🎉 Joie de Vivre – An Exuberant Enjoyment of Life â¤ď¸

🎉 Joie de Vivre – An Exuberant Enjoyment of Life â¤ď¸

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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Grocery Shop for Our ❤️’s đŸ“

Grocery Shop for Our ❤️’s đŸ“

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Hey everyone 🙂

Spending so much time with Auburn’s Sports Nutrition staff has filled my head with dozens of blog post ideas. The tough part is finding the time to put them into words!

My short-term internship project for this summer was an infographic on the health benefits of summer fruits, which I really enjoyed researching. It’s incredible how POWERFUL the simple plants that God has allowed to grow out of the ground are. There are so many compounds in fruits that you could really call “magical” – Anthocyanins in tart cherries, for example, have been shown to be almost as effective as ibuprofen at reducing inflammation. Zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, antioxidants found in cantaloupe, play a protective role in eye health. All of these compounds are at higher concentrations when fruits are at their brightest colors, which for these summer fruits, is right now! And FIBER in all fruits and veggies is so good for your heart. It lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease risk – need I say more?

Putting this into practical application –

I went grocery shopping this week, and I managed to pick up a lot of really great stuff. I’m not gonna lie to you, though, I wasn’t really thinking about heart health benefits when I was in the store. I was mainly focusing on not hitting anyone with my cart, finding the aisles I was looking for, and getting good prices. And trying to restrain myself from buying too much fresh produce, because I know I can’t use as much as I think when it’s just me. And the worst way to waste money is having to throw things away because they got moldy!

In a perfect world, we’d roam the aisles thinking about our heart health. Our brain health. Our eye health. Taking our time, selecting each item that would make us more functional human beings. What do you think about when you shop? I’m definitely prone to distraction, ESPECIALLY when walking down the cereal aisle, even though I know what I like. For me, it’s gotta be old-fashioned oats, or a hearty, grainy, lightly sweetened cereal. That’s what’s always gonna make me feel the best and fill me up for the longest. This time, I bought some wheat Chex, which I really like. But there’s always some fancy new box that wants my attention. Chocolate-covered sugar-coma granola labeled “all-natural”. New cheerios claiming to be “protein-packed” (spoiler alert – they mainly contain 4 more grams of protein than regular cheerios because the serving size is bigger, and they’ll also provide you with 16 more grams of sugar and more than double the calories per serving). The grass isn’t always greener with some new product, guys. Don’t be a victim to the chaos 😉

So, how can we grocery shop with the health of our bodies in mind? Without falling prey to distraction and needless worries while we’re shopping?

Plan ahead. And take our time selecting items as much as we can.

  1. Make a general outline of bomb-tasting healthy meals for the week – things you’re really excited to make & eat
  2. Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need
  3. Make a deal with yourself – only 1-2 additional items may be thrown in frivolously (make em count!)

If you go in armed with a plan, you’re much more likely to shop well and ultimately consume a healthier diet. And this can affect much more than just how your pants fit – though that is a huge benefit. Your ability to focus, your memory, sleep quality, exercise quality, and mood can all be improved by eating a healthy diet. And a healthy diet in turn becomes something that you can feel, and that you will want to seek out – what does my body really want right now to feel truly good?

You might think that if you let yourself think that way, you’d hear your body whisper “chocolate cake” every second. Maybe if you’re listening only to the taste buds and the cravings. But after a while those fade, and then what about your brain? Your tummy? Your heart? Does your body enjoy being loaded down with sugar and sleeping off a food coma? Not really – it likes being energized and lively so you can go do things in the world.

A “discipline is the only way” approach might work for a little bit… but it can leave you still thinking about what you “want.” And in reality, the cake might be what you need some days, for your emotional well-being! But, if you stop and listen – something else might be more satisfying right now. Are you someone who doesn’t think you like eating “healthy” foods? I’d guarantee there are some you do like. Watermelon? Yogurt? Grilled Chicken? Roasted carrots, or potatoes? I bet you can find a few. Start small, and grow from there. Taste buds really can change, and the cooking and preparation of something can make a huge difference. For example – my family recently discovered that roasted beets are super yummy. Pickled beets… not our thing. But that’s okay! You just need to find a way YOU like! A beet is a beet!

And if you like a lot of “healthy” foods, but you like all the other foods too…

Remember that your best diet is a beautiful compilation of foods that do your body good – physically, mentally, and emotionally. This will vary based on your genetic makeup (metabolism, food preferences, intolerances), the season of life you’re in, the amount of time you have to prepare food, how long you’ve been cooking or eating well, various holidays, and family culture – but good nutrition is all-encompassing! It allows all of that to fit into a healthy, happy lifestyle. Your diet is everything that you eat, all the little small decisions, which add up to a huge picture of your health. With improving your health, body, choices, and habits, the key is consistency. And eliminating the stress of doing everything “right.” Just let yourself try your best, and then simply be. So much can be gained from slowing down and allowing yourself to think about your food choices, instead of rushing and self-sabatoging your health.

At the same time that little “poor” decisions get lost in the huge puzzle of a good diet, all the little decisions add up to form the picture that is your diet. So it is in the little choices that we’ll find health and success!

So, back to the shopping. What can you do if you want to improve your food choices? How should you plan for your next grocery trip? If you want to really give your body the fuel it deserves, and love doing so – here’s a few tips for your list.

  1. Start with your protein. 🍳
    • Great dinner choices are lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish, lean cuts of beef, pork tenderloin, or any of the many varieties of beans (combine with whole grains for a complete protein). Lunch protein can easily be dinner leftovers, repurposed into a salad or sandwich, or nut butter on anything. At breakfast, I love soymilk or soy yogurt (feel free to go for nonfat dairy, soy just makes my little tummy feel the best), almond butter, or eggs, for protein.
    • This week, I bought a big box of frozen (minimal additives) turkey burgers, so that I can pull one out and grill it when I want it! The other nights, I’ve had black bean & brown rice bowls, and I’ve still got some frozen baby shrimp and frozen chicken-maple sausage in the freezer for when I want to mix it up. Freezers are magical when you don’t go through things quickly!
  2. Fill out your meals with veggies. 🥒
    • I love keeping a container of greens (arugula, baby kale, and baby spinach rock) around so I can turn anything into a salad for lunch, or have a side salad with dinner. And – they’re great sautĂŠed into your eggs with some salt and pepper. If you haven’t tried baby kale with eggs – please do. Game-changer.
    • Roasted veggies are AMAZING. And easy. Stay tuned for my next blog post on making ANY veggie delicious 😉
    • FROZEN VEGGIES – always have them in your freezer. They’ll be there when you need them!
    • It can also be nice to find a veggie you really like to snack on (with or without hummus)! Bell peppers, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and crinkle-cut carrots are my go-to.
  3. Make sure you’ve got grains. 🍞
    • I’d argue it’s easiest to mess up here. Because there are SO. MANY. OPTIONS. With bread and cereals, anything packaged, stick to this rule – a whole grain as your first ingredient, and the shortest ingredient list you can find. With cereals, aim for less than 10g sugar/serving (<5 even better!)
    • Brown rice over white, whole wheat pasta over regular, you get the idea.
    • Why? Fiber is healthy for your heart, and when it’s stripped away (white bread, etc.), things get kind of… weird. Messing with nature’s package too much. It’s missing something it was meant to have.
    • HOWEVER – the goal is to eat whole grains for at least half of your grains. That leaves you a lot of room for wiggle. The weirdness will only get you if you MOSTLY eat nutrient-stripped grains. It’s the big picture, folks!
  4. EAT ALL THE FRUIT. 🍒
    • This one’s easy. Buy it – fresh or frozen. Add it to cereal. Smoothies. Yogurt. A bowl. Supplement your diet with all the fruits – as much as your budget will allow, that is! You aren’t going to mess up here!
  5. The things you love.  💕
    • For me – the cart ain’t complete without almond milk, air-popped popcorn for snacking (it’s whole grain and actually a really good choice!), and probably one special drink of some sort (a kombucha, vitamin water, iced coffee, etc.) 😊
    • Every couple of months, some dark chocolate, halotop ice cream, or graham crackers might make it in my cart. #faves. Make room for your faves when your heart tells you to! And when you buy them, savor ’em!

Did I forget anything? There you go. My guide to grocery shopping. These items are gonna nourish you all the way to your heart, because fruit & veggie vitamins promote blood health, and fiber reduces blood pressure, helping to prevent added stress on the heart. So you can rest easy knowing your diet’s keeping your blood pumping!

Here’s some meal-spiration 🙂 –

 

 

 

Eating well, with a relaxed yet intentional attitude, helps you live well. And longer. And it boosts your self-esteem just by simply doing it.

Stay bright!

Rae

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M-day 💕

I hope you all had a great Mother’s Day 🙂 Ours was perfect. We started off the day making some “real deal” chocolate chip waffles with bacon, and ended with seeing our grandparents, picking up my sister from dance rehearsal, and scarfing down some amazing grilled shrimp that I was too hungry to consider taking a picture of.

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Real whipped cream + toasted coconut + berries 🙂 And some special cold brew coffee with almond milk!

One day or one weekend to celebrate moms is absolutely not enough, because they are the reason all of our lives are possible. On top of that, they do so much thankless work. Thank them for everything you can think of, because there is always more that goes on behind the scenes.

That being said, we ought to just be able to give moms a rest day, but I know mine always ends up working, even on Mother’s Day. Laundry is still running, and Mom is still full-throttle getting us ready for the week ahead. She’s superhuman.

However, it is possible to incorporate restfulness into even the busiest of days. Whether it’s a yoga session, enjoying a good meal, watching a little TV, or just going to bed early, rest is important to your mental health. We weren’t created to run 24/7, and many moms (like mine) have figured this out.

You’ve probably heard it before, but if you want to be present for others, you need to take care of you. Why not take initiative and incorporate planned rest into your life? In my experience, if you try to be “on” all the time, you’re going to crash. Give yourself the satisfaction of taking breaks, on your own terms.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, probably because they thought the M’s would be cute. May is actually a really good time to think about it, though, because for many of us the school year is coming to a close. Things get really busy, and then they just drop off. If you’re in the busy phase, it’s a great time to consider how you can improve your performance by keeping your mental health strong. If you’ve made it through, congratulations! Allow yourself to relax, and definitely consider de-stressors that you can incorporate into your life when it winds back up again. If life is calm for you, considering your mental health can boost your happiness, help you to care more for others, and just overall make you whole and healthy.

Many say that mental health is just as important as physical health – and I agree. You might work your tail off for a performance, or to look good for an event… but when you get there, can you enjoy it? In our everyday quest to keep our bodies healthy, if we stress ourselves out, we will not succeed. We might make the grade, reach our body goals, or lower our cholesterol, but we are not fully healthy or successful if we are not mentally healthy. Mental health will determine the overall quality of your life. Everything you experience is processed in your brain… the way you interpret life is ultimately what matters.

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It’s not just a concept – physical proof of the negative effects of poorly managed stress on the body includes elevated cortisol – a stress hormone that is naturally elevated when we stress the body. Cortisol isn’t all bad – levels go up when we work out hard. It’s essential for performance, but if elevated all day long, it can negatively influence fat storage (more around the middle), among other negative effects. A workout only temporarily spikes cortisol, but not getting enough sleep or being under constant stress can result in chronically high cortisol levels. Additionally, stress itself has been linked to an increase in heart disease! You can do all the healthy things, but if you don’t live life with moderation and allow yourself rest, you could seriously impact your physical health.

Exercise, though it temporarily stresses the body, is good for your mental health because it releases other “feel-good” hormones, like serotonin. Encouraging, not forcing, the body to move will give us the best results. I don’t mean stop if running or lifting is hard- challenge yourself, but don’t work beyond sense. Don’t push exercise to the max if you are feeling drained. Work with your body, not against it.

Being mindful with exercise ties right in with one of my favorite things in the world – mindful eating. Learning to listen to my body’s true needs when it comes to food has been one of the best changes I could ever have made in my life. God gave us hunger and fullness cues, and emotions, for a reason- and it’s our job to listen and nourish ourselves well.

A healthy and varied diet full of good fats, lean protein, whole grains, and colorful fruits and veggies can really make you feel and look your best. And the body is happy. However, food was also meant for celebration! Though I do feel rejuvenated after eating most days, there’s something fulfilling about enjoying a special meal with family. Though my healthiest breakfasts might contain more antioxidants than chocolate chip waffles, those waffles we had yesterday had their own sort of benefit. Happiness, letting go, not caring that they’re full fat and full sugar. Letting yourself enjoy a total splurge is good for the mental state.

The thing is, we don’t have to deserve good food. We don’t deserve anything in life. It’s all a gift. Our bodies are a gift, too.

I have also found that good old fashioned dessert loses its luster if you start feeling “entitled” to it. What’s there to celebrate is you eat this way every day? I say, enjoy healthy food most of the time, and fearlessly indulge when your body needs it. You don’t have to have cake on every occasion, but you should certainly have cake in your life. Or ice cream. Or whatever you love. Structure and groundedness in your diet are good. Making treats healthier is good. But chocolate chip waffle mix from William’s Sonoma is good, too.

And don’t call it a cheat meal. Call it living your life.

To close, here are some of my favorite ways to keep my mind healthy and happy –

  1. Going to bed early
  2. Yoga
  3. Taking walks
  4. Drinking hot tea ☕️
  5. Hammocking
  6. Crossfit
  7. Watching the sun rise
  8. Reading my bible
  9. Relaxing with friends/ family
  10. Bubble baths 🛀🏼

These are just examples, and I encourage you to find your own ways to incorporate rest and healthy movement into your lives on a daily basis. Your mind, body, and family will all thank you!

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Be well,

Rae

Whole Foods {State of Mind}

Whole Foods {State of Mind}

No class on Friday = big shopping trip! I really enjoyed trying on the dresses and the shoes, but I’m pretty sure I got the most excited in Whole Foods 🙈

The produce was, AMAZING. Have you ever seen a watermelon radish before?


If you’ve ever tried one of these… let me know!!

Anyway, didn’t buy any produce (long drive home), but here’s my mini haul from Whole Foods.


I bought a whole case of these Nuts and Seefs Clif bars! My family loves them, and I thought they weren’t selling this flavor any more. They’re the best because they’re so hearty, but not overly sweet. The cashier may have thought I was a little overexcited, but I really don’t care 😏 You like what you like!

I also grabbed some grass-fed whey protein that I’d been eyeing online. The price wasn’t bad, and grass-fed means cows were allowed to graze on what they like, leading to healthier tummies and healthier cows overall! I’m not in love with the flavor, but it’ll do and at least it’s good for me and the cows. PSA: Quest protein just can’t be beat for flavor.

I also grabbed some almond milk (organic!), and this little superfood oatmeal cup from Vigilant Eats that I had for breakfast this morning. Oh my. YUM!


I’d never tried mulberries (dried mulberries in here!) or maca powder, but they’re both delicious. You can eat this stuff hot or cold, and you can use milk or water. It even comes with its own little spoon! The nutrition stats are pretty nice – the sugar’s not bad compared to your typical oatmeal cup. What I loved most was the cacao nibs, and the stellar ingredient list. 😊


By no means does a product’s presence in a certain store make it “healthy.” Whole Foods is very particular about what they sell, and make sure that it’s good for the environment and not full of junk or preservatives. However, organic and vegan or not, chocolate cake is chocolate cake, and it’s not going to cure your diseases or make you lose ten pounds.

And neither will my nuts and seeds clif bars. As much as I love them, I try to use them more for “on-the-go” than every day.

Shopping at a store that puts emphasis on fresh and healthy choices really puts me in the mood to eat well. Good thing you can make healthy choices at any store or restaurant, because I sure couldn’t drive 45 minutes to grocery shop every week.

With “whole” foods on the brain, I’m challenging myself this upcoming month to eat more whole and natural foods. May is such a fresh month… spring is leading us into summer, and my birthday is 20 days away! It’s my favorite time of the year.

The salad I had at Panera on our trip helped spark this idea. When I ate it, I immediately felt energized and amazing! Then, the next day, I had a buttery bacon biscuit at a local restaurant. It was amazing… and then I felt like a slug. 🐌

So I thought, I enjoyed both of those a lot, but I know what I want more of in my diet! Today, I hit up Publix for some fruits and veggies, oats, yogurt and my favorite Califia farms almond milk. I have nine days left in Troy, and I plan on feeling good for them.

I’m initiating a “May Mindset Makeover.” If you want to join me, I’m going to try to reach for food that’s closer to its original state (how God made it!), and focus on the perimeter of the grocery store where the produce and healthy protein sources are found. For everything in the inner aisles, I’ll focus on reading ingredient lists. Less crap that we can’t pronounce, and more whole, healthy ingredients.

If you need a little inspiration, check out my friend Jenna’s zucchini pasta recipe here. Fresh posted today!

Eat good, feel good. Let’s see just how good we can feel this May!

Best wishes,

Rae

Road Trip Snackin’ đŸš™

Road Trip Snackin’ đŸš™

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 🙂

beach1

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

Choosing Your “Central Perk”

Choosing Your “Central Perk”

I’ve noticed during my recent “Friends”-watching that no two members of the group have the same coffee order when they sit down in their corner at the Central Perk. Joey’s usually involves a muffin, and who can forget Episode 1 where Ross tears Rachel’s sweet-n-low packets for her? When their drink orders get mixed up, everyone is quick to switch. You obviously want your own order, not someone else’s. But how do you know you’ve chosen the best cup for you? And why are there so many options in coffee shops today?

Many people suffer from “coffee shop anxiety.” As they approach the board, their eyes are overwhelmed by the long lists of words and flavors and brews… it’s a little crazy how many different drinks we call “coffee.” If you’re clueless about coffeeshop choices, this post should clear up a lot of the confusion. If you already have your standard order down pat, keep reading – you might see a modification here that you could use to make it even better and better for you.

The cardinal rule I try to follow is to eat/drink to feel better afterward than I did before – not worse. To benefit myself, and not harm myself. A sugar coma or a sick tummy does not make me feel better, nor does it benefit my long-term health. Who wants to feel gross, just because some calorie-bomb drink tasted good in the moment? Trust me, I’ve made good choices and bad – and I’d say that for me the good choice generally leads to a better mood, a more successful day, better self-esteem, and better choices afterward. Remember, it’s not any one choice, but the accumulation of your choices over time that defines your diet. Having good go-to’s takes the guess work out of eating out, too. When you’ve ordered something lots of times, it becomes a stress-free decision, and you won’t have to expend as much energy making that choice as you did the first time.

iced coffee

I’ve been attending a small group for a couple of weeks that meets at the local coffee place, Village Coffee. So, everybody’s gonna ask you what you ordered (naturally) to break the ice. This got me thinking about whether my order defines me as a person – am I a 12oz sugar-free vanilla soy latte girl, forever? Nope, I’m still just Rae. And guess what – I can be a cafe misto, or hot tea, or black coffee kind of girl whenever I’d like.

I’ve got 3 big tips that will take any order to its healthiest level – and here they are. These are the foundation of my coffeehouse philosophy.

  1. Choose your base wisely. If you’re having a drink that contains a good bit of milk (most “coffee” drinks that aren’t plain brewed coffee), I recommend choosing either non-fat (skim) milk, or non-dairy milk. This will bring the total calories and fat way down for your drink (and it still tastes heavenly). If you’re using cream or whole or 2% milk in your brewed coffee, remember that a little goes a long way.
  2. Cut (back) the sugar. Nix whipped cream to do yourself nothing but good; skip drizzles and extra syrup shots. Consider sugar-free syrup if you’re okay with occasional consumption of artificial sweeteners.
  3. Simpler can be better. My stand-by at coffee shops is a modification of the classic vanilla latte, but on the daily I drink brewed coffee. I feel no need to branch out into crazy stuff with triple-flavored names… those often involve multiple syrup shots, which isn’t going to be healthier. I recommend sticking with one flavor shot!

You can use these tips to give any drink a healthy upgrade. If you’d like a little more insight into ordering, here’s an overview of some of the top order categories, and how to approach them.

coffee and cereal

BLACK COFFEE – There are always a few “purists” who drink it black, or with a little cream or sugar, and wouldn’t have it any other way. This is definitely one of the most budget-friendly, waistline-friendly options, and it’s universally served. There’s likely no coffee shop where you won’t find it. With black coffee, just watch the amount of cream/sugar you add, and you’ll be fine. For your reference, 1 tablespoon of half and half contains 20 calories (1.7g fat, 0.6g carb, and 0.4g protein). I’d usually use 2 tablespoons, so that’d be 40 calories. Sugar contains 15 calories per teaspoon (or packet), all from 4.2g carb. Doctoring up your coffee with 2 tbsp of half and half and 1 tsp sugar = A fairly tame cup, at 55 calories, 3.4g fat, 4.8g carb, and 0.8g protein. If the coffee’s good, I’ll usually go with a splash of cream and skip the sugar.

Some places will offer milk, and you can use a little more of this for less fat and calories than half and half. It’s less concentrated, but you can use more. You can use 1/2 cup skim milk for the same caloric value as 2 tbsp half and half, and none of the saturated fat – and you’ll also get 4 g of protein. 2% milk is a happy medium – creamier than skim milk, a little more fat but less than half and half, and 31 calories per 1/4 cup.

Artificial sweeteners are another swap you can try – keep in mind you’re only saving 15 calories per packet, and they may give your coffee a slightly different taste.

{If you are diabetic, the artificial sweetener is the best choice for you if you need it, because it won’t spike your blood sugar like sugar does. There are varying opinions on artificial sweeteners – some believe they can cause more cravings for real sugar. They have been shown to aid in weight loss, however, when they replace sugar. It’s ultimately your call – do your own research by using google scholar, or finding analyses of artificial sweeteners by RDN’s or RD’s on youtube/blogs/etc.}

Smiley face mug - happy yellow coffee

There are really so many options for fixing a cup of coffee. Lately, at home, I’ve been using 1/4 to 1/2 cup almond or cashew milk in mine and loving it. 1/2 cup provides almost a quarter of your recommended daily calcium intake, is free of sugar and saturated fat, and makes your coffee nice and creamy for just 15 calories. It tastes better to me than dairy milk, so I use it whenever I get the chance. The only drawback is less protein, but we can get that from many other sources during the day. Many coffee shops are beginning to offer almond milk as an option for lattes, etc. – so if this is the case at your favorite place, you could ask them to give you a splash (they’ll keep it behind the counter in their fridge). You can also ask for a cafe misto or cafe au lait – half brewed coffee, half steamed milk of your choice. These are fabulous and I do get them sometimes – they tend to cost a little more than a cup of coffee, but a little less than a latte.

LATTES – My usual, if I want to treat myself. The latte is likely the most classic and widely ordered hot drink in the U.S. It’s steamed milk and espresso, with (optional) a syrupy flavor of your choice. A plain latte (no syrup) can be good if you’re in the right mood. Give it a shot if you can handle things less sweet, but still want to sip on some creamy, frothy goodness. Sugar-free syrups are also an option, and, though made with artificial sweeteners, will save you approximately 20 calories and 5g sugar per pump. Key here is your milk – a classic latte is made with whole or 2% milk, but you can ask for nonfat, soy, or almond (if available).

Let’s compare: I’m using Starbucks nutrition facts for calculations, and no whipped cream on any of these for simplicity’s sake.

12oz (Tall) Whole milk latte with vanilla syrup: 220 calories, 9g fat, 27g sugar.

12oz (Tall) Nonfat latte with vanilla syrup: 150 calories, 0g fat, 35g sugar.

12oz (Tall) “Skinny Vanilla Latte” (Nonfat milk, sugar-free vanilla syrup): 100 calories, 0g fat, 12g sugar. Note, the sugar here comes from the milk – it’s a natural sugar, known as none other than lactose.

12oz (Tall) Skinny Vanilla Latte with Soy Milk – 140 calories,  4g fat, 12g sugar. Great for those who prefer non-dairy, but not more calorie-efficient than the skinny.

12oz (Tall) Skinny Vanilla Latte with Unsweetened Almond Milk: 80 calories, 5g fat, 0g sugar. Niceeee. Less protein, though. Almond milk isn’t as widely available as soy, either. It’ll get there one day.

latte

CAPPUCCINOS – Traditionally much like a latte, with more foam. Same principles should apply here that would to a latte. Cappuccinos are traditionally plain, unsweetened, but you can ask for any flavoring you like to be added.

MOCHAS – A mocha is much like a latte, but with mocha sauce in place of the flavored syrup. This is generally going to give you a higher calorie drink, depending on how much sauce the barista uses. A 12oz nonfat mocha = 190 calories, 2g far, and 27g sugar. Some places, like Starbucks, will offer skinny mochas, with sugar-free mocha sauce – 110 calories, 1g fat, 12g sugar. Not bad- very similar to a skinny latte.

MACCHIATOS – Coffee with a splash of milk, syrup, and often a caramel drizzle. Can be similar in nutritional value to a latte – a 12oz Starbucks skinny macchiato is 100 calories, 1g fat, 14g sugar. Here’s one below – yum. Often served iced – the main reason it’s not my go-to (I like my drinks hot!).

macchiato

FRAPPES – I thought they were dangerous territory. Guess what – You can order a tall “Coffee Light Frappuccino” at good old Starbs’ for just 90 calories. “Cafe’ Vanilla Light” for 130. Really?! Who knew. They get a bad rep because they look so decadent, with their swirly whipped cream and fancy lids – but here on the light, we’re nixing the whipped cream. Wanna hear the stats for the original Cafe Vanilla Frappucino? The big one you’ll see people toting around – a 24oz Venti? 530 calories, 16g fat, and 88g sugar. Good grief!

It’s worth noting that at smaller coffee shops, frappes are usually made from a pre-made mix, and may not be this customizable (while lattes, cappuccinos, etc. will be). You can always, always ask, but you might not be able to get a skinny frappe just anywhere. In this case, I’d go with an iced drink – Iced coffee with a splash of milk and a shot of vanilla syrup, or an iced skinny latte, mocha, etc.

Note- size. I looked at the small (12oz) size in this post because that’s what I’m usually after. If I want a treat, I’m treating myself, and the small is special enough for me (but it’s totally up to you, and personal preference, and your caloric needs). You can calculate the calories for any beverage you’d like easily by searching it online and maybe talking with the barista if necessary. If size is more important to you, you can choose a lighter drink than maybe you would if you were getting a smaller one. If you’ve just worked out really hard, or have higher caloric needs, your body could probably handle more discretionary calories being spent here. Remember – it’s all about meeting your body’s own personal needs on that given day. All foods can fit.

Not a coffee drinker? You can opt for these yummy options:

  • Hot tea (your best bet – 0 calories, and you can add milk or honey if you’d like)
  • Iced tea (go with an unsweetened variety and add your own if needed)
  • Chai latte – switch out your milk for skim or another lighter milk
  • At Starbucks – a hot vanilla creme with nonfat milk (a slimmed down, vanilla version of hot cocoa!)
  • Hot apple cider
  • Hot cocoa brewed with water instead of milk
Pukka love tea hot chamomile rose
Yummmmm.

Coffeehouse grub? A lot of it offers you little nutritional value in a highly attractive and sugar-y package. Muffins, scones, cookies… think of them as an occasional treat, not a regular purchase, and split them with a friend. You’ll enjoy it more, because you have somebody to “mmmmm” with, and you’ll obviously eat less!

Decent breakfast choices offered at some coffee shops include oatmeal (watch your sugar and toppings), whole grain breads, fruit bowls, breakfast sandwiches on whole grain english muffins with topping such as eggs, egg whites, spinach, etc. The more progressive places, like Mama Mocha’s in Auburn, Al, are offering killer healthy lunch options like Kale salads! Yum.

highlands

Choose based on your coffee place’s best options, your personal needs on that given day, and how much you’re willing to spend. Doing that, you can’t go wrong! And remember – don’t be afraid to switch up your classic order. You can be whatever kind of coffee drinker you want to be, today.

Stay bright,

Rae

 

The Skinny on Fiber

The Skinny on Fiber

If there were a secret ingredient that would help you manage your weight, stay fuller longer, improve your overall health and bodily functioning, and reduce your risk for major diseases – it might just be fiber.

Fiber is probably best known for promoting regular bowel movements (yay), and it has been shown in studies to benefit weight loss, lower cholesterol (Cheerios, anyone?), and reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease, colorectal cancers, and diabetes.

almond-butter-banana-toast
10.5 grams of fiber right here!

Dietary fiber is also known as “roughage” or “bulk,” and that’s essentially what it is. It’s the portions of plant foods that we aren’t able to digest or absorb, which pass relatively intact through the GI tract. Adequate fiber can improve digestion by helping everything else move along at a steady rate. There are two main classes of fiber – soluble and insoluble (we need both, but it’s helpful to understand the benefits of each).

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like material (Think about the substance that forms when oatmeal, beans, apples, etc. are cooked). This is the type of fiber that can help lower cholesterol and glucose levels, yielding all those wonderful disease prevention benefits. It’s found in most all plant foods, along with insoluble fiber.
  • Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, and is a big promoter of GI tract motility. It’s found in the tougher, fibrous parts of plant foods – you can picture it if you think about celery strings, potato peels, and oat bran, though it’s found throughout most all plant foods. It could be your new best friend if you struggle with constipation or other GI issues (increase your intake slowly!)

It’s not hard to get enough fiber in your diet. Both soluble and insoluble forms can be found in most plant-based foods. The only foods that don’t contain any fiber are animal products (like eggs, milk, and meat) and oils. Refined grains like white bread don’t have any to speak of either, because the fibrous part of the grain is stripped away when these guys are processed. Some refined grains won’t kill you – but if they’re a mainstay in your diet, you’re probably going to be low on your fiber consumption.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set recommendations for fiber intake, based on gender and age. Find yours below:

  • Females – Age 50 and below: 25g/day.   Age 51+: 21g/day
  • Males – Age 50 and below: 38g/day.   Age 51+: 30g/day

These numbers should come naturally if you’re getting enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – but for whatever reason, if you’re not getting enough fiber, just a few tweaks can fix that. There are many fiber supplements you can take if you need to, and fiber-enriched products (everything from brownies to yogurt), but it’s simple to get enough fiber from whole foods. Here’s my tips!

 

Breakfast – Oats are my favorite fiber-rich breakfast. Made this bowl with my family. Oats provide 4g fiber per 1 cup of cooked oats, and I had a piece of whole grain toast on the side for 3 more grams. Berries (2g in 1/4 cup), pistachios (1g in just 10 nuts), and a drizzle of almond butter (1.5g in 1 tbsp) amp it up and make it even more delicious! (Total here ~ 8.5 g)

prettiest-oats

Other great breakfast options – avacado (6.5g in half an avocado) on whole wheat toast (3g or more per slice); a whole fruit smoothie with chia seeds (5g per tbsp chia); and high-fiber cereal with banana (3.1g per banana). If you go with cereal, look for one low in sugar and with a short list of ingredients.

Lunch – I love almond butter and banana sandwiches on whole wheat. Any nut butter and fruit will do – try peanut, cashew, or sunflower seed butter with thinly sliced apples or bananas. If you wanna make it amazing, pull out a skillet and “grill” your sandwich in a little olive oil!

I also love avocado or hummus as a sandwich spread. Instead of your classic mayo, mustard, etc. on your turkey sammy, try guac! It’s overall better for you, and adds fiber too. If your having trouble with the “wheat bread” concept – some people don’t love it – try Dave’s Killer Bread or Publix fresh baked 100% whole grain. My faves. Make sure your wheat bread’s first ingredient is whole wheat or whole grain flour, not refined! That’s where they trick you.

{Note – gluten intolerant folks – whole wheat obviously isn’t your guy, but you can choose the highest fiber option available and get your fiber from a lot of other sources, too! Pile some veggie slices and hummus on your sandwich, and you’ll be even with the wheat guys.}

If you’re not feeling sandwiches – SALADS are an amazing option. The darker the greens the healthier, but they’ve all got fiber. Toss some beans on there, nuts, more veggies, and maybe a sprinkle of dried fruit. Choose a salad dressing low in saturated fat with a short ingredient list, and you’re good to go.

chickfila salad spicy southwest and harvest

All these tips apply for dinner, as well as one more big one – swapping your grains. Instead of white rice or pasta, if you usually have it, try brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta… the list goes on. These guys have more nutrient bang for your buck in general! Pair with sautĂŠed veggies and a pretty piece of fish, and you’ve got… my favorite meal. There are infinite dinner dishes to help you meet your goals – pinterest “vegan/vegetarian meals” or “colorful meals” if you need inspiration! You can always add meat, but these veggie guys have really got the fiber thing figured out.

Moes bowl healthy swaps shrimp
Amped-up healthy moes bowl (brown rice, shrimp, olives, sautĂŠed veggies, sprinkle of cheese, dash of sour cream) @ home with the family.
salmon-sweet-potato-myplate
Fave balanced meal – fish & 3.

Oh yeah, don’t forget about sweet potatoes! My favorite. (~4g/potato!)

Snacks – snacking on raw veggies and hummus, fruits (maybe with a little almond butter) and the like is one of the quickest ways to quench your hunger and also to boost your health (and to make you feel healthier, too!). Fruits and veggies also contain water, which help move the fiber along. More fiber + more water = a happier, healthier you!

Here’s my biggest disclaimer – increase your fiber consumption slowly. If you try to change it too drastically and too quickly, you’ll probably experience some discomfort (bloating, abdominal pain, etc.). Making, say, one change a day (swapping white toast for whole wheat, chips for veggies and hummus, etc.) will assure that your tummy’s microflora have time to adjust to the change in their environment. That’s really what happens! And don’t forget the water to help your body reduce any bloating that might occur. Aim for at least half your weight (lbs.) in water (ounces) a day – or more if you’re pretty physically active. I usually drink at least 100 oz/day, but I’m part camel (kidding). It’s usually best to err on the side of more, but no need to drown yourself.

Fiber helps keep you fuller for longer because it literally fills you up! So, making these swaps should help you to feel more satisfied every day. Studies have actually proven that women lose more weight when consuming more fiber. This should translate to weight maintenance, as well. Less cravings, less hunger pangs? I’m in.

Stay colorful!

Rae