Eating for Two

I would have to say that one of the biggest differences between this pregnancy and my first is that I’m a lot less strict about what I’m eating. The first time around I cut caffeine cold turkey, obsessed about calories (was I  getting too little? Too much?) and tried to avoid heavily processed foods as much as possible.  I was so worried that the smallest glitch in my diet would produce a baby who wasn’t healthy, and I didn’t want to be responsible for doing anything to potentially harm her.

Now even though I still make sure I’m eating as healthy as possible to give both myself and my growing baby the nutrients we need, I’ve definitely learned that balance is okay. I’m also trying to not focus so hard on what I shouldn’t be eating, and more on what I should be eating. When I know I can’t have something, it makes me want it even more. All I want is a deli sandwich for lunch and a large plate of sushi with wine for dinner. Why is it that the foods I know I can’t have are the ones I crave the most??

Most OB doctors and midwives spend a good deal of time talking with expecting mothers about the foods that are off limits. Rarely is there time spent on reviewing the foods and nutrients that bring benefits to expecting mothers and babies- even though it’s just as important!

Pregnancy is a time of high metabolic and nutrition demands. It’s important to remember that even though you are feeding both yourself and baby, the baby is not the size of another adult. Calorie needs are higher during pregnancy, but you don’t need to literally “eat for two.” Conversely, it’s important to meet the higher calorie needs to support a healthy growing environment for your baby. Eating too little can cause intrauterine growth restriction, low birth-weight, and may even set metabolic markers in place that results in the baby being more likely to become obese as an adult. There’s evidence that if that baby’s not getting adequate nutrition in utero, it causes their tiny bodies to think they will have very little to survive on. This can result in their metabolism being impacted long term. A poor diet during pregnancy can also put the baby at risk for insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease later in life. So what can you do to make sure you are giving your growing baby and body everything it needs?

What you need

Folic Acid

This important nutrient is found in all prenatal supplements. In fact, it’s role in neural tube defect prevention is largely why practitioners say taking a prenatal vitamin is so important! I actually recommend that women of childbearing age aim to get an ample amount of folic acid in their diets, either from foods or a supplement, before trying to get pregnant. The reason? Because of the amount of development that happens in those first few weeks post-conception, you’ll want to make sure that you aren’t folic acid deficient from the start. Food sources of folic acid include orange juice, fortified cereals, beans, lentils, leafy greens, and whole grains.

Iron

Iron needs are high during pregnancy due to increased blood volume, fetal development, and the possibility of blood loss during delivery. Iron needs increase as the pregnancy progresses. It’s important for proper brain function, especially in the development of the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory formation and emotional regulation). Because the baby’s brain experiences a growth spurt in the 3rd trimester and then relies on iron stores obtained in utero to sustain growth for the first sixth months of life, consistent and adequate iron intake is essential during pregnancy. Children who aren’t exposed to enough iron prenatally have been shown to have poor cognitive and motor skill development due to improper gray-matter organization. Iron-deficient children tend to suffer learning and behavioral problems and also show abnormal cognitive development into their late teens.

Iron is found in a variety of plant and animal foods as well. The type of iron found in animal foods (red meat, seafood) is referred to as heme iron, and is absorbed best by our bodies. Nonheme iron is found in many plant foods, the best sources being spinach and other leafy greens, dried fruits, beans and peas, tofu, seeds, nuts, soy milk and fortified breakfast cereals. Nonheme iron has a decreased rate of absorption by the body, so if you are getting most of your iron from non-animal sources try consuming a good source of Vitamin C in the same meal. The acidity will help to absorb the iron. Avoid consuming nonheme iron sources with foods high in tannins and phytate (coffee, tea, bran, soy and pinto beans, potatoes) because they compete for absorption and reduce iron availability. Iron isn’t commonly found in prenatal supplements, since the calcium found in these will bind to it and reduce absorption. If you are anemic you may need to take an iron supplement throughout your pregnancy.

Calcium

Calcium absorption is increased in pregnancy, which typically results in positive calcium balance. You will still want to get calcium from food sources, because prenatal supplements only provide about 500mg (the maximum amount that can be absorbed by the body at once). Aim for at least 2 extra servings of calcium per day. Aside from cow’s milk, good sources include yogurt, leafy greens, beans, soy/nut/rice/hemp milk and fortified juices and cereals.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is currently the focus of ongoing research. It has been suspected to be linked to preeclampsia, low birth weight, poor postnatal growth and higher incidence of autoimmune disease in babies. The best food sources of Vitamin D is oily fish, fortified foods (some dairy products, soy milk, cereals), egg yolks and cheese.

Omega-3’s

The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is a necessary part of cell membranes and is important for brain development. Babies born with higher umbilical cord plasma levels of DHA have been found to have higher memory function once they are school-age. Sources of DHA  include fatty fish (salmon, herring, anchovy), fish oils, and fortified egg and dairy products. ALA is a fatty acid that is converted to DHA, and is found in flax seed, hemp seeds, walnuts, canola oil and leafy greens. The conversion of ALA to DHA can be reduced by having an excess of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. Sources of omega-6 fats include animal meats, eggs and vegetables oils (corn, safflower, soybean and sunflower). Aim for obtaining fats from DHA and ALA sources, and less from omega-6 sources.

My favorite lunch- salmon with salad and quinoa. The quinoa isn’t fancy, it’s straight out of a steamable bag found at Target. BUT it tastes amazing!

 

Strive for balance and variety

Eating a well balanced diet when pregnant may result in having a child who’s more inclined to try and accept a larger variety of foods. Around 21 weeks post conception, babies start talking gulps of the amniotic fluid surrounding them- and it actually tastes like the foods and beverages mom has consumed in the past couple of hours! It was hard for me to pass up sweets in my first pregnancy- and my firstborn loves them (but then again, what kid doesn’t love sugar??). But she also loves and is willing to eat about any vegetable I put in front of her. Something else I ate a lot of when I was pregnant with her!

To make sure you are getting the most balance and variety in your diet as possible when pregnant, aim for lots of color in your meal. The more colorful your meal, the more nutritious it is! Try to avoid an all brown or all white plate. I know this can be hard in the first trimester- I lived off buttered pasta and bread for two months straight! Once the nausea wears off and food tastes good again, really try to focus on that good nutrition. It’s when it matters the most.

BLT and homemade sweet potato fries. My favorite summer meal. I crave bacon when I’m pregnant!

You’ll want to ask yourself each meal if you are getting all of the major nutrients (fat, carbohydrate, protein). Aim for carbohydrates that are high in fiber like fruits and whole grains. Reach for lean proteins and healthy fats. I know I feel much more energetic when I eat a healthy balanced meal- especially in that 3rd trimester! With my last baby, it was extremely difficult to eat a full meal once I was past 30 weeks. Especially since I  was so pregnant in the heat of the summer! I have a short torso, and eating the littlest bit made me feel overly full. Instead of focusing on meals, I tried to make the most out of snacking. I would snack about once every 1-2 hours, still incorporating a variety of all the major nutrients. Smoothies were my best friend! Much easier to eat spinach and fruits blended together with flaxseed than making myself eat a big salad or heavy meal.

Balance doesn’t just mean eating that perfect plate. It’s about treating yourself a little bit too! My sweet tooth definitely comes out when I’m pregnant, and it can be hard to control at times. I remember having one of those huge cupcakes from a food truck in Austin, TX when I was about 27 weeks pregnant with Carli. I told myself I would only eat 1/2 and finish the rest later, but I couldn’t stop from eating the whole thing. It was delicious and Carli seemed to enjoy it too- the gymnastics she did in my belly from the sugar rush kept me up until almost 2AM that night!

My love for cupcakes passed through to her in utero

Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy isn’t about being perfect. It’s about doing what you can to provide the best nutrition for yourself and your growing baby. I’ve definitely had to give up the guilt I’ve had for not passing up my morning coffee or being too tired to make anything other than a bowl of cereal for dinner (or..ahem..ice-cream) some nights. I just make sure that 80-90%  of the time I’m filling my body with the best nutrition I can give it- and in just 13 more weeks, I’ll be enjoying that big plate of sushi and tall glass of red.

 

 

Real Fruit Popsicles

Last weekend I took Carli to pick strawberries for the first time this season. Unfortunately, most of the berries were either not ripe enough or very close to being too ripe. It’s early in the picking season so hopefully later this spring there will be a better selection. Carli loves to fill up her bucket, so we had a pretty good quantity of strawberries to bring home that were only edible for a few days. 

I decided to freeze most of them to put into smoothies later on. I recently purchased Popsicle molds from Amazon and had promised Carli we would make our own popsicles soon. I thought it may be fun to try and make popsicles out of some of the fresh strawberries that were starting to become over-ripe. It was something my two year-old could easily help me with, and it was pretty cool to teach her how to make something with one of the freshest ingredients possible- fresh fruit that she picked from the ground herself!

First, I sliced the strawberries into small pieces. Then I let Carli fill each mold to the top with the berries.

After the molds were full with strawberries, I added lemonade to the top of the molds to fill the spaces between the berries. I froze them overnight, but they only took about 4 hours to set.

They were definitely a hit! I felt good about letting her eat them for a treat the next afternoon- much lower in added sugars than the popsicles you would find at the grocery store. Another option would be to add yogurt instead of lemonade to hold the berries together- we are going to try that next time! Maybe I can trick Carli into thinking it’s ice-cream.

 

 

Here’s some other combinations that may be worth trying:

Kiwi, peaches and strawberries with fruit juice of choice (dilute the juice for less sugar)

Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries with vanilla yogurt or grape juice (this would be perfect for a Memorial Day or 4th of July treat!)

Blueberries and Greek yogurt

Oranges, pineapple and grapefruit with orange or pineapple juice

What I feed my family

Usually when people find out that I’m a dietitian, they immediately think that my family’s meals consist of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, all organic foods. Then the excuses pour in covering their own eating habits- as if I’m judging them because they happen to be holding a slice of pizza.

I’m not judging you, I promise. I eat pizza too! I also don’t eliminate any type of food from my family’s meals (yes, we even eat gluten) and have always been an advocate for balance. I work in a facility for kids with special needs, and ever since feeding my own child and working with kids professionally, I’ve developed a pretty big interest in child nutrition. I’ve changed the way my family eats because of it, but also try to be careful to not be too restrictive with food. I want my kids to have a healthy attitude around food, not label foods “good” or “bad” and to be able to make their own choices about healthy food as they get older. Having recovered from an eating disorder and having body image issues growing up, it’s also important for me to protect my own girls from thinking the only way they can eat healthy is by dieting or eliminating food groups. My goal for feeding my family is to create a positive environment around food, one that doesn’t cause my kids to feel guilty or deprived in any way.

We don’t have any food allergies in our family, which I consider to be a blessing. I know families with kids who have multiple food allergies and have to completely eliminate allergen-containing foods, which can make preparing and cooking meals quite difficult. Obviously in these situations, families have no choice but to follow diet restrictions. Typically this works best if the whole family is involved, instead of just making the child with the food allergy eliminate what is causing the flare-up. So for example, if a child has a gluten intolerance then it would be best for the whole family to be gluten-free. This would avoid issues with cross-contamination as well. Other than for food allergies and intolerances, I don’t recommend for families to follow diets that are highly restrictive. It’s just not necessary and it’s much easier for kids to get the nutrition they need by allowing them to eat a variety of (nutrient dense) foods. Not a variety of junk food though!

So here are the simple guidelines I follow when feeding my family. We stick with them 90% of the time.

Fruits and vegetables are big at every meal. I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling with this lately, especially with the vegetables. My first trimester this time around has been much worse than my last pregnancy- and still seems to be lingering! Vegetables have been tough for me to stomach lately, but thankfully as my symptoms are starting to fade I’m slowly starting to crave those veggies again. It’s interesting though, I’ve noticed that it was much harder to get my family to eat vegetables when I was doing a horrible job of eating them myself. Eating healthy really is a family effort! Kids do by example and I’ve seen this play out over the past few months.

Lean proteins are in every meal, but in smaller portions than the fruits and vegetables- unless my husband is making his own plate. I make a lot of salmon- I’ve been craving it lately, so sometimes  make it as often as 3-4 times per week! At least once a week I try to do a vegetable protein instead of an animal protein. When seasoning foods, I use as little salt as possible. Typically I find herbs and spices to season my meat so that my family’s salt intake is limited. It’s very easy to consume an adequate amount of salt without adding it to food, and most Americans get a lot more than is recommended. I want to train my kids’ palates while they are young to appreciate the natural flavor of foods- without doctoring it up with all the sugar, salt and fat that the food industry does.

 

I don’t leave anything out when it comes to carbohydrates. We eat bread, potatoes, rice, pasta- if it’s a carb, we aren’t afraid to eat it! I buy whole grains as much as possible for the added fiber (and less processing) and avoid foods that are “instant” (such as instant potatoes, etc). I read the ingredients carefully to avoid buying foods that are loaded with MSG, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. As long as the carbohydrates we are eating aren’t heavily processed (and have an exorbitant amount of salt, sugar and fat), they are healthy for our bodies. We are an active family and our cells need the energy that only carbs can provide!

 

When it comes to dairy, my husband is the only one who will drink cow’s milk. I prefer almond milk, and so does Carli, so that is what we typically drink. She gets most of her calcium intake from organic yogurt and cheeses. Dairy is one food group that I will almost always buy organic- along with fruits and vegetables we eat the skin off of.

I don’t buy sugary drinks. No juice, no soda, no sweet tea. I’m a recovering diet coke addict (I still have slip-ups every now and then) and my husband is working on his diet soda intake and trying to replace with unsweetened tea. All Carli drinks is water because it’s all we’ve ever offered to her. If she is at a birthday party or a holiday party at school and juice is being served, I let her drink it there. I don’t want her to feel excluded and this doesn’t happen often. At home, it’s always water and it’s what she asks for. I grew up drinking kool-aid and it took me a long time to appreciate the taste of water. I’m glad my two year old already loves it!

I rarely serve dessert. At the end of a meal if we want something sweet, I always have some fruit cut up. If we are having friends over for dinner or it’s a special occasion like a birthday, I’ll have some sort of dessert available to serve. I try to limit our sugar intake like I do salt. The more sugar we eat, the more our brain craves to get the same sugar fix it did before- it’s literally like a drug! You can read more about that in an older blog post I’ve written here. I used to be super strict on my daughter’s sugar intake when she was younger, but then felt as if I should lighten up and let her enjoy more sweets like other kids do. I’ve seen the outcome- she’s a sugar monster now! Even though I let her enjoy treats at her preschool parties and when grandparents visit (I’ve learned it’s their love language, and no matter how hard I try I will never win that battle), I keep sugar out of our house as much as possible to limit her intake at home. It’s the one thing I guess I would say I “restrict” but I don’t label sugar as being “bad.” It’s just something we limit.

Generally speaking, limiting processed foods and consuming high quality “whole” foods is the best way to feed your family. Taking the focus off of calories and fat grams and putting it on the quality of food you are eating is best for feeding your body. From what research shows and what I’ve seen in my own professional practice, families who are active on an everyday basis are going to be healthier than those who follow crazy diets and are inactive. By active, I don’t mean going to the gym 5 days per week. That’s great to do, but you have to be continuously active. Get the family off the couch and go for a bike ride. Get your kids outside to play. Limit screen time for the entire family. If you are continuously moving your body, I guarantee it will be much easier to stay at a healthy weight and have a healthier body and mind.

Now enjoy that slice of pizza and get that body moving! 😉

 

 

Our favorite easy meal

The last few weeks I’ve made some meals on Mondays that involve quite a few steps and lots of ingredients. I’ve enjoyed spending the time in the kitchen with Carli and she has LOVED getting to help me. But this week I wanted a little break from the amount of prep work and cleanup that I was having to do. We have had this meal several times and I’ve tweaked the recipe just a little bit. It’s easy, healthy, and most importantly delicious.

You can alter this recipe quite a few ways to meet your dietary goals. I’ll give you the recipe we typically use first and then give the altered versions at the end.

 

Oven roasted chicken sausage, peppers and potatoes


  • 1 package of chicken sausage (These come in many different flavors, I usually buy the spinach and red pepper for this recipe), sliced into small pieces
  • 2 medium potatoes (any kind you like will work), cut into small pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • olive oil
  • rosemary
  • garlic powder

In a large bowl, mix the potatoes and peppers together. Add olive oil, rosemary and garlic powder. I honestly don’t ever measure these out- I would say about 2 tbsp olive oil, and a tablespoon each of rosemary and garlic powder. I let Carli pour the olive oil in this week so our meal was a little more oily this week than usual. Mix together and spread out evenly on a baking pan. Place in a preheated oven (350 degrees) for 15 minutes.

Pouring is her favorite part

I let her cut up soft foods with a butter knife- don’t worry she has learned how to control the knife and is always supervised. She has loved the independence!

Once 15 minutes is up, add the sausage and cook an additional 25-35 minutes. Time will vary depending on how big your potato chunks are, the smaller the faster it will take to cook.

Enjoy!!

Altered versions: Sometimes I like to add about 1/2 sliced onion to the mixture. It adds flavor and more veggies- I just didn’t have on hand this week. If you want to omit the potatoes and just have sausage and veggies, you can do so by omitting the first 15 minutes of your cooking time. Just mix everything together and bake for 35 minutes. If I make it this way I like to serve it over brown rice (our family cannot survive without carbs).

Everything you need in a balanced meal is in this one pan dish, just add a side of fruit for dessert and you’re good to go!

Have a great week!

OMG Pumpkin!

October is my absolute favorite month out of the entire year. I love everything about the beautiful colors of autumn, the chilly mornings and cool nights, boots and scarves (with shorts and t-shirts because it’s still 80+ degrees during the day here in Georgia) and of course…pumpkin EVERYTHING. PSL’s, pumpkin candles, pumpkin decorations, pumpkin patches, pumpkin beer, pumpkin desserts- I love them all. Not only does pumpkin stuff smell good, but eating food with pumpkin in it has a few health benefits! Pumpkin is full of fiber (3 grams per 1 cup serving), is loaded with Vitamin A (beneficial for maintaining good eyesight), and contains more potassium per cup than 1 banana. Don’t stop at just the pumpkin though! Their seeds are highly nutritious as well. Pumpkin seeds contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body produce a mood-lifting chemical called serotonin. Serotonin not only helps to improve mood, but it can also help you sleep better at night. In addition to all of that, pumpkin seeds contain about 7 grams of protein per 1 ounce serving and omega-6 fatty acids, beneficial for cardiovascular health. Hooray for delicious and nutritious!

I have a ton of pumpkin recipes along with a slight obsession of baking pumpkin goodies all throughout the fall. Here are some of my favorites.

Pumpkin Chickpeas

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl add 1 can of chickpeas. In a smaller bowl combine 1/3 cup pumpkin, 2 T pure maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Pour over chickpeas and stir. Place chickpeas on lined baking sheet and cook for 60 minutes, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

Pumpkin Frozen Yogurt

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Stir together 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 T cinnamon and 1 T honey. Put in freezer until it sets. This is a favorite of mine to eat on hot fall days.

Pumpkin Bread

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I have about 10 different pumpkin bread recipes, but this by far is one of my favorite (and also one of the healthiest). It’s naturally sweetened with applesauce and honey, with just a little bit of brown sugar in the crumble topping. I have this alongside chili or soup in the evening (see chili recipe below!) or with (pumpkin-flavored) coffee in the morning.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour

1 T pumpkin spice

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla

For the crumble topping:

1/4 cup oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 T butter (melted)

2 T flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9X9 inch pan with cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined, pour into pan. Mix the crumble toppings together and pour evenly over the bread batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes.

Flourless Pumpkin Muffins

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Here is a simple muffin recipe for my gluten free lovers out there. Even if you are a gluten glutton like I am, I promise you won’t be disappointed with these.

Ingredients:

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

2 eggs

1 T vanilla extract

4 T almond butter

1/4 milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

2 1/4 cups oats

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (if desired- I most definitely desire this ingredient!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 12-muffin pan or line with paper liners. I typically make mini muffins, in that case you can use 2 mini pans to make 24 muffins. Starting with the wet ingredients first, layer everything except the chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until smooth. You can also use a blender, but a food processor is much easier. Stir the chocolate chips into the batter. Pour into the pans and cook for about 22 minutes.

Pumpkin Smoothie

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Easy and delicious, perfect for on the go snacking. My 2 year old loves these! The ingredients make a pretty tall drink, so we usually split it or put some in the fridge for later (can keep up to 24 hours). Blend together 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1 large banana, 3 Tbsp milk (we use unsweetened vanilla almond milk), 6oz Greek vanilla yogurt (you can use regular if you desire, the Greek provides more protein), 1 tsp agave nectar, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 6 ice cubes and a pinch of nutmeg. Yum! For all my fellow runners, this is a great recovery drink as well for those long fall runs.

Pumpkin Energy Balls

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I revealed this recipe in a previous blog post, just added pumpkin to the mix! You can find the original recipe here. I changed it slightly for this particular post, but if you want to use the old recipe and just add 1/2 cup pumpkin you can.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pumpkin

1 1/2 cups oats

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/2 cup peanut butter (you can use almond or soy butter if desired)

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Mix together ingredients and form into balls. Put in freezer to allow to set. Let thaw for about 10-15 minutes before serving. Yum! Great for on the go breakfasts or snacks. A great replacement to cookies!

Pumpkin Hummus

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You’ll need your food processor for this one! Hummus has become a food group for my two year old (she eats it by the spoonful) so I’ve started making my own. Homemade hummus is less processed and is also cheaper! Pumpkin hummus is a fun flavor for fall and tastes great with whole grain or regular pita chips. We also like to dip sliced bell peppers in it.

Ingredients:

1 can pumpkin puree

1 can chickpeas

2 cloves garlic

2 T tahini paste

1 T olive oil

2 1/2 T lemon juice

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

Place all in food processor and blend until smooth. You can use this recipe to make your own hummus year round too, just leave out the pumpkin if you would like!

Pumpkin Pie Dip

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A great appetizer for fall parties, this is a fun fruit dip perfect for dipping apples, pears and and cinnamon flavored pita chips. It’s easy to make too! Mix together 1 can of pumpkin, 1/2 cup coconut sugar, 1/8 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice. Mix in 6 oz of Greek yogurt then fold in 8 oz of whipped cream. It’s heavenly.

Pumpkin Chili

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I love chili weather! This pumpkin chili is fantastic and the aromas it fills your house with while it’s cooking won’t disappoint!

Ingredients:

1 T coconut oil

2 cups chopped yellow onion

1 green bell pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 lbs grass feed beef or bison

28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

6 ounce can of tomato paste

1 can of pumpkin

1 cup chicken broth (or you can just use water if desired)

2 1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 T chili powder

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

Directions:

Heat a large pot over the stove. Add oil and saute onion and pepper until onions begin to soften (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and cook an extra 8-10 minutes, breaking up the beef into crumbles as it cooks. Transfer meat mixture into crockpot and add remaining ingredients. Cook for 6-7 hours on low.

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Pumpkin Oatmeal

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I eat a lot of oatmeal on cool mornings. So on cool fall mornings I eat….(duh)…pumpkin oatmeal! It’s easy to make and has a ton of fiber to keep you full throughout the morning. Just heat a saucepan over the stove and add 1 cup water, 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup canned pumpkin, 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 cup milk (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk) and just a dash of sugar to taste. Sometimes I add just a pinch of brown sugar or coconut sugar, other times I use 1/2 pack of Stevia.

Have a happy fall y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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!

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 https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ for more info.