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

pulling-hair-out

I am really damn frustrated!

Ok, so, I haven’t been writing much lately and the honest truth is that I am frustrated as hell with diet and my weight. Ugh! So, I guess I”m just going to have to tell the story.

By February 2009 I reached an all-time high weight of 193 pounds. And I decided something had to change. I’d been following a mostly raw foods lifestyle for close to 2 years at that time, but unlike other raw foodists who reported losing tonz of weight, I hadn’t lost the weight I wanted to lose. At 5’9″ tall, I can carry more weight than most, but still, my ideal weight hovers somewhere between 140 and 160 pounds. So, at best I was 30 pounds overweight and I was feeling it. I decided to get serious about the weight loss. And by mid-summer of that year I had lost the 30 pounds and was down to 160. Weight-wise I felt great! I was thin…people were telling me that I was skinny…and I felt good in my clothes.

The unexpected turn in that story is that I began experiencing symptoms. Many of which I would later lean were a result of pre-menopause and hormonal imbalance…but I am quite sure that many of the symptoms were also due to my diet. I had a perpetual deep muscle pain in the back of my left thigh, and I became severely anemic. My energy dropped dramatically and my monthly period was lasting two weeks to a month at a time. I was fatigued and light headed. And during my period I felt a deep pain from my abdomen clear through to my lower back.

And I began having such extreme joint pain in my knees that I believed I would have to live with rheumatoid arthritis for the rest of my life.

I also developed horizontal ridges on my fingernails…a symptom indicative of iron and vitamin B12 deficiency. My husband and I decided it was time to reintroduce more red meat into my diet.

Since that time most of those symptoms have been eliminated…but some new ones have taken their place; I’ve started having nighttime numbness and tingling in my arms and sometimes my legs. I have also experienced pain in the left side of my neck. And had chronic charlie horses in my left toes. And occasionally I have felt a slight flutter or pressure in my chest. These symptoms all freak me out because my dad had a double heart attack, and then more recently, my brother who is my elder by 10 years had a heart attack and was diagnosed with diabetes. I have tried to be so careful about what I eat that it blows my mind to think that I might be pre-diabetic…but I’d be crazy to not consider that this is a strong possibility.

So, my weight…

I have regained almost all of the weight that I lost and kept off for over a year and a half without effort on the high-raw foods diet. But I felt lousy. Lately I have been following a low-carb and then the Weight Watchers program and I have to say that I am no longer experiencing joint pain and the pain in my neck and numbness in my arms has diminished significantly…but it’s become more and more difficult to lose weight now that my hormones have changed. And it frustrates the hell out of me! My body no longer responds to diet the way it used to…and I don’t really know what to do about it. I don’t have the patience to lose 1/2 a pound a week…I want to get back down to that comfortable 160 weight, at a minimum, but don’t really know that best path to do it. I’m in a holding pattern right now while I try to decide what is the best path for my body. Clearly, high-raw with no animal protein does not work for me. But I don’t know that low-carb does either.

I just needed to vent. I would love to hear from anyone else who has gone through menopause and has had this same challenge.

More to come.

Tracy