I’ve always been a total learning junkie. Even back in the day I was a Class A nerd, taking classes like Etymology and Philosophy in addition to my usual high school course load. I’ve continued my post-graduate studies in nerdology well past college, learning about digital photography, painting, sustainable farming, and—no surprise here—also getting a formal culinary and nutrition education.
Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai from Clean in ’15: Go! class
While January seems to be the time where everyone is focused on improving their personal habits through resolutions, September is when I light up because it’s the “back to school” time of year when we all get to focus on growth and learning. Even those of us that are, ahem, a little past “school age.”
So in honor of the learning vibes I’m riding right now, here are 3 mini-lessons on how to improve your health this fall, holistically. Take out your #2 pencils, class.
3 Lessons on Feeling Fabulous this Fall
1. Get in the Flow: Eat probiotic-rich foods to improve digestion.
Homemade Coconut Yogurt from Clean in ’15: Flow! class
By now you’ve probably heard from your doctor that you should be eating some probiotics or “good” bacteria. These little guys keep “bad” bacteria and yeasts like candida in check in your gut, making sure you are able to absorb nutrients from food and helping ward off infections and even chronic diseases. Although probiotic pills and celebrity-endorsed yogurt brands (yes, this is the world we live in) are the most common way that Americans get their good bacteria, yogurt is perhaps not the best source because dairy is a highly inflammatory food for most people.
Instead, my favorite ways to get more probiotics into my diet are naturally fermented produce—foods like kimchi, pickles, and easy, homemade coconut yogurt. Check out your local farmer’s market and the refrigerator section of the grocery store for more and be sure to look for labels like “naturally fermented” and “live and active cultures.” Start by eating 1 spoonful of these foods a day. They are great way to add a punch of flavor and a tart zip to foods like sandwiches and salads.
2. Get up and Go!: Ditch the processed carbs and find substitutes for caffeine for natural energy.
No sugar or flour here! Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Energy Bites from Clean in ’15: Go! class
Caffeine, sugar and carbalicious energy bars are often the go-to items when we are looking to boost our energy, but we all know from experience that these products tend to give us only a short burst of energy, often followed by a huge dip. We often feel worse than when we started! Instead, try planning your meals and snacks around slow-digesting, fiber rich vegetables, and quality protein and fat.
You can also try products like green tea, yerba mate, maca powder, and dandelion root tea to give yourself a much more gentle energy boost that the big jolt from your morning coffee. Homemade energy bars made from nuts, seeds, and dried fruits are staples in my weekly cooking. They take a few minutes to blend up in the food processor, and then I have a filling, nutrient rich snack ready to go for the week.
3. Cultivate your Glow: Load up on vegetables and power nutrients to slim down and radiate out.
The phrase “beauty comes from within” doesn’t just refer to helping little old ladies across the street. Even outer beauty has an inner source because the foods we eat affect our outward appearance through our skin, weight, hair, and nails. Building meals around a variety of flavorful vegetables will keep you full, lower your caloric intake, and give you tons of micronutrients to make your skin glow.
But let’s break that down one more step. Make a modest, tangible goal to increase your vegetable intake—one that excites you and that can last for more than a few weeks. One great one that I like to suggest to my clients is to always have 1 green vegetable at dinner. It becomes a fun challenge to see how you can get something green on the plate, even when you are out at a restaurant.
Are you ready to get your Flow, Go and Glow on? “Back to school” season seems like the perfect time to launch my Clean Eating Starter Guide that I created with The Chopping Block.
It contains realistic clean eating recipes for busy weekdays: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner and 1 snack as well guidance on how to stock a pantry for clean eating. Check the class calendar for clean eating classes throughout 2016.