Wellness

Is The Keto Diet BENEFiciaL for PCOS?

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It’ s about time I shared my thoughts on the keto diet for PCOS. This is something that I get asked by my PCOS clients all. the. time. So I’m guessing that some of you might be interested in this topic as well!

The keto diet has gained a lot of popularity in recent years as a means for rapid weight loss.

There is SO much misinformation out there regarding diet and PCOS but the keto diet for managing PCOS might be least favorite of all.

Ahhh where to even begin! First let’s talk about what the keto diet actually is.


What is the keto diet?

The ketogenic diet or “keto” diet was developed in the 1920s as a therapeutic treatment for patient’s with epilepsy. A keto diet is very high in fat (about 75% of total calories), moderate in protein (about 20% of total calories) and low in carbohydrates (about 5% of total calories).

On a 2000 calorie diet, this would mean limiting carbohydrates to about 20-25 grams daily – less than 1 banana or 1 sweet potato.

By starving your brain of glucose (the body’s preferred source of energy coming from carbohydrates) your body is forced to burn fat for fuel in the form of ketones. A keto diet is NOT to be confused with a “low carb diet”.  

The keto diet also limits protein since protein can be converted to glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.

Research has shown that a keto diet can improve epilepsy, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, improve insulin resistance and help with weight loss.

Burning fat for fuel? Lower blood sugar and insulin? Sounds great for PCOS! Not so fast…


The Keto diet Could Make PCOS symptoms worse

The glands that regulate the hormones in your body are very sensitive. When carbohydrate intake goes too low, this is a form of physiological stress on your body. As a result, your adrenal glands may start producing more cortisol (one of your body’s stress hormones).

Many women with PCOS already have overactive adrenals and higher levels of stress hormones in their body to begin with, so this can be a recipe for disaster.

Cortisol causes blood sugar levels to increase and can actually make insulin resistance worse over time.

Elevated levels of cortisol lead to more visceral fat (a fancy term for belly fat).

Research has shown that holding excess fat in your abdominal area increases a person’s risk for health conditions including type 2 diabetes and heart disease more than holding fat in other areas of the body.

Although initial weight loss may occur on a keto diet (as would cutting out any entire food group) the long-term impact of elevated cortisol levels from overly restricting carbohydrate intake may actually do more harm than good. 


The keto diet may negatively impact the gut microbiome

We know that the gut microbiome plays a major role in health and disease. Bacteria in the gut are crucial for the digestion and absorption of nutrients from food, immune function, the regulation of inflammation, the production of important vitamins, hormonal balance, insulin sensitivity and mental health. Shall I go on…?

There is a lot we still don’t know about the gut microbiome, but research has consistently shown that low bacterial diversity in the gut is harmful and a species-rich gut microbe community is beneficial.

One of THE most important ways to support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut is to consume a whole foods, fiber rich diet.  

What is the keto diet often deficient in? FIBER. Think vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, etc.

Not to mention that fiber is crucial for promoting regular bowel movements. Going to the bathroom daily is essential for eliminating excess hormones.


The keto diet may be harmful for hormones

 Research has shown that overly restricting carbohydrates may result in irregular menstrual cycles or the complete loss of a period all together in some individuals.

Overly restricting carb intake may negatively impact thyroid hormones resulting in weight gain, mood disturbances, poor concentration and low energy levels. Sound fun?


The keto diet may increase your risk for being overweight in the future

The keto diet might produce rapid weight loss in the short-term, but it also might actually increase your risk for weight gain in the future.

Compliance and adherence to the keto diet in research studies is low, likely because of it’s restrictive nature. This means that it is probably not realistic for most people to follow in the long-term.

What is one of the biggest risk factors for weight gain? Chronic dieting (ahem...keto) & weight cycling.

When your body goes through periods of restriction a number of metabolic changes occur including greater fat storage, lean muscle loss and decreased energy expenditure. These are protective mechanisms that your body employs as a result of restriction.


The keto diet lacks important micronutrients

One of the major issues with PCOS is the underlying, low grade inflammation (evidenced by elevated inflammatory markers in women with PCOS). Women with PCOS are also at an increased risk for a number of micronutrient deficiencies.

If you’re following a ketogenic diet, you are likely missing out on crucial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that have an anti-inflammatory and protective effect on your body (like colorful fruits and veggies!)

Higher fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers and a decreased risk for developing chronic disease.


The keto diet can squash your social life

The keto diet can be incredibly stressful and socially isolating due to it’s restrictive nature. It takes a lot effort to count and micromanage every piece of food that goes into your body. Not to mention all of the fun foods you have to miss out on! I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of us with busy lives don’t really want to live this way and be constantly stressing about food — we’ve got enough life stress as it is!


Final Thoughts

The keto diet may be necessary as a therapeutic intervention in SOME clinical cases when appropriate. This should be implemented with the guidance of your doctor and dietitian to ensure safety.

If you are pursing the keto diet to lose weight, improve energy, manage PCOS or balance hormones….you may actually end up worse off than when you started. I promise you — there is a better way!

I want to reiterate again that a keto diet is NOT just a low carb or controlled carb diet.

There are SO many ways to improve insulin resistance and manage PCOS that don’t involve the keto diet (read more here and here and here).

I work closely with clients to support them in determining their personal carb tolerance and a pattern of eating that is supportive of stable blood sugar and energy levels. Every individual is unique!

If you are serious about making dietary changes to improve your health and manage PCOS in the long-term…stop looking to generic diets and quick fixes.


Set up a free 30 minute discovery call if you’re interested in getting to the root of your symptoms and working with an integrative registered dietitian on a personalized nutrition and lifestyle plan for long-term health outcomes.


In the meantime you can check out some of my basic diet and lifestyle tips for PCOS here to get you started.

In health,

Jillian Greaves, MPH, RD, LDN

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5 Nutrition and Lifestyle Tips for Managing PCOS Naturally

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Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) affects 1 in 10 women. Despite how common PCOS is, I’ve found that there is a major lack of support from a diet and lifestyle standpoint for women with PCOS. Fortunately there are many ways to manage PCOS naturally. Diet and lifestyle interventions for PCOS are incredibly personalized and multi-faceted, so keep in mind that these recommendations are not personalized to address your specific needs.


Stabilize Blood Sugar and Improve Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance and excess amounts of insulin are common in women with PCOS. This combination contributes to metabolic problems and affects the hormones that control your menstrual cycle. High levels of insulin can stimulate the ovaries to produce more testosterone. This can lead to acne, hirsutism, anovulation and infertility.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and it’s primary job is to bring glucose out of the blood stream and into your cells to be used for energy. Your cells need glucose to function optimally, but the mechanism that allows insulin to usher glucose into your cells does not always work properly in PCOS.

Because your cells are already having a difficult time accessing energy, cutting out carbs or overly restricting carbohydrates is not the answer. This can make thing worse and lead to further disruptions to endocrine function, hypoglycemia, fatigue and intense cravings. Overly restricting carbohydrates also typically leads overeating them later on.

We also don’t want to chronically overeat carbohydrate foods leading to big spikes in blood sugar and higher levels of circulating insulin.

So how do you stabilize blood sugar and improve insulin resistance?! Focus on eating consistently throughout the day (about every 4 hours or so) and including moderate amounts of carbohydrates at meals and snacks. Choose fiber rich carbs which are broken down and digested more slowly to prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar (starchy vegetables, beans, quinoa, oats, fruit). Pair starchy foods with protein, fat and non-starchy vegetables for optimal blood sugar stability.

The amount of carbohydrates you need daily is very individualized, but a good starting place is to think about ¼ plate high fiber carb, ¼ plate protein, ½ plate non-starchy vegetables and 1-2 servings fat at meals. This is NOT about perfection! This is also not about beating yourself up over the pizza and beer you enjoyed with friends last weekend. There is a lot of flexibility here. It’s about mindfulness and fueling your body appropriately on a consistent basis.


Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is a trendy topic right now that you can read more about here. PCOS is associated with chronic, low grade inflammation that isn’t fully understood (evidenced by elevated inflammatory markers in women with PCOS). Chronic inflammation can increase the risk for a number of chronic diseases, therefore one of the goals in managing PCOS is to reduce chronic inflammation.

So how do you support your body in reducing inflammation? Include more omega 3 fatty acids which are super important for reducing inflammation. Some of my favorites include fatty fish, hemp seeds, chia seeds, tahini, walnuts and olive oil.

Eat more plants! Higher fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers and a decreased risk for developing chronic disease. Vegetables and fruit are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that have an ant-inflammatory and protective effect on our bodies. Aim for 7-9 servings daily and choose a variety of colors!

Use herbs and spices liberally. Not only are herbs a great way to flavor your food, but they’re also really amazing chemical compounds that have the ability to disrupt inflammatory pathways and even inhibit the release of inflammatory messengers. Use more turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, oregano, thyme and rosemary to flavor food.


Prioritize and Protect Time for Daily Stress Management

Chronic stress disrupts your body’s stress response systems and results in increased cortisol secretion (one of your body’s stress hormones). Chronically elevated levels of cortisol impacts insulin, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and thyroid hormone production. Stress can impact your body’s ability to regulate inflammation, impair digestion, promote weight gain, and result in the loss of a normal period. Is this stressing you out?! Unfortunately stress isn’t going anywhere, so it’s important to prioritize stress management activities daily to support healthy hormonal balance.

Stress management is also very personalized. The most important thing is to find something that works for YOU and to make it a part of your daily life. Some ideas include guided mediation, yoga, seeing a therapist, going for a walk and getting fresh air and deep belly breathing.


Talk about supplements with your Dietitian or Doctor.

There are several supplements that can be very helpful with PCOS. Women with PCOS are commonly deficient in a number of vitamins and minerals which might be due to increased needs, poor absorption or increased secretion. Common deficiencies include zinc, copper, magnesium and vitamin D. I always prioritize these crucial vitamins and minerals via food and supplementation as necessary.

In addition to correcting any deficiencies, there are other supplements that can be used to help with balancing sex hormones, promoting insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation. Below are some common supplements I use in my practice with clients. Keep in mind that supplements are very individualized. Please consult your Dietitian or Doctor before starting anything new.

Inositols are pseudovitamins found in many foods. Myo and d-chiro inositols are the most well researched in PCOS. Myo + d-chiro inositol supplementation in a 40:1 ratio has been shown to help with insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, hypertension, weight loss and egg quality. Learn more here and here.

NAC is a derivative of L-cysteine which is a precursor to glutathione. NAC acts as an antioxidant and an amino acid that can help reduce oxidative stress, improve insulin resistance, improve egg quality and ovulation and lower androgens. Learn more here.

Berberine is an ancient herb that acts as an insulin sensitizer that may also help with reducing LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and testosterone levels. Learn more here.

Omega 3s are essential fatty acids. This means that the body does not produce them, and we have to obtain them from food. In addition to including more omega 3 rich foods (see above), an omega 3 supplement may be beneficial for decreasing inflammation, improving insulin resistance, lowering androgens and improving depression (women with PCOS experience higher rates of depression and anxiety). Learn more here.


Reduce Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

Endocrine disrupting chemicals can impact hormone levels that may contribute to inflammation, infertility and metabolic alterations seen in PCOS such as weight gain and insulin resistance.

It’s impossible to completely eliminate exposure to ALL endocrine disrupting chemicals in the world that we live in. However it is possible to consciously reduce your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals with small but impactful changes:

Minimize your use of plastics in the form of single use plastic bottles and tupperware. Purchase a glass or stainless steel water bottle and glass tupperware.

Look for personal care products free of parabens, formaldehyde, phthalates, petroleum jelly, PEG, food dye and coloring and synthetic fragrances. I love Follain, Credo Beauty and Beauty Counter for personal care products.

Switch out household cleaning products with non-toxic alternatives. I’m a fan of Seventh Generation and Branch Basics.


*Remember that these are general tips and not a substitute for individual medical or nutrition advice. Always consult with your health care provider before making changes or starting supplements.


If you’re ready to work together on a personalized diet and lifestyle plan with the support of an Integrative Registered Dietitian, set up a free introductory phone call to learn more about the program.

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Gut Health 101 + Homemade Vanilla Cashew Yogurt

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This post was written in partnership with GoLive. All opinions are my own.

Gut health is a hot and trendy topic right now. With new research constantly evolving and trendy food products + supplements on the market targeting gut health, it can feel a little bit overwhelming. Let’s break down the basics.

Gut Health 101:

The term “gut” refers to the gastrointestinal tract which consists of a long tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. The gut microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms living in the gastrointestinal tract including bacteria, fungi and viruses. The human gut microbiome primarily consists of bacteria that reside in the large intestine.

Research on the gut microbiome and it’s role in health and disease is booming as researchers have discovered that the bacteria in the gut play a major role in the digestion and absorption of food, immune function, the regulation of inflammation, the production of important vitamins, hormonal balance, insulin sensitivity and mental health (1,2).

There is a lot that that we still do not understand about the gut microbiome, but research has shown that imbalances in gut bacteria (particularly low bacterial diversity) is associated with conditions such as irritable bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune disease, obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, inflammatory skin conditions and more (1). This tells us that a species-rich gut microbe community is beneficial.

Probiotics are defined as “live micro-organisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host” as defined by the World Health Organization. Probiotic organisms are super important for maintaining the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut (3). Probiotics can be found in certain foods and supplements — more on this in a minute!

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for the beneficial bacteria living in the gut and promote healthy microbe growth (1,4). Prebiotics can be found naturally in many foods.

Diet & lifestyle factors that may negatively impact gut microbial diversity include inadequate fiber intake, restrictive diets, high consumption of processed foods and simple sugars, stress, inadequate exercise, overuse of antibiotics, poor sleep, alcohol and smoking (1,5).

The bottom line is that the bacteria in the intestine play a major role in health & disease, and there are some key ways that we can support gut health and microbial diversity on a daily basis to promote overall health.

What can you do to support gut health and microbial diversity?

Eat more whole foods

The standard American diet -- high in refined carbohydrates, food additives, and saturated fat and low in fiber is associated with low levels of good bacteria in the gut and has been linked to an increased risk for developing functional digestive disorders. Research has shown that limiting processed foods and eating a diet based on whole foods can actually be protective against digestive issues and promote microbial diversity (6). Aim to include more vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean protein and whole grains.

Incorporate stress management practices daily

Stress can exacerbate digestive issues and has been associated with diarrhea, constipation and IBS. Chronic stress can cause changes in your gut microbiome, cause the gut to become more permeable, and impact gut sensitivity and motility (7). Find ways to incorporate stress reduction activities into your daily life whether it be walking your dog, meditating, journaling, or reading – do what works for you and make it a daily ritual! Yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy and acupuncture have also been shown to help.

Include more prebiotic rich foods

Prebiotics are resistant to digestive enzymes and are not absorbed in the small intestine. They are able to make their way to the colon where they stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria (4). Foods rich in prebiotics include garlic, onion, artichoke, under-ripe bananas and whole grains (oats, barley, rye, etc).

Include more probiotic rich fermented foods

Fermented foods add live cultures to the digestive tract which support the function of good bacteria in the gut, improve the digestibility of foods, and activate/support antioxidant pathways (8). Fermented foods include traditional whole milk yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and tempeh.

Incorporate a good quality probiotic supplement

The environment that we live in and the modernization of our food supply has negatively impacted our consumption of beneficial bacteria. A probiotic supplement is an important way that you can introduce new beneficial bacteria into the gut. It’s important to note that not all probiotic products are created equal. Many common probiotic supplements do not ensure survivability of the strains. In order to be effective, the bacteria needs to remain alive as it makes it’s way to the intestine. It is also important to make sure that you are choosing well-researched strains that support human health.

I’m a huge fan of GoLive probiotic products, particularly their unflavored probiotic packets that I can mix in with anything (they also make amazing flavored ones for on-the-go). Their probiotic packets all contain 15 clinically tested, human commensurate probiotic strains. GoLive is unique because their products also include 3 different prebiotic fibers to help the microorganisms grow and colonize more effectively, and L-glutamine which has been shown to help repair and maintain gut barrier function. The probiotics are freeze dried and sealed in foil lined packaging which puts them in a dormant state until you a ready to use them. This ensures that when you open the packet, you are truly getting “live” cultures. I love mixing the powder into smoothies, chia pudding and even in water!

Below is my new favorite recipe for a simple homemade probiotic vanilla cashew yogurt featuring GoLive’s unflavored probiotic supplement. This is a super fun and nutritious way to introduce more LIVE cultures into your diet.

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Vanilla Cashew Yogurt


Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Soak cashews in a small bowl with just enough water to cover them for 2 hours. This is not required, but it makes for a smoother consistency and I highly recommend!

  2. Drain the cashews and place them into a blender with 1 cup filtered water and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Blend on high until consistency is smooth and creamy.

  3. Add probiotics and blend again for another few second or stir in by hand until they dissolve. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

* Because this yogurt is made from cashews, it is higher in fat and likely more filling than your typical plant based yogurt. I recommend using about 1/4 cup as a serving.


This is a reminder that the tips above are general, and are not substitute for personalized nutrition and health advice. If you’re interested in learning more or setting up an appointment for 1:1 nutrition counseling and personalized support, you can set up a free introductory call here.


references

  1. Valdes Ana M, Walter Jens, Segal Eran, Spector Tim D. (2018). Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health

  2. Bull MJ, Plummer NT. (2014). Part 1: The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease. 

  3. Markowiak P, Śliżewska K. (2017). Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. 

  4. Slavin J. (2013). Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. 

  5. Conlon MA, Bird AR. (2014). The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health. 

  6. Viladomiu, M., Hontecillas, R., Yuan, L., Lu, P., & Bassaganya-Riera, J. (2013). Nutritional protective mechanisms against gut inflammation. 

  7. Qin, H.-Y., Cheng, C.-W., Tang, X.-D., & Bian, Z.-X. (2014). Impact of psychological stress on irritable bowel syndrome. 

  8. Rezac S, Kok CR, Heermann M, Hutkins R. (2018). Fermented Foods as a Dietary Source of Live Organisms. 



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What Your Sugar Cravings are Trying to Tell You

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One of the most common complaints I get from clients is “I crave sugar all the time”. I’m super excited to (finally) address the topic of sugar and sugar cravings with you all.

I want to pre-face this post by saying that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with enjoying sweets. Nothing. I strongly believe that enjoying sweets without guilt or restriction is part of a healthy dietary pattern. For some people this might be here and there, and for other people it might be everyday. Neither are wrong! We are all different and unique needs. Sugar alone is not the devil that the media makes it out to be and I think that it’s important to make sure we are looking at the overall dietary pattern, and not zooming in on one day, one holiday, or one vacation.

We do know that consuming excessive amounts of refined sugars along with other dietary and lifestyle factors can have a negative impact on our health. Too much sugar in someone’s diet may contribute to an increased risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease, decreased insulin sensitivity and blood sugar abnormalities, and weight gain from excess caloric intake (particularly sugar sweetened beverages). We also know that big spikes and dips in blood sugar from excess refined sugar consumption can negatively impact mood, cognition and energy levels. Research has also shown that eating foods high in sugar can decrease blood levels of antioxidants.

Below are some of the primary reasons that I see people craving sugar or eating sugar in excess:

Overly restricting or avoiding sugar

Yup. This is one of the number one reasons I see people overeating sweets! When we tell ourselves that we can’t or shouldn’t have something, we tend to want it even more. When we finally let ourselves have whatever that food is, we usually overeat it. What’s the best way to break this cycle might you ask? Allow yourself to eat and enjoy sweets mindfully! Incorporate them into your weekly meal planning and enjoy them amongst a variety of other foods.

Undereating carbohydrates

We live in a very carb-phobic society. The reality is that your body needs carbohydrates for energy. If you are overly restricting carbohydrates at meals and snacks, sugar cravings are your body’s way of saying that it is being under-fueled (it sees sugar as a quick source of energy). Instead of avoiding carbs and then overcompensating with excessive refined sugar intake, try including nutrient rich carbohydrates at meals alongside protein, fats and lots of non-starchy veggies. Some of my favorites are potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice & oats.

Inadequate fat intake

Fats are your friend! Fats including avocado, nuts, nut butter, seeds and olives take longer for your body to digest. Including healthy whole food fats at meals and snacks helps to stable blood sugar, promote satiety, and slow down the digestion and absorption of sugars. I recommend 1-2 servings of fat at meals and snacks for most people.

Stress

If you are someone that turns to sweets when you’re stressed, you’re not alone! I like to call this “reactive eating”. Reactive eating is impulsive. This generally happens when we are looking for a distraction from something we might be feeling like stress, sadness or boredom. This is very different than enjoying a homemade cookie that your coworker brought in because it looks great and will provide you with a lot of joy and satisfaction.

If you find yourself continually turning to sweets in reaction to stress or other emotions, it might be time to pause and explore other coping mechanisms. Some of my favorite ways to manage stress outside of food include guided mediation, pleasure reading, spending time with my boyfriend and pup, walking to a podcast, calling a friend and deep breathing.

High consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners

Non-nutritive sweeteners are found in things like Splenda, sweetnlow, equal, diet beverages, and sugar-free desserts. Non-nutritive sweeteners can be up to 700 times sweeter than regular table sugar. The intensity of sweetness in these products can distort your sense of taste, making it difficult to appreciate and detect the natural sweetness of foods like fruit. New research is also finding that non-nutritive sweeteners may have a negative impact on gut microbial activity. I recommend mindfully including real sweeteners including honey, maple syrup, and brown sugar in moderation.

Inadequate sleep

A lack of sleep impacts the expression of our body’s hunger and satiety hormones, resulting in increased hunger. Remember – your body sees sugar as a source of quick energy which is why you may also gravitate towards these foods when your body feels like it needs a boost of energy. Inadequate sleep can also result in elevated levels of cortisol (your body’s stress hormone), which can disturb blood sugar resulting in sugar cravings. Sleep is the cornerstone of good health. I recommended aiming for 7-9 hours per night.

Final Thoughts

I want to reiterate again that sugar alone is not the devil and there are so many diet and lifestyle factors that play a role in health and disease. However, sugar in the amount that Americans are generally consuming it can have a negative impact on health. Sugar is in our yogurt, nut milks, granola bars, pasta sauce, peanut butter, salad dressing (you get the picture).

When it comes to sugar, my biggest thought is that you don’t want to be getting sugar in your diet without even knowing it. Eat and enjoy sweets mindfully as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern. It’s all about awareness.

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The Biggest Mistake I See People Make When it Comes to Food and Nutrition

I work one-on-one with clients for a variety of reasons. Some of my work involves therapeutic dietary interventions to manage PCOS or GI disorders, while other aspects involve more behavioral elements for establishing long-term healthy habits in a busy life. Regardless of what a client is coming to see me for, I always talk about the satisfaction factor. What is the satisfaction factor you might ask? Let me explain:

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We eat for countless reasons. We eat to nourish our bodies & to have energy, but we also eat because food is fun, social & enjoyable. If you continually leave meals and snacks feeling unsatisfied when trying to “eat healthy”, the way you are eating is likely not sustainable (aka - this is just another diet).

Considering the satisfaction factor with food is something that everyone should be doing on a daily basis, regardless of what your health and wellness goals are. This means asking yourself: What do I feel like eating? What will be truly satisfying in this moment? This involves drawing on your “inner wisdom”. Then ask yourself: How can I make this a more well-rounded meal that will also nourish my body and make me feel good? This is involves drawing on your “outer wisdom” or nutrition knowledge.

The satisfaction factor is one of the KEY things that I see people neglecting when dietary behaviors are not sustainable. A lack of satisfaction often leads to overeating past fullness and grazing as your body searches for satisfaction in something. Making positive dietary changes for your health or managing a health condition through food should never mean that you are eating food that is not enjoyable.

So – the next time you’re planning a meal or selecting something on a menu, I encourage you to first think about what truly sounds good (hot? cold? crunchy? sweet? savory?), and THEN think about how you can make that a more well-rounded & nourishing meal for your body.

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Do you consider the satisfaction factor when you’re planning meals and snacks? I want to hear from you!

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The Best Foods & Nutrients to boost your immune system this Winter

The Best Foods & Nutrients to boost your immune system this Winter

What can I do to support my immune system? I get asked this question constantly during the winter months! First of all, the immune system is very complex and there are so many factors involved in maintaining a balanced immune system— sleep, stress, environmental toxins, age, food, etc. There is no one food or nutrient that will dictate how your immune system is functioning or responding by itself. However, there are a variety of important nutrients that we know the immune system requires to function optimally and it can be beneficial to make sure you are getting enough of these on a daily basis!

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What you should really be focusing on when it comes to food and nutrition in 2019

Around the Holidays and with the start of the New Year, we are totally inundated with messages on social media and tv promoting all sorts of diet plans and detoxes. I get it - Holiday eating is often far from normal and can leave us feeling a little run down. After what feels like 2 weeks of non-stop celebrating with family and friends, I definitely notice a difference in how I feel. Layer on a lack of sleep + little movement and here I am feeling a little bit sluggish, and I'd be lying if I didn't say my digestion has been far from normal (TMI?).

This to me is a sign that I should focus on incorporating more of the foods and behaviors back into my life that make me feel my best - energized, clear headed and well rested. Not a crazy cleanse or quick fix diet. Not because of the number on a scale. Not because I want to make up for the food I ate last month (because I will continue to drink wine and eat cheese this month and every month of 2019).

I understand the appeal that diets and cleanses may have on the surface, but you are doing yourself a disservice by engaging in behaviors that deprive your body of essential energy and nutrients. Buzzwords like cleanse and detox are thrown around irresponsibly (especially this time of year!), making it seem as though we need to follow a radical diet to improve our health. Let's talk about the truth when it comes to detoxes.

Our bodies have built in detoxification systems including kidneys, lungs, a liver, the colon and the lymphatic system (just to name a few) to remove unwanted substances from our bodies and to regulate bodily processes for optimal health. Our bodies are pretty dang good at what they do, but they cannot do their best work under conditions of deprivation and stress (aka cleanses and restrictive diets).

In order for the body’s detoxification systems to work optimally, a variety of nutrients are required to make this happen. For example: your liver needs adequate amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and selenium to function. Juice cleanses and other restrictive diets actually deprive your body of many of these essential nutrients.

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I am all for starting the New Year with a fresh set of goals and intentions, but I truly loathe the messages that make us feel as though we need change our bodies, starve ourselves, or go to extreme measures to make up for the "bad" foods eaten during the Holidays. Research shows that 95% of diets do not work in the long-term. And ironically, chronic dieting is one of the biggest predicators of weight gain. Overindulging from time to time is part of an overall healthy diet. We all do it. No one is perfect. Bottom line: there is never a time in life no matter what you have eaten or drank that your body does not need adequate fuel.

With the start of 2019, I encourage you to stop thinking about your diet as a rigid plan, and to focus less on which foods you are going to restrict or avoid in the new year. I challenge you to think about how foods and behaviors make you feel both physically and mentally (digestion, mood, energy, etc.) and to focus on incorporating more of what makes you feel your best. Below are some ideas for ways to reset without falling into the dieting/detox trap, which can ultimately lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and poor health outcomes.

  1. Meal planning/prepping. If you feel a little out of sorts from traveling, Holiday parties, etc, focus on returning to your usual eating habits. For me, this means planning a couple meals/snacks at the beginning of the week and having homemade food on hand to eat throughout the week. Focus on eating a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods.

  2. Increase fiber intake! Include more fiber rich vegetables and fruit at meals - this could be as simple a handful of spinach in smoothies or some peppers and onion in an egg scramble.

  3. Up your hydration game. Dehydration can contribute to low energy levels, brain fog, headaches and GI disturbances. Pick up a new water bottle and carry it around with you to promote adequate hydration.

  4. Get moving. You don't have to do an hour long spin class to reap the benefits of exercise. Get out for a walk with a friend or zone out to music while you do some cleaning to get those endorphins pumping.

  5. Focus on Satisfaction. If you're craving fresh crunchy veggies in a big salad, awesome! If you're not in the mood to eat a salad, that's cool too! Don't force yourself to eat something because you think it's what you "should" be eating. Choose foods that sound good and that also nourish your body.

**These are very broad and basic tips for a gentle reset. There is no one sized fits all plan and I wholeheartedly believe in an individualized approach to nutrition. Reach out below to learn more about my one-on-one nutrition counseling services.

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Tips for Navigating a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season

Tips for Navigating a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed this Holiday season when it comes to health and wellness, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It IS possible to strike a balance between feeling good, maintaining health promoting behaviors, and fully enjoying this time of year. Check out my top tips for navigating a healthy and happy Holiday season!

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Chronic Inflammation: Ten Tips for Reducing Chronic Inflammation

Chronic Inflammation: Ten Tips for Reducing Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around left and right - but what does it actually mean? Why should you care? Let’s break it down!

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My thoughts on New Year's resolutions, diets and detoxes + tips for a gentle reset

My thoughts on New Year's resolutions, diets and detoxes + tips for a gentle reset

   

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