8 ways to make veggies feel like treats
If you are getting tired of conventional veggie form factors, here are our favorite ways to make them feel like special treats:
You can eat them raw or cooked, and they have a different taste and texture depending on how long you heat them. Mix them heated with marinara, parmesan, turkey meatballs, or your own creation. Or try them in a cold pasta salad, mixed with your favorite confettied veggies, olive oil, queso fresco crumbles, black beans, or whatever you like on noodles. Toasted sesame seeds and a little sesame oil works on either hot or cold noodles. Yellow squash work great, too.
Just fill with spinach, onion, garlic, pesto, cheese or whatever you like.
Just slice them thin, grill each side with a spriz of oil and voila.
Slice purple or green cabbage into 1/2" disks, spray with a little oil, then top with herbs, garlic, spices or whatever you like.
You can either put cauliflower in your food processor and chop it to bits before cooking, or just buy it ready-to-go at Trader Joe's. As an extra perk, it cooks very quickly.
Here is a recipe from Cacique that I've been meaning to try: http://www.caciqueinc.com/blog/2016/01/cauliflower-crust-pizza/#.VtdLaZWCOrU.
Boil cauliflower and blend it 'til it looks like your favorite Thanksgiving treat. Optionally, add some salt, garlic, spices, bit of cheese, cream, or other delights, if that will make it a true treat.
Roast or grill thin slices of zucchini, with salt and pepper sprinkled on, and perhaps a spritz of oil. Sliced portobello mushroom strips also work well.
Thanks to our clients, who taught us these tricks. We know you have more great ideas...will you share them with us?
How to think about food like a Success Story
If you struggle with making good food decisions, here's a little insight into the thought processes of people who become Success Stories:
They don't use will power much. In fact, they don't think about food very much, especially when it gets close to mealtime.
On-the-fly food decisions are the enemy.
People who have successfully changed their eating habits use routines, habits, environmental engineering and personal policies to cut down on the number of food decisions they make each day. This is smart because research proves that will power wanes when you get hungry, distracted, stressed or tired.
So here's how (and when) they think about food:
With plans and policies like these, there is no need for major decision-making, which only invites will power battles.
So take a little time this week to start thinking about next week's meals like a person who is a Success Story. See if you eat healthier AND ditch the mental burden of on-the-fly food decisions.
Taste more sugar while using less
Read this before your next ice cream cone: The temperature of your sweet food affects the strength of the taste.
Sweet flavors taste sweeter when eaten hot, and taste less sweet when cold.
A classic example is that when people make homemade jam, the warm cooked fruit needs to taste super overly-sweet, so that when it cools off it will taste just right. The sugar content is the same; it just tastes much sweeter when warm.
How can you use this to eat healthier? You probably already guessed it: If you must have sweets, favor warmer ones. Ice cream needs extra sugar to taste as sweet as hot cocoa. An iced tea needs more sugar to taste as sweet as a hot tea. Cold pie tastes less sweet than warm pie. ...one more reason to swear off Frappucinos.
Use this to cut your sugar consumption this summer without even sacrificing any flavor!
P.s. Interestingly, bitter flavor is the opposite. It's stronger when cold.
Chewing boosts cognitive function
Just chewing more can improve your life in several different interesting ways.
You probably already know that chewing promotes good digestion, better nutrient absorption, and helps you eat more slowly so that you don't overeat. But research also suggests that chewing more can improve cognitive function. Chewing food or gum has been shown to...
All that from chewing more?!
Yes, it appears that chewing promotes better circulation to the brain, so maybe it's no surprise that executive function improves.
You can read the details in the study links below. In the meantime, happy chewing!
If you love crackers, but not inflammation, here are some options made with sprouted seeds instead of baked flour:
Flackers, made from sprouted flax seeds, apple cider vinegar, herbs and salt. 5 different flavors.
Go Raw, made from sprouted sunflower and other seeds, with various savory herbs and spices. Our favorite flavor is pizza.
Jilz Crackers*, made from sprouted sesame seeds and herbs. 3 different flavors, some with amazing herb combos.
Livin’ Spoonful, made from a variety of sprouted seeds, lemon juice, dates (adding 2g sugar) and herbs. Our favorite flavor is pesto pumpkin seed.
There are many more brands, but these are among the easiest to find. They aren’t cheap, but they are much healthier than conventional crackers, and you can always make your own in a food dehydrator if you like, as online recipes abound.
Signs you should slow down your weight loss
We know...there’s lots of pressure to have a beach body ASAP. But here are some signs that you may be pushing your body or brain too hard to lose weight--and are at risk for sabotaging your long-term results or health.
Your mood, memory, creativity, sense of humor and general brain function are very sensitive to your blood sugar, which is the brain's main fuel. It can suffer when that fuel gets too low. Getting dizzy is dangerous--especially while driving!--so have a small carbohydrate snack, like a few crackers, if that ever starts to happen.
Injuries, constant soreness or lethargy might mean you are undernourished or undereating. Burning fat (which requires lower blood sugar) while remaining energetic (which can be tough with lower blood sugar) is admittedly tricky, so come talk to us if you are struggling.
Losing too much muscle is bad for health and long-term results because muscle boosts metabolism, strength, immunity, and blood sugar control. Muscle is always good weight. Slower weight loss helps preserve it.
Here's why: Burning fat inevitably involves lowering blood sugar, but if your blood sugar goes too low for too long, your will power suffers. Research suggests you may "blow it" and eat back more calories than you suffered to burn in the first place.
If any of these sounds like you, don't worry. Just slow down a bit. Even losing 1/4 pound of fat per week is a whole stick of butter off your body!
Broccoli sprouts for air pollution
With recent news of Hawaiian volcano smog and spring air quality alerts, I'm reminded that nature has generously provided us with a partial antidote to harm from air pollution: Broccoli sprouts!
Studies involving diesel emissions and highly polluted parts of China suggest that consuming broccoli sprouts may help to prevent long-term health damage from air pollution. To quote researchers, "intervention with broccoli sprouts enhances the detoxication of some airborne pollutants and may provide a frugal means to attenuate their associated long-term health risks."
You can buy broccoli sprouts in the produce section or easily grow them yourself in mason jars. They have numerous health and anti-aging properties, so enjoy them anytime, but air quality alerts are my reminder to stock up.
Here are links to two research studies, if you'd like more details:
Affordable family meal ideas
Need new ideas for yummy, affordable, family-friendly meals or snacks? Check out this lovely website created by a local eighth-grader who wants to help fight childhood obesity: https://mkenny22.wixsite.com/healthyhabits
Scrape that avocado!
Quick tip: The avocados are AMAZING right now, so don't miss out on the most nutritious part, which is the dark green part next to the peel. Scrape it good and be rewarded with over 10x the nutrients of the part closer to the pit.
That's all. Enjoy!
4 ways to save money while eating better
If you just finished your taxes, you may be thinking about how to spend less money this year. Here are four ways that also help you eat healthier:
Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs mean that you buy shares in a family farm and get a weekly delivery of goodies. You typically pay less than at the store, because there is no middleman. It also benefits farmers. A Google search can tell you about options near you.
Most Americans overeat animal protein, and conventional methods (i.e., concentrated animal feeding operations) use hormones, antibiotics, high-pesticide feed, and other cost-cutting measures that appear increasingly terrible for human health. Plus, researchers at the USC Longevity Institute report that reducing protein intake, especially from animal foods, is healthy in numerous ways that promote slower and healthier aging.
I know, I know… Researchers have done a complete 180 on this one. But skipping a meal now and then is currently believed to be good for gut health, and most people do not grossly overeat afterwards, as previously thought. In fact, research suggests that people only eat about 110% at the meal following a short fast.
You’ve probably been seeing the depressing headlines about how any benefits from alcohol have been overhyped. Some studies about the benefits of resveratrol were even fraudulent and retracted. Bummer! ... but a good opportunity to save money and get healthier.
What else do you do to eat healthier and save money? We’d love to hear about it!
15 ways to promote good gut health
Growing evidence suggests that gut health is all health. In other words, many health conditions either originate in the gut (e.g., autoimmune conditions), or are made better when gut health improves. This goes for mental health as well as physical.
So here’s a handy list of 15 ways to promote better gut health:
The research keeps pouring in, suggesting that Americans have severely underestimated the importance of gut health in the past, especially for people living with chronic inflammation, autoimmune disorders, mental health issues or neurological problems. So it’s time to re-evaluate our diets from our guts’ point of view, and maybe to learn to love sauerkraut (...we’re struggling with that one, too!).
Happy Healthy Easter!
This week's tip is brief:
Be mindful on Easter!
That cute little Easter Bunny can bring loads of weight gain. In fact, since we started keeping track of client results (in 1997) Easter is the #1 weight gain holiday of the year! It beats out Christmas, Thanksgiving and even Halloween! We can't explain exactly why, but suspect it has something to do with brunches, candy, Easter bread, and/or not being as "on guard" as on other holidays. So strategize NOW and make us proud.
Lessons from Lent on breaking free from junk-food-desire
Over the years, our nutrition practice has witnessed countless people discovering these valuable lessons over Lent, and wishing they had internalized them sooner.
Lesson 1: The loss is temporary.
Giving up a favorite junky food (for Lent or any time) is hard....but only for a few weeks. Once a processed food loses its hold on your brain and taste buds, it often stops appealing at all. Taste buds change to love whatever feeds you when you are most hungry, so no food is the permanent love of your life. You move on to healthier things that are just as beloved.
But then, after Lent, you eat the old treat again and...
Lesson 2: The old infatuation comes back shockingly fast.
Upon trying the treat again, many people don't even enjoy the first few bites. The food seems over-flavored and over-processed. But habit, curiosity, or a quest for that old "hit" make them finish the treat and before they know it, they are having fresh cravings.
Lesson 3: Next time you do all the work to break free, don't go back!
When you work hard to give up a junky food, and reach that wonderful place of no longer wanting it, don't get curious about trying it again! Instead, reap the rewards of living free from junk-food-want.
Valentine's Menu for Romance and Health
Nothing shows true love like food that is both romantic and healthy. Here are some Valentine's ideas to get you started:
Lunch or Dinner:
Happy Valentine's Day!
Super Bowl Snacks
Watching football (i.e., hours of sedentary snacking and high adrenaline) is the optimal condition for promoting blood sugar spikes, fat storage and inflammation, if you don't watch it.
One way to reduce the risk is to do a good workout before the game, to deplete your muscles of glycogen. Another option is to choose healthier snacks to replace the chips and pizza. Here are some ideas:
If skipping your favorite junk food bums you out, take heart: Research shows that most people mindlessly much on anything within reach during the Super Bowl, and enjoy it the same whether it's raw veggies or hard core junk food.
So make us proud Sunday! And please share your healthy snack ideas. We can never have too many.
Eating for trillions (of gut microbes)
Gut microbes have become celebrities in the worlds of nutrition and wellness, and with good reason. They appear to play a significant role in everything from inflammation to weight to mood and they appear to be involved in a growing variety of medical conditions.
Microbes are found doing numerous different jobs, including extracting and producing nutrients, helping to protect and repair the intestinal barrier, sending signals to the immune system about potential threats in the environment, and much more. Current theories posit that microbes are especially relevant to allergies and autoimmune disease, because they can either signal the immune system to be relaxed OR they can instruct it to stay on high alert and to over-react.
Maybe our microbes’ influence shouldn’t be surprising, given that we have trillions of them all over the body. In fact, a human body contains fewer human cells with less DNA than the microbes that live in it and on it. Some scientists hypothesize that we evolved with these microbes so that we humans wouldn’t need to do so many tasks all on our own. Instead, we allow microbes to live on us and, in exchange, they do some of the work for us. That means that each of us is not just an individual, but a whole big walking microbial community!
The exciting part to me is that these trillions of microbes can be managed to help us be healthier, happier, leaner and more youthful. If we take care of our microbes, and create the right conditions for beneficial microbes to flourish, then THEY will help take care of US. On the other hand, if we allow conditions to be right for “bad” microbes, we’ll have to live with the mayhem and destruction they can cause.
So...what can we do to recruit our microbes to be an army of helpers? Lots of things! Current research suggests that we can…
• Eat to feed the “good” microbes by maximizing the variety of plant foods in our diet, especially vegetables
• Starve the “bad” microbes of their favorite fuel, which is sugar and processed carbs,
• Stop eating foods that kill or disturb good microbes, such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and foods containing antibiotics (e.g., animals raised where overcrowding necessitates widespread administration of antibiotics),
• Eat beneficial bacteria directly via fermented foods (especially veggies), like sauerkraut, kim-chi, natto, etc.
• Leave enough time between meals to get truly hungry, which allows for the intestines to do their natural cleaning wave, called the migrating motor complex,
• Reduce stress, which influences microbes,
• Stop killing beneficial microbes via over-use of antibacterial soaps, mouthwash, detergents, and unnecessary antibiotics
As you can see, there’s a lot we can do to manage our microbes. Who couldn’t use a few trillion extra helpers on their wellness team?!
New Year's Res-illusions Mistake
Some surprising nutrition findings explain why many Americans don't lose weight after the holidays, despite eating healthier. Here's the (rather humbling) summary, after grocery bills were examined for 207 households:
On average, households bought more unhealthy food during the holiday season (between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day) compared to the previous months. No surprise. After January 1, they bought more healthy foods. Again, no surprise.
HOWEVER, after January 1, while buying more healthy food, they still purchased holiday levels of UNhealthy food. They just bought MORE food and MORE calories. Doh!
If you want to see the gory details, the complete article can be read at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110561
Since I'm currently in Truckee, where the Donner Party famously starved to the point of cannibalism, I'm reminded that over-buying food is a survival instinct baked deep into our biology. But...if your New Year's weight loss has been stymied, you might want to pay closer attention to your grocery purchases.
Happy new year!