30 Day Healthy Living Challenge: Week 3- Let’s Talk About Gut Health

One of the biggest trends to hit the nutrition world in recent years is the study of gut health. As a matter of fact, the microbiome and probiotics are definitely on trend to become two of the biggest nutrition topics of 2017 (you heard it here first). That’s why I’m filling you in on the basics about gut health, what you need to know and how to keep your gut healthy and happy.

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Everything you need to know about gut health, including the best probiotics

Microbiome

This complicated-sounding term just refers to the collection of “good bacteria” within your body. I know what you’re thinking… “What’s a good bacteria?!” Although we tend to classify bacteria as harmful, our body actually needs several strains of bacteria to populate the gut and keep it functioning normally. The human body has about 1000 different strains of bacteria that make up the microbiome. These bacteria are mostly found in the gut, but they are also found on the skin and mouth.

What’s really fascinating is that everyone’s microbiome is unique (just like a snowflake). The Human Microbiome Project was established in 2008 by the National Institute for Health to characterize the strains in the human microbiome and understand their role in human health and disease.

To learn more, read my article on Food Network Healthy Eats:  Why Should You Care About The Microbiome?

Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that thrive in the microbiome and are thought to help the body maintain good digestive and immune health. We acquire probiotics through simple human contact, and the body does a good job of regulating its probiotic levels. But certain factors can put you at risk for probiotic imbalances, such as an unhealthy diet, stress, poor sleep habits or a harsh round of antibiotics.  When these imbalances happen, probiotics can be reintroduced to your system with supplements.

Probiotic Brands

First, it’s important to note that probiotics are supplements and are, therefore, not regulated by the FDA. That means that the FDA does not test probiotics to ensure that the supplements contain what they promise on the package.  However, several brands have undergone third party testing and are thought to be more reputable than others. When choosing a probiotic, try to go with the one that has the most live cultures and a variety of strains. These are the ones I suggest:

Renew Life Ultimate Flora– 50 billion live cultures and 10 strains per capsule

Garden of Life Raw Probiotics– billions of live cultures and upwards of 30 different strains

MegaFlora Probiotics: 20 billion live cultures and 14 strains

Tips For A Healthy Gut

How can you apply this newfound knowledge and actually create a healthier gut? Simple-just follow these tips!

  • Eat prebiotic rich foods, like fruits and vegetables
  • Eat probiotic rich foods, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid stress
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight

More Reading

I know this is a very complicated topic, and what I’ve provided here is only an overview. That’s why I’ve compiled some extra reading on this topic from myself and other Dietitians. And, as always, feel free to contact me with questions.

Here’s What Happened When I Took A Probiotic for 30 Days (Food Network Healthy Eats)

Should You Take A Probiotic? (Toby Amidor Nutrition)

Why Probiotic Supplements & Probiotic Foods Support More Than Digestion (Hungry Hobby)

Why You Need To Feed Your Gut With Prebiotic Flora (Hungry Hobby)

Do Probiotic Products Live Up To Their Promises (Sonima by Amy Gorin, MS, RD)

Is Your Gut Microbiome Affecting Your Health (Erica Julson)

5 Good-For-Your-Gut Ways To Use Sauerkraut (Well & Good)

 

 

Become A Runner In 6 Easy Steps

I started running at the ripe old age of 30. Trying a new sport as a full-grown adult is definitely not an easy feat. For example, I learned to ski at the age of 4, and the muscle memory is so ingrained in me that my legs effortlessly glide down a mountain without much thought. On the contrary, running wasn’t and still isn’t like that for me. Every training step takes thought, energy and effort, and I still struggle to find my groove some days. But I can honestly say that picking up running was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I truly believe that every person can become a runner if they so desire. For anyone who is thinking of picking up the sport, I’m sharing 6 steps to make the transition a little easier.

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6 easy steps to become a runner

1. Just start. You’re probably expecting a better tip than “just do it”, but, seriously, the first step is lacing up your sneakers and getting out the door. Almost anyone can run a few steps, and that’s exactly where you should start. Keep this in mind–no matter how much you do on your first day, it’s still more than you did the day before.

2. Start slowly and steadily. When I was in grammar school, I had to run a mile as part of the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. All of my classmates would line up at the start and take off in an all-out sprint. Needless to say, I ended up exhausted within the first few minutes, and I decided then and there that I HATED.

Now, I’ve realized that my conclusion about running was wrong because I was doing it wrong. Of course I ended up gassed out after taking off at top speed—and that would surely happen to me today if I did the same thing. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from long distance running, it’s to start slow. And I mean REALLY slow. When you’re first starting out, run at a pace that feels almost too slow and continue to do so for as long as you can. You may be surprised that you can run for longer than you thought.

3. Don’t be afraid to walk. ‘Walk’ is definitely a dirty little four-letter word among runners, but it shouldn’t be! I love to take walk breaks, especially during a long run. Taking some time to walk helps your legs recover, which allows you to run longer and eventually increases your endurance. If you set out to run 2 miles and you need to walk ½ mile to achieve that goal, do it. No one has to know.

4. Seek out support. During my marathon training, my boyfriend Bill encouraged me to run almost daily. He would ask, “How many miles today?” After a while, I nicknamed him “coach”. Now, after the marathon, he still takes a look at the weather and tells me whether or not it’s a good day for me to run. I must admit that some days I wanted to ignore him and blow off my run, but I rarely did and I always felt great afterwards. Maybe you don’t have a “coach” at home, but you can easily find a support system from a local runner’s group or a friend in your area who also wants to try running.

5. Know your nutrition. Figuring out what my stomach can tolerate has been one of the most challenge aspects of my running routine. I’m a big eater of fiber-filled veggies and beans and lots of spices, but I will end up with terrible stomach issues if I eat that stuff before a long run. There are so many nuances of what to eat when, and it’s definitely an important thing to figure out. For some tips, readWhat To Eat Before A Gym Session”.

6. Get the right running shoes. You know those cute lightweight sneakers that everyone wears at the gym? Those are TERRIBLE for running. I started running in those, and thank goodness I switched to running shoes. If you are serious about becoming a runner, I would suggest going to a sports store and talking to a knowledgeable sales rep about shoes. Some stores even put you on a treadmill to determine the right shoe for you. Trust me, it’s worth it. The first time I found the right shoes, I felt like I was running on pillows.

Lastly, my friend Tina Gowin Carlucci, RDN wrote this awesome post about things she wish she knew before becoming a runner. Check it out!

30 Day Healthy Living Challenge: 5 Ways To Motivate For Winter Exercise

I don’t know about you, but my family likes to EAT over the holidays. I’m talking about red wine, antipasti, lasagna, cannolis and much more for three days straight (yes, we even do something on the 26th). When January 1st hits, I am more than ready to tone down the heavy eating and enjoy some healthy food. That’s why I made the first week of the 30-Day Healthy Living Challenge all about cooking and provided you with over 50 healthy and easy breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner recipes.

But even though I definitely overindulged during the holidays, I consistently kept up my exercise routine. I ran 5 miles on Christmas morning and continued running, doing yoga and even went skiing the week between Christmas and New Years. Exercising doesn’t give you free license to eat whatever you want, but it sure does make you feel good. This week, I’m encouraging you to exercise in any capacity. Whether it’s taking a snowy walk, hitting an exercise class or practicing  yoga, find an exercise routine that you enjoy and makes you feel good.

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5 Motivation Tips For Winter Exercise

Having said that, I realize that it’s winter and it’s much more enticing to bundle up in a warm sweater and sweat than to put on your exercise gear and get in a workout. That’s why I’ve come up with 5 tips to keep you motivated for exercise this winter. 

  1. Make a plan and set a goal. These two things go hand in hand. I can’t tell you the amount of times that someone tells me they have a goal, but they don’t have a plan to achieve that goal. For instance, let’s say your goal is to do 100 pushups but you can only do 5 right now. How are you going to get from 5 to 100? How many times a week will you practice your push-ups? Do you know the correct push-up form so that you avoid injury? Instead of focusing on the goal, focus on the plan to achieve your goal. Maybe you start with 5 push-ups per day and add 5 push-ups to the set each week until you reach 100. Be realistic and start small.
  2. Put on your workout clothes right away. If you workout after work like I do, change into your workout clothes before you leave work or as soon as you get home. Do NOT put on comfy clothes and expect to hit the gym an hour later. Or if you workout in the morning, put on your workout clothes as soon as you wake up. It’s a simple change, but I promise it works wonders.
  3. Indulge in an afternoon caffeine pick-me-up. Having a 1pm cup of coffee or tea gives provides an extra jolt for an afternoon workout. Caffeine has been shown to boost athletic performance (read: the truth about coffee and your health), so grab your coworkers and take an afternoon coffee break.
  4. Listen to something interesting while working out. With all the technology available  now, you are no longer limited to listening to only music during your workout. Download your favorite podcast, an awesome audiobook or a new album, and don’t let yourself listen to it until you start exercising. You will look forward to exercise, instead of dreading it.
  5. Workout at home. Two days ago, we got about 3-5 inches of snow in NYC. I couldn’t run outside for fear of falling, and I didn’t want to go to the crowded gym, so I did an online yoga video. The web is full of free and paid workout-at-home videos. Here are a few of my favorites:

POPSUGAR Fitness (free on YouTube)

Fitness Blender (free on YouTube)

Body Fit By Amy (free on YouTube)

YogaGlo ($18/month and totally worth it. Over 3,500 classes taught by awesome instructors)

Daily Burn ($14.95/month)

Grokker ($14.99/month)

30-DAY HEALTHY LIVING CHALLENGE: GET COOKING Lunch & Dinner

Although January (aka the sequel) just begun, I’m throwing another healthy living challenge your way. I hope you are feeling extra motivated this week and have already tested out your pots and pans making a delicious breakfast or snack.  Now that you’ve gotten reacquainted with your kitchen, it’s time to whip up a healthy lunch or dinner.

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25 healthy and easy lunch and dinner recipes from nutritionalanatalie.com

Why bother spending the time to cook? Many reasons, including:

  • You know what ingredients go into your meal, and you can omit the more calorie, sugar and salt heavy foods
  • Cooking is cheaper than take-out
  • It’s better for the environment–no unnecessary takeout containers and plastic utensils
  • Having a home cooked meal is a great family bonding time
  • You may actually like to cook!
  • You will be completing the first week in the 30-Day Healthy Living Challenge!

So, let’s get cooking with 25 of the easiest and healthiest recipes around!

Lunch

Chickpea Salad Sandwich 4

Chickpea Salad Sandwich by Nutrition à la Natalie

How To Build The Perfect Plant Power Bowl by Fitful Focus

mason jar salad

Salad In A Jar by Nutrition by Nazima

Mexican Taco Salad by …and a Dash of Cinnamon

kale salad with apples, pears, cheddar cheese, toasted almonds

Winter Kale Salad by Nutrition à la Natalie

Turkey Avocado BLT Salad by Nutrition Starring You 

creamy chicken soup

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Chili by The Fit Cookie

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad by One Hungry Bunny 

Rainbow Grain Bowl 2Rainbow Grain Bowl by Nutrition à la Natalie

Healthy Tuna Salad by Shaw’s Simple Swaps

Dinner

Vegan Tacos with California Walnuts overhead

Vegan Tacos with California Walnuts

One Pan Salmon by Bite Of Health Nutrition

salsa chicken bean tostada

Salsa Chicken and Bean Tostadas by Aggie’s Kitchen

Ravioli Zucchini Casserole by My Menu Pal

pasta with swiss chard walnut pesto

Pasta with Swiss Chard Walnut Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes by RDelicious Kitchen

Vegetable Fried Rice by Amy Gorin Nutrition

Black Bean Quinoa Casserole by Courtney’s Cookbook

weeknight chicken curry

Weeknight Chicken Curry by Food Pleasure & Health

Black Bean Tacos with Mango Salsa by Nutrition by Lauren

Lemon Chicken & Veggies Foil Packet by Your Choice Nutrition

chicken cacciatore

Quick & Easy Chicken Cacciatore by The Food Physician

5-Ingredient Orange Maple Salmon  by Nutritoulicious

quinoa sweet potatoes

Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes by C It Nutritionally

Black Bean Soup with just Two Ingredients from Mom’s Kitchen Handbook

Spicy Fish Tacos with Mango Jalapeno Salsa by Nutrition Pro Consulting

 

 

30-Day Healthy Living Challenge- Week 1: Get Cooking

And so it begins. You went out last night and had your fun and now it’s time to “get back on track” and eat healthy. Although you may be dreading it, I’m going to give you the tools to make healthy eating a way of life, rather than the most hated 4 letter word– a “diet”.

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25 healthy and easy breakfast and snack recipes

For the first week of The 30-Day Healthy Living Challenge, I’m challenging you to spend some time in your kitchen and try your hand at cooking. (Read: 5 Reasons You Should Cook)

The first challenge is to make one breakfast and one snack from the recipes below. Consuming a hearty, protein filled breakfast and snacking throughout the day will prevent you from feeling ravenous during the day and overeating junk food.

For your first challenge, I asked my Registered Dietitians friends for their easiest breakfast and snack recipes. The result is a wonderful compilation of 25 healthy and simple recipes that you can make any time of the year.

Breakfast

Papaya and yogurt parfait. A healthy breakfast or snack

Papaya Parfait by Nutrition à la Natalie (pictured above)

Ricotta Berry Oatmeal Cups by Nutritioulicious

Chia Coconut Pudding by Real Food Real Deals

sweet potato pie parfait

Sweet Potato Pie Greek Yogurt Parfait by Shaw’s Simple Swaps (pictured above)

Easy Egg Muffins by Food Confidence

Chia Walnut Pineapple Parfait by Dietitian Jess

4 Protein Packed Ways To Make Overnight Oats by Hungry Hobby

Egg White Quinoa Omelette Bites by Kroll’s Korner

lipton-green-tea-ginger-overnight-oats-by-emily-kyle-nutrition-4-e1479210282438

Green Tea & Ginger Overnight Oats by Emily Kyle Nutrition (pictured above)

2 Ingredient Protein Pancakes by 80Twenty Nutrition

Egg Salad Breakfast Flatbread by Robin Plotkin

Apple Pie Overnight Oats by RDelicious Kitchen

Winter Breakfast Quinoa Salad by The Nutrition Adventure

stuffed-cantaloupe-breakfast

Cantaloupe Breakfast Bowl by The Spicy RD (pictured above)

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Chia by Nutrition Starring You

egg-sandwich

One Pan Egg Sandwich by Mom’s Kitchen Handbook (pictured above)

Sungold Kiwi Baked Oatmeal by Nutrition à la Natalie

Egg Avocado Breakfast Tacos by Marisa Moore

Snacks

roasted crunchy salt and pepper chickpeas

Crunchy Chickpeas Two Ways by Nutrition à la Natalie  (pictured above)

Peanut Butter Banana Cookies by Marisa Moore

ranch-popcorn

Ranch Popcorn (pictured above)

Savory Curry Granola Bars by FANNEtastic Food

cinnamon roasted almonds

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds by Nutrition à la Natalie  (pictured above)

Snow White Dip with Crudite by Cape Fear Nutrition

healthy popcorn with spices

Spicy Cocoa Popcorn by Nutrition à la Natalie  (pictured above)

Check back on Wednesday, January 4th for the easiest healthy lunch and dinner recipes around! And don’t forget to like, comment or share this post on the blog or social media to be entered into the giveaway!