Which Diet is Best For Me?

which diet is best for me?

which diet is best for me?

If you are reading this, chances are you’ve been on a diet before.

Paleo

Keto

Atkins

Weight Watchers

Vegan

Carnivore

Whole 30

Flexible Dieting (If It Fits Your Macros - IIFYM)

Intermittent Fasting

Low carb

Low fat

Vegetarian

Gluten-free

Zone Diet

Blood Type Diet

Cabbage Soup Diet

Cookie Diet

Alkaline Diet

South Beach

Raw Food Diet

Slimfast

Special K

Jenny Craig

The Master Cleanse

These are 24 diets I could think of off the top of my head. There are hundreds more out there but for arguments sake lets say there are 24. So with 24 styles of eating, 24 programs that claim to be the answer to health and weight loss, here we are……confused, frustrated and disappointed.

What. The. French…?

How is it that we have so much research, so much technology, so much access to information and yet we are still trying to figure out how to get this nutrition thing “right”?

If you are like most of us and have tried 3,6,10 or all of the diets listed above, I’m glad you are here! Today I’m going to talk briefly about how you can finally find a style of eating that works FOR YOU.

“Wait a second, I’ve heard this before” you might be thinking, and I don’t blame you for your skepticism! Unlike many people behind these fad diets, I’m not here to sell you a book or product. I’m not here to offer you empty promises. I’m not here to tell you how to drop 12 pounds fast. I’m here to help you give all of this up for good, settle into a weight that is healthy for your body and help you get back to more important things in life that don’t involve points, grams or a food scale.

Your mom was right….You are special :) You are unique and unlike anyone else on this planet (yay for affirmations).

We are all unique. We have different lifestyles, different activity levels, different upbringings and different genes. We have different goals, different medical histories, make different amounts of money, and have different food preferences.

SO WHY WOULD WE ALL EAT THE SAME?!

What works for one person might not work for someone else.

So then, what is the BEST DIET for YOU?!

The best diet for you is:

  • fluid

  • enjoyable

  • non-restrictive

  • sustainable long-term

The best diet for you also:

  • improves sleep

  • provides variety

  • aids in good digestion

  • allows for social events

  • meets your medical needs

  • supports stable energy and mood

  • provides satisfaction and pleasure

  • meets your physical and emotional needs

  • aligns with your cultural and personal beliefs

  • promotes health (but not so much that you miss out on the satisfaction factor of foods)

“Cool” you might be thinking…..how do I figure out what that looks like?

That my friend is the work, and it’s the work not everyone wants to do. We live in a society today where we want instant gratification (and I’ve got my hand way up, I am massively impatient and I know it) and we don’t want to do the work or wait for the results.

It’s a lot easier to follow a plan mindlessly then tune into your body and listen to what it is saying. Or to observe your behaviors and question why you do what you do. It’s a lot harder to challenge your beliefs and re-frame your thoughts, so we try diet plan after diet plan looking for the answer. The answer, which is corny I know, is within my friend.

Think about this….

When we were hungry as an infant, we would cry until our caretaker fed us. Once we were full we would push away and move on, until we were hungry again. Infants don’t stress eat, they don’t feel guilty for eating more at one feeding session then the other, and they don’t eat all day long.

We are ALL born with this "eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full” mechanism if you will. It’s not until we get a bit older and we are told to "“finish our plate” or that we “can’t have dessert until dinner is gone” that this inner voice gets hushed. We learn to listen to the (usually well-meaning) older people around us to figure out how to eat instead of listening to our bodies.

From a young age, we are also taught certain foods are good or bad. Broccoli is good and cookies are bad. We learn that food has an emotional component as well. Ice cream is used to celebrate a baseball game or to soothe a scraped knee.

Then we grow up and download Instagram and make a Facebook and mindlessly scroll all day while thousands of messages from the media continue to infiltrate our subconscious. Eggs are bad and keto is life and vegan will help you live to 100.

So now you have your family’s beliefs deeply ingrained, and you’ve got societies messages poured onto you. It’s no wonder you feel confused……you’ve got years of diet culture conditioning you under your belt.

What are you supposed to do?

The first step is to let go of the idea that a “diet” is going to work for you. Calorie restriction leads to weight gain. It doubles the enzymes that stores fat. Is erodes self-trust and takes you further away from the innate wisdom we all have.

Stop trying to fit into a mold and apply what you’ve learned from all of that diet experience. Did you learn that you have more energy when you eat less carbs? Cool! Do that. Are you a complete grouch if you skip breakfast! Cool! Eat breakfast then!

Listen to how food feels in your body.

  • Does it make your stomach feel weird?

  • Does it make you tired?

  • Does it give you gas?

  • Does it cause you to break out?

  • Does it give you diarrhea

  • Does it taste like garbage to you?

TRY TO EAT LESS OF THOSE THINGS

  • Do you feel full when you eat more fiber and protein?

  • Do your joints feel better when you eat more “whole” food?

  • Do you enjoy the taste of that food?

  • Does that food help you stay “regular”

TRY TO DO MORE OF THOSE THINGS.

Don’t over-complicate it people. The things from the top list aren’t bad; the foods from the bottom aren’t good. Different foods feel different in all of our bodies. Again, what works for one person, might not work for another.

To simplify it into one sentence:

Eat the things that make you feel good (energy, mood, digestion, sleep, strength) and that you enjoy.

I Tried Intermittent Fasting and Here's What Happened

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

If you haven’t heard of Intermittent Fasting (IF) I would love to come join you in whatever place you are at that diet culture has yet to contaminate. Intermittent Fasting for those of you whole aren’t familiar is a type of diet (or “style of eating”) that restricts the time frame in which you can consume your calories. Unlike most diets that tell you WHAT you can / can’t eat, IF tells you WHEN you can / can’t eat. There are a bunch of different protocols people choose to follow but the most common is a 16:8 fasting protocol. This means that for 16 hours of the day you fast, while the other 8 hours are your feeding window. Many people choose a “feeding window” from 11-7 or 12-8 pm.

16:8 Intermittent Fasting Schedule

16:8 Intermittent Fasting Schedule

Now before I go on, some of you may be wondering - but this girl preaches Intuitive Eating - what is this whole Intermittent Fasting business she’s talking about - how dare she?! And I know…part of me was hesitant to even post this BUT as a health care provider I prefer to have PERSONAL experience with a variety of different eating style so that when my clients inevitably bring them up, I can speak to them. I’m also not here to judge or tell you what to do with your life. We learn through experience and this was mine…

If you guys follow me on the gram (@FeelGoodDietitian), you guys probably know I was a highly competitive bikini bodybuilder that struggled with bulimia and had a bit of anorexia when I was in high school. Needless to say, my previous relationship with food was not the healthiest. These experiences however give me insight into how my current clients feel and allow me to relate at a personal level. So anyways, when I made the decision to give IF a shot, I promised myself I would be as intuitive as possible and approach it from a place of health (that’s what we all tell ourselves right?). I somehow STILL have H. Pylori even after rounds of antibiotics (but that rant is for another blog post) so I still get bloated. My thought behind starting IF was “well I feel pretty bloated in the morning ESPECIALLY if I eat breakfast so let me just try this whole fasting thing and see how it goes.” I should have just stopped right there….

I got myself a book all about IF, started doing more research, downloaded the Zero app to track my fasts and like always I WAS STOKED & READY TO DO THIS (that dieter’s high). As I read through articles and listened to podcasts and YouTube videos I did learn A LOT of about the research out there on the positive health benefits of fasting such as:

  1. Improved blood sugars (which I have no issues with)

  2. Autophagy (which literally means “self-eating” and is the bodies way to cleaning up old cells - basically an anti-aging process)

  3. Reduction of oxidative-stress

  4. Mental clarity

  5. Improved insulin sensitivity (again, no issues here), increase human-growth-hormone and positive effects of gene-expression

Great! I’m all for improving my health. Let’s do this!

So the first week I tried fasting, I started with 13-14 hour fasts because I read that the female reproductive system is super sensitive to famine and anything beyond 14 may cause issues. I’d start my day with water and some coffee (sometimes I’d throw in 1 tsp of coconut oil or brain octane oil - which is apparently not a true fast but relax….) then I’d eat around 11 am. The second or third day I started noticing mental clarity in the morning as well as A LOT of energy, almost comparable to the excessive caffeine jitters. I noticed I was feeling better when I would fast and then during my eating window I didn’t feel as good. So I started pushing my fasting window a bit longer, 16 hours, 17 hours, 18 hours. Apparently the “benefits of fasting” increase the longer you fast so why not right??? (As much as I continue to work on eroding that black-white thinking part of my personality, occasionally it still rears its ugly black and white head). All in all week 1 was fine. I should also mention I got engaged halfway through week 1 so the motivation level was there. As much as I told myself it was for health benefits only, that diet culture tape started playing in my head about how I would look in my wedding dress. I reassured myself however that it wasn’t about the weight loss and was only about health….mhm.

Week 2, perhaps from severe glycogen depletion or my body sensing what I was doing, was not so great. I was starting to feel super hungry all of the time but that voice in my head telling me it wasn’t time to eat yet popped up. I was starting to miss the previous weeks euphoric fasting high I had felt. Trying to align my work, fasting, eating and exercise schedule was an additional stress I did not need. Frustration and confusion came and went but I persisted on.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

By week 3, I knew this wasn’t going to work out for me. Side note: for anyone out there that has past experience with an eating disorder, restriction of any kind can be INCREDIBLY triggering. Recovering from an eating disorder is so hard to do, especially living in a culture that is basically shoving disordered eating down your throat (pun intended). Now, I’m not saying recovery from drugs or alcohol is easy but you don’t need to consume heroin or alcohol to sustain life. Recovering from an eating disorder is almost like asking an alcoholic to work or live in a bar for the rest of their life. Just like an alcoholic needs to remove him or herself from certain situations and people, as does someone recovering/recovered from an eating disorder. Not only do you need to surround yourself with supportive people that have a healthy relationship with food, but you also need to remove yourself from situations that trigger ED behavior… LIKE RESTRICTION.

By week 3 I was basically starting to freak out in my head, if I ate before the fasting goal I had set was up, I’d be bummed or felt like I couldn’t handle it. I have enough training/experience to know what to do in these moments but I knew this was not a good thing. My desire to eat was heightened, my thoughts started to revolve around foods and hours and restriction. This was when I called it quits.

Just like any other strict diet however, there are things to take away from the experience to use as information and apply to an intuitive eating practice. By no means am I saying you need to try these strict diets to learn how to eat intuitively - I’m more telling you to not beat yourself up if you tried a diet and it didn’t “work”. Learn from it - what made you feel good, what made you feel bad etc. My main takeaway was if I’m not hungry for breakfast and I skip it I tend to feel better throughout the day (Hello “Honor Your Hunger” principle). Did I need to fast for 20 hours to figure this out…..100% no.

Moral of the story; if you have an eating disorder or past history of one, I would NOT suggest intermittent fasting. If you have a history of yo-yo dieting I also do not think IF is the solution you are looking for. Would I suggest IF to most people - definitely not. I think men tend to do better physically and emotionally with an approach like this but if you feel good and your mental state is equally good while you’re doing intermittent fasting, go for it.

What I would suggest is that you start to see nutrition through an Intuitive Eating lens. Rather than labeling your eating habits as IF, or Keto, Paleo, Whole30, why not just listen to your hunger and fullness cues and eat the foods that you enjoy and improve your sleep/digestion/energy/mood. Why not just eat the foods that make you FEEL GOOD (now and later).

Hunger Fullness Scale / Intuitive Eating

Hunger Fullness Scale / Intuitive Eating

Summer Lentil Salad

Trader Joe’s does it again with their steamed, ready-to-eat lentils. This definitely isn’t a new product, I’m just late to the game and bummed I’ve been missing out on such deliciousness this whole time. This lentil salad is great as a meal, a side, a snack or on top of a salad. It has a summery feel to it because it’s a cold salad and because of the lime flavor, BUT thanks to climate change who can even keep track of what season we’re in?? The best part about this recipe….it takes about 5 minutes to make!

Cold Lentil Salad

Cold Lentil Salad

Easy Cold Lentil Salad

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Ingredients:

  • Trader Joe’s steamed lentils (1 box)

  • 1/2-1/3 cup chopped scallions (depending on how big of a scallion fan you are)

  • 1/3 cup diced tomatoes

  • 1/3 cup chopped cucumber

  • juice from 1 lime

  • salt / pepper / garlic to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (unless you’re trying to go for aesthetics for blogs and or social media then mix everything but the cucumbers together and then carefully place chopped cuc’s in a pile in the middle).

  2. Serve cold.

Homemade Nutella (sugar-free)

Not going to lie, I was patting myself on the back for this one. This homemade Nutella tastes just like the stuff you’d buy in the store but without all of the added oils and sugars. Not only is it free of the junk, it’s packed with healthy fats and antioxidants! I’d call that a WIN-WIN.

Homemade Nutella

Homemade Nutella

Ingredients:

  • 2.25 cups dry roasted hazelnuts

  • 1 T + 1 tsp coconut oil

  • 2 T cacao powder

  • 8-12 drops liquid stevia

Directions:

  1. Add hazelnuts and coconut oil to food processor or high-speed blender like a Vitamix (if using Vitamix like I did, you’ll need to use the tamper)

  2. Blend / process on high for 1-2 minutes

  3. Add cacao powder

  4. Blend

  5. Scrape from sides with rubber spatula

  6. Add 8 drops of stevia, blend and taste. Add more for more sweetness

  7. Use a rubber spatula to scrape nutella from sides of the blender/processor into a glass jar or dish

  8. Enjoy with apples, bananas, toast or my favorite way, straight from the jar with a spoon :)

Easing Anxiety with Nutrition

Easing Anxiety with Nutrition

Easing Anxiety with Nutrition

We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” Beyond the physical, the food we eat impacts the way with think and our ability to focus. Science is now showing the connection between nutrition and our mental health. What we eat can either contribute to or help ease anxiety. Follow these steps to improve your symptoms and your mood.

Eat Protein at Breakfast (and each meal throughout the day)

Protein can help you feel fuller longer and helps to stabilize blood sugar level so you have more energy throughout the day. Protein is also necessary for the production of dopamine (the feel-good neurotransmitter). Good sources of protein include: eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, pork, beef, tofu, beans and greek yogurt.

Choose Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates may increase serotonin (a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect) levels in the brain. Choose foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, wild rice, oatmeal and whole grain sprouted breads. Limit simple sugars such as cookies, cakes and candy which cause spikes in blood sugar levels and energy crashes.

Increase Your Water Intake

Dehydration can affect mental status and mood. Dehydration has been linked to a raise in cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. Keep a water bottle on your desk or in your bag as a reminder to drink up!

Mind Your Minerals

Magnesium can have a calming effect on the body. Incorporate high magnesium foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes and leafy greens such as swiss chard, spinach and kale. Foods rich in zinc, such as cashews, grass-fed beef, egg yolks and oysters, have been linked to lower anxiety.

Include Prebiotic and Probiotic-rich Foods

Probiotics are important for a healthy gut microbiome. Studies show that fermented foods that contain probiotics, protect against social anxiety. Include probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, kombucha, organic sauerkraut and kimchi. Prebiotics are basically food for probiotics. Prebiotics can be found in the following foods: onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, banana, apple and chicory root.

Choose Omega-3 Rich Foods

Omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce anxiety as well as improving depression. Include flax seeds, chia seeds and wild-caught fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon.

Limit / Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

Caffeine can make you feel jittery and nervous, interfere with sleep and dehydrate you. Excessive caffeine intake can fatigue your adrenal glands and elevate the stress hormone cortisol. Adrenal fatigue is associated with other health problems such as high blood pressure, IBS, stomach ulcers, acid reflux, and Crohn’s disease. Drinking alcohol may seem like a good way to calm your nerves, but in reality, it causes spikes and dips in blood sugar, dehydrates you, and causes impaired brain function—all of which can lead to anxious feelings. This may in turn make you want to drink even more. You can see the vicious cycle.

Include Antioxidant-Rich Foods
A lowered total antioxidant state is thought to be correlated with anxiety. Including antioxidant rich foods in your diet may help relieve some anxiety symptoms.


Fruits: Apples (Gala, Granny Smith, Red Delicious), prunes, sweet cherries, plums, black plums)
Berries: Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries
Beans: Pinto, red kidney
Nuts: Walnuts, pecans
Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli
Spices: Turmeric and ginger

Pay Attention to Food Sensitivities
Certain foods, chemicals and/or additives can cause adverse physical and mental reactions. Pay attention to how different foods affect your mood, energy, and physical state. Common food sensitivities include dairy, gluten, caffeine, eggs, MSG, aspartame, sulfites, fructose, food colors, and sugar alcohols. Sensitivities usually result in bloating, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, runny nose, nausea, rashes, reflux, or flushing of the skin. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tarts (gluten-free, keto)

You guys know I’m always chatting about brain health and omega-3’s. Well this tasty treat is packed with omegas thanks to a nice dose of hemp hearts. No don’t worry, not that kind of hemp; the only high you’ll be getting from these is a chocolate peanut butter high.

So what are hemp hearts? Well, they’re the edible interiors of the seed that hemp grows from. The hemp plant does share the same plant species as the marijuana plant. But the hemp plant contains nearly undetectable levels of THC. Hemp hearts contain less than 0.3%, while traditional marijuana plants can contain levels upward of 10 to 30%.

Per serving, hemp hearts contain 10 grams of plant-based protein and 12 grams of omega-3 and omega-6 per 30-gram serving (which is more than a comparable serving of chia or flax). Combine this with raw cacao powder, an egg, coconut oil and some peanut butter and you’ve yourself got quite a health bomb.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder

  • 1 cup + 2 T Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • few drops of liquid stevia (optional - I didn’t use stevia but if you prefer sweeter, go for it )

  • 1 T coconut oil (melted)

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

  • coarse salt

Directions:

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray mini cupcake tin with cooking spray

  2. In a bowl, mix the cacao, hemp heart , eggs, vanilla extract and stevia until well combined

  3. Spoon about a tablespoon of the mixture into each well in the cupcake tin

  4. Press down to form a little cup - shown here

  5. Bake for 10 minutes

  6. While the cups are baking, melt coconut oil and peanut butter in a double boiler

  7. Remove tray from oven after 10 minutes and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes

  8. Remove cups from pan and place them on a plate or flat surface

  9. Use a spoon to fill the cups up with the coconut oil / peanut butter mixture

  10. Freeze for 30 minutes

  11. Remove and sprinkle salt on top

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Roasted Tomato Soup

So I can’t take credit for this recipe because my client actually made this soup for me. She sent me the recipe to replicate but it’s so darn good that I asked if she’d be cool if I shared it with you guys. She’s the best so here you have it!

Dairy-free Roasted Tomato Soup

Dairy-free Roasted Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

Part 1

  • 7-8 vine tomatoes, quartered

  • 1 c cherry tomatoes

  • 1 c cremini mushrooms, sliced

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1.5 T balsamic vinegar

  • 8 cloves garlic

  • 10 sprigs thyme

  • 1/2 t salt

  • 1/4 t black pepper

  • 1/8 t cumin

Part 2:

  • 2.5 T grass-fed Kerrygold butter (can use EVOO if you are vegan)

  • 1 mirepoix container from Trader Joes (or 1/2 C each: chopped onions, celery and carrots)

  • 10 sprigs thyme

  • 1, 6 oz can tomato paste

  • 1 c chicken or vegetable broth (vegetable if vegan)

  • 1/4 t Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning OR 21 Salute Seasoning (optional)

  • 1 handful fresh basil’

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 370 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil

  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients from part 1 and mix thoroughly

  3. Transfer to baking sheet and roast in oven for 30 minutes

  4. When the tomato mixture has about 10 minutes remaining, brown the butter in a large pot over medium heat

  5. Add the mirepoix and thyme and stir frequently

  6. When the timer goes off for the tomato mixture, remove from oven. Spoon ~1/3 c of the juices into the pot with the mirepoix

  7. Place tray of tomatoes back into the oven and roast for another 30 minutes

  8. Add can of tomato paste to pot, stir and continue to cook (stirring frequently) until mixture turns into what looks like a pile of mush

  9. When the tomatoes have finished roasting, remove from oven, remove sprigs of thyme (from the tomato mixture and from the mirepoix) and add to pot

  10. Add broth, and everyday seasoning, stir and allow to simmer for 10 minutes

  11. Add basil, simmer for another 5 minutes

  12. Turn off flame

  13. Use a high power blender or immersion blender to puree and emulsify the soup

  14. Serve hot, preferably with a side of grilled cheese

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Mousse

Does anyone else get annoyed when you look up a recipe and have to scroll for 10 minutes to get past a novel? I get it…blogging. But I’m sure most people just want the recipe……so here you are…. (you’re welcome).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Mousse

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Mousse

Ingredients: (serves 3)

  • 7 oz firm tofu (I used House Foods)

  • 6 T powdered peanut butter (I used Naked Nutrition)

  • 1/2 cup cacao powder

  • 1 T raw honey (use more or less depending on preference)

  • 1 small ripe banana

  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

  • Optional Toppings: cacao nibs, shredded coconut, banana slices, nuts, peanut butter drizzle

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth

  2. Divide into cups and refrigerate for 30 minutes

  3. Serve cold with or without toppings

Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Seed Bites

Does anyone else feel like they need a bite of chocolate after dinner to seal the deal before they feel truly satisfied? I’m not sure what that’s all about but these bites are perfect for satisfying that sweet tooth and potentially, simultaneously lowering your blood pressure, reducing your risk of diabetes and improving insulin sensitivity. Yes, you read that right.

Dark chocolate is high in flavanols, (antioxidant) which may actually protect the heart. Dark chocolate is also rich in magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus and copper. As always though, quality matters - look for a higher % like 72-85% and read the food labels. Food companies like to pump in tons of added sugars and other garbage to make their product hyper-palatable. Although there are health benefits to dark chocolate, like most things, there is a point of diminishing returns. Aim for 1-2 small square of high quality dark chocolate per day. For more information check out this site.

Pomegranate seeds are also high in antioxidants. They contain flavonoids, polyphenols, tannins, and anthocyanin. Additionally they are rich in vitamin c, fiber, and potassium. So basically you’re doing your body right by making and consuming these bites.

Ingredients (makes ~16 bites):

  • 3, organic 72% dark chocolate bars

  • 1, 5 oz box pomegranate seeds

Instructions:

  1. Break up bars of chocolate and place into a microwave-safe dish (you could also use a double boiler to melt the chocolate).

  2. Heat the chocolate at 30 second intervals, stirring every 30 seconds, until the chocolate is melted. I heated and stirred about 4 times.

  3. If you are using a silicon mold, place a cookie sheet under the mold so you are able to transfer it to the freezer once you’ve poured in the chocolate.

  4. Pour ~1 Tablespoon of melted dark chocolate into each square of the silicon mold or lined mini-muffin/cupcake pan.

  5. Freeze for 5 minutes so the chocolate hardens a bit and the seeds don’t just sink to the bottom.

  6. Remove from freezer and spoon ~1 teaspoon of pomegranate seeds into each section.

  7. Cover with another 2-3 teaspoons of melted dark chocolate.

  8. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving (or ~15 minutes in freezer to make sure chocolate is completely solidified).

  9. Enjoy (with a napkin nearby).

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Grain-free, Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free peanut butter protein cookies

Grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free peanut butter protein cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15.5 oz) can organic pinto beans, rinsed

  • 15 medjool dates, pitted

  • 1 T coconut oil, liquid

  • 1 T vanilla extract

  • 1/8 tsp baking soda

  • 1/8 tsp salt

  • 1/3 cup natural chunky peanut butter

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter powder (I used Naked Nutrition’s)

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Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  2. Add pinto beans, dates, vanilla extract and coconut oil to a high speed blender or (ideally) food processor, and blend until well combined (using the tamper to continuously press the mixture down and away from the sides).

    (If you’re using a good food processor you can honestly probably throw everything in that and blend it up - my Vitamix was not behaving)

  3. Use a rubber spatula to transfer mixture to a large bowl.

  4. Stir in remaining ingredients.

  5. Refrigerate dough for 15-20 minutes.

  6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

  7. Roll doll into 1” balls and place on to cookie sheet.

  8. Flatten ball down using a fork. Press down once, lift, turn the fork 90 degrees and press down again to make the classic PB cookie marks

  9. Bake for 15 minutes.

  10. Allow to cool.

  11. Enjoy!

Date Sweetened Granola

Granola is one of those foods you can use in so many ways. Pack some as an easy on-the-go snack, enjoy with some almond milk for breakfast, add some texture to a cup of yogurt or toss some into oatmeal for an extra crunch. This recipe can be altered to meet whatever preferences or sensitivities you may have (almonds instead of peanut if you have an allergy; pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts if seeds sit better with you than nuts: add some flax or chia seeds if you’re feely super crunchy!) Unlike most store bought granolas that are sweetened with syrups and added sugars, this recipe uses medjool dates for a touch of natural sweetness.

Ingredients:

  • 12 pitted medjool dates

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter (or almond butter)

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/8 tsp salt

  • 2 1/2 cup rolled oats

  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts (could also use almonds)

  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces

  • (You can also add in another 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, shredded coconut or hemp seeds - or just substitute the walnut pieces for any combination of nuts/seeds)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Combine dates, water, peanut butter, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a high speed blender. Blend until thick and smooth.

  3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.

  4. Stir in the date mixture until well combined.

  5. Spread the granola on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

  6. Bake for 20 minutes.

  7. Remove from oven and stir the granola around.

  8. Bake for another 20 minutes (stir every 10 minutes so it doesn’t burn).

  9. Remove from over after 40 minutes total cooking or when granola is golden brown and crisp.

  10. Allow to cool.

  11. Store in a mason jar or airtight container.

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Dairy-Free Truffle Cream of Mushroom Soup

If someone asked me what the best meal of my life was, I would without any hesitation say Truffle Ravioli from a restaurant in Long, Branch, NJ. If I was to eat it now however, I’d have to probably take 2 personal days. So I attempted to recreate something as delicious without the GI upset. I give you….

Dairy-Free Truffle Cream of Mushroom Soup

Dairy-Free Truffle Cream of Mushroom Soup

Dairy-Free Truffle Cream of Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

  • 1 small zucchini, cubed

  • 10 oz package sliced mushrooms

  • 2.5-3 T truffle oil (will be used in two parts)

  • 20 oz broth (I used chicken)

  • 4 oz canned coconut milk

  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used truffle salt for a truffle explosion

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, heat 1.5-2 T truffle oil (depending on how strong you want the truffle flavor to be) over medium heat.

  2. Add in diced onions and cook for 2 minutes.

  3. Add in zucchini and stir to incorporate the oil and onion mixture. Cook for another 2 minutes

  4. Using only 2/3 of the 10 oz package of mushrooms, add to pot, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.

  5. Pour in chicken broth and let simmer for 5 minutes.

  6. Add coconut milk, salt, pepper and garlic powder and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes until all vegetables are fork tender.

  7. While the soup is simmering, heat another 1-1.5 T truffle oil in a frying pan and sauté remaining mushrooms.

  8. Remove pot from heat. Use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to puree.

  9. If you used an immersion blender, stir in sautéed mushrooms and serve hot. If you used a regular blender, pour soup back into the pot, stir in sautéed mushrooms and serve hot.

Why I Stopped Keto

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My ketogenic journey started in June of 2018. I had given the ketogenic diet a try in the past but I didn’t really go all in. Earlier this year I began working with a muscle response specialist for help with some symptoms I was having (large swings in energy, occasional bloating, and a few other health issues). Through muscle response testing we discovered many foods were showing up as “problematic”. The foods that were left over were basically the foods “allowed” on a ketogenic diet: chicken, beef, turkey, fish, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, vegetables and berries. All grains, wheat, dairy, sugar, fruit, corn and basically everything else was a no-go.

With the release of “The Magic Pill” on Netflix, keto was suddenly the newest thing and I was getting a ton of questions about it. I thought to myself, “Hey these foods are the only thing my body seems to like so why not try it out for myself?” (Ironically it turns out I had another health condition that was leading to most of these health issues, and it really wasn’t the food causing the problem…..it’s like rainnnn on your wedding day…..)

So I made sure I did my research on how to implement this “diet” in the healthiest way possible. Obviously there are risks for nutrient deficiencies when you cut out certain food groups. I made sure I was prepared with electrolytes, digestive enzymes, keto products and so on. My focus was ALWAYS on food quality; I was not simply reducing my carbohydrate intake. I was still trying to fuel my body with the best food possible to heal my body while reducing inflammation and risk for disease. Hot dogs and cheese dips were not a staple. I think it’s also important to mention that going keto was not an attempt to lose weight. I thought it might be a side effect but I never expected to alter my body composition by going keto.

Now before I get into why I stopped keto I want to say this: I don’t want this post to come off as “anti-keto”. We all have different goals, lifestyles, genetics, accessibility, histories and preferences. I figured I would share my personal experience to provide some more information to you all. At the end of the day, you know your body better than anyone else. You know what feels good and what doesn’t; what works well and what doesn’t work at all. It’s up to you to figure out what feels best to you, keto or not :)

5 reasons Why I Stopped Keto

  1. Decreased Stamina and Athletic Performance: This was hands down the #1 reason why I was ready to ditch keto. My entire life I’ve been an athlete. From soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, softball and basketball to bodybuilding and just trying to beast out in the gym, athletics have always been a big part of my life. For a brief period of time I did notice an improvement in my aerobic capacity (cardio). Weight training however was a different story. I’ve obviously cut back on my weight training since my bodybuilding days but to say I felt weak was a massive understatement. I’d hardly finish foam rolling and band work and was already ready to call it quits. Step ups made me feel dizzy and squats were basically impossible beyond 6 reps. As someone that used to rack pull 315# (literally one time but still) and farmer’s carried 80# for 5 minutes straight, this feeling was horrible. For people that don’t workout or play sports, this isn’t really a big deal. But for someone who lives for that kind of stuff, it’s a massive bummer. I also recently signed up for an athletic event that requires I consume carbohydrates. Eating for athletic performance is something I personally prefer.

  2. The Mental Effects Started To Wear Off: The initial mental clarity I had on keto was awesome. I had lasting energy that would carry me through the day. My sleep was improved and I just felt awesome. After the first month or so the mental effects started to wear off on me. This doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone, but I just wasn’t as “sharp” as when I first started. Again, this could personally be due to other health issues I was dealing with as many people report continued mental clarity.

  3. I Never Felt Physical Hunger. You may be scratching your head wondering why this is a problem. Although the curbed appetite was great in some ways, after a while, not experiencing that hunger sensation in my stomach felt odd to me. I could “feel hunger” in other ways, like getting irritated, moody, or tired, but my stomach felt physically full. I would eat because I could hear my body telling me I needed nourishment but it’s super uncomfortable eating when your stomach feels full - it’s like you are force feeding yourself. Again, lack of hunger might not be a problem for you but after a while it was something I didn’t enjoy.

  4. I Missed Certain Foods: If you follow me on Instagram, you know I like to cook and get creative in the kitchen. I made tons of keto baked goods, breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks and I genuinely enjoyed the food I was eating on keto. The high fat content makes the food super tasty and satiating, until it wasn’t. I never had food cravings because my blood sugar was so stable and the food was so filling. It wasn’t like I was craving pizza and donuts; but I just started missing little things, like food that crunched, peanut butter and jelly and apples. Which bring me to my next bullet-point……

  5. It Was Becoming Moderately Triggering: With a past history of anorexia and bulimia, as much as I tried to not let it get to me, eventually the restriction became triggering. For a while it didn’t bother me because I believed those foods felt good in my body and I wanted to feel good. I was choosing those foods for health rather than weight loss. I was being as intuitive as possible with it; listening to my body (which is hard when if feels like your signals are blunted), choosing what I thought would feel good in my body, eating more carbs when I felt I needed them, etc. But for anyone that has had an eating disorder, food rules of any type can be detrimental. Eventually, that food police food voice, the one I had worked quite hard to silence, began creeping back in. It was at that point I was able to recognize, this is no longer working for me.

So with that being said, I’ve compiled a list of people I think keto might be good for, and who it may not be indicated for.

Who Do I Think Keto Is GOOD For?

  • Sedentary to lightly active people, non-athletes

  • Those with certain health conditions such as epilepsy, PCOS, or type 2 diabetes

  • People that feel like they have a crazy appetite / cravings or blood sugar / mood swings

  • Individuals who are willing to educate themselves about what happens in your body while on a ketogenic diet

  • Men seem to respond better than women as far as weight loss purposes go (generalization, but still)

Who Do I Think Keto Is NOT GOOD For?

  • Very active individuals / athletes especially distance runners, crossfitters, bodybuilders, powerlifters, etc.

  • Anyone with a history of eating disorders - (restriction of carbohydrates / food rules can be triggering)

  • People that don’t want to learn and just want to be told what to eat

  • Quick-fix chasers - this isn’t something you try for 5 days and cheat on on the weekends. That’s not how ketosis works

  • Italians (jk comic relief)

How Did Keto Affect My Weight?

As mentioned earlier, I did not set out on a keto journey in an effort to lose weight BUT because I know most people are interested in keto mostly for weight loss purposes, I’ll share my experience. Initially I probably lost 3-4 pounds of water but eventually my weight stabilized (I’ve probably weighed myself 5 times in the past 6 months so it’s hard to say with complete certainty). Initial weight loss on a keto diet is very typical because we store 3-4 grams of water per gram of glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate) stored. When we stop eating carbs, we burn through that stored glycogen which means we excrete the water stored with it. Weight loss can vary greatly from person to person. My body is at a weight it likes to be at and I didn’t really have much to lose. For others that feel they have a large # of pounds they want to lose, weight loss will likely be greater in some. The appetite suppressing effect tends to be helpful in an effort to shed to some pounds.

The longer I did keto, the more “flat” I felt. Bodybuilders will immediately understand that term. For everyone else, it basically means my muscles didn’t feel full. I felt….deflated, but not in a good way. When we eat carbohydrates, we break them down into glucose which we then store in our muscles as glycogen. Think of your muscles as little pipes and the glycogen fills those pipes up. That’s what makes the muscle look shapely. When we no longer consume carbs, we have less glycogen, aka less “filling” and the muscles then appear flat. (This is why bodybuilders will eat Reeses, Pixie Stix, and other carb-filled foods just prior to getting on stage. The carbohydrates fill them up and give them a vascular appearance). This “flatness” translated into poor performance for me.

Take Home Message

Everyone is different and there are always exceptions to every rule. I’m sure there are keto bodybuilders and distance runners. There are probably also plenty of people that have a history of an eating disorder but do well with keto. As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, this is simply my take and experience on keto. If you disagree, that is cool too. Personally, I think it was a great experience. I learned even more about my body and what works (or doesn’t) for me. Rather than taking my word, or anyone else’s word for it, figure out what feels good to YOU! In the meantime, I’ll be over here eating peanut butter and jelly chasing gainz :)

P.S.

And one last thing….just because I no longer follow a “strict keto diet” doesn’t mean I don’t eat similar things - I didn’t just start eating cake three times a day, although if I want to I will. Instead, I’m back to eating for athletic performance, personal enjoyment and overall health and balance.

Avocado Pesto

Who doesn't love a perfectly ripe avocado??? If you answered "I don't" then this probably isn't going to work out between us and maybe we should start seeing other people.......A soft avocado is one of life's greatest pleasures; as is pesto: another gift from God and favorite of mine.  So I decided to bring my true loves together and give pesto a MUFA / fiber-filled makeover. I give you, Avocado Pesto. Add some to a bowl of zoodles, spread some on top of grilled chicken or use as a salad dressing alternative. You could also just eat it with a spoon like I end up doing :) Enjoy!

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Avocado Pesto 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh basil

  • 2 large (or 4 small (I love the teeny tiny ones from Trader Joes)

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

  • 6 cloves of garlic

  • 1 tsp pink Himalayan salt (regular sea salt is fine)

  • pepper 

Directions: 

  1.  Combine all ingredients in food processor until a creamy consistency is reached. Taste and season to your liking with salt and pepper (You can also combine the ingredients in a bowl and blend with an immersion blender if you don't have a food processor).

Tips For Easy Meal Prep

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If you have social media, especially Instagram, you've at least heard the term "meal prep" or "meal prepping." Basically it just means prepping your meals ahead of time. This can help you stay on track with your nutrition goals, and save time and money in the long run. Sounds simple enough right? The first time you try preparing a weeks worth of food you may find it wasn't as easy as you thought it might be. Or perhaps you didn't anticipate spending 8 hours cooking rice, chopping veggies, roasting a chicken and sauteing kale. Here are some tips to follow to make your meal prep fun and easy!

1) Identify Your Goal

Are you trying to save money? Increase your vegetable intake? Feel more energized through out the day? Go gluten free? Put on size? Before you can do anything else, you have to figure out your why. What are you trying to achieve here? From there you can figure out what your meal prep is going to look like. 

2) Pick A Day (s):

I like to prepare my meals on a Sunday so that they are fresh for the week. Everyone's schedules are different. Find what day works well for you. Decide whether you're going to do one large prep or break it up into 2-3 different days. People that have limited fridge/freezer space might need to break their meal prepping up into two days.  If you plan to do one large meal prep, you are going to need to freeze the later half of the week.

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3) Have A Game Plan/Make A Shopping List:

What is your plan for the week? Do you have certain recipes you know you want to try out? Do you plan on prepping one time on Sunday or twice a week? Do you know what ingredients you have vs. what ingredients you need? Make a list of what meals you plan to cook and write down a grocery list before you head to the store.

4) Be Prepared:

Did anyone else think of Scar and the Hyenas??? No? Just me? Okay cool….Most people will likely have your basic kitchen items; knives, pots/pans, cutting board etc. But if you're new to packing lunch or preparing multiple meals, you may need to pick up some things. Do you have all of the following?

                1) Enough Tupperware/containers, various sizes
                2) Ziplock baggies
                3) Measuring cups / food scale (if applicable)
                4) Aluminum foil
                5) Cooking spray
                6) Cutting boards
                7) Knives
                8) Pots, pans
                9) Can opener
               10) Vegetable peeler
               11) A cooler or lunch box

5) Multitask / Time Savers:

A big complaint I hear is that meal prepping takes too much time.  Yes it might take some time while your preparing, but during the week you'll be able to grab and go. The more often you meal prep, the better and faster you get. Multitask safely. For example you can hard boil eggs on the stove while you bake chicken or roast vegetables in the oven.  Try some of these tricks to save time. 
        Time-savers:
             1) Chopped onions
             2) Spiralized zucchini
             3) Pre-cut butternut squash / sweet potato
             4) Frozen cut veggies
             5) Individual pouches of nuts (Trader Joe's Just a Handful)
             6) Hard boiled eggs (although I much prefer cooking my own)
             7) Rotisserie chicken 

6) Clean As You Go:

If you have a tiny Manhattan kitchen, you don't have much of a choice but to clean as you go. Even if you have more than 2 ft of counter space, don't leave a massive mess for yourself. Load your dishwasher or clean different bowls/utensils as you finish using them. 

7) Have A System:

Labeling containers can be a great way to keep track of which containers are which. If you use similar ingredients in different meals, it can be hard to tell what's what.  If you prepared food for an entire week, I would highly recommend freezing half of your meals. If you don't, you'll likely be eating mush by Friday. Organize your fridge and freezer so you can easily see where everything is. 

8) Pack Your Meals:

Pack your meals in a lunch bag or cooler the night before. Pull what you plan to eat for breakfast to the front of the fridge. This is supposed to save you time in the long run. You don't want to be rummaging through the depths of your refrigerator at 6:15 in the morning now do you?

9) Pat Yourself On The Back:

Give yourself some credit. You took time out of your busy schedule to make time for your health and well being.