For the Veggie Haters: Three Simple Ways to Make Your Veggies Taste Excellent

For the Veggie Haters: Three Simple Ways to Make Your Veggies Taste Excellent

When you read that title, did you feel resigned and think of steamed broccoli, limp cooked carrots, or pale, listless peas rolling about your plate? Well, that might be the problem. So often we avoid veggies ’cause we just don’t know how to make them taste good. I’m here to solve that problem today.

Put ten nutritionists in a room and they’ll only agree on two things:

1. Everyone should eat breakfast.

2. Everyone should eat more vegetables.

I preach the gospel of breakfast all the time, and I never skip the first meal of the day. But even I am guilty of occasional veggie neglect. If you’re like me, maybe you crave a veggie here and there, but the thought of munching on these fibrous stalks and leaves doesn’t really excite you. Why would it, when you can eat cheese instead?!

It’s important to remember that we are all biochemically individual, which means that we all need different things. You require a different amount of sleep, a different type of exercise, and a different diet than your neighbor or your boss or your friend. That goes for veggies too – some of us don’t actually need to eat tons of the colorful crunchies. However, I think it’s probably safe to say that most of us should be eating more than we are! In the spirit of increasing our produce consumption, here are my three fool-proof ways to make veggies taste good:

1. The “Sneaky Smoothie” Technique

Sure, smoothies are a great way to add fruit into your diet, but have you ever thought of sneaking in some mild-tasting veggies as well? I never make a smoothie without adding some spinach or chard (cross my heart, you can’t taste them; they just turn the smoothie green) or some avocado (makes a nice creamy texture). Then I’m all proud of myself ’cause I’ve already gotten in the first veggie serving of the day. “Green powder”, which you can purchase at your local health food store, is also a great option for smoothies.

2. The “Drown’ Em” Technique

You all know how I am about fats by now. I’ll let you in on a secret – the only way I will eat broccoli is if it’s covered in cheese. I can’t deal with this “lightly steamed with a squeeze of lemon” stuff (though if you like it, no judgement, carry on!). Try dipping some crudite in Ranch dressing (make sure it’s good quality, with no added sugar), drizzling some melted coconut oil over a saute of carrots, onions and zucchini, dipping celery in nut butter, or the good ol’ standby, BUTTER, which can and should be slathered over everything within reach.  Don’t forget to make use of your friends, herbs and spices, and NEVER forget the salt! Remember, veggies contain fat-soluble vitamins, meaning your body can only access these vitamins if you’re eating fat along with the veg.

3. The “Roast ‘Em” Technique

It’s kind of cheating – roasting creates caramelization, which activates the sugars in the veggies. I don’t care. It’s naturally-occurring sugar and it tastes damn good. And if it helps you to eat things you normally might not, like brussels sprouts, go for it (try drizzling them with a bit of maple syrup and butter and serving them with toasted almonds or hazelnuts). Kale chips – roasting bite-sized pieces of kale with a sprinkle of olive oil and sea salt – is often health newbies’ first foray into the world of kale, and I’m all for it – kale chips are highly addictiveand healthy. The reason you don’t want to roast every single vegetable that you eat is that vitamins oxidize (break down) at high heat. High heat doesn’t damage the minerals, however. In the end, mixing up your preparation styles – raw, steamed, sauteed, roasted and baked – is the way to go.

Hopefully your creative juices are now flowing, and you’re all fired up to create a cream sauce for tonight’s cauliflower. Two important things to keep in mind:

1. As always, QUALITY COUNTS

Vegetables are good for you. Pesticides and herbicides are not. Buy organic and local if possible. Best of all, start a small backyard garden or join a CSA.

2. As always, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

If you try a vegetable a few different ways, and it still grosses you out or feels otherwise icky, leave it alone. The body has innate wisdom about what works for it and what doesn’t. Lucky for you, you’re an adult, and you have no parents standing over you telling you to clean your plate! Eat what feels right.

The Perfect Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie

The Perfect Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie

What’s your “crack”?

You know…that food that you’re most likely to pound after a hard day, or a sad day. Your kryptonite.

For ages and ages, mine was…

a warm…

chewy-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside…

strings of chocolate stretching as you broke it apart….

chocolate chip cookie.

(Or ten).

(Or raw cookie dough…there was that one time in my early 20s when I was returning from my evening GRE class, got off the subway, purchased a roll of uncooked cookie dough from the supermarket, and proceeded to eat about 1/2 of it.)

These days, I may have conquered my sugar addiction, but that doesn’t mean I skimp on desserts. No, ma’am. I just use a harm reduction principle – the concept that if you’re going to engage in a dangerous activity, you should do so as safely as possible. (Same principle behind distributing syringes to heroin addicts, or condoms in school. I call it common sense). Is cookie consumption dangerous? Well, you and I know it can be.

Therefore, harm reduction + chocolate chip cookie = finding the least allergenic and most nutrient-dense recipe around. There are a couple of reasons for this, which all boil down to the principle that if you eat good quality stuff, you’re less likely from a physiological standpoint to binge on it. By George, I think I’ve finally found it! And now I happily share it with you. Here are some important informational pieces about why I chose the ingredients I did:

It’s gluten-free. I’m ok with eating a burger on a wheat bun if I’m out on a date night, but I avoid using gluten at home. I’ve found that most people don’t digest it well. When I eat more than a little bit of it a few times per week my belly swells up and I look like I’m in my second trimester.

So I’m always experimenting with gluten-free flours, and the almond flour I use below is one of my faves for baking. If you’ve never worked with almond flour before, you’re in for a serious treat. It’s cakey, not too dense, slightly sweet, and packed with minerals. (Remember that almonds grow on trees whose roots reach deep into the ground, accessing all of that mineral-rich soil.) It’s also very low in carbs, and while I’m certainly not anti-carb, it’s just a fact that carbs spike the blood sugar…and the subsequent crash can trigger sugar cravings. In contrast, the fat and protein found in almonds work to keep your blood sugar nice and stable.

It’s refined-sugar-free. Also notice there’s no refined sugar of any kind in this recipe, for obvious reasons. Don’t be fooled by “evaporated cane juice”, “brown sugar”, and “beet sugar” – all euphemisms for the legal white powder. I use honey instead, which is also rich in minerals, and has anti-bacterial properties – how cool is that?

It’s easy. Best of all, this recipe is super-simple and super-quick. All the better to shove healthy cookies in my mouth, STAT.

The Perfect (Healthy) Chocolate Chip Cookie

(recipe adapted from www.elenaspantry.com)

Ingredients:

2 1/2 c blanched almond flour (I buy the Honeyville Farms brand in bulk)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c melted butter (make sure it’s not hot when you mix it in with the other ingredients)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 c honey
1 c bittersweet chocolate chips (you can also use grain-sweetened if you can find them)

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir.

3. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl. Stir.

4. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet, stirring (or, if the dry ingredients’ bowl happens to be bigger, you can do it the other way around. Doesn’t really matter).

5. Form 1/2 inch balls and press gently onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

6. Bake for 7-10 minutes (tops of cookies will be slightly golden-brown when ready).

7. Cool and feast!

Know someone who would love this recipe? Please share the love by forwarding.

How to Tell the Difference Between Healthy Cravings and Out-of-Balance Cravings

How to Tell the Difference Between Healthy Cravings and Out-of-Balance Cravings

One aspect of my work involves teaching my clients practices that I call “listening to your body”.

As they master (or mistress) these practices, they learn to identify the foods their body is asking for, and they learn to sense how their body is responding when they eat those particular foods.

As you can imagine, this is an ideal process for anyone (ie, most of us) who gets really confused about all of the conflicting information out there regarding which foods we “should” be eating. In reality, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, and the foods that work for you may not work for your friend. Once my clients really integrate these “listening to your body” practices, they have clarity about which foods are supportive for them and which are problematic.

In addition, this process is really helpful for deciphering cravings.

Early on, before getting clear on these practices, cravings really confuse my clients. Here are some of the responses I’m accustomed to hearing at that stage:

“Well, when I listen to my body, it asks for cake/cookies/wine/pizza! Does that mean it’s what my body really wants?”

“My body asks for oatmeal in the morning, but I heard that it’s important to focus on protein at breakfast, and don’t grains cause weight gain anyway?”

“I’m vegan, and I don’t agree with eating animals, but when I tune in this way my body is fiending for chicken! But isn’t meat bad for you?”

While sorting this out can be a process that requires guidance, you may also be able to learn it yourself from this blog post. So in hopes of that result, here are three of my best tips for determining whether your craving is a healthy one, arising from your body’s nutritional needs, or one that indicates imbalance. Remember, as I explained in my video blogs from August and September, that any food that’s hard to digest, from known “junk” foods to foods you’re allergic to, can trigger cravings.

1. How do you feel when you imagine eating the food?

A healthy, supportive craving feels different than an addictive craving. It’s slower and gentler. When you imagine eating the food, your body may feel relaxed, or warm, or calm, or simply just somehow right.

An addictive or toxic craving feels more sped up. If you and I are trying to sort out whether a food’s toxic to you, and I ask you to imagine eating it, if the food in fact is not a match for you, there’s usually a particular set of reactions. Your eyes might light up. You might have a speedy, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!”, grasping response. When you feel into your body, you might notice a faster or heightened energy running through it – a bit of a “high”, in fact. It’s really common to have this sort of reaction about a food that contains sugar – don’t forget that includes alcohol and bread.

2. Is it a common allergen, or a food known to be not so healthy for you?

If the body-centered practices elude you, you can also go the intellectual route, although this won’t ultimately give you as much information. If you’re craving cake or cookies or candy or bread or beer, you can deduce that since these foods are known for creating addictive reactions, your craving is likely an imbalanced one. However, to throw a wrench in the works, there are also foods that are healthy, and that many people can digest with no problems, but which are also common allergens that are quite toxic to some people. These include eggs, dairy, nightshades, glutinous grains and corn.

Here’s an example of blending tactic #1 with tactic #2. I had a client once who asked me, “Is corn good for you?”

“Depends,” I said. “How do you feel about it?”

Her eyes started swirling like a cartoon character. She got a big smile on her face. “I LOVE grits,” she said.

“How often do you eat grits?” I asked.

“A few times a week,” she answered.

We explored her physical reaction a little more. Based on the “high” response she got when we were talking about grits, combined with the fact that corn is a common allergen, we deduced that in fact, corn was probably irritating her system, which was stimulating a craving response.

3. How do you feel after you actually consume the food?

This is a very easy one to track. Eat the food you’re craving, then notice how you feel immediately afterwards. Pay attention to any changes in energy, mood and digestion (as well as any other symptoms) for 12 hours after. Do you get a headache? Do you feel sluggish? Do you get a burst of energy and then feel irritable and tired? Do you bloat? Do you get diarrhea, or constipation? Or on the flip side, do you feel relatively stable and good?

This is not at all the definition of an allergy test. But it will give you some basic information on which foods your body likes, and which ones it doesn’t.

4. How would you feel if you could never eat the food again?

This one’s a question we therapists use when diagnosing addiction. Personally, I enjoy a drink or two sometimes. And if someone told me I could never drink again, I’d be bummed, no doubt, but my life would certainly go on.

If I told you you could never again have the food you’re craving, do you feel the same way – slightly bummed? Or do you feel outraged, or crushed, or like life would lose so much of its color?

You can probably sense where I’m going with this. If your response falls in the “outraged and crushed” category, the food has more power over you than it should, and that’s a red flag.

What did you think of these tips? Did you find them helpful? Email me at info@stephaniesmallhealth.com and let me know.

Detox Dos and Don’ts – How to Clean Out Safely and Effectively

Detox Dos and Don’ts – How to Clean Out Safely and Effectively

There are so many myths out there about detoxes!!! Don’t believe the hype!! Check out this quick list of dos and don’ts for an effective and not-too-painful cleanse.

DON’T:

1. FAST

Back in the day humans used to fast periodically, simply because we’d run out of food. Later, we had fast days designated as part of religious traditions. Our systems could probably handle fasting better then – what we were eating was way cleaner and more nutrient-dense, so our bodies were hardier. Today, abstaining from food is not a good idea. It’s not an effective way to detox, and it’s really not an effective way to lose weight, if that’s what you’re after. Instead, it will slow your metabolism, cause your blood sugar to plummet, and your cortisol (stress hormone) to skyrocket. You’ll feel jittery and irritable. Also, with no food to digest, your body will start eating itself by leaching amino acids from your muscles. Just don’t do it!

2. JUICE

Store-bought juice is pretty devoid of nutrients. Freshly-made juice is full of vitamins and minerals, yes, but it’s also very sugary. Eating a diet of only sugary juice – even for a day – will wreak havoc with your blood sugar. You’ll get shaky, grouchy, and HUNGRY. And no, a detox should not make you hungry! Also, without protein and fat, your body is missing crucial nutrients that are needed to complete the detox process. Same goes for fiber.

3. CUT OUT FAT AND ANIMAL PROTEIN

I repeat: fat and animal protein are not the devil! They are a necessary part of the human diet, and they should be part of a food-based detox, too!

DO:

1. FOCUS ON QUALITY

Eat high-quality, nutrient-dense, healing foods. Your body will thank you for consuming bone broths, organic or pastured meats and dairy, and fresh, local/organic fruits, veggies, legumes and grains. Probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut (not the kind made with vinegar!) have a healing effect on the digestion.

2. CUT OUT THE BAD STUFF

Any detox should involve avoiding, at the minimum, the following:

  • caffeine
  • soda
  • sugar
  • soy
  • corn
  • wheat
  • artificial sweeteners
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • alcohol
  • refined grains, such as white flour and white rice
  • tomatoes and potatoes, which can cause inflammation
  • most packaged foods, unless you can understand EVERY ingredient listed (and approve of them)

3. MAKE IT MANAGEABLE

If you’ve never done a detox before, it’s great to either start with a short, simple one, or join a detox program led by a qualified practitioner. You might decide to do five days of eating super clean – planning ahead with meals and grocery shopping is key in succeeding with this! If you’re looking for an inexpensive and fantastic (i.e. co-designed by me) detox that’s starting soon and can be done from anywhere, check out my husband’s detox. He’s a naturopathic doctor so he knows his stuff.

What My Sugar Addiction Cost Me

What My Sugar Addiction Cost Me

“This food / allergy / addiction thing is so out of control. Today I got really upset, as I tend to do when my skin looks like a cesspool…and cause all day I had been giving myself a pep talk that I’ve got to work with the body I HAVE, and…at least I can not be a white flabby monster. But I think this and then I can’t stop myself from eating four more cookies.” – entry from my journal, summer of 2001

What has been the cost – financial, emotional, physical and spiritual – of how you have been relating to food and your body?

If you could put a price tag on it, how much would healing these issues be worth to you?

Cost Isn’t Just About Money.

(That’s an important part of it.)

But what about mental, emotional, physiological and spiritual cost?

When I set out to heal my relationship with food, the cost initially deterred me. I did NOT want to spend my extra dollars on therapists and nutritionists! I wanted cool boots, and to continue getting takeout whenever I chose. But the reality was that my dysfunctional relationship with food ITSELF was costing me dearly, financially and otherwise. Here’s how:

– l spent thousands of dollars on visits to various doctors to treat health problems caused either partially or fully by my diet. (I also probably spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars over the years on “binge foods”).

– Some of these health problems caused me to experience physical pain, while others caused a great deal of shame and self-hatred. (While I don’t want to go into detail here, trust me when I say these health issues were multiple, varied, and part of my life on a daily basis for over a decade.)
– My relationship with food itself caused shame and self-hatred. Why couldn’t I just stop?

– Some of these health problems also caused me to inhibit doing activities I enjoyed, or to have really problematic repercussions when I DID do them. (Sometimes this happened monthly, and sometimes it happened multiple times per week).

There’s no doubt about it – my relationship with food was costing me dearly, in many ways. And healing my relationship with food took money, and it took time. That’s what happens when unhealthy patterns have been going on for years or decades. There’s no “quick fix” (I’ve looked for it, trust me!).

But for me, the cost of NOT healing was far greater, and I could see that.

I didn’t want to keep living in a body that I hated. I didn’t want to keep feeling so out of control. And I didn’t want to keep eating in a way that was already creating a multitude of health problems, which were likely to only get worse over time.

And guess what? Now that’s behind me. I no longer feel experience shame and frustration about these issues, because they are no longer issues. I no longer spend money on medication, because I don’t need it. I no longer spend money on practitioners to help me heal my relationship with food, because it has healed. And having a joyful relationship with food, and an accepting attitude towards my body? That, for me, is priceless.

So now I ask you again –

What has been the cost – financial, emotional, physical and spiritual – of how you have been relating to food and your body?

If you could put a price tag on it, how much would healing these issues be worth to you?

Consider this “food for thought” for the New Year.