Gut Health Gummies

Raspberry Mango Gelatin Gummies. Photograph by: Stephanie Crocker 

Raspberry Mango Gelatin Gummies. Photograph by: Stephanie Crocker 

These Gelatin Gummies are an excellent snack that are truly health-promoting! Their gummy texture is made from gelatin which, unlike common Jello, contains amino acids that promote healthy growth. Store-bought Jello or similar products have artificial sweeteners and colors. However, high quality gelatin can be a super healing addition to almost any diet, especially for those aiming to improve gut, mental, joint or skin health.

Get the Glow

Gelatin is cooked collagen, and it contains large amounts of the amino acids glycine and proline. Both of these amino acids are critical for our body's production of collagen, a major structural protein found everywhere in the body. Collagen can be softer (cartilage) or more firm (tendons). Since collagen is a primary element of skin, gelatin is excellent for skin health, and often recommended for reducing wrinkles and attaining a radiant “glow” to the skin. Gelatin can be found most commonly in slow cooked bone broths, as well as in supplemental form.

Amino Acid Glycine

The glycine found in gelatin aids in the metabolism of methionine, which is found in high amounts in meat. Too much methionine (without sufficient glycine) can lead to toxic levels of homocysteine, which has been associated as a high risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Glycine is also excellent for blood sugar support, reducing sugar cravings, improving cellular energy production, inhibiting muscle spasms, and for liver detoxification support.

Gut Health and More

It must also be highlighted that gelatin is super soothing to the gastrointestinal tract, which is why it’s often used by those with intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome. It helps to restore healthy mucosal lining in the stomach and enhance gastric acid secretion. Furthermore, gelatin helps to keep fluid in the digestive tract, allowing for nice-n-easy bowel movements. The collagen in gelatin is also helpful for joint and musculoskeletal health. As mentioned, ligaments, cartilage and tendons all contain high levels of structural protein collagen.

Who Should Consider Gelatin

I would recommend gelatin-rich foods for anyone recovering from surgery/injury, dealing with joint conditions like osteoarthritis, or for athletes/anyone who exercises frequently. Additionally, because glycine plays such an important role in building and growing the body, gelatin is important for both pregnant women and children. As pregnancy progresses, the demands for glycine also increase. Children grow at an especially rapid rate, so glycine will continue to play an important role in building a strong body as they get older.

Last but not least, gelatin can be a great dietary supplement for soothing the nervous system. Personally, I’ve found a warm mug of bone broth to be gently grounding and stress-relieving.

Getting it in the Diet

The best way to add gelatin-rich foods to the diet is in the form of slow-cooked bone broths, or by way of supplemental gelatin. I believe bone broths are just now beginning to make their way back into our modern kitchens, and several companies and restaurants are beginning to catch on. While bone broths from pasture-raised animals would be ideal, I’m offering an alternative via Gelatin Gummies! These little gummies are so easy to make and can be less intimidating than bone broth. They’re an excellent treat for kids, as the texture is just like jello and can be sweetened naturally with fruit or honey.

The brand of gelatin I like is Great Lakes, and this is the one that gels nicely for gummies like the ones below. As a note, whole protein gelatin will gel, while hydrolyzed collagen will not gel but can be used to easily add to smoothies, cold liquids, etc.

Simple Raspberry Mango Gelatin Gummies

  • 2 cups raspberries*

  • 1 whole mango, peeled and roughly chopped  

  • 1 cup filtered water

  • 3 tbsp high quality gelatin

  • 1-2 tbsp honey (optional)

1. Blend the raspberries, mango, and water until smooth. *Note: For the raspberries, I just buy frozen ones, then let them defrost before blending.

2. Strain the blended mixture through a fine mesh sieve, or using a nut milk bag, into a medium pot. If you don't mind the tiny seeds from the raspberries, you can skip this step.

3. Gently warm the pot on the stovetop. Do not let it get to a boil. Once warm, whisk in the gelatin 1 tbsp at a time. Make sure the gelatin you've added is thoroughly dissolved before adding the next tablespoon.

4. Pour the gelatin mixture into an 8x8 inch glass pan, or pour the mixture into silicone molds. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Once solidified, cover tightly and keep stored in the refrigerator. Gummies will last 3-5 days.

Variations:

There are so many variations you can do with this recipe. Try adding in lime, lemon, or ginger juice. Or, use different fruits like orange and pineapple.


This post also appears Cherish.us, a website that offers wisdom, inspiration, and resources for the modern parent. 


Try This: Rosemary Water

I love rosemary in savory dishes, like rosemary almond crackers, or roasted rosemary sunchokes/potatoes.

But recently I’ve been enjoying it’s robust, piney flavor in my water!

Benefits

It’s a great addition to regular ‘ole H20 during the work day. Not only does it give a nice hint of flavor, but rosemary has been shown to increase concentration by encouraging blood flow to the brain (1).  

Additionally, it’s stimulating to the immune and digestive system. Historically, rosemary has been revered for its power to help memory, and present day studies also support this. A 2012 study found that rosemary can have objective effects on cognitive performance, enhancing the performance for overall quality of memory, as well as subjective effects on mood, including feeling more alert (2).

Explore & Harvest

Do yourself a favor by getting outside, moving your body, maybe getting a bit of sunlight as you search for a rosemary bush nearby. They’re an evergreen and available year round, making them a sturdy herb for most home gardens. Many folks have giant bushes growing, plenty for you to take a little sprig, or keep your eyes peeled during your next hike. And if you don't already have a rosemary plant, consider growing your own. It’s a great indoor plant that can live happily in a pot and doesn’t need too much watering.

How to Make

Keep things simple and just add an entire sprig or two to your water. Since it’s so pungent, it’ll hold well with several steeps. I like to add a big sprig to my water bottle and enjoy the flavor all day, or put a couple sprigs in a pitcher and let steep overnight.

Alternatively, you can take the rosemary leaves off the stem and roughly chop them before adding to the water, but then you’ll want to strain before drinking the water (unless you want to chew the herbs).


Let me know if you give it a try!

Men Like Cooking Parties

A few weeks ago, a fellow Oakland Fitness Company member approached me about doing a cooking class. When he told me it would be for his all-male team at work, my first reaction was: what a great idea.

I found it so refreshing that he chose this activity for his crew. I know plenty of men who love cooking, but it's not very often that I hear of men getting together and bonding over new recipes in the kitchen. Plus, what better way to support healthy relationships and a happy culture at work than with a BYOB cooking party!

And, not to gender stereotype, but I was a little hesitant if the other men on the team would be down for this, mainly because that same night was an NBA playoff game...

However, I set those concerns aside because I was excited; cooking classes are my favorite thing to teach, and I always feel energized and inspired by the participants.

The Menu 

When drafting the menu, I combined seasonal inspiration with practicality. What flavors do I enjoy in the summertime? What dishes would be easy to bring to summer potlucks? Which recipes could they recreate for their special lady or partner? From there, I came up with six different recipes, all with a latin flair.

The Party

We did the cooking party at Homegrown Oakland and our theme was Summer Fiesta. My sous chef Anna and I set up stations all around the cafe with recipe guidelines. I started off with a small introduction for each recipe, highlighting an ingredient or demonstrating a knife skill or cooking technique. Then, the men organized themselves into pairs, and I cut them loose to tackle whichever recipe looked most intriguing.

The Experience

I have to say, this class was a blast.  

These guys got really into it. They had great questions, and some even came prepared with aprons (adorable!) or their own knives. The basketball game was streamed on someone’s ipad, of course, but this really didn’t distract anyone. 

Amidst a bit of friendly competition and a lot of brotherly-like ragging, each group completed their recipe with enthusiasm and everything tasted delish.

The greatest part about this class was witnessing their camaraderie. It was clear this group of people worked well together, and even if some didn’t, the opportunity to bond and connect over a fun and novel experience would surely have a positive impact on their relationship, which would then transfer over into the workplace.

Host Your Own Cooking Party 

If you’re interested in hosting a cooking party, please contact me! Participating in new, novel experiences is fun and, according to author Gretchen Rubin, a great way to contribute to your own happiness. 

Thank you so much Woolsey McKernon for getting your men together for a cooking party, and for all the guys at CleanFund for being such great sports during the class.

All About Gluten

Photo by: Stephanie Crocker 

Photo by: Stephanie Crocker 

Due to the protein gluten, wheat is one of the eight most common foods that account for about 90% of allergic reactions in the U.S.* Why? Unfortunately, most of the wheat grown today is exposed to pesticides, chemicals, molds and fungi. It has also been hybridized to be more palatable (giving cookies and breads that soft, chewy feeling) and many of our digestive systems haven’t adapted to properly digest gluten. Because it is so cheap to grow, wheat and/or gluten is included in many common packaged and processed foods, including pastries, salad dressings, sauces, condiments, meats and soups. This has led to overexposure, and many individuals’ digestive systems have not adapted.

In our bodies, gluten can trigger the immune system and cause inflammation in the intestinal tract. Those with celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders, like hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis, are allergic to gluten, which triggers the body’s immune system. Ask your doctor about an allergy test for you (or your kids) if you suspect you (or he/she) might have a gluten allergy.

Even for those without such conditions, sensitivities to gluten or other proteins found in wheat can still exist. Some individuals have sensitivities that provoke delayed reactions, making the link between food and symptoms difficult to detect.

Whether or not you have a known allergy or sensitivity, eliminating gluten from your diet can help improve overall health. Adopting a gluten-free diet may improve your health directly, by eliminating sugar and carb cravings, stabilizing mood, increasing energy and eventually decreasing inflammation, and indirectly, due to eliminating processed foods in which gluten often hides, causing a shift toward a more whole foods-based diet, increasing mindful eating, and ultimately resulting in weight loss.

Gluten has found its way into many foods, and can hide in some unexpected locations. Since gluten is not included on nutrition facts labels, always read ingredient lists and keep an eye out for other words that mean gluten.

Common food sources of hidden gluten:

  • vegetable cooking sprays

  • artificial coffee creamers

  • bouillon cubes or powder

  • imitation seafood products

  • ground spices

  • chewing gum (some are dusted with wheat starch)

Food labels that mean “gluten”:

  • hydrolyzed plant/vegetable protein

  • modified food starch (from corn or wheat)

  • monosodium glutamate (MSG)

  • gelatinized starch

  • natural flavorings, fillers

  • white grain vinegar

  • rice malt / syrup

  • dextrin, malt, maltodextrin

Non-food items commonly containing gluten:

  • makeup

  • shampoo

  • lipstick and lip balm

  • sunscreen

  • laundry detergents

  • toothpaste and mouthwash

  • lotions and creams

Food products containing gluten can easily be replaced with health-enhancing whole foods that are delicious and satisfying. Main meals that include wheat can be replaced with starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams or many varieties of squash. There are also non-gluten grains and flours that replace many gluten sources. For instance, coconut or almond flour instead of wheat flour, or 100% buckwheat soba noodles instead of whole wheat pasta.

Gluten containing grains: wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats if cross-contaminated

Non-gluten grains: millet, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, non-GMO corn, amaranth

Non-gluten flours: coconut flour, potato starch flour, oat flour (if not cross-contaminated), tapioca flour, teff flour

There are hundreds of naturally gluten-free recipes and cookbooks available to experiment with. Or, you can adapt your favorite recipes to replace wheat flour; when converting a wheat recipe to a gluten-free one, try the following combination:

  • Two parts rice flour

  • Two-thirds potato starch flour

  • One-third tapioca flour

  • Also add extra egg and leavening

Most importantly, recognize that everyone’s body is different, and while there are certainly rules of thumb that will improve your health (like eating less processed/more whole foods), there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Learn to eat intuitively, listen to your body and identify how various foods make you feel.

*Other top allergens include dairy, nuts, soy and egg.


This post also appears Cherish.us, a website that offers wisdom, inspiration, and resources for the modern parent. 


Hidden Sources of Sugar

Photo by: Stephanie Crocker

Photo by: Stephanie Crocker

Here’s the bitter truth: sugar has no nutrients. And even though many of us think we don’t eat much sugar, upon closer look, we may be eating far more than our recommended daily value.

Many people are shocked to learn where sugar really hides. Some of the most unassuming foods, like salad dressings, meats or “healthy” bars are laced with added sugar. Additionally, sugar is often listed under unrecognizable names, like dextrose for instance, or added in just the right amount per serving so that it’s not listed on food labels.

Why Am I so Addicted to Sugar?

As humans we are naturally hard-wired to seek and enjoy sugar. Biologically, sweet tastes trigger “feel good” chemicals like dopamine and endorphins, which make us feel fantastic and want more sweet things.

This innate love for sugar was once critical for our survival. Long ago when we were hunters and gatherers, our lifestyles were active and we needed the dense calories found in sugar. The taste of sweet was also an indicator of something to be non poisonous. Back then, sugar was scarce, and the wild fruits that contained sugar were much smaller and less sweet than our fruits today.

Sugar’s Impact on the Body

Refined white sugar has no redeeming health benefits, period. A simple google search for “sugar health risks” will pull up plenty of articles on this, but below are some of the main points. Personally, the main reason I do my best to steer clear of sugar is for my daily sanity. I find that once I start eating sugar, all I can think about are other sweet foods. Then I’m dealing with cravings, like a nagging monkey on my back, constantly clamoring for my next sugar fix!

Too much sugar …

  • is damaging to the liver, the main organ used for detoxification

  • can be de-stabilizing to hormones like insulin and leptin which are important for healthy metabolism and weight

  • causes an unhealthy balance of gut flora

  • is pro-inflammatory

  • is associated with common health problems including type II diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension

  • can cause negative psychological responses, stimulating the reward/pleasure part of our brain that makes us want more sweets, leading to cravings and unhealthy habits with food

Be a Sugar Detective

It’s pretty obvious that sugar is found in foods like pastries, cereals, and beverages, but some of the less common foods with added sugar include:

  • salad dressings

  • ketchup and BBQ sauce

  • gum

  • canned soups

  • nut butters

  • yogurt

  • dried fruit

  • “healthy” bars and granola bars

  • granola

  • sausages

  • beef jerky

  • tomato sauce

  • many fat-free processed foods

The best thing to do when looking for sugar in a food product is to go straight to the ingredients list. Forget what it says on the packaging and nutrition label. Even foods that say “0g of sugar" in the nutrition label can contain sugar, and in many cases, the per serving amount is much less than what is typically consumed. When reading ingredient lists, look for:

Typical sugar words: cane sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, rice syrup, agave nectar

Other words that mean sugar: fruit juice concentrate, corn sweetener, maltodextrin, evaporated cane juice/syrup

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols come from plant derivatives and typically have fewer calories than table sugar, or sucrose. Many foods labeled “sugar-free” have these alcohols. In some cases, they have fewer calories simply because the body can’t absorb them and they often have a laxative effect. However, these sugar alcohols have the same effect on the body as regular sugar: 

  • sorbitol

  • xylitol

  • mannitol

  • ribitol

  • arabitol

  • glycerol/glycerin

  • isomalt

  • maltitol

Words ending in -ose:

  • fructose

  • ribose

  • sucrose

  • dextrose

  • lactose

  • maltose

What About Fruit?

The main problem with sugar is really added sugar, artificial sweeteners, or refined white sugar - not sugar naturally occurring in whole foods like fruits. Fruits do indeed contain sugar; however, they also contain other vitamins and minerals, and most importantly fiber. Fiber slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and also makes us physically full, preventing us from eating too much. Sugar, naturally occurring in food the way Mother Nature made it, is not something to be concerned about the way man-made, refined sugars are.

You may be thinking, “Oh great, sugar’s in everything! How am I supposed to stay away from it?” Once you develop the awareness about what ingredients, like sugar, are in your foods, you can make informed decisions for yourself and your family. You can look twice at your child’s snacks, or stay mindful of sweet cravings by asking yourself if you’ve had other sweet things the previous couple days. The reality is, it’s really hard to go 100% sugar free all of the time in this fast-paced, modern world, and it’s up to you to determine how much sugar is okay in your diet. This will depend on your current health condition, as well as how much time, energy, and resources you have to make your own food or buy the more natural options. If making a sugar-free marinade from scratch feels completely out of your range of possibilities, then by all means buy a pre-made one so that you can feed your family a delicious dinner! Or maybe instead of using artificial sweeteners, like Splenda or Equal, try using natural ones like honey, maple syrup or dates. Stay mindful and informed, and do the best you can!


This post also appears Cherish.us, a website that offers wisdom, inspiration, and resources for the modern parent. 


The BEST Summertime Popsicles

I recently wrote a post for Cherish.us about healthy breakfast popsicles, and now all I can think about are different flavor combinations! 

Before I started recipe testing, I went to the farmer's market and got the juiciest stone fruit and sweetest berries I could find.

From there, I thought about typical flavor combinations in other seasonal dishes, such as a peach cobbler (peaches and vanilla ice cream), fresh berry water (berries and mint), or summer salads (cucumber, tomato, basil), etc. 

This is usually what I do when thinking of any recipe as a starting place and inspiration. 

Since then, I've been jotting down ideas that come to me in the most random moments (while running, or right before I wake up) and I can't wait to keep testing and sharing all summer long!

Keep reading to learn how to build your own pops, and check out two of my favorite recipes at the end: Honey Peach and Blackberry Coconut  


Building Your Popsicles


Once you learn the basics, the sky's the limit on flavor combinations. Here are a couple ways to make sure your popsicles are ideal for breakfast, and not full of sugar.
 

Bases:
Personally, I prefer a nice creamy base that gives a popsicle some full body (because yes these popsicles are good for adults too!). My two favorite options:

Full-fat Greek yogurt - Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt because it has been strained to remove the liquid whey and lactose. For this reason, it has a slightly more tangy taste, but that can be balanced with some natural sweetness. Greek yogurt is an excellent protein source (always great to start the day with some protein) and the full-fat variety offers beneficial acids and fat-soluble vitamins A and K. If you choose greek yogurt, thin it out with a bit of almond milk or coconut milk until it’s about the consistency of regular yogurt.

Full-fat coconut milk - The full fat variety of coconut milk contains lauric acid, which is very beneficial due to its antiviral and antibacterial properties. In fact, the only other abundant source of lauric acid is breast milk! Additionally, coconut’s medium chain fats are efficiently used as energy by the body, meaning this type of fat is likely to be burned and not stored. If you choose full fat coconut milk (from the can), the fat will have risen to the top, so blitz all contents in a blender until combined.

Other bases:

  • Kefir
  • Almond Milk
  • Coconut milk (boxed variety)
  • Coconut water

Flavorings:
Seasonal fruit will have the best flavor, full of natural sweetness. To enhance the natural sweetness of berries or stone fruit, for example, cook them down in a small pot until they’re syrupy, mashing them with a wooden spoon to release their juices. No added sugar necessary.
Here are some of my favorite summertime fruits:

  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Peaches (white and yellow)
  • Nectarines (white and yellow)
  • Pluots
  • Apricots

Additional sweeteners:

  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Dates (blended with your base, or cut into small pieces)
  • Frozen fruit (works really well when cooked down)
  • Vanilla extract 

Add-In’s
Finally, add in some texture to keep things interesting and promote chewing for optimal digestion:

  • Chia seeds
  • Coconut flakes, toasted
  • Slivered almonds
  • Banana slices/ kiwi slices or whole pieces of whichever fruit you choose 

Also, don’t forget about herbs, like basil and mint, for another fun twist!

 


Honey Peach Popsicles
 

Makes 10 popsicles

  • 2 yellow peaches
  • 2 white peaches
  • 16 oz full fat greek yogurt
  • Honey, to taste
  • Kefir, optional

Materials: popsicle molds and wooden popsicle sticks (depending on your mold)

  1. Rough chop the peaches. Add them to a small pot and place over low heat with a splash of water.
  2. Allow the peaches to heat up for about 5-10 minutes, while breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon to release their juices. Once the peaches cook down and begin to get syrupy, turn off the heat and let cool. (The longer you cook them, the sweeter they become!)
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt and honey. Start with about 3-4 tablespoons of honey, taste, and add more if you like.
  4. To thin out the yogurt/honey mixture, add a few tablespoons of kefir, or other milk such as almond. The consistency should be similar to regular yogurt (pourable, but still thick).
  5. To make the popsicles, layer the peaches and yogurt, adding one spoonful of each until the popsicle mold is full.
  6. Gently tap the popsicle molds to allow the contents to set and for some air bubbles to arise.
  7. Place in the wooden popsicle sticks, and allow to freeze over night. 

 

Blackberry Coconut Popsicles

Makes 10 popsicles

  • 16 oz full fat coconut milk, from a can
  • maple syrup or dates, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1.5 cups blackberries, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut shreds, toasted 

Materials: popsicle molds and wooden popsicle sticks (depending on your mold)

  1. First, set your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Once at temperature, toast coconut flakes for 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they burn easily. 
  2. Next, blend the coconut milk, maple syrup or dates, and vanilla in a blender until well combined. Taste and add more sweetness via dates or maple syrup. 
  3. Rough chop all the berries. Wear an apron if you have juicy ones! 
  4. In the popsicle molds, add a small spoonful of toasted coconut flakes, then coconut milk, then berries; continuously layering until each mold is full. 
  5. Optional: as in the Honey Peach recipe, you can cook down the berries if you want a sweeter taste
  6. Freeze over night and enjoy! 

 

 

 

Natural Moisturizers for Glowing Skin

Summer and What TrueWellness Means

Every year on the summer solstice is my favorite festival: Sierra Nevada World Music Festival.

Four full days of camping, sunbathing by the river, dancing barefoot, connecting with my dearest friends, and losing myself to the heavy bass of live music: all important non-food related parts of #truewellness.

Enjoying, doing whatever you do to feel free, and connecting deeply with others - these are all examples of, in my opinion, what it means to be truly well and balanced. I give a lot of energy sharing and guiding on food, but relaxing, having fun, and social connection are not to be underestimated. So if you’re stressing or worrying about eating the “right” foods to feel your best, just know that sometimes it’s not always about the food.

Natural Moisturizers

I always come back from SNWMF sun-kissed and ready to wear summer clothes. Bare shoulders and legs means a little extra love for my skin.

Here are my favorite natural moisturizers to keep that golden summer glow:  

Coconut Oil: By far my favorite! Most of you probably already have coconut oil in the kitchen, so put some in a jar to keep in the bathroom too. This oil can be used for almost anything - eating, cooking, for your hair, skin, or even for moisturizing your wooden cutting board. When buying coconut oil to eat or cook with, choose extra-virgin, as it is less refined. For use on your skin, you can save a few bucks by buying refined coconut oil and still get all the moisturizing benefits.

Almond Oil: if you don’t want to smell like coconuts, try almond oil. I like to place almond oil on skin that is still wet, as I find it helps spread and absorb easily. Both almond and coconut oil are great to bring poolside or to the beach as a natural tanning agent (of course if you have fair skin, apply after sunscreen!).

Rosehip Seed Oil: allow yourself some luxury with this beauty-enhancing oil! I love this for my face and use it as part of my bedtime routine. Rosehip seed oil has been used for centuries and is often used in many natural skin care products. It’s harvested from the seeds of rose bushes and full of antioxidants that can help with dark spots and fine lines. Cold-pressed organic rosehip oil would be best, but make the best choice for your budget.

There are tons of other natural oils out there, but these are just the ones in my bathroom right now. Which oils do you use?

 

 

 

 

From Sugar Bomb to Balanced Meal: Smart Smoothies

Smoothie bowl topped with strawberries, bee pollen, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and quinoa puffs 

Smoothie bowl topped with strawberries, bee pollen, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and quinoa puffs 

First, a story: 

Several years ago, I worked as a Vitamix demonstrator.

If you don’t already know, a Vitamix is a brand of high powered blenders. Vitamix machines have the same horsepower as a lawn mower, and sell anywhere between $400-$700+.

At the time I had this job, I was eating a high raw/vegan diet, and green smoothies were part of my daily regimen. Because of this, I was a great salesperson and could talk to people for DAYS about different ideas for smoothies.

But as  I shared my ideas, something interesting happened: I realized my idea of a healthy smoothie was completely different than that of the general public.

Chocolate smoothie bowl with raw cacao nibs, coconut flakes, and gluten-free coconut granola 

Chocolate smoothie bowl with raw cacao nibs, coconut flakes, and gluten-free coconut granola 

People would show me what they had in their carts, or tell me what smoothie they had that morning. Their creations were often concoctions full of fruit and juice, PLUS MORE SUGAR, often in the form of agave nectar.

While many people have the best motives for making a smoothie, their well-intentioned morning shake often ends up with more sugar than a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal (~15 grams/cup).

Problems & Solutions 

Here are some of the problems I’ve noticed with most smoothies, as well as solutions for how to ensure your smoothie is as nourishing as you intend it to be:

Problem: They’re Sugar Bombs. Typically, smoothies blend together multiple fruits, and some even use juices, sweetened yogurt, or sorbet. While fruits can be a healthy part of one’s diet, too many together can be too high in sugar for a single meal. What intends to be a health-promoting meal, quickly turns into the worst nightmare for your blood sugar, leaving you hungry just two hours later and wanting more sweet foods.

Solution: Stick to just one fruit. I love any berry, especially blueberries ( 1 full cup). And if you normally put a piece of fruit + a banana, try replacing the banana with a peeled zucchini or ¼ avocado. Both will add the creaminess you’re looking for. Additionally, if you want creamy goodness without the sugar, try some full fat plain yogurt/greek yogurt. Or try mango, as it also mimics the texture of banana and adds plenty of sweet flavor.

Problem: They’re imbalanced. Since smoothies are based on fruits and other sweet bases like orange juice or apple juice, they’re super high in carbohydrates and sugar, with almost no whole food protein or fat. This means they spike blood sugar and leave you hungry (which often means eating a lot more at your next meal, craving foods that will fill you up like pizza or burritos, or wanting sweet treats).

Solution: Incorporate healthy fats. Healthy fats help to trigger satiation. That’s why some people who eat a non-fat smoothie (or who follow a non-fat diet) can be hungry only 1-2 hours after eating. The fat is what keeps us full, signaling to your brain via the hormone leptin that you’re satisfied and don’t need to eat anymore.

Additionally, the valuable nutrients found in fruits/vegetables are fat soluble, meaning they need to be coupled with a fat source in order for our bodies to actually absorb them. So, if you’re loading your smoothie with kale and spinach, but there’s no fat to help absorb their nutrients, you’re not actually getting the vitamins and minerals you want. Fat can also regulate blood sugar balance, so that the naturally occurring sugars in fruits are released slowly into the bloodstream for more even energy.

Super green no-fruit smoothie with MCT oil for optimal nutrient absorption 

Super green no-fruit smoothie with MCT oil for optimal nutrient absorption 

My favorite whole food fats to add are avocado, hemp seeds, almond butter, coconut oil, coconut butter, or MCT oil.

Problem: Digestion & Absorption. Since smoothies are liquid and eaten on-the-go, they’re often slurped down too quickly.

Solution: CHEW! All foods, (whether juice, smoothie, solid foods) need to be chewed well in order to be digested and absorbed by the body. Digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing promotes the release of salivary amylase (which breaks down carbohydrates) and lingual lipase (which breaks down fats).

Chewing also sends signals to your body that it’s time to rest, relax, and take in some nutrients. The body should be in parasympathetic mode, i.e. “rest and digest” mode (so drinking your breakfast while on-the-go while driving in traffic isn’t ideal for a meal).

To encourage chewing, try eating your smoothie out of a bowl, like a soup. Adorn your smoothie with some crunchy toppings like cacao nibs, toasted coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, bee pollen, or some whole pieces of whatever fruit you were using. Enjoy the texture, and slow down. You may have to wake up ½ an hour earlier to eat breakfast in this way, but your body will thank you with better nutrient absorption and more satiation.

Smoothie bowl with white chia seeds, cacao nibs, coconut flakes, and bee pollen 

Smoothie bowl with white chia seeds, cacao nibs, coconut flakes, and bee pollen 

Try This: Create a Meal Ritual

Meal rituals can be simple - adding fresh herbs awakens the senses. Watermelon plus mint and mint water 

Meal rituals can be simple - adding fresh herbs awakens the senses. Watermelon plus mint and mint water 

Food serves many purposes; as comfort, to celebrate, or for bonding. I love a great meal with friends or family, when the focus is about enjoyment and connecting.

But there can be a darker side of using food for purposes beyond fuel for our bodies. Food can easily be used as a distraction, dealing with stress, or for filling an emotional void. And in most cases, the types of food desired are not typically fish and steamed vegetables, but rather sweets or salty foods that are neither health-promoting nor energy-giving.

Try This: Create a Meal Ritual

Creating a ritual - whether with a snack or full meal - can help to bring back the true purpose of food as nourishment. A meal ritual can help bring attention to your body, and allow yourself to come into parasympathetic mode, or “rest and digest” mode. In this state, your physical body is best able to break down and absorb food. Mentally, it can remind you to be present, and enjoy your food.

You can create your own meal ritual with something as simple as taking a deep breath before eating. What exactly you do isn’t as important as doing it with intention. Here are a few other practices you can consider when creating your own meal ritual:

eat outside and allow nature to bring you into parasympathetic mode

eat outside and allow nature to bring you into parasympathetic mode

  • Say one gratitude
  • Turn off or remove all electronic devices (TV, cell phone, computer)
  • Remove any other stimuli - even an innocent good book or magazine
  • Light a candle
  • Use a real plate
  • Set out a placemat and silverware
  • Take 1-3 deep breaths before picking up your fork
  • Recite a prayer
  • Make your food look beautiful, how you would for a guest
  • Set your timer for 1 minute to simply look at your food and smell the aromas
  • Eat outside in the sunlight and take a moment to feel the warmth on your skin

Personal Benefits

Personally, having a meal ritual helps me feel satisfied after eating. My meal ritual allows me to hit the pause button and come to present moment awareness. When I take the time to slow down to really chew and taste my food, I’m able to fully enjoy it.

On the flip side, if I don’t slow down, I often find myself eating mindlessly (while trying to work at the same time), and before I know it, the food is gone. I’ve then missed that time to check-in with myself, and I’m still looking for something else to satiate my mind or calm my anxiety.

I’ve also found meal rituals to be helpful for emotional eating. I have a tendency to eat when stressed, walking to the kitchen when something feels hard to do. Before practicing mindful eating with a meal ritual, I would just keep going back for more and more snacks, eating an entire bag of something, with little progress on whatever stressful task, and now dealing with guilt and frustration. Now, even if I decide to have a snack as an emotional pacifier, if I take time to enjoy it and give it my full awareness, the ritual brings the space I need to just relax.

What I do

When I first tried doing a meal ritual, it felt a little awkward because I often eat alone. I felt like I needed to have something to do or something to look at so I wouldn’t be lonely. With practice, though, I’m now quite comfortable turning all my attention to myself and my food.

My meal ritual consists of two things: saying a gratitude, and removing my cell phone. I try to say a gratitude about something simple and specific, like how thankful I am that my partner does laundry, or how amazing it was that my friend from the east coast called me out of the blue. I then try to chew, really chew, and just taste. If you experiment with chewing, you’ll find that the taste changes a bit as the salivary enzymes begin mixing with the food.

When I eat with my partner, we say a sweet little prayer. The prayer comes from his side of the family, and my favorite part is the ending “ommm” (“om” like in your yoga class).

Earth who gave to us this food

Sun who made it ripe and good

Sun above and earth below

Our loving thanks to you we show

Amen

Blessings on our meal

Our family and our friends

Peace on earth

Begins at hommme

Other Resources

Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Eat offers small meditations on mindful eating. Keep this little book by your table and read a page before a meal.

Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, is a more in-depth guide on how to implement mindful eating.


 

Beet & Blood Orange Salad

Liven up your next potluck gathering with this brightly colored salad! The deep purple and red from the beets and blood oranges are perfectly highlighted with the white from shaved fennel. Throw in some pink grapefruit and garnish with the fennel stems for an eye-catching, vibrant dish! 

Nutritional Highlights

Beets are excellent for the liver as they stimulate the detoxification process. Betacyanin gives beets their stunning pigment, and is also a great cancer-fighting agent. The fiber content of beets is also excellent for optimal bowel function and cholesterol levels. Although not nearly as sweet as the root, beet greens are edible and offer comparably higher amounts of calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C. 

Fennel is a star among herbalists, due to it's many healing effects on the gastrointestinal tract. It can also be useful for symptoms of menopause, as fennel contains phytoestrogens (isoflavones that can prevent the body's estrogen from binding to its receptors).  Fennel is often used to: 

  • relieve intestinal spasms
  • expel gas
  • strengthen the stomach 
  • soothe pain 

Beet & Blood Orange Salad

  • 2-3 large beets, roasted and cubed 
  • 2 blood oranges, peeled with a knife to remove white pith, and cubed 
  • 1 large ruby red grapefruit, peeled with a knife to remove white pith, and cubed 
  • 1 fennel bulb, core removed, shaved thinly with a mandolin 
  • fennel stems, green tips, for garnish 

Blood Orange Vinaigrette:

  • ~1/4 cup blood orange juice 
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1/4 scant teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper 

Directions: 

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake vigorously to combine. Alternatively, add to a blender and blitz just until combined. 

For the salad, in a large bowl toss all ingredients, except the fennel, together with the dressing. Transfer the salad to a serving dish and top with fennel shavings (tossing the fennel with the beets and citrus fruits will turn it pink! The pure white adds a nice pop :) Garnish with fennel stem ends and enjoy!