Let’s Talk About Stress

stress-emoji

Several of my friends and acquaintances have recently talked to me about how stressful and busy their January has been so far. And I agree with them. I’ve taken on a lot of new responsibilities, but also still have all the usual ones. It’s been a flurry of activity. The coziness and fun of the holidays is long gone, and here in the frozen north, we are now left with a lot of winter still to enjoy endure.

So, how do we not just cope, but thrive? That’s the key, isn’t it? We don’t want to just slog our way through our days.

If we are constantly stressed out, we will have too much cortisol, the “stress hormone”, pumping through our systems. This can lead to disruptions in sleep, metabolism, energy levels, blood sugar regulation and serotonin levels (which help keep our mood stable), amongst other maladies. However, cortisol isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s a necessary hormone for a lot of reasons. It will give us a quick burst of energy in the event of an emergency (like running away from an attacker). It helps up our immunity and resistance to pain in acute situations. But it’s when we have constantly high levels of cortisol that our bodies do not function properly.

So how do we keep our stress levels in check? Here are some things I recommend:

  • Turn off the news. Now more than ever, it’s important to periodically turn off the 24 hour/day news channels full of constantly “Breaking News”. This goes for Twitter and other social media. Turn off your phone. Turn off talk radio. Turn off the t.v. It’s called a news fast, and I think it’s vital to our mental well being.
  • Exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean running full steam on the treadmill or doing extreme cardio classes. If your stress levels are really high, high-intensity exercise probably isn’t your best bet. Activities like yoga, barre, hiking outside and swimming might be better for the time being.
  • Rest. Give yourself some time off. Read a book, have a cup of tea, take a nap. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Seriously.
  • Get plenty of sunshine. Even in the dead of winter, getting outside and seeing the sun is important. Even on my most anxious of days, if I walk the dog in the fresh air and sunshine, I always feel better. Check out my post about the importance of getting outside here.
  • Magnesium. You can read the post on magnesium I wrote last year. (Never take a supplement or over the counter medication without approval from your practitioner). I take 200 mg of magnesium citrate each night before bed. It helps relax my muscles and my nervous system. Start small on dosing, as it can cause, ahem, loose stools.
  • Cut back on alcohol. I know. But it works.
  • Eat regularly. Skipped meals can cause blood sugar irregularities and contribute to excess cortisol. Make sure you keep your blood sugar in check by eating regularly.
  • Meditate. Check out my post on meditation here. I swear by it.
  • Give yourself a break. It sounds so superficial, but you *must* take time for yourself if you hope to have the energy to take care of everyone else in your life.  Whatever helps you feel calm and centered, do it on a regular basis.

We live in a culture where being constantly busy and stressed is valued. Why is that? It’s silly. We’ll all wake up in our 80’s or 90’s (God willing) and wonder what the heck happened.

I’m constantly struggling with maintaining some sort of homeostasis, just like everyone else. Just because I have all these tools doesn’t mean I’ve mastered any of it. But it has helped me to identify where I can make some tweaks and changes. Maybe this post will help you too!

Is there something that works for you that I haven’t listed? Please leave a comment! And as always, please share this post if you liked it. You can also sign up to receive all my posts in your email inbox. How great is that?! Just click where it says “Follow Blog Via Email”.

 

 

New Recipe! Roasted Salmon with Garlic and Dill

Did you know studies have shown eating fatty fish with high omega 3 content once a week can help protect your brain? It’s true! If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s Disease, have Type II diabetes (which predisposes you to Alzheimer’s) or just want to do something healthy for yourself, I highly recommend eating salmon on a regular basis. Wild caught salmon is best — farmed salmon generally has less omega 3 content and is sometimes fed a diet of corn and soy. Read below for more information on why salmon, garlic, and olive oil are healthy for your body and brain.

 

roasted-salmon-with-garlic-and-dill

 

If you like this recipe, please share it on your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other social media pages! Please leave a comment too, I love to hear from you!

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Salmon with Clementine Cucumber Salsa

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Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Happy Wednesday. It’s a short week! For that let’s celebrate. Surely all the kids are back in school and this week is probably hectic for many. Here’s some good information and a quick recipe to get you through to Friday.

I’ve always believed that if more people got in the kitchen and cooked meals for themselves and their families, they would be healthier overall. An acquaintance once lamented that she felt like there were so many nutrition rules that it felt impossible to feed herself and her daughter “the right way”, so she gives up and resorts to takeout. I say that the nutrition and wellness community has failed her if that’s what she (and likely so many others) feel. The truth is, a jar of decent quality pasta sauce and a box of whole wheat noodles with a bagged salad on the side is vastly healthier than a drive-thru burger and fries. So, if that’s where you are starting, that’s ok. Trust me, you will progressively become more confident in your cooking and before you know it you will have a repertoire of healthy and delicious meals that don’t feel overwhelming to make on a weeknight. I loved Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl’s take on this in her article “The Cure Is in the Kitchen” in  Experience Life’s recent issue. Take a look.

Speaking of making things easier in the kitchen, one approach that I’ve always practiced is to make extra for the freezer or fridge. When making soup, I often double the recipe and fill up Ziploc gallon bags with the excess. Lay them flat in the freezer for easy stacking. On busy nights just pull out a bag and reheat. Sides like roasted veggies are delicious warmed up or cold from the fridge all week long. In fact, I just bought another rimmed roasting sheet on Monday so I can easily make even more.  After this hectic week of back-to-school and houseguest coming on Friday,  I will also start using my weekends or Mondays to make a big batch of quinoa or other healthy salad that I can eat throughout the week for lunch. 

And finally, here’s a simple and delicious looking recipe for your next Meatless Monday or whenever you want to load up on veggies. These Vegan Thai Curry Vegetables look fantastic for a cool fall day, and the gentle spice should be well tolerated by all in your house. I would serve them over brown rice and fruit on the side and call it a day. In fact, it’s what’s for dinner tonight.

That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed reading. As always, please pass it along, post it to your pages, and subscribe if you did! And I would love to hear what you think in the comments.

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Midweek Mashup

Hearty Lentil Soup

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Oat Muffins

Midweek Mashup

MIDWEEK MASHUP

Happy Wednesday.

This week I bring you a delicious cookie recipe that happens to be vegan and wheat free (whaaaat?!) and some information that will hopefully enrich your life a little and maybe even make it better.

Do you eat granola?  And if so, do you consider it a healthier option than other popular breakfast foods? Nutritionist have long known that most commercial granola is chock full of sugar and consider it a dessert. I suppose that rings true with many of the granolas you’ll find on the shelves. I have found one I love with only good ingredients like oats, dried fruit, millet and quinoa. Purely Elizabeth has an ancient grain line that I love, with my fave being cranberry pecan. It has 6 grams of sugar per 1/3 cup. Ok, yes, 1/3 cup is a very small serving. I pour that much into my bowl and add slivered almonds, fresh blueberries and chia seeds. So, then I’ve got good proteins and fat and it isn’t overwhelmingly sweet. You can also use it to sprinkle on unsweetened yogurt. The thing about granola is that it isn’t meant to be eaten in large quantities. Think of it as an addition to your breakfast rather than the main event. 

As you might have read in previous posts, my 11 year old is in the middle of an elimination diet. She’s about halfway through. It’s been a challenge, to say the least. But she’s getting used to it. Yesterday she told me she thought giving up wheat and dairy would be the hardest but actually it’s corn and nightshades, because potato starch and/or corn derivatives are in most packaged foods. Most gluten-free products contain one or both. Almost all candy has corn syrup (yes, candy isn’t healthy, we know that). It’s hard to avoid corn, no matter how much you might try, unless everything you eat is prepared at home from scratch (hello, unrealistic for most).One thing that she has missed is a good chocolate chip cookie. Most chocolate chips have dairy, but I found a brand called Enjoy Life that are vegan and also free of almost all allergens. Yesterday she made a batch of spelt chocolate chip cookies that were to die for. I’m not kidding, they are so good. She found the recipe here: Chocolate Chip Cookies. The only thing I did to help was put the cookies in the oven and take them out at the end. Don’t these look amazing?


And finally, if you’re like me and try to make meals using up your pantry items a few times a year, here’s a great list of things you can cook. My husband gets super excited when I do this because it means I’m being economical and there’s nothing sexy than being economical!

Here’s to a great rest of your week. As always, please share this post with someone you think might enjoy it. Even better, click to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss any great tidbits!

 

 

 

New Recipe: Easy Peanut Butter Balls (and an update on the elimination diet).


Today is day 10 of my daughter’s modified elimination diet. Tomorrow is the first day that we start adding foods back in. She gets to eat 5-6 servings of one of the food groups that we’ve been avoiding, followed by two days of “watch and wait”. She has chosen nightshades  because she really misses tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.

I’ll be honest: neither one of us has seen or noticed any changes since starting the elimination protocol. Maybe when we introduce things back into her diet she’ll notice something. Hopefully there won’t be a big reaction which would indicate a sensitivity and a need to avoid.

The last 10 days have been trying for her. I get it. When you’re told you can’t have something it only makes you want it more, right? But she is still being a trooper and I commend her for it. There has been no whining, no tantrums, no pushback. She’s stoic (like her dad) and while she really has disliked this experience intensely, she’s persevered.

We just took a three day girls’ trip and I packed much of our food. Eating out was a challenge but we found some places willing to work with us. Two of the restaurants specialized in vegan and gluten-free which usually means that they are more open to special requests. And both happened to be featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so that was cool. Shout outs go to At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe and Duluth Grill!

Now on to the new recipe I promised. These Easy Peanut Butter Balls are full of protein, healthy fats, and healthy whole grains. They really couldn’t be easier to make and they are guaranteed to please just about anyone. Make a double batch and keep them in your fridge for an easy grab-and-go breakfast for busy mornings and after school snacks.

EASY PEANUT BUTTER BALLS

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup natural peanut butter (I really like the no-stir Whole Foods creamy)

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup vanilla protein powder (I couldn’t get by without Orgain, which happens to be vegan)

1/2 cup honey (use local if you have seasonal allergies, as it’s thought to help with symptoms)

Optional: chocolate chips

METHOD:

Stir all the ingredients together, then form into balls the size of a golf ball. If they are too sticky, add a bit more protein powder or oats. Likewise, if they are too dry, add a bit of honey or peanut butter. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Will you try these? Do you have a variation you like?  Tell me in the comments!

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NEW RECIPE! Spelt Pancakes: better than you’d imagine!

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NEW RECIPE! Spelt Pancakes: better than you’d imagine!

If you’ve read my blog recently, you know my daughter is currently doing a modified elimination diet. Even though not one person has made a disparaging comment, I feel a little defensive about this decision. I don’t take drastic dietary changes lightly, even as a holistic nutrition student. Making big diet adjustments can be really hard on anyone, and for kids even more so. But, here we are, and on day 5 no less.  It has not been fun for her, but I’m doing my best to make foods for her that are similar to what she already loves.  Yesterday I made a quesadilla using brown rice tortillas and goat’s milk cheddar.  Let’s just say that wasn’t a home run.

But on Saturday morning, I made chocolate pancakes using the spelt flour that was recommended by our nutritionist. They were delicious and she asked for them again yesterday. SUCCESS! Sadly I forgot to snap a photo for the blog, but rest assured they looked fantastic.

They aren’t gluten-free, but rather wheat-free which is part of our protocol. They were fluffy (but also dense, if that makes any sense?!). And the taste was on par with traditional pancakes. Here’s how I made them:

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups spelt flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups milk (we used Ripple milk, a new milk made from green peas)

A generous sprinkling of dark chocolate chips or blueberries

Butter (we used Earth Balance vegan butter)

METHOD:

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Slowly fold in the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing thoroughly.

Add in chocolate chips (you can also use blueberries or whatever add-ins you prefer). I didn’t measure the chips, but rather eyeballed to our preference.

Melt a little butter in the skillet and add a mixing-spoonful of batter to the hot surface.

Cook, checking for doneness frequently. When the pancake is firm enough to flip, turn over and cook until done.

ENJOY! Please let me know what you think of these pancakes if you make them at home! I always love comments and shares. 

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New Recipe! Pan Fried Tofu

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Elimination Diet

This past week my 11 year old daughter was put on a modified elimination diet by a nutritionist. She has some GI stuff going on, plus eczema and keratosis pilaris (“chicken skin” on the backs of her arms). As a nutrition student, I understand that there are people who have food sensitivities and that sometimes those sensitivities lead to inflammation in the body, which can present itself in lots of different ways. Skin issues, headaches, GI distress, mood imbalances are just a few ways in which food sensitivities can show themselves. 

So, off to the nutritionist we went. After a thorough intake she suggested a modified elimination diet (she has 30 years of experience and has a master’s degree in nutrition, so I feel quite comfortable in her expertise). Doing an elimination diet with an 11 year old growing girl who is an adventurous eater is a major bummer. But, it’s only for a few weeks so we will give it a try.

The foods she has to avoid completely for 10 days are:
1. Corn. This includes corn starch and high fructose corn syrup. I am realizing corn is in A LOT of packaged foods.

2. Nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant). This is a bummer because she eats peppers and tomatoes in large quantities. And, you know, french fries.

3. Cow’s dairy. Again, in so many different foods. Sheep and goat dairy is ok.

4. Wheat. This doesn’t mean gluten-free. She can have spelt and rye and barley, etc. I realize after looking at oodles of gluten-free packaged goods that most have corn starch or potato starch in place of wheat.

Last night we went out to dinner at the Yard House, a restaurant that has an extensive menu. After much back and forth with the waitress, who was really accommodating, we finally settled on grilled shrimp, jasmine rice, and steamed broccoli.  All of their sauces contain corn starch or soy sauce (wheat). The orange chicken, the chicken rice bowl, the street tacos, the chicken teriyaki — all were off limits. If it were me at age 11 I would have cried and thrown a fit, but my daughter rolled with it.  That’s not to say she’s happy, for last night she announced that “I’m ok but I *hate* it”. I get it, it stinks. But it’s a short period of time and hopefully we will be able to identify any foods that are causing issues, cut them out for a period of time, and then reintroduce them slowly back. The end game is hopefully a healthier kid.

I dabbled with the idea of doing the elimination with her in solidarity but I quickly realized that I needed my energy and focus to help her through these next few weeks. When she’s done it’s quite possible I will give it a try. Don’t expect me to give up coffee or wine, though.

I’ll keep you updated on our progress! This is day 3, and I’m sure there will be lots to share in upcoming days.