Just Because It's Edible Doesn't Mean It's Food

We live in an age where society demands ultimate convenience along with an exceptional and memorable experience. What does this mean for our food? [PURE DISASTER! Just kidding… wellllll…] We’ve got lots of options that are ready to eat with as little effort on our part as possible [yay!] AND are packed with incredibly satisfying flavors [YASSS!]. But I think we all know intuitively that foods are suppose to be perishable, and that, in a lot of cases, foods having an extended shelf life is unnatural [whomp, whomppp]. Here’s the thing though… because this trend is fairly young - at least within the terms of the slow-moving, precise realm of academia - we’re still waiting on the proper amount of research that will allow us to fully understand how detrimental this transition in the food industry has been to our health. What we do know for sure is this: in recent decades, the rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer have increased dramatically - especially in children [yikes…]. This dramatic increase in our deteriorating health most definitely coincides with the amount of ultra-processed, highly preserved foods we now have access to.

Here’s the messed up part: as the food industry caught onto the fact that people were becoming self-conscious about the changes they were seeing in their bodies and their health, they saw it as an opportunity to create even MORE processed foods that they could market in a way that appealed to the insecurities and concerns of the consumers. But here’s the reality: processed is processed… in fact, making a food that naturally contains fat “fat-free”, or a food that naturally contains sugar “sugar-fee” requires even MORE processing to remove those things… and in my opinion the more processed something is, the less recognizable it becomes to our body, [I defend this opinion with more info below!]. So beware of labels like “diet”, “lite”, “low-fat/fat-free”, “sugar-free”, “artificial sweeteners”, “fortified with” and “made with”, which are intentionally misleading you to believe it’s healthier. It’s not.

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We’re still waiting on adequate research on the topic, but those “healthier” options, on top of being chuck full of preservatives like all ultra-processed and packed foods, are also loaded with all kinds of human-made replacements for fat, sugar and other nutrients because foods become weird textures and taste like absolute crap when the naturally-occurring nutrients get removed [gag!]. So it begs the question: does our body even know how to properly digest and metabolize these human-made replacements? Again, research hasn’t completely caught up with the current state of our food industry to tell us for sure, but here’s something we do know: we as a society are currently OVER-consuming calories [obesity rates are at an all time high].... yet somehow we’re also experiencing deficiencies of essential nutrients at alarming rates. Here’s an early study that brought this issue to our attention.

Our meals and snacks should both fuel AND nourish our body. When we are over-fueling, [excess caloric-intake], and under-nourishing, [insufficient nutrient in-take], at the same time, that’s a major problem! [Oh, and I highly encourage everyone to watch this documentary that dives deep into this topic called Hungry For Change.] So what’s going on here?!?! Well, it’s some combination of the following: 1. too much of what we’re eating lacks adequate nutrients in the first place, and 2. our body isn’t recognizing and properly absorbing the nutrients and their imitators that are added to processed foods during production.

What do I hope you’ll take away from all this information? Treat your trips to the grocery store like you treat what you see on social media - with healthy skepticism [HAHAHA! ] - but really though… Focus on quality always. The less a food has been altered before you eat it, the better. The less time a food has sat on shelves before you eat it, the better. And just because it’s edible doesn’t mean your body will digest and metabolize it like it would real, whole foods.

Eat Your Wellness: Protein Intake

Ahhh, the age-old question… HOW MUCH PROTEIN DO I NEED?!?!?

Well, it depends on your goals for your physique… so let me elaborate! The RDA, [recommended daily allowance], for the average population, [0.8g of protein/kg of body weight], is actually far lower than what up-to-date research supports - especially when you’re exercising regularly! Here’s the deal: If you’re *not* strength training regularly, research shows that, in order not to lose any lean muscle mass you currently have, you’ll need to consume 1.2-1.6g of protein/kg body weight every day. [Remember: more muscle mass = more calories burned each day in order to function, which = easier weight maintenance] Recommendations *increase* from there if you’re strength training regularly [aka following my app], so make it a priority to eat the proper amount of protein by the end of the day *every* day - even on rest and recovery days - in order to properly recovery and achieve the best results from your workouts. First, figure out which of the 2 options below best describes your goals:

If you wish to maintain your current size and/or slightly change your body composition [i.e. lean out a bit and add a little muscle mass] you should aim to consume 1.6-2.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight every day, [stay toward the lower end to maintain or go toward the higher end to gain some muscle mass].

If your goal is to lose fat while following a strength training program, you should strive to consume 2.3-3.1g of protein per kg of body weight each day in order to pull off the tricky task of not losing muscle mass while working to lose fat mass.

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Now here’s how to calculate the amount of protein you need: divide your weight in lbs by 2.2 to get your weight in kg, then multiply your weight in kg by the number of grams of protein that coincide with your goals. THAT = “your number” of grams. Remember to adjust your number as your goals change! And please note: YOU know your body best! Ultimately, you should eat what leaves you feeling your best - even if it doesn’t fall exactly within the guidelines I’ve shared!

It’s worth mentioning too: if you’re not lifting competitively or body building, planning grams of protein per meal or perfectly timing protein consumption after your workout isn’t nearly as important as hitting that overall number of grams by the end of the day *every day*. Setting such specific expectations can make us feel like we’re failing before we even give ourselves the chance to succeed. [For example: if you didn’t each much protein with your breakfast, don’t give up on the day! Just be sure to eat extra at lunch and dinner to get yourself back on track.] So don’t stress about a specific schedule, just focus on hitting your number before you hit the hay ;-)

Now.. what about protein powder?? Honestly, I don’t think investing in it is an absolute necessity and I encourage everyone to put an honest effort into *eating* their nutrients. However, if you find that consuming enough protein is difficult, despite including it in every meal, using a supplement like protein powder is a helpful way to increase your intake. As with anything, read the label! I would recommend staying away from whey proteins if you’re sensitive to lactose or if you find it makes you bloated/gassy. And always make sure there’s not an outrageous amount of sugar/artificial flavors in in the ingredients so that you’re not doing more harm than good. I love using collagen peptides, [I use Vital Proteins], because they dissolve into any beverage - warm or cold - that I’m sipping on during the day! They’re a great way to increase your protein intake for muscle recovery AND improve both your joint health and skin complexion at the same time.

Eat Your Wellness: Consider Quinoa

Q U I N O A

Cooked like a grain, [think brown rice or oats], but actually a seed, this stuff is versatile AF… and is a complete protein! A what? A complete protein - meaning it contains all 20 amino acids. It’s actually super challenging to find a plant-based complete protein, so quinoa is considered a superfood for that reason. 1 cup of cooked quinoa will nourish your body with 8g of protein - that’s 3g more than a cup of cooked brown rice [at just about the same amount of calories]. Now I’m not saying to forget about brown rice! But quinoa is a great option to substitute for brown rice a few times a week to add some more protein into your meals and switch up the nutrients you’re getting. Oh, and here’s the best part: it takes just 15-20 minutes to cook. Less than half the time of rice!

Personally, I prefer cooking quinoa to rice, [mostly because it’s a HUGE time saver], but also because I find that I’m more creative with it. There are TONS of One-Pot Quinoa recipes on the internet that are SO tasty. And like I mentioned before, I can easily prep it for breakfast, lunch or dinner and it works like a charm! Here are some of my favorite ways to use it:

One Pot Mexican Quinoa Chili! I followed  this recipe .

One Pot Mexican Quinoa Chili! I followed this recipe.

That Mexican Chili is amazing! I’ve used it:

  • as pictured above

  • as a side with grilled chicken

  • on top of a bed of raw greens [as a healthier alternative to taco salad]

  • topped with an egg for breakfast

  • as a chip dip [WAYYY healthier than an overly cheesy/creamy option]

Quinoa [sprinkled with herbs & spices] + Arugula + Eggs = Bomb Breakfast!

Quinoa [sprinkled with herbs & spices] + Arugula + Eggs = Bomb Breakfast!

As I mentioned above, you can throw quinoa into a salad to add texture AND protein to your lunch/dinner. And you can add eggs on top of THAT to make a killer breakfast bowl!

Quinoa Breakfast Porridge: topped with cinnamon, nutmeg, cashew butter, chia seeds, hemp seeds, dried goji berries, dried mulberries, & maple syrup.

Quinoa Breakfast Porridge: topped with cinnamon, nutmeg, cashew butter, chia seeds, hemp seeds, dried goji berries, dried mulberries, & maple syrup.

Whenever I cook plain quinoa, I always set 1 cup of it aside before I dress it for whatever meal I’m cooking. Then I have plain quinoa on hand so that I can throw 1/4-1/2 a cup of it into my oatmeal during breakfasts the rest of the week! I love the unique texture it makes & it pumps me up to know that I’m adding more protein to my meal. Sometimes though, when I’m really not in the mood for the mushy-ness of oatmeal, quinoa porridge is the perfect switch up! I’ll take 1-2 - 1 full cup of quinoa, add just enough almond milk to give it moisture, & then finish prepping it exactly as I would oatmeal - warm it, then throw on whatever flavors & toppings I’m in the mood for that day, & enjoy!

Eat Your Wellness: Sip Your Greens

While eating your [raw] greens may not be the most exciting task at first glance… there are TONS of exciting benefits to making it a daily habit. Raw, dark, leafy greens, [spinach, arugula, kale, chard, etc], are FILLED with fiber, nutrients and enzymes that boost your body’s ability to burn fat, reduce inflammation and risk of developing countless chronic diseases, slow the process of aging and can even boost your body’s nutrient absorption in general. Yep, eating your greens on the regular could help your body absorb *more* nutrients from *other* foods you’re eating - even during different meals! Talk about more bang for your buck!

There’s no vitamin or other food you can consume daily that will do what a daily serving [or 2] of raw greens will do for you. The obvious way of consuming raw greens is to eat a fresh salad, but when you’re just not in the mood to munch on leaves ;-) making a sweet smoothie still gets the job done! I SWEAR you don’t taste the greens - though I’ll admit baby spinach is the best to start with since it has the least intense green flavor. Here are 3 of my go-to recipes:

BERRY HEALTHY

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  • 1-2 cups raw romaine [or any raw greens!]

  • 3/4 cups frozen mixed berries

  • water as base liquid [1/2 - 1 cup depending on the consistency your prefer]

[optional additions to boost nutrients & flavor]

  • 1 spoonful raw cacao powder [if you’d like a Chocolate Berry flavor]

  • 1-2 scoops collagen peptides protein powder [I love Vital Proteins plain or Marine]

  • 1 Tbsp any Superfood powder of your choice [Acai, maca, flaxseed, etc. I love AukaLife Superfood Blends; the Antioxidant blend is perfect for this recipe!]

Blend it all together in a blender [I use my Nutribullet], and enjoy!

MOCH-AMAZINGNESS

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  • 1-2 cups raw baby spinach [or any raw greens!]

  • 1/2 - 1 full frozen banana

  • 1 spoonful raw cacao powder

  • chilled coffee as base liquid [1/2 - 1 cup depending on the consistency your prefer] OR just water as your base liquid if you’re going for a straight up chocolate shake flavor ;-)

[optional additions to boost nutrients & flavor]

  • 1-2 scoops collagen peptides protein powder [I love Vital Proteins plain or Marine]

  • 1 Tbsp any Superfood powder of your choice [I love AukaLife Superfood Blends; the Energy or Recovery blend are both perfect for this recipe!]

  • 1 tsp of cinnamon

Blend it all together in a blender [I use my Nutribullet], and enjoy!

SQUEAKY CLEAN GREEN

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  • 1-2 cups raw baby kale [or any raw greens!]

  • 1/2 - 1 full frozen banana

  • 1/2 avocado

  • water as base liquid [3/4 - 1 cup depending on the consistency your prefer]

[optional additions to boost nutrients & flavor]

  • 1 spoonful raw honey or maple syrup if you’d like it sweeter

  • 1 tsp of Matcha [green tea] powder is a staple in this smoothie for me!

  • 1-2 scoops collagen peptides protein powder [I love Vital Proteins plain or Marine]

  • 1 Tbsp any Superfood powder of your choice [I love AukaLife Superfood Blends; the Detox blend is perfect for this recipe!]

Blend it all together in a blender [I use my Nutribullet], and enjoy!

Momma B: Letting Food Be My Medicine & Medicine Be My Food

My whole life changed when I went from eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) to eating a Whole Foods Diet (WFD).  The transition wasn’t easy. The road was long and often difficult, but now that I’m enjoying the benefits of eating a WFD I can never see myself falling back into my old habits. There was a time when I thought my daily headaches, chronic migraines and feeling crappy all the time was my “normal” and completely out of my control. Thankfully, I learned that it wasn’t normal and that I was living with a lot of unnecessary chronic pain because I told myself that eating real, whole foods was both too challenging and hardly satisfying.

SAD cart :-(

SAD cart :-(

Sugar, refined grains and processed foods are a huge part of the SAD. Sugar is a major culprit in the development of many chronic diseases. It causes elevated insulin levels, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal cholesterol levels and obesity. What’s worse is that it can be difficult to avoid sugar, even when you’re genuinely trying, because it goes by many different names. One you may recognize is High Fructose Corn syrup (HFC), and it can be found in just about everything these days because it’s cheap to produce. The issue is, HFC can only be metabolized by the liver, which causes a lot of serious health issues and can lead to metabolic syndrome. No matter how great the packing may make you believe the food is, anything that’s made with cheap ingredients like HFC has lost most of it’s nutritional value by the time it’s finished processing.

WFD cart :-)

WFD cart :-)

Rather than looking for nutrients listed on the packaging of processed foods, you can get all the vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fatty acids you need by eating a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods - dark leafy greens, beets, cruciferous vegetables, berries, spices, herbs, coconut, fatty fish, chia seeds and flax seeds. 

Over the last four years I’ve added many of these foods to my diet and it has dramatically changed how I feel - no more chronic pain and migraines! Don’t make your body wait any longer. Make today the first day of your journey on an anti-inflammatory, WFD. It could change your life too.