Seasonal, local, delicious vegetable at my door? Yes, please!

I just discovered Farmhouse Delivery which delivers locally sourced vegetable, meats, cheeses, milk, coffee, kombucha, and a whole lot of other stuff to you. And right now they are offering to waive the $20 membership fee so you can try out their service when you use my offer code: HolisticHealth.

I chose the large vegetable bushel which arrived the Friday before Spring Break. When I said I arrived, I mean that they brought it to my door! So while I was packing for our Spring Break extravaganza, high-quality, seasonal,  and sustainably grown produce was being delivered to me. Secondly, the produce is wonderful; I may or may not have sampled the radishes a little too much.:)

Finally, it made my meal planning a breeze. If you have read my meal planning tips before, you know I keep my meals vegetable-centered. I make the vegetable the main focus of the meal with protein and/or starch on the side. It’s a great way to turn that SAD (Standard American Diet) on its head and to ensure you get the nutrients your cells need.

I knew that half of this lot would be hitting the road with us so I planned to grill the beets that night and do a quick and easy sauteed with kale to serve alongside our obligatory lake veggie burgers. The following evening I made a big salad with the greens, the carrots, and 2.5 radishes and topped with a veggie patty. We eat a lot of Good Seed burgers at the lake.

When we got home,  I used the spinach and broccoli in a vegetable stir fry and the remaining carrots and the celery in this lovely lentil stew from the Detoxinista for lunches. Have you ever tried farm fresh celery? Turns out, celery is delicious. Who knew?

The whole experience was wonderful, and the company just oozes integrity and passion. You can see this in their mission statement and the profiles of all their producers. So if you live in the Austin or Houston areas, you really need to check out Farmhouse Delivery. Their products are amazing. You can even order a meal kit full of fresh locally sourced food through their Supper Club to help you skip the meal planning altogether.

So sign up today and use the HolisticHealth offer code to waive that $20 membership fee. There really isn’t anything quite like loading up on a bunch of vegetables to improve your health.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Avoid the holiday bloat!

http://www.vintag.es/
From the fabulous blog Vintage Everyday

The holidays have become synonymous with gluttony. It’s as if we don’t know how to celebrate without feeling like bloated slugs when its all over. But you don’t have to “celebrate” like that!

Before you close this page because I sound like some crazy killjoy, I want you to know that I love holiday food — seriously, love it! Grandma’s stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and pecan pie are all delicious and bring back so many happy memories. If we are lucky, our holiday tables are a part of beautiful traditions that we get to share and pass on. But they can also be scenes of heinous crimes we commit on our digestive system. Often, we see that table and eat too much, too quickly and end up really wasting a beautiful meal.

So how can you have both? How can we enjoy participating in that beautiful tradition without going overboard and putting stress on our digestive system? Here are some tips!

  1. Have a plan. Before you step foot near that table, have a plan. Know what and how much you are going to eat and drink because it’s way harder to make good decisions when surrounded by not so great ones. Which leads me to tip 2
  2. Load up on taste vegetables. At least half of your plate should be non-starchy vegetables that are not coated in sugar. So if greens aren’t something normally served at your table, adjust the menu. Check out this technique for simple and easy to cook greens like chard, kale, or collard greens.
  3. Eat even more taste vegetables. Instead of the traditional sweet potato casserole that should probably be setting next to the rest of the desserts, roast some sweet potatoes along with some red onion and an apple. Or chop up your favorite vegetables into bite sized pieces and roast them until they are soft. My favorite combinations are broccoli and carrots or Brussell sprouts, butternut squash, and red onion. Most vegetables taste great roasted, and all you really need is a bit of coconut oil or ghee, some salt and pepper, and an oven set to 400. The great thing about eating a whole foods diet is that the food already tastes good so the cooking doesn’t have to be hard.
  4. Don’t let yourself get too hungry. Eat normally before the meal or party because the last thing you need is for blood sugar to go on a roller coaster ride. We make our best choices when our blood sugar is stable, so make sure to eat normally up until the big meal.
  5. Enjoy your food! The funny thing about these feasting days is that we load up our plates to the breaking point and then shovel it all down like at any minute it’s just going to disappear — which means that we are very rarely even tasting our food. So stop. The food isn’t going anywhere and there is probably wayyyy more than you need. Take a few deep breaths and chew slowly and  thoroughly so you can actually enjoy what you are putting into your body.

I hope this holiday season is wonderful for you and that you find lots of ways to take pleasure in and enjoy all the beauty that is around us.

If you’d like to make lasting changes for a healthier life, I offer a variety of health coaching programs. I’m booking people now for January, so go ahead and sign up for your free health consultation and let’s kick off the new year right!

Ghee, the miracle fat

ghee

Ghee (clarified butter) is a cooking oil that has been around forever. Okay, not forever, but a really long time. It is mentioned in the Ayurveda text as the best oil to use because it helps us digest our food and build healthier bodies. While these texts were written thousands of years ago, our modern science acknowledges that they had it right.

From an article entitled The effect of ghee (clarified butter) on serum lipid levels and microsomal lipid peroxidation researchers found that the consumption of ghee decreases “total cholesterol, LDL, VLDL, and triglycerides; decreased liver total cholesterol, triglycerides, and cholesterol esters; and a lower level of nonenzymatic-induced lipid peroxidation in liver homogenate.” So it’s good for your liver and your heart!

Dr. Susan Blum recommends ghee to those with autoimmune problems because it  “reduces inflammation and helps balance the immune cells in your gut.” To top it all off, even though it is a dairy product, people like me that have a sensitivity to dairy can use it because the dairy proteins are removed. Oh, and it tastes really magical, kind of like Christmas.

I use ghee when making eggs or cooking anything that requires fat.  I put a dollop in my coffee, and I have been known to soak dates in ghee to have a nice decadent yet health-supportive treat.

You can find this miracle oil at your fancier grocery stores (like Natural Grocers and Whole Foods), online , or at your local Indian stores. However, if you want to save money like I do, you can make it.

Ghee

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients and tools

  1. Stove top
  2. One-half to one pound grass-fed butter
  3. A heavy duty sauce pan
  4. A fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth
  5. Pint- or quart-sized canning jar

Technic

  • Place butter in the saucepan.
  • Turn the burner on low. ghee-foam
  • Once the butter is liquid, turn the temperature to medium.
  • Once a foam appears set your timer for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • A second foam will form, and you will hear a lot of crackling. (This part feels a lot like making popcorn. Listen and as the crackling starts to slow down, you know it’s ready.)
  • Once ready, pour the ghee through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth into a pint- or quart-sized jar. Brown milk solids will be left in the strainer and at the bottom of your pan.
  • Be careful, it will be hot!

You can leave ghee on the counter for up to a month, which is a great way to remind yourself to use it for cooking.

Enjoy!

I’m back and I got something to say… and a new series on the way!

Hello, Everyone! I’m back from my media fast with an epiphany. Are you ready? Here it is: We are super adaptable.

I know, you are probably thinking, “Duh! How else could we live on every corner of the planet and function when the heat index is an ungodly 108 if we weren’t adaptable? 108!!!!”

What I mean is that we adapt very quickly to new behaviors, for better or worse. For example, before going on my media fast, I was spending a lot of time scrolling through social media with jaw clenched and outrage turning my stomach in knots. But despite my daily (often hourly) habit, my first day of living media-free was incredibly easy.  I did have to remind myself not to just mindlessly “surf” while waiting in line at the store, but, other than that, I wasn’t missing anything. The days following were about the same, except that I felt much more relaxed. Even when my partner would give me updates on a disturbing news story, I just wasn’t getting as bothered.

The moral of the story is not that I learned so much or grew as a person, but rather that the Carrie with clenched jaw scrolling passed outrageous memes and the Carrie that was living her life outside of a screen is the same person. The only difference was the behavior. We slip into behaviors so easily, and, unfortunately, it’s often the ones that we don’t want to have. Staying up too late, drinking that extra glass of wine, having a daily “treat”, or just forgoing exercise comes so easily that, before you know it, it’s just how life is.

It’s as if we are on autopilot.  I try hard not to be on autopilot because I would rather be practicing intentional and purposeful living, but sometimes we just have to shake things up to keep from falling into bad patterns. That’s why I’m starting a new series on detoxing or, more specifically, supporting our body so it can do its job and get the toxins out. Stay tuned!

 

Gut friendly chickpea “tuna” salad

chickpea

It has been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, but I thought this one might be a nice addition to my gut health series. This is one of those dishes that I make a lot of on Sunday night and eat throughout the week for lunch. It’s also a big hit served with tortilla chips at potlucks.

Now, I know that not everyone can eat beans. I couldn’t until I healed my gut sufficiently, and even now I have to be careful — like preparing beans using the method listed at the end of this post. Also, the addition of gut-healthy bacteria from the probiotic pickles and Greek yogurt enhances the digestibility of the dish, which is why I recommend waiting several hours before eating it.

The recipe below was inspired by several recipes I found around the web, most notably from Oh She Glows and the Minimalist Baker. H/T to these great resources that constantly keep me inspired.

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy... like really really easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas*
  • 1/4 sunflower seeds
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 big probiotic pickles, finely diced (like these  or these)
  • 4 TBS probiotic pickle juice
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt or vegan mayo
  • 1 to 1.5 TBS chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Method

  1. Mash chickpeas with a potato masher. The goal isn’t to mash them all, just to get some squished down.
  2. Toast sunflower seeds in a skillet until lightly toasted. Just a few minutes over medium heat will do it.
  3. Mix all ingredients (told you it was easy!)
  4. Place in the refrigerator overnight. You don’t have to do this last bit, but I find it incorporates the flavors better and makes the beans easier to digest.

Serve

  • On toast, if toast works for you.
  • On crackers, GF or regular
  • Atop greens with avocado (pictured above).
  • With tortilla chips
  • As a side with anything else you might be eating.

*The best bet for making chickpeas (or any beans) is to soak them overnight and then cook with a piece of Kombu. Kombu helps to break down those sugars in beans that lead to gas.  You remove the kombu before using, but I find that a few piece get left behind, which is totally fine.

 

Enjoy!

Gut health 4: Stressing out our guts.

Source 

Stress is a killer of joy, a robber of your time, and, as it turns out, devastating to your gut health. I’ve written a lot about stress and its effects on your health and tips for managing it, but today I want to take a slightly different approach. The little ecosystem in our guts made up of bacteria, viruses, and fungi (microbiome) aren’t just helping us digest our food and strengthing our immune system.  This ecosystem is actually influencing and being influenced by our brain. Scientists call this the microbiome-brain-gut axis.

Researchers have found that being put under stress affects the make-up of our microbiome.  Under stress, both animals and humans show a decrease in lactobacilli.  This is fine when stress last for just a little while because the microbiome will bounce back, but most of us aren’t dealing with small bouts of stress. Unfortunately, many of us live with chronic low-level stress which means our microbiome doesn’t have the chance to bounce back.

This starts a vicious cycle. “Evidence (shows) that bacteria residing in the gut can also affect central brain function including neurobiological features and behaviors relevant to various psychiatric disorders.”  Basically, our mental state influences the makeup of our microbiome and the microbiome impacts our mental state, which for many of us shows up as anxiety and/or depression. Can you think of a better reason to take care of both? Me neither.  Here are some things you can do to protect your health.

  1. Prioritize stress management! I know that we live in a stressful world, and we are even financially rewarded for being constantly stressed out. I’ve been a part of a work culture where working all hours and heating up your lunch at 3pm only to eat in front of your computer is seen as a symbol of your commitment and dedication. This is crazy! Your stress level is the key to avoiding disease and absorbing nutrients and a hundred other things that create a quality life.  For tips on how to start managing your stress check out my series on the topic.
  2. Watch what goes into your body. So far this series has focused on things to avoid like antibiotics and processed and sugary foods. I’ve also written about keeping your microbiome healthy by increasing your intake of fiber. I’ll be sharing more about what you put into your body and its effects on stress in more detail over the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
I hope these tips are helpful and that you’re inspired to reduce your stress and increase those good bacteria! For more in this series check out parts onetwo and three.

Gut health 3: Sexy sexy…fiber

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Fiber! It may be the most boring topic of conversation, but it’s literally what’s for dinner for your good bacteria. Or as Justin L. Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford University says,

“The interaction between fiber and microbes that consume it…is the fundamental keystone interaction that everything else is built on in the gut . . . It may lie at the heart of the symbiotic pact between microbes and humans.”

When we eat, we are not only feeding ourselves but, just as importantly, we are feeding our microbiome. We need to make good choices for both. Researchers have found that, when the body is given a diet high in protein and fat, bile tolerant bacteria start to grow within a day. While these bacteria are necessary to help the body properly digest protein and fat, at least one of those bacteria, Bilophila wadsworthia, is linked to inflammatory bowel disease. In fact, the Harvard study that reported the discovery said, “We can’t conclude from this study whether or not Bilophila might be causing colitis in humans, but our data does show that this colitis-associated bacteria can be enriched through diet.”

I’m not saying that you need to stop eating meat or fat.  Good quality protein and healthy fats are really important to your body. But if your entire diet is made up of only those things, your system is going to be out of whack.  Adding fiber — things like legumes, oats, low sugar fruits, non-starchy vegetables, nuts — will help to balance out those bad bacteria because fiber feeds beneficial bacteria.  Beneficial bacteria are so important because our bacteria can help switch on our genes. So if we are  genetically predisposed to certain diseases, those diseases may be unlocked by having an unhealthy makeup of bacteria in our guts.

Get more fiber into your diet! In her book The Immune System Recovery Plan, Dr. Blum recommends eating at least 30 grams of fiber per day. Most of us get less than half of that, so it might take a little bit of work at first. Here are some tips to help you increase your fiber intake so you can increase your beneficial bacteria.

  1. Add more fiber into your diet. This list provides some great sources of fiber.
  2. Increase fiber slowly. Many people complain that eating vegetables and other types of fiber hurts their stomachs. I get that. It can take a while for your body to get used to eating more fiber. So spend a week observing how much fiber you are eating and then make a commitment to increasing it by 5 grams a week until you get to where you want to be with your overall consumption.
  3. Drink plenty of water. Fiber needs water to do its thing.
  4. Think half. When meal planning, create meals that are at least half vegetables. Or rather draw an imaginary line down your plate and make sure that one side is dedicated to vegetables.
  5. Try one new vegetable, nut, lentil, or grain a week. Most of the time we aren’t getting enough fiber because our go-to foods don’t have enough in them. Instead of supplementing with pills, think outside the box and find some fiber rich foods that you can make a staple.
I hope these tips are helpful to you and that you feel inspired to get out there and increase those good bacteria!
For more in this series check out parts one and two.

 

Gut health 2: Processed food and sugar

"The Fast-Food Supper" 2010, Jacob Thompson
“The Fast-Food Supper” 2010, Jacob Thompson

With every bite of food we take, we are feeding our microbiome, i.e. the 100 of trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc, that exist all over our body, especially in our digestive track.  Unfortunately, we aren’t feeding our microbiome the right stuff, and this is seen in the rise of diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disease. It’s even evident in common complaints of brain fog, lack of energy, and anxiety.

The food we eat has either negative or positive effect on the various bacteria living inside us. For instance, when we eat highly processed food and food high in sugar, we are feeding bacteria that cause inflammation and harms our brain. Meanwhile, that same diet means that we are starving the bacteria we need to keep us healthy and slim. One study found that after only 10 days on a “McDonald’s diet” the diversity of bacteria was drastically decreased, going from 3,500 to 1,300 species of bacteria.  Sugar also promotes the overgrowth of candida yeast that can lead to leaky gut creating a whole host of issues, from brain fog to food allergies.

We all know that processed foods and sugar aren’t great for us, but it can be hard to get off those foods. Processed food and sugar is easy, convenient, and taste pretty good. Also, they have our bodies (and those naughty bacteria) hooked making it difficult to go cold turkey. For those that rely heavily on processed food or have sugar cravings, here are some tips to get that food out of your diet so you can start to bring balance back to your gut.

  1. Keep it simple. Don’t go from picking up fast food or throwing together hamburger helper to attempting three-course real-food meals. Create a meal plan with simple meals that use real ingredients. Here are some recipes for inspiration. Think pre-washed greens with avocado, tomato, and a protein like grass-fed steak, chicken, tempeh, or nuts to top it off.  Cooking with real foods can take time and practice, so start off slowly and have a plan so you don’t go back to your fallbacks.
  2. Deal with the cravings. Sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine.  Meaning you are going to have some cravings and you might not feel great for the first couple of days. Here are some ways to reduce those cravings.
    • Eat enough fat and protein throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stable.
    • Don’t keep sweets in the house.
    • Drink plenty of water.
    • Don’t substitute with artificial sweeteners. They will only increase your cravings and mess with your blood sugar.
    • Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep makes us crave all sorts of things that aren’t good for us.
    • Find a better way to reward yourself. Go hang out with a friend, go for a hike, try out the adult night at the roller skating rink. Whatever it is, do something that is going to be pleasurable so you won’t be tempted to find pleasure in a bag of something.
  3. Watch That Sugar Film. One of my clients referred to it as “the scared straight for sugar,” and he is absolutely right. There is nothing quite so compelling as watching a once healthy man headed towards liver disease after only a few days of eating how most of us eat every day.

For more on gut health stay tuned and check out the first in the series.

Gut health 1: Bugs, guts, and antibiotic

antibiotics

This week I’m wading into the pretty controversial topic of antibiotics as an introduction to a new series on gut health. First, I want to put it out there that I am really glad we live in a time where antibiotics are available, but I believe we need to seriously reduce our exposure to them at all levels and tend to our gut health every day.

Why I like them 

Before the advent of antibiotics, people died at an alarming rate from things we now can treat in 5 to 10 days with a cheap trip to the drug store.  It’s been said that if we had had antibiotics during the plague we could have saved countless lives.  Just a few weeks ago two people that I love had to take antibiotics. I say had to because these people are not the type to run to the doctor demanding antibiotics for the sniffles.  One had a serious ear infection and one a serious kidney infection, and in both cases, antibiotics played an important and vital role in their recovery.

Why I tend to avoid them

Aside from antibiotic resistant bacteria like MRSA that will usher in the coming zombie apocalypse (kidding!), we are starting to make connections between antibiotics and what Dr. Martin J. Blaser calls our modern plagues. He writes that obesity, diabetes, asthma, cancer, autoimmune disease, and a whole host of prevalent modern ailments are a direct result of our abuse of antibiotics. From the pills we take to the antibacterial gel we squeeze all over our kids, antibiotics wrecking our microbiome, i.e. the trillions of fungi, bacteria, etc that live inside us.

Antibiotics kill everything, the germs we are trying to kill and the healthy microbes trying to keep us healthy. And that’s a real problem because antibiotics are way overprescribed, especially for kids.  Not to mention that here in the States we have something of a germaphobic culture that causes us to sanitize everything, including ourselves and our living environments. This is devastating to our microbiome. In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking more about healing and taking care of our microbiome, but the first step is to address how we actively destroy it through the medicine we take, the products we use, and the food we eat.  Here are some tips to reduce your and your families exposure to antibiotics.

1. Ask your doctor questions. When your doctor offers antibiotics to you or your children ask the following:

  1. “What should I expect if I take these drugs?”
  2. “What can I expect if I don’t take these drugs?”
  3. “What would happen if we took a wait and see approach?”

I can’t tell you how to respond to their answers because we all have our limits, but I will take a few more days of being sick to protect my long term health.

2. Stop trying to sanitize your world!  Back away from the sanitizer gel, get rid of the bleach, and stop being so scared of germs. Before you eat or after you use the restroom wash your hands with NORMAL (not antibacterial) soap and water. Believe me, this is enough. Also, when you clean your house, you don’t need to try to wage war on the germs because, honestly, you aren’t going to win but you will probably do some damage to your own health in the process. For tips on cleaning without harming yourself, check out this post.

3. Reduce the amount of  antibiotic-laden meat and animal products you eat.  There has been some  movement from big producers like Tyson’s and Cargill to reduce the amount of antibiotics used in their animals, but we have a long way to go before conventional meat is free from antibiotics. So be more conscientious about the animal products you put in your body. Vote with your checkbook by buying foods from farmers that do not use antibiotics, which is typically going to mean going with the product that is certified organic.  It is going to cost you a little more for those antibiotic free eggs, but in the end it’s still going to be cheaper than managing a disease.

Good luck and stay tuned for more information on healing your gut.