Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Next Thirty Years

I am just hours away from the big 3-0.  (In fact, by the time you read this, I may be well into my thirties.)  As a late May baby I have always been young for my grade, and I was usually one of the youngest employees in all the jobs I have held.  Getting older never really bothered me since I was happy with the direction my life was going, and heck - getting older sure beats the alternative. 

As a new mom I am acutely, painfully aware of the quick passage of time during especially wonderful experiences.  Every day I am stunned when the clock strikes 5 pm.  How did the day pass so quickly?  I remember recent times in an unfulfilling job when I couldn't wait for 5 pm, and now each day I both celebrate and mourn yet another sunset, another bedtime cuddle.  Turning 30 has reminded me that time is fleeting and days are not to be wasted.  For this reason, I am a bit sad to hit this aging milestone.  I am no longer truly "young," and time will only pass more quickly from here on out.  

Though turning thirty is bittersweet, it also provides me with an opportunity to reflect on my evolution, my personal nutrition transition, during the last decade.  I think back ten years, to my twenty-year-old self, and reflect on what a completely different person I was in so many ways.  I was well into my education to become a dietitian, but my motives were so different then than they are now.  My habits and behaviors, while seemingly healthy to an outsider, were destructive and depleting.  I am so grateful that time, experience, mentors, and trial-by-fire have completely transformed my daily thoughts, feelings, patterns and routines.  Below I will share some of these changes from 10 years ago (exactly!) to now in the hopes that you appreciate the transitions you have made with your own health. 


Then - living with my parents for the summer after finishing sophomore year at U of A.

Now - living with my husband, daughter, and 2 crazy pups in the house we have owned for almost 5 years.


Then - diet rep at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn; taking 2 summer school classes at SCC.

Now - mish-mash of various baby-friendly jobs, including Babymoon Inn nutritionist, Karve instructor, My Dietitian RD, and consultant.


Then - RESTRICTIVE!  I thought that healthy meant low calorie, no matter what it was made out of.  My diet consisted of lots of low-calorie, fake foods, processed soy, diet sodas, sugar-free coffee drinks, fat-free salad dressings, and microwaved meals.  I never used salad dressing (besides vinegar or some fat-free crap), and I avoided nuts and other high-fat foods like the plague.  My favorite snack?  Fat-free microwaved popcorn sprayed with "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" spray.  (I'm cringing as I write this.)  Right at this time I decided to "slim down for summer" and ate so restrictively that I had to take a nap every afternoon to accommodate my exhaustion.  I lost 10 pounds, but I gained a messed-up relationship with food that took years to heal.

Now - real, yet flexible.  I love food and try to avoid anything fake.  My diet consists of vegetables, fruits, sustainably-raised animal products, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, whole grains, and chocolate (usually in the form of cocoa powder).  I haven't touched soda in years and enjoy 2-3 glasses of red wine per week.  I minimize dairy and gluten because it helps me feel my best, but I love trying and enjoying all types of food.  Most importantly, I listen to my body.  I eat when I'm hungry.  I stop eating when I'm comfortably full (usually).  I try my best to eat slowly and mindfully, though that's a pattern that I'm still working on.  Food is no longer scary - it's exciting, but it's in its place.


Then - hour-long walks in the heat twice a day, plus 1-2 hour sweat sessions at the gym, usually involving a torturous round on the stair climber.

Now - 45ish minute walks with the dogs, baby and hubby; 3-4 weekly Karve classes (plus teaching 2-3 times per week).  I love the exercise I do now and find it necessary for my sanity and energy levels.


Then - water out of plastic bottles, SF-vanilla Starbucks lattes, SF flavored soy milk, diet sodas, far too much alcohol.

Now - water out of glass/stainless steel, kombucha, green/herbal tea, occasional coffee, moderate alcohol.


Then - very negative; all I cared about was what my body wasn't, not who I was.  I let my poor body-image get in the way of really enjoying myself that summer.  I avoided dinners out with friends and hated hanging by the pool.

Now - much improved; I am so amazed that my body could grow, birth (without medication, no less) and breastfeed a wonderful little person.  No number on the scale or pair of jeans could ever compare.


When you become frustrated that you missed a workout session or ate just a bit too much cake, think back to how far you have come on your health journey.  I hope you are proud of your own nutrition (and health) transitions.  Your thirty-year-older self will thank you one day.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

All About Oats Part 2: Old-Fashioned Meatloaf

Meatloaf goes over really well in my house.  My mother-in-law made it often for my husband when he was a kid, so he associates meatloaf with feel-good family memories.  When I look at traditional meatloaf recipes, however, I am not thrilled with the ingredients.  Enter this recipe, (surprisingly) from Paula Deen.  As usual, I have adapted it slightly to include ingredients I prefer.

I like this recipe because everything goes into a bowl, which is then transferred into a pan.  There is no pre-cooking or extra steps, so it only takes a few minutes to assemble.  Plus, you can double the recipe and freeze the raw, prepared meatloaf to pop in the oven after you it has thawed in the fridge weeks (or months) later. Plus, it contains oats, which are not only a good source of soluble fiber but may help improve milk supply for those who are nursing.

Make sure to use grass-fed beef, which can be found at your local farmer's market and many health food and grocery stores.  Grass-fed beef, as opposed to corn/grain-fed beef, contains 3 times higher omega-3 fatty acids and is a great source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is anti-inflammatory, cancer preventive, and may help with fertility.  When the animal eats what is meant to eat, the meat from the animal is much healthier.  You really are what you eat.

When choosing ketchup, check the label.  Many "mainstream" ketchup brands contain high fructose corn syrup, which increases your risk for fatty liver disease, heart disease, and overall inflammation based on the way it is metabolized by the liver.  I usually pick up organic ketchup from Trader Joe's, but even some mainstream brands are starting to switch back to plain ol' sugar instead of HFCS.  I think companies are starting to listen.  If you want to get really adventurous and make your own ketchup, check out this recipe.

To avoid BPA, a potential carcinogen, buy canned foods from manufacturers who avoid using BPA in their can liners.  Muir Glen, Eden Organics, and Amy's, all found at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and other health food stores, are BPA free.  Check out this interesting blog post regarding BPA in your favorite brands.


1 lb ground grass-fed beef
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1   egg, lightly beaten
8 ounces canned diced tomatoes (without juice) - I used Muir Glen Fire Roasted
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats - I used old fashioned oats

1/3 cup HFCS-free ketchup
2 tablespoons raw honey (can use less or sprinkle stevia)
1 tablespoon prepared mustard


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Mix all meat loaf ingredients well and place in a baking dish.  (Note: I doubled the recipe in these photos.)

Shape into a loaf or use a loaf pan

Mix ingredients for topping and spread on loaf. Bake for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and cut into slices.

This is what you get, especially if you fail to cut your onions into small pieces...

I served this awesome meatloaf with roasted Brussel sprouts, gluten-free bread (Pamela's GF bread mix), and a strawberry spinach salad with goat cheese and walnuts.  I even got fancy and lit some candles...not a usual occurrence with a 3-month old at home!  However, small touches like these help make the meal more of an enjoyable "event" than just a time to refuel.  When you enjoy your food, you're more likely to eat just enough of it - not more than your body actually needs.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

All About Oats Part 1: Homemade Granola

Granola has long held the reputation as a "natural health food," yet the nutritive benefits of most store bought granola are greatly diminished by high quantities of refined sugar and inflammatory vegetable oils.  Enter this homemade granola, adapted by yours truly from Alton Brown's Food Network recipe. Oats can be a great way to add soluble fiber, magnesium, and immune-boosting beta glucans to your diet, but sometimes plain old oatmeal can get a little routine.  (Getting bored with your oatmeal?  Check out this post on creative ways to spice up your oatmeal.)  Side note: make sure to always add some protein to your oatmeal, perhaps in the form of nuts, stirred in peanut butter, or even some protein powder to make your breakfast more well rounded and satisfying and to prevent a mid-morning blood sugar crash.  

I have been eating and baking with oats more often lately because they may help with breastmilk supply, and with four close friends having April babies I'm trying my hand at more oat-based recipes as gifts.  I love this adapted recipe, below, because it combines oats with dried fruits, dried unsweetened coconut, coconut oil, and nuts - all nutrient powerhouses.  Plus, with the fat and protein in the nuts and sweetness from a bit of honey, maple syrup and stevia, it causes much less of an insulin spike than your typical bagged granola.  Enjoy this granola atop organic Greek yogurt, mixed with almond milk and sliced banana, or just plain out of the bowl as a snack.  It stores well and makes a great gift, too!

Healthier Homemade Granola

Serves 6


3 cups rolled oats
2 cups raw or dry roasted nuts (I used walnuts, almonds and cashews)
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup organic coconut oil
1/2 to 1 cup raisins, cranberries or other dried fruit
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
Dash stevia
Cinnamon to taste


Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut and dried fruit.  

Combine all other ingredients in a separate bowl.  

Pour liquid mixture over oat mixture and pour onto two sheet pans. 

Cook for 1 hour 15 minutes to achieve an even color.  Mmmmmm...can't you smell that coconutty goodness already?  (Yes, coconutty is a word!)

Remove from oven, cool, and store in a glass bowl or containers.

Here was my breakfast - granola, almond milk, and bananas!  It was super fast, satisfying and definitely fulfilled my granola craving.  Plus, I am getting plenty of healthy fats - especially lauric acid from the coconut - which is so important for breastmilk quality.  (Not breastfeeding?  Coconut is awesome for your immune system, thyroid, and metabolism.)