Stress Less and Enjoy Food More this Holiday Season!

enjoy food more

Many people have positive associations with food around the holidays: savory stuffing at Thanksgiving, homemade Christmas cookies, or delicious hot chocolate, to name a few. However, many people also experience anxiety related to holiday foods or meals. This anxiety can stem from fears of overeating, eating with a large group, or judgment from family members regarding food choices and portions. This holiday season, I want you to stress less and enjoy food more. To make this happen, read on for my top tips to manage food-related anxiety and find one or two that speak to you!

 

If you… worry about overeating

Try:

  • Remembering that one meal that is larger than normal or has more starches or fat than normal is not going to impact your overall health.
  • Eat a small meal or snack 1-2 hours before the main meal to avoid feeling famished when you sit down to eat; being extra hungry can cause us to make choices we might not otherwise make!
  • Slow down when eating and put your fork down between bites. This will help you to better recognize when you are full and may want to stop eating to avoid feeling overstuffed.
  • Fill at least half your plate with nutrient-dense foods (like roasted Brussels sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, or cooked butternut squash).
  • Wait 10 minutes after finishing your first plate to decide if you want more or would rather wait until later to eat again.

 

If you… worry about eating with a large group

Try:

  • Doing a relaxing activity before the meal, such as journaling, stretching, or listening to calm music (try this playlist as an example).
  • Reach out to a close friend or family member who will be attending the meal and lean on them for support as needed.
  • Take deep breaths at the table to lower your heart rate and slow your mind.
  • Excuse yourself from the table to take a break, if necessary, and come back when you are ready.
  • Remember that all food fits, and that it’s okay to choose anything on the table that you want to eat. Holidays are special occasions!

 

If you… often receive scrutiny or pressure from family members regarding food choices and portions

Try:

  • Setting boundaries. Let these family members know that you don’t feel comfortable with their comments and would prefer that they don’t evaluate your choices, especially around the holidays, when togetherness and enjoying time with family should be the top priorities.
  • Remember that people who tend to judge the behaviors of others often feel dissatisfied with their own behavior or have other personal issues that are not being addressed in a healthy way.
  • Remind yourself that you know what is best for your body. It could be helpful to write down this affirmation (and others you find helpful, too) ahead of time.
  • Plan to sit away from this family member and have other topics in mind if need be to redirect the conversation.
  • If this family member contributed to making the meal, thank them for the food and offer to take home leftovers rather than eating past your own comfort level to please them.

 

If any of these situations speaks to you, try some of these tips this holiday season to enjoy food more and stress less! Focus on making positive memories, enjoying your favorite foods, and banning any feelings of guilt over food choices. If you still feel anxious about food choices this holiday season, send Nikky a message and she will be happy to offer additional support!

 

Happy Holidays!

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6 No-Cook Meals You Can Make in Your Dorm

dorm, no-cook meals, college

If you’re on a college campus this year, it may be a good idea to stock up on groceries so you can prepare meals in the privacy of your own dorm. Since many school dining halls are transitioning to take-out only models anyway, you won’t miss much in terms of the communal eating experience if you make your own meals. Plus, this way, you can control the quality of food you eat and make sure it works with your health needs. Browse this list for some ways to mix up your basic routine. Each option is a no-cook meal (which is helpful if your access to appliances is limited), and everything is totally customizable to suit your palate!

 

No-cook Meal 1: Sandwich Pinwheels

Tired: a boring sandwich. Wired: wrapping all your favorite proteins and toppings into a tortilla and slicing into bite-size pinwheel pieces. If you’re feeling extra fancy, secure it together with a toothpick and skewer a pickle or pickled onion on top. Tortillas take up less room than bread in your mini fridge, and eating your meal this way will definitely feel like a step up from your usual routine. If you eat meat, turkey is a great base for your pinwheels. For a veggie option, go for hummus instead. Then go wild with your favorite sandwich toppings.

Hot tip: If you’re adding veggies to your pinwheels (like cucumbers or carrots), cut them into strips rather than slices so that they roll up easier.

 

No-cook Meal 2: Loaded avocado toast

Top your favorite toasted bread with smashed avocado, then add a drizzle of olive oil, and layer on some sliced tomato. Garnish with red pepper flakes and a dash of salt and pepper. Many dorms come with common area kitchenettes that have basic appliances, like a microwave and toaster oven. But if you don’t have access to a toaster, this meal can still work with no appliances if you use a fresh bakery loaf that has a hearty crust.

Hot tip: To cut your avocado, use a sharp kitchen knife and cut vertically all the way around. Twist the halves to rip the avocado in two. Once the pit is exposed on one side, gently whack it with your knife so that the blade lands in the pit. Wiggle your knife back and forth to remove the pit cleanly. Store the unused half in the fridge. Take the half you are going to eat, and score it with your knife before scooping out the meat. Confused on technique? Here’s a video.

 

No-cook Meal 3: Salad in a jar

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’m way more likely to enjoy my meal when the presentation is on point. A big mason jar can go a long way. This recipe is quite flexible, and it allows you to prep multiple lunches at the same time, then grab-and-go when you need to eat between activities. Prep your favorite chopped vegetables, proteins, cheeses, and herbs into a jar. My go-to combination of ingredients is an antipasto-themed salad that includes lettuce, olives, bell pepper, banana peppers, provolone, basil, and sundried tomatoes. But I mean, it’s salad—you do you. To keep your meal fresh and crispy, hold off on adding your favorite dressing until the day you’re ready to eat. When you do add your dressing, shake the jar like crazy to get an even mix.

Hot tip: Canned black beans or chickpeas can go a long way toward elevating your salad. No cooking required, they just need a little rinse and you’re ready to eat!

 

No-cook Meal 4: Tuna salad pita pockets

Prepare some tuna salad by combining canned tuna with mayo and onion. Or, for a lighter option, opt for olive oil, lemon juice, onion, and capers. Store what you don’t use. For your pita pocket, cut off one side of the pita, leaving an opening to put your filling in. Line the pita pocket with your favorite greens, like green leaf lettuce or baby spinach, then add your tuna salad.

Hot tip: In your tuna salad, you can also add chopped celery and/or canned water chestnuts for extra crunch.

 

No-cook Meal 5: Veggie banh mi

Because this sandwich is jam-packed with exciting, spicy flavors, you can make it with raw tofu pieces and still feel like your sandwich is restaurant-quality. To prep your tofu, cut into flat slices, then wrap them in a paper towel to drain out any excess moisture. Start with a piece of fresh baguette, then pile on your tofu slices, thin carrot strips, cucumber, jalapeno slices, and cilantro. Smear on some light mayo or vegan mayo, and top with sriracha.

Hot tip: If you stumble upon access to a fuller kitchen, you can graduate to this recipe that involves marinating and searing your tofu.

 

No-cook Meal 6: Protein Bento Box

This is a fun meal idea if you are nearing the end of your groceries and want to use up a little bit of everything. Instead of eating “just leftovers,” you’ll feel like you’re indulging in a store-bought treat. Grab a reusable bento box container and fill it with items like grapes, nuts, raw veggies, hummus, pretzels, granola, yogurt, or whatever you have in your fridge, like extra pinwheels or tuna salad from meals you made earlier this week.

Hot tip: In addition to being more eco-friendly than individual plastic baggies, a reusable bento box is also a cute, discrete way to transport your meal for easy snacking. So if you find yourself across campus with no downtime between activities, you can quietly open your box and enjoy some mid-meeting nutrition without drawing too much attention.

 

 

Bonus hot tip: Pickling your own onions is super easy and requires no cooking. Give it a try, and you’ll have a garnish that can be added to any meal idea on this list!

 

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7 Tips for Healthy Eating When Life Gets Busy

busy nutrition

When it comes to making healthy changes and sticking to them, the number one barrier many of my clients experience is not having enough time. As a general rule of thumb, I like to remind people that planning ahead and doing the prep work up front can actually save you greatly (both in terms of time and money) in the long run. While this may seem like a daunting task, I have worked with incredibly busy clients who have successfully developed sustainable habits: people whose jobs require them to travel every week, busy collegiate student-athletes, high-powered diplomats and attorneys, and more. So it can be done! Below is a list of the top 7 tips that have helped my clients maintain healthy eating habits when life gets busy:

 

  1. Have a list of quick and convenient healthy snacks on hand

    If you have high-quality protein bars, nuts, fruit, or dried chick peas on hand, you don’t have to worry about being hungry and defaulting to a nutrient-poor option, like candy or chips, in a pinch. Foods that are high in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals will help to sustain energy for longer and may even boost mood and productivity

  2. Follow general guidelines for food groups at meals

    If you often must eat away from home due to travel, it’s not going to be possible to plan out every meal for the week. Instead, work ahead with your dietitian to determine the appropriate portion sizes and combinations of food groups you should aim for at each meal. If you know that you want a plate that is half vegetables, plus a protein the size of a deck of cards, and one starch the size of your fist, these guidelines will do a lot of the work for you when it comes to healthy eating, no matter the eating environment.

  3. Eat on a consistent schedule

    One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is going without food for 6 hours or more. If you do that, you may find yourself craving foods high in fat, carbohydrates, or sugar. Eating every 3-4 hours helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and makes it easier to focus on work and make healthier food choices throughout the day. Even if you can’t eat at the exact same times every day, the time between all meals and snacks should ideally be no longer than 3-4 hours.

  4. Prepare meals at home that can be frozen

    If you can’t afford to budget cooking time for every meal window, it’s a great strategy to cook meals that can be made in large batches and then frozen. This could be soups, crock pot meals, casseroles, breakfast sandwiches, protein waffles and pancakes, smoothies, homemade meatballs, etc. You can also keep frozen vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, and fish. Plus, if you opt for individually-sized portions, you can also help reduce food waste.

  5. Use a meal prep delivery service

    If you really don’t enjoy cooking or need to minimize meal prep time as much as possible, a meal prep delivery service may be the answer for you. Some services will ship you all the ingredients you need for a particular recipe, and others will even prepare the meals for you and deliver them, ready-made, to your door. In terms of cost, this option may add up to an equivalent amount as eating at a restaurant, and can allow for healthy eating with minimal time and effort.

  6. Scope out restaurants you frequent often

    For restaurants that you go to often, begin creating a list of at least 1-2 menu options that you know fit well within your personal food guidelines. This will make the ordering process easier and will allow you to have some back-up options ready to go when you find yourself out at a business lunch or stuck at the office without any food prepared.

  7. Look at nutrition facts ahead of time for new restaurants if possible

    Before you try a new restaurant, scan the nutrition facts (or at least the menu) ahead of time by looking it up online. This will allow you to make a more informed decisions about which menu items will suit your needs best, and preparing ahead of time takes the pressure out of trying to make a decision on the fly.

If you have a busy schedule or frequently have to eat away from home, try these tips in whichever order feels most realistic or helpful. Remember, in order for a food plan to be sustainable, it has to fit into your life. If you feel that you would benefit from working with a professional to seek advice on your specific situation or to create a customized meal plan, please feel free to message me to set up a consult!

 

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My Top 5 Most Commonly Recommended Dietary Supplements

variety of dietary supplements

The world of dietary supplements can be difficult to navigate. It’s easy to get lost in supplement aisles at the grocery store or overwhelmed by the numerous products being advertised to us in the media for a variety of purposes.

While I always take a food-first approach with all of my clients (meaning that I aim to help them meet all of their nutrient needs through foods), there are often times when a dietary supplement is needed. Supplementation may be necessary due to certain dietary patterns, disease states, or training demands. Additionally, some people benefit from supplements to boost reserves of nutrients, hormones, or neurotransmitters that otherwise would become deficient.

To help you sort through what dietary supplements you can trust and which supplements may be right for you, I put together a list of my top 5 most commonly recommended dietary supplements and recommendations on what to look for when purchasing supplements.

 

1. Omega-3 Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, which means they help with decreasing inflammation caused by stress, toxins, or injury. They also are essential for forming the structure of cell membranes. Most Americans don’t consume enough omega-3 fatty acids; according to a recent analysis completed by the FASEB journal, 83.5% of Americans do not consume enough seafood to meet minimum omega-3 recommendations through the diet. The most current recommendations from Harvard Medical school are that anyone who does not eat enough omega-3 fatty acids through the diet should supplement with 1g of omega-3 fatty acids per day to decrease inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular events.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D serves several critical functions in the body, including: promoting calcium absorption, which keeps bones strong; supporting immune function, cell growth, and cell division; and reducing inflammation. This nutrient is not found naturally in many foods aside from fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel) and several mushroom varieties, though it is added to several dairy products such as milk or yogurt. Vitamin D can also be synthesized with sufficient exposure of the skin to sunlight. Because these foods often comprise just a small part of the typical America diet and adequate sun exposure is not always possible (particularly in cooler climates), vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the US (about 42% of us are deficient). For someone who is deficient, supplementation is likely necessary, though dosage and length of supplementation will vary based on the severity of the deficiency.

3. GABA

GABA stands for Gamma Aminobutyric Acid and it is a neurotransmitter that is made naturally in the body. Its primary role is to reduce fear and anxiety. This neurotransmitter is not available in many food sources (only a few fermented foods, such as kimchi or tempeh), and GABA levels in the body can become deficient during periods of high stress. Additionally, individuals with certain medical conditions tend to have low levels of GABA, including those with seizure disorders, ADHD, panic disorders, or mood disorders. GABA supplementation has shown to be most effective for those who experience anxiety. I have found it to be particularly useful for myself and clients who have difficulty falling asleep at night due to racing thoughts.

4. Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is essential for DNA and red blood cell production. This nutrient is only available from animal sources, which means that anyone following a vegan or predominantly plant-based diet will need to take a dietary supplement. Additionally, anyone who has undergone gastric bypass surgery will need to supplement with B-12 because absorption of vitamin B-12 occurs in the stomach (which has largely been bypassed), not the intestines as is the case with most other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can also be common in the elderly because our digestive capabilities tend to weaken as we get older.

5. BCAAs

BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids, are a group of 3 amino acids that have been shown through research to assist with reducing muscle soreness after exercise. Some studies have also shown that they can help with increasing muscle growth. These amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are found naturally in many foods, including meat, dairy, and eggs. However, individuals following a vegan or plant-based diet may not consume enough through the diet to meet their needs. Additionally, anyone engaging in a strenuous weightlifting program requires additional protein intake for recovery, and a BCAA supplement can help with supporting these needs during and after exercise or between meals. You can learn more about BCAAs by visiting my earlier blog post on this topic.

 

These supplements represent the most common recommendations I make for my clients, which include athletes and fitness enthusiasts of all ages. Remember, dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and therefore you cannot trust that every supplement on the shelf or online is safe. I would always recommend talking with your doctor or dietitian first before starting any new dietary supplement. To see the brands I typically recommend for different supplements, visit the link to my Fullscript dispensary on the Products page of my website. Fullscript is an online dispensary that can only be used by licensed healthcare professionals (such as doctors and dietitians) to recommend professional-grade supplements of the highest quality, purity, and potency.

If you are ever looking for supplements yourself, please look for a third-party seal to ensure the supplement has been verified for quality, purity, and potency. Examples of third-party seals include USP, Informed Choice, NSF, and GMP.

 

Are there any dietary supplements you would like to learn more about? Any supplements I didn’t cover here that you would like for me to review? Comment below!

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The Best Foods to Have on Hand During Self-quarantine

This time of self-quarantine and social distancing poses some unique challenges for meal prepping and following a nutrition plan. Some foods that were once readily available are now scarce on the shelves or hard to keep on hand due to a short shelf life. For ideas on the best foods to look for by food group when you go shopping, read the list below to stay healthy and balanced!

  • Proteins. Protein is a nutrient that is critical to get in every day. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, we cannot store excess dietary protein, so we need to consume adequate protein daily to meet metabolic demands. The next time you go grocery shopping, look for the following items:
    • Packaged or canned fish/chicken
    • Frozen seafood, meat, or meat alternatives
    • Eggs/egg whites
    • Sliced deli meat (no nitrites or nitrates)
    • Beans, lentils, or peas (canned or dry)
    • Milk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese
    • Protein bars/powders

 

  • Fruits and vegetables. Produce is one of the top sources of essential vitamins and minerals that offer antioxidant and immune-protecting benefits for the body. If you aren’t sure what to get, look for:
    • Frozen fruits or vegetables (frozen options are great because they retain high levels of vitamins and minerals – sometimes even more than fresh!)
    • Canned fruit or vegetables (no added sugar or artificial sweeteners for fruit and low- or no added sodium for vegetables)
    • Fruit pouches (such as apple sauce or mixed berries – these aren’t just for kids, but great for adults if you need fruit on-the-go or an easy-to-digest pre-workout snack)
    • Fresh potatoes, carrots, and onions or apples, pears, oranges (long shelf lives)
    • Do continue to get other fresh options weekly or as often as possible! As long as you plan ahead of time to intentionally use ingredients such as lettuce, mushrooms, or cucumbers in recipes, you can utilize these foods effectively and avoid waste.

 

  • Starches. These are typically easier to get at the store, but the source matters! High-nutrient options are best, such as:
    • Brown or wild rice, quinoa, cous cous, farro, etc.
    • Oatmeal, cream of rice, muesli
    • Whole grain wraps, bagels, or pasta
    • Potatoes, corn, or peas
    • Beans, lentils, or chick peas
    • Limit high-sugar, processed starches like chips, crackers, cookies, etc. Some comfort food is okay, but don’t rely on these foods for most meals and snacks!

 

  • Dairy. Dairy is important for getting in calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and more! These foods should be consumed on a regular basis for strong bones and balanced electrolyte levels:
    • Milk, regular yogurt, cheese
    • Note: You can get many of these nutrients from dairy alternatives, but some dairy alternatives like almond or coconut milk are much lower in protein and some products may not be calcium-fortified. Check labels to make sure you are getting the intended nutrients from a particular product.

 

  • Healthy fats. Important for healthy cell membranes and neural function, as well as the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. See if you can find:
    • Olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil
    • Nuts/seeds (any type of nut or seed is fine, but look for lightly salted or unsalted)
    • Black olives
    • Avocado/guacamole
    • Pesto
    • Limit butter, whole fat dairy, and high-fat meat, esp. if heart disease or high cholesterol are concerns.

 

  • Other ingredients to have on hand:
    • Corn starch
    • Chicken or vegetable stock
    • Bouillon cubes
    • Minced Garlic
    • Herbs and spices
    • Soy sauce or hot sauce
    • Vinegar (balsamic, white, red wine, etc.)

If you need help with meal planning, please reach out! I would be glad to assist you with developing a meal plan to meet your specific needs and preferences during this time. NOVA Sports Nutrition offers virtual nutrition counseling from the comfort of your home for ease and convenience.

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How Poor Posture Affects Your Entire Well-being

Most of us focus on getting in our cardio, weight training, meal prep, and sleep when we are trying to improve health and wellness. One aspect of health that is often neglected, however, is posture.

Forbes reveals that people today spend more time sitting down than ever before. One contributing factor is that physically active jobs now make up less than 20% of the total workforce. Excessive time sitting down causes adverse effects on the human body, mostly due to how it impacts one’s posture. The good news is that there are ways to counteract this. Read on to learn more about how poor posture can affect your body and what you can do to avoid these effects!

Effects of Bad Posture on our Body

Poor Circulation

Bad posture often stems from long bouts of standing and sitting, which you may experience in an average office job. Medical News Today details how standing or sitting for long periods can cause a slew of complications, many of which are due to the effects of poor circulation.

Having poor circulation means that some parts of your body are not getting the right amount of blood flow. If left untreated, poor circulation can cause a range of problems, such as fatigue, digestive issues, cognitive dysfunctions, joint and muscle cramping, numbness and tingling in your hands and feet.

Spine Damage

Nowadays, people can’t live without their phones, as most of our daily functions revolve around it. Unfortunately, our phones may also be causing complications with our posture. The Guardian reports how “text neck” or the position we assume when we use our phones puts a lot of weight on our cervical spine.

This is because the average human head weighs around five kilograms, or about 11 pounds, and. the way we tilt our heads towards our phones can place more pressure on our spines. This can cause head, neck, and arm pain, which can worsen over time.

How to Prevent These Effects

Walk Around

If staying stationary is one of the biggest contributors to bad posture, then it would only make sense that movement will counteract these effects. However, you can’t exactly spend your working hours constantly moving about. Thankfully, there’s a science behind movement, and a precise guide to how often you should get up and take a walk. Pain Free Working recommends following the “20-8-2” rule – sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight, and walk around for two. In an office setting, this means being conscious of how much of the day you’ve spent staying seated. Use a timer and a notebook to log your activity, and make simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or going for a walk during your lunch break.

Do Yoga

If you’re looking for a more active solution, then why not give yoga a try? An article on Bustle emphasizes the benefits of yoga for one’s posture, as it stretches your back and strengthens your core. It also makes you more aware of how your body is positioned. Indeed, taking up yoga will yield permanent benefits for your posture, and in the long run, your overall wellness and health.

If you found this helpful, you might want to check out our article on Why Lack of Sleep Affects More Than Just Your Energy Levels to help guide you further on your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

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3 Things I Would Have Told My 16-Year-Old Self

3 Things I Would Have Told My 16-Year-Old Self

When we are teenagers, it can seem like our worries and problems will follow us in perpetuity. Whether our concerns revolve around navigating social groups, choosing the right style of clothing, improving our athleticism, or choosing a college major that will allow us to follow our dreams, it can be tough to imagine that these concerns will ever be alleviated.

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