🎉 Joie de Vivre – An Exuberant Enjoyment of Life ❤️

🎉 Joie de Vivre – An Exuberant Enjoyment of Life ❤️

Have you noticed that “the truths” of nutrition and health seem to change every day? Coffee’s good for you again. Eggs are in. No, wait, they’re out. Just kidding, we don’t know. And has anyone figured out coconut oil? It’s either magical, or it’s poison.

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Consider trends in lifestyle diets and weight-loss diets as well. High-protein, low-carb diets were quite popular in recent years (Atkins, South Beach, Zone, etc.); then high-fat, moderate protein, and even-lower-carb took the stage (Keto), and then high-carb (some forms of Vegan, Vegetarian) came into the spotlight again. People seem to have attained their best bodies or best lives on all of these types of diets, never to look back. None of these ways of eating are “bad” (though dietitians do generally advise a diet high in veggies and fruits, that provides a good balance of all 3 macronutrients, and you should definitely supplement correctly if you cut out any food groups) – but none of these are the only healthy way to eat, either. Scientists’ “unbiased research” and personal success stories surrounding certain restrictive diets can be so convincing – and so often it makes folks just wanna jump on the bandwagon real quick. I’ve been there.

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However… most dietitians will agree that one-size-fits-all diets shouldn’t be a thing, because we all legitimately have different needs. Nutritional genomics is really up-and-coming, and we’re just now discovering the magnitude of the impact that genetics has on the dietary patterns each body will thrive off of. Every single body functions a little bit differently – we may react differently to the same foods, and digest food at different speeds. We also have different goals, likes and dislikes, schedules, budgets, and lives. We can each find our healthy diet that works for us. It may even evolve and change over time, as our bodies and our lives do. So, it’s hard to pin ourselves to a diet named by one or two words, because there’s so much more to it than that.

We as humans love to have something to belong to and to follow – we were created that way. We also love to feel like we’re doing life right. Eating food that makes us feel good and good about ourselves can be a real positive – but we should certainly never feel that diet is a moral issue or something to take sides on, because according to my God, it’s not. As for Christians, diet should also never become a cause we champion more than Christ’s.

It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you, but what comes out – from your heart. (Mark 7:15)

Don’t worry about what you eat, drink, or wear, says the Lord, for he is your good Father who knows everything you need. (Matthew 6:31)

“I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

If you’ve ever struggled with feelings of inadequacy affected by what you eat or how you look, you might have trouble believing that these statements are as true for you as they are for others. I’m telling you firsthand that they’re absolutely as true, real, and powerful as every other word of the Lord. He cares less about what you eat, and more about how you act. It matters more how much Jesus you take in daily – how much we worship, look for Him in our daily lives and the Bible, and give our hearts to Him in prayer – than how many grams and what type of protein we ingest. Though nutrition has the power to affect us, spiritual things are infinitely more important.

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve discovered this timeless foundation of dietary advice that has been there for us in God’s word for centuries. Though the world’s thoughts may waver, and though the science of nutrition is always evolving, some things can remain the same. If we can nail these down, we’ll have a filter to use on any new ideas that come at us.

If you’re not into what you’ve read so far, you’re still gonna want to hang with me. I’m serious. These truths are reassuring and helpful, no matter what you believe. They have the power to change the way you view nourishment. I’ve experienced the benefits of this advice to such an extent that I’m sure I’ll never again rely on a restrictive dietary pattern.

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  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whatever you eat, drink, or do – do it all to the Glory of God. Food can easily become an attention-thief if we give it too much importance. My best tips are to enjoy food, enjoy how it enhances fellowship with others, and do your best to eat amounts that fuel you well without holding you back. Let go a bit on worrying about types of foods, and eat with a thankful and positive spirit. Food or the lack of food shouldn’t be an excuse to be grumpy or upset – not at yourself, not at the waitress, not at life.
  • Romans 14:15 – Be considerate of others by not making diet a big issue. In the early church, they worried about whether or not to take food from others because they might not know if it had been offered to idol gods. This is rarely our problem today, however, the guidance Paul gives to those struggling with that issue is still helpful for us. Don’t let something as trivial as food choices negatively affect your relationships, or your witness. Whether this means relaxing your diet a bit on certain occasions and enjoying whatever’s offered at a restaurant or somebody’s home, or, on the flipside, not indulging in a drink if dining with someone who alcohol presents a struggle for, or simply skipping the complaints about feeling fat or full – our friends/family deserve more concern than our food. You never know what others are dealing with – disordered eating, insecurity, depression, addiction – or how your hesitancy toward or overvaluing of food might affect them. By all means, treat yourself well – but consider others, too. Nothing we do is done in a vacuum.
  • Luke 12:16-21 – Don’t spend your life storing up grain (in our terms, this might relate to building up the perfect diet or body). Don’t get me wrong, preparation is good. Bettering ourselves is good. We just need to keep in mind that we never know when our last day will come. We don’t wanna have wasted our life on storing up things that’ll be gone! Focus more on the eternal. 💪🏼
  • Genesis 3:6 – Don’t let the temptation of food or drink keep you from something better. Remember that apple? She couldn’t look past it. When we become fixated on one thing, and that thing’s not God, it can really hurt us.
  • Luke 22:19 – When we eat, remember Him. Jesus refers to bread and wine here, but honestly every meal is an opportunity to remember what he did for us and who he is in our lives. So, let’s eat with gratitude! Remember that God sanctifies all foods that are received with thanksgiving.
  • Philippians 4:12 – We can find contentment in Christ whether full or hungry. 🙌🏼
  • Matthew 4:4 – Man doesn’t live on bread alone, but on every word that God speaks. God nurtures our souls through his word, which contains an invisible sort of provision for us. When Jesus said that we don’t live on bread alone, he was 40 days fasted. Sort of makes it a little more believable, right?
  • In regard to food restrictions on moral terms – Honey, meat, cheese, fish, bread, and wine (in moderation) were all consumed and positively noted in the bible, in too many verses for me list – try Proverbs 24:13, 1 Kings, 17:6, and John 21:13 to start. If Jesus wasn’t too good for ’em… neither am I.

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And my personal favorite verses on this subject:

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. Ps. 18:16

He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. Ps. 18:19

If you have ever worried yourself to death about what you ate – because you couldn’t control it and felt guilty, or because you became obsessed about it and controlled it too much, God can set you free from that. It’s not for us to stress over. When we stress over it, our world gets small – and He wants it to be big! I can personally say that God has drawn me out of deep waters of anxiety and worry concerning many things, including what I eat. He continually brings me out into a spacious place where he reorders priorities in my mind – giving me freedom and the ability to make better choices for myself. He also reaches down from on high on the regular and takes hold of me when I need it. And it just so happens that I need it a lot, so I get a lot of love and “hugs.”

And you can too. All you have to do is ask.

xoxo 😘

Rae

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Road Trip Snackin’ 🚙

Road Trip Snackin’ 🚙

Long road trip… you pull up to a gas station… you’re hungry. You’ve been on a roll lately with your nutrition, and you don’t really want to settle for the Cheetos today. What do you choose?

On Friday, I drove down to Gulf Shores to present research at the ASAHPERD Conference (7.5 hrs, just me!), and I realized there really were some decent snack options at the gas stations along the way.

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My conference group with our posters 🙂

Here are my top healthy picks!

  1. Bottled water. Of course, you can’t drink too much on the road, but staying hydrated is key to keeping your mind alert while you drive. You just can’t beat a cold bottle of water.
  2. Bai drinks. I’ve loved this stuff lately! The mango and coconut flavors are really yummy (felt like I was still at the beach). Yes, there are some artificial sugars (erythritol), but this drink is relatively natural compared to many others, and has little impact on your day’s diet at only 10 calories per bottle. A yummy drink is a good choice when you’re bored and want to snack, but aren’t really hungry yet.

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    When you see the Flora-bama and you realize you’re 5 min out 🙂
  3. Unsweetened tea. A favorite in my family. We’re unsweet tea people. Some flavor, a little caffeine, and no bad stuff. Again, if you need it sweet, I recommend Milo’s Splenda Tea. You won’t miss a thing except the sugar and calories, and you won’t spike your blood sugar like real sweet tea will.
  4. Skinny-pop. Popcorn is naturally whole-grain – it only hurts us when we cook it in a ton of oil and drown it in butter. Air popped popcorns, or those popped in less oil and seasoned lightly, give you a lot to munch on for not a lot of caloric cost. And everybody loves popcorn!

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    My ammo for the return trip. (Water, mango Bai, and white cheddar Skinny pop.)
  5. Nuts, especially almonds. I like the single-serve pouches – you know, the tall skinny ones. They usually have around 20 almonds inside, which is perfect, because you won’t eat too many and get a tummy ache. Cocoa roast, blueberry, and lightly salted are some of my faves. They’ll give you a boost of healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, and calcium, as well as taking the edge off of your hunger.
  6. Jerky. I tried “Perky Jerky” Brand turkey jerky today, and I really like it. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better source of on-the-go protein than jerky – just check your ingredients. Beef jerky is great, but turkey is even leaner (and yummier, in my book). And of course, we want minimal preservatives. Look for things you can pronounce, and watch sodium and sugar.beach3
  7. Clif nut butter bar or Quest bar. Two of my favorites – I like them because the ingredient list is relatively short, and they’ve got less sugar and more protein than the average bar. Reach for this if you’re too hungry to mess around with popcorn – they’ll fill you up more like a small meal.
  8. Apple chips or Freeze-dried fruit. Traditional dried fruit often has added sugar – yeah, it’s fruit, but it’s not your best choice. Freeze-dried options are better because they’re closer to the natural state! Natural = better. And they’re SO GOOD.beach2
  9. Mints/ Gum. Great for taking the edge off, keeping the breath fresh, and keeping you focused. Mint is really good for that! They’re also a great option when you just want to buy something, but you’re not particularly hungry.
  10. Starbucks Coffee+Milk. Hands-down, it woke me up after hour 3 and got rid of my headache. A much better option than Starbucks’ bottled Frappaccinos – this deliciousness is made with just milk, sugar, and coffee. No crazy stuff. My favorite is the Vanilla 🙂

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And when you get home and you’re too hungry to cook (or you missed Saga), grab one of these from Chik-fil-A! (Southwest salad with chili lime vinaigrette) 🙂

Drive happy!

Rae

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Breakfast at… McDonalds?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics takes an “all foods can fit” approach to healthful eating, and so do I.

The AND emphasizes that the total diet, or overall pattern of food eaten, is what matters – not any one food or meal. “If consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity,” they say, “all foods can fit into a healthful diet.” It’s true. The value of a food should be determined within the context of the total diet, because labeling items as “good” or “bad” may encourage unhealthy eating behaviors. Here’s another snippet of wisdom from the AND – “Nutrition confusion can be reduced by emphasizing moderation, appropriate portion size, balance and adequacy of the total diet over time, the importance of obtaining nutrients from foods, and physical activity.”

These guys know what they’re talking about. Balance is key to a healthy life. So, we conclude, every choice does not have to be perfect in order for us to eat a total diet we can be proud of. I say, we can make a McDonalds trip every so often fit into our healthy lifestyles, without remorse. Here’s some tips to help you feel proud, not ashamed, when you pull out of the parking lot.

–Breakfast–

(aka, the thing that’s really great here & is served all day)bfast

I went for brunch with some friends on Saturday, and got the Egg White Delight McMuffin, a Fruit ‘n’ Yogurt Parfait, and a hot coffee. These are my favorites, and I’ll discuss a couple of other nice options as well!

Egg White Delight McMuffin – DELICIOUS. One of my very favorite fast food breakfasts, though I don’t do it as often as I used to. This sandwich rings in at 250 kcal, 8g fat, and boasts 17g protein, 10% DV iron… and 740mg sodium (30% DV). Really, the sodium is the drawback here, because too much sodium is not great for the heart (and can make you feel/ look bloated). Remove either the Canadian bacon or the cheese, and you can take the sodium down to 510mg (21% DV). Other cons are the white flour in the english muffin (too bad they don’t buy whole wheat!) and use of preservatives. You can make an epic version of this at home that’s got an even better nutritional profile, but for McDonalds, and being on the road, this is a nice light choice. Swap the cheese for american if you’d rather, because they are basically the same thing in different colors!

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Egg McMuffin. Let’s compare this classic to its trendier egg white cousin. It’s another nice choice. 290 kcal, 12g fat, 17g protein, 15% DV iron, 710 sodium. Very similar to the Egg white, but a whole egg (therefore slightly higher in fat) and a different color cheese. That’s literally the difference. You can lower sodium to 510 mg by removing either the cheese or Canadian bacon; lower fat by 4g and sandwich by 50 kcal by removing the cheese, or swap for white cheddar for no change in nutrient value.

Fruit & Maple Oatmeal. I’d either choose to leave out the brown sugar (you can ask for this, they will make it with or without) or the dried fruit. With 33g sugar, the standard with all the toppings is a little overwhelming for breakfast. By making one of these modifications, you can take it down to 18g. Our modified oatmeal supplies you with 260 Calories, and all the benefits of the stuff you make at home – it supplies 10% of your daily iron needs, 22% of your fiber needs, and is fairly low in sodium (115mg).

Biscuits. Nothing wrong with one every once in a while. One McD’s biscuit has 270 kcal, 12g fat, 5g protein, and 770mg sodium. The toppings – that’s where things get crazy. I recommend one-topping style, with some great choices being egg (it’s a scrambled, folded egg), bacon, or a packet of strawberry jelly or honey. That’s how I would eat a biscuit at home, so I don’t pile on a lot of layers at restaurants, either – simple can be nice!

Hot cakes. You can actually get an order of plain hot cakes for 330 kcal, 9g protein, 8g fat, and 12g sugar. You can lightly coat them with butter, maybe give them a drizzle of syrup, and it’s still really not crazy. They just get a bad rap! Keep in mind it’s refined flour, but this isn’t a perfect world. You could even get a 1% milk on the side to up your meal’s protein content by 8g for 100 kcal.

Fruit and yogurt parfait. 150 kcal, 4g protein, 3g fat, 80mg sodium, and 23g sugar. No live/active cultures, but still yummy and provides calcium (10% daily needs, 110mg). Sugar is a little high, but it’s no milkshake. Together with Egg white delight (I did that combo for brunch) you come to 400 kcal, and it’s a really nice meal. I wouldn’t pair the parfait with something else sweet – oatmeal or sweetened coffee – but it is a nice touch to a more savory meal.

Hash browns are probably the more typical side choice for breakfast. Each patty has 150 kcal, just like the parfait. You aren’t getting any fruit, but then, you aren’t getting added sugar, either. If you’re a sucker for these, go with just one, or even split it with a friend!

Coffee. Here we go.

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  • I actually think McDonald’s brews a great house blend. A hot small cup with 2 or 3 creams is my favorite. I just love it! I couldn’t finish my whole cup at our brunch, so I took it home and drank the rest chilled the next morning. Yum!
  • Iced Coffee – You can get a small vanilla for 100, hazelnut for 110, or caramel for 120 kcal. 15, 17, and 20g of sugar, respectively. I can drink to that – it’s even less of a splurge than Chick-fil-a’s, and we think it might be better. (If you opt for artificial sweetener, the sugar free vanilla is 70 kcal and 1g sugar for a small, but I usually go with the standard vanilla).

And these are all my tips. Note – you can make YUMMIER and healthier versions of most of these things at home, but sometimes it’s just fun to go out with the girls!

Happy smacking,

Rae

Reference

Freeland-Graves, J., & Nitzke, S. (2002). Position of the American Dietetic Association: total diet approach to communicating food and nutrition information. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 102(1), 100-108.

Best Grabs at Panda Express

Best Grabs at Panda Express

Along with our Publix, Troy also boasts a brand new Panda Express. Naturally, my friend Clair and I had to go try it, because it’s new and shiny. And, we like fortune cookies.

You’re probably thinking one of three things right now. Let me guess…

  1. Chinese food? MSG, fried rice, huge portions… it’s a splurge.
  2. Panda express isn’t even real Chinese food. Not worth it.
  3. Yum, I’m craving some takeout now!

I’m about to challenge all of these statements.

It actually doesn’t have to be a splurge. After doing some research on the Panda Express site, I learned that there is no MSG added to the food, and they actually give nutritional info as well as offering the WOK Smart Menu – entrees with 300 calories or less and at least 8g of protein. A bowl, the smaller portion, was plenty for me – we each were able to finish our chicken but left some of the rice.

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Let’s talk options – Panda Express reminds me of Moe’s or Subway in some ways, because your meal is what you make it. It can be a gut bomb or a light, fresh choice all depending on what you point at. These are the 3 things you’ll want to consider when you order:

  • SIZE – the bowl was plenty for me – 1 side, 1 entree. A bigger person might be able to tackle the plate – 1 side, 2 entrees – but judge for yourself (especially rice!) and don’t feel the need to finish every bite.
  • ENTREE – the WOK Smart options are great – they are much lower in sodium, and there are several options for grilled chicken, as well as a grilled beef with broccoli. I had the teriyaki grilled chicken (pictured above), and it was delicious. Not dry at all, teriyaki sauce came on the side, and it had a nice, mild flavor. Other grilled chicken options include mushroom with zucchini, black pepper with green beans, kung pao with peanut sauce, peppers and zucchini, and firecracker, with peppers in a spicy black bean sauce.
  • SIDE – brown and white rice are your best options by far! They’re simple and real – just like what you’d cook at home. In my opinion, you don’t need a fancy side like chow mein or fried rice when you’ve got a fancy entree already. Brown rice is delicious and is going to provide more fiber, so I’d put it in #1 spot. I also read after the fact that mixed veggies are a side option – I may try this next time and see if I like that even better!

(PS – Don’t see what you want out? They’ll cook it for you really quickly! The sides aren’t always all out front, either – just ask.)

At only 32 calories a cookie, the fortune cookies are an easy choice!

Now to address the “real Chinese food” aspect – Who cares when it’s good? You don’t need to go overboard on flavor to have a nice meal. I like that they have some options that aren’t fried, because I know those tiny Asian women aren’t eating that every night. I also really like the chain because they attempt to make the menu choices clear, and offer thorough nutritional info online. It’s like real food with a Panda twist – chicken and rice can be a part of any culture, but with a little teriyaki, it tastes like something special.

You’re not going to want takeout here – the atmosphere is so cool. The ceilings have the coolest detailing and light fixtures, and the place was so clean (it’s only been open 2 weeks, lol!) We ate in the restaurant and enjoyed the awesome smells and trying to use chopsticks. It’s my opinion that eating out shouldn’t be a nightly occasion, but a special thing – this allows us to truly appreciate it, and to develop our own cooking skills so that we appreciate someone cooking for us.

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The Panda says – stick to the basics. Sounds like a good argument for brown rice!

Stay bright,

Rae