Festive Season

Festive Season Health

The festive season is now upon us and that generally means an increase in social engagements.   While for most of us this is a fun time of year, it can also result in health issues such as sluggishness, weight gain and fatigue.  So let’s look at what goes on and how we can stay healthy during the Christmas and New Year period.

Alcohol is certainly the first thing most people think of when they think of the ‘silly season’.  Most of us know that alcohol and our livers are not good friends.  In fact, alcohol consumption can affect many different systems not just the liver.  Alcohol directly damages the stomach wall causing inflammation and alcohol is also a nervous system depressant, which can lead to mood change, irritability and depression – especially over time or with excess consumption.

The amount of alcohol that a person can safely consume is highly individual, depending on age, sex, weight and family history.  So the festive message is to be mindful of the affects that alcohol has on your body and take it easy.  Pace yourself with drinks (no more than one per hour) and drink hydrating water in between alcoholic drinks to avoid dehydration which is the major cause of hangovers.   You can easily make festive non-alcoholic drinks with plain mineral water by adding lime, mint and berries. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed on an empty stomach, so be sure to always eat something when you are having a drink.  Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should completely avoid alcohol. Supplementing with a multivitamin that contains good amounts of B vitamins is also a good idea to support your health especially at this time of year.

With all the socialising that comes with the festive season, many people not only drink too much but often end up eating too much food and more of the wrong kinds of food.  Finger foods at functions are often high in refined flour products and sugar and may be cooked in trans fats.  Try to avoid foods with artificial flavours, colours and preservatives which stress the liver and kidneys. Choose where possible healthy options such as raw vegies with dips, cheese, wholemeal pitta breads, succhi, fruit platters and nuts.  Avoid over eating by not eating lots of nibbles before dinner.  When planning your menus think about choosing lighter alternatives such as fresh seafood, salads, fruit and cheese instead of a hot, traditional festive lunch or dinner.  Also try to keep up your exercise routine, and think of swimming when the weather is too hot for other exercise.

Many of my patients find the festive season very stressful emotionally.  Some people are not close or compatible with their family and find getting together very difficult.  While others might feel lonely spending Christmas miles away from their family.  Regardless of our situation, nearly everyone gets a bit overwhelmed with the sheer busyness of the festive season.  However, we can approach Christmas with a different attitude and take time out for ourselves to reflect on the year, our friends and family.  This is particularly helpful with children who can get too easily caught up with the commercialism of the season.

Remember what the underlying meaning of this time of year is and seek to be more peaceful and content with simple pleasures.  We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful natural environment – so connecting to nature through the sea or the bush can bring much needed peace.  Try not to fill the social calendar to capacity, allow some time for a quiet night or day. Lastly, it is essential to try and get good quality and sufficient sleep as this will help recharge your batteries.  This might even mean taking a siesta - something we shouldn’t feel guilty about at this time of year!

Easter Health Tips

eggs nest

It seems like sugar and Easter go hand in hand. If it is not the hot cross buns at every corner, it is the plentiful chocolate! So how do we stay healthy and focussed on our health goals when we are tempted by so much sugar?

Prepare yourself mentally so that you can avoid being triggered or tempted to overindulge in chocolate. Eat regular protein rich meals and healthy fats throughout Easter so that you are satisfied and less likely to crave sweets. Ensure that you maintain your exercise routine to help ward off old negative habits around food. Ask guests to bring flowers or other non-edible Easter gifts instead of chocolate.

If you are going to indulge in a little chocolate, then stick to good quality chocolate and preferably make it the dark variety. Quality chocolate is higher in real food ingredients, has less sugar and artificial flavours. Dark chocolate contains many health benefits. It is high in chocolateantioxidants and polyphenols that have been shown to lower blood pressure and insulin levels and can help keep blood sugar levels stable. It has also been shown to have anti-ageing effects and improve circulation, memory and brain function.

The other benefit of rich, dark chocolate varieties is that most people do not overindulge compared to the sweeter milk chocolate types! Choose varieties that are at least 70% dark chocolate for the most active ingredients and also try to choose fairtrade and organic varieties to support cocoa farmers and be eco-friendly.

Other healthy options at Easter can include making healthy versions of traditional Easter fare. For example, you can make healthy “easter eggs” from simple bliss ball recipes shaped into eggs instead of balls. See this page for more info.

 

Happy Easter!

 

 

Ginger

gingerGinger is one of my favourite herbs and we are lucky to be able to grow it here in subtropical South East Queensland.  It sure loves the wet hot summers more than me!

Ginger is also known by the latin name, Zingiber officinale, and it is related to other species in the Zingiberaceae family including the well known turmeric and galangal.

The juicy roots and rhizomes are used in many cultures both as a medicinal plant and culinary favourite. Ginger adds a distinct, warm and spicy flavour to many different dishes and cuisines.  I like growing ginger because you can harvest the young juicy roots which are often hard to find in the grocery store. They are great to throw into vegetable and fruit smoothies to add some warmth and flavour!

Medicinally ginger is excellent for nausea and has been well studied with favourable results in particular for morning sickness and motion sickness. It is also good for other digestive disturbances, including bloating and wind. Some promising research has found that ginger may play a role in decreasing cancer growth.

Ginger is also excellent for improving the circulation and decreasing inflammation. You can add a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger to boiling water to make a tea that is helpful for colds and coughs. I like adding it to chicken broth for an Asian flavour and it is particularly good when feeling sick, along with garlic and a hint of chilli.  The dried spice can be used in baking and curries and is one of the important ingredient in ginger bread men and sweet baked goods.

 

gingercookieGrain Free Ginger Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup tapioca or arrowroot
  • 1 tablespoon dried ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried cinnamon powder
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar or rapadura sugar
  • 125g butter
  • ½ teaspoon bicarb soda mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (or molasses for a stronger flavour)

 

Method

  • Combine the first 6 dry ingredients together in large bowel and mix thoroughly.
  • Melt butter, add bicarb & water mixture, mix thoroughly with honey until well combined.
  • Mix this wet ingredient mix into dry until well combined.
  • Place dessertspoonfuls of the mixture onto greased baking trays with space between to allow for spreading. Flatten slightly with a fork.
  • Bake at 170C for about 15 mins or until golden brown.
  • Allow to cool on tray before removing.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Self Care at Christmas

Self Care At Christmas

selfcarechristmasThis year I want to focus on giving advice not just on staying physically healthy during the festive season, but also how to stay sane, calm and centred. While our physical wellbeing is often under threat at this time of year when we are tempted with less than healthy festive foods and drinks, our emotional health and wellbeing is just as at risk. Self care at Christmas is something we often don't focus on, but is very important.

It is so easy to get pulled off centre when life gets busy and our schedules get over full. In reality, being off centre can make it harder to stay committed to our health goals. It can be a scenario of the “chicken or the egg”. Making poor choices with diet and lifestyle can make us feel unhealthy and less connected and motivated to our needs and goals. And in turn when we are less connected with our true selves, we can end up making poorer choices. And on it goes, with one aspect causing the other or at least exacerbating the other.

So staying calm, centred and connected is paramount to our health and wellbeing at this time of year. It helps us to cope with the busyness and general frantic energy that can prevail around Christmas and helps us stay in tune with what is best for us – on all levels.

Giving and Receiving

For many of us, gift giving brings great joy and happiness. Receiving, on the other hand, can be much harder. It is easy when we are children to receive, but slowly over the years we can often find it harder to receive from others or give to ourselves. Whether it is givingcompliments or gifts, the scenario can be the same.

In my experience this pattern is especially true for women. We give to everyone and care for everyone first and then put ourselves last, not expecting anything back. But this is a dysfunctional pattern and one that is not sustainable. It can develop into fatigue and burnout or subtle or obvious feelings of resentment and anger. So now is the time to give to yourself! Over the festive season prioritise your time and activities and schedule some time out for you. Practice receiving by giving to yourself, accepting or asking for help from others. Remember to also foster feelings of gratitude and appreciation towards yourself as well as others.

Self Care in Action

Everyone has a range of personal things they can do to best nourish themselves. While it is an individual thing, here are somefootbath suggestions to get you started:

  • Massage
  • Bath – full body or just a foot bath works
  • Listen to music (and dance!)
  • Walk in nature (especially good at sunrise or sunset)
  • Gardening
  • Crafting
  • Reading
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Beach swim and walk
  • Beautician trip
  • Body pampering with scrub and body oils

Choose something from this list and practice it with conscious intention to make it a special soul nurturing activity. Try to get something in every day – even if it is just 5 mins, when it is done with focus and presence it can make all the difference.

Wishing you a special soul-centred Christmas, that is filled with true giving and receiving to both yourself and others, and much health and vitality too!

Karen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paleo Chocolate Walnut Brownies

 

Paleo Chocolate Walnut Fudge Brownies

These paleo chocolate walnut brownies are a wonderful treat that are super healthy compared to standard brownies that are laden with sugar and refined flours. Being grain free means they can be enjoyed by people following a grain free, paleo and GAPS diet.   I often make chocolate and date brownies with an almond meal base, but these just contain coconut flour which makes them extra fudgey and great for people with almond allergies.  I like cooking with coconut flour but I find it really does work best with lots of eggs, which lighten the texture. I hope you enjoy these chocolate fudgey treats!  Please let me know in the comments section if you have given them a go.  🙂

 

paleobrowniesIngredients:

  • 50g coconut flour
  • 40g cocoa
  • 50g walnuts roughly chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons honey

 

 Method:

  • Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.
  • Mix the coconut flour, cocoa and walnuts together in bowl, removing any lumps.
  • In separate bowl or in a food processor, beat together the eggs, melted butter, maple syrup, honey and vanilla.
  • Add flour mixture to egg mixture and beat together until well combined.  (Note: the final mixture is meant to be quite runny.)
  • Pour into a greased shallow ceramic/glass rectangular dish (approx. 30cm x 18cm).
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until set and cooked through (check skewer comes out clean)
  • Allow to cool in dish before cutting into squares.
  • Store at room temperature for about 3 days....if they last that long! 🙂

 

Bliss Balls

 

Bliss Balls

Bliss balls are popular favourites amongst adults and children alike. Easy and quick to make if you have a food processor, these tasty little treats are super healthy and packed with minerals, healthy fats, protein and natural sugars. I like to add them to school lunch boxes for a surprise treat and they are great for parties. You can easily double or triple this mixture for bigger quantities.

 

Ingredients

  • 100g nuts & seeds (any combination of almonds, hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts, sunflower, pumpkin seeds)
  • 100g dried fruit chopped (mixture of dates, apricots, peaches)
  • coconut or carob for rolling

Method

  • Soften dried fruit in a very small amount of water and leave for 10 minutes or alternatively heat in saucepan very gently for a few minutes and allow to cool.
  • Grind nuts in a food processor or electric coffee grinder until they reach a smooth/mealy consistency. Then add dried fruit and process again until well combined.
  • Roll into small balls and then roll and cover with coconut or carob.
  • Refrigerate to allow to harden a little and store in the fridge.
  • They keep well for at least a week – though you will be lucky if they last that long!

NB: You can add some cocoa or carob for a chocolate variation. Or for a special occasion you can coat them in melted dark chocolate and they turn into healthy chocolate truffles.

 

 

A Soulful Christmas

Christmas is a special time of year, but for many people the meaning has been lost and it has just become over commercialised with a frenzy of present buying, eating and drinking and little else. Creating a soulful Christmas in your family can involve many things - from making special foods and crafts, to sharing stories and heartfelt gift-giving.

Over the years I moved away from the Christian and Catholic traditions of my roots to explore my own spirituality.  I read widely and studied a range of traditions from Buddhism to yoga and new age ideas. It took me many years to feel that I had a cohesive and personal understanding of spirituality and along the way realized that most traditions have the same message at their core anyway. Honouring the beauty of the natural world,  the cycles of nature and the seasons has always been meaningful to me and so has been incorporated into our spiritual tradition. So at Christmas we like to include lots of nature time, making presents and cards, baking special festive foods, singing carols, playing music and reading books.

 

I have reconciled the Christian message over the years as well, so we incorporate Advent into our Christmas preparation.  Advent starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is a great way to build anticipation and a bit of reverence into the lead-up to Christmas. While I am not a 'practicing Christian', I am happy to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who in essence was a special person who came to earth to bring humanity a message of love, hope and kindness.  These are qualities that we want to foster in our kids – so celebrating his birth (much as we do with celebrating Buddha’s birthday) is to honour the highest qualities in us all.

So we have a simple nativity scene that grows each week as Mary and Joseph make their way on the rocky road to Bethlehem.  The first week is the when the mineral kingdom of rocks and crystals is honoured and we add that to the table. The second week we bring in the plant kingdom and the children love finding special gifts from nature to add to the scene. Sometimes things magically appear which keeps them excited and interested. The third week of advent is when the animals arrive! Here the sheep appear in the fields and the ox appears in the stable. Finally in the last week the humans appear – with the shepherds and the kings.  The slow building of the scene each week is something I recommend, as it is a living process that build anticipation and interest.

The backdrop is a simple design which starts out with just the one guiding star, but each night we stick a small silver star into the sky – so by Christmas eve the sky is filled with lots of little stars. Also by Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph have finally made it to the stable after their long journey. Everything is in place, we just have to wait until the baby is born.

 

Albert Einstein once said "If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."

With this in mind, I thought I would share some of my favourite Christmas books and stories for the kids. Making Christmas a soulful time can involve many things, and reading is one of our family's treasured past times.  We have a special box of Christmas books that we store away and get out with the Christmas decorations. The kids have a great time going through them, and each year we normally add one or two new ones. We also like to tell the story of Saint Nicholas as well, to give the Santa Claus character more meaning.   We keep the gifts from Father Christmas very special and magical and fairly minimal rather than junky and abundant.

 

So here are some of my favourite books. Some of them are a little hard to get at the moment, but you can possibly find them secondhand.


NB: If you click on any of these links and purchase from Book Depository, a small commission will be earnt, all of which will be donated to the charity I support, Permaculture Research Institute - giving resources and skills to poor communities around the world to enable self sufficiency, health and happiness.

 

So I hope this gives you some inspiration for a more soulful Christmas in your family this year! Wishing you a very merry Christmas!  
Karen 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Cross Easter Muffins

Autumn, Easter & Hot Cross Muffins...

My kids love the change of the seasons and the festivals and all that comes with them. Whether it be the craft activities, the nature walks or the cooking that we do - they revel in the new season and the turning of the wheel of the year.  The first thing we always do at the change of season is decorate our nature table.  This year the kids did it on their own and came up with a lovely spread of autumn crafts and bounties of nature harvest - which you can see in the picture to the right.

With Autumn here in the southern hemisphere, we also have Easter. It is often hard to reconcile the spring theme of chicks, bunnies, eggs and new life that is typical of traditional Easter.  So we have to come up with our own meanings that include respecting the turning of the year and the move inward after the long summer.  The planting of bulbs that will lie dormant over the cooler winter months - ready to be born again in spring -  is one favourite activity that echoes the shift within that this season brings.

The kids wanted to make hot cross buns this week - given that Easter is upon us. As I have been doing grain free cooking for a while, it was off the list to make a bread-type yeasted roll. So I came up with the idea of making Hot Cross Muffins instead.  Lightly spicy and fruity and only mildly sweet, these little muffins are very reminiscent of traditional hot cross buns. Topping with cashew cream (or even dark chocolate) piped in a cross shape makes them also look the part.

Enjoy this easy healthy recipe and the shift in the seasons!

Karen

 

Gluten Free Hot Cross Muffins

Ingredients:

- makes 12 muffins

 

DRY MIX

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 3/4 cup arrowroot or tapioca
  • 3/4 cup of mixed fruit (currants, raisins, cranberries, goji berries)
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 1/3 cup of coconut sugar or rapadura sugar
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

WET MIX

  • 100g butter melted or coconut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey

 

Method
  • Stir all dry ingredients together until thoroughly mixed.
  • Beat eggs with butter, vanilla & honey or maple syrup.
  • Fold wet mix into dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  • Scoop into greased muffin tins and bake for 18 minutes in moderate oven.
  • Cool on rack before piping the topping on in a cross shape.
  • Alternatively, you can quickly pipe the cashew topping on half way through the cooking, if you prefer the cross to be set rather than it being moist (but be quick or else they might not rise as well if you leave the oven open too long!)
Cashew Cream recipe
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 3-4 tablespoons of water
Grind the cashews in a grinder/blender then whip together with maple syrup and water until a thick cream consistency. Use as a mock icing on cakes or muffins.  To pipe, put the filling in one corner of a clean plastic bag and snip the corner to make a small hole - then you have a homemade piping bag 🙂

 

ENJOY!

 

 

Healthy White Christmas

Healthy White Christmas

Here is my super easy recipe for making a healthy version of the popular treat white christmas.

Normally full of copha (hydrogenated vegetable/coconut fat) we can use pure coconut oil as a healthy alternative. Instead of rice bubbles, you can use alernative grains such as puffed millet, amaranth or quinoa. Although I am not a big fan of puffed grains (because they are highly denatured), this is one time I make an exception!

It works best to add a little white chocolate - so it is good to choose an organic variety. White chocolate is the least nutritious of the chocolates of course, but at this time of year we can have a little treat!  You could also experiment with using cocoa butter instead....let me know!

I find by using a small amount of white chocolate you don't need to add any additional sugar or sweetener.  The sweetness of the dried fruit is enough and any blood sugar spikes are tempered by the nourishing fat from  the coconut oil and protein from the nuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup puffed grain (eg.millet, amaranth)
  • 100g white chocolate (I like Green & Black's organic)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup of dried fruits of your choice  (think of super foods like blueberries, goji berries, black currants and cranberries along with the regular ones like dried apricots.
  • 1 cup of roughly chopped nuts of your choice (pistachio, walnuts, pecans & almonds)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

Method

Melt the chocolate and the coconut oil gently together over low heat or in a double boiler.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Add a little more coconut oil if needed to cover dry ingredients. Spread into a glass slice dish or into paper cups and refrigerate until set. Store in the refrigerator as they will melt at room temperature.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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To me Karen is an absolute angel! I highly recommend Karen to anyone who is going through the whole ‘roller coaster’ journey of IVF. It was so lovely to actually have someone that actually listened to me, it was in 2010 when we decided we would give IVF one last go before having a break. Karen put me on a super tonic which I call her ‘magic potion’ and after a few weeks in taking this my FSH levels dropped dramatically and this was my lucky month and my dream had finally came true. I always feel so positive every time I leave Karen’s rooms, I’m so glad that I found her I can never thank her enough for my positive out come!
Megan Wolarczuk
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