Having been vegetarian for most of my life, nutrition was not always an easy path because of the limited food choices available. There weren’t as many plant-based foods as there is now. Back when I was growing up, there was no such thing as a “veggie burger.” If you wanted a veggie burger, you ordered “Big Mac minus the meat.” Talk about ‘deer in the headlight stares’ every time I placed my order.
Fast-forward to 2014 when gluten sensitivities entered into my already scant food menu. The reactions were severe enough that even one bite of gluten would leave me inflamed and sick for days.
My love-hate relationship with food ended up being the biggest blessing in disguise. To be honest, I enjoyed the study of fitness and body movements more than I did about the role of nutrition in the healing process. But now, I had no choice but to understand why certain foods affected us the way it did.
As I began to understand the process of how crops were grown to how they made their way onto the shelves, I knew it was time for another change in this journey. It was then that I decided to make a conscious choice to eliminate dairy from my diet.
With no meat, no gluten, and no dairy available on my list, I developed a frustration with nutrition. Initially it was a daily struggle to find something that quenched my hunger and satisfied my cravings.
I knew there were endless combinations that would have allowed me to be creative in whipping up some unique delicacies. There were also certainly no limits on the number of online resources had I just googled “gluten-free vegan food.” But the truth was, I didn’t have enough patience to be creative. This led me back to resorting to all of the processed foods I worked so hard to walk away from.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love to cook and am pretty good at it when I take the time and stay present with the process of creating.
A few weeks of eating from a box left me feeling swollen, tired, anxious and imbalanced.
That was when I accepted that nutrition was more than just eating. Nutrition was life.
I had to be realistic and straight and transparent with myself on how much time I wanted to spend in the kitchen. So, I quickly learned to put together recipes that were easy, nutritionally dense and could be made in batches and stored.
No doubt a huge learning curve for someone who would rather be doing anything else other than spending time in the kitchen. But it was where I needed to be!
I am still learning. The kitchen may look like a tornado struck the same spot twice, but in the whirlwind of the chaos emerges the essence of healing-nutrition!
Listen, the pandemic has knocked us off of everything we knew to be safe. So if you , like many others, put on a few pounds during this time, don’t sweat it. If your anxiety levels are escalating thinking of the winter days ahead, don’t sweat it.
The body is magnificent and can reset with a little discipline and effort.
Just to have some fun this month and to get you motivated in the process, I want to share with you three of my favorite original recipes. These are by no means an elaborate creation. But for me, they satisfy my sweet cravings and bring comfort to my soul. I hope they do the same for you.
- Banana Energy Bites:
¼ cup chopped nuts of your choice
¼ cup sweetened Baker’s coconut
½ cup peanut butter
½ – ¾ cup mini chocolate chips
1 scoop protein powder (optional)
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Spread into greased 9 x 13 pan or make into equal size balls. Place in fridge for 3 hours. Can place in freezer if prefer more crunchier texture. Cut into squares.
Enjoy for breakfast or mid-day snack.
- Indian lentil soup
1 cup lentils (any variety)
Choice of any vegetables-fresh, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece of ginger grated
½ stick cinnamon
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tablespoons oil
Curry masala powder (available at any ethnic grocery store)
Red chili powder (optional for spicier variety)
Salt to taste
½ can coconut milk (optional)
Chopped coriander to garnish
Soak lentils for 3-4 hours.
In large pain, heat oil. Once heated, add fennel seeds. Allow it to turn slightly brown. Then add onions, bay leaves, cloves, garlic, ginger, cinnamon. Saute until brown. Add vegetables and saute. Add 2 tsp masala powder and salt. Mix so vegetables are fully coated.
Drain lentils and add to mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add 2 tsp more masala powder (adjust to taste) and red chili powder (if desired) and salt.
Add enough water to cover to top of lentil mixture. Cover with lid on medium heat. Stirring occasionally. Continue to add more water until lentils have cooked.
Add ½ can of coconut milk and allow to boil for 5 minutes.
Turn off stove and garnish with coriander leaves.
Enjoy as a soup, with naan or on top of warm fluffy rice.
- Cream Cheese Sandwich (Can substitute dairy free spread cheese and gluten free bread)
1 tub cream cheese
1 shredded cucumber
1 finely chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup shredded carrots
Red chili powder
Indian Chaat masala (optional. Available at Asian grocery stores)
Salt to taste
Mix cream cheese, cucumber, bell pepper, carrots. Whip until frothy. Add desired taste of chili powder, paparika, chaat masala and salt. Store in refrigerator in air tight container.
Enjoy on bread, dollar rolls, crackers. Or use as your favorite vegetable dip.
These are just a few fun creations I enjoy having around and hope it will spark the same for you.
Planning ahead and understanding how important nutrition is in our healing allows for us to live a life that can be enjoyed without having to compromise on some our favorites.
I am by no means a recipe developer. I am just a girl with a sweet tooth who values the meaning of living your best life, but knows it is perfectly ok to have your cake and eat it too!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each person as a whole, not just a list of symptoms. Our office is committed to helping our patients stay well and maintain good health rather than treating patients only after they become ill.
It’s the holidays, and there is food everywhere you turn. From office parties to family events, it’s one long chow fest from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Put that all together with the emotions of the season and your weight loss efforts can come to a halt. The holiday stress, the lack of sleep, and the flood of emotions that come with it will have all that comfort food calling your name.
The good news is that it is possible to keep all the holiday feasting from ruining your diet. Experts say that the best way to start is by finding what your holiday overeating triggers are.
Emotional Triggers of Overeating
Emotional eating is a way to either soothe or suppress your emotions. These feelings include stress, anger, fear, sadness and loneliness. Major events in your life, like the holidays, can set off negative feelings that lead to emotional eating, which in turn disrupts your weight loss plan.
Stress is an emotional trigger that stimulates over production of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol triggers cravings for high-fat, sweet, and salty foods. The more uncontrolled stress that you have in your life, the greater the chance you will turn to food for emotional relief.
Emptiness and boredom are emotional triggers. People eat to give themselves something to do or to fill a feeling of emptiness. Next time you find yourself opening the refrigerator, ask yourself, are you really hungry or just really bored?
Nostalgia is an emotional trigger. Those memories of baking Christmas cookies with your mom or grandma, or sitting down around the table with your family for a huge meal can trigger you to eat even when you aren’t hungry. Perhaps you were given a sweet treat when you were younger to make you feel better and you yourself automatically going back to that habit when you feel sad now.
Social influences can be an emotional trigger. Getting together with friends or coworkers to have a meal is a way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to you overeating. It’s easy to eat when the food is right in front of you and everyone around you is eating. Perhaps you eat because you feel nervous in social situations or because you don’t want to be the downer at the table.
Stress-Taming Foods You Can Eat Before the Party to Feel Full
Stress management is a powerful wellness tool. Foods can help ease your stress in many ways. Comfort food, like a bowl of hot oatmeal, can boost your serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can decrease the levels of adrenaline and cortisol, thereby decreasing your appetite. These foods can also help you feel more full before attending that holiday party.
Complex carbs trigger the brain to make more serotonin which help stabilize the mood swings that lead to over-indulging. Complex carbs take longer to digest and help regulate insulin functions. By stabilizing insulin release, the blood sugars remain constant, therefore keeping you full longer. Excellent choices include whole-grains, pasta, oatmeal, and high fiber vegetables.
Oranges are a great comfort food because of their high Vitamin C content. Vitamin C can tame stress levels while boosting your immune system. A recent study showed that people with hypertension (high blood pressure) and high levels of cortisol returned to normal levels faster when they took Vitamin C before a stressful event or task. An adequate dose of 500mg of Vitamin C appears to be effective.
Spinach is an excellent source of magnesium. Low magnesium levels can trigger headaches and fatigue, making your stress levels rise. Spinach not only helps raise magnesium levels, but also restores iron. Both magnesium and iron play a vital role in controlling cortisol release. If spinach in not your thing, try other green, leafy vegetables as alternative options. Soybeans and salmon are also great sources of magnesium.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish like salmon and tuna, can prevent surges of cortisol and may also help to prevent heart disease, depression, and PMS. To keep your Omega-3’s flowing, plan to eat 3 ounces of fatty fish at least two times per week.
Green Tea– In a recent study, volunteers who drank a bottle of tea (fortified with green tea extract) every day for three months lost more body fat than another group who drank a bottle of regular oolong tea. The catechins (helpful phytochemicals) in green tea may trigger weight loss by stimulating the body to burn calories and mildly reduce body fat.
Water– Water is a keeping-it-off superfood. Research suggests that people who drink liquid carbohydrates (in the form of soda) are more likely to consume more calories than their body needs.
Avoid Foods That Increase Your Hunger
While trying to maintain your weight during the holidays, there are some things you should avoid that might stimulate your appetite and actually not be good for you.
Anything white– white flour that is used to make white bread has been stripped of bran, which takes away the grain’s full-feeling fiber content. Eating white bread spikes your insulin levels. Avoid it.
Juice– Juicing is all the rage these days, but juice contains all the sugar in your favorite fruit, but none of the fiber that comes in the pulp and skin. Drinking a glass of juice can send your blood sugar levels up quickly, and back down again, bringing on hunger. Opt for a smoothie instead.
Salty snacks-Snacks like chips and pretzels, are quick digesting simple carbs that will spike our insulin levels. Salty snacks will also cause you to crave more sweets. Stay away from them.
Fast food – The more you eat the more you want! Trans fats inflame your stomach, which impairs the body’s ability to produce dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that control your appetite. Trans fats also block absorption of important minerals and vitamins that help with early satiety. High fructose corn syrup found in fast foods will lead to insulin resistance causing glucose stores to convert to fat, which leads to those dreaded holiday pounds. No matter how good it may taste, it is not worth it!
Don’t let your hard work and efforts during the first 10 months of the year be sabotaged by poor choices made in these last few weeks. Let the joy of the holidays uplift your spirit!
I wish you and your family a very happy, safe, and joyful holiday season and a prosperous and blissful New Year!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.