Staying Healthy in Vegas

I’m recently back from a vacation in the U.S. (a week in Vegas followed by a road trip through Death Valley and Yosemite to Monterey, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and LA and finally back to Vegas).

While I’m following a combination of different diets for my Crohn’s disease (Autoimmune Paleo / Specific Carbohydrate Diet / Low FODMAP) which I’ll go into a little more in an upcoming post, I felt that being so restrictive on my vacation probably wouldn’t work.  I’d either end up not eating or I’d be so stressed that it would be counter-productive.  So while I said I’d relax my regime a little, I would try to stick to my diet as best I could knowing what I could probably get away with and what I couldn’t (e.g. gluten and dairy).  I was a little concerned about how I’d manage a week in Sin City but I was pleasantly surprised.

As we were staying in Vegas for a week before heading on the road trip we made sure to book accommodation that had a kitchen.  We stayed in the Signature at the MGM which was perfect.  There was a fridge/freezer, cooker, microwave, dishwasher etc.  It was a little strange that the kitchen wasn’t stocked with anything and we had to request cutlery, utensils, cookware, crockery etc.  I’ve also stayed in other places where they supply cleaning products and some kitchen basics which we didn’t get here but these were minor things.  On the whole it was fantastic.

I like having a kitchen as it means that I can at minimum make my own breakfast every morning.  And if we weren’t out and about I could also make my own lunches too.

The options for buying groceries on The Strip aren’t great.  There’s a big Walgreens that does stock food but that’s more food-to-go like sandwiches and sushi but they do have salads and fruit which was handy.  I found a great Wholefoods Market just south of The Strip in the Town Square shopping centre near the Welcome to Las Vegas sign.  I used to get the SDX bus http://www.rtcsnv.com/ridethestrip/routes.html from outside The Exalibur which took less than 10 minutes.

Wholefoods was a great place to pick up fresh produce (mainly salads and fruit), green juices and smoothies, bacon and deli meat (I really liked the Applegate Farms meats), kombucha for some fermented goodness and I also found some yummy coconut milk ice-cream that I loved (not AIP but had the least amount of crappy ingredients of the ice-cream options and I gotta have ice-cream on holidays!).  They also had a great variety of sushi and sashimi which we got one evening (3).

I was really impressed with the variety and quality of food options in Vegas.  Here are some of the highlights and places that I thought really catered to my intolerances:

Las Vegas

The Buffet at the MGM (2)

Vegas hotels are known for their buffets.  The one at the MGM was pretty impressive.  There was a huge amount of variety.  Lots of salad options (plenty without dressing), cooked veggies and meat and fish.  I opted for leafy greens and cucumber with olive oil, steamed green beans and broccoli and oven roasted carrots with roast beef and chicken.  The buffets are all-you-can-eat so can be pretty good value for money.  Go hungry!!!

Maggiano’s Little Italy (5)

I knew this chain from Orlando last year and remembered that they were really accommodating to my requests.  They made up a delicious grilled salmon salad for me which was really tasty.

RA Sushi (6)

RA Sushi was perfect after doing a little shopping in the Fashion Show Mall.  The sashimi platter was so good.  Great variety of fish and value for money.  It was part of a bento box which included rice and miso soup but I got them to hold both of those.  They gave me plenty of ginger which I loved!  Can never have too much ginger.

Chipotle

I came across Chipotle in the Miracle Mile Mall in Planet Hollywood.  While it’s definitely not AIP, it’s a good SCD or Paleo option.  I just had chicken, greens and guac which was so tasty.  Not something I’d be able for every day but it was worth trying.

Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr (4)

Gordon Ramsay has a few restaurants in Vegas but we love burgers and were hankering after one so had to try this out.  It’s in the Planet Hollywood casino and I was surprised at how relaxed and casual the place was.  I was able to mix and match items from the menu so had a burger with avocado, salad, grilled pineapple, olives etc.  There was also an option for sweet potato fries which I passed on (good for a paleo / AIP option but not good for SCD / Low FODMAP).  The burger was tasty for sure and it was well worth trying but I’ve had nicer burgers elsewhere.

Top of the World at the Stratosphere

The views of The Strip from this restaurant were amazing!  The restaurant revolves but it does so very slowly so you hardly notice you’re moving.  I didn’t have very high expectations for the food (thought it was all about the view) so I was thrilled that my wagu steak and roasted rainbow carrots were absolutely delicious.  One of those ‘when in Vegas…’ experiences!

Pressed Juicery (1)

I found a Pressed Juicery in the Aria hotel which I was delighted to find as I was able to pick up a few green juices and some healthy snacks.  I particularly liked their packets of baked banana’s which is one of my favourite sweet treats at home.

Exercise

While our hotel had a gym I didn’t use it.  For the most part I walked everywhere on The Strip and easily racked up 27,000 steps a day.  I got to realise that although places seemed close on a map they were in fact pretty far apart.  Even walking from our hotel into the main MGM complex took about 20 minutes.  The hotels are huge!!!  So my advice is to wear flats and leave the heels for when you are cabbing it (from car to bar!).

Had I been staying in the MGM on a Sunday I would have availed of their free yoga class they do every Sunday morning.  Next time!!!

 

Can a Spring Clean Lead to Greater Happiness?

Spring Clean

Thankfully spring has sprung and we’re starting to see the end of winter.  I often feel like I’m coming out of hibernation at this time of year and am ready to start afresh.  I itch to spring clean my home, open doors and windows to let fresh air in and the stagnant energy out, plant new flowers on the patio and put away my winter woollies and resurrect my summer wardrobe.

But can my annual ‘spring clean’ lead to more happiness?

Recently I read Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing’, the best-seller that every second person and magazine is talking about.

Marie’s premise is to examine all your possessions and ask yourself do they spark joy.  If they don’t, you get rid of them.   Everything that is left should have a proper home so you should never have to tidy.  She is very systematic about the order you do things starting with clothes then books, then papers and so on.

I definitely believe, for me, that outer order leads to inner calm.  I’ve noticed that a low level of anxiety can creep up on me when I’m around clutter.  Marie says that clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong.  Obviously I would feel better if I de-cluttered my space and gave everything a home and got into the habit of returning everything to its rightful home when I’ve finished with it.   So a spring clean is definitely in order.

The book got me thinking about my possessions and why I actually have them and the two biggest take-aways have gone beyond the realm of my spring clean of possessions:

The first take-away is to ask does it spark joy.  Such as simple question to ask.  The answer of which should come from a feeling in your heart rather than the head.    I’ve not only started asking myself the question when it comes to my possessions, but I also ask myself the question when it comes to making purchases and when it comes to doing things in my life.  It’s made me have a think about what actually does spark joy and happiness in my life and to look for ways of doing more or having more of those things that spark joy!

The second take-away is with regards hanging onto things out of guilt or obligation. Marie says: “think carefully about its true purpose in your life.  That necklace you loved in the store but never wear, served its purpose of giving you a thrill when you bought it.  The hideous vase your aunt gave you as a wedding gift has done its job of conveying your aunt’s love and good wishes for you.  It’s okay to let it go now”.

I really loved this as you are basically giving yourself permission to let things go.  You acknowledge what their purpose was, thank them and then let them go.  Again, I feel this can be applied to things outside the realm of possessions.  I’m looking at people in my life and questioning why that person is in my life.  Do they drain my energy?  Is the friendship passed its sell by date?  What about the experiences and activities that make up my days?  What do I do out of obligation or guilt?  What can I let go of?

So without the physical clutter and the possessions/relationships/experiences that suck my energy, it leaves space for the things, relationships and experiences that do spark joy and bring happiness.

Can you imagine coming home to a space that just lit you up?  That rather than having the ‘I’ve nothing to wear’ feeling as you stare at a wardrobe bursting with clothes, you have a wardrobe of clothes that make you feel fabulous?  That all your relationships filled you up with happiness and that your days were full of things you enjoyed doing?

Sounds very appealing.  While I realise it won’t happen overnight, it’s definitely food for thought.  I think if I keep asking myself ‘does this spark joy’, I’ll tune in to myself and learn what is working for me and what isn’t.  And that awareness is the first step in that life changing magic.   In the meantime, I’ll start tackling those winter woolies!

Who knew that a spring clean could be so beneficial!

International Women’s Day – Women Who Have Inspired Me on My Wellness Journey

international women's day

With today being International Women’s Day, it got me thinking of the women who have been instrumental in my wellness journey.  I’ve never met any of them but through their books, blogs or talks I’ve learnt so much about health and happiness that’s been invaluable to my healing journey.

Sarah Ballantyne – The Paleo Approach

It was through Sarah’s book The Paleo Approach and her blog The Paleo Mom that I learnt so much about autoimmune disease and the autoimmune paleo protocol (AIP).  I feel that the protocol has been the main reason that my gut is healing (slowly but surely) and that inflammation has been keeping away.  What I love about Sarah is that she goes into the science behind everything she talks about – it’s an education.  Plus I love that the protocol not only talks about the foods to take out of the diet but what must be added in and that a huge piece of the puzzle is lifestyle factors – sleep, exercise, fun etc.

Gretchen Ruben – The Happiness Project

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books including The Happiness Project and Better Than Before.  The Happiness Project showed me that I could be proactive in making my life happier and that increased happiness was indeed attainable.  I read it when I was grieving my Dad’s passing and it gave me hope for happiness.  I love her weekly podcast Happier which she does with her sister Elizabeth Craft as there are great insights and tips for good habits and happiness.

Gabrielle Bernstein

Gabrielle Bernstein is a motivational speaker, life coach, and author and teaches primarily from the metaphysical text A Course In Miracles. She teaches a practical application of the Course’s principles emphasizing self-love, forgiveness, and a holistic approach to spirituality.  I saw her speak last year in London and she was brilliant, I actually didn’t want her talk to end.  She’s very real when she talks, she’s relatable and is very cool.  I love her book May Cause Miracles and she’s the spiritual guru for the modern girl for sure!

Jess Ainscough

I found Jess’s Wellness Warrior blog probably in early 2012 soon after I got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  I wanted to be proactive about my health and learn more about wellness.  Her blog and vlogs were brilliant.  She was a twenty-something cancer patient and advocate of alternative cancer treatments.  She was honest about her journey, curious about different ways of healing and so so informative.  I learnt so much from her and she was the reason I decided to study with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition as she had taken the course herself.  I was so sad when she passed away in early 2015 but I’ll always be grateful for what she taught me.

Jill Carnahan

Dr Jill’s recovery story http://www.jillcarnahan.com/my-story/ from cancer and Crohn’s is so inspiring.  She uses functional medicine to help patients find answers to the cause of their illness and addresses the biochemical imbalances that may be making them feel ill.  I’ve listened to numerous interviews with her and her compassion and empathy for her patients and passion for what she does is palpable.  She’s definitely inspired me to be curious about my condition and to never give up.

Lissa Rankin, MD – Mind Over Medicine

Passionate about what makes people optimally healthy and what predisposes them to illness, LIssa is on a mission to merge science and spirituality in a way that not only facilitates the health of the individual, but also uplifts the health of the collective.  Her book Mind Over Medicine was a real game-changer for me.  It gave me an insight into what our bodies are actually capable of doing and that healing was indeed very possible.

 

9 Things Having Crohn’s Disease Has Taught Me

Things Crohn's Disease Has Taught Me

1 Health is a journey not a destination

While some people go into remission for years and say ‘I’m cured’, I personally don’t think you can ever say you are ‘cured’ of a chronic condition.

I like to see health as more of a continuous journey than a particular destination (i.e. cured).  When reaching a destination there’s a sense of something being over and done with and I don’t think with health you ever get to a stage where you are over and done with it.  It takes mindfulness and effort to stay on course.  While I may go into remission (and hopefully a long lasting remission) I’m still always going to be susceptible to future flares especially if I don’t look after myself.

The same could be said if somebody is trying lose weight.  You may reach a particular goal weight but you can’t just say ‘I’m done’ and go back to doing what you did before as you’ll just end up where you were before.  It’s better to see reaching the goal weight as a milestone along a journey rather than a destination with an end point.

2. Everybody’s journey is different

I have yet to connect with or read about somebody else with the exact same Crohn’s symptoms and experience as me.  Similar? Yes.  But the same? No.  Some people get the disease when they are children and some later in life.  Some people go into remission really quickly and some never go into remission.  Comparison is the thief of joy.  It’s very easy to get disheartened or frustrated in your own situation when you may not be doing as well as others or recovering as quickly etc.. but everybody’s journey is different.  There are so many facets that make up your life and health.

Whatever your health journey, it’s unique to you.

3. No one diet fits everybody

I’ve done a lot of research into different diets that have worked for people with Crohn’s.  From raw vegan to ketogenic paleo, from Macrobiotic diet to juicing to alkaline diet to low residue to sugar-free, gluten-free etc. You get the picture.  There’s a lot of conflicting information out there that is mind boggling but you know what I realised?  While it’s fabulous that a particular diet has worked for somebody else, it doesn’t that mean it’ll work for me.  The best diet to follow is the one that works for you.

At the moment I’m using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol and Low FODMAP diet as a template and am being a detective about what does and doesn’t work for me.  For example SCD allows some dairy I know it doesn’t agree with me at the moment so rather than be dogmatic about following the protocol to the letter, I leave dairy out.  And while AIP allows for a lot of starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, I know that they don’t suit me at the moment so I eat butternut squash instead which is both SCD and Low FODMAP compliant.

And what works for me now might not work for me in the future which means I’ll have to tweak things a bit along the way.

4. Healing is more than just food

Yes, what we put in our mouths has a huge impact on our health but it’s not the full picture.  I’ve learnt that stress, worry, lack of sleep, lack of movement, bad relationships etc have as much (if not more) of an impact as food.  Adequate and quality sleep, daily meditation, yoga and exercise, laughter, doing more of what you love and good relationships go a long way to good health.

5. Let it go

I’ve had to learn to ‘let go’ of people, situations and expectations that don’t serve me and my health.  This one is possibly the thing I’ve struggled with most.

I was always a worrier and especially worried about pleasing other people.  Having assessed my relationships I was able to spot the ones that probably took more out of me than nourished me and had to let them go.  Not in a dramatic way, but rather I just took a step back and didn’t put any huge amount of energy into those relationships anymore.

The same goes for situations and expectations.  I’ve always been quite hard on myself.  I’ve had to let go of what I thought my life ‘should’ look like and what I ‘should’ be able to do.  I’ve had to let go of my Type A tendencies and embrace the fact that me and life aren’t perfect and don’t need to be (this is definitely something that need constant work).

6. Prioritise What Actually Matters

I’ve learnt the hard way that I can’t do everything as much as I’d like to.  Having to prioritise my health has made me look at the other things in life and assess whether they are priorities.  If I ever feel like I’m getting a little overwhelmed I always ask myself ‘what are my priorities?’ and ‘is this really a priority at this moment in time?’.  If I concentrate on what really is important in that moment and let go of what’s not as important it definitely reduces stress levels.  With an unusually busy January and February, I’ve not been able to blog as much as I’d have liked but I know I will get back to more regular posting when other things calm down.

Usually what I find is that I actually end up being able to do more as I’ve quietened the chatter in my mind of ‘so much to do’, ‘how are you going to do it all’, ‘you have to do x,y,z’ and have that energy to do other things.

7. Consistency is key

I realised that I do best with a consistent routine.  Daily effort with mindfulness, movement, amount of sleep, bed-times, morning and evening routines, diet etc has a huge impact for me.  There’s a lot of science backing the benefits of routine which I may blog about in the future.

8. Patience and compassion

While it’s great to have consistency, stuff happens and sometimes my routine goes out of whack.  I may veer off my diet when there’s no choice available or I may have days when I don’t meditate or sleep as much as I should.  Rather than beat myself up I remind myself that it’s a marathon not a sprint and I just have to have a little compassion for myself and my situation and get back on track again.  I can’t be perfect all the time and have to do the best I can and be kind to myself.  Obsessing over bad choices sometimes does more harm than the bad choice itself.

Sometimes it can be frustrating when other people can eat / do things I can’t or sometimes I may have a flare and feel dejected.  These are the times I need a little patience with myself and the process.  It took me a long time to develop Crohn’s so I can’t expect to have miraculous results overnight.  Patience is key.    And to be fair it is definitely paying off.

9. Gratitude

I actually am grateful for my Crohn’s as it’s part of who I am and where I am in life.  I’ve become passionate about health and wellbeing and am a qualified health coach and am currently studying to be a Nutritional Therapist.  I don’t think I’d have gone down this road if I hadn’t been diagnosed with Crohn’s.

I never take feeling well for granted and express gratitude every day for my health, for my lovely life and being able to do all I can do.

What is ‘health’?

health

I’d say most people’s resolutions after Christmas involved getting ‘healthy’ in some shape or form.

It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.  With a number of high profile and wealthy celebrities passing away this month from cancer like David Bowie and Alan Rickman, it’s evident that when it boils down to it, true wealth is indeed our health.  But what does ‘health’ even mean?

The dictionary describes health as ‘being free from disease or ailment’.  But as someone diagnosed with a chronic disease, Crohn’s disease, I find this definition quite disheartening.  Just focusing on this definition of health, I end up feeling disappointed, frustrated, stressed and a bit of a failure as, like it or not, I may go into remission but I’ll always have the disease.

Some people just view ‘health’ in terms of physical health.  But when do you actually reach ‘health’?  When can you say ‘I’m healthy’?  Is it when you are a particular number on the scales or size of clothing?  Is it when you are at your peak fitness?  Is it when you can lift a certain weight and run a certain distance in a certain time?  Or is it when your bloods are all within accepted ranges?  It’s a very individual thing.

And what if you have physical fitness and eat the cleanest, most ‘perfect’ diet but you are miserable due to rotten relationships or a stressful job?  Would you still be ‘healthy’ with those toxic situations in your life?

I see ‘health’ as being more inclusive and encompassing than just the dictionary description above.  I feel true health is really about the balance of mind, body, emotions and spirit and being able to live life to the fullest potential.

With this definition, I see that health is more than just physical health and the absence of disease.  Rather than being down on myself for having a chronic disease,  I see that living a life with lots of joy, pleasure, connections and meaning is just as important as ‘being without illness’.  I also find that a positive by-product of working on achieving a healthy mind, emotions and spirit is possibly improved physical health also.  A happy bonus!

So while I may never be ‘without disease or illness’ I firmly believe that I can be ‘healthy’ and achieve ‘health’.

What do you think?

The Non-Deprivation Way to Detox (you can eat food!)

Food-based Detox

I’d hazard a guess and say that this is the most popular time of year for juice cleanses and detox programmes.  After weeks of over-indulgence in rich and sugar-laden foods and drinks over the Christmas season, people are gung-ho about ‘cleaning up their act’, getting ‘back on the band wagon’ and repenting for their sins.

But did you know that our bodies naturally detox every day?  They are built to remove toxins by neutralizing and eliminating them through our liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph colon and skin.

So is there an actual need to ‘do a detox’?

While our bodies can naturally detox we put them through a lot.  From environmental pollutants to chemicals in skin care products and processed foods to the water we drink and the air we breathe, our toxic load is ever increasing which can overwhelm our bodies inhibiting them from detoxing properly.  So it’s a good idea to give our bodies a break and give it the support it needs to detox effectively.

Does that mean we need to do avoid food in order to detox properly?  And do detoxes need to feel like a punishment?  I don’t know about you, but I like food!  I personally don’t believe you need to fast in order to give your system a break and to get rid of toxins.  Doing a food-based detox is a great way to support our body’s natural self-detoxification system.

Here are some tips on doing a food-based detox (that doesn’t need to be too depriving):

Load up on nutrient dense plant-based whole foods 

Make sure three quarters of your plate is made up of a variety of vegetables, especially leafy greens like kale and cruciferous veggies like broccoli for their chlorophyll content as that rids the body of nasties such as environmental toxins and pesticides while increasing oxygen in the blood.   Try to eat a rainbow of vegetables and fruits to get as wide a range of micronutrients and antioxidants.

Foods such as dandelion greens, raw garlic, grapefruit, avocado, beets, carrots, artichokes are especially good for supporting the liver but it also needs amino acids from protein.  Good quality fish, chicken, nuts and seeds are all fab sources.

Steer clear of foods that stress your liver 

This means saying buh-bye to processed foods laden with hidden and not-so hidden sugars plus avoiding possible inflammatory foods such as sugar itself, gluten, corn, soy, alcohol and dairy.  If you drink a lot of coffee, it could be good to cut down or cut it out altogether.

Drink loads of water

Start your day with a warm lemon water which will not only hydrate your body but it will help stimulate and clean out the liver, boost your vitamin C levels and will prepare your body for digestion by stimulating the release of enzymes.

Then throughout the day keep hydrated by sipping on water and green tea.  Green tea is a fabulous source of antioxidants and can increase liver function.

Dry body brush

The skin is the largest organ in the body and plays a HUGE role in daily detoxification.  Dry body brushing is an easy way to help the body detox and get glowing skin to boot.

Work up a sweat

Weither it’s from a sauna, a hot bath or exercising, a good sweat is a great way to rid the body of toxins.

Get some quality zzz’s

We are doing a ‘detox’ in order to repair and support our body which is why rest and good quality sleep is really important as our body repairs itself overnight.

What can you expect from doing a detox?

You will be flooding your body with nutrient dense foods, you’ll be detoxing from sugar and curbing those cravings, you’ll also give your immune system a boost and will reduce inflammation.  Your skin will start to glow, your energy and vitality should increase and you might even shed a pound or two (or three).  And since you won’t be starving yourself, there’s really no downside.

 

 

10 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy, Happy, Glow Over Christmas and Into the New Year

It’s quite ironic that the holidays are probably the time of year that you most want to feel and look your best but they can end up being a minefield of health woes due to stress, overwhelm, overindulgence, party hangovers and colds and flus. It’s almost an unspoken rule that come December you have to indulge in unlimited amounts of Christmas treats and drinks (whether they’re sugar-packed flavoured lattes, eggnog, mulled wine, cocktails etc) and swap your exercise routine for late nights and shopping trips otherwise you’re a Grinch.

January can be depressing enough without heading into it sick or regretting the extra pounds gained.  I’ve already heard people say how they’ll do a ‘detox’ or ‘juice cleanse’ in January to make up for their sins in December.  Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the festive season and start the New Year with a healthy happy glow and not have to repent or restrict come January?

Here are some tips that might help do just that:

Get some sleep:  If you run yourself ragged and burn the candles at both ends, you risk getting ill just because you’ve worn down your body’s defences.  Getting as good a sleep as you can when you can will go a long way to boost your immunity and also your willpower as we often crave sugar, carbs and processed crap when we’re tired and give in to temptation much easier too.  Plus they don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing!

Pack healthy snacks:  Always have something healthy on hand to nibble on so you don’t have to eat the sugary treats laying around the office or rely on canapes at parties.  Like a good Scout or Girl Guide it pays to ‘be prepared’!

Healthy swaps:  See if you can find healthier versions of your favourite Christmas foods and drinks or even try making a few at home yourself.  You may be surprised to find that sometimes you can’t tell the difference or shock, horror the healthier version is actually tastier!

Know if you are a moderator or an abstainer:  Can you be ok with one treat or are you more a ‘once you pop you can’t stop’ person?  If you are the latter it could actually be easier for you not to even touch the treat in the first place!  I know it’s easier for me to say ‘I don’t eat x, y, z’ for some treats rather than overindulging and feeling guilty (or experiencing stomach pains) afterwards.  The phrase ‘I don’t’ makes me feel that I am the one in charge and I have power over my choices!  There are some things I can have in moderation and there are others I just can’t, so I know I should give those things a wide birth.

Stay active:  While you may not be able to maintain your normal exercise regime, it’s important to stay active for physical and mental wellbeing.  Walks in nature with family or friends, using a pedometer while doing your Christmas shopping, parking a little bit further away from the shops, taking the stairs instead of the elevators etc can all add up!  Exercise will help you deal with added stress and give you an energy boost. It will also help you manage your weight over the festivities.

Hydrate:  Water is so important for every system of the body so it’s really important to keep hydrated.  Even more so if you are drinking alcohol.  Starting the day with a warm water and lemon is a great detoxifier and is a vitamin C boost too.  Keeping hydrated will also keep your skin looking well.

Alcohol: Not only is it way too easy to consume more calories than you need, the calories are actually empty calories with no nutritional benefits.  There’s also the knock on effect of lowered inhibitions (cheers midnight greasy kebab), disrupted sleep (thanks to the blood sugar swings) and cravings the next day (oh hello there selection box, crisps and tin of sweets!).  You don’t have to abstain but maybe be more mindful of what drinks you choose to drink, make sure to drink plenty of water and maybe switch up a few alcoholic drinks for non-alcoholic ones.  Your liver and your waistline will thank you!

Eat as many veggies as you can when you can:  Vegetables are power houses for immune boosting vitamins and minerals.  If your plate is mainly veggies you can’t go wrong and it’ll go a long way to keeping your body in good working order.   No harm in a few green juices and smoothies thrown in for an added boost.  Plus I’ve been seeing green juices used as mixers for cocktails…. A little naughty, a little nice!

Eat mindfully:  If you decide to indulge in a Christmas treat, make it small, go for the best quality you can and savour every moment.  By taking small bites and chewing all of your food slowly (or drinking your drink slowly) you actually taste all of the deliciousness.  If you are going to indulge, why would you indulge in the crappy stuff that’s there all year round?   Make it worth the splurge and don’t feel guilty.

Decide what’s important and be ok with saying ‘no’:  Running around frazzled and stressed is not going to help anyone.  If you feel worn-down, it’s ok to skip a party or two.  Better to be at your best for fewer occasions that you really want to attend than spreading yourself thin with events that don’t even do it for you.  Decide what your priorities are and let those be your deciding factors.

Hopefully these tips will have you feeling good all over Christmas and into the New Year!  And don’t forget to enjoy yourself!  Nothing gives you a better natural glow than the one from happiness, love and laughter!

 

Navigating Christmas Parties and Dinners When You Have Dietary Needs

Navigating Holiday Parties

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!  I love Christmas – spending quality time with family and friends, buying and giving gifts, eating, drinking…and being merry! But the holiday season can be tough to navigate when you have food intolerances or dietary requirements like myself. There tends to be more temptation around food and alcohol that could derail even the most dedicated person.  And the repercussions of over-indulging can be a lot more serious than just an added few pounds.

I can’t avoid (nor do I want to) Christmas parties and dinners but I have to be even more vigilant to avoid the slippery slope to inflammation and a Crohn’s flare.

Christmas Party Tips

Have a bite before: If I can, I make sure to eat something healthy and filling ahead of parties so I’m not reliant on finger foods there and I’m not tempted by unhealthy snacks.  Nothing worse than turning up somewhere starving only to realise that there’s nothing there you can eat (or eating the food there that doesn’t agree with you)!

Bring your own: If it’s at a friend or relative’s house, I’ll bring some canapés and drinks that are suitable for my needs so I know that there’ll definitely be something I can eat and drink.

Drink a healthy MOCKtail: Unfortunately alcohol and I don’t mix very well.  I find that my stomach never feels good the day(s) after so most of the time I just think it’s not worth it.  It doesn’t have to be boring though, I like making a fun mocktail or my favourite simple mix of sparkling water with cranberry juice and a twist of lime or drinking gut-friendly kombucha.  If I do choose to drink alcohol I make sure it’s a drink I absolutely love and savour the one or two.  Ideally I’ll have the drinks with some food and make sure to drink plenty of water also.  But most of the time I’m happy to go sober.

Mindset:  I find that if I concentrate less on the food or drink and more on conversations and having fun, parties are a lot easier.  I’m less bothered about the restrictions and more in the moment with the people I’m with.

 

Dinner Party Tips

For the most part, hosts are good about adapting to guests’ dietary needs.  However they may not be as knowledgeable as you on what counts as ‘gluten free’ or ‘dairy free’ never mind ‘nightshade free’, ‘nut free’, ‘egg free’ or whatever your particular intolerance is.

Make a List for the Host: Draw up a list of foods you can and can’t have and post it where people can access it (e.g. Facebook), or email the list to the host well ahead of time.  Putting down all the things you can have will probably make it less daunting and seem less restrictive for the host than just giving a list of things you can’t have.

Know and communicate your non-negotiables:  My non-negotiables are definitely gluten and dairy.  Once sauces/dressings are on the side I can probably work around all my other intolerances.  Some intolerances I know won’t be the end of the world if I have.  But to be on the safe side, I usually ask for something plain (usually meat and veg) and I can bring my own condiments should I want to add flavour.

Bring your own:  If communicating your needs to the host is awkward and you’re worried about what will be served, offer to bring a dish that can be shared and is suitable to your needs.  There are loads of recipes online now that re-work Christmas classics to healthier / gluten-free / dairy-free versions.  Others may not even notice the difference, and sure what difference does it make if they do notice?  Trying something different never did anyone any harm.

So while you may not want to offend the host, it’s more important to take care of your health and besides, it’s the company that matters most.  I try to communicate that as much as I can to put the host at ease and to thank them for accommodating me and all their effort.

I’d love to hear your tips on navigating parties and dinners this holiday season.

Healthy and Happy Gift Guide 2015

HEALTHY GIFT IDEAS

Healthy Gift Guide

(1) One of my ‘best buys’ ever has to be my Vitamix.  Whether it’s whizzing up green smoothies, acai smoothie bowls, soups, dairy free ice-cream (made with frozen bananas) or coconut (or nut) butter it’s really just the tip of the iceberg as to what this machine can do.  Yes, it’s expensive but it does stand the test of time.  A really great gift.

(2) While I know it’s really important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water, I find it quite hard especially in winter when the weather gets cold and all I want is something hot.  This is why I love herbal teas as they are a great way to get some warm hydration!  I’m pretty sure KeepCups are meant for coffee but I use mine for my teas which I can have on-the-go!  Plus there are so many colours and sizes to choose from!

(3) This Stanley vacuum food jar is BPA free and uses vacuum insulation to keep food hot or cold for up to 5 hours. A grown up lunch box for soups and stews perfect for winter.  And you may get some good recipe ideas in The Detox Kitchen Bible which are all wheat-free, dairy-free and sugar-free.

(4) Personalised planters are such a cute idea to starting a herb garden and getting fresh herbs is a great start to eating more SLOWly.

(5) Need to buy a gift for a gluten-free foodie?  There are some great gluten-free hampers available ranging in price and products offered.  I particularly like the ones from The Wholefood Revolution, Greedy Goose and Hampers Direct.

(6) Getting a good night’s sleep will be a bit more festive with this tartin sleep mask.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS GIFT IDEAS

Happy Holiday Gift Ideas

(1) I wrote recently about why I’ve started colouring.  Adult colouring books are everywhere and I’m hoping to get a few from Santa this year.

(2) Meditation is becoming more mainstream as more and more people discover its many benefits.   The Headspace app makes meditation even more accessible and user friendly.  A subscription to the app would make a wonderful gift.

(3) Kindness and giving are proven to be beneficial to our health and happiness.  Maybe you could try your hand at homemade healthy treats as gifts and give them in these lovely gift bags.

(4) Cultivating an attitude of gratitude goes a long way in improving happiness.  The Gratitude Diaries and Start Where You Are look like great inspirational reads in cultivating that attitude.  Meanwhile Big Magic by Eat Pray Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert looks like another inspirational read that will have readers start 2016 pumped with positivity!

(5) I’m not sure people laugh enough and laughter is so good for us!  Give someone the giggles for Christmas with a funny film.  The one that made me laugh a lot this year is Spy starring Melissa McCarthy.

5 Tips for Eating Healthy When You Have No Time

Whether you are trying to stay away from processed food, trying to lose weight or like me, are on a specific diet for a condition (I’m currently on a mash-up of AIP, SCD and Low Fodmap for Crohn’s) sometimes making the not-so-convenient choice can be difficult.  People have very little time as it is and coming up to the holidays, time is going to be squeezed that bit more which can sometimes make the healthy choice more difficult.  So I thought I’d share some tips on how to stay on the healthy road even when time is at a premium.

Meal Plan

While I don’t particularly like following set meal plans, I do like to have a look at the week ahead and see what’s on my schedule.  It lets me know how many meals I need to cook for myself and I jot down a rough outline of meals each day (e.g. what proteins I’ll have at what meals each day, what veg will go with them etc).  I usually do this on a Saturday or a Sunday morning before I go to the farmers market and/or supermarket.  This gives me an idea of what I need to buy for the week so I can do all of my shopping for the week in one go and I don’t overbuy and waste food and money.

Batch Cook

Sundays are usually my batch cooking day.  I say day, but really it only takes a couple of hours.  I utilise the stove top, the slow cooker, the blender and the oven so I’m multi-tasking and making the most of what resources I have.

I usually roast chicken (full chicken, chicken thighs and drumsticks or chicken breasts), salmon and a mix of vegetables together in the oven.  I try to utilise all the shelves.  I’ll cover a whole butternut squash or pumpkin (skin and all) in tin foil and pop it in the slow cooker on low overnight.  It’s perfectly cooked and the flesh is ready to be scooped out by the morning and I don’t have to waste any time chopping when they’re raw, saving time (and my arms!).  On the stove top, I’ll cook some round mince (beef/turkey) and steam some veggies.  If you eat whole grains you could cook some on the stove top also.   When my vegetables are all cooked (roasted or steamed) I’ll add some to a stock and blend to make soup for the week also.

While everything is cooking I’ll make up some green smoothies and keep two in mason jars in the fridge for Monday and Tuesday.  I either freeze the rest or I’ll prep the ingredients and put them in bags in the freezer (banana, berries, spinach, kale avocado etc) so I can just pop them into my Vitamix with some coconut water or milk and other ingredients of choice, whizz and go later on in the week!   I’ve seen people prep overnight gluten free oats for the week in mason jars too and they just add their toppings of choice each morning.  As I don’t eat grains, I don’t do this myself but it looks like a good idea.

I also then prep some raw veg (chop, slice and put into containers) so they’ll be ready in the fridge to throw into a quick stir-fry or salad or into the slow cooker one morning to make a stew later in the week.

It may seem like a lot of work and time but it doesn’t take that long and actually saves so much time during the week as I can grab my breakfast and go, assemble my packed lunch easily and have dinner in flash.

Cook Once Eat Twice (or Three Times)

If I do end up cooking again later in the week, I make sure to cook enough to have leftovers the next day for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Otherwise I can freeze a portion or two for times when I’m in a bind.

Have plenty of healthy non-perishables on hand

It’s good to have staples on hand.  Not only will it get you out of a pinch, it will also make the healthy choice a little easier.  I always have tinned fish (Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines or mackerel in olive oil etc), herbal teas, coconut milk, coconut flour and dried fruit (I’m currently obsessed with white mulberries and baked strawberries and bananas) in my cupboards and frozen fish, meat, vegetables and fruit in the freezer.  If you eat nuts, gluten free grains and seeds, these would be good to have on hand along with nut butters and flour also. All these things can be bought in bulk so you can avail of bulk buying discounts, saving some money too!

Prep snacks for the week and for emergencies and keep them handy

I think it’s really important to have healthy snacks and treats on hand in case the munchies arise.  I know that I tend to get ‘hangry’ if I get too hungry and with meeting up with family and friends, festive events, shopping for gifts, and the general reshuffling of my schedule this time of year it’s always good to be prepared for when time slips away and you’re not near your next meal.

Fresh fruit, sliced veggies, little packs of protein (prawns are always a good option), dark chocolate, nuts, seaweed snacks, protein balls are all great options.  It’s also important to make sure to have them on hand – there’s no use having them in the fridge rather than in your bag or car!  Have an emergency snack on hand at all times.

Convenience

What’s important about doing all of this, is that it means that I’ve made the healthy choice the convenient one.  There’s no weighing up options, deliberating or having to use willpower.  No real thought or effort is needed which means temptation for the less healthy choices is less likely to rear its little head.  A little bit of preparation goes a long way and definitely saves time during the week.

I’d love to hear other people’s tips for eating healthy when time is at a minimum.