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Weight Loss Archives | Elizabeth Borelli

Archive for the ‘Weight Loss’ Category

Feeling Discouraged? Try these 3 techniques to stay on track with your goals

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Recently I was reminded of just how difficult the change process can be.  Ten years ago, I struggled relentlessly with healthy eating and body image.  After devoting the last decade to understanding good nutrition and healthy eating habits, my set of challenges has changed.  My passion for developing effective methods for using this information to help others presents a new set of struggles, and the emotions invoked can be just as painful.

Working toward a goal, whether it’s changing your eating habits, maintaining an exercise program or improving your skillset is always a challenge.  In the age of the iPhone, we tend to live in instant gratification mode.  This is why it’s easy to believe that the short-cut solution to achieving your dreams is out there – you just need to find the right one.

Newsflash, when it comes to changing habits for the long-term, there is no such thing as instant success.  Change is both a process and a struggle, but it’s not one we need to go alone. .As I face the challenges of growing a business, feelings of failure and gnawing self-doubt are inevitable. Unpleasant as they may be, they’re part of the process.  It’s tempting to look at other people who have achieved the goals you’re striving toward with something akin to envy as you wonder how they got so lucky.

Yet what we don’t see when we look longingly at the lives of successful people, is the blood, sweat and tears they put out to meet their goals just like you are.  The difference lies not in your ability, but your willingness to work through the hard times and keep moving forward.

So when the going gets tough, temptation is great and you just feel like giving up altogether, how do you get through the rough spots and stay the course?

Here are 3 techniques for staying on track with your goals:

1. Set a daily intention.  Do you have a wakeup ritual, or a short morning practice you do each day?  It’s a key strategy for super-stars from Tony Robbins to Marie Forleo.  This can take as little as 5 minutes of simply checking in with yourself and envisioning your goal for the day.  This simple practice reminds us to take one day at a time, and stay on track with our intention, even if it’s just for today.

2. Out of sight, out of mind.  If you’re regularly tempted by anything that threatens to stand between you and your goal, it’s time to restructure.

  • Don’t have anything in your fridge or cabinets you don’t want to eat, and if your living situation renders that impossible, at least place tempting foods and drinks out of plain view and swap in some healthier alternatives..
  • If driving by a favorite treat spot is too tempting, find another route.
  • Set up your environment so distractions like the TV, computer or other time-consuming activities are less visible, replaced by the goods that support your new habits – running shoes, meditation cushions, your gratitude journal.  We’re always being triggered by our environment; put your cues to work for you!

3. Find your tribe.   In their bestselling guide to forming new habits, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success, the authors stress the importance of finding friends vs. accomplices.  Accomplices are those acquaintances that enabled your old habits, whether as participants or encouragers.  Friends are the people who will encourage you to reach your goals.  So even if  you need to join a support group or change who you spend your time with, ultimately this can make or break your success.

Remember, your goals are worth fighting for, and while forming healthy habits is a process and a challenge, when you change your life for the better, you’ll know it was worth every step.

How to Turn Your Summer Fitness Goals Into a Game

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Summer is in full swing!  Pool parties, family vacations and long beach-y days are the stuff memories are made of.  The last thing anyone wants to do in the midst of all this fun is put feet to scale and get a chilly dose of reality.  So don’t!  Fun and health are not mutually exclusive, nor should they be.  Summer is the perfect time to keep your fitness goals alive and well by turning them into a season-themed game.

Gamifying your fitness goals is easy.  And if you can get some family members and friends on board, all the better.   Check out the 7 simple steps below to learn how.

How to Turn Your Summer Fitness Goals Into a Game

1. Choose your goal.  Do you want to get more exercise, or lose a few pounds by improving your diet?  Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Take advantage of the warmer weather and focus on goals unique to the season.
  • Early morning walks, afternoon swims or evening bike rides are wonderful this time of year; and easy to track progress using wearable devices or mobile fitness apps.
  • Or focus on nutrition, committing to keep sugar consumption down by swearing off sugar-sweetened drinks or replacing calorie laden desserts with healthier choices.

2. Invite some friendly competitors.  Is there a colleague, neighbor or family member you can enlist to join your challenge?  The more the merrier, and if you have more than 3 people, create some teams.

3. Decide on a start and end date.  Once you have your plan in place, get it going asap, before people change their minds or go on vacation.  A 30 day challenge is a good timeframe;  long enough to see some results but not intimidating enough to keep people from playing.

4. Schedule your plans into your daily calendar and increase your chances of meeting your goals significantly.  Use little cues like leaving your running shoes near the door or stocking healthier foods to keep prominently positioned in the kitchen to help you stay on track too.

5. Stay connected.  Either meet in person on a regular basis, or stay in touch via social media to track progress depending on the nature of your game.  Everyone will benefit from the social support.  If you’re meeting to exercise, it’s a non-issue, but if you’re doing a morning green juice cleanse, stay connected to keep each other on track.

6. Recognize small wins along the way.   Celebrate weekly progress via social media or email if you’re not meeting in person.

7. Keep score and create a compelling incentive for the winner.  Whether you’re competing with just one person, or a whole group, decide at the beginning what the prize will be.  Maybe the winner is treated to a movie, a pedicure or even an Amazon Gift Card by the other players.

Finally, and I won’t list this in the steps since it’s fairly obvious, have fun!  Use the camaraderie and support of your game to outweigh the challenge of learning a new habit.  Go team!!

Shaping Healthy Habits that Last; Form a Group (video)

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to have it so easy? They’re naturally fit, endlessly energetic and unusually happy? Sure it looks effortless now, but we don’t always know the back story. In all likelihood, that person had to take the time and make the commitment to shaping their habits into the healthy, happy version you see today.

If you’re like most people, when life starts to get busy, at least some of your everyday self-care habits begin falling to the wayside. Unfortunately, when we feel overwhelmed, things like sleep, exercise, and healthy eating, are usually the first things we downgrade in terms of priorities.

We try to save time by ditching the very habits we need to enforce when the stress hits the fan. This strategy not only backfires, but it eventually leads to symptoms of depression, like anxiety, sleeplessness and irritability.

Before it comes to this, it’s a good idea to revisit our day to day habits to make sure we’re consistently prioritizing those that best match our personal ideals. And the good news is, there are tips and tricks to make it work for you, beginning with revisiting your everyday habits.

The decision to upgrade your everyday habits is one of best choices you’ll make. This notion also may seem too hard to commit to right now; you may not feel quite ready to get started. Well I’m going to suggest that you push those resisting thoughts aside and start today. I’m challenging you to write down one goal and begin with this sure-fire strategy to keep you going.

Today’s key idea for shaping a health habit that sticks is to form or join a group. Studies show that setting a goal with a partner increases your likelihood of success by about 40%.

This can be a virtual group that connects via your favorite communication medium, a Facebook group, a group that meets for real, or any other version you come up with. The idea is to leverage 3 key of the components of goal setting: planning, accountability and feedback.

Group camaraderie also has real fitness benefits. “Research shows people are more successful at reaching their fitness goals with group support,” says Jean Fain, LICSW, MSW, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist and author of The Self-Compassion Diet: A Step-by-Step Program to Lose Weight with Loving-Kindness. They also have fewer major health problems overall, she notes. Psychologically, social exercise also leads to a greater sense of well-being, better self-esteem, improved body image and less depression.

First step, choose your goal.

Before you go the group route, you get to decide which habit to change, and habit is intentionally singular, because it’s a smart idea to start with one. The answer is different for everyone, but the key habits that have the biggest impact on quality of life are exercise, rest and good nutrition, so it’s highly recommended you choose one of these.
If you’re not currently exercising, this is a perfect new habit to adopt, and a great one to create or join a group around, but even adding habits like committing to 30 days of 8 hours of sleep and see who wants to join you in a Facebook challenge is a great way to participate. Not ready to take on that much initiative? No worries, WebMD offers an online Sleep Disorders Community Support Group you can join.

Is your diet in need of a makeover? Enlist your partner or find a colleague to join you in switching from fast food to cooking at home more -which is also a great way to share new recipes and menu ideas.

Second Step; find your tribe.

Remember, a group of 2 is still a group. The goal is to find people who will challenge, engage and evoke a sense of accomplishment in you, so you may want to prioritize quality over quantity.

Third Step; commit to a schedule.

Whether you meet virtually or in person, be sure to find a time that works for everyone to connect at least once per week. More frequently is better, but too much frequency can be intimidating for time-sensitive people, so adapt your plan based on your audience. The important part here is the accountability factor, which is key to keeping you on track with your goals.

However you decide to work it, forming or joining a group is a great strategy to help you form new habits. So commit to changing one habit that you know you’d be better off with (or without), grab your calendar, and schedule in 10-30 minutes to being implementing your group outreach strategy, starting today!!

14 Super Slim-Down Snacks (Slideshow)

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Although it sounds counterintuitive, you can control your appetite by incorporating the right snacks into your daily diet. Experts suggest that two snacks a day, kept to 150-200 calories each, will go a long way toward helping you to avoid overeating. Look for snacks that combine fiber, healthy fats and protein, without added sugar. Follow these simple suggestions for smarter snacking:

  1. Go for whole grain. Whole-grain snacks — such as whole-grain low-salt pretzels or tortilla chips— can give you some energy with staying power.
  2. Overcome your Fear of Fat. Combine a small amount of healthy fat, like peanut butter or avocado, with a larger amount of something light, like apple slices or celery sticks.
  3. Combo snack. Include two or more macronutrients (protein, fat, or carbohydrate) at each snacking session. For example, have a few nuts (protein and fat) and some grapes (carbohydrates). Try some whole-grain crackers (carbohydrates) with some low-fat cheese (protein and fat). These balanced snacks tend to keep you feeling satisfied.
  4. Snack mindfully. Don’t eat your snack while doing something else like surfing the Web, watching TV, or working at your desk. Instead, stop what you’re doing for a few minutes and be present while you snack.
  5. Take it with you. Think ahead and carry a small bag of healthy snacks in your pocket or purse so you won’t be tempted to turn in desperation to the cookies at the coffee counter or the candy bars in the office vending machine.

Looking for snack inspiration? Here are some delicious options to choose from:

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Highly Effective Habits of Super-Fit People

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

I may be dating myself here, but I have to ask; do you remember that self-help sensation of the 90s titled “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”?  With 15 million copies sold, it was the talk of the water cooler for months on end.  Now sixteen years later (the book was actually released in ’89), as I circle back to explore the connection between motivation, willpower and success, the word “habit” always seems to be inextricably intertwined.

Successful people incorporate certain habits into their everyday routines, so they don’t need to rely on willpower alone to reach their goals.

Habits, as author Tynan explains in his bestselling Superhuman by Habit, are the closest thing to a superpower we’re ever going to have. Yet as I’ve learned from experience, simply knowing which habits are healthy isn’t enough to effect change.  So I found myself referencing Steven Covey’s timeless best-seller for further inspiration in teaching health habits that stick.

It turns out that author Steven Covey died in 2012, so a resurgence of interest in the 7 Habits more recently emerged.  Forbes ran an interesting article written by author Eric Jackson focusing on not all of the habits, but the one piece of advice in the book Jackson found most compelling.

According to Jackson, “If you remember one thing and one thing only about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book, here it is:

At the start of every week, write a two-by-two matrix on a blank sheet of paper where one side of the matrix says “urgent” and “not urgent” and the other side of the matrix says “important” and “not important.” Then, write all the things you want to do that week.”

When I reviewed the 7 Habits diagram which focuses on productivity goals for career development, I realized it could be an especially useful tool for developing positive health habits that can help us reach our fitness goals.

Here is my updated fitness-focused version of the 7 Habits productivity matrix:

habits

Think of each quadrant as follows:

Quadrant 1: Urgent-Important.  These are the most pressing issues of the week, like taxes or other non-negotiable deadlines.  These are the crises that erupt.   When we do fire-fighting, it’s all relating this quadrant.

Quadrant 2: Not Urgent – Important. These are the things that matter in the long-term but will yield no immediate measurable benefits.  They are things we know we need to get to but are most inclined to procrastinate doing.  It’s starting a mediation program, or committing to an exercise routine.  It’s taking the time to create a weekly menu or shopping list, or making time for people we want to connect with.

Quadrant 3: Urgent – Not Important.  These tasks are the biggest reason we’re not more successful in the long-term.  They monopolize our time but, when we look back at these things at the end of the week, we’ll have to admit this was not time well-spent.  This includes the time we spend habitually checking email, or responding to each and every text message as soon as it comes in.   These are the things we said yes to when we knew they didn’t fall into our priorities category.    These are other activities which we tell ourselves in the moment that we must do but — if we stopped ourselves to really think about — we’d realize they aren’t that important.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent – Not Important.  These are the things we do when we feel we need a break.  It’s watching a mindless TV show at the end of the day.  It’s checking and rechecking Facebook and Twitter during the day, because we think we might miss something.  It might be mindlessly eating pretzels, even when we’re not hungry.  We prioritize these things in the moment and obviously derive some pleasure from them, but they don’t really serve to rejuvenate us.  Yet, we’d be amazed how much time we waste in a given week on these tasks.

The big idea in 7 Habits, is to make a weekly commitment to prioritize your time addressing your quadrant 2 goals, as in sitting down, deciding what they are, and putting them on your calendar.  If time is your issue, take a look at your 3 and 4 quadrants, and commit to yourself to create some boundaries around these distractions so you can focus on your long-term goals.

Regular exercise, adequate rest and healthy meal preparation are the key fundamental health habits that will pay off in dividends once they become part of your routine.  But if you’re starting at square one, just choose one of these goals and really commit to it, using your weekly matrix to schedule it into your daily routine. By adopting any of these highly effective habits for super-fit people, you’ll be counting yourself among them before you know it!

6 Simple Tips for Managing Junk Food Cravings

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Do you ever have days where you can’t seem to stop thinking about something you’re trying to learn to live without, or even just live with less of?  Maybe it’s the fudge brownie you’ve gotten into the habit of sneaking in after work, or the double mocha latte that’s become a daily habit instead of an occasional treat, and it’s placing a strain on both your waistline and your wallet.

A change in routine rarely comes without these urges to return to status quo, the habits we’ve acquired to feed a need, but now we’ve decided to try choose new habits which will serve us in a more positive way.  It can be challenging to get through this rough patch.  It takes more than willpower to successfully navigate, but don’t worry, there are ways to make it better without resorting to shock treatment.

Here are 6 simple tips to help you control cravings when they stand to come between you and your goals.

  1. Stay ahead of the hunger curve. Cravings are often triggered by plain old hunger, a biological signal that simply requires calories to stave.  When it’s not immediately addressed however, that signal reaches the thought center of the brain, which superimposes its own notion of what you need, which is not necessarily in your body’s best interest.  By the time you get to the stage where you’re pretty hungry, you’re not in a place where you’ll make your best decisions health-wise, it’s more about finding food, any food…now!  So stop that feeling before it starts with smart snacks* you have readily available for times like these.  You’ve planned ahead and are well stocked with good choices, don’t wait until you’re overly hungry and not using your best judgment, instead stay one step ahead of the curve.
  1. Identify options:  If you hate raw carrots, or find raw almonds completely uninspiring, no wonder you can’t stop thinking about the nacho Cheezits you’ve stashed in the back of the cabinet.   Deprivation never works, so you need to find the sweet spot between refined carbs or sugary treats, and a perfect healthy alternative.  You need a good enough happy medium, like apples and peanut butter, or whole grain crackers and avocado.  Satisfying in terms of protein and fiber content, and delicious tasting too.  See the list below more favorites.
  1. Change your scene.  Cravings pass, and you’ll get through the rough spots more easily is with some good old fashioned distraction.  New studies show that tapping:  your ear, your forehead or your toes can significantly reduce food cravings.  Alternatively, imaging a blank wall can also do the trick.  Worth a try!
  1. Listen to your body. Cravings can indicate a nutritional imbalance, especially if you’re on a restrictive diet.  A craving for ice cream may simply be your body’s way of telling you you’re deficient in healthy fats, in which case some avocado, almonds or Greek yogurt would be a smart and satisfying fix.
  1. Sugar cravings are typically more emotional than physical, and sometimes attempting to stave them only leads to wanting more. Certain dietary supplements may help stop your sugar cravings, or try some stevia-sweetened licorice tea, or a piece of fresh fruit to see if the cravings subside.
  1. Stay strong! Cravings often come with change, as the body and brain adjust, but hand in there!  After the new habit takes hold they generally subside, often for good.  This is the hardest time in the process of creating new habits, but so worth the effort to achieve your long term health goals and enjoy all of the benefits they bring.

Ten Smart Snacks to Have on Hand*

Looking for snack inspiration?  Experts suggest that two snacks a day, kept to about 200 calories each, will go a long way toward helping you to avoid overeating.  Look for snacks that combine fiber and protein, without added sugar.  Here are some good options to choose from:

  • Carrots dipped in 2 tablespoons of your favorite hummus
  • 2 pear halves, topped with 1 rounded tablespoon of cottage cheese, sprinkled with 1 tsp. of nuts
  • 2 crisp bread crackers spread with 1 tablespoon of almond butter. Top with 1 sliced small banana
  • 1 whole grain tortilla cut into chip sized wedges and baked at 350 for 5 minutes to crisp,  dipped in fresh salsa
  • Edamame from the grocer’s freezer section, thawed and sprinkled with salt.
  • 1 whole grain rice cake with a tablespoon of peanut butter, topped with thinly sliced apple
  • 4 cups sesame popcorn; air popped popcorn topped with ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil and ½ teaspoon sesame seeds and lightly salted.
  • 2 large celery sticks filled with 2 tablespoons of hummus and 1 tablespoon of sliced olives
  • Banana, Kale, and Almond Milk Smoothie; 1 medium banana, 1 cup chopped kale, and 1 cup almond milk until pureed in the blender or food processor until smooth.
  • A handful of raw almonds and a chai latte

4 Mindful New Year’s Resolution Strategies for 2015

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

The transition out of the old year and into the new offers space to take pause.  Lots of us use this time to take stock of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to be. This is a chance to let go of the past as a clean new slate opens up just waiting to be filled.  So can you guess what the number one way most of us want to show up differently in the coming New Year?  The number one resolution this year is the same one most of us made in years prior; weight loss.

Unfortunately the one thing that New Year’s resolutions and diets have in common is that fact that most of them barely make it past the 6 month mark, which doesn’t bode well for next year, or the following; you get the picture.  Clearly something’s amiss.

The upside to all of this is that so many of us are motivated to make positive changes in our health, in addition to weight loss, improved eating habits and engaging in more exercise also made the list.  We want to improve our health and our wellbeing, but we need more than willpower to make what scientists refer to as these “adaptive challenges” stick.

So if willpower won’t cut it, what will?    One answer lies within an increasingly growing trend based on practices thousands of years old; the practice of mindfulness.

In scientific terms, mindfulness is defined as a series of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being  (resulting in such benefits) as calmness, clarity and concentration (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).

In approachable terms, mindfulness practices span from meditation to gratitude, or any activity that allows you to tune out and tune in.  In other words, taking a break from the noise and confusion as you focus on your breath, or the things in life you’re grateful for.  Mindfulness gives us the ability to just be in the moment, free of judgment or drama, allowing us to step back and objectively observe.  Ultimately the practice of redirecting our attention to a more positive state, allows us to access calm amidst chaos, even when we’re not engaged in practice.

The reality is, most of the time (up to 90%) we’re operating on auto-pilot, simply falling back into old habits that no longer serve us. Developing a mindfulness practice teaches us to step back and calmly assess a situation before we react, giving us space to rethink our automated responses.  And it works!  As a former emotional eater, I ran the exact same pattern when I came home from a stressful day at work – self-soothing with food.

But after years of developing these simple practices, I give myself the option of another choice.  I can head to my meditation cushion and breathe myself into a state of calm in a few short minutes.  Then I no longer feel the need to self-medicate with a sweet treat, a glass of wine, or whatever the go-to happens to be.  I have a great new alternative that doesn’t leave me with a hangover, and instead moves me toward a healthier future.  Meditation is scientifically proven to help practitioners to resolve addictions, lower stress and maintain a positive outlook, as this practice helps build a natural defense against the lure of addictive habits.

Here are 4 Mindful New Year’s Resolution Strategies designed for your busy life, so you can begin reaping benefits that grow with each day. 

Develop a Short Morning Meditation Ritual

Establish a readily accessible space at home where you can set up a cushion and sit comfortably, keeping your spine upright.  Begin your day with a simple breathing exercise, like deep breathing (see below) or basic breath awareness.

Sit comfortably in a chair, or cross-legged on a cushion. Rest your hands lightly on your knees with your palms facing up. Touch the tips of your index fingers to the pads of your thumbs as you create a circle of unity within. Straighten your arms and feel the energy radiating from your heart to your hands.

Gently close your eyes and take a normal breath. Now begin taking slow deep breaths, known as Ujjayi breath.  From the Chopra Center, here is how:

  • Take an inhalation that is slightly deeper than normal. With your mouth closed, exhale through your nose while constricting your throat muscles. If you are doing this correctly, you should sound like Darth Vader from Star Wars.
  • Another way to get the hang of this practice is to try exhaling the sound “haaaaah” with your mouth open. Now make a similar sound with your mouth closed, feeling the outflow of air through your nasal passages. Once you have mastered this on the outflow, use the same method for the inflow breath, gently constricting your throat as you inhale.

Practice this style of breathing as you make every effort to focus on your breath, ignoring the thoughts that will insistently try to distract you.  Every time you feel caught up in a thought, a feeling, or anything other than the present moment, just take your attention back the breath.  And you’ll do this many times, this is the practice.  Sit for 5-10 minutes each morning and discover the benefits throughout your whole day.

Engage in a Deep Breathing Practice (from the Harvard School of Public Health):

To practice this technique, begin by finding a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Start by observing your breath. First, take a normal breath. Now try taking a slow, deep breath. The air coming in through your nose should feel as though it moves downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.

Now breathe out through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural). Alternate normal and deep breaths several times. Pay attention to how you feel when you inhale and exhale normally and when you breathe deeply. Shallow breathing often feels tense and constricted, while deep breathing produces relaxation.

Continue this for several minutes. Put one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Feel your hand rise about an inch each time you inhale and fall about an inch each time you exhale. Your chest will rise slightly, too, in concert with your abdomen. Remember to relax your belly so that each inhalation expands it fully.

Try to practice this breathing technique for 15 to 20 minutes every day. You might also try shorter bouts lasting a few minutes when anxiety begins to build, to see if this feels calming.

Start a Gratitude Journal

By taking some uninterrupted time each day to really reflect on what you’re grateful for, you actually help your brain to reframe the rest of your day in a more positive light.  It can be as simple as recording 5 things you feel grateful for in a journal, which you update on a daily basis, or a deeper reflection on one of your gifts, where you really ruminate on all of your reasons for appreciation.

If you really feel inspired to embrace this practice, try the challenge below:

14-Day Gratitude Challenge (from Personal Excellence)

  • Day 0: Start a Gratitude Journal
  • Day 1: Write 10 Things You are Grateful For in Your Life
  • Day 2: Give Thanks for Your Food
  • Day 3: Write a Gratitude Note to Someone
  • Day 4: Reflect on the Meaning of Gratitude
  • Day 5: Identify 3 Things to Appreciate about Your Adversary Day 6: Give Thanks for Your Life
  • Day 7: Give Thanks to Yourself
  • Day 8: Transform an Ungrateful Thought
  • Day 9: Share Something You are Grateful For with Someone Day 10: Give a Gratituity Tip
  • Day 11: List 3 Things You Tend to Take For Granted (and What You Plan to Do About Them)
  • Day 12:  Take Action on Your Plan from Day 11!
  • Day 13: Do a Gratitude Meditation
  • Day 14: Give Thanks for Your Mistakes

Try a Body Scan Meditation: (based on the work of John Kabat-Zinn)

Find a quiet space where you can close your eyes for 5-10 minutes to engage in this simple practice, designed to reduce reactivity and stress in everyday interactions.

Steady your breath by slowly and consciously breathing in and holding  at the peak of the inhale for a second or two.  Repeat on the out breath, holding briefly at the peak of the exhale before repeating.  Take a few minutes to slowly scan your entire body, starting at your toes.  Notice any sensations in your body without trying to change them.

If you prefer a guided practice, try this 8 minute seated body scan:

If you’re new to the concept of mindfulness, you may try adopting the practice that sounds easiest to incorporate into your day.  Personally, I keep my meditation cushion at the foot of my bed, so if I don’t stop and sit first thing in the morning, I’ll trip over it.

Learning to slow down and live more mindfully will affect every aspect of your being, so whatever your resolution this New Year, using meditation to improve the quality of your mental state will have a positive effect on your entire life.

Diet Trends, How to Separate Help from Hype

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Today I received a new book I ordered online, The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life. Sounds amazing right? While I don’t need to lose a pound a day right now, I do try to keep up on new diet trends. Since this book has some great reviews, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some helpful new tips and information to share with my audience.

So as soon as the book arrived I immediately tore it open and began skimming through. Pretty quickly I discovered this author’s views were extreme (a bad sign in my book) and differed extensively not only from my own, but more importantly, from the many experts whose researched-based work I closely align with.

This initial scan landed me on a page listing the only fruits the author considered healthy as berries and pineapple, both unavailable to most people throughout most of the year except from the freezer, which first caused me to take pause. Frozen fruit is actually much higher in sugar than fresh, and often ends up used in smoothies, which unless tempered with the right ingredients are essentially sugar bombs. But I moved on.  Then I hit the part where he suggests that all rice is bad except for white rice I and I stopped and raised an eyebrow, maybe both.

‘Just who is the author of this revolutionary new dieting advice?’ It belatedly occurred to me to wonder. Turns out he’s a Silicon Valley millionaire who lost a substantial amount of weight using these tactics, and who also spent some time in the Himalayas, which was listed in his bio apparently to convey further credibility. Now he’s designed his own line of supplements and special coffee that he claims will do all of the things he promotes in the title of the book, you just have to buy the products.

And herein lies the problem with diet trends. Many of them were started by people just like this author, who combine a tantalizing promise with the means to fund a large outreach and suddenly we’re all gluten-free, even though we may not be sure why. After all, anyone can all themselves an expert, including yours truly! This is why you need to know how to separate diet hype from help before you waste time or money on trendy gimmicks.

Diet fads make it seem as though good nutrition and healthy weight management are a mystery waiting to be solved, and they’ve uncovered the magic key; avoid gluten! While highly credentialed nutrition experts like Marion Nestle, Dr. Walter Willet and the 25 US News and World Reports Best Diet Rankings experts base all of their recommendations on years of sound scientific research instead of their personal experience or intuition, this information isn’t considered trendy or sexy.  So while their findings are always accessible, you have to look for them as opposed to the other way around.

Essentially, crazy restrictive, single nutrient-demonizing or other extreme dietary measures seldom work long-term. But that doesn’t mean you have to count every calorie and follow some denial-based regime to get your eating habits under control. In essence, changing eating behaviors takes a combination of physical, psychological and environmental measures into account in order to be successful long-term. None of this is a mystery, although no one diet works for everyone.

The point is there is no magic weight loss bullet, and when diets become so trendy that there are publications, specialty food products and entire aisles of the grocery store devoted to them, take note. These trends have become a multi-billion dollar business that vendors will keep promoting, because that’s what they’re in business to do.  And as long as they keep drowning out the (fact-based) naysayers, they’ll continue to get the attention and sale they’re after, regardless of how well the programs work.

In fact, I’ve seen highly credentialed experts dismiss the Paleo diet in blog posts that were then so engulfed flames by angry readers they quickly removed the article. Some of these trend-followers are downright rabid, but it’s important to remember that shouting the loudest doesn’t make someone right.

When you consider a new trend like Paleo, gluten-free or low fat, do your independent  using independent expert theory checked against findings by institutions like Harvard Institute of Public Health, Yale’s Rudd Center or Cornell Division of Nutritional Sciences, it’s important to consider your source.  While you’ll find products and promotions for diet trends everywhere, including your favorite health stores and workout studios,  they’re simply responding to customer demand, which keeps them in business.  Conversely none of the independent health and nutrition institutions advocate any of the aforementioned trends. In fact the US News Best Diet Rankings listed Paleo as one of the least effective regimes all-around for the 2nd year in a row (when it’s been trendy enough to make the list).

The bottom line is, in this day of self-pronounced experts, you need to weigh credentials and do your diligence to separate the diet trend help from the hype. It may take a little extra time, but considering you’ll save money and possibly health problems in the long term, it’s well worth it.

Think Gluten Free is Good for You?  Think Again!

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

With the gluten-free trend still in full swing, it’s hard to know where to stand on the wheat issue.  Wheat has been red-flagged, and most of us still aren’t sure why.  If you’re among the 1% of the population with celiac disease, of course avoiding wheat, rye and barley makes excellent sense, but for every one American diagnosed with celiac disease, 20 others are eating gluten-free foods just because they think they should.

A new study shows that most people who believe themselves sensitive to gluten, actually are not.  Gluten-free diets can be deficient in fiber and a host of other vitamins and minerals, and are not advisable without an expert recommendation.

Whole grains on the other hand, fall cleanly into the good health category.  And eating a variety of grains is the best way to get you to the 25 grams of fiber recommended for adults per day, a number rarely seen by most of us.  While you would need to up your produce intake dramatically to get there, you can simply opt for a dish made from bulgur or wheat berries, and meet 25-30% worth of your daily  fiber recommendation in one satisfying sitting.

Grains deliver more fiber than any other food, contain protein in amounts that vary from modest to substantial, and are loaded with micronutrients as well.

Of course refined wheat products are a different case entirely.  White flour, the main ingredient in most packaged foods, has had all of the vital nutrients removed during processing.  While this makes for a much longer shelf life, combined with preservatives we’re talking years here, the resulting product is so broken down it affects your system the same way as sugar does, in that it digests quickly and causes blood sugar to fluctuate disruptively.  Think carb crash, headache and hunger pangs just an hour after you filled up on that 500 calorie cinnamon raisin bagel with low fat cream cheese, shheesh.

A diet rich in fiber is also shown to be more satiating than a refined carb version (white flour, white rice and white sugar favoring), all else being equal.  Whole grains can even make you happier.  In fact, Researchers at the University of Melbourne found that women who ate a diet rich in whole grains and plant-based proteins were 30% less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as opposed to those eating a Western diet.

So don’t assume all wheat products fall into the empty carbs, or dietary devil incarnate category.  Refined wheat products, or white flour based empty carbs, are definitely on rank low on the list, but whole grains, those without the fibrous outer layers removed, are a delicious addition to your dietary repertoire.

Since most women consume only about half the 25–35 grams of fiber most experts recommend, you may want to think about making the switch to whole grains, the more intact the better.   Look for bread that lists whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain as the first ingredient. Or, even better, buy bread that’s made with only 100% whole grains, like 100% whole-wheat bread.

The less widely used grains offer an entire new experience in flavor and texture.  It’s easy to substitute healthy and delicious whole wheat berries, hulled barley, farro, spelt and quinoa for refined processed grains in breads, cereals or other packaged foods.  Whole grains cook much the same way as a pot of rice, it just takes a little longer depending on the variety.   The more you experiment with these new (to you) alternatives, the easier they become even easier to prepare as you discover countless ways to enjoy them.

Start simply, with recipes like Minted Quinoa Tabouli, Super Energy Breakfast Bars or Orange Fennel and Kamut Salad, and you’ll discover whole new favorites to replace those refined wheat products and fiber you up right!

Think Gluten Free is Good for You?  Think Again!  Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rosspomeroy/2014/05/06/are-you-really-gluten-intolerant-maybe-not/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/most-people-shouldnt-eat-gluten-free/

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/

10 Tips for Making Mindless Eating Work for You

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

If you’re anything like 90% of us, you think you’re doing a pretty good job with your eating choices.  Granola over cookies, juice or tea over soda, hold the mayo on that whole wheat sandwich.  But do you really know for sure?  As recent studies show, probably not.

Research shows that people make an average of 247 food related choices per day, yet are conscious of only about 5% of them.  And according to a recent Consumer Reports study, 9 out of 10 of us think our choices are good.  But by adapting your everyday environment to help you adopt new behaviors, you can turn mindless habits into healthy ones!

Brian Wansink, Ph.D and author of bestselling Mindless Eating has generated a new science from this very phenomenon.  Shifting mindless eating habits from bad to good is really doable.  And none of us, regardless of how well we know the pitfalls, is truly immune to mindless eating.  Our ever-present food environment makes sure of it.

The good news is, we can take steps to avoid having to remain constantly vigilant to the lure of temptation in the first place.  It’s called creating an environment for success, and you’d be surprised at the difference a few simple changes to your routine can make, without you even noticing never mind feeling deprived or dissatisfied.

Of course there are those times you have no choice but to eat on the go, even if you know you should sit down and enjoy every bite.  When you’re too rushed in the morning (or afternoon), to sit down for the short time it takes to spoon down some oatmeal, you’d rather not miss the boat altogether.  And then there are other times, when you might want to veg in front of a movie and snack on some popcorn, even though this falls squarely into the mindless eating category.

Then there are all the rest of the times when you don’t even know you’re doing it, hence the unmistakably descriptive term.  For most people mindless eating is a habit that could benefit from some fresh visitation, but even the best of intentions probably won’t produce a complete turnaround starting now.  It will be a transition process, a journey worth making for a personal transformation capable of affecting everything from weight loss to energy level.  These simple tips can help you along the way, and after you’re up to speed on conscious food choices, they’re good guidelines to live by.

10 Tips for Making Mindless Eating Work for you

  1. Adjust your go-to snack plan.  When you dip into the cabinet or hover in front of the fridge, you’ll often grab the first easy-to-much option, so this is not the best place to leave the cheese puffs. Keep pre-cut veggies readily available for your next mindless munch out, and you’ll benefit from the extra fiber and nutrients these healthy snacks provide.
  2. Read labels, always.  Studies show that women who read nutrition labels are an average of 8 pounds lighter than non-label readers.  And “label” doesn’t refer to the promo on the front of the package that says “low fat”, you need to turn to the fine print on the side panel.  Even if you have to squint, and don’t know what all of the numbers mean, be sure to always check the number of serving sizes, it’s often surprising!  Then move on to read the ingredients list, and if it contains items that sound like chemicals or other foreign objects, know you’re better off without it.
  3. Prioritize fiber foods  Studies show a strong association between an increased consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of corn syrup, a decreased consumption of dietary fiber, and an increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the United States.  Despite what you commonly hear, protein is not the dietary shortfall, fiber is.  Choose whole grains instead of refined and select packaged snacks with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving.
  4. Keep serving dishes off of the table.  Most of us eat more food than we think.  You can avoid doing this by putting a single serving of food on a plate, forcing yourself to leave the table to refill instead of continuing to eat after you’re satisfied (a common problem when good food is within reach).
  5. Never nosh straight from the package.  I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it may be time to revisit it.  Measure out a portion according to the label on the side of the package, put it on a plate, sit down and enjoy every bite!
  6. Use the power of illusion to feel satisfied, not overstuffed.  Studies show that people eat 25-30% more food off of large plates than they do off of small ones, but feel equally full.  Therefore, use smaller plates!  We’ve been doing this at my house for years, works like a charm!
  7. Skip the diet soda. New studies find artificial sweeteners actually linked to obesity.  While it makes sense to keep sugar at a minimum, Nutrasweet is not your best option.  Stevia, on the other hand, is a naturally derived herbal sweetener that has no dubious ties to medical conditions.  Give it a try!
  8. Replace, or reduce don’t deprive.  Take the time to try out healthier alternatives to what you’re currently eating until you find ones you like as much as your former go-to favorites.  In the case of the plate, just redistribute your proportions to 50% veggies, 25% starch and 25% protein (plant-based where possible).  You’ll still enjoy the same volume of food, and the additional fiber will keep you satisfied.
  9. Start with small changes, 3 goals for better food choices is the number experts recommend initially adopting, until you find yourself comfortably acclimated and ready to take on more.  This is a plan for life, so slow going is recommened.
  10. Interested in weight loss?  Keep a daily food journal and lose 2x the weight.  Just the act of writing it down produces results.  Successful food journals ask you to record everything you eat, at the time you eat it, including portion sizes and calorie counts.  The best ones ask to you record hunger levels, related emotions, cravings and food triggers.  Here is a free one from food psychology guru, Dr. Brian Wansink, or there are dozens of programs and apps to choose from.  However you do it, record your data!

Congratulations for beginning your journey to a healthy new you.  Make your mindless eating habits work as a cornerstone of your transition from our refined carb culture to real, nourishing food choices, beginning today!

Mama Bear’s Top Ten Tips for Happy Healthy Eaters

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Most of us moms are familiar with the scary stats on rising rates of obesity in the US, it’s true.  Yet in between the constant stream of homework, play dates and little league, it’s not something we generally worry about day-to-day.

But here’s the troubling thing; certain influential entities are lurking and we parents need to stay on our toes. Now that might appear accusatory and even sinister coming from a cheery gal like myself, but I’m talking about corporations that are actively targeting their junk food ads to kids.

Sound crazy?  Think again; food industry CEOs aren’t forking out their billions (yes that’s billions with a b) in annual advertising strategies aimed at our children for nothing.  And they’re lobbying Congress like crazy to make sure nobody stands in their way. (more…)

3 Simple Tips for Reducing Sugar without Feeling Deprived

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Did you know that on average 40% of calories consumed come from a cup or a bottle?  From healthy-sounding fruit drinks to refreshing iced teas and fun flavored coffees, excess sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are usually lurking behind the scenes.   The problem is, these devilish drinks, however delicious, have no nutritional value and don’t fill you up, so those excess calories don’t give you a whole lot of value for your sip.

Even the vitamin-enriched versions provide little to no more benefit than regular water, often adding calories and even sodium where it’s not really necessary, especially when you have other options.  In fact, the sugar and nutrition profile of many popular beverages is shockingly similar to that of your favorite dessert, especially if it’s ice cream.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are also the largest source of added sugars in the diets of kids in the US.  With new studies showing among kids, even toddlers and preschoolers, children who drink at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day , as most do, have a 55% increase in odds of being overweight or obese.

Fruit juice also has a high concentration of sugar and calories while it lacks some of the nutrients and other benefits of whole fruit.  When one cup of apple juice contains 27 grams (almost 7 teaspoons) of sugar, it’s a good idea to limit quantities to no more than one serving per day and substitute fresh, whole fruit as often as possible.

On average, we’re over-consuming more than three times the daily recommended amount, which  for a normal weight adult is about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, per day.  Of course making the switch from your favorite beverage to something a little less sticky sounds hard to start.  But habits are best changed through favorable alternatives than cold-turkey, so trust this former junkie when I say it really is doable.

And kids are malleable too.  I gradually weaned mine off of fruit juice many years ago and we’ve never looked back.  High sugar consumption is associated with weight gain, heart disease and behavior issues, especially in kids, so managing intake makes sense.

Here are 3 Simple Tips for Reducing Sugar without Feeling Deprived:

  • You can start by simply diluting juices with water, a trick that also works well with kids, especially when done on the sly.  Gradually you’re sensitivity to the sweet stuff will increase to the point where you want and need less of it.  Eventually you may decide fruit is best enjoyed as a whole, when it contains half of the sugar and calories as the liquid stuff.
  • Naturally sweet stevia is one of the few sugar substitutes that doesn’t affect blood sugar levels the way most other sweeteners do, including honey and agave.  Although it does have a bit of an aftertaste, you might try using to sweeten lemon water, since it’s best enjoyed with citrus.  A little goes a long way.
  • Or trade your regular pre-sweetened or diet beverages for sugar-free tea, preferably the kind you brew yourself.  You’ll gain health benefits without the risk associated with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.  Try green tea for extra antioxidants, ginger tea to sooth the stomach or mint to add a skip to your step.  Or check out Any way you steep it, tea tops those premade packaged beverages every time.

 

Unbottled!  4 Delicious DIY Sugarfree Tea Recipes

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

On these hot summer days, you deserve some sweet refreshment without the sugary side-effects, so why not give these healthy, invigorating and delicious drinks a try?  And if you’re short on time, you’ll love my overnight tea trick. Be sure to have a stainless steel tea strainer or infuser and some large mason jars on hand to make this so simple that bottled beverages will no longer have the edge on ease of use in your house.

4 Delicious DIY Sugarfree Tea Recipes your body will love:

Hibiscus Sun Tea

The beautiful hibiscus plant makes a wonderfully tart and delicious tea, especially when sweetened with stevia.  The health benefits of this vibrant plant have been celebrated for centuries in cultures all around the world.

With studies linking the acids contained in hibiscus to lower blood pressure, this healing plant also contains phytochemicals like quercetin, shown to reduce inflammation and support kidney health, and antioxidants known to reduce the effects of aging*.

This simple recipe is perfect for steeping, no heat required.  It’s a beautiful thing to wake up to, with plenty more for all day enjoyment.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of water
  • 1/3 cup hibiscus tea leaves
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 1-3 tablespoons of stevia (to taste)

For stovetop or microwave:  heat water until it reaches the point of simmering.  Remove from the heat and using your tea strainer, steep the tea for about 20 minutes while it cools.  Remove tea bags and continue cooling until it reaches room temperature.

Overnight or sun tea method:  Pour the water into a mason jar or pitcher, depending on what type of strainer you’re using.  One that fits inside the mouth of the mason jar is perfect for this, see below.

For either option:  Add remaining ingredients and serve iced or hot. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

*While hibiscus tea is completely safe for most people, if you’re currently using prescription medications, be sure to check with your doctor before enjoying too much of this potent tea. 1-July Food Pix 023

Spicy Ginger Ade Ginger tea is as flavorful as it is invigorating; enjoy it either hot or cold.  Either freshly grated or loose dried ginger pieces are perfect for this simple brew, but pre-bagged plain ginger tea is nice too.

Ginger also offers some great health benefits;  helps with digestion and reduces inflammation, and this zippy lemon flavor combination is a delicious way to enjoy it.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of water
  • 2-3 tablespoons grated fresh or dried ginger, or 5 or 6 bags of ginger tea
  • Juice of 2 large lemons (about ¼ cup)
  • 1-3 tablespoons of stevia (to taste), optional

For stovetop or microwave (best for fresh ginger):  heat water until it reaches the point of simmering.  Remove from the heat and using your tea strainer, steep the tea for about 10-15 minutes while it cools.  Remove tea bags and continue cooling until it reaches room temperature.

Overnight or sun tea method:  Pour the water into a mason jar or pitcher, depending on what type of strainer you’re using.  The type that fits over the mouth of the mason jar is a good choice.

For either method:  add remaining ingredients and serve iced or hot. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Minty-Lime Cooler While not forgoing the bottle entirely, this fizzy summer drink is sugar-free and perfect for kids craving something bubbly.  The tea may be brewed overnight, then topped with the sparkling water right before serving over ice for a refreshing summer beverage.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of water
  • ¼  cup fresh, chopped mint leaves or 2 tablespoons looseleaf mint tea (2 tea bags may be used here too)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 tablespoons of stevia (to taste)
  • 1 42.3 oz. bottle of sparkling water, unflavored or lime
  • Ice cubes

For stovetop or microwave:  heat water until it reaches the point of simmering.  Remove from the heat and using your tea strainer, steep the tea or leaves for about 5 minutes while it cools.  Remove tea bags and continue cooling until it reaches room temperature.

Overnight or sun tea method (not recommended for fresh mint):  Pour the water into a mason jar or pitcher, depending on what type of strainer you’re using.  The type that rests on the mouth of the mason jar is perfect for this.

For either method, add remaining ingredients except for the sparkling water, and let the tea chill to room temperature (it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week).  Serve ½ and ½ quantities of tea and sparkling water over ice and enjoy! 1-RI Visit 2014 038

Iced Chai Latte Chai is one of my favorite beverages.  It’s so spicy and satisfying, I look forward to it every morning, especially because I steep it overnight so it’s ready to simply heat and serve, no brew-time required.

Prepare it from scratch using a 1 quart mason jar and this delicious recipe, or use your favorite loose leaf chai (preferred) or pre-bagged if you find some you like.  I generally find home made or loose leaf chai to be much more flavorful than the kind that comes in a box. Combine it with your favorite plant or dairy milk, for a rich, delicious way to satisfy your thirst any time.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup  homemade or loose leaf chai, or 4 pre-packed tea bags
  • 3 cups oat, almond, soy or dairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon stevia (optional)

Overnight or sun tea method for steeping (using a 1 quart mason jar:  Fill your stainer with chai, or place your tea bags into a your mason jar.  Pour room-temperature water into a 1 quart mason jar fitted with a stainless steel strainer  that rests on the mouth of the mason jar or use your favorite infuser.  Let sit overnight or for at least 8 hours, until fully steeped.

Pour equal amounts of chai and milk into a glass.  Mix in 1/4 teaspoon stevia, add a few cubes of ice and enjoy!

Sprout into Spring for DIY Superfood

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Spring is the perfect time to sprout.  With most local produce still garden-bound, we don’t need to wait for fresh, energy-boosting foods as summer rolls around.  Hang on!  Before you click off in search of health food you’ll actually eat, you may want to check this out.

Sprouts aren’t just for salads anymore, and there as so many sproutable foods aside from good ole alfalfa!   Most people think of sprouts either as a throwback to the 70’s or something to eye suspiciously at the salad bar, but there are dozens of seeds, beans and grains you can sprout right in your kitchen.  And since they’re grown hydroponically, it’s a dirt-free low maintenance process.  Sprouts are easy to grow yourself, and you can’t get fresher, more local ingredients for enlivening wraps, rolls, stir fries and smoothies so readily available right when you want them.

What makes sprout so super?  For one thing, they can contain up to 100 times more essential enzymes than whole fruits and vegetables.  The nutrient content increases dramatically during the sprouting process, and the minerals present become increasingly easier for your body to assimilate.  High in protein, B vitamins and fiber, they’re the ultimate super food!

What can you sprout?  Well since sprouting is simply seed germination, any seed, bean or grain is sproutable, although methods vary.  I find the hydroponic jar method to be the easiest way to sprout, since it’s the least messy, and produces consistently great results.  Alternatively, you can grow your sprouts in dirt, as is required for sunflower seeds and wheat grass, or use a tray for chia or quinoa sprouts.

The jar method is perfect for sprouting tasty seeds like broccoli , radish and clover, which are all great beginner varieties.  Or start with legumes!  Lentils, mung beans, garbanzos are all easy to sprout with lots of savory options. And wheat berries are simple to sprout and make delicious high-protein energy bars and breakfast cookies.

Dr.Mercola calls sprouting “undoubtedly one of the best ways to increase the nutritional content of your veggie intake even further”. 

The more I’ve learned about sprouting, the more I’ve grown to appreciate this lost art of kitchen food growing.  I’ve always got something sprouting in my kitchen, and I love sharing this simple practice with others.  And of course the more sprouts I grow, the more I eat and the more nourished I feel!

I regularly experiment with new recipes, feeling so lucky to enjoy the delicious results afterwards.  If you’re into healthy eating, I highly recommend giving this simple practice a try.    Click here for a simple step by step sprouting guide, or try using a GreenSproutKit for an all-in-one option for getting your green on today!

10 tips to streamline your kitchen time and improve your daily diet

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Whether you want to lose weight, stabilize your energy or improve your health, eliminating pre-packaged foods from your diet is the best place to start.  And one major factor in transforming your diet is doing more cooking at home.  For many of us, that mere idea can be scary, but with strategies for success in place, you’ll enjoy the benefits of home cooking without the aggravation.  And believe it or not, when done right, cooking can be fun and creative as well as healthy and delicious. Whether you’re a stranger to your kitchen or simply wish you were, try these helpful tips to streamline the process.  You won’t believe the difference you’ll experience when you can focus on getting your creative juices ready to whip up something fabulous, minus the headache.  Here’s how:

  1. Keep it simple.  Maintain a 1 dish breakfast and lunch, and a 2-3 dish dinner.  Cooking from scratch gives you the opportunity to whip up delicious recipes using less than 5 ingredients, but that combine important food groups.  Oatmeal with fruit and walnuts for breakfast, a quinoa salad for lunch followed by a bean and green sauté over brown rice all give you a huge nutritional hit in one satisfying dish, perfect for maintaining balanced energy all day long.
  2. Strive for satisfaction on 5 ingredients or less.  Look for a cookbook or website that features simple, whole foods cooking and find 2-3 recipes that sound good.  Mark your pages or print the recipes, highlighting what you need to purchase so you don’t have to reread anything to remember.
  3. Get organized! A pre-written grocery list, whether compiled by a healthy foods expert or one you create for yourself, is key to cooking success.  Keep your list near the fridge or on your mobile device so you can keep it current.
  4. Label bulk foods or even bagged rice and beans with listing cooking times and water-to-grain ratio so you don’t need to consult a cookbook ever time you want to prepare them.
  5. Group complementary objects.  If there are ingredients you always use together, store them together for easy access.  For example if you only use oatmeal with raisins, group them side by side even if they’re not your traditional “like-objects”.
  6. Set up to streamline.  Whether you’re working from a recipe or making a favorite you know by heart, take out everything you’ll need to use before you start to streamline the process and save time.   Place foods where they’ll be used, like on the cutting board, next to a bowl or pan.
  7. Grouping tasks saves time.  Wash your produce all together, then take a moment to check out your recipe or think through your plan.   Make sure all of the chopping, peeling and cooking happens simultaneously, store prepped food on dinner plates if you need the work space, you can simply wipe them down and reuse them to avoid more cleanup.  You’ll be amazed by the time difference this can make.
  8. Prepare ahead.   Washing your lettuce or bulk greens as soon as you get them home, then store in a covered glass bowl or green produce bag.  Cook bulk beans or grains (except for rice) that you plan to use within 3-4 days over the weekend or after dinner.  Most need to cook for an hour or more, but require little to no maintenance during cooking, so when you have a stretch of time, take advantage of it.
  9. Skip unnecessary steps.  Carrots, apples and parsnips don’t need to be peeled, nor does garlic that will be used in a press.  Use your kitchen scissors to chop fresh herbs directly into your dish- no cutting board required.  Serve cooked foods in attractive glass storage bowls to avoid unnecessary transfers and dishes.
  10. Enlist a friend.  Take turns bringing lunch to work, set up a weekly pot luck night or trade favorite recipes and cooking tips.  This helps you save to time, but the real benefits are shared experience, camaraderie and good, healthy food.

This may sound like a long list of instructions, but the idea is to adopt the ones that feel right for you, and practice them until they become routine.  Then add on from there.  Gradually adopting new habits will not only help to refine your palette to enjoy less processed foods more, you’ll find preparing them much easier too.  So choose your favorite, add it to your to-do list and take the first step towards healthy eating today!

Bittman, Beans and 7 Simple Tips for Expanding Your Culinary Horizons

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Suppose you were planning a trip alone (with your family) in a remote Wi-Fi free yurt and you could only bring with you one lifeline to sanity, what would you choose?  This time I chose NY Times food writer Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”.  Already smitten, this book swept me into a whole new level of appreciation for Bittman’s understated culinary genius.

I recall once watching Cybill Shephard’s stern TV reenactment of Martha Stewart cooking her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, which at the time struck me as extreme, if not borderline insane.  Now years later, wading through Bittman’s 997 pages of hardbound goodness gave me a new perspective.

Of course the opening line in the chapter on beans almost made me cry; “I adore beans and have cooked with them regularly for my entire adult life” confesses Bittman.  “As I’ve traveled, as I’ve experimented, as I’ve discovered new varieties and the joys of fresh beans, I’ve grown to love them more and more”.  For me those words and the many that followed offered a fresh surge of inspiration to get back into the kitchen with renewed vigor.  I left that yurt with a plan in mind and a shopping list in hand, recharged and super excited to try on some interesting new dishes made with beans and grains I don’t typically use.

It’s rare to find a man who loves beans as much as I do.  And Bittman’s casual, use-what-you-have-on-hand cooking style is a perfect fit for busy people who enjoy healthy eating as much as he does.  If you can get past the looming structure of it, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian takes the mystery out of many foods mistakenly assumed complicated.  And in case you’re worried about how to adapt to all this new fiber, Bittman tackles that topic as well- beans don’t have to be associated with gas!

In typical plain-talk style he suggests maintaining a healthy level of fiber in your diet to promote digestive efficiency and free you from issues of gastric distress.  He bluntly concludes; “If you’re uncomfortable after eating legumes, see your doctor”.  While the extremity of this advice did make me chuckle, it’s out of context here and perhaps even in the original text.  Most Americans are so fiber-deficit that people do associate beans with gas, often as a point of concern.

So how does one build a healthy fiber intake without the, um, gastrointestinal issues?  The key is a slow transition; this will minimize any digestive issues as your body relearns how to process real food. Work your way up to a healthy fiber intake by making the switch from refined grains to whole ones and incorporating the recommended intake of at least four servings per week of beans into your diet.

This is a relatively quick process, a matter of weeks should suffice.  Embrace this opportunity to discover a whole new world of under-appreciated yet thoroughly delicious healthy, whole foods.

Here are 7 simple suggestions to help you expand your culinary horizons:

  1. Select one new whole grain you’d like to try:  faro, wheat berries, hulled barley and quinoa are all good choices for flavor and versatility.
  2. Choose one bean variety you’d like to try: cooking from scratch.  Garbanzo or cannellini beans are a great place to start since they’re readily available, much more delicious fresh than canned and very versatile.
  3. Schedule a time when you know you’ll be home for a couple of hours to do your cooking.
  4. The day prior, soak your beans in enough water to cover them by at least 4”
  5. Cook your beans and grains according to instructions
  6. Drain grains after cooking to store covered for up to 5 days in the fridge, or 2-3 months frozen.
  7. Store beans in their cooking water in the fridge for up to 5 days or 2-3 months frozen.

For perfectly cooked beans:  add 1 tsp. salt and 2 tbsps. lemon juice to beans after they begin to tenderize during cooking, about 45 minutes.

For easy weekly menu planning:    Cook enough beans and grains to serve for several meals during the week, then freeze the rest in family serving-sized containers.  I love glass jars for this, but be sure to leave the lid slightly askew during freezing to allow for expansion.

Whole foods are the gateway to good health so getting to know them better holds no shortage of reward.   And reading through a master work like Bittman’s HTCEV (or similar) can get even the most competent cook inspired.  So take a moment to pick up a great cookbook and really give it your attention.  Read the recipes, envision the process and embark on a brand new culinary adventure today!

Fiber Up to Skinny Down

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

And boost energy, digestion and satisfaction in the process

Whether the latest diet debate centers around gluten-free or Paleo, carbs are a hot topic these days.  The problem is, the discussions typically cluster all carbs into one category:  bad, and thus all grains are also labeled.  The reasoning goes like this: all carbs, and therefore all grains, are unhealthy, fattening and strictly to be avoided, to the point where some shoppers will shell out $10 a package for Paleo Wraps.    The fallout of this oversimplification  keeps a lot of us steering clear of a really important fiber and nutrient source.

Carbohydrates are the starchy and sugary parts of food that break down into glucose, the sugar your body needs for fuel, so they do have their uses. And combining glucose with lots of plant fiber is the best way to keep blood sugar levels steady and long-lasting.  So as you may have guessed, neither all carbs nor all grains are created equal.

So what does all this have to do with fiber?  Well for one thing, we need to be eating a lot more of it.  The general recommendation for adults is 25 grams per day.  We’re currently coming in at around half of that.  Whole grains, which are made up of complex carbohydrates, which are naturally low in calories and high in fiber.  Along with plenty of plant-based whole fruits and veggies, grains are an important part of a healthy diet.  The fiber contained in complex carbohydrates, gives us the feeling of fullness that keeps us from overeating in addition to all the health benefits it offers. And researchers have linked high fiber consumption with a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Then there are the other carbs—the simple or refined carbohydrates contained in white bread, white rice, pasta, pastries, crackers, most juices, and breakfast cereals. These are grains that started out whole, but then had the fibrous coating removed, so your body barely has to work to digest them.  Refined carbs enter the blood stream in a surge, leading to a spike in insulin that leads to a kind of roller-coaster effect on blood sugar: way up, then way down. Insulin surges can create a cycle of hunger and overeating in the short term, and long-term are associated with weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.  To your body, refined grains like white rice are treated essentially the same way as a teaspoon of sugar: quick to convert to glucose, then leave you feeling hungry all over again.

Whole grains—as oats, quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, and wheat berries, fall into the complex carbohydrate family, and have a more leveling effect on blood sugar and insulin than do foods like white rice or pasta. Since most women consume only about half the 25–35 grams of fiber most experts recommend, you may want to think about making the switch to whole grains, the more intact the better.   Look for bread that lists whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain as the first ingredient. Or, even better, buy bread that’s made with only 100% whole grains, like 100% whole-wheat bread.

Brown rice is better than white, but why not experiment with some delicious new alternatives?  A dish that contains millet, wheat berries, hulled barley or bulgar can provide about 1/3 of your daily fiber requirement.    Whole grains are also high in protein and other important nutrients like phytochemicals.

The less widely used grains offer an entire new experience in flavor and texture.  From Minted Quinoa Tabouli, to Oven Baked Oats or Orange Fennel and Kamut Salad, you’ll discover whole new favorites to replace those refined wheat products and fiber you up right!

10 Savvy Shortcuts for Streamlining Your Cooking Projects

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Whether you want to lose weight, stabilize your energy or improve your health, Your kitchen is the best place to start.  One primary factor in transforming your diet is relying less on restaurants and take out in favor of doing more cooking at home.  For many of us, that mere idea can be scary, but with strategies for success in place, you’ll enjoy the benefits of home cooking without the aggravation.  And believe it or not, when done right, meal preparation can be fun and creative as well as healthy and delicious. 

Whether you’re a stranger to your kitchen or simply wish you were, try these helpful tips to streamline the process.  You won’t believe the difference you’ll experience when you can focus on getting your creative juices ready to whip up something fabulous, minus the headache.  Here’s how:

  1. Keep it simple.  Maintain a 1 dish breakfast and lunch, and a 2-3 dish dinner.  Cooking from scratch gives you the opportunity to whip up delicious recipes using less than 5 ingredients, but that combine important food groups.  Overnight Oatmeal with fruit and walnuts for breakfast, a Quickie Quesadilla for lunch followed by a Snappy Veggie Stir Fry with Miso Goddess Sauce sauce over brown rice for dinner.  All of these give you a huge nutritional hit in one satisfying dish, perfect for maintaining balanced energy all day long.
  2. Strive for satisfaction on 5 ingredients or less.  Look for a cookbook or website that features simple, whole foods cooking and find 2-3 recipes that sound good.  Mark your pages or print the recipes, highlighting what you need to purchase so you don’t have to reread anything to remember.
  3. Get organized! A pre-written grocery list, whether compiled by a healthy foods expert or one you create for yourself, is key to cooking success.  Keep your list near the fridge or on your mobile device so you can keep it current.
  4. Label bulk foods or even bagged rice and beans by listing cooking times and water-to-grain ratio so you don’t need to consult a cookbook ever time you want to prepare them.  Black self-adhesive mailing labels work well, but I like to print out these crafty pre-designed labels and keep them in the kitchen for when I need them.
  5. Group complementary objects.  If there are ingredients you always use together, store them together for easy access.  For example if you only use oatmeal with raisins, group them side by side even if they’re not your traditional “like-objects”.
  6. Set up to streamline.  Whether you’re working to a recipe or making a favorite you know by heart, take out everything you’ll need to use before you start to streamline the process and save time.   Place foods where they’ll be used, like on the cutting board, next to a bowl or pan.
  7. Grouping tasks saves time.  Wash your produce all together, then take a moment to check out your recipe or think through your plan.   Make sure all of the chopping, peeling and cooking happens simultaneously.  Store your prepped food on dinner plates if you need the work space, you can simply wipe them down and reuse them at mealtime to avoid more cleanup.  You’ll be amazed by the time difference this can make.
  8. Prepare ahead.   Washing your lettuce or bulk greens as soon as you get them home, then store in a covered glass bowl or green produce bag.  Cook bulk beans or grains (except for rice) that you plan to use within 3-4 days over the weekend or after dinner.  Most need to cook for an hour or more, but require little to no maintenance during cooking, so when you have a stretch of time, take advantage of it.
  9. Skip unnecessary steps.  Carrots, apples and parsnips don’t need to be peeled, not does garlic that will be used in a press.  Use your kitchen scissors to chop fresh herbs directly into your dish, no cutting board required.  Serve cooked foods in attractive glass storage bowls to avoid unnecessary transfers and dishes.
  10. Enlist a friend.  Take turns bringing lunch to work, set up a weekly pot luck night or trade favorite recipes and cooking tips.  This helps you save to time, but the real benefits are shared experience, camaraderie and good, healthy food.

This may sound like a long list of instructions, but the idea is to adopt the ones that feel right for you, and practice them until they become routine.  Then add on from there.

Maximizing your time in the kitchen makes it more enjoyable, and you’ll find yourself less overwhelmed by the idea of preparing meals at home.  Taking control of your health is empowering, and the kitchen is the best place to start.   So choose your favorite tips, plug them into your calendar and take the first step towards healthier eating today!

Nutrition Label Reading for Smarties

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Step into any grocery store and you’ll see lots of products with claims like “Multi-grain,” “Healthy,” “All-natural” or “Gluten Free.”  The trouble is, many of these so-called “health foods” contain some of the worst ingredients, including excess sugar, suspect chemicals and additives banned in many other countries.

If this is surprising, consider who ultimately decides whether or not a food can be labeled as healthy in the US.   Not the FDA, as most people believe, it’s the manufacturer!  So the bottom line is, you can’t take what you read on the front label at face value—ever!”  And despite what the title of this article indicates, studies show that 84% of American shoppers are confused about their nutrition choices.  In short, these things are challenging by design.

Food labels are not only confusing, they’re tiny!  But reading them is important, because when you must eat processed (and at least some of the time, most of us must do) you don’t have to eat junk.  By making it hard to read and understand the information listed, manufacturers give themselves plenty of latitude when it comes to ingredients. So even if you can barely make out the words, take the time and do the legwork to source your goods. You’ll be able to navigate the grocery store aisles more easily once you know what to look for.

Here are some basic tips for healthier food selection:

  • For most of us, trying to avoid sugar is like avoiding sun exposure. We know we should, but it’s everywhere and it’s so much fun. But when on average we consume five times the daily recommended allowance of added sugars, limiting is a good idea. Avoid products containing sugar of any kind in the first five ingredients and you’re on the right track.  The recommended sugar intake for adult women is 5 teaspoons (20 grams) of sugar per    day, for adult men, it’s 9 teaspoons (36 grams) daily, and for children, it’s 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day.                                                                                                                                      
  • Beware of the “natural flavoring” loophole.  Natural flavoring could be anything, and if it was anything healthy, it would be listed.
  • Sodium content should never exceed the number calories; look for a 1:1 ratio. If a serving of Pop Chips contains 100 calories, be sure it also contains less than 100 grams of sodium. Simple!
  • Shift your focus from fat grams per serving, since serving sizes are quite subjective. Fat content should be no more than 20% of the total calorie content and should contain no trans fats. How to tell? Read the Nutrition Label on the back of the package, find the total calories per serving, and divide by 5. If fat calories are more than 20% of total calories, or if it contains hydrogenated anything, it’s not a healthy choice.                                                                                                                                                                        
  • Most of us fall far short of daily fiber recommendations as the chart below indicates, so be sure you’re buying whole grains whenever possible. Claims announcing “Whole-wheat” or “Multi-grain” on the front are not the same thing. Read the Nutrition Label carefully to make sure the word “whole” precedes every grain listed, or look for the “100% whole-grain” claim. This is one term regulated by the FDA to ensure that all grains used in the product are, in fact, whole. Aim for 25-35 grams (g) of total fiber each day –or 6-8 grams per meal, and 3-4 grams per snack
  • Beware of serving sizes. Not all serving sizes are the same, nor do they necessarily make sense. That individually wrapped granola bar may proudly announce only 50 calories per serving, but you’d have to scrutinize the fine print to discover that’s really three servings there.
  • Avoid foods containing ingredients banned in other countries, even though they’re used regularly in the US in items from breakfast cereal to energy bars to Kraft Mac n Cheese. Food colorings like Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40, BHA, arsenic and more are found in the many of the vitamin fortified family foods we eat every day.   ABC News has a handy slide show with more details here.
  • Avoid products containing sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s commonly used in processed meats like bacon, jerky, and lunch meats. Studies link nitrates to diabetes and heart disease.
  • Eat more whole, plant based foods to meet you daily nutrition requirements!

Check out this chart published by the USDA Dietary Guidelines to see how most of us measure up:

AmericanDiet_vs_TargetDiet-560x342

3 Simple Tips to Enliven Your Life With Healthier Food Choices

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Even though 9 out of 10 of us are convinced that our eating habits are healthy, we’re seeing our Mother and daughter in produce sectionalready high diet-related disease rates continue to rise.  I know, I get it; a few years back I was among those 9!

And since back then I was exercising, eating low-fat, high protein foods, getting plenty of fruit and greens and steering clear of anything obviously junky, I thought I was on it.  But it wasn’t until I discovered that my many of my all-natural, fat-free and healthy favorites were full of ingredients that just didn’t belong in food, that I really caught on.

Ten years of search and discovery, trial and tribulation, and a Cornell University Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition later, I’m sharing what I’ve learned.  What you eat makes a huge difference in how you look, think and feel, and if you care about those things, you can change your diet and change your life!

Upgrade your eating habits starting today with three healthier food habits

1.    Commit to cooking and eating more plant-based whole foods.  On average, the American diet is 70% processed foods, and we’re consuming a greater number of empty calories than ever before. We’re meeting less than half of the recommended daily requirements for most essential nutrients, meanwhile doubling down on the foods linked to diet-related disease.  While I don’t agree with the US Department of Agriculture’s recommendations on dairy and seafood (and since these food categories don’t really belong in a list of nutrients per se), it’s otherwise from clear from the USDA chart that replacing refined foods and meat products with fruits, vegetables and whole grains will make a major impact in reversing disease trends.   The best place to get started is right in your own kitchen, where you know exactly what goes into the food you eat.

  2.   Learn to use a healthy whole foods shopping list, like this one!  This list contains      everything I recommend including into your diet, with room to add the things you can’t live without.  Use it to begin to replace some of the items you’re been buying that you know aren’t good for you one or two at a time.   For example, try whole grain bread and pasta instead of white flour-based, or pick up some almonds in place of potato chips to snack on.  And if the preprinted list doesn’t include items you can’t live without (yet!), just list them on the blank lines.  Please don’t list Doritos.

Here are the rules for the getting the most from the list (should you choose to follow them):

  • You must keep this list where you will see it, like on the fridge or on a drawer with your keys in the kitchen.  If not, you will forget to mark it right away when you run out of something and it won’t work.
  • You must commit to stick to the list while shopping.  It’s best to decide up front not to even look at the items you know you shouldn’t buy and won’t miss, but if you happen to notice they’re on sale 2 for 1, all bets are off.  Do yourself a favor and if you’re better off without it, avoid that section of the store.
  • You must inventory your fridge and cabinets before you leave the house to make sure you have yourself covered until the next shopping trip you have scheduled next week.  Because if you plan ahead, you’ve got it!

Keep in mind this simple equation if you get stuck:  fewer trips to the store = less impulse buying = less money spent on bad food = more money to spend on new, possibly smaller sized clothes.

3.    Always read the label.  New studies show that women who read nutrition labels are an average of 8 pounds lighter than non-label readers.  And “label” doesn’t refer to the promo on the front of the package that says “low fat”, you need to turn to the fine print on the side panel.  Even if you have to squint, and don’t know what all of the numbers mean, be sure to always check the number of serving sizes, it’s often surprising!  Then move on to read the ingredients labels, and if it contains products that sound like chemicals, know you’re better off without it.

Remember, the food you eat is inextricably tied to health, energy levels, even happiness, so it’s important to rank it the top priority it deserves to be.  Which sounds easy but it involves knowing how to plan, shop and, for most of us who live within a budget, re-discovering how to cook.   I know you don’t have time.  Neither did I.  I’m a busy, working mom, and I had to struggle through figuring out how to make all those realities fit together.  The strategies and recipes I’ve created are here to help you.

Whether it’s cutting back on prepared foods, including more veggies and fiber in your diet, or swearing off fast food forever, the point is to get started, today!  One step in the right direction will yield numerous benefits.  You’ll also discover delicious new dishes that you didn’t have to pay a lot of money for, food that’s good for you, and you’ll have the satisfaction of having prepared it yourself.  It’s easier than you think when you begin at the beginning, by making a mindful commitment to adapt healthier habits because you’re worth it.  You’re on the start of a journey that could change your life, so take the first step today!

Navigating the Diet, Calorie and Nutrition Conundrum

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

UnknownGuestSpeakerThe New Year is the perfect time to take a step back, look at our lives and really evaluate.  Are you as healthy and happy as you want to be, or are you feeling stuck in sluggish mode?  Especially after the holidays many of us fall into the latter category.  This is not our natural state!  If you’re feeling heavy, tired, or depressed, then your health is out of balance.   Many of us don’t realize that diet plays a key factor in either promoting or alleviating these unhealthy conditions.  The amazingly good news is, you have the ability to rebalance your diet and feel your best right though the everyday choices you make!

Now is the time, and it’s more straightforward than you think.  As you may know, not all calories are created equal, which kind of skews the simple calories in, calories out equation.   Some foods are more high-quality, as in, more nutritionally dense than others.  While you would need to be well-versed in nutrition science to assess this correctly every time, most of us know in general say, that a piece of fruit is healthier than a fruit roll up.  Real food always beats the processed version, we’ll start with that.

Calories differ in other ways too.  Foods like fiber-rich veggies burn calories just through digestion, while other foods, including many ingredients of refined, processed foods, actually incite cravings, and since the body doesn’t get to process refined foods, they go unnoticed by your hunger center.  In short, they just don’t satisfy.

What about Diet?

Of course all of the ado about individual diets creates even more confusion.  And as Nutritionista extraordinaire Meghan Telpner reminds us in her Enliven interview, diets don’t come in one-size-fits-all.   More typically they come in fads, which lots of us try, but just like miniskirts and platform stilettos, they simply won’t work for everybody.  Gluten-free anyone?

The problem with most diets is you have to work to stay on them.  And when you finally take a break, it’s so much more enjoyable you’ve taught yourself to associate diet with denial.  It’s hard to willingly opt for that.  So adapting a new definition of diet may make sense.  It’s really about finding the most nutritionally dense foods that work for your body, without overeating.  And since in general, the most nutritionally dense foods are the most fibrous, filling and satisfying, with some planning ahead you won’t experience the dissatisfaction that leads to cravings and overeating.

How do you find the foods your body needs to feel your best?  First, begin by making sure you’re getting enough of the foods you may be deficient in.  This illustrative chart from the USDA measures the average nutritional profile.AmericanDiet_vs_TargetDiet-560x342

As you can see, Americans are way too low on whole foods, and way too high on solid fats SoFas), saturated fats, refined grains and sodium, all of the ingredients so prevalent in processed foods.  The best place to start improving your eating habits is to replace all of the nutritionally devoid foods shown on the USDA chart, with healthy foods rich in nutrients we’re getting too few of, mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.  I don’t personally agree with the dairy suggestion on the chart, for reasons discussed in depth by author Rita Rivera in her Enliven interview, but the remaining suggestions are generally accepted as good health advice.

So goal number one regardless of the rest of your dietary plan, is to replace refined processed foods with healthy whole foods as much as possible.  On average, 70% of the food we’re eating is processed.  Not all processed foods are bad, but it’s important to avoid the high percentage of overly refined processed foods that have become so widespread in our culture.  This can be tricky, because it does require a bit of working knowledge.  It also involves a habit many of us avoid, reading labels.

Read Food Labels

Food labels are not only confusing, they’re tiny!  But reading them is important, because when you must eat processed (and at least some of the time, many of us must) you don’t have to eat junk.  By making it hard to read and understand the information, manufacturers give themselves plenty of latitude when it comes to ingredients. So even if you can barely make out the words, take the time and do the legwork to source your goods. You’ll be able to navigate the grocery store aisles more easily once you know what to look for.

Here are some simple rules of thumb so if you have to buy packaged foods, at least there’s less of a risk factor.  And even if you go no further and remember nothing else, it will always benefit you to keep in mind this inconvenient truth that we all need to remember: never believe the claims you read on the front of the package.  If you’re interested in making healthier food choices by understanding nutrition labels, here are some tips:

  1. Beware of serving sizes. Not all serving sizes are the same, nor do they necessarily make sense.  Bottled beverages, even those that look like they’re meant for one, often use this tactic to make calorie counts seem lower than they really are.  Even clearly individually packaged items like sports bars and muffins sometimes list two servings per piece, so it always makes sense to check.
  2. In the US, we consume on average 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar per day (more than 4 times the 5 teaspoons the American Heart Association recommends for women), so attempting to reduce when possible is a good idea. Avoid products containing sugar of any kind in the first five ingredients and you’re on the right track.    The most common tactic manufacturers use to sneak it in? Mixing the names of different sweeteners so the weight is spread out among several forms of sugar. Some to look out for:  honey, dextrose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, fructose, maltose, and lactose.
  3. Sodium content should never exceed the number calories; look for a 1:1 ratio. If a serving of Pop Chips contains 100 calories, be sure it also contains less than 100 grams of sodium. Simple!  It’s also healthier to avoid products containing sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s commonly used in processed meats like bacon, jerky, and lunch meats. Studies link nitrates to diabetes and heart disease.
  4. Shift your focus from fat grams per serving, since serving sizes are quite subjective. Fat content should be no more than 20% of the total calorie content and should contain no trans fats. How to tell? Read the Nutrition Label on the back of the package, find the total calories per serving, and divide by 5. If fat calories are less than 20% of total calories, or if it contains hydrogenated anything, put it back.
  5. Make sure you’re buying whole grains. Claims announcing “Whole-wheat” or “Multi-grain” on the front are not the same thing. Read the Nutrition Label carefully to make sure the word “whole” precedes every grain listed, or look for the “100% whole-grain” claim. This is one term regulated by the FDA to ensure that all grains used in the product are, in fact, whole.
  6. Finally, beware of words you don’t know or recognize in the ingredients. If you wouldn’t stock them in your kitchen, it’s because they don’t belong in your food!  Of course it’s important to focus on what to include, and not just what to avoid.  For a comprehensive shopping list of healthy foods to include in your diet, visit  http://elizabethborelli.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/BeanaliciousShoppingList.pdf

Updating your shopping habits with nutritious choices will make a tremendous difference in your energy level, weight and overall health.  It’s a step-by-step process, and involves a new level of awareness and commitment.  But once you start experiencing the benefits of a better diet, you may be surprised to learn your favorite thing about your new diet is how amazingly delicious that real, healthy food can be!

Mindful Eating, 5 Tips to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

If you’re riding the wellness resolution trend this year, you may want to take note.   While the New Year may harken the best of intentions, they’re usually short-lived.  When it comes to health and mindful eating, less than 10% of resolutions survive the test of time, and I’m talking months, not years.  The fact is, Americans make over 200 food-related decisions per day according to a recent study, yet when asked to estimate that number, participants’ guess an average of 15.  Yes it’s true, the vast majority of our eating is done mindlessly.

But there is good news too!  You have the power to change your mindless eating default and bring these decisions to the forefront (frontal lobes in this case), where they belong.   So IF you’re serious about a New Year’s resolution that involves improving your energy level, losing weight and feeling happier all around, listen up.   Here are some common-sense strategies for making it happen for real this time.

1. Discover your most compelling motive for making change.  Motivation plays the biggest role when it comes to enacting long term, positive behavior change.  But identifying your true motive may not be as obvious as it seems at first glance.  Ask yourself, “Why do I want to lose weight, really?  What will the outcome look or feel like?”  Dig deep and envision clearly.

Leading neuro-science expert Dr. Daniel Amen keeps a picture of his grandson where he’ll see it every day, as a reminder of his real motive for keeping his health a priority.  The mocha fudge becomes less tempting when you connect it to a bigger picture, as in avoiding options that move you further away from your goals.  The same rationale has been effectively used by former smokers to kick the habit, it works!

Another great way to do this is to create a vision board, complete with images, as in pictures of loved ones you’d like to have the energy to spend more time with, or people who inspire you through their achievements that you know are not outside your realm of possibility too.

2. Then choose one habit that you know isn’t serving you.  Do you hit the drive-through every morning only to end up so hungry you’re wondering how you’ll possibly make it all the way until lunch?  Nosh on packaged snacks when you get home from work and regret all the empty calories later?  Instead of resolving to diet away the extra ten pounds, start with one simple behavior change directed toward achieving that goal.  Give yourself time to get comfortable with that change, whether it’s days, weeks or months until this becomes your new normal.  Now you’re ready to take another step, and repeat until your diet brings you all of the benefits excellent health has to offer.

3. State your personal credo, write it down and memorize it.  Sticking to a healthy routine that’s working feels great, but you still need to prepare for the unexpected.  The homemade cheesecake muffins your well-meaning co-worker shares with the group, the Philly Cheesesteak your partner wants to share, the small vs. jumbo-sized anything.  If these offers cross your path, decide in advance on your default, then remember your credo when temptation strikes.  The treat will be gone in a moment, but the self-empowerment of establishing new resolve keeps on growing, long after the dazzle has fizzled and the New Year has passed.

So now you’ve made a mindful decision to prioritize health and wellness this year.  You know your motives, you’re prepared with healthy alternatives and you know your credo.   The question then becomes, in times of stress or temptation, how do we stay aligned with our best intentions?

4. Avoid your triggers, and pack alternatives  If you know you’re tremendously tempted by your mom’s homemade lasagna, with it layers of cheese and rich, meaty sauce, instead of hoping you’ll have the willpower to resist, which after a glass of wine and a little convincing, you won’t, plan ahead.  Eat some raw veggies or fruit and drink a big glass of water before you’re in any situation where you’re inclined to be hungry and lots of food you know you’ll regret later is imminent.   Decide in advance how much you’ll try, and stick to it.  Have a ¼ piece of lasagna and fill the rest of your plate with veggies.   Don’t break the code:  once you start snacking on empty carbs it’s much harder to stop, so make your snacks healthy, even if you have to bring them yourself.  The key again is to plan ahead.

5. Make your health a top priority!  You may have noticed that sometimes your willpower seems stronger than others.  Ever wonder why when you’re calm and well-rested, you seem less inclined to succumb to temptation?  One reason is pure physiology.  It takes energy to exercise willpower, and if we’re out of fuel, we’ll have less of it. If it’s way past lunchtime, you’re beyond hungry and the only opportunity to appease that need is the big Mickey D’s, you may stop, and once you’re there at that drive though and your willpower is weak, all bets are off.  So avoid these pitfalls!

  • Get enough rest (a huge factor in harnessing willpower)
  • Exercise even a little bit every day, even 15 minutes of brisk walking counts!
  • Prepare ahead to avoid the pitfalls

Yes this takes intention and even a bit of time, but you already have the tools you need to succeed, including the willpower.  When you prioritize your health, you’ll bring your best self to the table, making smart choices easier and happy outcomes more likely every time.

Ready to lose 8 pounds without even trying?

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Ready to lose 8 pounds without even trying?If you’re expecting a diet pill or calorie cutting plan, you may be disappointed.  The only investment you’ll need to make for this weight loss regimen is maybe a good pair of reading glasses.

A full 70% of food we eat is processed.  True that’s a high number, but since my favorite whole grain bread ranks on that list, I’m not throwing in the towel and neither should you.  The trick is to being to make more informed choices.  Luckily no special skills are required to recognize the good from the garbage.  I’m not suggesting you no longer enjoy your treats if you can’t live without them, just know that some treats are trickier than others.  The secret to which is which lies in the small print on the side of the package.

Women who regularly read ingredients labels weigh an average of eight pounds less than the rest of us.  I know those tiny numbers are confusing, but even when you don’t know what all of them mean, you know enough to weed out (more…)

Favorite Tips to Spice Up Your Beans

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

2013-10-21 13.49.12Certain seasonings will make your beans sing, rely on them and you’ll rarely be disappointed.  Some of favorite spices for beans include:  garlic, parsley, cumin, thyme, basil, oregano, fennel, and pepper of any kind, but truth be told, it’s hard to go wrong no matter how you spice it.

  • A good measure for dried spices is 1 teaspoon of seasoning per 4 cups of cooked beans.

A favorite cold-weather seasoning suggestion is to add a touch of smoky flavoring to your soup, chili or veggie bake.  I’ve recently discovered this amazing coconut bacon made of real ingredients and no artificial additives.  (more…)

A Smarter Start: Ignore the front cover, focus on the ingredients list!

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

the-ingredients-list

I was reading one of my favorite new books, Pandora’s Lunchbox, and getting a serious education on the synthetics contained in most breakfast cereals, when the author mentioned Kellogg’s Smart Start.  It sounds so healthy, and who wouldn’t want a smart start when the box looks so appealing?   Really, what’s not to like?  To find out, I turned to my old friend, Wikipedia, which very conveniently lists ingredients for many common packaged foods.  In fact, if you hate the idea of standing in the grocery store aisle trying to make out the fine print, try Wiki first and save yourself some shopping time later.

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Top Ten Reasons to Eat Your Beans

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Did you know, thousands of new processed food products are introduced each year, with billions of industry dollars spent encouraging us to eat them?  The US is now the most overweight industrial nation in history.  Do they really think we need more food?

Newsflash industrial ag!  You’re heading in the wrong direction.  We don’t need more additives, chemicals or GMOs, it’s time we turned back to the basics, where natural nutrition and good taste meet.  In other words, back to the beans.

Beans are so nutritious that the latest dietary guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups per week  If nutritional punch and sheer deliciousness don’t grab you, how about the biggest bang for your buck as another great reason to get those beans boiling?

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