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Healthy Through The Holidays

healthy thru the holidays

The holiday season is notoriously packed with parties, office happy hours, and family gatherings. Although these events are probably not the time to announce your road to gluten freedom or discuss your latest cleanse, the holidays don’t have to be one long painful backslide into unhealthy habits. No one wants to be a buzz kill with food limitations but you also may not want to undo your hard work in the gym or enter 2016 feeling less than fabulous.  Here are ten super simple tips to help you enjoy the holiday season while maintaining your waistline, your health, and (possibly) your sanity.

1 – Nail The Basics.

The first step in staying healthy and sane through the holidays is nailing down your basics and non-negotiables. Do you know what few things make you feel good and keep you going no matter what?  Jot down your top three healthy habits and stick to ‘em like glue. Mine are water, workouts and staying gluten-free. Knowing my non-negotiables helps me navigate the indulgences with some ease.

yogi

2 – Water. Speaking of water….I always keep a bottle on hand and sip throughout the day. Winter weather usually ushers in dryness. Between harsh temps and heating units, dry skin and drier internal conditions are inevitable if you aren’t paying attention. Plus when it is 10 below you are less likely to sip on a glass of water than when it’s a sunny 92. In addition to helping keep skin looking supple and keeping your gut moving in top shape, water can help you fend off cravings. We know that food cravings can often be dehydration in disguise. When you feel a craving coming on take 5 minutes and hydrate first with a cup of lemon water or even herbal tea. Still hungry? Great! Time for a healthy snack.

glaceau-Smartwater-

3 – Schedule your workouts like you do your parties.

Making your health and fitness a priority during holiday season will help you keep your energy up, keep your immune system in top shape and keep you feeling fabulous. When I get busy this time of year I check my week schedule on Sunday night and jot down on each day what time I plan to workout for the upcoming week. Monday? 430pm HIIT session. Friday is always morning yoga. Post-it notes in the bathroom, laying your clothes out the night before and employing an accountability partner all help. Yes scheduling a 6am yoga session with a pal may feel painful on a cold December Thursday morning, but you both will be better for it. And hey it may even just help you not reach for that 2nd and 3rd glass of Pinot at Wednesday’s happy hour.

no regrets

4 – Sleep.

Yep, you heard me. Getting into bed and getting your 8 hours will help you stay fresh and healthy going into 2016. When we get sleep deprived, we are much more susceptible to colds and viruses especially this time of the year. This is not the time to skimp on sleep. I know this may mean DVRing the latest episode of Scandal but by tucking in early, your body will thank you!

Sleep

5 – Keep your daily meals in check by meal prepping.

Pre-cooking a few dishes on Sunday such as a soup, a few chicken breasts and a big batch of vegetables like sweet potato and sautéed greens can help you stay on track during the holidays. You may not be able to control much about what Aunt Marge serves on Christmas Eve….but I am betting most of your breakfasts and lunches during the holiday season are up to you.  By having a meal ready and waiting at night or by pre-packing your lunch you can stop from mindlessly reaching for holiday snacks, catered office lunches or grabbing a less than healthy dinner when you are tired.

Meal Prep, Megan McGrane for Covet Living

6 – Bring a dish to share

This is a tried and true basic for making sure a gathering has a dish you can enjoy, especially if you have food restrictions or allergies. It can also help the host feel more comfortable if they are nervous about cooking a dish to your limitations. Reach out a week in advance to your host and offer to bring a side dish or two to help take some weight off of their shoulders since they are graciously hosting!  A few of my favorites to share are: a roasted cauliflower and kale saladshaved brussels sprouts with cranberries and quinoarosemary and garlic mash, or this SUPER simple Ina Garten appetizer.

Ina Garten Recipe | Megan McGrane for Covet Living

7 – Aim to keep alcohol to 2 days per week

It is so easy this time of year to fall into the habit of enjoying a cocktail (or four) multiple times per week. Happy hours with co-workers, catching up with friends, holiday parties, and gatherings with family are endless. Alcohol is full of empty calories and the impact on your waistline is compounded by the occasional martini-fueled food choices (fries anybody?). When planning your week and your workouts(refer to item 3!) pick a couple of events each week that you plan to enjoy. This will help you keep the other 5 days in check.

Champagne Coupes

8 – Enforce the ‘worth it’ rule

I don’t believe in depriving yourself of something that only comes around once a year. But there is an important distinction to be made. Treats and less-than-healthy dishes are practically always within arms reach during the holiday season. I like to ask myself before eating something I normally would not eat, “is this worth it”?  This is the chance to check yourself before your wreck yourself. Ask if you are mindlessly diving into a day-old cookie tray from the break room table because you are stressed at work…Or are you about to take a nice slice of grammy’s apple pie that you only get at Christmas? Is this your dad’s famous Christmas Eve appetizer or a weird pig in the blanket at the office happy hour? When your dish passes the ‘worth it’ rule, have your serving, eat slowly, and enjoy it!

Salted Caramel Donuts

9 – Relax and Breathe

Your holiday season will not be perfect–we don’t live in a Norman Rockwell painting.  Family members can stir up old stuff that is upsetting. Your travel plans may be foiled by delays or cancellations. Taking a breath and accepting what is in front of you is a great first step to keeping your holidays light. I love using the meditation app Buddhify, which has guided meditations aimed at helping you breathe your way through various scenarios. At work? Feeling anxious? Traveling? The app has mediations for these and more. It helps to check out of your own mess and check into your breath for a few minutes. You may be surprised at what a six minute meditation can do when you are stuck on a plane idling on the tarmac.

Buddhify

10 – Stop Worrying and Start Enjoying.

Yes, I hope you workout, hydrate, get rest, and pick your treats wisely. But if you take one tip from this article, it is to stop sweating “these last 10 lbs” or how “gross” you feel from a weekend ski trip with pals filled with wine and take out. Go read this on the Sakara Life blog. The author brilliantly explains why we waste a whole heck of a lot of time sweating what we ate last night, a missed workout and the elusive last few pounds, instead of savoring the moments that brought us joy in the first place. May your holiday season be filed with laughs, a few workouts, a little meditation, some really really good food and a healthy entrance to 2016.

Sakara Life

*****

Guest Blogger Megan McGrane is a Physician assistant, health coach, former college volleyball player, Autoimmune Warrior.

Megan McGrane for Covet Living

Perfect Grain-Free Pancakes

MEG MCGRANE PANCAKES | Covet Living

Good MORNIN Campers!  Well, it’s the middle of the afternoon but potato / potatoe. So unless you do breakfast for dinner, it’s probably too late to make these today, but do yourself a solid and put this recipe on your list for next weekend.

Every Saturday morning, I wake up *literally* dreaming about pancakes (it’s probably Pinterest’s fault).  But I never (ever) eat them because I know I’ll feel like hot garbage afterward.  I made the shift to being (mostly) gluten free when I moved to Cali last year, and guess what??  It really wasn’t hard, I never feel deprived and I have never felt better.  I never feel sluggish during the day anymore (I used to want to take a siesta every afternoon), my joints no longer ache (I thought I might have to have hip surgery at one point), and I also shaved off an extra 10 lbs off that I had been carrying around for about 10 years without really realizing it (I’ll dive deeper into that another time).  So if there’s any food I love (like flapjacks) that I can find a way to do grain/gluten free without it totally sucking, I’m all for it.

Enter our favorite goddess of wisdom, happiness and all things healthy – Megan McGrane.  Meg has been inspiring Karrie and I for years with her sweet, wholesome spirit and mouth-watering (and still so good for you), easy-peasy recipes.  We’re also STOKED because she has graciously agreed to guest post on Covet Living from time to time, and you’re welcome in advance because she’s AMAZING.  Anyhoo – I asked if she could create a healthy pancake recipe for me, and girlfriend did me real proud. She also breaks down the anti-inflammatory diet for us, which is something everyone should take a few minutes to read (*COUGH*, Mom).  This is Meg – hey girl heeeeeeeeey!

meg

And these are her pancakes that I took for a spin this morning and they’re ON POINT.

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(Just ask Gus)

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I’ll let Megs take the mic!

Peace out,

Steph's Scanned Signature

An Anti-Inflammatory Diet (and a Recipe to Make You Love It)

Trust me, this ends with pancakes….just stick with me for a moment…..

Have you ever noticed how some foods just make you feel “off” after you eat them? Maybe after your last trip to brunch you were ready to curl up in a ball on the couch instead of tackle your day or hit the beach? I promised there would be pancakes…and just about everyone loves ‘em, but what you may not love is the feeling you get after taking down a short stack. Bloated? Fatigued? Foggy? Less than fabulous?

I get it, because I used to feel this way too, and then some. That was until I ditched grains, gluten and dairy. Instead I started focusing on filling my place with healthy fruits, vegetables, and protein. That is when I saw my health, my energy, and the way I thought about food start to change.

Regularly eating gluten, grains, dairy, even sugar can be pretty irritating to the system. While popular women’s magazines have beat the phrase about treating our “diet like a bank account” into the collective female mind since puberty, I have to say there is way more to it than that. Frankly, our body and our digestive system is less like a bank account keeping tally of calories and more like a chemistry lab measuring and reacting with every chemical that enters the system. Everything we eat goes through a serious process of breakdown, digestion, and detoxification. And when we get down to digesting things like grains and gluten, our chemistry lab starts to short circuit. Our bodies just don’t digest them well and the results aren’t pretty. The breakdown of grains and gluten tends to be pretty irritating to the gut lining, where the hard work of digestion is being done. When your gut gets irritated, you get inflammation. Inflammation is at the core of things like acne (and wrinkles!), digestive disorders, weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and some studies have even liked gut dysfunction to anxiety and depression.

So, before you banish all foods from your pantry and have a dietary melt down, hang in there and just hear me out.

Grains are high in carbohydrates and they contain lectins and phytates. All you need to know about lectins and phytates are that they prevent you from absorbing key nutrients in your food and they can make your gut angry causing bloating, gas, and other undesirable effects. When you cut down on grains, your gut (and your waistline) will thank you.

Gluten (I know…insert collective groan here…) was the nutrition buzz-word of 2011.   By now, most everyone has heard about gluten and why we shouldn’t eat it en masse. Most of the time gluten appears to our gut (remember chemistry lab!) as a foreign substance, causing irritation to the gut and immune system activation, which can cause leaky junctions in the intestinal lining and contribute to illness like autoimmune disease. Even if you don’t have medical issues like Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance, chances are you will just feel better if you minimize the amount of gluten you eat. Don’t believe me? Just try going gluten-free for two weeks. That’s it. I haven’t had a friend, family member or coaching client yet that didn’t feel better energy and improved digestion after their fourteen days were over.

While we are on the topic, dairy is another beauty bane. Unfortunately, we live in a world where our dairy cows are loaded up with artificial hormones and antibiotics to keep them ‘healthy’ as they produce milk. Those hormones and drugs make their way into the milk and then into our bodies when we eat diary products. Extra hormones often cause breakouts and skin problems like redness and inflammation (there’s that word again!). I’m not saying never have cheese again…just try to make your dairy organic if possible and make sure you buy organic, pasture raised eggs.

How This Works….

Ready for your super simple, anti-inflammatory approach to eating? Take your plate, fill it up with mostly vegetables, add some healthy fat like avocado or olives, and then top it with a little lean protein like chicken, fish, bison, or grass-fed beef. It is that simple. If you do this most days of the week, the occasional gelato run or wine and cheese combo isn’t so bad. When you aim for this 80% of the time, your other 20% can be pretty worry-free.

There are many different names for this basic approach to eating. An 80/20 lifestyle, a Paleo diet, a Grain-Free diet, an anti-inflammatory diet…the list goes on. Let’s just keep it simple. Lots of vegetables + a side dish of protein + healthy fat, the occasional piece of fruit. Easy right?  So you may be thinking, but what does that look like?  A big salad with grilled chicken, olives and a great salad dressing. A grass fed burger (no bun!) with avocado and a side of roasted vegetables.  An egg frittata with spinach and tomato.  A melon + prosciutto appetizer.

It really isn’t fair to call this a diet. It is just healthy, tasty, and helps you get rid of inflammatory grains, gluten and dairy while keeping added sugars low down on the list. Some people obsess about fruit and the sugars that come with it. Don’t. I love fruit. Enjoy a serving or two each day. Getting rid of grains like rice, oats, and gluten containing breads may seem like a stretch at first, but once you get the hang of it, you will hardly notice they are gone. Plus, no one is saying you can never have pizza again! Remember…80/20…just not daily. (Steph makes this awesome pizza swap to keep it grain free most days….but haven’t you seen her Ring the King on occasion too? She has this down pat!)

Still suspicious? Here is a recipe for you that couldn’t be easier. Simple grain free pancakes that make delicious, light, crepe-like pancakes. They will make a believer out of the most suspicious foodies.

Simple Grain Free Pancakes

3 Eggs (preferably pasture raised)

2 small mashed ripe bananas

2 tablespoons of almond butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons coconut oil

Directions

  • Heat your griddle or frying pain and throw in a dollop of coconut oil to melt.
  • Mash the banana and mix with almond butter, cinnamon and vanilla. Add the eggs and mix well with a whisk until batter is smooth. It will be runny—fear not.
  • Once the pan is hot, pour in a scoop of the batter, I found the best size is about the size of a hamburger bun.
  • Allow pancake to brown on one side and then flip. I found since these are thin, it takes only 2-3 minutes. Keep your eye on it because they go quickly!
  • Since they are crepe like, keeping the size smaller helps you flip them easier as well.
  • Top these with fresh strawberries or a drizzle of maple syrup.

Makes enough pancakes for 2