School Lunch ~ Are Fewer Calories and Less Protein the Answer to Childhood Obesity?

pizza

This school year, there has been quite the buzz about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This legislation was put into effect this school year and with it, several changes to school lunch (and breakfast) programs. Although there are a few underlying reasons behind this program, a big one is the increasing rate of childhood obesity.

On one hand, some of the processed food has been cut out of school food programs, while more fruit, vegetables and whole grains have been added to the daily menu. (I won’t even pick on the grains issue right here… knowing that whole grains are probably a huge improvement for countless kids.) However, there has also been a decrease in protein and overall “allowed” calories.

I’ve talked to many health-minded parents who are scratching their heads over this one, too.

Friends of ours with kids in middle school who rely on the school lunch program recently told me that their son could no longer create his favorite lunch in the school cafeteria because it contained “too many calories”. I was bracing myself for them to tell me that his favorite was something like a platter of pasta with Alfredo sauce and a side of cheese fries!

Nope. His favorite was a piece of flat bread topped with turkey and other lunch meats, plus lettuce, peppers, onions, tomatoes, olives, shredded cheese, etc. Basically, it was a “subway” type sandwich without the 12 inches of thick sub bread. Too many calories… mostly from the meat, they said.

Go have a plate of pasta or piece of pizza instead instead.

Crikey.

OK, so I’m not a fan of eating toxic meat or dairy… but that’s clearly not the point here.

Not all calories are created equal.

When you make a sweeping generalization like, “fewer calories means less childhood obesity”, you overlook some critically important distinctions. For example, cutting calories can also cut out key nutrients. Our bodies can use some calories far more efficiently than others.

More on that in a minute.

And how about the protein requirements? It’s recommended that children in kindergarten through eighth grade receive  ONE ounce of protein daily!  For high school kids this is ever-so-generously increased to two ounces.  Protein is a crucial source of essential amino acids, and especially important to growing children.

In adults, eating MORE quality protein is actually a critical component of body weight and body fat SOLUTIONS! People who start eating more protein will shed more fat and gain more lean muscle. Lean muscle is what helps us metabolize fat throughout the day.

Protein gives you the feeling that you’re full, even more than fat or carbs. Protein boosts your sensitivity to a hormone called leptin – this is the hormone tells your brain that you’re full. As a result, you feel satisfied and don’t tend to overeat as much.

Protein is also key in helping us develop lean muscle. This lean muscle helps us burn more fat and calories throughout the day.

How did we end up at a place where “nutritional” guidelines drastically limit the intake of protein for children?

We are starting kids on the WRONG track with their nutritional mindset. This is not the solution to childhood obesity.

The source and quality of calories must always remain the primary focus, both for healthy nutrition, as well as for achieving and maintaining a healthy body composition. It’s not that decreased caloric intake is a flawed concept – it’s not. However, taken out of context, or applied out of order, and the results can be exactly the opposite of what we desire.

If we consider the Standard American Diet full of processed foods, toxic dairy and grains, grain-fed toxic meats… all loaded with chemicals, hormones, insecticides, pesticides, artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners… our bodies already think they’re starving. To some extent, they are! They’re starving for nutrients.

Now, keep eating foods from that diet, but strictly limit calories? Now your brain believes the situation has just gotten worse. Your body will take in everything you’re consuming and store it as fat for your survival. Our food choices – more than the calorie count – will direct our physiology toward building fat at the expense of everything else.

Know what you end up with when you restrict calories in the Standard American Diet? You end up with a population that feels run down, tired, is immune-suppressed, is pumping out stress hormones like crazy, has a hard time focusing and balancing their moods and emotions, and is developing chronic illness faster than at any other time in human history!

We can change that by convincing our brains and bodies that “it’s OK… we’re not starving… we don’t need to store fat… we’re safe and the environment is good!”

Our ancestors laid the foundation for our own cellular requirements. Thousands of years of evolutionary experience continue to drive what our bodies require for optimal function and composition.

Consuming more protein is part of this healthy equation.

 

“Clean” sources of protein, plants, healthy fats, and pure water. How’s that for a simple menu?! (OK, there’s a bit more to it than that, but this is a great starting point.)

We should try to get our protein from a variety of sources, keeping in mind that many leading health and nutrition experts agree that our bodies absorb animal protein more efficiently than plant protein.

For adults, it’s recommended that we consume one gram of protein for every pound of lean muscle. This helps us utilize our stored fat instead of hanging onto it in the event that we might starve someday! (So, if you weigh 160 lbs. and you have 25% body fat, then you have 120 lbs. of lean muscle. So, you could work toward 120 grams of protein per day. Get it?)

By the way, if you’re not sure what your body fat percentage is, the average woman is somewhere between 18-22%, while the average man is 15-18%.

Unfortunately, the body fat percentage rates for children, adolescents and teens are quickly gaining ground on adults!

It’s quite a drastic difference in protein recommendations, isn’t it?

We have this legislation telling us 1-2 grams of protein per day for kids, yet true health experts unequivocally state that we should be consuming much, much more protein for a variety of health reasons, including the correction of weight issues.

At the very least, we can make more of a concerted effort to add quality sources of protein to the meals that we DO oversee  for our children. If they eat breakfast at home, be sure to incorporate a healthy protein to start their day off in a healthier, more hormonally balanced and more metabolically effective way.

 

Of course, the same is true for after school snacks and dinner. Be sure to incorporate a balanced mix of healthy protein, healthy fats and fresh fiber in the form of vegetables &/or fruit.

Hopefully, the decision-makers behind school foods will get on board with current nutritional and metabolic at some point in the near future. Until that point, we can just make sure to provide a healthier foundation for our kids while they’re under our wing.

 

 

Need nutrition help? This 8-page family nutrition guide lays the foundation for healthier choices. Only $10 (+ s/h) while supplies last. Contact me if you'd like a copy!

 

 

 

The “Right” Type of Exercise ~ It’s Easier Than You Think!

Apparently, exercise was very serious!

Apparently, exercise was very serious!

People often ask, “What’s the right type of exercise?” My response: “There’s no WRONG type of exercise!

To be more accurate, there are better types of exercise suited to specific goals someone might have. Fat loss, for example, demands a specific type of exercise.

However, just the mere fact that we are human beings means that our bodies require motion… on a daily basis.

In a sense, we are hard-wired and driven by motion.

In this way, it’s not about fat loss, or burning calories, or toning up, or scoring the best time. It’s about providing the fuel that our bodies – and brains – require in order for optimal cell function to happen.

When we move, we stimulate proprioception (movement neurology, if you will). Essentially, this is a signal from the body to the brain to “go”. Proprioception is a driving force in brain function.

Nowhere is this more important than in the area of the spine. Over 50% of the body’s proprioceptive fibers are located in the spinal joints and surrounding tissues. This is an enormous key to health and function that we can control to a large extent! (The hips and ankles are key areas as well, but the spinal area rules!)

We can CHOOSE movement and exercise that stimulates each of our spinal joints, causing a positive proprioceptive message to be sent to the brain… and resulting in a positive brain response for the entire body and mind.

The spine is like the tail that wags the dog! Want optimal brain function? Want your “feel good” hormones to be released more often? Want to suppress your “feel bad” stress hormone production? Move your spine!

Knowing how important the consistent, “normal” motion of the spine is, you can understand why it’s extremely negative to allow any chronic fixation of the spine.

When there’s a lack of healthy motion, there’s a lack of proprioception. This results in an increase of “nociception”. Not only does this nociceptive input allow us to perceive more pain, but it also drives the stress response, dumping stress hormones into our system and negatively affecting all mental, emotional and physiological function.

It’s silly to let things get that far when it’s something we can control for the most part.

This is what I love about Chiropractic. It’s why we see so many health challenges that seemingly have NOTHING to do with the “back” respond so incredibly to regular Chiropractic adjustments. The brain craves motion from the spine (and other joints). Chiropractic adjustments ensure that the joints are moving optimally.

Simply put, better motion (from the spine, especially) equals better brain function.

 

So what kind of movement do we “need”?

A variety.

We benefit from: endurance-type exercise, bursts, intervals, strength training & resistance training, flexibility, balance, postural exercises, exercise like yoga & Pilates, and on and on. Oh, and never underestimate the positive proprioceptive impact of dancing and playing like a silly person!

When it comes to fat loss specifically, we will always get better results when we incorporate more high-intensity burst & interval training and place less emphasis on steady-state, low-to-medium intensity endurance type training.

Building our lean muscle through challenging exercise (e.g. resistance training) helps us increase our Resting Metabolic Rate so that we can burn more fat, for longer periods of time, even when we are rest.

So, if you’re simply seeking optimal health now and in the future, think of incorporating a large variety of movement into your lifestyle. The “right” types of exercise for you will be the things you love doing. Mix it up… have fun… become a “mover”!

If you also need some help with fat loss and weight loss, be sure to add high-intensity intervals and resistance training to your schedule a few times each week. Essentially, work harder for a shorter period of time. Sweat and heavy breathing are your friends!

Keep in mind that the old-school types of cardio work-outs, where you run, or jog, or walk, or cycle, or go on the elliptical for long periods of time are not superior work-outs for optimal fat loss.

However, I’m the first to tell you that sometimes, it’s about more than fat loss and burning the most calories at rest! Going out for a longer run or bike ride can be the most powerful and effective stress reduction activity you could possibly do! I’ve self-corrected many cranky pants and stinkin’ thinkin’ moments by hitting the road for a good long run!

Whatever types of movement and exercise you choose, just keep at it. Intentionally moving your body should be a daily ritual that you do for your physical, mental and emotional health… not an annual event that you re-commit to every New Year!

Just like your brain craves motion, so should you. It’s keeping you alive AND fully living!

 

 

Healthy Immune Function: “Sick” vs. “Adapting” to the Environment

cold

We don’t normally use the work “sick” in our house when it comes to runny noses, stuffy noses, upset tummies, or colds. Call us strange (and I know you do!), but words are very important. It’s important to speak accurately about issues of health around here!

“Sick” implies a passive role. It implies you played NO role in how your body is reacting, other than that of victim.

That’s just not an accurate message that we like to send along to our kids… so we’re sticklers about the word “sick”.

I’m sure most people don’t mean any harm when they use the word “sick”… most people have just never really thought about it. I get that. I think the negativity surrounding the word (or the mindset) comes from being in a wellness practice for almost 18 years and seeing countless people come in each year, wondering why they “got sick” or “caught a cold”… completely oblivious to the fact that they were indeed involved in their body’s actions!

It’s like wondering why we get back pain when we don’t exercise enough, sit too long, are carrying too much body weight, have weak core muscles, are stressed out, think predominantly negative thoughts, eat toxic foods, don’t get enough sleep, and so on. We play a critical role in the symptoms our bodies express.

The vast majority of the time, when our bodies become run down and express symptoms like I mentioned above, it’s because we’ve either provided too much toxicity or too much deficiency in the way we eat/drink , move, sleep, think, OR we’ve simply not provided enough purity and sufficiency.

There ARE limitations of matter, after all! The body can only take our abuse for so long before it says, “Oh yeah? Well I’m gonna’ push out a whole bunch of these toxins we’ve been accumulating and they’re going to come out your nose big time, mister. That’ll teach ya’!” Or, “You think you can burn the candle at both ends and live a stressed out life? Well I’m going to force you to chill out by making you feel like crud for a few days… you’re going to park it on the couch. So there.”

Our bodies will intelligently respond to the environment we create and provide for them. Our bodies will ADAPT to their environments.

So, you’ll hear our kids say “I’m adapting” rather than “I’m sick”.

People look at them a little odd when they say this… but they’re learning to get used to it, just like mom and dad!!

What’s the difference between “sick” and “adapting”? Based on the way you feel… nothing! You still feel like crud. It’s just a difference of mindset; a difference in paradigms – one that offers us the opportunity to play a role in creating better health… and one that keeps us suppressed in the role of helpless victims.

“Adapting” means you can do something about it, both prevention-wise and treatment-wise. “Sick” means you were the unfortunate recipient of bad luck, bad germs or bad genes. All incomplete and inaccurate information.

By the way, if the “germ theory” were accurate, wouldn’t we all be dead by now?! Or, at the very least, if it were accurate, each and every time someone we encountered was experiencing a viral or bacterial infection of some sort, we’d ALL develop the same thing.

We know from our own life experiences that this simply is not true. You can work in close proximity with 30 other people, 15 of whom have a “cold”, and the other 15 will never develop that cold. Or, 12 of 26 kids in a class may be out with the “flu”, but the other 14 never develop it.

That’s because that’s not how “sickness” happens. In order to get “sick”, your environment needs to be out of balance in some way first. Your immune system needs to be suppressed in some way in order to not defend itself the way it was designed to do.

What suppresses it? Ongoing toxicity and deficiency. Maybe it’s from stress, or poor nutritional choices, or not enough exercise, or not enough sleep, or medications… could be anything that is not pure and sufficient and throws things out of balance.

Is there a time when we’re actually “sick”? Of course. When our bodies are no longer actively ‘adapting’ to the environment… when they start losing the battle a bit. Actually, I don’t really care if anyone calls it “sick” when their bodies are adapting to the environment. The point is to recognize the role we play.

How about the example of a common cold. Let’s say you’ve been overworked, under rested, and haven’t been eating a very healthy diet lately. When you develop a cold, are you really “sick”? Or is your body responding PERFECTLY to the toxic and deficient environment you created for it? The latter is obviously correct. Your body will essentially BEG you to slow down and take better care of yourself. Smart.

Keep this in mind during this year’s “cold & flu season” (whatever that is!). Lay the foundation for a healthy immune system with your daily choices – health is something you build and continue to contribute to each day.

If you start feeling like you’re adapting – feeling run down, etc. – then go back to square one and start to re-build your health again. Good sleep, good hydration, good nutrition, good mental & emotional health, and lay off the toxic triggers like sugar and dairy and stress and over-doing it. There’s not a cold remedy on the planet that can compare!

Simply stated, add more “good stuff” while avoiding the “bad stuff”… and just let your body work it out. Have faith! The system is perfect by design!

 

Healthier, Not Harder ~ One of My Favorite Healthy Snacks

avocados

I’ve made no secret about it here over the years. I LOVE guacamole. The fresher the better.

When I make it at home, I’m 100% certain that it’s a “healthy snack”. Avocados are a great source of fiber and healthy fats. It’s all good.

My basic guacamole: ripe avocados, diced onion & tomato, garlic, fresh cilantro, sea salt & pepper and fresh lime juice. Yum-o-licious! I mix it up, adding other ingredients, depending on what is on the verge of extinction in my fridge. I know there are many options you can add to this… however, my basic “recipe” is my personal favorite.

(Those of you who know me well should now cease your doubled-over state of laughter over my reference to “my recipe”. I used the term loosely.)

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find much to enjoy my guacamole with other than tortilla chips when I’m in the mood for a quick snack. Since corn is a grain, I try to minimize my intake. Although I’m sure there are worse things I could eat, I don’t want to pound down a bag of chips just to enjoy my guacamole.

(OK, actually, I may want to… but my conscious brain reminds me that I should choose not to. Dangit.)

We love to add guacamole to burgers, lettuce wraps and chicken dishes… but I was searching for even more “snack” options for the kids and me.

I’ve tried carrot sticks and apple slices and celery with guacamole. Blah.  Carrots are okayyyy with it, but not my cuppa’ tea every time I want guacamole. I do like slices of peppers with it, too, in all fairness to peppers!

Finally, I tried cucumber slices with the guacamole. Nice, hefty, substantial slices that can support the lofty weight of my chunky guacamole. Sometimes, when I’m feeling a wee bit decadent, I might even sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on the cucumbers… not that I need to… but it can feel more like I’m eating “chips” that way!

Sad, sad little mind I have, that can be so easily fooled!

Anyhow, it’s a totally healthy, quick and easy snack that is a great substitute for less healthy snack food like chips, crackers and pretzels that tend to be loaded with gluten, “bad” fats and just an over-abundance of simple carbs and grains.

 

 

Transitioning to Healthier Living: Prioritizing Nutritional Choices

grocery store

In the first post of this series, I talked about the reasoning behind reducing the toxic load in our diets.  Then, in part two, we got into the specifics of some of the biggest nutritional toxic culprits to avoid.

Now, let’s take a step back, take a deep breath, and develop a strategy to make this transition.

Health and function-enhancing “diets” like the Paleo or primal approach, or the autoimmune diet, or the anti-inflammatory diet can be tough to embrace initially if we’re used to the Standard American Diet.

That’s why I like to pick my battles!

I like to help patients and clients “ease” into this healthier diet and lifestyle… not dive in full-force only to fall off the wagon a few days later.

(Unless, of course, the patient/client has a raging autoimmune or inflammatory condition and would dramatically benefit from the immediate removal of the toxic choices and the immediate upgrade of several food choices.)

But, for everyone else…

Here’s the ultra-simplified version of how I recommend prioritizing healthier nutrition choices:

First and foremost, is you can’t initially upgrade and substitute all the “bad” for “good”, then consider this – some toxins can be somewhat effectively rinsed, removed or neutralized in our foods. Think fruits and veggies, if you can’t get your hands on all organic produce choices. (I’ll post a simple, inexpensive, effective fruit and vegetable wash soon.)

On the other hand, it’s rather impossible to “rinse” toxins out of our meat and dairy! That gives you a pretty clear idea where to begin in this transition. If you can’t improve upon the level of toxicity (or deficiency) on your own, then you should consider upgrading the source of that food.

The short list of priorities:

1) The abbreviated list of most offensive toxins to eliminate/avoid immediately: artificial sweeteners and additives, high fructose corn syrup, polyunsaturated fatty acids (synthetic vegetable oils)/trans fats/hydrogenated & partially hydrogenated fats and oils.

Avoiding these culprits will mean avoiding fast food, junk food, and the majority of pre-packaged and convenience snack foods. Oh, and diet and low-fat/fat-free foods, too. Fake, factory foods is all they are! Don’t forget beverages – drink more water and less designer coffee drinks, juice, energy drinks, sports drinks, alcohol, etc.

2) If possible, I’d eliminate dairy. But, if it doesn’t seem possible, then I’d absolutely commit to upgrading wherever and whenever possible. Modern day conventional dairy is junk food. It’s inflammatory, toxic and deficient in nutrients. Yes, it is.

"Clearly, we prefer grass vs. grains!"

If you want “milk products”, then upgrade to raw and unpasteurized, preferably from grass-fed livestock for the most nutritionally sufficient option. At the very least, choose organic for a less toxic option. Another option is to switch to something like pure coconut milk or another dairy substitute that isn’t toxic and loaded with sugar.

3) If you’re not ready to eliminate grains all together, then upgrade those choices, too.

Gluten-free is an important choice to make. That typically means getting rid of wheat in your diet. It doesn’t matter that you’ve not been diagnosed as “gluten sensitive” or “gluten intolerant”. We don’t need the massive doses of gluten that our modern food supplies. BUT, be careful. So much of the gluten-free smorgasbord is quickly becoming just another version of toxic junk food! Read ingredients carefully.

Sprouted and fermented grains are better choices than just “whole grains” or the lowly refined grains.

Another successful strategy here is to “dilute” the negative effects of grains in our meals by combining them with healthy sources of protein and fats. So, instead of just having a bagel, or a piece of toast, or a pop-tart, or a muffin… add an egg, or a small handful of raw nuts or nut butter (macadamia is king), or a small piece of meat, etc.

Oh, and let’s not overlook the obvious. If “grain-free” is not an option for you right now, then eat grains less often, and have smaller servings of grains when you do eat them. I think we need to move away from the days of grains being the focal point of a meal.

Regarding legumes, I don’t go crazy in this department with folks right off the bat. There are far worse things to address than beans, in my opinion.

4) Upgrade meat/poultry/fish & seafood/egg choices whenever you can.

Conventional meat is cheap, no doubt about it. But, it comes with a laundry list of problems right from the start – how the livestock is raised, housed, drugged, fed toxic grains, drugged some more, etc.

Choosing animal-based protein sources from livestock that were more “naturally” raised is an important start. Options like “grass-fed” or “pasture raised”/”pastured”, or “wild” fish are superior to the low-quality meats, poultry, eggs and seafood found in conventional stores and restaurants.

Also, look for protein sources that haven’t been drugged, hormonally altered and radiated along the way. I hope it’s obvious why. If it’s in our food, it’s in us.

This one can be tough to transition to, mostly because of the financial investment required to make this important upgrade. Thankfully, our options are growing as consumers demand better quality (less toxic) food.

Also, the less money we spend on Doritos, donuts, cereal, pizza, pop, sports drinks, crackers, junk food and fast food, it’s amazing how much more money we have to invest in healthy foods! Just sayin’…

If you can’t choose grass-fed and pastured meats right now, at least look for choices that clearly state that no antibiotics or hormones were used in the process.

5) Fats & Oils

In an upcoming article in this series, I’ll list some of the healthy fats and oils to use and consume. For now, the biggie is to get rid of the toxic, synthetic stuff I listed in #1. Use “real food” sources of fats and oils, like real butter, coconut oil, or extra virgin olive oil for your own food preparation and recipes at home. If you’re eating out, consider the quality of fats and oils that your restaurant-of-choice is probably using. If you don’t know for certain, at least lay off the fried and battered food.

6) Add more plants.

Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit. Eat lots of greens, from veggies and super foods.

7) Sugar.

I encourage patients and clients to honestly and accurately assess the amount of sugar they’re consuming in their diets. Clearly, we should not be consuming anywhere near the amount of sugar we currently do as a culture. Sugar is a toxic, inflammatory food that increases our risk factors for all chronic illness, as well as increasing the signs of premature aging, immune suppression, and a host of other less-than-desirable symptoms and conditions.

The obvious areas to look are in junk food, candy, sweets and baked goods. However, we can’t forget to consider the insidious sources of sugar that lurk in our diets – in pop, energy and sports drinks, juices and juice drinks, condiments, dressings and sauces, and, of course, in all those grain-based/flour-based foods that convert to sugar in our systems rather quickly.

We are inundated with excessive sources of sugar!

 

So, there it is. That’s the “starter list” I usually give someone who’s beginning this transition to healthier living.

Where did YOU begin on this journey? What advice did YOU find most helpful?

 

Need nutrition help? This 8-page family nutrition guide lays the foundation for healthier choices. Only $10 (+ s/h) while supplies last. Contact me if you'd like a copy!

 

 

 

 

 

Transitioning to Healthier Living: Nutrition ~ Eliminating Toxins, Part Two

giant burger

In the first part of this post, I discussed the importance of lessening our toxic load as we begin the transition to healthier choices. Sometimes, we can be so toxic, from so many sources, that we really need to reduce or eliminate some of the biggest toxins right from the start in order to reap the full benefits of the health-promoting choices we’re starting to make.

Last time around, I simply listed some of the main categories of nutritional toxicity. This time, I’ll expand a bit and then provide some examples in each category of the the “biggies to avoid”.

Remember, this isn’t all-or-none… nor is it about being “perfect”. Better health and function results from making healthier choices over time.

1) Toxic Beverages: Most mainstream, popular drinks are just sugar in liquid form! They cause drastic spikes in insulin without all the vitamins, fiber and antioxidants that would normally accompany (and dampen the effect of) more natural sources of sugar found in nature – like vegetables and fruit.
Some biggies to avoid: Soda/pop; energy drinks; sports drinks; juices & juice drinks; designer coffee drinks; alcohol.

2) “Bad” Fats & Oils: First of all, fat isn’t “bad”… and it doesn’t make us fat. We NEED fat. However, we need healthy fat. Oh, and by the way, saturated fats are not inherently bad. Toxic fat, whether saturated or unsaturated, that’s the biggest problem. The common synthetic fats that riddle our conventional food supply wreak havoc on our overall health, causing everything from systemic inflammation to centripedal fat (belly fat) and neurological break down. Trans-fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are nasty buggers that place a lock on our brains, and make us fat – adding insult to injury! Omega-6 fats are natural fats… but need to be in a healthy ratio with Omega-3 fats in order for us to benefit. Otherwise, the lack of balance leads to chronic inflammation which is a precursor for ALL chronic illness.

Some biggies to avoid: anything with partially hydrogenated oils; oils high in Omega-6 (canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, soybean, peanut, grapeseed, cottonseed); fake butter spreads & sprays; margarine; “crisco”

3) Fast Food & Junk Food (and a whole lotta’ restaurant food, in general): Do these foods taste good? Sure, to many folks, at least. That’s not what we’re talking about here. These foods are the epitome of the Standard American Diet – high in calories, loaded with carbs and sugar, often fried or cooked in the scary fats I just listed, breaded to death and made with low quality sources of meat and dairy. But, hey… it’s fast, easy and cheap! Don’t shoot the messenger.

Some biggies to avoid: hot dogs; french fries; onion rings; burgers; chicken sandwiches/fingers/nuggets; tater tots; pretty much everything on the appetizer menu (!); chimichangas; chalupas; churros; corn chips… oy.

 

 

4) Most Dairy: (Food Police alert!)
Many highly intelligent folks would argue that we just don’t genetically require dairy. Others remind us that we’re the only “animals” that continue to drink milk (and consume milk products) after being weaned… AND, it’s from another animal all together. Kinda’ weird, when you think about it that way! Regardless of your desire to continue nursing into adolescence and adulthood, conventional milk is a toxic cocktail that lacks the nutritional benefit we’ve been brain-washed into thinking it has. It’s junk food. If you want to consume milk and milk products, it’s time to upgrade to raw, grass-fed sources. More on that in a future post.

Some biggies to avoid: conventional milk; processed cheese (American, Velveeta, nacho cheese, Cheez Whiz {barf}…); ice cream; frozen yogurt; most conventional yogurt (look at how it’s sweetened and colored, in addition to its milk source); any low-fat or fat-free dairy

5) Grains (uh-huh, I just said that!) & Legumes
Again, many nutritional smarty pants say we just don’t need grains. Even smarter folks are linking our current epidemic of chronic illness with the over-abundance of toxic grains in our Standard American Diet. Sure, grains have been part of our history for many generations now… but not these modern-day versions of cereal grains. We like to say, “This is NOT the bread that Jesus ate, people!” This is an entirely new breed of Franken-grains.

Research indicates that 50 years ago, wheat contained only 5% gluten. Today, it is 50%! This is just one of the problems associated with grain consumption.
Grains contain multiple components that impair various physiological functions, such as digestion, nutrient absorption, AND, they’ve been shown to damage the intestinal wall. We’ll be talking in great length about our intestinal barriers down the road, and what happens when they’re chronically under attack.
Grains and grain flours are high in carbohydrates – the acellular type, which is damaging. Not the same structure of cellular carbs you’d find in tubers and fruit, for example. Acellular carbs have already had their cellular wall broken down – the work has been done for us, resulting in an overwhelming shot of carbs into our digestive system. There’s nothing nutritionally valuable in grains that we can’t get from better sources.

Some biggies to avoid/limit: cereal grains (wheat, corn, rice); bread & flour products (pizza, crackers, pretzels, muffins, bagels, croissants, tortillas, scones, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, granola); puffed grains (rice cakes, goldfish, pirate’s booty, cheetos, etc.); chips – this one hurts me, too! (corn, tortilla, potato); various cooking grains (couscous, barley, rye, millet, aramanth, etc.)

Legumes have the same issue as grains when it comes to acellular carbohydrates, making them a detriment, nutritionally speaking. They also tend to run high in the sugar department.

Some biggies to avoid in the legumes department: peanuts & peanut butter; beans; peas; lentils; alfalfa; soybeans/edamame; tofu

6) Processed & Fake Foods: First, let’s address the obvious – processed and “fake” foods are made with garbage ingredients. Common ingredients are things like sugar, refined grains, synthetic fats and oils/polyunsaturated fatty acids, and artificial sweeteners/colors/flavors.
Then, consider that our bodies “see” these foods differently than they see whole foods complete macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients as they occur in nature. Whole foods require more work for our bodies to break down and assimilate properly, and as a result, these whole foods release far more energy into the body for longer term use. Fake food is just too easy… it comes with a short-lived supply of energy. C’mon, you knew it was too good to be true!

Some of the biggies to avoid: chips, crackers, puffed rice snacks; ‘conventional’ energy, protein, sports, granola & fruit bars; high sugar snacks; pretzels…

7) Common Baking Ingredients (Gasp!)
Well, if you read #5, you kinda’ get why baking ingredients aren’t going to be the greatest choice right from the get-go. What on earth are you going to bake with?!

Some biggies to avoid: flour (especially wheat); corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup; pretty much all other conventional starches and syrups (!); yeast; gluten; powdered milk… and more.

Don’t ask me what to do about all that Christmas baking! I’m still sulking. (I know, I know… you can still use almond flour, coconut flour, etc.)

8) Toxic Condiments, Dressings, Sauces & Dips: Oh, these can be sneaky. Lurking in all these tasty concoctions are typically some of the nastiest of toxins – sugar &/or artificial sweeteners, bad fats (or excessive sweeteners to make up for the lack of much fat at all, if you’re buying low-fat versions) neurotoxins like artificial flavors and colors and preservatives, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed soy, isolated soy… and a bottle-load more!

Some biggies to avoid: low-fat salad dressings and dressings made from canola, corn, soybean, sunflower or safflower oil, conventional ketchup, honey mustard, light mayonnaise, and anything that contains high fructose corn syrup, excess sugar, polyunsaturated fatty acids..

 

9) Sweets & Tasty Toxins: Well, what are the most common ingredients in most ‘sweets’? Sugar or sugar derivatives, of course. This impairs insulin sensitivity. If the food also has refined grains, they cause a dramatic spike in insulin. Bad fats and oils (polyunsaturated fatty acids) worsen insulin sensitivity AND can create a state of oxidative stress. Whoa! That’s a recipe for chronic illness risk factors right there!

Some of the biggies to avoid: sweeteners in general – sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, evaporated cane juice, molasses, agave nectar; cookies, cupcakes, brownies, pies, various desserts; milk chocolate; frozen desserts – ice cream, popsicles. I know, like can be hard. I’m just passing along information here… you can choose what to do with it!

10) Certain Meats: I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with meat, from a scientific perspective. You may choose to disagree on a philosophical level. That’s ok. For health purposes, it’s important to note that not ALL meat is “ok” or acceptable. Quality is king. Processed meats and meat products, as well as factory farmed meats, are both toxic AND deficient. Toxic because of all the hormones, steroids, preservatives, nitrates, binders, sweeteners and various chemicals utilized in the process along the way. Deficient because they’re missing out on vital nutrients that their “freely roaming”, grass-fed and pastured relatives offer. I understand. This can be a big financial issue for many folks – to upgrade meats in this way. Whenever you can, I’d avoid the lower quality, higher toxicity, factory farmed meats so common in the Standard American Diet.

Some of the biggies to avoid/reduce: lunch meats, hot dogs, frozen meals, low-quality deli/smoked/cured meats like salami, pepperoni, bologna, bacon, jerky; fried chicken/poultry – wings, chicken fingers, chicken strips, nuggets.

11) Certain Fish & Seafood: Wild fish caught from deep, cold water reigns supreme. Farmed fish lacks the potent omega-3 punch that fish like salmon contain. Farmed fish has also been shown to be higher in contaminants like PCBs, dioxins and even fire retardant.

Some biggies to avoid: most farmed fish (especially farmed salmon); fish known to be higher in mercury – swordfish, shark, king mackerel; breaded fish and seafood – fish sticks, fish filets, fried calamari, fried oysters, fried clams, fried mussels, fried shrimp/popcorn shrimp.

 

12) Diet & Low-Fat/Fat-Free “Food”: If a food does not contain its naturally-occurring fat and calories due to some process in a food laboratory somewhere, then what have the fat and calories been replaced with? It’s a scary thought. When food manufacturers start manipulating foods in this way, what’s substituted is normally toxic in nature: artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, bad fats, neurotoxins… anything to make the food taste appealing and make its label appear more appealing.

Some biggies to avoid: diet pop and other drinks, fat-free/low-fat dairy – milk, yogurt, cheeses, sour cream, cream cheese, coffee creamer; diet &/or low calorie pre-packaged snack foods and meals, etc. etc. If a whole food is naturally lower in calories, that’s obviously fine! I’m talking about the artificially manipulated foods that are problematic.

OK… you may resume breathing!

This list isn’t 100% complete, of course. But, holy moly… it’s a pretty fantastic start, don’t you think?

Do I feel it’s necessary to address ALL of these “biggies to avoid”? Nope. Not for most folks reading this, at least. Some of you are already way ahead of this. Some of you just need to pick a few of these and start checking them off your list.

In an upcoming post, I’ll help you strategically prioritize the foods and ingredients that should be eliminated or reduced first.

Your newly decreased toxic load will thank you for the rest of your now extended life. : )

Honestly, for me, it’s SO much easier to focus on the abundance of whole, function-enhancing and health-promoting foods and beverages that I CAN have… the foods that lead to improved cellular function and homeostasis. That list is nice and long, thank goodness!

We’ll take a look at those lovely foods in one of the next articles in this series.

 

Need nutrition help? This 8-page family nutrition guide lays the foundation for healthier choices. Only $10 (+ s/h) while supplies last. Contact me for your copy!

Healthier, Not Harder: Greens vs. Grains for Breakfast

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I made a simple, healthy change in my breakfast habits several months ago.

It has been years since I’ve been a major “grain eater” for breakfast… or, should I say, since grains were the primary source of calories in my breakfast.

As a kid, teenager and younger adult, I clearly recall most mornings consisting of cereal or toast or a bagel or English muffin to start the day. Thankfully, these less-than-desirable foods were usually also paired with fresh fruit.

Then I learned how important it is to start the day with protein and healthy fats, along with the fresh fiber (from fruit or vegetables). So, I started adding more eggs, or meat, or even a small handful of raw nuts.

A few months ago, I got back on the “grain-free & dairy-free” wagon. (You know… that Paleo-inspired wagon I visit for awhile each year?!) I’m not a perfect “Paleo” or “Primal” person, but I don’t stray much at all when it comes to breakfast.

I love eggs for breakfast. LOVE them. In fact, if I ever find out that I have a sensitivity or intolerance to eggs, I might not go on. Sad, but true.

(Then again, I said the exact same thing about rice approximately 6 months ago. Looky here – rice is 99.9% out of my diet and I’m still here! The same is true regarding cheese. Still, let’s not joke about getting rid of eggs.)

Anyhow, I love eggs from pastured, happy, drug-free chickens. I also love various non-drugged, less-chemically-assaulted grass-fed or pasture-raised meats from trusted farmers (or Whole Foods), like turkey, chicken, beef or bison  sausages, turkey bacon, as well as wild game, like venison, etc.

Instead of pairing my eggs and breakfast meats with toast or any other grain-based starchy carb (like I had done for years), I’ve been adding lots of green veggies to my breakfast plate. Other colors, too… but I don’t miss out on greens in the morning. It’s now officially an addiction – gotta’ have greens, or I just don’t feel “right”.

We do have gluten-free breads and flour in our house – but I’ll gladly pass on any of that for a heaping pile of green veggies at breakfast! My morning favorites are roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted or sauteed asparagus, sauteed broccoli, garlic sauteed spinach/kale/Swiss chard, and any variety of peppers and onions. Yum. O. La!

The kids aren’t quite fully on the same page with me yet, however. I’m pretty sure they’d eat gluten-free “protein power” pancakes every day if I’d let ‘em! So, I’m easing them into it with spinach mixed in with their eggs on occasion, or omelets with little bits of veggies.

Also, they know they won’t get just grains for breakfast, if mom has a say. We couple any grains with protein, healthy fats and some fresh fiber… even if it’s fruit. I’ve described this little nutritional habit to them as a way to “dilute” the negative effects of the grains. They get it.

Hopefully, I’ll get them to the point where the vast majority of their breakfasts do NOT include any grains. They’re much better than they used to be… but still not where I wish to be. I take full responsibility. {sigh}

It’s all mental for them. They can’t quite wrap their brains around “vegetables for breakfast”!  I doubt they’re alone in that feeling, considering the sheer volume of grain-based breakfast foods that line store shelves.

For me, the mantra of it takes 21 days to create a habit seemed to ring true. After a short time of preparing veggies with each breakfast, I was officially hooked!

Give it a try – even if it’s just for a week. Ditch the health-sabotaging grains (that contribute to risk factors for every known chronic illness) and add an abundance of vegetables to your breakfast.

You, too, may someday join me at Veggieholics Anonymous!

 * * *

So, what works in your household? What’s your favorite way to incorporate vegetables in breakfast?

 

Need nutrition help? This 8-page family nutrition guide lays the foundation for healthier choices. Only $10 (+ s/h) while supplies last. Contact me, if you'd like a copy!

 

 

The Cancer Chronicles: Blessings and Miracles

An Unexpected Gift

An Unexpected Gift

 

Remember in my last update about my dad and cancer I said something about taking things one day (one hour) at a time? Remember I mentioned how important it is (for me) to recognize the many blessings I’m granted each day… even when things seem overwhelming or horrible?

Well, since the last update, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to practice what I preach.

The exact same day that I wrote that update about my dad, he was taken to the hospital in pretty bad shape. (Understatement)

The home care nurse who checked in on him earlier in the day called me and said I needed to “prepare myself… things don’t look good.” That was an awful drive to the hospital… waiting in line at the border… not being able to get to dad quickly… feeling extremely helpless.  My stress hormones were in full gear. (I have new wrinkles and grey hair to prove it!)

Short version of the hospital story – not much happened. His vitals all returned to “normal” fairly shortly. He received IV pain medication. That’s it. All his lab tests and scans came back “normal”. The ER docs simply confirmed that the cancer is in his sacrum (tailbone), which he already knew.

I brought him home and stayed with him for several days. Each day he got a little bit better ~ not out running any races, by any means, but better. One of those blessings, for sure.

We met with the oncologist a few days after his trip to the hospital. He and the oncologist agreed that dad would start “palliative radiation” treatments: radiation for “incurable” cancer to help with the pain.

So, with that decision made, and dad feeling stable and confident, I headed home and waited to hear the radiation schedule.

In the meantime, dad continued to feel better and better. Another major blessing. In fact, dad started feeling so much better that he changed his mind about attending the wedding of one of my cousins over the weekend… a nephew who adores my dad.

This was such a shock and surprise to all of us… the most pleasant of surprises! I couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness for dad that night. He was thrilled to be able to attend… especially considering how awful things were a week earlier!

I’ll call this one a mini-miracle. A week earlier, there was absolutely no way dad could have been there. He couldn’t get out of bed, let alone walk on his own. He was confused and disoriented. He was in incredible pain. This opportunity to attend the wedding and to see friends and loved ones was such a gift!

I met dad yesterday at the cancer clinic for his first radiation treatment.

(You’d be proud – I didn’t throw up or show fear in front of my dad at all. I waited ’til I got home!)

Dad looked even better yesterday than he did at the wedding. It was another fantastic surprise! He even told me he had taken his dog for a nice walk yesterday and the day before. Wow! This is beyond fabulous! Of course, it makes me wonder why on earth we’re doing a horrible procedure that comes with potentially horrible side effects, all for the sake of pain reduction.

(I’m sorry… is my bias showing?!)

Once his friends were around the corner, I tried to kidnap him… but his mind was pretty set on following the doctor’s orders. Can’t blame a daughter for trying!

I’m praying that the radiation truly does offer some relief, in some way, even if  I’m not sure exactly how it can help. I don’t have to be clear on everything… I don’t need to understand every single thing about the body or every component of every treatment available and how it will affect my dad.

That’s another big lesson I’ve learned on this cancer journey with both parents. God knows how it all works… how it will all unfold. I’m good with that. It doesn’t mean I don’t do my homework and research all our options. It doesn’t mean I don’t think we should take more responsibility for our health. It just means I believe there is a beautiful mystery to the human body.

Sheesh, even the experts in the field can’t explain this particular treatment to me scientifically (I’ve asked repeatedly), or provide me with research on it. Not everything can be, or needs to be, explained.

So, who knows what to expect from here.

He felt a little “funny” coming out of the treatment yesterday – walking a little more slowly, more tentatively, saying his legs felt a little “heavy”. I hugged him extra tight before we departed ways and said a little prayer that his body takes what is “good” and useful from the radiation, and effectively discards the rest.

The kids and I will be moving in with dad for the second half of the week so we can take him to his treatments and take care of him at home.

I’m hoping it’s a week filled with more pleasant surprises and little blessings sprinkled throughout. At this point, each day is a gift.

Really, isn’t that true for ALL of us? EVERY day? : )