How to Make a Healthy Smoothie

Smoothie season is approaching! Or if you’re like me, smoothies are a year-round staple. The typical smoothie is loaded with sugar (both natural and added), which can send the body on a blood sugar rollercoaster all day. It will leave you energized for a brief moment, then leave you hungry and cranky an hour or two later. Let’s avoid that! It’s important to make sure a smoothie is balanced with multiple food groups, is nutrient-dense, and keeps you satisfied for hours.

Fruit

To add sweetener, use a controlled amount of fruit as natural sugar. Both fresh or frozen fruit can be used. If you like spooning/eating your smoothie versus drinking it, aim for a thicker consistency. Using frozen fruit and other frozen ingredients will make the smoothie thicker.

1 fruit serving =

  • 1/2 cup berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup peach slices
  • 1/4 cup mango or pineapple chunks
  • 1-2 dates or figs
  • 1/2 banana

Fiber

Fiber is important to keep blood sugars stable, manage cholesterol, stay satiated, and digestion moving! Fiber introduction can cause gastrointestinal (GI) disturbance (i.e. gas, bloating) in some people. Especially if fiber is not typically consumed or if there is another form of dysbiosis occurring. Pay attention to how fiber makes you feel, if you have GI effects there could be an underlying issue going on.

1-2 tablespoons of:

  • Flaxseed (ground or whole)
  • Chia seeds
  • Acacia fiber

Fat

Healthy fat is a crucial part of a balanced meal. And it’s often overlooked in smoothies. Including healthy fat is essential for keeping the meal filling and having lasting energy. It is also essential for absorbing vitamins and nutrients. For example vitamins A, D, E, and K all need to be consumed with fat to be absorbed. If there is no fat present, these vitamins will not be properly absorbed by the body and instead will be flushed out!

1-2 tablespoons of:

  • Coconut oil *
  • MCT oil *
  • Coconut butter
  • Coconut chunks
  • Natural nut or seed butter
  • Raw nuts or seeds

*Coconut or MCT oil can cause diarrhea or loose stools in some individuals. If these are new to your diet, start with 1/2 tbsp. at a time and increase as tolerated.

Protein

Protein is also essential in keeping you satisfied after a meal! It will also help in muscle repair and other benefits (depending on the type of protein used). Whether it’s plant-based or animal-derived, quality matters. If choosing a plant-based option, look for “Non-GMO” and/or “Organic” labels. For animal-derived options, look for “Organic” and/or “Grass-Fed” labels.

20-30 grams

  • Plant-based: pea or hemp protein powders
  • Animal-based: whey or collagen protein powders

There are more options for protein powders, the ones listed are my personal recommendations. Also keep in mind protein can be included outside of the smoothie, for example having eggs on the side.

Fluid

To avoid added sugars and fillers, opt for unsweetened fluids. Play with ratios of liquids and solids to see what consistency works for you!

  • Almond milk
  • Cashew milk
  • Coconut milk *
  • Coconut water
  • Water

*If coconut milk is being used, additional fat does not have to be added to the smoothie due to the healthy fat already present in coconut.

Add-Ins

Add-ins are optional, but can be an opportunity for a health boost. They can add flavor and extra nutrients to the smoothie meal!

Vegetables

  • Spinach
  • Baby kale
  • Zucchini chunks *
  • Cauliflower florets *
  • Broccoli stems
  • Beets *

*These can be steamed then frozen for easier digestion.

Flavor

  • Cacao powder (chocolate)
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Vanilla
  • Cacao nibs

Combination Ideas

Portions and serving sizes should be customized by each person to meet their own individual needs. The recommended portions listed above are listed as ranges for that purpose.

  • Blueberries + chia seed + almond butter + protein + fluid + spinach + cacao powder
  • Strawberries + flaxseed + coconut chunks + protein + fluid + zucchini chunks + cinnamon
  • Banana + acacia fiber + peanut butter + protein + fluid + cauliflower florets + cacao powder
  • Pineapple + hemp seeds + coconut butter + protein + milk + vanilla

What are some of your favorite smoothie combinations? I love getting creative and hearing your ideas. Comment below!

Simple Steps to Filling Oatmeal

Oatmeal tends to be polarizing – team “I love oatmeal” and team “why would you ever eat mush“. I’m on team oatmeal! Especially on cold mornings as a warm and cozy breakfast option. Oatmeal can be a filling dish or it can leave you hungry an hour later. What makes the difference? Adding protein, fiber, and fat.

Nutrition

Oats are a nutritious carbohydrate (carb) choice. In 1/4 cup of raw steel cut oats there are 5 grams of fiber and in 1/4 cup of raw rolled oats there are 2 grams. For visual, 1/4 cup raw oats comes out to roughly ~1/2 cup of cooked oats. Oats are a great source of soluble fiber (did you know there are a couple of types of fiber?) Soluble fiber is good for lowering cholesterol, helping control blood sugar levels, and slowing digestion to improve nutrient absorption from food.

The Big No-No

A common oatmeal breakfast is made up of: oats, milk, fruit, and honey. Although all choices are delicious and not inherently “bad”, the combo can be bad news for our blood sugars. By eating only carbs it will spike blood sugars higher and can leave us feeling tired an hour or two later. This can all be solved by adding protein, fiber, and fat! Adding these ingredients helps us feel fuller for a longer period of time too.

Protein, Fiber, Fat

Add protein

  • Almonds or almond butter
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Sunflower seeds or seed butter
  • Hemp seeds
  • Protein or collagen powder
  • Or on the side: eggs, protein smoothie

Add fiber

  • Cacao nibs
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seeds

Add fat

  • Chia seeds
  • Coconut milk or coconut flakes or coconut butter
  • Hemp seeds
  • Nuts & nut butters
  • Seed & seed butters

Step 1: cook oats + liquid of choice

Step 2: add protein, fiber, and fat

Step 3: mix and enjoy!

Combination Ideas

Listed as a formula of fruit (as natural sweetener) + protein + fiber + fat + (optional) spice.

  • Blueberries + protein powder + flaxseed + almond butter + cinnamon
  • Pomegranate + collagen protein powder + chia seeds + coconut flakes
  • Strawberries + sunflower seed butter + cacao nibs + hemp seeds
  • Banana slices + hard-boiled eggs (on the side) + ground flaxseed + cashew butter + cacao powder (for chocolate version)

Try overnight oats if you prefer a cold breakfast or are short on time. Make multiple servings at once, leaving you with on-the-go breakfast options for the week. No need to even warm it up! If you like chocolate, try this Chocolate Banana Overnight Oats by Eating Bird Food. Or if you prefer vanilla, this Simple Vanilla Protein Overnight Oats by The Blissful Balance is delicious.

Still not impressed? If oatmeal in any shape or form is not your thing, read this post: The Formula for a Balanced Breakfast for more nourishing breakfast ideas.

The Formula for a Balanced Breakfast

Since there is an entire post dedicated to the formula for a balanced meal with typical lunch or dinner foods, it is only fair to do a breakfast edition. In the United States the foods we classify as “breakfast foods” tend to be primarily in the carbohydrate (carbs) food group. When we consume carbs it triggers a cascade of hormonal responses, which can be explained in a future post. But specific to our food balancing, an all-carb breakfast does not nourish our bodies or energy levels the way we need them to. Depending on the type of carb it will have varying effects, but generally it leaves us feeling “empty” an hour or two later, can trigger sugar and carb cravings the rest of the day, give us a mid-morning “crash”, and does not do our blood sugars any good.

The idea is to bring balance to breakfast by including various food groups, which will leave you feeling satisfied for longer and give you sustained energy and blood sugar levels. The goal is not to eliminate carbs from breakfast, although ideal amounts will vary on the individual and their medical and health goals. Let’s say goodbye to the typical oatmeal/milk/fruit (all carb), yogurt/fruit/granola (all carb), fruit/yogurt smoothie (all carb) breakfasts and bring some nourishing balanced options in! This is the formula for a balanced breakfast.

Step 1: Choose Your Carb

Ideally it will be a high fiber and/or a nutrient-dense option.

  • Grains: bread, oats, quinoa
  • Fruit: seasonal and organic (use the Dirty Dozen List to help prioritize), whole fruit, low glycemic options are best
  • Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas, winter squash
  • Dairy: carb content will vary on the type of dairy chosen (i.e. yogurt or Greek yogurt or cow’s vs. non-dairy alternative)
  • Legumes: beans, lentils

Step 2: Include a Protein

Whether it is animal or plant derived, protein should be included at every meal for optimal body utilization.

  • Animal-based: turkey or chicken products, eggs, yogurt, protein powders (i.e. whey, collagen, egg whites)
  • Plant-based: nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, protein powders (i.e. pea, hemp, rice, or blends), tempeh, legumes

Step 3: Add Your Fat

Fat is often forgotten with breakfast, but is essential for a nourishing balanced meal and for keeping you satisfied after the meal.

  • Dairy: grass-fed and organic if animal derived (i.e. butter, ghee, yogurt, cheese)
  • Avocado
  • MCT oil
  • Coconut products: chunks, oil, butter, milk
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Seeds and seed butters

Step 4: Up-Level With a Booster

These are not essential but can help bring the meal to another level with an added punch of nutrition and health benefits.

  • Fermented or cultured foods
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Sprouted foods
  • Spices and herbs

Putting it Together

Of course this is not an exhaustive list of breakfast options, but it can spark some ideas and maybe get you out the same old breakfast you eat 5 out of 7 days a week.

All meals are listed in the following order: carb + protein + fat + booster.

Plant-based

  • Breakfast tacos: tortillas + black beans + guacamole + choose sprouted tortillas, add baby kale or microgreens and salsa
  • Smoothie or smoothie bowl: blueberries + organic pea protein + coconut chunks + frozen cauliflower florets or zucchini slices, add cinnamon
  • Scramble: butternut squash cubes + chickpeas + goat cheese + onion, garlic, and baby kale
  • Chia seed pudding: raspberries + chia seeds + coconut milk and walnuts + cinnamon
  • Toast: sweet potato or other toast + almond butter + hemp seeds + cinnamon

Animal-based

  • Classic: toast + fried eggs + ghee + choose a sprouted bread or an authentic sourdough, add tomato slices and arugula
  • Breakfast hash: sweet potato cubes + scrambled eggs + avocado slices + bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini add turmeric, black pepper, salt
  • Smoothie or smoothie bowl: strawberries + grass fed and organic collagen powder + MCT or coconut oil + baby spinach
  • Overnight oats: rolled oats + almond butter + grass fed and organic whey protein + cinnamon
  • Parfait: fruit + plain Greek yogurt and cashew butter + flaxseeds + sprouted almonds

Generally I do not give portion or serving sizes unless I am working with you one-on-one. Portions and ratios of macros are very individualized to each person’s body, medical history, health goals, etc.

Healthy Ways to Use Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving is over, so now what? If you are not a fan of leftovers I hope you either gave them to your guests or left them with the host, because, food waste! I am notorious for being able to construct full balanced meals with food scraps, but it is not a “gift”, I’ve just gotten very creative and comfortable with experimenting in the kitchen. And you can too! I put together a list of ideas on how to repurpose and reuse our delicious Thanksgiving scraps in creative and healthy ways.

Raw vegetables

Whether it is surplus from the celery, onion, and garlic you used in the stuffing or leftovers from the appetizer tray you can use them.

  • Dice it: use when you’re making lentils, beans, or grains from scratch. It gives the dish great flavor and a nutrient boost
  • Crockpot dishes: keep as is and use to make soups, stews, and curries
  • Snacks: cut into bite-sized pieces, add dip, and you’ve got a snack for the week
  • Future dishes: dice it all and keep in air-tight container in the freezer for future recipes

Vegetable stems, bits and ends

A lot of vegetable scraps go in the trash (carrot tops, leafy section of fennel, celery hearts, onion ends, etc.) but there are other options. If you do not have access to composting you can still use those scraps.

  • Vegetable broth: put all scraps in a closed container in the freezer, once it is full you can make your own broth
  • Pesto: replace basil leaves with carrot tops to make a pesto sauce
  • Aromatics: use citrus peels and herbs to make your kitchen or home smell delicious

Roasted vegetables

Squash, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, beets, or whatever vegetables you roasted can be used in future dishes as a quick way to boost the fiber and nutritional content.

  • Egg dishes: scrambled, frittatas, egg muffin cups
  • On salads
  • Grain bowls: add protein and fat too to make a complete meal
  • Pasta dishes: lasagna, noodles, casseroles

*If you usually steam vegetables instead of roast, the leftovers can be stored in the freezer and used to add to smoothies and smoothie bowls as a vegetable boost and a natural thickener. My personal favorites are spinach, zucchini, beets, cauliflower florets, and broccoli stalks.

Grains and potatoes

This may vary depending on if sauces, dressings or gravies were already mixed in or not.

  • Casseroles
  • As base options in your future meals
  • Burritos: there are many recipes for make-ahead burritos that are freezer-friendly and wrapped individually to make “fast food” for the future
  • Soups and stews

Protein

Based primarily on turkey.

  • Bones: use to make bone broth or stock
  • Sandwiches
  • Wraps or burritos: for the freezer or to eat within a few days
  • Soups and stews
  • As a protein option in your future meals

Miscellaneous

  • Pumpkin puree: can freeze into ice cubes and use to thicken smoothies or use to dollop onto yogurt or oatmeal as a vitamin and fiber boost
  • Cranberry sauce: as a spread on sandwiches/wraps or use to dollop onto yogurt or oatmeal as a flavor and fruit boost
  • Casseroles (green beans, creamed onions/mushrooms): use as a side dish or as salad toppers

I would love to hear how you and your family use your Thanksgiving leftovers, comment below and let me know. Happy eating!

Tips for a Nourishing Thanksgiving: Part 2

Here it is, part two of the nourishing Thanksgiving series (find part one here). Now let’s dive right in.

Be a carb snob

People love to blame the afternoon nap on too many bites of turkey, but I’d be willing to bet it’s a blood sugar crash! I usually don’t call out one food or food group, but on a carb-laden day like Thanksgiving (I’m looking at you bread rolls, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, desserts, and alcohol) – I encourage you to be a snob. What I mean by that is choose your absolute favorite dishes that you look forward to all year long and skip out on the dishes that don’t genuinely excite you.

For example, if you’re only taking a serving of the yam dish because it’s on the table but you would prefer to have a heftier serving of the stuffing that you have daydreams about…then don’t serve yourself the yams and grab that stuffing! As for desserts, I promise the apple pie still tastes like it did last year and the year before. You don’t need to take a slice for courtesy or because it is being served. Choose your favorite dessert, the one that makes your mouth water, and serve yourself a portion. By being more of a carb snob on Thanksgiving we’re still able to enjoy our favorite dishes and skip out on the ones that we’re eating out of habit or politeness.

Fill half of your plate with veggies

Including non-starchy vegetables does not mean we’re getting rid of the classics, it just means that we’re adding more nutrients. So to be clear – we’re adding bulk to the meal, not taking food away. By adding more fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your plate you’re enriching your health and helping you fill up on nourishing foods. Whether you make the appetizers veg-heavy or you add multiple vegetable side dishes to the menu, there are easy (and delicious) ways to increase your veggie intake the day of Thanksgiving.

  • Crudité board: radish slices, beet chips, previously roasted sweet potato “chips”, bell pepper strips, carrot sticks + dip of choice
  • Roasted vegetable dishes: brussel sprouts, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, eggplant
  • Fall salad: arugula + shaved brussel sprouts/cabbage + roasted delicata squash + pomegranate seeds + raw walnuts or pumpkin seeds + dressing (tahini, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice)
  • Sauté: green beans + slivered almonds + sundried tomatoes + avocado oil + salt, pepper

Nourishing tweaks

Sometimes the smallest tweaks can make a big difference in the nutrition of the meal without sacrificing taste. Not saying we need to re-do all of our favorite Thanksgiving staples (don’t touch Grandma’s family pie recipe!), but if we can alter a few recipes to make it more nourishing then why not?

It will depend on the individual dish, but here are some ideas:

  • Cut sugar amounts by 1/4-1/3 of what recipe states
  • Use alternate sweeteners to replace granulated sugar (like applesauce, banana, coconut sugar, dates, or honey)
  • Switch to high fiber versions of foods like whole grain rolls and nut & seed crackers
  • Keep the skin on your potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other starchy vegetables to increase fiber
  • Switch the method of cooking by opting for baking or roasting versus deep-frying
  • Cut the cream amounts or switch to a healthier fat source (like a coconut milk/cream)
  • Make items from scratch to control the ingredients used and cut the “junk” (i.e. pie crusts, whipped cream, cranberry sauce, etc.)

Set the vibes

Whether you have a forced family gathering or a complete love fest on Thanksgiving, it is nice to take advantage of the day to connect with others and raise your energetic vibrations. You may not be able to control where or with whom you’re spending the day, but you are able to control the energy you exude and the vibes you bring to the table. So remember that when you find yourself annoyed before you’ve even started the day – you are in control.

I challenge you to practice gratitude and thankfulness, it could mean a quick journal list when you wake up or a group activity with others. It is rare that we get a full day to do nothing but connect, eat, and share good food. That in itself is something to be grateful for! Whether it is sharing a list of what you’re appreciative of, naming each dish after an affirmation (thank you Gratitude Cafe for that idea), or expressing gratefulness in your community by distributing meals – I encourage you to set the vibrational standards high to make it an unforgettable and cherished day.

Download this FREE ebook to by Meg Gerber, RD, LDN, IFNCP. It is gluten and dairy free, rich in plant foods, and low in added sugars. It makes your mouth water and gives you healthier versions of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes! 

Meg works for Five Journeys an Integrative and Functional Medicine practice in Boston, MA. She can also be found on Instagram (GlutenFreeGerblie) or on her website: https://glutenfreegerblie.com/

Tips for a Nourishing Thanksgiving: Part 1

Whatever your personal feelings are about Thanksgiving, we know this one-day holiday is notorious for overeating and food-induced comas. I am not going to lecture you to lay off the stuffing or skip the dessert because 1) I am not the food police and 2) you are allowed to enjoy your favorite foods. But there are certainly different tips and tricks you can implement into the day to make sure you keep your body feeling good and nourished!

Eat breakfast

Commonly people skip breakfast the morning of Thanksgiving in order to “save room for later”. It is important to understand that our bodies do not work that way! If anything it leaves us feeling starved by the time the meal comes, which means we eat everything in sight – and way too much of it/too fast! And it leaves our blood sugars in terrible shape.

Think about it, we haven’t eaten all night while sleeping and then don’t eat for another 4-6 hours after waking up, that’s a lot of hours without food! It sends our blood sugars dropping which can cause symptoms like irritability, sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and other annoying buzzkills to the day. Then we go eat our oversized Thanksgiving plate in under 15 minutes which causes a fast spike in blood sugars. Our blood sugars peak about 1.5-2.0 hours after eating our meal, now queue the (what seems like) obligatory nap! This pattern of very low sugar then a very speedy spike in high blood sugar tosses our bodies and hormones into a weird rollercoaster ride all day and leaves us not feeling our best.

By eating a nutrient-rich breakfast 3-6 hours before THE meal, you’ll be showing some major love to yourself! It sets your body up for stable blood sugars, stable energy levels, and stable hormone signaling. Ideally the meal would be protein, healthy fat, and a side of veggies or another fiber rich carb. And by eating a meal it can help tame that constant snacking that could otherwise takes place, which also causes weird spikes in insulin and blood sugar and leaves us feeling “empty” all day.

Keep breakfast super simple since you will most likely be cooking up a storm for a big portion of the day!

  • Scrambled eggs + organic grass-fed ghee/butter +  big handful of spinach and broccoli + salt, pepper, turmeric + small fruit or a cup of berries
  • Fried eggs + organic grass-fed ghee/butter + salt, pepper, chili + 1/2 small avocado + sweet potato “toast” or toast of choice
  • Chia seed pudding
  • Tacos: tortillas + black beans + goat cheese crumbles + diced avocado + cilantro
  • Breakfast salad: a big bowl of baby greens and arugula + 1/2 cup legumes or a small baked potato + protein + baby tomatoes + pesto or extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice + 1/4 cup of raw nuts or seeds
    • Protein ideas: fried eggs, deli turkey slices, grilled chicken, edamame
  • Full-fat yogurt of choice + 1/2 cup berries + 1-2 tbsp. chia seeds + 1/4 cup of almonds or cashews + cinnamon, nutmeg
  • Smoothie/smoothie bowl

Move your body

If you know you are going to spend the majority of the afternoon and evening lounging around and relaxing in a sedentary state, take advantage of the morning to get some physical activity in. It can be done alone or with whoever you are spending the day with, inside or outside, so there are no excuses! By starting the day with exercise you are getting your body moving, your digestion going, and helping your body handle the blood sugar spikes later on.

Any type of yoga class

Local turkey day walk/run

Hike

Zumba or dance class

Long walk

HIIT or interval workout

Cardio or kickboxing

Weight training

Drink up

Whether it is due to the eating, the talking, or the cooking – we tend to drink significantly less water than normal on Thanksgiving day. Being dehydrated can lead to constipation, increased hunger, and more cravings. If you feel thirsty, your skin is dry, or your urine is yellow/dark then you are dehydrated. The goal is for your urine to be pale yellow/clear and you should be drinking water steadily all day. Depending on your Thanksgiving crowd, there could also be lots of alcohol flowing – at minimum make sure you alternate alcohol and water intake to keep your hydration status up.

Use intuitive eating

If you are not familiar with the term “intuitive eating”, this is a very brief description: tuning in to your own body’s hunger cues and letting it guide your meal size, food choices, and when to start or stop your meal. In other words, rejecting all diet mentalities and listening to your internal messages and signs instead.

A great way to implement intuitive eating is by checking in with yourself halfway through the meal. You may think “I’m starting to fill up, maybe I should take a few minutes to take a break and then see how I feel” or maybe it’s “I’m still hungry I’m going to finish this whole plate”. Whether you finish the plate or not, it’s about taking notice of how hungry or full you feel throughout the meal so that you stop when you are satisfied and not just when you are going to burst or because your plate is clean!

I also encourage you to slow down because the meal and the good company isn’t going anywhere. Take your time to chew your food and savor the labor that went into it and try to make your meal extend at least 30 minutes! It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to even begin receiving signals from your digestive system that you are eating, so keep that in mind before you dig into second helpings 15 minutes into the meal.

Download this FREE ebook to by Meg Gerber, RD, LDN, IFNCP. It is gluten and dairy free, rich in plant foods, and low in added sugars. It makes your mouth water and gives you healthier versions of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes! 

Meg works for Five Journeys an Integrative and Functional Medicine practice in Boston, MA. She can also be found on Instagram (GlutenFreeGerblie) or on her website: https://glutenfreegerblie.com/

Ready for part 2 of a nourishing Thanksgiving series? Trust me, it’s a good one!

The Formula for a Balanced Meal

Whether you love cooking from scratch or you rely on eating out, this formula will help ensure that you have a balanced meal! Since we tend to eat different foods for breakfast, we’ll keep this formula specific to lunch and dinner. I listed food examples for each category, but of course, this is not an exhaustive list.

Step 1: Pick a Base

This will usually be our carbohydrate group. We’re aiming for high-fiber and nutrient-dense options.

  • Grains: quinoa, brown rice, farro, millet, barley
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, beans (black, pinto, kidney, etc.)
  • Starchy vegetables: winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), all potatoes, corn, peas

Step 2: Pick a Protein

Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, or whatever! You need protein at every meal, not loaded all up at dinner.

  • Plant-based: legumes, edamame, tempeg
  • Meat/poultry: beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, cheese
  • Seafood: salmon, tuna, shellfish

Step 3: Include Non-Starchy Vegetables

Ideally, non-starchy vegetables should take up at least half of your plate. But if you’re just starting to include veggies into your diet, start with more realistic goals and aim for at least 1 serving per meal then work your way up.

One serving = 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw or 2-3 cups leafy greens.

  • Choose seasonal to get the most nutrient-dense options
  • Choose organic, use the Dirty Dozen list to help you prioritize
  • Include cruciferous like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, arugula, bok choy, etc.
  • Raw, cooked, or a mix of both. There are many methods of preparing veggies to make them tasty (roasting, sauteing, grilled, steamed, raw)

Step 4: Add Your Flavor

This is where you can make the dish tasty and pack it with flavor. Usually the “flavorizer” as we’ll refer to it, contains the fat portion of the dish.

  • Classic vinaigrette
  • Seed-based: tahini
  • Nut-based sauce: peanut sauce
  • Herb-based sauce: pesto, zhoug
  • Avocado-based: guacamole, avocado

Step 5: Add Your Booster

I refer to the “booster” as the food that isn’t obligatory, but can really level-up your meal by giving it that extra nutritional boost or providing that extra oomph of health to your dish.

  • High-quality oil: avocado, olive, flax, walnut
  • Nuts or seeds: sesame seeds, almond slivers, walnuts
  • Fermented or cultured foods: kimchi, sauerkraut, slaw
  • Herbs: cilantro, parsley, basil
  • Spices: turmeric, sea salt, garlic

Putting it together

Healthy meals do not have to be complicated. Here are some ideas in hopes to inspire you in the kitchen or to order balanced meals.

Each example follows the order of the steps listed above: base + protein + veggies + flavorizer + booster .

Plant-based

  1. Quinoa Dish: quinoa + lentils + roasted veggies (eggplant, carrots, zucchini) + pesto + sesame seeds
  2. Stir Fry: brown rice + tempeh + sauteed veggies (broccoli, onion, cauliflower) + avocado oil + kimchi and coconut aminos
  3. Salad: chickpeas + edamame + leafy greens, radish slices, baby tomatoes + classic vinaigrette + pumpkin seeds

Meat-based

  1. BBQ: quinoa + grilled flank steak + grilled cauliflower and zucchini + tahini sauce (to drizzle on sweet potato) + spices to season steak
  2. Burrito bowl: brown rice + shredded chicken + salsa, baby spinach, fajita veggies + guacamole + cilantro
  3. Salad: farro + chopped turkey slices/hard boiled egg + baby mixed greens, beet chips, diced celery + classic vinaigrette + raw walnuts

Seafood-based

  1. Sandwich: high fiber bread + tuna + diced onion, carrot, celery + full fat Greek yogurt (to mix with tuna) + lemon pepper, salt, garlic powder (to mix with tuna)
  2. Burger: sweet potato + salmon burger + portobello mushroom cap (as bun), arugula and tomato slices + pesto + sauerkraut
  3. Tacos: tortillas + grilled fish + salsa, shredded cabbage, fajita veggies + avocado + cilantro

Do you find these posts helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

The Benefits of Ginger

Plants have been used as medicine throughout human history. A 5,000-year-old slab of clay serves as the oldest written evidence of mankind using medicinal plants for preparation of drugs- there were over 250 plants included (1)! Herbal medicine is used more so to evoke healing responses from the body than to attack specific symptoms. Herbs play a role in the body’s own healing efforts, they do not take over the body’s functions.

Ginger 101

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is one of the most widely consumed spices worldwide. It is classified as a carminative herb. There are 14 bioactive components (parts of plants that have medicinal benefits) present in fresh and dried forms of ginger (2). The concentrations of bioactive components in ginger depend on what country it was harvested in, the type of processing used, and the form it is in (fresh, dried, processed).

Defining carminative herbs

Any herbs classified as carminative herbs relieve gas and intestinal gripping, help soothe the gut wall, prevent fermentation, ease intestinal spasms, and are rich in aromatic oils.

Other carminative herbs include mint, fennel, chamomile, and cardamom.

What ginger does in our bodies

Ginger clearly has such powerful gastrointestinal (GI) benefits, which is due to the fact that ginger and all of its metabolites appear to accumulate in the GI tract! In addition to its GI benefits, it is proven effective as a natural anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory agent, anti-nausea, and anti-cancer agent (2).

Ginger has also been proven effective in preventing the following conditions (2):

  • Oxidative damage
  • Inflammation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Platelet aggregation
  • Cholesterol

How to consume it

Ginger can be consumed in so many different ways! Fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized, candied, or ground (spices). It has a strong and spicy scent, so it makes sense that it tastes slightly peppery but is slightly sweet at the same time.

I love drinking ginger in teas or infused waters, candied versions to bring traveling to combat GI symptoms, using the spice in baking or on fruit (I pretty much use it on any foods that I would also add cinnamon too).

Simple Ginger Tea

Stovetop method

(serves 4)

    1. Peel a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root and thinly slice it

    1. Bring 4 cups filtered water to a boil

    1. Once water is boiling, add ginger

    1. Cover the pan and turn off the heat

    1. Steep for 10 minutes

  1. Remove ginger and pour into mug. Optional to add honey

Tip: put ginger root in your fridge or freezer to preserve lifespan.

If you choose to seek out ginger consumption in a supplement or capsule form, I recommend you check with your health provider. Herbs like ginger have such strong medicinal properties (which is amazing) so it is important to check for cross-interactions with other supplements or medications you are taking and for safety with any pre-existing conditions.

Resources
  1. Petrovska, B. B. (2012, June). Historical Review of Medicinal Plants’ Usage. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358962/
  1. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. (2011). The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd edition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/

Tips to Eating Healthy on a Budget

We are living in the days of information overload, especially when it comes to food and health (or maybe I’m biased). We do not have to buy hundreds of dollars worth of powders and kitchen gadgets to achieve optimal health. I’m not denying the convenience of having a spiralizer or of the effectiveness of an adaptogen powder, but I do not believe that finances have to be a barrier towards making healthier steps. No matter the financial status, we can make small and realistic steps towards improving our food quality and therefore our health.

 

Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season and local

 

Stock up on grains and dried legumes from the bulk bins in your grocery store

(oats, rice, beans, chickpeas, lentils)

 

Recycle vegetable and herb scraps to make other foods

(vegetable stock, carrot top pesto, sautéed beet greens)

 

Repurpose your leftovers with a new presentation, spices, or sauces

 

Limit eating out and get creative in your kitchen

 

Use your freezer to store bulk portions of protein, fruits, vegetables, and

surplus soup or prepared legumes

 

Make (and stick to) a grocery list to avoid impulse purchases

 

Space out purchases of moderate/higher priced food items like cooking oils,

nuts and seeds, nut butters, protein powders, etc

 

Enjoy more plant-based meals, load up on vegetables and plant-based protein

 

Avoid food waste by planning out each food’s intended use and buying realistic portions

 

Make foods from scratch for more servings and to use with various meals (vs. premade)

 

Overindulge in free health tools like water, laughter, and physical activity

Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen of 2018

In May the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published the 2018 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) tested thousands of conventionally grown produce for pesticide residue. They found that 70% of the produce was contaminated with 230 different pesticides and pesticide breakdowns (1)! That is wild! If buying 100% of your fruits and vegetables organic is not possible, these lists can help guide you toward which foods to prioritize.

Dirty Dozen

The most pesticide residues identified.

I encourage you to buy organic.

Strawberries *
Spinach *
Nectarines *
Apples *
Grapes
Peaches *
Cherries *
Pears
Tomatoes
Celery
Potatoes
Sweet bell peppers

* More than 98% of these tested positive for more than one pesticide residue.

Spinach had 1.8x as much pesticide residue comparatively

Clean Fifteen

Few, if any, pesticide residues identified.

Less of a priority to buy organic.

Avocadoes
Sweet corn
Pineapples *
Cabbages *
Onions *
Frozen sweet peas
Papayas *
Asparagus *
Mangoes
Eggplants
Honeydews
Kiwis
Cantaloupes
Cauliflower
Broccoli

* More than 80% had no pesticide residue

Why do we care?

Pesticides are toxic and influence our health in the worst of ways. One of the most commonly used pesticides are the organophosphate insecticides. Organophosphate insecticides are classified as highly toxic and are used for insect control in lots of different food crops (2). In 2016 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated that approximately 40 different organophosphate insecticides are registered for use in the United States (2). Human exposure can occur by ingesting contaminated crops and from hand-to-mouth contact with surfaces. It is efficiently absorbed and (like most toxins) are fat soluble. Fat soluble means they are stored in our fat cells (3)! Exposure can alter our nervous system, muscular action or incoordination, respiratory function, sensory and behavioral disturbances, and depress our motor function (3). Long-term effects can occur following acute or massive exposures and can cause symptoms including depression, memory and concentration problems, irritability, persistent headaches and motor weakness (3).

How to begin limiting pesticide exposure

  •  Eat organic if possible
  •  Shop local or at farmers markets
  • Use the Dirty 12 and Clean 15 as a guide
  • Wash your produce really well
  • If you plant your own produce, use organic soil
  • If you spray your own produce, use natural insecticides

Helpful and informative resources

Find restaurants, farms, and markets with local and sustainable food
www.eatwellguide.org/

Maps of local farms, farmers markets, food co-ops, farm stands, and events
www.localharvest.org

Resources for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/community-supported-agriculture

National Farmers Market Directory
www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets

References

1. Lunder, S. (2018, April 10). EWG’s 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, December 23). Biomonitoring Summary: Organophosphorus Insecticides: Dialkyl Phosphate Metabolites. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/OP-DPM_BiomonitoringSummary.html

3. Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). Organophosphate Insecticides. In EPA 6th edition. Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/rmpp_6thed_ch5_organophosphates.pdf