by Karen Keller Capuciati
I have always been interested in learning about nutrition. Over the last few years I’ve become more aware of the benefits of an alkaline-producing diet — essentially consuming more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while avoiding the acid-forming foods like meat, sugar and refined, processed foods like those that feature white flour or high-fructose corn syrup. I have heard fascinating accounts, one after another, of people who have stopped, and even reversed the course of, cancer, heart disease and autoimmune disorders with a plant-based (alkaline) diet treatment.
This became even more critical in my life when I was recently diagnosed with osteopenia, a lower than normal bone mineral density that can lead to osteoporosis. My doctor recommended I read Food and Our Bones, by Annemarie Colbin. This book, which I highly recommend, dispelled my previous inclination to “eat dairy for stronger bones.” Instead, the author confirms everything I have been reading of late — eat an alkaline, plant-based diet to reverse bone loss. This was the message I needed to finally take action with my current diet.
Starting slowly, I began to make little changes. I started with getting a juice from time to time at the organic food store. It should be noted that these did not go down easy at first, but I kept trying new vegetable combinations and I’ve found a favorite: kale, celery, apple and lemon. I tried new grains to replace pasta (which is generally made with refined flour). I replaced a sugary scone in the afternoon with sliced apple pieces and almond butter. Little by little, I became thoroughly comfortable with these changes. I’m also happy to report that my husband Peter, who previously wielded a variety of arguments why we must eat meat and cheese, has enthusiastically joined me on the Eat Plants Crusade.
So, as we enter the holiday season, here are ten ideas to engage and maintain healthy eating habits:
- Start the morning with a cup of hot water with a squeeze of lemon juice and some freshly grated ginger, if you have it on hand. This is not necessarily a substitute for your morning coffee, though it may grow to be. The hot water and lemon is an alkaline-and-hydrating start to the day, and should simply be the first thing you ingest in the morning. (For further motivation why you should add this to your daily routine, check out 7 Reasons You Want To Drink Lemon Water In The Morning, on Vixi.com.
- Speaking of hydration, do you have trouble drinking 8 glasses of water a day? It has never been in my nature to drink a lot of water — in fact, I could go all day without drinking hardly anything at all. But how else can we flush out our bodily toxins if we don’t drink lots of water? So I started a routine of drinking one large (16 oz.) glass of water before each meal, and then try to sandwich in another one or two glasses somewhere during my day to reach the 64-ounce quota. I tend to guzzle each glass, enjoying its great quenching ability, but it’s okay to take smaller gulps as well.
- Another trick that helps me consume more water is adding lemon, lime or cranberry juice. I find this addition creates a delicious thirst-quencher. For cranberry juice, I buy Lakewood’s Organic PURE Cranberry — not from concentrate. It’s pricey, but there is nothing but cranberries in that bottle, and you need just a splash to flavor an entire 16-oz. glass of water.
- Because some mornings are a mad rush, a smoothie is a great way to get a whole lot of nutrition without much fuss or mess. And you can take it with you on the go! In a blender, start with 1 cup of coconut or almond milk, 1 frozen banana, a sprinkle of stevia (or other natural sweetener like agave or honey), and add a cup of whatever frozen fruit you have – strawberries, mixed berries, seedless grapes, pears. Try adding a bit of fresh ginger and cinnamon for a little sumthin’ sumthin’. Blend to your favored consistency. To add protein to your smoothie, look for hemp protein powder at a health food store — it’s a good, non-dairy source of protein and fiber.
Here’s a tip: Freeze any fruit that doesn’t get eaten at peak ripeness. Frozen fruit allows you to make a smoothie without diluting the mix with ice.
- During the holidays, it’s the appetizers that can sink you! Just one more piece of cheese, just one more chip with dip can unwittingly lead to “Ugh, why did I just eat all that!” Before you snack on anything, create a plan for what you will and won’t eat: I’ll allow myself 3 slices of cheese, but then I’ll stick to the vegetables and pass on the dip. Then celebrate your commitment to good health!
- Thanksgiving is a carbohydrate fest. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, rolls, cakes, pies. This is a nightmare meal for those with diabetes — and, frankly, a burden on anyone’s pancreas. This year we are swapping out at least one carbohydrate for something green. Roasting vegetables is easy and brings out the best flavor in veggies. Place veggies on roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil and fresh lemon juice to taste over vegetables. Salt and pepper and toss. The vegetables should be lightly coated, not drenched, in oil. Roast at 400 degrees until vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork (asparagus can take as little as 8-10 minutes, while carrots and squash might be 20-30 minutes or more depending on thickness). Do not overcook — the vegetables should hold their shape while being tender to the touch of a fork.
- Integrate “quinoa stuffing” as a new holiday tradition. Quinoa is super easy to make and is high in protein and fiber. I tried this recipe from Lisa Cumming’s Live Well By Design website. The recipe is easy, delicious and hardy. I would suggest adding toasted pumpkin seeds on top for a little extra savory crunch.
- A piece of homemade pie on Thanksgiving? Ah yes, please! But after one piece, I’m giving the rest of the pie away so it’s out of reach. Having foods in the house that we want to avoid is a real test of wills, and who needs that? Getting rid of the pie allows me to feel my power over food!
- Better yet, find healthier dessert options that you like: cut fruit, figs, nuts and pieces of raw, organic chocolate are genuine treats that allow me to enjoy nature’s simple perfection.
- It’s hard to think out of the box for holiday meals. If you’re entertaining, it’s probably safe to assume that guests will be expecting the traditional meat-based fare. So I wanted to share these two websites that offer some delicious, inspiring recipes. I’m excited to try some of the recipes I found on vegetariantimes.com and blogs.babble.com, and I look forward to reporting back to you on their utter deliciousness. Or not.
To learn more about the benefits of an alkaline diet, check out our recent article, Forks Over Knives: Food For Thought.
Have a happy, healthy holiday season!
Karen Keller Capuciati is the Co-Founder of In Care of Dad.