief summary: Some plants are modified to be able to take larger quantities of pesticides and herbicides,[vii] [viii] which are then (1) absorbed by the plant and in turn by you when you eat them[ix], (2) are absorbed into the ground and contaminate the ground water and waterways[x], and (3) consumed by the pollinators (bees) who are now facing record decline[xi] [xii]. GMO plants also end up cross-pollinating with non-GMO crops, which can then create all sorts of problems[xiii]. So even if you don’t believe that eating a GMO crop will directly affect your health (although I beg to differ[xiv] [xv] [xvi]), just know that the entire system of GMO crops is directly and indirectly killing our soil, bees, contaminating water, and providing food that is less healthy than its counterpart.[xvii]
How do you tell if you’re eating GMOs? Well, these days, unless you buy organic, you don’t know (and I can’t tell you how frustrating this is to me!). But there are certain crops, where unless it’s organic, you can be fairly certain it’s GMO: corn (88%), soy (93%), cottonseed – used to make vegetable oil, shortening & margarine (94%), canola (90%) and sugar beets – which makes up more than half of the sugar sold in the U.S. (90%).[xviii] And if you’ve looked at a label recently, you’ll discover how prevalent things like corn (which includes corn syrup), soy, canola/veggie oil and sugar are in processed/prepared foods. It’s extremely hard to avoid. My advice? Buy organic when you can, and avoid processed/prepared foods as much as possible.
**Know your fats: Fat is very important for us to be healthy. Anyone who still touts a low-fat diet is living in the past and you might just want to refer him or her to this article. The fact is, that without fat, we would be in deep trouble. Your brain is 60% fat. Fatty acids are critical for brain performance, and an imbalance or lack of EFAs (essential fatty acids) can lead to a reduction in brain performance and disease. [xix] Fat was also blamed for heart disease, but research now shows that it’s sugar/carbohydrate intake that leads to stroke, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and diabetes, just to name a few[xx]. So instead of avoiding fat, eat it! Just know what kind to eat. Here’s a quick breakdown[xxi]:
Good Fats are:
· Olive oil
· Coconut oil
· Nut & Seed oils (unheated or in the form of whole nuts & seeds)
· Pasture butter, cheese & milk
· Pastured eggs
· Lard from foraging pigs.
Fats to avoid:
· Margarine (or any butter substitute)
· Vegetable oils (which is where most of our trans fats come from)
Now that you’re armed with information, go plan your meals, check out your pantry and shop with confidence! And I’ll bet, that if you allow yourself to get into this new healthy habit, your energy, sanity and wallet will thank me later.