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Happy New Year!

The New Year is back and it’s definitely time for the NEW YOU! I just wanted to remind you all that my site has grown and moved to Freedom At The Crossroads and I’ve got a brand new post up about fitness, diet, and performance. You can check this and more right now! http://freedomatthecrossroads.com/5-key-nutrients-needed-optimal-fitness-health/

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A quick and healthy fall recipe: baked butternut squash and kale

Happy Fall everyone and blessings this weekend! I just wanted to share one of my favorite Fall dishes that’s loaded with flavor and tons of nutrients! Stop over to my new site: http://freedomatthecrossroads.com/quick-healthy-fall-recipes/ , for the complete recipe!

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Quick and Easy Food Storage Tips

We all know how expensive groceries can become especially when you move between seasons or making a huge shift in how you feed yourself and your family.

Making healthy nutritional choices doesn’t have to break the bank nor does it have to become an overwhelming experience. While you might think you’re saving money (i.e. buying processed foods instead of fresh produce, etc) by not buying organic and locally sourced produce (get my FREE quick and easy grocery guide for the EWG recommendations for produce in 2017), or stocking up on frozen meals, the truth is that the hidden health costs associated with these types of low quality “foods” are extremely high.

Don’t be deceived by marketing gimmicks and misinformation campaigns promoted by both big agribusiness and the processed food industry. Labels on our foods matter and so do the methods of food production. Foods that have been cultivated using conventional means (i.e. large-scale pesticide and herbicide use, etc) are much more likely to contain damaging levels of these residues. We as consumers can not rely on these industries to “self-regulate” as their track records have shown them to be less than honest when it comes to putting consumer safety and health above their stock portfolios.

Also, while the FDA and USDA have traditionally been the only real advocate for consumers, both agencies have been severely hindered and compromised by lobbying interests as well as well-crafted efforts to defund these agencies in an effort to misinform the public regarding our food sources, what’s in our foods, labeling practices by the processed food industry and big agribusiness.

The reality is this: what food you put in your mouth will either poison or nourish your body, depending on where it comes from. If it comes from a country with no or poorly standardized food safety requirements (i.e. mercury levels in fish, pesticide use in produce, additives in frozen, processed and or packaged foods, etc), YOU need to SERIOUSLY rethink your food choices!!

Part of being able to feed your family with safe nutritious foods means you must adopt a sustainable way of accessing the right foods for your table. In practical terms, that means finding ways to minimize waste and unnecessary costs due to spoilage and improper food storage.

With that in mind here are a few quick tips:

1. Store dairy products at the back of the fridge. While it may make for easy access, keeping your milk at the front of the fridge makes it more prone to spoilage due to temperature differences. This is because the back of the fridge is colder and will, therefore, give your dairy products are longer shelf life.

2. Place your meats on the bottom shelf so that their juices do not drip on other food items (i.e. produce, etc) and contaminate them. If space is an issue, place your meat products on a tray or inside a leak-proof container in order to catch any drippings. Better yet, prep and package your meats into manageable portions (i.e. serving sizes for soups, meals, etc) and then store them in the freezer until you’re ready to cook your meals. Also, separate lunch meats from raw meats in order to prevent illness associated with cross-contamination.

3. Like any other plant, well-hydrated herbs will last longer and be less likely to spoil when you store them properly. Fresh herbs, like basil, asparagus, and green onions will last a good while if you store them upright in a jar of fresh water. Simply trim the stems, cover them with a piece of plastic wrap, and place them in the refrigerator for storage and use as needed.

4. Be aware of where to store fruits and vegetables. Not all fruits and veggies require refrigeration and in some instances, refrigeration affects the taste quality of some fruits and vegetables. For instance, avocados (yes, technically it’s a fruit because it has a seed y’all), citrus, bananas, nectarines, pears, peaches, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes do best outside of your fridge at room temperature or in your pantry. A quick warning though; don’t store onions and potatoes together due to the ethylene gas which can cause them to spoil each other faster.

5. I’ve been doing this for years ( thanks, momma), but did you know it really helps when you wrap your greens in paper towels. They’re great at preventing slimy residue from accumulating and making a science experiment in your bag of lettuce, spinach, or other leafy greens. Simply use paper towels to soak up excess moisture and lightly wrap your green in a few paper towels. This also works for leftover salad greens in food storage containers (minus the salad dressing of course).

6. Cover the crown of your bunches of bananas with plastic wrap. It helps to slow the release of that ethylene gas which is the meany responsible for breaking (the natural process that causes your produce to spoil) down one of my go-to mid-morning snacks. This is a good way to preserve your bananas if you’re not going to eat them right away.

7. Did you know wrapping your bunches of celery in foil helps it stay fresh and crunchy for up to as much as four weeks?  Yep, wrapping it up in foil and then placing it in your fridge’s crisper drawer will help extend the life of your celery. The foil does this by allowing just the right amount of moisture in, and the ethylene gas out.

8. Stop! Don’t wash all your produce at once. I know it’s counter-intuitive but it’s much better to wash your produce as you go if you want to maximize its shelf life. Unless you plan on freezing your food, you should only be washing things you’re ready to eat right away or soon after. This will reduce the chances of mold growing on damp produce.

9. Another “who’d a thunk it?” If you want to keep those berries mold free, soak them in vinegar. If you’re not going to consume them all at once, simply quick soak your berries in a solution of three parts water, one part vinegar in order to kill bacteria and prevent molding. Once you’ve done that, give the berries a thorough pat dry and store in the fridge.

10. Another great time saver and a great way to preserve your veggies to simply roast them prior to storage. By roasting vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower,  you can extend their shelf life. Not only that, it’s also a great meal prep tip to have cooked veggies on hand that you can quickly incorporate into any meal.

11. I can say this enough! Store grains in air-tight containers!! While buying in bulk is a great way to save money when grocery shopping, you want to make sure that you store it correctly so the extra food doesn’t go to waste. It’s critical that you make sure to transfer your grains into an airtight container to maintain freshness, as well as keep those pesky bugs away. Do yourself a favor by labeling your containers with the purchase dates so you’re able to keep track of expiration dates and avoid wasting stored foods.

12. Always Double-check your fridge’s temperature especially as the seasons’ change (i.e. summer vs. winter months). You want to make sure that your fridge is set at the correct temperature and that your thermostat is in proper working order to prevent spoilage and reduce the risk of food born illnesses. The recommended temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 5 degree Celsius for those of you who are using the mks measurement system.

If you’re still not sure where to begin, grab my FREE Pantry Detox Gude GUIDE HERE

For the complete Introductory Produce, Shopping Guide grab a copy HERE!!

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The Real Valentines Day: In Review

Every year, millions of women look forward to Valentine’s Day (at least in their heads) as a time to be appreciated, pampered and just fabulous! We start some new diet (usually accompanied by some unrealistic expectations, etc), renew our New Year’s resolutions, and sit back with bated breath as we wait to see what the universe will deliver on! As the days roll by, reality begins to creep in and the fake glitter of Valentine’s Day marketing fades away.

Fast forward to the middle of the month, and I’m wondering if we’re going to stick to our vision and commitment to a healthy lifestyle. January 2017 is long gone, February is long gone (with March a recent memory) and we are midway through April, but some of the same problems of 2016 are still at the forefront of our minds. While getting fit and healthy is the ultimate objective, too often we forget that this is a process, and with all of that comes a whole new set challenge. First of all, how do you stay motivated? Next, how do you stay focused (i.e. multitasking for work, family, etc) and find the time to get all of this done?

It’s all about priorities and recognizing that your health (i.e. mind, body, soul) is central to your life. The bottom line is this: if YOU are not healthy it is very little you can do (from a standpoint of sustainability) in terms of meeting the needs of both yourself and your family. We live in an age where high stress, insufficient sleep, and poor diet are becoming the new normal, while at the same time, chronic illness, obesity, etc continue to rise. Add to that the issue of our unsustainable and corporatized healthcare system, and you have the makings of a perfect storm of everything that can go wrong!

My goal here is not to scare the crap out of anyone; it is simply to encourage us all to make our health the main priority, and recognize that health and balance are central to life. At the most basic level, balance is key to any sustainable system (our bodies included) and requires work and commitment in order to continue. In simple terms, you should not be living to work (i.e. job, career, etc) but working to live! In other words, your job or career should not overtake all other aspects of your life in the same way that your personal life should not overshadow your professional or public arena.

So how do you STILL fit in a healthy eating and fitness plan, restore balance to your life, etc? Well, you simply stick to the P.L.A.N. and remain focused on your goals (i.e. living a balanced and healthy lifestyle, etc). I’m not saying there are no challenges in maintaining your health and fitness goals, but it is more than possible to be aware of what you’re eating, finding and using your “me” time to work out (it’s also an excellent way to deal with stress), and staying balanced in all (or most) areas of your life. Experience has taught me that the best way to do this, is by taking a step back and finding joy in the little things; a crisp sunny Fall day, an invigorating walk along the trails, or simply enjoying a hot cup of tea or coffee on the front porch (backyard, on the veranda, in front of your balcony, etc).

For the everyday woman whose life is at the crossroads and who feels like she needs not just her health and fitness in balance, but life in general, I say, WELCOME! I have found that every woman is unique in terms of her story and her needs, especially at the “crossroads”.

Why? The answer is relatively simple. The needs of a woman who is already stressed, out of balance both physically and mentally (i.e. overweight, frustrated, overwhelmed) are different from one who has her career, obligations, and family on track etc, but just needs “some” help losing a few pounds and learning how to eat healthily!

The sad truth is that most of us women (especially if you haven’t seen 30 in a long while) struggle with a chaotic and unhealthy life, but rather than valuing ourselves enough to change it, we choose for one reason or another, to stay on that hamster wheel going nowhere!

We need to admit and own our truth when it comes to our relationship with food and by extension, how we relate and perceive ourselves as well as others. we seem to be ignorant of the fact that FOOD plays an important role in our lives and an important aspect of culture. I guess like so many other things in this high-tech age, this is just one more thing that has become lost in the matrix of” sameness” perpetuated by a media that serves itself rather than the welfare of society at large.

I’m not saying we bear no responsibility for our own health, but I AM saying is that the media bears some responsibility in terms of pushing “unhealthy” images and ideas of what constitutes beauty, a “healthy weight”, “healthy” foods (i.e. so-called fat-free, zero calories) etc. Our current mainstream media has in large part become the mouthpiece of big Agri-business and corporations more interested in their bottomless than the wellbeing of society.

This is why I do what I do! I decided to get active and advocate for women’s health and to empower other women to fight back and reclaim their health, fitness. My goal is for women in my zone of influence to become knowledgeable about their food sources and equip them with the necessary tools to gain control of their health and nutrition. I’ll always remember these wise words of my mom, “knowledge is power” and “the gates of the school-house are still open”!

If You are tired of unhealthy crap being packaged and marketed to you as healthy, “low” in fat, etc, then get involved and educated about who controls your food- you are what you eat folks! The hard truth is that, if after all that hard work of getting fit and adopting a healthy lifestyle you’re still depending on big Agri-business and the fast food / packaged food industrial machine to give you good (derived from sustainably grown, mostly pesticide-free or organic) quality food, dream on. An educated public is an empowered one, and too often that empowerment is in conflict with the bottom line of these corporations.

So what do I do to cut out the crazy and NOT break the bank? I keep it simple. Stick to mostly seasonal produce, buy my produce from local farms, buy organic where necessary (avoid the “dirty dozen”) and get involved in a local or community farm if at all possible. At the end of the day, you and your family are worth the time and effort, believe me!

Check out my FREE PANTRY DETOX GUIDE to help you finally get your butt in gear because before you know it, summer will be here and then what!? SAME OLD same old!? NOT!

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Are You Thirsty When You’re Hungry?

Who hasn’t gone through a time (especially in the summer months), when they were constantly hungry but never seemed to get satiated even after eating a full meal, snacks, etc. I can remember summers where I ate like a horse (had some sips of water throughout the day too!) and it felt like I couldn’t get full! Don’t even get me started on the consequences, a.k.a. “mystery pounds” that just seemed to show up on my stomach, thighs, and butt!

Needless to say, those were some less than happy summers, especially when you factor in me wanting to make sure I had my cuteness factor dialed up to ten, hahaha!

Fast forward to the present and bam! Mystery solved! It’s actually true! In simple terms, your brain can misinterpret thirst for hunger. But first, let’s get a clear definition of both thirst and hunger. In his article entitled “Hunger and Thirst: Issues in the measurement of predictions of eating and drinking”, Richard Dr. Mattes gives the following: “It is first necessary to provide operational definitions of hunger and thirst. Hunger describes those sensations that promote the attainment of minimal energy needs while thirst represents sensations that promote the attainment of minimal hydration needs. ” He also goes on to mention that making the distinction between the two is one that is often made more complex due to a number of factors that feed into the “sensation” of hunger and thirst, namely, individual variability, social behaviors, and physiological attributes, symptoms, etc.

Let’s not even add to that, the constant barrage of media campaigns designed to feed (no pun intedended) and tap into our feelings of nostalgia, comfort and insecurities. These “emotional” wells have  psychological impacts are exploited by marketing campaigns for the sole purpose nudging the public into making particular food choices that are, in most instances, very poor nutritional options.

Unfortunately for a significant segment of society, one of the main consequences of this is the neat epidemic level of diabetes, heart disease and other diet related illnesses. Who would have thought that something as simple as making the distinction between thirst and hunger, could have such potentially, far reaching consequences?

I’m not saying that the, ability to make the distinction between hunger and thirst is the primary root cause or a strong enough association, with the occurences of diabetes and other diet related diseases and illnesses,  but it does give one food for thought.

My take away from all of this? Before you fill your plate, why not try a glass or two of water and give your brain some time to catch up with your stomach?! The bottom line is that distracted eating is problematic and so is allowing your daily routine to become so busy and out of balance,  that something so basic as nutrition and health become the losers in this equation.

Fast food masquerading as “quick” healthy alternatives to mindfully  (a.k.a. foods that have no foreign additves, preservatives, etc) prepped are not beneficial to anyone in the long run. 

Also, rushing through meals, not properly hydrating the body with water (rather than sodas, and drinks or beverages marketed as good substitutes for clean water), and choosing convenience over substance leads down a path that does not end well. Which brings me back to this whole issue of making the distinction between thirst and hunger; “mindless” or “distracted” eating can translate into, consuming more calories than what the body needs, snacking on empty calorie laden foods, and so forth.

Ultimately, balance is the center of it all. Good health is part and parcel of a healthy lifestyle in which self care  (i.e. fitness,  exercise, stress management,  meditation,  mindfully eating, etc ) is viewed as a necessity rather than optional.

If you’re still feeling clues after all of “this” find out more in my holistic fitness and support tribe right here and thank me later! >>FitTribe.Holistic.Fitness.Health<<

Sources:

Mattes, Richard D. “Hunger and Thirst: Issues in measurement and prediction of eating and drinking.” Physiology & Behavior 100.1 (2010):22-32. Print
McKiernan F, Hollis JH, McCabe GP, Mattes RD. Thirst-drinking, hunger-eating; tight coupling? J AM Diet Assoc. 2009;109:486-90

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Food? Waist? Why The Obsession?

wp-1484039503567.jpgWhy are we so obsessed with food and our waistlines? This question and more, constantly leave me with a bevy of theories or reasons why there is such a large number of women in the U.S. and the west in general  (and to a smaller degree, other parts of the world), who seem fixated on both food and their waistlines. Why the constant battle with our food? As a fitness and health strategist with a background in biological anthropology, I can’t help but wonder if something more complex, and culturally relevant is at play in this insanity, and dare I say, misconceptions based on misinformation.

This problem stems in large part, from a grossly uneducated and misinformed public with  regard to what constitutes basic “good” nutrition and the plethora of misinformation peddled by a large segment of the media, as well as the fast and processed food industries. Additionally, our food policies and regulatory agencies (i.e. FDA, USDA, etc) have failed to show leadership in this area. Let us get real with ourselves, our food choices are also (and in some instances, largely) driven by factors other than basic hunger (i.e. “I hunger, therefore I eat”).

The point here is that, individual’ taste’s, culture, habits, and environment etc, play a pivotal role in our food choices, and by extension, the current food-related epidemic (obesity, heart disease, etc) we are facing at both the local and national level. First, let’s revisit the basics of why we need to eat at all. We need to eat and drink (water, at the most fundamental) to live; food equals fuel for the daily life-sustaining functions of the body at the chemical, cellular, and systemic levels.

After that, there is no physical reason (technically speaking) why we need to eat other than to sustain life. What I’m driving at here is that, outside of eating to keep the body operating at an optimum level ( regardless of age, for instance) there is no real reason to eat anything beyond what is necessary for maintaining a “healthy body”. So why do we do what we do? Why are we so unhealthy in terms of what we eat and how that translates into our current health issues? While I don’t claim to hold all the answers to what will arguably, require complex solutions (I’ll leave that in the capable hands of academic researchers), I do believe that an informed public is one that is healthy and empowered.

Case in point, big agribusiness and the packaged food industry argue that it is “expensive” and “unsustainable” to buy local and organic food items; that there is no “real” difference (in terms of nutritional content or quality) between organic produce and conventionally grown produce. Additionally, they often point to “research” that supports their claims. However, there is an increasing body of unbiased research that not only counters these claims but also exposes a number of the myths about the benefits of consuming organic produce vs. conventionally grown produce, food additives (i.e. dyes in processed foods, etc) and so forth.

As an avid food lover and someone who wants to know what’s in my food, the fact remains that it is in my best interest (as well as the interest of my family, community and environment) that I educate myself and others about the food production system. Why? Food is life and we live in an age where unsustainable and unhealthy industrial as well as food production systems have taken a toll on both our health and environment. Furthermore, if we expect to have a habitable planet in the future, we need to demand much more of ourselves and the industries we choose to engage in. So what does that all mean? In simple terms, it is impossible to make the necessary changes for better human and environmental health, if we are ignorant of both the processes and or mechanisms that negatively affect us.

With regards to the waistline fixation? I believe it is a distraction away from the real issues surrounding our health; a symptom of a problem that is more complex than we as individuals (especially women) or a nation, are willing to address. Our health system ranks at the bottom amongst industrialized nations, in addition to the fact that  segments of government that are responsible for ensuring public health, safety, and our food production systems, are grossly underfunded (and remain under attack from industry-backed legislators, etc). Unfortunately that’s not where the problem ends.  Misinformation and miseducation is wide-spread in mainstream media with “infotainment” rather than “information” being served to the public on a daily basis.

If for no other reason than protecting our very lives and the lives of our loved ones, community and environment, “we” must become educated and active when it comes to our health and wellness. A crash diet, shopping at Whole Foods, etc, is not going to get the job done, nor will fixating on someone else’s perceptions of beauty help women and girls develop a healthy self-image.

I’ve literally lost count of the number of fitness gadgets, weight-loss shakes, and other helpful whatcha-ma-call-its,  circulating on the market. Most of these gadgets  are far more successful at parting you from your money, than providing you with any real long-term success. While the public has a role to play (self-advocacy, personal research, etc)  regarding its health care, the current dynamics and recycling of misinformation does not favor the general public. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we must be willing and committed to engaging in our food production systems (i.e. getting educated about where our food comes from, what’s in it, or what’s been added to it, etc) as well as playing an active role in changing the policies that shape both our healthcare and food production systems.

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Nuts not fluff: Incorporating Nuts and Seeds As Part of a Healthy Diet

my-first-design-1People often ask me why I’m so obsessed about seeds and nuts and I could rattle off a whole slew of information (see sources below) about why they’re so great. After watching their eyes invariably glaze over from information overload, I’ve since discovered that less is more, and simplicity is a gem worth appreciating. The simple answer lays in the fact that we (meaning homo Sapiens) are at our optimal health and fitness when we adhere to a diet that is both diverse and nutritionally dense. This is in both the historic and evolutionary record ( I won’t bore you with the details) as well as the current health crisis many in the industrialized (as well as underdeveloped nations) are facing in terms of ever-increasing numbers of diabetes, cancer, as well as autoimmune diseases.

It is no small coincidence that our propensity for, and our over indulgence in so-called “quick” and “processed” foods have a strong connection or link to the incidence of the above mentioned diseases and associated syndromes. The bottom line, is that processed foods, our dependency on them, coupled with a lack of adequate exercise (daily), has brought us to the brink of a near pandemic. Add to that unsustainable environmental and agricultural practices, and a grime picture begins to unfold for the human race; but a solution for one problem at a time please.

In simple terms, nuts can be defined as “small dry hard-shelled dry fruit or seed with a separable rind or shell an interior kernel” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition). A much more detailed definition is provided by the National Institutes of Health (see National Institutes of Health website) which states that nuts are “nutrient dense foods with complex matrices rich in unsaturated fatty and other bioactive compounds: high-quality vegetable protein, fiber, minerals, tocopherols, phytosterols, and phenolic compounds.” Translation? nuts constitute a dense powerhouse store of complete nutrients (i.e. fats, fibre, carbohydrates, etc).

All that being said, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. While nuts are nutrient dense, they do contain fat and that means you must balance their intake with other sources of vital nutrients that contain fewer calories as well as fats. The key take away here is “BALANCE”; in terms of nutritional intake (i.e. amount per serving, etc) as well as lin proportion to other nutrient sources. For instance, a balanced intake of nuts (and or seeds, i.e. sunflower walnuts) at one sitting relative to other nutrient sources, would be equivalent to 1/3/ cup or 1 and 1/2 oz of nuts 3-4 servings per week for a 1,600 calorie diet and 4-5 servings per week for a 2,000 calorie diet (American Heart Association: 2013 Healthy Diet recommendations;Eckel, Robert H. et al. “2013 AHA/ACC).

While similar to seeds in terms of nutrient content, seeds are, in simple terms, the embryonic stage of a plant housed in a protective outer shell or hull. The dietary guidelines for seeds are similar to those for nuts, but the caveat remains the same; balance, balance, balance, is the mantra we should all stick to when it comes to nutrition, health (mind-body) and fitness. Why am I pushing them? I’m a firm believer in balance and the pivotal role it plays in our health and fitness within the context of a healthy and free lifestyle. My own personal experience alone has driven home the inherent power of a well-balanced and nutrient dense diet; not only that, from a physical fitness perspective, a poor diet will doom you to failure and injury (i.e. failing to fuel your body the nutrients required for both recovery and muscle growth).

From a female perspective, I’ve come to learn the importance of incorporating dietary balance into my daily regime as a means of negating undesirable effects of changes in hormonal levels, stress, and illness recovery. While nutrition and fitness alone can not wholly stave off the negative impacts of illness, disease, time, and so forth, they are powerful resources in our arsenal that are available to help us achieve optimum fitness, health, and the freedom to pursue our goals and passions.

Remember, getting fit and healthy requires that you first make the decision, develop a plan, and take action. For more information as well as assistance regarding how to get started on your journey, join the FitTribe of fellow women who are getting stronger everyday!

Please follow me at my new website:

http://www.freedomatthecrossroads.com

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References

Eckel, Robert H. et al. “2013 AHA/ACC Guideline on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk.” Circulation, vol. 129, no. 25 suppl 2, Dec. 2013, doi:10.1161/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.

Ros, Emilio. “Health Benefits of Nut Consumption.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc3257681/.