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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!

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.

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.

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!

stop inflammation

How Can I Stop Inflammation?

You can treat inflammation after it occurs. But wouldn’t you rather stop inflammation from happening. The latter is my functional approach for leading you to optimal wellness.

What Are The Signs of Inflammation?

Since inflammation is at the root of nearly all chronic disease, you will want to detect warning signals early. Here are my top 5.

  • Pain, especially in the joints
  • Low energy and constant fatigue, despite sufficient sleep.
  • Depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
  • Poor digestion, including bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and acid reflux.
  • Frequent colds, excessive mucus production, allergies, asthma, or eczema.

Where Does Inflammation Come From?

Although causes of inflammation are many and varied, 3 factors play a significant role in most inflammatory conditions. They are insulin resistance, poor gut health and stress.

Insulin resistance can initiate inflammation, but inflammation can trigger insulin resistance. So once the spiral gets started, it can be extremely challenging to end. Insulin resistance occurs after years of eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates.

Poor gut health is another way of saying increased gut permeability. In other words, the lining of the digestive system is compromised. Stress, food sensitivities, and an altered microbiome all contribute to poor gut health. You change your microbiome when you eat processed foods, don’t digest your food well, expose yourself to environmental toxins, or use antibiotics repeatedly.

Stress can be emotional or physiological. Your body responds the same to both. For instance, your body releases stress hormones that ultimately result in inflammation whether you can struggle with an overbearing boss or whether you just completed an Iron Man competition. Your body also perceives a food sensitivity as a stress.

How Can I Stop Inflammation?

In nutritional therapy school, we learned to “remove the triggers and strengthen the barrier.” Therefore, the first steps to ending the inflammation cascade are to eliminate insulin resistance, heal the gut and regulate stress. Then you can begin a protocol to fortify your body against further susceptibility.

Reversing insulin resistance requires that you choose your carbohydrates wisely – the more fiber, the better. You will need to eat a protein-rich diet with adequate essential fatty acids. Exercise in important, too.

You should work with a qualified practitioner to assess your gut health. She will be able to make recommendations to improve digestion and balance the microbiome. She can also help you test for food sensitivities. Good digestion is key to nutritional therapy.

Stress reduction is a daily habit. I tell my clients, “If you don’t manage stress, it will manage you!” Mindfulness, play, breathing exercises, and journaling are just a few ways to dissipate stress. My class teaches dozens more tips that you can implement in any given moment.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet will help minimize your symptoms while you work on root causes.

eat for beautiful feet

Eat for Beautiful Feet

Summer is here! Did you know you can eat for beautiful feet!

Are you embarrassed to go barefoot or wear sandals? Many common foot problems can be healed and prevented through dietary changes. Check out these 10 ways to eat for beautiful feet.

1. Rough Dry Heels

Dry, flaky heels and foot callouses are an early sign of essential fatty acid deficiency. Fatty acids are used to create the membranes around each and every cell in your body. Because your body prioritizes nutrients for vital organs, your skin will be one of the first place this lack shows up. So, avoid deep fried foods and hydrogenated fats. Instead, focus on including fish oil in your diet, and check with your practitioner about the use of flax seed oil or black current oil.

2. Foot Cramps

When cramping is infrequent and sporadic, you may simply be dehydrated. A tall glass of water may correct the situation without further problem. But if cramping occurs repeatedly, it may be a sign of mineral deficiency. Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are the most common electrolytes you need to keep your muscles contracting and relaxing properly. Therefore, you must eat mineral-rich leafy green vegetables frequently and don’t be shy about organ meats in your diet. Try adding a pinch of sea salt or a splash of lemon juice to your water. Avoid empty calories from nutrient poor foods such as chips, pop, and sweet treats.

Additionally, eating under stress keeps you from absorbing the minerals in your food. Take these four steps at meal time: sit down comfortably, breathe deeply, slow down, and chew thoroughly.

3. Itchy Feet

Most people consider itchy, scaly athlete’s foot to be an annoyance on the surface of the skin. But it could be a sign of an imbalanced gut flora. To keep your gut microbiome healthy and protect your feet from itchy fungus, first, stay away from simple, sugary carbohydrates. Second, eat lots of prebiotic plant fibers, such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, apples, and green vegetables to support microbial balance.

Thick, pimple-like itchy patches on your feet may be causes by psoriasis. As with rheumatoid arthritis, an over-reaction of the immune system causes psoriasis. Healing the gut is imperative to balancing the immune system. Particles that escape through a compromised gut are what’s over-stimulating the immune system. Gut-healing foods such as bone broth and licorice tea can be healing after the offending triggers are removed. A food-sensitivity test may be important to detect what your triggers are.

4. Sore Toe Joints 

Achy joints, especially in the hands and feet, are often an early signal for rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease. This crippling disease results from a dysregulation of the immune system. To get the body back on track, the immune system needs foods high in micronutrients – vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. So, eat high-quality protein and lots of deeply-colored produce. Avoid the most common immune-triggering foods: gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, and corn.

5. Burning Feet

This sensation is common among diabetics. If you have not been diagnosed with this disease, check with your physician for blood sugar testing. In the meantime, eat foods rich in B vitamins and reduce your carbohydrate intake.

6. Foot Sores That Won’t Heal

This symptom is a major warning sign for diabetes. One in three Americans is diabetic and doesn’t know it. The greatest dietary contributor to this condition is an imbalance between carbohydrates and proteins and fats. Check the risk factors, and aim for no more than 40% of your calories from carbohydrate. Also, eat natural, unprocessed fats, such as olives, coconuts, avocados and butter, while avoiding hydrogenated and heat- or chemical-extracted oils. Finally, try to make at least 1/4 of your plate protein at every meal.

7. Pain in the Big Toe

Gout is a notorious cause of sudden pain in the big toe joint, along with redness and swelling. However, contrary to popular opinion, excessive protein is not always the cause of gout. In fact, drinking pop is a major contributor to this condition because the high fructose corn syrup breaks into purines in your body, resulting in uric acid build-up that settles in the joints. To maintain joint health, eat a balanced diet and limit your consumption of sweeteners.

8. Yellow Toenails

Fungal infections are usually the root cause of thickened yellow toenails. Treat as you would for athlete’s foot by reducing fungus-feeding foods: sweets, refined carbohydrates, and empty calorie foods. Focus on prebiotic vegetables. Lastly, eat probiotic rich foods such as kimchi, kombucha, kefir, and traditionally-fermented sauerkraut.

9. Spoon-shaped Toenails

If there has been no injury to the nail, iron deficiency is likely the cause this unusual shape. Your body absorbs heme iron, from animal products better than non-heme iron from plants. But aside from eating more red meat and organ meat, you can increase your iron absorption by consuming foods rich in vitamin C. For instance, include citrus fruits, berries, papaya, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and dark green leafy vegetables. Also, don’t use acid blockers, over-the-counter heartburn remedies, or reflux medication, as these interfere with mineral absorption.

10. Blue toes

Toes that turn blue when exposed to cold might signal Raynaud’s disease. Raynaud’s is often linked to an autoimmune condition which requires gut healing, mineral-rich foods, and removal of the antigens. If you are fighting this disease, it is wise to contact a practitioner who can guide you through the dietary changes most appropriate for your unique biological make-up.

Eat for Beautiful Feet

In summary, they key to stylin’ in sandals is to eat a nutrient-dense whole foods diet. Remember to

  • Include lots of fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens and deeply-colored produce.
  • Eat the right kind of fats – those that have not been processed or refined but occur naturally.
  • Include enough high-quality protein.
  • Limit carbohydrates to less than half of your calories.
  • Eliminate sugar and empty carbohydrates.
My anti inflammatory diet doesn't have food labels

My Anti-inflammatory Diet

What does a nutritional therapist eat to keep inflammation under control? Here are 3 secrets to my anti-inflammatory diet.

I Eat Foods That Don’t Have Labels

Compare some of the most inflammatory foods with some of the least inflammatory foods:

  • Processed meats
  • White flour products (bread, crackers, etc.)
  • Sweetened beverages
  • Desserts such as candy, ice cream, etc.)
  • Transfats, including margarine
  • Snack foods, such as chips
  • Cold water fish (salmon, sardines, etc.)
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Fruits (berries, cherries, grapes)
  • Sulphur vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Natural fats (coconut, avocado, olives)
  • Spices & herbs

Can you see that the latter category comes without an ingredient list? I pick foods from farmer’s markets, gardens, dairy farms, ranchers, and roadside fruit stands, not from the factories of industrial food makers.  Also, when I’m at the grocery store, I shop the perimeter.

I Eat Close to Nature

Although a snack from the health food section of the supermarket may only have 3 or 4 ingredients, I would still rather have the fresh food rather than a packaged product. For example, why should I eat a fruit bar when I can simply have an apple or an orange? If that seems boring, I can create my own pudding, ice cream, popsicle, or other fun treat using only whole ingredients.

I Don’t Espouse an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

What I endorse is a way of life, not a short-term diet program. Too often, individuals fall into a trap of thinking that they will deprive themselves to meet a goal, then they will be able to eat whatever they want after that. I choose not to restrict myself, but to celebrate the vast array of flavors, colors, and textures that nature offers. After all, inflammation seems to be a modern problem that comes with modern commercial foods. I believe that following a traditional lifestyle puts me back in harmony with my body’s requirements for nutrition.

Want to learn more about how to eat anti-inflammatory foods? Contact me to set up a private mentoring session.

Woman can't stop carb-loading

Stop Carb Loading

Whether you just love breads and pastas,  or whether you’re unaware how skewed your diet is, you have to stop carb- loading if you want to balance your blood sugars.

Americans typically get 60-80% of their calories from carbohydrates. A healthier amount would be closer to 40%. That means filling the gap with wisely-chosen proteins and natural fats.

Choose Protein at Every Meal

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Swap cottage cheese for yogurt some mornings, or add cottage cheese to salad at lunch time. (Low-fat cottage cheese is 73% protein, substantially higher than yogurt, and definitely higher than nut butters, or beans).
  • Drink bone broth and substitute bone broth for water in cooking (for grains, legumes, sauces, simmered veggies). I even mix bone broth with tomato paste whenever I need tomato sauce. Most brands average about 8 grams of protein per cup. It’s easy to make your own!
  • Slip in an extra egg white! Yolks are mostly fat, but whites are almost all protein. (You can save the yolk for a moisturizing treatment for dry hair.)
  • Snack on grass-fed jerky. This helps offset the tendency to grab chips, crackers, cookies, and other empty carbs between meals.
  • Top salads with canned crab, shrimp, tuna or salmon. If your budget is tight, these seafood options are much more affordable than fresh fish, poultry, or meat.
  • Focus on breakfast. Adding a little more meat to lunch and dinner may be easy, but it’s trickier to get enough protein in the morning. If you want to avoid heavy, high-fat choices, you might consider a sausage alternative that goes well with breakfast foods.
  • Whisk some collagen powder into salad dressings, meat sauces, or even your oatmeal!
  • Sub sprouted grain bread for your regular loaf.

Ways to Stop Carb-loading

  • Limit yourself to 1/2 cup fruit at breakfast. If you are a smoothie lover, it may be easy to overdo it here. And if you eat oatmeal, remember that your bowl is all carbohydrate even before you start topping it with honey and fruit.
  • Choose grain OR potato for a meal, but not both. If your curry contains potato cubes, you don’t need rice, too. If you’re eating mashed potatoes, skip the dinner roll.
  • Reduce rice and pasta to 1/2 cup per meal.
  • Try Thin Slice bread for 15-17 grams carbohydrate instead of the 28-35 grams of a normal slice. Seeded breads tend to be lower in net carbs because the high fiber is subtracted from the carb count. A great one is Dave’s Killer Bread Power Seed.
  • When you eat out, skip the dinner roll.
  • Make breakfast count! Experiment with some low-carb breakfasts, such as egg & avocado, or cottage cheese pancakes, topped with honey butter (2/3 butter, 1/3 honey).

Stop Carb-loading to Restart Your Energy

High levels of refined carbohydrate intake have been associated with chronic fatigue, cravings, hormone imbalances, obesity, insulin resistance, depression, anxiety, high cholesterol levels, and even autoimmunity. If you want to regain your health, it’s best to stop carb–loading as your first step.

A sugar-soaked gut = a sugar-soaked brain

Sugar-Soaked Gut, Sugar-Soaked Brain

Brain fog and fatigue are two tell-tale signs of a sugar-soaked brain. The sweets you eat impact your mental abilities. The story of how food affects cognition starts with a sugar-soaked gut.

A Sugar-Soaked Gut

You have a vast filter inside of you that allows nourishment in and keeps toxins out. It’s called the endothelial lining, or gut membrane. It’s like a wire strainer that separates pulp from orange juice. Figuratively speaking, a coffee filter sits on top of that strainer. That filter is your microbiome – your gut bugs. If that probiotic filter is “torn” or defective, some of the pulp is going to get through.

Sugar damages your microbiome. Your beneficial microbes need whole foods. They digest the insoluble plant fiber from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes that your body cannot process. In doing so, they create a short-chain fatty acid, called butyrate. This chemical fuels your microbiome and nourishes your colon. But, if you eat too much sugar and processed food, you starve these microbes. Therefore, you compromise your microbial layer.

Sugar has no fiber. So, it feeds other bacterial strains that destroy the harmonious balance of microbes in your gut. These other strains create inflammation. Between the inflammation and the reduced microbial diversity, you threaten your brain.

A Sugar-Soaked Gut Leads to a Sugar-Soaked Brain

Your gut and your brain are connected in several significant ways.

Vagus Nerve

To begin with, Your Vagus or “wandering” nerve joins your brain to all your vital organs. This major nerve links 100 billion neurons in your brain to 500 million neurons in your gut. Unfortunately, stress causes loss of vagal tone. Your body perceives sugar as a stress because is upsets blood sugar balance and creates inflammation. When the Vagus nerve loses tone, your sugar-soaked gut can freeze your brain in a state of “fight-or-flight” where you have a hard time resting, relaxing, and rejuvenating.

Neurotransmitters

Next, Neurotransmitters are chemicals used send messages from neuron to neuron, or from neuron to muscle tissue. Your body makes a large quantity of two notable neurotransmitters – serotonin and GABA – in your gut.  In fact, you depend on certain gut microbes to manufacture these neurotransmitters. Serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness. GABA calms feelings of fear and anxiety. So, a sugar-soaked gut impairs your ability to manufacture serotonin and GABA, and therefore worsens conditions such as depression and anxiety.

The Fatty Acid, Butyrate

Additionally, microbe-manufactured butyrate not only strengthens the gut-lining, it is critical for forming the blood-brain barrier, too! Your blood-brain barrier keeps pathogens out of your brain. A sugar-soaked gut means a more permeable gut AND a more permeable brain! Then, toxins (or “pulp”) slipping past the gut lining can get into the brain!

Inflammation

Also, Inflammation occurs when toxins squeeze through the gut lining into the blood stream. Your body has to call in white blood cells to fight these  that invaders don’t belong outside of the gut. Inflammation is the mechanism that allows white blood cells into infected tissues. Inflammation from a sugar-soaked gut can ignite in the brain when toxins cross the blood-brain barrier.

Mitochondria

Finally, Mitochondria are the tiny factories in each cell that take the food you eat and the oxygen you breathe and turn it into an energy currency, called ATP. You spend this currency every time you think, breathe, move, eat, feel, and simply live. Inflammation from a sugar-soaked gut damages the DNA of your mitochondria. Damaged mitochondria create more “exhaust” or oxidation than healthy ones. Subsequently, this exhaust damages them even more, initiate a self-sustaining process of destruction. A classic sign of mitochondrial damage is fatigue. Unfortunately, this process of destruction triggers an enzyme pathway that leads to the death of neurons, hurting your brain and your gut simultaneously.

Heal a Sugar-Soaked Gut

Many foods and lifestyle choices benefit your gut and therefore your brain. Here are five of the most important ones.

Omega 3 Fats

The best sources of these fats are oily fish, shell fish and sea vegetables. Studies show that omega 3 fats can increase good bacteria in the gut and can be beneficial to brain health. Additionally, Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory, plus they boost enzymes used in the mitochondria to produce ATP. To get adequate amounts of Omega 3’s, you should eat seafood at least 3-4 times per week.

Fermented Foods

These are foods that contain living microbes such as lactic acid bacteria. They include traditionally-cultured sauerkraut or kimchi, pickled beets, gingered carrots, and dilly beans. It turns out that the benefit of these foods is not solely from the probiotics – which actually die as they pass through your gut and out the other end. In reality, great benefit comes from the actual fermentation – the breakdown of the nutrients to create certain end-products. These end-products can be very healing for the gut and appear to bolster your microbiome. Eat a fermented product every day.

High Fiber Foods

Whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables all contain fibers that are good for your gut bacteria, as discussed above. Additionally, high fiber foods can reverse the effects of stress on the gut by restoring the microbial populations. Start with 25 grams per day and work up to 50 or more.

Polyphenols

Polyphenols are plant chemicals that your gut bacteria digest along with plant fibers. Brightly-colored, anti-oxidant foods are rich in polyphenols. Like fiber, polyphenols can increase healthy gut bacteria. Thereby, they reduce oxidative stress. Many fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and spices contain polyphenols. If you’re not having vegetables at every meal, start there, then increase until half your plate is vegetables.

Movement

Individuals with high cardio-respiratory fitness produce more butyrate, signalling that they have a healthier microbiome, according to a study published in Microbiome in 2016 . Additionally, these fit individuals had fewer pathways that were creating inflammatory toxins from harmful bacteria in their guts. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, get up and stretch every half hour. If you can fit in cardio workouts, engage for at least 30 minutes per day.

So, What’s the Bottom Line?

In conclusion, whole foods support a healthy microbiome. But a sugar-soaked gut can lead to brain dysfunction. So, eat your vegetables, get adequate fat and protein, and stay active!