What does my sleep routine have to do with my weight?

What does my sleep routine have to do with my weight?

Monday, March 13, 2017

How much sleep you get, how you wind down at the end of the day, the quality of your sleep, and how you wake up in the morning has A LOT to do with your weight and general well-being.

Don’t take it from me! Here is more information from Health Ambition on how our sleep patterns affect our weight and wellness.

-Our sleeping patterns affect our hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin, regulating hunger cues which control our appetite.

-Studies show sleep deprivation leads people to choose higher-calorie foods and an increased caloric intake for the day.

Improving sleep hygiene:

There are plenty of external factors affecting sleep patterns, and some that you can control.

  1. Get in a routine – Yes, I know it sounds boring, but I tried to get in bed and on my way to sleepy town by 10:30 PM every night. Preferably earlier! Each time you disrupt your routine – a.k.a. weekends – it can cause a jet lag like effect on your circadian rhythm.
  2. Remove the blinking, glowing, distracting, and other light disturbances. I’m looking at you Wi-Fi router, digital alarm clocks, TVs, and glowing A/C adaptors. These subtle yet bright lights in the bedroom can affect our sleepy hormone levels and circadian rhythm. If you absolutely cannot move them I highly recommend adopting an eye pillow (or childhood “blanky,” like me!) to block out the light disturbances.
  3. You don’t really need to know the time. If you must get up at a particular hour, set an alarm on the phone, and don’t bother looking at the time if you wake up unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Each time we look at the clock it starts a story in our minds about how “I didn’t get enough sleep, I must fall back asleep to get ‘enough’ sleep!”
  4. Consider meditation. Meditation is a powerful tool for living a well-balanced life. It’s less about emptying your mind of all thoughts because that is unrealistic. Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on one calming thought. I find it useful to focus on my breath or start counting backward from 1000. Yep, that can be considered meditation. So go ahead and count the sheep and let yourself enjoy a restful night, waking up feeling refreshed. No matter how many hours of sleep you got.

Food for thought:

Did you notice I didn’t include a specific number of hours to sleep each night? That’s because it’s different for all of us! I need at least 7 hours to feel great, but my hyperactive business lawyer can function normally with 5 hours of sleep.

Try an experiment next weekend: Go to bed when you’re tired, and wake up when your body wants to wake up.

  • How many hours did you sleep?
  • How can you improve your sleep hygiene this week?

Let us know how you’re sleeping in the comments below 🙂

Chi-chi-chia! Are chia seeds a fad or a true health food?

Chi-chi-chia! Are chia seeds a fad or a true health food?

How in the world did we go from using chia seeds to grow green “fur” on Chia Pets to eating the seeds as a health food? Is this hype or are chia seeds really a health food?

In history, Mayan and Aztec cultures consumed chia seeds for their supernatural powers. I don’t know about supernatural powers, but I can speak for their nutritional power. They are small and mighty! Just one tablespoon of chia seeds pack in 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat (much of which is Omega-3)… all for only 80 calories.  WOW!

Why are fiber, protein, and omega 3 fat good for us?

The right kind of fiber – found in foods like Chia Seeds, supports our body’s waste removal systems. Dietary fiber can increase the size and weight of our poop! It can even soften stool. Chia Seeds are a healthy and natural fiber that can help you have healthy bowl movements regularly.

Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet because it provides the body with the building block, or amino acids, that are necessary for muscle and bone health and development. Having a tablespoon of Chia Seeds is a great way to get a dose of protein in a salad or a sandwich that may be lacking in protein. The average American should eat between 25 and 45 grams of protein at each meal- depending on activity level.

Lastly, Omega – 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for heart health! We need to protect our cardiovascular system and Chia Seeds provide a great source for Omega 3s that don’t taste like fish. Anyone else over the fish oil burps? Get the Omega 3s you need and check the fish oil at the door. Omega 3s reduce blood pressure and triglycerides that can cause heart disease or strokes. I’ll take the tablespoon of chia seeds with that please!

Let’s shine the light a little brighter on these nutrition qualities:

  • Chia contains both soluble and insoluble fiber- making them a great aid for maintaining a healthy cholesterol level and digestive tract.
  • Chia seeds contain 3 grams of complete protein – meaning they contain all the essential amino acids. Three grams of protein may seem like a small amount but pair it with the 4g of protein in a tablespoon of almond butter or 1/2 cup of milk and you now have more protein than a large egg.
  • Chia seeds have an impressive amount of calcium as well!

Wait, there’s more! The dry seeds deliver more antioxidants than blueberries.

First of all, what are antioxidants? We hear antioxidants a lot in today’s diet news but what do they really do?

Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation – which is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals in the body. Free radicals have been associated with Cancer because they cause damage to cells in our body over time. Antioxidants like those found in Chia Seeds can work to reduce free radical reactions allowing our body to live in proper homeostasis.

When it comes to Chia Seeds, the ORAC value (antioxidant level) almost doubles when the seeds are soaked overnight. How? Because when you soak them, it initiates the early stages of sprouting, and that creates more bioavailable nutrients. (So cool!) Ideally, you would soak your seeds in water or a plant-based milk.

You’ll notice white and black chia seeds are available. White seeds have fewer antioxidants than black seeds but still contain more than most foods. Some people prefer white seeds because they aren’t as noticeable in baked goods and smoothies. Given that some variety of Chia Seeds are black, it is easy to spot them in yogurt, or on a salad, but in a smoothie or baked good they tend to blend in with other seeds or the color of the baked good making them less obvious and adding great nutritional value to your snacks.

Chia seeds have a very mild nutty flavor that won’t be noticed in smoothies or baked goods too, making it easier for some to eat. They can be crunchy if they are dry, so baking or soaking allows the seeds to become soft. These components add to the ease of enjoyment when adding them into your daily meals. That mild flavor goes well in smoothies, yogurt, cereal and even makes a great pudding-like treat.

So it turns out these trendy seeds are truly a health food! They are versatile, user-friendly, exceptional and a unique low-calorie source of omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants, complete protein, iron, calcium, and magnesium.

How do you enjoy chia seeds?

3-ingredient Cereal Treats

3-ingredient Cereal Treats

We recently made these for a health fair held for City of Durham employees. We were honored to be there and meet so many wonderful people! We got rave reviews on these treats so we thought we’d share with everyone here. I didn’t snap a photo of my own and I owe full credit for the photos in this post to  www.thebigmansworld.com. This recipe was modified from one on their beautiful site.

3-ingredient Cereal Treats

Kristen Norton
These are a fun alternative to your typical Rice Krispy treats. The nut butter adds healthy fats and protein, while the whole grain cereal adds more fiber than the rice cereal. Using the Truvia Nectar can help you save on calories and sugar.
Servings 10


  • 2 cups whole grain cereal such as multi-grain cheerios
  • 1/3 cup honey or Truvia Nectar Nectar is sweeter so you will use less
  • 1/3 cup natural nut butter almond butter or peanut butter


  • On stove top, melt honey or Truvia Nectar and nut butter over low-medium heat in a sauce pan.
  • Add the cereal and stir until combined.
  • Press and flatten mixture into pan.
  • Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until well set.
  • Cut into 10 squares/bars.


1/10 of this recipe provides:
78 calories
5g of total fat
0g sat fat
7g carb
2g sugar
1g fiber
2g protein
This recipe was modified from http://thebigmansworld.com/2016/03/16/healthy-3-ingredient-no-bake-cereal-bars/.
Photo credit: http://thebigmansworld.com/2016/03/16/healthy-3-ingredient-no-bake-cereal-bars/


3 ingredient cereal treats2

Photo credit: Bigmansworld.com


Let us know if you tried these, what you thought and if you modified them to your taste preferences!




Kristen’s Friday Favorites

Kristen’s Friday Favorites

Hey, everyone! I hope your week went well! I recently read in Parents magazine that 31 % of women say prep time remains the number one challenge to cooking weekday dinner. Are you among those women? I know I am! The next greatest hurdle is clean up. Weeknights can be so challenging! So, what can we do? Throw in the towel? Nope. Today I share some resources to help us get over these hurdles.

Favorite blog for meal prep ideas: Sweet Peas and Saffron

I am really digging how each month, she picks a type of meal prep recipe and shares seven different varieties with you. Like this one below, marinated chicken 7 ways.

7 Chicken Marinade Recipes You Can Freeze. Get a head start on dinner prep by getting your chicken into a marinade! Seven flavors so you'll never get bored.

Favorite way to save on clean up time: Sheet Pan Dinners like these shared by Cooking Light.


Sheet Pan Honey Soy Salmon Dinner

That’s it! Short and sweet this week.

What do you do to save time on food prep and clean up! Share your secrets in the comment below.

4 steps to make Mondays awesome

4 steps to make Mondays awesome

Monday, Mar 6, 2017

I love that moment when I tell people that Mondays are my favorite day of the week… If I could read minds, I’m guessing their thinking, “there’s something wrong with this girl,” or “she must be on something.” 

As the story goes, in 2009, when I started Well-Balanced Nutrition (the first time) Monday’s quickly became my favorite day of the week because anything is possible. I see each Monday as a mini New Year and the opportunity to start fresh. Most people start the New Year feeling happy and optimistic. Why not start each week with the same enthusiasm? 

When restarting Well-Balanced Nutrition, in May 2015, I knew it was time to rekindle that love of Monday to share an empowering, motivational, and health-focused message with our Well-Balanced nutrition tribe (that’s you!). I was blessed to have Kristen join the team early 2016 and together we strive to bring you uplifting and authentic wellness information. 

But really, how do you make Monday’s “the best?”

1.Do something that makes you happy on Monday morning.

I designate every Monday as my admin time and make it very sacred time to get all the businessy stuff accomplished. Uninterrupted. Slightly odd that this is my happiness; however, I feel grateful to have the time to focus on what needs to get done and I feel so accomplished when I check those tasks off my to-do list!

2. Include positive brainwashing. 

Also, I start each Monday morning with a mentor chat from my man, Darren Hardy,  followed by an inspiring TED talk with breakfast. Have you discovered these yet? It’s amazing what you can learn in a 10-20 minutes inspiring video. 

3. Eat something well-balanced and delicious. 

Often, we get a little too liberal on the weekends and feel the need do penance to the diet gods on Monday for being “bad” over the weekend. This is bound to make Monday even less fun. Instead, I enjoy avocado toast w/ a fried egg and yummy fruit – nom nom nom!

4. Get moving.

My motto is a body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest stays at rest. Even if there’s not much time, include a 10-minute walk around the block before you head to work, a brisk walk during the first 15 minutes of your lunch break, or ending a long work day with a brief stretching session with doyogawithme.com.

Food for thought:

What makes Monday truly great? My state of mind. I choose to believe that Monday is the best and therefore I wake up with a positive attitude every Monday morning because anything is possible. 

What are you gonna do to make your Monday the best? We’d love to see your comments below! 

The trouble with dreaming big and why baby steps matter

The trouble with dreaming big and why baby steps matter

It’s National Nutrition Month and the theme, Put Your Best Fork Forward, has me thinking about the trouble with DREAMING BIG. It’s great to dream big and set big goals for yourself because nothing is impossible.  The trouble is when we dream big yet forget how powerful the little things can be.

For instance, when we are finding excuses for ourselves, it’s easy to devalue our small actions. We say, “what’s one bite?” or “What’s one day going to hurt?”

Our habits are a sum of our actions and each action counts toward that sum. Once we embrace this concept, we can keep ourselves on track and accountable. 

Small things add up. Baby steps count as steps.

Another way to think about it: People wouldn’t keep a change jar if it didn’t add up.

So we can devalue those small things and let them set us back or we can realize the power in them and use that to our advantage.  If you choose the latter, scroll down to see 5 baby steps worth considering. Try one or try them all and be consistent. When you do, you’ll be putting your best fork forward!NNM17_SocialMedia_Meme_Fruit

  • Put your fork down between bites. This is a simple way to start eating mindfully. It forces you to slow down. Consequently, you become more aware of your hunger/fullness signals and increase the chance of eating no more than what your body needs.
  • Eat more fruit and less cakes, cookies, candies (and other high calorie sweets). Replacing processed sweets with naturally sweet foods can increase your intake of disease-fighting properties, vitamins and minerals. Now that’s a delicious way to put your best fork forward! =)
  • Think about dinner at breakfast time. Dinner can be the hardest meal of the day because it’s one of the last things we think about until its 5pm. By then our will-power tank and motivation level is low. But thinking about dinner in the morning gives you a head start. You can also think about tomorrow’s breakfast at dinner time. This is a simple stepping stone to regular meal planning and prepping.
  • Have one less (or one more). Quitting cold turkey isn’t for everyone. If you are trying to cut back on something like drinking sugary drinks consider doing it one at a time. If you drink 4 sodas a day, try drinking just 3, then once you achieve that move to 2 and so on. If you stick to it, the momentum will build and that will keep you motivated.
  • Keep reading our Motivational Monday email. One study from Kaiser Permanente found that people who received weekly e-mails about diet and fitness for 16 weeks substantially increased their levels of physical activity and intake of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables while cutting back on trans and saturated fats.

Food for thought: What baby steps are you taking today? Tell us in the comments. kristen

Kristen’s Friday Favorites

Lucy’s Friday Favorites!

Friday, Feb 24, 2017

My favorite at home yoga tool:


This is a fantastic resource for people that are interested in doing more yoga or starting out and feel intimidated by the group fitness classes. There are several styles offered and different levels depending on your ability. The length of the videos start at 5 minutes and some classes are up to 75 minutes. So many options! 

 Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 5.53.33 PM




My faToby face!vorite Toby Face!

On Tuesday
 we had movers coming into the apartment and instead of leaving Toby, our beautiful 9-year-old yellow lab, to bark at them all day he came to the office with me. I decided we needed a picture with the newly bloomed daffodils. And this is the face Toby made! 

Favorite recipe: Carrot Raisin Oatmeal Bread w/ Coconut Flour 

To wrap up our heart health whole-grain month, I’m including a version of the carrot raisin bread I made with oats and coconut flour last week. Yummy! 

3 common mistakes | whole grains and heart health part 4

3 common mistakes | whole grains and heart health part 4

We’ve been talking about whole grains this month and this is the last post in this series. If you missed the first 3 posts, you can read them here: Not all carbs are bad: whole grains and heart health part 1You’ve been challenged | whole grains and heart health part 2, and 4 delicious swaps | whole grains and heart health part 3.

The food industry has definitely caught on to how awesome whole grains are for us and they aren’t shy about boasting the whole grains goodness in their products. The trouble is that between the marketing and super sizing we can be fooled into making the following mistakes.

Mistake #1: Being misled by the front of the box.

Quick story: I used to enjoy grocery shopping…finding all the new foods in the grocery store, leisurely reading labels and so forth. Then I had kids. Now grocery shopping is different. I get in and out as quick as I can. I still read all the labels but it’s more
exhausting than exciting. So, the other day I was grocery shopping with the kids and I picked up this spaghetti. We had already been in the store too long and the kids were getting really antsy so I didn’t have time to truly analyze it until I was home.

When something says 100% whole grain, that’s a good sign. But what I didn’t notice that day at the store was it said 100% durum wheat which is NOT the same as 100% whole wheat. Ugh. I got tricked! In the picture below you can see the difference, but unfortunately for me, I missed the one that said whole wheat until I went back to the store another time. This goes to show, you must have a keen eye for reading the food labels. Be careful not to get thrown off by things that appear to be something that they are not. 

whole wheat vs 100%

Mistake #2: Assuming all foods that contain whole grains are healthy.

According to Harvard’s Nutrition Source website, one study revealed that the whole grain stamp isn’t a good way to identify healthy whole grains.

Image result“The stamp, while designed to steer consumers towards healthy whole grains, actually identified products that were low in trans fats but higher in sugar and calories than whole grain foods without the stamp.

The FIX for the first two mistakes: First, we encourage you to embrace more natural whole grains. As for bread and packaged items, the ingredient list is the best place to gather your information, not the front of the package where marketers try to entice you with health claims or this fancy stamp. Look for whole grains that are high in fiber with few ingredients. The first ingredient should say “whole.” Ideally, the item should not have many added sugars.

(Mini commercial break: We help our clients do this kind of label reading at the store! Ask about our grocery store sessions.)

Mistake #3: Eating too much… because whole grains are good, right!?

Well, yes but size still matters. There is such thing as too much of a good thing. We all know that eating a ton of bread is not good for us, so this visual way of thinking about portion sizes can be really helpful. You wouldn’t eat more than 2 slices of bread at one meal, right?


The FIX: Keep your portion sizes small with whole grains, 1/2 cup is usually plenty when it’s balanced out with other foods. Start small on your plate and always listen to your body.  Let it tell you to get more or to stop eating.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Well-balanced eating can be tricky. We all make mistakes!

What was your biggest take-away or ah-ha from this whole grain series?

What is one thing you can apply to your life today?

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, feel free to share with a friend!


Please stop ‘shoulding’ all over yourself

Please stop ‘shoulding’ all over yourself

Monday, Feb 20, 2017

Last week, one of our tribe members told me “I think I’ve lost my mojo, I just have no motivation!” She’s been working long hours from 7 AM until after 5 PM. She states “I should do some activity in the evening, but I just have no motivation.” I replied, “please don’t should all over yourself.” When we say “I should” we are focusing on the negative or external expectations because the unspoken truth that follows is “but I don’t want” or “I can’t…”  Rather than focusing on should, it’s helpful to accept the reality, be kind to yourself, and make a plan.  

Whether you:

1. Gained weight at the holidays

2. Suffered an injury that required steroids and lead to a 20-pound weight gain 

3. Just plain got busy

There’s hope and a strategy! Let’s reflect how to get back on track and over the speed bumps of life.

The best way to reach your potential is to create a roadmap and revisit the map regularly. We often have big goals at the beginning of the year such as losing 30 pounds or training for a marathon. Big goals are similar to taking a road trip. In order to plan a trip, we need to know the specific destination and what path will take us there (without too many detours!). If your goal is weight loss, you may first want to assess your eating and exercise habits to determine what steps will help you lose weight. 

Create the path 

Start by tracking your food intake and exercise habits to determine what can be improved. If you are mindlessly snacking at the desk or in front of the TV, set a new habit to drink water or unsweetened tea instead.  If you are not getting at least 7,000 steps/day, find ways to include more movement in the day. 

Markers of success

Set up mini goals or milestones along the way. Continuing with weight loss example, perhaps you get to buy a new article of clothing for every 5 lbs you lose! 

Stay on track 

It’s easy to feel discouraged when the scale won’t seem to budge or goes up a pound or two. Consistently checking your weight at least 1 time per week will give you the accountability to stay consistent with your new healthy habits. 

Get a copilot 

There are lots of people that want to support your goals! Tell your family, coworkers, best friend, and other members of your favorite group fitness class about your goals to have a few more people cheering you on. Some days feel harder than others, their support may be just what you need to keep going. 

Food for thought: 

If you find yourself thinking “I should,” pause and consider if it’s really something you want to do? If not, please stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself. Create a roadmap, find an accountability partner, and set the vision so you know what success looks like!

What’s your next well-balanced destination?


Kristen’s Friday Favorites

Kristen’s Friday Favorites – a little local love

Happy Friday! How are you feeling? I hope you had a healthy and productive work week!

I’m feeling grateful because I’m just coming back from a “stay-cation” with my husband and little ones. We were able to slow down our busy lives for 7 days and enjoy each other’s company in town. It was a lovely reminder of how much I love spending time with my family and how much we love the Durham/Raleigh/Chapel Hill area. Therefore, I thought I’d show some local love in this week’s Friday Favorites.

Favorite Gluten-Free Local Restaurant: Primal Food and Spirits in Durham, NC


I don’t have to follow a gluten-free diet and for some people it’s a fad, but for those with Celiac disease it’s a serious matter. That’s why I think it is really awesome that Primal Food and Spirit keeps a 100% gluten-free kitchen, meaning there is no possibility of cross-contamination. We’ve been there a few times, not because it’s gluten-free, but because the food is really good, unprocessed, healthy and unique. I was very happy with my Valentine’s Day lunch there: chopped kale salad with hard boiled eggs and bacon-wrapped dates.


Favorite Local Museum Marbles Museum  in Raliegh, NC

I can’t say enough great things about this place. My little girl is just the right age (almost 4) for the Around Town exhibit. She spent hours exploring and playing in the pint-size town on the first floor. They had a grocery store and kitchen area that (of course) I just loved watching her play in. As I dietitian, I really appreciate the emphasis on healthy living in the kitchen area, farm area and the Power2Play area.


Favorite Family Dinner Time Saver for Busy Weeks:

Did you know that Foster’s Market in Durham and the Root Cellar in Chapel Hill have family dinners? If you know you are going to have a crazy hectic week, can’t plan/prep ahead, or just plain need a break from cooking simply order a week’s worth of family meals in advance and you can eat local, scratch-made, delicious food without any fuss. All you have to do is heat and eat! LIFESAVER!
















Have a healthy, happy weekend!!!


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