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All About Omegas (Part 7): Controversies & FAQs

All About Omegas: Controversies & FAQs (Fresh Start Nutrition)

This is the seventh (& last) post in a series.  You can start with the first post here…

Are fish oil & GLA supplements safe?  They are generally well tolerated with no adverse side effects; however, most warnings still suggest talking to your health care practitioner if taking blood thinners or anticipating surgery.  Of course, choose a high quality supplement and always tell your doctor what supplements you are taking.

What about sustainability?  Good quality supplement brands practice responsible fishing & manufacturing, while their fish oil comes from wild-caught, small species, such as anchovies, sardines, menhaden or jack mackerel.

What’s the difference between cod liver oil (CLO) & fish oil?  Both contain EPA & DHA, but CLO has a higher ratio of DHA, and fish oil has a higher ratio of EPA.  CLO also contains naturally occurring vitamins A & D.

Are krill oil supplements better than fish oil supplements?  It comes down to cost.  It’s expensive, and since it’s not as bioavailable, you’d have to take a lot more to get the same amount of omega-3s that is in fish oil.

Salmon is rich in omega-3s, so what about salmon oil supplements?  Similar to krill oil, it’s not as bioavailable as other fish oils, so you’d need to take more to get the same amount of omega-3s.  Stick with fish oil from small fish species.

Is it true that fish oil is linked to or causes prostate cancer?  All science aside, if the findings of the study published in summer of 2013 were true, then prostate cancer would be rampant in any country with high seafood consumption, such as Japan or Scandinavian countries, and low level consumption would likely be protective.  But this is clearly not the case!  But let’s look at the science…

  • The study itself had flaws in its design, testing methods, and data evaluation.  It was not a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, so it was not an experiment that could conclude cause & effect; instead, data was taken from the SELECT study, which was not designed to test the link between omega-3s & cancer (vitamin E & selenium were the nutrients focused on).
  • The study provided no information on whether or not men were eating fish or taking fish oil supplements or what types of fish/fish oil.
  • The test used to measure omega-3 levels in the men in the study was not the most accurate way to measure levels of EPA/DHA in tissues.  The method in the study looks only at amount in the blood, not in the blood cell membranes, so it only measures short-term intake (within 48 hours) of omega-3s.  (Even so, there was a very small difference between the groups.)
  • 72% of the men already had a PSA >2 when blood originally tested; many also had a genetic predisposition.
  • Meta-analyses continue to show the opposite:
    • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2010): Fish consumption linked to a large reduction in late stage or fatal prostate cancer
    • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2008): 22 year Physician’s Health Study; fish consumption (5x/week) was not related to prostate cancer risk, but was protective of prostate cancer-specific death
    • Lancet (2001): Men who ate no fish had a 2-3 fold increase in the risk of developing prostate cancer
  • The opposite findings continue to be true:
    • Lab studies continue to show that EPA/DHA work in cells to lower inflammation.
    • Human studies show the relationship between fish intake & reduced cancer risk.

Want more info about omega-3s?  Check out podcast #237 from the Meal Makeover Moms, where they interviewed me about the different types of omegas, the benefits of each, food sources, and even some FAQs, including krill oil & the recent prostate cancer study.  And stay tuned for more posts in this “All About Omegas” series.

Meal Makeover Moms Podcast #237: Omega-3s

Want to give omega supplements a try?  You can order Nordic Naturals from me in two ways, and ALWAYS get 15% off + FREE shipping either way!

  • Use this link, and enter Practitioner ID 89980, or…
  • Contact me, and I help you figure out just what you need!

Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (no minimum order)! (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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All About Omegas (Part 6): How To Choose an Omega-3 Supplement

All About Omegas: How to Choose an Omega-3 Supplement (Fresh Start Nutrition)

This is the sixth post in a series.  You can start with the first post here…

How to choose a fish oil supplement?  Keep in mind that in the case of this supplement, you get what you pay for!  High quality really does make a difference.

Which fish oil supplement is best?  Here’s what to look for:

  • The amount of omega-3s (DHA & EPA).  Read the label carefully since “1000 mg fish oil” refers to the size of the gel cap & does NOT always mean 1000 mg of omega-3s!
  • Fresh oil will have NO fishy taste or smell, nor will it cause fishy burps.  If your fish oil supplement causes fishy burps, it is most likely rancid due to oxidation (caused by exposure to oxygen during processing).
  • Molecularly distilled to make sure it’s been purified of environmental contaminants (mercury, lead, PCBs, dioxins, etc.)
  • Contains only fish oil from small fish species, such as anchovies, sardines, menhaden or jack mackerel (or a combination of any of these).  Small fish have less accumulation of contaminants.  Check the ingredients list on the bottle.
  • Triglyceride form instead of ethyl ester form.  The triglyceride form is the more well-researched, natural form, and is up to 70% more bioavailable to the body than the ethyl ester form.  The ethyl ester form is “new to nature” & has only been in our diets for 20 years.
  • Third-party testing to confirm quality, freshness & safety.

Want more info about omega-3s?  Check out podcast #237 from the Meal Makeover Moms, where they interviewed me about the different types of omegas, the benefits of each, food sources, and even some FAQs, including krill oil & the recent prostate cancer study.  And stay tuned for more posts in this “All About Omegas” series.

Meal Makeover Moms Podcast #237: Omega-3s

Want to give omega supplements a try?  You can order Nordic Naturals from me in two ways, and ALWAYS get 15% off + FREE shipping either way!

  • Use this link, and enter Practitioner ID 89980, or…
  • Contact me, and I help you figure out just what you need!

Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (no minimum order)! (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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All About Omegas (Part 5): How Much Do You Need?

All About Omegas: How Much Do You Need? (Fresh Start Nutrition)

This is the fifth post in a series.  You can start with the first post here…

The goal is to correct the imbalance of omega-3s & omega-6s in our diets that is believed to be contributing to many of our chronic health conditions.  Why?  Because omega-6s (which we get plenty of in our typical Western diet) promote inflammation, increase blood clotting and depress the immune system while omega-3s do the opposite.  They’re anti-inflammatory, while supporting normal circulation & immunity.

So how much omega-3s do you need? Experts including those from the World Health Organization (WHO), recommend a minimum daily intake of 500 mg of EPA + DHA + ~1 g of ALA to support optimal health.  Specific health concerns (including heart health & mental health) call for even more–anywhere from 1-4 grams per day, according to the American Heart Association & the American Psychiatric Association.  In fact, some suggest the ideal intake may be 3.5 grams per day for a 2000 calorie diet.

Here are some specifics, as suggested by the medical advisors at Nordic Naturals:

  • Infants (up to 18 months): 32 mg EPA + DHA per pound
  • Children (1.5-15 years): 15 mg EPA + DHA per pound
  • Pregnant: minimum of 300 mg/day; maximum 2-3 g daily
  • Lactating: same as pregnancy

As with any nutrient, we should turn to food sources of omega-3s first.  Eat fish (ideally, fatty fish) two times per week, plus plant sources daily.  All while reducing our intake of omega-6 fats (from soybean, cottonseed or corn oil, as well as dairy & meat from grain-fed cattle) & maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet full of whole, plant-based, antioxidant-rich foods (think Mediterranean diet) & probiotics.

Unfortunately, adequate omega-3s can be tough to get from diet aloneboth because fish is not as common in the diet as we’d like, and because plant sources are not well-converted into EPA & DHA.  For these reasons, high-quality supplementation in addition to diet may be the most safe & reliable.  

Want more info about omega-3s?  Check out podcast #237 from the Meal Makeover Moms, where they interviewed me about the different types of omegas, the benefits of each, food sources, and even some FAQs, including krill oil & the recent prostate cancer study.  And stay tuned for more posts in this “All About Omegas” series.

Meal Makeover Moms Podcast #237: Omega-3s

Want to give omega supplements a try?  You can order Nordic Naturals from me in two ways, and ALWAYS get 15% off + FREE shipping either way!

  • Use this link, and enter Practitioner ID 89980, or…
  • Contact me, and I help you figure out just what you need!

Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (no minimum order)! (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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All About Omegas (Part 4): What is GLA?

All About Omegas: What is GLA? (Fresh Start Nutrition)

This is the fourth post in a series.  You can start with the first post here…

While we generally get an excess of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets, GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) is the exception.  It’s an omega-6 fatty acid we actually want more of.  Found in evening primrose oil, borage oil & black currant seed oil, it’s most effective when taken with the omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA.

GLA helps keep hair, skin & nails healthy, including fighting inflammatory skin conditions.  It hydrates skin, improves texture, evens out pigmentation and along with omega-3s, it improves eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and acne.  (It’s worth noting that EPA has been shown to inhibit UV damage that causes tissue damage, premature aging & wrinkles.)

Other roles of GLA:

  • Women’s reproductive health, including hormonal balance
  • Optimal body fat metabolism (research shows that it also helps limit weight regain in those who have lost weight)
  • Joint health & function
  • Respiratory function

GLA is another omega that has been shown to help with children’s learning, focus, attention, cognition, behavior & mood.  Supplementing with fish oil and GLA has been shown to be the most effective in the research.  Always check with child’s doctor (especially when anticipating surgery or on blood thinners or diabetic medications), but quality supplements are generally safe by themselves or with other medications.

Want more info about omega-3s?  Check out podcast #237 from the Meal Makeover Moms, where they interviewed me about the different types of omegas, the benefits of each, food sources, and even some FAQs, including krill oil & the recent prostate cancer study.  And stay tuned for more posts in this “All About Omegas” series.

Meal Makeover Moms Podcast #237: Omega-3s

Want to give omega supplements a try?  You can order Nordic Naturals from me in two ways, and ALWAYS get 15% off + FREE shipping either way!

  • Use this link, and enter Practitioner ID 89980, or…
  • Contact me, and I help you figure out just what you need!

Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (no minimum order)! (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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All About Omegas (Part 3): Plant Sources of Omega-3s

All About Omegas: Plant Sources of Omega-3s (Fresh Start Nutrition)

This is the third post in a series.  You can start with the first post here…

ALA (alpha linolenic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid from plant sources, such as walnuts, flax seeds, & chia seeds.  Unfortunately, conversion of ALA to EPA & DHA in the human body occurs extremely inefficiently (15% at best), and in some of us, not at all.  But food sources of ALA are certainly still healthy additions to the diet.  In fact, a 2009 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a diet rich in both plant- and fish-based omega-3s may be the most heart-protective of all.  Aim for a minimum of 1 gram of ALA per day, from foods such as:

  • Chia seeds: 2 T = 4.9 g
  • Flax seeds (ground): 2 T = 3.2 g
  • Walnuts: 1 oz = 2.5 g
  • Canola oil: 1 T = 1.3 g
  • Edamame: 1 cup = 0.6 g
  • Peanut butter: 1 T = 0.5 g

Are flax seed oil supplements a good option for omega-3s?  They’re just not worth it.  One of the medical advisors from Nordic Naturals stated that we would need to take fifty-seven 1000 mg soft gels to equal the same benefit of 2 quality fish oil 1000 mg soft gels.

What about marine algae as a source of omega-3s?  Most omega companies make a marine algae supplement for strict vegetarians, which contains EPA & DHA from microalgae (that’s where fish get their EPA & DHA, after all).  While it’s generally a good option, there is not enough research to know if it has the same benefits as fish oil.  A study published in the Journal of Nutrition (2012) showed that while DHA from marine algae reduced triglycerides & increased “good” HDL cholesterol, it also increased “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Marine algae is also the source of DHA in many fortified foods, such as those with Life’sDHA.  Many of these fortified foods have only DHA added, and not much of it.  For example, one brand of fortified milk has 32 mg of DHA per serving, and one brand of fortified juice has 50 mg per serving.  Compare that to a 3 ounce serving of salmon, which contains 1500 mg of DHA and EPA.

Want more info about omega-3s?  Check out podcast #237 from the Meal Makeover Moms, where they interviewed me about the different types of omegas, the benefits of each, food sources, and even some FAQs, including krill oil & the recent prostate cancer study.  And stay tuned for more posts in this “All About Omegas” series.

Meal Makeover Moms Podcast #237: Omega-3s

Want to give omega supplements a try?  You can order Nordic Naturals from me in two ways, and ALWAYS get 15% off + FREE shipping either way!

  • Use this link, and enter Practitioner ID 89980, or…
  • Contact me, and I help you figure out just what you need!

Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (no minimum order)! (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (No Minimum Order)!

Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (no minimum order)! (Fresh Start Nutrition)

I’ll be having my baby soon, but there’s still two ways to get your Nordic Naturals supplements.

Both ways get you 15% off + FREE shipping (no minimum order), ALWAYS:

  • Use this link, and enter Practitioner ID 89980, or…
  • Contact me, and I help you figure out just what you need (& send you free samples)!

Nordic Naturals offers: quality omega-3 fish oil supplements for the whole family, vitamin D gel caps & gummies, a clean multivitamin for kids, and even a new probiotic!

Want to know more about omegas?

  • Check out the All About Omegas blog post series.  We discuss: What is EPA?  What is DHA?  Plant sources of omega-3s.  What is GLA?  How much do you need?  How to choose an omega-3 supplement.  Controversies & FAQs.
  • Check out podcast #237 from the Meal Makeover Moms, where they interviewed me about the different types of omegas, the benefits of each, food sources, and even some FAQs, including krill oil & the recent prostate cancer study.

Meal Makeover Moms Podcast #237: Omega-3s

Wondering what other supplements you & your family may need (or don’t)?  Check out What Supplements Do You Really Need?

What supplements do you really need? (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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All About Omegas (Part 2): What is DHA?

All About Omegas: What is DHA? (Fresh Start Nutrition)

This is the second post in a series.  Check out the first post here…

What is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)?  Found in fish (especially fatty fish), fish oil, cod liver oil & fortified foods, DHA is important in memory & cognition.  It supports normal brain & nerve cell function by increasing cell membrane fluidity & neurotransmitter activity, as well as protecting nerve & brain cells from oxidative damage & aging.  Research shows that those who consume more DHA over their lifetime have better cognitive function as they age, while low intake of DHA as been linked to cognitive decline.

Similary, DHA is also necessary for mental & emotional health.  The American Psychiatric Association recommends 1 gram/day of EPA + DHA to maintain a healthy mood (more for specific conditions).  Omega-3s have been shown to be significantly effective in the treatment of depression & bipolar disorder, and deficiencies in omega-3s are linked to emotional, mental & psychiatric disorders, including memory loss, depression, anxiety, attention & learning disorders, Alzheimer’s disease & dementia.

One of the most well-known roles of DHA is in healthy pregnancy & lactation, partly because it’s necessary for fetal brain & eye development.  But research also shows that pregnant moms who take omega-3s are more likely to have:

  • Full-term pregnancies
  • Babies with normal birth weight
  • Higher rates of uncomplicated deliveries
  • Lower rates of postpartum depression

Additionally, their children have:

  • Healthier immune systems
  • Fewer allergies
  • Lower risk of autism
  • Lower risk of child-onset diabetes
  • Improved intelligence markers
  • Improved sleep habits

This is one area where supplementation is common, since a supplement meets the need for DHA during pregnancy (which is a minimum of 300 mg per day), with less risk of toxins such as mercury & PCBs.  Unfortunately, the amount added to prenatal vitamins is not always enough or the form in some DHA supplements is not always the most bioavailable.

The role of DHA doesn’t stop at birth!  It’s just as important in healthy infant & child development.  Not only does brain & eye development continue after birth, but continued DHA supplementation (as early as birth) has been shown to be allergy-protective.  It supports normal mood & behavior, and probably the most exciting is the research on attention & learning ability in children.  It helps with language development and benefits some children with learning difficulties & ADHD-related symptoms, including improvement of anxiety & attention span.  It also helps children show improvements in reading, spelling and their ability to focus.

So how to make sure infants & children are getting enough omega-3s for all these benefits?  New mothers should continue to supplement with DHA while breast feeding since babies will get omega-3s through their mother’s milk.  If formula-fed, choose one that is fortified with DHA or consider giving the baby a supplement.  Children need both DHA and EPA, so fortified foods (which often contain only DHA) or DHA-only supplements may not be good enough.  Try fish tacos, salmon or tuna salad, Corny Salmon Cakes or a supplement that contains both EPA and DHA.

DHA has a big role in eye health & function, but also in brain health & traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), including concussion syndrome.  Omega-3s are the building blocks of the brain & nervous system.  So while not a cure for TBIs, they are a tool we can use to help heal them.  The analogy from a recent webinar make sense: if there was a hole in a brick wall, wouldn’t you repair it with more bricks?  Same goes for the brain.  It’s 30% DHA, so if it was damaged, wouldn’t you want to give it more of what it’s made of in order to repair it?   Medications may help control symptoms, but don’t address the brain injury itself, and since one drug is usually prescribed to treat one symptom, this can lead to polypharmacy. Omega-3s, on the other hand, provide the nutritional foundation for the brain to heal, and may also be useful as a neuroprophylactic, so it may protect against brain injuries.  So resting in a dark room is no longer the only option for recovering from concussions.

Want more info about omega-3s?  Check out podcast #237 from the Meal Makeover Moms, where they interviewed me about the different types of omegas, the benefits of each, food sources, and even some FAQs, including krill oil & the recent prostate cancer study.  And stay tuned for more posts in this “All About Omegas” series.

Meal Makeover Moms Podcast #237: Omega-3s

Want to give omega supplements a try?  You can order Nordic Naturals from me in two ways, and ALWAYS get 15% off + FREE shipping either way!

  • Use this link, and enter Practitioner ID 89980, or…
  • Contact me, and I help you figure out just what you need!

Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (no minimum order)! (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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All About Omegas (Part 1): What is EPA?

All About Omegas (Part 1): What is EPA? (Fresh Start Nutrition)

First, what are essential fatty acids?  Essential refers to a nutrient that must be obtained through the diet or supplementation because our bodies don’t produce it.  Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids.  There are 3 main types of omega-3s to discuss: EPA, DHA & ALA.  While they work together in the body, research shows that each has unique benefits.  Let’s start with EPA.

What is EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)?  Found in fish (especially fatty fish), fish oil, & cod liver oil, EPA plays a role in the body’s anti-inflammatory response.  Where we’ve seen this most researched & publicized is in cardiovascular & circulatory health, so much so that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people with heart disease consume a minimum of 1 gram/day of EPA + DHA (that’s one of the other omega-3s we’ll be discussing).  Those with high triglycerides should consume 2-4 grams/day of EPA + DHA.  That’s because omega-3s:

  • Promote circulation & blood vessel function
  • Reduce triglycerides
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Support healthy cholesterol levels (& can safely complement statin drug therapy)
  • Slow atherosclerosis
  • Can prevent & improve arrhythmias

We also see these anti-inflammatory effects benefiting the flexibility & movement of joints.  Research shows that EPA reduces joint pain associated with arthritis; in fact, 60% of patients in a study were able to discontinue use of their conventional anti-inflammatory therapies.  When it comes to fitness needs from the casual exerciser to the athlete, omega-3s have been shown to:

  • Improve endurance & recovery
  • Reduce joint pain & swelling
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Enhance lung function
  • Promote healthy metabolism & body composition
  • Improve weight loss

In order to get these benefits, experts recommend front-loading with 2-4 grams/day of EPA + DHA, then reducing the dose to maintain joint support.

EPA is also important in healthy immune function, including our body’s response to autoimmune & inflammatory disorders.

Want more info about omega-3s?  Check out podcast #237 from the Meal Makeover Moms, where they interviewed me about the different types of omegas, the benefits of each, food sources, and even some FAQs, including krill oil & the recent prostate cancer study.  And stay tuned for more posts in this “All About Omegas” series.

Meal Makeover Moms Podcast #237: Omega-3s

Want to give omega supplements a try?  You can order Nordic Naturals from me in two ways, and ALWAYS get 15% off + FREE shipping either way!

  • Use this link, and enter Practitioner ID 89980, or…
  • Contact me, and I help you figure out just what you need!

Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (no minimum order)! (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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Giveaway! $100 in Nordic Naturals + All About Omega-3s

Enter to win $100 in your choice of Nordic Naturals supplements!

Enter to win $100 in your choice of Nordic Naturals supplements!

The Meal Makeover Moms interviewed me for their podcast series about omega-3s.  We covered the different types, the benefits of each, food sources, and even some FAQs, including krill oil & the recent prostate cancer study.  You can listen to the podcast here (episode #237).

They even created a recipe for Triple Omega Crispy Shrimp to help us get more omega-3s in our diets.

To top it off, we’re doing a giveaway, too!  Enter to win $100 worth of your choice of Nordic Naturals supplements, and complimentary consultation with me to make sure you’re taking what’s right for you or your kids.

As always, you can order Nordic Naturals from me in two ways, and ALWAYS get 15% off + FREE shipping either way!

  • Use this link, and enter Practitioner ID 89980, or…
  • Contact me, and I help you figure out just what you need!

Get Nordic Naturals 15% Off + Free Shipping ALWAYS (no minimum order)! (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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A Fun Snow Day Activity or Winter Weekend Meal: Snowman Pizza

This is the part of winter where it starts to get long.  Holidays are over & we’re longing for spring (or at least a vacation to Florida).  Here’s something fun to try to keep the winter spirit going, perfect for after playing in the snow!

A Fun Snow Day Activity or Winter Weekend Meal: Snowman Pizza (Fresh Start Nutrition)

Make your own dough, or to keep it simple, buy it pre-made.  Involve the kids as much as possible, and have fun topping your snowman.  We used: mozzarella cheese, sliced chicken breast, halved cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, sliced red onion, and carrots (for the nose & arms).

A Fun Snow Day Activity or Winter Weekend Meal: Snowman Pizza (Fresh Start Nutrition)

A Fun Snow Day Activity or Winter Weekend Meal: Snowman Pizza (Fresh Start Nutrition)

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Recipe: Healthy Farro, Broccoli & Cheddar Bake

This recipe was created by accident.  We had a head of broccoli that needed to go.  I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and really wanting that broccoli, rice & cheese casserole we all know & love.  But…we were out of rice.  We did, however, have a bag of farro.

So what is farro?  Italian for emmer wheat, farro is a whole grain with a soft texture & light, nutty flavor.  While it’s low in gluten, farro is not gluten-free.  But it’s full of fiber, protein, vitamins A, C & E, and the B vitamins as well.  It went well in this recipe and thanks to its versatility, can go well in other recipes too: soups, salads & even risotto-type dishes.

Recipe: Healthy Farro, Broccoli & Cheddar Bake (Fresh Start Nutrition)

Healthy Farro, Broccoli & Cheddar Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10-Minute Farro)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups small broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 recipe of Cream of Anything Soup (prepared) or 1 (15-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • panko bread crumbs (optional)
Recipe: Healthy Farro, Broccoli & Cheddar Bake (Fresh Start Nutrition)

Ready for the oven!

Method

  1. Grease a baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Prepare the farro: heat 1/2 T of the olive oil in a small sauce pan. Add farro & saute until toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups water & bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat & simmer until water is absorbed & farro is almost tender, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat for about 5 minutes, the fluff farro with a fork.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add broccoli and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes; shorter if frozen rather than fresh.
  6. Stir in: cooked farro, prepared soup, 3/4 cup of the cheese, salt and pepper.
  7. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cheese & bread crumbs evenly over the top.
  8. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
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Is Buying Organic Milk Worth It?

If organic milk didn’t cost more than conventional, there would be no question as to which is best.  But because it’s expensive, the question of “is it worth it” comes up often.  The best place to start is to ask yourself why you buy organic products: is it mainly for health reasons, environmental benefits, animal welfare, nutritional concerns or all of the above?  

Is Buying Organic Milk Worth It?  (Fresh Start Nutrition)

Let’s look at the main differences between organic and conventional milk:

1.  To be labeled organic milk, the cows’ feed must be all organic, and cannot contain any meat, poultry or animal byproducts.

2.  The use of antibiotics or hormones to promote growth are prohibited in cows raised for organic milk production.  This mainly refers to rBGH (bovine growth hormone).  Its use has been shown to increase the chance of developing mastitis (inflammation of the udder tissue) in dairy cattle.  Consumer demand to ban the use of this hormone has been high, and as a result, while it is still legal for conventional dairy farmers to use, has declined in recent years.  Most labels will indicate if rBGH has not been used.  If the hormone IS used on the cows, while the hormone may be present in the cow’s milk, it is destroyed in the human digestive tract once ingested.

3.  Organic milk farmers are required to provide a certain amount of time for the cows to graze outside.

4.  Other than the fatty acid profile, there is no conclusive evidence that organic milk is markedly different nutritionally from conventional.  Both provide the same amount of calories (when comparing milks with the same fat content) and nutrients (like calcium & fortified vitamin D).  Studies have shown that organic milk has a higher percentage of omega-3 fatty acids than conventional (especially compared to omega-6 fatty acids, which are already plentiful in the American diet).  This is due to cows’ diet (typically, more grass than grain) and the way in which they’re raised (a cow allowed to be outside would generally be more active and have leaner muscle than a factory-raised cow).  Keep in mind that choosing lower fat milk of either type would decrease the fatty acids (healthy or not) that you’re getting in your milk; for this reason, some choose to drink only whole milk & eat only full fat dairy products.

5.  Organic milk may have a longer shelf life than conventional milk.  Some organic milk goes through a pasteurization process called UHT (ultra high temperature processing). This process requires a higher temperature than what is used for conventional milk.  This process kills all of the bacteria in milk which allows a longer shelf life that may not even need refrigeration (such as in individual servings of milk in tetra packs). The pasteurization process used for conventional milk kills some, but not all bacteria.  (The milk from either processes are equally safe to consume.)  Due to the higher heat treatments, UHT milk has been noted to result in some nutritional losses. Still, this is relatively low, and mainly for vitamin B12, vitamin C, and thiamin (a B vitamin).

The bottom line: If ensuring your milk is pesticide-, hormone- and antibiotic-free is worth the extra cost, or if your priority is the treatment of the cows & the Earth, then organic would be a better option for you.  It’s all based on your concerns and what you are willing to pay.

Another option is to look into buying milk from a local dairy farmer. These may be produced on smaller farms, who may treat the cattle more humanely than larger-scale dairy farms (both conventional and organic), and may use similar feeding practices as an organic farm would.  Some may even be organically-produced, but they may not want to pay the hefty fee associated with certification.  The best way is to find out what’s in your area and talk to the farmers to learn more about their procedures.  Find farms near you at www.localharvest.org.

Research assistance provided by Judi Giordano, an aspiring dietitian and culinary graduate. 

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Recipes: How to Make DIY Homemade Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Coconut Milk, Soy Milk, Rice Milk & Hemp Milk

Before diving into making your own plant milks, check out this guide to what plant milks are out there, how they stack up nutritionally, and what they’re best used for.  For all the recipes below, I recommend using a Vitamix.  It will change the way you think about DIY in the kitchen!

By making your own non-dairy beverages, you’re in control of what nuts, seeds or grains you use (raw & organic are best) as well as how much sweetener is added.  And you can also avoid such additives as carrageenan, a seaweed-based thickener & emulsifier that has been shown to contribute to inflammation in the body.  But keep in mind that when making them at home, these “milks” won’t be fortified with such nutrients as additional calcium, vitamin D or vitamin B12.

Recipes: How to Make DIY Homemade Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Coconut Milk, Soy Milk, Rice Milk & Hemp Milk (Fresh Start Nutrition)

DIY Almond Milk

Makes about 4 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ tsp vanilla (optional)

Method:

  1. Soak the almonds in water for at least 6 hours, but no longer than 10.  Drain the almonds.
  2. Add 3 cups of water to the almonds & blend until liquidy.
  3. Optional: add cinnamon, dark chocolate, dates, maple syrup or honey & blend.
  4. Strain through cheesecloth, a nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer.
  5. Refrigerate for up to 4 days.

DIY Oat Milk

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled or quick oats (cooked oats will make a creamier milk)
  • 2 cup water

Method:

  1. Blend the oats & water.
  2. Optional: flavor with cinnamon, honey, nutmeg, vanilla or chocolate.
  3. Strain through cheesecloth, a nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer.
  4. Refrigerate.

DIY Coconut Milk

Ingredients:

  • 1 young coconut
  • Water (amount will vary)

Method:

  1. Crack open the young coconut and scoop out the inner flesh.
  2. Blend the coconut with water.
  3. Strain through cheesecloth, a nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer.
  4. Refrigerate.

DIY Soy Milk

Makes about 8 cups.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup soybeans
  • 2 T honey or sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla (optional)

Method:

  1. Soak beans overnight. Rinse beans and toss any loose skins.
  2. Add to 2-3 cups water. Puree until smooth, adding water if needed.
  3. Strain through cheesecloth, a nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer.
  4. Bring to a boil. Stir, skim to remove the foam, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add water if necessary.
  5. Refrigerate.

DIY Rice Milk

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 T sweetener (optional)
  • dash of salt

 Method:

  1. Put all ingredients in a blender & blend for 4 minutes.
  2. Refrigerate.

DIY Hemp Milk

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup raw, organic, shelled hemp seeds
  • 2 cups water

Method:

  1. Blend the water and hemp seeds in a blender until well blended.
  2. Strain through cheesecloth, a nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer.  *Try using the hemp seed pulp as a body scrub or facial mask.
  3. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Research assistance provided by Meghan Neary, a dietetic intern from Gaston College.

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How to Choose a Non-Dairy Plant “Milk”

How to Choose a Non-Dairy Plant “Milk” (Fresh Start Nutrition)

This was originally a guest blog post for Nourish, an organic, vegan delivery service in Charlotte, NC.  If you’re local, consider having their delicious & unique food nourish YOU.

Looking for a non-dairy alternative to cow’s milk?  Perhaps you’re transitioning to a more plant-based diet, allergic or sensitive to dairy, or just wanting more variety in your morning smoothie.  Plant milks are popping up everywhere from chefs’ creations at restaurants to grocery store shelves; they’re not just in health food stores anymore.  Here’s a guide to what plant milks are out there, how they stack up nutritionally, what they’re best used for, and even how to make your own DIY versions at home.

By making your own non-dairy beverages, you’re in control of what nuts, seeds or grains you use (raw & organic are best) as well as how much sweetener is added.  And you can also avoid such additives as carrageenan, a seaweed-based thickener & emulsifier that has been shown to contribute to inflammation in the body.  But keep in mind that when making them at home, these “milks” won’t be fortified with such nutrients as additional calcium, vitamin D or vitamin B12.

In general, when selecting a store bought brand, opt for unsweetened, unflavored or “plain” varieties to avoid added sugars (but watch for artificial sweeteners too).  Because they are plant-based, all of the non-dairy milks below are cholesterol-free.  Especially if avoiding dairy or vegan, look for versions that have been fortified with calcium, vitamin D & vitamin B12.  Non-dairy plant milks can generally be substituted cup-for-cup in recipes.  Shake (store-bought & homemade varieties) before enjoying, since solids & fortified nutrients may have settled.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is simply almonds ground in water and very easy to make at home.  While almond milk is low in calories, saturated fat, and sugar, keep in mind that it is also low in protein, providing only 1 gram per cup.  Almond milk has a velvety texture; honey or cinnamon may be added for subtle sweetness.

Why try it?

  • contains vitamin E and flavonoids

Best uses:

  • hot and cold cereals
  • puddings
  • baked goods
  • creamy salad dressings
  • as a beverage
  • smoothies
  • omelettes

Make it at home: Recipe for DIY Almond Milk

Coconut Milk

Made of the coconut “meat” blended with water, coconut milk tends to be higher in fat (including saturated fat) than other plant milks.  Coconut milk has a delicious taste, creamy consistency, and is very versatile (also try coconut milk as a skin moisturizer, make up remover, after sun treatment & hair conditioner).

Why try it?

  • high in iron
  • high in fiber
  • high in protein (5 grams per cup)
  • low in sugar

Best uses:

  • coffee creamer
  • oatmeal
  • baked goods
  • cream pies
  • homemade non-dairy ice cream
  • casseroles
  • puddings
  • Indian or Thai recipes

Reminders when buying:

  • Coconut beverages in cartons are best for drinking.
  • Canned coconut milk is best for recipes such as curries.

Make it at home: Recipe for DIY Coconut Milk

Soy Milk

Soy milk is made from soybeans by soaking the beans in water and grinding them until creamy. It may be mixed with soy protein isolates, sugar, water and oils to give it a milky appearance. Soy milk has a similar consistency to cow’s milk (& is the most similar to cow’s milk nutritionally) so it is a good substitute for those who are lactose intolerant and/or have allergies, but are accustomed to cow’s milk.  While it has a beany flavor, most leading brands offer vanilla or chocolate flavors so it is not easily detected, but be aware that most flavors come with added sugar.

Why try it?

  • best source of protein (compared to other plant milks)
  • low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates
  • similar amount of potassium to cow’s milk
  • no lactose (milk sugar)
  • may help reduce cholesterol

Best uses:

  • coffee creamer
  • hot and cold cereals
  • smoothies (no foam!)
  • creamy or savory sauces
  • baked goods

Reminders when buying:

  • Check the ingredients list to make sure whole soybeans are used, rather than soy protein isolate.
  • Select organic soy milk to avoid GMOs.

Make it at home: Recipe for DIY Soy Milk

Oat Milk

Oat milk has a thick and creamy texture with a mild taste (often described as a freshly baked oatmeal cookie). Oat milk is popular for those with allergies & and dairy intolerances.

Why try it?

  • good source of fiber
  • provides iron & folate
  • rich in phytochemicals
  • may reduce cholesterol
  • may help maintain blood sugar levels

Best uses:

  • as a beverage
  • mashed potatoes
  • soups
  • hot cereal

Reminders when buying:

  • Those with gluten intolerance should avoid store bought oat milk due to gluten in the oats.  (Oat milk can be easily made at home with gluten-free oats, available at many health food stores.)

Make it at home: Recipe for DIY Oat Milk

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made from boiled rice, brown rice syrup and brown rice starch, which give it a sweet taste & thin consistency.   It is low in protein & fat, but higher in carbohydrates than other plant milks.

Why try it?

  • free of common allergens, such as soy, nuts & gluten
  • may reduce cholesterol

Best uses:

  • as a beverage
  • soups
  • hot cereals
  • baked goods
  • pancake batter

Reminders when buying:

  • Rice milk may not be recommended for those with diabetes.

Make it at home: Recipe for DIY Rice Milk

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is made from the seed of the hemp plant and water. It has a nutty flavor, creamy texture, and is especially good for use in baked goods (compared to cow’s milk & other plant milks).

Why try it?

  • good source of omega-3s (700 mg per cup)
  • may lower triglycerides
  • may reduce cholesterol

Best uses:

  • chai tea
  • espresso
  • smoothies
  • baked goods

Make it at home: Recipe for DIY Hemp Milk

Research assistance provided by Meghan Neary, dietetic intern.

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Vitamin D: What’s Your Status?

Vitamin D: What’s Your Status? (Fresh Start Nutrition)

Check out Harvard.edu for more.

If you’ve had your vitamin D levels checked lately, chances are, your results were low.  (Ideal levels are greater than 30 ng/mL, and closer to 40 ng/mL if pregnant.)  Recent research shows that many people worldwide are either vitamin D deficient or insufficient.  Why?  Vitamin D can be tough to get from food (since not many foods naturally contain vitamin D) and many of us don’t get enough unprotected sun exposure to make our own (we’re either stuck indoors or slathering on our SPF).

Some groups are at especially high risk of vitamin D deficiency; these include:

  • Infants who are breastfed for a prolonged time with no supplementation.  (Supplemental vitamin D is recommended for all babies from birth.  Here’s one to try.)
  • Children with dark skin.
  • Children with inadequate intake of vitamin D-fortified plant or cow’s milk.
  • Children on anticonvulsant therapy for epilepsy.
  • Women who have had multiple pregnancies and have breastfed with little exposure to the sun.
  • Women with a low calcium intake.
  • Those with intestinal malabsorption.
  • Those who live farther from the equator.
  • The elderly.

Vitamin D has always been known to work with calcium to sustain strong bones, but a slew of new research has come out in the past few years linking it to other diseases. The benefits include:

  • Helps to maintain bone density by aiding calcium absorption, reducing the risk of fracture, osteomalacia, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis (OA).
  • Strengthens the immune system to help fight infections like the flu.
  • May reduce the risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • Has been linked to a lower risk autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The best food sources include cod liver oil, salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and shrimp. It can also be found in egg yolks, beef liver and certain mushrooms, and in fortified foods such as milk, plant “milks”yogurt, cereals and orange juice.

There are two forms of Vitamin D to note: D2 (ergocalciferol), which is synthesized by plants and D3 (cholecalciferol), which is the form we synthesize from sun exposure.  The active form of vitamin D is known as calcitriol. New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests the D3 form is more beneficial in raising vitamin D levels in the blood than D2.

In 2010 the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) increased their daily recommendations for vitamin D: 600 IUs/day for ages 1-70, 800 IUs/day for ages 71+, and 600 IUs/day for pregnant or lactating women. The IOM also increased the tolerable upper intake level (UL) from 2000 IUs to 4000 IUs.  However, other organizations, like the Vitamin D Council and the Endocrine Society recommend up to 10,000 IUs daily for adults, and higher levels than the IOM recommendations for infants and children as well.

If you’re finding it difficult to fit enough vitamin D rich foods into your diet, consider taking a supplement of about 1000 IUs daily of the D3 form.  For adults or kids, try gel caps (swallowable or chewable), a yummy gummy, or vegan liquid.  [Use this link & enter Practitioner ID 89980 for 15% off + free shipping of any of these options.]

You can also take advantage of getting outside more often, but you don’t need to burn your skin or stay outside for long periods of time to reap the benefits.  The Vitamin D Council recommends exposing your skin for about half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink and begin to burn, which could be around 15 minutes if you’re fair skinned, or longer for dark skin types.  (While sunburn is a risk from too much unprotected sun exposure, vitamin D toxicity from natural production from sun exposure is NOT a risk.)

Get your vitamin D level checked at your next physical exam, and for ideal vitamin D status, pay attention to your food sources of vitamin D as well as your safe sun exposure.

Wondering what other supplements you & your family may need (or don’t)?  Check out this post.

Research assistance provided by Judi Giordano, an aspiring dietitian and culinary graduate. 

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What Supplements Do You Really Need?

Following is my answer to one of the most common questions I get this time of year, as we enter into cold & flu season.  Everyone wants to make sure their immune system–and their bodies in general–are able stay as healthy as possible.

What Supplements Do You Really Need? (Fresh Start Nutrition)When it comes to your health, supplements really are the wild, wild West.  What should you take?  How do you choose?  Are the claims true?  Could they be harmful?  Is that expensive one worth it?

Every good dietitian will recommend that you get your nutrients from food first.  Supplements are just that–they should be used to supplement an otherwise healthy diet.  I like to see them as “filling in the gaps” of what I’m able to get from nutritious foods; to round out the days when my diet just isn’t ideal, which unfortunately, come more often than I’d like.

Keep in mind that quality matters.  Think of supplements like food–along with your snacks & meals, they provide the building blocks for your body.  You really are what you eat.  So don’t go for the cheap stuff.  Quality supplements mean that they’re usually more pure (especially in the case of fish oils or green powders), contain the more well-researched, bioavailable forms of the nutrients, have fewer additives (such as artificial colors or sweeteners), and contain no cheap fillers or bulking agents.  This is a case of you (usually) get what you pay for.

When checking out those labels, remember that more isn’t always better & “natural” isn’t always safe.  (“Natural” is an unregulated term, by the way.)  You don’t need 3000% Daily Value of a nutrient.  In that case, you’re most likely creating extra work for your kidneys & expensive urine (or worse, such as in the case of some nutrients that can accumulate to toxic levels).  And just because there is a litany of enzymes, herbs, amino acids, or a vegetable/fruit blend, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re holding a better supplement.  In this case, it’s buyer beware, since a lot of these may be unproven or even unsafe (especially for kids).  So keep it simple.  Not to mention those fancy ingredients may just be adding to the price tag.  Can you really tell how much acai fruit powder is in there anyway?

So if you’re looking to try some supplements or to simplify your regimen, read on.  With cold & flu season upon us, it’s the perfect time to get started.  Below is a list of some basics & what to look for.  Need more help deciding just what you need (& what you don’t)?  Let me help you take the guesswork out of it with a complimentary Supplement Consultation.  (Just email me at FreshStartRD@gmail.com.)

First the basics…

1.  Multivitamin/mineral OR prenatal.  You may have heard or read that you don’t need a multivitamin/mineral supplement.  Ideally, no one would.  That would mean we’re all eating a good variety of nutrient dense foods to cover our needs.  But sometimes, as I mentioned above, that’s just not realistic for some of us every day.  So only you know if you need one.  (Or have a dietitian analyze your food log for you to determine if you’re missing out on any key nutrients.)  Eat well most of the time?  Then take half the dose.  (If you’re pregnant, or may become pregnant, folic acid from a supplement or a good source of folate from food is a must, so stick with the suggested dose.  When selecting a prenatal, be sure that most, if not all, vitamin A is in the form of beta carotene, and not retinyl palmitate, since excessive amounts of the latter can be teratogenic, or cause birth defects.  The form of the nutrients is evident on the label.)

One to try? Men, Women, Prenatal, Kids*, Babies

*Use this link & enter Practitioner ID 89980 for 15% off + free shipping of the kids’ multivitamin/mineral.

2.  Vitamin D.  Far too many of us have low vitamin D levels.  Why?  Our bodies produce vitamin D with the help of the sun, but most of us have either limited sun exposure or are protected with sunscreen.  And vitamin D is tough to get from food alone.  But we need more.  Vitamin D is the one nutrient for which every cell in the body has a receptor.  And the incidence of some diseases, especially autoimmune, increases as we go away from the equator (because of decreased sun exposure, and therefore, decreased vitamin D production).  The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has increased their recommendations for daily intake, and many vitamin D experts suggest even more.  So go either for “safe” sun exposure (up to 15 minutes without sunscreen, several days per week) and/or consider a supplement.  If supplementing, opt for the D3 form (cholecalciferol).  (Supplemental vitamin D is recommended for all babies from birth.  Here’s one to try.)  For more on vitamin D, check out this post.

One to try?

Adults & Kids: Gel cap (swallowable or chewable), gummy, liquid (vegan)

*Use this link & enter Practitioner ID 89980 for 15% off + free shipping of any of these options.

3.  Omega-3s/Fish Oil.  Inflammation is believed to be the root cause of many of the diseases we fight today.  You may have heard about the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s (from fatty fish, flaxseed, hemp, walnuts, canola oil, fortified eggs & dairy, etc.).  So if you’ve been including these foods in your diet, why would you need a supplement?  Some avoid fish (or don’t eat much of it) for one reason or another.  Also, the plant source of omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid, or ALA) is not efficiently converted to DHA & EPA, the type of omega-3s our bodies need, so it’s tough to get enough from food sources alone, especially if not eating enough fish or fortified foods.  (For more on choosing what fish to buy, click here.)  Finally, omega-3s (especially DHA) are important for pregnant mothers (for the developing brain & eyes of her fetus) & breast feeding mothers (to provide DHA to her baby in her breast milk and to replace her stores lost in pregnancy).  Interested in giving a fish oil a try?  Here’s how to choose a good one or see if yours stacks up.

One to try?  Adults (gel cap or liquid, both also available with added vitamin D), Kids (chewable gel cap, gummy or liquid), Bigger Kids, Babies (after weaning)

*Use this link & enter Practitioner ID 89980 for 15% off + free shipping of any of the options.

Now for the bonus…

4.  Probiotics.  These are hot right now & for good reason.  Check out this post for why, and some different options to try (from gel caps to organic superfoods to liquids to kids’).

5. Greens Superfood (a source of blue-green algae, green grass juices & deep green leafy veggies).  These are popping up everywhere, partly in answer to the juicing trend.    If you’re already juicing (or blending), some days, it’s just not happening.  You might have let the produce rot in the back of the crisper drawer.  The farmer’s market or grocery store was too inconvenient.  You just don’t feel like it.  Juicing & blending can be expensive & time consuming, by the time you run the errands, buy the fruits & veggies (especially if you go organic), wash & prep them, clean the equipment, etc.  For those days, go for a green powder.   It’s a quick, convenient, lower sugar, lower cost, superfood alternative to juicing.  Add it to smoothies, or make a green juice with it.  Look for one with zero cheap fillers or bulking agents (often disguised as fiber), with no additives (such as sweeteners), that is certified organic, and is packed with only blue-green algae, green grass juices & leafy green veggies.

One to try?  Miessence DeepGreens (Take 20% off when you spend $150.)

Strive for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts & seeds, as well as lean protein & healthy fats.  And when you do choose to supplement, keep it simple & safe by choosing high quality supplements, all while keeping in mind that they’re not designed to replace a nutritious diet, but to complement it.

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Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Want a warm, comforting breakfast that’s packed with fiber, immune-boosting vitamin A, omega-3s & fall flavor?  Give this one a try, and for smoother mornings, make it ahead (here’s how).

Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal (Fresh Start Nutrition)

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • Oatmeal, prepared as directed (Optional: Use part apple cider or your choice of milk as the liquid.)
  • Stir-ins:
    • Canned pureed pumpkin
    • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
    • Chopped pecans
    • Golden raisins
    • Ground flax seed
    • Toasted wheat germ
    • Pumpkin pie spice (or use cinnamon + nutmeg)
    • Vanilla extract
    • Optional sweetener: maple syrup

Method:

  1. Prepare oatmeal as directed.
  2. Stir in the toppings of your choice.

Tips:

Didn’t use the whole can of pureed pumpkin?  Freeze into cubes in an ice cube tray, pop out into a freezer bag, and store in the freezer for a Pumpkin Spice Smoothie, your next batch of oatmeal (a lot more oatmeal ideas!) or even for baby.

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Recipe: Meghan’s Famous Black Bean Brownies (Gluten-Free, Egg-Free)

You’ve sampled them.  You’ve loved them.  You’ve been amazed that there is a whole can of black beans blended in.  AND, they’re gluten-free & egg-free!  Now here’s the recipe…

Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients

  • 15 oz can black beans, rinsed thoroughly
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • ½ cup quick oats (gluten-free oats available at Trader Joe’s)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup maple syrup (use the real stuff)
  • ¼ canola oil (preferably organic)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅔ cup mini chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350०F.
  2. Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips into the bowl of a food processor & blend until smooth.
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour batter into a prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then let stand for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Contributed by Meghan Neary, a dietetic technician intern who enjoys advocating for a healthy lifestyle to promote wellness & prevent long term disease.

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Recipe: Nut Butter Chia Seed Whole Grain Cookies (Peanut-Free, Egg-Free & Vegan)

Fiber, omega-3s, protein, and antioxidants all disguised as an easy-to-make cookie?  Yes, please.  Inspired by the Meal Makeover Moms, I set out to make a snack for my kids AND me that was just that.  What resulted was an energy- and nutrient-packed bit of nut-buttery, chocolate-y deliciousness.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Nut Butter Chia Seed Whole Grain Cookies (Peanut-Free, Egg-Free & Vegan)

Nut Butter Chia Seed Whole Grain Cookies (Egg-Free)

Ingredients

  • 1  3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I use organic evaporated cane juice, available at Costco & BJs.)
  • 3/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter (Peanut allergy?  Try swapping the PB with almond butter or even sunflower seed butter.)
  • 2 T chia seeds + 6 T water (combine, stir & let sit until a gel forms)
  • 1/4 cup milk (can be substituted with a plant milk if you’d like a vegan cookie)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350oF.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, chocolate chips, flaxseed, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda & salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, peanut butter, chia seed gel, milk, applesauce & vanilla.
  4. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the wet mixture until combined.
  5. Place tablespoon-sized scoops of dough on the trays, about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake about 15 minutes; let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.
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8 Nutrition Tips for New Moms

womansaladThe just-had-a-baby adrenaline rush has plummeted.  Night-feeding exhaustion has set in.  You’re taking care of your new baby like a pro, but what about taking care of yourself?

Your body is recovering from very hard work, not just from birth, but from the last 9 months.  You built arms & legs, you know.  And what about all that nutritious breast milk your body may be busily making?

So what are some ways to make sure you can keep up with the demands of being a mom, all while making sure that you’re not running on empty?  Since the extra sleep you need might not be an option right now, try these energizing tips:

1.  Eat when you’re hungry & try not to skip meals/snacks.  You’re hungry for a reason—you need at least 500 additional calories per day if you’re exclusively breast feeding.  But keep in mind that emotional eating may not be energizing eating.  Carbohydrates alone boost serotonin, the “feel good”, relaxing brain chemical, but won’t necessarily give you an energy boost. The solution?  Have plenty of healthy snacks on hand that have the filling, energy-sustaining combination of healthy fat + lean protein + fiber.  The focus on fiber in the form of whole grains, veggies, fruits, nuts & seeds, will also help with postpartum constipation.  Some ideas:

  • Trail mix: dried fruit, nuts, dark chocolate chips, dry whole grain cereal.  Why trail mix?  It’s easy & grab on-the-go (keep in the car), as well as contains a great combo of good fats, protein, fiber & phytonutrients.  Store it in a sliding zip-top bag.  (Why the sliding kind?  Because you just may be opening & closing it with your teeth while holding your new bundle.)
  • Green smoothies.  Why?  They’re quick & portable, and packed with calcium, protein, fiber, phytonutrients & probiotics.
  • Oatmeal.  Why?  It’s a warm, comforting way to get your whole grains, and full of nutrients & fiber.  Top it wisely for even better nutrition-packed meal or snack.
  • Slow cooker soups, such as bean, vegetable or lentil.  Why?  They’re easy, warm, and comforting, and a great way to use up what’s in your fridge, fill you up, and sneak in vegetables & extra fluids.  You can also freeze soups in pre-portioned individual or meal-sized quantities.  Perfect for those need-to-eat-NOW lunches or fussy baby evenings.
  • Or try some other high-energy, on-the-go snack ideas.

2.  Weight loss is not the priority in the first few weeks.  I repeat: for at least the first six weeks, there is no need to focus on weight loss.  It will happen.  One of the main reasons your body put on extra weight during pregnancy is so that it will have those very energy stores to produce breast milk after your pregnancy.  You’ve heard it before, but it took 9 months to create your pregnancy body; now give yourself at least up to that time to recover.  Healthy, realistic postpartum weight loss is 2 pounds per week if breastfeeding, and 1 pound per week if not.

3.  It’s tempting with a drive-thru Starbucks right around the corner, but avoid excess caffeine, especially if nursing.  If you must have some caffeine, reach for a small coffee (ideally half-caf or even decaf) or green or black tea.  Leave the energy drinks on the shelf, since they’re full of sugar or artificial sweeteners, as well as herbs that might not be safe for breast feeding moms.  Sugary drinks can cause a spike in your blood sugar (& the inevitable crash later).

4.  While it’s no substitute for a variety of nutritious foods, continue with your prenatal supplement.  It won’t provide energy outright, but it may help fill in the gaps of an otherwise less-than-perfect diet.  Iron is especially important, so in addition to your prenatal, be sure to include plenty of beans, spinach, cereals & dried fruit.  Eating a food high in vitamin C (OJ, strawberries, red bell pepper) along with the iron-rich food will improve its absorption.  And keep taking that DHA (such as from a quality omega-3 fish oil supplement) to fight that “mom brain”—your baby stole yours for his/her developing brain & eyes, and you’ll also need it to provide enough for him/her in your breast milk.  Finally, consider a probiotic to benefit you AND your baby (if breast feeding).

5.  Redefine exercise, at least for the first weeks (& once you get the go-ahead from your OB/midwife, of course).  Dancing with your baby (more appropriate for older babies, but a great mood-booster), pushing the stroller, a walk (even around the house) with the baby securely in a carrier/sling, is all you may need for optimum energy & healthy weight loss.

6.  Stock your fridge, freezer & pantry for energizing, healthy-snacking success.  Keep the ingredients of an easy-to-grab, quick-to-make, “clean”, whole food diet on hand.

7.  Plan ahead.  Never be caught without a quick meal or snack.

8.  Prepare healthy foods ahead of time (during those rare opportunities when you do have time).  Pre-cut fruits & veggies, prepare & freeze soups, batch cook, blend trail mixes, hard boil eggs, etc.

You will get the hang of this.  Some days you’ll have it all together.  And some days, you’ll forget whether you even brushed your teeth, let alone had a serving of fresh baby spinach.  But keep those tips in mind most days and you’ll be ready for anything, super mom.

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