Tag Archives: WellnessWednesday

Wellness Wednesday: 5 Practices to Start Your Day

Love it or Hate it, we set our clocks forward this week.  Therefore, if you are someone who normally gets up at 6 a.m. it will feel as though it is actually 5 a.m. for a little while until internal rhythms adjust and the break of dawn re-centers more in our favor.

So what are a few ways to help jump start your days?

Hydration – if we are properly hydrating throughout the day, we are ingesting water regularly and not taking 7-9 hour gaps.  However, obviously, we don’t drink while we are asleep.  Be sure to have a glass of water in the morning.

Some swear by warmer temperature to the water and the addition of lemon juice (for alkalinity).  It’s likely not as important to get hung up with “how” to drink the water versus simply investing in ourselves  and the day upon us by doing it.  Find what works for you.

Commit Yourself to Consistency – In this instance I am mostly referring to sleep and bed times.  Yes, going to bed is the night before versus the current day.  However, a consistent bed time can help regulate circadian processes including hormonal regulation.  Go to bed early enough to account for time it takes to fall asleep AND obtain sufficient duration.  Furthermore, allow yourself to rise at a consistent time.  In fact, a well-trained sleeper doesn’t even need an alarm clock!

With respect to adjusting to the time change, if you normally go to bed at 9 p.m., even though it feels early and your body may think it’s still 8 p.m., still go to bed.  If you simply can not bring yourself to actually sleep at this time, try various relaxation techniques and be sure to power down electronics a minimum of 1 hour before bed.  This will help reduce the disruption technology can have on us.

*Important side note; studies have suggested that sleep helps aid detoxification.  See two links at the bottom of this post.

Shake Your Money Maker & “Move It” – Does this mean you have to dance?  No.  Although, I’m not a stranger to recommending it!  It does mean you should take part in, at minimum, light physical activity as part of your start of day routine.

This is a good time to emphasize activity that has flow to it, such as gentle movement options.  While at rest and lying down, spinal discs fill up a fluid like substance and at are at their fullest when you rise.  Although this is a natural occurrence that serves a function, it can still inadvertently cause a little havoc in the morning if abrupt activity occurs before the body is ready to take it on.  Adequately limbering up by taking care to understand appropriate types of movement can help prevent injury.

There is also truth to the “morning stretch”.  Need a suggestion, watch Fido.  Animals instinctively take upon movement and stretches as needed upon rise.  Follow this link for a Livestrong article written by Linda Ray on this topic.

Power Up – hey you in the Starbuck’s line grabbing your own the go coffee and pastry!  We see you.  In fact, many of you we notice DAILY!  Do you really think with all the biochemical interactions our bodies endure on a daily basis that’s going to cut it?  Nope!

Studies have shown that children receiving adequate breakfast performed better based on cognitive and behavioral metrics.  This doesn’t just go away because we have become adults.  Substantial nutrition, particularly in the beginning half of the day, can help bring about focus, mental clarity, and overall productivity.  Therefore, allow yourself time to eat a good breakfast and make sure you are getting up early enough for this, even if you prep the night before.

Make sure your morning meal is both macro- and micro-nutrient focused.  In that you are including a balance across protein-fat-carbohydrates AND taking in food choices that are considerate of content with high nutritious value.  For more tips on how to do this, keep following this blog and/or look back through some of my previous suggestions or referrals for meal planning and recipes.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Finally, we can’t control the weather.  We can, however, control the attitude in which we set forth on our day with.  Put on your happy face and go with it.

– Keep Calm & Wellness On….

The brain flushes out toxins in sleep, and poor sleep associated with buildup of Alzheimer’s toxins : Discoveries, Oct 22, 2013.

How Sleep Clears the Brain, Oct 28, 2013.

 

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Wellness Wednesday: Tropical Smoothie

The upper Midwest had a fluke winter warm up this past weekend for a bit of spring/summer tease.

However, typically this is the time of year where we are starving for a little “paradise”.  Therefore, it could be the perfect time to get creative in the kitchen.

Frozen fruit can be a great way to leverage powerful phytonutrients into the diet, particularly across times of the year where seasonable options are not available fresh.  A key to healthful smoothies is balance.

I have found that tropical fruit combos, although sweet, can be used in moderation to balance greens such as spinach or super green based blends.

Including options such as chia or hemp seeds and a spoonful of coconut butter, avocado, or nut butter will add compounds such as omega 3 and healthful fats.

A combination that I find most appealing is as follows:

  • 1 bag of organic tropical frozen fruit blend, 16 oz (typically this includes pineapple, banana, strawberries, and mango)
  • 2 handfuls of raw spinach (often available through hoop house suppliers in winter)
  • 1 spoonful raw greens powder
  • Approx. 1-2 tbsp coconut butter
  • Approx. 1 tsp chia seeds
  • Approx. 2 tsp cinnamon
  • If desired, a splash of well-sourced nut milk (liquid from the fruit may be sufficient or water can be used)

Blend to desired consistency.

***NOTE:  The above recipe may not be suitable for all dietary plans particularly those considerate of food combining.

Wellness Wednesday: Sweetheart Quinoa Breakfast

A few years ago I had a friendly waitress let me in on a little secret; cook quinoa directly in the coconut milk for “breakfast quinoa”.  Add some seasoning such as cinnamon and, voila, a simple breakfast substitute.

Well sourced quinoa (often from fair trade channels in countries such as Bolivia) is good for a.m. protein, at 8 grams per cup.  It is also a “complete protein” which refers to the whole form and that fact that it consists of an adequate proportion of essential amino acids.  Appropriate protein and healthful fat sources incorporated into the a.m. meal is thought to help support appropriate hormonal regulation through out the day.

To make your sweetheart (and you yourself are also a sweetheart!) a special Valentine’s day themed breakfast, consider making this and adding antioxidant rich dark cherries, raspberries, or strawberries.  Although not in season for all this time of year, organic berries can typically be found in the frozen food section or freeze dried fruits have seemed to pick up in popularity.

I would also suggest cacao nips and coconut flakes!

*Note:  Freeze dried fruits are great for travel and not candied in the way dried fruit options are.

Wellness Wednesday: Lessons from the Blue Zones

This month, I have been focusing on community ties with respect to social well-being.  There are numerous studies assessing associations between social connectivity and circumstances with respect to health outcomes.

In fact, social determinants for health, is a hot button topic within current health policy.  On a broad perspective, these determinants fall under three primary categories; 1) social institutions, 2) surroundings, and 3) social relationships (Anderson, et al, 2003).

One of the most compelling projects that has further illustrated this construct is the Blue Zone Project.  Originating out of the work from a National Geographic investigative journalist and researcher, Dan Buettner,  the project as a whole has taken an anthropological approach paired with methodology from epidemiology.

The project inspired a movement and has been referred to by many leaders in the field of lifestyle health.  Various activities to build out some form of a Blue Zone like attributes to communities have been initiated across the U.S. through workplace wellness service providers, government grants, and other community-based initiatives.

Although the majority of us do not live in a “true” Blue Zone, the project does present certain qualitative factors for all of us to consider.  In layman’s terms, it helps us consider actionable areas in our lives by revealing the characteristics of those living within an official Blue Zone.

In application, the project presents us with 9 key themes for living a life most suited for good health and longevity; regular natural movement, purpose, stress reduction (“down shift” methods), 80% rule in terms of eating to only 4/5th fullness, heavy intake of plant based foods, low-moderate consumption of quality wine, sense of belonging, prioritizing loved ones first, and associating with the “tribe”, ie social circles (Buettner, 2016).

It is the last three areas that align well to my monthly theme.  They are both inspirational and scientific.  To elaborate further;

Belong – essentially, find your faith and the respective group to help support you in it.  This may not be a traditional religion, but there should be principles that mimic various world religions including unity, moral conduct, and regular, consistent social congregation.

Loved Ones First – nurture yourself AND familial relations.  In some cases, this may also include the “family you create for yourself”, meaning certain close friends.  Consider a plan to take care of aging parents and loved ones while relishing in the many wisdom-based lessons they can provide you.  In some form or capacity, find at least one life partner.

Right Tribe – ever hear of the New York Times article, “Are your friends making you fat?”, which focuses on socialization with relation to health behaviors (Thompson, 2009)?  Although I don’t love the actual title of this due to potential stigmatization, the concept within presents some truth.  Align yourself to those who are willing to practice healthy behaviors and, in return, inspire those around you through your commitment to do the same.

I might also add that intertwining “purpose” into the three concepts above can have a dynamic effect.  Your sense of purpose can help lead you in the behaviors associated to social constructs AND your exploration of social relationships can also further support your definition of purpose.

In lifestyle practice, this could translate to identifying your daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly intentions.  There are a whole host of mind-body tactics to help you do this as well as effectively planning methodology.  For those that might need a little help with this, please check out my professional website.

REFERENCES:

Anderson, L.M., Scrimshaw, S.C., Fullilove, M.T, and Fielding, J.E. (2003). The Community Guide’s Model for Linking the Social Environment to Health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 24(3S), 12-20.

Buettner, D. (2016, Nov 10). Power 9, Reverse Engineering Longevity. Retrieved from Blue Zones: https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/.

Thompson, C. (2009, Sep 10). Are Your Friends Making You Fat? New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/magazine/13contagion-t.html.

Wellness Wednesday: It’s Winter in the U.S. Are You Missing Fresh Produce?

I’m going to let you in on a nutrition “do”…  when it comes to produce, quality most certainly matters!  So what’s the “do”?  Quite simply, seek education of the options, weigh them, then make the commitment to select the best options.

There is a plethora of things that can affect nutrient composition and density ranging from the mineral composition of the substrate it was grown in, the time it was picked as compared to the degree of ripeness, to how long it transported before getting to your plate.  These variables matter.

If you are dependent on super markets or corner stores to provide your produce, then you might find it challenging to pick the best options, particularly over cooler winter months.  Therefore, it’s good to have an idea of what is in season.  It will likely cost less and may be available through local sources which could be indicative that it was picked riper and shipped much less in distance.

According to Fruits & Veggies More Matters, winter is a great time for options such as certain cruciferous options such as Brussels sprouts, Collard greens, and Kale.  It can also be prime time for Sweet potatoes, Squash, Turnips, Dates, and Pomegranates (n.d.).  No wonder these are staple to holiday meals!

The Fresh Everyday Produce website also highlights Oranges, Grapefruit, and Cranberries (2012).  Finally, one other special mention is Greatist blog post “The Best Winter Fruits and Vegetables to Eat This Winter” for highlighting by cool or warm climates (Breene, 2013).

You may also consider what you can grow on your own.  An article on Off The Grid News highlighted different ways to grow Broccoli, Cabbage, and Cauliflower all year long without a garden (Cash, n.d.).

Modern technology is also on our side.  With the explosion of aeroponic and aquaponic methods paired with the local food movement, at home options are popping up every where and growers are investing in the systems to “up” the quality of what is available in grocery settings as well.

Personally, I’m partial to the Tower Garden.  Have you seen these things?  Available for outdoor or indoor use, the aeroponic system grows fresh produce faster, uses less water, and requires less space as compared to traditional farming methods.  Also, when given the right low-maintenance care, it can produce much more abundance for the dollars you put in as opposed to purchasing in stores.  Add one to your living environment and you might just make friends with those neighbors!!!

Nourishment through adequate nutrition from whole food sources is imperative for all seasons and it’s easy to get off track in winter.  Hopefully you can now say you know more about the what, where, and how to stay on track in terms of fresh produce.

References:

Breene, S. (2013, Dec 9). The Best Fruits and Vegetables to Eat This Winter. Retrieved from Greatist: http://greatist.com/health/seasonal-winter-produce-guide.

Cash, P. (n.d.). 3 Vegetables You Can Grow All Winter … Even Without A Garden. Retrieved from Off the Grid News: http://www.offthegridnews.com/survival-gardening-2/3-vegetables-you-can-grow-all-winter-even-without-a-garden/.

Fresh Everyday: What’s in Season. (2012). Retrieved from Fresh Everyday Produce: http://fresheverydayproduce.com/in-season/.

What Fruits and Vegetables Are In Season During Winter? (n.d.). Retrieved from Fruits & Veggies More Matters: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/whats-in-season-winter.

Other Mentions:

Wellness Wednesday: 5 Ways to use Jarred & Frozen Fresh Foods in Winter!

Many generations have relied heavily on “canning” food and I am not referring to metal canned items lining shelves in an average modern grocery store.  Yes, mason jars reigned.  Once upon a time, preserving food in this way from the various harvest seasons allowed for produce to be enjoyed across the cold, non-harvest months.

Thankfully, consumer trends have seemed to revive a likening for the jars.  Some of this is fashion, however also, at least I feel, a returned interest to classic and “clean” recipes (and packaging methods) has further instigated.

Somehow, I have turned into my grandmother and became a collector of what I deem “re-usable” glass jars.  Pickle jars are often fantastic, but I have re-used the jars from coconut oil, mustard, and tomato products stored in glass among other things.  I had so many greens last summer and fall that I started chopping them up into jars and freezing them for winter.  At one point, I counted 17!

NOTE – be careful which jars you freeze as some designs are not good for this and will break in the freezer…  I have learned this the hard way!  Therefore, for any foods that take more preparation, please use good, sturdy mason jars such Ball or Kerr.

This all brings me to my point…  Jarred or stored away foods are great for winter recipe planning.  Now, if you are like me and have an abundance of frozen greens, you have great sustenance for smoothies or soups.  However other “good ideas” are fruits, jarred tomatoes or juice, stocks, and purees (my CSA actually puts pureed squash in freezer bags for winter share deliveries).

In fact, using the correct preservation methods, you can make a fair amount that is shelf stable versus frozen or refrigerated.  It’s a great way to get in a few of the things you might miss over the winter months (or will pay an arm and a leg for at a grocery store).

My top 5 are:

Tomatoes – I can use about any type of prepared tomato (diced, stewed, juiced, etc) for a hearty cooked dish; soups, curries, stews & chili’s, & layered baked dishes just to name a few.

Pickled Anything & Krauted Foods – Did you know that the term “pickles” is not just for cucumbers?  Thankfully some savvy farm to table restaurants are reviving this notion and so should you.  Just about any farm, fresh vegetable can be pickled.  If you have followed my posts for a while, it is incredibly easy to pickle using vinegar and water with desired herbs and seasonings.  Making a Kraut isn’t all that hard either and how about the probiotic boost it will give you!

Fresh Herbs – There are some technical methods online for “how” to do this, but I typically just freeze them in small packs in order to use as needed.  If you have a wonderful indoor growing system, then this may not be useful, but if you don’t have room for one, freezing the excess in summer and fall is a good back up plan.

Greens – You guessed it.  Why let those fresh nutrient rich options go to waste?  Frozen, they can be used in most any stove-top dish; stir-fries, soups, sautés, etc.  I have even thrown excess lettuce in the freezer to later add to smoothies.

Fruit Preserves – This is a guilty pleasure and not something I would recommend for your daily plan.  I probably go through less than ½ a dozen jars of preserves a year and they are small.  However, it’s a winter treat that I can use for oatmeal crisps, with nut butters, drizzled over banana “ice cream”, or simply by the spoon.

“Science and mindfulness complement each other in helping people to eat well and maintain their health and well-being.”  ~ Nhat Hanh

Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/mindfulness.html

I like this quote because it is timely for achieving balance between the impending holiday meals and otherwise “messy” schedules the holidays can often inflict on us.  Remember your goals, remember your focus.

How do you Spaghetti Squash?

This is an engagement post.  Please comment.

Personally, I love to make a roasted tomato-garlic-basil base with an arugula saute layered over pre-baked spaghetti squash.  Using this method, you can carve the squash out of the shell onto a plate or simply spoon out the sauce and arugula directly over 1/2 of the cooked squash and scoop it all out like it’s a big bowl itself.

A few other notables that have caught my eye;

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein by Little Bits Of –  http://littlebitsof.com/2014/10/spaghetti-squash-chow-mein/

Spaghetti Squash Black Bean Bowls by THE glowing FRIDGE – http://www.theglowingfridge.com/spaghetti-squash-black-bean-bowls/#_a5y_p=5905804

Spaghetti Squash Hashbrowns by The Honour System – http://thehonoursystem.com/2015/03/06/spaghetti-squash-hash-browns-vegan-gluten-free/

Wellness Wednesday: “For the Love of…, Rake Leaves”

Ever look at the faces of people raking leaves on a nice Fall day???

I have noticed over the years, they are often smiling!  Although I can not tell you for certain why this is so, I think its likely a combination of variables; positive benefit of physical exercise, enjoying the season and outdoors, and overall feeling of accomplishment.

Personally, I don’t care for leaf blowers.  This may come hard for the Tim the Tool Man Taylor type, but taking the time to rake can be much more beautiful.  It’s peaceful, creates less dust, and is calming to perform.

How many calories you actually burn may have a broad range.  MyFitnessPal estimates 272/hour for a 150 lb person, while Livestrong suggests a range of 180-356/hour.

For fun, below are a few photos from my fall season so far;