Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

butternut squash soup

Butternut Squash Nutrition

Fall is here and so is my obsession for warm butternut squash soup.

Butternut squash is a nutritional powerhouse. Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C and E), minerals ( magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron), this immune-boosting, cancer-fighting, this winter squash is about to become your favorite fall food.

Not only is this soup recipe satisfying (and kid-approved) but highly nutritious.

Salus Approved Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

butternut squash soup ingredients

Chop:

  • 1 Butternut squash (shaved and seeds removed)
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 med carrot
  • 1 onion
  • fresh ginger
  • fresh garlic

Mix in:

  • Tsp coconut oil
  • 2-4 cups bone broth of choice
  • Spices to taste: salt, pepper, Cayenne, cinnamon

Combine all in crock pot and cook on low for about 6 hours…

butternut squash soup instapot

Once all is cooked up, use an immersion blender to smooth it out.
Then add:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk

Blend again & enjoy!

butternut squash soup recipe

Life After the Nutrition Challenge

life after challenge

Life After the Nutrition Challenge

You made it! After weeks of clean eating, being mindful of your portions, staying hydrated, exercising, mobilizing, sleeping like a baby, working toward your goals and motivating everyone around you! But, now what? What happens after the nutrition challenge?

Preparing for life after a nutrition challenge is not a huge topic many nutrition challenges address (resulting in a lot of those notorious ups and downs). But, since we’re all about making changes for LIFE (not just during the challenge), here are a few things to keep in mind.

Dealing with All the Occasions

Although things look a little different this year, we will inevitably be faced with vacations, holidays, celebrations, unexpected dinners out, soon enough. These are important moments – they’re happening now, they’ll be facing you next month, next holiday…each and every year. And you should be able to enjoy them without stressing out. “How will I deal with those road bumps,” you ask?

By practicing your new set of skills.

Hopefully you feel armed and ready to attack the real world with all the knowledge, new habits and shift in your mindset. As you’ve learned, being mindful with what, when and how you eat is a skill that must be practiced regularly.

Whether it’s a celebratory beer at the beach on the fourth of July, a taste of your nephew’s birthday cake or those famous nachos you’ve been dreaming about, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

“Learning is discovering that something is possible.” ~Fritz Perls

Once you are comfortable with your normal, day-to-day quality and quantity choices, it is okay to enjoy a splurge “treat” once and a while. But remember, this is not an excuse to go off the rails and eat everything in sight. Take this time to practice the skills you have learned throughout our journey – rely on your hand for portion sizes, stay in tune with your body’s fullness signals (think 80%), stay away from those things you know are going to make you feel like crap the next day (refined sugars, etc), plan ahead (be mindful) and hey, don’t stress about it.

Turn your focus more on who you are with, your surroundings and how the food tastes.

But, I get it. It may not only be dinners out or fancy celebrations that pop up. Sometimes, we just feel physically or mentally exhausted… and all we want to do is veg with our meal in front of the TV. And that’s OK. It’s impossible to be perfect 100% of the time…I’m sure as heck am not.

And no one expects us to be.

The biggest challenge we’ll ever face is that of our mind. When we don’t do what we believe or feel deep down in our gut to be “right,” we won’t feel good. And our bodies will show it. But, if we live according to our values (and often, healthy choices), life “flows” much more effortlessly. You must be willing to face your own doubts and fears. You know you’re going to face difficult situations in the future.

You can’t control the future. But you can control the choices you make, your reactions and your mindset.

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

No matter where you are, practice what you learned over the challenge and keep your mindset…and portions, in check.

Identify Your Goals for After the Nutrition Challenge

After the nutrition challenge is over, it’s important to clearly identify your goals going forward.  Figure out your long term and short term goals. This will help you stay motivated and find a clear (and safe) path to take.

If you love how you felt over the past few weeks and have decided this is now how you’d like to continue living life. Keep doing what you’re doing! Find an alternate way to stay on top of clean eating meal prep and check-in with your goals regularly – whether that’s with a buddy, a coach, an app. There’s not necessarily one right answer for that, different things motivate different people.

If you love how you felt over the past few weeks, but you’ve decided to add back in some of the foods you were avoiding (gluten, dairy, soy, processed foods, sugars, etc), it’s important to carefully re-introduce them slowly to avoid feeling ill. If you had an “off-day” any time over the challenge, you know exactly what I mean.

Here’s what you need to know about reintroducing foods back into your life after the nutrition challenge.

Implementing an Elimination Reintroduction Plan After Your Nutrition Challenge

Think of this lifestyle nutrition challenge as a bit of a science experiment in the sense that I want you to realize that food isn’t just fuel…it’s information. Every bite we eat sends messages to our body and our body responds. Sometimes louder than others.

Think about this: the GI tract doesn’t just have the job of digesting and absorbing food…. It also has its own working nervous system (the enteric nervous system). That means our gastrointestinal tract is abundant in neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, bacteria, enzymes and hormones. That’s pretty awesome, right?

But now consider this: given the amount of devoted resources our body needs for a properly functioning GI tract, when things go wrong in our gut, all hell breaks loose. From microbial imbalances and detoxification abnormalities to motility issues and inflammation, food intolerances or sensitivities can directly contribute to gut problems like gas pains and bloating, AND it can also harm other body systems at the same time.

GI disturbances have been linked to unwanted symptoms such as arthritis, skin conditions, autoimmune disorders, asthma, addiction, migraines, mood disorders, kidney problems and a whole slew of other conditions.

Proceed with Caution

So, all that being said, after you’ve eliminated potential food sensitivities throughout this challenge and you’re ready to reintroduce some of these foods back into your diet, you must proceed with caution.

1. Grab a pen and paper or use a handy app like myfitnesspal where you can record what you eat and jot down notes about how you felt after and monitor yourself for symptoms.
2. Slowly reintroduce only a SINGLE food group that you previously eliminated for one day only. Then monitor yourself for two days. (example: if you decide to reintroduce dairy on Monday, that day you might try milk in the morning, some cheese at lunch and maybe even a little cottage cheese at night). The key word being: slowly.
3. Monitor yourself for any abnormal reactions through Wednesday. Negative reactions to watch out for include: insomnia, fatigue, joint pain, skin breakouts, headaches, bowel changes, brain fog, bloating and even respiratory issues.
4. If you don’t notice any negative symptoms, it’s time to reintroduce a different food (example: sugar) on Thursday. Proceed with the same timeline as above.
5. Continue this process for a few weeks, reintroducing one new food only every few days, no sooner.

Depending on how much you eliminated, this process could take up to 6 weeks, but at the end of the experiment, you’ll know a whole heck of a lot about your body and how it responds to different foods…which as you saw above, can give you more than just gas and bloating.

The bottom line: Don’t waste all your effort over the last few weeks. Take the time to learn even more about your body and how it responds to your every day choices.

Reflections on Your Lifestyle and Nutrition Challenge

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this lifestyle and nutrition challenge. As your Nutrition Coach, it is my goal to educate and inspire you to develop healthy eating habits that last a lifetime. I has been a pleasure guiding you through and I hope I’ve helped you:

  • Have the desire to eat more fresh, minimally-processed foods.
  • Discover how to balance lean protein, veggies, nutrient-dense carbohydrates and healthy fats.
  • Learn to adjust portions that directly meet health, performance and body composition goals.
  • Become aware that many other areas, in addition to nutrition, affect our physical and mental state. Sleep, environment, hydration, exercise…they all play a role, too.

Please Share

I genuinely appreciate any and all feedback on your experience, so please take a moment to drop a review on Google or Facebook.
————–

Create Healthy Nutrition Habits for Life

And, after the challenge, if you’re interested in learning more about a customized plan that really dials in to your individual health and nutrition needs, or you have any other nutrition-related questions, reach out to info@salusnj.com to set up a free 15-minute consultation.

Check out our series of posts from previous nutrition challenges:

How to Use MyFitnessPal Effectively

Are you ready to take your food tracking, water intake and measurements a step further? Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, lean out or feel more energetic throughout your day, the free app, MyFitnessPal is a user-friendly tool to help you reach your goals and set you up for success. On this post, I’m going to dive into some insider tips on how to use MyFitnessPal effectively.

As a Sports Nutritionist, I love having the ability to see what my clients are eating and hold them accountable. As an athlete, I love having the ability to plan ahead and maximize my macros for performance goals. It works for all levels, all ages all goals.

But the key to success, like most things, is being consistent with your tracking.

Why Track Food

Food journaling, or food tracking, is a method of mindful eating. According to the American Society for Nutrition, studies show that mindfulness has a great influence on how much we eat, how we feel when we eat and when we choose to eat. It can also help you

  • Remember what you have eaten that day.
  • Find out where you can improve if you are trying to achieve a goal.
  • See if you are eating too much or NOT enough.
  • Notice what time of day you typically get hungry and help you adjust your eating schedule.
  • Realize if you are eating out of boredom rather than hunger.

10 Tips on How to Use MyFitnessPal Effectively

With a handy barcode scanner, recipe importer, custom reminders and progress charts, MyFitnessPal makes food tracking a breeze! Here are 10 tips to get you going!

Be Honest.

Track everything, from the olive oil spray you put on the pan to the breath mint you grabbed from your coworkers desk. The more honest you are in tracking, the better you’ll be able to stay accountable to your actions…the faster you’ll achieve your goals.

Not tracking that bite off your kids plate doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Track Ahead of Time. Then Adjust.

One of the best things I love about MFP is the ability to plan my day ahead. Whether it’s the night before or the morning of, map our your day of meals and snacks to balance out carbohydrates, proteins and fats and hone in nutrient timing.

As your day throws you unexpected curves (like most days), simply adjust accordingly.

Test Yourself.

Learn to eyeball portion sizes.

The more you weigh and measure your food, become aware of how those portions look using your hand as a guide. This is extremely helpful when you’re eating out, at a friends house, holiday party, etc.

Set Reminders.

As you start this new tracking method, you can set up custom reminders through the app to be reminded throughout the day if you forget to track a meal or snack.

When you log your meals, make note of the time of day you are eating and how you are feeling. Keep your thoughts short and sweet – no need to write a novel, unless you want to.

Save Your Meals.

Do you eat the same thing for breakfast nearly every day? Save the foods as a favorite meal so you can add all items to your diary with one simple click.

Copy Your Meals.

Leftovers tonight?

Flip back to yesterday’s entry and click “copy meal” to copy those foods to today (or tomorrow…or any other date). Quick and simple.

Scan the Barcode.

Can’t find the right item in the search bar?

Simply hit the barcode button and scan your package then adjust portions accordingly.

View Nutrition Progress.

Either flip your phone horizontal and scroll to the bottom or click the menu bar and then the Nutrition tab to view that day’s nutrients.

Experiment.

Start with the free app as you’re getting started. If you feel this is a helpful tool to keep you on track, you can go with Pro, but the free app works well, too!

Add Your Coach.

Gain an extra layer of accountability by adding your Nutrition Coach or a friend to have access to view your food diary. You get to decide the level of privacy they can see.

There you have it: my top 10 tips on how to use MyFitnessPal effectively. Take your goals to the next level with one-on-one nutrition coaching. With ultimate accountability and guidance, we’ll help you achieve your goals.

Isn’t it to time to take care of you? Let’s chat!

Nutrition Inquiry

Mindful Eating

When was the last time you truly paid attention to what you were eating — when you truly savored the experience of a meal? Often, we eat on autopilot, inhaling our food while our attention is on the TV, laptop or our phone.

Mindful eating encourages us to remove those distractions and sit uninterrupted for a meal. In doing so, we begin to take our time, eat more slowly, and reconnect with our senses.

Mindful Eating: Slow Down for a Moment

Why do you eat when you eat?
Are you hungry, bored, stressed?

Today, we’re going to review some simple ways to recognize these habits (you may not even realize you’re doing it), and talk about ways to navigate around them for more mindful eating.

Eat With Your Brain

Most of us are guilty of aimlessly walking into the fridge after just eating a meal, opening it up and searching for something else to eat.

Are we really still hungry or maybe it’s just that we’re bored… or simply in the habit of grabbing something sweet after dinner. There are so many different environmental factors that play a role in mindless eating. And many we don’t even recognize.

In order for the body to realize it is becoming full it needs to work with the mind. When you pay attention when eat, you not only allow yourself time to feel full, but studies show that you’ll also enjoy what you’re eating more.

Refresh your perspective.

Diets and challenges are pretty much synonymous with short-term restriction and feelings of deprivation. Because of this most diets fail after the first week. Of course, we’re not going to let that happen.

Prepare healthy, not convenient, food and refresh your perspective on the healthy habit changes you’re starting to implement to embrace them as a lifelong change.

Be present.

Mindful eating simply invites us to be present during the cooking process or while eating. It allows us to truly savor our food without experiencing any judgment, guilt, anxiety, or sabotaging inner self-talk. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Sit down when you eat.
  • Take a breath and appreciate what is in front of you and be present in the moment.
  • Take a look at the ingredients list and read each word. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, put it down (and then don’t buy it again).
  • Giving thanks or saying a mantra to yourself might help you slow down. Try something like: “I eat to nourish and energize my body.”
  • Keep practicing. Just like any habit, mindful eating takes practice.
  • Put down distractions…

Put down distractions.

Distractions take away from our intention to appreciate the food on our plate. Its texture, smell, taste and how it will benefit our bodies, energy, performance, etc. Try to identify when something other than hunger is making you want to eat and then steer your attention to your goal oriented activity instead.

Listen, I’m a mom of twins. I know a distraction when I see one. Use what you’re learning as a teaching tool for your children, but set real expectations. Help them instill mindful eating habits early on to set them up for success later in life. It won’t happen overnight… and they will most likely get distracted by the bunny in your yard time and time again. But, if you can you can make an effort to be present as a family, just a little bit at a time, you’ll be more likely to succeed.

Food for Thought

Where were you at lunchtime or dinner time yesterday?

Who was with you and what did you talk about?

If you were alone, did you do anything else besides eat?

What was your mood like when you were eating?

Some days we won’t be able to remember the answers to these questions. The truth is, some days we’ll be lucky enough to sneak in a meal in between meetings and kids practice.

Make an effort to enjoy a peaceful meal over the next couple days.

Don’t let food become a mindless afterthought.

Take a Deep Breath

Now sit down, take a deep breath and really savor what you’re eating. And then read more on The New York Times, “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought.”

“The rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves. That’s why mindful eating is becoming more important. We need to be coming back to ourselves and saying: ‘Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m so sad and stressed out?’

For many people, eating fast means eating more. Mindful eating is meant to nudge us beyond what we’re craving so that we wake up to why we’re craving it and what factors might be stoking the habit of belly-stuffing.”

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

DISCLAIMER: It’s important to note that individuals dealing with an eating disorder should first consult with a  health care professional before incorporating mindful eating as part of a broader strategy.

Hangry? We’ve All Been There

Ever felt hangry?

If this word isn’t familiar to you, the feeling probably is. (I used to experience hanger a fair share when the kids were young, to be honest).

Have you ever snapped at someone right before dinner or when you were grocery shopping on an empty stomach? It’s possible you were having a bad day, but it could have been because you were hangry.

What is Hangry?

“Hangry” has actually been added to the Oxford English dictionary. If you go look it up you may see a picture of me circa 2010 with two infants demanding all of my energy and attention.

/ˈhaNGɡrē/
Adjective informal

Bad-tempered, irritable or angry as a result of feeling hungry.

Hungry + Angry=Hangry.

As in: “I get very hangry if I miss a meal which makes me want to bite someone’s head off.”

Yup, we’ve all been there before. That awful feeling when you are stuck between an early lunch and a late dinner. Hangry is a very real feeling. And it’s actually a signal from your brain.

S.O.S. Hangry is a Signal From Your Brain

When you go too long without food, we can reach the point when a perfectly pleasant person turns into an irritable monster. Oh, and our blood glucose levels start to drop making it harder to control our emotions. This can also trigger the release of stress hormones making it even harder to control anger and other other less than stellar symptoms including:

Mood Swings-

Low blood sugar levels can cause us to feel unusually irritated, anxious and moody.

It’s not just in your head.

A study published in the journal, Physiology and Behavior, found that low blood sugar induced a state of “tense-tiredness” that caused study participants to have more negative outlooks on certain life situations.

Feel like crying when you’re hungry? So do I.

Hulking Out-

Feeling the urge to lash out at your kids or friends when you’re normally calm, cool and collected?

You’re not alone.

Studies have shown that intimate partners are more likely to get angry with each other when their blood sugar levels were lower than normal. When we are hangry, nothing else matters.

Lack of Willpower-

When you’re beyond hungry, you might have a harder time sticking to your goals. Self control is compromised when glucose levels are low which can lead to impulse decisions and overeating.

For example, when you normally pass on the bread basket at dinner, if you’re hangry, you’re pretty much liking the plate clean.

Fatigue-

Being hangry can also result in fatigue, dizziness, headaches, foggy thinking, a decrease in motivation and just not feeling like yourself.

What the Science Says

So, why does this happen again? Why do we get so angry when we’re hungry?

We already know that glucose states get low when people are hungry. The brain requires glucose. If glucose is low, it doesn’t function properly. But, newer research states that ‘hanger’ might be more complicated than just a drop in blood sugar. It appears to be a complicated emotional response between biology, personality and environmental cues.

“Our bodies play a powerful role in shaping our moment-to-moment experiences, perceptions and behaviors – whether we are hungry versus full, tired versus rested or sick versus healthy. If you are feeling a little grumpy, take a step back and think about your emotions for a bit – it might help you from turning into a hangry mess.”

Hanger Management

Today’s questions aren’t quite as deep as the others but can have a profound impact on how you handle situations going forward to prevent this rollercoaster of blood sugar and emotions.

Have you ever felt hangry before? When and what symptoms did you experience?

What steps can you take to start listening to your body and give it what it needs to function at its best instead of ignoring important signs and ending up… Hangry?

Listen, I can empathize. Feeling out of control with our emotions is frustrating, especially when food is involved. But, thankfully, in most cases, hangry can be managed by making better food choices, focusing on quality, quantity and timing.

Quality-

Food quality matters. If you usually reach for processed carbohydrates like cereal for breakfast, your blood glucose levels probably tend to rise quickly which may lead to more extreme crashes later in the morning, leaving you hangry.

Want to avoid that rollercoaster?

It’s best to choose whole, nutrient dense foods that help you feel full longer and offer vitamins, minerals. Next time you’re in a mega-rush for breakfast, reach for something like a banana with a thumb portion of unsweetened almond butter and a hard-boiled egg.

Quantity-

Despite your lack of glucose driven hanger, don’t think you should just reach for a giant donut to fight off symptoms.

That will surely backfire.

As a general guideline, mix in a balanced portion of carbohydrates, protein and fat at each meal.

Refer to our recent post about proper portions.

Timing-

Like our bodies, our brain also needs fuel to function properly. Don’t wait until you feel overly hungry to eat.

For many people, this means eating more frequent portions than the typical three meals a day. If you know you’re the type of person who is prone to feeling hangry, plan ahead and meal prep a small snack to have in a pinch.

Fight Off Hanger by Listening to Your Body

Get in tune with your body and the signals it is giving you rather than brushing it off. Body communication and awareness is key:

  • Rest when you are tired.
  • Eat when you are hungry.
  • Move when you are stressed.

So, on a scale from one to #hangry, how ready are you get control and listen to your body and its cues? Once you do that, you’ll better manage your own chemical and hormonal reactions which will do wonders for your mind, body and spirit (and hanger-state).

Stay connected, friends.

More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:

Strive for Progress Not Perfection

Plan Ahead

Set Real Expectations

Overcoming Procrastination: Just Do the Dishes Already

 

This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice.

Healthy Banana Bread Muffin Recipe

Healthy Banana Bread Muffins

Looking for a freshly baked banana bread muffin that tastes good and won’t derail your diet? We’ve got you covered with this easy and healthy banana bread muffin recipe from Coach Camilla @lopescamilla.

Ingredients:

-1 mashed banana (plus one extra for the topping)
-2 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
-3 tbsp coconut oil
-1/4 cup ground flaxseeds
-2 tbsp chia seeds
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 cup chocolate chips 3 scoops collagen peptides @puorilife (optional)
– 1 box Simple Mills banana muffin mix @simplemills

Directions:

-Heat oven to 325°F.
-Whisk eggs, milk, banana, vanilla extract, and coconut oil together in a large bowl.
-Stir in ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, cinnamon, collagen, and box mix until well-combined.
-Pour batter into lightly greased (or parchment paper covered) 8-by-4-inch loaf tin.
-Bake for 30 minutes.
-Then, cover loosely with foil.
-Bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and edges of loaf start to pull away from the pan.
-Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
-Top with almond butter and cinnamon.

So good 😋

Hydration for Young Athletes

Hydration for young athletes (and adult athletes, too) is more important than you may realize. A drop in hydration can not only affect performance, but can also result in headaches and a decrease in their cognitive performance.

Is your young athlete staying hydrated?

Guess what? Thirst is not a reliable sign of proper hydration (for kids or adults).

Experts recommend that young athletes drink plenty of water before a workout and every 15 to 20 minutes during a workout to maintain proper hydration, especially in hot summer months.

Make sure your young athlete stays hydrated during games and practices!

Hydration Tips for Young Athletes

✔Good hydration should begin early in the day before they even set foot on the playing field.

✔Drink plenty of water during the day leading up to a game or practice, especially in the two to three hours before start time.

✔Continue to drink during the game or practice (about 1/2 cup every 15 minutes) and afterward to re-hydrate after sweat loss.

✔Water should be the young athlete’s “go-to” drink for exercise that’s under 60 minutes.

✔Drink cool water, not cold water. Between 59° F and 72° F is just about right.

✔Training sessions over an hour may require a drink to replace electrolytes lost through heavy sweating, such as coconut water or Vitargo (just watch out for those sneaky sugar-filled “sports” drinks that claim to be healthy).

Read more: “Importance of Staying Hydrated

 

Dehydration can be dangerous. Prevention is key.

Hydration Guidelines for Young Athletes

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents drink plain water for “hydration before during and after most exercise regimens.”

Before a Workout (1-2 Hours)

4-8 oz. for children ages 6-12
8-16 oz. for young adults ages 13-18

Right Before a Workout (10-15 Minutes)

4-8 oz. for children ages 6-12
5-10 oz. for young adults ages 13-18

During a Workout (Every 20 minutes)

5-10 oz. for children and young adults ages 6-18 (depending on weight)

After a Workout (Within Two Hours)

24 oz. for every pound of weight lost

Signs of Dehydration

According to WebMD, a few of the early symptoms of dehydration in young children include:

  • A dry mouth and/or sticky saliva
  • Little urine output and/or urine that is dark yellow
  • Irritability

Talk to your children about the importance of hydration for young athletes and get them involved by helping to pick out their own BPA-free reusable water bottle.

What About Carbohydrates and Electrolytes?

Some research on adult athletes demonstrates that, under extreme physical exertion and environmental conditions, that addition of small amounts of carbs, sodium and potassium can enhance the rate of fluid absorption. Recommendations for carbohydrate concentrations range from 2-8% (approx. 5-18 grams of simple sugar), with amounts of above 8% actually slowing fluid absorption.

Always use caution and read labels.

  • Do not purchase flavored waters or sports drinks that contain unrecognizable ingredients or unnecessary additives.
  • Remember that the typical effect caffeine has on adults can be intensified in children. Caffeinated beverages such as energy drinks and coffee, can irritate the stomach lining, cause nervousness and shaking and lead to frequent urination which contributes to dehydration.  No lattes or mochas for the young athlete, please.
  • Avoid additives such as: caffeine, guarana, taurine, ginseng, creatine and/or glucuronolactone uronolactone. These substances act as non-nutritive simulants, not real energy needed by growing muscles.
  • Lay off the moo juice (cow’s milk) before or during exercise which can cause stomach cramping in some athletes.
  • If you reach for coconut water as a healthy and natural source of electrolytes, just read the label to ensure additional “stuff” isn’t added.

Every time you eat or drink, it’s an opportunity to make your body stronger and healthier.

Is Sugar Bad?

Is sugar bad? Will sugar make me gain weight? When is it OK to eat sugar?

Many of us think of sugar as the white stuff people put in their coffee and the stuff that makes up most of those cereals in the breakfast “food” aisle. Sugars also occur naturally in many whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and even whole grains. You recognize these as “carbs.”

Along with sugar, the macronutrient carbohydrates also includes starch (potatoes or rice), fiber (husks of whole grains), etc. The more complex the molecule, the slower it digests. That’s why eating more fiber can help us feel fuller for longer. Sugars, on the other hand, are simple- they digest very quickly. In other words:

Sugars are a type of carbohydrate, but not all carbohydrates are sugars.

The above point is vital to understand, because it teaches us that not all carbs do the same things in (and for) our bodies.

Let’s take a fresh look at sugar now and address the question many are wondering: is sugar bad?

Eating Sugar: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Is Sugar Bad? Well, It Can Be Ugly.

No doubt, this is a difficult topic to address because most of us are emotionally attached to where we stand on food, especially sugar.

Try talking about the topic at the dinner table and you’ll be just as welcome as if you were talking about politics. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Did you know that most U.S. adults consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugars every day. That’s way more than what the American Heart Association recommends, which is  no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) a day of sugar for most women and no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) a day for most men. Sugar impacts our brain function, it can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and can increase your risk of heart disease.

And sugar is hiding everywhere.

Added sugars fall under all kinds of different names on ingredient labels.  As a side note, the higher up an ingredient is on an ingredient list, the more of it will be included in that product. Find an ingredient ending in “ose” on the top of the list, put the product down. Many of those sugary products are empty, meaning they have no other nutrients associated with them. These products generally contain little protein, fat, fiber, vitamins or minerals.

Sugar in Cereal

Stay with me for a moment while I go on a little rant.

About cereal.

Yes, I know, most Americans love their breakfast cereals (I grew up eating cereal – though my parents saved the extra sugary stuff for Saturdays). Cereal is bright & colorful, it’s sweet, it’s super convenient….and we mistakenly think it’s good for us and our kids.

And cereal brands spend millions of dollars every year marketing to our kids to make us think that. In fact, during kids TV shows the top category of advertised food is… you guessed it, cereal (even beating out candy, other snacks and fast food).

 

Did You Know:

  • On average, cereal’s that are marketed to children have more than 40% more sugars than “adult” cereals, and more than 2x the sugar of oatmeal.
  • According to EWG’s analysis, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks (which used to be called Sugar Smacks) leads the list of one of the highest-sugar cereals.
  • And, even with the update in food label regulations, since serving sizes on cereal labels are still unrealistically small, many adults and children will typically eat more than one “serving” in a single sitting. And according to FDA’s analysis of food consumption data, 97 percent of the most common cold cereals underestimate the amount of cereal people actually eat.

Bottom line: most cereals are just as sweet as cookies and should not be considered a part of healthy meal.  But, if you just can’t give up cereal, use common sense, read the ingredient label, and as always, don’t believe any information printed on the front of the box.

Eating Sugar: The Good

OK, thanks for hanging in with me.

Now about the good.

Somewhere along the way, we started hating on all sources carbs. But (all) carbohydrates are not the enemy here.

We need carbohydrates for energy. They are energy-packed compounds that give us quick energy. This is why choosing the right source of food where those sugars come from is so important.

It should go without saying that you’ll find much more sugar in processed foods than in whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Along with starch and fiber, sugars live under the larger umbrella: carbohydrates. The more complex the molecule, the slower digestion takes. Simple sugars, like from fruit, digest quickly and can have a positive effect in the right amount at the right time (ie: right before/during/after exercise). Starch and fiber, which is a much more complex molecule, digests slowly and help you feel fuller, for longer.

Unfortunately, one problem we’re faced with is this strange notion in our culture that if you’ve worked really hard in a workout, you deserve a big, gooey, sugary treat. Maybe this satisfies an emotional hunger temporarily, but it is certainly not what your body needs after a training session. Get clear. What your body needs is some real, whole foods.

When in doubt, opt for a diet mostly composed of lean meats, vegetables, essential fats, little starch, little fruit and plenty of water. Your body, your training and your health will thank you big time!

Why Does Sugar Taste Good?!

Sugar tastes good, partially because when it’s in its natural state, whole foods, like berries, are full of good stuff like vitamins, minerals, and energy. Our bodies are naturally attracted to them.

But everyone is different. Some of us pull the dessert plate closer after dinner while others can easily shrug off grandma’s pumpkin pie. Some of us simply respond to sugar more than others which could be from genetics or something we learned growing up. Which brings us to the next question number.

Will Eating Sugar Make Me Gain Weight?

The over-consumption of foods that have added sugars (not generally those foods that have naturally occurring sugars) can contribute to health problems such as diabetes and obesity. Added sugars feed yeast and bad bacteria in our bodies which can damage our intestinal wall, increasing intestinal permeability, AKA: leaky gut. That can trigger chronic, low-grade inflammation and lead to the transfer of substances from our gut into our bloodstream. In turn, this can lead to obesity and other chronic, metabolic diseases.

Plus, if we eat more processed, sugary foods, we’re probably taking in more energy (calories) overall. Many of these foods are tasty, in fact they’re engineered to make it hard for you to stop eating. And since we digest and use their energy very quickly, these processed foods tend to overstimulate our brain’s reward/pleasure centers which can lead to weight gain and even obesity. Data from the USDA tracking food intake from a variety of angles show consistent trends. Since 1980, Americans have continued to eat about the same total amount of fat, yet ate more carbohydrates, especially refined ones with added sugars. Over this time, the obesity rates in the United States have also grown significantly.

The World Health Organization defines “obese” as having a Body Mass Index higher than 30. Of course, some fit and muscular athletes tend to have a higher BMI even though they still have a low percentage of body fat. So, let’s look at those number for a moment. Currently, the average body fat percentage for women is about 40%, for men: 28%. To compare, the “healthy” range for a woman should be around 22-33%, and for men, that range should be around 11-22%.

While we can’t blame one single thing alone, including sugar for all the health problems and obesity surge (sleep & stress factor in, too), multiple studies do show that an increased sugar consumption does correlate with increased obesity levels, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,  leaky gut, diabetes and cancer.

How Much Sugar Should I (Can I) Eat?

Remember: Sugar (alone) doesn’t provide nourishment. No vitamins, no minerals, no fiber, no antioxidants, phytonutrients or  hydration.

Sugar from nutrient-dense, whole foods, like fruit on the other hand, contains sugar, but they provide numerous positive health benefits.

When it comes to how much sugar (from whole foods) you should eat, everyone is different and has unique energy needs. Some people do well cutting sugar out of their diet (almost) completely, while others thrive on a high-carb diet. Some athletes will count their sugar intake down to the gram, while others do well with the general guideline of “eating less-processed foods & more healthy foods” and be very successful.

As a general guideline, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015-2020) recommends limiting sugar to 10% of your intake. So, for example, if you’re eating 2000 calories per day, that would be about 50 grams, or 200 calories from sugar.

Start reading food labels to get a clear look at how much sugar you’re actually eating. Remember, it tends to hide in packaged foods (a lot). So, better than that, eat more foods without a label (like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, meat and seafood, etc.).

When Should I Eat Sugar?

As far as when to eat sugar from nutrient-dense carbohydrates, it’s very specific to your body type, time of training, training intensity, training duration, stress levels, health/illness and a slew of other factors. Nutrient timing is very specific. When done right, it can positively affect your performance and recovery, but what works for your training partner (or a template) may not work for you. In fact, it could actually backfire.

In general, your pre-workout meals should be consumed about 1-2 hours before training. It should be carbohydrate-rich (about half complex and half simple, which can be consumed during the workout depending on workout length), moderate in protein and fiber and low in fat. Intra-nutrition and post nutrition are just as specific as pre-workout nutrition.

Much of your performance success is dependent on how well you eat. So, remember this, even if you’re eating the “right number of macros” or counting your sugar grams before and after your workout, it can make a negative impact on your goals if those macros are coming from processed foods.

Should I Choose Low-Sugar Foods?

That’s not necessarily the right answer…at all. Be careful of “low sugar” products because they often use artificial sweeteners. When you consume these chemical sweeteners, they stimulate sweetness in your mouth and the body naturally expects the carbohydrates to follow. When carbs don’t follow, the body gets mixed messages that may cause cravings for MORE SUGAR. Additionally, studies show that artificial sweeteners cause a variety of health problems, including cancer.

So, instead, focus on whole foods where you won’t find added sugars or even packaged foods where sugar is not one of the first three ingredients.

Sideline the Sugar

Look in your kitchen cabinets. Your refrigerator. Your freezer. See if you can find a product that you once thought was a healthy choice but have since discovered an ingredient (added sugar, for example) hiding in plain sight. Take a picture of the front/back and share it with us. Then start researching alternative options that are more nutrient-dense.

If you can’t find anything, score! Maybe talk about a product that you once thought was healthy and have since swapped out for something else.

More Questions About Nutrition?

If you eat quality, nutrient-dense foods and get your portion sizes right the majority of the time, your can still indulge in a small portion of those processed treats on occasion. It doesn’t always have to be “all or nothing.” Yes, structure your diet around nutrient-dense, colorful REAL foods, but also remember that a healthy life is not about macro math or obsessing over everything you put in on your plate.

Read the label, make smart choices, but be nice to yourself…in all areas of life.

And, as always, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Contact your Salus Nutrition Coaches at info@salusnj.com to chat more about your 3-month individualized plan to get the personalized structure you need.

Chicken and Spaghetti Squash Recipe

Spaghetti squash is a delicious and healthier alternative to most pastas. is a winter vegetable rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and it’s also higher in fiber and vitamin C. Try this delicious spaghetti squash recipe as a low-carb alternative to pasta, combined with veggies, protein, and healthy fats.

Feel free to mix in with your favorite brown rice or lentil pasta or simply enjoy the squash on its own.

​​Ingredients:

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • Fresh chopped veggies like peppers, tomato, kale, spinach
  • All the garlic (technical measurement)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus more for topping
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

​Directions:
1a. ​In the Instapot: Pierce the spaghetti squash with a knife to vent, and place it on the trivet with a cup of water in the pot. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes for a 3-pound squash. Cool slightly and then cut in half.

1b.  Or the oven: Cut squash in half first. Preheat oven to 400° and cook for approx 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken with parsley, oregano and basil. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken and garlic; cook 7-9 minutes on each side.

3. Separate strands of squash with a fork, discard seeds if you haven’t already.

4. Serve with chicken and the rest of your chopped veggies.

 

This amazingly healthier version of everyone’s favorite without compromising taste is a must try!

“RESET” Nutrition & Lifestyle Challenge Rules

1. NUTRITION QUALITY 

Rules: Eat only whole (unprocessed), nutrient-dense foods from the food list. This will be entered in the “food journal” section.

  • LEVEL 1: Made one positive change today. (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Stuck to the food list for at least two meals and two snacks. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Stuck to the food list for all meals and snacks. (5 points)

Note: for youth, we want the focus to be on adding in nutrient-dense foods and using this as an opportunity to teach them about healthy replacements. For example, encourage them to try a new vegetable at dinner (level 1) or to replace their morning cereal with eggs and fruit.

2. NUTRITION QUANTITY (PORTIONS & HYDRATION)

Rules: Follow portion guidelines and hydration guidelines. Adult and youth guidelines provided.

Eat 3 scheduled meals and 2-3 planned mini meals/snacks (**no mindless picking when you’re bored)

Eat only to satisfied, never stuffed.

  • LEVEL 1: Made one positive change today (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Stuck to the portion guidelines for at least two meals and one mini meal. Made hydration goal by at least 80%. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Stuck to the portion/hydration guidelines all day. (5 points)

What if I’m following macros?

For those of you who are already weighing/measuring your food and following prescribed macros under the guidance of a nutrition coach, you are encouraged to continue doing that during the nutrition challenge. If this is the case, your scoring will look like this:

  • LEVEL 1: You are more than + or – 15 grams away from your planned target ranges (0 points)
  • LEVEL 2: You stay within + or – 15 grams of protein & carb macronutrient target. And within + or – 10 grams of fat macros (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: You stay within + or – 10 grams of protein & carb macronutrient target. And within + or – 5 grams of fat macros (5 points)

3. SLEEP

Rules: Follow sleep guidelines for your age range.

Note: this will be scored for the NIGHT BEFORE.

See sleeping tips and bedtime routine tips on our blog.

  • LEVEL 1: Slept within 1 hour of recommendations. AND made one positive change to establish a bedtime routine. (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Slept within 30 minutes of recommendations. AND turned off electronics 15 minutes before bedtime. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Slept according to the recommendations AND turned off electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. AND followed a 10 minute bedtime routine (such as stretching, meditation, reading, etc). (5 points)

 

4. MOVEMENT

Remember, a little bit of activity goes a long way. Whether it’s a walk outside or a superset of pushups and sit ups, any exercise is better than no exercise. That’s why getting up and moving around is a big component of our challenge. 

Dedicate time in your schedule each week to make exercise a priority. 

  • LEVEL 1:  Made one positive change today (like taking the stairs, standing on a conference call or parking further from the door). (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Completed at least 20 minutes of physical activity. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Completed at least 45 minutes of physical activity (if it is your recovery day, this means adding in a low intensity workout, like a walk). (5 points)

 

5. STRESS MANAGEMENT

Implement stress-relieving techniques to take better care of your mind, body and spirit. This can be meditation, yoga, taking a bath, walk, organizing a messy area, talking to a friend, drawing, getting a massage, taking a nap, etc. Everyone is affected by stress differently, so try a variety of strategies to discover which ones are the most effective for you. 

  • LEVEL 1: Destress for at least 5 minutes. (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Destress for at least 10 minutes. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Destress for a minimum of 10 minutes AND limit recreational screen-time to less than 1 hour each day. (5 points)

Note: Screen-time, for the purpose of this challenge, is referring to time spent on devices such as a smartphone/tablet doing recreational activities such as gaming, mindlessly scrolling…aka: getting sucked down the social media rabbit hole, etc.

6. RECOVERY

Mobility, stretching, myofascial release, etc., can alleviate ‘everyday’ aches and pains as well as improve our body awareness & performance.

  • LEVEL 1: Stretch and/or roll for at least 5 minutes. (1 point)
  • LEVEL 2: Stretch and/or roll for at least 10 minutes. (3 points)
  • LEVEL 3: Stretch and/or roll for a minimum of 15 minutes. (5 points)

 

Decide- Make a decision that your health is worth it. Finish off 2020 strong and attack your goals head on!

Commit- Tell your friends and sign up for the challenge together for the ultimate level of accountability.

Dominate- Everyone is on their own journey, so you have options! Choose a level for each goal and challenge yourself to make at least one positive change every day. They all add up!

IT’S THAT SIMPLE.