What I Learned From Grandma

This post is a little different because it’s not really about food and nutrition (but it is a little bit). I promised when I started this blog that I would be as transparent in my real life (nutrition journey and education) as possible. So as I type this with tears streaming down my face I am thankful that I have this opportunity to share about Grandma Mae.

My gorgeous, wonderful, hard-working, tough-loving, courageous Grandma went to be with Jesus just a few short weeks ago on September 9, 2017, relatively unexpectedly. Although she was 92 and her heart was failing, her mind and the rest of her body were in pretty good shape considering her 92 years of life. Our family, myself included are deeply saddened…but hopeful that we will see her again in heaven someday.

I learned so much from her. I learned from her life, her example, her stories, and her convictions. She was a family woman but not the lovey-dovey type grandma that gave you hugs, kisses, and “I love yous”. But she’d drop anything to help you, cook you your favorite dish for Sunday dinner, and tell you when she thought you were doing something wrong…because she loved us. I learned about true strength and courage from her. I learned a lot about Biblical/moral right from wrong from her. I learned that love comes in all shapes and sizes, not just through words. I also learned, through her passing, that even though she didn’t say “I love you” she appreciated when we did. I found notes that I had written her telling of how much I appreciated her and loved her. I got my Grandma for 34 years and my children got a Great-Grandma for 5 and almost 2 years and not too many kiddos have that blessing. So we are blessed and we are so much better off for having Grandma.

She loved these little boys

Earlier in the week before she passed, I sat and looked through her Bible sitting beside her chair in the living room. Note after note she had carfully written verses about courage, bravery, and strength. I spent the day before she passed with her in the afternoon talking about her old nursing school friends, her nursing career, and praying over her as she slept. I wrote in my prayer journal a scripture that she had marked down in her own Bible. It says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or tremble for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 30:14. My Grandmother was the strongest person I have ever met. Seriously…I’m not just saying it…she reeeeeally was.

Grandma was a disciplinarian and set the rules pretty clearly. You know, a black and white kind of lady. She never minced words and you always knew where she stood on things. Grandma wasn’t afraid of her opinion. Just ask my mom about the hot slaw incident or my sister about the burrito bowl dinner :). She liked what she liked and you knew it! She also had standards that should be met or she would tell you about it…unapologetically. But you never had to guess with her and you always knew where you stood. She had the courage enough to speak her mind without fear of what people may think. Her courage came in other forms too. My Grandpa passed when Grandma was in her early 60’s and she stepped up and cared for their home, the acres of land, and her family. She was the picture of courage. As a woman in her 60’s she could have easily said: “woe is me” (and who would blame her) but she didn’t. She was strong and courageous. She wasn’t afraid because she knew that God was with her. She poured her heart and soul into taking care of our family, her home, and those she loved. Even in her last days when the chest pain was strong, she powered through better than most people would have

Grandma was also a super hard-worker. Anyone who knew her will tell you she never stopped cleaning, cooking, caring, mending, ironing, hemming, gardening, weed-pulling, shoveling snow, or planning her next “job”. Even though “courage” was a theme I saw running through her Bible, I’m pretty sure she lived by the Proverb 16:27 verse that says “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” So she kept her hands busy! I’m not kidding, a few months ago (after she was told not to get on ladders anymore) she was washing her windows while standing on a step stool. My father caught her and told her she shouldn’t be up on the step stool. Without missing a beat she said, “they said no ladders, this is a step stool.” I mean, how can you argue that?!? She even had a garden this year, albeit small, it was something she would talk about. Although she never thought her green beans would amount to anything this year, my Aunt just picked a good helping from her garden…she would have had a good laugh about that! Just in the week of her passing she cleaned and cut green beans for my Mom and ironed two shirts for my Dad. This woman was no joke.

I know my blog is about nutrition so here’s the food/nutrition part of the story: Grandma was an old farm girl. She could cook anything from scratch. The tales of her growing up on the farm were my absolute favorite stories Grandma told. No refrigerator, no electricity, no fancy kitchen equipment but everything was scratch made. Incredible! One day I’ll get into those stories more because I think we can learn a thing or two about food and nutrition from the way they cook/ate back then but for now, this isn’t my point. My Grandma could cook and bake well but if you asked her, she’d tell you she wasn’t a good cook because she needed a recipe. This always made me laugh because I don’t know of any dish she made that I didn’t like. My brother will tell you her pumpkin pies were out-of-this-world and my sister would say that her Texas sheet cake was good enough to eat the entire sheet. Every single one of her 12 grandchildren had a favorite Grandma dessert or food that we are all going to miss so dearly. She poured out her heart and soul and love into everything she made for us. My brother wrote a wonderful eulogy for her funeral that talked about Grandma’s love and boy did he hit the nail on the head especially when it came to her loving us through the food she prepared.

Last summer I had the honor and privilege to go over to Grandma’s house and make her infamous potato salad by her side. She taught me the ropes. She showed me what made it so good and I’m pretty sure it was the amount of times she licked her finger to clean the rim of the bowl so it was presentable for the picnic, just saying. We cooked together, chatted about life, she showed me her techniques, and we just enjoyed each other. Grandma taught me that making food for your family was much more than just the food prepared. It’s about the process, the journey, the love, and the memories. I wrote her a letter after that day…because that day meant so much to me. I put it in her car (yes she was still driving last summer). Grandma never mentioned anything about that letter but I just found it this week. She saved it and dated it. That day meant just as much to her as it did to me.

Grandma made Sunday dinner every.single.Sunday for the entire family for years. My parents took over a while back when they built a big garage to house the growing number of our family but Grandma was the center of these after-church meetings. It was critically important that we all gathered as often as possible to share in our week and eat the potluck food that was prepared with love. She built our family (4 children, 12 grandchildren, and 12+ great-grandchildren) with these Sunday dinners. All of us cousins are more like siblings and even the second-cousins are becoming so very close all because of Grandma. Some have moved away but there’s a bond and a love that goes deeper than distance and time.

This is what love looks like

Food and fellowship, love and discipline, hard work and courage…that was my Grandma. I will miss her so dearly and my heart aches thinking of all the voids that will be left because of her absence on this earth but I am so grateful for her life. I’m so blessed to have had her for 34 years of mine. I’m beyond blessed that we moved back hometown and we were able to spend this last year visiting with her. I cannot begin to tell you how valuable her life was to me and how much I have learned from that old farm girl turned nurse, turned mother, turned grandmother, turned great-grandmother, turned hero.

She never told me she loved me…ever. Over the past couple months, it became a joke! “Just say it!” I thought. But she never vocalized it. What I realize now is that she said it in more ways than just those simple words “I love you.” She said it through showing her courage. She said it by spending countless hours working on one thing or another for us. She said it by cooking potato or macaroni salad for me. She said it by letting me into her kitchen on that beautiful day to watch as she made potato salad. She said it by telling me the stories of the farm or nursing school or her nursing days. She said it by inviting my children into her house and letting my daughter drink chocolate milk or hot chocolate and letting the twins run amuck through her living room. She told me she loved me by giving me advice and lately she would say to me “Amanda, life may seem hard now but raising my children was the best time of my life.” She said it by letting me tell her I loved her because she knew I needed to say it.

Death is sad for the living but as a Christian, it is bitter-sweet. You see, she is with Jesus and some sweet day I will be too. Until then Grandma has given a great example of how to be courageous, how to work hard, how to cook with love, and that family is so deeply important. I think we can all learn a thing or two from Grandma Mae. She will be deeply missed by those who love her but we will continue her legacy the best we can.

Grandma enjoyed visits from her namesake (my daughter) Emma Mae

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is GOD! He is a faithful God, keeping His promises of love to a thousand generations of those who love and keep His commandments.” – Deuteronomy 7:9

Give them Breakfast!

Look…kids (and everyone else) need breakfast. Research shows that kiddos who eat breakfast do better in school, behave better, and have more energy for play/sports later in the day.

I’m a huge advocate of the school breakfast program. Use this resource!!!! But if you are feeding breakfast to your child at home, here are some tips for a smooth morning and some ideas to feed your kiddo!

Breakfast Tips:

  1. Wake up earlier. Mom’s, I know you are already strapped for time and tired. I’m there, in the trenches with you but waking up just 15 minutes earlier to get your kiddos breakfast can keep your kiddos healthy and doing well in school.
  2. Get things ready the night before. Have lunches packed, school bags ready to go, and clothes picked out. This reduces stress in the morning and allows more time to eat a nice calm breakfast.
  3. Let your children help pick out breakfast. If they are involved and invested in what they are eating they’ll be willing to eat a more balanced breakfast.
  4. Have a few grab-and-go breakfasts available. Come on, we all know that some mornings are just hot messes. Even if we don’t plan on these types of mornings, they happen and it’s so important to have a plan B.

Before getting breakfast ideas here are a few breakfast guidelines:

  1. Stay full with PROTEIN (pick one)
    • Animal: eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, string cheese, turkey sausage
    • Plant: peanut butter, other nut butter, nuts, soy sausage
  2. Get some ENERGY with Carbohydrates (pick one and/or a fruit)
    • Whole grains: cereal (Cheerios, Mini Wheats, look for at least 3 grams of fiber and 10 grams or less of sugar), oat meal, hot quinoa, whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, buckwheat pancakes
    • Fruits: fresh, frozen, canned in light syrup
  3. Extras for FLAVOR (pick one and/or a veggie)
    • Heart healthy fats: nuts, avocado, oils, peanut butter, nut butter, chia seeds, flax seeds
    • Vegetables: onions, peppers, mushrooms, spinach, salsa, tomatoes, fresh, frozen, canned
Blueberry Spinach Smoothie

20 Super Awesome Balanced Breakfasts Before School

  1. Cheerios with milk, banana, and peanut butter
  2. Whole grain English muffin, with an egg, slice of cheese, and a tomato
  3. Scrambled eggs with whole wheat bread and salsa
  4. Super Awesome Smoothie (frozen fruit, handful of spinach, chia seeds, milk, Greek yogurt)
  5. Banana burrito (whole grain tortilla, peanut butter, banana)
  6. Yogurt parfait (Greek yogurt, fruit, chia seeds, sprinkle of granola)
  7. Breakfast burrito (whole grain tortilla, egg, peppers/onion/black olives)
  8. Fruit salad wrap (whole grain tortilla, ricotta cheese, fresh berries, slivered almonds, drizzle of honey)
  9. Oatmeal with walnuts and blueberries
  10. Overnight oats with apples, cinnamon, and almonds (oatmeal, Greek yogurt, milk, chopped apples, cinnamon, and almond in a glass jar overnight in the refrigerator and microwaved in the morning)
  11. Whole grain waffles with peanut butter and jelly
  12. Buckwheat pancakes with turkey sausage
  13. English muffin with Canadian bacon, tomatoes, and green peppers
  14. Hard-boiled egg with whole grain toast
  15. Cottage cheese and fruit
  16. Breakfast sweet potato with vanilla Greek yogurt and cinnamon
  17. Breakfast pizza (whole grain English muffin, tomato, and shredded mozzarella cheese)
  18. Whole grain mini bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, and veggies
  19. Mini quiches (scrambled eggs, veggies, Canadian bacon or turkey sausage, shredded cheese – make ahead and freeze)
  20. Apple sandwiches (core apples, slice so they are in circles, put peanut butter inside, and eat!)

You don’t have to make them hard. These are relatively easy with little prep work.

What are your favorite go-to breakfasts?

Let Them Play

I am an adult dietitian. I’m not an expert in child nutrition…at all. So far I have one semi-picky child and two boys who eat just about anything you set in front of them. Like these dudes genuinely enjoy eating. I have pictures to prove the joy they get out of eating/playing. Is it a fluke? Maybe. Maybe not. Just last month I went to a conference and heard a speaker talk about eating behaviors in children. Letting children play with food can actually make them less picky. Seriously, no one wants a picky eater. So maybe letting them play can actually encourage them to eat better, healthier.

Because I have 2 kids who eat just about everything and one who eats fair (there are many frustrating meals and also some good ones thrown in there), I’ve learned that the oldest child is definitely the experimental one (I was the oldest too). Kids following the first may have a significant advantage! HAH! All kidding aside here’s what I see between my kiddos in how I fed them/allow them to eat. This may be the key to lessen picky eating…or it could just be a coincidence? Eh either way it’s worth a shot to try!

With my daughter I was going to do everything “perfect”. First-time parent syndrome. I was going to be the perfect dietitian-mom. All organic, low sugar, homemade everything, no fast food, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah. Yep I was one of those. I made all of her food for the first 2 years of her life. Seriously. Day care provided lunch but I packed hers. I spoon fed her (obviously) when she was a baby. She never got very messy when she ate…at all. Despite my best efforts I made the same few foods over and over and over and over again because, as a working mom, I could only do so much.

The boys are a different story all together. They are rainbow babies and after a high risk pregnancy my outlook on raising children changed a little…and they aren’t my first AND there are 2 of them. I ain’t got time to be perfect! 😉 Besides watching their dairy intake, (they have an allergy) those dudes eat whatever.  I let them eat with their hands mainly because I can’t feed them fast enough before they go ballistic so I let them have-at-it. They are 17 months old and have eaten everything from sauerkraut to Thai food to salads and even spicy chili.

This is a Thai cabbage salad the boys devoured!

Meals are messy and, although clean up isn’t awesome, they enjoy eating. Surprisingly more goes into their belly than their highchairs or the floor. They feel their food, squish it, pick it up, pinch it, scoop it, lick it, taste it, and enjoy it. Would I have let my daughter do this? No. Should I have? Maybe.

 
Recently I started inviting my daughter to help me cook and it has worked wonders! She has tried everything she makes and is excited about new recipes, baking, and helping me prepare the food. It’s awesome! She’s playing, learning, trying, tasting, and expanding her palate!

So my conclusion is: let kids play with their food. No matter the age! There are researched benefits to allowing babies, children, and teens play and cook with food…it’s not just me 🙂

  1. Let babies explore food. Feel it, squish, mold, pinch, pick up, lick it, and smear it all up.
  2. Give toddlers a spoon and even if they have a difficult time, let them try to hit their mouth!
  3. Let pre-schoolers start to help in the kitchen.
  4. Kids can begin to help meal planning (and continue to help cook).
  5. Older kids can meal plan and cook simple meals.
  6. Teens can take over in the kitchen! Let them plan, try new cooking techniques, and find recipes.

Check out this great website for kids cooking by ages.

Other great tips:

  1. There is no such thing as “kid foods”. They can eat whatever adults eat…seriously.
  2. You are not a short order cook. What you make for dinner, the family should eat (outside of a food allergy).
  3. Kids do not need to clean their plates but they should taste everything on their plate.
  4. Even if they don’t want to eat everything, taking a “thank you bite” gives your child the opportunity to try the food without the pressure of eating it all. Thank you bites are shown as gratitude for the cook.
  5. Let your kids have foods they like too! Make your kids a meal they truly enjoy once in a while shows them you do know what they like. For instance, macaroni and cheese as their starch or having pizza night (with a veggie of course)!

 

Parenting isn’t about being perfect, it’s about doing your best and knowing what’s best for your children. My daughter probably won’t be picky for the rest of her life (many times it is a power struggle not necessarily the food itself). There are many picky eating “fixes” out there. Try them but don’t make yourself crazy. I hope this helps for some of you out there.

MoM (Month of Me) Exercise

I love being active, taking walks, hiking, kayaking, gardening, strength training, and taking exercise classes (I’m not picky). I also know how important exercising can be. I mean, exercise can improve your health regardless of your weight, health status, diseases, etc. But besides being a dietitian I’m also a real person. Even if I like exercising it’s not top on my priority list. Anyone with me?! After all is said and done during the day many times exercise is just one more thing. One more thing to put on my to-do list and sometimes I just can’t.

Sometimes I strength train in the middle of the chaos

But I have been. I have been putting it on my priority list and you know what, it

So sometimes I jump on my elliptical in the morning with my coffee…what of it?

feels good. Do I do it every day? Nope, that’s not the point. I don’t need to do it every day to know I’m doing something awesome for myself a few times per week. I’m doing it not to lose weight or to look better in a bikini (although those would be nice side effects). I’m doing it because it makes me feel good and strong and empowered and energized.

Listen, you don’t need to buy the newest greatest exercise/nutrition program. You don’t need to go to the trendiest gym and drink the most expensive shakes. You don’t have to listen to some not-so-expert tell you that just a few more crunches and these wonder drinks will make you a better person. You don’t even have to step on a scale and sweat until you feel like dying to be healthy. This I know. I want to tell you this because there’s a lot of mixed messages out there.

If exercise is something you want to do for yourself then do it for you. Don’t do it because the summer is coming. Don’t do it because you feel inadequate around people who do exercise. Don’t do it because someone told you you should. Do it for YOU!

Here’s why I’m exercising more:

  1. It’s me time. I get up early and I’m alone and I get to walk or lift or listen to music. It’s something I can do on my own terms for myself and it’s so peaceful!
  2. I feel stronger. I’m a small human being. If I’m small in stature, I at least want to be strong. I like not having to ask someone to lift something or open something or move something.
  3. I feel empowered. Seeing improvements in my stamina and strength is cool. I like that and it makes me feel like Sheerah. It’s different than feeling stronger…it’s more of how I feel mentally than how I feel physically.
  4. It’s showing my kids that it’s important to be active. I don’t care if they are athletic, I care that they are active. I want them to see mom as a person who enjoys being active. Are you seeing that “active” is the theme?
  5. I want my insides to be healthy. I know from years of education and reading research how amazing moderate physical activity is for your health. I know this and I want that for myself. I want to treat my heart, lungs, and other organs and cells with respect not only in my diet but also in my activity level.
Namaste kids

Listen, I’ve had 3 kids and 2 are twins. I don’t care if I have my 20 year old body back. Seriously. Sure it’d be cool and whatever but honestly I just don’t care that much. Exercising for body image is fine if that’s your deal but as someone who is trained in intrinsic (internal motivation) health coaching, I will tell you that exercising for the sole purpose of body image won’t change your lifestyle forever…that’s not sustainable. What is sustainable is finding what you want out of exercising…beyond your body image.

 

Having a partner or a few partners who will encourage your activity is super helpful. For me, my family is made up of active people…seriously active people. My mom, sister, and husband are my immediate motivators. My mom and I walk a lot and like to try out exercise classes. My sister and I are in the free Tone It Up 8 week Challenge and we check up on each other. My husband and I like to walk together when we can…we also watch the kids while the other is exercising. Pick up some accountability partners!

My beautiful accountability partners

Enjoy it. Do something you enjoy. Walking, biking, hiking, swimming, running, jumping, dancing, whatever! Find something you like to do and do it. Figure out why you want to be active…dig deep. Once you grab a hold of those reasons and make it a lifestyle.

Month of Me

Boy as I typed that it sounded so selfish. I love life. Truly I do. I’m soooo blessed all around and if you asked me on a scale from 1-10 how happy I am, I’d tell you least an 11…because I’ve got joy, ya know?

Me and my gorgeous husband cheering on the Pens

At any rate, I’m a mom of 3 kids 5 and under…2 of those are twin-toddler boys and one is a spunky 5 year old. My job is a nutrition blogger, consultant, stay-at-home mom, and wife. I’m never bored and time for my self is limited. That’s just where I’m at in life…and I’m sure a lot of you out there are right with me. I love being a mom. For real, these kids bring so much sweetness to life I never would have imagined it. I also know that time flies too fast and to enjoy the moment. Most of the time I do…I can do without the whole wiping butts, boogers, and caked on spaghetti sauce from ears and hair buuuuut I do enjoy this stage in life. But sometimes mamma is tired, ya know? Sometimes I just want to run and hide and change my name and sleep until noon and not wipe butts/noses/caked on sauce and never watch PJ Masks again…ever. It’s just how I feel sometimes (and I know other moms do too)…but we wouldn’t give up our mom status for ANYTHING because they bring soooo much joy to our lives.

May is when we celebrate Mother’s Day. I’m taking this month for self care. Throwing caution to the wind and at the risk of sounding selfish, yep I’m taking May to do things for myself. I have a list of things on my “to-do” list that I’m going to check off this month. For me.

  1. Find new doctors – since moving I don’t have a Primary Care Physician (and others) so I’m going to find ones that fit me. I want a doctor that will listen to me, be a straight shooter, practice (or be open to) complementary medicine (both alternative and mainstream medicine), and down to earth. It’s important to understand your overall health and what you can do to improve it!
  2. Exercise regularly – I don’t (regularly)…I know. As a dietitian a healthy diet
    This is legit, raw, un-makeuped Amanda right there…with coffee, on the elliptical, early in the morning

    and exercise go hand in hand but I haven’t exercised regularly since my boys were born. I enjoy being active and exercising but I use #momlife as an excuse, ya know? My sister is a great workout motivator and we signed up for an 8 week exercise plan that I can do at home. I’m not here to advertise anything (it’s free) but I’m hoping it will be a good start to a lifelong change. I need to make time for myself to exercise. And I will.

  3. Read my Bible daily – sure I read my Bible but it’s not every day. It’s a few times a week and those times are incredible. I love my Jesus and in order to be a better me I need Him and I need His word. This is a huge part of my self care. I want to start with Jesus every day when it is quiet. I need to go to bed earlier so I can be sure to get up for some kid-free time!
  4. Connect – When I resigned from my job I gained precious time with my
    These ladies are some of the most amazing co-workers a girl could have ever asked for!

    children (and I don’t regret it for a second) but I also lost a lot (just being real). I lost my career, I lost my professional identity, I lost some of my dearest friends (I didn’t lose them but I don’t get to see/talk to them as much as I want), I lost affirmations that I was good at my job, and I lost the ability to talk to tons of people on a weekly basis. I LOVE people. Seriously. I miss having adult connection and it’s up to me to get out there, make friends, and connect with people.

  5. Say “yes” more – I’m pretty good about saying no if I feel like I can’t take something on. What I haven’t been good at is saying “yes” to different opportunities and sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s not. I use the kids as an excuse because if you’ve had twins you know it’s really not an excuse! haha but I don’t want to have regrets and I want to show my children it’s OK to be adventurous, try different things, be involved, say yes (all relatively safe and within the will of God…amIright!?). More to come on this one…I may have a surprise for you all! 🙂
  6. Cook different foods – I tend to cook “safe” foods for me and my family. Familiar, trusted, quick, easy recipes. Well…when I made the Thai chicken salad with peanut dressing a while back I was blown away at the flavor and that I COULD cook with an Asian flair and it WAS delicious! I’m going to make a list of recipes or ideas that look delicious and try them. I just may surprise myself…and my family.
  7. Date my husband – this is as much for me as it is for him, and as much for
    My buddy and me!

    us as it is for our children. We are best friends. When I say that I mean it. He’s my buddy, my pal. A happy marriage takes work and isn’t easy but it’s so worth it. My parents are fantastic and have given us so many more opportunities to have date nights since we moved closer to them. We aren’t super intentional about date nights and we need to be. I need us to be.

  8. Enjoy each day – Listen, being a stay at home mom is no walk in the park (neither is being a working mom but that’s a blog for another time). I’m at 3 kids beacon calls all day every day. I don’t get a vacation. But let me tell you something. I’ve gained what most working moms dream – I get the priceless opportunity to watch these babies grow up, meet milestones, take their first steps, say their first words, do all of the funny and wonderful things that kids do. I missed a lot of that when I worked while my daughter was little. I have a blessed life with a beautiful home, a loving husband, 3 amazing and healthy kids, wonderful parents, an amazing family, some of the best friends a girl could ever ask for, 2 encouraging church families, and little to no stress. So I need to enjoy/count my blessings.

This is going to be raw sometimes I’m sure. I’m going to feel uncomfortable writing some things because if you’re a mom, you know that it’s taboo to be “selfish”. It’s hard to be vulnerable but that’s all part of this journey for me…to say yes, to put myself out there, to connect, to be healthier, to be a better wife/mom/me.

Stay tuned as I walk this journey. I may have more things I want to do…or want to start to do! I sincerely hope you gain something from this and you take your own self-care journey. For you.

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!

This Shrimp is Bangin’

When I was a kid, every year my family would take a trip to the Carolinas. Not just immediate family but the extended family too. A lot of us. Sometimes more than 20 people would share an enormous beach house. We didn’t eat out…I mean, how could you!? Fun fact, we still go to the beach. It’s not every year nowadays…we are much bigger and it’s hard to get everyone there the same week but we try. These were some of the best memories I have as a child and I’m excited to keep the tradition going with my children.

Yes, that is me and my sister…as adults…playing in the ocean…

When in the Carolinas, you should eat shrimp. When in Rome… At least one night that week there was a huge fish and shrimp feast and ohmagoodness it was delicious! Shrimp, where we go, is very inexpensive compared to purchasing it at a grocery store in the north so we took full advantage! My parents usually took a few pounds home with us too so that we could have some in the winter…what a treat!

I decided to use this post as an ode to the shrimp recipe my family prepares and come up with a new one. I love bang-bang-shrimp but I’m not a huge fan of the whole deep fried shrimp thing. I wanted to make a non-deep fried version that has just as much flavor and similar crunch. Both recipes are quite different but both are posting with tons of flavor and are lean.

Nutrition Side Notes:

  • If you are allergic to shellfish you will be allergic to shrimp. Bottom line, don’t eat it! 🙂
  • Yes, shrimp is higher in cholesterol (3 ounces provides about 166 mg of cholesterol) but so are eggs, beef, and pork. All animal products have cholesterol (anything with a liver has cholesterol).
  • Just as other fish, it is best to buy shrimp that is wild caught not farm raised to avoid antibiotics, fungicides, and other potentially harmful chemicals. There are also pollutants found in some wild caught shrimp from the water. If the water is polluted so are the fish found in it. Source it responsibly.
  • Shrimp has a lot of nutrients including selenium and B12.
  • Shrimp is low in fat compared to other animal meat.
  • If you like shrimp, just like with other animal products, eat it in moderation and enjoy!

 

Bang Bang Shrimp

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of shrimp
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 green onion minced
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons flaked coconut (use whatever coconut you have)
  • SERVE WITH: sweet chili sauce, brown rice, and stir fry veggies

Directions:

  1. Peel and devein shrimp (you can buy it already done but it will cost you) and place in bowl.
  2. In a gallon zipper bag place ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper
  3. Juice lime over shrimp and toss gently. Place shrimp in bag with spices (close the bag) and toss.
  4. Open bag and place corn starch, panko bread crumbs, and minced onion inside. Close and toss.
  5. Place shrimp on cookie sheet and set broiler to high. Place shrimp under the broiler (second shelf) and cook for 2-5 minutes each side.
  6. Once shrimp is cooked through, serve with brown rice, stir fry veggies, and sweet chili sauce.

The sweet chili sauce does have some added sugar. Listen, some added sugar is OK but watch portion sizes!

Twist on my families “Carolina Shrimp”

Ingredients:

  • 1# shrimp
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/2 Lime
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 can/bottle beer (your choice I used Corona Light)
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • Old Bay seasoning (at least 2 tablespoons but use more if you love it)

Directions:

  1. Heat a pot or electric skillet on medium-high heat. Squeeze lemon and lime and add green onion and garlic to the pot. Sauté until onion is translucent.
  2. Add beer, apple cider vinegar, and Old Bay to the pot and heat until simmering.
  3. Add shrimp and cook about 5 minutes or until shrimp is done. It doesn’t take long so make sure you don’t overcook (it will get gummy).
  4. Serve with cocktail sauce (ketchup and horseradish).

I served the bang bang shrimp with brown rice and stir fry veggies. The Carolina Shrimp can be served with baked French fries and a salad or eaten on top of a salad. I make my own cocktail sauce with ketchup and horseradish (you can put more Old Bay in that too).

Shrimp is expensive up here in the north. It’s definitely for a special occasion! If you can get shrimp locally (wherever you are) go for it! It will probably be about half the price. Enjoy my friends!

Buffalo Turkey Burgers

We were qualifying for a tricycle race…and having a blast as usual.

Have you ever met someone who not only becomes a person you want to be friends with forever but you also share so much in common in life that you become soul sisters? That’s Heather for me and this is the story of our Buffalo Turkey Burgers.

A few years ago my dear friend/fellow dietitian Heather and I decided to do a healthy spin on a burger. We love burgers and buffalo chicken so why not combine the two! You have to understand a few things about the both of us. Not only do we like burgers, buffalo chicken, ketchup (French fries are just the transportation to get ketchup in our mouths), and dessert…we like healthy foods too 😉 We’ve followed each other throughout our careers, working at the same places and usually at the same time. Surprisingly, both of us have identical twins and thankfully I had Heather to support me on the journey to being a new twin mom (I couldn’t have made it through the pregnancy without her encouragement). Oh yeah, we also really love nutrition, cooking/eating food, and we really really like helping people on their personal nutrition journeys. This dynamic duo is fly by the seat of our pants, outside the box, not-your-ordinary dietitians…that’s us and that’s how we roll.

Now that you know our back story here’s how these fantastic burgers came to be. We made up the recipe to be used for a public event. Although we love to fly by the seat of our pants, we definitely had to practice at least once before it was show time and what better audience than the honesty of a children. So we held a run-through with her kiddos. They filmed it, rated us, tried the burgers and…IT WAS A HIT! They loved it! If we could please a bunch of kids then we knew we had a winning recipe on our hands. She actually still makes it for her kids…it’s one of their favorite meals.

We added veggies to the meat and then served veggies on the side with a ranch hummus dip. Listen, we are moms and sometimes we need to fit in as many veggies that we can for our family. When I prepared this for mine the other night my daughter said “Mom, the shreddy carrots really make it good.” Sure does young squire, sure does. This is my spin on our Buffalo Turkey Burgers.

Shreddy carrots…and celery, garlic, and green onion.

Side note: this recipe featured here is not gluten or dairy free. I will show you how to make them both as at the end.

Buffalo Turkey Burgers

Burger Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (you can definitely use your own dry mix if you make it…this stuff has artificial flavors in it so it’s not my favorite but it’s delicious)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey (97/3 or 99% fat free)
  • 1/4 cup minced or finely shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup minced or finely shredded celery
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 minced green onion
  • 1/4-1/2 whole wheat bread crumbs (I usually don’t use these but have on hand if needed and this week I needed)
  • Franks Buffalo Wing Sauce (no amount here, use to your desired spiciness)
  • Whole grain buns
  • Lettuce, tomato, onion, banana peppers, pickles, etc

Hummus Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 packet Bushes hummus starter (it’s got everything you need and no extra stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
  • Carrots and celery (to dip into the hummus)

Directions:

  1. Combine dry ranch, egg, turkey, carrots, celery, garlic, onion, and wing sauce. Add bread crumbs if the mixture seems too wet. You want the burgers to stick together!
  2. Split the meat mixture. For sliders, make 2-3 ounce patties. For burgers make 4 ounce patties.
  3. Grill, broil, or skillet fry the burgers. I used my cast iron skillet (I use this for just about everything).
  4. Ensure that the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees!
  5. While the burgers are cooking start making the hummus. Combine chickpeas, hummus starter, and dry ranch to a food processor. Blend until smooth. If you do not have a food processor use a zipper sealed bag! Seriously, it works just fine.
  6. Serve the burgers on whole wheat buns with hummus, carrots, and celery on the side.

NOTES:

  • To make dairy free simply add ranch style spices: dill, parsley, more garlic. For my sons I just omitted the ranch dressing mix all together (and the wing sauce).
  • To make gluten free omit the bread crumbs. If you need to use another dry binder use gluten free oats. Instead of serving it on a bun you can serve it on a salad with beans. I did for lunch and it was quite delicious! REMEMBER if you are eating gluten free you still need starches (carbohydrates). You can’t just eat the burger on lettuce and call it a day. Serve it with rice, fruit, beans, or a gluten free bun.
  • I omitted the wing sauce from this entire recipe for my family. Normally I wouldn’t because kids should try different foods even if they are spicy but I decided to let my family use the wing sauce instead of ketchup on the burger if they chose.
  • I put the wing sauce on the hummus…woah…delish! I recommend that!
Turkey burger on a salad. Delicious!