Thanksgiving: On Gratefulness and Greenery

The holiday season is upon us, and Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. (Seriously, where does the time go?!) Here are some things to consider to make this Thanksgiving the best yet.

Thanksgiving is generally filled with good food and fellowship, but too often it leaves people feeling uncomfortably full, guilty about what and how much they’ve eaten, and with a sense of dread about all the rich food and drink to come throughout the rest of the holiday season. The good news is that there are some things you can do to promote feeling your best, both physically and mentally, this Thanksgiving.  We recommend a focus on gratitude and including some  greenery (you know, vegetables) at the table as a good start. Read on to learn about the benefits of adopting an attitude of gratitude and for some tasty, nourishing recipes that pair perfectly with turkey, dressing, and pie.

One simple definition of gratitude is the quality of being thankful. This is perfect for Thanksgiving but important throughout the year. study found that those who think of gratitude as a permanent trait rather than a temporary state of mind experience more health benefits than the not-so-grateful.  Below are some scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.

  • Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, feel healthier, are more likely to address their health, and exercise more often than others.
  • Gratitude increases happiness, decreases depression, and reduces toxic feelings like resentment and frustration.
  • Grateful people sleep better, specifically when spending a few minutes before bed to jot down some things for which they’re grateful.
  • Gratitude reduces stress, and it contributes to resilience when faced with trauma.

Ways that you can practice gratitude include: thinking of 1-3 things you’re grateful for either when you wake up or before you go to bed (or both!), writing a list of things that you’re grateful for, expressing gratitude to someone else, or discussing things that you’re grateful for with someone else. 

In addition to being grateful, Thanksgiving is largely about food: turkey, stuffing, pie, and all the side dishes. Unfortunately on Thanksgiving, the leafy greens are often forgotten. This is sad not only because we know that greens are good for us, but because a table with variety is visually pleasing, inviting, and satisfying. You’re likely to feel better, both physically and mentally, if you’ve had a little roughage alongside your turkey and pie. Below are some recipes that include leafy greens and pair perfectly with Thanksgiving, as well as some BONUS Thanksgiving recipes that offer a fresh twist on the favorites. 

Whether you’re at home or on the road this Thanksgiving, don’t underestimate the power of gratitude to brighten your day and your health, and see if you can’t sneak in some greenery alongside your pie. No matter where you are or what you’re eating, remember that guilt about food is NOT invited to the table this Thanksgiving, as it’s sure to make you feel worse, not better. Let us know if you try any of the above recipes, and stay tuned for a post about guilt-free eating during the holidays.

Foods for Fall + Recipe Roundup

Fall is in full swing throughout the United States. No matter your exact location, you’re sure to be seeing pumpkins everywhere and noticing a shift in the weather. In addition to seeing pumpkins, you might also be thinking ahead to the holidays and pumpkin pie, as well as other favorite foods of Fall.

There are many perks of eating foods when they’re in season, not the least of which is taste. Think about it: does a watermelon in early January taste as good as a watermelon in late July? No way! Foods grown naturally reflect the season in which they’re grown, and they are most flavorful when harvested accordingly. Seasonal food is also fresher, which means that it often has maximum nutrient content. Eating seasonal foods is nourishing to the body, mind, and soul. It’s a great way to connect and adapt to the environment around you, and it’s also cost-effective. (Consider the price of strawberries in December vs. strawberries in May.)

While pumpkin is certainly in-season during Fall, there are many other fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices which are also widely available. You’re sure to see these foods around local farmers markets and grocery stores everywhere during September, October, and November, and possibly even through the end of the year.

  • Apples
  • Acorn squash
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Butter lettuce
  • Cauliflower
  • Cranberries
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Grapes
  • Mushrooms
  • Pear
  • Persimmons
  • Pomegranate
  • Sweet potato
  • Turnips

If you’re looking for some inspiration as to how to use some of these Fall favorites, we’ve got you covered. See below for some tasty recipes that will both nourish you and help you embrace the Fall season in all its glory.

Quick and Easy Cornbread Muffins from the Long Term Care Blog

Who doesn’t love cornbread with a bowl of soup during the Fall? These muffins includes pumpkin OR squash and store well in the fridge or freezer.

Savory Scalloped Sweet Potatoes from theLong Term Care Blog

An alternative to the overly-sweet candied yams, this savory dish is sure to please and includes dried cranberries for extra seasonal flare.

Greg’s Cauliflower Gratin from Cookus Interruptus

‘Gratin’ means a crust of breadcrumbs and/or melted cheese; need we say more?

Pumpkin Bars from Hummusapien

A lightly sweet treat, these pumpkin bars are extra creamy thanks to an almond butter base.

Spicy Roasted Brussels Sprouts from PureWow

This recipe is the definition of crowd-pleaser and is sure to win over even those still haunted by the over-cooked Brussels sprouts of their childhood. Psst: it contains Sriracha.

Squash and Raisin Stuffed Chicken Breasts from Cookus Interruptus

Sounds fancy but is totally doable and fun. Tastes extra good with a homemade cranberry sauce.

We hope you give these a try and let us know how you like them! No matter how you choose to enjoy these foods this season, know that you’re doing your body, the environment, and your wallet good. If you’re interested in more recipes that highlight more Fall foods, let us know by emailing wellness@christensontrans.com.

Breakfast: Is It Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

We’ve all heard the saying, but is it true?

Well, yes, breakfast is pretty important. There are many benefits to eating breakfast, and they’re backed by a bunch of research. Eating breakfast:

  • Jumpstarts metabolism, which maximizes use of calories throughout the day
  • Provides energy to start the day, leading to increased focus and functionality
  • Promotes blood sugar stability, i.e. prevents blood sugar from being too high or too low
  • Promotes stable mood
  • May prevent overeating later in the day
  • Is linked to lower levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol
  • Is linked to decreased chance of developing diabetes and heart disease
  • Is linked to decreased chance of being overweight

While the best breakfast is one that is balanced, the day’s first meal doesn’t have to be a big production. Generally speaking, a balanced breakfast includes a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates provide energy for the body and brain, and they’re found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Carbohydrates from these sources also include fiber, which has many health benefits and prevents hunger from occurring again soon after eating. Protein also contributes to fullness, and fat contributes to satisfaction. Below are some examples of a balanced breakfast, some of which can be easily eaten over the road. Note that examples including toast or bread are recommended to use a whole grain bread.

  • Yogurt with granola and berries
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich
  • Toast, eggs, and fruit of choice
  • Veggie omelet with toast and fruit of choice
  • Cereal with milk and berries or banana

Wondering how to maximize the positive effects of your favorite breakfast? Below are examples of some easy breakfast favorites with suggestions on how to improve them.

  • Donut (or any type of pastry) and coffee —> Donut, milk, and coffee
  • Breakfast sandwich —> Breakfast sandwich and a piece of fruit (apple, banana, etc.)
  • Granola bar —> Granola bar and mixed nuts/trail mix
  • Banana —> Banana with peanut butter and/or cup of milk

Not generally a breakfast-eater? Even if you’re not hungry for a big breakfast (or any breakfast), it’s advised that you eat something. There’s no denying that there are significant benefits–physically, mentally, and emotionally–to eating breakfast, and it’s often better to eat something rather than nothing. If you’re new to the breakfast game, try eating a cup of Greek yogurt, or some peanut butter crackers, or some mixed fruit and nuts.

Developing a new habit takes time, but your body and mind will thank you for eating a balanced breakfast. You may even begin to feel hungry for breakfast early in the morning! And, if you notice yourself feeling hungrier during mornings when you eat breakfast, don’t panic; this is likely related to that jumpstarted metabolism mentioned above. That said, if you have questions or concerns about your newfound breakfast habit, don’t hesitate to contact Kristen at wellness@christensontrans.com.

Here’s to eating and feeling like a champion!

More on Sugar + Recipe Roundup

If you missed our first post on sugar, be sure to check that out by clicking HERE. It covers the basics of the effects of sugar on health, and it provides a few good tips for reducing sugar intake. 

In this post, we’ll be featuring a few of our favorite recipes that are low in added sugar but NOT lacking in taste. Before we do that, let’s consider a couple more things related to sugar in the diet.

There’s a lot of hype about low-carbohydrate diets and the importance of eating less sugar. This is understandable since we know that there are real and serious health risks associated with too much sugar intake. That said, it’s important to understand the role that carbohydrates and sugar play in the body.

‘Sugar’ is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates. There are various types of sugar derived from different sources. Glucose is a type of sugar that is the body’s preferred source of fuel, and it’s most efficiently provided by eating carbohydrates, which are found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. If the body lacks adequate glucose from carbohydrates, it will engage in less efficient processes to ensure that adequate glucose is available, e.g. it may convert protein molecules into glucose, which may deplete muscle. So, what does all of this mean? The body is optimally designed to use carbohydrates for fuel, but eating sugar isn’t absolutely necessary for survival.

Recommendations for sugar intake may vary by individual. Generally speaking, eliminating intake of sugar is not very realistic for most people, and it’s not likely to be sustainable for anyone. Heavily restricting sugar intake, as is called for by many popular diets, may ultimately lead to overeating sugary foods, which is counterproductive to health and wellbeing. Speaking to a dietitian can be very helpful in attempting to decrease sugar intake in an individualized, healthy, and sustainable way. This is especially true in cases of diabetes (type 1 or 2) and pre-diabetes, and it is recommended that those with such health concerns speak to their doctor or a dietitian. Don’t hesitate to email wellness@christensontrans.com with any individual concerns or questions, and know that all communication will be kept private and confidential.

And now, the recipes! 

Below are recipes that are low in added sugar but definitely not lacking in taste. From sauces to baked goods, there’s something for everyone. Some of these can be made with a slow cooker while on the road; others can be made ahead of time and then stored in the refrigerator. Try them out, and let us know what you think.

Good salsa and chicken, that’s all you need.

Easy and good-for-you; no oven needed.

Perfect for breakfast or as a snack.

A mouthwatering twist on the classic zucchini bread.

Can be used like your favorite teriyaki sauce; just as tasty (or more!) but with half the sugar.

Tips and flavor combinations to make plain water everywhere more appealing.

Again, try these out, and let us know what you think! You can also email our dietitian to let us know what types of recipes you’d like featured next time: wellness@christensontrans.com

Probiotics & Prebiotics: Foods to Promote Good Digestion

At some point, you may have heard or read that yogurt is good for you, so you’ve been faithfully eating it ever since. Or maybe you’ve been choking it down even though you don’t like it. Or maybe you’ve been avoiding it for some other reason but are still regularly told that you “should” eat it.

We hear so much about yogurt in part because it is considered a probiotic food. Probiotic foods are those consisting of live bacteria and yeasts that help colonize the digestive tract with health-promoting microorganisms. Whoa, what does that even mean?

Probiotics are most well known for their role in promoting good digestion, or, in other words, bowel “regularity”. Probiotics have also been shown to have numerous other health benefits, including positive effects in:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Infectious diarrhea and antibiotic-related diarrhea
  • Skin conditions, e.g. eczema
  • Urinary and vaginal health conditions
  • Allergies and colds

Additionally, probiotics are associated with increased resistance to c. difficile, an infectious bacteria that may cause severe diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, and they promote optimal digestion of anti-inflammatory compounds found in food, which are also known to have health benefits. Probiotics are linked to prevention of type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more. They may reduce depression and anxiety, improve heart health, and improve immune function.

So, what foods contain probiotics? Here are some non-yogurt, probiotic-rich foods:

  • Apple cider vinegar (raw)
  • Buttermilk
  • Sour cream
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut (non-canned)
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Kimchi
  • Miso

Some of these may sound foreign to you, but most are widely available at large grocery stores and Walmart. Click here to read more about the above foods, as well as a few more obscure probiotic-rich foods.

In addition to probiotics, the digestive system also needs prebiotics, which are non-digestible fibers found in food that help promote growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms in the gut, i.e. probiotics. So, probiotics need prebiotics. Foods containing high amounts of prebiotics include:

  • Raw garlic
  • Raw or cooked onions
  • Raw leeks
  • Raw jicama
  • Raw asparagus
  • Raw dandelion greens
  • Raw Jerusalem artichoke
  • Under-ripe bananas

Additionally, other raw fruits and vegetables also contain prebiotics, though in lower amounts than those listed above.

Together, prebiotics and probiotics help to promote and maintain balanced gut bacteria, which is important for both good digestion and lowering overall disease risk.

It may seem overwhelming to consider all of this information at once, but don’t be afraid to take baby steps toward better health! Aim to eat a serving of either raw fruit or vegetable (prebiotic) or a serving of something fermented or cultured (probiotic) at each meal. And stay tuned for a future post that more thoroughly discusses IBS specifically.