Join The Online Clean Eating Circle to Change Your Life

This 3 week program is designed to help you gain energy, lose foods that aren’t serving you and give your body a break from fatigue, fuzziness and feeling flustered. The Online Clean Eating Circle will help clean out the cobwebs and give your body a rest from foods that aren’t serving you. Join us on June 13 (start date) for the cleanse, and stay tuned for the free information call coming soon. Details can be found at The Online Clean Eating Circle webpage here.

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  • Give your body a break. We will meet you where you are!
  • Embark on a fresh, new journey while gaining knowledge about what triggers your body, the best foods for you personally, and how to feel confident in your food choices
  • Gain nutrient density and lose some excess weight and inflammation
  • Get group support lead by two nutrition professionals
  • Enjoy eating real food while cleansing your body
  • No starving on this plan! And no expensive supplements or powders.
Join two Health Coaches and Nutrition Consultants, Michelle Dwyer and Amy Griffith, for an informative introduction to this dynamic and supportive clean eating circle.
What is Included in the free first information meeting? Details here: http://cleaneatingcircle.strikingly.com
Introduction to the circle and eating techniques around what foods we will focus on and which ones we will take a much needed break from for a while. ***If you can’t join us on for the free info meeting call, you can listen to the recording. You can still join our program and there will be more programs to come!
As a registered participant you will also receive:
  • Customized Oakland Clean Eating Circle materials, including recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and beverages, menu plans and ideas and BONUS recipes to help you make the most out of your three weeks within the circle.
  • We are here for you! Continued access to two of the East Bay Area’s premiere nutrition professionals: Michelle Dwyer and Amy Griffith. We are available to answer questions and support you throughout the three weeks.
  • Access to a weekly support group that will be crucial in helping you to stick with the program, sharing ideas and stories on how we are succeeding, and the challenges we are facing as we follow through this program.
  • Weekly check in calls where we will offer feedback, outlining ways to better utilize the program, and celebrating the ways in which you are already succeeding
  • Educational handouts, links and resources
  • Access to the private Facebook page
Why a food cleanse or clean eating group? You will learn…
  • How to effectively take a break from food products and common allergens, toxins and stressors
  • How metabolism, inflammation and your overall health and wellness relates to clean eating
  • How to cleanse gently and realistically
  • That you are worth it (if you didn’t know that already)!
Who Should NOT Cleanse
  • Those on heavy medications for chronic health conditions
  • Children under 18
  • Anyone with cancer, a terminal illness, serious mental illness, kidney or liver failure, anemia or who is underweight.
Your Clean Eating Circle Supporters:
Michelle Dwyer supports her clients through compassionate health coaching and nutrition consulting services. She helps her clients feel a greater sense of wellness, vibrancy, and energy.
Amy Griffith shows her clients how to love their food while still eating healthful, nourishing meals. She helps her clients fix their food first!
Visit http://cleaneatingcircle.strikingly.com for details.
Amaze-meatballs!

I went through a meatball phase a couple of weeks ago, and was craving them since dinner at Pizzaiolo. I had the best meatballs I have ever had there. The best.

We don’t eat many processed foods in our house, but brown rice pasta works its way in every once in a while (pasta was a huge part of my childhood). I try to use spaghetti squash and zucchini ribbon “noodles” as much as possible for pasta alternatives. I found that using my improvisational methods and applying them to savory meatballs was pretty successful: playing around with various ingredients in the food processor made for surprising results. Here is what I played around with:

Amaze-balls Meatballs 

Ready for pulsing and mixing.

Ready for pulsing and mixing.

  • 1 shallot, chopped fine
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp chopped tarragon
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomato pesto (or just sun dried tomatoes, with the oil – if so, add a large pinch of Herbs de Provence)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated (or use nutritional yeast if dairy free)
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • red pepper flakes, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  •  1 pound ground, grass fed or pastured beef, lamb, chicken or turkey (I used lamb here)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pulse everything but the meat in the food processor until made into a thick, well-incorporated paste. Place meat and paste in large bowl and mix together loosely, taking care to almost fold the processed ingredients in to the ground meat.

I shaped the meatballs more into flat, mini patties, making sure they weren’t super round so they would cook through easily. I also took care not to shape them too tightly (the meatballs at Pizzaiolo almost fell apart and melted in the mouth – this is what I was trying to go for).

Serve with any sauce over spaghetti or spaghetti squash and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy!

They were legit.

They were legit.

This recipe is a sneak preview of just one of the many amazing recipes that will be featured in the new cookbook collaboration I am working on (#ready4healthcookbook) with my friend and colleague Michaele Kruger.. Coming soon in pdf form – stay tuned!

Balancing Blood Sugar: Guest Post

Thank you Amy for allowing me to guest post to your blog!  I am Dr. Laura Figoski, ND.

Dr. Laura Figoski

Dr. Laura Figoski

I am a primary care doctor with special training in a holistic approach using only natural therapies   to address medical concerns.  The focus of my practice is diabetes and metabolic syndrome.  I wanted  to you use this chance to share with you some of my knowledge on balancing your blood sugar, improving energy and preventing metabolic disease and diabetes

The Key Players:

  • Blood sugar: a measurement of the amount of sugar (specifically glucose) in your blood.  Blood sugar varies though out the day depending on what you eat and how active you are.  Normal fasting blood sugar is less than 100mg/dL. It is important for this value to not get      too high or too low, either extreme can cause symptoms.  Anything higher than 100 mg/dL      is considered “pre-diabetes.”  Anything lower than ~60mg is likely to produce hypoglycemic symptoms.  The body has many protective systems in place to protect you if your blood    sugar gets too low (cortisol, glycogen stores, gluconeogenesis etc…) But the body only has    two ways to decrease blood sugar if it gets too high.  One is exercise.  The other is insulin.
  • Insulin: Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas in response to increases in blood sugar.  Insulin signals the body’s cells to take sugar out of the blood stream.  Insulin is a signal to the body that energy is plentiful. Insulin tells the body to store this extra energy as fat and inhibits the break down fat stores.  Without insulin, we don’t gain weight.

So the key to balancing blood sugar, preventing metabolic disease and improving energy now becomes regulating blood sugar and insulin. Blood sugar response varies based on what sort of food is eaten.

If we consume sugars or carbohydrates, especially in a highly refined forms like white sugar or high fructose corn syrup, our blood sugar spikes quickly and drops quickly.  So not long after that sugary snack, we are left hungry, unsatisfied and craving more sugar.  Sugar is a fast energy source intended to hit the blood stream quick and be used up quickly.

Conversely, if we consume fats, the blood sugar response is quite slow to rise, has a much broader peak and ultimately takes longer time to return to baseline.  This means that it is taking the body more time to process the food and thus we stay satiated longer.  Fat is a long term energy source meant to be burned for sustained periods of time.  The response to proteins is somewhere between the two.

When blood sugars spike quickly, as they do with carbohydrates, the body then reacts by pumping out lots of insulin. This is what leads to a dramatic and quick drop in blood sugar. Often the quantity of insulin released overshoots the need, so blood sugar then falls to below than optimal levels.  This low blood sugar period can cause decreased energy, headaches and a myriad of other hypoglycemic symptoms.

The following strategies will help to keep your blood sugar more stable leading to strong energy throughout the day and will also prevent sugar cravings before they start:

  • Focus on eating healthy fats (avocado, coconut, organic butter, grass fed beef, salmon, olive oil etc…) to provide sustainable energy with out spiking blood sugar.
  • Additionally, incorporate protein and fiber with each meal or snack.
  • Don’t skip breakfast.  Make sure breakfast includes healthy fat, protein and fiber.
  • High sugar beverages including soda, juices and sports drinks are the worst at spiking blood sugar.  Avoid these at all costs.
  • Minimize starches, sugars and carbohydrates; especially highly refined forms like white flour, white sugar, white rice, and white potato.
  • Set yourself up for success by stocking your kitchen with vegetables, high quality fats and proteins and low sugar fruits (like dark skinned berries and green apples.)
  • Eat smaller more frequent meals throughout the day; making sure that each of them incorporates protein, fat and fiber.

By giving your body long burning healthy fats and fiber, instead of fast burning carbohydrates, your blood sugar will be more balanced throughout the day.  And you will be rewarded with sustained energy, fewer sugar cravings and prevention of metabolic disease.

Thank you to Dr. Figoski for being so darn awesome, articulate and for giving us some action items to start the process of improving our metabolic health and managing those blood sugar swings!

 

 

How to Address Stubborn Weight Loss: Guest Post

My friend and respected colleague, Health Coach (and Business Coach/CPA extraordinaire) Jessica Mishra, of Beaming with Health, has some important things to say, particularly around a topic that her and I are both very passionate about: answering that omnipresent question of, “why can’t I lose weight? I am doing everything right…right?” I am honored to have her as a guest writer on this weeks’ post:

Jessica

Do you feel like you are doing almost everything right when it comes to your health habits? You are eating well for the most part and exercising regularly. For some reason, though, you can’t seem to reach the optimal weight you feel your body should be at. I have been through this myself, and I hear about this from clients. Let’s look at a few areas that are important to address when it comes to weight loss that do not directly relate to food or exercise.

Toxicity

Did you know that your body does this nifty little thing to protect you when you have excess toxicity in your body? It “does you a solid” by storing toxins in your fat cells. This is actually a helpful function that the body is performing, but it doesn’t seem so helpful when all you see is excess weight on your body. What can be done?

Well, basically anything that assists the body with the natural detoxification process. Saunas (especially far infrared saunas), clean eating programs, Epsom salt baths, and castor oil packs are just a few things that can be done to support the liver and the detoxification process. Teas like milk thistle or dandelion root also provide excellent support for the liver. Consistent exercise or movement will make sure your lymph system continues to move so that toxins can be removed on a regular basis.  Even if you can’t get to the gym, at least have some kind of movement every day (even a nice walk).

Pay attention to your body and see if you have some of the common signs of toxicity. If you have constipation, bad body odor or breath, fatigue, a coated white tongue, acne or other skin conditions, or headaches these can all be signs of excess toxicity. In the case that these symptoms persist, it would be good to work with a holistic practitioner such as a Naturopathic doctor, health coach, or integrative MD. Prolonged excess toxicity can lead to chronic conditions such as cancer down the line, so it is important to address it early on.

Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

Oh precious adrenal glands (small glands which sit on top of the kidneys) you have such a job to do. Especially when we are stressed! The adrenal glands produce cortisol. Cortisol is often known as the stress hormone. When we are stressed out or our bodies are undergoing a form of stress that perhaps we are not aware of, excess cortisol is produced. Do you know what excess cortisol in the body means? It means fat storage around the midsection. No thank you, we will pass on that please!

The adrenal glands can become fatigued over time when exposed to too much stress. This can come from regular stress (working too hard, worrying, anxiety), but it can also come from lack of sleep, poor diet, food allergies, and skipping meals. When adrenal fatigue has set in, it is almost impossible to lose excess weight no matter what we do.

So what can be done? The number one thing to heal adrenals is to remove the provoking agent. Easier said than done, but take your best stab at it. Try to incorporate stress management practices like yoga or meditation. Leave work early when you can. Address food allergies and clean up your diet where possible. Reduce alcohol, sugar, and caffeine because these items do not get along well with your adrenals. Eat regular meals. When you skip meals, your body produces more cortisol to get your blood sugar back up.

There are several key nutrients, which support the adrenals, but in the interest of not writing the world’s longest blog post—eat a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables and high-quality meats, amongst other nutrient-dense whole foods. Finally, the best thing you can do to heal the adrenal glands, is to get more rest. That’s right! Sleep is so important. If you can get to bed around the same time every night and get 7-8 hours of sleep that will really help. Sleep in a bit, too, on the weekends when you can.

Emotional Considerations

The mind is a very powerful thing. It can even influence the way your body functions. Sometimes excess weight can be present as a form of protection or cushion from something you are afraid of. It can also stick around when something in your life feels stuck. Perhaps you are in a job that you hate, or maybe you need to leave a toxic relationship. It is amazing what can happen with your body when you push forward through a difficult decision that you have been resisting.

I also want to say that there are many things in life that nourish us besides food. Often when one of those areas is absent or we feel empty, food steps in to comfort us. Again this is easier said than done, but if you feel an absence in one of these core areas (i.e. spirituality, relationships, a social network, or a fulfilling career) take steps where you can to make this part of your life whole again. Call on others for support when necessary. You are the creator of your own life, and the first step is setting the intention to get what you want.

Sleep

I touched on sleep earlier, but I want to say a bit more about it here. Let’s tie some of the above concepts together. When you are asleep, this is when your body detoxifies. If you do not get enough sleep, your body does not have ample time to remove toxins from your body. Hello fat storage (as discussed above).

In addition, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body looks to quick sources of energy in the form of caffeine and sugar. Thus, cravings feel much stronger when your body is tired, and it becomes more challenging to make smart food decisions. Further, when you are on what I call the “blood sugar roller coaster”, your metabolism takes a hit. You know what I mean, right? Coffee in the morning followed by mid-morning crash. Insert sugar or delicious baked good. Another crash mid-afternoon, more coffee or sugar, and then you feel depleted by the end of the day. When our blood sugar is constantly doing this rise and fall dance, our body goes into panic mode. Once again we get excess production of cortisol and fat storage.  The best thing to keep blood sugar balanced is to lessen things that spike and drop it like refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, caffeine, and alcohol.  It is also very important to eat regular meals. That means no skipping breakfast or lunch no matter how busy you are.

Thank you to Amy Griffith for allowing me to do a guest blog post. I would love to hear from you! Are there areas discussed above that you feel like you could use support with? Connect with Jessica.

Skill Exchange Mixer a Success

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to participate in a workshop at the Makeshift Society. Little did I know just how much fun it was going to be, and how much I would be learning myself. Kate Koeppel, creator of Skill Exchange (and my website), brings folks together to teach, share and learn from one another, promoting self-reliance skill building.

KBrodgesell_SkillExchange_May2013_P024

Mixing up the local, seasonal, medicinal onion dip. Yum

Quite the crowd

Quite the crowd

KBrodgesell_SkillExchange_May2013_P039

Supportive friends from the health and wellness world, Jessica Mishra and Michaele Kruger

That being said, the first mixer of a series open to the public was a party; we learned how to stitch a tie from This Humble Abode, properly store produce and why we should buy local from Mission Community Market, pickle green strawberries from Fermenters Club (for all you in need for a kick to your digestive system!), and how to make date sweetened almond milk from Project Juice . All in all, the night was a sweet success.

KBrodgesell_SkillExchange_May2013_P012

A super happy me getting ready to perform

For additional press and information about this event, visit the DIY Network’s Made+Remade blog. Hope to see you at the next Skill Exchange! Photo credit: Kara Brodgesell.

Get Fit, Lose Fat, Eat Lots! Learn about it…

Stephanie Atwood, founder of Go Wow Team, is one of my idols. At just over 60 years of age, she is a wonderful inspiration to any woman as an entrepreneur, fitness coach and elite runner, mentor, teacher and human being.

Stephanie and I are excited about our second round of our program Get Fit Lose Fat Eat Lots! The first go around a few months ago was a lot of fun and very successful. We recorded a 15  minute teaser to give those of you interested more information, and we will be hosting an in-person information session on June 13 (please join the Meetup here to RSVP and for detailed info). We will be outlining the program before you have to commit (the program officially starts on June 20) and there will be snacks. At least come and eat with us!  :  )

From the great results that Stephanie and I have seen, Stephanie wrote the best selling first book in a series, Belly Fat Blowout on Amazon, which I consulted on and designed a 3-day cleanse for. Stephanie and I will be using this best seller along with our just published Belly Fat Blowout, Part 2, as our study guides for our upcoming group program.

In addition to the written material, the books offer links to educational handouts and templates, and MP3 downloads and links to weekly 30-minute recorded phone calls. For our group members, we offer additional support calls, three in person support group meetings, journal reviews, and a private Facebook Group Page, just for members to post their questions, concerns and discussion points.

This program isn’t some quick fix, deprivation driven diet plan (if you know Stephanie and me).  : )  It combines healthy eating (and wonderful recipes, some of which are pictured below) with moderate movement producing marvelous, lasting results.

chocolate tart

 

curry soup

img_9342

 

salmon salad

Here is what some of our past participants have said:

“I would give this program an A+ for the support, depth of knowledge of Stephanie and Amy and of course the results.” - Leti D

“an informative, eye opening, educational program that gave me the tools I needed to learn how to eat and workout for optimal metabolic health.” – Michaela R

All of you have access to the public group page at Facebook. The link is http://facebook.com/get-fit-success-team

Group participants will have access to a private group page, only for paid members, where Stephanie and I will respond to your questions and concerns, only available to our immediate group. We hope you can join us!

To good health and happiness,

Amy Griffith, Certified Nutrition Consultant and Health Coach, and Stephanie Atwood, Certified Coach and Trainer

rainbow+eat

Teach, Share, Learn with Skill Exchange

My amazing website designer Kate Koeppel, who also created a custom logo series, is a mover, shaker…and maker.

Skill Exchange Mixer May 17

Join your neighbors and friends at the Makeshift Society this Friday, May 17th, from 7-9pm for an evening of mixing, learning, sharing and creating. I will be doing a cooking performance (sounds so much cooler than a “demo”), along with other skilled makers and creators, to promote self-reliance. With all this talk around slow food, slow clothing and slowing down (period), this is the perfect re-introduction to handcrafting. And drinks and snacks with your friends isn’t a bad way to spend an evening, is it!?  Get your tickets here – they are goin’ fast!

 

Sugar & Salt: Pinch & Sprinkle

Take a bite of an apple. Drink a spoonful of soup. That apple might not be sweet enough, and the soup not salty enough. If we feel the need to douse everything with hot sauce, or add spoonfuls of sugar to already sweetened granola, chances are we might have some mineral or vitamin deficiencies. This is pretty common – I can fall of the sure-fruit-is-sweet-enough-band-wagon more often than I care to share. I find that when my tolerance for sweet tastes goes up, I need more…and more and more. Our tolerances for tastes can vary according to what our body is in need of nutritionally. Let’s take salt, for example:

First off: we need sodium! Electrolytes help to balance fluid levels in the body (upwards of 60% of the body is water – what do our blood cells swim in? What do we sweat out?), help our muscles function properly and support cell membrane integrity. Ever heard of people “drowning from the inside” when they drink too much water (perhaps during an endurance sports event)? It happens. Not enough salt replacement in the body as the body sweats and looses water and salt, but water is consumed out of balance with sodium equals trouble.

According to the Mayo Clinic, one teaspoon of salt contains just over 2,300 mg of sodium. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or even less (closer to 1,500) if you’re 51 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. On average (average, my friends), we consume close to 3,500 mg per day of sodium. This sodium can be hidden in any food, any food product and especially in foods that lack substantial, natural yummy flavors on their own.

That being said, we are all very different, and the way our bodies process anything is very individualized. Whenever I have had too much sodium (and it really depends on the quality of sodium) my hands, under the eyes and feet swell up like crazy. I guess I am a good absorber. There is a significant change in this affect, however, when I take a pinch of and sprinkle my food with high quality sea or Himalayan salt – and still get that savory punch I need. I have accumulated a little collection of pretty awesome salts; Australian Murray River pink salt, Hawaiian volcanic pink salt, celtic sea salt (Maldon), and often sprinkle foods with gomasio (a seaweed – nourishing and salty – and sesame seed mixture). Natural salts such as these, which haven’t been processed or stripped of nutrients only to be iodized (or fortified, kinda like cereals are fortified with iron or calcium) are essential to helping us retain and actually absorb the water we drink. Ask me about my “WATER!” handout – tips on how to actually get those 8-10 glasses of water per day without having to hit the bathroom every 15 minutes).

Only need a teense!

Only need a teense!

Anticipating that question on the cost of these “fancy salts”: this is the same discussion that I have about good quality food – what you are skimping on in quality now you might very well pay (10 fold) in health concerns tomorrow. If you can’t grow it in your backyard, make it in your kitchen or essentially harvest it from the sea, maybe it doesn’t know how to actually nourish your body? Additionally, I received these salts as gifts, never actually diving in to spend $10 on a small box of salt myself. However, I don’t use as much salt or condiments (unrefined salts are SUPER flavorful and potent) and I have become sort of obsessed with the different flavors each salt actually has, the colors and the textures and the amount of salt I actually don’t need for a whole pot of soup. Some of the crystals in their natural state are shaped into these incredibly symmetrical pyramid shapes and flakes. Super cool.

  • Ketchup: 160 mg of salt in one tablespoon (someone might have about 2 tbsp? And what if you are at a Giant’s game – those garlic fries are loaded with sodium)
  • Asiago cheese: 454 mg in one ounce (might have 2-3 slices)
  • Milk (non-fat): 127 mg in one cup (the more fat the milk has, the less sodium – drink 1-2%!)
  • Papa John’s “The Works” pizza with crust: 875 mg in one slice

The above totals 1,616 mg, upwards of 2,230 if having more than measured. This doesn’t account for any coffee drinks, juices or other beverages outside of water we might have throughout the day, snacks, another meal or anything sweet we might be craving at the end of the day, since we aren’t eating anything very nourishing. This day can spiral even more out of control if we are eating on the run, too late at night,  if we eat like this daily and if we are stressed, overworked and our immune system is suppressed. And since we aren’t making that pizza ourselves, we don’t have control over the added salt or flavorings, or quality of the meat or toppings that are being added.

This morning I wanted something sweet, but I wanted my favorite St. Benoit yogurt, as well (good fat and protein). I had some coconut sunflower seed granola (not overly sweetened, good source of protein) and it needed a kick. I pinched and sprinkled some coconut palm sugar/fleur de sel that I bought yesterday at Berkeley Bowl – perfect natural flavor enhancer, and all you need it a pinch.

Food for thought: maybe we aren’t as much an obese nation as we are a nutrient deficient nation. Perhaps now kale sounds more appealing…with a pinch and sprinkle of sea salt!   :)

References:

  • http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/pizza-least-salt-sodium.php
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sodium/NU00284
  • http://www.cdc.gov/salt/
I Kept My Heart in San Francisco

A lot happened in my life in San Francisco in my early twenties, so it would seem fitting that I wouldn’t stay completely outside of this gem of a City by the Bay. I am now keeping office hours in San Francisco twice a week, growing Embrace Health & Nutrition outside of the East Bay and outside of my private practice a bit. I not only have space on Mondays and Wednesdays to see my own clients under Embrace, but I will be an independent contractor for projects developed within Syntropy SF. In fact, as I sat in the office on Monday, my first day in this integrative health co-working space, and realized how I absolutely love it…already. I have co-workers again! Yes, working out of the home is nice, stuff that living the dream is made of. But there is a different kind of focus when you are in a professional work-space and have people in and out around you; it allows me to think of even MORE creative and fun ways to help my clients find health and happiness more effectively – always the ultimate goal. So if you know anyone who wants a pantry walk through, wants to learn how to cook, wants to learn to live a more healthful and sustainable lifestyle by working with a nutrition professional with a science and psychology-based approach, or just wants the story behind why eating less calories doesn’t exactly help us lose weight, and eating more nutrient dense food is how to work it (calorie counting is SO last decade), please send ‘em my way.

If you have a  moment, hop on over to Syntropy in South Park and see how we roll…integrative health-style.

South Park entrance

South Park entrance

Everything in Moderation

Sometimes I feel like I can’t seem to get ahead of the news – new findings on how certain allergenic foods can effect infants differently than we thought, the new argument for fat, the latest in heart disease research. No wonder my clients are overwhelmed. It can be hard to differentiate the questionable evidence-based research from the opinion-based news, the dogmatic views from the moderate views, the straight facts from the fiction. I consistently try to practice all in moderation (and with chocolate, that is super hard for me).

WHAT DO YOU DO? Whenever I am in an environment where food is being served, and a someone asks me (either at a social gathering or networking event) what I do for a living, this question is always accompanied by a motion to hide the chicken fingers or plate of pasta the person is holding and say, “Oh no! I bet the nutritionist wouldn’t approve of this!” As much as this can seem like an awkward moment, and as much as you might think that this is a logical response, I like to flip this assumption on its head. I come back with a true fact: “Oh no! That must mean the chocolate bar I consumed the other day when I was stressed out is bad, too? Everything in moderation: 90-10%.”  Laughs ensue. I would like to get to the bottom of what many of my clients, and what I, in the past, have really struggled with: moderation, and how to moderate moderation.

Whenever clients ask how much of (said food) is too much, I like to respond with a question and an example: could you eat three avocados in one sitting? Probably not. How about 1/2 of an avocado? Sure! There is your answer. Then I can rattle off some facts about healthy fats, found in avocados, olive or coconut oil and other coconut products, full or part fat yogurt, nuts, seeds, butter, oily fish; they keep you satiated for a longer period of time, can help you cut back on cravings and can even nourish your body on a cellular level. How’s that for an argument for fat?

Another physical example includes the apple. I went to Berkeley Bowl when my friend Stephanie Atwood and I were leading her Go Wow Team women’s running team members on a nutrition education and training program last month. I purchased a bag of organic fuji apples, which were all different shapes, not too shiny and were all about the size of a baseball (NOT a softball). Then I headed over to the non-organic section of the store, where I found a fuji apple that was way too shiny for it’s own good, a perfect shape and was (seriously) the size of a small child’s head. What’s wrong with an apple of any size, you might say? Nothing – apples are great! They are a higher glycemic fruit (meaning the rate in which the sugar content spikes your blood sugar is faster than, say a grapefruit) but the fiber content of an apple helps to slow down that sugar, and add some bulk to your bite. However, the head-sized portion of that apple just isn’t what nature intended, and it isn’t what you need. Hungry for more than just an apple, but eating the smaller one? Opt to balance out the sugar content anyway with a handful of nuts or some yummy nut butter for added protein and fat (I bought some almond hazelnut butter the other day that was divine. With no sugar added, even I was surprised at how incredibly sweet the stuff was).

Some of us need more fat, more protein or more carbs than others. When I read about how a Paleo approach has changed someone’s life, or that cutting back on gluten made everything flow a lot smoother for another, I get excited. We all deserve to find something that works well for our bioindividual body. Perhaps we should remember that one size never fits all, that not dieting but making incremental lifestyle shifts that incorporate a little of this raw-nes, a little of that vegan-ness, maybe a little of that Paleo-ness, with a dash of junk and a pinch of chocolate (or a large chunk of it) is how finding a balance within moderation can be achieved. When we can start to achieve this equilibrium within our minds and our bodies, so that we view our weight, our happiness and our health as works in progress; this is when a sense of calm can start to sink in. The goal is to settle down that sense of urgency to “just lose those last 10 pounds” or “stop eating chocolate forever” and lead your life in moderation, knowing that an ever-evolving but high quality of life is always within your grasp, and that you might even lose a few pounds or get better sleep in the process. Embrace moderation!

Now for the recipe. My friend Karen is the master at trying out recipes that use whole foods ingredients and attempt to achieve the decadence of a chocolate cake or the gooey-ness of a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie. Well Karen, here is your one cup chocolate chop cookie recipe modified. And I swear folks – this one’s a keeper (gluten-free, low on carbs or sugar and packed with protein). And it tastes good. I know…right!?

A CUPPA CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE (try out different amounts of these ingredients – the recipe changes every time I make them)

  • 1 cup of almond butter
  • 1-2 tbsp honey, turbinado or coconut sugar  (the kind that isn’t as refine as the white stuff, but sugar is sugar – original recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar – no need! Let the chocolate chips be your sweet!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking power
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup of any kind of milk
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 bag Easy Life chocolate chips (gluten, dairy, soy free)

Mix together, drop onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven and preference for gooey-ness. I recommend you play with the coconut flour and milk amounts.

The cookie

The cookie

Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine