Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s AfterGlo

Three healthy decisions you can make today

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

For those of you who have been reading for some time now, you know my M.O. has always been about balance. In my book, “The Gluten-Free Revolution,” I explain a bit about what led me to my personal philosophy, you can “have your green smoothie and (gluten-free) brownie, too.”

The truth is, I haven’t always been stellar at keeping my health habits in balance. Prior to my diagnosis with celiac disease in 2010, my approach to healthy living was much more all-or-nothing than it was thoughtful and reasonable. Of course, while some of those personality traits are what make me a driven and hardworking person, they are also the very characteristics that led to me to a constant up-and-down effort when it came to maintaining a healthful lifestyle. 

At that time in my life, everything was black and white. 

If I was hitting the gym, it had to be for at least an hour – no quick workouts or squeezing in a 30-minute run. When it came to food, I would regularly announce a new “healthy” plan that involved completely eliminating a particular food category (e.g. sugar) forever and ever – no wiggle room allowed. 

What this did was set me up for failure. Unable to maintain a lifestyle based on complete rigidity, I would end up injured from continuously pushing myself through long workouts or eating an entire batch of cookies instead of just having one or two.

It was a recipe for disaster and I was the main ingredient. 

When I received my celiac disease diagnosis, I was determined to make this new lifestyle a balanced one in order to make the best decisions for my health. I decided right then and there it was time to subscribe to a way of life – not a temporary fix – and I encourage you to do the same.

Take a look at these three simple healthy changes you can make today – no serious commitments or overhauls required. 

1. Add a green smoothie to your daily routine. 

Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to pack a ton of nutrition into one simple serving that can easily be made for an on-the-go treat. Let’s face it: Some days we just don’t have time – or the digestive fortitude – to eat three cups of baby spinach or kale. By pairing these types of greens with dairy-free or regular milk, frozen fruit or a banana and a few other additions, it makes it easy to get a dose of healthy nutrients. Try these guidelines for building a smoothie at home – and discover one of my favorite recipes below: 

- Get some greens in there. Leafy green vegetables are a nutrient-packed addition to any smoothie and barely detectable once you add in all of the other ingredients. Choose from 1-2 cups of raw spinach, dandelion and mustard greens, or baby kale. 

- Choose a liquid. Add 1 cup of a dairy-free beverage, like almond, coconut, hemp or flaxseed milk, or even some pure coconut water. Of course, water or regular milk is also an option. If you’ve blended your smoothie for a bit and it still looks too thick, just add a bit more liquid to it.

- Add a little fat. Choose nut butters (peanut, almond, sunflower or cashew) or flaxseed meal, which is also packed with Omega-3s and fiber. Avocado is also a delicious option, giving smoothies a rich and creamy texture. No matter what you choose, add 1-2 tablespoons. 

- Throw in some fresh or frozen fruit. This is where you add a bit of sweetness to your smoothie. Bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and peaches are all yummy choices. Choose frozen and create a thicker smoothie texture.

- Extras: Try chia seeds, cacao powder, spirulina, fresh spearmint or peppermint leaves, or plant-based protein powder to give smoothies a boost.

2. Break a sweat every day. 

You won’t always have time for an extra long gym workout, but setting aside a bit of time to sweat each day will not only help keep your waistline in check, but boost your mood and energy levels. Double up on solo time with your partner or friends by asking them to go for a walk with you. That way, you won’t only get in a bit of time for chatting, but you’ll also be burning calories. Ten-minute walks with the dog and a game of hide-and-go-seek with the kids also count – just get moving!

3. Start a journal. 

I’ve always had a journal, but I made an extra commitment to myself on my 30th birthday I would be sure to journal every day – even if it was only a page or two. What I discovered was it not only boosted my creativity, but getting all of that internal conversation on paper helped ease my mind for more restful sleep. This is especially helpful if you are someone who is prone to making lists the moment your head hits the pillow! Writing in a journal doesn’t have to be poetic, nor is it meant to be shared. Instead, keep your brain healthy and find peace of mind by using those blank pages as a place to vent your innermost (and sometimes most mundane!) thoughts.

I’m curious: What is one simple step you have recently taken toward a healthier life? Send me an email – I love to hear your ideas!

Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the author of The Gluten-Free Revolution and a certified health coach. She is also the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at afterglo@daytoncitypaper.com.

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