Turkey Time Takeaways: What a Day of Thanksgiving Can Teach Us

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I see so many people approach Thanksgiving with hesitation and some dread due to all of the hearty and tempting foods that await them, threatening to derail them from their hard-earned fitness and nutrition routine.

But what if Thanksgiving isn't actually this daunting temptation that we have built it up to be?  What if it is actually a day that sets a precedent for what all of our days and weeks should look like?  This week I want to take a moment to look at Thanksgiving through a bit of a different lens.  Looking at the day in its entirety vs. only a day of food and eating.  Looking at the big picture, we can see that Thanksgiving is a day of thanks, a day of activity, a day of, yes, carbs, but also a day of protein, a day of cooking in the home, and a day or evening of gathering together around the table.  To me, this is not a day to dread but a day to embrace and to model all other days that follow.  As we enter into our Thanksgiving celebrations, let's stop and think about how the day and the days that follow can incorporate the following core traditions of this fun, foodie, family-centered day.

Give Thanks:  Remember each day to be thankful for what God has blessed us with regardless of the rough patches we may have encountered .  While we certainly have struggles and disappointments, God holds us up in miraculous ways if our eyes are open to see it.

Play & Exercise:  Each day, try to get out and get moving.  Maybe it's a run like your Thanksgiving morning Turkey Trot.  Maybe it's throwing the football or baseball with your friends or family.  Maybe it's just a lunchtime walk with a friend / classmate / coworker.  Whatever it may be, keep the heart rate up, keep it fun, and keep it consistent.

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Get Cooking:  Although making its way back into the spotlight, cooking, I think, has become a lost art.  However, cooking can help us learn about our food, it can help us appreciate what we are eating, and it can be much healthier (and often tastier) than always eating out!

Eat the Carbs & the Protein:  Most people equate Thanksgiving to carbs... casserole upon casserole, rolls, potatoes, pies, and then some protein mixed in.  Of course, we don't want to fill each day with casseroles and pie, but we also don't want to shun carbs all together and we certainly want to keep our protein intake steady.  Carbs are the first source of fuel for our brains and muscles.  Carbs fuel the muscles for workouts and replenish depleted stores after an intense workout.  Protein helps to repair any muscle fibers torn during the workout or helps heal the body after sickness or injury.  These two go hand-in-hand and should be included daily in varying amounts depending on the individual.

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Gather:  Gathering around the table is becoming another antiquated tradition, it seems.  However, this is one of my favorite parts about mealtime and food in general.  Eating allows us, whether "us" is family, friends or coworkers, to come together.  It allows us to talk about our day and it makes room for topics that may not have come up otherwise.  Some of my best friendships have started at the table and continue to be nurtured at tables around the country.  Let's continue to gather weekly and enjoy these moments with friends and family that encourage conversation and bring us closer.

I hope we can all take these basics of Thanksgiving and let them infiltrate the rest of the days, weeks, and months to come.  I hope we can all take the time to gather with friends, find a little time to make our own balanced meals, and have fun with exercise, always giving thanks along the way.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

Navigating Dinner When Eating Out Every Night of the Week

Hello! I can’t believvvve that it’s almost Thanksgiving! Where has the time gone??

On Sunday I shared with you this week’s grocery list on my Instagram story (you can find it saved under “meal planning”) but what I really want to do is rewind just a bit to last week and share with you that “meal plan” (using this term verrrrry loosely). If you take a close look, you’ll see that it’s quite short. In fact, the only things on it are our weekly staples, some items to throw an easy lunch together and then lots of meals out. Yep, we ate out every night last week and that’s just how some weeks are. I cook because I do love it. I love figuring out how to make simple meals that are delicious, that don’t take a lot of time, and that can feed and fuel a family. However, if there isn’t time in a week, I’m not going to stress about it and try to squeeze it in. Take-out and restaurants are around for a reason and some weeks they are what keep us going!

 I wrote this after the fact. I had no idea what I as going to order before I went. We decided one day at a time.

I wrote this after the fact. I had no idea what I as going to order before I went. We decided one day at a time.

Last weekend I was in one of my best friend’s weddings, which was on a Sunday night. That Monday morning Kyle and I got up at the crack of dawn to fly back to Dallas to make it back to work and as soon as we landed the week took off. We both knew what our weeks would look like and, on the plane, made a team decision that this week’s dinners would all be out.

So Monday after work I ran by the store on the way home from work to grab our weekly staples and to have something for lunches that week. That was the extent of my grocery shopping.

I get lot’s of questions from people regarding (a) do I ever eat out and (b) what are my go-to’s when eating out or picking something up. With this in mind I decided I should share last week’s meals with you guys to give you some ideas of places you could go and menu items you could grab when pressed for time. Here is what we did last week!

LUNCHES: Rotisserie Chicken Spinach Salad with different sides

First of all I want to talk lunches. Lunch was the same every day but it worked and, while not glamorous, sometimes that’s just what we need. Would y’all agree? This week I grabbed a rotisserie chicken and mixed greens from Whole Foods along with some carrots, crackers, hummus and Siggi’s yogurts, among a few other items. I knew we already had tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, feta and ingredients for salad dressings at home. On grocery trips like this where I am trying to semi - plan ahead I aim to buy some foods in each of the different foods groups to choose from throughout the week. That means that, while the main lunch item may be the same, the things I pair with it can vary some each day. From this grocery trip I was able to have a spinach salad with rotisserie chicken, feta cheese, tomatoes and toasted pumpkin seeds pretty much every day. Then I switched up the sides, depending on what I was in the mood for. I paired crackers with hummus, carrots, granola bars, a yogurt, fresh fruit or cottage cheese, which were all available and ready to go in my fridge. This kept lunches easy and decision making at a minimum. Check!

DINNERS: Eating Out Every Night

Then came dinners. I didn’t even attempt to make anything. Fortunately we live around a handful of different options so we could grab something different each night. These are some of our go-to places for easy weeknight dinners and what we chose this week.

MONDAY:

Zoe’s Kitchen - Mediterranean Chicken with Greek Salad

Our first night was Zoe’s. I hope you have already discovered this place because they have so many good options. Most often I end up with the Mediterranean Chicken and rotate the sides that I get. My favorites are the Greek salad, the roasted veggies or the white beans. They also have great family meals that you can pick up. Oh, and they have the BEST ginormous chocolate chip cookies. Let’s be real, sometimes I go because what I really want is that incredible cookie. Definitely give this menu a look!


TUESDAY:

Celebration - Veggie plate with Chicken and Rice Soup

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Tuesday night we found ourselves at Celebration. I love going here with my husband because you can find almost anything you’re looking for and I love their assortment of veggies that seem to take me back to eating around the dinner table with my family. Plus, the environment is warm and the service is friendly and it always feels, to me, like the perfect place to sit down with friends or family, relax and talk about the day. This place is a go-to for me and my husband. We find ourselves sitting in one of the small booths almost weekly, relaxing and eating and talking about our day, what we are looking forward to and whatever is on our mind. Their menu has everything from creamy chicken dishes and fried okra to delicious roasted veggies, grilled rosemary chicken, grilled salmon, pork tenderloin, you name it. It’s like a delicious home-cooked meal whenever you go! Oh, and Thursdays is half-price wine night, if you’re interested…


WEDNSDAY:

East Hampton- Goat cheese & Avocado Sandwich

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Wednesday night I went to see Ina Garten speak at the McFarlin Auditorium on SMU’s campus. Oh my gosh, I loved it! I bought two tickets as soon as I saw she was coming to Dallas and even that far in advance I couldn’t find two seats directly next to each other. So I bought one seat and then the seat behind it, my challenge then being to find someone who wanted to go badly enough that he / she would not mind sitting behind me during the show, ha. I would 100% have gone on my own if I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. That’s how excited I was for this event. However, fortunately, my dietitian friend, whose name also happens to be Taylor, was super excited to go with me. Before the show we grabbed a bite at East Hampton. I loved this vegetarian goat cheese and avocado sandwich. So scrumptious with homemade potato chips. I also love their Lemon Meyer Chicken sandwich or salad and their Honey Grilled Chicken sandwich or salad (they will turn any sandwich into a salad for you). If you go, go often because their menu changes from time-to-time, I think, with the seasons. I love the flavors and the flexibility here!

THURSDAY:

Eatzi’s - Roasted Salmon + Roasted Mustard Dill Potatoes

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And then, of course, we found ourselves at Eatzi’s. I think my husband and I probably find ourselves here once a week to once every other week. My go-to’s here are typically their salad station or I go to their pasta station and ask for extra veggies :) . However tonight I chose items from their chef’s case. I usually have salmon at least once a week so this was the night for that. I got their salmon with a tomato relish and paired it with their vegetable salad and roasted mustard dill potatoes (soooo stinkin good!). Kyle and I took it back, heated everything up and watched an episode of Suits (have you seen this show? I now realize that it is so old but I’m never up with the times when it comes to t.v. shows and Kyle and I are loving it right now!). This was a perfectly simple dinner with easy cleanup!

I hope this post has given you some ideas of places to grab a meal for you and your family when time is tight and their is no time to cook at home. Always remember, meals don’t have to be complicated or even homemade to fuel you and your active family.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

Stress Challenge Week 6: MANAGING STRESS WITH YOUR SOCIAL & FAMILY NETWORK

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Hi friends! We have finally made it to week 6 of this stress management program. This week is really short and simple. I basically want to call our attention to the importance of a social support system, whether that is with friends, family, you and your spouse, or at work. This may be obvious, but I have to admit that I probably tend to overlook it at times. I love being around my friends and family but, maybe it’s the only child in me, I can also often be totally content on my own (any other only children out there who can relate??). However, I know that I always feel better when I get out and about with friends and when I surround myself with a group of people (big or small, family or friends) that I care about, that encourage me, that inspire me and that I can be 100% myself around. Putting together this program and reading up on the information for this week really made it all a little clearer. We need people!

THREE THINGS TO NOTE ABOUT SOCIAL SUPPORT AND MANAGE STRESS

  1. Social support provides emotional support which is instrumental in managing stress.

  2. People with emotional support reported lower stress levels, less depression and sadness and more lifestyle changes compared to individuals without emotional support.

  3. Benefits of having a strong network of social support include both psychological and physiological benefits, such as improved ability to cope with stressful situations and lowered cardiovascular risk.

And, here’s a quick little read from the Mayo Clinic on the ability of relationships to help us manage stress.

WRAPPING IT UP!

And this wraps up our six week program. I have a couple of questions for you guys and would REALLY LOVE to hear your thoughts in the comments below to any or all of them!

  1. What is something interesting you learned during this six weeks?

  2. Did you pick up any new healthy / stress-fighting habits during this six weeks? If so, what is one that you think will be the most sustainable?

  3. Have you noticed any positive changes in your health since starting to follow along this program?

  4. What is one thing you appreciated the most about this program?

  5. What is something you still have questions about??

Thank you for following along with me these 6 weeks. I’ve loved walking through this program with you and I hope you found some peace and joy in it as well!

Oh, and even though the program is over, I’m absolutely still trying to carry out some of the practices I started during the program. For me, specifically, this includes getting in a long walk once or twice a week and taking two to ten minutes each day to write in my Fitbook Goal Getter journal that I wrote about last week. (I love this book and this is absolutely not sponsored. I just really think it’s perfect for this program!).

Take Care!

Taylor

Ten Steps to Simplified Weekly Meal Plans

Happy Sunday everyone! I hope those of you fellow Dallasites have been enjoying this beauuuuutiful weather we have had this weekend! I know I have taken every opportunity possible to be outside, one of those opportunities being a long Saturday walk with my sister-in-law and youngest nephew.

Today I want to talk meal plans for just a minutes. If you’ve been following along on my stories these past couple of months then you have seen me share some of my weekly meal plans, or at least a loose framework of my meal plans. I’m not one to prep everything in individual containers and have have them all ready for the week, but I do like to have a general idea of what meals will look like and when we will have them during the week. I also like to make sure that the groceries are already in the house as the week begins. While, yes, I do this to have some healthy meals ready to go for the week, I admit I do this more so because, by doing this, it is one less thing that I have to think about during the week! I have found that part of what leaves me exhausted at the end of the day is not the time I woke up that morning or how much I ran around, it’s how many decisions I had to make throughout the course of the day. Plus, having a general plan in place typically saves me money in the long run, which is certainly another plus!

SO, I have found that if I can take 45 minutes to an hour at some point, either all together or pieced together throughout my weekend to plan what we’ll have for the upcoming week, it is totally worth it if that means I will not have yet ANOTHER thing to think through on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoon. This is super helpful for anyone but especially families with kids in multiples sports, clubs or extracurriculars.

In this post I’m sharing with you guys my main meal planning principles and ten steps to making easy weekly meal plans a reality.

Happy planning!

Taylor



TEN STEPS TO SIMPLIFIED WEEKLY MEAL PLANS

  1. FIRST THINGS FIRST: Be Flexible

    Before you even begin, remember that this is a loose plan. There is always room for flexibility, room for changing your mind, room for accepting a spur-of-the-moment dinner invite and room to mix and match. Don’t stress! If you decide to go out instead, throw the meat in the freezer or save the potatoes for next week or cook the veggies tomorrow.

  2. FIND YOUR GO-TO RESOURCES

    Decrease search time by figuring out what your go-to recipe books, magazines, and blogs are. This decreases more of that draining decision-making and time spent planning. Ask yourself, “What blogs or cookbooks have I had the most success with?” Find your top 3 and stick with them when time is tight! For me, I typically turn to recipes from Ellie Krieger, Ina Garten, The Yellow Table and some of my own personal recipes.. I have had a lot of positive feedback when making these meals for family and friends, I know that they match up with how much time I can spend cooking (they have pretty simple recipes that are fairly fast to prepare), and they match my culinary skill level. For more info about my go-to cookbooks, you can visit my previous post. Do you have go-to recipe sources? Figure out what yours are by answering 3 simple questions:

    1. What are my food preferences (eat everything, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.)

    2. What is my skill level of cooking?

    3. How much time do I and my family have to prepare meals?

  3. SIMPLIFY YOUR OPTIONS: Meat, Fish, Veggie

    I realized the beauty of having fewer options while wedding planning a year and a half ago. Too many options can be a bad thing and I am thankful for a wedding planner who got to know me and was able to provide me three options, at most, that were all very much “me” for everything. It makes the decision process so much less overwhelming. In this same light, there are so many recipes I could choose from, including ones I have already cooked in the past. The thought of this used to overwhelm me! Which is why I have now simplified things by picking one meal from each of three categories below. This really narrows things down initially and speeds up the process…

    • Pick one MEAT meal (if you eat meat)

    • Pick one FISH meal.

    • Pick a meal that is VEGETARIAN

  4. CREATE BALANCE:

    Include 3 out of the 5 food groups at each meal. Basically, make sure you include a veggie and a starch, milk and / or fruit with your protein choice (starch can mean winter veggie, peas, beans, or whole grains)


  5. MAKE MORE THAN ENOUGH

    Leftovers mean easy lunches the next day and a “leftover” night one day during the week. This is especially helpful when there are evening games, meetings and practices to get to. Plus, as the weeks go on you can mix and match your proteins, veggies and starches at lunch and / or dinner.

  6. PICK YOUR RECIPES

    Limit recipes with long ingredients to just one.

    Don’t choose recipes that all have a laundry list of ingredients. If you are picking multiple recipes, make sure a couple of them have a small ingredient list OR that you already have most of the ingredients so that your grocery trip won’t be crazy expensive!


  7. MAKE YOUR LIST

    Write all ingredients and groceries needed on one list. This makes sure that you don’t forget anything and you can pair duplicate items needed together. (Ex: if one recipe calls for one clove of garlic and another calls for three cloves of garlic, you can notice that, condense them together, and add four cloves of garlic to your list. This also makes sure that you won’t forget to check and see if you already have that 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin that you think you have but are not 100% positive).


  8. CROSS OUT WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE

    Then it’s time to cross out what you already have! You will be left with exactly what you need to get from the store and less doubt that you have forgotten something. Already have that 1/2 tsp ground cumin? Check it off!


  9. GET TO THE STORE

    Sometimes I re-write the list and organize it by section of the grocery store. I know, that’s super type A, but it makes actually getting through the grocery, which can be a task in and of itself, easier, especially if going on a Sunday afternoon or going with kids or (gulp), both. Get to the store with your list , stick to it, get in and get out!


  10. PREP AND STORE

    Now what you do is up to you! Some love to cook everything ahead and some either (a) don’t enjoy this or (b) don’t have time to do this. I fall into all three of these categories, depending on the week. Whether you go ahead and prep or not, you know that you at least have everything you need for the week to make all of your meals. Any way you go, you have at least freed up brain space during the week and have saved yourself from having to determine what to have for dinner, where to get it, how long it will take and then making that extra stop at the store.


These are the steps I have followed over the years. It may take some time in the beginning, especially if you don’t have your go-to resources already. However, I promise it gets easier and will become second nature soon enough!

Do you already have certain meal planning tips that you follow? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

















Fitbook: A Wellness Notebook That Keeps Me Mindful & Inspired

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Starting out on this Stress Management Program, I wanted to have a place to journal and take notes. I wanted a place where I could write each day’s challenges and stay mindful of my stressors, my coping behaviors and how I felt in general. One thing about me - I am SUCH a sucker for a great notebook. I love them! You will probably never see me without one in hand or in my purse. I know, some people have moved on to their phones, but I will always stay back in the old days with a quality notebook with pretty paper and a fun pen. I look at a screen enough during the day that I’m happy to take something off the screen and onto paper. Notebooks are the stores for all of my ideas, my lists, and my “don’t forgets”.

Another random fact about me - I’ve been trained to “goal set” since before I can remember. Between my school that had specific classes devoted to teaching us study and time management strategies to figure skating and road trips where dad just happened to have cassettes on goal setting ready to pop into the cassette player (yes, that’s right, I said cassette. And, yes, this really did happen) I have to say that goal setting is ingrained in me. Some kids rebel but I just let it sink in, and now I’m all about the goals. It can be a tiny goal or a big goal, but there is usually always a goal.

Keeping all of this in mind, I set out for the perfect notebook to jot notes in for this challenge and came across Fit Book by Fitlosophy. They have a bunch of great items and notebooks, but the one I loved for this challenge in particular and ended up chosing was their “Goal Getter” notebook. Lots of the notebooks out there that I found were all about counting portions and calories and workout reps. That is not at all what I wanted. That is absolutely not what these last 5 weeks have been about. I love this notebook because it immediately starts out by having you list three things that you are thankful for. I mean, what a great way to start the day! I have been doing this as consistently as possible and it makes such a difference to start your day out with that in mind - AND it only takes like two minutes! It then has you list what you appreciate about your body followed by ways you will take care of yourself that day, noting your activity, your food and your overall mood. Then each day has free space to write whatever you want as well as a place to list what inspires you that day. I love that you can look back and note how you felt over the course of the weeks and you can find patterns in food, exercise, stress levels, mood as well as focus on your inspiration each day.

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If you are out there looking for a small notebook to help you stay mindful, thankful, inspired and healthy, I highly recommend this one! It allows you to track habits over time but also fuels inspiration and positivity each day.

Whether you have been following along in our Stress Challenge, or you are just now finding out about it, I recommend grabbing a notebook, this one or one of your favorites, and start following along. Since all of the info from each week is posted on my blog, you can even go back and do it for the first time on your own if you missed the first weeks or come back to it later when life gets stressful.

Take Care!

Taylor

Stress Challenge Week 5: MANAGING STRESS WITH MEDITATION

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I hope you guys are learning a few new pieces of info or picking up a few new practices from this six-week program! I have been following along and working on my own habits and can say it has been nice to dedicate some time, even if it’s only like 5 minutes on one day of the week, to this topic.

I also hope that you are continuing to include at least one practice you picked up around nutrition and exercise from the past two weeks as we enter into this new week. For me, the 2 practices I have picked up on include: (1) making one or two long walks a part of my week and (2) stopping to assess what’s going on around me when my hunger & satiety gets off.

As we enter into Week Five of our Stress Challenge we are focusing on meditation and mindfulness. Today I want to touch on what it is, how it can help us, and some tools and resources that can help us become more mindful and start taking moments to decompress.

However, before I dive in, I just want to give a shoutout to one of the Nutrition Practice Groups that I’m a part of, the Nutrition Entrepreneurs group. One of their last newsletters was about stress. Their corporate wellness section that is always written by fellow wellness dietitian, Caroline Susie, was all about stress in the workplace, how we can help better manage stress in this space and it gave some resources for wellness dietitians and professionals. I got a lot of great ideas from this section and so I had to give both Caroline and NE a shoutout. Thank you for always providing such informative and useful content! If you are an RD in wellness or any type of business I highly recommend being a part of this group!

Anyway, back to this weeks challenge! Managing stress with meditation….


“Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to the focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude - which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious”

- Dr. John W. Denninger,

(director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital)


WHAT IS MEDITATION?

  • Focusing your attention and thoughts to promote calmness, focus and well-being



WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE BODY DURING MEDITATION?

  • PHYSIOLOGICAL CHANGES

    • Decreased arousal of the sympathetic nervous system

    • Reduction in cortisol levels

  • PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGES

    • Enhanced coping mechanisms

    • Better emotional regulation - process that influences which emotions you have, when you have them and how they are experiences & expressed

    • Better psychological flexibility - makes you better able to balance and shift your attention to all that is happening in and around you

WHAT ARE THE MAIN COMPONENTS OF MEDITATION?

  • Focused attention

  • Relaxed breathing

  • Quiet setting

  • Comfortable position

  • Open attitude


WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION?

  • DECREASED STRESS

    • new perspective on stressful situations

    • stress management skills

    • self - awareness

    • self - acceptance

    • ability to focus on the present

    • sustained attention

    • attentional switching

    • selective attention

  • IMPROVED HEALTH MEASURES

    • improved immune responses

    • reduced blood pressure

    • improvement in chronic pain

HOW CAN YOU INCLUDE MEDITATION IN YOUR EVERY DAY?

  • Repeat a mantra

  • Sitting meditation

  • Walk and meditate

  • Engage in prayer

  • Read / listen and reflect

  • Focus love and gratitude

  • Scan you body

  • Guided meditation

  • Mantra mediation

  • Mindfulness meditation

  • Qi Gong

  • Tai Chi

  • Yoga

  • Breathe deeply


A Book I am loving that teaches all about the principles of mindfulness & meditation for stress reduction…

The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living by Dr. Amit Sood

AND A GREAT VIDEO TO HELP YOU BETTER MEDITATE IN A MOMENT…

Lot’s of references on this one. Please email me if you would like the list!


Take Care!

Taylor






Stress Challenge Week 4: MANAGING STRESS WITH EXERCISE

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We are officially into Week 4 of our stress & mindfulness challenge. I hope you are continuing to make new discoveries, that you feel encouraged and inspired and that you are finding new practices that you can implement to feel better and and cope with life’s stressful events each day.

Were you able to implement any changes in your regular food and nutrition routine this past week? What new practices, related to nutrition, were you able to substitute for less-healthy food-related coping habits? My hope is that you found at least one thing that you enjoy that you can make a part of your lifestyle moving forward.

Before I dive into this week’s focus I want to remind everyone that we can’t simply stop or “get rid of'" our less healthy habits. We have to replace them with a new habit and this new habit needs to meet THREE main criteria:

  1. It is something we enjoy & look forward to.

  2. It is something that gives us a similar feedback to the less healthy habit we are replacing.

  3. It needs to fit into our schedule.

Remember that as you continue to implement any food and nutrition changes these next few weeks.

And this brings us to today’s focus of managing stress with EXERCISE. This criteria above absolutely applies to our exercise as well!


EXERCISE

We all know that exercise is important to our health and well being. What I have found interesting in a handful of studies that I recently came across is the type of exercise that has been found to be more beneficial for stress management in some individuals. I’m currently doing research on the most effective type of exercise for weight loss; however, I’m noting that my findings there are not quite the same as my findings for stress management.

Everyone is different, so, of course, stick with the exercise(s) that work best for you, but I’m going to share with you a few studies that support low to moderate intensity exercise as effective tools for managing stress. This may be a reason to consider adding some yoga, walking and other low-intensity exercise into your typical cardio routine. Or, if you’re not an exerciser at all, this may be a good reason to start slow and steady vs jumping in to running or intense cardio classes. I know I will certainly be giving it a try!

Please note, this is independent of cardiovascular outcomes, fitness outcomes, etc. I am only referring to stress in this post.


STUDY #1:

Exercise reduces depression & inflammation but intensity matters

(from the Biological Psychology Journal, 2014)

  • Study looked at moderate continuous training (MCT) & high intensity interval training (HIIT)

  • MCT decreased symptoms of depression and decreased perceived stress

  • HIIT decreased symptoms of depression but increased perceived stress

  • Concluded in this study that moderate - intensity exercise is optimal when looking at mental health


STUDY #2:

a 12-month exercise intervention decreased stress symptoms & increased mental resources among working adults - results perceived after a 12-month follow-up

(International Journal of Occupational Medicine & Environmental Health, 2008)

  • Study looked at stress symptoms (SS) and mental resources (MR). Mental Resources are the tools that we use to cope

  • Heart rate at moderate level (60 - 80% max heart rate) in 3 to 5 exercise sessions per week. Sessions consisted of walking, biking and skiing

  • During the intervention: SS decreased 16%, MR increased 8%

  • Those with highest SS at baseline had the biggest SS decrease (26%)

  • At 12-month follow-up: SS still decreased 13%, MR still increased 5%

  • The control group (had no supervised exercise program), had no significant changes


STUDY #3:

exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect

(Journal of Endocrinology Investigation, 2008)

  • Study looked at the percent change in cortisol circulation from pre and post workouts at varying intensities

    • Resting control: -6.6%

    • Low intensity (40% VO2 max): 5.7%

    • Moderate intensity (60% VO2 max): 39.9%

    • High intensity (80% VO2 max): 83.1%

  • Moderate to high intensity exercise will significantly increase amount of cortisol circulating in the body

  • Low intensity does not significantly increase cortisol and actually results in a reduction in cortisol circulation after taking into account plasma volume reduction & circadian factors.

AND A FEW FITNESS APP SUGGESTIONS FOR YOU…

(with the help of my fabulous intern who researched & tested all of these!)

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Happy Fueling & Take Care!

Taylor

Stress Challenge Week 3: MANAGING STRESS WITH NUTRITION

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We are officially into Week 3 of this Stress / Wellness Challenge. I hope you have already noticed some things regarding what causes or increases your stress, the ways you cope with that stress and, more importantly, I hope you have had the chance to identify some less healthy ways you cope with stress that you would like to change (and by change I mean replace with healthier coping habits).

Now it’s time to start taking action! This week we are talking all about Food & Nutrition. Yep! My favorite topic :) . This is for all of us “stress eaters” or “stress non-eaters” out there or those that may be eating in ways that increase stress and don’t even realize it! So, here we go, this week’s info on Managing Stress Through Nutrition…



HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT OUR INTAKE & FOOD CHOICES?

  • Eating foods that specifically contain fat and sugar cause a release of hormones, like dopamine, that promote a feeling of well-being & satisfaction.

  • We turn to these foods because our brains know that they will produce these good feelings and combat the impact that the stress response has on our mood.

  • The release of cortisol can intensify emotions & motivation and, in turn, increase excitement and motivation or desire for these foods.



WHEN IT BECOMES “STRESS EATING”…

  • Norepinephrine and cortisol are involved in learning & memory, especially around negative emotional events.

  • When we eat certain “comfort foods” after these hormones are released in stressful events, our memory is set to remember this coupling in future stressful events.

  • We begin to associate feeling stressed & feeling better with eating these particular foods.

  • Stress begins to promote more habitual behaviors at the expense of cognitive, goal - directed actions (aka, we stop thinking about and then deciding to eat the food, we just do it).

  • We no longer consciously think about how to cope with the stressor.



WHY MIGHT WE OVEREAT WHEN WE ARE STRESSED?

  • Sugar, fat and salt combinations increase the response in the brain.

  • Dopamine may stay elevated the more multisensory a food is.

    • ice cream + hot fudge + crunchy peanuts = GIVE ME MORE, PLEASE!

  • In one study, participants ate more M&M’s if given 10 colors vs 7 colors (which equaled over 100 more calories)



WHAT ARE THE HEALTH CONSEQUENCES?

  • Increase in blood sugars (plus decrease in insulin sensitivity that can be found with chronic stress)

  • Increased abdominal fat (visceral fat)

    • Puts us at greater risk for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease

    • Remember, when stressed, our bodies tend to store fat / energy around our middles because this is where important organs are that allow us to convert stored energy to glucose to “fight” or “flight”.


SOME FOOD SOLUTIONS

  1. No skipping meals!

    • Skipping meals causes a roller coaster affect on our blood sugars that leaves us lethargic, less mentally sharp and less able to tackle projects and obstacles.

  2. Include salmon & tuna

    • The vitamin D in salmon is part of the serotonin - producing pathway and can help promote feelings of calm & well-being.

    • Both salmon & tuna contain omega 3’s, which promote brain health and help decrease inflammation in the body

  3. Include whole grain carbohydrates

    • The carbohydrates promote serotonin production to help calm you down

    • The protein and fiber in the whole grains help steady the blood sugars (so they don’t spike & drop like in refined cookies, chips and candies, putting further stress on the body)

  4. Include leafy greens, beans, oranges

    • These are all high in folate, which helps the body produce energy!

    • Also, in some studies low folate levels have been found in those with depression

  5. Snack on fresh fruit

    • The natural sugar can help satisfy a sweet tooth plus provide the body with tons of antioxidants, fiber and fluid to keep energy levels up!

    • There have been benefits found in dark chocolate so I’m totally not opposed to a little dark chocolate if you can watch portions. It just depends on the individual.

  6. Crunch on vegetables and whole grain crackers or popcorn

    • Did you know the actual act of crunching has been found to reduce stress? Crunch away stress and tension with these healthier options and also get a dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber and fluid!



ANOTHER RESOURCES FOR YOU…


THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE / FOCUS:

  • How do I use food to cope? Do I use food to cope?

  • I could use food to help manage my stress in healthier ways by _____________.

  • Stress - fighting foods I already include or that I would like to start including are ________.



Happy Fueling & Take Care!

Taylor

Stress Challenge Week 2: HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO STRESS? WHAT DOES SLEEP HAVE TO DO WITH IT?

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It’s officially Week 2 of this stress management / mindfulness challenge!

How have you been mindful this past week?

What did you learn about how your body responds to stress last week? Did you learn anything new about your sources of stress? Definitely hold on to those discoveries and keep them in mind as we move forward!

Today we are building off of last week by looking at what you intentionally, or unintentionally, do to cope with your stress. For some that could be exercising, not exercising, eating, not eating, smoking, drinking, avoiding, yelling and the list goes on. We are also going to really dive into SLEEP this week. Yep, many of us don’t realize the important role that sleep plays in our stress levels, our ability to manage our stress and in the decisions we make when we’re stressed. I’ll mention again at the end, but this week the focus is:

  1. Determine the ways (positive & negative) that you cope with stress.

  2. Look at your sleep patterns. How many hours do you get, on average, a night? How do you feel when you get less than what you know you need?

  3. Are there any ways you can adjust your schedule to allow for more and / or better sleep?


Ok, diving in!

WHY IS SLEEP SUCH A BIG DEAL?

  • Gives our bodies the time it needs to recharge

  • Allows for optimal memory, alertness, decision making and reaction time. (Important for everyone, especially when driving a car, and the young athletes who are practicing or playing their sports for hours each day AND taking tests and quizzes in school. And, absolutely those recovering from injuries!)

  • Allows our bodies to repair and build muscle (particularly important for my exercisers out there and the young athletes I see)

WHAT IS HAPPENING WHEN WE SLEEP?

  • Initially, there is a rise in growth hormone which increases glucose in the blood and decreases insulin so that our blood sugars don’t drop while we are sleeping

  • In the morning, cortisol levels rise and our bodies begin to utilize the glucose

HOW DOES A LACK OF SLEEP AFFECT OUR STRESS?

  • How much sleep we get can affect how stressed we are and how stressed we are can affect how much sleep we get!

  • Studies have found greater levels of morning cortisol in those reporting job and life stress. Remember, that some rise in cortisol is natural. It’s when it becomes too much and for too long that we start seeing the negative results (refer to Week 1 post)

HOW DOES SLEEP AFFECT OUR HUNGER?

  • Our bodies make hunger hormones called LEPTIN & GHRELIN

  • Our sleep cycle helps regulate these hunger and satiety hormones

  • Leptin tells the brain that we are full and to stop eating

    • we have decreased levels of leptin during periods of sleep deprivation

  • Ghrelin is secreted from the GI tract and tells the brain we are hungry

    • we have increased levels of ghrelin during periods of sleep deprivation

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HOW DOES SLEEP AFFECT OUR FOOD CHOICES?

  • Studies have found that when we don’t get inadequate sleep, not only do we tend to eat more, but we also tend to choose carbohydrate foods higher in fat and added sugar. (so I don’t mean grabbing a slice of whole grain bread or pasta. This is not saying carbs are “bad”. This is saying we grab the pie, the cookies, the cake, the bigger portion of fettuccine alfredo. And in moderation, these are not “bad”, it’s when we eat them consistently to cope and in larger portions, not being mindful, that it becomes a concern)

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HOW DOES LACK OF SLEEP AFFECT OUR OVERALL HEALTH?

  • May lead to weight gain (increased appetite + increased craving for higher energy foods that we may not be burning off)

  • May lead to weight loss (a decreased appetite also occurs in some. But eating too little can alter your metabolism so is not healthy either).

  • Can affect whether you lose muscle or fat in your weight loss.

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THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE:

  1. Determine the ways (positive & negative) that you cope with stress.

  2. Look at your sleep patterns. How many hours do you get, on average a night? How do you feel when you get less than you know you need?

  3. Are there any ways you can adjust your schedule to allow for more and / or better sleep?



AND A FEW RESOURCES…

Also, a few resources that I thought provided some good information can be found here. Check it out and see what practices work for you!

An article by the National Sleep Foundation:

https://www.sleep.org/articles/how-losing-sleep-affects-your-body-mind/

An article by dietitian Amber Massey from Food & Nutrition Magazine:

https://foodandnutrition.org/blogs/stone-soup/vicious-cycle-sleep-stress-diet/



As always, comment with questions or let me know if you want my sources (there is a very lengthy list) and I’ll send over.

Take Care!

Taylor

Stress Challenge Week 1: HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU'RE STRESSED?

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Hi! I want to welcome you to WEEK ONE of this Stress Management / Mindfulness Challenge.

As I said before, stress can take quite a toll on our health and well-being. Today I want to (1) share a few points with you telling you a little bit about what happens to our bodies when we are stressed and (2) then challenge you to carve out time in the next few days or week to notice how your body tells you it’s stressed and what are the things causing your stress, big or little. Hope you find this info helpful and are able to take some time each day to reflect on our weekly challenge.

Now, let’s dive in!



WHAT IS STRESS??

  • Stress is anything that acts as a challenge or threat to our well-being or normal routine.

  • Not only is it the “threat” but it is also the way that we respond to that threat.



CAN STRESS BE POSITIVE?

  • Yes! Stress can be positive when it is short-term. This would be like before a test, a speech or a race. It makes us sharper, more efficient, and productive. Stress in this form is actually useful and can give a person a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of being in control



WHEN DOES STRESS BECOME NEGATIVE?

  • Stress becomes negative when it is prolonged (over 24 hours) or chronic.

  • In this form, stress stops being beneficial and our performance and efficiency start to decline (read further to understand why…)



WHAT ARE THE BASIC RESULTS OF THE STRESS RESPONSE?

  • Our body releases CORTISOL and through a chain of reactions we experience:

    • increased blood sugars (via a process called gluconeogenesis, which is making glucose from non-carbohydrate sources)

    • fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism

    • inhibition of insulin production (to try and prevent glucose from being stored b/c the body things it needs that for energy to fight the “threat”)

    • suppressed digestive system (hence stomach problems when stressed)

    • suppressed immune system (hence why we are more prone to getting sick during times of extreme stress)

  • Our bodies also release ADRENALINE, which leads to:

    • Increased heart rate & blood pressure

    • increased energy supply



WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OVERALL RESULTS OF PROLONGED STRESS?

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So, there are our facts for today.



YOUR WEEKLY CHALLENGE

Now I want to challenge you over the next few days or week to notice the following:

  1. How does my body tell me I’m stressed? (How does stress manifest itself in my body)

  2. What are the things that cause my body to tell me I’m stressed (take note of the big and the small)? Examples could be anything from a situation at work to something popping up in your day that’s not on your calendar. Whatever they are, make a note)

Please feel free to DM me or comment on this post with questions or info you would like to share! And, as always, let me know if you would like to see any of my references. I’ll probably wait and post them at the end, but can always pass along if you want them.



Happy Fueling and Take Care!

Taylor

A Six-Week Stress Management Program: Let's Go!

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Hi!  If you’re reading this post then I’m guessing you’re interested in taking a more focused look at this idea of “stress management”.  If you follow along with me over these next six weeks, you will be taking some time to identify your stressors, figure out what your coping patterns are and start replacing any negative patterns with healthier ones.  As we go I’ll also be sharing science based information to help you understand the science behind stress and how it affects things like sleep, appetite and health goals AND give you any tools I (and my intern) have found to help out!

I know this is a little different from my usual recipe and sports nutrition posts, but I think this topic and practice is SO IMPORTANT no matter who you are or what you are trying to accomplish (I’ve done lots of research because this topic fascinates me!).  In my last seven years in Wellness not only have I read and researched the role stress plays in our health, but I have also seen the toll that stress can have on ones food choices, weight, drive to exercise, and overall health and well being.   I think it’s so important that I have started a program at the organization where I work.  Because I feel it’s so important, I also wanted to give you guys some of the science-based information and resources that I will be sharing.  


I don’t think everyone realizes what stress can really do to us.  It affects our cardiovascular health, our ability to maintain or build lean muscle, our ability to lose or maintain weight, our overall mood and so much more.  Therefore, this topic applies to athletes, young and older alike, exercise enthusiasts, moms, dads, aunts, uncles and those working away in the corporate world.


I’m going to give you one mini challenge each week but I’ll also be sharing my information, tools and resources with you to help out.  And, I’ll be doing it along with you!  So stay tuned in to my Instagram and Blog!  

SO, What Are the Details?

WHAT: A six-week challenge devoted to being mindful of your stressors, examining how you cope and building healthier coping habits to keep you on track with your health and fitness goals.

WHEN: I’ll be sharing a new post with new info and a new mini challenge each week. And I’ll point you to some resources that may be helpful!

WHY: To learn a bit about stress and how it affects our health AND to start building healthier stress coping habits

WHO: Anyone who is motivated and ready to make a few lifestyle changes. It’s up to you to make the changes. I’m just here to give you guidance, a structured program, and some resources along the way.



Happy fueling & take care!

Taylor

Making Changes When We're Stressed

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Lately I have really felt the need / desire to implement a good stress-management program at the office.  Some people may not see the benefit here and ask "why?  How is that helpful?  What will your metrics be?  Why don't you do another fitness, nutrition or weight loss challenge?  To which I would reply, "Because how could we not?  How can we not even consider implementing a challenge or program that helps us cope with and be mindful of the very thing that usually makes us need those fitness & weight loss challenges to begin with?  It seems appropriate to me to create a challenge that targets the main reasons that we "stress eat", stop exercising and gain or have trouble losing weight to begin with. On top of that, whatever we are stressing over probably occupies the majority of our thoughts anyway and so why wouldn't we want to take a focused amount of time to tackle that so that we can fully turn and focus on our desired health goals?.

Often we look at weight, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugars as the root problem.  Thus, we immediately turn to exercise, nutrition or medication to help us "get healthy".  For some, changing diet and adding exercise is easily incorporated and 100% the solution and that is excellent.  However, for many of us, we have to dig a little deeper because the "fix" 'we are searching for actually lies somewhere beneath overeating and under-exercising.  When I see individuals for nutrition coaching, an initial consult goes way beyond food and exercise.  We talk about work life, home life and any stressors associated with both.  We talk about sleep patterns and schedules and what is going on in life before ever diving into nutrition recommendations.  Why do I do this?  I do this because beginning a change during life's more stressful stages is setting yourself up for a frustrating road with higher chances of failure, which then leads to greater stress and self-frustration down the road.

Many times (but certainly not always) I see the root cause of high blood pressure to be stress, often accompanied by limited physical activity, and the root of unintentional and unwanted weight gain, which can incorporate other health concerns like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, etc., to be stress-eating.  While some people decrease their intake and unintentionally lose weight when stressed, many others may begin to stress-eat and overeat. Not only might we overeat when we are stressed, avoiding our natural hunger and satiety cues, but when we eat out of stress we also choose foods that will calm us down such as those foods high in carbohydrates (but are also typically higher in calories and sometime simple sugar) or foods high in fat and sugar that blunt the "stress feelings" with "happy feelings" for the time-being.  On top of that, the fact that we are stressed causes us to store fat around our abdominal area, which increases our risk of heart disease.  

I'm certainly not trying to cause more stress in anyone reading this.  I'm only trying to call out the importance of managing our stress.  In sessions where I find that the client is under some serious stress...that's the first thing I address.  There may be a food / nutrition component to my recommendations, but nothing drastic in terms of diet, unless medically necessary, is recommended at this initial visit.  In the first weeks we talk about coping and recognizing stress and ways to respond without using food (of course if it's more serious stress or anxiety, I refer out to a certified counselor).  I also never mention food as good / bad.  Food is food - first let's deal with the stressor.  We'll start working on weight loss or other big diet changes and a structured exercise program once we can develop a few stress management practices to help during the stressful time.  Of course exercise is welcomed as a stress reducer, and I encourage it when appropriate.  However, I do not recommend initially if the thought of having to find a way to fit it in the schedule causes more stress in itself.  

So, with all of that to say, what is your stress level right now on a scale of 1 to 10?  Are you trying to make big diet and exercise changes during stressful times?  I encourage you to put those aside just for a short time and focus specifically on your tackling your stressors.  It could be a week, two weeks, or two months - you be the judge.  After that is when bigger diet modifications can come into play.

I know that this isn't easy.  When I'm stressed I still catch myself saying "tough it out", you'll get over it.  However, when I do this and don't stop to take a moment and incorporate some stress-reducing practices, I find it only makes things worse. 

People can show stress in different ways and it's important to know how stress manifests itself in you specifically.  For me I've realized that stress makes itself evident to me through:

  • headaches / migraines

  • stomach aches

  • feeling tired when nothing has changed in my schedule

  • I get short with people (I may not verbally express it, but mentally it's not good)

  • Small requests begin to feel like a burden

  • I have trouble focusing

  • My hunger and satiety cues get way off. For me I typically lose my hunger cues.

Days or weeks that I'm really stressed or anxious, my most helpful stress-management practices are:

  • carving out alone time - to read, to write, to process

  • carving out time to create - to brainstorm recipes, articles, and get-togethers with friends

  • calling a family member or friend who I know will listen and who can make me laugh

  • cooking and eating home-cooked meals

  • inviting close friends over for dinner

  • going on a walk or jog

  • reading my Bible and journaling

  • going to bed on time

  • and sometimes only dark chocolate will do the trick :)

Do you know when you're stressed?  What are your signs and symptoms?  Do you know that your stressed but at the same time you're working on major weight loss, diet, or lifestyle changes?  If you are, or even if you are not,  I encourage you to take a little time this month to take note of your emotions and any actions you find yourself habitually taking in response to those emotions.  Are those actions nurturing and life giving?  Are those actions something that can help reduce your stress and stress response long-term?  Or are they short-term fixes that can be harmful to your long-term health?  

Try making a self-care checklist for stressful times and stick to if for a month or so.  Feel the difference and feel confident in your coping before setting bigger weight-loss, fitness, or wellness goals.

And as always, share in the comments if you have practices that work for you!  We all learn best from each other.

Take Care!

Taylor

Start Where You Are

Start Where You Are:  Being a wellness leader, when I wasn't well, and how it has shaped my wellness perspective.

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I have contemplated the direction that I want to take this blog and, after lots and lots of thought, have decided that I want this to be a space where not only do I share my favorite recipes as well as wellness & pediatric sports nutrition info, but I want it to also be a place where I am real and share a little bit about myself and my own experiences as well.  I want to do this because deciding to study nutrition and focus on wellness and sports nutrition did not make me who I am today.  It was growing up, my experiences as a young athlete and who I am that made me and continue to propel me to study nutrition, focusing on wellness and sports today.  Understanding who I am may help you understand my love for this field and my commitment to providing the best, most current and science-based information that I can.  I'm going to share more with you and would, of course, be thrilled to have you share with me. 

So, I'm devoting today's post to Wellness.  I want to get a little deeper and talk to you about something that has been on my mind lately.  I want to share with you something I went through, a little bit about how I dealt with it, how I came out of it different than when I went in, and how this impacted my wellness mentality.

Let's look at this idea of "wellness".  We see "wellness leaders" all over social media.  They post fancy recipes, workout plans in super cute workout clothes and talk about how much water to drink and how much sleep to get at night.  I'm not putting them down in the slightest.  This is great and inspiring and, as a wellness leader in my community, I certainly have posted my fair share of recipes and articles on hydration and getting fruits & veggies & the importance of sleep (although not so much workouts in snazzy workout clothes b/c fashion isn't my forte :/ ).  However, what about when life gets tough?  Like, really tough?  When it throws you a curve ball so hard it smacks you in the face and knocks you flat?  What does wellness mean then?  How do we stay well at this point?  More importantly, how do we continue, as wellness leaders, to promote a culture of wellness to those around us?  This could mean in our workplace, in our community or in our home (I see this applying to moms and dads in charge of children in the home or leaders at work, church or the community as much as I see it applying specifically to defined "wellness" leaders).  I've found through my life experiences that, in these tough phases of life, wellness can start to look a little different.

Part of my story goes a little like this:

Almost 2 1/2 years ago, I woke up to a phone call from my dad, telling me that I needed to come home because my mom had passed away during the night.  There was absolutely no warning.  She wasn't sick and her physical a few months earlier had come back completely normal.  That morning as I stared blankly at my roommate in disbelief, tears welling up in my eyes, trying to get the words out to tell her what had happened, I was overwhelmed by the sudden realization that life had changed.   In one second I felt like my life had turned upside down.  I immediately flew home and took time off from work to help organize her funeral and spend time with family.  The Monday after her funeral was my 30th Birthday and the Sunday after that was Easter.  If felt like the punches kept coming.  However, the office doesn't take a time out and so two weeks after her funeral, the week after Easter, I was back at work where I found my wellness responsibilities waiting patiently for me, right where I had left them.  The thing about a wellness role is that it's not really a job you can hide behind your computer and feel sad, angry, confused, or whatever mood you are feeling that day, in that moment.  In my mind, I was supposed to be creative and inspiring, upbeat, smiling, mingling and actively encouraging others, looking to see how we can help employees and how we can continue to make Wellness programs better.  But, how do you pour into others when your tank is empty and, really, what you need is others pouring into you?  There were days after returning to work where I thought, "how the heck am I going to do this?"  Those past attitudes and actions that came so easily were suddenly so difficult.  I walked around smiling and encouraging when what I craved was to be alone, to process, to grasp this new life - a life without mom, a life without her laughter and a life without her weekly random but upbeat and always encouraging text messages.  Days were exhausting.  Not only was I drained from trying to push back feelings all day and being something I wasn't, but it threw me that what came so easily for me before, was now so difficult.  I felt guilt and frustration over what I told myself I should be doing in my job (based on what I was previously doing) and what my body and mind was telling me it needed.  This went on for a very exhausting year.

So, why am I writing about this?  Well, what I discovered through this is that wellness can mean different things and look differently at different times in our lives.  The most important wellness practices to me before my mom passed away were quite different from the most important wellness practices to me after she passed away.  Of course we still need plenty of water and sleep, fruits & veggies and exercise (sorry guys, that will never change :) ).  But what about alone time?  What about giving ourselves grace?  What about self-care?  My need to be with good friends or reading my Bible or talking to my dad on the phone trumped the need for having meals prepped for the week.  Being there for another friend who was going through something just as tragic far surpassed my need for a long run or exercise class.  During this phase of life I learned what self-care really meant for me and how crucial this practice is for our own personal wellness.  

During this time I learned  that:

  • I needed more sleep than normal (which was really hard for me b/c if you know me, you know I'm typically up with the birds and ready to go)

  • What stress can physically do to you. My muscles were so knotted up from stress & tension I was getting a massage weekly b/c no amount of meditation or stretching was working them out.

  • I needed more time to journal and process.

  • I needed lots of 1-on-1 time with close friends, which fortunately they gave me without asking because I would have never admitted that I needed it :)

  • Some things aren't as important or "stressful" as I originally made them out to be.

  • Some days I just flat out wasn't ok. I was sad or down or confused and there wasn't any getting myself out of it.

  • I wasn't always energetic and enthusiastic but that didn't meant that I didn't care about my job and purpose of serving our employees. I actually felt more compassion and more empathy in my job and my desire to help those around me was greater. I was just expressing it differently.

  • Most importantly, I learned what it meant to give myself grace and what it looked like to practice that daily.

Not only did I learn these things about myself, but I also, more importantly, learned to be ok with them.  I told myself that it's ok I don't feel 100% today, or that, today, I can't find my "go get 'em" attitude.  It's okay that I need more sleep this week, and that I don't have the mental capacity to go to that huge group function tomorrow night.  As I practiced this, and stopped beating myself up for not feeling how I used to feel or how I thought I "should" feel my smile, my genuine laugh, my motivation and all of those other things previously familiar and natural to me started to come back.  And, today, while I'm not the same wellness leader I was three years ago, I feel stronger and just as confident, equipped with a slightly different mentality grounded in self-care.

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I think many people, including myself 3 years ago, look at wellness as solely fitness, eating the right thing, and getting your yearly physical as a means to keeping your labs in normal range and feeling good.  While I still think and know these to be very important, I now also see the practice of self-care as one of the top wellness practices, if not THE top wellness practice, there is.  The thing is, I realized that I do not see it frequently focused on or talked about.  To me, self-care, which can kind of blur the line with stress management, is the root of so many of our wellness goals whether that's achieving a healthy weight, having more energy during the day, or getting our blood pressure and cholesterol to a healthy level.

I want to challenge those of you reading this today to pick one month where self-care is your focus.  Maybe it's this month of August into September as school begins to start (if you have kids) and the holidays are approaching.  It requires listening to your body and determining what you need that day, that week or that month.  Now, I don't mean extra cocktails or skipping really important commitments or extreme emotional eating that leaves you feeling worse (some degree of emotional eating can be normal and natural though).  I'm asking you to do what will make your body and mind feel better long-term.

How did I lead a Wellness Program when I wasn’t well, myself?  I did it by learning about another side of wellness, the side that’s about self-care, self-compassion, and grace, and spending time in it.  I allowed myself to be where I was that day and not be hard on myself for it.  I acknowledged the fact that I still had the same end goal in my wellness programs and plan but that my means of helping others and carrying out my responsibilities and goals may have looked a little different on some days.  I now saw wellness in a new light, from a different angel, and wanted to achieve the same results in a slightly different way. 

Do you allow yourself grace and practice self-care during harder times?  It’s extremely freeing and, I believe, a key player in the realm of wellness.  It can rejuvenate you and get you back to yourself, which ultimately improves your health and the culture around you.  This month or one of the months to follow, figure out what self-care means for you.  Practice it.  How does it affect you?  How does it impact your health goals?  Comment if you would like.  I would love to hear feedback on this and learn what your form of self-care is.  We are always learning from each other!

Take Care!

Taylor



My Three Key Principles for Hosting Dinner Any Night of the Week

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For those of you new to the blog, I love cooking and I love hosting friends and family for any meal of the day.  I also love my work as a wellness director and sports medicine dietitian, my volunteer work in the Junior League of Dallas, evenings with my small group, and spending time with my friends and family, including an adorable niece and 2 nephews :)  With that said, whether it's just me and my husband or a house full of guests, I don't have tons of time to make complicated dishes.  This is why I was so excited to have discovered over my years of long days, night classes and evening meetings that dishes don't have to be complicated to be delicious.  I began to discover this years ago back in grad school and I continue to test and prove this theory each week that I prep and cook for myself, for my family and for others.  This is what you will find here at Taylored Nutrition or as you follow along with The Dining Dietitian;  You will find simple, fairly low-maintenance dishes full of flavor.  Plus, you will find a few wellness and sports nutrition facts and tips interspersed along the way :)

To clarify, this post is NOT about weekly meal prep.  This post is about preparing a meal for yourself, your family or your friends after work or on the weekend when you have NOT meal prepped.  This post is about how I prepare a meal after work or at the end of a busy Saturday that doesn't take tons of time and labor, allowing me to still enjoy our company. 

So, what is my thought process for evenings and meals like this?  What kinds of meals do I prepare and how do I plan so that the meal can be made in a timely manner without leaving me stressed and exhausted by the time we sit down to eat??  It comes down to my 3 main principles...


3 PRINCIPLES FOR SIMPLIFIED DINNERS:

1.  Pick one "high maintenance" item.  

2.  Pick one to two "low maintenance" items.  

3.  Pick one "no-fuss" item:  


What exactly does this look like?  I'll give you an example from a while ago when Kyle and I had my previous Bible Study leader and her husband over for dinner.  When I have people over, I really like to have things already cooking and I like for whatever is left to be fairly simple b/c I'm really awful at genuinely engaging in conversation while I'm cooking.

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This particular evening we made some of my favorite dishes.  We made a Roasted Beef Tenderloin with a Rosemary Chocolate and Wine Sauce (thank you, Ellie Krieger!!  This dish is delicious and one of my favorites for special occasions and entertaining!), spinach and brown butter gnocchi, a mixed greens salad and Cinnamon Apple Tarts for dessert.  This might sound complicated but it fits perfectly with my Three Principles.  My "high-maintenance" item was the brown butter gnocchi because it requires pretty constant attention on the stove.  My two lower maintenance items were the roast tenderloin and the Cinnamon Apple Tarts.  The roast tenderloin requires a quick sear and then roasts in the oven while you whisk the sauce and tend to the gnocchi.  The Cinnamon Apple Tarts are made at the very end of dinner (click the recipe link for details).  My "no-fuss" item was the salad, which we made way in advance and had it in the fridge ready to go.  When time to serve we drizzled good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar on top and were done!

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If this sounds too complicated, apply the same principle with the foods more comfortable for you.  For example:  Your "high maintenance" item could be grilled shrimp (outside or inside on a grill pan).  Your 2 low-maintenance foods could be (1) vegetables that roast in the oven while you grill the shrimp and (2) quinoa that cooks over the stove (very hands-off) while you tend to the other items.  Your "no-fuss" item could be a salad just like in my example above.  Another way to look at it could be to make your "no-fuss" item slices of hearty whole grain bread and your your salad could become your "low-maintenance" item that you throw together right before or right after you grill the shrimp.  I used to think every part of the meal had to be something spectacular.  Then I realized, no, really one item can be that and if the other items taste good and round out the meal then everyone is happy!

This was a quick overview but I hope this gives you somewhat of framework for choosing the menu when you're hosting friends and family in a pinch.  I hope that you can create delicious meals while still enjoying the evening and your guests.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 


Trip to Memphis: Cupcakes & BBQ

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Some of you may have seen my Instagram posts this last weekend and thought, "What?  Isn't she a sports and wellness dietitian?  How does this match up?  How is she talking about nutrition for sports and health but then her posts show pictures of eating BBQ mac & cheese and chocolate strawberry cupcakes?" 

I thought I would take this opportunity to write a non-recipe post because I do think this topic should be brought to light.  As a young or adult athlete, it's important to surround yourself with mostly nutrient-dense fueling foods to support your workouts and training.  However, it does not mean that you have to eat "perfectly" all the time.  What does "eating perfectly" really mean anyway?  A sports or fitness "diet" (and I use the word "diet" here to define a way of eating - not as a means of restriction) still makes room for food that you love that may provide nothing more than satisfaction and a smile.  

Like you have probably heard many other dietitians say, strict restriction, whether in the form of calories or of certain foods, only leads to eventual feelings of deprivation and then overeating those foods later on.  In the end that is counterproductive for the athlete or exerciser.  

As a young competitive athlete, I probably took this too seriously in the beginning, being overly rigid on when I allowed myself "treats" or those foods I really loved but didn't think were "good" foods for my sport.  Later on, after I had changed my food and meal mentality and was eating more, eating on a semi-structured schedule to support my training and allowing myself those favorite foods when I really wanted them, that is when I actually started seeing improvements in my performances.  No, I didn't eat french fries or chicken tenders before I went out on the ice, but I may have included them later on when it wouldn't be a pre-event meal.  I ate my favorite warm chocolate chip cookies when I really wanted one and loved grabbing fro yo with my friends.  I was incorporating some of my favorite foods into my regular balanced nutrient - dense meals & snacks and focusing more on the placement of these foods vs elimination. 

As athletes and exercisers, we need to remember that it's all about meal and snack timing.  When I go in and talk to high school athletes, I'm not telling them "oh, you can never eat a hamburger" or "yeah, you have to drop the ice cream for good".  No, I actually never talk about eliminating.  What I talk about is placement and what type of foods our bodies need for the best workouts and performances.  I talk about what those pre and post event meals and snacks should consist of to give us the most energy and the best recovery so performance can improve and injury can be prevented.  I have the same overall message for adult exercisers.  I ask them to think about and create their plan.  I ask them to write down their nutrition plan to support training and performance, which includes pre and post exercise meals and snacks.  This sets the base and then other foods that may not normally be in your plan can be added when the occasion arrives.

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So, back to Cupcakes and BBQ.  I love fresh, simple meals.  I think that's pretty clear from my Instagram account.  I have learned over the years what foods fuel great runs and workouts for me and what I need after to help my feel stronger for future sessions.  However, if I'm in a new city then I'm going to be curious and try new foods or, if I'm in an old familiar city like Memphis, I'm going to enjoy those foods that bring back memories.  When you go to Memphis, you've gotta have BBQ.  I have a goal of taking my husband to a different top BBQ place in Memphis on each visit, so this past trip was to The Commissary.  I'm not a huge sweets person, but when in Memphis, I have to take a trip to Muddy's.  It's the best cupcake shop local to Memphis and it was started by a girl who graduated from my high school.  It was a fun, relaxing and delicious trip to Memphis mixed with reading, running, resting and eating at all of my local favorites.  So, no, I don't eat a cupcake or big plate of BBQ before a long run and I certainly didn't eat them before an ice skating training session, but I will enjoy it on a trip home to Memphis where I want to soak up all of my familiar favorites.

Whether you are a competitive or elite athlete or a fitness enthusiast, remember that all foods can still fit into a sports nutrition plan at the right time.  Eat to fuel and recover most of the time, but allow yourself to still experience the joy of food and the joy of eating.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

Ten Tips for a Fun & Fueling Holiday

I know what you're probably thinking - "ugh, the unavoidable 'just eat in moderation' holiday dietitian post" (insert eye roll).  Well, this may be a little of that (sorry, can't help it), but I'm hoping it still also encourages fun and freedom in food this season.  I'm a full believer that the holidays should be enjoyed and traditions should be celebrated, both food and non-food traditions alike.  However, I've also worked with enough people who come to me after the holidays saying, "oh my goodness, what did I do?! "  So much of what they worked for during the entire year was "undone" in one season.  My thoughts are that there has to be a happy medium - a place where food (or some might say the guilt around food) doesn't consume our thoughts, a place that allows us to enjoy the season and all that it brings, and, yet, a place that doesn't majorly move the needle on our health and wellness.  This is the sweet spot where I aim to live during this season and that's where I try to help clients live as well.

In the spirit of finding and living in this sweet spot, I'm sharing my Top 10 Tips that I try to incorporate into my holiday lifestyle. Whether you follow them all or you choose to simply follow one, my hope is that they help you have a happy, healthy, and guilt-free holiday season.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

[ANYTHING PARTICULAR YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE RECIPES I CREATE OR INFORMATION I SHARE THIS SEASON OR IN 2018??  PLEASE MESSAGE ME SO I CAN GET CREATIVE AND WORK THEM IN!]

TOP 10 FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS FOR A FUN & FUELING HOLDAY

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  1. LOCK AWAY THE GUILT. Before you can move on to any of the other tips, make sure you get this tip down. Enjoy those foods that only come around once a year. Enjoy the Christmas or Hanukkah cookies that have become a family tradition, the stuffing that your aunt makes every Thanksgiving, and those little red and green m&m's that are suddenly in every glass bowl you pass. If you decide to partake, please enjoy it and savor it - no looking back! Well, unless, of course, it's to think about how deliciously wonderful it was :)

  2. UNLOCK YOUR TENNIS SHOES. Same goes for your jacket, your gloves, and your warm hat. Don't let the cold weather keep you from moving. Stay active but don't hold yourself to a strict program like you may have done outside of this bustling holiday season. In other words, give yourself a little break. These weeks and months can be stressful and packed enough as they are without that added pressure of bumping up your workouts and logging all of the gym time! Try planning active get-togethers with friends and other families as a way to stay active but still stay social. Staying active is proven to help manage stress and improve mood, so try to keep it as a weekly priority as the calendar gets booked and stress levels start to rise.

  3. KEEP YOUR DAYS BALANCED. If you know you're going to a party that night that will have lots of deliciously rich foods, get your veggies, fruits and lean proteins at your other meals that day.

  4. NO SKIPPING MEALS. Don't skip meals during the day to "balance out" the party that night. Most likely you will overeat at the party and may end up consuming more that day than if you had gone ahead and eaten breakfast and lunch!

  5. PLAN, THEN ACT. Assess the spread and all that is offered. Decide what you REALLY want and add that to your plate vs. the items you sort of want or know you can get at the next gathering. Once you know what you want, then start making your selections.

  6. PLATE, DON'T GRAZE. By putting food on a plate and then eating, you know how much you have had and you can keep portions in check. Grazing at parties is sort of like eating out of the jumbo chip bag when you get home from work ravenous. There is no "stop" signal in place...until you're at the very bottom of the bag.

  7. DON'T FORGET YOUR VEGGIES. I say this because, yes, having veggies on your plate will help add fluid and fiber, which will help keep you full and help keep the calories in check, but I also say this because fall veggies (and fruits) are wonderful! And there is this small window in which we can savor them. Please don't forget these. Try something new or try an old favorite in a new recipe. Challenge yourself to include veggies in at least 2 of your meals a day this season. Not sure what to pick in the fall and winter months? Check out my FOODS OF FALL blog post from last year for ideas and inspiration.

  8. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT. There are so many sweets and treats and rich foods during this season. However, do you really really love all of them? Pick what you love, or, if you are cooking, cook what you love, and leave the other decadent items to someone else.

  9. BRING STRATEGICALLY. Not sure what kind of options will be offered at the party? Make your dish something you know you will eat. Be in charge of a hearty salad, the veggie side dish, a crudite appetizer, or a charcuterie platter filled with fresh winter fruits and nuts along with unique cheeses and meats.

  10. GET CREATIVE WITH DESSERTS. Think outside the box when it comes to desserts. The holidays can be filled with rich decadent desserts, but have you tried warm baked apples or spiced pears with ice cream, homemade whipped cream or chocolate drizzles and toasted hazelnuts? These can still taste deliciously decadent while still packing in some mood and immune boosting antioxidants!

Trick or Treat: Decoding the Sugar in Food

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There is so much talk out there about sugars - what sugar is "good" and what sugar is "bad".  You have so-called "professionals" telling you not to eat fruit because it contains too much sugar, but then at the same time advising people to juice so that they can cleanse their bodies.  What?  This does not match up.  Then I hear people say that they can't have sugar but they can add tablespoon upon tablespoon of agave nectar to their tea, cookies, or mixed drinks because it's "natural"... hello!  It is all still sugar!

My purpose in this post is to help give you the facts so that you can go out and make your own decisions.  Below is a little breakdown with hopefully enough facts to improve understanding, avoid confusion and give you the info you need to make those sweet decisions on your own....



WHAT IS SUGAR?

Sugars are a composition of carbohydrates, called monosaccharides or disaccharides, in foods.  These can be found naturally in the foods that we eat or they can be added to foods during the manufacturing process to increase sweetness and / or texture.



WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF SUGAR?

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Monosaccharides are:  fructose, glucose & galactose

Disaccharides are a combination of two of these monosaccharides.  They include:

  • sucrose (fructose + glucose)

  • lactose (glucose + galactose)

  • maltose (glucose + glucose).

SO WHAT FOODS CONTAIN SUGAR?

  • Milk & yogurt (lactose)

  • Fruits (fructose)

  • Vegetables

  • Table sugar, honey, agave nectar, raw sugar, syrup (sucrose)

  • Sweets & treats (sucrose)




WHAT MAKES SOME FOODS WITH SUGAR OK AND SOME NOT OK?

It is the added sugars, those added to a product during processing or added at the table, of which we need to be careful (not those naturally found in your apple, bell pepper, and milk).  These are the sugars that health professionals warn against because they can increase our risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, among other conditions.  Those sugars incorporated in fruits, milk, and yogurt are not the ones we need to be as wary of because these sugars are paired with fiber, water, and numerous other nutrients and so do not have the same negative health effects as those in nutrient - void sweets and treats.  Therefore, we should be cautious of added sugars, those that appear in food and beverages in addition to the naturally occurring sugars in the item.


WHAT ARE THE RECOMMENDED ADDED SUGAR INTAKES?

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  • The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 10% of your daily calories from added sugar (based off of a 2000 calorie diet, this is about 200 calories per day OR 50 grams of sugar per day OR 12 teaspoons of sugar per day)

  • The American Heart Association recommends:

    • Max of 6 teaspoons (25 grams) added sugar per day for women

    • Max of 9 teaspoons (37 grams) added sugar per day for men

 

HOW DO I KNOW IF A FOOD CONTAINS ADDED SUGAR? 

1.  Be on the lookout for the following words to pinpoint any added sugar in your meals & snacks:

  • Words that contain "sugar"

    • brown sugar, confectioner's powdered sugar, invert sugar, raw sugar, white sugar, granulated sugar

  • Words that contain "nectar"

    • agave nectar, peach nectar, pear nectar, fruit nectar, etc.

  • Words that contain "syrup"

    • corn syrup, corn syrup solids, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), malt syrup, maple syrup, pancake syrup

  • Words ending with"-ose"

    • dextrose, fructose, anhydrous dextrose, lactose, crystal dextrose, maltose

  • Caramel, cane juice / evaporated cane juice / cane juice crystals, fruit juice, honey, molasses, sweet sorghum

2.  Look at the labels!  In the near future food labels will start to include a new "Added Sugar" category.  Take a look to see how many extra grams of sugar you are getting in your meal or snack.

WHEN IN DOUBT:

  • Stick with fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Choose milk and when choosing yogurts aim for varieties that don't creep too much over 12 grams of sugar per serving (which comes from the milk and yogurt's carbohydrate, lactose). Grams over 12 are probably coming from added sugars.

  • Stick with minimally processed snack foods (I try to keep sugar grams per serving to single digits when looking at cereals, granola bars, and snack crackers)

While this article only touches the surface of sugars and carbohydrates, I hope it helps provide a bit more understanding.  Please always feel free to comment or email with questions!

Happy Fueling!

Taylor