Saturday, February 6, 2016

Selva's Healthy Traveling Tips

Another year another adventure! Dane and I just returned from a much needed three week Europe vacation and family gathering. First stop Amsterdam with lots of art museums, second stop Germany full of family and friends, and finally five days of learning how to ski in the Austrian Alps….Dane is super proud! If you haven’t been, to the Alps that is, it is absolutely AMAZING! One lift ticket and your skiing options are endless. Every mountain that you see you can ski, plus you can also rest on almost every mountaintop and enjoy some hearty Austrian food. The perfect conditions for a newbie skier like me.

It has been over three years since I last visited Germany. If you have been a dedicated reader you may recall a few posts during my last Germany get away. I touched on a few of the staples including sautéed beef liver, lavender German cheesecake, a fresh strawberry rhubarb tart, and vegan maultaschen (German version of ravioli). All of which are delicious southern German delicacies. My favorite are the baked goods! The breads are so fresh and hearty, and have the perfect crunch texture. Not surprisingly Germany has mastered gluten-free baking. A country that devoutly uses quality bread in their day to day had to find a way to make the best gluten-free alternative. And I am not talking about toast bread. I am talking about sourdough leavened breads rich in seeds and whole gluten-free grains. If only this devotion to proper bread making would find its way to the states.

However, today I thought I would share my tricks and tips for healthy international traveling. The flights are long, the food usually very poor, and the exercise very limited. But the tips below will help you look and feel your best when traveling long distances. Stay fit and feel great so you can start your trip on a positive note.

#1: Drink Pure Filtered Water.

Staying hydrated is key to long distance flights. More often than not, water is offered only three times during a flight. And usually the water comes in a small plastic cup, which may hold at most 6oz of liquid. Of course you can always ask for more, but sometimes that can be a pain. Therefore, always make sure to bring an empty water bottle to fill up after you pass security.  Many airports are now offering water stations for easy refills. This way you can have a full bottle at your convenience. Plus the more hydrated you are, the more you need to use the restroom, and the more you will move during the flight. For optimal ease, forgo the window seat and plan for an aisle seat so you can freely move when you so desire.

#2: Bring Your Own Food.

Airline meals are often high in sodium and rich in calories. Especially if you are following a gluten-free or low FODMAP diet you must plan ahead and bring your own food. But even if you are not, bringing food from home will ensure that you have the best quality available. Not only can this save you time, money, and stress, but it also helps nourish you body the right way. Below are some TSA approved tips and meal/snack ideas.
  • For ultimate ease stay away from liquids such as yogurt, hummus, and salad dressing. Although you can bring small amounts (~1/4 cup) in food containers, this may be more of a pain than it is worth. Some airlines offer yogurt for sale. For instance Iceland Air sells a local yogurt product for 2 euros. If you bring your own granola or muesli then you are set.
  • Bring cut veggies. Hardy veggies like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and sugar snap peas are the easiest. But sliced cucumber and red bell pepper can be just fine too! Just make sure to pack them on top of your carry on as not to squish them.
  • Bring whole fruits. Bananas, apples, and tangerines tend to be my favorite go to travel fruit. No mess and no stress.
  • Sandwiches and wraps are really easy travel food as long as they are wrapped or sealed in a container. Just make sure not to use aluminum foil because it may interfere with the x-ray machines.
  • Pack dry goods like instant oatmeal or instant soups. Once on the plane all you have to do is ask for hot water which airlines are happy to offer. My favorite is Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oatmeal with flax and chia seeds as well as a hearty bean soup for added protein. I just make sure to choose a lower sodium option to reduce fluid retention on long air flights.
  • For healthy snacks try dried fruit, nuts and seeds, single package nut butters, or even kale chips. A whole avocado and crackers is also tasty snack. Sometimes I even pack a little cheese for a simple fruit and cheese plate to go with a glass of red wine J
Leaving the states with fresh food is not a problem. However, when returning to the states, for ultimate ease, eat up all your fresh foods in the airplane. If you have not finished your sandwich or your fresh fruit, leave these behind in order to avoid the cute dog that sniffs your backpack at baggage claim.

#3: Plan Ahead.

Some airlines offer a wide variety of meal options. If packing food is not for you, then visit your airline 24 hours prior to your flight. Here you can often choose a special meal based upon your needs. More often than not they offer gluten-free, vegetarian, and/or vegan meals as well as a wide variety of different ethnic flavors including Indian and Asian. But if possible still pack a little snack or two to help carry you over until you arrive your destination. When hunger strikes we often turn to the easiest and fastest meal option although it may not be the best choice. Also, some airlines such as Iceland Air only offer food for purchase. The options are limited, generally expensive, and usually not the best quality. Be prepared.

I would love to hear some of your favorite ways to stay healthy while traveling! Let me know in the comments below ;)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Start the New Year with WRAPS

nori sheets, collard greens, paleowraps

Ahhh yes….another amazing year has come and gone. Sometimes I cant even believe all that has happened in twelve months time. What it a dream or am I really sitting here in this place and time? I remember as a little child each week and month seemed like an eternity and each year even more unfathomable. Now as an adult it seems I can hardly take a deep breath and another year has already flown by. For me each New Year is an opportunity to truly reflect and to be honest with the woman I have become. Am I happy? Am I satisfied? What can I change to increase my quality of life? And what can I do to become a better person? These are questions that may or may not have a simple answer. And for now I am just grateful to be here breathing in the cool brisk air and experiencing another beautiful blue bird winter’s day.

Nevertheless, it is an exciting time of year, a chance to start anew, and to improve as a human being. But what does that mean to you? Perhaps you want to read more books and watch less TV, or perhaps you want to start exercising more and eating healthier to feel good in your skin once again. Whatever it may be, the New Year is a chance to reevaluate the previous year and what positive changes you would like to make for the future. Resolutions are very personal, some easier to speak about some more difficult, but each is valid in it’s own right. Most of the time resolutions are made based upon old habits and changing a habit that required years in the making will require lots of love and attention to unwind. However, positive changes do not happen unless you steer the wheel. It is up to you to dig deep down and pick out where change will increase your quality of life. 

nori sheets, collard greens, paleowraps

Often times when I speak with patients the most difficult meal to change seems to be lunch, especially those that are on a gluten-free or Low FODMAP diet. And I am sure they are not alone. Therefore, with this mind I will share my favorite easy to make ahead, healthy workday lunch to help you on your New Years resolution. WRAPS!

These wraps are not your typical ho hum wraps made with flour tortillas. Instead they are made with nori wraps, collard greens, or PaleoWraps….and stocked full of tasty plant based goodies, sauces, and spreads. So get on board and start the year off smart with these super tasty and super healthy wrap ideas.

Nori Wraps (Gluten-free and Low FODMAP)

You may have had seaweed in your miso soup or in your sushi roll. However, nori wraps can and should be used outside of the Asian cuisine. Seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse full of minerals and vitamins including manganese, magnesium, iron, iodine, calcium, copper, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, zinc, vitamins A, C, and K, as well as a host of B vitamins including B12.  Plus each sheet only contains about 10 calories making it a great lower calorie and gluten-free alternative (1). However, it is important to note that although seaweed is great for thyroid health, due to its high amounts of iodine, consuming too much can cause the opposite effect. Luckily nori contains the lowest amount of iodine and can be eaten safely multiple times per week.

Collard Greens (Gluten-free and Low FODMAP)

This versatile cruciferous vegetable is a wonderful alternative to a traditional grain based wrap. Not only is it a lower calorie option like the nori wrap, but collards are rich in compounds called sulforaphanes which support natural detoxification and have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Therefore, cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and collards have been studied extensively for their cancer preventive abilities. Furthermore, with 7g of fiber in every cup, collards have been found to have a powerful cholesterol lowering ability similar to that of a prescription drug called cholestyramine. Interestingly, steamed collards have been found to have a much greater ability to reduce cholesterol than raw (2).

PaleoWraps (Gluten-free)

These wraps are made of raw coconut meat, coconut water, and unrefined coconut oil. Although these are a bit pricy, they can be a great addition to a gluten-free wrap arsenal. Coconut is rich in lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride which has shown to increase both HDL and LDL cholesterol in the blood, with a more favorable increase in HDL overall. A recent study including 116 adults with coronary artery disease found that the treatment group, which received 1 tablespoon of raw extra virgin coconut oil daily for 3 months, had significantly increased levels of HDL cholesterol compared to the control group (3).  Furthermore, many of the short chain fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized rapidly for energy and have been found to have potent anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral effects (4).

nori sheets, collard greens, paleowraps

How to Make the Best Wrap

Making a wrap with these wrap alternative requires a little ingenuity to make sure everything stays in the right place. Follow the steps below for a wrap that will not fall apart while eating. 
  •  First put down a spread/sauce as as sticking agent.
  • Then add your grain/beans/legumes/tofu/etc
  • Then top with your favorite veggies.
  • Dress with a little sauce or salad dressing if desired.
  • Roll up, fold in the edges, and roll again. If you are using nori wraps make sure to wet the remaining edge with a little liquid (sticking agent). This helps keep the roll from unrolling later on. 
  • Wrap the roll in plastic wrap or store in your lunch food container and store in refrigerator. 

nori sheets, collard greens, paleowrapsWrap Idea: Nori wrap, smoked paprika aioli, steamed rice, pickled shitake mushrooms, marinated and baked/grilled tofu, avocado, broccoli sprouts, and pickled ginger.

Smoked Paprika Aioli
Makes ~ ½ cup

¼ cup Vegenaise (or regular mayo)
2 tablespoons soy milk (or regular milk)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons lemon juice


Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Store in refrigerator.

nori sheets, collard greens, paleowrapsWrap Idea: PaleoWrap, baked red sweet potato flesh, chimichurri, spiced black beans (black beans mashed with smoked paprika aioli), avocado, and broccoli sprouts.

Makes ~2 cups

1 bunch cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
1 bunch flat leaf parsley (leaves and tender stems)
Juice of 1 lime
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ small yellow onion
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1 jalapeno, deseeded (if you want it spicy leave some of the seeds)
¼ cup water


Place all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

nori sheets, collard greens, paleowrapsWrap Idea: Collard wrap, hummus, turmeric quinoa, minced olives, cucumber, bell pepper, arugula, and fresh basil leaves.

How to Make a Collard Wrap:
Using a pairing knife shave the thick vein down being careful not to puncture the leaf. Cut the stem off at the bottom so you have a neat edge. Meanwhile bring water to boil in a large sauté pan. Place your collard leaf into the boiling water and reduce heat to medium. Allow to cook for ~ 30-45 seconds until bright green and pliable. Remove from heat and immediately run under cold water. Then fill with your favorite goodies.

nori sheets, collard greens, paleowraps  
1. Edible Seaweed. Accessed January 2, 2015. 
2. Collards. Accessed January 2, 2015. 
3. Cardoso DA, Moreira AS, De Oliveira GM, et al. A Coconut Extra Virgin Oil-Rich Diet Increases HDL Cholesterol and Decreases Waist Circumference and Body Mass in Coronary Artery Disease Patients. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(n05):2144-2152.
4. Lawrence GD. Dietary Fats and Health: Dietary Recommendations in the Context of Scientific Evidence. Adv Nutr. 2013;4:294-2013.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Amazing Blueberry Muffins

almond flour, cornmeal, blueberries, maple syrup

Its been quite grey and stormy here in the Pacific Northwest. Due to the unusual dry summer months, the trees are less sturdy in our gusty winds. More than usual they are crashing left and right along my favorite running path. Although I love being outside in the stormy weather, it is also intimidating, wondering whether or not the beautiful mossy tree above me will too come crashing down. Regardless I still lace up my shoes and go run anyways. After a blistery, windy run, pink cheeks, and a runny nose, I am ready to cozy down, and warm up the house with some baking.

Luckily in my freezer, I still have loads of blueberries that I picked last August with my mother. They are smaller and sweeter than usual because of the lack of rain during the summer months. To me they taste like candy. These dark beauties will be the perfect addition to some hearty, fiber rich muffins...gluten free of course.

almond flour, cornmeal, blueberries, maple syrup
almond flour, cornmeal, blueberries, maple syrup

I rarely eat muffins out. And if I do I usually share most of it with my husband. Muffins these days are ENORMOUS, two to three times as big as they need to be. Also, they are usually super sweet, made with refined flours, and lacking in fiber and protein. Therefore, making them at home will ensure they are a healthy and nutrient dense snack or breakfast item.

Getting enough protein in the mornings is important to help stabilize blood sugars throughout the day. Often times we grab easy things like muffins, toast, cereal, etc that are neither rich in protein nor rich in fiber. These foods quickly increase our blood sugar and immediately cause a blood sugar crash….and then guess what we do? We grab some more sugar or some coffee to bring us back up. And the viscous cycle continues….

almond flour, cornmeal, blueberries, maple syrup
almond flour, cornmeal, blueberries, maple syrup

On the other hand, if you start your morning with a protein and fiber rich breakfast, your blood sugar remains stable until your next meal. And guess what? You have more consistent energy without the extra coffee or sugar laden snack. Often times I recommend a savory breakfast, such as dinner left overs, scrambled eggs, or even this tempeh telur. However, some people still want a healthy alternative for their traditional breakfast staples.

This AMAZING blueberry muffin is not only rich in fiber and higher in protein than traditional muffin recipes, but also contains a lot less sugar. Each muffin contains about 300 calories, 28g of carbohydrates, 5g of fiber, 20g fat, and 8g of protein. Now lets compare that to Starbuck’s Blueberry Muffin which has 380 calories, 53g of carbohydrates, 1g of fiber, 16g of fat, and 6g of protein. Night and day, right?

almond flour, cornmeal, blueberries, maple syrup

Although these muffins are very healthy and hearty, I still would recommend eating additional protein for a complete breakfast meal. For instance ½ cup of Greek yogurt, 2 scrambled eggs, or even some hydrolyzed collagen stirred into your morning cup of tea or coffee will do. And if you are like me, a warm blueberry muffin with a little pat of organic pasture raised butter, just tastes sooo darn good.

Amazing Blueberry Muffins
Serves 8

1 cup almond flour** (with flecks)
1 cup cornmeal (not too fine and not too coarse)
¼ cup golden flaxseeds
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl mix together the first 7 dry ingredients. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract until well combined. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fold in the cup of frozen blueberries.

Line a muffin pan with baking cups or brush each with butter or oil. Spoon the muffin mixture evenly into 8 muffin cups (can also try for 10 or 12 but they will be quite small). Top each muffin with a couple extra blueberries and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

**If you want to make this recipe grain free, you can swap the cornmeal for an additional cup of almond flour. 

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