Whether you are working 80 hours a week and can’t seem to find the time to eat right or you are a stay at home mom who can’t figure out how to keep healthy food on the table that your family will actually eat, Megan Ware helps you find a plan to get you on the right track and on the road to a healthy, happy, balanced lifestyle.
Lasagna without the noodles. Taco casserole. Enchilada pie. Whatever you want to call it, this Veggie Mexican Lasagna is the perfect thing to whip up on a Sunday when you don’t feel like meal prepping. You only need one pan, a can opener, and an oven. It makes a ton of food and feels indulgent... Read More»
Looking for a high-protein, plant-based recipe to meal prep for lunches or bring to your next summer BBQ? If so, you have come to the right food blog!
This Thai Peanut Pasta Salad is so yummy even routine meat-eaters won’t notice it’s vegan friendly. Bonus? The trifecta of chickpea pasta, homemade peanut sauce, and veggies pack a lot of protein and fiber in a single serving, so you’ll stay full & satisfied for hours.
The key is to use a pasta made from a plant protein like Banza. One serving has 25 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber! For this recipe, I used the Banza Rotini noodles, but the penne or shell noodles would have worked just as well.
This is a great dish if you’re short on time- I whipped this dish up in less than 20 minutes. Since it happens to be dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan, the Thai Peanut Pasta Salad is the perfect side to bring to a potluck where people have food restrictions.
Know someone with a tree nut allergy? Swap the peanut butter for delicious Sunbutter!
Cannabidiol (CBD) has been making headlines in both the public media and medical field, but what is it and why is it suddenly so popular?
CBD is non-addictive substance found in the cannabis sativa plant (marijuana) and hemp plant. While CBD boasts many potential therapeutic benefits, it won’t get you stoned in isolated doses. The different compound in marijuana called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is what causes people to feel ‘high.’
CBD and THC react differently in the body and therefore, induce different responses. While there are trace amounts of THC found in CBD, CBD oil can provide users with similar benefits associated with marijuana without the psychoactive side effects or the red flag on a drug test!
Why Consider CBD?
Because CBD is a natural compound, it is very appealing to people looking for certain treatments but don’t want a pill or prescription.
Common conditions associated with CBD supplementation include chronic pain, anxiety, depression, poor appetite, and inflammation/autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS).
Preliminary reports show CBD can provide relief of common digestive issues such abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea for those who suffer with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) or Crohn’s Disease.
There are also a strong associations between CBD and the treatment of epilepsy & seizures, Parkinson’s disease, and chemo-induced nausea. For women struggling with PCOS and/or menstrual cycle discomfort, CBD oil can also be an effective treatment.
CBD can be administered several ways: orally as an oil, capsule, or edible; topically as a cream; or even inhaled through a vaporizer. If you can’t stomach the taste of the oil, try a capsule for long-term release or a vape for quick-onset relief. Gummy CBDs are an option but often contain dyes and artificial preservatives and are not suitable for someone with a gluten sensitivity.
Kait: I noticed a dramatic change in how I slept when I supplemented with CBD- I feel asleep easily and woke up feeling refreshed. Everyone’s dosages are different, but I do well with 35 ml of a 1000 mg oil before bed. It’s onset time is slower and lasts through the night. I prefer Soul CBD oil because it doesn’t have an earthy taste and is mixed with MCT oil instead of a vegetable oil.
I’ve also put the CBD oil in a vaporizer, which I surprisingly liked. It wasn’t harsh on my throat and didn’t make me cough. I’d recommend this method to anyone who wants a quick-onset and doesn’t like the taste of the oils.
Fellow dietitian and my friend Macie guest spoke on our podcast about her experience with CBD for her anxiety and joint pain. You can listen to it here.
Megan: As the evidence warning against the use of NSAIDs continues to become stronger, I continue to look for alternatives for myself and for my clients to relieve acute and chronic pain. I’ve gotten the best results from high quality CBD oil. If I’m dealing with any type of pain (usually back, shoulder, or menstrual), instead of taking ibuprofen, I will take ½ dropper of 1000mg Viva Oil. The pain goes away within 20 minutes without fail. I only take it as needed, but my husband has chronic hip pain from hours of daily driving and finds that it helps if he is diligent about taking it. I hated that he was taking NSAIDs so often, so I’m super thankful for this alternative.
Potential Side Effects
There does not seem to be many reported negative side effects from CBD other than nausea, irritability, and fatigue. Starting with a low dose and increasing slowly is the best way to determine your tolerance and avoid unwanted symptoms.
However, anyone taking a blood-thinner such as coumadin or any antiarrhythmics should consult with a MD prior to CBD supplementation. Topical methods of administration may be a safer option.
Please note that not all CBD oils are created equal and there is a lack of regulation in this industry just like for any other supplement. Buy from reputable brands that have been third party tested like My Soul CBD. Ask questions. Viva Oils works with health professionals across the country. If you want to try their products, you can use “NTRAWR” to get 10% off.
Ever feel like you do everything right when it comes to weight loss but for some reason, the scale jumps up? Even after a “perfect day” of eating healthy and exercising, your weight doesn’t move the way you want it to?
It’s common to want to throw in the towel when your weight doesn’t drop right away. Does the number on the scale in the morning determine how you feel about yourself for the day? How motivated you are? Does it control how the first part of your day will go and affect your eating and exercise habits for the day?
We tend to forget that number is highly variable- many things can influence the scale.
If you have an obsession with the scale, I want to share with you 9 reasons why your weight fluctuates as well as how to accurately measure your progress to help you reach your physique goals!
This may be the most obvious reason why the scale fluctuates from day to day, but what actually influences fluid shifts in our body besides drinking and sweating?
Sodium and glycogen cause us to hold onto water while caffeine, alcohol, and diuretics increase fluid excretion. Workouts, sleep, supplements, muscle soreness, sunburns, and hormonal shifts also affect how much fluid we retain. More on this later!
Dietary sodium is crucial for health, especially if you’re exercising and/or working outdoors. However, water follows salt, which explains why you may feel bloated or notice a weight increase after dining out. Even if you ordered something healthy, restaurant establishments typically use a lot more salt in their cooking.
Take Chipotle as an example. A nutritious vegetarian bowl with brown rice, black beans, pico de gallo, corn, and guac has 1650 mg of sodium. The recommendation for the general population is to consume no more than 2,300 mg per day.
Does this mean you should never eat Chipotle? Absolutely not (especially because they have more nutritious options compared to many fast food establishments). Just don’t get freaked out by a slight increase in weight. Balance it out by eating whole, minimally processed foods for the rest of the day and drinking plenty of fluid.
Tip: If you struggle with drinking enough water, buy a large, BPA-free water bottle and a large nozzle (like this one) and aim for at least 32 ounces before lunch and 32 ounces after.
Ever notice how you may weigh less on Sunday morning, even when you’ve indulged a bit on Saturday? If so, compare how much you sleep on weekends compared to weekdays.
Many people use weekends to sleep in, giving the body extra time to shift fluid from our body cells to our bloodstream. From there, fluid is sent to our kidneys so it can be excreted when we urinate the next morning. Therefore, we’re losing additional ounces in water weight.
While it’s immediate water weight loss, catching enough Z’s is linked to fat loss for other reasons:
Sleep helps regulate the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin, making it easier to control portions and junk food temptation.
Adequate sleep improves your body’s response to insulin, a fat storage hormone, and regulates cortisol levels.
Depending on your basal metabolic rate, your body also burns a certain number of calories at rest.
Aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night as part of your weight loss and health goals. Avoid using screens 1-2 hours before bed and consuming caffeine after noon if you are having trouble falling asleep. Keep in mind that teas and pre-workout supplements often have caffeine as well. If you’re looking for a workout boost without caffeine, read our pre-workout post.
Many of our clients feel discouraged when they notice water retention after increasing their vegetable and fiber intake. Since fiber is indigestible, introducing large amounts at one time may make you feel bloated or gassy.
Since fiber is a key component for weight loss, blood sugar control, heart, and digestive health, don’t let initial water weight keep you from eating it! Instead, slowly increase your intake by 2-5g per day. Women should aim for at least 25 grams per day while men require at least 38 grams.
It’s also important to drink enough fluid. While it may seem counterintuitive, drinking more water actually helps reduce bloating and helps ease fiber digestion!
Not drinking enough water is the #1 cause of constipation.
Glycogen can be described stored energy (glucose). Our bodies store glycogen primarily in the liver, skeletal muscle tissue, and fat cells. We pull from these stores throughout the day as we move, breath, exercise, etc. Though dietary fat and some protein is converted to glucose/energy, most of our glycogen stores are from carbohydrate.
Here’s the kicker- for every 1 gram of glycogen, our bodies retain 2-3 grams water! This can explain why people who follow a ketogenic or very low carb eating plan may experience rapid weight loss in the initial phases of the diet.
Your body holds on to this water for good reasons! A well-hydrated muscle tissue is a healthy tissue- water transports vital nutrients to the cells to aid in cellular functions such as muscle synthesis.
So don’t fret if you notice the scale jump up days after a high carb meal- it’s likely not related to body fat, it’s just part of how your body utilizes carbohydrate.
The supplement creatine can also cause water retention. This water retention is ‘intra-cellular,’ meaning it is stored within in the cell itself rather than underneath the skin. This explains the weight gained after taking a creatine supplement, even though you may not experience any side effects such as abdominal bloating.
Ever crush a workout only to be dismantled by a weight increase the following day?
Exercise breaks down muscle tissue, sending the signal to your body there is damage. Therefore, it holds onto water and targets inflamed tissues so help heal & soothe swelling.
In case you need another reason to wear sunscreen, this explains why even a sunburn can cause water retention!
#8 Hormonal Shifts
Many women experience water retention about a week before their menstrual cycle due to shifts in the sex hormones progesterone and estrogen.
If you struggle with bloating before your period, a low sodium diet, adequate fiber, and plenty of water can help ease the symptoms. Our PCOS & Gut Health post is full of helpful digestive health & diet tips.
#9 Muscle Growth!
One exciting reason the scale isn’t dropping may be due to an increase in lean muscle mass, particularly if you are exercising regularly!
While this shift is not instantaneous, muscle growth slows weight loss but improves your physique and boosts your metabolism. The best way to measure fat loss and total lean body mass is by getting a Dexa Scan. If you’re local to Orlando, get tested at DexaFit Orlando.
Monitoring Weight Loss
So we’ve learned the scale isn’t the most consistent form of measuring progress but for some, it is an accountability tool. If you choose to use the scale to monitor weight loss, weigh under consistent conditions (i.e, same scale, time, & clothes; empty bladder; unshowered). Record your weight 4-7x per week and average those numbers. You can track your weekly average weight and identify a trend. More than 1% body weight lost in one week is likely influenced by water.
If you notice that jumping on the scale every morning is continuously making you question yourself or putting you in a bad mood, PUT IT AWAY!
I’m not going to lie, I love protein bars (the good ones!). They’re the perfect afternoon pick-me-up with a little sweetness to satisfy my chocolate cravings. But if you’re buying the bougie ones at $3.50 per bar, they can get pretty expensive if you eat them a few times a week.
So, why not make your own? I first made my own KIND bars here. Now I’m more into the “nut-butter” textured bars similar to G2G bars, Perfect Bars, and the make-your-own bars from The Bar Shack.
I’m all about simple recipes. This took 20 minutes or less, used only one bowl (the bowl to my food processor) and one spatula.
Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Perfect Bar (Copycat Recipe)
I’ve been getting more requests for healthy and easy Instant Pot® recipes lately. This is one of my favorite kind of recipes– you only use one pan and you’re basically just throwing a bunch of stuff together, hitting a button, then going to do something else for 30 minutes.
Instant Pot® Tuscan Chicken Chili
Makes 4-5 servings in 30 minutes.
2 tablespoons olive oil or expeller pressed sunflower oil
Hit the sauté button on your Instant Pot® and add the oil to the bowl.
Once the bowl and oil are hot, add the ground chicken. Using the Instant Pot® safe spatula, break up the ground beef and keep it from sticking. Cook until no longer pink.
Add all remaining ingredients and stir.
Press the soup button on your Instant Pot, making sure that the vent is closed/sealed.
Wait until you hear the beep, then release the vent and you’re ready to eat!
*You can find Mighty Spark’s pre-seasoned ground meats at Publix, Albertsons, Safeway, Sprouts, and more. If you don’t want to use Mighty Spark, make sure to add minced garlic and diced onion to your ground chicken to flavor it up!
I’m a big fan of Mighty Spark (this is not an ad and they didn’t pay me to say this!) because hello, you don’t have to touch the ground meat with your hands and it already has a ton of flavor. It saves me time and gives me fresh ideas for new recipes.
We all have those days where coffee and a nutritious breakfast just doesn’t do it for us. You can’t seem to concentrate on the task at hand. You’ve been at work for 2 hours but still haven’t done any real “work.” You wonder why you can’t focus. Maybe you go grab a snack, scroll through Instagram, or look up flights to Tahiti.
Days like these are where nootropics (pronounced NEW-tro-picks) can come in handy. Nootropics are supplements that can be derived directly from real foods or made in a lab. They are taken to enhance cognitive ability, improve focus, and support overall brain health and function. You can consume nootropics in powder, drink, and pill form.
Now that self-experimentation and self-improvement is “in,” nootropics are becoming a buzzword and supplement companies are jumping at the chance to sell you a pill that claims to boost your brain power.
As always, not all supplements are created equal. We’ve compiled a list of the nootropics we’ve trialed and trust.
This instant coffee powder (just add hot water) gets its brain power from lions mane and chaga, two powerful mushrooms. Yes, you read that right– mushrooms! Many nootropic products are harnessing the power of natural mushrooms that can enhance cognitive function. Pretty cool, right? Plus you get a little caffeine boost. I was skeptical of how it would taste but there’s zero “mushroomy” flavor.
The boost from these products does not feel like the same jolt you get from a large dose of caffeine or a focus-enhancing medication like adderall. There’s no jitters and no crash. It’s a mild, “whoa I just sat here and focused on the task at hand out for an hour without looking up” kind of boost.
If you don’t want a drink at all and would rather take a capsule to help with mental clarity, we recommend Host Defense. Host Defense is a great brand, started by the worlds foremost mushroom researcher and advocate (if there ever was such a thing), Paul Stamets. I like their Mycobotanical Brain Capsules.
One other capsule we recommend is Onnit’s Alpha BRAIN. Alpha BRAIN is backed by two double blind clinical trials conducted by the Boston Center for Memory. They were able to show improvements in memory, brainwave patterns, and focus when compared to placebo. Get more information about the studies here.
I would not recommend taking any of these products on a daily basis. Just like coffee, the more you drink it, the more your body gets used to it and the less you feel the difference. Save these supplements for the days when you really need it. My nootropic of choice is the Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with lions mane and chaga. I take it on days when I’m getting interviewed or doing a presentation. It makes me feel like my brain fires faster. I also like to throw a packet in a smoothie with almond milk, frozen blueberries, and my favorite protein powder.
Is there a downside?
Just like caffeine or alcohol, nootropics will effect everyone differently. One downside for me is that Alpha BRAIN gives me a runny nose for a few hours after taking it. I have not had another client report a similar experience, so it might just be me.
A few clients have reported having odd or very clear (lucid) dreams while taking nootropics.
Be wary of new supplement companies popping up trying to capitalize on the nootropic trend. Always do your research up front before investing your money and time into any supplement. If you want more personalized recommendations, work with us one-on-one. We can help you find the nootropic that will benefit you the most and make sure you are optimizing your diet for cognitive ability.
Post by Megan Ware, RDN, LD. Read more about the dietitians at Nutrition Awareness here.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. I am not a medical doctor and recommendations provided should not take the place of medical advice or treatment.
Some blog posts may contain one or more affiliate links. I was not paid by any of the companies above to review their products. All opinions are my own.
You know which women’s health topic isn’t being talked about enough? The close relationship between diet, gut health, and hormones.
I have a major passion for helping women who are struggling from the frustrating side effects of hormone imbalances such as unwanted weight gain or loss, digestive issues, fatigue, hair loss, unwanted hair growth (known as hirsutism), and missing periods by fixing their diet.
While many hormone imbalances can be related to food, today we’re covering Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and gut health.
How are PCOS and gut health related?
Good question! Let’s start by exploring what it means to have a healthy gut. The gut or gut microbiome refers to our entire digestive tract, which is naturally full of bacteria, microbes, and fungi.
I understand if you are grossed out but don’t be! Understanding your gut health means understanding your overall health.
This teeny-tiny little world known as the gut microbiome helps your body by boosting immunity, aiding in nutrient utilization and metabolism. A healthy gut microbiome also helps strengthen the intestinal walls within the digestive tract and works to prevent harmful bacteria from taking over.
The trouble starts once ‘bad’ or harmful bacteria begins to out number the ‘good’ or helpful bacteria in our gut microbiome.
The DOGMA Theory (short for Dysbiosis of Gut Microbiota) suggests that an imbalance in our natural gut flora is a root cause of inflammation. This inflammation can lead to an unnatural increase of testosterone and insulin resistance.
The DOGMA Theory’s Relationship to PCOS
From a biochemical standpoint, PCOS is characterized as a chronic state of inflammation. PCOS is often accompanied by elevated testosterone, excess androgens, increased insulin resistance, and greater likelihood of developing type II diabetes.
Sooo that’s a lot of science for ya! The main takeaway point is an unhealthy gut is strongly linked to hormonal imbalances and undesirable symptoms women with PCOS frequently experience.
This is why we have to get to the root cause of hormonal imbalances and poor gut health when treating PCOS. One of the root causes being – you guessed it – your diet.
5 Nutrition Tips for Healing PCOS Diversify your gut flora
Your digestive tract contains tons of different microorganisms and bacteria. A gut with a large variety of healthy bugs and bacteria is a happy, less inflamed gut.
To diversify your gut microbiome, eat a wide range of foods with lots of fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics.
Whole food sources of fiber include lots of leafy greens (kale, spinach, Swiss Chard), non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, steel-cut oats, berries, and fruit.
The term probiotic is defined as a microorganism that maintains or improves beneficial bacteria in the gut when consumed. Prebiotics are like the food for probiotics that help them populate and flourish.
Probiotics & prebiotics from food have shown to play an important role in immunity and balancing the microbiota. In fact, research proved rats treated with probiotic strains of Lactobacillus had reduced levels of androgens as well as improved ovarian function.
While probiotics can be taken in supplement form, certain strains and strain combinations of probiotics help relieve certain symptoms better than others. We are just scratching the surface of the science here. Ask us for a specific probiotic supplement recommendation during your initial consult if you are curious.
You can enhance the effectiveness of your probiotics by eating foods high in prebiotics, such as raw onion, garlic, asparagus, Dandelion greens, artichokes, and legumes.
Resistant starch also helps feed the good bacteria in our digestive tract and improve insulin resistance. Cook, cool, then reheat potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and rice for a good source of resistant starch. Green bananas and plantains are also good sources.
Reverse/Reduce Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone released from our pancreas and into our blood when we ingest glucose in the form of carbohydrates.
A high carb meal = high intake of glucose = insulin is released.
In a healthy individual, this is a good thing because the insulin can move the glucose into our cells for energy. Yay! But when our body is insulin resistant, our cells don’t utilize all of the glucose so it ends up being stored as body fat. Not yay.
Simply put, reversing insulin resistance requires eating less simple carbohydrates. Techniques include consuming smaller portion sizes of carbs, eating less frequent meals, and/or intermittent fasting for 12-14 hours.
Your first meal of the day should be primarily lean proteins, healthy fats, and fiber in the form of non-starchy vegetables or resistant starch. Try not to snack on foods like crackers, chips, cookies, chocolate, or popcorn (especially without any buffer of protein!) as these will cause high insulin secretion. If you’re craving fruit, pair it with a healthy fat like nuts, peanut butter, or string cheese to slow down the sugar absorption.
Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Makes sense, right? An anti-inflammatory diet is rich in omega-3s, which can be found in fatty fish (wild-caught salmon, tuna, sardines), walnuts, ground flaxseed, and chia seeds. Fiber also promotes gut health and combats inflammation.
Blueberries, blackberries, leafy greens, green tea, nuts & seeds, beans & lentils, avocado, olive oil, and fibrous veggies are great for an anti-inflammatory diet.
Reduce Inflammatory Foods
On the flipside, limit foods that are linked to inflammation.
Be sure to read food labels and watch for added sugars. High intake of both refined/natural and artificial sugars (such as sucralose & aspartame) can wreak havoc on your intestinal health. Try to avoid the fake stuff completely and save real sugar for special occasions.
Processed and packaged foods with a lengthy list of foreign ingredients and inflammatory oils don’t do our gut or waistline any favors. Intead, focus on eating more whole foods. Limit options cooked in vegetable oils such as corn, grapeseed, canola, sunflower, peanut or soybean oil. Olive and avocado oil are better options.
Alcohol, especially bottom-shelf brands, can trigger inflammation. Limit your serving sizes to one drink (that’s 5 ounces of wine, 12 oz for beer, or 1.5 ounces of spirits/liquor) on special occasions. Choose wines made with natural ingredients (more on that here) and don’t mix spirits with sugary mixers such as tonic water.
Some people have inflammatory responses to foods containing dairy, soy, or gluten. Before you rush to eliminate these foods from your diet, pay attention to how you feel after you eat something that contains one of these components. If you notice any digestive issues such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, or general discomfort, eliminate the potential offender (one at a time) for 30 days and pay attention to how you feel. Work with us to help you stay accountable and successful throughout an elimination diet!
Inositol (Vitamin B8)studies have shown that supplementing with inositol can be helpful in treating a variety of PCOS symptoms including insulin resistance, high blood sugars, and inflammation. Myo-inositol in particular may also aid in weight loss due to it’s serum testosterone and insulin decreasing effects.
Magnesium: Magnesium is one of the most underrated minerals for hormonal health as it plays a crucial role in a variety of metabolic functions including liver detoxification and relieving muscle soreness. Research has also supported than magnesium supplementation can improve insulin sensitivity. Consider supplementing with 300-600 mg of magnesium glycinate before bed and eating magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, and wild-caught fish.
Zinc: Zinc sulfate supplementation has also been shown to have a positive impact on metabolic effects of women with PCOS. Zinc taken in combination with Saw Palmetto has been shown to decrease testosterone levels, which can unwanted PCOS symptoms such as hirsutism or acne. However, the studies on the effect Saw Palmetto has on decreasing androgens isn’t strong enough for me to recommend supplementation at this time.
Protein Powders: Eating protein at every meal and snack is crucial to balancing blood sugars for women with PCOS. Protein also help keep us full for longer. Protein powders and bars can be a great option when you’re on the go and don’t have access to actual food. However- not all protein powders and bars are created quality. Be wary of low-quality options with ingredients that may be linked to inflammation such as artificial sugars and flavorings. These disrupt the gut microbiota, which we’ve learned is a major influence of weight and health. Try my favorite natural protein powder, these RD-approved protein bars, or one of these ready-drink-protein shakes.
Vitamin B-12: If you are taking metformin as part of your PCOS treatment, consider a vitamin B12 supplement- research and studies consistently prove a strong link between metformin and B12 deficiencies. Don’t stop taking your medication without consulting with your medical doctor.
N acetyl-cysteine (NAC): When compared with metformin, NAC has been shown to be an insulin-sensitizing treatment for PCOS. NAC and metformin also show similar effects on improving irregular periods, decreasing Body Mass Index (BMI) and lowering androgens in PCOS population.
Women in their reproductive years can benefit from a prenatal vitamin due to the higher concentrations of folic acid, iron, and calcium.