Whole-Foods Thanksgiving

Have A Healthy, Happy Thanksgiving

For many people Thanksgiving dinner is the single biggest family feast of the year. It represents a time of gathering together, rebuilding bonds of love and friendship, sharing thoughts and feelings of gratitude for blessings received, and the centerpiece is always the meal. Food is an important element in our lives. It can garner memories from childhood that warm us and make us feel nostalgic. Many who cook use their culinary creations as a meaningful show of love and affection for those the food has been prepared for. And when we consume dishes that have been carefully prepared to be especially delicious it makes us feel loved. It is no wonder, then, that we associate so much emotional connection with the Thanksgiving feast!

That being said, however, the traditional Thanksgiving fare most of us are accustomed to eating on this day is usually a far cry from “health food”. Many dishes are heavily prepared with unhealthy fats and saturated with sugars of every kind. The turkey is probably the healthiest part of the meal, since it is essentially pure protein and in that sense, “real” food, without a lot of added ingredients (if we aren’t counting the grain fed diet, antibiotics, and hormones most are raised on). Most of the side dishes, from the mashed potatoes loaded with real butter and heavy cream, to the stuffing…normally white bread cubes with lots of fat and little nutritional value…to the white-flour, milk, and butter dinner rolls, to the candied yams, and normally ending with pies (baked in white flour and hydrogenated vegetable oil shortening – read trans fats – crusts) topped with piles of whipped cream, meringue, or ice cream. I read recently that the typical Thanksgiving dinner for an average adult runs right around 3,500 calories! OUCH!

Sooo…I’d like to challenge you this year! I know it can be a daunting task to want to alter long-held tradition. One which will inevitably be met with substantial resistance from family members. So, rather than try to talk you into doing anything too overly difficult which could result in conflict and contention, I have a more subtle suggestion…try taking baby steps. Especially if you are relatively new to the high-raw foods lifestyle, and particularly if you are the only family member following such a path. Here are some practical application things you can do to make your holiday meal HEALTHIER while still maintaining peace and harmony in your home, all the while offering the same delicious and satisfying, comfort foods your family is used to for this most important meal:
1. Substitute unhealthy sugars, such as white sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup with healthier sweeteners such as stevia, pure maple syrup, dehydrated cane juice sugar, agave nectar, molasses, etc.

2. Substitute unhealthy fats, such as margarine, shortening, and most refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils with healthier fats such as coconut oil (especially for cooking), cold pressed olive oil (mostly for drizzling over warm or cold foods and in dressings but not for cooking), and real butter.

3. Try making pie crusts out of ground nuts and dried fruits such as dates or use coconut flour instead of the traditional refined white wheat flour.

4. Stuffing is delicious using ground almonds or pecans to give substance and body rather than using the traditional bread cubes.

5. If you are going to make rolls, try using whole grains rather than refined white flour. Better yet, go for some of the gluten-free grains such as rice or kamut. Spelt is a great alternative to regular wheat (they are cousins) with a higher protein profile and can be better tolerated by those who have gluten or wheat sensitivities. Coconut flour is an amazing and health-promoting alternative to regular flour. It is loaded with fiber and lots of great, healthy benefits! Just be sure to adjust your recipe accordingly because coconut flour is very dense and a little goes a l-o-n-g way! You can order it (along with fabulous coconut oil and other coconut products) online at Tropical Traditions

6. Make your own cranberry sauce from scratch using natural, healthy sweeteners instead of purchasing the canned version which is full of high fructose corn syrup.

7. And last but certainly not least…add more raw side dishes to fill out the meal with lots of delicious, nutritious selections that will add healthy options and introduce your family and friends to the wonderful variety of decadent foods available in raw form! There are SO MANY amazing dishes that can be prepared from healthy, whole foods and the holidays present a great opportunity to share these foods with your loved ones! Try making a raw dessert to go along side the other desserts you prepare, as a healthy alternative to the more calorie-dense versions.

Remember that making improvements in your health and wellness can come one baby step at a time and it doesn’t need to be a drastic or drama-filled experience. In this way, you can feel good about the foods you are offering your friends and family while preserving the essence of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Now THAT is something to be thankful for!

Blessings to you at this special time of year.

Tracy

Nov. 19, 2013

Raw Foods and Menopause

In 2000, at age 38, for the first time in my life I started experiencing some strange health challenges.

We had recently moved to a 20 acre piece of property we purchased in Central Oregon and were drinking the local, city water while waiting to put in our own well. Shortly thereafter I began experiencing muscle weakness in both of my arms and dizziness that became nearly debilitating…especially whenever moving from a horizontal to a vertical position, or when rolling over in bed at night. Kind of like an ear infection would effect your equilibrium.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it might have something to do with the water I was drinking (strange that no one else in the family had these symptoms, though…) and I quickly started purchasing 2.5 gallon dispenser jugs of purified water to consume. The pain got better almost immediately. But the dizziness persisted…not nearly as badly as it had been before changing to the purified water…but it still clung to me, off and on, for several years afterward.

In late 2006 my younger cousin, Floyd, who was 40 at the time, was diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a softball. This had a significant impact me, both emotionally and psychologically. I desperately wanted to find a way to help him beat that illness. Combined with the fact that my father had suffered a double heart attack, several years earlier, at age 60 and was experiencing a gradual, but progressive, decline in his health, I was motivated to begin research on ways to heal the body through diet and nutrition.

This is when I found the Raw Food lifestyle. And without going into all of the history surrounding that (I’ve already written about that experience in detail on my other blog: http://tracyjprez.wordpress.com) I will say that over the next couple of years I followed that lifestyle with quite a bit of personal success. But it caused a significant challenge with my family, who did not embrace the idea of eating mostly raw foods, and this resulted in a fractured home-life, when it came to meals and food consumption. So, in early 2008 I gradually began eating more and more cooked foods.

During this same time frame I began noticing that my body was starting to experience some definite hormonal shifts. I wasn’t FEELING any different, but my monthly cycle was becoming sporadic, so I knew that something was changing. I hadn’t really experienced much weight-loss on raw foods during my first attempt following a high-raw diet, but most of my strange symptoms did go away, and I really LIKED the lifestyle.  However, due to the situation with my family and other factors, I was lead back to eating mostly cooked food again. By January 2009 my weight was at an all-time high of 193 and I was feeling awful about myself. I’m tall, 5 feet 8 inches, so I can carry more weight than most women without looking especially over-weight. But no matter how you stack it, 193 is about 50 pounds more than I should weigh in order to be healthy. By this time most of our children had grown and were off, living on their own. So, I was in a better position to take a serious shot at Raw Foods again. And this time I did succeed in losing some significant weight! Between March and July I lost about 35 pounds and was feeling sooo much lighter and happier! I was energized and feeling more enthusiastic about life and this way of eating than ever before!

In November of 2009 I launched my online magazine, Eighty Percent Raw (www.eightypercentraw.com), fully convinced of the benefits of this lifestyle. Again, I’ve written all about that experience on my other blog: http://tracyjprez.wordpress.com. So, I will skip writing about all of that here, again. I want to get to the point of this post…

And that is this – Looking back on all of this upheaval and fluctuation in my weight and my health, with the symptoms that have come and gone in the process…I really think almost all of this can be attributed, primarily,  to the hormonal changes my body has been going through. And I don’t think enough serious consideration, or discussion, is given to what havoc is really wreaked in a woman’s body, nor for how LONG, throughout the whole menopausal adjustment period. This isn’t like some short-term “condition” or illness that we go through and then get over in a couple of months. At least not in my experience. And if you are anything like me, you have tried all kinds of things in an attempt to force your body to cooperate with you to “fix” the problem. Well, guess what? Apparently the body wins. OMG! LOL!

Sooo…here is where I am today. I am returning to a high-raw foods lifestyle, once again. I am no longer experiencing debilitating joint pain in my knees (which always resurfaced whenever I would go back to high-raw or high-carb in the recent past…but, again, this appears to be related more to hormones and not to diet, as I previously believed) and my general health seems to be better than it’s been in quite a long time now. But I still struggle with the weight.

Raw foods is the one “diet” or lifestyle that helped me lose weight and KEEP IT OFF _without even trying_ for nearly two years. That is saying something, for me!

Here are some of the insights I’ve gained, so far as my own body and weight-loss and diet are concerned –

1. I can’t eat starches and lose weight (ie; cooked grains, legumes, potatoes, etc.)

2. I have to watch my fat intake. I can’t eat a lot of nuts, seeds, avocados, oils, etc. and lose weight (though, I was using eating lots of nuts, seeds, coconut, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and olives with no problem prior to the major hormonal change, so I am going to be watching this)

3. Not sure if I need to be careful about condensed sweets like dried fruit, agave nectar (not currently using), pure maple syrup, honey, etc. So I will also be watching these. Also, not sure if I need to be cautious about high-sugar, high-starch fruits like banana, mango, papaya, etc. But I have my suspicions, so I am also keeping a close watch on what happens with these. *I _have_ noticed that I break out and get swelling and cracking around my lips when I consume much raw pineapple or watermelon lately… so I seem to have some weird food intolerance’s that I haven’t experienced before.

I would LOVE to have an open dialogue with other women who have had challenges going through menopause, especially where weight gain and hormonal symptoms are concerned. And I would particularly enjoy hearing from those who have overcome these symptoms and are following a high-raw foods diet & lifestyle!

Until next time…

Tracy