Jill's Blog 2015

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December 10, 2015

Healthy Gift Ideas

Happy Holiday Shopping Season!

Why not give (and ask for!) holiday gifts that promote health and fitness all year long? Here are some suggestions.

Exercise Gear:

Gift Certificates:

Healthy cooking accessories:

Other items:

There are fun new healthy gifts being invented every day, so let us know what we missed!

Happy Holiday Season!

Jill & Amy

November 22, 2015

Carrageenan worries

Even though carrageenan is a seaweed-based natural food ingredient, there is mounting evidence that it can cause gastrointestinal inflammation. Carrageenan is found in many "healthy" and organic foods, because it is an effective stabilizer and thickener, and can serve as a vegan replacement for gelatin in some foods. You might find it in your almond milk, cottage cheese, chocolate milk, yogurt, or many other dairy products or dairy substitutes.

Even if you don't feel any gastrointestinal disturbances, you might want to avoid this ingredient anyway. I do. Inflammation of the gut may contribute to many health problems, ranging from poor nutrient absorption to leaky gut syndrome to autoimmune disorders to colon cancer.

I don't mean to sound alarmist. The FDA has approved carrageenan, and many people will never have a problem. However, it's easy to choose products that don't contain carrageenan, so why not? You can find a list of carrageenan-free foods here: http://www.cornucopia.org/shopping-guide-to-avoiding-organic-foods-with-carrageenan/

And thanks to Richard for suggesting this topic!

October 30, 2015

3 Healthier Halloween Ideas

Halloween forces the question: Is the occasional sugar indulgence a harmless tradition or a foolish assault on your health?

That may sound overly dramatic--and goodness knows many of us have survived our share of sugar binges--but the latest research on sugar is pretty damning. So here are some ways to minimize sugar's effects:

  1. If you're gonna have sugar

    • favor long-lasting hard candies over soft ones that are gone in seconds
    • favor dark chocolate
    • enjoy it earlier in the day, when your blood sugar may be less likely to spike
    • enjoy some veggies and protein beforehand, to blunt the spike in blood sugar
    • enjoy it at a time of day when you are physically active
    • decrease the amount of starch or alcohol you eat that day
    • eat extra-nutritious foods the rest of the day, to help offset the empty calories
    • get rid of leftovers once you've had your fill

OR, better yet,

  1. Replace candy with healthier edible treats, such as

    • toasted pumpkin seeds from carved pumpkins
    • pumpkin, fresh baked, with cinnamon
    • bobbing for apples
  2. Consider replacing trick-or-treat candy with

    • stickers
    • coins
    • glow bracelets
    • small toys

Or, just fill your day with the non-edible delights of Halloween, such as costumes, pumpkin carving, decorating, scary movies and such. No need to have sugar-induced health problems on your list of scary, spooky frights.

October 22, 2015

A great new willpower saver

Willpower experts tell us the best approach to willpower is NOT TO RELY ON IT! It's a fair-weather friend, and is known to be weak in times of stress, distraction, fatigue, bad mood, low blood sugar, and presence of calorie-dense foods. And, even when we succeed at resisting temptations, the mental effort is proven to drain our willpower batteries, decreasing discipline for other goals. So here's a new tool for willpower preservation:

The Kitchen Safe.

It's a plastic box, much like a Tupperware container, with a timed locking mechanism. You can set the timer to lock the box for any amount of time, and it will be completely un-openable until that time. It's great for when you must keep tempting treats in the house, but don't want to be tempted to nibble. It costs about $50.

I like using mine for foods that will otherwise call to me at night. By enjoying a sensible treat at 7pm, then locking away leftovers until the next morning, I don't get tempted to nibble all evening. Many people report that it frees the mind from being "owned" by junky treats in the house.

You can learn more or buy at www.TheKitchenSafe.com. I'm not getting paid for this plug--I just think it's a great product. Willpower is a terrible thing to waste.

October 3, 2015

10 Food Experiments to Try

If your current sensible diet doesn't have you feeling fabulous in mind and body, I suggest spending 1 week doing each of these simple experiments. If you feel good after 1 week, try stretching it to 2.

Dietary experiments to try if you don't already feel fantastic:

  1. Avoid nutra-sweet (aspartame) like the plague. Research is increasingly suggesting that this tasty chemical makes us pay a very high price when it comes to mood and brain function.

  2. Gluten-free. Many people report feeling better, even if they don't have celiac or measurable gluten intolerance. Try it for a week and see if you feel leaner, more clear-headed, less inflamed or less achey. Watch out for hidden gluten in things like soy sauce or salad dressing. You'll need to read labels.

  3. Dairy-free. Much of the world's population doesn't digest dairy properly. See if your digestion improves or if you feel less bloated or inflamed. Some people digest yogurt OK, even if other dairy doesn't work for them.

  4. Sugar-free. You'll probably feel worse before you feel better, but see how it feels to break free from the chains of blood sugar rollercoasters, and see if your taste buds sensitize so much that fresh fruit tastes just as sweet as processed sugar ever did.

  5. Alcohol-free. See if you sleep sounder and deeper...which makes everything in life better. (But if you have been drinking quite a bit, talk to your doctor before going cold turkey.)

  6. Vegetarian. Studies show that going vegetarian boosts mood within 2 weeks. Just make sure to load up on nutritious vegetarian proteins, like beans, lentils, and quinoa, rather than replacing meat with processed vegetarian foods.

  7. Beef-free. Beef ages you, and it takes twice as long to digest as fish or fowl. See if you feel younger and more energetic without.

  8. 100-year experiment. Try only eating foods that existed 100 years ago. That means a lot of processed foods, preservatives, artificial flavorings and man-made ingredients gotta go, but not all. Most of the unhealthiest junk was invented in the past 100 years, although they still had plenty of yummy treats that were more homemade and less factory-made. This basically means you can enjoy ice cream, cookies, etc. if they are made by hand with all natural ingredients.

  9. 1000-year experiment. This is eating as if you lived on a farm. It's similar to the 100-year experiment, except you lose just about all processed treats. You still keep the grains, dairy, wine and homemade bread....until you try the:

  10. Caveman experiment. This is the famous paleo diet, where you eat only foods that could have been hunted or gathered, like wild animals, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies and tubers. Say farewell to dairy, most common vegetable oils, and grains. Carbohydrates come from root vegetables and fresh fruits. While it is very effortful, it could be worth a 1-week experiment because so many people report feeling much better.

There are many other food experiments to try, such as eating low-histamine, low FODMAP, etc., but they get a little more complicated.

If one of the above simple experiments helps you feel better, and you decide to continue it, do your research to make sure you still get all your nutrients (i.e., don't cut out nutritious food groups without replacing the nutrients.) We're happy to help, if you like.

Finally, consult your doctor if you have medical concerns, or if you take medications that interact with diet. Once you've gotten clearance, happy experimenting!

October 3, 2015

Quick Salad Replacements (for when the cold makes salads unappealing)

Happy Autumn!

As temperatures plummet, salads get less appealing, and your appetite can increase. As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, colder weather meant time to get out the cream-of-mushroom-based "hot dish" recipes. Who remembers when "eating your vegetables" meant green bean casserole with fried onions on top? Tasty...but here are some healthier ideas for CONVENIENTLY having delicious veggies ALWAYS ready to go:

  1. Keep your crock pot going. Load a bunch of veggies into your crock pot every few mornings. A little salt and optional oil and herbs makes them practically melt into savory heaven within a few hours, and you can eat them for days. Almost any veggies work great: Cauliflower (which turns into "Mashed Faux-Tatoes"), zucchini (add tomatoes & onions for ratatouille), yellow squash, asparagus, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, garlic...experiment with anything. The crock pot is very forgiving on the timing, so just let it stew.

  2. Keep some spiralized veggie "pasta" in the fridge. Get a spiralizer and turn a few zucchini or yellow squash into angel hair pasta. It keeps very nicely in the fridge until you decide to heat it and eat it just like pasta (try it with pesto or turkey meat sauce or marinara), put it in soups, make asian noodle dishes, make a curly-noodle omelet, or add broth for a healthy take on raman noodles.

  3. Roast whenever you're in the kitchen. If you have 45 minutes, load a bunch of veggies, roughly chopped, onto a cookie sheet (with optional herbs, sprinkle of salt and quick spray of oil) and put them in the oven at 350 for 30-40 minutes. They'll get caramelized, savory, sweet and amazing. You can eat them as-is or save them to eat later, or add to omelets, put on top of zucchini-pasta, or whatever. If you use kale leaves (remove the stems), you'll get kale chips, which are awesomely similar to Pringles.

  4. Keep some vegetable stock ready to blend. Put some of your roasted veggies into a blender with veggie stock and voila: healthy pureed soup.

  5. Use your George Foreman grill. Use it to cook strips of zucchini, yellow squash, portobello mushroom, or other veggies. Start to finish, it'll take under 10 minutes. If you want them done faster, just cut the veggies thinner.

Nothing is very convenient the first few times you do it, but get in the habit of prepping these veggies every few days and your long winter will be a very healthy one. Plus, your home will smell amazing. If you have other ideas for convenient veggies, please send them my way.

September 10, 2015

Don't change your Life. Change your Routine.


If you set out to change your whole life--in terms of eating and exercise habits--the odds are stacked against you. A depressing 95% of people fail to reach and maintain their fitness goals because they can't sustain the monumental effort.

But much of life is just daily routines, and those are relatively EASY to change. A better breakfast can change your energy, hunger and cravings all day long. An extra weekly grocery stop can keep you eating cleaner for days. A walk around the block plus green tea can boost your metabolism, energy and mood for hours. A prepared snack can save you from eating junk (and the addiction that goes with it.) A new hobby at night can keep you from mindlessly munching.

And because it only takes 19 calories per day to equal 20 pounds of fat per decade, the small consistent habits are everything.

So forget about grand fitness initiatives until you have done the much more valuable exercise of thinking about what small sustainable changes you could make to your daily routine.

As you plan New Year's Resolutions, make this your mantra: Don't change your life. Change your routine.

April 15, 2015

How not to tax your health (tax season health opportunities!)


If you are like me, preparing taxes makes you want to rip out your hair, scream, then order take-out every night until the piles of paper are processed. Not so healthy.

But tax time also provides an opportunity to boost health for the coming year.

It's a great time to ask whether your spending habits might be tweaked for better health OR for enjoying your healthy habits more. For example:

Finally, don't forget the fantastic finding of happiness researchers at Harvard. They report that adding a daily 30-minute walk OR joining a fun hobby club can boost happiness as much as a $50,000 salary raise. That's gotta be worth a try, right?!

Hope your tax season went smoothly,

Jill & Amy