While some people raced out to buy vitamin c, zinc, and elderberry syrup when they heard that Covid19 had come to town, I started thinking about where we could find some of these nutrients in our food. Most people recognize vitamin C as being supportive of their immune system, and it's true. However, according to Chris Masterjohn MD, using high dose vitamin C supplements to ward off Covid19 may not be your best plan of action. Instead, like me, he recommends focusing on getting it through your food. Some of the most vitamin C rich foods around are herbs and spices. Did you think it was just oranges? The combination of turmeric, cilantro, and peppers in this sauce make it a vitamin C power house. Serve it up with some sweet potatoes or cauliflower rice and you've added a whole other level of vitamin C to your immune boosting dinner. Just incase you needed more reasons to add extra cilantro (coriander) to your diet, studies show that it may have anti-cancer properties as may aid in reducing migraine headaches.
I've adapted a Green Curry recipe from The Paleo Cookbook and made it crockpot friendly. Fredrik enjoyed watching me chop the onion, cilantro, and peppers and even helped dump the spices into the blender. This nutrient dense meal is easy peasy and delicious.
1 purple onion roughly chopped
1-3 jalapeños stemmed and seeded (more or less depending on your preferred spice level)
2 cups cilantro ( used the entire 2.5oz bag from Trader Joes, stems and leaves)
1/2 Tbs Turmeric
1/8tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
1 can coconut milk or 2 cups sour cream/yogurt/kefir
Place 2.5-3 pounds of cubed chicken breasts or thighs in a crockpot. Pour sauce over the chicken and cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4 hours. Serve over rice or with Naan and top with plain yogurt.
Keep it keto: serve over cauliflower rice or miracle rice
Pescatarian: Heat the sauce on the stove for 20-30 minutes to cook the onion. Then add shrimp or cubes of fish such as Mahi Mahi or Cod and gently simmer until cooked through about 5-10 minutes.
Make it vegetarian/vegan: Replace the chicken with 1-2 cubed potatoes, a can of chickpeas, and/or some fresh cauliflower. Paneer would also work, but similar to using fish I wouldn't cook it all day in a crock pot.
No Chicken left in the store: Replace with beef stew meat or cubed pork roast.
I used to feel so smug...my baby would eat anything I fed him. Loved his beet puree, would gobble up liver pate, and even let me add turmeric to his yogurt. His favorite food was bread and butter pickles. I thought the whole baby led weaning thing was going great! And then a switch flipped. Around Mother's day he started teething, the extreme drooling, up several times a night, DON'T put me down kind of teething. The only thing he would eat for several days were freeze dried strawberries and puffs. Around this time he also began refusing to let me feed him (so no more yogurt or purees). Thankfully he continues to let day care feed him, and he eats everything they offer. This is very common and I've heard it from several other parents. Sometimes peer pressure is a good thing. Overtime he has started eating more foods again, but still prefers anything dry and crunchy over wet/mushy.
I recently listened to Dishing Up Nutrition, a radio show I used to be a part of since they were interviewing Jill Castle an RD on who works primarily with kids and teens. I've since started listening to her podcast regularly and really enjoy MOST of what she says.
I refuse to label Fredrik as a picky eater, he's only just over a year old and food jags and selective eating are typical. We continue to offer him new foods without pressure, and most of the time meat and anything soft/squishy ends up on the floor. Yes this is frustrating; I hate wasted food. However, it's much less stressful than trying to force him to eat something. To keep me from falling into the trap of feeding him the same things all the time, I keep a list on the of the foods he typically will eat, and make sure to serve at least one with every meal/snack. I actually emailed and asked Jill when picky/selective eating truly becomes a concern. She calmed my fears when she replied that between ages 4-6 kids should be eating a wide variety of foods. I heard another RD mention that by about age 2, most kids should be eating 30 different foods from each food group (fruit, vegetable, grains, proteins). Now, I know many adults that don't even eat 30 different fruits or vegetables, so I think this is a bit of a stretch. There are eating milestones that babies and toddlers should be meeting such as simply being able to chew both soft and crunchy foods. For more info on that check out this website.
For now there are more packaged/processed foods in my pantry than I would like; but Fredrik is growing and I know someday he will eat chicken and cauliflower and fresh fruit at home, not just at day care.
How many clients do you think have asked me to write them a meal plan? Not as many as you might think. Instead I teach them how to write their own weekly meal plan that fits their health goals and preferences. Some people want lots of variety and thrive on coming up with new recipes from cookbooks and pinterest. Other people just want to eat similar foods most days and do the bare minimum when it comes to cooking. Some families do well with theme nights for suppers, this is especially helpful for families with young kids or kids on the Autism Spectrum since it creates structure. It also helps take the thinking out of planning and grocery shopping. Maybe the "theme" is a type of meat or a type of cooking style. This allows for enough flexibility that taco night can be made with chicken, beef, or shrimp! Or chicken night could mean that it's grilled but it might also mean that it is roasted. Many families like to leave weekends open ended and use them as a time to eat up leftovers, eat out, or make a slightly more time intensive meal.
Monday - Burgers / Grill
Thursday- Stir Fry
Saturday - Leftovers
Meal planning helps us make a complete grocery list sometimes prevents me from buying things we don't need, or making more than one extra trip to the store during the week. Ultimately, it saves timed money. Despite buying a lot of the same things, we actually end up with a wide range of flavors thanks to different seasonings and dressings/sauces.
Since having Fredrik, our meal planning has changed several times over. Now that the weather is nice, we are trying to grill more, but also have to take into account the fact that he wants to eat too. While I'm all for serving him the same things we eat, not every food is appropriate for this.
ex: shoshito peppers, cabbage slaw, broccoli salad. Currently Fredrik has decided to boycott most meat and fish and eggs, must be a texture thing... I'm having get a bit creative with what I serve him. Anything mushy or crunch seems to be ok. Pickles, bananas, muffins, and teething crackers are favorites.
To stream line Ryan and I's lunches we have adopted the Mark Sisson 'Big Ass Salad'. I prep a giant bowl of salad stuff on Sunday, cook a couple packages of chicken thighs in the instant pot or now on the grill, and then divvy it all out for lunches Monday to Wednesday. I'm having a lot of fun creating homemade dressings or trying different Primal Kitchen flavors. Come Thursday we switch it up. Ryan usually ends up with a can of chicken mixed into a Trader Joes Indian Fare pouch and Fredrik and I eat various leftovers or make salmon/sardine/tuna salad. I know that Monday and Wednesdays need to be leftover nights since Ryan and I both work those days and get home too late to cook. A recent week of planning looked like this:
Weekly Salad - Asian (sesame dressing, bok choy, cilantro, sunflower seeds)
Sunday - bun-less burgers + 1000 island slaw (sweet potato for F)
Tuesday - sloppy joe meat (in freezer) + cauliflower rice (cauliflower patties for F)
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - turkey sausage skillet meal
Friday - pork loin + broccoli salad (steam broccoli for F)
Hope this helps you dear reader, now go forth and meal plan! Then grocery shop...
How does your family do meal planning? What works best for you?
For supper the other night Ryan grilled up some yummy grass fed beef burgers. I thought it might be fun to turn them into "big macs" with 1000 island dressing aka 'special sauce'. Instead the dressing ended up going on a bag of T.J. cruciferous crunch salad mix along with some sliced cherry tomatoes. IT WAS FANTASTIC! The dressing is adapted from Primal Cravings Cookbook. If you don't feel like making your own check out these dressing brands that don't use canola or soybean oil.
Why no canola oil? A recent study showed that canola oil increases our risk for Alzheimer's dementia, and we have known for a while now that soybean one of the common 'vegetable oils' is really not good for any cell in our body. Stick with monounsaturated oils like olive oil or avocado oil. Small amounts of polyunsaturated oils such as unrefined sunflower oil or unrefined safflower oil are fine too. Also, I'm not a zealot, so if all you can find is mayo made with unrefined canola oil....just buy it. It's certainly a better choice than using a brand made with soybean oil.
Now, onto the salad!
1/3 cup Mayonnaise or sour cream if you are like my sister and hate mayo.
2 tsp horseradish
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Ketchup
1/4-1/2 cup diced dill pickles or pickle relish
Salt/pepper to taste
1 bag cruciferous crunch salad or about 10oz of shredded cabbage/kale
1. Combine all ingredients except salad mix in a small bowl.
2. Toss dressing with salad mix/shredded cabbage.
3. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.
Makes a great side dish, and then top with leftover meat/fish/shrimp....for lunch leftovers the next day
Ryan's mom likes to say that Fredrik is going to be a genius. That may or may not come true, but we do know that eating certain foods does appear to confer specific benefits to the brain. Max Lugavere, health & science journalist, wrote a book all about it, and aptly titled it "Genius Foods." I'm not going to do a lengthy review of the book, I'm just going to say that I really enjoyed it! Tons of well researched information, and presented in a way anyone can understand. Essentially it comes down to reducing inflammation, and providing the body with adequate vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. So what are the top brain foods according to Max; and how can you and your family eat more of these foods?
Check out some of these recipes for inspiration:
Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli)- Steamed with butter for infants, broccoli salad for adults (use Swerve instead of sugar in the dressing).
Dark Leafy Greens - Ryan and I's current favorite way to eat these are in salads. A bag of cruciferous crunch salad mix from Trader Joe's added to chopped romaine and spinach makes it easy to get in a nice combination of greens. If you prefer your greens cooked, a quick sauté is nice, but after living in Georgia, southern collard greens is a real treat for us.
Avocado - While I happily eat avocados with just a dash of salt, Fredrik will not. He actually cries when I try to feed it to him plain. However, mashing it with frozen/thawed raspberries is favorite breakfast. Making chocolate avocado pudding will get you bonus points with your family.
Fatty Fish - Fredrik likes smoked salmon and canned oysters. For budget conscious families, make a salmon salad using wild caught canned salmon. We always buy the big can from Trader Joe's.
Nuts (almonds) - Try this yummy yummy almond banana coconut muffin.
Eggs - scrambled/egg bake/frittata/quiche/soufflé are a favorites around here.
Berries (blueberries) - Just eat them up plain, or top with whipped cream. Fredrik has recently discovered that freeze dried strawberries are a great snack. They are also part of this Strawberry Fluff.
Grass Fed Beef - Fredrik likes ground beef with a little marinara sauce, mild salsa, or creamy stroganoff sauce on it. Meatloaf is also easy for him eat. But a slow cooked roast, shredded or cut into chunks also works well as a meal all three of us enjoy.
Dark Chocolate (80%) - Make a chia pudding with cocoa powder and cocoa nibs. Personally I just grab a couple squares of the Montezuma dark 100% chocolate, and top it with whatever nut butter I have in the fridge. It's a brain boosting Reese's.
Olive Oil - After listening to Max and and his guest Nicholas in this podcast, I definitely believe in buying a better quality olive oil now. As Nicholas says, just POUR the oil onto your food. Or make a sauce like pesto or chimichurri to eat with your grass fed bee.
Coffee - Drink it black, or with cream, with collagen, or bulletproof with coconut and MCT oil. Just please please please find a replacement for fake creamers that are made with processed oils and high fructose syrup.
Yummy Yummy gluten and dairy free, no sugar added muffins! Seriously...these taste good. Fredrik is a fan of grabbing big chunks and shoving them into his mouth. Ryan likes to toast and top his with peanut butter, but that's how eats all flavors of muffins. I like mine with a big smear of butter on top.
1.5 cups almond flour or almond meal
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 cup mashed banana (2 large) or mashed sweet potato
2 Tbs room temp butter or olive/avocado oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut. (or use raisins, chocolate chips, chopped pecans...)
1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Prep muffin pan with either paper or silicone liners. I still give my silicone liners a little spritz of oil, just to prevent ANY sticking. It's probably overkill.
2. Combine the almond flour, flax seed meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a medium bowl.
3. In a blender, or a large bowl beat together eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla.
4. Stir/blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Then fold in the coconut.
5. Divide between the 12 muffin cups. Bake 20-30 minutes, until browned. (Mine needed about 23 minutes) Allow to cool completely before storing in a air tight container on your counter for a few days, or several months in a freezer.
1 muffin: 185 kcal, 15g fat, 9g carb, 3g fiber, 5g protein
I'm fascinated with blood sugar. Partly because I worked in a diabetes clinic for a couple years. As I have learned more about diet and nutrition my passion for helping people regulate their blood sugar has only grown stronger. Personally I also know that it's very important for me to keep my blood sugar steady all day long so I experience less anxiety (or racing thoughts), better moods, good energy, and less hunger. Recently I've started to really dial things in and have started following a ketogenic diet. While I don't recommend everyone do this, I do believe that many people would benefit from it some of the time. Wondering if you would benefit from a low(er) carb or ketogenic diet? If you start checking yes to any of these signs/symptoms the answer is most likely yes: PCOS, endometriosis, PMS, infertility, overweight, anxiety, ADHD, depression, bi-polar, cataracts, macular degeneration, acne, insomnia, constant hunger and/or cravings, fatigue, brain fog, chronic infections or always sick, high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, unexplained swelling or edema, heartburn/acid reflux, family or personal history of: Alzheimers, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrigs(ALS), M.S., arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes/pre-diabetes.
Hmmmm....so that's just about everyone.
Why are so many disease states related to blood sugar?
When we eat carbs/sugar our blood sugar goes up, and this triggers an insulin release by our pancreases. This is normal, when it happens 1-3x day, not all day, every day. Unfortunately most people continue to subscribe to the 4-6 small meals/day mentality or if they have not adopted a healthier eating style continue to drink sodas and eat candy (like gummi worms or fruit snacks) and other snack foods (chips, pretzels, trail mix) all day. This causes their body to continually have elevated blood sugars and insulin which over time is extremely inflammatory to EVERY cell in your body.
What do I mean by inflammation?
Think about a sprained ankle, the swelling and bruising are visible signs of inflammation, the pain is inflammation the can be felt. Inflammation also occurs in our blood vessels and until we experience chest pain, we don't feel it. Inflammation in the brain shows up as ADHD, anxiety, migraines, and down the road dementia. Inflammation of the skin may not always be felt, but it can be seen in the form of acne and rosacea or psoriasis and eczema. By lowering carbohydrate intake and allowing time between meals for blood sugar to actually come back down, people lower their inflammation, and reduce/eliminate their symptoms.
How many grams of carb do I need?
Most people probably only need 30-50g of carbohydrate per day.
Very active individuals and women who are breastfeeding may need 50-100g.
Very Very Very active people may need 100-200g.
And some people may eat only 30g most days, but increase and eat 100g 1-2x week or a couple times per month. Nutrition is highly individualized; what works for me, may not work for you.
Find out what your personal carb tolerance is by ordering yourself a glucometer and checking your blood sugar. If 1 hour after you eat, your blood sugar is >130 mg/dl, whatever you ate was too much carbohydrate/sugar for you. Or it was too much carb without enough protein and fat to help prevent a big sugar surge. If 2 hours after you eat, your blood sugar is still >100 mg/dl, whatever you ate was again too much carbohydrate/sugar. IE: Don't eat this food on the regular. I realize these numbers are different from what the ADA recommends, but their ranges are not tight enough to prevent/reverse blood sugar related inflammation and disease. Robb Wolf does a great job of explaining this in his book Wired To Eat as well as in his videos describing the 7 day carb tolerance test.
Now, go forth, eat real foods, decrease your blood sugar, and reduce your inflammation.
For the past several years Ryan has planned a fishing trip up on Lake of the Woods for him and 2-3 friends. Despite having a 5mo old I told him to cary on with his usual plans, it's good to get away and de-stress! So what does one eat while trapped in an ice house for 3 days? I'm not saying that what these guys eat for 3 days is "healthy," but compared to what other folks bring, I think they are doing pretty good. No frozen Jacks pizza for these guys! After doing this for several years we have come up with a fairly standard menu, and do all the cooking/prep ahead time to keep things simple and easy for them.
Here's the menu
Breakfasts: Eggbeaters (don't need to worry about breaking or freezing) + sausage or bacon
Lunch: Ham or turkey or PB&J sandwiches
Snacks: Goldfish crackers, trail mix, beef jerky. I also make a batch of cookies each year and put them in individual bags for each guy. In the past I have made Paula Deen's PB monster cookies. They are super tasty. This year I made a batch of plain chocolate chip cookies.
Drinks: Coffee, Zevia, Bottled water, beer (lots of beer)
If you read my post on Foods 4 Focus, you know that iron and zinc are two important minerals for brain health, and many people/kids are deficient in them. But how to get them? Add anchovies! And I don't mean to your pizza. These briny, fatty, little fish are full of nutrients.
"A portion of five anchovy fillets (canned in oil and drained; about 20g) has 42 calories, 5.8g protein, 1.9g of fat, and no carbohydrates. Anchovies are an excellent source of calcium, iron, and zinc."
If you are scared of adding these tiny fish to your diet, but enjoy eating tuna, or salmon, or other canned fish try mashing them into a tuna salad; you'll never know they are there. Personally, I buy skipjack tuna since it is lower in mercury than albacore, or yellow fin. This 'recipe' could also be done with chicken or egg salad if you are not a fan of fish. The anchovies just add a little salty flavor.
1, 5oz can tuna, drained
1, 2oz can anchovies, drained
1 Tbs Mustard
1 Tbs lemon/lime juice or apple cider vinegar
1tsp dried dill
1/4 cup diced celery
2 small dill pickles diced
Ground Black pepper
1. Combine and mash all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
2. Serve on a bed of lettuce, wrap, sandwich, crackers, cucumber slices, whatever works for you and your family. Use fresh lemon/lime wedges or vinegar for extra moisture on your salad.
Want another delicious recipe using anchovies, try my crockpot Chicken Puttanesca.
For more info on anchovies, the difference between oil packed, and salt cured, check out Precision Nutrition's post.
While grabbing a hot drink from Lakewinds Co-op a couple weeks ago I noticed a new product on the counter. I asked the Barista what it was and if it was any good. Apparently it's a coconut butter product you add to coffee. She informed me that it was very tasty, and she really liked the vanilla but..."I'm not ready to give up sugar, so I can't use it".
I must have given her a quizzical look as she proceeded to tell me that it's for keto people and that since she still eats sugar she shouldn't use it. I responded, "do you think if you did use it, it might help with your sugar cravings?"
Barista, "Maybe, but I'm not ready to give up sugar."
As I left the counter I thought, "What you're really saying is I don't want to give up sugar." I was also reminded of the late Charles Poliquin who would have said that she is still prioritizing her taste buds over whatever physical change she wants to see by giving up sugar. To some extent I would agree. But I posed the scenario to two RD friends as well Ryan and here is what they all said.
My friend Katie of the Best You Plan would ask you, "What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of failing yet again...another diet?" She has seen this with many women. Just the mention of "giving up" a food, sugar or processed carbs in particular seems to elicit a look of terror in many of their eyes. While at a networking event, she had women refuse to take her business card after they learned what her program is about.
My friend Lucy from Well Balanced Nutrition would ask you, "What do you mean give up sugar? Are you a moderator being asked to abstain? Is this a temporary or permanent change you are trying to make? Why do you want to give it up, what is the benefit?"
My husband Ryan asked "what are you doing to be/get ready?"
So this coming year, before you make another I'm going to (lose weight, get healthy, exercise, give up _____) resolution maybe you need to ask yourself a few questions first:
1. What change do I want to make and WHY? If you're why isn't good enough, you will never be 'ready' and the changes will never stick. I have found that losing weight for the sake of weight loss is never a good enough why. Focusing on a health benefit such as less joint pain, or better digestion are typically better motivators.
2. Is this a change YOU WANT to make for YOU? Or is it something you think you SHOULD do, or feel guilted into doing? Shame is never a good motivator.
3. What is holding you back from starting now? Why have you waited?
4. What are you afraid of? Failure? Judgement? Struggling? Hunger? Being alone?
5. Are you making excuses and putting off making the change? Or is your reason for not starting valid? Excuse: it's the holiday season so it will be too hard. (Truth: there is always a holiday, birthday, vacation, or other event) Valid reason: Your parent just died, you just had a baby, your house flooded or burned down. (Truth: high stress times, especially when coupled with sleep deprivation are not the time to make a major change. Wait a few weeks or months until the clouds pass and you are sleeping to tackle your change.)
6. Who will support you vs Who will derail you? Are you willing to spend less time with those who will derail your efforts? I know many people who have given up friendships, cut ties with family, and gone through divorces in the name of health & happiness. It may seem extreme, but we only get one life, so why surround yourself with negative people. Also, the reason many people consciously or unconsciously sabotage other's efforts is because of their own fear and insecurity. "If they change, then I have to change... change is hard, and I'm scared of failing if they succeed. I'm not ready! I should buy them a box of their favorite cookies."
What are you willing/wanting/ready to change?
I'm a dietitian with a passion for good nutrition, bold flavors, playing in the dirt, and being with my family.