Healthy Airport Eating – How to eat decent and stay well while you travel

Travel is great for the soul, but it can be murder on the gut.

This is especially true if you are prone to inflammation, digestive upset, or IBS, or generally try to follow a low sugar, or gluten free lifestyle.

Some places in the world don’t understand, and don’t care.

I am going to share some practical Ways to Make Healthy Decisions in the Airport, and elsewhere when travelling.

The inexperienced traveler Wises Up

I am not a frequent flying expert, nor am I one of those people who is always flying off somewhere, but I have some strategies I use, so I am going to share these with you.

L.A.X.

This year, between overnights in Utah, Mexico and Costa Rica, relaxing down time in Nicaragua, and connections through Texas, California, Washington, and Colorado on my way back and forth, I’ve logged an unusual amount of airport time.

So, away from my safe havens of yoga and gluten free food, I’ve had to learn to stay healthy on the go.

The biggest deal was travelling around Japan last winter with my family, because of the language barrier (the Google translate APP is amazing for translating store labels on the fly) but there was a camping road trip this summer with my partner that took almost as much planning, believe it or not.

I am happy to share some of the things  I have learned.

The goals 

I try to stick with my normal routine, where I eat a clean anti inflammatory diet, which to me means that I eat all the food groups, but only if they are high quality.

The items that are available on the run are usually made for shelf stability, and so they are missing

  • FIBER
  • PHYTONUTRIENTS and MINERALS FROM COLOURFUL FRUIT N VEGGIES
  • CLEAN PROTEINS
  • HEALTHY FATS (Omegas etc)

Instead, they use sugar to keep things flavourful and moist, and preservatives and unhealthy shelf-stable fats.

Counteract this by packing items filled with fiber, phytonutrients, minerals, clean proteins and fats.

Then grab the fruit and salads you do find inside the airport.

Some of my favourite ways to do this include

  • Bliss balls, boiled omega 3 eggs, good quality small fish or smoked oysters on Mary’s crackers, as well as overnight dry chia seeds with many healthy add-ins like Elderberry Crystals (a purple antioxidant filled choice), and omega 3 and protein-rich hemp seeds
  • Many people like roasted chickpeas, or homemade granola bars or loaves (build in the veggies like pumpkin, carrot and zucchini)
  • I like packing my own organic grassfed cooked sausages with sauerkraut and olives, and bringing powder ready to shake up – I include my favourite protein powder, a greens powder, a purple powder, L-glutamine, creatine and medicinal mushroom powder, maybe even some ground flax, then I add water and shake as needed.

Begin with the right breakfast

Flights or even road trips often require leaving the house early, but you can bring a breakfast made the night before.

Grab a couple of hard boiled omega 3 eggs.

Overnight oats and chia pudding make great breakfasts prior to a trip, because they can supply huge doses of the macronutrients usually missing on the journey – fibre and healthy fats. The fibre comes with the oats or chia, and then you can add some flax oil or other healthy oil.

Bring healthy snacks from home

When flying into the US and elsewhere they may have restrictions on liquids, but you can bring foods from home, and I think a large number of people don’t realize this.

Healthy snacks that satisfy are snap peas and mandarins, both easy to take along if you’re flying only within the country, and you won’t have limits of fruit.

Nuts are also a good choice, and I usually just bring Brazil nuts, a nutritious source of magnesium and selenium, and one that is lower in oxalates, but small amounts of trail mixes with small amounts of dried fruits without added sugar are good too.

Keep it interesting by trying some wasabi peas or pili nuts.

Yogurt covered raisins, candied hibiscus flowers, papaya, mango, pineapple, or sour cherries are delicious additions, as are chocolate covered organic coffee beans, and the occasional corn nuts. None are that healthy but they are better than Skittles or M&Ms.

Another great snacking idea are protein balls made yourself at home. You can check my YouTube channel for a video on how to make those here. These nutritious and delicious snacks can keep you fuelled up until you get to your destination.

Dried foods

When flying with only a carry-on, the weight of each day’s food becomes an issue. Freeze dried or dehydrated foods are lightweight and have a virtually indefinite shelf life without the chemicals. Because these meals are odour-free until moistened, they’re also less likely to be embarrassing.

You can find many choices at outdoor shops.

A jar of pROTEIN and OTHER PowderS

Now, if you bring a jar of powder, it can look weird.

I always label it, and I bring a shaker cup.

This saves me every time. I stay hydrated, regular, and unworried in the event that there is no safe gluten foods – I don’t have to worry about getting to the one gluten free place two terminals away, or suffer hangry times or constant gluten damage.

Salt Lake City had more healthy options than I expected

My small jar contains a premixed powder blend containing

1 – protein powder, 2 – gut-healing, sugar-craving busting L-glutamine, 3 – Lion’s Mane mushroom powder to help regulate stress response and sleep/wake cycle, 4 – antioxidants and immune support in the form of powdered elderberry juice, 5 – Green powder for extra phytonutrients and fibre, 6 – Collagen powder for health of the gut, skin and more

A shaker cup that seals can be used to drink water and to shake up the powder blend on the go.

FASTING?

When I travel I aim to stay limber, hydrated and comfortable. I want to disturb my gut as little as necessary, and avoid getting hangry.

Of course, fasting is an easy way to avoid gut problems, but I still want to enjoy the culinary experiences offered by travel, and anyway, my body is not well adapted to fasting yet. If you are, by all means, Do it!

Granada Nicaragua

The Airport

When finding yourself at the airport several hours before take-off to allow enough time for check-in, you’ll likely be finding yourself ready for a snack or even a meal before you journey on to your next destination.

Here are a few of my favourite tricks on healthy things you can find at the airport, whether you’re on a layover, delayed, or are just famished from your travels!

Indulge in dark chocolate

When you’re delayed, and you desperately want something sweet to snack on, head to one of the convenience stores and grab a bar of dark chocolate. You’ll not only be treating yourself, but you’ll also be getting a bounty of antioxidants.

Be sure to choose a bar that’s at least 70% cocoa to make it as natural as possible and look for low total sugars.

Drink a green tea or a smoothie

Most airports have smoothie stations, which make a more nutritious stop than the airport bar. If you’re going somewhere tropical, why not fuel your adventures with a tropical-flavoured smoothie? Make sure you add mostly greens to your smoothie so you can enjoy the health benefits without loading up on too much fruit in one glass.

A caveat: BEWARE the green smoothie that is full of banana and sugar. Some pre-made brands at the coffee shop or NEWS stand at the airport are LOADED with sugar.

If that’s all that’s available, grab a green tea instead, and eat a healthy pepperoni stick.

It is easy to eat carbs on the go, especially sugary items low in fiber and nutrients.
The protein and fat that are commonly available as options tend to be a bit dirty and inflammatory.

Find a clean protein source

Steer clear of those fast-food chains and instead, seek out the places that serve clean proteins in the form of hardboiled eggs and chicken salads, free range turkey sticks, tinned sardines or roasted chicken, or even hummus with seed cracks or cut-up vegetables.

Sandwiches with lean proteins (and without being slathered in mayonnaise or creamy sauces) can also be a filling option for your airport adventures if you’re running out of options or time to explore and you tolerate some gluten.

Grab a few protein bars to go – for those times when you’ll be hopping from one place to another pretty fast and you’ve forgotten to pack your own, grab protein bars to keep you fuelled up. The trick is to choose the brands that have less than 10 grams of sugar and only a few ingredients. If you are prone to IBS, steer clear of the ones that are mostly dried fruit, dates and figs.

Non-Food solutions

Some of my favourite solutions have been MULTIPURPOSE, enabling me to travel very light:

Essential oil travel spray

Travel spray essential oils with lemongrass and tea tree. Spritz to refresh yourself, your shoes or hands, your space. Deodorizes and sanitizes, acts as a perfume for yourself or blocks your neighbour’s bad breath.

Exercise Bands with different strengths and levels of resistance and a yoga mat are everything you need for full body workouts on the go.

You’ll get aerobics from walking most likely and the bands can provide a full gym workout worth of resistance. You can practice yoga outside or perhaps in special places you find along the way.

Yoga room in San Fransisco airport

Filtering water bottle/Travel mug or Shaker cup. Depending on the destination, I will choose the best one. Drink on the go for less and with less waste without compromising on safety and purity. If travelling where filtered or clean water is available, bring a reusable no spill coffee mug and it can be used for all your needs. A shaker cup allows to instant hydrating, nourishing beverages on demand for a fraction of the airport price.

Sleep mask and earplugs. Sleep on the plane, in the airport. Protect hearing at concerts and clubs while away. Disengage from conversation with your seat mate on plane if you wish. Useful if the hotel you stay at seems oblivious to the importance of a dark room (I’m looking at you, Adventure Hotel!).

The peppermint and cinnamon flavour both freshen breath and clean teeth while doubling as a tool against digestive distress

Charcoal toothpaste. I listened to Ben Greenfield ‘debunk’ charcoal toothpaste, saying that it can be abrasive to teeth, among other ills. However, after using it for 6 months, I had a great dental checkup so I am not concerned. Using a naturally flavoured peppermint or cinnamon charcoal toothpaste that has no fluoride might not suit you all the time, but when travelling, a small amount stretched very far, and can be swallowed if required. The charcoal in the gut can help absorb toxins, reducing digestive distress.

Notebook.

Seamless underwear and a bra without underwire. Avoid pinch points. Underwire is not as comfortable for dozing in, and really isn’t healthy anytime, but it is especially nefarious when you are flying across the North, where radiation levels are higher. Fly wireless.

Cotton clothes and slip off shoes. Preferably comfortable, loose and breathable, without looking frumpy.

All in one balm. It can be for your lips, cuticles, elbows or under eyes, but wherever you use it, it locks in the moisture that travel tries to steal from you.

Long and wide soft infinity scarf in stretch jersey in a neutral or a Pashmina in a pattern that coordinates with
many things. Use as a head wrap for your hair if it is spitting or drizzling out, or if you go to a sauna or steam room, to prevent frizz and keep hair clean. Use as an extra layer when cold – around your neck, around your legs while seated or as a muffler for hands. Use as a bandanna when dusty. Use as a head cover in modest or devout locations. Use as a miniskirt or as a tube top or cross body bandeau top around your neck in a pinch. Use as an improvised tensor bandage in the event of a sprained muscle. Wrap around chest to make a discreet pouch for keeping
documents against your body under clothes. Use as a towel or handkerchief in a pinch. Use to wrap and protect fragile souvenirs. Use as a blindfold if you’ve forgotten your eye mask. Use as a pillow or to clean your screens.

Smart phone. Check in, get a map of the terminal. Hail an Uber or call a taxi. Watch in-flight movies. Clock. Alarm. Record audio notes. Take photos. Listen to ebooks or podcasts or music. Browse social media. Map of the city and restaurants/ hotel. Reviews of destinations. Check emails from your air bnb or other contacts. Text friends and family. Meditation apps. Find allergen free or veg-friendly foods. Compare and find the best museum to visit if you only have 2 hours. Binaural beats, TED Talks and sound healing videos. Check currency exchange. Transfer money. Carry scanned images of travel permission letters. Work on the go. Play games.

Supplements

Medicinal mushrooms and antioxidants like grape seed extract, astaxanthin, lutein all protect against radiation exposure from flying. Medicinal mushrooms help the body readjust to time zones more effectively.

Circulation aids like grape seed extract, diosmin/hesperidin and pine bark are proven to improve circulation to legs to prevent CVI issues while flying.

Melatonin, 5HTP and sour cherries (a melatonin precursor) can help with sleep.
Valerian, passionflower and skullcap can help with restlessness, anxiety or sleeplessness.

Reduce Inflammation with These Key Foods

Inflammation is a hot topic among scientists and it’s not just for health headlines.

 

It’s a fact.

Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it’s chronic (i.e. is ongoing / lasts a long time).

Inflammation responses have been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, just to name a few.

In the last 20 years, we learned about how the inflammasome is activated through our innate immune response. Now, there are over 800 studies linking inflammasomes to cancer, and over 400 studies linking it to autoimmune disease, as well as heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.

 

But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it’s measured, and where it comes from (info); why don’t I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it (action)?

 

Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries

 

Why save the best for last? These delicious items make a major difference to our overall antioxidant levels and are perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods. Are they a sweet favourite of yours?

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).

Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many antioxidants such as “anthocyanins” and “resveratrol”  are found in these small and delicious fruits.

In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.

(*Bonus – when you eat a lot of dark cherries, your melatonin levels go UP, which can result in better/deeper sleep!!)

 

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers

 

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant “sulforaphane.” This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, and helps our body to deal with toxins.

Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin, which helps with allergic type symptoms.

Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours.  Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won’t have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in the recipe below.

 

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)

 

Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: “trans” fats and damaged fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: “omega-3s”), this is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.

The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, especially omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). Oh and don’t forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax. When choosing oils, go for quality, minimal processing, and glass bottles.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea

 

Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.

EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer’s.

Drinking steeped green tea is great, but have you tried matcha green tea? It’s thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.

 

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #5 – Turmeric

 

Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?

Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.

 

This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.

I’ve added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.

 

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate

 

Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.

Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely “flavonols”). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy.

They’ve even been shown to prevent “neuro-inflammation” (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.

 

Make sure you avoid the sugary “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!

 

Conclusion

 

There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.

You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of “anti-inflammation.”

 

 

Recipe : Anti-inflammatory Quinoa

(Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric)

 

Serves 2

¾ -1 cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 dash salt

½ tbsp turmeric

1 dash black pepper

2 cups broccoli, chopped

Prepare quinoa according to directions, or, in a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer on low until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

Melt coconut oil in a skillet. Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.

Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.

Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.

 

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick. If you have flax oil or another omega oil at home, now is the time to pull it out – drizzle some on your finished dish!

 

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/13-anti-inflammatory-foods/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717884/

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea/

https://authoritynutrition.com/matcha-green-tea/

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/brain-food-essentials-cacao

http://leesaklich.com/foods-vs-supps/foods-vs-supplements-the-turmeric-edition/

 

Back to school snack and lunch ideas

Back to school snack and lunch ideas

Is your anxiety building for back to school… because of lunches?

Real talk: For parents of young children, packing something reasonably nutritious, 5 days a week and that will be eaten is a huge challenge.

This post discusses the challenge that is lunch, and offers tips, snack and lunch ideas that have worked for me or other moms over the years. (Yes, dads pack lunches too, but they did not contribute their ideas).

Warning: This is a big-ass post for a big-ass problem.

Back to school broo-haha

We want packing lunches to be simple and easy, don’t we?

I’d like to make an argument for teaching your child to eat what’s available for lunch.

Convey to them that good quality, fresh food is a blessing. And I feel that our kids would benefit if more parents would apply ‘you get what you get, and you don’t get upset’ to lunchtime.

But the parental struggle is real.

First problem?

They are kids. Kids can be fickle. They love cherry tomatoes, they hate cherry tomatoes. Or fig bars, or whatever. They can be picky, especially if they have sensory issues. If they are like my son, they eat slooooowly.

Other issues:

The social aspect. Even if we have good eaters at home, at school, kids love to talk, to socialize. They would rather go play, or they are too shy to eat, or they compare their homemade food to their neighbour’s shiny sugar-laden cartoon-character-packaged items.

They’re at school. Our kids get only so much time, there is no food reheating available in most schools, and they are on their own with the containers, which we hope made it there in one piece and right side up.

No one watches them eat, because teachers, those wonderful humans who teach our kids, get a well-deserved break from them too. And of course, school staff need a break, because power struggles with kids are draining.

Parents. We as parents contribute to the power struggle around food, because we forget the proper division of responsibility.

More on that division of responsibility: You see, we are control freaks (I will raise my hand if you will), and that creates pushback. We want to control both what our kids eat, and how much they eat. But as the wise dietician and feeding dynamics authority Ellyn Satter always insisted, “Parents provide. Kids decide.” We choose what to offer, they decide what/how much to eat.

In other words, healthy lunches that can be consumed by a hurried, distracted little one are a tall order, but, if we want them to eat, and eat what we feel is right for them, we need to choose our battles. If we accept that some weeks cherry tomatoes get eaten, and some weeks they don’t, and we don’t start begging them to tell us what to pack, we respect the proper division of responsibility.

What to focus on

The main challenges as I see them are supplying food that travels well and eats easily, without resorting to processed foods (ugh, the plastic! The wrappers!) or too much sugar, as these items leave our kids with failing grades in nutrition and planetary stewardship.

Speaking of which, the containers and lunchboxes that are most easily accessible are neither health-supportive (aka they are toxic) nor sustainable.

They fail the environment, and our kids, who will inherit the earth. Also, they teach our kids that environmental considerations can wait, when they cannot. I beleive in leaving goods kids to the planet as much as a good planet for the kids.

Therefore, I will also list some better brands for lunch and water containers further down and link to them.

Let’s help each other:

If you’ve ever been stuck in a rut, can you commit to at least one more real-food sugar-free lunch each week?

Please comment below with a suggestion for a simple, balanced, minimally processed kids’ lunch.

Tips and strategies:

Keep lots of finger foods and sides in the house. This can help ensure something always gets eaten. Veggie spears, ready to eat proteins like tofu, cans of salmon, (peanut-free) trail mix, pumpkin seeds, and homemade gummies, homemade granola bars, mini muffins, prepped pumpkin French toast with pureed berries or applesauce, popcorn, cheese in cubes, goji berries, and a variety of fruit. Speaking of which…

Buy the small fruit. Small fruit is considered less desirable, and so is less expensive, but your littles will love small oranges, pears, apples, nectarines and bananas along with their berries and grapes.

Prep like a Kitchen Manager. On Sunday or the beginning of the week, clean and slice an assortment of crudité veggies like peppers and carrots, cucumber and celery. Cut up large fruit like pineapple and watermelon, boil a bunch of eggs. Mark the shells so you know which are cooked. Grab and go as you make the weeks lunches. Not into eggs? Cook and slice chicken breast early in the week to add to lunches all week. Make egg or chicken salad on the weekend with anything unused.

Dreading kindergarten without PBnJs? Most if not all grade schools have a no nut policy 😬 so many moms switch to sunflower butter for school and most kids don’t notice the difference. Chickpea and pumpkin seed butters exist too. Experiment at home making new butter blends, it’s easy!

Let them choose some items for the shopping list. Again, you oversee WHAT to eat, so you frame the choices – carrots or sweet potato this week? Even if you prep the food, this teaches them a lot of skills – being prepared, menu planning, meal balancing.

Let them help prepare the food. Using homemade dough, make your own pizza pockets or put other fillings they like. The slowly become more autonomous, and when they help make them, no complaints about what is in them. Making fruit roll-ups is easy too, and is a great way to use up any too-ripe fruit. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest-worthy – if they made it, they’ll likely eat it.

Let them pack the lunch bag. If you have a child at a “difficult” (aka growthful) stage, letting your little be more in control of herself can pay dividends. It may not always be perfectly healthy, but it’s passable and always gets eaten, and usually, left to their own devices, they end up with a balanced diet at the end of the week.

Try breakfast for lunch. Many kids find this fun and eat it up. You can make ahead batches of your healthier pancakes or French toast and they can be reheated and placed in a keep-warm container. Waffle batter can be stuffed with all kids of things – cheese, frozen veggie mix, bacon pieces. Waffles can be used as sandwich bread too.

Kids with no appetite need other cues. There are some kids that don’t ‘feel’ hungry. They are happy to starve until offered a cheese string. The food must have the right texture and colour and be easy to eat. Make it finger food. Bento boxes, rainbow coloured fruit skewers, happy face mini pizzas, pinwheel sandwiches. (If your child has no appetite, you may want to check their iron levels).

Picky eaters rarely get bored. These kids prefer to know what’s coming 🙂. Don’t stress, if there is variety to the diet overall, lunch can be repetitive without causing much harm.

 

 

What to put it in – Containers that won’t ruin your kids’ hormones – or the planet

Reusable (plastic-free) sandwich bags:

LunchSkins reusable bags/paper bags

MysGreen durable cloth sandwich bags with liners. These are made locally near me in New Westminster, but there are likely some local to you if you look.

Aluminum and plastic-free cling wrap:

Make your own beeswax wrap from cute fabric or buy Abeego beeswax wraps

Use parchment paper, shelf paper or waxed paper with ribbon or elastic bands

Stainless Steel lunch containers:

Non toxic and durable

Lunchbots

Planetbox

ECOlunchbox

Glass lunch containers:

Glasslock

Plastic-free Water Bottles that won’t result in metal-tasting water:

There are a lot of well-known stainless-steel water bottles out there, here are alternatives. 9 oz bottles fit well into most lunch boxes.

Lifefactory make a glass water bottle with a silicone sleeve, with straw, sport, and screw on top options.

Hydro Flask is for you if you can’t take glass to school or you want your beverage to stay insulated this brand of water bottles are very good. They also make nice insulated lunch bags.

 

Feeding formula

Many parents don’t know what macronutrients their kids need, or somehow end up giving sweetened foods all day because starchy carbs, refined grains, sweets and dairy products tend to be very easy (WAY TOO EASY!) to build in or include without a thought. To avoid this, save the granola bars and yogourt for emergency times, like when they are starving after swimming lessons.

*When planning lunch, include quality proteins and fats and get carbs from produce*

New to planning lunch?

Here are two ways to think about planning lunches:

      1. As macro portions:

2 x colourful high-fibre carbs / 1 x complete protein / 1 x healthy fat

      2. As food group portions:

1 fruit         +         1 vegetable      +          1 protein food        + 1 healthy oil / fat

 

Not sure what to include?

Examples of colourful, high-fibre carbs – fruits 

Grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cherry tomato, small oranges, pears, apples, bananas, sliced nectarines or peaches, kiwi, mango spears, cucumber/pickle

Examples of colourful, high-fibre carbs – vegetables 

Peppers, carrot, celery, cauli rice, zucchini, kale, lettuce, beans, sweet potato, pumpkin puree, spaghetti squash noodles, shredded cabbage, baked cassava fingers

Examples of quality protein foods

Organic chicken slices, peas, grass-fed beef, eggs, non-GMO sprouted tofu, wild salmon patties, lentil soup, roasted chickpeas, protein powder, shellfish, pate, turkey burgers

Examples of healthy fats

Avocado, coconut oil, omega oils in sauces (tomato, pesto) or homemade dressings or homemade dips (salsa, guacamole), seed/nut butters (sunflower, coconut, almond), gouda and quality cheese, hummus

 

1 month of mini meals – a possible lunch meal plan

Would you rather not think about it? Try leftovers, or, I made a possible plan for a medium hungry child here:

Week 1

Salad with chicken

– Try kale and quinoa salad with cubes of grilled chicken (or beef) and peaches.

Rice paper salad rolls

– Fill with veggie strips, lettuce, sauce, tofu or shrimp. Cubed watermelon.

Penne

– Lentil pasta in a homemade pesto sauce with pureed veggies/herbs. Peach.

Pinwheels

– Thin sliced meat and cheese, lettuce. Wrap in collards or tortillas. Nectarine.

Savory muffins

– Can be full of veggies, protein (ground turkey?) and cheese. Watermelon cubes.

Week 2

Salmon salad

– With celery and fresh herbs. Serve with rice crackers and sliced apples.

Kabobs

– Your favourite way. Take cubes off skewers if you like. Cucumber discs. Pear.

Spaghetti

– Spaghetti squash pasta in a keep warm container with meat sauce. Grapes.

Soup

– Minestrone with homemade crackers. Apple, or pear in a protective case.

Quesadillas

– Sprouted grain tortillas with bean & cheese. Guac & salsa for dipping. Grapes.

Week 3

Greek salad

– Tomato, cucumber, pitted olives, chicken, avocado, healthy dressing. Orange.

Potstickers/Gyoza

– Vegetable potstickers. Veggie sticks. Tempeh or sausage. Small orange.

Oatmeal

– Add frozen fruit  & whey powder while cooking, put in insulated container, top with omega oil.

Power smoothies

– Purple fruit mix, pureed greens or squash, whey or soft tofu or hemp seeds, flax oil.

Picnic lunch

– Veggies & dip, cheese & crackers, olives, pickles, sausage/tempeh. Orange.

Week 4

Thai noodle salad

– Sunflower-lime sauce, mung bean noodle, carrot, cukes, bean sprouts. Mango.

Lox and cream cheese

– Serve on rye crisps with cherry tomatoes and cucumber spears. Pear.

Slices of French toast

– Make with egg, milk, pumpkin puree and spice, stand the slices in apple sauce.

Mac-n-cheese

– Cheese sauce healthified with pureed cauliflower and nutritional yeast. Pear.

Healthy meatloaf

– Make it delicious, and hide zucchini and organ meat inside! Serve with applesauce.

 

Healthy Snacks, and leftovers as after school snacks

Avocado chocolate pudding

Powerballs / Blissballs

Sweet potato toast, healthy zucchini or banana bread with almond butter

Beet hummus with veggie sticks and seed crackers

Homemade fish patties or turkey meatballs

Greek yogourt with berries and trail mix

Chili

Chia pudding

Vegetable soup

Healthy gummies

Easy English muffin or tortilla pizzas

Stuffed peppers or baked potatoes

Made ahead pancakes with sunflower butter and blended berries

Mexican layered dip

Leftovers

The occasional packaged item or junk food, if your child eats well and is healthy

 

So there you have it.

Tips for meals, snacks, a feeding formula, a meal plan, a bunch of strategies, even what to pack it in.

 

I hope this post helped you somehow. If you read it, you are already an AMAZING and CARING PARENT!

and you have an idea, please comment and share thoughts.

 

Much love, parents – remember, you are doing great!!

Xoxo

Dana

 

 

 

 

 

Book Report

Hey folks, Dana here.

Final weekend of summer with my son away, and I’ve had more reading time than usual, but it is coming to a close.

I don’t know about you, but I try to read a book per week.

You know, things that CEOs do.

Now, I don’t always find that I can, but often I do.

I’ve been very happy with my reading so far this year, especially this summer.

I read one book that I knew I would love before I read it (Dirty Genes, by Dr. Ben Lynch) another that I thought I would not like, but did, (Vitamania, by Catherine Price – great read!) and two books that I didn’t expect to be reading manifested themselves in my life as gifts and impressed me (Botanical Medicine and the AutoImmune Fix by Dr. Tom O’Bryan)

I read a couple of very weird books (The Secret Teachings of Plants was less about botany, and more about things like Zeno’s concept of Time being an illusion), and lots from the library;

The Hormone Boost by Dr. Natasha Turner, The Hormone Fix by Dr. Anna Cabeca, The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup, M.D.. are some of the ones I renewed, so that I could read them over again, they were so packed with revelatory insight.

I also read a book I didn’t like as much as I thought I would (Girl, Wash your Face). I wasn’t sure, because it was good on some levels, so I read her next book a bit, and I like that one even less, so yup, I’m done with her.

I stopped reading the latest book halfway.

DO YOU let yourself do that? Or do you FORCE yourself to finish it?

I never force anymore. I didn’t like that she was suggesting that a boob job is selfcare for women, so I BAILED on the book, and I DO NOT CARE.

🙂

I also bought myself a book for my birthday; Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford. Yep, it’s a classic, and now, no matter what problem comes up, I’ve got a congee recipe for that!

I also read several fiction books, like Catch-22, The Shadow Roads, and a few old sci-fi and crime books left to me by my dad, and I was happy that those were good ones.

All in all, a great few weeks in the reading department.

Check out the authors!

Shout out to @Catherine_Price and @DrBenLynch on Twitter or follow the #Buhner hashtag if you’re into super weird non linear thinking…again, it wasn’t for me, but is has it’s appeal.

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN READING?

I’d love to hear from you.

xox

Dana

 

 

Lowering Cortisol, the Stress Hormone

How to Naturally Lower Stress Hormone (Cortisol)

 

STRESS!!!

Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?

 

And sometimes, even cute, inspirational quote squares don’t make it go away 😛

 

Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, that doesn’t happen too much in our society – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.

 

You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.”  It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.

 

Did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?

 

Do you experience any of these? Well, then read on because I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you lower this stress hormone naturally!

 

Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol

 

Let’s start with one of the biggies that increase your cortisol… sugar.

Reducing the sugar we eat and drink can be a great step toward better health for our minds (and bodies).

 

High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels.

If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you ingest.

 

 

Also, being dehydrated increases cortisol.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, especially if you feel thirsty.

 

Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods; this doesn’t just help reduce stress hormone, it helps all aspects of your health.

 

Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate (not the sugary milky kind!). Have a bit to unwind.

 

Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics!

There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.

 

Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol

It’s not just food, but there are things you can do with your time that can lower cortisol.

 

Reduce your stress with mindfulness.

Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol. Try putting things in perspective, or asking, what might this be opening the door to?

 

Get enough exercise (but don’t overdo it).

While intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels. Just don’t be both intense AND lengthy. One, or the other is best for stress hormone management.

 

Get enough sleep!

Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Well, not by me, I have written a ton about it, lol. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways. Sleep!

 

Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music – actually any music YOU like – all reduce cortisol.

 

Be social and bust loneliness. Would you believe me if I told you that science has shown health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.

 

Conclusion

 

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health. There are many proven ways to reduce levels of cortisol naturally.

 

In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.

 

Lifestyle factors are huge when it comes to cortisol. To lower yours, exercise (but not too much), get more sleep, relax, and have more fun.

 

In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!

 

Recipe – high-fiber, prebiotic, de-stressing Chocolate Pudding

Serves 6

3 ripe avocados

¼ cup cacao powder (unsweetened)

¼ cup maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 dash salt

 

Instructions

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Try adding a pinch of cinnamon or vanilla pod in place of extract for a deeper flavour.

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/ways-to-lower-cortisol/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol

https://authoritynutrition.com/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety/

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response

Fat fuzzy or frazzled? Its your hormones!

Feeling fat fuzzy or frazzled?

is the name of a fabulous book about hormones…so hopefully it’s ok that I named this blog post that way.

The book is by Richard Shames MD and Karilee Shames, PhD, RN.

 

But in the event that you do not read the book, let me give you in a nutshell some of the takeaways.

One – the list of shitty things you might feel if your thyroid or adrenals or parathyroid glands are out of whack is extensive.

Feeling fat (fat isn’t a feeling but bear with me), fuzzy (in the head), or frazzled is WAY TOO COMMON. and it is usually hormones…

Today I will focus on just the thyroid…and I will deal with the others in future days.

I want to start with the thyroid because if you are a woman over 30, you have a one on 4 chance of having a thyroid issue …DID YOU KNOW THAT!!??

Women going through perimanopause are the most likely people to have Graves disease, a thyroid problem, and owmen in their 40s have a 20% chance of hypothyroidism that wont get treated. By 60, it’s worse.

And I want to start with it because thyroid problems to me are like the biggest single reason women don’t have better self esteem and that KILLS ME.

“Thyroid problems” is a blanket term that includes either an under-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) or over-functioning thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and maybe autoimmunity in the thyroid.

Parathyroid problems are also common but I will speak about them separately.

Here’s a list of symptoms associated with just hypo – thyroidism (low thyroid).

It’s crazy yo…
–Brain fog
–Brittle nails
–Constipation, rabbit plop poops
–Depression
–Difficulty with focus
–Dry skin, coarse and/or itchy skin
–Dry, coarse and/or thinning hair
–Fatigue, exhaustion
–Feeling cold (cold feet in summer!)
–Feeling rundown
–Infertility or miscarriages
–Irregular menstrual flow
–Low sex drive, low sexual response
–Muscle cramps, loss of muscle
–Feeling ‘sluggish’ or blah
–Unexplained or excessive weight gain

What’s super crazy about this is that is not even all the stuff, AND it is not textbook in most cases and even if it is you can miss it!

So it’s a huge list and it can still be confusing even if you have many of the things on the list…or maybe it’s just confusing because of brain fog!!

I had low thyroid forever …and just thought I had dry skin…and was confused…and had thin nails…was I sluggish or tired…if you have it long enough it feels normal…it was just me…I thought.

I had thick hair…yes it came out in clumps but it was soo thick…I was thin….not overweight…and yes I was cold….so cold that when friends went swimming in the lake I felt horrified at the idea…I hated wearing open shoes because my feet would freeze.

Additional signs that are potential symptoms of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (the autoimmune kind of hypothyroidism where your body attacks the thyroid gland) the most common kind of hypothyroidism, and the kind that I have, include:

–Acid reflux
–Acne
–Anxiety
–Candida (yeast overgrowth)
–Constipation
–Depression
–Difficulty expressing yourself
–Digestive discomfort or diarrhea
–Eczema
–Eyebrow loss especially at the edges
–Feeling socially distant
–Forgetfulness
–Frequent colds
–Gluten intolerance
–High LDL cholesterol
–Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
–Intestinal bloating
–Intestinal gas
–Irregular menstrual flow
–Itchy skin
–Lack of motivation
–Low level of vitamin B12
–Low level of ferritin (iron) or anemia
–Low level of vitamin D
–Low sex drive
–Muscle aches
–Muscle cramps and muscle loss
–Puffy eyes
–Swollen tongue
–Throat discomfort and/or tightness
–Water retention

Um I had all of them…pretty much. Aside of eczema and frequent colds, I had the whole list. THE WHOLE LIST.

Which is INSANE…because it is SO FREAKING COMMON AND I DIDN’T GET DIAGNOSED!!!

I had to diagnose myself. Seriously people?

Yes I had even more symptoms that this…so maybe that was confusing.

BUT, honestly, if I showed this list to Dr. Google I would be diagnosed with hypothyroidism…and probably Hashimotos, PROBABLY IN A FEW SECONDS.

AND DID I MENTION IT IS REALLY FREAKING COMMON?

Especially amongst people who have been under major stress (that’s a trigger for the epigenetic changes that allows it to express).?

So why do doctors miss it for YEARS?

If it was this common for men would it be such a mystery and a challenge??

To this day, endocrinologists and physicians will have somebody walk in with the same laundry list of symptoms and they will NOT diagnose Hashimoto’s.

And I feel the reason is simple: knowing you have it won’t change how they treat you…so why bother finding out?

Grr.

Allopathic, Naturopathic and Functional medicine and your thyroid

A functional medicine approach or an ND’s approach to your thyroid begins with the doctor herself having in mind that hypothyroidism or autoimmune thyroid is more common than most doctors realize and is likely the single most likely cause of what is up with you.

But if you don’t get such a doctor, you might get missed. I mean, there are a whole bunch of good tests, which I will list below, and most Doc’s even endocrinologists, don’t run them. Endocrinologists rarely order these tests when approaching a patient with low thyroid, because they don’t specialize in thyroid, usually, because they deal with so much diabetes, they basically get focused on that.

Also, because in conventional medicine, there is no reason to diagnose an autoimmune thyroid person, because there is no treatment for the autoimmune component with a conventionally marketed drug, to be honest.

What I am saying is, the allopathic regular system doesnt have a drug AKA a treatment for Hashimotos. So they don’t bother checking for it.

BUT THERE ARE TREATMENTS.

YOU CAN GET BETTER.

SO YOU WANT TO KNOW!!!

Also, conventional doctors might have been scared off of more natural treatments, like dessicated thyroid, that work when your levels are just slightly off, instead of needing them to be WAY off. The doctors are encouraged to limit their thyroid testing to one test only: the TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) blood test. They look to diagnose to find the drug to give, instead of taking a more holistic view and treating the whole patient. And up to 60% of this group are unaware that thyroid function is an issue.

The TSH test measures your thyroid levels only indirectly, though, so you can see that this is already sounding like a flawed or limited approach.

TSH is a hormone, but it isn’t one produced by your thyroid gland, but rather by your pituitary gland. The pituitary stimulates the thyroid into activity when it senses thyroid underactivity.

If your TSH is high, the test indicates hypothyroidism.

That’s because if the pituitary is producing lots of TSH, so it’s inferred that your thyroid must be underfunctioning.

Even with only this one test… which isnt even of the thyroid itself, we could be doing better than we are.

That’s because we should be looking for a much tighter range than we are.

We should be looking for a 2.5 TSH reading or lower, yet endocrinologists have decided that a TSH level up to 4 is fine and any higher you probably have an underactive thyroid. So they dont look, or if they do, not hard enough.

For decades the standard was 5 or higher and it’s estimated the number of missed hypothyroid diagnoses was in the millions.

However when the test range was updated they didn’t go tight enough still. The amount of miscarriages and other suffering this is causing makes me ANGRY!!!

Another flaw with this testing is that hypothyroidism isn’t the only thing affecting TSH.

TSH results are influenced by what you eat, your stress levels, and even the time of day your blood is drawn!!

 

Lab tests for thyroid issues
Here’s the list from Janie A. Bowthorpe’s excellent Stop The Thyroid Madness website. Each item revolves around how your body is functioning with its current supply of thyroid hormone.

TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). Since this hormone comes from the pituitary gland, at best it tests pituitary function. High TSH usually means underactive thyroid, but low TSH in the presence of hypothyroidism means pituitary insufficiency.
Free T3 and Free T4. These are measurements of the actual thyroid hormones themselves.
Reverse T3 (rT3). This is an “inactive” hormone that can appear in some cases of hypothyroidism. Your body should convert inactive T4 to the active hormone T3, but under certain stresses it makes rT3 instead. By itself, reverse T3 is not a helpful test, but it should be viewed in context of thyroid function.
Thyroid antibodies. The most common autoimmune disease and cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The presence of thyroid antibodies clinches a Hashi diagnosis. Some physicians, especially in Europe and the UK, start thyroid hormone replacement when antibodies are present. You can also get a drug called LDN, or low dose Naltrexone, to help you control the autoimmunity to some degree, but not all doctors will do this.
Iron profile (ferritin, percentage iron saturation, iron binding capacity). Symptoms of low iron are often indistinguishable from hypothyroidism.
Saliva adrenal cortisol. The same goes for adrenal fatigue, but more about this next week.
Vitamins D, B-12 and folate. More on this next week too.
Sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) measured throughout a one-month cycle. Single-day test is fine for postmenopausal women.
MTHFR gene mutation tests susceptibility to heavy metals damaging thyroid. If MTHFR inherited from both parents, test for metals.
Complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic profile. This is the standard wellness profile your doctor orders when you get a general check-up. It can yield a lot of useful information.
–Basal body temperature measurement for five days in a row. This is your oral temperature just as you emerge from sleep (click here for full instructions)  If you’re a menstruating women, take your temp for five straight days beginning with the second day of your period (to avoid the normal temperature rise that occurs with ovulation). An average temperature of 97.6 or lower make a diagnosis of mild hypothyroidism a strong possibility. The test is less useful for adjusting your dose once you’ve started thyroid replacement.

So, I think if a doctor is always suspecting hypothyroidism, she’ll rarely miss the diagnosis. If we go back and look at that list of possible symptoms, for virtually all of them, there are other possible causes. BUT, a relatively small number of lab tests can figure out if they are caused by hypothyroidism.

Do you wonder if this affects you?

Do you want some help? I would love to help you, I can guide you.

xox

Dana

Is my Poop Normal? And, what does Bristol have to do with POO?

 

14That quote above is a little overused, but I think the picture is funny.

They say that food can look like the body part it helps. You know, walnuts, full of omega 3s, look like brains, and kidney beans look like, you know. And those laxative little figs up there, look like our friend the poop emoji, don’t they? Yes, poop. I want to talk poop today.

If you are anything like me – same generation, same taste in music – you probably know and love yourself some 90s Bristol.

Is My Poop Normal?

Now, I don’t know if you share my sense of humour. But, if you are anything like me – same generation, same taste in music – you probably know and love yourself some 90s Bristol.

Some things that are famously from Bristol in the late 90s include Massive Attack, Portishead, Tricky, and loads of Drum n Bass artists like Roni Size. (Earlier, there was Bananarama. Later, there came Stanton Warriors.)

What you may not know is that 90s Bristol is the original home of grading our POO.

Yep, you heard right.

This topic may be uncomfortable, (or you might think it is Awesome!) but either way it’s so important for you to know what makes a healthy “poop” because it can tell you a lot about your digestion.

And if your digestion is off, this could be an indication that something else is going on that you need to address.

Yes, I’m serious! (And don’t you sometimes wonder anyway?)

 

You already know that your poop can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health.

I know some folks may get constipation or have diarrhea when they eat something that “doesn’t agree with” them or when they’re super-nervous about something.

 

And what about fibre and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your poop. Actually fibre is good for some folks, not so good for others…but it is good for the all-important gut microbes.

Speaking of which, if they’re not happy, it’ll probably show in your poop.

💩

Here’s a trivia question for you:

Can you name the poo grading scale I was hinting at earlier?

 

Did you even know there is an “official” standard for poop? I mean a university-created chart! One that is used to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

And no, it is not the “Bristol Massive”, lol.

 

Meet the Bristol Stool Scale

The Bristol Stool Scale was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997.

You can see the chart here.

LINK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_stool_scale

Bristol stool chart. Image credit: Kylet, 2011
A lovely visual from Medical News Today

 

 

The scale breaks down poop by type. Seven different categories range from type 1 – which is very constipated, to type 7 – which is diarrhea.

We want to be middle of the road, thank you very much.

1 – Separate hard lumps

(What I affectionately call rabbit plops, aka very constipated).

2 – Lumpy and sausage-like

(Slightly constipated)

3 – Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface

(Normal)

 

4 – Smooth, soft sausage

(Normal – extra points if you can coil it like the emoji)

5 – Soft blobs with clear-cut edges

(May be lacking fibre)

6 – Mushy consistency with ragged edges

(Inflammation)

7 – Liquid consistency with no solid pieces

(Inflammation)

 

Poop Emoji

Other “poop” factors to consider

You probably guessed that the shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only thing to consider for poop health.

 

  • Think about how often you go. At least once per day, up to 3 times per day is pretty good. Less than one, or more than three can mean there is something going on.
  • What about how hard you have to try to go? You want it to be as effortless as possible.
  • The consistency is more than just soft or hard, too. The degree of stickiness is informative. No one wants to wipe and wipe, to be frank. We want a smooth clean exit. When your little sphincter snaps shut, we want things to be basically clean, and for the wipe to be a formality.
  • And the colour? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest. If it is too dull (yellowish) or too sandy, that can be a sign of oxalate dumping. If it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine.
  • But if you see an abnormal colour, like red or even black, that you can’t explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you probably want to get that checked out.

 

What do you do when you have “imperfect” poo?

 

Well, the first thing to consider is how imperfect it is, and how often it is like that?

Once in a while, things aren’t going to be perfect, and that’s A-OK.

If you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath. If you know you need to get more fiber or water, then try increasing that. If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods, then try getting more of them.

Probiotics are beneficial microbes often taken as dietary supplements, and in fermented and cultured foods to help make our digestion run smoothly, but really, probiotics can be found all around us. Probiotics are in and on us, in what we refer to as our microbiome, and they are in the forest air, the dirt at the farm, and in the water at the lake too.

The diversity of our microbiomes is diminishing with each passing generation, in large part because we interact so much less with forest air, farm dirt and lake water, and also because we kill off these great bugs every time we take medicine, eat fast food, and sanitize our living space. One of the main reasons probiotic supplement are so popular, is that this lack of diversity is connected to many modern ills, and we hope to mitigate that risk.

Luckily, it is not blind hope. A 2017 review of 45 major probiotic studies concluded that probiotic consumption amongst healthy adults “can improve immune, gastrointestinal, and female reproductive health”, and that probiotics do improve the concentration of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

 

Probiotics can even help us achieve BMs that resemble that cute, smiley poop emoji.

Well, those are not quite the words from the study, but you get the idea. Probiotics can digest some of the otherwise undigestible fibre in your sushi roll and foster a healthy gut environment, having a positive impact on several health outcomes.

 

So, we are clear that probiotics are legitimate stars, so be sure to get enough.

 

Oh, and don’t forget the two most basic pieces of nutrition advice:

  • First, eat a variety of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, and unless you have a very irritated gut, including a lot of fruits & veggies (and their “fibrous” skins, wherever possible). The fibre in these is not only helpful for pushing food through your gut, but they also feed those millions of amazing helpful critters that live there (your friendly gut microbes.)
  • The second piece of advice is to eat slowly, and mindfully, chewing thoroughly.

 

These are good habits for anyone and everyone, even when you have perfect poop!

Of course, long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don’t suffer from poop issues for too long before seeking help.

xox

Dana

 

 

Helpful recipe

Dairy-free super-simple Coconut Milk Probiotic Yogurt

Serves 6

2 cans full-fat coconut milk

probiotic yogourt starter, or try 2 probiotic capsules,

 

  1. Open the starter or probiotic capsules and empty contents into the blender. Blend with coconut milk.
  2. Transfer to a sanitized glass jar (make sure it’s not still hot – you don’t want those probiotics to die).
  3. Store it in a warm place, about 30 C, for 24-48 hours. If it’s not thick enough for you, you can let it ferment for another 24 hours.
  4. Add your favourite yogourt toppings, and store the rest for up to a week in the fridge.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Fermenting food is not an exact science, but some strains will turn milks into yogourt and some not so much. If this doesn’t work out as you’d like it to, try different brands of coconut milk and/or especially of probiotics.

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_stool_scale

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/poop-health

 

 

Womanly Hormones – get that sh*t under control

HORMONAL (IM)BALANCE and LIFE BALANCE go HAND in HAND

From a functional nutrition standpoint, hormone imbalances like PMS, uncomfortable peri-menopausal or menopausal symptoms, even bad blood sugar or stress response, can be caused by many factors; High stress hormones, high toxin levels, inadequate sleep, low nutrients, and gut issues being primary amongst them.

Addressing lifestyle factors like these ^^^^^ first can often help to alleviate symptoms.

In fact, you may need no further treatment, if you address lifestyle stuff. But, we need to know what nutrients and actions may aid detoxification in order to improve our health.

I like to encourage women to create lives that are more pleasurable, less stressful. I like to help them to do whatever they need to do to get a better night’s sleep, even if that means helping them with their money issues, not their diet.

And … I always focus on aiding women to lower their exposure to toxins and improve their biotransformation and elimination of toxins. Doing this can result in a proper menarche, comfortable menstruation, optimal fertility, and easy menopause, and beneficially impact their overall health.

 

WHAT DOES DETOXIFICATION HAVE TO DO WITH IT

Detoxification is a missing piece, in conventional treatment, but it is crucial – we need to clear toxins to balance hormones.

The toxins that are the focus here are the ones that mimic estrogen but act in it’s place in a dysfunctional way – turning off and on things in ways that might shift our metabolism down or our anxiety up – for example, but there are many possible symptoms; Anxiety, depression, irritability, tenderness, cramps, skin issues, bleeding irregularly, fluctuating sexual responsiveness, fluctuating energy levels, etc..

We can feel these symptoms creep up on us slowly over time, especially after certain triggers – hormone changes and stress – during adolescence, pregnancy, and peri-menopause. These changes in our bodies, along with other stress, and especially if coupled with nutrient deficiencies, can cause epigenetic changes – aka changes to our gene expression.

So, you have to clear toxins and manage stress to avoid the big problems.

My preferred approach is to look first at lifestyle factors, especially nutrition, but a full workup should include other lifestyle factors beyond nutrition, such as exercise, toxicity and stress.

There are many lifestyle factors that can lead to hormonal problems.

I am years past the baby making phase. 8 years to be exact. I went through menopause really early, and I am not alone. If you are an otherwise healthy, slim, fit woman, you might be prone to going through it early too. Why do I say that?

If the case of early menopause, there are such lifestyle factors as a history of anorexia and or bulimia, being an athlete/long distance runner, very thin, or a vegetarian, or having low cholesterol levels (such as can be caused by chronic low fat eating).

And it isn’t just early menopause – what about late menarche? I know an athletic, thin, vegetarian woman with no exposure to toxins in any great amount – I mean she was VERY protected and NEVER even had sugar, fast food or alcohol in her whole life – who still had not hit menarche and was going off to college.

So yes, there can be things ASIDE from toxins that can mess with your hormones. Our genetics can be triggered by stresses such as malnutrition, such as was the case for this young lady. What she thought was an ideal diet, her body took for starvation.

But toxins definitely play a role, for many people a huge role. We can feel the symptoms of these things come upon us in an accelerated manor if we get a sudden, noticeable influx of toxins – such as can happen if we get breast implants, or are exposed to mold in an infested home or car.

In the very sensitive, the ones we call the canaries in the coal mine, I can often see toxins slowly dragging them down. If they get get daily exposure to BPA in a job as a cashier, bagging groceries, or if she invests a lot in toxic beauty, such as lip injections, face fillers, keratin hair smoothers, and regular nail treatments, she may have a lot of pain, inflammation, and fatigue.

So I use a functional nutrition approach that looks at the whole person through the lens of systems biology and examines the underlying cause of hormone dysregulation, which can include the effects of endocrine disruptors, aka toxins.

 

TOXICITY

It is now clear that our individual ability to detoxify aka to bio-transform and excrete toxic and synthetic substances is of critical importance to our overall health. We are exposed to a greater quantity and a more complex array of toxic compounds in our air, water, and food than ever before. Understanding toxicity and taking practical steps to improve biotransformation are essential and critical pieces in any integrative approach to health and well-being.

I want to be clear about the concept of detoxification.

We cannot really “do a detox” and force our body to detox. The phases of detoxification undertaken by the liver (there are 3, 2 of them very well recognized) and the clearing of toxins is done by the body automatically, in conjunction with the kidneys/urinary system, lungs, skin, and more, not by any product we take. However, we can give the organs what they need to do these processes, and we can use binders to help to keep some things from recirculating, and we can help them get flushed out faster, which is often called “cleansing”.

The concept that toxins accumulate in the body and are the cause of various health problems has long been a fundamental tenet of traditional healthcare systems around the world. Removal of toxins from the body has long been an integral part of Ayurvedic, yogic, and naturopathic medicine. We know that in Canada, the Ojibwa used an 8 herb formula, drunk as a tea, and in Ayurveda, panchakarma and triphala are some of the methods employed. Naturopaths may use herbs or coffee enemas.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention began measuring human exposure to chemicals in 1976, and more recent science has really taught us a lot about how toxins affect us, where they originate, and how to improve our ability to detoxify. There is a very long list of chemicals we may encounter daily. Biomonitoring of subjects is ongoing and they continue to find new toxins in subjects’ blood and urine. Some of these include pesticides like DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and glyphosate, BPA (bisphenol-A) from plastic bottles, food containers and cash register receipts, and phthalates from toys and shampoos.

Most people are born with chemicals like these in their blood, and then have a persistent, detectable amount of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in their blood most of the time ever afterward. What endocrine disrupting means is that they look like estrogen in the body, but estrogen that misbehaves, even doing evil, like something out of the movie V, or Men in Black, or even American Psycho.

Several of these hormone-f-ing chemicals have been linked to early menarche and early menopause.

Earlier menarche means starting your period young, and it is associated with some bad health outcomes. Around the world, the age of menarche keeps getting younger and is linked to exposure to a common fumigant, according to an analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.

The NHANES researchers measured a single chemical in girls 12-16, but there are hundreds of known endocrine disruptors in our everyday environment, affecting women of all ages. In a different analysis of the NHANES data, 15 known toxicants were identified as contributors to early menopause in women, including persistent organic pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and common endocrine disruptors like phthlates. You are also more likely to reach menopause early if you are unfit, overweight, or if you have irritated ovaries, or pituitary gland problems, or have never had kids, or if you smoke…so again, it isn’t just about chemicals – but they sure don’t help.

 

WHAT TO DO

First of all, I recommend that you be careful to reduce your toxin exposure.

Filter your water. If you can, filter your air. Change filters often. Open your windows year round.

Say no to paper receipts.

Get better shampoo, or no shampoo. Use natural, clean and vetted body care, and less of it. Refuse to use regular nail polish, or to hang out in salons, or in places with toxic air. Don’t use hair treatments like Keratin smoothers or perms that use formaldehyde. Use non-toxic menstrual products.

Don’t buy new carpets, or sofas, buy second hand. If you buy furniture, like mattresses, check what they might be made with, and then, if you can, plan to sleep out of your house for the first week or two that they are in your house, to let them air out. Air out new dry cleaning for a week outside of the house in a covered area while they off-gas. Try not to move into places right after they are built – give them a year.

Eat cleaner, cook for yourself. Don’t eat canned food. Bring your own containers – don’t get take out in styrofoam and thin plastic – especially things like hot soup. Get organic food, pastured animals, don’t eat animals that eat conventional grains – they eat too many sprays.

Give up the dryer sheets, and beware of anything perfumed. Don’t hang out near the dishwasher when it is running. Use safer soap in the dishwasher, and run the kitchen exhaust fan when it runs, and go into another room. Hire someone to dust and to vacuum, and don’t let your kids play on the floor.

It’s along list, and you might feel crazy at first, but just try to work at it little by little.

You might need to do things even harder than avoiding toxins.

You may need to get a more understanding and helpful and supportive partner. You might need to earn more money. You might need to say no more and get what you need help with more. You might need to go dancing more, or accept yourself as you are, or tell an asshole to f off. You might need to make seasonal detoxification a regular thing you do now. You might need to really eat nutritiously, not just eat to stay thin. You might need to say NO to the beauty treatments, like the lip fillers, the Botox, the Keratin treatment, the toenail polish, that you think makes you beautiful, and realize how beautiful it is to think clearly in your forties, and to feel better then, and to be glad you worked on your confidence instead of your forehead wrinkle. You might need to drink less alcohol and coffee, so that you can go the F to sleep. You might need to adopt a habit of doing a little walking, a little weights, and a little yoga, instead of nothing, or everything, like a maniac.

Start practicing now, and you can avoid a lot of headaches in the future.

xox

Dana

 

 

Gardening – the Health Benefits

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What’s an activity that can benefit your mental health, improve your grip strength (one of the most important indicators of life expectancy believe it or not!), help to keep you from gaining weight, all while connecting you to nature …and having no downside?

Gardening!

Gardening can be therapy, art, and sport. It can reduce depression and anxiety, improve mood and cognitive function.

Gardening can be life-sustaining and spirit sustaining, and planet-sustaining. It is associated with JOY, CHEERFULNESS, and ENTHUSIASM.

When I studied healthy aging, these who gardened were more likely to live longer, healthier and happier lives, and if they gardened with their partner, they were more likely to stay together and to be truly happy. Wow, eh?!

Double Forest Refraction Drop by FallOut99

Being outside, being in the dirt, making things grow…it’s all miraculous. Nature is miraculous. It’s just easy to forget if you don’t interact with nature.

Here are some health benefits of gardening:

Gardening has been shown to improve well-being and coping ability, the ability to deal with change, and caring for oneself.

Gardening can raise our self-esteem, and that in turn is something that might keep a person healthy, whether that means letting loose and taking chances, or flossing, resting, getting a check-up or using a condom or seatbelt.

Gardening reduces feelings of isolation. I think people being outside of their homes is one step towards that – being where you can say hi to a neighbour and see your other neighbour’s cat.

Gardening provides a sense of agency – that you can affect the outcome and direction of things, while simultaneously showing us how we must respect the limits of our agency over nature.

Gardening has great potential to be a generative activity – to produce something and hand it down to others, leaving it better than you found it.

Gardening uses our muscles – getting us bending, lifting, pushing, pulling and stomping. We burn some energy, develop stronger arm and leg muscles, stronger torsos, fingers and shoulders. It can improve our hand strength, dexterity, even our balance and cardiovascular health.

Gardening exposes us to all kind of good microbes, like the ones I mentioned in my blog post on poo. They are in the dirt and benefit us in myriad ways.

Gardening can be creative and mentally stimulating. The sense of play is beneficial, and the activity increases blood flow to the brain, leading to better cognitive function.

Gardening can be brain-protective. A 2006 study found that gardening has the potential to reduce the incidence of dementia by a whopping 36%.

Gardening can expose us to vitamin D, a very important hormone-like vitamin that almost everyone is deficient in, and that is correlated with many diseases, especially autoimmune disease.

Gardening gets us breathing fresh air. Indoor air is often much more polluted than air outside.

Gardening exposes our eyes to the sun. This gets us in tune with the cycles of the earth and weather, our circadian rhythms, even protects our eyesight.

Gardening can also help to rectify the issue of Food Deserts by creating self-sustaining communities. It can change a neighbourhood from one that eats very few vegetables to one that eats very many.

City children who garden feel enthusiastic and engaged with the process and tend to eat more and different kinds of vegetables and care more about where their food comes from too. They tend to seek more positive pass-times than non-gardening kids.

Let’s plant some seeds and get them planting some seeds!

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I hope you will garden, if you feel so inclined. It is a good healthy habit to adopt!

Interested in some of this information?

Link through to the articles and studies.

You may also like these books:

  • Aging Well by George Vaillant
  • The Good Food Revolution by Will Allen
  • Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel

Happy gardening!!

xox

Dana

Simple Tips to easily reduce Food Waste

Simple, Easy and Practical Ways to Reduce Food Waste

I am currently in a country that is going through a hard time. The Nicaraguan tourism boom has been cut off by the protest happening in the country, even though there really isn’t much happening now…doesn’t matter, people just are not here, and it hard impacted the economy.

Many people here find it hard to find paying work, and we know that affects their ability to have fun, plan for the future, and in some cases, even eat.

It makes me think how much we waste food back in Vancouver, where the only thing limiting our food waste is that houses cost too much to afford one big enough to load up at Costco.

We’ve all been guilty of wasting food at some point or another. We either make too much food and forget to freeze portions of it for use at a later date, or perhaps we forget all about that head of lettuce that got shoved to the back of the vegetable drawer and now have to toss it out or compost it.

And for those amongst us that do NOT compost…

DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TAKES FOR A DISCARDED HEAD OF LETTUCE TO DECOMPOSE IN A LANDFILL?

A month? 6 months? A year? More like…wait for it…25 years.

YEP. Twenty-five Y – E – A – R – S!

That is cray cray, as the kids say.

 

Unfortunately, food waste is a huge problem.

Not only are there people who don’t have enough food, both near and far, but also this disposed-of food rots in landfills and creates methane, wreaking havoc on the environment.

On top of that, wasted food is wasted money we could be using for other things.

If we just take a little time to be proactive, we can reduce food waste, make the planet a better place, and put our resources to better use. Win-win!

 

Here are a few ways to cut down on your own food waste:

 

REARRANGE PRODUCE

Rearrange your produce by moving older produce to the front.  It can also be helpful to clean your refrigerator out first and start out on the right foot. I know here everything is in a tiny holder or container I feel a million times better. Bring on the labels!!

Once your refrigerator is clean and tidy, begin the practice of moving older produce to the front of your refrigerator.  After your grocery shopping trip, put the newer items behind the older items.

You’ll be more likely to use up the older stuff first before it goes bad if it’s in plain sight.

PLAN AHEAD

Plan things out before you hit the grocery store.

Now that you are really clear on what you still have…

(“Oh yeah, I thought I would really eat that rutabega, what was I going to do with it again? Oh yeah, fritters. I will need an egg for those…”

…make a habit of setting your menu each week and shopping smart.  As hard as it may be, stick to only the perishable items that are on the list and just buy enough produce items for what you need that week.  If you run out, you can always take a quick trip to the grocery store — but if it goes to waste, it’s useless.

 

TAKE NOTE

Keep a notepad of scrap paper in your kitchen or a “Notes” list on your phone that can be used as a waste journal.  Every time you have to throw a food item away, write it down on your waste list. Or write reminders:

“Only used half the bunch of bok choy. Could’ve used more, it reduced down a lot on cooking. Rutabega was ambitious. Barely used in time, luckily it lasted to make fritters.”

This will help you keep track of what you throw away so you can begin to see patterns.  You can use this knowledge to plan better and waste less.  For example, if you notice you’re always throwing out lettuce, you may need to plan on better storage for it or buying less than you usually do.

Get to know weights and measures and how much of each items your recipes call for. No need to buy a large whipping cream if you only need a quarter cup for the recipe, right?

 

GET CREATIVE

Waste less food by getting creative with leftovers.

Mid-week, take the time to make it a leftovers night. You can either serve it up as original or jazz it up with some of your other on-hand ingredients.

Got too much of a good thing?  Invest in proper storage containers and freeze it for later use.  Just be sure to label it and date it so you’ll use it in time.

If you are a single person that likes a food item, but can never finish it the way that it comes at the store, see if it can be frozen, bought somewhere else in a smaller size, or batch-cooked.

See if another single person wants to hit the stores with you and split some of the things, or if you and your friends would be into ‘cook n shares’, where you each make larger batches, and then swap to give each other more variety of dishes.

 

In this image, you can see green onions in a glass of water. This way, they keep growing until they are ready to be used! More economical, less waste.

You can also see all the veggie scraps and bones that were saved to make a healing bone broth.

 

SCRAPS INTO STOCK

Turn your food scraps into a stock that can be used now or later.

Whenever you’re peeling carrots or chopping celery, save all of the scraps you have left over.  This goes for all veggie scraps — toss them all in a ziplock bag for the freezer and save those scraps.

When your bag is filled, you can use it to make a stock for soups and stews, or for use in sauces. Keep onion ends, keep bones, save em up!

THINK SMARTER

Think smarter with the produce you buy.

Your kids might not like the way the bananas look when they start to brown, but you know they’re still good to eat. Try peeling and cutting up the bananas in slices and freezing them to throw in smoothies.

[Or, turn it into banana bread. My friend Saro just baked some today and it smelled SOOO good going into her house.]

You can also consider buying long-lasting produce that doesn’t spoil quickly to reduce waste each month.  Some lasting produce includes onions, oranges, potatoes, carrots, celery, and apples.

 

PICKLE IT

When in doubt, pickle it.

Ferments and pickled fruits and vegetables are all the rage — so when you find you’ve got more than you can eat before it spoils, consider pickling it. It is way easier than you might think – easier than fermenting, which is also easy!

When all else fails, donate food you can’t use before it goes bad.

Your friend at work might be happy to have some extra vegetables mid-week, or the local soup kitchen will be delighted to have something that can be used to help feed those in need.

There is a new app called OLIO that you can download to your phone.  It’s essentially a food sharing app to share your surplus foods with those in your area that need it.

 

I hope these ideas made a difference and made saving food and diverting it from the landfill seem way easier to accomplish.

Also, did you know? There is a lot you can learn about how to properly store your produce.

There is an art and a science to it.

If you are in the Vancouver area, I do kitchen clean-out and shopping and restocking sessions with people AND they can even be done remotely!!

 

What tricks do YOU use to limit food waste?

Let me know!!

xox

Dana