With 2015 in full swing and the new year's resolutions underway, I thought it would be appropriate to share my tips on how to make 2015 your healthiest year yet! These are simple, health-conscious steps that can be easily incorporated into your everyday routine. It is my hope that these tips resonate with you and that you are able to take away a new outlook that will have you feeling more present, aware and refreshed for the new year ahead!
(This article was also published on www.smallgirlmediumcity.com.)
1. Become an informed consumer
You literally are what you eat and in today’s society it has become readily accepted that the foods one eats has a direct correlation to their quality of life. Becoming an informed consumer will help you reconnect with your food and create meals that are made with love. Practicing mindfulness when it comes to the consumption of foods, drinks and substances can be achieved by the simple practice of being present and aware of what you are putting (or not) putting into your body. This means reading labels, understanding where the products come from, how they were made and the ingredients that were used to make them. This can be achieved by becoming educated about farming practices, food manufacturing, and the true cost of what you are putting into your body, be it to the environment, other living creatures and even yourself.
I personally enjoy visiting local farmers' markets and speaking with the farmers directly about the produce that I am purchasing. I have gained a wealth of information, like when certain produce are in season, how they are grown and how to prepare them in my kitchen. I have even tried produce that I would not have typically picked up, all because I asked questions. Asking questions and reconnecting with our food supply is an excellent way as a consumer to learn about the products you are buying and the things you are putting on and in your body.
Becoming an informed consumer also means listening to your body and figuring out which products make you feel alive and which deplete you. An easy rule of thumb is to look for foods that have had the most minimal interference by humans - think whole foods that are organic, which ensures that they are free of genetic modification and produced without the use of pesticides and other nasty synthetic chemicals.
In addition, it should be noted that this type of mindfulness is applicable to the products that we apply to bodies. This includes products applied topically as they are directly absorbed by your body through your skin. Avoid products with mineral oils, sodium lauryl sulphate (sls), paragons, chemicals and phthalates.
[If you would like to become more informed about the food industry and issues related to health and wellness Food Matters TV (www.FMTV.com) is offering a 10 day FREE trial (it is like Netflix only with health and wellness films). I also highly recommend the documentaries Forks Over Knives and Hungry for Change as a starting point. These films are available on Netflix and FMTV.]
2. Incorporate plant-based meals
The famous quote by Hypocrites: 'let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’ supports the premise that clean eating is a form of preventative medicine. Let us make 2015 the year that you create healing meals that can help prevent disease and benefit your long-term health! In order to ensure that you are fuelling your body with nutrient-dense foods, try simplifying your meals and incorporating more plant-based, “living” food into your diet.
A plant-based, meatless meal is achieved by creating food that is free of animal products. Incorporating plant-based foods can be as simple as making it a personal goal to start off your meal with a green salad or preparing healthy snacks the night before work so that you can reach for veggies and fruit when the mid-day hunger strikes. #MeatlessMonday is very much on trend, but you do not have to wait for Monday to roll around in order to incorporate a plant-based meal into you daily routine. Chances are you will feel just a bit lighter and it is also a great way to save money. If you made financial resolutions for 2015, this will surely help you achieve your goals as plant-based proteins like chickpeas and lentils are far less expensive compared to animal based protein - even if you are buying organic.
If you are looking to try something different check out my recipe for Quinoa Futomaki Rolls with Marinated Mushrooms, Cucumber & Carrots (www.lovewildlivefree.com/maki-rolls). These are a lot of fun to make and if you are feeling creative the filling combinations for these rolls are virtually endless. Quinoa, which is used in place of rice, is an awesome plant-based powerhouse food that is full of protein. In the introduction to the recipe I have dispelled some common myths about quinoa (did you know it is not a grain?!) and I have also included everything you need to know about a soy-free alternative to soy-sauce that I love to use!
It should be highlighted that choosing organic fruits and vegetables is also important as this ensures that you are consuming foods that are grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), all of which have been found to have a harmful effect on our reproductive hormones and health and overload the liver.*
3. Ditch the refined products
You may be surprised to learn that common products like white flour, table salt, white rice and white sugar are often chemically processed and refined in order for them to shine bright. We have been conditioned as consumers to accept white products as the ideal, however, when foods are refined a lot of the good-for-you nutrients that are naturally present are lost in the process.
In the case of salt, for instance, we lose healthy, naturally occurring minerals. By swapping in Himalayan Pink salt for your traditional table or Kosher salt, you can incorporate important naturally occurring minerals, 84 to be exact**, from a natural source into your diet. You may also wish to look to alternatives to white sugar, namely, unrefined sweeteners like coconut sugar and pure maple syrup. When looking for flours and rice it is best to look for grains and pseudo-grains that are in their most natural form. Some suggestions include wild rice, quinoa and buckwheat. If you are feeling extra adventurous you can even swap out your white pasta for spiralized vegetables (think zucchini noodles) and different types of flour like chickpea flour and coconut flour.
The bottom line is that anything in its natural form is unrefined, so keep it simple and stick to products that are not factory-made. There are a variety of alternatives to refined products that are available in the market today and with an open mind you will likely find something new to spice up your pantry.
4. Swap in Unrefined Virgin Coconut Oil
Often when people are trying to lose or maintain weight they eliminate all fats, but there is such a thing as “good” and “bad” fats. As you may have guessed, coconut oil falls under the “good” category as a healthy and stable saturated fat. The types of fat to avoid are unstable polyunsaturated fats, including canola, soy, sunflower, cottonseed, corn, grapes and safflower oils, which fall under the general umbrella of “vegetable oil.*
In its most natural and unrefined form, coconut oil is healing and boosts immunity. While coconut is one of the only plant-based sources of saturated fat, it does have some great benefits that are not to be ignored, including its ability to help boost energy levels, reduce LDL cholesterol, mega antibacterial qualities and reduction of inflammation (inflammation causes disease in the body).”***
Coconut oil is a delicious substitute for butter and tastes great on a piece of warm toast. I also like to add about a tablespoon of coconut oil into my smoothies as a source of healthy fat. Additionally, I prefer to use unrefined virgin coconut oil when I am pan frying foods and for high temperature baking for the reason that it is a super healthful oil which is safe for high-temperature cooking, as the high heat will not damage the integrity of the oil. Many of the oils that are used in cooking are not necessarily safe for high temperature cooking and become unhealthy when heated.
Coconut oil is also a star in the beauty department. It an effective makeup remover, just use as needed with a cotton ball. Additionally, it is an excellent moisturizer for your skin and hair. I like to apply coconut oil to my hair about 10 minutes before showering to give my hair some conditioning love.
Be sure to select organic unrefined, virgin coconut oil!
Wishing you all the best for 2015.
Love & Light,
* Colquhoun, James, and Laurentine Ten. Bosch. Hungry for Change: Ditch the Diets, Conquer the Cravings, and Eat Your Way to Lifelong Health. New York: HarperOne, 2012. Print.
**"What Are the 84 Minerals in Himalayan Salt?" LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 02 Sept. 2011. Web. 13 Jan. 2015. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/534033-what-are-the-84-minerals-in-himalayan-salt/>.
***Carr, Kris. Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live like You Mean It! Guilford, Ct: Skirt!, 2011. Print.