How to detect food myths like a scientist

How to detect food myths like a scientist

Part of the frustration around nutrition is that we read the ideas and theories of so many different influencers, bloggers, physicians, and nutritionists on every corner of the web. In addition, we see catchy and misleading advertisements trying to get our attention and money. And to top it all off, the news headlines tend to share just a snippet of the latest research studies in a way that can have us questioning what we once knew to be true. This all makes it seem like nutrition science is useless and nobody is right!

Before you throw your hands in the air and give up, listen to what Dr. Chaney has to say. Dr. Chaney is a retired professor of human metabolism who knows a thing or two about the scientific method. He is passionate about helping consumers think more like scientists so we can make sense of the latest news in nutrition and spot the hype.

In his book, Slaying the Food Myths, he writes in detail about how to do this, but I’d like to share some highlights with you here.

How to think like a scientist

First, look at the totality of available research.

You can find a study or two that proves just about anything. This makes it easy for people to cherry-pick one or two research studies that support their theory and disregard the other studies that may disprove it. A good scientist will look at all the research and consider what the majority of high-quality studies show. Never base your opinion on a single study, rather look at the “weight of available evidence.”

Secondly, know that all studies have flaws.

No study is perfect. Some are better than others, but they all will have limitations. Sometimes the study is too short. Sometimes it has confounding variables (unexpected things that influence the outcome.) Sometimes the sample size is too small or not a good representative of the entire population. Because of this, there is no none perfect clinical study that proves or disproves a hypothesis. That’s why it is essential to look at several studies and understand what types of studies are available.

Understand the different types and phases of scientific research.

Third – The art of scientific discovery has different phases; first, we test a theory in the lab. If it shows promising results, then we try the theory on animals. Lastly, we see if it relates to humans. Many new and exciting research that makes the news headlines are done on animals. That is a factor we need to consider when hearing new research snippets. Unfortunately, only 1/10 of animal studies work out to also be accurate/helpful for humans.

Much of what we know about diets and health is from association studies. While these have provided many valuable insights, they have significant weaknesses. Association studies can’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship. They also can’t indeed account for all the possible unintended associations that may have influenced the outcome. For example, if you look at diet soda intake and weight, you may find that those who drink diet sodas are overweight. Is there a positive association because diet sodas cause weight gain, or is it because those who are overweight tend to drink more diet sodas to lose weight or control calorie intake?

The gold standard for research is a double-blind intervention study, where participants are randomized into a control and intervention group without the researchers or the participants knowing which group they are in. But unfortunately, this type of research is nearly impossible to conduct when the intervention is diet. So we must understand the limitations of what we know from association studies around diets.

Take into consideration individual variability.

Lastly, although we can gain a lot of good information from research studies, we must remember that we are all different, and dietary results may vary vastly. Research studies report the average response to a particular diet or food. However, if you look at each individual in studies, you’ll see that a specific food or diet works well for some study participants and doesn’t work at all for others. Consider this your reminder to pay attention to how your body responds to foods and dietary patterns and trust what it tells you.

Save some time

If you rather save time and find a trusted resource: check out Dr. Chaney’s books and his blog. You can also check out the conversations between the Health Geeks and Dr. Chaney on the podcast. Lastly, your friendly dietitians can help you make sense of the hype and point you in the right direction to meet your health and wellness goals. Book a free clarity call today.

Are you friends with your nervous system?

Are you friends with your nervous system?

The nervous system is at the heart of our daily experience and works in the background outside of our conscience awareness. It can shape the way we experience the world, including how we think and feel about food and our bodies. It also can affect our digestion, heart rate, and immune system.

You’ve likely heard of the gut-brain connection. Part of that connection includes the vagus nerve, which carries an extensive range of signals from the digestive system and organs to the brain and vice versa.

 
Image Source: https://www.nicabm.com/

Did you know there are 3 modes that your nervous system supports and will switch between throughout the day? According to the polyvagal theory, they are:

  • Safe and Social mode – feeling comfortable, connected, and safe in our environment
  • Fear or Flight mode – feeling anxious, threatened, fearful, or wary of surroundings
  • Shut Down mode – feeling dissociated, numb, disconnected, tired, shameful

All modes are helpful in some way for our survival, but as you can probably guess we feel and function our best in that safe and social mode.

A high level of stress/anxiety or unresolved trauma can make it hard to stay or get in the safe and social mode. This can make eating mindfully and being in tune with your body quite challenging.

That is one reason why your Well Balanced dietitians encourage you to build up your self-care toolbox. These activities often build resilience and support a calmer nervous system. It’s part of the mind-body connection that can improve your well-being, support a healthy digestive system, and make it easier to build healthier eating habits.

4 ways you can support your nervous system.

  • Listen to your favorite music while paying close attention to the lyrics and instrumentals.
  • Breathe in slowly to the count of four and release to the count of seven. Do this for 5 minutes.
  • Do some gentle stretching, even if it’s for just a couple of minutes.
  • Watch something funny.

Hungry for more info about your nervous system?

3 Steps to Super Tender and Flavorful Chicken Thighs

3 Steps to Super Tender and Flavorful Chicken Thighs

In this episode of Cooking with Chef Christy we get a brief overview (#lifehack) for adding juicy flavors without the fancy #sousvide equipment. She walks us through starting with a flavorful marinade for protein of your choice (such as chicken thighs). Then you cook them briefly on the grill. Lastly, you put the meat back in the marinade and bake in the oven for a flavor packed #protein.

Doing these steps in this order means that the active cooking time is finished early. You can use this passive cooking time to finish work, go play or prepare any other foods for this meal.

For more help making delicious meals like these, contact us to talk about how you can make more Well Balanced meals at home: https://wellbalancednutrition.com/contact-us/ #cooking #wellbalanced #homemade

First Add Flavor:

A marinade is a fairly quick way to add a ton of flavor to your chicken. We have this DIY recipe for you or you can buy premade spice blends at the store.

Option 1 – Moroccan Marinade (Recipe listed at the bottom of this post.)

Option 2 – Curry Blend (Recipe listed at the bottom of this post.)

Second Sear In The Flavor:

Grill the chicken for 10 minutes to for some caramelization and a bit of char if you’re into that. This step also adds a bit of texture, which holds up even after the finishing step.

Lastly, Finish Cooking In Oven:

In this method, the marinade doesn’t just flavor the outside of the chicken. Braising (which is what’s happening in the oven) allows these flavors to better penetrate the chicken. It also puts any excess marinade to good use here, as too much moisture on the grill tends to get messy.

Moroccan Chicken

  • 1  1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 3 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric optional
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Directions
  • Whisk together all ingredients, except chicken, together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add chicken and let marinade while grill heats or up to 12 hours.
  • Preheat grill.
  • Place chicken breasts on grill, brushing on additional marinade over top. Grill, covered, for 5-6 minutes per side.
  • Place seasoned, grilled chicken thighs into an oven-safe dish, along with any leftover marinade.
  • Add 1-2 ounces of chicken broth.  *In a pinch, just use water. You’ll have plenty of flavors already.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in a 350-degree oven for 60- 90 minutes. The chicken should be tender and fork-shreddable after 60 minutes but can cook longer for more tenderness.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and gently shred the chicken with a fork before serving. You can also serve the chicken in larger pieces if desired.
  • SUGGESTION: Serve w/ rice, peppers, green olives, lemon. Add cilantro if you have it. You can use cauliflower rice, whole grain rice, couscous or your favorite grain.

Notes:

  • While many ethnic foods have a reputation for being spicy, they don’t have to be. It’s very easy to omit chiles and build up a tolerance over time if you wish.
  • Fresh spices make a difference. Use dried spices within 3 months of opening for the best flavor.

Curry Chicken

Ingredients
  • 1 T ground coriander seeds
  • 1 T ground turmeric
  • 2 t ground fenugreek seeds
  • 2 t ground cumin seeds
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • ½ t ground black pepper
  • ¼ t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ t ground cloves
  • ¼ t ground cardamom
  • ¼ t ground cayenne peppers (optional)
  • coconut milk or Chicken Broth*
  • 1 lb chicken thighs
Directions
  • Whisk together all ingredients, except chicken, together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add chicken and let marinade while grill heats or up to 12 hours.
  • Preheat grill.
  • Place chicken breasts on grill, brushing on additional marinade over top. Grill, covered, for 5-6 minutes per side.
  • Place seasoned, grilled chicken thighs into an oven-safe dish, along with any leftover marinade.
  • Add 1-2 ounces of chicken broth or coconut milk.  *In a pinch, just use water. You’ll have plenty of flavors already.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in a 350-degree oven for 60- 90 minutes. The chicken should be tender and fork-shreddable after 60 minutes but can cook longer for more tenderness.
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and gently shred the chicken with a fork before serving. You can also serve the chicken in larger pieces if desired.
  • SUGGESTION: Serve w/ jasmine rice, shreds of zucchini, and carrots

Notes:

  • I (Christy) like a brighter, more floral curry powder and favor a little more turmeric and less cumin than some blends.
  • Fresh spices make a difference. Use dried spices within 3 months of opening for the best flavor.
  • Plain Greek yogurt (full fat) makes a great base for the marinade too if you have this rather than coconut milk.
Dietitians Give Meal Prep Solution a Try and Here’s What They Thought

Dietitians Give Meal Prep Solution a Try and Here’s What They Thought

Meal planning and preparation are some of the most common struggles we (Lucy, Kristen and Bella) hear about from clients. Whether it’s due to a time constraint, creative block, picky eaters at home, or disinterest in cooking, meal planning and prep often take a back seat in many of our lives. That’s why at Well Balanced we are always looking for new ways to help our clients plan and cook their meals without breaking the bank or requiring hours in the kitchen. So over the past few weeks Kristen and Bella decided to give some meal prep help a try from a local company, Long Life Meal Prep. 

Check out our reviews below!

Bella: 

If you were to talk to my friends and family you would quickly learn I am often the butt of many jokes due to the oxymoron of being a RD that doesn’t always do a good job at feeding herself. Between my work schedule and being a full time student, I often lack the motivation (and time)  to cook 3 meals a day. If I don’t meal prep on Sundays, then I often struggle to come up with dinner ideas. That’s why, just like my clients, I am always looking for new tips and tricks to get nutritious fuel without the hassle. 

So when I had the chance to try Long Life Meal Prep, I couldn’t resist. I found that their meals were a good base, and that adding some additional sauces, spices, and veggies took them to the next level. The convenience was the best part. All I had to do was reheat, add some additional flavors and within minutes BOOM, dinner was served! 

Chickpeas, spaghetti, and spinach – one of Bella’s favorites.

Veggie burritos with cilantro lime dressing

Kristen:

Countless times I tell myself I am going to put together a nice lunch for myself but something stops me from following through with lunch prep- whether it’s the overwhelm of starting or simply time already feeling stretched thin. If I’m lucky, I’ll have leftovers to reheat, but I’m not going to lie some days I end up just eating a granola bar or scramble to put a ho-hum lunch together.

I was excited to get a little help from Long Life Meal Prep since I can be so inconsistent with lunch. It’s funny how making a family dinner that we will all enjoy together is a lot easier to prioritize than my individual lunches. I know I’m not alone because I hear all the time from clients who agree that cooking for yourself is a lot harder to do.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner you have a hard time keeping up with, consider getting a little help. It was so nice having these meals ready for me when things got busy. Why not take something off your plate and make healthy eating easier?

Mixed vegetables with potatoes, kale, carrots, and mushrooms. Kristen added leftover chicken and curry powder to round out the meal and reheated in a skillet.

Chicken and zucchini covered with tomato sauce and cheese.

Pro Tips for Using a Meal Prep service like Long Life Meal Prep:

Letting someone take over the job of prepping frees up more brain space and creativity to make the meals work for you. Don’t assume that every meal is perfect for you as is. Put some time and effort into making it satisfying and filling. These meals often start at a low calorie level. You may need more energy to make it through the day. Here’s what you can add to your meals.

  • Flavor. Some meals are loaded with flavor like Bourbon Grilled Chicken or Honey Sriracha Chicken Bowl. If you choose a more basic meal, think of it as a blank slate to add your own type of flare! It can quickly be jazzed up with your favorite sauce or seasoning blends.  Flavor boosters don’t have to add a ton of extra calories or unneccesary ingredients if you make your own or pick high-quality store bought versions. (Need help? Lucy and Bella will be sharing fast and easy ways to add flavor to your meals on this month’s webinar. Sign up now!)
  • Fiber. Some meals may be too low in carbohydrates for you and could use a fiber boost. Simply add some whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans, or your favorite bread to the meal to round it out and make it complete.
  • Fun. Long Life Meal Prep has some fun snack/dessert options that are made with minimal sugar and added protein. Adding fun items like this to your routine in addition to Well Balanced meals will make it easier to eat well without feeling like you are missing out on anything.

A few more tips:

  • If you have time, heat your meals in an air fyer, toaster oven or on a skillet. This delivers the best flavor and quality.
  • If you can’t eat your meal within the week, keep them in the freezer for later. The day before you are ready to eat it, put it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight before heating the next day.
  • Need help getting your meals just right? Give them a call. They will be happy to work with you to personalize your order.

Meals are tightly sealed to stay fresh.

Having the nutrition facts allows you to customize your meals to meet your nutrition needs.

Wanna Try Long Life Meal Prep, too? Here’s how:

Long Life Meal Prep is a company based in Jamestown, NC, but they ship anywhere. If you live near one of their “pick-up” locations you can save 20% off your order by dropping in to grab your meals each week.

Here’s how to order:

  • Simply browse the menu
  • Add meals, snacks and juices to your cart
  • Select either delivery or find your pick up location at check out
  • Enjoy your food!

Ready to try? Use the code: WellBalance10 to get 10% off your first order! Put Well Balanced Nutrition in the comments section on follow up orders to let them know who sent them.

Nutrition Tips for the Onset of Menopause

Nutrition Tips for the Onset of Menopause

Menopause. The change. Whatever you call it, it’s important to remember that it’s not a disease to be treated, but rather a normal stage of life. Menopause “officially” starts 12 months after your last period. That happens, on average, around the age of 51.  Perimenopause often starts in the early- to mid-40s. This is when some may start feeling symptoms like:

  • Weight gain—especially around the midsection
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mood fluctuations

Why does this even happen? Some of the reasons behind all these changes include your changing hormones, metabolism, stress levels, and lifestyle.

Because your body goes through all these changes, its nutritional needs also change. Here are some expert nutrition tips to help you navigate the onset of menopause.

Nutrition tips for Perimenopause and Menopause

1. Hydration is Helpful

Some key menopausal symptoms may be improved simply by drinking more fluids. If hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, or bladder infections are affecting you, try drinking at least six 8-oz glasses of water per day to help hydrate you. It’s important to remember that we all slowly lose our sense of thirst with age. This means you can become less hydrated without even noticing it, through no fault of your own. So find ways to make it easy and appealing to sip on a hydrating beverage all day long. If water is challenging to drink, try herbal teas or jazz up your water with a lemon or lime. Start early in the morning so you get your fluids in well before it wakes you up in the middle of the night.

2. Rethink that Night Time Drink

Although that glass of wine feels like a great way to unwind at the end of the day, think about whether it is truly helpful. Alcohol can worsen hot flashes and make it harder to stay asleep. It can also increase your risk of getting or worsening many health conditions. Not to mention it can make you forgetful and confused, and can even lead to loss of muscle mass, balance problems, falls, and accidents. A nightly glass of wine may also be contributing unnecessary calories, especially with a heavy pour.

3. Cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar

If hot flashes bother you, consider avoiding common triggers like spicy foods and caffeine.

When it comes to sugar, the simplest way to cut down is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with water or herbal tea. Also, excess sugar can be coming from things like chocolate, doughnuts, pastries, desserts, and snacks. If the thought of cutting out all sweets doesn’t sound fair (we agree), try eating smaller portions or even half-sized desserts. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate more sweets, fats, and snacks suffered from menopausal symptoms more than those who ate more fruits and vegetables. We’re talking hot flashes, night sweats, muscle and joint problems, and bladder issues were all worse for the dessert-lovers. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself completely! Find creative ways to enjoy sweets in a new, healthier way.

4. Be mindful of your energy needs. 

For most, metabolism slows down gradually as we age. It happens for many reasons including the fact that we tend to move around less throughout the day, exercise less, and we lose muscle mass that doesn’t get used regularly.  This means that by continuing to eat the same amount of food as you did in your 30s and 40s, you’ll start gaining weight. On average, women in their 50s and 60s gain about 1.5 pounds every year. Mindful eating can help. Try starting with smaller portions and paying attention to how much you need to feel full and satisfied.

PRO TIP: Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime, particularly if you have trouble sleeping.

5. Eat higher-quality foods

Focus on quality foods packed with nutrients (i.e., nutrient-dense foods). Think fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Eating enough protein cans support your muscles and bones. You can get protein from legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and/or poultry. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate the most greens had the fewest complaints about typical menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. By eating more nutrient-dense foods like these ones you’ll get more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein—all of which are very important to maintain your health at and beyond menopause.

PRO TIP:  Your bones love calcium and vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of these are dairy products, fish with bones, and foods fortified with these nutrients (check your labels).

Bottom Line

A few simple diet and lifestyle changes can help you navigate the onset of menopause.

Be sure to drink enough fluids, but minimize alcohol; cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar; eat mindfully and focus on higher-quality food. Lastly, include soy foods in your diet if you enjoy them, but don’t expect it to miraculously solve any bothersome menopausal symptoms.

If you’d like personalized nutrition recommendations and coaching to help you feel your best during perimenopause and menopause, let’s start with a phone conversation to see how we can help! Set up a call today. 

Related: 

The Truth About Hormones and Nutrition – Free Workshop Recording. Nutrition can help support your hormone health. We share nutrition tips to help with sleep, your menstrual cycle, stress, and appetite.