Every week, usually Thursday or Friday, my husband and I plan our meals for the following week. We choose three meals, without a specific day in mind when we’ll make them, which gives us room for leftovers or unexpected events. We are pretty flexible, loosely scheduled people – so this works for us.
While the meals vary because I can’t have the same thing every week for dinner, there are some items on our list that don’t change. Since I like to leave wiggle room for the unexpected, there are pantry and fridge stocking items that I always try to include – just in case.
What follows are the items I make sure to have present as much as possible. They’re in no particular order, but I may have saved the best for last. 🙂
It is hard to keep whole food nutrition in mind during stressful times. Often it seems easier to rely on takeout and pizza delivery than cooking, but I want to share my favorite method for stress-free cooking – Brain Bowls!
I could call it the “throw it in a bowl” method of cooking, but it doesn’t have quite the ring to it. I love a good acronym, so I’ve broken down the word BRAIN to help you build your own easy, nutrient-dense, brain-fueling bowl.
Easy Brain Bowls
B – base of greens or grains. I like quinoa, rice, or chickpea pasta. When I don’t want the heavier carb load, I use kale or arugula. Spinach is a great option for those who can tolerate it as well!
R – rainbow of veggies. Sauté, roast, air fry… throw on some avocado oil, your favorite seasonings, and cook them to your preferred texture. It can be a mix of raw or cooked veggies. I always aim for a minimum of three different colors or types. Frequent flyers are bell peppers, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, white potatoes and sweet potatoes.
A – add your protein. Quality is important here to maximize nutrients. I love grass-fed ground beef, organic, pasture-raised chicken or eggs, or wild caught salmon or other fish.
I – include your favorite sauces, dressing, or spices. Stay away from any sauce/dressing that is made with vegetable, canola, or soybean oil. Those oxidize under high heat temps (like your digestive system), which sends free radical damage through your body – something your brain doesn’t need. I love Primal, Siete, Tessemae’s, and New Primal brands.
N – nuts or seeds for some crunch! I love throwing on pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, slivered almonds, chia seeds, etc. Get creative!
The best part of this recipe is that you don’t need to be a chef or even follow a recipe. The more comfortable you are with throwing things together, the more you’ll sustain it – and the more you’ll get more creative as you go!
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It’s back to school time – which means a time of heightened anxiety for some kids.
There are so many supportive tools to help with a “brain that is always awake” (to quote one of my children, when explaining his overactive, sensitive mind).
Because our calming neurotransmitters are formed in the gut, optimizing nutrition makes a huge impact on brain health, so it’s a bottom-up approach as well as top-down. Remember – if your child isn’t getting or digesting protein well, he or she may not be making the neurotransmitters they need for calming/stress relief. So sometimes a little support can help, but nutrition is key!
There are so many safe, evidence-based tools to help our children thrive during times of anxiety.
I take eating for my mental health seriously. I don’t prescribe to a specific diet or style of eating, but there are numerous studies out there showing that food IS mood. For those of us who fight a mood disorder of any kind, the way we eat can impact brain health.
Because our gut microbiome produces necessary neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA, plus 90% of our mood neurotransmitter serotonin, what we digest in our gut matters. What we feed our gut impacts what our brain receives.
Not all things will be digested equally by all people. Every BODY is unique, just like every brain is unique. But generally speaking, the foods I list here can be a wonderful addition to any body and brain!
Here are 5 of my favorite mood-boosters that I always try to add to my day:
Ali Miller is a registered dietitian, integrative functional medicine practitioner, and author of Naturally Nourished, The Anti-Anxiety Diet, and The Anti-Anxiety Diet Cookbook.
In this episode we discuss the concept of food as mood, how neurotransmitters play a role in gut health, and how your stress response affects your overall health – from mental wellness to reproductive function to immune health.
She explains the 6 approaches she takes to restoring our bodies to their rightful state, how to biohack our bodies and create metabolic flexibility – and simple tools to reducing panic and anxiety during times of stress.
Key topics covered in this episode:
Blood sugar regulation is key to balancing mood.
The imbalance of our stress response in the HPA axis and how “the body has to feel safe to do well.”
Reduce inflammation, reset the microbiome, repair the gut lining, restore micronutrients, rebound the adrenal glands, and rebalance neurotransmitters.
What excessive screen time does for our dopamine.
How 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut and why probiotics can be nature’s Prozac.
Breath is the most powerful way to harness the HPA axis and how to use mantras.
How she uses a strategic ketogenic approach with her clients and the reasons it has been beneficial for so many of them.
To download and listen to the full episode, click here. For the link to iTunes, click here.
Why in the world would I load my coffee up with fat? Does that sound weird and backwards to you?
Well, I’ve been doing it for almost two years now and it has changed my health in many ways. Here are some benefits I’ve noticed:
Less “hanger,” more blood sugar control
Decreased sugar cravings
More alert mentally
Able to practice intermittent fasting, which increases my BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor)
It gives my brain the right kind of healthy fat it NEEDS for optimal function
Also, it tastes really really good. Like my own homemade foamy latte.
When I start my day with a processed refined grain like cereal or a bagel or English muffin, which I did for many years, I would be hungry within a couple hours and my brain would be mush.
Starting my day with fat-fueled coffee (also known as “bulletproof coffee”) fills me up so I can prolong my brain-boosting fast, it provides butyrate and MCT oil for brain health, and it keeps my blood sugar from going crazy because I don’t need to sweeten it! I have energy throughout the day and I have a clear head to make more brain-nourishing nutritional choices.
Here’s the thing that throws people off – this IS intended to replace a meal. But listen to your body. If you are hungry right after, EAT! Fuel yourself with high quality animal protein, a healthy fat, and colorful fruits and veggies. Sometimes I prolong my fast by drinking my coffee this way, sometimes I’m ready to eat not long after. Every day is different, depending on the activity level.
This coffee is not intended to be a starvation/weight loss tool. It is just another option for those who are already drinking coffee and loading up on artificial flavors with creamers and sweeteners. Those will fail your blood sugar, every time.
This is an alternative that will make you feel good and provide health benefits. For so many, coffee provides the highest amount of polyphenols they will consume in a day. So let’s make it even better!