Tell me if this sounds familiar - you’re going about your day when all of a sudden a thought comes to you - “X (cookie/donut/pastry/sweet coffee drink) would be really good right now.”
Then, as soon as that thought’s finished, your Willpower steps in - “No! You can’t have that.”
How does the rest of your day go after that?
If you’re like a lot of my clients, you spend a lot of time and energy after that moment trying to satisfy that craving with foods you’re “allowed” to have. In the end, are you ever really satisfied?
Or maybe you finally do give into that craving. Just this one time, you tell yourself, and then you eat way more than you planned on, or even wanted to.
The problem with restriction is it's based on willpower, and willpower doesn't work. Willpower is basically just saying no, and human nature is to react to hearing no by automatically wanting whatever it is we can’t have.
One of the first steps to healing your relationship with food is recognizing that your appetite (and your body) is not your enemy. You do not need to vigilantly control or punish yourself for cravings, thoughts, or eating.
You don’t need to earn food. Food is not good or bad, and it’s not so serious that eating one cookie is a life or death choice. Part of living a healthy life is having those joyful moments with food.
Getting out of that diet mindset of guilt and restriction is hard, and it takes a good amount of courage to go against the grain of society. But when you shed the diet mindset and focus on self acceptance and happiness your life will be so much more fulfilling and joyful.
Today I ate a donut.
I didn't "earn" it. I didn't burn if off later. I didn't skip a meal. I didn't eat less the rest of the day. I didn't feel guilty about it. I didn't feel like a failure. The donut did not define my day.
Today I ate a donut, and that's ok.
I ate a donut because I wanted to eat a donut. I ate a donut because I really enjoy donuts, and this was my favorite kind of all.
As I was scrolling through Instagram tonight I saw that a lot of people ate a donut today. I also saw a lot of people that wanted to eat a donut, but didn't. I saw a lot of people that felt they couldn't eat a donut because it wasn't a "cheat" day. Or they didn't want their workout to be "pointless". I saw people who ate donuts with questionable "fat burning" supplements. I even saw people shaming those who did eat donuts.
If you ate a donut today, that's ok. If you didn't eat a donut today because you didn't want to eat a donut, that's ok too. But if you wanted to eat a donut today and didn't because of something similar to the above reasoning, that's not ok. That's something to talk about.
Healthy living is based on a healthy mindset. Feelings of guilt, failure, fear; letting one food define your day - those are not aspects of a healthy mindset. The power we give food as a society can make it feel overwhelming, but food is just food. The first step to healing your relationship with food is recognizing that.
About a week ago I made Kraft mac & cheese for lunch. It was really more of a casserole because I threw in a can of tuna and some green beans and then topped it with bread crumbs just to be fancy. Then yesterday I had birthday cake (with fudge frosting!) for breakfast.
On neither of those days did I restrict myself for the rest of the day or eat differently. I didn't go to the gym to "burn off" either meal. They weren't "cheat" meals or days. They didn't nutritionally ruin my day or week or life.
I tell you this not because I feel the need to confess my "sins" but to show you, through example, that healthy eating is about what you do the majority of the time.
If you usually eat whole grains, get lots of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, stick with lean proteins, get a few servings of dairy each day, and limit your salt and added sugar intake then a Memorial Day BBQ is nothing to stress about. Neither is a donut, or a corn dog, or birthday cake for breakfast.
Living healthy is about more than just eating healthy. It's also about being active every day, reducing your stress, and being happy. How happy and stress free are you when you're worrying about that cupcake you just ate? Not very.
When we focus on living a healthy lifestyle we're focusing on big picture, not every little detail. There's always going to be BBQs and donuts and birthday cake that pop up in your weeks. If you want them, have them! I'll let you in on a little secret, once you tell yourself it's ok to eat those things, and allow yourself to do so, the intense desire for them starts to go away. When it's just food and no longer forbidden treasure it just seems a little less exciting.
May is National Osteoporosis Month. A lot of people think of osteoporosis as a disease that only affects people late in life, but did you know that your bone mass peaks in your 20s?
Bone, like skin, is a living tissue and is constantly breaking down and reforming. Until about the age of 25 your body is builds new bone at a faster rate than it loses old bone. Once you reach 30 the process of building new bone slows down.
Osteoporosis is a thinning of bone and loss of bone density over time. It can lead to frequent fractures, pain, back problems, disability, and even death. Just to be clear, although it is normal to lose some bone density as you age, osteoporosis is not a normal part of aging.
The good news is there's a lot you can do to keep your bones healthy (even after 30).
Everyone has heard that for strong bones you need to consume enough calcium, but what does that mean? For people between 19 and 50 years old, the recommendation is to consume 1000 mg of calcium every day (once you're over 50 the recommendation goes up to 1200 mg/day). One cup of milk or yogurt provides about 300 mg of calcium.
There are a number of foods you can consume to help you meet your daily calcium needs. Dairy is an obvious choice, however cooked greens such as kale, broccoli, and spinach also provide some calcium (40-140 mg/serving). Kidney beans and pinto beans provide 40-45 mg for every 1/2 cup. There are also a variety of calcium fortified foods from soy products to cereal to orange juice.
It's important to spread your consumption of calcium rich products throughout the day because your body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time. Both Vitamin C and Vitamin D help your body to absorb calcium more effectively so it's a good idea to try and eat foods rich in those nutrients around the same time.
Vitamin D is fortified into a lot of the same foods calcium is fortified into, but check the label to be sure. You can also get Vitamin D from egg yolk, fatty fish, and beef liver.
One thing to be aware of, especially if you're planning on your breakfast cereal being a source of calcium, is that caffeine inhibits your body's ability to absorb calcium. So you want to space your morning coffee at least 30 minutes after your calcium rich food intake.
Another key part of maintaining healthy bones is performing weight bearing exercises 2-3 times every week. If you're new to exercise or strength training, body weight exercises can be a great place to start. Things like push ups, body weight squats, lunges, and step ups are great ways to both build strength in your bones, as well as increase your balance and muscle strength.
As you get stronger and those exercises get easier try adding weights to increase the resistance your body needs to work against. (It's better to start with too light of a weight than too heavy. Injuries are nobody's friend.)
If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you might have noticed that I love breakfast. Some might call it an unhealthy obsession, but is there really such thing when it comes to breakfast foods?
They're just so versatile and delicious!
But despite my strong feelings for breakfast and the foods it showcases, there are some mornings that I don't have time for much more than grabbing my coffee and a granola bar as I rush out the door.
That's why I'm a huge fan of make ahead breakfast ideas.
Last weekend I was feeling the desire to make something new for breakfast. I'd recently been given a large number of apples (we're talking at least 8-10 apples in my fruit drawer) that needed to be consumed in the next week, and what goes better with apples than oatmeal and cinnamon?
So the Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bake was born!
This was relatively quick to throw together, but I don't peel apples before I cook them. Partly out of laziness, but also because there are nutrients in the skin that aren't in the flesh of the apple.
The bake makes about 12 servings, with each serving providing about 300 calories, 6 g of fiber, 8 g of protein, and 14 g of fat (almost all unsaturated). Meaning a serving will keep you full for a while! It was delicious straight out of the oven, but it also kept well. Throughout the week I would put a serving in a mason jar the night before and then microwave it (sans lid) for about 2 minutes before leaving for work in the morning.
Note: I used pecans and walnuts because I didn't have enough pecans. You can use both, only one, or the nut of your choice.
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bake
3 medium apples, chopped into about 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
5 cups low fat milk
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9" x 13" casserole dish with non-stick spray. Mix apples, cranberries, oats, milk, oil, and cinnamon together until well mixed. Pour into casserole dish. Bake for 40 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
Once it starts baking mix the chopped nuts with the brown sugar. Sprinkle the topping over the oatmeal bake at about the 30 minute mark.
You may have heard that the new USDA Dietary Guidelines were released at the end of last year. There was a bit of a hub-bub in the nutrition and medical community over what was and wasn't included. One thing that was included that I am a big fan of is the recommendation to limit added sugars to 10% of your calorie intake.
Added sugar does not include the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit or milk. It does include any kind of sweetener added to food (table sugar/sucrose, honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.).
If you eat mostly whole foods and limit your intake of processed foods, it's easier to limit your added sugar intake. With processed foods you have to read ingredient lists carefully. At least until (hopefully) the new recommendations cause food labels to include an "added sugar" category.
So what does an intake of 10% of your calories look like? Well, let's say your daily caloric intake is 1800 calories, which would allow you 180 calories from added sugars, or 45 grams of sugar. About 3 1/2 tablespoons, or a little over 11 teaspoons, of sugar provide 45 grams per day. That's not impossible!
I've found that in most recipes the sugar you add can be halved without the end product losing its sweetness. Here's a recipe where I was able to reduce the sugar from 1 cup to only 1/3 cup, and it was still a huge hit! Give it a try and let me know what you think.
Blueberry Coconut Coffee Cake
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c almond flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 c honey
3 c blueberries
~1/2-1 c milk
4 tsp dark brown sugar
4 T shredded coconut
4 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the ingredients for the topping together and set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl whisk yogurt, honey, and eggs together until well mixed. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix.
Add milk little by little as you mix until batter is a pourable consistency (similar to muffin batter). Fold in majority of the blueberries, leave some for the topping.
Pour into pre-greased 9"x13" baking dish. Sprinkle extra blueberries and topping on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
I am a huge fan of comfort food, especially in the winter. One of my favorite easy, go-to comfort foods is Mac & Cheese. There's just something about short, cold days that screams cheesy, starchy goodness. And what's easier than reaching for a box of Kraft, am I right?
I usually consider Mac & Cheese a rare indulgence. But the recipe I have for you today only feels like an indulgence. The butternut squash makes the dish deliciously creamy and it's packed full of vitamin A and potassium (which most people don't get enough of).
The recipe is also super low maintenance. Although there's a decent amount of cooking time, I probably spent a total of 15 minutes actually in the kitchen. It makes about 4 servings, each serving is 325 calories with 15 grams of protein and 4 grams of fat.
Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
2 cups whole wheat pasta, uncooked*
1 small butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons shredded cheese of your choice
Cook the pasta per box directions. (I recommend doing this closer to the end so it doesn't sit for too long and get stuck together.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds and the stringy stuff with the seeds. Brush the tops of each half with 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil each. Roast the squash until it's soft (about 40 minutes depending on the size of the squash and your oven).
Heat the other tablespoon of oil in a skillet and add the onion. Cook on very low heat for about 20 minutes until caramelized.
Once the squash and onion are done, place both in a food processor with the milk and puree. Pour the pureed sauce into a large bowl and mix in the 1/2 cup of cheese. You may need to reheat the sauce before you mix in the cheese to get it warm enough to melt the cheese.
Once the cheese is mixed into the sauce, mix in the cooked pasta.
Spoon evenly into 4 separate bowls and sprinkle a 1/2 tablespoon of cheese on top of each.
*The whole wheat pasta could easily be replaced with gluten free pasta if you prefer. Don't feel like you have to use macaroni elbows either. I was out when I made it this week, so I substituted rotini pasta and it worked just as well.
Lately I've noticed a lot of "detox" and "cleanse" diets popping up on various social media. I know it's that time of year again when we're bombarded more than normal with ways to "lose 7 pounds in 7 days!" but I find the detoxes and cleanses particularly annoying.
The weight loss claims of cleanses are true. You're forcing your body into severe calorie restriction, so you will lose weight. It's certainly not a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight, and you're not really going to lose a lot of fat. The weight lost on detoxes and cleanses is usually a mix of water weight, muscle loss, and a small amount of fat loss.
My big problem with these diets is that they feed into the mindset that food is bad for us. The idea that we need to "cleanse" ourselves and rid ourselves of "toxins" we accumulate just by eating and living our lives.
First of all, we have systems in our body whose entire purpose is to take out the things we don't need. They're called the liver and the kidneys. If those aren't working properly, a juice cleanse is not going to solve the problem.
But the big thing, the number one thing, is: food is not bad for you. Food is your body's fuel. It allows you to keep living from one day to the next. There is no good and evil, there is only food. This idea that food is damaging to us or should make us feel guilty or bad about ourselves is so unhealthy. Your body needs calories, it needs carbohydrates, and protein, and fat. Eating food is not something you have to atone for.
This idea of "clean" eating that is all the rage originally came from a good place. The premise is to eat whole foods rather than processed foods. However, like with most fad diets, it's evolved into something much more stringent than any diet should be.
There's a saying I've seen around the internet on those scenery pictures with text - "You do not have to earn food. You are not a dog." I like it and hate it at the same time. The first half is 100% right you do not have to earn anything you eat. You need to eat to live, it's not about burning so many calories in order to eat a meal or a snack.
It's the second part that I don't like. I know for me, and all of my friends who have dogs, I do not make my dog earn food. I feed her because I love her and I want her to be healthy and live a long life. The same reasons you should feed yourself.
So instead of dedicating a week of your time to "detoxing" your body, spend those 7 days detoxing your mind. Start to heal your relationship with food. When you eat a meal, think about the way it's nourishing your body and all the ways you use that energy (to concentrate on the book your reading, or recover from the workout that morning, or to laugh with your friends on a Friday night out). The human body is a beautiful thing. Nourish it. Appreciate it.
Happy 2016 everyone! I hope the New Year is treating you well so far. I'm still trying to get back into the swing of work and life after vacation.
Ever since I became lactose intolerant I've had to say goodbye to cream soups, which is almost as sad as saying goodbye to ice cream. So last night I decided to make lactose free butternut squash soup. If you've never tried Kefir, I recommend picking up a quart and giving it a try. It's a cultured milk drink, but creamier than regular milk. It's a great source or probiotics so it's great for gut health. It's also packed with protein, 1 cup provides 11g of protein! It's tangier than milk. I enjoy drinking it on its own, but the taste probably isn't for everyone. It's a great substitute for cream in recipes though and also goes well in smoothies.
I've talked before about the amazingness of squash seeds, but for real guys. If you're using a whole butternut squash for this recipe, rinse those seeds and back them. The fiancé and I made ourselves sick last night eating every last roasted seed after dinner. Ok, it was just me who ate too much, but they are so delicious I just couldn't stop.
Anyway, on to the soup! This is a very hearty soup. With the pumpkin seeds it provides about 300 calories per serving and 18g of protein. The recipe makes 4 servings.
Ginger Butternut Squash Soup
1 Butternut squash (roughly 4 cups)
2 cups plain Kefir
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Peel the squash and then slice it into even slices (mine were about 1" thick). Place the squash slices on a parchment paper or slip mat lined baking sheet. Bake until squash is tender (roughly 1 hour depending on the thickness of your slices).
Once the squash is easily pierced with a fork, put all the squash into a food processor. Add Kefir and ginger and blend until it's a smooth puree. Ladle into bowls and top with 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds.
When the weather gets colder, it can feel more challenging to get all of your servings of vegetables, especially if when you think vegetables you think salad. Who wants to eat salad when it's 30 degrees outside? Not many people. Definitely not me.
Luckily there are a lot of ways to eat vegetables that don't include salad! Sauté them and serve them with pasta; roast them with garlic for a side or for a dish topped with a poached egg. There's stir-frying, boiling, or steaming. Or chop up a bunch and toss them into a homemade stew.
I like to stick with seasonal, local vegetables as much as I can. It's better for the environment, and the produce is also more nutrient-packed. Once produce is harvested the nutrient value starts to deplete; so the fresher it is when you eat it, the more nutrients you're getting. If you want a vegetable (or fruit) that's not in season, I recommend going with the frozen version (avoid the ones with added sauces) as the nutrient value of frozen is pretty much equal to fresh.
Right now I'm really feeling curry dishes. I mean, really, what's more warming and cozy than curry? This recipe makes about 10 1/2 cup servings. It take about 10 minutes of prep and 25 minutes to cook, so it's a pretty easy, quick dish. You can serve it over your choice of brown rice or quinoa. (Or I guess eat it like a soup if you want to be different. You do you.)
Lentil Sweet Potato Coconut Curry
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 leek, chopped
2 cups green beans, trimmed and chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 cup green lentils
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon red curry paste*
In a large pot, heat the oil. Cook the leeks until they're softened. Then add the rest of the beans, carrots, potato, lentils and spices. Add the water and bring to a boil. Once it's boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until lentils and potato cubes are tender.
Turn off the heat and mix in the coconut milk and curry paste.
*The red curry paste is optional and adjustable depending on your palate and preference for spice.
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.