Healthy, Creamy, Easy Chocolate Milkshake

Summer is ‘slowly’ approaching and I’ve found myself visiting Starbucks twice in the last two weeks for their Mocha Frappuccino (an icy chocolate, coffee drink). Now mind you, that may not be often, but I know myself, and I know this will soon become a habit that I just can’t shake. So when I got home last night craving an icy chocolate drink I realized I had all the ingredients I’d need to make a healthier version, so this recipe was born.

Recipe (yields 2 cups)

  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened cacao)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup cashews (or any nut butter)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 cups ice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar (or 1/2 medium banana or 4 dates for sweetness)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. To a blender, add the oats and cashews, then pulse until it’s a fine powder
  2. Add all other ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth

*The mixture may not be completely smooth, so you may pour through a strainer if desired. Watch the video to see how it all came together https://youtu.be/DpN1T7yqNl4

Smooth chocolate milkshake

NUTRITION FACTS (per cup)

  • 355 calories
  • Protein: 9.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 32g
  • Fiber: 18g
  • Total Fat: 20g

Benefits

  • Cacao
    • Regulates blood pressure
    • Regulates PMS (premenstrual symptoms)
    • Improves mood
    • Caffeine present [for the coffee lovers]
  • Oats
    • Lowers bad cholesterol
    • High in protein
    • Great source of fiber and energy
  • Cashews
    • Reduce risk of heart disease
    • Increase fiber for digestion
    • Great source of healthy fats
  • Chia seeds
    • More potassium than bananas
    • More calcium than milk
    • Great source of Omega-3s
  • Cinnamon
    • Regulates blood sugar
    • Fights bacteria and viruses
    • Improves gut health

I ended up having a late lunch on the day I made this milkshake, so it became my evening snack. I was full and satisfied for the night and content that I made something that was tasty and good for my body.

Let me know if you give it a try!

For personalized meal plans and recipes, I’m available for one-on-one consults. Make an appointment at https://calendly.com/drkimsom/nutritionconsult if interested.

Easy Quinoa Salad Recipe

Back again with another super easy recipe!

Now I must be honest, though I’ve heard of quinoa (pronounced keen-waa) for years now, and generally add it to my client’s meal plans, I’ve never actually tried it LOL. Tragic!

Quinoa is an edible seed that may be used as a gluten-free alternative to everyday grains like rice and oats. It is high in fiber and protein with all the essential amino acids and has numerous vitamins and minerals like:

  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Folate (Vitamin B9)
  • Zinc
  • Manganese (improves bone density & reduces inflammation)

I bought a pack at the supermarket a few months ago (it’s a little pricey when compared to rice) and randomly decided to cook it when I didn’t feel for rice. It’s super simple to prepare; just wash the quinoa then add 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water in a pot, add a pinch of salt and butter to the pot and boil for 15 – 20 minutes. That’s it! (I’d suggest stirring at least once during boiling time)

The consistency should be light and fluffy when it ready. I was surprised at how much lighter it is when compared to rice, but it kept me full for hours. Here’s a recipe of how I incorporated it with some veggies.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1 medium cucumber (chopped)
  • 2 small (plummy) tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/2 medium carrot (shredded)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil/coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper/cayenne/scotch bonnet sauce
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds/chia seeds (optional)

Add all those to a bowl and mix. I had this for lunch and it was super filling, but this can be had any time of the day.

Let me know if you try it!

For more healthy recipes and wellness tips, follow me on:

Instagram: @simple.sommer.naturals

YouTube: Simple Sommer Naturals

Roasted Chickpeas Recipe

I know we’re all used to an epistle we have to scroll through before we can get the recipe of the meal we really want, but you’re in luck because I’m not going to do that to you today.

This recipe was born from me trying to change my diet to a more plant-based routine and not wanting to skimp on taste. So here’s my spicy roasted chickpea recipe. Hope you love it.

Ingredients

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground/powdered turmeric (optional)

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil or parchment paper
  2. Pre-heat oven to Broil (260o C/500o F)
  3. Place all ingredients in a ziplock bag and shake until all the chickpeas are coated
  4. Place chickpeas on lined baking sheet and put into oven for 30 minutes (or until golden brown and crispy)
Roasted chickpeas fresh out of the oven

This is a great alternative to plantain or banana chips; a quick and easy recipe that is packed with protein and anti-oxidant filled spices that will keep you full until meal time.

If you want more healthy recipes like this for weight loss or increasing your muscle mass feel free to contact me.

Instagram: @simple.sommer.naturals

6 TIPS TO CHANGE YOUR DIET

One thing this pandemic has drove home for me is that we truly have no control over anything other than ourselves.

That may be as scary as it is liberating, but what are we going to do with all this newly realized power over our lives and the decisions we make? Will we hand it over to those comfortable habits that don’t serve us or will we use it to take a step forward into the life we’ve always wanted?

If changing your diet is a part of this plan, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Practice being present

The only way to notice a change is to be acquainted with the present moment . If you want to gain/lose weight or just feel better in your body, I urge you to get to know your body first. How does it feel after you drink the soda and eat the fast food; lots of energy or time to sleep? How does it feel after drinking lots of water and having a home-cooked meal with veggies added? Did you feel better eating large meals while intermittent fasting or did 5 small meals a day do the trick?

Practice checking in with yourself throughout the day and notice how you feel in relation to the type and amount of food you’re eating, and the time that you’re eating it. This will put you in a great position to understand how future changes to your diet will affect you, thus making it easier to continue with what feels good.

2. Define your goals

People generally want to change their diet to lose weight, gain weight or control non-communicable diseases, but is there anything else beyond these reasons? Are your finances taking a hit because you eat out too often? Is your health deteriorating and your doctor is giving you an ultimatum? Will a better diet be a great start to developing healthy work ethic in your career?

For diet change to become a lifestyle change, you want to know why you’re starting in the first place. The reason(s) you come up with should to be sustainable and specific to your needs. ‘Looking good’ for summer is a great start but what happens when summer ends, will the diet go back to normal?

Once you come up with your goals, write them down and ensure you see them often. Label reminders on your phone to alarm each day, set them as a wallpaper on your laptop or write them on paper and post on your wall, whatever works for you.

Source: https://www.uspm.com/how-to-maintain-a-healthy-eating-lifestyle/

3. Start with small changes

The revolving door of fad diets over the years have made us believe that dieting is something you do for a couple months, get results, then go back to your regular eating habits afterwards. However, we’ve since realized that these accomplishments are short-lived. Changing the way you eat should be comfortable enough for you to continue for months to years once proven beneficial.

The best way to sustain change is doing a little at a time. If your goal is to increase your water intake from one glass per day to 8 glasses, rather than gulping down 8 glasses the day after you set your goal, consider starting small with 2 glasses each morning and increase slowly until your goal is met. Slow and steady may not always win the race but it definitely makes a difference when developing a new habit.

4. Accountability partner

You’re not in this alone. Chances are you have a friend, relative, colleague (or online friend) who would love to change their diet too. Maybe not with the same goals in mind, but change works better when we have support. Tell your companion about your goals and express the need to stay on track. If you talk frequently then the goals will likely come up in conversation, but if you don’t, schedule check-ins to allow for a quick update. Whether it’s once a week for 10 minutes or once a month for a 1 hour discussion, being open to speak about improvements and ‘failures’ will provide a boost in morale needed to continue the journey.

Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/eating-during-covid-19-improve-your-mood-and-lower-stress-2020040719409

5. Relax and make it fun

From childhood we have been told which foods are good and which are bad. We’d celebrate events with fast food and sweets and we may have been punished by being told we can’t leave the dinner table without finishing the vegetable that we absolutely hated. Since then we sometimes put a lot of pressure on ourselves to eat the ‘right foods’ at the right times and in the right amounts. I’m here to tell you that no food is inherently good or bad, and by releasing that thought process we’ll have more freedom to make better decisions. All foods may be eaten in moderation (or minimally), and by practicing tip #1 we’ll soon realize which foods don’t do our body much good. If you eat what you weren’t ‘supposed to’ in a new diet, don’t beat yourself. Acknowledge it, think of how you may do better at the next meal, and move on.

6. Believe in yourself

If you think you can’t, you won’t. No matter how many steps you follow or how many tips you read, if you don’t have faith that you’ll achieve your goal, the battle is already lost. Know that you have power over what you choose to eat, when you choose to eat it. ‘Healthy food’ is generally deemed too expensive, but it can be incorporated a little at a time to produce the results you want.

You can do it!! Start small and keep going!

In my follow up post, I’ll talk about simple ways to fit healthier foods into your budget.

If you’ve successfully changed your diet, let us know in the comments what pushed you to start and what helped you along the way.

6 Ways to Cope with Anxiety

Nobody knows what is going on!

This is one of the largest pandemics our generation has ever experienced and the inability to pin out how things will turn out can have us all in a state of panic. For a lot of us, this was going to be ‘our year’. We had so many plans that have not materialized and we are still uncertain of how soon we will go “back to normal.”

It’s no wonder that many of us have noted increased levels of stress and worry, sometimes triggering an anxiety attack. Anxiety is the body’s reaction of excessive fear to a stimulus. That stimulus can be any sign of danger (real or imagined), like possibility of being fired from work, contracting a serious virus or losing a beloved family member.

This may be categorized into a disorder when the behavioural disturbance affects your functioning in your daily activities. The signs or symptoms can range from very subtle to debilitating, hence it may be difficult to pinpoint what is really going on. There goes that uncertainty again.

Panic attacks are usually abrupt, spontaneous and transient with an impending feeling of doom that may last up to 10 minutes, accompanied by a few of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Heart racing (palpitations)
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling of losing control (depersonalization)
  • Nausea

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed when symptoms of worry happen most days of the week for various reasons and are associated with:

  • Fatigue
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Inability to concentrate 
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness

Though these symptoms may feel uncontrollable, here are six ways that you may be able to cope.

Seek professional advice

I debated on whether I wanted to have this as the first or last bullet point, but here we are. Seeking advice should always be the first step when you think something is wrong with your body’s responses. Counselors and psychologists are available in private and public settings, and even now with social distancing some are taking their practice online to make it even more accessible (@jamhan_ja and @centredja are great resources to find a counselor/psychologist near you). The beauty about these consultations is that you will get advice tailored to your specific needs.

An office visit to a general doctor may also be necessary to rule out any underlying conditions that may present as anxiety eg. hyperthyroidism, heart disease and diabetes to name a few.

Breathing techniques

One of the main symptoms of anxiety is the feeling of losing control. The quickest and easiest way to bring your awareness to your body is by concentrating on your breathing. Beyond taking deep breaths, the best way will be to consciously slow your outward breath; breathe in normally, but breathe out slowly with pursed lips like you’re blowing a balloon or whistling. Repeat the cycle for a few minutes for the most benefit. This type of breath work stimulates the vagal system in the body which slows the heart rate and lowers the blood pressure, giving you a new state of calm.

Consider Diet & Medication

For my avid coffee drinkers out there, sorry to say all that caffeine may be making your anxiety worse. Caffeine found in coffee, sodas, and some teas (highest in black tea) have a considerable effect on increasing your heart rate and inducing possible tremors. Decaffeinated beverages would be your best bet in this case.

Medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine may be found in cough syrups, weight loss drugs and tablets labelled ‘extra strength’. These may give similar side effects to caffeine, giving the illusion of worsened anxiety. Consider consulting your doctor before stopping any of these medications abruptly.

Move!

Movement may not necessarily get you out of a panic attack, but it surely has wonderful benefits on the brain that reduces the duration and severity of symptoms of chronic anxiety. Whether it is walking, dancing or swimming, any aerobic exercise that allows you to break a sweat will reduce muscle tension, take your mind off the stimulus and activate ‘feel-good’ chemicals in your brain. One session may be enough to calm you, but having an enjoyable exercise routine will build resilience to overcome stress.

Community

We sometimes underestimate the power of having a supportive community. Whether that’s a one true friend, a large friend group or a comforting relative, having people that will allow you to communicate openly about your feelings and listen is something not to be taken for granted. 

Anxiety has a tendency to create a feeling of isolation. However, daily conversations with trusted individuals allow us to open up to connection, process repressed emotions and give us a fresh perspective on our problems.

Alternative remedies 

EFT tapping is a modality that uses the principles of acupuncture. Various studies have noted its effectiveness as an adjunctive therapy for anxiety. It is thought to release trapped energy by tapping on certain meridian points on the body.

The use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil has gotten popular in the last few years as a therapy for childhood epilepsy, insomnia and sometimes anxiety. There aren’t enough large-scale studies to recommend its use definitively, but it is thought to release chemicals that improve the mood through action on the endocannabinoid system in the brain.

We may not know what is really going on during this pandemic, but let’s take this time of social distancing to find the root of our problems and use healthy coping skills that make us feel like our best selves.

Sinusitis and You

We all know that sound when someone is scratching their throat or trying to scratch their nose while simultaneously clearing their throat. Ugghh! If you’re curious enough to ask them what’s wrong the answer will most likely be;

“I have sinus!” or “Mi sinus a bodda me!”

They’re not wrong, but not entirely right either. Everyone has sinuses, but not everyone has sinusitis. Sinuses are located in the skull, around our nose. Their functions include:

  • Producing mucous to coat our nostrils
  • Provide air pockets to lighten our skull
  • Improve our voices
Source: https://www.webmd.com/allergies/picture-of-the-sinuses#1

When the area becomes inflammed we develop SINUSITIS. Some symptoms include:

  • Heaviness/pain in the forehead and/or cheeks
  • Runny nose from excess mucous production
  • Mucous drainage in the throat –> constant need to clear throat or spit
  • Dry cough (usually worsens at night)
  • “Nasal sounding” voice
  • Occasional feelings of clogged ears
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Inability to smell

All of these symptoms are annoying and recurrent for most, and sometimes prevent concentration and ability to complete daily tasks, so we would all be better off if we knew how to prevent them from occurring in the first place. The main reasons for sinus inflammation are blockages to flow of mucous and disruption of the clearance systems, these occur due to:

  • Viruses – Majority of sinus issues are viral in nature. The spread of viruses happen more often in colder weather and are contracted through direct contact or in the air from coughing and sneezing. More specifically, Dengue and Influenza viruses have been plaguing the Caribbean in the last two years and have been inciting symptoms of sinusitis in the population.
  • Allergies – The tendency to develop an allergic response to certain environmental triggers is usually genetics (sorry you can’t change those). These items incite a stress response in the body that causes increased mucous production and the above symptoms. These allergens include smoke, pollen, mold, dust mites, furry pets and food like dairy and even bananas :-O
  • Others – These are usually rare, but include trauma, dental infection, adenoid enlargement, deviated septum, polyps and possible cancerous lesion.

The effects from allergies and viruses may last a few days and not need any real intervention, but 5 – 10% of these cases develop into a bacterial infection. This, then leads to worsening of the above symptoms after 7 – 10 days and possibly associated fever, fatigue, colour change in mucous from clear/white to yellow/green/brown or even bloody.

Having a stuffy, runny nose for 1 – 2 weeks without any sign of relief?? I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but let’s try to prevent this ailment before it even starts. Here are some tips to prevent the dreaded sinus infection:

  • Avoid triggers – Easier said than done right? Firstly one would have to identify the triggers, which can be done by an allergist as I detailed in a previous post or just by your own detailed observation. Dust mites and mold can be prevented by consistently clean environs, however mold is a bit trickier because this may be due to a leak or some other unknown infrastructural problem. Pollen, pets and certain foods may be more difficult to avoid, but effort should be made.
  • Sneeze/Cough in elbow – This is a pretty simple habit to prevent spreading bacteria and viruses to others.
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  • Wash hands – We touch hundreds of surfaces each day and shake many hands and this only proves to increases our chances of contracting some organism that is ready to incite inflammation in our sinuses. Washing your hands throughout the day, especially before eating, will reduce the risk of infection dramatically.

If all these still haven’t helped in the fight against sinus inflammation then the only thing left to do is treat the symptoms and expect a speedy recovery.

In part 2 I’ll discuss natural and traditional treatment methods that will have your sinuses feeling open and light and have you smelling all the roses 😀 (if roses aren’t your trigger of course).

Mommy, Baby & Mental Health (Natural Remedies for Postpartum Depression)

“She nuh fi have pickney!”

“Women always use postpartum stress to play the victim when dem cyan tek care of dem pickney”

Comments like these are shouted far and wide when news breaks of a mother neglecting her child. From babies left in parked cars to mothers causing them intentional physical harm; these actions are considered despicable or weak, making them ‘unworthy’ of raising children. Mental illness should not be used as an excuse for times of neglect, but mothers should always be given the opportunity to speak their truth and be evaluated by professionals before being berated by onlookers.

Directly after birth there is an immediate fall in hormones like cortisol, estrogen and progesterone in all mothers. Those who experience mood disturbances may be more sensitive to this drop and may note symptoms as soon as a few hours to 2 weeks postpartum. Statistics show that 8 out of 10 new moms experience “postpartum blues” which includes mood swings, irritability and intermittent crying up to 6 weeks after giving birth. These disturbances generally resolve spontaneously without intervention. However, 10–15% of mothers suffer from persistent and debilitating mood changes which usually require treatment.

Getty images

Postpartum depression (PPD) is defined similarly to major depressive disorder in which mood changes are noted consistently for at least 2 weeks. The distinguishing feature is the time of diagnosis which is up to 3 months postpartum. Symptoms include:

– Depressed mood

– Anhedonia (loss of interest in most daily activities)

– Anxiety (anxious and obsessive thoughts about infant’s well-being; positive or negative)

– Change in appetite

– Insomnia or Hypersomnia (sleeping much more or less than usual)

– Actions/movements much faster or slower than usual

– Fatigue

– Feelings of worthlessness

– Difficulty concentrating

– Suicidal thoughts

The risk of developing PPD is higher for women who have a history of depression, limited financial and emotional support and those who are in the adolescent stage of life. All at-risk mothers showing signs of depression prior to giving birth should be evaluated by their general practitioner or obstetrician to allow for adequate history, examination and laboratory tests to rule out any other possible condition. The first postnatal visit, usually 6 weeks after birth, is the best time to screen the postnatal mother and advise a treatment plan if necessary.

Once a diagnosis is concluded, treatment will be based on the severity of the mother’s case. This ranges from cognitive behavioral therapy to use of anti-depressants or both. There isn’t enough evidence to definitively prescribe natural remedies to mothers with PPD, however, small-scale studies have shown positive effects in reducing symptoms for mothers during and after pregnancy.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

These are a vital part of a mother’s diet during pregnancy because it contains compounds important in the development of a baby’s nervous system. They have also been found to improve depressive symptoms when taken consistently at a dose of 1–3 mg/day for >2 months. The fatty acids are found naturally in fish like mackerel, sardines and salmon, and flax seeds and walnuts.

  • Aromatherapy

Use of essential oils such as lavender and rose oil have been noted to improve depression scores of mothers when used from the third trimester into the postpartum period. Methods include inhaling the diluted oils three times a day or only at bed time for at least a month.

  • Massage

The principle of massage in depression is its ability to modulate cortisol, serotonin and dopamine levels in the body which all play a role in mood. Massage from a professional is ideal but partner-mother and mother-infant massage has been noted to elevate mood as well as increase bond.

*It must be noted that these interventions should be used as an adjunct to the advice and treatment given from certified healthcare practitioners.*

Postpartum depression has negative effects on the entire family, but the infant’s cognitive, emotional and physical development are the most affected as he/she depends solely on the mother. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, but let us as a village ensure the mothers have a smooth and healthy transition too.