5 TIPS TO DEVELOP A CONSISTENT EXERCISE SCHEDULE

We all know that exercise is important, but oftentimes we struggle to find the time among all the things on our schedule. So today I’m sharing a few quick tips on how you can find more time in your schedule to exercise.

Finding Time to Exercise

Batch your activities.
Can you think of some things you already do that exercise could fit into? For instance, can you sneak exercise into family time, since that’s something you probably already do anyway? You don’t have to choose family time or exercise. Combine them! Head outside as a family for a walk, go to the backyard for a game of kickball, or do some yard work together. Another way to combine activities is to do some lunges while you listen to a podcast or webinar. Take the stairs – every time.  Have a weekly phone call with a family member? – take it outside for a neighborhood walk.  Get creative and you’ll see how exercise can fit into the things you’re already doing.

Keep it small and simple.
Instead of trying to fit in huge blocks of time to exercise, get in smaller “doses” into your schedule. You’ll be more likely to stay consistent with a 15-minute workout a few times a week than striving for an hour. Use your breaks or down time to fit in a few workouts.  A lunch break walk could be just what you need to clear your head.   I also love using YouTube to search for short workouts that are appealing to me that particular day (sometimes it kettlebell, cardio or yoga).

Be realistic.
Set goals for yourself that are easy to achieve. If you set too much of a lofty goal, what happens? You’ll feel constantly disappointed that you’re not reaching it and you might even give up. By setting smaller, attainable goals you’re more likely to stay on track and remain motivated as you tackle each milestone.

Make it convenient.
Exercise the way that feels right to you. Do you love the gym? Then that’s where you should exercise. Are you more of an outdoorsy type (I am)? Then find a park that’s convenient for you to go on a regular basis. There’s no wrong or right way to exercise; only the way that feels right for you!

Delegate so you can meet your wellness goals.
One reason we often fail to take care of ourselves is that we feel we must do it all. If you’ve been putting off exercise because there’s so much to do around the house, it’s time to delegate. Are your kids old enough to help with their own laundry? Can your partner take over some of the tasks to free you up? Open up discussion on this and you’ll likely find that you have more time to exercise than you thought.

If you need help developing a consistent exercise routine or working on your wellness goals, reach out to me at SolCoach@MarisolBallaro.com.

Happy sweating!

HAVEN’T CHANGED ANYTHING IN YOUR DIET BUT GETTING FATTER?

You are positive that you’re not eating more food or “junkier” food but you’re still gaining weight.

Is this possible?  Yes!  You are NOT crazy!  And here’s why.

We both know that the whole “calories in, calories out” argument is an overly simplistic view of weight.  There’s definitely more to the story than just what you’re eating, right?  A lot of this comes right down to your metabolic rate which is affected by things like your activity level, history of dieting, body composition, and even what you eat.  But, let’s go beyond the “eat less and exercise more” advice and dive into some of the less obvious underlying reasons why you may be gaining weight even though you’re eating the same.

Things like:

  • Aging
  • Hormones
  • Sleep
  • Stress

Aging

Funny things happen the older we get.  People commonly experience lower energy levels, more digestive discomfort, weight gain, as well as aches and pains.

Aging can result in hormonal changes for both men and women.  And these can contribute to loss of some lean muscle mass, as well as increases and changes in fat storage on our bodies.  The good thing is that, this is very common and not your fault one bit.

Hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism and can be a massive contributor to your weight gain.  There are several things that can affect it and throw it off course.

When your thyroid gets off course and produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  And when your metabolism slows down you can gain weight.  Even though you’re eating the same way you always have.

Pro Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your hormones tested.  Oh, and try the thyroid-friendly recipe that I created for you at the end of this post.

Sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.   And as we age it can become harder and harder to get a good night’s sleep.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night to help avoid weight gain.

It’s true!  Lack of sleep is linked with weight gain.  Who ever thought you can sleep off your weight?

Pro Tip: Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.  The first place to start is by implementing a calming before bedtime routine.

Stress

It seems to be everywhere!  So many things that can cause stress responses in your body.  And you know that stress hormones are not going to help you sustain healthy habits or maintain a healthy weight, right?

While you can’t necessarily change your stressors you can try to adjust your stress response to them.

Pro Tip:  Try meditation or yoga.  Or even mindful eating.  What about those new adult colouring books that are all the rage now?

Conclusion:                                                                                                                                  

There are lots of factors that can affect your weight, even if you’re eating the same way you always have.  Aging, hormones, stress, and sleep are all interconnected to each other and can all contribute to weight gain, even if you’re eating the same way you always have.

 

Recipe (Thyroid friendly iodine): Seaweed Sushi Bowl

24985549_mlServes 2

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 avocado (thinly sliced)
  • ½ cucumber (diced)
  • ½ red pepper (thinly sliced)
  • 1 green onion (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons dried seaweed (arame, wakame, or crumbled nori sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • ½ garlic clove
  • dash salt and pepper

Split the first seven ingredients into two bowls.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together to make the dressing.  Pour the dressing over the sushi bowls.  Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  This is a great lunch to take on the go.  Keep dressing in a separate container so you can give it a shake before adding it onto the sushi bowl.

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/lose-weight-in-menopause/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/sleep-stress-and-fat-loss

5 Reasons You Bloat More After Age 45

Bloating is generally the result of not being able to properly digest foods.  These not-so-digested foods feel like they’re just sitting around causing discomfort and a general feeling of being stuffed and “gassy”.

It can happen at any age but if it seems to be more frequent as you’re getting older it can very well be because of your stomach’s reduced ability to produce enough acid for proper digestion.

Normally, when we eat, cells in our stomach release more acid which is important for so many digestive processes like breaking down foods and activating enzymes.  As we age, this process can become less efficient and the result can feel like it’s wreaking havoc on the rest of the digestive system.

Unfortunately, this can have wide-ranging effects on all of our digestion abilities “downstream” and that can result in bloating.

 

Bloating Reason #1:

Sometimes our bodies are (or become more as we age) sensitive to the fiber in certain fruits or veggies.  This can also occur when we introduce new ones into our diet as it may take a while for our body to get used to them.

Pro Tip:  Try chewing your vegetables more thoroughly, or lightly cooking or steaming raw ones.  If a fruit or veggie seems to be consistently related to bloating try eliminating it for a few weeks and monitor your symptoms.

 

Bloating Reason #2:

Decreased stomach acid can reduce the activation of a key protein-digesting enzyme “pepsin”.  This means that the proteins you eat aren’t broken down as much and they can pass through your system somewhat “undigested”.

Pro Tip:  You may consider reducing the amount of animal-based foods you eat and see if that helps you out.

 

Bloating Reason #3:

One thing that can seriously cause bloating is when your digestive system slows down.  Then things seem to be a bit stagnant, just hanging around in there a bit (a lot?) longer than you’d like.

Ginger has been found to help with digestion and reduce nausea for certain people.  And peppermint is thought to help your digestive muscles keep pushing food through, so it doesn’t stay in one spot for too long.

Pro Tip:  Consider drinking a digestive tea like peppermint or ginger.  See my recipe below.

 

Bloating Reason #4:

All this lack of digesting in your stomach and small intestine puts extra stress on the large intestine.  The large intestine is the home of all of your wonderful gut microbes that have SO many functions in the body.  The problem is when undigested food enters the large intestine it can feed the not-so-great microbes.  These “unfriendly” bacteria produce waste material and gas as a part of their natural metabolism.  The more of these microbes you have in your system (they will multiply if they are constantly being fed by undigested food in the large intestine) the more gas that will be produced in the large intestine.

Pro Tip:  Try eating more fermented foods.  Fermented foods contain probiotics which will feed the good bacteria and microbes in your system to keep the bad guys at bay  This includes things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi (as long as these don’t cause bloating for you!).  Make sure they’re unpasteurized and contain live cultures.  If you cannot tolerate dairy based yogurt and kefir dairy free options are available or you could make your own dairy free versions.

You can also consider taking a probiotic supplement. Just check the label first to make sure it’s right for you.  This one’s my favorite.

 

Bloating Reason #5:

With reduced stomach acid you also have a reduction of the “activation” of several of your digestive enzymes (protein-digesting pepsin being one of them).  In order for certain enzymes to go to work digesting your food they need to be activated.  This usually happens with the assistance of stomach acid.

Pro Tip:  You may consider trying an enzyme supplement to assist your body in digesting food and alleviating discomfort while you work on reestablishing your own production of stomach acid (a healthy diet and lifestyle can do this!).  But before you do make sure you read the labels because some of them interact with other supplements, medications, or conditions, and may not be safe for long-term use.  This is the one I take.

 

Conclusion:

You can try the “pro tips” I’ve given you in this post.  Maybe you’d prefer working with a practitioner on an elimination diet to get to the bottom of which foods you may be sensitive to?  If bloating is a serious problem you should see your doctor or alternative health care practitioner.

For more information on the products mentioned in this article, or to take a health assessment quiz click here.

 

Recipe (Tummy Soothing Tea): Ginger Tea

38827047 - ginger tea

Serves 1

  • Fresh ginger root (about 2”)
  • Hot water
  • Lemon slices (optional)
  • Honey (optional)

Pour the water into a saucepan and heat it on the stove.  Grate the ginger root into the saucepan.  Let it come to a boil, and then simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Strain the tea into a cup with a fine mesh strainer and add lemon and/or honey as desired.  Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  If you don’t want to use a grater and strainer then you can peel the ginger and thinly slice it into your cup before adding boiling water.  The pieces should be big enough that they will sink to the bottom.

 

 

References:

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

https://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-ways-to-reduce-bloating/

http://www.dietvsdisease.org/how-to-get-rid-of-bloating/

http://summertomato.com/too-many-vegetables-how-to-prevent-gas-and-digestive-problems-caused-by-healthy-eating

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/peppermintoil

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/ginger

Menopausal Women: Do This Before You Take the Meds Your Doctor Prescribed

Of course, listen to what your doctor says.  And also listen to what your body says.

We both know that what you eat and how you move can make a HUGE improvement in some of the symptoms of menopause.  Not to mention how common it is for ladies to gain weight at this time of life. (Ugh!)  And as we both know eating better and moving more can help you stave off other issues like heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

What do I specifically recommend to help you “eat better and move more”?  Seven things.  Here goes:

First – Hydrate:

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Drink more water.   The general consensus is to drink 8-10 glasses per day.  And, if you don’t feel you need that much you definitely need to at least drink enough throughout the day so that you’re not thirsty.  I know that’s easy to say but really it’s also easy to do.

 

Try having a full glass first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything.  I like to keep a water bottle on my bedside table.  I also pour myself a glass of water to drink while I primp for the day (back in the day, I used to drink coffee while I did my makeup – this is sooo much better!)

Don’t like plain water?  Add in some berries or chopped frozen fruit.

Prefer tea?  Steep some sliced lemon and/or ginger or your favourite caffeine-free herbal teabag.  This counts toward hydration as well.

You can also keep a large bottle or mug beside you all day wherever you work so it’s always easy to grab and have sips throughout the day to make sure you’re not getting thirsty.

 

Second – Bump up your intake of whole plant foods:

Things like (yes, you guessed it) vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.  We’re going for quantity here.  Try to include them in every meal and even most (if not all) of your snacks.

Want another reason to eat more plants?  Plant-based diets are associated with fewer hot flashes.  Bonus!

Plus, my recipe below is your “no excuse” solution to getting more veggies wherever you go.  Are you too busy to go to Farmer’s Markets?  Is the organic produce in your grocery store too expensive?  Click here to learn more about affordable, organic fruits & veggies delivered to your door.  Use my referral code: MARI8822 for $15 off your first order.  I love my farm box!

 

Third – Don’t forget high-quality protein:

While you’re chomping your plant foods don’t forget to include some good quality protein (and healthy fats) from eggs, fish, meat, nuts and seeds (and their butters).

With animal foods we’re aiming for quality so try to get organic, wild, and/or pasture-raised if you can.

 

Fourth – Some things you want to cut back on:

Reducing and/or eliminating alcohol, caffeine and processed foods can have a tremendous impact on balancing your hormones naturally without the help of pharmaceutical medications.

69895292_ml

With those increases in hydration, whole plant foods, and quality protein, you simply won’t have as much room for alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods with added salt and sugar.

You already know that’s good news, right?

 

Fifth – Move:

If you don’t do this already try to move up to 5 hours per week.  You can gradually increase that over time, and believe me, you will thank yourself!

To do this, include things like walking (especially outdoors in the sun, if possible), or even some weight-training.   No need to hit the gym or get a trainer – just check out YouTube for awesome workouts and sweat it out in the privacy of your own home.  I love searching for something I actually feel like doing whether it’s core, kettle bell or yoga.  You’ve heard the saying that the best exercise is the one you’ll actually do?

Well, go ahead and do it. 🙂

 

Sixth – Get enough sleep:

I’m talking 7-9 hours per night.  Seriously!  Sometimes menopause can bring on (or ramp up) sleep problems.  The most important thing to do is set a daily routine where you’re relaxing with no screen-time (computers, tablet, phone, tv) a couple hours before your bedtime.  Electronic devices emit strong blue light which can prevent the release of melatonin, your sleep hormone.  Try reading a book or having a bath.  It’s also important to have dim lights in your surroundings to reduce your exposure to blue light before bed.  Regular indoor lighting is usually blue light.  Ideally you would use amber or red lights, or even be ultra-stylin’ with blue-blocker sunglasses.

 

Seventh – Find great stress relieving activities:

Do whatever works for you.  Just make sure you do it regularly as a preventative measure to avoid accumulated stress.

Have you tried meditating, deep breathing, or having a warm bath?  What about the newest craze of colouring?

Bonus points for using exercise as a form of stress relief.

 

Conclusion:

You now have an arsenal of great ideas to stave off those menopause symptoms naturally.

Now go ahead and make two of these mason jar salads to eliminate any excuse of not being able to get fresh veggies when you’re out and about.

 

Recipe (Veggie): Mason Jar Salad

36247210 - lettuce, tomato and other vegetables in glass jarServes 2

  • 3 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • ½ granny smith apple (diced)
  • 4 radishes (sliced)
  • 2 celery stalks (diced)
  • 4 tablespoons of your favorite nuts or seeds (walnuts, slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
  • 4-6 cups of your favorite greens (spinach, kale, mixed greens, etc.)

Add first four ingredients to a small bowl & whisk until smooth.  Add apple to dressing (so it’s covered and won’t brown) and divide between two mason jars.  Layer the radishes, celery, nuts/seeds, and greens on top and seal.

When ready to eat shake up the jar, open and enjoy or pour it into a large bowl to mix more thoroughly.

Tip:  Wide-mouth jars work best for this ah-mazing way to bring veggies with you wherever you go!

 

References:

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

https://authoritynutrition.com/11-natural-menopause-tips/

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/menopause-time-change/what-can-you-do-hot-flashes-and-other-menopausal-symptoms

3 Supplements You Should be Taking if You’re in Your 40’s (or older)

Yes, while I always say that it’s better to get your nutrients from food first sometimes supplements are necessary.

Unfortunately there are just some all-too-common nutrients that we simply don’t get enough of.  And they’re absolutely critical to optimal health and wellness.  Especially as we age.

Here I sifted through the supplements that are available on the market and boiled them down to three that can have the best effect for us.

 

Supplement #1: Vitamin D

41561673 - vitamin dIf you live in North America chances are you are low in vitamin D.  It’s the “sunshine vitamin” and we just aren’t able to hang out in shorts every day of the year.  Even if we did we’d wisely use a bit of sun protection too.

Vitamin D is very important for everyone but especially women over 45.  Want to know why?  It helps to protect our bones!

Vitamin D helps our body absorb and keep the calcium we get from our food and drinks.  And we all know that calcium is one of the main things our bones are made of.

Want to know something funny about vitamin D (but it’s true, I swear)?

People who get enough vitamin D tend to fall less frequently.  Especially as we get older.

Seriously!  Vitamin D can help your bones stay strong and help you fall less.  Win-win!

 

Magnesium

14618101 - magnesium symbol handheld over the periodic tableMagnesium is an essential mineral needed for over 300 reactions in your body.

Yes, 300!  As with vitamin D it’s very common for us to simply not get enough.  Not even the 320 mg per day that’s recommended.

Low levels of magnesium have been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, low bone density, and even migraines.

Magnesium is found in so many healthy whole foods like beans, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables.  In fact, the magnesium element is central to a plant’s chlorophyll – it’s actually what causes green plants to be green!  And most of us just don’t get enough green plants into our bodies on a regular basis.  (You know I have a recipe with green leafies for you below, right?).

Magnesium is a very common supplement and is often added to multivitamins.

 

Omega-3s

We’ve all heard that we need to get more omega-3 essential fatty acids, right?  They’re good for our hearts, brains, and help to reduce inflammation.  This one’s my favorite.

These are all good things when it comes to our health and wellness.  But not all of us are ready, willing, and able to eat fish three times per week.

While fish oil supplements contain the “brain healthy” fats called EPA and DHA, those two are not technically the “essential” fats.  The plant omega-3 known as ALA is essential and that is because our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA when necessary.

Omega-3 supplements can be found in forms of flax oil, algae oil, fish oil, or even fish liver oil.

Pro Tip:  Fish liver oil (e.g. cod liver oil) also contains vitamin D so check your labels and add the amounts together to know how much vitamin D you’re actually getting.

 

Conclusion:

Three supplements to consider now that you’re in your 40’s are: vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3s.  Interested in my favorite brand?  Click here to check out USANA products and take a health assessment for a personalized recommendation for the vitamins & minerals your body needs.

Always read the supplement labels to see if there are warnings that would make them inappropriate for you.  And, of course if you have any medical conditions or take medications or other supplements it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor before starting anything new.

 

Recipe (Vitamin D, Magnesium & Omega-3s): Salmon Quinoa Buddha Bowl

23867495 - tabbouleh salad with quinoa, salmon, tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley

Serves 2

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup quinoa (cooked)
  • 1 can wild salmon
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ½ red onion (diced) (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • dash salt and pepper

 

Split spinach, quinoa, wild salmon, sesame seeds, and onion (if using) between two bowls.  Mix sesame oil, rice vinegar, and lemon juice together and pour on top of prepared Buddha bowls.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Feel free to add extra veggies like steamed asparagus, cherry tomatoes or sweet peppers.  Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  When looking for canned salmon try to get the ones with the most vitamin D and make sure cans are BPA-free (Wild Planet is a good one).  Good quality canned fish is usually in the “natural foods” section of many large groceries.  I purchase all of my organic non GMO pantry staples through Thrive Market.  It’s like Whole Foods meets Costco!  Click here for 15% off your first purchase. (I love the low prices, free shipping and freebies!).

 

References:

https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/diet-nutrition/8-best-vitamin-d-supplements-babies/

https://authoritynutrition.com/11-natural-menopause-tips/

https://examine.com/supplements/Vitamin+D/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/

Hey Men, Lost Your Sex Drive? This Could Be Why

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Libido is such an interesting (and complex) experience. Because of this it can be affected by so many things. And we’re not just talking about the obvious sex hormone testosterone here.

Although testosterone levels can have a big (yes BIG) effect on sex drive there are a lot of subtle things that can be going on too.

In this post we’ll dive into a bunch of key diet and lifestyle factors that have been shown to increase testosterone and libido.

Body fat:                                                                                                                                                           Did you know that low testosterone is linked with high body fat?

Particularly visceral fat which is associated with a large waist circumference. You see, with more fat there is more of an enzyme called “aromatase” that converts testosterone to estrogen. And what you want is to keep that testosterone not convert it.

Losing excessive weight and keeping it off has so many health benefits including increased libido!

Diet:
Certain nutrient deficiencies can contribute to low testosterone. Not only zinc and vitamin D but if you’re not eating enough protein and healthy fats that can also have a negative impact too.

Not to mention eating way too few or way too many calories. These aren’t going to help you in the bedroom department either.

So make sure you’re eating enough food to sustain your resting metabolic rate (RMR) and that you’re getting enough protein and healthy fats; not to mention the essential vitamins and minerals too.

Exercise:                                                                                                                                                        Did you know that men can experience increased blood levels of testosterone after a bout of intense exercise?

For some reason this doesn’t seem to be the case after endurance exercise.  Endurance exercise may actually reduce the levels of circulating testosterone. Nor do women seem to have this increased testosterone after a workout.

For a temporary boost men can try some weight lifting or a HIIT workout.

Sleep:                                                                                                                                                                   Sleep is critical for just about everything our bodies do.

If you’re not getting 7-9 hours each night you’re going to want to prioritize that for your health (and sex drive). Try it. You just may thank me.

Stress:                                                                                                                                                                 No one can deny that your moods can affect your sex drive, right?

Too much stress, sadness, and worry can take over your mind and push that drive to reproduce right to the backburner. So you want to try to minimize that stress hormone cortisol.

How about some tips? Make time to do things you love, workout, spend quality time with your family and friends, meditate, relax with a great book, or take a long bath. And don’t forget to laugh.

Consider maca:

MACA

It’s a plant in the cruciferous family (think: broccoli) and its root has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac. It’s usually ground into a powder and dried.

Believe it or not there are a few studies that actually show an increased libido for those who supplement with it. Scientists don’t know exactly how it works, but it seems to work for both men and women and it doesn’t seem to impact your hormones (not even testosterone).

Maca is an antioxidant and seems to be protective of mens’ prostate. New research suggests it may also be helpful for our brains and bones.

It has a bit of a “dirt” flavour so most recipes don’t call for the same amounts as in the supplement. But trust me, you’ll love the recipe below and if you’re considering supplementing you should know:

● Maca (as do many supplements) interacts with some medications so be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking maca supplements.
● Because it can affect your moods you should be very careful taking maca if you have anxiety or depression.
● It’s not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Recipe (libido-enhancing): Maca Hot Chocolate                                                                           Serves 2

2 cups almond milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon unsweetened cacao powder
1 teaspoon maca powder
½ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 dashes cinnamon
1 dash sea salt
1 dash cayenne pepper (optional)

Heat almond milk and coconut oil in a saucepan.  Add all ingredients to blender and blend until frothy.  Serve and enjoy a cup with your significant other!  Tip: Adding cayenne pepper is a traditional (tasty) South American way to add a bit of spice to chocolatey foods and drinks.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/doctor-detective-low-libido

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

https://authoritynutrition.com/8-ways-to-boost-testosterone/

https://examine.com/supplements/Maca/

http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=1903&lang=eng

Three Must Eat Breakfast Foods

Do you love your breakfast?  Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes?  Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss.  This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it.  So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favourite new “go-to” breakfasts.

 

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

15331385 - fried egg on heart-shaped .Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food.  And for good reason!

No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton.  I mean actual whole “eggs”.

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses.  Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin.

Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

And…nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases.

One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidized.  It’s the oxidized cholesterol that’s heart unhealthy.

 

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

41437552 - pile of multiple nuts and seeds isolated over the white backgroundNuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.

You won’t be fooled by “candied” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you’re running late in the mornings.  Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you’re running out the door; you can nosh on them while you’re commuting.  I like to prepare snack bags of my favorites (pistachios, cashews & sesame seeds) and stash a couple baggies in my car.

Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie, Greek yogurt or oatmeal.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter (Tahini is awesome!).  Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy.

 

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies.  You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right?

Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water.  You can’t go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don’t already you should definitely try them for breakfast!

And no, you don’t need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don’t want to but you totally can!  You wouldn’t be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.

Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal.  Including breakfast.  Also, a handful of spinach never offended anyone’s smoothie….

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customize) for your next breakfast.

 

Recipe (Eggs & Veggies): Veggie Omelet

24875938 - omelet with lettuce and vegetables ,close upServes 1

 1 teaspoon coconut, avocado or olive oil

1 or 2 eggs (how hungry are you?)

¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)

dash salt, pepper and/or turmeric (and any other spices/herbs you like)

 Add oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred).

 In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices.

 Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil.  Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

 When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

 Serve & Enjoy!

 Tip:  Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favorite vegetable.  Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/eggs-worse-than-fast-food

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/encyclopedia/food/eggs/

https://authoritynutrition.com/eating-healthy-eggs/

https://authoritynutrition.com/12-best-foods-to-eat-in-morning/

Five Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (border-lining obsession) about cholesterol, right?  Before we jump into some myths let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.15747921 - lower the cholesterol concepts of better health

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it’s floating through your blood is what’s more important than just how much of it there is overall.  In fact depending on what it’s combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart.  Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood.  These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.

They’re grouped into two main categories:

  • HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
  • LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

And yes, it’s even more complicated than this.  Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So “cholesterol” isn’t simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it’s bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

 

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats.  Not to mention that it’s incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

Talk about an important molecule!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn’t nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

 

Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver.  It’s actually not from the cholesterol you eat.  Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)?  Because that’s where it’s made!

What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces.  After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn’t need to make as much.

 

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there’s a balance that needs to be maintained.  There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.

People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers.

 

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Don’t start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don’t seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.  Guess what does?48093828 - healthy food in heart and cholesterol diet concept on vintage boards

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day.  Every day.

 

 

Don’t worry the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.

You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats.  That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil.  Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.

 

Summary:

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we’re learning more every day.  You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are.  And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

 

Recipe: Green Goddess Dressing by Cotter Crunch: click on the picture for your recipe!

 

 

 

Green Goddess.Dressing

I made this guy in 5 minutes.  So good! I used coconut aminos but I’ll use tamari or soy sauce next time (more savory, less sweet).  I’ll also add an avocado (I didn’t have one today).  I used Hemp Oil since these powerful seeds are great for heart health but olive oil and/or avocado oil are also fantastic.  Make it yours!  Here’s to salads all week.

 

 

 

 

References:

http://www.cottercrunch.com/vegan-green-goddess-dressing-recipe/

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

http://summertomato.com/how-to-raise-your-hdl-cholesterol

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-9-biggest-lies-about-dietary-fat-and-cholesterol/

Why Your Waist Circumference Matters 100x More Than What You Weigh

 

45691688 - weighting scales with  measuring tape. diet concept. 3dYou totally want to ditch your scale, don’t you?

You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”.

I mean, it doesn’t define you (obviously).

 

What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.  Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).

Yup – that apple!

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is.  It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.

 

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40”.

Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.

If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

 

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
  • Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more. Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up.
  • Stress less. Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

 

Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussel SproutsRoasted Brussel Sprouts

Serves 4

  • 1 lb brussel sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • dash salt and pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice.  Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  Toss.  Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K.  You may want to eat them more often.

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-abdominal-fat-and-risk

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/visceral-fat-location

http://www.drsharma.ca/inspiring-my-interest-in-visceral-fat

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/abdominal-obesity/

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/qa-qr-pub-eng.php#a4

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-proven-ways-to-lose-belly-fat/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat/

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

 

42267056_sYou may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight.

Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

Why does this happen?

Why do metabolic rates slow down?

 What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy.  There are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”!  In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

 Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism.  When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.   Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right.  But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course.  Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

 

Your history of dieting

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When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down.  This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have.  As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough whole foods to fuel your body without overdoing it.

 

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one.

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy.  Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat.  This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

dumbbellTip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

cartoon-exerciseAerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up.  Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip:  Incorporate movement into your day.  Also, exercise regularly.

 

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

 

 

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

 chocolate-chia-pudding

Serves 4

  •  ½ cup Brazil nuts
  • 2 cups water
  • nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Sliced Banana (optional)
  • Shredded Coconut (optional)
  • Fresh Berries (optional)

 Separate banana slices among 4 dessert bowls or jars (see photo).  Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.

 Add  other ingredients (except Chia Seeds) and blend.  Pour into a bowl and mix in Chia Seeds until combined.  Pour on top of banana slices.  Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.  Top with berries and/or shredded coconut.

 Serve & Enjoy!

Tip: Blend in your favorite protein powder or hemp seeds for additional protein power!

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/metabolic-damage

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/thyroid-and-testing

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism/

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

http://summertomato.com/non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis-neat