Malnourished?

Are you malnourished? How many of you would answer no to that question? Chances are, it’s not as clear cut as you might think.

When we think of malnourished, we immediately picture a severely underweight individual, ribcage protruding, belly swollen. Maybe we think of camera footage of homeless individuals on the streets, or perhaps children in third world countries. But did you know it is possible to have plenty of food, even an overabundance of food, and not be getting the nutrients you need? Depending on your diet and your state of health, it is not only possible but likely.

According to the CDC, only one in ten adults in the United States gets the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in their daily diet. This news is likely not surprising because we have heard this all before. But how many of you think this is not you? Or how many of you are well aware this is you, but have not considered the connection to your own levels of nutrition? Sometimes it is hard to see our own levels of health because the signs aren’t obvious. Sometimes a few extra pounds is nothing more than an irritation. Or our reduced physical ability is easily blamed on too little exercise and a few extra pounds. And our thinning hair must be age-related. As are our wrinkles, increased blood pressure, increased cholesterol, decreased immune system, hormonal changes, and on and on and on. And sometimes, the changes come on so gradually we have lost sight of how far off track we have actually gotten.

Have you ever thought that maybe these things could be related to your diet, and not just happenstance? Or that maybe, by improving your diet, you could see a reduction in these subtle signs of lowered physical wellbeing?

Personally, I find this thought extremely exciting and empowering. What begins as a random symptom of age or lifestyle gradually builds to a long laundry list of “things wrong with me”. This is about the time we start seeking help and going to doctor after doctor to attempt to put the pieces back together, to find our way back to the days we felt good. Let me stop and say right here that there are many true conditions that absolutely warrant a doctor’s help. I do not recommend you ignore these warning signs and avoid medical assistance. However, I do advocate that you supplement the help from your doctor with quality nutrition in your daily diet. You wouldn’t take your car in for repairs, pay for the work to be done, and then try to run it on cheap, poor quality fuels, would you? So why do that to your body?

And running our bodies on cheap “fuel” is exactly how we become well fed yet undernourished. It is not always about caloric deficits. It is very possible to be malnourished simply by eating too much, eating the wrong foods, and living a lifestyle that not only lacks stress management but promotes those high levels of stress we should be avoiding. Poor diet has now surpassed smoking for the leading cause of death in many countries across the world. Pretty sobering thought, isn’t it? We have incredibly easy access to incredibly poor quality foods. We think we are making better choices at the store, not realizing that many of the products on the shelves actually have very little nutrition to offer us. Did you know that the average American’s grocery store trip will contain about 60% processed foods? What’s more, many of those foods are designed to look deceptively healthy!

It can all be a little overwhelming, given the surplus of media articles touting this diet or that, this new superfood or that new supplement. How are you supposed to know how to eat and who’s right? Rest assured, there are many right ways to eat and many more right foods to eat. The key is finding which one is right for you. Knowing how to eat for your own personal wellbeing is a beautiful thing. Free yourself from diet fads and frustration, all the while nourishing your body with true nutrient-dense foods. If you aren’t sure how to do this, that’s what I am here for. Initial consults are always complimentary, and always welcome. And if you aren’t ready for one on one consultation, watch for virtual workshops where you can learn the fundamentals of nutrition and get started on your personal path to wellness!

Personal Nutrition Workshop

 

Virtual Personal Nutrition Workshop

With all the media attention out there focused on foods that help us lose weight and feel better, how do you know which is right for you? Join Meredith Hartlage, Holistic Nutritionist and founder of Growing the Seed, as she helps you navigate the challenging world of nutrition and personal health.

Participants will receive:

→ dietary approaches and foods that can boost your own wellbeing
→ recipes, ideas, and easy ways to personalize
→ personal follow up consultation

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020, from 7:30 pm to 9 pm
Cost: $15 per person *
*This is a virtual workshop and participants will be sent a link to the meeting upon registration.

Time for change…

It seems like we all have a little extra time on our hands these days. For some of us, it’s a little too much for our comfort. Boredom, anxiety, sadness and depression. These are very real things we are experiencing right now. And some of it is directly related to our pandemic, but some of these feelings are latent emotions we have long held at bay. Our usual methods of distraction and “just keep busy” aren’t available to us, or perhaps we have exhausted them already and are at a loss for what else we can divert our focus to. It’s uncomfortable. It’s overwhelming. It’s a lot.

Personally, I believe this respite from our busy lives is long overdue. I think of a train careening down the tracks at top speed. You know it needs to slow down, but it has so much momentum it just can’t. A break neck speed and a feeling of excitement combined with a little bit of fear… this has been us folks for the last however many years. We feel like we can’t stop for fear of losing our momentum, our direction, our place in life. But when we stop to think about it, do we even know where that place or that direction is taking us? Is it really what we want?

If you have been feeling uncomfortable with the quiet you’ve had forced on you lately, know that it is ok. It’s actually more than ok, it’s a good thing. We don’t have our usual security blankets to cling to, and we are having to actually stop and take stock of what’s happening right now in our lives. It’s a chance to reassess what life we have and what life we want. Is there a gap between these two things for you? If so, then this is your chance!

Dealing with these emotions can be very challenging, especially if you are not one to usually do a little self reflection. I am going to offer five ways to give yourself the space and thought you need but in a productive and meaningful way!

Journal. Write your thoughts down on paper. This gives them somewhere other than your head to go. By providing a physical outlet you don’t have to bury them deep inside anymore. And that’s a very good thing since emotional wounds can manifest physically.
Make a list. Provide yourself with three columns: The things you like about yourself. The things you want to bring in to your life. The things that are going well for you today. Your focus here is on positivity. By seeing what works, you can see your strengths. Yet you can still allow some room for improvement, which gives you concrete goals to work on.

Goals and Habits. Once you know your goals from your list above, start a brainstorm! What would do you look like as that person who embodies your ideal values and goals? What does you feel like as that person? What do you as this person do daily, weekly, monthly? Goals are our end results, but it is the habits in between that help us reach those goals.

Nourish your body. Eat a nutrient rich diet, stay hydrated, move your body, and allow room for good sleep. These are your four foundational pillars to good health.

Meditation. Meditation is a powerful way to manage emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. There are many types of meditation our there, so if you have tried it before and didn’t feel the connection, try again. There is a form of meditation out there for all of us! Unsure of where to begin? Here is one I can recommend: Guided Meditation to Release Suppressed Emotions.

These are all important and significant ways we can better ourselves, body and mind. They are affordable, accessible, and tangible. It is important to remember that it’s the little steps every day that lead to the goal we want in the end.

And for those moments where you need a little more guidance, reach out here for a free thirty minute consultation to see how I can help you!

Quick, Easy and Creative!

You all know how I love delicious food, but that I love quick and easy delicious food even more! I thought it could be fun to share with you my little tips and tricks to take our everyday goodies and create something unusual with them. Using the same ol’ foods in the same ol’ ways can get, well, you know, same ol’. So let’s take those favorites and shake ‘em up!

You also know how much I love my Trader Joe’s products. Let’s start off with one of these and have a little fun. If you haven’t ever tried this one before, let me introduce you to Cruciferous Crunch.

It’s sold as a bagged salad and many people use it to build a beautiful raw cruciferous salad. Eating these guys raw, while delicious, can be a little rough on the digestive system. For many of us, the harsh digestibility of these raw greens is just too much. Gas, bloating, indigestion… not to mention the potential to not fully absorb the nutrients. But I still want to enjoy the greens and the Brussels sprouts. Have you ever tried baking it? Cooking it? Sautéing it?

Cruciferous crunch is a fantastic addition to soups and stews. Add some beans, diced tomatoes, potatoes… yum! Sauté it in a pan with shallots and garlic… primo! IT goes beautifully with a frittata or quiche. But my favorite? Roast it!

On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread your cruciferous greens out. I prefer to use a mister, but you can also sprinkle with some avocado oil. Season with sea salt, pepper and massage until all the greens are covered and seasoned. Roast in the oven at 425 for about 10-15minutes, flipping over halfway through.

The greens crunch right up and the flavor sparkles! Feel free to eat it just as it is in all it’s roasted glory, or top your soups and salads off too. Stuff a wrap, mix with rice or quinoa, or add to your plate of nachos. Simply put, you can’t go wrong. Your mouth will love the sweeter flavor and your stomach will love the easier digestion.

For a few little twists, add fresh squeezed lemon or balsamic vinegar before baking. Use flavorful herbs such as thyme or oregano, or spice it up with red chili flakes! It’s delicious whichever way you make it!

Simple Ways to Boost Your Immune System!

  1. Garlic– raw or lightly cooked. Finely minced, let sit for fifteen minutes before use.
  2. Sleep! Aim for eight hours, and preferably in bed by 11 pm.
  3. Reduce sugars! This mainly pertains to processed white sugars, which interfere with your body’s ability to fight pathogens. Their empty calories further deplete your system by offering no nutritional value. Swap them out with unprocessed, whole foods that are naturally sweet.
  4. Reduce processed foods. The more processing a food endures, the less nutrition it has to offer. Plain and simple. Eat the real deal, folks.
  5. Exercise! Move that body. Movement means circulation. Circulation means digestion, elimination, waste removal, nutrient absorption, and more effective cellular connections. It doesn’t matter how, it matters that you do!
  6. Lemon juice– try a fresh squeeze of lemon in your water first thing every morning. The Vitamin C boosts your immune system and the ascorbic acid supports healthy liver function. What more could you ask for?
  7. Hydrate. If your body is dehydrated, it can’t function as well as it could if it were properly lubricated. Water keeps our organs functioning, joints moving, nutrients absorbing, and cells behaving. All of these things equal a healthier immune system!
  8. Eat the rainbow! And no, I don’t mean skittles. Eating naturally colorful foods ensures that you are getting a variety of vitamins, all of which support our body in all the ways we so desperately want. Make sure there is color at every meal- no more sad, brown plates for us!
  9. Herbs. Yes, you heard me, I said herbs. I didn’t say which ones, now did I? That’s because it doesn’t matter which ones you use. They ALL have powerful health-boosting properties. From antimicrobials to antivirals, antioxidants to antibacterials, herbs offer a plethora of wellness opportunities. Eat them all, eat them often, just eat them.
  10. And finally? Smile. Why? Because smiling reduces stress, and reducing stress increases health on all levels. So find happiness, gratitude, and joy in your life. In the smallest corners and biggest expanses, look for the good in your life. It’s there, and it’s able to support you.

Interested? Let us know how to contact you!

On Being a Nutritionist

Sometimes I wish I weren’t a nutritionist. Don’t get me wrong- I love nutrition, I really do! But it can be overwhelming to consider all the foods available to us, knowing which ones we want to eat, versus which ones we should eat. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know what I know, that I could just go off and happily eat my junk food. But then I realize, I did that for a long time and honestly, it made me quite physically and mentally miserable.

I read a passage in a book recently that stated anything with instant gratification rewards usually had long term consequences. And anything we had to delay gratification for generally had long term rewards. I do believe that is true, at least in my own experience. For many years I indulged unknowingly in foods that were wrong for me. Buildup over time led to so many health problems- weight issues and digestive distress in my early teens, hormonal imbalance shortly thereafter, thyroid condition, mood imbalance, and energy deficits in my adulthood… Those cookies and candies tasted good in the moment, but as years passed they caused much more pain than they were really worth. Add to that what I know now, and I realize that not only did they trigger serious health issues, they also contributed very little (if any!) real nutritive value. When I could have been filling up on foods that offered me true nourishment, I was busy splurging on empty calories devoid of quality nutrition.

I learned over the years to let them go, and replace them with foods that not only filled the void, but replenished the nutrient gap I had created. I truly love eating well, and I can feel the difference when I eat foods that do more than fill my calorie tank. That being said, I also love a good indulgence.

And that is probably the one thing that surprises people the most! Oh yes, I love junk food just as much as the next person. I can appreciate a sweet-laden dessert or a notoriously “unhealthy” snack from time to time. Comfort food is comfort food, from one person to the next. The only thing that changes is our own definition of what equates a comfort food.

As my nutrition knowledge grew, my definition changed. In my youth and young adulthood, I loved candy and cookies the most. I avoided fried foods and red meats, but not sugar. Somewhere in my mid thirties I turned down a road of health and nutrition, which led me to changing my habits, which led me to improved health, which led me to eventually going back to school for my Masters.

These days, I still appreciate a treat. It’s just a treat of a different kind. I have long ago abandoned sugary candies and cookies. I do love a good chocolate, I have learned to just up the chocolate percentage and value a quality dark chocolate over a milk chocolate. Occasionally I want a cookie, but I have learned to adapt recipes to reflect healthier baking options. And ironically, the red meats and heavier foods I once avoided? I learned to let them back in from time to time, but to choose them with quality and care.

And here is my response as to why. Nutrition boils down to the quality of the foods we eat, combined then with the method of preparation. We could prepare things in a very healthful way, but if we are starting with an inferior product, we are starting at a lower set point. Using foods of superior quality, we are realizing that many methods of preparation are available to us and are sometimes less (and sometimes much much less!) harmful than we once thought. A good quality dark chocolate retains more of it’s nutritional value than a highly processed milk chocolate- one that has been dwindled down to a higher proportion of milk and sugar than actual chocolate. Red meats that have been raised properly offer much more to our nutritional profile than conventionally raised red meats, potentially grown in an environment full of hormones, antibiotics, and stress. Same goes for chicken- yes, our beloved lean, white meat holds similar opportunity to damage our health goals due to poor growing conditions! So what does this all mean? It means that I am honoring my need to indulge but finding a more suitable indulgence to begin with.

As a holistic nutritionist, I understand there is much more to our health than just the foods we eat. I can eat perfectly each and every day, checking all the theoretical boxes of nutrition. I may be filling my caloric and nutritional tanks, but what about my emotional tank? There is an emotional value to the foods we eat, and there is an importance to listening to that call. When our body cries out for some kind of treat, it is asking for something more than just the food itself. Is it comfort? Is it reassurance? Is it cookies like Grandma used to bake? Or the homemade spaghetti mom used to make? Regardless, there is something our soul is calling for. Our job is not to power our way through and try to never indulge again. Nor is it to justify every beck and call of our soul’s requests to eat indulgences as we wish. No, it’s about balance. Ask yourself first what it is you need. Is there something missing in your life you are trying to satisfy with food? Maybe yes, and maybe you can make some changes to mend that. But maybe not. So if you still have the craving, find a way to satisfy your soul while not sacrificing your body.

In this day and age, healthier options abound for just about any treat you could ever desire. Find one. Try one. Let it be something you can be ok with. And know that while this isn’t meant to be an every day type of thing, it is more than ok to indulge every now and then. No guilt, no shame. No beating yourself up over some perceived weakness. Know that life is about many things, but starvation and deprivation is not one of them. Nor is perfection. Our bodies are strong. If we spend 80% of the time choosing what is right for us, the remaining 20% can more easily be managed by the body.

By removing these unrealistic expectations, you will find that your path to improved health and wellbeing becomes significantly more sustainable. Suddenly something that was overwhelming now feels manageable, doable, maybe even more pleasurable along the way. At least I know that has been the case for me, and the case for many of my clients. Ask yourself if the approach you are taking today is something you can see yourself doing a year from now, and five years from now. If the answer is no, it’s time to think again. And, if you need a little help finding the approach that is right for you, that’s what I am here for. So give me a call and let’s find the plan that makes sense for you.

Soup Season

As soon as the weather turns chilly I find myself thinking of comfort foods. Soups, stews, and slow cooked dishes full of nourishing potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes… My mind can’t help it! Fresh salads fall to the wayside as I start to cook and roast anything I can get my hands on. And it’s not just me- everyone I see is doing the same. Ever wonder why? Turns out, it’s our body’s way of tuning in to the season. When it’s cold outside we seek warmth inside. Soups and stews are the perfect answer. A marriage of tastes and smells, textures, sights… On the surface level it appears to have everything to offer.

But when you look past this, you will find just how deep this nourishment goes! Soups and stews offer a myriad of nutrients. They can be a phenomenal way to pack high quality vitamins and minerals in to one succinct, little (and incredibly tasty!) meal. Add a side of grains or starches or meat and you transform a light meal in to a full course. And best of all, they are a cinch to pull together!

Let’s look at the make up of a good soup- You have your base, the collection of onions, carrots, and other hearty vegetables that offer color and flavor. You have your liquid, ideally your homemade broth. This is your nutritional powerhouse, your hidden weapon. Broth is liquid gold, and we will talk about that in a minute. For now, just know this is your “can’t do without” ingredient. And then you have your substance- the key ingredients that take this foundation and transform it into a recipe. These are the ingredients that give it direction and individuality. Once you break it down like this, you see it is such an easy way to create a truly satisfying meal.

So why are soups so good for us in the cold winter months? (And don’t forget fall and spring too!) What is it that they do for us? Why do we crave them every time the thermometer takes a dip?

Aside from the ease of making this delicious one pot meal, they actually offer a great deal of benefit on multiple levels. As I mentioned above, it’s probably one of the easiest ways to pack a meal full of valuable vitamins and minerals. Have you ever come across a soup that was solely meat or grains? Me either! Every soup I know has some sort of vegetable base incorporated. And believe me when I say vegetables are where it’s at! Hidden in luxurious purees or displayed in all their glory in chunky diced pieces, soups are chock full of veggies. And herbs? Don’t even get me started on the benefits of herbs! You can’t beat this winning combination for flavor or nutrition.

And that broth- let’s talk about that! When we stew the bones and meat from chicken, beef, or some other animal protein, we are extracting the rich minerals this animal has to offer. While it’s true we do get minerals from both plant and animal sources, those coming from animal sources are more readily available to our own bodies. Everything that animal needed to live it’s healthiest life is given over to us in this process. And as a meat eater, I feel (quite strongly!) that this is the ultimate respect we can give to the animal that is now nourishing our bodies. To show my appreciation I strive to make the most use of every part of the animal that we can. On top of that, the broth that results from the bones is one of the most powerful ingredients I could possibly have access to- it’s a gift that we can’t afford to pass up!

Not a meat eater? Not a problem! Vegetable broth is still phenomenally valuable for it’s vitamins and mineral content. It adds depth, flavor, and nutrition to anything you use it with. Plus, it’s super quick and easy to make!

But let’s look a little deeper still. Why exactly do we find it so comforting? Remember when you were sick and Mom would come tend to you lovingly, bringing you a hot bowl of soup? I do. And even if it was a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle, it didn’t matter. She was serving up a steaming bowl of love and care. She reminded you that chicken soup would heal your soul. Generations of moms and grandmas (and dad’s and grandpa’s too) taught us that a good bowl of soup could cure most woes. And they’re not wrong about that.

Yeah, we know all about the nutrition. We covered that. But the warmth of the soup provides warmth to our soul. We often equate cold with a feeling of sadness, emptiness, or loneliness. Warmth is associated with happiness, fullness, comfort, togetherness… love. When we feel dry inside, blown about by our harried lives and demanding schedules, we need a little wetness to seep in and nourish our brittle bodies. It grounds us when we feel directionless and scattered. It comforts us when we feel cold and as though we are running on empty. Every bite of soup is like a hug straight from mom’s arms. The world feels ok again, and maybe even like there is a little sunshine peeking through.

So don’t resist your soup cravings. Embrace them, much like the way they embrace you. Welcome their warmth, their heartiness, their depth. Welcome their comfort and reassurance on those brisk cold days. And know they are just what the doctor (aka mom!) ordered.

Feeling hungry for soups? Check out my recipes for some of my own favorite delicious and healthy soups!

Sleep

Recently I began reading a book titled Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. I had this title in my audiobooks list for a while but had hesitated because I thought “how much can one really discuss about sleep?” Turns out, a whole lot!

This book has opened my eyes to the critical power of a good night’s sleep. I mean, I knew sleep was important. But, wow- was this a (sorry, no pun intended!) wake up call! As a holistic nutritionist, I look far beyond what we eat and check in to how we live too. I have always talked to my clients about their sleep habits. I want to know how many hours you dedicate to sleep each night. What time do you go to sleep? What time do you wake up? Do you wake often during the night? How do you feel when you wake? Do you take naps? And on and on and on.

Typically I hear my clients report an average of six or so hours a night, going to bed between 11pm and 12am. They generally report they feel “pretty good” during their day. Sounds pretty good, right? But then we keep talking and these same clients can’t get themselves going in the morning until they have had their cup (or sometimes two!) of coffee. And they often tell me they feel like they need an afternoon jolt again too. Still pretty good? I am willing to bet that most of us do actually think this is pretty good, probably because we can relate!

But if you need a boost of caffeine to get you going in the morning, and you feel you are constantly chasing the energy bus all day long… chances are it’s less than pretty good. We have simply become accustomed to this routine, and when everyone else around us reports the same we accept this as the new normal. In reality, our bodies really do need eight or nine hours of sleep each night. And when we get this sleep, and improve the quality of said sleep, we don’t actually need that caffeine boost and experience more stable energy throughout the day. (And if you think you are one of those people genetically wired to operate on less, you will find the chances are pretty slim. Less than 1% of the world’s population falls into that category, as you will find in reading the book!)

Trying to lose weight? Did you know that poor or inadequate sleep may be contributing to your stubborn weight problems? It’s true, it wreaks havoc on your metabolism and hunger signals. Feeling forgetful and spacey? Lack of sleep could be at play here. It interferes with our brain’s ability to function. Seemingly minor health grievances like brain fog, low energy, lowered immune function and poor muscle healing post exercise can all be signs related to sleep issues. If we let it go on, we face potential serious illnesses such as increased cardiovascular risk, metabolic disorders and neurological conditions. Type II diabetes, dementia, Parkinsons, cancer… the list goes on.

So the question really comes down to “how do we get the sleep we need?”. It’s a tough one, and one I face often myself. With demanding schedules, family obligations, and our own personal needs too how exactly are we supposed to get it all done plus manage eight hours of sleep? Many nights we want the right sleep, but for one reason or another it’s just out of our reach.

Let’s work together on improving this in your life. Whether you need techniques to help you fall asleep or stay asleep, I can help. Time management more your issue? Or maybe you simply want to learn more about the right sleep needs of the body. Let’s avoid the cascade of health problems, hormone imbalances, and weight issues that can result from lack of sleep. Let me work with you to build a healthier sleep routine.