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Power Up Your Picnic!

I love a picnic! Sunshine, fresh air, laughter and food – all the ingredients to create wholesome and delightful nourishment – are abundant even through autumn. But are you sabotaging your health with the lunch you pack?

Here’s a typical American picnic:

  • Sandwiches
  • Pop
  • Fruit
  • Chips
  • Cake or cookies

It’s appealing fare for all ages, but it’s a great mis-adventure for your physiology! Without realizing it, you and your loved ones are becoming so imbalanced in your nutritional needs, you are likely to be blind-sided by energy deficits that can someday become chronic health challenges, such as food sensitivities, chronic fatigue, weight gain, mood disorders, hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, and even auto-immunity.

Let’s dissect this picnic. Given that the sandwiches are either made with 2 ounces of thin-sliced deli meat, or peanut butter and jelly, the meal stacks up at approximately 66% carbohydrate (with all but the fruit as simple, refined carbs), 32% fat (none of which is natural, nourishing fat), and 2% protein. I’m sorry, Beautiful, but 2% protein is NOT ENOUGH to make your hormones and hemoglobin, your enzymes and anti-bodies, your skin and your tissues. And if you keep putting soybean, cottonseed, corn and canola oil through your gall bladder, it will be as congested as a CD player with a pancake in it!

I’m not anti-carb. I just believe in real foods, properly balanced! So what can you do?

Try out any of these ideas:

  • Fill a whole grain wrap or pita with meat and veggies, allowing you to get more filling and less fluff. Or pick up some dolmathes from a nearby Greek restaurant.
  • Substitute real whole milk, herbal tea, or flavored water for your soda. You might even try a homemade electrolyte drink, such as these or these. 
  • Need some crunch and some flavor? Try nuts and seeds instead of chips. Just make sure they are raw so the fats are not oxidzed. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are cheap and satisfying.
  • How about some cheese with your fruit instead of cookies? I’m partial to herbed chevre spread on apple slices.
  • Cut veggies with hummus make a great filler. Cherry tomatoes and petite bell peppers might be more add interest to celery and carrot sticks. Throw some olives in, too!
  • No time? Grab a container of ceviche from the market along with an avocado, and don’t forget to pack a knife. At your picnic site, slice the avocado in half, fill with your seafood salad and serve. If you don’t like crab and shrimp, you might try this Mexican-themed chicken filling instead.
  • Hard-boiled eggs and jerky both travel well and add extra protein. By the time you eat them, along with the other ideas here, you won’t even want cake!
  • Proscuttio goes well with melon. You could even put some on a skewer with cantaloupe balls before you leave home to moderate the insulin surge you get from eating carbs without fats and proteins.
  • Use jars to transport non-finger foods. For example, you could layer toasted oats and almonds with plain coconut yogurt.
  • Make a cookie that uses coconut or almond flour, rich in natural fats, instead of grain flour. If you use honey in place of sugar, you can cut the amount of sweetener in half.
  • Try a dessert recipe from our cookbook that uses only unrefined ingredients and has balanced carb-fat ratios.

Best Sesame Snacks

I couldn’t help giving you this sneak peek from our newly-released cookbook! These sesame squares make up in a snap and truly hit the spot when cravings strike. Easy and satisfying, the snack bars travel well for hiking, car trips, and picnics. They taste sweet, but have plenty of natural fat to prevent a blood sugar spike. As a bonus, they are gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free, and nut-free. (For those who have an allergy to egg, flax or gelatin can be substituted.)

Like the other recipes in our book, they use whole foods, not ingredients you can’t pronounce. (Get your copy of the cookbook here!) Best of all, they don’t require any previous cooking experience – your kids could make them! Just mix and spoon into your baking pan. In less than two minutes, you can leave them baking in the oven while you hustle up your backpack for an adventure!

Ingredients

1 c. tahini (sesame seed butter) or sunflower seed butter

1/2 c. honey

2 c. toasted sesame seeds

2 eggs (or use 2 Tb. chia seed and 6 Tb. water OR 2 Tb. unflavored gelatin and 6 Tb. water*)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions

Mix everything together and press into a greased 9″ x 9″ baking pan. Bake at 325 degrees until browned and set, about 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

Awake Again?

Your rough nights may be a sign that your blood sugars are skewed. Waking up a few hours after falling asleep, then struggling to get back to sleep is a classic red flag for low blood sugar. But when you lie in bed for hours and can’t even get to sleep in the first place, you may have high blood sugar.

True, you might have other considerations interfering with restful nights, such as a serotonin/melatonin imbalance or too much blue light exposure at bedtime. But most often, when people just like you talk to me about their disrupted sleep patterns, there is something crazy going on with their cortisol. Blood sugar fluctuations and cortisol output are kissing cousins.

Here’s what happens. (If you can’t stand explanations and just want a solution, skip to the last section.) Cortisol secretion is triggered when there is a perceived threat to the body, such as:

  • emotional stress
  • a physiological menace, perhaps toxins or food sensitivities
  • plummeting blood sugars

Cortisol’s task is to mobililze you for action – to supply you with immediate energy to fight against the threat. It does so by signalling your muscle tissue to release amino acids and fatty acids that the liver can convert into glucose (blood sugar) in a process called gluconeogenesis. As these acids are switched into ready fuel, your breathing and heart rate speed up and your muscles engage for movement – a state incompatible with sleep.

When you find yourself rousing between 1 and 3 a.m., it’s highly likely that your blood sugars dipped. Falling blood sugars threaten your brain, which must maintain a steady stream of glucose for its function, so your body releases cortisol to keep you safe. That cortisol spike wakes you up.

On the other hand, when you go to bed then toss and turn for hours with sleep evading you, that’s a pretty good indication that emotional and physiological stressors have kept that cortisol pumping all day, not letting you wind down and slip into regenerative repose. And as long as cortisol is being released, blood sugars will stay high. You’ll feel restless, need to move, and have speeding thoughts. This is the classic “tired but wired.”

To achieve more restful sleep

  1. “Bank your fire.” Eating a high-carb meal provides plenty of fuel, but like kindling, carbs burn hot and fast, then are gone in a flash. To keep an even burn for hours that runs slow and low, use plenty of natural fats along with complex carbohydrates in your meal. These will metabolize like a big log on a campfire and prevent you from crashing in the night.
  2. Coax your body into a para-sympathetic state. It’s easy to get stuck in the task-and-deadline focused mode that drives most of your actions throughout the day. You can persuade your body to ease up by engaging in deep breathing exercises; drinking an herbal tea such as ashwagandha, rhodiola, or holy basil; humming; soaking in an epsom salt bath; journalling or sketching or coloring; diffusing essentials oils such as lavendar, ylang ylang, or chamomile; practicing yoga; listening to binaural beats;  or perhaps getting a massage.
  3. Get checked out by an NTP (Nutritional Therapy Practitioner) who will be able to evaluate you for food sensitivities and toxin-producing gut dysbiosis that may be driving cortisol levels up round the clock. NTP’s can use an online assessment to graph your bio-individual profile. You can ask for your profile here.

Wait! Spinach is A Carb?

Yes, baby, spinach and carrots and bananas and plums are all carbohydrates. Did you think they were proteins? They certainly aren’t fats!

I know it’s confusing at times. People say those leafy greens (you know, spinach and kale and collard) have a lot of protein. Well, compared to white cane sugar, they sure do! Sugar is pure carbohydrate, 100%. But nature’s foods aren’t so simple. Real foods come from plants and animals which are made up of cells. The building blocks of cells are proteins, so whole foods inevitably have some protein. Fats are present in the semi-permeable membrane surrounding the cell, allowing both water-soluble and fat-soluble nutrients to pass into the cell and wastes to be transferred out.

In reality, therefore, whole foods contain a tiny bit of all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. When we assign a category to a food, it’s because that food has heaps more of one macronutrient than any other. Back to spinach. While it is primarily carb, 30% of its calories do come from protein. That’s a lot more than, say, a potato, which is only 7% protein, calorically.

But a whole cup of spinach is only about 7 calories – and only 2 of those calories come from protein. It would take literally mountains of spinach, baby, to make your hair and nails and muscles and skin and cartilage, and even your red blood cells and hormones. That’s why we can’t count it as a protein. It serves as carbohydrate because it is primarily a source of energy. When your tummy digests it, all those bright green leaves are converted into glucose to keep you crawling and cooing.

My point is that you can’t think of carbs as just pasta and potatoes. Yes, chips and crackers and croissants are carbohydrates, but so are all of the fruits and veggies and legumes and seeds. And remember Pooh Bear and his honey pot? Yeah, that’s how his belly got so round. Even milk is between 30 and 56% carbohydrate by calorie, depending on its fat content. That makes it taste sweet to you. (Only one-fifth of the calories in milk come from protein!)

So…I won’t EVER endorse a smoothie with skim milk and 3 or 4 fruits in it. It’s just too much of a sugar-rush for your precious body! I don’t care if you add spinach to make it healthy – it’s still an insulin tornado.  I only want you to be vibrant and have vitality! And don’t tell me you use almond milk – it’s worse! For every 16 grams of carbohydrate (64 calories), there is only 1 gram of protein (4 calories).*

The bottom line is you can be a carb-loader if you eat lots of fresh produce and never even touch refined sugar, or grains either, for that matter. When I say you need to balance your plate, please understand that I’m serious about adding healthy fats and animal proteins to your diet. Believe me, I’m trying to save you from insulin resistance before it’s too late. Here’s my rule of thumb: For every “handful” of carbohydrate, eat a thumb-size portion of natural, unrefined fat and a palm-size serving of protein. You have too much of life ahead of you to feel fatigued and fat, or to experience fitful sleep and flat moods.

If you’re already there, suffering from that 2 p.m. coma every day, I can help! Contact me.

*May vary from brand to brand.

 

Fruity Frosty is a Big Fat Treat

Fab and Frosty Treats

Simple and sweet, from whole foods and healthy fats, these soft-serve ice creams whip up in minutes and leave you satisfied, not sick. Bursting with flavor, they need no artificial ingredients to engage your taste buds!

Blend or process until smooth:

  • 1 c. frozen fruit
  • 2 servings of natural fat (such 1 avocado, 1/4 c. nut butter,  or 1/2 c. coconut millk)
  • 1 Tb. citrus juice (or other liquid)
  • 1 Tb. natural sweetener (such as honey, pure maple syrup or coconut sugar)

Winning combinations

  • raspberries, avocado, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and honey
  • peaches, coconut milk, and orange juice concentrate (no sweetener needed)
  • cherries, 1/4 c. almond butter, pomegranate juice (may need water or ice for blending)
  • bananas, cashew butter, almond milk, and pure maple syrup
  • Pineapple; coconut milk; lemon, lime or orange juice; and coconut sugar

Find more treats and satisfying recipes here.

Photo credit: Mordi Photographie

 

Are You Hydrating Correctly?

You may be getting 8 glasses of water per day, but in this heat, are you sure your water bottle isn’t hindering your hydration?

Recently, I stopped at a convenience store to find some refreshment from the store’s cooler section. A splash of flavor was in order to liven up the mundane sipping I had been engaged in while stopped for 90 minutes on the interstate in 95 degree weather due to a 5-car pile-up ahead.

I started perusing labels, just to check whether the flavor was natural or artifical. I was stunned to see carbohydrate counts at 15-30 grams per serving. This was water, right?! Even with electrolytes added, water should still be 0 carb.

Now, I’m not anti-carb. I do believe in whole fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, and legumes in their unrefined form. But I understand that pouring carbohydrates into my body un-modulated – without fats, proteins, or fiber to buffer them – will create an insulin surge that has disturbing ripples. I strive to keep my carbohydrate calories around one-third of my daily intake. I certainly don’t need hidden sugars in my water! Their effect is actually dehydrating!

My solution was to put a couple of ounces of pure coconut water into my quart-size Klean Kanteen, just enough to give my filtered water a hint of flavor. Here are some other strategies you can use to revive your hydration and yourself!

  • sprinkle in a pinch of sea salt
  • splash in a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice
  • drip in some trace minerals, such as Concentrace Liquid Mineral Drops
  • grind in a teaspoon of crushed chia seeds to help retain water
  • float berries, fruit slices or herbs, such as basil leaves, in your water
  • substitute a chilled herbal tea, such as fresh peppermint (or put a couple ounces of herbal tea in with your water)
  • quench yourself with a juicy melon slice, complete with vitamins and fiber
  • use bone broth in place of water in your cooking, or even for sipping

4 Stress Hacks to Save Your Life

If you want to control your blood sugars, you must not only watch your diet; you must also control your stress. As you know, stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, and cortisol raises blood sugars. So chronic stress equals chronically high blood sugars. And that leads to insulin resistance, and then diabetes.

Ground yourself every single day with these life-changing hacks that can be done in minutes or seconds!

Center yourself when you wake up.

It only takes a moment to do a few sun salutations or a guided meditation, but the effects can last for hours because you step outside of your head and re-connect with your entire being. You slow down your breathing and tune in to your feelings. Salutations and meditations are great ways to start the day, but one of my favorites is to open up my throat and belt out a song – either in the shower or on the way to work. It doesn’t take any extra time from my busy day, but by tightening the muscles in the back of my throat, I tone and condition my vagus nerve – the one that has so much impact on my sense of well-being. When I don’t have the privacy to sing loudly, I gargle instead.

Make meals a time to be in the moment.

Do you use mealtime to express gratitude? Scientists are proving that this isn’t just an old-fashioned idea. Gratitude actually makes you stress-resilient. Studies show that having a grateful disposition helps you rebound quicker when you are faced with adversity or trauma. Laughing is also a great stress-diffuser that you can engage in during mealtimes. Personally, I like to practice presence by consciously noticing 5 distinct smells, 5 different sights, 5 isolated sounds, 5 unique tastes and 5 particular sensations that engage me during the meal.

Hit the pause button when stress escalates.

Stress makes you breathe shallowly and rapidly. You can reverse this by observing your breath and choosing to draw it more deeply and slowly. An exercise to do this is to inhale from the diaphragm for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts, then exhale for 8 counts. Alternately, you could exhale and inhale through the left nostril (holding the right shut), then switch and close the left nostril before first exhaling then inhaling through the right. It takes a little concentration and forces you to stop prognosticating your dire future. Walking outside for 5 minutes or applying a calming essential oil are also effective ways to take a time out to compose yourself.

De-compress at the end of the day.

Stress depletes your magnesium stores, so a foot soak in warm water and epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) not only feels relaxing, it actually physiologically helps counteract your stress. Herbs such as lemon balm, lavendar and chamomile are soothing when steeped in water as a bedtime beverage. Journalling is a great way to connect mind and body and to let go of negative emotions. A little music therapy prepares you for a restful night.

Your blood sugars aren’t the only aspect of your well-being that will benefit from these hacks. Your physical, mental, and emotional health will improve, too!

Need more calming ideas? Catch a class with us!

 

My Wish

If I could rub a magic lamp, my desire for you would be a soda-free life. Pop is the nemesis of stable blood sugars.

Do you have

  • constant fatigue?
  • weight gain?
  • foggy memory?
  • auto-immunity?
  • low thyroid?
  • high blood pressure?
  • depression?
  • anxiety?
  • hypoglycemia?
  • Insulin resistance?
  • difficulty sleeping?

These are all tell-tale signs of imbalanced blood sugars, and while other factors definitely contribute to this state, soda is one of the first places I start looking when there are issues.

If you want energy but love your Mountain Dew, need to lose weight but won’t give up Pepsi, feel moody but have to have a Big Gulp, go find your own genie, because my powers can’t get past your beverage.

Crepe Fest

Crepes. The word conjures up a secluded celebration between two lovers with raspberries and cream in a candlelit dining room. Or an indulgent weekend soiree between close friends with spring chicken, fresh asparagus and a little mushroom sauce. Crepes make you feel cherished.

Try this sweet twist on crepes from a whole food perspective:

Ingredients

  • 1 c. cooked sweet potato, pumpkin, or plantain puree
  • 1/2 c. brown rice or buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 c. starch (potato, tapioca or arrowroot)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 c. water
  • butter, ghee, coconut oil, pure lard or tallow

Method

Combine vegetable puree with flour, starch and salt, mixing until no lumps remain. Beat in eggs and honey. Slowly add water, while stirring, until batter is thin and smooth.

Preheat a heavy  8″  skillet over medium low heat. Evenly coat the surface of the skillet with 1 tsp. of cooking fat. Pour 1/2 c. batter into center of skillet and rotate pan with your wrist until batter fills the bottom of the skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes, until crepe is bubbly and edges begin to brown and curl. Flip and continue cooking another couple minutes. Remove to a plate for filling.

Repeat this process of coating the pan, pouring in the batter, and cooking until batter is gone. Makes 8 crepes.

Fillings

 Savory

  • a variety of raw or sauteed vegetables or sprouts
  • any cooked meat, fish, or poultry
  • herbs to complement your choices: parsley, dill, cilantro, basil, sage, etc.

Sweet

  • fruits in season
  • freshly ground nut butter or creamy cheese such as chevre
  • avocado (pairs especially well with mandarin orange)
  • spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice

 

 

Can We Stop It?

Heart disease results from the over-consumption of processed food, especially refined flours, sugars, and polyunsaturated vegetable oils. These create inflammation, and inflammation is a significant contributor to our most common form of heart disease.

This recently released info-graphic puts today’s leading causes of death into perspective.

Heart disease has reached catastrophic levels, and the most calamitous aspect of the disease is that it is  largely preventable. The number one action you can take to reduce your risk is to control your blood sugars. Here are two simple reasons why:

  1. Insulin is released when blood sugars rise. High levels of insulin block your body’s anti-inflammatory pathway and provoke high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels
  2. Cortisol is released when blood sugars drop. Repeated cortisol output leads to insulin resistance, which inhibits mineral uptake into heart cells. Because the heart is so dependent on minerals such as calcium and magnesium for even contractions, an imbalance can trigger irregular heart beats, called arrythmias.

Can we stop the heart disease epidemic? One person at a time, we can! It will happen when you and I:

  • eat natural unprocessed fat instead of the trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, and oxidized products that fill our grocery stores. We need to avoid foods that contain the so-called “industrial” oils: soybean, cottonseed, and canola.
  • consume our carbohydrates in reasonable ratios, balanced with proteins and fats, instead of dominating every meal and snack. Americans get somewhere between 60 and 80% of their calories from carbohydrates, mostly refined. It would be more appropriate to eat only 30-40% of our calories from carbohydrates that are complex, whole and fiber-rich  – vegetables, legumes, seeds, and so forth.
  • cease to drink carbohydrates in the form of juices, sodas and energy drinks. The best beverage for humans is water.
  • stop eating refined carbohydrates by themselves- that pretzel or donut or cracker or chip which flash into glucose in a wave instead of a trickle. We can use fats such avocados, nuts, and cheeses with carbs to moderate the rate at which the sugars in our foods are converted into fuel.
  • educate ourselves about carbs. This food category is much more than bread, cereal and pasta. if it isn’t a protein or a fat, it’s a carb. Though that sounds silly, many are deceived about their carb intake. For instance, a smoothie, while it may contain whole fruits and healthy dark leafy greens, is really a sugar high waiting to happen unless you intentionally add protein or fat, such as coconut oil, pastured egg, or hemp seed.
  • quit being afraid of fat. Research is showing that traditional societies ate as much as 60+% of their calories from naturally-occuring fats.

Though you may have heart disease in your family, you are not inevitably a victim. Every weak gene must have a supporting environment and a trigger for its expression. The gene is approximately 25% of your destiny. Your choices make up the rest.