Avoiding Holiday Food Comas

Did you end up in a food coma like me on Thanksgiving? The holiday season is upon us when opportunities to overindulge seem frequent and plentiful – from parties with endless treats to munch on to family dinner gatherings with feasts that offer seconds, thirds and more of our favorite dishes. Despite the immediate satisfaction, overeating can lead to hours of discomfort and lethargy.

Here are three easy tips to practice in an effort to stop a food coma before it strikes.

1. HYDRATE: Drink water before, during and after indulging. Drinking water at optimal times will help avoid indigestion and keep the body hydrated. Water may also help you to eat less, since our bodies often mistake thirst for hunger. Start by drinking a full glass of water before you even leave your house and then make sure to drink up (water that is) while socializing.glass-531203_1920Image: PredragKezic via pixabay

2. FRUITS AND VEGGIES: Whether you’re cruising the appetizer table or victim to a full dinner buffet, aim to fill most of your plate  with fruits and veggies (go heavier on the veggies to avoid too much fructose). Fruits and veggies are not only hydrating foods but they also tend to be fiber-rich, which will fill you up faster and thus help to prevent overeating.salad-587669_1920Image: Kechn via pixabay

3. HERBAL TEA: When you return home with a full belly, treat yourself to a cup of  of herbal tea or better yet, make a cup of warm water with lemon and honey to help ease bloating and stimulate the digestive system. After you finish your warm drink, do a few yoga poses to improve digestion, and you’ll be in even better shape!tea-428306_1920
Image: Jarmoluk via pixabay

In addition to keeping these three hydrating tips in mind while you mingle, you should also be sure to stay clear of too many sweets (easier said than done). Large quantities of any food can cause a food coma, however, sugar, or sucrose, found in desserts tends to be the main culprit. When we consume sugar, our bodies produce extra insulin to help absorb the spike of glucose. In turn, the extra insulin causes our brains to produce more serotonin and melatonin, two neurochemicals that can make us feel drowsy and lethargic.

 

featured post image: PublicDomainPictures via pixabay

 

Make a Conscious Choice: Tap Versus Bottled Water

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) holds all public sources of drinking water to strict safety standards, ensuring that the vast majority of U.S. citizens can trust the water that comes straight from their tap. However, in spite of this, many Americans choose to pass over free and clean water in favor of paying for bottled water. “There are many attributes that contribute to bottled water’s undeniable appeal to U.S. consumers,” said said Chris Hogan, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). “Among them are bottled water’s healthfulness, convenience, reliability, and safety.”

Bottled water drinkers are part of a large and growing trend. In this decade alone, Americans have increased their annual consumption of bottled water by more than 11 gallons per person, from 25.4 gallons in 2005 to 36.5 gallons in 2015. In fact, bottled water is expected to overtake soft drinks as America’s largest beverage category by volume by 2017, if not by the end of 2016.

While it’s good news that Americans are choosing bottled water as a healthy alternative to other bottled beverages, including soft drinks, it seems that we’ve taken this health-conscious beverage swap to an “unhealthy” extreme. Sure, it’s great to buy water instead of soda, but our careless over-consumption of bottled water has a huge and growing impact on the environment.

I’d like to start by debunking the attributes of the ubiquitous bottled water that, according to the IBWA, have “undeniable appeal” to U.S. consumers.

  1. Healthfullness: While bottled water is healthier than soft drinks and other bottled beverages, it is by no means healthier than tap water. Pick yourself up a refillable water bottle and make a habit out of visiting the many refillable water stations that are popping up around the world. If you live somewhere that hasn’t quite caught up with the refillable trend, consider buying a refillable bottle with a built-in filter so that you’ll feel good about filling up with tap while on the go. There’s a wide range of filter bottles from this simple Brita to the extreme Lifesaver bottle, which can also get you through an emergency.
  1. Convenience: Americans love the convenience of a portable plastic bottle but does it really need to be disposable? Again, invest in a refillable container and make a habit out of keeping it full. In no time this solution will feel more convenient than anything else. Especially when you factor in the option to customize your water by adding booster drops, such as these Alkaline Drops with Antioxidants or natural flavor, such as H2wOw. There are small portable enhancers to meet just about any supplement or flavor boost you want, giving you the ability to completely personalize your water and have some fun with your hydration.
  1. Reliability: Is bottled water really any more reliable than tap? I would argue that tap water is one of the most accessible things in the U.S. We are so fortunate to basically be guaranteed clean and safe tap water, this is a luxury that should be appreciated!
  1. Safety: Many people choose bottled water because of concerns about the safety of their tap water, in some cases, these fears are reasonable however for the vast majority of people in the U.S. tap water is just as safe, if not safer. And, according to several blind taste tests, such as this one, tap is just as tasty as well. In the U.S. tap water is held to higher safety standards than bottled water. Tap water is regulated, often screened for dangerous pollutants and city government offices are required to share water information with their residents. Bottled water isn’t subject to the same reporting standards and doesn’t usually have to state what source it comes from or what methods were used to treat it. In addition, some microorganisms, that are normally of little or no public health significance, may grow to higher levels in bottled water. For example, Food Safety News reports that in June 2015, 14 different brands of bottled water had to be recalled because of possible contamination with E. coli bacteria. What’s more, the plastic used in single-use bottles can pose more of a contamination threat than the water itself.

When you look closely, IBWA’s attributes of so-called appeal aren’t valid, and are quite “deniable”. These claims are fueled in part by the huge marketing effort of the major water companies and bottling industry and in part by consumers, who need to justify their frivolous purchase of water.  In general, bottled water is no more pristine, tasty or healthy than water straight from the tap.

However, there are, in fact, real attributes to consider the next time you think about paying $1.50 or more for a bottle of water. The cost bottled water has on the environment and your wallet is very real. Bottled water is far more expensive than tap water, and it also uses many more resources to package, ship, and dispose of when the bottles are empty.

  1. Price: A Business Insider column noted that two-thirds of the bottled water sold in the United States is in individual 16.9-ounce bottles, which comes out to roughly $7.50 per gallon. That’s about 2,000 times higher than the cost of a gallon of tap water. Not only does bottled water contribute to excessive waste, but it costs us a thousand times more than water from the faucet. Furthermore, when you pay a price premium for bottled water, what you’re getting is often just tap water that’s been filtered or purified in some way. Both Dasani, bottled by the Coca-Cola company, and Aquafina, bottled by PepsiCo, start out with public water sources.
  1. Environment: Bottled water is a drain on the environment. The bottled water industry uses 1.5 million tons of plastic annually to package water, and the manufacturing and disposal of the plastic sends toxic chemicals into the environment. Transporting the bottles and keeping them cold also burns fossil fuels, which give off greenhouse gases. And, according to some estimates, it takes up to three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water! In addition, groundwater pumping by bottled-water companies draws heavily on underground aquifers and harms watersheds. Some major bottled water companies are making the drought in places like California worse, and violating local communities, by taking water for bottling on expired (and potentially illegal) permits.  

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that bottled water has a place and plays a vital role when public water supplies are compromised, such as in the aftermath of a natural disaster. So much so that I even wrote a post just last week urging readers to purchase bottled water to have on hand in case of an emergency. When clean tap water is unavailable, I appreciate that the bottled water industry is instrumental and has been (and will continue to be) there to ensure that people have access to safe, quality water. In developing countries where there is not a safe source of tap water, bottled water is necessary. And sure, even with our access to clean, safe tap water, there will always be times when buying a bottle of water is justified, such as on days of travel or when forgetting your refillable container. It’s not an all or nothing situation but it is an opportunity to be mindful of times of careless over-consumption. Bottled water clearly comes with a cost, both for consumers and the environment. We can each make a difference individually by choosing tap water more often. untitled_chart-1

Do You Have Enough Water Stored For an Emergency?

shakeout_global_getready_300x250dropcoverholdon_eng_colorExperts agree: Drop, Cover and Hold is the best way to protect yourself during earthquake shaking

Yesterday was the annual Great ShakeOut Day, a unified worldwide effort to practice how to be safer during earthquakes. From California to Japan, (and in hundreds of cities, states and countries in between), millions of people practiced the Drop, Cover and Hold drill, at 10:20 am on October 20th. The ShakeOut, which began in California in 2008, is not only an opportunity for communities, schools and other organizations to practice safety drills, it’s also a time to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies.

And, since emergency preparedness goes well beyond just being ready for the next big earthquake, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to write about what is likely the most important part of everyone’s emergency kit: WATER.

The body can go without food for upwards of 30 days but will last less than one week without water. So if you’re going to do just one thing to prepare for an emergency, store water!

A supply of one gallon per person per day for 3-days, is the minimum that you should keep on-hand. At least a 7-day supply is optimal. So, if you have four people in your household, you should have at least 12 gallons of water stored at all times.

untitled_chartWhatever size bottle you choose, water stored should equal at least one gallon per person per day for 3-days; a 7-day supply is optimal

If you’ve read some of my other posts, like  What’s On Tap? It’s Hetch Hetchy For Me! and I’m a “Personal” Water Bottle Addict – Here Are My 5 Faves, then you know that I’m not an advocate of buying bottled water. However, in this case, I urge you to give yourself peace of mind by buying, at least a 3-day supply, of bottled water for your family today! Mark the date on the water bottles, find a place to store them, and make a note on your calendar to replace them after one-year.

It’s important to be prepared as possible, however even a stored water supply may be exhausted during a true emergency. In this case, there are several alternative emergency sources to keep in mind. If you’re in your home, water stored in your hot water tank, melted ice cubes from the freezer and water from unsalted canned vegetables are all potential sources. If you’re in a situation where you have questions about the quality of the water, purify it before drinking. To purify water, you can heat water to boiling or use commercial purification tablets, such as Potable Aqua. You can also use household liquid bleach if it’s pure and unscented; the label should say that it contains 8.25% of sodium hypochlorite and indicate that it’s suitable for disinfection and sanitation. Do not use scented, color safe, or bleaches with added cleaners. To purify water with bleach, use the following table as a guide:

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After adding bleach, shake or stir the water container and let it stand for 30 minutes before drinking. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website for additional guidance on preparing and storing an emergency water supply. I also recommend printing and keeping handy this Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water fact sheet.

Organizing an emergency supply kit for my family is something that I’m always putting off. It seems to continually be on my “to-do list”, but never quite makes it to the top or gets priority. There’s always something else that seems more “urgent” or worthy of my time. However, I do always keep water on hand in my garage; this is something that is easy to do and, in my opinion, the minimum that anyone should do…..especially since I live in California. In researching for this post I printed the checklists and fact sheets that are linked, as the start to finally getting a full emergency kit and plan together. Alongside our regular kid-centric activities for this weekend, which include a birthday party, gardening at my daughter’s elementary school, and gymnastics class,  I blocked several hours to make a full emergency kit. Now that my kids are old enough to help, I figure making the kit together can be both an educational and fun activity to do with them. Hopefully moving this item from the status of a “to-do” on a never ending list, to a “scheduled activity with kids” will finally make it happen!

Hydration During Exercise

Last week I wrote a post about the best times of day to hydrate, and I’m sure it came as no surprise that key times to hydrate include before, during and after exercise. While it’s obvious that exercise requires increased hydration, many people are unaware of just how much water intake directly impacts performance. Improper hydration can result in muscle cramping, decreased strength and reduced endurance, impeding energy and performance.

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Image Rubbermaid Products via Flickr

Sweat is one of the obvious things that happens during a workout; it’s the way our bodies cool down when they start to heat up.  It follows that the more a person sweats, the more water they should drink to replenish. Sweat rates vary by individual and are further influenced by factors including exercise intensity, exercise duration, the climate (including temperature and humidity), and the body’s pre-exercise hydration state.  It’s straightforward to check your individual sweat rate by weighing yourself directly before and after exercise and accounting for exactly how much water you consumed during the workout……you’ll also have to either hold your pee or take your pee-volume into account. You can google “calculating perspiration rate” for more details on how to compute your rate or use a handy sweat rate calculator like this one that I found on the Gatorade Sports Science Institute’s website. Another quick metric of proper hydration is to note how often you’re urinating. Ideal hydration leads to urination every 1 – 2 hours, even during exercise.

Depending on your gender, age, size and perspiration rate, you lose about four cups (approximately one liter) of water per hour of exercise.  If you’re working out in a hot climate, you can easily lose up to two litres of water per hour during a cardio session.

Adequate water intake before, during and after exercise does more than replenish water lost from perspiration, it also plays a key function in maintaining blood volume and electrolyte balance. Electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium and potassium, are lost from the body with sweat. However, except in extreme cases, losses are small and replacement during exercise is not a priority. ‘Sports drinks’ often contain electrolytes, particularly sodium. These have the effect of stimulating water absorption from the small intestine, which is beneficial during exercise. In addition, after exercise, replacing lost sodium is essential for full recovery and rehydration. Extreme athletes will require fluids from a variety of sources, not just water. However, if you’re not an extreme athlete who requires a sports drink, consider something, without the sugar and calories, that will provide a mild electrolyte boost, such as Glaceau’s smartwater or H2wOw’s all natural water enhancer, with extracts of real fruits and mineral electrolytes.

I had planned to use infogr.am to make a cool graphic that listed how much water the average person needs before, during and after a workout but during my research I found something better than anything I would be able to make! The graphic below is from a post on greatist.com and includes recommendations on how much water to drink while exercising as well as a lot of other great information.

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Make Your Water Go Further: The Best Times of Day to Hydrate

If you’re reading this post, then you already know that drinking enough water is an important component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. BUT, it may surprise you to learn that when you drink water is almost equally important. This is especially true for those of us who aren’t disciplined enough to consistently drink water at regular intervals throughout the day.

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So, if you’re like me and not always or on top of your water intake, here are some simple guidelines to follow to help ensure that you hydrate at the most important times.

1. Drink Water After Waking Up
Make this the first thing you do after getting up……before a cup of coffee. Try adding lemon for even more benefit. One or two glasses of water first thing in the morning activates internal organs and remove any toxins before your first meal of the day. You’ll feel more awake and refreshed too!

2. Drink Water 30 Minutes Before Meals
One glass of water 30 minutes before a meal helps regulate digestion, curb your appetite and moisturize the stomach lining to better handle brittle and acidic foods.

3. Drink Water 1 Hour After Meals
One glass of water an hour after the meal HELPS the body to absorb the nutrients you just ate, drinking water too soon after a meal will dilute the body’s digestive juices.

4. Drink Water When You’re Hungry
If you’re hungry between meals, drink a glass of water first to see if you’re dehydrated. Sometimes people think they’re hungry when they’re really just thirsty.

5. Drink Water Before, During and After Exercise
Hydrating before a workout will keep your body from drying out and feeling thirsty. Drink at least 12 ounces before a workout. Depending on the temperature, humidity and your body’s weight and fluid levels, you’ll need one to several servings of water to protect against dehydration during and after workouts. Following vigorous exercise, be mindful to drink enough water to replace fluids lost through perspiration.

6. Drink Water 30 Minutes Before a Shower or Bath
Showering or bathing is relaxing and helps lower blood pressure. Drinking water before will help to further thin your blood and dilate blood vessels.

7. Drink Water 30 Minutes Before Going to Bed
A glass of water before going to bed has many health benefits, including helping to avoid the thickening of the blood which can cause stroke or heart attack. Hydrating before bed also helps balance hormones, replenishes any fluid loss that can occur during the night, and reduces nighttime leg cramping.

8. Drink Water When You Feel Tired
A glass of water when you feel tired will help the brain to regain focus and the body feel energized.  If you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep but still feel tired, you may be dehydrated; fatigue can be a sign of dehydration.

9. Drink Water When You’re Exposed to Germs
If you find yourself around someone who may be ill, drink more water than usual to help wash away germs and viruses that your body may have picked up. A well-hydrated body encourages bacterial and viral invaders to move along so they don’t settle and multiply in your system. The same holds true for when you’re sick, you need to drink plenty of fluids, including water, to get better.

10. Drink Water With Medicine
Water helps your kidneys flush out medicines so they go down smoothly. Do ensure you never take medicines with liquids other than water. Only water is safe with medicines as it doesn’t contain anything that can negatively affect how medicines are absorbed.

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Poor Circulation?…..Try Some Water with Dried Longan Fruit

The other day I went for a massage. It was MUCH needed after 6 weeks of traveling with my kids and lots of lifting, sitting and flying. My body was full of aches and pains. The therapist I saw was an interesting guy from China who, upon noticing that my hands and feet felt cold, and my neck and shoulders very tense, had some recommendations for me. He suggested a warm morning drink made with water, dried longan fruit, red date and ginger, explaining that it’s a common drink for Chinese women to improve circulation and help with relaxation. I’m game to trying anything that is natural and helps with relaxation! Since I was already in the Inner Richmond district of San Francisco, home to a large Chinese community and many great Asian markets, I decided to pick up the ingredients straight away and give the concoction a try.

At the market, I discovered that dried longan fruit is also known as Long Yan Rou and is closely related to the lychee. And, Red Dates are actually just another name for jujubes. This new drink was sounding better and better! Adding ginger to my water is something I already enjoy (more on that in a future post) but the other two ingredients were new to me and I really had no idea how to prep them for water. Both the dried fruits are the consistency of Medjool dates….so, I assumed that some soaking was in order but was certainly open to more guidance on this.

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The three and hopefully magical ingredients for my warm water beverage

A Google search for ideas on how to make this enticing drink, as well as more information on the properties of each ingredient was in order. First, I researched each ingredient on Wikipedia to find out more about the medicinal properties. Here’s what I learned:

Red Dates: Commonly called jujubes, Chinese dates, Korean dates, or Indian dates are a species of Ziziphus in the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae). The fruit and its seeds are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, where they are believed to alleviate stress. In addition to this they are used for many other purposes, including anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory and their wound healing properties.

Longan Fruit: One of the better-known tropical members of the soapberry family (Sapindaceae), to which the lychee also belongs. In Chinese food therapy and herbal medicine, the longan is believed to have an effect on relaxation. The longan, much like the lychee, it’s thought to give internal “heat”.

Ginger: A flowering plant (Zingiber officinale) whose rhizome, ginger root or simply ginger, is widely used as a spice or a folk medicine. Ginger is one of the oldest and most versatile medicinal foods and in China it’s been used by healers for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that ginger “restores devastated yang” and “expels cold”. Ginger has many believed uses including reducing muscle soreness and inflammation, alleviating nausea and helping digestion. 

Now that I better understood the ingredients, I was ready to use them! I didn’t find much when I Googled this exact combination, but I did find many recipes with ginger and red dates, many of which included goji berries. The closest recipe I found was on a lovely blog called A Beautiful Day and I used this recipe as my reference, omitting the pear and pine nuts.

Here is what I added to 10 cups of filtered water:

25 dried red dates, pitted and sliced

10 dried longans

2 inch chunk of peeled ginger, sliced thinly

After prepping, boiling, simmering for an hour, and finally straining, my drink remedy was ready! I let it cool to a lukewarm temperature and then gave it a try.

It was quite interesting and, based on the profile of the ingredients, more medicinal tasting than I expected, . Right away, I could see why the recipe on A Beautiful Day called for pear because the drink had a bit of a bitter quality and needed something a little sweet to offset this. I added a tiny bit of honey and it became much more enjoyable to drink. I found it very soothing and cozy. It reminded me of Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea, which for years has been a favorite product of mine and something I always have on hand.

I’ve now been enjoying this medicinal water for a few days and have tried it both warm and cold (the batch I made yielded enough for at least one cup daily for a week). I definitely prefer it more as a warm tea-type beverage. And, while I don’t know if it has had any true efficacy on my health, it’s something I’m glad I tried and will make again. It was fun to experiment with new-to-me ingredients that have so many believed healing properties.

 

 

Make a Small Change That You Can Maintain: Start Each Day With a Glass of Water

I recently read an article in the New York Times, Rise and Shine, about what kids around the world eat and drink for breakfast. As a mom of two young daughters, I’m always looking for new ideas and inspiration. I wasn’t overly inspired by the food, much of it sugary and carb-filled, like the typical American breakfast (i.e. bread with butter and sweet sprinkles, Oatmeal with sugar, baguette with butter and jam and sweet cake). However, I was even less inspired by the beverages that children around the globe begin their days with, and surprised that only one of the 11 breakfasts featured in the article included a glass of water! Almost all of the children began their day with milk, chocolate milk or juice, which is probably similar to what happens in the US. Clearly this is just a small sampling but I still find it striking that less than 10% of these children have a glass of water in the morning.  After reading this article, I had to pause and give myself quick kudos for having at least one healthy habit that I’ve managed to pass on to my children 🙂

At my house, we all start the day with a glass of water. I’ve always enjoyed warm water with lemon (or sometimes lemon and honey) first thing in the morning and I make sure my girls have at least one glass of water before they leave the house because I know that they’re not always drinking enough during the day and I try to stay ahead with their hydration. I find that our little ritual of drinking our water together first thing helps us start the day off on the right foot – I am hopeful that doing something good for our bodies in the morning makes us more mindful of making healthy choices and drinking more throughout the day.

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I start my day with a tall glass of lemon water and my girls each chug a short glass of plain H2O. It’s a healthy way to start each day.

Most people know it’s healthy to start the day with a glass of water, but not everyone knows why or remembers to do it. Hydrating in the morning can make you feel more energetic by keeping your metabolism in check, helps remove toxins from your system, improves digestion and stimulates elimination. Having a glass of water first thing and then drinking more throughout the day will help you avoid health issues that may be related to dehydration.

If you don’t like to drink plain water, then try squeezing some lemon, lime or orange into your water. Not only does lemon give water a nice burst of citrus taste but it also provides many health benefits. For a really fast and convenient way to switch up the taste of your water but still keep it super healthy and natural you can also add a few drops of essential oil or try a natural water enhancer like H2wOw.

I know that it may not be a common practice to begin each day with a glass of water but it really should be. It’s such a small and easy change to make and keep but it is also a habit that can make a big difference. My girls and I toast our water glasses each morning — give it a try with your kids too.