Stay Healthy During the Holidays

With the holidays right around the corner, I thought I’d put together a list of things you can do to stay healthy while still enjoying the holiday season. So, without further ado, here are the top 6 recommendations I would make:

  1. Stick to your normal eating habits. Don’t try skipping meals or eating less as this may lead to over-consuming snack foods and holiday treats.
  2. Build meals around protein and veggies while minimizing starchy or sugary carbs such as fruits, grains, legumes, and potatoes. Always opt for more vegetables and protein to feel full.
  3. Avoid liquid calories such as juices, milk, and mixed drinks. Get your calories from whole foods!
  4. Once you are full from your meal, then indulge in whatever holiday treat you like most. My favorite is chocolate peanut butter balls! It’s a lot easier to enjoy one or two treats, rather than a dozen, after filling up on healthy food during mealtime.
  5. Exercise whenever possible! This will mitigate stress that occurs during the holidays and protect your body from the damage of the indulgences. Exercise can be as simple as sprinting up a flight of stairs, going for a walk after meals, or performing a few sets of body weight pushups and squats.
  6. For those that plan to consume alcoholic beverages: drink on an empty stomach. When alcohol is ingested, all other calories are sent to fat storage so the body can break down the alcohol as fast as possible. Pick drinks lower in sugar such as dry wines, champagnes, and hard liquors. Forgo the prepackaged sugary mixers and try flavoring with a lime or lemon. My approach is to have a NorCal Margarita (2 shots tequila, juice from an entire lime, ice, and club soda) a few hours before dinner. Finally, make the following meal high in protein and healthy fat. This will help blood sugar levels, protein synthesis, and hormones return to normal.

I personally choose to consume a whey protein shake and digestive enzymes before any meal that is high in processed carbs and low in nutrients, such as pasta or pizza.

Finally, don’t stress about indulging! The holidays should be about family, relaxation, and a change in routine. Sure, under-consuming protein and vitamins while over-consuming sugar and anti-nutrients isn’t going to improve health – but allowing stress levels to increase will only exacerbate fat storage and skew hormone levels.

Make the best choices you can as often as possible, but plan to enjoy yourself and have some indulgences. Then jump right back into clean eating and living on in January.

Hope these tips help everyone enjoy their holidays while staying healthy. See you all next year!

christmas-treats

Meal Comparison, Part 2: Lunch

This week I continue my series comparing meals from the Standard American Diet to grain-free alternatives.

Today will compare a healthy USDA-approved lunch, consisting of the following:

A sandwich made with:

2 slices whole wheat bread (enriched & fortified)

2 leaves of lettuce

2 slices turkey

2 slices ham

2 tablespoons honey-mustard dressing

1 8-ounce container of yogurt with fruit

1 medium apple

Sandwich

The grain-free meal will contain:

8 ounces salmon

1 ounce of walnuts

A salad made with:

2 cups mixed greens (spinach, romaine, lettuce, etc)

1 carrot

½ onion

Salad

Both meals total less than 650 calories and take less than 15 minutes to prepare.

Here is a macronutrient breakdown of the two meals, including a comparison of the fatty acid quality (omegas) of each.

. Total Carbs Fiber Net Carbs Protein Sat Fat Mono Fat Omega 3 Omega 6
Standard Lunch 111 8 103 23 1.8 2.2 225 2250
Grain-Free Lunch 36 12 25 50 5 9 8700 11300

The sandwich and fruit results in over 100 grams of sugar released into the bloodstream! Carbs are not inherently bad, but if this pattern is repeated regularly, for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, diabetes and cardiovascular disease can result.

Even though “whole grains” are known for their fiber content, we see that a meal based around vegetables will provide far more fiber content. Fiber mitigates blood sugar spikes and maintains healthy gut function.

The most apparent difference is in the protein content. The sandwich and yogurt provides just over 20 grams of protein while the salmon salad weighs in at an impressive 50 grams. Imagine the benefits to cognitive functioning, physical performance, and body composition one could reap with such an adequate supply of amino acids!

Finally, we see that the omega 3-to-omega 6 ratio is about 1-to-10, risking an inflammatory state within the body. However, the salmon salad provides a much more balanced 1-to-1.3 O3-to-O6 ratio. A ratio in the range of 1-to-2 to 1-to-4 can help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, and certain neurological disorders.

Next is the vitamin comparison of the two meals:

. Vit A Vit C Vit D Vit E Vit K Vit B6 Vit B12 Folate
Standard Lunch 130 15 0 2 6 0.4 1.2 43
Grain-Free Lunch 34410 135 0.2 2.6 940 30 7.2 400

There’s really no need to examine any particular column. The numbers show that vegetables and healthy protein provide far more essential vitamins than refined grains, processed dairy, and “low-fat” deli meat.

Last is the mineral content of each meal:

. Calcium Iron Magnesium Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium
Standard Lunch 400 2.8 85 975 1500 3 0.1 0.7 48
Grain-Free Lunch 300 7.5 235 2825 700 3.8 1.5 2.6 108

Since the Standard Lunch includes yogurt, it will provide more calcium…but also a more acidic environment which may leech calcium from the bones.

The salmon salad still wins in every other category but we still see that grains are a decent source of minerals. As I mentioned last time however, a small serving of nuts will provide certain nutrients that aren’t found as abundantly in vegetables.

In conclusion, this side-by-side comparison of a “well-rounded, heart-healthy American lunch” and a salmon salad showcases the benefit of opting for more vegetables and healthy proteins.

Save the bread for the birds and start eating what nature provides!

Salmon on Asparagus

I received such positive responses from the steamed mussels’ recipe that I decided to post another recipe – this time for smoked salmon!

The best thing about salmon is that it has the highest Omega 3 content of almost any food in the world…however, make sure you buy wild-caught!

Food producers feed corn to farm-raised salmon, thus increasing the omega 6 content while decreasing omega 3 content. This is to say nothing of other negative outcomes from feeding a species a food they can’t properly digest.

I am aware that high-quality wild-caught salmon can be quite expensive, sometimes over $20/pound. For this reason, I would again urge everyone to check the pre-packaged, frozen seafood section. I know the store near me has frozen, wild- and sustainably-caught salmon for $5/pound…this is after a buy-one-get-one or half-price sale that seems to be permanent.

I like to cook my salmon on a bed of asparagus but honestly, the asparagus can end up being as expensive as the salmon so feel free to substitute another vegetable!

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Salmon in Parchment Paper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cut two sheets of parchment paper about 1 foot by 1 foot

Fold both in half and cut the edges to form a half circle

After unfolding each, you should have 2 circles, equal in size

Line asparagus in middle of one sheet and place salmon on top

Add olive tapenade or coconut oil on salmon

Place the second circle over everything so the edges of parchment papers line up

Going around the outside of the circles, fold the edges over, sealing the sheets

Place on an oven tray and cook for 12 minutes

Remove from oven, cut open parchment, and allow to cool

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One important detail of this recipe is the use of parchment paper. This will protect the salmon from direct heat, resulting in a steaming affect, protecting the omega 3’s and other nutrients from oxidization.

Chopped olives or coconut goes well with this, but avocado or sweet potato would work too. Basically, you want to make sure you pair an energy source, a carb if you’re active or a fat if you’re sedentary, with this complete protein.

Like last time, I have to indulge my nerdy side and list the impressive nutritional profile of salmon:

Just 3 ounces contains the following:

22 grams of complete protein

2200mg Omega 3 and only 190mg Omega 6

40-60% daily needs of Selenium, Vitamin B12 & B6, and Niacin

20-25% of Riboflavin and Phosphorus

10-15% of Thiamin, Pantothenic Acid, Potassium, and Copper

It also contains trace amounts of activated Vitamin A (retinol), Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Sodium, Zinc, and Manganese.

While on the subject of salmon’s nutrient content, it is worth discussing the value of salmons’ high selenium content.

Our oceans have very high levels of mercury which could be quite dangerous, particularly for smaller people and pregnant women. Some sources even recommend limiting fish intake for this reason. While this may be a good idea for larger fish that don’t have as many minerals and nutrients, such as tuna, limiting consumption of salmon would be a terrible idea.

Chemically, selenium binds with mercury, thereby removing it from the body and eliminating any danger. The one downside of this process however, is that much of the selenium content of fish is not absorbed. For this reason, you may want to make sure you are getting enough selenium from other sources (just one or two Brazil nuts will give you all you need for the day).

And with that, you now have two amazingly beneficial, and hopefully tasty, recipes. Both should amount to about $5 per serving or less and provide a great deal of your nutrient needs for the day.  Also, considering both are seafood dishes, they would be perfect additions to a vegetarian diet.

Enjoy!