Archive | December, 2014

Thrive During Change: The 5-Step Anti-New Year’s Resolution Plan

29 Dec
Set your sails and avoid the rocks along the way.

Set your sails and avoid the rocks along the way.

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. It isn’t because I don’t believe in growth and bettering one’s self–I’m totally down with that. It’s because the “New Year’s Resolution” thought process that we’ve known sets us up for failure. Too lofty (“I know I haven’t exercised in 15 years, but I’m going to start going to the gym…”), too much (“… every single day at 5am…”), too dependent on societal cues  (“…because losing weight will help me get that date!”). So let’s thrive in 2015 and look a little differently at how we can start our positive lifestyle changes on a path of success!

1. How Do You Want to Feel? Danielle LaPorte writes in her phenomenal book, The Desire Map, that we spend a great deal of our time seeking goals or things to make us feel a certain way. For example, do you think having the perfect body will help you ditch your toxic partner and find a better job? It won’t because the perfect body doesn’t exist (without Photoshop)… but doing things that make you feel happy, sexy and courageous will help you realize your inner awesomeness, build confidence and you will become aware that you DESERVE (yes, you darling!) to be in a healthy relationship and a job you enjoy.

Action Step 1: Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel?” and make a list of words that resonate with you. Then, write down simple things (aka wearing my favorite perfume makes me feel sexy) you can do on a daily basis to feel that way.

2. Expect Challenges. Going through the transition of change can be painful. Anyone remember puberty? I know my awkwardness shined brightly throughout all those middle school pictures. Todd Herman, sports psychology coach, has the answer to stick to your changes. He says that the reason why we start off like a rock star during our New Year’s resolutions is because our brain temporarily floods our body with feel-good neurotransmitters to tell us good job and that it loves the fact we are treating our body awesome with exercise and healthy foods.

After about a week, we feel the resistance, the un-motivation. This is because our neurotransmitter levels went back to normal (and good thing, otherwise we’d literally go crazy). We think we’re just lazy and that it’s too hard to change; however, our cells are having a party transforming into healthier cells for us! They just need a little bit more time to reshape themselves (longer than our neurotransmitter support can give us).

Action Step 2: Celebrate when you feel resistance because it means you are making positive changes and your body is LOVING it! Push through the awkward puberty of change by: 1) breathing, 2) reminding yourself why what you are doing is important, 3) say it out loud, “I’m changing.” and 4) read the next step…

3. Make Small Corrections. So you missed a workout. It’s cool. Our life isn’t a typewriter. We don’t have to throw it all away just because we made a mistake. We are on a journey and can course correct, making small adjustments so we don’t hit that huge rock in our path again.

Action Step 3: What do you need to make this change successful? Is it packing your workout bag at night and having it in the car? Is it keeping almonds in portioned bags at work for emergency snacks? Whatever it is, do it. And if it doesn’t work, change it.

4. Start Small. You’ve decided you want to be healthier and exercising more is how you want to get there–hooray! Rather than going from zero to seven days per week of gym time, start slowly and build your confidence that this new positive change is easy peasy.

Action Step 4: Choose a number that sounds too easy. Maybe it is exercising one day per week for 30 minutes or focusing on swapping out one non-healthy snack with 25 almonds. Whatever it is, practice it. If it doesn’t work, re-read Step 3 and change it.

5. Think Outside the Box. Anyone who wishes to better themselves is a stellar human being in my book. So, as stellar human beings go, make the transition as enjoyable as possible. If you want to move your body, dislike running and love dancing, then for the love of guacamole dance–don’t run–to your mp3 player and “Shake It Off.”

Action Step 5: Okay, you know how you want to feel and what will help you get there. Now, make a list of the most enjoyable things you can do to achieve it. So, if you want to feel energetic and exercising is how you want to feel that way, but you dislike gyms, then make a list of everything you can do that you like outside of a gym (bodyweight exercises at home, yoga dvd, hike, dance, etc.). Choose your favorite, start small and rock out!

Chicken Vegetable Marinara with Spaghetti Squash

22 Dec
Serve the sauce blended, partially blended or chunky (like mine) for a healthy and fresh dinner.

Serve the sauce blended, partially blended or chunky (like mine) for a healthy and fresh dinner.

I’ll be honest, this dish does include some time in the kitchen (60-80 minutes) for prepping and cooking, but your health and taste buds will be justly rewarded! It is also a great dish for hiding vegetables from picky eaters and boosting everyone’s’ health. Either blend part or all of the vegetables with an immersion blender to make a thick spaghetti sauce or leave the vegetables whole. No matter what you choose, you’ll create a nutritious, preservative-free homemade spaghetti sauce.

 

Ingredients:

2 lbs chicken breast

1 spaghetti squash

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 acorn squash, peeled and chopped

2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets

6 carrots, chopped

2 red bell peppers, chopped

6 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced

1 24 oz jar of tomato sauce, low sodium

3 Tbsp dried oregano

3 Tbsp dried basil

1 bay leaf

1/2-3/4 tsp sea salt

20 turns black pepper

 

Directions:

1. In a dutch oven or glass baking dish, add a 1/4 cup of water and chicken breasts with a pinch of sea salt. Cover with the lid (or foil) and slow roast on 325° for 45-60 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes before cutting it into chunks. Set aside.

2. While chicken is roasting, chop the spaghetti squash in half, remove the seeds and place cut side up on a baking sheet with a little olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes or until finished. Allow to cool before using a fork to remove the spaghetti squash from the skin.

3. While chicken and spaghetti squash are cooking, chop the vegetables (acorn squash, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, garlic). When the chicken is finished baking, remove it from the dutch oven, pour out the water and add the olive oil. Then add the vegetables and garlic and saute for 15 minutes. (If you do not have a dutch oven, a large stock pot will work too).

4. Next add the tomato sauce, herbs and chicken and simmer for 15 minutes. If you want to blend the sauce, simmer first without the chicken, then blend it and add the chicken at the end.

5. Serve chicken marinara over the spaghetti squash and enjoy!

Options: additional vegetables (onion, zucchini, eggplant) or top with chopped green onions, olives and/or goat cheese–just have fun with it!

Serves 4-5

Top 10 Healing Herbs and Spices

15 Dec

“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be food.” ~Hippocrates

Roasted Curried Cauliflower courtesy of NomNom Paleo. Find the recipe here.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower courtesy of NomNom Paleo. Find the recipe here.

As I watched “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” I remembered how many healing herbs and spices are present in Indian cuisine. Herbs and spices not only add flavor and pizzazz to vegetables and meats, but they serve as a halo for your health too. There is a reason why some of the oldest cultures in the world use these spices and herbs in their daily cooking. I listed them below in no particular order, but for the benefit of eating to your good health. Cheers!

1. Cayenne: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cancer-fighting properties, increases metabolism and stabilizes blood sugar levels.

2. Garlic: antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, increases heart health and wards off vampires

3. Tumeric: aids digestion, anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties

4. Ginger: aids digestion, anti-inflammatory and soothes upset stomach

5. Oregano: anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant

6. Cinnamon: increases heart health, stabilizes blood sugar levels, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and high in fiber

7. Cloves: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-bacterial

8. Coriander Seeds: aids digestion, antioxidant, anti-bacterial and calms mood

9. Sage: increases brain power and mood, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, stabilizes blood sugar levels and cancer-fighting properties

10. Rosemary: decreases fatigue and increases brain power

 

Word of Caution: as awesome as these herbs and spices are, it is always critical to consult your doctor or health care practitioner to ensure they don’t interfere with your medication or health issues. For example, some of their healing properties do include thinning the blood and dilating blood vessels.

Bakers Gonna Bake: 5 Tips for Healthier Holiday Sweets

8 Dec
My own stash of liquid gold for special occasions aka blueberry muffins.

My own stash of liquid gold for special occasions aka blueberry muffins.

…as if you aren’t already sweet enough.

Cookies will be baked and brittle will be broken this holiday season. So, why not make your holiday treats as amazing as possible with a lot of love and a little less blood sugar imbalance.

1. Liquid Gold. Practice swapping processed refined sugar for the real deal. Try using local honey, pure maple syrup or low glycemic coconut nectar and coconut palm sugar. Conversion: 1 cup refined sugar = 3/4 cup liquid sweetener. If you are using the coconut palm sugar, which is a fab replacement for brown sugar, the conversion is 1:1.

2. Go Herbal. You can really lower calories and the glycemic load by replacing your processed refined sugar with stevia. This natural herb is low glycemic and just 1 tsp of powered or liquid stevia equals 1 cup of sugar (1 Tbsp of sugar = 1/4 tsp powered stevia or 6-9 drops liquid). The Sweet Leaf Stevia brand is a great choice. NOTE: using too much will leave a bit of a bitter aftertaste.

3. Go Nutty. Since most recipes call for processed refined flours which jack-up your blood sugar levels, try using lower glycemic almond or coconut flour. For incredibly yummy recipes utilizing these flours, please visit Danielle Walker’s and Elena Amsterdam’s websites.

4. Cut the Crust. Channel your inner 4-year-old and skip the crust. Bake individual ramekins filled with your favorite custard or pie. Not only does it control portion size, but it adds a sense of fancy-pantsness to your meal. Yes, that is a real word… to me.

5. Chocolate Black Out. Melting dark chocolate (70% cacao or more) and dipping fruit, almonds, cashews or hazelnuts in it is the Bee’s Knees! Not only is it lower in sugar, but it is super easy too.

Wishing you and your family a tasty and healthy holiday season! Steph