New Year’s Resolutions: How to make goals that stick!

Happy New Year!

Are you embarking on any New Year’s resolutions? If so, how are they going? Many are resolved to start eating better and exercising in the New Year. A great plan, I can’t disagree. The problem is, as always, where to start? What’s the plan?

Questions I often get asked come January: Which diet plan is the best? Which types of exercises would help me lean up in the shortest amount of time? Aren’t bananas bad for you? I heard sweet potatoes are way too starchy, right? Should I be a vegan?  Should I eat according to my blood type?  Is paleo really the way to go? Is it true low fat diets aren’t that healthy? Do I need to detox?

Oh wait, I get asked these questions all year long. But they are particularly pertinent this time of year as people really intend on embarking on true lifestyle change. Honest to goodness I hope those of you in that boat are tremendously successful. We know the statistics, however. Forty-nine percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions will have some success but not consistently. Twenty-four percent will fail at their resolutions altogether. And even of those who “achieve” their goals, only 49% will actually see those results continue past 6 months. Why are we so terrible at keeping to our aspirations?

A recent article in Psychology Today gives some insight into that very question. In the article professor Peter Holmes and colleagues point to a phenomenon called “false hope syndrome.” The premise is that most of us make goals that are completely unreasonable and unrealistic, thereby condemning our pursuits from the get-go. As the author states, these goals are not only unrealistic, but also “out of alignment with their internal view of themselves. Essentially we aspire to thing we don’t actually believe we can be or achieve, and in the end this negatively influences how we perceive ourselves.

Yikers, eh? We sabotage ourselves, plain and simple. The other problem? We aren’t specific enough in what we hope to achieve. “I want to lose weight” is somewhat of a goal, but it doesn’t tell us how, by what measure, and when we can expect our clothes to fit better.  That type of goal is easily pushed off to next week, next month … only to be revived again next January as the new goal that will set life right again. But we must take caution. Interestingly enough the author points out that while we are typically taught to make specific, measurable goals, we need to be careful not to set our parameters too narrow. Otherwise we run the risk of doing everything in our power to achieve the “goal,” forgetting that once the goal is achieved we will likely swipe the sweat of victory off our brow, sit in our brief satisfaction of winning the war of mind over matter, and then let life resume it’s usual course until we are back where we started … or even worse.

So what is the takeaway here?  First of all, our goals need to be SMART. That stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Us dietitians use this acronym frequently as it really helps guide one in making a solid and well thought-out plan. It does run the risk of defining the parameters too narrow, as mentioned previously, but it’s a good place start.

That being said, our goals also need to be broad enough to allow for some variation and course-correction if the actions we choose to achieve our goals end up not working out. Have you ever had an injury when embarking on an exercise plan? If that were to happen you need the flexibility to change gears but with the same end goal.

Keeping those ideas in mind, what would you say if someone said their goal is to lose 30lb by summer doing P90x videos every day and eating only fish, nuts, berries and kale? Specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound? Yes. Attainable? Umm, that’s debatable. Flexible? Not so much. If you injured your ankle as a result of those intense workouts, what would you do?  What if kale makes you gag and fish makes you break out in hives? As you can see, not setting your goals carefully and appropriately can bring down the whole plan if things don’t go as expected. I think that’s called life.

Now, even though you have all this planned out, in writing even, one last critical tool you need is mindfulness. You can make all the SMART goals you want but if you are not continually checking in with yourself and reminding yourself of the reason for your goals, you may scrap your plans altogether once it feels difficult and uncomfortable. Don’t forget, change is never easy, even with the best laid plans.

I found some good tips on mindfulness via Psychology Today here and another unrelated post here.

I also love Intuitive Eating which heavily involves the process of being more mindful. For those of you with weight loss and healthy living goals, these principles are critical ingredients for success. Check these out and employ as necessary during your journey.

Some good reading, should you be so inclined.

If you have already made and embarked upon New Year’s resolutions, now is the time to check your plan and see if a few adjustments need to be made for long-term success. If you have yet to make your goals but hope to do so, now you have the tools to make a plan that is well thought out and more likely to be achieved with the mindfulness piece in place. Remember, the overarching goal is true lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Here’s to making 2014 your best year yet!

Holiday Intuitive Eating and 10 Things You can Do to Stay Slim and Trim Through the New Year

Happy Holidays …  click to hear how I mean this to sound

The Holiday season is here! This time of year is special for so many, with gatherings of family and celebrating the meaning of many wonderful occasions. As humans, an integral part of our gatherings is food. We bond and connect over meals. We partake in each other’s lives by cooking and sharing food with one another. Offices becomes full of home-baked treats and parties are chocked full of special goodies that only are created and shared during the Christmas season. It would be rude to turn down best friend Sally’s peppermint chocolate cheesecake that she worked on all afternoon or Grandma Ruth’s handmade Stollen using the recipe handed down to her from her parents. In the midst of all this, how does one participate in the season while keeping, how shall we say, the waistline in check?

It’s tough, I’m not gonna lie. But it is possible. Let me first say I’m not going to advocate that you dismiss all this wonderful food in the name of health (caveat here for those with serious food sensitivities, Celiac disease, etc … not talking about. You all  know what you need to avoid because it’s mission critical for your health. Ok, let’s carry on…) Health is important, don’t get me wrong, but also important is sharing with one another and respecting one another’s customs and traditions. And food is an important tradition for many. In fact, you probably have many food traditions that you have or plan to pass along to your family. I know I do, and most of those are not sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free piles of mush passed off as “cake” or “cookies.” You all know what I mean. I love you alternative bakers, I really do because I’m one of them, but don’t pretend it’s just as good as the real thing. Because it’s not. There I said it.

Do you know how I survive? Rule #1: Don’t make anything forbidden. The MINUTE something becomes off-limits, you crave it all the more. I never realized this truth until I was pregnant. I swear (both times, in fact) the MINUTE I became pregnant all I wanted was sushi and sandwiches with lunchmeat. Why is that???? It was seriously frustrating. I think I ate California roles and other cooked sushi delights at least once a month for 9 long months. How often have I had sushi since? Maybe twice. No joke. So, don’t make anything forbidden. Give yourself permission to eat and ENJOY. Capitalize enjoy. Underline enjoy. Italicize enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t eat it. Go find something you do. There is huge freedom in that. If something is forbidden you will eat it even if you don’t enjoy it. When it’s now in-play, at any time, the game changes. Do you see what I’m saying?

So what this does is give you permission to enjoy Aunt Ruth’s carb-laden Stollen, and Sally’s full-fat peppo-choco cheesecake. But hey, think about taking a smaller piece. Savor every single morsel. The minute it stops tasting good (usually this is after only a few bites) stop eating. Take the leftover or another small piece home and know you can enjoy more later. What freedom that gives! And usually that insatiable power food has over you dissipates over time.

Another key tip is to check in with yourself. Yeah, give yourself a howdy doody and ask how are you feeling. Crazy, I know. Ask yourself, “Am I actually hungry right now?” If you are, how hungry are you? Ready for a small snack or ready to eat an entire horse? When you are feeling that small tinge of hunger start mentally preparing for what you can eat that will be satisfying and hunger-fulfilling. That means you need to reach this point before you are ready to eat the flesh of a horse. If you have already reached that point, well, you are in trouble. But if you can catch yourself before that intense hunger hits you are way more likely to make healthy and reasonable choices. Check in with yourself frequently and make smart choices.

The last tip I have? Don’t beat yourself up!! We ALL make poor choices at times. Some more than others, yes, but however many less-than-ideal food decisions you make, brush yourself off and move on. Tomorrow is another day. Beating yourself up only sabotages future choices and pulls you further and further down a path you don’t want to go. Forgiving yourself for food mistakes allows you to start the day afresh and make healthy choices going forward.

By using these simple tips this season you are on your way to intuitive eating. Intuitive eating allows you to navigate any food situation without overeating and berating yourself. The guilt and shame dissipates. The poor choices grow less and less. You gradually become confident in your choices, even if they are not 100% virtuous all the time.

As a Dietitian, people always want to know how I eat. Paleo? Low carb? Vegetarian? Ummm, none of the above. I eat what I feel like eating. I avoid my food sensitivities, of course, but apart from that, I do eat carbs (aiming for the healthier ones most often and cutting back on the wheat and other grains), and I do eat meat (opting for grass fed and such as much as possible), I eat fruit & veggies (mostly organic), I eat sugar, I eat legumes, I eat hemp seed, I drink Kombucha …. ie, I eat all sorts of things. Nothing, apart from foods that mess with my immune system or are flat out bad for you because they are not food, is off limits. I’ve seen people look surprised when I take several different types of desserts as a party. Damn right I love me a good cake. Not dairy free you say? I make exceptions from time to time, to my detriment of course. =)

Friends, just listen to your body and stop the insane food rules. You’ll lessen your stress and maybe even loosen that belt at the same time. I realize this whole process looks very different for each person so if you need help, just ask!

Now, apart from just the intuitive eating aspect, there are some simple tips and tricks you can use at parties and get-togethers to help you be successful in avoiding excess calories. Good luck and enjoy!

Danielle’s Holiday Eating Tips

  1.  Don’t skip meals! This often sets you up to eat more later. It NEVER reduces overall calorie intake.
  2.  Along with not skipping meals, have a hearty, healthy, high-protein breakfast. This sets you up to make healthy choices later in the day.
  3. Try starting the day with some heart-pumping exercise.
  4. Always listen to your hunger/fullness cues. Stop eating when full or no longer enjoying the food you are eating.
  5. ENJOY your food. Don’t be riddled by guilt for your decisions.  Just eat and enjoy, giving yourself permission to eat if you are hungry and if you really savor the flavor and texture. If you do “mess up” and eat too much, just move on the next day.
  6. Avoid cocktails if possible; they are high in sugar and calories. Wine in moderation is a better choice.
  7. Avoid random snacking as much as possible. Have water close by to avoid grazing.
  8. Have dessert, but start with half a portion. If you still really want more, give yourself permission to do so. Oftentimes a small portion is entirely satisfying.
  9. Drink lots of water throughout the day, especially between every alcoholic beverage. Dehydration is often mistaken as hunger. Stay hydrated!
  10. Most importantly, have a good time and enjoy your friends, family and good conversation. Don’t obsess about food the whole time!

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays everyone!

Boys at Westlake

The Lowdown on Initiative 522

 

Alright Washingtonians, it’s getting real in the Whole Foods parking lot again. The right to know about GMO (genetically modified organisms) food is at stake. Frankenfoods are about to take over and destroy our earth. You are about to be one giant lab experiment unless we stop GMOs in their tracks. Or is that really the truth?

Initiative 522 is “an act relating to disclosure of foods produced through genetic engineering.”1 What is genetic engineering you ask?

The genetic engineering of foods is the process of inserting specific changes in the DNA of plants to create or enhance traits that would make them more resistant to disease, produce better yield, or change their nutrient profile. Traditionally crop traits have been altered by cross-breeding, but changing DNA can target the desired outcome much more specifically in less time and with less error.2,3

The bill we have before us, therefore, is to tell the legislature and food manufacturers that we have the right to know if these methods are being employed in the food we are choosing to consume. The goal is to label genetically engineered (GE, this is often used interchangeably with GMO) foods to alert consumers who might wish to avoid them. As stated in the initiative, “currently there is no federal or state law that requires food producers to identify whether foods were produced using genetic engineering. At the same time, the United States Food and Drug Administration does not require safety studies of such foods.”4

I think given the choice, most of us would say “Uh, yeah, I should get to know what is going in my body.” I mean if you think about, more often than not we are privy to information telling us where our clothes were made, where our cars were manufactured, and what chemicals are in household products. It makes sense that we should also be allowed to know if the food products we regularly purchase are in part derived from genetically modified ingredients. Most large food companies and other organizations/groups however, think no. They make some decent points worth considering, so let’s take a look.

First point: We already do have methods of knowing for sure whether a food is GMO-free. Most GMO-free products have a label stating as such if given verification by the Non-GMO Project.5 It’s similar to the stamp of approval given if something is organic. We don’t require labels for non-organics, so in the same way we supposedly should not require labels for non-GMO’s. Those products that don’t use them will let you know. In fact, any product labeled as “organic” will also be GMO-free. That’s a fail-safe way to know for sure.

My take on this? I don’t think a GMO-free label is enough. In my opinion many products and companies will choose not to label themselves as GMO-free even if they do not contain them simply to avoid looking different from other products on the shelf. Also there may be backlash from giant conglomerates that want to make sure all products appear equal. I can only imagine there must be immense pressure to keep the status quo. Ok No Campaign. So far not convinced.

Second Point: Anti-labeling advocates state that studies show most consumers ignore or overlook food labels.6 This, then, would put undue strain and financial expense on manufacturers while providing no real benefit to the majority of consumers.  The Washington Research Council estimated in their position paper that the price on groceries would increase, on average, from $200-$520 per year per family. Most of this would hit lower income families.7

Well first of all this doesn’t make much sense for low-income consumers given point #1. If organic foods are the only options for low income families wishing to avoid GMOs then definitely their food costs are going to go up. We all know organic foods on the whole cost more. There are many products out there, however, that are not organic but may actually be GMO-free. This will give low-income consumers the power to choose and be more educated. Also, the fact that many consumers don’t use or ignore labels is a moot point in my opinion. There are many of us that DO use those labels and so that is simply a sweeping generalization they are trying to use to limit our right to know.

Third Point: Another big point of contention with the pro-GMO folks is that GMO foods are somehow unsafe. They take issue with the claim that the genetic engineering of plants and animals is, as the Yes Campaign puts it “an imprecise process and often causes unintended consequences. Mixing plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes in combinations that cannot occur in nature produces results that are not always predictable or controllable, and can lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.”8 Opponents contend that in fact these processes are quite precise and that the “changes” (ie consequences) are known because they are targeting very specific genes with predictable outcomes. The scientific method that researchers hold themselves to will ensure the process is designed, controlled, and reproducible.

Oh hold that thought one second. What a coincidence that I was just reading in this week’s Economist a whole article dedicated to the danger of bad science9, whether intentional or not. I’d like to pull out a few quotes worth noting.

“Academic scientists readily acknowledge that they often get things wrong. But they also hold fast to the idea that these errors get corrected over time as other scientists try to take the work further. Evidence that many more dodgy results are published than are subsequently withdrawn calls that much-vaunted capacity for self-correction into question. There are errors in a lot more of the scientific papers being published, written about and acted on than anyone would normally suppose, or like to think.”

“John Bohannon, a biologist at Harvard, recently submitted a pseudonymous paper on the effects of a chemical derived from lichen on cancer cells to 304 journals describing themselves as using peer review. An unusual move; but it was an unusual paper, concocted wholesale and stuffed with clangers (a mistake or blunder) in study design, analysis and interpretation of results. Receiving this dog’s dinner (meaning a mess or muddle, so says the internet) from a fictitious researcher at a made up university, 157 of the journals accepted it for publication.”

Clearly we have problems with science in many realms, from actual errors scientists unwittingly commit to the journals themselves not carefully scrutinizing the science before publication. What a mess. I think we have every right to be doubtful of the science backing the safety of GMOs given this is such a relatively new area of science and the stakes for some of these mega food corporations are so large that they have every incentive to promote and encourage science backing their claims. Remember all the science saying that fat and cholesterol caused heart disease? We now know it’s WAY more complicated than that. In the mean time people have continued to get heart disease who might have been helped or saved if the science had been accurate.

In my opinion, whatever the science says at this time, it’s still all a gamble with our health. At the end of the day, I feel everyone has the right to know in order to make an informed choice for themselves and their children.

Fourth Point: The No Campaign also points out some discrepancies with the fact that many other countries in the world already require mandatory labeling. These countries include Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, The EU, and Russia (yes, Russia), among other countries. Currently 64 countries ban or require GMO labeling.10 While this is an undisputed fact, the No Campaign states that the nature of their laws differ widely and are not nearly as strict as I-522 seeks to be. Many of these countries allow for a small percentage of GE-inclusion without requiring labeling. Some also don’t penalize those whose crops may have been inadvertently contaminated with GE material as our new law would. We would be showing far less tolerance while the rest of the world allows much more leeway.

Hmm, interesting point, however I don’t see why we should vote down this law for being too strict. Heaven forbid. Yes, no doubt it’s sad that some crops have been inadvertently contaminated, and they should probably be given a ton of money by whoever was a careless jerk (insert cough that sounds like the word Monsanto), but I still want and need to know if that unfortunate food is coming into my home if not for the sole reason of keeping it out of the mouths of my young children.

Side note here. For the record, I get to decide what my kids eat. Not Kraft Foods. Not General Mills. Not Nestle. And certainly not Monsanto. I DO. I don’t care how “safe” you tell me they are. Even if they are safe, I GET TO DECIDE! Did I make my point clear? It’s the same with anything else, like the hot topic of vaccinations. I GET TO DECIDE. Any moms in the house hearing me on this one?

As for the small percentage of inclusion that some countries allow … whatever. That is their prerogative. I like the zero tolerance stance. Let’s know for sure. Maybe companies will even feel the need to tell us the percentage and we can then make an even more informed decision on our purchase, but I think going for complete transparency is a great idea. What else ya got?

Fifth Point: The No Campaign has one more last-ditch attempt to get you to vote I-522 down. They point out that while yes, many foods will be labeled under this new law, there are unfortunately way too many exemptions that allow foods such as meats, dairy and restaurant meals to escape labeling.11 We would be missing the whole picture, so to speak. There would be more confusion than actual education.

Seriously? If the exemptions were for specific foods known to be genetically modified (like soy, corn, etc), well then I’d take issue. But meat, dairy and restaurant food?  The difference with meat and dairy is that these involve animals that may or may not have eaten GMO food. It’s not that they themselves have been genetically engineered. Still a concern, but not quite the same thing. And restaurant food? That is an issue we can tackle later. What we are talking about is the majority of food purchased by the average consumer in the grocery aisle. And what we are also talking about is a first step in education and labeling. I don’t believe this law was intended to be all-inclusive. You have to start somewhere. Let’s get this ball rolling and see how we tackle the other concerns later.

I’m sure I’m missing a few other random points that have been argued against the case of labeling, but overall, I don’t believe the No Campaign’s arguments are strong enough. All it looks like to me is an enormous attempt by large food corporations to keep consumers in the dark about GMOs. Yes, maybe they are safe and we shouldn’t be making such a fuss …. but maybe they aren’t. When has big business ever had the general public’s best interest at heart? I don’t trust them to care about my health in the least, so it’s up to us consumers to face this issue and take a stand. Please join me, fellow Washingtonians, and vote YES on I-522 this November.

 

 

 

Sources:

1. Initiative Measure No. 522. Full Text.  http://sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/initiatives/FinalText_285.pdf

2.  “Genetically Engineered Foods.” Medline Plus. 05 July 2012. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002432.htm

3. Whitman, Deborah. “Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?” ProQuest. Apr 2012. http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php

4. Initiative Measure No. 522.

5. The Non-GMO Project. http://www.nongmoproject.org/

6. No on I-522.  http://factsabout522.com/

7. “Initiative 522: Costly, Flawed, and Ill-Conceived.” Washington Research Council. Sept 2013. http://www.researchcouncil.org/docs/PDF/WRCEconomics/Initiative522fullfinal.pdf

8. Initiative Measure No. 522.

9. “Trouble at the Lab.” The Economist. Oct. 19-25 2013: 26-30.

10.  Label GMOs. http://www.labelgmos.org/

11. Price, Bill. “Analysis of Washington State GMO Labeling Initiative I-522.” Biology Fortified. 15 February 2013. http://www.biofortified.org/2013/02/analysis-of-washington-state-gmo-labeling-initiative-i-522/

 

Other Resources:

No Consensus on GMO Safety. European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility. http://sustainablepulse.com/wp-content/uploads/ENSSER_Statement_no_scientific_consensus_on_GMO_safety_ENG_LV.pdf

“Why Genetically Modified Foods Should be Labeled.” The Huffington Post. 4 Oct 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carole-bartolotto/why-genetically-modified-food_b_4039114.html

Companies Opposing Your Right to Know: http://justlabelit.org/right-to-know/labeling-opponents/

 

Articles Discussing the Issue of Valid Scientific Data:

Hiltzik, Michael. “Science Has Lost It’s Way, at a Big Cost to Humanity. Los Angeles Times. 27 Oct 2013.

Begley, Glenn and Lee Ellis. “Drug Development: Raise Standards for Preclinical Cancer Research.” Nature. 483, 531-533. 29 March 2012.  http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v483/n7391/full/483531a.html

Bohannon, John. “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?” Science. 342, no 6154, pp 60-65. 4 Oct 2013.  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6154/60.full?sid=e091081a-60af-4b41-a338-9afedbc7692

Buckwheat Waffles: Vegan, Gluten Free … Or Not

Uh oh, here I go again. A-n-o-t-h-e-r buckwheat recipe. To my credit it’s been over a year since I posted the last one, but yes, this one is somewhat similar in nature. But this is WAFFLES, not pancakes, and that means we get to use a waffle maker which makes this recipe infinitely easier, especially if you have kids tugging at your feet while making them. Slap waffle batter in said waffle maker, slam the lid, and tend to whiny child until the beeper goes off. That’s often how my mornings go.

What I love about this recipe is you can modify it in so many ways. If you aren’t concerned about dairy, eggs or gluten you can go all out. If you are, you can be super restrictive and yet still come out with a great product. I’ve tried this recipe every which way and they all come out soft and tasty.

That being said, my favorite way to make these is to use coconut milk as the liquid and coconut oil for the fat source. OMG, it is coconut heaven. Spread on some cashew butter and a little maple syrup and …. are we still having breakfast here or is this secret dessert? My littlest one loves it too, despite being denied the maple syrup. He chows it down slathered in cashew goodness and doesn’t know the difference. I will admit, I’ve given him a few of mine before, dabbed with a smidge of maple syrup, and he gives me this wide-eyed look of somehow being denied, up to this point in his life, this amazing flavor combination. Yeah, he’s a foodie in the making.

Now, this recipe will make quite a few standard waffles so just be sure to store these little friends in the fridge or package and freeze for future reheating. I find leaving them at room temp often makes them crunchy or tasting rather stale.

If you need a reminder as to why buckwheat is good for you, read this lengthy yet comprehensive review. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=11

So… go down to PCC, pick up some of Bob’s buckwheat flour, and go for it. Viva la buckwheat!

The Best Buckwheat Waffles Ever

Ingredients:
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup regular flour (or GF white flour or another cup of buckwheat flour)*
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups “milk” (regular milk, buttermilk, coconut milk, soy milk)
2 eggs (or 2 Tbsp flax seed mixed w/ just enough warm water to form a soft gel)
½ cup oil (melted butter, coconut oil, walnut oil, almond oil, etc)**

*If you use something besides regular all-purpose flour you will likely need to add more fluid. Simply add more “milk,” water or a combination of the two until you get a thick but pourable batter.

**While any oil here will do, choose something that will add favorable flavor to your waffle. Canola or olive oils will not. Almond and walnut will, however I sometimes wonder about the heat with such delicate oils. Coconut oil or butter is your best bet for flavor and fat stabilization. But, up to you. Play around with it.

Method:
1. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl.
2. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl.
3. Whisk wet ingredients into the dry until well combined. If you are using regular flour be careful not to over mix and over-work the gluten. Mix and whisk sparingly. If using GF flours, whisk to your little hearts content!
4. Turn the waffle maker on. Let mixture rest while waffle maker heats up.
5. Pour batter onto waffle maker (I use a half-cup measuring cup as my ladle which seems to work well, however I don’t fill it completely).
6. Cook until your waffle maker deems it has made an acceptable product. If you have trust issues with your waffle maker, then watch it carefully to avoid burning. Otherwise, close lid, tend to child/husband/bills/Facebook/whatever until light changes or machine beeps.
7. Place on cooling rack until ready to consume.
8. Slather with some sort of butter or nut butter and a light sprinkling of maple syrup.
9. Watch your children beg for them every day.

Pics to come!

The Imperfect Dietitian

I’m the Food Police. At least that is how many people view me. I can’t tell you how many times people have made explanations or excuses for the food choices they make in front of me. It’s cool, I’m not judging. I eat “bad” foods too. In fact, many people are surprised what they see me eating sometimes. It’s not all quinoa salads and green smoothies at my place. Can I tell you a secret? I eat doughnuts. I eat cake. I eat fried chicken. I eat pastries with my coffee. Like right now. Mmmm.

I love reading the blogs of other dietitians and nutritionists. They are so virtuous, what with their bountiful gardens, daily excursions to farmer’s markets, frequent forays into the kitchen to experiment with almond flour or the kale they just picked from their garden, and postings of recipes incorporating the latest superfoods. I want that to be me, I really do, but it’s just not.

I have a garden, but it’s small. Sometimes I forget to water it. Then it dies. I do go to our local Farmer’s market on Sundays. But some days my one-year old decides to nap through it, or we are out doing a family outing, or I’m simply too tired. I do try and experiment in the kitchen, but with a little guy tugging on my leg and the older one wanting to “help”, my focus is well, a bit off. And recipes? Well there is one area where I excel. In following, that is. I follow recipes to a “t.” My brain has little room for creativity these days. Creating recipes, well that is for another day. Maybe when the kids are in school? Besides, have you seen how long it has taken for me to get back to blogging? My goodness.

All I’m trying to say is that I’m not perfect. Yes, the Food Police is not perfect. When I tell people that I see their eyes roll right into the follow-up question. “Sure, but how do you stay so trim and in shape? I simply look at a doughnut and gain weight.” That’s where I bring up the 80/20 rule. Have you heard of it? The premise is you live healthy and virtuous 80% of the time. The other 20% is where you splurge a little. Have a piece of cake at a birthday party? Go for it. Have a few drinks with friends on a Saturday night? Why not. If you’ve been eating healthy all week and incorporating a decent amount of exercise, some indulgence here and there is perfectly fine.

Like I said, I do eat doughnuts. Every day? Heavens no. Maybe once or twice a month, and quality counts. Krispy Kreme, no way. Mighty O Vegan Donuts = YES. And cake? Yeah, again, like once a month at a get-together or if I get inspired (or coerced) to bake something at home. Pastries with my coffee? A little sweet with my coffee is sometimes nice, but I never eat the whole thing. I never forget about portion size.

The rest of the time I’m eating whole foods, a lot of it fresh from PCC (our local organic grocer) or the West Seattle farmer’s market. I’m drinking lots of water, and more recently I’m doing more green smoothies with coconut milk and eating a ton of fresh summer fruits. I’m also exercising, almost every day. I know exercise is a sticking point for many, but people, you have to move! You have to get that heart rate up and you have to sweat. There’s many ways to achieve this and I can offer recommendations for gyms, trainers, and methods, but exercise is vital. As I once overhead someone say, burpees can cover a multitude of sins.

I really hope this helps you see that many of us in the health industry are not perfect. We like to indulge and splurge as much as the next person. And we all have times in life, just like you, where we just can’t be as healthy as we aspire to be (kids/family obligations, job schedules, illness, etc). The key is to be as health-conscious as you can most of the time and let that other 20% go. It’s that easy.

Of course, if you need help with that pesky 80%, give me call. =)

Mama makes me delicious food.

Healthy Meals, In a Flash

Probably the number one reason I hear from people in my office as to why they can’t eat healthy is this: “I don’t have time.” I get it. We are busy people. Our culture and society push us to do more and more. Most of us feel this pressure plus the need to be “perfect” at it all as well. Many important things in our life suffer because of this, and one of those things is what we eat.

I’m not sure when it happened. Maybe it was the 50’s when convenience foods came on the scene, but what we ingest has taken a back seat to supposedly more important things in life: jobs, family, entertainment, etc. In fact, the percentage of our income that we spend on food is one of the lowest globally. Another factor is the sheer lack of education on food and nutrition in our public schools. Ok, maybe it’s gotten better (admittedly it’s been a long time since I’ve been in grade school) but the one health class I remember in school is clearly not sufficient to raise kids who are aware and equipped to make healthy food choices. I should know. My diet in college was absolutely appalling. It’s amazing I made it out alive. No, my undergrad education was not in nutrition. That came much later, after I wised up and started eating things besides jube jubes and Hamburger Helper. I’m not joking.

So yes, we are busy, and on top of that we are poorly educated. Not a good combination. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised then that people choose to spend as little as possible on food. The tide does seem to be turning but still you can see our grocery stores are filled with processed, boxed foods that are touted as healthy AND economical. Economical? Ok, sometimes. Healthy? Almost never.

What I thought I’d do is tell you a little bit about how I save money and still eat healthy. I have two little ones, so eating healthy and providing the best food I can for them has never been more important. That being said, I still watch my budget. When my husband is home (he travels frequently for work) we eat more hearty meals that require more prep and planning. He does most of that for me (yay!). When he’s not home, we are bare bones and economical. I need things are quick, convenient, budget-conscious, and most importantly, healthy.

Listed below are some of my favorite “go-to” meals that I use for me and my kiddos during the week. These are all pre-schooler approved so should work well for any kids that are willing to eat more than chicken nuggets and tater tots. If your kids only eat chicken nuggets or tater tots …. call me. I can help.

Budget-Friendly & Healthy Family Meal Ideas:

1. Roasted chicken, broccoli and brown rice
It’s easy. Get a roasted chicken from your local grocer. Preferably organic. C’mom, we are talking about an extra $2 -$3. I buy a Ranger Chicken at PCC for $9.99. Next, get some brown rice going in the rice cooker. Remember that brown rice takes 40ish minutes so get that baby going as soon as you walk in the door. Lastly, blanch some broccoli. If you need more flavor, sauté it in garlic and olive oil. That’s what my hubby does, but when he is out of town we just eat it straight up blanched. Time is of the essence! Lastly, cut up some avocado cubes. Gotta get those healthy fats in there which is so important for growing those kids nice and tall. If you are without kids and just looking for healthy ways to keep the weight off, cut out the brown rice but keep the avocado.

2. Salmon, quinoa and green beans
They say we are supposed to eat low-mercury seafood twice a week. Well it doesn’t get much easier than salmon. All you have to do is literally open the package, sprinkle salt and pepper, and slap it on a non-stick frypan. I don’t even bother cutting the skin off. After cooking on both sides for a couple of minutes you can easily pull the skin right off. Before you get the salmon going get some water boiling for the quinoa. Quinoa cooks up just like rice, so simply rinse, dump into boiling water, cover, and simmer for 15ish minutes. Also, getting another pot of water going to blanch some green beans. Even the slowest of cooks should have this done in under 30 minutes. Delicious and protein rich.

3. Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese
I know, I know. You are saying “Mac and cheese, whaaat??” Normally I’m not a processed foods person, but once in awhile, let’s admit it, those “cheesy noodles,” as my son calls them, are delicious. What I do however, is bump up the protein by adding some edamame beans or flaked salmon. Ocassionaly I’ll stir in some broccoli, peas, or cauliflower. Even picky eaters can be coaxed into eating the healthy stuff when it’s slathered in cheese sauce and bug-shaped noodles. Yes, making your own homemade mach & cheese would be better, so if you have the ability to make a roux with two kids tugging at your legs, you let me know how.

4. Spaghetti
Speaking of noodles, spaghetti has always been a family favorite. But please, don’t buy the jarred stuff! Homemade is SO easy and relatively inexpensive. First, choose whole grain pasta over the white stuff to give your family that extra vitamin/mineral/fiber boost. Next, get a box or jar of diced tomatoes (or BPA-free canned, if you can find it). After sautéing garlic and a bit of rosemary in ¼ cup of oil for a few minutes, add the tomatoes and then simmer for 20ish minutes. Add meat if desired. Throw over the noodles and there you go. Now you know me. Feel free to add some extra goodies in there like those yummy edamame beans or finely diced vegetables like carrots or broocoli. Another high protein option to consider is hemp seed. While not the cheapest thing ever it does add a nice dose of protein, Omega 3’s and calories, all of which are great for growing kids.

5. Sandwich
Who says you can’t have a sandwich for dinner? Subway certainly would agree. But don’t buy those processed meat creations. Make you and your kids a whole-grain, Omega-3 rich treat that will keep you full and satiated until morning. My favorite? I take a tin or two of sardines, mash them up with mayonnaise and salt much like you do with tuna, and slather onto Dave’s Killer Bread. Add some veggies or a salad on the side and you’ve got a great, simple meal. I swear you can’t tell the sardines aren’t tuna – the taste is almost the same. In addition to the Omega 3’ it’s s also full of calcium and Vitamin D. Clearly a powerhouse food for the whole family.

6. Leftovers
I can’t stress the beauty of leftovers enough. Whenever you cook something that requires more than 30 minutes of your time, make a double or triple batch so that you have a decent quantity to freeze or save for the next day. Talk about a time saver in the quest for healthy meals. Ideas? How about a stew that you simmer for a couple hours one afternoon? Make a giant pot so that there is plenty for the next night. Chili? Soups? Veggie lasagna? Same idea. Or freeze it so that you have something ready in a pinch when other dinner plans don’t go as planned. I’ve been there. I know full well that just having the ingredients on hand doesn’t mean the dinner planned on paper days in advance is going to come to fruition. Freezer meals can be a savior in such a case. Plus, this saves you from resorting to those processed freezer boxed meals that are way too high in salt and a bit pricey for the budget.

So there are just a few of my quick go-to’s that keep me away from fast food and other processed convenience foods. What are yours?

Do You Suffer From Migraines?

businessmen,headaches,illnesses,medicine,men,migraines,pains,persons,sicknesses

 

Mr. Smith was at his wits end. He had been dealing with migraines on and off for over 2 years now with no clear cause or relief. He tried medications, relaxation, avoiding certain foods, and staying away from any sort of chemical or cleaning product. The meds were the only thing that temporarily worked, and even those were starting to lose their effect. Mr. Smith was getting desperate as this was starting to affect his career and his home life. Many days a month were spent in bed or at least wanting to be there. Everything changed when he agreed to Mediator Release Testing. After a few days of feeling lousy on the LEAP diet protocol, something shifted around day 4 and he’s been migraine free ever since. According to him and his family, it’s nothing short of a miracle. He’s now off all of his medications and hasn’t missed a day of work in over 6 months.

For a migraine or chronic headache sufferer, this might sound too good to be true. But it’s not. This story is an actual patient, and is much like the stories of the many migraine clients I’ve counseled. I wanted to write a quick post on migraines because honestly, every migrainer that has walked through my office door has found relief where countless other standard treatments have failed. The problem is that the medical community often overlooks food as a contributor to these types of problems. We constantly mask the symptoms with drugs and other pain-relieving measures, but the underlying cause remains. And so the migraines continue.

What many people want to know is: How does food cause a migraine? How does something one ingests correspond with the brain? It does seem illogical in a sense, but after a simple explanation you will see the connection.

First we need to take a trip to the gut. As you have probably heard, the majority of our immune system actually resides in our digestive tract. When nasty germs or particles our immune system flags as foreign enter this area, they are bound to B cells or T cells to form immune complexes. Normally these immune complexes signal the body to destroy these particles by triggering the release of mediators (things such as cytokines, histamine, macrophages, etc). This localized response can help rid the body of these unwanted invaders. Sometimes, however, especially when the body is responding to a benign molecule like a particular protein from food, these immune complexes can travel in the bloodstream to other parts of the body and release their mediators in other regions. While the molecule was encountered in the gut, it can produce unwanted symptoms anywhere in the body. This is one explanation of how migraines may be connected. Another theory is that because of the inflammation produced by these immune reactions, it may create changes in blood flow via vasodilation/vasoconstriction that could be triggering migraines. In either case, food and the immune system are involved and the offending particles need to be removed from the diet for relief and healing to occur.

The other thing to consider is that there is rarely one singular trigger for migraines. It is usually a host of conditions that set off the debilitating pain in a migraine episode, with food being one of those triggers. Other common triggers include light sensitivity, dehydration, caffeine intake, and lack of sleep. Any combination of these factors, along with ingesting the wrong foods in just the right quantities, can be just enough to set off a reaction. It’s a complicated and intricate process, but knowing foods that are likely to assist in triggering these episodes are a crucial step in solving the puzzle.

Now I will admit, I do not suffer from migraines. I have food sensitivities, but migraines are not my symptom. I have had enough headaches at various times to know, however, that true migraines must be dreadfully awful. That is why I’m so passionate about helping people in this condition. For many, medications just aren’t working and no other solutions are being offered by the medical community. They are left hopeless, fearing constantly about when and where the next episode will rear its nasty head. They guess about what food and lifestyle factors might be part of the cause but they just can’t seem to figure it out. The beauty of MRT is that it takes the guesswork out. It’s been a life changer for thousands of migraine-sufferers.

If you or someone you know is suffering from migraines or terrible headaches, please have them talk to me. I’m always available by phone to talk to anyone for free. If I’m not the right fit for them or they feel MRT is not the best route for them, I will help find someone or something that is. I just want you to get well and will do what I can to support that journey.

Aflatoxin Exposure: Reason for Concern?

I’ll admit it. I haven’t been paying much attention to aflatoxins. Sure, I’ve seen news clips about them here and there, particularly related to peanut contamination (and rather sensationalized at that), however instead of digging further into the health implications I more or less put my fingers in my ears. “La la la la la.” I mean honestly, like I need one more thing to worry about, especially when it relates to peanuts, the most child friendly food on earth.

But I keep seeing the topic pop up and it’s become clear I can’t … and shouldn’t … ignore it.

What are aflatoxins? Let’s consult Wikipedia for a thorough commentary on the topic. “Aflatoxins are naturally occurring mycotoxins that are produced by many species of Aspergillus, a fungus.” They are toxic and “among the most carcinogenic substances known.”

File:Aspergillus.gif

Aspergillus

Alright, my fingers are out of my ears. You had me at carcinogenic. Enlighten me, Wikipedia. Where are these fungus friends found? Or more to the point, how in the world do I avoid them?

“Aflatoxin-producing members of Aspergillus are common and widespread in nature.” It appears they can contaminate grains before harvest or during storage and naturally reside in soil and decaying plants. It can, however, invade all types of organic matter when conditions are ideal for its growth, ie moist and warm.

As it relates to food, aflatoxins tend to contaminate some foods more than others. Peanus, as I mentioned earlier, are a biggy. Peanuts tend to provide favorable conditions for aflatoxin production both during growth and storage (Interestingly, Valencia peanuts seem to be the one variety resistant to mold growth.). Other foods/products include cooking oils, cassava, corn, cotton seed, millet, rice, sunflower seeds, tree nuts, sorghum, wheat and various spices. Aflatoxin-related compounds have even been found in the products of animals who fed on contaminated grains (think eggs, milk, meat).

 Peanut: friend or foe?

But rest assured folks. It isn’t all doom and gloom. We have the FDA, right? Our protector of the food supply surely has knocked this vile microbe out of the food supply. Well, sorta. Like most things harmful to our natural body processes, the FDA has set maximum levels for ingestion. Basically, we can’t reasonably eliminate it without major economic consequences, but we can keep it to a minimum. Not exactly reassuring, but ok.  The thing is you can still eat a considerable amount of aflatoxin-laden foods if you aren’t eating a varied diet or simply, by some cruel coincidence, happen to love a wide variety of foods that support aflatoxin production exceedingly well.

This then begs the question, what exactly does happen with aflatoxin ingestion? Wiki wiki, what say you?

“High level aflatoxin exposure produces an acute hepatic necrosis, resulting later in cirrhosis, and/or carcinoma of the liver.” So in other words, it’s possible your liver will slowly stop working and die. Or get cancer. Maybe both. Seriously?

The good news? “Adult humans have a high tolerance for aflatoxin exposure and rarely succumb to acute aflatoxicosis.” Succumb? You mean die? Well that’s good, but still, I’d prefer to avoid exposure altogether if possible and avoid that gray area between sick and succumb.

Also, Andrew Weil has this to say. “The U.S. government tests crops for aflatoxin and doesn’t permit them to be used for human or animal food if they contain levels over 20 parts per billion. While we don’t know much about the dangers of long-term exposure to low levels of aflatoxin, my colleague Kathleen Johnson, a dietitian here at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, points out that there hasn’t been an outbreak of liver cancer among U.S. kids, who as you know, consume enormous amounts of peanut butter.”

Phew, no liver cancer in kids. What about an increased risk into adulthood? Hard to say, but some studies do indicate that there is a slight increase in risk, especially when there are other liver complications such as Hep B.

What to do? The best we can realistically do is limit our exposure as much as possible. Even if we were to grow and process our own food (make our own grains, harvest our own tree nuts, etc) how do we know the fruits of our labor aren’t somehow contaminated by this prevalent fungus byproduct? We don’t, and that’s why at least at a very base level I am thankful to have some sort of protection with the FDA. But more to the point, we can limit our ingestion of foods known to be contaminated.

So while initially I was about to throw out every peanut-containing product in my house, I will now take a rational yet still protective approach. This likely means we use less peanut products. We’ll make sure that the potentially aflatoxin-contaminated foods that we do eat are stored properly and consumed in a reasonable amount of time. We’ll continue to eat a healthy diet, rich in antioxidants, to help ward off illness and naturally detoxify the body. In fact, one article noted this little gem: “Medical research indicates that a regular diet including apiaceous vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, celery and parsley reduces the carcinogenic effects of aflatoxin.” A healthy diet can cover a multitude of sins.

Rather than cause you excessive worry I hope I helped enlighten you about this potentially carcinogenic substance in our food supply. It’s just one more reason a healthy diet is so important. Eat well. Exercise daily. Enjoy life.

 

For Further Reading:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aflatoxin

Environment, Health and Safety Online: http://www.ehso.com/ehshome/aflatoxin.php

Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002429.htm

Andrew Weil, MD.: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA115491

Population attributable risk of aflatoxin-related liver cancer: systemic review and meta analysis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22405700

 

 

Back From Maternity Leave … With a New Perspective

Yep, I’m back at the office, doing what I passionately love to do: talk about food health. And I’m finally updating this blog again after an embarrassingly long hiatus. I’m not going to even bother apologizing. It is what it is.

Over the past couple months I’ve read countless articles about women “trying to have it all.” I’ve always thought, well, you can’t really have it all. Some things have to give, but you can have a little of many things. I can be wife, mom, nutritionist, gym rat, baker, reader, sewer, etc … but in smaller proportions than in my life pre-kids. I still believe that. What I’ve now come to learn with two kiddos under my care is that while you can have many things going on in your life, there is a level at which sanity starts to suffer. I’m rapidly reaching that point and I’m barely back from maternity leave.

No, no, no. This is not a blogpost to say I’m quitting my career. I LOVE what I do, and I love my kids too. I’m working my darnedest to balance the two. But I’m coming to grips with the fact that I have to say “no” for a season. Can I offer my services as a raffle for the holiday bazaar at the senior center? This year the answer is no. Would I like to host a booth at the local health fair? Sorry, going to have to sit this one out. Can I make an exception and see a patient in the evening to work around their crazy work schedule? Not at this time, but I’m happy to make a referral to someone who can accommodate such a request. These are all things I would have sought to make time for with only one kiddo under my belt. Now with the demands of two I’m realizing it’s ok to say no. Not only is it ok to say no, I’m not going to feel bad about it.

What in the world does this post have to do about nutrition, you say? Well, sometimes with eating healthy and keeping our sanity (ie stress levels) in check we have to say no. I would encourage you to evaluate your life and find areas where you need to take a breather. Try to look at things with a new perspective and think about what you really value. Are you sacrificing your health and family life to meet the demands of others in the quest to win approval, favor, or some mythical yet unachievable level of job satisfaction? The problem is our health suffers as a result. We stop at fast food so we can make that last minute meeting, we guzzle calorific coffees or energy drinks to make up for lack of sleep, and then we skip breakfast in the quest for a few more minutes of shut-eye in the morning. At some point we have to come to grips with what this is doing to our health and quality of life. At the end of the day what are we left with? Is it worth it?

These are just a few of the thoughts that flow from my mind as I come to grips with my new life as a mother of two. I love my two little cuties with all my heart, but it sure is a life change. I’m still getting through the culture shock of it all, so to speak, and still figuring out how work life balance is, well, supposed to work.

While avoiding extraneous demands and circumstances that compromise our health and family is not always possible, we can at least attempt to take the bigger picture into account and sometimes, maybe even more times, just … say … no. That is my goal at least.

Baking brownies with my boys

Baking brownies with my boys. =)

Diet Diaries Go High Tech

You can ditch the pen and paper. Keeping track of what you eat has never been easier. First there were online diet diaries where you could easily log in from anywhere and record every morsel that passed your lips. Now these programs are available as apps on your phone, making diet tracking literally at the tip of your fingers.

My Ne Diary

Wait, what was that? You don’t keep a diet diary? Well if weight loss is your goal, which it is for a large portion of our population, a diet diary may just be that kick you need to get things moving in the right direction. That’s what makes the ease of these phone apps so exciting.

Recent research showed that participants who kept food journals lost almost twice as much weight as their non-journaling companions. Diet diaries make you more mindful of what you put in your mouth and also provide a great way to track caloric intake so that adjustments can be made as needed. Without any type of tracking it’s extremely easy to underestimate the amount of fat, carbohydrates and total calories you are eating. I see it all the time with my weight loss patients. Those that aren’t journaling tend to eat more than they think they are. Larger portions and mindless snacking add up.

Now, many of you already know that I preach an intuitive eating approach to dieting. I don’t like diets and I don’t like strict food rules. In general I don’t even like being obsessed about writing down everything you eat. However I do believe that diet journaling for a certain period of time can be extremely effective in resetting eating patterns and helping people become more mindful about how and what they are eating. This is not a forever thing; I don’t personally keep a diet diary, but they are a useful tool and I highly recommend them as an initial part of a weight loss strategy.

The following are a couple of online trackers and/or phone apps that have come recommended by clients or colleagues. I suggest having a browse and seeing which one might work best for you. Each are slightly different in their format and set-up and you may find one that resonates with you better than another.

Calorie King (www.CalorieKing.com)
My Net Diary (www.MyNetDiary.com)
LiveStrong (www.livestrong.com/calorie-counter-mobile/)
Fat Secret (www.FatSecret.com)
Lost It! (www.LoseIt.com)
Slim Kicker (www.SlimKicker.com)
Food Scanner (http://tracker.dailyburn.com/foodscanner)

This list is definitely not exhaustive (there are SO many!), so do let me know if there are others you like! I’m always looking for great apps to recommend to my tech-savvy clients. Good luck!