Categories Advice, Food, Gut Health, Health, Nutrition, Protein, Uncategorized

Confused about collagen?

Collagen supplements are becoming increasingly popular. Are you confused by them? You may be wondering whether or not this is something your body needs, or if these types of supplements even work. This post will help you decide if it’s right for you.

Understanding collagen

Collagen is a protein made up of amino acids. It is one of the most prevalent proteins found throughout the body. It is present in bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, your intestinal lining, and other fibrous tissues.  The main role of collagen is to provide structural support to your tissues. There are different forms of collagen, but the primary amino acids that comprise it are glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.

Role of collagen

As we age, collagen levels decrease. This can lead to issues such as osteoarthritis, joint pain, stiff tendons, wrinkled skin, and GI disturbances. As a result, collagen is being added to beauty products and dietary supplements as a means of providing anti-aging benefits, reducing joint pain, supporting healthy bones and healing leaky gut.

Benefits of collagen

While some studies are mixed, there is strong evidence to support the following benefits of collagen

  • Promotes skin elasticity, hydration, anti-aging and improvement in overall appearance.
  • Can increase bone density and reduce bone loss
  • Helps reduce joint pain and stiffness
  • Can increase the process of wound healing

There is moderate evidence to support these additional benefits*

  • May support growth of hair and nails
  • May increase muscle mass
  • May protect against mucosal damage and support a healthy intestinal barrier
  • May support cardiovascular health

*Further studies are needed

Collagen food sources

So how can you obtain collagen naturally? Collagen is mainly found in animal tissue – primarily in the joints, tendons and bones. Bone broth is another common food source. You can purchase commercially made bone broth, but the best way to reap the benefits is to make it yourself. Here is a recipe you can try.

If eating animal carcass or drinking bone broth is not your thing, you can also try consuming foods that synthesize collagen and support its production. These include poultry, game meat, organ meat, fish, shellfish, cheese, egg whites, seeds, spirulina, and soy.

Collagen supplements

Collagen supplements come in a variety of forms including capsules, gummies, powders. One of the most common and versatile forms of collagen supplements can be found in bovine, chicken, or marine collagen peptides.

Collagen peptides are the result of larger collagen molecules being broken down into short chain amino acids. Peptides are ideal because they break down easily in liquids. You can add them to both cold and hot beverages, such as coffee or a smoothie. You can also include them in baked goods.

There is no recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for collagen, but on average 2.5-1.5g per day have been utilized in studies. As with all supplements, I only recommend professional grade brands. Supplements are not regulated so quality really does matter. For example, with some commercial protein powders, there is concern about potential lead contamination. It’s worth investing a few more dollars to know that what you are consuming is safe. As always, before consuming any supplement I urge you to talk with a qualified healthcare practitioner to determine if you really need it.

For more tips like these or to book a session, contact me here

Sources:

  • The Functional Nutrition Library
  • https://health.clevelandclinic.org/
  • https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0319p26.shtml
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23375414
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25884286
Categories Advice, Food, Health, How To, Nutrition

Healthy eating strategies for kids: How to encourage the best choices.

It’s back to school time. Hectic schedules, homework, and organized sports can make it extremely challenging for kids to eat well, stay focused, and perform at their best. Here are a few strategies to encourage healthy food choices for your child.

Get plenty of protein: While kids tend to gravitate towards carbohydrate rich meals and snacks, teach them that healthy proteins are a must. Protein will keep kids fuller longer and will help them to stay focused in the classroom. It will also support muscle growth. Protein choices include lean chicken, eggs, turkey, tuna fish, canned salmon, beans, dairy or dairy substitutes, nuts, nut butters, seeds, tofu, and edamame.

Make fruit and vegetables a dietary staple: Teach your kids to include rainbow of colors. A variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will provide them with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Fruits and vegetables will also keep them fuller longer.

Include health fats: Healthy fats support brain development, eye health, and like protein, will help kids stay fuller longer. Fats will also help kids to better absorb certain vitamins such as A, D, E and K. Healthy fats include things like nuts, seeds, nut butters, olives, avocado, and olive oil.

Reduce sugar intake: While occasional treats are always fun, children who consume large amounts of sugary foods may find it harder to stay energized and focused throughout the day. Refined carbohydrates and starches will raise a child’s blood sugar initially, but will then cause a sudden drop in blood sugar as their hormone insulin responds. When blood sugar drops, children will feel tired, hungry or ‘hangry’. I recommend that kids avoid starting the day with sugary cereals, pastries, and other common breakfast foods and instead include protein at breakfast. This will prevent them from being hungry by mid morning. Apply this same approach after school in order to keep them focused on homework and activities.

Read labels: Strive to provide your children with foods that are low in preservatives, additives and colors. Although a bit controversial, there have been studies which have shown that additives in food can contribute to hyperactivity in children.

Drink water: Choose water over sugary sports drinks. Water is always the best choice. Encourage this habit early on. Teach your child to carry a water bottle to school and to drink water before during and after sports practice.

Teach them how to balance their plate: Instill the habit of eating at least 3 food groups at meals. Food groups include protein, fruit, vegetables, starches, fats, dairy or dairy substitutes. A lunch might look like this: Chicken strips, broccoli, strawberries, whole grain crackers and a piece of cheese. This will offer a more balanced diet and provide essential nutrients.

Practice Division of Responsibility: This means that as parents, you are responsible for what time of day your child eats and what choices are offered. They are responsible for how much (or how little) they eat. This encourages kids to build confidence with their food choices and to remain in tune with their hunger and fullness cues.

Encourage family meals: Family meals are a time for connection, sharing, and listening. Studies show that kids who engage in family meals perform better in school. Make family meals a regular part of your schedule. If dinner is too hectic of a time to sit down together, try another meal such as breakfast.

Encourage participation and involvement with food choices:  Whether it’s packing lunches, preparing after school snacks, helping to prepare dinner, or tagging along when grocery shopping, getting your kids involved with the planning and preparation of meals will help them develop healthy eating habits and will encourage mutual respect in terms of food choices.

For more tips like these or to schedule a time to meet with me personally, click here.

Categories Advice, Exercise, Food, Health, How To, Nutrition, Weight Loss

12 Ways To Eat Healthy While On Vacation

It’s summer! Are you planning a fun vacation or getaway? Nervous it will derail your eating plan? I often get asked by clients what they can do to stay on track with healthy eating while they are traveling. It can be a real challenge for some, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some key tips that I recommend:

  1. Plan your day. Begin with a healthy breakfast that includes plenty of protein to keep you fuller longer. Resist the temptation to begin your day with a sugary breakfast that will induce cravings later and make it harder to stay on track. Plan or pack your lunch and snacks and get some physical activity in – whether it be extra steps, a swim in the pool or ocean, hiking, running or biking. This will allow you to create a calorie deficit. By doing this you can relax and enjoy your evening. You are on vacation after all! This approach works because it’s a good balance of staying in control but also allows some amount of indulgence. 
  2. Set an exercise goal for the week and stick to it. Set a goal for walking, running, a travel workout, or whatever you enjoy. Aim for a set number of workouts per week. Track your workouts in an app or post on social media for accountability and positive reinforcement.
  3. Increase fruit and vegetable intake. Add vegetables to snacks, sandwiches, your morning eggs etc. Opt for fruit as a snack as well. They are lower in calories and really filling. Happy hour on the beach? Pack an assortment of plant based snacks to accompany the beverages. Click the link here for my blog post on healthy snacks when traveling.
  4. Drink (more) water. This is a must. Strive for a goal of half of your body weight (in ounces) or more, especially if you are in the sun most of the day and/or consuming alcohol. 
  5. Focus on protein intake. This can really help to keep you full, deter you from eating heavier carbs, and keep you on track. Aim to have protein at every meal and snack. You can even pack your favorite protein powder or bars to have throughout the week. 
  6. Will you have a kitchen at your vacation destination? If so, shop ahead and stock it with your favorite items. This is one thing I do often when traveling locally. I pack enough for breakfast, lunch and snacks. It definitely saves money and helps me feel more in control. If this isn’t a possibility, shop on the first day that you arrive at your destination. If cooking in, prepare some fun and healthy recipes. Use your favorite websites, blogs, or  grocery store magazines for ideas. Many have really good summer editions right now with some fantastic looking recipes. 
  7. Use a food tracker. This is a personal decision and I’ve seen it done a variety of ways. Some people like to let go of their food journal when on vacation, others feel this is a slippery slope and will make things harder for them when they return. You know yourself best and what works for you. You can also do a partial food journal where maybe you track your water, your workouts and the majority of your day up until dinner. Then, for dinner and beyond you can relax a bit and let it go. It’s completely up to you, but if you feel you would still like accountability while away, a tracker can work. 
  8. Set (gentle) boundaries. This looks different for everyone. It might be setting a limit of eating out 1x per day or getting ice cream 2x per week or choosing alcohol vs. a dessert. Decide what it could look like for you and stick to it.
  9. When dining out, choose which items on the menu you will skip, sample, and enjoy. For example, maybe you will skip the bread basket and dessert, sample the appetizer, and enjoy the entrée
  10. Be mindful of alcohol intake. The average serving of beer or wine is about 150 calories. Mixed drinks and flavored cocktails can be even higher. If you have factored this into your day, great. If not, be aware that this can add on a lot of unwanted calories and sugar, and it for some it can be a trigger for eating larger portions of foods that they would normally avoid.
  11. Adopt a “Maintain Don’t Gain” philosophy. Set a goal of maintaining your weight but don’t stress about trying to lose while you are away. 
    Walk, walk, walk, and walk some more. Being on vacation is a great way of getting plenty of walking in. Whenever possible opt to walk instead of drive. Track your steps daily and see how much you can get in by the end of the trip. 
  12. Walk, walk, walk, and walk some more. Being on vacation is a great way of getting plenty of walking in. Whenever possible opt to walk instead of drive. Track your steps daily and see how much you can get in by the end of the trip. 

For more tips like these or to meet with me personally, contact me here

Categories Advice, Food, Gut Health, Nutrition, Sleep, Stress

Nutrition for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: 10 Steps to Improve Your Energy

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) affects millions of individuals each year.  It is generally defined as extreme fatigue that lasts for six months or more and does not improve with sleep or rest.

Individuals suffering from CFS may find it difficult to participate or engage in physical activity, and may struggle with concentration, memory, or the completion of mental tasks.

While no laboratory test will diagnose CFS, there are a few theories about what contributes to it. Certain viruses, hormone imbalances, a compromised immune system, as well as high levels of chronic stress are all possible considerations.

Additional factors that can contribute to CFS include:

  • Food allergies /sensitivities
  • Celiac / Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity
  • Hypothyroid / Hashimotos
  • Insulin Resistance
  • IBD
  • Candida
  • Oxidative stress / cell damage
  • Certain medications
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Intestinal permeability / Leaky gut)
  • HPA Axis dysregulation / adrenal fatigue)
  • Impaired sleep
  • An imbalance in energy demand vs energy expenditure

Although there is no definitive treatment for CFS, many individuals are able to find relief through diet modification, gut healing, and supplementation. One key factor to consider is mitochondrial support.

The mitochondria are the main energy source or “powerhouse” of the cells. They are found throughout the body. When they are damaged, less energy is produced. By targeting and supporting the mitochondria, individuals often find that higher energy levels can result.   

For those suffering from CFS, it is important to evaluate nutrient insufficiencies related to mitochondrial damage and replete if necessary. A micronutrient test is a great place to start.

The following nutrients are often associated with fatigue and CFS:

  • Iron
  • Copper
  • B Vitamins (especially B12)
  • Vitamin D
  • L-Carnitine
  • Fatty Acids
  • CoQ10
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Chromium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Glutamine
  • Choline

To help promote restful sleep and provide additional support, the following supplements have shown beneficial effects:

  • L-Theanine – Found in foods like green tea, L-theanine supports healthy sleep.
  • Melatonin – A naturally occurring hormone, Melatonin supports restful sleep and supports mitochondria homeostatis
  • Magnesium – This amazing mineral has many purposes. Magnesium promotes restful sleep, healthy gut motility, stress reduction and is a natural muscle relaxer. If you want to sleep well, include magnesium rich foods to your diet and either an oral or topical magnesium supplement.
  • Rhodiola rosea – A natural adaptogen, Rhodiola has been shown to improve energy levels in those who suffer from CFS.

Finally, look for ways to modify your lifestyle in order to replete your energy stores. I recommend these tips:

  1. Improve your diet – reduce intake of white sugar and highly processed foods. Adopt a whole foods diet with a high intake of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins that include organic poultry, wild caught fish or grass-fed beef and non-GMO whole grains. In addition consider the following types of foods that will supply your body with melatonin, tryptophan (a precursor to melatonin), magnesium, and choline.
    • Eggs
    • Fish  
    • Pistachios
    • Cow’s milk
    • Oats
    • Mushrooms
    • Cherries
    • Black and red rice
    • Poultry (Chicken, turkey)
    • Cheese
    • Seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower)
    • Nuts (Almonds, cashews)
    • Peanuts/Peanut butter
    • Spinach
    • Soy milk
    • Beans (black beans, kidney beans, lima beans)
    • Edamame
    • Avocado
    • Potato
    • Brown rice
    • Oatmeal
    • Wheat germ
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Liver
  2. Identify food sensitivities and intolerances. Work with a qualified dietitian to identify any potential foods that are antagonizing your symptoms. Do a trial elimination with a food journal and analyze your results.
  3. Balance your plate with the correct ratios of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to stabilize blood sugar and promote energy balance. Include protein at every meal.
  4. Be sure to incorporate enough calories to support activity and energy output. If calories are too low to support your level of activity, fatigue will result. Remember that food provides your body with energy and fuel.
  5. Identify sources of inflammation including environmental toxins, and work to reduce them.
  6. Identify nutritional deficiencies especially if taking certain medications such as acid suppressing mediations, lipid lowering, oral contraceptives, anticonvulsants, loop diuretics, and anti-hypertensives. I recommend a Spectracell Micronutrient test.
  7. Strengthen and heal the gut. In addition to removing inflammatory foods, incorporate a probiotic supplement that contains Bifidobacterium infantis, F. prausnitzii, and L. acidophilus.
  8. Improve sleep; Increase daytime light exposure and reduce exposure to blue light / screens especially at night. Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Consistency is key.
  9. Reduce stress. Consider deep breathing exercises, daily meditation, delegating tasks, asking for help, being out in nature, laughter, journaling, and seeking out a licensed counselor when needed.
  10. Begin a steady exercise program. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes per day of cardiovascular exercise.

For more tips like these to or schedule a consultation with me personally, contact me here.

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/me-cfs/index.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-a-to-z

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360490

https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/457918

http://info.spectracell.com/bid/54668/Vitamin-B12-Function-Deficiency-Symptoms-and-Repletion

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28219059

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

Ferreira, S. 2018. A dietitian’s guide to assessing and treating fatigue.

https://www.spectracell.com

Categories Advice, Food, Health, How To, Nutrition, Weight Loss

10 Tips For Meal Planning

Do you struggle with planning your weekly meals? Does your goal of healthy eating become sabotaged by last minute food choices?

Meal planning is key for maintaining a balanced diet. Here are some simple tips that will set you up for success and help you to stay focused on your nutrition goals.

1. Block off time on your calendar to plan your menu for the following week. It is recommended to plan your meals on a Thursday or Friday, so that you can grocery shop and prep over the weekend. Organize your list by food group: Fruits, vegetables, proteins, starches, dairy/dairy subs, and healthy fats. Strive to make as many foods as possible whole real foods with minimal ingredients.

2. Determine the number of dinners you have in your meal plan. If you double the portions, you will have enough for leftovers. Remember the phrase “cook once, eat twice”. Leftovers can be used for either lunch the next day, or for dinner later in the week. This will significantly reduce the number of meals you need to prepare each week.

3. Make a list of all ingredients needed to create the meals. Ideally, do this while you are at home so that you can take inventory of what you already have. Cross off the items you do not need to purchase. This will help you to greatly reduce costs for unnecessary items.

4. For an additional means of cost cutting, scan store apps, circulars and newspapers for coupons. If you can’t find coupons for the foods in your meal plan, try using coupons for other household goods such as paper products, cleaning products, and personal items.

5. Don’t be afraid to repeat what works. If everyone loves Mexican, keep a Mexican dish on your list each week but just vary what you serve (fish tacos, bean burritos, chicken enchiladas etc).

6. Try using a weekly template. Here’s an example: 2 nights per week poultry; 2 nights per week fish, 1 night per week beef or pork, 1 night per week vegetarian, 1 night per week dining out. Another way to plan a template is by theme: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Crock-Pot Wednesday, Stir-Fry Friday, etc.

7. Got picky eaters? Try stations or “bars” that provide variety but also satisfy individual preferences. Examples include: Salad bar, taco bar, pizza bar, potato bar etc. Each family member can customize to their hearts delight.

8. Stumped for ideas? Get the family involved. Ask each family member to help you come up with 1-2 meals each week. For kids, have them pick the night of the week the want “their meal” served. Take it one step further and have them help you prepare and serve the meal. This is a great way to get kids more involved in the kitchen.

9. Keep an inventory of meals that are family favorites. Ideally, build this up to 15-20 recipes. You can pull from this inventory each week to allow for non-stressful meal planning.

10. Stock your freezer and your pantry. Load up on beans, whole grains, healthy oils, frozen vegetables, fruits, and proteins. Set aside 1-2 days per month to make and freeze meals. This will really come in handy during busy times when you may not have been able to effectively meal plan.

SAMPLE MEAL PLAN:

SUNDAY: Baked cod, asparagus, sweet potatoes

MONDAY: Broccoli, red pepper, garlic frittata, salad, roasted potatoes

TUESDAY: Fish Tacos (use leftover cod from Sunday), salad (leftover from Monday)

WEDNESDAY: Roasted chicken, broccoli, butternut squash

THURSDAY: Leftovers from Wednesday’s dinner

FRIDAY: Beef stir fry with veggies and rice

SATURDAY: Dine Out

Suggestions like these can make meal planning easy and fun. For more ideas or to book a private session, contact me here.

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