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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

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

    Consistency over Perfection: How Implementing Small Daily Habits Can Change Your Life

    How many times have you said, “I need to on a diet” or “I am going to eat healthy all week so I can indulge this weekend”? 

    How about thoughts such as “If I could lose this last 10 pounds, I would be happier” or “I am successful because my abs are showing”? 

    These are so common but I challenge you to think about how many times this has worked for you (on a long term basis) or are you stuck in a vicious cycle of destructive eating and behavioral habits? 

    The reality is that it is very hard and fairly unsustainable to stick to something 100% of the time (unless you are a robot, and even then, technical issues still happen)!

    We like the grand idea of a diet or program, especially when someone or something (such as an app, etc.) tells us exactly what to eat and how to exercise, but nobody really likes the idea of doing the hard work or feeling overly consumed by logging or tracking (although there are certain times where this can be helpful or necessary). 

    When we try to follow a strict diet, it rarely lasts because, let’s face it, we are not perfect (and shouldn’t expect to be)! 

    Unless you plan to never get busy, always be prepared, pass up every birthday party and dinner invite, skip vacations, and stick to a schedule all day every day – LIFE will get in the way of your “perfect” meal plan.

    When things get in the way, people often go back to their old way of eating because they don’t know what else to do when the are not on the plan. Or they begin a plan that was meant to be temporary and continue to follow it for too long – which can lead to deficiencies, disordered eating habits, or other health (mental, metabolic, hormonal) consequences.

    A lot of people may follow a strict plan for a while but won’t really enjoy it. This discontent can pose a serious challenge for a diet to be sustainable long term.

    So, instead of another diet, why not focus on lasting, sustainable changes that are unlikely to interrupt your daily life but have impactful results once we establish them as a habit?

    Focus on what is possible and doable and what you can do TODAY. 

    You can’t set a goal to lose 30 pounds and expect to lose 5 within the first day or PR our clean and jerk by 50 pounds each week. 

    Regardless of what your nutrition or fitness goals are, you need to make your plan a priority, set goals and do the hard work (yes, this is not easy!). Most importantly, you must stay consistent.

    You have to show up again and again and again… even when you want to quit.

    Let’s look ahead a month, a year, or even 5 years from now and you have made significant strides towards reaching your goal(s)… Chances are you won’t remember the small failures that seemed so big and important at the time. That Friday that you ate a piece of cake or slept through your workout is irrelevant.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t quit when the scale went up 5 pounds? Or when things got tough?

    What small choices can you make today to reach your goals?

     

    5 Tips to Revamp Your Healthy Lifestyle

    5 Tips to Revamp Your Healthy Lifestyle

    Has your normal daily routine changed in the past couple of months? There is no doubt that life as we know it looks a little different these days but our health and well-being is more important than ever right now. Read my top ten tips to get back into a healthy routine and jump-start your goals.

    1. Set a Schedule

    This includes regular meal times and planned physical activity.

    Eat meals away from your desk/computer if possible. 

    Use this time to take a quick walk or get outside for some sunshine. 
    Working from home? Set up your workspace away from the kitchen. 

    2. Meal Prep

    Wash, chop your vegetables, cook several clean protein options, and portion out healthy snacks. I recommend storing in clear containers so you are reminded! Make the healthy choice the easy choice.

    Working from home? Meal prep and pack yourself a lunch, set aside snacks for the day the same way you would if you were going to the office.

    Need Ideas? Check out my previous post Simple Tips for Simple & Sustainable Meal Prepping

    3. Think Balance:

    Even when dining or ordering out!
    Ensure each meal is balanced with a protein source, a healthy carbohydrate, and a serving of veggies.
    Choose options like grilled chicken or fish, sweet potato and a side salad instead of fried sides.
    Snacks should also provide a good source of healthy fats, proteins and fiber to sustain us until the next meal.
    A few examples may include; 
    -nuts/nut butter and fruit
    -hard boiled egg with an apple
    -veggies and hummus or guac

    4. Don’t Forget to Hydrate

    Keep a reusable water bottle with you so you can sip throughout the day. If it’s difficult to get into a habit of remembering, consider setting an alarm for every hour! On a normal day, you should drive for at least 1/2 of your body weight in non-caffeinated, non-sweetened & non-alcoholic beverages.

    Sick of plain ol’ water?

    Try infused water (with fruits/herbs – think strawberry mint or rosemary lemon) , sparkling water or herbal teas (hot or iced)

     

    5. Support Your Immune System

    -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 HYGEINE 

    5 Tips for a Healthy Taco Tuesday


    Here are my top 5 tips to indulge in a healthier fiesta.

    1. Let’s Taco ‘Bout Balance.

    A balanced taco means it has complex carbs, good quality protein and healthy fats as well as some color to round it out! Use the graphic above for some ideas.

    Tacos can be a better choice than many of the cheese-drowned enchiladas or chimichangas. Best choices would be shredded chicken, grass-fed meats, fish or shrimp. You can also skip the meat altogether and opt for beans, organic tofu and additional vegetables.

    Many Mexican restaurants offer fajitas with bell peppers, onions and protein of choice. Fish tacos are becoming increasingly popular options and are often filled with fresh cabbage or jicama slaws. I generally skip fried varieties. Fresh avocado or guacamole and/or extra salsa can be a satisfying and hearty topping. If you are avoiding gluten, inquire about corn tortillas or I have recently found restaurants offering “keto” tacos with a lettuce shell if you are into that. Many grocery stores also carry almond flour, coconut flour or plantain wraps! 

    2. Easy on the chips.

    With bottomless refills of the chip basket at many Mexican restaurants, many people tend to eat a lot more than they think, especially if you are hungry and snacking while waiting on the main dish.

    Staying home? Find a non-GMO, organic corn chip or grain free option such as Siete Foods Grain Free Tortilla Chips. You could also moderate intake by placing a few chips on a napkin or plate and not reaching for seconds, thirds, or fourth helpings! The salsa is generally a healthy choice but if you prefer another “dipping option”, skip the queso and opt for fresh guacamole instead!

    3. Celebrate in Color.

    No matter what type of dish you decide on, make it colorful! 

    4. Tacos + Tequila = a Perfect Combo. Planning to indulge? 

    Skip the pre-made mixes and whip up one of your own. Here are a few of my personal favorites (click each picture to go to recipe); 

    https://www.wellplated.com/skinny-margarita/

    https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-make-perfect-keto-margarita-using-this-simple-formula

    https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/healthy-margarita-recipe-cinco-de-mayo/

     5. Most importantly, enjoy your meal and your company!

    Ginger Water

    Ginger Water

    Ginger has many benefits ranging from promoting growth of healthy gut bacteria, lowering blood sugar, reducing the effects of toxins (especially heavy metals) on the body and overall immune support. 

    Ingredients

    • 1-2 inches fresh ginger root, grated.  
    • 3-5 cups filtered water 
    • 1/8-1/4 cup lemon juice (preferably fresh squeezed) 
    • Raw honey, to taste (optional) 

      Instructions

      Step 1

      Grate the 1-2 inch piece of ginger root with cheese grater, sharp knife, razor blade if your a savage. 

      Step 2

      Fill up a pitcher with filtered water and add the grated ginger.

      Step 3

      Let ginger infuse in the water overnight (or at least a few hours)

      Step 4

      Strain, add squeeze of lemon, up to 1 Tbsp raw honey (if preferred) and enjoy hot or cold! 

      Variations

      You can add grated turmeric or other herbs such as fresh mint, rosemary, etc.

      You could also use pure maple syrup instead of the honey, however, honey will have more medicinal benefits. 

      Protein Bars Decoded

      Protein bars

      More than just a candy bar?

      Do's & Don'ts of picking a good protein bar

      With so many options on the shelves it can be hard to choose a protein bar that isn’t just a glorified candy bar filled with sugar and artificial ingredients. Scroll down to view my top picks. 

      N

      DO Pay attention to the ingredient list

      Read the ingredients first (despite what the marketing claims are). Ingredients should be minimal and recognizable.

      Top ingredients may include;

      • Dates or Whole Fruits
      • Egg Whites or Egg White Protein
      • Collagen Peptides
      • Nuts/Seeds or Nut/Seed Butters
      • Coconut Shreds and/or Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
      • Spices such as Cinnamon, Cocao/Cocao Nibs, Unsweetened Chocolate Himalayan Sea Salt.
      • Pure Stevia or Monk Fruit Extract
      • Honey
      • Vanilla Extract

      DON'T Pick bars with artificial ingredients and fillers

      WATCH OUT for prime offenders such as;

      • Soy Protein Isolate
      • Corn (High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Fiber
      • Maltodextrin
      • Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil
      • Vegetable glycerin
      • Soy Lecithin
      • Artificial Sweeteners (sucralose, acesulfame potassium, aspartame , saccharin and sucralose are the most common)
      • Sugar Alcohols (such as erythritol, maltitol)
      • Gums
      • “Natural Flavors”
      • Dyes such as “Red 40”
      q

      Remember...

      Ingredients are listed in decending order by weight (i.e. if brown rice syrup is the first ingredient, it is probably not the best choice!) Sugar is still sugar, whether is comes from honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup or cane sugar, it still contributes to blood sugar spikes and increase in the body’s inflammation. Find a bar that is <5g of ADDED sugar (not from dates or natural fruit), but ideally you want to avoid all added sugars.

      Top Picks for Protein Bars

      Protein bars can be great when looking for a quick snack on the go, for travel, or pre/post workout fuel. Remember to include mostly whole foods and not depend on bars and supplements except when planning for those “food emergencies”

       

      Disclaimer – there are numerous protein bars out there any new ones showing up on the shelves all the time. The top picks below are out of protein bars that I have personally tried and reviewed. Let me know your feedback!  

      Best for: someone limiting carbohydrates, ketogenic diet, mental performance. Texture is similar to shortbread!

      11-13g protein per bar

      2-4g of sugar, no added sugar

      9g NET carbs

      Quality fats to satisfy hunger

      Collagen protein supports skin, bones and joints

      Not great for: someone following a vegetarian or vegan diet (contains collagen) or with a nut allergy.

      Best for: someone looking for a healthier jerky alternative with a variety of flavors and compliant with various diets such as the Paleo Diet, Whole30, AIP, and the ketogenic diet.

      7-15g protein per bar

      0-6g of sugar, no added sugar

      0-9g NET carbs

      Minimally processed, 100% animal-based whole protein 

       Not great for: someone following a vegetarian or vegan diet or someone who likes a “sweeter” bar. 

       Best for: endurance, keeping you going through long days. The nut and seed variety of these bars (versus the fruit and nut) are for someone looking for a lower carb option (although I still wouldn’t consider these “low carb”). Vegan/vegetarian friendly. 

      6g protein per bar

      12g of sugar, no added sugar

      14g NET carbs

      Fats from whole food sources

      Not great for: someone looking for a bar for recovery (i.e. post-workout), low carb diets or nut allergies 

       

       Best for: endurance, keeping you going through long days or pre-workout fuel. Rx Bars have a wide variety of flavors (as well as seasonal ones such as Pumpkin and Gingerbread)! “Rx Kids” bars also available in a smaller size and with kid-friendly flavors.

      12g protein per bar

      13-15g of sugar, no added sugar

      18-20g NET carbs

      More protein than many date-based bars due to the egg whites.

      Not great for: low carb diets or nut allergies. Some also complain the texture is too sticky (bring your floss!)  

       

      Best for: someone looking for a treat! With flavors like “cashew cookie” and “cherry pie”, it’s sure to curb a sweet tooth with only 2 simple ingredients. Could also be a great pre-workout.

      5g protein per bar

      15g of sugars, no added sugar 

      Higher carbs than other comparible bars with 23g NET carbs 

      Limited, simple ingredients 

      Not great for: strict blood sugar control (insulin resistance, diabetes, etc.), meal replacement or nut allergies.

      Keep in mind that Primal Kitchen has a few different “bar” options. This is the collagen fuel bar. 

      Best for: someone looking for sweet and salty and comes in 4 different flavors 

      13-15g protein per bar

      3g of sugars, 2g added sugar (from honey)

      5-13g NET carbs

       Quality fats to satisfy hunger

      Collagen protein supports skin, bones and joints

      Not great for: someone following a vegetarian or vegan diet (contains collagen) or with a nut allergy.

      Nut Allergy or "Nut-Free" School?

      I recently came across 88 Acres which is non-GMO seed products made in a bakery free of peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and sesame. They have a variety of seed bars, butters, seed’nola and more! 

      PRE-biotics – The Unsung Hero

      PRE-biotics – The Unsung Hero

      “I have heard of probiotics, but what are pre-biotics?”

      Prebiotics are found in fiber rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and serve as food for probiotics.
      Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as;
      • sauerkraut
      • kimchi
      • fermented soy products (such as tempeh and miso)
      • yogurt
      • kefir
      • pickles and other fermented vegetables
      • and kombucha tea.
      Prebiotics and probiotics work together to support a healthy gut microbiome by promoting healthy bacteria to create an environment that supports healthy digestion. Fore more information about probiotics, read my previous post.

      How Can I Get More Prebiotic Foods in My Diet?

      Prebiotics occur naturally in many foods so people who eat a balanced, diverse diet will get many prebiotics and probiotics naturally.
      Prebiotic foods include, 
      • Asparagus
      • Bananas (on the greener side!)
      • Eggplant
      • Garlic
      • Onions
      • Leeks
      • Some greens (such as dandelion greens, endive and radicchio)
      • Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes)
      • Legumes
      • Peas
      • Whole Grains  

      What about Supplements?

      The bacterial balance can be easily be disrupted by a number of factors — even ones we encounter on a daily basis. Eating a diet rich in processed carbohydrates, too much sugar or alcohol, lack of sleep, medication use, certain medical conditions, stress, antibiotic use and even our genetics can affect our gut’s balance which can lead to digestive and other issues.

      A prebiotic and probiotic supplement can help tip the balance back in favor of the good bacteria to get our bodies back to balance.

      I have tried several different pre and probiotics, but have personally been using BIOHM since dealing with recurrent infections and really like the product because it addresses fungi in addition to bacteria.

      You can learn more about the products at http://functionallysimplenutrition.BIOHMHealth.com or feel free to contact me with any questions.

      Before starting any new supplements, it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor or qualified registered dietitian so they can advise you on the correct strain and dosage that is right for you. 

       

      Citations

      1. Probiotics: In Depth. (2018, July 31). Retrieved July 2, 2019, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm

      2. Bischoff, S. C. (2011). Gut health: A new objective in medicine? BMC Medicine,9(1). doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-24

      For more on gut health, click on the videos below with Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Ghannoum

      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...

      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...

      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....

      Probiotics- What are they and should I be taking them?

      Probiotics- What are they and should I be taking them?

      First of all: What is “gut health”? 

      “Gut health” has become a common term in both literature and in the food industry. Although there is not a clear definition of “gut health”, it is commonly described as when our “good bacteria” outnumber the “bad bacteria” and is said to be “in balance” (2). However, there is some debate about using the term “bad bacteria” since there are certain types of bacteria that only become problematic when there are too many of a particular strain and/or the immune system becomes compromised (i.e. an opportunistic infection such as E.coli). Did you know that there are are about 100 trillion microbes in the human body?!

       

        So, what are probiotics? 

        Probiotics are living microorganisms that inhabit our gut and have been shown to have many health benefits. 

        Probiotics may contain a variety of microorganisms but the most common are bacteria that belong to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium groups. Each of these two broad groups includes many types of bacteria. Other bacteria may also be used as probiotics, and so may yeasts such as Saccharomyces boulardii (1). 

        Protiotics are found in various food sources as well as in supplement form. 

        Sauerkraut – Popular in German culture, this fermented cabbage fuels healthy gut bacteria but it also contains choline, a chemical needed for the proper transmission of nerve impulses in the brain and throughout the central nervous system. I recommend finding your sauerkraut in the refrigerated section for the most benefits. 

        Kimchi- Kimchi is spicy mixture of fermented vegetables and seasonings and is popular in Korean culture.  Common ingredients include cabbage, brine, radish and spices such as ginger and chili pepper. Kimchi is also a great source of calcium, iron, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, B1, and B2. 

        Tempeh- Tempeh can be a good substitute for meat and is made from fermented soybeans. It is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the amino acids that your body needs. Also a great source of vitamin B12, tempeh can be cooked or crumbled over salads. With any soy products, I recommend finding an organic, non-GMO brand and obtaining soy in moderation from whole food sources. 

        Yogurt– There are many dairy and non-dairy yogurt brands to choose from, but be careful about which ones you choose.  Many are loaded with added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors. Read your labels. For people sensitive to dairy, coconut, almond or cashew yogurts are an excellent dairy-free way to work probiotics into your diet.

        Kefir- Kefir is a a fermented dairy product is very similar to yogurt and now has non-dairy options as well! You can find coconut, almond or water kefir, although it can be a bit harder to find. My best luck has been at Whole Foods or Fresh Thyme Market.  It is a unique combination of of yeast, bacteria and milk (or milk alternative) that’s high in lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. 

        Kombucha Tea- This is a form of fermented black or green tea. It is fizzy and best cold! Keep in mind that it usually contains caffeine so best not to drink to late in the day. I recommend finding one that is <7g sugar per serving (each bottle is typically 2 servings!) 

        Pickles & Fermented Vegetables-  Whether you make your own pickled vegetables or buy them, keep in mind that the probiotic benefits are only present in unpasteurized foods pickled in brine, not vinegar.

        What about Supplements? 

        The bacterial balance can be easily be disrupted by a number of factors — even ones we encounter on a daily basis. Eating a diet rich in processed carbohydrates, too much sugar or alcohol, lack of sleep, medication use, certain medical conditions, stress, antibiotic use and even our genetics can affect our gut’s balance which can lead to digestive and other issues.

        A probiotic supplement can help tip the balance back in favor of the good bacteria to get our bodies back to balance.

        I have tried several different probiotics, but have personally used BIOHM since dealing with recurrent infections and really like the product because it addresses fungi in addition to bacteria.

        You can learn more about the products at http://functionallysimplenutrition.BIOHMHealth.com or feel free to contact me with any questions.

        Before starting probiotics, it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor or qualified registered dietitian so they can advise you on the correct strain and dosage that is right for you. 

         

          Citations

          1. Probiotics: In Depth. (2018, July 31). Retrieved July 2, 2019, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm

          2. Bischoff, S. C. (2011). Gut health: A new objective in medicine? BMC Medicine,9(1). doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-24

          For more on gut health and probiotics, click on the videos below with Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Ghannoum

          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...

          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...

          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....

          How to Hydrate Properly: 5 Helpful Tips (plus hydration smoothie)

          A Simple, Tasty Smoothie with Watermelon, Limes and Mint:

          Hydration Smoothie

          Ingredients:

          • 1 Mini Watermelon
          • Juice from One Lime
          • 1 Cup Coconut Water
          • 8-10 Ice Cubes

          Instructions:

          Add watermelon meat, lime juice, coconut water and ice cubes to a blender. Pour into a glass, garnish with mint and serve cold!

          Gut Health Tip: Add a scoop of BIOHM Super Greens to this mix for that extra Probiotic boost!

           

           

          C
          5 Simple Ways to Stay Hydrated

           

          Why You Need to Drink Water

          Staying hydrated is one of the most important and easiest ways to help out your body and aid digestion. However, as simple as it is, it’s easily forgotten.

          Dehydration can not only hurt your gut and your digestion, but it can also influence the way you feel too—think about moodiness and fatigue. So do your body, your digestion, and your coworkers a favor and DRINK UP!

          5 Ways to Stay Hydrated

          How much water should you drink in a day? People may know the answer to this question but most of the time, the standard isn’t followed.

          Staying hydrated is one of the most significant components of living a healthy lifestyle, but for many, it can be a challenge. That’s why figuring out a system that works for you is key to receiving ample water intake every day.

          1. Fill up Before Bed

          Keeping a glass of water on your nightstand will help you kick-start your morning by starting your water intake right when you wake up.

          2. Reward Your Taste-Buds

          Drinking water can be a drag, especially when you want something with a little more flavor. To mix things up, every two fill ups, reward yourself with something flavoring!

          Simple ideas are infused water (ex. cucumber/mint, pineapple/ginger, raspberry/lime) or Hint Water. You can also incorporate some bubbles (sparkling water) or add a little boost of flavor with water enhancements such as Stur (I like this one over many others because it is naturally sweetened with Stevia).

          I also like to use BCAAs, or flavored collagen powder. These products are great because they provide a little more flavor and have great benefits for your body as well. BCAA’s specifically are beneficial 1-2 times per day in more active individuals. 

          BCAA Definition: Stands for branched-chain amino acids. They are protein supplements that help boost performance during exercise.

          3. Get Yourself a Reliable Water Bottle

          Not only are reusable water bottles good for the earth, but they also allow you to fill up throughout the day. New water bottle designs are both creative and functional so you won’t have to worry about them cramping your style.

          4. Set Reminders and Make it Easy! 

           I try to drink at least 1/2 bottle on my way to and from work and take a “water and stretch break” during the day to fill up and get away from my desk. 

          5. Know How Much Water You Should Drink in a Day

          The amount of water we need to drink daily varies from person to person. Depending on individual body weight, you may need to adjust your intake to make sure you’re drinking enough water every day.

          Figuring out the correct amount you need daily is easy, just follow these steps:

          • Your Weight: First you need to figure out your body weight (easy enough right?).
          • Multiply by 1/2: Next, you need to multiply your body weight by 1/2 (50%) to determine how much water you should drink daily (at a minimum!). For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you should drink at least 60 ounces of water daily.
          • Activity Level: Finally, you will want to adjust that number based on your activity level, since you are expelling water when you sweat. A simple way you should adjust your water intake is to add 12 ounces of water to your daily total for every 30 minutes that you work out.

          The benefits of staying hydrated include keeping your skin supple, your digestion working smoothly, and your entire body healthy. Figure out how much water your body needs daily! 

          Post adapted from Biohm Health. 

           

          Can you Eat Too Much Avocado?

          Can you Eat Too Much Avocado?

          The answer from a functional medicine dietitian

          Can You Eat Too Much Avocado?

          Yesterday, it was mashed avocado slathered on gluten-free toast, a runny egg and a few dashes of Sriracha hot sauce. Today’s lunch? Cubed avocado on your spinach salad. So would guacamole with tonight’s tacos be overkill?

          Sure, you can’t technically “overdose” on avocado, is there ever too much?

          Functional medicine dietitian Ariana Cucuzza, RD, says there’s no one simple answer because no two bodies are the same.

          “Obviously, there is good reason for including avocado in your diet because it offers so many benefits,” Cucuzza says. “But like anything good, people do have a tendency to go overboard.

          “It is all the rage right now. And with good reason. It has the ability to be sweet or savory. You can throw it in a smoothie for texture or make some guac. But this is one of those instances when there’s no one-size-fits-all for recommendations.”

          But some basic guidance

          Deciding how many avocados to throw in the grocery basket? You first have to look at what your goals are for your weight, gut health, overall healthy diet — and your body type, activity level and genes, Cucuzza says.

          “Usually, I would recommend that ½ to one avocado a day is reasonable,” she says.

          She notes that since avocados are a pretty significant source of healthy monounsaturated fat, they make you more satisfied and are harder to overdo because they tend to fill you up. (Of the 20 to 25 total grams of fat in avocados, 15 grams is monounsaturated fat.)

          It’s worth noting that avocados aren’t low-cal, with a whole one generally having between 200 and 300 calories, depending on size. But functional medicine experts don’t usually focus on calories alone, Cucuzza explains. “We really look more at increasing whole foods in the diet first,” she says. “We find when patients eat more real food, and less processed food, things tend to fall into place.”

          Don’t make it your only healthy fat

          Going all gung-ho on avocado? Just be sure not to eat it so much of it that you’re shunning other healthy fats in your diet.

          “If you’re getting all of your healthy fat from avocados, you’re not getting all of the benefits from things like olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds,” Cucuzza says. “To maintain an overall healthy diet, variety is key to get everything that your body needs.”

          After all, we now know that fat doesn’t make you fat per se. The real culprit of many issues — like metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes — is processed carbohydrates, not the fat we’re consuming, she says.

          Singing avocado’s praises

          Besides its healthy fats, there’s plenty of other lesser-known reasons to include avocado on your plate.

          “Avocados are really high in fiber, which is important for feeling full between meals and for keeping our digestive tract moving and lowering our cholesterol,” Cucuzza says.

          It’s also really high in potassium, one of those good electrolytes that’s essential for our heart, muscles and many body processes.

          Plus, avocado actually helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K. “So eating avocado with a salad or a lot of different vegetables actually helps you to absorb the vitamins from those foods,” she says.

          That vitamin E is important for immune function. And overall, avocados are known for supporting brain function and healthy memory thanks to their healthy fats.

          Those who should eat avocado more sparingly

          If you’re really watching your weight, Cucuzza says, it’s probably wise to stick to about one-half to one whole avocado per day, assuming you are also eating other sources of healthy fats.

          Avocados are also a higher FODMAP food, meaning they contain carbohydrates that may not be digested or absorbed well. So, those following a low-FODMAP diet or those with intestinal bacterial overgrowth will also want to stick to an eighth an avocado serving, although there is no magic amount for everyone.

          The bottom line? “Avocado could be part of your daily diet as long as you’re including a variety of colors, textures and kinds of food,” Cucuzza concludes.

          For original article, visit https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-you-eat-too-much-avocado/

          10 Simple Tips for Successful & Sustainable Meal Prepping

          10 Simple Tips for Successful & Sustainable Meal Prepping

          Set aside a day and time as part of your weekly schedule to plan and prepare meals/ingredients. 

          weekly plan

          • For many people this is a Saturday or Sunday but can be any chunk of time that works best for YOU. Put it on your calendar and COMMIT!
          • Additionally, I think it’s important to note that you don’t have to make every single meal of the week at once. I will sit down on my designated day of the week and make a list of the recipes and ingredients needed and this helps me to make sure I have meats defrosted, ingredients washed and chopped so I can throw together meals during the busy work week. It does not have to be all in cute little containers that we see on Pinterest!

          The important thing is to make sure that you actually schedule time for planning and preparing your meals. By making it a priority in your life, you will make the time. Remember, “Failing to plan is planning to fail” 

           

          Look at recipes, prepare a shopping list and have all ingredients for the week BEFORE you begin your meal prep.

           

          • I find it helpful to check in with the hubby to determine meals he would like for the week and compromise so that everyone is happy!  I suggest looking at recipes together and picking several to try. I usually make one or two options each week for breakfast and lunch and alternate them. Then I have a different recipe for dinner Monday-Thursday. The weekends are usually for leftovers, going out and having fun.
          • Once I’ve decided what I will be eating that week, I like to have it printed out or a list on paper versus leaving it on the computer. Of course, that’s a personal choice but I like having a hard, dirty copy in front of me at the grocery store and as I am cooking.
          • Take inventory of foods that need used and what you already have on hand before rushing to the store.
          • Stick to the shopping list!!!

          Buy staple ingredients in bulk.

           

          • Things like gluten free baking flours, canned coconut milk, nuts and seeds, spices, frozen fruits and veggies, quinoa, rice, coconut aminos, coconut oil, chia seeds, dates, etc. are staples I like to always have on hand since they show up in so many of my recipes. Find your staples and consider buying at a wholesaler such as Costco or Sam’s or purchasing online on Thrive Market or Amazon to make your life easier! Also stock up on items when they go on sale!

          Prepare your space and refrigerator.

           

          • There is nothing more frustrating then starting in a space thats already cluttered. Before starting, make sure you start clean (clear up any dishes lingering in the sink, empty the dishwasher, look in the fridge and throw away anything that is no longer good or re-organize to ensure you have space for the meals you are going to prepare for the week).
          • Make sure you wipe down your space so that it is clean and sanitized.
          • If you are in a household with others who are not eating the same way, consider designating a shelf in the fridge and/or pantry where you have your meals and ingredients.
            • *Note: I do not recommend separate meals for the family. That’s why it is so important to get input on recipes beforehand. However, if you are following specific dietary restrictions or for allergies, this may be an appropriate accommodation! 

          Once you are ready to begin prepping, lay out all your ingredients (and storage containers) and make a game plan.

           

          • Having quality storage containers (glass is best!) is key to making your meal prep easier. Consider buying some Pyrex glass containers in various sizes to store your meals and leftovers. You also don’t want to have things prepared, and have to run around trying to find containers that fit!
          • Before beginning to cook, lay out all ingredients. If you are using the same ingredients for multiple recipes, go ahead and prep ingredients at the same time (for example, if you are using sweet potatoes for a breakfast hash and in a Buddha Bowl for lunch, go ahead and chop them all at the same time!)
          • Try your best to time out recipes that will go in the oven at the same time so you don’t have to keep turning on/off the oven (ex. roasted vegetables with an egg bake)
          • If you aren’t planning on making every meal ahead of time, consider washing and chopping all of your veggies in advance so you don’t have to do it on busy days. This also prevents those peppers or greens from sitting in the bottom of the fridge to be forgotten! This is also why glass containers are great (you are more likely to snack on your sliced peppers if you can see them 😉 )

            Keep it simple!

             

            Plan your day from start to finish.

             

            • What I mean by this is plan out your breakfast, lunch, dinner and any snacks during the day. This leaves less room to stray from your plan or fall into “food emergencies”. This will help you to stay on track and be prepared when you are out and about or traveling as well.
            • Go-to snacks – It’s great to keep some snacks on hand (in the car, desk drawer at work, purse, gym bag, etc.)
              • Mixed nuts or homemade trail mix
              • Almond/cashew butter and an apple or sliced veggies
              • Healthy bars (such as Rx bars, EPIC, Thunderbird, Larabars) or homemade energy bites
              • Dark chocolate

            Whole30: “The Finale”:  Recipes, Meal Prep, and Tips on What Happens Next

            Whole30: “The Finale”: Recipes, Meal Prep, and Tips on What Happens Next

            Weeks 3 & 4 started to feel pretty normal as I got into the groove. Sure, meal prep got old, I REALLY, REALLY wanted ice cream and a glass of wine, etc., etc, but just when I wanted to quit, I knew if I held out a little bit longer I would feel accomplished and on the road to a healthier relationship with my food cravings.

            Not to mention, my willpower has gotten SO much stronger!

            Also, if you are concerned with “what comes next” or “life after Whole30”, read to the bottom. Many of you may feel a little nervous about wrapping up your challenge and maintaining the healthy principles that were introduced during the month. I will give you several “take aways” to ease your anxiety.

            Without further ado, here are recipes for Weeks 3 & 4.

            Breakfast

            Lunch & Dinners 

            Snacks

            Meal Prep Sunday:

            Oven:

            1. Roast broccoli and sweet potatoes

            Other:

            1. Wash all fruits and vegetables and chop as many as you can (within reason)
            2. Hard-boil your eggs
            3. Prepare Grain Free “Cereal”
            4. Pre-portion out snacks (nuts, veggies, fruit) into single serving bags or containers
            5. Defrost meats, if necessary
            6. Everything else should come together fairly quickly during the weeknights!

            So now that you are approaching the finish line, what next? 

            Congrats, you did it! But what now?

            Remember that Whole30 was just a starting point. I really liked the way it was phrased on the Whole30 website, so I’m not going to recreate this point, “You cannot erase decades of unhealthy food choices and damaging behaviors in just a month. Our program gives you an amazing jump-start, but you’re not “done” yet. Second, you will slip back into old habits. At some point, no matter how good you feel now, no matter how much you swear you’ve left those less bad foods behind… they’ll creep back in, maybe a little, maybe a lot. And finally, this is okay. Expected, even.  And it does not mean that you have failed. Hear us clearly on that one.”

            Here are a few tips to remember as you venture off the plan;

            Continue to take the important principles of Whole30 with you.

            • Continue to moderate your added sugar and alcohol intake

            Remember, just because you can now enjoy some of the foods that were eliminate on the Whole30, doesn’t mean that you need to eat them all on Day 30! They will still be there on Day 31 and Day 365 🙂

            Always eat mindfully- Sit down, turn off the tv, remove your cell phone from sight and enjoy your meal that you have taken the time to prepare.

            Nourish your body with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, quality sources of protein, and healthy fats . Don’t forget water!

            When you’re done, move the heck on. No guilt, no shame, no remorse. You made a conscious decision to eat something you deemed worth it. Good for you. Now let’s move on back to our normally scheduled healthy meals.

            Remember to always evaluate whether you think something is “worth it”. How will you feel after you eat it? Is it something you truly enjoy, or just because it is within eye sight? Are you really hungry or are you bored/stressed/nervous? 

            Continue to follow my blog for consistent healthy recipes, most of which are gluten-free, paleo-ish, and yummy (I know, I’m biased)! 

            If you are interested in more personalized programs, email me at luvwhatyoueat@gmail.com.

            final-finish

            Tip for Whole30 Success (or any lifestyle change)  Hint:Involves Friends!

            Tip for Whole30 Success (or any lifestyle change) Hint:Involves Friends!

            You may remember my post, Sick of failed New Years resolutions? Here are 5 Do’s & Don’ts to help you be successful in 2017, where I highlighted the importance of having an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone who has similar goals and/or someone who can keep you on track.

            I am now in my third week of the Whole30, and as I wrote about on Sunday, week 2 was definitely a challenge for me in terms of motivation, energy, and will-power. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one! Several friends of mine are also mid-way through their Whole30 challenge and  we were all looking for something to look forward to. Enter, whole foods potluck!!

            We planned a get-together with other whole30-ers to make a delicious meal and share a few laughs! It was a great way to get over the mid-month hump and ease into week 3 together.

            Here’s a few simple dishes to take to a party, get-together, or potluck (you can make these even after your Whole30 is over!);

            Appetizers: 

            Main Dish: 

            Sides:

            Dessert: Try some seasonal citrus fruit (such as blood oranges) with blackberries and pomegranate seeds, topped with unsweetened coconut flakes. Although it is discouraged to “recreate desserts”, you could potentially whip up some coconut cream and add a dollop to your fruit 😉

            Beverages: Switch it up with some of these great ideas.

            Whole 30 Guest Post & Recipe for Two-Ingredient Whipped Sweet Potatoes

            Whole 30 Guest Post & Recipe for Two-Ingredient Whipped Sweet Potatoes

            Many of us may have experienced a myriad of questions from family, friends, and coworkers who just don’t understand why anyone would deprive themselves of grains, sugar, alcohol, legumes, etc. for 30 WHOLE DAYS. Critics of the Whole30 state that it’s not healthy to exclude entire food groups, making people at risk for nutrition deficiencies, and a host of other reasons. If you are interested in some of the facts and fallacies behind the Whole30 or Paleo lifestyle, here is a great read from Sustainable Dish that might get you thinking.

            My guest post today is from a dear friend who has been on a journey for a healthier and sustainable life. She gives us some insight as to why she chose the Whole30 challenge and one of her favorite recipes.

            I decided to commit to a Whole 30 to improve my body image, stop “dieting” and just fuel my body while also hitting the reset button on my health.  I get to eat amazing, delicious whole foods each day.  One of my favorite dishes to make are whipped coconut sweet potatoes.  They are so incredibly delicious, you won’t believe that they are only 2 ingredients. 

            Whipped Coconut Sweet Potatoes

            Ingredients:

            • 3-4 large sweet potatoes
            • 1 can of organic coconut milk

             Instructions:

            1. Preheat oven to 425°F
            2. Wash and dry 3-4 large sweet potatoes
            3. Puncture each one with a knife
            4. Place all 3 sweet potatoes on a foil lined cookie sheet and roast until very, very soft.  (Usually about 45-60 minutes depending on your oven)
            5. Remove from oven and let sit until cool enough to handle
            6. Once cool, remove and discard the skins
            7. Place the potatoes in a deep mixing bowl
            8. Add ½ can coconut milk and half the fat from the top of the coconut milk (coconut cream)
            9. Mix with a beater until silky smooth
            10. Season with Himalayan sea salt and enjoy!
            Whole30 Week Two Recipes, Meal Prep, and Tips for Eating Out

            Whole30 Week Two Recipes, Meal Prep, and Tips for Eating Out

            Alright…2nd week of Whole30 in the books!

            When you feel like giving up, remember why you started

            Week 2 was no doubt a challenging week for me. I felt a little irritable, energy waxed and waned, and I was starting to feel bored. I think this is common when you are making any type of change in your life. At first it’s exciting and new and then, just like any challenge, you start to wonder, “can I really do this for a few more weeks?” Keep in mind that while Whole30 is only 30 days, it is meant to reset your mindset around food, give you the opportunity to try new things and see how your body feels when it eats REAL, WHOLE FOODS. Yes, it is extreme for some, but it gives us the tools to live healthier even after the 30 days is complete.

            I also noticed this week that even thought I had planned it all out, there were days where I wanted something else or didn’t have the time or energy to make what I had thought I would. That’s ok… this week I will give you several tips and tricks to help when you feel like giving up.

            Breakfast

            Lunch & Dinners 

            Meal Prep Sunday:

            Oven:

            1. Roast all vegetables (red/purple potatoes)
            2. Bake spaghetti squash, cool, and pull out strands with a fork

            Other:

            1. Wash all fruits and vegetables and chop as many as you can (within reason)
            2. Brown ground turkey
            3. Spiralize zucchini noodles
            4. Pre-portion out snacks (nuts, veggies, fruit) into single serving bags or containers
              1. Prepare breakfast casserole and place in containers for easy heat-and-go breakfasts
              2. Defrost meats, if necessary
              3. Everything else should come together fairly quickly during the weeknights!

            Here was the meal schedule I followed for week 2:

            Monday:

            Tuesday:

            • Breakfast: Breakfast Casserole with citrus fruit
            • Lunch: Simple Rosemary Lemon Chicken with Potatoes
            • Dinner: Chipotle (yes, I said it) – Bowl with Carnitas, Lettuce, Pico de Gallo, and Guac *these are basically the only Whole30 options at Chipotle 
            • Snacks: Celery with Almond Butter and Golden Raisins, Rx Bar

            Wednesday:

            Thursday:

            Friday:

            • Breakfast: Breakfast Casserole with citrus fruit
            • Lunch: Work Lunch – greens with pulled chicken, avocado, pico de gallo, no dressing
            • Dinner: Seared grass-fed beef wrapped in Prosciutto with leftover avocado zoodles and potatoes
            • Snacks: Celery with Almond Butter and Golden Raisins, Rx Bar

            Saturday/Sunday: The weekends are usually for simple meals and leftovers 🙂

            • This week we had a special Whole30 Friendsgiving- watch for the post tomorrow!! 

            Tips for eating out on Whole30

            • Pick something simple: The more complicated the order, the more likely they are to mess it up!
            • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how they prepare menu items- watch the type of fat/oil they are cooking their meats and other items in, as well as added sugar & dairy in sauces, dressings, etc.
              • It’s best to choose oil/vinegar for salad dressings and hold the sauces and condiments
            • Places like Chipotle make it easier since you can choose exactly what you get
            • Ask for seltzer or sparkling water to jazz up your beverage
            • Try to avoid eating out as much as possible on Whole30. Even though I made good choices when eating out, there were still hiccups, such as the restaurant accidentally put cheese on my salad the first time.
            • It IS possible to be “Whole30 compliant” by eating Rx Bars and Chipotle everyday, but is it teaching you to make good choices, cook, and eat mindfully? NO. So, my advice is to cook and eat at home as much as possible. Remember, preparation is KEY.
            • For more visit realfoodwithdana. She has some great tips!
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            Whole30 Week One Recipe and Meal Prep Tips

            Whole30 Week One Recipe and Meal Prep Tips

            Here are the recipes that I tried during the first week of Whole30. I think it’s important to get creative and make dishes full of flavor that you are looking forward to (especially since week one away from grains, sugars, etc. can be challenging)! Meal planning is key to setting yourself up for success.

            Breakfast (I ate the same thing each day during week one)

            Lunch & Dinners 

            Meal Prep Sunday:

            Oven:

            1. Roast all vegetables (sweet potatoes, brussels, cauliflower)
            2. Bake salmon for salad
            3. Roast butternut squash
            4. Make meatballs for Thai meatball recipe

            Other:

            1. Wash all fruits and vegetables and chop as many as you can (within reason)
            2. Cut pineapple
            3. Spiralize zucchini noodles
            4. Pre-portion out snacks (nuts, veggies, fruit) into single serving bags or containers
              1. You can go ahead and portion out the roasted vegetables for the hash. In the morning all you need to do is cook your egg and go.
              2. Make your salmon salads
              3. You can make the butternut squash soup and store it (its easier to get the squash out of it’s flesh while it’s warm)
              4. Everything else should come together fairly quickly during the weeknights!

            Here was the meal schedule I followed for the first week (Monday was a holiday so here we begin on Tuesday since meals weren’t very structured on Mon-oops!) ;

            Tuesday:

            • Breakfast: Sweet Potato & Brussels Hash with 2 eggs over-easy
            • Lunch: Salmon Salad Power Bowl
            • Dinner: Butternut Squash Soup with Thai Meatballs
            • Snacks: Apple with Almond Butter

            Wednesday:

            • Breakfast: Sweet Potato & Brussels Hash with 2 eggs over-easy
            • Lunch: Salmon Salad Power Bowl
            • Dinner: Turkey Burger with Grilled Pineapple and Spinach
            • Snacks: Apple with Almond Butter

            Thursday:

            • Breakfast: Sweet Potato & Brussels Hash with 2 eggs over-easy
            • Lunch: Leftover Butternut Squash Soup and Thai Meatballs
            • Dinner: Garlic Shrimp Noodle Bowl
            • Snacks: Apple with Almond Butter, Sliced Pear & Cashews (pre-workout)

            Friday:

            • Breakfast: Sweet Potato & Brussels Hash with 2 SCRAMBLED eggs
            • Lunch: Leftover Garlic Shrimp & Noodle Bowl
            • Dinner: Leftovers
            • Snacks: Apple with Almond Butter, Dried Mangoes

            The weekends are usually for simple meals and leftovers 🙂

            Enjoy!

            January Whole30- Who’s In?

            January Whole30- Who’s In?

            First of all, you may be asking yourself, “what is Whole30?”

            The Whole30 a nutritional program designed s a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.

            Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. For 30 days, you will cut these foods from your diet and learn how the foods you have been eating might be affecting your hormones, gastrointestinal system, and your overall energy levels. But don’t worry, you don’t have to restrict your favorite foods forever…it’s only 30 days!

            There are pros and cons to cutting out entire food categories from your diet, and it’s not for everyone. However, there are a large number of people who find themselves sensitive to foods that contain grains and dairy. One item that I strongly believe is important for EVERYONE to reduce or eliminate is ADDED SUGARS.

            Added sugars are so detrimental to our entire body and we will all benefit from cutting the consumption of items containing added sugars (other than the obvious, think flavored yogurts, some energy/protein bars, cereals, coffee drinks, etc.)

            Each week, I will be posting meal plans for this program, so feel free to jump on the bandwagon with me. At the end of the challenge, I will consolidate it into one large post, where you can reference the recipes from time-to-time. 

            Let’s get started!

            If you would like individual support, please email luvwhatyoueat@gmail.com and we can develop a personalized plan for you!

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            To learn more about the Whole30 program, click HERE

            Sick of failed New Years resolutions? Here are 5 Do’s & Don’ts to help you be successful in 2017

            It is estimated that only 8% of people who make new years resolutions actually keep them. The reason is that many people make unrealistic goals for themselves. We need to remember that change doesn’t happen overnight- it takes effort, hard work, dedication, and a strong “why” behind your goals and resolutions.

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            There are lots of things people can do to be successful, but here are a few of my favorite Do’s and Don’ts to help you go into 2017 on a high note.

            Reflection. You can’t move forward without reflecting on your progress and pitfalls of the past. What caused you to derail from your goals? What worked and what didn’t? Were your goals realistic (we will talk more about this in #2)? It may sound corny, but a journal is a great way to reflect on your year, even if it is just bullet points.

            Make S.M.A.R.T. goals. SMART goals are designed to set yourself up for success and are used in a lot of different settings. Here is how to create a SMART goal;

            1. Specific-
              • What do I want to accomplish?
              • Why is this goal important?
              • Who is involved?
              • Where is it located?
              • Which resources or limits are involved?
            2. Measurable- A measurable goal should address questions such as:
              • How much?
              • How many?
              • How will I know when it is accomplished?
            3. Achieveable-
              • How can I accomplish this goal?
              • How realistic is the goal, based on other constraints, such as time, money, etc.?
            4. Relevant-
              • Does this seem worthwhile?
              • Is this the right time?
            5. Time-Bound – this is your target goal.
              • When?
              • What can I do six months from now?
              • What can I do six weeks from now?
              • What can I do today?

            It’s what takes you from “I want to lose five pounds in two weeks” to “I will lose five pounds in two weeks by reducing my soda intake and increasing my walking to 30 minutes, five days per week.”

            Get an Accountability Partner. Whether it’s someone who has similar goals or just someone who can keep you on track, find someone you trust to keep you from giving up on your goals. It can be as simple and telling someone your goals out loud or posting your progress on a blog, social media ,etc. to as much as committing to complete your goals with someone else, such as going to the gym 4x/week with your accountability partner, meal planning and sending each other photos each week, loosing 20 pounds together and celebrating with a fun trip, etc., etc.

            Dig Deep and Find what Motivates You… TRULY MOTIVATES YOU. This is the “why”, which is the reason you will reach your goals. Make sure it is something that is very important to you. For example, you might want to run a marathon this year in memory of a family member that lost a battle with cancer or lose weight because you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes. Maybe it’s as simple as wanting to be happier with your partner, so you set goals to spend more time together each week. Try making a vision board or place motivational quotes, pictures, etc. in visible places to remind yourself of your goals every day.

            Get into a routine. Routine is key to staying on track. I know that life gets hectic and it’s not always realistic, but strive to be as consistent as possible. Going to bed and waking up around the same time each day (yes, even on weekends) is a healthy practice to ensure that you are getting quality sleep. Our body heals itself while we sleep which improves immunity, mood, attention span, and much more. Try to also eat your meals around the same time each day and at consistent intervals to keep your blood sugar stable and avoid overeating.

            Pomegranates, the other forbidden fruit?

            Pomegranates, the other forbidden fruit?

            Pomegranates date back to the Greek goddess, Aphrodite, where she was said to have planted the first pomegranate tree. Because of their many seeds, pomegranates are often associated with fertility and abundance. Who knew?

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            The juice of pomegranates also pack a huge antioxidant punch, which help protect the brain and other parts of the body from the damage of free radicals, which play a huge role in prevention of chronic diseases.

            Be on the look out for these lovely fruits- they begin to pop up in stores from September to January and can jazz up any dish or be enjoyed all by their pretty-selves!

            Five Ways to Enjoy Pomegranates:

            1. Sprinkled in oatmeal or cold cereal  
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            2. In yogurt 

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            3. On a salad 

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            4. In a festive drink 

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            5. Or savor their flavor all on their own  

            *Tip: Pomegranate seeds are full of healthful fiber, however, if your body is not used to a high-fiber diet, gradually increase the fiber in your diet each day while consuming lots of water to prevent intestinal upset- your welcome 🙂 
            Halloween Hangover: Candy for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner!?

            Halloween Hangover: Candy for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner!?

            Halloween Hangover: The act of being sick from eating too much candy.

            Follow These 4 Tips to Get Back on Track;

            1. Understand HOW sugar affects your body.
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            2. Plan Ahead.

            • Have a game plan- trust me, there is no candy shortage. Candy is sold 365 days/year, so you don’t need to overindulge just because of a “holiday”.
            • Plan out your meals. You’ve heard the saying “failing to plan is planning to fail”. Have a healthy dinner planned before/after taking the kids trick-or-treating so you don’t fill up on sugar.
            • Try some of these healthy recipes to get a sweet fix without the added sugars.

            3. Enjoy in MODERATION.

            • You don’t need to restrict yourself. Often times eliminating certain foods or food groups will lead to binging on the “forbidden” items and leave you wanting it even more. Go ahead, sit down, and enjoy a piece of candy. Try to avoid mindless eating in front of a computer screen, TV, or on the go. We tend to eat as much as 25% or more calories  when we are distracted!

            4. Get Moving! 

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