5 Things I Learned While Studying Nutrition

Just like that, a new school year in full swing. The funny thing is, I’m not a part of it. Every August or September for basically my whole life I’d be cracking open new books, ready to take on the world of academia, but not this year. It’s a strange feeling.

As I looked back on my time in college, I was able to pinpoint some things that shaped my perspective about nutrition and healthy eating. In the title, I say, “learned while studying nutrition” because many of these things were not stated out right. Some were implied and others are entirely my own inferences. Nonetheless, they are pillars of my food philosophy.

They may seem basic, but I still hope they will be helpful to you. Allowing myself to believe these things has helped shape my view of what healthy eating means. They gave me the courage to be gracious with myself when I didn’t eat a “healthy” meal.

So, let’s jump in!

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Here are 5 thing I learned while studying nutrition:

1. There is and never will be a diet that is perfect for every single              human being.

I would so far as to say there is no need for diets at all!

Unless you have celiac disease, severe allergies, or another condition that requires a certain way of eating, restrictive diets are not necessary or even helpful. Research shows that diets do more harm than good. Sure, they may help you lose weight in the moment, but they create a mindset of limitation that often stretches beyond one’s relationship with food. People who follow restrictive diets bounce back and forth between achieving their goals and completely undoing them, sometimes dealing with debilitating disappointment. This yo-yoing tends to creep into other parts of our lives.

It is far easier to learn to eat intuitively.

Eating intuitively is about educating yourself. You need to know three things to be an intuitive eater: what nutrients your body needs, how much and how often your body needs them, and in which food the nutrients you need exist.

2. There are room for all foods. Praise the Lord and pass the chocolate           cake!

Sure, I could live off well-constructed salads for the rest of my life, but do you think I’d be happy about it? Not really. Despite my seriously intense love for salads, if they were the only thing I could eat, I would get tired of them. I would have to tell myself no every time I saw tabbouleh, bean burgers, and ravioli. That would be absolute misery!

 

So, guess what? I’m not going to tell myself no. I’m not going to restrict myself to healthy thing and reject all other foods. To those treats and less healthy foods, I will say yes sometimes. I won’t say yes at every meal or every day, but I don’t have to tell myself no all the time either.

I spent a recent holiday weekend with my family. One night we ate nothing but pizza and nachos for dinner. Yep! It’s true. I’m not ashamed or hesitant to admit it because they aren’t forbidden foods. They aren’t totally off-limits for me and I would encourage you to think about them this way. When I eat well and make conscious, healthy choices 90% of the time, I DO NOT feel bad about enjoying food and reasonably indulging.

Reasonably is the key word here. It’s easy to get carried away with your favorite ice cream flavor or the most crinkly, crispy French fries. This is where you have to learn what your body needs and listen when it is telling you something isn’t right. Three scoops of ice cream may be too many if you end up with a headache every time you eat that much. Maybe that extra handful of fries gives you a stomach ache. That is your body trying to tell you something. Know your body and listen to it.

 3. Even though recommendations are always changing, there are a       few things that never change.

What’s in one day seems to be out the next. Recommendations change literally all the time, sometimes overnight, or at least it seems that way. This expert says one thing and another says the exact opposite. I know… *sigh* It’s confusing. The good news is that there are a few things that are and have always been recommended:

  • More fruits
  • More vegetables
  • More whole grains
  • More lean & plant proteins

I’ve mentioned this point before, and I really believe it makes all the difference. I’m not saying we should ignore the latest food and nutrition research. Not in the least. What I am suggesting is that these four statements have been in every set of dietary recommendations in some form for the past few decades. No joke!

 

If you are looking to eat better, these four points are a great place to start.

4. Small changes are better than huge flying leaps.

People often fail when they try to change everything at once. It’s just part of being imperfect human beings. Think about goals you have tried to achieve. Which ones worked out and which ones didn’t? What are some of the reasons you weren’t able to complete or sustain them?

Ok, I have two scenarios. You decide who will likely be most successful.

  • Ava sets a goal to slowly increases her produce intake by 1 serving day and works up from there to meet her goal of 6 servings a day by week 7.
  • Liam reaches his goal of 6 servings of produce a day immediately sustains it for a short while. By week 3, he finds it too challenging and gives up completely.

The answer may seem obvious.

Ava will likely be more successful than Liam in reaching her goal. Why? Because Ava is starting small. She is making manageable changes and sticking to them. She is taking small sustainable steps toward reaching her goal each day. She is not taking one gigantic leap, feeling like she made a mistake, and abandoning all hope of change, like Liam did. Maybe one day Liam will try to increase his produce intake again, but do you think the thought of failing will ever leave him? Unfortunately, probably not.

5. Nutrition does NOT, I repeat, does NOT have to be rocket                      science.

It seems like it is must be of the time—*pouting face* all those big words you can’t pronounce. I have a degree in this stuff and still second guess myself. Nothing in this world is perfect, that includes nutrition and the science behind it. Who knows, fifty years from now healthy eating may look different than it does today. The fact of the matter is we are doing the best we can with the current information we have.

I am and you are, too!

You don’t have to eat perfectly at every single meal or day or week or month. Just make healthy, small changes where you can. If you continue doing that, you won’t be so intimidated by your nutrition goals.

So, don’t sweat the small stuff. If you and your kids ate tacos every night this week, oh well. If that’s what worked for you and your family than go with it. At least everyone ate something and hopefully had a few vegetables along the way.

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Those are just a handful of things I’ve learned and they have truly shaped the way I eat and think about food.

Healthy eating is about food as much as it is about your attitude and the way you think about healthy vs. not as healthy. Do you think you’d allow yourself a handful of chocolate chips if you were deathly afraid that it would make you fat? No way. Will one handful of chocolate chips make you fat? I don’t think so. Maybe if that handful were one of six you ate every single day. If you love chocolate chips and you want a handful every couple days, then you get yourself that handful and ENJOY IT!

Don’t be afraid of food. Food is fuel. Food is nourishment. Food is your friend! ❤

 

 

Herbed Squash and Sweet Potato Soup (Vegetarian)

Herbed Squash and Sweet Potato Soup (vegetarian)

Fall is coming. The morning air is crisper. The leaves are taking on bright new colors. It’s all apples and pumpkins until further notice, people. The days may be warm yet, but the night air dipping down into the 50’s (even the 40’s) is becoming harder to deny.

Experiencing some mixed feelings? Me, too.

I adore summer. The summer sun, bluebells, garden-fresh veggies, poplar trees, waves on the lake, singing chickadees–*nostalgic smile*. Even though, I love all those things, there is something so cozy and comforting about a Midwest fall. Wouldn’t you agree?

Still, I can’t say goodbye to summer all at once. I need to ease into it, and this delicious soup is helping me welcome the transition.

Print Recipe
Herbed Squash and Sweet Potato Soup (Vegetarian)
Perfect for welcoming fall.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 10 minutes
Servings
cups
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 60 minutes
Passive Time 10 minutes
Servings
cups
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cube the squash and sweet potato. Slice and half the onion. Unpeel and slice the garlic.
  3. Place everything from step 2 on a baking sheet and evenly drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over top.
  4. Roast for 35 minutes.
  5. Once the ingredients are finished roasting, place in a large stockpot on the stove top.
  6. Prepare the vegetable broth and add to the large stockpot.
  7. Boil for 20 minutes.
  8. Cool for 10 minutes
  9. Transfer the contents of the stockpot to a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.
  10. Return to the stockpot and stir in kefir or non-dairy yogurt, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.
  11. Heat for another 5 minutes until warm enough to serve.
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Sweet Potato Cakes

This recipe is an old favorite. It is well balanced, combining carbohydrates, a bit of protein, some vegetables, and healthy fats. You can easily make substitutions, too. Exchange spices, leafy greens, onions or eggs with ease.

I have received some great feedback from people who have tried these sweet potato cakes. That is why I am reformatting the recipe. It just needed a little facelift. Check out what one reader has to say about these sweet potato cakes:

“WOW! These were DELICIOUS! I made half the recipe to try for the first time, and I wish I would have made the full recipe. They were gone so fast. Mark’s coworkers were jealous when he brought them to work the next day for lunch. I was out of red onions, so I substituted white onions, and it was delicious. Hayley has prepared easy step-by-step instructions to follow, which makes it so quick! I can’t wait to go get more sweet potatoes to make these again! I think these will be a great hit for a dinner party!”      Rebekah Anderson

Print Recipe
Sweet Potato Cakes
Delicious. Simple. Flavorful. These sweet potato cakes are sure to be a hit!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
4-inch cakes
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
4-inch cakes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Rinse the sweet potatoes, cut in the half lengthwise, and cook them in the microwave for 8-10 minutes or until very tender and falling apart.
  2. Cut potatoes into cubes and place into medium mixing bowl. The skins may need to be taken off and finely chopped separately. (Do include the skins in the cakes because that is where you will find the fiber and a many of the vitamins and minerals!)
  3. Add the onion, garlic, seasoning, flour, egg whites, chia seeds, and kale to the bowl.
  4. Mash everything together with a fork until well incorporated.
  5. By hand, form 3-inch diameter flat mounds/cakes .
  6. In a large skillet, heat the cooking oil over medium/high heat.
  7. Cook each sweet potato cake for 2-4 minutes per side.
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6 Ways to Work Vegetables into Breakfast

Do you find it hard to get in veggies as you go about your day? I’m sure most people would answer “Yes”. It can be a struggle to get them all in. The reality of it is that we have a whole meal *ahem* breakfast that doesn’t usually get any veggie love. Here are six ways you can fit some vegetables into your breakfasts.

1. Eat leftovers for breakfast. Yes, leftovers. You say, “stir-fry”. I say, “Morning, sunshine”. If you have leftover roasted vegetables, eat them with toast and an egg. If you have leftover rice and sautéed veggies, heat them up. Leftover stew, soup or chili would be just as warm and cozy as a bowl of oatmeal. Just because it’s breakfast time doesn’t mean you’re limited to breakfast foods.

soup2. Make yourself a breakfast salad. Who says you can’t start your day with spinach? Not me! I feel like the salad queen over here. I eat salads every day and at any meal (even for snack)—no joke. Breakfast is a great time to eat a salad. Mix some shredded carrots with a bed of greens, add some cooked sweet potatoes, a little avocado, maybe a fried egg and you have yourself a complete breakfast.

Picture1

http://www.thefullhelping.com/sweet-potato-breakfast-salad-with-almond-butter-protein-dressing/

https://www.eatingbirdfood.com/fall-breakfast-salad/

 

https://minimalistbaker.com/savory-breakfast-salad/

http://soletshangout.com/blt-breakfast-salad-with-soft-boiled-eggs-avocado/

3. Make a veggie-loaded quiche, egg bake, frittata, or scramble. The magic word here is “loaded” make sure your egg dish is not all eggs and sausage. Try making it with half the eggs you usually use and add in kale, spinach, chopped potatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic, leeks and whatever else you like.

4

http://shrinkingkitchen.com/loaded-vegetable-frittata/

https://minimalistbaker.com/southwest-tofu-scramble/

http://thehealthyhoneys.com/veggie-loaded-breakfast-recipe-roundup/

4. Try veggies and hummus along with toast and nut butter—seriously good. There are some days were I’m running late or just don’t want to cook. *gasp* What? Hayley, not wanting cook? Tell me it isn’t so. Well, let me assure you friends, it is. On those days I literally eat hummus, cold veggies, toast and nut butter. It’s delicious and provides a grain, a protein, and a vegetable.

veggies

5. Blend up some green smoothies. Kale, cucumber, spinach… the possibilities are endless. Green smoothies can be hard for people to get excited about. Sometimes they are a weird color, they smell funny or don’t taste good. If this is you, I would suggest starting out with something very simple. Try blending an overripe banana, 1-2 cups of spinach, 1 cup or so of nut milk and a handful of ice cubes. If you don’t like that switch to some other green vegetable or fruit.

Picture5

https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/healthy-meals/green-smoothie-recipes#kale-apple-smoothie-1

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/green-smoothie-recipe/

http://dailyburn.com/life/recipes/healthy-green-smoothie-recipes/

6. Try your hand at homemade pancakes, waffles, or muffins with shredded carrots, beets, zucchini or your favorite veggie. Any baked good that has secret vegetables is     a winner in my book. There are so many ideas out there, you are bound to find one that works for you. Ideas like these are perfect for picky eaters.

pcakes

https://cookieandkate.com/2012/carrot-cake-pancakes/

https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/healthy-zucchini-muffins-recipe/

http://www.measureandwhisk.com/2016/03/pink-beet-waffles-with-lemon-whipped.html

 

 

Lavender-Infused Honey & Orange-Infused Honey

Say, “Good-bye” to boring honey. For real. Go ahead– I’ll wait.

Honey by itself is good, but why shouldn’t it be irresistible? I can’t think of a reason. Lavender and orange, can’t go wrong with those flavors. Both are tasty in lattes, baked goods, and anywhere else you routinely use honey.

Not only will you be doing cartwheels over how delicious your morning coffee is, you will congratulate yourself on being a master chef, *applause and cheering* because each honey flavor requires only two ingredients and you can make them both in 10 minutes. *dorky smirk and eyebrow raising*

I do have to say that honey is still sugar and I know that lavender and orange are you favorite flavors, but don’t go sticking a straw in the jar and sippin’ the day away. You will have a stomach ache and your dentist will be sending me an angry email. Just try to control yourself, okay. *she says to herself*

Ok, enough babbling. Let’s get to those recipes.

   

Print Recipe
Lavender Honey & Orange Honey
Extremely easy, 2 ingredient lavender-infused and orange-infused honey recipes.
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 1 minutes
Servings
cup of each flavor
Ingredients
Lavendar Honey
Orange Honey
Prep Time 5-10 minutes
Cook Time 1 minutes
Servings
cup of each flavor
Ingredients
Lavendar Honey
Orange Honey
Instructions
Lavendar Honey
  1. Heat the honey in a glass container for 1 minute.
  2. Pour into a jar.
  3. Hold the lavender sprigs so the flower side is facing down and push into the hot honey.
  4. Let sit for 5-7 days, gently turning and flipping the jar every day to ensure that the flavor disperses.
  5. Once you are satisfied with the flavor, remove the lavender sprigs and discard.
Orange Honey
  1. Heat the honey in a glass contained for 1 minute.
  2. Mix in the grated orange peel.
  3. Let sit for 5-7 days, gently turning and flipping the jar every day to ensure that the flavor disperses. You can try to fish out the orange peel pieces when you are satisfied with the flavor if you prefer. I like to leave mine in the honey.
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Let’s Talk Kombucha

Kombucha, you probably know someone who swears by it. You hear good things about it, but aren’t sure what to believe. Is it a fad health drink or a helpful addition? Let’s find out.

I remember first trying kombucha. I thought to myself, “Okay, I think this is good.” Weeks later I decided, “Ooh, this is seriously delicious.” Then all of a sudden it was like *angel chorus*, “Where is can I get an IV of this stuff?”. Ok, I may be exaggerating, just a tad, but it is quite delightful.

WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?

Simply put, kombucha (kom-bo͞o-CHa) is fermented tea. It contains bacterial strains and yeast that promote healthy gut flora.

Bacteria…yum, yum, right? Don’t gag in disgust just yet.

Are the bacteria and yeast alive? YES. Are they something your body needs? YOU’D BETTER BELIEVE IT! Drinking this fizzy fermented tea is very much like eating yogurt or a taking probiotic supplement; they all contain similar organisms and benefits.

Is kombucha the ultimate, end-all source of probiotics? Nope. It doesn’t have super powers. No one food does. It’s important to consume a variety of fermented things because they all have distinct, useful types of bacteria in them.

 

WHAT DOES KOMBUCHA TASTE LIKE?

It’s fizzy with a slight vinegar-y taste. The best thing I can (loosely) compare it to is hard cider. In case you were wondering, kombucha does contain some alcohol in trace amounts, about 0.5% when kept and stored correctly.

There are endless sweetened and flavored commercial kombuchas , but most have the same basic fizzy-vinegar trait. If you are brewing at home, the room temperature, light, and fermenting time all play a role in defining the exact taste. A shorter fermenting time will yield a sweeter, more mild beverage, and a longer one will create a stronger, more vinegar-y drink.

WHERE DOES KOMBUCHA COME FROM?

Today’s Dietitian outlines kombucha’s history for us. It likely got its name from the 3rd century Korean physician who brought it to Japan, although there is record of it being brewed around Asia some 600 years earlier. Over the next few hundred years, kombucha made its way around Asia, Europe, and  to the Americas much later. More recently, kombucha was and has been popular during the pre-World War II era, the 1990’s, and today.

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DRINKING KOMBUCHA?

Those tend to be debated. People cling to the lack of legitimate research that supports many of kombucha’s benefits. On the flip side, many people report better digestion, less constipation, stronger immunity, more efficient metabolic functions, supports organ health etc… while consuming kombucha.

So, the jury is still out on this one. It is ultimately up to you to decide. If you like it, want to drink it, and find it beneficial to you.

ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES TO KOMBUCHA?

Again, this depends on who you talk to. The live cultures can cause issues for people with immune deficiencies and your stomach may regret being given an entire gallon. If you are brewing at home, you do have to know what mold looks like on your SCOBY. My what? Don’t worry. We will get to that in the next section.

As long as you drink it in reasonable amounts and look out for any possible negative side effects, kombucha is not thought to be harmful.

YOU CAN MAKE IT AT HOME, RIGHT?

Why yes you can! This is where that SCOBY, or Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, comes in. This growth sits on the top of your tea, lives off of the sugar, and produces the frenzy of bacteria, fizz, and vinegar that we call kombucha.

Let’s be real, it is not a pretty sight. It looks like a floating mass of soggy pancakes all layered on top of each other— just the new piece of décor you were looking for! The good news is that it brews best when undisturbed and stored in a dark place. So, back of the pantry…yeah, I think so, too.

You need four things to brew kombucha: tea (usually black, but I’ve seen recipes using green, white, and oolong), sugar, water, and a SCOBY. Once its finished, you can drink it plain or flavor with fruit juice or spices. There are plenty of great recipes out there.

The process is pretty simple.

  1. Heat your water to a boil (we do gallon batches). Turn off the burner once boiling.
  2. Stir in 1 cup of sugar until completely dissolved and add the tea bags. 
  3. Let cool COMPLETELY! This is a very important step. If the tea mixture is too hot, you’ll burn or kill the SCOBY and you won’t be enjoying any kombucha.
  4. Add the cooled tea mixture to a large glass container and place the SCOBY on top of it You can have someone you know split their SCOBY in half and use it or make you own–consult a reputable internet source for instructions.
  5. Cool in a dark place and let sit for about 7 days.

THOUGHTS?

Kombucha can be part of a healthy diet. If you are buying it, buy it from a trusted brand. If you are brewing it at home, do your research and brew it safely. If you like it and see benefits when drinking it, then do it. I wouldn’t go crazy and drink gallons a day, but a glass here and there is perfectly fine. Don’t forget about yogurt and other fermented foods—they want to help your digestive system, too!

DISCLOSURE: Please note these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease. I am not a doctor. I am simply sharing what I have learned.

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060415p20.shtml

Preserving Pears

We have tons of pears. I mean almost an actual TON OF PEARS. What’s a girl to do? Preserve them, of course! So, my lovely mom-in-law and I decided to do just that. Here are two ways to stay we stayed on top of our bumper crop: canning and making sauce.

     

CANNING PEARS

I am not formatting this as a recipe because it’s really up to you how many pears you can. Using the water bath method, we canned our pears in water and a few jars with mulling spices. (Keep scrolling if you need to see that pear-sauce recipe now!!!)

WHAT YOU NEED:

  1. Pears
  2. Jars with lids and rims
  3. Baking sheet
  4. Medium saucepan
  5. Large bowl for lemon soak
  6. Large stock pot
  7. Extra-large stock pot with lid-something your jars can be submerged in
  8. Cutting board(s)
  9. A knife or two
  10. Hot pads
  11. Stirring spoons
  12. Tongs designed for grasping hot jars
  13. Lemon juice
  14. Lots of water!
  15. Spices (optional)

TO PREPARE:

  1. Place your jars on a baking sheet and put them the oven at 200 degrees F. This ensures you won’t shock your jars when you add the boiling water.
  2. In the medium saucepan, pace the lids and rims in the water and heat on medium. This is also to keep these pieces warm and make sure that the rubber is hot enough to seal properly.
  3. Fill the large stock pot with water, heat to a boil and hold there. This is the water that will be added to the jars to cover the pears.
  4. Fill the extra-large stock pot with water, heat to a boil and hold there. The jars will go in once they are filled and ready to be sealed.
  5. Fill a large bowl with water and about a ½ cup of lemon juice. This is to keep the cut pears from browning before placing them in jars.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Wash and quarter all the pears, removing the inside core, stem and seeds, and let them sit in the lemon water until you are ready to put them into jars.                                                         
  2. Pull the jars out of the oven and fill them with pear quarters until they are ¾ full. Add a drop of lemon juice to each jar. Add spices during this step (optional).     
  3. Fill the jars with boiling water, leaving a ½ inch of air space at the top.                                              
  4. Submerge the jars in the extra-large stock pot and boil for 20-25 minutes—22 minutes was perfect for us.                                                                                                                             
  5. Once time is up, carefully remove the jars from the boiling water and tighten the caps (with hot pads!)                                                                                                                                      
  6. Place them back on the baking sheet to cool completely. It is important not to move, shake, or in any way disturb the jars too much as it may disrupt the sealing process. Listen for the pop of the seal—a canner’s dream!
  7. Let them sit for a few weeks before digging in—they are good for quite some time if they are canned properly, but you will always get the best flavor during that first year.

AND NOW FOR THE SPICED PEAR-SAUCE RECIPE– so delicious!!!

Print Recipe
SPICED PEAR-SAUCE
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25-35 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25-35 minutes
Passive Time 15 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Wash, core, and dice pears. Leave the peels on—that’s where the fiber is!
  2. Put all ingredients in the large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  5. Run the cooled pears through a food processor or blender until they reach your preferred consistency.
  6. Store in jars or freezer bags and keep in the refrigerator or freezer.
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Sun-dried Tomato Spread

So excited about this one, people!

(Less than) 10 minute, vegan, protein & healthy fat-based tomato spread– if that doesn’t make you happy… uh, it better make you happy because its simple and so darn delicious. 🙂 It is perfect for parties. It is great for dinner, lunch, or snack. Hey, I’ve even eaten it for breakfast. What can I say, I’m obsessed.

THIS IS SO GOOD. I’m serious. I’ve actually, truly, never tasted a spread I like more. Believe me, I could go on and on (for an entire paragraph–don’t tempt me) about how tasty it is, but I won’t. You’ll just have to try it for yourself.

INGREDIENTS:

8 oz. sundried tomatoes, chopped

15 oz. canned great northern or cannellini beans, drained

4 TB. olive oil (I used a basil garlic infused olive oil—regular is fine)

¼ cup fresh basil chopped

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/8 tsp. salt

3 TB. water

sdts2

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Using a food processor, pulse all ingredients on high for 1-2 minutes until well incorporated.
  2. Serve on your favorite toasted bread, with crackers, over pasta, over rice or as a sandwich spread.

Balanced Eating… When Recommendations Are Always Changing

“I am finding balance and joy in being flexible and adventurous in my eating habits.”

It’s right there in the description of what fuels A Nourished Life… but what does it even mean? Well, I am glad that you asked. People love to throw around the words “balance” and “moderation”. People love to talk about how they are finally achieving their nutritional and lifestyle goals using words like “flexible”. So, that’s great, but what does this mean to someone trying to maintain healthy eating habits?

Merriam Webster defines the word “balanced” as: being in a state of balance/having different parts or elements properly or effectively arranged, proportioned, regulated, considered, etc.

Ok, we are going to briefly remind ourselves about food groups, yes, food groups-plantplate.png elementary school flashbacks, any of you 90’s kids? I promise, this will be quick.

Food plate guides were created to make balancing food choices much easier. The plant-based food plate is a little different from the traditional food group plate and it should be.

Here are two visual examples if you’d like to take a look: Plant Plate (http://www.theveganrd.com/vegan-nutrition-101/food-guide-for-vegans/) and MyPlate (https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate).

I’m going to link a few helpful sites here so you can familiarize yourself with what portions look like: http://www.brendadavisrd.com/the-vegan-plate/ . Here is one more for you: http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2013/02/22/portion-control-use-visual-cues-to-remember-serving-sizes/ . I encourage you to find your own resources, too. The internet is a full of them– just be sure they are from credible sources.

I have learned by experience that plant-based eating is relatively simple, but can sometimes take some thought and planning when you just start out.

Grains are easy: bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and the like. Fruits and vegetables are also pretty straightforward. We’ve already talked about protein (legumes, nuts, and seeds… etc.,) already. If you haven’t read it check it out here: https://anourishedlife.blog/2017/07/17/whats-the-deal-with-plant-protein/ .

Perfect. You found that you knew these already. SCORE!

A balanced meal will have these things in the proportions close to what is represented by the graphic. If you are an animal protein eater, it will look a little different, but you will still have the general macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats) .

Now, what? The graphic above is a great launching pad. It is not the ultimate, perfect, I’m-finally-going-to-be-so-stinking-healthy model, though, and you’ll constantly find new and different recommendations.

Land in the happy middle. Find someplace in the middle of what everyone is recommending. Some suggest an iron or calcium supplement. Some experts suggest three servings of fruit, and some say four. You are going to have to do some of your own research to make the best decision for you. As long as you fall within the generally accepted ranges and your body will be happy.

One goal I have in sharing the with you is to increase plant food intake, not drive ourselves nuts (ha-ha, nuts are a plant protein- see what I did there) trying get in the perfect number of servings of everything. Why are we not trying to do that? Because you would EXHAUST yourself and NEVER EVER DO IT PERFECTLY.

I don’t mean to be a downer here, but you wouldn’t make it. I wouldn’t make it. Nutrition is always changing as new research is being published. The recommendations are always evolving, and it can be very frustrating. Just when you figure out your eating patterns some expert with a bunch of letters after their name has to come along and mess it all up!

So, what are regular people like you and I to do when this happens? I would accept the produce.jpgnew guidelines (I’m talking official, government issued guideline, here), do your best with them, and keep in mind what is always recommended even when others things change:

  • more fruits,
  • more veggies,
  • more lean meats,
  • more plant proteins,
  • more whole grains.

Ok, back to the word “balanced”. This is what balanced eating looks like for me. I am mainly a plant-eater. 85% of the time I run on plants. Sometimes I cook Thai peanut chicken and veggies: https://anourishedlife.blog/2016/12/29/slow-cooker-thai-peanut-chicken/. On occasion, I make my favorite salmon dish: https://anourishedlife.blog/2016/07/26/indian-spiced-salmon/ . I also enjoy ice cream from time to time. The biggest lesson I have learned is that balanced eating is a process. It’s about changing our perspective of what food is.

Food fuels our functions. If you are running a diesel engine, for instance, and you fill it up with regular old gasoline, well, you are going to have some problems. The same goes for our body, our engine, if you will. I know, totally lame analogy, but stay with me.  The more processed, high saturated fat, high salt foods we offer our body, the less efficiently it will function. WHY? These are not the best foods for our bodies nor are they being eaten in the proper amounts.

That is not to say that some saturated fat and some salt are not okay, even necessary. Of course they are! They are still food ingredients and are present in many things that we eat. It’s just that the general public eats far too much of these ingredients, and are, or will soon be, reaping the health consequences.

So why not educate ourselves? Why not learn to eat well, to eat mindfully, balanced and to enjoy certain things in moderation, if it means our years may be longer and less disease-ridden?

blueberries.jpgMy reason for plant-based, healthy, well-balanced, delicious dishes is to give my body more of the vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients that nutrition authorities have been suggesting for decades. That is my outlook. It doesn’t need to be yours. You can eat animal foods and lead a perfectly healthy life.

The real difference is made in how you balance all of it, how you balance all nutrients!

So, what can you do today to create balance eating habits:

  1. Familiarize yourself with MyPlate or the Plant Plate visual guides to eating linked above.
  2. Make sure you know your portion sizes and what your body needs every day also linked above.
  3. Think about how you can start incorporating more veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and plant protein in your daily life. And give it a try.
  4. Follow healthy blogs, or visit the library to find some healthy recipes—and get cooking in that kitchen!
  5. Have PATIENCE and GRACE with yourself. Yes, you can eat that double chocolate chip cookie. Yes, you can go to that potluck and not stress about the lack of vegetables. It’s hot outside, get yourself that scoop of ice cream you’ve been excited for. The important part is that you are making healthy choices MOST OF THE TIME. Your ultimate habit should be healthy food, snacks and meals. The cookies, ice cream, potato chips etc,… are the treats that are reasonably enjoyed, not the main habit or way of eating.

 

What are your balanced eating thoughts and tips???

 


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/balanced

 

 

 

Cilantro Taco Topping

tacotopping2 (1 of 1).jpg

This mind-blowing taco topping is so simple you’ll be wondering why you didn’t think of it before… at least I sure was. It will add a surprising amount of flavor and freshness to you tacos.

Makes: 6 cups

Time: 10 minutes


INGREDIENTS:

1 lb any kind of tomatoes, chopped

3 cups (about 1 bunch) of cilantro, chopped

1 small white onion, minced

¼ lb. mini bell peppers, chopped

½ – 1 tsp. garlic or plain olive oil

sprinkle of salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cut all ingredients
  2. Mix in a large bowl
  3. Serve on tacos!

*The pictured tofu was baked and mixed with low sodium taco seasoning.

*The pictured corn tortillas were toasted in the oven.