Grow your roots for everyday living.

Posts from the ‘Weight Loss’ category

Crispy Alternatives to Potato Chips

GO BAKED!  Beets, kale, sweet potato, apple, bacon..the list goes on.  These are a great alternatives to regular old potato chips.  Whether you are having a BBQ…looking for a fun and easy alternative to your normal chip or you are teaching your kids about veggies, this is a fun way to have your fruits or veggies.

*No matter the vegetable you’re baking, the process is essentially the same – lay slices on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and any other seasonings, then bake for approximately 30 minutes, and rotate the pan once halfway through.   Using a mandoline is the easiest way to make veggies chips.  This is a kitchen tool that helps slice your veggies thin enough to bake.  Your homemade chips will stay fresh in an airtight container for several days.

Nutrient Low-Down:
Baking vegetables breaks down the hard cellular structure, which makes them tender and easy to digest.    This increases the amount of nutrients than can be absorbed by the intestines.  Minerals, vitamins and macronutrients are generally stable during cooking, but some vitamin levels may decrease when food is heated.  Raw-food advocates claim that cooking destroys important enzymes, or proteins necessary for biological reactions in your body.  Enzymes in foods are broken down by your body like other proteins.  Personally, I am a proponent of both raw and cooked food and doing what works best for you.

The bottom line is that although cooking degrades some nutrients, absorption of the remaining nutrients is increased.  Your body must break down carbohydrates to sugars, proteins to amino acids and fats into fatty acids in order to absorb and utilize them.

Vegetables are key sources of fiber, potassium, folic acid, vitamins A, E and C, and many other essential nutrients.  Vegetables are high in complex carbohydrates, low in calories and contain low to moderate amounts of protein.  I am firm believer that vegetables are crucial in everyones diet – regardless of where you live, what culture you associate with and what ‘type’ of eater you are!


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Gettin’ Goin’

What gets you going?  Do you like to get physical by yourself or do you enjoy group activity?  Do you like walking or prefer weight lifting?…No matter what floats your boat, its important to enjoy your physical fitness.

Its nothing new to most of us that even 10 minutes of exercise can be beneficial to ones body physically and mentally.  The more sedentary people are, the greater the health risks, and visa versa.  However, you don’t necessarily have to be an avid weight lifter to reap the health benefits of less intense physical activity.  There is a lot of research showing that little bouts of exercise, such as taking the stairs, walking a longer way to your car, doing jumping jacks before hopping in the shower, etc. can all benefit you.

I was having a conversation with a friend last night about CrossFit.  There are certainly many benefits to high intensity training; and as he explained to me, aside from the physical benefits CrossFit provides, it is the team camaraderie, the friendships formed and the strong community environment that make CrossFit so appealing.  Although this is the type of physical activity that interests me, it isn’t for everyone.  For a lot of people this type of environment is extremely intimidating.  What is important is finding what you ENJOY doing.

I find that when people are just going to the gym because it’s part of their routine or because they feel obligated, they are often not getting as much benefit as those who are taking part in a workout/physical activity they are pumped about.  When we get stuck in a routine and it becomes monotonous, we lose interest and therefore so do our muscles.

Keep it interesting and do it because you love doing that activity – whether its lifting weights, stand up paddle-boarding, snowboarding, ice skating – you name it.  Try getting a partner in crime. Someone that keeps you on your toes!

More Research:
A newer study looked at the benefits of simply moving around a lot, using a national database of people who wore a device that measured their movements for at least 4 days.  Researchers controlled for age, diet, weight, smoking, medication, and overall health.  This study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, involved 6,300 people ages 18 to 85.  This study found that the 43% who moved around moderately for at least 150 minutes/week (approximately 21 minutes/day) in increments shorter than 10 minutes fared just as well in terms of cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and waist circumference as the 10% who did longer bouts of activity.

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The Power of PALEO

“Paleo,” short for paleolithic, also called “primal,” “real food,” or a number of other names is a way of eating that I actually strongly support.  There are few ‘diet trends’ that I agree with, but this is one that I highly regard and that’s because it’s actually quite simple: mimic our ancestors, who suffered from fewer chronic diseases than in modern times.  There is something to be said for eating actual butter, preparing dinner from scratch and eating real sugar when baking.  Of course times are different now than 100 years ago, but we can still incorporate old practices into our modern day lives.

This is what it comes down to: eating whole foods, knowing where your food comes from when possible, and avoiding processed, refined, nutrient-poor foods.  This also means avoiding grains, legumes, refined sugars, and pasteurized dairy.  When you take time to think about this, you are simply eliminating foods that really don’t promote health in your body.

Although there are foods “to eat” and foods “not to eat” when following this way of eating; paleo still supports individuality and allows room for adjusting based on who you are.  Some of us may need more fruits, while others may require more fish.  This is a framework for which to build solid nutrition, promoting ultimate health.

Basic Principles:

1.  Eat whole foods.

When you eat food as provided by nature, it actually promotes health, healing, and immunity against future illness and ailments.

2.  Avoid modern, processed and refined foods.

This list includes grains, pasteurized dairy, industrial seed oils (corn, cottonseed, soybean, canola, or rapeseed), and artificial or refined sugar and sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup).  Not only do refined, processed foods not offer us the health benefits of whole foods, but instead feed our bodies with bioengineered substances that create an array of problems for our bodies.  These problems may not effect us immediately, but they rear their ugly heads in some form or another at some point in our lives: ranging from weight gain, diabetes, digestive issues, skin issues, hormone imbalance, etc.  I love this saying:  “If its from a plant eat it, and if its made in a plant don’t.”

3.  Eat to maintain proper digestive function.

Everyones digestive function varies, but the importance of proper functioning does not.  Some people can tolerate dairy, or grain-based foods, others cannot, and its up to us to determine what works.  The ability to fight chronic, and even acute, disease states begin in the gut.  60-80% of the immune system is in the gut!  There is immune tissue that follows the entire length of your small intestine.  If your body suffers from digestive irritation, you set the stage for a suppressed immune system in other areas.  This may result in seasonal allergies or something like diverticulitis, psoriasis, or any number of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.

4.  Eat to maintain proper blood sugar regulation.

Another key component to health!  The amount of time it takes before your hunger strikes in again after a meal and how you feel entering into your next meal are critical signs of how well your blood sugar levels are managed.  If you’re hungry every two hours and feeling shaky, weak, or starving entering into each meal/snack, you are probably not consuming a balanced diet for you.  Figuring out how much protein, fat and ‘good’ carbohydrate you should eat will help you immensely in maintaining well-balanced blood sugar throughout the day.

5.  Follow a plan tailored to YOU and YOUR Goals.

Paleo is about eating healthy – whole foods, and avoiding unhealthy – processed, refined, junk food.  That being said, we are all unique in what we need to be as healthy and happy as possible.  What did your ancestors eat?  What did you grow up eating?  What foods do you gravitate toward?  What is your blood type?  What is your health history?  Who you are, where you live, what your lifestyle is constituted by all contributes to what foods may work best for you.

Before I tackle the list of foods incorporated in the paleo lifestyle I will say this, all grains don’t have to be “bad, disease-promoting” grains.  If you make your grains from scratch so all the nutrients are preserved, then by all means eat them!  As I always encourage: individuality is imperative and there is always room for tweaking.  No one way for everyone.  Maybe cheese is your thing, so consume high-quality cheese – organic, perhaps unpasteurized and local.  Know your sources.  If you crave chocolate, eat some phenomenal, mouth-watering, irresistible dark chocolate.  Most importantly pay attention to what feels good for you and enjoy your food.

Meat, seafood and eggs
Ideally from grass-fed, pasture-raised, organic-fed animals or wild-caught, sustainable seafood sources.
Vegetables and fruits
Go to town on veggies (except for potato, corn and squash which are very starchy)!  Eat most all fruits, those these can be harsh on blood sugar so limit fruit intake.
Nuts and seeds
Great snack item, but these can be overdone.
Fats and oils
Choose the best quality fats and use for cooking or simply to add healthy fats into a meal.

Refined grains
This includes, but is not limited to: cereals, oatmeal, toast, muffins, scones, croissants, sandwich bread, tortillas, pancakes, waffles, pasta, rice, pita, bagels etc.
Whole grains
This includes, but is not limited to: wheat, barley, rye, spelt, corn, rice, quinoa, millet, bulgar wheat, buckwheat, and amaranth.
Packaged snacks
Granola bars, breakfast bars, protein bars, toaster pastries, crackers, cookies, chips, baked goods, and this list goes on and on.
Dairy Products
Eliminate processed and pasteurized milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, frozen yogurt, etc. Raw dairy is debatable, I”m okay with it.
Certain beverages
Drink water.  Do not drink anything sweetened, especially with artificial sweeteners.  This includes juices, soda, diet soda, energy drinks, sweetened tea, shakes or smoothies.  *Juicing with pure veggies/ some fruit can certainly be beneficial, depending on quantity and quality.  Minimize coffee, tea and alcohol intake.

Paleo Sources –
Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC
Paleo for Women by Stephanie Ruper
The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf

“We live in a time when up is down and black is white.  We have been taught to believe that foods coming out of factories are safer and healthier than foods your great-grandmother ate.”  – Diane Sanfilippo

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Crazy for COCONUTS

Coconuts have become oh so popular, but what does that mean for you?

I constantly hear people questioning the nutritional validity as coconut oil is one of the most misunderstood dietary fats/oils.  They are predominantly over 90% saturated fat, and this is where the confusion begins.  As I say time and time again, saturated fats are not all bad!  The distinguishing feature between coconut oil and other saturated fats and triglycerides is the shorter length of the fatty acid.  I’m going to get a little technical because it helps people to better understand.

Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT), 6 to 12 carbons long, as opposed to long chain triglycerides being over 12 carbon lengths long.  Long chain fatty acids must be broken down before being absorbed and are the main form of fat found in western diets.  Coconut oil being high in short and medium chain fatty acids, makes it much easier for the body to digest, absorb and process; as the breakdown requires less energy and enzymatic action that what is needed for longer chain triglycerides.  Once broken down into medium chain fatty acids and absorbed, they are delivered to the liver where they can be used as a primary energy source.
Traveling directly to the liver creates an increase in metabolism, ultimately resulting in an improvement in blood lipid levels.  Because MCTs are sent directly to the liver no bile or pancreatic enzymes are needed for digestion, making coconut oil a healthy food for those with diabetes or those with gallbladder ailments.  Also worth noting is in eastern Asian cultures where coconut oil is a significant source of fat, rates of heart disease, atherosclerosis among other ailments are much lower than in their western counterparts.
WHY Coconut?
-Boosts metabolism and aids in satiety – can lead to weight loss.
-Beneficial for those with Alzheimer’s by improving cognitive function and memory.  This is because Alzheimer’s patients are not able to use glucose as readily which is the preferred form of fuel for the brain.  However, the brain can use ketone bodies and MCT’s are excellent sources of ketone bodies.
-Loaded with antioxidant compounds – protecting from oxidation and degradation.
-Powerful antimicrobial/antifungal/antiviral compound – can fight infection and flu, and active against a plethora of candida strains ansd fighting yeast infections in the body.  This is because of the lauric acid found in coconut oil.  Lauric acid is found in abundance in human breastmilk and converts to a substance called monolaurin in the body.  Monolaurin has been shown to be useful in increasing immunity and fighting viruses and diseases.
*Take Lauric acid in coconut oil in combination with oregano oil to fight staph bacteria.
-High lauric acid content – help lower cholesterol/blood pressure, doesn’t increase LDL.
-Shown activity against oral pathogens and skin pathogens associated with acne.
-May help increase thyroid health.  Because of nutritional properties and ability to travel directly to liver without the need for hormones or enzymes in digestion.
-Can increase bone strength by allowing better absorption of calcium, vitamin D and other minerals.

WHERE to use Coconut?
-Coconut can be used for everything from cooking and baking related to as a body product such as lotion or eye makeup remover.
Refer to Wellnessmama for more info:

Cherry Coconut Ice Cream/No Bake Chocolate Balls/Coconut Love

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The skinny on FAT

Fats aren’t all bad for you.  I feel this is a misconception created years ago amidst other diet trends.  Yes, the hydrogenated fats or “trans” fats used in prepared, processed foods can be extremely damaging to the body which is why they are outlawed in some states.  These fats can be damaging to your cardiovascular system, immune system and lead to a gamut of behavioral problems; not to mention weight gain, skin problems, high blood pressure and organ strain.

Unfortunately many people think fat makes you fat, and in fact this is quite the opposite.  Our bodies need fat to burn fat.  Fat is important for nutrient absorption of vitamins and minerals, proteins and carbohydrates; metabolism control; normalized hormone levels; insulation and lubrication.  Without fat skin becomes dry and hair loses its luster.   Fat also makes give you a sense of satiety and tastes good, it raises endorphins giving way to a sense of pleasure.

Sources of Healthy Fats:  –  Organic/local eggs, wild salmon, fish, meat.-  Nuts and Seeds – especially almonds and walnuts.-  Butters and Oils – sunflower, almond, coconut, ghee, lard, tallow, duck fat.
Organic, cold/first-pressed extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut, walnut,
avocado, flaxseed, sesame oils.
–  Full-fat dairy-  Avocados
–  Olives
–  High Temperatures (stir-frying, baking)  – ghee or coconut oil.-  Lower Temperatures (sautéing) – extra virgin olive oil.-  Unheated in sauces/salads – extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed, sesame, walnut.

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Stability Ball Exercises

Stability ball exercises: You can do more than just crunches on the ball…

Flab-Fighting exercises work muscles from head to toe!  What do you do on the stability ball?

Add a weight : Lie on stability ball facing ceiling / Hold a weight above you / Reach behind you as far as you can go with weight almost touching the floor / Come back up / Pushing weight to the ceiling. Keep abs tight, neck straight throughout exercise.


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I can’t tell you how many articles I read about stress putting you at an increased risk for something –whether it be heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, food allergies, autoimmune disorders, hormone imbalance, and the list goes on.  If we haven’t figure it out by now it might be time we start with some of the basics.  We all know how highly prevalent stress is in a society where we put so much emphasis and pressure on ourselves: to be the best in school, an amazing athlete or pianist, to be the skinniest, top of your profession, have a lucrative job, to have the perfect family, to buy a large home, raise your children in an affluent neighborhood..  Its a matter of how we handle the stress.

When you experience stress, your adrenal glands produce large quantities of cortisol — the stress hormone — but in turn this affects other processes in your body.  These include one’s ability to metabolize glucose levels, which in turn relates to storing fat, in addition to affecting your sex hormones, metabolism, etc.  When one continues to experience stress, they continue to produce cortisol, which only prolongs this chain effect.  As time goes on these minor issues can turn into much larger problems internally.

The truth is this stress we all talk about is killing us slowly.  Not to exaggerate but it might help us all to be a little more aware.  Is this pressure and stress we put on ourselves really worth it?

And then there is the issue of the millions of people on medication to treat stress and the myriad of problems it leads to…but I”ll save that for another post!

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SUGAR Substitutes?

As people are constantly trying to cut down on sugar and calorie intake, they often turn to sugar substitutes.  Although the FDA claims many of these to be safe, lots of people worry about the safety of these products.  Truth be told sugar substitutes are hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose), so much less goes a long way.  Most are calorie free or close to it and they don’t affect blood sugar.  HOWEVER, there’s no truly long-term research proving they are safe.  Sugar substitutes are not a fix for obesity; a better alternative is to simply cut down on sweets and make other changes little by little.  Putting chemically engineered, highly processed foods in your body is a toss up.  The structure of these products resembles a toxin more so than a molecule of real sugar.  My advice is that if you are craving ‘sweet’, go for the real thing.

Here’s How They Differ:

Sucralose (Splenda) — This is a sugar molecule altered so that it passes through your body undigested and therefore has no calories.  It can be used anywhere you would normally put sugar, as it has become very popular.  It is a synthetic compound made through a complex chemical process.

Stevia extracts (Truvia and PureVia) — Stevia comes from the shrub Stevia rebaudiana, which has been used for many years as a sweetener in South America.  Because of concerns brought about by early animal studies, stevia was banned as a sweetener in the U.S.  Most recent research however has failed to find adverse effects.  So, in 2008 the FDA granted GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status to rebiana, a purified extract of rebaudioside A, one of the plant’s main sweet components.  Marketers boast the stevia extracts (rebiana) are “natural”, though the leaves must be highly processed to isolate the compounds.  Whole-leaf stevia herb, in liquid or powder form, can be sold solely as a dietary supplement, not explicitly as a sweetener.

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) — Created from two amino acids, naturally occurring building blocks of protein, this has been around for 30 years.  This is not safe for people with a rare genetic condition called phenylketoneuria (PKU), who lack the ability to process one of the amino acids.  According to the FDA this is safe for everyone else.  Nonetheless, many have linked aspartame to: headaches, brain tumors, dizziness, migraines, depression, insomnia, memory loss, and a number of other conditions.

Neotame — Chemically related to aspartame, though not much sweeter.  People with PKU can consume this.  This is found in many food products, but not available directly to consumers.

Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) — This was linked to bladder cancer in the 1970’s in animal studies; yet other research claimed it was safe for human consumption.

Acesulfame-K (Sunett, Sweet One) — Also called acesulfame potassium.  Often combined with aspartame in soft drinks, this compound passes through the body unchanged, and contains a very small amount of potassium.  Once again, FDA has claimed its safe, but many consumers worry this could be linked to cancer among other conditions.

Sorbitol and Xylitol — These and other sweeteners with the “-ol” are sugar alcohols, which have approximately half the calories of sugar and are absorbed more slowly by the body.  They are often found in chewing gum and sweets because they have a more favorable taste than other noncaloric sweeteners, and may help reduce tooth decay.  They can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

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Did You Get Fooled?

How do we end up consuming so much?

–>  BIG SERVINGS.  People who are given larger buckets or packages of popcorn, ice cream, candy, etc consume more than those given a smaller bucket or package.  According to Brian Wansink up to 34% more!  This adds up fast!

–>  FANCY NAMES.  Cafeteria and restaurant sales increase when foods are given descriptive names such as “Belgian Black Forest Cake” instead of “Chocolate Cake”.  Furthermore, people are apt to order more food — 2 entrees instead of 1, or get dessert when they may not have in the first place.

–>  PLATEWARE.  People rate the taste of food higher when its served on larger plate or using nicer ware such as fine china, than on a smaller dish or a paper napkin.  If people aren’t satisfied they tend to eat more.  Also, people consume more when served on larger dishes.  Someone may only consume half of their food on a large 14″ plate thinking they are consuming a very small amount; but when this is compared to consuming half of their food on a smaller 9″ plate, they are quickly mistaken!

–>  FAMILY STYLE.  When serving dishes are left on the table during a meal, as opposed to the kitchen counter, both men and women tend to consume more.

–>  PACE MATTERS.  People generally eat more if they are enjoying a meal with quick eaters, as opposed to eating with people that are slower eaters.

–>  EVIDENCE.  People eat less when they can see how much they have eaten.  In other words, people eat less chicken wings, pizza, etc. if they can see the bones or crusts from what they have already eaten than if the bones/crusts were whisked away.

–>  MARKETING IS MEAN.  People eat more of a product, such as trail mix, snack mix, chips, when they are labeled as “low-fat”, than if the label did not say that.

–>  HEALTHY EATING YES OR NO?  People underestimate the amount of calories consumed if they believe that the establishment they are eating in is healthy.  For instance, people who think Subway is healthy underestimate the calories more than they underestimate the calories when eating at Burger King.

–>  EXERCISE REWARDS.  Some “worker outers” feel that they can consume a lot more dinner or more dessert, if they workout.  This is especially common in those newer to working out, or those that are “yo yo exercisers”.  People ate more dinner/dessert after they went on a “scenic walk”, than after they went on a “exercise run”.  These extra calories can negate the benefits of the workout, so be careful with what it is you’re eating more of!

–>  IF YOUR EYES COULD EAT.  Just because something looks delicious doesn’t mean it needs to be eaten.  Covering up a clear refrigerator door, or cabinets can decrease the amount of eating.  Be aware — does something look appealing or are you truly hungry?

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The Sugar Conundrum

We all hear about the importance of limiting added sugars, but what about naturally occurring sugars in fruits and other foods?

There are many different types of sugar added in the processing of food and beverages to provide flavor, viscosity, texture, color or other desired features of the product.  Naturally occurring sugars are found in milk products, fruit and some vegetables.  The Nutrition Facts label does not differentiate however between added or naturally occurring sugars in food, and neither do our bodies.  Once a sugar is absorbed, the body sees and reacts to all types of sugar as essentially the same.

Since we don’t eat sugar by itself however, we have to compare the foods with naturally occurring sugars to foods containing added sugar.  For instance, a banana to a snickers bar or a peach to fruit snacks.  Foods that naturally contain sugar also contain other beneficial nutrients, such as the protein, calcium and Vitamin D in milk or the vitamins and antioxidants in fruit.  It does not make sense to limit these foods to the same extent, if at all, in comparison to limiting processed foods with added sugar.  The major sources of added sugars are beverages and fruit drinks, desserts and candy, none of which is a good source of other nutrients.  Remember, your body doesn’t need to get any carbohydrate from added sugar.  Reducing intake of foods with added sugars removes extra calories and lessens your likelihood of running into greater health problems down the line, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease.

How to spot added sugar?

Spotting added sugar on the food label requires some detective work.  Food and beverage manufacturers must list a product’s total amount of sugar per serving on the Nutrition Facts label, but they are not required to list how much of that product is added sugar.  That’s why scanning the ingredients list of a food or drink is important, and added sugars go by many different names.  All ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so seeing where the sugar is listed on the label tells you whether the food contains a lot of sugar or just a little bit.  A good rule of thumb is to skip products that have added sugar at or near the top of the list — or have several sources of added sugar strategically placed throughout the list.  Being aware of your sugar intake is the first step!

*Other names for sugar include:

  • Agave nectar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane crystals/sugar
  • Corn sweetener/syrup
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
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