Plant Based Archives - Dawn Laflin

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What’s Not to Love?

Processed foods. Years ago, I wasn’t worried about them. Like most people, I knew eating out at fast food places too often was unhealthy. But thinking about what the term processed foods meant was not on my radar. I went to the store and bought my staples each week and went about my day. Back then I didn’t know that my beloved animal crackers were a processed food. I also didn’t know they were a source of inflammation for my body.
 
I had a true love affair with animal crackers. I can’t even begin to think of how many bags I consumed over the years. Before kids, after having kids – didn’t matter, they were a staple in my pantry.
 
20 years ago, I was in the ‘eat low fat’ camp to stay healthy. This snack said ‘Low Fat’ on the front. It was like a match made in heaven.
 
Animal crackers seemed like the perfect on-the-go snack. They didn’t need refrigeration and seemed to fill me up between meals. I was completely unaware that those processed food ingredients were negatively impacting me.

When There’s More to This Than Meets the Eye

You know that feeling when something’s too good to be true. It wasn’t long before I began to notice my stomach would bloat each time I ate animal crackers. I’m not talking a little bloat, but a reposition the belt bloat.
 
Eventually, a light bulb went off and I accepted that it was time to move on from this love affair.
 
Little did I know that this was the beginning of me connecting the dots. Processed foods were triggering a gut reaction.
 
So what gives?

Understanding Ultra-Processed Foods

The more I learned about processed foods, the more I began to understand my how they affect my body.
 
Historically, processed foods included any food altered from it’s original state. Nowadays, the term ultra-processed has entered the scene. It was created to further define the next-level of processing.
 
Basic processing can include techniques such as heating, canning, drying or pasteurizing. What’s important to note here is that a large number of our foods are ‘processed’ in some fashion. This confirms the statement that “not all processed foods are unhealthy”.
 
That said, some foods that go far beyond the basic processing to earn the badge of ultra-processed. This term was established by a team of Brazilian nutritionists conducting a study in 2016 that linked foods with cancer. In their study, they defined ultra-processed foods as:  “industrial formulations with five or more ingredients.”
 
Ultra-processing is next-level. This stage involves adding flavors, additives, chemical preservatives, sugars, oils, fats, and salt. In short, these are the foods you’ll find packaged and placed in the middle aisles of the grocery store.

Marketers are Good at What They Do

I bought animal crackers because they were low in fat, had zero trans fats, and zero cholesterol. It seemed like the perfect snack, wouldn’t you agree?
 
Well, my friend, I’m here to share with you what I wish I had known way back then.
 
Marketers use terms like low fat, zero trans fat, zero cholesterol to sell products. And boy did they work on me! Here’s the hard truth: manufacturers are in the business of making money. They are not concerned whether the food is healthy or not.

Manufacturers hire amazing marketing teams who do their job well. They create beautiful designs, use buzz words to attract, and meet labeling requirements.

Marketing
Processed foods – Marketing phrases are used to catch your eye.
nutrition label
Processed foods – a label only gives you a portion of the story.

So most people, like me, look at the label for animal crackers and think “OK! This is a healthy choice!” and drop it in their cart.
 
But to know the FULL STORY of what you’re eating, you have to read the label AND the ingredients list.

When it Comes to Your Inflammatory Response, Ingredients Matter

Let’s take a look at the ingredients found in these beloved animal crackers. FIVE out of the NINE shown are inflammatory. That’s over 50%! And on top of that, they lack fiber. Bottom line, animal crackers are void of nutrients and will add MORE FUEL to your inflamed body.

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Processed foods – reading the ingredients list tells the full story.
Understanding their impact is critical for those battling chronic inflammation. Let’s break them down.
 
  • Enriched flour – ultra-processed wheat flour. Though enhanced with synthetic vitamins and minerals, this refined flour is inflammatory.
  • Soybean Oil – this refined vegetable oil is high in omega 6 fatty acids. While our body requires these fatty acids, our western diet provides more than we need. Vegetable oils are widely used in processed foods. Though it might seem harmless in this one food, there’s a cumulative effect that takes place. Vegetable oils are often used in processed foods, restaurant cooking, etc… It quickly adds up to HIGH levels of this INFLAMMATORY oil being in our diet, wreaking havoc on our guts.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup – an artificial sugar made from corn syrup. Studies show this artificial sugar increases inflammatory markers. High intake over time can lead to a wide range of diseases and illnesses.
  • Salt – while a little in life is ok, be mindful of how much and how often you take it in. Most canned and processed food contains it.
  • Natural Flavor – a flavor additive created or altered from a natural plant. This lab-produced ingredient enhances flavor and drive sales. Many manufactures can use this as an anything goes option to drive the bottom line of their business. Meaning, it operates as a smokescreen to hide other addictive, harmful ingredients.
It’s safe to say this so-called ‘healthy snack’ of mine has long since hit the curb.

What I Eat Instead for Snacks

You can find ultra-processed foods at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time. When you decide to make changes, it can feel very overwhelming. Do not let the overwhelm cause you to become stuck. Start small and commit to making ONE change to one snack. Doing so increases the likelihood of success. You will build momentum changing other meals throughout the days and weeks to come. Here are some swap ideas for healthy, fiber-filled, anti-inflammatory snacks:
 
  • mixed raw nuts
  • an apple with almond butter
  • dairy-free yogurt with homemade granola
  • sliced veggies with hummus
  • 1/2 avocado with cucumber slices
 
As you begin to swap ultra-processed foods for fiber-filled foods, your gut comes back to life. Why? Fiber-filled foods feed your good bacteria. In turn they send out inflammation-reducing compounds and everyone gets happy!
 
Bottom line:  Decide if you want to add fuel to your flames or start taming them so you can get your life back. Check labels and read the ingredient lists on the backs of all ultra processed foods. When we know better, we do better.

Key Takeaways

  • Sometimes, things are too good to be true, especially when it comes to food.
  • Listen to your gut and body – it’s giving you signs as it’s trying to get your attention.
  • Ultra processed foods are where manufacturers add flavors, additives, chemical preservatives, sugars, oils, fats and salt.
  • Marketers are in the business of selling products, not providing healthy foods
  • Become your own advocate and health investigator, read labels and ingredient lists.
  • Pick one meal or snack to start with as you make changes to your processed foods
  • Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
  • Follow me on Instagram @dawnlaflinhealth
  • Make an appointment for a free discovery call with me (your anti-inflammatory lifestyle coach) to chat about your safer beauty swaps. Click HERE to schedule
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I’m super excited to share this new series and collaboration with my friend and fellow health coach, Gabriela. We’re thrilled to have kicked off our first series all about BREAKFAST! For the next 4 weeks, we’ll be coming to you on Instagram LIVE on Saturdays at 12 PM (CT) to share tips, resources and recipes to help you get back into the kitchen! You can find us on Instagram @dawnlaflinhealth and @gabriela_wellnessbloom. Give us a follow so you don’t miss an episode! We’ll be sharing ingredients to our next series a few days beforehand so you can cook along with us. To truly lead a healthy, anti-inflammatory lifestyle, carving out time in the kitchen is a must. BUT that doesn’t mean it has to be boring or a chore!

Cooking can be so much fun! Take time to experiment. Don’t be put off or confined to the exact ingredients listed in a recipe. Missing some of the required ingredients? Are there alternatives that would work just as well? Would it greatly be missed if you omit the ingredient altogether? If it’s someone else’s recipe, check the comments. Many times people will share where they substituted an item. If it’s a recipe from my site directly, feel free to contact me. Sometimes the only way to know for sure is to experiment. Think outside the box; get creative.

The more you cook and give different recipes a try, the more confident you’ll become in the kitchen. Not only that, but you’ll start to truly discover what foods, flavors, textures and tastes you really enjoy.

Protein Packed, Sugar-Free Granola

You guys! Gabriela introduced this granola to us on the episode today and let me tell you…the aroma filled my kitchen even before I put it into the oven. It smells heavenly! But aside from that, it’s LOADED with protein, healthy fats, spices (that are packed with antioxidants…hello anti-inflammatory fightin’ goodness!!) and flavor.

PREP TIME:  15 Minutes

COOKING TIME:  25 Minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cup raw pecans, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup slivered almonds or raw almonds, chopped
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
  • 3/4 cup raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or a mix of both)
  • 1/4 chia seeds
  • 2 Tbsp flax seed meal
  • 3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • Optional – 1/4 – 1/2 cup dried fruits (dates, raising, blueberries, apricots)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the vanilla and coconut oil. Once combined, add the vanilla and coconut oil; stir well to combine.
  3. Spread mixture evenly onto a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Stir, then bake another 8-12 minutes until nice and golden, adding in any dried fruit right at the end of baking time.
  5. Store in an airtight container for up to a couple of weeks.

SERVINGS:

24 servings (1/4 cup/serving)

For extra sweetness: add a couple tablespoons of coconut sugar, maple syrup, date syrup, or agave in with the coconut oil.

AUTHOR:  Adapted from Minimalist Baker. Original recipe from Veganchickpea.com

Milk Alternatives

Now let’s talk non-dairy milk. With so many people not able to tolerate dairy or choosing to move away from it for other reasons, knowing how to make a super simple batch of nut milks is a must. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll also be saving your body from the preservatives, chemicals and added sugar that many of the nut milks include. Today I share a super simple way to make almond and cashew milk.

What I love about making my own at home is there’s no more almond milk going to waste in the refrigerator (because we couldn’t use it fast enough). AND I’m able to customize it to my liking as far as flavors and sugar content.

Almond Milk

Friends, making almond milk can be as simple as adding pure almond butter to water. Add your choice of flavor enhancers and natural sweetener and call. it. done! Yep, it’s that easy! Don’t have almond butter on hand, no worries, I got you! I’m also including how to make it with fresh almonds. This recipes makes 12 oz. of almond milk, adapt as necessary for your family.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (or 14 raw almonds)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Optional add-ins:
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 Dates, pitted (or other natural sugar such as raw honey or pure maple syrup)

DIRECTIONS:

Add all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend. Use immediately or pour into glass storage jars. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Enjoy with overnight oats, chia pudding or any of your favorite non-dairy ways!

Cinnamon Date Cashew Milk

The name alone makes me want a glass! This milk is another home-run as far as ease in making. It does take a little prep ahead of time, but comes together in minutes. Get creative and make this your own. Add flavors and natural sugar as you see fit for your family.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup of cashews (pre-soaked and rinsed)
  • 2 cups of water, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 Dates, pitted (or other favorite natural sugar such as raw honey or pure maple syrup)

DIRECTIONS:

Soak cashews for 4 hours. Rinse and drain. Add cashews and 1 cup of water to a high-speed blender and blend until cashews are fully broken down. Add remaining water, vanilla and dates (or natural sugar of your choice). Blend again and enjoy! Store any remaining milk in glass storage jars. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

When it comes to ingredients and the pursuit of an anti-inflammatory diet, eating whole, real food will serve your body every time. By making these items from scratch, you’re avoiding the added chemicals, preservatives and excess sugar that comes with most store bought granolas and nut milks. Give it a whirl! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to whip up a batch of nut milk to use for the next couple of days. And that granola we made today…it’ll easily last you a couple of weeks! We’ll work the 15 minutes it takes to throw it together!

Be sure to catch us LIVE next week as we continue to share ways to think outside the box when it comes to breakfast! We’ll see you LIVE on Instagram @dawnlaflinhealth at 12 PM (CT)

Key Takeaways

  • Living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle means getting back to the kitchen. Take control of the ingredients in your food so that you can feel your best
  • Skip the preservatives, chemicals and added-sugar of most store-bought granola and nut-milks
  • Enjoy a batch of high protein, sugar-free granola that helps add healthy fats, protein, texture and flavor to your dishes and snacks.
  • Making almond and cashew milk can’t be any easier than this
  • Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
  • Follow me on Instagram @dawnlaflinhealth
  • Make an appointment for a free discovery call with me (your anti-inflammatory lifestyle coach) to chat about your safer beauty swaps. Click HERE to schedule

About Gabriela and Dawn:

We’re PASSIONATE about helping people feel more confident in the kitchen! We know first-hand how challenging it can be to start this journey with food. Through our series, we’re hoping to empower others to try new foods, learn what ingredients to avoid (and why) all-the-while becoming more confident cooks when it comes to leading an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

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The key to a boosting your immune system is living a lifestyle of good-for-you behaviors. When you take care of yourself, your immune system will take care of you.

As a first line of defense for your body to fight off infection and illnesses, your immune system requires some TLC. It’s a complex system of cells, tissues and organs including your digestive system, skin, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and the thin membrane tissues inside the nose, throat and genitals. Basically it plays a prominent role in your entire body. 

Taking action today, will help ensure your tomorrows are healthy and happy. Wondering where to start? Here are 6 ways you can boost your immune system.

Eat More Whole Plant-Based Foods

When it comes to supporting your immune system, plant based foods will always serve you well. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber…all the things that keep your body healthy, happy and operating at an optimal level.

The antioxidants found in plant-based foods will go to work gathering up the excess free radicals floating throughout your body. Free radicals are a very normal part of our body’s make-up. And although we naturally have antioxidants in our body to balance out free radicals, their availability decreases as we age. If left unchecked, these free radicals can wreck havoc on our systems, building up to the point of chronic inflammation which leads to numerous health conditions ranging from autoimmune diseases, heart disease, alzheimer’s to certain cancers. That makes it even more imperative that we increase the amount of antioxidants we take in through our food.

In addition, plant-based foods will add a great deal of fiber to your diet. This makes the members of your gut flora (your microbiome) do the happy dance. Fiber feeds the healthy bacteria found in your gut, meaning they thrive, keeping the unhealthy bacteria to a low roar. When your gut is out of balance, your unhealthy gut bacteria are thriving…leaving you with the feeling of bloating, gassiness, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Not so fun!

Focusing on eating more plant based foods supports your gut which supports your immune system, lowering inflammation and improving your overall health.

Cut Back on Sugar and Processed Foods

Sugar.  Ahhh…we all love the short-lived sweet sensation of a treat, but the long term effects of having too much sugar in our diet significantly increases not only your weight, but also the chance to develop Type 2 diabetes or heart disease. All three of these conditions weaken the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to colds, flu and infections.

Did you know there are over 56 different names for the types of “sugar” you’ll find in processed foods? Looking at the ingredient list for just SUGAR may leave you with a false sense of security. Stick to whole, real, natural sugars, (i.e. maple syrup, honey, date paste, etc.) if you find you find yourself in need of a sugar source. Have an urge for something sweet? Reach for some fresh fruit and add a couple of nuts in as well. And above all, try to limit your intake to 5% of your daily calories (i.e. 2 tablespoons or 25 grams in a 2,000 calorie diet), 

Hydrate

Water has a starring role in many of your body’s functions, especially the immune system. Keeping your cells hydrated with water allows them to operate at an optimal level.

Water helps carry oxygen to your body’s cells, remove toxins from the body, aids in digestion and helps the body produce lymph fluid which is a critical component in the lymphatic system working properly. It also helps keep your eyes, mouth and skin properly hydrated, which is critical because these are points of entry for fighting off invaders.

Be sure you’re drinking adequate water each day.

Make Movement Part of Your Everyday

Being on stay-at-home orders does not mean we shouldn’t be moving our bodies on a daily basis. Engaging in regular exercise is an important part of supporting a healthy immune system. As little as 20 minutes of daily moderate exercise has been shown to boost the effectiveness of your immune system.

Not only will it improve immune function, it will also decrease inflammation, reduce stress, brighten your mood, keep your muscles strong and your joints fluid. It’s safe to say, regular exercise can have a profound affect on your health!

When you exercise, your sympathetic nervous system gets activated. This triggers a rise in your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, all of which boosts your body’s circulation. This enhanced circulation enables immune cells to travel more easily through your body, doing what they do best, enhancing the immune function.

Catch Plenty of Zzzz’s

Sleep is all too often over-rated. Once upon-a-time, I was guilty of believing that myself. However, I’ve come to learn nothing can be farther than the truth. When you sleep, your body kicks into over-drive. That is, it goes into maintenance and repair mode.

Research shows that sleep improves and strengthens immune cells, in particular, the T cells. These T cells are critical for fighting against intracellular pathogens. When your body lacks sleep, the effectiveness of your immune cells decreases and other hormones (such as stress hormones) remain high, potentially further inhibiting the function of T cells.

At a minimum, adults need at least 7 hours of sleep for optimal health. That is a baseline number. Some people find they need much more, especially if they are battling chronic inflammation. It’s important to learn what your body needs and take steps to get there if it struggles to stay asleep through the night.

Reduce Stress

Did you know that 60%-80% of doctor’s office visits are due to chronic, unmanaged stress? Symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, heartburn, stomaches, anxiety, depression, etc. are just some of what sends people to the doctor’s office.

While stress is a natural part of our everyday lives (and our body was created to handle it in a fight or flight situation), stress that is ongoing can wreck havoc on our health. When your body is stressed long-term, it depresses the immune system’s ability to function properly, leaving you more vulnerable to colds, flu and infection.

High levels of stress can also lead to chronic inflammation. Inflammation left unchecked not only causes you to age faster, it also increases your risks of autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, to name a few.

Some ways to combat stress include:  meditation, exercise, yoga, talking with a trusted confidant, deep breathing and journaling. Keep in mind what works for one, might not work for another. It’s important to find what works best for your stress levels and do that.

Supporting your immune system looks like living a lifestyle full of good-for-you behaviors. Make each of the above a priority and you’ll start to notice how good you can feel in life. Additionally, you can feel good knowing you’ve increased your odds for fighting off or at least decreasing the severity of any colds, flus and infections that might come your way.

Key Takeaways

  • Focus on plant-based foods for optimal intake of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber
  • Reduce your sugar intake
  • Stay properly hydrated
  • Move on a regular basis for at least 20 minutes per session
  • Get adequate sleep each night
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
  • Follow me on Instagram @dawnlaflinhealth
  • Make an appointment for a free discovery call with me (your anti-inflammatory lifestyle coach) to chat about your safer beauty swaps. Click HERE to schedule