Common Diet Mistakes Part 2

This is the second part of my article about making some changes to our diets and lifestyles for the better. The first part was about simple swaps. This part is the all-important LIFESTYLE section that I think often gets left out of "easy diet tips for everybody" type articles.

If you haven't previously read part one of this post, click here.

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The reality is that every one of us is an individual.

There is not one magic diet that is right for absolutely everyone. We all have different genetics, different routines, and different goals. 

Granted, there are things that are universally BAD for everyone and that is mainly what is the idea behind the first part of this article.

For example, trans fats are bad. Plain and simple. Avoid them and swap them out for something better. That is an easy diet hack.

But, when it comes to optimizing each individual's health and level of nutrition, the same things are not going to apply to all people. One of the main reasons that this is so is GENETICS. Can't change that, we have the genetic makeup that we have. Another huge reason is LIFESTYLE.

Part of the lifestyle component simply is about the nature of your interests. For example, if you enjoy competing in triathlons, then clearly your nutritional requirements are going to be different from someone who is not a competitive athlete. Being a triathlete is great, but certainly not a requirement of good health.

Yet, athletes and non-athletes alike do require adequate sleep. What is an adequate amount of sleep? Well, that depends slightly on the individual. Not everyone requires the same amount of sleep. Still, I guarantee you that if you are waking up tired everyday, dragging throughout the day, and requiring massive amounts of caffeine, something is amiss. Whatever you're currently doing is not working. It could be a sleep time issue. It could be a sleep quality issue. It could be a hormonal imbalance such as hypothyroidism. There could be a food component contributing to fluctuations in blood sugar or causing unpleasant immune reactions. Either way, the situation needs attention.

And that is my point.

We need to pay attention to what is going on in our lives and not always look for the quick fix. Take the given situation above, that tired person may be able to have a quick fix: if she is is able to rule out sleep and diet, goes to the doctor and her thyroid tests come back showing hypothyroidism, then perhaps thyroid medication is the answer. A seemingly quick fix. But if the reality is that this person has a very stressful job that has her eating convenience meals on the run and working into the wee hours of the morning, only to have to wake up at the crack of dawn, then the fix is less simple.

This person needs to prioritize her health and focus on how to shift her lifestyle, or else she will burn out and probably end up with some serious chronic illnesses. 

There are a lot of people who fall under this category of needing to make lifestyle changes in order to improve their health. These are not as easy as simple swaps, but they can be very powerful.

Below, I'm going to mention a few lifestyle components that I think are key to health and wellness. I will hopefully be presenting this information in way that inspires and motivates change. I want you all to feel as though you are in control of your own lives and despite how you may currently feel, you are capable of prioritizing your health and making lifestyle adjustments.


The great Michael Pollan has tackled this one recently and I think he is right. We need to prepare our own food. Pollan argues that taking back control of the cooking process, meaning cooking our own food, is the most powerful thing we can do to improve our health and improve our food system. 

If you currently do not cook for yourself then that needs to be addressed. Why are you outsourcing the processing of your food?

Sometimes, the issue is simply that we do not feel as though we know how to cook. I guarantee you cooking is quite simple. It can get super fancy, no doubt, but unless you want to make intricate designs with your food or compete on Top Chef, then basic cooking is quite easy. 

Learn how to cook.

This can mean taking a class, asking a friend or family member who cooks to teach you, reading a book or articles on the internet, or watching a cooking show. I don't care how you like to learn, just that you gain the confidence you need to purchase whole foods and bring them back to your kitchen and transform them into a meal you will eat.

If it helps, know this: cooking is really just about paying attention.

As long as you are watching what you are doing, the classic "oven-on-fire" scenario is very unlikely. A delicious meal can require only basic steps such as chopping vegetables, boiling water or using a skillet. Demystify cooking and you will find yourself moving throughout your kitchen with confidence.

The second reason that people may not cook is that they simply don't like to cook. I'm sorry, but that is not a good enough reason to abandon cooking. Instead, find a way to make it more fun. Play music while you cook or have a TV show on in the background. (Just not a show that you are seriously trying to pay attention to. Something you can kind of listen to while you cook.) Maybe share cooking with your partner or with your children. Make it a family affair. Whatever makes it more enjoyable. And honestly, a lot of people who say they don't enjoy cooking really mean that they don't think they are a great cook or don't love the food they make. See the part above about learning to cook.

The third reason is timing. Not having time to cook. Which is an issue on its own so let's discuss this in its own section:


Prepare your meals

The second part of cooking for yourself is meal planning. If you feel as though you simply don't have time to cook, the issue is timing.

The solution is planning.

If your schedule is crazy, you may not have time to cook fresh meals each day. Instead, find a day in your schedule when you can make time to make large batches of food to have for the week. For example, make a big batch of oatmeal, my breakfast bake, or coconut muffins and then you have breakfast for the week. Roast a large pan of vegetables and then you can simply reheat some at a time. If you make a dinner, double or triple the amount you make so that you can have left overs for lunches. You can make a whole pan of chicken at a time and just reheat throughout the week. Make big pots of rice or quinoa and beans. Often it requires just as much time to make a meal as it does to make a double batch of that same meal. Make the double batch and save yourself the time tomorrow.

Set aside some time one day (or even less time on two days) a week and get yourself prepped for your busy days.

Snacks can be treated the same way. Chop up a large amount of easy to snack on veggies so that you can grab some each morning and take them with you. Create cute baggies of fruit and cheese that are ready to go. Make a homemade trail mix with raw nuts and seeds. 

These things don't actually take very much time, they just seem overwhelming when you are currently trying to be three places at once. Instead, make meal preparation part of your weekly agenda and then you will find yourself set for the week. When your diet improves, thanks to having healthy food ready to go, your overall health and wellbeing will improve. Your energy levels should be better and you might even feel more even-keeled, all which will help you tackle your busy life. 


How you purchase your food is important.

One of the best things you can do for the food system and for your pocketbook, is shop local. Go to farmers markets. They are awesome. If you have the time, you can make an entire outing of it. Take the kids, the dog, go with a friend. It is a good time. Sometimes at the end of the day, farmers will even offer up deals on the produce they haven't sold. Also, the food quality is so much better. You want good quality food. It is more bang for your buck. The food is fresher because it was grown locally instead of shipped a great distance. Talk to your farmer and find out about their practices. Usually farmers markets are full of organic (or organic practicing without the certification) farms. 

If time is an issue, then you have a few things that can help. For those with the financial means, there are companies now that will home deliver fresh produce to your door. For the majority of people for whom that is not an option, get to know your store. Food shopping can be a very quick thing if you know your store and what you need. I fly through my local health food store because I know that place like the back of my hand. I have a list of what I need and I'm in and out in a flash. Unless I have spare time, in which case I linger and explore because I like food. But that's just me.

And yes, health food stores are your friend. You don't have to buy all their expensive products, but they tend to have the best produce (outside of farmers markets). You need access to good food if you are going to buy good food. Unfortunately, there are food deserts in this country, and that is a whole other conversation. But for most people, good food can be found if you take the effort to look. Farmers markets are becoming prolific and even mainstream stores are improving their produce selections. Shop the perimeters where the whole foods live and learn what days the produce is put out fresh. Usually, the best day is Wednesday.

And this has to be said: prioritize food in your budget. This country is known for spending the smallest percentage of their income on food. That would be an accomplishment if that meant we were eating super high quality food for that price, but we're not. Cultures with much lower rates of obesity and chronic diseases, such as France, spend a higher percentage of their budget on food. They value their food. 

And FYI: one of the easiest ways to reduce your cost is to eat less meat. I'm not even talking about being a vegetarian, just substituting a few animal protein meals a week with beans/legumes is a huge money saver. Dried beans and legumes are CHEAP.


Sleep is a big deal. I know that society can sometimes glorify the ability to function on little sleep, but that is not something we should be striving for. Sleep is vital to our health. We will die if we go too long without sleep. Sleep is essential to our immune system, hormone regulation and muscle/tissue repair; do not discredit it. And for the record: caffeine does not literally provide us with energy. It binds to receptors in our brains, thus preventing adenosine from binding to those receptors. When bound to its receptor, adenosine tells the body to slow down nerve cell activity, causing drowsiness. Therefore, the way to think of caffeine is that it blocks you from feeling drowsy; it does not provide your body with more ATP (your cell's energy source). I'm telling you this so that you understand why consuming infinite amounts of caffeine is not a good thing. I'm not against moderate caffeine consumption, as there are some benefits with coffee and tea, but high intakes of caffeine can be very disruptive to your neurotransmitters and should not be seen as a legitimate substitute for sleep.

If you are not getting adequate sleep, there are multiple things to consider. The first, of course, is how much time are you devoting to sleep. If you are only allowing a few hours each night for sleep, this is not enough. I realize that sometimes life circumstances mandate this, but you really will not be able to keep this up long term. I couldn't even begin to address how to do this for everyone because the situations that can lead to lack of sleep time are as varied as there are people on the planet. So I will just say this: I urge you to not accept getting no where near your required sleep as the way it must be. I don't know if this means having to ask for help, dialing back on responsibility, or a massive schedule overhaul, but the first step is identifying this as a need that deserves to be addressed. I'm sure it can feel insurmountable to some, but I think there are a lot of people who have simply accepted their situation as a normal byproduct of a busy life. It shouldn't have to be.

Then there is the issue of quality of sleep. If you are putting in the time, but either having trouble falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning etc. then there may be some things that can help. This is the sleep hygiene part. Sleep hygiene is getting more attention these days so you may have heard a bunch of these before, but they do bear repeating:

  • Turn off electronics at least an hour before bed.
  • Dim the lights with the sunset. You do not need your home to be lit up like an amusement park all evening. Dim the lights on your electronics with the sunset as well if you can. 
  • Expose yourself to darkness. If you have a yard or a safe space to step outside at night in the dark, this can be very helpful.
  • Make a routine at night before bedtime so that your body gets accustomed to it.
  • Try to go to bed and wake up at similar hours throughout the week.
  • Try teas, tinctures or other herbs that help the body relax for sleep.
  • If your mind has trouble turning off, keep a journal at your bedside to write down any pressing ideas and remove them from your thoughts.
  • Try nightly meditation. Even while you are in bed. You can purchase guided meditation CDs or find them on youtube to play at bedtime.
  • Try healing modalities such as massage, acupuncture or Reiki.


I felt that I had to at least mention this topic since we are talking about lifestyle. The relationship that you have with your body (and thus with your food and eating habits) is so important to your overall wellbeing. It is a little bit tangential to the previous topics, but still very relevant in my view. It is extremely hard to have a healthy relationship with your food if you have a poor relationship with yourself. Many people care about improving their diet and lifestyle because they want to change themselves in some way. But there is a vast difference between wanting to be healthier in order to feel better, and hating your body. Self-love is vital to overall wellbeing and it is also a key component to any lifestyle change. If you are not kind to yourself, it will be very hard to value yourself enough to make lifestyle shifts. It also won't make you happy. If you do not love yourself, then any external changes won't be enough. If you struggle with body image, as so many of us do, I encourage you to work on that first. If you feel as though the problem requires professional attention, I encourage you to seek the care you need.

If this topic is of interest to you, I wrote an article that talks about body image and our relationship to food for Elephant Journal that you can find HERE


Photo credit:
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Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Common Diet Mistakes Part 1

There are umpteen articles written about everyday eating habits that people regularly make that are sabotaging their health (or weight-loss efforts, or any other precise wellness goal).

Sometimes these articles include incredibly helpful information about easy swaps (or the new "it" term: diet HACKS. We seem to really love the work "hack" these days) that we can make to better ourselves without a lot of effort.

Lack of effort seems to be key.

While this makes perfect sense, with our busy schedules and complex lives, it sure does place our food and eating habits way down on the priority totem pole.

I'm all for easy and manageable, but I'm also for recognizing that a big part of how we got here was by turning what and how we eat into an afterthought or annoyance.

Food is a necessity of life. It is one of the things that connects all human beings. We have to eat. Therefore, I think it behooves us to concern ourselves with the quality of our food: how it is grown, prepared and the impact that it has on our health.

With that in mind, I'm writing this article in multiple parts. First, I will provide some easy steps/swaps that do make a difference without requiring much lifestyle change. Then I will talk about some actual lifestyle modifications that will really shape your relationship to your food.

PART 1: 5 Easy Diet Modifications

Healthy snacks, food swaps


Perhaps one of the easiest changes to make is to swap out any crappy oils and fats that you are currently using and simply use healthy, high quality ones that are meant for what you are doing. This means ditching trans fats and using only high heat oils when you are cooking at high temperatures. If you need a lovely list of oils/fats and their temperature range click here. Essentially there are oils you cook with and oils you toss with. These are what I recommend:

  • For heat: coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee or butter
  • For low/no heat: olive oil, walnut oil, almond oil, sesame oil, truffle oil

Pitch all of your ambiguous "vegetable oils" as they are surely trans fats. Say NO to stupid butter replacements, they are often full of rancid oils and trans fats. You are much better off buying real butter. Grass-fed, ideally.

Fat is important to do right. Most fat bypasses the liver and goes directly into our lymph after we digest it, meaning that toxins in fat are potentially more dangerous than water-soluble toxins. Buy organic as much as possible. 

In addition to cooking properly with fat:


Quit buying low-fat versions of things. Buy the full-fat version. If something is meant to contain fat and a company is trying to reduce the fat content, it will replace it with sugar. It then becomes a double whammy because now you are consuming twice the sugar without the fat present to slow down the absorption rate. Hello blood sugar spike! Your poor body's insulin will be in overdrive.

Yes, the full-fat versions will contain more calories. Adjust your portion sizes accordingly. But you should feel more satiated and your blood sugar won't spike. Plus, I mean, come on- it will taste better too.

In case this needs repeating: the fat-fearful age of the 1980's and 90's needs to go away now! We know that was a big mistake. It skyrocketed obesity in this country. Go back to eating food in it's original form, not some bastardized low-fat version. Eat real food.


Seriously people. Cool it with the sugary sodas, juices and "coffee" that is really a milk shake. A soda is not a thirst quenching beverage- it is a dessert. Let's be clear: soda is terrible for us and offers absolutely no nutritional value other than containing calories. Diet soda is worse. While it may be low in calories, the effect of the chemical cocktail on our bodies is worse than regular soda. If you occasionally want to consume a regular soda as a treat, fine. But recognize that it is a dessert item, not a beverage akin to water.

Juices are pretty terrible too. Unless you are drinking freshly squeezed juice (ideally of a vegetable variety) then you are essentially just drinking sugar. Yes, freshly pressed green juices have a lot of nutritional value, but store-bought apple juice does not. The vitamins degrade over time and store juices are pasteurized. In other words: the vitamin content is low while the sugar content is high. Lose the store-bought juice; instead, drink water and eat a piece of fruit.

Oh, and moderate amounts of coffee and tea are great, but a frappuccino and chai latte from Starbucks are, once again, dessert items. If you drink coffee and tea daily, ditch the sugar, or at least reduce it. If you don't like coffee without a massive amount of sugar and flavorings, you don't like coffee. Choose an alternate beverage. And if you don't like coffee, but "need" the caffeine, then there are a few options: fix your schedule and get more sleep (sorry, I realize that falls under the lifestyle section), try tea (there are lots of flavored teas that are flavored with fruit and spices, not sugar) try a B-complex in the morning (but not 5 Hour Energy- that thing is full of crap. Buy an actual B-complex vitamin), don't have a sugary breakfast- that will prevent the spike and crash.


I'm really sorry to break it to you, but none of the snacks in the processed snack aisle are good for you. None of them. I don't care what claims a box or bag are making, but the chips, pretzels, popcorn, crackers etc. are NOT health food. The only possible exception are kale chips and other raw food snacks that are very expensive and only in health food stores. If you have the funds, then sure: buy containers of raw kale chips. But any classic processed-grain-based snack is not healthy for you. Act accordingly. 

Since we are not yet into the lifestyle section where I can talk about snack preparation at home, let's focus on what you can just buy that is a healthy snack:


  • Vegetables and hummus
  • Pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Edamame
  • WHOLE FOOD fruit and nut bars. (No crazy additives, just whole food ingredients.)
  • Kale chips or other raw food snacks (generally pricey)
  • Dark chocolate (in moderation and I'm talking 55+% cacao)


  • Fruit and nut butters (I guess this can be crunchy or creamy)
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese (REAL cheese only. No weird ingredients.)
  • Applesauce (No sugar added)

I doubt many of those were particularly new, but tough poo. If you are looking for snacks without the prep, then you already know the deal: fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are the main thing. Snacking can be a great opportunity to up your veggie and fruit intake, or to eat a bunch of crap. Either make the swap or consider limiting your snacking.


I'm guessing you've already heard about this, but plenty of people still buy the white stuff so here I go:


In general, Americans eat too many grains, so if you can back off of the grains and swap them out for vegetables, even better. But, in the very least, if you are buying breads and pastas etc. buy the whole grain version. Even better, buy non-wheat whole grains to add variety to your diet and up your overall nutrition. Try millet, quinoa, buckwheat (it's not a wheat), farrow, barley, oats, rye, spelt, brown rice, red rice, black rice, wild rice, amaranth, teff....I could go on. Swap out your same-old white rice or pasta for something else and reap the fiber and vitamin rewards.

continuing on with grains:


Breakfast cereals, even ones without marshmallows, are highly processed. But let's use the good, better, best model. Below is a spectrum of breakfast cereals on a list from least desirable to best.  These are just examples to give you an idea. Insert your current breakfast cereal choice as best you can. Then, no matter where you are starting from, swap your current choice for something at least one rung down.

  • Pure Sugar Cereal. (There are marshmallows, the theme is that it tastes like a chocolate candy, or everything is frosted.)
  • Highly processed cereal, but less added sugar (maybe it boasts being "whole grain" or having a lot of fiber but ultimately still super processed)
  • Quick Oatmeal (less processed than traditional cereals, but the quick version is still somewhat processed in order to cook so quickly.)
  • Slow cooking oats (Old fashioned or Steel Cut)
  • Chia seed "cereal" with choice of milk and other goodies (such as fruit, nuts/seeds, cinnamon etc.)

The last option is a great unprocessed breakfast that still has the classic "cereal" presentation. Of course, if you are also willing to think outside the bowl and work with eggs, smoothies, yogurt, my grain-free pancakes, fruit, vegetable scrambles, etc. EVEN BETTER.

I hope those swaps seem doable and helpful.

Although, to be fair, I think that lifestyle is very important. If you are always eating on the run, choosing a better option at the store is a good hack, but meal planning and prep are key too. Those are coming up in Part 2.

Raw Deserts are Awesome

Now that the holiday season is over, many of us may be looking to ditch desserts for a while to make up for the many treats that were consumed throughout December. Instead of completely ruling out anything sweet, if you are looking for a healthy swap, here is a way to "hack" your dessert plate: Raw Desserts.

Raw desserts are an awesome way to get your dessert fix without consuming processed sugars.  Most raw desserts use raw nuts to make amazing things.  Seriously, those two raw cheesecakes pictures below are made with cashews!  And they are awesome.  As in really, really deliciously awesome.  

What is a Raw Dessert?

Raw food hasn’t been cooked, processed, microwaved, irradiated, genetically engineered, or exposed to pesticides or herbicides. It includes fresh fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and herbs in their whole, natural state. Proponents say cooking destroys most of the vitamins in food and crucial enzymes.  In general, the temperature determined to be the cut off is around 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  Raw desserts are desserts made using raw foods. 

I am not a proponent of eating entirely raw foods, but dessert seems to me to be one of the areas where the raw versions flat out trump the processed versions.  I don't seem to get any of the negative consequences traditionally associated with eating desserts if they are raw.  My blood sugar doesn't spike (probably because there are always good fats, fiber and protein included in raw desserts via ingredients such as nuts, seeds, coconut oil, whole fruits and veggies.) I don't get a food coma after eating them and they digest well.

Raw desserts often use dates as the sugar, sometimes maple syrup/agave/raw honey, but never any processed sugars.  Personally, I'm not a big fan of agave, so maple syrup and raw honey are my go-to sweetners when a liquid sweetner is required.  I also like using Brown Rice Syrup since it is fructose-free.  And, because raw desserts are chock full of goodies like raw cacao, raw nuts, and other whole-antioxidant-rich foods, raw desserts are full of lots of vitamins and minerals, unlike most processed desserts which are completely devoid of nutritional value.  Not to mention that processed desserts are often incredibly detrimental to our bodies.  Therefore, for anyone who fears that they can't possibly satisfy their sweet tooth without consuming crap, I say "Fear not! Make yourself a raw dessert!"  

They are pretty simple to make usually, unless you want to get all kinds of fancy.  Which you can.  You can make raw desserts that would bring the house down if you'd like.  Or you can keep it simple and still blow the minds of any naysayer out there.  

There are tons and tons of raw dessert recipes out there, including a couple on my recipe page.  Other great sites are Sweetly RawRawmazing and This Rawesome Vegan Life to get you started.

Pictured above are this cheesecake recipe from The Wellness Warrior via Eat Awesome and this chocolate cheesecake recipe from Detoxinista.  (Surprise: The chocolate cake has an entire cup of zucchini in it! And it's soooo good!)

Happy Raw Dessert Eating!


Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Blood Sugar Regulation is Extremely Important

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • You get sugar cravings throughout the day or after meals.
  • You get extremely irritable, shaky and/or spacey if you haven't eaten recently.
  • Your diet is full of processed foods and simple carbs.
  • Your blood test from your doctor came back revealing above normal blood glucose and/or Hemoglobin A1C levels.

If you said yes to any of the above, you may have blood sugar dysregulation.

The bad news is that blood sugar dysregulation can lead to a whole host of issues such as weight gain, depression, hormonal imbalances and diabetes.  It may even be a contributing factor to PCOS, infertility and breast cancer in women.

The good news is that blood sugar issues can absolutely be addressed by diet and lifestyle habits.



Blood sugar imbalance is one of the few areas where even conventional medicine looks to diet and lifestyle interventions first.

What are the 3 main steps to getting blood sugar under control?

  1. Increase your intake of healthy fats, protein and fiber

  2. Remove processed carbohydrates from your diet

  3. Add regular exercise into your daily lifestyle (including strength training)

Those are the basic concepts.  Now, let me expand on those ideas a bit and help you understand how to do those three things.

I tend to find that my clients have an easier time adjusting their current food intake by focusing on ADDING first, and REMOVING second.  Usually, this approach is the most effective and successful.  Therefore, in terms of blood sugar management, this means that you want to start my making sure that you are consuming enough healthy fats, protein and fiber. How to do this?



Healthy Fats:

Avocado, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Coconut oil, Butter (grassfed), Ghee, Oily Fish, Fish Oil, Flax Oil, Nuts and Seeds.

Fat is key.  Thanks to the 1980's people are fat-fearful, but that really needs to go away now.  That was a fad that allowed companies to pump their foods full of salt and sugar, but market them as a health food because they were "low-fat."  Terrible.  Fat slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, limiting the glucose spike that causes blood sugar highs and lows, which can lead to diabetes.  Not to mention all of the very important fat soluble vitamins that come with healthy fats.

BTW-Yes, butter is a healthy fat.  The key is to make sure that you are getting a good quality butter- meaning grassfed.  It really does change the nutrient profile.  KerryGold is a widely available grassfed butter, or any smaller local companies that sell grassfed butter at your local healthfood store or farmer's market is great.  Coconut oil (another saturated fat and therefore sometimes demonized) is awesome.  It is a medium chain fatty acid, which means it is easily absorbed into the body.  It is also a high heat oil so you can cook with it.  Please only cook with fats that can take high heat.  Low-heat oils will oxidize and become very inflammatory.  Not good.  

Cook with: Avocado Oil, Ghee, Butter, Coconut Oil. (Save the olive oil for low heat situations.)

ALSO, when it comes to fats, organic should be the priority.  I realize that price can be an issue and therefore you will need to make the decision that is right for you and your family, but in terms of health and the chemistry of fats, organic is extremely important. Fats can store tons of fat-soluble toxins and fats are mostly absorbed directly into the lymph, which means that they enter our bodies before getting screened by the liver. The liver is our ultimate protector that tries its best to eliminate harmful substances before they enter our blood stream.  Fats often skip this first step and therefore it stands to reason that fat-soluble toxins may be even more damaging than water-soluble toxins.  (Not that those are good either, we don't want to overload our livers and cause liver disease.)


It does't have to be animal protein.  While quality animal meats (humanely raised, not pumped full of chemicals) can be a healthy source of protein, try also looking toward plant sources such as beans and legumes.  They also have the added benefit of being good sources of Fiber.  


This is where the classic fruits, vegetables and whole grains enter the picture.  (+Beans and legumes.)  Not only do these foods contain fiber, but they also contain wonderful vitamins and minerals that help our bodies function.  Think the color of the rainbow. While whole grains are good in moderation, try to focus on vegetables more than grains.  

Remove the Junk

Once you've got a hold of including the goodies, you should feel more prepared to remove the troublemakers.  Typically, the sheer act of including more of the good stuff will crowd out some of the bad stuff, but incase there is still a bunch of processed, refined carbohydrates on your plate: time to chuck them.  They are nutrient deplete (seriously, absolutely no benefit other than containing calories) and they spike your blood sugar very high.  This spike in blood sugar (aka. blood glucose) will result in your body bringing tons of insulin onto the scene to move that bucket of sugar into your cells. Unfortunately, this process will work too well and your blood sugar level will drop too low, resulting in reactive hypoglycemia and sugar cravings.  That is why you crave sugar soon after meals.  This can be the beginning of a roller coaster ride for your body's blood sugar management team: You continue to eat processed junk spiking your blood sugar, insulin comes in and works too hard to move the sugar into cells, which causes your blood sugar to drop low enough to cause sugar cravings.  If you indulge this craving the whole things repeats itself until your body is literally worn out. The insulin receptors stop working as well, moving you into non-insulin dependent Type II diabetes.  If you continue, your body will be too tired to make insulin at all and you will have insulin-dependent Type II diabetes and require insulin injections.  Once your body loses its ability to produce its own insulin, it can never be reversed.  You will require insulin injections for the rest of your life. Not Fun.  Let's stop you from getting there.  (If you are already there, we can still vastly improve your quality of life and prevent you from other unfortunate complications of diabetes.  Never give up on your health!)




Not only is exercise good for weight management and cardiovascular health (just to name a couple), but the physical act of contracting your muscles will move glucose (sugar) from your blood stream into your cells WITHOUT the use of insulin.  How cool is that?!  If you are heading on the path towards diabetes, or have already been diagnosed with diabetes, how important do you think it is to give the insulin in your body a break?  VERY that's how important.  Since it is the contraction of muscles that is key, strength training really is the golden boy in this scenario.  Instead of just hopping on the elliptical, throw in some strength training and you will reap the rewards!


I realize that was a crap ton of info, and I still feel like I only scratched the surface.  If you have any questions, thoughts, confusions, etc. please leave them in the comments section below and I will answer them/discuss them with you. 


Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Foods for Winter Wellness

Colds and influenzas are common in the winter months. They are not, however, inevitable, and if you do find yourself under the weather, it doesn't have to be a long suffering experience.  If you support your immune system you will find that you can get through annoying illnesses much faster and maybe even avoid them all together.  

Winter foods.jpg

Some great foods for aiding in relief and prevention of colds:

  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Raw honey 

1. Raw garlic is a tough one for people, but if you can manage to eat some raw garlic when you start to feel the onset of something, or simply have spent your day in a office with sick people, it can work wonders.  I chew it and eat it like a badass, which sucks, but I think works better (maybe I'm kidding myself, but I've heard it releases more of the medicinal properties) but you can also chop it into small pieces and swallow it. 

2. A tea made of hot water with turmeric and ginger powders with some raw honey is great for chest congestion.

3. Eat nutrient dense foods.  Cooking and eating for immunity means consuming a large variety of micronutrients to support your body's functions.  It also means making it easier on your digestive system by properly preparing your grains and legumes.  It's amazing how many people don't think that they can eat grains and/or beans and it is because they don't know how to properly prepare them.  For tips on preparing beans, visit one of my earlier posts entitled Don't Fear the Bean.

Grains also need to be presoaked.  I know that this is a less talked about topic, but many grains contain phytates that can inhibit digestion and absorption.  Soaking grains in water with something acidic (ex. 2 T of vinegar or lemon juice) will do the trick.  A few hours to overnight is ideal, but even a last minute 30-60 minutes is better than nothing.  Strain the grains and use fresh liquid when cooking.  As an added bonus: your cooking time will decrease if you've presoaked.

(There is also the kefir/buttermilk/yogurt option which I personally like, but I imagine freaks some people out.  If you want to soak your oatmeal in kefir, buttermilk or yogurt, be sure to cover it!)

Another great option is sprouting your grains or beans.  Mung beans are especially great for sprouting and grains such as quinoa and buckwheat are great for beginners.  Sprouted grains/legumes are much more easily digestible and super easy.  Initially soak your grains/legumes in cool water for a few hours - overnight.  Then drain them in a mesh strainer.  Keep them in the strainer, and 4 times a day or so, take the strainer to the sink, rinse them in cool water and set them aside.  Little tails will start to form within a day or two.  Voilà! Sprouted. You can let them keep going and create full-on sprouts, or leave it and cook with them immediately.

4.  Another thing to keep in mind is eating seasonally and intuitively.  Most people want warming stews over raw salads in the winter.  This natural inclination does not need to be fought.  I'm not saying to abandon fruits and vegetables, not at all, but prepare them in a way that feels good to you.  Winter squashes, roots and tubers are very appropriate for this time of year and actually have nutrient profiles that support our bodies in the colder months. 


Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.

Nutrient Dense

A common theme among eating these days seems to be volume.  Eating large portions of low calorie food.  Sometimes large portions of high calorie food.  Yet, in either case, those foods are almost always nutrient deplete.  It's a modern phenomenon: the overweight and malnourished.  It's becoming incredibly common these days, though.  Perhaps, it is part of the cause of the obesity epidemic.  People are malnourished even though they are consuming a large quantity of calories.  ALL CALORIES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.  You need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals for your body to properly function.  If you are eating nutrient depleted foods, you are not consuming all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs even if you are consuming enough total calories.  

And let me tell you, folks, a simple multivitamin ain't gonna do the trick.  The vast complexities of food have yet to be discovered, so you are far better off eating a varied whole foods diet, than trying to get all your bodily needs in a pill.  Supplementation can be used to fill in specific gaps, but not as a substitute for good food.

The key to optimum health involves eating nutrient dense foods. What are nutrient dense foods?

  • Whole foods grown/caught/raised as nature intended.

What are NOT nutrient dense foods?

  • Highly processed foods
  • Foods pumped full of chemicals and/or hormones
  • Animal products raised in unnatural, contaminated environments
  • Fruits and vegetables doused in pesticides, herbicides and fungicides

For example, these ARE nutrient dense foods:


These are NOT nutrient dense foods:


In fact, those aren't food at all.

The key is to eat REAL FOOD.  Then, focus on eating a variety of real foods with a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates.  There is no one correct percentage breakdown for all people when it comes to protein, fat and carbohydrates.  Different people thrive on different diets.  To find out what works best for you, work with a health care practitioner that can devise an eating plan that's right for YOU.  If you would like to work with me, check out my Work With Me page.  I can tell you, however, that with very few exceptions, you need some amount of all three.  Any diet that has you attempting to eliminate either fat, protein or carbohydrates is not a healthy diet. 


Katie Dawn Habib

Katie Dawn Habib is a Holistic Nutrition Coach with a M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health. By combining her nutrition knowledge with a love of writing, Katie created her own website, The Hungry Gypsy, where she talks about food, nutrition, wellness and travel. On her site you can also find information about her nutrition coaching practice and join in on the conversations. Katie would like to contribute in some small way to global healing and help her clients and readers feel inspired.