Holy guacamole! Driving the kids to school today, we were listening to the radio when the morning show host stated that Superbowl Sunday is the number one day for avocados – 53.5 MILLION pounds of avocados will be consumed on February 3rd. Wow! After dropping the kids off, I headed to Whole Foods for my weekly grocery trip (two days late, I might add), and the first display after walking in the door to the produce section was a huge table of avocados and all the fixings for homemade guac. And if you’d rather buy it already made, tubs of that were stacked in ice too.
Having no avocados in my house is something that just can’t happen, so I loaded up on two bags this week just in case they run out. 53 million avocados is a lot of avocados needed for the game day festivities!
Both of my kids can make their own killer guacamole; in fact, it’s one of their favorite easy snacks to make. Ben prefers his spicy and adds green chiles and cayenne (he adds cayenne to anything he can), and Kayley likes her super creamy and nutty, so she adds chopped pecans.
But avocados aren’t just for guacamole! Their creamy richness can be substituted for cream in lots of recipes. I have been wanting to make a butternut squash sauce ever since seeing a macaroni and cheese recipe made with it at a local restaurant. I think I said before that I crave anything creamy and second to avocados, sweet potatoes and squashes like butternut and acorn are my favorite foods. But, by the looks of most ready-made butternut squash sauces, they contain a lot of cheese and cream, which I avoid. Dairy just does not do my body good, so I don’t eat much of it. I decided to use an avocado in my butternut squash pasta sauce and serve it over spaghetti squash, and I think it turned out pretty darn good.
I grew up fearing fat, did you? Don’t fear the fat. The right kind of fats are healthy and really important for our bodies to function right. Plus, they’re a great energy source – and a very stable, long lasting one too. I can tell you that I am a much more pleasant person to be around now that I am a fat burner instead of a carb junkie.
About 85% of the calories in an avocado, or about 20% of the actual fruit (yes, it’s technically a fruit) is fat. It’s a good, healthy, anti-inflammatory kind of fat that is mostly monounsaturated – the same kind of fat as olive oil. The fat in avocados helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, so it’s good for your heart. Avocados have lots of other vitamins and minerals too. In fact, an avocado has the same amount of potassium as three bananas! So scoop up the guacamole on Sunday! For a sweet twist, try my sweet potato guacamole.
- 1 butternut squash
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sage
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup water
- optional: toasted chopped walnuts, chopped sage
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Cut butternut squash lengthwise, and scoop out and discard the seeds.
- Place squash halves cut side down in a roasting pan with the cloves of garlic.
- Roast for about 45 minutes.
- Scoop butternut squash out of the shell and into a blender.
- Peel garlic and add to the blender with the olive oil, sage, salt, pepper and avocado.
- Blend until creamy, and add 1 cup water. Add more water until desired thickness is achieved.
- Serve over spaghetti squash or your favorite gluten free pasta.
- Top with chopped walnuts and fresh sage if desired.
Why no oats in the oatmeal? Let me explain…
Over the past couple of years, as I prepared to start this blog and my health coaching business, I have been in super learning mode. I have devoured every new nutrition book, diet perspective, detox plan, and cookbook I could find. Because food and healthy eating is my passion, this has been anything but a chore for me. Not only have I read these books, but I’ve also taken what I’ve learned out into the “field” and have tried out every way of eating in the name of research. If I am learning about a raw food diet, I go whole hog – I am cooking, eating, and experimenting with raw foods.
Some of the diets I tried on for size over the years: the raw food diet, vegetarian diets like the Engine 2 plan, anti-inflammatory diets like Dr. Weil’s plan, weight loss plans like Ann Louise Gittleman’s Fat Flush, traditional food diets like that of Dr. Westin Price, healing diets like the Body Ecology diet, and the Atkins, paleo, and primal eating plans.
Through my tour of eating, I gathered many nuggets of nutritional wisdom and learned a lot about what diet works best for me. First, I’ve learned that none of the health and nutrition gurus have it ALL figured out (although I do have my favorites). Nutrition has to be the most un-exact science, and most experts claim to have an eating pyramid and diet plan that is the answer for everyone.
Second, I’ve learned that everyone is different. The eating plan that works for me won’t necessarily work for all of my friends. For example, people have different protein requirements based on their activity level, genetics, and who knows what else. And, each person feels best eating different sources of protein. Some feel their best without any animal protein while others feel weak, unfocused, and depressed without it.
So how have I learned what I should eat? How did all this “research” help me? Through experimenting and paying attention to how my body feels in the process, I have figured out a lot about what makes my body tick. For example, when I experimented with a vegetarian diet (which by the way, any time I try a diet, I am completely convinced it is the way to go while I’m on it…until I start learning about another one), I felt awesome! My head felt so clear, I loved the way my skin looked, and I loved the way my body felt too. Then Thanksgiving came after weeks with no meat. We always have our Thanksgiving meal on the Wednesday night before because my parents go to the Cowboy game on Thanksgiving Day. The turkey smelled so good that night, so I had a little slice. The next day, on Thanksgiving morning, my family ran the Turkey Trot. At that year’s trot, I ran faster than I ever had before. I had so much energy! I realized really quickly that I need animal protein in my diet.
But, a few months later, I began studying the paleo and primal diets. I read up on the Whole 30 plan and Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, and off I was – the new carnivorous me. A few weeks into it, I started to feel heavy and just yuck…I was on animal protein overload and missing my vegetarian lifestyle. I still love the foods included on these plans (primal more than paleo as it’s a little less strict!), but I needed to re-arrange their pyramid of eating to fit my body’s needs. I learned that vegetables and fruits need to be the base of my pyramid, with the second tier being other plant foods that give me healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils. Fats are a good steady source of energy for my body that help this high-strung girl keep both feet on the ground. Animal protein is included in my pyramid, but it is more like the third tier up than the base. Too much of it, and I’m heavy and dragging.
That brings me to the third thing I have learned from my stint of researching and experimenting. Most of these diets and detoxes I have tried do not include gluten. I got to thinking…is that why so many people feel so much better on these different diets? Obviously, if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I do not eat any wheat or gluten. I believe omitting it has had the biggest positive impact on how I feel and my overall health. But not only is there no gluten on most of these diets, but also there are very little if any grains either. Could that be the common thread as to why everyone feels better when trying these eating plans? The grain containing foods we eat today (especially wheat but also gluten free) are processed so much more than say a carrot or apple. And, usually extra sugar and junk is added, so the texture and taste is just right. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and natural meats and eggs are not processed at all, or at least very minimally. No sugar or flavorings are added to these fresh foods. In addition, grains in general contain anti-nutrients, lectins, and phytates because they are really just little seeds that need to protect themselves. And their means of protection doesn’t always do our bodies good. The glycemic index of grains is also higher than most vegetables, nuts, seeds, and natural meats and eggs. When we process our grains, it jumps even higher. Eating a high glycemic diet causes weight gain and inflammation in our bodies, leading to heart disease and insulin resistance – diabetes. Inflammation leaves us feeling overall lousy too. Now, not only do I eat no gluten grains, but I have also moved all grains from the base of my pyramid where they’ve been most of my life to the tip top, reserved for the occasional treat.
So the conclusion I’ve come to after my years of eating is really pretty simple…
- Real, whole, fresh foods – not processed and packaged – are most nutritious.
- Vegetables are where it’s at – eat a LOT of them. Choose local, organic, and a good helping of raw.
- Eat a lot of plant foods in general – nuts, seeds, fruits, herbs, spices, and healthy oils.
- As far as animal foods – experiment with how much you really need, and always choose animals raised in their natural environment.
- Get rid of the gluten – I promise there is life without wheat, and you will love it. In fact, there’s life without grains, and you may love that even more.
- Striving for perfection never works – eat how you feel best MOST of the time, but don’t sweat it (stress can be even more detrimental to your health!) and enjoy life, and that includes your food!
- Pay attention to how food makes your body feel – how do you feel after eating different foods? How is your digestion, your energy level, your mood and focus? Food really does heal and make a difference in how you feel, so experiment a little…
Start with this blueberry no-oatmeal. I love a good warm porridge on a dark winter day. As I stated above, I feel better when I don’t eat many grains, so I decided to try this grain free option. Chia seeds and hemp hearts take the place of oats in my breakfast, and I’d say they do a mighty delicious job. Both are known for being energizing foods to help you get your day off to the right start. Let me know if you like it!
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- ¼ cup hemp hearts
- 1½ cups almond or coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- handful of blueberries
- handful of chopped walnuts
- In a medium bowl, stir together chia seeds, hemp hearts, milk, pumpkin pie spice, and honey.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Transfer to a small saucepan, and heat over medium-low until the no oatmeal is warm.
- Divide between 3 to 4 bowls, and serve with blueberries and walnuts on top.
Ahhhhh…chocolate and peanut butter…ever a more perfect combination?? I don’t think so. Yum!
I can remember in high school I had a love affair with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I had a friend whose mom bought huge bags of the minis weekly and kept them out in a bowl in their TV room. We loved to go over to her house after school just to veg and mindlessly eat Reese’s. Before I knew it, I would have an embarrassing pile of wrappers growing next to me.
Fast forward 20 some years…and I still have my sweet tooth – especially for chocolate. Only now, I am on a mission to make simple, gluten free desserts that are indulgent but healthy too. These flourless chocolate peanut butter bars have all of the same rich goodness, but I made them with whole ingredients. The only problem in my house is how fast they disappear. Good thing they are so easy to make!
We peanut butter lovers had a little scare in recent years when it came to light that most commercial peanut butters have small amounts of a known carcinogen, aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring mold that has been linked to liver cancer. To minimize the aflatoxin in your peanut butter, choose recognized brands that are organic and unsweetened. All commercial brands are required to be tested for aflatoxin, and Arrowhead Mills brand claims their peanut butter is completely aflatoxin-free. Also, store your peanut butter in the refrigerator to reduce fungal growth. Surprisingly, the fresh peanut butter grinders at health foods stores seem to produce peanut butter with the highest amount of aflatoxin, so avoid those completely.
I am certainly not going to stop eating peanut butter but will take care to make healthy choices in the kind I buy. For those avoiding peanuts or on a paleo diet, these bars can be made with almond butter too.
- 1 cup organic creamy peanut butter, unsweetened
- ⅓ cup honey
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup dark chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Grease an 8 inch square baking pan with coconut oil.
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, and stir until well blended.
- Pour batter into the greased baking pan.
- Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.
what i ate today…
I get a lot of questions about what I eat on just an average day, so I thought I’d do a post of what I ate.
Our mornings are kind of hectic, probably because I try to let the kids squeak in as many minutes of sleep as possible before waking them up. Rob takes them to school with a transportable breakfast, so they can make use of the transit time. I don’t even think about my own breakfast until the dust has settled a little from the whole process of getting them out the door on time.
After doing a quick pick up around the house and starting a load of laundry, I usually sit down at my computer to begin working with my hot coffee or tea and breakfast. Lately, my favorite breakfast has been about a ½ cup plain Greek yogurt with about ½ cup pumpkin mixed with it. I sprinkle pumpkin pie spices and English toffee stevia into the mixture and chop about ½ an apple and a handful of walnuts to go on top. Yum!! Rob is actually the one that got me hooked on Greek yogurt. I don’t eat much dairy, as I feel better when I don’t, but I do eat yogurt. It’s fermented dairy, so I tolerate it better and it’s really healthy for my digestive and immune systems.
About half way to lunch, I cut up the other half of my apple to munch on while I’m getting stuff done around the house…
Then I’m on the go for the rest of the day. I love a smoothie for lunch on busy days. I get in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and fiber in a meal that is easy to make, easy to eat, and easy to digest. Plus it’s refreshing and perfect to grab between appointments and other commitments throughout the day. Today I had a grapefruit “grango” smoothie made with a grapefruit, an orange, some mango, handful of spinach, stalk of celery, almond butter, flax seed, some ginger, and a little water. Ginger is one of those thermogenic spices that warms me up and increases my metabolism, burning as much as 20% more calories (according to Ann Louise Gittleman), which is always a plus.
I grabbed a handful of cashews after school between getting dinner started and driving kids all over the place.
Dinner is sweet potato tacos – I layered a steamed sweet potato seasoned with a little cumin and garlic, then ground turkey seasoned with taco seasonings, and then topped it with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onion, some avocado, and a few green chilis. Any day I can squeeze in an avocado AND a sweet potato is a good day. I also love 505 Fire Roasted Green Chiles. My parents turned me on to them, as they are a popular condiment in New Mexico. In fact, you can order green chiles on just about anything, anywhere in New Mexico. I found 505 Green Chiles at Costco recently – a huge jar – so green chiles have been topping a lot in my house lately.
After dinner, I grabbed a handful of dark chocolate chips, and that is my day of eating…gluten free, easy, and delicious.Read More
I love this picture of my daughter. It reminds me of how much I loved winter as a kid – the snow, hot chocolate with marshmallows, a crackling fire, and building endless forts indoors.
But as an adult, winter can lose some of its magic for me, and it seems like everyone else I talked to last week has been feeling a little less than magical too. It’s January, and that means the days are shorter and the weather is dark and cold, making getting out of bed or out of our comfies a task we may not be up for. I lived in Seattle for a total of 16 years of my life, so I have a little experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder – well, a LOT of experience with it! I can remember turning on the golf channel just to see the sun after weeks of not a ray poking through.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD (appropriately named) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year, starting in late fall and extending through the winter months. SAD zaps your energy and makes you feel moody and anxious. The exact cause of SAD is thought to be lack of sunlight – the dreary weather and fewer daylight hours – which affects our body’s production of the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin.
The symptoms of SAD are the same as typical depression, although they get better during the spring and summer months. WebMD lists the symptoms of SAD as:
- Feeling sad, grumpy, or anxious
- Losing interest in your usual activities
- Eating and craving more carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Wanting to sleep more and feeling drowsy during the day
When I feel the winter blues coming on, I have found a few natural things that help. If you’ve found it difficult to get up and going on dark winter days, try my 6 tips to brighten your mood and boost your energy.
1. See the light: Lack of sunlight is the biggest contributor to developing SAD, so make it a priority to see the light. Getting sunlight between the hours of 6am and 8am are the most effective hours, so upon rising, open your blinds and let as much light into your living and work spaces as possible. Take time during the day to go outside, especially if the sun breaks through the clouds. The fresh air will also do you good, as oxygen does wonders for your brain and energy level. Invest in warm gloves, a hat, a scarf, and a jacket, and go for a walk during lunch. Take your dog along for company, and listen to some upbeat, positive music. What if the weather doesn’t permit you to get outside? Invest in new light bulbs. The bright light of full spectrum light bulbs also helps your brain produce more serotonin.
2. Careful with the Carbs: When you are down, your body naturally wants to fix the situation. This can lead to a craving for carbs. Carbohydrates are a quick energy and mood booster, as they are easily broken down into glucose, absorbed into your blood stream, and through the work of insulin, quickly entered into the cells of your body in large amounts. For a short time, you feel great – you’re energized, you feel happy, and you can focus. But those euphoric feelings don’t last. Your blood sugar plummets and your energy is once again zapped, your mood fluctuates, and you feel spacey and drowsy. So what next? You start the whole cycle over again when you reach for the next cracker, muffin, or pretzel to pick you back up. This blood sugar roller coaster leads to over eating and weight gain, which doesn’t help the winter blues.
3. Eat Mood Boosters: The protein rich foods like turkey, chicken, fish, beans, and dairy (if you tolerate it) all contain good amounts of tryptophan, which is what your body uses to make serotonin – your feel good neurotransmitter. Your body not only needs tryptophan to produce serotonin, but you also need a moderate amount of complex carbohydrates like those in starchy vegetables, nuts, or beans. And don’t forget the fat! Hormonal processes like those of serotonin need healthy fats. Load up on fish, avocados, nuts, and seeds – a much better snack choice than chips, crackers, or pretzels. Healthy fats also provide good, sustaining energy.
4. Get Moving: Exercise increases serotonin production and also production of another feel good neurotransmitter, dopamine. This tip may be the hardest for some, as getting out from under a warm blanket is just about the farthest thing from your mind. And, I get it – it’s not easy for me either. But, when I visualize how good I will feel afterwards, I can usually muster up enough will power to get moving. The first few minutes are the hardest while your body is warming up, but once that blood is pumping, you will be glad you did it.
5. Stay Connected: Nothing brightens your mood more than spending time with your friends – the ones that are positive, that make you laugh, and that are refreshing to be around. But feelings of depression can often leave us uninterested in connecting. Make a point to plan at least one face-to-face social experience each day – meet a friend for a walk outside, attend a yoga class together, or grab lunch or a coffee somewhere with lots of natural light.
6. Supplements: I am not a doctor or registered dietician, but these are some supplements that have helped me ward off seasonal depression. Check with your doctor before trying any supplements or dietary changes.
- Liquid Calcium/Magnesium/Vitamin D
- Fish Oil
- B Complex
- St. John’s Wort
So there you have it – my arsenal to fight the winter blues. If your depression or lack of energy worsens despite trying these 6 tips, seek help from your doctor. Depression is nothing to mess around with, and your doctor can help.Read More