Alright, let’s talk about nutrition that can stay on a shelf. Healthy shelf stable essentials.
With many grocery stores having empty meat, produce, and dairy sections (and even frozen foods!) it’s easy to think that you have to revert to eating a diet that’s high in refined carbs and low in veggies.
And let’s be real: you know a few weeks without a lot of fiber or micronutrients can leave us feeling shitty. Not to bash mac&cheese, but there’s better options than that and ramen noodles available.
So what can you get that’s both shelf stable and good for you?
Here are a few of my favorites healthy shelf stable essentials.
Brown Rice:This contains carbohydrates (the good ones) for energy and fiber to help your digestion. It’s also packed with essential vitamins: B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium. All are needed for proper biological functioning (meaning, you need this stuff to feel good!)
Black Beans (or your favorite kind): A great source of fiber, they also provide protein and vitamins like folate and vitamin K. Canned beans are fine. But if you find that you are sensitive to them (i.e. gassy), you may want to buy bulk dried beans instead. If you prepare them by soaking and then using a pressure cooker, the lectins in the beans break down, which makes them much easier to digest. Added bonus: dried beans are super affordable!
Sardines: My favorite shelf stable protein option! These little guys are packed with protein, healthy omega 3 fats, calcium, AND they have the lowest mercury content for fish. I highly encourage you to give them a try. They are super similar to canned tuna in flavor. You can prepare them just the same!
Greens Powder: Yes, I’m a strong advocate for eating actual food. Sometimes, that’s not possible and here’s where greens powders like the two pictured here come in. These are packed with phytonutrients that go missing when we aren’t eating a large amount (and variety) of veggies. Get a scoop per day to help offset that.
Honorable mentions for healthy shelf stable foods are: canned and jarred veggies that still taste great like diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pumpkin, and corn; olives and olive oils; avocado oil; nuts and seeds like chia, hemp, almonds, walnuts; and coconut.
Let’s not forget about snacks! Check out my list healthy snack suggestions here.
What are some of your favorite pantry items? Comment here to let me know!
One of the most powerful tools in an Integrative Nutrition Coach’s kit is the elimination diet. This diagnostic tool helps us to determine which foods (if any) are adversely effecting our clients and which foods are not. This allows a client to learn how to tailor their lives towards foods that help them thrive, rather than just get by.
While it is relatively rare for someone to have a severe allergic reaction to foods (think the typical anaphylactic reaction we see in the movies), general immune responses to foods are becoming increasingly common. Because symptoms of a reaction can vary and can also be delayed by hours to a few days, it can also be difficult for someone to realize that every time they eat dairy or gluten or whatever problem food, they get xyz reaction 2 days later. This is why an elimination diet is needed: to help you identify what foods, if any are triggers. If you knew that the root of a particular nagging health complaint (like insomnia or muscle soreness) was actually caused by a food you were eating, you’d want to stop eating it, right?
An elimination diet is a temporary restriction of the types of foods that commonly cause immune reactions. If you are staring an elimination diet, you record in detail how you are feeling prior to the diet. Once common problem foods have been eliminated from the diet for about 4 weeks, they are reintroduced one at a time to see if a reaction occurs. You would journal how you feel again while reintroducing foods to see if you can find a pattern between the foods you eliminated and any symptoms. If you’ve ever heard of the Whole30 program, this is an elimination diet.
While elimination diets are extremely helpful in improving your health and nutrition overall, they can also be pretty hard to implement. During the elimination period, your food choices are extremely strict. This requires a lot of planning, cooking/preparing all of your meals at home (so you aren’t accidentally eating a food that is on the no list), support from your family and friends, and sheer willpower at times to be successful. The entire process can also take up to 3 months to complete!
If you are considering going on an elimination diet, I would highly recommend the Whole30 program to get started. This program is great because it gives you a very clear set of rules, a ton of recipe resources, and a large support community to get you through the full 30 days. It will still take commitment and planning on your part, as well as the local support of your friends, family, and coworkers, but it is by far the best elimination program that I have worked with.
But what happened when you are the mom of 3 kids under 3, who is also working full time while still waking 3x a night with your youngest and barely making through the day? Getting through 30 days to 3 months of additional effort and willpower may just be the straw the breaks the camel’s back. If you want to be able to target problem foods more immediately, you can take a IgG blood test to determine some of your triggers. If you take a food allergen test, you provide a blood sample, and a report comes back showing which IgG antibodies you have in your system. If you have antibodies to a food, then this is a food causing a reaction and it should be avoided. Often having a more targeted list of foods to start with is exactly what someone needs to take the first step towards better health.
You can work with your doctor to order a food allergen test, or you can go through an online service. I recently tested out this Food Allergen Test from EverlyWell and was completely impressed with the results. Their website is easy to navigate and ordering the test is simple. Everything you need comes in the mail, taking the test takes practically no time at all, and it comes with prepaid return shipping to the lab processing the results. I mailed my test off on Friday and had my results by Wednesday.
Here is what the kit looks like when it arrives.
When you open it up, there are detailed instructions inside and all the materials that you need to provide your sample. When taking the test you want to be hydrated. You’ll relax your arm and hang it at your side for a minute or so, so that your blood flows to your finger tips. I’m a total chicken when it comes to needles, but the lancets they provided were not bad at all! Then you just dab your card in 6 spots, put on your bandaid, and wait for the sample to dry. Then dump everything into the prepaid envelope to ship back for analysis. The entire process took about 30 minutes, with me pausing to take pictures.
As I said above, I mailed my results on a Friday and had them by Wednesday of next week. You will get a general and a detailed report of your results (the detailed report is to share with your physician). Here’s a few screenshots of what I got back.
When you tap on any of the foods, it give you additional detail about how severe your reaction to that food is and additional information about sources of the food (in case it is in ingredient like gluten, for example). I can tell you, while my issues with gluten and dairy have been pretty obvious, I would not have figured out that I was having issues with green beans easily!
I’m hoping that learning about this EverlyWell test will be able to help any moms out there who need to start feeling better right away but who are worried about the implementation of a full elimination diet. If you decide to try an elimination diet or one of these tests and want help with how to navigate life while avoiding your food intolerances, feel free to contact me. It’s my job to help my clients figure these things out!
Here’s something that you may not know about me: I’m one of those people who exercises. A lot (by some standards). I generally don’t talk about it much because I definitely did not use to be an exerciser. I didn’t really find fitness until I was in my 30’s. And a huge reason why I didn’t succeed with starting an exercise routine for all those years was related to intimidation and comparison and the shame associated with each of these. So now I don’t want to be shouting about my daily workout from the mountain tops because I don’t want to discourage the me from my 20’s. Hey, this seems logical in my head, alright?
This past weekend, I was supposed to be in a race on Sunday. This was a race that I had trained a lot for, and that I thought I had a chance at accomplishing a HUGE goal of mine at (or maybe even two of my biggest fitness goals at once). I was really excited to get it done and bask in the glory of my awesomeness. And feel grateful for #whatmybodycando. And generally just enjoy the endorphins that come from the hard work.
But then it rained. And thundered and lightninged and sort of flooded. I was up, waiting in my car at the race start at 5am. The race people eventually announced a 2 hour delay to the start of the race after I was there, and announced that the course would have to be shortened (Ok, one of the HUGE goals is now off the table – sad emoji). Then, after waiting for another 2.5 hours, they announced the complete cancelation. I was pretty upset to say the least. (angry swearing emoji)
I thought, “Well, since I can’t race and I already have this kid-free time set up, I guess I’ll head to the gym to crush the CVG weekly workout” (<– this is an amazing group of women in fitness, if you’re in that headspace check them out). I drive to the gym, trying to not feel angry at mother nature and trying even harder to not feel angry at the race people for taking 3.5 hours to make a decision (because I could have been sleeping, dammit). When I get there, I start my workout. I’m working up a sweat and getting to the #hurtssogood feeling when BAM! I missed a move that I have never in my life ever had trouble with and fell flat on my face, injuring my shin/leg. I saw so many stars that day, felt broken, and was totally defeated.
I drove home and proceeded to mope. It was NOT my day.
Now I’m sure you are thinking “Ok lady, what the heck does this sob story have to do with anything, especially nutrition?” There’s a point, I promise.
Since Sunday, I’ve been thinking about all the “fails” that happened that day. I also have been thinking about the success of going to the gym after the cancelation and doing something healthy instead of doing nothing. Then on Monday, I went back into my normal routine (to the gym) and made it through a grueling workout, even though I was sore. Me in my 20’s could never have accomplished this feat. Me in my 20’s wouldn’t have even shown up at the race start and waited for it to be canceled. 20’s me would have probably seen the potential weather forecast the night before (which was no where nearly as bad as the actual weather the day of) and thrown in the towel then.
It’s taken me over 7 years of continued effort to get to where I was with exercise and fitness this week. That’s 7 years of failures, of habit forming, of learning new and better technique, of learning about what works for me, of digging deep to find the grit and motivation and discipline to keep going.
What was different about these past 7 years compared to all the false starts that I had made with fitness over the rest of my life? It’s a combination of things: I was in a place where I finally saw that I needed to make a change for my health, I had moved and therefore got away from the expectations of others (“but you don’t like the gym“), and I was able to finally stop comparing myself to my fit friends (who ultimately intimidated me from trying because I thought I looked like a “wuss” compared to what I “should” be able to do).
Starting on a nutrition journey is almost exactly the same as starting on a fitness journey. There are the same false starts, the same “experts” online who present conflicting information as fact, the same comparison to others, the same shame associated with that comparison. Really, you can substitute everything fitness in the story above for nutrition and see what I mean.
My “ah-ha” moment this week helped to reinforce one of the most important (and best) things about Nutrition Coaching for me. As a Certified Integrative Nutrition Coach (yes, I did go to school for this), I am there to be a “personal trainer” for my client’s dietary choices. I get to meet them WHERE THEY ARE and hold space for them to let go of the comparison, the shame, the false starts. I get to help them learn to choose things that are healthy and that they actually WANT to eat. I get to guide them through the transformation from the person who “walks into the gym for the 100th first time” to the person who gets up after failing on Sunday and goes about their usual healthy business on Monday.
And you can begin to see why this work is so incredibly rewarding for me.
My little failure this weekend with fitness has ultimately helped me to become more empathetic for the struggles that my clients go through, which continues to make me an even better Nutrition Coach. And so I see again that “everything happens for a reason.”
Here’s to more failures and the lessons they teach us.
I’ve talked a bit before about the reason why I chose to go to IIN for my nutrition education. The school taught two concepts that really resonated with me, and based the rest of their nutrition education program on these ideas. The first one is bioindividuality: the theory that there is no “one right” diet for every human on the planet and that we should work to find what foods nourish our individual body best so we can thrive.
The second concept is the subject of this post: Primary Food. This idea is that the nutrition you consume through food and drink is actually second to the Primary Food of life when it comes to your overall health. This Primary Food is divided into 4 main categories: Career/Meaningful Work, Relationships, Physical Health, and Spirituality. When one or more of these Primary Food areas are out of balance, you could be eating all the kale in the world, but you won’t be healthy or happy. You can’t thrive without Primary Food.
What. The. Heck? When I first learned about Primary Food, it sounded unscientific, wishy-washy, and a bit Woo to me. I’ll admit there was a strong internal eye-roll associated with it. But at the same time there was this tiny voice in my head that knew the idea of Primary Food was spot on. And the worst part about it was that all 4 areas for me were totally in the ditch.
Fast forward nearly 2 years and you get to me today. Someone who has been working on improving each of these areas and made huge gains. Someone who has now been to school and studied exactly how these Primary Food areas interact with your life and your relationship with nutritional food. It’s been an eye-opening journey, but it is completely worth the work it has taken.
I’m lucky to have found Meaningful Work through Nutrition Coaching. I continue to work in this area to help make The Nutrition Doula a thriving practice, so that I can do help as many people as possible to find the food that works for them and their families. My Physical Health recovered relatively quickly after I gave birth to our second daughter, but knowing how important it is for me to be able to stay this way, I make sure to carve out the time needed to maintain it. I still have plenty of work to do in these areas, as well as in the Relationships and Spirituality areas, but the improvement from where I was before learning about Primary Food is significant.
The thing about shifting your perspective to look at your life through a Primary Food lens is that it begins to help you prioritize in a different way. You may have heard the quote about nutritional food that says “Every bite you eat is either helping your health or feeding disease. Choose wisely.” Once you begin to look at life through a Primary Food lens, it becomes everything you do is either nurturing a Primary Food or starving it.
Thinking like this is what allows me to say yes to the right things and no to the things that don’t help me, without the typical guilt that is often associated with making these decisions. It’s what will allows me to sit down and play with the kids when they ask without cleaning the kitchen first (because I’m nurturing the Relationship area, the dirty dishes guilt melts away). It’s what lets me go run a race, then sit down with amazing friends for brunch and acknowledge and appreciate how much these activities recharge my soul. It’s what gives me the ability to get out of bed at 4:30am to go for a swim before work, or the drive to continue my work as a Nutrition Coach even on days when I’m already exhausted from the day-job.
Ultimately, when the Primary Food areas in your life are going well, then it becomes much easier to make good and healthy choices when it comes to nutritional foods. It becomes easier to thrive in this life. So it pays off to assess the Primary Food in your life and to work on improving it.
Take a minute to consider the four Primary Food areas: Career/Meaningful Work, Relationships, Physical Health, and Spirituality. Give yourself a rating number in each area between 1 and 10 (with 1 being there is nothing right at all about this and 10 being everything couldn’t be more perfect). Once you have your ratings, look for the lowest number. That is where making changes can help your overall health and happiness the most. If you’ve rated an area with a low number, don’t worry! Knowing the problem is there is the first step to fixing it.
So what do you think? Were you surprised by your Primary Food Exercise results? Did you discover something that needs work? Let me know in the comments or send me a message. I’d love to talk about it with you!
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:
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.