The holidays are filled with food temptations, and it’s easy to put on a few extra pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Desserts, carbs and alcohol are popular and plentiful, making it harder to say no to foods you normally wouldn’t eat. At many parties and gatherings, food and drink take center stage.
Some of us have a plan like this: Eat whatever I want, enjoy the holidays and get back on track after the New Year.This might not be the ideal strategy, so here are a few ideas to keep the splurging in check.
Some of these suggestions have nothing to do with foods, but are more about overall self-care. For example, try and stay physically active every day. If you normally work out, this is not the time to stop or slow down. If you aren’t a habitual exerciser, think about adding some gentle movement to your daily routine such as walking at a brisk pace or riding your bike.
Another important tip: stay hydrated. With the overabundance of sugar and alcohol tempting us, dehydration can be a concern. Alcohol and sugar can both lead to dehydration and often we mistake thirst for hunger. If drinking a glass of water can alleviate your symptoms, why not start there?
Strategies for the Cocktail Party
Eat a high fat, high protein snack before the party. If you starve yourself all day, your blood sugar may dip too low. You can get in a “panic eating” mode,grabbing anything in sight to try and raise your blood sugar. This is when we reach for the sugary carbs and make poor food choices.
Instead of starving, eat a high fat/high protein breakfast. A couple of eggs, some bacon and a slice or two of an avocado would be a great choice. Right before the event, enjoy a balanced, filling snack: an apple with a couple of TBSP’s of nut butter; a hardboiled egg; or a few slices of deli meats and parmesan cheese would be good choices.
Make a plan before you go. Decide how many drinks you are going to have, and consider setting a firm food limit. For example, I will not eat anything that has bread in it. If there is a food that you love, then plan on having one or two pieces of that appetizer and fill up the rest of the plate with more veggies, meats, a small handful of nuts, shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, or slices of salami. I recently went to a cocktail party and observed that almost 90 % of the foods offered were either with bread or served on some sort of wheat product. Since I don’t eat bread the pre party snack was a lifesaver.
Stand away from the food table. Concentrate on talking and socializing instead of eating. Have one small plate of food with one or two of your favorites. Load up on the veggies to “crowd out” the space in your stomach for poorer choices. I love this concept of crowding out the less desirable foods. The idea is to fill up on the healthy foods so that you don’t have room for the high carb/sugar laden foods.
Only eat the best part. If you make the choice to decide to eat dessert ONLY eat the best part instead of eating the entire thing. My husband is a prolific baker, so there are always sweets around. I rarely indulge nowadays, but when I did, I realized very quickly that I needed to exercise some self-control over these delicious creations. When it comes to cookies and brownies, my preference is the crispy, more well-done edges. He likes the softer innards. Why waste the calories on something that isn’t your favorite? And if you taste something and don’t really LOVE it, subtly transfer it into a napkin.
Chew thoroughly and really savor each bite before you eat another bite.
Strategies for Holiday Meals
When baking, cut sugar in recipes by half. Surprisingly, it won’t affect the texture or baking outcome. You can also substitute the unhealthy fats for healthier choices. For example, instead of vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, or margarine, use avocado or olive oil, coconut oil or butter.
Cook from scratch whenever possible. Look at the ingredients in prepackaged foods! Usually there are a ton of “mystery” ingredients consisting of fillers, additives, sugar, sodium and chemicals. These additives are designed to create flavor, since most of the original flavor of the fresh ingredients has been processed out of existence. If you make your own food, there are fewer ingredients and less harmful additives.
Watch your Meal Ratio. Aim for a plate that’s 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carbohydrate. Often people blame after dinner fatigue on the turkey, when in reality it is a carb overload. Look at the typical Thanksgiving meal…mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (candied, with marshmallows in top,) rolls, mac and cheese, stuffing…it’s a carb bonanza. Consider cutting down the carbs and replace a couple of dishes with fresh veggies on the side. Here are a few easy ideas:
College dorm living can pose a hefty challenge to healthy eating – especially when it comes to choosing snacks wisely. Here are some easy ideas for healthy snacks, whether you’re at school or work.
Plantation Chips– these crunchy treats are fried in coconut oil, a healthier alternative to the hydrogenated fats in most snack foods. If you want to eat regular potato chips, look for those fried in coconut oil such as Jackson’s Honest Chips.
Beet Chips- Beets are a miracle food! Adding them to your diet in any form is a bonus. They can improve your health by increasing detoxification, which helps purify your blood and liver. Beet chips are also high in Vitamin C, fiber and potassium, manganese and folate. They help fight inflammation, and the nitrates help lower blood pressure. WARNING!!! Beets can turn your urine and stools red, so beware.
Epic Beef Jerky and Maple Glazed Smoked Salmon Bites - all of these products are perfect for the Paleo movement. Some of them are a little “earthy,” and the texture can be an issue if you are used to Slim Jims, but I always take a package when I fly so that I am not stuck eating airport foods. I do love the salmon bites. Try them, you may be surprised.
Cacao Nibs- this is the raw goodness which becomes chocolate. These little chocolate morsels are an antioxidant powerhouse and contain almost 4 times the antioxidants of dark chocolate! Cacao nibs are packed with flavonoids, an anti-inflammatory antioxidant. They are also high in magnesium, which is why many women find themselves craving chocolate around their monthly cycle. Menstruation is when magnesium is rapidly depleted in a woman’s body.
Enjoy 2-3 TBSP of cacao nibs in your favorite yogurt; add them to sprouted seeds, nuts and shredded or flaked coconut for a little trail mix; or combine them with a little coconut manna (butter) or almond butter for a little sweet treat. Of course, a bit of dark chocolate works…just because!
Go Raw Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds- I recommend buying sprouted seeds, nuts or grains since they are easier to digest. Sprouting removes some of the phytic acid that coats these foods and prevents the absorption of zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium. Pumpkin, watermelon, and sunflower seeds are all good sources of some vitamins and minerals. I like to add a couple TBSP to salads for crunch, homemade trail mix, or just snacking on a small handful.
Plantation Blackstrap Molasses- molasses is a powerhouse of minerals in a small serving. 1 TBSP contains helpful levels of Vitamin B-6, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium. While it is technically considered a sugar, the nutrients contained in a small dose make it a worthy addition to your diet. I add it to sweeten tea, and use in place of honey in baking recipes. I’ve have also been known to take a swig when needing a little mineral boost.
Coconut Water. There is a delicate balance in our bodies between salt and potassium. Most of us get plenty of salt in the foods we eat, but getting the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of potassium is more challenging. A good goal is 4700mg of potassium a day, and coconut water can significantly help. A 16 oz serving of coconut water contains more than 800mg of potassium. Coconuts do have a lot of natural sugar, so make sure you look for brands with no ADDED sugar.
Redmond’s Real Sea Salt- I am a huge fan of Redmond’s Real Sea salt and actually contacted the company to tell them I recommend their product to all of my clients. I add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of Redmond’s Salt to 32 ounces of water. Find out why I recommend adding salt to your drinking water here.
Swapping out your ordinary salt for a pouch of Redmond’s Sea salt can be one of the easiest changes you make in your health. There are 70 trace minerals found in Redmond’s salt, compared to none in brands such as Morton’s. Many household salts add non-caking agents and bleach to their products.
Justin’s Almond Butter pouches- these are easy, portable snacks that you can throw in your car, purse or backpack for whenever you need a quick meal. Add it to a banana for a super quick breakfast. If you aren’t crazy about almonds they also have cashew, peanut and hazelnut.
Nicks Grass-Fed Beef Sticks- I keep these in my purse in case I am out and need a quick snack. These are a good protein source and a much better choice than most ‘protein’ bars which are mostly made up of questionable ingredients and taste like candy.
Traditional Medicine Herbal Teas- Herbal teas are so comforting, and I really like this brand. I usually add a healthy spoonful of the molasses to a cup of the Roasted Dandelion for liver support, or Smooth Move for occasional constipation. Try Every Day Detox, Licorice Root, Throat Coat for sore or scratchy throats, or Nighty Night or Chamomile to help relax before bed.
AND FINALLY my favorite health tip of all…. EAT SARDINES! I must confess, I have become addicted to mixing a tin of sardines packed in water with Primal Kitchens mayo. It’s perfect as a dip with beet chips. I enjoy this for breakfast every other day – it’s actually an unexpected favorite. This mix of healthy fats in the mayo and fish, plus the protein and carbs in the beets keeps me satisfied until about 2pm.
I know not all of you are willing to dive in, but I promise you if you like tuna fish, you will probably like sardines. The health benefits are unsurpassed. One serving provides 18 grams of protein, and 1800 mg of EPA and DHA Omega 3’s which is the most bioavailable form for the body. In addition, sardines provide 70% of the Vitamin D, 15% of calcium, 10% of iron, and only 140 calories. (Although calories are less important when eating a nutrient dense diet).
Whether you are in college, at work, or traveling, take these healthy snacks along – your body will thank you!
Many people are surprised to learn that detoxification is different from a cleanse. A cleanse is usually done with a boxed product from the health food store. It may consist of special drinks, powders or supplements and the length can be anywhere from 3-10 days. Sometimes it can consist of eating a very restrictive diet in order to achieve a specific goal, usually weight loss. (Remember the cabbage soup diet?)
If you are planning on doing something like this, I would encourage you to make sure your detox pathways are open and functioning before you begin. Your detox pathways include your skin, bowels, kidneys and lungs. If you release toxins from the fat and you don’t have any way to get them out of the body, then you may create some health issues for yourself.
On the other hand, did you know that detoxification is actually a natural process that is happening inside you every minute of the day?
I am going to share some very simple, noninvasive things that you can do daily in order to support your body’s detox pathways. But first let’s talk a little about why we need to detox.
Basic biochemistry in the body produces free radicals and toxins. Your body is designed to eliminate these issues naturally.
The problem began over 100 years ago when we when started introducing synthetic chemicals into our food supply and daily life. Because of our exposure to a huge amount of environmental toxins, we are constantly overloading our system’s ability to keep up. We are exposed to a myriad of highly processed foods and additives, preservatives, pesticides, alcohol, and chemical overloads through our cleaning and personal care products.
Did you know that the average woman puts on over 500 different synthetic chemicals a day? Think about it: our deodorant, skin care and make up, lotions, shaving creams, hair dyes, shampoo, hair spray, nail polishes and body lotions all contain their own cocktail of synthetic chemicals. It’s no wonder our bodies have a hard time keeping up, and after a while this increased burden starts to take a toll on us and our health.
The good news is that there are some things we can do to protect ourselves and be proactive in our quest to improve our health.
The first step to support our bodies is to reduce our toxic load by reducing our exposure to chemicals that are not safe.
This includes doing things like switching to fragrance-free and cleaner (chemical free or “green”) products for both personal and household use, eating real unprocessed, non-GMO food and so on.
One of the things I am very aware of is the overabundance of heavy, unnatural scents that are put into everything. Some of the biggest offenders are the dryer sheets, the plug in air fresheners, and scented laundry detergents. Do garbage bags, toilet paper, and diapers really need to have a fragrance? We have gotten to the point where we think a lack of smell is not a good thing. Believe it or not, those artificially added fragrances can impact our health and the environment.
The chemicals used to make all of these products “smell good” can disrupt hormone activity, reduce sperm count, and they are linked to breast and liver cancer, diabetes and obesity.
The second step we can take is to assist the body in detoxing by supporting the organs of detoxification. We have several organs that help us clean up our waste.
The colon’s job is to collect and eliminate toxins from the body. However, if the colon becomes even slightly sluggish it cannot perform its job properly. This is one of the reasons that you want to address chronic constipation.
Our kidneys filter metabolic waste out of the blood. You can support your kidneys by drinking clean water, preferably half of your body weight in ounces, every day. I like to add a little pinch of sea salt to a glass of water in order to facilitate absorption into the cells. Begin your day with a large glass of water with the juice of half a lemon.
Your lungs trap toxins in the mucus lining. Deep breathing is very helpful for this. Remind yourself to breathe deep into your chest. So many of us only breath in the top 1/3 of our lungs. So practice taking slow deep breaths.
You can also do the following exercise which the Budwig Cancer Center recommends to their patients. Stretch the arms to both sides and move them up as you inhale through the nose. At the same time you should make circular movements with the hands, and when you reach the top briefly hold your breath. Then bring your hands down while exhaling through the mouth and again make circles with them as you move them downwards. If you feel lightheadedness, stop the exercise and work up to doing it a few times per session.
Our lymph system carries nourishment and clears waste, but it requires gravity and movement to do its job. To get that lymph fluid moving, I like to use a rebounder (a mini trampoline) - just gently bounce for about 20 minutes a day. Brisk walking is also helpful.
You can incorporate gravity by utilizing a standing desk, or lay down on your back and raise your legs on the wall and stay in this position for at least 20 minutes a day. Hydrotherapy showers are also beneficial - simply alternate hot and cold water at the end of your shower. If it’s in your budget, you can also get a lymph drainage massage.
Your liver is the main detox organ, it works around the clock doing over 500 different jobs. If you are constantly overburdening it with harmful eating and chemical exposure, then it makes it more difficult for it to do the 499 other jobs it must do in order to keep you alive.
I always like to support the body with real food whenever possible. One way to do this is to eat cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and foods high in sulfur like garlic, shallots and onions.
Applying castor oil packs regularly can also be beneficial for many people as it can help to stimulate lymph and liver function. Simply apply a high quality hexane free castor oil to a piece of cloth like flannel or an old t-shirt, lay it on the right side of the abdomen, cover it with additional fabric because it can be messy and apply some heat, either a hot water bottle or heating pad. Begin at 20 minutes and work up to one hour or more. There are many benefits to incorporating castor oil packs into your daily routine, requiring you to take the time to be still for a while is a benefit in itself. If you would like more detailed instructions there are many resources on line for castor oil packs.
Your skin is the largest elimination organ and there are two things you can do to support it. One is to sweat: exercise and hot yoga are perfect for this as is dry skin brushing to stimulate nerve endings and slough off dead cells.
If you have never done dry skin brushing it is very simple. Use a natural bristle brush with a long handle. Start on the feet and brush towards the heart using long motions. Then on to the hands and arms again brushing towards the heart. Dry skin brushing has the most benefit when done regularly, so work this into your pre-shower routine.
Aiding your body in detoxification doesn’t have to be harsh or complicated. Try adding a few of these suggestions into your routine!
How to hydrate your body for summer
Summer is coming! Although it is important to stay hydrated all year around we need to be especially vigilant in the summer. But how can you tell if you need more fluids? Many people who are chronically dehydrated have lost the ability to generate this very important clue of the need for hydration.
There are several signs of dehydration other than thirst. In fact, by the time you have a dry mouth you may well be on your way to being dehydrated. Early warning signs include:
Water has many roles within your body:
How much water does your body need? There are differing opinions but taking into consideration your bioindividualty should factor in to the equation. Divide your weight in half to estimate the amount of ounces of water you need to drink in a day. (For example, a person who weighs 150 pounds needs 75 ounces a day). Don’t exceed 100 ounces. If you are drinking caffeinated beverages you will need to increase your intake to compensate for the diuretic effects of caffeine. In this case you need to drink 12 oz of water for every 8 oz of caffeinated beverages.
Sip it throughout the day and don’t try and catch up by guzzling it all at one time; this can disrupt the delicate balance of electrolytes. Drinking fluids while eating can dilute the enzymes and acid needed to break down your food, avoid drinking more than 6 oz with meals.
Most of us drink bottled water which usually is nothing more than tap water that has been treated with reverse osmosis or in some cases it is nothing more than ordinary tap water. If you are buying authentic mineral water such as Gerolsteiner Sprudel Sparkling, San Pellegrino, or Volvic, read the label and see the naturally occurring minerals. If not, then you can easily add minerals to your water by adding a pinch of mineral rich salt such as Redmonds Real Salt (you can find this at Sprouts or Whole Foods) or a good Himalayan salt. Water depends on electrolytes for proper absorption. The electrolyte minerals in salt are what hold an electrical charge and literally pulls the water into our cells. I encourage you to ditch the Mortons and switch to a high quality salt.
Sometimes I have people tell me that when they increase their water intake they find themselves constantly running to the bathroom. This is why it is important to have those minerals in your water, to create that electrical charge that will draw the water into the cells. Often, this is a temporary problem; once you become more hydrated you will need fewer trips to the bathroom. Think of when you water a dried out plant, initially, the water runs right through but once the soil becomes moist it is able to hold on and absorb the water.
If you are going to be working out and sweating, try drinking coconut water with a large pinch of good quality salt, you can also add a squeeze of lemon or lime. This is a better choice than commercial sports drinks which are filled with sugar, food dyes and other artificial ingredients. Jigsaw has a wonderful single serving electrolyte powder that can easily be added to water. (Amazon). It comes in Lemon or Raspberry flavors. Trace Minerals also has an excellent product called Concentrace Trace Mineral Drops that can easily be added to your water bottle.
Finally, please invest in a good stainless steel or glass water bottle. The convenience of plastic water bottles is overshadowed by the detrimental effects to not only your body but also the environment. I outlawed water bottles in our house about 8 years ago because it made me crazy to see all of the half full bottles around that no one was going to claim. Not only that, but after reading about the harmful effects of the plastic leeching into the water I couldn’t get past the idea that with every drink I was ingesting so many endocrine disrupting toxins.
Drinking plenty of clean filtered water is one of the easiest steps to take in your quest for better health.
I'm Amy Baragar, and I believe food is our first medicine. As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I love helping people feel better with easy steps to healthy eating.