Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Feeling Overstuffed & Undernourished? Put Your Kitchen on a Mission!

by Maria Noël Groves, Clinical Herbalist & Co-op Wellness Educator

Let's face it: Now that the holidays are behind us, we're all feeling a little overstuffed and undernourished. Most of us know what we need to do - eat better, more vegetables, more exercise -  but it just seems a little lackluster and difficult. I'm pleased to be working with Chef Mike, the Co-op, and area experts to launch our Kitchen on a Mission: 10-Week Healthy Cooking Series  on Monday nights starting January 7! We won't be dolling out any magic bullets, but we seek to inspire you with delicious, simple, healthy recipes and cooking tips to reinvigorate and expand your healthy kitchen. Click here to learn more about the series and how to register. But, in the meantime, here are some simple tips to get you on your way:

Get Nutrient-Dense: As yummy as pasta and bread can be, they tend to fall in the (mostly) "empty calorie" category. Let your meals be inspired by fare that multi-tasks with lots of vitamins, minerals, good fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidant and inflammatory action. These include cruciferous vegetables, berries, orange vegetables, greens, seeds, nuts, mushrooms, whole grains, beans and legumes, wild-caught fatty fish, eggs, grass-fed meat in moderation, and yogurt.  Season with citrus, herbs, spices, seaweed, toasted sesame seeds, and a little bit of hard cheese, dark chocolate, or a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil. Soups, salads, stir-fries, smoothies, and veggie-based juices make it easy to load up on the good stuff.

Get Inspired: We are bombarded with the sights and scents of tasty but less-than-healthy food via ads and roadside attractions. Surround yourself with healthy cookbooks, blogs, magazines, and websites that remind you how appealing healthy cooking can be. and its associated magazine and cookbooks are favorites in our house. Also check out and its magazine and cookbooks. The Power Foods book that will accompany our Kitchen on a Mission series is fantastic. Andrew Weil's new book True Food is loaded with gourmet anti-inflammatory recipes. Also check out cookbooks by noteworthy authors Ellie Krieger, Christina Pirello, and Deborah Madison. Even if you're not vegetarian or vegan, meatless cookbooks can help introduce you to new healthy recipes to integrate into your kitchen.

On the Go: Cooking meals at home and bringing your lunch to work is the best way to improve your health and stick to a budget. When eating out for special occasions, opt for restaurants that understand real food including the Co-op's Celery Stick Café, Spoon Revolution, and Sunny's Table in Concord; Republic and Cafe Momo in Manchester; and Lemongrass in Moultonborough. Also opt for one or none - appetizer, alcoholic beverage, or dessert - to go with your meal and start with a salad. (Beware of salads in chain restaurants - they often pack two to three meals worth of calories!) Check out the menus ahead of time; fried food is less tempting on your computer screen than when the scents are wafting around you. Don't be afraid to split a meal (just tip a little extra) or ask to have half your dish wrapped up to bring home for lunch the next day.

Crunching Numbers: If you want to lose weight, one way to approach it is to measure your portions and count calories. Yes, it's tedious, but it can be eye opening! Take your weight and multiply it by 12. This equals the maintenance calories for the average person, or how much you need to eat to maintain your current weight. Subtract 500 calories per day to lose one pound a week (or 1000 per day to lose two pounds), but don't go below 1200 calories and keep your goals reasonable so that they're easier to achieve and maintain. This is generally 400-600 calories per meal plus one or two 100-200-calorie snacks, but it varies widely from person to person. Click here for more on this approach.

Listen to Your Body: "Intuitive eating" involves paying closer attention to how you feel throughout the day, how hungry you are, and whether or not your body really enjoys the food that you're eating. It's useful in place of or alongside calorie counting. No matter what the numbers say, if you're ravenous, you should eat. (Better yet, eat something nourishing before you get ravenous.) Try to avoid letting yourself get overstuffed after a meal and realize that it's ok to be a bit hungry when you wake up and before meals. How do you feel after you eat particular foods? As time goes on, you'll notice that you crave and feel much better with healthy foods without a rush of excess sugar or refined carbs. (But, if you desperately want that cupcake, intuitive eating says you should have it, in a reasonable portion, and enjoy it.) Local dietician Hilary Warner specializes in this approach, and you can also learn more in the book Intuitive Eating.

Move More: A few things in life positively or negatively impact almost every aspect of health: diet, sleep, stress management, and movement. From a numbers perspective, exercise helps you burn calories to reach weight loss and maintenance goals in an easier, more sustainable way, but the benefits reach far beyond that to improved mood, disease prevention, etc. Any exercise is better than nothing, but certain types of exercise make a bigger impact on calories burned. Some of the best include the gym stair-climber (306 calories burned*), mountain biking (291), cross-country skiing (my favorite!) or running (273),   snowshoeing, biking, jogging or swimming laps (240), or kayaking, gardening, golfing or walking at a brisk pace (171).  Strength-train a few times a week to boost your overall metabolism so that you burn a tad more calories all day long, even when you're not exercising. Strength training includes weight lifting, lunges, push-ups, etc. Certain types of yoga, hiking, and sports incorporate aspects of strength training. *The calories burned are calculated for a 150-pound person doing the activities for 30 minutes.

Enlist Aid: Having someone to enjoy meals and exercise with improve your odds of sticking with a routine and meeting your goals. I'm fortunate to have a supportive husband. I'm the health nut foodie, and I have certainly improved the quality of the food Shannon eats since we met. Cooking dinner together is one of our favorite parts of the day. He's the outdoor enthusiast, and over the years I've taken up hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing and am dabbling with jogging, and we try to incorporate these activities into our weekend/weeknight play time and vacations. If you live alone or have a less-than-supportive spouse, connect with friends or family members who share your drive. groups are a great way to connect with like-minded adventurous folks, too. When my husband had to study for a big test last summer, I enjoyed connecting with several different kayaking groups and one of my cousins to get out on the water. I have clients who get together to snowshoe with friends every X day of the week in winter. Talk about positive multi-tasking! Social time, time out in nature, and movement, all rolled into fun! Click here for an article on how to have get outside this winter.

Herbs & Supplements for Weight Loss: I really don't believe in magic bullets. I've yet to come across any supplement that is safe and effective enough to impress. All the previous tips are much more likely to get you to your goal while also improving your mood, decreasing inflammation, and preventing a variety of chronic diseases. However, some herbs and supplements can lend a hand to make it a little easier to stick to your routine and lose weight. Some help balance blood sugar, others boost energy, and yet others enhance metabolism or thyroid function. Green tea has the most promise across the board. I love to combine it with holy basil (aka tulsi) for stress-busting, craving-curbing, metabolism-boosting effects as a morning tea. Cinnamon or chai tea (without cream and sugar) after meals serves as blood sugar-balancing dessert. Adaptogenic herbs that help your body adapt to stress - rhodiola, holy basil, ashwagandha, and eleuthero - provide support. Click here for more information about helpful herbs. Certain nutrients also help: Studies suggest that getting adequate calcium from food or supplements helps us burn calories more effectively. Before taking herbs and supplements, talk with your healthcare provider and check with your pharmacist for interactions if you take pharmaceuticals.

What are YOUR secrets to good health? Share them in the "Comments" section below!

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