Health and Nutrition

Labels and Identity At The Dinner Table



Vegan. Gluten-free. Omnivore. Paleo. We can’t help but conjure up images of not only what kind of food someone eats when we hear these terms, but also what kind of people they are. Differences in food philosophy can start the most heated debates and shut down civility and communication between people. It’s silly when you think about it. It’s just what food, right? Yet a food belief different to our own is so threatening because it feels like a judgement of our own diet–they think they’re better than us because they choose to eat differently. Food is personal, so it feels like an attack on our identity.

At the end of the day, I am an omnivore. I eat pretty much everything. I believe my body thrives best on lots of vegetables, some meat and fish, and healthy fats. But I also believe everything else (in moderation) has a place in my healthy diet. I wrote a whole page about my food philosophy yet I’ve avoided calling this an “omnivore’s” blog or identify with one label. Every single person has slightly different food habits to begin with. We all really like and dislike different foods. Every human body is a little different–some people feel strong and energetic eating one way while someone else’s body would feel crappy if they did the same thing. And we don’t usually have a problem with that. But one you slap a label on yourself and identify with one group, suddenly you give something people can easily rebel against.

So, people of the world, I propose a truce. I spend a lot of time listening to the different arguments and voices in food philosophies. It made me realize we went out of our way to choose a specific way to eat for our health, so we already have more in common than we think. We’re all striving to eat clean and take care of our bodies. We’re avoiding overly processed food and trying to eat more whole foods instead. And I don’t think any of us will disagree that vegetables are key in a healthy diet. We put effort into trying different things, tweaking our food habits and beliefs over time, and finding what’s best for our own bodies. Everything beyond that is just noise. Let’s drop the labels and the judgement. Let’s sit down at the same figurative dinner table, discuss our beliefs without hate, and celebrate food.

Health and Nutrition

10 Guidelines for a Wonderful Life of Eating



I’ve developed my own little food philosophy over the last few years. Nothing new here, but as I love reading about other people’s eating habits and beliefs, I thought I would share my views. Disclaimer: I am by no means a nutritionist, dietitian, or scientist. These are just my personal opinions!

1) Veggies are your no. 1 priority
If I had to name only one way to improve your diet, I’d say eat your vegetables. The recommended daily minimum is 2 and a half cups. So get them in whenever you can! Lunch and dinner is obvious but don’t forget that you can add veggies to certain breakfasts or make snacks out of them. They are low in calories and so high in nutrients. Eat them.

2) Cut out processed food
I know, I know. It’s so much easier to pick up a jar of pasta sauce, a box of cookies with an unnatural shelf life, or full meals from the frozen section. But there’s nothing convenient about the damage all the sodium and preservatives do to your body, even if the packaging is labelled “organic” or “healthy”. You need to eat real food, people. Processed stuff is not real food.

3) Prepare most of your meals
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. But it’s not only important to prepare most of your meals to avoid processed crap, but it’s also important to avoid eating out all the time. If you have the funds to eat at places with really high-quality, healthy food, that’s great. Go for it! But for the rest of us, we’re probably eating at places that do not use quality ingredients, and the meals are probably a lot higher in calories than we think. But the scariest part is that you just don’t know what exactly is in your food and how it was prepared. I have heard horror stories about what goes on in some restaurants’ kitchens!

4) Choose seasonal/local/non-GMO/organic foods when you can
I’m sure you’ve heard enough about what genetically modified foods and pesticides may do to our bodies, and how food that’s traveled a long distance loses most of its nutritional value, so no need for me to go into it. If you’re not already convinced to spend your money on quality food upfront and would rather spend it on medical bills later, at least lessen the damage. Make these two swaps: choose organic when you are purchasing the Dirty Dozen, and please choose organic/non-feedlot dairy and beef. It’s bad, bad news if you don’t.

5) Watch your portion sizes
I’d much rather be heavier but eating tons of healthy foods than skinny but subsisting on junk. Nutrition comes before weight, but if you’ve got the nutrition thing down, tackle your portion sizes. We need to leave behind the ideas of all-you-can-eat, stuffing yourself, and snacking non-stop. It’s not good for you and too much excess weight raises your risks for all sorts of health problems. You know this.

6) Forget the fad diets
I swear, fad diets are an addiction. People cannot get enough of them. Just stop, already. None work in the long-term. It’s too difficult to maintain restrictive and depriving diets. If you want to lose weight, eat balanced, healthy meals, which is how you want to eat for the rest of your life anyhow (instead of cabbage soup or no carbs, for example). There will always be fad diets and they will never be the answer. Just accept it!

7) Eat a balanced diet and switch it up
So what is this balanced diet? Healthy fats, healthy carbs, healthy protein. You need ’em all. There’s no reason to cut out any major food group. And because different foods are higher in different nutrients, you want to switch it up to get all the nutrients you need. Anyway, isn’t that a better way to eat and live? Variety is the spice of life!

8) Don’t judge others
It’s a wonderful thing to have a healthy diet. But there’s no need to judge the eating habits of others. I’m guilty of it occasionally–I giggled when I saw some dude at the supermarket buy nothing but 20 Chef Boyardee cans and 20 Gatorades. But when someone asked me why I “put that garbage” in my body, referring to my home-baked cookies, I understood how awful it is to be judgmental about people’s food beliefs. You can disagree with them, but it’s not your place to judge them. If people want to change their eating habits, they have to want to make a change. Your unsolicited advice will not help.

9) Don’t get neurotic about it and don’t be a snob
I’ve listed a lot of guidelines here but I want to point out that they are not rules. Eat “right” 80% of the time. There’s no need to be difficult, be inconvenienced, or upset others the other 20% of the time. As much as I love making food from scratch and shopping at the farmers market, I enjoy a good street taco or post-holiday discounted Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

10) Enjoy your food
Last thought. Enjoy your food. Savor it. Eat what makes you happy. Try new things. Don’t forego taste for health all the time. I don’t believe in living to eat; there are more important things in life. But there’s no need to purely eat to live, either. Food and flavor is a wonderful gift and we should embrace it.

Health and Nutrition

Finding the Balance: How to Be Healthy And Still Enjoy Life

I guess I don’t need to tell you that a healthy lifestyle is very important to me. I did start a blog about clean eating, after all. But I don’t believe in taking things to the extreme. There is room for the occasional treat if you’re eating nutritious food, exercising, and sleeping 7-8 hours most days.

The truth is, it’s a struggle. Good habits sound so straightforward, yet if they were truly easy to do, we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic, so many deaths caused by smoking, or credit card debt. Doing all the right things all the time comes naturally to some, but the majority of us are constantly trying to find the balance between acting responsibly and living a full life.

Considering where I was just a few years ago, I’m very satisfied with where my health is these days. I quit smoking, made sleep a priority, eat clean food (most days), and started running. I could definitely do more strength training and eat less sugar, but my true downfall is alcohol.

I really don’t drink all that much, and moderate alcohol consumption can have some health benefits. My problem is sticking to the recommended one drink a day. It would be great to be able to blame it on peer pressure, but really, I just love drinking. I admit it. I don’t do it at all most days, but when I do, it usually involves killing half a bottle of wine. When going out to bars, even worse–I’ll knock back a few stiff mixed drinks. You may find my little rant amusing if you know true heavy drinkers. Just remember that even if others are doing comparatively worse, it doesn’t make an unhealthy habit OK. I would like to get to the point in my life where if I do choose to have alcohol, I stop after one glass. Or two, if I’m feeling extra saucy. I’m just not there yet. I do occasionally feel guilty about my alcohol consumption, but I’m having fun in my youth and trying to strike a balance.

What’s your downfall? How do you struggle with finding the balance?

Health and Nutrition

No Vitamins? No Problem! Have a Tea and Berries Green Smoothie

We know we’re supposed to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday. And we mean well, we really do. I make the daily minimum most days, but alas, even a clean eating blogger will sometimes fail. I don’t take vitamins everyday but it’s a nice back-up plan when I don’t eat how I should.

But supplements aren’t ideal. I kind of don’t trust them. Nutrition in food is so complex; it can’t just be boiled down to individual vitamins and minerals. Eating junk everyday but popping a whole bunch of supplement pills isn’t the same as eating a balanced diet of real food.

So it got me thinking, how can I make a food version of a multi-vitamin pill? Obviously not something that will contain everything a multi-vitamin does, but a way to get an extra boost of health after a day of bad eating, in real food form. I came up with a smoothie exclusively made up of some of the healthiest and top cancer-fighting foods that would go together:

The most potent antioxidants are found in green tea and that’s why it’s the trendy one, but white and black teas are high in antioxidants too. Drinking tea is a very healthy habit, and if you don’t have the green stuff on hand, black or white tea are great options too.

All types of fresh fruit have a lot going for them, but berries are one those nutritionally superior ones. They’re particularly high in antioxidants and great for smoothies. I’m not limiting you to one kind of berry so go ahead and use your favorite, or even better, mix it up. I used strawberries in the smoothie I photographed for this post, so yours may look different. No biggie.

Red seedless grapes
Red grapes are also high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. Resveratrol has gotten a lot of attention as it is said to help protect your heart. It’s the same stuff you hear about in red wine but let’s stick to grapes. We can’t have you getting drunk off your morning smoothie!

Leafy greens
I don’t need to tell you how good leafy greens are for you. So you know that getting a serving of them in your smoothie is good news. You can use pretty much any leafy green here, but I like spinach.

Yogurt has friendly bacteria and is great for your digestive and immune systems. Just be sure to buy the quality stuff–no crappy yogurt with artificial additives, please.

Flaxseeds or chia seeds
This is totally optional but if you’re like me and other health-conscious people, you may have bought a big ol’ bag of flaxseeds or chia seeds. They’re great for you and have omega-3 fatty acids, but serve little culinary purpose. Here’s your chance to use it up! Be sure to grind flaxseeds first.

This smoothie is tasty and nutritious, and perfect for summer. It makes a great light breakfast or snack, with almost half of your daily minimum for fruits and vegetables covered. Plus it looks like there’s confetti in it, yay! Now go make a Tea and Berries Green Smoothie of your own.

Tea and Berries Green Smoothie
Makes 1 serving

1 cup brewed tea (green, white, or black)
1/2 cup berries
5-6 red seedless grapes
1/2 cup packed leafy greens
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp ground flaxseeds or chia seeds (optional)

After you’ve brewed your favorite cup of tea, wait for tea to cool and pour into ice cube tray.

Once your tea is frozen, throw in 3-4 tea ice cubs into a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Putting my free The Great Googa Mooga cup to good use.