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A Comprehensive Guide to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Beginners

anti-inflammatory diet for beginners

An anti-inflammatory diet may be about the buzziest diet of the year right now. Normally inflammation occurs through the body’s immune response, which can be a healthy thing if your body is being attacked by a virus or bacteria.

But when you consistently have poor lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or eating a typical Western diet (which is high in pro inflammatory compounds), the body creates chronic inflammation.

This is where the large majority of Americans are, and why– seeing the staggering statistics on rising numbers of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease– implementing dietary interventions through an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle is crazy important.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Benefits of anti-inflammatory foods

Although many people are advised to stick to an Anti-Inflammatory diet due to health conditions and chronic disease, more and more people are discovering that following an anti-inflammatory diet is the BEST way to keep inflammation in check and boost the immune system to help prevent those chronic conditions in the first place.

Foods with anti-inflammatory properties can be potent anti-oxidants and polyphenols which not only prevent low grade inflammation, but also slow down aging, keep weight under control, and help you have natural boundless energy every day.

These types of foods also prevent diseases that include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune conditions, asthma, arthritis, lupus, cancer, and even high blood pressure.

How an anti-inflammatory diet works

Although the Mediterranean Diet usually comes to mind first when Anti-Inflammation Diet is mentioned, it’s really a very broad basic guideline for a true anti-inflammatory diet. So let’s start with the basics.

The main things to start out with knowing are that:

  • Being overweight can create inflammatory markers in the body, so weight loss is recommended if overweight or obese
  • Since blood sugar spikes (hyperglycemia) is inflammatory in the body (and cause weight gain), sugars and refined carbohydrates are one of the first things to go
  • Alcohol can be inflammatory in high amounts, but there is a bell curve effect– meaning studies have shown no alcohol to have higher inflammatory rates than moderate consumption (1-2 drinks per day), and then higher amounts than this also bring the inflammatory markers back up. Red wine is the preferred drink of the Mediterranean diet.
  • Oxidated fats (those heated repeatedly) are extremely inflammatory, as well as trans fats (hydrogenated, including margarine), omega 6’s, and saturated fats from feed-lot animals.
  • Processed foods usually contain unhealthy fats, refined carbs and sugar, little to no fiber, and artificial colors and preservatives- meaning they should be eliminated from your eating plan as well.

Here are the breakdowns in terms of macronutrients:

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Proteins

Proteins should include lots of fatty fish, soy, organic eggs, and white meat. Red meat is discouraged unless it’s an occasional protein option that is organic and grass-fed.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Fats

The types of fats that are recommended are healthy fatty acids higher in omega 3’s, lower in omega 6’s, and are either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated (like avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil). The ideal ratio is 1:1 for omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids to get anti inflammatory benefits. However,  most people are way over that, at 14x more omega 6 than omega 3 fatty acids. Saturated fats from red meat should be limited, but when eaten should be organic and grass-fed. This includes butter and dairy.

Coconut oil, although a saturated fat, has been shown in studies to be an extremely powerful antioxidant and contains anti-inflammatory compounds as long as it is virgin and unrefined.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be tricky to weed through. So let’s start with the basics.

Sugar and refined carbs

First and foremost, sugar and refined carbohydrates are extremely inflammatory and should be eliminated in all forms. This can be a really big deal for those who have been on a high sugar and carb diet for a while, and some even feel a true addiction to sugar when they try to eliminate it. An occasional treat of added raw honey or pure maple syrup isn’t that big of a deal.

Fiber

Fiber is the main thing you’ll look for in any carbohydrate food choice. This is pretty easy to accomplish with whole vegetables and fruits that are on the lower end of the glycemic impact scale.

Grains

People usually get confused, however, when it comes to grains. There are 2 main grains I recommend avoiding: corn and wheat. Corn is high in omega 6 fats and is inflammatory. Wheat, in this day and age, has been hybridized so many times over that it has an unbalanced glutenin to gliadin ratio (within the gluten protein) which creates inflammation in the gut.

Whole grains

Whole grains in this application is also pretty confusing. The reason is that we hear over and over that we should be eating whole grains because of the fiber.

While this is technically true, any time even a whole grain is ground into a flour, the carbohydrates are absorbed extremely fast and end up causing a blood sugar spike that rivals that of straight sugar.

For this reason, it’s recommended to eat grains only in their whole form (not ground into a flour as in bread or pasta–unless prepared a certain way), or cracked.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

What diets are considered anti-inflammatory?

Although the Mediterranean diet is the most recognized dietary style to reduce inflammation, there are several other options for anti-inflammatory diets. Which one you choose really depends on what condition/s you may need to manage, your goals for your health, and what foods you may have an allergy or intolerance to.

The main dietary styles that can help create some structure in an anti-inflammatory framework are the Paleo diet, Mediterranean diet, Keto (with a reduction in red meat and possibly dairy and an increase in fiber), Pescatarian (with a reduction in ground flours), and plant-based or vegan with modifications in terms of the grains allowed.

An elimination diet, again, is a really great way to truly get to know your body better and how different foods make you feel.

What should I expect when I start an anti-inflammation diet?

The first thing you may experience when starting this dietary style is a feeling of what is sometimes called ‘keto flu’ or sugar withdrawal symptoms. This is because most people come from a Western diet very high in sugar, refined carbs, and highly processed foods.

When you shift your diet this dramatically, your metabolism has to shift as well. However, many people find that their bodies seem to feel strange in this shift initially. It is absolutely temporary, and shouldn’t be of huge concern unless you’re having large swings in blood sugar levels or blood pressure.

Another thing to expect is a huge change in digestion. You should become way more regular. Many people, however, who have GI issues may not even know they do until starting this type of dietary style because of the larger amounts of fiber.

In this case, it’s a good idea to back off the grains and dairy and see your physician or specialist to have some testing done. They usually recommend an elimination diet to weed out any foods you may be allergic or sensitive to.

Overall you should start seeing a huge difference in 2 to 3 weeks, and a really large difference within 12 weeks.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

What foods to Eat and Avoid on an Anti-Inflammatory Food List

Since we’re starting out with a basic anti-inflammatory dietary style, it’s easier to get a little more specific in terms of which foods to eat that are:

  1. Health-promoting in general,
  2. Which foods have anti-inflammatory effects beyond general health and actually fight inflammation,
  3. And which foods to avoid.

General healthy foods to eat in an anti-inflammatory dietary style

General healthy foods include healthy lean protein like organic and grass-fed or pastured white meats, organic eggs, red meat on occasion, and only if organic and grass-fed, wild fish, and soy.

A huge increase in plant-based foods is really recommended because of the phytochemicals and antioxidants that they provide have, not to mention the huge increase in fiber. This is especially true for beans and legumes. A fiber-rich diet feeds the beneficial gut bacteria that help control inflammation starting in the gut.

Nearly all vegetables in their least processed forms are great choices, but nonstarchy ones are the best because of the lesser impact on blood sugar. Fruits, especially darker and brighter colored ones, are also fantastic choices as long as they are lower on the glycemic load scale. (Remember that high blood sugar equals inflammation.)

Grains should be limited to truly whole grains (not ground into flour) but may be cracked and still acceptable. The 2 main grains I recommend avoiding are wheat and corn because of the inflammatory components they contain.

Nuts and seeds are also great options that include healthy fats and carbohydrates as well as a small amount of healthy protein.

Healthy fats include avocado and extra virgin olive oil, expeller-pressed grapeseed, as well as virgin unrefined coconut oil. Butter can also be used as long as it is organic and from grass-fed cows. Other good options would be goat milk and cheese.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Foods that fight inflammation

Although eliminating foods that cause inflammation is the best place to start, you have to remember that most people still have lifestyle choices that promote inflammation, as well as conditions that increase it as well. This is why it’s also a really good idea to incorporate as many foods as possible that have anti-inflammatory effects.

Plants with higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols

There are certain plants and berries that have been studied for their higher polyphenol and antioxidant content and ability to lower inflammation in the body. These include blueberries, pomegranate, red grapes, apples, and leafy greens for vegetables and fruit.

Another vegetable category shown to reduce inflammation is the cruciferous family that includes broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Studies have also linked nuts to reduced markers of inflammation and lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee and certain teas (like ginger, white, oolong, and green tea) can also fight inflammation.

High fiber foods

Studies have consistently shown that high-fiber foods are super important in helping a healthy gut bacteria colony grow. Healthy gut bacteria control weight, inflammation, the immune system, and many neurotransmitters that relate to mental health and hormone regulation.

These can be found in all vegetables and fruit, but a larger portion of fiber comes from whole grains like brown rice, basmati rice, quinoa, and steel-cut oats, as well as beans and legumes, including soy.

Herbs and spices

The most popular herbs and spices with anti-inflammatory effects include turmeric, curcumin, holy basil, ginger, garlic, cardamom, rosemary, chili peppers, thyme, and black pepper. Although this isn’t an all-inclusive list, these herbs and spices should be abundant in your kitchen and in your recipes. (Fresh is always best!)

Healthy fats

Healthy fats are usually included in many of the foods already recommended. However, omega 3 is an especially powerful anti-inflammatory. These can be found in fatty fish like wild caught salmon or tuna.

Other healthy fats are those that naturally occur in foods like soy, hemp, flax, and nuts (including walnuts, almonds, and cashews).

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid

In starting this type of dietary style, there are some main foods to avoid that induce inflammation. Let’s break them down (again) by macronutrient.

Proteins that are inflammatory

Red meats and processed meats are extremely inflammatory in the body, with a bit of a caveat. Part of the problem of red meat lies in the saturated fat content. However, it’s been shown in studies that red meat that is organic and grass-fed has proper ratios of omega 3 to omega 6, making this type of red meat ok to eat on occasion. Otherwise, processed meats like hot dogs, deli meats, sausage, pepperoni and the like, are inflammatory proteins.

Fats that are inflammatory

The major fats that are inflammatory include trans fats (like margarine and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils), oxidized fats (those that have been highly heated and repeatedly heated–like those used for fried foods), and saturated fat from feedlot animals.

Other oils that should be avoided include corn oil, palm or palm kernel oil, cottonseed oil, lard, safflower, sunflower, vegetable oil, soybean oil, and vegetable shortening.

Carbohydrates that are inflammatory

As said before, sugar is enemy number one. This includes ALL forms of sugar. (Raw honey and pure maple syrup are ok on occasion). The problem with this is that there are a thousand and one different names for sugar that are allowed on food labels. The best way to get around this is to eat as many whole foods as possible.

Eliminating sugar includes eliminating fruit juice, sodas, other sugary beverages, and anything that contains a sugar (that are usually named other things to throw you off), as well as fructose. This will also include fruits that are on the higher end of the glycemic load index.

Other carbohydrates that are inflammatory are refined grains. These come in the form of flours used to make breads, bakery items, desserts, and even breading for fried foods. Refined grains break down like sugar in the body and create those blood sugar spikes that induce inflammation.

Sodium

This isn’t talked about a ton unless there’s a factor of high blood pressure. However, many people find that they are sensitive to sodium. Not only does this increase the ‘puffiness’ factor, it can also induce a level of inflammation as well. It’s best to cut down on your sodium content when you begin your anti inflammatory diet to see if it helps.

Foods that you are intolerant or allergic to, or need to avoid because of a condition

It should go without saying that you should avoid foods you are allergic to. The problem is that many people don’t even know what these are. Years of an inflammatory diet have created such chronic inflammation that it can be very difficult to discern which foods you are specifically reacting to.

The same goes for foods that you aren’t technically allergic to, but have an intolerance to.

These types of foods can usually indicate a certain condition, like IBS.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with a specific condition, there are most likely a handful of foods or categories of foods that you should be avoiding already to alleviate your symptoms.

An elimination diet for inflammation

The last thing I want to discuss is an elimination diet to truly nail down which foods are inflammatory to YOUR body. The reason this is important is that there are a few different food categories that have controversial data behind it, and there are also foods that may be beneficial for you to eliminate to alleviate symptoms based on a condition you have (or may not know you have)!

These categories include: grains, gluten-containing grains, nightshades, dairy, FODMAPS, fructans, lectins, nuts, soy, shellfish, coconut, and coconut oil.

Overall, consistent research has shown that there are a number of health benefits of following an anti-inflammatory diet for people suffering from inflammatory conditions, but also for nearly everyone on the planet.

These include reduced inflammation leading to pain reduction and the ability to manage chronic pain, increased insulin sensitivity which is beneficial for diabetics, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced risk of alzheimer’s disease, lower blood pressure levels due to improved lipid profiles, and reduced chance of having a heart attack or stroke because of improved blood lipid profiles.

It is nearly the opposite of the Western style of eating, but can happen by following a few specific steps.

My CHEAT codes to wellness framework guides you through these steps so you can achieve an anti-inflammatory lifestyle without it taking over your life.

Get started on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet with a free 7-Day Meal Plan HERE! 👇👇👇

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anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Lemon Tart Smoothie

This lemon tart smoothie is full of protein and healthy fats, making it a perfect anti-inflammatory smoothie for breakfast, snacks, or even a meal replacement!

In this winter anti-inflammatory smoothie recipe we’re gonna be taking advantage of cauliflower and, obviously, lemon.

anti inflammatory lemon tart smoothie

This smoothie recipe includes:

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup of frozen cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp of coconut butter
  • 1/4 cup of vanilla protein powder
  • And 1 ½ cups of unsweetened milk
anti inflammatory lemon tart smoothie for breakfast

Frozen bananas

Now if you don’t have a bag of frozen bananas and just toss bananas into the freezer when they’re about to go bad like I do, the easiest way to use them is to put in the microwave for about 20 seconds, then just slice the skin off the banana and slice the banana up. I know it looks super gross, but bananas naturally brown in the freezer like that, so no worries.

Frozen cauliflower

frozen cauliflower in bags

For the cauliflower, you can find this in the freezer section at your grocery store, but just know that they should have cauliflower florets, and riced cauliflower. You can use either, but I prefer the riced because that’s just that much less blending you’ll need to get the chunks out of your smoothie.

Coconut butter

coconut butter

Now for the coconut butter, this can sometimes be tricky to find. Basically, coconut butter is the coconut meat ground down into butter, the same way that peanut butter or any other nut butter is made.

So for this recipe if you can’t find coconut butter, you can do one of 2 things:

  1. Either make your own coconut butter with coconut flakes—but you’ll need to make sure they’re free of any type of coating,
  2. Or you can use coconut oil.

The difference in the two lies in the fact that the fat is all extracted from the coconut butter, which is the oil. So on these containers you can see that they have the same servings size, and per 1 TBSP, the coconut butter has 100 calories, 10 grams of fat, 3 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of fiber.

Coconut oil, on the other hand, is 120 calories of only fat. No carbs and no fiber.

coconut butter and coconut oil jars

If you’re counting calories and/or macros, this is something to be aware of if you need to sub out the coconut butter.

Protein powder

putting protein powder into a blender

For the protein powder, I recommend checking the label and making sure there’s no sugar added. A lot of reputable protein powders are now using stevia or monk fruit to sweeten the powder.

If you can handle dairy, a whey protein powder is great. If you need non-dairy or vegan, pea protein powder is really great.

Milk

pouring milk into a measuring cup

And lastly, the milk can either be dairy if you can tolerate it or any other non-dairy unsweetened milk. Make sure it’s unsweetened so it doesn’t have added sugar.

I really don’t like using oat milk either because it has so many carbs straight from grains with no fiber.

Directions

So into the blender, we juice our whole lemon, add in the frozen banana, 1 cup of frozen cauliflower, 2 TBSP coconut butter, ¼ cup of vanilla protein powder, and 1 ½ cups of unsweetened milk.

Then blend or pulse it in a high-powered blender until it’s super smooth, pour, and enjoy!

Print

Lemon Tart Smoothie

This anti inflammatory smoothie is packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fat, making it perfect for a winter breakfast, snack, or even meal replacement.

  • Author: Laura Brigance, MS, CHC
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 smoothie 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup of frozen cauliflower
  • 2 tbsp of coconut butter
  • 1/4 cup of vanilla protein powder
  • And 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened milk

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a high powered blender.

Pulse or blend on high until super smooth.

Enjoy!

Keywords: smoothie

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Carrot Cake Smoothie

This carrot cake smoothie takes advantage of our winter root vegetables while packing an anti-inflammatory smoothie punch that’s filling and satisfies the sweet tooth!

anti inflammatory carrot cake smoothie

So let’s talk ingredients.

Carrot

Our carrot is gonna be raw so the smaller the pieces you can put in your blender, the easier it will be to get smooth.

Frozen bananas

cutting a frozen banana on a cutting board

If you don’t have a bag of frozen bananas and just toss bananas into the freezer when they’re about to go bad like I do, the easiest way to use them is to put in the microwave for about 20 seconds, then just slice the skin off the banana and slice the banana up.

I know it looks super gross, but bananas naturally brown in the freezer like that, so no worries.

Milk

pouring milk into a measuring cup over a blender

The milk can either be dairy if you can tolerate it (organic, full fat) or any other non-dairy unsweetened milk. Make sure it’s unsweetened so it doesn’t have added sugar.

I really don’t like using oat milk either because it has so many carbs straight from grains with no fiber.

Yogurt

2 containers of yogurt on a counter top

I personally prefer Greek yogurt, so if you can tolerate dairy- I’ve got 2 options for you that abide by anti-inflammatory diet guidelines.

  1. The first is just plain unsweetened Greek yogurt.
  2. The second is the Oikos brand called Oikos Pro.

I always prefer for any dairy to be organic, but if it’s not available, these options will do. The Oikos Pro has no sugar added, and no artificial sweeteners, but has added whey protein to bump up the protein content.

If you’re dairy free you can use coconut yogurt or any other dairy-free yogurt as long as it’s unsweetened.

Cinnamon

holding a bottle of cinnamon forward

Cinnamon is a beautiful spice that adds that perfect complimentary carrot cake spice, and not only is anti-inflammatory, but it also helps control blood sugar levels.

Fresh ginger

grating fresh ginger over a blender

Lastly, fresh ginger is an amazing add-in whenever you’re able. It’s got anti-inflammatory properties and gives this smoothie recipe the bite that it needs to be fresh, zingy, and satisfy your sweet tooth.

Directions

So once we’ve got the carrot chopped or grated, add it into the blender with the bananas, milk, yogurt, cinnamon, and grated ginger.

Then blend it in your high-powered blender, pour up your anti-inflammatory Carrot Cake Smoothie, and enjoy!

Print

Carrot Cake Smoothie

This carrot cake smoothie takes advantage of our winter root vegetables while packing an anti-inflammatory smoothie punch that’s filling and satisfies the sweet tooth!

  • Author: Laura Brigance, MS, CHC
  • Yield: 1 smoothie 1x

Ingredients

Scale

1 medium carrot, chopped or grated

2/3 of a frozen banana (or 2/3 cup frozen banana)

1/2 cup of unsweetened milk

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp grated ginger (fresh)

Instructions

  1. Grate or finely chop the carrot.
  2. Grate the fresh ginger.
  3. Combine all ingredients into a high-powered blender. Blend on high until super smooth, taking care to ensure all the carrot chunks are broken down.
  4. Pour and enjoy!

Keywords: smoothie, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free

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Citrus Pear Smoothie

This Citrus Pear Smoothie is a green anti-inflammatory smoothie that combines signature winter flavors to create an absolutely refreshing snack or breakfast smoothie.

citrus pear smoothie

So let’s talk ingredients.

citrus pear smoothie ingredients

Frozen avocado

So, first off, if you’re not using frozen avocado chunks, which you can buy at the grocery store, you can either freeze your own avocado ahead of time, or use it at room temperature.

Just know that if you use it at room temperature, that’s the only ingredient that was frozen, so we’ll need to use some ice in the place of part of the water so your smoothie is cold and slushie.

Pear

cutting a pear into wedges with an apple corer

We start out cutting up the pear and parsley. Pear is so delicious when it’s in season in the winter, and the skin is usually softer than an apple.

The skin is also full of antioxidants, and one in particular is quercetin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation, plus it has lots of fiber.

So I keep the skin on. You can cut the top and bottom off so it stands on its own, then use an apple corer get perfect wedges while taking the core out.

Parsley

chopping parsley on a cutting board

Parsley is full of vitamins K, C, A, and Bs. It’s also been shown to help reduce blood pressure and bloating, so I love to use parsley in any recipe I can. It just needs to be roughly chopped for this smoothie.

Lemon juice

juicing a lemon into a blender

Lemon juice adds just a bit of tang to this smoothie, as well as a bit more Vitamin c. Fresh is always best since most lemon juice in the bottle has added preservatives.

Water

pouring water into a blender for an anti inflammatory citrus pear smoothie

Make sure you use filtered water, and if your avocado isn’t frozen, use ½ cup of water and about ¾ to 1 cup of ice to replace the 1 cup of water.

Instructions

And then we just add all the ingredients to the high-powered blender, blend really well until all smooth—remember it’s chopping up pear skin if you kept it on, so you may need to let it go for a bit.

Then pour up and enjoy!

Print

Citrus Pear Smoothie

This smoothie combines the winter flavors of pear and citrus with anti-inflammatory greens to create a refreshing combo that will keep you full.

  • Author: Laura Brigance, MS, CHC
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 smoothie 1x

Ingredients

Scale

1/2 avocado (or 1/2 cup frozen avocado chunks)

1 pear

1 cup of spinach

1 handful of parsley (fresh)

1/2 of a lemon, juiced

1 cup of water

Notes

If you don’t have frozen avocado, you can freeze your own, or substitute 3/4 cup ice and 1/2 cup of water for the full cup of water in the recipe.

Keywords: smoothie, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free

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3 Anti-Inflammatory Smoothies Perfect for Winter

Even though winter produce is less abundant than our other 3 seasons, there’s still plenty of goodness available—especially for anti-inflammatory smoothies.

So today I’m got 3 anti-inflammatory smoothie recipes to take advantage of the winter produce and give you a balanced anti-inflammatory breakfast smoothie, or snack.

We’ve got an anti-inflammatory green smoothie, which we call Citrus Pear Smoothie, a Lemon Tart Smoothie chock full of protein, and a Carrot Cake Smoothie that will satisfy your sweet tooth without the sugar.

anti inflammatory smoothies

Citrus Pear Smoothie

First up is our citrus pear smoothie. This green smoothie tastes clean and refreshing and is super yummy with the combination of pear and lemon.

Grab the printable Citrus Pear Smoothie recipe HERE.

Lemon Tart Smoothie

This anti-inflammatory smoothie definitely has the tart flavor down. But it’s also packed with protein and healthy fat, which would make it a perfect meal replacement as well.

Grab the printable Lemon Tart Smoothie recipe HERE.

Carrot Cake Smoothie

And last, we have our Carrot Cake Smoothie which satisfies the sweet tooth while still being crazy healthy! I love to be able to use root vegetables from the winter, so this smoothie is perfect!

Grab the printable Carrot Cake Smoothie recipe HERE.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite is!

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Bad Sleep or a Sleeping Disorder? How to Know and What to Do Next

When most people think of reducing inflammation in the body, diet usually comes up first. Aside from supplements and herbs, what you eat matters for inflammation. But what’s often overlooked is the connection between 3 other factors. These are sleep, stress management, and daily movement.

I call these the CORE 4 of wellness, and they’re the pillars that work together synergistically to reduce inflammation in the body.

bad sleep or a sleeping disorder

When clients ask where they should start, I tell them: If you have no clue, start with your food and your sleep. Cause you gotta eat and you gotta sleep to live.

And although it’s a daily required part of our lives, good sleep sometimes feels like this unattainable mythical creature (especially after having kids.) And when we put good sleep on the back burner, it usually ends up feeling like a huge feat to address it once we get to the point that it *has* to come front and center.

bad sleep or a sleeping disorder

Many questions I hear from clients relate to wondering if there are just some tweaks that can be done to fix bad sleep… or if they truly have a sleeping disorder. The bottom line being:

Most people don’t know what good sleep is.

So let’s do a little unpacking of what qualifies as good sleep, bad sleep, and when it’s time to see a sleep specialist.

What is good sleep quality?

What’s interesting about sleep is that we get used to a certain set of conditions based on what’s going on in our life, and sometimes can lose sight of what our baseline actually used to be. So when we think about whether or not our sleep is good or bad, many people have no clue.

woman hitting alarm after good night of sleep

They know how they feel when they wake up and throughout the day. But they’re not really aware of when and how that shift happened to create their current sleeping condition.

So to get some guidelines on what good sleep actually is, I asked colleague and sleep specialist, Sheryl Guloy, PhD. This is how Sheryl describes good sleep:

“Good, restorative sleep is one that cycles through sleep’s different stages over the course of a typical night of sleep, which we refer to as a sleep episode. However, timing does matter in that a good alignment between when you sleep and your actual body clock or circadian rhythm provides for a more restorative sleep than when these are misaligned with each other.

  • In terms of the average recommended hours of sleep for an adult, 7 to 9 hours of sleep is the recommended amount.
  • In terms of nighttime awakenings, it is actually normal to wake up over the course of the night, since your sleep cycles from awakening to light to deep to REM sleep, every 90 to 120 minutes.

These awakenings can be so short that people do not necessarily remember them. However, nighttime awakenings are problematic if they prevent you from experiencing full or enough sleep cycles over the course of the night.

For instance, those with untreated sleep apnea will tend to awaken numerous times during a sleep cycle as they struggle to breathe.

Other people, those with sleep maintenance insomnia, find that they cannot fall back asleep easily after waking up at night. They may find that it takes longer than thirty minutes to fall back asleep, and some may not even be able to go back to sleep at all.”

What’s the best way to track sleep?

In a world of growing technology, there are more and more devices claiming to be able to track sleep. However, many sleep specialists have warned to not take these readings as gospel as some of the trackers aren’t super accurate.

laptop, mug, diary on bed

According to Sheryl,

“When we begin coaching people on sleep, we recommend tracking sleep for two weeks using a paper-and-pencil or online diary. We’ve found, though, that the people we work with like using good, old-fashioned paper-and-pencil over online ones.

We use this data to help people understand their sleep patterns.

However, we are also aware that some people can become more anxious when tracking sleep. For this reason, we don’t recommend continuous tracking.

On the other hand, we do recognize that some people like to use wearables or mobile apps to track their sleep. If they find that doing so helps them to be more mindful or to learn more about their sleep patterns, without triggering anxiety-related or compulsive behaviours, then great.

It’s important to realize, however, that wearables and sleep apps are not necessarily more accurate than paper-and-pencil diaries and journals; they do have issues with accuracy as well.”

What are common symptoms of bad sleep?

Aside from seeing less than the minimum hours of sleep in a diary or on a device, it can be difficult to determine if you’re actually having bad sleep. Sheryl states that,

“Chronic daytime sleepiness, poor memory, poor reaction time, poor decision making, and issues with emotional regulation are some symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation is also associated with cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart ailments and diabetes. Growing evidence supports a link between sleep deprivation and dementia.”

tired woman in bed with a book on her face because of bad sleep

All of these chronic conditions warrant the implementation of an anti-inflammatory diet, but especially anti-inflammatory lifestyle choices.

The four pillars: diet, sleep, stress management, and exercise all work synergistically to help the other 3 improve, and will inherently improve insulin sensitivity and inflammation in the body as well. Not only does this improve metabolic markers, but it also helps with weight loss.

When to see a sleep specialist

It can also be hard to determine what the line is between just bad sleep and a sleep disorder. So I asked Sheryl when it’s time to see a sleep specialist:

“It’s important to speak with a sleep specialist when you are experiencing chronic daytime sleepiness. However, the issue is that people can become so used to being sleep deprived that they no longer feel as though they are.

For instance, research has shown that when people first experience sleep deprivation, they can recognize that they are sleep deprived.

However, after two weeks or more, people may tend to report that they do not feel as though they are lacking sleep, even when they are.

It’s also important to think of sleep as being part of one’s lifestyle and not take it for granted. As such, we coach people on developing good sleep habits, especially those whose respective circadian rhythms are at odds with their work hours; those who travel often; or those who want to boost their performance.”

That being said, it can be easier to determine between the two by first cleaning up your sleep hygiene, and then reassessing.

Get started by grabbing our free Sleep Hygiene Assessment and Kit. 👇

bad sleep or a sleeping disorder
bad sleep or a sleeping disorder

Dr. Sheryl Guloy (Co-Founder of Somnolence +) is a learning scientist, researcher, educator, and consultant in improving learning and performance through innovative research, development, and technology. She works with other researchers, organizations, and networks on knowledge translation efforts. More simply put, she works to get the latest research into programs, services, and technology so that more people can get better sleep. Her interest in sleep began with her own sleep troubles and her realization that she is a true night owl. Through Somnolence+, she aims to make sure that more people know about their own sleep and have strategies and tools to help them sleep well. You can find her at the Sleep Well blog or on Instagram and Facebook @somnolenceplus

8 Proven Ways for Managing Inflammation and Stress During the Holidays

Aside from the start of the school year, I would argue that the holidays are the biggest time of year for stress and inflammation. It only makes sense, right? Budgeting, planning, finishing the year strong, school activities, shopping, setting goals for the new year, and then spending time with family that you may not get along with…. it’s a lot.

ways to manage inflammation and stress during the holidays

I used to think I loved the holidays. My husband would constantly talk about how much he loved the holidays. The kids talked about how amazing the holidays were. But each passing year I’d find I was not only more and more exhausted and irritated, but my health issues were mounting as well.

More blood sugar rollercoasters, more emotional ups and downs, worse allergy issues, worse skin issues, and severe exhaustion. All of this cycled back to being more irritable and depressed than ever.

I finally realized a lot of it was because I was the sole person doing literally all the work. I wanted my family to have an amazing holiday, but I never got to actually enjoy it.

The overwhelm of doing everything and worrying about everything and being so incessantly stressed would lead to stuffing myself with sugar and refined carbs (and lots of processed convenience foods) just to have the energy to keep going. This perfect storm was creating massive amounts of inflammation in my body.

a woman stressed and inflamed during the holidays

One year I finally snapped. It was too much. It was the year I was working on my master’s in nutrition, which also happened to be the same year my husband started a new job that had him gone 4-5 nights a week, every week, for months.

So after some long heart-to-heart discussions and laying down new expectations (also known as creating boundaries for myself which I’ve always sucked at), things are very different during the holidays in our home.

Not only did I commit to myself that fueling myself properly the whole year –especially during the holidays–would help with stress levels (among a thousand other things), I knew taking control in a different way would help tame the chaos as well.

The connection between stress and inflammation

Many people go into an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle not really understanding that even though nutrition and what you eat are extremely important in reducing inflammation in the body, but there are three other core pillars of health that also greatly affect inflammation.

One of those is stress. Stress kicks on our ‘cortisol switch’, which under normal circumstances would be an expected physiological reaction. But chronic stress levels create a situation in the body where there is reduced sensitivity to cortisol (similar to how insulin resistance begins). This creates a constant state of too much cortisol, and thereby, increased inflammation.

What’s crazy to think about is that the connection between excessive inflammation with chronic disease has been so well documented the last few decades that they’re sometimes referred to as ‘stress-related diseases: metabolic diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and even psychotic and neurodegenerative diseases.

When our bodies are this stressed, we don’t sleep well or make good dietary choices. When we don’t sleep well, our hunger hormone goes into overdrive, making it even more difficult to make smart food choices. Then our energy levels nosedive and we don’t feel like getting in any kind of movement. We’re exhausted. And still stressed out.

This loop is what I call the CORE 4. And they can work synergistically for you or against you.

the core 4 pillars of health that work together to reduce inflammation

Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for them to work against you, creating a perfect storm of inflammation, if you don’t get a hold on managing your stress levels.

Here are the proven strategies I use now in managing inflammation and stress during the holidays that took it from feeling like an overwhelming nightmare to actually looking forward to and enjoying the end of the year (and the people I choose to spend it with.)

1. Use a planner and checklists for EVERYTHING

I’m a HUGE advocate for checklists. They seem simple and benign, but they have a lot of power in them. Especially during the holidays.

There’s so incredibly much going on at all times that there will always be 3 (or 15) things forgotten without listing them all down.

Not only do I make lists for my daily to-dos in my business, I make checklists for :

  • home stuff that needs to be done,
  • chore checklists for the kids,
  • a ‘honey-do’ list,
  • packing lists if we’re traveling,
  • gift budgeting lists,
  • lists for all activities and school functions to attend,
  • and lists for any kind of get-togethers we may be hosting or attending.

It sounds silly, but lists are a super simple way to feel a little more in control. You can see everything at a glance without having to try and keep up with it all in your head. (Oh yeah–and being able to see it this way also helps determine who you can delegate things to.) 😉

Checklists alone are the biggest thing that helps me keep my stress in check during the holidays.

Laura, @truewell.co

2. Plan a cheat day and be ok with the consequences

Most especially if you’ve been on a strict dietary framework, this may be an ok time to take a break or plan a ‘cheat day’, as some like to call it, and let loose.

Now I’m not saying everyone can do this to the extreme. For example, if you’re diabetic, please for the love of God, do NOT binge on sugar or carbs. Similarly, if you’re allergic or sensitive to anything, also don’t eat it.

However, I do believe in lifting restrictions so that the time spent with family and friends during the holidays is spent focusing on catching up and enjoying the company instead of worrying about what you’re eating.

people enjoying a holiday dinner

I don’t have celiac but I’m sensitive to certain grains. They don’t send me into an allergic reaction, but I know if I eat it I’ll have an annoying ‘eczema-like’ reaction on my face.

Even though I know it’s gonna happen, I’ll occasionally plan cheat times when I’m with family and be ok with the consequences because I’ve weighed the importance of being able to spend my time focusing on catching up with my friends and family vs spending my brain power worrying about what’s available that I can eat.

When I make that conscious decision, I also don’t feel guilty for having those regular crackers with my dip. I make my decision, know the repercussions, and simply enjoy myself.

3. Schedule in downtime or me-time

Scheduling regular downtime should be a non-negotiable in your calendar. But ESPECIALLY during the holidays. This time of year tends to bring up all sorts of unresolved issues amongst family and friends without fail.

But it’s also super busy and can be exhausting, and can induce sleep issues from every angle. All of these add up to increased inflammation.

Block out time on your calendar to just go do things for yourself. Even if it’s an uninterrupted movie alone or simply bath time.

woman relaxing to reduce stress and inflammation during the holidays

I personally tend to get stressed with a lot of noise. So get-togethers can be overwhelming for me after a while. (Heck, even restaurants can when they’re really loud or if there are screaming kids.)

{But to be perfectly frank we have a nine-year-old that talks from the time she wakes until the time she goes to bed, so if she’s home I have non-stop noise all day.}

When this happens, I have extra time where I will do some things alone or even take what I call “brain breaks” during the day. This is where my kids and husband know to leave me alone, and I go in the quietest room we have, lie down, and listen to ASMR with sound-canceling headphones on.

I can meditate, take a nap, or just reflect and journal. This blocked-out ‘me-time’ has helped tremendously in reining in the overwhelm.

4. Have meal backups for the crazy weeks ahead

Backup plans for meals is so dang important, and I always say that meal planning is one of the most overlooked form of stress management there is. Aside from regular meal plans, though, I have a few other backups I recommend.

These include freezer meals that have been prepped and frozen previously, super easy crockpot meals, simple 3-5 ingredient meals, or even breakfast for dinner.

I create (yet another) list of freezer meal inventory, and also list these other options and post it on our ‘command central dry-erase board. That way I don’t have to think about what the options are. I just go look and pick one.

5. Get in daily movement

Daily movement (what we call ‘oscillation‘ around here) is critical during this time of year. People start moving less and less the colder it gets outside. But we also have shifted into a new era of so many shopping options being online that the old days of 30,000 steps in a single day of holiday shopping just doesn’t happen anymore.

Daily oscillation, whether that’s total steps, flights of stairs climbed, walking, or a structured workout is so important for managing stress. I’d even argue that we should add some extra time to our daily movement during the holidays.

woman exercising to reduce inflammation and stress during the holidays

Movement and workouts have been shown to help us sleep better and manage stress better.

If you don’t have a regular plan for daily movement, get started! If you do, step it up a bit during the holidays–your body and emotional status will thank you!

Laura @truewell.co

6. Have sugar-free options for treats

This one is crazy important because when you’re this busy and overwhelmed, it’s SO easy to just grab the first thing you can find if you’re hungry.

Prep anti-inflammatory snacks and breakfasts that are sugar-free ahead of time so you’ve got no-brainer options to choose from. Especially since we’re out and about so much more during the holidays.

Blood sugar spikes and crashes are prime culprits for stress and emotional rollercoasters. Don’t fall into that trap during the holidays.

healthy holiday swap out planner

7. Use the TRUEWELL trifecta formula for meals

Making sure you have your macros balanced at each meal will ensure you’re full longer, you don’t overeat, and your blood sugar stays balanced. This means less chance of emotional ups and downs from food.

This is especially true before holiday parties, dinners, and get-togethers as well. If you’re not planning a ‘cheat time’, it can be really easy to just say ‘screw it’ and eat inflammatory junk just because it’s there and you’re tired of wondering what you can eat.

The TRUEWELL Trifecta includes:

  1. QUALITY PROTEIN about the size of your palm,
  2. 1-2 x that in FIBER (ie, vegetables and healthy carbs),
  3. and then HEALTHY FATS about the size of your thumb.

8. Use the Freestyle Meal Prep method for weeks when you can’t even think straight

Even with my new rules and strategies in place, we still have weeks that are completely nuts. This is when I rely on freestyle meal prep.

All this means is that instead of having a formal meal plan in place, I grab seasonal produce from the store and prep it at the start of the week, and we use those prepped foods to throw together anti-inflammatory meals the nights we’re home and cooking.

See it in action and get a free printable guide by checking out the blog post (and watch the video while you’re there!): Anti-Inflammatory Freestyle Winter Meal Prep in About an Hour.

get a free winter meal prep guide

Wishing you the happiest, most stress-free, and anti-inflammatory holiday ever!

xo, Laura

Know someone who could use some help managing stress and inflammation during the holidays? SHARE or PIN this post! 👇

ways to manage inflammation and stress during the holidays

20 Winter Foods that Decrease Inflammation in the Body

For those with chronic inflammatory conditions, the transition to winter can either be a happy prelude to the holidays, or it can harbor an increased need for winter foods that decrease inflammation in the body. Freezing temperatures have a gift for making some inflammation worse.

winter foods that reduce inflammation in the body

It also drives most people indoors, which can hamper daily walks and outdoor activity altogether, which is a key component of managing inflammation.

Combine that with rising stress and loads of inflammatory foods around the holidays and you have a perfect storm of chaos in the body for those trying to manage blood sugar and inflammation.

The good news is that there’s still a ton of winter produce that are amazing sources of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory superpowers.

There really is no shortage of sources of winter superfoods to help nourish and heal for those of us following an anti-inflammatory diet.

There are three main categories of anti-inflammatory winter foods that decrease inflammation that I want to highlight:

  1. Veg and Fruits,
  2. Herbs,
  3. and Spices.

Here are my favorites.

Anti-inflammatory Winter Vegetables and Fruits

WANT MORE WINTER ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEALS? CHECK OUT THE FALL FREESTYLE MEAL PREP SESSION! (4+ MEALS WITH ZERO MEAL PLAN IN PLACE! –> PERFECT FOR CRAZY WEEKS WITH NO TIME TO MEAL PLAN!) CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

Leafy Greens

Even though leafy greens start their appearance in the summer, winter leafy greens follow with even more flavor since many greens are significantly less bitter during cold weather. This means their warm, earthy flavors really shine during the winter.

Greens like kale, collard greens, and swiss chard are packed full of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate, other minerals, and antioxidants. And they’re versatile enough that many can be eaten raw (don’t knock a winter salad!), cooked, as a stand-alone side, or even as a casserole or soup component.

woman touching winter greens

Cruciferous Vegetables

Vegetables in the cruciferous family include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage, and are chock full of vitamins like folate, K, C, and A, as well as phytonutrient compounds that lower inflammation. And they also have the benefit of less bitterness during colder weather, like the leafy greens of winter.

What’s great about cauliflower is that in addition to its vitamins, fiber, and phytonutrients, it’s very low in carbohydrates. This makes it an amazing substitution for anything from rice to pizza dough to mashed potatoes.

anti inflammatory winter leafy greens

Cabbage’s brilliant colors are due to its anthocyanins which help pull down inflammation and are super antioxidants. Not only is it a great way to have a winter version of tacos with slaw, but it goes spectacularly raw in salads or cooked in soups or casseroles. If you’re not sure which color to choose, just know that purple cabbage’s vitamin A content is eleven times higher than green cabbage.

Brussels sprouts are what we call ‘baby cabbage’ at our house. They’re full of fiber, vitamins C, K, and folate, and are super easy to cook. Simply sliced in half and roasted is how we usually cook them. But they can also be shredded and included in salads, soups, or casseroles as well.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins provide an amazing source of Vitamin A (the color gives you that hint on beta carotene), balanced polyunsaturated fats, Vitamins C and E, and several other essential minerals.

They’re also packed with fiber and healthy carbs, and can be stored for a long period of time (in a dry pantry or frozen) without going bad.  

mushrooms on a wooden cutting board

Mushrooms

One of the most warming foods during winter, mushrooms should top your list of required eating during the cold weather. Mushrooms are full of B vitamins, potassium, and the only vegetable that contains vitamin D (which is already in demand during winter months.)

Its nutrient-dense properties qualify it as a superfood with antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties that also happens to add that coveted ‘umami’ flavor to any culinary dish.

Beans

Beans are an amazing add-in for winter meals for several reasons. First, they’re bursting with fiber and resistant starches, and they’re full of antioxidants—both of which give them anti-inflammatory superpowers. Although their carb content is higher than other vegetables, they’re considered a ‘slow carb’, which means they absorb at a much slower rate. This helps prevent a blood sugar spike and gives healthy carbohydrate energy over a longer period.

Beans are also super hearty and perfect to add on as a side dish, or in soups, stews, or chilis.

HAVE A DINNER PLAN IN PLACE FOR THOSE CRAZY WINTER WEEKS, WHILE ENJOYING THE WINTER PRODUCE WITH THE (free!) WINTER FREESTYLE MEAL PREP GUIDE! 👇

winter foods that reduce inflammation in the body

Colored Potatoes

Although white potatoes are full of fiber, resistant starches, and essential minerals, studies have shown that their colored versions pack way more of a punch when it comes to inflammation and blood sugar levels.

Studies have shown that purple and yellow potatoes contain higher levels of antioxidants including phenols, anthocyanins, and carotenoids that lower inflammatory markers and improve blood sugar and insulin levels.

Purple potatoes were shown to have the greatest benefit, possibly due to the higher levels of polyphenols, which are indicated by the darker color.

What’s great about these is there’s no special preparation aside from how you would prepare regular white potatoes (except don’t fry them!). Baked, roasted, steamed, and added into soups is great. But I wonder how fun it would be to have purple mashed potatoes!

beets on a wooden cutting board

Beets

One of the most overlooked vegetables (in my opinion) is the beet. Beets are high in folate and manganese, but also contain betalains, which gives it the bright red color, and is associated with reduced cancer risk.

Not only can you eat the beet itself, but the greens are also a fantastic source of nutrition. Beets can be roasted, sauteed, pickled, or boiled; and the greens can be used in salads or saved for soup broths.

Cranberries

One of the most popular fruits during the holidays, cranberries owe their deep red color to their huge supply of antioxidants, including vitamin C. Their bioactive compounds have been shown to reduce risk factors of a multitude of chronic diseases, including lowering inflammatory markers.

Although cranberries are pretty tart, they can be cooked into a sauce (using zero-calorie natural sweeteners), added into baked breakfasts and snacks, or even blended into a vinaigrette. If you opt for dried cranberries, just make sure they’re unsweetened.

Citrus

Probably the most well-known sources of vitamin C, citrus fruits are aplenty during winter. Vitamin C is an especially potent antioxidant that fights free radicals and inflammation. They also contain flavonoids and fiber, which also fight inflammation.

Citrus like lemons, limes, organges, and grapefruit are super versatile and can be used in anything from flavoring water and cut up in salads, to being used as a dressing, in a snack, or as dessert. They also do an amazing job complimenting flavors of meats while tenderizing as marinades, as well as pairing beautifully with herbs in dishes and cocktails!

oranges, grapefruits, and pomegranates

Pears

Pears have always felt like the lesser-valued cousin of apples, but I’ve come love pears just as much. They’re packed full of fiber and are rich in antioxidants that reduce inflammation. The skin of pears contains quercetin, which is amazing for those with allergies, and it also reduces inflammation.

But they also can be much easier to slice, core, and eat as the skin can be much softer than an apple’s. This makes them super easy snacks (like this Winter Pear and Yogurt Bowl), and super yummy desserts.

Pomegranates

These little jewels may be small in size, but they’re big on flavor and nutrition. Their antioxidants have been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the gut, brain, and body.

Anti-Inflammatory herbs for winter

Herbs are one of the most overlooked nutrition powerhouses in the plant family. They pack so much punch for such a little plant. But they’re also SO EASY to add into any dish for extra flavor, including throwing fresh sprigs into salads.

Here are my favorite anti-inflammatory herbs for fall.

Tarragon

Although tarragon is more commonly used in French and English cooking, it’s a delicious herb that—like most—contain powerful flavonoids that fight inflammatory cytokines. It also contains B vitamins, folate, and vitamins A and C. As with most fresh herbs, it’s best to wait until a dish is almost completely finished cooking before adding it in for maximum flavor.

herbs and garlic on a marble countertop

Rosemary

Rosemary is full of iron, calcium, and vitamin B-6, and is also native to the Mediterranean—fitting for an anti-inflammatory diet rooted in the Mediterranean diet. It’s been used for a wide range of ailments including digestion, muscle pain, improved circulation and memory, and a boost to the immune system.

Aside from its fragrant and mouthwatering culinary powers, studies have proven its anti inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and neuroprotective properties. This means that even though it can fight free radicals and harmful bacteria, it can also be used in mood disorders, enhanced learning, anxiety, and sleep disorders.

Sage

Sage not only adds delicious earthy notes to fall and winter dishes, but also can be used in teas and as an essential oil. Sage is high in Vitamin K and vital minerals, but also contains antioxidants.

What’s so amazing about sage is that it’s been shown to relieve or cure illnesses like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, dementia, and lupus. But it’s also been used for centuries in traditional medicine for inflammation, bacterial, and viral infections, which makes it high on the list for cold and flu season.

thyme and lemons

Thyme

Thyme (another herb native to the Mediterranean) can be used as a treatment for anything from acne to GI disturbances to menstrual cramps (and a ton of stuff in between!) But it’s actually an extremely versatile culinary addition. It has an earthy flavor but can waver back and forth between savory or sweet dishes like stocks and stews, roasted vegetables, teas, and desserts.

Anti-Inflammatory winter spices

Although spices can generally be used year-round, the warmth of the following five are perfect for the freezing weather.

Black Pepper

Being a staple ingredient in most kitchens, black pepper can blend into the background and largely be overlooked. However, studies on the compound piperine in black pepper have shown that it can increase absorption of curcumin (the compound in turmeric) by up to 2,000%!

It’s also been shown to increase absorption of other key minerals and antioxidants, making it an absolute must in literally any savory dish you cook from now on.

This alkaloid compound gives a distinct bite flavor and has been shown to reduce insulin resistance as well as exhibit anti-inflammatory effects.

black pepper and turmeric with a spoon

Ginger

Ginger has been touted to help anything from boosting the immune system, lowering blood sugar, and easing inflammation. Probably it’s most famous claims to fame include taming the GI tract and pulling down inflammation. These benefits are made possible due to the over 400 compounds that ginger contains.

Ginger has a fresh, zingy flavor, and although the dried version (teas and spice shakers) have a milder flavor than fresh, they can still have nearly the same health benefits. It’s best to use fresh, and ginger root can be cut up and put in the fridge or frozen to last even longer.

Turmeric

Turmeric is used traditionally in Asian dishes, but has been widely recognized the last few years because of its media coverage as an amazingly effective nutritional supplement. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound.

Studies have shown that the best way to harness the power of turmeric is to combine it with black pepper, which increases its bioavailability up to 2,000%.

Turmeric is obviously fantastic in Asian dishes like curries, but it’s skyrocket in popularity means there are tons of recipes now for drinks, smoothies, and all kinds of dinner dishes.

fresh ginger and dried ginger in a canister on a countertop

Cinnamon

There can be a lot of confusion over the type of cinnamon that’s best to use. Ceylon (known as ‘true’ cinnamon) and cassia (what you buy in the grocery store) are equally delicious and contain a compound called cinnamaldehyde that’s thought to be responsible for its health and metabolism benefits.

Cinnamon has been shown to contain more antioxidant activity than any other in a study against 26 other spices, is a potent anti-inflammatory, and has been shown to reduce insulin resistance (among other benefits).

winter spices in spoons

Pumpkin pie spice

Honestly  my favorite spice for winter is a combination of several spices: Pumpkin pie spice. This mixture obviously enhances pumpkin flavor, but can be used in a variety of recipes in fall and winter (usually around the holidays.)

The components of pumpkin pie spice include cinnamon and ginger, which we already covered. The other ingredients are nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and black pepper.

What’s so great about the blend in pumpkin pie spice is that all the ingredients have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds just like the other spices mentioned.

So as long as you use healthy sweeteners and anti-inflammatory ingredients for whatever pumpkin spice recipe you’re making, you essentially have a superfood recipe with powerhouse ingredients for winter!

Let me know in the comments: What’s YOUR favorite anti-inflammatory winter food or recipe?

winter foods that reduce inflammation in the body

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winter foods that reduce inflammation in the body

The Best Sugar Detox Meal Plan to Help You Finally Break Free from Sugar

Can a sugar detox meal plan really help you quit sugar for good?

Well, that depends. As a nutritionist, I help people get off sugar for a ton of different reasons. Some of these include a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, having inflammatory conditions, wanting to lose weight, or simply needing sustainable energy all day that doesn’t require hits of sugar and caffeine just to make it through the day.

The connecting factor in all of these is that the ultimate goal is to get started on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

the best sugar detox meal plan

The problem is that the first step is to cut out sugar. And for many people, this can be really difficult. In fact, I’ve surveyed thousands of women who want and need an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, and the number one reason for not being able to stick to it is having an extremely hard time quitting sugar and refined carbs.

But most people search online and decide that the best way to quit sugar is to start with a sugar detox. Most will see many different versions of sugar detoxes.

The Goal of a sugar detox determines the effectiveness

So first of all, a sugar detox can be effective, depending on the goal.

If the goal is to simply give your body a break from sugar for a week… This will accomplish your goal. (So long as you actually stick to the sugar-free rules.)

If your goal is to detox so that you can break free from the cravings and subsequent binges, there’s way more to it.

the best sugar detox meal plan

How to know if a sugar detox will help you quit sugar for good

Truly quitting sugar and refined carbs for good can actually be more complicated than it might seem at first. That’s because there is a sort of spectrum of people that start a sugar detox meal plan in an attempt to quit sugar:

  1. Those who can quit it and forget it,
  2. those who crave it and can’t resist it or quit it once they’ve started (bingeing),
  3. and then a range of in-betweens.
spectrum of sugar addiction for sugar detox meal plan

If you don’t know where you’re at on that spectrum by the time you get to a point of wanting to do a sugar detox in the first place, you’ll know by the end of the first week of going sugar-free.

This is really important, because if you’re a ‘Quit It and Forget It’ type, you have a low probability of actually being addicted to sugar, and a 1-2 week sugar detox meal plan is perfect for getting off sugar to transition into an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

If you’re in the middle of the spectrum or on the more ‘addicted‘ end (mid to high probability), this type of sugar detox won’t work, because there are many factors at play:

  1. The first is genetics,
  2. the second is the amount of sugar and flour products you’ve been eating daily,
  3. and the third is how long you’ve been eating this way.
the best sugar detox meal plan

All these added together create what I call ‘Sugar Programming’ that affects how easy or hard it is to truly get rid of the cravings and binges of sugar and refined carbs. For some, a sugar detox simply won’t work. You may need “Sugar Deprogramming”.

If you don’t know, take the free QUIZ: What’s Your Sugar Detox Body Type?

The last few years have been instrumental in beginning to understand the effect of sugar on the body and brain. Studies are now confirming sugar is more addictive than cocaine for some as it lights up the same reward centers of the brain. Dopamine (at bare minimum) is released every time sugar or refined carbs are consumed, creating a reward which begins an addictive cycle.

This addictive cycle also breeds addictive repercussions like tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when the addictive substance (sugar and refined carbs) are taken away.

So as a nutritionist, it’s extremely helpful to offer a sugar detox meal plan that is specifically designed for coming off sugar in a particular way, to avoid the withdrawal symptoms and side effects as much as possible.

Most people that do a sugar detox complain about 2 main things:

1- The side effects, and

2- The cravings not going away.

This is why it’s such a big time-saver (and frustration-saver) to KNOW where you stand on that sugar-intake (and addiction probability) spectrum.

The people that see the MOST SUCCESS with a sugar detox are the ones who:

  • Are honest about their level of dependence on sugar
  • Make the commitment to start with a reliable sugar detox (and the CORRECT type!)
  • Do the work (which isn’t just about food, it’s also about mental and emotional connections as well.)

What’s so different about this sugar detox meal plan?

In this meal plan you’ll find meals that were designed to gradually pull you off sugar and higher carb counts. They’re truly sugar-free (meaning not even ‘natural’ sugars like coconut sugar, honey, agave, or fruit juices–because those are STILL SUGAR.)

The 1-week kit also contains some guidance in doing a 1-week sugar detox and avoiding the dreaded ‘detox flu’ side effects that many people experience.

The best time to quit sugar is NOW, and the best way to do it is with a nutritionist-designed sugar detox meal plan and guide to help you understand the hold sugar, refined carbs, and junk food may have on you, and how to beat it for good.

So you have 2 choices:

1: Go ahead and try a 1-week Sugar Detox Meal Plan,

the best sugar detox meal plan

2: OR, Take the QUIZ to see what your perfect Sugar Detox Body Type is so you can quit wasting time and get the CORRECT type of sugar detox specifically for your body type! 👇

the best sugar detox meal plan

If I haven’t mentioned already, I’m a ‘recovered sugar addict’, and was basically addicted to sugar from the time that I was a child (I’m from the South–that should say it all, lol!)

Being addicted to sugar made me spiral into crazy inflammatory problems from hormone issues to emotional and depression issues and early onset osteoarthritis.

The dramatic difference in my life now is 100% owed to my determination to figure out WHY I couldn’t stop eating sugar and carbs (and especially bingeing if I ate one little bite) through my formal education, trial and error, and further deep dive research on food addiction and food science.

Now I’m helping others do the same to transition into anti-inflammatory diets and lifestyles that help them not just ‘manage’ their chronic conditions, but actually thrive with nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. I WANT THE SAME FOR YOU! But it has to start with quitting sugar, refined carbs, and junk.

If you’d like to chat about it to see what your best option might be (if the information above didn’t do the trick 😉) DM me @truewell.co

xo, Laura

the best sugar detox meal plan

5 Inflammatory Holiday Foods to Avoid this Year

https://youtu.be/On8q1QHfVZ4

I’m SOOOO ready to be inflamed, in pain, and on a blood sugar and energy rollercoaster for weeks because of all the holiday foods that cause inflammation that I’m ’bout to stuff my face with!!! … said no one ever.

inflammatory holiday foods to avoid

Honestly, the holidays can be so chaotic and stressful, I don’t understand the loads of inflammatory foods being added into the mix.

I get that there’s a lot of ‘give yourself a break and enjoy the holidays without feeling guilty’ mantras and advice floating around this time of year. But to be honest, those people don’t usually have (or acknowledge) inflammatory, blood sugar, or metabolic issues that wreak havoc when we binge on inflammatory foods.

So it isn’t really about the guilt. It’s about an entire month (or three) of our bodies and brains being completely out of balance just for the sake of a couple of meals.

On the other hand, it’s nice to feel some semblance of tradition during the holidays (and avoid irritating questions from Aunt Edna about why we’re not eating).

So here are the top 5 inflammatory holiday foods to avoid this year, with swap suggestions.

inflammatory holiday foods to avoid

Feel GOOD this holiday! Grab our Healthy Holiday Swap-Out Planner!

inflammatory holiday foods to avoid

(1) Vegetable and seed oils

Not only are these types of oils extremely inflammatory due to the refining process, but they also contain omega-6 fats which are inflammatory.

To make matters worse, some holiday foods are fried. When oils– especially ones that are already inflammatory– are heated to super high temps and reheated, you’re adding a hefty amount of inflammatory free radicals to the mix.

It can be really difficult to avoid these when you’re using already processed foods in recipes. And you can guarantee these types of oils are used in pre-made foods and recipes.

👉 Instead, make recipes from scratch and opt for oils like avocado, extra virgin olive oil (only for non-heated foods), or coconut oil (organic, unrefined).

(2) Trans fats

These fats are in nearly any ultra-processed food you can find. They’ve been shown to contribute to heart disease and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). And although the US is in the process of banning trans fats (like other countries have), labeling laws still dictate that foods can have 0.5 grams or less per serving.

For now, all this means is that companies are using this loophole to make their serving size small enough that the trans fat amount is 0.5 or less.

👉 So check the ingredients list to make sure there are no trans fats. You’ll know if they are present because the ingredients will include ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil. If it says this, find a different option.

inflammatory holiday foods to avoid

(3) Refined carbohydrates

Refined carbs seem to be a staple in holiday cuisine. From fried things to bread to desserts, they’re in a ton of sweet and savory recipes.

The biggest culprits of refined carbohydrate savory dishes at holiday meals are bread, rolls, breading, pasta, and corn-based foods.

👉 Instead, focus on proteins and veggies that aren’t covered in glazes, gravies, and dressings.

👉 In desserts, since these go hand in hand with sugar, unless you can guarantee they’re sugar-free, it’s best to steer clear of the dessert table, unless fresh fruit that’s not covered in sugar is available.

👉 A good tip is to plan ahead and bring your own sugar-free, refined-flour-free dessert.

inflammatory holiday foods to avoid

(4) Sugar

Sugar is extremely inflammatory, and has about a thousand different names and forms these days. It’s being added more and more to savory dishes to balance flavors and sometimes make it more addicting.

What’s even worse is high fructose corn syrup. Both are added to nearly all ultra-processed foods these days. And you can guarantee all the desserts are loaded with some kind of sugar.

👉 Check ingredient labels! Ingredients have to be listed in order from most to least, so you can tell the general amount of sugar in a package– the best bet is to avoid any with sugar altogether. This may mean foregoing sweet potato souffle and the pink salad (or jello salad) and the dessert table.

Another source of sugar at holiday meals is also beverages. Sweet tea (mostly in the South), sodas, hydration drinks, and alcoholic drinks are huge culprits of sugar during the holidays.

👉 Opt for water or unsweetened tea, and create your own cocktail with the suggestions below.

inflammatory holiday foods to avoid

(5) Alcoholic beverages

Alcohol seems to be a staple at the holidays for most. The problem is, being off work – and especially if you’re not the designated driver- tend to make many feel like they have a free pass to indulge to the max during the holidays.

Beer can drive up uric acid levels, which creates inflammation, wines can have sugars in them, and mixed drinks are normally loaded with sugar and preservatives from the mixer base.

👉 To enjoy alcohol and still find a balance, alternate each drink with water. Hydration is extremely helpful in flushing inflammatory foods from the body.

👉 Choose dry red wines instead of beer or white wine.

👉 Mix liquor with sparkling water and a couple of drops of liquid stevia.

inflammatory holiday foods to avoid

Tips for creating a more balanced holiday meal:

💎If you’re the one cooking the meal or contributing, it can be a lot easier to have control over what’s being served.

What we’ve learned through the years is that my husband’s and I’s families have only like two staple holiday recipes that are the same. The rest are recipes with super-inflammatory processed ingredients that the kids don’t even like.

That makes it much easier to eliminate inflammatory recipes and replace them with something much better for us.

💎We focus first on the protein and choose quality meats, and then prepare them with healthier options (ie- NOT frying an entire turkey).

💎Our second focus is on vegetables. We decide what dishes we can convert into healthier options from the old-school versions, and how we can make them taste amazing.

💎 If you’re not confident in altering recipes, search up options with the words, ‘Paleo’, ‘low-carb’, or ‘keto’ at the front, and make sure they’re sugar-free and refined-flour-free.

💎One thing my husband and I have discovered over the years is that when you experience nice restaurants- not chains- but ones with true chefs, is that they take a lot of pride in the flavor profiles and combinations of ingredients.

They also use very fresh ingredients and cook from scratch (for the most part). The result of that is incredibly delicious meals that aren’t processed, and – if the correct ingredients are used- aren’t inflammatory. The same holds true for the holidays.

Consider revamping some of your old-school recipes that use processed junk and challenge yourself to see how you can improve the health profile while maximizing the flavor profile.

Then save those in a binder for the next holiday season!

An amazing resource for doing this is a book called The Flavor Bible. We use this all the time to create new recipes or even add more pizzazz to existing ones.

{This is an affiliate link, which means if you click through and purchase, I’ll receive a small portion of the proceeds, at no extra charge to you.}

And as promised… Grab our free Healthy Holiday Swap-out Planning Sheet! 👇👇👇

inflammatory holiday foods to avoid

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inflammatory holiday foods to avoid

4 Strategies to Stop Letting Sugar Fuel Your Day

Sitting in the line at CVS bawling my eyes out over everything in my life was definitely NOT how I imagined my life at 37 years old. I was totally fine (for the moment) as I pulled into the drive-thru.

stop letting sugar fuel your day

The things on my mind were:

  • pick up the antibiotic for my middle kid,
  • get dinner going in the next 2 hours even though I had no clue what we were eating,
  • feed the baby in the back seat with the little breast milk I had left,
  • oh yeah—and get the five blog posts edited and scheduled that were sitting in my queue.

I had it mostly together that day. Sometimes I even felt proud that I could do everything I was doing trying to raise our 3 kids nearly as a single parent due to the extensive travel my husband’s job required, all while desperately trying to build a business (my one thing, it felt, for myself.)

I patted my leg, giving myself a pep talk as I circled CVS and then stopped in my place in line.

And that’s when I felt it: bumps. Lots of bumps.

I looked down and saw that my legs were covered in welts. And then the panic hit, because that’s what I did—I had anxiety attacks.

I did a mental check to make sure my throat wasn’t closing up even though I’d never had an anaphylactic reaction before. Then I tried to remember if I had any Benadryl with me. It wouldn’t matter anyway, I reasoned, because I was driving and it makes me sleepy.

So I did some deep breathing as the urge to flip the hell out bubbled into my eyes and down my cheeks.

And I sat there crying until it was my turn in line.

Times like this had proven to me that my ability to properly lose my shit and say and do unreasonable things were valid enough to find more healthy outlets for the stress.

Like walking (when I had the time), or journaling (when I had the time).

But now was not the time—forget that I never actually ‘had the time’. Because I was in the process of re-lactating because the baby started developing a rash on her entire body from formula. And ignorance and lack of an ounce of empathy from the doctor’s office had sent me on a journey of my own. A really hard one, on top of everything else life was throwing at me.

When I got home, I covered my legs in cortisone cream and sat down to realize I was pushing having a full-on nervous breakdown. I had zero support, too much on my own, and a severe lack of self besides being a mother.

I grabbed a bag of chocolate-drizzled popcorn and downed the whole thing to make me feel better.

stop letting sugar fuel your day

How did other women do it? How were they successful with kids this little? How the hell was I even doing what I was doing all day? I certainly didn’t eat right.

But I knew… Because this little voice in the back of my head that’d always been there was nagging at me again.

It was the voice of the snacks and the cakes and chips and pasta and every other little thing I’d ever turned to my whole life to make me feel better.

In a word: sugar.

The thing was, with my family’s history of type 2 diabetes, I knew I shouldn’t eat this way. And it was only after completing my master’s in nutrition that I got the full-on gravity of eating that way my whole childhood and early adulthood. It was only by luck that I’d always had a fast metabolism.

But my thirties were quickly catching up with me, and the sugar was sending me on a rollercoaster of emotions and energy all day long that not only made me believe I was being productive, but it also damaged relationships I had because of the Jeckyl and Hyde emotions that plagued me all day.

(Not to mention the terrible allergies—hello hives!—and horrible skin that I’d developed through the years.)

But here was the problem: I’d always had sugar, and I’d always craved it. So when I decided to cut it out, it didn’t go nearly as smoothly as I expected. I had severe crashes if I didn’t have any carbs, and my easy answer was to grab something sugary to help ‘balance’ it.

My frustration with quitting sugar was growing as I grappled to manage the rest of my life seemingly alone.

My dad getting diagnosed with prediabetes gave me a really powerful insight though. He said that once he got out of the cravings period of eating low-carb for a few weeks, those crashes went away.

He could feel the difference of balanced blood sugar just by cutting out the sugar and being consistent.

So I finally sat down with myself and created a real action plan to fight the cravings so I could free myself.

stop letting sugar fuel your day

Creating a plan to quit sugar

This wasn’t easy, mind you—I’d spent years hiding in the pantry to inhale as many cupcakes as I could after every kid’s birthday party before somebody caught me. But this time I was determined.

That willpower helped make sugar feel ONLY like a last resort some days, but for the most part I knew it was always sitting on my shoulder trying to tell me it had a hold on me that I’d never be able to shake, like a crack dealer just waiting for things to blow up so I’d come around for another hit.

At first my focus and productivity were about as dialed-in as walking around blindly inside a cloud. I felt angry, irritated, hopeless, and sad all within a matter of minutes some days. And my energy levels were nonexistent.

The only reason I made myself get out of bed is because the kids needed me. But my Dad’s insight reminded me it was a process. And besides, I’d made a plan, and I was sticking to it.

My grand plan involved things like meal planning to make sure there were never any last-minute questions or eating out unexpectedly. I had learned to read food labels in my formal education and understand which wording clued me in that sugar was added to anything packaged. That also helped me get rid of sugary things from the house that might tempt me. And I fully embraced swapping out vegetables to fill me up instead of rice or pasta.

Successes and failures

What I didn’t expect was for it to take as long as it did for me to get past the cravings. Being as stressed out as I was with no support and no breaks meant I had emotional triggers everywhere, and every day.

I also had headaches with severe exhaustion and a few other random side effects that would start to disappear if I could hold it together long enough.

And if I couldn’t take it anymore, I’d try to have ‘just one bite’, and it’d turn into a binge and I was right back at square one.

This part was the most miserable, because every time it would happen, I would berate myself and begin the self-loathing.

My little successes felt like failures every time those slip-ups and binges happened, but the truth was that once I dove into the research of cravings and sugar addiction, it made perfect sense.

That’s when I realized that every little failure while I was PAYING ATTENTION was actually a success. I was becoming more aware and cognizant. I was recognizing what it would take to get past it.

The more I came off sugar and refined carbs, the better I felt.

I started to (finally) notice I was immensely more productive. I started preening my work to-do list to only include things that mattered or made movement in my business.

Another really cool thing was that I was able to take a step back and breathe through the impulse I’d usually let take over to snap at the kids or my husband about things.

This was huge because I’d basically turned into momzilla (and most days thought nobody wanted to be around me.) My husband and I started communicating. Like, really communicating.

And another great part? I started losing the baby weight I couldn’t shake before. (I even got confident enough to get back into a bikini!)

Getting real about being hooked on sugar and carbs

The thing is that most people don’t realize some critical things about sugar:

  • It’s addictive—like, legit addictive.
  • It creates a ton of inflammation in the body- which is why we cut it out first in an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • It makes your body hold onto fat.
  • It makes you believe you have energy, only to give you a crazy straight downhill crash.
  • It makes your emotions go completely berserk.
  • It actually ages you faster. And it shows up on your skin resembling the plague for some.
  • And then it does its thing and makes you come back for more like that narcissistic ex-boyfriend, because either you don’t know any better, or because you crave it so badly you can’t help yourself.

I’ve been on the addiction side of it. I actually call myself a ‘recovered sugar addict’ because I’ve been through the severe cravings, complete lack of control around it, tolerance of it (needing more and more to get the same effect), and physical withdrawals.

But I made the conscious decision to live as intentionally as possible by getting off of it. Sugar controlled nearly all aspects of my life and made me think I had to have it to function.

The truth I found was that sugar was wrecking nearly everything in my life whether directly or indirectly. That’s the power of food.

Thankfully I had some moments of complete clarity combined with nutrition education and deep dives into current research to be able to, firstly, recognize I had a problem, and secondly, create a plan of action to get off it for good.

I knew that just a 7-day sugar detox wasn’t going to do the trick, because I’d done a sugar detox about 57 times already.

4 Strategies to help you quit sugar

There were 4 major things that helped me to truly cut the sugar out of my life (ultimately what I lovingly call ‘Sugar Deprogramming’:

  1. Shifting my mindset around what addiction actually is and how even food can be the thing you can’t let go of. All my past beliefs were challenged and flipped on their head. Especially the one about how it was my fault that I couldn’t quit it.
  2. Shifting my metabolism by being prepared and giving my body enough time to get through the withdrawals, side effects, and dependence on sugar.
  3. Shifting my stubbornness about any emotional ties I had with sugar and carbs. This involved understanding the crazy huge emotional connection and learning to deal with it, and then improving the other areas in my health that would help support my stress levels to stay off sugar.
  4. And lastly, Shifting my confidence. I was completely exhausted and spent from years of dieting and trying to avoid sugar and carbs through sheer ‘willpower’ (which is a myth, by the way). I truly thought I couldn’t make it happen, especially long-term. I realized every time I went into the next ‘this is the week’, I didn’t actually think it was gonna work. I was wrong. I cracked the code, and I want to help others do the same.

Even now I struggle when my emotions are especially turbulent. A funny(ish) thing my husband and I do is yell, “Intervention!” to each other if either of us feels we’re spiraling into a binge.

I also do daily mental and emotional check-ins to manage stress and responsibilities. This helps me keep ahead of any potential feelings and impulses to bury my emotions in sugary foods and refined carbs again.

These days my life is lived with an intention of goodness and love, productivity and ambition. And I know the way to keep at that is to keep my diet clean. That’s when my journey into an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle began, and ultimately changed my life.

Some people don’t think food has the power to do that, but I do now. And I choose to keep mine clean and anti-inflammatory because it’s my fuel for this beautiful ride that I don’t want to miss.

If this resonates with you and you’d like to start your journey in truly getting off sugar and refined carbs, I invite you to check out the other articles in the Cut the Sugar category of TRUEWELL.

I have several helpful resources like:

  1. A super-quick free QUIZ called: What Type of Sugar Detox is Best for Your Body?
  2. A 1-Week Sugar Detox Kit (also free) to guide you through a 7-day sugar detox (with meal plan and recipes) while avoiding side-effects.

If you know you need more help than just those things, TRUEWELL has a course for getting off sugar, and we’ll be doing some challenges throughout the year. (I announce those to subscribers, so join the newsletter over in the right sidebar if you’re not on the list! 💖)

Feel free to send me an email at hello@truewell.co or DM me @truewell.co if you have any questions or need some guidance on this.

xo, Laura

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stop letting sugar fuel your day

Freestyle Anti-Inflammatory Meal Prep for Winter in About an Hour

So if you haven’t heard of “freestyle” anti-inflammatory meal prep before… it’s because I made it up. 😬

It’s basically when you don’t have time to put together a meal plan, so you go and grab just random seasonal produce, and in this case winter produce, and prep it ahead of time so that you can just make meals on the fly throughout the week.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

So this is a really great way to start thinking in terms of more plant-forward meals and this is how we get healthy anti-inflammatory dinners on the table when we have just those dumpster fire weeks and weekends where everything is just complete chaos.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

So truly, the basic steps of freestyle anti-inflammatory meal prep are:

  1. Shop
  2. Chop
  3. Roast
  4. Store
  5. Create meals

Shopping for your anti-inflammatory meal prep session

For this freestyle meal prep session I chose winter produce, which you can find a list for in the Freestyle meal prep guide ☝. So I grabbed a pumpkin, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, purple cabbage, kale, and collard greens.

We promote eating seasonally at TRUEWELL for a few reasons:

  1. Eating seasonally costs less
  2. You’re not getting produce that came from halfway around the world (in other words–you’re getting produce more local which means much more flavor, less transport and less chance of it getting harvested before it’s ripe), and
  3. Studies have shown produce that’s grown IN SEASON actually has substantially greater values of vitamins and phytonutrients than those out of season.
anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

(And just to be clear on why I didn’t roast the pumpkin in my video… my kids freaked out about me roasting the pumpkin–cause they wanted to decorate it, and I had canned pumpkin in the pantry, so I used that for the meal that week…Long story short, kids ruin everything. 😂 Kidding. sort of)

Chopping veggies for your anti-inflammatory meal prep

So I started out with the spaghetti squash.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

These used to intimidate the heck out of me but they’re actually pretty cool. For this session I cut the squash in half lengthwise, then cut strips; but I think it’s actually easier to just roast the halves and then scrape the insides out from those large pieces.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

I have also learned that even scraping the seeds out is much easier when they’ve been roasted first.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

So lay the pieces out evenly on a pan.

I use a BBQ grill mat liner, which I’ve learned is amazing, nothing sticks to it, which you can grab here:

{Some of the links are affiliate links, meaning I earn a small portion of the proceeds if you purchase it, with no additional charge to you.}

Next I started on the butternut squash. Cut the ends off, then cut it in half vertically.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Lay each half on the pan face down.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Then I started on the leeks. I peeled a few of the outside leaves, cut the end of the bulb off, then cut a slit down the center before chopping it. The dark green ends usually get pretty tough, so cut the white part and some of the lighter green part, then put it on the pan to roast as well.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Some of this produce is really best cooked right before eaten, as it’s sauteed or put into soups. But the squash always needs to be cooked anyway, and I also knew I wanted to put the leeks into a soup. So for sure these all needed to be roasted.

Roasting vegetables for anti-inflammatory meal prep

My normal base seasoning is salt, pepper, and garlic powder, which you can add or wait until you make your dish—And then roast it at 350 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes.

(For squash, it may take a bit longer to get it soft enough. You want to be able to scoop and scrape easily or else it will take forever…)

Then I got to work on the kale, and I knew I just wanted it for kale chips. You would think the bags of it already chopped would be more convenient, but I’ve found it takes longer to pick out all the stems than to just buy a bunch of it and trim them off myself.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

I do a sort of scraping motion with the knife to get the leaves off, but you can also fold it in half and do just one cut to get the stems out.

Once all the leaves are torn and in a bowl, add oil, and massage it to soften the fibers.

For kale chips, don’t salt it until they’re out! They shrink and can turn out way too salty.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Kale chips go in the oven for about 20 minutes at 300 F.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Storing your anti-inflammatory meal prep vegetables

While that was cooking, I started cutting the greens.

I started on the collard greens. I wanted these to go in a soup, so I just washed them, trimmed them up the same way as kale, then store them in a baggie in the fridge until I need them that night.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

👉 A method I’ve found useful is using a large 4-cup measuring cup to hold the baggie in place to put food into during meal prep if you don’t have the baggie stands.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

The mustard greens got trimmed up the same way, and I wanted to sauté them later in the week, so I just store them in a baggie in the fridge as well.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Then I started on the cabbage. Peel those tough and usually dirty outer leaves, then chop it into slices, then into smaller pieces. I wanted to sauté it later in the week, so it goes into a baggie as well to store in the fridge.

I also grabbed some pears as a last minute add-on.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

These can be peeled, but the skins are usually actually less tough than apples, so eating the skins is pretty yummy. Make sure you get the core out, it does have seeds like apples.

I chunked it up because I wanted to add it as a snack on top of Greek yogurt.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

One trick is to cut the bottom off so it sits flat, then the top small part, then use an apple corer and slicer to slice it just like you would apples.

If you’re going to pre-cut them, they do also turn brown like apples, so add a bit of lemon juice to keep that from happening and store them in a container in the fridge.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Lastly we take the roasted veggies out of the oven and let them cool.

I put the leeks into a container to go in the fridge.

Then I started on the butternut squash. I’ve found using a grapefruit spoon with a serrated edge make scooping the seeds and flesh out really easy.

But I also sometimes use an avocado slicer to scoop it out. You can also use a paring knife to slice around the edges before scooping the flesh out.

I put it all in a container and seal it to store in the fridge.

Spaghetti squash can be a bit tricky. It definitely needs to be soft enough. But you can use a fork to scrape the spaghetti parts out into a container. Then store in the fridge.

And lastly, I pulled the kale chips out. Then I season with garlic and salt so it doesn’t get oversalted before because it shrinks. Scoop them into a container and enjoy as a snack.

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Create anti-inflammatory dinners for the week

The meals we put together with this freestyle meal prep session were…

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Pumpkin alfredo on spaghetti squash with grilled chicken…

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Leek and cauliflower soup

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Sauteed chicken sausage and red cabbage

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Creamy Collard Greens Soup (with butternut squash)…

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

And for a snack I had a Winter Pear and Yogurt Bowl.

And as promised, to grab the FREE Freestyle Meal Prep printable guide, that is gonna help you have all the instructions on how to do this so you can just have it there for your backup plan; it has ideas for meals and even flavor pairings for winter dishes .

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

Know someone that would love to learn Freestyle Anti-Inflammatory Meal Prep? SHARE this post! 💖

anti-inflammatory meal prep for winter

8 Ways Daylight Savings Time Affects Your Health and How to Handle It

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Ask any parent about Daylight Savings Time and they’ll groan and roll their eyes. Especially when you have kids, these two times of the year are extremely challenging, to say the least. Sleep schedules are a big deal for parents to get established, so disruptions like these can cause larger stress loads than normal. But many are asking two other very important questions regarding daylight savings time: 1) How does daylight savings time affect your health? and 2) How does it affect your sleep?

To start off with, it can take a week or more for your body to adjust to daylight savings time. In this week, studies have shown 8 or more serious negative affects of daylight savings time:

  1. Sleep cycles being thrown off,
  2. which results in higher stress,
  3. Shifts in eating patterns from hormones being disrupted,
  4. Anxiety,
  5. Depression,
  6. Higher occurrence of heart attack,
  7. More traffic accidents,
  8. And more workplace injuries.

All these add up to some pretty significant shifts in our health that could be avoided. To get a better idea of what this all means and how we should approach it, I asked sleep coach and consultant Sheryl Guloy, PhD for her expert opinion:


Have you heard that there is a discussion on doing away with our annual springing forward to daylight savings time (DST) and falling back to standard time? About a month or so ago, all of this talk reached my neck of the woods, up North…way up to and past the Canadian border, with a beeline to Montreal. The idea of doing away with this time change goes far beyond my city and probably extends or will extend to yours.  In fact, this discussion is international in scope and proposals to end this practice is currently ongoing across North America and Europe. It is a hot topic in several states, such as Massachusetts, Washington, Tennessee, and Texas.

While it may seem normal for us to spring forward and to fall back every year, toggling our sleep between standard time and daylight savings time, research on the effects of springing forward reveals just how detrimental to health one hour of sleep loss can be. In Autumn, however, falling back to standard time has been found to result in more positive gains as people’s sleep becomes better (keep this tidbit of information in mind because there’ll be more on this later). Taken altogether, sleep experts, including myself, believe that keeping time consistent throughout the year is best for our health. 

Should Daylight Savings Time be Abolished?

The first reason for keeping our time consistent has to do with sleep loss, which we know negatively affects health, mental health, and performance. When springing forward in springtime, our body misses out on an hour of sleep. The second reason is that our bodies run on a biological clock, entrained to the 24-hour day. It’s from this relationship to the day’s cycle that the biological clock gets its formal name, circadian rhythm.  In particular, we have circa, meaning around or approximately, and dies, meaning day, in Latin. The biological clock influences when we become sleepy or become hungry. Specifically, it plays a role in metabolic function and homeostasis as well as in immune response, recovery from mental and physical fatigue, emotional regulation, learning and creativity, and memory consolidation. 

Keeping your circadian rhythm consistent is important for the regulation of all of these functions. Research on the effects of switching from standard to daylight savings time has revealed a spike in strokes, heart attacks, and car accidents soon after springing forward. Consequently, policymakers have begun holding discussions on whether the practice of switching between standard and daylight savings times should be abolished, with some places having already chosen to end the practice. 

Now, while doing away with the time change is something that is applauded by many researchers and sleep experts, the concern that has arisen in some areas where this policy change is being contemplated has to do with which time would become the default. In particular, the concern has to do with whether an area chooses to select daylight savings time as the “new” standard time. 

Why does it matter whether or not we choose daylight savings time?

Well, it matters because our circadian rhythm takes cues from our environment to keep it on track, such as sunlight; temperature change; and eating schedules; among other things. So, this means that our environment and lifestyle affect our biological clock and, consequently, sleep. What happens is that even though we may believe that we should eventually adjust to the time change, the negative effects of springing forward can last throughout the period of daylight savings time for some people.

How the body reacts to daylight savings time

Like I mentioned, not only do our bodies like consistency, but the circadian rhythm is tied to the day, which means that external cues such as daylight and temperature play a role in its regulation. Now, imagine what happens to night owls, for instance, who are already genetically predisposed to going to bed later and are already at greater risk of experiencing sleep deprivation. Imagine what happens to them in the summer when they are exposed to brighter light later in the evening. 

Essentially, sunnier evenings delay the circadian rhythm and, hence, the time that people actually fall asleep. Yet, most people still have to wake up at the same time for work throughout the DST period. It’s pretty easy to see how the risk of experiencing sleep loss increases. Right? Remember that night owls will not be the only ones affected. Everyone will be affected but to varying degrees. 

Okay, let’s make this even more concrete. What would you expect to happen if we kept standard time versus if we kept savings time? 

First, let’s assume a regular 9-to-5 work week, regardless of the time of the year (not factoring in any COVID-19 effects on your work schedule, like working from home). Also, let’s say that you get 7 hours of sleep every night, falling asleep at 11:00 pm and waking up at 6:00 am. 

If daylight savings time becomes the new “standard”, how would cities be affected?

To help you see what would happen in very real terms, I’ve created Table 1 to show the effect on sunrise and sunset times in cities across North America, with Houston, Texas, being at the most southerly location, and Edmonton, Alberta, up here in Canada, being at the most northerly location. 

Table 1. Standard Time Versus Daylight Savings Time (Sunset/ Sunrise)

In Table 1, I’ve included the actual recorded times for June 21, 2019 in daylight savings time. Notice how late the sun sets in the summertime. This translates into delayed bedtimes because a significant number of people will find it more challenging to fall asleep at earlier times. While the sun sets pretty late in Houston, at 8:25 pm, notice when the sun sets in Seattle and Edmonton. Imagine what it would be like if the sun were to set at around 9:10 pm or 10:07 pm where you live. Personally, I know exactly what it’s like because I used to spend quite some time in Alberta. It feels like it’s only around 5:30 pm or 6:00 pm when it is, in fact, already 9:00 pm at night. No wonder, then, that many do suffer from sleep loss throughout the DST period.

How about during wintertime? What would happen if daylight savings time were to become the “new” standard time? Well, first of all, notice how late the sun would rise in Houston. Basically, the sun’s rays would only begin to appear at around 8:12 am. Now, look at the other cities, where the sun will rise even later. Imagine what it would be like to be in Seattle, where the sun would only rise at 8:54 am. In Edmonton, it would only rise at 9:48 am; that’s only 12 minutes shy of 10:00 am…or mid-morning! Wow. The thing is that bright light in the morning plays a critical role in keeping the circadian rhythm from being delayed too much at night, which is especially important in helping night owls keep their sleep-wake times aligned with the regular 9-to-5 hours that they’ll still be expected to keep.

These examples bring to light some conditions that make daylight savings time problematic if it were to be selected as the default time. Policymakers are essentially proposing that DST be selected as the default when it has been shown to contribute to health, performance, and safety concerns. Unfortunately, daylight savings time is being proposed as the new standard in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. Meanwhile, in Canada, cities like Toronto are also pushing for daylight savings time. In Texas, however, discussions seem to be veering toward keeping standard time as the default, which I believe would be the wiser and healthier choice. 

Sheryl Guloy, PhD, is sleep coach/ consultant, researcher, and educator. Her interest in sleep began with her own sleep troubles and her realization that she is a true night owl. She co-founded a sleep initiative, Somnolence+, through which she aims to make sure that more people know about their own sleep and have strategies and tools to help them sleep well. 

You can find her blog at: www.sleepwellblog.org

Or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/sleepwellpage

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Crispy Kale Chips

If you’re looking for a super easy and healthy winter snack, Crispy Kale Chips are a super easy choice! They’re the ‘savory cotton candy’ of the snack world. Each bite is lightly crisp but dissolves in each addictive bite.

The other plus is that these Crispy Kale Chips are crazy easy to make.

crispy kale chips

The printable recipe is below, and it’s also featured in our Winter Freestyle Meal Prep session (check it out and get the printable guide!)

Step 1: Choose your kale

First of all, opt for organic if you can. Greens easily soak up pesticides, especially since the part you eat isn’t protected by a shell or a pod cover or skin. Pesticides are inflammatory to all bodies, so it’s best to be safe. If that’s not an option, make sure you wash it well when you get home.

Second, I know it can be tempting to grab a bag of the pre-chopped kale, but that’s a huge mistake. The reason is that they don’t remove the stems, and you’ll be left for an hour just trying to trim out all the mini stems.

crispy kale chips

Instead, get a bundle of whole kale leaves.

Step 2: Trimming kale for kale chips

One method I’ve found to trim kale leaves is to hold the end of the stem, and use a paring knife to sort of scrape the leafy part away from the stem.

crispy kale chips

You do have to be careful that you don’t cut through the stem, especially if your knife is super sharp.

The other option would be to lay the whole leaf flat and just cut out the stem. Or, you could fold the leaf in half and just make a single cut to remove the stem of the kale.

crispy kale chips

Once the stems are removed, simply tear the pieces in medium to large chunks and place in a bowl.

Step 3: Massaging kale for kale chips

Adding oil is going to help with the crispness, so drizzle some avocado, warmed coconut oil, or MCT oil on the kale leaves in the bowl.

Some people don’t think it’s necessary, but I do like to massage the leaves to loosen the fibers. Also this allows the oil to get evenly distributed.

You’ll literally just stick your hands in, massage the leaves, and turn over chunks as you’re working to get the oil on everything.

*DON’T SEASON YET!

crispy kale chips

Step 4: Cooking kale for kale chips

Cooking the kale is super easy. You simply place the contents of the bowl on a large baking pan.

crispy kale chips

Kale cooks at 300 degrees F for about 20 minutes or so. Keep an eye out and make sure they’re getting browned (this is how they get crispy) without getting burned.

Step 5: Cool, season, and enjoy!

Let them cool to finish crisping, and then add sea salt or any other seasonings you wish. It’s best to wait until they’re cooked to season because they shrink and it’s really easy to over-season your kale chips.

Kale Chips flavor options

Some flavor options are:

  • Ranch (nutritional yeast + lemon juice + salt)
  • Chili Lime (chili powder + lime juice + salt)
  • Salt and Vinegar (vinegar + salt)
crispy kale chips

And enjoy! They can be stored in a baggie or container on the counter for a few days.

Print

Crispy Kale Chips

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Snack

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 bunch kale leaves (organic)
  • 1 TBSP avocado oil (or warmed coconut, or MCT)

Instructions

  1. Prehead the oven to 300 degress F.
  2. Wash and trim all kale leaves.
  3. Tear leaves into medium to large chunks and place in a large bowl.
  4. Drizzle the oil, and massage to evenly distribute the oil.
  5. Spread the entire bowl of kale on a baking sheet, spreading out as much as possible.
  6. Cook for about 20 minutes, making sure the leaves are getting browned without burning to ensure crispness.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool.
  8. Season with sea salt or any other seasoning of choice.
  9. Enjoy! (Can be stored on counter in a container for a few days)

Keywords: anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free, Vegan

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crispy kale chips
crispy kale chips

Inflammatory Thanksgiving Foods to Avoid this Year

I’m SOOOO ready to be inflamed, in pain, and on a blood sugar and energy rollercoaster for weeks because of all the Thanksgiving foods that cause inflammation that I’m ’bout to stuff my face with!!! … said no one ever.

inflammatory thanksgiving foods

Honestly, the holidays can be so chaotic and stressful, I don’t understand the loads of inflammatory foods being added into the mix.

I get that there’s a lot of ‘give yourself a break and enjoy the holidays without feeling guilty’ mantras and advice floating around this time of year. But to be honest, those people don’t usually have (or acknowledge) inflammatory, blood sugar, or metabolic issues that wreak havoc when we binge on inflammatory foods.

So it isn’t really about the guilt. It’s about an entire month (or three) of our bodies and brains being completely out of balance just for the sake of a couple of meals.

On the other hand, it’s nice to feel some semblance of tradition during the holidays (and avoid irritating questions from Aunt Edna about why we’re not eating) as well.

So here are the top 5 inflammatory Thanksgiving foods to avoid this year, with swap suggestions.

Feel GOOD this holiday! Grab our Healthy Holiday Swap-Out Planner!

inflammatory thanksgiving foods to avoid

(1) Vegetable and seed oils

Not only are these types of oils extremely inflammatory due to the refining process, but they also contain omega-6 fats which are inflammatory.

To make matters worse, some Thanksgiving foods are fried. When oils– especially ones that are already inflammatory– are heated to super high temps and reheated, you’re adding a hefty amount of inflammatory free radicals to the mix.

It can be really difficult to avoid these when you’re using already processed foods in recipes. And you can guarantee these types of oils are used in pre-made foods and recipes.

👉 Instead, make recipes from scratch and opt for oils like avocado, extra virgin olive oil (only for non-heated foods), or coconut oil (organic, unrefined).

(2) Trans fats

These fats are in nearly any ultra-processed food you can find. They’ve been shown to contribute to heart disease and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). And although the US is in the process of banning trans fats (like other countries have), labeling laws still dictate that foods can have 0.5 grams or less per serving.

For now, all this means is that companies are using this loophole to make their serving size small enough that the trans fat amount is 0.5 or less.

👉 So check the ingredients list to make sure there are no trans fats. You’ll know if they are present because the ingredients will include ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil. If it says this, find a different option.

inflammatory thanksgiving foods to avoid

(3) Refined carbohydrates

Refined carbs seem to be a staple in holiday cuisine. From fried things to bread to desserts, they’re in a ton of sweet and savory recipes.

The biggest culprits of refined carbohydrate savory dishes at Thanksgiving are bread, rolls, breading, pasta, and corn-based foods.

👉 Instead, focus on proteins and veggies that aren’t covered in glazes, gravies, and dressings.

👉 In desserts, since these go hand in hand with sugar, unless you can guarantee they’re sugar-free, it’s best to steer clear of the dessert table, unless fresh fruit that’s not covered in sugar is available.

👉 A good tip is to plan ahead and bring your own sugar-free, refined-flour-free dessert.

inflammatory thanksgiving foods to avoid

(4) Sugar

Sugar is extremely inflammatory, and has about a thousand different names and forms these days. It’s being added more and more to savory dishes to balance flavors and sometimes make it more addicting.

What’s even worse is high fructose corn syrup. Both are added to nearly all ultra-processed foods these days. And you can guarantee all the desserts are loaded with some kind of sugar.

👉 Check ingredient labels! Ingredients have to be listed in order from most to least, so you can tell the general amount of sugar in a package– the best bet is to avoid any with sugar altogether. This may mean foregoing sweet potato souffle and the pink salad (or jello salad) and the dessert table.

Another source of sugar is also beverages. Sweet tea (mostly in the South), sodas, hydration drinks, and alcoholic drinks are huge culprits of sugar during the holidays.

👉 Opt for water or unsweetened tea, and create your own cocktail with the suggestions below.

inflammatory thanksgiving foods to avoid

(5) Alcoholic beverages

Alcohol seems to be a staple at the holidays for most. The problem is, being off work – and especially if you’re not the designated driver- tend to make many feel like they have a free pass to indulge to the max during the holidays.

Beer can drive up uric acid levels, which creates inflammation, wines can have sugars in them, and mixed drinks are normally loaded with sugar from the mixer base.

👉 To enjoy alcohol and still find a balance, alternate one drink with water. Hydration is extremely helpful in flushing inflammatory foods from the body.

👉 Choose dry red wines instead of beer or white wine.

👉 Mix liquor with sparkling water and a couple of drops of liquid stevia.

inflammatory thanksgiving foods to avoid

Tips for creating a more balanced Thanksgiving meal:

💎If you’re the one cooking the meal or contributing, it can be a lot easier to have control over what’s being served.

What we’ve learned through the years is that my husband’s and I’s families have only like two staple holiday recipes that are the same. The rest are recipes with super-inflammatory processed ingredients that the kids don’t even like.

That makes it much easier to eliminate inflammatory recipes and replace them with something much better for us.

💎We focus first on the protein and choose quality meats, and then prepare them with healthier options (ie- NOT frying an entire turkey).

💎Our second focus is on vegetables. We decide what dishes we can convert into healthier options from the old-school versions, and how we can make them taste amazing.

💎 If you’re not confident in altering recipes, search up options with the words, ‘Paleo’, ‘low-carb’, or ‘keto’ at the front, and make sure they’re sugar-free and refined-flour-free.

💎One thing my husband and I have discovered over the years is that when you experience nice restaurants- not chains- but ones with true chefs, is that they take a lot of pride in the flavor profiles and combinations of ingredients.

They also use very fresh ingredients and cook from scratch (for the most part). The result of that is incredibly delicious meals that aren’t processed, and – if the correct ingredients are used- aren’t inflammatory. The same holds true for the holidays.

Consider revamping some of your old-school recipes that use processed junk and challenge yourself to see how you can improve the health profile while maximizing the flavor profile.

Then save those in a binder for the next holiday season!

An amazing resource for doing this is a book called The Flavor Bible. We use this all the time to create new recipes or even add more pizzazz to existing ones.

{This is an affiliate link, which means if you click through and purchase, I’ll receive a small portion of the proceeds, at no extra charge to you.}

And as promised… Grab our free Healthy Holiday Swap-out Planning Sheet! 👇👇👇

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inflammatory thanksgiving foods to avoid

Winter Pear and Yogurt Bowl

When apples are done for the fall, pears move right on in to take center stage! And this Winter Pear and Yogurt Bowl is super versatile, macro balanced, and oh so yummy!

pear and yogurt bowl

This recipe is also featured in the Winter Freestyle Meal Prep session (check it out and get your free guide!)

The thing that’s so great about nourishing yogurt bowls like this is that you can add whatever you feel like adding (like as long as it’s anti-inflammatory and falls in your macros if you’re trying to lose or gain weight.)

And although we used Greek yogurt for this bowl, if you’re dairy-free, you can simply sub that out for coconut or almond yogurt.

Another reason these are so easy is that you can just throw it together in 3 minutes.

But the yogurt mixture can be portioned out, and the toppings can separately be portioned out so you can meal prep them ahead of time for the week. (Win!)

Now, I really used to not like pears that much. Even though we had a pear tree as a kid, they were the variety that big food companies use to can (you know–the ones that sit on the grocery store shelves?) I don’t like the grittiness.

But if you get the winter varieties that are a bit smaller, the skin is actually very soft and the inside texture isn’t gritty. Which is why I now love pears. 🍐

Since I keep the skins on (they’re full of nutrients like apple skins are!) I use a trick to quickly and easily slice and core them.

How to quickly and easily cut and core a pear:

  1. Cut off a thin slice from the bottom of the pear so it sits flat
  2. Cut the top skinny part off
  3. Use an apple corer/slicer the same way you would an apple
pear and yogurt bowl

Here’s what I put into my creamy and nourishing Winter Pear and Yogurt Bowl:

Print

Winter Pear and Yogurt Bowl

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1x
  • Category: Breakfast, Snack

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, Plain and unsweetened (or coconut or almond yogurt for dairy-free or vegan)
  • 1/2 pear (halved and cored)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 23 drops liquid stevia
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup pepitas ((pumpkin seeds))

Instructions

  1. Dip yogurt into a bowl. Add the stevia and vanilla extract, then stir till completely mixed.
  2. Top with pear slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  3. Enjoy!

Keywords: anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free, Vegan

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pear and yogurt bowl
pear and yogurt bowl

Sauteed Cabbage and Chicken Sausage One-Pan Meal

Cold winter nights call for warm and easy one-pan meals like this Sautéed Cabbage and Chicken Sausage.

sauteed cabbage and chicken sausage one-pan meal

Even though I’ve been averse to cabbage for a long time (from having my parents and grandparents tell me to eat some cabbage non-stop growing up), I’ve come back around to it.

Mainly because I know it’s chock-full of needed nutrients for winter and has anti-inflammatory properties. But also because when it’s cooked right, it’s actually really delicious. And that’s exactly what this dish is. Delicious. And easy.

Here’s how to make it:

sauteed cabbage and chicken sausage one-pan meal

Step 1: Chop the cabbage

Cabbage almost always has dirt on it, even if it looks clean at first. Make sure you peel the outer few layers and wash all the dirt off really good. (Gritty cabbage is unpleasant cabbage.)

Cut the cabbage into slices, then chop the slices into medium to smallish chunks. (This depends on what your preference is.)

*If you’re prepping this for later in the week, store it in a baggie until the night of.

sauteed cabbage and chicken sausage one-pan meal

Step 2: Sautee the cabbage

Next, add the avocado oil to a sautee pan and turn the heat to medium warm. Add the cabbage and salt, and sautee it until it’s on the verge of being soft.

Then add the dijon mustard and lemon juice.

Step 3: Add the sausage

Slice the chicken sausage into chunks or rounds and add it to the pan. Keep stirring until the chicken is warmed through.

Plate and enjoy!

Don’t be afraid to add a spinach or kale salad on the side! 🍃

The printable recipe is below, and it’s also featured in our Winter Freestyle Meal Prep session (check it out and get the printable guide!)

Print

Sauteed Cabbage and Chicken Sausage Pan

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: lunch, Main Course

Ingredients

Scale
  • 16 oz chicken sausage (Make sure there's no cheese inside for dairy-free)
  • 1 head purple cabbage (sliced and chopped)
  • 2 TBSP avocado oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the sausage and cook for six to eight minutes, until cooked through. Then remove and set aside.
  2. Add the cabbage wedges to the skillet and cook until browned and slightly charred on both sides, about five minutes total.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, and salt. Add the sausage and cabbage to plates. Drizzle the dressing over the cabbage and enjoy!

Notes

Per serving:

Fat: 16g

Carbs: 11 g

Fiber: 3 g

Sugar: 5 g

Protein: 23 g

Nutrition

  • Calories: 279

Keywords: anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can’t wait to see what you’ve made!

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sauteed cabbage and chicken sausage one-pan meal
sauteed cabbage and chicken sausage one-pan meal

Creamy Pumpkin Alfredo with Spaghetti Squash Noodles

If you like alfredo sauce on anything you’ll LOVE this Creamy Pumpkin Alfredo with Spaghetti Squash Noodles!

pumpkin alfredo sauce

Honestly, my kids have made an Olympic sport of turning up their noses at dinners I make, then retracting their comments once they taste it.

This is one of those dinners. They loved it.

The thing that’s cool about this recipe, if you’re worried about the pumpkin taste, is that you actually can’t even taste the pumpkin. It makes the sauce a slightly more orange color, but adds a nutritional boost without even affecting the flavor hardly at all.

We like to use it on top of spaghetti squash because the seasonal winter produce is anti-inflammatory goodness that provides tons of fiber and vitamins like A, B6, and C. (All of which are amazing for cold and flu season!)

pumpkin alfredo sauce

The pumpkin in the alfredo sauce gives it an additional boost of those nutrients as well. Plus, the healthy fats in the alfredo sauce base are used to absorb alllll that Vitamin A. (Healthy triple whammy!)

The printable recipe is below, and it’s also featured in our Winter Freestyle Meal Prep session (check it out and get the printable guide!)

Print

Creamy Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce on Spaghetti Squash Noodles

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Course

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 TBSP avocado oil (or butter)
  • 5 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (canned)
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream (organic)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (organic, grated from the block)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Place on a pan covered in foil. Roast for 30-40 minutes.
  2. Remove squash from oven and let cool enough to touch.
  3. Flip halves over, then use a fork to scrape the spaghetti 'noodles' out of the middle into a bowl.
  4. For the sauce (don't make ahead of time, you want this to be made immediately before serving): Heat the avocado oil and garlic over medium heat. Add the pumpkin and cream, stirring. Simmer until lightly thickened, then add the parmesan cheese and stir until combined.
  5. Plate the squash noodles, then top with pumpkin alfredo sauce.
  6. This is also great topped with organic crumbled bacon or grilled chicken.
  7. Enjoy!

Keywords: anti-inflammatory, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free

Did you make this recipe?

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pumpkin alfredo sauce
pumpkin alfredo sauce

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix Recipe

If you’re all in on the anti-inflammatory diet, and it’s finally fall, then Pumpkin Spice Mix definitely needs to be one of your pantry staples.

Not only is it delicious, but it’s also made of super anti-inflammatory ingredients.

homemade pumpkin pie spice mix recipe

So, what happens regularly around our house is that I’m looking for my spice mix, and…. It’s been all used up by my kids, and they also conveniently forget to tell me we’re out of it.

So I started keeping spice mix recipes so I can make my own any time that happens.

Here’s how to make your own pumpkin spice mix to keep in your pantry.

homemade pumpkin pie spice mix recipe

Our ingredients are :

  • Ground cinnamon
  • Ground ginger
  • Ground nutmeg
  • Ground cloves
  • Ground allspice
  • And our last surprise ingredient is a pinch of ground black pepper.

The reason I love adding in ground black pepper is that all the other spices already have mega anti-inflammatory properties, but black pepper has a compound in it that boosts absorption of the nutrients in the other ingredients.

Now when I’m making spice mixes, I like to just use a measuring cup that has a spout like this one so I can pour it into the container without a funnel.

homemade pumpkin pie spice mix recipe

So I add all the spices into the measuring cup, no special order, then stir really well. You want to make sure to get everything mixed really really well, then pour into your storage container.

homemade pumpkin pie spice mix recipe

This spice mix is perfect in any recipe that calls for pumpkin pie spice mix, like pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin seed granola, pumpkin muffins, and even pumpkin pie.

Print

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Recipe

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack

Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 TBSP ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper (a pinch)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Make sure to mix thoroughly.
  2. Pour into storage container.
  3. Use in any recipe that calls for 'pumpkin pie spice mix'.
  4. Store indefinitely in a cool, dark pantry.

Keywords: anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free, Vegan

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can’t wait to see what you’ve made!

And if you really love anti-inflammatory seasonal fall recipes, check out my Fall Freestyle Meal Prep session where I grabbed random fall produce to make 4+ anti-inflammatory meals for the week with NO meal plan in place! 👇

homemade pumpkin pie spice mix recipe

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Cozy Keto Pumpkin Muffins

When it’s fall (ya’ll) 😆 everybody goes bonkers for pumpkin spice, and these keto pumpkin muffins should definitely be in your saved + often-used recipe collection.

keto pumpkin muffins

And I get it–it’s (hopefully where you live) starting to cool down, and that crisp snuggly feeling should be crankin’ up!

The only thing is… when we think of ‘cozy’ things, it usually veers in dramatically different directions: Either heavier soups and stews (savory), or warm, sweet breads (sweets direction).

Lucky for you, I’ve got the sweet covered with a fiber-filled, pumpkin-spice loaded muffin that is sugar-free, and also has the added benefit of being a great after-dinner snack (if you add on the pumpkin seeds–they contain melatonin. 😉)

keto pumpkin muffins

Now, I know some of us like stevia, some prefer erythritol, some like monk-fruit, and on and on. So I put 2 options in the directions to accommodate for either choice, because that one option will determine baking time.

So warm up some unsweetened coconut (or almond) milk and enjoy! 🍂

Print

Cozy Keto Pumpkin Muffins

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 27 minutes
  • Total Time: 42 minutes
  • Yield: 6 muffins 1x
  • Category: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 4 eggs (large)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 TBSP coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tsp stevia liquid (OR 1/3 cup erythritol (Swerve brand works great))
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 TBSP coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup pepitas, for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F + prepare pan. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line your muffin tin with liners (paper tend to stick unless you spray with oil).
  2. Mix wet ingredients + spices. Whisk together eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, stevia (or erythritol), coconut oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Mix dry ingredients. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut flour, salt, and baking powder. Then whisk into the pumpkin batter.
  4. Pour batter into muffin papers. Evenly divide the mixture in the 6-muffin tin cups.
  5. Bake based on type of sweetener used. Bake 22-25 minutes (using stevia as the sweetener), or (27-29 minutes using erythritol as the sweetener).
  6. Test if done. Muffins are ready when a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Remove, cool + enjoy! Pop muffins onto a towel or cooling rack, and let them cool completely for optimal fluffy texture.

Nutrition

  • Calories: 156

Keywords: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Sugar-Free

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can’t wait to see what you’ve made!