Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Oversight of Elimination Diets

Guys, I just listened to an absolutely fantastic podcast episode that I would like to share with you today. It was about elimination diets and also how ‘clean eating’ can be disguised as just another way of dieting (and obsessively controlling food). While there are certainly appropriate times to eliminate foods from one’s diet, this episode offered a really interesting alternative point of view – one which I believe holds a lot of validity.

Paige Smathers (RDN, CD) and Marci Evans (MS, CEDRD-S. LDN, cPT) discuss the fact that while “dieting” isn’t necessarily socially acceptable, “clean eating” and eliminating food groups in pursuit of curing sometimes nebulous symptoms is viewed as not only ok, but sometimes virtuous. Yet elimination diets for people with a history of disordered eating, long-term dieting, or a chaotic relationship with food can be really harmful. Not to mention, this can be another way to “control” eating.  

Elimination diets and “clean eating” are often entered into to improve one’s health, or undesirable symptoms such as “brain fog” or “stomach discomfort”. While this can be a good idea or tool to help solve such issues, it doesn’t take into account other very real factors that affect our health - and specifically our digestion. Paige and Marci talk about how we tend to place the blame on the literal pipeline going from our mouth to our stomach (and intestines). But how often do we give any consideration to the fact that our entire digestive system is innervated by our nervous system? This system feeds right into our gut! Literally, what happens to us mentally and emotionally is getting transferred to your stomach and your intestines and impacting your physical health. Yet how many of us spend much time considering this aspect? Some other factors that may have an effect on health and digestion (besides actual food itself) include frequency of eating; raw vs. cooked foods; balanced plates/meals; regulation of body movement; and stress management. Guess what else? Maybe if you’re experiencing a lot of GI issues, you’re simply eating too many vegetables or maybe you’re simply under-eating! The point is that before we jump to the conclusion that we need to do a massive elimination protocol…we need to also hold space for the reality that there are other factors involved in trying to sort out digestive and health issues.

Another thing I really appreciated hearing in this conversation was the fact that SOME gas, bloating and belching is normal. I mentioned before that during the course of my holistic nutrition education that I was pretty anxious – and it was largely due to worrying about things just like this. Every time I would burp after a meal I would conclude it was a much bigger issue than what it was. Every time my daughter farted, I was sure her gut flora was totally out of whack and I would start researching alternative brands of probiotics. As with anything, clean eating can be taken to extremes.

The last idea I will share here (you need to hear the whole episode yourself) is the idea that some people have a more delicate or sensitive digestive system than others. I must say that I think this is very true. “A stressed out person often has a stressed out gut”! Yes OMG Yes! And while (ironically) the “holistic” education I received stressed me out because of my own anxiety, the whole education was premised on the fact that nutrition includes body, mind and spirit. Quite often the medical community doesn’t acknowledge the fact that emotional and mental health play a large part in our physical health.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

White Chili

Last night’s dinner was so delicious that I had to share with you today. As with most recipes, I put my own spin on it, and you can too. Let’s start with the actual recipe:

Gluten free, Paleo

·       1 1/2 lb Chicken breasts or thighs, Boneless skinless
·       1 Bell pepper, medium
·       1/2 cup Cilantro, fresh
·       1 Cilantro and lime, Fresh wedges
·       6 cloves Garlic
·       1 Jalapeno, small
·       1/2 Lime, Juice of
·       1 Onion, medium
·       1 tsp Oregano, dried
Canned Goods
·       4 cups Chicken broth, organic
·       1 14-ounce can Coconut milk, full-fat
Baking & Spices
·       1/4 tsp Black pepper
·       2 tsp Chili powder
·       1 tbsp Ghee or avocado oil
·       1 tsp Sea salt
Nuts & Seeds
·       2 1/2 tsp Cumin, ground

I used the slow cooker method. Started with onions, garlic, broth and chicken (added the peppers later). About an hour before dinner, I added in some chopped peppers, zucchini “zoodles” and the coconut milk. Right before serving I topped with lime juice and cilantro. My dish was more like a "stoup" - cross between a soup and stew :) 

My Dinner

The actual recipe photo - looks delicious, right!? 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tomato Soup

When your friend gives you two ginormous tomatoes from her garden and you have a bunch of other tomatoes - you can whip up a delicious and nutritious soup with few ingredients for a quick dinner.

Start by roasting tomatoes covered in avocado oil (or a high heat cooking oil) in your oven @400 degrees until they are slightly charred. While they are roasting, pan fry an onion and some garlic together until nicely browned. Once tomatoes are done roasting, throw them into a vitamix or food processor (or use an immersion blender) with the onion and garlic, along with some chicken stock, salt and pepper. Blend away adding in as much stock as you like to reach the desired consistency.

Easy peasy!

For dinner tonight, I also added some quality canned tuna together with some delicious farmers market guacamole for an easy protein addition. With the exception of the time to roast, this dinner was thrown together in about 10 minutes!

You can use whatever tomatoes you have on hand


I mentioned above that you should use a high heat cooking oil (for higher heat cooking). If you're not familiar with the differences and reasoning behind why you may want to use a different oil for a salad dressing vs. frying (for example), then take a few moments to check out this link which explains this in greater detail:

The message is that some oils with lower smoking points don't do well being heated at higher temperatures (or at all for that matter -- in the case of flaxseed oil for example). When oils are heated beyond their smoke point, not only do they lose any beneficial nutrients, they can also generate free radicals in your body. You don't want that.

My favourite oil to cook with is avocado oil, simply because of it's adaptability. I can use it for high heat cooking, but I could also use it just as easily in a dressing. And, as it turns out, the French think its so healthy that it apparently received Rx status:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Keep it Simple

Hi guys! This is my first post after having received my C.H.N.C (Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant™) designation. Throughout last year I gave a lot of thought as to what area I’d like to focus my nutrition practice on. Although I am still working on refining that, one theme that consistently came up for me was the idea of keeping things simple - regardless of my niche. 

As someone who experiences anxiety and easily gets overwhelmed, I found myself struggling during the course of the year. I was overthinking all the areas in which I felt I needed to make changes for myself and my family (even though we live a healthy lifestyle to begin with). I was worried about my daughter not drinking enough water, worried if I had candida and parasites, worried that all my food wasn't organic, worried if I ate something sweet and goes on and on. That’s when I knew that I had to adopt and live by this mantra of keeping things simple. (Small steps not grandiose life changes all at once). And this doesn’t mean that I can’t still achieve optimum health; it just means that my approach and my expectations must be gentle.

Part of the requirement for the C.H.N.C designation was completing 14 case studies and providing a comprehensive analysis of each indvidual's body systems directly related to their stated health concerns. This involved generating a 3-day meal plan for each person. The main purpose of the meal plan (in this context at least) was to demonstrate our knowledge base. As a result, the meal plans were not “practical”. I remember thinking as I was completing them: “I would never follow this and I wouldn’t expect a real client of mine to – it’s way too complicated”. There are so many different ingredients, so many recipes and perhaps so many food stores to go to in order to create all these different meals!

And while I would never disagree that a well-balanced diet requires rotation, I think we sometimes complicate things by thinking that we need rotation on a day-to-day basis. In a typical meal plan, you might have an omelet for breakfast one morning, a smoothie for the next, then overnight oats or a breakfast cookie the following day.  And that’s just breakfast – the one meal of the day you’re usually eating with the most urgency! So I really got to thinking that one way in which we can simplify our lives is to focus on rotational weeks. Here’s a real quick example for you:

Typical Meal Plan – Week 1

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Chia Pudding

Veggie Wrap
Homemade Soup
Chopped Greek Salad
Hearty Chicken Curry w/loads of veggies
Salmon w/Rice & Asparagus
Grass-fed beef Fajita’s w/bell peppers & onions
Guacamole & Mary’s “gone carackers”
Hummus & Veggies
Apple & Almond Butter

Now this could be a nice little meal plan for the right person, but what if that person struggles with anxiety, has a full time job and is the parent of young children? 

How about something like this instead?

Simplified Meal Plan – Week 1

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Chia Pudding (add berries)
Chia Pudding (add banana)
Chia Pudding (add tbsp. of almond butter)
Homemade Soup
Leftover Chicken Curry from last night
Homemade Soup
Hearty Chicken Curry w/loads of veggies
Grass-fed beef Fajita’s w/bell peppers & onions
Leftover Beef Fajita’s from last night
Banana & Almond Butter
Apple & Almond Butter
Guacamole & Mary’s “gone crackers”

As you can see, the shopping list and effort required for this second meal plan is much less. Even just making larger dinners so that you can eat them for lunch or dinner the next day is helpful. Eat the same breakfast for a week, then change it up the following week. How about eating a “big ass salad” every day but adding in different items that not only make it exciting, but also ensure that a variety of nutrients are being added? Throw some of that leftover beef from fajita night into the salad; toss some nuts and seeds into the salad if you have no protein; even add in some fruit that’s starting to go bad.

Guys, the goal is to make healthy eating a habit and if it’s too complicated, you won’t do it. Of course a weekly meal plan that has exciting and different options at every meal is great – but unless you have a personal chef to do it all for you, I suggest that you keep things simple. Who doesn’t LOVE to watch the Food Network, spend hours pinning recipes on Pinterest or even scroll through all the photos of food on Instagram!? I love it! But the truth is that I struggle enough on a daily basis trying to figure what to buy and cook for my family as it is. So instead of planning from a daily basis, take a step back and focus more on a weekly basis. Rotate the types of vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and meats you use week to week, and you will ensure that your body gets what it needs. Then save those recipes you'd like to try out (from Pinterest, Food Network or Instagram) for when you have some time (scrambling after work to put food on the table for your family doesn't sound to me like a fun time to try out a new recipe). If the recipe works out, add it to your rotation! You'll know what's involved in making it, you'll be familiar with the ingredients you need, and you'll probably already have some of the staples in your pantry or fridge.

If you have any questions about this, or would like additional help implanting such a plan, please reach out! I'll be posting on a more consistent basis and sharing some of my new knowledge. If there is a particular area around food and nutrition you'd like to learn more about, please leave me a message and I will make sure it's included in a future post. 


Tips for Managing Stress & Anxiety (plus a smoothie recipe!)

Read my latest blog post on You Ate: And my smoothie recipe!