Let’s talk oils!! This is one area where a few easy swaps can make a HUGE difference in your health.
There is so much misinformation on this topic. “Butter or margarine?” “Is coconut oil good or bad?”
Well I am here to set it straight! To start off, did you know that most cooking oils go through an insane amount of processing with chemical solvents, beach, de-waxers, and more, before they end up on store shelves. If you watch this video on how canola oil is made, you will see exactly what I mean.
You may have noticed in that video they use a “solvent” to extract the oil. What they don’t tell you, is that the solvent used is frequently hexane, a neurotoxin. According to Vani Hari (well known as the Food Babe),
“Hexane is a cheap byproduct from gasoline production, that’s a serious occupational hazard and toxic air pollutant. It’s been shown that some hexane residue can remain in the oil, and the FDA doesn’t require food manufacturers to test for residues. Residue tests done by the Cornucopia Institute in 2009 found hexane residues in soybean oil.”
Here is a more in-depth list on oils I recommend avoiding.
Maintaining a healthy routine while traveling and on-the-go can be a challenge. This past month I was activated in the Air National Guard to provide assistance in the fight against COVID-19. During this one month period I lived out of a hotel room, which hosted only a mini fridge and microwave. While many of the other military men and women I was working with lived off fast food and donations of chips, pop, and canned tuna, I was fortunate to be able to maintain an eating lifestyle similar to what I live at home. This is how I did it.
Walking through the breakfast isle in the store, I can’t help but think, this is what America is serving our youth…breakfast cereals laden with sugar, artificial flavors and colors, and highly processed white flour with virtually no nutritional value aside from the vitamins and minerals added back in after the fact. Unfortunately even those are minimally beneficial as fortified vitamins and minerals are rarely added in a form our body can easily digest.
Granola bars, toaster waffles, brown sugar and cinnamon instant oatmeal — these are all in the same category. They are highly processed “franken-foods” (thanks Dr. Mark Hyman) with little to no fiber, healthy fats, or protein. When protein, fat and fiber is removed, foods become less filling, resulting in a higher than desirable intake. This process also increases the speed of digestion, resulting in higher blood glucose levels.
Growing up I would live off these foods for breakfast (though add toaster strudel into the mix). Now, with the obesity rates rising and over 52% of the U.S. adult population having either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, I am here to provide you some better options!
With cold and flu season still upon us and COVID-19 starting to really fire up, maintaining a top notch immune system is important for protecting not only ourselves, but our family and friends as well. While maintaining good hygiene (i.e. hand washing) is very important, developing and sustaining healthy lifestyle practices is vital for optimizing your immune system so it is strong when times such as this should occur. Below are some of the top ways I have managed to stay healthy and avoid both the cold and flu for TWO years straight (knock on wood)!
As a dietitian working in a hospital setting, I am constantly exposed to treats and sweets. Whether it’s the weekly Tuesday doughnuts brought by volunteers, or the cannolis and cake at a coworker’s baby shower, they are everywhere…just staring at me.
From what I have heard, this is the case for many people in their workplace. Despite not buying junk food or sweets, and eating healthy at home 98% of the time, temptations at the workplace always seem to get in the way. So what can we do about it? Plan ahead!
In an effort to avoid noming on sweets or afternoon trips to the cafeteria when I’m craving a snack or feeling extra hungry, I have started to keep a few simple, strategic items at my desk. Let me share:
Tea bags or instant coffee: Hot tea or coffee is a terrific way to stave off cravings and maintain focus. One brand of instant coffee I particularly like is Four Sigmatic’s mushroom coffee (no, it doesn’t taste like mushrooms) as it has half the amount of caffeine, but it does wonders for focus without the jitters! I like to leave a reusable coffee cup at my desk so I always have one on hand.
Prunes: Yes, I keep prunes at my desk. They are super filling and perfect when you are craving something sweet!
Peanut or almond butter: When I am running late in the morning, I will grab a banana or apple to go. Having some type of nut butter at my desk makes it more convenient, and adding the healthy fats and protein will keep you full much longer than eating the fruit alone.
Skinny Pop popcorn (or similar brand): This popcorn does not contain any artificial ingredients, is non-GMO, and high in fiber.
Trail mix: Most store bough trail mix is high in added sugar, expensive, and may contain undesirable additives. For this reason, I have started to make my own by adding a variety of nuts, gogi berries (or some type of dried fruit containing no added sugar), a sprinkle of cacao powder, and perhaps a drizzle of honey — mix it together and vwa-la! I keep mine in a mason jar at my desk.
70% or Higher Dark Chocolate: For the days those doughnuts are staring at you.
What healthy snacks do you keep at your desk? Share below!
Improving your nutrition starts by making simple changes, particularly with items you tend to use on a daily basis as these changes will have a more significant impact on your health. If you’re looking for inspiration to make heathy swaps, I’ve got 11 here for you!
SWAP JIFF FOR A MORE NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER Peanut butter is one of those foods manufacturers tend sneak in unhealthy ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Instead, choose a nut butter with only one ingredient: the nut. Freshly ground is even better (and it tastes better)!
SWAP MARGARINE FOR BUTTER OR GHEE This previously deemed “healthier option” has nothing healthy about it as it is a highly processed product made with low quality vegetable oils. It initially gained popularity as it is lower in saturated fat but we now know saturated fat is not as bad as it was made out to be. Try butter, ghee or even coconut oil instead. FUN FACT: The more yellow the butter the higher the nutrient content!
SWAP BREAKFAST CEREAL FOR ROLLED OR STEEL CUT OATS Dessert for breakfast anyone? Breakfast cereals are typically loaded with sugar and lacking in fiber and protein, leading to spikes in blood sugar and sugar cravings later in the day. Plain oatmeal is a much healthier option as it is a whole grain and higher in fiber and protein, meaning it will help to stabilize blood sugar and keep you feeling full for longer. Add berries, cinnamon and a spoonful of peanut butter for some flavor.
SWAP CANNED FOR FRESH FRUIT Although any fruit is better than none, canned fruit often contains added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and even artificial sweeteners (when in light syrup). BPA, a known hormone disrupter, from the cans can also leech into the syrup and fruit. Choose fresh fruit when possible. Frozen fruit is also a great option, especially when a particular fruit is not in season.
SWAP POP FOR KOMBUCHA It is nothing new that pop contains up to 40 grams of refined sugar, carcinogenic caramel coloring, and toxic artificial flavors. Swapping pop for kombucha is a great switch because it is similar in taste and fizziness but without the added sugar. Kombucha is also a healthful beverage plentiful in polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals that help boosts digestion and immunity. It is also simple to make if you don’t want to spend $3-4 for it in the store.
SWAP TABLE SALT FOR SEA SALT Salt is a vital mineral that I feel often has a bad reputation, most commonly due to its connection to elevated blood pressure and fluid retention. However, this is typically only and issue when consuming it in excess from process foods such as lunchmeat, fast food, canned soups, and potato chips. Table salt is a manmade product that highly refined and contains anti-caking agents. During the refining process the salt is heated to high temperatures, a process which removes any existing minerals and makes it behave differently in the body than other unrefined salts. On the other hand, sea salt, especially Himalayan pink salt, is an unrefined product containing a wide profile of 50+ trace minerals! Its lower sodium profile and high mineral content allow it to be assimilated more easily by the body. FUN FACT: Its pink color comes from its iron content!
SWAP ICEBERG FOR DARK LEAFY GREENS If your go-to lettuce is iceberg, it time to make an upgrade. While iceberg lettuce has a mild flavor and provides a satisfying crunchy texture, it provides very little nutrition. Try switching it up with spinach, arugula, kale or spring mix.
SWAP SPORTS DRINKS FOR COCONUT WATER It is important to stay hydrated during exercise, especially as summer starts to approach. Unfortunately, some of the most popular go-to beverages marketed for this are loaded with refined sugar and are artificially flavored and colored. Products such as Gatorade and Powerade do help replace beneficial electrolytes that are lost through sweat, but coconut water is a much healthier alternative. It naturally contains electrolytes (potassium and sodium) providing all the same benefits as sports drinks without the artificial ingredients. It naturally contains sugar but you will want to look for brands that don’t contain added sugar.
SWAP WHITE OR WHEAT BREAD FOR 100% WHOLE GRAIN OR SPROUTED BREAD Sometimes there is nothing better than an egg sandwich or avocado toast. White and wheat bread is highly processed which removes the majority of the nutrients. Some micronutrients are fortified back into the bread but will be in a poorly digestible form. If you are looking to upgrade your bread, choose a high fiber, multigrain loaf or sourdough bread. Even better, choose a sprouted brand, such as Ezekiel bread. When wheat is sprouted, it makes the gluten more digestible and the nutrients more bioavailable, so you’re getting more bang for your buck!
SWAP CANDY FOR DARK CHOCOLATE (75% COCOA OR HIGHER) Dark chocolate is lower in added sugar and high in polyphenols. Cacao has long been promoted for its cardiovascular and mood enhancement properties. Cacao may also help decrease inflammation and control appetite.
SWAP WHITE PASTA FOR CHICKPEA OR LENTIL PASTA White pasta is void of nutrients and fiber while chickpea or lentil pasta varieties are high in fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates. This makes for a more balanced and filling meal. Lentil or chickpea pasta will also not cause spikes in blood sugar like regular white pasta will. Note: For those that are hesitant to try it, I have served it to multiple friends and family members – they all loved it and could barely taste a difference!
What healthy swaps have you made recently to improve your health?
Meal prepping is a great way to not only save time, but money as well. It is a helpful strategy to utilize during a busy week, when a lack of time or energy may result in a last minute stop at your local fast food restaurant or a call for delivery pizza. It is also a way to control what exactly goes into your food – a must for anyone trying to stay on track with their health goals.
Before meal prepping there are several points to consider such as the best day of the week to cook, the recipes you will use, the number of people you are meal prepping for, and if you will get sick of eating the same meal every day. For beginners, I recommend keeping it as simple as possible. Making a list of your favorite types of protein, vegetables, and starches will make shopping and cooking easier. I have also listed some suggestions below.
A few years ago I stopped making New Year’s resolutions. Not only were the majority of my goals unrealistic, but I never actually devised an action plan on how exactly I was going to achieve them. This led to a downward spiral of me slipping up (usually within the first month or two), devising an excuse for why my slip up was acceptable, making more slip-ups, getting mad for not accomplishing the goal as I hoped, and finally giving up on my resolution altogether. I decided I needed to change up my methods.
For the past few years, I have reflected on the year prior to determine what areas of my health tended to slack the most. Did I drink enough water? Was I more stressed then usual? How was my sleep?
After identifying several areas of improvement I set a specific goal for each, followed by 3-4 actions steps on how I specifically plan to achieve each goal. I then choose the goal most important to me to start, and when I feel I have adequately improve my habit, I will reward myself by starting on the next goal!