What kind of stress are you experiencing? April is National Stress Awareness Month

jeshoots-com-523925-unsplash

Stress. This word can evoke a variety of emotions within us and means different things to different people. We have an entire month (the month of April), dedicated to thinking about stress.

My name is Jessica Sharp and I am a brain expert and the Founder of Sharp Brain Consulting. I was a client of Blush Nutrition and loved my experience with Brittany for lots of reasons, but partly because of her holistic approach to health and nutrition. She and I both know that stress impacts weight and health and we both think it is important to talk more in-depth about stress and how it impacts our life.

There are two types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress is actually good for our brains and is short and does not have lasting effects on us. When you almost hit someone in your car and have to stop and get anxious about that. That is acute stress. When you are in an unhealthy relationship that consistently makes you feel stressed and anxious, this is chronic stress. Chronic stress, which is also known as toxic stress is what happens when stress becomes constant and consistent. There are a variety of things that can cause chronic stress, but some examples are a dysfunctional family, major work issues, abusive or unhealthy relationships.

I would encourage you to pause here and think about your stress. What is stressing you out? Do you think it is acute or chronic? Having an understanding of the type of stress you are dealing with will help you to manage the symptoms.

Okay, back to the blog. I won’t get too scientific on you, but stress sets off a process in the brain that can have long-term effects on our body. The amygdala is in the back of our brain and is shaped like an almond. Among other things, it activates our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response that many people have heard it. It also controls our impulses and attaches emotions to memories. When we are experiencing stress, the amygdala sets off a process that increases adrenaline and cortisol and increases our heart rate. When we are experiencing acute, short-term stress, our heart rate goes down and our adrenaline and cortisol levels will decrease after a relatively short amount of time. When our stress is consistent and does not go away quickly, the levels of cortisol and adrenaline don’t decrease. That means are heart rate does not go down to a normal level. Additionally, because cortisol is involved in so many things in our bodies, it decreases our ability to fight infections, can make us gain weight, is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and early death. Early death. Death can literally kill us.

In one of my previous jobs, I was definitely dealing with chronic stress. I loved my job but always felt like I had so much going on and never could find the bottom of my to-do list. The increased levels of cortisol definitely caused weight gain (particularly in my belly- yikes).

In addition to the list above, chronic stress can cause us to experience memory loss and decreased levels of serotonin and dopamine. Those two chemicals are linked to happiness, and when too low can lead to anxiety and depression. Finally, chronic stress can increase the size of our amygdala and decrease the size of our prefrontal cortex. Those are all science-y words to say that we become more impulsive and have a harder time with decision making, long term planning, focusing and organizing.

Later this month, we will talk about how to manage stress to help decrease the likelihood of experiencing these negative outcomes. For now, though, I want you to take some time to think about stress. 

Stress awareness month quotes (1)

Write down the things in your life that cause you stress. Are you experiencing more acute or chronic stress? Thinking about your stressors will not only make you more self-aware but will also help to decrease your stress level.

I will be sharing more de-stressing tips with you later on this month – but bor now, though, feel free to engage with me on social media! Follow me on Instagram at @sharpbrainconsulting

-Written by Jessica Sharp, MPA

 

Spring Clean Your Diet with WSPA

Spring is finally here and I recently shared my tips to spring clean your diet with WSPA Channel 7 News. Warmer weather means that there is lots of produce is in season – and fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and water! Click here to get the Grape, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Chicken Salad recipe that I demonstrated on the segment.

Spring clean your diet by making at least one snack per day consist of produce + protein

Examples below:

  • 1 Cup cucumber slices + 2 Tablespoons hummus
  • 1 Small apple + 1 cheese stick
  • 1/2 Cup blueberries + 1/4 Cup walnuts
  • 17 Grapes + 25 almonds
  • 5 stalks celery + 2 Tablespoons natural nut or seed butter
  • 1 Peach (sliced) + 1 Cup cottage cheese
  • 1 Pear + 1/4 Cup pecans
  • 1/2 bell pepper (sliced) + 2 Tablespoons hummus
  • 1 Cutie + 1/2 Cup pistachios in shell
  • 1/2 Banana + 2 Tablespoons natural nut or seed butter
  • 1/2 Cup raspberries + 1/2 Cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 Orange + 1 hard boiled egg

Want to know more about meal planning and nutrition tips for spring? Contact me today to set up your FREE 15 minute discovery call.

How to Host a Chill and Healthy Dinner Party

kelsey-chance-575535-unsplash

As we head into the third weekend of the #COOK75 challenge, it’s a great time to talk about alternatives to dining out with friends. Why not host a dinner party instead of going out to eat?

If hearing the phrase “dinner party” stresses you out, don’t worry! I am not a super formal person myself, and a dinner party doesn’t have to big this big ordeal with invitations, and seating charts. You can simply invite friends over for dinner without having all of that stress!

I’ve broken hosting a chill and healthy dinner party down into 5 easy steps. Not only will you save money by eating/drinking at home, you will likely be eating more healthy whole foods (and less processed foods) and won’t have anyone waiting for your table. You can stay and enjoy yourselves for as long as you would like!

5 Healthy and Chill Dinner Party Tips

  1. Don’t make the invite list too big. A dinner party is more intimate than a party-party, and 2-6 guests is a good starting point. You can feasibly cook for 4-8 people in a “normal size” kitchen without having to batch cook, and also have enough plates, silverware, and glasses for everyone.
  2. Ask your guests for food allergies/preferences before choosing recipes. After you send out your invites (and yes this can totally be a text – we’re chill, remember?) the next step is to ask what kind of food they want to eat. This is the time that the guest will typically mention a food allergy or preference. You can then start looking for recipes, and if you’re not sure if it fits within their allergy/preference don’t hesitate to run it by them. You don’t want to make anyone sick, so it’s always better to check if you’re unsure! When I’m in need of some culinary inspiration, I always browse the Blush Nutrition Recipe eBooks for ideas.
  3. Opt for a one pot or sheet pan meal. Make it easy on yourself with a meal that seems fancy, but is in fact very easy to make. If you want to have separate dishes because of food allergies or preferences, try making the meat/veggies on a sheet pan, and then serving a grain on the side. An example of this would be making the Sheet Pan Chicken Parmesan with Italian Veggies from my Winter Recipe eBook and serving whole wheat pasta or cauliflower gnocci on the side. Make sure to test out the recipe first! Don’t let your party be the first time you try something – take notes on your first round to make it easier on yourself on the day of the party. If there are steps that you can prep in advance (like chopping veggies or cooking grains) you can do that a couple of days before as well.
  4. Collaborate! While some more formal blogs/books might tell you that a dinner party host/hostess must make every dish at the party, we are living in 2019, and you do you. If your guest asks if they can bring something, and you feel you could use the help, say yes! Ask them to bring an appetizer (like a cheese board with crackers and nuts) or a dessert (like berries and dark chocolate).
  5. Add fresh flowers to the table. Skip the stress of name cards and fancy place settings, and spruce up your table with some simple fresh flowers! I always have fresh flowers from my garden on our table, and I find it elevates the table while also sending a welcoming feeling.

Do you have any dinner party questions/struggles? Send me a message here!

Gluten Free Brunch Baby Shower

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of throwing a baby shower for one of my best friends (who also happens to be a Registered Dietitian), Lynn!

There were several people on the guest list who had Celiac Disease, so (being the food safety focused person that I am) we turned it into a gluten free baby shower (no cross contamination here). It actually was not hard at all since I shop at Trader Joe’s, and the guests LOVED it!

homemaker skills you should know

Lynn chose the CUTEST theme for her baby’s nursery: woodland animals! I had so much fun playing around with this theme (it also helped that much of my house was already decorated pretty rustically). From the invitations, to the decor, to the games, and of course the nut and berry trail mix favors (!!) I had so much fun planning this celebration for one of my best friends.

healthy salads

What’s on the menu:

I purchased everything at Trader Joe’s because they have SO many gluten free options!

Hash Brown Egg Nests with Veggies

I used the Frozen Hash Browns from Trader Joe’s  – I put the hash browns in muffin tins first and baked them, and then I added frozen spinach, cherry tomatoes, eggs (beaten), and topped with low fat cheese before baking again.

IMG_2562

Gluten Free Waffle and Strawberry Skewers

For these skewers I simply toasted up a box of Gluten Free Waffles, cut them into four pieces each, and skewered them with halved strawberries. I also served organic maple syrup on the side!

IMG_2564

Avocado Toast on Gluten Free Bread with Everything Bagel Seasoning

Though this seems like the simplest dish of the day (and a total “what can I make that’s EASY ?!” hostess moment) this was the most popular dish of the day! I cannot tell you how amazing the Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Multi-Grain bread was. No one could believe it was gluten free. Simply toast the bread, top with avocado slices, and sprinkle with Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel Seasoning  – and you’ve got a hit!

IMG_2571

Maple Chicken Breakfast Sausage and Uncured Bacon

A lot of people put the bacon on the avocado toast as well! I used the Trader Joe’s Maple Chicken Breakfast Sausage and the Trader Joe’s Uncured Dry Rubbed Bacon

Yogurt Parfait Bar

An easy and fresh brunch idea! I used the Trader Joe’s Greek 0% vanilla yogurt, fresh organic blueberries and strawberries, raw almonds, and Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pecan Praline Granola.

yogurt

Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting from The Chocolate Moose in Greenville SC 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a cook – not a baker. So I referred out to the experts on this one. These cupcakes were SO GOOD and adorable!

cupcakes

Vegan Kale and Sweet Potato Hash

Recipe below!

IMG_2568

Vegan Kale and Sweet Potato Hash

Serves: 4-8 (4 individual servings, 8 servings for buffet)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Trader Joe’s Hi-Protein Veggie Burgers
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced/pressed
  • 1 1/3 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1″ squares
  • 1 (10oz) bag organic Tuscan kale
  • 1/2 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • Black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the veggie burgers according to the directions on the box. Cut into 1-2″ chunks and set aside.
  2. In a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat, add the olive oil and swirl to coat.
  3. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until fragrant about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, and mix well with the onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Add the kale, paprika, and black pepper. Mix well, and then cover and cook for 4-5 minutes (be careful not to over cook the kale).
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Lynn is due ANY DAY now, and we are so excited to meet her new baby very soon!! Congratulations Lynn!

Looking for a summer 2019 nutrition intern!

lum3n-250309-unsplash

The Registered Dietitians at Blush Nutrition are looking for a summer intern! The intern will assist us in continuing to deliver the highest level of service, support, and nutrition education!

The internship includes (but is not limited to): social media/blogs, re-branding nutrition education materials, printed nutrition newsletters (MNT topics), nutrition counseling shadowing, assistance with TV appearances, group classes, and more.

Candidates must:

  • Currently be enrolled in a Didactic Program in Dietetics or have a B.S. or M.S. in Nutrition
  • Plan on applying to a dietetic internship in the next 1-2 years
  • Be available to work in Greenville, SC at least 1 day per week (other work can be done virtually)
  • Be available May 13th – August 5th 2019

Any candidates that are interested please send an email to BrittanyJonesRD@gmail.com with your resume and a cover letter indicating why you would be interested in working with Blush Nutrition by Friday March 29th. Interviews will begin April 1st, 2019. Good luck!

5 Ways to Prevent Heart Disease in Women

agto-nugroho-392793-unsplash

Contrary to popular belief, heart disease is not a mans disease. In fact, heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S. claiming the lives of every 1 in 3 women. This is more than all forms of cancer combined.

Research from the American Heart Association shows that 80% of heart attacks and strokes are PREVENTABLE with early diagnosis/treatment, a healthy diet, and exercise.

This year, I am honored to serve as one of the leaders for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign.  As a private practice Registered Dietitian, the prevention of heart disease is one of my core values, and something I talk about with EVERY client that walks through my door.

how it works

What is atherosclerosis and what causes it? Hardening of the arteries. Causes of plaque build up and atherosclerosis include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking. All of these damage the inside layer of the artery. ATHEROSCLEROSIS IS REVERSIBLE!

How does cholesterol build up? LDL or “bad” cholesterol crosses into the artery wall, white blood cells come in to digest the LDL and this forms plaque. A heart attack happens when that plaque is inflamed and it can rupture

#LABGOALS:

  • Decrease LDL cholesterol “lousy”
  • Increase HDL cholesterol “happy”
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Decrease blood pressure

Here are my top 5 ways that you can prevent heart disease starting NOW:

  1. Start heart disease screenings in your 20s. This should include talking with your physician about your family history, and having blood pressure/cholesterol/glucose checks. Back in the day these screenings didn’t start until our 40s, however knowing your numbers now, and establishing heart healthy habits in your 20s will help decrease the chances of any complications in the future.
  2. Focus on cardio + strength. When you think of the best exercise for your heart do you automatically think of cardio? While aerobic exercise (running/biking/swimming) is definitely important in lowering your LDL and Triglycerides (bad cholesterol levels) and elevating your HDL (good cholesterol levels) – research has shown that adding in 20 minutes of strength training to your regular routine 3-4x per week can help lower your blood pressure (and keep it there). Blood pressure is known as the silent killer, and keeping it within normal limits decreases your chances of having a heart attack.
  3. Eat red meat in moderation. Sorry paleo/keto followers – if you have high LDL and Triglyceride levels (bad cholesterol) those fad diets are NOT for you! While I do support a lifestyle where all foods can fit, it’s important to focus on lean proteins the majority of the time (80% of your intake) to improve your heart health. Research published by the American Heart Association reports that swapping red meat for nuts/fish/poultry can decrease your heart disease risk by 19-30%.
  4. Fill your plate with produce! Did you know that adding just 1 more cup of fruits or vegetables to your day could decrease your chances of cardiovascular disease by 13%? Focus on making half of your plate non-starchy vegetables at each meal, and get bonus points for choosing a fruit or starchy vegetable as your carb!
  5. Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. While a healthy diet and exercise are very important for preventing heart disease in women, research shows that if we don’t have an adequate amount of sleep per night those benefits can be diminished. Not sure how to get to that magic 7 hours? Try setting a bed time (and using your phone’s bedtime alarm to help you remember), establishing a caffeine cut off time, and put your phone on the opposite side of the room to eliminate distractions and blue light (which can make it harder to get to sleep).

February is Heart Month, and please join me in the fight against the No. 1 killer of women by clicking here to donate to the Upstate South Carolina – American Heart Association to continue to spread the word of prevention. Together we can beat this disease!

Heart Healthy Cooking Segment with Fox Carolina

Did you know that the recommendation for sodium per day is 2400mg which is 1 TEASPOON total per day?

Most Americans are getting way more than the recommend amount (not to mention some restaurant dishes can have 2000mg+ sodium in them). High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because it’s symptoms are not always obvious, and watching your salt intake is one way you can combat this risk factor.

Instead of adding salt to foods in cooking or at the dinner table, try using herbs and spices instead! Watch my Fox Carolina segment below for more tips, and click here to get the Go Red for Women  Herbed Veggie Skillet recipe that I demonstrated on the show!

Greenville Restaurant Week 2019 Dietitian Picks

jianna

Photo Credit: Jianna

It’s Restaurant Week again in South Carolina! Here in the upstate there are tons of local restaurants offering special 3-4 course menus from January 10th – 20th 2019.

I love this time of year to get out of the house (because these 20 degree nights are no fun) and try something new! However it does come at an interesting time, just ten days into the New Year. If you are focused on healthy eating habits but want to support Restaurant Week, this post is for you!

I’ve taken some time to look over the menus, and below are my top 10 healthy picks for this year. I chose these options using the portion plate concept. I was searching for options prepared using a healthful cooking method, featuring lean meat or fish, lots of vegetables, and whole grains. (Note: I was not given nutrition facts for any of these dishes, and these recommendations are based on the menus descriptions from each restaurant. This blog post is not sponsored by Greenville Restaurant Week nor any specific restaurant. All opinions are my own.)

tupelo

Photo Credit: Tupelo Honey Cafe

But before we get started, I wanted to share my tips for Restaurant Week:

1. Choose if it’s an 80% or 20% meal. These are my personal healthy restaurant week menu picks, however I am totally down for some She Crab Soup and Mac and Cheese every now and again. It’s important to think about your week, and your goals, and decide if you want this particular meal to be an “80% meal” or a “20% meal.” What does that mean? I work with all of my clients to find a balance between functional and fun foods – without cutting anything compeltely out – you can read more here. So, these picks below would be considered an “80% meal” or a healthy option, but of course there is a time and place for fun foods as well!

2. Use the fullness scale to pace your eating. Three to four courses is a LOT of food! I would recommend checking in with yourself regularly, and being sure to eat until you are a 6-7 on the fullness scale (with 10 being overly stuffed and 1 being ravenous). This will make sure you are not uncomfortable when leaving the restaurant, and keep you feeling great!

3. Get a box for dessert or split it. You will see my picks below focus on the appetizers/main course, without a mention of dessert. Chances are you will fill up on the first two courses, and I would recommend splitting the dessert with a friend/family member, or bringing dessert home to eat or share later!

So without further ado….

10 Greenville Restaurant Week 2019 Dietitian Picks

  1. Basil Thai: Fresh Basil Rolls + Basil with chicken/shrimp/tofu
  2. Generations Bistro and Bar: Seared Tuna Poke + Fresh Pasta Pesto Primavera
  3. Ji-Roz: Greek Salad + Rabbit Stifado
  4. Jianna: Grilled Pear Salad + Sea Scallops with Farro, Kale, Carrot and Citrus
  5. Larkins on the River: Larkin’s House Salad + Mahi Mahi with stone-ground yellow grits, and roasted cauliflower
  6. Lazy Goat: Beet & Goat Cheese Salad + Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Polenta, and Roasted Root Vegetables
  7. Nose Dive: Tuna Poke Bibb Wraps + Cedar Grilled Salmon with Jasmine Rice, and  Braised Bok Choy
  8. Rick’s Deli & Market: Gourmet Greens + Herb Crusted Salmon with Vegetable Medley
  9. The Farehouse: Kale Salad + Trout dip with veggies + Seared scallops with pomegranate sauce over roasted root vegetables, and parsnip puree
  10. Tupelo Honey Cafe: Slow Roasted Beet Salad + Spiced Blistered Vegetables + Charred Broccoli with Kale (V)

Have questions about healthy dining out options, or want to learn more about my concierge nutrition packages? Send me a message here!

 

10 Healthy Afternoon Snack Ideas

mariana-medvedeva-379625-unsplash.jpg

The 3pm hunger strike is real! t’s been a long day, you ate lunch 3-4 hours ago and it’s not time for dinner yet. Your afternoon “snack attack” can make or break the rest of your afternoon, either giving you a major sugar high and energy crash OR giving you sustainable energy through the rest of your work day!

But exactly how do you get this “sustainable snack energy?”

By combing healthy carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat.

The healthy carbs will spike your blood sugar up giving you that energy boost you need, and the protein and healthy fat will sustain your energy until dinner time.

10 Healthy Afternoon Snacks

  1. 1 small apple + ¼ cup unsalted nuts
  2. ½ banana + 2 Tablespoons of natural peanut butter
  3. 1 small orange + 1 string cheese stick
  4. 1 cup raw vegetables + 2 Tablespoons hummus
  5. 6oz of Greek yogurt + ½ cup fresh berries
  6. 3 cups air popped popcorn + 1oz cheese
  7. 1 hard-boiled egg + ½ medium orange
  8. 3 celery stalks + 2 Tablespoons natural peanut butter + 1 Tablespoon dried cranberries
  9. 1 cup diced watermelon + 1oz feta cheese
  10. 1 piece of Ezekiel toast + ¼ avocado

As always, be sure to plan your meals and snacks with the Blush Nutrition Meal Planner ahead of time to stay on track! Happy afternoon snacking!

(This blog was originally published by Brittany L. Chin Jones, MS, RD, LD for Pure Barre Corp LLC)

5 New Years Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

amy-shamblen-653250-unsplash

Do you make New Years Resolutions?

Research shows that 80% of people let their resolutions fade by the second week of February. Why? There are many reasons but some of the top reasons is that they are not S.M.A.R.T. goals, or they are too restrictive (things like cut out carbs, cut out alcohol, stop eating after 7PM).

I am not a big fan of taking things away, and would rather focus on the positive. Avoid putting a negative spin on your resolution to increase your chances of success!

Here are 5 resolutions you can actually keep throughout 2019!

  1. Find an exercise that you love. My husband and I joined a gym two years ago in preparation for our wedding. I had always read stories about people finding their community, but never had experienced it myself, but that was because it wasn’t a perfect fit for ME. This year I encourage you to find an exercise that you love, whether it is at a boutique fitness studio, by signing up for a 10K ,or joining a local curling club. Whatever it is, make this year the year you find the exercise that doesn’t feel like work to you!
  2. Show daily gratitude. In the 2018 Healthy Holiday Challenge we focused in finding the real meaning of the season by writing down one thing that we were grateful for each day. I encourage you to continue this into 2019! You can simply write it down in your phone, or pick up a gratitude journal. A healthy lifestyle is about more than just what you eat, and how often you exercise. Slowing down, and enjoying the joys of life is equally as important!
  3. Make time for YOU. To this one you might say “easier said than done,” however until you decide to put yourself first and focus on your health and wellbeing, you are never going to reach your goals, or be able to help others. This year commit to finding ways for putting yourself first, whether it is asking for help around the house so you can exercise/read a book, or saying “no” more often (FOMO is so 2018).
  4. Master meal planning. Meal planning is about thinking ahead of your busy schedule, and implementing a plan to make your life easier. Make 2019 the year that you master this life skill that will help you reach your health goals, save money, and decrease stress. It takes time to learn it, but I promise you, it’s worth it!
  5. Eat more vegetables. I know that this probably sounds super elementary, but focusing on eating more vegetables in 2019 will not only help you feel better – it produces results. I use the portion plate which features 50% non-starchy vegetables with all of my clients with goals from weight loss, to decreasing blood pressure or cholesterol, to improving blood sugars, to getting conquering PCOS and getting pregnant, to decreasing inflammation, and SO much more.

If you are looking to make a long term change in 2019, please contact me to set up your FREE discovery call today!