Thursday, January 5, 2012

Leap Into Your Best New Year

Leap Into Your Best New Year
Sarah Reid, RHNC, CNP

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. In the past, I would jump head-first into the typical good intentions – eat a better diet, hit the gym 3 times a week, stop spending so much money, relax more – but by the time January 8th rolled around I’d be back eating leftover shortbread cookies and going out for pizza or Chinese food, my gym pass would be “lost”, my bank account would still be waiting for its first deposit and I’d be working until 2AM six days a week. I decided that the only way to break out of the holidays’ overindulgent cycle was two-fold: moderate my splurges during the festivities (having a few of my mom’s special shortbreads and a piece of her challah which I love instead of a slab of pumpkin pie and a wedge of nutty, dried-fruit laden panettone which I only ate out of ceremony), and come January 2, “re-setting” my lifestyle and eating patterns to clear my brain and body of the holiday stress.

Many people report that they have more energy, better concentration and less bloating after resetting their body’s metabolism and eating patterns. Resetting the body clears natural elimination pathways so they can better function, builds up the beneficial bacteria and nutrient stores in the body, improves the strength of the internal organs and removes you from bad habits (i.e. excessive coffee, alcohol, fat and/or sugar) to foster your “body memory” of your previous healthy actions. It’s not a “detox” plan in the sense of the traditional “starve yourself and live on water and lemon wedges” mentality. Rather, I wanted to de-clutter my mind, get moving again in whatever way I could, and re-stock my kitchen with lots of delicious, nutritious food that I could afford and easily prepare.

I started to journal my major and minor goals for the year, and the steps I was going to take to achieve them. Once I had my list, I typed it up and stuck it on my mirror, and read it daily. The constant reminder kept me true to myself and gave me an endorphin rush when I started crossing off what I had achieved! I also typed up a list of all the positive aspects of my life and body, in large, bold font, and put a copy of it on my bedroom wall and tucked one in my purse. Reading it every day gave me a sense of power and worth – why wouldn’t I want to keep bettering myself and adding to that list?

For exercise, I knew that I would never be a self-starting gym rat like my mother – I needed structure. So I signed up for Pilates and a circuit training class, which committed me, and once I started going I needed no encouragement to continue. The vast difference between those types of workout meant that I was training all parts of my body, toning and stretching it in a variety of ways, and burning calories while feeling part of a group. For some friends of mine, going solo in the gym is the only way they’re comfortable working out, so they pop on their iPod and hit the treadmill and weight machines, then do some active stretching at home. The key is to incorporate a stretch, a strength, and a cardio into every week.

In the kitchen, whole foods were in, processed foods, salt, caffeine and refined carbs were out. The first thing I did was pay attention to the portions I was taking, and when it came to the calorie-dense things like grains or nuts I cut back my servings by about 10%. The result of taking away inflammatory or bloat-inducing foods like carbonated drinks, high-fat items, meat, dairy and eggs, processed soy products (milk, yogurt, protein powder and meat analogues), wheat and corn for only three weeks was startling – it cut out a lot of the “dead weight” I had been feeling since Thanksgiving. Instead, I loaded up on legumes, unsalted nuts and seeds, whole grains, quinoa, cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and cauliflower), sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, beets, lemons and fresh fruit – delicious foods I still enjoy as the bulk of my diet. Instead of salt for seasoning, I picked nutrient rich, anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric, black, white and cayenne pepper, cinnamon, parsley, celery seed, cilantro, coriander, fennel, thyme, mustard seed, nutmeg, dill, fenugreek, cardamom, horseradish, cumin, rosemary, and mint. To further flush out the sodium from the typical everyday diet (not to mention the holiday eats) I stressed high-potassium foods like greens, zucchini and squash, tomatoes, cucumber, mushrooms, cantaloupe, green beans, potatoes (white and sweet), bananas, oranges, and berries. I also got back to drinking water – following the “holistic” calculation of a minimum 75% total (pounds) body weight in fluid ounces (i.e. for me [110 lb] I needed a minimum of 82.5 fl. oz (10 1/3 cups): 110 X 75% = 82.5).

Living and eating this way brought back the realization of how fun, varied and delicious healthy living could be. It was the best first three weeks of the rest of my life – I no longer need to bemoan failed resolutions and wishful thinking, and while slowly re-introducing animal products and other eliminated foods (except refined carbs and sugars) can usually start by February, most people I talk to who do the same sort of “reset” tell me that they now use them as accessory items or condiments, not the major component of their diet. Many of them (including me) cook and eat the “reset” recipes as a matter of course due to the variety and “true taste” of the meals that is no longer masked by sugar, fat and salt. Here are two of my favourites that I came up with over time – a perfect “fry-like” snack or side dish and a delicious dessert!

Roasted Green Beans
Serves 4
2 lbs green beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp crumbled nori flakes

1.      Preheat oven to 400°F
2.      Wash, dry well, and trim green beans. Place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with pepper and crumbled nori and toss well to coat.
3.      Put green beans on a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread them out into 1 layer.
4.      Roast for 20 minutes, stirring the beans after 15 minutes, until beans are fairly brown in spots and somewhat shriveled.

Couple’s Apple Crumble
Serves 2
1 large apple, chopped
1 tbsp raisins
½ tbsp tapioca flour
½ cup large flake oats
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch salt
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp water

1.      Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray two ramekins with olive oil.
2.      In a small bowl, toss apples and raisins with tapioca flour. Divide between the ramekins and set aside.
3.      Combine the oats, cinnamon, and salt, mixing well.
4.      Add the maple syrup and water to the oats and combine with your hands until you have a crumbly mixture.
5.      Add the oat topping to the apples and lightly press down. Spray tops with olive oil.
6.      Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
7.      Let stand 10 minutes before enjoying.

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About Me

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!

Today, my love for teaching is branching out even further - I'm in Montessori training to solidify my love for the system and working with children and families!