When Your Kid Goes Vegetarian (in An Omnivore Family)

If you’re a parent, you know that kids are full of surprises. Late last week, my 9-year-old daughter hit me with one: She wants to be a vegetarian. Effective immediately. This is how the conversation went down. 

E: “Mama, you know that chicken sandwich I ate last night?” 

Me: “Yes, wasn’t it delicious?”

E: “It made me sad for the chicken. And GOSH it tasted good. But I don’t want to eat meat anymore.” 

Full disclosure: My initial reaction was panic (selfish, I know). When I counsel clients, I typically recommend easing into diet changes gradually during not-as-stressful times in life. I’m not at my peak of creativity in terms of meal planning these days. It’s hard enough cycling through my go-to omnivorous options without delving into a brave new culinary world. 

Once I got over my self-centeredness,  a second wave of panic set in. As a dietitian, I know that a well-planned vegetarian diet can be very healthy, even for kids. BUT THIS IS MY KID! My reformed picky eater, who is much much better than before but still not super adventurous with foods. 

Rest assured, I’ve shifted my attitude in the last couple of days. In fact, I’ve realized I’m grateful for this change. Here are five reasons why. 

  1. She’s Involved in the Meal Planning


Do you ever feel like you make so many decisions throughout the course of the day that you run out of mental horsepower by the time meal prep comes along? Yep, me too. I struggle with decision fatigue when it comes to meal planning. 

E’s first official act as a vegetarian (mom’s orders) was to go through some cookbooks (as well as the free email newsletter my private practice puts together) and pick some recipes she wanted to try. I vetoed a few based on time and labor requirements, but she did really well! We’ve been working through those over the past few days. 

As an added bonus, putting her in charge of what’s for dinner means that she’s much more likely to actually eat it, or at least try it. I nearly fell over yesterday when Miss E told me, “The fun part of being a vegetarian is you get to try so many new foods!”

 Seriously, who is this kid?!?

Seriously, who is this kid?!?

So while this change involves some extra work on my part, it saves drama at the table (worth it, in my book!). 

2. She’s Eating More Veggies

Confession: Well before I was a dietitian, I attempted vegetarianism for a few months. My attempts were fairly laughable—giving up meat allowed me to rationalize a whole mess of foods. I ate fries, and tots, and SO MANY CHEETOS! And Miss E would certainly do the same, were she not cursed (heh heh) with a dietitian mom. 

She hasn’t particularly liked meat alternatives (tofu, seitan, etc.) in the past or since this change. We’re basing her diet more on vegetables, legumes, and grains. She’s doing a really great job. Her veggie intake has increased in the days since her announcement, and she’s opened her mind to some that she’s previously rejected (such as cooked spinach). Her greater appreciation for a rainbow of veggies means more opportunities for vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This RD mama couldn’t be happier about that. 

3. She’s Getting Enough (Protein, That Is)

As a society, we’ve become a bit protein-crazed. Yes, protein has a lot of important functions, including muscle growth and repair. But inadequate dietary protein intake is not that common. 

Consider this: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans consider 34 grams of protein to be adequate for 9-year-old girls. Will a bit more hurt her? Nah. But she’s also not at risk for malnutrition :). 

 Miss E, cooking a vegetarian dinner.

Miss E, cooking a vegetarian dinner.

Still, I am a mom and I worry. Mostly to ease my own mind, I’ve made a couple of tweaks to my purchasing. I’ve started buying chickpea pasta (I love Banza)*—which is higher in protein than standard noodles—and the higher-protein, lactose-free Fairlife milk. I don’t push these on her every day, but I do encourage a glass of Fairlife if she’s eating a lower-protein meal. 

4. She’s Learning About Healthy Eating

One of the bigger challenges I’ve encountered so far is what to do with school lunches.

Miss E has been a “buyer” since the day the option became available in kindergarten. This has saved me a LOT of time and effort in the mornings, and it’s also helped to diversify her palate. Let’s face it—kids are much more likely to try things for other adults than they are for mom and dad. From a financial standpoint, I’ve also paid for her lunches for the entire semester.

I had a really proud moment last night when I sat down with her last night to make a plan for today’s lunch. I offered to pack her an alternative protein when we saw that turkey tacos were on the menu. She thought for a moment, then said: “There are always beans on the salad bar. Maybe I could get my tacos with no turkey and add some beans to them?”

Kiddo is learning to think like a dietitian and I love it love it love it. Learning how to round out her meals is a skill that will help her to establish healthy eating habits, long-term. My goal for the near future is to sit down with her and, rather than quickly offer to send in an alternative protein, have her talk through some solutions with me.

5. She’s Setting a Positive Example for the Rest of the Family

Remember what I said about being a protein-crazed society? This big revelation has made me realize that our family could absolutely reduce our intake of animal proteins. Why? Because plant-based diets can help protect the heart and lower risk for certain diseases, while also helping the environment. 

Completely eliminating meat isn’t practical for the entire family, and I’d never force that on anyone. But we can certainly scale back our portion sizes. 

I’ve enjoyed mostly vegetarian dinners in the past few nights in solidarity, and the rest of the family has tried some veggie dishes as well! Long-term, I’m thinking of ways to marry her veggie eating with a veggie-forward plate for the omnivores in our family. When I make tacos, for example, I can replace half of the meat with lentils (which I’m already cooking for her). Mushrooms are a great add-in to pastas, so I can reduce the amount of turkey sausage I use. 

It all makes a difference. 

Now, I’m not completely naive. I know this new way of eating will be an adjustment! I also understand that there’s a possibility it won’t stick. I’ve discussed the importance of self-compassion with diet change so that Miss E knows we support her healthy eating ambitions, no matter what the outcome. 

I certainly don’t have all the answers and, of course, time will tell if she’ll stick with it. However, I’ll be sharing some info along the way (victories and missteps!) for other families who are looking to eat a more plant-based diet. 

Now, friends, I could use your help! What are your favorite healthy, plant-based, kid-friendly recipes? 

*Note: I have no professional relationship with the brands named in this post—I just like ‘em :).

Are You Being Seduced by Fad Diets? 3 Ways to Know

Have you ever seen those commercials in which a beautiful, scantily clad woman suggests you ask your doctor about Viagra? I’ve been thinking about those a lot. As a dietitian, my job has very little to do with erectile dysfunction. So what do these commercials have to do with my job? Fad diets, my friends. 

Obviously, no one is asking me for professional help in achieving liftoff. But I am receiving more and more requests for diet prescriptions (you know, the whole "ask your doctor..." angle). Here's an example, which is a composite of several inquiries I’ve received: 

Prospective client: “I’d like your help in designing a keto meal plan for weight loss, optimal energy, and peak athletic performance.”

Me: “Thanks so much for your interest in working with me. I’d love to help you, but I don’t feel comfortable writing keto meal plans at this time. Until strong evidence proves me wrong, I’m simply not convinced that it’s sustainable or effective for performance and long-term weight loss. But I’d be happy to discuss my approach with you.” 

From here, I’ve seen a couple of different outcomes: 

  1. radio silence
  2. a reply filled with pro-keto propaganda (because that will change my mind after five years of dietetics school and a couple of years in practice). 
  3. (the most common) a request for a dietitian that will make all the prospective client’s keto dreams come true. Because prospective client has seen so many people just like him on the internet who've gotten ripped on keto. 

This scenario is not exclusive to keto—I’ve received inquires from prospective clients asking me to co-sign a variety of fad diets ranging from lectin-free to the cabbage soup diet. I’m not likely to do that (sorry). In private practice dietitian world, that scantily clad Viagress is a sexy fad diet that keeps popping up in your news feed, promising quick weight loss and boundless energy. 

Fad diets are the bane of an RD’s existence. To be clear, I’m not blaming those prospective clients. I’ve had times when I’ve been up a few pounds, and a quick fix sure is tempting. Fad diets RARELY WORK (at least, long-term)! Yet, it blows my mind how quickly they become popular. 

How does that happen? How do fad diets come to be? In this post, I’ll discuss three ways in which diets become fads.

1. Sources of (Mis)information

Have you seen this meme circulating around instagram? 

Help Wanted

 

I chuckle a bit every time I see it because it is SO TRUE! 

Most Americans turn to mass media for nutrition information. A 2011 survey (n=754) conducted on behalf of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that:

  • 67% of respondents turn to television for information about diet.
  • 41% of respondents obtain diet information from magazines. 
  • 40% of respondents look to the internet (I’d guess this has increased quite a bit).
  • 20% of respondents learn about nutrition from newspapers. 

Want to know how many of the respondents in that survey solicited diet advice from a dietitian or a doctor? One percent and 16%, respectively. But here’s the thing. Nutrition can be really freaking confusing and, unfortunately, the rabbit hole of internet searching rarely brings clarity. 

Take the PURE study. Since it’s publication in 2017, thousands of articles and blog posts have proclaimed that we’ve been getting diet wrong for all these decades—that high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets are to blame for disease and mortality worldwide. 

There are a couple of problems, though: 

  1. Most of the people in the study were from low-income countries 
  2. Most of the people in the study ate very high carbohydrate diets (much higher, in terms of percentage of calories from carbohydrates, than recommendations for healthy Americans). 
  3. Not only did participants consume very high carbohydrate diets—the bulk of their diets were low-quality, highly refined carbohydrates that are known to cause health problems.
  4. PURE is an observational study, which looks at correlation and not causation. In other words, the data from PURE can’t prove that high carb diets increase mortality.

Yet, if you Google “PURE study” some of the top headlines seem to advocate for lower carb, higher fat diets:

  • “PURE Shakes Up Nutritional Field: Finds High Fat Intake Beneficial” 
  • “PURE Investigators: Rethink Diet Guidance to Plug More Fats, Fewer Carbs”

So why do many bloggers and reporters take this angle?  In part, because a healthy diet—one that promotes health and supports your long-term goals—isn’t sexy. Readers like novelty. Headlines that flip conventional diet wisdom on its head attract readers! These ideas only spread like wildfire among nutrition hobbyists and bloggers. 

Read with caution, friends (or even better—go straight to trained professionals). 

2. Big Promises (Sometimes Based on Pseudoscience)

“Lose 50 pounds or more without feeling deprived!” 

“Drop 3 pants sizes in 2 weeks!”

“Get the body of your dreams on DietX!”

I want the body of my dreams as much as the next girl. But fad diets consistently overpromise and underdeliver. 

You may lose some weight at the beginning of your fad diet. Consider diets that have low-carb “induction phases” or jumpstarts. These induction phases exist, in part, so that followers see quick results. Success begets success, and quick results breed enthusiasm for the diet. 

Consider low-carb approaches. A lot of fad diets are lower carb by design, especially in the beginning. If you reduce your daily carb intake, you probably will lose some weight! This is because the body hangs on to about 3 grams of water for every gram of glycogen (which is the storage form of carbohydrates). When you eat fewer carbohydrates, you store less water in your muscles. Thus, some or all of the weight you are losing is water weight. Sadly, it will creep back on if you increase carb intake. 

And even if you lose some fat on a lower carb diet, it’s not because carbs are the devil. Water weight dissipation aside, there’s no magic to low carb. The weight loss happens because there is a calorie deficit. It’s no better than a “boring” old low-fat diet for weight loss. 

named diets

To be clear, I’m not necessarily endorsing a low-fat diet over a low-carb one. The best diet for a normal, healthy person is the one he can stick with long-term. Just keep in mind that many fad diets (keto, Paleo, etc.) tend to be lower carb by design, because lower carb diets shed water weight. 

Similarly, there's no specific magic to most diets that cut out entire classes of foods. You just eat less. Diets that promise rapid weight loss, Herculean strength, and pure magic are probably too good to be true. 

3. A Rabid Following

By virtue of point one and especially point two, many fad diets develop a zealous fan base. A fan base is the scantily clad woman in those Viagra ads.

I’m not going to name any diets. But a couple, in particular, have online communities that are very interesting for a dietitian who wrote a rhetorical criticism for her master’s thesis. 

Sure, these communities provide support. But they’re sometimes dangerous and/or downright vicious.  I’ve seen frustrated posts that a diet isn’t delivering on its promises, with curt replies questioning the poster’s commitment/dedication/intelligence (I always wonder if these respondents are hangry). 

starving.png

A quick scroll through those forums often yields at least a few posts from people who’ve “messed up” a meal or, worse, completely “fallen off the wagon.” Certain programs require that you completely start over…for one little slip up! And boy, do the people in these communities let you know about it. 

Look. You don’t win a goshdarn prize for having a perfect diet. It doesn’t win you friends, or influence, or make you a better person. Yet, fad diet forums are often populated with people who play high and mighty about their dietary compliance. Reading through them can make you feel like crap, if you’re someone who likes to live a little.  It’s really, really easy for some people to fall into a diet community—particularly those who are perfectionists or who have a desire to belong to a group. 

A boring, healthy diet is an act of rebellion in a time of fad diets with rabid followings. Find something that works well for you, stick with it, and give yourself some grace when you have an off day! Invest time in making simple changes that promote long-term health—not on scrolling the internet for quick fixes. 

Hopefully this post will make you think twice when you're being seduced by a fad diet. Be leery of big promises, read news stories with a careful eye (here is some great advice!), and find what works best for you! Or, even better, seek out a dietitian or a doctor who can help you meet your goals. 

Hide and Sneak? The Case Against Hiding Vegetables.

Have you ever played hide and seek...with vegetables?

If you’re a parent, perhaps you’ve played without even realizing it. Your fearless kid, who barrels down the tall slide head first at the playground, hides under the table the second a single green bean hits her plate. You’ve been patient. You’ve tried other vegetables. You’ve begged. Maybe you’ve even bribed (I don’t recommend that, but I certainly get it).

carrot.jpg

 

Out of pure love for your little booger, you resort to hide and seek. You sneak a little pureed zucchini into her favorite soup. You hide shredded carrots in her hash browns.

Believe me, I understand. Because I’m an RD mom, people often assume that my kids nibble away at kale and salmon three times per day. This could not be further from the truth. I work very hard to promote healthy eating in my home. Do I struggle at times? Heck yes. Have I ever broken child feeding “rules” out of desperation? You know it.

Friends, please heed my advice. You may not see the harm in sneaking some veggies into a sauce. But don’t make that your only strategy for getting your kids to eat veggies. Because let me warn you: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In this post, I’m going to share why your strategy of hiding vegetables in “safer” foods may backfire. I’ll also share some tips for promoting veggie intake in picky kiddos.

WHY WON’T YOUR KID EAT HER FRICKIN’ VEGGIES?!?!?

Do you want your kid to eat the rainbow every single day? Don’t we all?! The first step is understanding why she is being so darn picky.

It’s possible that your little peanut doesn’t like the flavor or the texture of the vegetable you’re offering. But often, it has nothing to do with the vegetable in question.

Pickiness is often one of a child’s first acts of autonomy. Don’t take it personally—it’s not you, and it’s not your cooking. Your little rebel is showing her first signs of independence (I’ll pause so you can wipe those tears)!

So what does this mean? For one, little bits is growing up!

And second, your kid is pretty darn smart. So smart, in fact, that she may discover that you’re hiding her veggies. She may begin to wonder why you’re hiding veggies. Is there something wrong with them?

Friend, you've just created a negative association with veggies, which may make her less inclined to accept them down the road. It may also make her reject the foods that you use as vehicles for veggie smuggling—ones that used to be her favorites. Finally, the strategy of hiding all the veggies doesn’t give her the full opportunity to experience new flavors and textures—which is key to becoming an adventurous eater.

Now, you may be asking yourself if it’s ever okay to add veggies to sauces, soups, and smoothies. The answer is yes, sort of. But there is a difference between adding vegetables to boost a dish’s nutritional profile and hiding vegetables to avoid drama at the table. If you add veggies to boost nutrition, make sure to frequently offer veggies in plain view as well. And don’t lie about it! If your kid asks why her smoothie is green, tell her it’s the super spinach!

But let’s say you’ve been playing hide the veggie a little too often. There are a few tried and true strategies to help your little muffin eat her greens. No trickery required.

Five Strategies to Turnip the Beet

1. Let Her be the Boss (Within Reason)

You can throw your hands up in frustration when little bits is being picky. Or you can appeal to her growing sense of autonomy.

Seek her input as you’re planning meals. Let her know that you expect her to eat her veggies, but let her decide which ones. You might say: “Lucy, we are having chicken tonight. Would you like broccoli or cauliflower for our vegetable?”
 

veggie tales.jpg

This one little trick has significantly cut down on food-related tantrums in my home.

Be sure to switch up the veggies you offer, as opposed to offering the same two every night. This will ensure that your family is eating a variety of nutrients. It also helps develop your family's palate for veggies.

2. You know what they say about assuming…

Have you ever said, “There’s no way my kid will eat that”…about a food she’s never tried?

I hear this quite often when working with families. Of course, no one knows your kid better than you do. But how many times per day does your little one surprise you?!? Food is an adventure! You’d be AMAZED at some of the things kids love, if you give them the chance.

Serve a small portion, and see what happens.

3. You will eat it, and you will like it.

Parents, I’m referring to YOU. You can’t expect kids to accept foods that you shun. Set a good example. Sit at the table with your kids. Eat your frickin’ veggies. Rave about how delicious they are.

Little eyes are watching.

4. Variety is the spice of life.

For years, I thought I hated Brussels sprouts. I’d only tried boiled Brussels sprouts, which smell like butt and taste even worse (I'd imagine).

I was shocked when I fell in love with Brussels after eating them charred at a restaurant. I’ve since learned that I also enjoy them crunchy in slaws and oven roasted. I didn’t hate Brussels—I hated boiled Brussels.

Say your kiddo detests cooked carrots. Try serving them crunchy next time. Make a salad out of shredded carrots and raisins. If you want to get wild, serve a duo of carrots—two different preparations of carrot on the same plate! Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavor and texture.

5. Let Them Get Their Hands Dirty

Children who garden and cook are more likely to accept a variety of vegetables into the diet. If you have the space, help your little one plant a small veggie garden and let them dig away. My kids like decorate our veggie garden with little toy trucks, dinosaurs, and fairies. But even more than that, they are so proud to harvest our veggies and sample the crops!

 Look at my handsome little garden helper! 

Look at my handsome little garden helper! 

No green thumbs in your household? That’s okay! You can also encourage veggie intake by giving kids age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen. Even little ones can pluck stems off of cherry tomatoes or wash cucumbers. It all makes a difference!

6. Patience is a Virtue

Above all, don’t give up. Studies have shown that children may need up to 20 exposures to a food before accepting it into the diet.

Don’t stress out if your little one rejects her peas at dinner. Wait a few days, then offer peas again, right alongside foods that she likes. Over time, she may grow to love them.

Parents, have you ever dealt with veggie hate in your home? What struggles have you had, and how have you handled them? I’d love to know your thoughts!

The Way to the Heart? 20 Ways to Show Love (that Don't Involve Food)

Is there such a thing as a Grinch for Valentine’s Day? 

I’m kind of meh on it. I think we put way too much pressure on ourselves to make magnificent demonstrations of affection for one day, when really we should just try a little harder to show love every day. 

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And putting on my dietitian hat, I think the holiday revolves way too much around food. I love chocolate as much as the next girl, but how did eating cookies larger than our heads become a symbol for romance? 

chocolate.jpg

Anyway. Before you think I’m a hater of love (or a big ol' grump), let me clarify. 

  1. If both you and  your partner love covering your house in rose petals and chocolate fondue, then please enjoy it! You do you!! Don't let my irritability bring you down.
  2. I think it’s adorable when my kids come home from school with little handmade Valentines (duh). 
  3. I absolutely do my best to make the day special for my loved ones, many of whom do look forward to Valentine’s Day. I just try to find ways that aren’t 100% food-related, and I try to spread the love throughout the year. 

To that end, here are 20 ways to show the love on Valentine’s Day (and every day!) that don’t involve food. And stay tuned for a followup post about healthier indulgence on V-Day. 

For your Kids: 

  1. Give the gift of time. Volunteer at your kid’s classroom Valentine's party, or spend some time partaking in your kid’s favorite hobby with her.
  2. “Sometimes, when you least expect it, love finds you.” Have you ever read Love Monster? Gets me right in the feels, EVERY TIME. Pick up a sweet book about love for your little one. We also love Hug Machine in our house. 
love monster.jpg

 

3. Stick a little note in your kid’s lunch box or snack bag.
4. Smile when they walk into a room.
5. Pay them compliments!
6. Say yes! How many times do we say no with no good reason (totally guilty of this one)?
7. How cute are these little love letter necklaces? I found them at ArtMart, but they're available on Amazon as well. My kids are younger, but they love tiny things and mail so these are just perfect. 
 

necklace.jpeg

For Your Partner:

  1. Plant a big kiss on your partner the second he/she walks in the door. Bonus points if you gross your kids out—it’s good for them to see you being affectionate. 
  2. Does sleep come at a premium in your house? Take the early shift. Don’t complain or make a big show of yawning all day.
  3. Do a job your partner hates, like the laundry (remember, bras and sweaters don’t go in the dryer ;)). 
  4. Snowy or icy? Wake up early and scrape your partner’s windshield. 
  5. GIVE YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION! I am very guilty of this myself. Put the phone down, close the computer, and really hear what your partner is saying.

For a Friend: 

  1. Send a letter via snail mail. 
  2. Call, just because! 
  3. Take a few minutes to write dates important to your friend (like the date of a test, or a job interview) in your planner. This will make it easier to check in and send love and well-wishes when your friend needs them most. 

For the World: 

  1. Pick up litter when you see it. 
  2. Be extra kind to someone who is extra grumpy (especially when it’s hard). 
  3. Walk down the street with spare change, and feed parking meters that are expired (my kids loved this when we did it once). 
  4. Smile. Say please. Say thank you.
  5. Pay a compliment! 

Whether you get down on V-Day or just aren't feeling it, I hope all of your days are filled with love. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Holidays: Kid-Tested, RD-Approved Holiday Gifts

When I was a young kid, I dreamed of becoming an aerobics instructor. I idolized Jane Fonda, tagged along with my mom to Jazzercise each week, and begged for Get in Shape Girl sets each birthday and Christmas (which, in my case, are one and the same!). 

 Children of the '80s: Any other GISG fans? 

Children of the '80s: Any other GISG fans? 

Get In Shape Girl lost its appeal to me around, I dunno, adolescence. But in recent years, my love for fitness-related gifts has been rekindled! 

Now that my kids are a little older, I absolutely love giving them gifts that get them off their cute lil’ butts, and sometimes even into the kitchen. Some of these gifts have been so well-received that I've given them to other little ones in our life. 

In the spirit of the holidays, I'll share my secrets  ;). Here are 7 RD-approved suggestions for wellness-related gifts for young kids (think 10 and under). 

1. Organic Cotton Teethers Veggie Crate
$36, Uncommon Goods

veggie crate.jpg

Send the message early on that veggies are fun to eat with this adorable teething set! Babies will love the smiling faces and the bright colors. Caregivers will love that these teethers are soft, easy to grip, and machine washable.

Fresh Organic Fruit Basket ($36) also available. 

2. Lettuce Turnip the Beet Shirt/Onesie
$21.95 and up, Etsy.com

lettuceturnip.jpg

Let your babes proclaim their love of veggies to the world! From my experience, people love starting up conversations about this darling onesie (which is also available in older kid and adult sizes, if your kids aren’t mortified by the prospect of dressing like their parents yet).

3. LeapFrog LeapBand
$44.99, Amazon

leapband.jpeg

Santa has brought each of our three kiddos a LeapBand over the years. The kids love it because it encourages silliness and creativity, using animal movement challenges and other fun games. I love it because its customizable controls allow parents to limit access during school and at bedtime. Parents can also set daily usage limits. 

4. Little Partners Learning Tower
$159.99 and up, Amazon
 

 MaeMae, using her Learning Tower to make "Carrots a la MaeMae"

MaeMae, using her Learning Tower to make "Carrots a la MaeMae"

Yes, it's expensive. But this tower is a workhorse. We bought this more than 6 years ago and it's still going strong. Our kids started using this as young toddlers for water play at the sink (which is fantastic when you have a busy little one and need to get dinner on the table). But it's still useful for older kids. Our 5-year-old can't quite reach the stove and countertop safely when cooking, and this tower provides just enough of a  boost. 

5. NoCry Cut Resistant Gloves for Kids
$10.99, Amazon

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Do you know what's terrifying for a mother? Letting kids play with knives! The best protection against cuts and kitchen accidents is teaching proper knife technique. But these gloves offer some extra reassurance that precious little digits will be safe. They're a great stocking stuffer for kids who've graduated to adult knives.

6. Curious Chef 3-Piece Nylon Knife Set
$8.91, Amazon

knives.jpeg

Let's just say you don't yet trust your kids with grown-up knives (even with cut gloves). This set teaches knife skills in a safe and age-appropriate way. My son started using these just before his second birthday, and he happily sits at the table (or stands on his Learning Tower!) with fruits, vegetables, herbs, and cheese so he can help make dinner. Full disclosure: They're not great for crunchier foods, like carrots. Think cucumbers, berries, bell peppers, peaches, etc.

7. Teeter Popper
Fat Brain Toys, $36.95

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Have you ever coveted your kids' toys? I secretly get kind of jealous when I see my kids play with their Teeter Poppers. They just look so fun! Younger kids can sit and rock in their poppers, while older ones can stand and twist. In the process, the kiddos build up balance, as well as core and leg strength. 

What about you? Have you found any awesome wellness-related kid gifts this season? 

Monday Must-Haves

Hey friends! It's been a while!

Lots of good stuff going on over here lately. I haven't written much on the blog because, well, I've been busy writing for other people!

When I started dietetics school, I always said I wanted to split my time doing PRN work (which is fancy medical speak for "as needed") at the hospital, plus writing. I've reached that spot in my career and I'm really enjoying it! It's definitely been a balancing act as I figure out how to manage my random hospital shifts with writing projects and home responsibilities, but it's well worth the effort. 

At any rate, I've been on a tear recently of finding new products/services that I love. Isn't it the best when that happens? It'd be selfish of me not to share my findings, right? 

So today I'm going to share a few of my new favorite health and fitness-related things. Without further adieu...

1. Ozuke Citrus and Ginger Kraut

I've never been a huge sauerkraut person, but I get such wicked cravings for this stuff. Seriously, I'd worry I was pregnant if I didn't know better.

 

This kraut has a tangy, light, and fresh flavor and is seriously filling. But the benefits extend beyond taste.

Like all true krauts, it's a fermented food. Fermentation encourages the growth of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria. Among other perks, kraut and other fermented foods promote healthy digestion.  

Just based on taste, I could eat an entire jar. But one serving (1/3 cup) does the trick for me at only 10 calories! I love to snack on it if I need a little somethin' somethin' to hold me over until dinner. 

I've also used it as a topping for street tacos or as a side dish for Asian-inspired meals. 

Ozuke offers krauts in several other flavors, but to be honest, I've been so stuck on this one I haven't tried the rest. 

2. PLNK

Crossfit will always be my first love. But I do enjoy mixing it up every now and again. 

Recently, I dropped into PLNK on a whim. PLNK teaches the Lagree Method, which involves 50 minutes of painfully slow movements on this death machine:

 

 If you're not familiar, it's become quite popular among celebrities.

I cruised into PLNK on my first day feeling pretty confident. I'm not crazy athletic, but I have a respectably heavy deadlift and have completed a few Spartans. 

I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say I almost cried 3 minutes into my first class.

It. Was. AWFUL!

And I'm completely hooked. I've been going twice a week since that first day and love love love what it's doing for my body (especially my mom belly). 

More importantly, I truly believe it's helping me with my other fitness pursuits. Since starting PLNK, I've made progress on several Crossfit moves that have always given me trouble. It's so different from anything else I normally do, and I think it's a great complement to other sports. 

While PLNK is exclusive to St. Louis, Lagree classes are available nationwide. Click here to find one near you. 

3. Flavor God Ranch Seasoning

I have a probably irrational fear of most packaged seasoning mixes. 

For some reason, some of the most popular taco and ranch packets gross me out. What is some of that stuff on the ingredients list? 

I've been pretty vocal about my love for King Seasoning. It's a great all-natural alternative to taco seasoning mix. 

Recently, I added Flavor God to my seasoning arsenal. 

Flavor God Ranch includes just 8 natural ingredients and tastes pretty baller (just as good as big-name Ranch seasoning). I love it on popcorn or mixed into my Buffalo chicken. It also plays nicely with King Seasoning. 

As is the case with most packaged seasoning blends, sodium can creep up on you a bit if you eat this in copious amounts. But it packs a huge flavor punch, so a little goes a long way. 

4. Daily Harvest Carrot + Chia Glow Smoothie

Are my kids the only ones who go on serious breakfast strikes? 

Some days, they scarf down a couple of eggs apiece. And others, it's like pulling teeth to get them to eat at all. 

A few days ago, I hesitantly shared a few sips of my favorite Daily Harvest smoothie with the kiddos (because 2-year-old Calvin reminded me, "Sharing is caring and caring is love."). They went crazy for it. 

And really, what's not to like about that? Daily Harvest makes it pretty easy to serve a healthy breakfast on days when I just can't even. 

If you're not familiar with Daily Harvest, they bring conveniently packaged soups and smoothies to your doorstep. You simply pop the lid, add a liquid (almond milk is my favorite for the carrot+chia), throw it all in the blender and give it a few seconds. Easy peasy. 

The carrot+chia tastes like a delicious pumpkin pie/carrot cake hybrid. Ingredients include banana, sweet potato, carrot, walnut, ginger, chia, date, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. 

Each package makes 2 servings, so I'll often divide a serving or so among my kiddos and then add a little protein powder to the blender for myself. This makes a healthy and satisfying breakfast that keeps me full for several hours. 

5. Insight Timer

If you've been following my blog (hi mom), you know that mindfulness is kind of a big deal for me. 

There are so many awesome health benefits to incorporating daily mindfulness practice into your lifestyle. From a nutrition standpoint, it can help you control weight and avoid stress and emotional eating. And in general, it's associated with lower risk for many common diseases. 

But sometimes, I'll admit, it's hard to fit it in the day. 

Recently, the teachers at my kids' school (we have free weekly mindfulness lessons after school--how cool is that?) introduced a group of us to an app that helps make mindfulness meditation easy. 

Insight Timer is free and offers a huge variety of guided meditations, ranging from just a couple of minutes to half an hour or more. It is highly effective in bringing about a state of relaxed clarity.

Lately, when I feel crazy busy and have a to-do list a mile long, I make an effort to stop the panic and do a short meditation instead. This is really helping me to manage my stress and be more productive throughout the day. 

What am I missing, friends? Any great new health or fitness finds you've come across recently? Sharing is caring, I'm told. 

4 Feeding Lessons You Can Learn from Your Dainty Lil' Eater

One of the most common questions I hear when people learn that I am both a mom and a dietitian is, “Should I worry that my kid doesn’t eat very much?” Friends, I have been there.

It can be scary when a little one develops a dainty appetite. You worry about her growth, and (if you tend a bit toward extremes, like me) whether there may be some illness keeping her from eating. Sometimes, these concerns are very valid. But most of the time, this is a normal phenomenon in otherwise healthy kids. In fact, we could even learn a few feeding lessons from our children!

Let’s talk about that for a bit! Read on for 4 feeding lessons you can learn from your kiddos. And for you parents that are a little nervous about your child’s small appetite, I’ll give you some behaviors to watch out for and nip in the bud. But first, a little background. 

If you know my family, you may know that my firstborn is my picky eater. She’s made tremendous strides in the past year or so, but I used to be terrified that she would starve to death.As you can see, she was a very enthusiastic breastfeeder. But once we transitioned to solids, girlfriend just would. Not. EAT.

 My pickiest eater--the early days.

My pickiest eater--the early days.

(My pickiest eater--the early days)

I raised this concern with my pediatrician at little bit’s 2-year checkup (this was at the very beginning of dietetics school, before I learned all this stuff). He gave me some excellent advice:

“It’s not a big deal if she eats. It’s also not a big deal if she doesn’t eat.”

My initial reaction was, “WTF?!? How can it not be a big deal if she doesn’t eat?” Then it dawned on me. She will eat when she is hungry.

When you think about it, babies are some of the most intuitive, mindful eaters out there. For the most part, they will let you know when they are hungry and will eat just enough to satisfy that hunger. If you’ve ever had babies, you know that they tend to eat every 20 minutes during growth spurts because their bodies need the energy. Fast forward a few years. My daughter still eats like a bird sometimes, only to be followed by stretches when I am sure she is going to eat us out of house and home. Two weeks later, all of her pants are too short.

My point is, some kids are more attuned to their natural hunger cues than adults.

So what feeding lessons can we learn from those smart little cookies?

1.         Stop eating when you are no longer hungry.

Did you grow up in a household in which you were encouraged to clean your plate? This mentality sends the message that one should eat beyond the point of satiety (which means satisfaction, by the way).

I recently noticed that my 4-year-old will eat a few bites and they tell me she’s not hungry. This is what you should be doing as well! Rather than eating to the point of fullness, eat until you no longer feel hungry.

This is a skill that takes a lot of practice. You may find that it’s easier to undershoot and have to eat a little bit more later. That’s okay—it’s worth it! It is a mindful eating practice that leads to better physical health, as well as a better emotional relationship with food down the road.

2.         Eat on kid plates.

Still having trouble quitting Clean Plate Club? Steal your kids’ plates!

A often-cited study of plate size showed that people eating cereal out of larger bowls ate 16% more cereal than those who ate out of smaller bowls. Moreover, the large bowl group believed they were eating less than the small bowl group.

Serve your meals on smaller plates--ones that are 9 inches in diameter (the size of a standard paper plate) or smaller. Feel free to serve your veggies on large plates, though! We could all stand to eat more of those. Feel free to pass that feeding lesson along to your kids--they'll love it :). 

3.         Slow down.

I admittedly get frustrated when we are in a hurry to get somewhere and my kids are taking FOREVER to eat their breakfast. But guess what—they are doing it right! Receptors in the stomach communicate with the brain when the stomach is stretched. In turn, the brain releases hormones that signal satiety and fullness. This process takes time!

If you tend to overeat and have kids that dilly dally, try to match their pace for a meal or two. This may mean getting up a bit earlier in the morning, or dialing back the clock on dinner hour. If this seems like a pain, keep in mind that it may make you more likely to share family meals, which is a healthy eating practice itself!

4.         Stay busy. 

Have you ever told your kiddo, “You need to eat lunch before you play!” en route to a birthday party? Yep, guilty.

One of the reasons why mindful eating can be so difficult is that we place so much emotional value on food! We save ourselves from being outcasts at parties by migrating toward the buffet. The party MVP is always the one who brings the best dip. Heck, we plan entire holidays around food!

This is one of the great feeding lessons you can learn from your kid. Find something else to do. If you are at a social engagement, see if you can help with something. If you're at home, play with your kids or tackle a small project you’ve been putting off. It could save you from eating when you aren’t truly hungry.

See how your kids may be outsmarting you in the eating department (in a good way)?

Now, sometimes parents have legitimate reasons to be concerned about how much their child is eating. Here are some behaviors that warrant a call to the pediatrician:

1.         Low appetite in an underweight child.

I can appreciate your concern if your kid has a small appetite and your doctor (as opposed to a nosey auntie) has indicated he is underweight for age and height!  

Once your pediatrician rules out any underlying health issues, she may refer you to a dietitian to suggest some more energy-dense (but still healthy) foods to move toward a healthier body weight. This might help your child to increase calories while taking in the amount of food he desires.

2.         Excessive weight gain.

While this post has highlighted some silver linings of a seemingly low appetite, some kiddos do tend to overeat.

If your child has a very healthy appetite and is overweight (or seems to be gaining significant weight), it is definitely worth mentioning to a doctor. She can monitor growth, and she or a dietitian can help your family to make a plan to prevent further gain.

3.         Concerns about body image.

It makes me so sad to hear children of any age express concerns about “being fat.”

In both my dietetics education and my previous career in nutrition community outreach, I have been surprised by the prevalence of low body image in kids of all age. If your child isn’t eating much and is also making concerning comments about her body, PLEASE seek help from your pediatrician. It is very important to address these concerns as early as possible.

4.         Low appetite with other physical symptoms. 

Finally, if your kiddo isn’t eating much and has a fever, complains of aches or pains, seems tired or lethargic, or just isn’t himself, definitely give your doctor a ring! He may have an infection or virus that needs attention.

What do you think, parents? Have you ever picked up any clever feeding lessons from your kids?

Gold Medal Finds: Four Items that Help My Family to Eat Healthier

What is it about the Olympics that makes a person just want to go out and rule the world? 

Sure, the ripped bodies and awe-inspiring performances are sights to behold. But I think the athletes’ stories are incredible. As I get older, I am especially inspired by some of the mature athletes. 

How about Ruth Beitia, the 37-year-old high jump champion from Spain, who also serves as a politician?

Or how about freakin’ Kerri Walsh Jennings, the 38-year-old beach volleyball phenom and mom of 3? Kerri Walsh Jennings won gold in London while 5 weeks pregnant and brought home the bronze last week in Rio. 

My point is, if watching the Olympics for two straight weeks doesn’t inspire you to live your best and healthiest life, then I don’t know what will. 

Case in point: Last week, I completed my second Spartan Super race (recap coming this week!), and after a long hiatus from road racing, I've decided to do a half marathon in October. And while I'm generally a very healthy eater, I've noticed that I have cleaned up my diet even further during the Summer games. 

For those who don't get the itch to go out and sprint after watching the track finals, or for those who want to carry the torch of healthy living long after the Games, I do have a few suggestions for items to make your life a little healthier!  

Lately, I’ve come across a few items that I am really digging, and that help my family and me to be healthier eaters. Please note that these are not official endorsements—I get nothing in return for spreading my love of these miraculous creations. I just think it would be selfish to not share my favorite, RDN-approved products and events. 

Without further adieu (queue the Olympic theme song):

1. The Yeti 30-ounce Rambler
Am I the only one who is a sucker for a cool drinking container? Yeti's super-cool branding strategy lured me into dropping $40 for one cup on a late night Amazon sesh. You know what? It is worth every penny. 

Last weekend, I left my Yeti full of iced water in a very hot car for more than 5 hours while I completed my Spartan and hung out on the grounds. I came back to--wait for it--a cup full of iced water. The ice had barely melted! And this was no fluke--the Yeti has gotten me through a sweltering STL summer, including 4 Crossfit workouts a week in a gym with no air conditioning. 

And I don't know if it is its amazing insulation or just the fact that it looks cool (especially since I started hitting it with my awesome sticker collection), but I drink a LOT more water with it in my life. To me, that is a win. 

2. Marguerite's All Natural Mexican Seasoning
Eleven years ago, when I first started on my weight loss journey, I really struggled with some of the recipes I tried to cook. I am a Midwestern girl, and our cuisine is heavy on the cream-of-whatever soup casseroles with heavy sprinkles of cheese on top (my mouth waters just thinking about them). I made the rookie mistake of trying to recreate these dishes, only to be sadly disappointed by lack of taste and satiety. 

A couple of years into my new lifestyle, I realized that simply prepared fresh foods are the way to go. Much better to eat a small portion of a quality meat with some in-season produce, in my opinion, than to try to trick your tastebuds with ingredient substitutions. 

The key to making these more simple preparations more exciting is seasoning. With a few spices, you can transform meats, vegetables, and grains into flavorful entrees. The best part: Most spices add very few calories!

My new favorite spice blend is Marguerite's All Natural Mexican Seasoning. I put this stuff on EVERYTHING! I sprinkle it on my eggs in the morning. I add a little to my avocados. I put it on meat and fish. I sprinkle my popcorn with Marguerite's and a little bit of nutritional yeast. I coat chickpeas with it and roast them until they are crispy. You know how mass-produced taco seasoning has 100 mystery ingredients? You'll never need to buy taco seasoning again once you try this stuff. 

You get my point. 

Marguerite's is available here and here. Make sure you get the 11-ounce size. You'll thank me later. 

3. Bravo Tomato Mucho Gazpacho
This is a brand new discovery for me--I found it today while searching for a grab-and-go post-run lunch at a local market.  

I tried the original recipe; however, the brand offers a greens recipe and a beets recipe as well. The original recipe includes just tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers, olive oil, vinegar, and salt. One bottle comes in at 115 calories and 10 grams of healthy fat (if this seems high to you, keep in mind that just one tablespoon of olive oil contains 14 g of fat). 

The texture of this is thicker than a V8. It is refreshing and satisfying. I added hot sauce, as I like my gazpacho spicy, although next time I'd hit it with some Marguerite's. I often grab lunch on the run, and this would be a perfect light meal with my favorite gluten-free crackers, as well as either a string cheese or a hard-boiled egg. 

Please note that this may not be a suitable choice for you if you are on a dietary salt restriction. One bottle contains 485 mg sodium, which is high for the calorie payoff. For reference, in my hospital rotations, we always advised those on salt restriction (2 g/day is most common) to keep all meals to 500 mg sodium or less. While this is filling, it needs a protein and perhaps a healthy carb to be a satisfying meal.  

4. Apple Picking Season!
Holy moly, I love Fall. It's still pretty warm in STL, but yesterday I got my first hint of Fall when I received an email that it is apple picking season!

Every September, my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, husband, kids, and I make the 40-minute drive to our favorite farm in Illinois for our annual apple picking mission. We ride hay wagons into the orchards and run through the rows of trees, picking bags and bags of apples. 

All apples are good apples, but we usually wait until both Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp are available. While we all love them plain, my favorite use of the apples is homemade crockpot applesauce. Look for a recipe here in the coming weeks, after I bring home my haul. 

So what about you, friends? Anything I should know about that helps y'all to be better eaters? 

Pass the Peas (Just Add Some Corn): Protein Quality 101 for Vegetarians

I am a failed vegetarian. 

I gave it a good 10 months, but my effort was doomed from the start. I was still exclusively breastfeeding my oldest daughter, getting no sleep, and did very little research before embarking on my meatless lifestyle (this was before dietetics school, obviously). 

Note to nursing moms: Never read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma when you are sleep-deprived and emotional unless you are ready to go veg. You may never want to eat an animal again. 

I have total respect for vegetarians and may give it another try at some point. I think a well-planned vegetarian diet is one of the healthiest and most environmentally sustainable ways to eat. 

Lately, I’ve had many questions related to quality protein sources for vegetarians. Because of the circles I run in, most of these inquiries have come from either athletes or concerned parents, which is interesting because these are two populations that often need more protein than the standard recommendation for healthy adults. 

I do Crossfit, which often includes heavy weightlifting, 4 times per week. Protein is key in muscle building, recovery, and adaptation to exercise. Protein needs for athletes vary depending on the frequency and intensity of their workouts; however, many athletes need 1.2 grams or more of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (compared to 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for most adults).

Children often need a bit more protein than adults to support growth. Protein needs among healthy children are highest in infancy and decrease per kilogram of body weight gradually as the child ages. 

So here is the protein pickle vegetarians (and especially vegans) may encounter: The highest quality proteins are found in animal products, including meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Quality proteins are those that include all nine essential amino acids—which are the building blocks of protein—in adequate amounts. 

The good news for vegetarians is that you can pair plant-based protein sources in specific ways to ensure that you are not missing out on essential amino acids. Proteins that are combined to create a quality protein source are called complementary proteins.

For example, white rice is too low in the essential amino acid lysine to be considered a quality protein. If you eat it with either corn or Cremini mushrooms, however, that combination of foods would yield a quality protein and better meet your body’s needs. 

So how do you know if a food is a quality protein? Magic? Telephone psychic? 

The internet, silly! I am a big fan of Self Magazine’s NutritionData website, which gives very detailed analysis of protein quality. Here’s how to see how your favorite plant proteins stack up: 

  1. Navigate to NutritionData
     
  2. Type in the food you want to look up in the search field located at the top right of the screen. Be as specific as possible. In this example, I will use frozen green peas. 
     
  3. Click on the option from the list that is closest to the one you are planning to eat.
     
  4. Scroll down to the box that says “Protein Quality.” The nine spokes represent each of the nine essential amino acids. If one of the spokes is not completely filled, then that amino acid is deficient in that food. A food that has an overall score of 100 or more is considered a complete or quality protein.
     

Our frozen peas have a score of 84, which indicates that they are not a complete protein. The limiting amino acid is methionine + cystine. If you are not familiar with the abbreviations on the graph, you will learn what they mean in step five (so read on!). 

5. This is where the site is really nifty. Rather than making you guess as to which foods might complement the food item in question, NutritionData makes it easy for you. If your food’s score is less than 100, just click on the link that says “Find foods with complementary profile.” At the top of the list, NutritionData provides the full name of the limiting amino acid. 

You can filter the results at the top to include only vegetable-based items, or to include dairy or egg products if you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian. If you create an account, you choose to show only items that meet your dietary preferences. 

hoosing a food from the complementary protein profile can help fill the gaps in your diet and ensure that your body has the tools necessary for growth, muscle development, muscle retention, etc. Just to finish out our example, one of the veggie options that NutritionData lists for peas is corn, meaning that if you mix your peas and corn, you will have a higher quality protein. 

retty cool, huh? 

Vegetarian readers, what are your favorite sources of protein? Did you learn anything about them by plugging them into NutritionData? Do you use another method to determine protein quality?

Back on the Horse (After Finishing My Course)

Several years ago, one of my physicians had a nurse who always smelled very strongly of cigarettes. Every time I saw her, I wondered how she could smoke when she worked in healthcare (yes, I know that many healthcare professionals smoke). She is well aware of the health consequences of smoking, right? And isn’t it part of her job to be a positive example of healthy living to her patients? 

A couple of weeks ago, I finally fulfilled my goal of becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). This required nearly four years of online coursework, followed by an 8-month internship and a comprehensive exam. It was such an educational and fulfilling experience; however, I would not say it was the healthiest time in my life. 

Going to school full-time with three young kids is a lot of work. While I did my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the process of becoming credentialed, stress often got the best of me. As a result, I placed some of my habits on the back burner. Handful of chips to get me through a study sesh? Yes, please. Sacrificing sleep in pursuit of an A? You betcha. 

I found myself thinking again about my old nurse friend, and about how I could, to some extent, understand how she could partake in such an unhealthy behavior. Here I was, training to educate people about how to nourish their bodies in the most healthy way, sometimes engaging in behaviors that I would not recommend to my future clients.

Now that the dietetics school pressure valve has been released, I am looking forward to relaxing a bit and working on being my healthiest possible self (and raising my healthiest possible family, of course!). 

Here are my priorities for getting back on track: 

Cleaning my kitchen. 

 My cluttered kitchen counters. 

My cluttered kitchen counters. 

 

Do you ever overeat when you feel like aspects of your life are out of control? Recent research from Cornell University discussed the link between overeating and clutter. Researchers in the study compared snacking behavior among female participants who were offered crackers, cookies, and carrots in a messy, chaotic kitchen, compared to female participants who were offered the same snack foods in a tidy kitchen. In this study, participants in the cluttered, noisy kitchen ate 65 more calories from cookies than those in the calm eating environment. (1)

Sixty-five calories may seem insignificant; however, if a person ate 65 extra calories per day for one year, she could gain up to 6.8 pounds, depending on other factors like exercise! The researchers suggest that disorder and chaos create a sense that a person is not in control, and that some people tend to indulge more when they perceive that a situation is not within their control.

I admit that decluttering was not high on my priority list during my internship. My kitchen is always a little cluttered and very, very noisy, with three little ones running around. If cleaning it up a bit will help me to be a healthier eater, then that will be time well-spent. Plus, it will help with the second item on my to-do list... 

Planning and preparing. 

Pre-dietetics school, when I lost close to 40 pounds, one of my keys to success was to plan my meals. A 2011 study supports this, and indicates that planning meals in advance is a strong predictor of intake during the meal. (2) In other words, making decisions on the fly about what to eat and how much may come back to bite you in the you-know-what. 

Cleaning out the kitchen allows you to better know what ingredients you have available, so that you can begin building your meal plan. Here are some tips to get you started on meal planning. 

Measuring it out. 

As a nutrition practitioner, I am very familiar with the recommended portion sizes for a variety of foods. Theory and practice, however, are two very different things. If you put a massive bag of Cheetos in front of me, do you think I can eat just 21 of them? No way, dude. On the flip side, if I walk past the fridge and grab a small handful of baby carrots, does that count as one serving toward the recommended 5-9 servings a day? 

Research strongly supports portion control as a means of controlling weight. Measuring portions can also help ensure that you are getting enough of the right nutrients in your diet each day. 

Do you have to measure everything you eat every time you eat it? Not at all. But it is very helpful to measure your foods for a couple of weeks to see what a proper portion looks like, and to revisit this strategy every so often so that you stay on track. 

Unwinding.

Stress is such a doozy. In addition to making you feel terrible in general, it has the potential to seriously mess up your metabolism. Research suggests that stress increases cravings for sugar and fat (3), slows the metabolism (4), and increases insulin resistance (4). 

Now that I have more time and fewer responsibilities, I am working on dialing back the stress level by getting plenty of sleep, doing the workouts that I love (Crossfit, trail running, and rock climbing), and building in downtime away from the computer and phone. 

Focusing on progress, not perfection. 

There is an old saying that perfect is the enemy of good. As a perfectionist, I sometimes struggle to make changes in my life because I fear that I will not do it just right. I’ve come to realize there is no “just right” in healthy living, and that making a few small positive changes is far superior to doing nothing at all. 

Do you feel like you need to become healthier but don’t know where to start? Just set one achievable goal. Decide to exercise for 30 minutes a day, or to eat 5 servings of vegetables, and stick with it. You will be better for it, and your success in making that change will empower you to make other healthy choices. 

What about you? What do you do when you feel like you’ve gotten off track? 

Sources: 

1. Vartanian LR, Kernan KM, Wansink B. Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption: The Role of Mind-Set in Stressful and Chaotic Food Environments.Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption: The Role of Mind-Set in Stressful and Chaotic Food Environments. 2016. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2711870. Accessed June 20, 2016.

2. Fay SH, Ferriday D, Hinton EC, Shakeshaft NG, Rogers PJ, Brunstrom JM. What determines real-world meal size? Evidence for pre-meal planning.Appetite. 2011;56(2):284-289. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.01.006.

3. Harvard Medical School. Why stress causes people to overeat - Harvard Health. Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat. Published February 2012. Accessed June 27, 2016.

4. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Habash DL, Fagundes CP, et al. Daily Stressors, Past Depression, and Metabolic Responses to High-Fat Meals: A Novel Path to Obesity. Biological Psychiatry. 2015;77(7):653-660. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.05.018.