A Good Day Starts with Breakfast

Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day. It’s true! Breakfast provides the fuel your body needs to get you energized for the day. It provides your brain with the nutrients it needs to tackle tasks throughout the day, whether it be taking a test for school, making important decisions at work, or managing little ones at home. It’s important to start your day with a healthy breakfast- sorry folks doughnuts don’t count! Sugary breakfasts will rapidly increase your blood sugar but then you will crash and feel lethargic throughout the rest of the morning. Try getting some good fat, an ample amount of protein and some healthy carbs in your breakfast. Here are three of my favorite breakfast dishes that I have been eating quite a lot of this summer.

Oats with Greek yogurt and fruit

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I heat up 1/4 cup of oats and add about 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt. I add a handful of blueberries and sprinkled some chia seeds and cinnamon on top. Sometimes I add different fruits depending on what is in season or what we have around the house. There is no added sugar to this breakfast but the fruit and cinnamon make it naturally sweet! This breakfast keeps me full throughout the morning AND gives me the energy I need for early long runs (I’m running my next marathon this fall and am getting to the peak of my training). I used to make my yogurt with granola instead of oats but have found that the oats to be a better alternative because they are more filling and do not have any added sugars.

Veggie omelet with avocado and berries 

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To make my omelets I use 1-2 whole eggs and mix with some egg whites to give it some more volume. If I use 1 egg I add 1/2 cup eggs whites, if I use 2 eggs I add 1/4 cup egg whites. First I saute a handful of spinach, chopped red and green peppers, onion and mushrooms. When the veggies are soft I remove them from the pan and add the eggs. Once the eggs start to form in the pan I add the veggies and fold the eggs into an omelet. I cook the omelet an additional 2-3 minutes and serve with avocado slices and berries. All of the fat and protein in this breakfast keeps me full for hours! If you are trying to lose weight this is a great breakfast idea. More healthy fats and protein and less processed and refined carbohydrates are what help set the stage for weight loss.

Smoothies

I'm not the only one who loves massive green smoothies!

I’m not the only one who loves massive green smoothies!

I make smoothies pretty much every Wednesday and Friday morning. I commute into Atlanta on these days and need a breakfast I can eat in the car. I have a smoothie base and mix it up based on what I feel like drinking that morning.

  • handful of spinach and/or kale
  • shredded carrots
  • scoop of greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • frozen fruit (my favorite combos include mangoes and peaches, mixed berries, strawberry and banana, blueberries and banana)
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed, hemp seeds or chia seeds

I will usually grab a KIND granola bar or an energy ball to eat with my smoothie. It’s always a breakfast I look forward to!

I hope everyone has a great start to the new school year!

 

This crazy life we live and how it’s affecting our health

Life can just be crazy sometimes. Okay let’s be real- it’s crazy ALL the time. We live in a world of unrealistic standards and expectations, and the demands we place on our bodies to meet them is exhausting us. The pressure is on to get the next pay raise or promotion, raise our kids to be the smartest and most talented, keep the house clean, drive our big kids to a million different activities, fill our little kid’s down time with never-ending Pinterest-inspired activities (because simple playing just isn’t good enough anymore) and finally… try get a good night’s sleep. And of course sleep is nearly impossible when all the things that need to be done are swirling around in our brains and just can’t be shut off. No wonder we’re tired! Sometimes I feel as if life is on fast forward and I just want to hit the pause button. But there’s no time for that! Right?!

It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness that life brings, but a lot of the time we just don’t have a choice. The laundry needs to get done. We need to meet deadlines at work. The grass needs to be mowed. If you have big kids you may have to help with homework, drive them to practices and get them off to school in the morning. With all the stuff that builds up during the day, I think the word “relax” has left our vocabulary. A lot of the time I will find myself thinking- okay, just need to get x, y and z done. Then I can relax! Haha nice try. There is always something to do.

I used to live for productive days. I used to believe if I wasn’t productive that day, I failed. I’m starting to learn that constantly checking off boxes just to make me feel like I’ve accomplished something isn’t going to make my life any more fulfilled than it already is. It actually makes me miss out on the special little moments that my inflexible lifestyle was failing to meet. Take the other day for example. I was cleaning my house like a maniac (this is typical, just ask my husband). I had the day planned out in my mind- like I always do- so that everything that was on my mental checklist for that day would get done and we would all be on our perfect little schedule to keep everyone happy. Carli was playing happily by herself so I was using that time to clean up after lunch. Crumbs drive me insane, but sticky counter tops are even worse.

Carli comes up to me and pulls on my shorts “mommy?”

“Mama’s busy sweet pea. Give me just a minute” (I think that’s a phrase I say a lot, I’ve heard her start to say it to her baby dolls. Ah Lord forgive me!)

She walks away and comes back a second time with a blanket she pulled off the couch.

“Mommy no! Mommy come snuggle”

She always knows just what to say. She’s way smarter than I am.

Thank you baby girl, for having no idea what it feels like to have a million things on a to-do list, for not caring about sticky counter tops and for your 2 year old brain’s perspective. The dishes can wait and so can those stupid Pinterest activities that I told myself I would start doing with you once I quit working full time but has yet to happen. These moments aren’t going to last forever so I’m going to make the most of them. The minute I was snuggled with her on the couch I forgot why I was so frazzled to get all that stuff done anyways.

Stress just sucks. It’s draining, it’s bad for our health and it just makes us crazy. Stress can set the stage for inflammation which is a precursor for most chronic health conditions (such as heart disease and diabetes). From a nutrition standpoint, it can affect the way we digest our foods, worsen irritable bowel syndrome and can deplete our bodies of nutrients (see post on leaky gut syndrome). From a mind-body health perspective, it can worsen our moods and reduce the production of serotonin and dopamine (feel- good chemicals our body makes).

Managing stress is just as important as putting healthy foods in your body. Health is multi-dimensional and nutrition is just one aspect. You can eat a perfect diet but if your body is chronically stressed you are still going to have low energy levels, digestion issues and a multitude of other health issues if it isn’t addressed correctly.

Don't we all need a little more of this in our lives?!

Don’t we all need a little more of this in our lives?!

Here are some ways that I would recommend to more effectively manage stress:

  1. Say No.

You don’t have to live to please everyone. You also don’t have to commit to everything. Is your activities calendar looking a little crazy? Are you finding yourself missing out on things you enjoy or losing quality time with family and friends because you have too many commitments? If you’re a parent, this goes for your kids too. It’s great for kids to be involved in extracurriculars, but if you have four kids and they are each involved in 3 different sports plus music class and drama class, plus they have homework to get done every night…you get the idea. Do everyone a favor and put a limit to the craziness.

2. Realize that we live in a world of impossible standards and move on.

 I think the social media world has put so many new pressures and expectations on moms (and everyone else for that matter) that are nearly impossible to meet. This generation of moms is just downright mean! No matter what we do for our kids, we are doing something wrong and someone will call us out on it. Of course when it comes to safety that’s a completely different issue, but kids will survive if their baby food isn’t homemade and I’m sure their cancer risk will be just as high from walking outside and breathing the “fresh” air as it would from using a certain brand of sunscreen or bath soap. Let’s just all agree that we love our kids and that our love for them isn’t compromised just because we have a different opinion on bedtimes and the brand of milk we buy them.

3. Exercise.

Exercise produces endorphins which are chemicals in the brain that make you feel energized and happy. Exercise helps you sleep better which in turn gives you a more alert mind and enhances cognitive function. Enough said.

4. Put away the processed foods and reach for the good stuff.

Eating sugar-laden junk food may be easy to reach for when we are stressed out, but it actually makes the situation worse. Processed food promotes inflammation which creates more stress on our bodies. Don’t restrict calories either because that can increase cortisol levels (which are already high during stressful times) which can promote weight gain and fat storage. Fill your diet with healthy fats like avocado, fish oils, nuts and seeds along with nutrient dense fruits, veggies and lean proteins. You’ll have more energy and your body will be in healthier state to manage stress.

5. Sleep!!!

Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood, decisions about food (being sleep-deprived will make you more likely to grab something sugary), hormone balance, metabolism and activity levels. It can make you more irritable and make your stress levels even worse.

6. Get a good support system.

Sometimes you just need to vent. Or you just need a mediator to help you reason. Having a safe support system, whether this be friends, family or colleagues is crucial. They can provide a listening ear to help you sort through your feelings and may even help you make a tough decision or provide encouragement.

7. Allow for some flexibility.

Life never goes as planned. For us type-A planners, that’s a tough lesson to learn. I usually get through this by praying and understanding that no matter what, God is in control. You may do the same, or just create a more positive outlook around change. Look for the pros in every situation, not just the cons.

8. Get some ME time.

There is no shame in doing something for yourself every now and then. It doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re a career person or spend your time at home raising kids, you need personal relaxation time. I used to feel guilty when our families would come into town and offer to take care of Carli so I could get things done. Even…gasp!…leave the house by myself!! Now I’m all for it. Accept help graciously and shamelessly where and when you need it and get some time to pamper yourself. You deserve it.

9. Deep breathing.

Deep breathing increases oxygen supply to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to promote a state of calmness. Engaging in deep breathing techniques can help to relieve tension and can make you feel more relaxed. Find out how to correctly do breathing exercises here.

10. Manage your time- it’s okay to schedule in some relaxing time!

When we live in a world this busy, sometimes to keep our sanity everything has to be scheduled. Try to schedule in relaxing time for yourself. Try to find a time during the day when the whole family can be together to talk about the events of the day and just unwind. Dinner is usually a good time for this. This is important. Remember, if your schedule doesn’t allow for any sort of down time throughout the week you may want to consider cutting back on commitments.

Now take a deep breath…and have a nice relaxing rest of the summer!

Yes you CAN make a satisfying meal out of salads!

I LOVE eating salads. I’ve been eating them for lunch most days of the week as far back as I can remember. A lot may think that it’s hard to fill up on a salad or that it’s just rabbit food. Not my salads! They’re filling, full of healthy fat, protein and color. My salads have evolved quite a bit over the years and I never get tired of them. When I’m marathon training like I am now I try to get more carbohydrate in my lunches so I’ll usually add fruit (either to the salad or on the side) and eat more pasta salad. I also love homemade sweet potato fries, and I’ll eat these with my salad to add some additional carbohydrate. See my sweet potato fry recipe here.

Here are a few of my favorite salad recipes that are delicious and filling enough to get you through the afternoon without feeling the need to reach for that candy bar or bag of chips.

Strawberry Chicken and Avocado Salad

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For the salad:

  • Shredded chicken (Rotisserie chicken makes it easy and reduces prep time, or you can cook a chicken breast the night before, shred it and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to make your salad).
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • 1 tbsp walnuts (for a vegetarian option leave the chicken out and add more walnuts)
  • 1 oz feta cheese
  • handful of sliced strawberries
  • 2 cups salad greens (I use spring mix or spinach. The darker the greens the more nutrient dense your salad will be.)
  • sprinkle of chia seeds

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 tbsp golden balsamic vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil

Mix dressing ingredients together and pour over salad and toppings. I eat this a lot over the summertime. It pairs well with berry infused water. So refreshing!

Hummus bowl

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I have told friends that one of my favorite salad dressings is hummus. They thought it was weird and couldn’t quite picture how that would work. I promise you, it’s amazing. You don’t need a lot of hummus to cover the salad and it’s much healthier than ranch or 1000 island dressing.

For the salad:

  • 2 cups spinach
  • sliced red onion (as much as you like)
  • 5-6 grape tomatoes
  • shredded chicken
  • cucumber slices (not pictured in the above photo but I like to add these as well)

For the dressing

  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • lemon juice

First I wet the spinach and all the ingredients with a little bit of lemon juice. Then I mix in the hummus. Another favorite for a hot summer day, this salad is light yet filling. Tastes great with lemon infused water.

Taco Salad

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Not your traditional taco salad. No fried tortilla shell or massive amounts of cheese here! But I assure you it’s more flavorful and just as satisfying. I used to put my taco salad ingredients on top of shredded iceberg lettuce but lately I’ve started using spring mix greens. They add some better flavor and of course more nutrients because of their darker color.

Ingredients:

  • Meat- You can do whatever you want here. I vary this ingredient with ground grass-fed beef, shredded chicken, grilled shrimp or veggie burger crumbles (pictured here). Another vegetarian option would be to use black beans for your protein
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • shredded carrots
  • diced tomato
  • sauteed mushrooms, red bell pepper and green bell pepper

Place the cooked meat, avocado, shredded carrots and diced tomato on top of your greens. I like to saute a handful of mushrooms, red and green bell pepper together and add these on top. I don’t add dressing, instead I mash the avocado up to use as a dressing. If you want to add some guacamole to the salad you can to dress it up a little more. Salsa is a good dressing as well. I eat my taco salad with a few tortilla chips and lemon-lime infused water.

Bow tie pasta salad

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Some weeks I will make a big batch of pasta salad on the weekend and eat it throughout the week. It makes the prep work much easier, all I have to do is scoop my chilled pasta salad onto a bed of greens.

Ingredients (this makes about 5-8 servings):

  • 1 cup cooked bow tie pasta
  • 1 crown of broccoli, chopped
  • 1/3 red onion, chopped
  • 1 summer squash, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1 bunch minced parsley
  • If desired, shredded chicken (about 1 cup)

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp minced garlic

Cook pasta and drain. Mix with the remaining ingredients. Mix together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Eat alone or on top of spring mix greens. Pairs nicely with cucumber and mint infused water.

Another pasta salad recipe I love is an Italian chicken pasta salad recipe a friend shared with me. This is another one I like to make and store in the fridge for a quick and easy lunch. See it here.

I also have a lot more fun salad recipes on my Pinterest page.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaky gut- What is it and how can I fix it?

Gut health is essential. It can affect metabolism, energy levels, immunity and digestion and absorption of nutrients. Even if you have a perfect diet, your gut has to be able to absorb the nutrients to help them work properly, otherwise you aren’t getting the true benefit of eating them. What causes a gut to be in poor health, and what can you do to make sure your gut is in optimum health?

Leaky gut syndrome (or increase in intestinal permeability) is when the lining of the intestines do not work properly to prevent large molecules from passing through. Normally there is a tight junction within the intestinal walls to allow for transport of small molecules (amino acids, electrolytes, water) into the bloodstream to be used by the body. When this tight junction is compromised larger molecules that should be blocked, such as undigested food particles and toxins can enter the bloodstream- no fun! This causes a variety of symptoms including gas, bloating, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, autoimmune reactions and food allergies.

Leaky gut typically is a result of things that weaken digestive function. This includes chronic antibiotic use, the use of NSAIDs (ibuprofen), chronic stress, drinking alcohol, and eating refined foods. Eating foods with anti-nutrients such as phytates and lignin can also cause leaky gut to happen because our bodies aren’t able to break down these foods very well and may lead perforations (holes) in the intestines. Phytates are found in grains, brown rice and oats. Lectins are found largely in wheat, rice and soy.

There are specific tests to test for leaky gut that you may want to talk with your doctor about if you believe you may be suffering with this condition. The tests include: urine test, stool and digestive analysis, blood test for IgG and IgA antibodies, or a bacterial dysbiosis test.

The good new is, you can heal your leaky gut. Here are the steps that should be taken.

  1.  Remove foods from your diet that are impairing gut health. The foods that are hard to digest and may be causing damage to your gut include grains, legumes and processed foods. These should be avoided, at least for the duration of the healing process.
  2. Begin eating more foods that restore gut health by reducing inflammation and promoting good bacteria. These foods include
    • yogurt with active cultures- great for replenishing beneficial gut bacteria
    • fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi- also great for replenishing beneficial gut bacteria
    • Coconut products- the medium chain fatty acids in coconut are easier to digest than other fats and can help to support the growth of good bacteria
    • Healthy fats- such as avocado, fatty fish, olives and healing bone broth can help to reduce inflammation that has occurred from your leaky gut
    • Sprouted grains- such as hemp seeds, chia seeds and flaxseeds are great sources of fiber that can help support the growth of healthy bacteria
  3. Gut healing supplements are also beneficial. These include fish oil, probiotics and L-glutamine. Fish oil targets inflammations and reduces it. Probiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestinal tract. L-glutamine is the most beneficial as it is an anti-inflammatory essential amino acid that is responsible for the growth and repair of the intestinal lining.
  4. Manage stress more effectively. Stress promotes inflammation and increases healing time.

Here is what a sample day of eating looks like to heal a leaky gut:

Breakfast: Omelet made with omega-3 eggs. Berries. Coconut milk.

Lunch: Salad with chicken and avocado, olive oil and vinaigrette dressing. Fruit.

Snack: yogurt with chia seeds mixed in.

Dinner: salmon, sweet potato, broccoli.

Snack: smoothie made with banana, mango, kale, hemp seeds, coconut milk

Here’s to a happy and healthy gut!

Summer Grilling

Forget the hot dogs and hamburgers this Fourth of July, here are some much healthier (and more flavorful) grilled favorites of mine.

Grilled chicken sausage with mixed vegetables

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Ingredients:

  • Chicken sausage cut into bite-size pieces (I usually buy al fresco brand, they have a spinach and feta flavored sausage that’s really good. See here. Publix also carries their own brand of chicken sausage that is minimally processed and a good option as well.
  • Veggies: for this recipe I used 1 zucchini, 1 summer squash, 1 red bell pepper, 1 package of portabella mushrooms and 2 small red potatoes. Cut all veggies to size you desire (I quarter mine).
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp rosemary, 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Mix everything together and place in foil. Grill for 30-35 minutes, until potatoes are fully cooked. Tastes great with a glass of red wine with mixed summer berries for dessert. Yum!

Hawaiian Chicken Kabobs

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Ingredients:

For the marinade

  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 tsp paprika

For the kabobs

  • Chicken breast, cut into small pieces. For two people and a baby I used about 3/4 pound of chicken (we love leftovers…no-cook lunches!)
  • Veggies: 1 sliced zucchini, 1 sliced summer squash, 1 sliced red onion, 1 sliced green pepper, 1 sliced red pepper, 1 pack portabella mushrooms (I left these whole)

After mixing the marinade ingredients together, put in a ziplock baggie with the chicken and marinade for at least 2 hours. Soak wooden skewers for about 10 minutes in water and then place one of each ingredient (chicken and veggies) on each skewer. Repeat if you have room. Grill for about 20-25 minutes. I like to serve this meal with grilled sweet potato fries and fresh pineapple. To make my sweet potato fries I slice a fresh sweet potato into a fry-shape and season with about 1 tbsp of olive oil and just a touch of garlic salt and pepper. I grill these on foil alongside the skewers. Delicious!

Fish tacos with mango salsa

I love Mexican food and this dish is my favorite, hands down. I used tilapia for the example in this blog post, but I use mahi-mahi sometimes too. Grouper would also taste amazing, but I haven’t tried it with this recipe yet.

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Ingredients:

For the fish (2 servings)

  • tilapi or mahi-mahi filets
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper (this is optional- only if you like to add a little kick to it)

For the salsa

  • 1 large mango, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced red onion
  • 1/4 avocado, diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, diced
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Combine the seasoning ingredients for the fish and let sit in marinade for 20-30 minutes. Grill fish for about 3 minutes per side. Mix all salsa ingredients together. I like to serve on small corn tortillas with a Mexican slaw mixture (Dole makes this and it has kale mixed in. See here. I’ve seen it at most grocery stores. Kroger also makes their own brand of this). I place the fish on top of the salad mixture and add the salsa on top of the fish. We like to eat our fish tacos with a couple tortilla chips and fresh guacamole. A margarita with fresh squeezed lime is the perfect addition to my favorite summer meal.

Enjoy!

 

This entry was posted in Recipes.

All About Organic- Is it Worth the Money?

Because I’m a dietitian, most people assume that I buy all organic foods. That’s actually not the case! I also get a lot of questions about whether or not it’s worth the extra money to buy organic and if organic food is healthier than its conventional counterparts.

First it’s good to understand what farming practices need to be adhered to before a food can be labeled organic. A food must have the following criteria to have the organic seal:

  • NO pesticides- All fruits and vegetables that are organic along with the feed provided to organic livestock must be grown without the use of GMO’s, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides for at least the past 3 years.
  • NO antibiotics- If a sick animal is treated with antibiotics then its meat or milk cannot be sold as organic.
  • NO growth hormones

There are plenty of reasons why people decide to start buying organic food. Some do because they want to protect the environment. A world without pesticides is a much healthier environment to live in. Others do to help support organic farmers. The reasons I have for buying organic foods is because I like to know that the food I eat has been raised adhering to specific standards that organic farmers proudly have in place. A majority do because they believe organic food is healthier or because they want to avoid toxic pesticides. Switching to organic can be quite pricey- it is much more expensive than conventional foods, sometimes as much as 2x-3x the price. So is it even worth spending the extra money??

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Fruits and vegetables- Some fruits and vegetables have a thicker layer of residue than others, so it would be worth it to buy them organic to avoid exposure to these. The fruits and vegetables you can keep buying conventional are those with a thicker peel- these include bananas, avocados, melons, eggplant, pineapple, mangos, grapefruit, kiwi and mushrooms. The fruits and vegetables you may want to buy organic to avoid pesticides include apples, tomatoes, grapes, peaches, spinach, berries, nectarines, and potatoes.

Animal products- Even though many consumers may believe the opposite, just because an animal product is not organic does not mean it contains recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) or antibiotics. Antibiotic residues are not permitted in conventionally produced animal foods and rBGH is rarely found in milk supplied by large grocery stores. In fact, fewer than 1 in 5 cows are injected with rBGH. I recommend looking for grass fed animal products because it naturally increases the omega’3 fatty acids in the animal’s diet- plus it just tastes so much better! Grass-fed animal products tend to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids which is beneficial for our health. However, the amount of omega’3 fatty acids in grass-fed beef is nowhere near as significant as the amount found in fish- the difference being 100 mg vs 1000 mg per serving! The adequate intake recommendations (AI) for omega-3 fatty acids is 1.6 gm/day for men and 1.1 gm/day for women.

 

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Junk food- If you are considering switching over to organic foods but are unsure if it will fit into your grocery budget, consider skipping the organic junk food. Just because it’s labeled organic does not make it any healthier.

To make organic food more affordable, consider buying only the fruits and vegetables with a thicker layer of pesticide residue (mentioned above) organic and buy the rest conventional. Organic frozen fruits and vegetables are great as well, and tend to be a little bit cheaper! Look for sales and stock up. Farmers markets are great too, especially because your purchase will help to support your local organic farmers.

All of that being said, I don’t buy 100% organic. I stick with grass fed meat and omega-3 fortified eggs. I buy Carli organic milk, yogurt and cheese and try to feed her organic fruits and vegetables when I can afford it. Because she eats more pound for pound than Nick and I, I try to make her exposure to pesticides minimal. I really like to encourage parents to not get discouraged if they can’t afford (or even want to) feed their kids organic, because it’s definitely not the end of the world if you don’t! Here are some tips if you decide that an organic lifestyle is not for you:

  • Always remember that having a diet high in conventional fruits and vegetables is much healthier than a diet high in organic junk food. Organic or not, fruits and vegetables are high in the nutrients your body needs to fight of disease and stay healthy.
  • Try incorporating more omega-3’s into the diet with salmon, flaxseed (I love adding to smoothies and yogurt), and walnuts.
  • Look for grass-fed meat. It’s less expensive than organic.
  • Use these tips from the FDA to reduce or eliminate pesticide residue
    • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after preparing fresh produce
    • Cut away damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating
    • Wash produce with large amounts of cold or warm running tap water. Washing removes about 75-80% of pesticide residues.
    • Wash produce before you peel it so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife on the fruit or vegetable
    • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel
    • Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage
    • Trim the fat from meat and the fat and skin from poultry. Some pesticide residues are stored in the animal fat.

 

 

Banana Ice-cream

Summers in Georgia are HOT. There’s nothing I love more than cooling off with a bowl of ice-cream after being out in the hot sun. Unfortunately, most cool summer treats are loaded with added sugars- including frozen yogurt, a choice that seems as if it would be a healthy alternative to Popsicles or ice-cream. Luckily, I have discovered an alternative to ice-cream that not only tastes delicious, but it’s just as sweet and refreshing. Banana ice-cream is just as it sounds- it’s pure banana! I like to add peanut butter because it gives it some extra flavor and nutrients making this recipe a great summer snack.

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It’s simple to make- all you need are a few very ripe bananas. Once they are starting to turn brown, slice them into small pieces and freeze for at least 2 hours. Place the frozen banana slices into a blender or food processor (I use my Nutra Ninja) and blend until it forms a purée. You may need to use a spoon to stir it to the right consistency. If you wish you can add a couple tablespoons of peanut butter. We tried adding honey flavored peanut butter and it was delicious! Hope you’re staying nice and cool this summer!

 

**For some reason the pictures posted in the last couple updates are sideways when viewed on a desktop computer but look normal on a tablet or phone. Not sure why this is, but I’m working on getting it fixed!**

Is It Possible To Eat Too Healthy?

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Memorial Day holiday yesterday! It’s always nice having the day off work to enjoy festivities and BBQ’s but of course it’s important to remember those who gave their lives so we can have the freedom we enjoy today. I admire their bravery and am forever grateful for our fallen soldiers.

We live in Senoia, GA, a town outside of Atlanta and enjoyed the small town festivities there. A parade, lots of really good southern food along with family and friends to celebrate with made it a wonderful afternoon.  A traditional southern BBQ was a great way to wrap up the day- full of hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, mixed drinks and ice-cream cake. It’s always nice to let loose a little and enjoy greasy foods and sugary desserts and drinks. I love to eat healthy, but I live for those cheat days! Even though I eat a balanced diet, every now and then that balance goes out the window- just for a day- and then I go back to my normal way of eating.

For some, it’s not so easy to just take a cheat day or to allow themselves to enjoy foods made for them by their loved ones. Being a healthy eater is of course wonderful and can positively impact your life in a number of ways. I think that our nation is finally starting to make a shift away from fast food and soda to a “whole foods” approach. Fast food restaurants are catching on to this trend and offering healthier items on their menus. Soft drink sales are at an all-time low and have been steadily decreasing over the years. More and more people are attempting to eat “clean”- avoiding gluten, artificial sweeteners and flavorings, added sugars and non-organic foods. Veganism is on the rise and diet plans like Paleo and South Beach (Mediterranean-style) have become extremely popular. I don’t necessarily recommend these eating plans although they typically result in the individual making healthier food choices. Of course these shifts usually lead to a positive impact on health and this is a wonderful thing, especially if these changes can be maintained. In some cases the desire to be healthy can be taken to a level of obsession which in turn manifests signs of disordered eating.

Those who have an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy (or “pure”) may be suffering from orthorexia nervosa. Unlike bulimia or anorexia, orthorexia is not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis and the person suffering from it is not fixated on being thin or losing weight. Orthorexics are focused on food quality and purity to an extent that results in a very rigid way of eating and can ironically cause nutrient deficiencies if the diet becomes too restrictive.

I like this definition given by Dr. Steven Bratman who originated the term orthorexia in 1997, “a disease disguised as a virtue.” Dr. Bratman wrote in his 1997 essay, published in Yoga journal:

“Orthorexia eventually reaches a point where the sufferer spends most of his time planning, purchasing and eating meals. The orthorexic’s inner life becomes dominated by efforts to resist temptation, self-condemnation for lapses, self-praise for success at complying with the self-chosen regime, and feelings of superiority over others less pure in their dietary habits. It is this transference of all life’s value into the act of eating which makes orthorexia a true disorder.”

This does not mean that eating healthy is a bad thing. It only can become a bad thing if it becomes all-consuming and self-esteem becomes wrapped in the purity of your diet. How can you tell if you may have orthorexia? Here are a few of the symptoms and warning signs:

  • It’s hard to function in society and you feel socially isolated. This is largely due to having obsessively check and see if a food is prepared by the “pure” standards you’ve put in place. You may avoid going to functions where there is food because the food served doesn’t fit in the rigidness of your eating plan. You may not eat anything other than what you prepare in fear of ingesting an ingredient that is “off-limits.”
  • You may think your way of eating is the only right way to eat and feel superior to others because of it
  • You spend an excessive amount of time thinking about pure foods and how to make your diet even more “clean.”
  • You constantly look for ways that food may be unhealthy for you and constantly cut foods out of your eating plan
  • You feel in control when you keep your diet clean
  • Love, joy and work take a backseat to eating the perfect diet
  • You feel fulfilled from eating “healthy” and lose interest in other activities you once enjoyed

While the term “You are what you eat” is true, food is just one small aspect of life. If your life becomes consumed by eating only healthy foods, you may miss out on building relationships and engaging in activities that bring you joy. Health is multi-dimensional and nutrition is just one part- you can certainly have a healthy diet while enjoying yourself as well!

If you or someone you know is exhibiting the signs of orthorexia, early intervention is crucial to prevent it from turning into a full-blown eating disorder. This can not only save a life, but can prevent years of struggle with disordered eating. Eating disorders are serious and raising awareness is important to recognize the signs, triggers, causes, and treatment. Visit http://nedawareness.org/ for more info.

 

Healthy Summer Snacks

I love summer. Lazy and carefree days by the pool, late evening walks while the sun sets, and the smell of summer bbqs all make me wish that summer could last forever. Lots of summer activities, like anything else, usually involve eating. It can be so easy to snack out of a bag of chips while sitting by the pool or to consume a big bowl of ice-cream after a game of sand volleyball. Both choices that are convenient but not so healthy. When making a snack for Carli I try to include healthy components of each major nutrient much like I would when making a meal, but of course in much smaller quantities. That would include a healthy fat, a nutrient dense carb (fruit, vegetable or whole grain) and protein. Some of my favorite snack combinations have all three nutrients, some have just two. I encourage people to avoid having snacks that are purely carbohydrate. Here are some of our family’s favorite summer snacks, all nutritious AND delicious.

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  1. Avocado pudding– our FAVORITE! I usually serve this with a banana. It surprisingly tastes just like chocolate pudding. For some it may not be sweet enough, just add a little more honey if this is the case for you.
  2. Carrot fries– I have shared this recipe with so many people and they love it! I serve this with apple slices and peanut butter or with Horizon brand cheese sticks.
  3. Chocolate chip and chia energy balls– another hit with a lot of our friends. Carli calls them her “cookies.” This snack has protein, grains and healthy fats. They are great to freeze and take on outings. These are our favorite to take to the pool and to places like the zoo or the park.
  4. Banana pops- these tend to be messy but kids find them really fun to eat. Just cover a banana with peanut butter and roll in granola or oats and chocolate chips.
  5. Crackers and hummus- Our favorite crackers to dip in hummus is a toss up between the Back to Nature brand whole wheat crackers and any of the Blue Diamond brand nut thins crackers (a great option for gluten free families).
  6. Yogurt with chia seeds and fruit added- Carli would eat yogurt for every meal and snack if I let her so we usually have this at least once per day. We do Annie’s brand whole milk yogurt (we also like the Stoneyfield organic whole milk yogurt squeezies for on the go). I eat this snack quite a bit myself but with a lower fat yogurt- I typically choose Greek yogurt for extra protein. The chia seeds add some extra healthy fats and the fruit we add is usually some sort of berry. We’ve been doing lot of strawberry and blueberry picking this summer, so we have an abundant supply for our yogurt!
  7. Avocado and pear pops– much healthier than the typical sugary popsicle and a great choice to cool down on those hot summer days. Just puree 2 avocadoes and 2 pears (skin removed) and place them into popsicle molds. Great for teething babies as well!
  8. Flourless banana muffins– full of protein! Another great on the go snack to take on car trips
  9. Smoothies- another great cool-down snack. A great replacement for a milkshake! I make my smoothies with a handful of spinach, a mixture of fruit, almond milk, plus a tbsp of chia or flax seed. Sometimes I add PB2 depending on what fruits I add- banana plus PB2 is a great combo!

Here are my favorite fruit combos

  • Strawberry, blueberry and raspberry
  • Peach, banana, and strawberry
  • Mango and banana
  • Banana and blueberry

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Cheers to a happy and healthy summer!

Raising Our Kids to Eat Healthy

Being a parent is a tough job. Raising a child to be a functional, happy, normal adult with absolutely no issues is a pretty daunting task. Everyone has flaws, that’s what makes us human. I’ve been realizing this more and more lately and I’m starting to feel a little bit of pressure being lifted off my shoulders. I do have a few goals as a mother, and I think if I help Carli reach these goals I’m doing a pretty good job:

  • She lives to serve others before herself
  • She loves Jesus
  • She is kind to others
  • She appreciates healthy food (and therefore is a healthy eater)

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I think a lot of moms would agree that they want their kids to eat healthy. I have a pretty big circle of mommy friends and I see a lot of different struggles- some are picky eaters, others won’t eat at all, some may want to eat all the time, others hate vegetables but will eat fruit all day long, some have only 2 foods in their diet they will eat- there is a long list of feeding issues that are commonly seen in kids. Fortunately, when they are young they can be molded to appreciate healthy foods. It gets much harder when they get to be adults (trust me, I spent the first 4 years of my career trying to get adults to change their eating habits). The fascinating thing is, a child’s food preferences are actually already starting to form when they are in utero. The foods that a pregnant mother eats make up the flavor of the amniotic fluid that the baby gets. Hmmm….no wonder Carli loves cupcakes so much. In all honesty (and sympathy) for my pregnant mamas out there, I know how hard it can be to eat a super healthy diet while pregnant. My first trimester I couldn’t look at a vegetable without wanting to puke and only wanted cheese pizza (deep dish) and mashed potatoes. Luckily by my second trimester I wasn’t so sick and enjoyed healthy foods again. But if there was ever an option between a cupcake and carrot sticks, the cupcake always won.

I think all my sugar cravings while she was in my belly wore off on her

I think all my sugar cravings while she was in my belly wore off on her

Acceptance for certain foods is also developed through the flavors an infant is exposed to through breastmilk. Now this isn’t a post to discuss boob vs bottle, breast is best… I’m not interested in starting those wars. I’m simply stating that babies who are breastfed are more likely to accept a variety of different foods into their diet at a young age because they are exposed to so many different flavors through their mother’s breastmilk. There is research to support this, but every child is different. I know of a couple babies who were breastfed until they were 2 and are very picky eaters (even as adults!). On the other hand, Carli is a poster child for this. I was able to breastfeed until she was 14 months old and she will eat anything you put in front of her. I’m not a picky eater either, and consumed a healthy diet with a variety of foods while I breastfed her. Does she like healthy foods and accept any food placed in front of her because I maintained a healthy diet while breastfeeding? I can’t say for sure, I guess we’ll find out with the next! I’m guessing that with the growing amount of evidence around this, it probably did play a role.

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This doesn’t mean that it’s completely hopeless for your formula fed baby to accept a variety of healthy foods. It also doesn’t mean that if a mother who exclusively breastfeeds her baby and eats only potato chips and Chickfila during that time is going to have a kid that only prefers those foods. When kids start eating solid foods it’s our job as parents to guide them. This happens in a couple of ways. First, we need to be an example of what eating a healthy diet looks like. Kids who see their parents eat fast food for every meal aren’t going to miraculously prefer quinoa and Brussels sprouts over French fries. Kids learn by watching what their parents eat. It’s important to include kids at mealtime (eating together as a family) and provide a balanced meal to help our kids see what foods are included in a healthy diet. I encourage parents to have lots of color in the meal- brightly colored fruits and vegetables make the meal “pop” and can make it more fun for kids to eat. And bonus- the more color your kids are getting through fruits and vegetables, the more nutrition they are getting. Get them involved in the meal too. Help them pick the fruit (in my house fruit is dessert- it’s sweet!)- “Strawberries or pineapple tonight?” When kids get a choice in what they get to eat they are more likely to accept that food and eat it. After cutting up vegetables for a salad ask your child to place the chopped veggies in the salad and mix it. Ask their opinion on what color vegetable they would like to eat for supper that evening. If it won’t take years off your life, take your child(ren) grocery shopping and ask them to help you pick out healthy snacks and ingredients for meals that week. The more kids are involved in making these healthy choices, the more likely they are to accept them.

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I understand that your child may be so picky that none of these tactics work. Be patient- it can take a child up to 10-15 exposures of a food for acceptance to occur. Each time you introduce a new food just ask them to take one bite. After that one bite is up, don’t fight it. Food battles can make the picky eating even worse. I advise to try putting unaccepted vegetables into some of their favorite dishes. Putting broccoli (chopped up very small is usually better accepted) into macaroni and cheese, adding finely shredded zucchini to spaghetti and putting red peppers on pizza are some ideas. Some kids may prefer raw veggies with a yogurt-based dip or hummus over steamed or roasted vegetables. Some kids may prefer the opposite- when roasting veggies in the oven with a little bit of Olive oil and spices they lose their sulfur taste and tend to become a bit sweeter.

For kids that will absolutely not touch veggies no matter what you do- keep trying with the one bite rule. It took me probably 684 bites to finally accept broccoli- now it’s my favorite food! In addition to that I would use the good old hiding trick -aka squeezies- or pouches- or whatever you want to call them. Most kids who hate vegetables love these because they are essentially pureed vegetables with fruit. The sweetness of the fruit overpowers the bitterness of the vegetables. I’m not saying to go out and buy the pouches, you can just as easily make this at home in the form of a smoothie. Blend yogurt or milk (or both) with frozen fruit and vegetables. Vegetables that work best for this are spinach, shredded carrots, shredded zucchini, cucumber, sweet potato and broccoli. I recommend to add more fruit than veggies, otherwise it will probably be rejected. Keep in mind that toddlers need about 1 cup of vegetables per day and school-aged kids need about 1.5-2.5 cups per day.

Lastly, don’t get stressed out if your child loves and prefers calorie-laden foods. This is normal and we are born with a natural desire for these foods. Preparing your child to make healthy choices most of the time as an adult should be a goal, and demonstrating balance with foods high in sugar and empty calories will help your child learn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

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