Thursday, May 28, 2009

Healthy Diets on Vacataion

So is it possible to maintain a healthy diet while on vacation?

I just recently got back from a trip to Las Vegas (Sin City!), where everything is as over-the-top as it gets. Its glitzy ostentatious vibe can be felt even before you leave the plane, with the hotel casinos in all their splendor decorating an otherwise barren landscape, standing as tall as the mountains surrounding the valley itself. From that first sight out the airplane window, to the strip lit up like a runway... from the casino floors to the overpriced food on the many restaurant menus, the gluttonous ambiance that is Vegas can be felt everywhere.

So what's the health conscious traveler to do in a town where appearance and presentation are everything? Is it even possible to find a healthy meal, something that hasn't been bathed soaked and or infused with butter? Or refined sugar? Or soy for that matter (in the form of vegetable oil)? If you suffer from a dairy or a soy allergy like myself it can be an interesting experience, but not impossible.

For breakfasts I stuck with the buffet; all the casinos have them, and it's the best place to find a variety of somewhat healthy foods. There's always plenty of fruit and veggies, as well as eggs and locks to fill that protein part of your plate. Now are the fruit or vegetables organic, or the eggs from free grazed chickens, or the salmon "wild caught"? Probably not, but when you’re on the road (out of your elements), "healthy" has to be put in perspective. Non-organic fruit and veggies are definitely a healthier choice than pastries, crapes, or anything topped with whipped cream and some berry flavored syrup.

The buffet also can cover you for those snacks throughout the day... I took some fruit for the road every time.

As far as lunch goes I was always able to find a chicken salad of some variety at most of the restaurants within the casinos, substituting olive oil and balsamic vinegar for whatever dressing came that came with it, and minus the cheese that chefs love to add as if a salad can't just be a salad.

And for dinner it's simply a matter of navigating the menu for that soy or dairy free meal. The key here was simply letting the waitress or waiter know my allergy situation right off the bat, filling them in on the many places soy likes to hide and reminding them that "yes, butter is dairy" and "no, a little bit of butter is not ok".

So remember your next trip should be a vacation from the all too stressful day-to-day grind, but it doesn't have to be a vacation from your healthy lifestyle.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Traveling with Food Allergies

Dealing with food allergies can be challenging enough on your home turf, whether it's going out to a local restaurant, eating at a friend’s house, or even cooking in your own kitchen, but it's here in this "comfort zone" that you have the most control. Unfortunately when we travel, be it the next state, across the country, or abroad, our level of control drops with each respectively, each presenting their own unique challenges.

The easiest of the three to deal with is a trip to your neighboring state. Most likely a trip such as this is traveled by automobile, allowing you to pack most if not all the core foods you will need to ensure an allergy free mealtime experience.

Traveling across country on the other hand can be a bit trickier. Usually these types of trips are traveled by plane or train, significantly restricting what you are able to pack. And depending on where it is you are visiting, for instance a small town verses say Las Vegas, your dining out experience can be more or less accommodating.

Finally the most difficult of the traveling experiences is traveling abroad. Nothing complicates mealtime more than a language barrier, when it comes to food allergy awareness. I experienced this on my honeymoon. The trip was wonderful, the hotel was amazing (5 restaurants on site), but the language barrier did make for some stressful dining experiences.

For either of the last two situations, I suggest taking advantage of the "checked bag". Most airlines allow you one carry-on and one checked bag with the checked bag giving you a little more leeway as far as what can be packed. So if you have the room, pack a few of your favorites (the travel friendly ones of course), it could help you with filling some of the in-between meals and or snacks. When it comes to dining out, whether it’s an environment like Las Vegas where the restaurants lacks that owner/head-chef customer relationship, or a resort in another country where language is the issue the best thing you can do is make it a point to meet with the chef in charge of the hotel/casino/resort and fill him or her in on your allergy situation. I did this when I went to Mexico and it definitely helped. Another option is the buffets, there's usually fruit, vegetable, and salad you can safely consume without having to worry about contamination from other ingredients.

So if you’re traveling be smart, do your homework, and be prepared...oh and have fun!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Natural Remedy in Your Own Back Yard

You would probably consider yourself unlucky if you had a black walnut tree on your property, especially if it were anywhere near your driveway (those golf ball to racket ball size walnuts can make a mess of your car). I know this because I grew up with one hanging over into our driveway, from reaching over from the neighbor's yard. I can remember always being alert when standing under it, quick to jump out of the way with little warning. Whether it was gravity alone or just a clumsy squirrel, those walnuts were not something you wanted hitting you in the head...the squirrels loved them though, and maybe they were on to something.

It turns out the green hull that surrounds the walnut (yes its green not black, but it stains black when exposed to the air) has very powerful anti parasitic, antiseptic, anti microbial, and anti fungal qualities, as well as being good for digestion and also useful as a mild laxative.

As you know consuming foods we are allergic to compromises the lining of the intestinal walls, which directly affects your immune system. It creates the perfect environment for parasites and bacteria to flourish. I battled this myself as a result of consuming dairy and soy for years, not realizing the harm it was causing my body; the constant ear infections, loose stool, stomach cramps, you name it.

It just so happens that the very walnut that tormented our yard and cars, would come to be an integral part of my recovery. My kinesiologist prescribed it, and along with other natural remedies, fixed the damage that years consuming milk and soy had done.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Avoid The Frozen Food Aisle

If a healthy diet is important to you, and I'm sure it is, then do you and your family a favor and avoid the frozen food aisle. This section of the grocery store is home to some of the worst offenders in the food industry, and I use the word "food" loosely.

It's here among the many frosted doors where you can find the quintessential processed food for that on-the-go person who has all but given up on cooking. There is a plethora of pre-made frozen dinners tailor made for anyone who dares to endure the frigid temps of this man made frozen tundra. There's meals for the hungry man, meals for those weight watchers, meals for kids, and even meals for those few healthy selects, and that's just a third of the aisle. These meals have been specially prepared by the manufactures top scientists with a long shelf life and your laziness in mind.

Let us not forget about those delightful frozen vegetables all cut up and prepared with any verity of fancy sauces made from the purest ingredients scientist can dream up. It's like natures second garden. And why shouldn't it be, it's not like there's a produce aisle with fresh unprocessed and even organic varieties of most any vegetable or fruit you could imagine...

Last but not least behind these magical doors you can find any number of varieties of frozen desserts, ranging from the non-healthy to the "fat free", "cholesterol free", "sugar free", basically free of anything that even closely resembles something that could fall into any of the major food groups, but best of all they're effort free and that's what entices all.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, a meal that requires little to no effort on your part to prepare offers little to no health benefit those who may it that is.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wheat and Soy Free Dairy Replacements

Both my wife and I have a dairy allergy/intolerance, mine more severe but she tries to avoid it whenever possible. Then there's my soy allergy which I've managed, through a healthy diet, to avoid any sort of reaction in about 6 months. These restrictions alone can make finding a milk replacement tricky, but a recent allergy test taken by my wife at my request has made the search even more challenging.

My wife's decision to avoid dairy when possible is based more on common sense and simply being in tune with her body than from test results (i.e. if you notice it bothers you, don't wait for an allergy test to tell you to stay away), but recently at my request she took an allergy test only to find out that she has an intolerance to wheat. Besides the obvious food obstacles a wheat allergy can throw your way, there was one in particular that threw a wrench in our routine; oat milk was our favorite dairy replacement.

Since we like to create a kitchen environment that is food-friendly for all of our needs, it was back to the drawing board for finding a good replacement. As I've mentioned before, in previous posts, vanilla flavored almond milk is a good dairy and soy replacement, and it's definitely something we like to keep on hand, but it's not our only option.

Pacific Natural Foods also makes an “all natural” Hazel Nut milk, and it tastes great!

We were happy to find that we have more than one "nut milk" variety to switch off between, and both are stocked at our local health food store. So if allergies are preventing you from using milk in your favorite recipes, don't give up there's hope after all!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Counting Calories

There seems to be a lot of focus lately on forcing restaurants (more specifically fast food chains) to list the nutritional value of the food they sell; total calories, total fat, total sugar, etc. The hope is to get people to make healthier choices, or at least give them the option to.

The question is though, is there really a healthy choice to be made at any of these fast food joints?

Sure most of them have what they claim to be "healthier meals" available on their menus, whether it's a salad or a fat free muffin or whole grain bread instead of white, but how healthy are they really. Yes a salad is a better choice than a double cheeseburger with fries, but after you add the seasoned croutons and dressing to the mix you've added a boatload of unwanted fat, calories, and carbs; and that doesn't take into consideration the bacon bits or deli meats and cheeses that can top some of the salads.

Will these laws push people towards making truly healthy meal choices, or are they just swaying people towards the least unhealthy of the many unhealthy meals?

The truth is there is very few if any healthy choice to be made at a fast food restaurant. Just because that sub (or hoagie depending on where you're from) is on a "whole wheat" or "multi grain" roll doesn't change the fact that you are still consuming a lot of unhealthy overly processed refined flour (fast digesting carbs) with no real nutritional value. These foods do nothing more than cause an unhealthy spike in your insulin levels, leaving your body malnourished and soon to be hungry for more...nutrition that is.

What we should do is pass a law that forces grocery stores to post the nutritional values of produce, then at least people would not only be amazed at the health benefits to natures finest, but would possible sway people away from the processed foods that fills the average shoppers cart.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Healthy Eating and Fast Food

I heard an advertisement on my way to work this morning for McDonalds that was quite puzzling. They were pushing their new (or not so new) egg and cheese sandwich, and the slogan was something along the lines of "breakfast, do it right". So what exactly are they saying?

Obviously they are trying to get you to choose their incredibly unhealthy way to start a morning over the hundreds of other unhealthy breakfast choices available for the busy on-the-go person, but a quick analysis of this slogan, using some common knowledge of a healthy diet, and I can't help but think that it's interpretation would have quite the opposite effect. Fast food is not and will never be a healthy meal choice, especially when it comes to the most important meal of the day. It's not that an egg or cheese or even bread (although it should never be white bread and never for breakfast) is so unhealthy, but rather the egg and cheese that they provide (which does not come from organic free grazed antibiotic/hormone free farm animals) and the methods in which they cook them.

This sandwich which I'm sure is high in fat, cholesterol, sodium, and unhealthy refined flower lacks any real substantial nutritional value. Your mornings should begin with fruit, nuts, whole grains, fish, or eggs & cheese from an organic free grazed animal, especially if a healthy diet is important to you.

So do breakfast like the slogan says "do it right", and DON'T go to a fast food restaurant. Eat healthy and feel the difference!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Poached Bass

1 Large Fillet of Striped Bass (or Salmon)
1 sm Organic Onion (sliced)
1/2 Organic Bell Pepper (sliced thin)
4 Organic Cloves of Garlic (minced)
1/2 cup White Cooking Wine
1/2 cup of water
1 tsp Organic Basil
1 tsp Organic Thyme
Organic Red Pepper Flakes (a few shakes)
Sea Salt to taste

Put the onion, garlic, and bell pepper in a cast iron pan with the cooking wine and water, and bring to a boil. Add the fish and spices and cover; let simmer for about 10min.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Omega-3, where have you gone?

Heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity have become three of the hottest topics when discussing the American diet, and much of the blame has been put on our consumption of red meats, or more specifically our over consumption. If this is the case though than why were our ancestors (the hunter gatherers), or even modern day "hunter gatherer" civilizations for that matter not overtaken by this modern day "American" pandemic?

The answer is (and studies show) the research that has connected these diseases with red meats is incomplete. The dots have been connected but Dr.'s have stopped short of the true cause. Instead of putting the blame on the foods we eat, we should look more closely at the food this food is eating. Over the years the diets of many of our favorite foods (beef, chicken, fish...) have changed drastically from what nature intended, the leaf part of a plant (a diet rich in Omega-3's), to a diet that better suits our societies "mass production" needs, the grain or seed part of the plant (a diet high in Omega-6).

We've been told about the importance of the essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6) in our diet, but just as most other nutrients within the body the ratio of the two is more important than the amount, and the ratio within the average American diet has gone too far in the wrong direction. We have gone from a more ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 of 1:1 to something much closer to 10:1 respectively, and many believe that this is the cause of many of today's health problems. But what does this have to do with the food we eat, or more importantly the food our food eats?

Most people have either read or heard about the importance of choosing wild caught salmon over farm raised, but Nutritionists and other health experts point to the level of heavy metals as the main reason. Very little has been said about the lopsided ratio of these essential fatty acids. Farm raised salmon are fed a very similar diet to that of feedlot cattle (the beef we eat too much of), and that's a diet high in grains (a diet high in Omega-6) instead of krill a diet high in Omega-3 and the salmons natural food.

The same can be said for the beef most Americans consume. These cows are raised not on green pastures like nature intended, but in feed lots where their diets consisting of grains (primarily corn) work better for our need; that is a cheap food source that is perfect for a mass-produced product. But at what cost?

This lopsided ratio of Omega-3 (a natural anti-inflammatory and aids in helping blood flow) to Omega-6 (a natural inflammatory and aids in blood clotting) has been linked to many of our nation’s top health issues; heart disease, high cholesterol, and chronic inflammation of any type.

Instead of blaming our health problems on the food we eat, let’s take a better look at the true cause of this!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Support Your Adrenals

There are many stress causing factors (our jobs, our commute, our children, house buying...) that we all deal with on a daily basis, and how well our bodies handle this stress makes all the difference. Two small glands known as the adrenal glands, which are situated above each of the kidneys, are the body’s first line of defense when it comes to stress, and the working condition of these glands must be in tip top shape. As with any part of the body, there are key nutrients that are needed in order to maintain an optimum working level.

At the top of the list (as is in most cases) is Vitamin C. Its importance when it comes to a healthy diet cannot be stressed enough, and most people get far too little of it. Switching from a diet high in processed foods to one that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables will definitely give you the "C" boost you need.

Another important player when it comes to adrenal support is Vitamin B, and once again most Americans don't get enough of it do to diets high in processed foods. Switching to a diet high in Whole Grains, nuts, and fish (wild caught) is a sure fire way to increase your intake of vitamin B.

And because poor digestion can negatively affect most of the body’s internal defense systems, it is important to make sure your body is getting the digestive enzymes it needs. One good example is Bromelain, which can be found in both foods and supplement form; pineapples are a great source, but make sure that they are fresh and not pre-cut.

So help your body handle stress by supporting your adrenal glands with the nutrients they need.

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