Product Review

Every dietitian can relate to how I feel when I get asked the infamous question: What do you eat? Sometimes we (dietitians) even decide to not mention our career just so we won’t be asked about food, nutrition, and/or what we happen to eat. There’s a lot of judgment placed on your meals and snacks when people know what you do for a living…

That being said, here’s where I will address some of my favorite products. And truth be told, I usually don’t mind answering food questions. I take it as meaning that you’re interested in learning about healthy eating and nutritious food—and that always makes me a happy camper :)

 

SUNSHINE BURGERS

sunshine burgerBeing gluten free and primarily vegetarian can be difficult at times, especially when it comes to buying veggie burgers. Almost all the common brands that you find in your grocery store contain wheat gluten as a binder.   And frankly, most of them just aren’t a product I’m comfortable consuming. GMO soy, anyone? None for me, thanks. Sunshine Burgers, however, are an awesomely delicious option that you can feel good about consuming.

- They are non-GMO certified and USDA organic.

- They’re 100% vegan!

- They contain NO: wheat, gluten, soy, corn, oats, dairy, tree nuts, or peanuts! Holy moley, I’m one happy RD!

- So what are they made of?? Whole grains (brown rice and quinoa), beans (black, chick peas, adzuki), raw sunflower seeds, split peas, Tahini, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and spices.

- They come in a variety of flavors, such as garden herb, falafel, hemp & sage breakfast, and our household favorite, black bean South West.

 

JOE’S OAT PATTIES

joes oatsHere’s another great vegan, gluten free, organic veggie burger option! You can find these in patty form in the freezer aisle. Or, you can purchase little bags of the mixture. To make them, you simply boil a cup of water, mix it in, and form patties. Voila – dinner is made. However, they are only found in Florida. If you’re located outside of that area, no worries, you can purchase the bag mixes online. And the great thing about the bag mixes is that you can make anything! ~ stuffing, “meat”balls, ground crumbles, chili, oatloaf, nuggets, stuffed peppers, sausage, etc.

- The ingredients primarily include oats, quinoa, dehydrated veggies, organic spices, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds. They, too, come in a wide variety of flavors.

 

REAL FOODS, CORN THINS

cornthinIn the mood for a cracker or something light and crunchy for a yummy snack? Here’s the perfect item. This is just like a rice cake, but it’s made of non-GMO organic corn. They are quite delicious and can be topped with almost anything—hummus, peanut butter, mashed beans and cheese, guacamole, chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad…

- Real Foods is an Australian company founded in 1980.

- They are GMO-free and organic ~ labeled organic in 3 countries: Australia (ACO), Japan (JAS), and USA (USDA).

- They are gluten free and most of the varieties are free from any known allergens.

- And to boot, the company is committed to preserving the environment.

ARROWHEAD MILLS

arrowhead millsYou’ve probably heard of (and even had) some of the Arrowhead Mills products, such as cereal, oatmeal, pancake mix, or cake mix. They have a wide variety of products now available, including lots of gluten free options.

- They are non-GMO certified and most of their products are USDA organic.

- 90% of their products’ ingredients are from North America, and many of them are from within 100 miles of their own headquarters in Texas.

- They use whole grains, such as amaranth, millet, barley, blue corn, bran, and buckwheat.

- They are committed to the environment. They source locally (as much as possible), they do not use pesticides or herbicides, they package in 100% recyclable boxes, and they only use water-based ink that does not contain any heavy metals.

 

DREAMING COW CREAMERYdreaming cow creamery

If you’re a vegan, then this one isn’t for you. But for everyone else who is obsessed with yogurt (because it’s super trendy these days), here’s one of my favorite brands. Why is this one of my favs? Here’s why…

- They only have happy cows :) They are unconfined, 100% grass-fed 365 days a year. The cows live and graze in Southern Georgia.

- No antibiotics or hormones ever.

- Because the yogurt is made from 100% grass-fed dairy, the omega-3 content is much higher! Hence, you don’t want any fat free yogurt here. As Dreaming Cow Creamery asks, would you want to eat fat free salmon? Of course not! And the yummy cream top is delightful.

- They come in various flavors, such as honey pear, vanilla agave, maple sugar, blueberry cardamom, dark cherry chai, and plain.

- They don’t contain any refined sugar; they’re sweetened with agave, maple syrup, fruit juices, and honey.

 

MAPLE HILL CREAMERYmaple hill creamery

Another great yogurt company for those of you up north. Again, they use dairy from only grass fed cows and they’re also certified USDA organic. They do use sugar to sweeten their yogurt, but it is organic. They offer some great flavors, too, such as maple, lemon, vanilla, wild blueberry, orange cream, and plain (recommended). Oh, and one of their mottos is from a pretty cow herself, who states “you are what I eat.” Hence, grass-fed dairy is the way to go.

 

On a side note, are you wondering why grass-fed cows make milk with higher omega-3 fatty acid content? Omega-3s are actually found in dark leafy greens, such as algae, which is why salmon has a high amount of omega-3s. Omega-3s are found in the chloroplasts of the green grass that the cows consume. When cows are 100% grass fed, their own cells become rich in this essential fatty acid. So when we eat 100% grass fed beef or consume the milk from 100% grass fed cows, we get the benefit of that wonderful omega-3 content.

green-blacksGREEN & BLACK’S CHOCOLATE

We all need some chocolate every day, right? I know I do! (For real.) This is one of my favorites. Green and Black’s is a great company that believes in ethical sourcing and fair-trade products. They are certified USDA organic. You can even find them in almost any grocery store these days—and sometimes for a great sale price! They also come in lots of yummy varieties, though I do urge you to choose dark chocolate, optimally at least 70% cocoa. I actually like the 85% plain dark chocolate bar, but I understand if that’s not a flavor you can handle, as it can taste a little bitter to some palates. I also love their Maya Gold (but that one is only made with 60% cocoa), which is a flavor profile of orange, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Yum!

 

So there you have it folks, a small compilation of some of my favorite foods and companies. If you haven’t tried any of these yet, I think you should go out and try at least one of them. If you have questions about a particular food item, company, or are wondering about my opinion on something you love—feel free to leave a comment or send me a message.

And as always, happy, healthy noms!

Food Trends (my personal opinion)

If you know very little about me, you probably still know that I’m all about health and wellness. That being said, one might think that I love how inundated our society has become with “health” news, diets, and recipes. But the truth is, I’m not entirely thrilled with all of this health chit-chat. Why not, you ask?

trendyFood Trends…

Food trends have been around for ages, and albeit, it is nice to see some of these trends take a healthier spin, they are still mere trends that will fade, I’m quite sure. Often the problem is that one-size-diets really DON’T fit all. What I eat to feel at my best is not likely what you should be eating to feel your best. Fresh, real, natural foods ought to be consumed most often, but which foods specifically vary from person to person. Some people really would be better without dairy while others achieve long-awaited improved gut health by the addition of healthy dairy into their diet. Some should steer clear of most grains as it may cause severe gastric upset and disease flare up while others are meant to be vegetarians with a healthy amount of whole grains and legumes. Some people have a very difficult time breaking down meat fibers for comfortable digestion while others truly do best when they consume high animal protein diets. Again, it’s VERY different from person to person. So when you follow just one trend, it’s not likely going to work for you and your body.

And that’s not to say that you shouldn’t try different types of food—I do! Paleo brownies are one of my favorite treats, vegan lentil loaf makes my mouth water, and well, gluten free is a must for me. But don’t think that you have to stick to one diet because you read a blog that said it would make you feel your best. Correction—it made the author feel their best. You and the author of that blog are likely to be quite different in many respects. So let’s take a quick look at just a few food trends. I’ll share my personal opinion, and please feel free to leave a comment to share yours, too!

 

PALEO

A paleo diet can be healthy and balanced, but I do think that many people misunderstand the purpose behind this “diet.” Some people may try it out as a means to lose weight, when truly, it’s not meant for that at all. Some people have a hard time digesting animal proteins (as aforementioned), and may find that they must start purchasing and taking (sometimes expensive) digestive enzymes just to help them feel less bloated after meals. A paleo diet is not low carb, either (a common misconception.) It’s really just about eating little to no grains, especially processed types and consuming more naturally raised animal products, nuts, seeds, and plants. So, in theory, this isn’t a bad idea, at all. However, it can feel too restrictive for some people. For me personally, it’s too heavy in animal products and fats. I’m one of those who needs to use digestive enzymes if I consume that much animal meat. And yes, we all NEED a good amount of fat in our diet, but when I consume too much, I tend to feel tired and listless. Some people can consume 80% fat and feel their best. Again, we are all so different.

 

LOW CARB / KETO

Speaking of high fat…

I think that a low carb diet can be healthy… or, it can be extreme and even dangerous. There are many people who do not approach this type of “diet” correctly and often will suffer from nutritional deficiencies. It’s also very limiting, heavy, and can be quite unbalanced. “Low carb” is also different for each individual, so if you read an article that tells you exactly how many grams of carbs you should consume in a day, you can be sure that it ought to not be trusted. Does the author know your age, gender, activity level, health conditions, mental and psychological background, hormone levels…? All of those come in to play when considering how much carbohydrate you need in your diet. Low carb is a meaningless phrase, so really I feel that too many people misuse this type of diet and can and do cause harm to their body.

 

VEGAN

Personally, I love vegetarian and vegan diets. It’s the diet that I tend to relate to the most, as I usually feel my best when I’m following a primarily vegetarian diet. However, imbalanced vegan diets can lead to various deficiencies. It’s important to expand your horizons at all times, trying new and different foods and enjoying an array of flavors and textures. It’s not a difficult diet to follow, but it may be overwhelming to those who are used to consuming animal products (especially when you are out to eat.) So, if you’re delving into this arena, be sure to eat a well-rounded diet chock full of variety! Beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, tons of fruits and veggies, and whole grains (in moderation) are all musts in this type of diet.

 

GLUTEN FREE

What is gluten? It’s a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. If you have celiac disease, your immune system attacks the protein and in the process, wrecks havoc on your intestines. Eventually, if you continue to consume gluten, you may end up with some serious physical ailments, such as various nutritional deficiencies, amenorrhea, and even cancer. If you have gluten sensitivity, you’re not actually causing physical harm to your intestines, but you may be tormented by other symptoms, such as compromised gut health (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, etc.), joint pain (chronic inflammation), and even psychological illness. There are many people who do not think that gluten sensitivity is real. And yes, that is debatable. But if you remove gluten from your diet, and you feel remarkably better, then I would say…haters gonna hate. In other words, do what you know is best for your health, and forget the rest. Doctor David Perlmutter (author of Grain Brain) actually goes as far as to say that gluten is the tobacco of our generation. He also believes that grains, including those containing gluten, may cause/worsen Alzheimer’s disease.

So, what’s my take on gluten? Frankly, it would probably do you good to get some gluten out of your diet, whether it’s making you ill or not. However, there are still many GF processed foods now available.   You won’t do yourself any good if you eat those types of “foods.” In general, just try to eat less wheat (whole or refined), and instead, incorporate other starches, such as quinoa, teff, sweet potato, and lentils.

 

RAW FOOD

Cooking some types of food, does lead to less nutrition. High temperatures can damage nutritional properties and weaken enzymes. Raw foodists consume 75-100% of their nutritional intake from foods prepared at temperatures less than 118F. If you’re a skeptic of the benefits of this type of diet, well just watch this video about a woman who has eaten a raw diet for years.  It’s kind of incredible.  I’m not saying that it’s for everyone, because, again, there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Some people struggle with various medial conditions, which make consuming and digesting raw fruits and vegetables very difficult. So obviously, there are many reasons why this diet might not work for you. Though, I would urge all of us (myself including) to eat more raw foods – nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, soaked grains rather than cooked ones.

 

NUTRISYSTEM / MEDIFAST / JENNY CRAIG…

Do I really need to even discuss these? I don’t like any diet that forces you to purchase their very specific, processed food-like products. On these kinds of diets, you can still eat junk food every day, like donuts and cinnamon buns for breakfast. They even offer “delicious” snack options (I’m making a face as I type this), such as cheese puffs. Ingredients as follows: CORNMEAL, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, CANOLA, SUNFLOWER AND/OR SAFFLOWER OIL, CHEESE SEASONING (WHEY SOLIDS (MILK), DEXTRIN, BUTTERMILK SOLIDS, CHEDDAR CHEESE POWDER [CHEDDAR CHEESE {WHOLE MILK, CHEESE CULTURES, SALT, ENZYME AND DISODIUM PHOSPHATE}, SALT, FD&C YELLOW #5 LAKE, YEAST, YELLOW #6 LAKE, CITRIC ACID AND TURMERIC]), SALT, MALTODEXTRIN (NATURAL FIBER SOURCE).

Sounds real healthy… Okay, nuff said about that.

 

WEIGHT WATCHERS

The premise behind Weight Watchers is basically about counting calories. You’re given a certain number of “points” (AKA calories) per day. Each food you eat is classified as having a certain number of “points” (calories), and you stop eating when you’ve consumed all of your “points” (calories) for the day. Does it work? For some, it may help to kick-start weight loss, the same as counting calories works. However, by now, you must know that I’m not a fan of counting calories. It’s unrealistic, time-consuming (and who has time these days to spend time calculating calorie intake!?), fruitless, and most often, it does NOT lead to improved health.

 

Below are a few simple tips for healthy eating. Follow these sorts of tips instead of random diet trends…

1. Eat real food – get ride of all the processed foods in your diet. This may include many types of cereal, bread, crackers, granola and snack bars, some frozen foods, condiments, dressings, peanut butter, etc. There are good versions of these foods, but they may cost a lot more. So, if cost is an issue for you, simply eat natural foods that are much cheaper. For example, dried beans, lentils, rice, nuts and seeds (buy raw, in bulk), oats, in season local produce, olive oil, frozen fruits and veggies with nothing added to them, vinegars, and plain water. You can eat healthy food for not much money, but if you choose to buy specific products to replace your old “processed” products, you will be paying a butt-load more, quite frankly. Yes, an organic, natural almond butter will cost quadruple that crappy Walmart peanut butter you’ve been using. But the ingredients are likely to be 100 times better for you. So, put into prospective, it’s worth the cost. However, if that just isn’t an option, use nut spreads less often! Expand your breakfast horizon outside of toast with peanut butter. Have some fresh eggs with sautéed veggies, or try steel cut oats with frozen fruit and coconut milk. Better yet, make a big batch of whole grain homemade pancakes, and keep them in the freezer for a fast and delicious breakfast option.

 

2. Eat a lot more vegetables and limit your fruit intake to 2 servings per day (on average). Fruit is healthy, of course, but it still contains quite a bit of sugar (fructose), so limit how much you have per serving and per day. If you’re craving sweets and you’re thinking of having a candy bar, then yes, by all means, please enjoy some fresh fruit instead. A good evening snack is frozen/thawed peaches topped with a few tablespoons of real organic cream or coconut milk with some chopped nuts. YUM!

 

3. Make more of your own kitchen creations! Don’t be afraid to explore new foods, new tastes, different cooking methods. Dehydrate your own fruit in the oven; get out that old crock-pot and toss in dried beans, chopped onions, chopped tomatoes, chilies, frozen corn, and spices (vegetarian chili!); make old fashioned oats into hearty Sunday morning pancakes; sauté apples with cinnamon and coconut oil and serve over warm quinoa with almond milk. There are so many different foods to try—why not start now?

 

4. Work towards listening to your body. Eat when you are hungry, stop when are full, say no to food that you don’t truly want, indulge in small amounts, savor flavors, and tune in to your senses (taste, smell, sight, hunger, fullness). Work with your body instead of working against it. If you work with it, you will treat it right, mending it rather than harming it. And when you harm your body, you harm yourself. When you heal your body, you heal yourself.

 

5. MOVE. I’ll be honest, I get stuck in the same ole exercise routines, and yes, I hate those routines. I go to the gym (I won’t name names here, but I loathe my gym…), and I work out like a hamster on the treadmill, elliptical (which I still debate whether or not that’s even doing anything for my body’s health), stationary bike… and I watch mindless TV. I don’t even pay attention to my body! When I close my eyes and think about what my body wants, I realize that it want to hike up hills, dance around like crazy, and be in the open air. So try to listen to what makes your body fit and happy, and do that. I’ll work on it if you work on it ;)

 

If you have other healthy suggestions, share them in a comment. And as always, happy, healthy living :)

Living and Learning

rainbow

As you know, Maya Angelou passed this week.  It’s a sad event, but she left behind an amazing legacy, and she will live on forever and ever.   Like most people, I’ve been reading through her poems, quotes, listening to her songs and interviews.  She was an incredible woman and human being.  I aspire to be half as amazing—or double as amazing… she wouldn’t have settled for half of anything ;)

That being said, I decided to write a post—not about food—but about love and hope.  My life has recently changed quite a bit.  I moved 1200 miles away from my home, my family, my friends.  I quit my job and began a new one in a totally different area of dietetics.  For over a month, I left behind my husband, my cats, all of my furniture and most of my possessions, living with nothing but the bare essentials.  I opened my heart to faith and put my trust in the unknown of my life’s future.

I’ve only been living in Orlando for about 2 months now.  It’s certainly different from Connecticut, but I’m doing my best to trust this new life.  I love my new job and co-workers.  I feel very blessed to have an opportunity to work with some truly awesome individuals.  I found a welcoming church oozing with love and acceptance.  In fact, the minister spent last week’s sermon speaking of how wonderful this church family is—how caring, warming, welcoming, and powerfully forgiving they are.  I have personally experienced their love already.  But surely, I am still lonely much of the time.  I miss my family and friends.  I feel lost some days.  I feel sad much of the time.  But there is an endless ocean of hope within my heart that’s doing its best to pour its waters into my soul, brightening my spirit with waves of positivity.

I got into an “argument” with my husband this week.  It began over something about Magic Johnson—not even sure how the whole conversation came about, truthfully.  But it lead me to telling my husband that I think perhaps he hasn’t experienced making true mistakes in life—the kind of mistakes that shake you and your soul, force you to look deeper into yourself and your life.  People who have been through earth-shattering experiences (within themselves and their families) learn to forgive, to love, to heal.  I suppose I can only speak for myself here.  I am 29 years old and my life’s experiences have taught me the lessons that have molded my spirit into the person I am today.  I am compassionate, forgiving, caring, and most certainly headstrong.

I have always loved Ayn Rand—her novels, her musings, her philosophies.  When I was in high school [and college,] I believed that I needed to hold true to her philosophies 100% or else…what was the point?  What would be the point in being half virtuous?  Half of an independent woman with hardcore values?  I believed that I would have to hold strong to a belief system in order to be a strong woman.  That’s one reason why I left behind my faith and spirituality for many years.  If I didn’t believe in all of the words of the bible, all of the beliefs of the church…what was the point?  That’s also why I fell into a pit of despair and illness.  If I couldn’t be something 100%, what would the point be?  Black or white.  Yes or no.  This or that.  I thought, felt, that life was a series of choices—a journey, indeed, that you must walk based on the path you chose.  If there is a fork in front of you, you must chose a path and stick with it until you find your destination.

Needless to say, I have grown to realize that life is not much like a path at all.  I’ve learned that if you walk one way, you have the freedom to turn around, to walk another path, to create another path, to close your eyes and run forward with no direction at all.  I have learned that you will find many others who will walk with you, as they have no strict path, either.  And I have learned that this is all okay.

I still love Ayn Rand’s philosophies, but I certainly don’t agree with all of them.  I still love God and my faith, but I have come to realize that it is my own, and I don’t have to believe every or any word in the bible.  I don’t have believe what someone else preaches.  I have learned that I can forgive myself, and even when I can’t, someone else can until I feel safe enough to begin healing.  I have learned that friends rarely live up to your expectations.  Instead of losing friends, do your best to lose your expectations.  I have learned that I will never live up to my own expectations.  I do my best to except where I am today.  I have learned that parents are people, too.  You can really grow a lot when you make the effort to look at your family as human beings rather than just your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, etc.

This post is not about anything in particular.  It’s a journal entry about loving and learning and growing.  It’s a reminder to myself and to you to love yourself and others.  You have one life to live.  Do you want to be the person known for judgment and anger or the one known for passion and compassion?  Do you want to feel bound by anxiety and fear or relaxed within the comfort of understanding and faith?

I choose the latter.  To the best of my ability.  With love in my heart, I send you faith.

Until next time, hold healing hope :)

There’s a New Eating Disorder On The Block…

As a dietitian, I spend most of my time (on and off this blog) advocating for healthier eating. I attempt to inspire others to embrace a more balanced lifestyle regarding food, exercise, and relaxation (de-stressing). I believe that most people could benefit from eating more natural foods that work in harmony with our digestive system, fueling our spirit and energy, and satisfying our need for all nutrients (those with and those without calories). However, I also strive to keep health in balance with happiness, pleasure, and socialization. I never want someone to think that they need to look a certain way to be healthy. I have been combating society’s body image issue for years, and will continue to do so.

There is a relatively newly defined disorder called Orthorexia Nervosa. You may or may not have heard of it at this point in time. If you haven’t, you are sure to hear more about it as the years pass on. It is not technically a true psychological disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel (DSM), but many healthcare professionals are advocating for it to become an actual diagnosis. I personally think that making it a diagnosis may be beneficial to those individuals who are in need of treatment but do not fall into the other categories of a defined eating disorder. However, I also think that its definition should be somewhat broad, as people with this type of disorder may have varying degrees of symptoms.

I suppose I ought to define Orthorexia, in case you have not heard of it. Orthorexia is an extreme obsession with healthy eating, perhaps even to the point that one would rather starve than allow an “unhealthy” ingredient to enter their body. The word originates from the Greek words “orthos,” meaning proper and “orexia,” meaning appetite. It is not merely someone who strives to eat healthfully; if that were the case, a huge portion of the world would be orthorexic! It is truly an obsession and a disorder. My belief is that it is likely to be a duel-diagnosis alongside Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, EDNOS, or even OCD. And if one of these other disorders is not present, it is my opinion that one of them is likely to follow. I truly believe that Orthorexia, if not treated in some fashion, may be likely to precede Anorexia Nervosa.

To be clear, Orthorexia is not just about healthy eating. Again, it is a true obsession. One may begin by innocently striving to cut out artificial, unhealthy ingredients. But before long, it may turn into an obsession that becomes a dreadful fear of certain foods and/or ingredients.

My opinion is that we all ought to strive for balance and health when it comes to food. Eat natural foods and do not fill your kitchen with processed foods or artificially made ingredients. Eat real nutrients rather than supplements (unless otherwise indicated*). Get to know the process of cooking and working with real foods rather than boxed, canned, and par-prepared items. When we eat this way on a regular basis, we can afford to eat a meal out without worry or a dinner at a friend’s home without scrutinizing the products used in the making of the meal. Your friend probably won’t ask you over again if you are digging through her trash in an attempt to find out what type of sauce she used in the entrée. Healthy eating becomes a disorder when it takes the enjoyment out of life and social situations—when one begins to isolate or avoid food situations because of the fear he/she has regarding the cuisine available. Truly, it is a case-by-case diagnosis, much like other mental disorders.

I have read posts and articles bashing the idea of making Orthorexia a true disorder out of fear that society will be given a pass on continuing to serve up processed crap. That is certainly not the case, in my opinion. I would love to see the day when big name grocery stores are fewer and farther between. I would love to see smaller groceries on each street corner, offering organic, real foods that are more local and native to that area. I would love to see many more farmer’s markets, such as those in other countries. If you can purchase your food on a more daily or bi-daily basis, it probably means it’s fresher and more natural. If most of your food can last for months or years at a time, you might want to reconsider the foods in your diet.

If you think that you may have Orthorexia, I would urge you to see a therapist and a dietitian for an evaluation of your goals and health priorities. If you think you may have a problem, seek help, no matter what anyone else may think or say. You deserve a life that is happy and balanced—with good food, good friends, good memories, and a sense of true freedom.

 

*Depending on your personal health and situation, some supplements may be indicated and needed for nutritional reasons. Ask your doctor or a reliable dietitian.

Health is Balance

foooood

 

Jenny Craig, Atkins, Ornish, Flat belly, the Zone, paleo, South beach, acid alkaline, Dukan… there are so many diets out there, how is one supposed to know what’s right to eat? The latest magazine article says to never touch wheat again; the morning news says to steer clear of any and all meat products; your doctor tells you to cut out all saturated fat; and every other Pinterest graphic tells you that sugar will kill you! WHAT CAN I EAT?!

I’ve been cooking since I was 4 years old. I have a degree in nutrition and dietetics; I have experience working in areas of food service, long term care, acute clinical nutrition, community nutrition, outpatient nutritional counseling, and sports nutrition. I enjoy moderate physical activity, including yoga, hiking, and biking. And above all else, I love food. So when people come to me and feel confused about what to eat for health and pleasure, sometimes I just want to scream: ME TOO!

But in all seriousness, health is about balance. I’m not an advocate of stocking one’s kitchen with processed foods, such as Hostess cupcakes, Kraft mac and cheese, and Campbell’s soups. If I go to your home and find your cupboards packed with canned and boxed “foods” and your freezer full of ice cream, frozen dinners, and French fries, if I find loads of sugary foods, high sodium foods, and/or artificially sweetened everything, I’ll be more than angered…I’ll be concerned for your health and wellbeing. What then do I hope to find?

My recommendation is to fill your kitchen with natural foods (and no, just because a product label contains the word “natural,” that does not mean that it’s a natural food.) I want you to begin cooking foods with fewer ingredients, and yes, mostly those without any nutrition label at all. I’d like you to eat more plants, less animal products. Certainly you don’t need to be a vegetarian, but I do want you to consume a HIGH amount of produce (fruits and vegetables.) If you complain to me that you do not like vegetables, my guess is that you need some lessons in cooking. I could potentially help you with this, as well. All vegetables do not taste the same, and there are so many recipes and ways to cook them, you couldn’t possibly make the statement that you just don’t like any of them in any kind of dish. That doesn’t make sense and there’s really no reason or logic behind a statement that is so broad and general. I would also recommend that you drink plenty plain water.

As difficult as this all may sound, it is perfectly do-able…in steps. Depending on what your diet looks like right now, there are steps you may take to begin launching a healthier lifestyle. However, there is one thing that you need to have already in place. It’s very important and I probably cannot help you if you don’t have this piece in place (or at least the beginnings of it.) The desire and motivation to make some sort of change; the wish for a longer, more balanced, happier, healthier life; a craving for satisfaction without deprivation. With that alone, I can help you move forward into a better, more balanced lifestyle.

Some people say to me, “it’s easy for you, you’re naturally thin” or “you’re a dietitian, this comes easy to you!” Those statements are not only degrading, but they are just flat-out false. Yes, I am trained in the science of healthy eating, but no, that does not make it easier for me. I, too, grew-up eating Kraft mac and cheese and Entenmanns donuts (and cakes and cookies and Danish and pies…). I also struggled with physical fitness, as I never felt that I was talented in any specific area. I was the one picked last in gym class, the one who’d rather sit on the bench then play in the game because I was too afraid I’d be laughed right off the field. I was a child who consoled herself with ice cream and cake. I also grew into a pre-teen who dieted for all the wrong reasons. I cut out junk food, exercised more, and obsessed over my body size until it was almost non-existent. I’ve been every weight my body could (and sometimes couldn’t) handle—from size 00 to XL. So when people (friends and clients) make statements to me about how I just couldn’t possibly understand their battle with healthy eating and living, I not only feel angered but personally misunderstood.

I write this post because I spend nearly all of time devoted to my career, striving to inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle (with food, physical activity, and mental wellness). I am passionate about what I say and do, not because I can’t relate to others’ struggles, but because I can. If I couldn’t relate, I’d probably have half the passion I possess.

If you’d like to start living a healthier lifestyle, and you need personalized help, feel free to contact me. I can counsel on a more individualized bases. Otherwise, stay tuned for more balanced posts here on The Food Life :)

New Life Ahead of Me

In my last post, I mentioned that I would be moving to Orlando, FL.  Well, I’m here.  It took about 20 hours of driving a jam-packed car full of clothes (mostly) and other necessities, but I made it here.  I begin my new job in just over a week.  In this moment, I’m much more scared and nervous than I am excited.  But I have faith that the excitement will return (I hope).

Early Wednesday, I said good-bye to my friends and family in Connecticut, and started off for my long journey.  It was really hard to say good-bye to everyone.  Obviously, my mom cried—that’s one of the hardest parts.  I’m so close with my mom that re-adjusting to being 1200 miles from her will be a huge challenge.  I hugged my close friends, and I already miss them.  I’m somewhat of a weird person, so when you find weird friends to click with, you just never know if you’ll ever make such wonderful friends again.  I love them.  My brother, sister-in-law, and niece were one of the hardest parts!  I even had to say good-bye to my husband and my cats.  They will be joining me down here in sunny Florida at some point, but we don’t know when yet.

So, on my travels, I stopped in North Carolina.  Folks are super nice in the south, but definitely different.  Then, obviously I passed South of the Boarder.  For those of you who are not familiar with this road-side deathtrap, consider yourself warned.  Maybe it was fun at one point in time, but I stopped there once and thought I was going to be murdered.  Needless to say, I didn’t stop for gas in that town.

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I’m now in my new apartment…though it’s rather empty.  Me, a blow-up mattress, my clothes.  That’s about it, really.  I did go shopping and picked up some food and other necessities (iron, trash basket, alarm clock…).  And the local Whole Foods had Kevita on sale—score!  I added that to my breakfast, as my new coffee maker doesn’t arrive until Monday.

 

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Breakfast of champs! Gluten free toast with peanut butter and some healthy probiotics.

Oh, and I also made a fun purchase today—a new bike!  I haven’t ridden a bike in years!  So much fun!  Although, carrying your bike up to the third floor isn’t exactly something I look forward to doing on a regular basis.  We just never like to choose apartments with elevators ha!

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We have a lovely patio to enjoy the summer air, and our bedroom practically feels like it’s outside.  Once my husband and cats get here, maybe it’ll feel a little more like home.  At the present time, it’s rather lonely and empty.  But I’m keeping my chin up and looking forward to brighter (warmer) days ahead in the Florida sun.

New Adventures and Almond Cake

Needless to say, I haven’t posted much lately.  It’s been a really crazy few months, to be honest.  Okay, when is life ever not crazy?  In updated news about my life… I’m moving… far.  I’m heading down to Orlando, FL this coming week.  Yesterday was my last day at my “current” job, and I’ll be starting yet another new job in just a few short weeks!  I’m really excited for this new adventure in life.  My husband has been wanting to move back to Orlando (he lived there for 3 years) for a long time.  I, on the other hand, have not been willing to move out of state.  My family was my priority for the past few years.  And though leaving them is going to be incredibly difficult, I know that it’s time to venture out into the great big world and find our own niche together.  And so we’re off… err, I’m off.  Funny how things work out, huh?

So, with that little update, I now proceed to the important part of this post—a new recipe!!

 

Grain Free Crunchy Caramelized Almond Pound Cake

 

Ingredients

4 eggs (3 yolks, 3 whites, 1 whole egg)

½ cup granulated sugar (organic is best)

½ cup grass-fed butter, softened (Kerry Gold is my favorite brand)

1 ¼ cup almond flour

½ cup tapioca flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon almond extract

 

½ cup melted grass-fed butter

1/3 cup brown sugar (organic is best)

 

Instructions

- In a medium bowl, beat the 3 egg whites until stiff peaks form.

- In a separate bowl, beat the 3 yolks plus the whole egg with the ½ cup granulated sugar. Once that is a creamy yellow color, add in the ½ cup softened butter; continue to beat.

- Into the egg mixture, add in the almond flour, tapioca flour, baking powder, salt, and almond extract. Beat it all together.

- By hand, mix in about 1/3 of the egg whites. Then gently fold in the other 2/3 of the egg whites.

- In the bottom of a bunt pan, pour in the melted butter and sprinkle around the brown sugar on top of the butter. Then pour in the cake batter.

- Bake at 350°F for about 35 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes and pop out of the pan to finish cooling.

 

The melted butter and brown sugar give this pound cake a delicious caramel crunch that's tasty, sweet, and the perfect added texture to this delightfully moist, soft cake.

The melted butter and brown sugar give this pound cake a delicious caramel crunch that’s tasty, sweet, and the perfect added texture to this delightfully moist, soft cake.

 

Makes about 12 servings

Nutritional Information (per serving): 280 calories, 21g fat, 152mg sodium, 23.5g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 17g sugar, 4g protein.