Select Page

Pumpkin Chili

This recipe is 30 mins start to finish and loaded with vegetables! 

Ingredients 

  • 1 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 2 cups onion diced
  • 6 garlic gloves, minced
  • Grass-fed beef from Butcher Box 
  • 1-14 oz can organic pumpkin
  • 1-14 oz can black beans (omit for Paleo/Whole30
  • 1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1-6 oz can tomato paste
  • Frozen cauliflower rice or other veggies such as zucchini or bell peppers
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth (added extra for insta pot, could use 3/4 cup for stovetop or crockpot
  • 2 ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder (plus more to taste)
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Either in a large pan over medium heat or using the ‘saute’ function on the Instant Pot. Add the oil and saute the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until onions start to soften.
  2. Add the ground beef and break it up as it browns so that it cooks evenly. Cook until meat is nearly cooked through (~8-10 minutes).
  3. Add remaining ingredients (pumpkin, diced tomatoes, black beans if using, other vegetables and spices, etc.) and stir.
  4. Using the Instant Pot, close lid and set vent valve to ‘sealing’ position and cook on ‘High Pressure’ setting for 12 minutes. Slow release when finished cooking. If using a slow cooker, cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. 
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Serve with additional toppings, as desired such as avocado, onions, cheese (omit for paleo/Whole 30), tortilla chips, crackers, etc. 

Nutritional Considerations for Female Athletes

Vitamins and minerals are affected by increased physiologic demands and the stress of exercise. Female athletes may be at particular risk for certain deficiencies. Read more below. 

Inadequate Energy Consumption

Simply stated, many nutrient deficiencies occur as a result of not consuming adequate calories to meet the body’s demand. Often with inadequate calories, nutrient intake is sub-optimal.  Research has shown that female athletes and those in weight-specific sports (such as gymnasts, boxers, runners, dancers, etc.) are more at risk. Female athletes are also more at risk for disordered eating patterns and what is known as “The Female Athlete Triad”.

The 2014 Female Athlete Triad Coalition Consensus Statement defines it as a medical condition that contains the following;

  • low energy availability with or without disordered eating
  • menstrual dysfunction
  • low bone mineral density

It was also found that protein in this population is below the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance). Protein needs depend on the sport  (athletes should work with a registered dietitian specializing in sports nutrition for personalized needs), and can range from 1.2-1.7 g/kg/day.

Iron

Over 50% of athletes are iron deficient. This is due to menstruation, inadequate nutrient intake, GI bleeding, hemolysis (especially in endurance athletes), sweat loss and malabsorption of iron. 

Deficiencies in iron can affect athletic performance as well as immune function and overall cognitive abilities. 

A comprehensive blood panel can be one of the best ways to identify an iron deficiency, especially if fatigue is a major complaint for the athlete. 

Factors that enhance absorption of Iron include;

  • Consumption of heme iron (primarily found in meat, poultry or fish)
  • Consuming iron rich foods with sources of vitamin C (bell peppers, citrus, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries, etc.)
  • Low iron stores
  • Normal gastric acid secretion
  • High demand for red blood cells (with increased exercise or hemolysis)

Factors that inhibit absorption of Iron include;

  • phytates (phytic acid) and oxalates
  • tannins in tea and coffee
  • adequate iron stores (indicating that more is not needed)
  • excessive intakes of other minerals
  • reduced gastric acid production

Vitamin K is also a lesser-known vitamin, especially important for women due to it’s role in estrogen and bone formation. 

  • Vitamin K is lower in our diets than previously thought due to diets high in sugar and processed foods, higher intakes of Vitamin A nd Vitamin E (above upper limits) and antibiotics disrupting intestinal barrier function and decreased production/metabolism of vitamin K-1 and K-2.
  • Vitamin K-1 (found in plants), K2 (produced by gut bacteria), and K3 (synthetic form)
  • Average diet contains about 75-150 mcg/day, although 300-750 mcg/day may be optimal
  • Food sources include;
    • leafy green vegetables (spinach, turnip greens)
    • cabbage
    • green tea
    • alfalfa
    • oats
    • cauliflower

Exercise does not seem to increase needs on it’s own, so ensuring adequate intake from a diverse diet is important.

Calcium & Vitamin D

Both calcium and vitamin D, along with other nutrients such as phosphorus and vitamin K (discussed below) are important for bone health and approximately 1/3 of female athletes are deficient.

To assess calcium and vitamin D, it is important to look at blood work, review dietary intake, lifestyle factors (sun exposure, exercise, sleep, etc.) and prevalence of stress fractures and illness.

Calcium

  • Exercising in heat can increase needs 
  • Calcium is controlled by parathyroid hormone (PTH), vitamin D and calcitonin 
  • Good food sources include
    • High quality dairy and non-dairy beverages fortified with calcium 
    • organic tofu
    • kale and other dark green leafy vegetables
    • almonds
    • canned salmon (with the bones)

Vitamin D

  • Risks of deficiency include;
    • Autoimmune disease and other chronic diseases
    • Muscle weakness
    • Inflammation 
  • Good food sources include;
    • Fatty, cold water fish such as salmon
    • Organic organ meats (especially liver)
    • Eggs 
  • You also get vitamin D from sun exposure (it is recommended to get ~10-15 minutes of sun/day at peak hours (between 10am-2pm) 
  • Vitamin D3 supplementation 

Key Takeaways:

The primary vitamins and minerals discussed above are of particular concern to female athletes, however, it is important to consume a healthy, diverse diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables to ensure adequate intake. 

-Eat mostly nutrient-dense, whole foods
Avoid sugars and refined starches (like pastas, breads, sweets, crackers, etc.) 
Consume adequate protein, from organic animal protein or plant-based sources
Get plenty of color (eat the colors of the rainbow each day) – include fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C, A, and foods high in Zinc and Vitamin D
-Incorporate pre and probiotic-rich food sources
  •  Prebiotics: asparagus, artichokes, garlic, onions, banana (on the greener side), apples, flax seed, jicama
  • Probiotics: fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt with live & active cultures

 It is always preferred to obtain nutrients from foods, but if an athlete is not able to consume amounts necessary for health and optimal performance, supplementation may be recommended. 

Other nutrients that may be especially important to support those at higher activity levels include Magnesium, Zinc, and B Vitamins. 

References:

Hueglin S. Nutrition and the Female AthleteOlympic Coach. 2014;25(4):29-32. Accessed September 30, 2020. 

Karpinski, C., & Rosenbloom, C. (2017). Sports nutrition: A handbook for professionals: Sports, cardiovascular, and wellness nutrition dietetics practice group. Chicago: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Mountjoy M, Sundgot-Borgen J, Burke L, et al. International Olympic Committee (IOC) Consensus Statement on Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S): 2018 Update. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. 2018;28(4):316-331. Accessed September 30, 2020. 

 

 

Immune Health 101

Immune Health 101

1. Adequate Protein

Adequate protein is crucial for optimal antibody production and low protein intake has been associated with an increased risk of infection. 

Amino acids have also been shown to improve intestinal barrier function which can enhance immune function.

 Choose high quality choices such as;

  • Free-Range Eggs
  • Wild-Caught Fish
  • Organic meats (e.g., poultry, grass-fed beef, wild game)
  • If tolerated, high quality dairy or grass-fed whey protein. 
  • Vegetarian/Vegan sources (organic tofu/tempeh, edamame, lentils or other legumes) 
  • Nuts/seeds (e.g., almonds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds)
  • High quality plant-based protein powder (such as pea or hemp protein)

2. Micronutrient Status

Many vitamins and minerals play a role in immune health and overall wellness, but I have highlighted a few specifics below that have particular research related to immunity. Key Takeaway – Eat a varied diet full of the colors of the rainbow.

Vitamin A – High in many orange and yellow fruits & vegetables (carrots, cantaloupe, mango), salmon & cod liver oil, eggs, and other beta-carotene rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables.  

Vitamin C– More than just citrus! Vitamin C is also high in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red/yellow/orange bell peppers, leafy greens, tomatoes and winter squash such as butternut or acorn squash! 

Vitamin D – High in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), liver, eggs, high quality full fat dairy and sunshine! 

Vitamin E – Consume things like avocado, nuts/seeds (sunflower, almonds), some oils (such as grapeseed), dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, swiss chard, beet greens) and Atlantic salmon. 

B Vitamins– Found in animal proteins such as beef, wild game, poultry, eggs and fish as well as whole grains (brown rice, millet, etc). Other sources include nuts/seeds and green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli). 

Zinc – highest in oysters but other sources include beans, nuts, other types of shellfish (lobster and crab), whole grains 

…as well as other minerals such as Copper, Iron, Magnesium and Selenium 

 

  3. Phytochemicals

  • Carotenoids have antioxidant properties and are found in many of the same fruits and vegetables that are high in Vitamin A (think yellow/orange and dark-green leafy vegetables).Some examples include spinach, kale and cantaloupe.  Some are precursors for Vitamin A and also have a positive impact on the immune system as they are directly related to Vitamin A status. 

  • Polyphenols have been linked to both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. They are in highest concentrations in our dark berries (blueberries, strawberries) and can have a positive impact on our gut microbiota. Other sources with high amounts include cocoa and teas (especially black and green tea). 

  • Quercetin (a type of flavonoid) has been studied for anti-viral properties and also can reduce potential histamine-mediated reactions in the body. Quercetin can be found in foods such as apples, blueberries olive oil and parsley.

4. Support Overall Gut Health

Incorporate pre and probiotic-rich food sources to stimulate short chain fatty acids in the gut, which have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. 
  •  Prebiotics: asparagus, artichokes, garlic, onions, banana (on the greener side), apples, flax seed, jicama
  • Probiotics: fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt with live & active cultures

 

5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids have some of the most potent anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, most people consuming a Standard American Diet have much more omega-6 fats in their diet compared to omega-3’s, putting them into a PRO-inflammatory state. Shift the ratio of omega-3:omega-6 but adding in some of the foods below; 

  • SMASH Fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring) 
  • Olives and olive oil 
  • Walnuts, chia, hemp and flaxseeds 
  • Best sources for vegans/vegetarians include sea vegegtables and microalgae

6. Sleep & Exercise

  • Sleep – while sleep needs may differ from person-to-person, most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Adequate QUALITY as well as QUANTITY is necessary for immune function.
    • Adequate sleep duration can improve infection outcomes and is associated with reduced infectious disease risk.
    • Many diseases are comorbid with sleep disturbances and proper sleep hygeine may have a beneficial effect on the severity and progression of the disease.
  • Exercise- Epidemiological evidence indicates that regular physical activity reduces the incidence of many chronic diseases (including viral, bacterial and non-non-communicable diseases such as cancer and chronic inflammatory disorders). 

Key Takeaways:

-Eat mostly nutrient-dense, whole foods
Avoid sugars and refined starches (like pastas, breads, sweets, crackers, etc.) 
Consume adequate protein, from organic animal protein or plant-based sources
Use lots of anti-inflammatory spices while cooking such as rosemary, thyme, cilantro, parsley, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, etc. 
Get plenty of color (eat the colors of the rainbow each day) – include fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C, A, and foods high in Zinc and Vitamin D
-Incorporate pre and probiotic-rich food sources
  •  Prebiotics: asparagus, artichokes, garlic, onions, banana (on the greener side), apples, flax seed, jicama
  • Probiotics: fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt with live & active cultures

…AND I CAN’T STRESS ENOUGH – MOVE YOUR BODY DAILY AND PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE 

References:

Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M. The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease. Physiol Rev. 2019;99(3):1325-1380. doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018

Campbell, J. P., & Turner, J. E. (2018). Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan. Frontiers in immunology9, 648. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00648

Iddir M, Brito A, Dingeo G, et al. Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis. Nutrients. 2020;12(6):1562. Published 2020 May 27. doi:10.3390/nu12061562

Lange T, Dimitrov S, Born J. Effects of sleep and circadian rhythm on the human immune system. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010;1193:48-59. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05300.x

Easy Homemade Granola

Easy Homemade Granola

I like to call this the “whatever I have in my pantry” granola because you can literally throw it together with whatever you have and keep is as simple or complex as you like!

Servings

12 – 1/2 cup servings

Total Time:

35min

Ingredients

  • 4 cups gluten free old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup nuts & seeds (I used raw almonds, pepitas & sunflower seeds), 1/3 of each)
  • 1 tsp HImalayan sea salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil (can also use avocado oil or grapeseed oil)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup raw honey or local maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Optional Add Ins; 
    • Spices such as turmeric, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice
    • dried fruits with no added sugar 
    • chia seeds
    • dark chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper 

3. In a mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts/seeds, sea salt and desired spices

4. In a separate bowl, combine melted coconut oil (or other healthy oil) with vanilla and honey/maple syrup

5. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir gently until well combined.

6. Spread evenly onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. 

7. After 10 minutes, remove from oven, stir, and bake for additional 10 minutes or until lightly browned

8. Add coconut flakes and return to oven for about 2-5 minutes if you like the flakes toasted.

9. Mix in any additional add-ins or enjoy as is! Can be stored for several weeks in jar or sealed container. 

Nutrition

For a balanced breakfast or snack, boost protein by enjoying with a plant-based milk such as Ripple (8g protein) or grass-fed yogurt (8-11g protein). Also great on top of a smoothie bowl made with high quality protein powder (10-20g protein)

Protein

Healthy Fats

Carbohydrates

Food Tracking 101

Food Tracking 101 

Does the idea of food tracking give you anxiety? Do you like the idea of having control over knowing what you put into your body? With so much information floating around and the wide variety of food tracking apps to choose from to, it can be be hard for people to determine if food tracking will help or hinder their goals. 

Keep reading as I break down the pros and cons of food tracking and how to use it to reach your goals.

What is food tracking?

You may hear terms such as “counting macros” or “tracking calories”. Other words for food tracking include “food log” or “food diaries” which can be as simple as writing down meals and snacks in a good old fashioned journal using pen and paper or one can choose to use a fancy new app such as MyFitnessPal, Cron-o-meter, Lose It! which are among the most popular options.

Some people simply enjoy writing down foods for accountability (because let’s be honest, it’s less desirable to consume more junk food when you have to log it! Other individuals may be tracking carbohydrates (important for people with diabetes or those following a ketogenic diet), or tracking total calories to remain in a deficit for weight loss.

Regardless of your goals, food tracking may have benefits, at least short-term,  which I will break down in the following section.

Who may benefit from tracking?

In my personal experience, I believe that (almost) everyone can benefit from tracking food intake from time to time. If losing weight is your goal, research has shown that those who record their food intake will achieve greater weight loss than those who don’t.

I do NOT believe that it needs to be long-term for most people as it can be tedious or potentially lead to anxiety over mealtimes.

You may benefit from food tracking if you; 

  • want to “re-calibrate” your brain to remember what serving sizes actually look like
  • have a specific weight or body composition goal
  • are training for competition in sport and want to enhance athletic performance
  • want to optimize and ensure adequate nutrient intake for overall health and wellness
  • have diabetes or other health condition (such as epilepsy) which may require that you limit specific macronutrients such as carbohydrates
  • are having adverse symptoms that might be associated with foods you are eating and you want to narrow it down
  • are having trouble sleeping or feel exceptionally tired during the day and want to learn more about your eating patterns

Tracking food intake may not be for you if you; 

  • already have an overall healthy diet
  • have a history of an eating disorder or current tendencies towards disordered eating
  • feel overly anxious or find it too overwhelming

When should you track?

It depends. If someone is using food tracking as a way to understand portion control, have some accountability while trying to reach a specific goal, or to uncover a potential adverse food reaction or food sensitivity, it can be helpful to track for a short period of time until you feel confident with a consistent meal pattern, learn more about your body,  and develop healthy habits that can be sustained long-term.

For a habit to “stick”, it  takes about 21 days, so for anyone trying to sustain long-term change, I recommend trying it for at least 3-4 weeks. The first couple of days are usually the most challenging as you are trying to get into the routine of plugging foods into a new app or remembering to write it all down but after the initial first couple of days it becomes less tedious.

In order to see more dramatic changes in health biomarkers, it takes about 3 months of consistent dietary changes (such as in the case of hemoglobin A1c for blood sugar control or cholesterol levels).

For weight loss, many people want to see the number on the scale drop quickly but oftentimes dramatically reducing calories and making drastic dietary changes too quickly leads to frustration, unsustainable and often unhealthy patterns. A healthy rate of weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week (some may loose more in the first few weeks due to reductions in inflammation, etc., especially if someone goes from eating a Standard American Diet to a more healthful diet right away). Depending on the weight goal, it may take several of months of planning and tracking.

Remember, SUSTAINABLE CHANGE is the name of the game, so tracking can be useful to learn more about types and amounts of foods to fuel your body appropriately as well as learn more about your overall dietary habits so that you can maintain this without being tied to a food tracking app or paper journal for the rest of your life.

    How to get started with food tracking?

    First, think about what method might work best for you (pen and paper or an app on your phone?) and start exploring options.

    Give yourself a few days to get into the routine. Some people use tracking as a planning tool. Especially if you have a very specific goal, entering in meals and snacks ahead of time can help with the meal planning process. Alternatively, others prefer to enter in foods after consuming. It is really a personal preference but I find that when someone is trying to learn more about their current diet, entering in afterwards works, but if someone is trying to stick to a specific macronutrient goal, planning ahead may be more effective.

    There are a variety of great food tracking apps available but I included a few of my favorites below that I have personally used if you need some ideas getting started;

    Cronometer

    Pros

    • Video tutorials for setting up your profile and entering foods
    • Consistent monitoring and updates to  food database
    • User-friendly and great for people new to food tracking

    Cons

    • Not very compatible for use with other trackers (FitBit, Garmin, etc.)
    • Sometimes the stats can be confusing and figuring out where to enter personalized macronutrient targets can be a bit of a learning curve 

    Cronometer Gold gives access to an increased number of features, such as:

    • Food suggestions based on remaining macro and micronutrient targets for the day
    • Customized biometrics
    • Ability to generate detailed reports
    • Feature that allows you to upload progress photos if that’s your thing
    • Food and recipe sharing

    MyFitnessPal

    Pros

    • Huge database of foods with over 3,282,000 different foods to choose from
    • Can add customized recipes
    • Foods can even be scanned into the app where the nutrition facts can be viewed
    • Can add personalized macronutrient targets
    • Easy-to-read pie charts analyzing macronutrient intake to assess how close you are to goal ranges

    Cons

    • Just like many apps, calorie recommendations may be lower than actual needs which can be unsustainable and frustrating
    • The app fails to highlight the importance of other important nutrients and is more heavily focused on calories 

    Lose It!

    Pros

    • There are a variety of challenges offered for motivation and accountability to acheive your goals  
    • This app helps you to find local restaurants and make an educated decision about where you eat
    • You can connect with other people, whether they are friends or strangers, who are trying to achieve similar nutritional goals 
    • This app doesn’t appear to be as calorie-restricting as some of the others which can lead to a healthier and more sustainable process
    • Using your location and movements of your phone you are able to keep track of your total steps

    Cons

    • It only separates consumed foods into protein, carbohydrates and fats, while other apps provide a further breakdown (i.e. fats broken down into saturated and trans. fats)

    RP (Renaissance Periodization) Diet App

    Pros

    • This app requires individuals to be much more precise for accurate macronutrients
    • Food quality is addressed. Vegetables, fruits, and high-fiber starches are usually encouraged at every meal and the app states to strive for “80% from whole food sources”

     Cons 

    • This plan is definitely for those who are more advanced with food tracking because it requires a lot of precision
    • Planning ahead is critical as the app recommends entering in foods for the week BEFOREhand 
    • Limited database of foods, especially if you don’t enter in foods exactly as they are listed
    • The guidelines are hard to follow at restaurants