Sunday, January 27, 2013

WDNE? (What Do Nutritionists Eat?)

I saw this article recently called 8 Top Meals from Nutritionists, revealing what nutrition professionals really eat, and thought it would be fun to share what I've been eating these days.  I feel like I already share some of my favorite dinner recipes, so I'll skip that one and just talk about what I like to eat for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and a veggie side dish I've been really into lately.  Here goes!:

Lately for breakfast, I've been thoroughly enjoying a bowl of Nature's Path Flax Plus flakes, which provides me with 5 g of fiber, a bit of protein, and (thanks to the flax seeds used in the flakes) Omega-3 fatty acids, the consumption of which has been shown to have many health benefits.  In addition, the 4 g of sugar per serving is considerably lower than your average cereal, and the Nature's Path brand voluntarily labels their foods as GMO free, which I love!  In order to add a little bit of sweetness, I mix in just a dash of Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Granola, but not too much because it has more added sugar than I would like to have first thing in the morning.  On top of all this, I sprinkle some crushed walnuts, which provide me with more Omega-3s, as well as some pomegranate seeds, which add additional fiber, vitamins C and B5, potassium, and several natural phenols, which appear to have antioxidant effects in humans.  I didn't used to be a huge fan of pomegranate seeds, because I thought they were too sour-tasting, but when mixed with the cereal, it really dilutes the sourness and all that's left is a burst of flavor with each bite...yum!  Getting the seeds out of the fruit can be a challenge (here's how I do it: How to cut open and remove pomegranate seeds), but once it's done, I just put all the seeds in a container and I don't have to do it again for a solid week!  Finally, I pour some almond milk over everything, which I prefer over milk because it's gentler on my stomach (but you can use regular skim milk if you prefer!).

For lunch I've been using my brand new Breville panini press (a Christmas gift...thanks, Mom!) to make yummy grilled cheese sandwiches!  They vary depending on what I have on hand, but I always use my favorite bread-- Genesis 1:29.  I find it in the freezer section of my grocery store, and I highly recommend it as a healthy and tasty bread choice.  It's chock full of all kinds of whole grains, and is coated with crunchy seeds on the outside, which makes for a great textural experience.  Between the two slices, I'm provided with 8 g of protein, 6 g of fiber, and ZERO grams of sugar.  I coat the outsides of each slice (the sides that will be in contact with the grill) with a thin layer of Earth Balance Organic Whipped Spread, then I use 2 slices of whatever cheese I have on hand (recently I used a slice of light provolone and a slice of gouda...excellent!), add a generous handful of fresh spinach (rich in antioxidants and several vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, folic acid, and vitamins C, E, K, and B2), and grill that sucker on the panini press for 5-7 good and so simple!  And a great way to sneak in some veggies at lunch time!

There are lots of different foods I like to snack on, but one of my all time favorites is fruit, cheese, and crackers.  In the above photo, I have some manchego cheese, an apple, and Trader Joe's Rosemary Raisin Crisps.  I get some calcium and protein from the cheese, vitamins and fiber from the apple, and a yummy crunch from the rosemary raisin crisps (plus, they actually have some protein in them too!).  

Veggie Side Dish
As I said, I've already shared many of my favorite dinner recipes here on this blog (including the Swiss Cheese, Turkey Bacon, and Kale Quiche, the Tart with beets, figs, and chevre, and my simple stand-by, Blondie Pizza), so I'll just share a veggie side dish that I've been loving lately: Oven-roasted Brussel Sprouts.  I will admit...I was a little frightened by brussel sprouts, so I understand if you're hesitant to try these, but I assure you, they are fantastic!!  And the best part is that they require no recipe and very little preparation.  Just slice the brussel sprouts in half, toss in a bowl with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper (use your judgement on how much of these to use!), then dump them onto a baking sheet and bake at 400 for 40 minutes, shaking the pan and/or turning the brussel sprouts every 10-15 minutes or so.  I'm telling you...these taste like candy when they're done cooking!!  I can't get enough of them!  And besides being delicious, these will provide you with fiber, tons of vitamin C, as well as sulforaphane, a compound thought to have anti-cancer properties.  

So that's a glimpse of what this nutritionist likes to eat these days.  To some of you, this might sound super healthy, while others of you might be thinking that my diet isn't healthy enough (I mean, grilled cheese for lunch?  Say what?!).  For those who think it sounds really healthy: Please keep in mind that I also enjoy chocolate, ice cream, cookies, and all that other yummy "play food" (a better word than "junk food" that describes food with little to no nutritional value) when I feel like it, but generally speaking, the bulk of my diet consists of foods that make me feel my best, while also satisfying my taste buds.  To those who think it's not healthy enough: You're right, I'm not perfect, but just like everyone else, I try my best. I realize that there is evidence that some of the stuff I eat may not be the best for my health (some people think dairy is the devil, for example, but I'd rather not live without cheese, thank you!), but I try not to stress about it and instead focus on eating a balanced diet using my intuition as my guide (which is driven not only by my taste buds, but also my whole body and how it feels in the hours and days after I eat).

How about you?  Do you have any simple, healthful meals you like to eat?  Please share below!  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Why do you really want to lose weight?

Ask yourself honestly...why do you want to lose weight?  Some might say it's because they want to be "healthier," but is that really why?  This super interesting and revealing editorial in the LA Times exposes the truth...most people want to lose weight for cosmetic reasons, going so far as to say that they would be willing to die sooner if they were guaranteed to achieve their desired weight.   In fact, 91% said they would not take a pill that would extend their lives by five years if it meant they would have to stay overweight.  Isn't that sad?!

But is being overweight such a terrible thing?  Maybe not: As the article points out, the association between higher weights and health problems is not so cut and dry, and an increased weight has actually been shown to be protective in certain situations.  So why is reaching an ideal weight so important to so many people?  The author of this op-ed piece argues that attempts to lose weight are driven by a desire to avoid weight-based discrimination.  In other words, if our society would stop discriminating against overweight people and be more accepting of all shapes and sizes, then people wouldn't be so eager to lose weight.

This reminds me of the Health at Every Size movement.  As stated on their website, Health at Every Size (HAES) "is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body.  It supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control)."  

Might sound a little "fluffy" to some people, but there's actual research to back this stuff up!  I read an extremely interesting article while researching for my thesis that shows the promise that living this philosophy may have in improving one's health without necessarily having to lose weight.  (Here's a link to the abstract.  If you're interested in reading the whole article, send me an email and I'll forward you the pdf file).  In this study, obese women with histories of chronic dieting received either a HAES intervention, or a traditional diet intervention.  While those in the diet group lost a significant amount of weight and the HAES group lost no weight, by two-year follow-up the diet group had essentially gained all the weight back, while the HAES participants continued to maintain.  What was particularly interesting is that even though the HAES women didn't lose any weight, they did see improvements in certain health markers, including lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol profiles, and increased activity levels, and all of these improvements were sustained at two-year follow-up.  Furthermore, those in the HAES group saw a significant improvement in their self-esteem, while those in the diet group had significantly lower self-esteem.

In other's possible to be overweight and healthy!  So, is it really so important to focus so heavily on weight loss?  As the author of the LA Times editorial says: 

"This year, before embarking on yet another diet, ask yourself why you want to lose weight. If it is to improve your health, perhaps you should focus on health-enhancing behaviors that are more directly linked to health: pledge, for example, to get more sleep, eat more fruits and vegetables, get regular physical activity, or spend more time with friends.

But if you are trying to change your body to shield against discrimination and stigma, consider making a different kind of New Year's resolution: to stand up to intolerance and bigotry in all its various forms, whether racism, sexism or fatphobia."
I'm not necessarily saying that you should just resign yourself to being your current size forever without any hope of ever changing your shape.  The truth is, if you focus on health-promoting behaviors, respect your body, and trust your internal hunger and satiety cues, then you very well might lose weight.  On the other hand, focussing on weight and committing to a traditional diet will not only make you miserable, but will very likely not lead to long term results in terms of weight loss or health improvement, so it might be time to consider a different approach.
What do you think?  Is it possible to be overweight and healthy?  Do you think you, personally would be able to simply accept your body as it is and focus more on health than size or a number on a scale?  Please comment below!  I'd love to hear what you think about this!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Intuitively pregnant

As some of you may know, I am pregnant!  I'm about 6 months along and feeling great.  Being pregnant has certainly been interesting, and even more interesting to experience as an intuitive eater.

At first, I wasn't sure if this philosophy, which has brought so much peace and well-being to my life, was fully compatible with the process of growing a human.  Friends, family members, doctors, websites, and books are constantly telling you what not to eat when you're pregnant, which feels a lot like a diet.  Intuitive eaters like myself are decidedly anti-diet, so the suggestion that certain foods are suddenly off-limits definitely didn't sit well with me.  Of course I care about the well-being of my growing child, and don't want to do anything that would harm the little one, but I also don't want to sabotage all the work I've done to get where I am right now as an intuitive eater.  I struggled with this at first, but in the end I've realized that my intuitive eating thinking is probably the healthiest way to approach eating while pregnant.  Let me explain a couple reasons why.

It started during my first trimester, when I found myself dealing with morning sickness.  I've certainly known people who have suffered on a way more intense level than I did, so I thank my lucky stars that it wasn't too bad, but nevertheless, from weeks seven to about twelve or thirteen I pretty much felt nauseous all the time, and almost no food appealed to me (and as someone who truly enjoys and appreciates food, this was a pretty horrifying experience!).  I didn't want to eat anything, but if I failed to eat, the nausea would get considerably worse.  So I basically had to force myself to eat whatever didn't completely repulse me.  I remember telling my sister about it, declaring that I definitely wasn't eating intuitively (since I was eating when I really didn't want to).  She quickly corrected me, saying that in fact I was eating intuitively and listening to my body, since I was responding to the nausea by eating in order to avoid it getting any worse.  Certainly this isn't nearly as much fun as eating when you're hungry and really enjoying the eating experience, but she was right-- my internal body signals were driving my eating behaviors, and that's most certainly intuitive eating, just maybe the less glamorous part of it!

Another thing I've noticed about being an intuitive eater is that I haven't had too many weird cravings for or binges on any particular food.  This could be a coincidence, but I tend to think it has something to do with the "Make Peace with Food" part of being an intuitive eater, meaning that no food is ever considered "forbidden" to me.  A woman I work with told me she lived on Tommy's chili burgers and Haagen Dazs ice cream during her entire pregnancy.  Predictably, she gained a ton of weight, and has spent the last 20 years struggling to lose it.  While I certainly don't know her dieting history, or have any specific insight into her relationship with food, I would venture to guess that before becoming pregnant, she probably didn't allow herself to eat these types of foods on a regular basis.  Once she got pregnant, however, she likely did what most women do-- she took the pregnancy as license to eat whatever she wanted to, or, more specifically, all the foods she never allowed herself to eat before becoming pregnant.  I simply do not have this urge.  I already eat what I want, when I want it, so why would I need to go on a binge and eat all those rich foods now that I'm pregnant?

I'll be honest...there's part of me that was a little sad when I realized that I would never experience this I'm-pregnant-so-I-have-license-to-eat-everything-in-sight rite of passage.  It's part of the experience of being pregnant, right?!  But, in the end, I'm so thankful that I have this healthy attitude towards eating during this time in my life.  Besides helping me to maintain my sanity, the balanced, binge-free diet I'm eating as an intuitive eater means there's a good chance I won't have to struggle for years to lose unwanted "baby weight" after giving birth to my child, and that's not something a whole lot of women can say!  Do I still eat ice cream and burgers?  Yes!  But it's generally an occasional thing for when I really feel like having them, just like before I was pregnant.  I haven't, however, been gorging myself on these items because I've always had access to them, and always will, whether or not I'm pregnant.  Isn't that fantastic?!

So even though it has been difficult to reconcile intuitive eating with the part of pregnancy where you're told not to eat certain things, I feel that as a whole, this philosophy has been the healthiest possible way to approach this process.  Not only am I nourishing my baby with a well-balanced diet, but I'm also setting myself up for a healthier post-baby recovery, both physically and mentally.  Not to mention the fact that my healthy attitude towards food will be passed along to my child, so that she, too, can experience the freedom that comes with rejecting diets, respecting your body, and allowing your intuition to guide your eating.  Yet another reason to absolutely love intuitive eating!