Upgrade Your Eating Habits in 5 Steps

Originally published on www.bell-wellness.com

Want to feel healthier? Lose weight? Improve your digestion?

While upgrading your food choices is naturally a great place to start, in reality, it’s only half of the healthy eating equation.

Have you ever stopped to examine “how” you eat? In other words, playing close attention to your eating habits.

You see, changing your diet and upgrading your food choices is typically the easier part.

Your eating habits on the other hand, now they can run deep.

Implement the following steps below and reap the benefits of better digestion, increased energy, and a flatter stomach!

1. Avoid (Too Much) Liquid with Meals. Drinking liquids with meals dilutes the digestive secretions needed for breaking down our food. Small sips are okay, but definitely avoid gulping large amounts of liquids. It’s actually best to drink most of our liquid (ideally water) on an empty stomach between meals so that you’re already hydrated when you sit down to eat. Speaking of which…

2. Sit Down and Relax. Enjoy your meals distraction-free. Rushing, stress, worry, and anxiousness are all antithetical to good digestion and are a recipe for bloating, gas, heartburn, and stomach aches. When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, aka, “fight or flight” mode, our ability to digest and assimilate our food is greatly reduced. It’s important we get into parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode in order to give our bodies a fighting chance to digest the food we’re feeding it. If necessary take 5-10 minutes to relax before eating, and if the option is to hurriedly eat to make a meeting, you’re better off skipping the meal, eating something light, or waiting until later.

3. Chew Your Food Well. Keep in mind that your stomach doesn’t have teeth! Chewing well breaks down food into smaller more manageable particles, easing the digestive burden on our stomach and intestines. Smaller food particles also allow for easier absorption of nutrients and negates the likelihood of opportunistic bacteria to ferment larger undigested food particles, which can increase symptoms of gas and bloating.

4. Don’t Graze. Many people never experience the feeling of true hunger because they’re constantly nibbling throughout the day. If you’re constantly grazing or snacking consider transitioning back to a 3 meal per day approach to enjoy the benefits of optimized digestion and fat burning, freed up mental space that’s otherwise preoccupied with food, increased energy that’s otherwise thwarted towards digestion, and getting back in touch with true hunger and satiety signals.

5. Avoiding Eating Heavily Within 2-3 Hours of Bedtime. When we go to bed with a stomach full of food not only is it a recipe for disrupted sleep and indigestion, but it also impedes the process of healing, detoxification, and cellular regeneration that would normally occur during this time of nightly slumber (because energy is diverted towards digestion). The idea here is to be done your main meal within 2-3 hours of lying horizontal. You can still eat within this time frame if necessary, but ideally it will be a lighter meal (i.e. soup or salad) or small snack.

While it may not be possible or easy to transform your eating habits overnight, the first step in effecting change is just becoming more aware of your eating habits in the first place, and noting where they could perhaps use a little upgrade!

Gentle Winter Cleanse (aka Digestive Reboot)

Feeling sluggish? Low energy? Bloated? Digestion not up to par? Trapped in a cycle of overeating?

If you feel like you need a little help in this area I’ve got just the prescription!

I call this a gentle winter cleanse, however, it’s really more of a digestive reboot or reset.

While cleansing is something that’s recognized as a great tool for the change of season, particularly spring and early autumn, you can still support your body’s natural built-in detox mechanisms all throughout the year by paying attention to what you’re eating, along with other lifestyle choices.

What I’m offering today though is a simple little protocol that you can put into action anytime or place whether you’re feeling sluggish or low on energy, or feeling like your digestion isn’t running as smoothly as it could be (i.e. you’re experiencing indigestion or bloating), or maybe you’ve found yourself in a pattern of overeating less than ideal foods and you’re having a hard time breaking the cycle.

This protocol can help you get back on the right track and give your digestion a rest, all while still providing your body nourishment.

You can follow this plan for as little as one day, but I suggest following it for at least 2 (or even 3) days for best results. This will depend on your current health status, lifestyle, and the intensity of the plan you wish to follow.

It’s really quite simple and you have full control over the menu.

Basic Guidelines

1) Consume any of the following during the protocol. Herbal teas, fresh vegetable juices, green-based smoothies, veggie broths, bone broths, and blended soups. You can pick and choose based on your preference. Unsweetened dairy alternatives are okay, as are seasonings for soup (i.e. sea salt, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil). You’re taking a break from: alcohol, flour, grain, meat, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and added sugar (with the exception of the optional raw honey I noted in the menu below), along with most other solid food.

2) You control the intensity. For example, consuming only fresh veggie juices and broths will be more cleansing (and intense) than blended smoothies and soups.

3) Drink plenty of pure water. Although this protocol is very hydrating already, be sure to drink pure water throughout the day. You can also sip on herbal teas and broths.

FAQ

Q. Can I still drink coffee?

A. This is the most commonly asked question! Ideally you will stick to herbal teas but I know that this one factor alone is one of the biggest excuses people give for not following it, or the reason why they will put it off for a more “convenient” time (I’ve fallen into this category many times too). So with that said you can still have one cup of coffee if you really want it (either taken black or with a splash of milk/cream or dairy alternative – NO sugar though). Although there may be many other reasons to take a break from coffee, since it’s technically a liquid you can still enjoy the digestive rest aspect of the protocol (unless of course it contributes towards digestive-related symptoms that you’re aware of – then avoid it).

Other Logistics

  • I personally stop taking all supplements during this protocol with the exception of a probiotic. You’ll have to decide what’s right for you. This does NOT apply to doctor prescribed medications.
  • Take into account your lifestyle and modify as necessary. For example, the last time I followed this I went for 5 days while keeping up with my regular busy work schedule, and workout routine (i.e. spinning classes and heavy weight-lifting). For this reason I added in some protein powder to my smoothie that I had post-workout. If you’re only following the protocol for one day this likely doesn’t apply to you – and if this is your first time following something similar then I would suggest more gentle exercise like walking and yoga.

Sample Menu

* Use all organic ingredients where possible

** Make quantities suitable for you (i.e. for soups you can always make bigger batches and store in the fridge)

Morning

Ginger tea with fresh lemon

Breakfast

Green Smoothie (2 handfuls of baby spinach, 1 chopped ripened Bosc pear, ½ ripened banana, ¼ avocado, ¼ tsp of grated ginger, a few sprigs of fresh mint + water for blending. Optional: add some lemon juice.)

Lunch

Broccoli Soup (Directions: steam broccoli florets until soft and then blend with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and water and/or veggie or bone broth. Reheat on stove as needed.)

Dinner

Leek and Potato Soup (Directions: simmer chopped up leek and potato in some water until soft, drain and transfer to blender. Blend with a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of sea salt, water and/or veggie or bone broth. Reheat on stove as needed.)

Night

Warm Golden Milk (1 cup of dairy alternative whisked w/ ½ tsp of turmeric powder. Heat on stove until hot but not boiling. Optional: small drizzle of raw honey is okay)

This sample menu is simply to give you some direction and inspiration. Follow a menu that suits your tastes and lifestyle using the allowable foods/liquids noted under the guidelines above.

Here’s an easy recipe for veggie broth that I posted on Instagram.

Here’s a link to homemade bone broth. You can make it in a slow cooker or stove top.

Here’s a recent juice recipe I made that’s nice for the wintertime (if you have a juicer!)

This is how I store my soups and broths.

Have questions?

Write them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!

xo Elaine

 

How to Make Your Own Ghee (Recipe)

Today I’m going to share with you how to make your very own supply of “liquid gold” – aka – Ghee.

What is Ghee?

Ghee, also commonly referred to as clarified butter, is a dietary source of fat that’s traditionally used in Indian cooking. It’s also used as a medicinal and healing food in Ayurvedic medicine, where it’s known as ghrita.

Ghee is essentially butter with the water and milk solids removed, that also has a rich, nutty, and caramel-like flavour and smell that distinguishes it from butter.

It’s almost like butter upgraded.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love butter! But apart from its caramelized appeal, ghee also has a few other notable and unique advantages that set it apart from butter.

Benefits of Ghee vs Regular Butter

Ghee shares a similar nutrient profile with butter, although it’s slightly more concentrated in fat – since the milk solids and water are removed.

Ghee has the distinct advantage over butter in two key areas:

1) It contains zero to nominal amounts of the milk protein casein and milk sugar lactose. For people who have sensitivities or intolerances to these components of dairy, ghee is the clear choice.

2) It has a higher smoke point than butter, and is shelf-stable. Ghee has a smoke point of 485°F (250°C), which is substantially higher than butter’s smoke point of 350°F (175°C), so it’s more suitable for higher temperature cooking without oxidizing and creating toxic by-products. Furthermore, it can sit on the shelf for at least a month (if not longer) in an airtight jar, and stores much longer in the refrigerator.

Similarly to butter, ghee tastes great over roasted veggies, potatoes, spread on toast, or atop any grain dish. Basically you can use ghee in place of oil for almost any of your cooking needs, including stir-fried and sautéed dishes.

(Side note: I also recently used it in place of coconut oil in my chocolate bark recipe that literally made it taste like a Skor Bar – a favorite as a kid!)

Homemade Ghee vs Store-bought

You can find ghee in most health food stores and specialty food stores and/or sections of the grocery store, however, there are a few factors to keep in mind before purchasing.

1) Price. Good quality ghee can be quite expensive to buy and by comparison is much less expensive to make at home yourself, especially when you also factor in quantity.

2) Quality. Lower-priced ghee usually isn’t made with high quality organic, and/or grass-fed butter, so it won’t be as nutrient-rich and may contain pesticides and other residues. Lower quality ghee can also contain additives like flavouring or colours. Always check the label and be sure that the only ingredient listed is butter!

Homemade Ghee Recipe

Once you make your own homemade ghee for the first time and realize how easy it is to prepare, you’ll likely kick yourself for not having made it sooner (*slowly raising my hand over here*).

Note: When it comes to quantity you can start with one or two pounds of butter, or however big of a slab you already have on hand. Case in point, this last time I made it I only used about 1/2 a pound of butter since that’s what I had on-hand and it made the exact amount you see in the image above. Usually though I’ll make about one pound at a time.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A small to medium saucepan (depending on quantity you’re making)
  • A large spoon for stirring
  • A fine meshed sieve
  • Several layers of cheese cloth (a nut milk bag works too!) to line the sieve
  • A large bowel or measuring cup (one with a poring sprout can make things easier especially if you’re making a larger amount. The rebel in me always just uses a bowl, mind you I don’t own a measuring cup with a sprout)
  • 1 -2 glass jars with lids for storing your ghee

 Ingredients:

  • High quality, unsalted butter (ideally organic and/or grass-fed). You can make as much as you want but I suggest starting with half a pound or 1 pound your first time in case you burn it – not hard to do!

Instructions:

The whole cooking process takes about 10-15 minutes.

  1. Cut butter into small cubes. This allows for the butter to melt faster and more evenly.
  2. Melt butter over medium heat and once it starts to foam and bubble reduce the heat to low.
  3. Gently stir it from time to time as it goes through this foaming and bubbling process. This process will eventually almost slow down to a simmer and you’ll notice that the foam becomes thinner while the bubbles actually get bigger and clearer.
  4. Soon you’ll notice the milk solids start to curdle and separate from the liquid. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan to prevent the solids from sticking and to encourage them to sink to the bottom. Notice your butter taking on a more golden colour. Keep stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to ensure that the milk solids don’t burn (important!)
  5. Eventually the butter will start to foam for a second time (like it did in step #2). This is your indication that the ghee is ready and should be removed from the heat. At this point you may want to let it sit for a few minutes and let the foam settle.
  6. Next, line your sieve with the cheese cloth (or nut bag!) and set over a large bowel or measuring cup.
  7. Pour your ghee in. You’ll notice little reddish-brown milk solids left behind. You can discard these solids but if you’re curious feel free to taste them. Apparently some people use them to make sweets.
  8. Transfer your filtered ghee into a glass jar. Notice its beautiful gold colour and delicious caramel aroma!
  9. Let it cool and set at room temperature. It will eventually turn into a solid, creamier consistency that you can easily spoon out or spread. If you store it in the fridge it will harden.

If you’re buying store-bought ghee you might notice on the jar that it says it’s shelf stable for 2-3 months.

I tend to error on the side of caution when making it myself. I usually let it sit on the counter for 2-3 weeks max before transferring to the fridge – just to be safe. Many other websites reference one month, so that may be a safe bet as well.

There you have it – the perfect staple to add to your repertoire!

As always, I love hearing from you. Have you ever made ghee before? Do you have any tips for using it? Share your thoughts in the comment below!

Heal Your Gut in 5 Steps (Part 5 of 5)

Note from Elaine: This is the final part of our 5-part series on Gut Health

You can access Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 via the links below.

Part 1: http://www.elainebrisebois.com/healyourgut-part1/

Part 2: http://www.elainebrisebois.com/healyourgut-part2/

Part 3: http://www.elainebrisebois.com/healyourgut-part3/

Part 4: http://www.elainebrisebois.com/healyourgut-part4/

We’ve made it all the way to the final part of the series! If you’re still here with me please know that I humbly salute you for sticking around right until the end.

I realize this is a lot of information to cover, but given how many people I consult with who struggle with digestive problems (not to mention the population at large), I believe this information is critical to understand.

Moving on to step-5 of the protocol…

Step #5: Rebalance

Admittedly, this final step of the series is often the most overlooked in favor for the other parts – namely the diet and supplements aspect.

Truthfully though, you can be following the perfect diet and supplement regime and still have digestive problems if you don’t take into consideration this final point. In other words, don’t discount it for being too easy (it’s not), or something to put off until later.

You might recall from part 3 that our gut is home to our enteric nervous system, commonly referred to as our “second brain” – the part of our nervous system that controls our gastrointestinal tract.

Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons (nerve cells) and a “highway” of neurotransmitters and hormones. This highway is known as our “gut-brain-axis” and it continually provides feedback about how hungry we are, whether we’ve eaten something disagreeable, or whether or not we’re feeling anxious or stressed.

Those butterflies you get in your stomach before a big presentation that perhaps have you running for the bathroom? That’s your gut responding to your emotional state!

Re-balance refers to all of those other lifestyle factors that impact our gut health, such as proper stress management, daily physical activity, and getting adequate sleep.

You know, all of those things that you know are important but don’t always happen because “life” gets in the way.

Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, positive affirmations, getting outside in nature, spending time with loved ones, and making time for play can all influence the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that help us to relax and reduce the effects of stress in our lives, positively affecting our gut health and our bodies at large.

I’m not saying that you have to drastically overhaul your lifestyle overnight, but consider the small changes you can create in your daily routine that ensure you’re not neglecting this area.

Perhaps it’s starting with just a few small tweaks such as:

  • Switching your cellphone into airplane mode at 9 pm to ensure a restful sleep
  • Creating a morning routine that allows you to start your day off relaxed rather than frenzied and rushed, and actually makes you excited to get out of bed (yes, it’s possible!)
  • Listening to an inspiring podcast on your morning commute to help alleviate the frustration of traffic or a jammed-packed train or subway car
  • Going for a walk outside on your lunch break or before dinner to decompress from work
  • Scheduling a weekly yoga class or massage
  • Limiting television/Netflix time to the weekend so you free up time
  • Making regular dates to connect with family and friends

Keep in mind: Progress, not perfection.

There you have it! I hope you enjoyed this series on Gut Health. If you ever feel you could use some help or guidance putting all 5 of these steps into practice in your own life, I invite you to consider one of my 1-on-1 nutrition programs.

Much love,

Elaine

 

References:

The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood and Your Long-Term Health, by Justin Sonnenburg and Erica Sonnenburg, PhDs.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367209/