An overview of my forthcoming new book, “Nourish your Self Whole: A Guide to Core Nutritional Pillars, with Achievable Steps for Vibrant Health.”
Healthy food and lifestyle choices are more than virtuous practices. They are often the magic key to keeping our body running in its optimal and precision-tuned natural state of wellness. The poor choices we make are frequently the driving force behind our body’s undue degradation, far more than most people realize.
The encouraging news that I’m excited to share with you in this book is that vibrant and enlivening health are well within reach. Good food is medicine. Weaving the four nutritional pillars in this book into your life can help create substantial healing for your body and get you back into the shape in which you can thrive. This will inevitably lead to a more fulfilling and energetic life. And, I believe, it’s one of the ultimate acts of self-love.
Rather than write an exhaustive overview of nutrition and all the things we could do to be healthier, I have distilled the nutrition steps in this book down to the four most highly leveraged and important “pillars” for good health. Even those of you with a crazy busy modern life can implement some of these steps and start to improve. Every step you take, even small ones, make a difference. There is plenty within to get you on a great path to feel amazing!
These tips can help you:
Prevent disease and in some cases reverse,
balance weight without worrying much about calories(eat plenty of the good stuff!),
We all have unhealthy junk foods we know we shouldn’t eat, but it can seem we just can’t help ourselves sometimes.
Over the years, as I’ve taken on healthy eating more seriously, I felt like I had to find some alternatives that would still allow me to feel like I was indulging in favorite treats, but without as many negative consequences. Thankfully, I discovered many fun and delicious alternatives to my favorites (corn chips and pastries at the top of the list).
The items listed below are a few of my favorite healthier cheat foods. They are all very tasty, paleo friendly, gluten free and on the healthier side compared to mainstream options. You can find more on my Favorite Foods Shopping List on my website.
They are linked to Amazon if you want to try some out. You can also find most of these items at a local health food store, like Whole Foods, or better yet a locally owned facility.
SNACKS & APPETIZERS:
Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips: These are AMAZING! So light and crispy. Tastes surprisingly like corn chips. They are made from Cassava and fried in Avocado oil. Both are much better for you than other chips made with cheap industrial seed vegetable oils which are rancid and toxic. Sweet Potato Chips or Blue Corn Chips: Jackson’s Honest chips are fried in coconut oil, which is a better option than cheap vegetable oils. Mary’s Crackers: These are gluten free and relatively clean ingredients if you want a crackery snack. They have many flavors. Crunchy and nice. Coconut Almond Butter: by Maranatha. This is so tasty! Creamy and delicious. A blend of almond butter with coconut cream. One of my favorite treats is a tablespoon of it.
These are lower glycemic load “carb” alternatives that won’t wreak as much havoc on your body as many refined flours. You can bake with these or use them for a number of cooking needs. They taste great! They are paleo friendly and gluten free. You should still be mindful about how much you indulge.
Paleo Pancake and Waffle Mix by Birch Benders. This mix is sooo good. Totally hits my need for occasional pancakes, without the giant carb hit. Cassava Flourby Otto’s Naturals: This flour is made from Yucca root. Another great alternative baking flour that is a staple in low glycemic non-wheat flour baking. Bob’s Almond Flour: so great for baking. Makes yummy chocolate chip cookies (see my recipe)! Cassava and Coconut Flour Tortilla’s by Siete. These taste good and are a great alternative for those that really want some kind of carb alternative for wraps or other uses. I love to use them with enchiladas and tacos.
Again, you can find more on my Favorite Foods Shopping List on my website. I’d love to hear what your favorite healthier cheats are, respond to this email and let me know! I’m always on the lookout for more good stuff.
A lower-carb alternative to a classic family recipe
This recipe is a fantastic alternative for a healthier dessert. A light and fluffy dream.
Growing up, my mom and granny made the most delicious fruit cobbler for many of our family gatherings. It’s a cherished memory and is still one of my favorite desserts. I decided to work on a modified alternative that was still as good but more paleo and low-carb friendly. I finally found the sweet spot with this recipe! (I can’t even lie and say it was rough work doing all the testing to perfect it 🙂
There are two main styles of cobbler. One is the “crumble,” which I’m not a big fan of. Another type, which I much prefer, has a thicker and more bready style of crust. This recipe falls into the second camp. It is similar to a biscuit, but moister, a little more towards a bread pudding.
My favorite fruit for it is plum. The contrast of the slightly tart with the sweet is off the charts good. I use fresh plums when they are in season. It also works well with peaches. Strawberry/rhubarb or cherries are another favorite. Fresh fruit always works well, but frozen works just fine too.
½ cup cassava flour
½ cup almond flour
¾ cup coconut milk
1 egg (optional, gives more rise & sponginess, use full cup coconut milk if not used) ½ cup sugar (coconut sugar or cane sugar) 6 Tbsp. butter (¾ stick, grass-fed preferable – coconut oil can be used as alternative) 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups cut fruit (Fresh or frozen. My favorites are: plums, peaches, tart cherries, or strawberry/rhubarb combo) Topping: 1 small can coconut cream (whip it up as directed on the can)
In a skillet or pan, bring 2 cups cut fruit, butter, maple syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla to a gentle, bubbling boil until fruit is softened (will be rather juicy by the end). Whisk together dry ingredients. Mix in coconut milk, egg and second teaspoon of vanilla. Pour fruit into a 10-inch (approx.) ceramic or glass baking dish. Pour the batter evenly over softened fruit mixture.
Cook at 350 degrees until done, about 40-50 minutes. Top should be lightly golden brown (the breading will remain partly moist internally, however).
Special notes: 1. Double ingredients for more servings. 2. You can substitute any gluten free flour for the cassava or almond.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve been asked by quite a few folks, “Is coconut really bad for you?” You may have seen some headlines recently citing a professor who called it “pure poison” and kicked off another debate.
However, most of the researchers I trust, who are looking at high-quality science, hold a much different view. When part of a healthy diet that includes a range of different types of healthy fats, coconut oil can be a healthy part of it.
One of my favorite researchers, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne (who has her Ph.D. in medical biophysics and spent years as an award winning researcher), had this to say in a recent article she wrote on the topic:
“The myopic view of coconut oil as harmful due to its high saturated fat content not only ignores the very real biological differences between medium-chain and long-chain dietary saturated fats, but is also refuted by recent, well-designed, human studies that show quite conclusively that coconut oil does not increase cardiovascular disease risk.”
In the article, Dr. Ballantyne really digs into the facts and science behind coconut oil. If you are concerned, I’d urge you to give it a read.
Also, a recent study found this to be true of coconut oil:
“Coconut oil significantly raised HDL (good) cholesterol with no differences in LDL compared with olive oil. Coconut oil did also did not differ significantly from olive oil in terms of the total cholesterol to HDL or non-HDL ratio.” (These are common indicators of “good” cholesterol stats.)
COCONUT OIL CAN BE PART OF A HEART HEALTHY DIET
In a nutshell, it’s smart to eat a well-rounded variety of healthy fats, leaning most heavily on the monounsaturated varieties, like olive, avocado, nuts and seeds. If you eat meat, try to get quality grassfed varieties which are much higher in heart healthy omega 3’s. If you decide to go with coconut oil as part of it, focus on high quality virgin and extra virgin coconut oil, which most of the studies that show its health benefits have focused on.
For most people, moderate amounts of saturated fats should be part of a heart healthy diet, and the medium chain varieties from coconut oil can offer many health benefits, especially when in conjunction with an overall healthy whole foods diet that is low in sugar and refined carbs, and high in vegetables (and a bit of fruit). Dr. Ballantyne and others suggest around 10-15% of daily calories from saturated fat.
When it comes to the topic of dietary fat, we’ve been sold a mountain of falsehoods over the past decades. The fats we were told were good, like industrial seed vegetable oils1, are actually largely toxic and can cause disease, while healthy fats can help protect against it. The good whole-food based fats, even quality saturated fats2, are an important part of a healthy diet.
We were told that eating fat made you fat and we heard little about sugar and refined carbs’ role in weight gain (or disease). The evidence is now clear though: Good fat is crucial to thriving health and the real triggers for weight gain are often sugar, refined carbs and bad fats.34 The healthy fats you eat in your diet, are not the same thing as stored fat in your body. There is a whole other set of mechanisms at play to trigger fat storage, and that fat storage is often born of glucose (sugar).
Having enough quality fats in your daily diet actually tends to increase metabolism and leads to sustained weight management. It’s important for most people to get enough quality fat when trying to manage weight. Our body needs nutritional caloric satiation to function properly. When you try to lose weight simply by calorie restriction, it actually reduces metabolism. It’s important to eat enough good fats so that your body isn’t overly stressed and can perform its key functions well.
Fat was also supposed to be the big cause of heart disease and a number of other health conditions. When it comes to healthy fats, the exact opposite is true. By depriving ourselves of the good fats we need, we’ve shifted towards needing to eat and burn sugar and carbs for energy, which are literally killing us!
Healthy fats are calorically very nutrient dense. They feed the body far more per calorie than carbs/sugar. Therefore, you get a much better bang for the buck and are able to satiate yourself more than you can with carbs/sugar. You have to eat a lot more carbs/sugar for your body to get the energy it needs to run than you do with fat. This is a particularly important point for those who are trying to manage their weight.
Now as I said earlier, there’s a big caveat. Highly processed and easily oxidizable and inflammatory industrial seed vegetable oils, which we’ve been told for decades are so much better for us, are actually a big villain. We’re talking canola, soy, corn, safflower, sunflower, the so-called “safe fats.” These oils are extracted through chemical processes, often using toxic substances.
Alternatively, good quality fats are essential to our existence. Here we are talking about:
sustainably sourced palm oil,
nuts and seeds,
quality animal fats (grass-fed in particular),
butter and ghee (yup, I said butter).
These are whole-food based fats. When not eating a whole food source, independent oils attained should be through expeller pressed methods, which, unlike toxic chemical processing, are safe and provide a nourishing food.
The good news is, by bringing in more healthy fats and replacing the bad, you don’t have to stop eating or cut something out of your diet, you’re simply swapping it with a form of fat that is much healthier and actually tastes even better. So it’s a win, win!
You want your fat stores to be of the utmost quality. The industrial seed oils that are often oxidized before you even use them, work against your body in a myriad of ways. Source quality is always critical! You are what you eat.
Most people find that when they shift to a diet that burns more fat for energy instead of glucose, body weight quickly stabilizes and energy is gained. Fat and glucose burn differently in the body. In most cases, good fat actually speeds up our metabolism. And it’s a more sustainable source of fuel for prolonged energy.
Oxidization is not our friend:
A key risk of consuming bad fats occurs because of a process called oxidation.5 Oxidation is a disaster for the body, and another main driver of disease, including: heart disorders, cancer and strokes. This is one reason that most vegetable oils are a problem. The bad ones oxidize easily.
Oxidation is damage caused by oxygen. It’s like when apples or bananas turn brown from air exposure. This happens with fats too, and it’s essentially what happens inside your body when you eat oxidized oils. It’s kind of like rusting on the inside. The ensuing “oxidative stress” creates “free radicals” that are inflammatory and can damage your body. Most of the bad and highly refined vegetable oils listed above cause great risk of this happening inside you.
Fried foods from industrial seed vegetable oils, leave your cells and arteries looking just like the fried foods — rugged, crusty, torn. They disable cells functioning in the short term, and ultimately destroy healthy cells, causing heart attacks and strokes. This process is also how oxidation fries arteries! While eating food fried in these bad oils is the worst of the worst, eating the oils themselves generally does the same thing over time. Eating fried foods from these oils is one of the very worst things you can do to yourself. It creates both short term damage and suffering as well as dire consequences in the long term. (You can fry your own foods in certain oils; see below for more details).
Trans & Hydrogenated Fat:
This type of fat that is now universally understood to be toxic and linked directly to coronary artery disease is called trans fat, or hydrogenated fat. Transfats and hydrogenated or even partially-hydrogenated oils are highly processed foods, typically made from industrial seed vegetable oils. They are created this way through processing, so that they can be more “shelf stable” and thus cheaper and easier to produce and store. These fats should be avoided at all times. Be mindful, even when your label says “0” trans fats, it can still include some as it allows for .5 grams or under to be listed as “0”. The more processed foods you eat with these bad oils, the more the grams will add up. ANY amount will do damage.
The lesson here: ditch the margarine and bring back the butter!
Learn more about fat from the experts: For those interested (or who need more convincing), you can really geek out on the various types of fat our body needs, and those it doesn’t. There are so many roles fat plays in thriving health. If you are interested in learning more, I’d highly suggest reading the work of Dr. Mark Hyman and/or Dr. Catherine Shanahan. Google their names along with the word “fat” for a myriad of informative articles and videos. Here are a couple of good ones:
Ever since I changed my eating habits towards a much healthier lower carb, lower sugar paleo style diet, I’ve been looking for occasional dessert treats that are healthier but still delicious and satisfying. I’ve found some nice chocolate chip cookie recipes over the years, but I’ve finally perfected one myself that I really love!
This is a mouth watering treat. The cookies are soft and tender on the inside, flaky on the outside. They’re not overly sweet, but hit just the perfect spot.
The base in these cookies is almond flour/meal. The good news about this flour is that it has about 1/3 the carbs that wheat does. Wheat clocks in over 75 grams per cup vs. about 22g for almond flour. Let’s not be too crazy by calling this a full-on health food, but it’s certainly a healthier alternative for the occasional treat. Try them out!
2 cups almond flour or meal (blanched preferred, any will do)
1/4 cup butter, ghee or *coconut oil (your choice)
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
3. Add in pre-softened or melted oil/butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly.
4. Fold in chocolate chips.
5. Spoon out a rounded tablespoon sized amount. Roll and lightly compress in your hands. Place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper (optional) and gently flatten out.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the outside edges turn golden brown. Let sit for about 10 minutes and enjoy!
This paleo friendly smoothie is silky and delightful.
Veggie and fruit smoothies can be a great way to get a nutritional kick-start to your day. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber, healthy fats and protein (if using powders). All crucial elements to living a vibrant life.
In my smoothie recipes, I typically go with about three quarters vegetable and one quarter fruit (no need to overdo it on the sugar). It’s easy to make and gives me a nice, clean, healthy boost of energy. Has all that I need to get rolling.
(Makes substitutes as desired or needed. All organic ingredients. I don’t use protein powders, but they can be a great addition.)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
3/4 cup frozen mango
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup coconut water
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
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About the Book:
Vibrant health is within grasp for most people. There are many nutrition and lifestyle steps we all can and should take to get healthy. The three nutritional steps highlighted in this book are some of the most highly leveraged for creating good health, and at the top of the list of many leading nutritional experts. It’s a great place to start and a solid foundation for anyone seeking a better-quality life. They will almost certainly make a tangible and noticeable impact on your body’s overall health and vitality. You’ll likely feel better, clearer headed, less inflamed, reduce disease risk, and if needed, stabilize towards a healthy weight.
Even those of you with a crazy busy modern life can implement some of this and start to improve. Every step you take, even small ones, make a difference.
These tips can help you:
Prevent disease and in some cases reverse,
lose weight without worrying about calories (eat plenty of the good stuff!),
generate more energy and vitality,
improve blood sugar and cholesterol,
shed longstanding body aches and pains,
clear up foggy-headedness,
create vibrant skin,
improve your mood,
help you sleep better,
likely many more improvements.
I’ll take you step-by-step through how you can integrate these changes into your current eating habits with relative ease, while creating maximal results. I’ll also give you some healthy and delicious alternatives for the things that you feel the most resistance letting go of. It will be a positive change away from the standard American diet (or as many in the Functional Medicine community call it, the more fitting “SAD” diet), to a more healthy and nutritious one that focuses on eating fresh whole foods, not processed. All three of steps work in powerful concert with each other. Each supports the other in key ways that will reveal themselves as you read further.
Following these steps can also help you lose weight, without having to count calories. Getting your body back in balance and eating nutrient dense foods your body desperately needs will often do the trick when it comes to weight management. Not only does the scientific research point to this, I’ve seen it happen many times with folks I’ve worked with, as well as through my own personal experience. I lost weight I wasn’t even trying to lose just by taking these steps.
This pumpkin custard recipe makes a great lower carb paleo alternative to pumpkin pie. It’s really decadent while also a nutrient dense, healthy dessert treat. The custard still has a similar consistency to the “meat” of pumpkin pie, without the crust – though it’s lighter, fluffier and more silky.
1-15oz canned organic puree pumpkin (or 2 cups fresh roasted pumpkin, sugar pie pumpkins have best flavor)
4 large eggs (use 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks*)
½ cup full fat coconut milk
1/3 cup organic maple syrup, or coconut sugar, or Lakanto’s Monkfruit no-sugar alternative sweetener
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (plus extra for dusting)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon Celtic or Himalayan sea salt Optional: coconut cream for “whipped cream” and chunks of dark chocolate
In a food processor combine pumpkin puree, and eggs (just enough, don’t overmix)
Pulse in coconut milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla extract, nutmeg, ginger and salt
Place empty ramekins into a deep cookie sheet or baking pan
Pour filling into ceramic ramekins until almost full (leave about 10% empty space for rising)
Pour boiling water around the ramekins in baking dish, try to cover at least ¼ ideally ½ of the height of your ramekins
Lightly dust top of each filled ramekin with nutmeg
Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a knife or toothpick comes out relatively clean
Allow to cool then refrigerate for 2 hours to set up
For whipped cream alternative: Take a can of coconut cream (not milk) and chill it for at least a few hours, overnight ideal. Whip it until frothy, like you would regular whipped cream. Doesn’t take as long to whip. Add in a small amount of vanilla before whipping as desired.
To roast your own pumpkin: Buy a small sugar pie pumpkin. Cut it in half. Scoop out seeds. Turn them face down on cookie sheet and bake for approx. 1 hour at 350 degrees. You want the pumpkin flesh to be very soft.
The items listed below are a few of my favorite healthy foods! They are all very tasty, paleo friendly, gluten free and on the healthier side compared to mainstream options. It is not an exhaustive list of things to eat, just some that I have found, especially things that are good replacements for unhealthy alternatives.
They are linked to Amazon. However, another really good option is Thrive Markets online. They have really good prices and deal exclusively in health foods. They do have a yearly membership fee, but the cost savings are pretty significant. Amazon doesn’t always have the best prices. You can also find most of these items at a local health food store, like Whole Foods (believe it or not, Whole Foods can have better prices than Amazon.)
These are lower glycemic load “carb” alternatives that won’t wreak as much havoc on your body as many refined flours. You can bake with these or use them for a number of cooking needs. They taste great. They are paleo friendly and gluten free. You should still be mindful about how much you indulge.
Paleo Pancake and Waffle Mix by Birch Benders. This mix is sooo good. Totally hits my need for occasional pancakes, without the giant carb hit.
Cassava Flour by Otto’s Naturals: This flour is made from Yucca root. Another great alternative baking flour that is a staple in low glycemic non-wheat flour baking.
Miracle Noodles Shirataki noodles made from a Japanese yam. These are zero carb and gluten free. Taste good. They have an assortment of styles, fettuccini, angel hair, etc.
Snacks & appetizers:
Mary’s Crackers: These are gluten free and relatively clean ingredients if you want a crackery snack. They have many flavors. Crunchy and nice.
Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips: These are AMAZING! So light and crispy. Tastes surprisingly like corn chips. They are made from Cassava and fried in Avocado oil. Both are much better for you than other chips made with cheap industrial seed vegetable oils which are rancid and toxic.
Love these. Ghee is a great alternative for butter. Both of these are grassfed. Ghee has a high smoke point, so you can sauté with it at higher temperatures. I use the plain for cooking and the sea salt version for snacking.
Avocado oil: I use La Tourangelle for more delicate flavorful needs, like salad dressing. I use Chosen Foods for cooking. Avocado oil has a high smoke point, and doesn’t oxidize as easily. So you can sauté with it at higher temperatures. Or even for frying. Chosen foods makes a pan spray as well.
Avocado Oil Mayo: Chosen Foods. Tasty and much better than almost all other mayo’s, as they all use cheap, unhealthy vegetable oils.
Macadamia Nut Oil: by Roland. Mac oils are great for salad dressings. Healthy oil, don’t need a lot though, just a splash mixed in with olive and avocado. Another option is Piping Rock.
CoYo Coconut Yogurt: This coconut based yogurt is very delightful and surprisingly creamy. It also makes a great substitute for sour cream. A similar consistency. Since it’s refrigerated, it’s at stores only. Check here to see if it’s in a store near you.
Real Salt, by Redmond: This “sea salt” comes from an ancient seabed in Utah that was not exposed to modern toxins like sea salts are often today. Another bonus is this is one of the only sea salts that has iodine.
Balsamic Vinegar: Amphora makes these barrel aged vinegars that really are pretty amazing. My favorites are the red “cinnamon & pear” and the white “apricot”. These are slightly thicker and a touch of sweet. But it doesn’t take much to flavor a great salad dressing or for a drizzle.
Swiss Chard Powder by Dr. Cowan’s Garden: This delightful flavoring powder is nutrient dense. If you have a hard time squeezing in enough vegetables in a day, try this out. They also have Kale and number of other great options. I put a spoonful in salad dressings, sprinkle into soups, etc. Great way to spice up and packed with nutrients!
Bone Broth, Grassfed: by Kettle and Fire. Great source of nutrients for your gut and skin health, plus so much more. Should be a dietary staple.
Wild Salmon: by Wild Planet. These are a great alternative to tuna (which is high in mercury). Loads of good omega 3 fats and decadent.