October Blog Post

This fall, I challenge you to step outside of your pumpkin bubble.  Fall brings its own variety of seasonal produce, most notably winter squash.  Don’t let the name fool you.  Winter squash are planted in the spring just like summer squash, but they have a longer growing season.   Instead of harvesting in the summer, these squash are harvested in the fall.  Why, then, are they called winter squash? They are given this name because of their long shelf-life.  Their thick skins mean they can be stored at room temperature for a long time (anywhere from 1-3 months), or they can be stored through the winter.

You can find a variety of winter squash at your local grocery store, and can find more unique squash at local farmers’ markets.  Sugar pumpkins, butternut, acorn, spaghetti and delicate squash are available at most grocery stores.  Hubbard, buttercup, and turban squash can be found at specialty stores or farmers’ markets.  Here are some ways to move those squash from decorations on your dining room table to the main course at dinner.

Acorn squash: Half the squash, remove the seeds and roast in oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  Season the flesh with cinnamon or olive oil and black pepper.  These also make great “bowls”.  Stuff acorn squash with sausage, rice or quinoa, beans, or dried fruit and seeds.

Butternut squash: A great substitute for sweet potatoes or pumpkin.  Poke holes in the outer skin with a knife or fork, then microwave for 2-5 minutes to make it easier to cut and peel.  Remove the skin and seeds, and then cut squash into cubes.  Roast in oven for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees.  Add to your favorite soups or chili.

Delicata squash:  These squash have an edible skin.  Cut into rings and roast for 30-35 minutes at 425 degrees. 

Hubbard squash:  Hubbard squash are huge (often weighing between 5-15 pounds)!  You can buy them as pre-cut wedges, or peel and cube yourself (and freeze for later use).  Roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and substitute for any recipe using butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potatoes.

Spaghetti Squash:  Cut in half.  (Use the microwave to soften the skin and make it easier to cut).  Once you remove the seeds, roast at 425 for 30-45 minutes.  Use a fork to turn the flesh into spaghetti strands.  Eat it straight from the squash (using the squash as a bowl) or substitute for spaghetti in your favorite pasta dish.

Interested in more recipes using winter squash? Stop by the dietitian office at Texins!

 

September Blog Post

The days are shorter, the leaves are turning colors, and the temperature is falling (well, we live in Texas so maybe not that last part).  With the change in the season comes a change in routine – school starts, sports seasons pick-up and before you know it, it’s the holiday season.  That first sign of change comes with football season.  If you’re like me, football is in your blood and the weekend revolves around sports and tailgates.  For some people, they throw their willpower out of the window and tailgating (or other parties) becomes an excuse to eat anything and everything.  But, just because we are spending more time in front of the T.V. and around game-day foods doesn’t mean we need to put our health and fitness goals on the sideline.  For many people, learning to eat mindfully removes the stress of eating at social events, and helps them keep their health and fitness in check.

What does it mean to eat mindfully? Mindful eating means being more aware of the entire eating experience: physical hunger; what you’re eating; why you’re eating; the taste, smell, feel, sight and sound of the food; your satiety; and how the food makes you feel.  It also means focusing on the eating experience without judgement.  Eating mindfully takes time and practice – there is no right or wrong way to do it, but it does help you stay in control of your eating experience and your health overall.  So, where do you begin?  A good place to start is to learn how to assess hunger and satiety.  The hunger scale is a scale of 1-10 that helps you become more in tune with your physical hunger cues.  As children, we are usually in tune with these cues.  But, as we grow up, our eating becomes restricted due to time constraints, busyness or dieting, and we begin to tune these cues out.

Use this hunger scale during your next social event to help you enjoy your food and eat more mindfully.  Evaluate where you are on the scale before you eat; check in a few times while you’re eating, and re-evaluate when you’re done eating.

August Blog Post

The days are long, but the years are short.  I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I’ve often heard my parent friends say this.  There are many things parents want to teach their children before they grow up and move out.  For many people, healthy habits are one of those things.  While parents focus a lot on sports and other extracurricular activities, teaching healthy nutrition habits can fall to the wayside.  Restricted eating, disorder eating, or a lack of healthy eating habits breeds young adults with a poor understanding on how to best feed and fuel themselves. 

As a dietitian, it’s my job to help people form a healthy relationship with food. Often times, years of dieting and restriction or taking advice from well-meaning friends and family lead to food fears, feelings of frustration and despair, and an overall poor relationship with food.  Instead of instilling these negative food connotations and then having to undo past experiences, wouldn’t it be better to start when kids are young?  You can plant seeds for a good foundation by providing age-appropriate education, opportunities for kids to learn and explore food, and to establish their own personal nutrition game-plan.

There are two easy ways to help get your kids started on the right nutrition path.  The first one is to have meals together as a family.  You’ve likely heard all the statistics.  Kids who eat family meals are at lower risk for being overweight, tend to have good family relationships, less disordered eating and better academic scores.  If you’re able to sit down at least once a week for a family member, you can use that opportunity to start instilling healthy habits.  Listen to how you speak about the foods you’re eating (do you call foods good or bad?).  How you react to foods, your child will do the same.  Be a positive example by eating a variety of healthy foods.  Lastly, encourage your child to listen to his or her own satiety cues.  Don’t force your child to finish his or her plate.  Encourage them to try new foods, but realize it may take multiple exposures before they are willing.   

Family meals might not be realistic for everyone. For those who are unable to have regular family meals, you can spend time with your kids in the kitchen.  Teach them to cook, and build their confidence in the kitchen early.  Kids as a young as two can help out with age-appropriate tasks like pouring or mixing, mashing potatoes and “painting” oil on vegetables.  Give them time to learn and make mistakes.  Kids who help prepare their own meals and snacks build a sense of ownership over those foods, and are more likely to eat them come mealtime.  Need help providing age-appropriate tasks? Check out this site.

It’s back to school time and the perfect time to get your kids involved in their own nutrition game-plan.  Pick an age-appropriate task and have them help with breakfast or with their after-school snack. Are you interested in setting up a nutrition game-plan for you and your family? Schedule a nutrition consult today. Members receive one (1) complimentary session.  Following that session, we offer many different packages to help you stay connected, supported and accountable.

June Blog Post

It’s summertime in Texas and if you’re anything like me that means you’re breaking a sweat just walking to and from your car.  As a health professional I’m always encouraging people to drink more water and during the summer drinking water and staying hydrated are even more important.  Adequate water intake helps your body transport nutrients and get rid of waste, regulates body temperature, and promotes mental clarity.  With the heat comes an increase in water loss and the risk of dehydration.  Dehydration leads to decreased blood volume, decreased cardiac output, decreased sweat output (and subsequent increase in core temperature), and decreased lubrication of the joints and muscle (which increases risk of injury).  What is the best choice to stay hydrated during the summer, especially when exercising in the heat? What about all those fancy waters in the grocery store?

As a reminder, you should aim to drink a minimum of ½ your body weight in ounces each day (if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 ounces per day – again, that is just a minimum).  You want to make sure you are adequately hydrated before beginning any exercise or activity.  For activity lasting less than an hour, plain water will suffice.  If you are a heavy sweater and/or are outdoors for an extended period of time (greater than 45 minutes), drinking an electrolyte beverage will help you stay hydrated.  Gatorade and Powerade (and other sports drinks) contain the electrolytes needed for hydration.  These drinks contain sodium and potassium - both nutrients that are lost in sweat.  In addition to these sport beverages, there are new, functional waters on the market. Coconut water is one of those.  It is marketed as a low-sodium and “natural” hydration beverage.  Coconut water, with no added sugar, can be a good choice for those exercising inside or for a shorter duration; but it lacks the necessary amount of sodium – a mineral a lot of people lose in sweat – to help you rehydrate.  Again, if you are a heavy sweater and/or are exercising for an extended period of time outdoors, a sodium-containing beverage is necessary.  Do watch out for flavored coconut waters as they may contain as much sugar as a 12 oz. can of soda. 

Alkaline water is another popular functional water.  Alkaline water is any water that has a pH above 7.  It contains the minerals calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, among other nutrients.  Its touted health benefits include preventing disease and removing toxins that build up in the body due to the processed Western diet.  While these benefits have yet to be proven by scientific research, there are a few claims worth exploring.  As mentioned previously, alkaline water contains calcium and phosphorus and may promote bone health.  Calcium and phosphorus help keep our bones strong, but they also support other body functions.  When levels fall below normal, our body will pull these minerals from the bone weakening the bones and eventually leading to osteoporosis.  These alkaline waters can help keep calcium and phosphorus at the appropriate levels.  You can also get an adequate amount of these nutrients from consuming leafy greens, dairy products, and nuts. The alkalinity may also buffer the acidic hydrogen ions that build up during intense exercise (think about that burning feeling in your legs during a sprint) and delay muscle fatigue.  Eating fruits and vegetables also promotes an alkaline body environment and is a cheaper alternative to buying alkaline water.  For those who already eat enough fruits and vegetables, you may not notice a significant difference when drinking alkaline water.

While the jury is still out on these functional waters, there appears to be no harm in consuming the beverages as part of a balanced, healthy diet. It is important to note that those with kidney problems should check with their doctor before consuming alkaline water as the minerals may build up in the body due to poor kidney clearance.  If you’re not meeting that ½ an ounce of water per pound body weight, you should start there.  Set a small goal to drink an extra bottle of water each day, and stay hydrated so that you can enjoy those long, summer days and nights.

May Blog

Eat to perform.

“I’m trying to cut back on carbs.” “I don’t eat bread, pasta, or rice.”  I’ve heard these (and many more statements like these) over and over in my practice.  Carbohydrates (carbs, for short) have become the enemy,  but are they really the villain we make them out to be?  The answer is a resounding no; carbs play an important role not only in brain function, but also fitness, sport and athletic performance.  Most people recognize the importance of getting enough protein to build muscle, but they fail to get enough carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are your muscles’ preferred source of energy during moderate- and high-intensity activities (activities like spin class or biking, running, lifting weights, or taking a high-intensity group exercise class).  When your carbohydrate intake doesn’t support your activity level, you may experience fatigue, fogginess, or difficulty completing your activity (especially at the intensity you want).  You may have heard some people call it “bonking” or “hitting the wall”.  This happens because your muscles don’t have the fuel they need to continue to perform. 

You may be asking yourself “well, why doesn’t my body just use fat for energy?”.  Unfortunately, our bodies don’t work that way.  Fat is oxidized (broken down and used for energy) in the presence of oxygen. However, during high-intensity activities, oxygen is limited and fat oxidation slows down.  The point at which our bodies switch from fat-burning to carb-burning varies from person-to-person and is based on your conditioning and endurance level. Although we are able to build up an unlimited storage of fat (gee, thanks), we can only store enough carbohydrate (carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in our liver and muscles) to fuel about 60-120 minutes of activity.  Once it runs out, we have to refuel or slow down and take in more oxygen.  In addition to supporting high-intensity activity, carbohydrates are also important post-workout.  They replenish glycogen stores, support recovery and muscle growth.

Here’s how to approach your nutrition game-plan around your activity:

Before: Top off your tank.

Eat a small amount of carbohydrate and protein before your activity.

Examples include:

Greek yogurt with fruit or granola

Smoothie made with whey protein powder, fruit, and water

½ turkey sandwich

Fruit and hard-boiled eggs (or scrambled eggs)

During: Maintain hydration (and fuel and electrolytes for activity lasting >60 minutes).

Drink 4-6 gulps of water (~2 oz.) every 15 minutes.

After: Recover: refuel, rebuild, rehydrate.

Refuel with carbohydrates, rebuild with protein, and rehydrate with water.

Examples include:

½ pb&j

Chicken breast + sweet potatoes

Smoothie with whey protein powder and fruit

Protein bar with 15-30 grams of carbs

8-12 oz. chocolate milk

April Blog Post

Sustainability in Nutrition

Sustainability – it’s a pretty trendy word right now.  Everything from our cars to our appliances to our homes are built with sustainability in mind.  But, what does this really mean and how does this apply to nutrition?  According to the EPA, sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist…to support present and future generations. In the world of nutrition, sustainability means practices that grow, farm, and produce food in a way that meets the needs of the current generation, while preserving the needs of future generations.  Sustainable practices also encourage local food production, ensure everyone’s nutrient needs are met by providing affordable and accessible food, and protect farmers and laborers, and the community.

Here are a few ways you can support a more sustainability food ecosystem:

1.       Eat local and eat in season.

The further food has to travel, the more resources are required – fuel, labor, and the energy required to keep the food fresh.  Buying local and shopping at local farmers’ markets supports the local community.  Many grocery stores have started selling locally-grown produce, as well.  Buying local means you’re buying more seasonal fruits and vegetables; produce purchased in season is often fresher and has less food miles.  Eating in season also promotes food biodiversity.

2.       Promote food biodiversity

We are creatures of habit in that we tend to eat the same types of food.  For example, about 90% of the seafood Americans consume consists of 10 species; the top four being salmon, tilapia, shrimp and tuna.  Demand and supply are inter-related; and because we demand these four different fish, there is risk of over-fishing.  Eating a variety of plants and animals or planning meals around seasonal vegetables and fruits lessens the stress we put on the environment and the stress we put on farmers to provide these foods year-round.  It also allows the ecosystem the time to rest and regenerate to produce the following year.

3.       Save the Food

The best way to be sustainable is to cut food waste.  We always have the best intentions when we purchase fruits and vegetables; but without a plan, they can go un-used and end up in the trash.  Wasting food not only wastes the actual product; it also wastes the resources used to produce the food.  Eat or freeze your leftovers, buy less than you think you need, or make a plan and stick to it.  Need a help with making that plan? Join Texins Supermarket Sweep* nutrition program.  Participation in the nutrition program is optional and completely voluntary.

4.       Eat more plants

Plants require fewer resources to produce.  Water, plants, and land are all required to raise animals.   While these things are also required to grow vegetables, fruits, and other plants, the return on investment is much higher – that is, we get more for our money.  You don’t have to eliminate meat or animal products from your diet completely, but cutting back on animal foods and eating more plants benefits everyone.  Make your vegetables the main dish, and make the meat the side dish.  Join the meatless Monday trend, and eat a plant-based dish one time per week.

*Texins Supermarket Sweep runs from April 16-May 24.  Registration is open through April 19.

 

 

March Blog Post

“Go Further with Food”

Happy National Nutrition Month!  During this month, dietitians and other nutrition professionals around the nation encourage you to “go further with food”.  This can take on a different meaning depending on your health and wellness goals.  Going further with food may mean fueling properly before or after your workouts to achieve maximum results, or it may mean getting up and eating a nutrient-dense breakfast to fuel you through your morning meetings.  For some, it may mean cutting back on food waste by grocery shopping with a plan and paying more attention to how they use food throughout the week.  Whatever it may mean to you, you have a resource at the Texins fitness center to help you define your goals and set a realistic, achievable nutrition game plan.

You can start by signing up for the Supermarket Sweep program – a nutrition-focused program on menu planning and meal prepping.  Interested? Register here, email me at mrjohnson@ti.com, or speak to any Texins staff member to find out more! Participation in the nutrition program is optional and completely voluntary.

As a dietitian, I’m often asked “what’s the best type of bread? Or protein bar? Or snack?”.  While there’s not one set answer, there are a few guidelines to go by (you can learn what these are and much more as a part of the Supermarket Sweep program!) Here are some of my favorite brands and products that follow those nutrition recommendations and guidelines:

Bread: Killer Dave’s Good Seed Thin-Sliced Bread

Lentils/Rice/Beans: Simply Balanced Microwavable Grains (black beluga lentils, farro, quinoa)

Nuts & Nut Butter/Seeds: Simple Truth Almond Butter (Smooth & Crunchy) & Simple Truth Raw seeds (pumpkin and sunflower are my favorites)

Sweet Treat: Killer Dave’s Cinnamon Remix Bagel

Protein Bar: Oatmega

Yogurt: Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla

Snacks: Lantana Black Bean Hummus + Toufayan Whole Wheat Pita

Salad Dressing/Dip: Opa Lighthouse Feta Dill

Check back next month for my post on sustainability and how you can do your part this Earth day.

February Blog Post

Fat is good. Fat is bad. Low-fat, no-fat, red-fat, blue-fat? Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book, doesn’t it?  That’s often how nutrition goes these days.  Compared to the other sciences, nutrition is a relatively young field.  We’re still learning about vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and macronutrients and how they all promote health.  Over the past year or two, there has been a shift in how the nutrition field talks about fat.  Previously, we encouraged low-fat everything and suggested avoiding all saturated fats.  Now, we recognize that egg yolks provide an essential nutrient choline, vitamin D, in addition to those satiating fats. We also know that 1% or 2% fat in your dairy products can help you feel full and helps with digestion of fat-soluble vitamins A and D.

With February being heart health month, I want to highlight how fats in your diet can help keep your heart healthy.  First a little science lesson: there are two types of fat – saturated and unsaturated fats.  The saturated fats have, historically, been called “bad fats” whereas the unsaturated fats are the “good fats”.  Research is now showing that not all saturated fats are bad, instead we should avoid all trans-fats.  Within the group of unsaturated fats, we have monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.  Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential polyunsaturated fats.  When a nutrient is essential, it means we HAVE to get them from our diet because our bodies cannot produce them.  Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory (they promote inflammation – which isn’t always a bad thing), whereas omega-3s are anti-inflammatory.  In a perfect world, we’d eat 2 servings of omega-6s for every 1 serving of omega-3s, and the pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory properties would balance out.  We don’t live in a perfect world and instead of a 2:1 ratio it’s closer to 20:1!  This chronic inflammation increases your risk for diseases such as diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease.

You do have control over your food and your nutrition, and you can improve that ratio.  Replacing some of those omega-6 rich foods with omega-3 rich foods can get that ratio back in line and help keep your heart healthy.  Omega-3 fatty acids help keep your arteries fluid and the blood flowing freely, reducing your risk for plague build-up, high blood pressure, and other heart issues.  As mentioned before, omega-3s also help reduce inflammation (including muscle soreness - which is a type of inflammation!). 

Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: cold-water, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds (ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil), and walnuts.  Don’t limit your fat consumption to just these omega-3 rich foods.  Fill your diet with a variety of healthy fats including eggs (and their yolks), all nuts and seeds, avocados, and low-fat dairy. 

January 2018 Blog Post

Happy 2018! When the New Year rolls around, we like to look forward to all the things we can accomplish with the next 365 days ahead of us.  Many people have health, fitness, or nutrition goals, and our team at Texins is ready to help you meet those goals.  This New Year, I’d like to introduce myself to you all as the new dietitian at Texins.  My name is Morgan Johnson.  I’ve worked in the fitness and corporate wellness realm for the past two years and am excited to put my experiences and expertise at work here at Texins.  Before we dive into all things nutrition, I want to tell you a little about myself.  I graduated from the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!) with an undergraduate degree in Human Development and Masters’ in Human Nutrition. With my diverse education, I’ve worked in many different environments – from a pediatric hospital, an adult hospital to corporate wellness and tele-health.  When I’m not talking about food, you’ll likely find me doing CrossFit.  I am a Level 1 trainer, and teach a few classes a week at my local box.  My favorite vegetables are sugar snap peas and Brussels sprouts.  My favorite “fun” food is ice cream.  My husband and I have two dogs; their names are Ellie and Bear.

Now that you know a little about me, I look forward to getting to know you – the TI employees and Texins’ members.  To help me get to know some of you, let’s play a little trivia game.  If you can answer this question (either email me the answer or stop by and see me!), the first 10 people to respond with the correct answer will win a free water bottle!

Question:  Which Alabama football coach is my dog (Bear) named after?

My office is located in the Texins Fitness Center on the weight room floor, or you can contact me via email at mrjohnson@ti.com.

I hope to see and hear from ya’ll in the future, and be on the lookout for the next blog post in February.