The Healthy Kitchen – Ten Essentials

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If you are serious about your health, you should pay thoughtful attention to transforming your kitchen from a glorified snack counter into what I like to call The Healthy Kitchen. There are a whole list of things that could be found in a healthy kitchen, but I’ve narrowed my list down to ten to make things manageable.

Before I list my ten essentials, I want to encourage you to take a block of time and really take stock of what is in your kitchen. Chances are you know when something on your pantry shelf should get the heave ho and what should stay.

And please don’t tell yourself you’ll just put that bag of orange-y chips up on the top shelf where it will be out of sight. The next time you’re frustrated or upset over something, those chips may be out of sight, but they won’t be out of mind, and you may find yourself eating three fourths of the bag in one sitting before you regain control. Do yourself a favor. Take an honest inventory of what you have and get rid of the things you know aren’t good for you.

Now let’s look at what I consider the Ten Essentials for a healthy kitchen.

One – Proper Equipment

You might be surprised that I’m not starting out with a list of foods, but proper equipment is so important to enjoyable cooking. If you are frustrated by not having the right equipment, your kitchen experience will be less than enjoyable. And the right equipment doesn’t necessarily mean expensive either.

I’m referring to the basics: a good chef’s knife that will hold a sharp edge, a food processor with multiple blades, a good stainless steel stockpot, a Dutch oven and (my own preference,) a large  cast iron skillet. Your choices may vary, but the point is to have good equipment you’ll love to use.

Two – Recipes

Recipes may seem like a no brainer, with everything you can find on the internet, but many of these recipes are laden with heavy fats and unhealthy ingredients. You can’t go wrong with respected chef and internationally known food writer Mark Bittman’s books, which include How to Cook Everything, How to Cook Everything: The Basics, and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Three – Pure Water

Good water can affect the flavor of food and beverages more than you might think. And please avoid bottled water, which leaches chemicals from the plastic containers in which it is stored. A good water filter brand to install at the kitchen tap is Aquasana or purchase a pitcher type filter, such as Pur or Brita.

Four – Spices

Variety really is the spice of life and spices add so much flavor and variety to your food. Spices I just can’t do without are bay leaves, rosemary, basil, dill, oregano, fresh ground black pepper and sea salt. And don’t get me started on fresh garlic, as it deserves a category all its own.

Five – Oils

In spite of all the rage over coconut oil, my mainstay oil is extra virgin olive oil. I use it to make a quick salad dressing with some good quality vinegar, drizzled over over steamed or roasted vegetables or for lightly sautéing.

Six – Nuts

Nuts can be great as they contain healthy fatty acids and are so versatile. I love keeping shelled walnuts and pecans on hand at all times. Store in your refrigerator in a sealed bag for longer shelf life.

Seven – Lemons

A squeeze of tart lemon juice can add just the right note to dressings and vegetables. And warm water and lemon is a great way to jump start your day when you drink it in the morning.   

Eight – Vegetables

I’m not sure you can eat too many vegetables, especially when they are of the green, ‘above the ground’ variety. Kale, spinach, crunchy Romaine lettuce, green or purple cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, collards, turnip greens, beet greens and more all have their charms. Again, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is a great resource.

Nine – Grass Fed Butter

Yes, butter! Fats get a really bad rap but there are some healthy fats.  I am not talking about slathering butter on everything but having it in moderation. When you do eat butter, choose a butter made from the milk of grass fed cows, as it is rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Kerry Gold Irish Butter is a good brand and can be found in most supermarkets.

Ten – The Cook

Lastly, you bring yourself into the healthy kitchen. I encourage you to bring your enthusiasm, curiosity and willingness to experiment. Have fun with your cooking. It is truly satisfying to plan a meal, buy fresh ingredients for it, and prepare and serve it to your family or friends.

Customize this list by adding your own essentials to it and enjoy meals in your new, healthy kitchen!

I love to hear from you so please share any thoughts or comment below.

Developing Your Own Personalized Wellness Plan – Six Steps to Success

In my last article, I explained why you should consider developing your own personalized wellness plan.  I also emphasized the importance of approaching your wellness plan as a living, breathing document, one that is carefully designed to help you reach your wellness goals, rather than an inflexible set of rules you must follow. As you get healthier, you’ll want to be able to easily modify your plan to keep meeting your needs. As always, please consult your qualified medical practitioner before making changes to your diet or exercise routine, especially if you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition or you are on
medications.

Developing a wellness plan might seem like a daunting task, but I’ve found that breaking it down into six manageable steps makes the process more enjoyable.

Step One – Focus

Take some time to think about and focus in on the areas of your life in which you want to make changes. Make sure you include some aspect of your physical being, but you don’t have to confine yourself to only the physical. Maybe you want to get to a healthier weight or improve your cardiovascular conditioning or get stronger. Perhaps you really want to get a handle on your response to stress or improve your attitude and mindset. Everything counts so don’t limit yourself at this stage.

Step Two – List

Make a list of the deeper reasons you want to change, if you haven’t already. Last time, I gave you a simple exercise to do that will really help you to get at your deeper motivation. If you haven’t done that exercise, please go here [link to previous article] and read the instructions on how to complete it. Don’t skip this step. Having a list of your deeper reasons for wanting to make changes can be very motivating when you become discouraged or aren’t happy with your progress.

Step Three – Choose

Now that you have examined the areas you want to change and uncovered your deeper motivations, choose three areas for your wellness plan. You don’t want to get overwhelmed by trying to make too many changes at once, as this is a certain formula for failure. When you are satisfied with your choices, decide on exactly what changes you will make in these areas.

You will have more success if you are very specific when you decide what changes you are going to make. For example, “decrease my stress” is too broad. A more specific change would be “meditating for fifteen minutes each morning,” or “walking for thirty minutes 4 days a week,” both of which are good examples of specific changes you can make.

Step Four – Distribute

For some people, spreading those changes out over time helps them to keep from becoming overwhelmed and quitting their plan. Maybe in week one of decreasing your stress level, you meditate for fifteen minutes each morning, then in week two, in addition to meditating, you add walking for thirty minutes in the afternoon. In week three, besides meditating and walking, you add another goal – say, having one cup of coffee in the morning and herbal tea for the rest of the day.

Step Five – Reward

Plan a series of small rewards you can give yourself along the way. Rewarding yourself when you achieve milestones helps to keep you motivated and makes the process fun. Don’t forget to plan a big reward when you’ve reached your goal! Some examples of small rewards are buying yourself a book you’ve wanted to read, taking yourself to a movie or a museum or anything else that brings you joy.

Step Six – Watch

Keep up with how you are doing. You may want to track your progress in a calendar. Some people prefer to journal about their experience and others like to keep a list, checking off milestones as they go. Choose something that works for you.

I love to hear from you so please share any thoughts or comment below.

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Struggling with Building Healthy Habits?

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I know I need to do something about my health, but I just don’t know where to start.” “As soon as I have time, I’m going to exercise.” Sound familiar?  Let’s face it – everyone’s busy. How would you like a program where it’s all been figured out for you?  The Evergreen Wellness Program will help you develop better sleep, food, mood, and exercise habits to help you look and feel your best. Research shows healthy habits make us better contributors to our families, organizations, and society, too. You will learn how to:

  • Control food cravings and enjoy – yes, enjoy! – healthier foods
  • Get into great shape even if you can’t spend 10 hours a week in a gym
  • Sleep tight each night
  • Snap back after setbacks
  • Become a more energetic, more optimistic, more engaging version of yourself.


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My holistic, entirely research-based coaching program is 6 weeks filled with great info, fun short videos, and lots of cool health-boosting activities. I’ll be by your side every step of the way with my special Premium Coaching Package that includes weekly or bi-weekly 30 minute coaching sessions to get – and keep – you on track. If your goal is to live a healthy lifestyle, you can’t afford not to try this program. Call 303-670-7863 or email me at suzanne@evergreenlifeandwellness.com for details and a 30 minute complimentary session to determine if this program is right for you.

What You Can Do Now To Promote Anti-Aging – Nutrition (Part Two)

In Part One of this series on anti-aging I explained how I am sharing my anti-aging practices focusing on the four big life areas where you can make small changes that will have a powerful impact. These four areas are nutrition, physical conditioning, the quality of your sleep and your emotional reserves.

In this article, we will be looking at the area of nutrition and anti-aging. Your diet is profoundly important and is the one area where you can make small changes and see almost immediate results in the way you look and feel. And when I use the term ‘diet’ I’m not talking about a traditional calorie restricted approach for weight loss. I’m also not talking about fad diets such as drinking nothing but green smoothies for a month and things like that. Yes, you may need to cut back on your daily calorie intake in order to lose extra pounds, but weight loss is not our primary focus here. When you begin to eat with anti-aging in mind, you will may be surprised to find unwanted pounds coming off quite naturally.

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What I want you to understand is that current research points to inflammation as the driver behind the development of many of the chronic diseases we have come to accept as an inevitable part of growing older, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s and cancer.  The right kind of nutrition can throw cold water on this damaging inflammatory fire. Plus, there is evidence the foods we eat can actually serve to turn off ‘bad genes’ and flip the switch to turn on ‘good genes!’ In effect, food is actually a powerful drug of sorts and one that has the capacity to dramatically change your health for the better.

So what is an anti-aging diet exactly? Well, turns out it’s really not that complicated. Certain foods have been proven to promote inflammation, such as excess sugar and alcohol as well as  highly processed foods such as white flour and ‘junk’ foods with their heavy loads of preservatives and artificial ingredients.  It goes without saying you should eliminate or greatly reduce your consumption of these foods. So what do you eat instead?

Here’s how to maintain a healthy and sustainable anti-aging diet:

One – Make fruits and vegetables the centerpiece of your nutritional plan. I’m not talking about fruit juice, but whole fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges, with healthy fiber and other vitamins and minerals. Choose a variety of colorful vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards prepared simply without pouring fatty or cheese based sauces over them.  If you can get fresh, seasonal organic fruits and vegetables, all the better but don’t let that stop you from adding these nutritional powerhouses to your plan.

Two – Consume moderate amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts in small portions.

Three – Add fish to your diet if it’s not already a part of it. Choose fish which has loads of life giving omega oils such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.

Four – Limit your consumption of red meat and avoid highly processed foods and sugar. For some people, red wine in moderation is fine and even advisable.

I guarantee if you begin to eat this way, especially if you are a heavy consumer of sugar and other highly processed foods, you will begin to feel better and have more energy almost immediately!

Next time, we’ll focus on your body and how physical conditioning (yes, the dreaded word ‘exercise’) can stave off the effects of aging.  I’m not going to advocate going to the gym for hours of cardio a week, though.  I’m all about making sustainable changes that will last over time, so that’s the view we’ll come from.

I’d love to hear  your thoughts on nutrition, as well as how you are doing in the comments below!

Bon appetit!

What You Can Do Now to Prevent Untimely Aging Later (Part 1 of 5)

When you think of anti-aging, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Many people think of cosmetics of some kind such as wrinkle creams, skin masks, and even makeup or plastic surgery to hide the effects getting older has on our skin.   Although many of these cosmetic formulas are over hyped as ‘miracle’ cures for the inevitable, some are actually excellent products and do deliver what they promise in terms of making skin smoother and somewhat younger looking.

But the kind of anti-aging I’m referring to has little to do with smearing on expensive creams or going under the surgeon’s knife and everything to do with actually greatly slowing and, in some cases, reversing the aging process on various organ systems by working from the inside, not just on surface appearances. Aging is, of course, inevitable.  The onset of chronic disease, loss of energy, muscle weakness, fatigue and other ailments the majority of people have come to accept as a normal consequence of getting older, however, are definitely not inevitable.

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Anti-aging medicine and longevity studies are complex specialties all their own and it’s hard to figure out with all the chatter out there what to think about this vitamin or that enzyme, much less what you should do to start an anti-aging regimen of your own. I’ve found that my own clients want advice on a few powerful, practical things they can do on their own to slow the aging process and keep them in the best mental and physical shape possible. And they want advice that has been tested and not just the latest fad.

Of course, the best anti-aging findings are of great importance to me personally, so lately I’ve been doing some research to uncover the best practices to bring into my own life. And now I’m sharing these suggestions with my clients and with you, my readers. In this article and others to follow, we will be looking, based on my research, at four big areas of your life where small but significant changes can make a huge impact. These areas are:

One: nutrition – with an emphasis on reducing inflammation in your body.

Two: physical conditioning – muscle strength, body flexibility and cardiovascular conditioning.

Three: the quality of your sleep.

Four: your emotional reserve – the ability to bounce back from an unsettling event and the ability to keep your stress under control.

 

And please know this. You don’t have to incorporate everything at once. Just implementing one or two suggestions every couple of weeks can have a profound effect on your well-being and get you started on an anti-aging regimen that will serve you well in the years to come. I’m excited to have you join me on this journey!