This Week’s Menu

What’s on your menu this week? A bit of meal planning and a little batch cooking can go a long way when it comes to eating well. My goals include: simple, nourishing food that can feed my family fast after swim practice or an evening bike ride and limiting food waste.

 

The Plan

Breakfast

smoothie boiled egg

Smoothie and HBEs

Empty smoothie bag into blender, add liquid and blend. Pour into a container with a lid so leftovers can hit the road if need be. Peel eggs.

veg scramble

Egg and Veggie Scramble

Make a large batch Tuesday night or Wednesday morning and eat for the rest of the week. Whisk enough eggs to feed your family x3 days. Chop 2 or more veggies of your choice and sauté in olive oil for 3-5 minutes. Add eggs to the sautéed veggies and scramble. Finish with cheese. Serve with avocado, salsa and fruit.

Lunch

Kiddos – apple, blueberries, carrots and hummus, cheese, meatballs or leftover protein, raisins

Adults – picnic lunch: boar’s head deli meat/meatballs/leftover protein, mini peppers, olives, carrots, spinach, cheese, apple or blueberries

 

Dinner

meal plan pizza 2

Homemade Pizza with Salad

I make double batches of pizza dough. You can freeze the dough or par-bake then freeze. Decorate with any number of ingredients in the refrigerator. One of our favorite quick dinners! Toss 2 or more veggies with your salad greens and use homemade dressing.

green curry chicken

Crockpot Green Curry Chicken with Veggies

Place chicken thighs in the crockpot with a can of coconut milk and 2 or more tablespoons of green curry paste. Cook on low for the day. Steam or sauté veggies before serving. We use the vegetables as a rice substitute. Or, cook a batch of rice/quinoa on Sunday and simply reheat for dinner.

spaghetti

Spaghetti Night with Spaghetti Squash and Salad

Place meatballs and red sauce on the stove top and simmer for 10-30 minutes (the flavor builds with time). Reheat spaghetti squash in a skillet. Toss 2 or more veggies with your salad greens and use homemade dressing.

salmon wild rice

Salmon, Asparagus, Wild Rice and Cabbage Slaw

Decorate salmon with lemon and butter, cook on grill or in oven. Cook wild rice according to package. Shred/dice cabbage and carrots or use pre-shredded cabbage, dress with this simple recipe from Paleo Grubs, let sit while salmon is cooking. Toss asparagus with olive oil and sea salt, broil in the oven or grill as salmon is cooling for dinner. We use the leftover salmon for salmon patties or salmon salad for lunches.

broccoli frittata

Broccoli and Sausage Frittata with Salad

Brown sausage in a oven safe skillet. Add onions and broccoli to browned meat and sauté for 3 minutes. Whisk 8 eggs. Add eggs and tomatoes to skillet. Gently lift edges to allow liquid to roll under the cooked edges. Once set, sprinkle with cheese finish under the broiler until eggs are set. Toss 2 or  more veggies with your salad greens and use homemade dressing.

 

The Prep

To save time during the busy work and school week, I prep and batch cook on Sunday afternoon.

Prep

veg prep

Rinse and cut veggies for lunches.

smoothie bags

Smoothie bags for a quick dump and blend in the morning.

 

Make

meal plan meatballs

Meatballs, double batch, bake in oven, freeze half for later use

spaghetti squash

Bake Spaghetti Squash, freeze extra

how-to-boil-an-egg

Boil Eggs (enough for your family x2 days)

miso carrot salad dressing

1 Salad Dressing for the week, see last month’s post for ideas.

 

What does your plan look like this week? Share your favorite make ahead recipes on Facebook or in the comments section!

Let’s Play Dress Up

beet salad

 

The number one thing I recommend to patients is adding a big salad (or bowl of vegetable soup in the winter) everyday! A salad is so much more than a bowl of leaves, in fact, it might not even contain leaves. But, no matter what ingredients fill the bowl or plate, it’s the topping that enhances the flavor and hopefully doesn’t detract from the nutritional value.

Now, what should you put on top of the beautiful rainbow in your bowl? Why, salad dressing of course! In an effort to eat better, many of us are cutting back on processed foods. A great place to start is salad dressing! Skip the guar gum, and/or vegetable oils, monosodium glutamate, preservatives and crazy sodium.

 

hidden valley ranch ingredients

 

Homemade salad dressing can be simple or complex, like anything in the kitchen. The most basic recipe is 1 part acid to 2 parts fat plus some herbs, voila’, a vinaigrette is born.

 

simple salad dressing

 

The process requires basic kitchen equipment including: 1 jar with lid for shaking and storage, knife, cutting board, measuring device and possibly a blender. Most fresh dressings won’t keep forever, follow the recipe recommendations, but generally you can expect 3-10 days. I like to make a different dressing each week!

 

simple dressing

 

My dressing absolutely influences my salad theme for the week. This week I’m humming along to a little tune I like to call miso sesame ginger dressing from Bowl of Delicious! This fresh, bright dressing pairs well with kale, beets, carrots, sunflower seeds, feta and a little roasted butternut squash if you have it on hand. Of course, I was out of sesame oil, so I replaced it with olive which altered the flavor but it is still yum. And, lemons are almost always in the house, but limes not so much, so I subbed a fresh lemon instead.

 

miso-sesame-ginger-dressing-1

 

For those looking to fulfill their ranch cravings, look no further! I like this basic ranch from Chowhound. I’ve been known to replace the buttermilk and sour cream with plain Greek yogurt for a thick, ranch dip version.

 

ranch dressing

 

Raspberries are divine in a salad and in a dressing, and because we live in Alaska and many of us house the red jewels in our freezer, consider adding a raspberry vinaigrette from the Kitchn to your spring salad dressing collection.

 

raspberry vinaigrette

 

Have fun playing in the kitchen this spring! Dress up your daily salad with yummy, homemade dressings.

 

In Health,

Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN

 

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring has sprung! If you are like me, wrapped up in your work week, hustling kids to and fro, you might have missed it. But alas, March 20th came and went this past Monday and it is officially time to see something green. Finally, in what feels like decades, we had a semi-normal winter in Alaska, hence the 2 feet of snow on the raised beds in the garden. If you are anxious to get something in the ground, be patient, we have a few more weeks (err months) to go. But, have you played with sprouting? What an easy way to pull some spring green into the house and add some much needed flavor to the blah spinach salad we have existed on all winter!

pea sprout seeds 2

Sprouts contain an amazing amount of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. The nutrient content can be thirty times that seen in the mature plant! Many of these nutrients are associated with health benefits including cancer prevention and heart health. Adding sprouts to your daily salad or sandwich boosts your micronutrient intake for the day without adding to your waistline. The most common sprouts include pea, sunflower, wheatgrass, mung bean, lentil and clover.

pea shoots immature

So, we have covered that sprouted seeds and baby greens are nutrient dense powerhouses packed with flavor. But did I mention that they are easy and cheap to grow? Sprouting is a simple process that can occur in a jar or in a dirt filled planter. Using a jar requires a bit more care and time as you sprout the seeds in a damp environment. I prefer and recommend planting your sprouting seeds in a couple inches of soil in a container that fits in a windowsill or wherever you have space and some natural light. Harvest time rolls around quickly for these greens, about 10 days is all it takes (when the plant reaches 4-6 inches tall). You can cycle 2 trays to have a consistent supply of greens. For detailed instructions on sprouting in jars or soil, visit Vertical Veg or Sprout People .

pea sprouts mature

Locally grown, nutritious, super low carbon foot print, how can you go wrong? The ultimate in farm to table, transport these gems from your windowsill to your table in minutes.

 sprout tacos

In Health,

Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN

 

Probiotics: The Good Bugs

gut-bacteria

Our bodies are filled with bacteria! These little “bugs” can be both helpful and harmful. The food we eat, our health, the environment around us and the medicine we take impacts the balance of bacteria in our gut. Humans thrive when good gut bacteria are supported.

When we are born, the gut is sterile, no little bugs in residence. Overtime, a diverse collection of bacteria grows. The bacteria in our gut supports digestion and the metabolism of food, makes vitamins and other nutrients, protects the body via the immune system and produce hundreds of neurochemicals that influence memory, learning and mood. There is a steady stream of new research linking gut bacteria to health.

good-bacteria_vs_bad_bac54923

So, now you have the basic picture: not all bacteria are bad. In fact, thousands of species of good bacteria live in the gut and significantly influence our daily life. The question is, what role do we play? Well, we can support our system by introducing lots of good bacteria and the food they need to thrive by increasing foods that contain prebiotics (support for the good bugs), eating fermented foods rich in probiotics (good bacteria) and possibly taking a probiotic supplement when needed.

Prebiotics are like the dirt in your garden, without rich soil our plants and probiotics won’t grow. Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers that come from nutrient-dense veggie powerhouses. Eat several servings of raw and cooked prebiotics each day.

prebiotic-foods

Prebiotic Powerhouses

Apples

Artichoke

Asparagus

Banana

Barley

Burdock

Chicory Root

Dandelion greens

Garlic

Jerusalem Artichokes/Sunchokes

Jicama

Leeks

Oats

Onion

Probiotics are live microorganisms that benefit human health. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods and supplements. Food sources of these good bugs are inexpensive, safe and flavorful. For general health, I recommend working up to 2-3 servings per day as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Checkout the list below for ideas!

fermented-foods

Tasty Probiotics

Fermented foods have a very unique flavor, as with any condiment or food, start with a small serving and increase. Also, remember that our taste buds evolve with age, so just because you didn’t like something as a child doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it another try. Avoid pasteurized products or cooking with these foods as the heating process kills the living bacteria.

  1. Sauerkraut, traditionally made ‘kraut is a crunchy, salty condiment that can take a salad or burger from basic to wow in just 2 tablespoons! If you purchase your kraut, look for raw/live products in the refrigerator section of your grocery, health food store or Farmers Market.
    1. DIY: Are you interested in making your own kraut? If the DIY bug has you, checkout this  Sandor Katz video or visit Cultures for Health.
  2. Kimchi is a traditional Korean ferment typically made with cabbage, ginger, garlic, onion and other spices. No two kimchis are alike.
  3. Yogurt is probably the most recognized probiotic rich food. Look for a plain yogurt with active bacteria listed in the ingredients. Add your own flavor with jam, honey or diced fruit. Yogurt can aslo be used as a savory condiment.
    1. Easy Tzatziki is my all-time favorite yogurt condiments! Super easy to put together, it adds a high note to most savory meals. Try tzatziki on a wrap, burger, salad or fish dish.
    2. Green Goddess Dip and Dressing made with yogurt.
    3. DIY: checkout these various starters, recipes and tips from Cultures for Health
  4. Kefir is quite simply a tangy, yogurt-like drink. Opt for the plain version when purchasing and add your own flavor, the fruity kefirs available in the store tend to be very high in sugar.
    1. DIY: Make kefir at home in just a few days.
  5. Coconut Kefir is great for those who avoid dairy or desire a different flavor. You can purchase coconut Kefir locally at Farmers Markets or make your own.
    1. DIY: Coconut Milk Kefir – 3 ways
    2. DIY: Homemade Coconut Milk Kefir from Mark’s Daily Apple
  6. Water Kefir is a carbonated, lacto-fermented beverage that you can flavor a billion different ways!! Essentially a homemade soda with friendly bacteria. You can find water kefir in some stores around town or you can make this on your own in 24-48 hours.
    1. DIY: Buy cultures and get easy recipes from Cultures for Health or Kombucha Kamp or
    2. Water Kefir Soda Recipe from Wellness Mama
  7. Miso is often associated with the comforting bowl of soup served at the start of a meal in a Japanese restaurant. But, miso has so many other tasty uses! Miso is simply fermented soy beans and has been around for thousands of years. In addition to lots of probiotics, miso is rich in B vitamins and minerals. I encourage you to purchase organic, non-GMO miso paste.
    1. Miso Dressing
    2. Miso & Citrus Salad Dressing
    3. Simple 10-Minute Miso Soup
    4. Red curry and miso veggies

 

Support optimal health by including prebiotic and probiotic rich foods in your daily meals. As always, aim for variety!

In Health,

Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN

 

Meal Planning Basics

Do you want to lose weight, decrease your stress and improve your health? I have a simple solution for you: meal planning. Creating a plan for the week prevents last minute frozen pizzas and drive thru visits. Meal planning can be a quick process that helps you eat better and saves money.

My DIY model requires 30 minutes or less, a piece of paper and a writing utensil (or a computer).

  1. Look at the week ahead and identify crazy schedule days, note any commitments.
    1. Swim lessons, meetings, birthdays, parties, etc.
  2. Select 1-2 breakfast ideas, 2 lunch ideas, 4-5 dinner ideas and 4 snack options.
    1. Use family favorites, Pinterest, online recipe sites, Eating Well Magazine, cookbooks, friends and restaurants for inspiration. Print or save your recipes.
    2. Invite your partner and/or kids to join the brainstorm.
    3. Identify who’s going to make what and when.
  3. Create a “master” shopping list, look through the pantry, freezer and refrigerator to create an actual shopping list for the week.
  4. Identify things you can prep or make ahead to free up time during the week. Don’t forget to schedule your prep time!
    1. Hard boiled eggs, wash and dice fresh fruit and veg, energy bites or bars, smoothies, batch cook meat, cook a grain for the week, salad dressing
  5. Follow your plan for the week. Feel the “what am I going to eat tonight?” stress melt away and watch the numbers on the scale tic down as you eat less processed, fast food.
  6. Repeat the meal planning process four times. Save each week, the recipes, master shopping list and prep list. And, easy peasy, repeat the week-one plan when you get to week-five. Give week-one a quick review, change any recipes that didn’t work, use the master list to create a shopping list and away you go!

At the bottom of the post is a sample one-week meal plan designed for a family of four. I did not include kids’ lunches in the meal plan or shopping list, please add in what your family needs (we typically use leftovers or whatever we prepared for the adults). Note: The shopping list looks long, but look through the pantry, freezer and refrigerator before creating your list for the week. Many of the items on the shopping list are often in the kitchen of families that shop at box stores.

Does meal planning sound too time consuming? You can purchase meal plans from a variety of sources. My current favorite is Real Plans https://realplans.com/. This company accommodates vegetarian, paleo, autoimmune protocol and traditional food preferences.

Go ahead, give meal planning a shot, you have nothing to lose! If you are overwhelmed by planning the whole week, start with breakfast and maybe snacks, consider adding as you get more comfortable with the process.

In Health,

Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN

 

Week-One Meal Plan

  Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
Sunday Pancakes & Sausage Minestrone Soup Italian Sausage Pasta with Salad Apple + String Cheese
Monday Farmers Market Egg Casserole   & Melon Minestrone Soup  

Teriyaki Chicken with Steamed Veggies and Rice

Fage Greek Yogurt with Fruit
Tuesday Pancakes & Sausage Minestrone Soup  

Swim Lessons

Crockpot Chicken Tacos with tortillas, cheese, avocado, mixed greens and plain yogurt

Orange + Beef Jerky
Wednesday Farmers Market Egg Casserole Broccoli Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing and Ham  

Classic Cheeseburgers with oven fries and salad

Carrots + Hummus
Thursday Pancakes & Sausage Broccoli Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing and Ham  

Swim Lessons

Tuna melts with Tomato Soup

Apple + String Cheese
Friday Farmers Market Egg Casserole  

Broccoli Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing and Ham

Spenard Roadhouse Fage Greek Yogurt with Fruit
Saturday  

Farmers Market Egg Casserole

Leftovers Leftovers Orange + Beef Jerky

 

Prep List

  • Make pancakes, cool and package for the refrigerator, freeze if not eaten after 4-5 days
  • Make egg bake, cool, cut into appropriate portions and place in containers for an easy, on the go breakfast
  • Cut up melon
  • Make soup
  • Make salad
  • Wash and prep all fruits and veggies for snacks

Week-One Meal Plan PDF: week-one-meal-plan-for-meal-planning-blog

Week-One Shopping List PDF: week-one-meal-plan-shopping-list

 

 

Why Don’t Diets Work?

Why don’t diets work? Because weight gain doesn’t happen just because you ate two cookies yesterday, weight change is the result of many lifestyle factors. Weight loss is a complicated equation with many moving parts. Similar to starting a business, you need a comprehensive plan to ensure successful, sustainable weight loss. From my experience as a nutritionist, sustainable weight loss is the result of motivation, commitment, realistic goals, food and beverage choices, exercise, stress management, sleep and social support. If you skip a part or two of the plan, you are less likely to achieve your goals.

 

 

Motivation

What is your motivation for weight loss? Motivation can range from health and longevity to body image. Improved health is a wonderful motivator and for many people waking with more energy, less joint pain and looser pants will continue to support your plan. However, motivation can and will wane. Some days the pillow under your head or the cake in the breakroom will test your motivation for change. Life is full of barriers to success, but we can climb any wall with the right tools; part of your plan will be to develop solutions to these possible issues. For example, when the alarm goes off at 4:45am but you want to reset it for 7am and skip the gym, you respond with the boundary you have set, “I will not bail at the last minute but I can reevaluate my exercise schedule tonight to identify a better time to workout”.

 

Commitment

Like any promise or commitment, you enter into lifestyle change with the boundaries established in your plan. You do not begin a lifestyle change planning to cheat or quit. Working with a team holds you accountable. Identify your commitment to your partner, close friends, nutritionist, therapist, trainer and/or doctor; these are all people who can help you with accountability.

 

Goals

Setting realistic goals when it comes to food and weight can be very challenging. The goal is sustainable life changes, so keep this in mind when establishing goals. Take weight for example, due to reality shows and quick weight loss gimmicks, many of us anticipate losing 10lbs in a week and view losing 2lbs a week as a failure. Realistic, sustainable weight loss can range from ½ to 4lbs per week. Small, sustainable goals are key. Break a large goal into several small goals which allows time for new habits to form, a sense of accomplishment and feelings of success.

 

Your Mouth

Undoubtedly, there is some change in diet that would benefit your overall health. There is no one diet for everyone. Listen to your body’s cues including energy, lack of bloat, a happy GI system, mental clarity, skin health and weight to better understand the foods that help you thrive and those that make your system unhappy. The one piece of nutrition advice I hold true for all is that we do best with real food, minimally processed.

 

Exercise

Research shows that people who exercise have better body image regardless of actual weight. Most of us are familiar with the benefits of exercise, but it is an integral component of health and weight loss. Variety is key when it comes to exercise. Avoid single activity ruts because they can lead to weight stagnation and injury. Women, in particular, are often guilty of cardio heavy routines. It is very important that we also include weight activities which help with muscle tone, bone health and metabolism. So, if you find yourself on the treadmill seven days a week, consider High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), a kettle ball class or crossfit 2-4 times per week.

 

Stress Management

Even the best intentions can be sidetracked by a stressful event if you don’t have coping skills already in place. A negative interaction at work or home can lead to consumption of comfort food or beverages. In response, you feel slightly better because neurotransmitters are released essentially giving you a hug. Many other things will improve mood through the same action as food. In place of food, try exercise, meditation, screaming, punching a pillow, guided meditation or journaling. There is a lengthy list of healthy coping skills out there, identify 3-4 that appeal to you and try them the next time the need arises.

 

Sleep

It’s free, but it sure isn’t easy for some of us. People with poor sleep habits and/or limited hours of sleep each day often struggle with weight and overall health. There are many great articles out there discussing sleep hygiene and how to improve your sleep quality, checkout 9 Steps to Perfect Health – #8: Get More Sleep from Chris Kresser or Getting Better Sleep – Cool, Dark And Lots of B6, Carbs, Calories and Fat by Chris Masterjohn.

 

Social Support

How often have you heard terms such as “you’ve been working so hard, you deserve a treat”, “just a couple bites won’t hurt you”, “take a cheat day”, or “it’s a celebration” when trying to make healthy changes? It is important that we surround ourselves with supportive people who respect our choices and current goals. Communicate your needs and plans with those closest to you and identify how they can help you succeed.

 

In this New Year, as you work toward the best you possible, I encourage you to think on each of these steps toward sustainable change. Don’t hesitate to visit your friendly, local nutritionist for support.

 

In Health,

Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutrionist

virginia-wolf

Why work with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)?

The field of nutrition is young and as such, new research is available on a daily basis which can muddy the water and make simple, good nutrition come across as confusing and frustrating. A RDN, such as myself, has a strong education in nutrition and biochemistry. My approach is personalized to the patient but my recommendations are grounded in science. It is my job to stay current with the scientific literature and provide that information to you.

RDN poster

What a good RDN is not:

Dogmatic. We are individuals with unique biochemistry, goals and lives. I make every attempt to tailor the appointment to the individual with a focus on their preferences, needs and goals.

Weight Police. The number on the scale is just one piece in the puzzle, it is a simple data point that doesn’t yield much information by itself. I prefer to look at your current weight and weight history in addition to your most recent labs, medications, medical history, lifestyle, etc. My goal is to help you reach a point where you look, feel, and move with confidence and vitality.

Judge. My role is not to sit in judgement of you. The information you share with me is held in confidentiality and is used solely to develop a plan that will help you achieve your goals.

Perfect. I am a normal person with my own goals and barriers to success. I love most food, especially rustic breads, cheese, and treats (of a wide variety). I work to balance my love for food with my health goals and my ever changing body as I have children and age.

Magic. Magic pills and potions do not exist nor am I hording them and only sharing them with my best friends. Any change a person decides to make takes work. My hope is to help you strategize and simplify the work that will lead you to success.

family-hp-2016

 

What to expect at an appointment with me, an RDN:

The first thing I ask is your reason for scheduling a visit,  any goals you have and possible questions you would like to explore. To help me better understand you and any barriers you may have to sustainable change, we will discuss your social commitments, lifestyle practices, stress levels, sleep quality, work load, physical activity, liquid and food consumption, food preferences, cravings, and overall relationship with food.

Following the intake outlined above, I then provide an evidence-based education with a focus on your goals and concerns. Most patients leave my nutrition appointment with a clear plan and support material possibly including meal plans, recipes, and homework. I typically follow up with my patients several times as they work toward their goals.

healthy-lifestyle

In Health,

Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN