Energy Bits – Fuel for Fitness and your Immune System!

In honor of the Energy Bits Twitter Chat I will be hosting tonight at 8 PM (follow #poweredbybits) titled “Real Fuel for Athletes”, I thought it was important to let everyone know why I support the company and the product. The first question I often get from people is “what are energy bits?” and then I often hear “I thought you weren’t a big fan of supplements?”. I hope to clear all of this up in this post so you understand what Energy Bits are, what nutrients and compounds they contain and how they aid your body, and why I personally like them! I want to start off by saying I receive NO monetary compensation from energy bits, I use them myself, and also receive no money if you purchase them with my discount code.

Food for travel

The real food I pack for travel w/ bits to boost immunity!

Energy bits are 100% pure, high quality, vegan, non-GMO project verified spirulina algae. I will let the bits website tell you the rest:

“Spirulina is a fresh water blue green algae that was the first plant life on earth almost three billion years ago. Spirulina is so concentrated with nutrition that forty years ago the United Nations declared it to be the healthiest food in the world. Algae’s nutritional profile is so impressive that the scientific, nutrition, sports and medical communities have conducted over 100,000 scientific studies about its health benefits. Spirulina is nature’s equivalent to an energy drink – but since it comes straight from nature (not a lab or production plant), it’s much better!”

The above is why energy bits are not a supplement! Supplements are relatively new in our world and are typically processed heavily in a lab to give high concentration of a particular nutrient or compound. Spirulina on the other hand has been on this earth billions of years, naturally occurs, and contains a great amount of many nutrients naturally. In terms of the benefits of this naturally occurring algae, we will start with its nutrient content:

There is a long list of nutrients found in spirulina/energy bits and I will let you read that on their website. I will point out those that I think are most beneficial though! Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency that occurs in the US, and especially impacts women of childbearing age, kids, and most of all: ATHLETES! To get a boost of iron in just 30 calories that also provide you with an energetic feeling is great for an active person. Many athletes go through their days of training without ever realizing their fatigue-like symptoms are due to low iron stores in the body. Without enough iron, oxygen is not transported properly, therefore impacting oxygen use by muscles, and metabolism. Athletes who are familiar with how VO2 max, or maximal oxygen consumption, impacts performance, should definitely care about iron stores in the body! Another great benefit of spirulina is that its a vegan source of B12, which if you are vegan, you know is very hard to come by. B12 is essential for blood health, brain function and energy metabolism too. The next nutrient many Americans lack that you hear a lot about is omega 3’s. Spirulina contains a fatty compound, GLA, that is converted into omega-3 compounds in the body so you can better manage inflammation, immune health, joint health, and heart health. Finally, I want to point out the natural source of nitrates! Nitric oxide is huge in sports nutrition research right now, and while some research has shown negative health effects from supplements, natural nitrate sources show promise for increase oxygen delivery to muscles and therefore better endurance and recovery. Beet root juice, a food high in nitrates, is getting the most press and use for recovery after exercise right now, and spinach is another great source. I really believe a big part of the increased energy and endurance I feel from energy bits is due to the natural nitrates spirulina provides. While bits provide 5 grams of protein in those 30 calories, it isn’t a ton. However, at the SCAN Symposium Conference I attended in June, even speakers were mentioning that spirulina is something to watch out for as a newly promoted plant based protein source in supplements due to its amino acid content.

I tried bits for a natural energy boost and they delivered there. If taken a half hour before exercise, you never feel a jolt of energy as you would with coffee (and as I would expect with an energy drink though I have never tried and will never try one) and you never feel a crash. What you will notice is that you don’t lose steam as quickly in an endurance workout and you may have some fuel for a little higher of an intensity too.

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I signed on as an Energy Bits ambassador back in April after trying the product and being very satisfied with its impact on my training as well as my allergies and asthma. I’ll admit at first, with the couple of samples I got, I wondered if the better endurance during my workouts was just a placebo effect. After talking to a couple of other RD’s who support bits, I decided to listen to my gut and invest in using bits regularly! I quickly found a huge impact on my allergies and asthma, which have impacted my life and exercise every since I was 3 years old. I have found things that trigger my allergies and asthma more than my typically allergens, such as sugar and dairy but have eliminated them from my diet other than a rare occasion in terms of the sugar. Without even realizing it one day, I went out for a long bike ride without taking my inhaler. Normally, I would make it out 5 minutes and be wheezing, need to turn back, and then have symptoms the rest of the day. I was half way through an hour long ride when I noticed I hadn’t taken it and was feeling great. The only difference was that I had energy bits a half hour before. I thought it might be an anomaly. I checked the energy bits facebook page where other ambassadors can communicate and bounce ideas off of one another. Others had already mentioned its benefits for allergies and when I posted about my asthma benefits a few others said they had the same reaction. Have I used my inhaler since? Yes, especially when I run races just in case, but I have noticed a great improvement in my asthma symptoms! To me this is definitely worth the money I spend on energy bits, especially since so many essential nutrients come along with the spirulina.

I hope you’ll join me over on Twitter tonight at 8 PM (Tues Oct, 28, 2014) for the Real Fuel for Athletes chat! I am going to be sharing my favorite real food fuel and recovery foods and would love to hear what yours are too! If you’d like to purchase energy bits, recovery bits, or vitality bits, you can receive 30% off with my discount code: EATREALFUEL .

Twitter Chat Bits

A Healthier Halloween

2014 Update & New Ideas Below!

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Halloween can and should be enjoyable for both kids and adults. The scary and spooky activities are a fun American tradition, but we shouldn’t have to be scared about our health at the same time! If you’ve ever stumbled to my blog before, you have seen I really believe everything we eat should have a purpose and function in the body – and it should all come from whole foods. That being said, at holidays it is okay to include a few treats, we just need to be smart about them. A couple of things to consider are 1) moderation and 2) ingredients.

Indulging in moderation is key. What is moderation though? It can mean different things to different people. Someone they may think it means having cake once a week instead of every night after dinner! To me it is having cake only at family birthdays, weddings and other special occasions. Our diet should be made up of as many healthful whole foods as possible, with those treats being a once in a while addition.

Ingredients are of a major concern to me and to many parents when holidays like Halloween pop up. Trick-or-treating is a fun tradition and actually encourages activity as kids walk from door to door – again though, what they come home with can be scary! When the aisles at CVS and Target are packed with candy filled with hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors, colors and genetically engineered sugar, it can be difficult to choose what you’ll pass out (or have at Halloween parties) wisely. Here are some snacks I have used in the past, will be using this year, and links to a few articles for even more options.

In 2010 I opted to hand out individual pretzel packets and Annie’s brand organic fruit snacks. You can get a 24 pack of the fruit snacks at BJ’s or Costco for about $10 which is much cheaper than other grocery stores. Kids were definitely more apt to grab at those fruit snacks though and we ended up with leftover pretzels that we don’t really enjoy all that much.

In 2011 & 2012, I continued to hand out the fruit snacks but also got packages of Cascadian Farm Organic kids size granola bars.

This year I decided to give kids some different choices. While most seemed to be happy with the snacks above, I did hear a grunt or two. SO now we are trying a few things. Clif kids organic Z bars now come in the “Spooky S’mores” version this time of year so I picked up some of those. I wouldn’t mind having a leftover one before a workout so it works for us too. I also picked up a package of “UNreal” brand snickers type bars. UNreal promises no hydrogenated oils, artificial preservatives or colorings, and no GMO’s. And finally I picked up some Organic lollipops from Trader Joe’s. The big choice comes with the non-food option. While I realize they aren’t very sustainable, I was in Target yesterday picking up some 7th Generation cleaning products, and saw 6 packs of glow bracelets in the dollar bins. I grabbed a bunch and thought this could be a big hit. They’ll be getting candy at every other house, so seeing lit up bracelets while trick-or-treating might be a nice change for them.

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(Lollipop picture above from the Amazon.com listing of the product)

While some people have issues with Clif Brand’s lack of organic certification on all products, the Clif founders really do strive to use the best ingredients they can in their products while continuing to make them affordable. The Clif Kids line is all organic so i think these are a great option, especially since they are Halloween themed! They also have a “Monster Mint” version too.

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The UNReal brand isn’t taking off as much as I wish it would! I by no means am advocating for people to buy candy frequently, but with how many Reese’s and Hershey bars and Milky Ways are purchased, people could at least be buying a version of those candies that have no major red flag ingredients. A brand I love is Justin’s (their packets of almond butter are lifesavers when I travel) but the products are just too expensive to buy a lot of to hand out! My final treat recommendation is to head over to naturalcandystore.com for any holiday. They even have Fair Trade options!

For Halloween parties, there is no need to include candy at all! There are so many options for fun Halloween snacks and meals that are made from real wholesome and good for you foods. My “Eat Right Kids” board on Pinterest has lots of options. Following the Whole Kids Foundation on Pinterest can show you some good ideas too. This blog, called Listotic, has a great post on snack ideas too from mozzarella stick witches brooms to celery mummy tombs.

Below I have a couple more articles on balancing a healthful lifestyle and fun on Halloween. Remember that your kids will be more inclined to listen and limit their intake if they understand why! It’s never to early to start teaching your kids about nutrition and food. Have a Healthy Holiday!

http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Stone-Soup/October-2013/Healthy-Halloween-Snacks-for-the-Classroom/

http://www.ivillage.com/healthy-halloween-treats-kids-will-love/6-a-128659

file:///C:/Users/joneske/Downloads/HANDOUT-Halloween_the_Healthy_Way.pdf

http://www.eatright.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=6442477925

2014 Healthy Halloween Update:

The glow bracelets last year were a HUGE success. Kids were SO excited when they saw them to get one that I don’t even think they looked at the “unreal” brand and trader joe’s candy options we had. I was really hoping to find more glow bracelets this year at Target but they only had glow sticks in the dollar bin, and only 2 per package. I still think it is a good deal so I grabbed a bunch of packages. I also found target to have several other non-candy options too. I picked up temporary Halloween tattoos as well as Halloween bubbles. Tim thinks the bubbles will be a fail but I always loved them when I was a kid so we will have to wait and see what they like and don’t like this year! In addition, I am having the annie’s fruit snacks again as well as some Justin’s peanut butter cups. I am unable to find the UNreal brand of candy anywhere this year (not that I looked that hard, but CVS & target no longer carry them by us). Comment below if you have any other fun non-candy ideas or have seen other natural and organic options out there!

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Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

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I love all of the seasons, but you really cannot beat the foods in season in the fall. I likely will have many more pumpkin and squash based recipes in the coming months because there are just so many yummy things to do with those ingredients! As food companies and coffee shops are flooding the market with tons of artificial pumpkin spice “foods” and beverages, I love being able to showcase the much more satisfying flavors of real pumpkin and real spice! Today, I’m highlighting my favorite breakfast food {oatmeal} with a quick recipe that has a kick of pumpkin spice! I am posting the quick oats, single serve version here now plan to post a food prep steel cut slow cooker version in the next couple of weeks too, so stay tuned. Even though the ingredients below are for one serving, you can easily multiply each ingredient by the number of servings you need.

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal (V, GF, DF)

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Ingredients for 1 serving:

1 Cup unsweetened organic soymilk (or other milk or water)
1/2 c (40 g) organic rolled or quick oats (purchase certified gluten free if you have celiac)
1 teaspoon non GMO chia seeds (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 c pureed organic pumpkin (from home baked or canned*)
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice mix (I use trader joe’s mix)
1/2 tsp organic cinnamon
1 teaspoon cacao nibs (can omit)
1 tablespoon almond butter or other nut butter (can omit)

*Purchasing tip: If I do purchase canned, I buy beans at Trader Joe’s because they do not contain BPA. A risk of using canned foods is that the cans are lined with the carcinogenic chemical BPA. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, click here for brands that are BPA free.
Directions:
-In a small saucepan, boil 1 cup of soymilk (or other milk or water)
-Add the oats and chia seeds at once and reduce heat to simmer
-Stir frequently to prevent sticking – quick oats should thicken within 2 minutes and rolled oats within 5
-Add the pumpkin puree and spices, stir well, and turn off burner
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-Add in your almond butter (or any nut butter) and cacao nibs
-Again, stir well, and EAT!

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This makes a quick, easy and filling breakfast any day of the week, but can also be a great night time snack for an athlete looking to refuel and top off carbohydrate stores for training or competition. Combined, the oats, soy milk, and almond butter provide 19 grams of protein to boost the repair process when your body is recovering at night.

Check out my other suggestions for preparing oats here!

Nutrition information per serving (using soymilk, cacao & almond butter):
Calories: 370
Total Fat: 14 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 6 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 7 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 42 g
Fiber: 13 g
Sugar: 2 g
Protein: 19 g

Sodium: 30 mg 1 % Potassium: 575 mg 12 %

Thiamin: 10 %         Riboflavin: 27 %    Niacin: 8 %
Vitamin B6: 12 %    Folate: 11 %
Vitamin C: 5 %        Vitamin E: 30 %    Vitamin A: 17%
Calcium: 13 %         Iron: 45 %             Zinc: 15 %
Magnesium: 28 %   Phosphorus: 22 %

**vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more
than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns

Almond Meal Pumpkin Muffin Recipe

It’s getting colder out, which means… PUMPKIN!! I am not usually a huge fan of muffins and don’t bake nearly as much as I used to, but these are delicious for a snack or to have with breakfast and coffee. I adapted them from a fittipdaily.com recipe by slightly reducing maple syrup, adding more spice, swapping the eggs for flax, and obviously adding some toppings. How can you eat a muffin without toppings?

With a few of them I tested pumping up the pumpkin even more by adding some puree as filling and it was a HUGE success! Skip the fake pumpkin at Starbucks and in every processed food at the grocery store. Get festive this fall with this healthy recipe’s dose of good fats and antioxidant vitamins A and E! If muffins aren’t your thing, check out a list of some of my favorite fall recipes at the bottom of the post ;)

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Almond Pumpkin Muffins (V, GF, DF)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c almond meal or flour  (pictured below)
3/4 c pureed organic pumpkin (from home baked or canned*)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin spice (I use trader joe’s mix)
2 tsp organic cinnamon
3 flax eggs (need 3 tablespoons ground flax)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons pure organic maple syrup

Optional (but not really) toppings: I recommend finely chopped walnuts, coconut, and cacao nibs
*Purchasing tip: If I do purchase canned, I buy beans at Trader Joe’s because they do not contain BPA. A risk of using canned foods is that the cans are lined with the carcinogenic chemical BPA. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, click here for brands that are BPA free.
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Directions:
-In a ramekin or small bowl, mix 3 Tbsp flax with 8-9 Tbsp warm water and let sit
-Heat oven to 350* Fahrenheit
-Lightly grease muffin tin with olive oil or coconut oil
-Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
-I another bowl, mix all of the wet ingredients together, including the flax eggs.
-Add to the dry and stir until you have a smooth but damp consistency. Here is a pic in the mixing bowl:
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-Spoon even amounts into a muffin tin. I find to get a normal (not normal per dunkin donuts standards, but actually a normal serving size) that I can only get 10 muffins out of one batch, not 12. 
-Optional (pictured below): press down the very center of the muffins with a rubber spatula and add 1 more tablespoon of pumpkin puree
-Add toppings if you’d like!

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-Place in oven and bake 20-25 minutes depending on your oven’s personality :)
-Remove from heat and let sit 10 minutes before taking out of muffin tins

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Enjoy! And try practice portion control as much as possible!

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If anyone makes mini-muffins, let me know how they turn out and how long you keep them in the oven for ;)

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Here are a few other fall recipes that I love to make once it starts to get cool outside!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi from Iowa Girl Eats
-I use half whole wheat flour and half almond meal, and olive oil instead of butter for the sauce

Raw Pecan Pie Tartlets from My Darling Vegan

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes from Seeded at the Table:
-I use whole wheat flour and almond milk for the donut as well as coconut oil and organic sugar for the topping

I cannot wait to try these no bake Pumpkin Raisin Peanut Butter Cups from MJ and Hungryman
or these no bake Pumpkin Pie Cookies listed on the Eat Local Grown site

And a few of my own fall recipes:

Pumpkin Buckwheat Oat Pancakes (make at least 2x/month)
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts & Cranberries (perfect for Thanksgiving dinner)
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Italian Style Spaghetti Squash w/ Roasted Seed Recipe
Maple Chia Roasted Pecans & Walnuts

Nutrition Information (plain without toppings):

Serving Size: 1 Muffin
Servings Per Recipe: 10

Calories: 125
Total Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: .5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 10 g
Fiber: 2.5 g
Sugar: 5 g
Protein: 4 g
Sodium: 130 mg   7 %
Potassium: 240 mg 5%

Vitamin A: 7 %             Thiamin: 7 %           Riboflavin: 13 %
Niacin: 5 %                   Vitamin B6: 3          Folate: <1 %
Pantothenic Acid: 3%   Vitamin C: 2%         Vitamin E: 28 %
Calcium: 8 %                Iron: 8 %                 Zinc: 11%
Copper: 25 %               Magnesium: 18 %   Phosphorus: 2 %
Manganese: 40%         Selenium: 2%

**Vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns

Peanut Cocoa Energy Bars

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I adapted this recipe right from my cashew cookie hemp energy bars because I wanted to make a nut free alternative for those with nut allergies! My brother is sadly allergic to tree nuts, but not peanuts, and in trying to find convenience energy bars for him, I had hardly any luck. These can give you a less sweet Reese’s like taste and are great for anyone who loves a PB + chocolate combo food (who doesn’t?). Like my cashew hemp and date/almond bars, these are a good, clean, snack to have in between meals or before a workout. I really like to make a batch of bars every week so we can easily add one to our lunch bag that we take to work.

For those of you who are still getting on your food prep game and might have a nut allergy, I was able to find several Clif Brand bars that per their website, are tree nut free (but not peanut free). Please note that while they do use more natural sources of sugar than most bars, these types of bars are best for physically active individuals due to their sugar content.

  • Clif (original) Bars: Apricot, Chocolate Brownie, Coconut Chocolate Chip
  • CLif Mojo: Peanut butter pretzel
  • CLIF kid zbar protein: chocolate chip, chocolate mint

If you are concerned with any other allergies such as dairy, eggs, soy or wheat, use Clif’s allergen table to see what convenience snacks are safe for you. Now for the recipe!

Peanut Cocoa Energy Bars (Veg, DF, GF)
Makes 12 bars

Ingredients (use organic whenever possible):

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1 1/2 Cups raw or dry roasted unsalted peanuts (I use whole foods 365 organic)
1 Cup raw pitted dates*
1/4 Cup hemp protein powder
1/2 tsp sea salt (omit if using salted peanuts)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons raw cacao (or even cocoa powder if that’s all you have)
Optional: 1 tablespoon maca root powder
Optional: 1 tablespoon raw hemp hearts

*Both Medjool and Deglet Noor work. When using Deglet you may need to add a tsp of water for more moisture
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Directions:

-Add all ingredients to your food processor, dry first and liquid last.

-Pulse until all ingredients are pretty finely ground like in this picture, approximately 1-2 minutes.
If the mixture does not seem sticky enough add another 1/2 tablespoon of honey or even water.

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-Next, pour whole mixture onto a large sheet of wax paper. Fold the paper over the mixture and begin to flatten our with your hands or a rolling pin. I roll mine out to about 1/2 inch thick. Once rolled out to desired thickness, flatten out the edges with hands.

-Cut the pieces evenly into 12 bars. You can obviously cut to larger or smaller if you want, but nutrition info below is for 12.

-Separate the bars and cut the large sheet of wax paper to wrap the bars. Throw one in your lunch bag or purse & store the rest in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:

Dates, in my opinion, are natures candy! They are a source of natural sugar which can be helpful to athletes before and during exercise when they need a quick absorbing energy source. They provide fiber and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and even some calcium. Instead of packaged products, I use dates as fuel during long outdoor workouts and even races.

Peanuts are a good source of most B vitamins, especially niacin. They also provide vitamin E, minerals like copper and selenium, and the phytochemical resveretrol (you may have heard of this because it is in red wine) They are known for their heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats.

Hemp protein is an excellent alternative to dairy proteins like whey and casein. Manitoba Harvest is my favorite brand for both protein powder and hemp hearts; they highlight amino acid content here. Other than its protein content, hemp also provides both soluble (great for your heart) and insoluble (excellent for your gut) fiber, potassium, zinc, magnesium, calcium and lots of iron. In addition, hemp protein is a terrific vegan source of omega 3’s.

Maple Syrup is a source of added sugar but can have some benefits if it is 100% pure and is used in moderation. it actually provides teeny amounts of calcium, iron, mangnesium & zinc. One study in 2010 found Canadian Maple Syrup to contain over 26 antioxidant compounds (1)!

Cacao powder is different from cocoa powder in that it is not processed with alkali which can remove some antioxidants and nutrients. When using cacoa, you are getting minerals like iron, magnesium and calcium which help regulate metabolism and keep your blood system and bones healthy. You also get some fiber, and phytochemicals theobromine, phenylethylamine and anandamine which have been found to support brain health and promote well-being.

Maca root has small amounts of calcium, Vitamin C and iron as well as fiber, phytochemical antioxidants and plant sterols which are known to aid in reducing blood cholesterol levels. It is most sought due to claims to boost energy and endocrine function (particularly in females). Maca has been consumed in Peru for thousands of years for these reasons, but there is not a large body of conclusive scientific evidence for those claims. I tried Navitas Naturals brand mostly to see what the hype was about. I enjoy the taste and do feel it provides a small energy boost when I add it to my oatmeal and skip the morning coffee – but that is just my feedback, not a research study! Lot’s of studies related to endocrine function are linked to from a summaryhere and you can evaluate more research at examine.com.

References:

1. J Agric Food Chem 2011 Jul 27;59(14):7708-16. Further investigation into maple syrup yields 3 new lignans, a new phenylpropanoid, and 26 other phytochemicals. Li L, Seeram NP.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size: 1 Bar
Servings Per Recipe: 12

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Calories: 145
Total Fat: 7 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 17 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sugar: 10 g
Protein: 5.5 g
Sodium: 50 mg   5 %
Potassium: 220 mg 5%

Vitamin A: 2%      Thiamin: 10 %               Riboflavin: 5 %
Niacin: 3%              Vitamin B6: 6 %            Folate: 3 %
Vitamin C: 1%        Pantothenic Acid: 5 %
Vitamin E: 3 %       Calcium: 6 %                Iron: 12%
Zinc: 15%                 Copper: 35 %               Magnesium: 20 %
Phosphorus: 15 %  Manganese: 20%        Selenium: 6 %
Omega 3: 0.25 g  (12%)

**Vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns

Ditch the fad supplements and find a RD!

Looking back, while I didn’t think anything of it then, as early as I can remember, I have been living in a world of nutrition fads. As a child, at friend’s houses and family parties I would see the reduced-fat and fat free processed foods along with diet sodas. Then in high school my dad and other family members stopped caring about the fat and started going low carb (at least it was with real whole foods, not the Atkins shakes of today). Then working in a health food store and reading health magazines I noticed the supplement fixations and the stimulant trends. Commercials for Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and other delivery options all promised results. Then more recently, the juice cleanses, restrictive paleo, advocare, shakeology, etc etc etc. It’s always been obvious that these things don’t work – if they did, why would they fade out and new trends pop up? When thinking about fad diets and plans I will forever remember the student who told me “but weight watchers always works for me when I go on it”. If you need to keep “going on it” it clearly does not work at all! When educating, I always say, if you don’t think you could stay on the diet forever, it isn’t worth your time and energy. And I like to stress that everyone is different and there is no one diet for everyone.

What I don’t remember seeing throughout my life as a consumer or as a Dietitian is so many specific processed foods and supplements being marketed as healthy and “clean”… and people actually spending their money on them and believing it. Sure the slim fast shakes were a huge sell, as were Atkins bars, but most people used them to try to get skinnier, not because they were truly thinking they were being healthy (that is how I perceived it anyway).

Here we are in 2014. I have to try everyday not to let the supplement companies, advertisements and Dr. Oz claims that are brainwashing our nation drive me crazy. Watching college football last night, the FSU / OK State game was at AT&T stadium. Just as large as AT&T stadium on that field read “Advocare”, and they had plenty of commercials as well. The quest bars, shakeology, advocare, verve etc are some how persuading people to think “this is nutritious!” and “I am so much healthier now!”. Sure there are people using the products simply to try and lose weight quickly (and not to be healthy) but many really think they are doing good things for their body in the mean time. I know that Americans are smarter than this. I regularly hear clients, students and even family members complain about how expensive it is to eat healthy. But come on people, how expensive are the supplements, energy drinks, meal replacement shakes, and other “nutrition” gimmicks? Even if math wasn’t your strong subject back in school, if you can count points like weight watchers wants you to and count calories in your health app, you can count up all the money you’re wasting and could be putting towards real food and an actual lifestyle change.

At Bucks, I teach from The Science of Nutrition by Thompson, Manore, and Vaughn. This text defines food perfectly: “the plants and animals we eat”. Period. That’s it. Not the food component that was processed with chemicals in a lab and shoved in a chemical filled plastic bottle or aluminum container that people are consuming as actual meals. How can we post a picture of the Quest bar or meal replacement shake that was made in a factory God knows how long ago, was shipped to you or on a store shelf for months, that we took out of a plastic package, could never make in our own kitchen, and add “#cleaneating #nutrition #healthylifestyle” etc? I would rather someone eat fast food consciously knowing it is horrible for them than to consume this garbage thinking it’s healthy for them.

Trust me, I understand that it’s not super easy to prepare every single meal from scratch all day long. But that’s why we food prep (see my posts and The Lean Green Bean‘s) and choose convenience foods with real ingredients and a list that’s not a paragraph long (like Clif KITS). Making a healthy lifestyle easier is honestly all about habits. As Americans, we collectively have a lot of bad habits and quite frankly are just afraid to make an effort to change them. Stop being comfortable making excuses and evaluate what really needs to change in your current lifestyle. I just posted a newsletter about this last week but, how can you slowly and gradually alter your normal routine so that you instinctively just have healthy habits?

There is a reason most of you have health insurance and that the companies cover you seeing a Registered Dietitian (aka a real “nutritionist”). Because if they invest in your health now, they won’t have to help you treat a chronic, life-threatening disease later. What you put in your body today has an effect on you tomorrow and 5, 10, 50 years down the road. Health is not about looking for a quick fix to get skinny. There are plenty of skinny people that are so far from healthy. Instead of going on a 3 day processed shake cleanse to get rid of bloat that will just come back, meet with a Registered Dietitian. To attain their credential, an RD has gone through extensive education, supervised clinical and counseling hours, has passed an exam, and maintains their credentials with continuing education. They didn’t just sign on as an advocare rep to have an easy side job and make money off of you. Instead of a blanket program or plan for everyone, a RD helps each individual person they meet with make lasting changes for their personal health that also happens to result in weight loss if it is needed.

The RD you choose should specialize in whatever health issues or goals you may have. If they claim they know everything, find someone else! For example, I specialize in sports nutrition, weight management, plant based nutrition, and food allergies & intolerances. If someone came to me with kidney disease or cancer, I would refer them to an RD with that specialty. Talk to a couple of RD’s before meeting so you know you picked someone who will look at you as an individual and help you set attainable, personalized goals for life long health. I am available in Bucks and surrounding counties in PA (or even skype), but you can find an RD near you via the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website: eatright.org .

Before I am done, in true Professor fashion, it is quiz time.

Which of the following pictures is a nutritious meal?

A.  
lots of processed ingredients stuffed into a bar

B.  
Food components converted to powder in a bag

C. Sweet Potato with Garlicky Poblano Black Beans & Wilted Kale

Baked Sweet Potato w/ Garlicky Poblano Black Beans, Wilted Kale & Fresh Guac

 

If you answered C, congratulations! :)

Attaining Health While Enjoying Real Food

This post is a re-formatted version of the 8/21/14 Wellness Newsletter I wrote for Bucks County Community College. I hope you can use the tips here to help kick start your health at work or school this fall! For more detailed tips on meal planning and organizing a meal schedule, see my posts on Food Prep: Fall Food Prep and Spring Food Prep as well as my Real Food Budget Tips.

Enjoying Real Food as Fuel with Small Lifestyle Changes

photo 2

Are you always tired and unmotivated? Do you get headaches and body aches? Have you tried countless diets that don’t work? I’ve got the solution for you!

Sound familiar? In the fast-paced, media driven society we live in, its often easy to fall victim to advertisements from supplement and food companies and books on fad diets that want you to think their products  are the miracle you’re looking for. You know you are smarter than this!

Instead of drinking meal replacements and protein shakes and spending your hard earned money on supplements, consider  getting back to basics with your diet, and enjoying food as you attain better health.

I am sure you’ve all heard it before, but the better you eat the better you feel. This does not mean counting calories, being restrictive, and eating bland food though. It does mean …brace yourself… making small lifestyle changes . As creatures of habit, change is scary. However, did you know it takes only 2-3 weeks of effort to change a bad habit into a good one?

In the nutrition textbook we teach from at Bucks, Nutrition is defined as “the plants and animals we eat”.  Consider how much of your diet doesn’t fall into this definition! Then consider why… What are your go to excuses for why its just so hard to eat well?

When making changes, always remember you don’t need to, and shouldn’t, go on an all-or-nothing diet. A healthful diet is flexible where you make healthy choices most of the time and don’t feel guilty for having a treat or going out for dinner once in awhile.

Examples of small habit changes:

Grocery shopping rules:

  • Always have a list
  • Limit the amount of packaged foods purchased
  • Reduce amount of meats purchased
  • Read the ingredient list on a packaged food first,  not the calorie information!
    Fall Food Prep

Make daily checklists for what you need more of

  • Fruits & veggies (work to 5 servings)
  • Water (without additives) 9-13  8 ounce glasses

Prep food ahead of time

  • Pick 2 days per week to plan and prep dinners ahead
  • Pack lunches for work early in the week
  • Have emergency snacks (see below)
  • Make a large batch of oats for a quick breakfast
  • Hard boil eggs to add to meals/snacks

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Make meal rules for your family

  • Always eat breakfast (something is better than nothing)
  • No eating while standing up
  • No eating in front of the TV or computer
  • Eat as a family at least 2 times per week (or more if its already 2)
  • Limit meals that aren’t homemade to 2x per week

Emergency Snacks for Work or School

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  • Whole grain/flax crackers + jar of nut butter & real fruit preserves
  • Plain Instant Oat Packets (add below)
  • Nuts or Trail Mixes
  • Roasted Soy Nuts or Chickpeas
  • Unsweetened Dried Fruit: raisins, dates, mango
  • Real Fruit & Nut Bars: Clif Kits, Larabar, KIND, ProBar, Raw Revolution
  • Homemade energy bars like these:

wrapped date nut bars or 20140118-203227.jpg

 

 

Cooking Tip:  Fall is a great time to get out your crockpot so warm meals are ready when you get home!
Add ingredients for any soup, chili or stew recipe at once and set on low for 6-8 hrs.
{ Try my spicy 3 bean chili, potato leek & kale soup, veggie & bulgur soup, sweet & spicy white bean soup}