Yesterday I wrote about one of my most memorable Valentine’s Day meals. But, in the four years since my husband and I have shifted our eating habits, our Valentine’s Day traditions and activities have reflected the change in our lifestyle. There is no pressure to give, or receive, Valentine’s Day candies and chocolates. And, going out to eat isn’t as appealing as cooking together in the kitchen. The intent of the holiday is to express love…and what better way is there to show love than by creating healthy, nutritious food and spending quality time together?
So, what will you be doing this Valentine’s Day? Leave your vote or a comment in the space below!
Years ago, before my husband and I were married, he took me out to a very nice dinner for Valentine’s Day. Now, my husband has taken me out for many excellent meals in the 12 years we have been together, and most of these I remember for the food and the experience of dining in the restaurant. But, this particular experience I remember not for the meal or for the experience. I remember it because I never want to eat this way again.
I was a Weight Watchers devotee in love with the points tracking system. In the week leading up to our Valentine’s date I worked to bank as many points as possible. I ate the minimum number of points allowed per day and exercised as much as I could to earn as many activity points as possible. I saved the extra points and worried if I had banked enough to keep me in my point range for the week.
My only memories of this meal are this – my husband had the duck and I wrote down everything I ate, and how much, while sitting at the table. When my husband finally brought me home I immediately calculated how many points I had eaten. It was twice the number of points I would normally eat in a day. I remember being horrified, feeling guilty, and worrying whether or not this would make me gain weight.
Looking back on it now, this is some seriously scary behavior. I was completely incapable of enjoying an experience because I was afraid, and I had absolutely no sense of moderation. This is no way to live.
Diets fail because they are an all or nothing endeavor. Screw up once and the whole thing goes in the toilet. But who can be perfect all the time? Wait…who would even WANT to? When we so rigidly stick to a set of rules, we set ourselves up for inevitable failure and miss out on the experiences in the mean time.
We eat several times per day, and those meals…the everyday breakfasts, lunches and dinners determine the quality of our health and the size of our waistline. There is a vast amount of cultural and social significance that comes with sharing a holiday/event meal or food related tradition – even if it’s one only made up by commercialism.
So, here are some tricks to consider when Valentine’s Day strikes tomorrow.
If you can cook…COOK because nothing says love like good food from the kitchen! Cooking your own Valentine’s Day meal gives you the most freedom to indulge in dishes you may not have had in a while, but allows you the opportunity to modify those recipes to suit your health goals. And, let’s be honest here, Valentine’s Day is mostly about the desserts. Use this link for some inspiration to whip up some decadent, delicious, and healthy desserts!
If going out to dinner is your thing…go out and enjoy the experience. Choose something exotic from the menu, or go for your favorite dish if it is something you wouldn’t normally cook at home and you haven’t had it in a long time. Savor every bite. Have a glass of wine, and go ahead, order dessert.
If a box of chocolate is your thing…buy the nicest chocolate you can afford. The biggest box of chocolates from the grocery store never tastes as good as the few pieces of fine chocolate you can get from your local chocolatier. The added bonus – built in portion control. And trust me, you’ll saver each and every bite when you spend more on less!
Are you in a place where on meal will turn into many that aren’t in line with meeting your health goals? Opt for a flowers only treat instead. Splurge on your favorites and put them where you can see them…or carry them from room to room to room with you so you can always see and enjoy them.
This deal popped up in my inbox this morning…and it made me think of you. You know of my love for all things coconut, especially coconut oil. From cooking to skin care it is an oil that can almost do it all.
Well, if for some reason you’ve been hesitant and you haven’t tried coconut oil yet, this is the deal you’ve been waiting for.
Simply click the picture to go to this deal and buy to your heart’s content. Happy Monday!
Well, its the new year and, I don’t know about you, but it seems every TV commercial and pop-up add I see, and every Groupon/Living Social deal that has appeared in my inbox are all related to the New Year’s Resolution Weight Loss/Fitness Phenomenon. From cries of, “This year I’m gonna loose weight,” to “This year I’m gonna get in shape,” it seems everyone is on the bandwagon. But ask any gym owner, or visit any gym now and then again in February, to see how long these resolutions hold on.
We are an instant gratification society with the belief that if I work harder then the results I desire will come faster. Unfortunately, when it comes to achieving the results we desire via exercise, that belief is doing us more harm than good. Case in point, the New Year’s Resolution exercisers.
Full of good intentions they enter the gym to do some cardio, maybe hit a few weights and get in some crunches. Over those first few weeks the “quick trips” to the gym take longer than expected. Time gets tighter and meeting the normal obligations of the day become more difficult. The to-do list gets longer and longer as the days pass. Then there is the soreness. When you first go back its hard to know how much is too much and more often than not we over do it. It is this combination of time requirements and soreness that ultimately derails even the best intentioned individuals.
So, if your resolutions for the New Year include getting fit or getting healthy, how can you turn them into a reality in 2013?
Step 1 – Build SMART Goals
Getting fit and getting healthy are great goals to have, but what do they mean? Can you define them? How will you know if you’ve gotten fit? How will you know if you’ve gotten healthy?
How can you define health? Learn here.
Avoid not knowing when you’ve gotten there by building SMART goals. SMART goals are:
Let’s face it…nothing is a better motivator to keep you on track than a looming deadline. Take the time to construct the specifics of your goals. When you know exactly where you are going and how you are going to get there it makes it easier to stay the course.
Step 2 – Less is More
Spending 2 hours at the gym isn’t doing you any good. And contrary to popular belief/conventional wisdom less is more when it comes to gym time. In a study conducted by the University of Copenhagen, researchers found that 30 minutes of exercise was as effective in reducing body weight and body mass as 60 minutes of exercise.
“The participants in our study trained every day for three months. All training sessions were planned to produce a light sweat, but participants were expected to increase the intensity and give it gas three times a week,” explains Mads Rosenkilde, PhD student at the University of Copenhagen in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and author of the study. Over the course of 13 weeks the participants who exercised only 30 minutes per day lost 2lbs more than those who exercised for 60 minutes per day.
But wait, the news gets better. In addition to weight loss, participants who exercised for only 30 minutes reported having more energy and eating less throughout the day. Plus, when it came time to exercise, they had the desire to do so, and they simply felt better all day long.
Over exercising – a classic mistake of the New Year’s crowd – leaves us starving and exhausted, eating more and moving less as the days pass. Not seeing the results you are striving for makes motivation hard to maintain, and before you know it you are back where you started. So, get in, get a good sweat going, and keep it to 30 minutes.
Step 3 – Great abs are made in the kitchen
No matter how many days you train, no matter how much weight you lift, no matter how many miles you log, you will never get the body you desire if you don’t feed it right.
Not sure how to feed your body right? Follow these simple guidelines to build healthy plates meal after meal. You’ll find that you sleep better, your energy is more consistent throughout the day, and you’ll recover faster from workouts that previously would have sent you over the edge.
- Get white sugar and white flour out of your diet.
- Fill your plate with fresh vegetables, lean meats, and fresh fruits at every meal. Yes, this means vegetables for breakfast.
- Drink lots of water. Whenever you think of it, take a sip. Carry a water bottle so this is possible at all times.
- Incorporate healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, butter from grass fed cows (Try Kerrygold), cage free/free range egg yolks and coconut milk/coconut oil into your daily meals. Read why coconut oil is more than just a healthy fat here and here.
I love egg nog. There, I said it. It is one of those treats that only comes around this time of year, and honestly, who can resist that sweet, creamy, spicy brew? With or without the rum, of course! My favorite way to enjoy egg nog? Instead of creamer, I love to add egg nog to a steaming hot cup of coffee. Hot, spicy….delicious!
Back in the day egg nog was made at home. A simple recipe of cream, egg yolks, sugar and spices all blended to perfection. But oh, how times have changed! Most of us probably have no idea how to make egg nog, let alone understand the plethora of chemical terms on the back of the container.
So, let’s start a new holiday tradition! Let’s get ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and artificial colors out of our glasses! Instead, let’s gather up some real ingredients and make a holiday drink worthy of the days of yore!
- 1 c organic whole milk – grass fed if possible
- 1 c organic cream – grass fed if possible
- 2 eggs – free range & organic if possible
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- cinnamon & nutmeg to taste
*add rum, brandy, or whiskey to taste if desired
- Add all ingredients to a blender or magic bullet
- Blend until all ingredients are well incorporated
- Serve cold with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg
When most of us think holiday treats, we likely think of the traditional sugar and flour laden cookies and breads, decadent chocolates or other sugary goodies. But, what if those kinds of treats no longer fit in your lifestyle? And, more importantly, what if your goal is to share your healthy lifestyle with those who mean the most to you? Do you forgo the holiday treats for good? Absolutely not! Healthy and tasty are not mutually exclusive. Use these homemade goodies to treat those you love to how delicious healthy eating can be!
And for a delicious topping to spread over the Berry Good Scones or Banana Bread try:
Orange Honey Butter
- 1 stick Kerrygold butter, softened to room temp
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp orange zest
- With a fork cream together all ingredients until well blended.
- Place in decorative containers, or in jars for gifting.
- Refrigerate until firm
And, if cooking just isn’t your thing…give these gifts a go! Perfect for anyone looking to jumpstart their health in the New Year.
When I was a kid my staple weekend winter morning breakfast was a big bowl of cream of wheat. Since taking grains out of my diet, nothing I’ve made has been a true substitute for the rich warm heartiness of a bowl of hot cereal. So, I decided to compromise. I wouldn’t go back to my cream of wheat roots (gluten and I do not play well together) but I would give a certain gluten free pseudo-grain quickly gaining popularity a try.
What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is the seed of the quinoa plant. Despite quinoa’s common classification as a whole grain, it is not a traditional cereal grain like wheat, corn and oats just to name a few. It is actually a pseudocereal. Quinoa’s pseudocereal designation comes from the fact that it does not come from a grass as true cereal grains do, but a completely unrelated broad leafed plant. Quinoa, a chenopod, is actually more closely related to beets, spinach, Swiss chard and tumbleweeds.
So, why is quinoa referred to as a “whole grain”? It is lumped in with traditional cereal grains because, in both cases, the seed of the plant is consumed as food, it can be ground into flour, and both the seed and flour is often used in very similar manners.
Why Should I Try Quinoa?
Well, that depends. If you are following a strictly grain-free diet, then the answer is no. Although quinoa is a pseudograin, it still contains the phytic acid, saponins, and lectins present in traditional cereal grains.
Why is phytic acid an anti-nutrient? Read more here.
Despite the fact that gluten is getting all the press when it comes to grains and their effect on your health, many people choose to lead a grain free life because of something called Leaky Gut. Though not a disease itself, Leaky Gut is believed to be the root cause of many inflammatory diseases like arthritis, acne, psoriasis, IBS and Crohn’s. Even more surprising, however, is the association between Leaky Gut and seemingly unrelated conditions like depression and chronic fatigue.Learn more about Leaky Gut here. What role does grain consumption play in creating a Leaky Gut? Read more here. Do I have a Leaky Gut? Take a quiz to find out here.
However, if you are following a gluten free diet, then quinoa may be a welcome addition to your food choices. Here are a few reasons why quinoa deserves a chance on your plate or in your bowl:
- Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids. This includes the amino acid lysine which is essential for tissue growth and repair. Unlike traditional cereal grains, quinoa is a complete protein, though not particularly protein dense. The best place for protein is still, and will always be, a piece of meat.
- Quinoa contains Iron. Iron is the basis of hemoglobin formation which allows our red blood cells to transport oxygen to our body cells. Adequate levels of iron are essential to proper brain function because the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. Iron is also necessary for neurotransmitter synthesis, regulation of body temperature, aids enzyme activity and energy metabolism. Non-heme, or plant based iron sources are best absorbed in the presence of Vitamin C, so have some tomatoes, or slice up a citrus fruit to dress your quinoa.
- Quinoa is rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and promotes healthy blood sugar control, two essentials in maintaining good cardiovascular health. Magnesium also helps reduce stress, improve energy production, and promotes healthy bone and teeth formation.
- Quinoa is high in Riboflavin (B2). B2 improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production inside all body cells.
- Quinoa has a high content of manganese. Manganese is an antioxidant, which helps to prevent damage of mitochondria during energy production as well as to protect red blood cells and other cells from injury by free radicals.
- Quinoa is alkaline-forming. Unlike traditional grains, which acidify you body as they are digested, quinoa helps keep your body at a desired 7.1, or slightly alkaline pH.
What are the benefits of having a pH balanced body? Learn more here.
Often served in the place of rice during an evening meal, I’ve found quinoa makes more sense to me in my breakfast bowl. Try it as a rice substitute in any recipe (wonderful in soups and stews), as a side dish at dinner, or make it your new hot cereal substitute, like I do. The recipe below is ripe for your own modifications and enhancements. I’d love to know how you dress up your quinoa for breakfast!
- 1 c coconut milk
- 1/3 c raisins
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 2 c cooked quinoa
- 1/3 c slivered almonds
- cinnamon to taste
- maple syrup to taste
- pinch of salt
- Cook quinoa according to instructions on package.
- Reserve 2 c of cooked quinoa, store the rest in the fridge for a snack later.
- In a skillet bring 1 c of coconut milk to a low simmer.
- Add the raisins, salt, and vanilla extract.
- Simmer for 3-5 min or until the raisins have begun to puff and soften.
- Add quinoa and almonds.
- Stir until coconut milk begins to bubble.
- Add maple syrup and salt to taste.
- Serve immediately.
When we choose to change our eating habits food oriented family gatherings – like Thanksgiving and Christmas – can present some of our biggest food and lifestyle challenges. The following article, written by Amy Kubal for Robb Wolf’s (the author of The Paleo Solution) blog, provides some helpful tips and tricks for navigating the family dinner table when your nearest and dearest innocently seek to derail your dietary train.
Paleo (the Paleo Diet) – In simple terms the paleo diet is built from modern foods that (to the best of our ability) emulate the foods available to our pre-agricultural ancestors: Meat, fish, fowl, vegetables, fruits, roots, tubers and nuts. On the flip-side we see an omission of grains, legumes and dairy.
Read the rest of the blog post defining the Paleo Diet here.
Holiday Help: Dealing with Non-Paleo Peer Pressure
By Amy Kubal, MS, RD
“But Grandma made it just for you.”
“Have a beer with me – one won’t kill ya.”
“Why aren’t you having any (insert non-paleo food item here).”
Yep, it’s that time of year again – time for the seemingly endless holiday parties, gatherings and holiday celebrations. We’re all painfully aware that the season’s food laden festivities often result in the ‘phenomenon that is, (insert sound of impending doom – dun, dun, dun), the elastic waistband’. While this is something we’d like to avoid, sometimes that seems an impossible feat due to being ‘guilted’ into eating and drinking things because of those pesky ‘holiday food pushers’ – (seriously, they are VICIOUS!!) I mean really, who wants to ‘strong arm’ Grandma or cousin Eddie – there are just some things that you don’t do… And damn, that beer, egg nog, pie, cookie, candy, stuffing and hell, even the jello were a whole lot of tasty. The day after that gorge-fest, however; – um, can you say – EPIC Food Hangover!! This is like a fate worse than death in some cases – think ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ along with a college hangover headache and the lethargy of your common house cat… But it happened, and in a few days, maybe next week and definitely again at Christmas – it’s going to happen again.
Read the rest of this post – get the tips and tricks to navigate your Thanksgiving table as well as your friends and relatives here.
Welcome to my most favorite week of the year. For reasons I can not quite articulate, this week of the year, filled with so many traditions, so much warmth, and so much love, is in my mind, simply the best.
And, speaking of traditions…
I am a sucker for pumpkin pie. It has always been one of my absolute favorites, but when I changed my eating habits to exclude excess sugar, wheat, and most dairy, I thought my pumpkin pie days were over. Read the rest of this entry »