New Recipe: High Protein Smoothie (And A Bit On Nutrition for Anxiety and Depression)

If you’ve ever been depressed or suffered from anxiety, or have seen someone you care about suffer, you know that treating it can be difficult. There are so many components that go into the treatment of neurological disorders such as depression and anxiety. It’s not like a sprained ankle, where the cause is clear and the treatment is pretty straightforward. There can be many causes of anxiety and depression such as genetic predisposition, prior head injury, metal toxicity, nutritional deficiencies, hypothyroidism, blood sugar imbalances, chronic stress,  and there is even some evidence that having cholesterol levels that are *too low* can contribute to anxiety and depression.

It is important to work with a doctor or trusted medical practitioner to find a plan that works for you, but alongside that you can support your efforts with good nutrition. For instance, when a person’s blood sugar is imbalanced, they will oftentimes experience anxiety (this happens to me). An anxious or depressed person needs optimal levels of good quality protein (organic meat, eggs, fermented dairy like yogurt) and high quality fats (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and fatty fish) to help their brains function well. Many times we see a correlation between low B vitamins and depression and anxiety. So make sure to get plenty of whole grains in the form of brown rice, oats, and other non-glutenous grains. You can also get B vitamins in beans/legumes as well as dark leafy greens.  And, what might be most important in the nutrition discussion is our gut flora and how it affects our mental health. More and more research indicates that there is a very strong connection between how healthy our gut is and how healthy our brains are. It’s called the Gut/Brain Axis, and I think it has a lot of merit.  In an article in the Annals of Gastroenterology in 2015, we are told that:

“Both clinical and experimental evidence suggest that enteric microbiota has an important impact on GBA (Gut Brain Axis), interacting not only locally with intestinal cells and ENS (Enteric Nervous System), but also directly with CNS (Central Nervous System) through neuroendocrine and metabolic pathways.”

Basically, our gut is a very important center of activity for our nervous system, and directly communicates with the rest of our bodies, including our neurological system. A healthy gut microbiota can have a very beneficial effect on our mental health.

I’m not trying to insinuate that all of our mental and emotional problems stem from the Standard American Diet (SAD). That would be simplistic at best and dangerous at worst. BUT, I will say that research has proven that diet does have an effect on our mental well being. So, alongside any other remedies you might be trying such as medication, yoga, exercise, counseling, and supplements, it would be a really good idea to work on your nutrition. I understand that when you are in the thick of anxiety or depression, adding one more thing to your to-do list might well be too overwhelming. My advice is to make small changes as you are able.

Start with ditching your highly processed cereal for this high-protein smoothie. It’s got yogurt, which is good for your gut. It’s got a lot of high quality protein in the form of yogurt and whey. It has spinach and blueberries, both of which are high in antioxidants and really great for reducing inflammation. Add some coconut oil and you’ve got a good start to your day.

I plan on writing more about anxiety and depression because I think it’s such an important topic and so many people are struggling. And there is so much that can be done nutritionally, so stay tuned.

***I am not a doctor, nor am I prescribing any one treatment. My advice is never intended to take the place of the medical care you might already be receiving.

High Protein Smoothie png format

 

Maybe A Portobello Patty Melt For Dinner Tonight?

Ever since I cut down on my red meat consumption, I’ve really missed one of my favorite splurges: the patty melt. Maybe they taste good going down, but then reality sets in. Indigestion, the meat sweats, that brick-in-my-gut feeling. So when I saw this recipe I just knew I had to try it.

I made these Portobello Patty Melts last night for dinner, and they were GOOD. Like, really good. A few things I did differently: instead of caramelizing the onions for 40 minutes, I did it for about 20. Also, instead of roasting the portobello mushrooms for 40-45 minutes, I put them in a pan with the marinade and sautéed them with a cover on until they were ready. It saved about 20 minutes which is huge when you have a hungry family.

My daughter hates mushrooms so she opted for a grilled cheese but my husband and I really liked them. I can’t wait to have them again. Maybe next week?

You might also like:

BBQ Chicken, Spanish Style

White Beans, French Style

Mocktails — Green Tea Mojitos

cocktailsmocktails

My 12 year old daughter is having a sleepover tonight and instead of the usual soda, I think I will make this Green Tea Mojito recipe for them to try (obviously as a mocktail).  I want to test it out for an upcoming dinner party we are attending. The dinner party is on St. Patrick’s Day and I have a 5k the next morning that I’ve been actually training for these last couple of months. And I want to do well. Generally if you want to do your best in a 5k you do all the right things the night before, which includes getting enough sleep, eating nutritiously  and abstaining from alcohol. Totally boring, I know. But I’m committed this time!  My usual M.O. is to sign up for a 5k with plans to “really train this time”.  And then a week before the race I realize that I methodically have trained 3x week using a calendar that I’ve printed out and taped up on the wall failed to do any training whatsoever. So I suck it up and do the 5k and want to die by 1/4 mile in because I’m not at all prepared. But something clicked for me this past fall and I’ve been as committed to my exercise as I have been to my other healthy habits. Hence the “dry” St. Patrick’s Day.

I thought this recipe with green mint looked fun for St. Patty’s day . I love mint and I love green tea. Did you know green tea has lots of antioxidants and cancer-fighting polyphenols? Studies have also shown that people who drink green tea regularly have less belly fat, lower cholesterol, and better blood sugar control.  The original calls for white rum, and I figure I can bring a carafe of the mix without the alcohol and people can add it if they want.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

You might also like:

Mocktails– Mango Mule

Weekend Cocktails! The Cucumber Sangria

Cocktails! Prickly Pear Margaritas

Fats, Carbs and Protein For The Win

I have always struggled with my blood sugar. I am infamous in my family for getting, shall we say, cranky if my blood sugar dips. I regularly get a little lightheaded upon standing if it’s been too long since I last ate, and there have been times when I have gotten sweaty, shaky, and nauseated from waiting too long to eat.

I always just thought that this was how I was built. I couldn’t understand it when people told me they regularly skipped meals. I couldn’t fathom how that was even possible. In my recent studies to become a Nutrition Consultant, I’ve been learning a lot about blood sugar irregularities, also knows as dysglycemia. Because of regular blood tests, I know that everything else is functioning normally, and so far my low blood sugar issues haven’t caused any damage. BUT, left unchecked, high or low blood sugar can lead to all kinds of problems. We all know diabetes is a huge problem in our country, and chronically high blood sugar can (and probably will) lead to a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis somewhere down the line unless you get it under control.

The good news is there is a lot we can do with our nutrition to help stabilize our blood sugar. Last week I started a concerted effort to make sure every single snack and meal contained a healthy fat (think nuts, avocado, fish, whole fat yogurt, olives, olive oil), a healthy carb (like those found in sweet potatoes, sprouted grain toast, or an apple), and high quality protein (again, nuts and fish and yogurt, but also chicken, legumes, a hard boiled egg, or hummus). Plus for each meal, lots of non-starchy veggies. I also have been giving myself a snack a couple hours after breakfast. I used to try to just hold out until lunch, but would find myself literally counting the minutes until 11:00 a.m. Ever since I’ve made these changes, It has made a HUGE difference in my hunger levels. It used to be that every afternoon between about 2 pm and dinner time, I would be ravenous. Normally that’s when I would inhale too many crackers because my blood sugar was low and simple carbs were what my body was begging for. But for the last week my blood sugar feels quite stable. I can wait until 12:00 or 1:00 for lunch now that I’m having a snack. And that period between lunch and dinner is no longer excruciating (because I’m nourishing my body with what it needs earlier in the day). I’ve been on vacation with family and have been so much more flexible in when we eat our meals because I’m not feeling like I might pass out if I don’t eat rightthisverysecond.

I don’t know if my weight will change, and quite frankly I don’t care. I like the fact that I feel healthier, more flexible about my eating schedule, and less cranky. I’m sure my family will enjoy those benefits as well.

So, if you feel like maintaining an equilibrium with your blood sugar is an issue, try this method. It takes a bit of planning, but it is worth it. And please check back in with me and let me know if it works for you!

For healthy snacking ideas, click here.

You might also like:

Healthy Breakfast Recipe: Smoked Salmon Egg Bake

Healthy Breakfast Recipe — Tuna Stuffed Avocado

Healthy Breakfast Recipe: Pumpkin Waffles

Healthy Breakfast Recipe: Pumpkin Waffles

The third healthy breakfast recipe I want to feature this week is one you can make ahead of time and keep in the freezer until you are ready. We regularly make extra batches of waffles and pancakes on the weekend to pull out on busy weekday mornings. These waffles are gluten-free and paleo friendly (even though we are neither in our household). To add a bit of extra protein to your breakfast, I would suggest a serving of chicken breakfast sausage. I really like Applegate. Their chicken apple link sausage only contain Chicken, Dried Apples, Water, Honey, Salt, Spices and Parsley. 3 links are 120 calories and will add 9 grams of protein to your meal.  They are pricey, but because I eat mostly vegetarian and my husband does his own thing for breakfast, we use them sparingly.

If you don’t have a waffle iron, you can use this as pancake batter instead.  Enjoy!

pumpkin-waffles

You might also like:

Healthy Breakfast Recipe: Smoked Salmon Egg Bake

Healthy Breakfast Recipe — Tuna Stuffed Avocado

Healthy Snacks

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”.

 

 

These are a few of my favorite things

these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things-2

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and for many people that means making resolutions. Studies have shown that by June, the majority of people have given up on their resolutions. Bummer. People love making lists, though. I know I do.

So, instead of a list of things you think you should be changing about yourself, might I interest you in a list of some of the thing that have made my life better and/or easier?  Bonus: no trips to the gym necessary. Double bonus: You might find some things on sale now that the holiday shopping season is over!

1.) Ninja® Professional Blender & Nutri Ninja® Cups. If you’ve been reading my blog or my Facebook page (pssst have you “liked” my page yet?) you know how much I love my green smoothies. This blender makes my life so much easier, and it’s simple enough for my 12 year old to use by herself. It’s not nearly as expensive as some of those fancy blenders/extractors and that’s just fine. I’ve been using it nearly daily since July and it never disappoints.

2.) Clairsonic Mia. I got this several years ago as a birthday gift. I use it twice a day, without fail. I get a lot of compliments on my skin. Maybe it’s the green smoothies. Anyway, I know this handy little face washing device cleans my skin far better than my weak little fingertips can. Love it, wouldn’t think of leaving it behind when I travel.

3.) Mr. Coffee mug warmer. $10, people. It’s a game changer for me. No longer is my morning coffee a game of “wait. too hot. wait. too hot. wait. too hot. SORRY TOO COLD”. Never before has a $10 item brought me so much joy. Ever since I got it for Christmas, I’ve been able to drink my entire mug of coffee from my bed without having to get up to microwave it, which if we’re being honest makes it taste horrible.

4.)  Aaptiv personal training app. You guys, I have a problem with motivating myself to go to the gym. Which is kind of a problem when you’re a wellness writer and nutrition student. I decided to try Aaptiv after reading about it several months ago and I was instantly hooked. They’ve worked out some of the earlier kinks and have added meditation to the mix. You can plug into a personal trainer-led workout on the elliptical, treadmill or bike, as well as be guided through yoga, meditation, and outdoor running routines. I’ve been going to the gym way more, have pushed myself out of my comfort zone every time, and am motivated to keep going back. It’s all audio based, and I love that the trainers interject helpful tips like keeping my shoulders relaxed when I’m running. Not only that, but all the workouts are set to great music you’ll really enjoy listening to. It’s $9.99/month, or if you sign up and pay for a whole year, it is $4.16/month. Totally worth it in my opinion. Read this Midweek Mashup for more on my Aaptiv obsession.

5.) Clean Freak dry shampoo. I have oily hair. And I’m always fiddling with it which makes it even oiler. I’m not one of those “I only wash my hair once a week” kind of gals. If I did that, I would look like Danny Zuko in Grease. So I keep this dry shampoo in my bathroom cabinet and use if for when I don’t have time am too lazy to take a shower but don’t want to scare the people around me. It’s got a really nice clean scent and doesn’t make your hair look like a powdered wig. Plus, it’s a mere $4.79 from Target.

So, there you go. Some of the things I love to use. Keep a look out for more lists in future weeks and months. I love trying new products and services, and I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm.

***I was not compensated for writing about these products. I just truly enjoy them!

You might also like:

Midweek Mashup

Fall = Pasta (Caprese Style)