Have you considered that you are a Freedom Fighter? When talking about improving health through better, informed, and mindful food choices, one’s mind could assume a negative approach is needed. Somewhere in the process of saying no sugar, no grains, no dairy, no processed foods, we are appearing to be some kind of a “no-no-Nannette”……Wonder why?
First of all, we have to re-frame our approach. Most of any effort is 90% mental, so let’s rid ourselves of all that negative baggage once and for all. It’s not about what we can’t have. It’s all about what we are freeing ourselves from. (Grammarians read: It is all about that from which we are freeing ourselves). We are re-establishing a positive, trusting mental connection to our bodies through a more mindful approach to feeding and respecting them. Our mental approach is spiriting us to being more proactive for the daily outcomes of how we handle the relationship we have with our bodies. Choosing gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and preservative-free is like casting a vote for yourself!
Being freed from the tentacles of sugar means we are no longer slaves to that unquenchable desire for “more, more, more”. We are free from massive rises and falls of blood sugar. I am so happy to be freed from my emergency stash of nabs (that’s Southern for peanut butter crackers) in case I had yet another blood sugar crash— not knowing my rescue snack of carbs and low quality protein was ultimately feeding the problem.
And who could complain about being freed from endless bloating and gas? Isn’t it fun to be able to predictably fit into our clothes— not having to try on several outfits in case it’s a “bad day”?
How about that happy belly? Would you exchange that for a plate of grain-based pasta and French bread? Really? And would you want to get back those achy body joints, too? Surely not! Or would you give up clear thinking in favor of whole grains and a return to foggy brain? See my post on this subject: Your Brain on Wheat.
Feeling better, enjoying stable blood sugars, getting that spring back in our steps should NEVER be regarded as restrictive.
We fight for freedoms, don’t we? We naturally want to free the oppressed where ever we find them. Bad food choices, made through several decades of mis-information, are oppressing millions of people to a lesser quality of life and dooming them to crippling, life-robbing diseases.
Become a Freedom Fighter for yourself, first, and then for your family and friends. Spread the word; share contacts; refer others to this site; ask for better choices in grocery stores and restaurants; take a class and learn more.
As mentioned in the last post, developing Keystone Habits was described as a way to set our bodies up for success. The earlier in the day, the better. Drinking two glasses of water first thing in the morning is a great way to prime our bodies for adequate hydration which, in turn, facilitates smoother operation of digestive function. Isn’t that what better health from better eating is all about? To get the digestive system functioning the way it was designed to be?
In our second session of Designed for Health classes held in New Bern, North Carolina, at the First Baptist Church, we spoke about a second Keystone Habit of consuming a great breakfast. Knowing that many of us are on a grab-and-go mode as we rush out to work, we pretty much polished off discussions about the practicality and convenience of smoothies. Please check out last week’s post that reviews the “method of the smoothie madness.” Enough said.
We will next broach the topic of solid breakfast food but what is the measure? What is the goal for a Keystone Meal that will jump start your day? To paraphrase the approach used by the author of the text we are using in class, our measure will be:
– Is this food going to satisfy my appetite or will it just make me want more?
Starchy carbs and sweets actually are not very satisfying. Who does not want more pasta or dessert? Carbs actually contain FEWER calories and provide LESS energy. Remember how you and others react to a carb-heavy meal? Everyone wants to pass out in the living room. Time for a nap. Think about it.
– Is this food more likely to easily turn to fat?
We are talking about foods that require insulin to bring blood sugar levels back to normal. Insulin is the hormone of fat storage.
– Is this food packed with nutrition; meaning, the essential elements that will keep my body going: vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids?
Did you know there are NO essential carbohydrates? Really! Don’t get me wrong, we do not need to eliminate all carbohydrates, but given a diet totally devoid of any carbs, you would not die. There are societies around the world that have no carbohydrates for months at a time. Our body can cobble together carbohydrates, but it CANNOT make proteins or fats. That’s why we talk about ESSENTIAL amino acids and fatty acids; they are the building blocks of protein and fat; we have to get them from our food.
Regardless of the moniker we apply (SANE, whole food, nutrient dense, clean eating, or Paleo); our food must be of the highest quality possible to make our “engines” run the smoothest and at an optimal level. We were designed to process clean, pure sources of protein, natural fats, non-starchy vegetables, and fruit in moderation. Read the label of your favorite packaged food, and you won’t find that. Most of the words are unpronounceable, reflect a high level of processing, and are filled with chemical additives that try pitifully to restore the food values lost in processing.
But cooking takes sooooo long! Nonsense! My breakfast plate is usually always 50% veggies. If there are no left-overs from the night before, it will take me about 60 seconds to wilt two or three handfuls of spinach or other greens in a non-stick fry pan on medium heat in coconut oil, olive oil, or “happy butter” (from pasture raised cows, you know; Kerrygold rules!). Today, I added a bit of ground nutmeg to my baby organic spinach…yum! Transfer greens to the plate. Whip up two eggs along with a splash of unsweetened coconut milk with salt and pepper to taste. Cook eggs in the same pan used for the greens with a bit of butter; today, I added a teaspoon or two of homemade pesto to mine, and voila! No sweat!
My husband likes toast, so I served his eggs folded around his beloved cheese, and placed it on top of a slice of pan grilled gluten-free toast. No greens I know. Bless his heart!
So how did your breakfast measure up? Good protein? Fat with a good profile of Omega 3s? At least 1 serving of non-starchy nutrient dense greens? Dairy-free? Gluten-free? Sugar-free?
It’s also called an anti-inflammatory meal. Knowing that virtually all diseases are rooted in some kind of an inflammatory process, a meal like this will not contribute to inflammation. Without a big sugar hit from starchy or sweet carbohydrates, you are guaranteed level blood sugars throughout the morning; especially without the toast. Your mind and body will have the fuel needed to be at their best, and you won’t need a trip to the vending machine mid-morning.
Another big breakfast favorite of mine is an ever-changing version of Original Joe’s. There’s a story here. Back when I was growing up in San Jose, California, my dear friend introduced me to a great menu item in a downtown restaurant. Behold, Original Joe’s! A ground beef and onion mixture with small broccoli florets glued together with the addition of eggs! Oh, heaven! Only salt and pepper needed.
Depending on the leftovers available, my Original Joe’s could have flaked baked salmon, diced up steak, diced up hamburger…you name it, combined with spinach, okra, sautéed onions and peppers, or broccoli, and finished off with a couple eggs. All with leftovers.
Heat up ingredients without the eggs to get everything hot, then pour on the eggs and stir occasionally to cook. This can all happen while the coffee is brewing. No special skills involved. One pan. With a really BIG pan, you could feed an army!
I will touch upon some solid foods that would still work for the grab-and-go crowd in a future post.
One of the class participants thought a weekly challenge would be a good idea. Without even being challenged, most of the class is drinking two glasses of water each morning already! Way to go, team! As we are not focusing on a major life goal, but are looking at very small, doable, and repeatable improvements, I recommend a Keystone Breakfast. Don’t concentrate on the other meals. Just breakfast. I think that how your Keystone Breakfast will make you feel will automatically make you want to “keep that lovin’ feeling” all day long! Feeling better is kind of sneaky like that!
You know what a keystone is, right? It’s the V-shaped stone placed at the top of an arch. It holds the whole thing together. Remove the keystone and the arch, along with everything above it, it will collapse. There are keystone habits we can do each day that will set us up for a great day of feeling balanced and ready to meet the tasks ahead of us and will keep our “engines” running for a smooth ride.
In our first session of a seven-week series of classes called “Designed for Health,” held at First Baptist Church in New Bern, North Carolina, we touched upon the mechanics of habits and how we might nudge those habits in a way that would still give us the desired reward (which is emotional), but would yield improved results in terms of body chemistry outcomes (as in increased nutritional value).
Dr. Tom O’Bryan states that there are three important things we must do for great, balanced health:
1) Drink 2 glasses of water each morning,
2) Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, and
3) Basically, don’t sweat the small stuff; enjoy the moment.
Understanding how habits work is critical to modifying them. First, there is a “trigger”: something that initiates the habit. A trigger could be a thought, emotion or circumstance, just about anything that leads us to the actual thing we do which is the “action.” With the action comes the “reward” for having done the action. Rewards are usually mental/emotional. We like the results. Understanding the results we want is key to modifying habits in order to maximize positive habit results for long-term health rather than a fleeting flash of a blood sugar high, which can have dire results metabolically.
Case in point: I have made swishing out my mouth first thing each morning to be a trigger to remind me to drink a glass of water. Drinking the water is the action. The reward is the knowledge that I am doing my body a favor, assisting it to function at an optimal level, and I have already done something positive for myself before my eyes have really opened. The second trigger is right before I leave the bathroom; I drink the second glass of water. Downing two glasses of water at once is too much for me, so I have found that drinking a glass of water at the beginning and end of my morning routine works best. There! I am on a roll now of doing positive things, so that leads me into the bedroom to take 30 seconds to make the bed! Wow! Two pluses and the day has hardly begun! Keystone Habits!
Once we enter the kitchen, there is another Keystone Habit that can pave the way for a day of even energy flow, maximum nutrition, and stable blood sugars. A great breakfast is the answer, but so many of us do not have the time to scramble a couple eggs in “happy butter” (from pastured and totally grass fed cows) served with a generous portion of veggies.
Some of us actually dash out the door, stop off at the nearest fast food chain for a highly-processed, gluten-filled, greasy biscuit filled with some kind of highly-processed, edible food-like substances, followed with a sugary drink or a sugar-laden latte to be eaten at in the car or first thing at work. Stomach in knots, blood sugar levels guaranteed to plummet later, and require to be “fixed” by a vending machine snack…. So goes the day. Sound familiar?
If you do not have the time to reheat last night’s protein and veggies, or to cook from scratch each morning, may I introduce you to a Smoothie? I’ve spoken of them before, but would like to share some different ideas today. Smoothies can actually be made the night before. It’s fun to concoct a blender-full with someone else. It could be a family affair; chances for family-wide buy-in to drinking a nutrient-dense smoothie skyrocket when everyone helps.
First of all, smoothies are not about being sweet. The goal is nutrient density. Fruit is just a part of it. If your goal is for the most stable blood sugar levels possible, fruit choices should remain in the berry category. Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries should be at the top of the list because of their low glycemic load, followed by strawberries. In any case, fruit should be measured at about ½ cup per 8-ounce drink. The rest is a choice of seasonings (salt, vanilla extract and “sweet spices” as I call them), fluid (water, coconut milk, almond milk, coconut water, or strong green tea), a good fat (avocado, coconut oil, or flax oil), and a good protein (nuts or nut butters, whey protein, powdered egg whites, and various seeds that also provide a good fat profile: hemp, chia, and flax), and greens (baby spinach, kale, and chard). Believe me, those greens really do not change the flavor substantially, but they are vital to make this the Keystone/Powerhouse drink we want to hold us for hours and help our bodies function optimally.
Now here’s the thing. You put the fruit, seasonings, fluid, and fat in the blender and blitz it; then you add the protein and seeds; blitz some more. Pause. Enjoy the color! If blueberries were your choice, you’d have a great blue/purple color. Lovely! If red berries or cherries were your choice, wow! Gorgeous pinks and reds!
But, wait! There’s more! We haven’t added our nutrient-packed greens, yet! OK. You remember art class back in school? Red and Green makes……right………brown.
Now this is where my being the instructor of future medical students comes to play. I remember the speech now…. Class, what color is blood? Red. Very good. Now is blood in its natural form dry or wet? Wet. Excellent. So, from now on, when you see blood, it will be pointless to scream like someone who has never seen that red, wet fluid, won’t it? Get over it. Blood is red and wet. Done! No screaming!
Either you can handle the potentially gloomy transformation of your beautiful, colorful concoction into varying shades of brown or puce, or you can’t. If you can’t “man-up” about it, or if your car-pooling colleagues might grab for a barf bag, or if you just don’t want to start “that” conversation again at work, I have a solution!
Let’s look at before and after pictures of today’s recipe of 2-3 Tbs. coconut cream, 1 cup coconut milk (unsweetened), enough water to make things a good consistency (about 1 cup or so), cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, salt, 2 coffee scoops each of hemp hearts, ground flax seeds, and chia seeds, ½ banana, and 1 cup of mixed berries and cherries. This recipe is for at least 4 servings.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
See that spinach on top; yet to be blended?
Just makes you want to drink it, right?
Well, I can handle it; maybe because I used to be a nurse, but many people can’t. So here is my answer to the problem! Behold, the Mason jar decorating trick!
This could be a great family project! I selected watermelon shades that would remind me of the previous look of my beverage, before the greens.
First thing you do is clean the surfaces to be painted with alcohol
Then you apply the first coat, making sure to keep any painted area well away from the drinking area- at least ¾ of an inch.
Wait one hour for the first coat to dry, then apply the second coat.
Wait another hour before painting in the watermelon seeds.
Once your creation is totally dried, put the pieces in a cold oven. Shut the door. Turn oven to 350 degrees. When the oven has come up to temp, set the timer for 30 minutes. At the end of 30 minutes, turn the oven off and WAIT. Wait until the oven has thoroughly cooled down. I did this one evening and just waited until morning to take the jars and lids out. DO NOT open the oven to peek at any time because that could crack the finish. Once completed, the objects are dishwasher safe.
So, enjoy your smoothie! Whether it turns out to be a green monster (I like those, too!) or something that’s perfectly puce, you can have fun while enjoying your nutrient dense drink and get the reward of knowing you are doing something really good for your health and well-being that will set you up for smooth running all day long! Keystone Habit!
Hope arts and crafts time is fun for you and yours-
Kale. Kale. Kale. Spinach. Spinach. Spinach. It’s too early in the season for collards. I tried the cabbage collards this summer, but they just didn’t grab me. Maybe my taste buds are seasonal and were looking for that fall collard taste; whatever it was, it was a no-go for me. What to cook?
Our daughter kept mentioning cooking with leeks in a stir fry, so when looking at the greens in the veggie department the other day, I decided to grab a leek and a bundle of three baby bok choy that would go along with some onion for a creative stir fry. The left-overs rewarded me for several days, too, still maintaining their freshness.
Behold—the Sesame, Leek, and Bok Choy Stir Fry
¼ large onion
1 Bundle of Baby Bok Choy with three bunches
½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbs. Sesame Oil or Toasted Sesame Oil
1-2 tsp. sesame seeds
1. Prepare the leek by slicing in half lengthwise and holding each half under water, fanning the leaves to remove any grit. I sometimes remove the outer leaves to hand wash each one; it is not fun to suddenly find an unexpected crunch while chewing delicious leeks! Trust me; I know!
2. Then slice the leeks across the grain, resulting in little half rounds.
3. Slice the ¼ large onion to give a similar shape as the leek slices.
4. Carefully wash the Baby Bok Choy and slice across to give a similar shape to the other veggies
5. Put olive oil in the sauté pan and add onions and leeks and cook over medium heat.
6. While onions and leeks start cooking, mince the garlic and the ginger
7. Continue stirring the cooking veggies occasionally until the onions start to become translucent
Cooking onions and leeks with chopsticks
8. Add the drained bok choy and continue stirring occasionally. As the bok choy starts to wilt and become a brilliant dark green, add the Sesame Oil
Toasted Sesame Oil
9. Also add the minced garlic and ginger
10. When all ingredients have been combined and are fragrant, serve and garnish with Sesame Seeds.