Have you ever watched a cooking show where they try to pass a delicious healthy recipe off as a “20-minute meal”? You get all excited, ready to take notes and make this healthy kitchen masterpiece a reality, until you notice that as they are cooking, somehow all of their vegetables are already magically diced, their meats trimmed and cut, and their herbs and spices pre-measured? And then – big surprise! – the whole dish is done in 20 minutes or less! All they had to do was dump this, brown that, stir this in, and the whole creation was complete.

If you’ve had this experience and you’re anything like me you feel lied to. This was not a 20-minute meal. This was a 20-minute meal preceded by 10-15 minutes of peeling, chopping, dicing, and measuring which, again, if you’re anything like me, is the least enjoyable part of cooking.

Many of my clients struggle with this – they buy fresh veggies with perfect intentions of using them. But after a long day the thought of all that prep before they even get to cooking sends them, defeated, to that bag of freezer ravioli (or the corner fast food joint) and their produce one day closer to the garbage.

So how can we bridge this gap? We want our food to be healthy, and we need it to be quick and easy. Can we have both?

My answer is pretty much, yes. I’m not going to lie to you and say I have a super fast magical way to dice onions in record time and I certainly can’t hire a magic kitchen for you like the Food Network hosts have, but I can share the trick that has helped make healthful cooking SO MUCH FASTER for me.

That “trick” is food prep. Food prep is an alternative to meal prepping, where you actually cook and portion out individual meals in ready-to-go containers. If you have sufficient time and don’t mind eating the same meal for a few meals, meal prep is a great option! If you like a little more variety or can’t spare an hour or more for meal prep each week, give food prep a try!

Basically, you are your own magic kitchen. When you bring your groceries home, set all your produce (and your meats, if you really want to go for the gold!) on the counter. Put everything else away.

Now you get out your cutting board and knives (once!), and some containers. Chop, slice, and dice your little heart out. It usually takes 10-20 minutes, depending on how many veggies are in the recipes you’re using that week. Put them in containers based on the recipe they’re for. If we are having burgers, I slice tomatoes and onions, lay out lettuce, and put a handful of sliced mushrooms on a plate. If we’re having stew, I cube potatoes, chop onions, and slice carrots and seal them in a container. Then you clean up your cutting boards and knives (once!) and you’re done chopping for the week.

Note: Make sure that if you trim and cut raw meats, you prep them after you’re done with all your produce and that you store them in separate containers if they are uncooked!

Aren’t they pretty?

Now, when it’s time to cook, you can pull your container out of the fridge, dump this, brown that, stir this in, and your healthful meal is ready to go – just like the cooking pros!

For a demonstration of food prep and a recommendation for one of my favorite food prep kitchen tools, click here!

Have you ever tried food prep? Do you like it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments!


We LOVE pizza at our house – especially as Super Bowl season draws near! Unfortunately, our Seahawks didn’t make the playoffs this year, but we can still enjoy the spirit of the game with a few slices of pizza pie. Store-bought pizza sauces can sometimes contain added sugar or, more often, high levels of sodium. Not to mention the sodium in everything else that goes on your favorite pizza!

vita-marija-murenaite-484774If you’re looking to eat less sodium or simply cook more from scratch, this pizza sauce recipe is a great option! It’s very easy and fast to make – just stir it up in 5 minutes and spread it on your favorite pizza! The tomatoes, herbs, and spices add an antioxidant punch to any pizza-flavored dish.

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5-Minute Heart Healthy Pizza Sauce

If you're looking to cut sodium or simply cook more from scratch, this pizza sauce recipe is a great option! It's very easy and fast to make - just stir it up in 5 minutes and spread it on your favorite pizza! The tomatoes, herbs, and spices add an antioxidant punch to any pizza-flavored dish.

Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 16 kcal

Ingredients

  • 15 oz. canned tomato sauce (no salt added)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp basil

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Recipe Notes

Contains 4 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 0 g fat, 63 g sodium per 1/8 cup serving.


To Diet or Not to Diet

 

Floating around social media the last few days I’ve seen several articles on either side of the “diet” coin:

“Why you shouldn’t diet in 2018”

“Top 6 Diets of 2018”

“Don’t diet this January”

You may have a goal to be healthier and take care of yourself this year – many people do, and that’s great! So, should you “diet”?

A lot of nutrition and fitness coaches will tell you that diets never work and that you need only listen to your body, feed it when it wants food, and don’t when it doesn’t (often called intuitive eating). That works really well for people who are in tune with their bodies, have normally established hunger cues, and like to eat healthful foods. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many of the clients I work with. These habits and hunger cues can be learned, but it takes time and it’s a frustrating road for a lot of people. Everyone is different, which is why I’ve learned to avoid all or nothing statements like “diets never work.”

At some point, this kind of comes down to semantics.

You can call it a diet, you can call it a lifestyle change, you can call it an eating plan, but ultimately what matters is whether or not it works with and for YOU.

I’ve seen people try strict diet plans that don’t fit their lifestyles, fight tooth and nail to stick to them, and feel totally defeated when they can’t seem to make it work. I’ve also seen people try to eat intuitively without any boundaries or guidelines and flounder, frustrated that they don’t seem to be making any progress.

On the other hand, when people find the right balance of structure and freedom to fit their lifestyles – it’s magic. They have a plan that is tailored to work with their unique personalities, budgets, families, and favorite foods. They are achieving their goals and they’re happy and feel great doing it. This is the elusive magical unicorn of healthful eating.

It can be a daunting task to find your own magical unicorn, so I’ve compiled some tips to help you out. Without further ado, here are 5 ways to know if an eating plan is right for you:

1. It’s not miserable/exhausting.

It makes me sad that I even have to say this, but it happens all the time. People put themselves through psychological and physical torture because they think it’s the only way to achieve their health goals – not so! The right plan will not make you sad and miserable, or be so labor intensive that you can barely keep up. If you love all kinds of food, for example, paleo wouldn’t be a good choice – you’ll be miserable saying no to so many things you love. If you have eaten breakfast your entire life and are hungry every few hours, intermittent fasting probably isn’t for you (you can read about my experience with that here). If you hate numbers and don’t like tedious tracking, don’t count calories! You’ll hate it!

Choose or design a plan that works with your individual preferences and quirks.

2. You’re not hungry all the time.

We’re trying to make your body healthy and happy. Constant underlying hunger is not conducive to either of those goals. ‘Nuff said.

3. It doesn’t restrict your social life.

Your eating plan should work beautifully into your social life. You should never skip out on girls’ or guys’ night because you are “on a diet.” You may end up ordering differently than you have in the past (or not!) but your social life is a huge part of a healthy life too. Don’t let an overly restrictive eating plan intended to make you healthier screw up other aspects of your health. You can read about my experiences with a social life-crushing diet here. It’s not worth it, trust me.

4. It includes all the foods you enjoy except legitimate allergies or intolerances, at least some of the time.

There is absolutely no reason to cut out entire categories of foods to lose weight. Certain medical conditions excepted, you should never have a list of foods you’re “not allowed” to eat. First of all, psychologically, you’re setting yourself up for the trap of only wanting what you “can’t” have. Second, why be more restrictive than is necessary? The ideal plan is the least restrictive plan that still heads you toward your goals. You may eat certain things less often and in smaller portions, but avoid plans that label foods as “good/allowed” and “bad/not allowed.”

5. You’re making progress.

Obviously, your plan needs to be making you healthier or what’s the point? Now I need to stress something very, very important here. Very important. Huge. Please don’t skip over this:

Progress comes in many forms, and most of them are not on the scale.

Please, please, please don’t gauge your success or failure only on your weight. A healthful eating plan should improve your health in so many other ways: Are you eating more vegetables? Do you have more energy? Do you sleep better? Is your skin clearer? Do you find yourself snacking less after dinner? Do your clothes fit better? Is your mindset more positive? Do you have less pain?

All of these are potential benefits of improved eating habits, and they’re nothing to sniff at! Be aware of them, because weight can be a fickle mistress, but health is so, so much more than weight.

So before you start a new eating plan this year, make sure it fits these criteria. As always, if you feel overwhelmed or lost at the idea of trying to find an eating plan that works for you, find a dietitian who can help you find a plan that fits your life. If you’re in Washington state, I’d be honored to work with you! Click here if you’re interested.

Have a happy, healthy new year!

 


This week I’ve been really struggling to get my macronutrients (aka carbs, protein, and fat) in during my

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8-hour eating window. I’ve just been too stuffed near the end of my window to get them in. For the past couple of days, I’ve been under my macro goals and I am really starting to feel it the next morning. Today, my workout was a struggle. I hit the worst blood sugar low I’ve had yet during my fast this morning, and it was rough.

I always like to make eating plans as flexible as I can while still hitting goals, but it’s pretty clear that trying to hit my macro goals while intermittent fasting isn’t going to happen without a bit more structure. I sat down, created an eating schedule by dividing my eating window up and scheduling meals and snacks, and dividing my macro goals amongst them. My first breakfast on this plan: egg and veggie scramble with low fat sausage and salsa, a slice of whole wheat toast, and a homemade muffin.

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My macro goals for this meal: 55 grams carbohydrate, 20 grams protein, and 15 grams fat.

Actual intake from this meal: 55 grams carbohydrate (on the nose!), 25 grams protein, and 25 grams fat (I gotta work on getting this down…).

I am STUFFED. I’m used to eating a little bit less than this and spreading it out more throughout the day. At least I got in all the macros I needed to with this meal (and a little bit more). We’ll see how the next few days go with hitting macro goals. I’m hoping it will help with my hunger and low blood sugar in the mornings.


TIME TO VOTE!Be sure to enter your vote for Dietitian on a Diet’s next feature! The runners-up are:

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

This is a style of exercise training that involves training at…well, high-intensity intervals. This pattern of exercise involves alternating between lower- and higher-intensity bouts of exercise. Research shows that incorporating high intensity intervals can provide many of the same benefits as lower-intensity exercise, but with a shorter amount of time spent exercising. HIIT workouts are often promoted for fat loss, aerobic fitness, blood sugar management, decreasing inflammation, and improving cholesterol.

Intermittent Fasting

The term “intermittent fasting” has been used to describe a wide variety of eating styles and schedules, all based on the premise that fasting has metabolic benefits. These eating styles incorporate regularly scheduled “fasts”; some include complete fasts for 1 or more days per week or 1 week per month, but often (and for the style I would be following) intermittent fasting involves limiting the “eating window” to a certain part of the day and fasting for the remainder. The primary goals with intermittent fasting are often to 1) lose weight, 2) increase energy, or 3) reduce inflammation.

Budget-driven Meal Planning

This is actually a brain-child of mine, compiled from everything I have learned about how to drive the cost of healthful groceries down as far as possible. This way of purchasing food and eating has cut many of my clients’ grocery costs by 25%, even while eating healthful food. One particular client, with a family of 8, decreased her grocery bill by 50%! In this I will share what we spend on groceries, where we shop, how I save money, and how I do it all while eating healthfully.

Be sure to vote for the diet or exercise plan you most want to learn more about!

Note: If you’re on a computer, the poll will be in the left-hand sidebar. If you’re on a phone, scroll down to vote.


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Thanks for being patient with me as I navigate the land of the computer-less. I’m still on the hunt for a new Surface Pro.

Meanwhile, I finished my anti-inflammatory diet on Monday. I was telling my husband that this has to be in the top two for the most enjoyable eating style I’ve tried (tied with carb counting). You can still eat most anything, and it truly makes a difference for me to mentally focus on getting in good stuff rather than cutting out “forbidden” foods (like when I was on Paleo – miserable!).

I can’t say that I felt much different necessarily, with the exception of one noticeable thing. Plug your ears if it weirds you out guys, but when the natural disaster occurred this month, my normally 4-6 level cramps were easily only 1-3. I’ve noticed before that there is a connection between my hydration/diet and my cramps, but this was pretty dang sweet.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet was mildly restrictive, but largely enjoyable. I didn’t mind adding chia seeds and avocado to stuff and including lots of spices – they add tons of flavor and keep food interesting! Overall, anti-inflammatory is one of my favorite eating styles to date. I will blog more soon about the specific types of conditions/people that can benefit from eating this way. In the meantime, enjoy your Father’s Day weekend!


Today marks the end of my first week following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. I haven’t posted much this week because we were busy (or actually, quite un-busy) camping and relaxing with family this weekend! So far, anti-inflammatory is going pretty well and I’m enjoying the food I’m eating. It’s not really any more expensive than our food usually is.

What’s working well: Activity has been so easy with the beautiful weather! We spent the weekend (besides lounging and reading in hammocks and lawn chairs) kayaking and playing volleyball, badminton, and croquet. The other big key to easing anti-inflammatory eating is keeping my mindset focused on two things: 1) I focus on the importance of getting in anti-inflammatory foods – it’s not just about limitations and restrictions, and 2) thinking about the effect that all of the anti-inflammatory foods have on my body. It helped me to think about those consequences, then I still might decide the food was worth it to me to eat, but I had a balanced perspective and it was typically easier to avoid treats I really didn’t care about as much and limit my portions of those I did. Here are some photos of foods I ate throughout the week:

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Some struggles I’ve had: Choosing food this weekend was definitely tough! We assigned meals to different family members for camping so I didn’t have a ton of control over what was available at each meal. I chose as best I could by loading up on the veggie and fruit and limiting any entrees, sides, or desserts that were particularly high in sugar or saturated fat. Thankfully, my family is relatively health-conscious so there tended to be plenty of fruit or veggies available. My aunt made some lavender lemonade that was TO DIE FOR and we had a birthday party during the weekend as well, so I had tiny bits of treats spread out throughout the four days. I scraped the frosting off of a small piece of cake and chose only bites of the superb homemade ice cream my brother and sister-in-law made. The holiday weekend was definitely more “pro-inflammatory” than the rest of my week, but hey, that’s life! Check out the photos below to see some of the meals and snacks I ate this weekend.

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NationalNutritionMonth2017

In honor of National Nutrition Month, I thought I’d give you a few thoughts on how to put your best fork forward this month (and every month)!

  • Try a new recipe – some of my favorite recipe websites are from the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association. Trying out something new can add variety and keep eating from being boring!
  • Work on enjoying natural flavors – Make a goal to decrease “extra flavors” like sugar, salt, and artificial flavors in order to really enjoy the full flavors of the foods, herbs, and spices you’re eating. Check out this post for more tips on flavor!
  • Explore fresh new cuisines – most of us are familiar with Chinese, Italian, and Mexican foods, but how about Salvadoran, Ethiopian, Indian, or Vietnamese? There are over 190 countries in the world, each with amazing, flavorful, and unique dishes. Plus, different countries’ diets have different health benefits. You might discover a new favorite and expand the variety of foods you love! Bonus tip: make a quick Google search about the type of cuisine you’re trying before you go to a restaurant. That way, you can have some ideas of any unique customs (did you know that at most Ethiopian restaurants, patrons eat with their hands?) and what to order in case you can’t read the menu!
  • Get rid of the “good” and the “bad” labels – We have a tendency to label foods as though they are good or bad, as if food and nourishment were totally black and white! All foods can belong in a healthful diet, and bodies are so, so individual! What may make one person feel terrible may be a great choice for someone else, and it is fairly rare that there is a reason to completely cut anything out entirely. Research has shown that this kind of labeling is detrimental to healthful diets and healthy relationships with food.1 Learn to love and moderate all kinds of foods, and avoid villifying anything.

As a special bonus for National Nutrition Month, I’m offering 10% off an initial appointment! If you’ve been thinking about getting started with an empowered, healthful lifestyle, this is a great month to start! Click here to schedule an appointment!

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3779532/

Picture from againsthighcholesterol.com

Normally I love to use legumes (beans, peas, lentils, peanuts) as fiber and protein sources in my diet, so I got to wondering why it is that legumes are not allowed on the paleo diet. Honestly, I have no clue how they were introduced into our diets in the first place and thus no clue whether the hunter-gatherers would have had any or not. So I set off to do some research and found an article entitled “Why No Grains and Legumes?” on a paleo blog (eureka!).

So the author was claiming that legumes are out on paleo for a variety of reasons, one of them being their lectin content. I had never heard tell of such thing so of course, further research ensued. Come to find out lectins are proteins that hang out on the outside of plant and animal cells and bind carbohydrates. They just so happen to be found on legumes, particularly beans, as well as wheat, potatoes, and some other foods. It seems that one of their purposes is to prevent insects and critters from eating the plants. The lectins are actually toxic and they cause hemagglutination – which is a fancy word for “they make blood cells stick together.” When animals are fed raw bean diets, they develop lesions, fatty livers, and digestive/absorptive problems among other appetizing maladies. Other researchers have suggested possible (though not proven, as far as I can tell) links between lectins and diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Now I’m thinking, “What the heck? Why have I never heard about this before?

Well most likely that is because according to the Cornell University agricultural website, wet cooking methods including soaking coupled with adequate boiling are sufficient to eliminate the toxicity of most of the lectins and render them safe for human consumption. Several paleo blogs I found, however, disagree that cooking eliminates all of the harmful potential of these little proteins.

What I find interesting (aside from all the disagreement) is that it seems these foods are not being eliminated from the paleo diet because the hunter-gatherers didn’t eat them, but rather because of these lectins. Since that is what I understand to be the premise of the paleo diet in the first place, the elimination of foods such as beans and potatoes seems beyond the scope of the diet itself. In fact, according to the Wikipedia page “Bean” (I know, we’re using big-time science here), beans have been around since 7th millenium BC. On top of that, the “Paleolithic” Wikipedia page says that we suspect humans in the Paleolithic era ate a substantial amount of tubers. Potatoes are tubers. So, I’m not exactly sure how the “paleo diet” crew latched on to the elimination of potatoes and legumes, but nonetheless, lectins have proven to be an interesting topic of research. I tend to agree with the following statement, courtesy of my fiance: “I’m pretty sure the cavemen ate whatever they could get their hands on. If they found some good eats they probably didn’t pass them up because of their lectin content.”

I gotta tell ya, this is the kind of stuff that makes being in the health field so difficult. Everybody is always saying something different from the next and unfortunately even well-done research is not perfect. We have to do the best we can with what we have and press on to the next topic. If you know anything more about lectins that you’d like to share, be sure to let me know in the comments!

References:

http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/lectins.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22545/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1115436/


Crock Pot Honey Mustard Spare Ribs

This was by far the best paleo meal I ate in all of my three weeks on Paleo. Get the recipe here. I added cubed yams to the crock pot too, which was an excellent decision. I would (and will!) eat these any day of the week!

 

Fudgy Paleo Ice Cream

I adapted this one from a Vanilla Bean Paleo Ice Cream recipe I found here. And then I ate it. Lots of it. For days. This ice cream was so good!

Ingredients:

2 cans full fat coconut milk

1/2 cup raw honey

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup baking cocoa

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Freeze bowl of ice cream maker for up to 12 hours.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Turn on burner to medium-low heat.
  3. Whisk occasionally until mixture lightly simmers. Do not allow to boil.
  4. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until cool.
  5. Once cool, process according to ice cream maker instructions.

Paleo ice cream