Simple tips to turn healthy eating into a lifestyle

We can all agree by now that healthy eating does not have one universal, one-size-fits all description. What we all strive to achieve from a “healthy diet” is quite similar though- more energy, better moods, a stable weight, and lower risks of disease. How do we as individuals begin this healthy eating journey when we are faced with a saturated market of fad diets and food products all claiming optimal health? Here are a few smart, yet simple tips to get your started:

Choose to be REAL!

The simplest way to eat healthy is to choose REAL, living food as close to its original form as possible. You will find your real foods around the perimeter of the grocery store: fruit, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, organic dairy products, nuts, and seeds. These foods should make up the bulk of your everyday meals.

Balanced Plate = Balanced Life

Protein, fat, and carbohydrates are essential nutrients required by the human body. All three are needed to build and repair the cells in our body, provide natural energy, and maintain a safe body weight. Choose 1 serving of protein, 1 serving of fat, and 2 servings of carbohydrates for each meal. Remember: 1 of your carbohydrate sources should always be a fruit or vegetable!

Protein: lean meat, eggs, fish, seafood, cottage cheese, full-fat milk & yogurt, cheese

Fat: olives, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, nut butters, ghee, grass-fed butter

Carbohydrates: fruit, vegetables, quinoa, millet, oats, barley, rice

Moderation Matters

Eating in moderation essentially means eating only as much as your body needs to maintain a healthy body weight and energy level. At the end of your meal you should feel satisfied, not stuffed. Here are extra tips to make moderate eating easier: 1) Start cooking more at home to reduce the amount of fast food and packaged goods you are eating each week 2) Fill your plate based on your hunger level; are you hangry or starving? Grab a larger portion of meat with a bunch of vegetables. Are you slightly hungry but not feeling any physical effects? Grab a smaller portion of meat with vegetables that align with your hunger level. 3) Our brains work slower than our stomachs, so take the time to sit down and completely chew your food during each bite to reduce overeating.

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Crock-pot Moroccan Chicken with Cauliflower “Rice”

I am so excited to share this recipe with you all! The inspiration for this easy and adaptable dish came last week when I was searching for new dinner ideas online. I came across a variation of Moroccan chicken that involved multiple pans, steps, and ingredients I didn’t have on hand, so I decided to wing it slow-cooker style! The results were so fantastic, that even my helpful taste-testers (husband and sister) claimed it was one of my best recipes ever! That’s a bold statement, but this dish delivers on bold flavors and nutrient-density too.

Again, remember this dish can be created exactly how I’ve instructed below or varied slightly based on what you have on hand. Have fun with it and let me know how it turns out!

Crock-Pot Moroccan Chicken with Cauliflower “Rice”

Serves 4

Moroccon Roast

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs or breasts (pick on preference)

1 medium onion, peeled & sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4 because I love garlic)

1 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper

1/2 cup chicken stock (will need up to 1 cup total)

1/4 cup natural almond butter

1/2 cup dried prunes, sliced in half (sub dried apricots or other dried fruit on preference)

4 carrots, sliced diagonally in 1/4-inch pieces

1 bag Trader Joe’s Cauliflower rice (sub any type of rice if preferred or make your own cauliflower rice following this recipe Here.)

Salt/Pepper

Garnish:

Fresh herbs of choice (I used chopped basil & parsley)

1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds for added crunch

Instructions:

Heat olive oil in a large cooking pan over med-high heat. Season the chicken liberally with salt/pepper and add to the pot, browning on all sides but not cooking the chicken for more than 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan so you don’t steam the chicken- you may need to work in batches if your pan isn’t big enough. Transfer the browned chicken to the crock-pot.

Using that same pan, add the sliced onion and minced garlic and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Now it’s time to add the spices- ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes. Saute them into the onions/garlic for approximately 30 seconds. Stir in 1/2 cup of the chicken stock along with the 1/4 cup almond butter, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan left from the chicken (that’s more FLAVOR). Add this mixture on top of the chicken in the crock pot and let this all cook on low for up to 5 hours.

After 5 hours, add your dried fruit of choice and your sliced carrots. Cook for an additional hour or so. If it looks like there isn’t enough liquid in the pot to nicely coat all of your additional ingredients, add a bit more chicken stock. I added 1/2 cup more chicken stock at this time.

Once everything has cooked together for an hour, serve the chicken with it’s beautiful sauce on top of the cauliflower rice and garnish it with fresh parsley. If you choose to use the bagged cauliflower rice like I did, prepare it by cooking it in 1 tbsp. olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat until heated through. I seasoned my “rice” with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, as well as threw in some fresh basil to give it extra flavor.

Optional: If you like shredded chicken like me, you can choose to shred it approximately 30 minutes before you are ready to serve so that the shredded chicken has time to rest and impart more flavor.

Enjoy!

 

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Vital Foods for a Healthy & Happy Gut

Why is having a healthy gut so critical? Well, for one it’s where 90% of our immune system is housed, as well as where we digest and absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat. The bacterial environment in our digestive tract also plays a vital role in our mood, energy levels, and even our ability to lose weight!

A whole-food’s diet filled with a variety of fresh produce is always going to be a great start to good gut health, but there are a few star ingredients that can really help keep your tummy happy. I challenge you to incorporate these 10 powerful gut-healing foods to your diet on a daily basis:

1. Kombucha– a fermented tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast to produce beneficial probiotics. You can buy it in grocery stores or stop by your nearest Target! I love GT’s Kombuca and the Live Soda Kombucha brands.

2. Raw Sauerkraut- a traditional preservation method using salt or a culture starter to preserve cabbage; leaves behind compounds beneficial in overall gut health. Bubbies Raw Sauerkraut is a great brand found locally.

3. The “Onion” Vegetable Family– Onions, shallots, garlic, leeks, and spring onions are rich in prebiotics that act as a food for bacteria already in our gut, keeping them healthy and thriving.

4. Herbs and spices- Gut-loving herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, coriander, and cinnamon are all anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial helping to soothe our digestion and support our immune system.

5. Berries- Rich in insoluble fibre, helping to keep our digestive system moving, eliminating waste and toxins. They’re also potent free-radical fighters with their high level of antioxidants protecting our cells from excessive damage that can lead to disease

6. Salmon- Protein and omega-3 rich, anti-inflammatory salmon helps with the management of inflammation in the body and repair of our cells that line our gut wall. Salmon also contains bioactive protein molecules that researchers are studying for their support of insulin effectiveness and control of inflammation in the digestive tract.

7. Gelatin- The highest concentrations typically found in the parts of animal products that we throw away – skin, cartilage, bones etc. Gelatin can strengthen our gut health by enhancing gastric acid secretion and restoring the lining of our stomach. You can also find gelatin from leafy greens, fish, pumpkin, cabbage, cauliflower, kiwi, and bananas. I take the Great Lakes powdered supplement regularly by mixing it into my smoothies.

8. Kefir- if tolerated, kefir can be a wonderful source of probiotics to support digestion and keep the intestinal lining protected. If you can’t tolerate dairy, coconut kefir products are available and natural food stores.

9. Broccoli- Broccoli contains a chemical called sulforaphane that kills helicobacter pylori, the bacteria responsible for peptic ulcers and most gastric cancers. Eat your broccoli, sprouts, cabbage and Brussels sprouts to help reduce your risk of stomach cancers, and other stomach disorders including gastritis, esophagitis, and acid indigestion.

10. Grass-fed Butter- Butter is a source of naturally occurring butyrate in our diets. Butyrate is an important source of energy for intestinal cells. Without butyrate, or with very little supply, intestinal cells die. Food sources of butyrate may also enhance intestinal barrier function and improve overall gut health. If you’re not into butter, a diet rich in fibre – both soluble and insoluble will help your gut bacteria to produce more of this healthful compound.

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Remaking the RxBar – Apple Cashew Chia

I’m loving these homemade Rx protein bars I whipped up yesterday made from real ingredients. They are great for snacking on before a tough workout, snacking on the go, or as a side-kick to your morning breakfast! I made sure to include a balance of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates so that it provides you lasting energy. The bars are extremely versatile so feel free to use whatever nuts, seeds, and fruits you want! Keep them refrigerated in a covered container for up to a week. They are also freezer friendly!

RxBar Remake: Apple Cashew Chia Protein Bars

RX bar 1

 

Makes 12 small bars

Ingredients

¾ cup chopped roasted cashews

¾ cup almond flour (can use ¼ c protein powder + ½ c almond flour for more protein)

¼ tsp sea salt

6 large pitted dates

1 cup dried apple rings

2 tbsp. chia seeds

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 8×8 baking dish with coconut oil to prevent sticking. Place the chopped cashews, almond flour, and sea salt in a food processor and pulse until they form coarse crumbs; there may be small and large chunks of cashew pieces, but that’s okay! Pour this mixture into a medium bowl. Now add the dates, apple rings, and vanilla extract to the food processor and process this until it is finely chopped and starts to clump together into a sticky ball. Add this to the same bowl with the nut mixture. Crack the eggs into the same bowl and pour in the chia seeds at this time. With your hands or a large wooden spoon, mix all of the ingredients together well until well combined. Pour mixture into the greased baking dish and bake until lightly golden brown on the edges, approximately 20-25 minutes. It’s better to slightly undercook it to prevent drying the bars out; they will continue cooking once you pull them out of the oven.

Nutrition Facts

Calories- 148, Fat- 8.6 g, Carbohydrates- 14 g, Protein- 5 g

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How do I get started with long-term weight loss?

Weight loss is not a one-size-fits all strategy. Instead, it is a highly individualized journey that can be achieved by many different blends of diets and exercise routines. What matters most is once you’ve reached that goal weight, you are able to maintain it through a set of habits that are realistic and effective for the rest of your life.

When I sit down with any client looking for weight loss, I make sure to guide them through a set of safe, well-researched nutritional guidelines I was taught during my years of dietetic training. Remember:  the guidelines I will be sharing with you are to be used as a tool and are not the RULE! Make sure above all you are making changes that support optimal health and happiness for YOU.

Let’s get started!

Log your daily food intake. This may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s crucial to track your daily intake initially so you can get familiar with the portion sizes you need at each meal to reach your healthy weight. Pay attention to your hunger cues and why you are eating- are you eating to comfort a tough day or is your tummy rumbling? Once you get comfortable with understanding what your body needs to feel energized and satisfied (not full), you will not need to track. This is highly individual and will range from person to person!

  • Try using a phone app like MyFitnessPal or online resource like Spark People for quick and easy tracking!

Eat a serving of Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates every 3-4 hours. This is essential for consistent energy levels, a thriving metabolism, and decreased sugar cravings! Not sure what counts as a serving? Refer back to my earlier post on how to build a balanced diet!

Quality over Quantity. Food quality is crucial to overcome health obstacles and reach your goal weight. We need a healthy gut for the proper breakdown and assimilation of nutrients in the body, and the only way to do that is by incorporating these Super Foods on a weekly basis:

  • Organ meats– yes that means liver, heart, or even kidneys!
  • Eggs– including the yolk and its essential nutrients
  • Cold-water, oily fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring
  • Traditional fats – grass-fed butter, ghee, lard, tallow
  • Bone broths &/or tougher cuts of meat, skin, and cartilage – rich in glycine and other gut-healing amino acids
  • Dark, leafy greens – kale, collards, spinach, arugula, mustard greens, etc.
  • Fermented foods – vegetables, dairy, kombucha
  • Spirulina/Chlorella available today in supplement or powder form- loaded with antioxidants/ nutrients that are difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet & can help to detoxify our essential organs.

Stay Flexible. In reality, most people sustain a long-term healthy weight by following their own 80/20 rule that gives them a little wiggle room to indulge but also stay on track with their goals of well-being. Trying to stick to a strict diet almost always leads to additional stress or a yo-yo relationship with food.

Support your Success. Bring your family onboard, enlist the support of your friends, or tap into popular online resources like blogs or social networks.   Having a strong network of support is essential for long-term weight loss success. Not only can support networks help educate you on making healthy choices, but they can increase accountability to your goals.

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Let my fridge help yours!

For this blog post I thought it would be both fun and helpful to showcase my weekly refrigerator staples so you can get an idea of my go-to perishable items and maybe gather a few ideas for weekly meal-planning!

It is important to remember that I have no children and only meal plan for my husband and I, so my fridge may look different than yours! The bulk of my grocery shopping comes from Trader Joe’s, although I do stop by other grocery stores or even Target to pick up last-minute essentials.

Here we go, let’s start from top to bottom!

Top fridge

On my top shelf are some of my main weekly staples: I love blending plain Kefir into my smoothies, since it contains 12 different active bacteria cultures to support my gut health. I also use unsweetened coconut milk in my smoothies because I love the flavor! I encourage everyone to acquire a taste for unflavored, plain dairy products (i.e. yogurt & Kefir) as they are hidden with so much added sugar! Trust me, once you get used to it you’ll love it! Organic dairy milk is for my husband, who adores milk and will never live without it. I on the other-hand do not tolerate dairy milk well, but use the organic heavy cream shown for my coffee each morning to make it taste wonderful!

Middle fridge

The shelf below usually holds leftovers or recipes I make for the week to have on hand. You can see sauerkraut in there used for brats the day before; sauerkraut is another gut-friendly food that makes a great topper for burgers, brats, casseroles, eggs, etc. and packs an extra  nutritional punch! I am not a big bread fan, but my husband and I will use gluten-free bread as a quick meal on the go with grass-fed butter and peanut butter. Avocado and sliced hard-boiled eggs also make a great meal combo! Organic sour cream is typically in our fridge as a garnish on top of tacos, chili, or even casseroles. Inside the blue container are protein fruit/nut bars I made as a quick pre-workout snack to have on hand for the week, courtesy of this recipe.

Another terrific quick meal or go-to snack of mine is hard-boiled eggs. You can see 2 cartons of eggs there, one hard-boiled and the other fresh. We love salsa and guacamole in this house as a quick snack to dip with veggies or corn tortilla chips. Trader Joe’s organic Tuscan kale is my go-to dark, leafy greens for salads and smoothies; I ALWAYS have some type of dark, leafy greens in my fridge at all times.

bottom fridge

This is my meat/cheese drawer, where you will always find a few different types of cheese for salads or cooking, deli meat for quick snacking, and BACON. Yes, bacon. Mostly for the cooking fat, but I do make it on weekends for a yummy breakfast throughout the week or to use in my recipes. I love Trader Joe’s white corn tortillas because they only contain 3 ingredients- stone ground white corn, water, and lime. It doesn’t get more natural than that! Try them around eggs in the morning or as a carrier for your favorite taco meat!

whole fridge

I could not for the life of me get a good picture of my bottom two drawers, but believe me when I say they are almost always filled with produce. I almost always have a piece of meat in the fridge defrosting from the night before, waiting to be cooked, baked, or grilled. Here is my typical go-to list of produce and how I use them: peppers, carrots & celery (snacking, cooking dinner), tomatoes (lunch), lemons (for water or to mix with avocados), apples (my favorite snack w/ PB), onions & potatoes of some-kind (cooking), broccoli or Brussels sprouts (hubby’s favorite dinner sides). I buy a lot of frozen produce because of the longer shelf life and quick fix dishes, but that may be for another blog post :).

What’s in your fridge? What are your healthy fridge staples? Thanks for reading!

 

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