Passing love of health to your children

One of my purest pleasures in life is my children.  As I watch them grow into adults, I see vividly the influence of being raised in a “health conscious” home!  It endears me to receive a text with a picture of a meal they prepared, or a Snapchat of hiking, or a “clean” recipe they found online.  They are living lives full of energy, compassion, giving, and health.  In fact, I’m headed to see one of my daughters run in her second marathon this weekend.

I thought I’d let you see into my own life as an encouragement for you with your own children.  Welcome to my world…

Sisters who yoga together, stay together.  🙂

yoga ellen suze sarah

Daughter at college making my homemade chicken noodle (gluten-free) soup.  It warmed my heart.

Sarahs chicken soup

 

Daughter on medical missions trip in Haiti.  A giving heart.

Ellen haiti

Staying active at college.
sarah rollerblading

 

Double trouble running a race…                                            Her first triathlon…

runners ellen sarahellen triatholon

 

Daughter and friend hiked and camped for three days over a cooooold weekend.

sarah hiking

 

Skiing…nature…beauty.  Nuff said.

skiingskiing 3

 

Another day on the lake.

ellen paddleboarding

 

Daughter sent me this picture of the salmon meal she cooked tonight.  Minus the Michelob, healthy … although she did choose Ultra.  🙂

Sarah's salmon

 

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Hard-boiled egg scramble

So, this morning I went to make my husband and myself a veggie and scrambled-egg dish for breakfast.  I chopped the onions, diced the avocado, chopped the tomatoes, crumbled the goat cheese, and prepared the turkey bacon.  As I began sautéing the onions,  I realized … uh oh, we are out of eggs!  The hubby offered to run to the store for eggs, but I had a better idea.

Hard boiled egg scramble

You see, I hard boil between a half-dozen and an entire dozen of organic eggs per week and then keep them in the refrigerator.  That’s one of my “tricks” to always having healthy protein available at a minute’s notice.

I went to work using my hard boiled eggs.  To be honest, it gets boring just eating them plain or sliced in salads!  So I was glad to try something new with them.

For just my husband and me, I took out four hard-boiled eggs and chopped them up and set them aside.  After I sautéed the onions with the turkey bacon, I then added the avocados and tomatoes.  After a minute or two, I added the chopped hard-boiled eggs.  After another few minutes, I added the goat cheese.  Voila, hard-boiled egg scramble!

It was delicious!  And easy!   And a nutritious way to start the day!

Hard-Boiled Egg Scramble

Serves 2

  • 4 organic hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 3 slices organic turkey bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese

Sauté onions with bacon in a skillet (I do not use Teflon or other non-stick coated cookware because of the toxins.  I either use steel/cast iron or ceramic cookware – currently considered safe).  When the onions turn a translucent color, add tomatoes and avocados.  Let cook for a few minutes.  Then add the hard-boiled eggs and cook for another few minutes.  Finally, add the crumbled goat cheese, let sit in the pan for a minute.  Serve and enjoy!

Mwah,

Valerie

 

 

7 simple steps to clean living

My definition oliving-clean-logo-buttonf clean living is simply to live in such a way that I eliminate as many toxic things from my life as possible – not just from my body, but from my mind and soul, too.

Real food.  Simplify life.  Reduce stress.  Love God and my neighbor.  Work/life balance.

Do you beat yourself up because you are interested in clean living but haven’t quite “gotten there”?  Well, don’t be discouraged … it is a PROCESS, not just a destination!  And it’s a very personal journey for sure.  For example, I have been on the path to clean living for years, and I started with two simple things I knew were “poisoning” my body  … sugar and white flour.  You will have to decide what poisons are in your own life.

I started by eliminating these two things from my daily diet.  I’m not a sugar or white flour Nazi per se,  and occasionally I’ll allow myself that indulgence, but I probably stick to it 98% of the time.  That was my start.  After getting that under my belt, I began to tackle the elimination of processed foods in my routine – boxed, canned, jarred goods  that obviously didn’t come from Mother Earth that way.  That’s a harder mountain to climb.  If I’m short on time, I do buy prepared salsa or jarred pesto, etc.  I opt for the freshest and best food labeled product I can find.  But in general, I probably keep to the “no processed foods” 90% of the time.

Then I began to tackle my skincare and personal care choices.  The skin is our largest organ!  That’s exactly why nicotine and estrogen patches on the skin work!  So I’m evaluating my shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, moisturizers, make up, and sunscreen.

For the mind, I’ve turned off most TV.  I make watching the screen an intentional choice. Instead of the TV being on 24/7, I make a decision if I want to watch someone else live life for two hours or if I’m going to live my own life.  If I make the decision to watch (and I DO love movies), I put on Netflix and choose what I want to fill my mind with for a limited time.  And books?  Yes, yes, yes!  The mind can be so much more creative with a book!  But again, there are trashy books and there are meaty books.  I’m training my mind to reject what I know is trash infiltration and crave intellectual, good story-telling, quality, subject matter books instead.

For my soul, well that’s probably the most significant clean living choice of all!  Matthew 15:17-20 in the NIV says:  “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person…”  Enough said.  I know my own failings so I enjoy church where I have to be transparent and I am accountable for my actions, reading Scripture, and being challenged through intelligent and thoughtful discourse about God.  

But I haven’t “arrived” at fully living clean yet!  That’s the personal part of each person’s journey.  I color my hair.  My bad!  Talk about toxins!  But I don’t like how I look with grey hair compared to my dark locks.  So it’s a toxic choice I’ve willingly made.  I occasionally wear nail polish.  Another toxin!

And the “toxin”list in our lives is huge … carpets, bed sheets, house paints, teflon cooking surfaces, detergents, etc.

So in your interest and journey toward clean living, don’t get overwhelmed with the whole kit and caboodle!  Start with one step, just one “poison” that you know is in your life.  Then another.  Then another.  The important thing is to get on the path and start moving toward the goal.  Here are seven starting ideas:

fruitwater

  1.  Substitute water for other beverages.
    • Do you drink lots of coffee or soda or sugary juices?  Begin to substitute water over these other choices a little at a time until water is your go-to beverage.  Water hydrates the body, improves complexion, flushes toxins out of your system, and is the earth’s natural beverage resource to us.  It’s the “cleanest” choice of beverages.
    • If you are one of those who struggle with drinking water, don’t buy flavored versions!  That defeats the purpose of putting something “clean” in your body.  Instead, add sliced real food, like fruit, mint leaves, cucumbers, etc. to your water to infuse it with those flavors.
  2. Coffee and tea green-tea
    •  On my journey, I gradually moved from full caffeinated coffee to half decaf, and also moved to organic.  I was raised with offering coffee as a sign of hospitality.  There’s something comforting and welcoming about holding a warm mug of beverage with a heavenly scent.
    • I began to collect organic teas and green teas, and offer guests hot tea in addition to decaf organic coffee.
  3. Increase intake of fruits and vegetables
    • The more you fill up on fruits and vegetables, the less room you’ll have in your stomach to fill with junk and processed foods!
    • Fruit and vegetables are from the earth … no additives and preservatives.  Not formulated in a factory.
    • Eventually, for truly clean living, you’ll also need to migrate to purchasing organic fruits and vegetables.   What you purchase at your local grocer most likely has pesticides, could be GMO (genetically modified organisms), and if it’s an out-of-season/out-of-region food source, it’s been shipped from who knows where to get to your locale!
    • In time, farmer’s markets will become your favorite shopping destination!
  4. Convert to coconut oil for cooking
    1. Virgin coconut oil resists oxidative damage from heat unlike olive oil.
    2. Vegetable oils contain long chain triglycerides (LCTs) which are more difficult to break down.  This is an added toxic burden to your body.
    3. Coconut oil contains lauric acid which converts to monolaurin in your body.  Monolaurin is known to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiprotozoal properties.
    4. Beware:  As in many cases with food, not all coconut oils are the same!  Mass-produced coconut oils are oftentimes refined, deodorized, and bleached which not only strips the oil of beneficial nutrients but also adds toxins to the oil.
    5. The BEST coconut oils?  Look for ones that are made from fresh coconuts and are cold-pressed.  This avoids the need for additives and solvents in the process.
  5. Decrease sugar consumption!
    • Just DO IT!  I can’t emphasize this one tip enough.  Refined sugar is poison to your body and proven to be more addictive than cocaine.  Monitor your children’s intake so you don’t create in them the same lifelong addiction that you experience!
    • Begin by taking coffee black, use honey in tea.
    • No diet sodas or artificial sweeteners.  These are toxins as well.  The point is CLEAN living, reducing toxins.
    • If you have to use a sweetener, you can use stevia, but once again, not all stevia is processed the same!  Use green leaf stevia...  it’s the least processed type.  The leaves are dried and ground into a powder form.  It isn’t as potent as other stevia products.  But just because it’s a natural sweetener, moderation is still key.
    • Read food labels!  Cereals, protein bars, protein shakes, etc…  Always be aware of how much sugar you are taking in!
  6. Don’t eat “white”!
    • If you’re not gluten-free, then you can change from white breads, to whole-grain breads.  From white rice to brown rice.  From white potatoes to red potatoes.  You get the idea.  If you’re trying to go gluten-free, then you need to dig deeper than just not eating “white”.  You can’t eat whole grains, because those will contain gluten and instead will need to convert to coconut flour, corn flour, etc.
  7. Mind and Soul
    • Evaluate your mind and soul.  What are you watching?  What are you reading?  What do you focus your time and energies on?  What stress could you reduce?  What kinds of friendships and relationships do you keep?  Do you seek a place for God in your life?
    • DO something about the evaluation.  Notice what’s healthy and what’s not.  Action plan one thing you could do differently…

Sunscreen without the toxins!

So if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m into “clean living”.   It’s a journey for sure!  As we head into the warmth and sunshine of summer ahead, I’ve been thinking about sunscreen.

Our skin is the LARGEST organ of our body!  Why do you think there are nicotine patches or estrogen patches?  Because the product leaches directly into the skin and then through the body.  Sunscreen, lotion, perfume, make-up, shampoo, etc. is no different.  Don’t fool yourself.  Just read the labels on the back of your products and you’ll find a list of chemicals.  They penetrate not only your body, but your children’s bodies as well!

There’s a non-profit organization called Environmental Working Group (EWG) which is focused on protecting human health and the environment.  Their work has become so respected that they are becoming the gold standard of “clean” quality in the personal care and cosmetic industry through their EWG VERIFIED ™ program.  According to their website, “the EWG VERIFIED™ program now features 118 products allowing shoppers to quickly and easily identify cosmetics and personal care items that meet our strictest health and transparency standards.”  If you see this on one of your products, you can be assured it has passed the rigorous research of the organization.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 6.39.57 PMSo I headed on over to their site (which I LOVE and I think you will find is awesome) and searched for SPF sunscreen.  Yup, they have MANY recommendations of “clean” sunscreen products … 235 products meet EWGs criteria to be exact!  The Babo Botanical Sport Stick is one that I found with a rating of “1” (the best EWG rating on a scale of 1 to 10).  Guess I’ll be heading over to Amazon and ordering my summer supply.

Not only does EWG provide a way to identify clean products, they also warn against the toxic ones.  Here’s just one snippet under their “EWG Sunscreen Hall of Shame” section (the page also actually lists the worst sunscreen brands by name):

“There are a lot of sunscreens on the market:  some good, some bad and then the shameful.

Those in the last category are not only a waste of money and time but also potentially harmful. Here are our picks for products to banish from your beach bag.

Spray sunscreens can be inhaled, and they don’t cover skin completely.

SPF values above 50+ try to trick you into believing they’ll prevent sun damage. Don’t trust them. SPF protection tops out at 30 to 50.

Oxybenzone can disrupt the hormone system.

Retinyl palmitate may trigger damage, possibly cancer.”

 

What will you be putting on your children’s skin this summer?

Cheers,

Valerie

4 Awesome Avocado Benefits

img-nutrition-banner

Just to be clear, an avocado is a fruit.  Some might confuse it as a vegetable!

They are a powerhouse to behold, and if you don’t include them in your eating routine, you are sorely missing something wonderful!

Avocado-Nutrition-Facts-Chart

Nutrient packed fruit

  • Avocados contain over 20 vitamins and minerals.  Due to the higher calorie content, a “serving size” is 1/5 of an avocado.  You can see from the chart above how powerful this little fruit is … it’s called a “superfood” for a reason!
  • The B vitamin content fights off infection and disease.  The C and E vitamins are known to help prevent cancer.
  • They also contain more potassium than bananas!  Potassium is known to control blood pressure (high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes).
  • Avocados also contain folate, which assists cell repair and is very important during pregnancy, as well as lutein, which is known to be good for eye health.

Heart Healthy Fat Source

  • If anyone argues that this fruit is high in fat, they’re right.  HOWEVER…not all fats are created equal!  These are high in good fat – monounsaturated fat or monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid).  The advantage of this fat is that it helps to lower bad cholesterol when eaten in moderation.
  • Oleic acid is a major part of olive oil, and it is one of the contributors to the benefits of olive oil.  Oleic acid has also been associated with decreased inflammation.
  • The fat in avocados is a great for cooking because it is resistant to oxidation caused by heat.

Fiber Galore

  • Depending on the size of an avocado, half of one contains around 25%-30% of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber.
  • Fiber is known to control blood sugar spikes, help you feel fuller, and assist weight loss efforts as well as being linked to reducing risks for other diseases.

 

Versatility

IMW164737 BAvocados can be sliced, diced, chopped, and mashed!  Here’s just a few ideas… experiment and come up with your own.

  • Guacamole.  This is the most well-known preparation for this fruit, of course!  Here is just one of MANY awesome recipes!
  • Sliced or mashed and layered on sandwiches.
  • Chopped and added to omelets or scrambled eggs.
  • Chopped and added to salads.
  • Pureed with smoothies or protein shakes
  • Mashed and spread on a piece of gluten-free toast, then topped with scrambled egg.  My daughter LOVES this and she runs out the door to school with it!

 

Hints to prepare avocado:

When choosing avocados, they shouldn’t feel rock hard, nor should they feel mushy… they should yield a little to a gentle squeeze.   The outer skin should be black or dark purple/green.   If you have to choose some that aren’t quite ripe, keep them at room temperature when you get them home.  You can speed the ripening by placing them in a paper bag with an apple or banana.

Wash the outer skin before cutting to make sure you don’t transfer bacteria from the skin to the flesh of the fruit.  After cutting in half, remove the pit and scoop out the flesh and discard the skin.  You can slice, chop, mush (for spreading), or puree.

 

Sugar in a sermon?

sugar donut.jpeg

I heard a sermon a few weeks ago in which the pastor was addressing addictions… in essence, the escapes we use in this human world to hide from our fears, or shame, or insecurities, etc.

And guess what he referenced as his picture to addiction?  Yup, sugar!  And he cited the research that proves it is more addictive than … wait for it… wait for it…cocaine!   Yes, I’ve read the studies myself and you might have by now as well, but I will follow up with a later post dedicated to this research about sugar.  It’s disturbing.

For now, because this is my Sunday Soul Food post, click here and choose the sermon dated 4/24/2016 – Addiction Unmasked Living in Freedom.  

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 4.10.14 PM

If you’ve grappled with ANY addiction, whether food, smoking, drugs, alcohol, porn, or gambling etc., then I hope this speaks to your heart.  Freedom is possible!

Here’s to a healthier you!

Blessings,

Valerie

90% overlook weight loss secret

Do most of us acknowledge that there is an emotional eating link to weight gain? Probably.  When it’s Friday at 3:00 pm and the boss places an ASAP report due on your desk, or daycare calls to say Johnny has just vomited all over his playmates and you need to take him home this very minute, or your elderly parent just paid $5,000 upfront for window replacements with credit card information to a phone solicitor, sight unseen … yes, the stress mounts, and the Snickers bar in the vending machine down the hall or the half gallon of ice cream in the freezer screams your name!

But do you know what is interesting?  The results of a national survey released by Orlando Health in December 2015 found that only 10 percent of the participants considered the psychological link to food as a main obstacle to weight loss.

“90 percent of respondents discounted one of the most important factors — your mind. A neuropsychologist says the most crucial factor is your psychological relationship with food and exercise, yet the majority (60 percent) listed diet and exercise to be the biggest barriers of weight loss, and only 10 percent of people thought psychological well being was the biggest barrier to weight loss.”

Wow!  That’s a significant oversight!  In this survey release, Diane Robinson, PhD, a neuropsychologist and Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health, states that most people who strive for weight loss address diet and exercise only.  But she states all those efforts can be sabotaged by overlooking this critical emotional connection they have with food.

She goes on to state that “In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat, we also need to understand why we’re eating” (italics mine).

It’s no surprise that food is more than just nourishment to us.  It’s also comfort.  My mother was the master of comforting us through her cooking.  Don’t get me wrong, we LOVED it … and she was the epitome of making her home open and welcome to all who entered!  But.  We had fresh baked desserts after school, or homemade apple butter slathered over homemade biscuits, or homemade hot chocolate towering with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  It’s what we came to rely on after a stressful day of grades, studying, bullies, sports, friend conflicts.  It was our haven.

Robinson has encouraging insight.  “If we focus on being emotionally healthy first, everything else can fall into place” (italics mine).

So, don’t put your head in the sand.  YOU DO HAVE EMOTIONS.  Yes, you’re human!  And you’ve learned coping mechanisms over time.  It’s time to start journaling the emotions you are feeling when you’re making poor choices.  Spend a week writing down everything you eat.  But in the column next to what you eat, write your emotion as well.  Happy, sad, frustrated, angry, blue, lonely, betrayed, lost ….  you get the idea.

After a week, analyze it.  Really analyze it.  Find the links.  Find the patterns.  We all have them.  Once you can identify your emotional triggers, you can begin to substitute a healthier choice when you feel those emotions.

When I was going through my divorce, I was suddenly a single mom, going back to school part time to get my MBA,  working full time, and the world was a bleak place.  I made a conscious decision to not use food as my escape.  Because that’s what food did.  It numbed the pain, made me feel immediate pleasure, then plunge deeper into pain when the sugar wore off.  I turned to exercise as my go-to.  When I felt the pressure mount, or the feelings of inadequacy, or loneliness, I went for a power walk or a run.  I called friends to join me.  I put headphones on and listened to encouraging music or sermons or podcasts.  Or I ran my basement stairs for 5 minutes of burst exercise to get my frustration out.  For you, it might mean when stress has you wanting to dive into a bag of sour cream n onion potato chips, you learn a new response via a healthier alternative food go-to (how about a half baked sweet potato, or an orange, or a handful of almonds…) or a physical outlet that clears your mind AND benefits your body.

Don’t underestimate the emotional influence upon your food choices and weight loss goals!

Nugget:   “In order to lose weight and keep it off long term, we need to do more than just think about what we eat, we also need to understand why we’re eating.”    Diane Robinson, PhD, a neuropsychologist and Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health

 

 

Garbage soup – get your veggies and increase water intake!

Garbage soup pot

Okay, don’t judge my garbage soup yet!  Let me explain a few things first…

I came up with this idea back when I wanted to increase my daily water intake (I always struggle with drinking enough water) AND increase the amount of veggies I was eating…aka getting more nutrient-dense food into my daily routine.

Soooo, just like a garbage omelet is an omelet with everything in the refrigerator thrown in, so it is with my garbage soup!  I take any veggies I have on hand, chop them up, throw them in the stock pot, cover with water, lace it with my seasonings, and simmer for hours.  VOILA.  Garbage Soup which is CHOCK FULL of veggies!  The liquid in it becomes rich with vitamins and minerals.  That means that when I’m drinking from the bottom of the soup bowl after I’ve eaten all those delicious vegetables, I’m also drinking water infused with vitamins and minerals from those very same veggies!

Every week I buy a head of cabbage just for this purpose. I also pick up a huge variety of fresh vegetables without any recipe in mind, but knowing I can make salads or stir fry from them.  Finally,  I also keep frozen (not canned!) veggies in my freezer for moments when I might be short on fresh options.

This is so very simple to do, and it’s my “go to” when I’m feeling hunger pains but I’m short on time for whipping up something healthy – it’s already made and ready for me so I don’t binge on something unhealthy.

Garbage soup

The recipe for the above soup:

Valerie’s GARBAGE SOUP

  • 1 head cabbage, chopped
  • 1 fresh yellow squash, sliced (I sliced them pretty, not necessary!)
  • 2 fresh zucchini (again, I sliced them pretty)
  • 2 diced, fresh tomatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • 1 bag frozen green beans
  • Add any other veggies you might have on hand!
  • Lots of my favorite seasonings and seasoning blends

Cover the vegetables with water until totally submerged.

Bring to boil then simmer on low for a few hours.