I recently gave a health talk for the Emunah Annual Cookbook luncheon on simple hacks to change certain habits in order to obtain more energy, lose weight and feel better overall. It all sounds easy when we hear health advice, but the part about execution is what trips people up. I would advise choosing one area that appeals to you first, and try and work on changing your habits gradually until they become second nature. Once you integrate one of the changes into your life, move on to the next. Experiment on your own to see how well you respond. There is no one-size-fits-all method in the world of nutrition, but I will discuss newer advice now being discussed in the health arena.
Definitely a controversial topic, as expert advice ranges from “Yes—drink multiple cups a day for the antioxidant and exercise benefits” to “Don’t drink it at all as the caffeine is bad for the adrenals and cortisol levels.” I believe if you enjoy coffee, drink it in moderation. Just determine if you are using it as a drug to stay awake, and if so, look into your lifestyle and sleep schedule to see if you are giving your body enough rest. If you normally have one to two cups a day, then I would just look at what type and what you add to your coffee.
If you drink decaf, I would recommend using organic coffee or water-process decaf, since the chemicals used in the decaffeination process aren’t good for you. Mount Hagen is a great option. Also, I would recommend drinking only decaf after 2 p.m. since caffeine stays in your system for hours and it may interfere with sleep and can also affect weight loss. If you need to cut back from many cups a day, try replacing your latest cup one at a time with decaf or even tea until you reduce the need for that hit of caffeine in the later part of the day.
The main question here is what do you add to your coffee? Ironically, a skinny vanilla latte may not make you skinny! I recommend using coffee as a method for getting some healthy fats into your diet—either through whole organic milk or creamer, which keeps you fuller and counters the quick digestion of the natural milk sugars inherent in milk. I know many people are gasping now, but believe that fat is your friend—as long as it is in moderation. I even add MCT oil or ghee (clarified butter) to coffee, and I have had people report they are less hungry and snack less at night when they add this in the morning. This is the idea of bulletproof coffee, which has gained a lot of traction lately. If you don’t eat dairy, try unsweetened almond milk or oat milk now seen on the market.
Last, I would avoid artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Equal, as they can actually hinder weight loss and mess with your microbiome, which is the internal balance of bacteria in your gut. If you can just tolerate the milk that’s great, but if you need sweetness I would recommend Stevia or monk fruit extract. You can also add cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, cocoa or cacao powder for flavor without calories for a delicious twist.
Another controversial topic, as dairy is known as inflammatory and can affect some people in a detrimental way. If you are not intolerant, and you have no major inflammation issues, I recommend organic and only whole milk for the fat content, which slows down the absorption of the sugar inherent in the milk. Adding whole milk cottage cheese or yogurt seems counterintuitive—but fat in your food will not make you fat. Since its heavier you will eat less and get fuller faster, and it will keep you fuller longer. It takes longer to digest a fat than a protein, and the least time to digest a carb. Avoid low-fat or fat-free sugary fruit yogurts touted as diet food. I recommend whole milk organic plain yogurts with your own berries added in, or Good Culture cottage cheese as a high-protein, healthy snack. If you are dairy-free, try a nut-based dairy substitute such as Kite Hill brand products, cashew milk or coconut milk items.
I know everyone may skip over this section thinking, “Wow—she is going too far,” but I would like you to consider the growing bad rep of artificial sweeteners as I discussed above. They are made up of chemicals, and the medical experts are studying the effects, and the latest news shows that not only do they negatively affect your gut flora, but they actually can cause heart problems. The weight-loss dilemma also seems counterintuitive as we all know sugar is sworn enemy #1, so why not go diet? The issue with diet soda for dieting purposes often leads to failure because the body expects the calories and when it doesn’t receive them, it tends to crave them, which often causes people to overeat later on.
To solve the microbiome issue, which is extremely important for overall health, try a Stevia-based soda called Zevia, which comes in many flavors. An even better option is to try and switch to flavored seltzer or substitute one can of diet soda at a time with seltzer. Ideally, switch to water with your own natural flavorings such as lemon, lime, orange, mint or berries. If you have some extra time, brew a pitcher of iced tea from black or green tea bags and add Stevia or monk fruit to taste, giving you a very healthy drink alternative with flavor for a cold beverage. You can keep some in the fridge at all times to make it readily available.
I have touched on three hot topics I feel are very important, although there are some other ways you can make small but very meaningful changes. For now I recommend trying one of these that appeals to you the most, and adjust your habits slowly one at a time. You may find some positive results that lead you to greater health.
By Arianne Weinberger
Arianne Weinberger is an integrative nutrition health coach specializing in optimizing health and wellness through diet and lifestyle changes. Her roots in finance propelled her to find ways to help others maintain a healthy and balanced life in a chaotic world, leading her to start Heal Yourself Health Coaching. She can be reached at [email protected]