Cut the Sugar, Keep the Sweetness!

jean harlow

If you found yourself dipping into the Halloween candy this past week or weekend, you may find yourself craving more of the sugary stuff this week.

It’s just the way your body is programmed.The more sugar you eat, the more you crave it – and as long as you continually give into your craving for it – the more the cycle is perpetuated.

So before you find yourself down at the drugstore purchasing discounted Halloween candy (oooh so tempting), or hitting up the pastry counter with your morning coffee, check out my suggestions below for satisfying your sweet tooth without the added sugar.

And let’s face it. There’ll be no shortage of sweet stuff coming your way in the coming weeks with all the holiday parties and events. Might as well give your body a break now;)

Cut the sugar but keep the sweetness with these ideas…

1) Baked apples (or pears). Slice them up and drizzle them with coconut oil and cinnamon (no need to add sugar), and bake them in the oven.  Feel free to top them with chopped walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds. This used to be one of my go-to treats when I was a kid. Actually I just made these a few weeks ago – here’s the picture!

2) Cocoa sweetened with Stevia.  This can take many different forms from a stove top homemade hot chocolate (raw cacao or cocoa powder, stevia, plus dairy or nut milk) to a chocolate flavoured protein powder or greens powder (Botanica makes a yummy one) mixed with almond milk. This can be the perfect little snack in the evening hours when you desire a little something chocolaty. The key is that the sweetness is coming from stevia (a zero-calorie natural sweetener) rather than added sugar.

3) Root vegetables. Choose one or a combination of any of the following: beets, turnips, parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, and sweet potato. Chop them up and roast them with garlic and fresh herbs. As the veggies roast in the oven the starches naturally break down into sugar, making them not only easier to digest, but sweeter tasting too. They’re delicious eaten hot or after they’ve cooled in the fridge.

4) Winter squashes. I can’t get enough these days! Acorn, kabocha, hubbard, butternut, pumpkin, etc. Cut them in half, scoop out the seeds and roast them in the oven with some coconut oil, cinnamon, and sea salt. You can puree them into a soup or a side-dish if you desire, but my method of choice is to just eat them straight with a spoon. And yes, I eat the skin too!

5) Dark chocolate. Okay, technically there’s added sugar here BUT if you stick with a higher cocoa content (70-85%), and just a few squares, the added sugar is really quite low. The caveat of course though is if you can’t stop at just a few squares and find yourself regularly chowing down on half the bar (or the whole thing), you might want to reconsider this a viable option – especially if you’re determined to nix the sugar from your life. I posted a picture of my favorite 85% bar here. If you’re a dark chocolate fan you’ll love it!

Now I want to hear from you!

What do you reach for when you want something sweet but without the sugar? Share your favorite naturally sweet or low-sugar treats below!

xo Elaine

photo via pinterest

The Perfect Diet

The perfect diet

photo credit

When people I don’t know find out what I do for a living, they’re naturally curious about my thoughts on diet and nutrition.

Which diet do I follow? Am I vegan? Vegetarian? Paleo? Do I eat gluten? What about dairy?

And the most popular…

What diet do I recommend my clients follow?

When it comes to this last question, I rarely ever have a simple, concise or neatly wrapped up answer because the truth is, it really depends.

Personally my own diet has evolved over the years as I’ve learned and discovered what works best for my body, largely through experimentation. Even though the specifics of what I eat may change on any given day, there are certain underlying principles that guide my choices. These mainly revolve around optimizing digestion and supporting my body’s natural detoxification capabilities (because what comes out is just as important as what goes in!).

I’m not a fan of diet labels (more on that here) and prefer to stick to my guns rather than follow any hard or fast rules. I view most nutritional approaches and diets as templates that need to be tweaked, tailored and adjusted based on the individual. And I’m very conscious of the fact that how I eat is just as important as what I eat.

I think it’s great when people can collect the golden nuggets from various nutritional approaches without having to necessarily adopt the whole approach in its entirety – and by the same token, not feeling the need to discredit an entire nutritional approach because they disagree with one aspect of it.

So then…what’s the best diet?

In my opinion, the best diets share the following themes:

  • They focus on food quality
  • They account for individuality (no all or nothing!)
  • They eliminate nutritional deficiencies
  • They focus on optimizing digestion while supporting detoxification
  • They control appetite and leave you feeling satiated
  • They’re sustainable over the long-run
  • They’re enjoyable and (of course) support your overall health

As you likely gathered, there’s not just one diet or approach that could potentially fit this bill!

So what type of diet do I recommend that my clients follow?

Well before making any recommendations or putting together a plan, here are the factors I first take into account:

  • Current health status
  • Health/diet history
  • Goals
  • Age/lifestage
  • Food sensitivities/and tolerance
  • Digestive capability
  • Nutrition knowledge
  • Food preferences
  • Work/Social schedule
  • Activity level
  • Cultural/religious traditions and beliefs
  • Budget and food availability

As you can clearly see there are many factors that come into play before I make recommendations. This is why I spend at least 90 minutes in the first session with new clients asking questions and really getting to know them before I customize a plan of action.

Just as there’s no one perfect diet for everybody, I think it’s also important to keep in mind that there are different nutrition approaches that can work for any one person at various points in their life depending on the factors mentioned above.

So as you can clearly see, when it comes to the best diet, it really does depend!

Much love,

Elaine

How to Break Out of Diet Prison

Break Free

photo credit

Are you still trying to figure out what type of diet works best for your body?

Does it ever feel like you’ve been on an endless pursuit of trying to figure out what you should be eating to look and feel your best?

Last week I was speaking with a new client for the first time and she said something that really struck a chord (p.s. she gave me permission to share this with you).

She told me that she felt like she wasted the better part of her life hung up on food and that she couldn’t believe that at her age (38) she still hadn’t figured out this whole “diet thing”. She was still struggling with the same health issues. She was starting to feel that the “healthy” diet she had been eating for the past 10 years was failing her, and to top it off she had completely lost her mojo for life.

I really felt this woman’s pain, but the truth is I’ve heard a similar version of this story countless times before.

I can’t help but compare it to being trapped in a prison. Diet prison.

The thing is most women don’t even realize that they’re living in one until suddenly…they’re not. And it’s not until after they’ve escaped from it that they can clearly look back and see they were even imprisoned in the first place.

So how do you break out of prison and figure out this whole “diet thing” once and for all?

While I don’t claim to have ALL the answers, there are definitely a few things I know to be true if you want to experience freedom in this area of your life.

If you’re struggling, feeling stuck or just ready to give up, here’s what you need to do to make your journey towards health more enjoyable and sustainable.

Consider these steps the foundation on which you’ll build upon later.

1. Remain Nutritionally Flexible. In other words don’t become too attached to any one nutritional approach. You don’t have to confine yourself to a diet label or squeeze yourself into anybody else’s nutrition box. Your nutritional needs are as unique as you are, and they’ll change throughout the course of your life based on lots of different factors, such as life stage, health status, and your activity level – just to name a few!

Experiment with any “style of eating” that’s in alignment with your beliefs or just feels intuitively correct for you, but know you are free to change course whenever you want (without shame or guilt) – particularly if it’s no longer serving your body best. Know that there is no ONE perfect diet for everyone (including you), so don’t get caught up in diet dogma or rigid belief systems that keep you blinded from seeing other nutritional truths.

2. Get Back-to-Basics. At some point there comes a time when you can’t help but feel overwhelmed and confused by all the conflicting health information touted by “experts”. When this happens (which it inevitably does) return to this simple but powerful truth:

Our bodies need natural, whole, minimally processed food that’s easy to digest and leaves us effortlessly and efficiently.

The rest is details. Experimentation. Trial and success.

Don’t get caught up in the notion that you need the latest superfood, powder, or other specialty food item to build a healthy body. Sure, they can add some fun and variety to your diet but don’t let them become a distraction or deter you from opting for more simple and “basic” options (i.e. fruits and veggies) if you can’t afford them – they’re not a requirement.

Furthermore, ditch the “I’m on a diet” mentality. You’re on this journey for the long haul. Focus on food quality and NOT numbers (i.e. stop counting calories), and for heaven’s sake please don’t turn your plate of food into a math equation.

3. Kick Your Food Addictions (Once and For All). It’s not easy being self-sovereign and making decisions for your highest good when you’re trapped in the vicious cycle of over consuming substances that compromise your health and leave you feeling lethargic and depressed.  Many people don’t even realize that they’re addicted until they try going without their “poison”.  The first step in this difficult process is just becoming aware of the substances that have a hold over you and leave you powerless.

For many people its refined sugar that runs their show. Whether it’s the muffin that calls out their name in line at Starbucks, the sugary coffee drink that gets them through the afternoon, or the bulk candy section at the grocery store they just can’t seem to resist. The more that’s consumed, the more your body craves it. Believe me, I know this firsthand!

But just ask anyone that’s cut out sugar for a few weeks. If you can just get past the initial discomfort of the first few days it usually gets easier there on in.  Not to mention the freedom you feel afterwards when you’re no longer a slave to it makes it well worth the initial effort. This isn’t to say that you’re never going to indulge or treat yourself again, but you probably won’t desire it in the same as you did before and you’ll be happier opting for quality over quantity.

There you have it.

Here’s to breaking out of diet prison!

xo Elaine

What do you think? As always, I love hearing from you so please share your thoughts in the comments below!

An Ode to Food Freedom

Do you ever write down and keep track of your daily food intake?

Back a little while ago, I found a scrap piece of paper tucked away in a stack of old papers in my desk drawer that had my hand-writing scrawled on it.

It read:

- Orange juice, apple cup.

- Baby carrots (handful), 1 small apple, little bit of salad (teeny bit).

That’s it.

Clearly the list was incomplete, not to mention unbalanced.

I can only imagine that based on what was listed I must have been starving by the afternoon and binged out on everything in sight throwing the list (figuratively speaking of course) out the window, which is why nothing else was recorded.

I don’t know what year it came from but it’s clearly from another time. What I do know is that I haven’t purchased store-bought orange juice or apple cups (apple sauce?) in years. My guess is that I wrote it sometime in my early twenties, but I honestly don’t know for sure; it may have been earlier.

It was clearly at a time in my life when I was heavily restricting. At these times I would make lists tracking everything I ate in hopes it would help me control my food intake.

I never stayed on the overly restrictive side of the pendulum for too long though before it swung back full speed to the other side. Riding the perpetual diet roller coaster and trapped in my own self-imposed prison.

At any rate, it brought up old memories of a time in my life where restriction, deprivation and guilt around food was the norm. I remember at times it was like living in hell–or as I now refer to it–diet prison.

My relationship with food and my body has changed drastically since those days. It honestly feels like an eternity ago.

Today I feel a sense of freedom around food and ease in the way I eat.

I naturally gravitate towards wholesome foods that I also derive pleasure from, that nourish my body because I highly value my health and vitality and prefer feeling my best–strong, energized, light, clear-minded, and with a calm belly.

But, I’ll also happily enjoy an almond croissant or ice cream from time to time without any feelings of shame or guilt, and, without throwing in the “proverbial towel” for the entire day or weekend, only to start “fresh again on Monday”.

I also no longer have weird obsessions or hang-ups around food (that often go hand-in-hand with an overly restrictive diet), so it doesn’t have the same strange-hold over me that it once did.

It’s occurred to me for some time that many women are trapped in diet prisons of their own. Sometimes by no choice of their own; other times willingly, even if they’re not aware of it.

I’ve consulted with enough women over the years to know that many of them have hang-ups around their body and food. And it’s not only women struggling to lose weight or overcome food addiction, but also those struggling with health problems of their own that may require a restrictive diet in order for them to heal. Then there are others who feel enslaved by the very same diet that once made them feel great but now is not working so well, and they’re left feeling confused yet determined to make it work. Really there are tons of reasons why someone might be trapped in a diet prison.

So where am I headed with all this?

Food Freedom

This is what I wish for all the women in my life.

Young and old; near and far.

Daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts and mothers.

Each and every woman who comes to work with me; short or long-term, and regardless of end-goal.

Whether they want to lose weight, heal their digestion, or balance their hormones.

I want each and every woman to walk away with a new-found sense of freedom around food;

To know how to nourish her body without feelings of restriction or deprivation.

This is what I wish for all women.

Food Freedom.

This is my ode to each and every one of you.

How does that sound? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Much more to come.

All love,
Elaine