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When you just can’t go…what do you do?

constipation charthttp://eepurl.com/bwkebfTo continue our conversation about the perfect poop, I want to talk about constipation. Everyone has suffered from constipation at one point or another. Things get backed up – that’s life. However, it is important to know how to “unplug” so to speak when you do experience a plumbing issue.

In my last blog entry I talked about the importance of digestive health, or more specifically – why you need the perfect poop. Read it here if you need a refresher.  Ideally, you should have a bowel movement every day, if not twice a day.  It should be well formed, firm, not smelly and comes out easily.  Many times my clients mention they have not gone to the bathroom in days, but that is normal.  It is NOT normal.  It may be your normal, but it is not the way things should be.

Without a consistent elimination pattern, you will likely feel fatigue, tired and unmotivated – not to mention uncomfortable. To reclaim your energy, you have to jumpstart your digestive tract, and then make sure it is flowing smoothly.  What goes in, must come out…but what if it does get stuck?

Here’s my handy dandy guide to constipation, or more of an ODE to constipation.  I hope you find it both helpful and humorous! Feel free to pass it along on facebook or share with your friends. I’d love your comments!

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Do you have itchy skin? Is it red, splotchy and the cause of embarrassment? Over the years I have worked with several women who have flare-ups of itchy, rash like skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, rashes, etc.  In fact, as a sufferer of histamine intolerance, I regularly experience a horrible itch on my back and acne flare ups. I am tempted to just put cream on it and make it go away, but I know my body is sending me a message, and the body NEVER sends a signal that doesn’t need attention! In my case, my body is telling me to go back to a low- histamine, nutrient dense diet, and relax!

Your skin is an organ, and just like your liver, kidney and heart, it has a job to do. Its main job is to protect your bones and blood from the outside

READ your skin. Aches, pains, itching, stiffness, etc. are all signs that something is going on inside.

elements. But according to Chinese medicine, the skin is the external expression of your lungs, so if your lungs are stressed or weak, you will see that on your skin.  In fact, the skin is considered the outer lung by the Chinese and the pores as “doors of Qi” (Qi is energy and life force).  The lungs are considered the gateway between the outdoor world and your inner being. Abundant lung energy manifests as strong physical vitality, and breath nourishes the lung. If your lungs are weak, your skin will appear unhealthy.

Your skin is also a major detox organ, excreting toxins on a regular basis. This is why everyone has a different smell (or in some cases just B.O.), depending on what’s IN your body! The skin also takes up the slack when your detox organs (kidney, colon and liver) are not functioning properly or are stressed.

So, what does all this mean? READ your skin. Aches, pains, itching, stiffness, etc. are all signs that something is going on inside. Acne, eczema and psoriasis could be inflammation or autoimmune issues. Reactions to certain foods, environmental toxins or stress are also common causes of skin ailments. Some of the common triggers include gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and nuts. By doing an elimination diet, you can determine whether or not food is the cause. I recently worked with a client who suffered from terrible eczema in her ears. Multiple doctors insisted it was not food related. After a couple weeks of eliminating dairy, she noticed improvement. After eating a more low-histamine diet, she improved more. Now she can identify her triggers and manage her eczema much easier than before. What a relief!

If you do suffer from skin issues, what can you do?

First, focus on breathing, stretching and expanding the lungs. Yoga, meditation and walking all help with this. Secondly, eliminate all processed foods to nourish your body completely, and consider an elimination diet Adding in nutrient dense foods like fruits, vegetables and grass-fed or pastured animal products (if you eat meat) will help nourish your body and give it strength to rebuild. Thirdly, pay attention to what is going on inside and outside of your body, especially your emotional state and self-esteem. Detoxing negative feelings is very important.

Finally, eliminate fried, fatty foods and sugary foods which burden your system. Of course, if you notice anything strange on your skin or bumps, dots or specks that look suspicious, you should have your dermatologist take a look.

Whatever the issue may be, please know that you have the power to heal yourself. Pay attention and tap into your intuition. Your body is sending you a message; it is your job to listen.

 

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The One Diet That Will Work for Everyone!

With all the “diets” out there, it is SO difficult to find one that works for your individual body. And frankly, trying diet after diet can not only be discouraging, but expensive and stressful too. 

I always stress that every person is an individual and that no ONE diet will work for everyone. But there is one diet or way of life, as I prefer to call it, which will make everyone healthier!  It’s been around for centuries and has been tested and approved by millions of people.  It’s the Mediterranean Diet.

 

A while back, Peter Jaret from Eating Well Magazine wrote a “Guide to Eating the Mediterranean Way.”  His twelve suggestions are easy and cost efficient, and include ideas for simple swap-outs like replacing butter with olive oil. Taking clues from traditional Spanish, Greek and Italian cuisine, we can all enjoy food that is healthy and full of flavor. Here are Jaret’s 12 Quick Tips for a Healthy Diet (and my side notes):

 1. Replace butter with olive or canola oil whenever possible.

2. Snack on nuts, seeds or fruit instead of processed foods.

3. Include a generous leafy green salad with most dinners. (Greens help purify your blood, ease depression & give you a boost of energy)

4. Help yourself to whole-grain bread, pasta, rice and other grains. (Try different pastas like brown rice, quinoa and whole wheat. Eat brown rice whenever possible).

5. Fix at least a couple of vegetarian meals every week. (Eating vegetarian meals just a few times a week will help reduce your chances for heart disease and diabetes).

6. Add a dish or two that contains legumes (beans and lentils) to your weekly menu.

7. Have fish (not fried) at least twice a week. (Alaskan or Wild Pacific Salmon are great sources of important Omega 3 oils)

8. If you eat meat, favor chicken and other poultry.

9. Eat red meat only occasionally, and in small servings. (Treat meat as a condiment, and you won’t have to deprive yourself of your favorites!)

10. If you drink alcohol, have no more than a glass or two with a meal. (Red wine has been proven in many studies to be beneficial in moderation.)

11. Enjoy fruit for dessert.  (Seasonal produce packs more nutrients for your dollar)

12. Set aside enough time to savor every bite.  (Conscious eating helps you with portion control!)

 Go to http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/collections/healthy_mediterranean_recipes.html for healthy Mediterranean recipes

Cool as a Cucumber on a Hot June Day!

Wow! This past week was HOT here in New Jersey! One full week of 90+ degrees and humidity in early June! Mentally and physically I was not prepared for this at all. I am still enjoying my Spring food banquet of asparagus, radishes, arugula and lettuce; not yet into summer produce like cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet fruits. I love eating seasonally because the produce helps the body adjust to the environment, but when you get abnormally hot temperatures in Spring, what is a girl to do?

During these hot days, I broke down and bought cucumbers. I love cucumbers because they are SO cooling to the body. Knowing I wanted to do something different with the cucumber, combined with the fact that I was in the mood for some gazpacho, but didn’t have any tomatoes, I decided to make a thick, creamy, cooling and extremely satisfying soup with cucumbers, avocado, yogurt and spices. Below is my recipe. Make this for a light lunch, dinner starter or a satisfying snack.

One of these days I will remember to take photos of the food I make, but until then, I guess you will just have to make it to see what it looks like 😉

Cucumber Avocado Soup

 Sweet, spicy and tangy! This chilled soup is the perfect supper starter or lunch feature on hot summer day. Cucumber adds a cool, sweet taste, while avocado creates the smooth creaminess. Spiced with cumin, chili powder, cilantro and green onion, this soup hits all the taste buds!

 Ingredients

1 medium cucumber, washed and peeled

1 avocado, peeled and pitted

1 6 oz cup plain Greek yogurt

2 fresh spring or green onions (whole)

2 t cumin *

1 t chili powder*

Handful of fresh cilantro*

Salt/Pepper to taste

2 T water

 *Use more or less of these spices to create desired flavor

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth and desired consistency. You may need to add more water to receive soup-like consistency. Garnish with chopped cucumbers, fresh cilantro and a sprinkle of paprika. Serve immediately or put in the refrigerator to chill.

Healthy Fall Snacks To Keep You Energized

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that much of my dietary philosophy stems from seasonal eating or eating what is locally produced in your area. I believe this is the best way to stay healthy and in balance.  Incorporating seasonal produce into your meals presents a bit of challenge, simply because we are not aware of what is in season thanks for mass shipping and production.  But with practice seasonal cooking becomes second nature. However, I often get asked, “What are some seasonal foods I can snack on while at work or on-the-go?” 

Snacks provide energy throughout the day, so they should be well balanced, low in sugar and high in protein. Given our high-speed lifestyles, snacks also need to be portable. So next time you are out holiday shopping or commuting to the office, bring along some of my favorite fall snacks.  They are simple to make, can often be made in large quantities and packed into Baggies or jars, and easy to transport.

Toasted Spiced Nuts: Toss your favorite nuts (I like to use almonds, walnuts, pecans and pumpkin seeds) with a bit of melted butter and maple syrup.  Add in fall spices such as cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, salt and pepper. (add in cayenne for a kick).  Slowly toast over low heat on the stovetop until the aroma of the nuts consumes the air. Or roast in the oven at a low temp, around 200 degrees. Add in dried cherries, cranberries and dark chocolate chips once nuts have cooled for a delicious trail mix.

Apples with Almond Butter: Simply slice an apple and spread on some raw almond butter. Or pack the almond butter in a separate container for some dipping fun later on.

Kale chips: Tear off the leaves of washed and dried kale. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange on a cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until crispy. (Baking time varies with ovens).

Ready-to-eat Chestnuts: Purchase, open and eat!

Fresh Seasonal Fruit: Munch on seasonal fruits like grapes, apples, pears, pomegranate or clementines

Extra Special Treat: For those sweet-tooth days, I like to bake my Pumpkin Spice Cookies.

 Do you have any favorite seasonal snacks? If so, share them here!

Transform your favorite junk food into health food!

Too often, when people try to eat healthier, they eliminate their favorite foods. This only ends in frustration and sometimes binging. Rather than concentrate on what you should not eat, make healthier versions of your favorite foods.  For example, my husband loves pizza, and I just adore nachos. Rather than go out to get these “junk food” treats, we make them at home, and have a fun time doing so! 

First, let’s talk pizza. Pizza’s reputation as a junk food is far from what its original Neapolitan creators had in mind. The main downfall of pizza is the amount of cheese standard American restaurants put on the pies. This adds loads of unneeded saturated fat, and masks the other flavors in the pizza pie. Pizza, by definition is bread with delicious ingredients on top, baked in an oven.  Based on that definition, you can top it with anything you desire – making it as healthy (or unhealthy) as you wish!  For example, pizza is a fabulous opportunity to eat your vegetables. Top the bread with healthful, homemade (low in sugar) tomato sauce, and a rainbow of colorful vegetables. Recently, I made a pizza with leeks, mushrooms, olives, swiss chard, basil and tomatoes. Topped with a bit of goat and cheddar cheeses, this was an amazing and easy healthful supper.  Use whatever vegetables you like and pile them high!  Add in greens like spinach, chard or broccoli rabe.  Use more traditional toppings like basil, mushrooms or olives. Or get creative and top off that pie with cooked butternut squash and sage. There are no limits!

Top your favorite pizza crust with loads of vegetables and good quality cheese for a more healthful pizza

Next, nachos! You can’t ask for a more enjoyable snack in my opinion, but when ordering at a restaurant, nachos are often topped with trans fat laden chips, imitation cheese and refried beans. Improve this recipe, and make it even more delicious, by using organic baked blue corn chips, fresh black, pinto and/or kidney beans, homemade guacamole, loads of vegetables (my favorites are butternut squash, zucchini, peas, spinach and tomatoes), and a good quality cheese as a light topping.  Substitute plain yogurt for sour cream or use an organic version of sour cream.

Vegetarian Nachos - done a more healthful way!

Taking your favorite junk and comfort foods and transforming them into healthful, vegetable-packed masterpieces is a family-fun and innovative way to eat better, without feeling deprived. Here are some helpful tips on how to transform your favorite junk or comfort food dishes into healthier alternatives:

1. Mac n’ cheese: Make it from scratch using whole grain pasta, organic milk or cream, and good quality cheese. Add in herbs and spices and vegetables for a more wholesome casserole dish.

2. Chili:  You don’t need all that sour cream, cheese and meat for chili to taste good. Add in zucchini, yellow squash, peppers and tomatoes for a vegetable boost. Make it vegetarian by cutting out the meat and using a 3-bean mix instead.  You can also add in leftover whole grains like millet or quinoa.

3.  Hamburgers:  Using grass-fed beef or buffalo will give you leaner patty with added nutrients, such as Omega-3 fatty acids.  Grass-fed products tend to be much lower in total fat than grain-fed products and gives you from two to six times more of a type of “good” fat called “omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit your heart and brain.  (For more information on the benefits of grass-fed beef, visit http://www.americangrassfedbeef.com/grass-fed-natural-beef.asp).  Sandwich that patty with a whole grain roll, and top it off with fresh, seasonal vegetables.

Get Healthy Without Over-Thinking

woman_pulling_out_hair[1]Yes, it’s true. You can get healthy without going on a strict diet plan or running 5 miles per day. And the best part is, you don’t need to feel deprived.  How do you do it?

Taking away the “unhealthy” food like sweets and chips from your daily routine can easily lead to deprivation and binging. Instead, “crowd out” those unhealthy sweets and treats by try adding in the healthier foods like fresh vegetables & whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa or barley. You will find that incorporating whole foods that contain more fiber and nutrients than processed foods, will keep you satisfied longer and help you avoid snacking on things that will add on weight.

Sound to simple to be true? Give it a try with these great swap-out ideas:

  1.  Having salad for lunch?  Sprinkle on some ground flax seed, combine with some leftover brown rice and add in colorful veggies.  Make it even better by using mixed greens in place of just lettuce.
  2. Need to get rid of the leftovers in the fridge?  Make a “leftover soup,” using up your veggies and combining with a whole grain like barley, brown rice or quinoa.  
  3. Is your bread too white?  Swap out white bread with whole grain breads. Make sure the first ingredient is “whole grain.” One of my favorite brands is Ezekiel.  
  4. Got into a sandwich rut? Your body LOVES diversity, so pump up those turkey & cheese sandwiches with fresh veggies.  Use hummus or avocado as a spread instead of mayo.  Better yet, try incorporating different sandwich ideas into your weekly routine by putting stir-fry leftovers in a wrap, making a roasted vegetable sandwich, or spreading pesto on a pita and filling it with your favorite toppings.  
  5. Not hydrated enough? Replace one of your afternoon drinks with water. Crowding out coffee, soda and other sugary drinks can help you get control of your weight and your blood sugar. Staying hydrated is important for a healthy immune system, weight loss, and overall well-being. 

If you have any other “swap out” or “crowd out” ideas, leave your comment below.

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