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Health Benefits of a High Fiber Diet + High Fiber Foods to Eat Today

Fiber is one of the most important nutrients to consume. Learn all about the health benefits of dietary fiber and the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber in today’s post, including a list of delicious foods to include in a high fiber diet!

Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for our diet, but it does not get the attention it deserves. Fiber is certainly less glamorous than other trendy nutrients, as it might evoke images of your grandparents sipping on metamucil. But, the benefits of fiber go so beyond keeping us regular! I’m all in for making fiber the coolest nutrient, and I hope you will be too after reading this post.

What is Dietary Fiber?

Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plants that we consume when we eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Unlike the macro and micronutrients, our bodies are unable to digest and absorb fiber, so it passes through our digestive system intact.

Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. They each have unique health benefits. A high fiber diet should include sources of both types to get maximum benefits.

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water, so it forms a gel in our digestive tract when we eat it. Because of this, it can bind to cholesterol in our bodies to help lower cholesterol levels. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, flaxseeds, barley, and apples.
  • Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, so it speeds up digestion and increases stool bulk. Good sources of insoluble fiber include nuts, cauliflower, whole wheat products, Brussels sprouts, and raspberries.

Health Benefits of a High Fiber Diet

  • Keeps us regular. Fiber, especially insoluble fiber, speeds up digestion and increases stool bulk. This helps prevent constipation and diarrhea to keep our bowels healthy and regular.
  • Weight management. High fiber foods are very filling, and lower in calories than other foods. Including many high fiber foods in our diets can promote healthy weight management.
  • Lower cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber forms a gel like substance in our bodies, which binds to “bad” LDL cholesterol to rid it from our bodies. Soluble fiber may also help improve other lipid markers (1).
  • Controls blood sugar levels. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps slow the absorption of blood sugar when we eat. Studies show that soluble fiber intake can reduce HbA1C, fasting blood glucose, and insulin resistance in people with Type 2 Diabetes (2).
  • Promotes gut health. The good bacteria that live in our guts depend on fermentable dietary products as a source of energy so they can be healthy and grow. Fiber from our diets feeds these good bacteria, so a high fiber diet promotes probiotic health, abundance, and diversity. Healthy gut bacteria also produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have their own health benefits such as reduced inflammation and reduced risk of chronic disease (3).
  • Reduced risk of chronic disease. High fiber diets are naturally high in plant foods, so they also come with lots of other amazing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help prevent chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and Type 2 Diabetes.

Dietary Fiber Recommendations

The dietary fiber recommendations are 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. For women and men over 50, these numbers drop to 21 grams and 30 grams, respectively. For reference, one half cup of black beans has about 8 grams of fiber, one cup of shredded wheat contains about 5 grams, and one half cup of raspberries has 4 grams (4). As you can see, you need to eat multiple portions of fiber rich foods (i.e. plant foods) throughout the day to meet the recommendations.

One reason why many Americans are not meeting their daily fiber needs is because the standard American diet is low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. There are plenty of fiber supplements out there, but they are devoid of many of the other health benefits that come with plant foods, like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, fiber from supplements may not be as filling as fiber from plant foods.

High Fiber Foods to Add to Your Diet

Now, the fun part! This list is by no means exhaustive, but here are some of my favorite high fiber foods to enjoy daily. There are also some yummy recipes to give you inspiration to add more fiber to your diet!

Oatmeal

Contains 4 grams of fiber per 1 cup cooked oats. Try this Cacao Banana Oatmeal or Banana Baked Oatmeal with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips for an easy breakfast!

cacao banana oatmeal

Quinoa

Quinoa contains 2.6 grams of fiber per half cup. These Quinoa Enchilada Stuffed Peppers or this Moroccan Quinoa Salad from Choosing Chia would be perfect to add to your dinner menu!

quinoa stuffed peppers

Whole Wheat Pasta

Swap out white pasta for whole wheat, and you’ll get 3.2 grams of fiber per half cup serving! Some of my favorite whole wheat pasta dishes are this Spring Pasta with Lemon, Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Peas, and this Pasta Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Tuna.

high fiber diet pasta salad

Kale

One cup of kale has 2.6 grams of fiber. Even more reason to keep up your kale caesar habit! Check out this dairy free version, this Kale Cobb Salad from Dishing out Health, and this Rose Pasta with Asparagus and Kale from The First Mess to get your kale on!

kale caesar salad

Sweet Potato

One medium sweet potato has almost 4 grams of fiber. Make sure you’re eating the skin, though, as this is where most of the fiber (and other nutrients) lives! These Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are a favorite of mine, and I’ve been dying to try these Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges by Mad About Food!

mexican stuffed sweet potato high fiber diet

Chickpeas

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are an excellent source of plant based protein and fiber. One half cup contains 8 grams! Fill up on this Chickpea and Roasted Vegetable Salad, Loaded Greek Hummus for a Crowd, or Chickpea and Avocado Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.

chickpea and roasted vegetable salad

Black Beans

Black beans pack 7.5 grams of fiber per one half cup. Try out this delicious mango avocado salsa over my Mushroom Tacos, or this Black Bean Tomato Avocado Salad by Little Spice Jar.

mango avocado black bean salsa

White Beans

Are you guys picking up on a bean trend here? White beans are also a good source of fiber. One half cup will give you 5.7 grams! I love to make this Dreamy Pink Beet and White Bean Dip for dipping, and this Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup sounds from Kristine’s Kitchen so cozy.

white bean dip

Lentils

I love lentils of all kinds. One half cup has almost 8 grams of fiber. This Coconut Curry Red Lentil Soup is one of my favorites. Also, check out this Lemony Lentil Soup by Gimme Some Oven.

coconut curry red lentil soup

Apples

One medium apple has about 4.5 grams of fiber. I love to put sautéed apples in my morning oatmeal and munch on apple nachos as a healthy snack.

apple nachos

Pears

Pears have even more fiber than apples. One pear has almost 6 grams of fiber! Some of my favorite pear recipes are Hasselback Baked Pears and Ginger Roasted Beets, Sweet Potatoes, and Pears.

hasselback baked pear

Chia Seeds

Last but not least, chia seeds are a really excellent dietary fiber source. One tablespoon has a 4 grams! Try this Blended Chocolate Chia Pudding or this Dreamy Coconut Chia Pudding with Blueberries from The Wooden Skillet.

chocolate chia pudding

High fiber diets are super healthy, because as you can see, they include lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. If you’re increasing your fiber intake, make sure to also drink plenty of water, because fiber digests better with water. What is your favorite way to get more fiber in your diet?

Let me know if you love this post by leaving a comment below, and check out Instagram and Pinterest for more healthy lifestyle inspiration.

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Shrimp Scampi Zoodles and Noodles (Gluten Free)

This shrimp scampi zoodles and noodles recipe is the perfect light and easy pasta dish. It’s full of fresh summer flavors like basil, lemon, garlic, and zucchini. This recipe takes 30 minutes to make and will please everyone!

shrimp scampi zoodles and noodles

This recipe is a twist on classic shrimp scampi. It still has tons of garlic flavor plus lemon and white wine, but it’s paired with fresh summer basil and served over a combination of pasta and zucchini noodles (zoodles).

Zucchini noodles are a great addition to your diet if you are looking to eat more vegetables. I love to add them to whole wheat or brown rice pasta to add volume, fiber, and nutrients to some of my favorite recipes. They pair really well with spaghetti because the noodles and zoodles all get tangled up together!

shrimp scampi zoodles

How to Make Zucchini Noodles

There are a few methods you can use to make zucchini noodles, depending on which kitchen tools you have.

  • Vegetable spiralizer machine. Just cut off the ends of the zucchini and push it through the machine This method allows you to also spiralize other vegetables, including harder ones like sweet potato. You can also make different sized noodles! But, it takes up a lot of cabinet space, and is a little difficult to clean.
  • Handheld spiralizer. This tool is a little cheaper and takes up less room than the tabletop vegetable spiralizer. It’s a great option to purchase if you have a small kitchen or are new to spiralizing! You won’t be able to spiralize as many types of produce with this option, though.
  • KitchenAid mixer attachment. If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, you can purchase this attachment to make zucchini and other vegetable noodles! It’s more expensive than other options, but will take up less room than the full spiralizer machine.
  • Julienne peeler. This method is the most simple and requires just a simple julienne peeler. While your zucchini noodles won’t be as long and stringy, the julienne peeler method will give you thin strips of zucchini to add to your meals.
zucchini noodles

Once your zoodles are prepared, all you need to do is cook your pasta and shrimp. The shrimp is sautéed right from frozen with plenty of garlic, fresh lemon juice, and white wine for that classic shrimp scampi flavor. When the shrimp is done, toss the pasta and zoodles in the pan to coat everything in the scampi sauce, and serve!

Main Ingredients + Some Nutrition Notes

  • Zucchini: Zucchini is a super hydrating vegetable – it is made of over 90% water! It’s also a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Just like all veggies, it’s packed with plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Shrimp: Shrimp is a high quality source of lean protein – one 3 oz serving has 18 grams! Shrimp is also one of the best food sources of iodine, which is a nutrient essential for thyroid health. While shrimp is high in cholesterol, it will not greatly affect body cholesterol levels, because it is low in saturated fat.
  • Garlic: Garlic has been used for medicinal purposes for ages. It contains sulfur compounds, which may help prevent and lessen the severity of illnesses like the flu or a cold. It also contains antioxidants that may promote brain health and prevent dementia.
  • Lemon
  • White Wine
  • Olive Oil
  • Brown Rice Pasta
shrimp scamp zoodles and noodles

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Shrimp Scampi Zoodles and Noodles (Gluten Free)

  • Author: Alex
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 3 1x
  • Category: Main Dish

Description

This shrimp scampi zoodles and noodles recipe is the perfect light and easy pasta dish. It is full of fresh summer flavors like basil, lemon, garlic, and zucchini. This recipe takes 30 minutes to make and will please everyone!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 16 large frozen shrimp
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 pound brown rice or whole wheat spaghetti 
  • 2 large zucchinis, spiralized
  • 1 large handful fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet.
  2. Add garlic, shallots, and salt and pepper to taste, cooking 1-2 minutes until fragrant, stirring and being careful not to burn.
  3. Add shrimp to the pan in an even layer. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until pink and opaque. 
  4.  Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and white wine. Simmer shrimp in wine until it has reduced by half.
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions. 
  6. Reduce pan with shrimp to low heat, and toss in zoodles until they start to soften, about 1 minute. 
  7. Remove from heat and toss in cooked pasta, using tongs to evenly coat each strand.
  8. Serve immediately, and garnish with plenty of fresh basil, red pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese. 

Keywords: healthy shrimp scampi, shrimp scampi zoodles, zoodles, zucchini noodles, gluten free

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magnesium rich foods Featured

Why You Should Add These Magnesium Rich Foods to Your Diet

Learn about the mineral magnesium and why it’s so important for us! This post also includes a list of delicious magnesium rich foods you can add to your diet.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an extremely important mineral for the human body. It is required as a cofactor in over 300 enzyme systems that perform all kinds of biochemical reactions! Magnesium is needed for protein synthesis, blood pressure regulation, blood sugar control, and muscle and nerve function, just to name a few.

Because more than half of the magnesium in our bodies is found in bone (50%-60%), magnesium levels are difficult to measure. However, many Americans are not getting the recommended amount of magnesium in their diets. The current Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA’s) for magnesium for adults is between 310-420 mg per day, based on age and gender (1).

Magnesium Health Benefits

Magnesium plays a crucial role in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the human body. Because of this, it has significant health benefits.

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Magnesium might help to lower blood pressure. High blood pressure/hypertension is a known risk factor for stroke and heart disease. There is limited evidence that magnesium supplementation is associated with lowering blood pressure. However, one study showed that increased dietary magnesium from the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet lead to a drop in blood pressure (2).
  • Type 2 Diabetes: Diets high in magnesium are beneficial to prevent Type 2 Diabetes, likely because magnesium plays an important role in glucose metabolism. One meta-analysis showed that increasing magnesium intake by 100 mg per day significantly lowered the risk of Type 2 diabetes (3). Type 2 Diabetes causes higher urinary losses of magnesium, so it’s also important for those with the disease to get enough in their diets.
  • Bone Health: More than half of the magnesium in our bodies exists in bones. It is a part of bone formation, and helps regulate concentrations of other factors needed for strong bones. Even though we stop accumulating bone mass by the age of 25, research shows some positive associations between magnesium intake and bone mineral density in adults (4). This is especially important for post-menopausal women, who are at higher risk of osteoporosis! Magnesium may be just as important as calcium and vitamin D to promote good bone health.
  • Sleep: Magnesium supplementation may help with sleep and insomnia. One study showed that 8 weeks of daily magnesium supplementation lead to improved measures of insomnia, such as sleep time and serum melatonin levels (5).

Eight Magnesium Rich Foods

Now that we’ve gone over the importance of magnesium, and recognize what a powerful mineral it is, here are some delicious ways to add it to your diet!

Spinach and Leafy Greens

kale caesar salad

Half a cup of cooked spinach contains 20% of your daily magnesium needs. Enjoy it as a base for a salad, sautéed in an omelet, or blended into a green smoothie! Spinach and leafy greens are also good sources of fiber, and vitamins A, C and K. Try this Kale Caesar Salad with Spice Roasted Chickpeas or Spinach, Mushroom, and Caramelized Onion Goat Cheese Quesadilla recipe to get your daily dose of leafy greens!

Beans and Legumes

mushroom tacos with mango avocado salsa

Beans and legumes are an inexpensive source of plant based protein, plus tons of other nutrients. Half a cup of black beans contain 15% of your daily magnesium needs, and half a cup of kidney beans contain 9%. Beans are one of the foods that people in all five Blue Zones eat regularly, which are areas of the world where people live longer than average. Try out these Quinoa Enchilada Stuffed Peppers or Mushroom Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa, both which include black beans.

Avocado

chickpea avocado stuffed sweet potatoes

We all know that avocado is full of healthy fats and potassium, but it also contains magnesium. One cup has 11% of our daily needs. Avocado is such a yummy and filling addition to salads, grain bowls, and even smoothies! Check out my Chickpea and Avocado Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Vegan Avocado Quesadillas for some new avocado filled meal ideas.

Tofu

crispy baked tofu, magnesium rich foods

Tofu is a versatile vegetarian diet staple. It is an inexpensive, easy to prepare source of plant-based protein, and it also contains minerals like magnesium, calcium, and iron. A 3.5 oz serving of tofu contains 13% of our daily magnesium needs. Some of my favorite tofu recipes include these Peanut Tofu Vermicelli Rice Noodle Bowls with Quick Pickled Vegetables, Tofu Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce, and Crispy Baked Tofu.

Edamame

edamame

Another soy product, edamame are immature soy beans. They are eaten steamed, and are delicious on their own with just a little salt! Edamame is a nutrition powerhouse, as it contains fiber, healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates. It’s also a good source of Vitamin C, iron, and magnesium – one cup has 24% of our daily needs. Try steamed edamame as one of my favorite Healthy Snack Ideas or in this Broccoli Salad with Thai Peanut Dressing.

Nuts

chocolate coconut balls, magnesium rich foods

Nuts are one of my favorite foods to snack on. They’re a good source of healthy fats, plant-based protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. Almonds and cashews are particularly good source of magnesium. One ounce of either will give us around 20% of our daily needs! I love making healthy sweets using nuts, nut butter, or almond flour. Check out these recipes that use nut based ingredients: Almond Butter Zucchini Brownies, Freezer Cookie Dough Fudge, and Chocolate Coconut Balls.

Seeds

cauliflower sweet potato salad

Like nuts, seeds are also a wonderful food to snack on. A tablespoon of flax, chia, or sesame seeds gives us around 10% of our daily magnesium needs. I love to sprinkle seeds on top of oatmeal bowls or salads, and include them in my baking. This Cauliflower Sweet Potato Salad with Tahini Citrus Vinaigrette recipe uses sesame, or try this Blended Chocolate Chia Pudding.

Dark Chocolate

Fudgy Tahini Brownies with Chocolate Drizzle

Saving the best for last, dark chocolate is probably everyone’s favorite magnesium rich food! A one ounce piece contains 16% of our daily magnesium needs. Dark chocolate is also rich in flavanol antioxidants, which are protective against cardiovascular disease. Dark chocolate is obviously delicious on it’s own, or in desserts! Try these Fudgy Tahini Brownies or Raw Cashew Coconut Snickerdoodle Truffles.

Magnesium is a super important mineral for a ton of biochemical processes in our bodies, and has many health benefits. Load up your plate with magnesium rich foods to get your daily doses! As you can see, including a variety of foods from different food groups will give you a healthy dose of magnesium, as well as other necessary vitamins and minerals.

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Six Healthy Snack Ideas from a Registered Dietitian

Looking to step up your snack game? This post outlines how to choose a healthy snack, along with six easy, healthy snack ideas approved by a Registered Dietitian – me!

As an RD, people ask me all about snacks. Are they good for us? How often should we have them? What are some healthy snack ideas? Snacking is ingrained in American food culture – we are bombarded by snack advertisements in the media every single day. From fruit roll ups to 100 calorie packs, this post will help you weed through the media messages and give you nourishing, filling, and simple snack ideas.

Is Snacking Good or Bad?

Like most questions about nutrition, the answer to this one is not black and white. Snacking is neither inherently good nor bad, and it may benefit some people more than others. Remember that our nutrition needs are highly individualized, and what works for one person may not work for the next.

Snacking has been studied as it relates to weight status, blood sugar level, and hunger prevention. Overall, snacking is probably not necessary for the average person to maintain weight status OR maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day. But, studies show that snacking may prevent hunger, and therefore prevent overeating at mealtimes later on.

Given this research, it is important to consider a few things when snacking. First, contemplate your motivation for snacking. Are you craving food because you are truly hungry, or does it relate to an emotion like boredom or stress? Second, snacking is highly individualized. A very active person will probably benefit from more frequent snacking, as they are naturally expending more calories than a sedentary person. Finally, it’s WHAT you snack on that really matters. Consuming balanced snacks, just like balanced meals, will have positive effects on weight, blood sugar level, and hunger prevention.

How to Make Healthy Snack Choices

Here are some of my tips for making mindful, balanced snack choices.

  • First and foremost, tune in to see if you are truly feeling hungry. Many of us, myself included, fall into emotional eating to satisfy a need that is not based on hunger! Take a step back before reaching for a snack to determine your motivating factor. If you find you’re not really hungry, do something to tackle the negative emotion you are feeling, such as taking a walk around the block.
  • Be mindful of portion size. Snacks are not meant to be as energy dense as meals. While I don’t count calories, a good size snack for most people is usually around 200 calories. This may vary based on age, gender, body composition, and health goals.
  • Start with fiber. Fiber is a nutrient many Americans don’t eat enough of. Since it slows digestion and absorption of nutrients, fiber helps keep us full. It also has a host of health benefits, which include promoting gut health, lowering cholesterol, and keeping our bowel movements regular. Use high fiber foods as your starting point for a balanced snack, such as whole fruit, whole grain products, or vegetables.
  • Add protein and/or healthy fats. Pairing your fiber-rich snack with some protein or healthy fats will further help slow down digestion and keep you fuller for longer. For those looking for snacks to help regulate blood sugar levels, choosing higher protein snacks seems to be best, based on research. Choose proteins like yogurt, egg, nuts/nut butter, and seeds, and healthy fats like avocado, olives or nuts/nut butter. The combination of fiber + protein/healthy fats makes us feel more satisfied, so we are less likely to keep reaching for more.
  • Make it simple and tasty. Snacks shouldn’t take you tons of time or energy to prepare – you’ve got other things to get done during the day! Keep it simple, and make sure your snack is enjoyable 🙂

Six Healthy Snack Ideas

Apple Nachos

Cut a small apple into wedges. Drizzle with 1-2 tsp nut butter, add 1 tbsp granola, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serve with ¼ cup low fat yogurt for dipping.

apple nachos

Mini Protein Box

This is a totally customizable snack. Mix and match different sources of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Some examples include a hard boiled egg + small handful of nuts + 3-5 strawberries, or ½ cup grapes + 1 string cheese + 5 whole grain crackers.

mini protein box snack idea

Popcorn Trail Mix

2 cups air popped popcorn + ¼ cup of your favorite trail mix makes for a voluminous, portable snack that is great for munching.

popcorn trail mix healthy snack idea

Steamed Edamame

1 cup of steamed and lightly salted edamame is the perfect snack, as it contains fiber, protein, and healthy fats!

steamed edamame healthy snack idea

Bell Pepper + Quick Guacamole

A refreshing snack to much on in warmer months. To make quick guacamole, mash ½ of  ripe avocado with a squeeze of lime juice + a dash of both salt and garlic powder. Top bell pepper slices with guacamole and enjoy.

bell pepper and guacamole healthy snack idea

Chocolate Coconut Balls

These little bites are delicious, easy to make, and portable for on-the-go snacking. Filled with nuts, dates, coconut, and cacao powder, they only take 10 minutes to whip up. They taste incredibly decadent and dessert-like, so if you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is the snack for you!

chocolate coconut balls

What makes these balls a healthy snack? They’ve got fiber from the dates and oats. Healthy fats and protein come from cashews and coconut. Plus, they’ve got a boost of antioxidants from the cacao powder! One or two of these little guys will tide you over until your next meal.

chocolate coconut balls

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Chocolate Coconut Balls

  • Author: Alex
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1012 balls 1x
  • Category: Snacks

Description

A sweet, chocolately, and delicious snack to make. These chocolate coconut balls are full of fiber, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants!


Scale

Ingredients


Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Blend together for 3-5 minutes, until a sandy consistency is reached. Scrape down the edges occasionally, if necessary.
  3. Remove “dough” from food processor and use your hands to form a large ball. Break off ~1 tbsp sized pieces and roll into 10-12 smaller balls.
  4. Roll each ball in additional shredded coconut, if desired.


Notes

Best stored in the refrigerator. 

Keywords: chocolate coconut balls, coconut, healthy snacks, healthy snack ideas

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blonde woman walking in a field Featured

My Mental Health Journey with Anxiety/Depression

Hi guys! Today, I want to share something deeply personal in this post. I’ve written a little bit about my mental health struggle in Instagram posts over the past year, but I wanted to share a more complete look at my story. For me, one of the greatest comforts in this journey is hearing from others who have had similar experiences, because it makes me realize I am not alone. If my story helps just one person feel this way, then the purpose of me writing this will have been served a million times over. As a disclaimer, I am not a medical doctor or mental health practitioner, and this blog post is in no way meant to diagnose or formally treat any mental health issues. I’m just sharing my story, and I’ve included things that have worked for me personally.

blonde woman walking in a field

The Beginning

My mental health struggle began long before I even recognized it for what it was. In September of 2017, I was entering my last semester of coursework in graduate school in New York. I was also about to take the RD exam, and my boyfriend, Ben, had moved from New York to Boston one month before. I felt myself drifting from close friends because of busy schedules. For the three years prior, my schedule was jam packed with a rigorous full time course load, a part time job, volunteering, studying like crazy, and dietetic internship rotations, all while maintaining some semblance of a social life. As a stark contrast, I  was only taking two classes during my final semester. While this left me ample time to study and work on Instagram projects, it also meant I was spending a lot of time alone. There were definitely days when I didn’t speak a single word to another human. As an introvert, this sounds blissful on paper, but even introverts need human contact and conversation to feel whole.

During this time, I remember telling my boyfriend and mom that I was feeling lonely and down on multiple occasions. I started to be more proactive about making plans with friends, and set up some dinners, workout classes and lunch dates. Even still, I couldn’t shake that feeling of loneliness. I just brushed it off as a passing phase due to this transitional period in my life.

Towards the end of the semester, I applied for a few jobs in New York City. I took a hospital job, because I had enjoyed clinical nutrition much more than I expected during my internship. I started right after Thanksgiving of 2017, and was thrown right into working. It was overwhelming and challenging, but it felt good to be around people, and some of my friends who I worked with were super helpful. I started working on cardiac and psychiatric units, which were both rewarding, but I knew I didn’t want to be there forever.

In February, a position to be the RD on the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) unit opened up, and I volunteered because I had loved working with oncology patients during my internship. These patients are extremely sick with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma or other cancers. Many of them were here after multiple relapses. While a transplant can absolutely save lives, the potential, and not uncommon, complications can be deadly. The RD on the BMT unit is highly involved. I was expected to attend rounds with the doctors as much as possible, which meant visiting with each patient on the unit, hearing their story, current status and complications from the doctors, and giving my input when needed. I changed my whole schedule around – I previously went in at 9 AM after a morning workout, but now got in at 7:30 to make rounds. This was not an issue for me though, as I was truly excited to help these patients. The first few weeks were a whirlwind. I learned so much, met the team, and started to work with these very sick people. It was extremely rewarding, and I wanted so much to help them.

I knew it was going to be difficult when I had a bad dream about a patient during one of my first weeks on the unit. I woke up sobbing in the morning, woke Ben up, and couldn’t stop crying. I felt so much pain, fear and sadness in that moment, as if I were taking on the feelings I perceived this patient was having. I felt hopeful, though, because I loved connecting with these patients. I considered my empathy a strength in this environment, and I would be able to handle it with a little adjustment in time.

blonde woman in a lab coat

My Breaking Point

I was able to maintain this hopeful mindset for a few months, but it became obvious to me in March that I was struggling. I couldn’t leave work at work – I was constantly worrying about the patients. As I learned more about the severity of these types of cancers, getting diagnosed with them myself became my worst nightmare. Slowly, then quite rapidly, things took a turn for the worse. Certain words and phrases I read in the medical charts began to trigger a deep anxiety. I started incessantly feeling my body for swollen lymph nodes and abnormalities, convincing myself that I had symptoms of these cancers. I even went to a doctor, who reassured me that nothing was wrong, but after one day of relief, I was back to completely believing I was sick. My friends and boyfriend would say, “You’re so healthy! You eat so well and exercise every day”, but this didn’t matter to me. The scariest part of these cancers is they can happen to any person, at any age. I started thinking, “Why not me?” I could not think of anything else from the moment I woke up each day.

Some of the other signs that something was wrong were; crying multiple times a day, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, and waking up in the middle of every night with a heavy sense or worry, dread and/or panic. For about 2 weeks, I don’t even know how I got myself to work. My mind was completely filled with fears for my own health. I couldn’t finish my meals, had no interest or energy to grocery shop and meal prep and ate cereal for dinner. (Those who know me will tell you this is NOT ordinary for me – I never take home leftovers and a bowl of cereal is like a snack for me). I felt scared to be alone with my thoughts, so I would spend the workday on my friend’s unit writing notes with her, even spending one night at her apartment, and called my mom and boyfriend frequently. My parents came to New York for the weekend, postponing their trip down to Martha’s Vineyard. I will forever be grateful for all of this, and for my amazing support system at this time. When I had to be alone, I would just watch Friends and mindless television for hours, trying to numb my thoughts.

Making A Plan and Exploring Treatment

Relief started to come slowly when I talked out a plan with my parents, and I decided to leave New York and my job three weeks earlier than I had planned before moving to Boston. I also began seeing a therapist once a week. This provided a little temporary relief, but the therapist I was seeing just was not the right fit. The doctor I had seen had given me a prescription for an SSRI, but I was opposed to medication at that point, and wanted to heal naturally. In my own head, I felt that taking medication somehow was something I should be ashamed about, as if there was something wrong with me. I decided not to try the SSRI and convinced myself I would be able to heal without medication. Besides, I was leaving New York in a month and would be in a better environment, so I figured it was largely situational. I finished out another month or so at the hospital, where I was luckily able to be removed from BMT unit service and provide floating coverage for the remainder of my time there.

Healing Looks Different for Everybody

Before moving to Boston, I went to Martha’s Vineyard to be with my family and take some time to rest and work on my mental health. I thought that being in my favorite place with my support system would turn things around, but I was still struggling. I had difficulty falling asleep, couldn’t sleep through the night, couldn’t sit still, and just felt an overlying sense of fear, anxiety and lack of control. During this time, I had been speaking to Ben’s aunt, a psychiatrist, on the phone once a week. She was encouraging me to try an SSRI, and I finally decided it was the right thing to do. I now knew my anxiety/depression was not purely situational, because it continued to manifest itself while I was safe in my favorite place in the world. I finally gave up the thoughts that needing medication somehow makes me weak. There was nothing wrong with me, I just needed help to feel better. I started taking a low dose of my SSRI, knowing it can take several weeks to feel an effect.

Fast forward about 3 weeks - Ben and I had moved to Boston, and I felt like a veil had been lifted. My mood and my sleep were both improving. But, I still felt an overlying sense of panic about my health and general bad things happening to me. At the recommendation of my new doctor, I began taking the full dose of my SSRI. Within the next 3-4 weeks, I was finally feeling normal again. My irrational health fears significantly decreased, I was sleeping much better, and my mood was much improved. I even began experiencing some unexpected, yet welcome, “side effects” of taking an SSRI. I had a greater desire to be more social, felt more comfortable in social situations, and felt more easygoing. As I continued on my SSRI regimen, this all improved even more.

Letting Go of Stigma

From where I am today, having been taking my SSRI for more than 6 months, I can honestly say it was one of the best choices I have ever made for myself. Being considered an “influencer” in the wellness community, I got caught up in what I thought I should be doing to manage my anxiety/depression. I thought I should be healing the natural way, though therapy, meditation, deep breathing, proper diet and exercise. I feel sad for myself looking back to these thought processes. Anxiety/depression is a serious mental health disorder that cannot be taken lightly. I cannot stress enough how important it was to get the proper help I needed, and for me, that is in the form of medication. If you are in a similar position and non-medical remedies aren’t helping, I encourage you to explore medication options with your practitioner. There is no shame in needing medication to manage your mental health, and it truly can improve your quality of life.

My mental health journey and recovery from this period are far from over. Things are definitely not perfect, but they are consistently better. Right now, I am confident that medication is necessary for me to manage my mental health, but I’m not sure if one, five or ten years from now, that will be the case. Of course, I would love to reach a point where I no longer need it, but I will never push myself to go off without the proper consideration and guidance from my practitioners. Since last spring in the hospital, I have had a few periods of health anxiety. These periods really put me out of commission, because the fears take over my thoughts to the point where I can’t focus on anything else. This is something I want to work on through therapy, perhaps with a CBT specialist. I’ve been dragging my feet on finding a therapist since moving to Boston, but I’m using May as Mental Health Awareness month to motivate myself to do so.

I’ve been blessed to have an incredibly supportive group of people who help me every day, and I appreciate them so much more after experiencing this struggle. For anyone else reading today that struggles with mental health disorders, please know that you are not alone. There is help, you can feel better than this, and things will improve. Mental health disorders are so much more common than we think, and there needs to be more open discussion regarding mental health to get rid of the stigma attached. Thank you for listening to my story. If reading this helps just one person, I will feel like this post served its purpose.

If you are struggling, here are some resources to look at now. I encourage you to contact your doctor, tell somebody you trust, and voice your struggle. Help is available and it makes all the difference.

 

The Daisybeet 2018 Holiday Gift Guide!

Happy Holidays, friends! I absolutely love the holiday season – especially Christmas! I’m looking forward to cooking family recipes with my mom and spending time with my sisters who live in different cities.

I put together a little gift guide this year to share some of my favorite products with you guys! While it looks like my life revolves around food on Instagram (and let’s be honest, it pretty much does), I also enjoy other things, like finding new beauty products and interior decorating! I’ve been trying to live an uncluttered lifestyle since moving to Boston, so items I don’t use frequently get the boot. You can be sure I regularly use and love the items on this list, save for a few goodies that I don’t own, but have been coveting 🙂 I also included a wide price range, so many of these gifts are quite affordable!

What are you guys looking forward to most this holiday season?

1. Aerie Chill Seamless Sports Bra

I was given this as a birthday gift, and pretty much haven’t stopped wearing it since! It is THE most comfortable bra I own. I actually have not worked out in it – I wear it under regular clothes! It is definitely better suited for smaller chests and low impact workouts like yoga. I went to order more, but they were sold out in my size!

2. Dagne Dover Hunter Toiletry Bag

I also received this bag as a gift! I absolutely love it. It is the perfect size to hold all your skincare and makeup essentials for traveling. I love the smaller pouch it comes with – I’ve been using it to organize my purse!

3. Hu Kitchen Chocolate

One of my favorite chocolates to snack on after dinner. Each super dark flavor is delicious. My current fave is the crispy quinoa!

4. Aritzia Blanket Scarf

Those closest to me know that I’m always cold, which makes winters in the Northeast quite the challenge. I love layering this scarf under my jacket. It is super warm, covers your face, and can be used as a shawl or blanket if your destination is chilly. I use to bring this to the NYU library to study when I was a student there!

5. The Ordinary Rosehip Seed Oil

This is one of my recent beauty finds! I’ve been dealing with perioral dermatitis and very sensitive skin for the last 6 months or so. My usual cream moisturizer was no longer working for me, as it left my skin feeling stingy. My sister happened to have this product, and it’s been a total game changer. It’s pure rosehip seed oil, and is incredibly moisturizing. I use 5-6 drops on my face once or twice a day, and after every shower. It really sinks into my skin, so it doesn’t look or feel greasy, and I can easily layer my powder mineral foundation over it.

6. Himalayan Pink Salt Lamp

This is another gift I recently received, and I’m already in love! This Himalayan pink salt lamp is a gorgeous addition to our apartment – it looks like a giant crystal! I love that this lamp has a dimmer, so we can lower the lighting for movie night.

7. Resistance Band Loops

Resistance bands are one of my essentials for at-home or hotel room workouts. I bring these with me when I go visit my family on Martha’s Vineyard and work out in our yard. They take up no space in your suitcase, you can do so many moves with them and they can make your workout more challenging than using just your body weight.

8. Succulents

I’ve become such a plant mom since moving to Boston. We already have 11 pants at our place, and that number will be growing! A plant lover will always find room in their home for more plants – so a few pretty succulents would be a welcome gift. I follow Fairy Blooms on Instagram, and they have the most beautiful, unique succulents! You can also find them at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or local plant stores.

9. NutriBullet Balance

This is one of my new favorite kitchen tools. This blender connects to a smartphone app using Bluetooth. The base acts as a scale to measure the ingredients as you add them in real time, and calculates nutrition information of your blend. I think this is such an innovative learning tool for those people in your life who are looking to make some healthy lifestyle changes! PLUS, my friends at NutriBullet were so kind to offer you all a discount code. Get 20% off your order until December 19 using the code 'ALEX'.

10. Madewell Hoop Earrings

Because who doesn’t love getting pretty jewelry as a gift!? These hoop earrings are the perfect size – not too big, not too small, and super lightweight. I have sensitive ears – these are 14k gold-filled and don’t bother me!

11. Le Labo Santal 26 Candle

My favorite scent to wear, in candle form. I want my entire life to smell like Santal! I would love this to fill my home with this iconic scent.

12. Primal Palate Spices

I seriously use Primal Palate organic spice blends every day! Some of my favorites include adobo seasoning, seafood seasoning, and apple pie spice. They now have a Spice of the Month Club, which ships 3 spice blends quarterly. The perfect gift for the healthy chef in your life!

13. Magic Weighted Blanket

I LOVE my weighted blanket. They were developed to help with anxiety, stress and even Autism Spectrum Disorder. The weight mimics deep pressure touch, and is similar to a strong hug. As someone who struggles with anxiety, this tool was a welcome addition to my home, and it really helps me feel calm and grounded when I use it.

14. Glossier Boy Brow + Haloscope Duo

I don’t wear a lot of make-up, but these are two products I use regularly. I use Boy Brow every day to shape and add fullness to my brows, and use Haloscope to add a little bit of shimmer and dewy-ness when my complexion is looking a little “blah”. I have Boy Brow in brown and Haloscope in Quartz.

 

This post contains affiliate links, which helps keep Daisybeet running. I own and love each of the products with these links!

 

RD-Approved Costco Finds!

Oh, Costco. How many ways do I love you? The endless rows of giant versions of favorite foods, surprisingly great socks and sports bras, and of course, ALL the samples! I’ve always enjoyed going to Costco with my Mom as long as I can remember. Shopping + food sampling all in one? That’s definitely my idea of an afternoon well spent.

Some of my favorite Costco finds from growing up were the salty, M&M riddled trail mix, Nature Valley granola bars, and Cup-a-Noodles. Times have changed a little since I started paying attention to what I put in my body. Gone are the days of loading up the cart with sodium-laden, sugary foods. This past weekend, I was at my parent’s house helping my mom pack up for their upcoming move. We took a lunch break and went to Costco per my request. Buying in bulk/shopping wholesale can be difficult when shopping for a small household, but knowing your eating habits and purchasing longer lasting, not fresh items can be a really smart financial move. These items here fit seamlessly into mine and Ben’s eating habits,  so I wanted to share some of the best deals I found with you guys! I’ve also noted a range of ways to use each item so you’re able to have some variety in your meals, and make sure nothing goes to waste.

  1. Organic Frozen Berries: 3 pound bag for $8.89
  • This purchase was such a no brainer! Ben and I use frozen fruit regularly, plus frozen foods lasts a long time. I would have spent almost 20 dollars on 3 pounds of organic frozen berries at Whole Foods! I don’t always buy organic produce because of the cost, but strawberries are on the “Dirty Dozen” list, so I try to buy organic berries whenever possible.
  • Ways to use frozen berries: smoothies, berry-chia jam, as a topping for oatmeal or pancakes
  1. Fresh Produce: 1 pound clamshell of organic mixed greens for $3.69, 2 pounds of organic strawberries for $4.99, 6 avocados for $5.69
  • Purchasing produce at Costco can be tricky if you have a small household. This is where knowing your eating habits is essential! For me, I know that I eat a lot of greens each week, as I make big salads for lunch, and often like a bed of greens with my dinner. I also love fresh berries with my breakfast. Once the berries are on their last legs, I’ll make a batch of chia jam, or Ben will throw them into his morning smoothie. We also both love avocado, and will each easily eat half an avocado in a day.
  • Ways to use greens: salads, stir fries, green smoothies, add a few handfuls to homemade pesto, in omelets
  • Ways to use strawberries: smoothies, top oatmeal or yogurt bowls, sliced in pancakes, add to salads, mash onto toast in place of jam, berry-chia jam, muddle or puree and add to a cocktail (or mocktail)!
  • Ways to use avocados: sliced in salads or for sandwiches, avocado toast (duh), avocado egg salad, chocolate avocado mousse, guacamole, creamy garlic avocado pasta sauce, smoothies, a green goddess salad dressing
  1. RX Bars: 12 bars for $16.99 ($1.41 per bar)
  • These are one of my favorite on-the-go snacks to have on hand! I love how simple the ingredient list is, and these bars actually tide my hunger over, as they are a good source of both fiber and protein. Costco only sells a box with their Chocolate Sea Salt and Peanut Butter Chocolate, but those happen to be two of my favorite flavors. Also, this box of 12 is almost 10 dollars less expensive than a box of 12 on RX Bar’s website!
  1. Nuts: Various prices, didn’t see anything over $30 dollars for up to 48 oz
  • Nuts are one of the healthiest, nutrient-dense foods to include in your diet. Costco has a huge variety of different nuts and nut mixes. I usually opt for unsalted varieties to limit sodium consumption. While these bags and containers of nuts aren’t cheap, if you consume them regularly they are a good price compared to typical grocery store prices.
  • Ways to use nuts: on their own as a snack, make your own trail mix, in place of granola on a yogurt bowl, in pesto, blend your own nut butter, crunchy topping for salads and grain bowls, roasted with different spices, added to homemade granola
  1. Almond Flour: $11.99 for 3 pounds
  • This was such an exciting find for me! While I do not follow a gluten free diet, I like to use almond flour in healthier baked goods, because of all the beneficial nutrients it has compared to enriched wheat flour. Almonds and almond flour are high in protein, fiber, monounsaturated fats, magnesium and iron. I had just purchased a 1 pound bag of almond flour at Trader Joe’s for $7.99 the week before, so getting 2 pounds MORE for only 4 extra dollars was a steal!
  • Ways to use almond flour: all those yummy baked goods you have saved on Instagram, pancakes, homemade peanut butter cups, combined with crushed nuts to make a crust on baked fish
  1. Frozen Wild Sockeye Salmon Filets: $32.99 for 3 pounds
  • Last but not least, I found this large bag of wild frozen salmon! I love that the pieces are already pre-portioned and individually vacuum packed. I always choose wild salmon over farmed when it’s affordable, but buying it fresh can be SO expensive. Buying frozen seafood in general is a great way to save money. A 2 pound bag of wild frozen salmon at my Whole Foods was $24.99 for 2 pounds. That’s $12.50 a pound vs. 11 dollars a pound at Costco…great savings!
  • Ways to use frozen salmon: baked or pan fried with lemon juice and herbs, salmon tacos, salmon burgers, salmon egg sandwich, in place of tuna in tuna salad

Buying in bulk is certainly not for everyone, but I love it when I have the option! It definitely takes a little creativity and planning, but can save you money in the long run. I started Daisybeet to show you guys that healthy eating really can be affordable and attainable for all, and I hope I was able to help a little with this guide! I would love to hear your tips and tricks for wholesale shopping for small households, as well as your favorite Costco finds 🙂