Hormonal Super Stars – What are they & how can they help your hormones? Read on my friend!
Healthy fats are important for supporting hormone function, memory recall, helping us feel full and regulating blood sugar levels.
- Raw nuts & seeds
- Flax & chia seeds
- Unsalted olives & olive oil
Fibre helps keep us regular which not only puts a little pep in our step, it helps us transport out excess hormones. Fibre also helps us feel full and balance blood sugar levels.
- Raw nuts & seeds
- Wide variety of vegetables & fruit
- Stewed prunes
Protein helps build and repair tissue and is important for growth, hormone and enzyme activity.
- Helps you feel full
- Supports blood sugar regulation; reduces cravings
- Hair and nails are made up mostly of protein
- Real food sources are ideal such as meat, cheese, eggs, milk, lentils, beans, chia seeds, quinoa, hemp
- Protein powder considerations
Carbohydrates provide energy as well as vitamins & minerals
- Remember that not all carbs are created equal. Some elevate your blood glucose (sugar) levels much faster and higher than others
- Limit simple carbs and focus on complex carbs found in vegetables, fruits, legumes & whole grains
Keto – can be very helpful; consider long term sustainability; not recommended for in certain situations
- Eat regularly
- Balanced meals & snacks – include healthy fat, protein and healthy complex carbohydrate
- Examples include: veggies & hummus, banana and raw nuts, nut butter on apple slices, quinoa salad, hardboiled egg with avocado and tomato slices
What’s the Deal with Chocolate?
- Chocolate contains phytoestrogens which may be part of the reason we crave it right before our period. Our estrogen levels drop right before we begin menstruating.
- Cacao flavonoids may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning
- Phenylethylalanine – associated with the feeling of falling in love
- Tryptophan – brain uses this amino acid to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can lead to happiness
- Dark chocolate is the better option – look for 70% or greater and an ingredient list you understand
Here is the scoop. You are a hormonal being and that really is awesome, even if some days it doesn’t feel like it. Knowing how to help support your hormones with food is a big step in the right direction. Next time, we will talk about some other important factors in your hormonal health.
Hormones impact us all – regardless of age, stage and gender. We all know about them, but what is it that they actually do?
Pretty much EVERYTHING!!!! Hormones are chemical messengers that help regulate nearly every function in the body. When our hormones are even a little off, it can have a huge impact on our every day.
Hormones are controlled by the endocrine system which is made up of the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid & adrenal glands as well as the pancreas and ovaries (women) or testicles (men).
We have plenty of hormones circulating in varying degrees in our body at any given time. Here are a few that you might have heard of as well as a brief description of their roles:
- Cortisol – stress hormone: responsible for fight or flight/tend and befriend reactions; secreted to get us out of bed and keep us safe
- Estrogen – development and maintenance of female characteristics
- Progesterone – stimulates the uterus to prepare for baby, helps with sleep
- Testosterone – helps with bone mass, confidence & libido
- Insulin – blood sugar regulation
- Grehlin – hunger hormone and results in hunger pangs
- Leptin – a hormone released when we’ve eaten enough
Each of these hormones, as well as the ones not mentioned, are important for our overall wellbeing. When one or more hormones become imbalanced, it has an impact on our health. Sometimes it is quite subtle, taking a long time before we notice anything and other times it can be quite abrupt affecting our mood, concentration, sleep and metabolism seemingly overnight.
For the next few weeks, we are going to unpack hormones a little at a time and view them through a holistic lens. What exactly is holistic? It means that we recognize that we are the sum of our parts.
Let’s imagine for a minute that someone tells me that they wish to lose weight. Sure, we can talk about food, portion sizes and such, but if we don’t address the other areas of their life such as quality of sleep, level of exercise and stress, we are missing an opportunity to support the whole body.
Hormones respond really well to a whole person or holistic approach.
Let’s begin our journey with food.
Foods that can hinder hormonal balance:
- excessive caffeine can spike blood sugar levels even without any added sugar; additional stress on the endocrine system
- alcohol is often used to wind down after a long & caffeinated day; can impact estrogen & testosterone levels; red wine is often implicated in sleep disruptions and hot flashes
- refined carbs like white fluffy stuff & simple sugars can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and keep the cycle of cravings going strong; try a sugar swap & reduce
- food sensitivities or allergies
Foods that help hormonal balance:
- flax seeds – omega 3, fibre, help us excrete excess estrogen
- pumpkin seeds – source of magnesium, fibre & zinc
- avocado – healthy fat, fibre, vitamin B5 (stress fighting)
- chia seeds – calcium, omega 3, fibre, protein
- salmon – omega 3, vitamin D (hormone production, bone health & immunity)
- Brazil nuts – source of selenium for thyroid function; 1 or 2 is all you need
- seaweed – iodine for thyroid health
- spinach – iron supports thyroid function, a good source of B vitamins
- bell peppers & citrus – vitamin C which helps immune system & adrenal health
- water – drinking enough water helps prevent dehydration and helps flush out toxins
- herbal tea – holy basil, chamomile, peppermint
- swap out your coffee or black tea for green tea – higher in antioxidants & lower in caffeine
As you can see, our food choices have an impact on our hormonal selves. While I will be the first to admit that changing your diet is not going to magically fix every little thing, it does have the power to make a big change with relatively little cost and effort.
Need help digging into your diet? I am here to support you and cheer you on. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk.
Parenting is hard. We are faced with a multitude of decisions to make as a parent. From which socks to buy – this is harder than it seems at first glance, to letting them take the car keys, we are constantly bombarded with decision making. Quite frankly it can get exhausting sometimes.
What happens though when we see our kids struggling with body image or self-esteem issues? How do we help them without hindering them?
As is the case in all parenting, we want our kids to be able to talk to us…and we need to remember to listen first, even if we think we have the exact right piece of advice. If we can keep our lines of communication open, we are in the right space to be able to support our children.
In childhood, there are natural patterns of growth and change that occur during development. Sometimes this means that bodies gain weight before they stretch out, that a big pimple pops up on picture day or that it seems like everyone else hit their growth spurt before they have.
Being a kid in many ways seems easy once you are an adult. We can appreciate the lack of responsibility, the opportunity for naps and having other people provide for your needs. What we tend to forget is that it can be difficult to figure out who you are, what you like and how to stand up for yourself on our journey to adulthood.
While I certainly don’t have all the answers and am on my own journey through parenthood with its mountain peaks and valley lows, I do have some advice for feeding your kids well through it all.
When I meet with younger clients, they are usually in my office because their parents are seeking guidance and support. Often in the case of teens, they are making the call themselves. The most common issues are very selective eating and weight concerns.
Here are my top 5 tips for parents when establishing a solid foundation for healthy eating…
Don’t talk about weight at all. Talk about healthy food choices as a family. While weight is an indicator of overall health, it is not the gold standard. As a society, we focus far too much on numbers whether it is on a scale or the size of our clothing.
Parents are the gatekeeper for food coming into the house. While you may not be able to control what your child eats outside of your home, you are more than likely the one doing the shopping and paying for it. Don’t want them eating chips? Don’t buy them. Instead offer freshly popped popcorn and orange slices. Make the foods you want them to eat easy to grab and go.
Be a good role model – whether it is for exercise, food choices, prioritizing responsibilities and how to treat other people. Whether it seems like it or not, our kids are always watching and listening.
Learn to listen to your body…and teach your children to do the same. Our body sends us messages all the time. The trouble is that sometimes we have a hard time noticing what is happening. Often times we are so distracted by what is happening around us on the television, computer and our phones that we fail to notice actual full or hungry signals. Get in the habit of asking yourself these questions before grabbing food. When is the last time you ate? Did you eat enough then? Are you hungry or bored? Have you drank enough water?
Trust your child and their growth and development patterns. If you are concerned, speak to your health care provider first and take note of their previous growth patterns. This can give you some important information about their current development. If there is reason for concern after speaking with your health care provider, then go back to tip 1 and give me a call!
It isn’t often that I let something that I read online get me all fired up. For the most part, the crazy things are rarely true and quickly fall by the wayside. I am used to clients asking me about the latest and greatest eating fad and wanting my take on things. While I will be the first to say that there is much for me yet to learn, my approach to diet and lifestyle is more of a straight forward, no-nonsense, live your life well kind of deal. Last week though, I found myself shocked and appalled by the new WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) app for kids aged 8 -17 called Kurbo. I downloaded it myself to fact check the things I had been reading.
The idea behind Kurbo is to support parents to help their children manage what they are eating. In a world where childhood obesity is on the rise, this is definitely an issue that must be addressed. I appreciate the efforts on behalf of WW to support our children, however, how we choose to support them is significant.
What a child hears in the formative years can have lasting and sometimes damaging effects in the long run. Many people who struggle with body image, self-esteem and weight can often identify a time in their childhood when they first heard someone else say something about their body. From that point on, they began to view life through an altered lens.
Kurbo is a free app that anyone over 13 can sign up to use. Although with a little fudging of the truth, anyone can download and begin using right away. Unfortunately, there was no delay in access while an email could be sent to a parent for approval. I logged in right away and started tracking. Want to take it up a notch and offer your child a personalized health coach who can comment on your child’s food choices and activity levels? No problem. This is all yours for $69 USD for 1 month, $189 USD for 3 months or $294 for 6 months. Gaah! I can think of 27 better things to do with that money! Sign them up for swimming lessons or a softball team. Buy better quality food. A common complaint about eating healthy is cost. $69 USD per month would go a long way to filling your cart up with fresh foods instead.
Kurbo helps kids track their foods in terms of green, yellow or red light foods. I myself have used this analogy with kids simply to remind them that there are some foods that give us more of what our bodies crave to function well. I really don’t have an issue with this part of helping kids think about their food choices. I do have some issues though in terms of how some of the foods are rated in the Kurbo app. Green light foods are veggies and fruit. This makes sense to me.
However, some foods such as lean protein (chicken & turkey), sources of healthy fat such as avocado, almonds & salmon are all considered yellow light foods to be limited.
Butter chicken is considered a green light food and chia seeds are considered a red light food? Low-fat dairy is preferential to regular dairy? This my friends just doesn’t make sense. I fear there is old information as well as glitches in the system that are misleading. Butter chicken is considered a green light food. How? There are butter and cream in addition to chicken in this dish. How do three yellow foods become a green light food?
Preteens and teens need to be able to eat enough protein for a rapidly growing body. They also need good amounts of healthy fat for hormonal changes that are happening during puberty. Complex carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy as well for children. I fear that we are setting up the next generation with a continued fatphobia, carb confusion and a general lack of understanding around healthy eating.
As a child heads into puberty, it is natural for them to put on some extra weight as they prepare for the changes that their body is going to experience. On average, and I use this term loosely because as we all know our children all develop differently, a girl will gain about 15 pounds and a boy 30 pounds during this stage of growth. This means that at the height of their body naturally putting on weight for the next stage, we are encouraging them to start tracking their food. With this method of allowing technology that is clearly flawed to dictate our child’s eating habits, we are doing the next generation a great disservice.
Helping our children eat well does not have to be this complicated or harmful. There are simple strategies to support our children to create a foundation for healthy habits to flourish.
You as the adult have the most control over what comes into the house. If you buy it, they will eat it. Don’t want your kids to eat chips so often? Stop buying them. Want your kids to eat more produce? Start buying a variety of produce. Begin with produce you know they like. Make it easily accessible by cutting fruit and veggies up and keeping it in the fridge or having a bowl of washed fruit on the kitchen table.
You are your child’s greatest role model. Make sure they see you eat a balanced diet.
Please stop complaining about your body – especially in front of them – now. Your body is amazing. Sure there may be areas you would like to improve, but loving yourself as you are is so much better than striving for social media ideals or your 20 old past self. Kids are always listening – even when it seems like they aren’t. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Cook together using whole food ingredients. Teach your child how to create balanced meals by spending time in the kitchen. This is an excellent investment in their future as well as yours. Imagine knowing dinner is going to be cooked by one of your offspring and sitting on the table after a long day at work. Yes, please!
Get active as a family. Find activities that are fun to do together and hop to it. Don’t just tell them to get outside and play – join them. Let them see you set fitness goals like getting faster and stronger just because it is remarkable to see what your body can do, not because of the size of your pants.
If you suspect that your child is struggling with their weight, talk to them. Talk to them about life though. Allow them to bring up the weight issue, instead of perhaps planting the idea that it is something that they should be concerned about. We aren’t going to sweep under the carpet the very real struggles that our children face, whether it is body image, identity or friend drama. Instead, we want to give them the tools to first and foremost love themselves just as they are, whatever the issue. We want to come alongside them and hear them. We want to get extra help if we suspect larger issues like disordered eating. We are going to tell them that puberty is a crazy ride and share stories of our own awkwardness. Their bodies are doing some very remarkable work…and so are ours. It is time for us all to remember that.
I found my first red leaf this week. If I’m being honest, I was a little indignant about the whole thing. I marched over to that tree and plucked it from the branch. I am not sure if it will actually help the summer weather stay a little longer, but at least I tried.
While I do love the summer warmth, if I am being honest, I will admit that I really do look forward to September and the routine that it brings. I have thoroughly enjoyed the summer with my family…well except for maybe last Tuesday…anyone else have kids who are getting a little unruly? I am sensing that we all need to start seeing other people. We need the flow of day that routine brings with it. And, we need to do different things during the day so that we have something new to talk about around the table.
Along with this new routine, we will have lunches to pack once again. Oh, lunch drawer of dishes, I have not missed you but I am grateful for you.
As a mom, nutritionist and supply staff for our local school board, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t – what your kids actually eat and what they waste instead. With this in mind, I’d like to share a few of my best tips and tricks to help you get ready for September.
When thinking about lunch dishes, I like to try and streamline with larger dishes that can be divided into smaller compartments. One of my favourite ways to do this is by using silicone muffin liners in a larger container to hold little bits and pieces. Although glass dishes are my favourite way to store and transport food, they are not the most practical for taking to school. My school-ager gave me the business when I tucked one in his lunch bag. Apparently, it is a big no-no. I get it. Lesson learned.
Favourite Lunch Equipment
- stainless steel dishes with a good seal
- good quality plastic with latches to help keep the seal
- easy to drink from water bottles
- insulated food jars – in the morning fill the container with boiling water or raise the temperature of the container. Just before putting in the hot food, discard water.
- cutlery – either from your regular cutlery drawer or a spork
- freezer packs
Keep it Simple
Make a list of foods that your children like as a family. While it is important to stretch developing taste buds, send food to school that you are certain your child likes. For younger kids, make most of it bite-sized. I have seen kindergarten children with sandwiches as big as their head. Sorry, it isn’t going to get eaten. There are too many things to talk about and that sandwich looks overwhelming.
Start packing the lunch box the night before and avoid the crazy morning dash. Get the kids involved with age-appropriate jobs such as filling the water bottle, washing the grapes or making sure they have the needed cutlery.
Send water, not juice. Juice is not the same as eating whole fruit. Keep your children hydrated with water – pure, clean & fresh! It is just what the body needs to stay hydrated. Again, while supply teaching in kindergarten classrooms, I have seen kids dump their juice box rather than drink it. Did you know it is super fun to squeeze that box into the sink and watch what happens? In addition to your child making the juice box more of an experiment than hydration, it is also adding to the plastic straw garbage pile.
Now What to Pack?
Purchasing packaged items means you are often paying for unwanted chemicals, flavourings & colours. If you can’t pronounce or recognize the ingredients on a box – don’t buy it.
- Whole-grain pita stuffed with lettuce, cucumber and tuna or salmon
- Whole grain tortilla wrap with shredded carrots and egg salad
- Leftover spaghetti and tomato or meat sauce in a thermos
- Hummus with crackers, carrot and celery sticks
- Smoothies! Chill your thermos with ice water before you add the smoothie to keep it cold until lunchtime. Tell your child to give it a gentle shake before they drink it up just in case it separates.
- Pasta salad loaded with their favourite veggies. Toss in some leftover cut-up chicken or cheese for protein.
- Homemade soup…chicken noodle, vegetable or minestrone.
- Plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and honey. Flavoured yogurt is loaded with sugar and sometimes artificial flavours & colours. Add some nut-free granola on the side to sprinkle in and add a bit of crunch.
- Pinwheel wraps. Spread regular cream cheese on whole grain tortilla shells. Next have your child choose which veggies they would like to add – shredded carrots, diced cucumbers, lettuce or peppers. Roll it up and slice into pinwheels.
- Apple slices, make it interesting by mixing red & green apples as well as trying many different varieties. Try sprinkling with a little cinnamon for added flavour & nutrients.
- Shredded cheese, salsa & guacamole with organic corn chips
- Fresh fruit salad
- Whole-grain muffins
Happy Lunchtime to you and yours!
Healthy eating matters whether you are new to this beautiful world, or if you have been around the sun a few times.
In my experience as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and an Early Childhood Educator, I have heard from many parents and educators on the woes of getting children to eat healthily as well as their own personal struggle to do so.
Here are a few of the typical things I hear:
The odds are stacked against me. I feel like I’m competing with bright and colourful marketing in the grocery stores and in restaurants.
Nutrition information can be overwhelming and oftentimes conflicting. I don’t know where to start.
They are just kids! Let them have sugar now because when they get older, they will have to give it up.
While I do acknowledge and accept that these things are true to a certain extent, I also believe that it is well within our scope as adults to help guide our children in their quest to lead happy healthy lives. This starts by encouraging healthy habits, specifically around eating nourishing food.
Three Simple Steps to Encourage Healthy Eating:
- Fruit and vegetables are naturally bright and colourful. Spend most of your money and time in this area of the grocery store. Better yet, go to a local farmer’s market for locally grown options, or try growing our own. Skip the middle aisles of the grocery store altogether and you will skip 80% of the bright and colourful marketing that is often geared towards children. If children don’t see it, they don’t know to ask for it.
- Nutrition information indeed can be overwhelming and conflicting. Keep it simple and stick to whole foods or packaged foods with 5 or fewer items in the ingredient list. Doing this one step will reduce much of the nutrition overwhelm.
- While I would agree that we need to remember to live a little, this doesn’t automatically apply to treating sugary treats as a rite of passage for children. If they don’t have the opportunity to get a taste for refined sugary foods, then they won’t have to, ‘unlearn,’ this craving in the future.
One of the hardest meals to avoid refined sugar is surprisingly, breakfast. Most boxed breakfast cereals, especially the ones that have cartoon characters on them are a smorgasbord of sugar, artificial colours and flavours. Nowhere in my years of nutrition research have marshmallows ever been a good addition to breakfast. Skip the sugary cereal altogether and focus on foods like eggs with tomatoes, avocado and whole-grain toast, plain oatmeal with a little maple syrup, fruit and nuts, smoothies or perhaps plain Greek yogurt with fruit and chia seeds.
Feeling a little adventurous? Why not try my nearly famous recipe for baked oatmeal? I have literally had people stop me on the street to thank me for this recipe after seeing in our local paper. Click here for the recipe.
Healthy eating is one of the best things you can do for your body and your child’s. When we eat well, we feel well. When we eat poorly, we feel it not only in how our stomach feels afterwards but also in how well we sleep, concentrate on tasks and interact with people.