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:

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

  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!

NOTES:

  • 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!

IBS…It’s a Big Struggle

IBS is short for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Irritable…perhaps, but some people struggle daily with symptoms and it causes a lot of stress in their lives! If you live with this disease you can fully appreciate the toll it can take on your work, social life, family, and quality of life.

Stress, hormones, what you eat, and other triggers cause people with IBS diarrhea and/or constipation and many unpleasant side effects. I have had numerous clients come to me looking for a diet that would help and what we have discovered is that though IBS does have non-dietary connections…diet is a major component of this disease.

A few years back I started hearing whispers of this new diet for IBS called the “Low FODMAP Diet” and it’s ability to get rid of some of the horrible IBS symptoms. In fact, one client said it actually improved her quality of life so much she felt like a new person! She had lived her life so long with terrible cramping, gas, diarrhea, and bloating but after following her “gut” and trying this diet she felt incredible! Over these few years I have counseled people with IBS on the low FODMAP diet and the results are amazing from a practitioner standpoint.

FODMAP stands for:

Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols

For someone who has IBS, these guys don’t absorb well in the small intestines (where most nutrients get absorbed). They then ferment in the large intestine (colon) and cause distress. Even if you’ve never heard of this diet you may notice that some foods just “doesn’t agree with you” and therefore you try and stay away from them. This is EXACTLY the way to go on a Low FODMAP diet.

The key to finding the right diet for your system, is to be on the Low FODMAP diet for about 4 weeks. After that you can then start to eat these foods again in order to figure out which ones trigger IBS symptoms.

Every.single.person is different. So every IBS diet is different. For example, some people may have a lot of symptoms after they eat beans and for others beans do not bother them at all. You have to find what is right for you and stick with it so your quality of life can be improved.

Here are some foods to watch out for (high FODMAP):

Lactose: found in milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, ice cream, pudding, custard, butter, sour cream, and cream cheese

Certain Fruits: apples, figs, mango, pears, watermelon, dried fruit, nectarines, peaches, apricots, blackberries

Certain Vegetables: asparagus, artichoke, sugar snap peas, garlic, onion, cauliflower, mushrooms

Legumes: all of them – beans, peas, and lentils

 

Gluten: wheat, barley, rye (so things like breads, pastas, crackers)

Some Nuts: pistachios, cashews

Certain Sweeteners: honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols (mannitol, sorbitol, erythritol)

Natural additives: inulin, chicory root

 

 

Here are the steps to lower your FODMAP foods:

  1. Remove these high FODMAP foods from your diet. Watch out for hidden FODMAPs especially lactose (milk), garlic, onions, and wheat which are found in many foods.
  2. Keep these out of your diet for at least 2 weeks but preferably 4-6 weeks.
  3. You’ll notice an improvement in a few days to a week.
  4. Start adding ONE high FODMAP food into your diet every 2-3 days. If it bothers you take it back out of your diet and write it down so you remember what triggered your symptoms.
  5. Continue until you’ve added all of them back into your diet. Keep eating the ones that had no effect on you and remove all of those that did.

This can be challenging especially if you use garlic and onions in your cooking, love sandwiches (gluten), and drink milk! If you’re suffering from these symptoms though, the change may be worth it.

Here are some great FODMAP resources:

Low FODMAP Grocery List

Low FODMAP Diet App

Low FODMAP Food List and Shopping Guide

Next blog…my IBS Diet! Sneak peak: it includes Low FODMAPs as well as other wonderful tips for your gut health. Stay tuned!

Follow me on Facebook for your chance to win a FREE nutrition session*! Winner will be selected at the end of April. Stay tuned!

*Valued at $75!!!! This session can be over the phone, Skype, email, or in person. Location is not an issue!

Thai Chicken Salad

Guys no joke, this was a recipe that I’d never attempted before and I’m so sorry I waited this long. Sure I’ve eaten a Thai salad, I loooove Thai food, and I’ve Pinned tons of Thai recipes…but to be honest I cook very little Asian cuisine at home even though I love it. I went out on a limb just like I encourage all of my readers to do (I would never tell you to do something I would never do myself).

Sometimes people get freaked out when trying a new recipe or a new cuisine at home because they think they’ll need to spend a lot of money on specialty items. The only “specialty” ingredients that I had to buy were rice vinegar and sesame oil. To be honest sometimes I have rice vinegar hanging around because it’s delicious and sometimes it just adds that sweet and sour pop a recipe needs. Regardless, nothing super special except the TASTE!

I’ve talked about my daughter before…she can be a picky eater especially if she’s not
used to the food. Recently, she started cooking with me and this has helped her open up to the foods she has prepared. For this recipe she helped me shred veggies, pour and measure ingredients, and taste the final product. She loved the “brown peanut dressing” (that’s what she calls it). It got her stamp of approval!

This recipe is full of nourishment. From the vegetables to the edamame and the dressing, this salad will give your body so many nutrients from all of these plant foods. To be honest, you could keep out the chicken and it wouldn’t be missing a thing because these vegetables are so filling, crunchy, and satisfying! Can you tell how much I love this recipe?

Nutrition Side Note: Edamame are actually soy beans in their immature form. You can find these in the pods or already shelled either in the produce section or the frozen foods section. I usually get them frozen and just steam ’em up. Soy is beneficial for most people. It gets a bad rap but there is actually little scientific evidence to refute its benefit (given appropriate intake)…even for those with breast cancer and other estrogen related diseases. Take for instance the amazingly low breast and thyroid cancer rates in countries where girls begin eating soy at a very young age. The benefits of soy have been shown with edamame, roasted soy nuts, soy milk, tofu, miso, and tempeh. It is NOT beneficial to eat processed soy lecithin and other soy derived additives in food. Check out what MD Anderson (one of the countries top cancer hospitals) has to say about soy.

Lets dig in to this recipe just like you’ll be digging in to your salad!

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Dressing

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 English cucumber without seeds sliced (seeding it is optional)
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup red pepper (julienned)
  • 1/4 cup shredded celery
  • 1/2 cup edamame
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • 2 Tablespoons green onion
  • 4 Tablespoons cilantro
  • 2 Tablespoons crushed peanuts

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter (doesn’t have trans fats)
  • 4 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lite soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 Tablespoon cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Directions:

  1. Prep all of vegetables and split into 4 bowls. Place 3-4 ounces of chicken over veggies. Top with green onion, cilantro, and crushed peanuts.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing into a food processor and blend together. If you don’t have a food processor a blender will work or simply whisk very well in a bowl.
  3. Drizzle desired amount of dressing over salad (you’ll have leftover).
  4. Enjoy!

NOTES:

  1. You will not need the entire rotisserie chicken so use it for a leftover meal!
  2. You’ll have extra peanut dressing…enjoy!
  3. Use more veggies! Radishes and purple cabbage would be a great addition.
  4. Shrimp would go great in this in place of chicken.
  5. If you are allergic to peanuts try substituting sunflower butter and coconut milk instead. Check out this recipe from the Academy of Culinary Nutrition.

Nutrition Side Note: Mom’s to be DO NOT be afraid to eat peanuts or peanut butter (if you are clearly not allergic). Parents of little ones: it is actually beneficial to start your kiddos eating peanuts/peanut butter at an early age to reduce the risk of a peanut allergy. Check out this article by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the new peanut guidelines. To be honest, I started all of my kiddos at 1 year but I also ate peanuts/peanut butter during pregnancy and ate a lot of peanut butter while breastfeeding. There may be no right or wrongs but it’s worth looking in to.

I branched out of my cooking comfort zone. Boy am I grateful I did. This recipe is a keeper and I’m pretty stoked about having it again in a few weeks! Try it…I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Mom Diet

I got a rare opportunity to share lunch out with my mom last weekend. She’s my hero and honestly couldn’t do life without her. It’s funny that the mom-daughter relationship morphs into a friendship the more past 20 you get…I think that’s when our’s started because I became less immature and more appreciative of her and her awesomeness.

We were talking about some of the “side effects” of being a mom that you don’t really think of. Nope, not the physical, although my body still hasn’t snapped back into the 25 year old body it once was…who knew!? ANYWAY we were talking about how mom’s rarely eat hot meals. How it’s normal to eat lukewarm or cold meals and how we long for a hot, uninterrupted meal. After thinking about this I realized, a lot of my diet has changed since having children and especially having twins.

I have 14 month old twin boys and a sweet (sometimes sassy) 4 year old. My oldest never climbed on furniture, needed baby gates, and truth be told we never even baby-proofed. She wasn’t that kind of baby/toddler who got into things. I now have the opposite. These boys are…boys. Baby gates are jokes and there are not enough barriers in my living room to keep these boys contained and safe. Baby-proofing is an art in our house because what one twin doesn’t think of the other one does. Singleton parents, you have no idea…I certainly didn’t before these two came along. Twins are a different beast. Put these two in one of those escape rooms everyone raves about and they’ll find their way out in a matter of minutes.

My mom diet goes like this: cold (not iced…cold) coffee, a Lara bar for breakfast because it’s fast, lunch at 2pm so I can eat in peace while they nap, cold dinner at 6 because I’m feeding them. My husband is awesome and he takes care of our daughter during dinner (she sometimes “needs” encouragement). If I do get bites of food, usually I hardly taste it because I’m shoveling it in quickly so that I can feed Boy 1 and Boy 2 before they go ballistic.

This is temporary, I know it. I also know how blessed I am for these kiddos and most of the time I’m overwhelmed with the realization of how amazing it is to be their mom. You see, these twins are rainbow babies after losing our second early on in the pregnancy. They are also preemies and NICU babies. I’m very aware of how blessed I am by all of my children but especially these 2 rough and tumble boys. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Look moms (and dads), I get it. I get it when you’re too tired to make dinner or when breakfast is a rare occurrence because you’re running out of the house or when you eat so fast that you don’t even know what it tastes like. I know that it’s hard to eat, let alone to eat well sometimes. I feel you when you only made mac and cheese for your kids lunch and should have also made a vegetable with it but you just survived lunch and that’ll have to do…and then you eat the leftovers (don’t eat off of them, they are germ cesspools). I’m there, in the trenches with you. You are doing a good job if you’ve kept your kids alive, showed them a lot of love and discipline. You are doing a great job if you took a shower. You are doing an excellent job if you kept them alive, showed love/discipline, AND took a shower…shoot, if that happens you’re a freakin rock star!

Yep that’s one towering on the chair while the other one just fell off of it…without his sock. No he did not cry.

Let me give you some tips that I use (and some that I’m going to use) to make my diet better while doing life in the mom-trenches:

  1. Get up before the kids so you can eat breakfast (and drink at least 1 cup of hot coffee) and get yourself together before everyone else. This is my Bible and hot coffee time. It’s my favorite time of day. Just me, Jesus, and a cup o’ Joe. I’m working on getting a more balanced breakfast.
  2. Keep steamer bags of veggies on hand so that you can just pop them in the microwave for those mac and cheese lunches or dinner. These are a staple in our house. Broccoli, snap peas, and cauliflower. Quick, easy, and delicious.
  3. Slow cooker (crock pot) meals are where it’s at. Just this week we did pork tenderloin with BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Ray’s and doctor it up). Served that on a whole wheat roll and some vinaigrette based coleslaw and boom, delish (picture below)
  4. Snack. This came from one of my dear friends who I talked to this week. She said “Amanda, you’re not eating snacks! You need to get them in so you can keep up with those boys!” She’s right. She also had a great suggestion that these snacks be portioned out, bagged, and ready to go in a pinch. Thank you Hilary!
  5. Keep fruits and veggies on hand and prepared in the house. We always have grapes on the counter and cut up broccoli and carrots in the fridge. This limits the temptation to reach for something else. We also keep yogurt, Lara bars, fiber bars, dried fruit, and popcorn on hand.
  6. Focus on one improvement at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself thinking you have to make your diet perfect (hah) all at once. Work on one thing at a time and work your way down the list of improvements. For me, this week was focusing on eating breakfast every day. Sure I had to pick a Lara bar once but I also made myself eggs, had cereal, and guac-toast.

Mom’s, working or stay-at-home, we have the hardest yet most important job on the planet. I’ve been both working and stay-at-home and neither one is harder than another. Mom’s are mom’s and we have to support each other and stick together. Help each other, pray for each other, encourage each other, and be there to help your fellow mamma eat a hot meal!

Fish Oil Supplements

So, about those fish oil supplements everyone’s talking about, should you take them? If you do, what brands are the best? How much should you take? Does it matter when or how you take them?

Listen, I’m not a supplement pusher. In fact, I’m opposed to a lot of supplements unless used for a specific purpose, recommended by your doctor or dietitian, and meets 3rd party regulation standards (because supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA). I don’t care if “Dr. Oz said…” or “They say you should…”. Whatever he says or ‘they’ say, many supplements are bogus (including vitamins). But what about fish oil? Are they bogus?

Some fish have a wonderful fat called omega-3’s fatty acids. These fish include anchovies, sardines, salmon, tuna, and mackrel. If you eat about 2 servings of those each week you may not need an omega-3 fish oil supplement. Given that most of you don’t eat 2 servings, (including myself most weeks) then research shows it can’t hurt to take fish oil supplements.

Why are we even talking about fish oil in the first place? Well, because most of us don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory unlike omega-6’s. Omega-6’s come from most of the fat we eat (butter, cream, cheese, animal fats, and most plant fats). Don’t get me wrong we actually NEED these omega-6 fats in our diet…we just get too many. Omega-3’s on the other hand come from a small number of foods like these cold water fish, flax seeds, canola oil, walnuts, and chia seeds. So you see, it can be hard to get in even some omega-3’s during the day let alone the right amount.

So why take a fish oil supplement? I’ll give you 5 really good reasons:

  1. Fish oil gives us  DHA and EPA omega-3’s. Our human bodies understand these whereas the plant sources of omega-3’s give us ALA. ALA has to be converted in our bodies to EPA and DHA and to be honest, our bodies don’t do a super good job with that. There are advantages to eating these plant sources outside of omega-3’s so that’s why it’s great to get them in your diet, but to take them as a supplement can be a disadvantage.
  2. Fish oil is good for your heart. Not only can it help cholesterol and triglyceride levels, it can also improve your blood pressure. Remember it’s an anti-inflammatory fat as well so that helps your heart even further! Plus it’s heart health month and we’re all about that here and Amanda D Nutrition 😉
  3. Fish oil is good for your mind. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can help with MANY disorders of the mind/brain. Your brain is made up of mostly omega-3 fats. If you’re not getting enough in your diet your probably not getting enough for your brain. It is super important for pregnant women and babies to get in enough omega-3’s especially DHA for baby brain development. Kiddos with ADHD have also shown signs of improvement from omega-3 supplements. As we age we forget stuff like where we left our car keys, wallet, cell phone, etc…you know. Omega-3’s help improve cognitive function like remembering all that stuff.
  4. Fish oil can help reduce inflammation in your body. So what? Well…inflammation causes most chronic diseases. Almost every single chronic disease is tied back to diet. A poor diet increases inflammation. Need I go on? Arthritis, cancer, and heart disease are the 3 most common inflammatory disease that may be improved or risks can be reduced from increasing omega-3 consumption…aka fish oil.
  5. Fish oil has also been shown beneficial in skin health. Like every organ in your body, the skin needs fat. Omega-3’s have been shown to help with many things like psoriasis (an inflammatory and autoimmune disease) and simple dry skin. Foods with omega-3’s also tend to carry vitamin E which is super important for skin health as well.

Again, I’m not a supplement pusher but I do think that if you’re not eating at least 2 servings of those cold water fish weekly you should probably take a fish oil supplement. I also think you should talk to your doctor about it as well. Most physicians are very open to their patients starting a fish oil supplement but it’s best to be 100% sure.

What to watch for:

  • Look for a fish oil supplement that is 3rd party tested. USP, NSF, Consumer Lab, Informed Choice Verification, and BSCG are all 3rd party test companies that have strict regulations on the supplements they put their approval on. Look for one of these labels on your fish oil brand because remember, the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements.
  • As soon as you open the bottle REFRIGERATE IT! You’d never leave fresh salmon out of the refrigerator why would you leave it’s oil out? Yuck. You’ll get rid of those fish burps too. If you have a fish oil supplement that has been left out, throw it away and start fresh. It’s probably rancid and that’s why your breath smells like a fish boat.
  • It’s important that the company you buy from has the breakdown of how many mg (milligrams) of EPA and DHA are in the product. You want to get as close to 1000 mg of DHA and 500 mg of EPA as possible.
  • Choose sustainable companies that have MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or Environmental Defense Fund certifications OR find fish oils that contain smaller fish like anchovies and sardines which are naturally more sustainable.

If you are vegetarian remember that fish oil responds to your body better than plant sources of omega-3’s. I respect your decision to go animal free though. Find an omega-3 ALA supplement that is 3rd party tested. Still refrigerate it!

Enjoy!

Top 10 Heart Healthy Foods

I love top 10 lists. Not sure why because there’s probably 50 foods I can talk about on here but using 10 simplifies things…and then some day I can come out with the top 20…I got options 😉

Look, in all seriousness an overall healthy diet is best. These foods by themselves along with a heavy dose of processed food-like substance will not save your heart from disease. An overall healthy diet with these foods included though, may help reduce your risk.

Most of the foods below are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Why is that important? Let me tell you a little about these fantastic fats. Omega-3 fats (or fatty acids) are
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY.
The typical American doesn’t even get close to enough of these wonderful fats…which could be why heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. You see, heart disease is considered an inflammatory disease (along with cancer) and having a diet that is high in inflammatory fats and food will increase your risk for these diseases. Eating more fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, and omega-3 fatty acids will help to lower inflammation in your body and therefore lower your risk for heart disease.

  1. Walnuts – not only are these awesome nuts anti-inflammatory because of their high omega-3 content, they are also packed with protein. Great for snacking, in salads, baked goods, with fruits, and paired with cheese. My personal favorite is walnuts with dried cranberries…tastes like a cookie!
  2. Salmon – again, this gem is high in omega-3’s making it wonderful for your heart. Make sure to get WILD CAUGHT salmon. Although more expensive you can guarantee that it has those good omega-3’s. I prefer canned wild caught salmon because it is very inexpensive and I love salmon cakes!
  3. Flax seed – flax seeds are one of the highest sources of omega-3’s so using this every day can definitely help improve inflammation. Use ground flax seeds. Whole ones won’t do you any good, your stomach can’t break them down. After you open the package of ground flax seeds you need to refrigerate them. They go rancid quickly and omega-3’s like the cold. Put flax in oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, baked goods,
  4. Canola oil – canola oil has much higher omega-3 fatty acids than olive oil. Although olive oil is a great to use for finishing a dish (like pasta, salad, really anything), it’s not a cooking oil because it smokes at a lower temperature. Canola oil, however, can be used at higher cooking temperatures and it has a more mild flavor. I use canola oil in just about everything. If you’re concerned with GMO’s organic canola oil is an option (expensive option).
  5. Baked potato – look, white potatoes get a bad rap but hear me out, just because they are white does not mean they are “bad”. Cauliflower, mushrooms, cabbage, and onions are white too. You need to watch portion sizes (much like everything else) but potatoes are super high in potassium which can help with your blood pressure. For a fun family meal idea try MYO baked potato bar. Include cheese, plain Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), chives, broccoli, seasoning (pepper, oregano, basil, parsley, etc). Delicious!
  6. Oatmeal – I’m pretty sure many of you already eat oatmeal for breakfast at least once in a while. Did you know it was great for your heart? Theres a special fiber in oats called beta-glucan which helps to lower LDL (bad) and total cholesterol. Cool right!?! Instead of buying instant oatmeal you can make your own overnight oats. Add fruit, walnuts, flax seed, chia seed, spices, a liquid of your choice (milk, soy/almond/coconut milk) and honey or maple syrup to sweeten it.
  7. 70% dark cacao (chocolate) – dark chocolate (at least 70%) has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. This helps your heart, brain, and other organs work better. ONLY 1 OUNCE DAILY. More than that doesn’t help. Mix those walnuts with dried cranberries and dark chocolate and woah…best snack ever!
  8. Chia seeds – these tiny balls of awesomeness (shown above) are high in omega-3’s, fiber, protein, and tons of nutrients. Chia seeds should also be refrigerated much like flax seeds. These are my favorite source of omega-3’s. I put them in everything from smoothies to oatmeal, baked goods, and even tea.
  9. Avocados –  not only do avocados have wonderful heart healthy fats, they are super high in potassium as well. Potassium that is found in food (not in supplements) can lower blood pressure naturally. Avocados are an incredible addition to your diet. Try guaco-toast (my personal favorite), guacamole, diced in a salad, or let that avocado cradle your egg in the morning. YUM!
  10. Beans – these flatulence causing gems may make you a little uncomfortable but that’s only because you’re not used to them. Give beans a chance because the fiber that can cause gas also lowers the bad LDL cholesterol in your body. My personal favorites are black beans and pinto beans. I prefer them in a salad or burrito bowl.

As you can see, fats are not the bad guys that the “diet world” makes them out to be. Actually with the right fats in your diet you may be helping your body more than you think. Remember, eating these foods along with an overall healthy diet may lower your risk of heart disease. It’s not a guarantee but why not try?

Treat your heart right. It deserves it!