Maintaining Wellness During the Holiday Season!

Written by Mary Battista, Prairie Health Companion

The holiday season is once again upon us and for many of us that means challenging situations they may throw us off our game.  Not only will there be lots of indulgent drinking and eating, but we start to get sleep deprived from staying out late or staying up late just getting everything accomplished.  This only makes things worse as lack of sleep can make us feel tired, therefore craving energy in the form of sugar/caffeine, and the body’s hormones that regulate satiety get thrown off leading to increased snacking and indulging during the day.  On top of all of this is the stress that comes with unrealistic expectations and overwhelm!   What’s a healthy person to do?!

A few simple strategies can keep you on track and feeling in charge of your health and happiness. 

  1. Begin with the end in mind.  Visualize the outcome and how good you will feel when you stick to your healthy choices and guidelines.  Imagine how good your clothes will feel the next day when you put them on.   Mentally walk through the event making choices exactly as you want them to be.  See yourself saying, “no thanks”  and still having a great time!  Practice this is your mind several times before you go.  This is a key step!
  2. Decide on guidelines for alcoholic beverages and treats when you go to a party or holiday event.  By setting guidelines you will pace yourself differently. Use water to stay hydrated and to pace yourself alternating water in between sips of wine. Keep treats small and eat them slowly and mindfully.
  3. Don’t go to holiday events ravenous!  Have something healthy before you go so you are satisfied but not totally full.  A cup of soup, some veggies/hummus, a piece of whole grain toast with hummus or nut butter, a cup of yogurt or a small salad.  If you are too hungry, you may have difficulty controlling portions especially at buffets which are very tantalizing.
  4. Look over the holiday buffet before making your choices and use a small plate. Look for fresh fruits, veggies, shrimp, hummus, salsas, chicken, turkey etc over high-fat/high-salt appetizers and entrees.  Foods with fiber fill you up with fewer calories.
  5. Stick to your exercise/sleep routine to help manage stress and overwhelm.  Exercise is a great stress buster so be sure to schedule it in your busy day which might mean starting your day with it. Perhaps you could squeeze a walk in over your lunch hour?  The more you diffuse stress during the day, the better you will be as the day progresses.  If you don’t get to bed at a reasonable time, you aren’t going to get up to exercise, so be sure to pre-determine your bed time and stick to it!

By thinking through how you want the holiday season to go, you can anticipate triggers and have skills ready to head them off.  The main strategy is to plan your work by thinking it through and having guidelines that you are committed to. As my Dad would say,”Plan your work,  then work your plan”.

Divorce Blues and Night Eating!

Written by Mary Battista, Prairie Health Companion

You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat” but have you ever wondered if,” You are when you eat!”  When we are lonely or stressed, especially during divorce, food can sometimes seem to fill a void, but the dangers of this emotional eating pattern are starting to be understood.

Recent studies are shedding new light on how our metabolism works, and it seems that our bodies are designed to process food most efficiently when we eat during the daylight hours. Research is discovering that calories consumed during the day are metabolized differently than calories eaten at night, which could mean weight problems and disease for the many people who work at night or are just up at night snacking and dining.

Researchers have recently discovered how disruption of our circadian rhythms due to unnatural light exposure can interfere with sound sleep, now they are discovering a second kind of circadian clock that has to do with metabolism.   According to Ruth Patterson PHD, and nutrition expert and epidemiologist at University of California, San Diego, “when you eat all the time, your insulin and glucose levels are elevated all of the time”.  Insulin is a growth promoting hormone and its constant presence in the blood stream could fuel precancerous cells.  So not only are we more inclined to gain weight from night eating, but we are also more predisposed to chronic disease.    Dr. Patterson’s research discovered that breast cancer recurrences were less likely when women simply abstained from food for at least 13 hours.  In fact, many of their subjects lost weight simply by adjusting when they ate during the day, but not what they ate.

Other findings form Dr. Patterson’s research suggest:

  1. Fast for at least half of the day each day.  Depending on your schedule it could be 6PM to 6AM or if you have to eat later, say 8PM, stave off breakfast until 8AM
  2. It’s beneficial to eat your main meal earlier in the day (before 3PM) to lose weight and for best digestion
  3. Eat breakfast like a king and dinner like a pauper. Calories eaten earlier in the day are metabolized more efficiently than those eaten at night.
  4. Consume only water during your nightly 12 hour fast (sorry, coffee is not water)

It’s interesting to note that one of the oldest medical systems in the world, the science of Ayurveda, practiced mainly in India but also elsewhere in the world, also teaches to eat in a very similar pattern and they’ve been teaching this for over 5000 years!   According to Ayurveda, the science of life, between the hours of 12PM and 2PM our “digestive fire” is strongest as it is aligned with the strongest sun of the day, reminding us that our bodies are linked to the natural world. They also suggest a lighter dinner earlier in the evening to supplement you to get through to your  “break-fast”.  So research may be confirming what these Ayurvedic practitioners have known for thousands of years-night eating is detrimental to your health.

It might be an interesting experiment for you to change the time you ate and/or to abstain completely from eating after your evening meal.  What if I get hungry you ask?  Then, you would be in solidarity with the millions of hungry people on this earth.  The only difference is, you know you have another meal coming and they don’t.

Black and White Bean Primavera

Written by Mary Battista –

Divorce is not a picnic, which doesn’t mean you can’t go on one this summer! With the picnic season coming up, having healthy options on hand is important for staying on track with a healthy lifestyle.  Many salads are loaded with unhealthy fats and high in calories that contribute to weight gain and chronic disease. The Black and White Bean Primavera Salad goes together rather quickly because you can use canned beans. It’s a treat for the eyes with its variety of colors (vegetables, and legumes), a treat for the senses with its variety of fresh herbs, and a treat for the body with it high dose of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  It holds up well for a picnic and is very portable in a cooler. Enjoy!

Black and White Bean Primavera

1 T. olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

½ large red, yellow or orange pepper, small dice

1 medium carrot, cut into ¼ -1/2-inch pieces

1 medium zucchini or yellow squash cut into ¼ to ½ inch pieces

¼ tsp sea salt divided

1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted (or could substitute shelled, cooked edamame)

1-½ cups, no salt added black beans (canned works well), drained and rinsed

1-½ cups, no salt added small white beans or navy beans. (canned works well), drained and rinsed

¼ cup finely chopped combination of fresh herbs, such as parley, dill and chives

3 T. sherry vinegar or mild red wine vinegar

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground pepper

½ t. agave nectar or honey


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Stir the vegetables so they start to soften but do not brown.  Add the carrot and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the zucchini or yellow squash and 1/8 t. salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often until the zucchini or squash and carrot just lose their raw look or are just tender.  Then add the peas and cook for 2 minutes.  Transfer vegetable mixture to a large bowl.  While the veggies are still warm, add the cooked beans and fresh herbs.

Mix well.

Whisk together the vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, pepper, agave and remaining 1/8 tsp salt.  Add the dressing to the salad and stir gently to combine.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving

Calories -165


Cholesterol-0 mg


Saturated fat-1g

Dietary fiber-6 g


Protein- 7g

Frittata – Any Way You Like It!

Written by Mary Battista, Find more recipes at

It can be challenging to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the chaos of divorce, but planning meals and snacks can help. Planning replaces the ”chaos” at mealtime with structure and prevents eating haphazardly when you are hungry, pressed for time…or stressed!   Planning is also helps to eliminate trigger foods that can provoke reckless eating.
Frittatas are a great, because they can be filled with lots of healthy ingredients and are ready to go in a snap. You can make them on the weekends and enjoy a wonderful breakfast and then have a delicious option that is ready to reheat and enjoy anytime.  Just serve on a bed of fresh greens with  a piece of fruit and you have a satisfying meal that will keep you feeling great, maintain your health goals, as well as give you the energy to move forward on your journey.
This recipe allows you to be creative. While following the basic frittata method, try making one on a using seasonal ingredients (like asparagus, local ramps and eggs) feeling healthy and in control.

Frittata Recipe

2T. Olive oil or butter or ghee

Salt and fresh ground pepper

1 medium garlic clove, minced

8 large eggs

Splash of water (about 1 T.) or half and half

3 T. Parmesan cheese

3 oz additional cheese (optional) feta, manchego grated, smoked gouda

grated, medium cheddar or your preference

2T. Minced fresh Italian parsley or basil (or 1 T. of each)

Filling options

8-10 medium asparagus spears, snap off woody ends then cut in 1-2”pieces, 1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise then slice into half moons, ½ red pepper diced, 2 cups mushrooms, sliced, 3 cups spinach coarsely chopped, ½ large onion, chopped, 4 oz cooked ham or prosciutto, diced

Preheat oven to 400. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position. Heat 2 T. olive oil or butter over medium heat, in a 10” ovenproof skillet. Select 2 or 3 of the filling options and sauté until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low; add minced garlic, and sauté 1-2 minutes longer. Meanwhile, beat eggs with splash of water or cream, fresh herbs, and 3 T. Parmesan cheese. Season with salt (or Herbamare) and pepper. Shake skillet to evenly distribute filling ingredients. Add beaten egg mixture. If you are adding additional cheese, add it now. Without disturbing the frittata, let the eggs cook until it starts to set around the edges, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the frittata to the oven and bake until puffed and set, 10-12 minutes. Being careful of the handle (which is red hot) slide onto a plate, cut in wedges and enjoy! Frittatas are great warm or at room temperature. They are a great option for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Serves 4-6

Get Ready for Spring Cleaning

Written by Mary Battista, Prairie Health Companion

Spring has finally arrived, which means time for spring cleaning!  Most of us think of washing the windows, vacuuming the carpets and drapes and other deep cleaning chores we often do when spring arrives, but I’m going to challenge you to think of spring cleaning on a few different levels: 1) Spring cleaning of your physical house, 2) Spring cleaning of your mental house, and 3) Spring cleaning of your emotional house.

Let’s start with spring cleaning your physical house or your body.  Many health and nutrition scientist will tell you that there is no need for crazy cleanses or detoxes for the body because the liver and the kidneys are masterful at filtering out harmful waste products and toxins.  By giving your body healthy food and drinks every day and not just for a 1-week intensive cleanse, you will reap the short and long term benefits of good health.  Adding in lots of fresh unprocessed whole foods such as fruits, veggies (including lots of dark, leafy greens), fish, legumes, nuts/seeds and lots of fresh water, will support healthy function of your liver and your kidneys which in turn will masterfully detoxify your body.  You may notice the lightness of digestion, the increased energy, and the clarity of mind that come from these simple and sustainable steps.

Spring cleaning your mental house means getting rid of unhealthy and destructive patterns of thinking that limit your ability to move ahead.  As the late Wayne W. Dyer so feverently believed, “You’ll see it, when you believe it”.  Spend time each day creating a picture in your mind of what you are trying to achieve, and then meditate on it for a few minutes.  This feeds your mind with positive imagery which will start to manifest in your daily life.  What you spend time thinking about is what you will create in your life.  Crowd out those negative thoughts and destructive thinking patterns and make room for positive ones that will help you achieve all your hopes and dreams.

And finally, spring cleaning your emotional house.  Many of us hold on to negative feelings in our heart towards others and ourselves.  This can be very painful and prevent us from experiencing joy.  But, as the great “Our Father” prayer so many of us say on a daily basis states, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  We must not only forgive others, but we must forgive ourselves on a daily basis for our human shortcomings in order to open our hearts to the love and compassion that brings joy into our lives.

So start washing those windows and cleaning those drapes, but don’t forget to clean your physical house, your mental house and your emotional house to reap the benefits of spring’s great promise of renewal!