“New Year. New You” 12 Tips to Stick with and Achieve your Health Goals this Year

New Year. A New You!

12 Tips for you to Achieve Your Health Goals Finally!

By Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, BCHN, Herbalist

person sunset background


“This year I’m going to lose 20 pounds, (or start going to the gym, or improve my blood work numbers, etc.…)

Sound Familiar?  

Why do we stick with it for only a few months, only to go back to our old ways?


Bottom Line: We do too much, too fast and go about it haphazardly.  We place a great deal of stress and burden on ourselves to change and to do it right NOW!  Then when you slip a little, say miss a day at the gym, you feel defeated and soon one day “off your diet” turns into one week, then one month….



Change takes time.  You didn’t get to your health issues overnight.  Be patient. 

Here are 12 tips (one for each month) to get you on track to a healthier lifestyle.  Adding in these tips, one at a time, will make them sustainable and they will become part of your routine.  These basic tips are effective for anyone looking to lose weight, balance blood sugar, improve blood work scores, gain energy, improve sleep and much more. 



Focus on only one step every 2 to 4 weeks.  Don’t go out of order. They are in this order for a reason. Don’t move on to the next step if you are still adjusting to the one prior to it.   


1. Consume 16 ounces of Water First Thing in the Morning:


This is very effective for weight loss, increased energy and removing waste from the body.  Do this before you eat.  Make it a habit just like brushing your teeth in the morning.  Many of us are walking around in a dehydrated state and don’t even know it. 


2. Add in General Supplementation:


Diet is important but unfortunately our soil is not a mineral rich as it was 70 years ago; the foods you eat today do not contain the same number of vitamins and minerals that it did pre-WWII era.  Add in at the very least, quality multivitamin, magnesium supplement (I like Natural Calm powder to add to water)


3. Focus on WHERE you Eat:


Many don’t think this is a big deal but it really is a huge deal!  I cannot stress this enough!  Where do you eat? In the car, in front of the TV, at your desk at work, in front of the fridge, while walking, while on the phone or computer? 



Focus on eating only when sitting down at a table.  And not while working.  Studies show that those who take 20-30 minutes to eat lunch while not working were more productive than those who thought they could get more done if they ate and worked at the same time.  Have you ever been staring at your computer, a meal by your side and then look over and realize the food is gone and wonder who ate your food? You didn’t even realize you consumed it, let alone enjoy your meal.  If you want to improve your health you need to start paying attention to this step!!


 4. Add in Fermented Foods:



Save your money and skip the probiotic supplement and instead add in a variety of fermented foods and drinks such as plain goat milk kefir, kombucha, fermented sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, miso (fermented soy) and tempeh.  Add in one serving per day.


 If you have any digestive or bowel issues you may have to start very slow and work your way up to a serving. Some people with a compromised digestive system can only handle a few bites of fermented vegetables per day the first few weeks until their gut health improves. 


The benefits of fermented foods is lengthy.  For now, just know that it can aid in weight loss, support your immune health and assist with mood, focus and attention issues and much more. 


 5. Focus on Chewing:

This pertains to number 3 as well. Now that you are not eating mindlessly while doing other tasks, now is the time to focus on slow eating.  At first count every now and then how many times you chew each bite of food and look at the time and see how long it takes you to eat a meal. 


Are you chewing 3-5 times per bite? Are you inhaling your food?  Are you done eating before everyone else?  Do you feel bloating after every meal or experience indigestion after a meal? Then it’s time to slow down and chew each bite 10-20 times.


 It sounds like a lot but the breakdown of each bite of food is important for digestion and assimilation of needed nutrients. It also gives your body time to send the signal to your brain to stop eating and that you are full.  Eating slowly can aid with weight loss, improve digestion, relieve you of gas and bloating and slow down the process of sugar and carbs entering the blood stream. 


 6. Swap out Foods that Contain Artificial Sugar:



Just because you may not drink diet soda, does not mean you do not consume artificial sweetener.  Many products such as frozen meals, protein powders, weight loss products, low fat products, protein bars, yogurt, bottled juice and tea beverages contain artificial sugars (sometime more than one). It is hidden in many places. 


Once you read labels you will be shocked to find out how many products contain this fake product.  I get asked often “If I had to choose between sugar and fake sugar which is the best choice?”  While I do not like either in processed form, I would have to say go for the real sugar.  Fake sugar is now linked to diabetes, overeating of more processed carbs and sugary foods and it disrupts the gut microbiome.


Swap out diet soda for seltzer water with lemon, the low-calorie yogurt for plain Greek yogurt or plain goat milk yogurt, swap out the protein bar with a different protein bar (there are so many to choose from), and swap out frozen meals for crock pot meals.


 7. Think in Colors:



If you have young children, you can get them involved and make this a fun game.  Pick a color to focus on each day or each week. For instance, focus on eating red fruits, vegetables and spices this day or week.  This could look like sweet potato, red bell peppers, curry powder, cumin powder, paprika, strawberries, pomegranates, radish, apples, red potatoes, tomatoes and so forth.  Have fun with it. 


The more color you get into your diet, the better this is for your health.  Each color contains different phytonutrients that are beneficial for your health.  So, if you eat just broccoli and green beans all the time you are missing out of many other plant nutrients by avoiding the rest of the rainbow. 


 8. Eat more Protein, less Carbs for Breakfast:


If you eat a bagel on the run, a muffin at the coffee shop, a bowl of cereal or just a piece of fruit, you are setting yourself up for low blood sugar, cravings, irritability and fatigue for the rest of the day.  Unless you are heading out for a long bout of cardio you don’t need all those carbs in the morning.  Start your day with a moderate amount of protein (i.e.: 2-3 eggs or scoop of protein powder in your green smoothie), add in some quality fats such as a few slices of avocado or handful of nuts/seeds and a small number of carbs such as one half an apple.  

9. Bring lunch to Work Three Times each week:

Do you and your co-workers decide where to order from each day for lunch?  Do you eat out more than 4 times per week?  Besides saving money, you will do your body good to prepare a meal from home and bring to work. Already bring lunch 3 days per week?  Then shoot for five!  This doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be a “Mason Jar Meal”, leftovers, quinoa bowl, salad with protein, etc.

By doing so you will eliminate processed carbs, poor quality proteins and unhealthy fats from your diet on these days.  Trust me, your body will thank you!


 10. Make it a Rule: Vegetables or Salad at every Dinner:


While it would be great if we could eat vegetables at every meal and snack, I realize this is not very practical for most. 


Make it a goal that at every dinner you have a dark leafy green salad and/or several vegetables.  For instance, if it’s a salad, get creative and see how many different vegetables you can include in it.  For vegetables, roast a medley instead of just one.  


 11. One Day Each Week Omit Processed Gluten:


While whole grain wheat per se I do not think is evil, what is causing some problems today is the processed wheat and the amount that we consume.  In the past, we did not consume wheat at every meal and snack and it was not refined.


Refined grain is stripped of its nutrients, protein and fiber, so all you are left with is the starchy portion which contributes to disrupted blood sugar, cravings, obesity and systemic inflammation. 


Ezekiel bread is better because it is not as processed but even this should be limited to one to two pieces per day.  So, the problem is not whole grains (unless you have celiac disease, gluten allergy or gluten sensitivity), the problem is the bread, pasta, bagels, muffins, cereals, etc.… made from refined processed gluten/wheat. 


Swap it out for whole grains or alternative flours such as teff, millet, quinoa, basmati white rice, coconut flour, almond flour, tiger nut flour and cassava flour. 


 12. One Day Each Week Omit Processed Dairy


Pasteurized dairy is typically from cows fed a GMO diet, cows that are given growth hormones and antibiotics.  If you have health issues such as GERD, mood issues, weight issues, bowel issues and so forth, you may want to consider swapping out your milk, yogurt and cheese for fermented dairy such as kefir, raw, organic cheese and goat milk products as some tolerate goat’s milk better than cow’s milk. 


For some they don’t notice a difference until they swap out all the dairy products for 2 to 4 weeks.  This is up to you and is based on your health issues and whether you have a casein allergy or are lactose intolerant. 


You can try nut milks and coconut milk and coconut yogurt as substitutes as well


 Evaluate and see how far you have come in 12 months!

Keep a log and write each one at the beginning of each month on your calendar.  In 12 months see how far you have come.    Congrats!

Don’t forget!

Jan 15th, Sunday 2-3:30 @ Castle Rock, CO Philip S. Miller Library

Start the new year off right and sustain your goals this year!  I will show you how. 

RSVP to trufoodsnutrition@yahoo.com as space is limited.



If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate) is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit her site at  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, then like here fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

Share this:Share on YummlyShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on VKShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

21 Reasons to avoid Energy drinks

21 Reasons to Avoid Energy drinks


Many young adults (18-35 y/o range) can be seen walking around holding a can of pure caffeine and sugar.  More often than not these cans contain more than one serving and who really drinks only half a can?  What is this doing to your health and could it have long term consequences?

Read on to find out!

Here is why I think energy drinks are a bad idea. 

You want to work out but are tired and need some motivation and energy so you take an energy drink


  • This can be deadly, especially if you are under a great deal of stress or have high blood pressure.
  • The number of hospital visits related to energy drinks has doubled from 2007-2011. 
  • It can make your heart race, cause palpitations, and increase you blood pressure and even lead to seizures and heart attacks. 
  • You don’t need that much sugar before you work- out.  An energy drink serving can have up to 10 teaspoons of sugar (40 grams).  Opt for a natural source of sugar and energy instead-have a banana or handful or grapes.

Instead of coffee just drink an energy drink or energy shot, right?

Wrong!  One leading brand of energy drink shots tops out at 570 mg. of caffeine.  This is way too much caffeine for your body to handle, especially in one large gulp! 

This much caffeine can lead to severe adrenal depletion.  This sets you up for a vicious cycle of that leads to more fatigue which means you need more and more caffeine to get through the day. If you are this low on energy and need this much caffeine it is time to look at root causes instead of managing your symptoms. 

The amount of caffeine in common energy drinks is 5 times the amount in a cup of coffee and 10 times the amount in a serving of soda. 

However, if you do want to start reducing your caffeine intake, don’t go cold turkey.  You will end up with terrible withdrawal effects from your daily habit.  Instead wean off slowly such as pouring a little bit out of each can you drink and every few days pouring out a little more.  If you go cold turkey you will end up with terrible headaches and brain fog for several days. 

If you need this much caffeine, ask yourself why?  Usually if you are using caffeine as a crutch there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.  While a picture on one website for energy drinks would have you thinking it is normal for everyone to have a 3o’clock slump and need a pick me up, this is  not normal to need caffeine to get through each and every day. 

But the label says it has all these herbs and vitamins and amino acids in it so it must be healthy for me!

Sorry there is no nutritional value in a sugary, caffeinated beverage. Don’t be fooled by the marketing! Energy drinks are actually labeled as dietary supplements but they are anything but that.  It is estimated that sales of Energy drinks in the US have brought them a market worth 12.5 billion and sales of these harmful drinks continues to grow. 

There have been cases of teenagers dying from the effects of too much consumption and it caused them to go into cardiac arrest.  So ask yourself, it is worth it?

  Yes, I know it mentions all these herbs it contains.  Most likely the herbs are in very small quantities and not in the right forms to provide you with any benefit. If you are looking for the benefits of the herbs then work with a nutrition/herb professional who can provide you with the best herbs for you and in the right forms. Herbs can also interact with medications so always work with a professional when ingesting herbs. 

The same applies to the vitamin and amino acids. The odds are they are using very poor quality forms which are difficult for the body to absorb.  And if you are only absorbing a very small amount then the odds are the benefits from them are doing you no good. Get your supplements from natural food sources instead. 

Can I substitute my morning smoothie with an energy drink?


You can if you want to stay on the viscous cycle of being wired and tired all the time and continue to destroy your health over time. 

If your usual smoothie is loaded with fruit then it may be better than an energy drink but still not a great choice. Don’t start your day with sugar.  Instead make a protein veggie smoothie.  For instance, water, protein powder, ¼ of an avocado, ¼ of a frozen banana, large handfuls of dark leafy greens, tablespoon of hemp seeds and/or nut butter.  You want energy-give your body what it really needs. It does not need caffeine and sugar.  If you think it does, then your body is trying to tell you something! Listen to it. 

Pros and cons of drinking energy drinks

Pros: None I can think of. I wish they didn’t even exist. 


  1. Dangerous when combined with alcohol or stimulants such as ADHD meds (Adderall, Ritalin)
  2. There is little scientific evidence that their “proprietary formulas” give someone a physical and/or mental edge.
  3. Anxiety
  4. Headaches
  5. Heart attacks, strokes
  6. 8-11% of those who are caffeine dependent show signs of depression
  7. Seizures
  8. High blood pressure
  9. Diabetes
  10. No nutritional value-empty calories, takes place of nutrient dense foods
  11. Irritability
  12. The caffeine inhibits the activity of folate, B6 and B12
  13. It can cause death
  14. Nausea, diarrhea
  15. The acids in the drinks can lead to tooth destruction, damage enamel, cause stomach damage, osteoporosis and bone fractures
  16. If it contains artificial sugar: this can lead to overconsumption as your brain is waiting for the calories to come along with the sweet taste and leads you to crave more sugar. 
  17. Premature aging
  18. Disrupts your gut flora (this alone is a major concern for mental, physical and immune health!)
  19. leads to low serotonin levels  (mood issues, depression)
  20. Dehydration
  21. Reduces cortisol levels (which can cause weakness, fatigue, anxiety, heart palpitations, depression, unable to cope with stress)

So as you can see, that energy drink to help you get through the day is not helping you but rather hurting you.  Zero pros to drinking them, 21 cons to drinking them; the choice is yours. 



Andrews, R. (nd) All about energy drinks.  http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-drinks.

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Greenfield, B. (7/09) I don’t approve of Energy drinks.  https://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2009/07/i-dont-approve-of-energy-drinks-and-a-bonus-video/

Meier, B. (1/12/13) More Emergency Room visits linked to Energy Drinks.  http;//www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/business/more-emergency-room-visits-linked-to-energy-drinks-report-says.html.  

Stone, I. (3/17/14) Link between emergency room visits and energy drinks.  http://www.topmastersinhealthcare.com/link-between-emergency-room-visits-and-energy-drinks/

Gaille, B. (nd) Energy Drink Industry Statistics and Trends.  http://brandongaille.com/26-energy-drink-statistics-and-trends/


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

Share this:Share on YummlyShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on VKShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

Coconut Sugar vs. White Sugar: The Facts

Coconut Sugar versus White sugar

Which is the healthier option?

You May be surprised by my response



I read numerous nutrition articles, research articles and health books weekly if not daily.    Most of the information is very helpful and informative.

Usually it leads me to ask more questions which then lead me to more research. Along the way I stumble upon some blogs-some very good ones and some really bad ones. 

This blog post is created because of a blog I read on “Ways to Alter Recipes to make them Healthier” This was written by someone called “Dr. Donna” but no other information about her was provided. 

While the article had many errors (and a few good points) the comment that made me laugh was this:

“Commit to NO sugar in a recipe.  You can do this by using coconut sugar instead”

Hmmm, last time I checked coconut SUGAR is still sugar!

What concerns me is that her post has been viewed over 46,000 times in the past year since it was posted!  How many of those people now have chronic health conditions due to their “sugarless coconut sugar” eating. 

I’m sorry, what did she not understand in the wording “coconut sugar”

I admit that I use coconut sugar in some of my baked good recipes. BUT I would never mislead my guests or clients and say “here, try some of my no sugar added cookies!” 

The Facts

  • Some tout coconut sugar to have a lower glycemic index than regular processed/refined white sugar.  But if you look at the research, only a couple of studies have been done and on only a handful of people.  One study was done by a government that is one of the largest producers of coconut sugar in the world.
  • Studies vary saying coconut sugar has a glycemic index anywhere from 35 to 54.  (White sugar is around 60).  For me, I need to see more research. 
  • Coconut sugar is higher in some minerals as opposed to white sugar BUT….
  • In order to get the nutrient benefits from coconut sugar you would have to eat A LOT of it!  Eat whole foods instead. 
  • Regular table sugar is 50% fructose, 50% glucose.  You may see claims that coconut sugar is fructose free but in reality it is roughly 40% fructose.  Fructose gets processed by the liver and the excess get stored as fat.  Fructose contributes to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and in my opinion, mental health issues and systemic inflammation as well. 
  • Coconut sugar does contain some inulin which is a prebiotic fiber.  Again, how much do you need to consume to reap the benefits? Eat raw onion, raw garlic, raw asparagus and not overly ripe bananas for your prebiotic fiber instead!
  • Some coconut sugar products are not 100% coconut sugar but instead a blend with cane sugar.  Know your products or ask someone who does know which products to use!
  • If you are diabetic you should treat the consumption of coconut sugar the same as consuming refined white sugar. 
  • While it may be the better choice than white sugar, it can still impact your liver and blood sugar health.
  • If you opt for coconut sugar, use it in small, limited quantities, not part of your daily intake. 
  • It has the same amount of calories as white sugar.


Bottom Line

Coconut sugar is still a sugar. It is a better option that GMO white processed sugar for the occasional baked good but don’t be misled. It is still sugar.  Use it as an occasional treat instead. 

Coconut is a great source for healthy fats but in the form of coconut oil. Fat gives food its flavor. I make banana bread that really does not have any added sugar!  What gives it a great taste is the coconut oil and the bananas provide all the sweetness that you need. 

Final Thoughts

There is so much information on the web and unfortunately much of it can do more harm than good. Always check the sources of the information provided and do further research. If you are still unsure, bring the information to a qualified professional in that subject area to get their take on the information. 

I always research products and information. Most product companies that stand behind their products and their words are more than happy to respond to you and share more information.  I email and call companies all the time! 

Sadly (for me, not for her!) there was nowhere to comment at the end of “Dr. Debbie’s” post to let her know of the error but I’m sure she is glad that I was unable to comment! 



Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Gunnars, K. (nd) Coconut Sugar-Healthy Sugar Alternative or a Big, Fat Lie? https://authoritynutrition.com/coconut-sugar/

Perlmutter, D. (nd) Coconut Palm Sugar-What’s the Skinny? http://www.drperlmutter.com/coconut-palm-sugar-whats-skinny/

Virgin, JJ. (8/18/14) Coconut Sugar: Healthier Sweetener of Another Pretty Name for Sugar? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jj-virgin/coconut-sugar-healthier-s_b_5669084.html


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com

As a nutrition professional, Karen Brennan does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

Share this:Share on YummlyShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on VKShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page