Posts Tagged ‘healthy foods’

National Salad Month Staples

NOVA Sports Nutrition National Salad Month

During the spring harvest – spinach, leaf lettuce and many other greens are available at your
local farmer’s market, so you are all set to pick up ingredients to make the strawberry salad or
create one of your own. Celebrate National Salad month with some of our favorite spring salad recipes

Strawberry Salad
Get your favorite bowl, add several cups of greens (spinach, leaf lettuce etc), a cup of sliced
strawberries, toasted pecans or almonds, crumbled feta pieces and sprinkle with your favorite
brand of balsamic or poppy seed salad dressing. Mix together and enjoy! Using spinach helps
boost your iron intake. The strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C. This salad is
delicious and packed full of essential nutrients.

Kale, Apple, and Berry Salad (Vegan)
Combine raw kale and spinach, slice up apples and add to the salad, add blueberries, almonds,
craisins and top with your favorite low-fat dressing

Cashew Salad
Combine spinach, sliced red peppers, carrots and red cabbage, top with raw
cashews and berries.

Grilled Chicken Strawberry Salad
Combine spinach, romaine lettuce, strawberries, mandarin
oranges, and red onion in a large bowl and mix together, top with slivered almonds and drizzle
your favorite poppyseed dressing.

Grilled Shrimp Caesar Salad
Put romaine lettuce in a bowl, add grilled shrimp, sprinkle with
shaved parmesan cheese, and drizzle with your favorite low-fat Caesar dressing.
Grilled Steak Salad – Add spinach to your favorite salad bowl, slice up and add red onion and
avocado, add cherry tomatoes and grilled steak on top, sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Bonus: Berry Bark Treats

  • 2 cups plan Greek yogurt or any dairy free yogurt (soy, cashew or coconut yogurt)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds chopped or slivered almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed berries fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate or the dark chocolate chips (morsels)
  • 1/2 cup thick coconut chips or flakes
  1. In medium bowl combine yogurt, vanilla and syrup/honey; mix well
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread yogurt mixture on it as thin as you can.  Add almonds, berries, chocolate, and coconut chips over the top, then gently press them into yogurt mixture. Drizzle a little honey on top if you want.
  3. Place in freezer for 3-4 hours, break into pieces and serve. 
  4. Store in airtight container in freezer (can store for up to one month).

Let us know in the comments which one was your National Salad Month favorite!

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High-Fiber: A Dietitian’s Guide to Better Food Choices

NOVA Sports Nutrition Dietary Fiber

As a dietitian, I often find myself emphasizing the importance of fiber in a balanced diet. Not only does it aid in digestion and promote gut health, but it also plays a crucial role in managing weight, reducing cholesterol levels, and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. However, many people struggle to incorporate enough fiber into their daily meals. That’s why I’m here to share some valuable insights into high-fiber choices that are both nutritious and delicious.

Understanding Fiber

Before we dive into the top high-fiber choices, let’s clarify what fiber is and why it’s essential for our health. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods that our bodies cannot digest. Instead, it passes through the digestive system, aiding in regular bowel movements and promoting overall digestive health. There are two main types of fiber: soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance, and insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve and helps move food through the digestive tract.

Top High-Fiber Choices

Fruits and Vegetables: These colorful gems are rich in fiber and offer a wide range of health benefits. Aim to incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables into your meals and snacks each day. Berries, apples, pears, oranges, broccoli, carrots, and leafy greens are excellent choices packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Whole Grains: Swap refined grains for their whole grain counterparts to boost your fiber intake. Opt for whole grain bread, pasta, rice, quinoa, oats, and barley. These wholesome grains provide a hearty dose of fiber, along with essential nutrients like iron, magnesium, and B vitamins.

Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are nutritional powerhouses loaded with fiber and plant-based protein. Add them to soups, salads, stir-fries, and chili for a satisfying and fiber-rich meal. Bonus: legumes are budget-friendly and environmentally sustainable.

Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants. Sprinkle them over yogurt, oatmeal, or salads for a crunchy and nutritious boost.

Snack Smart: Choose high-fiber snacks to satisfy your cravings while nourishing your body. Opt for air-popped popcorn, whole grain crackers with hummus, raw vegetables with guacamole, or a piece of fruit with nut butter.

Tips for Increasing Fiber Intake

– Gradually increase fiber intake to prevent digestive discomfort.

Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

– Experiment with new recipes and cooking methods to keep meals exciting and flavorful.

Whether you’re training for a team sport, endurance race, physique competition, or to improve your health generally, NOVA can create a nutrition plan to help you reach your goal. We take the guesswork out of meal planning and help you to take control of your diet.

Nutrition counseling services are provided via secure video chat or in-person in Northern Virginia. Please reach out via the contact page or schedule a free discovery call to learn more about pricing for our nutrition services!

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Anxieties Around Sugar Consumption

NOVA Sports Nutrition sugar intake

Anxieties around consuming sugar have become increasingly prevalent in modern society as awareness of its potential health impacts has grown. Many people worry about the effects of excessive sugar intake on their overall well-being, including weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and dental issues. This concern is not unfounded, as there are many studies that have linked high sugar consumption to these health problems.

Part of the anxiety surrounding sugar consumption comes from its presence in our modern diet. Sugar is not only found in obvious sources like sweets and sugary drinks but also in a lot of processed foods, including sauces, dressings, and even snacks that “seem” healthy. This makes it difficult for people to control their sugar intake which then leads to feelings of frustration and anxiety for those trying to make healthier dietary choices.

The conflicting information in the media and online can also contribute to uncertainty and anxiety about sugar. While some sources emphasize the detrimental effects of sugar on health, others try to downplay its risks or promote alternative sweeteners as healthier options. This conflicting advice can leave people feeling confused and anxious about making the right choices for their health.

To address these anxieties and make informed decisions about sugar consumption, it’s very important to educate ourselves about the role of sugar in our diet, its potential health effects, and strategies for reducing intake. Fortunately, there are many educational resources available to help you navigate these concerns such as The American Heart Association and Dietary Guidelines For Americans. 

Managing sugar anxieties can be difficult, but there are several strategies that can help you navigate your concerns more effectively:

  • Read Labels: Become familiar with reading food labels to identify sources of added sugars in packaged foods. Look out for terms like sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, and other sugar derivatives.
  • Focus on Whole Foods: Incorporate more whole foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These foods are naturally low in added sugars and provide essential nutrients.
  • Limit Processed Foods: Minimize your consumption of processed and packaged foods, as these usually contain hidden sugars. Opt for homemade meals and snacks whenever possible to have more control over ingredients. 
  • Practice Moderation: You don’t have to cut out sugar entirely to be healthy. Instead, focus on moderation and mindful eating. Enjoy your favorite sweet treats occasionally, but be mindful of portion sizes.
  • Find Alternatives: Experiment with natural sugars or sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or stevia as alternatives to refined sugars. Just remember to use them in moderation.
  • Stay Hydrated: Sometimes, feelings of hunger or cravings can be mistaken for thirst. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and curb cravings.
  • Manage Stress: Stress can trigger cravings for sugary foods, so finding healthy ways to manage stress can help reduce the urge to overindulge in sweets. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
  • Plan Ahead: Plan your meals and snacks in advance to avoid impulsive decisions when hunger strikes. Having healthy options readily available can help you make better choices.
  • Seek Support: If sugar consumption anxieties are significantly impacting your well-being, consider seeking support from a registered dietitian, therapist, or support group. Talking to others who share similar concerns can provide validation and practical advice.

Remember, it’s normal to have concerns about sugar consumption, but it’s important not to let those anxieties control your life. By adopting healthy eating habits and finding a balance that works for you, you can enjoy a varied and satisfying diet while prioritizing your health and well-being.

NOVA Sports Nutrition is here to help you make food choices that align with your health goals. Whether you’re training for a team sport, endurance race, physique competition, or to improve your health generally, NOVA can create a workout plan to help you reach your goal. We take the guesswork out of meal planning and will help you to take control of your diet once and for all!

Nutrition counseling services are provided via secure video chat or in-person in Northern Virginia. Please reach out via the contact page or schedule a free discovery call to learn more about pricing for our nutrition services!

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Sports Nutrition: Myths vs. Facts

NOVA Myths vs. FAct

Let’s debunk some common sports nutrition myths. In the world of sports, athletes might encounter a lot of information about nutrition, some of which may be misleading. To navigate through the myths and misconceptions, athletes should rely on evidence-based practices that align with their individual needs and goals. 

In this blog post, we’ll debunk common sports nutrition myths and present the facts that every athlete should consider for optimal performance. Let’s dive into the science-backed facts that will help you make informed decisions about what to eat and when, ensuring you fuel your body for success in your chosen sport whether you’re a basketball player, a swimmer, or a bodybuilder. 

Myth: Carbohydrates Should Be Avoided for Weight Loss.

Fact: Carbs are a primary source of energy. Choosing complex carbs (whole grains, fruits, vegetables) in moderation supports energy needs and overall health.

Myth: Protein Only Matters for Bodybuilders.

Fact: Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, and it’s crucial for all athletes. Endurance athletes, in particular, benefit from adequate protein to support recovery. Why specifically endurance athletes? Muscle building or power athletes typically need more than endurance, though it certainly is still very important for that group)

Myth: Hydration is Only Important During Exercise.

Fact: Staying hydrated is crucial at all times. Dehydration can impair performance and overall health. Athletes should hydrate consistently throughout the day. Pro tip: minimum fluid intake should be ½ your bodyweight in oz. of fluid per day. When exercising/sweating, that number should go up!)

Myth: Supplements Can Replace a Balanced Diet.

Fact: While supplements can be useful, they shouldn’t replace whole foods. A well-balanced diet provides essential nutrients that are often missing in isolated supplements.

Myth: Fats Should Be Avoided for Better Performance.

Fact: Healthy fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil) are essential for overall health and can provide a steady source of energy. They play a role in hormone production and nutrient absorption.

Myth: Eating Before Exercise Causes Cramps.

 Fact: Proper pre-exercise nutrition is important. While eating too much or too close to exercise may cause discomfort, a balanced meal a few hours before is generally beneficial.

Myth: Sports Drinks are Necessary for Everyone.

Fact: Sports drinks can be helpful for intense or prolonged exercise, but water is sufficient for most activities. Excessive sports drink consumption can lead to unnecessary sugar intake.

Myth: The More Protein, the Better.

Fact: While protein is crucial, excessive intake doesn’t necessarily lead to more muscle gain. Athletes should aim for an optimal, not excessive, protein intake.

Myth: All Athletes Should Follow the Same Diet.

Fact: Individual nutrition needs vary based on factors like sport type, intensity, body composition, and personal preferences. Personalized nutrition plans are essential.

Myth: Skipping Meals Helps Weight Loss.

Fact: Regular, balanced meals support metabolism and provide sustained energy. Skipping meals can lead to nutrient deficiencies and negatively impact performance.

It’s important for athletes to stay informed and consult with nutrition professionals for personalized advice. Nutrition is highly individual, and what works for one athlete may not work for another. The focus should be on a well-rounded, individualized approach to support performance and overall health.

NOVA Sports Nutrition is here to support you in your performance goals. We are experienced in tailoring our plans to each individual, based on their sport. Book a consultation with us to discuss where you are in your journey and how we can support you! 

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January: The Month of Sustainable Change

NOVA January health

January is a great time to reset and think about your health and to pause and reflect on
the past year to help you determine what comes next on your wellness or fitness
journey in the new year. However, January is also the time when advertisements
on quick fixes, diet supplements and fad diets too good to be true also begin popping up
everywhere. As you put your holiday decorations away and prepare for the start of
2024, remember that the best way to improve health and nutrition is not through quick
fixes, but rather sustainable changes that you can implement gradually over time. If your
health and fitness is not where you would like for it to be right now, you can focus on
getting back on track one step at a time.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some simple steps you can implement today
to start improving your health and wellbeing:

Slow Down and Breathe
A great tool for stress reduction is to take a few moments to slow down your day and
just breathe. When you are stressed, your blood pressure rises, your heart and
respiration rate may also accelerate. Taking 10-15 minutes to sit still, be calm and
breathe deeply can counteract all of this

Take time to chew your food, savor each bite
Chewing well and slowing down your intake of food, helps you savor every bite. By
chewing longer, you are allowing food to linger in your mouth and stimulate taste
receptors on your tongue. This helps start the digestive process and gives your
body time to signal the brain when you are getting full.

Be in tune with your hunger cues
Paying attention to your body’s cues for hunger can help keep you healthy and
signal you when to eat. Some common physiological hunger cues are stomach
growling, low energy, headaches, shakiness and general weariness.

Be mindful and move with purpose
The principles of mindful movement are the same as any other mindfulness practice:
keep yourself in the present moment to experience the here and now and get the
most out of each session. Be aware of your movement, focus on your breath, and
notice how your body feels as it moves. Staying in the present can keep you
mentally strong because you are no longer focusing on yesterday or worried about
tomorrow.

Stay hydrated
Your body needs to be hydrated to function at its best. If there isn’t enough liquid
in your body, essential functions like circulation and digestion will not perform
efficiently. Your organs may not get the necessary nutrients for optimal
functioning and even slight dehydration affects performance.

Prioritize Protein and Vegetables (especially the greens)
Protein
Protein is an important part of a healthy diet. You need protein in your diet to help
your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein is important for growth and
development. Adequate protein reduces muscle loss, helps with recovery after
exercise, builds lean tissue and because it curbs your hunger can help with
maintaining a healthy weight.
Greens
Adding leafy greens to your diet is an easy way to get the vitamins and minerals
your body needs for optimal health. These vegetables are good sources of many
vitamins and minerals such as: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, magnesium,
potassium, calcium and fiber, but low in calories. Green, leafy vegetables help
support vision and skin health; and may reduce the risk of heart disease, high
blood pressure, and the risk of obesity.

NOVA Sports Nutrition is here to get you back on track. Whether you’re training for a team sport, endurance race, physique competition, or to improve your health generally, NOVA can create a workout plan to help you reach your goal. We take the guess work out of meal planning and will help you to take control of your diet once and for all!

Nutrition counseling services are provided via secure video chat or in-person in Northern Virginia. Please reach out via the contact page or schedule a free discovery call to learn more about pricing for our nutrition services!

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Post-Holiday: Getting Back Into A Healthy Routine

NOVA healthy routine

Hope you had an amazing holiday season filled with joy and delicious treats. Now that the festivities have wrapped up, let’s dive into some strategies to get back into a healthy routine.

Start Small, Win Big

Research shows that setting realistic, achievable goals is key to long-term success. Instead of aiming for drastic changes, start with manageable adjustments. Small dietary changes can lead to significant improvements in overall health.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Proper hydration has numerous benefits, including aiding in weight management and positively impacting overall well-being. Keep a water bottle handy and make a habit of staying well-hydrated throughout the day.

Move That Body

Regular physical activity is known to improve mood, reduce stress, and promote cardiovascular health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for overall well-being.

Rediscover the Joy of Cooking

Cooking at home has its perks, from healthier meals with fewer calories to the joy of experimenting with nutritious recipes. Experimenting with nutritious recipes can not only enhance your culinary skills but also contribute to better dietary choices. Embrace the kitchen and make it a fun part of your routine.

Prioritize Sleep

Sufficient sleep is essential for overall well-being as part of your healthy routine. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night has been linked to improved immune function, cognitive performance, and overall health. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and avoiding screens before bedtime can contribute to better sleep quality.

Find a Buddy

Having a friend to share your health journey with can boost motivation and accountability. Whether it’s a workout or meal prep partner, having someone by your side makes the process more enjoyable.

Practice Mindful Eating

Taking the time to savor your food and being aware of your body’s hunger and fullness cues can contribute to better weight management and overall well-being. Be mindful of what you eat and enjoy your meals more fully.

Embrace these practical tips to make your post-holiday health journey smoother. Here’s to a healthier and happier you in the year ahead! 

Cheers to making 2024 your most balanced and positive year yet!

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Balance: A Guide for the 2023 Holidays

holiday eating balance

While the holiday season is often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year, for some, it can also be a time of increased stress, anxiety, and pressure. The balance of holiday shopping, socializing, and festive preparations can take a toll on our mental well-being. In this blog post, we’ll explore practical strategies to help you stay mentally and physically balanced during the holidays so you truly enjoy this magical season.

Set Realistic Expectations

One of the primary sources of holiday stress is often unrealistic expectations. We tend to place immense pressure on ourselves to create the perfect celebration. Acknowledge that imperfections are a part of life and that the true spirit of the holidays lies in the moments spent with loved ones, not in achieving a flawless event.

Prioritize Self-Care

Amidst the hustle and bustle, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care. Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s reading a book, taking a leisurely walk, or practicing mindfulness. A well-rested and nourished mind is better equipped to handle the demands of the season.

Establish Boundaries

Learn to say no. It’s okay not to attend every event or take on every task. Be honest with yourself about your time and energy limits. Setting boundaries allows you to focus on what truly matters and prevents burnout.

Connect with Others

While the holidays are a time of joy, they can also trigger feelings of loneliness for some. Make an effort to connect with friends and family, whether in person or through virtual means. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can provide much-needed support and strengthen your sense of belonging.

Practice Gratitude

Take a moment each day to reflect on what you’re grateful for. Amidst the chaos, cultivating a sense of gratitude can shift your focus from what’s stressful to what’s positive and uplifting.

Mindful Eating

For some, the holidays can be a source of both pleasure and anxiety. Practice mindful eating by paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. This can help you enjoy the festive treats without overindulging or feeling deprived.

Stay Active

Physical activity is a powerful tool for maintaining mental balance. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a yoga session, or a dance party in your living room, staying active releases endorphins, reducing stress and enhancing your overall mood.

Create Meaningful Traditions

Focus on the aspects of the holidays that hold personal significance for you. Whether it’s a cherished family tradition or a new ritual you’d like to start, infusing meaning into the season can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

The holiday season doesn’t have to be a stressful sprint. By setting realistic expectations, prioritizing self-care, and fostering meaningful connections, you can navigate the next few weeks’ balance. Remember, the essence of the holidays lies in creating memories and taking care of yourself and those around you. Embrace the season with an open heart, and may your holidays be filled with warmth, love, and mental well-being.

NOVA is always here to guide you in your fitness and nutrition journey no matter what stage you are at. 

Nicole Hindle NOVA Sports Nutrition Balance

Happy Holidays!

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Root Vegetables: A Fall Staple

This fall, enjoy cooler temperatures and outdoor activities without the concern of heat related conditions. This is the perfect time of year to start incorporating different colored root vegetables into your grocery staples. Root vegetables are at their peak in the fall season, and they are underground treasures packed with nutrients and full of flavor. Some great examples to add to your plant-based menu are garlic, onion, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and parsnips. These root vegetables are good sources of many nutrients such as fiber, folate and beta-carotene. 

Check out a few more health benefits of root vegetables

  • High in Fiber: Many root vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, which is essential for digestive health. Fiber promotes regular bowel movements, helps control blood sugar levels, and contributes to a feeling of fullness, aiding in weight management.
  • Stable Energy Release: The carbohydrates in root vegetables are complex carbohydrates, providing a steady and sustained release of energy. This can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and prevent energy crashes, supporting overall energy balance throughout the day.
  • Supportive of Heart Health: Potassium, found in abundance in root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots, is known for its role in promoting heart health. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and supports cardiovascular function.
  • Seasonal and Local: Virginians can also enjoy other local produce this time of year: apples, pears, zucchini, peppers, kale, okra, brussels sprouts, eggplant, pumpkin and a variety of squash.

Healthy Autumn Eating Tips:

  • Shop local farmer’s markets to get the freshest produce
  • Eat “the rainbow” when choosing fruits and vegetables
  • Cook with healthy fats such as olive oil
  • Grill, roast, steam, or air fry vegetables to create lower-fat dishes
  • Experiment with all types of seasonings (parsley, sage, curry, garlic and apple cider vinegar pair well with root vegetables)

Try one of our favorite recipes & let us know how you liked it!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts:

  1. Wash 1 pound of brussels sprouts and peel away any brown areas of the sprout
  2. Mix the brussels sprouts in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until all pieces are coated. Season with minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and/or black pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven on a sheet pan for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • (Alternatively, you can grill the sprouts by placing them on aluminum foil and grilling)

Zucchini/Squash/Onion Stir Fry:

  1. On the stovetop using a nonstick pan, sprinkle pan with olive oil
  2. Slice any vegetables you want to use
  3. Heat on fairly high heat while stirring the vegetables

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray.
  3. Slice potatoes into rounds (~1/4-1/2 inch thick)
  4. Lay potato slices flat on a baking sheet and spray lightly with the cooking spray.
  5. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and ground cinnamon.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway.

Season as you like with non-salt alternatives

  • Add some ground pepper
  • Add a splash of apple cider vinegar

Incorporating a colorful array of root vegetables into your fall recipes not only elevates the taste but also adds a nutritional boost to your meals. From supporting your immune system to contributing to heart health, these veggies are a delicious and health-conscious addition to your autumn meals. 

Remember that meal plans are not cookie-cutter and each one is unique to each person. Our mission is to help you create a healthy and fit lifestyle. One that is realistic and sustainable and allows you to optimize your overall health and wellness.

Enjoy and have a Happy Fall!

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Food and Mood Connection

food and mood

 

Have you ever experienced the sensation of butterflies in your stomach? Many of us are able to correctly interpret this sensation as “feeling nervous;” however, have you ever wondered why that might be? Recent research has uncovered what has been termed the “gut-brain” connection, which actually describes a separate nervous system tract (the enteric nervous system) that connects our brain to our intestines (1). When we experience anxiety emotionally, this signal can travel from our brain through the enteric nervous system to our gut and produce the sensation of pain or discomfort (2), alerting us physically to a psychological need.

This discovery has led to a new question: if the brain and digestive system are connected, is our mood connected to the food we eat? The answer is yes! The types and quantities of certain foods we eat affect our mood, and our mood likewise influences tastes and cravings for food. In this blog post, we are going to explore the connection between our mood and food for 3 different mental health conditions: anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

 

Food and Mood: Anxiety

There may be a connection between omega-3 fatty acid levels in the body and anxiety; some studies have observed lower anxiety levels with higher circulating levels of omega-3 fats (3). This would make sense intuitively, as omega-3 fatty acids are associated with decreased levels of inflammation in the body, and if we have less inflammation, it follows that the body would be in an elevated state of calm. Find Omega-3’s in foods such as salmon, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.

Sufficient levels of probiotics, or “good” bacteria that support healthy functioning of our digestive tract, decrease anxiety levels and improve overall mental outlook as well (5). While we can get probiotics from dietary supplements, it is also worth noting that we can get probiotics naturally from the diet from foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or kombucha. It’s also worth mentioning the observed connection in the development of eating disorders secondary to developing anxiety (4). Oftentimes in treating eating disorders or disordered eating, it is important to identify any areas of anxiety or areas of life that feel unmanageable that could have initiated disordered eating behaviors. Without dealing with the sources of anxiety, true recovery will not be possible.

 

Food and Mood: Depression

Individuals with depression are more likely to crave carbohydrates, sugar, and salt (1). One connection to this is that individuals with depression typically have low circulating levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood (1). When serotonin levels are low, our body will often crave carbohydrates to boost these levels. Interestingly, the gut produces about 95% of our body’s serotonin levels, not the brain (1). This is why digestive upset can often accompany symptoms of depression. Additionally, when experiencing depression, many individuals will feel less motivated to cook and are more likely to reach for processed foods over whole foods that offer more nutrition. The good news is this connection is bidirectional! Individuals that consume more whole foods (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins) are less likely to be depressed and more likely to experience stable moods (6).

 

Food and Mood: ADHD

Several studies in the past decade have shown a possible connection between micronutrient deficiencies and ADHD symptoms in children. Additionally, consuming foods high in sugar or made with artificial food dyes (especially red 40) has been linked to increases in hyperactivity and impulsivity (7). A good place to start for anyone experiencing ADHD symptoms is to look at their dietary intake. Aim to decrease added sugar and artificial food dyes and increase whole foods to manage symptoms. Requesting micronutrient testing to determine any significant deficiencies of minerals like iron, zinc, or magnesium that may need to be corrected through supplementation. Remember to always ask your doctor or dietitian before starting a new dietary supplement!

 

The Takeaway

The main message here is that what we eat matters! I often teach clients to view food as fuel for their body’s physical activity, but we also want to think about how different food makes us feel and what self-care looks like from a dietary perspective. Exploration of the food and mood connection is new, but it’s clear that physical and mental health are inextricably connected. Take care of your mind and body, and you’ll maximize your health from every angle!

 

Resources

  1. Naidoo, Uma. (2020). This is Your Brain on Food. Little, Brown Spark.
  2. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2018, July 19). How to Calm an Anxious Stomach: The Brain-Gut Connection. https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/how-calm-anxious-stomach-brain-gut-connection 
  3. Harvard Health (2019, January 1). Omega-3’s for Anxiety? https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/omega-3s-for-anxiety 
  4. Behavioral Nutrition (2020, May 29). How Anxiety Can Lead to Disordered Eating. https://behavioralnutrition.org/how-anxiety-can-lead-to-disordered-eating/
  5. Laguipo, Angela B. (2020, July 7). Research Shows Probiotics can Help Combat Anxiety and Depression. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200707/Research-shows-probiotics-can-help-combat-anxiety-and-depression.aspx
  6. Ljungberg, Tina, et. al. (2020, March 2). Evidence of the Importance of Dietary Habits Regarding Depressive Symptoms and Depression. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(5): 1616.
  7. Lange, Klaus W. (2020, February 26). Micronutrients and Diet in the Treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Chances and Pitfalls. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11: 102.

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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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