We’ve Moved!

Sadly I will no longer be posting content to this site, but would love for you to head on over to my website, Wholesome Balanced Wellness, to follow me and to view my most recent articles!

After taking a few months off of writing I am back at it with a vengeance. My most recent post discusses the reasons for my break and what I have learned while I was away. Lots of content on nutrition and health, particularly dealing with digestive issues in a natural way, coming soon!

I will forever be grateful for this site. It was my first and has been so special to me. Thank you so much for following me here and I truly wish for you to join me on my next adventure.

~In love and health~

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Natural Ways to Heal from a Winter Cold

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My homemade bone broth – recipe below!

It starts with a sniffle and a cough, then another cough. Soon enough everyone around you is coughing. And then you start to feel it too… This was me last week at work and may have been  you recently too. I felt great one day, a little tired the next, then BAM, it hit me. The dreaded winter cold.

It’s about that time of year that the cold and flu start to spread. People coming home after spending time traveling and visiting family over the holidays. For many, the holidays mean spending time in close quarters with a lot of people. Possibly in warm houses with the heat on too high (like, ahem, my grandmother’s house…). Cold weather keeping everyone indoors with the windows and doors shut tight. Yeah, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

I usually come down with one bad cold a year and last week was my time. I spent much of last weekend curled on my couch with my warm scarf wrapped around my neck, box of tissues and warm dog on either side. Me being the holistic-minded person that I am, I got through it the natural way with no medications or drugs commonly found in the cold aisle of your local pharmacy. How did I do it? With my small arsenal of natural healing remedies, which I will share with you today.

I do want to start with the caveat that everyone’s way of healing is different. If you feel like you need to go to the doctor then go to the doctor (especially if you have a fever over 102). I am by no means a medical professional; this is what worked for me and may help you as well.

Herbs

When you’re sick it’s important to drink a lot of fluids to flush out the toxins and help to thin the mucus that has built up. Hot herbal tea is the first thing that I turn to when feeling off and, in my opinion, is one of the best things to soothe a sore throat. Echinacea is an herb that stimulates immune activity and fortifies cells against invading microorganisms. Elderberry can be used for respiratory infections. Ginger is anti-inflammatory, helping with aches and pains as well as breaking up congestion. Peppermint helps to ease congestion and chamomile can help you sleep. Green tea has been shown to prevent sinus infections. Garlic is immune boosting and antimicrobial, so it can fight viral and bacterial infections. My main go-to is an echinacea tea by Traditional Medicinals, my favorite tea brand.

Essential Oils

This category is a natural extension of herbs, as some of my favorite oils are actually from herb plants. Eucalyptus, oregano, peppermint, and frankincense are my go-to’s. This past week I would ease congestion with a eucalyptus steam every morning with my shower. After letting the water heat up, I would put drops of eucalyptus oil around the edge of my tub and inhale the oil as it got picked up from the steam of my shower. Oregano is antibacterial, anti fungal, and an immune stimulant. Putting a few drops of peppermint in a bowl of hot water and then inhaling will clear you right up (be careful, this one can be intense at first…). Frankincense, the mother of all oils, is anti-inflammatory and stimulating to the immune system. All week my oil diffuser has been spreading peppermint, lemon, and frankincense into the air of my apartment. I have also been gargling daily with salt water mixed with a drop each of oregano, peppermint, and frankincense.

Bone Broth

Your grandmother wasn’t kidding when she told you chicken soup is healing. Bone broth, the base of chicken soup, is one of the simplest soup recipes to make and probably one of the best for you. Broth is extremely healing to the gut, which goes hand-in-hand with your immune system (as I mentioned in a previous post on gut health, about 80% of our immune system is housed in our gut). It has amino acids that have anti-inflammatory effects on the body and minerals in a form that your body can easily absorb.

Now, you can easily purchase bone broth at the store, but the homemade version is very simple and quite cost effective. A big pot of it can go a long way. Last weekend I made a chicken stock which I used to make chicken noodle soup. I used half of the stock for my soup, which lasted me about 4-5 meals. The other half is currently in my freezer to be used in my next soup recipe.

Here is a super simple chicken stock recipe that will help you use up scraps from your kitchen. If making this at home please make sure your chicken is organic.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 organic chicken carcasses. I freeze mine in a gallon ziplock bag after cooking them and removing the meat.
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (it helps draw the minerals out from the bone)
  • 2-3 cups vegetable scraps. I keep a gallon ziplock bag in my freezer where I store vegetable scraps from my cooking. It contains all sorts of stuff including onion peels, ends of Brussels sprouts and asparagus, kale stems, and the ends of carrots and zucchini.
  • Fresh or dried herbs (I love oregano and thyme for this)

Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Make sure there is at least an inch of space between the liquid and the top of the pot to avoid a possible mess if you boil over. Bring pot to a boil and then simmer, covered for about 8 hours. Then drain liquid into a bowl and let sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning skim off the top layer of fat and then you have your broth! Warm it in a mug to drink straight or use it to make a killer chicken soup. I also mix some into my dog’s hard food and he goes nuts. My chicken soup was based on this recipe.

Rest

Last but not least, rest. Give you body the time it needs to heal and fight the germs that have invaded your body. Last Friday I slept for 14 hours straight and when I woke up I felt much better (still horrible, but better!). If you’re sick you probably won’t want to do much anyways. Time for some Netflix marathon watching!

I hope that the dreaded winter cold doesn’t reach you this year but if it does, I hope these tools will help you along the way.

Sources:  Bone Broth – One of Your Most Healing Diet Staples

Improving School Lunch Programs

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As an educator of health and wellness, I get really excited when I read about organizations and programs that are making a difference in our world by reducing food waste, educating people on nutrition, working to improve school lunches and finding other innovative ways to improve our food systems and our health.

So when I read about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School program and Bay2Tray, I naturally wanted to learn more about what these programs are doing. I believe that learning about innovations in the health and wellness fields is important for everyone. Not only will it open our eyes to opportunities for our communities and families, but it may spark other ideas of ways to bring about positive change.

USDA’s Farm to School Program

This program helps child nutrition program operators incorporate local foods in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program. It is run by the Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS) and was formally established in 2010 with the passing of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Farm to School is defined by the USDA as “efforts to bring locally or regionally produced food into school cafeterias; hands-on learning activities such as school gardening, farm visits and culinary classes; and the integration of food-related education into the regular, standards-based classroom curriculum.”

In 2013-2014, school districts purchased nearly $800 million from local farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and food processors and manufacturers. At the national level, approximately 42% of school districts operated farm to school programs for the 2014-2015 school year and approximately 16% had plans to start in the future. There are also about 7,000 school gardens nationwide that grow produce for use in school cafeterias while also teaching students about where food comes from.

Eating locally sourced food is not only typically healthier, but it improves local economies, can save schools money and helps save the environment by decreasing the amount of fossil fuels used in transportation.

Bay2Tray

This program was created by Alan Lovewell of Real Good Fish, one of the first community-supported fisheries in Northern California. Bay2Tray has created a market for less-marketable bycatch fish in school lunch programs. Bycatch is a term used for fish caught in nets of fisherman who are aiming to catch other fish (i.e. the unwanted byproduct of normal commercial fishing). It constitutes approximately 40% of the world’s catch, a significant underutilized market that is normally just discarded.

Through Bay2Tray, this underutilized fresh fish is sold to school cafeterias. Schools who participate in the program now use fresh catch for fish tacos and salads instead of serving frozen fish sticks. This creates more revenue for the fishermen, provides schools with fresh, healthy food and supports sustainable regional food systems. It also teaches students of the importance of eating locally sourced food and that fish is an important part of a healthy diet. This is especially important in areas where unhealthy food is prevalent and financial constraints may make it hard for families to afford fresh seafood.

Bay2Tray currently works with the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District and is expanding to other schools in California. About 138 schools and early education programs in the Bay Area participate in this program.

These two programs are making a difference in a big way. Their creation has brought local food economies to the forefront in areas where it wasn’t really considered previously, namely schools. What children eat at school every day is so incredibly important and it has a direct impact on how they perform in the classroom. Students crashing from a sugar high from their lunch or hungry all morning because they didn’t eat breakfast will not be able to concentrate on what they are learning.

It makes me happy when I read about organizations and programs that are making the world a healthier and better place. This day and age we often only hear about obesity rates and how the overall health of our country is declining, not enough of the good stories. The companies and programs who are fighting to beat this trend. I will keep my eye out and let you know of other ones that peak my interest.

Related Post: 5 Issues with American Food Culture and What We Can Do About It

Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Liz West on flickr

Green Bean Salad

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Most of us know the importance of eating our vegetables, specifically our leafy green vegetables, which are lauded for their health benefits.  Green string beans are no exception.  High in vitamins A and C, immune-boosting antioxidants, and high in fiber and magnesium, both needed for healthy digestion, green beans hold their own in the company of vegetable powerhouses such as spinach, kale and broccoli.

An added benefit is that they are really reasonably priced.  In the summertime months in the mid-Atlantic where I live, green beans are everywhere.  I bought a pound of them at the grocery last week for less than 2 dollars.  I used this pound of beans to make the salad below, which will last me about 4 meals this week.  I eat A LOT of vegetables at my meals (they fill about half my plate), so this is saying something.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends that fruit and vegetables make up half of our plates during meals, with vegetables making up about 30-35%.  It is recommended that adult men and women eat between 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables per day (exact recommendations vary depending on age, sex and activity level).

The recipe below is a great side dish for any meal and is perfect to bring to your next picnic or potluck.  It super easy to whip up and doesn’t contain many ingredients (another money saver).

Makes approximately 4-5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb green beans, rinsed with ends snapped off
  • 2 scallions, chopped with ends discarded
  • 20 grape tomatoes, rinsed and halved
  • 15 kalamata olives, halved
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Steam green beans.  I use a basket steamer that fits inside a pot on the stove. Place the beans in the steamer basket, cover the pot and turn the burner to high. One pound of green beans takes approximately 10 minutes to cook.  They are done when you can stick a fork through them.
  2. While beans are cooking, combine scallions, tomatoes and olives in a bowl.
  3. When beans are done, pull the steamer basket out of the pot and empty it in the bowl containing the scallions, tomatoes and olives.  I use a fork and an oven mitt to do this.  Beware of the hot steam when you take the lid off the pot as it can be very hot and burn you.  I recommend turning the burner off, removing the lid of the pot and letting it sit for a few minutes to cool before removing the steamer basket.
  4. Toss entire mixture with coconut oil, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To make the greens beans more bite-sized, I use a fork and sharp knife to cut up the mixture in the bowl.
  6. Serve immediately as a side with your favorite protein and whole grain.

Fat Facts

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If you had the choice between a full fat product or the fat-free version, which would you choose?  Whole milk or skim?  Fat-free yogurt or 2%?  Low-fat cheese?  Be honest!  This is a judgment free zone.

If you are a fat-free or low-fat fan, I’m not surprised.  We have been told for years that fat is bad and eating large amounts of fat can cause heart disease.  But now the tide is changing and fat (good fat at least) is back in favor.  And guess what?  Studies have shown that eating fat actually doesn’t make you fat.  Well, how about that.

So how did fat become so vilified?  I’m a fan of history, so let’s to take a trip back in time to the 1950s and 60s.  During this time scientist Ancel Keys was conducting research to find the root cause of heart disease, a condition that was a big concern in the U.S. at the time (and still is, obviously).  From his findings, he concluded that saturated fat was to blame.  Though many scientists at the time called out flaws in his research (he only selected countries that would prove his hypothesis, only reported a small portion of the participants he studied and inaccurately interpreted correlation as causation), his theory took off and played a significant part in the rise of the low-fat/fat-free movement.

When Keys’ theory took off the food industry reacted by removing fat from its products.  But it’s important to note that when fat is removed from food it doesn’t taste too great, so the fat was replaced with sugar.  And what’s sad is that we didn’t get any healthier as a result of these changes.  In fact, they backfired.  Since the 60s heart disease levels have only increased and today we are experiencing an obesity epidemic of staggering proportions.

Recent studies have shown that good fats are not only beneficial, but necessary for optimal health.  Fat is filling, satiating, not addictive (unlike fructose in sugary products), and helps fuel our metabolism.  It is necessary for brain health (more on that later), helps fight depression and contributes to healthy skin, hair and nails.  It also is necessary for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K (i.e. if no fat is present when these are consumed, the body cannot absorb them).  

So what is fat?  Fat is a basic building block of the body and has a direct impact on its function.  The body uses fat to build cell walls.  Considering there are 100 trillion cells in our body, I’d say that the health of said cell walls is quite important.  Healthy cell walls made from good quality fats are flexible and responsive. Those made from a diet of processed foods high in poor quality oils such as corn, soy or safflower are stiff and rigid. Stiff and rigid cell walls slow cellular function and make our cells more vulnerable to inflammation.  Chronic inflammation can lead to disease.

If you take anything away from this article, it is the type of fat that matters. Not all fat is created equal. Good quality fats are key to our health, all the way down to our cells.  So what are good fats and what are bad fats?  Let’s break it down:

GOOD FATS

  • Saturated Fat – I know what your thinking…  Really, saturated fat is good?  Research has shown no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease.  It helps us absorb those fat-soluble vitamins and calcium, improves immune function and is necessary for healthy cell walls.  Good sources of saturated fat include butter, coconut oil and animal fats.
  • Monounsaturated Fat – Monounsaturated fat has been shown to decrease breast cancer, reduce bad cholesterol, lower risk for heart disease and stroke, and aid in weight loss. A great source of monounsaturated fat is olive oil.  
  • Polyunsaturated Fat – Two types of polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6.  These are two of the most important fats for the body, though it is important that we eat a good balance of the two.  When our proportions of these fats are out-of-balance we are more vulnerable to inflammation and disease.  Right now, the general population eats waaaaay too many omega-6 fats, which are common in processed food, and are deficient in omega-3 fats.  Omega-3 fats help to decrease inflammation, decrease triglycerides (bad fats in the body) and boost good cholesterol.  Sources of omega-3 fats include cold water fish (salmon), omega-3 rich eggs, organic canola oil, walnuts, Brazil nuts and sea vegetables.  If you don’t have many of these things in your diet supplementation is also an option.

BAD FATS

  • Trans Fat – Trans Fat is created when polyunsaturated fats are damaged due to heat.  It is common in processed and packaged foods as it helps to extend shelf life and also fried food.  Beware of trans fats!  They are no good.  They are now specifically called out on food labels if they are present, so read your labels and learn what’s in the food you are eating.
  • Inflammatory Vegetable Oils – As mentioned above, these include oils made from corn, soy and safflower.  Also common in processed foods as they are cheap and abundant.

With the rise of Alzheimer’s and dementia, brain health is a hot topic these days.  Our brains are actually 60% fat, most of which is an omega-3 fat called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  DHA is needed to spark communication between cells.  Having a diet containing good quality fats boosts cognition, happiness, learning and memory.  Omega-3 deficiencies have been linked to depression, anxiety, dipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Below are some of my favorite sources of healthy fats:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts:  almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts
  • Seeds:  pumpkin, sesame, chia and hemp
  • Fish:  wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fats as well as sardines, mackerel and herring
  • Extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil are my go-tos in the kitchen (coconut oil has a high smoke point so is great for sauteeing)
  • Grass-fed, organic and sustainably raised animal products (eggs, beef, chicken and pork)

As always, a balanced diet is necessary for optimal health.  This includes a healthy amount of protein and carbohydrates as well as fat with each meal and snack we consume.  If you want to learn more about protein, check out my previous post on the topic here.

Sources:

Photo credit:  Image courtesy of lchunt on flickr

ABC’s of Protein

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There is a lot of confusion around protein these days.  How much is too much?  Should I avoid red meat?  Will eating too much protein cause me to gain weight?  What if I don’t eat meat or animal products?  I admit that, until recently, I was a protein skeptic.  I thought that, as a woman, eating a lot of protein would make me big and bulky like a guy.  Upping my protein has not only helped me feel better, but has helped me to achieve fitness goals and has most definitely not made me big or “unwomanly”.  As a result, I’m dedicating this week’s post to all things protein and discussing why it is so freaking important and how much of it we should be eating every day.

Protein is a macronutrient made up of amino acids, which are one of the building blocks of the human body.  Our body is able to produce some amino acids but others, known as essential amino acids, we can only get from our food.  Protein plays a crucial role is just about every function of the human body.  It helps to grow and maintain cells, provides us with energy, helps build and maintain muscle, improves the immune system and carries oxygen throughout the body.  Basically, protein is essential to our existence.  If that wasn’t enough to convince you, protein has also been found to aid with managing cravings and weight, increase satiety (i.e. feeling full) and help curb appetite.

Not all protein is created equal.  The quality of your protein matters.  When it comes to protein from animal sources, the health of the animal has a direct impact on our health.  If you can afford it, opt for organic, grass-fed and free range meet, pasture-raised eggs and organic dairy.  Meat that is not organic has added hormones and antibiotics that are not healthy for us.  Same goes for farm-raised fish, which live in conditions similar to those of a factory farm.  Opt for fresh, wild fish and beware of mercury levels.  Fish found with the highest mercury levels include swordfish, tuna and halibut, while the lowest levels are found in shrimp, salmon and sardines.

One commonly-held misconception is that you have to eat animal meat to get enough protein in your diet.  There are some great non-animal sources of protein, which I will discuss in more detail a little later on.  Some famous athletes who are vegan or vegetarian include Venus Williams and Mike Tyson.  It just takes a little bit more planning to make sure you are getting adequate levels of protein, that’s all.

Speaking of adequate levels…  How much protein you should eat depends on your sex, age, activity level and weight.  The standard recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound.  So, a 150 pound woman should eat about 54 grams of protein every day.  That doesn’t factor in activity level.  Strength athletes are encouraged to eat 0.64-0.82 grams per pound and endurance athletes 0.54-0.64 grams per pound.  Using this information, calculate what amount you should be aiming for every day.

It is recommended that protein consumption be spread out throughout the day.  This will help you to sustain your energy and avoid the pitfalls of low blood sugar that can make us dizzy and sleepy.  Not to mention help curb cravings for sugar in the mid-afternoon!  Breakfast and snacks are two times when people commonly don’t eat enough protein.  Eating breakfast of a bagel and banana on the run isn’t going to give you enough protein to get your body going and sustain you until lunch.  Try adding a hard-boiled egg or spread your bagel with natural almond butter.

Below I’ve provided a chart of various types of proteins from animal and non-animal sources, as well as my thoughts on each category:

protein

For a 150 pound meat-eating female who likes to get her workout on at the gym most days, below is an example of a day’s worth of protein intake.  Keeping the daily recommendations above in mind, she should eat around 100 grams of protein a day (150 x 0.64 = 96).  If she likes to lift and push herself pretty hard at the gym, she should bump up her protein even more.  The grams measurements used are approximations.

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As always, find what works best for you considering your lifestyle and eating preferences.  Listen to your body, it knows exactly what it needs.

~Peace, love and protein~

Sources:

Photo credit:  http://www.themassagechairreviews.com/

 

Why Gut Health Matters

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I’ve been reading some really interesting things lately about the gut and microbiome, many of which have discussed that the health of our gut directly impacts our physical, mental and emotional health.  This new information, coupled with what I have learned from my own health journey, has really opened my eyes to a new way to pursing health.

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician known as the father of modern medicine, once said that “all disease begins in the gut.”  It’s taken us a while, but I think we are finally realizing that this ancient medicinal wisdom is actually true.  Studies have shown that poor gut health has been linked to autoimmune conditions, mental health disorders, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity, among other things. 

So what exactly is the microbiome?  It is made up up approximately 100 trillion living microbes (bacteria, fungi and viruses) which mainly live in our gut (i.e. large intestine).  These 100 trillion living microbes have about 3.3 million genes.  For comparison purposes, we have about 10 trillion human cells in our bodies and the human genome contains 23,000 genes.  In other words, the microbiome is HUGE.  It is made up of many diverse bacterial species, this diversity specifically being touted as very important to our health.  The bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with their human hosts; we could not exist without them and they without us.

About 75-80% of our immune system is in our gut.  So, what we eat has a direct impact on how we feel and the overall health of our gut.  As I mentioned before, the diversity and balance of the bacteria within our microbiome is necessary for our health.  If we eat foods that are damaging to the bacteria in our gut, such as sugar and processed food, this bacteria can become imbalanced.

Eventually, our microbiome becomes weak, not able to properly absorb the nutrients in the food we are eating.  It can become compromised and the intestinal lining (which is one cell thick) damaged, allowing undigested food proteins and bacteria to pass into the blood stream.  When this happens (a condition commonly known as “leaky gut syndrome”), the immune system reacts to protect the body and inflammation is produced.  Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to disease.

I read a fascinating article recently arguing that gut inflammation is actually the root of depression.  What’s the reasoning behind this revolutionary idea?  Well, the author discussed that the vast majority of the “happy” neurotransmitter serotonin is actually made and stored in the gut, impacting the brain via the vagus nerve.  There are also more serotonin receptors in the gut than in the brain.  The microbiome is also in direct communication with the enteric nervous system (ENS, known as your “second brain”), the autonomic nervous system (“fight or flight” and “rest and digest” branches of the nervous system) and the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).  This also helps to explain why anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with digestive issues.

What you eat truly does impact how you feel.  I never fully understood this until I gave up processed food and starting cooking my meals from real food on a daily basis.  I am happier when I eat real food.  I am more positive and upbeat, my fatigue, which plagued me for years, subsides.  I am able to think more clearly and am more confident that I can achieve my dreams.  I even don’t get sick as much.

I have been taking the “gut first” approach recently with regards to my thyroid health.  As I mentioned in a previous post on hypothyroidism, 20% of our thyroid hormone is converted in the gut.  So even if your thyroid is working correctly, if your gut is compromised, chances are your thyroid will feel the effects.  So right now I am focusing on gut healthy foods such as fermented foods, avoiding foods that compromise the gut such as sugar, processed food, dairy and gluten, and am taking probiotics and digestive enzymes. 

And I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, healing my gut could be the solution that I am looking for.

~Peace, love and gut health~

Sources:

Photo credit:  CC image courtesy of Take Back Your Health Conference on flickr

The New Nutrition Facts Label

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For two decades it went unchanged.  It was outdated, hard for some to understand.  It wasn’t clear on some artificial things that food companies have been adding to our food lately.  And now, despite the millions of dollars of lobbying major food companies and their associations have poured into the political system, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally released a new nutrition facts label.

Hallefreakinglujah.  We desperately need a change.  Something to shake up the system that has resulted in approximately one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of obese adult Americans (according to the CDC).  That doesn’t even include the 17% of obese children.  Obesity, which has been linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Bravo that the government was able to overcome the special interests hired by powerful and rich food companies that fought to keep the new “added sugars” line off of the label.  Bravo that they were able to do what was right for everyday Americans and the future health and financial wellbeing of our country.  And bravo to first lady Michelle Obama, who unveiled the new label and was a pivotal figure in the entire process.

We all want to be healthy.  Who doesn’t?  Now we have a label that will help us to make better decisions about the food we purchase for ourselves and our families. 

So what’s different?  Here are the highlights:

  • Larger font size for calories, servings per container and the serving size declaration.
  • Bolding the number of calories and the serving size to highlight the information.
  • Manufacturers must declare the actual amount, in addition to the percent daily value, of vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium.
  • Added sugars, in grams as well as percent of daily value, will now be included in the label underneath the normal sugars measurement (sugars will be the total amount while added sugars will be indented to show that it is part of the total sugars measurement).
  • While continuing to require total fat, saturated fat and trans fat on the label, calories from fat will be removed as research has shown that the type of fat is more important than the amount.
  • Serving size measurements will also be updated.  Law requires that serving sizes be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually consuming, not what they should be eating.
  • As package size typically affects how much people eat, for packages that are between one and two servings, the calories and other nutrients will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically will consume the entire thing in one sitting.
  • For certain products that are larger than one serving but that could be consumed in one sitting or multiple sittings, manufacturers will have to provide “dual column” labels to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients on both a “per serving” and “per package/per unit” basis.

Manufacturers must comply with these new label requirements by July 26, 2018.

I gotta say, this is pretty awesome.  Especially the new added sugars line.  That is a BIG DEAL.  Added sugar is everywhere, from canned beans to oatmeal to the tomato sauce you put on your pasta. 

And how much sugar should we be eating? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that, for optimum health, we should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.  How does that translate to what we see on a food label?  Well, four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon.  So if we do the math right, 6 teaspoons a day equals 24 grams of sugar.

The average American consumes more than 100 pounds of sugar and sweeteners per year.  Case in point, today my grandmother, bless her, showed me the Welch’s grape juice she loves to drink every morning.  The label said “100% grape juice” with “no sugar added” and “2 servings of fruit”.  Okay looks alright from the front, but what did the label say?  Well, one serving (which is 8 ounces) contains 36 grams of sugar.  One glass is more than the entire recommended daily intake of sugar for optimum health.  Doesn’t matter whether it is “natural” sugar or added sweetener, our body processes it the same way.

Lordy.  It just goes to show that no matter what the claims on the front, the label tells the entire story.  I saw a great quote recently from nutritionist Ashley Koff, RD, which said about food packaging, “the front is everything they want you to hear; the back is the truth”.  Read your labels folks.  It is one of the keys to purchasing healthier, more wholesome food.  Want a refresher?  Check out my post on Food Label Reading 101 for some tips on what to look for.

Thankfully, with the announcement of this new and improved label, we are one step closer to conquering this unhealthy epidemic that has taken our nation by storm.

~Peace, love and healthy eating~

Source:  FDA

A Peek Inside My Fridge

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This week we are going on a little field trip… to my refrigerator.  I know, it sounds so exciting.  But I thought it would be helpful to share my tips and tricks for how I stay healthy and reduce food waste as well as discuss the staples that I keep stocked for healthy meals and snacks all week.

I preface this with a caveat that I live alone and most of my meals are prepared for just me, or for two when my boyfriend and I share a meal together.  If you are cooking for a family, simply up the volume.  My supermarket (Wegmans…the best!) has “family pack” size packages of produce, meats and other items.  Costco Wholesale is a great option as well.  I currently have a freezer full of organic meat and fish from Costco that will last me a good month or two to get through.

One last thing I won’t discuss here is organic vs. nonorganic, which I’ve discussed in a previous post (see here!).  I try to keep organic in mind when I shop but price is a big thing for me too.  In my opinion, organic shouldn’t be a deal breaker between eating produce and not eating produce.  It’s better to eat conventional than none at all.  With meat and dairy, I aim to eat organic 100% of the time when it’s doable in my budget.

My Main Supermarket Rules

Before we get into the food bit, there are a few things I try to keep in mind when doing my grocery shopping.

I try to buy only what I need for the upcoming week so that nothing goes bad or is wasted.  I hate when things are thrown out because they can’t be used and go bad, as I’ve discussed before on this blog.  As a result, I keep very few condiments in my fridge and normally only enough produce for a week, if that.  If I do buy something specifically for a recipe, I make a point to continue to use it regularly until it’s gone.  Usually I have to make a mid-week trek to the store for a few one-off things, but I’ve gotten pretty good at determining the right volume of food I need to get me through a week.  It has come with plenty of practice.

I keep a list to help me track what I need.  A pad of paper hangs on my fridge and when I run out of something, I put it on the list.  I try not to buy something again until I’ve completely finished an item, that way I avoid having multiples of stuff in my fridge taking up space.  This also decreases waste and saves money.  Before I go to the store I review my list and do a quick inventory of my fridge and cupboard to determine if there is anything else I may need to get that I haven’t previously written down.

I don’t go to the grocery store hungry.  That is bad news and always leads to me buying more than I originally planned and usually giving into some unhealthy temptation.

Fridge Must-Haves

Veggies galore.  My whole bottom shelf is normally packed with broccoli, green beans, spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, zucchini, squash, and peppers.  My counter is home to a big bowl filled with sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squash.  My inventory normally depends on the season (I don’t buy winter squash in the summer) as well as price (asparagus is pretty expensive come fall and winter).

My fruit staples are apples, bananas and avocados.  I normally only eat fresh berries during the spring and summer months when they are cheaper.  During the fall and winter I opt for frozen berries in smoothies.  As with my veggies, what I buy normally depends on season.  In the winter I love grapefruit.  In the summer I love raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries and peaches.  I normally either have an apple or a banana as part of my afternoon snack at work.

For meat, I tend to always have chicken thighs (they taste so much better than chicken breasts), ground beef and fish (salmon and normally another white fish).  These days I’m really liking pork chops as well (they are a great chicken alternative!).  I try to eat fresh, wild salmon at least twice a week to make sure I get enough omega-3 fatty acids.  I also aim to have lean animal protein with my lunch and dinner.  When paired with my veggies and a whole grain, it is filling and helps me get rid of any desires for excessive snacking or after dinner sweets.  When you’re full your body doesn’t want any of that stuff!

Eggs are one of nature’s most complete foods.  They are a fantastic and inexpensive source of protein and have healthy fats too, which are needed for the body to effectively absorb and use said protein.  I hard boil at least half a dozen eggs on Sunday for my week.  I eat one after I get back from my evening gym workouts to provide the fuel my body needs to repair and recover.  I also may take one to work to eat with my apple or banana in the afternoon.  Here is a fantastic NY Times article on all the different ways to cook eggs.

I have to admit that I absolutely love 100% whole wheat english muffins.  I was recently reintroduced to them by my boyfriend and I have often wondered why I stopped eating them in the first place.  Maybe those nooks and crannies remind me of my childhood?  I eat my breakfast at work each morning so grab one to make toast with a dollop of almond butter.  Whole grains, healthy fats and protein all in one quick, easy meal.

My drinks of choice are water, tea and coconut water and unsweetened coconut milk.  I use coconut water as the liquid base for my smoothies and coconut milk in my overnight oatmeal and as a substitute for regular milk in other things.  I absolutely avoid soda and any juices, which are often just as bad as soda when it comes to sugar content.

I also have a slight obsession with kalamata olives, so you will always see a jar of those on my middle shelf.  I love them plain, tossed in a salad or thrown on top of roasted veggies.  I don’t eat much salty stuff so olives fulfill that craving for me.

Every week I also buy a jar of kombucha, which is a beverage naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast.  I don’t have many fermented foods in my diet, so drink this to help with digestion and maintain a healthy gut.  Sounds gross, but it is really good for you!  Someday I will try making my own…

There you have it!  My fridge is a pretty sparse place by the end of the week, which means that I have accomplished my goal of eating everything that I bought.  Sometimes that means I end up throwing together the last of everything into a mix-mash bowl for dinner, though I have to admit that these meals tend to be the most delicious.  🙂

Peace, love and healthy shopping,

The Yogi~Foodie

Food Energetics

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane to high school biology class (or was it middle school?), where we learned that cells are the fundamental unit of life and the foundation for all organisms that inhabit Earth.  The growth and development of these cells, achieved through the cell cycle, is essential for our survival (remember seeing that video of one cell dividing and becoming two?).  Without getting too “science-y”, we humans, and all of the other living creatures (other animals, as well as plants and various organisms), are made up of millions upon millions of cells.  

Cells make us who we are.  They determine our hair color, eye color, height and our general body shape.  They also help to determine our basic personality traits and how we act and feel on a daily basis.  The cells within our bodies are constantly interacting with each other, communicating on a molecular level.  At the same time, they also communicate with the outside world.  One of the main ways our cells interact and are impacted by the outside world is through what we eat.  They transport the nutrients we get from our food to the various parts of our body that need them to function.

Hence the old adage, “You are what you eat.”

Food energetics is the concept that all foods have a specific molecular personality and character, which influence the cells in our body in a specific way when they are absorbed and transported throughout our body during digestion.  In essence, we take on the energetic nature of a particular food when we eat it.  This may seem a little “woo-woo” for you, but it makes sense to me if you remember the science that I described above.  

Why wouldn’t our food impact our bodies on a molecular level?  I personally think it does.  This thought is the foundation of my belief of the power of using food as medicine.  There are properties within certain foods that make us sick and cause disease (such as artificial sugar, trans fat, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, etc.), and there are certain foods and herbs that can help to heal us (such as those containing disease-fighting antioxidants).  Ever wonder why your mom’s chicken soup always helped to make you feel better when you had the flu or a bad cold?  At its core, food energetics is using foods to prevent and treat disease.  

The theory of food energetics includes the concept of eating foods to impose different effects on the body based on the four basic temperaments of food – hot, cold, cool and warm.  In the summertime or when we visit a hot climate, we are drawn to foods that cool our bodies such as fruit, smoothies and raw veggies.  In the winter we are drawn to warming foods that help to heat us up and sustain us through the rough weather such as soups, stews, porridge and whiskey (I had to throw that one in there 😉 ).

Food energetics states that cooking foods in a specific way can also influence our cells. When we cook food, the molecular structure of the food is permanently changed.  Some harmful cells may die off (such as salmonella or other harmful bacteria in uncooked chicken) and some cells may be broken down so our bodies can more easily assimilate them (as is the case with grain being transformed into bread).  For example, a vegetable fried in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (i.e. french fries at many fast food chains) has a dramatically different impact on our bodies than a potato roasted in olive oil in your oven.

The chart below outlines various energetic qualities foods that are assimilated into our bodies when we eat a particular food.

Food energetics chart

Do any of these seem to make logical sense to you?  For me personally, sugar definitely makes me tense.  Consuming large quantities of it causes me to become negative, short-tempered and anxious.  I also feel much more positive and healthy when I focus on eating natural foods and balance food temperaments (i.e., when I’m cold I eat something that is warming and vice versa).  It also explains why I love raw salads in the summer and my favorite beef chili in the winter.

Perhaps the concept of food energetics is a bit too out there for you.  That’s okay.  It took me a while to get where I am.  But even just understanding how and why certain foods impact you the way they do is an important step towards finding the right foods for you.  Which leads to Harmony, Happiness and Health.

Peace, Love and Energy,

The Yogi~Foodie