Foods that may harm or help your sleep

Sleep is a big factor in health, mood and energy. We can improve the quality of sleep by adjusting both our environment and diet. Because food has the ability to affect hormones that are directly related to sleep, knowing which foods to eat a few hours before bed or which foods to avoid can help you have a better night’s zZzzZ.

Foods to avoid near bedtime because of their potential to disrupt your sleep:

  1. Food or drinks with caffeine
  2. Alcohol
  3. A high fat meal
  4. Spicy foods

On the other hand, certain foods can help promote better sleep, such as:

  1. Lean proteins – They contain tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin, an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the body that plays a big role in sleep. Examples of lean meats include turkey, chicken, low fat dairy products.
  2. Complex carbs – Choose a bedtime snack with complex carbs. These tend to break down slowly and reduce chances of blood sugar spikes or crashes that could interfere with sleep or appetite. Examples of complex carbs include popcorn, oatmeal, whole grain crackers. In addition, simple carbs such as white breads, pasta, cookies, pastries may reduce serotonin levels, which can make it difficult to have sound sleep.
  3. Herbal tea – Having a nice, warm cup of tea can help you relax and wind down. Choose from chamomile, ginger, lavender or peppermint, all of which are calming choices for bedtime.
  4. Foods high in magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral that has a powerful role in promoting better sleep. A deficiency in magnesium may cause restless sleep and frequently waking during the night. Maintaining healthy magnesium levels often helps you have quality sleep without interruptions. Foods high in magnesium include: dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens), nuts and seeds, soybeans or soy milk, banana, avocado, dairy products.

New year’s reflection

A new year is a wonderful time to refresh and remind ourselves of what and who truly matters the most to us! There’s much to do and be grateful for throughout the year, but for many, the new year brings reflections, gratitude and a time for resolutions. One of the most popular resolutions is to be healthier. Is this a new years resolution of your own? It’s definitely one of mine and I’ve had this resolution year after year after year. Is this a repeating resolution for you as well? Why, you might ask, is this a recurring resolution many of us continue to keep on the top of our list? Why would this continue to be a resolution even if one has already achieved a healthy diet and lifestyle? Or achieved their goal weight. Or nailed down an exercise regimen to a tee. Because simply, there is no perfect diet, exercise regimen or lifestyle — it is always a work in progress. Year after year, there are new goals we can set for ourselves that can further promote health and wellness. Say, for example, if you achieved last year’s goal of cooking for majority of the week, don’t stop there! For the new year, why not enhance the existing goal by making it a new goal to start a recipe club that includes swapping recipes with friends and family? Goals don’t have to be boring. Make your goals fun, specific, measurable, achievable and realistic.

As we move forward in the new year, be healthy and stay positive, yet realistic. Make time to prioritize your health. It’s truly your first wealth.

If one of your resolutions is to be healthy, but you’re not sure how to get started or would just like some professional guidance and support, reach out to me. I’d love for us to work together in goal setting and getting you to a healthier you. To get started, contact me directly for a free consultation! Happy new year, everyone.

Cold weather soup ideas

With winter here, soups are a popular food item. Personally, I enjoy soups year round. I grew up having soups almost every night and still enjoy them as often as three to four times a week. They’re hearty, hydrating, cozy and warm to sip on and may even be a real powerhouse of nutrients (depends on the soup).

I tend to opt for homemade soups, but when I’m on the go, I’ll choose quick, ready-made soups with an eye on the sugar and sodium content. While looking for homemade soup ideas and recipes online, I came across so many recipes! And I wanted to share here some of the amazing blogs I came across offering a large variety of soup recipes that you may also enjoy.

  1. Healthy Seasonal Recipes “25 Healthy Soup Recipes”
  2. A Sweet Pea Chef’s “10 Healthy Soup Recipes”
  3. Cookie + Kate’s “17 Healthy Vegetarian Soup Recipes”
  4. Whole Food Bellies “13 Homemade Healthy Soup Recipes Made in the Instant Pot”
  5. Feel Good Foodie’s “Soups”

Special thanks to these bloggers for sharing recipes!

Healthy pantry makeover

One of the simplest ways to encourage more cooking and find joy in it is to have a well organized kitchen pantry. When your pantry is cluttered, overly packed, stocked with expired items, spilled sauces, filled with highly processed foods or simply unorganized that you don’t know where things are, it can be a headache thinking about cooking. In addition, if your pantry doesn’t align with your healthy eating goals, it’s time for a makeover! It’s amazing how a well-organized and well-stocked pantry can help make mealtime easy and nutritious. Keep reading to learn simple strategies to help you stock a healthy pantry.

1) “Out of sight, out of mind”: If your goal is to eat healthier, you might want to swap out less-healthy foods such as snack foods or highly processed items that are high in salt, sugar and fat for healthier options. If you find that majority of your pantry consists of less-healthy foods, consider getting rid of most it (or all). By most of it, I encourage at least 85% of it. You may decide to choose only a few fun treat foods to keep around. In organizing these items, try the method of placing the healthy options at eye level and at easy-to-reach places, while intentionally placing the less-healthy treat foods at harder-to-reach places that will require a bit of effort to get to them. Strategic placement will help control impulsive urges to snack during times when you’re bored or stressed.

2) Utilize organization containers and label them: As you go through your kitchen pantry, you may find surprises such as expired items and mystery items (items with change in color, texture or maybe you have no clue what it is). Can you relate? It is extremely helpful to have organization containers such as clear food storage containers with lids, baskets and jars to place pantry foods in. The original containers that foods come in may be dirty, bulky and taking up too much space in your pantry, so toss those out and you’ll find that you can utilize your kitchen space more efficiently. Organization definitely helps with functionality. Don’t forget to label the containers with their name, their brand (optional) and their expiration date.

3) Organizing the spices and herbs: Incorporating a variety of spice and herb options will help add flavor, make cooking fun and healthy. Many spices come with exceptional health benefits! (Link below to learn more about spices). We are finding that too much sodium (salt) in the diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, edema, bloating and even calcium loss. So, move aside the salt and stock your pantry with spices and herbs. In organizing them, try placing your spices near the stove so they’re easily on hand as you cook. If you’re low on pantry space, consider placing them in a nearby drawer instead. In addition, make it easy to locate the spice by arranging them alphabetically or organize them by what you like to cook and group spices accordingly. You may also consider a spice rack to place on the counter!

4) Storing Tupperware: With a well-stocked and organized pantry, hopefully you will find yourself cooking more. To simplify the process of packing leftovers or meal prepping, make sure you have a set of quality Tupperware. If feasible, I encourage getting a uniform set of Tupperware with a variety of sizes. It makes storage of them easier by placing them into each other and separating the lids. Find a clean place in the cabinet or drawer to store all of these in one location.

For more ideas on healthy pantry makeovers, check out these links:

Healthy Food Pantry Makeover by Whole Foods Market

Healthy Pantry Makeover Tips + Free Printable Pantry & Meal Planning Checklist by Green Child Magazine

Pantry Makeover: What to Stock, What to Skip by Food Network

24 Delicious Herbs & Spices With Health Benefits by Organic Facts

I hope you found these tips and links useful and inspiring! A kitchen pantry makeover can bring so much happiness and I encourage you take on this challenge in your own home.

Why work with a registered dietitian?

For some people who have made diet and lifestyle changes on their own, they may find that they just aren’t getting results, or unable to maintain them. Undoubtedly, this can be frustrating. Figuring out your personal nutrition plan can actually be more complex and confusing than it seems, especially when there is an overabundance of information or inaccurate information out there. Beyond just calories in and out, factors that can affect their outcomes include what is eaten, the timing of the meals, the variety and balance of the food choices — all of these make a difference. On top of that, you might hear advice from a friend and you might read different advice online. Now you’re more confused than when you first began! By teaming up with a registered dietitian, the process of understanding your body’s nutrition needs and figuring out how to achieve them can be simplified and more achievable than you thought previously.

A registered dietitian is specially trained to understand the science behind food and nutrition. They will work with clients to assess their eating routine, evaluate what factors may be hindering from reaching their goals, and guide them with a strategic plan in the right direction to reach their goals. Registered dietitians value science-based information with an emphasis on safe approaches rather than quick, fad diets that are not sustainable. In addition to discussing diet and nutrition, a registered dietitian can help with motivation and accountability, the same way that a personal trainer keeps someone on track in exercise. They are your trusted resource who is also your teammate on your journey to eating healthy. And as with a personal trainer, clients can choose to work with a dietitian based on their schedule, needs and budget. Some may prefer group sessions while others prefer one-on-one sessions. Some prefer monthly check-in’s while others prefer some form of communication weekly or biweekly. A client’s preferences can communicated with the registered dietitian they are working with to ensure their approach is individualized.

When it comes to follow-up’s with a registered dietitian, follow-up’s are essential. They are an opportunity to discuss progress, provide feedback on what’s working or what’s not working, ask questions, prepare for challenging situations, learn about tools and resources, or products, and feel support. People often find that periodical check in’s with a registered dietitian helps remind them of what they’re working towards and get support so they don’t lose sight of their goals or feel like they’re overwhelmed when life gets busy and meal planning seems hardly possible.

If you’re thinking about working with a registered dietitian and need a few more pointers as to why it’s a good idea, I encourage you to check out this link: https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/learn-more-about-rdns/10-reasons-to-visit-an-rdn .

Keep in mind, before choosing to work with someone on your nutrition plan, be sure to check their credentials. Anyone can call him or herself a “nutritionist”, this term is not regulated and does not involve formal requirements or training to complete. Only the credentials of Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD or RDN, which are both acceptable) are nationally regulated by the Commission on Dietetic Registration Board. To learn more, check out these links: “What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” and “Every Registered Dietitian Is a Nutritionist, but Not Every Nutritionist Is a Registered Dietitian”.

If you have any questions, feel free to send a direct email to info@JulieTangNutrition.com.