2016 – The Year of Growth

There are tons of posts, memes, statuses, tweets, etc. floating around on social media about how 2016 was the worst. There’s even a song about it. True, 2016 certainly had its low points, just like every year. I definitely experienced quite a few! But, 2016 needed to happen. 2016 was the year of growth.

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Reflections on 2016

2016 was the year I became a researcher. I designed and led my own pilot study and a whole lot went “wrong.” At least that’s how I felt in the moment. I struggled with having parts of my pilot study not go exactly how I meticulously planned. But, that’s the nature of research. You can plan the perfect study, but the secret is that there’s no such thing as a “perfect study.” Research is about executing a well-designed study, and that also includes having multiple back-up plans. I learned how to re-group and ask other questions to guide my pilot study. I formulated new hypotheses and took a slightly different direction. Nothing was ruined. In fact, this made my pilot study stronger because I thought more about what I was doing, decided precisely how my hypotheses were to be measured, and grounded my study design in theory. This experience helped me design an even better full-fledged study that was built off of the pilot study.

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2016 was the year I took a risk. I took on a big leadership position and I was so excited. But, at first I had much to learn about being a leader. My passion came off as overbearing and my meticulousness came off as constraining. However, I was willing to learn, to change, to become better. I researched leadership styles, took workshops, read books, talked to others in leadership positions, and, most importantly, practiced. Slowly, I started seeing improvements. I’m still working at this position every day, but I feel this is the way it’s supposed to be. To be an effective leader you need to constantly work to improve.

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2016 was the year I gained confidence. I started believing in myself and what I have to offer to the nutrition world. I learned how to speak more confidently and act more like a professional. Gone are the days of wearing gym clothes to the office. Dressing more professionally really does make you feel more confident :). I passed my Qualifying Exam in November and being more confident was likely a contributing factor (along with a whole lot of hard work, research, studying, coffee, and practicing).

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2016 was the year I finally became a morning person. I used to dread getting up before 8:00am. However, going through graduate school, I realized I needed to get up earlier in order to accomplish more and have time for a sit-down breakfast (my favorite part of the day!). I started small, setting my clock back to 7:30am, then to 7:00am, and finally to 6:30am. This isn’t super early, especially compared to a lot of other people, but to me this is a whole lot earlier than where I started. Some days I even set it back to 5:40am to catch a sunrise spin class :). Starting my day earlier gives me more time to ease into the day and I feel less rushed. Less rushed = less frazzled and being less frazzled is better for everyone.

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This past year, I grew a lot as a researcher, leader, professional, student, and a friend. I’m excited to see what 2017 brings. This year, I’m making SOULutions (not resolutions), thank you Robyn.

This year, I will be…

present. I will take time to truly relish moments, people, places. When I’m with others, I will be in the conversation and not thinking about my to-do list.

organized. On that note, segmenting my time into chunks throughout the week will better help me stay on task and increase efficiency. I’ll have discrete times to think about my to-do list. Segmentation is the best.

supportive. I want to use this platform to share evidence-based nutrition advice and help you achieve your goals. I want to show you how to incorporate aspects of healthy living into your life.

I hope you have a Happy New Year and cheers to 2017!

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What are your SOULutions for 2017?

How are you ringing in the New Year?

 

 

WTF Wednesday – When Your Mind Plays Tricks on You

When it comes to barriers of adopting a healthy lifestyle, money is usually at the top of the list. While true, if you only shop at high-end stores, purchase premium products, and go for the special labels (i.e. gluten-free), you’ll end up forking over more money for your eats, it doesn’t have to be this way. The misconception that eating healthy is a costly endeavor has gone on for far too long. In fact, your mind may just be playing tricks on you.

A recent paper from The Ohio State University investigated the perception of believing foods that cost more must be better for you through a series of studies. For one study, researchers told participants about a new food ingredient that boosted eye health. When the ingredient was said to be expensive, the participants felt they should be more concerned about their eye health. However, when the same ingredient was said to be cheap, participants no longer felt eye health was an important concern for them. This demonstrates that simply the price tag impacts our perception of what’s nutritious and what health issues we should be concerned about.

In another study, participants were told about a new product, “granola bites,” which was subsequently given a health grade of either an A- or a C (side bar: hate the concept of giving foods letter grades, but we’ll get into that another WTF Wednesday ;)). After the participants were given the information, they were asked about how much they thought the product cost. Participants that were told “granola bites” received an A- rated the product as more expensive versus the participants that were given the C grade. Interesting how the belief that more expensive food = healthier holds up here.

The researchers also did a study with breakfast crackers. When participants were told a breakfast cracker was expensive, they rated it as healthier than a breakfast cracker that cost less. Turns out, the breakfast crackers were exactly the same.

The researchers then wanted to see how this perception of health = expensive held up when it came to making choices. Participants were asked to pick out a healthy lunch and were shown 2 options with the ingredients listed: a chicken balsamic wrap and a roasted chicken wrap. The researchers found the ingredient list didn’t matter. When the chicken balsamic wrap was listed as costing more, participants were more likely to order it. However, when the roasted chicken wrap cost more, it too had a greater chance of being selected.

In the next study, participants were asked to pretend they were selecting a trail mix at the store and they were given 4 options, all listed at various prices. One of the trail mixes was labeled as “Perfect Vision Mix.” Participants either saw this trail mix marketed as “Rich in Vitamin A for eye health” or “Rich in DHA for eye health.” The “Perfect Vision Mix” was also listed as either an average price or the most expensive choice.

Participants that saw the trail mix with the Vitamin A believed it was vital in a healthy diet, regardless of how much it cost. Meanwhile, participants that saw the trail mix with the DHA felt that it was healthier when it was listed as the most expensive price than when it had the average price tag. This is most likely because people have heard of Vitamin A, so they weren’t using the price to justify its importance in a healthy diet. On the other hand, DHA is less familiar, so the participants were probably using the price tag to weigh in on how healthy the trail mix was.

Building on this study, the researchers told participants that DHA was important in lowering risk of macular degeneration. When the price of the trail mix was expensive, participants felt macular degeneration was a crucial health issue. However, when the price tag dropped, participants didn’t feel as worried about macular degeneration.

For the last study, participants were asked to review a new bar with the slogan, “Healthiest Protein Bar on the Planet.” Participants were told the bar would cost $0.99 or $4, and that the average price of protein bars was $2. Then, they were able to read reviews of the bar. When participants were told the bar cost $0.99, they read way more reviews than when the bar was said to cost $4. Why? Perhaps because they were in disbelief that the healthiest protein bar could only cost $0.99.

The takeaway from these findings is we gotta get rid of the misconception that healthy food costs more money. Otherwise, food companies are just going to hike up the prices. Keep an eye out for a post on budget-friendly grocery shopping soon :).

 

–>Shop Smart:

1. Read the ingredient list: Look for products with ingredients that are mostly recognizable.

2. Compare labels: When choosing between products, look at the Nutrition Facts Label and compare values for different nutrients. Generally, choose products lower in saturated fat and sugar, while higher in vitamins and minerals.

3. Consult the experts: Research different products and ingredients before hitting the store. See what various nutrition experts (i.e. PhDs, Masters, and/or Registered Dietitians) say about a certain item. Use original research articles to learn more about different food components. Ask questions. Reach out and contact nutrition experts/Nutrition PhD students, we are here to help :).

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Throwback to the first year of grad school, hollaaaa

Source 1

Source 2

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How do you make food purchasing decisions?

Have you ever purchased something more expensive because you felt it was healthier? (I have! *blushes*)

There’s nothing wrong with routine.

I’m definitely one of those people that thrive off of having a schedule. What can I say-I like to know what’s going to happen :).

When it comes to squeezing in workouts and eating something nutritious, there’s nothing wrong with having a little routine.

For instance, almost every morning I eat the same breakfast. Whaaaat? Don’t you get bored? Hold on, hear me out.

My first meal of the day is usually a bowl of oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon (sometimes with dried fruit or fresh blueberries sprinkled in), a hard boiled egg with salt and pepper, and a big ol’ cup of coffee. This meal is chock-full of water-soluble fiber, protein, and key vitamins and minerals, including hard-to-get ones, like choline and vitamin D, from the egg yolk. Oh, and caffeine, very important.

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See, my brain doesn’t work before I have my cup of coffee, I am truly a zombie. By having a set breakfast routine, I don’t even have to think about what I’m going to make myself and can put my mind on autopilot while I prep breakfast. Most importantly, breakfast sets the tone of the day and, with this breakfast, my body feels properly fueled to tackle what’s ahead.

Generally, I mix up the rest of my eats depending on what I’m craving, what foods I have on hand, and what new fun foods I want to try. But, having a relatively routine breakfast ensures I am getting good nutrition and don’t have to plan ahead for what I’m eating in the morning.

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Do you have a routine? How about a breakfast routine? 😉

Are you more of a schedule person or spontaneous person?

Monday Reset.

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday weekend and got to eat delicious food and spend time with your loved ones <3.

 

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Now that the holidays are winding down, some of us, myself included, are feeling the aftermath of the festivities. Tired, happy, and maybe a little bloated…sound familiar? Luckily it’s all temporary :). Here are my go-to tricks for a little reset and some good ol’ TLC for the body:

Step 1: Don’t stress. Whether your pants feel a little tighter after the holiday dinner or after a weekend of a bit too many indulgences, this feeling will pass. A day, or two, of indulging will not cause your body to drastically change shape. The key is to not waste energy getting worked up about your eating “slip-ups.” Instead, acknowledge how your body feels and put the energy towards treating your body well.

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Step 2: Stock up. Grocery shopping for nutritious foods and stocking up your home with all these goodies is truly magical. Surrounding yourself with foods that power your body sets yourself up for nutrition success, since you’re more likely to eat and graze on foods that are easily accessible.

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Step 3: Make it easy on yourself. On the note of making foods easily accessible, chop and prep food when you get home from the store. By getting all the prep work out of the way, you’ll end up with a fridge full of wholesome goodies to easily eat when the hunger hits. My favorite meal to make is roasted veggies and salmon.* It’s packed with healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This meal always makes my body feel ready to take on the week. Plus, salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help boost brain health.

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Do it–>

Crispy Roasted Veggies:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking pan with tin foil.
  3. Chop veggies and pile on top of foil.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and spices (garlic powder, basil, oregano)
  5. Bake for 20 minutes and broil on high the last 2 minutes.

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Oven-Baked Salmon:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking pan with tin foil.
  3. Place salmon on top of foil.
  4. Drizzle salmon with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with spices (red pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano).
  5. Bake for 18 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

fullsizerender-21*Serve veggies and salmon with a whole-grain, like whole-grain couscous, brown rice, or quinoa, or on a bed of greens. You can also definitely do both :).

Step 4: Walk it out. Have yourself a dance party, go for a walk/jog/run, hit up the gym, or take a fitness class. Getting some exercise in expends extra energy and produces endorphins, making you feel good. Bonus points for getting a good workout in with a buddy for the extra benefits of socializing.

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How do you “reset?”

Fast Tip Friday #1: Getting the Most Out of Your Sandwich

Happy Friday! This Friday is extra special, since it’s the beginning of the holiday weekend. I hope you all get some good relaxing in and eat delicious food this weekend! Bring on the holiday food.

Living a healthy lifestyle is all about simple tips and tricks. Small changes truly add up to great results. This Friday, we’re talking about getting the most out of your sandwich.

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Sandwiches are fantastic. They’re not only delicious, but can be jam-packed with nutrient power. Plus, they’re easy to make and don’t cost a whole lot of money. The trick is to build your best sandwich.

Step 1: Choose your base. Build your sandwich on 100% whole-wheat bread for a nutrition boost. Whole-wheat bread comes with B vitamins, which give your body energy, and water-insoluble fiber, which helps keep things moving, if you catch my drift ;). Plus water-insoluble fiber helps lower your risk of colon cancer, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.

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Step 2: Make a choice. Decide whether you are feeling meat/fish or cheese. Choosing one over the other will slash calories and saturated fat. Plus, in my experience I’ve found I couldn’t really taste much of a difference in sandwiches with both meat/fish and cheese versus sandwiches with only one filling. If you go with meat/fish, choose turkey, chicken, salmon, tuna, or a white fish for lean protein. But, if you’re really feeling roast beef or steak, go for it! Just stick to a proper portion (about the size of a deck of cards).

Step 3: Slather wisely. Unless you are a die-hard mayonnaise person, go without. Choose mustard, honey mustard, pesto, avocado, or oil/vinegar instead. Mayonnaise is essentially all fat with no extra nutrients = empty calories. If you really have to have it, stick to the ones made of an avocado base and measure out only a spoonful. Usually I eye-ball portions, but when it comes to mayonnaise you gotta be careful.

Step 4: Bring on the veggies. Sandwiches are a perfect vehicle to carry all sorts of veggies. Pile on lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, peppers, olives, cucumbers, and more for a tasty way to eat your veggies.

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Nugget sandwiches are “out of this WORLD” amazing!

Step 5: Go to town! Enjoy that delicious sandwich, especially since it’s packed with nutrients to fuel your body. If you start getting full, save the other half for later.

With these steps, you’ll be able to enjoy that sandwich you’re craving, without feeling deprived. The best of both worlds :).

Have a great weekend and spend time with your loved ones!

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What is your favorite sandwich combination?

What are your holiday plans this weekend?

Holiday Eating 101

img_2567The holiday season is filled with treats galore and heaping plates of holiday goodness. Generally, people seem to feel two ways about the aftermath of holiday eating: 1. you can leave overstuffed and bloated, full of regret, or 2. you pass up your favorite holiday treats, so while your jeans still fit nicely, your heart is sad and you’re fixated on not eating that truffle while you had the chance.

Well, I got good news for you, the holidays don’t have to end this way. You can have your gingerbread man/woman/child (#politicallycorrect), and eat it too.

Do this to enjoy those special holiday treats and not have to buy new jeans:

1. Holiday eating is a marathon, not a sprint. When faced with the holiday buffet, take a lap to first gather intel on the available food. Did Aunt Patty make her famous sweet potato pie this year? What are the protein options? What kind of veggies are up for grabs? How many desserts are we talking about? Once you scan the foods, we can start talking strategy.

Put the veggies on your plate first. Like the MyPlate guidelines, make those veggies about half of your plate. Veggies are filled with nutrients and fiber, so choosing mainly veggies will ensure you’re still giving your body proper fuel, while the fiber helps take up stomach space to prevent overeating.

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Next, aim for 1 animal protein source (pick between the chicken, ham, steak, etc.) and serve yourself a portion about the size of a deck of cards. Choosing only 1 animal protein and sticking to a serving size will help lower the chance of eating too much saturated fat at the holiday feast.

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Give yourself 30 minutes before helping yourself to seconds. Holiday time is filled with lots of conversations, which can distract you from realizing when you’re full. Let yourself enjoy talking to the people around you before filling up on more food. Chances are, you’ll end up forgoing seconds, so you’ll be able to enjoy dessert more.

Before you know it, it’s time for the grand finale: the dessert bar. Similar to dinner, take an inventory of what’s available. If you’re more of a sampler, take a sliver of the different desserts to get a taste of each without going overboard. If you want a more substantial bite, pick one of your absolute favorites and serve yourself a portion. Or, if you want two desserts, serve yourself a half portion of each.

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2. Eat in slow-mo. Savor each bite of your food and take the time to notice the flavors in each dish. Eating slowly makes the dining experience more memorable, plus you begin to pick out seasonings and textures you may have missed if you had just shoveled food in your mouth. Slowing down your eating gives your body more time to send fullness cues to let you know when it’s time to stop eating. Best of all, you’ll have more time between bites to partake in conversation.

3. Drink responsibly. Holidays can certainly be boozy and alcohol is a sneaky one. Drinking can cause you to easily overeat, since your inhibitions are lowered and alcohol messes with your hunger cues. Plus, alcohol calories don’t come for free. Stick to 1 drink if you’re a lady and 2 drinks if you’re a fella. When it’s time for the main course, drink water between bites to let the food take center stage and to prevent over-drinking during mealtime. Also, taking a break to drink water helps prevent dehydration and can increase feelings of fullness.

4. Get moving. Propose a walk before the meal (or after) to get your body moving. Walking is an easy way to sneak in some activity without having to change into gym clothes and take a shower after. Taking a nature break gives you time to re-charge and prompts some of the best talks with those around you. Even more reason to get outside :).

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5. Enjoy! Laugh, chat, bond, and chill with those around you. The holidays come only once a year, and for many this is the one time to hang out with certain people. Let the focus be on those around you and not solely on your plate. Over-indulging on occasion is perfectly okay. One meal will not cause you to gain 10 pounds. Listen to your body and resume normal eating after the feast with some activity you love and you’ll be just fine :).

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Eat Responsibly!

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What is your favorite holiday food?

What are your holiday eating tips and tricks?

What does “moderation” look like?

When it comes to nutrition advice, by now you’ve probably heard the snazzy saying “eat a variety in moderation.” Or, my personal favorite version (curtesy of my high school teacher), “everything (legal) in moderation.”

But what does “moderation” mean?

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Okay, eating an entire plate of cookies in one sitting is probably not moderation…but one cookie is fine by me!

Giving nutrition advice is a double-edged sword. One, we want the advice to come off short and catchy in hopes that people will remember and abide by it. Unfortunately, simplifying can lead to misinterpretation.

In reality, the message would be something like, “eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains, and then choose lean protein, like chicken breast, eggs, beans, nuts, legumes, etc., and don’t forget you can also have some dairy products, like low-fat yogurt, milk, cheese, but life would suck without cake, so every once in awhile eat that piece of cake, just don’t eat cake every single day.”

Who would ever want to read that? That looks like a whole bunch of words.

So let’s break down what “moderation” means. Moderation looks different depending on who you are, making it tricky to define. The dictionary definition is something like “the avoidance of excess or extremes.”

When it comes to food, my definition of moderation is based off of a few key bullet points:

  • Eat what feels good: Veggies, fruits, whole-grains (brown rice, whole-wheat couscous/pasta), lean protein (eggs, salmon, chicken breast, beans) and yogurt power my body through the day and I feel nourished after eating these types of foods. These foods form the basis of what I eat. Depending on your personal preferences, choose a few foods you like to eat from these food groups and create meals around them. When a treat pops up that I really want, I’ll eat it and stick to a serving size.
  • Nothing is off-limits: Knowing that I can eat anything I want means there are no “special/untouchable” foods. When you hold a food on a pedestal and deprive yourself of eating it, chances are you will eventually succumb to your craving and overindulge on that food. Or, you may stick to your rules and not eat the sacred food and instead overeat other foods in place of what you truly want.

EX: Full-fat ice cream is off-limits. So, I purchase some reduced-fat version of ice cream/sorbet/diet food version instead and eat the entire container because it’s “better” for you than the full-fat version and I’m proud of myself for not buying the off-limits ice cream. But, then I just ate the entire container. Meanwhile, if I brought the full-fat version and served myself a serving size in a bowl (no eating out of the container), I would have satisfied my craving and not binged on something less satisfying.

  • Seconds are okay: When serving meals, portion out what a single serving looks like because if you’re still hungry you can go back for seconds. This will help preserve the basis of moderation, which means not too little and not too much of something.

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Moderation can be an intangible concept, but once you create your own version of what moderation looks like to you, it can be an enjoyable way of eating. Keeping the basis of what you eat grounded in nutritious foods, of course.

Eat Responsibly!

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What does “moderation” look like to you?

What are your key bullet points for “moderation?”