just eat the brownie

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When I read this article, I just wanted to shout an “AMEN!” It’s not very long, so I hope you take a minute to read it if you get the chance (I apologize for some of the language). Here is an excerpt that sums it up pretty well:

“I want women to allow themselves to want food. I want women to be hungry and ask for what they want to eat without apologizing. I want women to stop looking for permission from others before they eat something that is not a carrot or spinach. I want my friends to get the chili fries if they want the chili fries, and not say something like, “It all goes straight to my ____” (hips, thighs, butt, etc.). I want to see a girl sink her teeth into a huge cheeseburger and fries and not cut the burger in half to save some for later. I want my mother to allow herself more than one small square of dark chocolate per day. I want women to take pleasure in food, without punishing ourselves for wanting it.

As I try to tell my patients/clients and hope I’ve conveyed on this blog, I think there is room for a little bit of everything in our diets. Nothing makes me more frustrated than when someone is made to feel like a lesser person because they eat [insert "horrible" food item here]. Gluten, meat, sugar, dessert, dairy…heck, even fruits have been demonized.

I also can’t tell you the number of times someone has commented on the somewhat large amounts of food I eat and the number of times I’ve left the table of a social gathering a little hungry so as not to be judged.

Enough is enough!

I do not think I should have to apologize for being hungry and for listening to my body tell me it needs food. While I don’t think people should continuously eat in excess “just because”, if your stomach is growling, you’re irritable, you can’t concentrate…these are all signs that you’re hungry and need more food – no matter what our culture says about how much food should be on your plate.

Yes, I think healthy foods are important for our health but, as I’ve said before, if you eat healthy foods 80% of the time, there is more than enough room for some of that plate of yours to be a brownie/cheeseburger/chips/other “treat” without apologizing to anyone or feeling bad about it.

What are your thoughts?

spotlight

LOTS of recipes this week! There are summer recipes, fall recipes, snack recipes, weeknight meal recipes….all of the recipes! Enjoy :)

it’s soup season for sure. this week, I made this summer minestrone I shared awhile back. it’s like the perfect combo of fall + summer for those of us who aren’t quite ready to let go of warm weather. this weeknight indian chicken soup might be next.

maybe there are people in your house that have an aversion to “healthy” foods. you could probably deceive them with some baked chicken wings. it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

popcorn is a whole great and a great snack, especially when air popped at home…and of the sour cream and onion variety

homemade ramen is much healthier than 20 cent packages of ramen

although fall means winter is next, it is the season for brussels sprouts which I LOVE. don’t be afraid of them. they really are amazing if you cook them right..like these tart cherry-glazed brussels

grilled eggplant + pesto sandwich!

apples are starting to get really good. if any survive being eaten raw, you should probably make some hazelnut streusel apple muffins

why eat a plain side of corn when you could eat thai glazed skillet corn?

strawberry + almond oat crumble would be a more filling/healthy way to take care of that after dinner sweet tooth (I have a major after dinner sweet tooth….anyone else??)

sometimes you just need a little inspiration to get you out of a lunch rut (I also have and LOVE this book for good lunch ideas)

if you are a fan of arugula, you might be a fan of this salad

homemade snack mix is so easy

lentil chickpea salad + roasted garlic dressing!

risotto is comfort food. especially with sausage, brussels sprouts, and sun-dried tomatoes!!

stir-fried beef + sesame noodles. it only takes 30 minutes!

if peach butter is as amazing as apple butter, then I am all. over. it.

fiber

Today we’re talking about fiber! Everybody needs it and it provides loads of benefits to your health but, sadly, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is bran flakes that taste like cardboard or a powder you stir into water and try to choke down. Eating fiber does not have to be a terrible and tasteless experience! Let’s learn a little bit more about fiber, what it does for you, and where to find it.

veggies 2[used with permission from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

What exactly is fiber? It is a non-digestible part of plant foods, meaning that your body cannot break it down during digestion and it travels through the entire digestive system intact. This inability to be digested is actually what makes it so beneficial to your health!

Fiber helps lower cholesterol, improves digestive function and the health of your GI tract, helps regulate blood sugar, and keeps you feeling full longer.

There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble means that something dissolves in water and, as you might guess, insoluble means that it doesn’t. This is important when considering the benefits of each type of fiber.

Soluble fiber can absorb some water as it travels through the digestive system and forms a gel. This helps to slow down digestion, which helps keep you feeling full and decreases the rise in blood sugar after your meal. That’s why, although fruit has sugar in it, it has less of an effect on your blood sugar than eating a candy bar. The gel formed by soluble fiber also helps it trap cholesterol and eliminate it from the body, resulting in lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood.

Soluble fiber also acts as a prebiotic in the GI tract. You’ve likely heard of probiotics, or beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombuch, pickled vegetables, etc. that promote a healthy GI tract. Prebiotics are essentially “food” for probiotics. They help keep your healthy bacteria…healthy!

  • Soluble fiber includes: psyllium, oats/oat bran, apples, pears, legumes (beans), and barley

cereals[used with permission from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics]

Insoluble fiber absorbs much more than it’s weight in water, providing bulk as it moves through the digestive system. This bulk also provides a feeling of fullness and helps speed the movement of foods along the digestive tract, promoting regularity.

  • Insoluble fiber includes: wheat bran/bran cereal, corn bran, whole wheat/grain foods, fruits, and vegetables

As I’ve mentioned, fiber has some great benefits for your digestive system. If you struggle with diarrhea, you may want to look at increasing your soluble fiber intake to help slow things down and feed your good gut bacteria, which will help you maintain a healthy GI tract. However, if constipation is your problem, insoluble fiber will be more beneficial in helping to provide bulk and get things moving through your system. Be aware that most fiber supplements are made up of mostly soluble fiber, so this won’t be incredibly beneficial if constipation is your issue.

water[source]

You may have noticed that I have mentioned water quite a bit in relation to how fiber works in the body. It is so important to drink adequate amounts of fluids when you consume an adequate amount of fiber in order to keep things moving. If you aren’t used to eating much fiber, you’ll want to increase the amount you eat gradually and, again, drink plenty of fluids to prevent any GI distress or discomfort.

So, how much fiber do you need? The recommended amount per day is 25-38 grams, with women requiring amounts at the lower end and men requiring amounts at the higher end. As always, whole (minimally processed) foods are the best option and keep in mind that whole fruits and veggies have more fiber than those that have been peeled or juiced. Here are some foods that will help you reach your fiber goals:

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creamy avocado dressing

Today, you’re going to get a little picture into how I plan meals for the week. And, as you may have guessed from the title of today’s post, you’ll get a recipe too!

As I was planning, I was taking inventory of everything I had that needed to be used up. I had taken a batch of black beans out of the freezer over the weekend and, after planning my dinners for the week, I knew there would be just enough left for one of my lunches. There was also some romaine lettuce that needed to be used and some mini bell peppers starting to get soft in my crisper drawer.

Given the above ingredients and my love for all foods in the Mexican family, of course I settled on a taco salad. Normally, I would use some salsa as the salad dressing but the salsa I have right now is a little too spicy for me and I didn’t really want to cover my salad with it. I did have 3/4 of an avocado left though….and a container of plain Greek yogurt. I thought surely I could turn these into a decent salad “dressing”.

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Creamy Avocado Dressing

(makes a little over 1/2 cup)

1 avocado, peeled + pitted

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

juice of 1/2 lime

1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in food processor (or blender) and blend until smooth.

As I mentioned, I only had about 3/4 of an avocado left, but a whole one should work just fine. An individual (5.3 oz) cup of Greek yogurt is just over 1/2 cup, so you could just add it all and adjust the seasoning to taste if needed. For the cilantro, I use this cilantro paste because:

1) I can never use an entire bunch of fresh cilantro before it goes bad

2) It takes me way too long to pull the cilantro leaves off the stem before chopping

3) I have never been successful at growing my own cilantro

You should try it. It saves so much time and trouble. One tablespoon of the paste is equal to one tablespoon of fresh cilantro. They have other varieties too! I try to have the basil on hand occasionally, but I just used the last of mine because I made this chickpea salad so many times.

Back to the avocado dressing. I made taco salads for dinner to try out my freshly made dressing and it was spectacular. Cool, creamy, tangy, and it coated the lettuce evenly which (although I l.o.v.e. guacamole) is something guacamole can’t quite do. I prepped my lunch salad as I made my dinner taco salad to save loads of time in the morning.

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There’s romaine lettuce on the bottom topped with bell pepper, black beans, corn, and rice. I have my avocado dressing and salsa in separate small containers so nothing gets soggy! A filling, healthy lunch that took no extra time or effort to prepare. Gotta love that!

spotlight

There’s a little summer and a little fall mixed into this week’s recipes. I cannot believe summer is already coming to an end!! Enjoy the last of the fresh summer produce while you can!

I’ve always wanted to do a bunch of canning and make pickles but honestly, it’s a little intimidating. these quick refrigerator pickles look really easy though…

I have a pretty hard time not eating all of the peaches immediately after I buy them but, if I can stand to save a couple, these honey peach muffins would probably be a good use for them

maybe you have a vegan friend that needs some muffins. or maybe you’re out of eggs! knowing the ins and outs of vegan baking is extremely helpful in these situations. because sometimes you just don’t want to go to the store. don’t let the word “vegan” scare you. these vegan banana pecan muffins look spectacular.

you can eat quinoa for breakfast too. if you want a healthy, filling (and delicious) breakfast, give this a try!

you can also eat millet for breakfast! and if you haven’t tried millet in general, you need to. I think it’s my favorite grain…though I haven’t tried it for breakfast yet.

if anyone has extra tomatoes, I will gladly take some off your hands so I can make this slow roasted tomato hummus

I don’t love zucchini (…except in zucchini bread), but maybe you do? quinoa stuffed grilled zucchini is for you!

it’s hard to find a non-fried falafel recipe but these buffalo falafel pitas are baked and they look absolutely incredible

I love a good lettuce wrap

why don’t I ever make beef fajitas? or any fajitas for that matter….so good!

sadly, the weather seems to be cooling off (low of 39 degrees on Friday??). it’s a good time of year to enjoy some comforting greek chicken and potatoes though

 

 

nutrition for muscle building

meal[source]

I’ve had a request to do a post on nutrition for muscle building/maintenance, which I think is a great topic. It’s not just a topic for competitive athletes though! With a 3-5% loss of muscle mass per decade after the age of 30 and the incredibly important roles of protein in the body, eating right to maintain muscle mass is important for pretty much everyone.

Not only does greater muscle mass result in a greater resting metabolic rate (the amount of energy you burn at rest), but it also allows you to maintain function in daily activities as you age.

So, how much protein do you need? It varies from person to person based on your age, body weight, and any medical conditions you might have. For normal, healthy adults, the minimum amount of protein required is 0.8-1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight. Some scales allow you to convert to kilograms or you can just divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. So, for a 150 lb (68.2 kg) person, that would be roughtly 54-68 grams of protein per day.

runner[source]

Regular exercise training increases your protein needs a bit. For endurance training, needs go up to about 1.2-1.6 grams per kilogram and 1.4-1.7 for strength training. These needs change depending on the volume/intensity of training and different periods of the training cycle (which is why it’s helpful to work with a dietitian), but these are some general guidelines. Active older adults have similar needs, requiring anywhere from about 1.0-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Over the age of 70,  your general protein needs are a bit higher at around 1.2-1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.

weights[source]

Doing some resistance training (after checking with your doctor first of course) is also an important part of building and maintaining muscle. At least 2 days per week of resistance/muscle strengthening exercise focusing on all muscle groups is recommended for adults. For older adults, the addition of exercises focused on balance is recommended.

Back to nutrition! If you think about the process of building muscle, it makes sense that this requires energy or “building blocks”….a.k.a. food! As I’ve mentioned before, just eating mass amounts of protein will not do you any good in this regard. You also won’t see much progress if you aren’t consuming enough calories.

Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel source and if your body doesn’t have enough, it will be forced to use protein for energy (a very “costly” process) instead of using that protein for muscle building. That’s why we recommend to eat a combination of protein and carbohydrate post-exercise and a small carbohydrate-containing snack before exercise if you work out first thing in the morning or a long time after your last meal.

balanced meals[source]

Don’t forget that the most beneficial way to consume protein is evenly spread throughout the day. More is not always better and consuming large amounts of protein at any one time does not result in greater benefits.

Above all, remember that everyone’s individual needs vary. The above are just general guidelines. Health conditions, age, and activity level all affect the amount of protein (and nutrients in general) that you need. A registered dietitian is the only nutrition professional with the specialized education and training to take all of these things into account and provide medical nutrition therapy based on your specific medical conditions.

“healthy” junk food

Here’s the thing about “healthy” junk foods: I don’t think they should even be a thing. “Junk” foods aren’t supposed to be an every day thing – they’re supposed to be a treat!

cupcake[source]

Yes, you read that right. This dietitian (and many others) will tell you to just go ahead and eat that piece of chocolate cake. Don’t deny yourself your favorite ice cream.

So, what’s the catch?

Moderation.

Here’s how I usually see this work. People tend to deny themselves foods they view as “bad” or unhealthy. At some point they fall off the wagon, so to speak, and eat the food they put off limits.

Or, they try to make a healthier version of their favorite snack. Perhaps cookies made with whole wheat flour and applesauce and flax seeds. Or a 50 calorie microwaved cake.

100 calorie packs[source]

Let’s be honest. These things do NOT taste like a dessert made with real butter and sugar and they probably don’t even satisfy that sweet tooth. In reality, they just leave you craving a real cookie or piece of cake even more. Or allow you to justify eating 15 “healthy” cookies instead of just 1 real cookie because “they’re healthy and have fewer calories!”

Desserts aren’t meant to be healthy. The same goes for other “junk” foods that I have seen getting makeovers lately – fast food, chips/snacks/packaged foods, etc.

Ice cream and cookies and fast food shouldn’t have to be healthy because they aren’t meant to make up the majority of your diet. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy are.When you meet your energy needs with 80-90% nutrient-packed whole foods, there is plenty of room for a few “empty calories” – foods that provide calories but few nutrients.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather use that 100-200 calories on a spoonful of peanut butter with chocolate chips or a serving of ice cream or something with some substance instead of a fat-free, pre-packaged item.

Making room for these fun foods takes discipline and self-control and you have to learn a little bit about portion sizes. You probably can’t have the cake AND the ice cream AND a cookie AND some french fries but you could choose one each day. And by knowing that nothing is off limits, you don’t feel like you have to eat every single treat that comes by you on a given day because there is always tomorrow.

Focusing on quality can also be helpful. For example, I make a lot of baked goods from scratch. I know that a pre-packaged cookie doesn’t hold a candle to a homemade cookie and I don’t even have to think twice about turning down a Chips Ahoy or store bakery cookie. If I’m going to use my daily “treat”, I want it to be on something that I love, not something that really doesn’t taste like much.

So, keep in mind that no food is “bad”, there are just some foods that you should eat more often than others. When you start to see these treats as what they are – foods that should be consumed only occasionally – you won’t need to feel guilty about enjoying them.