Meet our 2019 Summer Intern: Gabby!

Thank you to the students who applied for our 2019 summer internship. I was fortunate enough to interview several students, and after careful consideration, I am very excited to introduce you the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group Summer Intern, Gabby!

Gabby is not only a nutrition major at Clemson University, she is also a food blogger with a very impressive social media following! She wants to own her own private practice one day, and this internship is her first step towards her goal. She is energetic, eager to learn, and marketing savvy. Get to know Gabby below!

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Q: Where do you go to school and what is your major? Are you involved in any activities?   

Gabby: I am a Junior at Clemson University majoring in Nutrition with an emphasis in Dietetics. Prior to Clemson, I was a Biology major playing volleyball at Erskine College. Once I figured out Biology wasn’t for me, I took a leap of faith and decided to pursue my passion of nutrition at Clemson. I am a student sports performance nutrition volunteer, and I am the Editor in Chief for the Nutrition Club.

Q: What is your dream job?

Gabby: My dream is to open my own private practice where I can teach my patients how to eat intuitively without any guilt or shame about what’s on their plate. I want to help my patients achieve their goals, and, in addition, I want to give them the tools they need to continue their health journey on their own.

Q: Why did you choose the dietetics field?

Gabby: I chose dietetics because I have seen how our health can influence they way we live our life. Our health starts with what we put in our bodies. The way we eat has an impact on our bodies and our minds. I chose this field because I geek out about this stuff so much that I can’t stop learning! The human body is really neat.

Q: You have a very successful food blog Gab About It and social media following. What inspired you to start blogging? 

Gabby: I was inspired to start my blog when I was living in a dorm my first year of college. I went to a small  school, so basically my only option for meals was either the dining hall or my own dorm room. I took this situation as a challenge, and started to put together healthy meals from my room – smoothies, oatmeal, steamed veggies, salads, etc. Then one day I decided to start sharing my food on Instagram because that was the cool thing to do at the time. Normally, I don’t like to follow trends, but I’m thankful that I followed this one.

Q: What is your favorite dish?

Gabby: My favorite dish would have to be my Dad’s grilled salmon with baked sweet potato and lemon garlic asparagus.

Q: What are you must excited about this summer working as the Brittany Jones Nutrition intern?

Gabby: I’m most excited about learning the behind the scenes of owning your own business. Most people see the glamorous side of being a business owner through social media, but I want to see the dirty details that make a business successful. I’m also excited to use my knowledge to educate the Greenville community about nutrition. It’s going to be a great summer, and I can’t wait to see where it takes Brittany Jones Nutrition.

 

Please join me in sending a warm welcome to Gabby!

Meet Our NEW Registered Dietitian: Christie Griffin, RD, LD, CDE, CSOWM

I am very excited to announce Christie Griffin, RD, LD, CDE, CSOWM as the newest member of the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group team! Christie offers nutrition counseling in packages of three or six sessions in our Medical Nutrition Therapy program. Keep reading to learn more about her background, her favorite food, and the #1 that she wants her new clients to know.

View More: http://kellimcabeephotography.pass.us/brittany-jones-rebrand

Q&A with Christie Griffin, RD, LD, CDE, CSOWM

Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I am originally from Atlanta, GA. I grew up in a family with 2 younger sisters and parents who loved all things sports. I played Varsity Tennis all through out high school. When I graduated high school it was off to Clemson University to study Nutrition!

Q: Why is being a Registered Dietitian your dream job?

A: I struggled with being overweight and my relationship with food when I was younger. I went to Clemson University to study nutrition to learn more for my own benefit and to help others. Years later, I love helping others learn to love food, and how it can help them (and not hurt).

Q: You also are a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), what made you want to specialize in diabetes?

A: I first started practicing as a dietitian in the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina, which has one of the highest rates of Type II Diabetes in the country. I worked with a Registered Nurse who was also a CDE to create and implement a Diabetes Self Management Program to help better meet the needs of the patients in that community. The more people I saw with diabetes, the more I wanted to learn about this disease. I then began to pursue getting certified as a Diabetes Educator myself!

Q: What is your favorite food?

A: Veggie pizza or roasted potatoes…oh and PICKLES!

Q: Take us through your typical day.

A: One of the things I love most about being a dietitian is every single day is different. Most days of the week I wake up and go to Orangetheory Fitness Greenville for my favorite HIIT workout. I started 6 months ago and I have loved seeing the progression in my endurance and strength! Other mornings I might walk my golden retriever Barkley around the neighborhood. For breakfast, I almost always have a Berry Protein Smoothie and some hot tea. I also work for the Business Health Department for Prisma Health where I get to meet with employees of the hospital as well as other companies in the area. My days are mostly filled with one on one appointments with clients for Prisma Health and/or the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group discussing weight loss and chronic disease management, or teaching group classes on various health topics. It is such an honor to work with people who are making a conscious decision to put their health first!

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in Greenville, SC?

A: My husband, Michael, and I absolutely love to try out new restaurants in the area. There are so many! We also really enjoy biking or walking the Swamp Rabbit Trail as well.

Q: What would you like your future clients to know about working with you?

A: I am all about Progress NOT Perfection! When you come and meet with me please don’t feel like you have to change everything in your life overnight. I love to help people make small, sustainable changes until they are confidently doing them regularly. Having a healthy and balanced eating pattern is a continuum, and I am going to meet you exactly where you’re at, with absolutely no judgement at all!

Click here to set up your FREE 15 minute discovery call to discuss your goals and book an appointment with Christie today!

Women: Be an Advocate for Your Health

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“You don’t need to get your cholesterol labs checked – your under 30.”

“It’s probably just IBS.”

“There’s no need to do a well check every year, just come back every 3 years, or if something is wrong.”

It’s no secret that women don’t always put themselves and their health first. Women selflessly put other priorities like their family and their careers before their needs. So why is it that when they finally make it a priority to see the doctor for a well check or because something is wrong, they hear the comments above, and their requests are brushed off?

I unfortunately have heard every one of the phrases above myself, or first hand from a client.

This week is National Women’s Health Week, and if you have heard any of  the comments above, or feel as though you are not being heard by your medical provider, I encourage you to be an advocate for your health and keep fighting until you have an answer! Do not accept a medical provider brushing off your symptoms as normal/IBS/hormones/etc. If you think something is wrong and you are not being heard, seek a second opinion and find yourself another provider.

Here are 3 ways women can take control of their health care now: 

  1. You need more than just an OBGYN. Research has shown that many women treat their OBGYN as their internal medicine provider/primary care physician – but they are not. Think of establishing a medical home with an internal medicine provider/primary care physician as your “home base.” This is the person who knows everything about your health, your family history, and the specialty providers you see. They will set goals with you, and check your regularly for heart disease, diabetes, mental health, cancer, nutrition, bone density, and keep your vaccinations up to date.
  2. Start a health journal today. Log your symptoms along with the day, time, and any other pertinent information (whether you were exercising, what you were eating, stress level, etc). I use the Healthie app with my clients, and I always encourage them to log symptoms as well as their meals/snacks to show to their provider. This will provide more information, and allow the provider to see patterns. If you have the ability to send this to your provider before your appointment, even better!
  3. Write down your questions and concerns. Start a list of questions that you have or topics you would like to discuss in your phone 1-2 weeks before your appointment with any medical professional (doctor, dietitian, physical therapist, psychiatrist). It’s easy to get nervous and forget what you wanted to ask the provider. This list ensures that your questions are answered, regardless of the time restraints that may be put on your appointment.

You know your body better than anyone else.TRUST YOUR GUT. If you feel that your symptoms are being brushed off, keep pushing. If you are not seeing results, it’s time to find another provider.

 

 

 

How to Manage Stress

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Hello again Blush Nutrition family! Jessica Sharp here, brain expert and the Founder of Sharp Brain Consulting. 

In my last blog post (which can be found here), I talked about the different kinds of stress and what it does to your brain and bodies. Now that I have explained the negative implications of stress, I am going to give you some coping mechanisms to help you manage stress.  

Before I do that, though, I think it is important to say a few things: y’all already know this, but stress is a completely normal part of life. Quite frankly, we need a little bit of stress in our lives. That acute stress that I mentioned before can often be classified as ‘normal’ stress. Chronic stress is the type of stress that you should be concerned about – things like a stressful job, prolonged financial issues, a sense of having to juggle multiple competing priorities. All these stressors are examples of not only long term problems but challenges that do not have easy solutions.

Coping Skills

Deep breathing and meditation. Meditation and deep breathing increases the oxygen in your brain and can literally calm you down. Meditation creates a reaction that is the opposite of the “fight or flight” response that stress induces. According to WebMD, “training our bodies on a daily basis to achieve this state of relaxation can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, improved digestion, and a reduction of everyday stress.” There are a variety of apps that you can use to introduce meditation into your life- Simple Habit is my favorite and lots of people like Calm. I would encourage meditation on a regular basis so that it can really help when you need it. Research has said that meditating consistently for 8 weeks can literally change your brain – it can decrease the size of your amygdala where that “fight or flight” response comes from. And protip, start off with a 5 minute guided meditation once a day for a few weeks. It is something that shouldn’t be too hard to infuse into your life and will allow you to get ‘better’ at meditating (because when you start, it may be hard to quiet your brain).

Stress awareness month quotes (4)

Progressive muscle relaxation. My therapist introduced me to progressive muscle relaxation. With this exercise, you tense up muscle groups then release them one at a time. WebMD says you can’t be anxious (or stressed) when your body is relaxed. They dedicate a whole page to progressive muscle relaxation and let you know how to do it. Again, regular practice makes it easier it implement when you need it.

Decrease stressor. I recognize that we can’t always eliminate the things that cause us stress in our lives, but when you can, you should.

Gratitude. I have always had a love/apathetic relationship with gratitude. I wanted to embrace the idea of practicing gratitude but didn’t necessarily know if it would be beneficial or helpful. Gratitude researcher Robert Emmons would say I am wrong. He says that practicing gratitude can have multiple positive impacts us in a variety of ways including:

  • Physical: Stronger immune systems, Lower blood pressure, Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
  • Psychological: Higher levels of positive emotions, More alert, alive, and awake, More joy and pleasure, More optimism and happiness

In that same article linked above, Emmons says that gratitude allows us to celebrate the present, blocks toxic/negative emotions, helps us to be more stress-resistant (gratitude allows us to recover more quickly), and helps us to have a higher sense of self-worth.

There are several ways to practice gratitude: you can keep a gratitude journal and write down things that you are grateful for (and there is something about handwriting things), thinking about things you are grateful for during the day (maybe it is in the morning, at night, or before a meal), or using an app (I use the uplifter app).

Self-care routine. It goes without saying that a self-care routine can help decrease stress in the moment and in the long term. I will say, self-care is talked about a lot, especially among millennials. I still believe in self-care, though. What I think is important about the practice of self-care is that it is unique to YOU, self-care should be something that works for you. My self-care routine includes regular massages, weekend naps, and going to local theatres. Make a list of a few things that energize you and give you joy. Try to incorporate them into your life as much as you can.

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Therapy. If you are really struggling to handle the chronic stress in your life, I would recommend spending some time with a therapist, someone who is trained to help provide assistance to people. If you are interested in seeing a therapist, there are a few things I would recommend – first, if you have insurance, see how much your co-pay is. From there, I always tell people to go to Psychology Today’s website where they have a therapist hub; you can filter for therapists who take your insurance and find out more about them. And I always do a short call with a therapist before I make a decision (most of them offer this for free).

Sleep. I have always been a huge proponent of sleep, primarily because I am cranky and less productive when I have less of it. But after reading Thrive by Ariana Huffington, I really began to think more about the benefits of sleep and why it should be something I focus on.

According to Dr. Merril Mitler, a sleep expert and neuroscientist, when you’re tired, you can’t function at your best.

“Loss of sleep impairs your higher levels of reasoning, problem-solving and attention to details.” So, simply put, tired people are less productive at work. Sleep also affects other parts of your body. Your brain and body are working while you sleep. Your sleep affects “growth, stress hormones, our immune system, appetite, breathing, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.”

PS – a bit about women and stress… For lots of reasons, women generally handle stress in a different way than men. Women tend to be more relational in how they manage stress and are more prone to reach out to a friend or loved one to help cope with stress. The Huffington Post has a great article about women and stress. With that said, if you are a woman, it may be a great idea to include reaching out to someone as a part of your stress management technique.

PSS – I hosted a webinar about chronic stress and the brain with Bossed Up. If you have 45 minutes, you should check it out!

Thank you for reading my blog series on stress and your health – and feel free to engage with me on social media! Follow me on Instagram at @sharpbrainconsulting

 

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

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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. 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Vegan Kale and Sweet Potato Hash

Recipe below!

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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!

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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

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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!