Updates & a Green Juice Recipe!

Hello Readers! I’ve been so busy with classes butย I realized I haven’t posted in almost two weeks, so I’m making this post a combination of some personal updates and a green juice recipe. It’s the end of the semester for me, so these past few weeks have been all about school and trying to focus on that aspect of my life. Another exciting thing for me is that I got a juicer! I already have a blender and I make smoothies with it, but now that I have a juicer it opens up a whole new arena for creativity in the kitchen, plus an excellent way to add even more nutrition to my diet. Although many people swear by juice fasts and juice cleanses, I’m not taking that approach, and instead I’m adding juice to my diet as an additional source of fruits and veggies.

The recipe below is my first juice that I made using some fruits and veggies that were already in my fridge. What’s fun about making juice is that you can get creative and experiment and learn what fruits and veggies go together, and which definitely don’t. Luckily, my first attempt went well.

 

Jess’s First Juice

2 stalks of celery

2 kiwis

1/4 of a head of broccoli

1 cup kale

an orange

I used a wide-mouth juicer and got about 12 ounces from this recipe. It packs a huge amount of vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and phytonutrients, so drink up and enjoy!

IMG_2977

 

Keep checking back soon for more recipes, updates, and nutrition news!

 

-Jess

Mindfulness Matters: Keep a Food Journal to Limit Stress-Eating

Keeping a mindful eating guide can be helpful, and can be stored with your food journal.

Keeping a mindful eating guide can be helpful, and can be stored with your food journal.

As I’ve written in previous posts, the connection between stress and how we eat, or what influences our eatingย is huge. Nutrition is obviously important, but the reasons for why we decide to consume food (whether it is hunger, celebration, or emotionally-driven eating) is equally important. For me, I know during times of stress, food can be comforting. As someone who is trying to practice what I preach, the keys to stopping emotionally-driven eating involve some work but the payoff is worth it. Food journaling has been shown to not only help people become more aware to the specific foods and amounts one is consuming, but it also helps diminish emotional or stress-eating, which is something we’ve probably all done from time to time.

I’ve always been a fan of food journaling, but it’s only been recently that I’ve paid more attention to the reasons why and how I eat, rather than what. If you have a basic knowledge of nutrition and you’re maintaining a healthy weight, chances are, nutritionally- you’re doing something right, but you may be struggling with turning to food at inappropriate times. The first piece of advice I would give to anyone who feels that they use food during times of stress, would be to buy a notebook and write down when you feel stressed. You may be so anxious or stressed-out that you don’t even realize it or can’t even pinpoint a specific stressor, but it’s important to let your mind be free and write it all down. No one else has to read your words, so using a free flowing writing style is A-ok in my book. Next, write down why you think food can help you. Be completely honest with yourself. If you’ve already eaten, and you’re doing a post-meal/snack/binge “confession”, write down what you think led to your eating indiscretion. There is absolutely no shame, despite what your brain might tell you. The key here is to not place blame on yourself. Chances are, food has been your go-to stress-relief for a while, so being nonjudgmental towards yourself in a situation that may have produced guilt in the past is really important.

After you’ve written down your feelings about the food and eating, it’s now time to examine better ways to handle a stressful situation next time. One way to stop a stress-induced-eating episode is to keep your food journal with you at all times and right before you’re about to eat, remind yourself to write down how you’re feeling. Ask yourself, “will food solve this problem in the long-run?”. Although food might provide some immediate comfort and distraction, the answer is probably no, food is not the solution (unless you are actually hungry, then please, do eat something!). Being able to identify healthier ways to deal with stress is a baby step onto real, serious change, so even pausing and writing in a food journal shows great progress. Creating an eating plan for the next day may sound like a good idea, but if you feel that may add additional stress to your life, keeping the focus off food is better. Instead, resolve to pause before eating, take a walk when stressed, or practice meditation. Even sitting for 2 minutes before deciding to use food during stress may help calm your head and change your mind.

Journaling and mindfulness are two ways to get in touch with the factors that lead you to eat, but if you’re facing a problem that you just can’t seem to fix and food is the only solution you can think of, it’s important to get help. Confiding in a friend, social worker, psychologist, or other person you can trust can help you deal with the issues at hand, and may help you find solutions to your problems and also guide you towards diminishing problematic behavior such as stress-eating.

Since I’ve decided to make my blog a little more personal in certain posts, I was actually inspired to write this because I have found much help with the use of a food journal and even on days when I do have a food faux pas (that’s my code for “stress eating episode”!), the use of a journal has helped me immensely. Today in particular I was feeling stressed out due to an issue unrelated to food or school, or anything related to this blog, and I came home and ate a sandwich. Afterwards, I continued to eat some snacks, and then I started to feel uncomfortably full. I took my food journal, and wrote down what I felt, and I wrote an entire page of what was plaguing me throughout the day. It made me realize how important it is to examine my thoughts as they’re occurring, or simply not give into cognitive distortions that my mind is telling me (if you haven’t guessed, yes, I was a psych major). Even though I did eat more than I was hungry for and even though I did happen to give into my stress, it’s great to be able to realize that I can face an issue simply by writing down my thoughts. Sometimes we have to go through a process, whether it seems imperfect in the moment, to be able to realize that we may have the answers within ourselves. Allowing a screw-up to happen is okay, if we’re able to grow from it (and we’re not hurting anyone else in the process. Luckily eating a few extra snacks is not terribly destructive). My final piece of advice is to allow yourself to feel, experience, observe, and write without judgment and see how far you can go!

-Jess

Eating For Two: What You Should Know

a photo from my nutrition textbook, "Wardlaw's Persepctives in Nutrition" by  Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, Gaile Moe, Donna Beshgetoor, and Jacqueline Berning.

a photo from my nutrition textbook, “Wardlaw’s Persepctives in Nutrition” by Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, Gaile Moe, Donna Beshgetoor, and Jacqueline Berning.

 

This week in one of my nutrition classes, we covered nutrition during pregnancy. Although I am in no way, shape, or form pregnant, nutrition during that particular life stage has always interested me. If you think about it, everything a mother eats is directly forming the future health of her child, so to say nutrition is important during this time would be an understatement. Although many expecting moms believe they can eat whatever they want during this time, only about 300-400 extra calories are needed, and where these calories are coming from is something to keep in mind. It’s better to eat an extra snack or two of yogurt and granola, or a larger portion of high-quality protein, like a lean cut of steak, than to gorge on cheesecake and chocolate just because you’re “eating for two”.

Another particularly interesting thing that we learned is how weight gain during pregnancy influences the developing baby. In the 50’s and 60’s, women were advised to not gain much weight, and it actually ended up being detrimental to their kids. Restricting calories during pregnancy can actually turn on a “thrifty” gene in the baby, which basically means that child is going to metabolize calories in such a way that makes it very difficult to lose weight. Because the baby’s body learns food is a limited resource, they will hold on to fat stores and are more likely to be obese as adults. Some doctors are now advising that pregnant moms who are already obese at the start of pregnancy to not gain any weight at all, and this is a very hot topic of debate. Weight loss during pregnancy is extremely dangerous for the child, because the body starts burning fat and ketones are released. When this happens, the baby is exposed to these ketones and it can be harmful to their developing brains. In fact, babies born to mothers who are in ketosis (the fat-burning process) have been shown to have lower IQs (see the article linked below for more info). In my opinion, women who are pregnant should not become obsessive about their weight, and instead focus on eating a really healthy diet based on fruits, veggies, lean protein, dairy or dairy-alternatives, essential fatty acids (omega 6’s and omega 3’s), and legumes/nuts. Exercise also has so many benefits, especially during pregnancy, but always check with your doctor on whether it’s appropriate.

Besides weight concerns, there are several vitamins and minerals that are essential during pregnancy. Iron, which is often low in women as it is, helps form the blood supply of the baby and you may want to have your levels checked if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Calcium is also taken from your body during pregnancy in order to supply the baby’s bones with this mineral, so supplementing with calcium, or upping your intake of calcium-rich foods such as yogurt, low-fat milk, and enriched dairy alternatives may be helpful. Folate, or folic acid, is another essential vitamin that forms the neural tube of the baby. Deficiencies in this vitamin result in neural tube defects, like spina bifida, so it’s imperative that you have good sources in your diet. Good sources of folate include leafy green veggies, black beans, and whole grains, or products made with whole grains.

There are so many nutritional concerns during pregnancyย that are way beyond the scope of this blog, so if you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or just want to have the best nutritional plan for your future, be sure to consult with a Registered Dietitian and your doctor about what you can do to ensure you’re being the healthiest you can.

For more info on the debate on obese mothers and weight gain, as mentioned above, ย see this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/health/15obese.html

As always, take care!

-Jess

My Favorite “Energy” Bars

Several varieties of Larabars

Several varieties of Larabars

In a few posts back, I wrote about how I don’t like to depend on pre-packaged foods and how the best diet is one that is based on fresh produce. I’m a big fan of eating whole foods, and I’ve found that I feel better when I don’t eat food that has processed forms of protein (whey protein, soy protein isolate, etc.) especially when it comes to energy bars. Energy bars, or any kind of packaged “bar”-type foods have become increasingly popular in the last decade or so, with good reason. Many of us are so busy that these packaged bars provide a quick solution to hunger. I used to be a huge fan of Luna Bars, but I realized they were so sweet that I was tempted to eat many of them in a sitting (which I often did!). That was a red flag to me, along with the fact that a lot of the ingredients don’t agree with my stomach (more than one Luna Bar in a sitting results in stomach pains for me) and are highly processed.

For the past few years, my go-to “energy” bars have been Larabars. I love these little rectangles of goodness because the ingredients are so simple and healthy. Each bar contains dates, and usually nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, etc. Some of the varieties also contain additional dried fruit, like dried blueberries, dried apples, dried cherries, etc. and spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves. A few of the flavors also contain chocolate chips (the ones Larabar uses appear to be vegan). What I love about these bars are that not only are they really simple and healthy, they’re much more satisfying than a processed food bar. The fat content is higher in Larabars (compared to other bars) due to the nuts, which makes it a little more filling and satisfying than a lower-fat bar. These bars are also gluten-free, which makes them appropriate for anyone with Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance.

Because they are so easy to make, if you wish to make your own version of Larabars, simply use a food processor to blend together dates (pits removed), nuts, and any other dried fruit of your liking. I haven’t yet created my own fruit and nut bar, so if you try this on your own, you might have to experiment with the ratio of fruits:nuts. If you haven’t tried Larabars, they’re available in most health food stores. I usually buy mine at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or Fairway (a northeast supermarket chain) and you can also order them online. Feel free to share your favorite flavor Larabar by leaving a reply.

 

Note- This post, and any other post based on a particular product, is not a paid endorsement. I truly love Larabars and bought all of the above varieties for $1.49 each.

 

-Jess