June 14th, 2017, by Ania Dunlop from Food for Zen
We could all use smoother mornings, right? The chaotic morning routine in my house has me barking orders like a drill sergeant to the tune of “brush your teeth, get your socks on, put your backpack on!” I am also making breakfast like a short order cook and furiously packing lunches, which really should have been prepared the night before.
Before I discovered smoothies, the rare day I had breakfast, it would either be oatmeal or toast with almond butter, which didn’t really keep me satiated until lunch or provided super nutrition.
Enter the smoothie…My (morning) life changed when I got the Vitamix. Yes, yes, I know everyone is raving about it but I truly have to tell you that it’s awesome. I use it EVERY SINGLE DAY to blend smoothies, soups and make snacks. It has the ability to break down even the toughest vegetable fibers into velvety concoctions so your green smoothie doesn’t taste like sh**, err I mean grit. I no longer worry what I will have for breakfast as long as I have some frozen berries and a handful of greens to work with.
Since I needed to boost my protein intake (doctor’s orders), I put a tablespoon of organic pumpkin protein powder (yes, who knew?) which is full of goodness with 20% of daily value of iron, which I definitely need since I am not a meat lover. If you opt for whey, please make sure it comes from clean, grass fed cows, otherwise you can use hemp or chia seeds, which are good protein sources.
With the smoothie, you will get several servings of fruits and veggies before you even get dressed! You will feel fuller until lunch compared to even the most tricked out oatmeal and who knows, you may even drop a couple of pounds since you stop loading up on carbs. Best of all, you will start your day on a good note with a weird feeling of control over your life.
Ready? Here are some general guidelines which will give you endless options for your new and improved “breakfast”:
1. PICK YOU BASE
- Coconut water – my favorite
- Coconut milk
- Herbal tea
- Almond milk
- Rice milk
- Hemp milk
2. PICK YOUR VEGGIES
- Romaine lettuce
- Mixed greens
- Cilantro (it’s really strong so adjust your taste buds with other greens first)
3. PICK YOUR FRUIT
* Use frozen for greater convenience, otherwise use a bit of ice
4. PICK YOUR SUPERFOOD EXTRAS
- Protein powder (important if you want to last till lunch)
- Raw cacao powder (who doesn’t like chocolate?)
- Almond butter (extra protein and yummy taste)
- Chia seeds (protein, calcium and omega 3’s)
- Hemp Seeds (protein and omega 3’s)
- Goji berries (loads of Vitamin A – great for skin)
- Camu powder (loads of Vitamin C – great for keeping you beautiful and boosting immune system)
- Maca (for energy and stress adaptor)
- Coconut oil (good fat, antibacterial, boosts immune system)
Blend your base, veggies and fruit with a bit of ice, if not using frozen fruit, until smooth. Add protein powder and superfoods at the very end, protein powder should not be over-mixed. Ok now, go get your own smoothie!
I wish you happier mornings!
Summer may be coming to an end, but it’s still hot and steamy outside (and inside!) the studio. While you are working on your flexibility, hydration becomes a key component of your wellness. Are you drinking plenty of water, but still find yourself parched? This is your body’s way of telling you that you need to eat, not just drink your water. According to the Institute of Medicine, 20% of your daily water consumption needs to come from food.
Foods to Eat
There are many foods that contain water, but there are a few standouts that you need to eat right now. These include cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, celery, tomatoes and zucchini. Each has at least 90% water weight and also carry a nutrient punch that doesn’t come from water or sports drinks alone.
Yes, water is crucial for survival and healthy functioning of your body, but without the nutrients found in the following hydrating foods, you are missing out on important vitamins, minerals and amino acids. The great news is that these fruit and veggies are in season, so hit a farmers market and stock up:
- Cucumbers provide fiber and Vitamin C. Blend them in a smoothie, add to salads or soup or if you enjoy snacking on them alone, try dipping them in hummus for an extra satisfying snack.
- Watermelon not only contains Vitamin C, it also contains lycopene, an antioxidant that helps fight cancer. Watermelon contains some of the highest levels of this antioxidant, providing around 12 milligrams per standard size wedge.
- Cantaloupe has been called a ‘beauty fruit” for a good reason, it provides 100% daily requirement for Vitamin A and C, both crucial for healthy skin. There are endless way to eat it, but I like to blend it in smoothies, add it to salads or dip it in yogurt.
- Celery is chock full of water and fiber, two things that help keeping you healthy and full. A great electrolyte food, just a couple stalks of celery can restore the lost sodium, potassium and magnesium levels in athletes.
- Tomatoes are versatile and incredibly hydrating! They contain Vitamins A and C, folic acid, and lycopene. Chop them up and add them to your salad, eat them with satisfying mozzarella cheese or make a gazpacho.
- Zucchini are a great weight loss food because they are low in calories but provide a feeling of lasting fullness. While zucchini is 95% water, some of it is lost when cooked, which is how most people eat this fruit (yes fruit!). My favorite way to enjoy zucchini is to make raw zoodles. So take out your spiralizer, make zucchini pasta, mix it with pesto, top with clean protein and you have a meal that takes no time to make.
Hydrate the Right Way
The next time you have worked up a sweat and are feeling great, keep that feeling going by heading home and making my Watermelon Cooler smoothie. It will restore you with electrolytes for that well-nourished and well-hydrated feeling.
Watermelon Cooler recipe
- 3 cups watermelon
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1/2 cucumber
- juice from 1/2 lemon
Blend all ingredients together and enjoy feeling instantly hydrated!
Losing weight is hard, right? We make resolutions and promises to ourselves each year but rarely keep them. Some of us go on a juice cleanse, some follow a diet de jour, while others resort to extreme exercise. But too often we get derailed, deprived and deflated. Today, I want to offer you a no-diet diet, no cleanse and no gimmicks.
What’s is this perfect no diet diet? It’s a clean eating lifestyle. This means rejecting processed foods and cooking the majority of your meals at home because that is the one and only gateway to permanent weight loss and effortless maintenance. Clean eating involves a lifetime commitment, which will be annoying at first, but once you are empowered with knowledge and feeling amazing, you will never want to go back to eating any other way.
Follow my 12 tips and you will never have to worry about excess pounds, not to mention you will have amazing energy, good skin and clear mind.
1. Get off sugar. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup cause your liver to store fat more efficiently around your tummy. It’s highly addictive and interferes with your body’s ability to know when it’s full.
2. Don’t drink your calories. Skip the soda, specialty coffees and mind your adult beverage intake. Couple of glasses of wine is a fine way to unwind but it adds up to approximately 250 empty calories. Drink lots of water (add lemon!) as hunger is often confused with dehydration.
3. Give up refined carbs like bread and pasta. Refined carbohydrates affect the body in similar ways to sugar, storing fat in your trouble spots like belly, butt and thighs (our trouble areas!). Replace toxic carbs with complex carbs such as fruits, (root) vegetables and whole grains (millet, brown rice, oats, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat).
4. Eat quality protein. Include protein with every meal and choose plants such as nuts and nut butters, beans, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia and hemp). Limit your animal intake to grass fed, pastured and organic meats to avoid exposure to antibiotics and hormones.
5. Detox with green vegetables. Green leafy veggies help you de-bloat and flood your body with vitamins and minerals. Choose bitter greens like arugula, watercress, kale, chard, mustard green to support your digestion. Blend and juice your way to skinny!
6. Eat good fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat, it’s the sugar and processing (especially in low fat foods)! Choose healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, nuts, seeds and flaxseeds as well as fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel. Fat gives your energy, healthy skin and hair and supports weight loss by helping you stay full and reduce cravings for sugar. Just control your portion as 1 gram of fat has twice the calories of carbs and proteins.
7. Cook at home. Cooking at home allows you to control portions and quality of ingredients. Eating minimally processed foods, as close to its original source as possible, is the single most important thing you can do for your waist.
8. Fix your digestive health. Hidden food sensitivities can cause inflammation and sabotage weight loss. Consider an elimination diet to rule out any triggers to common allergens such as wheat, dairy, corn and soy.
9. Sleep 7-8 hours a nights. Sleep deprivation disrupts your metabolism, causes you to overeat and leads to sugar cravings. Catch some zzzs to lose more pounds.
10. Exercise! Commit to making Bikram Yoga a part of your life in 2016. Aim to visit at least 3 times a week to see optimal results. Make sure to keep your body hydrated and full of electrolytes.
11. Calm your mind. We live in a stressful world but chronically high cortisol leads to abdominal weight gain. Manage your stress by meditating and practicing mindfulness. Let it go. Don’t let stress appear as extra pounds.
12. Balance your hormones. Have your adrenal and thyroid hormones checked to ensure your hormones are working properly.
We all have days when we feel blah…low on energy, unmotivated and in a crummy mood. But when days stretch to weeks and even months and you find yourself constantly fatigued, perhaps with unexplained tummy troubles, sore joints or just a general achy feeling, it could be your diet. Even if you are already eating healthy… One person’s food can be another’s poison. This common saying is extremely relevant to someone suffering from undiagnosed food sensitivities. A food sensitivity is not a true allergic reaction with anaphylaxis, but rather a subtle inflammatory response with symptoms such as chronic fatigue, headaches, achy joints, chronic constipation or diarrhea, digestive discomfort, foggy brain and anxiety.
Undiagnosed digestive problems can be devastating to your health in the long run, with significant side effects such as osteoporosis, hormone imbalances and suppressed immune system. Since 60–70 percent of your immune system lies in your gut, it is no surprise that an impaired digestive system can be the culprit responsible for poor health. Many people report that they feel better after temporarily cutting out top food allergens such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn and eggs.
Why are food sensitivities so common today?
Food sensitivities are on the rise today because our food supply is compromised with nutrient-deficient, processed foods engineered in the lab. Our American diet – with little to no green vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds – no longer resembles the diet of our ancestors and how humans evolved over millions of years.
Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies, coupled with chronic use of antibiotics, painkillers, and stress all contribute to a leaky gut, or a condition where the intestinal barrier has become porous, allowing undigested food particles and infectious agents to enter the bloodstream. The body perceives the foreign molecules as invaders and launches an immune response, which results in chronic inflammation inside your body. As a result, we are bloated, achy and grumpy.
Wheat especially causes problems for a lot of people because it contains a protein called gluten which is hard to digest, resulting in bloating and gas. Also, hybridization increased the gluten content of today’s wheat to the point where it barely resembles its predecessors. We also eat it too often: several servings a day in the form of cereal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. Soy and corn are the most genetically modified foods in the US so remove them for the duration of the diet to rule out any sensitivities.
Similarly, many people are allergic to the proteins in dairy, especially casein, with symptoms ranging from ear and sinus infections, reflux and digestive issues. Cows today are fed a grain diet full of genetically modified ingredients and growth hormones and antibiotics. Many of my clients feel better after removing dairy from their diets.
What is an elimination diet?
Elimination diet is a 21 day detoxification program where you remove top food allergens from your diet. This will help you identify foods that you are allergic to and remove toxins from your body. The diet will also give your liver a rest from consuming processed foods, unhealthy fats and animal products and, in the process, jumpstart your energy and help you lose weight.
Who is a good candidate for an elimination diet?
Anyone suffering with migraine headaches, autoimmune disorders such as thyroid, eczema and psoriasis, rheumatic arthritis, chronic fatigue, digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea, skin issues, and allergies.
Also, children with ADHD or undiagnosed attention and focusing issues benefit from having the top allergens removed from their diets.
Although blood tests have come a long way and can be helpful in identifying certain food allergies, the best way to identify food sensitivities is to go on an elimination diet for a period of time, then reintroduce the offending foods one by one and watch for reactions.
How to start an elimination diet
Cut out the following foods:
- gluten (found in wheat, including spelt, kamut, farro and durum; and products like bulgur, semolina, and rye)
- sugar (including honey, maple syrup, and artificial sweeteners)
- nightshade vegetables (eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers) if you have any symptoms of joint pain, stiffness upon waking, muscle pain and arthritis
- citrus fruit if you have symptoms such as skin rashes, lips swelling, throat/mouth itching
Why three weeks?
Because it takes about 21 days to remove the food’s antibodies from your body, for your immune system to calm down and for you to feel better.
Eliminating these foods means that you will not eat processed, boxed or canned foods for the duration of the three weeks. Removing sugar, coffee and alcohol has a detoxifying effect and will help clear out toxins that are contributing to disrupted sleep and unhappy gut flora.
What will you eat?
Start out by eating simply and treat it like an opportunity to detox your body of toxic, processed foods.
- green, leafy vegetables and root vegetables like carrots, squashes and sweet potatoes
- non-citrus and low-glycemic foods such as berries, cherries, apples, pears, peaches (if in season; if not, buy organic frozen)
- plant protein such as beans (especially mung and adzuki), lentils, hemp and chia seeds, seeds (sunflower and pumpkin)
- clean animal protein such as pastured chicken and turkey, wild fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel
- good fats such as avocado, olives, coconut oil and nuts
- gluten-free grains such as millet, brown rice and oats (need to be certified gluten-free because of cross-contamination) and pseudo-cereals such as quinoa, which is a complete protein and alkalizing
- drink lots of water; you can alkalize your water by adding lemon
- absolutely no processed, junk food or anything fried (french fries are cooked in the same oil as breaded chicken)
- protein/granola/health bars, which are loaded with sugar and additives
- processed gluten-free breads, muffins, waffles, etc.
- oats that are not gluten-free certified
- bulk foods that can be cross-contaminated
- sauces, salad dressings and condiments
Here is a sample meal plan
- For breakfast, start with a green smoothie to clear out the gut (blend kale, spinach, collards, ginger, apple, pear, banana, lemon, and parsley). Make a quinoa cereal by cooking quinoa in nondairy milk and top it with some berries and nuts/seeds.
- After a few days add a protein shake; blend greens, berries, pea protein powder, flaxseeds and almond butter or avocado for a rich and satisfying meal replacement.
- For lunch, cook a bean chili, quinoa salad, bean and kale soup since these will last you a few days.
- For dinner, eat a simple meal of grilled salmon/chicken, brown rice and sautéed or steamed veggies.
- Snack on dried fruit, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, frozen berries and cherries.
What to expect in the first few days
You might be feeling lousy during the first few days because your body is detoxing and craving sugar and simple carbohydrates for energy. You might be fatigued , experience headaches and achiness, but it should pass by week 2. Drinking a green smoothie will absorb some of the effects and will ensure that you have proper elimination. Make sure your bowels are moving. If you are constipated, add fiber to your morning smoothie to get things moving.
- Before attempting the diet, clear out your pantry and go shopping for clean, healthy foods. Cooking at home will ensure that you don’t ingest the offending foods and sabotage all your hard work.
- I can’t emphasize how important meal planning is to the success of this diet. Make a big pot of soup, roast a big batch of veggies (beets, butternut squash, carrots), cook some beans and lentils, roast a chicken, make a batch of smoothies and store in the refrigerator to easily put simple meals together.
- This is not a calorie restriction diet, so eat often to keep your blood sugar stable. Carry a small bag of nuts and seeds with you for a quick snack. You should not be hungry on this diet.
- Drink lots of water, eight 8oz glasses daily, to flush out toxins and keep things moving.
- Take this time to try gentle exercise like yoga and walking. Heavy exercise might make you more fatigued.
What happens after 21 days
- Reintroduce one food at a time so that there is no confusion around which food caused a bad reaction. Don’t be tempted to add more than one food at a time, as this is your opportunity to see how you are reacting to certain foods. Keep a journal of your symptoms.
- Eat the reintroduced food three times a day and pay close attention to your body for up to three days to link the food with any adverse reaction.
- There might be delayed reactions, so you want to make sure that you give yourself enough time to look for sensitivity symptoms which may include:
- sore joints
- digestive problems
- bad mood
- brain fog
If you experience any symptoms, remove the offending food from your diet, wait a few days for your immune system to calm down, and introduce another food. By the end of this process you should have a good sense of how your body is reacting to major food allergens. If you are reacting to a specific food(s), remove it from your diet completely and focus on healing your leaky gut with proper diet and supplements.
The ancient Ayurveda medicine from India dictates that majority of our food should be chewed for optimal health. In a perfect world, we would all be eating perfectly balanced, nutrient-dense meals that we chew, not drink, and there would be no need for concocting elaborate green drinks mixed in expensive blenders. I don’t know about you but my world is far from perfect and eating the recommended amount of vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, feels like a herculean effort.
So why drink green smoothies?
it makes the transition to a plant based diet easier and more enjoyable
eatingdrinking green leafy vegetables is the easiest, most natural way to reduce your biological age (do I have your attention now?!)
Besides the fact that you are getting raw greens into your diet that you normally wouldn’t, greens do fantastic things for your body. They are cleansing, promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, have anti-inflammatory properties and protect against certain cancers. Green veggies are an excellent source of minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium (which most people lack and then get it in the form of synthetic supplements). Got Kale?
Leafy greens contain large amounts of Vitamin K, which plays a super important role in bone health. While bone loss and osteoporosis are a major health concern for western women, countries like Japan with mostly vegetarian diets have a much lower incidence of fractures. For years, we have glorified dairy as a prescription for strong bones, but studies failed to find a link between dairy consumption and lower risk of fractures. The Nurses’ Health Study, a long term study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health following thousands of nurses, found that individuals who drank one glass of milk (or less) per week were at no greater risk of fractures than were those who drank two or more glasses per week, debunking the hypothesis that high dairy consumption protects against fractures. Confusing right? The little known Vitamin K (not found in dairy!) may very well be the missing link to nourishing our bones (along with magnesium, Vitamin D and weight bearing exercise, but that’s a whole other post)!
To me, a green smoothie is a whole food supplement. Instead of popping pills, make a batch of this alive food, brimming with nutrients, to ensure you are getting several servings of vegetables that otherwise may be hard to squeeze in your daily meals.
Are green smoothies for everyone? Almost! Although if you are prone to kidney stones or have thyroid problems, please consider this:
- Rotate your greens in your daily smoothies for variety and maximum calcium absorption. Some greens (spinach and chard top the list) are high in oxalates, compounds that bind to calcium in the body and decrease its absorption. Traditional guidance for people with kidney stones was to limit foods high in oxalates, however, the evidence that this prevents kidney stones is inconclusive. Read about it here. While some people might benefit from reducing high oxalate foods, more recent research indicates that an alkaline diet high in fruits and vegetables and drinking lemon water is a far more effective kidney stones prevention strategy.
- If you have thyroid problems, listen up. Cruciferous veggies such as kale, broccoli or cauliflower are goitrogenic, meaning they can interfere with thyroid function. Does it mean you should avoid them entirely? No! They are full of micronutrients and anti-cancer antioxidants. Instead of eating them raw, just steam, cook, or ferment them to reduce the goitrogenic properties.
Finally, here is my favorite green smoothie recipe.
My Flat Belly Green Smoothie will replenish your body with missing nutrients, leave you re-energized and ready to tackle the day with a new sense of self-care. If you are using this recipe as a meal replacement, consider adding a clean plant protein powder (like pea or pumpkin or a couple of tablespoons of hemp seeds) or simply follow with a couple of hard boiled eggs to give yourself a protein boost. Otherwise, you will be hungry by midmorning and reaching for snacks.
I make a big batch and store leftovers in glass mason jars in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, so I can have breakfast or snack ready to grab. Having prepared food that is ready to go is the secret to effortless clean eating.
Now go make a green smoothie and congratulate yourself for doing something amazing. You took care of YOU!
To your health!
- 1 banana
- 1 green apple
- ½ avocado
- 1 handful of spinach
- 1 handful of kale
- 1 handful of cilantro
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
- juice from ½ lime
- 2 cups water or coconut water
- 1 cup ice
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric (or small piece of fresh turmeric) – optional
- Blend in a powerful blender like the Vitamix. Add more water if the smoothie is too thick. Pour into mason jars, store leftovers in a refrigerators for up to two days.
1. Start thinking of food as medicine.
It is not a surprise that a healthy diet is the cornerstone of a strong immune system. It all starts with what we put in our bodies since food is our primary defense against illness. But how do you define healthy? To me, a healthy diet is mostly a plant-based lifestyle, rich in fruit and vegetables – especially dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. Lots of people eating the Standard American Diet are deficient in micronutrients, substances that your body needs in small amounts but are very important for good health (think zinc, selenium, magnesium, vitamin C and K etc). A well planned out plant-based diet will ensure you get all the nutrients you need, keep inflammation at bay and protect you not only from colds and flu but also from chronic diseases that plague our society.
Does plant based mean vegan? Absolutely not. Eggs, wild fish and pastured chicken (from clean sources) are great sources of protein. I recommend eating protein (plant or animal) with every meal to help you feel full and heal and repair your body. Just remember to eat meat as a side, the size of your palm, not as the main event.
2. Nurture your microbiome
We have trillions of healthy bacteria living in our digestive tract that perform countless functions in our body. From helping us digest our food, defending against pathogens to affecting our mood, they are incredibly important influencers of our health. This invisible ecosystem of bacteria living inside you is called a human microbiome and numbers anywhere from 30-100 trillion microorganisms (weighing about 3 pounds!). You could say we are more bacteria than human!
Since 60-70% of our immune system sits in our digestive system, feeding your microbiome is one of the most important things you could do to build great health. Unfortunately, bad diets, antibiotics, stress and environmental toxins can throw this delicate ecosystem out of balance, encouraging bad bacteria to grow and lowering our immunity. Probiotics are extremely helpful in replenishing us with healthy bacteria and bringing us back to equilibrium. Find a strong probiotic (at least 50 billion CFUs) with multiple strands and incorporate taking it into your daily routine. I like to buy a (refrigerated) powder and add it to my smoothies.
3. Supplement wisely
Certain supplements and herbs can be extremely beneficial to both preventing and treating colds and flu.
- Vitamin D, actually a hormone, is a wonderful miracle worker and sadly many of us are deficient. Since sunlight exposure in not enough in the winter, supplement daily and consume oily fish, grass-fed butter and eggs.
- Zinc is a mineral essential for the immune system to work properly. If you don’t get enough from your food (shellfish, pumpkin seeds, lentils) or have been getting sick a lot, take a supplement to boost your immunity.
- Essential fatty acids Fish oil is a superb anti-inflammatory and important for mood and brain development. Eat low mercury fish (sardines, salmon) twice a week or supplement with cod liver oil (ex. Nordic Naturals, Carlson).
- Elderberries have been used for many centuries as a natural antiviral remedy to treat cold and flu symptoms. Studies also show that they can shorten flu duration by up to three days, alleviating allergies and boost immunity. Gaia makes a great tasting syrup that goes well in your or your kid’s smoothie.
4. Get enough quality sleep
Like a healthy diet, sleep is one of those no-brainer health boosting strategies that most of us conveniently ignore. But there is no way around it. On average, human beings need 7 hours of sleep for our bodies to rejuvenate and function optimally. There is a strong link between lack of sleep and an impaired immune system, making you more likely to get sick during periods of sleep deprivation. So make it your personal challenge to hit the sack on time and then watch your focus, mood and immunity skyrocket.
5. Get a handle on stress and anxiety
It’s not easy to stay calm in our overscheduled and overconnected world. Stress releases cortisol, which in turn suppresses your immune system and makes us more susceptible to catching whatever is going around. Studies show that exercise can alleviate stress and anxiety. So can focusing on the present moment. My favorite way to handle the crazies in my head is finding 10 quiet minutes to focus on my breath. There are countless books and resources out there, but lately I’ve been using the Insight Timer app. It’s a tool that has hundreds of guided meditations from practitioners around the world that will lull you to calmness or sleep, whatever you desire.
Need a practical boost right now? My Super Immunity Elixir is a smoothie I drink in the mornings when I feel rundown and needs a little boost. This smoothie is full of superfoods: Vitamin C rich fruits like lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit, anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and turmeric, and detoxifying vegetables like kale. This stuff will make you feel revived and able to defend against any nasty bugs that come your way.
SUPER IMMUNITY ELIXIR
- 1.5 cup water or coconut water
- 1 orange, peeled
- 1 grapefruit, peeled
- ½ lemon
- ½ lime
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger
- 1 small piece fresh turmeric (or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric)
- Optional: frozen banana, kale, parsley
- Blend all ingredients in a powerful blender and drink immediately.
Sausage filled stuffing, buttery mashed potatoes, pecan pie, oh my! The holidays are a time for family, celebration and comfort food, but sadly for many also a source of anxiety about overeating and, consequently, weight gain. While attending family gatherings, work parties and social events is fun, those extra glasses of wine interfere with our appetite control and suddenly every high calorie food around us starts to look extremely appetizing. After all, we don’t want to be rude to our hosts… But when a one day celebration (Thanksgiving is not a four day feast!) turns into a month long libation, it’s time to set some rules that will keep you slim and healthy without feeling deprived.
Here are some things that you can do to counteract the dreaded holiday weight gain:
1. Change your mindset.
Healthy living is a lifelong adventure rather than an inconvenient diet. There is nothing sinful about having a big Thanksgiving meal. So put on your finest and tightest outfit (overeating will be seriously unappealing in a skin tight dress or pants), leave your anxieties at the door and enjoy food and drink for this one day. The point is not to overindulge and use the holidays as an excuse to have cheesecake every day in December. If you do overeat, make Friday a detox day, complete with a green juice, lots of veggies and lean protein. This mini detox will rebalance your palate and stabilize your sugar cravings. Being able to self-regulate is the secret to a lifetime of steady weight.
2. Eat (lightly) before parties.
Don’t “save” your calories! Keep your appetite in check and blood sugar steady by eating light meals and protein-rich snacks to avoid arriving at a party starving and devouring everything in sight. I find that eating a healthy breakfast is key to making good choices later in the day. A protein shake or a veggie egg scramble in the morning is all you need to keep you energized before the festivities.
3. Eat mindfully.
Many of us eat in a rush, absentminded, distracted by our thoughts or conversation. Choose only the foods you actually like to eat. Don’t load your plate with aunt Mary’s stuffing only out of politeness. Next time you sit down to a meal, smell your food, chew it slowly and savor the texture and flavor. Put down your fork in between bites to ensure your brain has enough time to receive a signal of satiety (this takes about 20 minutes). If you have a sweet tooth, it helps to have a 3 bite rule when it comes to desserts. You will get to taste your favorite treat without the risk of overeating and regret later.
4. Keep up you fitness routine.
Just because your in laws are visiting doesn’t mean you should skip your yoga class. Sure, the holidays are a busy time, so planning your exercise a week in advance is essential. When traveling, pack your runners, take advantage of hotel gyms or just head outside for a run. Thirty minutes of moderate jogging will burn off those two glasses of wine that you had last night. Plan ahead and make your commitment to exercise non-negotiable.
5. Consider intermittent fasting.
If the holidays left you with a few extra pounds and raging sugar cravings, rebalance with a gentle cleanse (think no wheat, dairy, sugar or alcohol for 5 days) coupled with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting doesn’t mean severe calorie restriction; it’s simply eating within a specific time window of the day. For example, you may choose to eat between 10am and 7pm, essentially fasting for 15 hours. Alternatively, you may decide to restrict your calories to 500 per day for a couple of days a week and eat normally the rest of the week. This mimics the eating patterns of our ancestors, who did not have access to 24 hour grocery stores. The great news is that intermittent fasting can help you lose weight, eliminate sugar cravings and normalize ghrelin, your hunger hormone. This may be the easiest path to wellness you’ve been looking for.
By Ania Dunlop, Health Coach at Food for Zen, for Bikram Yoga NYC
Despite the abundance of diet books, countless wellness websites and TV shows, many people are still confused about what to eat. Why is nutrition so difficult these days? Well, the answer to that lies in your local neighborhood supermarket. Take a look around and you will see food-like products that our ancestors would not recognize. These products have been made with unpronounceable chemicals, additives and fillers turning our food into a science experiment. We are focused on eating more or less carbs, fat or protein but rarely think about the nutrient content of each food.
The Devil is in the Labels
If we want to escape the processed food trap here is some advice from nutrition author Michael Pollan worth its weight in gold: “Eat (whole) food. Not too much, mostly plants.” After reading his book “In Defense of Food”, I figured out the recipe for eating without writing a whole book: Eat food that spoils quickly, doesn’t have an ingredient label and makes no health claims. What does that mean? Au natural. I firmly believe that when we eat clean foods, our bodies self-regulate and heal, while overeating, cravings and weight gain disappear.
Eating Clean, Whole Food
So what’s a clean, whole food? “Whole” food is a single ingredient food, such as apple, rice, or beans, while “clean” refers to food that has been grown naturally, on a plant, not made in a plant, without pesticides, antibiotics and other nasty stuff. So let’s get back to basics! Choose real food that your great-grandmother would actually recognize and cook like your life depends on it, because it does.
While a lost art for some people, cooking real food at home solves our nutritional dilemma. Yes, it’s less convenient than grabbing takeout on the way home, but good nutrition not only affects how we feel today but influences our health and the health of our children in the future. If we truly want to transform our health, the first place to start is with changing our eating habits, eliminating processed food and replacing it with clean whole foods.
Ok, so what exactly should we eat?
We are about to geek out on some nutrition fundamentals. If you get bored with too many rules here is all you need to know: the key to optimal health and weight is a plant based diet. That does not mean you have to become a vegan, it simply involves making earth friendly plants a big portion of your diet with staples such as veggies, berries, avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil and whole grains as the cornerstone of your meal plan. If you eat meat, making it a side dish rather than the main event, may help you extend your good health.
And if you are the type of person who can only follow one rule? Simply don’t eat anything with more than 5 ingredients on the label. Trust me, you will not be eating many processed foods if you stick to it.
Visit Ania’s website at foodforzen.com