Happy Birthday to Vitamin Valentine!

My blog is officially 2 years old this june (technically my blog’s “birthday” was June 10th). I’m proud that I’ve been able to make writing a commitment, even though I feel like I’m a lot less focused on this blog than when I first began. Part of this is actually for a really good reason. I’m a lot less fixated on food than I used to be. Throughout writing about recipes, nutrition tips and advice, I’ve learned quite a bit about what healthy eating actually is. Here are some things I’ve learned as a nutritionist and student of nutrition:

1. Healthy eating is different for everyone

When I started this blog, I was kind of obsessed with counting calories. I just couldn’t shake it. This was not healthy and made me have a really negative relationship with food. I’ve mentioned in past posts that I used to struggle with obsessive dieting, so counting calories was definitely something that I needed to get away from. Instead of taking the latest diet advice or trying to adopt a lifestyle that ignores your personal health needs, do what feels right to you. It might feel uncomfortable to trust your gut, but ultimately, it is the healthiest.

It's a wrap, with chicken in it, because I felt like it ;) !

2. Eat the rainbow

Ok, so you’ve convinced yourself that your “intuition” is telling you to eat burgers and fries? Let’s be real. Your body needs fresh food in the form of fruits and veggies. Things that grow from the earth offer an abundance of vitamins and minerals and are truly nourishing. Learning to prepare vegetables so that they taste good is fun, I promise!

3. Don’t compare your diet to anyone else’s

I used to follow a bunch of vegan people on instagram and then would feel guilty every time I ate something that was less than 100% organic, raw, sustainably-produced, blah blah blah. I realized I was spending more time feeling bad about my perfectly healthy diet than enjoying my food. I also became somewhat obsessed with posting my own food pictures! If you find yourself comparing your diet to someone else’s, try to remember that no one is perfect when it comes to eating. And remember to take anything food-related on social media with a grain of salt (no pun intended).

4. Always bring snacks

Wherever you go, there you are…and hopefully you brought a snack because you will get hungry! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out running errands and became so hungry, I ended up overeating during my next meal. I’ve learned that keeping snacks in my bag really lets me avoid stuffing my face come lunch or dinner. Trail mix, granola bars, a bag of baby carrots, a piece of fresh fruit- these are all great snack ideas to have on hand.

5. Get moving

Exercise is essential for staying healthy, both physically and mentally. Not only do you burn calories and build strength (depending on the activity), exercise has been found to decrease stress and increase mental awareness. Moving your body will you help you in every way to improve your health…plus it makes your butt look good :). Start small and increase the amount of time you exercise. Try different activities and see which one you really like. I used to hate yoga, and now in a few weeks, I’ll officially be a registered yoga teacher. Go outside your comfort zone when it comes to trying new activities, you might just find your passion!

6. Have some kind of routine

Routines can be boring, restrictive, and repetitive-or-they can be grounding, give you a sense of purpose, and help you get things done. It’s all about perspective! When making a routine (whether its related to exercise or when you’ll prepare your meals, etc.) consider what will be most realistic and doable for you. If you’re not a morning person, don’t force yourself to wake up at 5 AM to go for a run everyday, because that’s not exercise, that’s torture. Likewise, if you work 60 hours a week and don’t have a spare minute to prepare your food, don’t waste your free time cooking elaborate meals. Instead, aim to have simple staples and healthy options at the places you dine at.

7. Be a perpetual student

I started this blog the same month I decided to go back to school to pursue a second bachelor’s and a master’s both in nutrition. I’ve probably learned just as much about food outside of the classroom than in it. I’ve learned a lot about how to treat illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, etc. and I love my professors, but when it comes to learning about the best way to eat, that’s in your hands. Be curious about your food and figuring out what works for you. You know yourself better than any person- nutritionist, doctor, etc. and it can never hurt to learn about food from a variety of sources and then integrate what makes the most sense for you, personally.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the past two years of my blog! If you’re a student of nutrition, feel free to share this post!

-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 pregnancy 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,  see this article:

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

As always, take care!

-Jess