It can be really easy to overindulge over holiday or special events and all too tempting to do all the wrong things to recover. Here are my tips for how to recover from those overindulgences.
Cauliflower has been quite the rage for a while now and, not to miss the party, Trader Joe’s has released a frozen cauliflower pizza crust, much to the delight of TJ lovers and the carb conscious consumer. After reading about how excited so many health bloggers were, I decided to pick one up and put it to the health coach test.
Overall grade: 2.2/10
Right off the bat, I was not thrilled about this product based on its nutrition label. Essentially, they have taken a wonderfully nutritious vegetable and turned it into something nearly nutritionally devoid.
The serving size is 1/6 of the crust (which, by the way, will leave you hungry). At that serving, this crust contains 80 calories, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of protein, 10 mg of calcium (0% of your daily value), 0.1 mg of iron (0% of your daily value), and 60 mg of potassium (0%of your daily value). Doing some basic math, that means that the entire crust contains 480 calories, 6 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 60 mg of calcium (6% DV), 360 mg of potassium (7.6%), 0.6 mg of iron (3% DV) and 102 carbohydrates.
Let’s compare that to an actual head of cauliflower, which contains 146 calories, 1,758 mg of potassium, 12 grams of fiber, 11 grams of protein, 12% of your DV of calcium, 472% of your DV of Vitamin C, 13% DV of Iron, 55% DV of Vitamin B-6, 22% DV of magnesium and 29 grams of carbohydrates.
The vast majority of recipes to make your own cauliflower crust call for a full medium head of cauliflower, so you will get much more nutrition from making your own rather than buying this.
Nutrition Score: 3
Typically when I see prepackaged products like this, I assume that they are going to be full of preservatives and fillers. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the ingredient list for this pizza crust. In this order, it contains: cauliflower, corn flour, water, corn starch, potato starch, olive oil, and salt. Short, simple, real.
But here’s the rub. We would think that cauliflower would be the most plentiful ingredient in the recipe, but the nutrition facts indicate otherwise. Either the cauliflower has been stripped down and processed into flour or there isn’t very much cauliflower in this at all.
Another concern that I have here is that this isn’t labeled non-GMO so the corn used to make the flour is probably genetically modified.
Ingredient Score: 5
Ease of Prep
According to the instructions, you are supposed to top the crust and cook it frozen in a 450 degree oven. To make it crispy, it says to put it directly on the rack. Whatever you do, DO NOT PUT IT DIRECTLY ON THE RACK. Why? Because before it gets crispy, it thaws and gets soft and then flops and falls apart on the bottom of your oven and fills your apartment with smoke. Clearly, Trader Joe did not test this product before putting the instructions on the box.
Because of the unfortunate demise of most of the crust before we realized what was happening and threw a pan under it, I can’t tell you if this crust actually gets crispy. As it was, we salvaged what we could and finished cooking it. The texture was….foamy. Like styrofoam. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t good either.
The flavor was also negatively impacted by the crust catastrophe because everything in the oven tasted like burning. The few pieces that didn’t taste like fire, didn’t have much flavor to them at all. So it wasn’t good or bad.
Overall, Trader Joe’s cauliflower pizza crust was disappointing. There are so many recipes out there that are more nutritious and flavorful that I would say it’s worth it to save your money and invest your time in making your own. Is this convenient? Yes, but I don’t think it’s worth the trade-off.
Is Coconut Oil Really Unhealthy?
I’m sure that many of you have heard about the American Heart Association’s (AHA) latest statement on saturated fats and are wondering if it means you should throw out your coconut oil and whether you should be concerned about your health after having eaten it.
Since that statement was issued, I’ve been down the coconut oil rabbit hole researching what the AHA had to say. The problem with working in the nutrition and health field is that our understanding of those topics is constantly changing so inevitably what I advise my clients will change as well. Does that make nutrition advice any less valuable? No. It just means that we are getting better at science. So, totally open to the fact that I may need to adjust my dietary advice, I ventured down the slippery slope of coconut oil research (see what I did there?).
If you’re short on time, here’s the cliff notes version of my response:
Coconut oil is not going to kill you and you don’t need to throw it out.
If you’re still concerned, good! I want you to be critical and ask questions and come to your own conclusions. So here is my rationale:
1. First of all, the AHA’s statement was based on a review of existing data (they selected just 4 studies), some of which is very old (like 1960s old). More recent studies have shown that cholesterol levels alone are not a solid indicator of heart disease risk and a number have actually shown no correlation between saturated fat consumption, heart disease, and mortality. It also bears stating that this is not a new stance from the AHA but news outlets clamped onto the mention of coconut oil in a larger, more broad statement because of the oil’s recent popularity. This statement was about saturated fats, not just coconut oil.
2. The AHA’s statement completely overlooks the role of inflammation in heart disease. Inflammation helps plaque build up in our arteries, leading to heart disease. Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory and, thus, consuming it can reduce that arterial inflammation. Processed vegetable oils on the other hand, like canola oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil, which the AHA espouses, are highly inflammatory.
3. As a saturated fat, coconut oil is more stable than unsaturated fats, like olive oil and sesame oil. This makes it a preferable oil for cooking at high heat and over longer periods. Because of the instability of unsaturated fats, they are more prone to oxidizing and become carcinogenic when heated to higher temperatures.
4. The human body needs fat for a number of vital processes. In fact, our brain is made up of 60% fat! Like everything else in life, the key to fats is moderation. Should you be eating coconut oil with every meal? No. But using a tablespoon or two to cook your dinner is perfectly safe.
5. Coconut oil is high in a compound called lauric acid, which is extremely beneficial to the strengthening of the human immune system. Breast milk is also high in lauric acid in order to help develop the immune systems of babies. Thus consuming coconut oil has beneficial effects on our immune system.
Essentially, there is a place in our diet for saturated fats in moderation and coconut oil is perfectly fine to consume. So, no, don’t throw out your coconut oil.
Summer is officially and finally here (if you live in New England, you know what I mean by “finally” this year) and so is cookout season. This can be a very difficult time for people who are trying to watch their weight or eat healthily because we are surrounded by temptation – from fatty grilled meats to mayonnaise-covered salads to stocked beer coolers – it’s everywhere. It can be really hard to say no to these delicious temptations and even harder to deal with the aftermath, whether it’s weight gain or self-loathing. So, with Independence Day coming up next week, I thought this would be a good time to share my tips on how to get through barbecue season relatively healthy.
Do – Eat before you go
Having a healthful meal or snack before you head off to that cookout will help keep you from overeating once you get there whereas if you arrive hungry or starving you are far more likely to overeat on junk. A combination of lean protein and fiber will leave you feeling full longer, so try having some low-fat cottage cheese on whole grain toast or some grilled chicken and salad or some peanut butter and celery beforehand.
Do – Bring a healthy dish
Instead of making your famous macaroni salad that even you can’t resist, bring some cut veggies and dip or a quinoa salad with a citrus vinaigrette dressing. This will ensure that there is a healthy option for you to eat there. And your friends may appreciate it, too! You could also bring you own options to grill and ask the host to throw them on for you – like boneless, skinless chicken breast or vegetable kebabs.
Don’t – Hang around the snack table
There seems to be some unnamed law of physics that human beings are magnetically drawn to socialize at the snack table, but this pretty much guarantees mindless snacking – every healthy diet’s worst enemy. This doesn’t mean you have to be antisocial. I suggest finding a group away from the snack table to talk to or, if you start talking with someone at the snack table, suggest you move elsewhere by saying “wow, it’s kind of crowded over here, want to move that way so people can get in here?” Or even just be honest and say “if we keep standing here, I’m going to keep eating. Can we move away?” I can almost guarantee your conversation partner was thinking the same thing.
Do – Stay hydrated
When you are walking around talking to people on a hot day and eating salty food like chips and grilled meat, it is very easy to keep drinking alcohol. The problem with that is the more alcohol you drink the more you will crave that salty junk food and overeat. Be mindful of your drinking habits and alternate between your alcoholic drinks and water. This will slow down your alcohol consumption, make you feel fuller, and leave you feeling better the next day. Not to mention it’ll keep you safer.
Do – Get your exercise in
If you don’t have to be at a cookout until the afternoon, there is no reason you can’t get your workout in that morning! This will help you get energized and fire up your metabolism for the rest of the day. It will also leave you feeling more confident and better in your own skin – especially at those pool parties.
Do – Practice portion control
Balance. Balance. Balance. Balance. Did you get that? Balance. As a health coach, I can’t emphasize enough that the key to healthy living is balance. You should be eating healthy most of the time, but, when you want to indulge, you should – just make sure you’re eating reasonable portions and enjoying them mindfully so you feel satisfied with them.
Ideally, you want your plate to be 1/4 lean protein, 1/2 veggies, and 1/4 starchy veggies or whole grain. That is obviously not always possible when eating outside your home, but it’s important to try to get as close to that as you can.
When faced with a smorgasbord of summer foods, it can be easy to load up that plate and then go back for seconds. Instead, pick one or two indulgences you really want and place a small portion of them on your plate and fill the rest with healthy options. And don’t go back for seconds on those “cheat” foods.
Don’t – Beat yourself up
So you didn’t have the self-control you were planning to have and you ate and drank way too much. Guess what? You’re human. It happens to everyone – even health coaches and nutritionists. The worst thing that you can do in this situation is put yourself down for it. You are allowed to indulge occasionally and sometimes it’ll be too much. You need to let yourself have that and then just get back on track. It is so easy to beat yourself up for overindulging and that makes it easier to say “the hell with it – I already messed it all up, so I might as well just keep going because clearly I can’t do this anyway.” Then that thought process becomes your excuse and you end up feeling even more terrible. This is how setbacks become obstacles. The best thing that you can do for your health in this situation both physically and emotionally is be gentle with yourself – say to yourself “well, that wasn’t my best effort, but I’m not giving up on myself” and get right back at it. I’ve seen too many people defeat themselves by allowing one bad day to become a spiral and it’s not fair to yourself.
Twenty years ago, you never would have guessed that milk would be a polarizing issue, but, here we are. The moo milk and the no moo fans are just as vehement that theirs is the right side of the issue and it can lead to some major confusion about which is actually healthier. If you’re in that boat, I’m here to break it down for you.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an almond milk drinker but not because I think it’s healthier than dairy milk or that dairy milk is bad for you. I just have never liked the taste of cow’s milk – in fact, getting me to drink my milk as a kid was a losing battle for my parents at 9/10 family dinners. Cheese, however, is a totally different story.
So let’s talk about the pros and cons of each type of milk.
If you are lactose intolerant or sensitive to lactose, then nut milks are a great substitute for the moo. However, they are not a bastion of health as some would lead you to believe. Most store-bought nut milks contain both natural and chemical emulsifiers and there are concerns that those emulsifiers may harm our gut health and contribute to obesity. In terms of nutrition, you’re really not getting much from nut milks. They are not a significant source of protein or fat; however, they do contain more calcium than cow’s milk. You may also find nut milks fortified with vitamins and minerals (such as Silk), but on their own, nut milks do not contain as much Vitamin A and Iron as dairy milks do. If you’re watching your calorie count, nut milks may be a good option for you since they are less calorie-dense than cow’s milk. Obviously, however, if you have a nut allergy you should avoid nut milks.
Unlike nut milks, soy milk is a significant source of protein with just about the same as dairy milk. However, unlike moo milk and nut milks, soy milk is a good source of folate. One of my primary concerns with soy milk is the fact that most of the soy in the US is genetically modified, so if you are buying soy milk or any soy products, make sure that they are non-GMO certified or organic.
The greatest pitfall that nut and soy milks have is that they come in a number of sweetened flavors and people often buy these thinking they are doing something healthy for themselves. Just one serving of a sweetened vanilla almond milk contains 16 grams of sugar! If you are going to buy non-dairy milks, it is important to make sure that you are buying the plain, unsweetened variety. If it doesn’t say “unsweetened” on the label, then it’s sweetened and, if you’re not sure, check the ingredients list. (Note: sugar will appear in the nutrition facts in dairy milk, but that is the naturally-occurring lactose, not added sugar. You can confirm this by reading the ingredients).
Unless you are lactose intolerant, cow’s milk is a solid option with some caveats. It is important to buy organic milk to avoid ingesting hormones or antibiotics passed on from treated cows. It is also important to select a low or reduced fat variety, particularly for adults, because it is high in saturated fats. Cow’s milk is a good source of calcium (though not the best) and it is high in protein. It also contains Iron and Vitamin A. So cow’s milk is not the unhealthy sludge it’s often made out to be (and to those who say it’s not natural to drink milk because no other animals drink another animal’s milk, I say imagine what society would be like if we based everything on what other animals do!)
So that’s the scoop on milk. As a heath coach, I can say there are pros and cons to each and it really depends on what works for you. Quite frankly, it’s time we stop policing what other people choose to consume so don’t be bullied into a milk you don’t want.
If there is one thing that I find myself down the rabbit hole on most often, it’s dietary supplements. Through my training as a certified health coach, working with clients, and mentoring by some of the best nutritionists in New England, I’ve learned that dietary and herbal supplements are one of the most misunderstood aspects of health and wellness.
Some people think you don’t need supplements if you eat well. Some people think that all supplements are created equal and they can just buy whatever generic brand at the store. Some people think the more supplements you take the better. Some people think supplements are only for kids and sick people. None of these are totally accurate.
There are a number of reasons for this lack of clarity. First and foremost, supplements are largely based on a strategy of prevention whereas our health care system is based on treatment. Really, it’s not a health care system, it’s a disease treatment system. With this systemic focus, prevention is not going to get its due diligence because it doesn’t fit the paradigm and is not as profitable (though, it is, indeed, a very profitable market).
Since the system is built for them, drug manufacturers have the money and the power in the market. Using this influence, they can control the flow of information, the research focus, etc. Simply put, they are bigger and more powerful so they get the attention.
The structure of the supplement industry itself is not helpful for disseminating useful information to consumers. It is largely unregulated by the government and rapidly expanding, which means two things:
1. You need to do your due diligence as a consumer to make sure you are purchasing a quality product but that information is going to be very difficult for you to find because there are limited disclosure rules.
2. Supplement manufacturers are not allowed to make claims about what supplements do without substantiated scientific evidence. In an industry where the money is concentrated in the hands of pharmaceutical companies, it’s difficult for supplement makers to fund clinical studies so these supplements makers are left with the ability to only make very vague claims about the support they can offer your body.
On top of that, it seems like there is a new supplement out every week with claims about “amazing weight loss” or “body transformations” or “anti-aging.” The industry is expanding so quickly, it’s almost impossible for someone to keep up with. Because of this, I spend a lot of time researching a new product someone has heard of so I can recommend whether it’s worth trying or not (mostly, it’s not). (Pro tip: if it’s offering a quick fix, it is too good to be true. Likewise, be very wary of before and after photos and overly enthusiastic voice-overs.)
My main concern when it comes to dietary and herbal supplements is making sure that my clients are not only getting a safe product but also one that is what it purports to be. A majority of supplement companies claim the backing of scientific studies, but when you request that information a number of things may happen: said study doesn’t exist, the product itself was not studied but the ingredient it purports to contain was, they’ve paid a third party to conduct the study thereby influencing the findings, or the study was never done on human subjects.
Recently, an investigation by the New York State Attorney General found that just 21% of the supplements they tested from GNC, Walgreens, Walmart, and Target actually contained the ingredients they claimed to contain. Contamination and adulteration are also common issues with dietary supplements. The FDA is supposed to inspect supplement manufacturing facilities, but only gets around to a very small number of them – less than 20%. Given these facts, being able to review the studies that prove the supplements are what they say they are is crucial.
Knowing that doing product research can be a herculean task for people balancing work, family, chores, errands, volunteer responsibilities, and more, I made it a priority of mine to weed through the product claims and find a high-quality supplement company that I trust and can recommend to my clients. After months (literally) of research, I came to Shaklee. They have 20 years of clinical research on their products and you can actually access and read those studies online. They test their raw materials prior to production for purity and identity and they test their final products for purity and effectiveness. They will not put a product out there without science verifying its effectiveness. Furthermore, they have been in business since 1956 and have never issued a recall. Because of this, Shaklee is what I trust for me and my family and what I recommend to my clients as well.
If you want to learn more about dietary supplements – the industry, what to look out for, what to know, should you be taking them – then join me on Thursday, June 22nd for a free online event discussing the what, why, and how of supplements.
This recipe is so quick and easy but packed full of zesty, refreshing flavor. It makes a great summer dinner and you could also cook the fish on the grill wrapped in foil instead of baking it.
If you’re not a huge fan of fish, I really recommend that you give this recipe a try. Cod is a very light-flavored fish and the combo of the spicy fish seasoning and the sweet, tangy salsa is really delightful. Plus, this is such a ridiculously easy recipe, you have nothing to lose!
As a certified health coach, I am constantly urging people to eat more fish or, at the very least, take a fish oil supplement. When we think of fish, we typically think of the Omega-3 fatty acids found in them. However, there are a number of other important health benefits to consuming fish.
Health Benefits of Cod
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and certain plant sources, are critical for a number of important health benefits, such as heart health, depression, and brain health to name just a few. Admittedly, cod is not the greatest source of Omega-3’s compared to other species of fish, like salmon. However, it does contain about 8% of your daily value of these critical fatty acids.
Beyond that, cod is very high in Vitamin B12 which is a key nutrient for cardiovascular health, DNA production, metabolism, and brain and nervous system health. B vitamins are a set of vitamins that need other vitamins present in order to be properly absorbed, so getting your B12 through a food source is the best way to ensure proper absorption. (Second best would be a B complex supplement rather than an isolated B vitamin supplement.)
Finally, cod is also a great source of lean protein in your diet.
Choosing Your Fish
When it comes to purchasing fish, the fresher the better, as is the case with pretty much all food. However, a large and increasing amount of fish on the market is farmed rather than wild caught. I strongly recommend that, as often as you possibly can, you buy wild caught fish.
Wild caught fish are more nutritious than farmed fish because they are able to consume more nutritious food sources, such as the phytoplankton that contains Omega-3s. You are also getting better quality meat from a fish that swam around in the vast ocean than a fish that was confined to a small pen and is, therefore, fattier. Farmed fish are often given antibiotics and treated with pesticides and have been found to have higher levels of toxic PCBs in their bodies. There are also many ethical considerations to be made when it comes to farmed fish.
Bottom line: wild caught > farmed.
OK that’s enough education. Let’s get to the recipe, shall we?
- 1/4 of a large red onion, finely diced
- 1/8 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 jalapeño, deveined, deseeded, and diced
- 2 cups mango, finely diced (I used frozen but fresh works as well as long as it’s ripe)
- 1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 lb wild caught cod
- Old Bay seasoning
- Organic corn tortillas
For the Salsa
- Combine the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, cilantro, and mango in a large bowl. Pour the lime juice over it and mix to ensure all the ingredients are combined and coated with the lime juice.
- Cover and place the salsa in the refrigerator while you prepare the fish. The acid in the lime juice will macerate the ingredients and help combine the flavors.
For the Cod
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the cod on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the Old Bay seasoning until it’s coated.
- Bake about 20 minutes until the fish flakes with a fork.
Serve the cod on the corn tortillas topped with the salsa and garnished with sliced avocado and fresh lettuce.
Serves 2 people 2-3 tacos each.
That’s it! Ridiculously easy, right?
If you are one of the many parents who struggle to get their kids to eat their vegetables, you are going to love this recipe. If you are an adult who hates eating vegetables, you are going to love this recipe. If you love alfredo. you’re going to love this recipe. The sauce has the velvety texture and creamy flavor of alfredo, but contains just a tiny amount of cheese and is made of cauliflower. Instead of milk or heavy cream, you use the water you cooked the cauliflower in for a liquid so you’re still able to get some of those water-soluble nutrients from the cauliflower. You won’t even know you’re eating a vegetable! What’s even better is this is super quick and easy to make.
A quick note on the pasta. I always recommend whole wheat pastas over white pastas – it is far more nutritious than white and it’s also more filling. However, this sauce is made with water and whole wheat pasta tends to soak that up very quickly so you end up with a grainier textured sauce. I still don’t recommend white pasta. I would say go with a brown rice pasta or a whole wheat blend, like whole wheat and quinoa pasta. It will act less like a sponge while still not being an empty carb. I recommend using penne or ziti because it catches some of the sauce inside of it so you get even more flavor with each bite.
- 1 head cauliflower
- 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup water (from the cauliflower)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 box whole grain pasta, cooked
- Break up the cauliflower into florets. Place them in a large pot of water and boil until soft.
- While the cauliflower is cooking, saute the chopped garlic cloves in the extra virgin olive oil for about a minute – just long enough to bloom the flavor. Scrape the garlic and oil into the blender.
- Once the cauliflower is soft, add it to the blender with the salt, water from the pot, and parmesan. Blend until the sauce is smooth.
- Add the sauce to the cooked pasta. Optional: top with a little more grated parmesan and cracked black pepper and enjoy!
Using a small head of cauliflower, I had some extra sauce leftover using one box of pasta. So. if you buy a larger head, you may be able to make enough sauce for two boxes of pasta.
If you want to take this one step further, add some grilled chicken and broccoli to it!
With the warm summer months fast approaching, this refreshing and nutritious side dish is bound to be a crowd pleaser at any cookout. What’s more is it looks as good as it tastes! Bright colors like this are a great way to get picky kids to eat something healthy! They can even help mix it all up!
For the Salad:
2 cups cooked quinoa
4-5 medium-sized beets, diced and roasted until soft (I suggest par-boiling them first to cut down on cook time)
1 orange bell pepper, diced
2 avocados, cubed
For the Dressing:
3/4 cup fresh cilantro
2-3 limes, juiced
1 orange, juiced
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (may need to add more, depending on flavor and consistency)
Salt and Pepper to taste
- First, prepare the dressing so the flavors can bloom while you prepare the rest of the salad. Combine the cilantro and fruit juices in a blender and blend about 30 seconds until beginning to get smooth and combined. Add the olive oil gradually and the agave nectar and continue to blend until liquified. Add a dash of salt and pepper and place the dressing in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the salad.
- Prepare the quinoa according to the package and roast the beets until soft (you can also just boil them but I find that roasting makes the flavor sweeter).
- Allow the quinoa and beets to cool before adding the other salad ingredients. You can place them in the fridge if you’re on a time crunch.
- Once the quinoa and the beets have cooled, combine them with the diced pepper and avocado in a large mixing bowl. Remove the dressing from the fridge and give it a good shake to mix it all up again. This is where you want to taste it to make sure that it’s the balance you’re looking for. If not, you can add more oil, salt and pepper, or juice. I leave this up to the chef because some people like things zestier than others.
- Pour the dressing over the salad, mix together, serve and enjoy!
I don’t know about you, but cheese is by far my biggest vice. And what greater comfort food is there than creamy, decadent macaroni and cheese? So I found a way to make a macaroni and cheese dinner that wouldn’t leave me feeling bloated and guilty.
This recipe uses butternut squash to mimic the creaminess of the cheese sauce and just a touch of cheese for the flavor. Whole wheat pasta brings some nutrition to this dish rather than empty carbs found in white pasta. I actually really like to use a whole wheat/quinoa blend pasta from Hodgson Mills.
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and roasted
- 1 box whole wheat pasta, prepared al dente
- 2 tbsp Bell’s turkey seasoning
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup broth or low-fat milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Combine the butternut squash, turkey seasoning, and broth or milk in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the parmesan cheese until well distributed.
- In a large baking dish, combine the squash mixture and prepared pasta and mix until the pasta is well coated.
- Bake at 375 until heated through and the cheese is melted.