In the quest for a healthy diet, breakfast is one the most important meals of the day. It can also be the most challenging. It is ideal to start your day with something that is high in protein, low in sugar and easy to digest. Unfortunately that description doesn’t fit most of the the common American breakfast foods. Even foods we think of as healthy, like oatmeal or whole grain toast, lack protein and are loaded with carbohydrates. Without adequate protein the carbohydrates in a meal are quickly digested and energy drops. A breakfast of unbalanced carbohydrates will leave a person hungry, and tired within a few hours. No wonder so many people reach for a pastry and a latte mid-morning.


Fortunately, there are plenty of breakfast options that are tasty, filling and energizing. For people on the go, a shake or smoothie is a great option. These drinks combine nutrient dense fruits with protein powder and super foods (see the “immune smoothie” recipe in the 10-30-11 blog post) . They are easily prepared, portable and can be sipped through the morning.

Egg or tofu “scrambles” are good choices if there are no allergies to eggs or soy. Any number of vegetables can be added for a nutritional boost. Scrambles are easy to make in large batches and can feed a a group of people at breakfast or brunch.

Leftovers from lunch or dinner are fine breakfast foods. Often these food are more balanced in protein and carbohydrates than the standard morning fare. Soups and stew are especially good because they are warm, nourishing and easy to digest.

If you are still wondering what to make, don’t despair.   Read next weeks blog for some healthy breakfast recipes.

The new year provides us with an opportunity for reflection. What are we proud of; what needs to be different? A New Year’s resolution is a wonderful way to affirm the changes we want to make. Too often though, resolutions are focused on punishment and deprivation. It is healthier for the body and the mind to focus on what will enrich our lives. Instead of taking something away, try adding something in. Unhealthy habits or patterns will naturally lessen when our time and energy is focused on something enjoyable. Below are four suggestions for a healthier, happier new year.

  1. Drink Water. Without proper hydration your body can’t shed toxins and metabolism slows. Pure filtered water is one of the most important medicines. Light herbal teas, soups and juicy fruits and vegetables are also good sources of water.

  2. Eat your vegetables. Vegetables are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with vitamins, minerals, bioflavinoids and fiber. Darkly colored vegetables are usually highest in beneficial phytochemicals. Each day try to eat at least 1 ½ cups each of green and red/orange vegetables.

  3. Move. Whether it is structured exercise or or an active lifestyle, people need to move their bodies to be healthy. Don’t have time for a gym or exercise class? Try biking or walking instead of driving. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get up from your desk and stretch every few hours. Humans were not meant to sit still all day.

  4. Spend more time with the people you love. It is easy to get distracted and overwhelmed by responsibilities. Sometime it seems like there is no room for friends and family. But it is important to take time out each day to focus on the people who are dear to you. It will nourish you and your relationships.

For the best flavor in your holiday recipes it pays to use a little fat.  Oils improve the flavor and texture of foods.  They also improve satiety, the feeling of satisfaction and fullness.  This prevents us from overeating and makes high quality, organic oils a healthy addition to the holiday table.

Dairy free ice cream recipe by Dara Thompson, Naturopathic Doctor

Ginger-Vanilla Ice Cream

Coconut milk is an excellent substitute for cow’s milk in ice cream and other frozen desserts.  Coconut is high in saturated fat, but over 60% of it is medium chain triglycerides.  This easy to digest oil has long been used to correct malnutrition.  Because coconut has a naturally sweet flavor, very little additional sweetener is required.

–       2 cans (~3 cups) of organic, unsweetened coconut milk (not lite!)*

–       2 tablespoons of raw, organic honey**

–       2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

–       ¼ teaspoon of sea salt

–       ½ cup of candied ginger, minced (This is for ginger lovers!  Feel free to use less.)

–       ½  cup of chopped, toasted macadamia nuts or other unsalted nuts (optional)

Place the coconut milk, honey, vanilla, and salt in a blender and process for ~ 30 seconds until the mixture is well blended.  Place the liquid in an ice cream maker and process it until it is starting to freeze but is still soft.  Add the nuts and ginger and continue to process until done.  If you do not own an ice cream maker you can freeze the coconut milk mixture in popsicle molds.

*  I like Native Forest brand because their cans are BPA free.

** Do not serve raw honey to children under the one year of age.

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Thyme a recipe by Dara Thompson, Naturopathic Doctor

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Thyme

This is a variation on the classic recipe “Green Beans Almondine”.  The preparation also works well with brussel sprouts or broccoli.  If you don’t eat butter you may substitute olive oil and a pinch of salt.

–       2 cups of green beans cut into 2 inch pieces

–       ½ cup of hazelnuts chopped

–       1 teaspoons of fresh or ½ teaspoon of dried thyme.

–       2 tablespoons of organic butter

–       Add salt and pepper to taste

Steam the green beans for~ 10 minutes, until they are tender.  While the green beans are cooking melt the butter in a medium sized sauté pan.  Add the hazelnuts and sauté them over medium heat until they are golden brown ~ 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the thyme and remove the butter mixture from the heat.  Add the green beans and mix well.  Serve this dish warm.

The winter holidays bring a multitude of social events and time with friends and family.  Unfortunately they can also be stressful and physically taxing.  Use the simple tips listed below to keep yourself healthy while still enjoying this time of celebration.

1)   Get enough sleep.  With all of the parties, extra food preparation and shopping, sleep can end up on the back burner.  Don’t compromise; the restorative properties of sleep cannot be replaced.  It is fine to stay up late for a special occasion, but get to bed as early as possible on the other days.

2)   Minimize your sugar consumption.  During the holidays candy and other sweets can become a permanent fixture.  It O.K. to indulge, but eating candy constantly will lead to weight gain and lowered immunity.  Instead try a conscious splurge.  Pick you favorite holiday treat and eat it with abandon, savoring every bite.  Just don’t do it too often!

3)   Stay hydrated.  As we rush from event to event it is easy to forget to drink water.  This is even more important when drinking alcohol and coffee.  Since these beverages can be dehydrating you need to drink more water compensate.

4)   Choose high quality ingredients.  By making your holiday dishes with organic, wholesome ingredients you can enjoy a delicious meal and feel great the next day.  Over the next 3 weeks the Solutions Naturopathic Care blog will be focusing on healthy holiday recipes.  There is no need to be deprived.  Learn how to make your favorite dishes without any wheat, dairy or refined sugar.

 Shitake mushrooms support the immune system says Dara Thompson A naturopathic Doctor in Hilo, Hawaii

Shitake Mushroom Gravy

Savory shitake mushrooms are rich in immune stimulating polysaccharides.  Maitake mushrooms may also be used.  Components in these mushrooms have been shown to stimulate white blood cell activity.  Be sure to use the soaking liquid. It contains most of the medicine and the flavor.

–       ¼ c. dried shitake mushrooms soaked for at least two hours in ½ c. hot water

–       ½ c. each minced onions and celery

–       4 fresh sage leaves or 1 t. dried sage

–       1 sprig of thyme leaves or ½ t. dried thyme

–       1 T. coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee

–       1-2 t. Bragg Liquid Aminos (if you are very sensitive to soy, use ¼ – ½ t. salt instead)

–       2 c. “milk”; you may use any unsweetened milk or milk substitute.  I think that homemade cashew milk and store bought unsweetened oat milk have the best texture

–       1 T. arrowroot starch dissolved in 2 T. water

Remove the shitakes from their soaking liquid and reserve it.  Remove the coarse stems from the shitakes and slice the mushroom caps.  If you are using fresh sage and thyme remove the coarse stems and mince the herbs. Add the oil to a heavy bottomed pan and add the mushrooms, herbs and vegetables.  Sauté the mixture over medium heat for ~ 10 minutes, until everything is lightly browned.  Add the soaking liquid, 1 T. Aminos and simmer it covered for 5 min. Add the milk and warm but do not boil the mixture. Taste it and add more Braggs if you prefer a stronger, saltier flavor. Bring the gravy to a boil and quickly add the arrowroot rue, stirring constantly. As soon as the mixture thickens, remove it from the heat and serve it with grain, mashed potatoes, meat or poultry.  This recipe makes 3 cups.

Power packed immune smoothie by Dara Thompson a naturopathic doctor in Hilo, Hawaii

Immune Smoothie

This smoothie is designed to enhance and protect the immune system. The berries supply concentrated flavonoids. The pineapple, kiwi and papaya are rich in proteolytic enzymes to reduce inflammation. The nuts and seeds supply essential omega 6 fatty acids and protein. The flax or fish oil supply omega 3 fatty acids. The ginger and mint stimulate digestive function. It is meant to be gently cleansing, nourishing and easy to digest.  All of the ingredients should be organic if at all possible.  This recipe makes two servings. If you are only serving one or your blender is two small, just reduce the quantities by half.

–       2 cups of dark berries such as blueberries, raspberries, dark cherries, etc. (these may be purchased frozen)

–       1 cup of cubed pineapple, kiwi, papaya or other low sugar fruit in season

–       2 cups of rice milk, soy milk, kefir or coconut milk*

–       1/4 cup of raw nuts or seeds such as hemp seeds or almonds, or 2 tablespoons of nut butter

–       1 T. cold pressed flax oil, or 1 teaspoons of cod liver oil

–       2 slices of fresh ginger or a few sprigs of fresh mint

–       2 T. of high quality protein powder such as organic rice protein or hormone free whey protein

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree, starting at low speed and increasing to high. This recipe is fairly thick. If you prefer a thinner smoothie, just add more liquid.  Leftovers may be stored in the refrigerator, but should be consumed the same day.

  • Rice milk is a low fat, hypoallergenic milk substitute.
  • Soy milk is a thick high protein milk substitute, but many people are sensitive to soy
  • Kefir is a cultured dairy product with very little lactose and lots of beneficial bacteria. It is suitable for lactose intolerant individuals, but not those with an allergy to milk protein.
  • Coconut milk is especially good for weight gain and increasing nutrition through its high quality, easily digested fats, medium chain triglycerides.

Cold season is upon us.  With the arrival of fall comes the predictable increase in coughs and sneezes.  It is impossible avoid all colds, but by following these four steps many can be prevented.

hand washing prevents the spread of colds says Dara Thompson, a naturopathic doctor in Hilo Hawaii

1)   Wash your hands.  Many different viruses cause the symptoms of the common cold, but they are all transmitted the same way.  These viruses pass from person to person by two major routes.  They can travel on respiratory droplets when one person coughs or sneezes close to another person.  Respiratory secretions can also contaminate hands or objects.  We then collect “germs” on our hands, and infect ourselves by touching our eyes, nose or mouth.  This is why frequent hand washing is so effective at preventing the spread of colds.

2)   Nasal lavage.  In this process a salt-water solution is used to wash out the nasal passages.  This removes allergens, bacteria and viral particles.  It also keeps the nasal passages moist.  Many viruses can only attach to mucous membranes when they are dry.  There are many types of neti pots for nasal lavage/irrigation, and most come with detailed instructions for use.  Saline nasal spray is also helpful, especially in a dry environment like an airplane or an air-conditioned room.

3)   Boost your immune system.  When viruses get past our outer defenses, a strong immune system is our best protection.  To provide the building blocks for our immune cells we need to eat a diet rich in omega 3 oils, high quality protein and darkly colored vegetables and fruits.  Certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, selenium and vitamin A can also be used to boost immunity.  However, these should be used under the guidance of a health care professional, because many of them can be toxic at high levels.  Above all, we need to reduce stress.  Cortisol, the hormone that is produced in response to mental or physical stress is a potent immunosuppressant.

Excess sugar suppresses immunity says Dara Thompson, a naturopathic doctor practicing in Hilo Hawaii

4)   Skip the sugar.  Sugar inhibits the absorption of vitamin C.  This decreases the activity of white blood cells and suppresses immunity.  Around the holidays sweets can be hard to avoid, but practicing moderation is your best defense.

Don’t miss next week’s immune boosting recipes!

gluten free cooking by Dara Thompson N.D.

Not long ago whole wheat was the symbol of healthy food.  Now an increasing number of products bear the proud label “wheat-free”.  For health conscious consumers, it can be confusing.  But many people are discovering that they feel better when they eliminate wheat from their diets.

Wheat is a major world food crop.  Most bread, cereal, pasta is made from wheat flour.  In addition, it is a common food additive as food starch and as an ingredient in soy sauce.  Whole wheat flour is ground from the whole grain without any of the bran or fiber removed.  White flour, has had all of the bran removed for a lighter, less coarse product.  Heirloom varieties of wheat such as spelt, kamut, farro are now widely available.

There are several theories to explain why so many people are reactive to wheat.  Modern wheat has been hybridized to have very high levels of the protein gluten.  This gives bread elasticity and increases shelf life, but gluten is difficult to digest and allergenic.  It is also the cause of celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that affects ~1 in 100 people.  Perhaps this increase in gluten is the cause.  This theory is supported by the fact that many people who can’t eat modern hybridized wheat are able to eat one of the heirloom varieties such as spelt.  Others believe that the amount of wheat being eaten is the problem.  Some people consume wheat at every meal overwhelming their digestive and immune systems.

Regardless of the reason, many people’s find that their health improves when they avoid wheat and other gluten grains.  Common symptoms of a wheat allergy or intolerance are fatigue, digestive trouble, weight gain, edema, congestion and rashes.  If these symptoms resolve when wheat is removed from the diet for 4-6 weeks, it is likely the cause.

yummy yams by dara thompson naturopathic doctor

Luckily there are lots of alternatives to wheat.  Gluten-free breads and pastas are available in grocery stores and are easily ordered on the Internet.  Whole grains such as rice or quinoa can be used in place of bread or noodles in many recipes.  Starchy vegetables like yams or potatoes are another good option.  Don’t forget, most people eat too many carbohydrates already.  Its O.K. to skip the bread altogether and substitute a vegetable side dish in its place.  Don’t miss next week’s blog post for some delicious, easy to follow wheat free recipes!

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