A Nutritionist’s 5 Most Important Steps to Glowing Skin

Today I bring you a special post written by my colleague, Certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant Priscilla Johnson. Priscilla specializes in helping people overcome their Skin Problems by getting to the root and healing from the inside out. You can find her at her blog posting articles on the importance of nutrition and skincare. Or, follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

This blog post contains affiliate links. Only products I have direct experience with and love are recommended or linked here. You are under no obligation to purchase through these links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, the compensation I receive helps support the cost of maintaining this website. Thank you!

1. Get your daily dose of essential fatty acids

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Fats are mandatory for proper health and essential for healthy skin as they make up the cell membrane and are used inside the cell. Quality fats are also sources of important fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, K, B12 and E. The best sources of these fats are from properly sourced animal products including grass-fed and free-range animal products, which also are much higher in omega-3s than their grain-fed counterparts. This is important as most North Americans consume lots of Omega-6s through grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, but, they do not get an equal amount of Omega-3s. If you find that you aren’t getting enough Omega-3s from diet alone, it would be wise to consider sourcing an excellent supplement.

2. Eat slowly

Tips on Optimizing Digestion

Proper digestion is foundational to great skin and health. This is because every organ in our body is dependent on our digestive system to break down nutrients for assimilation. But where does digestion really start? Hint: it’s not the stomach. It’s the brain. Sound crazy? Hear me out. When we smell or see food and take time to appreciate it, our brain is given the chance to signal the salivary glands to start producing saliva. We then intake food and our mouth breaks it down mechanically (by chewing) and chemically (with saliva). If we are stressed and rushed while eating, our brain does not trigger this salivary response, the proper digestive processes for what we’re consuming, and we don’t break down our food enough, which places a burden on our stomach. Thus, we must slow down, take time to smell and enjoy our meal, relax and chew our food for at least 30 seconds.

3. Hydrationdownload-1 hydration-benefits-infographic-640x480-2

We have all heard how important it is to drink enough water and stay hydrated. But, how do we know what is enough water to drink? To calculate the right amount for ourselves, we must divide our body weight by 2, and that is the number of ounces we need to drink daily. However, the tricky thing is that a lot of us consume diuretic beverages which deplete some of our water. These include sugary drinks, coffee, caffeinated and some herbal teas, soda, and alcoholic beverages. To solve this problem, we must consume an addition 1 1/2 glasses of water for every 8 ounce glass of diuretic beverage.

4. Minerals

imagesMinerals may only make up a small percentage of the nutrients found in the body but they are absolutely essential. The problem is that we are not getting enough minerals from the foods in our modern diet due to soil depletion and loss of mindful organic farming methods. This means that we must consciously consume extra minerals to feed our bodies. Some great ways to do this are through a mineral salt sole, trace mineral drops or a quality multi-mineral supplement. Secondly, a salt sole or trace mineral drops also provide valuable electrolytes that the body needs to both retain water and for proper absorption. As our body uses electrolytes, especially through sweating, we must consume and replenish them.

5. Topical care

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We can’t take care of skin without nourishing and treating it topically. Skin is a 2-sided organ meaning that we must not only feed it from the inside but also protect it from the outside. It’s important to source quality skincare products that are appropriate for your skin, aka acne prone and youthful vs dry and mature, and that don’t contain irritants. Take time to wash your face and moisturize morning & night, apply an SPF daily, and consider investing in an antioxidant serum. Some of my favourite botanical products with active ingredients are from Whistler Naturals and Roccoco Botanicals, as well as the Vitamin C serum from Mad Hippie.

Find out more by visiting author Priscilla Johnson at http://priscillajohnsonntc.com/

Does “Tidying Up” Really Increase Health?

This blog post contains affiliate links. Only products I have direct experience with and love are recommended or linked here. You are under no obligation to purchase through these links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, the compensation I receive helps support the cost of maintaining this website. Thank you!

As a former military brat and current military spouse, we move. A lot. And with each move, we manage to accumulate more and more STUFF. We have some stuff that hasn’t been unpacked in at least two moves, but we keep moving it around from place to place. Having just moved AGAIN recently, I was appalled to see just how much stuff we’ve accumulated over the years.

When a fellow NTP recently raved about the Marie Kondo book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I thought, “Oh great. ANOTHER decluttering and organizing book.” What she said made me pay attention, though. She said that she had begun reading it and instituting it’s methods in her home immediately, and noticed a positive difference. “Immediately” caught my attention. I thought, “What do I have to lose?”

I’ve read many cleaning and de-cluttering books over the years, but nothing ever resonated with me. Until I read this one. It is the first book I have read on the subject that spurred me to action and motivated me to not only start, but start right away. Maybe it was the claim that you only have to do it once and never again, or perhaps the fact that one sorts by category, not just room, but whatever the reason, I have to agree that Marie Kondo’s KonMari method for tidying up really is magic!

Why post about this on a nutrition site, you ask? One of the things that hit home with me while I was reading was something the author said:

“Your living space affects your body…when we reduce what we own and essentially ‘detox’ our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well.” – Marie Kondo

I thought about that, and it made a lot of sense. I used to love watching the BBC Show “How Clean is Your House?” and I noticed that happening on the show…once people had their house cleaned from top to bottom, they had less stuff to deal with, which made them happier, and their house was easier to clean, too, which also made them happier! Many of them went on to institute what they had learned in other parts of their lives, changing careers, and in extreme cases, even relationships that they realized they needed to discard! Kondo notices the same thing with her clients, claiming that some have gone on to change professions to passions they have neglected for years.

I highly recommend this book for everyone, especially if you are struggling with focus. Kondo says,

“Although I have no scientific basis for this theory, it is very interesting to see that the part of the body responding [to certain areas of tidying] corresponds closely to the area that is put in order.”

All I have done is organize the chest of drawers in our house. The organization of those drawers brings a smile to my face each time I open them. The extra space I now have has made storing other things we love possible. Even my kids have been more helpful in putting things away now that they can see at a glance what goes where! I feel happier, I can’t wait to tackle the rest of our categories, and I look forward to more positive changes in our home! I think by the time 2017 rolls around, my house will be in order, and I won’t have to resolve to do that anymore, which is another positive in my book! Does it increase health? That remains to be seen, but the positive energy I’ve experienced with just a few minor changes gets chalked up to a win, and a definite step in the right direction!

MarieOlson, NTPIf you’re ready to make positive changes in your health (over and above what tackling your home organization can accomplish!), why not start with a free consult to see if NutriSimplicity’s services are right for you? I’d love to help restore your energy and vitality and get you back to feeling vibrant!

Donor Milk: What You Need to Know to Supplement with Human Milk

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, 2016, I am excited to share this guest blog post by Beth Martin of Small Bites Wellness. It originally appeared on her site in May and has been republished with her permission.

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Need to supplement milk for your baby and prefer to stick with human milk? Here’s everything you need to know about safely finding and using donor milk. How and what we feed our kids matters, and it’s one of my favorite topics to write about. I’ve previously shared my thoughts on rice cereal and first table foods, and today I’m sharing about donor milk. We had such a wonderful experience using donor milk with my daughter that I hope to help increase awareness of this option for feeding little ones.

Our Low Milk Supply Story
Three weeks into mom life, and after a week of agonizing pain, but wanting to continue breastfeeding, I found myself applying steroid ointment prescribed by my midwives. I assumed an appointment with a lactation consultant would set us straight, and we’d be on our way to pain-free, and steroid-free, nursing.

My IBCLC arrived at our home, asked about our birth and nursing history, analyzed our latch, and observed us nursing for about two hours. She then gently suggested that it was likely my daughter wasn’t getting enough food, and the pain was due to her intense feeding while trying to get enough milk.

It broke my heart to hear that I wasn’t producing enough food, but it made sense. In hindsight, extremely slow weight gain and lack of a bowel movement for ten days, both of which my pediatrician was not worried about, along with screaming every night from 4pm – 10pm, were good indications that my baby was hungry. Please note that every situation is different; I highly encourage you to work with an IBCLC before determining that you have low supply.

Like many surprises in parenthood, not being able to exclusively breastfeed my daughter wasn’t something I’d even considered. Postpartum hormones certainly didn’t help make this feel less devastating.

Regardless of how I felt about my inability to feed her as much as she needed, she needed to eat. I started working on my own supply, trying everything — eating six meals a day, tea, herbs, lactogenic foods, power pumping, nursing ‘vacations’, and even an anxiety- and weight-inducing pharmaceutical that I took for seven months. Unfortunately, my supply increased but never made it to full production.

We also began to supplement. The decision of what to supplement with is a personal decision, with commercial formula, homemade formula, and donor milk being the available options. We decided that the benefits of human milk outweighed the risks, and successfully used donor milk until my daughter was ten months old, at which point we felt that younger babies would benefit from the available donations.

What is donor milk?
Donor milk is milk that is shared voluntarily by a mother, the modern day equivalent of a wet nurse. Thanks to the breast pump, milk expression can happen more conveniently in a donor’s home, without the baby in need. Though I have heard that co-nursing, a normal practice for most of human existence but eschewed in recent generations, is also making a comeback – very cool!

Donors provide their stores of frozen milk to babies in need in two ways, through milk banks and through peer-to-peer relationships.

Milk banks, like the 20+ non-profit banks in the HMBANA organization, collect milk from screened donors, pasteurize and test for pathogens, and provide (sometimes at a cost to cover testing, storage, shipping) to NICUs or directly to parents with a prescription for human milk.

The data is sparse, but recent studies have shown powerful potential for donor milk and the health of premature infants by reducing rates of necrotizing enterocolitis (a gut infection and the number two killer of premature babies) and sepsis. I’m excited to see that hospitals are increasing the use of donor milk for babies who need it the most.

Donors can also choose to share milk peer-to-peer within their community. Outside of an ill child with a prescription, this is the most common way to obtain human breast milk. Community milk sharing is a great alternative for moms with low supply, IGT, a transmittable disease, etc. It’s also a source of milk for adoptive moms who want to provide human milk to their little ones, or for little ones who don’t tolerate formula well. Community, peer-to-peer milk sharing is how we received close to fifteen hundred ounces of donor milk to feed our daughter during her first year.

Modern day milk sharing helped us find 1500 oz of human milk for our little one!

And yes, mothers can also sell breastmilk, making it available for purchase without a prescription. I’ve heard several tales of funny business that happens when you introduce money into the breastmilk trade. If the goal is to provide human milk to a child, I highly recommend community donations over purchased milk.

Need to supplement milk for your baby and prefer to stick with human milk? Here’s everything you need to know about safely finding and using donor milk.

But is donor milk safe?
The most common questions I received when our use of donor milk came up in conversation were around safety. And I get it. There are two major concerns with breastmilk safety – communicable diseases and dangerous bacteria growth in raw milk. These dangers are relative, and why milk supplementation comes down to personal choice. If you are considering donor milk, you must weigh the risks and benefits with those of commercial or homemade formula, and decide which is right for your family.

Milk banks follow strict screening, processing, and dispensing guidelines, and we can assume that this milk is safe from communicable diseases (though it is not tested for the tobacco, alcohol, etc.). This milk has been pasteurized and the risk of bacteria is very low. While pasteurization results in a small percentage of the nutrients being denatured, this milk is going to very fragile babies who can not risk any dangerous pathogens.

So what about community sourced donor milk? There are currently no known instances of a child contracting a disease via donor milk, though that does not mean it’s never happened. The CDC responds to communicable diseases in their breastfeeding FAQ with:

HIV and other serious infectious diseases can be transmitted through breast milk. However, the risk of infection from a single bottle of breast milk, even if the mother is HIV positive, is extremely small. For women who do not have HIV or other serious infectious diseases, there is little risk to the child who receives her breast milk.

Peer-to-peer milk sharing is based on informed consent, meaning that you review and understand all information available to you, weigh the risks and benefits, and decide if accepting milk from a donor is right for you. In order to safely use donor milk, you will want to ask about the following when speaking with a potential donor:

* Blood tests: Many recipients request to see current blood test results. Donating moms have recently given birth and are likely to have test results available. You can request that a donor be screened if you’d like a more recent test.
* Lifestyle: Ask about smoking, alcohol use, over the counter or prescribed medications, diet, or any other lifestyle or health history factors that concern you and are not available in test results.
* Pumping practices: Raw milk is vulnerable to bacteria, like any living food. Ask questions around breast care, pump cleaning, and milk storage so that you are confident your donor practices milk expression and storage safely.

I spoke to our donors, and (gratefully) accepted milk from those who I felt confident had a clean health history with no communicable diseases, took proper precautions with expression and storage, and were not smoking or taking any potentially harmful medication.

Peer-to-peer milk sharing is based on informed consent and can be done safely.

If you are concerned over safety, or unclear of a donor’s health history, but want to move forward with using donor milk, you can practice at-home flash heating or pasteurization. I use flash heating with a batch of milk that was given to me by a friend and I was unable to speak with the donating mom, otherwise I preferred to provide the milk raw to maximize nutrients.

How do I find donor milk for my baby?
With a little effort, it is likely that you will find all the milk you need. In some cases, moms are able to create a relationships with another nursing mom and receive long-term donations from her. In other cases, a mom might need to find new donors as supply runs low.

Start by reaching out to your community. Do you belong to a church? Parenting group? Baby wearing or other child-focused group? Have friends who are nursing? You will be surprised how willing people are to help when they know you have a need. But they need to know. Post a message in Facebook groups, on your own page, send out an email, etc. Get your need out there, and you are likely to find someone who can help. I’ve even seen breast milk shared in my Buy Nothing group.

Outside of your immediate community, you can join two organizations, Human Milk for Human Babies and Eats on Feets, that facilitate community based, non-commerce milk sharing.

To join either (and I recommend joining both), visit their website, find the chapter for you based on location, and request to join the corresponding Facebook group. It can feel overwhelming to start, and oddly, a lot like online dating. Based on your location, there might be high demand (like in my group) or low supply (like in my sister’s). Stay optimistic and you will find milk. I suggest you:

* Create a post with your request and provide details (but don’t lie, that’s just bad karma). Add a picture of your little one – donor mamas donate out of the good of their heart and I sense that they really enjoy knowing who the milk is going to help.
* Check the group frequently for offers – donors are tired and busy like every other mama, and often don’t look through requests to find a match. Respond to offers you are interested in as soon as you can.
* Offer to replace supplies. Milk on these sites is never for sale and you can be banned if you offer to pay, but it’s nice to offer to replace storage bags as a thank you for the time, effort, and expense a donor puts in to providing extra milk.

When you are offered milk, review safety with the donor and decide if you are satisfied. If you are, arrange for pick-up. Be smart as you would in any other situation (think Craigslist). I’ve found nothing but well-intentioned mamas in the milk sharing community, but you never know. Consider setting a time where you can bring your partner to wait in the car, or request meeting in a public space convenient to the donor.

Bring a cooler with ice or ice packs to transport the milk from their home to yours. If you are able to, it’s a nice gesture to leave storage bags (these are great because they have four packs of 25 bags) or a nursing/pumping snack (I brought a handful of LARABARs a few times) with your donor.

It’s easy to be swept up in the donor milk game and stress about each and every ounce, to obsess over how long your current stash will last, to worry about when you are going to run out. Occasionally our frozen donor stash dwindled, and we used organic commercial formula (preferred and backup) for supplementing until I found the next good match. And life went on just fine. Please remember that what your baby needs most from you is love, and you have more than enough of that to give.

How do I use donor milk?
This one is simple – use donor milk just like you would use your own stored milk! You can feed your child via bottle, supplemental nursing system, cup, or any other way you’d use your own expressed milk or formula. I recommend talking to your IBCLC to decide what is best for your situation. Make sure to follow proper handling and storage practices to keep milk safe.

I’m grateful for all the mamas who helped us meet our breastfeeding goal. And to my dear friend, Leigh, who introduced me to donor milk. I wasn’t aware of it when I learned I needed to supplement, and within a day she had a nursing friend of hers providing our first donation. I’m continually reminded that this mama life takes a village…

Do you have an experience with donor milk? Would you consider donor milk for you little one? Any questions for me about our experience?

You can get in touch with Beth at Small Bites Wellness here.

Optimizing Digestion Can Impact Your Health

Tips on Optimizing Digestion

This blog post contains affiliate links.  Only products I have direct experience with and love are recommended or linked here. You are under no obligation to purchase through these links.  If you choose to make a purchase through these links, the compensation I receive helps support the cost of maintaining this website.  Thank you!

We’ve all heard that old saying, “You are what you eat,” right? What if I told you it’s a little more complicated than that? One can have the most nutrient-dense diet in the world, and be eating all the right things every day, but unless one is DIGESTING those nutrient-dense, properly prepared foods, it’s all in vain.  If digestion isn’t optimized, nutrition can’t occur completely as it should.

Your gastrointestinal system, which is what allows you to digest and absorb your food, is a system of complex relationships.  Each step in your digestion depends on another to get the job done thoroughly.  Contrary to popular belief, digestion does NOT begin in the mouth…it begins in the brain.  Think about the last time you were at a Mexican restaurant, and someone at the table next to you ordered fajitas.  As it was coming from the kitchen, the sound of the sizzling meal alerted you to its presence before anything else.  You heard the sizzle from the minute it came out, and chances are you, and everyone around you, turned to see what the noise was.  As it passed by your table, maybe you smelled the fajitas, too.  Once it was set down, you caught a glimpse of it…Getting hungry yet? Thinking fajitas sound good right about now? Maybe even salivating a little just at the thought of those piping hot, fresh and oh-so-yummy imaginary fajitas? Not a fan of fajitas? Imagine you just bit into a big, juicy lemon…The sensations you’re experiencing are all happening because of your brain. You haven’t actually smelled or tasted the food, but your body is reacting as though it has. All that to say, yep! Digestion starts in the brain.  It’s a north to south process.  Next in the north to south process is your mouth.

Your mouth is the place where you first get to taste the food.  Once you put it in your mouth, carbohydrates start breaking down with something called salivary amylase, which is an enzyme in your saliva that helps break down sugars. What’s an easy way to remember this? Think: M&Ms.  They melt in your mouth, not in your hand, right? Ever wondered why that is? What are M&Ms? Sugar; AKA carbohydrates! And hopefully they’re not something you’re eating often if you’re trying to be healthy! All carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains, starches) begin breaking down in the mouth.  The other thing that starts in your mouth is the physical breakdown of food.  Your teeth and tongue help do this; as you chew, you are tearing and crushing the food into smaller pieces so it’s easier to pass down your esophagus.

Once the food is ready to pass into your esophagus, it is called a bolus, which is a fancy name for the mass of partially digested food that’s on its way to your stomach for further digestion. So the bolus makes it way down your esophagus, or gullet, into the stomach.  It’s helped along by something called peristalsis, or wave-like movement that propels it from your mouth to your stomach (peristalsis also happens further along in the digestive tract in your intestines – more on that in a bit).  Check out this short video for a quick demonstration.  It then passes through the cardiac sphincter, or lower esophageal sphincter, into the stomach. Now, this is designed to be a one-way valve; meaning it is only designed to open down into the stomach.  However, when one is sick and needs to vomit, or is suffering from heartburn, it will open up and allow the contents of the stomach to go back into the esophagus.  This can be really painful, because there’s acid in your stomach, and it is the only organ of the body that’s designed to withstand it.  The esophagus will burn with stomach acid, which is why it’s called “heartburn” to begin with! This is actually a symptom of dysfunction and should not be happening when one has optimal digestion.

Research shows that 90% of Americans produce too little stomach acid. -Dr. Jonathan Wright, Why Stomach Acid is Good For You

Once the bolus enters the stomach, the churning and burning begins.  Your stomach churns the food and bathes it in hydrochloric acid to chemically break it down.  This is where protein digestion begins.  You must have the right amount of hydrochloric acid in your stomach to properly break down your proteins, or they will not be absorbed by the body.  This is why acid-blockers are a bad idea; long-term use can basically shut-off the body’s ability to make hydrochloric acid, which can prevent protein absorption and assimilation in the body.  Did you know the instructions for these products usually say to use them for 14 days at the most? Often if people have lost the taste for meat or have chosen a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle because meat doesn’t agree with them, it is the result of low stomach acid and the inability to break down protein.  This can be the result of several factors, including a low zinc status.

Once the bolus passes into the stomach and combines with the gastric juices, it is called chyme. Once the chyme has reached the proper pH of 1.5-3 (almost pure acid), the body will signal the pancreas to start neutralizing the acid, which it does with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and pancreatic juices that are secreted into the small intestine. If the food isn’t acidic enough, this step will not happen. See how everything’s related? Everything south depends on what’s happening north…and it’s all dependent on a properly functioning digestive system!

Once it’s in the small intestine, the gallbladder will secrete bile to help break down and emulsify the fats, the final macronutrient needed by the body (carbohydrates, protein and fats are the macronutrients that your body needs to function).  75% of your digestion and absorption occurs in the small intestine! This is where the food you’ve eaten is broken down into the smallest pieces and passes into your bloodstream for nourishment and energy. Isn’t the body amazing?

The small intestine moves the food along it’s length with peristalsis – the same wave-like movement that happens in the esophagus – into the large intestine, which is like your body’s recycling center. Once it reaches the large intestine, if everything is functioning optimally, all that’s left is indigestible fiber, water and dead cells. This is where any remaining water is absorbed, and any remaining nutrients are captured for utilization by the body. Anything leftover after this process is removed from the body in the form of feces, or poop. Ideally, this should be happening with every meal – ever noticed how babies’ bowel movements happen after every meal? Or pets and other animals? They all go to the bathroom after each meal. Bristol Stool ChartThis is the ideal, but it may not be the most practical for most people. So at least once a day should be the goal. The average meal transit time is 19-24 hours, so bowel movements should happen at least once a day in healthy individuals. Poop is a major indicator of health…look before you flush! You should not see undigested food in your toilet, and it should sink, not float if you’re absorbing the fat in your diet. Check out the Bristol Stool Chart above to see where you are on the healthy vs. unhealthy poop continuum.

Because digestion works north to south, a problem in the steps anywhere will impact everything that is supposed to happen from that point onward.

Adequate stomach acid is the key to your digestive health. Stomach acid production can be affected by:
Stress
• Excess carbohydrate intake (including refined sugars )
• Nutrient Deficiency
• Allergies and food sensitivities
• Excess alcohol

Lack of stomach acid causes carbohydrates to ferment, proteins to putrefy, and fats to rancidify. This can lead to symptoms of GI distress like: GERD/reflux, heartburn, gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, and/or IBS among others.

Five Key Steps You Can Start Today to Improve Your Digestion.

  1. Allow time to sit and relax when you eat. NO multitasking.
  2. Chew your food thoroughly and eat mindfully.
  3. Limit your fluids during meals to 4-6 oz.
  4. Avoid carbonated beverages. The phosphoric acid in these beverages will switch you into a sympathetic state (non-digesting) and can leach minerals from your bones.
  5. Start your meal with some food/ beverages that can prime your stomach acid production:
  • 1-2 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in water.
  •  1-2 Tbsp. fermented sauerkraut, kimchi or digestive bitters.
  • Apply Vibrant Blue Oil Parasympathetic Blend to your mastoid bone before meals (you can read more about this great oil here.

By optimizing your digestion, you will reap the full benefits of the nutrients you are consuming.  So as Michael Pollan says in In Defense of Food, an Eater’s Manifesto, “Eat Food.  Not too much.  Mostly Plants,” to ensure you are getting the most bang from your nutrient buck!

 

Special thanks to Stacy Stunes, RN, NTP of Innera Nutrition for her help with this post!

Pre-Conception and Fertility Nutrition

Pregnant woman in kitchen making salad

This post originally appeared as a guest blog spot on http://kaystotalfitness.blogspot.com/ on 4/6/16 and has been re-published with permission.  It was also featured as a guest blog post under the title “Nutritional Considerations for Pre-Conception and Fertility” on the Feed Your Fertile Body!™ blog on 4/7/16.

I love the springtime.  To me, it’s such a time of renewal and rebirth. That’s when all the animals and plants seem to come back to life after the long, cold winter season.  I always think of baby bunnies hopping around the yard and their prolific fertility.

Speaking of fertility…when we as Americans think of fertility and preparation for having babies, how many of us think about diet? Most people know that age-old advice that as an expecting woman, one is “eating for two.” But what is being eaten? Is it wholesome, nutrient-dense food? Or merely an increase in calories and/or quantity of our day-to-day diet? Is that the healthiest choice?

Many of you have probably heard about the SAD diet in America; SAD being an acronym for the Standard American Diet.  The Standard American Diet is the diet touted by the US Government as being the best nutrition we can eat. The US Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest 45-65% of our calories should come from carbohydrates, while 20-35% should come from fat and 10-35% should come from protein.  Well, I teach Nutrition, and to me, those numbers are not very pro-health.  If you look at traditional diets, and the diets of typical Americans before the advent of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in the 1970s, we ate far fewer calories from carbohydrates.

As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I typically urge clients to aim for a 40-30-30 ratio when eating; that is, 40% carbohydrates, 30% fats and 30% protein.  30% fat? Isn’t that a lot?  I can hear the questions now…the quick answer is, not really.  Think about the fact that for every gram of fat you consume, it has about 9 calories, so you need a lot less fat by weight than you do of protein or carbohydrates, which only have about 4 calories per gram.  So what that means, is that a half-pound of butter (1 stick or 8 oz, or 226.8 grams) will be a little over twice as many calories (2041.2) as half a pound of protein or carbohydrates (907.2 calories).  And who eats an entire stick of butter in one sitting, anyway?  In other words, eating the same amount of fat by weight makes more calories.  Make sense? That means that if we’re eating a ratio of 30-30-40, we need a lot less fat than you think to achieve that based on calories; it’s actually quite a balanced way to set up your plate and achieve an optimal amount of fat in your diet.

Why are fats so important, anyway? Fat is key to developing healthy hormones.  In fact, every cell membrane is made up of fat! Fat is essential.  It ensures we are absorbing our fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K.  Fat is required for proper protein absorption, and also serves as protection for our organs (think “padding”).  Ever run into something with your knee (no padding from fat)? It really hurt, right? What about your hip, where most of us have a little more padding? Not as bad? Fat also helps slow the absorption of food and make us feel full longer.

When was the last time you had a meal without fat (usually cold cereal for breakfast comes to mind) – chances are you were starving a couple of hours later, right? What about if you had bacon and eggs for breakfast? You were probably good to go until lunch, right? Plus, fat just makes food taste better! This whole low-fat, no-fat mantra we’ve all been hearing for years is not only wrong, but dangerous.  Ever known anyone that ate a low-fat diet and had problems conceiving? I’ve known many.  When I see clients, that is one of the first things I ask them – what’s your fat intake like? And what types of fats are you eating? Because both of those questions are very important to determine if they are getting what their body needs to support life.  Fat-free and low-fat foods have the fat removed (along with the flavor it provides) and have to make up for that with other things – usually fillers, sugar and/or salt.  Wouldn’t it just be better to get the flavor from the fat that was there to begin with? I think so! Stop buying fat-free and low-fat yogurt and stick with the whole milk version – it tastes better, has fewer additives, and will sustain you for longer, too!

There are three types of fats: saturated, the most stable of all the fats, which is found in animal products and tropical oils; your body can make this from carbohydrates; monounsaturated fat, also relatively stable, which is found predominately in nut oils like almonds, pecans, cashews and other sources like olive oil and avocado oil; the body can make this from saturated fats; and finally, polyunsaturated fat.  This is considered an unstable fat, and should never be heated or used for cooking.  Think of using this as a finishing oil to use AFTER something is cooked, just to give it some flavor.  It can also be used in cold applications like salad dressing.  Polyunsaturated fats are found in flax seed oil, some nuts, fish and seed oils.

There are two types of fats that are essential, which means we MUST get them from our diet, because our body cannot make them on its own.  They are linoleic acid (aka omega-6) and alpha linolenic acid (aka omega-3).  As I’m sure you’ve heard, salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acid, as are sardines and other oily fish.  Especially in pre-conception and during pregnancy, walnut oil, wheat germ and hemp are also good sources.  Omega-6 fatty acids can be found in sunflower and sesame oil; again, these are the best sources during pre-conception and pregnancy.  Most people get plenty of omega-6 fats in their diet, but are often lacking enough omega-3 fats.  In fact, most people are around 24:1 omega-6:omega-3, and should be more like 3:1 or even 1:1 for a better ratio.

Getting back to nutrition and preparing for children…did you know that so called “primitive” cultures often had a pre-conception fertility diet to ensure healthy mother and offspring? Some started 6 months before marriage (assuming that conception would start shortly after), while others started 6 months before conception.  Typically these cultures would increase the vitamins, minerals, fats and organ meats in the diet for both the mother and father in preparation of children.  Not only that, but the special diet would continue through pregnancy and even after, to provide satisfactory nutrition to the baby while nursing.  These “special foods” were set aside specifically for those in the group/tribe that were preparing to conceive, because they were known to be the best sources of nutrients for a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Here in the United States, we really don’t get much guidance when it comes to pre-conception nutrition.  Usually, it starts when we’ve already conceived:  “Limit your caffeine. Give up smoking. Stop drinking alcohol. Take pre-natal vitamins.” Yes, that is all good advice; and yes, it is best to start that as soon as possible, even before conception.  But does that advice constitute good nutrition?

Here’s what I would love to see instead: eat three to five meals a day, with a good combination of fats, protein and carbohydrates at each meal.  They don’t have to be big meals; eating consistently throughout the day will help balance blood sugar, alleviate cravings and give one steady energy.  This is especially important for anyone dealing with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), because low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets are associated with a higher risk of developing PCOS.

Make sure you’re getting the best nutrition you can afford; ideally, aim for locally grown, organic foods.  If you can only afford to buy one thing organic, invest in organic butter.  I really like Kerry Gold Butter, which is cultured butter from grass-fed cows, high in fat-soluble vitamins thanks to the fresh grass and sunlight.  Toxins are stored in the fats of animals (and humans are an animal, too!), so getting the best sources of fat you can is crucial for a few reasons.  Toxins may be released into the placenta during pregnancy, and into the baby, especially if someone experiences significant weight loss during pregnancy (think: morning sickness).  This is also the case prior to pregnancy – since toxins are released when one loses weight, and if one loses significant weight, those toxins will be released into the blood stream.  If the body is not properly detoxified, those toxins can be reabsorbed into the body and wreak havoc in different body systems.

Get enough sleep! Pregnancy can take a toll on your body, and you won’t get much after baby arrives, so soak it up while you can! This will allow your body time to repair and recover, and you’ll have more energy to get things done the next day, too.  While eating a varied diet can certainly help ensure you have the vitamins and minerals you need, getting a good multi-vitamin certainly doesn’t hurt.  Some good choices that are bio-available forms are Metabolic Maintenance’s FemOne or Vital Nutrients Prenatal.

Even better, join a local pre-conception support group! I am very excited to offer the Feed Your Fertile Body!TM Program just for such support! In this class, which is designed for either couples or singles, you will get step by step recommendations on what to do to prepare for welcoming a baby into your family.  There are pantry clean-outs with recommended swaps, and we even get to try new foods in the group.  I look forward to working with you to address your nutrition needs.

Marie Olson, NTP is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in private practice.  She is the Owner of NutriSimplicity, and specializes in digestion, pre-conception nutrition, Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis and Get at the RootsTM Weight Loss.  She serves as an Adjunct Faculty Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Virginia, where she teaches Nutrition.  You can find her on the web NutriSimplicity

Many of the books and products listed below can be viewed and/or purchased through NutriSimplicity’s Amazon Store (affiliate link).  By purchasing items through my store link, I will earn a small commission at no cost to you.  You are never under any obligation to purchase through my links, but if you choose to do so, the money I earn helps me to maintain my website and bring you more information like this article! So, thank you!

Sources and Suggested Reading:  

Feed Your Fertile Body!™ Participant Workbook, Sara Russell, PhD, NTP, CGP

Mother Food: Food and Herbs that Promote Milk Production for a Mother’s Health by Hilary Jacobson

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price, DDS

Real Plans, Meal Planning Service

Special thanks to Sara Russell, PhD, NTP, CGP of Your Probiotic Kitchen for information about PCOS and Toxins in pre-conception

Super Nutrition for Babies: The Right Way to Feed Your Baby for Optimal Health by Katherine Erlich and Kelly Genzlinger

The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care by Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowan

The Nutritional Therapist Training Program, Nutritional Therapy Association

Feed Your Fertile Body!™ Pre-Conception/Fertility Classes now available

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I’m very excited to announce that I am now officially a Feed Your Fertile Body!™ Instructor.  Feed Your Fertile Body!™ is a fabulous 6-Week Pre-Conception/Fertility Class to optimize your body nutritionally for conception. You can read all about the program here.

The program focuses on strengthening fertility in both men and women who are preparing to become parents. The program includes a workbook, and will guide you and other participants through information and action steps designed to empower you to feed your fertile body with the ingredients needed to grow and raise a healthy baby!

This is a “food-positive” program, where there is no pressure to be perfect, and the focus is on adding in deeply nourishing foods that will bring you health and happiness while building your fertility.

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Each week, you will get tips on how to ensure your body is nutritionally prepared for a baby, what you can do at home to clean out your pantry to ensure the nutrients you are eating are the best they can be, shopping lists, recipes, home and body care info and more! Your class workbook will serve as a journal of your progress. I love babies, and I am so excited to get you prepared for yours!

Ideally, class will be 4-8 people, but if you’d rather meet individually or as a couple, that can also be arranged.  Classes are forming soon.  To get on the waiting list, please contact us.  If you have any questions about the program, I’m happy to answer those for you.  I look forward to working with you to Feed Your Fertile Body!™

Meal Planning Services now being offered!

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I am pleased to announce that I have partnered with Real Plans to offer customizable meal planning services to you.

  • In a meal rut? Tired of having the same thing to eat all the time?
  • Need some suggestions of traditional food to eat or just want some mealtime inspiration?
  • Have food allergies or sensitivities that cause you to avoid certain foods?

No problem! Real Plans to the rescue! You can check out this video that explains all the capabilities that Real Plans has to offer.  It’s amazing what a relief it is when you have a plan in place and know what you’ll be eating each night of the week, especially when you have a crazy hectic schedule! Let Real Plans help you with your grocery list, meal prep timeline, new recipes and even some old familiar favorites! I love that I can import the recipes that we love to eat, and Real Plans will let me decide when we want to eat it, or mix things up so we can try new things.  It’s been so nice having one less thing to worry about each week! Did I mention that the meals are delicious? Everyone in the family has been happy with what we’ve had since trying this service out.

All the recipes are highly customizable – you can fix meals for 1 person or a family of 8 or more, and everything in between! Trying to avoid certain ingredients? No problem! You can remove certain items (like tomatoes) or even whole categories (like nightshades) with just a few clicks of your mouse! You can choose gluten free, dairy free, traditional, paleo, vegetarian…even switch it up depending on what you feel like.  Have meatless Monday’s at your house? Real Plans has you covered! I highly recommend it!

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Are you ready to Get at the Roots™ of your health?

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I’m very excited to announce that I have completed my Get at the Roots™ Instructor Training and am now officially a Get at the Roots™ Weight Loss Program Instructor! What is Get at the Roots™, you ask? Get at the Roots™ is a personalized weight loss program designed to get your body healthy. By doing this 12-week program, you will discover and address the root causes that can contribute to your body’s inability to lose weight.

I love this program, because it’s all about bio-individuality. As we learned in our Nutritional Therapy Training, no two people are the same, and that’s why a one-size fits all approach to dieting doesn’t work. This program addresses that beautifully, and it is completely customized TO YOU. If you’re tired of trying every diet under the sun without the outcome you want, why not try Get at the Roots™? It may well be the last “diet” you ever try! The objective of the program is to get your body healthy. As your body gets healthier, the weight will naturally come off until you reach your ideal, healthy body weight. This is not a low-calorie, low-fat diet. It is not about restricting calories and therefore nutrients. The body needs good nutrition to properly function. This program is about giving your body the proper nutrients it needs for its metabolic and hormonal processes. By doing this, not only do you feed your body good nutrition, but your body gains health, diminishes food cravings and you gain energy while losing unwanted body fat.

I will be holding an informational webinar about the Get at the Roots™ Weight Loss program on January 4th at 9 am. When you attend, you will hear about the 5 Keys to Speeding Metabolism, the 10 Root Causes that hinder your weight loss and how the Get at the Roots™ Weight Loss Program can help you! I hope you can make it! Please register, and If you’re not able to make it live, I will make the recording available to you afterwards.  My first class will be offered in January, so come get your questions answered! Be sure to go vote for the best day and time of class on my Facebook page! Currently Tuesday night at 5:30 pm is the proposed schedule. I hope to help you bring health and balance to your body in 2016!

You can find out more about the program and watch a short video by visiting my dedicated Get at the Roots website.
In Health,
Marie Olson, NTP

NutriSimplicity has officially launched!

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I’m so excited to welcome you to my brand spanking new website, www.nutrisimplicity.com! Thank you to everyone who has supported me in this journey.

I am hoping to post at least monthly to this blog with nutrition tips, cooking ideas and general wellness info.  If there’s a certain topic you’d like to see addressed, please contact me and I’ll see what I can do! In the interim, feel free to browse the site and see what it has to offer.  I hope you find it helpful!

A little bit about my nutrition philosophy: I think food should nourish you – body and soul.  Which means food should taste GOOD.  It should be good for you and give you everything your body needs to thrive and complete all of its numerous processes each day.  If you’re lacking energy or focus, chances are your ratios of fat, carbohydrates and protein are off.  All three of these macronutrients are essential for a healthy body – don’t avoid any of these if you’d like to be healthy! I also think food should be simple.  Who has hours to spend prepping and cooking meals every day?

One of the easiest ways to make food more appealing is to make it look good – we eat with our eyes first, right? Here’s a few images of “fancy” knife cuts you can do to give interest to your meals.  This is certainly not something you need do daily; but it’s fun to mix things up from time to time! Even better – why not do one big prep session and knock out all the veggies you need for the week at once – then just freeze or throw in the fridge to use throughout the week? By making your food uniform in size, it helps it to cook at the same rate, and it makes it easier to eat while also appealing to the eye.  Invest in at least one good chef’s knife that you can use for the bulk of your food prep, and you’ll be all set! You can always add specialty knives later…start with the basics and keep in simple.  Cooking should be fun! We have to eat every day, right? Who needs complicated?

Have fun experimenting with your kitchen knife skills! Practice makes progress, and if you practice a little every day, soon you’ll be a pro at using your knife and making your food look good enough to eat! ;D

In Health,

Marie Olson, NTP