Prebiotics & Probiotics: What’s all the Hype About?

By Darieli Sanchez, Dietetic Intern

The human body is filled with good and bad bacteria, and while that might sound alarming, the good bacteria work hard to keep us healthy. Most bacteria in the body live in the colon6, where they help break down food, absorb vitamins, protect against harmful bacteria, and more. By consuming pre- and probiotics, we can increase the ratio of good to bad bacteria and possibly improve our overall health.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Whether we know what they are or not, many of us have heard the term probiotic. Basically, probiotics are living organisms, mainly bacteria, that we can ingest by way of fermented foods or supplements. By doing so, we’re directly adding beneficial bacteria to the gut.

Prebiotics are a different story, as not many people are familiar with them. Unlike probiotics, they’re not living organisms, they’re what feed them. Prebiotics are indigestible food components such as fiber that provide the necessary fuel for good bacteria to thrive.

These probiotic foods have been fermented by adding healthy bacteria.
Probiotic supplements contiain bacteria that have been freeze dried and made into a powder.
 Prebiotics are found in fiber rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.


Importance of Gut Health

So, what’s the big deal? Why is it so important to maintain a healthy gut? Believe it or not the good bacteria in the gut affect the entire body, here are just a few ways:

  1. Weight Control – studies suggest that gut bacteria diversity increases metabolism, which could lead to increased weight loss5.
  2. Decrease Inflammation and Insulin Resistance – other studies have found that low diversity of gut bacteria may lead to the production of inflammatory chemicals that cause insulin resistance1.
  3. Improve Brain Function and Mood – although it’s shocking to think that something originating in the gut can affect the brain, scientists are starting to find that gut bacteria diversity may prevent degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s2 and improve mood disorders such as depression and anxiety3.

Nourishing the Good Bacteria

The best way to nourish the good bacteria and increase their diversity is to consume foods containing pre- and probiotics. Prebiotic foods include whole grains, beans/legumes, fruits and vegetables while probiotics foods are those that are fermented such as kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha. If you’re considering taking a supplement, it’s always best to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian for more information.

Sources of Probiotics5

  • Fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, beets, carrots)
  • Fermented fruits (chutneys, jams, green papaya, pickled jackfruit)
  • Yogurt, kefir, sour cream, buttermilk (plain, no added sugar, with live and active cultures)
  • Kombucha, a fermented tea
  • Fermented condiments (relishes, salsas, pickled ginger)
  • Water kefir, coconut milk kefir
  • Homemade coconut milk or cashew yogurt
  • Beet kvass
  • Natto, miso, tempeh, and tamari sauce


  1. Aydin Ö, Nieuwdorp M, Gerdes V. The Gut Microbiome as a Target for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes. Current Diabetes Reports. 2018;18(8). doi:10.1007/s11892-018-1020-6.
  2. Gareau MG. Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis and Cognitive Function. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Microbial Endocrinology: The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Disease. 2014:357-371. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-0897-4_16.
  3. Liu L, Zhu G. Gut–Brain Axis and Mood Disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2018;9. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00223.
  4. Probiotics and Prebiotics: What You Need to Know. IntegrativeRD. Published 2018.
  5. Renz H. Faculty of 1000 evaluation for Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers. F1000 – Post-publication peer review of the biomedical literature. 2014. doi:10.3410/f.718089027.793489710.
  6. Sender R, Fuchs S, Milo R. Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body. PLOS Biology. 2016;14(8). doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002533.

Serious Weight Loss Tools (for those who are serious about getting it right)

As I mentioned in my last blog post, there are a few essential tools that can help you get serious about doing weight loss the right way: with an accurate calorie goal and a way to track body composition. Remember, not all weight loss is the same.

The thing is, you may not be losing as much fat as you think you are. When someone is actively losing weight, especially when restricting calories and upping their cardio, you also lose muscle at the same time! That’s no bueno, especially given we already lose a certain percentage of muscle mass for each decade of life. Let’s not make that worse!

That’s why I recently invested in this handy contraption, the In-Body 570. It measures your body composition and allows us to track this over time. This way we can make sure you are burning fat and maintaining (or hopefully growing) your lean muscle. If not, we can course correct and get things going the right way.

For any of my clients that want to have this done during a session, the cost is only $25. For anyone else who just wants to pop in and have it done, the cost is $40. Tell your friends and come on in, especially before the holidays get in full swing!

Now, while knowing your body composition is important, we also need to know your actual metabolic rate. This is the only way truly set a correct calorie level to more quickly reach your weight los goals.

While unfortunately I have not yet invested in a machine for this, there are a few places in Seattle where you can go to get this done.

The first is DEXA Fit Seattle. They have DEXA scan machines which can evaluate your body composition, AND they have machines to measure your metabolic rate. It’s like a one-stop shop. This would be a good first step for anyone serious about starting a weight loss program.
Dexa Scan (locations nationwide)

The second option is Body Spec. They have trucks all over the city that set up shop at various businesses. They are often at gyms, PT offices, etc. You can check their website and find their next location. Ask about their services and fees for testing resting metabolic rate (RMR).
Body Spec Seattle

So there are some steps to take to get the ball rolling on a safe and effective weight loss plan. First you want to make sure you get an accurate assessment of your calorie level, and secondly you want to track and make sure you are losing fat, not muscle.

Please reach out if you have any questions on these methods and if you want to get yourself set up for the In-Body test. Get it done before the holidays and you will be all set come January!

Weight Loss: Why is it so damn hard?

You know it’s funny. People often ask me what my favorite type of client to work with is. I usually say something like digestive disorders or food sensitivities. You know why? Because there is generally a methodical way to go about figuring out the root problem and coming up with a well defined plan to see results.

What is not my favorite genre? Weight loss! And believe me, it’s not because of the clients themselves. I adore my clients. I have some of the hardest working and most motivated clients in the world. It’s just that achieving weight loss is hard. Damn hard. And it doesn’t always follow logic. Eat less + move more does not necessarily equal weight loss. It’s extremely frustrating not only for me, but ten times more for my clients.

weight loss

Last month I once again attended the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. While yes, there is a lot of fluff at these events (what do you expect with sessions sponsored by Nestle and General Mills), I do always have some profound take-aways.

This year there were several sessions on weight loss. I made it my goal to attend all of them and compare messages. There must be something I am missing, something I could glean that would turn the corner for some of my clients.

So I listened. And I compared. And I pondered. Do you know what I discovered? No. One. Agrees. You think the experts have a handle on this? Yeah no. Keto? Intermittent fasting? Calorie restriction? Intense weight training? All topics which were presented by very knowledgeable and well researched experts in the field. They all had very different things to say about the “best” way to reduce body weight.

Let’s take keto. I think I have written about this before. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the premise of the diet if done carefully and correctly, but you have to ask yourself: Is this sustainable? Do I want to live like this forever? If not, you have to choose another approach. Yo-yo dieting, especially on a very high fat diet, is dangerous. Plus, you can gain weight on keto folks. It’s still a calorie game.

What about intermittent fasting? Sure, studies show it may help people lose weight by improving fat burning, but is it because of the fasting or simply calorie restriction by limiting the hours in which you can eat? And again, is it sustainable? Do you plan to carry this on forever? Honestly I think many people can find a form a fasting that would work for them (I like the 12-13 hour overnight fasting idea), but you still have to commit.

Lastly, and with far less enthusiasm, I listened to the good ol’ calorie restriction + increased exercise folks. I was not expecting to be impressed…..but I was. I really appreciated how they took the boring old concept of eat less, move more, and described a practical, defined plan that produced maximum results.

The key, as I alluded to, is doing it right. And since I tend to agree with their premise and design, I’ll lay out the basics here and now for you to consider.

First of all, you do have to restrict calories….but not too much. The main take home point is that measuring metabolic rate is key. Us dietitians and every calorie tracking software out there are always basing people’s calorie needs on equations. Equations are equations, not actual people, and cannot take into account the nuances in everyone’s metabolism. If we guess too low, we put someone on too far of a calorie restriction and potentially decrease their metabolism further while making them feel terrible. If we shoot too high, we don’t see the desired results. If you want to lose weight, have your resting metabolic rate (RMR) measured. (see our next post for how to get this done)

Secondly, anytime you cut calories, your body will compensate by decreasing your metabolism. Tricky bodies we have, eh? How to get around this? Increase muscle mass. Yes, muscle is highly metabolically active. If you achieve a good calorie level while simultaneously increasing your muscle mass, you will boost your metabolic rate, burn fat, and build muscle. This creates the ideal conditions for weight loss and improved body composition over the long term.

Best of all this type of plan is sustainable, assuming you can continue with regular workouts and healthy eating, and you don’t have to do anything drastic like cut out all carbs or eat a staggeringly low amount of calories. You don’t even have to do long sessions of cardio. Incredible!

In fact, you need to be eating carbs to keep up your energy level (high quality carbs are best, of course). You also need very good protein intake to build muscle. You need a moderate amount of fat for general health. It’s almost like…..a return to the center. We need carbs, but not too much. Also protein, and a decent amount. And we need fat, but again, in moderation. And you need to exercise, but it needn’t be this long, drawn out event five days per week. 3-4 sessions of weights and you are good. Add in some cardio, but only if you wish.

But in reality, does it work? It seems to, at least in their clinics, assuming you work hard to build muscle and eat well. It is still no walk in the park, but certainly more achievable for most people, especially for those like myself who enjoy food and despise the idea of eliminating entire food groups! Plus you might even save time by cutting a few of those boring and useless sessions on the elliptical.

So if you are serious about losing weight or at least changing your body composition (swapping out fat for muscle), come talk to me! Let’s make a personalized plan that works for your lifestyle and lets you enjoy food in the process.

See our next post very soon about some fun new equipment in the office that we have for measuring body composition, plus check out some links for Seattle area locations where you can get your metabolic rate tested.

And….stay tuned for next month’s blog post where we will talk about the up and coming “Health at Every Size” approach. What if all this weight loss talk is actually damaging us in the long term, both physically and mentally? What if we could take away the stigma and focus around weight and just help people find foods and activities that make them feel good? Ooh, so many angles to consider!

What is the best eating schedule? Three meals, many meals or even fasting? Reviewing common diet patterns and what may work best for YOU.


It seems the “experts” are always changing their minds on what and when we should eat. Eat this. Don’t eat that. Stop eating that thing we told you to eat last year and eat this instead. Eat 3 meals a day. Eat 6 meals a day. Fast one day a week. Do intermittent fasting 3 times a week. Never eat after 5pm. Don’t skip breakfast. Actually it’s ok to skip breakfast. But don’t forget, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! My goodness, it’s enough to make your head spin.

A recent study (see link below) suggests eating within a 10-hour window each day may be ideal for reducing weight and metabolic disease. They don’t talk about the pattern within that window, but simply limiting the hours in which calories may be consumed. Interesting.

This adds to the piles of research and opinions around when to eat. Are you confused about the ideal eating pattern for you? Are you confused by all this talk of meal timing and intermittent fasting? If so, read on to break down some of these common suggestions. Hopefully you can come to an understanding of what sort of meal schedule will optimize your health and allow you to reach your goals, whether that’s weight loss, balanced blood sugar, improved mood, etc.


First of all, there is no ideal pattern for everyone. Let’s get that straight. The ideal eating times for you are those that work with your schedule and lifestyle. I’ve seen many eating patterns that work for people, from the regular 3 meals a day to 2 meals per day + snack, or 6 small meals, etc. The only reason to change a pattern is if it isn’t working for you or is clearly an unhealthy one (which usually you know if that’s you).

Before we even get too far, let me say up front I am not a fan of the 6 small meal per day sort of schedule. First of all it’s often quite stressful for people to be able to remember to eat as many time as they need do. Say you have a small breakfast before work but can’t take a break to eat 2 hours later because of a big meeting? Now you are starving and prone to make poor choices later in the day.

Also, blood sugar rhythms tend to follow a 3-4 hour cycle. When you eat a meal, typically, your blood sugar peaks about 1-2 hours later. Then it slowly comes down over the following couple hours and you gradually become hungry again. Now, if we are constantly fueling every two hours, our blood sugar is never given a chance to return as low as it should between meals. Granted a smaller meal is going to have a smaller blood glucose rise, but the point is that we aren’t following the natural rhythm of our glucose cycles.

Additionally, longer spaces between meals are really great for our digestion. I know I have written about this before, but we have this wonderful process in our small intestine called the migrating motor complex, or the MMC, for short. It’s role is to sweep clear the small intestine and increase motility, allowing things to move along and digest as they should. Thing is, this process only takes place about 60-90 minutes after eating, in a semi-fasted state. And it needs some time to work. If we are eating every two hours, we keep shutting this process down. For some, this sets them up for indigestion and bloating, and can even lead to microbial imbalances. Better meal spacing can help support the MMC and keep our digestion plugging along as it should.

Lastly, many of my clients who have tried the 6 mini-meal schedule are in actuality just snacking all day. Yes, it’s all small stuff, but it becomes a nonstop snack party. Many of those “snacks” are a lot higher in calories than one thinks, and instead of increasing energy and losing weight, it becomes an easy way to gain weight. Frustrating for many, to say the least.


Clearly I’m not a fan of eating multiple mini meals throughout the day. In my opinion, a 4 hour spacing (or 3 at the minimum) seems ideal. This solves many of the aforementioned issues and tends to fit well for our normal wake/sleep cycles.

What might this type of schedule look like. Certainly it can very, but let’s take an example from one of my days:

7am – Breakfast: 1 fried egg, 1 piece whole wheat toast w/ almond butter, honey, cup of black coffee
12pm – Lunch: Leftover beef and bean chili (1.5 cups) with 2 tbsp guacamole, 1 tbsp sour cream, a sprinkle of grated cheese, 1 orange, water.
3:30 – 4pm – Snack: 12 almonds, 1 banana
6:30pm – Dinner: 2oz baked chicken breast, 1 cup Puttanesca (spaghetti, sauce with anchovies, tomatoes, olives, garlic) ½ cup roasted broccoli, water.

You can see the spacing varies (and it does from day to day), but the goal is at least 3.5-4 hours between meals most of the day, with the evening meal being the least spaced given I can’t always control the exact timing of dinner (kids and hubby have a big say in that!). THIS is the schedule that works for me. You may decide to follow the same principles, but the exact execution may look different. That is a-ok.

Then the next question is, what about fasting or intermittent fasting?

Ah, great question. There is so much swirling around about restricted eating patterns to help you lose weight and even increase longevity.

Look, I have been reading this stuff too, and I won’t say that it doesn’t work. I am sure fasting has many amazing benefits. It is supposed to improve fat burning, boost the immune system, reduce the risk for cancer, raise growth hormone levels, improve brain function, and a host of other claims. It’s likely true. We see some of these in rat studies as the one previously mentioned.

There are various iterations of these fasting schedules. Some fast one day per week, others fast more than that, and others will have mini-fasts one time per week up to several times per week.

The real question with any of these is, is it realistic? Is this something you can stick with? Is this reasonable for your lifestyle and your family? If not, it’s just another fad that will leave you back at the same place you started. Think hard before you decide to go for these types of diets. Again, I’m not saying don’t do it, because the health benefits may be just what you need, but think hard about whether this is a change you want to keep for the forseeable future.

One tactic I personally employ is the same as hinted at in this article, a semi-restricted eating schedule that limits the hours of consumption. I think of it as “night” fasting. By increasing the hours without eating between evening and morning, you can achieve some of the same benefits of fasting and even help reduce weight, at least per this recent study. Also, this tends to cut out eating after dinner which for many is a huge calorie save right there. Per the article, this type of “fasting” can improve metabolism and reduce metabolic disease (reduce cholesterol, balance blood glucose, improve blood pressure, etc).

But the question is, is this realistic? I think for most it is. It’s a hard choice limit eating at certain hours (those cravings can be no joke!) but you can make that choice and stick with it, especially in the evening when work is over and most importantly, kids are in bed!

Not sure this is actually doable? Check out this schedule:

9am: breakfast
12pm: lunch
3pm: snack
6:30pm: dinner (goal of being done by 7pm)

7am: breakfast
10am: Snack
1pm: Lunch
5pm: Dinner

As you can see in both of these examples, the spacing is slightly less than the 4-hour window, however with the increase space between dinner and breakfast, you likely get many of the benefits as the article describes.

Remember my eating schedule as depicted earlier? You can clearly see that is not a 10-hour window there. I have implemented more of a 12-hour window. I have cut out any evening eating and made sure breakfast is time 12 hours after dinner. Maybe not as great as the article supports, but that’s where I am at!

Hopefully this slightly long-winded discussion gives you some points to ponder in figuring out the “right” plan for you. Whatever your health goal may be, meal spacing and limited eating hours during the day may be just what you need to start seeing the results you are looking for!

*If you have diabetes or any other condition that may require more rigid eating times, please do discuss any changes to your current diet with your medical practitioner first!


The Comfort of a Fall Routine

I don’t know about you, but I’m in total denial that it’s Fall. Every year about this time I refuse to admit the leaves are changing color and a coolness exists in the morning air. I want summer to last forever (it’s a short season in Seattle, we savor every minute!). But that being said, I also crave routine, and summer is all about shirking routine and having fun. Getting back to a sense of normalcy, not only around my schedule but also around eating, is incredibly comforting.

Sometimes it is hard to get back into that routine. School supplies and new schedules are flying through the air and before you know it you are eating out or throwing together meals on the fly more often than you want. That workout plan you had planned for September gets postponed…indefinitely. Before that happens, let’s make a plan to get back into a healthy routine before the real craziness of holidays and all the rest hits.

Here are a few 6 quick tips to guide you in implementing a healthy Fall routine!

1. Meal Plan
This is number one because it is always number one. Plan your meals. I say this over and over to my clients. Weeks go easier if you have a plan for meals, dinners at the very least. Yank out a basic calendar (or download a meal planner from my website) and map out the week. Involve the family and get a repertoire of ideas on there. Bonus challenge: pick one new recipe each week to try. Have the family rate it and see if it should stay in the meal rotation.

Meal Plan

Want an online option? Check out for meal planning ideas and guidance.

2. Plan out specific grocery shopping days
Once your meal plan is in place, schedule days and times for doing the shopping. Most of my clients like to do their planning on Saturday and shop Sunday. Plan a mid-week run as well for little things that may have run out. By scheduling these days, you are less likely to buy impulse items and tend to stay more focused on the things you need.

Besides traditional stores, consider buying from online grocers like Amazon Fresh or Instacart with delivery from many local grocery stores, even organic ones. Once a month plan a trip to a warehouse retailer like Costco for things you like to keep in bulk.

By planning these shopping days out on your calendar you end up saving a lot of time and money.

3. Rethink your snack
Another area to reclaim and be intentional about is snacking. Americans are snackers, and while not a terrible thing (many countries don’t snack, just for reference), the mindless snacking is what derails many a diet plan. How to change this? There are a few options. First off, get unhealthy foods that you gravitate to out of the house. The snacks you do deem ok (maybe make a list of those healthy options even), decide what a healthy portion looks like for you. Then, pack that portion to work or have it already in a container at home so that when you go for it, you already know what and how much you are going to have. Planning out really is your best strategy to avoid continuous and unnecessary snacking. Doesn’t mean you will always stick to it (damn those well meaning colleagues bringing doughnuts!) but it certainly will trigger you to be more mindful and make an informed choice instead of a random one. Set yourself up for success!


4. Swap out instead of cutting out
Time to cut out a few “additions” that crept in over the summer? Instead of stressing about how to do without those foods or beverages, think about a few swaps that might work instead. Got hooked on soda? Replace with no-sugar beverages like Zevia or La Croix. Became familiar with after dinner desserts? Find some tasty dark chocolate and have a few squares of that instead. By swapping out instead of cutting out, you may find a lot less stress and an easier time sticking to all of your goals as you roll into the Fall.


5. Plan the fun
Lest you think there’s no time for fun with routine, it definitely doesn’t have to be that way! Plan out those fun events so you have things to look forward to. It really helps to maintain your mindset that all this work is not in vain. You will enjoy your leisure time all the more when you make time for fun but in a scheduled way. As they say, work hard and play hard. Put in the time and enjoy the benefits.

Some ideas? Plan a night out with friends. Make reservations at a coveted restaurant. Set aside some time to do some personal shopping. Plan a weekend getaway (I like this one best!). Schedule a massage or pedicure. Think about what de-stresses you and plan a couple of these throughout the Fall months.


6. Make a realistic exercise plan
Yep, here we are, exercise. You knew we would get to this. It’s SO important to work movement into your daily life. It’s no surprise I’m going to say plan those darn workout days on the calendar. Figure out where it fits and pencil it in. Maybe it’s an AM walk on Monday, a Tuesday class after work, a Wednesday yoga class during the lunch hour, a Thursday bike ride with the kids, and a Friday fun day (aka rest day). Plan out the weekends as well when most have more time to exercise.

Now, all this being said, be careful not to overcommit. The quickest way to quit an exercise plan is to plan too much and feel an inability to meet your own expectations. Start slow, maybe two times a week, for example, and build from there.

Also, make sure to do activities you enjoy. If you hate the treadmill for example, do something else! If you don’t like it you won’t stick with it. If you find nothing pleasurable, and I recognize there are people that feel that way, start with walking at the very least and build from there.

Lastly, make a plan just to get there. Maybe you don’t feel like going, but commit to putting on that work out gear and at least getting to the gym. Or getting to the basement with your video or handheld weights. Or getting outside the front door with your walking shoes. Allow yourself to change your mind if you just aren’t feeling it, but commit to at least getting there. I think more times than not you will follow through and feel proud for doing it.


So there you go! Plan out that Fall and get it! I know you can do it, and even breeze through the holidays like no one’s business. It’s going to be your best, and healthiest, yet!

Can Diet Calm an Anxious Mind?

foods to calm your nervesAnxiety. It’s a common ailment. When my clients list their medical history, anxiety is often on the list. It seems to be more prevalent than ever. Maybe we are now recognizing and diagnosing it more often, but it is not uncommon for a person of any age, even children, to report various levels of anxiety.

What is anxiety? Many confuse it with stress, but it’s actually more than that. Whereas stress is the body’s physical response in the moment to a situation, anxiety differs in that the physical response continues far after the situation is over. It is almost as if there is no switch to turn “off.” These physical responses can include increased blood pressure, excessive trembling or sweating, chest pains, insomnia, headaches, nausea, dizziness, muscle tension, constipation and/or diarrhea, indigestion, and even rashes or what feels like allergic reactions. The physical manifestations clearly can be many and may cause harm to one’s body over the long term.

The levels of anxiety can be varied as well. I am not a psychiatrist so I won’t get too far into this, but it can range from general anxiety all the way to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

The first step to take if you feel you have anxiety is to talk with a mental health professional. That way you can find out where you are on the spectrum and hopefully even find out where the anxiety is stemming from.

Second, which is where I come in, is supporting your body through this process with proper diet. Studies have shown that specific foods can play a huge part in reducing overall anxiety and improving the body’s ability to cope and recover.

While a healthy, balanced diet is what we typically recommend, let’s break it down into specific foods you can choose to support your brain and mental health.

Foods to Calm Your Nerves

1. Foods high in B Vitamins: Many of the B vitamins are known to help with anxiety and mood. Some great choices include:

  • Green leafy vegetables (at least one large handful of raw greens daily is ideal!) Spinach, kale, chard, collard greens
  • Avocado
  • Citrus fruits
  • Beans, peas, lentils
  • Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts
  • Beets
  • Bananas

2. Foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids: The Omega 3’s (DHA and EPA) we know are very beneficial for the brain and may do wonders for your mood. These are foods such as….

  • Seafood including wild caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and anchovies
  • Plant sources with pre-cursors to DHA and EPA include flax seed, hemp hearts, chia seeds, walnuts
  • High-quality fish oil supplement

3. Fermented foods: Numerous studies have shown that our gut microbes talk to our brain. Crazy, isn’t it? Supporting a healthy gut environment, therefore, is an important consideration for our mental health. Fermented foods include:

  • Cultured dairy products, such as high-quality yogurt (few ingredients, low sugar), kefir, buttermilk, cultured butter
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles and other pickled veggies
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Natto

4. Foods high in antioxidants: Inflammation can definitely put stress on our brains. Fight inflammation with antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory foods. Antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, can also help increase the body’s production of dopamine.

  • Anthocyanins: blueberries, cherries, grapes, blackberries, pomegranates, red cabbage, purple asparagus
  • Vitamin C foods: Oranges, kiwis, strawberries, pineapple, mango
  • Others: goji berries, dark chocolate, herbs and spices (especially turmeric)!

5. Hydrate!: While not a food, keeping up good fluid intake is so important! Dehydration increases stress on the body which can only exacerbate anxiety. While straight up water is a great choice, teas can also have a very calming effect on the body. Aim for 8 cups per day and even more if sweating excessively.

Foods That May Stress an Already Anxious Mind

While eating more of certain foods can be helpful, we also need to cut out those foods that are increasing stress on your body. These are likely nothing new to you, but they are good reminders!

1. Caffeine

Not everyone reacts adversely to caffeine, but if you are one of those who do, caffeine can definitely raise your anxiety level. Try cutting it out for awhile to see how you respond. On a personal note, someone in my own family did this recently and it did wonders for their mood and overall stress level!

2. Sugar

No surprise here, but sugar increases inflammation, raises blood sugar, and overall is harmful for your brain. Dial it back and choose naturally sweetened foods like fruit instead.

3. Gluten

For some, gluten can be very inflammatory and therefore impact your mood and well-being. Try taking a gluten vacation for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.

4. Processed foods, especially fast food

Another no-brainer, but fast food and other highly processed foods are very low in actual nutrition and high in refined carbs, sugars and additives. Ditch the drive-through and seek out healthier alternatives.

5. Artificial sweeteners

A component of many processed foods, I single these out because they may be harmful to our guts and therefore impact brain health. Some of my clients have even reported headaches and other reactions from these sweet additives. Go for the natural sugar if forced to choose but in very small amounts.

6. Avoid any foods you are allergic or sensitive to

Some of you, knowingly or unknowingly, may be suffering from food sensitivity reactions. These reactions cause inflammation which can exacerbate stress and anxiety. If you aren’t sure which foods are causing you problems, an elimination diet can be a good first step. Seek guidance from an RD like myself to help tailor such a plan or dig deeper if the offending foods are elusive. For difficult cases, I like using MRT food sensitivity by Oxford Biomedical for decisive answers (

Hopefully, this gives you a few specific food ideas to get started! Again I will reiterate that if you are struggling with anxiety, seek professional help. Don’t do this on your own. Along with expert advice, change up your diet to give your brain the support it needs!


How to keep your (diet) sanity during the holidays!

holiday foodsYep, it’s here, Christmas season! While this is a joyous occasion for most, are you one of those dreading the stream of Christmas parties, office treats, and edible gifts? The amount of sugar can seem endless. Even for the most motivated it can be incredibly difficult to resist overindulging, if not for lack of willpower than simply due to pushy people who seem to take extreme offence when treats offered are refused. What is with people sometimes? I’ve noticed this more frequently when clients tell me about weaknesses. Often times they feel out of control with their choices because of the people around them. How often have you seen people make a scene of someone choosing to avoid something simply because they don’t need the extra calories. Usually the first questions are things like “Are you allergic?” or “You don’t like the dessert I made?” It then proceeds to “Are you on a diet?” which then leads to an announcement to everyone that you are indeed on a diet, as that must be the case, and furthermore pointing out how skinny you already are, etc, etc. It can be downright rude at times. When the answer is “I just don’t need to eat that,” people don’t know how to respond. Some might wonder why you are even there, given the point of most occasions is to join together and engage in gluttony.

How to handle these tricky situations? First of all, be confident and be upfront. No one is going to take responsibility for your diet choices except you. Own your decision and don’t be ashamed. DO NOT feel compelled to eat anything you do not want to, especially around the holidays. Of course be tactful and polite, but politeness does not mean giving in to the food pushers.

Other ideas? Make sure to bring a healthy option to share so that there is something you can enjoy. Fill your plate with it. Also, if you do take something that ends up not tasting as good as you would like, or you are simply full and there is still food on your plate, it’s ok to throw it out. Believe me, I am not a fan of wasting food and I do everything I can to avoid it, but in the case of foods that aren’t even healthy to begin with, it’s ok to let it go. Dis-enroll from the clean plate club.

Lastly, make it a point to socialize, thereby over-riding the idea that food is the main point of the party. Show others that gatherings don’t have to be all about food. You can still have a good time without packing on the pounds.

Now, what if YOU are the food pusher? First, congratulate yourself for realizing you have this habit. Then, start respecting people’s food choices. Never force or shame someone into eating something. It’s not good for their health and frankly it makes you stressful to be around. Focus on enjoying time with others and letting them (and yourself) feel free to make the decisions food-wise that are best for them. Everyone will have a better time as a result.

Instead of dreading the holiday get-togethers, look forward to them! Eat healthfully, surround yourself with fun and laughter, and celebrate this season in the way that brings you the most meaning. Merry Christmas!

National Vegetarian Awareness Month: The Popularity of Being a Vegetarian

It’s National Vegetarian Awareness Month, and with that we have a nutrition guest blogger from Chicago to enlighten us on the reasons for and considerations around the Vegetarian diet. Thanks Tracy!

The Popularity of Being a Vegetarian

By: Tracy Williams

Has vegetarianism become a popular lifestyle? Is it really a healthy dietary choice? Ten percent of people consider themselves to be vegetarians, according to a Gallup poll in 2013. Being vegetarian was once a food choice considered to be unusual. Currently, according to a Harris Interactive Survey, 3 percent of U.S. adults also indicate they never eat poultry, fish or seafood. One third of vegetarians consider themselves vegan, which means they do not consume dairy, eggs and honey.

Why do some people choose to be vegetarian? There are many reasons. They may become vegetarians because of health concerns. A vegetarian diet could decrease the risk and symptoms of many chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Others may feel that large scale meat and poultry production is unsustainable for the health of the environment. People also point to issues of water quality, overuse of antibiotics, and other concerns. People also believe there are ethical reasons to avoid animal products or meat items.

There are many types of vegetarians in society. When you have vegetarian friends over for a meal, it is important to know what vegetarian practices they have decided to follow. Vegans avoid all animal products, eggs, dairy products or even honey. Fruitarians eat only fruits, seeds, nuts and other plant components that can be gathered without harming the plant. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products, but not eggs. A Lacto-ovo vegetarian eats eggs and dairy products. This is the most common group of vegetarians. Pesce vegetarians include fish in their diet. Pollo-vegetarians eat fowl, such as chicken and turkey, but avoid red meat and pork. Flexitarians mainly eat vegetarian diet, but will occasionally make exceptions, especially during holiday or party meals.

There are health management benefits for those who are vegetarians. People who follow the vegetarian dietary plan are typically able to maintain a desirable body weight and have a lower body mass index (BMI). Vegetarians have less cardiovascular disease, cancers, and gastrointestinal disorders. Whole food plant based diets consistently show a lowered risk for many chronic diseases. Vegetarians tend to consume higher amounts of fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and overall cholesterol.

There are possible nutrient deficiencies when restricting animal foods, but these can be avoided by choosing a wide variety of foods. B12 deficiency is one consideration. B12 is necessary for red blood cell maturation, nerve function, and DNA synthesis. B12 deficiency can be avoided if a person consumes adequate amounts of vitamin B12 from dairy products, which is usually sufficient. People who are vegan or follow the macrobiotic diet will need to get vitamin B12 from enriched cereals, fortified soy products or by taking a vitamin supplement. Adequate iron intake is another consideration. Iron is important because it provides oxygen binding in red blood cells to be carried throughout the body. Dietary sources include enriched whole grain products, legumes, nuts and seeds, veggies, molasses and prune juice.

Open communication between the client, their family and their dietitian will help vegetarian clients choose the right foods to support their health.


Tracy Williams is a nutrition consultant in her local suburb of Chicago doing nutrition education and freelance writing on nutrition topics. She has her degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Dominican University, in River Forest, Illinois.


Book Review: Attract Your Ideal Weight

Attract Your Ideal Weight: 8 Secrets of People Who Lose Weight and Keep it Off    By Zaheen Nanji

Have you ever wondered how some people manage to lose weight successfully and maintain it while others never succeed despite repeated attempts? I ponder these questions myself, frequently in fact. Well this book seeks to uncover why. The author, a health coach and motivational speaker who has clearly worked with hundreds of clients in the area of weight loss, wrote out what she has seen as the 8 reasons people are successful at permanent weight loss.

Her theory is simple. If, for example, we look at successful people to learn how achieve greatness, and to wealthy people on how to manage money, and to organized people on how to manage our time, why don’t we look to thin people on how to be at a healthy weight? I mean, these are the people making healthy choices day-in and day-out. Somehow thin people make choices that keep their weight in check and their lifestyle in line with their goals and values. The author’s premise is, then, that we need to dig into some of these behaviors to see how they might apply to others who are struggling. Cleary another diet book is not the answer, so this approach is a breath of fresh air.

The book is divided into 8 key areas or “secrets” that should be addressed in order to change ones thinking about food, weight and happiness. Specifically, there are several key thought patterns and behaviors that need to be challenged. In what I think is probably one of the most important, secret #1 talks about self identity and the importance of relinquishing the connection between your behaviors and who you are as a person. Once you can separate those, you can start to more easily change those behaviors while remaining true to yourself. That realization alone can help people move to the next level of accepting themselves and making positive changes.

Other important areas she hits on includes drilling down on your true motivations for diet and lifestyle change, breaking change into manageable pieces, learning what your values are and aligning your life with those concepts, becoming more in-tune with your own body’s cues, learning from failure instead of succumbing to it, and taking full responsibility for your lifestyle and change.

The focus of this book is not to tell you what to do (most of you already know WHAT to do!). In that sense it’s not another diet book. The goal is to help you actually DO it. That is the hardest part. The mental component is so critical. We can talk healthy nutrition all day long but the key is how to implement that in a way that is sustainable and successful to meet your goals.  How do we stop thinking about our weight and instead focus on being healthy and happy? These tips will get you there.

Overall, I strongly agree with all of the points the author makes. These areas are so important in allowing someone the freedom and ability to make lasting change. It takes the focus off of food and calories and places it on motivations, internal cues, and WHY you are seeking change in the first place. Just the realization that you need to address these areas can be an amazing first step for someone struggling with yo-yo dieting and the feelings of failure.

The one drawback is that each section is rather short and leaves much more to be desired in the areas of education and learning how to apply the particular principal. For this reason I would highly encourage anyone attempting to follow these steps to seek the guidance of a Dietitian or health coach to walk through this path with them in order to make sure you are applying each correctly. Additionally, the author’s website has more materials and information that can be helpful as well. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out your true motivations or why you desire change without some objective counsel to help. If you have based your happiness on the scale for years it can take some time to re-wire your thinking to a new paradigm. But certainly it is possible with these tips and some guidance.

To bring in my own personal experience as perspective, I am fortunate to be one of those people who rarely obsesses about my weight. As I was reading this book I was able to pinpoint the different areas she mentions as tools I use in managing my own weight without even thinking about it. I eat to feel good, and so that guides my food choices. I exercise to feel strong both mentally and physically, not to lose weight, and so that motivation keeps me moving. I was able to recognize that many of my motivations and WHYs of doing what I do are for reasons other than weight. Furthermore I listen to my internal cues of hunger and fullness and understand what foods work for my body and what foods don’t. I rarely eat past being full and I avoid foods that make me feel weighed down or bloated. That’s not to say I don’t have days where I eat terribly, but instead of feeling like a failure, I pick myself up and get back to my healthy lifestyle. I don’t let minor setbacks ruin everything. As someone who has been following these guidelines somewhat subconsciously, it was educational to see it written down on paper in an easy to digest format. This will help me as a practitioner be better able to educate others on following these same principles.

So, if you are about to buy another diet book, please don’t. Have a read through these 8 secrets to keep the weight off for good. Here’s to a healthy holiday season and a successful, diet-free start to 2015!

Check out the book on Amazon.

On the web: Attract your Ideal Weight

Late Night Food Rant

As I was writing a blog post this evening about foods I thought people should never consume (that post to come soon), I got to thinking about why people in this country don’t eat healthier. We have access to everything. And by that I mean every-frickin-thing. Every type of food you can envision is sitting in our grocery stores or readily ordered with one click of a mouse. It’s incredible if you think about it. But then we eat like shit. Seriously. We are one of the most overweight countries in the world yet we have the greatest food variety and arguably the greatest amount of disposable income, much of which “could” be spent on food.

So as I was writing, the overwhelming thought occurred to me. It’s because we as Americans are lazy. L-A-Z-Y. I wish you could hear me say the word aloud because it would sound like lay- ay –ay –ay –ay –zeeeeee. We don’t want to think about food, heaven forbid we learn about it, and if it could somehow be handed to me through my television screen, well then, all the better.

All right, all right, I know I’m getting a bit judgmental. But I am not going to lie. I see a huge discrepancy in this country. We don’t have money for food. I hear that line ALL THE TIME. No money for food. We are so poor. And yet we have money for cell phones, data plans, big screen TVs, vacations, sweet rides, designer handbags, and lots of junk food. I can only imagine teachers have the same gripes. No money for education, but money for just about everything else. That’s how I feel about food. Our government provides education, so suddenly the value in it goes down. Our government subsidizes crappy food to make it cheap, and so suddenly our expectation is that everything should cost a nickel.

Friends, the nourishment we put in our body should cost money. Have you ever seen a rich farmer driving a Benz and living in a mansion overlooking the water? Neither have I. These people are not price gouging. They are trying to make an honest living. Let’s pay what the food is worth. And what you are paying for is quality food, not doused in chemicals, not subsidized by the government, and grown with love and care. THAT is the food we should be eating. THAT is the food that nourishes our body and prevents disease. THAT is the food that our kids should know and love.

So if one more person tells me how expensive our local PCC or other organic co-op markets are ….

Ok, I’m off my soap box now. Back to my original blog writing. This is what happens when I’m home alone in the evening, just me and my computer. Feel free to tell me if I’m off my rocker or if you agree. Not trying to judge, but let’s be real. Food is important. The only people making a killing in this endeavor are those that sell junk. Don’t buy junk.