Superfood additions for Smoothies + a Recipe!

Recently I’ve been asked by a few clients what superfoods they could add into their protein smoothies to restore their health and take it to the next level. Although I prefer eating my food/snacks most of the time, I think smoothies can be a quick and easy way to add a ton of nutrition into your diet that you may not get otherwise.

Most protein smoothies start with 1-2 servings of liquid in the form of milk, yogurt, kefir, water, coconut water, or juice. From there, your protein powder of choice is added (preferably whey protein from SFH) maybe a few handful of spinach or kale, and ½-1 cup of frozen fruit. It’s simple, flavorful, and provides many daily essential nutrients. If you want to take your smoothies to superfood status, here are my current favorite additions:

  • Collagen Hydrolysate: A protein supplement with anti-inflammatory and anti-aging qualities, containing a unique amino acid profile of rich glycine, lysine and proline. These amino acids are important in generating cell growth and required by the body to build connective tissue that results in strong skin, hair, and muscle tissues while promoting cartilage, ligaments, and blood cell growth. Find it Here.
  • Maca Powder: Maca is a root belonging to the radish family that has been used for centuries to heal and energize the human body. Not only is Maca rich in B-vitamins, C, and E, it provides a generous amount of calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and amino acids. Maca is widely used to promote sexual function in both men and women, as well as relieve menstrual and menopausal symptoms. Find one of my favorite brands Here.
  • Spirulina: Although the flavor might 100% agree with you, this potent immune-boosting algae has been touted as superfood for its fatty essential acid-GLA content, as well as its Omega 3-, 6, and 9 profiles that give this powder high anti-inflammatory properties. Spirulina is high in chlorophyll (removes toxins from the blood), bio-available iron, B-vitamins, and fat soluble vitamins (D, E, K, A). It is incredibly high in protein and a terrific source of calcium- move over milk! Find it Here. Can’t stomach it? Take it by tablet Here.
  • Dynamic Greens: This super food formula combines a blend of 100% whole food concentrates, vitamins, enzymes, and probiotics that imitate our intestinal flora rich in antioxidants, lignans, and phytonutrients.  Not only does it taste great in smoothies, but it helps to keep your metabolism, immunity, digestion, natural energy and cell repair/recovery humming along smoothly. Find it Here.
  • MCT oil/Coconut oil: Like coconut oil, MCT oil is a medium-changed triglyceride rich in saturated fat; you can think of it as a concentrated form of coconut oil. It is uniquely digested and results in instant but well-sustained energy for the body. MCT’s are proven to improve blood sugar regulation (woo-hoo!), fat metabolism (hello weight loss), appetite regulation, and may even improve thyroid function. Find it Here. or substitute coconut oil!

Here is a protein smoothie recipe I have been enjoying lately for lunches I need to take on the go. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Smoothie

1 cup canned light coconut milk (or whatever milk you like)

1 cup organic whole-milk plain yogurt

2 tbsp. Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate

1 scoop Dynamic Greens Powder- Chocolate Flavor

½ frozen banana

1/2-1 cup frozen cherries

5-6 ice cubes

Layer ingredients in blender starting from the top of the ingredient list, working your way to the bottom so that the liquids go in first and you finish with the ice cubes on top. Blend well!

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Food Demo-Worthy Crockpot Recipes

I recently gave a food demonstration at work showcasing 2 healthy crock pot meals and felt compelled to share my recipes with you all! The feedback I received from everyone who tried them was awesome,  I’m so sad I didn’t grab any photos. I love my crock pot, it is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets because it does all of the work for me! Just throw your ingredients into the pot, turn it on, and walk away until it permeates the whole house with the wonderful scent of a prepared meal ready for you when you are! The crock pot is extremely useful for new chefs who like following recipes, or for those who can’t stand cooking. If you own a crock pot,  I don’t want to hear any excuses about your inability to eat healthy! Here you go, enjoy!

Thai Coconut Beef Stew

Serves: 4-6

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 lbs. grass-fed beef (or lamb) for stew, cut into 1- to 2-inchpieces

1 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoons ginger, minced or ginger powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cups beef broth

1 can coconut milk (full fat)

4 carrots, peeled and diced*

2 cups mushrooms cut in halves*

2 cups sweet potatoes peeled and diced*

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil and brown the beef chunks for a few minutes on each side. Do not cook through; just give the beef color.

Remove the beef and place in the crockpot. Place the rest of the ingredients all ingredients into a crockpot on low and cook for 6-8 hours. If it looks dry, add a little water.

*These were the vegetables I had on hand, so I used them. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you like!

 

Slow Cooker Mexican Enchilada Quinoa

Serves: 6-8

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1 lb. ground turkey  (can use pork or beef)

1 cup corn, canned and drained or frozen

1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes and green chilies, not drained

1/2 cup salsa of choice

1 teaspoon minced or dried garlic

1 onion, diced

2 red, green or yellow bell peppers, diced

1 cup water

1 can (19 ounces) enchilada sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

2  cups cheddar or Mexican cheese

*Optional: 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, sour cream, green onions, or guacamole for garnish

Instructions

In a large pan, brown the ground meat on medium heat until cooked through. Add into the slow cooker along with the uncooked quinoa, corn, diced tomatoes with green chilies, the salsa and minced garlic.

Chop up the onion and sweet bell pepper into small pieces. Add to the slow cooker.

Add in the water, enchilada sauce, chili powder, and cumin.

Stir everything together really well. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 or until the liquid is all absorbed into the mixture.

Once it is done cooking, remove the lid and stir everything again. Stir in the cheese and serve.

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Will I ever stop craving carbs!?

This has been my million dollar question for most of my adult years….heck I even considered it at one point my lifelong dream. Whether it was salty, sweet, savory, or fried, it didn’t matter as long as it was filled with carby goodness. As I’m sure many of you can relate, carbohydrate rich foods & drinks filled precious voids for me like celebrating a success or bandaging a failure, preoccupying boredom, alleviating stress, or marking the end to mealtime.

Although I felt relieved, happy, and content while eating them, it didn’t take long before the guilt set in. Not only were the emotional impacts of my sugar cravings intolerable, the physical effects of the sugar in my body was another story. I felt extremely fatigued shortly after my carb attack, bloated, jittery, and craving more carbs. How is that possible? Believe it or not, the more you eat carbohydrates, the more you crave them. It’s a vicious biological cycle that’s built in each and every one of us. Giving in to these cravings day after day leads to chronic inflammation (think acne, fibromyalgia, asthma, etc.), energy & hormonal imbalance, and control lost over our ability to listen to our body’s needs.

sugar-addiction

So, how did I gain control of my carb cravings and break my emotional relationship with carbs? Well, to be honest it’s a daily commitment and requires regular check-ins with myself to make sure I stay on track. You’ll be happy to know it’s much easier to stay on track once you break-up with your carb cravings. Here are a few helpful ideas to get you started and continue to use long-term.

Become aware of your habits. You won’t know how to remove and resist carb-cravings if you aren’t sure what habitual or emotional attachments you have to certain foods in the first place. What foods are you emotionally connected to? What foods when eaten trigger you to overeat or feel an unwanted/wanted response? Do you eat or drink when you’re bored, tired, or upset? Keep a journal to document the habitual and emotional tendencies surrounding your food choices.

Replace food with other activities. Quit choosing to celebrate success or ease the pain of a tough day at work with food. We almost always default to something sweet or salty, as carbohydrate stimulate chemicals in our brain to feel happy temporarily. This choice usually throws us off track with our goals and leaves us feeling guilty. Choose activities that will reap you long-term benefits to your health, like walking outdoors or curling up with your favorite book.

Clean up your external and internal environments. Don’t want to be tempted by carbohydrate-rich foods or drinks? Don’t bring them into your house, and work to keep them at a safe distance at work and social events. Out of sight, out of mind! As for finding internal peace from cravings, create positive self-talk and an inner perspective that is focused on fueling your body with real, whole foods and not junk. I like to write positive reminders of my healthy eating goals on post-it notes and put them on visible surfaces at both work and home to help me stay motivated!

Plan your indulgences. I will never tell anyone they can’t indulge in their sweet or salty favorites, even if it doesn’t completely comply with one’s health goals. You can still stay on track if you plan ahead for those indulgences! For example, I love something sweet after lunch so instead of something grabbing a sugar-filled donut that typically lurks on the counters at work, I bring my own piece of dark chocolate. That 1 piece is rich enough to satisfy my craving, but won’t throw my goals off track. At night I’ll grab a piece of fruit to munch on for my after-dinner treat that satisfies the sweet I crave while relaxing at night.

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Simple and Oh-So-Versatile Roast Chicken Legs with Vegetables

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve probably figured out that I like to cook….a lot! I take pictures of all sorts of meals and snacks that I’m proud of or eat frequently. My favorite types of meals to make are ones that are simple, require little effort on my part, and pack a big punch of flavor!

Today I am going to share with you one of my go-to weeknight dishes that comes together in under an hour and uses only 1 pan! My Roast Chicken Legs with Vegetables is highly versatile and comes out perfectly every time. You can substitute other proteins such as using a different part of the chicken like thighs, pork tenderloin or chops, salmon, or turkey. The sky’s the limit with vegetables and spices- follow my recommendation or use your favorites!

Roast Chicken Legs with Vegetables

First things first- Preheat the oven to 400 F and get your protein ready! I had chicken legs on hand the day I made this dinner, so that’s what I used! I kept the skin on for flavor, patted them dry and seasoned them with salt/pepper, garlic powder, and a sprinkle each of dried thyme and rosemary. I don’t use exact measurements,  I just make sure each piece is lightly covered with all seasonings on both sides. To switch it up, try seasoning your chicken with smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder for a Mexican twist!

Dinner2

 

Now it’s time to prepare your vegetables! Again, this can be whatever you have on hand that is fresh or even frozen! I’ve used both and they both turn out wonderfully. I had organic red potatoes on hand and a bag of whole Brussel sprouts. Since there was 4 of us eating dinner, I decided to go with 2 small potatoes per person (8 small potatoes) and almost 1 cup per person for the Brussel Sprouts (3 cups). Whatever vegetables you choose, just make sure there is at least 1 cup of vegetables per person in the pan.

To prepare the potatoes and sprouts, first run them under cold water and scrub any residue off of them. Pat them dry and then first cut the potatoes into 4’s, or 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Add them to an oven-safe large pan you will be using to cook your dinner. Whole Brussel Sprouts with the tough ends still in tact needs to be trimmed, and then cut again in half to equal the size of the cut red potatoes. You want your vegetables similar in size so they can cook as evenly as possible. Add them to the same pan as shown below.

Dinner1

After years of watching famous chefs like Bobby Flay and Ina Garten cook on Food Network, one of the most important takeaways I’ve gotten from them is to SEASON EVERY LAYER with salt/pepper! We must strategically bring out the delicious flavors in food, therefore, I always start out seasoning any dish with those two things. From there, your possibilities are endless! Since I LOVE garlic and really wanted to bring out the flavor in this dish, I peeled and finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic. Keeping in mind the seasonings I put on my chicken already, I wanted to stick with the same theme so I added 1 tsp. of onion powder as well as 1/2 tsp. each of dried thyme and rosemary. I drizzled 2 tablespoons of olive oil over my vegetables and tossed everything really well together.

Dinner3

 

Now comes assembly time! Place your chicken legs (or protein of choice) on top of your vegetables and place the entire pan into the oven to bake for approximately 45 minutes. Cooking times will vary with each meat you choose, so it would be wise to get a meat-thermometer and periodically check it beginning at 30 minutes! For chicken, you want an internal temperature of 165 F. Since meat continues to cook for another 10 minutes at least after taking it out of the oven, I took my chicken out at 160 F and it came out perfectly! If you find that your vegetables still aren’t finished cooking, you can put your meat on a separate plate and put the vegetables back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes while your meat rests.

Dinner4

Wala! I would love to hear if you try this recipe, and remember this is something you can put together last minute or  impressive your family and friends with!  Use this quick go-to, one pan meal as part of your meal prep for quick-fix meals throughout the week! Enjoy :).

 

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SCN’s Top Supplement Picks for Common Nutrition Deficiencies

This topic is becoming extremely important in today’s modern society, where more than half of our population is deficient in multiple key essential nutrients. Even healthy individuals that show no symptoms and strive to eat a nutrient-dense diet can be low in certain vitamins/minerals. Nutrient deficiencies are usually the result of a poor or inadequate diet, weakened absorption of essential nutrients, increased requirement, or increased excretion by the body.

My intention for this post is to sharpen your attention to 4 key nutrients that are commonly deficient in our American diet. When these nutrients are left untreated long-term, they can leave detrimental health effects that may be extremely difficult to reverse. I always urge using food as your supplement to ingest these important nutrients, but if for some reason you are unable to access or eat these foods, supplementation may be necessary.  Please work with a health professional to ensure you are making safe choices that will improve your health, and not damage it.

Probiotics: beneficial organisms in the form of bacteria or yeast, proven to improve health by sustaining a healthy immune system and assist in properly digesting food. Our digestive system is home to over 100,000,000,000,000(one-hundred trillion)  microorganisms from a thousand different species that need to be maintained in order to protect and heal us. Probiotics ingested from food or supplementation has been shown to help treat many digestive conditions like IBS and diarrhea, as well as reduce sugar cravings for a healthy metabolism. Other inflammatory, immune-stimulated conditions like Crohn’s disease, eczema, and asthma have shown drastic improvements in the presence of high level probiotics.

  • Deficiency symptoms: can include harmful bacterial overgrowth or an impaired immune system (i.e. getting sick often). Digestive distress like constipation, diarrhea, stomach pains, hard or compact stools can occur as well. Trouble losing weight, depression or altered emotional state, and autoimmune condition triggers can also result from poor gut cultures.
  • Where to get it: fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kim chi all contain millions, if not billions of bacteria that will increase your beneficial gut cultures. To keep those cultures healthy, incorporate plenty of fermentable fibers in your daily diet in the form of sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, etc.
  • Supplementation/Dosage: High quality probiotics are crucial when supplementing. It is also important to make sure the type of probiotics being taken match what’s present in human gut cultures. Take note the majority of beneficial bacteria in the gut is inhabited by  bifidobacteria. High quality supplements can be found here and here.  Taking 1 capsule daily 30 minutes before meals is considered a safe method to receive all of the benefits of a healthy, protected intestinal tract.

Vitamin D: a fat-soluble vitamin found in our cell receptors but in very few foods. It plays a huge role in immune response in the body by “activating” fighter cells to defend against bacteria & viruses.  It also promotes calcium absorption and regulates calcium & phosphate concentrations to promote the growth and mineralization of bones.  Health experts claim it’s one of the biggest nutrient deficiencies in modern society.

  • Deficiency symptoms: are linked to chronic conditions like osteomalacia, depression, chronic inflammation, and most cancers.
  • Where to get it: sun exposure of 20-30 minutes produces 10,000 IU of D3, the usable form of Vitamin D in the body. If sunlight is hard to come by where you live, high quality food sources like eggs, wild salmon, cod liver oil, cat fish, and mackerel are good supplement options.
  • Supplementation/Dosage: D3 food sources won’t offer you near as much D3 as sunlight in the summer months can. During the winter, it may be beneficial to supplement using this one starting at 5,000 IU’s per day, or  stick to a supplement of 1,000 IU’s if you are maintaining already healthy D3 levels.

Magnesium: This essential mineral  is responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body that are responsible for processes like blood sugar regulation, blood pressure control, and protein synthesis. Recent research suggests over 60% of America’s population is deficient in this mineral.

  • Deficiency symptoms: include insulin resistance, constipation, migraines, cramping, restless leg syndrome, hypertension, fibromyalgia.
  • Where to get it: Dark leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard are terrific sources, as well as nuts & seeds, dark chocolate, halibut, Epsom salt bathes and mineral water.
  • Supplementation/Dosage: supplementing Magnesium can be a helpful way to relieve deficiency symptoms quickly.  Aim for at least 400 mg of Magnesium Glycinate  such as this one daily, taken in the evenings to help promote better sleep.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for human health. We need them for numerous body functions- some include blood clotting, building cell membranes in our brains, and protecting us against inflammation. Other benefits resulting from regular intake of these fatty acids include improved protection against heart disease by increasing HDL and reducing Triglycerides. It is important to have a proper ratio of Omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) and Omega-6 essential  fatty acids (pro-inflammatory ) in the diet.  The Standard American Diet contains up to 25x more Omega 6, which is extremely off balance and increases the amounts of destructive inflammation in the body. Omega-3 fats have also been shown through research  to protect against certain cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Deficiency symptoms: deficiencies may not be clear and can develop over time, that’s why it’s important to make Omega-3 fatty acids apart of your regular diet. They can include poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, fatigue, and cognitive decline.
  • Where to get it: There are 2 different food types- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) mainly comes from nuts & seeds (think walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds), vegetable oils, and some vegetables like Brussel sprouts and salad greens. ALA is not a usable form of Omega-3 fat, and needs to be converted to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) via a difficult conversion process. That’s why EPA & DHA food sources are preferred, which come mainly from algae and cold-water fatty fish like anchovies, wild-caught salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, herring, and mackeral. Aim for a serving of fish (6-8 oz.) 2-3 times per week.
  • Supplementation/Dosage:  if you dislike fish, have an allergy, or just don’t eat omega-3 fatty fish regularly, supplementation of up to 1,000 mg Omega-3 combination of EPA/DHA can be beneficial. Look for a high quality supplement again here , with up to 600 mg of EPA in the dosage amount.  Want extra nutrient-bang for your buck? Try Cod Liver Oil , which contains essential Vitamins D, K2, and A that work together to optimize our health even further!
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5 Steps to be your BEST in 2015!

I’m just going to come right out and say it- I’m not a New Year’s Resolution maker. I believe that acting on resolutions we think will better ourselves and our PURPOSE on this earth should be done regularly, if not daily. That being said, I do think the New Year is a chance to reflect on where I am with my health and happiness, as well as where I want to take those priorities of mine in the new year to create my best self.

Based on my personal trials and many tribulations, I formulated a series of steps to consider before deciding what improvements you might want to put in place in the New Year. Whether you want to be happier, have less financial stress, lose weight, eat healthier, volunteer more, or get off medications, these 5 steps will allow you to set meaningful goals that will move you closer to being the best you possible.

1)     Remove labels. Labels we put on ourselves such as “dieting” or “sugar-free” create unhealthy behaviors that are not sustainable to lead a healthy life. The problem with pigeon-holding ourselves into a particular label is it makes everything outside of our “label” even more enticing.  If we step outside of that label, like eating a sugar-filled cookie at a party ONE TIME, we feel guilty! Let YOU be the one who defines and decides your choices to be healthy, not some crazy restrictive diet or unrealistic exercise plan.

2)     Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparing yourself to others silences your ability to truly appreciate your uniqueness. All that time spent worrying about what others are doing or look like is time you could be investing in being the best you can be. Eliminate negative statements from your internal and external self-dialogue. Remove negative judgments and criticisms of others as well. Begin to cultivate self-love by complimenting yourself and accepting it from others! Make every effort to be yourself in any situation and never change your actions for fear of being judged.

3)     It’s not about being perfect. Don’t chase after the impossible- nobody is perfect, so it’s time to adjust your expectations to match what will bring you good health and contentment. If you begin each day with the intent to be the best you can in every choice and action you make, then you are already becoming a perfect version of yourself.

4)     Be your biggest fan. In other words, believe in yourself and your self-worth! Don’t rely on anyone else to determine how wonderful you are. Successful change starts from within, so make sure you fully accept who you are before you decide where you want to be this next year.

5)     Take small steps! It can feel extremely overwhelming to make big lifestyle changes all at once, especially if you are changing a lifestyle behavior for the first time. Taking small steps towards a new behavior change allows a more realistic adjustment to your new habits in a timeline that feels comfortable for you. This increases your confidence and likelihood that you’ll stick to your New Year’s resolution long-term.

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