R: Dylan Alito | P: Aaron Dodds
1. Winter SquashNutrient-dense, fiber-rich, and filling, squash is just the best in autumn. There are so many varieties! My faves are butternut, red kuri, delicata, acorn and spaghetti. They’re easy to peel, chop, and roast for a meal or side.
2. Brussels SproutsFull of cancer-fighting compounds, these baby cabbages top my list for the cruciferous veg category. Brussels sprouts have cholesterol-lowering benefits while being chock full of vitamins C and K. I love roasting until caramelized and drizzling tahini over them.
3. Celery RootCelery root, or celeriac, is a knobby ole thing but don’t let its appearance put you off. It’s delicious, versatile and brimming with vitamin K and antioxidants. It’s also an aphrodesiac – yew! Celery root is great mashed and in soups, stews, and casseroles.
4. KohlrabiLow in cals, high in antioxidants, fiber, potassium and iron, kohlrabi is not a veggie which should be overlooked. It’s hard to explain the taste of kohlrabi, but I guess I would liken it to a mild radish. Great shredded into salad or roasted.
5. ParsnipNot sure what a parsnip looks like? Look for “white” carrots. They are packed full of nutrients, including fiber, folate, potassium and vitamin C. You can make parsnip mash by cooking them until soft and then mashing with coconut milk and salt. They’re also delicious cut into rounds and roasted.
6. Sweet PotatoEveryone’s favorite tuber is rich in beta-carotene which gives your skin and eyes a healthy glow. They are high in potassium which can help regulate muscle cramps and headaches. Another good one to mash! Try mashing SPs with coconut oil and cinnamon to make a satisfying snack to curb sugar cravings.
7. TurnipsTurnips are kind of a daggy vegetable. Not many people get super excited about turnips, but they’re actually quite delicious and a great addition to any Fall meal. They are part of the cruciferous fam so they’ve got all the anti-cancer awesomeness of their cousins (kale, broccoli, etc.). I throw chopped turnips in soups and stews, hide them in casseroles, or roast them with carrots and onions.
8. AppleFall and apples are basically synonymous in my mind. Apples are great for maintaining a healthy heart as they’re super high in polyphenols. They contain fiber and pectin which helps escort toxins and other waste out of your body!
9. PersimmonA.k.a. the “Food of the Gods” in Latin, persimmons are one of a few foods associated with killing breast cancer cells without harming normal breast cells. Full of healthy vitamin A and C, eat these bad boys when they are ripe and sweet like a tomato.
Poms are a yummy and beautiful superfood. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, they are excellent for heart health and joint health. They’re a great flavor addition to winter salads, or just pop ’em on their own!
1. Homemade PopsiclesWho doesn’t like a popsicle in the summer? You can make your own delicious popsicles without the added sugars and yucky preservatives. The flavor options are endless, but two of my favorite tried and true combos are Strawberry Ginger and Pina Colada. To make the Strawberry Ginger pops, blend fresh or frozen strawberries with coconut water, a splash of ginger juice (optional) and a few drops of stevia. For the Pina Colada pops, blend fresh or frozen pineapple chunks with coconut milk and a few stops of stevia. Pour into a popsicle mold and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. Watermelon Basil SlushyBlend 2 cups of ripe watermelon cubes and a handful of ice (about 1/2 – 2/3 cup) and 1-2 tablespoons fresh basil. Healthy Slurpee!
3. Crackers and GuacMost kids like avocado so guacamole is a delicious and nutritious way of getting in those amazing healthy fats. Serve with rice or gluten free crackers, or organic corn chips.
4. Sweet Potato FriesFor those carb-loving kids, baked sweet potato fries are an excellent alternative to regular (trans-fat fried!) french fries. Simply slice the sweet potato into wedges, toss with some olive or coconut oil, salt and pepper, then bake at 450ºF for 20 minutes.
5. Bliss BallsFor a sweet treat, whip up these chocolate-y, protein-rich bliss balls. Store them in the fridge or freezer and whip them out as an alternative to a sugary, processed snack or dessert.
6. Veggies and HummusNutrient-dense, low-carb, high-protein, there is a reason this is a popular snack amongst health-foodies! Look for no-oil or olive oil-based hummus at the store or make your own.
- 1-15oz. canned garbanzo beans, drained, reserve juice
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, halved
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley (optional)
7. Kale ChipsKale chips – like a potato chip, but healthy! Buy some at the store or make your own. Wash and remove stems from the kale. Tear kale leaves into bite size pieces. Dry kale leaves (a salad spinner works well). Toss leaves with olive oil, a splash of tamari, perhaps some nutritional yeast and spices and place kale on a parchment lined baking pan in a 200 degree oven until crisp.
8. “Peanut Butter Cup” SmoothiePass on the Reese’s and whiz up this smoothie for sweet, creamy and indulgent treat, free of refined sugar and other nasties.
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 banana
- 2-3 Medjool dates
- 1/2 cup ice
- 1-2 tablespoons high quality cocoa powder
9. Apple Slices with Seed/Nut ButterServing apple slices with a tablespoon or two of nut or seed butter is a wonderful and satisfying plant-based snack. You could do peanut butter, almond butter, or even chocolate hazelnut butter for a treat. If your kid can’t do nuts, try sunflower seed butter. Delicious with a drizzle of raw honey.
10. Homemade Fruit and Nut BarsThere are a million granola bars on the market, some with great ingredients, others with not-so-great ingredients. Be selective about which ones you buy (read labels with a fine tooth comb!) or make your own so you can control the ingredients and ensure there aren’t any preservatives. Here’s a recipe I love that makes 10 bars:
- 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup pecans (chopped)
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup ground flax seed
- 1/4 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup raw honey
- 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
- 3 roasted red bell peppers, or an 8 oz. jar of roasted red peppers
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted in a 300 degree F. oven for 10-12 minutes
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- handful of fresh mint, coarsely chopped, for garnish
- 4 medium red beets, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup tahini paste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp Himalayan pink salt (or sea salt of your choice)
- juice of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 orange
- pinch cayenne
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups shelled edamame beans, cooked as per package instructions
- 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp tahini
- 1 ½ Tbsp finely chopped white onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Polenta Crust Pizza with Pesto SauceServes 4 Crust:
- 1 1/3 cups gluten-free medium-grind cornmeal (polenta)
- 4 cups water
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1/3 – ½ cup olive oil
- handful of walnuts or pine nuts
- 3 garlic cloves
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 6 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
- Roasted garlic
- Cherry tomatoes
- Caramelized onions
- Bell peppers
- Cheese of your choice
- Meat of your choice
Is going to the grocery store a dreaded chore? Does it send you into a state of panic at the realization you actually don’t know what to eat? Do all the food product labels make you dizzy with confusion? I get it. It’s a jungle out there! And I want to help you navigate it with grace and ease. By understanding front-of-package marketing labels, you’ll be armed against getting duped into buying processed foods with undesirable ingredients just because a “health halo” trips you up.
It’s pretty safe to say you should always be skeptical of health claims on food packages. If the package has to convince you of the healthfulness of the product, there’s a high likelihood the contents are really not so good. Research shows that the average consumer makes most of his food-related decisions on mindless auto-pilot and that people are less likely to check the Nutrition Facts Label on the back of the package when alluring front-of-package labelling exists. People think foods with front-of-package health claims (“rich in Omega-3,” “supports immunity” etc.) have fewer calories and are better for their health and, in turn, they eat more of them. This phenomenon is known as the “health halo effect” and it does a great job of selling food products, regardless of how poorly the health claim is supported by science.Now that we know how easy it is to get sucked into this food marketing machine, let’s go through the most misleading and most useful terms among commonly used front-of-package claims. Just so you know — in America, most food labels are regulated by the FDA or the USDA. The FDA handles produce and packaged foods, while the USDA regulates animal-related products (dairy, meat, eggs) and organic food production (plants and animals).
Produce and Packaged Food LabelsOrganic – This term means that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides and genetically modified organisms cannot be used on crops that bear the “USDA Organic” seal. (N.B. Organic does not address nutrition so just because a food product is organic doesn’t mean it’s good for you.) Natural – This term and it’s variants (“all-natural”) are meaningless when it comes to produce and packaged food. “Natural” is not regulated by the FDA, so you need to inspect the packaged product’s ingredients to ensure it supports good health. Fat-Free, Low-Fat, Reduced-Fat – Fat-free foods must have less than .5 grams of fat per serving; low-fat foods cannot have more than 3 grams of fat per serving; reduced-fat foods must have at least 25% less fat than regular versions of those foods. Just because a food is low fat or reduced fat does not mean it’s free of calories. Often, manufacturers take out the fat and replace it with sugar! Some fat-free products can actually be higher in calories than their full-fat counterpart because sugar and refined grains are added to the products to make up for lack of taste. Do yourself a favor and avoid any of these foods – instead, eat full fat products! They are “whole foods” so you’ll notice they are much more filling/satisfying and you’ll naturally eat less of them. Gluten Free – This term means that the product has a gluten limit of less than 20 parts per million. As you probably know, gluten free has been launched into the health food stratosphere in terms of trendiness. Now everyone wants to slap the gluten free label on their product because people equate “gluten free” with healthy. This is not always the case — many gluten free packaged foods, i.e. cookies and breads, are full of sugar, refined starch, and other additives and preservatives so check the ingredients list before assuming the product is a health food.
Livestock and Poultry LabelsOrganic – This USDA-regulated seal verifies that producers have “met animal health and welfare standards (e.g. letting animals graze on pasture), did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors” (USDA 2012). Natural – This term means that animal products must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. “Naturally raised” indicates that livestock used for meat have been raised entirely without growth hormones and antibiotics and have never been fed animal byproducts. It does not address animal welfare or the use of eco-friendly farming practices.
Grass-Fed – This is a USDA-regulated term which refers to ruminant animals (cattle, sheep) that were only ever fed mother’s milk and forage (grazed or stored hay, grass or other greens). The animals must have had access to pasture during the growing season. The label does not indicate any limitations on the use of antibiotics, hormones or pesticides, nor does it indicate year-round access to pasture. While “grass-fed” is a USDA-regulated term, “grass-finished” and “green-fed” are not.Free-Range – This is a USDA-regulated term which only refers to poultry. It indicates that a poultry flock was provided shelter and unlimited access to food, fresh water and access to the outdoors during the production cycle. While the birds have access to the outdoors, we don’t know the quality or size of the outdoor area and duration of outdoor access. Note that “free-roaming” is not a regulated term. Cage-Free – This term indicates that a flock of birds could freely roam in an indoor or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during the production cycle. This term doesn’t tell us whether or not the birds had any outdoor access, if the outdoor access included pasture or simply a bare lot, or if they they were raised in overcrowded conditions. No Antibiotics Added – This USDA-regulated term may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if the producer provides sufficient supporting documentation. “Antibiotic free” has no regulatory definition. No Added Hormones – This is a funny one because it’s totally redundant in referring to poultry and pork. The USDA prohibits use of hormones in the raising of any hogs, poultry or goats. This label must be accompanied by the words “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.” No Hormones Administered – This USDA-regulated term refers to beef and dairy products. The terms “hormone-free” and “no hormones” are not permitted on the labels of beef, pork or poultry products as the animal proteins contain naturally occurring hormones regardless of production methods. If you shop at Whole Foods, they make it easy for you with their 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating program which outlines specific husbandry and management practices that promote farm-animal welfare. It starts with Step-1 (orange) and goes through Step-5+ (green plus). Even though Step-1 is the lowest, and therefore the least “animal-centered,” it is still a departure from conventional animal agriculture practices (i.e. the scary stuff they show on PETA videos). If you go to the meat section of the store, you will see the color-coded rating system on the meat and poultry they are selling. If you want to know more about each Step, Whole Foods’ meat department has a free Animal Welfare booklet that they are happy to hand out.
Seafood LabelsThe U.S. had no organic standards for aquaculture (seafood). There are, however, third party certification bodies such as the Marine Stewardship Council, which is the world’s leading certification body for sustainable wild-caught seafood. There are also seafood watch programs, such as Monterey Bay Aquarium’s, which ranks wild-caught seafood as “Best,” “Good” or “Avoid.” Whole Foods has a third party verification system in place for their farmed seafood to ensure it has no antibiotics, added growth hormones, preservatives or by-products in feed.
Key Take Aways1. Beware of the Hype – Sometimes it’s the least healthy products that have the most nutrition claims on the front of the package.
2. Read the back – Read the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredients list on the back of the package and ignore the nutritional claims on the front.
3. Eat whole foods – Seek out produce instead of products and you won’t have to worry about falling prey to the food marketing machine!
4. Go organic – For produce and packaged foods, organic guarantees that these products are non-GMO and not sprayed with pesticides. For meat, poultry and dairy, you can rest assured the animals weren’t given antibiotics or hormones.
5. Grass Fed and Free Range – Beyond organic, you can go for grass fed beef / buffalo and free range poultry and eggs.
6. Sustainable and Wild Caught Seafood – I recommend buying wild-caught seafood as much as possible, but I trust that Whole Foods has high standards for their farmed-raised fish. Download a sustainable seafood guide from www.seafoodwatch.org and bring with you when you shop.
I know that was a lot, so thanks for hanging in there with me! For those of us who care about our health, my advice is to eat real food and minimize packaged products with health claims on them. When you are at the grocery store, do the majority of your shopping around the perimeter of the store, loading up your cart with lots of fresh produce and quality meat and seafood. Another tip is to not shop when you’re hungry! Being hungry can lead to many more mindless auto-pilot decisions and impulse purchases. Bring a list and stick to it as much as possible, ignoring all the food marketing jumping off the shelves. Check out this post for more tips and tricks!
Good luck out there! If you ever need my help with making your grocery shopping trip less of a nightmare, please feel free to reach out.– Stephanie
Let’s face it – most of us feel like we’re experiencing some level of stress in our lives at the moment. Whether it’s family, work, financial or physical stress, our bodies are under some form of stress on a daily basis. While a bit of stress is a good thing – it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning and motivates you be a productive person – many of us are feeling too much stress too often or for too long which puts us at risk for various health conditions.
Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system, which tells the body to unleash its “fight or flight” response. This prompts the release of stress hormones, including cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenaline, to prepare the body for a physical feat. There are various physiological changes that are activated during the fight or flight response in order to give the body increased strength and speed in anticipation of fighting or running. Some of these include increased blood flow to the muscles, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and increased muscle tension. While this response worked well for our hunter-gather ancestors who needed it for escaping a hungry saber-tooth tiger, it doesn’t work as well for modern-day emotional or physiological stress. The body can’t distinguish between rush hour traffic stress and saber-tooth tiger stress. Repeatedly triggering the stress response due to stressful relationships, finances, traffic, a demanding boss, etc. really takes a toll on the body. Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, addiction, obesity and other conditions such as chronic pain.
When it comes to stress, the problem is not necessarily your busy schedule itself, rather it is what happens to your body when you skip self-nourishment in the midst of that busy schedule. It is unrealistic to try to eliminate all stress in your life, but the goal here is to help your body adapt to it.Several strategies for alleviating stress have been well studied and documented. They include making a concerted effort to minimize stressors (i.e. go the back way to avoid traffic and road rage!), engaging in meditation and deep-belly breathing exercises, getting a massage, doing yoga and nurturing strong social relationships. Unfortunately, too many people turn to a detrimental coping method – eating – which can leave them feeling lazy, sluggish and depressed about their bodies. While under stress, the body essentially shuts down the digestive system as it’s diverting blood to your heart, lungs and muscles to help you run or fight. Eating while stressed can lead to digestive issues, weight gain and increased risk of obesity. While it’s generally a bad idea to eat while under acute stress, there are ways to use healthy, wholesome food to manage and adapt to stress, as well as help reduce the negative health effects associated with chronic stress. Chronic stress can reduce levels of serotonin, the body’s “feel good” hormone. Serotonin is a key moderator of mood, appetite, sleep and memory. Some foods that may increase serotonin contain high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid needed to produce this “happiness hormone.” Incorporating tryptophan-rich foods into your daily diet can be a great way of raising serotonin levels and mitigating stress and depression. Additionally, B Complex vitamins, Vitamin C and D and healthy fats are all super important for improving adrenal performance and healthfully managing stress levels. The list below gives you an idea of how to use food as medicine to assist your body in adapting to stress and enhancing overall health.
Stress-Fighting and Adrenal-Healing Foods
- Turkey, chicken, shrimp, eggs, and pumpkin seeds contain high amounts of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to the “happiness hormone,” serotonin, which helps the body regulate sleep and mood and lessens depression and anxiety.
- Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens and beans are loaded with folate, which works synergistically with B12 for the synthesis of serotonin in the brain.
- Sunlight, salmon, sardines, liver and egg yolk are all good sources of Vitamin D which is necessary for melanin production, a hormone made from serotonin. Deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to poor sleep quality, depression and can also impact immune function.
- Oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, plus many other fresh fruits and vegetables, are rich in Vitamin C. This vitamin can aid in lowering blood levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and ease the feeling of being stressed.
- Whole grains, dark green leafy veggies, snap peas and lentilsare high in B vitamins which are needed in above average doses to support mechanisms for dealing with stress.
- Flax seeds, walnuts and salmon are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for proper brain function, healthy nervous system and helping to reduce anxiety.
- Sea vegetables (such as nori, wakame, arame and dulse) and celtic sea salt are rich in minerals and micronutrients. As the adrenal glands help to regulate the body’s mineral balance, they can become depleted by a diet deficient in trace minerals.
As fun as drinking can be, the body really takes a hit. After a big day/night out, you gotta give your body some love. No one likes to feel badly after having a good time so here are my top tips for enjoying a drink (or 10..) and not suffering (too much) the next day!
Eat before you drink
Drinking on an empty stomach sets you up for a wicked hangover the next morning. If you’re drinking at night, make sure to eat dinner before you start drinking or along with your first few.
Go for the clear and clean alcohols — vodka, gin, white wine — as darker booze contains more chemicals called congeners which inflame the body and intensify hangovers. Mix your liquor with plain or sparkling water + fresh lime. Sugary mixers (especially diet sodas!) make hangovers way worse.
This one is obvious, but I have to make sure you heard it loud and clear. Alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes you pee. Diuretics can lead to dehydration if you’re not hydrating with water while you drink. When you get home from a boozy night, slam a big glass of water before bed. The next morning, drink a large mug of warm water with lemon. Sip on water and coconut water throughout the day! Coconut water is loaded with potassium so it’s way better than Gatorade for replenishing electrolytes. Make a jug of my natural vitamin water (recipe below)!
Take your B Vitamins
Alcohol depletes vitamins in the body. If you’re not too sloppy when you get home, pop a B-complex vitamin before you go to bed….and then another one after breakfast the next morning.
Take Shots!…. of Apple Cider VinegarThis wonderful elixir will balance your blood pH levels and increase deficient minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium and iron. Try 1 tablespoon of ACV in water with 1/2 tsp turmeric. Shot it back.
Eat a Good BreakfastUnfortunately, being hungover does not give you a hall pass to head to McDonald’s or a greasy diner. Greasy, heavy food will really make you feel worse. I promise. Instead, opt for eggs and asparagus! Eggs contain a substance called cysteine which breaks down acetaldehyde (a hangover-causing toxin in alcohol). Asparagus assists with breaking down alcohol in your system so your hangover will be over quicker. Pair your eggs and asparagus with some gluten free toast + avocado for a well-rounded brekkie.
Sweat It OutExercise gets the blood flowing and stimulates the lymphatic system to excrete toxins. Do whatever exercise you love to do – walking, running, tennis, yoga, etc. If you don’t opt for a yoga class, add some twisting poses to your workout to help with wringing out the digestive system.
Love your Liver
Your liver is in overdrive after a boozy night. If you have a juicer, or a juice bar nearby, treat yourself to a big ole veggie juice which is a champ when it comes to liver detox. Add as many greens into your juice as you can stand and guzzle. Also, try to incorporate some brassica veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts) into your meals that day to support detoxification. Sip on roasted dandelion root tea.
Make a big batch of this refreshing and detoxifying natural vitamin water and drink over the course of the day. It’s pretty, and yummy, and sure to get you feeling good as gold in no time!
Natural Vitamin WaterServes 4
- Four cups of cold coconut or mineral water
- 1 lemon
- a handful of mint leaves
- slice of fresh ginger root
- 1 small cucumber
- handful of frozen raspberries
- handful of frozen blueberries
- optional: 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
Peel the cucumber into strips using a potato peeler. Slice the lemon into circles, the ginger into thin rounds and pull the mint leaves off their stalks.
Pour the water or coconut water into a jug and add the lemon, cucumber, mint leaves and berries. Add a dash of apple cider vinegar if you’re brave. Then let the water sit for about thirty minutes to allow the flavors to infuse into it.Enjoy for a happy hangover!