Alright, everybody, time to let me know what eating or exercise plan you would like to see reviewed by Dietitian on a Diet next!

Pining to learn about plant-based diets? Itching to try HIIT training? Freaking out about FODMAPs? Or maybe I’ve offended you in some way and you want me to go through 3 weeks of something awful…but hopefully not.

I’ll take your ideas and create a poll where you can vote to decide my next nutrition or exercise plan. Then I’ll read through and summarize the research on the plan and post it for you, then follow it myself for 3 weeks (as long as it’s not dangerous). I’ll share my experiences, comments, suggestions, and opinions throughout so you can decide if a plan (or part of a plan) might work for you.

In the past, I’ve featured the following:

 

So what do you want to see next? It can be any fad diet, trendy new exercise plan, or recommendations for managing a chronic condition.

Let me know how I can help you make informed, evidence-based health choices by commenting below!


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.

Print

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!

 


It’s here! The Dietitian on a Diet/i’mPowered Nutrition & Fitness giveaway challenge begins today! To participate for the chance to win a beautiful goal-tracking planner/journal from The Simple Elephant, planner stickers, and a set of Papermate Inkjoy pens, follow Dietitian on a Diet on Instagram or like Dietitian on a Diet on Facebook, and follow the instructions on my giveaway post

Today’s challenge: DREAM BIG! Choose an area of your life (could be wellness, career, family – anything!) you’d like to work on, and dream big for your future! Take some time and be detailed! Don’t let your past fears or failures get in the way today. Imagine if you had absolutely no barriers and could achieve anything you wanted, what would this area of your life look like?  As Ellen Johnson Sirleaf once said, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”
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For me, I’m dreaming big about the future of my blog and business. I would love to help more people live the healthy lives they dream of! One of the specific ways I want to do that in 2018 is to fill my readers’ requests for a Dietitian on a Diet/i’mPowered Nutrition & Fitness cookbook! My dream big: I would have a fun, user-friendly cookbook with a variety of at least 100 healthful recipes that is available as a physical book or e-book. The cookbook will also help readers learn the thought processes behind eating well – that way they can build the confidence to play with healthful food in their kitchen beyond the recipes in the book itself! If I’m really dreaming big, the cookbook is a hit and (side bonus) becomes a steady source of passive income for my family.
Your turn: pick an area of your life, dream big about your future in that area, and post/comment away! Remember you can double your chances of winning by making two separate goals: one on Facebook and one on Instagram!

 


Of course you do!

Giveaway Alert!

 

 

Join me for a 2018 goal-setting challenge on Facebook and Instagram – play on both and you’ll DOUBLE your chance of winning! The challenge starts 12/26 and will run until 12/31. I’ll post some goal-setting tips, you’ll set a goal, and someone will win this beautiful goal-tracking planner/journal by The Simple Elephant and a set of Papermate Inkjoy pens!

Like Dietitian on a Diet on Facebook and follow Dietitian on a Diet on Instagram for all the details!


Based on my experience with intermittent fasting, I have discovered a few characteristics of a person who might really thrive on intermittent fasting. Check out the list below to see if you might be one of them!

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Photo from eclipseadvantage.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Likely Good Candidates:

  • Absent or minimal hunger cues or doesn’t mind being hungry – I often hear “I often forget to eat” or “I could go all day without eating”
  • Not usually hungry in the morning/prefers to skip breakfast
  • Dislikes the structure of tracking calories daily
  • Prefers limiting intakes significantly sometimes and not regulating at all at other times
  • Schedule that allows eating at “unconventional” times (for 16:8 protocol)
  • Goals might include: weight loss, decreased inflammation, reduced risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s

 

Likely Not Good Candidates:

  • Frequent hunger (every 3-4 hours or less)
  • Regular breakfast eater
  • Prefers more structured eating regimen
  • Prefers moderating intakes a little each day to an “all or nothing” mindset
  • Goals might include: weight loss, muscle gain, reduced risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s

If you want to learn more about creating a personalized plan to meet your goals and fit your lifestyle, visit my practice website and set up an appointment!


I’ve been busy researching, reading, and compiling more information from scientific studies done on intermittent fasting and its potential benefits. This is part two, but you can go here to read about more research on fasting or here if you’re not sure what intermittent fasting is all about.

Can intermittent fasting…

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Photo from oxfordlearning.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…improve blood sugars and prevent/manage diabetes?

  • Animals that ate intermittently exhibited resistance to diabetes and improved blood glucose and insulin sensitivity, even if they did not achieve caloric restriction (Anson et al 2003Duan et al 2003)
  • Animals on daily caloric restriction have lower fasting blood glucose, fasting insulin, reduced inflammatory markers, and improved insulin sensitivity (Lane, Ingram, Roth 1999Imai 2010Hursting et al 2003Lane et al 1995; Wang et al 2007Bonkowski et al 2006Okauchi et al 1995; Walford et al 1999; Walford et al 2002; Wang et al 2007Kalani et al 2006)
  • Human results on intermittent fasting are mixed:
    • One study found no change in glucose but lower fasting insulin after 22 days of intermittent fasting (Hielbronn et al Jan 2005).
    • One study found that, while fasting, subjects with diabetes had higher blood sugar levels (Saada et al 2010).
    • Another found that after 22 days of intermittent fasting, women’s bodies showed more difficulty clearing blood glucose but that there was no difference in men. Men also had a decreased insulin response, but women didn’t. (Hielbronn et al Mar 2005).
    • Another study found no change in glucose or insulin in men after 14 days of intermittent fasting (Halberg et al 2005).
    • Two studies found that in humans, insulin sensitivity is more improved with fasting than with caloric restriction (Varady & Hellerstein 2007; Harvie et al 2010)
  • Humans on caloric restriction showed lower fasting insulin levels, improved insulin sensitivity, and lower blood glucose. (Hielbronn et al 2006; Weiss et al 2006; Fontana et al 2004).
  • The boiled-down verdict: Animals show improvements in blood glucose, insulin sensitivity, and resistance to diabetes with both intermittent fasting (without caloric restriction) as well as caloric restriction (without intermittent fasting). In humans, research on intermittent fasting and blood sugars delivers mixed messages, which probably means there are other factors involved that we don’t understand yet. There might be a gender difference in the blood glucose response to intermittent fasting. Several studies showed that daily caloric restriction can improve fasting insulin levels, insulin sensitivity, and blood glucose in humans.

 

…treat asthma?

  • In one study, intermittent fasting reduced airway resistance, reduced inflammation, and improved the medicinal effects of albuterol in patients with asthma. (Johnson et al 2007)
  • The boiled-down verdict: We need more research, but intermittent fasting may have some promising benefits for those with asthma.

 

…decrease risk of heart disease?

 

…slow cancer?

  • Animals that eat intermittently exhibit slowed tumor growth, improved the effectiveness of chemotherapy, and reduced side effects of chemotherapy (Berrigan et al 2002;Lee at al 2012).
  • In mice, intermittent fasting without caloric restriction reduced the occurrence and growth of lymphoma (Descamps et al 2005).
  • Several studies show that animals with tumors had slower tumor growth and lived longer when calorically restricted with adequate protein, vitamin, and mineral intakes (Weindruch et al 1986Pashko & Shwartz 1996Pugh et al 1999; Imai 2010Hursting et al 2003); however, one study showed mice had no slowing of tumor growth when on caloric restriction (Keenan et al 1997).
  • Reviews of animal research conclude that the cancer prevention/slowing benefits are similar between intermittent fasting and calorie restriction (Varady & Hellerstein 2007).
  • The boiled-down verdict: Research on the benefits of caloric restriction for cancer is mixed. Intermittent fasting may slow tumor growth and improve the effects of cancer treatment in animals. We need more research to know how these effects may transfer over to humans.

And just like that, 3 weeks of intermittent fasting is over. In the last week, I changed the structure of my intermittent fasting a little bit. I followed a pre-made intermittent fasting plan that had a 12 pm – 8 pm eating window and planned meals and workouts. The workouts were more targeted for fat loss and not for muscle building (which were my goals with my previous workouts). Changing the workouts allowed me to aim for slightly lower calorie goals since losing fat requires fewer calories than gaining muscle.

Let’s review the entire three weeks, shall we?

 

How it Went:

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the experience of intermittent fasting. I’m a lifelong breakfast eater – can’t even remember ever skipping one – so not eating until 10 am or noon (depending on my window) was pretty miserable. I was super hungry, weak-feeling, and tired in the mornings, and I noticed that I was more tired as the three weeks went on. I’m not sure if this was related to the eating schedule itself or not, because I also realized that throughout the three weeks I ate fewer vegetables than normal. This was sort of an interesting “side effect” of the eating schedule. Because I was trying to fit all my macros in a small window (and was full throughout most of that window), I ate vegetables less often because I didn’t have space for them! For the most part, vegetables have very few macronutrients (carbs, protein, or fat) and a lot of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). I often recommend clients increase vegetable intake to help with fullness without adding a lot of calories or macronutrients – the opposite happened here! I was so full throughout the eating window that I strayed away from veggies and towards things that were going to help me meet my macro goals. As a result, my vitamin and mineral intake was much lower than normal, and could definitely have caused my tiredness.

One positive change I noticed is that I liked not eating later in the evening. There are reasons to avoid eating close to bedtime, and having a set time that my eating window “closed” prevented me from going to bed on a stomach full of energy I didn’t need, as well as habitual (not hunger-driven) nighttime snacking and desserts. I usually felt pretty good in the evenings.

As a side note, I love to cook and eat food in general, but I tended not to look forward as much to eating because I was either hungry and waiting to eat or full and had to eat anyway. Eating this way was much less enjoyable and satisfying for me than intuitive eating on a schedule that works well for my body.

 

What I Learned:

While reviewing the research on intermittent fasting this week, I discovered that researchers have almost exclusively studied alternate day or 5:2 fasting protocols rather than the 16:8 protocol that I followed. If you’re confused about what those protocols mean, check out this post. I wish I would have read through more research before I started, because I might have followed those protocols instead just to match the research.

From a dietitian’s perspective, I learned that there are certain people with certain goals who are good candidates for intermittent fasting and for whom it might work wonderfully. In fact, throughout my time on this diet I met several people (or found out about people I already knew) who use intermittent fasting to regulate their intakes and benefit their health. I plan to summarize characteristics of those folks in an upcoming post! The research is clear that intermittent fasting is one way to achieve quite a few health goals (though there are other ways!). In my practice, I will keep intermittent fasting as another option in my dietitian “tool belt” to help create plans that best match each client’s personality, lifestyle, and goals.

 

How I did and What Changed:

Overall in 3 weeks, I lost 3.6 lbs, 1.75″ from my waist, 1″ from my thighs and 1.6% body fat. Not too shabby!

 

  Goal Week #1 Week #2
# of days 16-hour fast was achieved 7 6 7
Average daily protein intake 90 grams 85.4 grams 82.2 grams
Average daily carb intake 225 grams 209 grams 205 grams
Average daily fat intake 60 grams 73.2 grams 64 grams
Weight change   0 lbs -1.2 lbs
Body fat % change   -.5% -.5%
Waist measurement change   -1″ +.75″
Hip measurement change   0” 0”
Thigh measurement change   -1″ +.5″

 

The third week is on its own because when I changed my workouts, my calorie and macro needs changed. The meal plan I used that week must have been built on different macro targets than I had set, because I ended up higher on fat and lower on carbs and protein in general. I did the best at hitting my macro goals in the second half of week two, when I broke my needs down into a schedule with macro goals at each meal. It’s important to note here, though, that in the research studies, they often did not track macros or make sure that subjects were meeting their calculated macro needs. In fact, in many of the human studies, the subjects often did not end up meeting their calculated calorie needs.

  Goal Week #3
# of days 16-hour fast was achieved 7 6
Average daily protein intake 80 grams 66 grams
Average daily carb intake 200 grams 159 grams
Average daily fat intake 53 grams 71 grams
Weight change   -2.4 lbs
Body fat % change   -.6%
Waist measurement change   -1.5″
Hip measurement change   0”
Thigh measurement change   -.5″

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Today marks the completion of my first week on intermittent fasting! I’m sitting here waiting for my eating window to open, so I figured I might as well hammer out a blog post. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go here to read about my intermittent fasting experiment. Here’s a quick rundown on my week:

How it went:

It’s been a little rough, to be honest. I’m starving in the mornings waiting to eat, pretty much no matter what I’ve eaten the night before. My hunger was a little better when I hit my macros perfectly (or darn close) the day before. At the beginning of a day, it feels impossible to be satisfied once I start eating, then I find myself stuffed with only two hours left to go in my eating window. Then I’m feeling like I should eat because my window is about to close and I know I’ll be starving in the morning if I don’t eat. As I am generally a promoter of intuitive eating (creating an eating schedule based around your body’s own natural hunger cues), this is totally backwards to me. I’m not eating when I am hungry, and I’m eating when I’m not hungry. Not to mention the fact that when I’m starving, I’m much less likely to choose healthy options. For me, my desire for Cajun tots and nachos with cheap, plasticky cheese is directly proportional to the length of time I’ve been hungry. Thus, I struggled to stay within my fat goal. Hunger cues are adaptable, so I’m curious to see if these issues improve in the next two weeks.

I haven’t been hungry most evenings, even though I stop eating at 6 pm and don’t go to bed until around 10 pm. That’s not too much of a surprise, since I’m typically hungry every 4 hours or so normally.

One pleasant surprise: working out while fasted has not been that tough. I like to work out in the mornings and did not want to change that schedule even though I was fasting, but I was worried. I get low blood sugar, especially when exercising, so I was really concerned about completing my normal workouts while fasted. Turns out, working out actually distracted me a bit from my hunger. I did schedule my workouts to end right at 10 am as my eating window opened, because I’m always extra hungry right after my workout. That part has been going great!

What I’ve learned:

Intermittent fasting is probably a great option for a certain type of person – an intermittent fasting “candidate,” if you will. This person is probably not used to eating breakfast or can easily skip breakfast without too much notice, likes to eat larger meals, doesn’t have issues with high or low blood sugar, and has irregular or non-existent hunger cues.

On top of that, a good fasting candidate has a schedule that can work with their fasting instead of against it. Because I work from home, I am mostly able to eat when my window opens, but I have thought about the fact that if I were working my former full-time job, it would be very difficult to follow intermittent fasting. I can’t imagine waiting any longer to eat than 10 am, and 10 am would not be a realistic time to eat at my desk job.

It’s also possible that this person has a sedentary lifestyle so they do not need to eat often to meet their energy needs. I often teach about matching energy needs with energy intake throughout the day, which is tough to do if you’re active for 12 hours but only able to eat for 8.

If these characteristics describe you, you may be a great candidate for intermittent fasting.

How I did and what changed:

  Goal Week #1 Week #2 Week #3
# of days 16-hour fast was achieved 7 6    
Average daily protein intake 90 grams 85.4 grams    
Average daily carb intake 225 grams 209 grams    
Average daily fat intake 60 grams 73.2 grams    
Weight change   0 lbs    
Body fat % change   -.5%    
Waist measurement change   -1″    
Hip measurement change   0”    
Thigh measurement change   -1″  

 

Even though my weight stayed the same, I did lose an inch from my waist and another from my thighs during this week. One of the claims of intermittent fasting is that it will promote fat loss, particularly in the abdominal area. My scant week on the diet shows that could be the case! Keep checking in for more updates on what the research says about intermittent fasting.