Give Teas a Chance

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As a Health Coach, I get asked a lot of questions about coffee and tea. So I’d like to clear up some myths, answer some commonly asked questions, and share with you the joys and benefits of TEA! I find no matter what the season, many people (including me) love the ritual of making and sipping tea. And with new studies showing the extraordinary health benefits of tea – including Matcha tea – I want to make sure you have the latest wellness information. Whether you drink it hot, iced, or at room temperature, I think you’ll find new reasons to love tea!

Now is a great time to learn about the benefits of tea and why you might want to swap out your coffee for tea, add it to your day, or continue drinking it if you’re already a tea-lover.

Tea dates back to 2700 B.C. According to an article published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chinese legend says that leaves from an Camellia sinensis plant fell into Emperor Shennong's cup of boiling water – and tea was born, brewed and boosted around the world for its soothing qualities and powerful health benefits.

In the past two years, scientists have conducted more than 30 studies on the health benefits and disease-fighting properties of tea, with nearly 1 million participants. That’s a lot of research! I’ve culled the findings below into several overall benefits. So put the kettle on and discover the health benefits of tea!

The Health and Wellness Benefits of Tea

Cancer-prevention. Tea contains powerful antioxidants that help reduce and repair free radicals in our body. Free radicals are the molecules that cause inflammation and can lead to diseases such as cancer. Herbal and green teas are less processed, and are the best choices to get your antioxidants.

Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease. Black tea has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, while green tea has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Green tea has the highest amount of polyphenols. Polyphenols are particularly powerful in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and osteoporosis.

Weight loss. Some studies have found that tea may help you lose weight and reduce belly fat. The most effective weight-loss tea is green tea because it is high in catechins – antioxidants that can boost your metabolism and increase your body’s ability to burn fat. Other teas that may aid in weight loss are: 

  • Black tea: High in flavones, it’s associated with weight loss and lower BMI (less fat around the middle). 
  • Oolong tea: Some studies show it improves fat burning and speeds up metabolism. 
  • White tea: Early studies show it may increase fat loss.

Multiplied benefits with Matcha. If you want to maximize the health benefits of tea, Matcha tea is the powerhouse!

  • Made from baby green tea leaves ground into a powder, Matcha tea has the nutritional equivalency of 10 cups of green tea! Matcha has more antioxidants and catechins than green tea alone, so you get more of the disease-fighting and metabolism-boosting benefits.
  • One study found that Matcha has more than 100 times the amount of polyphenols as regular green tea, and more than 60 times the antioxidants as spinach.
  • A recent study (NIH) shows that the combo of phytochemicals, L-theanine and caffeine in Matcha (and green) tea improve mood and reduce brain fog.L-theanine is an amino acid known for its calming effects.
  • Matcha also has high amounts of EGCG, a component that stimulates thermogenesis, the biochemical process our bodies use to burn fat and create energy. Studies show EGCG may speed fat burning and reduce new fat cell production.
  • Matcha is still in the scientific discovery phase, so you should continue to read studies and avoid over-drinking it. (More is not necessarily better!) The recommended amount is ½ teaspoon per brewed cup, once daily. Quality matters, so be sure to buy organic Japanese matcha as there are concerns about soil contamination with Chinese matcha.

More Tea Benefits! 

  • Reduces depression. Tea (three cups a day) can lower the risk of depression by 37 percent (NIH, NLM, NCBI) and the risk of a stroke by 21 percent (AHA).
  • Reduces risk of liver disease. Tea reduces the risk of liver disease, including liver cancer, carcinoma, and cirrhosis. (NIH, NLM, NCBI).
  • Reduces risk of Type 2 diabetes. Tea (two cups) can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by nearly 5% (NIH, NLM, NCBI).
  • Reduces caffeine-related symptoms. If caffeine has a negative affect on you (contributing to anxiety or insomnia, for example) note that tea typically has 50% less caffeine. Naturally decaffeinated tea is considered healthier than the chemical process used to remove caffeine from tea (and coffee). An 8-ounce cup of tea using one tea bag, brewed for three to five minutes, has 40 mg of caffeine; a cup of brewed coffee contains 100 mg. For those who still struggle with caffeine-related symptoms even with less caffeine, there are many varieties of naturally caffeine-free tea, including hibiscus, chamomile, rooibos, and most herbal teas.

And as if all these benefits weren’t enough, the ritual of simply making a cup of tea has a calming, relaxing effect for many people. 

I’d love to hear how you enjoy tea! Please share with a comment below or post on my Instagram or Facebook page!

What Can Detoxing Do for You?

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Detoxing has become a popular way for people to restore their health, jumpstart their metabolism and kick off a weight-loss or clean-eating program. There are many reasons a detox can be beneficial, and done right, detoxing does a great job of helping you achieve those goals.

However, there are many different ways to detox, and the process you choose should be based on your individual needs, challenges, goals, and preferences. Don't just jump on the detox bandwagon without doing your research first! Beware of any program that requires extreme calorie deprivation or prolonged fasting, even juice fasting, as these extreme protocols can do more harm than good.

While healthy eating and/or detoxing should not feel like an exercise in depriving yourself, nearly all programs include refraining from one main food that may be the cause of many of the symptoms people suffer from most – fatigue, bloating, moodiness, headaches, congestion, itchiness, and stomach upset issues of one kind or another. That one food is sugar.

Consuming sugar does more than cause weight gain; it causes inflammation, belly fat storage, and spikes in your blood sugar that create a roller-coaster effect: it provides a burst of energy, but then it depletes your energy, so you crave MORE sugar. The more you eat, the more you want, and its effect on your body makes it nearly impossible to lose weight or reduce your symptoms.

Did you over-indulge over the holiday season? Have you been feeling more sluggish or achy than usual? Has your stomach been upset for days (weeks or years!)? Do you suffer from headaches, heartburn, or have trouble sleeping? Do you feel like your clothes have shrunk? Do you want to get back on track, feel and look fabulous and have more confidence? Would you love to fit into your skinny jeans? If you answered yes to any of these questions, embarking on a detox or clean-eating program for 10 to 21 days may be a great way to remedy your symptoms, increase your energy and lose the post-holiday padding. My best advice includes:

1) Recognize that there are many types of detoxes – they don’t all involve juicing, fasting, or deprivation. In fact, my program includes real, whole food at every meal – plus snacks, and a wide variety of easy, delicious recipes. Remember, a detox isn’t just about what you DON’T eat – it’s also about what you DO eat and how you nourish your body, mind and spirit.

2) Ask yourself how you feel, what you want and why you want it. Write it down. Don't rely on willpower for motivation! You need a driving purpose to keep you in the game. 

3) Get Support – Don't try to go it alone. Get a close friend or loved one to detox with you and/or talk to an expert who can help you determine the right approach for your individual goals. Prep week for my Reboot Your Bod 21-day winter detox starts Tuesday, January 2nd and the detox begins on Monday, January 8th. This is a great opportunity to reboot your system with a great group of like-minded people, and start the New Year feeling great! Read more about it here.

I’m happy to answer your questions about detoxing and help you find a program that’s right for you. YOU CAN DO IT. I can help you! Click here to schedule a free 50-minute Coffee Talk.

Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Fall begins the onset of shorter days and longer nights – which means our bodies receive less light. We also wake up and go to sleep to cooler temperatures. Because of these seasonal changes, many people experience changes in energy, mood swings and sleep patterns, especially here in the Northwest.

These changes can be positive or negative, or a combination. Negative changes in the way we feel due to the change of seasons is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and about 10 to 20 percent of people are affected – ranging from mild to severe cases. But did you know that the foods you eat (or don’t eat) as well as maintaining other healthy lifestyle factors can help you overcome symptoms of SAD?

If you’d like to learn more about how the change of seasons may affect you, take the assessment below, designed to increase your self-awareness and understanding. While none of us can control Mother Nature, we can learn more about how we are affected by seasonal changes and what to do to overcome symptoms of SAD.

Take the Seasonal Changes Assessment 
The steps below will help you begin to assess how the change of seasons may be affecting three areas of your life: your sleep, energy and mood. Important: If your answers show a downward trend, please talk to your doctor, health coach or trusted friend about how Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be affecting you.

Sleep Assessment: This month, check in with yourself each morning: How do you feel when you wake up?

  1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Exhausted” and 5 being “Excellent,” how would you rate how well-rested you are? 
  2. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Takes a Very Long Time” and 5 being “Very Easily” how would you rate how easily you fall asleep? 
  3. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “I Wake Up Very Frequently” and 5 being “I Don’t Wake Until Morning,” how would you rate how well you stayasleep? 
  4. As October marches on (and the days get shorter), is it harder for you to get out of bed? (Yes or No?)
  5. Are you hitting the snooze button more often? (Yes or No?)
  6. Or do you feel about the same, or even better, upon waking up? (Same or better?)

Physical Energy Assessment:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “Excellent,” and 1 being “Very Low,” how would you rate your energy level mid-morning? 
  2. On the same scale, how would you rate your energy level in the late afternoon? 
  3. As the month goes on, do you find it easier or more difficult to exercise or be physically active? (Easier/More Difficult?) 
  4. As the month goes on, do you find yourself being more or less productive at work or home? (More or Less?)

Mood Assessment: Once in the morning and once in the evening, answer these questions with a simple “more” or “less:”

  1. Do you find yourself more or less interested in your work, social happenings and/or family activities? 
  2. Do you find yourself more or less patient with others and yourself? 
  3. Do you find yourself feeling more or less happiness in your relationships?

Now that you know more about seasonal affects, what can you do? 
Do your answers show a “down” trend? This may be an indication that you are sensitive to or negatively affected by seasonal changes. Following are some simple actions that can help minimize these effects.

• Get outside! Less daylight in the fall and winter months causes some people to become more lethargic, irritable, and/or depressed. This month, focus on getting more daylight by shifting your exercise or recreational activities to the outdoors, at least 15 minutes a day. Go for a walk; ride a bike; chase after your pets or kids – it doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise. A consistent combination of daylight and physical activity can significantly improve your energy and mood.

• Prep for sleep. Because nighttime comes earlier during fall and winter, it can disrupt your circadian cycle and the summer sleep rhythm you've been used to. It’s more important than ever to turn off all electronics one to two hours before you turn in. Fall is also a great time to practice sleep-specific meditation. My new favorite is Meditainment. It’s free and lasts 21 minutes. (I always fall asleep before it finishes!)

• Eat More Omega-3s. What we eat can also affect how susceptible we are to “fall blahs” and “winter blues.” Certain foods can zap our energy, our motivation to exercise, and our good mood. Omega 3 fatty acids can help combat these symptoms. Excellent food sources of Omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, and more.

Supplement with High Quality Vitamin D. According to this article from Harvard Medical School, this is especially crucial if you live in a rainy climate like Seattle or if you live at a latitude above 37 degrees North. For you here on the West coast, that's anywhere from San Francisco North. My personal favorite is Vitamin D3 Complete by Allergy Research Group since it includes the important co-factors Vitamin A and K. If you have darker skin you need more Vitamin D that someone with a pale complexion since your natural pigment makes it harder for the sun to penetrate the dermis.

• Keep a Food Diary. A recent study found that gluten and dairy may contribute to feelings of depression or mood swings in people who are allergic or sensitive to these foods. If you have increased feelings of sadness during the fall season, try reducing or eliminating dairy and gluten from your diet and see if your outlook or mood improves. This is, of course, easier said than done, but it just takes a little getting used to and I can help you with this.

• Focus on the Food Culprits. It’s certainly not NEW news that overindulging in alcohol and sugar-laden foods can make you feel sluggish the next day. But did you know they can also increase feelings of depression? If you are negatively affected by the seasonal changes, consider eliminating sugar and alcohol consumption and test how you feel. To test if alcohol and/or sugar are contributing to your seasonal symptoms, experts suggest eliminating them for 21 to 23 days. Why three weeks? Because our bodies release antibodies to fight sensitivities and allergies, and it takes 21 to 23 days for the antibody reaction to dissipate and renew.

Need some extra support this season? I can support you with a results-oriented Wellness program. Schedule a free Coffee Talk session and let's talk!

Beating Seasonal Allergies Naturally

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Do you have a love / hate relationship with spring? Many of my clients do, because while the sun may be shining more, seasonal allergies are also kicking in making many of us miserable with hay fever, itchy skin and other nasty symptoms. This year seems to be particularly rough so far so I'm sharing my favorite non-toxic, side effect free remedies with you to help you beat allergy season without harmful or habit forming drugs.

So many people have come to rely on antihistamine drugs to control their allergy symptoms, but did you know that antihistamines can cause all kinds of nasty side effects including weight gain? Yeah, no thanks!

The good news is that there are effective natural remedies that can help keep your symptoms in check so you can get outside and enjoy the nice weather without fear of being miserable. Here is my personal combination of remedies that I've found to be more effective than pharmaceuticals. Everyone is different so these may not work for you, but I encourage you to try some different combinations to see what your body responds to best.

1. Nasal Spray - A good homeopathic nasal spray works in two ways; first it helps flush particles out of your nasal passages while keeping them moist and alleviating congestion, and second it helps regulate the body's response to allergens. I love the BioAllers Sinus & Allergy Nasal Spray, but if you're someone who's skeptical of anything that isn't mainstream, you might try the Zicam Allergy Relief Nasal Gel.

2. An Herbal Antihistamine - My personal go-to is HistaEze by Designs for Health, which contains a combination of guduchi (tinospora cordifolia), nettle leaf, quercetin, sodium bicarbonate and Vitamin C. Natural D-Hist by Ortho Molecular is also an effective formula and is carried locally at Pharmaca.

3. Rooibos Tea and Stinging Nettle Tea - Fresh nettles aren't always available but at this time of year you can find them in local farmer's markets here in the Northwest and they grow plentifully in this area if you're up for doing a little foraging. I simply steep 2 tablespoons of crushed dried leaves in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, and when I can't find fresh nettles, I buy the Traditional Medicinals Nettle Leaf Tea. My stinging nettle soup is another great way to enjoy this wonderful medicinal herb.

Rooibos tea is another great option since it is rich in the bioflavonoids quercetin and ruin which block histamine release. This is also a great option if you're pregnant since nettles are not recommended for pregnant or nursing women. My favorites are the Organic Double Red Rooibos Tea by Republic of Tea and Numi Organic Rooibos Tea. Rooibos tea is delicious hot or iced and if you like it sweet, try adding a little vanilla stevia, monk fruit, or local honey which some people find helpful for pollen allergies.

Using this trifecta of natural remedies has been a life saver for me and I've found it much more effective than the Allegra or Zyrtec I used to take. And the best part is that I don't have to deal with the nasty side effects those drugs had on me. I hope you'll give these remedies a try. Just keep in mind that I'm not a doctor and this is not medical advice, so you shouldn't stop or change any medications or treatments recommended by your health practitioner.

I'd love to hear from you! Did you try any of these remedies and what have yo found that works for you?

7 Top Tips for a Sound Sleep

Do you sometimes have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Are you waking up in the middle of the night or before your alarm goes off? It’s important for you to understand what’s causing your sleep struggles, and use tips like the ones below to prepare for a restful night.

Getting enough sleep has a positive domino effect on our health; our bodies are in restore and rejuvenation mode while we’re sleeping; this can help us heal from illnesses and reduce aches and pains in our joints or muscles, for example. Deep sleep also helps reduce stress and anxiety, so we have more energy the next day.

And speaking of the next day, have you ever noticed that you’re hungrier when you’re tired? Research shows our appetite can increase up to 25% when we’re feeling exhausted, and many of us often turn to caffeine or sugar (or both) to give us a boost of energy. And that begins a roller-coaster of bursts of energy followed by energy crashes. That’s right – not getting enough sleep can actually cause us to gain weight or make it harder for us to lose weight!

Tonight, why not start some of these healthy sleep rituals?

1. Give yourself a bedtime. What’s your bedtime? Just like kids, we benefit when we have a consistent sleep time, because our bodies anticipate and respond to routine.

2. Close the kitchen. Make your last meal two to three hours before bedtime, so your body has a chance to digest the food. Digestion is a lot of physical activity – not what you want to be doing while you sleep! Ideally you should give your body a 12-hour break between dinner and breakfast.

3. Shut down electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. Turn off the TV, the laptop, the tablet, the Xbox, your smartphone… did I miss anything? According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), all of these devices can hinder your ability to sleep. One reason, explains the NSF, is that these devices emit blue light, “which our brains interpret as daylight. Blue light actually suppresses melatonin, a hormone that supports circadian rhythm and that should begin to increase when you are preparing for sleep.” So when you’re on your tablet or phone at night, your brain thinks it’s daytime, making it harder to fall asleep.

4. Set your smartphone to the “do not disturb” setting. In addition to the blue light, sending nighttime emails, scrolling through Facebook or posting on Instagram right before bedtime might be stressing you out or making your mind race. You’re not alone – NSF research shows that 71 percent of people sleep either holding their smartphone (!), having it in bed with them, or having it on their nightstand. Instead, place your smartphone where it is not within arm’s reach, and set it on airplane mode or “do not disturb” for the seven to eight hours of sleep you should be getting. Note: if you don’t want to miss a call from certain people – say you have elderly parents or kids at college -- you can set your smartphone to allow calls and texts from select contacts. Everything else can wait until morning!

5. Create a relaxing ritual. Very few people fall asleep the minute their head hits the pillow. Instead, you may want to create some rituals that tell your body you’re shutting down for the night. Try soaking in a warm bath with organic lavender essential oil. You can also listen to some relaxing music or do some deep breathing, restorative yoga, and/or meditation. My favorite meditation app is Headspace, and it’s free. Try the 10-minute meditations to help you relax before bedtime.

6. Dark = Deep. How many little electronic lights are glowing in your bedroom once the lamps and overhead lights are off? The darker you can make your room, the more restorative your sleep can be, because the darkness releases the sleep hormone, melatonin. Cover up those little lights with black electric tape or turn them face down or toward the wall. You might also try light-blocking curtains if light streams in from outside.

7. Help your hormones with a sleep mask. If your room is still bright, try wearing a sleep mask. It creates the total darkness our bodies need to release melatonin and get a healthier night’s sleep. I always recommend the softest sleep mask you can find, with natural fibers. It may not be attractive, but if it helps you sleep, you will feel and look your best with more energy. And that’s a beautiful thing! 

I’d love to hear how your sleep improves with these tips, and which ones are most helpful to you. Feel free to share on my Facebook page – just not right before bedtime ;-). Sending you sweet dreams!

Freshen Your Fridge and Prep Like a Pro - Simple Steps to Transform your Kitchen… and Your Health!

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The Tough Part -- Step 1: Pitch and Toss 
If you were going to eat those last few pretzels, you would have by now. Or that last scoop of freezer-burned ice cream. Or that pumpkin pie filling from two Thanksgivings ago. Your pantry, fridge and freezer are not repositories for forgotten foods. Start your spring-cleaning by tossing anything that’s beyond its expiration date. Next, throw away anything that’s been in a storage container all winter. And if you’re taking this time to clean up your daily diet, toss out the temptation. Remember my favorite healthy eating tip: you can’t eat it if it’s not there. Start from the top shelf to the bottom, tossing as you go – in the pantry, the refrigerator and the freezer. If you feel as if you’re being wasteful, consider that you’re actually investing in putting your health first.

The Fun Part – Step 2: Shop, Stock & Splurge
Shop: Two things to know before you go -- don’t shop on an empty stomach, and don’t shop without a list. The best list starts with meal planning, so look ahead and plan your meals for the next few days or even a week. Review the recipes and only put on your list the ingredients you’ll need.

Stock up on the good stuff. Organic foods I always have on hand include: 

  • greens
  • pre-cut veggies
  • organic, pasture-raised eggs
  • coconut/almond/hemp/flax milk
  • organic, pasture-raised/grass-fed meats and poultry
  • salsa
  • hummus
  • quinoa
  • almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • apple cider vinegar
  • avocados
  • bananas (which I peal, break in half and freeze when they start to over ripen, then I use them in my morning smoothies. You can do the same with avocado!)
  • Pre-cut and pre-washed veggies really help reduce my prep time. They may be a little more expensive, but you’re saving time and investing in your health!

Canned or jarred foods I always have on hand include: 

  • garbanzo beans/chickpeas
  • coconut milk 
  • organic vegetable and chicken broth
  • wild Alaskan salmon
  • capers
  • diced green chillies
  • organic diced tomatoes (from glass jars only)

And speaking of saving time, don’t forget your friend the freezer. Many grocery and health food stores carry organic, non-GMO frozen fruits, vegetables, fish, grilled chicken, and more. Having these on hand really reduces your weekly shopping time, daily cooking time, and ensures you always have something healthy to eat.

Splurge: I found that having nice-looking, high-quality storage containers makes prepping and storing my food more convenient and a lot more fun. Plus, glass containers are non-toxic and I can see everything at a glance – no more guessing what’s wrapped in foil or stored in that cloudy container! In fact, put your healthy foods right up front on the shelves of your pantry, fridge and freezer so you “crowd-out” less healthier choices.

The Smart Part -- Step 3: Prep and Package

Preparing healthy and delicious meals in less time just takes a little scheduling. My favorite tip: cook once, eat twice (or more!) This is the best way I know to make mealtime more efficient. You might have heard this referred to as "batch cooking.” Here's what you do:

• Pick a cooking day. Instead of cooking every night, pick a day or two when you'll cook for the week ahead. Make it fun by turning on some good music and getting the whole family involved. Sure, you'll spend a little more time in the kitchen on your cooking day(s), but you'll save an extra few hours the other days (or evenings) of the week!

• Double or triple your recipes when cooking. When you prepare more than you need for one meal, you’ll have plenty to pack for lunches and future dinners. If you’ll have quinoa with a couple of meals this week, cook it in batches. If you bought a head of broccoli or cauliflower, roast or steam it all for the week and use half now, half later. Learn to love leftovers!

• Have it your way. Try different ways to eat the same meals; if you're grilling organic chicken breasts or grass-fed meats, make extra to chop and include in salads or soups. If you're cooking quinoa, make extra and the next day, add some veggies, olive oil and vinegar for a quinoa-based salad – served warm or cold.

• Prepare for the next day tonight. If you pack a lunch, select your favorite mix of leftovers the night before, and pack it in an insulated lunch box. Include everything you'll need to enjoy the meal at work, school, or wherever you'll be for lunch. Don’t forget to grab your lunch box before you head out in the morning!

• Package well. Remember the high-quality storage containers you bought? Use them to store your pre-cut veggies, fruits and leftovers in single-serving or family-sized portions, then freeze or refrigerate them. When you’re ready to prepare a meal, just take out the number of containers you need for the number of people eating with you, warm them up and serve!

When you cook in batches, you’ll begin to find your own favorite tips and short cuts. My clients who have tried this approach say it’s made their lives so much easier!

You're Sweet Enough Already...

Do you enjoy a no-sugar-added soda with dinner every night? What about a low-sugar, high protein ‘nutrition bar' after a workout? At the office, are you mindlessly grazing through the low-sugar or no-sugar added cookies? Do you read food labels to see where on the ingredient list sugars are hidden? If you're regularly drawn to sweets- or foods laden with artificial sweeteners-try going without them for a few days and see what happens. Are you having headaches, irritability, cravings, and symptoms that could only be described as withdrawal? Do you find yourself so uncomfortable that you're drawn right back to those same foods? You could be trapped in the vicious cycle of sugar addiction!

Sugar is a carbohydrate, one of the major nutrient groups, but it doesn't provide vitamins, minerals, or even fiber to our diet. Still, it's added to an array of foods, including ketchup, yogurt, cereal, canned soup, some lunch meats, salad dressing, condiments, bread, and so much more. While we require some sugar (glucose) in order to function property, all of this added sugar is harmful to our system.

Sugar's Addictive Qualities

When we ingest sugar, our body generates a response similar to that seen in addictions, which is why we develop cravings for more. It's often called the cocaine of dietary additives and recent studies have shown it to be 8 times more addictive than actual cocaine. Crazy right?

Here's how it works: Sugar -- whether natural, processed or artificial -- enters the bloodstream quickly, causing your blood sugar level to spike. The body recognizes this imbalance and acts to bring blood sugar back to normal. Insulin, a hormone, pushes glucose into the cells to be used for energy. But if you eat a lot of sugar, the body can't keep up. Insulin has to work harder and the body overcompensates, causing blood sugar to drop too low - and your brain reacts. You feel depleted, irritable, and crave more sugar.

Sugar by Any Other Name

Sugar names you might recognize are sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruits, some root veggies, and honey), and lactose (milk sugar). Naturally occurring sugar in fruit and vegetables has a place in a balanced diet. But added sugar, artificial sweetener, and processed ‘natural' sugar like high fructose corn syrup are detrimental to your health.

Eliminate Unhealthy Sugar From Your Diet

Learn where Sugar Hides. On ingredient lists, any words that ends in -ose are sugars.  If they're among the first five items, walk away from it. If sugar is one of the last ingredients on the list, that's a better choice.

Avoid the Fake Stuff. Products containing artificial sweeteners are not a healthy alternative since these sweeteners are highly toxic and arguable more addictive than real sugar. Diet soda, 'fat free' and 'sugar free' candy and cookies are associated with weight gain and cravings, creating a cycle of addiction.

Sip with Awareness. A single can of soda, bottle of juice, flavored water, or Gatorade typically contains nine or more teaspoons of sugar. Four grams of sugar is a teaspoon so keep that in mind when reading nutrition labels.

Make Sweet Substitutions. Look for snacks labeled 'no added sugar' or 'unsweetened.' Use canned foods packed in water instead of juice or syrup. When baking, swap table sugar with stevia, monk fruit, applesauce, date paste, or molasses. Adding cinnamon or cacao powder is a great way to sprinkle flavor onto yogurt, oatmeal, or coffee. Opt for honey, maple syrup or coconut palm sugar over other processed sugars.

Reprogram your taste for sugar slowly. If you put two sugar packets in your coffee, cut back in half-packet increments and keep the sugar bowl off the kitchen table. Small steps add up to sweet success!

Green Up Your Diet

One of the healthiest habits you can incorporate into your daily life is to eat lots of leafy greens. It’s hard not to notice how mainstream “green drinks” are at your local health food store, and healthy boutique restaurants and juice bars are popping up all over the country. Today it’s easier than ever to eat, drink and slurp your greens, but buyer beware! Most commercial juices and smoothies are loaded with sugar so be sure to read the label and make them at home as often as possible. 

Leafy greens are delicious eaten raw, steamed or sautéed, mixed into a pureed soup, or blended in a variety of smoothies and juices. We all know greens are good for us, but do you know why? According to the CDC, 90% of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables to reap the ongoing health benefits. So as my friend Dr. Nicol Giandomenico tells her patients, "Green up your diet!" Here are just a few reasons to go green:

·       Greens are powerful immune boosters packed with a unique blend of vitamins and nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy, including calcium (that’s right, greens have calcium!), magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc; and vitamins A, C, E, and K

·       Greens are a great source of natural fiber to help you stay “regular” and feel full longer, which helps control hunger and reduces cravings!

·       Leafy greens are high-alkaline foods, which help fight free radicals (which can contribute to aging and disease). And because greens are also a natural source of folic acid, chlorophyll and other micronutrients, they help strengthen the blood and respiratory systems.

·       Greens can lower blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

·       Greens promote a healthy gut by increasing healthy intestinal flora (the good bacteria!)

·       Also, according to traditional Chinese medicine, green nutrients are related to liver health, emotional stability and creativity. How many foods can say that?!?

And if you think greens means a boring head of iceberg lettuce, think again! The best greens are the dark, leafy kind, and here are just a few of my favorites. Serve them raw as a side or main salad; steam or stir-fry – greens are truly versatile.

Leafy Green Favorites: 

  • Arugula
  • Kale (massage and tear the leaves for more tender salad servings) 
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach (baby spinach is super tender!) 
  • Chard
  • Escarole
  • Cabbage
  • Bok Choy

A few of the more unusual greens that can take things to a whole new level are: 

  • Mustard greens
  • Endive
  • Chicory

Small steps lead to big changes, so if you feel like you need to ease into greens, try these 4 tips to sneaking them in:

1.    Add spinach, kale or chard to your smoothie. You might not even notice it's in there, and if the green color isn't appealing to you or your kiddos, add blueberries to turn it purple!

2.    Sneak some spinach or arugula into your grass-fed burger or veggie burger.

3.    Use a collard green to wrap your "sandwich" or "taco."

4.    While pizza's not an everyday meal for those on a healthy eating track, when you do indulge, do so happily and healthfully! Try topping off your pizza with fresh arugula drizzled with organic extra virgin olive oil to create a "salad pizza."

6 Top Travel Tips for a Healthy Vacation

Tip #1: Plan and prepare. You wouldn’t go to the beach without making a list of essentials such as sunscreen, a hat, and a bathing suit, right? Get in the habit of planning and shopping for healthy snacks and food essentials before your trip too.

Tip #2: Pack healthy snacks. Flight delays. Traffic jams. Long lines at amusement parks. Travel is unpredictable and you don’t want to end up hungry without any healthy choices. That’s a sure-fire way to give into food temptations you might later regret. Pack a variety of healthy options. See the list of my favorites below. If you run out of snacks when traveling, look for a Starbucks in the airport terminal or on the road; you’ll usually find nuts or a protein pack with Justin’s nut butter or a hard-boiled egg and some fresh fruit or cut-up vegetables. These healthier snacks will give you the energy you need to enjoy without weighing you down!

Tip #3: Pick up fresh fruit and veggies when you arrive. Many people think because they are staying in a hotel that they can’t visit the local market. Not true! Many hotel rooms have mini-fridges, or you can keep a few snacks in the ice bucket! I love to have a banana or fresh blueberries on hand, as well as carrots and hummus – see my list below!

Tip #4: Stay hydrated. If you’re flying, bring a stainless or glass water bottle and once you’re through security, fill it up. The pressurized air on planes can dehydrate you quickly. Rule of thumb: drink half your weight in ounces of water every day – even more important when you’re in warm weather or traveling on planes.

Tip #5: Make good choices when dining out. Even when on a cruise, visiting a foodie town or staying at a resort, you can stave off food-related symptoms or weight gain by making savvy dining decisions:

  • Pass up the bread basket. If you want to have a healthier starter, ask for a fresh vegetable platter.
  • Order a side salad. It will give you fiber that will help you feel full and keep you regular, which can sometimes be challenging when traveling. Skip the creamy dressings and ask for apple cider or red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon on the side.
  • Ask for changes. Is the fish special fried? Ask for it grilled. Does it come with a side of potatoes? Ask for veggies. Is it covered it sauce? Ask them to use olive oil and lemon juice instead. Most restaurants these days are very accommodating to their guests’ health-related requests.

Tip #6: Walk it off. Or run. Or bike. Or hike. Or swim. Whatever you chose, it’s important to take care of your body by keeping it moving every day. If physical activity is not built into your day, try to book a hotel with a gym, and consider hitting it first thing in the morning, before your day is filled with other activities.

Take-and-Travel Healthy Food Ideas

Following is a list of some of my tried-and-true travel favorites. Some I pack no matter where I’m going or for how long – like protein bars, shakes, nuts and grass-fed organic beef jerky. Others I pack depending on where I’m going, how I’m getting there, what access I’ll have to fresh markets, and how long I’ll be gone. The more prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be able to eat healthier and feel better.

• Individual chia seeds or flax packs. Traveling can disrupt your regularity. One of the best ways to “keep going” is to include healthy fiber in your daily meals. Stir flax or chia seeds into your smoothie, cooked oatmeal, soups or water.

• Amazing Grass Green Superfood. Superfoods powder on-the-go gives you great energy and a dose of greens. Just mix with water or add to a smoothie. If the “green powder” scares you, choose an appealing flavor like berry or orange and try it at home before you go. It might pleasantly surprise you!

• Fresh fruit that’s easy to eat on the road, such as apples, bananas, avocado, etc.

• Justin’s Almond Butter single packs. Delicious with a banana, an apple or spread on Flackers or Mary's Gone Crackers.

• Mary’s Gone Crackers, Sticks & Twigs and/or Flackers. These are my favorite gluten-free crackers.

• Q’ia Superfood Cereal. A mixture of buckwheat, chia seeds, hempseeds, almonds and cranberries. 

• Protein powder individual serving packets. I recommend Vegan Proteins+, Sunwarrior or your choice of a non-soy plant-based powder.

• Amazing Grass Protein Superfood All-In-One Nutrition Shakes in individual packets.

• Nut mixture. Combine your choices of walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and store in individual serving containers or bags.

• Bars, bars, bars! My recommendations include Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins+ Bars, Primal Kitchen Grass-Fed Collagen Bars, or InBars.

• Single serving hummus and raw baby carrots or apple slices

• Dry roasted Edamame or Chick Peas (Saffron Road brand)

• Primal Pacs organic grass-fed jerky

• Mount Hagen Organic Instant Coffee in single serve packets

Be sure to pack a shaker bottle to mix on-the-go protein drinks and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated!