5 Simple Things to Start Doing TODAY to achieve OPTIMAL HEALTH in the Kitchen.

Sometimes we assume Optimal Health requires endless hours of exercise, giving up our favorite foods, and becoming some crazy obsessed health freak!

But is that actually healthy?

Health is actually an accumulation of all our choices, actions, and thought processes, as well as many other factors.  For example, if we exercised as we are supposed to 3-5 days a week, 30-60 minutes, but hated the entire process, dreaded going to the gym, felt miserable and exhausted after, would this be brining out to Optimal Health?  I would argue that Optimal Health is taking care of all aspects of your health, no matter how big or small!  Which is where I came up with the idea for this article.
Sometimes I see people “putting in not much effort towards a healthier lifestyle” because it seems overwhelming and daunting.  Yet, as an outside source I can easily see a few areas that can be minorly adjusted, and with a simple change can have positive health benefits.  Here are 5….

1)   Start cooking with Coconut oil/Butter. I often see vegetable oils, Canola Oild, and all sorts of oils around the houses of my friends and family.  Vegetable oil, and Canola oil, form my understanding is pretty much considered toxic!  I know for one thing, the processing of Canola involves using hexane, which in high dose consumption is a toxic substance.  Canola oil is at this point estimated to be made of 90 % of genetically modified ingredients, which in no way can be good for our health!  I would completely get that out of your house.  Replace the oils you use in the frying pan with butter and conconut oil (these oils stay stable, meaning become less toxic/cancerous at a higher frying temperature).  They are also naturally produced sources.  Ensure you get your olive oil from a good source, and unrefined, don’t cheap out!  For salads, and dishes that won’t be heated use your olive oil!
You can read more about canola oil here: http://www.naturalnews.com/026630_oil_canola.html#

2)Get Rid of Artificial Sweeteners.
For the longest time when I worked in the diet industry I recommended sweeteners, they were the perfect solution to sugary foods, which were obviously the devil and would pack on the pounds.  (This is when I didn’t believe in moderation, and ignored the evidence on artificial sweeteners).  In a nut shell evidence now shows that artificial sweeteners in the long run actually cause MORE weight gain rather than drinking/eating real sugars.   For me, artificial sweeteners cause huge gastric upset, bloating, gas, distention of the stomach, mood swings, and anxiety!!  There is a ‘pop’ called XEVIA, that I enjoy, yet is made with Stevia.  I know every time I have the pop that I end up burping so like I tell all my clients, listen to your body.  It may taste delicious, but if it’s doing something to your body stop ingesting it, and if necessary, in moderation!  To read as much as you want about artificial sweeteners, follow this link to some good scholarly articles:

3.  Start adding some fresh squeezed lemon to your water (and drink it through a straw!).
Beyond my personal experience with lemons (helping drastically with digestion, and recovery from exercise), lemons are an amazing fruit.  By drinking fresh squeezed lemon in your water before a meal you help to stimulate the acids in your stomach to prepare to digest the food in your next meal.  From what I understand my improvement in recovery from exercise was most likely a result of the lemons helping the function of my liver, which is the major detoxification organ of the body.  It also adds flavour to your water, if you find it challenging to ingest enough.  Lemons are acidic and can eat away at the enamel of your teeth, by drinking from a straw there is less damage.

4.  Get rid of condiments (or at least minimize).
The amount of crap that comes bundled up in our ketchup, salad dressing, pasta sauce is ridiculous!  For the sake of convenience, we end up ingesting a handful of chemicals and toxins.  My theory is if I wouldn’t go to the store and buy potassium sorbate, I am not sure why I would add it to my salad dressing?  Overall it’s better for health to eat things that you can grow/slaughter yourself- not harmful chemicals that come from who knows where!  I like the looks of this recipe: http://www.thesweetbeet.com/buttermilk-dressing/.
I understand that these ‘foods’ add flavour to our meals, and taste pretty darn good, but there are much healthier alternatives!  To make your own salad dressing can take less than 5 minutes, and lasts for plenty of time in the fridge.  This way you know exactly what is going on your salads, and there isn’t hours spent preparing in the kitchen.  Making something like ketchup would most likely take a bit longer, so what I would suggest instead is learn how to make your meals more flavorful from the start, therefore not needing the ketchup.  For example, I used to like to put ketchup on my eggs, but now by adding onions, garlic, salt pepper, fresh bell peppers, and avocado (afterwards) I find no need for ketchup!  One that I found tough to give up was packaged sauces (for marinades, or the occasional pasta).  I used to think it took forever to prepare a pasta sauce, which is why preparing in advance, or adding a variety of spices to a basic tomato sauce can make things fast and simple.

5.   Eat more fat and protein!
Did you know fats and protein are the food groups that fill you up and make you feel full?  Ever notice you can pile in 5 bowls of cereal, or 3 plates of pasta and not feel full after?
Protein also makes you feel full longer as it is more slowly digested than carbohydrates, and because of it’s effects on insulin.  Protein keeps blood sugars stable over time (rather than carbs which spike insulin) which can help to control appetite and cravings.  Fat consumption releases compounds into our body that tells us we are getting full, compounds called Oleic acid are one of these ‘helpers’ and can be read about here: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fat-fills-you-up/#axzz2q8xrIAS0.   
This doesn’t mean pile in the fat and protein into your meals, but instead ensure you have all the food groups, which should help you to prevent overeating.  My favourite foods to have around the house are avocados, almonds, hard boiled eggs, and pre cooked chicken, I find I can add these foods on the side of any dish I make!
Protein powders saved us in Costa Rica.  We purchased a package of clean whey protein before we left, and mixed this with our XTRA while we were gone whenever we couldn’t find a tasty looking restaurant/snack, when we were on long bus rides, and rather than shitty airplane food!  It’s pretty light too, so didn’t take up much room in our bag.     

Perhaps these would be good goals to 2014 and better health?  Give them a try and let me know how you feel!!!

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