November 7, 2017
Healthy Alternatives: Holiday Edition!
With the holiday season fast approaching, I’m sure many of you will soon find yourself in a complete whirlwind of family gatherings, holiday parties, traveling, shopping trips, work deadlines and more. All of these extra commitments and tasks can cause stress on your mind and body if you don’t take care of yourself during this busy, but exciting time.
One easy way to make sure you get through the holiday season healthy is keeping the quality of what you eat at the forefront of your mind. You should absolutely enjoy the season and the treats that come with it, but there are so many fantastic alternatives to the traditional calorie-laden and processed foods you may be used to that inevitably zap you of energy and certainly aren’t providing your body the quality nutrition it needs to get through the day! I’m excited to share with you a few alternative ingredients that can easily be used in traditional recipes that will keep you satiated, energized and most importantly, healthy!
Pantry Staples: Healthy Alternatives
Traditional Ingredient: Enriched White Flour Healthy Swap: Almond Flour
Why Swap: I consider myself an almond flour addict because I use it multiple times a week in many of my diet staples: pizza crust, bread, cookies, donuts and more! The wonderful thing about almond flour is that it is super nutritious and incredibly easy to use. We all know how healthy almonds are for us and almond flour is simply ground up almonds! This means you are getting all the benefits of almonds in flour form including an abundance of vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, dietary fiber, and heart-healthy fat. Plus, almond flour balances blood sugar unlike overly processed enriched white flour.
Traditional Ingredient: White Sugar Healthy Swap: Unrefined Sugars
Why Swap: A general rule of thumb is that the less sugar you consume, the healthier you will be. When you do need to sweeten a recipe, such as cookies, cakes or breads, steer clear of white sugar (refined) and instead use a small amount of an unrefined sugar such as honey, agave, maple syrup, coconut sugar or even medjool dates. Once you start weaning yourself off of white sugar, you’ll begin to notice you no longer crave it. Plus, you’ll only need a small amount of unrefined sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth! Unrefined sugars are better for our bodies because they are in their natural state (e.g., haven’t been processed) and therefore still contain nutritional value unlike overly processed and refined white sugar.
Traditional Ingredient: Vegetable Oil/Trans Fat Healthy Swap: Coconut Oil or Avocado Oil
Why Swap: Fats are the most caloric macronutrient (9 calories per gram), and so naturally, they give us a great amount of energy and keep us satiated for hours after eating them. Additionally, they recharge our brains, build hormones, cell membranes, increase our body’s fat burning (yes, it’s true), and make us look and feel awesome. Choosing the right kinds of fat to eat is incredibly important as not all fats are created equal. Fats like coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil are considered “good” fats because they provide a host of benefits for your health including heart-health, reduce LDL (or bad cholesterol), benefit blood sugar levels and so much more. Vegetable oils like corn, soybean, and canola oil, should be avoided because they are processed, unstable and inflammatory for your body.
My number one rule when it comes to fats, however, is to avoid trans fats always! They are listed as “partially hydrogenated oils” on ingredient lists. Trans fats have been linked to cancer, obesity, metabolism issues, heart disease, and much more. Studies have shown that trans-fat promotes inflammation in the body and brain, leaving you with memory loss, depression and reduced cognition.
Traditional Ingredient: Milk Chocolate Healthy Swap: Dark Chocolate
Why Swap: If you are solely eating milk chocolate and avoiding the dark stuff, you are missing out on some delicious health benefits! The nutritional quality in milk chocolate pales in comparison to dark chocolate, which hasn’t been processed with an abundance of milk and sugar and instead contains much of the original cocoa bean, which is where the nutrition lies! The cocoa bean is a great source of flavonoids. Flavonoids are phytochemicals that have antioxidant abilities. The higher the cocoa content (aim for 70% cocoa content and up!), the more flavonoids, and the better for you the chocolate becomes.
Bonus Booster Ingredients: Collagen Peptides & Adaptogens
Collagen Peptides: Collagen itself is the most abundant protein in the human body and is the glue that holds us together. Collagen is found in the bones, muscles, skin and tendons where it provides strength and structure. Unfortunately, as we age (as early as 29!) our body begins to lose collagen and the supple elasticity that comes with it. This happens for a number of reasons including daily free-radical damage. Fortunately, supplementing with collagen peptides will restore your skin’s moisture and improve its elasticity, tone and vibrancy! Containing essential amino acids, collagen peptides are ideal for muscle repair and recovery. They are incredibly satiating so they are great in staving off hunger. They’re also wonderful in alleviating joint pain, stiffness and inflammation. What’s more is that collagen also supports a healthy gut! It contains certain amino acids that are essential to healing and strengthening damaged intestinal lining. These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this powerful supplement.
How to use them? I use them every single day, sometimes twice a day! Here are just a few of my favourite ways to include them in my routine: A scoop in my coffee; mixed in my lattes; stirred in chia puddings; blended into smoothies; added to my homemade chocolate; in homemade baked goods; and more!
Adaptogens: Adaptogens are natural substances that greatly improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress (biological, environmental, etc.). Think of them as a buffer for stress. Rather than having a specific action, adaptogens help you respond to any influence or stressor, normalizing your physiological functions. Some of my favourites are in my creamy cup, full recipe below.
My Favourite Adaptogens:
- Maca: Studies show that maca has positive effects on energy and mood by tonifying and boosting the endocrine system. Positive mood leads to lower levels of anxiety, stress and depression, all three of which maca has been shown to assist in lowering. Maca has a malty, chocolatey and nutty flavour, which makes it great for desserts and baking.
- Ashwagandha: Sounds more complicated than it is, trust me! Ashwagandha increases vitality, relieves stress and boosts brain and cognitive function. Ashwagandha has an earthy, nutty taste.
- Lion’s Mane: Lion’s Mane is an edible mushroom that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its powerful cognitive-boosting abilities. It enhances your brain functions and is very useful for overall brain health!
- Triphala: Triphala is made from the fruits of three trees that grow in India. It is used as a gentle cleanser and detoxifier of the body.
How to use them? Try mixing one or two of them into your coffee, tea or soup. You can also add them to smoothies for a cooler treat. Finally, I love adding them to baked goods like cookies and bread.
All of these healthy alternatives will keep you strong mentally and physical year-round, but are especially helpful during the busy holiday season when we oftentimes spread ourselves too thin. These are just a few staples that I have on hand at all times to stay healthy and strong year-long!
Happy Holidays! xx