Why It’s Important – Vitamin A

Hello all! I’m back from my road trip, which was fantastic. But I’m one of those people who needs to take a little mental vacation after my real vacation in order to transition back into my normal life. So the last few days has been filled with video games, reading, and research (because I’m a geek and I find all that stuff fun to do!).

So, apologies for the lack of a Monday entry. Blame my mom (kidding!). But seriously, I was inspired by a conversation I had with my mom. She asked me for advice on a good brand of Vitamin B-complex, and of course I ask (because I’m nosy), “Why do you take a vitamin instead of getting it from food?” And my mom replied, “How would I get 100% of all the B vitamins from food?”

Challenge accepted.

After spending hours researching all the B vitamins, finding food sources, and creating a one-day meal plan which contains almost 100% DRI/DV of all B vitamins, I decided to start a series about vitamins. I’ve still got a lot more research to do about Vitamin B – there’s a lot of them! And the meal plan I did for my mom contains oats, because that’s what she already eats for breakfast, so I want to figure out a grain-free plan. But so far, it’s been fun and enlightening, and the more I discover, the more I love whole, real food. Today’s entry is a brief look at Vitamin A. And stay tuned at the end of the article for some EXCITING NEWS.

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin. Fat soluble vitamins are vitamins that require fat in order to be absorbed in the body. Think of fat like a car – fat globules travel from mouth, to stomach, then to the small intestine. From the small intestine, fat travels through cell walls into the body’s general circulation and finally to the liver, where the absorbed vitamins get dropped off and stored until the body needs to use them. Without enough fat in your diet, you won’t be able to absorb enough fat soluble vitamins, which could lead to critical vitamin deficiencies.

Vitamin A has many functions. It helps eyes adjust to light changes, it keeps skin, eyes and mucous membranes moist, it is critical for bone growth and tooth development, it’s important in reproduction, cell division, and gene expression, and it helps regulate the immune system. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness, very dry and rough skin, slower bone growth, and a weakened immune system.

Vitamin A has a bit of controversy to it. There are some people who believe that there are two categories of Vitamin A: retinoids and carotenoids. Others believe that there is only one usable form, and a precursor form. The research I’ve done makes me lean toward the second perspective. To me, it doesn’t negate the value of the nutrients, but it sheds light on how our bodies might use the nutrients most effectively.

Retinol, a type of retinoid, is found only in animal products, such as fish, eggs, liver, and full fat unprocessed dairy. Notice that the retinol is packaged in foods that have a high fat content? Mother Nature is smart! This is the most effective form of Vitamin A – 80% of natural vitamin A from animal sources is absorbed in the body.

Beta carotene, a carotenoid and a vitamin A precursor, is found in pretty much every orange or dark green fruit and vegetable: sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens. The body needs to convert beta carotene and other carotenoids into a usable form of vitamin A, like retinol. This is important to note: beta carotene does not become vitamin A until it is converted. This conversion is very inefficient, as it takes about 10-20 carotenoid molecules to make one molecule of vitamin A. It’s estimated that less than three percent of carotenoids are absorbed from plants. (I’m curious if the lack of fat has something to do with that low absorption rate – what would happen to the absorption rate if you ate fat with your plants?) If you want the best bang for your buck, animal products are the best source of usable vitamin A, especially if you have a genetic variant that prevents you from converting carotenoids to vitamin A. Carotenoids are still very beneficial, especially for eye health, so go eat your vegetables!

The recommended amount is 700-900 mcg RAE, which stands for retinol activity units. 1 RAE = 1 microgram (mcg) of retinol or 12 mcg of beta carotene. 900 RAE = 3000 IU. Vitamin A becomes toxic at 3000 mcg RAE (not IU – unit labels are very important!). This is very difficult to reach through food, but can happen from a multivitamin if the does is too high (and if you don’t have enough vitamin D – more on that in a second). If you are taking a multivitamin that contains vitamin A, check the type (beta carotene or retinol), the amount and the unit of measure. Signs of toxicity include headache, nausea, and lose of appetite.

Lastly, you might need to increase their vitamin A intake if a you have a fever, cold, or infection to help support the immune system. Excessive amounts of sunlight (and vitamin D intake) will also require more vitamin A. Vitamin A and D frequently occur together in nature, and that’s because they work best in the body when they are balanced with each other. Nutrient synergy is so important, and we get the best nutrient synergy when we eat real food, rather than getting it all from a multivitamin.

Action steps:

  • Eat foods with the highest retinol content: eggs, full fat dairy, fish, and liver (yes, liver can be delicious, especially when mixed with bacon!)
  • Eat sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, and other orange and green vegetables and fruits with fat (add some butter!) to absorb the most amount of beta carotene possible
  • Improve your gut health, as this will help your body more efficiently absorb all nutrients
  • Balance your meals – fat, carbs (from vegetables) and protein at every meal so that nutrient synergy can occur

Now, I know these science-y entries aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. So I’ve got EXCITING NEWS.

Starting next week, I’ll be posting two entries a week on my new blog!

That’s right, I’m switching to a new blog: http://www.onebiteatatimejourney.com

It’s not completely finished yet, so I’ll be posting the same content on both blogs for a few more weeks. As for writing more, to be honest, I’m a little nervous about taking on too much, with a new day job starting as well. For that reason, I haven’t decided yet which day will be my second post. But ideally, one entry will be more science-y, and the other will be more practical tips/advice and recipes. September will definitely be the trial month.

Until next time, be well!

Sources:
http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/food-nutrition/vitamin-supplements/fat-absorb-vitamins.htm
http://jdmoyer.com/2011/01/12/how-and-why-to-balance-fat-soluble-vitamins/
Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolfe
http://www.philmaffetone.com/vitamin-a-and-the-beta-carotene-myth
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=106

Travel Tips to Prevent Digestive Distress

Hello all! Sorry for the late post – I started writing this entry from my motel room in Ohio on Sunday, and we were traveling all day yesterday. The BF and I are on a road trip to meet with friends in Ohio and Minnesota this week. It’s a twenty hour drive, so I’m glad I knew how to best prepare my system for the change in routine. The last thing anyone wants on a road trip is digestive distress…the uncomfortable feeling of needing an immediate bathroom, or going days feeling like there’s a rock in your gut…it’s not fun, especially on vacation! (Yes, I’m talking about diarrhea and constipation – just to be clear.) Here are my top five tips to prevent digestive distress while traveling on the road.

1. Try to eat the same (or similar) foods you eat at home.

As tempting as it might be to indulge at rest stop eateries, your digestive system may not be happy with this choice. By being on the road, your body is already in a different environment, so you’ll want to avoid any unnecessary stressors to your system – unless you’re fine with stopping at multiple rest stops due to poor food choices. If your body is not used to eating chocolate at 10 am, for example, don’t buy that candy bar just because it’s available.

Once you’ve reached your destination, continue to respect your system by easing into trying new foods. I know that eggs are a safe bet for me, so I had that at the diner Sunday morning. I wisely chose not to have a milkshake – even though it looked delicious – because I just didn’t know how I would react to it, since I don’t have milkshakes at home. When you do decide to eat away from your norm, make sure you are near a bathroom for 30 minutes after your meal – just in case.

2. Bring your own food.

Not only will this save you money, you’ll have control over the ingredients, and you’ll avoid any negative consequences of being hungry but unable to stop because the next rest stop is 40 miles away. I made a huge chicken salad that the BF and I shared for lunch, and we brought string cheese, tankabars and epic bars, and I brought cans of sardines for myself so I can get a good source of healthy fat. I wish I had thought to also pack grapes and carrots for that first day’s drive – the food I brought definitely lacked crunch – so I made sure to get some for the next leg of the trip. But refer back to the first tip – if you don’t usually eat 1/2 a pound of grapes in one day, for example, and you do that on the road, don’t be surprised if your digestive system becomes unhappy.

3. Watch your fiber intake. 

Buying grapes, carrots, and Terra chips was a huge help for the 2nd leg of the trip – it felt great to have real food to eat on the road, and fiber definitely can help you stay regular. But I neglected to remember what eating A LOT of fiber-rich foods can cause: flatulence. The fix? Make sure you also add some protein and healthy fats to your snacks. The balance of macro-nutrients will help ease any flatulence issues, and it will also keep you satiated and focused for your drive.

4. Supplements

One thing that made a huge difference for me was to continue to take probiotics. I have found the probiotics keep my digestive system consistent. Full disclosure: I often become constipated on road trips that last for more than a few hours. There’s something about sitting in a car for numerous hours that my digestive system just doesn’t like. But on this road trip, I increased my probiotic intake, and that, along with the first two tips, has helped keep me regular. So, if you aren’t taking a probiotic yet, go start – but make sure you begin at least a few weeks before your trip so your system can acclimate.

5. Stay hydrated – drink water.

It can be tempting to drink coffee, soda, or energy drinks while on the road, but it definitely won’t be kind to your digestive system! Hydration is crucial to preventing constipation, so bring that water bottle! Caffeinated drinks often cause dehydration, so try to limit your intake to one cup in the morning if you must have a little caffeine to avoid withdrawal.

Bonus tip: Already constipated? Try walking around.

Sitting for long periods of time can affect the flow of the digestive system. Moving the body, such as exercising regularly, also keeps the digestive system regular. But it’s quite difficult to exercise when spending the day in the car. The fix: when taking breaks at rest stops, devote some extra time to walking around. Even a 10 minute walk every 2-3 hours can help relieve constipation.

Got a travel digestion tip? Leave a comment to share!

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Beets Are Awesome…But Beware!

Hello all! I’m on summer vacation! Woo-hoo!

Health update: Went to the doctor. Thyroid is a little enlarged, so I had a gazillion vials of blood drawn, and I have an ultrasound of my thyroid scheduled for tomorrow. Energy levels slowly increasing, and I was able to do a kettlebell workout on Saturday – first time in the last month that I’ve had energy to do more than ride my bike. So that felt good. 21 Day Sugar Detox is going well, but on Friday one of my counselors made me and another gluten-free teacher a lemon meringue pie. The first time in six weeks I could have a baked good that someone brought into work. So of course I had a couple slices. It was a conscious decision, and not one fueled by the Sugar Monster. The GF beer I had once I got home was COMPLETELY fueled by the Sugar Monster, and that did not feel good. Back on the wagon, and it feels good.

Another quick post today. I’m busy trying to get ahead – I’m going on a road trip next week, so I want to write a few entries to have ready to post. Also, I’m working hard behind the scenes to launch my health coaching business, which includes making my website more user friendly, creating a FB page, and getting the details figured out regarding the types of programs I want to offer. It’s exciting to think about it all, but definitely a little overwhelming if I actually DO try to think about it all at once. But I’ve got a list, and things are getting done!

So – beets! They are one of the many new foods I’ve tried since the CSA started. And they are delicious – once cooked, they are soft, with a buttery texture and sweet flavor. They are known for having anti-inflammatory properties and are good for detoxification support. They’re an excellent source of folate (pregnant moms, take note!) and a good source of manganese, potassium and copper.*

I’ve grilled them, sauteed them, and this weekend, I made beet chips. Pro tip: use a mandolin to slice them super thin. I did not have my mandolin with me, and was stuck with a knife. I just didn’t have the time to cook them long enough to get them crispy. Therefore, they lacked in the “chip” part, but were still really tasty. And did you know that the greens growing out of the beets are delicious, too? Chop them, saute them, add them to an omelette or stir fry- yum! Seriously, go try them if you’ve never had them before!

But I feel it’s my…ahem…duty…to inform you of some possible side effects.

Beets are red. If you eat a lot of beets within a day, like I did, you might see that color in your toilet bowl later on. Yup, your urine or bowels may have a red tinge to them.

Called beeturia, it’s not harmful, and anywhere between 5-15% of U.S. adults may experience this. However, I’ve read that it could also be a sign of an iron deficiency. It could also be a sign of low stomach acid, which can lead to malabsorption of B12 and iron as well as cause acid reflux and heartburn. And if you have kidney or gallbladder issues, you may not want to eat the beet greens due to the high oxalate level.

Question for the readers: What new food have you tried lately?

*Source: whfoods.org

A Quick Update and a Cooking Tip

ONE MORE WEEK.

I wish I had something more interesting to say to start off this entry. But all I can think of is that I have one more week of summer camp, then I finally get a vacation. I went directly from the end of the school year right into a 6 week summer camp. While the kids are great and I love teaching, I really, really, REALLY can’t wait for this break.

And what’s the first thing I’m going to do next Monday morning?

Doctor’s appointment! Yay…

So, an update about me from last week: I got a probiotic that also includes some digestive enzymes, and I’ve been taking it for almost a week. I can tell it’s definitely doing something, as I’m more regular elimination-wise than I’ve been in a long time. I’m eating more vegetables, and eating more sauerkraut. But the sugar monster has a big hold on me right now, so today was my day 1 of the 21 Day Sugar Detox! (In case you’re not familiar with it, I wrote a review about it here.)

To be completely transparent, I completely forgot I was doing the detox during lunch time. I wasn’t even craving anything sweet. I just got my tuna salad, put it on lettuce, and grabbed a pear. It wasn’t that sweet of a pear, either…I didn’t remember that I needed to limit my fruit intake until after I ate it. Oh well. I have no green-tipped bananas here, so if that’s my only piece of fruit today, I’m okay with that.

I’m hoping that by doing the detox program again I’ll be able to clear up this lingering fatigue issue I have. That’s also kind of what the doctor’s appointment is for. I’m tired of being tired, and if there’s a medical reason for it, I’d like to know.


Today I just have a cooking tip to share. A common complaint I hear at the staff lunch table in regards to eating healthy foods is, “I just don’t have time to cook anything!” Good, healthy food does not need to take hours to make! When I’m in a time crunch (or, to be honest, just feeling lazy), this is what I do.

Ingredients:

♥ Cooking fat: butter, ghee, coconut oil, lard, tallow, duck fat (olive oil if cooking on low heat, but it will then take longer to cook)

♥ 6-8 oz meat per person – I cook a pound so I can have leftovers, and I always have something defrosting in the fridge at all times. It keeps me sane when I’m hungry. Ground beef is my choice of meat for this recipe, but do what works for you.

♥ Frozen bag of veggies – I like the mix of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots the best.

♥ Spices of choice

♥ Cheese of choice (if you can have dairy)

Directions:

1. Brown the meat in a pan over medium or medium-low heat. As it’s browning, add in some spices. Usually I’ll add a bit of onion, garlic, salt, and pepper to start with. Sometimes I’ll stop there, and sometimes I’ll add paprika, cinnamon, cumin, or a spice blend.

2. While the meat is browning, put the microwave bag of veggies in the microwave. Follow the bag’s directions for time (my bags always say 9 minutes, but I can get away with 7). The veggies can still be slightly under-cooked.

3. After the meat is finished browning, put the veggies in the pan with the meat. Add more spices to taste. Add cheese about a minute before eating to let it melt a bit, or top it immediately before serving. I’ve done it both ways.

There you have it! It should take you about 15 minutes to make if cooking 1 pound of ground beef (more than a pound might take longer to brown, depending on the size of your pan).

Readers, what do you do when you’ve only got 15 minutes to make dinner?

Leaky Gut and Probiotics

Hey y’all! I hope the last week has treated you well!

I’m been dealing with some health issues of my own lately. My back and shoulder has been out of whack – pro tip: don’t go a year without a chiropractor appointment when you have a history of easily going out of alignment. In addition to the back issues, I’ve had a lot of joint pain.

So I’m on a mission to figure out what is going on with my health. And it fit in perfectly that the health portion of the nutrition course I’m taking had to deal with digestive health. Today, I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve learned about Leaky Gut, and how probiotics can help heal.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition described as intestinal permeability – the intestinal lining has become porous and things such as undigested food molecules, yeast, and toxins, instead of being screened out, get through into the blood stream. Leaky Gut has been linked to various autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis, MS, RA, depression and anxiety. (I especially found the depression and anxiety link interesting because one of my symptoms when I had too much gluten – pre-paleo – was depression.)

What causes Leaky Gut?

There are a variety of factors:

Diet: if your diet is low in probiotics and fiber (more on probiotics in a moment), high in sugar or processed foods, and high in grains and conventional dairy, you might have Leaky Gut.

Medication: if you overuse medications such as NSAIDs, antibiotics, asprin, or take hormones such as birth control, you might have Leaky Gut.

Stress: If you have high emotional stress in your life, you might have Leaky Gut. (I’ve previously discussed how stress messed with my health here.)

Bacterial imbalances: If you suffer from candida, SIBO, or frequent yeast infections, you might have Leaky Gut.

Leaky Gut can lead to food intolerance, immune abnormalities, and autoimmune conditions. Inflammation plays an important role here: the body tries to protect itself from what it views as foreign objects. If your gut lining is disrupted, food particles can be viewed as invaders, and the body will create antibodies to protect itself. Maybe your body views gluten as an invader. Or casein. Or lactose. Food intolerance is one of the first signs that something could be going on with your digestive system. After a while, the body might get confused and think that the gluten protein, for example, is in the cells of your skin, and so you develop psoriasis.

In my case, while I’ve been good about avoiding gluten, I have had more gluten-free foods, dairy, and high sugar items (curse you, ice cream!) in the last few months than I usually have. So I believe it’s quite possible that my joint pain could be related to my diet.

How do I heal Leaky Gut?

First, the diet needs to support the digestive system. Eat simple carbs in the form of non-starchy vegetables, fruits and raw honey, healthy fats like ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil and egg yolks, and easily digested protein like fish, chicken, and grass-fed beef. Bone broth is also a wonderful addition to the diet to help heal, and I always drink it when I feel a cold starting in order to boost my immune system, since gut health and immune health are so strongly linked. Lastly, eating probiotic rich foods, such as sauerkraut and pickles, can help add the “good” bacteria back to the gut, especially if you’ve taken antibiotics recently, or often wash your hands with antibacterial soap (which is practically everyone). I also learned that foods that come fresh from the farmer – the ones that still have a bit of dirt on them – will naturally have probiotics from the soil. Unfortunately, these probiotics are washed away by the chlorine spray that supermarkets may use to keep their food fresh. Yet another reason to shop at your local farmer’s market!

Supplements can also help. I am not a doctor, so I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone what to take, I can only share what I’ve learned, what I’m currently taking, and what I plan to take.

I learned that there are 4 supplements that help allow the body to heal itself.

1. First, for more acute reactions, digestive enzymes may help. There are a variety of different enzymes, and this post from Whole9Life gives some great advice about how to find a quality product. But basically, digestive enzymes do exactly what their name says: they are enzymes that help our bodies digest food and absorb nutrients. If we aren’t digesting food properly, we can’t digest nutrients properly, and that will interfere with our health. And if you’re making the effort to eat a diet like the one suggested above, you really want to make sure your body is able to get all the nutrients it can. I personally have been taking serrapeptase due to a recommendation from my Krav Maga instructor as a way to help relieve my joint pain, and I do notice I have less joint pain in my knees and ankles when I take it.

2. L-glutamine is another supplement that is recommended to help protect the gut lining. I don’t know much about it and will do more research before I start taking it.

3. Fermented cod liver oil – this supplement is my favorite. I’ve already been taking it since December as a good source of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and K2. As some who tends to have low vitamin D levels (the joys of living in the northeast!), I wanted to find a real food supplement that my body could use more efficiently than a Vitamin D pill. I use the Green Pastures brand, and this post from Balanced Bites explains a lot about cod liver oil vs. fish oil and answers practically any question you might ever have about cod liver oil.

4. Lastly, probiotics. Probiotics are responsible for: producing vitamins such as B12 and K2, crowding out harmful bacteria, creating enzymes that destroy the harmful bacteria, and stimulating the secretion of regulatory T cells (cells that modulate the immune system and may help treat autoimmune diseases) and IgA (an antibody that is found in the intestinal tract – without it, you will have a suppressed or deficient immune system). 

A few tips when it comes to buying a probiotic supplement:

1. Get a reputable brand. You pay for what you get.

2. Look for a probiotic brand that has a high number of probiotic (15 billion-100 billion) and a high strain diversity (10-30 different strains).

3. Strains such as bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis, and lactobacillus rhamnosus are heat resistant, so they will live long enough to get to the gut and colonize. It’s very useful (and cost effective) to take a probiotic that will have survivable strains.

As always, do your own research. Different strains will help with different needs. For example, bifidobacterium longum supports liver function and reduces inflammation, so for my needs I would search for a brand that contains that strain. If you have lactose intolerance, lactobacillus acidophilus could help with that. To support treatment of Crohn’s disease, saccharomyces boulardii has been proven effective, and this strain also reduces inflammation. Other strains boost the immune system, some support vitamin production, and others suppress the growth of bad bacteria like salmonella and e. coli.

I do not yet take a probiotic, but I started eating sauerkraut a couple months ago…and I don’t think I’ve had it in the last few weeks. Oops?

So my action plan to heal my own gut:

– Clean up diet – cut out the dairy, sugar and gluten-free treats for at least 3 weeks (although 4 weeks would be best). Just in time for a 21-Day Sugar Detox!

– Make more bone broth

– Eat more sauerkraut

– Research and buy a probiotic supplement

– Continue taking fermented cod liver oil

That’s all for tonight! If you liked what you read, please take a moment and leave a comment telling me a bit about yourself. I’d like to get to know my readers!

See you next week!

Top Tips for Cleaning Up Your Health

Hello! Today’s topic is an answer to one of the most popular health-related questions:

I want to get healthier, but where do I start?

It can be daunting to figure out how to eat better, especially when there is quite a bit of conflicting information out there. Here are my top five tips for cleaning up your health – it’s what worked for me!

1) Ditch the vegetable/seed oil and the margarine.

Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower seed oil, vegetable shortening…unfortunately, these oils are not the health food those commercials lead you to believe they are. They are highly processed through chemical extraction methods, and they easily oxidize and become rancid – sometimes they are like that before you use it! When a food becomes oxidized, the body doesn’t recognize it as food, and it becomes a toxin, leading to inflammation. Inflammation is a large factor in many diseases and in weight gain or weight loss resistance.

Instead use: butter (the real deal!), coconut oil, olive oil when cooking over low heat (otherwise it can also go rancid), and animal fat from properly raised and treated animals. I’ve tried duck fat, and to me it has a pretty bland taste, so it won’t change the flavor of your food much. I’ll save the fat when I cook high quality bacon, because that stuff makes everything taste delicious!

2) Add more fat to each meal.

Contrary to popular belief, eating fat will not make you fat. Your body needs fat to function, and quite often your body won’t want to let go of its own fat stores when it doesn’t get enough from food. Fat is what is needed to digest those fat-soluble vitamins that are so important to our health: Vitamins A, D, E, and K. (Why are these vitamins important? That blog entry is coming up soon!) Ever eat a satisfying meal, yet feel starving a few hours later? Most often that’s due to lack of fat. Seriously, quality fat is amazing – yes, even saturated fat!

How to add more fat:

♥ Eat some fatty foods! And no, I don’t mean fatty foods from a fast food eatery. Eat eggs (yolk included!), avocados, nuts, olives, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines. You’ll fill up and stay full for hours.

♥ Use healthy fats to cook with! (See #1)

♥ Add butter to your vegetables and your meat. If you can handle dairy, butter is such a wonderful flavor to add to the meal you are already eating. Already having steak? Add some butter! Did you microwave that package of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots? Go add some butter! If you’re not used to it, I’d start with a teaspoon of butter and build up to a tablespoon. A little goes a long way to satisfying your hunger and giving your body the nutrition it needs.

♥ Start eating full-fat versions of the food you already eat. No more skim milk or fat-free yogurt – to take out the fat, something had to be added in: sugar and/or chemicals. Neither one will fill you up.  And really, doesn’t full-fat sour cream just taste better?

3) Eat a balanced meal.

This means that for every meal or snack you eat, there should be fat, protein, and carbohydrate in that meal. This will help make sure that you are getting a variety of nutrients that your body needs to function. You’ll also feel satiated and stay that way. The need to snack every few hours will disappear. You’ll more easily avoid the sugar cravings that will get you in trouble. And a balanced meal just tastes good!

The easiest way I balance my meal is to have half the plate full of vegetables (carbohydrate), the other half with my protein of choice (meat, fish, or eggs). Then I’ll either add some butter or have an avocado. If I cooked with a lot of coconut oil, or I’m eating fish or meat that already contains a good amount of fat in it, then I might forgo the butter (although often I’ll still have the butter!).

Example:

♥ 6 – 8 oz burger (protein), pan fried zucchini in coconut oil (carbohydrate and fat), and a side of sweet potato with butter (carbohydrate and fat)

petespaleo

Duck tenderloin, roasted beets and acorn squash

♥ A dish from Pete’s Paleo: duck, roasted beets (this is my second time having beets EVER, and they are delicious!), and acorn squash

To be honest, I sometimes get bored with the food if I have to fill half a plate with the same vegetable/carbohydrate, so I try to mix it up and maybe make two veggies. Then I’ve got leftovers, which I love!

(You may have noticed I don’t have the “typical” carbohydrates that the Standard American Diet is based upon. See here for my reasons why I avoid them.)

I want to quickly mention something to those of you working out for an hour or more a day: PLEASE make sure you eat enough to fuel your workout. A common complaint I hear is, “I’m eating 1500-2000 calories a day and I’m exercising an hour a day yet I’m GAINING weight!” That is often the case when the body feels it’s being starved. I don’t look at calorie count since I stopped eating processed foods – I eat when I’m hungry, and I’m able to stop when I’m full because my body told me it had enough. A body that exercises at a high intensity often will need more fuel. But it’s not an excuse to go eat ice cream or whatever “treat” you want to give yourself “because I worked out today”. If your goal is to lose weight or to get stronger, then you need to give your body the tools it needs to accomplish those goals – eat real, nutrient dense food, and eat enough to that your workout is high quality.

4) Get enough sleep.

I wish I had learned this one LONG before I did. The length and quality of our sleep is just as important as what we eat and how we move when we’re awake. Food and exercise often go hand in hand, but sleep is ignored. Our bodies do so many important processes while we sleep, and so if we cut our sleep short, our bodies won’t work at an optimal level. So if the weight isn’t coming off, or you don’t recover from exercise as quickly as you’d like, it could be that you aren’t sleeping enough. I find it harder to deal with cravings when I haven’t gotten enough sleep. Eight hours of sleep is typically best, especially from 10pm-6am. Yes, it’s hard to go to bed at 10pm – there are so many distractions in the world today, and sometimes it just doesn’t fit into a person’s lifestyle. But if your diet is on track and you still aren’t seeing the results you want, try it for a week and see what happens.

5) Don’t forget to play outside.

Anyone who knows me in person might laugh at this tip. I’m a bookworm, and growing up there was nothing I liked better than to spend an entire Saturday in the summer, from sun up to sun down, reading a book INSIDE the air conditioned house. I didn’t even go read outside by the pool!

This tip is, in a way, two in one: play, and being outside. To balance our lives and our health, having fun needs to be a part of it. It’s what rejuvenates the body and, if you believe in it, the soul. Stress is a key factor in declining health, and I can tell you from experience that stress-related illnesses are no fun. Often I hear people say, “I don’t have time to take some time for myself.” But you need to take that time, especially if it will make your life and your interactions with your loved ones better. If you’re too stressed to sleep, then you’ll be too tired to workout, make smart food choices, and do fun things with your loved ones, which will make you stressed. You’ll get stuck in that cycle until you decide to break it, or until you get sick. You are worth putting yourself first in order to be healthy.

Just the thought of being outside relaxes me: the fresh air, the sun, and nature. You’ve got your Vitamin D from the sun, a chance to breathe in air that hasn’t been cooped up in a building (hopefully), and a chance to disconnect from our wired world. When’s the last time you took off your shoes, stood in the grass, and just took a deep breath? Or maybe you prefer to have your feet in the sand on a beach? Or in the water? It doesn’t matter how you decide to connect with the natural world, just as long as you do so. Go for a walk. Get on a bike. Throw a frisbee. Kayak. Look at the stars. Breathe. Take a moment to remember that you are part of this wonderfully magnificent world. And remember that you are wonderful, too.

 

So, dear readers, tell me: what’s YOUR favorite health tip? What’s worked for you? Did any of my tips surprise you? Do you have a health-related question for me?

A Step Forward

I’ve finally taken a step forward toward becoming a health coach. Yay! I’m SO excited!

I’m taking part in Dr. Axe’s new program, “Institute of Nutritional Leadership”. It fulfills a lot of what I’ve been looking for in a “beginner” (for me) program: business guidance, some basic nutrition foundation, coaching strategies, and, what was a bonus for me, essential oils training. (And when I say beginner program, by that I mean a short, relatively inexpensive program for me to test the waters before a jump into a longer, more expensive program.)

Tonight was the first business webinar, and I have so many ideas running through my head! But the biggest one relates to creating content and consistency. And I’ve been a naughty blogger! “What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done” is a HUGE take-away for me, and I realized that I wasn’t truly scheduling consistent content.

And I realized perfectionism and imposter syndrome (“Who am I to give health advice?” constantly running through my head as I type) was getting in my way. I don’t need to be perfect, and I’m someone who regained a lot of health by making the switch to eating real food, so yes, I can give advice as to what worked for me! And I’m good enough! So there!

Lastly, I realized 1) Each entry does not, and should not, be a chapter of a novel, and 2) Writing isn’t my first love. What do I love? Helping people. Answering other people’s health questions. Teaching. Talking. So, how can I do that? My awesome boyfriend suggested doing some short youtube videos. And I’ve been afraid to try. Man, this mind REALLY likes to get in the way of my success!

So please, if you have a health/nutrition related question, leave a comment or fill out the contact form below with your question. You can be as specific or general as you want. For example, “I eat x, y, and z, and I’m hungry an hour later. What gives?” Or “I move more and eat less, but I haven’t lost any weight. Can you help?” I’ll answer your question in my very first video. Woohoo!

See you Monday!