Sunday, January 25, 2015

Nourish Your Microbiome!

Week 4 is here! Everyone has hopefully been making some significant changes in their eating patterns. By now the 9 cups of water per day are apart of your routine, and vegetables are taking up ½ of your plate or more at your meals. You have come a long way and you should be proud of that!! Taking those steps alone will make a huge impact on your health and overall wellbeing. However, now that baseline eating patterns have been met, I am going to start highlighting ways to spruce up your healthy plates for more specific benefits. Therefore, now we are going to move into nourishing your GUT!

Listen to your “GUT FEELING”……

Did you know that your gut is considered your second brain? And that the emotions you feel throughout your day can impact the way you digest and absorb the foods you eat? Also, vice versa, the foods you eat can directly impact your emotional status! WOW! That is why supporting your gut health, is vital in helping to restore imbalances throughout your body, whether they are mental or physical. Now there is a true meaning to having a “GUT FEELING”. For instance, if the gut becomes inflamed, it can show itself in more ways than just diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating. Other signs of imbalance include mental fog, depression, decreased immunity, bacterial or yeast overgrowth, as well as food allergies and intolerances.  If the gut is inflamed, its ability to digest and absorb all the wonderful nutrients within your food greatly diminishes, leading to a further decrease in health. In order to obtain all the nutrients needed for optimal health we must have a healthy gut that can properly digest and absorb the foods we eat, and a vital part of a happy and healthy gut, is having a healthy gut flora!

Getting to know you MICROBIOME and GUT FLORA:

The human micrbiome is considered to be all of the bacteria that share our outer body space, including our skin and our entire gastrointestinal tract, including the mouth, the stomach, and small and large intestines. The gut flora on the other hand, are specifically the bacteria that co-inhabit our intestines, mainly our colon, and can weigh up to 4 pounds! Interestingly, every microbiome is unique to each individual, and is affected directly by diet, stress, and environmental factors. There is growing evidence that an imbalance, or otherwise known as dysbiosis, of our gut flora can be associated with disease, including inflammation, obesity, and irritable bowel syndrome.

However, luckily we can influence what types of bacteria reside in our gut through diet and lifestyle modification. Research has found that dietary changes can quickly change the types of bacteria that call your gut home. By promoting the growth of “friendly” bacteria you can simultaneously weed out the “bad” and consequently increase health. Therefore, taking the steps to nurture your own microbiome will naturally enhance your quality of life as well as your mood!

Growing protective “friendly” bacteria:

By reducing refined foods, sugar, and alcohol, and by increasing fruits, vegetables, fiber rich whole grains, beans, and legumes, you can support the growth of your friendly gut bacteria.  By simply replacing a Western diet with one that is high in plant based foods and fiber, can start you off in the right direction. However, long-term compliance to a plant-based diet is required to grow, establish, and nourish your gut microbiome. Below you will find great examples of foods to incorporate into your daily routine.

In many cultures, fermented foods are apart of the general diet. These fermented foods contain live cultures of “friendly” bacteria that when consumed help establish the growth of these colonies within our colon. Following are some wonderful examples of probiotic rich foods.
  • Plain unsweetened cultured dairy (yogurt or kefir)
  • Fermented veggies (kimchi, sauerkraut, etc)
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh
  • Natto
  • Miso

Some plant foods are especially high in prebiotics, which are non-digestible carbohydrates that promote the growth and activity of “friendly” bacteria in our colon. The difference between prebiotics and probiotics, is that probiotics help establish cultures within our colon, while the prebiotics fuel these cultures. Some examples rich in prebiotics are below.
  • Asparagus
  • Sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke)
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Oatmeal
  • Legumes
  • Leeks
  • Onions 

All plant foods contain fiber. Fiber helps transport healthy bacteria to your colon, and also acts as an energy source for their survival. Although we cannot digest fiber, our friendly gut flora can, fueling their growth and also simultaneously fueling our gut cells with their by-products. It is a win-win situation! Besides fueling the “friendly” bacteria, fiber has many other beneficial properties; it helps promote regularity and ease constipation, increases satiety, improves blood sugar control, reduces cholesterol levels, and reduces the risk of colon cancer. Try adding the following fiber rich foods into your diet.
  • Enjoy 1 cup of beans/legumes per day.
    • Lentils, beans, chickpeas, edamame, split pea, etc.
  • Enjoy nuts and seeds for their added fiber; especially flax and chia.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined white grains for added fiber and nutrients.
  • Avocados are a great source of fiber and healthy fats.

Alright so here is your 4th Challenge!!!
Now that you are trained master gardeners, lets start cultivating, growing, and nourishing your gut microbiome.  Here is your next challenge. Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.

Weekly Recipe Inspiration:

SuperGreen Chia Pudding

Making this chia pudding is a great way to kickstart your day and nourish your "friendly" bacteria. With plain greek yogurt, chia seeds, banana, and berries, this pudding has all the prebiotics, probiotics, and other goodies inside to keep your belly happy. And yes, with a couple handfuls of spinach, there is a serving of vegetables inside. I love to make a batch, put it in two mason jars, and have it ready to go for the early morning work days. Then all you have to do in the morning is add the granola and fresh berries.

Makes 2 servings

1 medium banana
1 cup plain organic Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any unsweetened milk)
2 handfuls baby spinach
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt
5 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup of your favorite granola
Fresh berries ( I used raspberries)


Place the banana, yogurt, almond milk, baby spinach, maple syrup, and sea salt into a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and stir in the chia seeds. Cover the bowl and place into the refrigerator. Let the mixture sit for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Spoon the mixture evenly into two mason jars, or serving glasses, and top with your favorite granola and fresh berries. Enjoy!

Optional: If you like your pudding a little less thick, just add in a bit more almond milk. You can also drizzle some coconut cream over the berries for added flavor.
Variation: I am guessing a steamed and peeled beet would taste delicious as well in place of the spinach.

Recipe Links:

Feeling Motivated??? Here is how to prepare for next week!
  • Stock up on wild caught salmon or sardines, fresh or canned.
  • Stock up on flaxseeds. Purchase them whole if you have a coffee grinder at home you can use, or purchase pre-ground, and store in the refrigerator. 
  • Purchase quality unrefined extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, flaxseed oil, and/or organic unsalted butter.
  • Throw out any oils that you have at home that are pale yellow in color, do not have a smell nor taste, and are in a clear plastic bottle. 

1. Mayer EA, Savidge T, Shulman RJ. Brain-Gut Microbiome Interactions and Functional Bowel Disorders. Gastroenterology. 2014;146:1500-1512.
2. Bischoff SC. ‘Gut health’: a new objective in medicine?. BMC Medicine. 2011:9:24.
3. Conlon MA, Bird AR. The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients. 2015;7:17-44.
4. Moreno-Indias I, Cardona F, Tinahones FJ, Queipo-Ortuno MI. Impact of the gut microbiota on the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2014;5(190):1-10.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Choose WHOLE Fruits and Veggies!

Yahoo!! You are now to week 3! Hopefully, making balanced meals and snacks is becoming easier and easier. Perhaps it is something you already did before or perhaps it is was something you had to struggle with. Either way, building balanced meals is a key aspect of eating for health! Congrats! Remember to share your progress on Instagram with #refreshme2015 so I can see how you are doing :) Now, on to plants!

I know I should eat more FRUITS AND VEGGIES, but WHY??

Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits is the corner stone of a healthy diet! One can get by with a simple diet of meat and potatoes. However, a diet containing little fresh produce will not be a diet that will help prevent chronic disease and reduce inflammation. Although fruits and vegetables do not carry many calories, they are rich in vitamins and minerals as well as bioactive compounds. Together they help reduce inflammation and support overall health and wellbeing. 

But first you might ask, what exactly is a bioactive compound? Well, bioactive compounds, or otherwise known as phytochemicals, are non-nutrient plant chemicals, that act as a defense mechanism against pests or help to attract beneficial animal interactions. Specifically, phytochemicals are the compounds that give fruits and vegetables their distinct flavors, colors, and aromas. For example, think of oranges and grapefruit, and their strong bitter flavor and aroma. This aroma is caused by flavonoids, specifically, hesperetin and naringenin, which are found mostly in the white spongy portion of the fruit. Several studies have reported a reduction in blood pressure and a reduction in inflammation with an increased intake of these flavonoids.  Pretty cool, right??

However, flavonoids are not the only phytochemical that has shown positive effects. There are many different categories, found in all plants, each with a wide variety of different benefits. Therefore, it is recommended to eat a WIDE VARIETY of whole fruits and vegetables. More and more evidence even suggests that the health benefits of the phytochemicals is dependent on the whole SYNERGY of the entire fruit or vegetable. Therefore, it is recommended to EAT fruits and vegetables instead of taking them in a supplement.

Generally, phytochemicals founds in plants have been shown to reduce the risk of major chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. That is why the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day based on a 2000 kcal diet. However, just like water, Americans tend to eat less than half of the recommendation. SHOOT!

Key Point: Eat a rainbow of WHOLE veggies and fruits!
Tip: If you are in a fruit and vegetable rut, try a new produce item per week.

What does a SERVING SIZE look like?

I know 9 servings may sound like a lot, but let me show you what 9 servings actually looks like! If you start thinking about adding in veggies or fruits in all your meals and snacks it becomes easier as you go! Also remember that 2 cups of leafy greens such as kale and spinach quickly cook down into small amounts. Below you will find examples of what a serving of fruit and vegetables actually looks like. 

  • 2 cups of leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard green, chard, lettuce, romaine)
  • 1 cup cooked 
  • 1 cup raw veggies 
  • 1 cup cooked whole or mashed beans and legumes*
*Note: If beans/legumes are not your main protein source they can count towards a serving of vegetables!

  • 1 cup of berries
  • 1 cup of diced papaya, melon, or pineapple
  • 1 medium apple, orange, kiwi, or banana, etc



Egg scramble with 1 cup veggies (broccoli and mushrooms), whole wheat toast, and 1 orange.

1 medium apple and peanut butter.

Mason Jar Salad with cooked quinoa, smoked salmon, crumbled feta, fresh mint and basil, 1 cup chopped veggies (cherry tomatoes and cucumbers), and 2 cups leafy greens

Hummus and 1 cup veggie sticks.

Stir-fry with 2 cups mixed veggies (asparagus, green cabbage, carrot, bell pepper, onions, celery, mushrooms, etc), shrimp, and brown rice. 

1 cup fresh berries and plain yogurt.


Tips to Increase Veggie Intake:
  • Put mixed greens on your plate and top with you favorite cooked dish.
    • Example: make a veggie scramble and top it on a bed of greens!
  • Steamed, roasted, or blanched vegetables can be easier to eat and digest!
  • Raw greens like spinach and kale cook down to small amounts!
  • Blend veggies into smoothies! I love to blend in sprouts, leafy greens, and even steamed beets!
  • When making sauces, add pureed or shredded vegetables.
  • In hot soups, throw in extra fresh baby spinach.
  • Have a savory breakfast instead of a sweet breakfast.

Key Point: Aim for 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
Tip: Eating more veggies than fruit is better for weight maintenance.

Do I need to buy ORGANIC?

Simply put, YES and NO.

Pesticides, which are often used to grow commercial crops, can affect the nervous system, irritate the skin or eyes, disrupt your hormones, and some may even increase the risk of cancer. Therefore, I highly recommend eating organic.

However you do not have to buy all your produce organic, especially as organic tends to cost more. Luckily the Environmental Working Group does annual research regarding which conventional produce has the highest and lowest amounts of pesticide residue. Each year they release an updated list in April. The number 1 produce has the highest amount of pesticide residue while the 51st produce item has the least.

The EWG highlights a study that found children who ate conventional produce for 5 days had high levels of pesticides in their blood. However, after 5 days of eating organic, most pesticides found had disappeared. This indicates that in just a short period of time, a healthy body is able to eliminate pesticides rather quickly. So let's get started!

Some other interesting facts reported by the EWG:

  • The average potato has more pesticides by weight than any other food
  • All imported nectarines and 99% of apple samples tested positive for pesticide residues.

Therefore, even if you don't eat completely organic, choosing to buy organic for the first column, and buying conventional for the last column, can have a huge impact on the pesticide levels within your body and save you some money!

Key Point: Buy organic for at least the first "DIRTY" column of fruits and vegetables.
Tip: Eating in season is cheaper. For example, organic nectarines in the winter are extremely expensive and probably don't taste good—so wait till summer!

Here come the SUPERSTAR Veggies and Fruits!

Cruciferous Veggies
(kale, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, brussel sprouts, watercress)

These sulfur-containing vegetables are AMAZING because they are rich in phytochemicals called isothiocyanates and indoles which have been shown to exert powerful anti-cancerous and anti-inflammatory effects. In a recent study of 1000 Chinese women, researchers found that women with high intakes of cruciferous vegetables had significantly lower levels of pro-inflammatory compounds in their blood. This is great news because inflammation is a risk factor for many chronic diseases! Try this delicious Chipotle coleslaw, and this tasty New Year's Detox soup.


Animal studies have found that shiitake mushrooms exert powerful anti-tumor properties and are therefore promoted for the prevention of cancer and reducing its progression. In some human studies, shiitake mushrooms prolonged the life of patients with advanced and recurrent stomach cancers. These mushrooms are also an excellent source of plant-based selenium. I love to simply sauté mushrooms in ghee, season them with salt, and add them to any savory meal.


I love asparagus not just because it tastes delicious, like in this Spring salad, but also because it is great for detox support and because of it’s powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities. Asparagus contains excellent amounts of minerals selenium and zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E, which are all powerful antioxidants. These help reduce inflammation in the body by quenching free radicals, which can increase the risk for cancer.

Papaya & Pineapple

Both papaya and pineapple are unique in their ability to offer digestive support because they contain digestive enzymes, papain and bromelain. These enzymes help break down protein and ease digestion, especially after a heavy meal. But the benefits do not stop there! These enzymes have also been found to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties aiding in everything from digestive upset to wound healing. Now you know why I love papaya so much! Plus its super tasty with a squeeze of fresh lime! Try this tasty papaya smoothie, or this easy papaya salad.


Don't we all love fresh berries? And there is good reason to! Berries are a rich source of phytochemicals that have shown to provide significant health benefits because of their antioxidant properties. Berries also have high amounts of vitamins C and E, which also help quench free radicals. Those that are especially rich in nutrients and bioactive compounds are blackberries, elderberries, cranberries, and blueberries. This quick berry cobbler is delicious and so is this sprouted berry smoothie!

Alright so here is your 3rd Challenge!!!
Now that you are full to the brim with exciting information on why to eat more WHOLE FRUITS AND VEGGIES, here is your next challenge. Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.


Weekly Recipe Inspiration:

Massaged Kale Salad

This is a great salad to get in a lot of your cruciferous greens in one serving. By massaging the kale with sea salt you break down the fibers without cooking it. This makes the kale easier to digest and more enjoyable to eat because it is more tender and soaks up the flavors. If you are not a kale fan, try this recipe, as it has been a hit with many kale newbies :)

Serves 4

1 bunch green curly kale (~8 leaves)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined cold-press extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (white or brown)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted maple almonds (see below for recipe)
**Crumbled gorgonzola, feta, or goat cheese
**Dried cranberries, raisins, or currants, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste


Wash your kale and shake off any excess water. You can also shake them in a clean kitchen towel.

Devein each kale leaf by pulling down along the stem towards the tip of the leaf. Chop the leaves into bite sized pieces and toss into a large bowl.

Add the sea salt and gently massage the kale for about 1 minute or until the kale leaves begin to break down and look shiny. Do not over massage otherwise it will wilt too much. Add the olive oil and the vinegar and toss well.

Finally, add the chopped almonds, cheese and dried fruit of your choice, and mix until combined. **Add as much of the cheese and dried fruit as you like.

Add the lemon juice and lemon zest if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Variation: To make this salad dairy-free swap the cheese with diced avocado.

Note: To make this a balanced meal add a lean protein such as a hard boiled egg, fried tofu or tempeh, or even baked salmon and your choice of starch (whole grain, bean/legumes, potatoes)

Roasted Maple Almonds
Makes 1 cup

1 cup almonds 
1 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Generous pinch sea salt


Preheat oven to 325. Place almonds onto a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes until fragrant. Make sure to watch that they do not burn. Set aside to cool. 

Heat a medium cast-iron pan on medium. Add the butter and the maple syrup. Stir the mixture until it bubbles a lot, becomes syrupy, and reduces in amount. Add cooled nuts, and salt. Mix well to coat. Be careful as the syrup is extremely hot. 

With a spoon or spatula spread almonds onto a plate and allow to cool. Break into pieces. Serve with the salad or eat as a snack!

Recipe Links:

Feeling Motivated??? Here is how to prepare for next week!
  • Stock up on your favorite beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Make sure to get low sodium canned beans/legumes if you like those for convenience. 
  • Stock up on your favorite organic plain unsweetened yogurt or kefir. 
  • If your feeling adventurous pick up some fermented kimchi or sauerkraut that contains live active cultures.
  • And if you like tempeh, pick up some of that too!


1. Liu RH. Dietary Bioactive Compounds and Their Health Implications. JFS. 2013;78(S1):A18-25.
2. Chanet A, Milenkovic D, Manach C, et al. Citrus Flavanones: What Is Their Role in Cardiovascular Protection?. J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60: 8809-8822.
3. EWG Shoppers Guide 2014. Accessed January 10, 2015.
4. Jiang Y, Wu SH, Shu X, et al. Cruciferous Vegetable Intake Is Inversely Correlated with Circulating Levels of Pro-inflammatory Markers in Women. JAND. 2014;114(5):700-708.
6. Pavan R, Jain S, Shraddha, Kumar A. Properties and Therapeutic Application of Bromelain: A Review. Biotech Research Int. 2012:1-6.
7. Nile SH, Park SW. Edible berries: Bioactive components and their effect on human health. Nutrition. 2014.;30: 134-144.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Energize your Eating Pattern!

Pat yourself on the back! You have successfully completed the first week of the nutrition challenge!! Although you have finished the first week, drinking 9-13 cups of water per day is still an important habit to keep. This is why your Challenge Tracker builds as the weeks continue. Keep it up! Now, on to the food :)

First HOW, then WHEN, then WHAT!

Before I even start talking about WHAT is on your plate, I need to address the HOW. Current research has shown that how you eat plays a big role in optimal health and weight. Being mindful and intuitive is at the core of how you eat. So what is mindful eating exactly? It is all about listening to your body’s hunger, fullness and satiety cues. But in order to do that you need to slow down and become aware of HOW you eat.

So the first big question you should ask yourself is “HOW AM I EATING?”
  • Are you a fast eater?
  • Do you watch TV or read while you eat?
  • Are you eating standing up?
  • In the car?
  • While walking?
  • Do you sit while you eat?
  • Do you eat alone, or with others?
  • Do you eat when you are sad, happy, bored, or anxious?
  • Do you chew your food?
  • Do you continue to eat when you are already full?
  • Do you eat only when you are hungry?
  • Do you like the foods you eat?
  • Do you skip meals?
  • Do you taste every bite you eat?
  • What are you thinking when you eat?

There are so many more questions that can be asked when trying to determine HOW someone is eating, but generally the above are a great starting place. In today’s day and age, it is quite common that we are eating on the go, eating very fast, eating when we are anxious or sad, skipping meals and replacing them with coffee, and are constantly thinking about the next “thing” that needs to get done. All of this is does NOT contribute mindful and intuitive eating. Nor does it help with eating in moderation. We are moving too fast to listen to our bodies!

Being mindful about eating allows for enhanced digestion, reduced stress, enhanced energy, and overall better body image. Implementing mindful eating strategies will increase your wellbeing without even changing the foods you eat. By simply slowing down and being present, you will eat less, feel better, and have more energy. So it is the FIRST step to ENERGIZING your eating pattern.

Mindful Eating Tips Include:
  • Slow down when eating!
    • Avoid eating on the go, in the car, or standing up. Sit down for each meal. 
  • Chew more slowly, breathe, and enjoy the flavors of your food.
    • A good tip is to take 5 deep breaths before each meal to simulate your “rest and digest” nervous system.
  • Eat away from the TV or computer!
    • Focus on the food in front of you and listen to your hunger and satiety cues.
  • Choose foods that are pleasing as well as nourishing!
    • For example, just because kale is a nutrient rich food doesn't mean all you should eat is kale. If you don’t like kale, and prefer mixed greens, great! Eat what you like!
  • Assess your hunger.
    • Eat until you are satisfied, not “stuffed”.
    • Are you really hungry, or are you bored, sad, or tired?
    • What are some activities that will give you energy and fill the void besides food?
      • Perhaps listen to your favorite music, go for a walk, read a book, call a friend or family member.
Timing of meals throughout the day is very important to balance blood sugar levels and enhance energy. For example, everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But why? As the first meal of the day, breakfast breaks our nightly fast, regenerates the energy stores that have been utilized during the night, revs up our metabolism, and refuels our brains. It has been shown that individuals who do not skip breakfast have improved problem solving skills and heightened attention and focus, compared to those that do. Secondly, a balanced breakfast helps stabilize high levels of our stress hormone cortisol which is at its highest early in the morning. This is very important because sustained high levels of cortisol are not desired, as they break down lean muscle and fat, and stimulate appetite. Skipping breakfast has therefore been linked to an increased appetite, with an increased risk for weight gain, as well as for diabetes and heart disease. Did you know that Sumo wrestlers use skipping breakfast to their advantage to help them gain weight? 

Tip: Think outside the box, breakfast can even be last night's dinner!

Also, timing of other meals and snacks is important to balance blood sugar and cortisol levels throughout the day. In controlled feeding settings, it has been shown that at least 3 meals per day improve energy and support optimal weight. Going long periods without eating stimulates the production of our stress hormone cortisol, and therefore the continued break down of lean muscle and fat to produce energy (glucose). This constant rise of cortisol can then lead to detrimental whole-body effects. This is especially important with breakfast. Eating breakfast within an hour of rising can help jump start your day!

A Few Whole-Body Outcomes of Too Much Cortisol Are: 
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Weight Gain
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Inhibits the “Rest and Digest” nervous system which can lead to digestive problems

Tip: If you are feeling hungry between meals choose a balanced snack to keep you energized.

The three macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are all required to fuel the body properly. However, too much of one, or too little of the other, will cause an imbalance within the body. Therefore, eating a balanced plate at each meal (including breakfast) is vital for sustained energy and optimal health. By simply building a balanced plate you can reduce hunger cravings later in the day, support weight loss or weight maintenance, sustain energy, and balance your blood sugar—especially when eating breakfast! Also by eating a balanced plate, you naturally eat more WHOLE FOODS. Focus on eating/buying foods that are not packaged, and if they are they should only have whole food ingredients that you can read and identify! See the comparison of two examples below:

YES! Example: Mary’s Gone Crackers Original—Ingredient list: organic whole grain brown rice, organic whole grain quinoa, organic brown flax seeds, organic brown sesame seeds, filtered water, sea salt, organic wheat-free tamari.

NO! Example: Ritz Whole Wheat CrackersIngredient list: unbleached enriched flour, whole grain wheat flour, soybean oil, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, leavening, salt, high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin

In the first example all ingredients are whole foods, except for a little bit of organic wheat-free tamari. Although tamari is not a "whole food", in and of itself is still a quality food item. However, in the second example, the Ritz whole wheat crackers have a ton of added ingredients that are no longer whole, nor do they resemble food.

What does a BALANCED PLATE look like?

Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, cooked or raw.
  • Lettuces, kale, collards, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, green beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas, carrots, cauliflower, sprouts, cabbage, brussel sprouts, eggplant, celery, beets, artichokes, radishes, etc.
Fill ¼ of your plate with lean protein.
  • Eggs, chicken, fish, pork, beef, lamb, shellfish, etc
  • Tofu, tempeh, edamame, beans, lentils, hummus, etc
  • Plain yogurt (Greek or European), kefir, cottage cheese
Fill ¼ of your plate with whole grains, beans/legumes, or starchy vegetables or fruit.
  • Quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, teff, amaranth, barley, oats, cornmeal, etc.
  • Black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, split peas, lentils, etc.
  • Sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squash, sweet corn, plantain, etc.
  • Apples, bananas, citrus, berries, pears, melons, pineapple, papaya, etc.
Use whole food fats, healthy oils, and cheeses in moderation as you choose.
  • Avocados, nuts, seeds, etc
  • Extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, ghee, flax oil, etc
  • Feta, goat, mozzarella, parmesan, blue cheese, brie, etc
Note: If you are an endurance athlete (high intensity training athlete) you may need to increase your proportion of starchy vegetables, whole grains, and/or beans and legumes.

Breakfast Example: Veggie scramble 
  • Non-starchy vegetables: kale, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes
  • Lean protein: 2 eggs
  • Starch: 2 sprouted corn tortillas
  • Extras: ¼ sliced avocado

Lunch Example: Mason Jar Salad 
  • Non-starchy Vegetables: mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes
  • Lean Protein: shredded chicken
  • Starch: garbanzo beans
  • Extras: feta and vinaigrette

What does a BALANCED SNACK look like?

Building a balanced snack may already be an intuitive habit you have formed. Yet none-the-less, it is just a vital as building a balanced plate. Although eating an apple is a healthy snack choice, it is best to add some protein or fat along with it. The protein and fat will help gradually release the natural sugars from the apple into your blood stream, keeping you energized and fuller longer. Therefore, with every snack try to combine the following:
  • Pick a carbohydrate (C) rich food, preferably a whole grain, fresh fruit, or veggies
  • Add a protein (P) and/or a fat (F)

Snack Examples:
  • 1/2 apple (C) with a T of peanut butter or 14 almonds (P+F)
  • 1 tamari/seaweed brown rice cake (C) with 1/3 avocado (F) and gomasio 
  • Banana (C) and a hard-boiled egg (P+F)
  • 1 cup veggies (C) and 1/4 cup hummus (P+F)
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese (P) mixed 1 T ground flaxseed (F) and fruit (C)
  • Black bean chips (1oz) (C) and 1/4 cup guacamole (F)

Alright so here is your 2nd Challenge!!!
Now that you are full to the brim with exciting ways to ENERGIZE your EATING PATTERN, here is your next challenge. Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.

Weekly Recipe Inspiration:

Spiced Chickpea, Carrot, and Tomato Soup

This hearty soup is a delicious balanced meal if served alongside a salad. It packs quite a bit of protein and fiber, due to the bone broth and the chickpeas. Make sure to get the bone broth, not the chicken stock, as these are two different products. This soup can easily be made vegan by swapping the ghee for olive oil and using a vegetable broth instead of the bone broth. Just make sure to add in some extra plant protein (sautéed tempeh or tofu with a salad) because the protein content will go down if you do not use the bone broth. 

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 large carrots, halved and thinly sliced
2-3 fresh sprigs of thyme
1-28 oz can of pureed tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
1 quart organic chicken bone broth, unsalted (I used Pacific)
½ tablespoon + ¼ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
2-15 oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon chipotle powder (harissa would be good too!)
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
Garnish: freshly grated parmesan cheese and additional basil


Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the ghee, onion, and garlic. Stir and sauté until soft. Add the carrots and thyme, and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, bone broth, and sea salt. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat, and just slightly puree the soup with an immersion blender. Just make sure not to over puree the soup. Leave some chunks for added texture.

Return the soup back to the heat. Smash 1 cup of the chickpeas with the back of a fork until mushy. Add smashed and whole chickpeas to the soup, and stir in the chipotle powder. Toss in the basil and allow to simmer about 10 more minutes.

Top each bowl with freshly grated parmesan cheese and additional basil. Serve with a side green salad of your choice for a balanced meal. For example the Garlic Caper Winter Harvest Salad would be delicious!

Note: If you want you can add in organic lean ground meat of your choice to make it even heartier. I would sauté the ground meat along with the onions and garlic. 

More Tasty Recipe Links:

Feeling Motivated??? Here is how to prepare for next week!
  • Stock up on your favorite organic fruits and vegetables especially those from the crucifer family like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. 

1. O’Niel CE, Byrd-Bredbenner C, Hayes D, et al. The Role of Breakfast in Health: Definition and Criteria for a Quality Breakfast. JAND. 2014. Suppl(3)114;12:S8-S26
2. Smith KJ, Gall SL, McNaughton SA, et al. Skipping breakfast: longitudinal associations with cardiometabolic risk factors in the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study1–3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92:1316-25.
3. Mathieu J. What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating? JADA. Dec 2009.1982-1987
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