Understanding Nutrition & Immune Health

January 30, 2022

There’s a lot of buzz around natural immune boosters and how to optimize diet to prevent illness. Let’s explore the connection between proper nutrition and strong immune health.

It’s the cold and flu season. It’s also the season for people to ask me about the latest cold-prevention strategy like 5-hour energy or vitamin C shots. And I always respond, “why not just eat an orange?” ….

Why should we eat immune-boosting foods and how can our diet support immune health?

There is no one food or nutrient that is going to be the magic aid to our immune system. On the contrary, it’s a wide range of nutrients that we need to support our immune health. Diets that include a variety of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are going to be the most protective to our health, by providing a wide range of micro- and macronutrients that serve various roles in our bodies. Nutrients from food play important roles in all systems of our body, and the immune system is no different.

So what nutrients and their foods can we be including in our diet that will support our immune health?

  • Vitamin C is the most well-known immune system aid, as it plays a key role in the function of our innate and adaptive immune systems. Foods such as citrus fruits, red and green peppers, broccoli, potatoes, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and strawberries are just some of the great sources of vitamin C.
  • Protein is another famous immune system aid, as it promotes healing and recovery, to build up strength. Protein-rich foods include eggs, meat, poultry, cheese, and soy.
  • Vitamin E is a lesser known nutrient to look out for when it comes to immune health. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, fighting free radicals in the body, and studies have shown its ability to support other immune function as well. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, therefore unlike vitamin C, it is well absorbed. Foods full of vitamin E include wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, collard greens, and red pepper.
  • Zinc’s role in immune function has been well established and like protein is important in wound healing. Foods high in zinc include meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grain, dairy, and other fortified products.
  • Probiotics is one of those nutrition terms that gets thrown around a lot. Probiotic foods are fermented foods that complement prebiotic foods, or high fiber (fruits, veggies, whole grain) foods, to colonize the gut with healthy bacteria and protect it. Probiotic foods such as tempeh, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso, also support our immune health through our gut microbiota (our gut bacteria).

Remember that although we can choose a healthy lifestyle, with food, exercise, sleep, and water, to support our immune system – we should also protect ourselves, medically. This can be through vaccines or other medical attention. Speak to your doctor.



Meal Planning 101: First Steps to Mapping Out Your Meals

November 5, 2021

Meal planning can sound like a tedious task that no one has time for. But it’s an important step in health and being a mindful eater. Take a look at how to get started with meal planning today!

Trying to figure out what to eat everyday is hard. Sometimes it feels like we are so bored of all the foods we always eat and just have no appetite for them anymore. It’s not easy to always be creative with our meals, and it’s much easier to order takeout then deal with trying to plan a meal.

This time of year especially I find that this is a struggle. But the health benefits of planning your own meals, and cooking for yourself more than ordering in, outweighs the difficulty of the task. Preparing your own meals gives you control of what your food is, what is being added to it, how it is cooked and prepared, and most importantly the portion served. Having control of what you are eating is a simple first step to getting a handle on your health. When we trust restaurants and other outside sources to prepare our food for us we are trusting that they care about our health. Unfortunately, these are businesses, and our health is not their top priority. By making an effort to shop and cook for yourself you can put your health first and in the end, choose a more fiscally responsible path for yourself.

Where do I start? 

For those of us who eat based on our moods, as opposed to a rigid structure, meal planning is a burdensome task. But meal planning does not have to mean knowing exactly what you are going to eat every minute of every day. It can simply mean, I have an idea of what I want to eat this coming week and I know what ingredients I need to make that happen. Make it realistic for you. If you know that Monday and Tuesday are going to be very busy days for you and are sure that meal prep is not practical, then prepare on Sunday for Monday and Tuesday, and let yourself be flexible on Wednesday through Saturday. The idea with meal planning is to evaluate your lifestyle and make sure your meals fit into it.

Ok, what’s next?

  • Buy a cookbook. Stroll the aisles of your local bookstore and look for an exciting new cookbook that has you looking forward to preparing and eating your next meal. If you feel like a novice with the task of food prep, start with a basic book like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Ease into it. And if you have convinced yourself that you are no good at cooking, then convince yourself that you are!
  • Roam the farmers market or join a CSA. I personally love roaming the market or getting a farm box without knowing what’s going to come in it. It challenges me to try new plants and to get creative with them. It’s like a Chopped challenge. Chat with the vendors at the market and learn about what they grow and when, so you know what to look forward to. Challenging yourself to choose seasonal products gives you the added benefit of knowing that you won’t be eating the same things for too long. With an added bonus of caring for the environment!
  • Get inspired on social media. Although social media can go through trends when it comes to food posts, there is still plenty of content out there to help with planning what you want. Find an account or 2 that shares interesting dishes that intrigue you and keep an eye on it. If a post intrigues you, save it, so you can come back to it when you are ready to cook. Choose ideas that are not too complicated but are still exciting to you, so you are motivated to make it without it feeling like a burden.

Now you’re ready to map it out and get cookin’! Remember that your plate should be half fruits and vegetables, with your grain and protein split on the other half. Use this plate method to decide what dishes will be served when, and with what meal.



Earth-Friendly Approach to Managing Diabetes

October 12, 2021

What’s an earth-friendly diabetic diet? Managing your diabetes in an environmentally conscious way will benefit your health as well as the planet’s! 

It’s candy month! Who doesn’t love roaming the aisles of the grocery to see all the festive Halloween candy? Or to bake a delicious batch of monster cookies!? Admittedly, it’s hard to resist. But we hear a lot about too much refined sugar and ultra-processed foods, and the negative consequences to our health. One of the most popular non-communicable diseases mentioned often is diabetes. Rightfully so, there are 1.5 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes every year, and the numbers are on an upward trajectory.

Bottom line is diabetes is becoming more and more common. So what should you know about diabetes?

Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus (DM), is a disease defined by an increased blood glucose concentration (sugar in our blood) due to our insulin not working properly or problems with insulin secretion, or both. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that aids in our body’s use of glucose for energy. There are 3 main types of DM. Those with Type 1 do not make insulin due to the destruction of the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. They typically require insulin injections as part of their treatment. Those with Type 2 may develop this for a few reasons related to genetics and environmental factors, and this type accounts for most cases of diabetes. Type 2 is caused by a combination of insulin resistance (where your body is desensitized to the action of insulin) and failure of pancreatic cells in producing insulin. Not all require insulin injections as treatment. Type 2 can be managed through diet and exercise, lifestyle, and healthy behavior. And lastly Gestational Diabetes is a form of diabetes that is seen in pregnant women, caused by insulin resistance and increase in hormones that promote reducing insulin production. Consequences of untreated DM include hypo- and hyperglycemic episodes in the short-term, and diseases such as dyslipidemia (increased lipid/fat levels), hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney disorders, eye issues, and nerve damage, in the long-term. 

As dietitians we are trained to counsel in the management, and sometimes, even the reversal of this disease. The dietary management of diabetes aims to keep blood glucose in appropriate ranges and prevent the disease from progressing, by counseling patients with diabetes in balancing macronutrients, most importantly carbohydrates. And if need be, calculate insulin requirements in ratio with carbohydrates eaten. This management is not just what to eat and what not to eat, this is lifestyle management. And at Dining with Nature we talk about our health and the planet’s health, that they are all connected. So how can someone with diabetes manage their lifestyle in an environmentally-conscious way?

Diabetes dietary management is already rooted in an earth-friendly approach. The foundational elements of the diet build a positive relationship with our food and our planet.

  • Revolve your meals around plants. Management of diabetes requires a balance of macronutrients, ensuring that our carbohydrate, fat, protein, and overall energy intake are balanced so as not to eat too much or too little of what is needed and cause an extreme reaction. The carbohydrate counting and exchange system created by the American Diabetic Association, often used in counseling for diabetes, emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as 3 of the 5 food groups, with protein and fat as the other 2. This encourages someone with diabetes to utilize these 3 main food groups of plants, as key components of their diet, similar to a plant-based diet!
  • Decrease intake of highly processed foods. The overuse of salt, sugar, and fat in highly processed foods is a major concern for someone with diabetes, and they are taught how to read food labels in order to be mindful of their food choices that can create an imbalance. This awareness of food products and their nutritional makeup leads to a decreased intake of highly processed foods, and more of a reliance on natural and basic products such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, and legumes. Filling your diet with these main staples, is a proven healthy lifestyle that benefits both you and our planet.
  • Meal planning. A key ingredient to a healthy lifestyle is planning meals. A task not many people are eager to do. But someone with diabetes who is managing their intake, requires a more conscious effort to know what their meals and snacks will be. Not only is this necessary for their health but meal planning has greater consequences in terms of reducing food waste and smart shopping. Taking time to map out what you plan to eat that week, day by day, and what exactly what food items you need in the house to make that happen, will prevent waste, ensure proper blood glucose control, and keep your grocery bills low!

These key lifestyle components of a diabetic diet are important parts of controlling the disease, promoting health, and caring for the environment. It may not seem like clinical care is connected with our food environment, they are actually often closely related and may bring more positive outcomes if used in patient care.



Teaching Your Class Nutrition and Health

August 16, 2021

Let’s get educated! Nutrition education is one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot. But what does it really mean? And how is it used?

The new school year is approaching and there is a lot of talk about how this year is going to look since the pandemic is still very much in our lives. And I recently was discussing how I worry about the “little” things that get sacrificed due to the pandemic, for kids (but also adults), because there are seemingly bigger problems to deal with. This includes healthy meals served at schools and in workplaces, and time for physical activity. But if we have learned anything from this year, it is that these are so important for preventative care. 

For my graduate degree I studied Nutrition Education at Teachers College Columbia University. I decided to major in this for my Masters, because I always saw dietetics as preventative medicine and I wanted to be part of the movement that was speaking to people before there was a problem as well as during. I interned with the NYC Department of Health for their Eat Well Play Hard program in my senior year of college, doing nutrition education in a public school in the Bronx for both students and parents. This experience was the catalyst for my career path (more to come on my experience as a Nutrition Education Program Manager!). I learned how to effectively teach nutrition and foster behavior change that will impact the health and lives of students. 

Dining with Nature by Aderet is a 3-pronged business. We counsel one-on-one via telehealth, working with individuals to reach their health goals. We consult with food brands and businesses that are committed to sustainable practices. And lastly we educate groups, in schools, workplace settings, community organizations, etc. on the why and how to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

What does Nutrition Education offer?

  • Why. We start with the “Why”. Why should we eat fruits and vegetables? Why should we eat less processed foods? Why should we stay active? Why should we eat whole grains? Understanding why we should choose healthy behaviors is a motivator for a healthy lifestyle. Many of the blogs and social media posts I share typically start with a reason WHY, the motivator, and ends with actionable items, the HOW. As people we like to know the reason for doing what we do. We want to understand our actions. When we try to make a behavior change without understanding the reasoning behind it we are less likely to stick with it because we lack the knowledge of the benefits or the harm in not making the change. The WHY in a nutrition education curriculum will depend on the health behavior goal. For instance, if the group wants to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. The why portion of the class will include an activity, lecture, and/or discussion of why we should be eating more fruits and vegetables. What are the benefits, what is the harm in not, and why should we be eating it in the amounts and ways suggested. 
  • How. Then we move into the “How”. How to eat fruits and vegetables. How to reduce processed food intake. How to stay active. How to eat whole grains. We may read articles or watch films that motivate us to make a behavior change, but then leave us with little information on how to actually implement these changes into our lives. As Dietitians, we are trained on how to guide people in implementing changes into their lives that are practical for them, otherwise known as individualized care. The how portion of the class includes an activity that is something that can be repeated on your own, such as a cooking class or a prep exercise, and ends with a discussion of what barriers you may see to adding this to your lifestyle and what are ways to overcome this. Nutrition is trial and error. Meaning what works for one person may not work for you and with some patience to try different methods of action, you may be able to make subtle changes to your lifestyle that lead to healthier and happier you.
  • What Nutrition Education does Dining with Nature offer? DWN uses this framework to educate your group. We work with you to understand the audience and what the needs are. We then create a curriculum of up to 6 lessons, for a group of max 30 people, that is tailored for your groups’ needs, specific goals that relate to them. This curriculum can be made for an internal employee or leader to implement on their own, or can be made for me to lead the classes. Dining with Nature Nutrition Education emphasizes the message of environmental consciousness in our food and activity choices. Our curriculums include a component of creating a connection with our food, our bodies, and our surroundings to facilitate a nature-focused approach to health.

To book your complimentary consultation and see if your group is a good fit for DWN Nutrition Education, head to our Services page here.



Planning for Summer Fun

July 19, 2021

As we slowly, cautiously reemerge now that many people are vaccinated and socializing more, we are excited to have a season that is known for hang outs and traveling. Follow this guide for how to navigate summer events and stay on track with healthy eating!

Summertime means socializing, gathering with friends and family, fun in the sun, parties, and a whole lot of food to go with it. Food that you didn’t prepare, menus you didn’t make, and choices that are out of your control. I’ve been eating plant-based for over a decade and I sympathize with those who are trying to be conscious eaters and have to navigate a social scene.

It’s not easy to leave your comfort zone, or your home, where you know exactly what to expect in terms of food. You have made all the decisions from what to buy, how to prepare it, and when to eat it. Although people have learned how to accommodate plant-based eaters at events, I still experience times where there is simply nothing I am going to eat. And I don’t consider this “picky”, I think of this as being an informed eater and wanting to make healthy choices. 

For those who are worried about how to get through this summer and not divert too far away from your eating plan at the countless events, here are some tips and tricks:

  • Eat ahead of time. Don’t go to the event hungry. If you are headed to a party or dinner at a friend’s place, don’t rely too heavily on the meal to be your main meal. Be willing to arrive at the event with the plan to eat so as not to seem rude, and having eaten most of your meal beforehand.
  • Offer to bring a dish. If you are attending a party or meal that you can offer to bring something. This is a great way to ensure there is at least one dish you can eat at the meal that you made. I often offer to make the salad or the grain, this way I can eat something at the meal and finish eating later at home.
  • Check the menu. If you are going to a restaurant, never arrive without having seen the menu beforehand. Decide what you are going to eat before you get there, and be willing to speak up and ask the kitchen to make adjustments to your order. Whether that means adding, swapping out, or omitting something from the plate. Game plan!
  • Don’t go for the food. Think of summer events as places to socialize, not as places to eat. Try not to get caught up in the excitement of all the food that you are going to have access to. Instead, think of events as a place to catch up with friends and/or family, have fun, and not as a place for your next meal.
  • When you are done, be done. If you are able to eat at the event, great! When you are done, remove your plate. Avoid continuing to snack on the food that is out, whether on buffet tables or on the main table. It is easy to snack ‘n talk. Avoid this by removing your plate, and filling your glass with water. There is nothing worse than overeating in the summertime, heat and bloat are not good friends.

Don’t stress all your summer plans, you can do it! Take it one event at a time and don’t punish yourself for enjoying it. Be willing to eat the foods you like, in moderation and in your control.



Plant-Based Kiddos

June 23, 2021

Raising children on a plant-based diet does not have to be concerning or complicated. Learn what to look out for and best methods for optimizing nutrition for your growing, plant-based kiddos!

We live in a world with so many food choices and yet it’s not always easy to feed our kids, for a few reasons. It could simply be that your child has particular preferences. Or perhaps they have food allergies, such as eggs and dairy, eliminating go-to calcium and protein sources that parents rely on to provide good nutrition to their children. Other times, when children become teenagers, they decide to experiment with veganism or vegetarianism for similar reasons that adults do. Whatever the reason may be – we may find our children eating a diet heavy in plants.

There is a big belief that veganism and vegetarianism is not a healthy lifestyle for children. Since the main concern for a Dietitian when it comes to counseling children is “are they growing and developing at the rate they should be?”, we tend to lean in the direction of “do not eliminate any food”. Ensure they are getting the maximum nutrition they can be.

So let’s discuss what to look out for when raising plant-based kids.

  • Children are balls of energy and they need calories to support this. More calories than sometimes the average adult. And as they start reaching adolescence the amount gradually increases. Although we have seen more and more children experiencing obesity and high-caloric intakes, when a child is on a plant-based diet they might experience the opposite – too few calories. Non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, etc are delicious snacks but provide few calories to the day. Try pairing these kinds of snacks with a hummus dip, nut butter or cheese, guacamole, or olive oil drizzle to enhance taste and add a few calories.
  • Protein is tricky. We tend to really harp on our protein needs. And with children, it’s true that insufficient protein intake during periods of growth can be harmful. We need to be mindful that children are receiving enough. Of course there is always the option of purchasing chicken, fish, cheese and eggs from sustainable and reputable sources as protein options. However we can also get protein from foods such as tofu, beans, lentils, chickpeas, green peas, nuts, soy milk, etc. Also fruits and vegetables like broccoli, potatoes, spinach, and brussel sprouts. Plant-based eaters will need to eat their protein throughout the day to meet their needs since tofu or potatoes may not provide what a piece of chicken can in one meal. And that’s ok!
  • It’s not uncommon for parents to find out their child is iron deficient from their pediatrician. This happens for a few reasons but a growing child, especially those in rapid growth stages, are more likely to experience this. When people think iron they think red meat, but there are so many other options out there! Try spinach, legumes, seeds, quinoa, broccoli, tofu, and even dark chocolate. Another neat trick is to cook in an iron caste skillet. The iron lining leaks into the food that you cook, as an easy fortification.
  • Growing kids means bone health. And bone health means calcium and vitamin D. But this does not have to mean eggs, milk and dairy. It can mean those but some plant-based sources of these micronutrients include mushrooms, fortified drinks (i.e. soy milk and orange juice), dark leafy greens, beans, legumes, and grains. And don’t forget sunshine!
  • Vitamin B12 is on the list because the main sources of this vitamin are organ meats, milk, eggs, fish, and cheese. Which becomes problematic for strict vegans and some vegetarians. If there is a nutrient to be concerned about in a vegan or vegetarian diet it is this one, and it should be mentioned more. B12 is an essential vitamin to many processes in our bodies and we need to be aware of our intake. Supplementation is definitely an option if someone is choosing to eliminate all animal products from their diet, and seeking out the help of a Dietitian is always a good idea.
  • Lastly, it’s important to mention fiber. Fiber is essential for digestive health, heart health, preventing diabetes and obesity, and this is just as important in growing kids. Children on a plant-based diet have an advantage in this arena because a diet that is  focused on fruits, vegetables, and WHOLE grains will provide all the fiber you need. But vegetarian and vegan diets that become heavy in junk foods like french fries, soda, candy, and other treats – tend to defeat the purpose. That is why I emphasize these lifestyles as plant-based.

All in all, ensuring that your child’s diet has a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is going to be very beneficial during their growing years. It will provide the nutrients their bodies need, without having to harp on each individual nutrient, and really seeing the body and nutrition as a complex system working altogether. Our bodies are smart and they want us to be healthy. We should listen to them and work with them. If you are worried that your child is not meeting their nutrient needs, talk to your doctor about seeing a Dietitian.



Plant-Based BBQ

May 24, 2021

Looking to shake things up this BBQ season? Follow this plant-based guide for a delicious, earth-friendly BBQ menu.

All my plant-based buddies out there do not look forward to the grilling season. Although it’s always fun to go to a Memorial Day BBQ hang or a July 4th rooftop bash, when all there is to eat is white bread, burgers, hot dogs, potato chips, and beer – it’s kind of disappointing. But BBQs don’t have to mean meat meat meat, they can be just as yummy without a meat and poultry focus, albeit slightly non-traditional. Here are some of my favorite swap outs and additions to make your BBQ a feast of healthy, plant-based goodness:

  • Shish kebabs were made for plant-based eaters! Skewer all your favorite veggies – peppers, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms – and if you want something meaty on it, try some of the vegan sausages from Beyond meat or even chunks of seitan. Brush some BBQ sauce on your skewer and throw it on the grill. Seitan gets a bad rap because of it’s high gluten content, but it’s a great source of plant-based protein, it’s low in fat, and can be enjoyed every once in a while.
  • No cookout should go without a salad. I got you! I pride myself on being a salad wizard. Maybe that’s predictable for a Dietitian. Check out my recipes page for a spring salad that is light and filling. It’s always a good idea to start a meal with a small plate of vegetables full of fiber, to keep you feeling full and prevent you from overeating.
  • If you must have burgers at a BBQ, I can understand – luckily we have substitutes now that work just as well, if not better. Beyond meat and Impossible meat both offer plant-based alternatives that can easily replace your traditional ground beef. Or shop at your local farmer’s market for sustainably sourced options of meat, chicken, and fish. It’s important to know where the animal products are coming from and how they were raised. Although this might be more pricey, the earth and your health will thank you later!
  • Once you have your burger ready, you need to top it with all the fixings. Pickles of course, maybe some sliced avocado, and for a slaw try a cabbage slaw with a vinegar-based dressing for a crunchy texture but slightly more heart-healthy than the traditional mayo-drenched slaws.  
  • Pass on the deep fried potatoes and soggy potato salads this year, and go for a simple baked potato “fry”. Slice up your potatoes or sweet potatoes into strips, toss them in some olive oil, salt & pepper, and cook them at 425*F for about 35 minutes. You’ll get a delicious, crispy fry without all the soaked up grease.
  • Don’t skip dessert! End your big meal with something sweet and refreshing to signal to your body you are done eating. Slice up a watermelon or make a fruit salad bowl for dessert. If you are looking to get creative with it try a watermelon, feta, and mint salad or a watermelon “pizza” with yogurt and topped with other fruits. Watermelon is loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium – all nutrients we want for healthy eyes, a strong immune system, and controlled blood pressure. And as a water-based fruit, it’s a delicious way to stay hydrated in the summer sun.

Use these plant-based tips to throw a unique, earth-friendly, BBQ this summer!



Making Sense of Nutrition Labels

May 12, 2021

Food labels can be confusing and require us to do calculations. But as a consumer, you should want to know what you are eating.

Here’s the scoop – nutrition facts labels only tell you some of the story, there’s more. Food companies are only going to tell you what they HAVE to tell you. It’s up to you to figure out the rest. Which is not always so simple. Here’s a helpful guide to make sense of food labels:

  • Before you get overwhelmed with the numbers, calories, fats, etc. take a look at the list of the ingredients. The list is not random. Ingredients are listed by amount. Meaning, whatever ingredient is the largest proportionately in the recipe, that is the ingredient you will see first. So if there is a lot of sugar or salt or oil in the food item, they are going to be listed as one of the first ingredients. This is important to note because we should know the composition of the foods we eat. Another pro tip: the shorter the list, the better. Less is more when it comes to nutrition.
  • Next, look at the Serving Size. This is the tricky part. They typically use a large font on the calories to draw you in and make you overlook the serving size, but we need to understand all the data in terms of how much per serving. So if 2 Tbsp of peanut butter is the serving size noted on the jar label, then everything you read below needs to be calculated in terms of 2 Tbsp.
  • Let’s continue with this example for calories and macronutrients. If that same jar of peanut butter, notes 90 calories and XXgm of Total Fat, XXgm of Total Carbohydrate and XXgm of Protein, be aware that if you eat 4 Tbsp of peanut butter then you are consuming double of calories, fat, carbs, and protein that are noted on the label.
  • Many people may not even look at % Daily Value but it’s actually the most useful thing on the label, in my opinion. We don’t eat nutrients, we eat food. And food is a complex mix of nutrients that our bodies need to do what it does. So % Daily Value helps us understand the bigger picture. In other words, if I eat 2 Tbsp of this peanut butter what percentage of my daily needs/allowances of nutrients does this cover?
  • Greens don’t always have to be spinach or kale, another option you may find in the spring is swiss chard. Rainbow chard has those beautiful rainbow-colored stalks that immediately draw you in. Swiss chard is another great source for your Vitamins A, C, and K. Use these colorful and versatile greens in a basic veggie saute or in soup, but if you are looking to get creative, try using it in a quiche recipe. This can be a dairy based quiche or a vegan quiche.
  • And to take it a step further, food labels don’t even tell you much about the micronutrients and the trace minerals. Because in reality it’s not difficult to consume what we need for most of these. But ones that do show up are sodium, potassium, you may see Vitamin A, calcium, iron, etc. Sodium is important to note. We consume much more sodium than we need, 2300 milligrams a day is typically all we need and it’s a lot easier to exceed that limit than you think. If you feel bloated, measuring your sodium intake is a good place to start. But the great thing about Sodium is that it is balanced out by our potassium intake. Foods high in potassium include artichokes, bananas, apricots, prunes, nuts, etc. so when you think sodium, think potassium.

All in all, nutrition facts labels can be useful but they require knowledge. Don’t be so quick to  label a food “bad” because you saw too many calories or too much sodium. Food is not that simple and there is more to decipher from a label. And labels are improving! The addition of trans fats, added sugar, dietary fiber, these are all so useful to know. So utilize the label even if it means spending 30 extra seconds looking at an item before you throw it in your shopping cart.



Understanding My Carbon Foodprint

May 6, 2021

There is a lot of jargon associated with sustainable living, don’t get too overwhelmed by all the terms and phrases. Carbon footprint is another way of saying impact on our planet’s health.

When we think of our carbon footprint, we typically refer to our impact on the environment from travel and our reliance on one-use items. One big overlooked piece of our personal carbon footprint is actually related to our diet. Our food choices, what we eat and where we buy it from, can greatly impact the environment.

What is your carbon footprint?

It is a measure of our impact on the environment. It is a calculation of the greenhouse gas emissions that get trapped in the atmosphere from the process of production. Carbon dioxide, the gas emission associated with humans, is where the term “carbon footprint” gets its name, however there are other gases of concern such as methane and nitrous oxide. What is important to understand and know is that our actions, from travel to energy use to diet, all play a role in the climate crisis and changing our habits is imperative and necessary. To learn more about your own carbon footprint, check out this interactive NY Times article.

Let’s focus on food. 

What food choices can we make that will lower our impact on the environment.

  • Let’s start with: eat more plants. You hear this one a lot because, well, plants are just so good for you and for this earth, it’s a fantastic win-win. We know how plants are healthy for us. But producing plants is beneficial to earth, to our soil, especially when we choose to grow varieties as opposed to monocrops or cash crops (corn, wheat, and soy). We should celebrate biodiversity by eating all of the plants, and encouraging our policymakers to invest in agroecology.
  • Next, less animal products. I’ll never tell you to stop eating meat, poultry, fish, and/or dairy. That is a personal choice. I may, however, suggest lowering your intake. Why? The impact of meat production on our environment and on the workers that produce it, is very costly. Beef has the greatest carbon footprint of any food item, from the raising of methane-producing cattle all the way to the working conditions of processing plants. We should be conscious to lower our intake and purchase from reputable vendors.
  • Shop locally and seasonally. I recommend purchasing your produce nearby, this is to lower our carbon footprint in terms of transportation but really it’s about supporting your local economy and local growers. What is going to benefit our earth, is eating seasonally. Eat what is available, don’t try to grow something that isn’t meant to be grown right now. In other words, let nature tell us what to eat instead of trying to beat nature. When we work so hard to overcome nature in order to eat strawberries in January we hurt our environment because it requires unnatural methods to make it happen.
  • Reduce food waste. Lastly, reduce food waste and compost. Buy what you need, shop smart, don’t overthink it. And make the most of what you have. There are ways to make stocks out of scraps and to compost instead of throwing everything in the trash.
  • Making small changes, over time. As always, making changes is not easy. If we try to do too much as once we are setting ourselves up to fail. Reaching long-term goals by taking on smaller short-term goals is a more productive approach. Try making one small easy change, for your week. See if this works and be open to modifying. Have regular check-ins with yourself to see how you are feeling and if you are happy with your food choices.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be on a good track to a more healthy and sustainable life for you and our planet. 



How to Become a Spring-Time Chef

April 30, 2021

If shopping in the produce section for your plant-based meals is overwhelming, follow this simple guide to pick out nutritious and delicious goodies to cook up this Spring.

I’ve got spring fever! Yay for the start of the growing season and the season of farmer’s markets, CSAs and all the plant-based goodies. Let’s take a look at some of the fruits and veggies we have coming our way this spring and what delicious dishes we can make.

  • You probably have heard a lot about “ramps season”. Ramps look like a green onion that tastes like garlic. They are not hard to miss, mostly because of their smell but also due to the fact that you can only find them for a short time in the spring and we go crazy for them! Ramps are packed with vitamin A and C, making them essential to our eye health and immune system. They also are known for their antioxidant content, an important element our bodies need to fight off cancer-causing free radicals.  So how should we use this nutritious allium? I recommend throwing these on the grill, serving them in your salad or as a side to add in to your entree such as a sandwich. They are so flavorful and can elevate almost any dish!
  • Next up we have asparagus. Where to even start with this superstar?! You may find these stalks as the traditional green variety, or white, or even purple. Asparagus is loaded with nutrients. They are a great addition to a balanced diet. Some nutrients to highlight are Fiber, keeps cholesterol down and gut healthy, Magnesium and Calcium for muscle and bone health, Vitamin K  for blood clotting and bone health, and Riboflavin and Thiamin, B vitamins that are essential for digestion of macronutrients and brain function. Asparagus is best simply roasted with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Or if you want to get creative with your veggie sushi rolls, you can put these in your roll to add a little crunch.
  • Let’s not forget the overlooked green peas. Fresh green peas get a bad rep because of canned and frozen peas, that can be like eating overcooked mush. Also, it’s the go-to veggie you see at every dinner table on tv and in movies. But if you get a batch of freshly grown peas, you may change your mind about this legume. Also a green vegetable that boasts Vitamin K, Fiber, and Vitamin C. Additionally peas are a good plant source for Protein. Great as a stand alone side dish, in a salad, or my personal favorite is a green pea pesto you can add to toast or pasta.
  • The most favorite fruit, strawberries! No one doesn’t love strawberries. If you are given a bowl of fruit salad, I guarantee you pick out and eat the strawberries first. Strawberries are Vitamin C bombs! Keeping our immune system strong, aids in absorbing iron, and promotes wound healing. If you want to do more than have these as a snack, they go great in a smoothie, or as an addition to a spinach salad with some almonds or pecans, or even as a homemade compote.
  • Greens don’t always have to be spinach or kale, another option you may find in the spring is swiss chard. Rainbow chard has those beautiful rainbow-colored stalks that immediately draw you in. Swiss chard is another great source for your Vitamins A, C, and K. Use these colorful and versatile greens in a basic veggie saute or in soup, but if you are looking to get creative, try using it in a quiche recipe. This can be a dairy based quiche or a vegan quiche.
  • Artichokes don’t get a lot of love outside of the mediterranean area. They are such a great vegetable, packed with nutrients, and great flavor. No wonder it’s everyone’s favorite party dip! Another micronutrient-rich veggie that you can’t miss. My favorite go-to veggie for Potassium, an important mineral for controlling blood pressure. Don’t get intimidated by a raw artichoke. Once you have these prepped and cooked, they are a great snack, or addition to almost any dish. I love to chop them up and throw them into my veggie tacos, or in my bowl of pasta. Really goes well in almost anything!
  • And finally, we have the best and messiest springtime snack, cherries. I love eating a handful of cherries and end up with red, sticky fingers. This fruit supplies a hearty dose of Fiber, Vitamin C, and Potassium to your diet. Besides eating these as a snack, there is nothing more delicious than a tart cherry pie.

Hope this list helps eliminate some of that “writer’s block” we get when thinking of what to cook or dishes to make. If there was ever a time to get cooking in the kitchen, it’s spring and summer. So don’t waste any time!