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Earth Girl Wellness

Which Diet is Best For You?

Written by Tina Hatcher, Earth Girl Wellness

We are pounded daily with a plethora of diet options. Vegan, the New Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, the Zone, Volumetrics…the list goes on! How can anyone possibly know which way to turn! The answer is relatively simple. No single meal plan is a perfect fit for everyone. What may have been successful for your BFF may not be so grand for you. Variations in lifestyles including activity levels, current health, desire or ability to cook, and budget can make or break various menu options. Consider that some individuals have no trouble going on a strict long-term meal plan, while others simply can’t give up their evening glass of wine or weekend ice cream treat!

So where to begin? The following three questions should set you on a course for success! First, where are you now? What time do you have to commit to a new meal plan? What foods can you not live without? What does your budget allow? Do you want a strict routine to follow or more flexibility? All of these variables can change over the course of your life (or even several times a year!) Choose a meal plan that won’t cause major disruptions to your current lifestyle.

As you learn to eat healthier, you can always challenge yourself a little more! Choose a meal plan that will challenge you but won’t create an entirely new routine and lifestyle overnight.

Second, what are your goals? Weight loss? Improve fitness level? Lower cholesterol? Feel happier? Different meal plans are geared towards different results. A small, female cross-country runner will have a far different menu than a large, male weight lifter. A diabetic losing weight will have different considerations than a new mom hoping to take off the last five pounds of baby weight. Choose a meal plan that will provide the energy, protein, and vitamins and minerals that will, first and foremost, create a healthier you. Choose one that still provides you with a few “loves” but encourages you to make wiser choices.

Finally, does the recommended guidelines and meal plans make sense? Let’s go to a reality check here…no one can lose 10 pounds in a week. It’s physiologically impossible, so why set yourself up for failure to begin with? Does the plan eliminate entire food groups? If you are forbidden to eat healthy sources of carbs, where will your energy come from? If you can eat excess volumes of fat, does it make sense you can actually take off a few pounds? Most of us have enough common sense to know deep down when a book makes recommendations that just seem unhealthy! Follow your gut (literally) and choose a healthier option!

Earth Girl wants you to be successful! So choose a lifestyle that will set you up for success! If you can’t sustain a nutritional lifestyle for the rest of your life…it is not for you!

Tina Hatcher is the owner of Earth Girl Wellness, LLC. Her passion for overall wellness has allowed her to work in multiple disciplines from corrective exercise, sports performance and sports nutrition, weight loss, and nutritional counseling across all ages for the last 25 years. www.earthgirlwellness.com

Earth Girl Wellness: Eat Healthy!

One of the questions Earth Girl most frequently gets asked is, “How do I encourage my household to eat healthier?” It is a great question and one with a variety of solid answers. It is usually best to provide feedback that is specifically tailored to each individual household since every family has a unique dynamic. Homes all have varying interest or talents to prepare meals, various schedules from serene to hectic, and everyone places a different emphasis on food in their budgets. However, there are three basic suggestions every household can implement immediately to ensure success.
1) Place healthy, easy-to-eat foods within arms reach every day. It is not unusual to hear advice that your cupboards and refrigerators need to be filled with healthy eating options. But as the saying goes…out of sight means out of mind! Place ready-to-eat, already prepared choices on your counter in brightly colored bowls or on seasonally decorated platters. Having the healthy choices in plain sight and/or in a high traffic area places a constant reminder to fill up on nutritious snacks. Red or green grapes, baby carrots, or a bowl of almonds can be quick grabs to nourish your body. Think of all the times it is convenient to grab candy from a dish…just change your habits to something healthy!
2) Water, water everywhere! Carry a water bottle with you everywhere. Water is free, has no calories and is arguably the most important essential nutrient the body needs. It keeps your belly full so you are less likely to eat unnecessarily. We often reach for something to eat thinking we are hungry when in fact, we are simply dehydrated. I often recommend an individual carry a water bottle around the house and at work, especially if a snack room or table constantly tempts her to reach for something unhealthy. You can’t reach for a donut if you already have water in your hands!
3) There are no forbidden foods! Teaching yourself and loved ones that it’s okay to indulge once in awhile is extremely important! Learning how to spread out indulgences and consume them in moderation creates a balanced lifestyle and diet. Plus, it’s no fun to never eat the foods you love! Purchase limited amounts of your favorite foods to have in your house for times you want to savor a beloved treat. If you have only one bag of chips in your house, you learn that if you eat them all in the first day you have none for the rest of the week. If you have a small handful or snack bag full once a day, you can have your salty yumminess all week! This is an especially important lesson for children and youth to learn early in life.
Earth Girl loves to recommend easy to use modifications to ensure a healthy household. My top three recommendations above can be utilized in any household regardless of time restrictions, budget, or culinary talents. Individuals of every age, fitness level, and motivation can put each suggestion to excellent use to create a healthier lifestyle!

Earth Girl Wellness: Probiotics 101

The gut is the new brain…or so research is suggesting. The profound effects the health of your digestive tract has on your cognitive function is gaining momentum in the nutrition world. Regular elimination and the balance of microflora in your intestines has everyone grabbing for more fiber and probiotics. But what are probiotics? Are they really that important? Or are we falling prey to yet another dietary trap trying to grab money out of our pockets?
Your gut is filled with bacteria of all kinds. There is a delicate balance of more than 1000 types of bacteria living in your large intestines. This balance helps keep your intestines “moving along” and influences mood regulation and emotions. The millions of neurons (nerve endings) contained in our digestive tract are in constant communication with our brain. Keeping that communication open and smoothly transmitting requires a healthy gut. Probiotics and their far reaching effects on the colon aid in maintaining a healthy gut and the complex communication system of the gut-brain axis.
There are a wide range of sources that can provide your body with the appropriate balance of bacteria. Probiotics can be found in many foods, drinks, and supplements. Choosing a proper delivery method depends upon your preferences and lifestyle. Sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and several other fermented foods, such as sour pickles, are natural food sources that contain the healthy bacteria. Advantages to food sources include their close proximity to nature and lack of unnecessary colors and preservatives. However, not everyone has a desire to eat fermented (and sometimes spicy!) foods every day. Plus, yogurt often contains a large amount of sugar (a no-no on the Earth Girl list).
Kombucha is a fermented tea that provides an excellent source of probiotics. It comes in a variety of flavors and in easy-to-grab bottles. The taste can be too strong and off-putting for some individuals and the price can dent your wallet. Earth Girl suggests you shop around and try a variety of different manufactures to find one that appeals to you. Earth Girls’ favorite pick is the Synergy Trilogy. It is found at most super markets that sell organic foods.
A final source can be found in a supplement. Buyer beware when purchasing probiotics in a bottle. Several items to check for are the number of strains of bacteria (look for more than one strain), the volume of bacteria in the product (look for at least 1 billion per CFU), and when the product was made to ensure the bacteria is still alive (probiotics won’t work if the bacteria contained in them is dead). A few products that have been vetted and reviewed by Reviews.com include Islands Miracle-Ultra-30 Probiotics, MegaFood MegaFlora, Renew Life Ultimate Flora Extra Care 30 Billion, and Dr. Formulas Nexabiotic Advanced Multi-Probiotic.
In final analysis, Earth Girl Wellness recommends everyone consume a daily probiotic. It is a “no-brainer” when it comes to gut health and is simple to add to any healthy routine. Choose a delivery system that makes you happy! You will be healthier whether you enjoy a great Kimchi grilled cheese sandwich, an afternoon glass of kombucha, or throw back a few supplements with your morning glass of water. Your gut (and brain) will love you for it!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher

Earth Girl Wellness: Convenience Food

Yes, I am putting it out into public knowledge that Earth Girl sometimes has to rely on the convenience of foods that come in a package. This is typically an extremely hectic and stressful time of the year. I spend more time in the car than I would like, and I often arrive home well after 8pm. I refuse to allow a crazy schedule side track my healthy eating, so I am always on the lookout for foods that I can eat straight from the package. Recent years have seen food manufacturers trying their hand at optimal health in a box. So here it goes: these are the three foods that you just might see Earth Girl munching on at the soccer field, in her car, or when she finally arrives home!

My first favorite is a frozen product, the Luvo Bowl. The Luvo Bowl has over 15 different variations. Recipes such as So Cal Kale & Bean, Orange Mango Chicken, Roasted Vegetable Lasagna, and Roasted Cauliflower Mac & Cheese entice the tastebuds! Luvo’s promise is to provide plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains and responsibly sourced proteins, while limiting sodium and added sugars. My personal favorite, the Quinoa & Veggie Enchilada Verde bowl, packs in 10 grams of protein, 37 grams of whole grains and a full cup of vegetables! At 290 calories per bowl, Earth Girl is left feeling full, and accomplished. After all, I just ate the easiest one cup of veggies of my day!

Number two on my list of foods in a box comes from Tessemae’s. Tessemae’s Salad Kits are USDA Organic! Four different varieties including Sesame Ginger Greens, Power Kale Caesar, Spinach Bacon Ranch, and Sweet Kale Crunch all pack in the nutrition with ingredients such as chickpeas, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. The kits contain around 400-450 calories and virtually no added sugars. These kits do have a little more sodium than Earth Girl would like, but compared to other packaged meals, the comparison makes Tessemae’s look like a “sodium-less” saint. The range of vitamins and minerals included in each package makes these salads a top performer in the nutrition world.

Finally, a super and quick snack or side to any meal are Good Foods Chickpea and Quinoa Salad packs. Leading the charge with a gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan alternative to most convenience foods, Good Foods knows how to combine a great protein source with a variety of vegetables including carrots, green and red peppers. Earth Girl has been known to throw these packs on a bed of lettuce for added satiety. This manufacturer has perfected the art of combining a yummy combination of herbs so that the sodium and sugar content can remain low. At only 190 calories you can load up on 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 21 grams of whole carbohydrates.

Earth Girl recognizes that we all have moments, days, weeks or months of “survival” mode and we need to learn what healthy options are out in the vast jungle of heavily marketed convenience foods. Let me do a little of the dirty work for you! (Okay, it wasn’t so dirty—just really yummy!) I have compared hundreds of products and found the above top three to be in my grocery cart, my refrigerator or freezer, and in my cooler on a daily basis! Here’s to another meal “on the go” so you can be the best at what you do!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher of Earth Girl Wellness.

“Perfection”

What is perfection? According to Dictionary.com, perfect is defined as “conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type.” However, when it comes to wellness, I am not certain there is an exact definition of an ideal type. What makes one individual healthy and happy may not necessarily work for someone else. Even the guidelines set out by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) regarding nutritional intake and the exercise standards promoted by the ACSM (American Academy of Sports Medicine) are just that: guidelines. Both organizations take large volumes of data from hundreds of thousands of people and create standards that fit the majority of the US population regarding what might constitute optimal health. These standards can’t possibly consider each individual’s unique genetic makeup and personal preferences for a fulfilling life.

So why do we strive for perfection when perfection is at best a guess of what might work for some people? Why do we pressure ourselves into comparing what we feel others are doing that seems to be superior, and quite obviously in our minds, the best way to pursue optimal health? Earth Girl recommends we reframe our thinking when we consider our daily habits and how they impact our wellness.

Instead of berating ourselves because we had a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party and subsequently deciding we have no self control so we might as well give up on living a healthy lifestyle (because in a perfect world we wouldn’t eat any cake), let’s refocus. Birthday parties are fun and a small celebratory piece of delicious chocolate cake might be what we seek as perfection that day. We celebrated, we ate cake, we enjoyed and then we moved on to a healthy option for dinner later that night.

Instead of relinquishing a regular exercise routine because we missed one run to enjoy an evening out with our family (and in a perfect world we would not skip a run), let’s refocus. Time spent with family can also be active and, certainly, quality time with loved ones has amazing health benefits. Enjoy the spontaneity of the situation and clock your three miles the next day.

We often think that unless we pursue everything to its “perfect” ending, we might as well not pursue it at all. Such a sad way to live the adventure called life! Let’s strive to be perfectly imperfect. Or perhaps, imperfectly perfect. Decide what is best for the situation and use the opportunity to grow and enjoy life!

Earth Girl thinks perfection is what we make it. It looks different for everyone so stay on the adventure that makes you perfectly you!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher of Earth Girl Wellness

What does gluten-free really mean?

Gluten-free is currently one of the major health trends. Every decade or so, we have a new trend with thousands of new products. Some trends have greatly backfired on us such as the “fat-free trend” and the “eat only meat” trend when we found out, after several years of research into the health of individuals following them, that they weren’t so healthy after all. I am not necessarily claiming that gluten-free diets will meet the same ill demise as other trends, but consider this: Gluten-free meal plans can have health benefits, especially to those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. Even individuals with no significant health risks arising from the consumption of gluten can eat gluten-free and maintain a healthy lifestyle. But buyer beware!

I often hear of individuals going on a gluten-free diet so that they can lose weight and “be healthier.” Great! I applaud any efforts to engage in a healthier lifestyle. However, often times, a gluten-free diet is filled with highly processed, low fiber, empty calorie foods. It’s not healthy at all! Gluten-free pancakes, gluten-free cookies, gluten-free toaster pastries certainly fit the bill for a gluten-free diet! But are they healthy? Not so much. Nor are gluten-free pizzas full of preservatives, gluten-free pasta dishes with no veggies or gluten-free sandwiches full of highly processed cheese, mayonnaise and other “unmentionables.” Also consider that many of these processed, gluten-free items are pretty darn expensive! You end up throwing money away on food that has “no life” and certainly isn’t healthy!

So what’s a gluten-free health nut to do? Look at other whole food options that are naturally gluten-free. There are so many healthy, inexpensive options available that no one should feel confined by a gluten-free diet. All fruits and veggies are gluten-free, so indulge in plenty of those! Beans also gluten-free. Grains such as quinoa, rice, buckwheat (in spite of its name) and amaranth are all excellent sources of fiber filled carbohydrates. Nuts and seeds? Gluten-free! A wonderfully healthy and delicious gluten-free plate would include a preferred vegetable (or two!), a healthy dose of protein such as organic chicken breast, and a side of rice or quinoa.

Earth Girl recommends you break free from the highly marketed, gluten-free products lining the grocery store shelves. Focus instead on lovingly grown, naturally gluten-free products that you can find every weekend at most any farmer’s market!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher

Earth Girl Wellness: Snack Smarter

It is quite tempting to think you are doing yourself a favor when you grab a box of 100­ calorie snack packs. Cookies, crackers, and chocolatey sweets all promise fulfillment in a little snack pack! Before reaching for the supposed convenience in a bag, consider what those 100 calories might actually mean to your health.

Whereas 100 calories seems entirely reasonable when it comes to noshing on a little something, the consequences to your body’s satiety (full feeling) response isn’t what you might expect. Your body expects to receive nutrients that are actually usable whenever food or drink crosses your lips. Many 100­ calorie packs are full of nothing but empty calories. Follow the logic here:

  1. You eat your 100 calorie treat.
  2. Your body doesn’t register any of the nutrition it needs.
  3. Your body says “whoa, where’s my food?”
  4. You grab a second 100­ calorie pack or other calorie filled food to make yourself feel nourished and full. Suddenly, your 100 calories has become 200 calories (or more!) and you still might not feel satisfied.

It would be far superior to snack on 200 calories of real, life­-giving food. Consider healthy options such as air­-popped popcorn, carrot sticks with hummus, or a small nut butter sandwich. Gulp it down with some clean, refreshing water and your body feels satisfied because it can register true, desirable nutrients.

Now, self ­discipline is a wonderful thing! If you are truly able to slowly savor a pack of 100 calorie cookies as your last treat before bed, by all means, indulge! Take care to savor your snack. Tasting each bite, noticing each swallow, and taking a moment to feel the “love” of your indulgence. Some 100 calorie packs can have health benefits, so reach for a pack of almonds or trail mix (without the sweet add ins such as chocolate chips) instead. To save money, create your own 100 calorie packs each week so you have them ready to grab at a moment’s notice. Think about dried fruit, some turkey and cheese, or whole wheat crackers. Your checkbook will thank you as well since most 100 calorie packs are charging for the packaging, not so much the snack!

Earth Girl loves a great snack, but she recommends you choose proper nutrition with life providing calories versus a snack in a pack that has been marketed to trick you into thinking you are doing yourself a favor. Carry on your adventure and snack wisely!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher of Earth Girl Wellness

The 10,000 Steps Goal

Fitness trackers abound these days along with pages of advice encouraging us to walk 10,000 steps. We faithfully don our wristbands and watches hoping to achieve the magical distance of five miles per day. But have you ever stopped to think about why we need those steps? Are 10,000 steps necessary or is it an arbitrary number conjured up to make us obsessive compulsive about walking the last 103 steps needed to reach 10,000 before getting into bed?

Let’s go back a few decades, to say, the 1970’s. If you were alive (and if you weren’t, use your imagination), think of all the things you did throughout the day that involved taking steps. To open the garage door, you had to get out of your car, walk to the garage door, open it, walk back to your car, pull in, then walk back and close the garage door before entering your house. Hmm…maybe 50 steps involved? In order to change the channel on the television (which only had 4 channels to begin with), you had to walk to the TV, change the channel, then walk back to the couch. Another 20 steps. To fill a prescription, you had to get out of your car, walk into the pharmacy, wait for the prescription to be filled (during which time you probably walked around the store because they didn’t have convenient chairs to sit in while you waited), get your prescription, and walk back to your car. Log another 150 steps, at least. We were naturally walking roughly five miles just to accomplish the tasks needed for daily living.

Now, welcome to the 21st century. We use the drive thru at coffee shops for our daily cup of joe. We use riding lawn mowers to cut our grass. We use an elevator to take us up two flights of stairs! These “activities” require no steps. We simply do not have to walk like we used to. We have to schedule time and add “taking steps” to our daily agenda.

Five miles, or 10,000 steps, is a sweet spot for health. When comparing the population at large, individuals that average 10,000 steps per day tend to be healthier than individuals that walk less. You can, however, stop short of berating yourself if you are a few steps shy of your daily goal. Some days your sneakers will pound the pavement with more than 10,000 steps. Some days your shoes will have a little less wear. Look at the bigger picture and see how your steps average out for a week. Remember, life does allow a day or two of leisure on occasion.

Earth Girl’s recommendation is to keep your fitness trackers on, your shoes tied, and your ambition ready to tackle every step of your day!

 

Written by Tina Hatcher