Nine Tips for Making 2015 Your Healthiest Year Yet!

Posted by Amina AlTai on

The new year rolls around and we are all full of promise and hope as to what our blank canvas of a year will entail.  We spend hours reading inspiring self-help books and pour our hearts and souls in to writing goals and consecrations. And often times we give up before we start.  The reason? Because they are too complicated, too hard, require too much change…and the list goes on.   And interestingly enough, of the top ten resolutions people make each year, seven of those are about achieving better health.  So why is it so complicated to take care of ourselves these days when a few thousand years ago it was so simple a cave man could do it?  The answer: with our over-complicated lives we over-complicate EVERYTHING.  In 2015, let’s go back to the basics.  Here are a few simple and easy to implement solutions to get you on the road to better health now.  No excuses necessary.

1.     Breathe: We are so busy living life that we forget the most basic way we stay alive is to breathe.  We rush through the day taking shallow breaths that don’t fully oxygenate our bodies and calm our minds.  Just taking a few deep breathes can enhance your mood, reduce stress and promotes relaxation. Proper breathing positively influences our physiology and thought processes. So just by focusing on your breathing, even without changing it, you are moving towards greater relaxation.  I recommend starting your day with a few deep breathes.  Breathe in through your nose and hold for four seconds, and then push the air out through your mouth for 5 seconds. 

2.     Eat breakfast: And I don’t mean a bowl of sugary cereal.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Your body fasts and detoxes while you sleep and thus needs energy from your breakfast to kick off your day.  Skipping breakfast or just having your coffee starts you at a deficit.  Often times your blood sugar is low first thing in the morning.  So a breakfast of protein, complex carbohydrates or both is recommended to get your body going.  If you jump straight to the sugar cereal, you’ll go from low blood sugar to high blood sugar and be on the roller coaster all day.  Unbalanced blood sugar can lead to mood swings, metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, weight gain and more.  Opt for an omelet, a protein shake, or healthy bowl of fruit with nut butter.   

3.    Hydrate: This is simple enough, as your body reminds you that it is thirsty all day.  Our body needs water for every function from circulation to respiration.  Often times we mistake our thirst for hunger and it can lead us to overeat.  So next time you reach for a snack, ask yourself first, am I just thirsty?  And make sure you’re not adding any sugar to that water.  It’s recommended that we take in at least 8 cups of water per day, but that varies from person to person based on body composition and lifestyle. 

4.    Sleep: I touched on this earlier, but I want to stress how important sleep is.  At night, our body shifts from the stress of the day and focuses on detoxing our bodies and removing any of the toxins accumulated over the course of a day.  So it’s really important to allow your body to go through this process without interruption.  That means no eating up to 3 hours before bed so your body isn’t focused on digestion.  It also means shutting down from TV, phone and computer screens up to an hour before bed so your body can properly shut down.   The light from screens simulates sunlight and cues to your brain that it is still daylight and you should be awake, when that isn’t the case.  Allowing yourself an hour away from technology allows your body to naturally move into a state of rest and relaxation so you can enjoy a deep sleep.

5.     Nourish your cells: Forget about diets, they don’t work.  When you eat, eat to nourish your cells.  Whatever we put in our body eventually becomes our hair, our skin, our teeth etc.  And when it comes to finding your optimal body weight, food is 70% responsible.  So when you are choosing your meals, select options that are going to boost your energy and immunity, brighten your skin, increase serotonin, feed your gut flora etc.   Put down the packaged food!  Often times, prepackaged foods are laden with chemicals and preservatives and our bodies don’t recognize them as food and so they don’t support our health in the way we would hope.  So next time you’re reaching for something that has yellow dye 5, ask yourself, is that what I really want to look and feel like?  Eat foods that are in as natural a state as possible.  You’ll find that when you eat naturally, you wont need to calorie-count, as your body will start working and burning fuel more optimally.

6.    Move: Whether you want to boost brain function, lose weight, extend your flexibility, get stronger or are concerned with heart health, it’s important to move.  You don’t have to go crazy and partake in strenuous exercise, just doing a little bit each week can boost your energy and your mood, increase your HDL or good cholesterol, reduce stress and even prevent cognitive decline.  So grab your sneakers and go for walk, jog in the park or take the stairs at work.  Your brain and your body will thank you for it. 

7.    Stay positive:  Your mom always told you stay positive and keep your chin up and she was right.  Thinking positive thoughts, or changing your negative ones into more optimistic ones can positively impact your health and your stress.  Studies suggest that a more optimistic outlook can protect you from the common cold, lower your risk of depression and even cardiovascular disease.  If that’s not a reasons to write some daily positive affirmations, I don’t know what is!

8.     Detox: It seems like people are always talking about the latest juice cleanse to detox their systems.  And don’t get me wrong, they have their merits, but I’m talking about something else.  Our skin is our largest organ in the body and is largely tied to detoxification.  Opt for skin brushing, a visit to the sauna, a hot yoga class or even a soak in the tub with some Epsom salts to release those stored toxins through your skin.  When our body is holding onto waste, it’s also holding onto weight.  So helping your body to detox better, is a sure-fire way to get achieve better health. 

9.  Balance your energy:  Vital energy or Qi circulates through our body like a system of roads and gives it life.  When some part of that energy hits a roadblock or is overcharged, the body can't function optimally and you might start to feel "dis-ease" such as lack of energy, digestive troubles, and poor immunity. By treating the energy imbalance with a modality like acupuncture, you remove those roadblocks and allow your energy to flow more freely and support your body.  I've been taking weekly trips to Aquarius Acupuncture for nearly a year now and it has healed conditions I thought would be with me forever.  To get healed at the hands of Sarah Sajdak visit http://www.aquariusacupuncture.com/

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No Bake Protein Snowballs

Posted by Amina AlTai on



Juno might have kept me indoors, but he didn't stop me from making snowballs....protein snowballs that is.  I whipped up these bad boys for breakfast and then kept a few as a pre Soul Cycle snack.  All I can say is that they definitely hit the spot. 

Ingredients:

Protein Powder (today I made my own from 3 scoops of rice protein and 1 scoop of hemp protein, vanilla and cinnamon)

1 container of coconut yogurt (I used strawberry)

1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons of goji berries

3 tablespoons of unsweetened shredded coconut

Then you mix together everything except the coconut and roll them into balls.  Roll them around in the coconut until full covered.  Then set them in the freezer for about an hour.  Enjoy them with a cup of cocoa and be happy that you're not outside in the cold. 

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Gluten-Free, Vegan Protein Waffles with Chocolate Sauce

Posted by Amina AlTai on

Winter Sundays are all about the "re."  Relaxing, reinvigorating, reenergizing.  And nothing says relax like a warm and toasty waffle.  But you don't want to throw away your hard work of clean eating all week.  So here is a quick, healthy and delicious waffle recipe that will help you reconnect with your gluttonous side, but without any of the guilt.  

Waffle Ingredients:

2/3 cup of gluten-free all purpose flour

1/3 cup of sweet rice flour

1/3 cup of coconut flour

1 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of salt

2 flax eggs

2/3 cup of almond milk

2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

1 scoop of your favorite protein powder.  I used Vega One.  

Syrup Ingredients

3 tbsp of agave 

1 tbsp of cacao

1 tsp of vanilla

Filling Ingredients

1 medium banana

2 tbsp of almond butter

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Then combine all your wet ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk together.  Then stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until smooth. Ladle onto your waffle maker and heat until cooked.  

Cut your waffle into quarters and spread on a layer of almond butter.  Slice your banana and layer on top of the almond butter, then press the quarters together like a sandwich.  

Mix together the agave, cacao and vanilla and lightly drizzle across your waffles.  

Devour and don't forget to wipe the chocolate off your face.  : )

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The Perfect Snack Attack: Vegan "Cream" Cheese with Gluten-Free Buckwheat Crackers

Posted by Amina AlTai on

 

Last night I was craving something creamy and delicious, but it's been a long week at work and the fridge was bare.  In fact, all I had was a large bag of walnuts.  Determined to whip that up into something delicious, I pulled out the Vitamix and started to experiment.  The result?  This creamy and delicious vegan "cheddar cream cheese."

Ingredients:

2 cups of walnuts

2 tbs of pepper or tomato paste

2 tbs of apple cider vinegar

2 tbs of hemp seeds

1/2 tsp of salt

Pepper to taste

1 tsp of garlic

2 tbs of almond milk

Just add all your ingredients in the blender and blend away until they are smooth and light like the texture of cream cheese.  Spread on your favorite gluten-free crackers, I used delicious skinny crisps, and enjoy as a pre or post-workout snack. 

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Recipe: "Cheesy" Vegan "Risotto"

Posted by Amina AlTai on

Everyone is talking about how cauliflower is such a great rice substitute.  I wont lie, I've had my reservations, especially after a seriously epic fail with a cauliflower pizza crust.  I still get nauseous just recalling it and as a result I was long overdue in experimenting with cauliflower "risotto." But now I think I might be seriously addicted.

Like all my recipes, it's really easy to prepare.

Ingredients:

The head of one cauliflower

3 tbs of olive oil

1-2 cups of mushrooms depending on your preference

1/4 cup of dry white wine

1 large onion

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup of vegetable broth

3 tbs of apple cider vinegar

3 tbs of nutritional yeast

5 tbs of toasted pine nuts

1 tsp of salt

4 tbs of hemp seeds

1 cup of daiya cheese

Grate your cauliflower head or put it in the food processor until it has the consistency of rice.  Sautee your mushrooms until tender and then set aside.  Sautee your onions and garlic until the onions become clear.  Add the cauliflower, salt and wine and cook until the wine evaporates.  Then add the apple cider vinegar and broth, reduce the heat and let it cook for a few minutes.  Don't let it get too mushy, you want it to have some crunch texture.  In a separate bowl combine the nutritional yeast and pine nuts.  Add them to the mixture and then mix in the diaya cheese.  Finally, add in your mushrooms and serve it up on a bed of kale, or just by it self.  Sprinkle the hemp seeds on top for a little extra crunch and a nutritional/protein boost. 

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