Energize your Eating Pattern!

Pat yourself on the back! You have successfully completed the first week of the nutrition challenge!! Although you have finished the first week, drinking 9-13 cups of water per day is still an important habit to keep. This is why your Challenge Tracker builds as the weeks continue. Keep it up! Now, on to the food :)

First HOW, then WHEN, then WHAT!

Before I even start talking about WHAT is on your plate, I need to address the HOW. Current research has shown that how you eat plays a big role in optimal health and weight. Being mindful and intuitive is at the core of how you eat. So what is mindful eating exactly? It is all about listening to your body’s hunger, fullness and satiety cues. But in order to do that you need to slow down and become aware of HOW you eat.

So the first big question you should ask yourself is “HOW AM I EATING?”
  • Are you a fast eater?
  • Do you watch TV or read while you eat?
  • Are you eating standing up?
  • In the car?
  • While walking?
  • Do you sit while you eat?
  • Do you eat alone, or with others?
  • Do you eat when you are sad, happy, bored, or anxious?
  • Do you chew your food?
  • Do you continue to eat when you are already full?
  • Do you eat only when you are hungry?
  • Do you like the foods you eat?
  • Do you skip meals?
  • Do you taste every bite you eat?
  • What are you thinking when you eat?

There are so many more questions that can be asked when trying to determine HOW someone is eating, but generally the above are a great starting place. In today’s day and age, it is quite common that we are eating on the go, eating very fast, eating when we are anxious or sad, skipping meals and replacing them with coffee, and are constantly thinking about the next “thing” that needs to get done. All of this is does NOT contribute mindful and intuitive eating. Nor does it help with eating in moderation. We are moving too fast to listen to our bodies!

Being mindful about eating allows for enhanced digestion, reduced stress, enhanced energy, and overall better body image. Implementing mindful eating strategies will increase your wellbeing without even changing the foods you eat. By simply slowing down and being present, you will eat less, feel better, and have more energy. So it is the FIRST step to ENERGIZING your eating pattern.

Mindful Eating Tips Include:
  • Slow down when eating!
    • Avoid eating on the go, in the car, or standing up. Sit down for each meal. 
  • Chew more slowly, breathe, and enjoy the flavors of your food.
    • A good tip is to take 5 deep breaths before each meal to simulate your “rest and digest” nervous system.
  • Eat away from the TV or computer!
    • Focus on the food in front of you and listen to your hunger and satiety cues.
  • Choose foods that are pleasing as well as nourishing!
    • For example, just because kale is a nutrient rich food doesn't mean all you should eat is kale. If you don’t like kale, and prefer mixed greens, great! Eat what you like!
  • Assess your hunger.
    • Eat until you are satisfied, not “stuffed”.
    • Are you really hungry, or are you bored, sad, or tired?
    • What are some activities that will give you energy and fill the void besides food?
      • Perhaps listen to your favorite music, go for a walk, read a book, call a friend or family member.
Timing of meals throughout the day is very important to balance blood sugar levels and enhance energy. For example, everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But why? As the first meal of the day, breakfast breaks our nightly fast, regenerates the energy stores that have been utilized during the night, revs up our metabolism, and refuels our brains. It has been shown that individuals who do not skip breakfast have improved problem solving skills and heightened attention and focus, compared to those that do. Secondly, a balanced breakfast helps stabilize high levels of our stress hormone cortisol which is at its highest early in the morning. This is very important because sustained high levels of cortisol are not desired, as they break down lean muscle and fat, and stimulate appetite. Skipping breakfast has therefore been linked to an increased appetite, with an increased risk for weight gain, as well as for diabetes and heart disease. Did you know that Sumo wrestlers use skipping breakfast to their advantage to help them gain weight? 

Tip: Think outside the box, breakfast can even be last night's dinner!

Also, timing of other meals and snacks is important to balance blood sugar and cortisol levels throughout the day. In controlled feeding settings, it has been shown that at least 3 meals per day improve energy and support optimal weight. Going long periods without eating stimulates the production of our stress hormone cortisol, and therefore the continued break down of lean muscle and fat to produce energy (glucose). This constant rise of cortisol can then lead to detrimental whole-body effects. This is especially important with breakfast. Eating breakfast within an hour of rising can help jump start your day!

A Few Whole-Body Outcomes of Too Much Cortisol Are: 
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Weight Gain
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Inhibits the “Rest and Digest” nervous system which can lead to digestive problems

Tip: If you are feeling hungry between meals choose a balanced snack to keep you energized.

The three macronutrients, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are all required to fuel the body properly. However, too much of one, or too little of the other, will cause an imbalance within the body. Therefore, eating a balanced plate at each meal (including breakfast) is vital for sustained energy and optimal health. By simply building a balanced plate you can reduce hunger cravings later in the day, support weight loss or weight maintenance, sustain energy, and balance your blood sugar—especially when eating breakfast! Also by eating a balanced plate, you naturally eat more WHOLE FOODS. Focus on eating/buying foods that are not packaged, and if they are they should only have whole food ingredients that you can read and identify! See the comparison of two examples below:

YES! Example: Mary’s Gone Crackers Original—Ingredient list: organic whole grain brown rice, organic whole grain quinoa, organic brown flax seeds, organic brown sesame seeds, filtered water, sea salt, organic wheat-free tamari.

NO! Example: Ritz Whole Wheat CrackersIngredient list: unbleached enriched flour, whole grain wheat flour, soybean oil, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, leavening, salt, high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin

In the first example all ingredients are whole foods, except for a little bit of organic wheat-free tamari. Although tamari is not a "whole food", in and of itself is still a quality food item. However, in the second example, the Ritz whole wheat crackers have a ton of added ingredients that are no longer whole, nor do they resemble food.

What does a BALANCED PLATE look like?

Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, cooked or raw.
  • Lettuces, kale, collards, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, zucchini, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, green beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas, carrots, cauliflower, sprouts, cabbage, brussel sprouts, eggplant, celery, beets, artichokes, radishes, etc.
Fill ¼ of your plate with lean protein.
  • Eggs, chicken, fish, pork, beef, lamb, shellfish, etc
  • Tofu, tempeh, edamame, beans, lentils, hummus, etc
  • Plain yogurt (Greek or European), kefir, cottage cheese
Fill ¼ of your plate with whole grains, beans/legumes, or starchy vegetables or fruit.
  • Quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, teff, amaranth, barley, oats, cornmeal, etc.
  • Black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, split peas, lentils, etc.
  • Sweet potatoes, potatoes, winter squash, sweet corn, plantain, etc.
  • Apples, bananas, citrus, berries, pears, melons, pineapple, papaya, etc.
Use whole food fats, healthy oils, and cheeses in moderation as you choose.
  • Avocados, nuts, seeds, etc
  • Extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, ghee, flax oil, etc
  • Feta, goat, mozzarella, parmesan, blue cheese, brie, etc
Note: If you are an endurance athlete (high intensity training athlete) you may need to increase your proportion of starchy vegetables, whole grains, and/or beans and legumes.

Breakfast Example: Veggie scramble 
  • Non-starchy vegetables: kale, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes
  • Lean protein: 2 eggs
  • Starch: 2 sprouted corn tortillas
  • Extras: ¼ sliced avocado

Lunch Example: Mason Jar Salad 
  • Non-starchy Vegetables: mixed greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes
  • Lean Protein: shredded chicken
  • Starch: garbanzo beans
  • Extras: feta and vinaigrette

What does a BALANCED SNACK look like?

Building a balanced snack may already be an intuitive habit you have formed. Yet none-the-less, it is just a vital as building a balanced plate. Although eating an apple is a healthy snack choice, it is best to add some protein or fat along with it. The protein and fat will help gradually release the natural sugars from the apple into your blood stream, keeping you energized and fuller longer. Therefore, with every snack try to combine the following:
  • Pick a carbohydrate (C) rich food, preferably a whole grain, fresh fruit, or veggies
  • Add a protein (P) and/or a fat (F)

Snack Examples:
  • 1/2 apple (C) with a T of peanut butter or 14 almonds (P+F)
  • 1 tamari/seaweed brown rice cake (C) with 1/3 avocado (F) and gomasio 
  • Banana (C) and a hard-boiled egg (P+F)
  • 1 cup veggies (C) and 1/4 cup hummus (P+F)
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese (P) mixed 1 T ground flaxseed (F) and fruit (C)
  • Black bean chips (1oz) (C) and 1/4 cup guacamole (F)

Alright so here is your 2nd Challenge!!!
Now that you are full to the brim with exciting ways to ENERGIZE your EATING PATTERN, here is your next challenge. Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.

Weekly Recipe Inspiration:

Spiced Chickpea, Carrot, and Tomato Soup

This hearty soup is a delicious balanced meal if served alongside a salad. It packs quite a bit of protein and fiber, due to the bone broth and the chickpeas. Make sure to get the bone broth, not the chicken stock, as these are two different products. This soup can easily be made vegan by swapping the ghee for olive oil and using a vegetable broth instead of the bone broth. Just make sure to add in some extra plant protein (sautéed tempeh or tofu with a salad) because the protein content will go down if you do not use the bone broth. 

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons ghee or butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 large carrots, halved and thinly sliced
2-3 fresh sprigs of thyme
1-28 oz can of pureed tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
1 quart organic chicken bone broth, unsalted (I used Pacific)
½ tablespoon + ¼ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
2-15 oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon chipotle powder (harissa would be good too!)
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped
Garnish: freshly grated parmesan cheese and additional basil


Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the ghee, onion, and garlic. Stir and sauté until soft. Add the carrots and thyme, and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, bone broth, and sea salt. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat, and just slightly puree the soup with an immersion blender. Just make sure not to over puree the soup. Leave some chunks for added texture.

Return the soup back to the heat. Smash 1 cup of the chickpeas with the back of a fork until mushy. Add smashed and whole chickpeas to the soup, and stir in the chipotle powder. Toss in the basil and allow to simmer about 10 more minutes.

Top each bowl with freshly grated parmesan cheese and additional basil. Serve with a side green salad of your choice for a balanced meal. For example the Garlic Caper Winter Harvest Salad would be delicious!

Note: If you want you can add in organic lean ground meat of your choice to make it even heartier. I would sauté the ground meat along with the onions and garlic. 

More Tasty Recipe Links:

Feeling Motivated??? Here is how to prepare for next week!
  • Stock up on your favorite organic fruits and vegetables especially those from the crucifer family like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. 

1. O’Niel CE, Byrd-Bredbenner C, Hayes D, et al. The Role of Breakfast in Health: Definition and Criteria for a Quality Breakfast. JAND. 2014. Suppl(3)114;12:S8-S26
2. Smith KJ, Gall SL, McNaughton SA, et al. Skipping breakfast: longitudinal associations with cardiometabolic risk factors in the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study1–3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92:1316-25.
3. Mathieu J. What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating? JADA. Dec 2009.1982-1987

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