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Play helps kids eat veggies

Help Kids Eat Veggies

Will your kids eat veggies? Perhaps they’ll be more eager when you apply the principles below.

Veggies are Vital

It is not just a good idea to eat veggies. It is imperative! Without abundant vegetables in the diet, it is unrealistic to expect that you or your children will be getting enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals to regulate the immune system. The tragedy is that an immune system that does not have sufficient micronutrients becomes vulnerable to cancer, infections, autoimmunity, allergies and asthma. If you want to prevent chronic disease in your family, you have to eat more nutrient-dense food. That means lots of leafy greens, plenty of vibrantly-colored vegetables, and ample sulphur-containing vegetables (those in the cruciferous, onion, and mushroom families).

In addition, when you eat veggies in place of other carbohydrates, such as grains and fruit, you help balance blood sugars. We have an emergency to steady our blood sugars, because statistically, one in three is pre-diabetic.

Help Kids Eat Veggies

It’s not a psychological mystery that children love making cookies and hate eating their vegetables. Beyond the difference between natural sugars and refined sugars, there are fundamental distinctions in the way we approach cookies versus vegetables.

It’s a sign of “mom love” to make cookies together. You and your child bond when you share the experiences of mixing ingredients, frosting, and celebrating with cookies. But do you get excited to make vegetable recipes and serve them to friends during holidays and special occasions? Most likely, you sternly tell your children that they have to eat their vegetables before they get a treat.

Principles for Celebrating Vegetables

The following principles are taken from the work of Melanie Potock, feeding therapist, who blogs at My Munch Bug.

  • Friendship Principle: If you want to be friends with vegetables, they have to come play at your house frequently! Not only that, you have to model a friendship with veggies yourself.
  • Curiosity Principle: Let your child experience and explore veggies through cooking, eating out, growing food, and culinary field trips. A child should be able to touch and smell a vegetable long before he is expected to touch it to his lips, put it on his tongue, and eventually eat it.
  • Play Principle: Encourage him to use all of his senses in exploring the unique characteristics of each vegetable! Be creative and spontaneous. No ultimatums here!
  • Firmness Principle: If your child knows that you will not require him to eat something if he doesn’t like it, he will learn he doesn’t have to try anything new. Instead, model this sentence: “I don’t care for it yet, but I’m practicing!” Kids must understand that vegetables are not optional.
  • Kindness Principle: Kids may have anxiety about eating new foods. So, rather than forcing them, help them become comfortable by repeated exposure and play.

Play with Your Veggies

Here are some ideas evolved from Potock’s book, Adventures in Veggielandthat you can use to help your children eat more veggies.

  • Stamp on some tattoos with beets, then rub them off with potatoes.
  • Create sheep, or even teddy bears and other beasts, with cauliflower, broccoli, and toothpicks.
  • Play Mr. Potato Head with large vegetables, such as eggplant, butternut squash, celery root, or jicama.
  • Build log cabins with asparagus stalks. Also, you could also use green beans, or julienned yams, turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi, or parsnips.
  • Play Tic Tac Toe with any veggies that can be made into coins and matchsticks.

Make Veggies Playful

I suggested several ways to present vegetables in a playful manner in my post, The Nutrient-Dense Lunchbox. In addition, you can always use vegetables in making a treat. For example, you could put pureed spinach in chocolate pudding, or make cake using cauliflower (See my post, Eat More Veggies.) How about ice cream with red bell peppers in it, or apple crisp that uses squash?

Recipes to Help Kids Eat Veggies

The following recipes are adapted from Potock’s book.

Can’t Be Beet Dip

  • 1 medium beet, or 2-3 small beets
  • 1 small banana
  • 3 Tb. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tb. honey (optional)

Roast the beet(s) by wrapping in foil and baking at 375 for 45 minutes or by slow-cooking in a crock pot for 2-3 hours. (Hint: you may cook a whole batch at once and refrigerate them until use.) Cut off the ends and slip the skin off. Puree in a blender with the remaining ingredients. Serve with apples and crackers.

Chocolate-Asparagus Fondue

  • 4 large asparagus stalks
  • 2/3 c. coconut milk
  • 6 oz. dark chocolate bar (70% cacao)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Strawberry & banana slices for dipping

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and peel away the thick skin. Steam asparagus until very soft. Place in blender with 2 Tb. of the coconut milk. Process until very smooth. Melt the chocolate with the remaining coconut milk and the vanilla over low heat. Add the asparagus mixture and get ready to dip!

Cauliflower Popcorn

  • 2 heads cauliflower, different colors if desired
  • 1/4 c. melted coconut oil
  • 2 Tb. pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, break cauliflower into tiny florets. Combine coconut oil, maple syrup and cinnamon and pour over florets, coating evenly. Spread on foil-lined  baking sheets and roast 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Butternut Squash Crumble

  • 1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed ( or 8 oz. package)
  • 1/4 c. dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 Tb. melted butter
  • 2 tsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss all ingredients together and place in a square baking dish. Cover with topping (below). Bake 45 minutes, until topping is lightly browned.

Topping:

  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/4 c. oat flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. softened butter

Mix topping ingredients together with a fork until crumbly. Scatter over the squash filling.

Cherry & Red Bell Ice Cream

  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded & cut into chunks
  • 1 c. frozen cherries
  • 2 c. half & half (or coconut milk, if preferred)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Blend until smooth. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

The Functional Nutritionist uses clinical tests to evaluate nutrient sufficiency

Functional Nutrition Supports Healing

Functional Nutrition seeks to give you living nourishment for optimal wellness, supporting you on a cellular level from the ground up.

When you’re motivated to improve your health, what practitioner is best to guide your eating habits? Should you contact a dietitian, a health coach, or a functional nutritionist? That depends on the question you’re asking.

A Dietitian Diagnoses and Treats What is Wrong

Suppose you are concerned about your weight. A dietitian will identify whether you are simply overweight, or whether you are actually obese. She may even classify you as insulin resistant or pre-diabetic. She will then prescribe a diet aimed at correcting that condition. A dietitian’s program will most likely work for you in the short term.  It is what we call an “end-stage” approach.

A Health Coach Assesses How You Can Treat Your Condition

A health coach will take on more of a mentor role, and will discuss options that fit your lifestyle. He may present you with several possible diet plans and will work with your to craft the one that harmonizes best with your individual needs. He may also suggest exercise and stress management plans, for a more whole approach to wellness. You may engage in several fitness challenges with other program participants and have classes on implementing new lifestyle strategies.

A Functional Nutritionist Asks Why You Are Having Trouble

She will look for root imbalances. Are you gaining weight because of eating habits, stress, hormone imbalances, lack of activity, disease, or food sensitivities? Her goal is not to treat the weight itself, but to bring your body back into homeostasis (stability) so that your weight will normalize within your ideal range. She is not diagnosing or even “treating a condition.” She is looking at the “terrain” of your body. Her aim is to work with dysfunction on a cellular level to support optimal wellness before you reach the end-stage condition.

A Comparison of Conventional Nutrition and Functional Nutrition

The conventional nutritionist works within the framework of:

  • A diet plan based on symptoms
  • The low-fat, low calorie approach
  • Emphasis on food quantities
  • Less meat, sugar, fat, and sodium
  • Inclusion of some processed and fortified foods
  • Increased exercise to burn more calories

The functional nutritionist’s paradigm includes:

  • Your relationships to food and other individuals
  • The roles of stress, sleep, and exercise in your life
  • Emphasis on quality of food
  • More nutrient-dense options in your menu
  • Suggested testing for nutrient sufficiency and genetic tendencies
  • A bio-individual approach based on personal need

Your Story Matters to a Functional Nutritionist

Before your appointment, your functional nutritionist will ask for a health history and a food journal. She will then assess all of your symptoms – everything from dry skin and brittle nails to burping and bloating after meals. She’ll want to know whether you have headaches when you skip a meal, and whether you crave greasy, fatty, or sweet foods matters. Don’t be embarrassed to share if you poop “rocks,” “snakes,” or “pudding.” She will even be interested in the times you feel anxious, spacey, or depressed. In her book, all the body systems are interconnected, and she is looking at you as a whole person.

What Happens During Your Office Visit

After reviewing a graph she has printed based on your symptoms, she will ask to check a few reflex points, look at your pupils, or take a saliva pH. She may ask you to put some nutrients in your mouth, or take a standing blood pressure. Using clinical tests developed by doctors before labs tests were widely available, she may take your pulse or put a blood pressure cuff around your calf. Finally, she will counsel with you about your openness to dietary changes and supplement recommendations. Then, she will develop a personalized plan for you to follow that ensures life-giving nourishment.

How Functional Nutrition Helped Me

When I was just 33, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. At the time, nutrition science and epigenetics were largely undeveloped. The doctor said it was probably my genes. So, I would just have to take medication for the rest of my life. I wasn’t happy over that verdict of what I should do. Why was my health  deteriorating at such an early age?

My search led to my becoming certified as a functional nutritionist. Along the way, I gained tools to stabilize my blood sugars and support my adrenal health. Also, I learned of my body’s own tendency to be deficient in B vitamins and my need for extra Vitamin D, based on my geographical location. Encouraged to develop my own recipes, I enjoyed an abundance of healing foods without deprivation. At last, I had the thrill of watching weight and my blood lipids normalize! Now, I no longer have Metabolic Syndrome!

The real difference was that the functional approach provided true healing from the bottom up. But the conventional approach was only like a band-aid.

Would you like to see this change in your life? Let’s talk about how I can help you!

Don't have time to eat on your busy mornings?

Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

  1.  

    Need help eating right on busy mornings? Certainly, you need breakfasts that are quick and easy! But you need them to be nutrient-dense, too! Fighting inflammation requires a host of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and phytochemicals! So, You can’t just buy toaster pastries and be optimally well!

Do Your Prep on the Weekend

One way to conquer the busy morning frenzy is to assemble and freeze ingredients ahead of time. For example, Pizza Burritos made with zucchini and mushrooms provide lots of potassium and B vitamins.

Pizza Burritos

A Breakfast Burrito for busy mornings

  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 6 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. ground Italian sausage
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • salt & pepper
  • 3/4 c. grated mozzarella cheese
  • Tortillas

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the meat with the zucchini, mushrooms and Italian seasoning. When the mushrooms are softened and the meat is evenly browned, pour the beaten eggs over the sausage mixture. Season with salt & pepper. Then, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and cook until set. Using a spatula, transfer onto tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese, roll, wrap in plastic and freeze.

The Crock Pot is Your Ally Against Busy Mornings

Oats with yogurt, cherries and nuts

Take just a few moments to put ingredients into a crock pot or Instant Pot at bedtime. Breakfast will be ready when you are. Combining steel cut oats with Greek yogurt makes a creamy, high protein breakfast. Top it with antioxidant cherries and zinc-filled pecans for even better nutrition. Last of all, add crunchy chia seeds for an Omega 3 boost.

  • 1 c. steel-cut oats
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups bone broth (for added protein)
  • 1 c. Greek yogurt (I like FAGE Total 5%  to balance blood sugars)
  • Frozen cherries
  • Pecans
  • Chia seeds
  • cinnamon and nutmeg, optional

Spray your crock or Instant Pot liner with non-stick cooking spray. Put the oats, salt and broth into the crock or liner. For the crock pot, set temperature to low. If you are using an Instant Pot, employ delay feature to start cooking 20 minutes before you want breakfast ready. Set cook time to 10 minutes. Let cool naturally for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure.

Just before serving, stir in yogurt and scoop into 4 bowls. Finally, top with additional ingredients.

Microwave a Grab-and-Go Sandwich

Microwave-poached eggs in pita, English muffin, and tostada

You can poach an egg in just 60 seconds using your microwave! Fill a ramekin with 1/4 cup water and break an egg into it. Before you cook it, puncture the yolk and cover with plastic wrap. Check after 30 seconds of cooking and microwave another 20 seconds if needed. Then, toss it onto a tostada, slip it into an English muffin, or stuff it into a pita. Besides egg and grain, you can add cheese, meat, spinach, sprouts, tomato, or avocado to balance your meal. For example,

  • Southwestern Tostada: Add cotija, refried beans, and pico de gallo
  • Club English Muffin: Include ham, swiss, turkey and spinach
  • All-Star Pita: Load it up with sprouts, avocado and bacon

Quickly Blend Your Nutrition

A superfood smoothie is quick on a busy morning

Do you love a speedy smoothie for busy mornings? Then whirl antioxidant blueberries with probiotic kefir for a superfood breakfast. Top with hemp hearts for essential fatty acids.

  • 1 1/2 c. plain, unsweetened kefir
  • 1/2 c. coconut water (for electrolytes)
  • 12 oz. frozen blueberries
  • 1 avocado (for added creaminess and blood sugar balance)
  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 Tb. honey
  • hemp hearts

Blend all but the hemp hearts. Divide between 2 tall glasses. Top with hemp hearts.

Deep Nutrition is Part of Functional Medicine

Preventing and reversing chronic disease means addressing the roots of inflammation. Minimizing the stress of your busy mornings and eating nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory food are impactful choices to help you be well.  Learn more about your power to change inflammation in my 4-week Functional Nutrition Course.

A cup of greens daily can boost your health

How to Eat 3 Cups of Greens Daily

Your health may be a reflection of how many cups of greens you eat per day. Nutritionists and scientists agree that the more vegetables you eat, the better. Not only that, dark leafy greens seem to trump other foods when it comes to specific health benefits. African, Indian, and Asian cultures all have rich culinary traditions that include bountiful quantities of leafy greens. In Western society, treatment protocols for healing chronic disease, such as the Wahls protocol, include at least of cup of dark greens every meal.

Can you eat that many cups of greens? You probably can down a green smoothie for breakfast, and grab a spinach salad for lunch. But everyday?

Let me show you how other cultures do it.

Simple Indian Creamed Farmer Greens ( Saag)

20 oz. mixed beet greens, kale, spinach, chard, or mustard greens (about 20 cups of greens)

1 c. water

2 Tb. coconut oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 inches of ginger root, julienned

1/2 c. coconut milk

Wash the greens, cut away the tough stalks, and roughly chop. Place in a large stockpot with water and steam 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. When the oil ripples, add the cumin seed. After 30 seconds, reduce the skillet heat to medium low and add the onions and ginger. Saute until the onion caramelizes.

In a food processor or blender, puree the cooked greens and their steaming water with the onion mixture. Return to the pot and cook on low until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes more. Stir in the coconut milk and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serves 5.

African Spinach Stew (Efo Riro)

2 onions, chopped

2-4 Tb. curry powder, according to your preference

1/2 – 1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, according to preference

1 tsp. salt

2-3 c. bone broth

1 lb. stew meat, cut into 1″ pieces

6 large tomatoes, diced

3 Tb. unrefined red palm oil

1 tsp. dried crayfish, optional (but it lends the characteristic Nigerian flavor)

3 10-oz. bags of spinach, chopped (freeze then crumple the bags to speedily break the leaves into pieces)

In a large soup pot over medium heat, simmer one of the onions, the seasonings and the stew meat in enough broth to cover the meat. (Add more if needed.) Cook slowly until reduced to a very thick, mixture, about an hour. While the meat mixture is cooking down, melt the palm oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the tomatoes and the second onion. Saute slowly, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down and the vegetables form a paste, about 30 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the meat mixture. Stir in crayfish and spinach. Heat until spinach is wilted. Served with fufu, rice, or potatoes.

Chinese Wilted Greens (Fan Chao)

Growing up, not having a plate of Chinese greens on the table for dinner was like not having rice—it was simply unthinkable.   – Shao Z.

1 lb. bok choy, napa cabbage, gai lan, or choy sum (may use spinach, chard, or kale)

2 Tb. cooking oil

1 Tb. minced garlic

1/2 c. bone broth

Oyster sauce, optional

Chop the greens into 3″ pieces. Heat oil in a wok or heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add greens and stir-fry just until coated with oil. Pour in the broth, cover, and steam for about 3 minutes. Leaves should be tender and bright green.  If desired, serve with a drizzle of oyster sauce.

 

Try these 9 steps before you detox

Before You Detox

Before you start any detox protocol, it is imperative that you support your elimination pathways and insure they are functioning well. You may want to detoxify your body if you have an overactive immune system, hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue or chronic inflammation. Persistent anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, and feelings of being overwhelmed are also indications you may need a detoxification protocol. This guest post from Kristine May, BSHS, NTP, tells you how to prepare for detox therapy.

Before You Start

Before you detox, gut healing and liver cleansing are vital. It may take a month or longer to heal these pathways, depending on how your system is running. If you feel like you are still struggling with digestion, please hold off on the detox. If you start releasing toxins into a system that can’t dispose of them properly, many times this can create unpleasant symptoms and cause more harm than good.

Avoid Constipation

Maintaining healthy, regular bowel movements is one of the most important elements in any detox. Keeping things moving is crucial! If you are struggling with constipation, your body may have a harder time with toxin disposal. I recommend improving this BEFORE starting your detox.

Heal the Gut, Heal the Body

For the next several weeks, try to implement these changes into your routine:

  • Morning Beet Salad:  First thing in the morning, eat ¼ – ½ cup of shredded raw red beets with fresh lemon juice squeezed on top. When I tell people to do this, they usually look at me like I am crazy, however, most people love this once starting it and want to continue. This concoction is not only a superfood, but it also helps to stimulate bile production in your body, cutting through grime and grease and breaking food down into smaller particles. Bile transports wastes for disposal. Many people are deficient in bile. When you implement this, it is very normal to have red or purple stools because of the bright red color of the beets. Please do not confuse this with something more serious.
  • Eat Anti-Inflammatory Meals: Avoid all gut-inflaming foods. These include – grains (especially wheat/gluten), dairy, starches,
    refined sugars, processed foods, vegetable oils (canola, corn, etc.) and legumes. Eating a nutrient-rich diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and quality protein / healthy fats is key for gut healing. Avoid alcohol, coffee and energy drinks.

Include Supplements

  • Support Digestion: Hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes are beneficial because they help break down your food so that you can absorb the nutrients. Many people struggle with insufficiency of these, so they are not getting the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids their bodies are screaming for. Zypan (Standard Process) or HCl Balance (Nature’s Nx) + SuperGest (Enzyme Process) are really great options for this support.
  • Take Gut Healers Between Meals: L-glutamine is a powerful gut healing amino acid. One of the single most important supplements for healing the digestive lining, it offers potent properties necessary for the growth and repair of the gut’s mucosal lining. It’s excellent for healing because it helps to rebuild the intestinal junctions that have become weak, loose, and permeable. [editor’s note: a double- or triple-strength mixture of slippery elm and marshmallow root tea is also very beneficial, sipped between meals.]
  • Take Probiotics: A high-colony-count probiotic is essential when trying to improve your digestive health. For the next few weeks, get one that has at least 50 billion CFU’s. The Good Guys probiotic (Nature’s Nx) is my favorite. It is 100 billion CFU’s and enteric coated to ensure delivery into the colon. Healthy flora balance is essential to healing.

More Helpful Tips

  • Hydrate: Drink ½ your body weight in ounces every day. Water is something that is often overlooked, but can be the simplest solution. Many people struggle with dehydration. You must have adequate water intake for your mucous membranes to heal. Do not drink distilled water. It is void of minerals. Drink spring water or artesian water instead.
  • Eat Fermented Foods: Getting foods that are high in live cultures is very beneficial to the gut. Fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut (Bubbie’s is a great brand), once a day is a good idea. Other options are kefir, kimchi, or kombucha. Be careful not to overdo it on kombucha, however, especially if you struggle with Candida tendencies.
  • Drink Bone Broth / Vegetable Broth: Right before bed each night drink ¼-1 cup of bone broth or a gut healing broth made from fresh vegetables. This step is very important for gut healing. The nutrients contained in broth are in an easy-to-digest form and the high amino acid content is superb for healing the gut lining. The benefit to drinking this right before bed is that you have no food going through your system for 8- 10 hours. So, the broth can really stimulate repair in your digestive tract. An added benefit: it usually also helps people get a more restful night’s sleep! Making your own bone broth or vegetable broth is simple. If you are always on the run with no time to make your own, there is a wonderful Bone Broth product called “Bonafide Bone Broth”. It is in the freezer section of natural health food stores. Bone broth off the shelf in the store is not sufficient for what we are trying to do.

We Are on to Great Things….

If you are consistent with your efforts to heal your digestive lining, you will notice a huge difference in how you feel and it will prepare your body for detoxification. Remember, some people may need to be on this protocol longer than others. It is important to listen to your body. If you are still not regular or if you are having digestive dysfunction, please wait to start your detox protocol.

If you feel like you need additional help in this journey, please don’t hesitate to ask for it! Schedule a consultation. It can be challenging to change your diet and lifestyle so having the support of a knowledgeable nutritional therapist is ideal.

a nutrient-dense lunch

The Nutrient-Dense Lunchbox

How do you pack a nutrient-dense lunch that kids will want to eat, while avoiding chips, cookies and crackers? It’s easy with these four tricks.

Employ the Lollipop Principle

If you put food on a stick, everyone wants it! Haven’t you seen this principle in action with hot dogs, marshmallows, and cake? The advantage of a skewer is that it holds more vegetables than a sandwich. A Pizza Kabob is a nutrient-dense lunch your kids are sure to be wild about. Items to skewer include grape tomatoes, green and black olives, mushrooms, basil leaves, cheese, sausage, and sourdough bread.

Roll it Up

Taco Pinwheels

A pinwheel has charm and can hide vegetables from picky eaters. Create a Taco Wrap using a tortilla, guacamole, shredded cabbage, pulled pork, and pico de gallo. Go Greek by using pita bread, goat cheese, dates, chopped celery, and baby spinach. Bibb lettuce works for rolling sauteed vegetables and rice.

Provide a Dip

Dip nutrient-dense lunch foods

Lots of adult foods gain appeal when you dunk them. Peanut sauce (below) makes snap peas, chicken, cucumbers, green onions and bell peppers come to life! Hummus is a delicious dip for smoked fish, carrot sticks, and falafel balls. Marinara sauce turns cauliflower, zucchini, and eggplant and into a pizza party.

3-2-1 Peanut Sauce

  • 5 Tb. natural peanut butter
  • 4 Tb. boiling water
  • 3 Tb. soy sauce or soy alternative (I use Coconut Aminos)
  • 2 Tb. lime juice
  • 1 Tb. palm sugar
  • Chili Garlic Sauce to taste (1-3 teaspoons)

Dissolve the palm sugar in boiling water. Whisk together with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate any unused portions.

Leave Love Notes in a Nutrient-Dense Lunch

Egg decorated with stickers

Place stickers, drawings, and riddles with your healthy offerings. It’s not a new strategy. But why not use it on hard-boiled eggs and avocados instead of Cracker Jacks and Laffy Taffy? Even a banana peel or an orange peel is a great place to mark down a joke. By the way, what did the burger name her baby?

Patty!

 

3 Smart Carbs to Eat Every Day

The amount of carbohydrates in your diet is important. But even more important is the type of carbs you eat. While some carbohydrates may be detrimental to your health, others are vital to your well-being. Do you know which ones to eat and which to avoid?

Americans Are Carb Loaders

Measurements of the American diet indicate that 60-80% of our calories are coming from refined carbohydrates. Although carbohydrates are valuable for providing quick energy, especially to athletes, those kind of ratios leave little room for protein and fat.

Protein, of course, is the building block of the body. Not only does it help amass muscle, it is vital to create blood cells, hormones, antibodies against invading germs, and enzymes to jump start all the biochemical reactions in your body. Fat is a fuel and carrier for essential nutrients such as Vitamins A & D. It is critical in making brain cells and in forming the membrane around each cell, including the cells of the myelin sheath that protect your nerves. Fats are even more important to mitochondria, the “batteries” in your cells, because these powerhouses have two membranes.

Not getting enough protein and fat translates to a lot of fatigue and dysfunction.

However, it’s not just the quantity of carbohydrates that’s alarming. Americans are not eating the right kind of carbohydrates. They are loading up on pop, chips, crackers, cookies, and other junk snacks.

Carbs are More Than Pasta and Potatoes

In order to talk about smart carbs, we need to define “carbohydrate.” Simply, a carb is anything that’s not a protein or fat. Olive oil and ground beef are obviously not carbohydrate. But what about apples, lentils, or pumpkin seeds? A narrow view of carbohydrate says that it is pure starch or sugar. Thus, we count Wonder Bread and cane sugar as carbs. The truth is that many foods have components of all three macronutrients.

Whole milk, for example has milk fat, milk protein (casein), and milk sugar (lactose). Legumes, which vegetarians view as a protein source, are roughly 25% protein and 75% carbohydrate. Similarly, nuts tally around 25% protein and 75% fat. To make a generalization, we might say that carbs are typically foods that come from plant sources.

Are You Carb Loading Ignorantly?

Even if you are eating clean, you may still be getting too much carbohydrate in your diet. When you trade in sugar for honey or agave, you are still consuming carbohydrate. If you drink juice instead of pop, your carb count is nearly the same. All of your healthy fruits are still carbs. Not that there’s anything wrong with fruit, except that you prefer them and may eat too many servings per day. Your morning smoothie and oatmeal don’t contain adequate protein or fat. Yes, even spinach and oats are carbs.

Don’t be shocked that these foods are high carb. Just ask yourself, “Well, are they high in protein or fat? What else could they be if not carbohydrate?”

What Makes a Smart Carb?

A smart carb is one that provides needed microutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, or antioxidant agents that help the body fight off tissue damage from daily wear and tear. Smart carbs are nutrient-dense. That is to say, the nourishment to calorie ratio is very high, especially when compared to a refined food, such as a doughnut, that is low in nutrient value and high in calories. These preferential carbs contain many plant chemicals – phytonutrients – with fancy names like quercetin and lycopene, that serve special purposes in your body. Some of these purposes are to lower harmful blood lipids, decrease inflammation, and stabilize blood sugars.

3 Smart Carbs To Eat Daily

Dark Leafy Greens

Vegetables such as chard, collards, and arugula can’t be beaten in their nutrient density. You really can’t carb load on spinach because you will get full long before you’ve eaten even 50 calories.

Self Nutrition Data has developed a tool to assess the nutrient density of any given food. Under their evaluation, all dark leafy greens fall in the upper right-hand quadrant. Raw spinach has a rating of 4.5 for fullness and 5.0 for nutrition content per calorie (nutrient density).

smart carbs fall in the upper right quadrant of this map

Brightly Colored Vegetables

These visually-appealing vegetables are high in plant pigments called flavanoids. Usually Purple, red, orange, or yellow, flavanoids are notoriously beneficial as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components. Like greens, they are quite low on the glycemic index, meaning they contain very minimal sugar and starch content. So, while contributing greatly to your nutritional status, they don’t add much to your carb count.

Sulphur-Rich Vegetables

Not as popular as other vegetables because of their strong flavor, these vegetables, however, are workhorses when it comes to detoxification. They include mushrooms, the onion family (shallots, chives, leeks, garlic, scallions), and all cruciferous vegetables. The cruciferous family includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, radishes, bok choy, arugula, and watercress.

These are perhaps the most important category to include daily for optimal health. A cup per meal may sound ambitious. Realistically, that quantity is employed in nutrient rehab programs such as the Wahl’s protocol.

Get Help With Your Carb Ratios

Confusion among dieters is common. Is a keto diet right for you? Do you need a low-carb diet? I can evaluate your food journal, assess your nutrient needs, and guide your food choices to help you attain optimal health.

A walk in the park with the dog

Not Just A Walk in the Park

Trying to get up off the floor alone by crawling to a chair and then slowly grasping and pulling upward was the greatest athletic feat  I could accomplish then. Arthritic pain inflamed every joint. Now here I am, taking a walk in the park with the dog. Differently: straight, strong, and enjoying the exertion.

The following is a guest post from Lisa Jorgensen, a counselor who has lived with Lupus for more than 15 years. This is a glimpse of her return to health through diet and lifestyle.

Hitting Rock Bottom

At age 30, trying to get up off the floor alone by crawling to a chair and then slowly grasping and pulling upward was the greatest athletic feat as I could accomplish. Inflammation in every single joint in my body made any movement miserable.  Not moving was, of course, out of the question.  I was the mother of a 5-year-old and one-year-old twins. It was an excruciating time for all of us as we struggled to adjust. I kept asking why this was happening to me.

I didn’t know at the time that Lupus was rearing its ugly head. The next 15 years of my life would be extremely challenging.

Getting Ready to Walk

My healing journey began a few years ago when I started treating the actual disease and not just the symptoms. With the help of my doctor and a new medication, I tapered off of Prednisone. As the pain in my joints lessened, I realized I had at least a modest amount of control over my symptoms.

I was so overjoyed to be able to move without pain!  For months during this period, I would make a discovery and shout, “Look!  I can ______________!” (raise my arm overhead, or bend down onto one knee, or some other ordinary movement). Riding the wave of better health, I sought out nutritional, stress management, and exercise therapies that worked for me. Today I depend on them to help me feel my best. I have so much more control over my physical symptoms as well as my outlook and mental state. Although I still have Lupus, I am miles ahead in terms of coping with this difficult disease.  

A Walk in the Park

It is July 30, 1016. Here I am, walking the dog.  Differently: straight, strong, and enjoying the exertion. Yes, the exertion it takes to keep my body upright and lifted. I’m aware of these challenges in my body. But now I experience them in a new way. My spine is relaxed but striving to lengthen. Oh WOW! That feels good! The crown of my head reaches up to the sky. I am reaching heavenward in body and spirit.

A year ago, and more than 100 pounds ago, I led with my head, my back rounded downward. I bent forward at the waist with my bottom sticking out—I hated it but couldn’t move forward any other way.  I felt doomed to that state for the rest of my life, so I actually quit making plans to travel or to see and experience new things. Yet, I persisted.

“I will not give up on myself. Whatever sorry state I may be in, I will find some small thing to improve each day. One small success leads to another.  I will find I can set my sights higher as I start to feel better.”

So today I am walking in the park. “This walking is hard, I’m not used to it, I feel so weak,” says my other self.

“You’re okay. Just be in the moment,” I answer.

Being in the Moment

Honestly I have to give some credit to the dog here.  He teaches me mindfulness.  He is so attuned to his environment that there is hardly an ant on the sidewalk that he misses.  His ears perk up at the slightest sound and his eyes intently scan the surroundings as he trots along. Do I even need to mention the keenness of that nose of his? All his senses are working. He is loving his existence on this walk; he’s not thinking about the past or about the future.

“The prize is in the process,” I tell myself.  “There is freedom in the NOW.”  I no longer watch my feet as they plod along.  I stop thinking, “I’m almost home and then I can check this off the list and hurry to the next task.”

Instead, I take in. I absorb. I acknowledge. From here I can even look forward. Not just seeing what is up ahead of me, but actually hoping, dreaming, imagining. In yoga practice, I learned, “Your body will follow your gaze.” I dare to look up.

Skipping Ahead

I know that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors influence each other. Change one, and it changes the others. So, I invite change by simply behaving differently. I keep walking, even though it’s hard.

“I am going to skip,” I say to myself as I bring my enlightening walk to a close.

“What!?,” says my rational mind.  “You don’t know how anymore. And besides, what if someone is watching??”

“Aw, shut up. My body wants to skip, and I am shaking off the shackles!

So I skip the last 20 or 30 yards to home. Entering the house with a rush of endorphins, I let loose with a happy cry. Not a yell, or a cheer, but an actual cry, with tears.  It’s kind of a prayer…“THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!” Feelings of freedom, of renewed hope and confidence fill me. My sobs clear out storage units of despair, anger and fear.

I have turned a corner, and with acceptance and empowerment, I find the capacity to heal.

Vegetables are vital to an addition diet

Addition Diet

Dieters and health-seekers talk freely about food elimination diets. They report leaving grains, or dairy, or meats out of their diets. Then, they debate which foods should be removed from your menu. But have you ever considered a food addition diet? The focus of our conversations should be on how we can broaden our food plans to include more nutrition, not less.

Whether you are concerned about blood sugars, inflammation, or immune function, loading your body with nutrients will be healing. While no diet is perfect and each person is unique in his needs, food scientists agree that you can increase your consumption of vegetables, high quality protein, minerals, healthful fats, and prebiotic foods.

Adding Vegetables to Your Diet

Antioxidant, mineral-rich, anti-inflammatory, high-vitamin vegetables are the basis of an optimal diet. Up to 2/3 of your plate can be vegetables. How many servings of vegetables do you eat per day?

Regardless of where you are, you can do a little better each day, adding more quantity, quality, or diversity. If you eat mostly salads, you can add cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage and cauliflower. On the other hand, if you eat a lot of steamed vegetables, try more dark leafy greens, including kale, spinach, and chard. Consider also brightly-colored vegetables, which rich plant pigments of red, purple, and orange that lend powerful nutrients to your body. Examples of colored vegetables are eggplant, beets, and pumpkin. As a base for all meals, remember sulphur-rich vegetables that help the liver detoxify your body. These include mushrooms and plants in the onion family.

Not sure you can prepare anything more than corn and peas? This post contains recipes for 70 distinctive vegetables. Challenge yourself to try a new one each week!

Protein on an Addition Diet

The human body cannot live without protein. It forms the building blocks that create blood cells, hormones, enzyme, and antibodies. Protein shapes bones, muscles, skin, hair, and organs. Meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, and even tempeh (traditionally-fermented soy) contribute to a well-rounded diet, as long as they are raised on their natural diet.

Already eating a Goldilocks portion of protein that is just right? Then you could replace some of your muscle meats with offal, which is much higher in nutrients. Concerned that you’re getting too much protein? Switch some of your sources for amino-acid rich broths, made from the bones of animals. The proteins in bone broth are more bio-available, meaning your body absorbs and uses them more easily than proteins it must break down from meat sources.

Boosting Your Mineral Intake

Would you drive your car on a cross-country trip with 50% of the spark plugs not working? Minerals are the spark plugs of your body, setting off almost all the the chemical reactions that have to occur each second for you to function. If you are eating a rainbow diet by including lots of produce on your plate, and if you are incorporating bone broths and organ meats into your meal plans, then you are already augmenting your mineral stores.

But there are always ways to do even better. One way is to use an unrefined sea salt or Himalayan salt to season your food. Another way is to drink herbal teas throughout the day. Plants grown in mineral-rich soils take these minerals into their roots and leaves. Nettle, alfalfa, and horsetail are famously strong in mineral content, with nettle boasting four times the amount of calcium as kale.

Incorporating Healthful Fats

No addition diet is complete without the inclusion of both unsaturated and saturated fats. Your brain is largely made up of saturated fat. But your cell membranes require unsaturated fat. So, both plant and animal fats are beneficial. But, stay away from man-made fats.

For generations, Americans have eaten a low-fat diet. The results have been rather disappointing. Instead of reducing heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity, low-fat diets seemed to have contributed even more to the epidemic. While going to extremes in fat consumption is not necessarily desirable, you can saute, grill, fry, and dress with the kinds of fats that occur in nature. Additionally, snacking on olives, avocados, whole-fat dairy products, raw nuts, and seeds definitely trumps eating potato chips, cookies, and other commercial snack foods.

You can learn more about which fats to use in this post.

Increasing Prebiotics

Maybe you’ve been adding vegetables to your diet. Perhaps you’re conscientious about getting adequate protein. You might even be using adequate fats to maintain your health. The next step, then, is to add foods to feed your microbiome. That’s the trillions of beneficial bacteria inside your gut that help manufacture vitamins, break down fiber, signal the immune system, and a thousand other jobs for your health.

It’s not enough to take probiotic supplements. Your microbes need food everyday for them to grow and multiply. They need the insoluble fibers that you do not digest well. They break these down, making butyric acid to feel your colon cells. Foods that support your healthy gut bacterial colonies include onions, asparagus, and artichokes. Beans and legumes are important, too.

Not only that, but food containing live cultures can augment your microbial populations. Fermented vegetables, miso, natto, kefir, and kombucha are just a few to choose from. I found that I could add a tablespoon of sauerkraut or sauerkraut juice to just about any dish to enhance its nutrition without affecting taste. This book has some great ideas.

Add Before You Subtract

It may be discouraging to think about removing sugar or processed foods from your diet. Yet, by the time you add the bounty of options nature has provided, you will not have room for artificial and refined products! Truly, an addition diet is an abundant way to eat!

Protein PB&J Cookies are healthy travel food

5 Foods For Healthy Travel

Whether you’re going by plane or by car, you’re more susceptible to illness, digestive upset, and weight gain when you’re on the road. Insure you eat the right foods for healthy travel by following these five tips!

Hydrate Correctly

Water is the first food for healthy travel. Fatigue, cramps, and headaches are all early signs of dehydration. While it’s tempting to grab pop, coffee, or tea, you will have to drink extra water if you do. Your body has to dilute sweetened beverages. In addition, caffeinated drinks are diuretic, so your water ends up in the toilet.

But water is not enough. Electrolytes – traces of potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium – are important, too. So, an easy solution is to carry herbal tea bags. After you have passed security with your empty water bottle, you can fill up at the water fountain, slipping the tea bag in to cold infuse into the water during your flight. Peppermint tea is a refreshing choice.

Bring Portable Protein

Travel means stress. That stress triggers blood sugar instability and creates “wear and tear” on the body. Therefore, protein is the third food for healthy travel. It balances your blood sugars, staves off cravings, and rebuilds your body tissues. Increasing your protein can boost your energy, too, reduce agitation, and improve your sleep. For a great protein that requires no cooking and is portable, try foil packets of wild-caught salmon or salmon jerky. At the hotel, you can boil eggs in the coffee pot to take with you on your sightseeing adventures.

Remember Healthy Fat

Subsisting on sandwiches, chips, and crackers is a quick ride on the blood sugar roller coaster. Though an amusement park may be part of your itinerary, blood sugar dysregulation can make you “hangry.” No one wants to be irritable, shaky, or foggy during their vacation. Natural fats can keep your moods and energy levels stable. Try olive cups, whole avocados, and raw mixed nuts as packable snacks. Amp up your breakfast by adding nut butter to oatmeal cups.

Eat Loads of Antioxidants

You are much more susceptible to viruses when your travel because of the extra strain on your body. So, you need antioxidant food to keep your immune system strong. That means eating lots of brightly-colored fruits and vegetables. If you are not near a grocery store, bring a cooler from home. You can pack an insulated lunch bag inside your checked luggage to keep produce fresh. Berries, cherries, grapes, beetroot, and bell peppers are all great choices. Live sprouts are a gold-mine of antioxidants if you can find them fresh in your local grocery store.

Plan Substitute Foods For Healthy Travel

You know you’re going to be assailed by the travel mart convenience foods – candies, cookies, and chips. Why not prepare in advance with your own appealing alternative? Munch on crunchy, savory dehydrated vegetables or high-protein cookies before junk food tempts you. My Peanut Butter-Jam Cookie recipe requires only 4 ingredients!

High-Protein PB&J Cookies

3/4 c. all natural peanut butter, no sugar added

1/2 c. all-fruit jam, no sugar added

1/4 c. collagen protein powder

1/2 c. almond flour

Combine all ingredients and mix well. If dough is sticky, add 1/4 c. cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Roll into balls and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake at 325° for 12-15 minutes, until set and lightly browned. Makes 2 dozen.