When we're trying to make changes, our attitude and perspective can have a huge impact on whether or not we are successful. Being positive, rather than negative can be the key to reaching your goals. [x_video type="16:9, 5:3, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2" m4v="" ogv="" poster="" hide_controls="" autoplay="" embed='' no_container="true"]
Note: This is Part 2 of my Should You Go Paleo series. If you missed Should You Go Paleo? Part 1, be sure to read that too! Also, if you're more of a watcher than a reader, I've recorded videos for Part 1 and Part 2 as well.
Now that we've addressed what Paleo is and some of the incorrect info that's out there in Part 1, it's time to get into the nitty gritty: my thoughts on the diet itself.
All or nothing mentality.
You'll often hear Paleo people (and strict dieters in general) talk about their "cheat day." This refers to a day set aside where non-Paleo foods are permitted. It's not something that everyone does, but I think it's common enough to address it here. The term "cheat day" is a little extreme to me and pretty much misses the whole point when it comes to healthy living. There are no perfect diets and no perfect people. Sometimes we eat well and other times we don't. It's finding the balance that's key. I eat well at home and am conscious about bringing healthy food through my door, but that doesn't mean my hand didn't end up in the candy jar during our various holiday gatherings. It wasn't cheating, it was just life. Having "cheat days" sets up the idea that you're somehow being naughty and can also lead to binging. Plus, the "on the diet, off the diet" mentality means you're not really learning how to live a healthy lifestyle.
It assumes we're all the same.
It is true that the majority of the world's population does not have the ability to fully digest dairy. It's also true that many people out there have at least some sensitivity to grains (particularly the gluten-containing ones), if not a full on intolerance or allergy. However, this does not make it true for everyone. If you find that dairy or grains or even legumes give you trouble, don't eat them. But, if you find that you can tolerate them just fine, there's no reason to cut them out. We're all different and come from different genetic backgrounds that developed according to the foods that were available in a particular part of the world.
Is it even possible to eat like our Paleolithic ancestors?
If you look at a Paleo diet plan, you'll see familiar foods that you can pick up at your local grocery store. The problem is, theses aren't the foods that were available to our Paleolithic ancestors, they are the result of agriculture. Human nurturing and breeding have given us plants that have the qualities we favor, such as larger fruits or more palatable flavor profiles. How many Paleo followers are hunting and gathering all of their food? I'd venture to say, not many.
The Bottom Line.
When it comes down to it, I'm neither pro- nor anti-Paleo. I think it has a lot of great principles, such as limiting highly processed foods and emphasizing real, whole foods like veggies, fruits, and pastured meat. But, I just can't get down with the idea that every person on this planet is intolerant to grains, legumes, and dairy. Plus, we can't really replicate what our Paleolithic ancestors ate because nearly all of the food available to us comes from agriculture. I think eating the way the Paleo diet recommends is ONE way to eat healthy, but it isn't the ONLY way to eat healthy. Stick to real, whole foods and find what works best for you.
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What are you thoughts on the Paleo diet? Have you ever tried it yourself? What was your experience? Share in the comments below!
First, let me start off by saying that this post is way overdue. I have had a lot of thoughts about the Paleo diet for a while now, but it can frustrate me so much that it's hard for me to sit down and get it all out in writing. There are several issues concerning the Paleo diet that irritate me, and I bet it's not what you're thinking. In Part 1, I'll explain what the Paleo diet is and talk about some of the incorrect information that's floating around.
Note: I made a video to accompany this post as well since I think it's an important enough topic to address both here and on YouTube. If you're the type who would rather watch than read, scroll down to the bottom of this post for the video.
What is Paleo?
The Paleo diet is based on the premise that the healthiest way for us to eat is the way our ancestors ate thousands of years ago, before the advent of modern agriculture. This means no to processed foods, sugar, grains, legumes (aka beans), or dairy and yes to wild and pastured meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits. This is all according to Robb Wolf, a leader in the Paleo community. I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but I think he gives a good breakdown of Paleo from the perspective of the Paleo enthusiast.
Comments from the uneducated.
I am sick and tired of listening to and reading criticism from people who don't even know what the Paleo diet is! Maybe it's that fact that there are so many diets out there, nutrition and health professionals can't keep up with it. Or, maybe it's the fact that it's assumed that every dietitian is an expert on every nutrition topic or issue. Either way, there are tons of quotes out there from people who simply don't know what they're talking about. I read one just yesterday that said the Paleo diet included whole grains, which is just plain wrong!
The main criticism I see is that it's just too hard to follow and that this is reason enough to discount it. Difficulty is relative and should not be the sole reason to agree or not agree with a particular style of eating. A diet that doesn't include a McDonalds hamburger twice a day might be "too hard to follow" for some people out there, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't recommend that they break the habit.
Followers who don't understand it.
I see lots of people who are supposedly following the Paleo diet, but then their food choices show that they don't have all the details. For example, the meats eaten are supposed to be wild (like our ancestors would have had) or grass-fed. This is one point that many people seem to miss. Every time I see a picture of someone gorging on factory-farm, highly processed, nitrate laden bacon with #paleo in the caption, I cringe. Quality matters and you should choose meat that comes from properly raised animals and not from a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). Also, have your bacon, but have it in a reasonable portion. The pig is only partly bacon, and our ancestors would have eaten all of the other parts as well.
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Stay tuned for Part 2 for my thoughts on the diet itself and whether or not it's something we should all consider.
What have you heard about the Paleo diet? Do you think it's explained well in the media? Share in the comments below!
If reading that title just gave you an icky feeling, this post is for you. So much of our lives is spent doing for others. Whether you are working yourself to death to please your boss or trying to make sure each child is bathed, fed, and clothed, it's common for us to put our own needs at the bottom of our list (if they even make the list). I'm here to remind you that taking care of yourself isn't a bad thing or selfish. It's a must! Now, I'm not suggesting we all bail on our responsibilities in favor of self-indulgence. If the baby needs to be fed, you gotta do it. Rather, I'm just asking that you do a few simple things each day to take care of yourself. After all, when your needs are taken care of, it allows you to be that much better at giving to those around you. This year, make it a habit to nurture yourself. Here are a few ideas to get you (and me) started.
- Go for a walk
- Get a massage
- Paint your nails
- Make time for prayer or meditation
- Plan healthy meals for the week
- Find a good book and actually READ it
- Take your favorite class at the gym
- Ask for help when you need it
- Learn a new skill
- Take a hot bath
- Make time for sleep
- Listen to your favorite music
- Stretch for a few minutes after you wake up (taking a tip from the kitties here)
- Talk to a friend
- Take a nap
Do you struggle with putting yourself first? Do you have any ideas to add to the list? Share in the comments below!
You've probably seen a story recently about a man who ate only from McDonalds for 90 days and lost weight. The Iowa teacher came up with the idea as a project for his students. They had the job of creating meal plans that came in at 2,000 calories per day and he took on the task of eating the food and walking for 45 minutes 4-5 days a week. In the process he lost 37 lbs. He says it's a testament to how you can make healthy choices anywhere, but I think this is oversimplifying things a bit. He are my top reasons why you shouldn't go on the "McDonalds Diet."
- Weight loss does not equal healthy. With so much focus on rising levels of overweight and obesity, most have come to associate weight with health. Now, while weight is a component of health, it is not the whole story. Someone who exercises regularly and maintains a balanced, whole foods diet is far healthier than a sedentary junk-food addict who happens to be 15 pounds lighter. If you restrict your intake of ANY food you can lose weight. However, I think we can all agree that eating 1200 calories of doughnuts each day isn't a smart weight loss strategy.
- It's not real food. The offerings at McDonalds are highly processed. Even the "healthier" options contain additives that you would never use at home. If you want a burger, make it yourself or get a one from a restaurant that offers a high quality grass-fed burger with no gross extras.
- It doesn't taste that great. Eating takes up a big part of our day and what you eat should be enjoyable. Any reformed fast-food frequenter will tell you that, if they ever find themselves going through the drive-thru, it never tastes as good as they remember. When you're eating real food, the flavors are far more complex and enjoyable. Any item on the McDonalds menu can be made at home and taste much better.
- Limited choices. While the menu at a fast food restaurant may look big at first, when you're eating there all the time, you can get tired of it pretty quickly. Add in trying to choose the "healthier" options and fitting it all into a calorie goal and things are going to get boring fast. Plus, eating a variety of foods is key to being satisfied and getting a variety of nutrients.
- It's expensive! While many think of fast-food as a cheap option, I would argue it's just the opposite. You can make a tastier and healthier meal for the same or cheaper any day of the week.
What do you think about the "McDonalds Diet?" Do you think this kind of thing appeals to people, or do most understand that quality matters just as much as quantity when it comes to food? Share in the comments below!
You may have heard last week that General Mills announced that Cheerios will no longer contain GMO ingredients. With so much pro- and anti-GMO frenzy, it can be hard to tell what some of this stuff really means, so let me break it down.
Previously, Cheerios were made with corn starch and beet sugar. These two ingredients frequently come from sources that are genetically modified. This sort of thing is common in most prepared and convenience foods because corn, soy, and sugar beets, which are largely genetically modified, are used to make a multitude of food additives. To remove GMOs from Cheerios, General Mills has switched to cane sugar and is now sourcing non-GMO corn starch. It's important to note that all other types of Cheerios in the line are not included in this change and will continue to contain GMOs.
Does This Have A Nutritional Impact?
I've seen some coverage of this story that says this change doesn't really matter at all because it doesn't impact the nutritional value of the product. Yes, it's true, this won't change things like calories, grams of sugar, or any other nutritional measure, but that's hardly the point. People who think numbers are the bottom line when it comes to nutrition are missing a big piece of the puzzle. The make-up of our food extends far beyond calories, carbs, fat, protein, vitamins an minerals. There is still so much we don't understand about all of the other components of food and their synergy in regards to the way they are presented in nature. Also, many incorrectly think that the GMO issue is solely about the safety of human consumption. While that is a concern, I think everyone can agree that if you eat a GMO you aren't going to drop dead immediately. If that was the case, we wouldn't be here. The GMO debate is equally, if not more, about the impact they have on environments and ecosystems which we need to survive.
Isn't This Just A Marketing Ploy?
I've also read some criticism of General Mills saying that this is all a marketing ploy. Pro-GMO groups also throw in something about being anti-science to appease crazy, uneducated customers and anti-GMO groups add in a line about how terrible General Mills is because they don't genuinely care about this cause and they are only doing this to make money. My response to this is, what's the problem? The basic premise of our economic system is that products and services are improved by meeting the needs and wants of customers. If a company wants to make money, they listen to what the customer is asking for. Yes, General Mills is doing this to make their customers happy (which in turn makes them money) and I don't see anything wrong with that. Marketing isn't a bad word, it's just a tool to create awareness about a product or idea. I think this development is great because it shows how the internet has re-connected companies with their consumers by giving them a more visible platform to express their thoughts and concerns.
A lot of people eat Cheerios, so this could have a widespread impact. Also, this may encourage other brands to do the same. Changes that come about like this without legislation are a win in my book because it means we don't have to suffer the unintended consequences that can come with new laws. Despite all of these positives, I also challenge you to consider the idea of breakfast cereal in general. Even the organic varieties and still a processed food that most of us probably can't make at home. Plus, it's something many people eat every single day. Why not opt for whole food options like plain yogurt with fruit, oatmeal, homemade granola, or eggs? I don't buy cereal and I'm doing perfectly fine. :)
What do you think about General Mills taking GMOs out of Cheerios? Do you think we should be skipping out on processed cereals all together? Share in the comments below!
It's the time of year that everyone loves: the holidays! But with all of the fun also comes lots of yummy food that isn't always the healthiest. It's important to enjoy this time of year, but also to avoid the consequences of enjoying ourselves a little too much. Fear not, I'm here to help with a few tips. You can use all of them or pick and choose the ones that work for you. I don't think we need to be too crazy about being restrictive on these special days. As long as we treat them like the special occassion they are and eat well most other days, it's fine. At the same time, I don't want you to have that sick, overstuffed feeling that no one likes.
Note: Even though I'm posting this with the fall and winter holidays in mind, these tips can apply to any holiday or special event.
- If you're not hosting the event, offer to bring something to make things easier on your host. That way, you can make sure there is a healthy option available to fill up on.
- If you are the host, make sure you're making your dishes with real, whole foods rather than relying on processed, chemical nastiness. Even if you do eat a little too much, it will all be things that your body can work with. If you need inspiration, check my previous post on Thanksgiving recipe ideas.
- Be active! Whether it's a workout before the meal or a walk with the group after, find a way to get your body moving. Not only will this make you feel great and give you an energized glow, but it also discourages you from over-eating. That awesome feeling you get from exercise and being stuffed just don't go together.
- Make half your plate non-starchy vegetables (just like any other day). Filling up on these nutritious, lower-calorie options will ensure that you can still enjoy your favorite foods, but not eat too much.
- Stick to one plate rather than going back for seconds or thirds. Get a little bit of everything you want and enjoy it. The first few bites are always the best and, after that, it often just becomes mindless.
- Be a picky eater. Don't feel pressured to put every item offered on your plate. I love food and I am not about to give up precious tummy room for something I'm not crazy about. Only select the items that are your favorites and leave the other filler foods behind.
- Slow down and enjoy each bite as well as the company of those around you. This is one I especially struggle with because it is my natural tendency to shove my food down as fast as possible. Something I need to work on. :)
- One day isn't going to make or break you as far as your health goals are concerned. The important thing is not to let one day turn into a week or month of over indulgence.
- Remember what the holiday is about. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the logistics of a special get together or only think about the food, so focus instead on celebrating the true meaning of the holiday.
How do you stay healthy during the holidays? Share in the comments below!
I LOVE reader requests and today's post is just that! A quick look around and it's easy to see that plastics have become a big part of our every day life. Many (including me) are concerned with the impact this could have on our health. At the same time, part of health is sanity and it could just about drive you crazy stressing over and trying to remove all of that plastic! With that in mind, I wanted to provide you guys with some info on how I prioritize when to avoid plastics at all costs and when to not worry so much. I've numbered them, with the first being the most critical.
- Hot/Heated Foods. If there is one thing you take away from this post it should be this: never heat your food in plastic! Risk for chemical leaching is higher when the plastic is heated so use reusable glass containers or ceramic dishes for anything you plan to reheat or that is to be consumed hot. An example would be avoiding hot coffee or tea served in a Styrofoam cup. Opt for a proper mug instead!
- Most Used Items. Switching out the things you use on a daily basis is going to give you the most bang for your buck in terms of limiting exposure. Try replacing your plastic water bottle with a glass one.
- Long Term Storage. The longer something is stored in a plastic container, the higher the chance of chemical leaching. Look for large glass jars or containers to store these foods instead.
- Cold/Frozen. This is the area I would tackle last. Remember, if you plan to reheat the food you need to make sure to transfer it before heating.
Also, as a general rule in all categories, the more liquid a food is the more concerned I am with chemical leaching. Think soup vs a sandwich.
I don't think there is any need to go out any buy all new containers and have your bank account crying on the way home. If you have the money, feel free to do an overhaul, but, if your budget is more limited, institute a gradual and calculated change. Start with the containers for hot foods and your most commonly used items and replace things as you're able to from there. Also, keeping a ceramic plate or bowl at work for reheating is a great option. Just make sure you have a way to clean it after each use.
Do you try to avoid plastics? Share in the comments below!
It seems like there has been a lot of food in the headlines here recently. From mad cow disease in California to pizzas with a cheeseburger crust, the food industry has been showing itself (in more ways than one). One story that struck a nerve with me was this one from the Huffington Post about a $3 million class-action lawsuit settled against Ferrero, the maker of Nutella. The reason? A California mother claims that she was deceived by advertisements for the product, as well as the language on the label, to believe that Nutella was a healthy option to feed her child. To rectify this issue, Ferrero is paying out to consumers and will also have to change advertisements and other media messages (website, packaging, etc.) so they are no longer deceptive in this way. While some may be shouting for joy for a victory over the industry, I think a more important issue is at hand. While I agree that companies should not be making false claims or taking advantage of consumers, the answer goes far beyond policing suggestions or implications made by advertisements. The real problem at hand is the fact that consumers are vulnerable to such ploys because they are unable to analyze corporation claims and nutrition information to decide for themselves whether or not a product is healthy and appropriate for the needs of their families.
It seems to me, in this case, one of two things happened. This mother either read the nutrition information and ingredients and could not interpret it or, more likely, simply trusted the message she received from advertisers as true, rather than investigating further. This is perfect example of how much education is truly needed, as Nutella is not by any means one of the more confusing products on the market. After all, it has 8 ingredients (much fewer than many processed foods) and the first ingredient is sugar. The fact that a consumer cannot come to the conclusion that such a product is not a health food shows that there is a serious disconnect.
Have you ever felt deceived by a food advertisement or marketing scheme? What about nutrition do you find confusing?
The quality of the food you eat can make a huge difference in your health. This is especially true when it comes to animal products. The methods used to produce dairy products and meat are far from being natural processes and this trickles down to us when we ingest these foods. For example, conventional beef is raised in crowded feet lots where they are fed corn, rather than the grass they are designed to eat. This causes changes in the environment of their digestive tract which allows for the growth of potentially harmful microorganisms, such as E. coli, which would normally not be present. Also, the fatty acid content of the meat is much different from its grass-fed counterparts. In addition, these animals are pumped with antibiotics to fight off diseases that wouldn't be a major concern if the animals weren't raised in such deplorable conditions. The antibiotics also serve a second purpose of boosting growth. It's unknown how this works, but it's effective, so we do it anyway. Then some growth hormones are thrown in for good measure. This is why it is so important to be a picky eater when it comes to your meat and dairy. Choose organic in the grocery store and go the extra mile to seek out local producers who you can talk to directly. They will often use practices that go even farther than the federal organic standards and you'll also be supporting your neighbors and local economy while forging new relationships that help build your community. To find a local producer in your area and start a conversation about the way they raise their food, go to eatwild.com or visit your local farmers market.
As we close out this week of the challenge, we reach my last tip for getting rid of the junk food : buy ingredients, not products. This is a general rule that I follow and is a good thing to have in mind when doing your grocery shopping. When you're buying ingredients, you're most likely going to be buying whole foods. Now why this isn't always true (some would consider Crisco an ingredient, but I would call it a processed vat of trans fats), it should get you moving more in the right direction. This is important because when you are buying and cooking with whole foods, you're eating the same things our bodies have been consuming since the beginning of time, rather than something that was made in a lab a few weeks ago. Giving your body the fuel it was designed to use will result in you feeling better in your every day life and better health overall. So try a new recipe, switch up your routine, and get back in touch with the food you're eating! With love,
If you go into any grocery store you'll see an extensive selection of bars. From granola to protein, they come in every shape, size, and flavor. It's important to realize that not all bars are created equal. In fact, some of them are more like a candy bar than anything. The key here, as always, is to read your ingredients list and the nutrition facts panel. Something loaded with sugar and trans fats is definitely not a health food. In addition, even if your do find a good bar or decide to make your own, these should not be the corner-stone of your diet. I see lots of people (and I've been guilty of it myself) who use bars as meal replacements daily or snack on them constantly. When you do this, you're pushing out things like fruits, veggies, and other whole foods that are much more nutritious and filling. Instead, use bars as an emergency snack like when you go to a sporting event and aren't allowed to bring in food (I'm the queen of sneaking in food. Yes, I often hide carrot sticks in my purse). In addition, make your own when you can. That way you can control the ingredients and can enjoy your own bars a little more often since they won't have any weird additives.
You've likely heard about the danger of trans fats on the news or seen products that proudly display "0 grams of trans fat per serving" on their packaging. But what are trans fats and how bad are they really? First, we need to start with a little chemistry. Fatty acids can either be saturated or unsaturated. These terms refer to the carbon-hydrogen bonds in the fatty acid chain. When a fatty acid is saturated, each carbon in the chain has the maximum number of bonds (4) while unsaturated means that there are less than 4 bonds, resulting in double bonds. So, saturated fats are holding all of the hydrogen they can and unsaturated fats are not. These differences impact the structure of the fat and, therefore, the way it is processed in the body. Trans fats occur when the hydrogens in an unsaturated fat are across from each other rather than next to each other. While this does occur naturally in minimal amounts, the man-made kinds are the ones that have been found to be harmful. In fact, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that a 2% increase in calories from trans fat increases your risk of heart disease by 23%!
Man-made trans fats are created though a process known as hydrogenation. Oils are pumped with hydrogen to create solid fats, resulting in the production of trans fat. This is beneficial to food companies because trans fats are much more stable than other fats. This means that a product can last on the shelf for a longer period of time, reducing waste and saving money. This is, however, at the detriment to our own health.
So how do we avoid these unhealthy fats? Obviously, if you're eating whole foods this shouldn't be much of an issue. However, packaged foods are a whole different story. This is due to labeling regulations that can really mess you up. If a product has less the 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, it can be listed on the label as having 0 grams of trans fat. So, if you eat 2 or 3 servings of one of these foods or eat several different foods throughout the day that fall into this category, you could be getting a significant amount of trans fat in your diet. Scary right? The way to avoid this is reading the ingredients list. This is where the true identity of a product always comes through. If you see the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" this is your sign that trans fats are present and you need to just step away.
Whipped topping that is "cool" and comes in a tub (you know what I'm talking about) is one product that contains trans fat. This is most frustrating because it is often marketed as healthy choice due to it's low calorie content. This is a perfect example of where is is important to remember that calories aren't everything when it comes to health and ingredient reading is important. Instead of using this product, I recommend making your own homemade whipped cream. Yes, it is high in calories, but if you use it as an occasional treat and don't go overboard, you should be fine. Plus, it will fill you up pretty quick due to the high fat content.
Homemade Whipped Cream
1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Add cold whipping cream to a bowl.
2. Whip cream with electric beaters (or by hand if you want a workout!) until it starts to thicken.
3. Add sugar and vanilla extract and beat until stiff peaks form.