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Now Trending: Epic Breakfast

Breakfast overhaul is set to be a top trend for 2021. The grocery stores will be flowing with fun foods to try, and your favorite foodie websites are sure to revamp old recipes. If you’re jumping on the breakfast bandwagon, why not boost nutritional value as well? Here are some ideas for morning meal enrichment:

Add more veggies to your life:

-Sauté onions, garlic, kale, spinach, leeks, bok choy or mushrooms into your egg scramble.

-Throw a handful of spinach, kale, cooked beets or carrots into your fruit smoothie.

-Increase your hash value by adding asparagus or shredded squash to plain potatoes.

Eat oats, the champ of whole grain:

-Choose old-fashioned rolled oats or steal cut for their heartier texture and digestive benefits.

-Cook oats using milk or soy beverage instead of water to enrich taste and nutritional value.

-Add crunch factor with walnuts or pumpkin seeds, and sweetness with dried or fresh fruit.

-Cooked oats texture not your thing? Try rolled oats uncooked with cold milk or mix into yogurt.

Feed your “good” gut bacteria:

-Add prebiotics like bananas, apples, onions, garlic, oats, and flax seed meal.

Boost your omega-3’s:

-Sprinkling in flax seed meal or chia seeds adds nutrition without changing the flavor of a dish.

-Spending extra on eggs that boast higher omega-3 content is an investment in health.

Bickering Over Breakfast Benefits

 

The breakfast trend is not without controversy, especially with the growing popularity of time-restricted eating for weight loss. Breakfast has long been regarded as the most important meal of the day, but newer systematic reviews of research show that its value is debatable. If you’re wondering if you should skip the morning meal, here are questions you might consider first.

Will you make poor choices later if you skip breakfast now? Sometimes people skip breakfast only to pull into a donut shop two hours later, suddenly overwhelmed by hunger. In this case, eating a well-planned breakfast would better support nutrition and weight loss goals.

 Are you hungry when you first wake? Skipping breakfast may be perfectly healthy as long as nutrient needs are being met without it. Many people simply do not have early morning hunger cues. However, these individuals might consider analyzing their appetites. If you’re snacking mindlessly or drinking late at night, closing the kitchen earlier may shift your hunger timing, leading to healthier food choices overall.

Can you get the nutrients you need if you skip breakfast? A well-planned breakfast at home can be a great opportunity to get nutrients from healthy foods like whole grains, fruit, and vegetables that may get missed during the uncertainties of the remaining day.

References:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30700403/ Meta analysis of breakfast and weight loss.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31918985/ Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis; skipping breakfast associated with obesity

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Confession 8: Oops, I gained the COVID-19 Pounds: 5 Tips to Pandemic Weight Loss

“You’re a nutritionist!” one of my more direct pickleball friends reprimanded during our socially-distanced water break. I had pointed out that absence of play during the pandemic somehow caused my leggings to shrink. With public courts shut down for months in the Pacific Northwest, it was my first time back.

Judge if you will; I am not alone. We players lost our favorite form of exercise as we knew it during the pandemic, finding ourselves dinking around the house with more access to the pantry. Drop in some situational blues from lack of social interaction, and you have a recipe for unintentional weight gain. Dietitian or not, I’m going to cut myself some slack this time.

Luckily for me I knew what to do. Here are a few of my favorite tips for weight loss that have worked for myself and others.

#1 Rid yourself of the sabotage.

Is your problem sugary drinks? Do you have a pantry full of nutrient-empty snacks “for the kids”? Do you keep a candy stash? Has your alcohol intake increased during COVID? I find it best to rid the home of temptations if at all possible. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that occasional indulgences are an important part of life if you enjoy them. Planning is key to overdoing indulgence. If you avoid having your favorites handy, you can’t mindlessly grab for them in a weak moment.

#2 Eat only during the day.

It doesn’t get simpler than this. As one form of intermittent fasting called time-restricted eating, this has become trendy for good reason. It’s what humans are meant to do! The 2017 Nobel Prize for Science was earned by researchers who discovered the enzyme that controls circadian rhythm. Since then, nutrition researchers have used the information to find that many diseases and weight gain can be prevented just by restricting eating to daytime hours.  

For general health and weight maintenance, I recommend no more than a twelve-hour eating window, fasting during the other twelve, five days each week. For example, I choose to fast from 7pm-7am. For weight loss, I recommend an 8-9 hour eating window, for example fasting from 6pm-9am. And by the way, true fasting means everything besides water. It’s about allowing the liver and other organs to rest and repair, which they cannot do while processing caffeine, artificial sweeteners, etc.

#3 Choose a healthy diet plan.

In a dietitian’s world, this means choosing a plan that is not excessively restrictive so that you can get the nutrients your body needs. It’s especially important now to keep the immune system robust. Plant-strong, high-vegetable plans such as Mediterranean-style diets offer an abundance of nutrients, while the built-in benefits of high fiber and low calories promote weight loss.

#4 Start your meals with raw vegetable appetizers.

Do you ever notice that once someone starts to cook a meal, you begin to feel hunger? That’s a digestive-system hormone kicking in, often triggered simply by the thought of food. Some people are tempted at that point to find a snack to tide them over, which often leads to poor choices. Outsmart your body by keeping a prepared veggie plate in the fridge for easy access when the pangs begin. By filling up on those, you’ll fill up on nutrients before you’re tempted to over-portion the less nutrient-dense foods in your meal.

#5 Find an exercise partner

COVID-19 took our favorite form of exercise away from most of us. While play may not yet be back to the way it was, it helps to encourage each other to keep moving so that we stay court-ready. Using the accountability of a court-buddy with similar health goals increases success rates. Try going on routine walks “together” while chatting on the phone or challenge your pickleball pals to complete favorite workouts found online. One hour of heartrate-increasing exercise almost every day is recommended for weight loss. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is especially effective.

Muscle-building is also helpful for weight loss. Higher muscle mass burns more calories, even while resting. In addition, if you’ve been moving less, you have lost tone important for court safety. Many muscle-increasing exercises needed for court-readiness including squats, lunges, and push-ups, can be done at home with no equipment.

Regarding the Holidays

Everything is different this year, including celebrations. This can be used to a weight-loss advantage. There will certainly be fewer parties to attend, which means fewer of those end-of-year temptations. It’s a great opportunity to try out new recipe traditions that are both delicious and healthy, so that you can get back to feeling your best.

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Herbal Supplements in Recovery: a Reader Question Answered

Question:

Hi Brandi,

I’m a pickleball player and having issues with tennis elbow. My physical therapist suggested I order some supplements to help the healing process while we work on it together. He suggested Curcumin.

Do you have any trusted brands I should buy? Or maybe foods that I should add to my diet?
Thanks,
Dustin
 
Answer:

Thanks for your question, Dustin! I have some personal experience here because I recently recovered from tennis elbow myself. 

For reducing inflammation, I often recommend curcumin or the baby-sister food-form of it, ground turmeric spice, which can be found in your local grocery store.  I’ll get to my supplement recommendation soon, but since I’m a foodie first, here’s a smoothie recipe you can throw into your blender. Try adding this to your morning routine:

1 cup frozen pineapple 

¾ cup milk or milk substitute of choice (coconut, soy, almond beverage)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Tart cherry juice is something I also recommend. Its anti-inflammatory properties have also been well documented in research. I keep this in my refrigerator, and recommend 4-8oz daily to speed recovery from sore muscles and other inflammation.

For more cherry power (and because they’re delicious!), I sprinkle dried tart cherries into my oatmeal every morning. The best price I’ve found for these is the Kirkland brand at Costco.

Food is a good bet because it’s FDA regulated. Supplements are not, although smart consumers are finding ways to make sure their supplements are safe and pure by choosing products monitored by an independent third party like USP or NSF.  Third parties are expensive, so brands that carry these safety labels are more expensive. Why is this necessary? At this point in time, most supplement companies save money by outsourcing their ingredients from other countries, where standards don’t match ours. As a result, supplements/herbals/botanicals may be contaminated, may lack potency, or may not even be what the label claims.

That said, I do think good, scientifically-proven supplements are useful. Curcumin is the active, extracted ingredient in the whole spice turmeric; turmeric has only a fraction of the potency of the bottled supplement curcumin, aka turmeric extract. Curcumin has been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory in many diseases and ailments. Ask your doctor first if you’re taking any medications, as there are interactions with some meds including blood thinners. Here’s a USP-screened curcumin supplement that includes peperine, which increases absorption.

Regarding physical recovery from the elbow, the stretches my PT showed me were very beneficial and relieved the pain for me in the short term. To prevent it from happening again, I continue stretching, use a lighter paddle with a smaller grip, and now focus on strengthening my forearm. PTs are priceless!

Hope this is helpful! 

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Confession 7: The Fridge Calls to Me- How I Avoid Eating too Much While I’m Stuck at Home

Once upon a time I was a successful business owner and an avid pickleball player. But that was way, way, waaaay back in February.
Just like so many other people my business is temporarily closed and my daily pickleball fun has devolved from packed courts full of friends to solo garage drills.
Sigh…
Also like so many, I’m feeling stressed and isolated. This comes along with a strong side-effect to the situation: a mindless pull toward my suddenly-ALWAYS-accessible refrigerator.
What are we supposed to do now that temptation is so near? Check out my meant-to-make-you-smile YouTube video to see what I recommend, and what I’m doing in my own home:
 
I hope you enjoy the video. Catch my next post tomorrow, with tips that will help my readers tackle perishable foods storage, so that more people can follow the recommendations to shop as infrequently as possible.
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Confession 6: The Dietitious Empty Nester

Over
the last weeks, a lot of attention in the news has been given to parents like
me: new empty-nesters. It seems like a recent trend, this recognition of how
children leaving home can deeply affect parents. It’s a moment which gives the
greatest-ever meaning to the conjoined adjectives, “bitter-sweet.”

I was
especially touched by a segment on the Today Show with guest
author, Kelly Corrigan. Kelly wrote an essay to her grown daughter, Advice
to My College Freshman
. Kelly gives light to much of why we may lament; we
question our lifetime work as parents, and wonder if we taught them enough to
thrive in this world without us.

Kelly’s
essay immediately inspired my own version. Today is the first day of our empty
nest. Our youngest moved into the college dorm yesterday, my tears pouring at
every private moment I get. I am grateful that our kids are strong, healthy and
clever, and will succeed in their own ways. Their own accomplishments afford me
the luxury of letting the dietitian in me dominate my petty worries. Did I
teach them enough about the importance of eating well? I felt the need
yesterday, almost a panic, really, to pathetically pelt my daughter with a
summary of the healthy habits I’ve tried to encourage over the years, even as I
was hugging her goodbye. 

But
it still wasn’t enough for me. I’m going to pretend that both of my kids
may actually read this post to their health. Maybe it will make me feel better.

Drink
water. If you’re not drinking enough water, your mind won’t work its best and you
won’t feel energized. You may even feel depressed if you’re dehydrated. Bring
your water bottle with you everywhere. If you know you aren’t drinking enough,
use a hydration reminder app.

Use
that neglected dorm kitchenette and make healthy meals for yourself and others.
You’re a good cook and new friends will love you for sharing. You’re going to
feel too busy, but try. And ask for help with those dishes. I was never good at
that.

Choose
the salad bar at the cafeteria. I know there is a pizza counter, a soda
machine, and all-you-can-eat soft-serve ice cream, but do remember that you
like vegetables too.

A
healthy gut is so important to your overall health. Eat your prebiotic foods
and keep your gut microbiome happy. You enjoy eating jicama, artichokes, onion,
garlic, tomatoes, apples, berries, beans, peas, and almonds.

Oh
please remember your omega-3’s. Trading out saturated fats for healthy fats
like o’mega-3’s is so good for your heart and brain, and may even help you
study for that final. Salmon, flax seed, and walnuts, are all good choices.
Spending a little extra on the eggs of those well-fed chickens that advertise
higher o’mega-3 content is worth the dollar extra.

Speaking
of salmon, when it comes to eating things because they’re good for you, I hope
you’ll keep trying even if you think you don’t like them. It’s almost always
about the way it’s prepared. You’re repulsed by my broiled salmon, but remember
when you enjoyed Aunt Sarah’s grilled salmon recipe? Or when you were surprised
by Nonna’s cooked broccoli?

Make
sure you’re mindful of the food allergies of those around you. Ask new friends
and classmates if they have allergies before eating near them. 

If
you know you’re not eating your best, take your multi-vitamin. They’re in the
basket with the first aid kit.

Exercise.
Exercise is so important for a healthy mind. Treat exercise like it’s a class
in your daily schedule and go do it with friends. You’re a great swimmer; keep
it up! Remember you’re going to start that pickleball club. I can’t
believe they don’t already have a pickleball club!

The
freshman-15 is a very exaggerated phenomenon, but it is easy to slip
into unhealthy habits while trying to balance the stress of adulting. Remember
it’s SO much easier and healthier to maintain a healthy weight than it is to
lose it later. It’s not about looking good. It’s about lifelong health so that
you can achieve all of the amazing things you have planned. 

I know how annoying this post would be for you
if you were actually reading it because you know all of this. I just love you.

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Confession 5: I don’t love supplements.

Okay, okay. I do have vitamin tablets and other supplements in it my cabinet right now. I always keep fish oil, choline, and multivitamins as a backup when I know we’re missing those nutrients, and vitamin D3 because we live in the Pacific Northwest.

I also STRONGLY recommend high-quality prenatal vitamins to pregnant women and women who might get pregnant, and to clients who need them for various other reasons.

Otherwise, I don’t love supplements.

Why?

I have my reservations for three main reasons:

First: We were made to get nutrients from food. Research shows that in most cases, our bodies don’t absorb the nutrients from supplements as well as we do from food. I’m always concerned that people use supplements as a crutch, or sort an excuse not to eat whole, healthy foods.

The truth is that we don’t know everything about the makeup of the broccoli that’s wilting in your refrigerator right now. The study of vitamins and phytochemicals in food is in its infancy, and we’re just starting to learn about how all of the nutrients packed into whole foods work their metabolism magic. Your supplement label may say it contains vitamin K and C, but it certainly doesn’t contain ALL of the goodness in broccoli. Those missing components are sometimes what make the vitamin K and C perform their best. 

Second: Vitamins aren’t well regulated. We like to think that we’re protected from questionable ingredients when we buy anything in the U.S. When it comes to supplements, this is not the case. The FDA can only regulate supplements after they’re on the shelves, if a problem is reported. Because of this, when I choose to buy supplements, I try to find one that’s been tested for content by an independent third party like USP.

Third: They’re making a lot of money from people who could have just eaten a peanut butter sandwich. We all have to earn a living, but the marketing on some of the powders and potions out there is seductive. Marketing causes people to feel like they NEED this product to build muscle, or your toddler MUST HAVE that product to grow well. Supplements should be treated as a medicine when truly required, not as a replacement for healthy food.

I’m not out to bash the industry or turn anyone away from a product that is working for them. I am grateful for and know I feel better and healthier because of the capsules I take. It’s just important to do our research and not expect easy-fix miracles in a bottle.

Here’s an interesting book on the history of supplements: Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food by Catherine Price

What are your thoughts on supplements?
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Confession 4: I don’t believe in diets.

Wait, wait, wait. Disclaimer: I do believe in diets for people with special medical conditions. Medical conditions sometimes require avoiding or modifying foods to maintain health.

A more accurate statement may be to say that I don’t believe in fad diets. When I hear of a diet that excludes any major group of foods, I am especially wary. When we avoid large groups of foods, we limit our means of getting nutrients.

What I do about people trying fad diets

I teach people how to get the nutrients while trying their diet of choice.

Honestly, this is one of my favorite parts of being a dietitian, because I get to be a detective in my own foodie way. Staying on top of all of the diet trends is close to impossible, so sometimes I have to do the work on the spot with my client.

Take, for example, a diet which eliminates or greatly restricts carbohydrates. This means greatly reducing or eliminating fruit, whole grains, and starchy vegetables. That means reducing  choices of foods containing fiber, B vitamins, phytonutrients, and all of the other nutrients that come along with individual foods. Together, based on their new diet and food preferences, we find ways to get these nutrients. If we can’t come up with foods choices, I generally have to recommend a vitamin supplement, which is not a perfect answer either (see my next post).

Truthfully, I have found that restrictive fad diets are not enjoyable enough for most people to sustain for a long time. While this isn’t a good thing in some cases, the danger of nutrient loss is minimized when restrictions are extreme.

What fad diets have you tried in the past? Please share your experience!

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Confession 3: Exercise

Confession #3: I don't Like Exercise. I'm no Beth.

“Hi, Brandi! Do you want to go for a little run?” These are the words I could expect whenever I’d answer a phone call from my friend Beth. Beth, the one who set a goal to run marathons in every state. Beth is built like a graceful doe, whereas I have more of a kangaroo-like build. By “little run,” she always meant at least three miles. I would answer with as much enthusiasm as I could fake. “Sure, Beth. I’ll be right over.” I would walk my pear-shaped body to our meeting spot and do my best to keep up.

Because of my friend Beth, I can say I once ran a 15k race. We took an end-of-said-race photo. Beth’s smiled wide, arms spread in victory, still doe-prancing through the finish line and looking ready for another nine miles. I looked like I needed a stretcher. At least I finished.

Thank goodness for the Beths in my world, because without them, I would likely be a hypocritical, non-dietitious slug.

No, I am no Beth. I do not enjoy running. I confess that in most circumstances, I don’t have the discipline to exercise by myself.

What I do about not liking exercise.

Exercise is important. Countless studies show that exercise is one of the most important things you can do to maintain quality of life. Blah, blah, blah.

When you’re not a Beth, to stay fit you have to do at least one of these things:

  • Find a Beth in your neighborhood. After the Navy moved us away from my enthusiastic friend, I had to find another plan, or another Beth. I didn’t know a soul, but I made this happen by starting an informal walking group in my neighborhood. It was so easy. I simply asked other ladies at a local meeting who would like to join. You should have seen it! All of the doe ears in the room perked up, heads swiveling toward me. As if I were Snow White calling them to the glen, the neighborhood Beths emerged from the crowd. I don’t have to do anything now but wait for a text from a neighbor, initiating our walks. I found a way to stay fit and make friends at the same time. Sometimes I’m just brilliant

  • Find something you actually do love to do. It’s out there. You may need to search a bit like I have. Running is not that thing for me. It bores me unless I’m with a friend who likes to run and chit-chat. Spin class makes my hoo-ha hurt. Swimming? Bathing suits are a deterrent. TRX was sort-of okay. But then, I found my thing: pickleball. I love it, I’ll go play it, no Beth required. I’d even be your Beth for a game of pickleball!

So go on. Find your Beth or find your pickleball. If I can, you can. 

What tips do you have to stay exercise-motivated? 

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Confession #2: Cake

Confession #2: I Eat Chocolate Cake.

Yes, I love chocolate in almost any form, especially cake. If you offer a fresh piece to me at any point in time, I guarantee that I will accept with pleasure. It’s the same truth for pizza, ice cream with sprinkles, donuts, and many adult beverages. You get the point.

Am I ashamed of this? Nope. Not one bit. Well, maybe the sprinkles, but honestly none of the rest.

You see, I believe in living life to its fullest. In my opinion, that means enjoying treats.

I also believe that to live life to its fullest, I need to remain healthy. So, as much as I’d like to eat chocolate cake every day, I don’t. But how does a person like me who loves treats avoid eating too many? 

How I avoid eating too much chocolate cake

It’s not easy, but it is simple. I don’t keep these things in the house. I figured this method out all  by myself, no dietetic’s degree necessary, just because I know how weak my willpower is.

But dietitians can’t just tell people to do what has worked for themselves in the past. We have to provide evidence-based information to our clients.

My method was validated by the book, Mindless Eating, written by a researcher, Brian Wansink, at Cornell University. Have you ever had a moment when you agreed with someone so much you wanted to cheer and do a little cartwheel? I probably shouldn’t try a cartwheel anymore, but that’s how I felt. His book immediately became a favorite of mine and eventually a favorite of many of my clients. I call it “my favorite diet book because it’s not really a diet book.”

In summary, the book is a compilation of simple studies observing oblivious people eating. It explains the psychology of why we eat the way we do, and some tricks our minds play on us. One study showed that if you put terrible tasting popcorn in front of people, they will still eat it just because it’s in front of them. They will complain while they eat it, but they will still eat it. AND the larger the amount offered, the more people will eat.

Fascinating. It helps explain why when we bring the warehouse-sized junk food bag to the couch, it’s gone before the movie is over. We may not even remember enjoying it.

Put a healthy twist on that, and it also explains why the plate of raw veggies I set out for my family disappears while I’m cooking dinner, even as my darlings complain about how long it’s taking me to cook dinner. Ha! And I was just trying to keep them from digging for nutrition-sparse appetisers.

So I keep the treats out of the house, and I keep the healthy food inside the house. If I decide I want a treat, I plan it. I go out and get it, or I find a recipe and make it myself, with bonus points if I make it delicious and a bit healthier. This means the treat is an effort, not an easy, mindless grab. And when I sit down to enjoy my treat, I really think about how much I’m enjoying it. I savor it with someone I enjoy being with, creating an entire mini-experience for myself. I try to be mindful about every bite or sip.

I encourage my clients to do the same thing, within the limits of their own health restrictions, of course. Some dietitians call this the 90/10 rule: 90 percent of the time, eat healthfully. The other percent goes to the favorites that might enrich life even more than just living as simply a health nut.

What are some tricks that you use to help keep your family eating healthy?

 

 

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Confession #1: Family

Confession #1: My Family Doesn't Listen to Me Either.

Like anyone, I want my family to eat healthfully. I wanted it so badly that when I had a chance to return to college, my focus became dietetics.

It turns out that becoming a dietitian is hard. It requires:

  • A nutrition-related bachelor’s degree (or higher) from an accredited university
  • Completion of an approved RDN program. This includes 1200+ practice hours in hospitals, schools, and community programs, and is crammed with an exhausting chain of biology, chemistry, metabolism, and nutrition courses. This took me 18 months to complete after my bachelor’s degree.
  • Passing the Commission on Dietetics Registration exam.

My husband and children were first-hand witnesses. They watched and worried as I tearfully clawed my way through school one day at a time. They seemed proud when I managed to graduate from my program with honors.

And yet…

When I offer my teen daughter a helping of broccoli, she scowls.

When I ask my husband to join us at the family table for dinner, my request is met with a challenge stare if there’s a good game on television. He’s a dedicated sports fan which means there is always a good game on television.

My adult son is compliant in front of me, but I’m not blind. I see the empty energy drink cans in the garbage when he comes home to visit.

It’s quite maddening, actually. 

What I do about it:

Sometimes I pout and cry. Six years of college, and another seven years of experience teaching clients and staff as a practicing dietitian, and my own family doesn’t listen to me.

Or do they?

Every once in a while, I am tossed a baby carrot.

Recently I overheard my daughter teaching food safety to her little cousin while they were baking together. “No, no Livi. I know it tastes good, but it’s not safe to eat dough before it’s cooked.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch my husband choosing oatmeal for breakfast. He doesn’t love oatmeal.

Last week from his college apartment, my son proudly sent a photo of the healthy dinner he cooked for himself.

Again, the tears. (Yes, I cry a lot.) And then I keep trying.

My efforts may not work every time, but I know that every bite of nutrition they do get matters. I look for the little wins, and use them to energize me to keep trying!

I encourage you to do the same. Keep trying. I promise that it’s worth it.

How do you encourage healthy eating in your home?