It’s FINALLY that time of year… warm weather is here! With this transition, we all begin to crave more sunshine, pool time, and of course, refreshing meals and sweet treats. Summer is also the time where we want to feel and look our best, but how does one go about that when the calories seem to creep up at our fun BBQs and outdoor events? Try a healthy ice cream recipe!

With these 5 recipes, you can have your cake (or ice cream) and eat it too – indulge your sweet tooth without feeling the added guilt. Whether grilling out with friends, picnicking at the park, or relaxing at the beach, a healthy ice cream recipe like one of these 5 will keep you satisfied while also helping you to feel and look great for the summer. Get the scoop below and enjoy!

Protein Berry Ice Cream

  • (Makes 2 servings)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup frozen berries

Instructions

  • Place both ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth.
  • Serve with additional berries on top and a sprig of mint if desired.
  • Enjoy!

*Adapted from Abbey’s Kitchen

Nice Cream Snicker Bars

  • (Makes 12 servings)

Ingredients

  • 12 large pitted dates
  • 2-4 tbsp. warm water
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 ripe frozen bananas (peeled and sliced)
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter (look for PB that is made with just peanuts, or peanuts and salt)
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup peanuts, halved
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted

Special Equipment

  • Ice cube tray

Instructions

  • Add dates to warm water and soak for 10 minutes.
  • Drain dates and add to food processor or blender. Pulse until a paste is made. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  • Add frozen banana to food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Add peanut butter and vanilla extract and pulse a few times to mix.
  • Assemble bars by placing a teaspoon of date into the bottom of an ice cube mold. Top with a thin layer of peanuts and fill the remainder of each mold with banana mixture.
  • Place ice cube tray in the freezer and freeze 4-6 hours or overnight.
  • Once frozen, prepare the chocolate coating. Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in a double boiler or a bowl over pan of hot water. Stir until smooth.
  • Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Line a plate with wax paper. Working quickly, remove each bar from the ice cube tray and fully dip in the chocolate to coat. Place on wax paper. Return to freezer to harden for at least 30 minutes.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

*Adapted from Byte Sized Nutrition

Mini Frozen Raspberry Cheesecake Bites

  • (Makes 20 bites)

Ingredients

  • 1 + ¼ cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. maple syrup, divided
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp. coconut oil, divided and melted
  • 2 cups cashews
  • 5-6 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • ¼ cup plain Kefir
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 can chilled coconut milk, just the cream

Special Equipment

  • Mini muffin/cupcake pan

Instructions

  • Before making this, be sure to pop a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight.
  • Pour cashews into a bowl.
  • Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat for 30 seconds. Pour over the cashews. Let soak for 20 minutes. Drain.
  • Meanwhile, mix the almond meal, 2 tbsp. maple syrup, and 2 tbsp. of coconut oil together to make the crust.
  • Press the crust mixture evenly into 20 mini muffin tins. Tip- you may use muffin/cupcake liners for easier removal of the cheesecake.
  • For the filling, add the cashews, remaining maple syrup, remaining coconut oil, raspberries, kefir, lemon juice, and just the solid cream part of the coconut milk can to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  • Fill the cups with the cheesecake filling and top with raspberries.
  • Freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

*Adapted from Miss Allie’s Kitchen

Related: sweets don’t always have to have a bad rap – check out this delicious “new-tella” recipe when you’re craving something chocolatey! 

Blueberry Yogurt Swirl Popsicles

  • (Makes 6 servings)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Special Equipment

  • Popsicle mold

Instructions

  • Blend blueberries in a blender until nearly liquified. Pour into a large bowl.
  • Stir in honey. Add the yogurt very gently until everything is mixed together.
  • Pour mixture evenly into mold. If your mold has slots for sticks, insert them before freezing. If not, freeze for two hours, then put a wooden stick in the middle. Continue to freeze for 4-6 hours or overnight.
  • Run popsicle molds under warm water to easily remove. Enjoy!

*Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

  • (Makes 8 servings)

Ingredients

Brownie layer:

  • 1 cup raw nuts (ex. walnuts and almonds)
  • 8 pitted dates
  • ¼ cup + 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Water, as needed

Peanut butter layer:

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter (look for PB that is made with just peanuts, or peanuts and salt)
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Water, as needed

Banana layer:

  • 2 large frozen bananas (peeled and sliced)

Chocolate layer:

  • 1 ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil

Instructions

  • In a food processor or blender add all the ingredients for the brownie layer and mix until dough forms. Add in water as needed to combine. It should be wet, but not too thin.
  • In an 8×8 baking pan lined with parchment paper, press the brownie mixture evenly into bottom of the pan.
  • In food processor or blender add the ingredients for the peanut butter layer and process until smooth. Add water until texture is like caramel.
  • Top brownie layer with peanut butter and spread evenly.
  • In food processor or blender add in frozen bananas and process until thick and smooth. Spread over the peanut butter layer. Put in the freezer to set.
  • Meanwhile, in a double boiler or a bowl over pan of hot water melt the chocolate chips, almond milk, and coconut oil until smooth.
  • Pour the chocolate over the banana and spread out evenly over the top.
  • Put cake in the freezer for about 2 hours.
  • Cut into squares. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

*Adapted from The Organic Dietitian

Post written by FFC Registered Dietitian Chelsea Rice. 

 

While some flavors and spices seem to transport us directly to the holidays, the truth is that the benefits we can reap from spices are so valuable, we shouldn’t just assign them to one season. Not only do spices provide great health benefits, but the enhancements they bring to food make them a no-brainer cooking addition (with almost zero additional calories!). Think about what completes the smell and taste of a dish – it wouldn’t be the same without the flavors that help make that final dish taste so delightful. Check out these 6 spices to have on hand that will improve your health!

Cinnamon

Out of all the spices to have on hand, cinnamon is one of the most widely used. Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, which helps protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. It can also improve some key risk factors for heart disease including cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.

Studies have shown that cinnamon can even dramatically reduce fasting blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity. It not only tastes great, but also provides manganese, iron, and calcium. Many think of cinnamon in baked goods, but you can also branch out with some new sweet and savory ideas!

3 Ways to Use It

  • Make a salty/sweet treat by adding cinnamon to popcorn.
  • Flavor plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon and top with nuts/seeds.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon in your coffee or tea to add extra spice and flavor – or even your yogurt, like this recipe!

Ginger

Ginger is best known for its ability to ease nausea, motion sickness, and indigestion. It is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have benefits for not only your body, but your brain as well. It is high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. All these things mean it is one of the most versatile spices to have on hand.

It has also been shown to be effective against exercise-induced muscle pain due to those anti-inflammatory properties. It may not have an immediate impact, but studies show it can be effective at reducing the day-to-day progression of muscle pain. It is a very common ingredient in recipes and cosmetics. Ginger can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil.

3 Ways to Use It

  • Cut up fresh ginger and add to boiling water with a little honey and lemon to make a soothing tea.
  • Add minced garlic to stir-fries for an extra kick.
  • Add to baked goods, such as the pumpkin gingerbread muffin recipe at the bottom of this post.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg contains phytonutrients including beta-carotene and beta-crypotxanthin. These can improve blood circulation to the brain and enhance sleep. The flavor and therapeutic actions are believed to be due to the oil it contains.

Because of its antibacterial properties, nutmeg can also effectively treat bad breath, gum problems, and toothaches – therefore, nutmeg is a common ingredient in many brands of toothpastes. It is also a spice that is used in many sweet recipes, but nutmeg can be used in a variety of other ways!

3 Ways to Use It

  • Sprinkle in milk in the evening to help achieve relaxation and induce sleep.
  • Add nutmeg to roasted carrots or winter squash for a unique savory side dish.
  • Mix with nuts, such as pecans, and roast in the oven for a tasty snack.

Related: using spices can drastically elevate your meal prep too. Need more tips on making sure meal prep is a part of your life? Check out this post!

Rosemary

The active components in rosemary are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic in nature. These powerful compounds include rosmarinic acid, caffeic acid, betulic acid, and carnosol, which can boost immunity and fight bacterial infections.

Rosemary also may help ease indigestion and improve blood flow due to its stimulant effects. The aroma of rosemary alone has been linked to improving mood, clearing the mind, and relieving stress in those with chronic anxiety. Many use rosemary as a garnish, but there are a variety of other ways to use it.

3 Ways to Use It

  • Chop fresh rosemary and use in a variety of broth based-soups.
  • Sprinkle rosemary on bread dough before placing it in the oven to add extra flavor.
  • Flavor olive oil with dried or fresh rosemary for zestier salad dressings.

Sage

Sage is a member of the mint family and is also known for many antioxidant properties – which makes it one of the top spices to have on hand. Tea and essential oils derived from the leaves have been used to treat digestive and circulation problems, but it has also been used to increase concentration.

Sage contains vitamin K, an essential vitamin for the body that isn’t found in many common foods. Vitamin K is key in developing bone density and ensuring the integrity of our bones as we age. It is traditionally used in savory dishes, due to its peppery flavor, but see below for alternative uses.

3 Ways to Use It

  • Sprinkle in an omelet with vegetables for a new breakfast.
  • Add to pesto with other herbs for a great flavor addition.
  • Top sage leaves on meats such as chicken, pork, or lamb.

Turmeric

Turmeric is popular worldwide, although until recently has not been commonly used in the U.S. It contains Curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Turmeric is a common ingredient in Indian dishes, although you can find new twists on ways to incorporate turmeric into your daily lifestyle below!

3 Ways to Use It

  • Sprinkle onto rice to bring out a wonderful color and flavor to an originally bland side dish.
  • Simmer turmeric with coconut milk and honey to make a comforting beverage.
  • Add fresh or ground turmeric to smoothies – the pungent flavor is usually well-masked but you’ll reap all the benefits!

Try This Recipe: Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup whole grain spelt flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup pure raw honey
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a muffin tin with liners and set aside.
  • Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Combine all wet ingredients in a medium bowl.
  • Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients – be sure to not over-mix.
  • Scoop batter into muffin pan and distribute evenly.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes and until tops are golden brown.
  • Yields 12 muffins – store at room temperature for 3 days or refrigerate for 7 days.

Post written by FFC Gold Coast Registered Dietitian Chelsea Rice.

 

 

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6 Spices to have on hand that will improve your health pinterest pin

What is a resting metabolic rate? Resting metabolic rate, or RMR, measures how many calories you burn at a state of rest (as if you were sitting on your couch watching your favorite TV show all day).

Scientifically speaking, the resting metabolic rate (RMR) and the closely related basal metabolic rate (BMR) measure the amount of daily energy expended by humans. The utilization of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of vital organs like the heart, lungs, nervous system, kidneys, liver, muscles, etc.

So Why Is Your Resting Metabolic Rate Important?

Why is your RMR so important? Knowing your RMR can help you understand how many calories you need to function, plus what you need to intake (or not intake) to reach your health and wellness goals. Having a higher RMR means you will burn more calories at a state of rest (yep – just for doing nothing more than simply existing!) which will also allow you to increase the amount of calories you can consume in one day to reach your goals.

How do you increase your RMR? A good fitness regimen that includes weight training is the only way to do it. You have to build your lean muscle mass. Here are 3 quick steps:

  1. Add weight training in 3-5 times a week
  2. Add cardio in 3-5 times a week for 15-30 minutes to help stay lean
  3. Eat frequent meals – about every 3 hours

Don’t worry ladies, this is not going to make you bulky; your bodies do not produce enough testosterone to have that look. If you are going for a very muscular look, however, it is possible, but it takes a lot of work, a proper weight lifting regimen and eating habits to get there.

Benefits of Increasing Your RMR

  • Burn more calories at rest, even while sleeping
  • Burn more calories during exercise and throughout the day
  • Higher RMR = higher amount of calories you can eat in a day to achieve your goals
  • Have more lean muscle on your body which will result in: lower body fat percentage, lower risk of heart attack/heart disease, lower risk of diabetes, lower risk of hypertension, and an increase your internal age.

Causes of Low RMR

What lowers your resting metabolic rate and how will it affect you? There are some factors you can control, and some you can’t – including the following:

  • Age: research shows that starting as early as your 20s your body starts losing 2-3% of lean muscle mass each decade. This is why a weight lifting program is so important to help fight the natural loss of lean muscle mass over that time period.
  • Hormones: generally, for most women, the thyroid and hormone production will slow down after the age of 40, which have an affect on your RMR.

Regarding what you CAN control, one of the biggest factors is exercise. You can control how much or how little you exercise. Exercise less, and you’ll end up with less lean muscle mass and a higher percentage of body fat. Not only will this result in a decrease of RMR (and our clothes not fitting the way we want them to), but more seriously, it can lead to adverse health problems such as:

  • Increase risk of heart disease and stroke – the 1st and 3rd leading causes of death, respectively, in the US
  • Increase risk of diabetes – the 7th leading cause of death in the US
  • Increase risk of hypertension
  • Increase of overall medical bills
  • Increase of sick days from work

Related: More metabolic myths… busted. Check out this post for 5 main myths about the metabolism and the truth behind them.

Is There a Resting Metabolic Rate Calculator?

There are many resting metabolic rate calculators out there on the internet that will give you estimates of what you roughly burn doing nothing. Some take more factors into consideration than others. For example, while some calculators may measure age, height and weight, some may measure those factors plus the type of work and activities you do. The more information that you can put in the more accurate it is going to be for your body type without actually going in and having an actual test done.

While these tests can be helpful, it is important to remember to consider what information you are receiving. As an example, I used this calculator (based on the the Mifflin St Jeor equation) but changed my activity level from very active to moderately active. If I wanted to lose a healthy 2 lbs per week, it drops me below 1700 calories to 1282 per day – which, for females and the healthy functioning of their internal organs, is way too low. Be careful what information you get and always consult with a registered dietitian before setting an exercise or nutrition program.

FFC has the proper equipment and can help you test for a more accurate RMR and BMR. You can actually set up an RMR appointment just by emailing metabolictesting@ffc.com. You can also click here to learn more information about the tests.

And why would accuracy be important? Let’s say your RMR is 1400, but based on a calculation you found online (not taking into consideration your fitness levels) told you your RMR is 1550. In reality you could be consuming an extra 150 calories a day because the results were based on the general population and not according to your own personal needs. Knowing your RMR/BMR can be very important to reaching your goals.

Of course, while all of this is important, the most important thing is to focus on eating healthy, keeping your portions in control, getting plenty of exercise, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of rest. Questions on next steps to achieving your fitness and nutrition goals? Contact me at ssobotka@ffc.com!

Post written by FFC Lincoln Park Registered Dietitian Sarah Sobotka.

 

I recently was listening to a podcast with Oprah and Geneen Roth, an expert on body acceptance and reducing compulsive eating. One concept they discussed that struck me was that your relationship with food is a microcosm of your relationship with yourself and your broader life.

It’s never just about the food – which suggests we can look to other aspects of our lives to see what seems to be missing or incomplete, or out of alignment. Once those areas become more in balance, we can relax around food; it holds less power over us and becomes a little less interesting or important.

Related: do you have a “fear of missing out on food”? Here’s how to eat more mindfully.

Think of Food as Two Separate Categories

I learned something similar when I studied to become a health coach (before I became a dietitian) at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition: thinking of “food” as two separate categories, primary food and secondary food.

Secondary food is literal food, like fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, bread and pasta, animal protein, oils, sweets, even junk and processed foods. But primary food encompasses everything that “feeds” us in addition to actual food, like spiritual satisfaction, feeling fulfilled with your work and extracurricular activities, robust relationships, and ample exercise.

The reason these are labeled as primary food is because they can be considered in some ways to be even more important than the secondary food. Why? They nurture and nourish us in ways fat, protein and carbohydrates simply cannot. When our primary needs are well taken care of, our need for secondary food decreases, and we certainly depend on it less for happiness and fulfillment, and instead use it for its ideal purpose, which is strength and sustenance.

Your Relationship with Food

Think back to a time when you were depressed or anxious. You might have gained or lost weight, ate fast food or lots of sugary desserts, using food in a dysfunctional way to somehow feel better. But if you think back to your childhood or of a time when things seemed to have fallen into an easy rhythm, you might have eaten more lightly, focusing on other things and viewing food more as an afterthought.

Take some time to think or even jot some notes down about these four areas of your life currently: career, spirituality, relationships and exercise. Where could you put some more attention? Notice how bolstering these areas of your life affects your hunger for food.

Post written by FFC Boystown and East Lakeview Registered Dietitian Cindy Klinger. 

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Eat real food. This simple nutrition tip can drastically change the way your body looks and feels. So many of the things we find on our shelves at the grocery store sound like they’re healthy – the front label might use words like “natural”, “organic”, or “GMO-free”. There might even be commercials for certain products that show wholesome family meals, with mom packing the kids’ lunch boxes before everyone heads out for a busy day. This type of marketing can make it tricky to find nutritious “real food”, but all you really need to do is look at the label. Even if you have a sweet tooth! It all comes down to real ingredients.

Find Healthier Food

Speaking of ingredients, this is the first place you should head when looking for healthy, real food. See anything with “high fructose”? Put it back on the shelf. Anything you can’t pronounce? You probably shouldn’t eat it. Nutella was one of those foods I loved…until I read the label: palm oil… soy lecithin. What are you doing in there? Then, when I realized dairy wasn’t my friend, I knew I had to come up with a recipe that got back to real, whole ingredients: hazelnuts, almonds, dates, cocoa powder and vanilla – instead of the jarred kind that is made with palm oil, tons of sugar and dairy milk.

Enter this vegan Chocolate Hazelnut New-Tella recipe – naturally sweetened with dates! Got a sweet tooth? Enjoy it as a dip for fresh apple slices or strawberries.

Chocolate Hazelnut “New-Tella”

New-tella 30-minute recipe

Level: easy
Servings: 24 / 3 cups of “New-Tella”
Ready in: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1 cup dried pitted dates
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup almond milk, plain, unsweetened
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Fresh apple slices, pears, or strawberries, for serving

Directions

Roast the nuts: spread almonds and hazelnuts on a baking pan and roast at 350 F for 12-15 minutes. When the nuts are golden brown, remove from oven and let cool.

Soak dates in warm water for at least 5 minutes to soften.

Start the New-Tella: when nuts are cool enough to handle, place hazelnuts in a clean dish towel or paper towel. Roll around to peel off the skins. Voila! Tip: the skins are bitter so remove as much as you can.

Place the almonds and peeled hazelnuts in a wide blender or food processor. Purée for about 5 or minutes or more, until the nuts start releasing their oils. Remove from the blender.

Drain the dates and squeeze out excess water. Also feel for any pits.

Place the dates, almond milk, vanilla, and salt in the wide blender or food processor. Purée until creamy. Add the nuts back to puréed date mixture, along with the cocoa. Purée until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed.

Garnish with chopped hazelnuts and serve with fresh fruit. Serve warm even more intense flavor.

Chef’s Tip: for a pourable “fondue” version, add 1 cup of almond milk to the recipe. Serve in small crockpot, with fresh fruit and toothpicks.

Post written by FFC Boystown group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com.

"New-tella" sandwiches

Apple + “New-Tella” sandwiches

 

Fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. I have read this mantra many times in different forums and articles. While I don’t know if the ratio is 100% accurate, what I do know is that nutrition is an extremely vital part of a good fitness plan. The only problem is, I never truly internalized this fact until I started seeing Alicia Huggler, registered dietitian at FFC Park Ridge, who helped me change my perspective on nutrition.

Time for a Change

I began my journey a bit over 2 years ago at the age of 26. I finally decided it was time for a change after years of laziness and poor diet had done its damage to my body. I felt awful most of the time and I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror. In December of 2015, I signed up for a membership at one of the budget gyms in the area, looked up a workout program, and started hitting the weights hard. After about 4 months of going consistently, I definitely felt much better. However, I wasn’t seeing much progress on the scale or in the way I looked. This is when I started doing more research and discovered the 80/20 guideline.

I started a meal-prep regimen based on (as I look back on it now) a lot of “bro-science”. Breakfast was always eggs and oatmeal. Every lunch and dinner consisted of either chicken or frozen fish, a vegetable (peppers, broccoli, asparagus), and either brown rice or quinoa. I avoided snacks like the plague and ate 3 massive meals per day. The meals were bland, boring, and repetitive, but the new diet was effective. My weight plummeted from 215 to 195 in a little over 2 months.

Related: food prep sound overwhelming? Here are some tips that will make the process as easy as possible so you can stick to it!

From Progress to Plateau

However, my body fat percentage wasn’t changing as drastically (I went from around 25% BF to 20% during this time). This sudden change wasn’t without issues. I had very little energy throughout the day, leading me to skip many gym sessions (until I stopped going altogether). I lost a lot of progress on my lifts. Cheat meals became a regular occurrence. The meal plan wasn’t sustainable, and I slipped back into my old habits. My weight rebounded past where it was originally, and just like that I was back to square one.

Despite all of this, I wasn’t ready to give up. In December of 2016, I recommitted to my fitness plan. Thinking I would be more inclined to go if I paid more for the membership, I canceled at the budget gym and looked for pricier alternatives. I decided FFC had all the equipment and amenities I was seeking, in addition to being in a convenient spot. I looked up a new workout program and restarted my meal-prep regimen. Progress was going great for a while, but over time I began slipping into the same patterns. Cheat meals, skipped meal prep, and missed workouts due to the lack of energy became the constant. I was frustrated and almost quit again.

Changing My Perspective on Nutrition

On a whim in May of 2017, I decided to see Alicia. It was a game-changer and she completely changed my perspective on nutrition. During our first session, she asked me what my current diet consisted of and what foods I enjoyed/didn’t like. She gave me some basic nutrition advice to get me started while she developed my full meal plan. The second session was where I learned that I was on a good path before, but I wasn’t doing the little things that would have made my diet consistent. My proportions were off: I was eating too much protein and not enough carbs or fats. I love the taste of red meat, but I had cut it out before in favor of lean white meats. To compensate, I wound up overeating red meat (pound or two of steak per meal) when I cheated.

This time around, Alicia built lean red meats into my meal plan. She informed me that snacks weren’t the enemy and in fact necessary to avoid overindulging during meal time. Variety keeps the meal plan interesting and staves off the propensity to cheat. Cheating was even OK as long as it was responsible and limited. “Have a burger every once in a while,” she said, “just don’t get the triple stack with bacon.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea. She even opened my eyes to delicious healthy whole foods and substitutes that I had never heard of before: chicken sausage, chickpea pasta, farro, nutritional yeast, and Halo Top ice cream to name a few. Additionally, she was a great resource for tasty recipes that fit my meal plan.

Alicia is a very warm and open person; always upbeat and energetic. She won’t just take measurements and talk about nutrition in the sessions but will also take a genuine interest in you. She never chastises you for falling off the rails one week and instead encourages you to do better the following week. She’ll even let you know what sweets she indulged in that week, so you won’t feel as bad. Her attitude was a key factor in helping me stay the course.

How I changed my perspective of nutrition and lost 11% body fat

Seeing Sustainable Results

I could continue about my experience and how awesome Alicia is, but what’s really important is results. My initial measurements when I first started seeing Alicia were 218 lbs and 25% body fat. I can happily report that I’m now down to 196 lbs and 14% BF. Pants I purchased a year ago no longer fit and I’m down 2 belt loops. I feel a great sense of pride in my new physique when I look in the mirror. My lifts are steadily improving. More crucially, I feel much better. I have consistent energy throughout the day and will have maybe 1 caffeinated beverage a week if I really need it. I’ve only been sick once in the past year and I fought off the illness swiftly. Looking and feeling great has been an incredible confidence booster. Proper perspective on nutrition really has changed me for the better.

Even though I’m in the best shape of my life at 28, I’m still not satisfied and hopefully never will be. Fitness is a lifelong journey and I have a long way to go. I can now embark upon this journey armed with proper knowledge about nutrition. If you have been going the gym consistently like I was and aren’t seeing the results you want, proper diet may be the missing piece – you may need to change your perspective on nutrition. If you have any questions about nutrition or are curious about what a registered dietitian can do for you, I encourage you to seek one out and talk to (or email if you’re shy). And if you decide to start a nutrition program with her and stick with it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Good luck on your own fitness journey and I will see you in the weight room!

Post written by FFC Park Ridge local’84 Cafe attendant Andrew Wrobel.

 

Typically, colder weather brings cravings of routine and hibernation, changes in our eating habits, and sometimes, mood. Welcome to the winter blues.

In the summer, when we don’t want to turn on the oven, salads are an easy go-to for incorporating tons of fresh vegetables into our diets each day. But once the temperatures cool down, a salad isn’t necessarily going to warm us up.What will warm us up, and deliver all the nutrients we need to maintain our mood and energy? Try these hearty, organic recipes that spotlight vegetables and keep us healthy all winter long!

Have your spaghetti!

Just replace the pasta with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. A quick saute with your favorite sauce, and you won’t even miss the heavy carbohydrate load!

Turn your sandwich into a melt.

Start with one slice of whole grain or sprouted grain bread, top with protein and vegetables, and one slice cheese. Melt in the oven for a few minutes, and serve with a perfectly ripe apple or crisp raw vegetables. Yum!

Related: click here for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation at FFC!

Warm up a salad.

Who said they have to be served cold? Try roasted butternut squash on a bed of greens with pomegranate seeds, OR combine that butternut squash with Brussels sprouts and a sweet honey dressing.

Add color (and immunity) to your soup!

Blend broccoli, spinach, kale, tomatoes, or your favorite vegetables into any soup you like, homemade or low-sodium canned.

Related: more reasons to try the souping diet? Check out this post!

Remember: No matter your goals, fill 1/2 your plate with non-starchy vegetables at each meal for a dose of vitamins and minerals to keep away the winter blues, and keep you feeling great!

Water makes up 60% to 65% of our total body weight. When we exercise, we lose water through sweat – this water needs to be replaced. Even a 2% loss of body weight through sweat (i.e. 3 lbs of loss for a 150 lb person) can put you at a disadvantage. If this fluid loss is not replaced properly, dehydration will occur. This is a serious condition that can diminish energy and impair performance, among other symptoms. However, it can be easily spotted and prevented. Here are a few ways to prevent dehydration and keep up with your water intake.

Signs of Dehydration 

Thirst is one indicator of dehydration, but it is not an early warning sign. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration include:

  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded
  • Having a dry or sticky mouth
  • Producing less urine and darker urine

Related: have other nutrition questions? Talk to one of FFC’s on-site registered dietitians! Click here for a free 30-minute consultation.

How to Prevent It

Drink Fluids

Preventing dehydration starts long before the activity. The easiest way to avoid dehydration is to drink lots of fluids, especially on hot, dry, windy days.

How To: the night before, as well as before your workout, you should intake the following fluids:

  • 16 ounces of water before bed
  • 16 ounces of water in the morning
  • 4-8 ounces every 15 minutes

Related: speaking of the night before, here are some meal prep tips you can use in addition to these hydration hacks to make sure you’re staying on track!

Be sure to also replace your fluid loss post exercise: 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost!

Water is usually the best choice, but you can also get fluids from water-based juices and smoothies!

Dress Appropriately

Always dress appropriately for your activity. Wear loose-fitting clothes and a hat if you can, this will keep you cooler and cut down sweating.

Fitness tip: if you can’t remember how much water you drank today, you haven’t had enough!

Seaweed? For dinner? Seriously?

Yes, yes, and yes! Chances are you’ve had seaweed as part of a sushi roll or even as a side dish or salad at a Japanese restaurant, but have you considered adding it to your regular weekday at-home dining experience? Now might just be the time to try it!

Seaweed has been growing in popularity, making it more widely available in grocery stores, and it is absolutely chock-full of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and even trace elements.

Trace elements are dietary elements that are essential to the body for things such as growth, metabolic function and other processses but are only needed in very small quantities (aka trace amounts) and include (but are not limited to) selenium, copper, magnesium, iodine, etc.

Why Should I Care?

The purported health benefits as to why you should be eating seaweed range widely from estrogen regulation (leading many to speculate that seaweed consumption may help lower the risk for breast cancers) to reduction in blood pressure (and therefore a reduction in heart disease). Further research is needed to examine all potential health benefits of seaweeds and determine their maximum therapeutic potential in terms of disease prevention and risk reduction.

Related: click here to register for a free nutrition consultation at FFC!

Seaweed’s most well-documented health benefit is that it is a phenomenal source of iodine, an essential element needed for thyroid regulation. The thyroid, which is a gland located in the neck, secretes and regulates various bodily hormones involved in everything from growth to metabolic regulation. Consuming healthy, adequate levels of iodine is key to maintaining a healthy thyroid – inadequate iodine can cause goiters, extreme fatigue, and even intellectual disability. However, as with all good things, moderation is the key to success! The same way too little iodine can be harmful, so can too much. Be sure to curb your intake if there are medical reasons to limit iodine.

How to Buy Seaweed 101

The 411 on common edible seaweeds: seaweeds are members of the algae family and are typically available in three varieties; red, green, and brown. The most commonly eaten varieties are red seaweed, which is used to form nori, and brown seaweed (such as kelp or wakame), which frequently finds its way into in soups and salads.

Related: try the souping diet! Check out this post to see why.

  • Nori – a red seaweed used most commonly for sushi rolls is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and B12 while being lower in iodine than many other varieties of seaweeds.
  • Dulse – another red seaweed, this varietal is frequently consumed in its dried flakey form as a flavoring for soups, but can also be sautéed with a little butter and garlic for a lovely side dish.
  • Kelp – also known as “kombu,” this brown seaweed is very high in iodine and is often used in combination with dashi to make broth for soups, particularly miso soup.

30-Minute Recipe: Wakame Salad

(adapted from Karman Meyer, RD)

5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz dried wakame, rehydrated per package instructions
  • ½ medium seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into ⅛” slices
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded with a vegetable peeler or zoodler
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

Drain all liquid from the rehydrated wakame and tear wakame into bite-sized pieces, as needed. Set aside in medium mixing bowl.

In a small dish, stir to combine: sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic. Pour this over the wakame.

Add sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots to the wakame dressing mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate to chill before serving; for best flavor, allow to marinate for 24 hours prior to serving.

Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top just before serving.

Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.

Are you someone who’s wondering how to shop organic? Or even wondering if you should? Even if you’re not ready to commit to buying EVERYTHING pesticide and additive-free, here is a quick guide on how to shop organic – plus some must-have items for your grocery list.

Beef

Due to the recent findings about red meat, it’s even more important to choose beef that hasn’t been given hormones or antibiotics, both of which can cause health concerns for humans.

Produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list

What’s on this “Dirty Dozen” list, you may ask? Produce such as apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, and potatoes are all included. Why? Because these foods have very high pesticide residues when grown conventionally.

During the winter months in Chicago, it can be difficult to find these local and organic produce because there must be some amount of pesticides added in order for them to grow in colder temperatures. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide which is more important to you and your family.

Related: have nutrition questions and want to set up a free 30-minute consultation with an on-site FFC registered dietitian? Click here!

Eggs and milk

Some studies suggest that organic eggs and milk are higher in nutrients and lower in pesticides and hormones. Although this isn’t proven, it’s still worth the money to buy these items organic—if for no other reason than their great taste!

Hot peppers and leafy greens (like kale & chard)

The pesticide counts in these products aren’t high enough to make the Dirty Dozen list, but they’re still pretty high. Purchase these organically to avoid the health concerns.

Related: avoid mood swings with these nutrition tips!

Have a question or a suggestions for an upcoming event you’d like to see? Leave a comment below!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Registered Dietitian Amy Silver.