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Effects of Diet on Your Brain

November 1, 2020

How does nutrition and diet affect the brain?  The brain is only 2% of our body weight but it requires 20% of energy we consume.  When our mental function declines, it can be an initial indicator of nutritional deficiency.  Nutrition plays a huge role in determining brain health, mood, sleep, weight, attention, and development.

It’s important to understand the different components that make up the brain.  It’s mostly made up of fat followed by proteins, amino acids, glucose, and micronutrients. 

Omega 3 and 6 are derived from nuts, seeds, and fatty fish which helps create and maintain cell membrane.  Trans-fat and saturated fat, on the other hand, damages our brain.  The protein and amino acids are essential for brain growth and development.  It uses neurotransmitters to regulate mood, sleep, weight, and attentiveness.  This is why we need a diverse range of food that balances these combinations to include micronutrients.  Micronutrients have antioxidants that fight against free radicals which destroys brain cells.  Things like B6, B12, folic acid, iron, copper, zinc, sodium all attribute to a healthy brain.

The brain also needs carbs since it requires so much energy.  Carbs consists of starch, sugar, and fiber.  The perfect combination like oats, grains, and legumes help keep our attention steady.  The opposite is true if we eat high glycemic foods such as white bread.  We see a spike in our blood sugar and then a crash leading to drastic change in mood and attention. 

Food is medicine for the brain and our whole body.  What would you miss out on in life if you didn’t eat healthy?  What would you gain if you made lifestyle changes?  I’d love to hear it.  Let me know.

Get a free health consultation.  See if this is the right match for you by addressing weight loss, cravings, emotional eating, balanced diet, disease prevention, and getting to the root cause of what's keeping you stuck.

For more articles, read https://happyfoodhealth.com/blog

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

Do I Eat Only When I’m Hungry?

October 15, 2020

I’ve heard this so many times, “eat only when you’re hungry.”  I definitely advocate for listening to your body.  It self regulates and know what’s good for you and when it’s enough IF you listen.  But I think that eating is so much more than just for hunger.  I think we eat to cover pain (loneliness, stress, boredom, overwhelm, depression, etc.) and to feel joy (celebrations and fun times).  I think that when we treat ourselves like robots, we fail.  Well…because we are NOT robots.  When we give ourselves permission to be human, we actually succeed in weight loss, diet, and health.  It’s the restriction and denial that leave us spiraling south into binging and self-sabotage. 

I see the evidence in my office.  When we tell ourselves to only eat when we’re hungry, we start craving.  And for some, it may lead to binging.  And for the extremes, it can lead to eating disorders.  Let’s recognize that there are other reasons why we want to eat…and it’s absolutely normal:

  • Pleasure/Joy. I love food.  It’s so yummy.  And food with good memories?  Even better.  Don’t take the joy from life.  Grandma’s baking, Thanksgiving, Christmas dinners, cultural and social festivals, all great things we don’t need to give up.
  • Habit. How we eat creates a rhythm for our brain and digestive tract.  Our family eats right on the clock, only because we are starving and it’s our routine (6:30am, 11am, and 5pm).  Apologies to all our friends who had to adjust to us.  Our brain has definitely adjusted to our habits so create habits you’d like to keep.
  • Emotions. We eat during negative times and to celebrate.  This is so normal!  When we accept that it’s normal, we seem to “do better.”  We accept this and move forward with finding better coping skills instead of beating our heads trying to count the perfect calories and feeling like we’ve failed because the strategy isn’t working.  We cannot eat perfect, and do not need to. 
  • Nutritional Deficiency. While in Niger, Africa for over 2 years, I actually gained weight.  Whoa??!!  It’s a country lacking in food.  How can I gain weight?  90% of my diet was carb.  My body kept craving more food and I just couldn’t feed it enough to feel satisfied.  For most of the year, my vegetable was an onion.  I lived on millet and pasta.  If you’re not eating the right foods, you will keep craving.

I think these needs are legitimate.  We can’t just ignore them, otherwise they come back with a vengeance.  Our brain is hardwired to want sugars, salts, fats, and connections with friends.  We can NOT eat perfect.  It doesn’t work.  With all my clients, restriction leads to binging and therefore, weight gain.  Those who subscribe to mainstream diet mentality, struggle forever.  Those who grasp this concept of acceptance but with education, habit change, and mental shifts find themselves much more successful with weight loss and long-term health goals.

If what you’re doing feels hard, maybe it’s not you but your strategy.  We need pleasure.  Change your strategy so it’s not impossible but more of your habit with the acceptance of being human and a need for joy.  

Get a free health consultation. See if this is the right match for you by addressing weigh loss, cravings, emotional eating, balanced diet, disease prevention, and getting to the root cause of what's keeping you stuck.

For more articles, read www.HappyFoodHealth.com/blog.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

How to Order Healthier Restaurant Food

October 1, 2020

How do we eat out and be healthy?  We can’t.  But don’t despair; there are ways to make it better.  Plus if you’re like the rest of us, you like having a balance between a nutritious diet and a social life and not having anxiety/guilt around food. 

Restaurant, processed, and convenience food all have excessive amounts of sugar, salt, chemicals, and larger portions.  Home cooked is the best form of healthy eating.  Here are just a few tips to help make it better when you do go out or takeout:

  • Order veggie heavy items at Chinese, Thai restaurants for example. With salads, go for darker greens versus iceberg/romaine.  Get the dressing on the side. 
  • Avocadoes and salsas have more benefits than drowning with excessive cheese and sour cream.
  • Avoid deep-fried. Opt for grilled, steamed, baked instead of battered or breaded. 
  • Use veggies for your appetizer dips instead of pita, bread, etc.
  • Go for thin crust instead of deep dish. Cauliflower crust has equal calories due to the heavy amounts of cheese.
  • One carb is enough and try to stick to whole grains. We often order combinations such as pasta and bread, burger buns and fries, tortillas and chips and/or rice, naan and rice, etc.  Leave some carbs behind.
  • If it’s takeout, sauté some veggies as a side dish and spread the item over two meals.
  • Order less red meat.

These are just a few ideas.  I’m more interested in helping you maintain these habits easily along with the desire and ease of cooking.  After all, implementation is more crucial than knowledge.  Get a free health consultation.  See if this is the right match for you by addressing weigh loss goals, cravings, emotional eating, balanced diet, disease prevention, and getting to the root cause of what's keeping you stuck.

For more articles, read www.HappyFoodHealth.com/blog.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

Simple Habit For Weight Loss & a Productive Day

September 15, 2020

What if there's a very simple habit you can start now to advance your weight loss goals, health goals, or even having more productive workdays?

During office visits, many of my clients can't wait to share how they messed up. And when they are successful, they are quick to move on to the next challenge. With an average of 72,000 thoughts a day, what we focus on shapes our narrative. To prevent us from ruminating on our lack of progress and being in a rut, we can shift by reflecting on our daily accomplishments and set up for greater success.

In a study with over 200 people over 4 months, participants were asked to journal about their work day. When they wrote about their progress, they were more likely to feel happier, naturally motivated, and see obstacles as challenges versus threats. In another study, people were paid for each Lego structure they built. The first group had their structures neatly displayed and the second group had theirs dismantled. The first group continued to be more motivated to build more although both groups were paid equal amounts. Seeing progress provides us a sense of purpose.

If you have a tendency to focus on your failures and mistakes, please make sure to take the time to acknowledge or even write down your small wins daily. I know that when I focus on my losses, I get down and I might give up all together. Sounds like the culprit to the yo-yo diet pattern, right? And during a pandemic, there are so many other emotions and restrictions, so focus on your wins for work, diet, and any goal. The mind is powerful which is why at Happy Food, we focus on much more than just nutrition. For more articles, read www.HappyFoodHealth.com/blog.

Get a free health consultation.  See if this is the right match for you by addressing weigh loss goals, cravings, emotional eating, balanced diet, disease prevention, and getting to the root cause of what's keeping you stuck.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

Nutritional Remedy for Pandemic Anxiety

September 1, 2020

I can't believe we are almost 6 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Although so necessary, strategies crucial for public health puts us at greater risk of mental health issues. Humans need social interaction. However, we are forced to maintain distance while going through fear, uncertainty, grief, job loss, and so much more. Consequently, most of us experience stress and anxiety which often leads to poor sleep. And this vicious cycle continues.

Let's talk about what we can do and specifically focus on nutrition and diet to alleviate physical pain, stress, and anxiety. Humans depend on hormones to feel happy and much of this is derived from food. People who live on the Mediterranean diet have less depression than those on less plant-based diets.

Our moods are dictated by 3 things: blood sugar, happy hormones (dopamine/serotonin), and sleep. When we over consume sweets, alcohol, and refined carbs, it results in blood sugar swings which leads to inflammation, lack of energy, and lack of the happy hormones we need to thrive. Fruits and vegetables help stabilize the free radicals in the "junk" that we eat. In addition, vitamin C in foods such as citrus and broccoli help make more serotonin.

Studies show that people who get 7-8 hours of sleep have higher levels of antioxidants, vitamin C & D, and carotenoids. A good way to remember what has high antioxidants is by the vibrant colors. All produce with bright colors have lots of antioxidants. Although cauliflower is white, it still has lots of antioxidants. Try purple cauliflower for more benefits.

The simple solution? Add fruits to breakfast, more vegetables during lunch and dinner, and snack on these too. Nutrition definitely helps relieve stress, anxiety, and depression all the while helping us lose weight and improving our sleep which in turn, improves our mood.

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, diet, exercise, cravings, emotional eating and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

Get the Most Nutrients Out of Your Fruit

August 15, 2020

My family loves fruit especially during the summer when it's so abundant and full of variety.  I was raised by my grandmother and she definitely handed down some wisdom.  Here are some tips on how to pick the best fruit, keep them fresh longer, avoid waste, and how to reap the most flavor too.

Stone Fruits
- Let peaches, plums, apricots, pluots, plumcots, apriums soften in a closed paper bag on the counter until they are slightly soft.  Store them in the fridge if you're not ready to eat them up to delay the ripening process. 
- To prevent mold in cherries, wash them only when you're ready to serve.

Blueberries
- Like cherries, don't pre-wash blueberries for storage.  If you can't eat them all, freeze them on a tray and then transfer to an air tight storage bag in the freezer. 

Melons
Ripe cantaloupes and honeydew melons have a yellowish, creamy color.  Watermelons have a creamy yellow spot on the underside (where it sat on the ground). 

Mangoes
They are ripe when it gives slightly when squeezed.  Sniff for a sweet aroma.  My favorite is Champagne (honey mangoes).  They are smaller and sweeter and less stringy.  Snack on frozen ones if you don't like peeling or cut it on either side, length-wise avoiding the pit and make checker crosses to open up into cut squares. 

Papayas
Let ripen at room temperature until the skin is yellow-orange, cut into chunks, and squeeze fresh lime to allow the acidity to enhance the flavor. 

Kiwis
If you don't like peeling, cut it in half width-wise and scoop it out with a spoon.  With the golden variety, you can eat the skin and it is sweeter.  Gold ones have twice as much vitamin C but green ones have more vitamin K.  Variety is always your friend.  Try kiwi berries too.  They are grape-sized kiwis.

Pineapples
Look for deep green leaves and yellow skin.  Cut them when they smell sweet.  Serve chilled.

Bananas
Keep then on the counter.  If they are too ripe, never throw them away.  Peel, chop, and freeze for smoothies, baking, or other desserts.  Store away from other fruits and wrap the stem with plastic wrap if you don't want them to ripen quickly.

Apples/Pears
The skin has half the amount of the apple's fiber so eat them up. 

Citrus
For grapefruit, look for thin, smooth skin.  The heavier, the juicier they are.  I love Meyer lemons.  They are sweeter and less acidic.  I also enjoy Cara Cara oranges (pink-fleshed oranges), honey tangerines, satsumas, and Sumos (the larger variety). 

I find that all of these fruit go well in salads to add some sweetness and flavor.  They are delicious on their own as snacks, in oatmeal, smoothies, or frozen. 

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, diet, exercise, cravings, emotional eating and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

Walking Technique for Weight Loss & Clarity

August 1, 2020

Try this way of walking from now on to lose weight and clear your mind. Especially during a pandemic so many of us are more stressed, anxious, depressed, overwhelm, lonely, etc. You're not alone! Although negative emotions are normal, the prolonged stress toll on our body leads to inefficient metabolism, emotional eating, and I'm sure you can fill in the blank.

Try walking in this way to clear your head and reduced the inflammation and stress response in your body. After you've committed to this walking technique, try it during other moments of your life. The goal is to focus on the outward world and not to concentrate inward (in the head).

As you're walking, notice all sensations like sight, sounds, smells, etc. Take in all the senses and pinpoint how that brings you pleasure. For example, I can hear the leaves dancing in the trees and I love that sound. It reminds me of fun hiking adventures. Another example, I smell fresh aromas from someone's window or the sweet scent of flowers. These things all bring me joy.

People who pay more attention to the positive report greater happiness. They report feeling lighter, clear headed. When we take in the good and savor it, the feeling last longer than the event. It sticks with us. Conversely, when we let the negative worries linger in our head, we feed that fire. Because our mind is so powerful, it dictates the functions of our body which if left to fester in negativity can result in greater inflammation, weight gain, poor diet, depression, fatigue, cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, insomnia, etc.

Let's take a walk and smell the roses. Stay safe and sane during this COVID time.

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, diet, exercise, cravings, emotional eating and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition Coach & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

Meal Planning Made Simple

July 15, 2020
Planning is key to success.  Let's revisit this topic because people are asking for realistic meal planning solutions. Here are some tips to consider:
  1. Pick a day.  Routine allows us to take action with less thinking.  Pick one day where you plan and shop.  Make this consistent. 
  2. Use your calendar.  Plan ahead knowing how busy you are, when you'll be home, are there visitors or family activities.  Use a crock pot for those busy days where you'll be home late, for example.
  3. Get input.  Let everyone have a say in what they eat.  There's nothing more defeating than working hard on a meal just to have no one touch it.  Solicit ideas.  More participation equals less work on your part. 
  4. Create balanced meals.  I always think what's my protein, whole grain carb, and vegetables.  I start with protein.  Is it chicken, turkey, fish, other seafood, tofu, beans, etc., then I know what carbs I want to add.  Finally, I load it up with a rainbow of vegetable colors. 
  5. Create themes.  I don't always do this but any time we can skip thinking, do it.  We make too many decisions in one day as it is.  For example, Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Crock Pot Wednesdays, Friday Fish, etc.  Don't forget about the weekends too. 
  6. Pre-prep.  I like to at least think about what I'm doing the next day so I know if I need to pull out some meat or fish from the freezer to thaw in the fridge.  Do I need to pre-cut some things if I won't have time tomorrow?  Looking ahead is so valuable.
  7. Only plan one meal a day.  We keep it simple in my house.  We rotate between eggs and oatmeal for breakfast (with the occasional variety on the weekends).  For lunch, we eat leftover dinners.  So...I really only have to think about one meal a day.

If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, diet, exercise, cravings, emotional eating and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA

Why Perfectionism Slows Metabolism

July 1, 2020

I believe perfectionism is a disease in the health, weight loss, diet, and fitness world (and other segments of society too).  I admit, it's really difficult for me to chat with others in my field.  I used to wonder why I readily run away when a "colleague" tries to talk to me about health.  I think I finally understand why "I don't fit into the mold" and don't want to "talk shop."

In the nutrition, fitness, and health world, people (in general) try too hard.  It's too much for me.  There are all these expectations, measurements, etc. and it then transfers to the general public making them feel like they need to eat perfect and exercise in the perfect way.  This, I believe, sets us up for failure.  We never feel good enough and perfectionism is a very unstable state to reside.  It does NOT last.  When we can't maintain it (which is completely human), then we resort to self-criticism and continuing the all-or-nothing patterns.  Can you relate?  Is this you?  I bet it is because most people in my office fall into this category.

And for those who can maintain perfect, have the perfect body, and eat perfectly all the time, are they truly happy?  They start to feel isolated and distract from the real important stuff in life.  I seriously had to tell a few clients to cheat a little; don't be so strict.  They looked miserable.  Feel miserable and lonely.  I don't want that for anyone.

When we feel miserable, isolated, lonely, our body turns on the fight-or-flight mode and digestion/metabolism slows down.  There is danger in the world that is far more important than efficient metabolism to the body.  Plus, we just cannot maintain this mentally nor physically.  Stop!  Just stop!  Tap into what's really important in your life.  Here are some ideas to start:

  • Stop weighing yourself constantly, counting calories, looking in the mirror, criticizing yourself.  Be kind to yourself; be nice.  Once you do that, you'll be nice to others and be so much more productive and happy and actually feed/move your body in a way that works and sustains.  It's a domino effect.  If you struggle with this balance, please give me a call.  STOP dieting and stop punishing.  Start learning how to take care of your body in a way that works.
  • Mistakes are OK, just own them.  Try to enhance yourself.  I love the quote above.  We are all growth in progress.  Be human!  Be vulnerable.
  • Laugh at yourself.  It's the best person to laugh at.  We are silly; we are messy.
If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, diet, exercise, cravings, emotional eating and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle. Check out Yelp for other people's opinion of Happy Food.

~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA