5 tips to help you keep your diet resolution

New_Year_resolutionLike so many women around New Year’s, you’ve probably sworn to yourself to “eat healthier,” “lose weight,” and “take better care of yourself” over the next 12 months. Many of you have probably turned to popular diets circulating the internet to accomplish that, whether it’s the raw diet, Paleo, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, or – well, the list goes on. While there are many great ideas in a lot of those diets, there is always a challenge when starting something new. Here are some tips in making your 2015 health goals a reality using your chosen diet style:

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Today’s blog from the heart

Who is more important to you than, well, you?

Valentine’s Day always involves matters of the heart, and today you might try thinking about your own heart health. But are you a commit-a-phobe, afraid to make that promise to yourself to treat yourself well? Put yourself first? Check in with yourself, and make sure that you’re doing ok? Give yourself a pep talk when you’re feeling down or stressed out? Do goofy things to make yourself laugh? To be absolutely honest with yourself? To take some quality time for yourself, make yourself a nice, healthy dinner, go for and enjoy a nice, long walk, and then take yourself to bed afterward for much needed loving rest?

You may laugh, but you may also realize that you probably don’t do this as often as you should for yourself as you would for any other relationship.

As poetic as it is, February has been deemed Heart Health Awareness Month and nothing could be closer to your – well – heart, right? Your health, life longevity, and happiness is most likely the closest to the hearts of all who love you. So, just remember that you’re not alone if you want to start making changes.

And we all have changes of heart in regards to our current lifestyle for different reasons. You may be overweight and want to eat better. You may have an illness or three that makes you realize you cannot continue on the path that you’re on. You may have heart disease, high blood pressure, or stroke in your family and want to head it off at the pass. Whatever your reason, it’s never too late.

What is the heart, though? Here is a quick video that gives you a basic understanding of the work it does for you, every second, minute, hour, and day of your life:
Amazing, huh?

 

And major causes for heart ailments can stem from three basic concepts:
  • Inactivity
  • High fat/cholesterol/salt diets
  • Stress

If any of that sounds familiar, than you may want to pick one of those and start taking baby steps to wellness. How?

  • Take a 10-minute walk every day.
  • Eat a new vegetable you’ve never made or heard of for dinner one meal a day.
  • Take 5 to 10 minutes every day to just sit quietly without the radio, TV, or distractions and just breath as deeply as you can, clearing the cobwebs of yesterday’s regrets, today’s jitters, and tomorrow’s fears.

Feeling better already, aren’t you?

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, and be good to yourself and your heart today. Because you deserve it.

Are you a woman, and have heart disease, stroke, or high blood pressure in your family? Contact me, Lindsey, at platefulofsoulLLC@gmail.com to find out how you can start your path to wellness. All women looking to start a heart-healthy lifestyle will get a discount on services for the month of February. 

Top 5 Healthy Tips for Super Bowl Sunday

You’re counting the days, and probably hours and minutes, until touchdown this weekend. But have you been counting the grams of fat and calories in your food, or better yet, the calories you may or may not be burning off on the big day? Here are a few tips for making your Super Bowl this Sunday a touchdown in the health department.

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Smart thinking for 2014

“Your eyes are always bigger than your stomach!”

It is a familiar childhood lament I remember my mother bemoaning when time and time again I would take a plateful more of food than I could realistically manage to fit into my stomach. It looked so good sitting there in the pot, and my mouth would water at the smells and promises of good things to come. But alas, I took more than I could chew. Literally.

Many of us as adults still approach projects in this way. I know I do. For example, I’m planning a wedding, and am sure I have an idea or three that may not come to fruition by the big day. We see a big picture. We see Rome, in all its glory and hope that snapping our fingers a few times will get it built. But we are not always honest with ourselves as to the realistic potential of our actually getting everything done within a time frame we set for ourselves.

ImageAnd it’s the age-old trap we fall into every New Year’s. As we gaze back at the last year, and look ahead into the pristine landscape of the new year, we plan big. We plan to start out of the gate with all the vigor and determination we can muster. And then …

Well, maybe many of us don’t realize WHY we aren’t getting to the finish line for those well-meaning, and lofty goals. We heap blame on ourselves that we just “can’t seem to keep with it.” But maybe the reason is that we aren’t honest with ourselves as to how much we are willing to achieve, how much time we are willing to dedicate to it, and hadn’t developed a realistic plan regarding either of those to get our goals into motion.

And maybe we are too short-sighted, expecting big behavior changes to shift in ourselves at a moment’s notice – and big changes to follow quickly after.

But this year, as you count down the days to a whole new healthy and wealthy you for 2014, give this little exercise a try. I use it often with my coaching and nutrition clients to help them develop a clear and concise plan of action. Try it for yourself, and maybe you might see more finish lines!

Goal setting using SMART

Have you heard of SMART? Yes, yes, it is another crafty and catchy acronym to live by. It is a helpful tool to use when you want to set and outline a goal for yourself.

S – Specific

Is your goal specific? Think of your resolution for 2014 right now. Picture it in your mind. I mean create an actual, crystal clear, digitally enhanced picture in your head. Can you tell me EXACTLY one small thing you want to achieve? Don’t just say to yourself, “I want to lose weight.” Well, that’s not telling yourself much. How MUCH weight? Why? Do you want to lose weight to fit into a certain dress? Just to feel good? Get as nitty-gritty into your goal as you can, and narrow it down to one very polished goal. This gives you a great endpoint you can actually mentally grab onto, and mentally as well as physically move toward.

So now, take a piece of paper and write down as many details as you can about your goal until you have narrowed in on a shiny kernel. As you go through the rest of the SMART goal exercise, it will help you to continue honing in on this. So don’t worry if you have to revise it.

M – Measurable

Is your goal something you can actually count and say to yourself, “Yay! I finally reached ‘x’?” Let’s say you want to lose weight. It’s an easy thing to measure if you have narrowed in on a specific goal. You want to lose 20 pounds. Great. So how can you measure success and that you have officially reached your goal? When your scale reads 20 pounds lighter than your start weight. It’s as simple as that. If you can measure your goal in time, amount of items (amount of people reached, amount of e-mails written), length, etc., that helps you focus on what the finish line looks like, you’ve got a great place to start.

A – Achievable

This part is always a little sticky, for some people more than others. Personally, I always like to think that I can achieve X, Y, and Z within a time I’ve allotted. It doesn’t seem like a lot – on paper. That is, until I am waist deep in all of my regular life commitments, AND still trying to get X, Y, and Z done … and that’s not taking into account little surprises that can get in the way, too. Next thing I know, I’m pulling my hair out, am way over stressed, but have made the commitment to those projects.

HELP?!

You don’t want to fall into that trap. When asking if your goal is achievable, and you say yes… ask yourself again. Be sure. If there’s a hint of doubt hanging in the air now, ask yourself one last time. Really think about your life. Your schedule. Your friends and family. Your job. Write down for yourself HOW it is achievable (again, be as specific as you can). Where EXACTLY are you fitting in time dedicated to this goal? What days of the week? What time during the day? How much time each day?

And if it’s not looking possible … start to whittle down the goal to a more bite-sized chunk.

There! Now, we’re getting somewhere!

R – Relevant/Results-oriented

Are you pushing yourself enough, but not too hard to get to your goal that will get you the results that you want? Is this goal aligned to your overall personal or professional goals at this time in your life? After thinking through this, write down a few sentences as to why you think so. If you discover there is another more pressing matter or goal you need to set and achieve before embarking on the one you are working through SMART with right now – well, wow! You just learned something. But if you are completely satisfied that your goal is totally in line with where you are in life right now – I invite you to work on the last step.

T – Time-limited

This one ties very neatly in with “measurable.” So you’ve established the amount of your goal, and have determined that it is achievable; but is it achievable within the time frame you have set for yourself? Are you giving yourself enough time? Too much?

So to continue with the example, you want to lose 20 pounds. Is it achievable? Sure! Is it measurable? Yes, sirree. But you want to get it done in a month. Is that likely?

Mmm, maybe not. Again, biting off more than we can chew is often the first nail in our goal-setting coffin and we don’t even realize it. So if you ask yourself if you can get that goal done within your desired time frame, and you start to twitch or a part of you wants to immediately run away, pay attention to that. You may have just overstepped a line.

So, think about what you CAN commit to. Are you open to losing those 20 pounds within six months? A year? Or maybe you can set an easy goal of one pound a week to start. What is something you are comfortable with, and can actually see yourself crossing that line to finish?

Once you have that answer, you are ready to get to work.

Working through SMART can be done for any goal you want to set for yourself. For some reason, we feel that goals have to be these large mountains we need to scale. And it’s not. But we try it anyway. Then feel horrible about it when we have to turn back after only getting a few feet up the crag, because we’re plainly overwhelmed.

So, do yourself a favor this New Year’s. Take that huge mountain of a resolution you have set for yourself, and break it down. There is never any shame in pecking at an overarching objective one mini-goal step at a time. It has to fit your life, your objectives, and your time.

Happy New Year, everyone… may you all move your own mountains in 2014, one rock at a time.

 

5 ways to survive the NaNoWriMo homestretch

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It’s mid-November, and only one week left to the National Novel Writing Month, 50,000-word book-in-a-month challenge. While I’ve recused myself from the typing frenzy this year, I’ve been in your shoes. The month threatens to come to a close and you are still thousands of words behind schedule. Will you make it? It means a lot of midnight oil burning, and very frayed nerves. Why do we do it? Are we masochists? There is certainly no monetary prize at the 50,000-word red tape mark. Just a digital badge. But despite all odds, we want that little sticker badge on our NaNo page saying we were winners for this year.

But a challenge such as NaNo takes its toll. I don’t know about everyone else, but nearly every year right at the tail end of the month, I would end up with a bug very nearing the flu. It stopped me several years in a row from attaining NaNoWriMo winner status. After coming 42,000 words close to the finish mark, it’s not easy to give up. A better woman than I would push past the point of no return. But I knew my limits.

So, how can you avoid a similar NaNoWriMo Homestretch Backlash?

1) Avoid Coffee!

Okay, I just scared most of my NaNo readers, who have probably already surfed on to better Internet pastures. If you are still reading, then you are made of tough stuff. I applaud you. While coffee is nearly as essential a tool for most NaNo participants as a computer or paper and pen, it can do more harm than good in the long run.

Constant caffeine stimulation despite a tired body can kick the body into a state of high stress, or “fight or flight” mode. This means the body switches operating systems from the parasympathetic to the sympathetic nervous funny-pictures-cat-loves-coffeesystem to help the body deal with the perceived threat. Think about it: If you had a bear chasing you, wouldn’t you want only the essentials to help you to survive the encounter to be working for you? That’s what the sympathetic nervous system does. It siphons off energy for digestion, shuts down the salivary and lacrimal (tear duct) glands resulting in dry mouth and eyes, and dilates pupils, and decreases the bulging of one’s eye lenses, which prevents the eye from being able to adjust to up close vision, among other “shutdown” procedures. Being in a constant state of high stress also dramatically increases the risk for chronic high blood pressure, which can over time damage your arteries, heart, and brain, according to the Mayo Clinic.

If you do insist on the occasional cup of joe, make sure to increase your intake of water – whether it’s from the tap or in the form of herbal tea. Coffee is a natural diuretic, which means that it quickly increases your urine output and can easily dehydrate you.

And a healthy diet is also extremely vital for health and the immune system when under stress. Eating healthier refers to consuming whole foods (anything that you recognize as food that came off of a plant or tree). And warm foods and herbal teas help to keep the body’s temperature at status quo during these cold months.

A multivitamin may also not be a bad idea this time of year. Vitamins are predominantly co-factors in chemical reactions in our bodies. Remaining in chronic sympathetic mode decreases our digestive duties, and therefore nutrient uptake. And it doesn’t take long for our bodies to start showing the repercussions due to a repressed immune system. Adding a multivitamin will help introduce ready-to-assimilate vitamins, so that our bodies can operate as usual.

2) Adrenal Support

The adrenal glands rest right on top of our kidneys, and have so much to do with our immune system health. They are responsible for secreting hormones to help our bodies deal with short time stress. But the longer our bodies are under siege by lack of sleep, stressful deadlines, and five cups of coffee each day, the adrenals begin to burnimage015 out. It’s called adrenal fatigue, and can gravely affect our body’s stress coping mechanisms, including immune response. Most Americans are constantly in a state of adrenal fatigue, and should be taking support supplements. These can be ashwagandha root, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, cordyceps, ginseng, glycyyrrhiza, rehmannia root, rhodiola, Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and Vitamin C. Consult your primary care physician or natropathic doctor for dosage or for the right supplement for you.

But long-term abuse of the adrenals is not recommended. Try to find the time to fit in rest and relaxation in between bouts of writing and work. Your body will thank you.

3) Sleep more!

This may seem like a no-brainer, or perhaps may not even appear as an issue for most people. But believe it or not, sleep has a MAJOR effect on one’s immune system function. Consistent lack of sleep stresses the body, and throws a lot of body systems into a tizzy. So when your body is telling you that you are nearing the head-bobbing stage (next up, hallucinations!), do it a favor and throw some Zzzzz’s at it. It does a body good. Here are some other less than palatable effects of lack of sleep.

4) Time management/morning writing routine

While many NaNo writers have day jobs and tend to rely on our evenings to shoehorn 1,667 or more words each night, sometimes that can be harder than it sounds. We have obligations, families, projects, pets. Emergencies come up. NaNo sometimes gets pushed back a day or two, and we’re stuck playing catchup until deep into the night.

Believe it or not, nighttime hours are not the human being’s natural waking time. Our bodies evolved to produce melatonin and serotonin based on the amount of light we are being exposed to, called the Circadian Rhythm. When the sun sets, the body responds to darkness by producing serotonin and releasing melatonin to start the sleep cycle. Serotonin kicks off sleep while melatonin regulates your sleep pattern and helps to reduce body stresses. Sleep is magical!

So allowing your body to naturally follow its sleep pattern and wake up with the early birds, allows your body to deal with the stresses you put it through during the day, and wake up refreshed. You can then get in an extra hour or two of hardcore writing before work, and then a little less on your plate for when you come home in the evening.

Ensuring a good night’s sleep also takes into account good food.  Melatonin is derived from serotonin in the body, and serotonin is manufactured from the amino acid tryptophan that we can only find in our food. Tryptophan can be found in foods like cottage cheese, brown rice, avocados, bananas, walnuts, tomatoes, soy protein, meat and turkey, and starchy carbohydrates like bread, pasta, carrots and potatoes. And again, Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is also vital to making serotonin, found in sunflower seeds, toasted wheat germ, fresh fish like tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel, walnuts, and dried beans like soy, lentils, and lima, avocados, brown rice, spinach, kale, turnip greens, sweet peppers, potatoes, prunes, and raisins.

And getting away from the computer screen at least two or three hours before bedtime is advised. The light from the computer messes with the S/M levels, as well, and can delay sleep. So when you’re tossing and turning after a night on the computer, that isn’t an excuse to get back on the computer to throw down another couple hundred words, or surf Facebook, or even update your word count. Keep away from all electronic device screens, and snuff out as many lights in the bedroom as possible. That even includes nightlights. The less light that your body is exposed to, the more your natural Circadian Sleep Rhythm will rock you off to dreamland.

5) Stand more, sit less

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If you have a desk job, and then sit all night at a computer at home pecking away at your NaNo word goal, you could be rolling down a very bad hill of health risks. According to Health Magazine, “Sitting all day can flatten out the curve of the lower back, for instance, and can put a strain on the upper body, shoulders, and arms,” and can lead to increased risks in developing diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

You can perhaps buy one of those big inflated sitting balls, but standing helps you burn calories.

And it also helps with blood circulation. The farther the blood travels away from the heart and slinks over from oxygenated arteries to oxygen-deficient veins, the more non-existent any pumping action is. The only way that our bodies have evolved to provide venous return of blood to our heart for re-oxidation is through the pumping action of our muscles as we walk or move around. It is for this reason that if we are sitting for hours at a time, blood pools in our feet. Hence, blood flow is hampered and therefore the longer it takes for nutrients and oxygen to get to our tissues.

So find a place you can set your laptop down and comfortably stand for a while to type. If you need to rest, sit for a few minutes to rest, and get back up on those feet. Alternate. Taking two-minute breaks now and then to move around or strike a yoga pose or three is also a good habit to integrate into the NaNo ritual.

A fatigue mat might be a good investment, as well, so that your knees also get a rest.

Still demonizing fats – fair enough to ban?

The FDA looking to ban trans fats? Really?

On one hand, the news is music to my ears. But when I really stop to think about it … I feel like it’s like opening Pandora’s Box.

Trans fats are dangerous, we know that. For decades, we’ve been artificially altering the chemical makeup of foods for taste and shelf-life sale-ability. Health was never a consideration. Studies were never done on the potential hazards, and how the body would even respond to such foreign chemically composed “foods” (or “food-like products,” as journalist and author Michael Pollan likes to say). And it’s in EVERYTHING – even foods that say ‘no trans fats.’ Troublesome, but true.

And whenever a societal pressure regarding an unhealthy food product reaches government ears, their reaction tends to be the same. DECLARE WAR on said unhealthy product, and BAN, BAN, BAN! Remember the soda ban in New York City? That didn’t get very far. And there is a very clear reason: People feel they have a right to choose, and pick their own poisons.

My suggestion? Education. It is key in every situation like this. Yes, the cigarette industry is still going strong, but persistent education on the dangers has made the American public hyper-aware of the risks of smoking. In fact so much so, that it’s become socially acceptable to “bully” friends and family to stop smoking. I know, because I did it with my grandmother when I was 13, by stealing her cigarette packs and throwing them away. After a few angry phone calls and a good amount of wasted money later, she allowed herself to listen to my pleas. Today, laws have been enacted to keep smoke away from doors to establishments. And you just don’t see “smoking sections” in restaurants today. Amazing what a little knowledge can do. Yes, people still smoke. But it’s their choice to do so. Our job is simply to inform them.

But the education on nutrition – I haven’t found that to be as public as it needs to be. It is only starting to surface in the American consciousness that being overweight or obese is dangerous to both personal health and the country’s economic stability and healthcare industry.

In the above linked article by Alexandra Sifferlin, in “7 foods that won’t be the same if trans fats are banned,” she mentions some of the possible replacements for trans fats in highly processed foods such as doughnuts, creamers, etc. Soybean, canola, and vegetable oils top the list. While on the surface, the idea of throwing out trans fats and using oils low in saturated fats sounds like a winning combo, it won’t in the long run. And I won’t even get into the GMO issue presented by these alternatives.

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Okay, here I will go as far as saying: The problem ISN’T trans fats! *gasp!* Before you start pointing out the failure in my logic, hear me out. The problem today is that the very things humans find savory – fats, salts, and sugars – are far too prevalent in today’s processed foods. What we are missing is the know-how to make informed choices between the foods and food-like products, both in restaurant establishments and at the supermarket.

And statistics back me up.

“Solid fats contribute an average of 19 percent of the total calories in American diets, but few essential nutrients Picture 3and no dietary fiber,” it says in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Males consume 2,475 calories daily and  females consume  1,833 calories. Men and women eat an average of 33 percent fat. While that is within range of fat recommendations (20-35%, or 400-700 calories/45-75 grams of fat), that 20-35% of recommended fat refers only to the healthier unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The majority of fat calories consumed today by American men and women are primarily from  saturated fat. The American Heart Association puts a cap of saturated fat intake at 7 percent of total daily calories, or 140 calories/16 grams a day. Trans fat is recommended at less than one percent.

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So my recommendation is not cutting out all the bad stuff in food. I am a nutritionist, and I still eat French fries, cookies, crackers – but on occasion. It’s about learning how to eat in moderation! Knowing what is bad for us, and why goes a long way in making healthier choices. We eat these foods filled with less than healthy things, because we enjoy them. Frankly, they taste good! We should still allow the American public to enjoy them – but teach them how to view them as treats, and not an everyday, go-to food-like product. As a coach, I work with people to add healthy things into their diet, rather than take away things they take pleasure in (because taking that away, even figuratively, makes a person covet the off-limits food even more).

Shouldn’t the FDA think about doing the same? Maybe regulation and bans are not the answer.

Follow your gut this season

I’ve been noticing the changes. A few weeks ago while thumbing through a cooking magazine, the only recipes that sounded palatable were soups. My partner has been looking at my salads with disdain and has been seeking solace in the warmer, heartier dishes like chilli and stir fry’s. I’ve been eating cheese by the fistfuls, and my hunger has been literally insatiable these last couple of weeks.

One of my masterpieces that I make every year (and disappears as quickly as it's made!) - tortellini, kale, tomato, mushrooms, spices, and hot Italian sausage in homemade veggie stock.
One of my masterpieces that I make every year (and disappears as quickly as it’s made!) – tortellini, kale, tomato, mushrooms, spices, and hot Italian sausage in homemade veggie stock.

So, what’s going on?

You may laugh at us in the desert when I say that my body knows winter is coming after only a few nights of 70-degree temps. But after about six months of nighttime lows hovering around 95, that’s a noticeable difference. The changing of the seasons – the cooler weather, the fewer and fewer minutes of daylight – is already upon us here in Arizona, despite days still soaring to about 100 degrees.

I don’t think I’ve ever been that aware of my hunger cycles as I have this past year. At first, I didn’t know what my problem was this week. My stomach always had this itchy hunger sensation. I would throw a few berries or a tortilla or three at it to satisfy the sensation. But of course, knowing that an abundance of carbs like that turns to fat, I have been really keeping a tight lid on that.

But then I thought – why should I??

That is a learning curve we women must face as the summer descends into fall. One of our bodies’ most natural response is to jack up our hunger hormones in fall, so that we eat more. Why?

Because whether we like it or not, ladies, fat is our friend in the wintertime. I know it is mine. I cannot handle cold well. In fact, in wintertime I am just about a ball of ice. I huddle underneath a blanket every chance I get. Fat is our body’s natural insulator and our bodies have, over time, instinctively developed a craving for fats and warm, hearty foods. Out in the wilderness, we’d be suffering through lean times as plants died for the winter. Our fat would not only keep us warm, but be our body’s slow burning source of fuel to keep us going without the sweet sugars of warmer days.

And so denying this instinct is like denying a very real piece of ourselves as a living creature. Eating for the lean winter is what we’re designed to do. Personally it’s been frustrating, but understanding where my body is coming from has made the transition easier to bear.

But alas, I know I don’t speak for all women when I say I can afford to put on a couple of pounds. And heaven knows, modern society no longer experiences those ‘lean’ winter months. So how do we adapt?

If you look at some of the older, more ancient methods of health such as Ayurvedic or Traditional Chinese medicines, they address how to change with the seasons. Of course, some of this also depends on your constitution as an individual with these more holistic approaches to food and wellness. But I find a very large kernel of truth in these medicinal modalities, as they had developed in a time when human lives closer mimicked that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Considering Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), eating warm foods helps keep our immune system up to snuff as cold weather swoops in. As Allie Chee writes, “Continuing to eat foods with a ‘cold’ energy (salads, raw foods, frozen or iced drinks) will tax the immune system as it works overtime to warm the body. A few results of too much cold in the body are dread of cold, joint aches and pains, cold and sore lower back, and frequent colds and flu.”

Spicy hot foods aren’t suggested, either. As I wrote in a former post, hot spicy foods promotes sweating, and helps bring our blood to the surface, so that it can let out heat and cool the body’s core. So when it’s cold outside, eating to promote heat elimination is the opposite of what we want to do.

To satisfy our body’s natural, seasonal cravings, Chee suggests we back off on the fruits and instead add a little more protein to the diet such as beef and lamb, chicken, turkey and salmon.

Alternatives to fresh, cold salads are inwardly warming spices (e.g., cinnamon, cumin, or cardamom), and foods and herbs such as garlic and onions, parsley, or basil. TCM also recommends more intake of root vegetables and leafy greens, aduki and black beans, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, winter squash, pumpkin, walnuts, and lightly and naturally salted foods such as sea salt, kelp, and sea vegetables.

Again, we are not going hog-wild on the meats, nor the fat. It’s all in moderation. We are designed to eat to take the edge off hunger – or simply until we are “no longer hungry” – and not to eat until we can’t eat any more.

TCM also suggests backing off on the fruit juice, raw salads, soy milk, and tofu.

Ayurveda, an ancient traditional Hindu system of medicine, has similar suggestions. But Ayurveda is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing. Body systems are broken down into “doshas,” or simply put, body energies and constitutions. The doshas are vata, pita, and kapha.

Fall into wintertime season is associated with the vata dosha, which is characterized by dry, cold and rough (both in our own bodies and in the environment). Because of this, oily, warm, and heavy foods are recommended.

According to one website, Ayurveda favors the following dietary alterations for the wintertime:

  • Warm foods and drinks, unctuous sweet, sour and salty
  • Grains like oats (cooked), rice, wheat
  • All dairy products (including ghee)
  • Natural sweeteners like whole cane sugar, molasses, honey
  • All oils (good unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olive, canola, peanut, sesame oils)
  • Sweet fruits like grapes, cherries, peaches, melons, bananas, avocado, coconut, apricots, dates (apples and pears if cooked)
  • Well-cooked vegetables, beets, carrots asparagus, green beans, zucchini, sweet potatoes, onion (cooked)
  • All nuts/seeds (good sources of healthy, fatty oils!)
  • Spices like black pepper (in small quantity), cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger, salt, clove

They also suggest a reduction in:

  • Dry, food, cold/iced foods and drinks, foods having predominantly pungent, bitter or astringent tastes
  • Barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye, (dry) oats
  • Dried fruits, apple, pear, pomegranate, cranberry, persimmon
  • Raw vegetables (leafy greens are ok if oil added)
  • Potato, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, peas, tomatoes
  • Drinking warm water at regular intervals in a day can also help balance the Vata element, too. So keep the herbal teas coming!

As you can see, the wisdom of the ages has been taking note of our natural rhythms. While both TCM and Ayurveda are highly influenced by their individual cultures, weather patterns, and available food sources, they have a few things in common related to seasonal nutritional needs. We seek warming, cooked foods like soups and stews to stave off the cold climate, therefore not taxing our bodies with keeping up our body temperature. We crave nuts and seeds and oils to satisfy our desire for fats (the healthy kinds!) to insulate ourselves. And we favor starchy vegetables, full of sugars that turn to fat in our bodies as our metabolism naturally slows for the season, and we move around less, sitting at home watching the inclement weather outside.

So honor your body this season, and honor your needs. Eat seasonally. This month in Arizona, the foods in season are: Arugula, basil, bok choy, broccoli, carrots, corn, dates, figs, green beans, green onion/scallions, herbs, Key limes, lettuce, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, spinach, squash (winter), sweet peppers, tomatoes, and turnips.

For a list of more local Arizona foods by season, visit Fill Your Plate’s website.

Eat well!