A Day At The Ocean.

There’s just something magical about the ocean.

Life can (and most certainly does!) get messy, crazy, silly, outrageous.

It doesn’t matter.  The ocean waves go on.  The seagulls cry, the sun shines, the sand still sinks beneath my toes.

The ocean reminds me that life is, in the midst of all the messiness, quite beautiful.

Without getting into too many details, there are some major changes going on at my current job.  And instead of being calm and cool about it all, I literally feel as if I’m being pulled at the seams.

I like to think I’m totally adaptable.  That I’m ready for anything that comes my way.  And while that may be partially true, I also thrive on knowing exactly where my next step will fall.

I don’t like surprises and I really enjoy some level of certainty.

But none of my worries or fears seemed to matter all that much, as I stood there staring the ocean waves directly in the face.

What was it that I was so worried about again?

I was reminded of how silly it is to fret.  Reminded of how big and powerful God is.  Reminded of how lovely life is.  Reminded of how small this little fear actually was.

So I breathed in deeply.  And then I let it all out.  I stared into the deep blue ocean waves and I decided there and then that I was going to trust God completely, as I’ve always done in the past.  Why?  Because He has always taken my hand and brought me gently across the crashing waves.  And I’m always stronger once I get to the other side.

Always.

The ocean means a lot to me.  It’s one of my most favorite places on earth.

Not only because I always get a great workout in from walking through the sand (hello, sore calves!)  Or because I get to indulge in my most favorite foods…

…hello, lobster roll!

But also because of how good I feel after I leave.

Mentally.

Physically.

Spiritually.

(My mom and dad were both able to take the day off for a trip to Maine as well!  Love them!)

If you’re feeling frazzled and fried from anything (and honestly, who isn’t at one point or another?), I strongly urge you to find a favorite spot and just spend the day or even a few hours there.  Go to the mountains.  Walk through the ocean.  Enjoy a long bike ride.  Take a swim in the lake.

And remind yourself that in the midst of all that’s messy, life is absolutely beautiful.  And that challenges, fears and worries…if you let them…can actually make you stronger.

QUESTION: What is one of your most favorite spots/locations/activities to enjoy?

Head Colds and Learning to Rest.

Stuffy nose.

Foggy brain.

Heavy head.

Yep.  I’m battling that good ol’ fashioned head cold.  I’m a little worried of all the things I’m probably forgetting, with my head being somewhere up in the clouds.  Even yesterday, after my doctor’s appointment, I was driving off and saw the secretary running after me in my rear view mirror.  That sweet woman was carrying my water bottle and my (borrowed) book, which I had unknowingly left behind.

So.  In an effort to get back to my normal self, I’m trying to embrace the whole concept of “resting.”  Which isn’t easy to do when working and getting ready for a new semester of my master’s program.  But I’m finding there are all sorts of ways to “rest.”  Like taking a 10 minute break to “smell” (well, at least try to smell in my case…ha!) the flowers.  Or sitting by a campfire at the end of the day.  Or taking 5-10 minutes to feel the afternoon sunshine on my face during a busy work day.

Yep.  We all need rest now and then.  Sometimes it just takes a stuffy head and a sore throat to remind me of that.

Happy Tuesday!

 

To Paleo or Not To Paleo…

source

What is Paleo?

The diet encourages the consumption of what our ancestors were believed to have eaten as hunters and gatherers, such as meat, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, etc.  The diet discourages the consumption of foods that are considered to be primarily part of the modern day, post-agricultural “westernized diet” or “SAD” diet (Standard American Diet,) such as milk, grains, refined sugars and legumes.  Promoters of the Paleo Diet believe that these are the primary foods that have led to an overweight country, which have burdened us with an ever growing health care crisis.

Followers of the Paleo Diet claim that by eating the foods we were evolutionarily developed to consume, we can lower our risks for developing chronic diseases while also improving digestive problems, eliminating acne, increasing energy levels, etc.  They further claim that we can lose excessive body weight, thanks to the fact that we’ll be eating the foods our bodies have been programmed to fully digest and absorb.

Diet Do’s and Don’ts…

Do Eat…

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits (in moderation)
  • Nuts and Seeds (in moderation)
  • Wild Meats (grass fed beef, chicken, venison, etc.)
  • Eggs
  • Coconut, grass-fed butter, avocado, etc.

Do Not Eat…

  • Refined, Processed Foods (chips, donuts, soda, cereals, candy bars, snack foods, etc.)
  • Refined sugars
  • Juices
  • Grains and breads (quinoa, oats, bread, barley, etc.)
  • Legumes (beans, lentils, soy, peanuts, etc.)
  • Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.)

Nutritional Basics…where do my calories come from?

Paleo Diet:

  • 30-40% Fat
  • 20-30% Carbohydrate
  • 35-45% Protein

…vs…

2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

  • 20-35% Fat
  • 45-65% Carbohydrate
  • 10-35% Protein

Behind The Research…

Despite what some will tell you, research surrounding the Paleo Diet is still in its infancy stages.  While some research has pointed to low carb, paleo style diets possibly improving blood insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and improved lipid profiles, we do not yet know the long term effects.

However, in the research article Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that refined grains such as white pasta, white breads, etc. have more of a negative effect on our arteries than does saturated fat.  Whether or not we should be eating like a caveman, it’s important to realize that refined grains just aren’t good for our overall health.

The Diet’s Health Advantages:

  1. Excludes sugary and processed foods.
  2. Reduces sodium intake.
  3. Encourages produce consumption.
  4. Encourages weight loss.  By avoiding sugary, processed junk, you’ll inevitably shed some excess pounds.
  5. Focuses on real, whole foods.

The Diet’s Health DIS-advantages:

  1. May be difficult to maintain for a lifetime.  If the thought of giving up cheese forever and ever and ever sounds horrendous to you, this diet plan may be a flop.
  2. No large studies done to analyze long term effects.
  3. Contradictory evidence.  We’ve known for quite some time, the health benefits of following a Mediterranean Diet, full of fish, fruits, veggies, healthy fats and…YES…whole grains, legumes and some dairy!
  4. Possible nutrient deficiencies, such as calcium.  Paleo promoters claim that we don’t need as much calcium as once thought.  However, there is no evidence to back up this claim and it’s important that anyone going on the Paleo Diet be smart in choosing the right foods.

The Bottom Line…

The Paleo Diet does offer some health benefits.  However, it also requires some professional guidance in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies.  In addition, it is unknown what health effects the diet has over a lifetime and it may be difficult for many to follow for long periods of time.

Research is important in helping us unlock the secrets of health, but it was never meant to be the ultimate decision on how and what we eat.  There will always be conflicting reports, and it is important that we not base our diet solely on a trendy diet or on the newest research study. In finding that so-called “perfect” diet, we still need to remember the importance of making changes that will last, while also finding a lifestyle that will feel balanced and satisfying to us as individuals.

QUESTION: What do you think of the Paleo Diet?  Have you ever or will you ever try it?  Why or why not?

A “Healthier” Cookie.

I had a hankering to bake today.

To blend and mix and whip.

With butter and sugar and that kind of thing.

I think people are often surprised to learn how much many dietitians enjoy baking (and eating said baked goods!)  Many of us are foodies by nature, and so we jump at the chance to bake whenever we can.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we add a gazillion calories to every single baked good that we make (although there is a time and place for that too!)  I often like to put recipes to the test with some of these subtle little tweaks.

My Top 4 Ways To Make a “Healthier” Cookie:

1. Cut the sugar in half.

Unless your recipe is already “healthier” to begin with (say, from Cooking Light or Eating Well), you can easily cut the sugar in half without noticing any changes.

2. Substitute half of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour.

Whole wheat flour has a nice nutty texture that pairs perfectly with many cookies (especially chocolate chip!)  You can try different proportions of all purpose to whole wheat, but I’ve found that simply cutting it 50/50 gives the best texture without taking away any fluffiness!  By doing this, you’re instantly adding a little fiber and good-for-you nutrients.

3. Cut the butter in 1/4 to 1/2.

Different recipes will lend different results.  Try different proportions and see what works for you.  If you find that it results in a dry cookie, try adding in an equal measurement of unsweetened applesauce (e.g., if the recipe calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup applesauce.)

4. Shrink the portions.

This needs no explanation.  Shrink the size of your cookies and suddenly having two with a glass of milk isn’t such a big deal.  I have a special tablespoon cookie scoop that automatically keeps my portions in check!

Ingredients you shouldn’t be be worrying about…

  • Eggs.  Yes, they’re high in cholesterol, which is why they get such a bad rap.  But most reliable research has shown us that the cholesterol in eggs does not effect our blood cholesterol.  I’m not saying go out and eat a dozen eggs every day.  But there’s also nothing wrong with using a couple in your favorite recipes.
  • Chocolate.  Don’t go for cheapo chocolate that leaves you feeling unsatisfied.  My personal favorites are Ghirardelli and Godiva.  Also, if you’re following #4, you won’t be eating a ton of chocolate in one sitting anyways.  May as well enjoy it!
  • Nuts.  Walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.  They’re all full of good for you fats.  And, again, going back to #4, as long as the portions are being kept small, these are a healthy cookie addition!

After all is said and done, enjoy a couple of your favorite cookies!  There is always room in a healthy diet for a cookie or two.

Just keep an eye out.

You never know who may want to steal them. 😉

Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe – with subtle “healthy” changes

The important thing to remember in “healthifying” a cookie recipe is that we’re talking dessert.  You want the final result to remain rich, satisfying, sweet, delicious.  The moment you cross the border of it being dry and tasteless is the moment you’ve gone too far.  Have fun and tweak your recipes slowly to see what works!

  • 2 cups semi-sweet ghirardelli chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (or 1/2 cup butter with 1/4 cup applesauce)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 375ºF.
  2. Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated.
  4. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Simply Breakfast.

After a week long running hiatus, I decided to lace up my sneaks and hit the road for a little 4-mile run yesterday.  It was going against “plan”, but it just felt right.

(In other words, when New England hits 50 degrees in mid-January, you just gotta ‘run’ with it!)

I guess my metabolism got used to not doing anything over this past week, because this morning I woke up hungry!!!  Thank goodness for breakfast.

I went through a spurt when I had breakfast cookies every.single.morning.  Now I have them less often but I still like to make them a regular entry into my breakfast routine.

A cold morning meal served with a side of ice cold, unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

(Subconsciously I’m pretending it’s summer.  A girl can dream. 😉 )

With a full belly and happy taste buds, I’m now I’m ready for my day to begin.

Happy Sunday!

Pumpkin Pie Breakfast Cookie

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (100% pumpkin)
  • dash of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. salted almond butter
  • 1-2 tsp crushed flax seed
  • 3/4 very ripe banana, mashed well
  • 1 tsp molasses (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine all of above ingredients.  Smash well to incorporate all ingredients. If mixture looks too soft, add more flax.  If it’s too dry, add a splash of milk.
  2. Spread evenly on a small plate with a fork.  Flatten and spread out evenly.  Pop in fridge overnight.
  3. Take out of fridge the next morning and top with a few more slices of banana.  Enjoy with a glass of your favorite milk!

QUESTION: What are you enjoying for breakfast this morning?

Fitness Friday: “It All Counts”

The temperatures are finally warming up here in New England.  I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it feels to not have to layer up with wool socks, running tights, fleece hats and thick gloves every.single.morning.  Spring is like a breath of fresh air after one too many chilly runs this winter!

Yes.  It makes me happy.

Lately, in addition to my morning workouts, I’ve been trying to squeeze in a 15 minute walk at work.  I sit down a lot, between all the paperwork and charting on patients.  I do make it a priority to get up at least every hour and when I make my rounds to visit patients, I’m shuffling up and down stairs and walking in and out of rooms.

Even still.  It’s pretty sedentary.  So these walks are a must, in my opinion.  And nothing clears my head quite like being outside.

Refreshed.

Re-energized.

Ready for the day.

I wasn’t always the type to just go out for a leisurely stroll now and then.  I went through a fitness phase where I felt that everything needed to be intense or it simply wasn’t worth doing.

Running needed to leave me out of breath.

Biking had to leave me sore.

Weights needed to push me to my limits.

Etc, etc, etc.

While I can still appreciate a hard core workout now and then, I (even more so) appreciate the very act of moving my body.  It’s enjoyable.  And I appreciate what my body is capable of vs. always having to see where my limits are.  AND, it’s healthy.  Studies show that the very act of getting up to stretch or move periodically throughout the day can be very protective against many health related risks (i.e., strokes, dementia, diabetes, etc.)

In other words?

Get up, get moving!

It all counts.

Fitness Friday

Saturday: 11-mile bike ride + 2- mile after dinner walk

Sunday: 7-mile bike ride

Monday: 3-mile run + 2-mile after dinner walk

Tuesday: 6-mile walk, broken up into two walks during the day

Wednesday: 3-mile run + Yoga

Thursday: 2-mile run

Friday (today:) Rest

QUESTION: What is your typical day like in terms of being active/sedentary?  What are some ways you can (or DO) sneak a little activity into your day?