Peace on Your Plate

A reminder to ditch the diet mentality, savor the celebration and experience food freedom this holiday (and every day!)

While the holiday season symbolizes warmth, togetherness, and family; it can also evoke feelings of anxiety, especially around food. Preoccupation with weight and calories fosters unhealthy, guilt-ridden feelings about eating that harm relationships with our food and bodies. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Food is an important part of our culture and traditions, especially during times of celebration. Eating is one of the many ways that friends and family come together during the holidays, making it an experience that should be pleasurable and satisfying. 

If you find yourself hyper-focusing on your holiday plate ("fear of blowing your diet", counting calories, restricting, etc.) you may feel better by simply letting go. Choose foods that you want to eat and stop stressful thoughts before they begin. 

  • Fuel up. If you’re going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, is the answer to “save up” all day by restricting? No. The same goes for holidays. Don’t skip meals or snacks as this will leave you over-hungry, deprived, and unable to truly enjoy the food when it finally comes around.
  • Eat intuitively. Tune in, how are you feeling before and after eating? Are you ravenous, hungry, satiated, overfull? Do not restrict or stuff yourself to a point of discomfort. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satiated. 
  • Shut down diet talk. Create a safe space for yourself and others by eliminating negative food and body talk. Statements about weight and the latest fad diet do not contribute to healthy relationships in any arena – or celebration for that matter! By leaving “fat talk” and the latest so-called weight-loss-wonder out of conversations you give everyone - including yourself - a chance to relax and eat freely, without judgment.
  • Practice mindfulness. Are you eating in front of the TV? Computer? Looking at your phone? While driving? Turn off the screens and engage your senses by allowing the digestive process to fully take place. Put your fork down between bites and engage with those around you. The holidays are the perfect time to really savor and appreciate foods, especially your favorites!
  • Find joy in movement. Do you enjoy dancing? Walking? Being outside? Yoga? Lifting weights? Make exercise less of a task and more of a self-care routine. Rest is equally important, so don’t be afraid to take a hot bath or read a book instead. Treat your body with kindness while moving and resting intuitively.
  • Consider your relationship with food. Cease labeling foods as good or bad, clean or unclean, as all have a place in nourishing your body. All foods fit; no piece(s) of pie or rich casserole will make you "unhealthy". Restriction can lead to binging, shame, and various other poor outcomes. Don’t overthink your meal; instead, focus on being mindful and feeling good.
  • Savor the foods that you desire and, remember, they can come again soon! Your favorite dish should not be limited to the holidays as this can sometimes cause anxiety and over-indulgence to a point of discomfort when the food is temporarily available.  After all, life is for living not restricting!

However you plan on spending the holidays, take the opportunity to care for yourself rather than putting yourself down with feelings of guilt or shame. Now is a time for family, festivities, peace, and joy - embrace it! 

Don’t let food rules steal your joy and connection. 2018 will thank you.


*Contributed to by CVwellbeing Intern Stephanie Zahares

Let’s Talk Probiotics

Good bacteria: it’s a thing!

When you think of microorganisms, “health” might not be the first thing that comes to mind. After all, we’ve been taught our whole lives that germs make us sick. And while some bacteria do promote disease and infection, others can be quite good for us. Enter: probiotics.

Probiotics are the “good bacteria”—live microorganisms that have special benefits for our bodies. You may have seen packages at the grocery store touting the probiotic content of certain foods; so, what are these products and what can they do for us?


Have you had your kombucha today? This fermented tea is served cold and lightly sweetened. It is made using a colony of beneficial yeast and bacteria. The result is cultured goodness, with a slightly fizzy, cider-like taste.

Kefir is another beverage to keep an eye on. Made similarly to kombucha, it is a fermented milk complete with live cultures. Kefir is available in different flavors and tastes like liquid yogurt.

Prefer to mix your probiotics in with some granola and berries? Plenty of yogurts today are made with active cultures.

If you prefer savory flavors, why not try some fermented veggies? Kimchi and sauerkraut are loaded with the good stuff and are an easy way to spice up sandwiches and salads. For a plant-protein powerhouse, try tempeh, which is made from fermented soybeans.

Are these drinks and foods not your cup of tea? Although we promote the “food first” approach, probiotics are also available in supplement form. If you choose a supplement, look for one with 10-20 billion live CFUs (colony-forming units), as this dose has shown most beneficial in clinical trials. Always look for live cultures. Heat and pasteurization tend to kill the bacteria, which means your body will not reap the benefits. Refrigerated probiotics have a shelf life of about three to six weeks. Selecting a probiotic with a variety of strains is also important, as different strains provide special benefits. Three well-researched and important strains to look for include: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum and Bifidobacterium bifidum.

No matter how you decide to consume your probiotics, please keep in mind: although probiotics don’t usually have side effects, if any new food or supplement causes you gastrointestinal distress, discontinue it. Remember—listen to your body; foods affect everyone’s digestion differently!

Food for Thought

Now that you know where to find probiotics, you may wonder, what can they do for my health? The science shows that these cultures may help alleviate unpleasant symptoms of digestive disorders (namely diarrhea), enhance digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, provide oral health benefits, and perhaps even prevent viruses like the common cold by enhancing immune function.

Although most people can benefit from the use of probiotics, they can be especially important if you struggle with any of the following:

  • Antibiotic use

  • GI dysfunction or discomfort – this includes but is not limited to bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux

  • Low energy

  • Mood disorder, like depression or anxiety

  • Weak immunity

  • Skin conditions

  • Inflammation – this study suggests that probiotics can be used to treat a disturbed gut microbiome, which in turn decreases inflammation leading to depressive disorders

Choosing to consume probiotics is a healthful way to nourish your body—whether you have a history of digestive issues, are using antibiotics, or just want to promote general wellness, show your gut some love!







*Contributed to by CVwellbeing Intern Stephanie Zahares

Make Room for Mushrooms

There’s a fungus among us!

Did you know one portobello mushroom cap has about the same amount of potassium as a banana? Although technically a fungus, mushrooms are categorized by the USDA as a vegetable. These little powerhouses are nutrient-dense and super versatile.

Phytonutrient Power

Apart from being rich in B-vitamins, fiber, and key minerals like potassium and copper, mushrooms also contain tiny phytochemicals that promote health. Although shiitake and oyster have the highest amounts, many types mushrooms contain ergothioneine - a compound that neutralizes free radicals in the body, plus has been shown to decrease inflammation (1). To add to the growing list of benefits, some research has suggested mushrooms may be helpful in inhibiting cancer cells and protecting healthy ones (2).

A Flavorful Assortment

While you can find the classic button mushroom at any grocery store, foodies can rejoice at the variety of mushrooms on the market today. Portobellos are large, flat, and have a slightly sweet taste, especially when sauteed. Portobellos are the perfect size to add flavor and nutrition to sandwiches. Alternatively, the lion’s mane mushroom looks like a fluffy white pom-pom and has been shown to improve cognitive function in clinical trials (3). When cooked, the shiitake mushroom has a smoky, meaty flavor. Mushrooms can be fabulous additions to omelets, pizza, stir-fries, salads, and more. We encourage you to come up with your own ideas for how to incorporate mushrooms - and we’d love to read about it in the comments section!

Savoring the Taste

The distinct taste of mushrooms is a wonderful reminder to savor and relish all the wonderful flavors and aromas that food offers us. Eating should be a relaxing, nourishing experience that makes you feel good. Don’t be afraid to try unfamiliar foods, even if you predict you won’t like them. Having an open mind about what’s on our plates brings us closer improving our relationships with food.

We’ll  leave you with this - next time you’re thinking of how to meet your 5-10-a-day fruits and veggies, consider giving mushrooms a try!



*Contributed to by CVwellbeing Intern Stephanie Zahares

Food First

Food First

In honor of completing my first clinical rotation at Maine Medical Center's Weight & Wellness Program

Perhaps you're thinking "I take a multivitamin, I don't need to get vitamins and minerals from food sources" or "I already struggle with my weight, restricting food intake is the only way to keep the pounds off".  This is where the challenges begin. 

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