listen to your body

How to Learn to Listen to Your Body

The other night I was speaking to a client and he said, “You know… when you first told me this I didn’t believe you.” (Yes, I was wondering where this was going to go). “But I’ve actually started to crave vegetables!” In fact, he went to one of his favorite fried chicken spots and ordered Brussels sprouts. Not because fried chicken is “bad”, but because he actually just plain and simple wanted the veggies. Moments like this really make me gush because our bodies are really so smart. When we give them a little love and attention, they start to point us in our right direction (because everyone’s right direction is different).

There’s no one way to learn to listen to your body. It’s something that starts to happen more and more as you set the intention to listen, and as you become more aware. It can definitely help to have a coach, or guide, but it isn’t necessary. For those of you who don’t have a coach, friend or mentor and feel a little stuck about where to start when people tell you to listen to you body, here are a few tips that can get you started.

Start paying attention.

Most of us work on automatic. We push through any discomfort in an effort to get through out days. Getting off of automatic is the first step.

Be curious.

Check in with yourself and your body. Go through each body part in your mind and take a second to focus in and see how that part of you is doing. Are your feet tired or achy? Do you have a mild consistent headache? Where is the headache? In the front of your head, middle? Are your fingers tired from typing? Maybe it’s just your right hand. Is the pain or discomfort dull, diffuse, or sharp?

Start noticing how you feel before and after you eat.

Were you tired? How did you know you were hungry? Did you see something that made you salivate? Are yo bored? Start asking questions.

Keep a log.

I don’t recommend this to everyone, especially if you have a history of disordered eating, but it can be useful to just notice what you’ve eaten throughout the day. I’m not talking about weighing or measuring your food, but just taking a general glance. From there you can start recording any persistent symptoms you are trying to understand and eliminate. Maybe red peppers give you a headache. Or sugar brings out your acne. Keeping a log is a great tool to help connect the dots.

Notice what you crave and why.

Be gentle with yourself.

When we start to pay attention to our bodies cues and come off of automatic mode, we realize that there’s often been a lot of negative thinking and harsh words we’ve silently directed towards ourselves. This can be a lot to come to terms with, but is the first step towards having compassion for ourselves and making the kinds of changes our bodies are calling out for.

 

curry green beans

Recipe: Curried Coconut Green Beans

I have the privilege of working at one of the best places I could imagine, the Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI). I had been having a one way love affair with them since 2003, when Kathryn Bari, a graduate and chef, had me fall in love with healthy food. So, you can imagine how happy I was when I started working at NGI last year. It felt like everything was coming full circle.

The food at NGI is spectacular, but sometimes the recipes require more time, energy and ingredients than I really want to deal with. It’s great for special occasions, when I’m cooking for a client, or when I really want to treat myself, but sometimes I want a similar dish without all the frills.

When I tried Chef Rich’s Curried Coconut Green Beans dish, I was hooked. It was so flavorful and satisfying. I’ve made it over a dozen times since, and I’m very happy with my alterations to the recipe. Enjoy!

Curried Coconut Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 lb green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds, if you have them
  • 1 tbs curry powder, divided
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 1 jalapeno or thai bird chili (if you like heat)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/2 tbs minced ginger
  • 3-4 fresh curry leaves if you can find them
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Heat coconut oil in a large wok or saute pan.
  2. Add the mustard seeds and wait until they pop, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Add the curry leaves, shallots and hot peppers if you’re using them. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the curry powder and ginger, and cook an additional 30 seconds.
  5. Add the green beans, and cook to your liking. About 5-7 minutes.
  6. Once the green beans are tender, add the shredded coconut and stir to coat the green beans.
  7. Cook until heated through. Adjust salt and curry powder to your liking.
dirty dozen organic

Organic Fruits & Veggies, Which Are Worth The $?

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve likely had a moment when you’ve been stopped in your tracks in the produce section of the grocery store. The culprit? The sign next to the organic cucumbers that says $3.00, or the $7.00 strawberries. At that point I often wonder to myself, or aloud for that matter, how the same produce in the conventional aisle costs less than half of that amount.

So what is there to do? For me, I prioritize what to spend the extra money on. How do I do that? Great question! I use a list prepared by the Environmental Working Group called the “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen”. It basically breaks down which fruits and vegetables contain the least and most pesticides. It also takes into account how much of the pesticides are absorbed into the food.

For example, avocado is on the “Clean 15” list. This means that buying organic avocado is not something you need to prioritize. If you think about it, it makes sense. An avocado has a tough shell that gets removed before eating. Works for me.

Now think about strawberries. Strawberries grow very close to the ground and are sweet, attracting lots of bugs. They also don’t have a shell of any kind, which can make them more vulnerable. Hence, more pesticide usage. Strawberries are on the “dirty dozen” list.

Check out the full list above. The “Dirty Dozen” are the fruits and veggies with the most pesticides found on them, and the ones you want to buy organic. The “Clean 15” are the fruits and veggies that have the least amount of pesticide residue. These are the fruits and veggies that you don’t need to worry about buying organic. Some people like to post this list on their fridge or keep it stored on their phone for when they go to the grocery store.

Just remember, there is no need to get overwhelmed by this information. Eating vegetables is great, even conventionally grown vegetables. You can also wash and peel non-organic vegetables to remove some of the pesticides. Are organic better? Sure. But eating vegetables at all is a great thing for your body. If your budget allows for it, prioritize buying items off the “Dirty Dozen” list organic.

And, as a side note, dairy, eggs and meat should always be bought organic and, when possible, grass-fed or pasture raised.

Here are some of my budgeting secrets when buying organic:

  • Sales, sales and more sales! Even Whole Foods has sales! I know I was super happy when Whole Foods was selling organic Swiss Chard for $1.50 per bunch.
  • Trader Joes has really competitive prices on organic cucumbers, celery, kale and collards.
  • Buy frozen. Frozen organic berries can be less expensive than the fresh ones (and better off season).
  • Shop at Farmer’s Markets or at a local farm (yes, we have local farms in the city!) and ask questions. Sometimes farmers can’t afford to get the organic designation, but they don’t use pesticides or herbicides on their land. Smaller farms also often use less pesticides.
  • Buy in bulk when you can and cook and freeze what you can’t eat.

Happy shopping!

*this post was originally posted on 5/26/14

nutrition advice

The Best Nutrition Advice

Friday morning I made a pit stop at Trader Joes before heading to the Farmer’s Market to do some cooking and nutrition classes. At checkout, the cashier (hey, Pamela!) and I started chatting and she asked me what I was up to the rest of the day. I told her what I did and she got really excited! If you know me, you know how much I love enthusiasm, especially around food. So, she asks me a slew of questions: what’s the ultimate nutrition advice I can give, what should she eat, does everything have to be organic?

I love these questions. And, they’re surprisingly important given the all the nutrition advice online, on TV and from “experts” and MLM representatives claiming to have the next easy fix. There are tons of different diets out there, and none of them are the “perfect diet”. It’s easy to get caught up in debates about what’s better for you, smoothies or juice. Should I eat paleo or vegan? What about ketogenic? Are carbs bad? Unfortunately, when we’re given too much, and often contradictory, information and too many choices, we get stuck in overwhelm and inaction.

We are all different, our bodies are different, our energy requirements are different, our health and our concerns are different, our ethics and budgets are different. What does that mean? It means there is no one right answer for what each of us should eat. But, there is some basic nutrition advice that all of us can follow.

As Michael Pollen says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

  1. Eat whole unprocessed foods.
  2. Cut sugary drinks out of your diet.
  3. Cook your own food.
  4. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. More vegetables.
  5. Enjoy what you eat. Food should taste good.
  6. Learn to read nutrition labels. Avoid foods with more than a handful of ingredients or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

It’s not complicated nutrition advice, but it does take time, effort and planning to integrate. And, once you get there, then you can start looking at some of the other more nuanced questions. Maybe there’s a specific diet that would be better for you. If you have digestive problems, maybe a low FODMAP diet would work. If you have autoimmune issues, the AIP diet or Paleo diet might be right for you. But, taking on a restrictive diet without first mastering the above categories is a recipe for major overwhelm and stress. So, take it slow! Start by becoming more aware of what you’re eating. Start listening to your body for cues about how what you are eating is effecting you. Your body has so much wisdom to offer, but it starts with learning to decode your bodies specific language.

Good luck and have fun with it!

With love,

Samantha

The Things I Don’t Tell You

Hey there! Thanks for reading!

So, as you probably know, I talk a lot about food. I give you recipes, info on healthy eating, some mind shift tips and meal planning advice. Maybe you’ve read about my DIY beauty products and natural deodorant. It’s all great stuff.  And, it really only makes up a small portion of what I talk about as a health coach.

The other day I was at a book launch party, and I spent about an hour with one person. I know I know, you’re supposed to network at networking events! But when you find someone that gets you, it happens! We spoke about fecal transplants, fertility, infertility, hormones, poop (maybe that’s a given with fecal transplants… did you know you can do them at home?), yeast infections, anal and vaginal fissures and so much more. It was the first time we met. She sent me a follow up note letting me know what a treat is was to be able to speak about those things with someone else.

There is nothing that I won’t talk about and almost nothing is too weird for me (nothing has been too weird for me yet, but hey, you never know!). I’m telling you this because I want you to know that you can talk to me. I’ve gone through my own health struggles, and as a coach I’ve worked with many people with all types of symptoms, from diabetes to chronic headaches, trouble with digestion (SIBO, IBS, food allergies/sensitivities) to anxiety. Many of them started off with multiple symptoms that didn’t connect. And, for many, together we’ve been able to identify the root causes of their symptoms and address them. For others, we find ways for them to work with what they’re dealing with in a way that minimizes their discomfort and stress.

It can be hard to ask questions about what’s going on with your body. In general, it hasn’t been very accepted. Women are told to be hush hush about their periods (and anything related to our vaginas), men are taught to be hush hush about everything (or to make jokes about anything uncomfortable), no one is supposed to talk about poop (did you know there’s something called a Bristol scale? Here’s a link… it’s like the shit list posters from college that made fun of different kinds of poop, except this is a medical scale and it’s really informative). But the things that are deemed “gross” or “too personal” are really important health indicators. It’s all connected and important.

You know, the first time I wrote an article about dealing with endometriosis (I was diagnosed in 2014), all these people I knew wrote me telling me they had it, or their partners had it. So many people suffer alone or in small circles, but we really all have so much in common. So, talk to someone. Your friends, family, doctors, health coach, therapist, whatever. Because together, we have so much more information and knowledge to share. Our collective experience points to patterns and solutions, and creates comfort and camaraderie. So, let me know. What’s going on with you? What are you too embarrassed to ask?

bliss bites

Recipe: No Bake Nutty Bliss Bites

Looking for a healthy snack you can whip up in no time? You’re in the right place. These bites are easy to make, require no special equipment besides a bowl and your hands, and you can make substitutions easily with whatever you have on hand. My only suggestion is to keep the flax for fiber, and use unsweetened fruit and nut butters. Enjoy!

No Bake Nutty Bliss Bites

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup peanut butter (you can also use sunflower butter, almond butter or any other nut butter base)
¼ cup coconut flakes
1/8 cup raisins (or currants, cranberries or dried cherries)
¼ cup walnuts (or almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds)
¼ cup flaxmeal
¼ tsp vanilla extract
½ tablespoon maple syrup
Dash of salt
¼ cup gluten free oat bran or rolled oats

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to mix everything together and roll into balls.

Makes 10 balls.

Rich in fiber and protein! A great snack for before a workout.

crispy chickpeas

Recipe: Crispy Baked Chickpeas

Bored of your go-to meals? This one easy dish takes hardly any active time and it can add a ton of pizazz to any meal or snack! I love to eat them on their own or use them as a topping with some of my favorite meals.

Crispy chickpeas are actually one of the first foods I ever learned to cook. I was 12 years old and oh so proud. Just slip these bad-boys in the oven for 20-40 minutes and you’ve got an instant hit.

Chickpeas are also a major superfood. They are loaded with fiber – 12.5 grams in a cup – and pack quite a protein punch. Fiber and protein also work together to help stabilize blood sugar  (i.e. no sugar highs of crashes throughout the day) and leave you feeling full and satisfied.

Crispy Baked Chickpeas (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free)

Serving size: 1/2 cup Servings per recipe: 3

INGREDIENTS

1.5 cups canned or cooked chickpeas
1 tbs olive oil
3/4 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp sumac (optional, don’t worry if you can’t find it)
1/2 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Mix chickpeas, oil and spices in a large bowl so the chickpeas are all well coated.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
  4. Place on lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.
  5. Some people like their chickpeas very crunchy and dry, while others prefer them softer. Adjust baking time depending on your preference.

And in case you need some fresh ideas, here are 6 ways to use these crispy chickpeas to boost the nutritional value and flavor of any meal or snack.

  1. Eat them instead of popcorn or chips! These crispy guys provide the salt, the crunch, and unlike popcorn or chips, a ton of protein.
  2. Mix them with yellow raisins for a sweet and salty treat. This is actually a traditional way of eating them in countries like Greece and Morocco. These are great for the 2pm slump as you’ll get a quick energy boost from the sugar in the raisins, and some longer-lasting energy from the chickpeas.
  3. Add them on top of salads instead of croutons. They’re naturally gluten-free and don’t pack empty calories like croutons.
  4. Make your own buddha bowl! Add chickpeas to a bowl with brown rice and steamed greens and you have a complete meal. Top with your favorite dressing.
  5. Try them on top of oatmeal for a savory breakfast or add them on top of scrambled eggs for a heartier breakfast with some crunch.
  6. Love avocado toast? Add some crispy chickpeas for a fun new topping. The contrasting colors are also great for photos and making your guests drool!

 

Fig energy bites

Recipe: Fig Energy Bites

I first made these divine energy bites with Mickey, the creator of the AutoImmune Protocol. I was surprised at how just a few ingredients could pack such a flavor and texture punch. Since making the original recipe, I’ve experimented with adding additional spices and using different dried fruits.

Apricots are a perfect variation to this recipe. You could use half figs and half apricots, or do one batch with figs and another with apricots. You’ll never get bored! Cardamom also tastes great with these. It’s one of my favorite spices and I definitely add it to anything sweet that I make. Like cinnamon and vanilla, it adds a little extra sweetness without any sugar. Cinnamon and cardamom are also good for digestion. Cardamom is said to help eliminate gas and bloating, while cinnamon helps us digest fats by increasing enzyme activity in our bodies. Cinnamon may also lower blood sugar and it’s anti-inflammatory. Now that’s as good a reason as any for adding cardamom and cinnamon to our food!

These energy bites are also great for a quick snack, dessert or pre-workout treat.  Hello versatility! There’s lots of good fat in them from the coconut oil, and fiber from the dried fruit and coconut. The combination of fiber, fat and sweetness will help keep you satisfied longer without spiking your blood sugar (I’m sure we’re all familiar with the quick surge of energy we get after eating something sweet, that’s followed by the strong desire to take a nap).

Fig Energy Bites

INGREDIENTS

2 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
2 cups dried figs (unsweetened and unsulfered)
1/3 cup coconut oil
a pinch of salt
a dash of cinnamon and/or cardamom
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Make sure to remove any pits, seeds or tough stems from the figs or apricots. Roll into balls and store in the fridge. Because of the coconut oil, energy bites kept in the fridge will have a creamier texture. Room temperature energy bites will be a little more oily.

goals

From Resolutions to Results: 5 Simple Steps to Make Your Health Goals Stick

It feels really great to set a goal, but the trouble is that a lot of us set goals and come no where near reaching them. Did you know that it’s estimated that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Years resolutions? If you’re someone who wants to set a goal and see results, check out this 5 simple tips to help you get there.

Selection

Make sure your goal is important to you. It’s easy to get caught up in what we’re supposed to be doing. Everyone has an opinion – our parents, significant other, the internet, and our doctors. But that’s not going to cut it. Reaching a goal only works when it’s personal.

Small Steps

When we set a goal, we tend to jump right to the end result. It’s great to know where you want to go, but don’t forget that reaching that end goal is the result of accomplishing lots of smaller goals. Each time we accomplish a small goal, it helps us see that we are capable and gives us the confidence to keep pushing forward.

SMART Goals

SMART is a great acronym for goals that are Specific,  Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic and Time bound. Making sure your goal is SMART is a great way to increase your chance of success. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time bound. And there’s a good reason it works! If you can’t see what the end result of what your goal looks like, it’s not going to happen. Ask yourself, how do I know if I’m making progress toward that goal? When do I want to accomplish it by? For example, maybe you want to exercise more. It’s a great goal, but it’s not SMART yet. How often is more? How will you do it? When will you do it? Where? Doing cardio at the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 45 minutes after work is a way more doable and clearer goal. That also means that it’s way more likely to happen.

Stop Making Yourself Wrong

Most people want to be perfect. It’s official. The good news and the bad news is that none of us are. No one reaches their goals in a straight line. Anytime you set a goal, there will be a time when you fall short, when old patterns get the best of you. The question is whether you keep going or get stuck in making yourself wrong and feeling like a failure. If you keep going, you’re one step closer to reaching your goal. If you give up because you think you’ve failed, then you have failed. Failure is rare. Giving up is way more common.

Share and Get Support

Sharing and getting support are important steps to create accountability around your goals. When we tell someone we’re going to do something, we are way more likely to do it. And, when we tell people what we’re up to, they tend to get inspired. At the very least you’ll cheer you on, but they may even surprise you and join in. Sharing and getting support is a great way to have some fun and to create a safety net while working toward your goals. It’s a win-win situation all around.

Samantha's Veggie Curry

Recipe: Samantha’s Super Simple Veggie Curry

I love curry, especially Thai curry. It’s heavy on veggies and has so much flavor! Making veggie curry from scratch can be time consuming, and eating out can be tricky for those of us with dietary restrictions, allergies or watching or sugar and salt intake. Plus it’s just way healthier and less expensive to make your own food (if you need some encouragement, check out this post).

So, this week I did something I don’t usually do. I cooked with store bought curry paste. Thai Kitchen makes green and red chili curry paste, and they’re actually delicious and made with real ingredients. The ingredients for the green curry paste that I used for my veggie curry are galangal (Thai ginger), lemongrass, green chili, garlic, kefir lime, salt and shallots. There are no preservatives or sugar and it’s vegan, paleo and gluten free. Not bad! It’s great to have around the house for those days when you want a hit of intense flavor without putting in a ton of work.

I also love this recipe because it’s so satisfying after a long day. The veggies in this dish provide about 14 grams of fiber, or 7 grams per serving. Similar to coconut oil, coconut milk is a great source of healthy fat. And, fiber and fat are a magical pair. Together they keep us full and satisfied. The sweetness of the coconut milk and carrot in this veggie curry also satisfies my sweet tooth, while the heat from the ginger and chili revs up digestion.

Keeping pantry items like coconut milk and curry paste on hand is also a great way to be able to make a quick, healthy and flavorful meal when you don’t have a lot of time. As a health coach, I always encourage my clients to keep some fun pantry items stocked up for days when getting to the grocery store isn’t going to happen. Having a few quick meals you can make with whatever you have on hand is a great way to avoid the temptation to order out. And our bodies and pockets will thank us.

And remember, recipes are great as guides, but don’t need to be viewed as a rule book. This recipe would be great with collards instead of kale, or with some bell peppers and broccoli. Frozen veggies also work well, just adjust the cooking time so they don’t get soggy. Tofu, beans or chicken could also be added for some extra protein. The most important thing is to have fun with it and enjoy!

Samantha’s Super Simple Veggie Curry (vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, paleo)

Ingredients

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 inch ginger peeled and diced
  • 3 cups green beans, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cups kale, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 whole dried red pepper pod
  • 1-2 tsp green Thai curry paste
  • 1/2 lime, zest and juice
  • 1 carrot, cut into rounds
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Put coconut milk, chili pepper, Thai curry paste, salt, red pepper and ginger in a pan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to bring liquid to simmer.
  2. While coconut milk mixture is heating up, chop your veggies (I use pre-chopped kale, don’t worry, it’s not cheating).
  3. When ready, add the green beans and carrots. Cook about 7 minutes.
  4. Add kale, cook an additional 3-5 minutes, until done.
  5. Add zest and juice of the lime, adjust seasoning and serve.

Serve over rice or quinoa.

Enjoy!