'Quick Wins': Three ways to boost your next meal

 
simple smoothies, chicago dietitian, healthy treats, #mealprep, #chicagoeats, registered dietitian
 

If you’re like me, you don’t have / want to spend a ton of time finding new recipes, meal prepping, cooking etc. It can feel overwhelming. And I’d rather spend time with friends, my husband and running around with Dexter on the weekends.

To help prevent #mealmonotony and also keep meal prep to a minimum, I often make the same things week-to-week, experimenting with variations of each dish depending on what I have on hand.

Lately, I’ve been making lentil pasta, adding chopped spinach, tomatoes and basil before mixing in chili flakes with a dollop of dairy-free mayo. I’ll add some pan-fried tofu and call it a day. It’s satisfying, super simple to assemble and I can mix it up by adding in different spices, herbs or veggies. It also gives each dish a slightly different flavor and nutrition perks.

If you’re short on time but want to maximize your nutrition, here are a few ‘quick wins’ to add to your next meal.

1. SPICES

For both sweet and savory dishes, consider adding in spices such as turmeric, cinnamon or ginger. Spices contain compounds that function as antioxidants, helping to protect our body by controlling levels of inflammation.*

  • Turmeric
    Containing the compound curcumin that helps to combat inflammation, sprinkle dried turmeric onto roasted veggies, guacamole or green smoothies. Boost absorption by including turmeric with fat-rich foods such as olive oil or avocado.

  • Cinnamon
    Packed with antioxidants, one active compound in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, may positively support blood sugar balance. Sprinkle into coffee, yogurt or oatmeal; add to warm cooked dishes like mashed sweet potato, or roasted squash.

  • Ginger
    Containing several compounds that may help with nausea and acid reflux add ground ginger to tea, toast, or fresh fruit; splash fresh ginger juice into sparkling water, yogurt or smoothies for a refreshing kick.

2. FANTASTIC FLAX

Rich in dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids as well as phytochemicals, flax is a fantastic way to make your next meal nutrient-dense. Mix ground seeds into oatmeal, stir into spreads or add whole seeds to stir-fries, smoothies or baked goods.

3. SKIN MAGIC

Foods rich in dietary fiber keep us fuller for longer, helping to keep appetite in check and cut back mindless munching. Since much of the fiber is found in the skin of our fruits and veggies avoid peeling them before cooking and choose those with a skin (berries) vs. a peel (banana).

*Note: further research is needed to make clinical recommendations.


 
 

Donut Day: And ways to strengthen willpower

 
donut, nutritionist, chicago, dietitian, cheat day, meal plan, plant-based, nutritionist river north, chicago dietitian
 

“I had two slices of pizza, three glasses of wine…and dessert 😳” a client messaged me the other day. She was upset. She felt like she’d failed. “That’s ok!” I wrote back. “That’ll happen. Making progress isn’t about sticking to a ‘perfect plan,’ It’s important to recognize the situation - were you stressed, what did you do/eat before going out, what went well and what can we do differently next time - and then look ahead. Be kind to yourself 💚”

So many women I talk to strive for 100% compliance. To achieve their health goals, they think they can’t have X [insert anything from hummus, bread, nuts to fries, donuts and pasta] because X is unhealthy.

A core part of my nutrition philosophy is grounded in maintaining moderation; anything - and everything - can fit into your ‘plan.’ The more we actively resist something we enjoy, the more we may end up overindulging in it.

According to the American Psychological Association, our willpower, or the ability to delay gratification and exert self control, may depend on what ‘depleting events’ we’ve recently encountered. If you’ve ever been in a hostile conversation with a colleague or resisted a freshly baked brownie offered by a friend, you’ve experienced a ‘depleting event.’ Another explanation for a dip in willpower? We’re literally depleted; our bodies, and brains, are primarily fueled by glucose. If we haven’t eaten in a while, we may be low on energy-boosting glucose and thus willpower.

One of my favorite things to do each week is get a vegan chocolate peanut butter and granola donut from West Town Bakery. My husband and I’ll take our dog, Dexter, on Sunday mornings and enjoy one donut each with a cup of coffee. While the donut is delicious, I enjoy the whole experience and it’s something to look forward to each weekend. Although having a donut everyday isn’t something I’d recommend as a dietitian, enjoying one (or two!) each week is 100% a-ok. Building it into a weekly plan helps me avoid feeling deprived and my willpower to say “thanks, but no thanks” to other treats is boosted.

So when it comes to our favorite foods, what can we do to strengthen willpower?

  1. MINDFULLY INDULGE

    • If you know you’re going to be in a stress-inducing situation, such as a work happy hour or birthday party, plan ahead. Check out the menu, find an item you’d like to have and then enjoy. Be intentional; give yourself permission to eat what you want - within moderation - and then truly savor the whole experience. Since that food or beverage is no longer “off-limits,” you may see that mindfully indulging may lead to reduced feelings of stress. This, in turn, may lead to less overindulgence (aka mindless eating).

      • Quick tip: Be the first one to order a drink or appetizer; this may help set the “health tone” of the table and prevent you from feeling pressured into ordering something you don’t want.

  2. DITCH JUICE

    • How many oranges would you eat at once? One? Three? A 12-ounce glass of freshly squeezed orange juice contains nearly 32 grams of sugar, equivalent to eating three medium-sized oranges, which we normally wouldn’t do in one sitting. With the absence of dietary fiber, fruit juice is more rapidly absorbed by the body. This speedy sugar-dumping process may result in dramatic blood sugar spikes, which can send our energy levels, and willpower, crashing. Instead of a glass of juice, focus on eating fruit in its raw, unprocessed form.

      • Quick tip: Throw fresh orange slices into 16 ounces of water and add a splash of fresh ginger juice for a twist on traditional OJ.

  3. HABIT BUILD

    • While it may sounds like a good idea to focus on changing multiple habits at once to drive positive change, studies suggest that this may deplete our willpower reserves; we’re dedicating energy to changing multiple areas and, as a result, spreading ourselves thin. Focus on one area at a time and find a health habit that supports this goal. If you want to eat more vegetables, for example, start incorporating a new vegetable into one meal a week.

      • Quick tip: Save time by using frozen spinach. Add to riced cauliflower, pasta and scrambled tofu for a simple nutrient-boost.


 

Check out my latest article

The best high-protein desserts, according to dietitians

 

 
 

Work-life balance: How getting rid of it may make us more mindful

 
work+life+balance+chicago+nutritionist+chicago+dietitian%2C+dieititian+near+me%2C+evolveher%2C+General+Assembly+chicago+events
 

Last month, I was listening to a fellow panelist talk about the myth of work-life balance.

General Assembly had invited us invited to speak about mindfulness, what it meant to us and tips for how to build it into a daily routine. He said that the creation of strict boundaries between work and life only pushes us further off balance when we fail to adhere to them. When we’re doing one and we feel like we should be doing the other, we may feel stressed and unfocused. Rather than see each activity separate, he suggested taking a more fluid approach, finding ways to integrate work with life and visa versa.

As a solo practitioner, building my business often flows over into my personal time, making the concept of a traditional working day virtually non-existent. Between client sessions, creating nutrition presentations and organizing events, I love what I do. And while it doesn’t always feel like work, sometimes it can be challenging to draw the line and ‘switch off.’

To help change this mindset from “I’m doing everything but nothing 100%” to “Ok, I’m making progress” I’ve started keeping a daily mini list. Using pen and a notepad, I pull it from my (much) longer to-do list. By being very intentional with what I want to accomplish that day, it helps keep me on task, focused and feeling less overwhelmed. Fun fact: this blog post was on my mini list for today!

Pulled from other panelists and my own experiences, here are three ways build mindfulness into your day.

  1. TRY A (PHONELESS) WALK AROUND THE BLOCK

    Whenever I used to take our dog, Dexter, out for a walk, I’d bring my phone. I’d call and book an appointment, look up a new restaurant or scroll through IG. While perhaps efficient with my time, I was distracted and didn’t feel refreshed when I returned home. Now, unless I feel like I need it, I’ve stopped taking my phone on our walks. Stopping multitasking means more time to connect more Dexter, appreciate my environment and take a mini mental break.

  2. SCHEDULE SELF-CARE

    While a weekly massage would be amazing, self-care can be practiced in small ways. For me, that means setting some time aside each week for workouts. It also means saying ‘no’ to some social activities. I find that saying ‘yes’ is less painful and often the easier route. When I say ‘no,’ I’ve found that a) no one really cares why you can’t do something or go somewhere b) my work time is more focused and c) my friends are my friends even when I say ‘no’ sometimes :)

  3. PREPARE YOUR SPACE

    I love to clean. I find sweeping or scrubbing super relaxing. Having a clean, organized physical space also helps to clear my head; I’m better able to stay focused on the task on hand. Every few weeks, I’ll pick a different space to clean out and reorganize - I’m always surprised by how much stuff has accumulated! I organize items by ‘linking’ them to others to help me remember to do something. For example, keeping Dexter’s tiny toothbrush near his treats as a reminder to brush his teeth after treat time. Or keeping a small cutting board with my dishes to make cutting a piece of fruit or veggies as a snack super simple.