Food and Nutrition

Heart and Soul

It’s February and I had planned on focusing a lot on love and relationships. Of course it’s the shortest month and somehow I have the most ideas for posts!


Today I want to address relationships with food- specifically comfort or soul foods. It’s taken me a while to really build a strong relationship with food and I’ve discovered how hard that can be. Growing up my parents really did try to feed us healthy foods, but unfortunately I grew up during the height of the low fat foods and diet soda phase. While my parents thought they were feeding us the best of the best, society got it wrong for a while. Don’t get me wrong, my parents fed me fresh fruit and veggies from our garden and I was always that kid with the “brown bread” instead of the fluffy white bread my friends had. The only soda we’d have in the house was diet and we only got to have it on special occasions. To this day, root beer reminds me of a sunny summer day when my sister and I helped my dad with a dump run (if you live where I do, you have to load the truck up and take your own trash to the dump) and when we got home the three of us split a root beer straight out of the can, passing it around in the sunshine.

When I meet with clients I not only ask what foods they currently eat, but also what foods they ate as children.  We don’t realize it, but we are constantly making connections with food and those connections help form our lives later on.  Here’s the most important thing I want to share with you- sometimes you need to feed your soul and it’s okay to do just that.  Let me repeat myself, sometimes you need to feed your soul and it’s okay to do just that.  I hate using the word”bad” when it comes to food, because while some foods really aren’t good for you, the word “bad” has such a negative connotation and can take us back to the misuse of the word diet.

So, here is your permission to feed your soul.  Ideally we want to find things to feed our soul besides food (sunshine, walks with your dog, hikes, a good book, laughter), but sometimes it is food.  Here are the steps you can follow to allow yourself a healthy amount of “soul food”.

  1. Find out what food truly feeds your soul.  I don’t mean just ice cream, I mean mint chocolate chip ice cream on a hot summer day.  Be specific.  You can’t have everything be your “soul food”.  You may have 2-3 specific foods that you crave when you’re feeling down.  Identify them and acknowledge them.
  2. See if you can make those foods any healthier.  Can you alter the recipe without altering the feeling the food gives you?  Can you cut back on the serving size and still be satisfied?
  3. Limit those foods.  Make them special occasion foods (and not just birthdays, but days where you really need them).  Don’t keep them around the house if you are going to turn to them everyday.
  4. Try something else.  Like I mentioned above, it’s good to feed your soul with non-food items.  When you are craving that special something, try going for a walk instead.  Try calling up an old friend.  Try something else.
  5. When you indulge in the “soul food”, pay attention.  Why do you want this thing right now?  What happened in your day?  Could you deal with things differently?  Can you make any changes so you don’t have to indulge in food to “feel better”?
  6. Relive the memories.  Most “soul foods” have a specific memory that make them special to you.  When you are enjoying that item, go over the memory (or memories) in you mind.  What else makes you feel that way?  What else does that memory remind you of?  Hold on to those.
  7. Let yourself know it’s okay.  Sometimes you really just need to feel better and the simple way may be to eat a chocolate Costco muffin all by yourself.  Remind yourself these feelings are okay and gently think of other ways to deal with these emotions.

We don’t want to build unhealthy relationships with food.  Ideally you’ll get to the point where your “soul food” is the traditional family dish made at your favorite holiday.  And it brings you joy because you consume it surrounded by love and your favorite holiday.  The point is not to beat yourself up along the way.  We don’t go from unhealthy relationships to healthy ones in a single day.  It takes time.  My hope is that some day you are able to look back and say, “I’ve made some amazing, healthy changes in my life and for that I am grateful.”


Food and Nutrition

Give Up The Guilt


Sticking with our positive posts regarding food I want to help you give up the guilt.  How often do you or others around you talk about “guilty pleasure” foods- you know those foods you always want to eat, but try to avoid and maybe you shove them in your mouth quickly before anyone sees.  Well I say stop.  No, don’t stop eating them, stop feeling guilty. Often these food are brought up as a fun thought (guilty pleasure TV show, guilty pleasure movie, guilty pleasure food), maybe some game you play with friends or as a bonding activity.  But as I’ve said before, it’s not healthy to have feelings of guilt and shame around food.

Do I know when I eat something that doesn’t fuel my body in the best way?  Hell yes.  I have a dairy allergy, but I will 100% admit to thinking “this is worth it” before digging into a plate of cheesy fries.  Is it usually worth it?  No.  Feeling like crap the next day (or later that evening) usually isn’t worth it to me, but instead of feeling guilty I acknowledge the choice I made, recognize how it made me feel physically and tuck that away in my brain.  The next time I am faced with the option of cheesy fries, I’ll likely turn them down, not because of guilt, but because I just don’t want to feel yucky the next day.  There’s a difference between listening to your body and shaming yourself for your choices.

I know that eating a doughnut will leave me with a severe sugar crash, my body just does not respond well.  But that doesn’t mean I never eat doughnuts or I only eat them locked in my bathroom where no one will see.  It means I look at the food, decide if it’s what I want at that moment as well as later in the day.  If I don’t have to be my perky, happy self I may just enjoy that doughnut in all it’s glory.  AND if I choose to eat these things, I don’t force myself to “make up” or “burn off” the calories I just ate.  Instead I keep my normal routine.  The idea of exercising just to burn off or make up for extra calories isn’t healthy either.  We need to remove the guilt surrounding food and exercise and find the love in it.

Food and Nutrition

Diet Is Not A Verb


I recently took an online course offered by ACE (American Council on Exercise) for some continuing education requirements.  This specific course was lead by Susan M. Kleiner, PH.D, RD, FACN, CNS, FISSN and one of the slides was titled “Diet is Not a Verb” and it hit me- duh!  I struggle sometimes in explaining my “diet” is not a “diet” but just refers to what I eat.  Most people get confused and I completely understand why.

“Diet” as a verb:

When we use diet as a verb it comes with this negative connotation of restriction and guilt that can be very unhealthy for us mentally.  The idea of dieting is a fairly recent concept and it can be very toxic for us to focus on.

“Diet” as a noun:

Diet, as a noun, talks about what we are physically eating and not a strict plan to follow.  So when I say “I added _______ to my diet” I don’t mean I added it to a limited list of foods I can eat, it means I have incorporated it into the food I’m eating fairly regularly.

One of the lines Dr. Kleiner used that I want to share is, “A diet plan is an important solution.  Dieting may not solve anything.”  It’s so important for our mental and physical health that we keep a good relationship with food.  I do my best not to refer to “bad foods”, “junk foods”, etc. and I try not to tell people “no” to any food choices (allergies and addictions are a different story).  Food is mean to fuel us; give us energy to live our best lives.  If we see food in a negative light, it’s hard to appreciate all the good it can do for us.  It’s time we take back the word “diet” and use it in a healthier way.

Food and Nutrition, Life and Happiness

Super Bowl Monday

food-lunch-mexican-nachos.jpgIt’s Monday morning and I am dragging! This weekend was packed fun and I may have indulged more than normal. Saturday my sister and I hosted a party at our house complete with appetizers, desserts and lots of drinks. Then Sunday I went out to lunch before heading to a Super Bowl party. I actually did pretty well at the party, considering what most people imagine Super Bowl eating to be like. But here I am, getting ready to go into work on Monday and I’m wishing I had another day in the weekend to sleep, workout and eat better.

So here’s my plan for this Super Bowl Monday to help me start feeling better.

1. I’m drinking all the water! I know with all the events and parties this weekend I probably didn’t hit my water intake goals, so I’m making sure it happens today!

2. I’m eating my normal breakfast. I still feel kind of yucky from all the foods this weekend, but I know I need to have a healthy, protein packed breakfast to stay on track the rest of today.

3. Snacks and lunch are packed with veggies, specifically those high in fiber. I know my food choices this weekend weren’t the best fiber options so I chose to focus on that.

4. I’m going to bed early tonight. I’m definitely sleepy after this weekend and while I’d love to get a nap in today (I love naps) it’s just not going to happen. Instead I’m planning on crawling into bed an hour earlier than normal. I may just spend that hour reading, but either way I’m going to let my body unwind and relax so I can get a good sleep tonight!

How are you feeling this Monday? Did you indulge this weekend? How do you like to start your week on the right foot? Let me know!

Food and Nutrition

Quality of Calories Matters

food-salad-restaurant-person.jpg We’ve almost all heard the idea that weight loss or gain is based on calories vs. calories out, meaning if you burn more calories than you consume you will lose weight, but if you burn less calories than you consume you will gain weight.  This has been used by fitness professions and companies for years!  Even the popular calorie counting apps, while they may track other nutrients, focus primarily on the number of calories.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple as as much as we wish it weren’t true 100 calories of broccoli is very different than 100 calories of cake.  The good news is, that you shouldn’t feel pressured to count calories any more!  If you want to make some healthy changes, you don’t have to worry about tracking every single number, but instead you should focus on the type of food you’re eating.  Many of us have at least one thing we could change to make our eating healthier- portions, eat more veggies, eat less sweets, eat regularly, cut the sodas, etc.  And for most people who are looking to drop weight or change their body shape I recommend altering that one thing as your starting point.

Take me for example.  I am currently hyper-aware of my food and workouts because I am going through some medically induced hormone shifts.  However, I also discovered some incredible vegan cookies (shout out to Uncle Eddie’s Vegan Cookies- so yummy) and my self-control hasn’t been what it should.  I may have had cookies for my breakfast last Sunday (I know, I know).  I know that if I regained my self-control, limited my cookie intake I could make a difference in my health and especially in my energy.

Some people may be eating a fairly healthy and balanced diet, but they don’t seem to be making the changes they want.  This is where you’d have to look at portions.  Others may pair their food with sugary drinks that lack important nutrients.  They may want to start by focusing on their water intake, or limiting their sugary choices.  Small changes like these can actually make big impacts and can prepare and motivate you to make bigger changes.  Often when I give brand new clients their meal plans they get a little overwhelmed.  Some people may just need to make one or two small changes, which in turn will increase their energy and help them feel better.  Once they see and feel these changes, they’re more likely to want to continue to make healthy changes.

With “empty calories” you get the calorie number, but you lose out on all of the good nutrients you need for your body to thrive.  Your body needs more than calories.  The same goes for people who focus on their macros (macronutrients); if they aren’t paying attention to the micronurtients (calcium, potassium, magnesium, etc.) they can miss out on a lot.  That’s why, regardless of what you are eating you want to mix things up regularly.

So if you are struggling to make some changes, overwhelmed, or just not getting results it may be time to take good look at your diet and make a small change that can improve your eating.  Small changes can lead to big things!  Focus on the quality of the food you are putting in your mouth (add some extra veggies to that burger if you have to!) and get a good variety of foods and you will feel the change!

Fitness, Food and Nutrition

Plant Nanny: An App Review

Lately I’ve been on a kick of downloading and trying a variety of health and fitness apps. Some I download and delete almost immediately, others I keep for a while before deleting and some I’ve kept for quite a while and don’t plan on deleting. Plant Nanny is one I plan to keep!

The basic idea of Plant Nanny is to water a plant by tracking the water you drink throughout the day. You can set your amounts as well as notifications to remind you to drink. You also get to pick the plant and as you grown your garden you can “buy” cute pots or special plants with the seeds you harvest.

For me, I am set at drinking six 15oz bottles of water a day. This actually puts me slightly over what I personally need, but it still works. So each time I finish my water bottle I “water” my plant. If I have a day where I don’t drink much (or forget to check in on the app) my plant will get dry and eventually die.

At first I thought this was a perfect idea to help people keep track of how much water they drink daily and encourage them to drink enough. The more I used it, the cheesier it felt, BUT I kept using it! It’s easy for me to say I get 80-90oz of water daily, but if I don’t keep track I guarantee I won’t get close. So even while I feel the general concept is still pretty cheesy, it works for me.

Review Breakdown:

Ease of use: 10/10

Reminders/prompts: 10/10

Look/feel: 9/10

Overall: 9.5/10

Food and Nutrition

Think Fresh, Think New

I just started a new nutrition class and last week we had our first meeting. It went quite well and we had a lot of topics we wanted to go over. But the biggest thing I took away is that when people think of eating healthy, they think of grilled chicken and a side of veggies. Maybe a kale salad or smoothie, but basically it’s the same food and flavors just recreated day after day. But when I told this group the meals we’d be enjoying over the next 6-weeks included a Mediterranean quinoa salad, southwest salad, chicken and green chili soup and spring roll bowls they were so excited. These were dishes that sounded exciting and flavorful. And they sounded fresh and new.

My biggest downfall with nutrition used to be the same thing. I thought I had to be eating salads, veggies and chicken every day to reach my weight and health goals. I avoided sauces, cheese, etc. (basically anything that makes it taste “good”). And it got boring really fast! I would come home and think, “I really want to order out instead of eating the same old thing.” But once I learned how to make healthy versions of meals with the flavors I love I transformed my “healthy eating” into something much more sustainable.

My favorite dishes are loaded with tomatoes, onions, avocados and cumin. I add black beans and cilantro and corn and put them I soups, on salads and in sandwiches. These are foods that are full of flavor, but also nutrients. And I end up eating a healthy, satisfying meal.

When I look at helping a client address their food intake there are so many factors I have to consider, but I’ve found a new way to focus our plan. First, and foremost we add water! Next we boost up the veggie intake. If they have a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, I ask them to add lettuce, tomatoes, onions and/or any veggies that can think of. Finally I find small tweaks we can make to existing food. For example, people are shocked when I tell them that 1 oz of cheese is around 100 calories. And 1 oz is a thin slice, about the size of two dice. By cutting down on cheese they could make big changes, but most people aren’t willing to give it up. I ask instead that they choose strong, flavorful cheese options (pepper jack, feta, bleu, etc.) and then just use less per serving. Instead of adding a handful of shredded cheddar to your salad try adding some crumbles feta or shredded pepper jack. You can still get the favor, just use less.

Another thing to consider is sauces. I am not about to eat a plain chicken breast and steamed veggies and I don’t think you should have to either. I’ve made some changes to help keep the flavor while eating less empty calories. I picked up a chipotle mayonnaise I use on sandwiches that adds a little kick to my meal. I also use things like BBQ sauce and oil based dressings instead of creamy options like ranch or bleu cheese. I dip veggies in hummus instead of ranch, etc. You don’t have to skip flavor to eat healthy.

My biggest piece of advice on this is to do some research. Determine what your favorite flavors are and find recipes that use these foods/spices. Alter them by adding more veggies, cutting back on empty calories, etc. You won’t stick with a healthy eating plan if it doesn’t taste good. And believe me, you want to stick with that healthy eating plan!

Food and Nutrition

Supplements: Necessary or a Waste of Money?

So for years I’ve been asking that my clients focus on real, whole foods instead of protein powders and supplements. But I’m still constantly bombarded with client questions on the lastest shake or pill that is supposed to help them reach all their goals. So after reading an article from ACE (American Council on Exercise), I decided to write this little post to help you all out when it comes to supplements.

So let’s start by saying this- every person is different. Some people may actually benefit from a supplement while others may actually experience harm from the same supplement. There is never a one-size fits all solution to health and wellness. And this leads me to my first point:

  • Most supplements aren’t individualized. Many vitamins and supplements out there have a combination of ingredients and don’t take into account each individual’s current dietary and lifestyle habits. I have different needs then you and that’s totally normal. It wouldn’t make sense for us to both take the same supplements if we have different needs, right?
  • Most healthy adults can get all of the nutrients they need from food alone. We have the sources out there, we just need to include them in our diets. The natural source of these nutrients is what your body knows how to break down and use. You’ll be a lot healthier and happier if you focus on a good diet.
  • Supplements are intended to supplement your diet, not fix your poor eating habits. Most of the people I talk to who are looking at supplements aren’t willing to look at their diet first. You can’t eat fast food every day and think you’re counteracting it by taking a pill. I’m sorry, but that’s not how life works.
  • Supplements may be needed when you are dealing with a nutrient deficiency that has been diagnosed by a doctor. Having a blood panel done can help you and your doctor take a closer look at things. Speaking of your doctor, it’s always important to discuss any supplements you may be interested in with them. Some supplements can interact negatively with medications and can cause serious harm.
  • Many supplements that contain a blend of nutrients aren’t efficient at all since some nutrients block the absorption of others. Also if you aren’t following the directions on the label (take with food, take without food, etc.) your pill may counteract the food you’re eating. It can get quite complicated vey fast.
  • Too much of certain nutrients can actually be very dangerous. My dad was once told to up his muti-vitamin intake to two pills per day. He did it for a few weeks until I came over and he gave me the bottle and asked if doubling it would be ok. The first thing I saw was that each pill contained well over 100% of his daily requirement for Vitamin A (which can build up in the body and become toxic). He was consuming over 200% of vitamin A through just the multi-vitamin, not including his normal food intake.
  • Too much definitely doesn’t mean better. We tend to think that the more we get of something the better it is.  Even if the nutrient you’re getting isn’t  getting stored in the body like Vitamin A it’s not necessary to get over 100% in one pill. For example, Vitamin C is a water soluble Vitamin, meaning that whatever your body doesn’t need (think over 100%) is being excreted in your urine. So you’re essentially flushing money down the drain. Also, high levels of certain nutrients, while maybe not toxic can still bother your digestive system or mess with your body in other ways.
  • Supplement labels are way less controlled than the companies would like us to think. They aren’t required to put the quantity of ingredients on their labels and can sometimes get away with not even including ingredients. As with many labels in the health world, the term “natural” can be thrown around without any actual meaning behind the word. It’s not a regulated term. And while supplements are required to state they are “not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent or cure diseases” they often hid this small print where users aren’t likely to look.

So what does all this mean? It means it’s complicated (sorry). There are definitely certain cases where supplements are beneficial. For example, after doing some research and speaking with my doctor I started supplementing with magnesium and Vitamin D to help with my endometriosis. I’ve been happy to see that my symptoms are significantly less sever with the addition of these two items. It’s important to take an indivdualized approach to supplements and realize that more often than not you don’t need the lastest pill or powder to make you healthier. Always talk with a professional before adding any supplements into your diet and avoid those multi-vitamins that are loaded with 100% of everything! Look for companies that are transparent with their ingredients and use minimal “extras”. Remember, health is not one-size fits all in any way! Every person is a unique individuals with unique needs. Before you reach for anything on a shelf, try gaining some knowledge, preferably from an actual professional!

Food and Nutrition

What Happens When Life Gets in the Way?

Today I had quite the experience, battling my own body and mind over good food choices.  It’s so important to listen to our bodies and once we refocus and realign our bodies, they are great at telling us when, and even what, to eat. I’ve been working hard on refocusing my food intake, so here I am, eating when my body tells me I’m hungry and it’s going great! But this morning I had to do some fasting blood work- yuck! So I woke up a little early, showered and got dressed. I got ready and left for the lab. It only took about 25 minutes, but by the time I got back home I was starving! I shoved down my regular breakfast, took my tea to go and headed off to work. By about 9:30 this morning I was already day dreaming about what to have for dinner. And I wasn’t dreaming about the leftovers in my fridge which I have been loving. Instead I was dreaming about fast food. Yup, that greasy, salt-packed crap. Now I do think part of it had to do with the fact that my dad and I watched the NBA Finals last night (Go Warriors!) and we commented on all of the fast food commercials. So clearly the food was on my mind. But back to the story- I pushed the thought out of my head and went on with my day.

I did pretty well today, ignoring the impulse to take my car through a drive-thru, and I focused on making good choices, that would still leave me satisfied.  In the end I probably had more sodium then desirable and I may or may not be snacking on some Girl Scout Cookies as I write this, but overall I’d say it was a win (considering).

Life is really good at getting in the way of our food and fitness choices.  People invite you to dinner or events when you should really be hitting the gym.  You wake up late and don’t have time to pack lunch so instead you go out to eat.  You get a nasty cold and can’t workout for a few days or get the flu and can’t eat all the best foods.  The important thing is that you, breathe, fix the issues you can and accept those you can’t, then make the best choice you can based on your situation.  You want to go to dinner with your friends?  Maybe you stay at the gym an extra 30 minutes one day and choose a healthy entree at dinner.  You don’t have time to pack lunch?  Try to go to the grocery store instead of a restaurant and grab some fresh fruits and veggies as part of your lunch.  And be sure to set your alarm the next day so it doesn’t happen again!  You get sick?  Focus on hydration and eating the best foods you can while sick, and remember to stay active and eat well when you aren’t sick.

A lot of people follow an 80/20 or 90/10 diet where they eat the right foods 80 (or 90) percent of the time, so that when they do slip up, it’s ok.  You can do this with fitness too.  Stay on track and focused when you can so that when you are too sick, or even have an injury you can rest up!  So while I had a rough day, and had to really focus and not allow myself to give in, I am ready to start fresh again tomorrow knowing that overall, today didn’t do much harm to my health goals at all!

Food and Nutrition

Sugary Drink Suprises

I am lucky enough to get to work with school aged kids on nutrition somewhat regularly. Sometimes this is a blessing because they don’t have that internet nutrition knowledge I face with adults. Other times it can be hard to get the kids to focus, especially since nutrition isn’t always something they can see. I try to surprise or shock the kids as much as I can in hopes that these big suprises might stick with them. We had been discussing sugary foods and the kids seemed to get the idea and I noticed they knew a lot about what kids of foods have sugar, both natural and added. So I decided to throw some drinks at them to test their knowledge.

They were shocked at some of the results. I thought I would share some of our numbers with you to see how much you know about sugar-filled beverages.

To start, we reviewed that kids 4-8 years old should only have about 3 teaspoons of sugar and those over 8 should only have 6-9 teaspoons.  We then compared 10 different drinks including iced teas, sodas and juice. We started by looking at how much sugar was in each can/bottle. Here is what we found:

32 oz. McDonald’s Sweet Tea: 9.5 tsp (38g)

20 oz. Arizona Iced Tea: 13.125 tsp (52.5g)

20 oz. Gatorade: 8.75 tsp (35g)

12 oz. Dr. Pepper: 10.25 tsp (41g)

12 oz. Cherry Coke: 10.5 tsp (42g)

12 oz. Mug Rootbeer: 10.75 tsp (43g)

12 oz. Mountain Dew: 11.5 tsp (46g)

12 oz. Sunkist: 13 tsp (52g)

15.2 oz. Minute Maid Cranberry Grape Juice: 18.05 tsp (72.2g)!! 

8 oz. Nesquik Chocolate Milk: 5.5 tsp (22g)
The kids were pretty shocked to see how much sugar was actually in a “fruit” juice and how “little” there was in chocolate milk. We talked about natural sugar that could be found in the fruit, but also about how cranberry is a tart fruit and thatmost cranberry juice has tons of added sugar to make it taste better. Of course there are some smart kids and they wanted to know which drink had the most sugar per sip (we did the math for grams of sugar per ounce, but “sip” makes more sense to most people).

McDonald’s Sweet Tea had the least amount of sugar per taste at 1.19g/oz and the Cranberry Grape Juice had the most with 4.75g/oz! Here is the order below from least to most sugar:

  • McDonald’s Sweet Tea 
  • Gatorade 
  • Arizona Iced Tea
  • Nesquik Chocolate Milk 
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Cherry Coke
  • Mug Rootbeer 
  • Mountain Dew 
  • Sunkist Orange Soda
  • Minute Maid Cranberry Grape Juice

After sharing these numbers with the kids we talked a lot about thinking critically about the foods we eat and beverages we drink. It didn’t take them very long to realize that companies will add sugar to make less sweet things taste “better”. They already knew sodas had lots of sugar, but they didn’t all realize the added sugar in other drinks. I hope it opened their eyes to things and I hope this can open your eyes too.