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.


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


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 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.


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- 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”.


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.


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


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


Cantaloupe Breakfast Bowl by The Spicy RD (pictured above)

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Chia by Nutrition Starring You


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


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 (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!



It’s Back! The 30 Day Healthy Living Challenge, Part 2

I don’t know about you, but I love a good sequel. That’s why I’m bringing The 30 Day Healthy Living Challenge back for part 2! And just like any sequel, this year promises to be bigger and better than the first year.

Pin this for later!

a healthy living challenge in january of 2017 with weekly challenges and a giveaway

For those of you just tuning in, don’t fret. Unlike movie sequels, you didn’t need to see the first one to participate in the second one. Let me quickly fill you in on what you missed. In the beginning of 2016, I created The 30 Day Healthy Living Challenge with the goal of teaching healthy habits that would lay the foundation for a healthful lifestyle. Each day in January, I challenged readers to make a small and simple change that would all add up to creating more wholesome habits. You can see all of the challenges here, but some of the most popular ones were trying out Meatless Monday, skipping the added sugar, and eating the recommended daily amount of fruits and veggies.

This year, I’m changing things up a bit. Rather than posting every day, I will post 5 weekly challenges. Each challenge will have an overarching theme, and you will have a week to learn about a topic and implement small lifestyle changes. By having a week for each challenge, you will have more time to settle into your new habit. Here are the weekly themes:

Week 1 (1/1-1/7) Get Cooking-– I will share very quick and easy (Dietitian approved) recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

Week 2 (1/8 – 1/14) Change Up Your Exercise Routine— There are so many new and exciting ways to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. This week, learn about staying active and figure out what type of exercise is right for you so that you can stay active throughout the year.

Week 3 (1/15-1/21) Banish Tummy Problems For Good— Mark my words…One of the most popular nutrition trends of 2017 will be to learn more about gut and digestive health. I can’t wait to teach you about this important topic and challenge you to make some minor changes that will drastically improve your digestive health.

Week 4 (1/22-1/28) Have A Healthy Heart-– February is American Heart Month, and we are celebrating early by learning about cholesterol, blood pressure, foods that contribute to heart disease and nutrients that help maintain heart health.

Week 5 (1/29- 1/31) Embrace Mindful Eating— For this short week, we will focus on mindful eating practices that will help you feel more in control of your eating habits and get a firm grasp on your unhealthy eating habits.

Why should you follow along for the month?

  • It’s a FREE challenge.
  • It’s not a diet. Although I know that many of you want to lose weight in 2017, I don’t like to focus on weight loss. Instead, I encourage you to build healthy habits that will inspire you to live a healthier and happier life (and maybe lose some weight in the process).
  • There is a GIVEAWAY at the end of the month! Follow along for the entire month, and there will be a prize at the end. All you need to do is like, comment or share the challenge throughout and you will be entered into the giveaway.
  • You will definitely learn something. Even if creating healthier habits isn’t on your radar this year, you should follow along if you want to learn something about cooking, exercise, gut health, heart health or mindful eating.

So who’s ready for the sequel, opening January 1st? To get weekly updates delivered to your inbox, sign up here:


Reflections on the 30-Day Challenge + A Survey

I wanted to take a minute to reflect on the 30-Day Healthy Living Challenge. The purpose of this challenge was to inspire everyone to eat a little bit healthier and try some new things.  As I said in the beginning, one lucky person that followed along with the challenge will win either 3 free nutrition counseling sessions or cooking classes.  To choose a winner, I put the names of all the people who have commented on my blog and social media sites in a hat.  The more you commented, the more times your name was entered.  The winner is not surprising.  This person followed along and commented almost every single day…

Congratulations Donna Fletcher! You have won the 30-Day Healthy Living Challenge.  Donna completed almost every day of the challenge, lost weight and made some significant life changes.  Thanks for following along, and I look forward to helping you one-on-one. Eat a treat today (like this small one) to celebrate!

 This challenge was definitely a new experience for me. I learned a few things along the way that I wanted to share with you:

  • A 14-day challenge probably may have been more effective.  Whenever I counsel people, I advise them to implement a change for two weeks.  Fourteen days is short enough that you won’t feel overwhelmed, but long enough for a change to become a new habit. Thirty days was a great way to get you through the first month of New Year’s Resolutions, but many people lost steam after the second week.
  • My posts weren’t as detailed as normal.  Usually, I take a decent amount of time to write, edit and then edit again.  Posting everyday sometimes required me to write posts on my phone, on vacation or right before bed. I always try to explain why I’m asking you to do things, but I just didn’t have the energy or time to do that everyday.
  • You are starving for knowledge. I received so many great questions during this challenge.  People asked if honey is different than sugar and if pink sea salt is better than regular salt. These questions gave me a chance to interact with my readers and also find out what you want to learn.  Expect to see more posts based on your questions in the future.
  • Little changes make the biggest difference. I believe in a counseling style that includes small, realistic changes.  During counseling sessions, I try to get a sense of your lifestyle and eating habits, and we work together to make changes that fit your daily life.  I always start with small changes, like I did in this challenge, and then we build to bigger ones.  I love this style, and this challenge proved that it works.

I would love to hear what worked for you and what isn’t working for you. This quick 5 question survey will allow me to take your feedback into account and build a blog and nutrition practice that is suited to your needs.  I would REALLY appreciate it if you take 1 minute to fill it out.  It will help me create content that you would like to see (that’s one of the questions) and create more challenges and educational tools that will help you live a healthier life.

Click here for the survey. 

Thanks for following!