Health & Wellness, Healthy Kids, nutrition

How to make snacks work for you instead of against you

Ahhh snacks. We generally love them. But these little things have the ability to either make or break our healthy eating journey. When you are eating the right type of snacks, the type that fuel your body rather than tax it, they are great! But too often, snacks are made up of “not food” – highly processed or nutrient lacking stuff that can set us up for failure for the rest of the day. When you snack on refined, processed “food-like substances” you end up triggering blood sugar spikes (and subsequent drops), which wreaks havoc on your hormones. This sets you up for cravings and for overeating at meal times, not to mention the hungry feeling you get when your blood sugar drops rapidly.

So if we want to be only eating “good” snacks, what the heck are those then? First, we want our snack to be as close to the whole food as possible (think whole apple is better than apple sauce is better than apple flavored cereal). We also want our snack to be a balance of fat, protein, and carbs. You want at least two of the macronutrients represented in your snack. So instead of just an apple, pair an apple with nut butter (carb and fat). This is what helps to keep our blood sugar stable and what allows us to feel full for longer. Here are some examples of what good snacks look like:

  • Apple slices and nut butters
  • Apple and cheese slices (remember to go for the organic and full fat cheese)
  • Veggie sticks and hummus (favorite veggies at our house are baby carrots, sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, bell pepper slices, mini sweet peppers, zucchini sticks, cucumber slices – there is a ton of variety possible here!)
  • Any of the veggies above and guacamole
  • Banana and peanut butter on a sprouted grain bread
  • Probiotic beef sticks with baby bell cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs (alone or with guacamole)
  • Sardine or tuna salad with whole grain crackers
  • Tomato slices and mozzarella
  • Full-fat, plain organic greek yogurt with berries
  • A handful of nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc)
  • Dates stuffed with nut butter or goat cheese

Aaand now I’m hungry…

Hopefully the examples above help to show how your are pairing a quicker burning carbohydrate (the fruit or veggie) with a fat or protein source to get the most bang for your buck out of your snack. After all, you are taking time out of your (extra busy) day to eat, so let’s make that food work FOR you instead of against you!

Now to talk about all the other stuff that is constantly marketed as snack food to us. Much like Voldemort is HeWhoShallNotBeNamed, these should actually be called ThingsThatAreNotReallyFood. In this category, I am talking about stuff that is highly processed, high in sugar and refined carbs, and low in nutrients. The list includes stuff like chips, pretzels, goldfish (yeah, I went there), GoGurts or those sugary low-fat Yoplait things, granola, candy bars (actually, in the long run snickers do NOT satisfy), 98% of the “health” food bars on the market, cookies, little debbie anything, breakfast bars, pop tarts, the 100 calorie packages of XYZ junk food, fruit snacks, cereal, and the list goes on.

Maybe some of you are annoyed that I listed some of your go-to items on the list. But here is the #truthbomb: these foods are not doing anything for your overall health and wellness. They aren’t helping you to fuel your body and your day so that you have the energy you need to live your life. They may taste good for a minute, but there is mountains of evidence that they are damaging to your health in the long run. They make it harder for you to eat healthily later in the day, they recondition your tastes to make you crave more junk, and with that reconditioning, they take the enjoyment out of actual good nutritious food. This is an area where I say moderation is NOT a thing, you really don’t want to eat this type of junk at all. If your honest with yourself, you probably already know this deep down. #sorrynotsorry

And now that I’ve lost half my readers, lets talk about the secret weapon to staying on track with your health and nutrition goals: the emergency #snackstash

If you have been working on your nutrition overall, you know how frustrating it is when you are caught late at work, or traffic hits, or errands with the littles take 1000x longer than expects and you are out of the house and STARVING. It’s even worse when you also have ultra hungry kids with you. So you go looking for something to eat NOW and you try to make the best selection from what is available, but only have bad options. Or what’s even worse is when you are so hungry, you can’t even care anymore about what you eat as long as you eat it. This situation is incredibly frustrating and I know that I’ve often felt pretty crappy afterwards, not only because the food isn’t the greatest, but also because I “messed up” or “slipped up” or had no “willpower” to resist.

To prevent this from happening, we want to keep a set of “emergency” snacks with you at all times. I accomplish this in two ways: I have a special snack drawer at work that I keep stocked with a bunch of shelf stable options and I have a set of go-to items that I always keep in the diaper bag (or my work bag if I’m out without the kids). Here’s a picture of my snack drawer at work and some of the options I keep with me when running around with the kids.

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When developing your emergency #snackstash you want to keep a couple things in mind. If you are getting shelf stable options, you want to find things that are as unprocessed as possible (like the Rx bars, the probiotic beef sticks, and the olives). Finding a high quality protein powder “meal replacement” mix can also be a good idea for work, especially if you work in an unpredictable environment like I do (where if something breaks at 4pm, you may have to stay until 9).

The second, and probably more important thing to realize when creating the #snackstash is that a LOT of whole food items that we refrigerate actually do not need to be refrigerated continuously. Things like small apples, cuties, and bananas can be taken around in a bag and survive easily due to their exterior skiing. Fresh veggies like snap peas, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes will be 100% fine unrefrigerated for 24 hours (or longer), so you can tote those with you. The baby bell cheeses (the ones with the wax coating) are good for up to 8 hours outside of the fridge (which is one of the reasons they are so popular with hikers). You can also get a mini insulated container for stuff like hard boiled eggs. You can also bring along individually sized packets of hummus, guacamole, and nut butters to complete your snacks on the go!

One more note on the #snackstash – as busy moms, we are probably pretty used to carrying around snacks for our kids. I want to encourage you to look at those snacks as well and change them out if they fall into the unhealthy category. To be blunt: if the snack isn’t healthy enough for you to be eating, it’s not healthy enough for the kiddos either. My go-to options for our girls (ages 5 and 2) are fruit and veggie blend pouches, Rx bars, the probiotic beef sticks, and baby bell cheese. With kids, you don’t necessarily have to change out all of their snacks at once (although sometimes that rip-the-band-aid-off approach is the least stressful). You can introduce a new healthy option every few days to see what they will like. As you are introducing new options, use up whatever the unhealthy option is and when it’s gone it becomes “Sorry, we are out of XYZ. What would you like instead?” #juststopbuyingit

Whew, that was a LOT of information in one post. I hope you found it helpful! Please comment below and let me know what you think. And once you have created your emergency healthy snack stash, take a picture and post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc and tag me so I can see your hard work! Use #snackstash and #nutritiondoula so I can find it – good luck and have fun!

Health & Wellness, Healthy Kids, Uncategorized

My Favorite #momhacks for Breakfast

It’s no secret that breakfast can be a struggle with new moms. (Heck, its a struggle for MOST people.) In pregnancy, you may be dealing with morning sickness. When the baby is finally here, you may be so sleep deprived that you can’t remember if you ate or not. You only have one hand to make something with anyway, since the other arm is home to a new (and totally adorable) little resident. So maybe you grab something prepackaged to eat with one had (pop tarts anyone?) or maybe you get a few sips of (now cold) coffee down.

Once the baby turns into a little human, aka toddler, you’re trying to keep them from dumping out the cat food while rushing around getting yourself ready and packing their bag. Or maybe you’re making them whatever they loved yesterday, only to watch it end up on the floor because clearly they wanted the thing they hated yesterday instead. ::cue tantrum::

Although we “know” that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (because they keep saying it, right?) all of the stress in a busy morning combined with not enough sleep (there will come a day when night waking is in the past, but today is not that day) causes us to either skip it entirely or rely on whatever we can grab from the pantry (hello GoGurt and cookies) or the drive through (come to me you beautiful venti caramel macchiato). Breakfast for a new mom is often an afterthought. And by letting it stay this way, we are setting ourselves up for a day of hunger, cravings, mood swings, and the like thanks to imbalanced blood sugar.

The thing is, you don’t have to go from eating a stale doughnut from the break room at work on the regular to organic, pasture raised egg frittatas with a side of heritage pork sausage (nitrate free, of course) over night. There are plenty of small and sustainable changes you can make wherever you are along the spectrum to make breakfast a better meal for you overall. Once you’ve mastered one change (swap out that doughnut for a greek yogurt), you move on to the next step (swap the yogurt for eggs). Through step wise implementation like this, you will be able to make long and lasting changes.

Even with a minor swap, you can begin to feel the benefits of a good breakfast right away. Getting great nutrients into your body for your first meal sets up your body chemistry to either support you or fight against you for the remainder of the day. Solid nutritional breakfasts can help you control cravings all day long, prevent that 2pm slump, and even help you get to sleep better at bedtime. With that in mind, here are the top 3 things to be working towards for a great breakfast:

  • Eliminate (or greatly reduce) added sugar in breakfast
  • Choose foods that are nutrient dense
  • Make sure there is a balance of protein and fat in the meal

If you are going to be reducing sugar in any place in your life, breakfast is the place where you will get the most “bang for your buck” When you have a lot of sugar at breakfast, you start the day off pumping a ton of insulin into your body to metabolize all the sugar you just ate. This creates a chain reaction where you have blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day. This also stops you from burning any stored fat for energy and can mess with the hormones that tell you if you are hungry or full.

Here are examples of typical grab-and-go items that are often used for breakfast that have a ton of extra sugar in them: nonfat flavored yogurt, granola, granola bars, cereal with nonfat milk, instant oatmeal packets (flavored), premade meal replacement drinks (think carnation instant breakfast or slim fast), a special k bar or similar, etc.

Do not feel bad if these are your staples! But do try one or two of the healthier options on this list: full fat greek yogurt (vanilla if you need a flavor), plain full fat yogurt (better choice than flavored, add frozen berries), plain instant oatmeal (again add berries), Kind bars (the ones that are 5g of sugar or less per bar), a protein shake, a green smoothie, hard boiled eggs, and/or a piece of whole fruit.

 

Once you have swapped to the healthier items above or if you are ready to take your breakfast nutrition even further try some of my favorite #momlife breakfasts listed below. These all meet my personal breakfast criteria: they can be made in advance in a batch for the week or can be made in less than 5 minutes (including dish cleanup), they can be eaten with one hand, they are a great balance of nutritionally dense food and will keep you full, they taste amazing, and they have no added sugar.

So go ahead and try some (or one) or these for a week (or day). Pay attention to how you feel after a few days. Do you have fewer cravings? Are you full for longer? Do you have more energy? If you experiment let me know how it goes!

*to make the Paleo Protien Pancakes, we use this pancake mix and add one scoop of this protein powder. You get 10g of protien per pancake, and they are delicious! I like to make a large batch on Sundays so I can give the kids 2 cakes (no syrup) during the week for an easy breakfast for all of us.

Health & Wellness, Time Management

Home Cooked with Takeout Effort

When I talk to friends and family (or crowd source on the internet) about the biggest hurdles they face when it comes to eating healthy, the most common reply is lack of time. In this country, busy had become a badge of honor and it seems like we are all burning the candle on both ends more often than not. I hear the words “we have no choice but takeout” far too often. It certainly seems that way when you get out of work at 4:30, have soccer practice for kid #1 at 5 and a baseball game for kid #2 at 7:30. Is there really any other option than a drive through for dinner?

I’m here to tell you yes, there is. Now before your think that I’ve taken the express train to crazy-town, hear me out. One of the things that I can do really well is serve healthy food without fail every night of the week. I got good at this out of necessity: when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease it was well before the whole gluten free craze that we see today. I suddenly didn’t have the option to “grab something quick” on the way home from work (or on the way to some activity) anymore. If I didn’t cook, I literally didn’t eat.

I like food. And eating regularly is kind of important to me. Nobody likes hungry Alasen.

So, necessity is the mother of invention. I had to figure out how to keep myself fed, and my only option was to make it ALL myself. Every breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everyday.

What’s so great about this? Through years of trial and error, crazy work schedules, two kids under 3, and all the other stressors that we face out there, I’ve refined my “cook everything at home” life into meals that are healthy, taste great, and can be on the table in 30 minutes or less. I have meals that we can make and be eating that take less time than ordering takeout. They take less time than hitting a drive through and less time than delivery. (Go me!)

Part of my goal as your Nutrition Doula is to teach new moms how to do this too. I want to show you how you get to the point where your script is reversed: where going out to eat is the hassle and making food at home is the easy or lazy meal. So I’m working on several series of recipes and blog posts that explain exactly how to make these types of meals. I hope you can replicate them with some success!

My first set of Home Cooked Meals in Takeout Time starts with the world’s easiest shredded chicken. Let me know what you think of it!