Reverse Meal Planning

Reverse meal planning (aka keeping a meal diary)

During the month of February I kept a meal diary of every dinner I ate. It was quite a valuable experience – so much so that I think you should try it too.

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t about journaling your meals in order to make sure you’re sticking to a specific dietary regime. Not that I’m knocking that – keeping a diet journal has an appropriate time and place and can be a very effective tool. It’s just not what this is about.

I’m talking about an easier way to meal plan. It’s often easier to make meals at home when we’ve planned ahead, gone grocery shopping for everything we need, and worked up our appetite as we look forward to a specific meal at the end of the day. However, sitting down to make the initial plan is a hard thing to do.

Enter reverse meal planning.

Reverse meal planning (aka keeping a meal diary)

Reverse meal planning is simply writing down what you’re already doing and using this diary as a meal plan in the future. This means that it won’t be ready to use for a few weeks, but it won’t take any extra thought from you in the meantime.

Now, without an intentional weekly plan, your meal diary may not reflect quite the diet you aspire to, but don’t let that stop you. Use your diary to assess (without judgment) patterns around how often you actually eat at home, how many times you eat leftovers of a certain dish, or if you consistently can’t make it home to cook on a certain night due to a busy schedule. Also, it’s helpful to take notes on any ideas that come to mind that could improve the experience of a certain dish or how to use leftovers in the future. After doing this regularly, you will build up a nice collection of meal plans without doing much extra work.

What a nutritionist eats in a month (how do you like the 13th?)

HOW TO REVERSE MEAL PLAN:

  1. Keep a record in one place. This may seem obvious, but keeping notes on your phone, a spiral-bound notebook, AND scribbled on the back of your child’s homework is not the type of organization that will make meal planning easier for you in the long run. Choose one place to keep your diary and resolve to record your meals each night before bed. I used a yearly journal with a built-in calendar, but you should feel free to use whatever would be most comfortable for you.
  2. Choose which meals you’re going to record. In my case, I only recorded dinners because I don’t need a lot of variety at breakfast and I tend to eat leftovers for lunch. If your breakfasts, lunches, and snacks require more planning, you might want to include those in your diary as well.
  3. Write it down. It’s surprisingly easy to forget what you’ve eaten recently, so be sure to write down your meals ASAP. Include everything from leftovers to eating out and even skipped meals so you have an accurate picture of your schedule. It may provide insight into why you’re always over-buying or under-buying food, and how realistic your meal planning goals really are.
  4. Take notes for next time. Did you try a new recipe that you might adjust next time? Would you double the amount you make so you can have leftovers? Take notes so you can improve upon new recipes and make a more efficient plan. Think of creative ways to use leftovers from each meal and take notes so you can be prepared and have everything on hand next time.
  5. Store up 1-2 months worth of entries. Once you have 4-8 weeks of entries, you should have plenty of meals to choose from as you begin to look ahead. The simplest way to use your meal diary is to copy exactly what you did one or two months ago. If you’ve taken good notes about any changes you would make in the future, this should require no extra time on your part. If you want to shake things up a bit more, you can mix and match the weeks to create some variety.
  6. Aim to keep up with your meal diary for 1 year. Available foods and our preferences change with the weather, so keeping a meal diary across all 12 months will ensure that you take advantage of everything each season has to offer – think fresh fruit and salads in the summer, and soups and stews in the winter. How amazing would it be if you had a meal plan for each month from now until forever? Trust me, repeating the same monthly meal plan each year won’t be too much. Most people have a rotation of only 10-15 meals that they cook on a regular basis.

How to meal plan like a nutritionist

Ultimately, keeping a meal diary for one month ended up being an enlightening experience for me that should help me make better plans in the future. My obsessive nature showed through and I found that if I made a meal I enjoyed I would eat it multiple times. Even the leftovers I stored in the freezer for later got eaten within a week or two. I was confronted with how often I eat with friends, either out at a restaurant or in their homes, which encouraged me to aim for more home-cooked meals when it’s just my husband and I.

Have you ever kept a meal diary? What stands out most to you when you track your meal habits?

Mise En Place

How using mise en place can make you a better cook

I was taking a cooking class at Sur La Table recently (which, by the way, is an accessible, fun, and social way to learn simple cooking techniques – I highly recommend it!) and was inspired by the instructor’s use of “mise-en-place.”

Mies-En-Place is a French culinary term that literally means “put in place.” It is the practice of gathering all the ingredients and tools one will need to prepare a dish and is typically the first lesson chefs learn in culinary school. Produce is chopped, spices are measured, broth is portioned, and necessary pots and pans are laid on the stove resulting in an organized and efficient meal prep.

How using miss en place can make you a better cook

I’ve always thought of this as a wise idea, but one I typically disregard. I often fool myself into thinking that I’ll have time to chop my vegetables while the meat is cooking or the lentils are simmering. While this sometimes works, it usually results in frenzied chopping, ignored and overcooked meats, and a terrible mess.

Ultimately, it’s these stressful situations that keep me from feeling motivated to cook in the future.

What struck me most about my instructor’s view on mine-en-place was her belief that it teaches you how to become a better cook. This is not because of the organization, or that you’ll be able to pay more attention to temperatures and cooking times, but because visually seeing all your ingredients laid out in order will help you know what to do with ingredients in the future.

One of the traits of not only being a good cook, but also feeling comfortable in the kitchen and supporting a nourishing lifestyle of homemade meals, is being able to improvise and even cook without a recipe. Those of us who are visual learners will benefit from being able to see the timeline of events and notice patterns across recipes. The goal is that one day you’ll be presented with a series of ingredients and know in which order to prepare them to create the most flavorful dish.

How using mise en place can make you a better cook

 

For example, a mirepoix (pronounced “meer-pwah”) is a combination of chopped onions, carrots, and celery that provides a flavorful foundation for many soup and sauce recipes. With consistent use of mine-en-place, you may begin to not only recognize this trio of ingredients, but also remember the correct ratio to chop, feel comfortable adding them to your recipe, and know how long they cook without having to refer to the recipe notes. With enough practice, you may even begin to experiment with substitutions – leeks instead of onions for a subtler flavor, or green peppers instead of celery like they use in Louisiana.

Do you practice miss-en-place? I’d love to know! Let me know how it works for you in the comments or snap a photo and tag with #parisinutrition.

The Problem With Starting Your Diet Tomorrow

Ulysses and the Sirens

In the future we’re all wonderful people; unfortunately we live in the present.

The idea that tomorrow we will wake up at 6am, go to the gym, make a healthful breakfast, choose herbal tea over a caramel macchiato and make it to work on time is flawed. The hard truth to admit is: if we didn’t do these things today, we probably won’t do them tomorrow. This is because we don’t wake up magically as a different person tomorrow. Tomorrow we’re the same as we are today.

So what can we do about this? How can we ever change?

When faced with a temptation, i.e. those leftover donuts on the counter at three in the afternoon, we can’t rely on willpower alone. While managing blood sugar levels can play a big part in the ability to make rational food choices, when faced with a temptation our rational mind often gives way to our emotional desires. In order to combat this, today (rational) me must take action to influence tomorrow (emotional) me to do the thing I want me to do. It’s like that movie with Denzel Washington where he sends himself a note from the future to do this thing in order to prevent the other terrible thing from happening (what movie is that?). While we don’t have access to a time machine, we can still take this kind of preventive action every day in order to save us from ourselves.

Philosophers call these types of strategies Ulysses contracts after the myth of Ulysses ordering his sailors to disregard his commands as they sailed past the sirens. While Ulysses wanted to hear the song of the sirens, he knew that doing so would render him incapable of rational thought. He had his sailors fill their own ears with wax and tie him to the mast to prevent him from jumping overboard to his certain death thus ensuring he and the entire crew would make it through the temptation alive. Ulysses contracts are freely made decisions that bind us in the future.

How can you use Ulysses Contracts to reach your health goals?

Think of all the temptations and events that derail you from your well-intended health goals. These may be things like not waking up early enough in the morning, that bakery next to your office with the pastries you can’t resist, birthday cake at your kid’s friend’s birthday parties, or the convenience of the pizza parlor next door to your apartment. Once you’ve identified your triggers, work backward to develop a strategy that will allow you to bypass the trigger in the first place. It’s much easier to avoid temptation than it is to resist it through sheer willpower.

Ways to trick yourself into doing what you want:

  • Make your lunch the night before. If you’ve just finished a balanced dinner your rational mind should be in control. Take the time to pack your lunch for work the next day in the evening rather than relying on the good intention that you will wake up early and use that time to pack yourself lunch. Even if you normally eat lunch at home, take a few moments as you’re cleaning up after your dinner to consider what you’ll prepare for yourself the next day; then stick to this plan when tomorrow comes.
  • Clean out your kitchen. Get all those trigger foods out of your house. Don’t use the excuse that they’re for your kids or they’re only for baking and you won’t eat them. I know many people who have confessed to scavenging in the cupboards in the middle of the night and bingeing on bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips. If it’s there, it will get eaten.
  • Buy smaller servings of “treat” foods. It’s fine to indulge now and then, but you don’t want those sugary foods hanging around your house overstaying their welcome. When you purchase these items, buy the smallest size so you’re sure to consume the entire thing and not have any leftovers. If you have leftovers, get rid of them immediately. I know this is often more expensive per unit, but your health is far more valuable than being able to consume more sugar for less money.
  • If there’s a tempting stop along your route, plan to take a different street so you won’t be tempted. If taking a different route isn’t possible, consider carpooling with someone, or scheduling a phone call during your drive so you won’t be able to stop. Use this strategy if you work in an office that provides snacks. Stop by the kitchen when you first arrive and select your mid-morning or afternoon snack items. Use your fresh, rational mind to choose a healthy snack rather than your low blood sugar, emotional mind when you’re hungry in the afternoon. Avoid the snack room for the rest of the day.
  • Put your money where your mouth is. If you have a specific goal, say to stop drinking soda, give a sum of money to a friend that you only get back if you’ve abstained from drinking soda for one month, three months, or even one year. If you don’t succeed, tell your friend to keep the money or donate it to a charity that you hate.
  • Pay in advance. If you’re working with a trainer or nutrition coach, purchase a block of appointments in advance and schedule all your appointments up front. This way you’ll be more invested and less likely to quit.
  • Delay gratification. If there’s a certain item you’re thinking of purchasing, hold off on purchasing the item until you reach a health benchmark or goal. Use this item as a reward and don’t buy it if you aren’t successful.
  • Have someone hold you accountable. Accountability is a huge part of my work as a nutrition consultant. Every week clients tell me that they were able to make rational food choices simply because they knew they had an appointment scheduled with me and they wanted to be able to give a good report. While I never judge my clients for making poor decisions and find failures to be helpful in developing better strategies, having someone look over your food choices can definitely help keep the rational mind in control.

 eleanor roosevelt quote

Image: “Ulysses and the Sirens” by Herbert James Draper, 1864-1920



In the Kitchen With: Sabina Chazanas of LaNatura Natural Skin Care

I’m thrilled to introduce you all to Sabina Chazanas as my first guest in a new blog series titled “In the Kitchen With…” where I interview individuals that are supporting well-nourished bodies through their work. Sabina is doing just that as the founder and owner of one of my favorite natural skin care brands, LaNatura

From stories of growing up in Italy, to the motto, beauty isn’t a secret – it’s a lifestyle, Sabina’s traditional and holistic view of wellness resonates with what Parisi Nutrition is all about. She’s a genuine expert in the area of skin care and has shared some fabulous tips with us on how to have naturally beautiful skin, from the inside out. Enjoy!

lanatura-owner-sabina-chazanas

Tell us a little bit about your story and what inspired you to pursue a career in cosmetics.

For me, “natural” and “organic” have always been more than just trendy buzzwords – they have been a way of life since I was a little girl. San Ferdinando di Puglia, where I grew up, is an agricultural area known for its rich land and abundance of home grown fruits, vegetables and herbs. My grandfather taught me that the fruits of the earth were not just delicious food, but also the secret to beautiful skin, hair, and overall health and well-being. On long bicycle rides through the countryside, he would teach me to pick wild herbs like chamomile and mint, and put olive oil in my hair to keep it soft. The lessons he taught me made a huge impact and I always knew that I would be in the natural cosmetic industry. In my early adulthood I moved to England, where I trained as an esthetician at London’s prestigious Arnould-Taylor Therapy College. From there I worked with Revlon and Clinique in sales and marketing. I worked very hard to make something for myself and eventually became Senior Consultant at Clinique where I was tasked to launch the Clinique brand in South Africa. It was so exciting and one of the best times in my life. With all the great skills I had learned I decided to branch off and try my hand at running my own business. I moved to Los Angeles and opened my own store in Beverly Hills named LaNatura. The original store carried exotic and natural products I had discovered in my travels for Clinique, but soon I realized that I could make these products too! From that little idea I started LaNatura brand products, making and bottling the products in my own kitchen at the beginning. My inspiration was always to do something that my grandfather would be proud of, and I feel like I have succeeded in LaNatura.

Your website says, “if you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body.” Why is using pure, natural ingredients a priority for LaNatura and why should we, as consumers, follow this guideline?

We live in a toxic world, where environmental factors are constantly affecting us from the inside out. For the sake of our health and longevity, we should try to counterbalance our environmental toxins with as many “clean” choices as possible. We as consumers have two choices, to fill our bodies with chemicals or to nourish with pure and natural ingredients. Using a chemical or synthetic body lotion instead of all natural formulas like ours is the same as choosing the drive-thru over cooked vegetables. We all know what the better option is; if it’s available to you why not make that better choice? I just couldn’t take pride in what I do if I knew that I was selling a product that essentially was “fake.” You need real ingredients to get real results.

How does one transition from her normal beauty routine to a cleaner routine?

The best rule when buying beauty products is that you can read and understand the ingredient list. Granted some ingredients, even natural products, are written in “INCI” which is basically the scientific name. For example, on our ingredient list we use a lot of Shea Butter; the INCI is Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit. We list both the common and INCI names on our packaging so that everyone can read and understand pure ingredients. If you cannot get a straight answer about what an INCI means by doing a simple search, it’s probably not something you want to put on. It is important to stay away from chemical products such as silicones, heavy metals, sulfates, parabens, formaldehydes, propylene glycol, mineral oil, petrolatum, and PABA ingredients in particular. We also do not use any ingredients, natural or otherwise that have been tested on animals or come from animals.

LaNatura facilities production

What role do you think diet plays in skin’s appearance?

For me, diet contributes 80-90% to skin’s appearance. Everything that goes into your body plays a great factor in how you look, feel and function. Diet provides nourishment and if you are malnourished, you tend to look more dull, and even grey at times. If you eat a healthy diet full of nutrient rich foods then your skin tends to thrive and glow. Oils are regulated throughout the body making skin more supple and moisturized. Eating goodies like “super fruits” and the Omegas are said to fight free radicals which contributes to the health of your skin on a cellular level.

I noticed many of your products are gluten-free. Why is this important to LaNatura and where might gluten be hiding in other cosmetics?

We have access to so many different ingredients and why not choose the safest of those for our luxurious products? With new allergies popping up all the time, we have to be thinking ahead. Gluten is a major concern for people right now and many people have discovered in the last few years that symptoms they had encountered over their lifetimes were actually due to an allergy to gluten. We absorb about 60% of everything that we put topically on our body, so we strive to make our products safe for everyone to use. Gluten can be found in many oils, specifically Wheat Germ which is found in many products. If you are not allergic to gluten, then this is by no means a “bad ingredient,” but we prefer to play it safe.

If you could give us one skin care tip, what would it be?

Drink water! Lots of water. Personally, I drink at least 50 oz. of water a day. It keeps you moisturized and, of course, hydrated from the inside out. This goes back to the diet point. I feel and see the effects immediately when I haven’t had enough water. You may not see the toll dehydration is taking now, but if you up your water intake I guarantee you will see the benefits.

What are your must-have LaNatura products?

Our Superfruit Pure Vegan Body Butters are essential. I use it everyday and have for years. I rely on it fully to keep my skin soft and moisturized all day long. Of course our shea butters are excellent, but some, like me, prefer a creamier texture during application and a few added benefits from the additional oils. The Shea Butter base alone is excellent for your skin, but then, for example in our Matcha Green Tea Body Butter you get the antioxidants from the Matcha Green Tea Powder, the soybean oil which is ideal for hydrating and minimizing the appearance of wrinkles, grape seed oil for improving skin texture and toning vitamin E that helps to reverse skin’s aging process. It has definitely kept my skin glowing throughout the years.

Sabina Chazanas LaNatura roots and cooking

At Parisi Nutrition, we’re all about food. What is your favorite, easy meal to cook at home after a long day of work?

I would say my favorite thing to cook is soup. Any kind of soup, really. I’m very into lentil soup right now. It is very easy to make and so delicious. I love the warm, comforting quality of soups, especially after a long day at work or an intense spinning class. I like to season mine with curry powder and turmeric.

At Parisi Nutrition our goal is to cultivate well-nourished bodies through whole foods and a pure lifestyle. What foods or practices make you feel nourished?

Fresh fruits and vegetables are the key for me. I start every morning with a warm cup of lemon water, sometimes with a splash of ginger. The lemon just instantly makes me feel bright and awakened! I continue my day snacking on nuts and eating meals that consist of delicious greens, bright tomatoes, avocado, fresh mozzarella and herbs. I grew up eating very clean on a farm in Italy, as my grandfather taught me and I have always carried the importance of that with me. I also work out at least three times a week with different, fun exercises. My favorite right now is my Brazilian Butt Bootcamp. Like our motto at LaNatura says: Beauty isn’t a secret, it’s a lifestyle. For me this means it’s not enough to just eat green. It is a combination of healthy practices including nutrition, exercise and all the products you use.

Isn’t that the truth? Be sure to check out LaNatura‘s products when you’re ready to upgrade your beauty routine and connect with Sabina on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or email info(at)lanatura.com.

The Best of The Breakfast Club

Last month many of us embarked on a 28-day challenge to take the time to eat breakfast every day. My co-hosts and I shared photos of our own breakfasts (scroll down to see the “Best Of”) and the challenge participants pinned their favorite recipes to our group Pinboard (which you can view here). It was a wonderful experience that was both challenging and educational, but I think the most important thing that happened last month is that we all fell in love with breakfast.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love breakfast. The truth is, I don’t know if my friends actually know the extent to which I love breakfast. I think my husband has a good idea – he proposed to me over homemade breakfast burritos (Husband interjects: Please note that the proposal included a lot more than breakfast burritos – it was EPIC). Clearly he know what he wanted and exploited my weakness to get to it.

Isn’t waking up in the morning the very best thing that can happen in a day (the idea being that if we didn’t wake up, nothing else would be possible)? Breakfast is a celebration of that. 

The transition from sleep to wake is valuable. The mingling of dream-life and real-life provides fresh perspective. Problems are solved. Plans are made. Priorities are set. Breakfast gives us time and space to think and become fully awake.

Just like a killer outfit, new shoes, or red lipstick can add some spunk to your attitude, breakfast can inform who we are each day.

Food is the story we tell our bodies. Each bite a word, each meal a message – I’m happy, I’m sad, I care about you, I’m too tired to care…Breakfast is the beginning of each chapter. Let your story say I love you and let each breakfast say you’re important and I believe in what you will accomplish today.

If I were to create a restaurant, it would be a breakfast restaurant called “Put An Egg On It” serving all sorts of seasonal vegetable combinations topped with a poached egg (of course there will be options for people with egg sensitivities). There will be a cozy corner for those who stumble in wearing their pajamas to curl up with a book and a seating section to see and be seen for the fabulous ladies who brunch. It won’t be a destination restaurant, it will be a local spot for regulars because breakfast is ordinary, and that’s the beauty of it.

We eat breakfast because it’s been a long time since we last ate and we’re hungry. Breakfast is eating in its simplest form: food as fuel. It’s often repetitive, rooted in habit, on the verge of tradition, and I love it.

The Best of the Breakfast Club:

Almond Pancakes

Best allergen-free: Shirley’s Almond Pancakes

Made with almond flour and a banana, get your healthy sugar fix and protein kick all in one.

photo 1Most beautiful photo: Natalie’s Sprouted Toast with Almond Butter

and Mixed Berry Chia Seed Jam

This grown-up version of peanut butter and jelly is deliciously warm, and hits the spot without all the sugar of your childhood version.

smashed eggsBest Quick & Easy: Drew’s Smashed Eggs

To make this quick, keep hard boiled eggs in the fridge so you’ll be ready at any time. The recipe is simple: smash some hard boiled eggs in a mug and add a dollop of good mayonnaise, dijon mustard, sprouts, and flax seeds.

Sweet Potato HashTop Pick for Weekend Brunch: Gillian’s Sweet Potato Hash

This sweet potato hash with caramelized onions, sausage, rosemary, and eggs will be a hit with the whole family and makes for great leftovers too!

photo 1Everyday favorite: Drew’s Leftover Quinoa

This is a fantastic and simple recipe from It’s All Good to make whenever there’s leftover quinoa in the house. Simply sauté some kale and garlic, poach and egg, and you’re done!

polenta sausage pepper and eggsMost Creative: Gillian’s Polenta and Eggs

Most people wouldn’t think of eating polenta for breakfast, but leftover polenta makes a great base for eggs – especially when paired with red bell pepper and sausage.

HeartBeet SmoothieBest Smoothie: Natalie’s Valentine’s Day HeartBeet Smoothie

This superfood smoothie packs a delicious punch with raw kale, raw beets, and raw cacao! Rich and satisfying, you’ll probably want to make this everyday. If you don’t have a protein powder you use, you can give the smoothie extra staying power with a half cup of certified gluten free oats, or a couple tablespoons of almond butter.

Honorable Mentions: Blueberry Lemon Biscuits, Sweet Potato Kale Quinoa Frittatas, Bacon Avocado and Tomato Toasts, and Fruit and Vegetable Smoothie

Congratulations to all the challengers for completing 28 days of The Breakfast Club!

Travel Eats: Asia (Hong Kong, Beijing, Thailand)

Travel Eats AsiaI recently returned home from a fabulous trip to Hong Kong, Beijing, and Southern Thailand. Having had such an easy time finding delicious, gluten free foods on previous trips, I must say I was quite surprised by how difficult it was to find gluten free foods on this trip. Most of the restaurants and hotels I visited were not familiar with the term “gluten free” and it turned out that between noodles, soy sauce, and MSG, wheat flour was an ingredient in most menu items.

While not everyone follows a gluten free diet, we all have foods that we particularly favor and a lot of us are trying to fuel our bodies with certain foods in order to reach personal health goals. Traveling to unknown places can be quite a disruption to our normal eating habits, and if we don’t plan well, can derail us from our health track.

Having so many clients that travel frequently for business, I know I’m not alone in the struggle to eat well in a new place. I’ve put together this simple list of 8 Healthy Tips for Eating Abroad:

  1. If you have any dietary restrictions, request special meals from the airline when you book your ticket. Unfortunately these meals often aren’t very good (are the regular meals any better?), so see #2.
  2. When you accidentally pack your snacks in your checked luggage, you end up eating potato chips and apple juice for dinner at the airport.

    When you accidentally pack your snacks in your checked luggage, you end up eating potato chips and apple juice for dinner at the airport.

    Pack food to take on the airplane with you. Airports and airplanes are (real) food deserts and you don’t want to be stuck for hours or days without food. If it’s the first leg of your trip, you can pack more perishable items like hard-boiled eggs, chicken salad, green salad, or whatever leftovers you have in the fridge. Don’t count on the airline-provided meal to be any good and don’t necessarily expect to find a balanced meal at an airport during your layover. (If you don’t plan well, you may end up eating potato chips and apple juice for dinner.)

  3. Consider the time that you will arrive at your destination. If it’s late, you may not have access to food when you arrive so plan to bring a snack to eat then as well.
  4. Pack non-perishable snacks that should last the duration of the trip like sprouted nuts and seeds, dried fruits, jerky, and protein bars.
  5. Gluten free restaurant card thanks to the hotel concierge.

    Gluten free restaurant card thanks to the hotel concierge.

    If you have dietary restrictions, carry a card with you that explains your dietary needs written in the language of the country you are visiting. You can search for these online, or ask your hotel concierge to write it out for you. (This works most of the time, but be prepared in case you run into a server that can’t read.)

  6. Find a grocery store when you get to your destination to stock up on balanced snacks to eat during your stay so you won’t be at the mercy of restaurants.
  7. Just like you research where to stay and what to do ahead of time, research where to eat. For example, you can search for gluten free restaurants on Trip Advisor or travel blogs. There’s nothing worse than being hungry and not being able to find a restaurant to suit your dietary restrictions.
  8. Enjoy yourself! This is a time to try new foods and have an adventure. If all else fails, eat a protein bar.

If you are planning a trip to any of the places I visited (or just want to live vicariously through what I ate), here are some of my recommendations:

Mana! was a delicious gluten free and vegetarian restaurant in Hong Kong.

Mana! was a delicious gluten free and vegetarian restaurant in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: I (gluten free) visited my friend (vegetarian) in Hong Kong so we had to find restaurants that suited us both. We found Mana! and Life which were both organic, vegetarian, and gluten free. While they weren’t necessarily unique experiences (the cuisine was similar to what I might find in California), the food was delicious and made our bodies feel amazing.

Beijing, China: Beijing is where things got really tough. Apparently Northern China cuisine relies more on wheat products like noodles and dumplings, while Southern China consumes more rice. Luckily, hot pot is a traditional dish that can easily be made gluten free by asking for no soy sauce and no MSG. We found a fun little hot pot restaurant called Little Sheep and it turns out they also have locations in California! My favorite dining experience in Beijing was at Temple Restaurant. The staff at Temple understood our gluten-free needs and offered to make us a gluten free version of anything on the menu. They sympathized with how hard it is to find gluten free food in Beijing, so they ended up bringing us the entire, 8-course tasting menu to make sure we had enough to eat. Needless to say, I was full.

Typical hotel buffet breakfast: steamed rice, sautéed vegetables, and an egg

Typical hotel buffet breakfast: steamed rice, sautéed vegetables, and an egg

Koh Samui, Thailand: Thai food is much easier on a gluten free diet as most restaurants offer curry, rice, and soup. I downloaded this handy gluten free restaurant card and most places were able to accommodate my needs. My hotel, Napasai was very accommodating, providing steamed rice and gluten free toast at the breakfast buffet, offered gluten free pasta, and helped explain our dietary restrictions to restaurants when making reservations for us. Our favorite restaurant was Barracuda (which we went to twice) for their wide variety of meats and vegetables and excellent flavor.

What are your experiences with food traveling in Asia?

 

February “Breakfast Club” Challenge

BC ImageDid you eat breakfast today?

As much as I adore breakfast, I must confess that I’ve found myself skipping it lately if I have an especially early morning commitment. The struggle to eat breakfast consistently is something that many of my clients struggle with, and I’m guessing that you might too.

Since New Year’s goal setting is still fresh in my mind, I’ve decided to challenge myself to eat breakfast every day during February – and I’m enlisting the help of some of my friends!

I’ve challenged a couple of my favorite healthy foodies to do this with me, and together we’ve formed “The Breakfast Club.” We’d like to invite you to join us!

We challenge YOU to decide what breakfast means to you and commit to caring for yourself by starting your morning right during the whole month of February.

To help inspire you, we’ve set up a club Facebook group and Pinterest board to share recipes, ideas, and encouragement, and we’ll also send you an email each week detailing what we hosts have been eating for breakfast. Simply click the link below to join the challenge!

This challenge is currently closed. Be sure to sign up for our email list to be notified of any future challenges!

Meet the hosts:

Gillian HaasGillian Haas: My husband and I blog together at “The Haas Machine” (I do the writing and planning, he helps with a lot of projects and recipe development). We love being able to create together, so our blog is the reflection of that. We mostly focus on simple DIY projects and recipes, but we also spin things in a natural light because we enjoy living as naturally as possible.

We live in La Crosse, WI, which is about 2 hours west of Madison. John is a geotechnical engineer for a local company (he basically plays with dirt all day) and I stay home with our spunky daughter, Ruby (born in 2011). Besides creating, we are passionate about camping, thrifting, hiking, biking, eating gourmet foods, gardening, listening to records, eating dark chocolate, and collecting rocks.

Connect with Gillian via her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Instagram

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAShirley Plant: Shirley Plant has studied in the field of nutrition for many years. Diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple food and environmental allergies, Shirley understands firsthand the difficulties of trying to plan creative, nutritious, and affordable menus while having to avoid such common foods as wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, gluten, and sugar, just to name a few. But through understanding, education, and a keen interest to help people find food alternatives to fit into their life schedules, Shirley has developed an expertise and reputation in dietary design, customized recipes, and menu-planning.Connect with Shirley via her website, Facebook, and Twitter

Natalie GriffoNatalie Griffo: Hi, I’m Natalie Griffo! I’m a food blogger and lifestyle photographer, living in San Diego, California. I call myself a “healthy foodie”, but I haven’t always been interested in healthful eating. My husband Mark was the more health conscious one when we were dating, but I quickly caught on… and now am more of a “health nut” than he is! I am passionate about people understanding that healthy, nutritious eating doesn’t mean tasteless and bland (like I used to think). There are so many delicious possibilities!

My favorite things in life are my husband, cooking healthy and delicious food (of course), taking photographs, going on adventures, fashion, and really good espresso.

Connect with Natalie via her Website, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

gluten free thanksgiving image40+ Recipes for an Allergen-Friendly Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday. It is the one holiday that is celebrated by nothing other than sitting around a table with dear family and friends, enjoying the bounty of the harvest. The food is (for the most part) seasonal, and often prepared by a group; the seasoned cooks passing tradition down to the younger generation. Lean eating during the year sprinkled with occasional feasting makes for a healthy body and soul.

But what’s a gluten free eater to do on this bread and pie holiday? Have no fear! With just a few adjustments, your gluten, dairy, egg, and sugar free diners will feel right at home and no one will know the difference. Below is a brief explanation of which allergens to look for in traditional Thanksgiving foods as well as links to delicious, allergen-free recipes from some of my favorite food bloggers. Enjoy!

Turkey: While turkeys should be gluten free, a small number of producers do inject potentially allergenic ingredients into the meat in order to ensure a juicy, evenly cooked turkey. If you are purchasing a turkey, simply read the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain any allergens. Many roast turkey recipes call for butter, so if you’re avoiding dairy, you can simply add water to the bottom of your roasting pan and baste the turkey with the juices that collect in the pan.

GravyGravy: Homemade gravy combines the juices from the cooked turkey with flour for a thick, savory sauce. To make a gluten-free version, you can simply use a gluten-free flour. Here are some tried and tested recipes and ratios:

StuffingStuffing/Dressing: Stuffing is one of the elements of Thanksgiving dinner that is most problematic for people following a restricted eating plan. Most recipes contain gluten, dairy, and eggs. The good news is, it’s easy to make a delicious, allergen-free version that everyone will love! For a gluten-free stuffing, you can simply substitute the bread in your favorite recipe for a gluten-free bread or gluten-free bread crumbs.

Mashed PotatoesMashed Potatoes: If you’re making gravy, you have to have mashed potatoes! Mashed potatoes are commonly made by combining potatoes with milk and butter. It’s quite easy to substitute the dairy in many recipes for either your favorite milk alternative (almond milk, etc.), or with olive oil and chicken or vegetable broth. If you are looking to reduce the starch in your meal, try cauliflower mashed “potatoes.”

Green Bean CasseroleGreen Bean Casserole: I know not everyone eats this, but green bean casserole has long been a tradition in my house. However, the cream and fried onions render it inedible in my book. If you’re a lover of green bean casserole, you’re in luck! There are plenty of nourishing ways to serve green beans this Thanksgiving.

Butternut squashVegetables: Preparing an assortment of vegetables is an easy, allergen-free way to round out your meal and highlight the produce of the season.

RollsBread/Rolls: While it’s quite simple to skip the rolls if you’re avoiding gluten and provide standard rolls for your guests, it is possible to make delicious, gluten-free rolls at home. You’ll be sure to impress your guests and will feel like your gluten-free Thanksgiving isn’t lacking a thing.

Cranberry SauceCranberry Sauce: Cranberry sauce is a delightfully sweet accoutrement to the Thanksgiving table. While it is naturally gluten, dairy, and egg-free, I’ve included some wonderful recipes that don’t use refined sugar so you can upgrade your entire meal.

Pumpkin PiePumpkin Pie: I’ve definitely eaten my way around the crust of a homemade pie, but taking the time to make a gluten-free version will make your Thanksgiving meal complete. The quick and easy version would be to purchase a pre-made, gluten-free pie crust to fill with your favorite pie filling. However, there are plenty of allergen-free pie recipes if you’d like to make one yourself!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Coffee: To drink or not to drink?

“I’m ready for change, but I’m not giving up my coffee.”

Coffee shakingI hear from so many of you how important coffee is to your productivity, sanity, and overall enjoyment of life. Even those of you that experience huge benefit from giving up coffee for a period of time can’t wait to add a cup back into your morning routine.

While I have my seasonal cleansers avoid coffee (and all caffeine) during their programs, the truth is, coffee isn’t all bad. In fact, coffee has been shown to be supportive of many body systems. So why do I ask my cleansers to give up their bean juice? Let’s weigh the pros and cons:

Note: Some of these facts have to do specifically with coffee, others with all caffeinated beverages. I don’t recommend switching from coffee to another caffeinated beverage, but that’s another post for another day…

Pros:

  • Coffee has a variety of health benefits. There has been a flood of research lately about how the regular consumption of coffee can support a healthy body and reduce the risk of diseases including liver cancer, alzheimer’s, and gallstones.
  • Coffee is a laxative and helps promote regular bowel movements. (This can be a con if it is causing elimination to happen before food is completely digested, or if it is masking natural constipation due to an imbalanced gut environment.)
  • The caffeine helps us “wake up” and may be just what we need to get to the gym, prepare and pack a lunch for the day, or get to the office on time.
  • It’s delicious.

Cons:

  • Coffee has been shown to have adverse effects on the adrenal glands. Over stimulation of the adrenals can lead to adrenal fatigue.
  • Caffeine is a strong appetite suppressant. A cup of coffee in the morning can result in a skipped breakfast and a lack of vital nutrients. Food gives us the nutrients we need for energy and optimal brain function. Fatigue and brain fog cause us to consume more caffeine, strengthening this cycle.
  • Caffeine can cause insomnia. One of the most common benefits people experience when they give up caffeine is improved sleep. While it’s common for people to avoid afternoon caffeine, sometimes even that morning coffee can disrupt the sleep of slow caffeine metabolizers.
  • Coffee increases acidity. Drinking coffee causes your body to produce large amounts of hydrochloric acid, which can lead to reflux, heartburn, and eventually wear out your body’s ability to produce hydrochloric acid making it difficult to digest proteins. This acidity can also impair your ability to absorb important minerals from your food, like iron or magnesium.
  • Caffeine is a strong diuretic and can lead to dehydration.
  • Coffee irritates the gastrointestinal tract and is especially problematic for those suffering from IBS, gastritis, Crohn’s disease, colitis, and ulcers.
  • Coffee can raise cholesterol. Coffee contains a substance called cafestol that is a potent stimulator of LDL cholesterol levels. When brewed with a paper filter, the cafestol gets left behind in the filter. French press coffee, Turkish coffee, and boiled coffees have the highest levels of cafestol.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to experiment with giving up coffee and caffeine for a while to see how your body responds. While one cup of coffee in the morning shouldn’t be a problem for most people, I frequently see it abused and the habit unable to be controlled. It’s the reliance on caffeine (laden with sugar and creamers) to get us through the day at the expense of nourishing foods that’s the real problem.

If you want to learn how to control your caffeine habit and limit its negative impact, follow these simple tips:

  1. coffee habitDrink your morning coffee WITH breakfast. Don’t let the appetite suppression effect trick you into thinking you don’t need to eat breakfast.
  2. Don’t consume caffeine in the afternoon.
  3. Skip the “creamers” and sugar. Drink it black or with real cream or milk.
  4. Drink plenty of water to counteract the diuretic effect.
  5. Make sure you’re eating plenty of mineral-rich foods. You may want to consider taking a multi-mineral complex to replace those lost through coffee.
  6. Drink coffee made with paper filters.
  7. Switch to decaf.
  8. If you suffer regularly from fatigue or brain fog, consider upgrading your diet to provide you with lasting energy.
  9. Switch to herbal teas for your warm drink fix.
  10. If you suffer from GI issues, avoid caffeine completely.

Hormones and The Well Nourished Body

Have PMS Stress? Listen in to our FREE tele seminar Wednesday, August 28th!

PMSIf you’ve worked with me at all, you know I hold you to a higher standard of health than “fine.” So many of us put up with seasonal colds, allergies, headaches, digestive issues, aches and pains, and PMS because these things are normal, so we don’t give them a second thought.

I want you to feel better than normal, I want you to feel GREAT! Having a well nourished body allows you to feel, look, and operate at your best – and this applies to your hormones too!

About 80% of women suffer from PMS due to hormone imbalances. Unfortunately, many of us put up with uncomfortable and irritating symptoms simply because we think it’s just a normal part of being a woman.

I’m here to hold you to a higher standard. When you have a well nourished body, it’s possible to:

  • Hardly notice your period until (surprise!) you see a spot of blood
  • Have regular periods, about every 28 days, with no spotting in-between or flooding during
  • Maintain a stable weight throughout your menstrual cycle
  • Experience eight hours of sleep each night
  • Feel content and energetic – you might even graduate from couple’s therapy!
  • Experience smooth menopause, with balanced levels of estrogen and progesterone

Don’t settle for bloating, cramps, irritability, cravings, weight gain, decreased sex drive, or any other symptoms that plague you on a monthly basis. Using nourishing foods and natural therapies you can restore balance to your hormones and be free to feel like your fabulous self all the time.

logo PMS StressWant freedom from PMS? Join me and Mia Davis of Blissful Chicks Wellness on a FREE tele seminar where you’ll learn how you can conquer PMS for good.