How to Make Chia Seed Pudding

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Chia seeds are a pantry staple for the dietitians at the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group. We love them sprinkled on top of oatmeal, blended into smoothies, and even in homemade pudding! 

So what are chia seeds?

Chia seeds are tiny gray seeds that are nutrient powerhouses. The name “powerhouse” comes to mind because they are an excellent source of omega-3s, protein, fiber, and many other micronutrients. When added to a liquid, the seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight in water creating a gel-like consistency. Because chia seeds can retain so much water, they actually help maintain body hydration. 

Because the seeds gel so easily, it makes them the perfect ingredient for a nutritious homemade pudding recipe. We’ve put together three yummy chia pudding recipes that are thick, creamy, and easy to make. Even better, each of these recipes uses only five ingredients or less!

Three Easy Chia Seed Pudding Recipes

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Chocolate Raspberry Chia Pudding

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup 2% milk or almond milk 
  • ¼ Cup Raspberries
  • 3 Tablespoons Chia seeds 
  • 1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder 
  • 1 Tablespoon Maple syrup

Directions:

  1. In any jar or bowl add milk first, followed by the chia seeds, cocoa powder, and maple syrup.
  2. Stir well with a spoon or fork. Let sit for one minute and stir again. This prevents clumping. Wait at least five minutes before eating for a healthy dessert, or place the pudding in the refrigerator to let sit overnight for an easy breakfast.
  3. When you’re ready to eat your chia pudding, stir and top with fresh raspberries. 

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Banana Nut Chia Pudding

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup 2% milk or almond milk 
  • 3 Tablespoons Chia seeds 
  • 2 Tablespoons Walnuts, chopped
  • ½ Banana, mashed

Directions:

  1. In any jar or bowl, add milk first, followed by the chia seeds, mashed banana, and walnuts.
  2. Stir well with a spoon or fork. Let sit for one minute and stir again. This prevents clumping.
  3. Wait at least five minutes before eating for a healthy dessert, or place the pudding in the refrigerator to let sit overnight for an easy breakfast.
  4. When you’re ready to eat your chia pudding, stir and top with fresh raspberries. 

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Strawberries and Cream Chia Pudding

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

  • ½ Cup 2% milk or almond milk
  • ¼ Cup Sliced strawberries
  • ¼ Cup Plain 0% Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tablespoons Chia seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon Organic Honey

Directions:

  1. In any jar or bowl, add milk first, then Greek yogurt, chia seeds, cocoa, honey, and sliced strawberries.
  2. Stir well with a spoon or fork. Let sit for one minute and stir again. This prevents clumping.
  3. Wait at least five minutes before eating for a healthy dessert, or place the pudding in the refrigerator to let sit overnight for an easy breakfast. Stir before eating

Notes:

  • If pudding is too thick, add a bit more milk and stir
  • Add liquids first before adding chia seeds
  • To make warm chia pudding, heat it in the microwave or add it on the stove with a splash of milk

-Written and photographed by Gabby Childers, Brittany Jones Nutrition Group Intern

Gabby Childers is from Greenville, SC, and is a senior Food Science and Nutrition major at Clemson University. She plans to become a registered dietitian after completing her undergrad. Gabby gets excited about healthy eating, food photography, and cultivating community through nutrition.

Our Favorite Grab and Go Breakfast Ideas

You’re laying in bed one morning. It’s warm, cozy, and dark under the covers. But that comfortable feeling is abruptly interrupted as you turn over and see the time on the clock. It’s 7:45, and you are supposed to leave the house at 8:00. Entering panic mode, you jolt awake scrambling around the bedroom trying to put together an outfit that looks somewhat presentable. As you’re running around the house like a chicken with your head cut off, you scramble to find your keys and head out the door. What you didn’t realize is that you left something behind. Five minutes down the road, your stomach begins to rubble. You forgot to grab breakfast. Does this sound familiar?

On crazy hectic mornings, breakfast can become the least of your priorities. Making a breakfast sandwich, scrambled eggs, or a picture perfect oatmeal bowl isn’t always the most practical options on days like these. During fast paced mornings, sometimes the best option is to quickly grab a pre-made breakfast and head out the door. 

Lucky for you, we’ve done the hard work for you! The Registered Dietitians at the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group have compiled our favorite grab and go breakfast items. When searching for breakfast options, we like to make sure the meal includes not just healthy carbs, but also sources of proteins and fat. These two macronutrients are key in keeping your body feeling satiated. Next, we look for REAL ingredients. For example, if you were to look at the nutrition label of a protein bar, the first ingredient should be a whole food such as peanuts or oats (not soy or protein powder).

While prepping your breakfast at home is always our #1 choice – we have listed our favorite grab and go breakfast ideas to keep on hand during busy mornings. Some of these options only require a microwave while others require no preparation at all. Relax – we’ve got your covered!

you will want to bookmark this list for later!

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Made with egg whites, roasted potatoes, and cheddar cheese, this breakfast will keep you satisfied throughout the morning. To make it even better, this breakfast sandwich can be quickly heated up in the microwave and ready to eat!

BUY NOW: Good Food Made Simple Turkey Sausage Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich 

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Pop these waffles in the toaster, and you have yourself breakfast.  With 11 grams of protein, these will keep you full all morning long!

BUY NOW: Birch Benders Protein Waffles

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A perfect Mexican inspired breakfast bowl with egg whites, potatoes, black beans, salsa, and cheese all on top of a corn tortilla. Stores these in the freezer and heat them up in the microwave for a quick savory breakfast!

BUY NOW: Dr. Praeger’s Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Bowl 

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This bar is filled with a variety of whole grains such as oats, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa for a great balance of carbohydrates for energy and protein/good fats to keep you full until your morning snack. Find it in the breakfast aisle!

BUY NOW: Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast Bar 

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For all our oatmeal lovers, this one’s for you! These oatmeal cups are packed with protein from collagen and walnuts. For a fun add on, these come with a creamy nut butter packet!

BUY NOW: Purely Elizabeth Blueberry Walnut Collagen Oatmeal Cups 

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Muffin in a cup? Yes, please! Pop these cups into the microwave on a busy morning for a quick protein filled chocolate chip muffin!

BUY NOW: Kodiak Cakes Chocolate Chip Muffin Cup 

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These pre-portioned nut butter packets are great to keep on hand for a quick snack or breakfast on the go. We suggest eating these with a piece of fruit such as a banana for a healthy fiber and carbohydrate source!

BUY NOW: Justin’s Peanut Butter Squeeze Pack + Banana

OatsQuinoaImageforWeb-1-600x600Chia seed pudding is a great option filled with fiber and omega-3s! Do you feel like you never remember to  prepare your pudding the night before? Chia Pods are here to help with their pre-packaged delicious chia pudding cups! (Note: some of these are high in saturated fat – so be sure to check out the label)

BUY NOW: Oats+Quinoa Chia Pod

0675_PerfectBar_Blueberry_Cashew_w_ingredients_600_1000xWhen you’re extra crunched on time, grab one of these Perfect Bars! The name says it all. These bars are filled with healthy ingredients that will get your morning started right (even if you’re running late).

BUY NOW: Blueberry Cashew Perfect Bar 

honey_fig_walnut-2-800x800Siggi’s simple sides contain one part Greek yogurt, one part crunchy toppings. This honey and fig flavor is giving us all the summer feels – is there a better combo out there? We think not! (Also have you seen Brittany’s fig tree on Instagram? It’s huge!)

BUY NOW: Siggi’s Honey Yogurt with Dried Figs and Walnuts 

Have any other favorite grab and go breakfast ideas? Let us know below!

Interested in learning more about healthy meals and meal planning? Contact the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group here

10 Things I’ve Learned in the First Two Years of Being an Entrepreneur

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Today is the two year anniversary of my private practice! On July 5th, 2017 I announced to my friends and family on social media that I had started a business – enabling them to hold myself accountable to pursuing my dream of being a business owner.

To be honest with you, I really wanted to write this blog post last year sharing what I learned in the first year, but I didn’t feel like I had enough experience to write it. While that sounds silly, I wasn’t in the place I am now with the confidence of where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going.

Two years ago I was working as a food service/corporate wellness RD for a large company in Greer, SC. The position was OK and the schedule made it easy for planning my wedding, but after the wedding I found myself very bored and not challenged enough. I started my private practice as a “side hustle” while working a full time position, seeing my clients at night after work and on the weekends. I did that for seven months before leaving the full time position to accept a virtual part time position in nutrition counseling, which created a perfect amount of breathing room to allow me to grow my business. I worked both that part time job and saw my private practice clients for another eight months. Though it has been two years that I have had my private practice, I didn’t actually gain the confidence in myself and finances to “take the plunge” into full time entrepreneur until October of 2018 – which was actually just 9 months ago! (I was so incredibly burnt out, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could do both)

I get a lot of questions about starting a business from other RDs and other local business owners in Greenville, SC – and I am excited to share with you some of the things I have learned in the past two years!

1. A coworking space is a great place to start
When I started my practice I was meeting with clients for nutrition counseling at their house, college, or at a coffee shop (and doing meal plans from my home office). This didn’t last very long, and once I brought on my 10th client I knew I needed a space. HIPPA was a concern for me, and I looked for a space that had a private meeting room that I could book when I needed to meet for a client session in private. A coworking space made for a perfect beginning! Not only did it involve less risk, but I also met a lot of other entrepreneurs in Greenville, SC and started to build my community. It also made the transition way less lonely knowing I always had someone to talk to! Last summer I got to the point where my client load had increased so much that I needed a private office space, and I started working with a realtor to find the perfect office to rent. My realtor was amazing and I was so lucky to have found our space on Halton Road. I moved out of the coworking office early, and started seeing clients in my private space in December of 2018 – and it has been amazing!

2. Network in your area
I know this is something you probably hear all the time, but honestly this is one of my favorite parts of being an entrepreneur. I love connecting with other business owners on social media and in our city. I have met with SO many amazing lady bosses and learned something from each and every one of them. Just like they always say – it’s all about who you know, and I have really enjoyed meeting so many new faces! (many of which have turned into clients of mine, partners, or leads) The networking, volunteer opportunities, and partnerships I have developed over the past two years have been crucial to building my brick and mortar practice. Don’t forget it’s all about collaboration not competition – so network with other people in your field too!

3. Be confident in your ideal client by doing self-discovery work
This is something that I wish I had done earlier. This past December I finally hired a business coach and one of the first things we did was self-discovery work where I answered: Who am I? What is my hero story? What kind of clientele do I want to help? Who is my ideal client, and why? I believe that I niched down too early (more to come on that below) and I think if I really dove into my story and the unique service I had to offer clients earlier in the process, I could have probably left my other jobs sooner.

4. Build your schedule for the life you want
Owning my schedule is one of the big reasons why I started a private practice. I recently took a personality test and found out that I am an “upholder.” I like to know what needs to get done and have clear expectations, but I also value time for my self care. I had a very hard time putting a job before myself/my family in the past. As a business owner, some weeks you work 40 hours, and some you work 100 hours (no joke!) BUT you don’t have to work 9-5 like you do in a corporate job. Start your day early/end later to attend that 11:30AM workout class, or go to the Post Office before it closes, or get your nails done at 9:30AM when they open. I knew that the life I wanted includes both killing it at work, taking care of myself, and being there for my family; being an entrepreneur was the best way to build the life I want.

5. Take the vacation
Take advantage of making your own schedule and take that vacation! The best part about being an entrepreneur is that you don’t have to take a set number of “vacation days” and can go on trips without asking for permission from your boss. Does it suck to come back? Yes, but I often will try to do a little bit while I’m gone to lessen the blow if it’s a long weekend. I have learned that after a long trip away (1+ weeks) to give myself 2-3 days to catch up on admin work and get myself ready for the week before seeing clients again. I get some of my best biz ideas when I’m out of the office – so this is a must!!

6. Build your team
If you’re just getting started, you don’t have to do this right away, but eventually you will want an accountant, a lawyer, and a business coach (here is an affiliate link to the coach Mandy that I used and love!). You are the expert in what you do, so let other people help you with the things you aren’t an expert in. And yes, you need someone else besides your spouse to talk to all about of these ideas!

7. Your clients will value you more than any employer ever will
This is one of the biggest lessons I have learned as a business owner in the past two years. I am someone who gives 110% in my job, and I never felt like my employer truly reciprocated for that effort. I have been so fortunate to have the most amazing clients who value my expertise and dedication to helping them reach their goals. I had to learn this when it came to valuing my packages, and my business coach helped me do that. Don’t base your rates off your salary at your last job – you’re worth more, and your clients will prove it.

8. Listen to advice, and then put your own spin on it
A lot of biz owners, books, and podcasts are going to tell you what worked for them, and advise you on what to do. So just listen, think about it for a week or two, and put your own spin on it (including this blog post). In the end you really need to just listen and go with your gut – no one knows your business like you do. If it doesn’t feel right – it’s probably not. For a long time I was listening to podcasts and thinking “so-and-so did this – so I need do that too!” But after working with my business coach, I was able to set up a game plan, and tune out all of that noise. Take it all in, but really focus on what is best for the business to get you to your 5-10 year goals.

9. Enjoy the down time!
Some months will be booming, and others will be slow. In the past, during those slow months I would try to run specials or try a little too hard to get that new client who might not have been the best fit for my packages. I have grown to realize that it all balances out, and I am trying to enjoy the slow periods a little more by spending time with my husband, my friends, and traveling.

10. It’s OK to make a change
In May of 2019, one year and 10 months after starting my business as Blush Nutrition, we rebanded to the Brittany Jones Nutrition Group. When I started in 2017, I niched down to focus on wedding wellness, only to find that the Greenville market just couldn’t support something like that. (and I wasn’t getting a whole lot of online traction either) In this time I also realized that while I liked working with brides, I also loved working with young professionals, and teaching others to meal plan for success. I kept practicing under this name and when people asked what Blush meant I would say “well, I started out in wedding wellness, hence “Blush,” but it’s really expanded since then.” It all really came to a head when I was asked what my business name meant by an anchor on a news segment, and I couldn’t answer her. It was time for a change. I hired a coach, started at the beginning, and pushed forward for 6 months. At first it felt like a failure, but then I realized that businesses are meant to grow and develop just like we do professionally and personally – and I am so excited that my business has continued to grow with me! Not only did the rebrand align with where my practice is now, but by adding “group” to the name, we have also positioned ourselves to grow and become an expert nutrition center in Greenville, SC. It was hard – but totally worth it!

I could go on and on about the different things I have learned, and this list of 10 things is just the beginning – but I want to hear from YOU! What questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email at brittany@brittanyjonesRD.com

Lastly THANK YOU for being here, for your support, and your encouragement. I could have never built this business without our amazing community, and I am so grateful for you all. Here’s to even bigger things in year three!

Popcorn Trail Mix 3 Ways

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Do you feel like you are running out of healthy snack ideas? A popcorn trailmix is a fun take on a classic snack that the whole family will love! It’s easy to make and store, and can also be packed as a healthy vacation snack.

We always recommend snacks that incorporate both carb + protein. Protein helps keep your body satiated by releasing appetite suppressing hormones, stabilizing blood sugar, and slowing digestion.

Air popped popcorn is a quick snack that is low in calories and sodium. When paired with nutritious proteins and fats, it can become a satiating snack. We prefer air popped popcorn over microwave popcorn because it is a whole food without any added processed oils (like hydrogenated oils in the “fake” butter) and is a great base for creating a trail mix.

Popcorn Trail Mix 3 Ways

Follow the recipes below by simply adding the ingredients into a large bowl and tossing them together!

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Chocolate Cranberry Popcorn Trail Mix (Serves 4)

  • 4 Cups air popped popcorn
  • ¼ Cup almonds and/or cashews
  • ¼ Cup dark chocolate chips
  • ¼ Cup dried cranberries

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Savory Popcorn Trail Mix (Serves 4)

  • 4 Cups air popped popcorn
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ¼ Cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
  • ¼ Cup dried chickpeas
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder

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Tropical Popcorn Trail Mix (Serves 4)

  • 4 Cups air popped popcorn
  • ¼ Cup dried Mango
  • ¼ Cup coconut chips
  • ¼ Cup macadamia nuts
  • 2 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds

How to air pop popcorn:

  • Option 1: Place 3 Tablespoons of a single layer of popcorn kernels in the bottom of a deep pot with a lid on top. Turn the stove on medium heat. Carefully listen to the popcorn pop. The popcorn will pop vigorously at first. When the pops are roughly 5 seconds apart, turns off the stove. Wait a few minutes to allow the popcorn to cool and move to your desired bowl
  • Option 2: Here is the air popper that Brittany uses and you can get it on Amazon
  • Option 3: Buy your own pre-popped popcorn such as SkinnyPop at your local grocery store

-Written and photographed by Gabby Childers, Brittany Jones Nutrition Intern

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Comparison is the killer of all joy.

Comparison is something that comes up in our client sessions often, and today we wanted to take a minute to talk about comparing ourselves to others in our community –  how it can negatively impact our goals.

Your community is not just about the people you physically choose to surround yourself with anymore – it’s also about the community that you create for yourself on social media. This includes brands/businesses, gyms, influencers/bloggers, friends, and family.

If a photo you saw social media is creating negative self talk – unfollow that account now. You don’t have time for that!

Practice avoiding the comparison of current self to your old-self, your friends, family, strangers, coworkers, neighbors and ESPECIALLY photoshopped media and social media images. Social media is a place to selectively connect with others and build your community – make sure yours is a positive one!

Here are some of our favorite Instagram accounts to follow:

  1. @victoriamyers_ : Victoria is a body positive Registered Dietitian in Florida. She is the owner of her own private practice, Nourishing Minds Nutrition and the host of the Nourishing Women Podcast. She is a new mom and in her practice, she places an emphasis on women’s nutrition and wellness without fad diets.
  2. @dietitianspalmvalley: This is one of our favorite accounts to follow, because they are so REAL. Sammy, Mindy and Aimee take a no BS approach to nutrition and call out all things diet culture. Our favorite is their f*** diet Friday series. Check it out – you won’t be able to stop laughing!
  3. @stephaniechinart : Stephanie is an illustrator from Toronto, Ontario. She shares her body positive and women’s empowerment designs over on her Instagram account. Stephanie utilizes her talents to tell women that they are more valuable than how society defines women.
  4. @Kait.hurley : Kait is the founder of the KAIT app. In her app she creates mindful movement by implementing a meditation session in each workout. Her goal is to use exercise to help individuals get stronger both physically and mentally – something we can get behind.
  5. @jaclynlondonrd: Jackie is the nutrition director of Good Housekeeping magazine, a Registered Dietitian and author of Dressing on Side: and other diet myths debunked. She is all about debunking diet myths and sharing healthy recipes – all with a side of reality and humor.
  6. @thebodypositive : The Body Positive is a non-profit from California that helps people overcome conflicts with their bodies to lead happier, more productive lives. Over on their Instagram, they use real women’s quotes, experiences, and artwork to express real body positivity.
  7. @aerie is a female underwear and swimwear brand owned by American Eagle. Aerie was one of the first clothing lines to leave their photos untouched. They use the hashtag #aeriereal to give women the power to share images of their real untouched bodies.
  8. @thirdlove Third Love is a bra and underwear company for women that carries 78 different sizes. Their mission is to supply bra sizes to accommodate women of all sizes and shapes and they promote this on their social media. (Also now is the time to unfollow Victoria’s Secret and all of their models that make you feel inadequate.)
  9. @girlfriend Girlfriend Collective is an active wear line based in Seattle Washington. Their pieces are ethically manufactured, made of sustainable materials, and they carry sizes from XXS to 6XL.

What are your favorite accounts to follow? Let us know in the comments below!

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!

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).

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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.

Stress awareness month quotes (3)

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

 

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!

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!

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!