For the past three holiday seasons, I’ve created an annual post, “My Favourite Kitchen Things” to help inspire you to think about ways to add (or to gift!) just one thing that makes cooking healthy food just a little easier and a little more fun.
This year, I feel it’s high time to expand from kitchen things to wellness, covering the other two arms — Movement and Stress Reduction — of what My Allergy Advocate is all about. When you want to take more control of your health, all three elements help to put your body and mind in an environment that promotes more healing, strengthening, and calming.
By tradition, I wait until after Thanksgiving Day and the cray-cray sales are over, mostly because I don’t wish to contribute to the shopping anxiety that some people feel, or the FOMO that is sometimes a part of the world of Social Media. That’s just not my thing. Instead, think of this list as simply an idea folder, a way of thinking about your health needs through-out another year. You may never need or want some of the items I’ve listed. However, I think you’ll see why I added them: to get you thinking about all the ways your body responds towards or away from health.
For this year’s post, I’m including the simple to the fanciful, from easy basics to dream items, just to get the ball rolling into 2020. Some of these items may be financially out of reach now, but with some saving, planning, crowdfunding, or a generous Santa Claus, it might be that real ‘game changer’ to your health down the road.
Note: Since I am not an Amazon Affiliate, I have placed links to websites rather than Amazon. I know anyone can look up where you want to buy things and where you can save money. But just as a disclaimer, I do not make any money nor receive free product from any of the companies I have listed below.
My Favourite Kitchen Things
Kitchen Scale. I admit, I never felt a real need for a kitchen scale. Each morning, I’d see my M weigh his food before putting it in his lunch box. The rest of the day, it sat there largely ignored. After I got diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I came to understand by trial and error that a kitchen scale is the difference between a light and fluffy pizza crust and one that had potential but ended up goopy, rock-hard, or undercooked on the inside.
Why? Because you can’t measure the flours by volume, and gluten free breads and crusts require multiple types of flours. You need to have precise measurements by weight. And that means, you need a kitchen scale that can measure grams.
By the way, a kitchen scale is handy for making the best loose leaf cups of tea. Just saying’!
Check out Ozeri for the Pronto Digital Food Scale in lots of bright and cheery colours!
Air Fryer. I already have a post waxing on about the wonders of the Air Fryer. Honestly, my M was not sold on it, as it represents yet another single-use item in our small kitchen. However, once he tried it himself, he discovered it’s actually is a convenient appliance to have around. We bought a Phillips Air Fryer that apparently has been replaced by a larger XXL version, yet the smaller version is just fine for us; a larger family may prefer the new style. Want sweet potato fries without cross contamination? Welcome to your mouth!
Baking Steel. After reading the introductory sections of No Gluten No Problem’s Pizza Cookbook on why you need baking steel to make the best pizza, I told M we had to buy a piece of baking steel. Imei wants good gluten free pizza! Pizza pizza! Once the baking steel was delivered, I made the 48-hour ferment New York Style pizza crust from their book, and baked it on that piece of hot baking steel that had been fired up for 45 minutes. It made the best of five minutes of baking that pizza dough, ever! Oh yeah! Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside! This needs to be spoken with a low, seductive voice. Oh yeah! If you want to bake gluten free dairy free soy free pizza and a good crust, baking steel in your home oven is the way to go.
Freeze Dryer. A freeze dryer has been in my sights for almost two years. Clearly, this is a big ticket item that isn’t going to suit everyone’s lifestyle or budget. You could save $50 a month for about 40 months to afford the price of the small size Harvest Right home freeze dryer at its normal retail price, order it through Home Depot and save the shipping, or wait until one of the few sales and buy it direct, pay for shipping, but save a little bit more overall.
Why might you want a freeze dryer, you ask? Given that it preserves food with very little nutritional loss (better than dehydration, canning, or preserving with chemicals), you will save money if you learn how to incorporate freeze dried food into your any-day mindset. If you were try to buy the same food already freeze dried and packaged for you, you would pay much more for a tiny bit of food. But for me, it comes down to something even more important: control over my health.
Put a dollar value on every hour you have lost to illness related to food (especially if you are on a medically-necessary diet), to food waste, and to spending top dollar when you travel just to try to ensure you have access to clean, allergen free food (including selecting hotels with a kitchen, which costs more). Don’t forget to include hospital bills, doctor bills, medicine, and other services directly related to food. Remember that time your aunt made you a cake, and you ended up in the Emergency Room? Count that bill too.
Freeze dry your favourite dessert, gluten free lasagna or pizza slice, and no more worries while traveling or attending a meeting or party where there will be food for everyone but you.
There aren’t many competitors in the freeze dryer business. I went with a name brand, Harvest Right.
Alinker Walking Bike. I first saw a video for the Alinker Walking Bike when I saw Selma Blair on one. She posted a short video to Instagram, and I was all over it for those with mobility issues. The idea is clever: create a bike design that is lightweight, keeps the rider in a seated but upright position, and reduce the amount of resistance needed to propel the rider forward through a walking motion, all while removing the need to balance as one would on a traditional bike.
Any person with a debilitating disease that can walk but experiences pain and inflammation while doing so should check out this walking bike to see if it could be of help to your health goals. I just saw a woman with one pull up to my fitness club’s front doors in order to attend her physical therapy session. She told me it has been a game changer for her. The price tag is $1977.00, and the wait time is 6-8 weeks.
Movement Journal. People tell me all the time, “I can’t afford a fitness coach right now.” I totally get that. And if you’re trying to move your body and figure out what works for you, and do that on a budget, I highly recommend either purchasing or designing your own movement journal.
At minimum, a movement journal should be asking daily such questions as what kind of movement you did, how long you engaged in that movement, how you felt during and after that movement, and what, if anything you would change, add, or omit about it. Additional movement journal features have inspirational quotes, questions about your mental health as well as your physical health, and a section about your yearly goals.
Better known as “fitness journals,” I’m calling this a Movement Journal because many of us aren’t using movement to get fit or lose weight in any traditional sense. We’re seeing our physical activities as ways to take care of ourselves, strengthen a weak immune system, or rehabilitate our bodies so we can pick up our kids or walk the dogs around the neighbourhood. Some fitness journals constantly ask about how much weight you lost. Personally, I find those kinds of goals as secondary or tertiary to a more primary goal of strengthening the body overall.
A Movement Journal allows you to see patterns of what truly works for your body, what gives it energy, and what tanks you so much, you’d be better off avoiding that activity for now. If you don’t have a way to track this information, you are more likely to repeat patterns of things that aren’t working for you.
Black Diamond Carbon Z Trekking Poles. You don’t know what you’re missing until something goes missing. While recovering from a dog bite injury to the leg, I used these trekking poles on both flat trails as well as rolling hills and climbs. They save your legs from the jarring impact of descents, as well as allowing you to use your upper body strength to help haul yourself upwards. Lightweight and collapsible, this will become your go-to gear MVP. You will need to know the height in centimetres from your forearm perpendicular to the ground before you purchase. Depending where you buy them, it will be around $160.
Hydration Vest: how to carry everything you need, and keep essentials within reach. Perhaps once a month on some forum or other for runners, a person asks if it’s OK to wear a hydration vest for a race, whether it’s a five-kilometer race, or a marathon. The reason why they are asking is because they don’t see anyone else wearing them, or they have heard that some large races ban the use of backpacks of any kind because of what happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Regardless of the distance, I chose to carry a hydration vest whenever and wherever it suits me, and if a race prohibits its use, I would then ask the Race Director how he or she would like to accommodate my needs. Carrying two EpiPens, an asthma inhaler, other medication, fluids and foods that are free of my allergens and are gluten free is challenging without some kind of backpack, and a hydration vest has all the pockets I need to carry everything in a lightweight vest. They are designed to stay in place and not move around as much as a hiking daypack, so I love them for hiking and running. You will too.
There are so many choices of hydration vests, you may need to do a little research and try on a few models. My favourite go-to hydration vest has been the Salomon S-Lab hydration vest (2015), but that model has been since replaced. The newer models still sport some nice silicon soft flasks, a bladder holder (bladder sold separately), an attached mini whistle, zippered pockets and back deep pockets for quick grab-and-go eating, and built-in cords to hold collapsible trekking poles when not in use. They come in sizes from very minimal pockets to 3L bladder pocket and extra space for your 10 essentials.
Front Snorkel for Swimming. There are some days that all I can do to move myself around is swim, because my legs are crying in pain or soreness. In 2016, I found out I have some degeneration in my C6/7 spine, which makes turning my head to my right a little crank. That can make swimming hurt.
A Finis front snorkel will fix that! At first, there may be a weird sensation of putting your face in the water and breathing out of your mouth. You can practice in a small pool, bathtub, or even the shower to get used to it. For around $30, you could be gliding around in the pool or a lake without needing to turn your head to swim freestyle, lap after lap.
Stress Reduction (Body and Environment)
Essential Oils. First of all, no. No, I do not sell essential oils. Second of all, no, I don’t believe that essential oils address all that goes wrong with the body. They, like many other things, have a role to play, and I do not extend nor exaggerate the scope of what they can do. I just wanted to put that you there so you would understand that I am not trying to sell any MLM products to you.
For what they can do, an essential oil, used wisely, can effectively reduce the perception of stress. Added to a bath or used through a diffuser, essential oils have been employed for muscle tension relief, congestion relief, and the reduction of anxiety. And that’s just for starters.
Back in the spring, I had a case of the flu that resolved very slowly. Creating a mix of essential oils to diffuse in a closed room helped relieve some of the congestion that was causing headaches, and it helped me relax and sleep better. I have a book on aromatherapy and herbs that has been very helpful as a supportive therapy through a number of conditions.
There are more companies that produce essential oils than I could possibly research and list here. The ones I use are from NOW: spearmint, eucalyptus, lemon, rosemary; lavender for relaxation. The NOW brand diffuser comes in a bamboo column design with buttons to select intermittent or continuous release. I understand some people buy diffusers for their cars and offices. But before you put one in your office, check with your company’s policy on fragrances and scented products. They may be prohibited.
Epsom Salts. For something as inexpensive as Epsom salts, you’d think everyone would have discovered the magic juju of an Epsom salt bath at the end of a day. Got sore muscles? Take an Epsom salt bath. Twisted your ankle and it’s tender? Soak that foot in a bucket of water with Epsom salt.
Better yet, add a few drops of the aforementioned essential oils in that Epsom salt bath. You may never want to leave. My cat has to meow at me as she perches on the bathtub’s edge, reminding me that it is time for me to get out and pay attention to her. Frankly, as much as I love my cat, the Epsom salt bath wins until the water is cold.
Castille Soap. Why am I not surprised that Dr. Cynthia Li mentioned Castille soap as one of her suggestions for creating your own self-care routine in her book, “Brave New Medicine”? For people like myself who have fragrance and chemical sensitivities, Castille soap is about as simple as it gets.
No, it doesn’t lather like most commercial soaps. But if your intent is to remove toxins off your body, like using the dry sauna or an infrared sauna to sweat out toxins, then why would you put a lather-y yet chemical fragrance bomb back on your skin? Just say no.
Three bars of Castille soap costs about five dollars, less if you buy them from a Costco in bulk.
Toothpaste. By now, you’ve likely figured out that toothpastes can have some nasty ingredients, even if a few have been made gluten free. I’m a fan of Tom’s of Main Whole Care (Spearmint), and a tube will average about five dollars. That is more than some of the other name brands. If you have sensitivities, perhaps Tom’s of Maine will work for you, with its careful sourcing of ingredients.
Paraffin-free Candles. For centuries, humans have used fire and light in both protective and therapeutic ways. We also use candles and light in rituals, from weddings to funerals, prayer vigils, and telling ghost stories late at night. I love candles, but some kinds of candles don’t love me.
Cheaper candles are often made with paraffin-waxed wicks and wax. When they burn, they are sending those chemicals into the air you’re breathing, and for sensitive people, that’s not so good.
These days, you can find paraffin-free soy candles and candles with cotton wicks, as well as ones that are scented without being overpowering. Much like essential oils, a high-quality candle can help with relaxation, and the light may be more calming in a darkened room.
There are plenty of options out there, and an easy-to-find one is Mrs. Meyer’s seasonal soy and cottonseed candles that are scented with essential oils, not stinky perfumes. I like the smell of Peppermint, because it reminds me of candy canes.
Indoor Garden. After a year of use, I’m kind of surprised that I’m still growing herbs in our Click and Grow Smart Garden. Maybe that’s because I enjoyed my outdoor container garden so much, I didn’t think an indoor garden would be all that interesting or fun. I mean, you pop some pods with seeds in, you fill the reservoir with water, plug the unit in, program the lights, and then pretty much do nothing else.
Um, that’s the whole point! There is no hard work involved. For those of us who have too many things going on at once, perhaps having a living thing growing in your home that smells wonderful (basil is a nice scent to me!) and that you can forget about until the leaves are ready for harvest might be exactly your speed.
The price has also come down from $99 to about $70. Can you say basil dairy free pesto for your gluten free pizza? Om nom nom!
I hope this list has got your brain thinking about your health wants and needs in the coming year. Watch for my review of the Harvest Right freeze dryer in early 2020.