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!

Spinach, Kale, and Artichoke Dip

I’m a sucker for warm dips. From buffalo chicken, to crab, and spinach artichoke dip. There’s nothing better to eat on a brisk football Saturday or Sunday than a savory warm dip! I watch the Food Network a lot…by a lot I mean some of the cooks/chefs are no longer guests in my house but members of the family (Guy, I’m talking about you!). I’m inspired by their passion for food and cooking as well as their funny personalities. Lately I have been watching Nancy Fuller who has a show called “Farm House Rules”. Many of her dishes are high fat, calorie, salt, sugar, etc but the reason I like her is the love she puts into her food. The other day she was making spinach dip and it inspired me. I wanted to make a rendition of warm spinach and artichoke dip that is packed with nutrients, has a little less calories, and a little less fat but still tastes amazing!

When I’m creating recipes I take ideas from many different sources. Whether it is just general knowledge of food science and nutrition or it is various recipes that I have read I tend to tie all of that together and viola, a new recipe. I sent my husband to the store for these ingredients and let him run wild on the brands. I don’t usually have a specific brand that I’m attached to because I’m a budget shopper and try to select the least expensive yet healthiest option.

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Missing from the photo is chopped frozen kale.

In any rate I heated a medium pot over medium-high heat, added oil, garlic, and onions. I sauteed these until the unions were soft and began literally throwing in the other ingredients. It was pretty simple and took me about 10 minutes overall. I made it in a pot but you could also make it in a slow cooker for game day and keep in on warm the entire day stirring it once in a while. Notice my shortcut garlic and short cut onions. Those are staples in my house (check out my blog on kitchen short cuts).

Nutrition Lesson: Unlike a typical spinach artichoke dip I used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, 1/3 less fat cream cheese (neufchatel cheese…an actual French cheese), and part skim mozzarella cheese. I do not like fat free options unless it’s yogurt or milk. Especially when something should have fat (sour cream is literally cream [fat] that has been soured) it probably needs that fat to be that product…follow me? All cheese needs fat to keep it together including cream cheese. If you completely take out an essential ingredient like fat you have to add other things to it. There’s way too many food additives in what we eat so my tip is either use an alternative ingredient (like Greek yogurt) or use the real deal and just eat less.

Back to the recipe. I enjoyed playing with this recipe. It was the first time I’ve made it and it turned out pretty good! The only changes I would make would be to add even more veggies including artichokes (probably 1 1/2-2 cans), cooked cauliflower, shredded carrots, and shredded zucchini. I think they would be fantastic additions to this and boost those antioxidants!

Spinach, Kale, and Artichoke Dip
Ingredients:
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup diced onion (add more if you like)
8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese
16 oz plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 oz shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1, 14 oz can artichoke hearts in brine, chopped (save the brine)
8 oz chopped frozen kale (defrosted and drained)
10 oz chopped frozen spinach (defrosted and drained)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Directions:
Heat canola oil over medium high heat in pot. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and diced onion. Saute until onion is tender. Lower heat to medium – low heat and add cream cheese, yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. Add chopped artichoke hearts and the brine and mix. Place kale and spinach in the cheese mixture and mix. Sprinkle nutmeg, pepper, and salt and mix. Allow dip to cook until ingredients marry (about 5 minutes). Place in serving dish, slow cooker, or keep warm on the stove until service.

NOTE: this is definitely a make ahead dip! Make it ahead and keep refrigerated until the party. Take it out and place into a small slow cooker. Serve with whole grain tortilla chips (corn, wheat, mix of grains). Nutmeg may seem weird but it adds another dimension of flavor!

Dietary restrictions: this recipe is gluten free (get GF tortilla chips), vegetarian, nut free, and soy free

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Final thoughts: Eating healthy doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or fun. This recipe isn’t the lowest in calories but it is better than the original and also provides some nutrients through the veggies, probiotics with the yogurt, and and protein with the cheese. Enjoy!

Challenge: even if you don’t make “healthier” versions of your game-day favorites, just simply eating smaller portions. This will help your overall health!