Maintaining Your Health & Nutrition During Travel

Vacations and traveling can put a damper on our health and nutrition goals in more ways than one. From added stress and interrupted sleep to more time seated and limited healthy food options, it’s frustrating to lose all the momentum you’ve gained recently.

Don’t let one week undo all your progress and detour you from your goals. Maintaining health and nutrition during travel is easier than you may think.

How? You just need to get a little creative with your choices and (gasp) be OK with plan B.

Here are a few travel tips to help you stay healthy, keep stress low and actually enjoy your time away.

Exercise (Or Not?)

If traveling tends to create a lot of stress for you (packing, airport security, delays, etc.) adding in high intensity exercise may not be the best idea. Vacations are an optimal time to take a recovery week, not the time to compromise sleep just so you can squeeze in an before sunrise workout.

But, if your schedule is flexible and you’re not under a lot of stress, I recommend making your workout a priority!

When you’re out of your normal routine, this is a great opportunity to switch things up and get creative. Add in more body weight movements, drop in a a local box or add in more mobility work. Additionally, you can go for a jog to familiarize yourself with the area, get your blood flowing and enjoy some fresh air, which can all help you reduce stress.

Recovery

Mentioned above, time away is a good opportunity to get the quality rest that your body needs and deserves. As you’re aware, quality sleep is essential for the basic functioning of your neurological, immune, digestive and endocrine systems. It also does wonders for your hormones…which is directly related to weight-loss goals, performance goals and so much more.

If you’re in a hotel room, blackout the windows as much as possible, bring your eye mask, unplug any unnecessary alarm clocks and nightlights, keep the room temperature cool and unplug from your phone and TV at least an hour before bed.

Stick to your normal bedtime routine – that means if you normally shower, read and stretch before bed at home, you should do that in your hotel room as well.

Traveling is also an optimal time to focus on mobility and lots of stretching. Check out MobilityWOD, GOWOD Mobility First or RomWod if you need some guidance.

Reduce Jet Lag

If you’re traveling to a different time zone that last longer than one week, consider moving all of your activities, such as meals and bed times, up by an hour for a few days before your departure date. For any shorter trips that last shorter than a week, try to stay on your home time zone as much as possible.

Stay hydrated (even more than usual) – that means avoiding caffeine and alcohol.

Once you arrive to your destination, try to get exposure to early morning sun, which helps to rest your body’s circadian rhythm.

Nutrition On-The-Go

Airplane food is never optimal if you’re focused on quality nutrition. To ensure you get sufficient fuel, prepare plenty of healthy and convenient snacks and a to-go meal.

I typically pack:

  • Crudites (carrots, celery, cucumber, peppers, snap peas)
  • Fresh fruit (apples, oranges, grapes…also very hydrating)
  • Jerky (ex: Epic Bars)
  • Protein Powder in zip lock bags (remember your shaker bottle)
  • Bars (ex: RXBar, Lara Bar, Joes)
  • Nuts and dried mango (no sugar added)
  • Tea bags (herbal and green)
  • Reusable water bottle to fill up after I get through security

If I’m traveling during a mealtime, I usually pack a big salad with chicken to eat on the plane.

Tip: if you toss in frozen veggies, like peas, that will help to keep the meal chilled until it’s time to eat.

Eating Once You’re There

Before your trip, do your research to map out healthy restaurants near you. Having a plan of attack before you land will help to reduce any anxiety about where to eat and what to eat on vacation. Search on Google for keywords like “healthy,” “paleo,” “local,” “gluten-free,” etc. Scope out menus in advance and even call the restaurants to see what substitutions they are willing to make.

Consider a trip to a nearby grocery store or market to pick up healthy snacks and mini-meal options. Or check out if AmazonFresh or InstaCart will deliver to your area.

Be OK with Plan B

Your brain likes a plan, but there’s only so much you can control when you’re traveling. The best thing you can do is go with the flow and be OK with plan B (and C & D). Don’t stress about being perfect with your nutrition when traveling or fitting in your workout.

Stress, by the way, is one of the biggest causes of digestive problems. That means that even if you’re eating clean, but you’re stressed out of your mind, you’re hindering the absorption of vital nutrients you’re attempting to get from a whole food diet.

A few years ago, we went on a “vacation” to Disney World with our 8 year old twins. For those of you who have been to Disney, know it’s not much of a relaxing vacation (at all). One big thing I learned on this trip is not to not allow the weight of the things we cannot control to hold us back. There’s freedom and there’s power in letting go.

Instead, I focused my energy on the things I could control. The chaos, the rain, the lines…those were all OUT of my control. I stayed the course with my nutrition as much as possible, got super creative with my choices and was very selective with any indulgences. Mickey waffle with fake syrup? No thanks. Chocolate covered strawberry? Yes, please! 

Listen, when you’re out of your routine, you’re presented with a unique temptation to give in, but I encourage you to hang in there and be selective of what you choose to indulge in. You’ll have more energy and be much happier when you get back. And while you’re away, strive for progress… not perfection, remember to keep celebrating small victories and be thankful for the challenges — as they are opportunities to learn and improve.

Healthy Swaps

So we’ve purged some obvious sugar culprits in our pantry and gotten clear on our WHY. Let’s step it up a notch by swapping out one (or more) of those sCRAP-py (sugar-filled, completely refined and processed) foods you found earlier this week for a cleaner version. 

While whole and fresh foods are strongly encouraged, I also recognize that having a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezer can be time saving while adding flexibility to your meal choices. Your challenge today is to identify a healthier version of one of your typical packaged foods.

Here are a few healthy swaps to try:

Flour/Baking

Pre/Post Workout

Other

 

Salad Dressing: 

Salad dressing can be loaded with sugar and preservatives. Don’t be fooled by low-fat or fat-free labels. You may think that you are doing yourself a favor if you choose these versions of salad dressings, but they are actually even worse when it comes to hidden sugars.

Try this homemade Basic Vinaigrette recipe instead:

  • 1 Tablespoon no sugar added balsamic vinegar (check the label – some have sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Whisk all ingredients together until well blended.

What’s Driving the Urge to Eat?

Beyond finding a swap, it’s also important to address what’s truly driving the urge to eat. Such as if your blood sugar is low. Low blood sugar could mean that you are skipping meals, spacing them out too much, or you’re not eating enough blood sugar-steadying protein. 

Try instead pairing a simple carbohydrate with protein, like mixed nuts and fruit. The healthy fat in the nuts helps to slow down the absorption of the fruit’s natural sugar so that you get back into balance and are better able to control cravings.

What swap did you make?  Take a picture and share it with the group!

Take the sCRAP-py Food Quiz

You already know that consuming too many sCRAP-py (sugar-filled & completely refined and processed) foods can halt your goals (and it’s no bueno for your health). Yet, it’s found in practically everything we eat (way more than you may realize).

Let’s figure out any patterns as to why you eat what you eat…and when you eat it. Is it within acceptable limits, totally out of whack, or somewhere in between? This quiz is a powerful tool to help you start your journey to understanding and limiting processed foods and sugar intake.

1. How often do you eat or drink sugary foods or beverages including those made with artificial sweeteners?

a. Once or twice a month at most. I’m not big on sweets.
b. Have dessert a couple of times a week but I rarely drink regular or diet soda.
c. Pretty much every day

2. How much sugar or sweetener do you usually add to coffee?

a. None
b. A teaspoon or one packet.
c. 2 teaspoons or two packets. At least.

3. What does your typical breakfast look like?

a. Scrambled eggs with veggies, avocado toast, or even last night’s leftovers.
b. Greek yogurt, oatmeal with fruit, or a shake.
c. Sugary cereal, a muffin, donut, or a not-so-healthy bar.

4. How often do you go out of your way to get something sCRAP-py, like stopping at the store just to buy some ice cream.

a. Almost never.
b. Every once in a while if I get a crazy craving for something.
c. Often… like at least once a week.

5. Do you ever eat food in secret?

a. No. If I’m indulging, it’s part of a meal or an event with others.
b. A couple times a year. I definitely feel like polishing off some ice cream or a bag of chips on the couch by myself.
c. I usually wait to eat those foods until I’m alone so I can eat without anyone judging me.

6. Do you ever hide food just to eat them later?

a. No. Never.
b. Not usually. But, if I know there is just a little bit left of my favorite splurge left, I might rearrange some things in the refrigerator just to make it harder for anyone else to find.
c. Yes. I have a stash of my favorites to eat when I’m by myself.

7. Do you ever feel powerless in front of certain foods, like chips, bread, or cookies?

a. Rarely. It just doesn’t tempt me.
b. Maybe once in a while, if I’m hangry. But, I can usually have one or two and then stop.
c. Yes. Usually once I start eating stuff like that it’s hard to stop. Even if I’m already full.

8. While indulging, have you ever gone overboard and told yourself that “this is the last time I’ll ever eat like this again?”

a. Not really. Maybe one or two times.
b. I tried cutting out sCRAP-py foods in the past but nothing ever works.
c. I tell myself that a lot and end up feeling guilty when I don’t follow through.

Count up how many times you choose each letter, then read the descriptions below to determine your sCRAP-py food dependence and how this challenge will help you move forward.

MOSTLY A’s: Congratulations! Sounds like you don’t have a whacked-out sCRAP-py food diet (Sugar-filled & Completely Refined And Processed). However, you can still benefit from this challenge. Throughout the next three weeks we will reveal lots of amazing tips to help you make even more lasting changes. Take it to the next level by eating mindfully.

MOSTLY B’s: You are in good command of your sCRAP-py food intake, but there’s always room for growth. This challenge will make you even wiser about your choices and learn great tips to swap out the junk and stay on track with your goals.

MOSTLY C’s: Sounds like sCRAP-py foods are a frequent choice for you, so you may be hooked. I’m here to help get unhooked! To jump-start your efforts and break free of this trap, start by getting clear on your WHY.

Connect!

Have you joined the private Facebook Challenge group yet? Being a part of the community will not only help you to stay accountable with your own goals, but also see how others are doing, find support, share your successes and struggles, and of course, get some great, new meal ideas.

Is Sugar Bad? Plus Hidden Names for Sugar

Is sugar bad? Will sugar make me gain weight? When is it OK to eat sugar?

Many of us think of sugar as the white stuff people put in their coffee and the stuff that makes up most of those cereals in the breakfast “food” aisle. Sugars also occur naturally in many whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and even whole grains. You recognize these as “carbs.”

Along with sugar, the macronutrient carbohydrates also includes starch (potatoes or rice), fiber (husks of whole grains), etc. The more complex the molecule, the slower it digests. That’s why eating more fiber can help us feel fuller for longer. Sugars, on the other hand, are simple- they digest very quickly. In other words:

Sugars are a type of carbohydrate, but not all carbohydrates are sugars.

The above point is vital to understand, because it teaches us that not all carbs do the same things in (and for) our bodies.

Let’s take a fresh look at sugar now and address the question many are wondering: is sugar bad?

Eating Sugar: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Is Sugar Bad? Well, It Can Be Ugly.

No doubt, this is a difficult topic to address because most of us are emotionally attached to where we stand on food, especially sugar.

Try talking about the topic at the dinner table and you’ll be just as welcome as if you were talking about politics. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Did you know that most U.S. adults consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugars every day. That’s way more than what the American Heart Association recommends, which is  no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) a day of sugar for most women and no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) a day for most men. Sugar impacts our brain function, it can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and can increase your risk of heart disease.

And sugar is hiding everywhere.

Over 68% of barcoded food products sold in the US contain added sweeteners—even if they are labeled as “natural” or “healthy.” The safest way to ensure you’re not ingesting excess added sugars is to get in the habit of reading the ingredient list below before you add them to cart.

Added sugars fall under all kinds of different names on ingredient labels.  As a side note, the higher up an ingredient is on an ingredient list, the more of it will be included in that product. Find an ingredient ending in “ose” on the top of the list, put the product down. Many of those sugary products are empty, meaning they have no other nutrients associated with them. These products generally contain little protein, fat, fiber, vitamins or minerals.

Common Hidden Names for Sugar

(Excluding artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes)

‍Basic Simple Sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides):

  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Galactose
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Sucrose

Solid or Granulated Sugars:

  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar (aka, powdered sugar)
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Diastatic malt
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Florida crystals
  • Golden sugar
  • Glucose syrup solids
  • Grape sugar
  • Icing sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Panela sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Sugar (granulated or table)
  • Sucanat
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

Liquid or Syrup Sugars:

  • Agave Nectar/Syrup
  • Barley malt
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Buttered sugar/buttercream
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Golden syrup
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Rice syrup
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Treacle

Looking Deeper

Let’s look deeper at ten common sweeteners:

  1. AGAVE NECTAR (Agave Syrup)- found in cereals, ice cream, and “healthy” organic foods. This sweetener is more concentrated than HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup), so use cautiously.
  2. BARLEY MALT- found in beers, cereals, and candy bars. This grain-based sugar is half as sweet as white sugar, but it’s just as high on the glycemic index.
  3. BEET SUGAR- found in more than 20 percent of the world’s sugar. But don’t be fooled, the word beet suggests this sugar is natural, but it’s not. The beets used for this refined sugar are stripped of their nutrients when processed for use in many packaged foods.
  4. BROWN SUGAR- found in baked goods, sauces, beverages. Brown sugar is just as bad for you as table sugar. The only real difference? How it tastes and how it has been processed. 
  5. CANE JUICE (Evaporated Cane Juice)- found in yogurt, lemonade, liquor. Although less processed than table sugar and contains more riboflavin, it’s benefit is negligible. 
  6. CANE SUGAR- found in 80% of the world’s sugar. Multiple studies have shown how cane sugar drastically raises blood pressure and cholesterol and also contributes to insulin resistance. 
  7. CORN SYRUP (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)- found in sodas, cereal bars, bread, junk foods, fast food. Corn syrup is 100% glucose. Just one tablespoon contains 16 grams of carbohydrates. To make HFCS, enzymes are added to corn syrup to convert some of the glucose to fructose making HFCS “high” in fructose compared to the pure glucose found in corn syrup. Your body metabolizes this sugar in a way that encourages body-fat storage.
  8. EVAPORATED CANE JUICE- found in baked goods, cereals and many beverages. Actually not a juice, evaporated cane juice is a sweetener derived from sugar cane syrup making it much more concentrated than a juice with trace amounts of nutrients. 
  9. FRUCTOSE- found in baked goods, but also occurs naturally in fruits and honey. Ingesting added fructose (not naturally occurring) has been linked to rising obesity rates over the past several decades. When you eat a piece of fruit, you also get a healthy dose of fiber that can help to slow the absorption of sugar and provide a wide variety of phytonutrients and minerals that can counteract the effects of sugar. Nobody does it better than nature.
  10. HONEY (raw honey)- Honey is higher in fructose than table sugar and it weighs more than the white stuff, so it’s more calorically dense at 21 calories per teaspoon vs 16 cals for table sugar. On the plus side, honey is sweeter than table sugar, so you won’t need to use as much.

Sugar in Cereal

Stay with me for a moment while I go on a little rant.

About cereal.

Yes, I know, most Americans love their breakfast cereals (I grew up eating cereal – though my parents saved the extra sugary stuff for Saturdays). Cereal is bright & colorful, it’s sweet, it’s super convenient….and we mistakenly think it’s good for us and our kids.

And cereal brands spend millions of dollars every year marketing to our kids to make us think that. In fact, during kids TV shows the top category of advertised food is… you guessed it, cereal (even beating out candy, other snacks and fast food).

Did You Know:

  • On average, cereal’s that are marketed to children have more than 40% more sugars than “adult” cereals, and more than 2x the sugar of oatmeal.
  • According to EWG’s analysis, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks (which used to be called Sugar Smacks) leads the list of one of the highest-sugar cereals.
  • And, even with the update in food label regulations, since serving sizes on cereal labels are still unrealistically small, many adults and children will typically eat more than one “serving” in a single sitting. And according to FDA’s analysis of food consumption data, 97 percent of the most common cold cereals underestimate the amount of cereal people actually eat.

Bottom line: most cereals are just as sweet as cookies and should not be considered a part of healthy meal.  But, if you just can’t give up cereal, use common sense, read the ingredient label, and as always, don’t believe any information printed on the front of the box.

Eating Sugar: The Good

OK, thanks for hanging in with me.

Now about the good.

Somewhere along the way, we started hating on all sources carbs. But (all) carbohydrates are not the enemy here.

We need carbohydrates for energy. They are energy-packed compounds that give us quick energy. This is why choosing the right source of food where those sugars come from is so important.

It should go without saying that you’ll find much more sugar in processed foods than in whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Along with starch and fiber, sugars live under the larger umbrella: carbohydrates. The more complex the molecule, the slower digestion takes. Simple sugars, like from fruit, digest quickly and can have a positive effect in the right amount at the right time (ie: right before/during/after exercise). Starch and fiber, which is a much more complex molecule, digests slowly and help you feel fuller, for longer.

Unfortunately, one problem we’re faced with is this strange notion in our culture that if you’ve worked really hard in a workout, you deserve a big, gooey, sugary treat. Maybe this satisfies an emotional hunger temporarily, but it is certainly not what your body needs after a training session. Get clear. What your body needs is some real, whole foods.

When in doubt, opt for a diet mostly composed of lean meats, vegetables, essential fats, little starch, little fruit and plenty of water. Your body, your training and your health will thank you big time!

Why Does Sugar Taste Good?!

Sugar tastes good, partially because when it’s in its natural state, whole foods, like berries, are full of good stuff like vitamins, minerals, and energy. Our bodies are naturally attracted to them.

But everyone is different. Some of us pull the dessert plate closer after dinner while others can easily shrug off grandma’s pumpkin pie. Some of us simply respond to sugar more than others which could be from genetics or something we learned growing up. Which brings us to the next question number.

Will Eating Sugar Make Me Gain Weight?

The over-consumption of foods that have added sugars (not generally those foods that have naturally occurring sugars) can contribute to health problems such as diabetes and obesity. Added sugars feed yeast and bad bacteria in our bodies which can damage our intestinal wall, increasing intestinal permeability, AKA: leaky gut. That can trigger chronic, low-grade inflammation and lead to the transfer of substances from our gut into our bloodstream. In turn, this can lead to obesity and other chronic, metabolic diseases.

Plus, if we eat more processed, sugary foods, we’re probably taking in more energy (calories) overall. Many of these foods are tasty, in fact they’re engineered to make it hard for you to stop eating. And since we digest and use their energy very quickly, these processed foods tend to overstimulate our brain’s reward/pleasure centers which can lead to weight gain and even obesity. Data from the USDA tracking food intake from a variety of angles show consistent trends. Since 1980, Americans have continued to eat about the same total amount of fat, yet ate more carbohydrates, especially refined ones with added sugars. Over this time, the obesity rates in the United States have also grown significantly.

The World Health Organization defines “obese” as having a Body Mass Index higher than 30. Of course, some fit and muscular athletes tend to have a higher BMI even though they still have a low percentage of body fat. So, let’s look at those number for a moment. Currently, the average body fat percentage for women is about 40%, for men: 28%. To compare, the “healthy” range for a woman should be around 22-33%, and for men, that range should be around 11-22%.

While we can’t blame one single thing alone, including sugar for all the health problems and obesity surge (sleep & stress factor in, too), multiple studies do show that an increased sugar consumption does correlate with increased obesity levels, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,  leaky gut, diabetes and cancer.

How Much Sugar Should I (Can I) Eat?

Remember: Sugar (alone) doesn’t provide nourishment. No vitamins, no minerals, no fiber, no antioxidants, phytonutrients or  hydration.

Sugar from nutrient-dense, whole foods, like fruit on the other hand, contains sugar, but they provide numerous positive health benefits.

When it comes to how much sugar (from whole foods) you should eat, everyone is different and has unique energy needs. Some people do well cutting sugar out of their diet (almost) completely, while others thrive on a high-carb diet. Some athletes will count their sugar intake down to the gram, while others do well with the general guideline of “eating less-processed foods & more healthy foods” and be very successful.

As a general guideline, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020) recommends limiting sugar to 10% of your intake. So, for example, if you’re eating 2000 calories per day, that would be about 50 grams, or 200 calories from sugar.

Start reading food labels to get a clear look at how much sugar you’re actually eating. Remember, it tends to hide in packaged foods (a lot). So, better than that, eat more foods without a label (like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, meat and seafood, etc.).

When Should I Eat Sugar?

As far as when to eat sugar from nutrient-dense carbohydrates, it’s very specific to your body type, time of training, training intensity, training duration, stress levels, health/illness and a slew of other factors. Nutrient timing is very specific. When done right, it can positively affect your performance and recovery, but what works for your training partner (or a template) may not work for you. In fact, it could actually backfire.

In general, your pre-workout meals should be consumed about 1-2 hours before training. It should be carbohydrate-rich (about half complex and half simple, which can be consumed during the workout depending on workout length), moderate in protein and fiber and low in fat. Intra-nutrition and post nutrition are just as specific as pre-workout nutrition.

Much of your performance success is dependent on how well you eat. So, remember this, even if you’re eating the “right number of macros” or counting your sugar grams before and after your workout, it can make a negative impact on your goals if those macros are coming from processed foods.

How Sweet It Isn’t. Should I Choose Low-Sugar Foods?

If you’re sidelining your sugar habit, be careful of adding another unhealthy habit with artificial sweetness. That’s not the right answer…at all.

When you consume these nonnutritive (“no nutrition”) chemical sweeteners, they stimulate sweetness in your mouth and the body naturally expects the carbohydrates to follow. But, they’re faking it. When carbs don’t follow, the body gets mixed messages that may cause cravings for MORE SUGAR. Additionally, studies show that artificial sweeteners cause a variety of health problems, including cancer.

Be careful of “low sugar” products because they often use man-made artificial sweeteners (read the labels). Instead, focus on whole foods where you won’t find added sugars or even packaged foods where sugar is not one of the first three ingredients.

Sideline the Sugar

Look in your kitchen cabinets. Your refrigerator. Your freezer. See if you can find a product that you once thought was a healthy choice but have since discovered an ingredient (added sugar, for example) hiding in plain sight. Take a picture of the front/back and share it with us. Then start researching alternative options that are more nutrient-dense.

If you can’t find anything, score! Maybe talk about a product that you once thought was healthy and have since swapped out for something else.

More Questions About Nutrition?

If you eat quality, nutrient-dense foods and get your portion sizes right the majority of the time, your can still indulge in a small portion of those processed treats on occasion. It doesn’t always have to be “all or nothing.” Yes, structure your diet around nutrient-dense, colorful REAL foods, but also remember that a healthy life is not about macro math or obsessing over everything you put in on your plate.

Read the label, make smart choices, but be nice to yourself…in all areas of life.

And, as always, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Contact your Salus Nutrition Coaches at info@salusnj.com to chat more about your 3-month individualized plan to get the personalized structure you need.

Got Pain? Your Gut Might Be To Blame.

Did you know that there is a strong connection between joint pain and your gut? If you’re experiencing achy knees, chronic pain or stiff joints, leaky gut may be to blame.

Often, these ills are attributed to the unfortunate effects of aging and maybe we just chalk it up to be arthritis. What if that pain was actually caused by an imbalance from another part of our body?

Our gut.

Did you Know:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may affect as much as 30% of the population. Symptoms typically include gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and altered bowels (constipation, diarrhea, loose stools).
  • Up to 84% of IBS may be linked to an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines. The good news is that many people can experience relief by following diets that reduce bacterial overgrowth.
  • What’s interesting is that when gut health is improved, studies show that it can also improve anxiety and depression. Evidence shows that brain fog and impaired memory can also improve with gut healing.
  • What’s more? data also shows that improving gut health can also show an improvement in metabolism.
  • Additionally, several studies have uncovered a link between microbes in our gut and other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). People with RA as well as psoriatic arthritis tend to have higher levels of a certain type of bug in their intestines that those without the disease. This research suggests that the connections aren’t just between the gut and arthritis, but any type of inflammation in the body.
  • Inflammation in the intestines has been shown to cause insomnia, improving that inflammation can improve sleep!
  • Certain skin conditions (pimples, rashes, skin inflammation) have been clinically documented to improve after reducing unwanted bacterial overgrowth.

Importance of the Small Intestine

The small intestine accounts for over 56% of our intestinal tract, nutrients are absorbed here and it is responsible for 90% of caloric absorption. Yep you read that right 90% of the calories you take in are absorbed in the small intestine. Another factor worth noting is that the small intestine has a profound impact on the immune system: the largest mass of immune cells found in our entire body is seen in the small intestines.

So, you can see, it’s kind of a big deal.

It’s important to note that the small intestine’s thin, protective mucous membrane is much more prone to damage (which can result in leaky gut) than the large intestine.

That is why small-intestinal health is impactful on immune and autoimmune conditions.

What Exactly is Leaky Gut?

Think of the gut as a drawbridge. Naturally, the gut is semi-permeable to allow micronutrients (think of them as tiny row boats) pass through the intestinal tract into our bloodstream (this is normal). Certain external factors such as processed foods, infections, toxins and stress can increase intestinal permeability, causing our drawbridge to stay open which allows larger boats to escape into our bloodstream (this is NOT a good thing). Your immune system marks those foreign invaders that were never meant to pass through, such as toxins, as pathogens and begins to attack.

According to a description in the journal, Frontiers in Immunology, leaky gut is described as:

The intestinal epithelial lining, together with factors secreted from it, forms a barrier that separates the host from the environment. In pathologic conditions, the permeability of the epithelial lining may be compromised allowing the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria in the lumen to enter the bloodstream creating a ‘leaky gut.’

What Causes Leaky Gut?

Maybe you just tweaked your ankle and have been trying to limp your way through the day with a few Motrin. Perhaps you’ve been taking birth control for years. Or your diet is filled with processed foods. Any of these scenarios can irritate the small intestine leading to leaky gut or intestinal permeability (when the food particles that pass through the intestine “leak” into our bloodstream) which triggers the immune system to go into attack mode and fight the invaders.

This is dangerous.

Leaky gut results in increase in inflammation, this inflammation can lead to joint pain and a host of diseases.

Leaky gut can also be caused by:

  • Chronic stress
  • Toxin overload (alcohol, antibiotics, pesticides, tap water, aspirin, other drugs)
  • Poor diet (inflammatory foods such as added sugars, refined oils, soy, food additives, gluten, dairy,  the typical Standard American Diet SAD diet)
  • Artificial sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-K, sucralose, neotame)
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Bacterial imbalance
  • Aging
  • Genetic predisposition

In fact, a 2015 review paper, published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews, shoed that food additives found in processed foods can irritate the gut, lead to leaky gut and subsequently, cause autoimmune disease.

As you can see, many things on that list is IN our control (minus aging and genetics).

How Do I Know If I Have Leaky Gut?

In addition to your joint pain, additional symptoms that may indicate the problem is all in your gut include:

  • Inflammatory conditions, arthritis
  • Digestive problems (bloating, gas, IBS, gastric ulcers, diarrhea)
  • General/seasonal allergies and/or asthma
  • Hormonal imbalances (PMS)
  • Autoimmune diseases (celiac disease, psoriasis, lupus)
  • Chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia
  • Brain-related symptoms (brain fog, anxiety, moodiness, depression, ADD, ADHD)
  • Skin issues (acne, rosacea, eczema)
  • Candida overgrowth
  • Food allergies and/or intolerances

Create a Healthy Gut Environment for Healthy Bacteria

Remove. Replace. Restore.

Adequate, if not optimal, digestive system function is essential to our health. If you are in pain, try eating to reduce inflammation to create a healthy environment for gut bacteria and improve microbiota/gut flora.

The first thing is to remove all inflammatory triggers such as stress and certain foods like:

  • Sugar
  • Saturated Fat
  • Trans Fat
  • Omega 6 Fatty Acids
  • Refined Carbs
  • MSG
  • Gluten & Casein
  • Vegetable Oils
  • Alcohol

Then replace the good by eating whole, unprocessed foods that support nutrient absorption such as:

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Green leafy veggies
  • Nuts
  • Fatty fish like salmon
  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges

Finally, restore a healthy bacteria in your gut (think: high-quality probiotics, prebiotics: non-digestible fiber compounds found in garlic, onions, leeks, raw dandelion greens, curcumin, bone broth).

You must eat to balance blood sugar, and steer clear of food allergens, intolerances, and food additives. Why? As a response to eating food that you’re intolerant to, your immune system will react with inflammation.

How do you know if you’re intolerant to certain foods? Of course you can do a blood test, but the most useful diagnosis is 3-week food exclusion to watch for symptom improvements followed by a gradual food reintroduction to confirm.

One way to try a food exclusion experiment is to follow the Paleo diet, which does a great job of removing common food allergens. In the Paleo diet, you focus on fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, eggs, healthy fats, oils, nuts and seeds. You avoid grains, beans and legumes, processed foods and dairy.

Which Approach is Best for You?

Remember, our gut is the gateway to health.

With nearly 80% of our immune system residing in the gut and 95% of our serotonin produced in the gut, chances are, if our gut is healthy, we will also be healthy.

But this is a journey. These changes won’t take place overnight. A good place to start is with the 3-day elimination diet. But, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information above, don’t hesitate to reach out.

You can also set up a free 15-minute consultation to learn more about our one-on-one nutrition health coaching.

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

Overcoming Procrastination: Just Do the Dishes Already

Most of us know that the key to maintaining momentum with our goals is by overcoming procrastination.

Have you ever noticed how the smallest things can feel so difficult? I know I’m not alone on this. Without a doubt, we all have that one thing (or many things) that needs to get done, but we tend to procrastinate doing it. For me, it used to be a resistance to folding socks and doing the dishes.  Now, I’m the kind of person that likes to check off the boxes and get stuff done, but, there was just something about folding socks that drove me bonkers. Don’t judge me LOL

Until I realized how little time those two tasks actually took me. I literally timed myself one day.

Those tasks took me less than two minutes.

Seriously.

Overcoming Procrastination in Less Than 2 Minutes

Personal growth is a form of change. Unfortunately, there is an unconscious, deeply rooted part of us that resists change.

Even if it’s a positive change.

This internal resistance can show up in a variety of ways, from feeling lazy, scared, complacent, doubtful and that overwhelming feeling of procrastination.

Here’s the deal…

Most of these things we procrastinate aren’t actually difficult to do (I mean, come on…folding socks? What was I thinking?) We just avoid getting started on them for some reason. Of course, the more time-consuming the activity is, the bigger resistance to starting it is created in the mind of the procrastinator.

How do you overcome?

The two minute rule

Relative to the size of the task, the 2 minute rule can be applied in two ways:

  • The first way is to do short and easy tasks right away.
  • The second way is applied to bigger projects that require added time and effort. And just start chipping away.

Originating from Newton’s first law of motion that states that objects in rest stay at rest and objects in motion stay in motion, the 2-minute rule in this case means finishing that bigger project 2 minutes at a time. Research shows that the way to start big projects is to break it down into as many small tasks as possible where completion will lead to an increase in motivation. For example, get dressed for a workout and lace up your shoes (2 minutes, check!) and you’ll be more likely to go to the gym, exercise and have more energy! Or sit down to write your grocery list and you’ll be more likely to go grocery shopping, meal prep and eat healthier.

Countdown from 5

But, getting started can be harder than it sounds – even if it’s just for two minutes. So, try this trick. The moment you have an instinct to act on something, count out loud: “5,4,3,2,1” and then physically move your body before your brain has a chance to stop you. The counting distracts you from your excuses and help you focus your mind on moving in a new direction. It interrupts your default thinking and becomes a “starting ritual” that activates your prefrontal cortex which will help you change your behavior.

Try it! I promise the 5 second countdown preceding the 2 minute rule will ignite something powerful if you just give it a try!

Procrastination Trigger: Feelings

You can probably name a handful of things you’re currently procrastinating. The truth is, overcoming procrastination is not necessarily going to be your cure-all. It’s about teaching yourself to anticipate your specific triggers and coming up with a plan in advance on how to get started without hesitation, such as the two-minute hack.

Common procrastination triggers are the fear of the unknown, distraction, lack of motivation and resistance to get started (doing the dishes). Big or small, every task comes with a certain level of resistance.

And one of the most common reasons why we procrastinate is that we want things to be perfect. Our feelings get in the way. Instead of focusing on getting started, we obsess about achieving perfect results and end up paralyzed.

According to neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, our feelings decide for us 95% of the time. We FEEL before we think. We FEEL before we act. As Damasio explains, humans are “feeling machines that think,” not “thinking machines that feel.” Ultimately, our feelings have a strong influence on how we make decisions. You need to learn how to separate what you are feeling from the actions that you are taking.

The 5 second countdown to the 2 minute rule is a remarkable took in this regard. For example, the moment you don’t feel like meal prepping, you won’t. But if you countdown from five and tell yourself that you’ll just take 2 minutes on the task, you can untangle your feelings from your actions and get started.

Remember, set realistic expectations and strive for progress, not perfection.

Remember to Reinforce Your Habits

William H McRaven said it well in his book, “Make Your Bed,”

“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room, and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard, and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack.

It was a simple task, mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALS, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made-that you made-and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

Overcoming Procrastination in a Simple, Yet Powerful Way

What is that one thing you have been procrastinating that might be holding you back from achieving your goals?

Are you paralyzed about food choices?

Does taking the time to stand there and fill up your water bottle hold you back from staying hydrated?

Does the latest episode on Netflix prevent you from getting enough sleep?

Whether you’re waiting for the “perfect time” to start exercising, eat better… or do the dishes, I encourage you to use these tools to help you overcome procrastination and attack your goals head on. Whatever it is that’s taunting you, hanging over your head, if it takes less than two minutes to get started, then do it now.

Knowing what you need to do is the easy part…pushing yourself to do it takes courage.

If you already started making positive changes, you’re likely learning a lot about your body and mind. Hopefully, these are changes that you can embrace and carry through with you for life. Ride that momentum and take the steps you need to feel confident and become a better, healthier version of you.

Let me know how it goes!

Healthy Popcorn Recipe

If you’re looking for a new healthy popcorn recipe, we’ve got you covered!

Popcorn is a Healthy Swap for Chips

If you have that need to crunch and are looking for a snack that’s lower in calories than chips (but filling) we highly recommend popcorn. Popcorn is one of our favorite snacks because it’s high in fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and helps to keep you feeling full for longer. Plus, if you make it with coconut oil like the recipe below calls for you have your carbs (popcorn) and fat (oil) macronutrients accounted for.

Ounce for ounce, popcorn has more protein than most chips…but it’s not much. To make popcorn even more satisfying, turn this snack a mini-meal by adding a bit of protein. Add a couple slices of nitrate-free deli meat or some almonds on the side to provide a better balance of macronutrients.

Is Microwave Popcorn Bad for You?

ahhhhh! It can be, depending on how you pop it.

Have you heard about the dangers of microwave popcorn? Microwave popcorn bags can be toxic and some brands can have hidden (dangerous) ingredients, “flavors” and preservatives.

In fact, a FDA report indicates that the chemical coating used in microwave popcorn bags will break down when it’s heated into a substance called perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). The Environmental Protection Agency has identified PFOA as a “likely carcinogen.” PFOA is also used to make Teflon and other nonstick materials, such as pizza boxes. This chemical can stay in your body and the environment for long periods of time.

Avoid the potential hazards of microwave popcorn. Make your own. It’s so easy…and so much healthier!

If you love popcorn, consider going with air-popped with organic kernels and your own seasonings. Electric air poppers are relatively inexpensive. Good ones heat up the popcorn quickly and efficiently enough to ensure you end up with fluffy popcorn for movie night.

Here’s how you can make your own popcorn, a naturally gluten-free snack.

Poppin’ Your Own Coconut Oil Popcorn

Popcorn Ingredients

1/2 Cup Organic Popping Corn
1 1/2 Tablespoons coconut oil
Sea salt

Popcorn Directions

  • Heat a large, heavy bottom pot over medium heat.
  • Add the coconut oil and let it completely melt. Put a few test kernels into the pan and wait for them to pop.
  • Place the rest of the popcorn seeds into the pan and cover.
  • After the kernels begin popping, shake every 10 seconds until you hear the popping slow down.
  • When the popping slows down to a pop every 2-3 seconds.
  • Remove the pan from heat.
  • Continuously shake for another 10-20 seconds so the popcorn at the bottom doesn’t burn.
  • Salt to taste and enjoy.

Taking Time for Yourself: Why Self-Care is SO Important

Do you ever feel guilty taking time for yourself?

You shouldn’t.

Self-care shouldn’t be a thing of the past. Here’s why you don’t have to “earn” me-time or feel guilty about taking it.

Taking Time for Self-Care: Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

It’s so easy to make [fill in the blank] your whole life. Whether it’s work, kids, caring for others or home improvement projects, it can be hard to disconnect and take a step back. Plus, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all facing something we’ve never experienced before…an insurmountable level of stress. If we’re not putting our energy into something, we feel guilty, selfish, wasteful. Believe me, as a mom of twins and small business owner, I can empathize.

But it’s shouldn’t be that way. In fact, it’s a nasty recipe for burnout.

As much as you you might love your work, etc, it can become consuming and stressful if you let it.

That email (dishes, laundry, etc) can probably wait a few hours or even until the next business day, if needed, so you can knock off a little early and make time for you.

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Every week, look at your calendar and book some “me time.”

Head to the gym, catch a sunrise at the beach, read a book, make a nice meal, go for bike ride, meditate, work on personal goals…get enough sleep. Whatever is important to you, schedule in the time for yourself. Literally book an appointment with yourself and then DO NOT CANCEL.

Take time away from “being busy” to relax and do something you enjoy (that has nothing to do with deadlines, homework or responding to emails) and that makes you a better person from the inside- out.

It’s not only better for your brain to disconnect, it’s better for your overall health to step away and make time for YOU….before you have nothing left to give. Psychologists agree self-care is effective against all kinds of external stress and can help you:

1 – Relax your Mind
2 – Boost Concentration & Focus
3 – Understand Yourself
4 – Resolve Problems
5 – Build Mental Strength

Because, if you’re not caring for yourself emotionally, mentally and physically, how can you give it your all in your work, for your kids or for others?

It’s like the oxygen mask that drops down on the airplane- you’re instructed to put your oxygen mask on first.

Even if it’s just taking five minutes to get up from your desk every hour for a little stretch break or scheduling in your workout (and then not cancelling on yourself). In the end, carving out time for yourself (and then actually taking it) will help you be a better employee, parent, spouse, etc.

Positive Self Talk

Let’s be honest. When the **** hits the fan, so can a lot of our healthy habits. Maybe the chips are disappearing from the cabinets a little faster than usual or maybe you’re i the thrones of a full-on Netflix and wine binge.

Guess what?

You’re human. It’s okay. Seriously. I never judge and I understand you more than you might realize. You’re not alone. This is normal. The last thing you want to do is harm yourself further by beating yourself up. That will only amplify the stress-loop-of-doom even more.

Instead: The key here is to recognize those patterns so you’re better prepared to make future changes. But the only way you’ll get to that point is to go deep with yourself. So, strap on your scuba gear and bust out your journal. Time for some honest self-talk.

Then…MOVE ON. And recognize it’s ok to ask for help.

Good Nutrition is Positive Self-Care

Nourishing our body with good, clean food is the foundation of health. Diet culture and Instagram influencers often make food out to be the enemy or as something that needs to be controlled. However, the food we eat impacts our ability to thrive and can be a form of self-care.

Here are a couple of ways to practice self-care through nutrition:

  • Take your time during meals. Slow down and put the fork down in between bites.
  • Remove distractions when you eat (away from TV and phone). Research actually shows that removing distractions also allows you to enjoy your meal, which may help you absorb nutrients more effectively.
  • Eat regularly to prevent low energy levels, brain fog and that dreaded “hangry” feeling.
  • Get colorful. Not only does a colorful plate add more diversity of immune-boosting and inflammation-fighting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, studies show that diets rich in fruits and vegetables are associated with daily feelings of well-being.

That’s what I call self-care.

Do you struggle with taking time for yourself?

In our busy world of endless to-do’s, it’s essential to give yourself permission to take a mini time-out and recharge your batteries. Doing so will help you prevent burnout, reduce stress and refocus your energy.

Your time and your energy is precious and should be respected. Because, if we treat ourselves as less important, it’s likely that same response will be mirrored back by colleagues, family and friends.

Your needs matter. Self-care matters.

Especially as a parent, you want to ensure that your children know that they deserve the same quality of care and attention as everyone and everything else… help them feel confident about making the time for themselves by leading by example.

Put your oxygen mask on first.

Get Your Nutrition and Wellness Back on Track

Do you struggle with self-care? At Salus Nutrition, we care for our clients the same way they care for their own loved ones. You’ll find countless diets, programs and fads out there…but Salus Nutrition Coaching is the only program designed to take care of what matters most to you (your nutrition, wellness and well-being) the same way you would take care of those who matter most to you, too.

It’s not about criticizing your food log or demanding you do fasted cardio, it’s about recognizing your unique needs and giving you the help and support you deserve.

So, let us help you.

We accept a small number of new clients every month, so reach out and get your name on the list today.

Nutrition Inquiry

Taking Control of Cravings and Temptation

Do you usually give in to cravings, give up… or take control?

This post is not your typical advice about fighting off cravings. 

Sure, mindful eating, drinking more water, decreasing stress and avoiding the notorious feeling of being hangry will all help keep your cravings at bay (like that unplanned decision to grab pretzels from your kid’s snack pack).

Whether you just want to kick up your feet and relax with a glass of wine on the weekend or head out to taste-test Nicholas Creamery, let’s see what we can do to make it fit into your day.

Wait, what? You might be thinking…has Coach Angela gone crazy?

Nope.

What I’m talking about here is learning how to plan ahead to prevent going overboard. Celebrations, holidays, stressful occasions, etc.- they will always be there. Learn how to navigate through them rather than avoid them (and then spiral out of control). The right way.

Here’s the deal. You need to be strategic about it.

Most of us crave energy-dense foods such as chocolate and other high-caloric sweet and savory foods. Whatever it is for you, choose your guilty pleasure ahead of time- a drink, some ice cream, chips and guacamole, etc. It’s all about planning ahead and then staying in control, guilt-free.

Mind blown.

Look at this kind of like a test. A lot of feedback I hear from clients is that they feel uneasy, even scared, to “enter back into the real world” after a challenge.

Our goal is to set you up for success for life – to approach situations with confidence in making the healthiest decisions possible, and also to enjoy yourself in moderation. That being said, if you’re worried that a little will most likely turn into a lot, you might want to wait until you have built up more confidence over your choices, first.

Take Control of Cravings For Good

Whether you decide to implement these tips next weekend or next month, here’s how to stay in control in the face of temptation and cravings.

Decide In Advance-

Decide what food or drink you’d like to enjoy in advance. If you plan for your portioned out serving of dessert or a glass of vino, you’ll be less likely to cave in after a stressful week with an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s…or the whole bottle of wine.

Pick one.

And take the time to thoroughly enjoy it. Without the side of guilt.

Control Portions-

Be sure to identify the serving size that you’re going to have ahead of time and stick to it. Visualize that one glass of wine or talk about sharing some decadent ice cream with your loved one.

This will help you to stay true to portion control and walk away feeling satisfied rather than stuffed.

Swap it Out-

Now, I know “moderation” requires willpower. Especially when you’re attempting to moderate food specifically designed by scientists to make you want to eat more now and crave more later. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to make the decision to completely avoid those foods that you know you can’t put the breaks on and instead find nutrient-dense alternatives that you enjoy.

Look at this not as deprivation, but as the smartest decision you could possibly make for a happier, healthier life.

Finding foods “that you enjoy” is key. Do some research on healthy swaps and discover whole foods that can replace unhealthier versions. For example, if you love chips and dip – experiment with baked plantain chips and homemade guacamole. Just remember to portion things out properly in advance.

Look for a Distraction-

If your cravings have been hijacked by the surge of dopamine that spikes every time you walk through the kitchen, look for a distraction like drinking a glass of water or calling a loved one. Too often we eat because we’re bored or simply in the habit, rather than physically hungry. To combat that, research shows that changing your habits by focusing on another task, like walking around the block, can help reset your mind and help keep uncontrollable cravings at bay.

Dig a Little Deeper

There’s a chance your cravings due to a strict deprivation. In fact, some studies show that a short-term, selective food deprivation can increase cravings for the avoided foods. But get this:

Dieting’s bad reputation for increasing food cravings is only partially true as the relationship between food restriction and craving is more complex. While short-term, selective deprivation may increase food cravings, long-term energy restriction seems to actually decrease food cravings. This suggests that food deprivation can also facilitate extinction of conditioned food craving responses.

How do you get there? Change your mindset.

You’ve heard me say it before — instead of saying: “I can’t have that.” Reframe your thought process and instead say, “I don’t want that.” Say that enough and you’ll start to believe it.

Ask Yourself

Is there something that you’ve been craving lately? Or an event coming up that’s going to be full of temptations?

How can you manage these feelings by using the tips and tricks mentioned above?

Control Cravings With a Healthy Mindset

A healthy lifestyle is about making the most nutrient dense choices you can but also maintaining a healthy mindset. It’s not about constant feelings of restriction or becoming a hermit to avoid social temptations. Stay balanced by understanding that you can have some (not all) of your favorite foods and be okay with that.

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

How Much Should I Eat? How to Start Listening To Your Body

Two of the most common questions we get at Salus Nutrition is: “How much should I eat?” and “Should I count macros?” Similar to the question: “How much should I be lifting?” the answer is greatly dependent on many different factors. It’s impossible to give out a number without digging into the details, but you can get a head start by recognizing hunger cues (listening to your body) and becoming aware of appropriate portion sizes. Here’s how.

Learn: How Much Should I Eat? By: Listening First

Let me start off by repeating: there isn’t a cookie-cutter approach to determining: “how much should I eat.” Nutrition needs, just like your workouts, are not determined by a one-size-fits-all approach.

What works for them rarely works for you.

The secret: Listening to your body. Find out what you need to feel your best, in your workouts and especially during that typical 3pm slump. Determine what foods affect your energy, sleep, mood, etc. This awareness is essential to improve your LIFE.

Listening to your body will help us shed some light on the emotions that drive our eating decisions, our motivation to workout and helps us to check-in when we’re over-tired, over-stressed or over-emotional. It can also help us overcome the notion that we need to eat until every last bite is cleaned off our plate.

Are You Part of the “Clean Plate Club”?

Many of us are raised with the “Clean Plate Club” mentality. This compulsive need to polish off every single morsel can lead to overeating. Like many of us growing up, I was encouraged to eat everything on my plate. Instead of listening to our bodies and responding appropriately as kids, we often left the table feeling more full than necessary. This ingrained habit still affects many of us today.

Clean Plate Club: When one feels the need to eat all food on their plate (and/or their child’s plate), regardless of whether he/she is fully satiated at that meal.

So how do you overcome this as an adult? By practicing mindful eating and re-learning how to listen to your body’s fullness signals.

Research is still unveiling the many ways that our body is affected by our lifestyle choices. So many connections between our microbiome, stress, inflammation, etc. The food choices we make are literally sending signals to the cells in our body that impacts how we feel (much more on that later).

While it might sound cliche to “listen to your body,” if you want to establish lifelong health changes, it plays a key role.

Eat To 80% Full

If you’ve eaten until you’re full, you’ve probably already overeaten. Time to get back in touch with your hunger/fullness signals with a simple rating of 1-10. (1 = very hungry, 5 = comfortable, 8= satisfied, but not stuffed, and 10 = uncomfortably full).

Rate yourself before you eat and then again midway through your meal. Stop eating when you get to a “8”. Eat until you’re no longer physically hungry, but not to the feeling of being “stuffed” or “full.”

Don’t get hung up on the exact percentage, just shoot for the general idea.

Remember to eat s-l-o-w-l-y. Be patient and listen for that “80% full” signal rather than your social or emotional hunger cues). And don’t hesitate to leave food on your (or your kid’s) plate or pack it up for leftovers.

But, what if you’re experiencing strong cues, like no appetite or feeling hungry all the time?

No Appetite? What Does Hunger Cue Mean?

Lost your appetite?

So often, nutrition topics centers around overeating and weight loss, but undereating is important to address, too. Signs you might not be eating enough include: low energy, headaches, unintentional weight loss, poor sleep quality.

If you’re experiencing a lack of appetite it could be tied to psychological factors such as stress, depression or grief. Take a deep dive into stress management: Read: “Control Stress Before It Controls You,” for some great tips on finding a greater sense of calm and clarity in your day.

Stress, even the stress that our body experiences from overtraining, can cause an increase in hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. This can inhibit appetite. It’s essential to incorporate recovery days to allow our bodies to adapt to the stress of exercise, replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues.

Health-relation conditions may be at play, as well such as postpartum depression and the common cold or flu. During this time, it’s essential to stay hydrated and eat as much whole, nutrient-dense foods as possible. Like it or not, cold/flu season is about to rear its ugly head.

Read: “Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu Season,” for some helpful tips.

Hungry All The Time? What Does Hunger Cue Mean?

If you feel hungry all the time, it could be a result of lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, feeling stressed (there’s stress again), drinking alcohol or being dehydrated. When any of these factors are at play, it can cause our hormone levels to fall out of whack which can lead to a feeling of hunger…when you’re really not.

Dehydration can greatly limit the processes in our body. By drinking enough water, you’re supporting digestion, metabolism and more. Need more convincing? Check out, “Importance of Staying Hydrated.”

Too many starchy carbs can also affect hunger. Refined carbs not only lack nutrients that our bodies need to function, they lead to a spike in blood sugar…and then a crash, leaving you hungry again.

A lack of protein or healthy fats can also leave you with the urge to snack. Healthy fats and protein can help you feel fuller, longer. Try adding avocado or a teaspoon of nut butter or coconut oil to your protein shake/smoothie and experience satiation all afternoon.

Other common causes of feeling hungry all the time are very much linked to emotional and environmental connections. Whether you’re bored, associate food with a certain event (like always snacking while you watch TV) or obsessing over counting calories, these could lead to overeating.

To help you identify emotional those triggers, simply ask, “Am I hungry?” whenever you feel like snacking. If you truly don’t feel any physical signs of hunger (growling stomach, low energy, etc.), it’s likely that the urge was triggered by emotional or environmental cues.

Test Your Hunger

Then test yourself. If you’re truly hungry, you’ll be down to eat a variety of foods, even a meal, to quiet your rumbling stomach. If you have an emotionally driven craving, you’ll often find yourself standing in front of the fridge with the door wide open whenever you’re bored. Or maybe you’ll feel a craving for a specific type of food such as chocolate or a salty snack.

Keep good tasting, wholesome snacks handy for those hunger pangs. Prepare cut-up vegetables to have handy with hummus or sprinkle plain yogurt with some nuts and frozen organic berries. Even prepare a couple protein shakes with a half a banana and greens ahead of time (store them in a mason jar in your fridge for an easy grab-and-go).

Get Your Portions In Check

So, to answer the age-old question, “How much should I eat,” intuitive eating is the overall goal.

But, it’s also important to become aware of your appropriate portion sizes and/or macronutrient needs. Some individuals may have the patience to weigh and measure their food to determine how many grams of carbohydrates, fats and protein. But for most people, that’s not practical.

Enter: Your hand.

Eating according to your hand guide helps you meet appropriate macronutrient portions without needing to count or measuring anything. And allow yourself to nudge up or down depending on workout days, cycle days, sick days, etc.

Find out more: “Portion Guidelines Explained” to get more guidance on finding a good balance for protein, veggies, smart carbohydrates and healthy fats. This goes for meals and snacks.

What’s important to remember is that determining how much you should eat isn’t necessarily about restriction or “being strict.” It’s about learning how to eat in a way that gives your body what it needs to feel good.