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Holiday Eating

23 November 2016

Some of us may believe that we have tactfully mastered the art of eating well over the holidays. Others of us struggle a little bit more with achieving this balance. And then there are some of us that undoubtedly end up in a food-coma shame-spiral that starts in November and possibly continues until our self-proclaimed new-year-new-me campaign. I am here to tell you that it doesn’t matter where you fall on the spectrum of mindful eating; everyone (myself included) can benefit from a re-evaluation of their dietary behaviors. Similar to the liberating feeling of a Spring cleaning, opening up to the vulnerability of personal reflection can be both spiritually uplifting and mentally and physically healing. With the risk of sounding like I’ve jumped on the zen guru bandwagon, I really believe in the power of individual introspection, especially as it relates to our health and wellbeing.

Take a moment for yourself before the holiday season is in full swing to think about how you have been feeling physiologically. It may seem easier to ignore signs of exhaustion, dehydration and new food cravings (amongst many others) that should alert you that your health needs to be put back on track. In reality, dismissing these signals and allowing yourself to live sub-optimally is more detrimental in the immediate and long term future.

Let me be completely transparent – becoming ‘in tune’ (as they say…) with your body, will require some humility and open mindedness. What makes this practice so great is that it is extremely personal and can be applied in any way that suits your style of connecting. On that note, I have some areas related to your nutritional wellbeing that you may want to consider as you get started.

Stage 1 Commitment: This is the most crucial step in the process – the decision to check in with yourself.

Stage 2 Monitoring: The simplest way to become more self-aware of your own nutrition habits and how they relate to your wellbeing is by keeping a detailed food and beverage journal for a few days. Don’t just track your food, also observe and write down sleep patterns, exercise, energy level, gastrointestinal symptoms and any other potential nutritionally related problem areas. This seems like a tiring challenge, but I feel compelled to tell you that almost all of my clients learn so much from this experience and report how much they love keeping a diary. Some clients will continue to do so as a way to stay honest about their nutrition. The more days the merrier!

Stage 3 Analysis: Are there any associations between physiological symptoms and your diet? Can you make improvements? What is making you feel off-balance?

Step 4 Planning: Set goals based on your own self-analysis.

Step 5 Achievement: Successfully check off your goals one-by-one.

You’re probably thinking, “Get real Alix. Changing my diet and reaching my health goals is much more difficult than that”. You are 100% right. The stages I have outlined above are just the skeleton of what a full nutrition revamping might look like. I understand that going through these stages is just like any other new undertaking. It requires focus, determination, hope and support. Sometimes you may need outside help (you know where to find me!). However, I always ask YOU about your own thoughts and conclusions because you will always know yourself best. Fact, end of story. With the proper skillset and tools to make certain changes that YOU desire in your life, you will no longer need to make outwardly empty self-help statements about becoming a better version of yourself, you will be that person in mind, strength, and spirt.  Sounds pretty great to me!

If you’re thinking about committing or are having hesitations about the process, take a baby step and connect with me. I will gladly support you on an individualized health journey and give you that boost of courage to get real with yourself. Forget about the self-help book section, we got this 🙂

-Alix Kantowitz, Director of Nutrition and Wellness

Eat the Rainbow

26 October 2016

I completely understand the frustration of being bombarded with the same, monotonous messages on a weekly, or even daily, basis. Instead of the typical ‘don’t do this’ or ‘do that’ approach, I want to give you the WHY behind the WHAT. After all, I am a science nerd at heart, and it would be a shame if I couldn’t share my passion with you. What’s the sound-bite I am thinking of…oh yes, knowledge is power :).

It is important to not simply load up your plate with fresh produce, but rather eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables, because each color (pigment) provides a different assortment of essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you include all the colors in your diet, you can pat yourself on the back because you know for a fact that you are getting all of these health-promoting compounds in abundant supply.

Let’s dig a little deeper. What are the specific benefits associated with the different colors?

Red: Lycopene is the main pigment found in red fruits and vegetables. This phytochemical is known for its potency as an antioxidant that protects against certain cancers, particularly breast and prostate. It has also been shown to be protective against heart disease. Some examples include beets, tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit and guava. Put on your Italian hats and experiment with some homemade tomato sauce. There is nothing better than delicious food that is good for you too!

Orange/Yellow: Carotenoids are the health-supportive compounds found in orange and yellow color fruits and vegetables. These phytochemicals help strengthen our eyes by converting into vitamin A in our body. Orange foods are also high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that boosts our immune system and keeps our skin looking healthy by fighting off unstable free radicals that damage our cells. Examples of produce full of beneficial carotenoids include carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apricots, and mangos. Tis’ the season…. for carotenoids! Root vegetables are all the rage during Fall and I have some helpful tips for how to get your bang for your buck when it comes to the scrumptiously sweet carotenoid superstar, pumpkin.

Green: I don’t like giving preferential treatment to any color grouping, but it may come as no surprise that if I had to pick my favorite, it would be green. Hands down. There is no way around it – green foods are considered nutrient powerhouses. To understand WHY I love my greens so much, I want to give you a visual. Think about the changing color leaves during the Fall season. As the chlorophyll (green pigment) is broken down, the other colors of the leaves appear. Now imagine as you are eating your greens, you are also getting the benefit of ALL those colors that may be hidden to our eyes, but their benefit is very real to our bodies. Greens are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, and are an especially high source of non-dairy calcium. The cruciferous vegetables (i.e. broccoli, cabbage) are high in indoles, naturally occurring compounds that may help protect against some types of cancer. If that’s not enough, green plant foods are full of another phytochemical group known as isothiocyanates, which are responsible for inducing enzymes in the liver that remove toxins and drugs, thus eliminating potential carcinogens in our body. More please!

I told you- it’s hard not to play favorites when you realize the goodness of the green. Examples include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, spinach and kale.

Blue/Purple: You can thank the phytochemical anthocyanin for the blue/purple pigmentation in your favorite fruits and vegetables. These foods are known for improving our memory as we age, promoting heart health and protecting our DNA from cancerous mutations. Good examples include eggplant (skin included), blackberries, blueberries, pomegranates, plums and cranberries.

White: These fruits and vegetables obtain their color from the phytochemical anthoxanthin. Although colorless, white plants still contain many beneficial compounds, such as flavonoids. For example, garlic is packed with the chemical compound allicin, which has been touted for its ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. We also have cauliflower, ginger, onions, parsnips, and turnips in this lovely group.

I could go on and on about the various compounds found in each color fruit and vegetable. These are just a few of my favorite highlights.

No need to worry. You are not back in school – there will be no tests. The only homework assignment you have is to eat the rainbow in fruits and vegetables. We use the honor system here – only you will know if you’re staying on track. Think about the balance of these colors in the context of a weekly basis. Most importantly, don’t drive yourself crazy, and stop playing color favorites!