My Journey to Gut (and spiritual) Health

Everyone is on a health journey. No one’s health is perfect, no ones health habits are perfect, and sometimes life throws a curve ball and sends you into a health battle regardless of how “healthy” you are. Yes…that was a lot of typed “health”! I decided this year, I will be blogging through my own health journey. MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: this IS NOT to treat or diagnose you…everyones body is different and everyones health situations are unique. Find a healthcare provider who listens to you and make sure you are your own healthcare advocate! I wanted to blog about my journey because maybe it is helpful to know that dietitians and medical practitioners also have health issues…and dietitians also have nutritional issues to deal with…because we are humans too!

Since I can remember, I have struggled with GI (gastrointestinal) health issues from colic as a baby to IBS like symptoms in my teens and then a diagnosis of GERD and gastroparesis in my 20’s. This past year things took another turn about 7 months ago in which my GI symptoms started to affect my quality of life. After trying to fix myself for about 6 months (I know, I know too long, I get it), I finally went to get help from a gastroenterologist in November. Sometimes you hear horror stories of doctors (because people will dwell on the negative rather than the positive) BUT I have been nothing short of impressed and grateful for the Gastroenterologist I have been blessed to have been scheduled with. He’s been fantastic! A good listener, smart, up-to-date on recent research, and didn’t waste any time scheduling tests for just about everything.

Listen, I learned a lot in the 6-months that I tried to “cure” myself:

  • Even as a dietitian, I could not fix my gut issues by myself and I had to seek out a doctors help. I had to lay aside my pride as the “expert in nutrition” and say “you know what? I don’t know how to fix myself nutritionally because everything I’m doing is either making it worse or definitely not helping”.
  • Sometimes, no matter how many essential oils you use or how many supplements you take or how many probiotics you pop or pressure points you hit…you just need modern medicine! I’m a semi-“crunchie” person. I love alternative medicine but I believe that there is a huge place in life for traditional medicine. Medical Doctors aren’t the enemy but I also think you can do a lot of things without prescription medicine. Well, I learned that sometimes (pride) you need an M.D. or a D.O. to get you help! And sometimes you need prescribed medication because your body will benefit more with it than without it.
  • I did not pray for myself to be healed…because I thought I could “do it myself”. As a Christian woman, that stinks for my walk with Jesus. I also didn’t ask anyone to pray for me. I’m a fairly private person unless you outright ask me so if it didn’t come up, I didn’t talk about it nor did I ask my Christian friends/family to pray for me and I had to come before God about that. There was/is a pride problem and I’m working on that.

So far the conclusions have been that I have Barrett’s Esophagus (a typically middle-aged-man disease) and something wrong with the lower part too. The Barrett’s isn’t surprising although I wasn’t expecting it. I have had GERD for most of my adult life but during the past year it has gotten much worse. Barrett‘s is where the lining of your esophagus starts changing to protect itself but those changes can lead to more serious issues. With the lower GI symptoms, some deductions were made and we’ve also agreed that my symptoms are mimicking SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth). Basically bacteria shouldn’t be in your small intestine but in your colon. SIBO can be “good bacteria” or “bad bacteria” it really makes no difference since the bacteria shouldn’t be there regardless. *side note, if this is not SIBO there are other diagnosis he is going to check on…he’s not leaving me hanging*

So I took a 2 week course of an SIBO specific antibiotic. Along with trusting your health care providers, you have to be an advocate of yourself too! I’ve been doing my research, asking fellow dietitians who are experts in this arena, and figuring out what will work in my life. I completed the antibiotics earlier this week and now I am taking various supplements (I do not recommend supplements to you, please talk to your healthcare provider/dietitian about what supplements may work for you!) and placed myself on a therapeutic diet (again, not an advocate of diets unless I know your medical history) to control SIBO to try and heal my gut.

REMINDER: when I tout “diets don’t work” I’m not talking about disease specific diets…I’m talking about weight loss diets. I talk to a lot of people about disease specific diets for things like diabetes, heart disease, IBS, cancer, etc. Soooooo I’m putting myself on a disease specific diet for SIBO. The diet, along with the supplements SHOULD (in my calculations) fix the rest of the problem HOWEVER nutrition isn’t magic. I know that I may not have SIBO and it could be another possible diagnosis BUT I’m going to try my hardest to do my part in fixing the body God has given me.

Along with trying my hardest, I’ve also asked a few prayer warrior friends to pray for me and I’ve begun to pray for myself. I find that to be the hardest part! I can pray for others but when it comes to myself I just don’t know what to pray sometimes. Perhaps it’s because I feel that God can answer prayers for others but maybe not me? Perhaps it’s because I feel that I’m praying wrong for myself? Maybe it’s because I feel like I don’t deserve it? Only God knows my heart and my thoughts but I’m also praying that He fixes my mindset about praying for myself. I just listened to a podcast from Beth Moore about praying. Boy did I need that! I learned so much about it and those fears that I mentioned about (the perhapses and maybes) is more about faith than it is about prayer. So not only am I working on my gut health but I’m also working on my faith health because of this.

Here’s the scripture that I’m focusing on during this journey. It’s not so much about healing but it’s more about what I can learn through this. What I can learn about coming before God because of my pridefulness. What I can learn about coming before God with my lack of faith:

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”
– Hebrews 12:7-13

I’m not sure what you are going to take away from this blog post. I haven’t blogged in MANY months, partly do to this issue I’ve been having and partly because of life. BUT hope you are blessed through this post. Honestly, I pray it empowers you to be your own healthcare advocate, find a healthcare provider that listens and is thorough, and rely on God to get you through the days that are mucky, frustrating, and not-so-perfect because that can be a testimony in and of itself! I’ll continue to post more about what I learn through this process both from the physical/medical and spiritual so stay tuned…

…to be continued…

“Pack” to School (or work)

My daughter likes school lunches but she also likes packing. Honestly, I start the year out great: she usually packs 3-4 times per week and buys school lunches 1-2 times. By the end of the year I’ve hit a road block and she buys lunch every day because I’m just over it! Told you I’d be honest.

She has gotten into situations where she hasn’t eaten enough fiber and that’s not good for her gut health. When she packs, she eats enough fiber. When she buys school lunch I’m not so sure…? It’s really nothing against school lunch, she can pick and choose what she wants to eat and I can’t guarantee it’s full of fiber! Packing lunches for my kiddo is fairly easy because she does eat a moderate variety of foods. Some kiddos are easy to pack for, while others aren’t. Whichever box your child fits into, I think you’ll find some ideas in this blog. You may even be able to get ideas for your own lunch at work!

First, you need the key items: a lunch box that can keep things cold, an ice pack, containers and/or baggies, and a piece of paper.

  1. The lunchbox to keep things cold along with the ice pack will keep you and your child’s lunch safe from harmful bacteria that grow when it gets warmer.
  2. If you are packing warm items, consider a thermal lined container that will keep it hot and also safe from harmful bacteria.
  3. Containers are great for things like salads, pasta salad, and even things like sandwiches, fruits, and snack items because they are reusable. I love the environment and being responsible but we also use baggies because…life!
  4. Was the piece of paper weird? Probably but here’s the catch: your child, spouse, you yourself needs some encouragement and what better way to add it than half way through their day at a meal?! If your child is younger and can’t read, just a simple picture of a heart or a smiley face will do. In elementary school a nice “I love you”, “Kindness is cool”, or “God loves you” is amazing! In high school, quotes of encouragement “Be the best you, you can be”, “Look out for the friend that’s hurting”, “I am so proud of who you are becoming”, “I loved watching you play baseball yesterday”, etc. I’ll put more encouraging quotes at the end of this because I think it is super important to use words of affirmation with your children/spouse/yourself!
My kiddos help with food prep! This is my 7 year old daughter cutting cucumbers.

Second you need an idea of what a good lunch layout looks like. I mentioned fiber was an important piece to my daughters lunch…it should be a huge piece to everyones lunch! Fiber keeps your bowels healthy which in turn helps to keep your entire body healthy!

  1. Protein: protein comes from both plants and animals. We mostly think of them coming from animals like chicken, turkey, ham, cheese, and tuna BUT they can also come from plants like peanut butter, almond butter, beans, peas, lentils, and nuts.
  2. Energy: energy comes from things with carbohydrates. Carbohydrates help to feed every.single.cell in our bodies! Foods like fruits, grains (whole wheat bread, rice, corn), beans, and starchy vegetables like potatoes will give your kiddos the energy they need to finish out their day strong!
  3. Veggies: there’s really no scientific reason that I put veggies here except for the fact that it helps them get in more fiber and keeps them fuller longer so they aren’t coming home SUPER RAVENOUS! Things like carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, salads, etc all have a load of fiber AND nutrients for their and your overall health.

Third you need to actually pack it! I like to pack my daughter’s lunch in the morning BUT I will do prep-work the night before. I know many parents who pack their kiddos lunch the night before because the mornings are chaotic. If I worked a full time job I probably would put in the grunt work the night before because…chaos BUT because I stay at home now, I just throw it together in the morning. There’s no right or wrong but I will tell you that if you are feeling overwhelmed in the mornings PLEASE pack lunches the night before. Do whatever you can to lighten the load of the morning rush 🙂

Fourth the “what to pack” is probably the most important! OK Dietitian Lady, just tell me what some good ideas are for packing. I’m on it! Honestly (again), as I sat here reading through one of the dietitian bloggers’ lunch ideas I realize how hard it is to follow their lunches. I mean…you’ve got to make grain free granola bars and chia seed pudding. I’m not that kind of girl!!!!! Here’s a list of 20 EASY AND FEASIBLE ideas to pack your kiddos and yourself! There will be asterisk* after some and I will provide the simple recipe to that.

  1. PBJ sandwiches on whole wheat bread with carrot sticks and ranch dip
  2. Turkey sandwiches on whole wheat bread with cucumbers and hummus
  3. Pasta salad with cheese cubes and veggies (broccoli, cucumbers, and tomatoes)
  4. Whole grain crackers (think Triscuits or Wheat Thins), ham and cheese chunks with pepper sticks (add a dip to make it fun)
  5. Garden salad with Greek yogurt on the side and cheerios
  6. MYO pizzas! Whole grain English muffin, pizza sauce, and shredded mozzarella with celery and ranch dip
  7. Ham sandwich on whole wheat bread with creamed cucumber salad*
  8. Tortilla chips and hummus and/or salsa to dip with a few cheese cubes
  9. Tuna salad on whole wheat bread with celery
  10. Apple slices and celery with peanut butter
  11. Three bean salad (green beans, wax beans, black or kidney beans) add some string cheese to that for a pop of protein
  12. BLT sandwich with turkey bacon on whole grain bread with carrot sticks
  13. Bento box lunch: hard boiled egg, blueberries, whole grain crackers, pepper sticks
  14. Bento box lunch: cubes of turkey lunch meat, cheese cubes, whole grain crackers, carrot sticks
  15. Bento box lunch: cottage cheese, strawberries, whole wheat tortillas, salsa
  16. Chicken salad sandwich on whole grain bread with sliced cucumbers
  17. Sushi PBJ: whole grain tortilla with peanut butter and jelly sliced up and broccoli on the side
  18. Greek style tziki* made with plain Greek yogurt, whole grain pita bread, and cucumber slices
  19. Hummus roll-up: your favorite hummus filled with spinach, shredded carrots, tomatoes, etc on a whole grain wrap
  20. Taco salad: leftover taco meat on a salad with tortilla chips
Guac toast is another great lunch idea! Add some protein in there like Greek yogurt on the side and perfecto!

Throw in some side dishes too! Here are some great ones to keep in mind:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Dressing to dip veggies
  • Fruit at any time
  • Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Water, 100% fruit juice, milk

Do not beat yourself up if lunches are simple! Simple is sometimes the best! Make sure it is cost effective too! The goal of my blog is that anyone can read it and follow through. If you get your food from food banks, you can make most of these (you’ll be surprised at what you can get at your local food pantry). If you use SNAP, you can make all of these. If your food budget is tight, you can make all of these. If you keep the reins on . your food budget, you can make all of these. If your food budget is unlimited, you can make all of these!

Here are some inspirational quote ideas for your kiddos, your spouse, yourself:

  • Draw something! A heart, a smily face, you hugging your child, an inside joke that only you and your kiddo would get
  • “I love you”
  • “I love your face”
  • “You make my heart smile”
  • “Have a great day”
  • “Be the best you, you can be”
  • “Be kind to everyone”
  • “You are smart”
  • “You are kind”
  • “You are a great friend”
  • “You are a blessing to your teachers”
  • “God loves you”
  • “God is with you today”
  • “Smile”
  • “I’m so proud of the boy/girl you are becoming”
  • “I loved watching you play (insert sport or instrument) yesterday/this week/whenever”
  • “Thank you for helping me this morning”
  • “I appreciate how kind you are to your siblings”
  • “Life is so much better with you in it”
  • “You make life fun”
  • “Three things: I love you, you make me so proud, please wear deodorant” (haha)
  • “Find someone who is hurting today and give them a smile and this piece of candy”
  • “I can’t wait until you come home today”
  • “I can’t wait to watch/hear you play/sing…”
  • “I was so proud when you…”
  • Here are some scriptures for school and work: Micah 6:8, Romans 15:13, Psalm 20:4, 1 Samuel 16:7, Joshua 1:9, 1 Timothy 4:12, Proverbs 3:5-6, Hebrews 12:1-2, Colossians 1:17, Matthew 11:28, Philippians 4:6-7, Isaiah 30:21, Philippians 4:13, Proverbs 13:20, Colossians 3:23-24, James 1:5, Jeremiah 29:11, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:8

Make packing a lunch part of your routine! It’ll not only save you money (from buying lunch every day) but also improve your overall health if you are eating nutrient rich foods!

** Recipes:

  • Creamed cucumber salad: sliced cucumbers, sliced onions (optional), greek yogurt, splash of vinegar, salt. If you like it sweeter, add honey or sugar.
  • Tziki: cucumbers, dill, greek yogurt, lemon juice

Oh No – GMOs!

I hear chatter about GMO’s allllll the time. Frankenfoods, if you will. I’ve heard someone at the grocery store look at a box of granola bars (that were literally loaded with added sugars) and put it back because the label indicated it used some GMO ingredients. Yes…they were terrified of the GMO’s but the cup of added sugar per serving didn’t seem to phase them at all. I was so confused!!!! You see, there’s so much more research on added sugars leading to chronic disease than GMO’s so it got me wondering…what exactly is being said about GMOs to make the average person more terrified of that then the proven fact that too many added sugars can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer!

While GMO’s seem like weird Frankenstein plants, I want to clear up some misconceptions about them to give you the facts so you can make informed choices when it comes to buying food. I’ll give you the 411 you need and then you can make decisions for yourself and your family. Let’s get controversial!

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Basically this means that scientists took a plant and changed its DNA to make it what they need it to do/be (resistant to a disease, produce more fruit, resistant to herbicides, etc) in order to have a “better” plant. What happens is they usually combine DNA molecules from other sources in one single molecule for the plant they’re working on. To make it simple: if they want to keep a certain disease from apples, they get a plant that doesn’t get that disease and use it’s genes in the apple. Boom, apple is now resistant to that disease.

Still following me after all that?

In the US there are 11 commercial crops that are GMO. So if you are looking in the grocery store, here’s the GMO’s you could potentially run in to.

  1. Apples
  2. Potatoes
  3. Field corn (corn oil, high fructose corn syrup, cereals, etc)
  4. Canola (canola oil)
  5. Alfalfa (used to feed farm animals)
  6. Soybeans (Silk has a patent on their soybeans which are non-GMO)
  7. Papaya
  8. Cotton (cottonseed oil)
  9. Sugar beets (added sugars in foods NOT the red beets you eat)
  10. Sweetcorn (corn you eat off of the cob in the summer and canned/frozen)
  11. Summer squash

SO! When you see a package of rice that says “Non-GMO” and it seems awesome because it wasn’t made with GMO rice, rest assured, there isn’t a GMO rice. They are suckering people into their marketing tactics! When you see a company that says “made with some GMO ingredients” they’ve used one or more of the above foods in their product. Does that make it “bad”? You decide. I can tell you, it makes it genetically modified to be resistant from bugs, pesticides/herbicides, or disease resistant.

An important point I need to make is that cross breeding/selective breeding in plants DOES NOT mean its genetically modified (GMO). Cross breeding or selective breeding has been done since the ancient of days to continue the lines of fruits/veggies/grains/nuts that taste the most delicious and produce the most crop! Seeds were saved from the best plants and continued while the seeds of the worst producers/tasting plants were thrown out. This left us with tomatoes that taste like a dream and cucumbers that are super crunchy and sweet! Heirloom varieties of crops are prime examples of this. Farmers continued to pass down their seeds of the plants they had worked on for generations to be the best and tastiest!

Whats the research on GMOs? Well, honestly, GMO’s have only been available at the grocery store since the 90’s so we don’t have a lot of GOOD/LONG TERM research to give a solid answer. There have been questions about allergens in GMO crops. Much of the “gluten intolerance” pushers say that GMOs are to blame (this is why you need to ask and listen to a Registered Dietitian and not “joe shmoe”) Did you notice the list???? Wheat is not a GMO crop. It literally cannot be the reason people have an increase of sensitivity to gluten…literally can.not. More research needs done on GMO’s clearly, BUT there are no solid research studies that show GMO’s are to blame for any chronic illness, allergy, and/or issues known to man.

Many GMO crops are resistant to herbicides like RoundUp. If you know me you know my absolute hate of RoundUp…it is not allowed near or around my house because of it’s proven cancer causing chemicals. And you’ve guessed it, I’m not a fan of Monsanto either…there. I said it. It is now internet official…if my blog gets turned off, you know why. Hah! Would I prefer that RoundUp be banned like they did in Europe? ABSO.LUTELY! If I can list any con’s of GMO’s the herbicide resistance would be a huge one.

I plant a garden. I don’t use all “organic” seeds but it’s all GMO free (because I don’t plant corn, apples, papaya, cotton, canola…etc…witty, I know). I also don’t use herbicides (weed killer) or pesticides (bug killer).

Wanting to steer clear of GMO’s? Go organic! Plant your own garden! Watch what you buy! There are ways to avoid them most of the time.

What do I conclude? I have 5 thoughts about GMO (both pro and cons) for your reading pleasure!

  1. Many of the GMO crops are used in more heavily processed foods (high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, added sugar, etc). If you start eating less processed more fruits/veggies/grains/homemade items then by default you’ll be eating less GMO crops. Is that good or bad? I dunno BUT there it is!
  2. I like apples, potatoes, and sweet corn. I take advantage of the fact that some apples don’t brown as fast, I don’t buy potatoes that have rotten spots, and the sweet corn isn’t riddled with worms. Knowing that they are GMO doesn’t stop me from eating them or enjoying them. Can I buy these tasty foods organic? Sure. Do I have the budget for it? Not often. Do I lose sleep over it? Absolutely not!
  3. I use canola oil all day every day. I could buy organic if I wanted to spend triple the amount of money on it but I choose to continue to use GMO canola and mix in some olive oil too. If organic canola gets cheaper I’d definitely use it (remember the RoundUp-rant? Yeah, Canola is one of those plants) but for now we stick with the regular stuff. It still has omega 3 fatty acids, still great for your heart, and still makes my salad dressings taste like a vinegary dream!
  4. If it is important for you to steer clear of GMO’s based off of personal beliefs then go for it. Organic produce will be non-GMO. It will be heavy on the budget but it is feasible. Like I said, if I had the budget for it or if organic canola went down in price I’d be buying it simply because of my absolute annoyance of herbicides.
  5. The last piece of advice I have for you is this: you can live your life as if everything is a conspiracy but what kind of life is that? I’m not saying to trust everything (remember my hatred for RoundUp? hahaha) but I’m saying that if you can’t trust anything, you’re living life worried and in fear instead of in confidence and freedom. If you believe in God and you’ve given your life to Jesus there should be no fear (GMOs included). Again, this is not to say you should believe everything you hear and go out and wrangle poisonous snakes and eat all the bacon you want because you’ve been washed by the blood of Jesus!!!!!!!! Hear me out…it’s to say that you can live your life without fear that everything is out to get you because He who has created the universe has big plans for your life…much bigger than what kind of apples you eat. Understand where I’m coming from? Be informed but be free!

So that is my take on GMO’s. There’s not a ton of research because it is a new science. I will tell you that before a GMO edible plant comes to market, it has been tested for at least 13 years and 5-7 of those years are going through all the regulatory steps. It’s not an easy process and it shouldn’t be if people will be eating them. There have been plants turned down during this process…not all of the fruits/veggies/edibles they have altered make it through. Why do scientists continue to do it? Because there are real farmers who depend on a good crop and people to buy their produce for their livelihood. Because there are real people to feed in the United States and honestly around the world. Because sometimes God gives scientists the knowledge to make our lives better, even if it’s just so that worms don’t eat our corn!

Eat in freedom friends!

Sunflower Strawberry Salad

It’s still verrrry much spring where I live. Like the local strawberries just started to come out and it’s mid-June! BUT that’s ok because I can enjoy Carolina strawberries in early spring and local strawberries in late spring…winning!

I never really liked fruit in my lettuce salads for some reason…that is until lately. Now, I’m all in! I have a great winter mandarin salad, this spring strawberry salad, and summer…maybe I’ll load it up with blueberries? We will see!

Usually the main attraction of a salad, for me, is the dressing. I mean, isn’t that why most of us eat a salad? Because, we like the dressing? Well, in this salad, the dressing takes a back seat (although it is delicious) to the amazing crunchy, salty, sweet flavors that hit every bite! I use a simple lemon vinaigrette dressing that’s not too tangy and not too sweet. I make my dressings to taste so these may not be the exact measurements BUT make yours to what you like!

I buy a big box of spring mix each week and it usually stays good for about 5-7 days

Salad Ingredients:

  • Spring mix or spinach (2 cups per salad for a large salad)
  • Feta cheese (1 tablespoon per salad…more or less based on your taste)
  • Sunflower seeds (1 tablespoon per salad)
  • Spring onions (1-3 teaspoons)
  • Strawberries, sliced (1/4 cup per salad)

Dressing ingredients:

  • 1 whole lemon juiced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (you can use 1 small clove minced too)
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/3 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or apple cider)
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (more if you like a sweeter dressing)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Honestly, this salad isn’t hard to make because many of the ingredients are grab-n-go!

Grab a wide bowl. This isn’t super necessary but honestly, it makes it look prettier! Throw the lettuce in the bowl and then layer the ingredients. I like strawberries, feta, sunflower seeds, then onions personally but, go on…do yo thing!

For the dressing, I use the Pampered Chef manual food processor. This thing is a kitchen staple in my house! I don’t have an electric food processor because, well I don’t need it with this bad boy! Toss all the ingredients in the food processor and chop away! It comes out rich and smooth and delicious!!!!

Refreshing, crisp, and delicious! (also quick and cheap!)

This entire salad provides nutrients from the lettuce to the fixin’s to the dressing. It is seriously a nutrient power house! There aren’t many other foods that you can get TONS of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in just one bowl. Let’s just go over some of the nutrition highlights of this bad boy!

Power-Packed Lineup!

  • Spring Mix: tons of Vitamin A, C, K, and folate (a B vitamin). Some iron (although some of it does get lost during digestion), fiber (much of that insoluble to keep everything “moving”). **If you are on a blood thinner and watching vitamin K you can eat iceberg lettuce as a LOW vitamin K food**
  • Feta Cheese: look, honestly theres such a small amount you aren’t getting much but a tiny bit of protein and calcium BUT it tastes great! Even if you are watching your sodium intake you shouldn’t worry too much because again, a small amount (190 mg-ish)
  • Sunflower Seeds: loaded with heart healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, and protein! Also a good source of iron and potassium makes this a crunchy little firecracker!
  • Spring Onions: although, like feta, the amount you are using isn’t huge, the little boost of immune-boosting antioxidants in the entire onion family are something to keep on your radar! Plus…fiber!
  • Strawberries: do you know that strawberries have more vitamin C per serving than an orange…fun fact! In just one serving of strawberries you get WELL over 100% of your daily vitamin C. Along with that you have fiber and a LOAD of antioxidants in this yummy little gem!
  • The dressing is also loaded with amazing nutrients from the ingredients in it so even just a few teaspoons on the salad gives you flavor and nutrition!
Enjoy my friends! I know we did!

Road Trippin’ Snacks

In my family, we go on vacation together. No. You don’t understand. This is not just immediate family we are talking about. There are around 30 of us who go to the beach (not quite) every year (but usually every other year). You see, years ago my grandparents created this tight knit bond of a family and 40 years later it is still going strong…to the point we vacation as extended-extended families!

Lovin’ their popcorn-in-a-bag

We go to the beach and we don’t live very close SO that means we spend hours in the car…with three kids…who eat A.LOT.OF.FOOD. Honestly, sometimes road trip snacks are to keep kids satiated (feeling full) but sometimes it’s to keep them satisfied (not screaming and crying). You know what? On road trips, that’s definitely OK! You’ve got to survive and as a mom and a dietitian, I get it!!!!!!!

Question is, what should you pack for road trip snacks? Well, I’ve come up with a list of 30 foods that are kid proof (won’t make a huge mess in your car) and adults love them too!!! If you’ve followed me long enough you know there’s at least 1 list in each blog post! Hah! These snacks should be quick to open, easily eaten with the fingers, AND provide nourishment!

Have your kids help! Emma (7) can cut up veggies with a pairing knife!
  1. Carrot sticks. Seriously these are a family favorite and delish! Bag them in small containers or baggies for each member of your family. Really little kiddos? Cut the carrots in to fun strips to reduce choking.
  2. Pepper sticks. Yes kids will eat them too! Try red, orange, or yellow peppers. Super sweet!
  3. Turkey jerky. Beef jerky is a great choice as well. Although expensive, this can be a great protein source…find it on sale!
  4. String cheese. They make tons of flavors so choose your favorite and snack away!
  5. Popcorn. Pop ahead and put them in individual baggies or containers.
  6. Granola bars. Kids Clif bars, Lara bars, and homemade granola bars are my favorite!
  7. Grapes. Make sure you cut them in 1/4ths for babies and toddlers and in half for younger children (choking hazard)
  8. Nuts. Peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews…whichever are your favorites!
  9. Raisins. The to-go boxes are great on the road. Sour raisins are Ah.Maze.Ing!
  10. Cranberries. A little more added sugar than raisins but still a great choice for a road trip
  11. Amanda’s Awesome Trail Mix: 1 cup cheerios, 1/2 cup raisins or cranberries, 1/2 cup nuts of your choice, 1/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. Mix and toss in to snack bags.
  12. Peanut butter bites: Here’s the link to mine. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE BREASTFEEDING TO EAT THESE! My husband loves them (and my kiddos do too)!
  13. Sunflower seeds: not just for salads!
  14. Pumpkin seeds…all the flavors.
  15. Dried whole grain cereal. Seriously. Cheerios in a bag…stellar!
  16. Yogurt pouches! YUM! These portable packs are great for younger kiddos and older ones alike! AND they don’t need to be refrigerated…BONUS!
  17. Fruit/veggie pouches…so many brands/varieties! Choose your favorite grab-and-go flavor.
  18. Cucumber slices. So good and refreshing! Sure you can dip them into hummus or ranch but if you can’t trust yourself or younger kiddos plain cucumbers work great themselves.
  19. Apple slices. Wash and keep the skins on (there are tons of nutrients in the skins) get your kiddos used to it! To keep them from browning on the trip use whole apples for yourself and older kids or slice them and add a little ascorbic acid (vitamin C…name brand “Fruit Fresh”) to keep them from browning.
  20. Mandarines. Easy to peel and sooooo delicious! I like to peel mine ahead of time for the kids and then when they are hungry just hand them a peeled one so they can go to town.
  21. Edamame. Add a little salt and pepper to these amazing soy beans and YUM! These come in the fresh and frozen section. Sometimes when they are frozen, salt has already been added so make sure you check!
  22. Whole grain crackers. My favorites are Triscuits and Wheat Thins but there are tons of brands and varieties that are great and tasty!
  23. Cherries. Especially in season these juicy fruits are great! Just make sure you have something to spit the seeds into.
  24. Roasted chickpeas. So good! They are crunchy and come in tons of flavors.
  25. Pickles. Yep. In a bag. My kids love them! They’re crunchy and salty and ohhh soooo yummy!
  26. Apple chips. These freeze dried fruit crunchies are incredible!!!! You can also pack dehydrated apples. They won’t be as crunchy but they are super sweet and delicious.
  27. Tortilla chips. The varieties are endless. Black bean, blue corn, flavored, extra crunchy…whatever. Although they are fried they’re usually only a few ingredients and if you get the whole grain, bean, or higher fiber varieties they also have some protein in them. I NEVER DO BAKED CHIPS! The ingredient lists go on forever. Regular tortilla chips/potato chips may be fried in oil (which is usually heart healthy) but their 3-5 ingredients makes up for it by not having so many additives. Plus fat isn’t “bad” for you…neither are carbs. Moderation.
  28. Fruit cups. Yes I know with little little kids this is a nightmare but with older kids this is fantastic! Peaches, pears, mandarins, apple sauce…your possibilities are endless!
  29. Turkey rollups. If your cooler game is strong (and I mean very strong like you can keep these under 44 degrees the entire trip) go for it! Roll up a slice of turkey lunch meat with some cheese. If you’re feeling adventurous add honey mustard and a thin slice of cucumber…mmmm
  30. Yogurt. Again, you have to keep these bad boys cool BUT some Greek yogurt on a road trip not only hits the sweet spot but also keeps you fuller longer.
Snacks are better on a shark towel…

I hope this list helped to give you some great ideas on road trip snacks. Instead of loads of candy or tons of processed snacks this list helps to start vacation off on the nutrient rich foot. Look, I’m not judging…I like snacks the same as the rest of the population. I don’t say no to a good Blazin’ Buffalo Dorito (ever). But it helps to take snacks on the road that won’t give the kids a sugar high while you’re cooped up in a car!

Once you get to your destination, nutrition shouldn’t be your top priority…honestly. Enjoy it and your family/friends! Don’t worry about “what” is eaten as much as how it tastes and who is in your company. Calories, carbs, proteins, fats, aren’t my main priority…ESPECIALLY while spending time with family. My family is a healthy group of eaters, balanced with a ton of activity. Our beach house will be filled with people of all ages, love, donuts, gobs, cookies, snacky foods, salads, fruit, shrimp…a lot of shrimp, fun, and laughter.

Enjoy your summer vacation! Make it healthy but don’t obsess about it! Don’t like some of the foods on this list? Don’t eat them! Choose healthy snacks you enjoy. Life is too short and moments are too good to focus on how many calories you eat while life is flying past you. Take healthy road trip snacks and mix it in with other foods too #balance.

Owen and Asher approved ::two thumbs up::

Sometimes the Right Thing IS the Hard Thing

By now many of you have quit or forgotten about your New Years Resolutions. Were they too hard? Are you too busy to worry about it right now? Do you want a personal chef, a kick-your-butt trainer, and/or a cookie hand slapper? Were you expecting this time, this year to somehow be different? Did you expect that the new Weight Watchers program or those shakes you bought a few months ago would motivate you enough to stick with it?

Listen to me…the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results. The soul-crushing rules of fad diets, the cycle of starving yourself only to find a few days later binging on anything that isn’t tied down, the all-or-nothing do-or-die diet mentality, and the guilt of eating food that isn’t on the “good” list will whittle away at your psyche and leave you back where you started.

Going on a diet isn’t the fix. I promise. I’ve been a dietitian for over a decade and I’ve been counseling people on their diets for just as long. Diet’s don’t work. Me, creating a meal plan for you doesn’t work. Me telling you what to do DOESN’T WORK!

So what does? What works? YOU. Deep down inside of you is a spark that just needs to be fueled in order to catch fire. What will fuel you? What is your motivation? Deep down, what do you WANT from nutrition, your health, your wellbeing? I can guarantee you that your deepest motivation really isn’t weight loss. Weight loss is a side effect of an even deeper motivation. Dig down. Keep digging.

Ask yourself these questions to help:

  • What are you wanting from a healthy diet?
  • When you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years, what do you see?
  • What about losing weight is important to you?
  • Picture yourself healthy. What does it feel like?

Once you have a picture of what you want out of your health THEN you can begin to make changes for yourself.

My motto is SMALL CHANGES LEAD TO POSITIVE RESULTS. I want you to change your eating habits to make you the healthiest individual you can be. This may be uncomfortable but sometimes the right thing is the hard thing. I also want these changes to be feasible, not soul-crushing 🙂 I want you to be mindful of what you eat and with that comes learning about what is nourishing for you! Stick with me and my blog for that information!

I don’t expect you to eat perfectly. There’s actually no such thing and those that do eat “perfectly” have what we in the healthcare biz call orthorexia. It’s a type of disordered eating and I don’t want you to be trapped by that. That’s not mindful. I want you to eat so that your body is nourished, I want you to eat so your taste buds are satisfied, and I want you to eat because you just simply like the food you are about to eat. In no particular mindful order 🙂

Look, sometimes the healthy choice isn’t always the easiest choice. BUT sometimes the right choices in life aren’t always the easiest. You get to make food choices every day. Sometimes you are going to make a nutrient-rich choice and sometimes you are going to make a choice simply because you like the food you are about to eat, regardless. All I ask is that you think about your food choices. If it is between eating carrot sticks and pretzel sticks I want you to take a step back and think about what your body needs and what will benefit your body most.

Change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Change stretches you. Change challenges you to be different. Remember that insanity definition…doing the same thing over and over and over again expecting different results????? Well, time to be sane again. Time to do something different and get RESULTS!

****I am available for online nutrition counseling. If you or someone you know is interested in an appointment please send me a message****

Salmon Cakes

Happy New Year!!!!! If you made a New Years Resolution about nutrition (or even if you didn’t) follow me. Follow this blog, my Facebook page, and Instagram! I’m here to provide great recommendations, information, recipes, and comic relief about nutrition in real life 🙂

These salmon cakes are easy, packed with flavor, and super nutrient rich. Salmon can be expensive so you may not buy it often if ever. If this is the case, canned salmon is your ticket! Wild caught Alaskan salmon (with bones and skin) is cost-effective and just as rich in nutrients (even more if you use the bones!)

Omega 3 fatty acids are the star of this show! With the salmon, which is SUPER rich in omega-3’s, and the chia seeds, that not only help to bind the patties together but also add more omega-3’s, this dish is very anti-inflammatory!!! Woohoo!!! Not to mention packed with veggies, these cakes are ROCKIN it and your body will thank you for them!

Let’s get down to it. Nothing worse than having to scroll through someone’s blog for an hour before you get the recipe!

Salmon Cakes:


  • 2, 14.5 oz cans wild caught salmon (with bones and skin, crushed)
  • 3/4 cup whole grain crackers, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup minced onions
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 1/2 cup minced carrots
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (I used 4 drops lemon essential oil)


  1. Drain salmon into large bowl to save. Add salmon to a large bowl and crush bones until all are dissolved.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until blended.
  3. Make into 3 oz patties (slightly larger than the palm of your hand)
  4. Pan fry in 1 tablespoon canola oil OR broil in the oven (5 minutes each side)
  5. Serve with a whole grain or starch and a vegetable for a complete meal!


  • Salmon cakes would go great on a salad or you can make them into a sandwich (like a crab cake sandwich but a salmon cake sandwich instead)
  • Adding lemon zest gives it a more bold lemon flavor
  • Make ahead and freeze some for a quick meal!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do as a family!

How Resolutions Can Be Helpful

You may be hearing negative comments on New Year’s Resolutions. I too, consider myself an anti-resolutioner for many reasons BUT I also like the refreshing nature of a resolution. I’ll be honest, my 2017 wasn’t the greatest year of my life. It was definitely full of blessings but it was also full of hardships, loss, and just plain surviving. I didn’t cook for my family enough, we didn’t meal plan, and we didn’t make the best meal decisions (there may or may not have been waaaay too much fast food in our diets). I  have resolved to make more nourishing meals at home. It seems simple but when you think about it, that means meal planning, better grocery shopping, and actually making the meal!

Resolutions, by definition, are firm decisions to do or not to do something.

What are you resolving?

What are you firmly going to do?

What are you firmly not going to do?

Don’t take this resolution lightly. It is a firm decision! Even if your resolution is not necessarily nutrition related (maybe it’s to quit smoking, reduce your stress, read your Bible, exercise, etc) this blog can help!

5 ways to stick with your resolutions:

  1. If you make one or two resolutions you CAN do it! Making more than three resolutions can be too challenging. One or two is much more manageable. Top priorities only, what are some things holding you back, what do you want for your health and wellbeing, what keeps you awake at night?
  2. Make your goals specific and realistic. Be specific about what you want and be realistic too! Specificity is key…what, where, when, why, how. Realistic…is it probable and possible?
  3. Know there will be bumps in the road. It’s inevitable so just anticipate them and make it a resolution to not let a little bump (or even a big bump) get in the way of your ultimate goals! You didn’t fail, you’re just human.
  4. You don’t have to jump in with both feet. Small steps can make the biggest difference! Even a little change can help your health (physically, mentally, and spiritually) in big ways.
  5. Tell people and get accountability. Gather a group of people who will support you and encourage your resolution. Ask them to check in on you once in a while and check in with them too!

So sure, resolutions can be cliche and many fail but some also stick. For those that actually make it through and change their lifestyle, it can be the difference between wellness and illness. I encourage you to firmly stick with your decision to improve your life, your health, your wellbeing.

Your Healthy Gut

So you don’t have IBS or Crohn’s or Colitis or Celiac or any other gastrointestinal disease. You just want a healthy gut and to keep it that way. What do you do?

Well, I’m a dietitian that leans more towards the natural, some call it “crunchy” sides of nutrition. I believe food is medicine and having a healthy diet can prevent many diseases from taking up residence in your body. Yep, I believe my job is that important and I believe God gave us wonderful food on this earth for reasons other than giving us calories.

There are MANY foods that help keep your gastrointestinal tract moving normally (outside of the diseases listed above). This short list covers most of what you need to know about eating to keep your insides in tip-top shape!

Here’s the top 5 foods to eat/drink daily to keep your GI tract healthy!

  1. Eat plants – fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, mushrooms. These contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber expands and keeps you full (think of putting water in oatmeal). Insoluble fiber is like the plow helping to move poop through your intestines (think of the outside of corn, lettuce, or broccoli). Both are really important for your gut health.
  2. Eat fermented stuff (probiotics) – yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, and fermented veggies (not pickled in vinegar)…these gems have good bacteria that get into your intestines, multiply, and take over bad bacteria. The more good bacteria you have the better your overall health will be.
  3. Eat foods high in prebiotics – Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that probiotics (good bacteria) eat. Foods especially high in prebiotics include bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, flax seeds, apples, and whole grains.
  4. Drink water and/or herbal teas – if you eat more fiber you NEED more water. Drinking water, milk, or herbal teas that do not have caffeine will hydrate your body and allow fiber to do its job in your intestines! Decaffeinated drinks still have caffeine just not as much as the regular version. Stick with non-caffeinated beverages to keep you hydrated.
  5. STOP USING ANTIBIOTICS IF YOU DON’T NEED THEM! This has nothing to do with food and everything to do with the overuse of antibiotics. As a dietitian, sometimes I have to help fix what antibiotics have destroyed. It’s not fun. Antibiotics were created as a treatment for dangerous bacterial infections. Now, it’s being used if someone complains that their cold has lasted longer than a week! Ahhhh! Overuse of antibiotics will destroy gut health simply by killing the good bacteria that keeps us alive and well. Check out what the Mayo Clinic, Kid’s Health, and the CDC have to say about antibiotic overuse.

Keeping your GI tract healthy is so important for overall health. Eat plants and fermented stuff, drink water, and don’t take antibiotics if you can help it…BOOM!

Love your gut and it will love you back!

The IBS Meal Plan

I struggled with IBS when I was a teenager and into my early 20’s (not formally diagnosed). In college, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis after a long bout of sever heart burn and other unruly symptoms. I have been there, my friends. My gastrointestinal tract has never been my bestie. It is not easy dealing with gut problems and in-fact I have a funny story to tell to help us all get used to the fact that everyone poops and people who struggle with IBS know this all too well (unless you have the constipation version in which that’s no fun either).

Not the best quality picture but some of the most hilarious memories happened in or around this Plymouth Horizon!

Story: In high school my friends and I used to “cruise” in my 1983 Plymouth Horizon (pictured left). This is when my IBS was terrible and I would have serious stomach pains, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. One night while we were “cruising” it hit me…hard. I needed a bathroom and I needed it NOW! I drove through the “out” ramp in a fast food parking lot and as soon as I could jam the Horizon into park I ran… Thankfully I made it but sometimes those with IBS aren’t so lucky.

Look, it happens to all of us whether you have IBS or not. When people have IBS with diarrhea though, it happens all too often. This disease, regardless if you have IBSD (with diarrhea) or IBSC (with constipation), affects your quality of life socially, emotionally, and physically.

Things usually get better, you just have to figure out your trigger(s), find a good doctor, and stick to a diet that helps to improve your symptoms.

This is a GENERAL meal plan not meant to cure IBS (there aren’t any cures that we know of). This diet is intended to limit the symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Before we start, here is a list of what I recommend you do every. single. day:

  1. De-stress. Pray. Breathe deeply. Find the beauty in life. Smile at strangers. Be kind. Say no sometimes. Say yes sometimes too.
  2. Take a good pro-biotic supplement that does not contain dairy or lactose (remember the FODMAP diet recommends no lactose).
  3. Fit in ginger. Whether that’s tea, ground ginger, or cooking with whole ginger, eat it!
  4. Eat smaller meals. It cuts down on portion sizes and helps you digest food better (double bonus)!
  5. Exercise, be active, play, walk, bike, have fun outside!

Meal Plan

Day 1

Breakfast: Gluten free oatmeal with walnuts, blueberries, ground ginger, and ground cinnamon. Prepare oatmeal with lactose free milk or milk alternative. Drink with green ginger tea.

Lunch: Corn tortilla (use as a wrap) with grilled chicken (lettuce, tomatoes, pickles). Carrot sticks on the side. Grilled chicken marinated in balsamic vinegar, turmeric, ginger, and canola oil. Drink with ginger tea.

Dinner: Salmon cakes (made with wild caught canned salmon), with brown rice, and steamed broccoli. Drink with ginger tea.

Snack: Popcorn

Day 2

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with green pepper and spinach, gluten free toast, and strawberries. Prepare scrambled eggs with turmeric and black pepper. Drink with green ginger tea.

Lunch: Salad (lettuce, carrots, tomato, cucumber) with tuna and quinoa. Eat with a side of grapes (or put the grapes on the salad). Drink with ginger tea.

Dinner: Grilled chicken (marinated in balsamic vinegar, turmeric, ginger, oregano, basil and canola oil) with red skinned potatoes and green beans.

Snack: Olives

Day 3

Breakfast: Gluten free cereal and lactose free milk or milk alternative with a scoop of peanut or almond butter. Green/ginger tea.

Lunch: Turkey on gluten free bread with carrot sticks and a banana. Ginger tea.

Dinner: Shrimp stir fry with brown rice and FODMAP approved spices (turmeric, ginger, gluten free soy sauce).

Snack: Corn tortillas (gluten free) and tomatoes and green pepper salsa (no garlic/onion)

Day 4

Breakfast: buckwheat (gluten free) pancakes with nut butter and strawberry or grape jam/preserves. Green/ginger tea.

Lunch: Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps (tuna, mayo, celery, pickles wrapped in lettuce) with berries (on the side) and carrot sticks.

Dinner: Turkey burger (bunless) with broccoli and quinoa

Snack: rice cakes and peanut butter

Day 5

Breakfast: Smoothie (frozen bananas, other fruits/veggies, peanut butter)

Lunch: Chicken rice soup (no onion or garlic) with side salad

Dinner: Turkey tacos (make your own spice blend) with corn tacos shells, lettuce/tomato/taco sauce.

Snack: hardboiled egg

Day 6

Breakfast: Oatmeal with pureed pumpkin, raisins, pecans, and pumpkin pie spice

Lunch: Grilled shrimp on a salad (low FODMAP veggies) with vinaigrette dressing (no onion or garlic) and gluten free crackers

Dinner: Stuffed peppers (ground turkey, brown rice, and green peppers)

Snack: Lara bar (they are gluten free and dairy free)

Day 7

Breakfast: Cheese free omelet with broccoli, mushrooms, and tomatoes

Lunch: Tuna salad sandwich on gluten free bread with cucumber slices

Dinner: Quinoa pasta with ground turkey and pasta sauce (diced tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms…no onion/garlic)

Snack: Banana with nut butter

I hope this helps dear friends. My IBS is under control but I know what my triggers are and what foods set me off (lactose is a big one!). It’s worth a try to help improve your quality of life. I know from experience that IBS can be miserable, embarrassing, and down right exhausting.

Comment if any of this is helpful or if you have tried the Low FODMAP Diet before!