New Recipe: Zucchini Chips

Is your garden producing an overabundance of zucchini? Consider this dehydrator recipe to make a healthy snack (option to also make these in the oven as well). Kept in an airtight container, these savory snacks will keep for a few weeks.
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Gather:

6 large zucchini (or however many you want to use)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Sea salt to taste (I used about 1 tsp)
1 tsp smoked paprika
Optional: 1/4 tsp cayenne

Make:

Slice the zucchini into rounds 1/4″ thick. In a large bowl, mix the zuke rounds, vinegar, salt and paprika.

Spread rounds out on a dehydrator try, and dry at 115 degrees for about 18 hours, or until dry.

If using an oven, spread out on a parchment paper lined baking tray, and bake at 200 degrees. I haven’t tried this method but would guess it would take around 2-3 hours for the chips to dry.

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Sugar Cleanse :: Slow Down

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It has never been easier to connect with someone on the other side of the world, yet it’s so easy to feel disconnected from the people closest to us.  We have more tools than ever to simplify tasks and accomplish more things quickly, yet our to-do lists have never been longer. Life is short, and time flies, especially in today’s fast-paced world.  

These exercises are meant to help you slow down, enjoy life, and focus on the most important parts of your day.

Take the time to prioritize daily objectives. By focusing on the most important tasks to get done, we eliminate the hustle and stress of trying to accomplish everything at once.

Cut personal Internet use by half. Technology has become a major element in most of our lives. Social networking, email, and web-surfing can occasionally cause our minds to lose focus and wander through hundreds of topics, thoughts and ideas. Try to use half your designated Internet time to explore new hobbies, exercise, or meditate.

Enjoy nature. When time permits – take a five to ten minute break to step outside and breathe in some fresh air. Disconnect from the rest of the world and concentrate on the beauty of nature.

Eat slower. A lot of us tend to speed through meals – missing the chance to appreciate different textures and flavors. Start to chew foods slower and distinguish new tastes, aromas, and consistencies.

Connect with family and friends. We all try to make a considerable amount of time to spend with close friends and family. We discuss life events and exchange stories – but how often do we catch up while truly listening and connecting? Put away the cell phones and steer clear of noisy environments. Connect on a deeper level.

Make time for yourself. When did you last spend valuable time with yourself? Take a night to find a new book, watch a favorite movie, try yoga, meditate, or cook a new recipe.

Give yourself more time. Some of us like to stick to a tight schedule and plan all our daily events. Next time you’re jotting down new tasks in your planner, try to factor in a few extra minutes when estimating how long things will take. This will help you not rush through daily tasks.

Take the scenic route. Next time you’re driving a somewhat long distance – try taking the scenic route. Driving through open fields, mountains, or viewing a city skyline can be very relaxing.

Sit for a moment with your eyes closed when you start your computer. Even just a few moments of meditation can set the tone for the rest of your day. Try to empty your mind and take deep breaths before jumping into your day’s tasks.

Remember your goals and aspirations. Each morning when you wake up, take a few moments to think about your life goals and aspirations. Try to recall the milestones you’ve already made in your life, and your drive to achieve new ones. Try doing this for about five minutes before getting out of bed to start your day.

This concludes our 21 day Sugar Cleanse! What have you learned? What has changed for you? Please share in the comments!


Sugar Cleanse :: Food Mood Journal

background-2850091_640Having a food/mood journal can help bring awareness to your eating and daily lifestyle habits.  If you experience certain signs and symptoms from foods, a food diary can be a useful reference to track possible food allergens or sensitivities. Keeping a food/mood journal can also bring into perspective unhealthy eating habits or schedules. For example, did you skip breakfast and then crave sweets later in the day?

Try noting how you feel both physically and emotionally before, during and after meals and beverages.

Here are tips to get you started:

Physical symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Shakiness
  • High energy
  • Focus
  • Strength
  • Bright eyes
  • Alertness

Emotional symptoms:

  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Restless
  • Irritable
  • Agitated
  • Energized
  • Humorous
  • Happy
  • Interested
  • Calm

If you happen to miss recording certain meals or foods – don’t stress. You can always pick up from where you left off. Once you begin to make clear connections between physical symptoms, emotions and food – you may find that you no longer need to record everything you eat. Use this helpful tool at your convenience.

Keep a food / mood journal for one week. Then, review your notes. What patterns did you find? How could you make positive changes?


Sugar Cleanse :: Stay Hydrated

drops-of-water-578897_640Did you know that your body is made up of between 60-75% water? It’s no surprise that how much you drink can affect your health. Too much water could result in mineral imbalances, while too little could cause dehydration, headaches or fatigue.

Sweet cravings are often a sign of dehydration. America’s number one source of added sugar? Soft drinks.

So, how much should you drink? Bio-individuality applies not only to food but also to the amount of water our bodies need to function properly. On average, men should ingest about 3 liters (13 cups) and women about 2.2 liters (9 cups) of water each day. In order to satisfy individual needs, various lifestyle factors need to be taken into consideration. For example, the water content in fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables may increase hydration in the body.

Your challenge:  Before you go for the sugar, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes to see what happens. Aim to drink at least 2.5 liters of water a day.


Sugar Cleanse :: What’s the deal with fruit?

fruit-2305192_640.jpgOk, so we all know we are supposed to be eating our fruits and veggies. But, I’m constantly asked about fruit consumption. People have gotten afraid to eat fruit because of the popularity of low carb diets, like Atkins. Some so-called health experts warn that fruit as just as bad as sugar when it comes to overall health and weight maintenance.

Why the stigma? Most of the calories in fruit come from carbohydrates, and most of those carbs are sugar, and most of that sugar is fructose. Recent studies suggest that fructose, in the large quantities most Americans consume, can have adverse effects on blood sugar levels and promote weight gain along with many other health risks.

But, it’s more complicated than that. First, fresh fruit really only account for a very small amount of the fructose most Americans consume. You’d have to eat several servings of fresh fruit to equal the equivalent amount in a soda. And, fruits are also high in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar in the blood stream.

So what’s the verdict? Fruit is naturally sweet, healthy and delicious. The more you eat, the less you’ll crave sugar. Fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals (like potassium) and antioxidants. Thanks to their fiber and high water content, eating fruit is very satiating. And, it’s the ultimate travel and fast food snack.

Your homework: You guessed it – eat more fruit!


Sugar Cleanse :: Social Media Detox

twitter-292994_640You’re probably wondering – what does social media have to do with sugar? Well, I think eating a lot of sugar and social media are actually pretty related. With social media, we are constantly checking our phones, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and whatever else the kids are using these days. I recently took a flight across the country, and the wifi on the airplane was not working. People were freaking out! Sugar, with its energetic and anxiety producing properties, feeds into this obsession in my opinion.

Well, it’s not really an opinion, it’s fact.  A Canadian study took a look at almost 9,000 teenagers and found that increased use of social media correlated with a decrease in nutrition. Researchers discovered this by surveying the students and controlling for other possible factors. Students who reported using social networking sites (that’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat,etc.) for less than one hour had a 67% chance of consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, for two hours it was almost 1.5 times that, and for five or more hours a day the odds were almost 3.3 times greater.

Our society is go – go – go. We are all time-crunched. But what about all of that time spent obsessively checking our social media accounts? Those moments add up. And, how many times have you done a “quick five minute check,” just to have that turn into an hour without realizing it? Just imagine what you could do with an extra hour or two every day!

Your challenge:

Take a 48 hour social media detox. Turn off any social media alerts. For most of us, this might make the most sense to plan to do this over a weekend. What did you learn about your relationship with social media over these 48 hours?


Sugar Cleanse :: Food Energy

IMG_0069.jpgToday we’re going to go deeper into nutrition and learn about the energetics of food. All of the foods we ingest has a certain type of energy associated with it (see chart below). Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on using foods to prevent and treat disease. Knowledge of food energetics can help one build a stronger sense of health and well-being by eating different foods that impose different effects. Like the saying, “you are what you eat.”

Eating from your own garden or buying your produce from the local farmers’ market will leave you feeling more connected to your home or local community. When you eat seasonal, locally grown produce, the body is more able to maintain balance from the inside out.

Take advantage of cooling fruits and lighter greens in the summertime, when they are at their peak in harvest. At the same time, heartier vegetables, such as deeply rooted carrots and squashes, grow more abundantly in the wintertime, and are going to add warmth to the body. It’s good to maintain a balance of eating seasonally as well as locally, as much as possible, to stay in harmony with the natural order of things.

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Healthy homework:

Journal exercise: What quality would you like to bring more of into your life? What foods would you eat?


Sugar Cleanse :: Move your bod

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Exercise may be the closest thing to the fountain of youth. Not only does regular activity strengthen your muscles and improve heart and lung function, but it can also reduce your risk of major diseases, stimulate the growth of new brain cells, and even add years to your life. Regular aerobic exercise lowers levels of stress hormones. For many people, exercise helps relieve depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.

Exercise also helps maintain a healthy blood-sugar level by increasing the cells’ sensitivity to insulin and by controlling weight. Regular brisk walking can significantly cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Studies show just 30 minutes of physical activity on most days is all that’s required to reap big benefits. What’s most important is consistency. Here are some of my tips to get moving!

  • Find a kind of exercise you enjoy. If you like to walk, great, go for a walk everyday. If yoga is your thing, do that. If it’s something you like, you’re more likely to stick with it.
  • Get a workout buddy. This gives you both some accountability. You won’t skip a run if you know you are letting down your run buddy!
  • Challenge yourself. If you walk or run, sign up for a 5K, 10K, or longer race. If you disc golf, sign up for a tournament. This gives you a goal to work towards.
  • Listen to fun music or podcasts while you workout. My favorite podcasts are the Rich Roll podcast, From the Heart, and Divine Through Line.
  • Mix it up. If you get bored with one type of workout, do something else. For instance, I am a runner, but lately I’ve been adding hot yoga to my workout routine.

Homework time:
What’s your favorite type of exercise? Whatever it is, schedule time on your calendar and make it a priority.


Sugar Cleanse :: Spice it up!

One of my favorite spices is cinnamon. Cinnamon has been used as food and medicine since ancient times, and is a powerful herb for regulating blood sugar. It comes from the rust colored inner bark of the cinnamon tree. I love it in smoothies, oatmeal, granola, coffee and hot toddies. Luckily, cinnamon has some great health boosting properties.

In addition to being delicious, cinnamon:

  • Helps balance blood sugar, which is why it’s so great to add to smoothies and desserts
  • Is rich in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation*Reduces the risk of heart disease and also lowers blood pressure
  • Boosts brain health – 2 compounds found in cinnamon appear to inhibit the buildup of the protein that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Keeps your teeth pearly white and your breath smelling fresh with its anti-microbial effects

Keepin’ it healthy homework:
Try incorporating cinnamon into your diet more often. One of my favorite things to make with cinnamon is this refreshing tea:

grapefruit teaCinnamon Grapefruit Tea

1/2 grapefruit
1 stick of cinnamon

Put the grapefruit and cinnamon in a teapot (or a quart mason jar) and cover with boiling water. Let steep for 10 minutes, then enjoy! I love to drink this during the cold months, but you could make an iced version of it as well.


Sugar Cleanse :: Get sweet, naturally

honey-1772792_640We’ve now explored cravings, and strategies to deal with sugar cravings. The average American consumes well over 20 teaspoons of added sugar on a daily basis, which adds up to an average of 142 pounds of sugar per person, per year! That’s more than two times what the USDA recommends.

Below you will find information on natural sweeteners, all of which are less processed than refined white sugar, and create fewer fluctuations in blood sugar levels.  Although these sweeteners are generally safer alternatives to white sugar, they should only be used in moderation!

Stevia
This leafy herb also known as honey leaf has been used for centuries by native South Americans. The extract from stevia is approximately 100 to 300 times sweeter than white sugar. It can be used in cooking, baking and as a sugar substitute in most beverages. Stevia has been shown to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels by increasing insulin production, and decreasing insulin resistance. Stevia is available in a powder or liquid form, but be sure to get the green or brown liquids or powders, as the white and clear versions are highly refined.

Honey
One of the oldest natural sweeteners; honey is sweeter than sugar. Depending on the plant source, honey can have a range of flavors, from dark and strongly flavored, to light and mildly flavored. Raw honey contains small amounts of enzymes, minerals and vitamins.  It’s also said that consuming local honey can help build up your immunity to common allergens in your area – by introducing your body to the bee pollen.

Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is made from boiled-down maple tree sap and is a great source of manganese and zinc. Approximately 40 gallons of sap are needed to make one gallon of maple syrup. It adds a pleasant flavor to foods and is great for baking. Be sure to buy 100% pure maple syrup and not maple-flavored corn syrup. Grade B is stronger in flavor and said to have more minerals than Grade A.

Maple Sugar
Maple sugar is created when the sap of the sugar maple is boiled for longer than is needed to create maple syrup. Once most of the water has evaporated, all that is left is the solid sugar. Maple sugar is about twice as sweet as standard granulated sugar, but much less refined.

Molasses
Organic molasses is probably the most nutritious sweetener derived from sugar cane or sugar beet, and is made by a process of clarifying and blending the extracted juices. The longer the juice is boiled, the less sweet, more nutritious and darker the product is. Molasses imparts a very distinct flavor to food. Blackstrap molasses, the most nutritious variety, is a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Brown Rice Syrup
This product consists of brown rice that has been ground and cooked, converting the starches to maltose. Brown rice syrup tastes like moderately sweet butterscotch and is quite delicious. In recipes, replace each cup of white sugar with ¼ cup brown rice syrup, and reduce the amount of other liquids. Brown rice syrup is made of 50% complex carbohydrates, 45% maltose, and 3% glucose. The small amount of glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream immediately, but the complex carbohydrates and maltose are much more slowly absorbed, providing a steady supply of energy.

Agave Nectar
Agave nectar, or agave syrup, is a natural liquid sweetener made from the juice of the agave cactus. Many diabetics use agave nectar as an alternative to refined sugars and artificial sweeteners because of its relatively low effect on blood glucose levels. However, agave is high in fructose and has been under much scrutiny due to possible manufacturing processes which are similar to that of high fructose corn syrup. Some research suggests that fructose affects the hormone lepitin, which controls your appetite and satiety. Too much fructose may result in overeating and weight gain, so it’s important to consume agave nectar in reasonable moderation.

Coconut Sugar
Coconut sugar is the boiled and dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. Pure coconut palm sugar reportedly has a naturally low glycemic index, which has led some people to claim that it is a valuable sugar substitute for people with diabetes or those looking to control blood sugar (the low-carb camp). Indeed, a lower GI may be a good indication that a food is safer for diabetics, though it is not a guarantee. Pure certified organic coconut palm sugar is recommended type.

Personally, when I do choose to use a natural sweetener, I stick to raw honey, maple syrup, molasses, and organic coconut sugar.

Using Natural Sweeteners
Natural sweeteners can be used to replace sugar in any recipe. Here is a guide to substituting these products for sugar. The amount indicated is equivalent to 1 cup of sugar, and the third column details what it is best to use for.  

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Healthy homework: Treat yourself! Try making this delicious sweet treat with maple syrup or your favorite natural sweetener.

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

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1 ripe avocado
1-2 TBSP raw cacao powder
1 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP almond butter (optional)
Almond milk – about 1 TBSP – enough to get a mousse-like consistency
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of vanilla powder

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend. Add almond milk as needed toget a pudding-like consistency. Enjoy!