Growing up, my family never had turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.. or ham, or stuffing, or green bean casserole, or sweet potato pie. Man, you were deprived, you’re probably thinking. On the contrary, I think my family’s tradition of having seafood on Thanksgiving beat any turkey dinner by a long shot. You see, I grew up with parents that didn’t eat red meat or pork, therefore, we ate a lot of seafood, chicken, and you guessed it, turkey. Turkey wasn’t necessarily a “special” meal for us. Our Thanksgiving dinner instead included delicious lobsters steamed to perfection, colossal stone crab claws as fresh as you can get, and all the clams you could eat. Over the years, the meal morphed with new additions to the menu, like king crab claws, my mom and younger brother’s favorite.
I’ve always said that my “last meal” would be stone crab. You know, like if I was ever on death row or something. This is a scenario you’ve thought about too, right? I can’t be sure if I love stone crab so much because it reminds me of childhood, the holidays, or if it’s just really that damn delicious that it brings such fond memories to my mind and drool to my lips. I also think my parents used it as a bribery technique to get me to come home for the holidays when I was in college.
To me, seafood says family, it says holidays, it says special. It doesn’t matter if you’re making it on a mundane Monday night or for Thanksgiving dinner, incorporating seafood into your meal gives it that extra touch of love. People often tell me that they’d like to eat more seafood, but they just don’t know where to start. It seems that most people realize that seafood has numerous health benefits, but might not know exactly what those benefits are. Let’s discuss:
Benefits of Eating Seafood
Omega-3 fatty acids aka healthy fats
Low in saturated fat
Adds variety to your diet
When Searching for Seafood in your Grocery Store, Choose:
Frozen Varieties: Whether you’re buying shrimp, a fish filet, or scallops, frozen varieties are usually a less expensive option than fresh, and just as delicious. You can also buy a larger quantity of frozen and keep it in your freezer at home, whereas fresh seafood should be cooked as soon as possible. I have frozen scallops, shrimp, and salmon in my freezer at all times. Not to mention they thaw super fast! Canned varieties of seafood are also a nutritious and budget-friendly option, like chunk light tuna or anchovies.
US Seafood: The United States has strict guidelines on raising fish including antibiotic use, which is why I would recommend US seafood over all others. International fish farms may not be held to the high standards that we would expect here. You can read Consumer Reports research on the contamination rates of foreign and domestic seafood and about certain labels that might help you make better choices of shrimp.
Wild Varieties: It’s a debatable topic on whether to choose wild or farm-raised seafood. Issues of cost, contamination, nutrition, and sustainability are at the forefront of this topic. If however, budget isn’t a concern for you or perhaps you eat seafood more than twice weekly, choose the wild varieties, like “Wild Alaskan Salmon.” Wild fish eat food that nature intended them to eat, while it can be a mystery as to what farm-raised fish are eating. There are, however, places like Whole Foods Market who pride themselves on sourcing only high quality farm-raised seafood, verified by a third-party.
Low Mercury Varieties: It’s important to choose low-mercury seafood due to the damaging effects mercury has on the nervous system. This is especially important for children, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. Some of the fish to avoid include: shark, tilefish, swordfish, Ahi and Albacore tuna, and king mackerel. High mercury fish tend to be large fish, which spend most of their lives eating smaller fish and accumulating mercury in the process. Low mercury options of seafood include: salmon, catfish, shrimp, tilapia, cod, light or skipjack tuna, oysters, sardines, crab, and trout.
Seafood for Children, Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women
These guidelines come from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) concurs:
Eat 2-3 servings a week (8 to 12 ounces in total) of a variety of fish.
Do not eat raw or under-cooked seafood.
Avoid high mercury fish.
Where To Start
Start with something easy, a piece of salmon. Already feeling intimidated? Don’t! The salmon I buy is Wild Alaskan, boned, frozen, individually-wrapped center-cut filets with the skin on. If you prefer to go to the fish counter and get it fresh, ask for a center cut filet. They’ll even remove the skin for you if you’d like. While I don’t eat the skin, I like to cook my salmon skin-side-down, as I find it keeps the salmon moist by locking in the juices, (and the skin is very easy to remove after it’s cooked anyways).
I’m about to share with you my absolute favorite way to eat salmon. This is a recipe you can make for your family time and time again throughout the year, or you can save it for special occasions. It’s both simple and fancy, perfect for kids and company alike.
Pistachio & Goat Cheese Salmon
4 salmon filets, about 4-6 ounces each
1/4 cup roughly chopped pistachios, plus more as desired
1- 5oz package of goat cheese
Pinch of fresh or dried dill
Drizzle (about 1 Tbsp) of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Thaw salmon, if frozen, under running room temperature water or in the fridge overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Drizzle olive oil over salmon to coat evenly, on all sides.
Season salmon generously with salt and pepper, as well as any other seasonings you like, such as garlic powder, paprika, etc.
In a bowl, add goat cheese and dill then use a fork to combine.
Add half of the pistachios to goat cheese mixture and stir (save the other half for later).
Place your salmon filets, skin-side-down in a baking dish, with at least 1/2 inch space between pieces.
Evenly distribute goat cheese mixture to the top of each salmon filet.
Sprinkle the remaining pistachios on top. (Don’t worry if some pistachios fall onto the edges of the dish, these will roast and become crispy and delicious).
Bake salmon for about 15-18 minutes, until fish flakes with fork. (If you did not thaw salmon and are cooking frozen, cook for 28-32 minutes).
Hello second trimester! Since I announced my pregnancy back on Halloween, I’ve received so many sweet messages from old friends and new, sharing their story with me. I’ve heard stories of struggle and loss, but also stories of hope and happiness. I’ve even learned of several newly pregnant friends who are excited to venture this journey together. Whatever your story, it’s beautiful and unique, and makes you who you are. I know my personal struggle has shown me what dark days can look like. It’s also shown me how breathtakingly beautiful the sunrise is on the other side.
If you read my previous post about how I was feeling during my first trimester then you know that I was nauseous… a lot. Due to this, I survived on bagels, pretzels, and fruit, carbs galore. I also made my coco-nut date balls occasionally, as a convenient and delicious snack between meals. I drank a lot of San Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral water (the plain one in the green glass bottle), because the carbonation helped to settle my stomach a bit.
During my first trimester, as I always have, I really enjoyed roasted vegetables, especially if they were smothered with minced garlic. My go-to vegetables to roast were cauliflower and sweet potatoes. I just love the delicate flavor of cauliflower, drizzled with olive oil, minced garlic, and sprinkled with a generous pinch of sea salt, roasted to perfection until a crunchy golden edge appears on each floret. I enjoyed the roasted sweet potatoes more than usual, possibly due to the exorbitant amount of ketchup I used when eating them, a condiment I rarely use at home. I also enjoyed sweet potatoes in a grain bowl like the one below, simple, colorful, nutritious, and delicious.
The first few months of pregnancy can often put you in survival mode. Just a few more weeks, I would tell myself, because the glorious second trimester is when women often start to feel like themselves again. Even during the days when I was feeling blah (yup, that adequately describes it), I would remind myself to be thankful. I was so thankful for that feeling because it meant things were happening, good things. No matter how crappy I felt, I knew there was a woman out there that would trade anything to be in my position, with a healthy growing baby inside her belly.
There were a few items that I used time and time again over the past few months, and continue to use regularly. Things I highly recommend you have at home while surviving thriving in the mysterious first trimester include:
A Body Pillow I’ll be honest, I wanted to buy one of those huge fancy pregnancy pillows but decided that 1. they were expensive and 2. we have no storage for it after I have this baby, thank you apartment life. Instead, I opted for a body pillow and I love it. Before I bought this pillow, I would use a regular pillow and just put it between my legs to help align my hips while I was sleeping, since I’m typically a side-sleeper. A regular pillow is not long enough to support, not only my legs, but also my feet and top arm. Since it’s recommended that pregnant women sleep on their side starting at 20 weeks, I realize that a pillow is crucial for hip, and eventually, belly support throughout the entire second half of pregnancy. It could also be helpful to have behind you if you tend to roll onto your back when sleeping, as it will help prevent this by acting like a wedge between you and the bed. Find a similar pillow here, for all you Amazon junkies.
Crane Cool-Mist Humidifier This humidifier is not only adorable (we have Lily the Ladybug), but its also super high quality, easy to clean, and very effective. Why do you need a humidifier? Humidifiers help to keep the air moist which makes breathing easier, especially if you have congestion, runny nose, cough, cold or flu. We lose moisture through our skin so a humidifier can help to keep skin smooth and reduce dryness. Moist air is also really important for newborns, as they breathe out of their nose when they sleep and eat. While I typically put the humidifier in Laurel’s room at the first sign of a stuffy nose, I had it right next to me in bed during my first trimester. With this and the sinus rinse I mention below, my congestion cleared up in record time.
NeilMed Sinus Rinse When I say that this simple little device has saved my life, I mean it. It’s actually saved me on many occasions, including during my pregnancy with Laurel. I’m not sure if it’s just the time of year that I get pregnant or if it’s the pregnancy itself, but I tend to get very congested in the first trimester. I end up having to breathe out of my mouth at night and then feel sinus pressure during the day. If you suffer from frequent sinus infections and are looking for a natural alternative to treat them, get this rinse and get it now. I’ve avoided antibiotics on multiple occasions being diligent with this product. At the first sign of a sinus infection, I start using it every morning and my symptoms eventually go away. Magic.
A Pea In The Pod Splendid maternity leggings
Lululemon Align pants
A Pea In The Pod Splendid Maternity Leggings My dad actually gave these to me as a gift when I was pregnant with Laurel. He’s the type of guy to walk into a store and ask the salesperson for the most popular outfit so he can buy it and leave as soon as possible. I’m glad he’s that way because these leggings are a dream! I’ve already started wearing them again this pregnancy, so they more than pay for themselves over time. I actually just ordered them in the charcoal color because you can’t have too many pairs of leggings, right?! For exercise during pregnancy, I only wear Lululemon Align crops or pants. While not technically “maternity” pants, they feel like butter on your skin and don’t squeeze at the waist. Come to think of it, I love them pregnant or not!
Earth Mama Organics Belly Butter and Belly Oil Some say that stretch marks are genetic, some say that they’re due to lack of hydration, some say they can be prevented while others say they cannot. I’m not sure what the right answer is, but what I do know is that there are little things you can do that might help prevent them. One of those little things include rubbing Earth Mama Organics Belly Butter and Belly oil all over your growing belly. Not only does this lotion and oil feel so smooth going onto my skin, but they smell delicious, and I know they’re completely natural and safe for me and my babe. As your belly grows bigger and skin starts to stretch, your belly could have the tendency to itch. Enter belly oil. This hydrating and moisturizing oil calms itchy skin. I find myself rubbing these on my chest and arms as well because they’re just so yummy. I love and trust these products and look forward to sharing more from this brand with you.
I found out I was pregnant on August 27th when I took a home pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe my eyes to see two lines! It was three days before I was expecting my period so I don’t know what compelled me to take a test, (well, I take that back- if you’ve ever been “trying” then you know the waiting game is so tough). The second line on the test was very faint, but it was there! When Ryan got home that day, he was playing a puzzle game with Laurel on the floor in our living room. I sat down across from them and said, “So today I did a thing.” Ryan looked at me and said “You took a pregnancy test?” and I just stared at him with a goofy smile as tears welled up in both of our eyes. He asked, “It was positive?” and I said “Yes!” We both stood up and gave each other the biggest hug.
I called my doctor the next day and she ordered blood work which I had done that day. It was confirmed, I was pregnant! I went back two days later to make sure my HCG levels were rising appropriately and, to our relief, they were. Phew. I was pregnant and it was an incredible feeling.
If you're currently trying to get pregnant, you'll appreciate these TMI details. If you're not sure why I'm sharing this information or you're thinking to yourself, "This is TMI" then go ahead and skip on to the next section. I want to add that I'm not a doctor, I'm just sharing my personal experience in hopes that it can be helpful for someone trying to get pregnant.
I was testing for ovulation using these strips and got a positive on CD15, (which means that I likely ovulated 24-48 hours following that positive). I assumed that I ovulated the next day, on CD16, which was "normal" for me since my cycles are typically 30 days. I want to note here that the fertility app I was using did not accurately predict when I ovulated, which is something to keep in mind if you've been trying for a while.
Toward the end of the month, (CD27, 11DPO and 3 days before my projected period), I took a pregnancy test and got a positive, a very very faint positive but nonetheless, it was positive!
The next day (CD28, 12DPO, 2 days before my projected period) I had my HCG level checked and it was 26. Although an HCG of 26 technically meant pregnant, it was on the lower end, which made me very nervous. My HCG was checked again 48 hours later and it was up to 92! This was a great sign since you typically want to see it double every 48 hours.
I continued to take pregnancy tests almost daily (overkill, I know) until I was 4 weeks + 5 days pregnant, since that day the test strip on the pregnancy test was finally as dark as the control line. The lines were progressively getting darker each day (a good sign that HCG is rising) but had never actually matched the control and it was driving me crazy.
CD = cycle day
DPO = days past ovulation
HCG = the "pregnancy" hormone
(Warning: I write about my previous miscarriage which might be a trigger for some people)
You might be wondering why my doctor ordered an HCG level to confirm my pregnancy. HCG is the “pregnancy hormone” (a level of 25 = pregnant) and you want to see it double about every 48 hours. You’re probably thinking, my doctor didn’t check that. So what’s the deal? Well, in March of this year I found out I was pregnant! Ryan and I were ecstatic, as it was a baby conceived the first month after my period returned from giving birth to Laurel (about 10 months postpartum). We were actually in Aruba at the time so we joked that we might have to name the baby Aruba, chuckle. Anyways, this was truly a miracle because we had traveled a long, stressful road to conceive Laurel. Needless to say, we felt very lucky this time around.
Our luck took a turn for the worst when I went in to have blood work done, they checked my HCG, and I received a call from my doctor four days later telling me that the numbers weren’t looking good and I would likely miscarry. Heart. Broken. From that day on, I was in and out of the doctor’s office almost every other day for more blood work and ultrasounds. Oddly, my blood work wasn’t reassuring but it was also keeping hope alive, which put me in a really weird place emotionally. I didn’t know whether to feel sad or happy, hopeful or hopeless. You see, my HCG levels were rising, but not as fast or as high as they should have been. We couldn’t really see anything on the ultrasound but my doctor kept telling me it was probably just too early. Until one of the last ultrasounds, we actually saw a gestational sac, a very good sign! That hope was crushed the next day when I started bleeding, at 7 1/2 weeks pregnant. I knew what this bleeding meant. Although I bled in the first trimester with Laurel, when I started bleeding this time, it felt different.
That miscarriage really rocked my world. At that time and the time following it, I felt that I didn’t properly grieve my loss. I was numb during the weeks in and out of the doctor’s office since I truly didn’t know how to feel. I wanted to just allow myself to be happy and hopeful, but I couldn’t help but guard my heart from potential bad news. It hurts me to type this now, but I don’t know how else to explain the feeling of, dare I say, relief, when I started bleeding and I was no longer in this emotional limbo. I was able to just let go of the hope. Because I went from being emotionally numb to then relieved, I felt this looming grief that I didn’t know how to deal with. It wasn’t until I received a gift in the mail, a gift more meaningful than I can really explain, that I was able to purge my emotions and confront my feelings head on. I’ll explain more about this gift in another post.
Baby #2 is due May 8th 2019, (12 days after Laurel turns 2!)
4-5 weeks: I would feel a dull ache in my lower abdomen that was pretty constant. This ache was different than cramps, as it wasn’t painful. I also felt slightly bloated in that same area, sort of like an “impending period” feeling. I would wake up in the middle of the night some nights wide awake. I’m not sure if this was due to excitement or the pregnancy, is pregnancy insomnia a thing?
6-12 weeks: When I opened my eyes the morning of week 6, I felt nauseous. The nausea was constant, 24/7 for the next 6 weeks. It was ironic because I remember complaining to Ryan when we first found out I was pregnant that “I didn’t feel anything.” Boy would I soon eat my words. I basically felt like I was in a constant state of being hungover, minus the fun stories from the night before. The nausea subsided during week 12 and it was a miraculous feeling.
We had our first ultrasound when I was 6 weeks + 5 days pregnant and we were able to see and hear the baby’s heartbeat! It was magical and healthy at 136 bpm. This ultrasound wasn’t standard but my doctor agreed to get me in early for reassurance, given my history of the miscarriage. I was so so thankful for this.
Our next ultrasound was when I was 10 weeks + 1 day pregnant and we saw a squirmy little baby wiggle and stretch his/her legs. Laurel seemed to be watching the ultrasound screen and know that we were looking at a baby. We have the ultrasound picture on our fridge and she constantly points to it and announces, “Baby!”
At 12 weeks, I received the results of some blood work I had done, which also revealed the sex of our baby! Keeping this information secret all day until Ryan got home was hard but his reaction to the news was priceless. He was genuinely happy to hear that we are having another little girl and it melted my heart to see him so excited.
I take a prenatal vitamin, a prenatal fish oil supplement, and a Vitamin D supplement. I used these same supplements before, during, and after my pregnancy with Laurel, so I will continue to take them now. I take them with my breakfast, since taking vitamins on an empty stomach can cause nausea. I’ll likely continue to take them throughout breastfeeding and beyond. Remember that it’s important to take prenatal vitamins even if you eat a healthy diet. With increased needs during pregnancy, it can be difficult to get all of the micronutrients you need, especially if you’re experiencing fatigue, nausea, or vomiting. Although it’s never too late to start a supplement regimen, ideally you’d start these before you get pregnant.
Foods I’m Eating
This pregnancy has thrown me for a loop because I am actually craving things this time around. How cliche – I’ve been loving pickles! Since most of this trimester I’ve been feeling like I’m constantly hungover, I want anything and everything greasy or fried, which I know is the opposite of what would make me feel better. I’ve definitely indulged more this time around, which makes me feel a little guilty, but I remind myself that it’s temporary. Once the nausea started getting less intense around week 11, I was consistently incorporating salads back into my diet. Before that, even though I was feeling ick, I would make smoothies with veggies like cauliflower and spinach, since drinking them was easier than eating them! Simple berry smoothies were my go-to, a spin off from my smoothie bowl.
Although I’m not typically one to count calories, I remind myself that I don’t actually need extra calories in the first trimester. Instead my focus is more on making sure I’m eating foods rich in calcium (nuts and cheese), folate (brussels sprouts and broccoli), Vitamin D (eggs), probiotics (yogurt), and omega 3’s (salmon and skipjack tuna). I’m also focusing on drinking extra water throughout the day. I find that cooler weather leaves me less thirsty, so I make sure to always have my water bottle with me as a reminder to drink. As I come into my second trimester, I’ll add an extra 350ish calories to my day, which is a bowl of cereal and a piece of fruit. Third trimester calls for an extra 450ish calories per day, just when your belly gets big enough to make eating extra difficult 🙂 I gained 35 pounds total during my pregnancy with Laurel, and so far I’ve gained about 5 pounds. I’m curious to see how this pregnancy will be similar and different from my last one!
Foods I’m Avoiding
Once I found out I was pregnant, I made sure I was avoiding the foods not recommended during pregnancy, to include alcohol, excessive caffeine, high mercury seafood, under-cooked eggs, raw seafood, and cold cuts (all of which are favorites of mine!)
Alcohol: Because doing a randomized control trial on pregnant women looking at the effects of varying levels of alcohol intake on their fetus is unethical, there’s no research that says “x amount of alcohol during pregnancy is safe.” I personally don’t think it’s worth the risk, so I avoid it completely and that’s what I recommend. If I’m going to a gathering, I’ll bring flavored sparkling water so I can still have a festive drink with my friends. You can also order a “mocktail” when out at a bar or restaurant, especially if you’re not ready to share your news and you don’t want people getting suspicious!
Excessive caffeine: Non-pregnant me has one cup of coffee in the morning. With Laurel, I avoided coffee during my first trimester and had 1/2-1 cup in the morning after that. This time around, I limit my coffee to about 1/2 cup in the morning and fill the rest of my mug with frothed whole milk, yum! As the weather has been cooling down, I’ll drink hot tea in the evenings. I’ll choose herbal teas without caffeine, like Earth Mama Red Raspberry Leaf tea or Traditional Medicinals Pregnancy Tea, both of which are delicious, safe during pregnancy, and contain Raspberry Leaf which is nourishing to the uterus.
High mercury seafood: During pregnancy, you’ll want to avoid high mercury seafood like shark, swordfish, ahi and albacore tuna, and king mackerel. Mercury can build up in your body and become toxic to your growing baby. Therefore, choosing low mercury alternatives like skipjack or chunk light tuna, tilapia, salmon, shrimp, scallops, crab, and others make for a safer choice. Remember that low-mercury seafood is an incredibly healthy protein choice for you and your baby!
Under-cooked or raw eggs/meat/seafood: You want to avoid under-cooked or raw foods that have a high risk of contamination, such as eggs and meats. Imagine how awful it is to get food poisoning, now imagine that while you’re pregnant. Not only is it extremely uncomfortable for you, but it’s deadly for a fetus. Again, not worth the risk. You can still eat sushi if you order cooked options (like a baked scallop roll or shrimp tempura roll) and avoid the ahi tuna (due to the mercury). You can ask the waiter if they would make you a custom roll since you’re pregnant, and they’ll likely oblige. I usually substitute cooked salmon or shrimp where raw tuna might be. Also, choose pasteurized eggs or cook them all the way through to avoid illness from salmonella. Did you know that hens lay eggs out of the same hole they poop from? Sorry for the visual, but that’s why it’s important to cook your eggs when you’re pregnant!
Cold cuts/hot dogs: For the same reasons you want to avoid raw and under-cooked meats during pregnancy, you’ll want to avoid cold cuts and hot dogs. You can, however, heat up your cold cuts in the microwave until steaming (about 15 seconds) then throw together a sandwich headed to the panini press. My favorite is a hot turkey “Reuben” with sauerkraut, avocado, and muenster cheese on an everything bagel.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women exercise for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. I highly encourage women to continue exercising if they were before getting pregnant and to start if they weren’t active before. Most women can safely adopt a walking regimen during pregnancy, after of course talking to their doctor beforehand.
Before I found out that I was pregnant, I signed up for a relay race with the workout group that I’m a member of. I ended up running my leg of the race (4.6 miles) while almost 9 weeks pregnant and it felt great. I won’t lie, training was very difficult because I was feeling consistently nauseous at that time. I basically swore to myself that I would never run again after the rely was over. I was never really “a runner” before I started training for that race. I’m not sure if I consider myself one now, as I would definitely prefer a spin class or yoga session over running.
For now, I workout 3-4 days per week, mostly with the group I mentioned earlier. Workouts include cardio and strength training, as well as yoga. I also take Laurel for walks around the city most days. It feels so good to move and get the blood flowing when you’re pregnant. I know from my pregnancy with Laurel that exercising helped me to prevent the common aches and pains that women often complain about. It helps combat constipation and it can even help you sleep better. There really is no down-side to staying active, pregnant or not!
Tell me what you like hearing about as I share my pregnancy journey with you!
If you are or have ever been one of my clients (or friend or family member), and you tell me you don’t usually eat breakfast, chances are I’ve given you a lecture. I pause, I take a deep breath, and I start ranting about why you should eat breakfast and easy ideas of things you can eat and so on. Most people hang their head and say “I know, I know,” but do they really know? Why is it that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day?” Let’s discuss:
Why Should I Eat Breakfast?
This is where I get all science-y in explaining why your body loves breakfast. I’m going to explain this very simply and if you need more information, just Google it. Your body has many mechanisms in place to keep you alive when you’re sleeping (and not eating). One of these mechanisms is your liver releasing stored sugar to stabilize your blood sugar and keep your brain functioning while you’re off in dreamland. Unfortunately, your liver doesn’t have a high, medium, or low switch which means that it’s pumpin’ sugar with all its might, slowly but surely raising your blood sugar. When you wake up, since we can’t say, “Okay liver, I’m good, you can stop producing sugar now,” it’ll just keep going and going until… you eat breakfast! Wow, what?! It’s that easy? Yes! When you eat breakfast, specifically a breakfast with carbohydrates, you’re telling your body that you can now control your own blood sugar. In this article, which happens to be another easy breakfast option, I talk about why you want a stable blood sugar.
Who is Breakfast a Non-Negotiable Meal for?
You must eat breakfast if you have diabetes, (including gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes both taking medication/insulin and diet-controlled, as well as type 1 diabetes), Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), have ever experienced “hanger,” feel like your mood fluctuates throughout the day, battle with fatigue, are thin, are overweight, are pregnant, are an active person, are a woman, are a child.. you catch my drift?
Reasons People Don’t eat Breakfast:
I don’t have enough time in the morning. If you feel like you can’t spare 10 minutes in the morning to make or eat breakfast, your only option (other than grabbing fast food) is to make your breakfast ahead of time. I might be foreshadowing here…
I’m just not hungry. I’d encourage you to still eat breakfast. First, ask yourself how late you’re typically eating at night. If a late dinner time or evening snacks are hindering your morning hunger, I suggest you adjust/eliminate that. Otherwise, start eating breakfast consistently and I guarantee you will start to wake up hungry. It just might take a few weeks.
I’m trying to lose weight or cut calories. Remember how I mentioned that your liver produces sugar until you eat in the morning? Well, a high blood sugar level causes your body to release that hormone insulin which, in excessive amounts, can lead to weight gain. Bottom line: Skipping breakfast to lose weight is counter-productive.
When I eat breakfast, I get hungry again sooner than normal. Good news, that’s your metabolism working for you! Two suggestions: 1. Make sure your breakfast has adequate amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein to keep you satiated longer. 2. Plan to have a snack between breakfast and lunch, such as an apple with a small handful of almonds.
All of this brings me to why I started making these burritos in the first place. My adorable husband often skips breakfast, gasp. Well I should say, he used to skip breakfast until these burritos came into the picture. His excuse was that he wakes up super early to go exercise and doesn’t come home afterward so would have to buy something which is either unhealthy or expensive and blah blah blah. He’s not immune to my lectures so he’s heard my “why you should eat breakfast” speech a time or two. I eventually figured, as his loving and concerned wife, I should help him out. I wanted to make him something hearty enough to fill him up and keep him full until lunch. For an active guy with a big appetite, a breakfast burrito is not only hearty and filling, but delicious as well. The beauty of these is that they are also completely customizable.
I found these humongous tortillas at the commissary on post one day and I knew they were a winner. With a whole wheat option that provides a few grams of fiber, contains no shortening or partially hydrogenated oils, and a whopping 9 grams of protein, these were a no brainer. I chose an all-natural, uncured sausage to add protein and flavor but not a ton of sodium and preservatives. For the herbs, feel free to add any herbs you like, fresh or dried!
I always cook the eggs first then let them sit to cool. Cooking eggs is so easy that maybe I just want to get that out of the way first. I usually crack my eggs straight into the pan so I don’t dirty a separate bowl in the process. While the sausage is in the oven, I then start on the potatoes. It takes a little practice to get the potatoes perfectly fork tender, while allowing them to sear long enough to develop that golden brown crust. They’ll taste delicious whether they’re perfectly cooked or not, so don’t worry.
I add spinach to anything I can since it adds so much nutritious fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Spinach pairs so perfectly with eggs, especially in a quiche, yum!
Allowing all of the ingredients to cool before assembling is crucial. You don’t want your tortilla getting soggy from the steam accumulating inside your burrito.
Assembling these burritos makes me so hungry, it’s hard not to shove one in my mouth right then. With all the vibrant colors, tastes, and smells, this is a breakfast that’s sure to provide you with the energy you need to have a productive morning.
Rolling the tortilla into a burrito takes practice, I’ll be honest. You can probably find some YouTube videos on how to do it but for me it just took patience. Once you get the technique down, you’re golden. The key is to fold the bottom over the ingredients and squeeze everything together firmly. Then you fold in the sides, then the upper edges, then roll until closed. Do the same thing when you wrap it in the aluminum foil.
After the burritos are rolled and nicely stacked, I’ll put them into a bag and label the bag with the instructions: Remove foil before microwaving. Trust me, sometimes we all need a little reminding, especially if you’re eating this before you’ve had your morning coffee.
Freezer Breakfast Burritos
5 large tortillas, preferably whole grain
6-7 red potatoes, skin on (or one large sweet potato)
1/2 large onion
1/2 cup water
6-8 oz shredded cheese, I use cheddar
2 large handfuls fresh spinach
1 Tbsp butter (or canola oil or avocado oil)
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp thyme
Pinch of salt and pepper, plus more to taste
*Optional: 2 sausage links, preferably all natural/no preservatives, low-sodium
Other optional additions: mushrooms, tofu, zucchini, kale, feta cheese, black beans
Cook eggs in pan on medium heat. Let cool completely.
*Cook the meat according to package directions. Let cool completely. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
Mince the onion and add to a pan (a separate pan from the eggs) on medium heat with the butter or oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes.
Chop the potatoes into small bite-sized pieces and add to the pan with the onions. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the potatoes in the butter/oil.
Let the potato/onion mixture cook for about 2 minutes then stir again and cook another 2 minutes. Add the herbs and stir to coat. Let cook another 1-2 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown.
Add water to pan and cover with lid to steam the potatoes for about 5-7 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. If you notice the water evaporate and the potatoes are still hard, add another 1/4 cup water and steam until soft.
Add spinach and replace lid for 1 minute then stir the mixture until the spinach is wilted throughout. Let cool completely.
Place each tortilla on a separate sheet of aluminum foil. Once all the ingredients have cooled, start to assemble your burritos.
Place equal amounts of cheese on each tortilla.
Place equal amounts of eggs on each tortilla.
Place equal amounts of potato/onion/spinach mixture on each tortilla.
Place equal amounts of meat on each tortilla.
Fold and roll each tortilla firmly to keep all ingredients tightly packed inside.
Wrap each burrito in aluminum foil for freezing.*
When ready to eat, remove the aluminum foil and place your burrito on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave for 3-6 minutes, flipping over halfway through.
*If you plan to store these burritos for longer than one week, wrap the burrito in plastic wrap before wrapping in foil, to help prevent freezer burn.
In my years of counseling people in different areas of the country on their diets, I’ve noticed that 1. people tend to eat how they were raised to eat and 2. meat is usually the focus at each meal. The reason I mention the first point is because, although it can be really hard to break a habit, especially a habit that we learned in childhood, there comes a time when adults must be held accountable for their eating habits. At what age can we no longer blame our poor eating habits on our parents? At what point does it shift from naivety to willful ignorance? If you find yourself saying things like, “Well this is how I’ve always eaten,” realize that this is an excuse. Change is not easy, but the choice is yours. Okay, I’m getting philosophical here but my main point is that, if adults tend to eat how they were raised to eat, then we as adults have an obligation to set our children up for success. How? That brings me to my second point.
We need a shift… a shift in our mindset from “meat is the star of the dish and everything else is a side” to “vegetables are the star of the dish and everything else is a side.” Before you stop reading and go grab a cheeseburger, hear me out. I’m not telling you to become a vegetarian, unless of course you’re into that sort of thing. The bottom line is this:
Eat more plants and less meat.
The extended version: eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains and less red and processed meats.
Plants have fiber. Repeat after me: fiber is my friend. Fiber helps to regulate our blood sugar/energy level; it helps build immunity; it fills us up quicker and keeps us full longer; it pulls cholesterol out of our bodies; it prevents constipation and can help control diarrhea; it decreases our risk of colon and rectal cancer; it helps to prevent diverticulitis… need I say more? Most people do not eat enough plants, therefore, they don’t get enough fiber.
Meats, specifically red and processed meats, have more saturated fat than their white meat, seafood, and plant-based alternatives. Processed meats (like bacon, sausage, bologna, and hot dogs) can be loaded with sodium and preservatives too, yikes! Saturated fat leads to inflammation and makes us more insulin resistant, which is detrimental for people trying to lose weight and those with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or PCOS.
Tips for Eating a More Plant-Based Diet
Eat 2-3 different vegetables at meals. While we downsize our meat portion we need to increase the plants at our meals so we don’t feel starving, since you should not be starving when eating a healthy diet. It might be a tad overwhelming to overflow your plate with asparagus (not to mention the dreaded “asparagus pee” you’d experience later on) so instead have a variety! Maybe you roast some asparagus, steam some broccoli, and have salad with your meal as well.
No time for roasting or steaming? Vegetables can be fresh, frozen, or canned! Microwave freezer bags are amazing, as long as they aren’t filled with a bunch of salty sauce. Don’t avoid canned vegetables, just choose ones that have “no added salt” or “low sodium” and rinse them under water.
Use half the amount of ground meat you would normally use in a recipe and substitute that other half with plants! For example, when I make stuffed peppers or chili, I cook about 1/2 lb of ground meat then I dice 1/2-1 lb of mushrooms and toss them in with the meat. Mushrooms have a hearty or “meaty” texture and are so flavorful that you won’t even miss the meat. You could also use beans in place of the meat or try mincing onion, dicing zucchini, or shredding carrot and add them to your chili for a veggie-twist.
Not quite ready to swap your meats for veggies? Instead, try swapping ground turkey breast for ground beef or use half poultry half beef in your recipe.
Incorporate seafood into your diet. Seafood has so many incredible health benefits and can easily be substituted when you’d otherwise use meat. For example, instead of making chicken alfredo, try shrimp alfredo. If you typically order a burger for lunch, order a tuna sandwich instead. Throw some tuna steaks or salmon filets on the grill instead of your go-to ribeye. If the cost of seafood makes it prohibitive for you, choose frozen or canned options. Also remember, now that the meat portion of your meal is smaller, you can stretch a bag of frozen scallops or shrimp further than before.
4. Try new vegetables and EAT MORE. Feeling stuck in a broccoli rut? Getting tired of salad? Does the thought of mushy steamed cauliflower make you cringe? My best advice is to try different vegetables in different ways. My favorite way to eat vegetables is drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, topped with minced garlic and a dash of salt and pepper, then roasted in the oven. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables and the slight char from the oven gives them structure and crunch. Dee-licious! We all know that a raw onion tastes a lot different than an onion in a soup, right? So before you write off Brussels sprouts or beets forever, try them cooked in a different way than you’re used to. You might surprise yourself!
Don’t limit your non-starchy vegetable intake. Load your plate with them AND have a salad on the side. These are the things you want to fill up on and go for seconds on. These are your non-guilty pleasure foods! Examples: lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, radishes, green beans, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, onions, peppers, zucchini.
5. Follow my Plate Method at meals for a visual reminder and to keep it simple.
1/2 of your plate is non-starchy vegetables vegetables
1/4 of your plate is whole grains or starchy vegetables
1/4 of your plate is meat or protein
What vegetables do you love and how do you prepare them!
Welcome to my very first “Things I Love” post! These are where I’ll share various products, foods, etc I’m loving lately. These items might be baby-related, food-related, pregnancy-related, beauty-related, who knows. Although I’ve linked to the item and I do benefit if you click and purchase it, all of these items are truly things that I use, love, and recommend. I plan to do these posts often, so let me know if you use and love something that I should try.
Earth Mama Organic Diaper Balm. Get it. Love it. Not only does this diaper balm smell wonderful with hints of lavender and melaleuca, it’s made with organic ingredients including calendula, and it’s cloth diaper friendly- hooray! I have absolutely no qualms about rubbing this on Laurel’s delicate skin. I love this product and I love this company. They truly care about the health and safety of moms and babies.
Reserveage Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder, Unflavored. As a dietitian, I’m often asked what protein powder I use, seeing as it’s one of the most commonly consumed supplements out there. Because there are so many on the market, fear, confusion, and suspicion surround this supplement. I advise people to make sure you find one without a bunch of added “junk,” such as sugar, caffeine, and/or artificial sweeteners. I love this specific protein powder because it’s 1. grass-fed and 2. tasteless (or at least damn close). This is one of the few protein powders I’ve tried that didn’t actually taste like protein powder. The beauty of this unflavored option is that you can add it to anything for a quick protein boost.
Rainbow Light Prenatal Vitamin. This is the prenatal vitamin I took before, during, and after (still currently taking) my pregnancy. This prenatal vitamin stands out from many other “natural” options I looked at for a few reasons. First, I loved that it was only one pill daily. I will admit that the pill is fairly large, but that wasn’t an issue for me. Secondly, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women get 27 mg of iron daily and this vitamin provides that (while many other natural options are lacking). Finally, this prenatal vitamin is vegetarian, gluten-free, and contains no artificial preservatives, colors, or sweeteners.
Beauty by Earth Sunless Self Tanner. My search for a natural sunless tanner started recently when Ryan, Laurel, and I were heading to Florida for vacation. I was still breastfeeding at the time and, since I had sworn off tanning beds a long time ago, I wanted to find a self tanner. My skin is naturally fair and I knew I was going to be in a bathing suit quite a bit (with loads of sunscreen on) so needless to say, I needed a tan beforehand! I found this, made with organic ingredients including shea butter and witch hazel, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve used it a few times now and it continues to impress me. I feel confident using it knowing the ingredients are safer than your average tanning lotion but, the best part is that it actually works!
Thermos Foogo Insulated Stainless Steel 10-oz Straw Bottle. I offered Laurel her first straw cup with water at 6 months old and she was able to use it within minutes. I tell people to just offer a straw to your child and you might be surprised at how quickly they teach themselves how to use it. Remember that babies under one year should only drink breastmilk, formula, or water. This is now the cup that I keep in my stroller, as it’s leak-proof and insulated, it’s stainless steel since I try to avoid plastic when I can, it’s dishwasher safe, and they offer different spouts so the cup can “grow” with your child. Winner!
Pictures are from Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Motherhood means different things to different women. For some, its chaotic and spontaneous and others it’s scheduled and predictable. We can all agree that motherhood is the most incredible, emotional, exhausting, and rewarding journey we’ve all been on. You can literally experience seven different emotions in the span of two minutes when your child gouges your eyeball then throws up on their freshly changed outfit only to stumble toward you arms stretched, lay their head on your shoulder, and say “mama” like they actually know who you are. Ahh yes, motherhood is beautiful.
Taking the plunge into motherhood means that you adopt a plethora of mandatory chores, to include keeping your child fed, entertained, well-rested, and the list goes on. You’ll get advice from experts and non-experts alike on the “right way” to raise your child. You’ll stress over the little things and cry occasionally. I’ve learned to remind myself that everything is a phase so even the tough times I know won’t last long. Although I’m no child-rearing expert, I’ll go ahead and give you my two-cents on how I went about raising Laurel over the past 15 months. I’ll throw some nutrition information in here, seeing as how that’s my forte.
Before I get started I want to mention, there are many correct ways to raise a child. People have been debating this for years and will continue to for years to come. My point is that you have to do what feels right to you and your family. I’ll share some things that worked for me but they might not work for you. Why? Because every baby/family/mom/day is different… and that’s okay.
"cleaning and scrubbing can wait for tomorrow
for babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow
so quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep
because I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep"
What the Experts Say
Recommendations* for feeding infants 0-12 months old:
Recommendations* for feeding toddlers 12-23 months old:
Whole milk or milk products: 2 cups/day (or 16 ounces daily). This includes whole cows milk, lactose-free whole cows milk, full-fat yogurt, full-fat cheese, and other full-fat dairy.
If your child has a milk protein allergy or is being raised vegan, you can find suitable substitutes for dairy, with a focus to include foods with adequate fat, protein, Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
*These recommendations may vary depending on source. Speak to your pediatrician or dietitian for specific individualized recommendations.
My plan was to start Laurel on a nap and solids schedule around 6 months old, at the advice of my older sister. We agreed that 6 months is a good time to start a schedule since food is introduced at this age, letting “meal times” aid the schedule in flowing smoothly. At this time, I was still breastfeeding Laurel on demand, about 5-8 times per day. Click here to read my article on feeding your infant, including when to start, as well as how to make your own baby food. Before 6 months, I didn’t necessarily feel a need to alter my day around Laurel’s feedings or naps. She was great about sleeping in the stroller or car seat while I was out running errands. I wasn’t shy about feeding her in my car in the Target parking lot either.
Early on (around 12 weeks), however, Ryan and I made it a point to start a “bedtime routine” which consisted of a bath, night light and noise machine on, breastfeed, and putting Laurel into her crib. Then, of course, obsessively watch her on the monitor, am I right? We tried to have her in her crib by 8pm (with many exceptions made), even if she was only sleeping for a short period of time in the beginning. The idea was to get her in the routine of winding down at bedtime. Laurel was pretty consistent about waking up in the morning around 8am. If she woke up earlier than that, I was able to feed her and lay her back down for more sleep, hooray!
Although I still breastfed Laurel on demand, throughout the day I would pay attention to her tired and hunger cues and make a mental note of the time. I then started to notice patterns develop, like around 11am she would start yawning, rubbing her eyes, and get a tad fussy if she wasn’t able to sleep peacefully. I decided to start a “nap time” around 11am. On a side note: the moms workout group that I’m involved in met until 11am, so I kept Laurel awake for our walk home to have her in bed by 11:30am. Call me selfish, but my workout time is not only good for my body but it’s good for my soul aka sanity as well. Once I had the first nap established at 11:30am, I added the next nap at around 4pm, when I noticed she was naturally getting tired again.
*I would breastfeed Laurel right before lunch and dinner as well, just to make sure breastmilk was remaining her main source of nutrition and food was remaining a compliment to it.
Why a Schedule?
I’m not an expert in this area, but Ryan and I feel strongly that infants, toddlers, and kids (and adults for that matter) benefit from routine and schedules. I’m sure there’s a ton of research out there supporting both sides, but I just feel that in the chaos of daily life, it could bring some security and predictability to a child, whether subconscious or not, in knowing they will have their most basic needs met. That being said, do I feel that every minute of a child’s life should be planned out? No. While still maintaining a degree of spontaneity, I do believe that kids flourish in a more structured environment. Furthermore, I have met people that are on no schedule whatsoever and their kids are intelligent, imaginative, and engaging – so I don’t think that schedules are for everyone. Do what works best for you and your family.
Weaning From Breastfeeding
Before she was born, I made the personal choice to breastfeed Laurel for at least 12 months. I was lucky enough to meet this goal, thanks to a combination of determination, optimal nutrition, a supportive husband, and a hungry baby.
As her first birthday was quickly approaching, I devised a plan to wean Laurel from breastfeeding, starting at 12 months. At this time, I was breastfeeding her four times per day, with the occasional middle-of-the-night feeding as needed. My plan was to eliminate one feeding per week until she was completely weaned. I started with her nap #2 feeding first, which coincidentally happened to be the time she was ready to eliminate this nap altogether. That was easy! For a week, we transitioned to one nap and three breastfeeding sessions per day. I ended up pushing her nap later, to around 1pm, since it was (and still is) her only nap of the day.
The weeks went on and I eliminated her other pre-nap breastfeeding session, then her bedtime session, then finally the morning session. I can say this now since I won’t jinx it but it was a smooth transition. My breasts never got engorged, my milk supply just slowly dwindled down over the weeks. I know I’m lucky. I had been researching ways to decrease milk supply and was ready to buy cabbage leaves if needed! In the weeks following her very last feeding when she was 13 months + 1 day old, she only cried and tried to pull at my shirt once or twice. Since then she’s seemed to have forgotten all about my boobs.
I must admit that the weaning process was bittersweet for me. I cried (a lot) the night I eliminated her bedtime feeding. Ryan gave her a bottle that night and I was just sad, but I could now enjoy a glass of wine with dinner without feeling guilty- bittersweet. She transitioned and tolerated cows milk from the beginning, which I was so thankful for. I think it helped that I introduced 1-2 ounces at a time over the first few days after she turned one. I must also admit that I made the mistake decision to give her cows milk in a bottle. I know typical recommendations are to drop the bottle at one year and switch to a sippy cup, but… well, I have no excuse. The bottle was more soothing to Laurel and I didn’t mind it. I actually went out and bought a bigger bottle because I only had 4 ounce bottles. So for now she drinks her whole cows milk out of a bottle, 8 ounces in the morning, 4 ounces before her nap, and 4 ounces before bed.
Our society has painted an unrealistic picture of how moms are supposed to look and act. We’re basically supposed to be perfect and that, in itself, gives us anxiety. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, we feel all this outside pressure to do better. The reality is this: Love your family and care for them the best way you know how. You’re only human. Some days you might feel like supermom while others you can’t remember your child’s birthday at the pediatricians office. That’s okay. I believe that our duty as a mother is to set our children up to be healthy and productive adults. We guide them by teaching them values and behaviors that are going to benefit them as they grow older; compassion, determination, imagination, bravery, empathy. Our children are the future, our future. I want my child and future children to respect me and actually want to hang out with me when they’re older. How do we do that? Well I don’t have the exact answer to that, only time will tell, but I think it involves being genuine. Take a deep breath and just be. Be thankful. Be happy. Be you!
Do you have your child(ren) on a schedule? When did you start? Comment below!
Within this post are links to products I actually use and recommend. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
As I sit here and type this post with walnut crumbs in my fingernails and the hint of coconut on my breath, I’m excited. I’m excited to share this recipe and I’m excited for you to try it… because I know you will! It’s too easy not to. If you’re getting bored with your post-workout smoothie or your morning snack that usually consists of a granola bar, these deliciously satisfying date & nut balls are for you.
I was first introduced to these by my good friend and neighbor at the time, when we lived in Colorado, and I was about 20 months pregnant with Laurel, (okay that was an exaggeration but let’s just say she was overdue). My friend walked over to say Hi as she often did when she took her daily stroll with her infant son, but this time she had a clear container in her hand. Little did I know at the time that the container she was holding was full of the most glorious little treats I’ve ever laid my taste buds on.
My friend “instructed” me to eat them in order to encourage my body to naturally progress into labor. Ask any midwife or doula about dates during pregnancy and they’ll likely know what you’re talking about. An old wives tale? Well, although there is really no firm scientific recommendation on the topic of dates supporting pregnancy or labor, there is some compelling data to support a potential relationship. All I knew was that my friend brought me a snack and I was going to eat it because I was pregnant and hungry.
I took the first bite of one of those balls and my eyes grew wide and my mouth started to water. For a moment I wondered if there was a risk of going into labor right there in my kitchen if I ate the date balls too fast. I decided it was worth the risk and I ate the entire container.
Fast forward some time now that Laurel has successfully been born and I scheme different reasons to make these date balls. Other than the fact that they’re delicious, they’re also a perfect snack for pregnant and non-pregnant people alike, including your toddler! Let’s look at the ingredients:
Dates • full of fiber, natural sugar (energy), magnesium, potassium, and folate- all very important nutrients for kids, active adults, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Walnuts • loaded with Vitamin E, antioxidants, potassium, and omega-3s. I keep mine in the freezer due to their glorious fat content.
Coconut oil • delicious flavor, a vegan alternative to butter that contains saturated fats which provide energy & aid in hormone production.
To make this recipe, throw your dates into the food processor first. I keep my dates in the refrigerator so they tend to be firm, which is why I like to let them get a little head start in the processor before adding the other ingredients. Process until dates are broken apart as shown below.
Add the walnuts and coconut oil (no need to melt first) and process until a mealy texture develops, as shown below. You can really tailor the texture to your liking at this point, whether you prefer bigger chunks versus smaller will determine how long you process the ingredients. I usually go for about 15-20 seconds on High.
Now pop open the lid to your processor and take a big whiff.. yummm! Remove the blade before you scoop these bad boys into your hands for rolling. Again, personal preference on the size you choose to make your balls. I usually make a variety, some small I can just pop in my mouth, others larger I can take bites from. Laurel prefers the smaller ones. The sky’s the limit!
Coco-Nut Date Balls
1 cup unsweetened, dried pitted dates
1/2 cup unsalted walnuts (I use raw)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
Place the dates into your food processor and process until broken apart.
Add the walnuts and oil and process until a chunky/mealy texture develops, about 15-20 seconds.
Scoop desired amount into your hand and form into balls.
Consume at room temperature or store in fridge and eat cold (my preferred method).
Option: Make a double or triple batch and freeze your coconut date balls for up to 2 weeks (if you can wait that long to eat them).
Are you a peanut butter junkie? Yes, that’s a thing. If the thought of a peanut-butter-smothered-anything tickles your fancy, then you’re in the club. As a peanut butter junkie myself, I’ve come to appreciate the simple, yet complex, taste of peanut butter made from fresh, wholesome peanuts. Seriously, have you ever looked at the ingredients in most store-bought peanut butters? Many include partially & fully hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, sugar, palm oil… yikes. With peanut butter being an adult- and kid-friendly staple in many households, we have to do better!
If peanut butter is your go-to but you’d just like to have other options, look no further. You can swap peanuts in this recipe for any other type of nut or seed OR a combination! Peanut allergy? No problem, feel free to substitute almonds, sunflower seeds, or cashews for a delicious homemade nut butter that’s sure to please! Looking for a cute gift idea? A jar of homemade peanut butter will make family, friends, and teachers smile.
I love knowing exactly what ingredients are in the food I’m eating and feeding to my family. I was so surprised at how easy it is to make my own peanut butter! The fact that peanuts are fairly cheap made this recipe a no-brainer.
Let’s talk about these nutritional powerhouses: Peanuts.
In a serving of peanut butter (about 2 Tbsp or the size of a ping pong ball) you get:
These healthy fats are good for our eyes, brain, heart, and hormone production, among other things!
2 g fiber
Fiber helps to keep us full longer, keep our blood sugar stable, and keep our bowel movements regular.
8 g protein
Protein is necessary for our body to build and repair tissue, including skin and muscle.
200 mg potassium
Low levels of potassium can contribute to constipation, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
10% DV magnesium & Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 plays a role in our immunity and metabolism. Vitamin B6 deficiency is linked to depression.
Magnesium plays a role in blood sugar control, nerve and muscle function, and blood pressure regulation.
Source: USDA Food Composition Database
Vegetarian & vegan
So how are love letters related in any way to peanut butter?
Well, back in February of 2010, Ryan volunteered to go to the United States Army Ranger School. We were about 6 months into our courtship at the time so his Army lifestyle was all still new to me. I didn’t realize then that Ranger School is one of the Army’s toughest combat leadership courses. It was over two months long and included intense, physically demanding training paired with food and sleep deprivation. Needless to say, he wasn’t going to be able to visit me or even call me at all while actively training at Ranger School. He said that he would be able to write and receive letters. Letters!
I wrote Ryan a letter every single day he was at Ranger School. I used brightly colored paper and put stickers all over them to bring some cheer into his life and maybe a smile to his face. He had told me that he wouldn’t be given his mail every day. I couldn’t bare the thought of everyone else receiving mail except him, so I wrote him every one of the 63 days he was there.
I received 19 letters from him and as I was sifting through them last night before writing this post, they made me smile, laugh, and cry. They brought me back to our early dating days when I would only see him on weekends that he wasn’t training. He’d drive down to Tallahassee with friends (I was in my senior year at FSU and he was stationed in South Georgia at Fort Benning) and his friends and my sorority sisters would hit it off. The first year of our relationship was a big party. Ryan had told me early on that he would deploy to Iraq when he was done with his initial officer training, so that was always looming in the back of my mind. I vividly remember conversations with my sorority sisters, late in the evening as we all huddled around each others’ bunk beds, where I voiced my concerns about dating a guy in the military. I wasn’t sure I could “handle” a year-long deployment. I didn’t think I could handle dating a guy in the military.
Maybe it was the poems he wrote me or the crossword puzzle he made for me or the itemized list of what I should look for in a grad school (yes, he included “me” on that list since one of my school choices was close to where he would be stationed at the time). Maybe it was how often he called me “sweetheart” or scribbled little hearts and kissy faces in the corner of those letters, designated by an arrow and “I kissed this spot.” Maybe it was the romantic lines in French he included with parentheses to show the English translation, including “Your Dreams are my Dreams” when he wrote about getting a puppy and our vacation we’d take after he returned. Maybe it was all of those things he wrote, but most likely it was because he is the type of man that would write those things, that kept me close to him.
So you may still be wondering, where does peanut butter come into this picture? Remember how I mentioned that an aspect of Ranger School was food deprivation? Ryan was hungry, very hungry, and often his letters would include fantasies of what he was going to eat after he graduated, to include Twinkies, a burger, and pancakes. He would go into detail as to why a certain MRE (meal ready-to-eat) was his favorite and he’d mention things he would want me to include in his care package (that they would receive at the end of the last phase). Included in the items he wanted me to send him were Red Bull and… here it comes… “cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter.”
The moment I read those words I began to panic. As you can see, he wrote that letter on April 12th, which means I didn’t receive it until after that and I had to have his care package to him before the 25th. Back in early 2010, nut butter varieties weren’t a huge craze like they are now. I don’t think you could find honey almond butter or sunflower seed butter on regular grocery store shelves. Needless to say, all I knew at that time was I had to send his package with cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter and I wasn’t sure it even existed. Three stores later and probably a few mmHg up on my blood pressure, I finally found the elusive cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter, thanks to Peanut Butter & Co. I was able to put it in his care package and all was right in the world. He later told me that he and his buddies dipped Snickers bars and Twinkies directly into the jar and devoured the whole thing. I guess you can say it was appreciated.
That brings me to the reason I think of Ranger School any time I think of flavored peanut butter. Since my recollection of Ranger School includes fond memories of love letters and happy reunions, when I made peanut butter for the first time I naturally wanted to make a cinnamon raisin swirl variety. Ryan was the one who actually suggested it. Yes sir!
Underneath the recipe for homemade peanut butter you’ll find my cinnamon raisin swirl recipe. The first time I made it I ate the entire batch. I kid you not. It is so delicious. It took several, five to be exact, attempts to get it perfect. I hope you have more self control than I did so you can share your peanut butter with a friend. Either way, enjoy it!
Bonus, I’ve also included a recipe for Cacao Hazelnut Butter aka kNockoff Nutella. It’s healthier than the store-bought version, it’s chocolatey, and it’s delicious. Put it on a sandwich, dip your pretzels or crackers in it, or make the apple nachos shown below. Cue drool.
Homemade Peanut Butter
Ingredients (Yield 2 cups)
2 cups peanuts (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted)
optional pinch of salt (if using salted peanuts, do not add more salt)
If using roasted peanuts, skip to Step 2. If using raw peanuts, you’ll want to roast them before proceeding. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place your peanuts on a sheet tray in an even layer. Roast for 5-7 minutes or until peanuts become golden and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
Place peanuts (and salt, if using) into your food processor and turn on high.
Each minute or so, scrape the sides of your food processor with a rubber scraper.
In the span of 5-7 minutes, your peanuts will go from ground to chunky to clumpy to a ball then magically, it will transform into peanut butter. You might question whether it will ever happen, but give it time. If your machine starts to overheat, turn if off for a minute and continue.
Once your peanut butter becomes smooth and creamy, turn your processor off, scoop your peanut butter into a jar with a tightly fitting lid and resist the temptation to eat the entire thing… or don’t, it’s up to you.
You can keep your peanut butter in the cabinet if consumed within a week, transfer to fridge if storing longer.
Tip: Use room temperature peanuts to facilitate them releasing their oils. Since I keep my nuts in the freezer, I let them sit on the counter for about an hour before making my peanut butter.
1 cup peanuts (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted)
optional pinch of salt (if using salted peanuts, do not add more salt)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/2 tsp to swirl in
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil such as canola or peanut oil, more as needed for desired consistency
If using roasted peanuts, skip to Step 2. If using raw peanuts, you’ll want to roast them before proceeding. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place your peanuts on a sheet tray in an even layer. Roast for 5-7 minutes or until peanuts become golden and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
Place peanuts, cinnamon (minus 1/2 tsp), maple syrup, and vanilla (and salt, if using) into food processor.
Turn food processor on high and each minute or so, scrape the sides with a rubber scraper. If your machine starts to overheat, turn if off for a minute and continue.
In the span of 3-5 minutes, your peanuts will go from ground to chunky to clumpy to a ball. When this happens, slowly drizzle in the oil, as needed, to thin out your peanut butter until you reach your desired creaminess.
Once your peanut butter becomes smooth and creamy, turn your processor off. Add the 1/2 tsp cinnamon and, without mixing, gently scoop your peanut butter into a jar with a tightly fitting lid. This will create swirls of cinnamon, allowing some bites to be cinnamon bombs in your mouth, while other bites are more mild cinnamon flavor.
You can keep your peanut butter in the cabinet if consumed within a week, transfer to fridge if storing longer.
Tip: Use room temperature ingredients to facilitate them releasing their oils. Since I keep my nuts in the freezer, I let them sit on the counter for about an hour before making my peanut butter.
Cacao Hazelnut Butter aka kNockoff Nutella
Ingredients (Yield 1 cup)
1 cup hazelnuts (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted)
pinch of salt (if using salted hazelnuts, do not add more salt)
1/8 cup cacao powder
1/8 cup + 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk (I used whole cows milk)
optional 1 tsp oil for creaminess
Tip: Use room temperature ingredients to facilitate them releasing their oils. Since I keep my nuts in the freezer, I let them sit on the counter for about an hour before making my nut butter.
If using roasted hazelnuts, skip to Step 2. If using raw hazelnuts, you’ll want to roast them before proceeding. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place your nuts on a sheet tray in an even layer. Roast for 5-7 minutes or until hazelnuts become golden and fragrant. Allow to cool slightly.
Remove skins on hazelnuts by rubbing them together between a paper towel. You don’t have to get all of the skins, just the majority that comes off easily.
Turn food processor on high and each minute or so, scrape the sides with a rubber scraper. If your machine starts to overheat, turn if off for a minute and continue.
In the span of 3-5 minutes, your hazelnuts will go from ground to chunky to clumpy to a ball. When this happens, slowly drizzle in the oil, as needed, to thin out your nut butter until you reach your desired creaminess.
Transfer your finished product into a jar with a lid. You should keep your cacao hazelnut butter in the fridge, as there are no preservatives and your nut butter contains milk.
When your little one is approaching that age where he or she will start eating food, most likely you’re either feeling nervous or excited. You might have forgotten that babies start eating real food at some point, especially if you were like me and had a hard time remembering your name those first few months postpartum. I was so thankful we registered for a high chair and received it before Laurel was even born. That was one less thing I had to think about when food came into the picture. Although I was excited for Laurel to start eating, it definitely took some critical thinking as to how I would go about starting this process. I know the pediatrician mentioned something about it, but those appointments always seemed like a blur. I’d leave with a handout of milestones and a list of unanswered questions that I’d kick myself for forgetting to ask in the moment.
As a dietitian, I felt that it was my duty to expose my baby to all the healthiest food this planet has to offer. I devised a plan to start with all the vegetables I could think of, then add yogurt (for probiotics and fat), then seafood, legumes, poultry, fruit, and whole grains. I always knew I wanted to make her baby food and you’ll read why below.
Are you intimidated at the thought of making your baby’s food? If you feel like the process is too difficult, expensive, or time-consuming, continue reading to see how I was able to make Laurel’s baby food with minimal effort. It can actually be fun, I promise!
When should I start feeding my infant food?
Unless otherwise instructed by your baby’s pediatrician, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. At 6 months old, it is recommended to begin introducing food into your baby’s diet, while still continuing to provide breastmilk (or formula) as their main source of nutrition. To make sure that food remains a compliment to your baby’s diet, try to always breastfeed or formula feed your child before offering food. That way, the food is seen as extra and they are able to have fun with it without the pressure to eat. Remember that food at this age is also about developing fine motor skills, exposing them to different flavors and textures, as well as eventually teaching manners while fostering family traditions, such as sitting at the table for dinner.
How much should my baby eat?
In the beginning, as in the first couple weeks or so, your baby might only take 2-3 spoonfuls of food. I remember Laurel’s first feeding being somewhat anti-climactic, as she only took one or two bites and seemed to lose interest. It’s normal if your baby refuses food altogether. Never force your child to eat, just try again the next day.
As a rule of thumb, 6-7 months is when food is introduced and your baby is becoming accustomed to new flavors and textures. At 7-8 months you might try to consistently feed your child one “meal” per day. It’s normal for a child between 6-8 months to eat anywhere from 2-6 tablespoons of food. At 8-9 months you can increase to two “meals” per day then at 9-10 months your child is eating three “meals” daily. Remember that they are still drinking breastmilk or formula for the entire first year of life. At 9 months old, as her food intake increased, I was able to drop one of Laurel’s breastfeeding sessions. From 9-12 months, I breastfed her four times daily.
What foods should I offer first?
Ideally, one of the first foods offered to your child would be an iron-fortified option, such as baby cereal or baby oatmeal. Many vegetables provide iron as well, including broccoli and spinach. Start with simple purees of a single food, such as pureed spinach. I mixed my purees with filtered water to thin them out. I had actually used pumped breastmilk to make some of Laurel’s first foods but since most of the food ended up on her bib and face anyways, I quickly learned that it wasn’t really worth it for me to use my saved milk.
Every a few days, I would offer Laurel a different vegetable. I actually kept a log of her very first foods and they include: broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, and spinach. I continued with the routine of offering a new food every couple of days to include legumes (such as peas), avocado, corn, seafood (Laurel’s firsts included lobster, scallops, salmon, and light tuna), plain full-fat Greek yogurt, beans, a variety of fruits, ground turkey, chicken, and ground beef, eggs, beets, sauerkraut, and cauliflower.
I fed Laurel pureed foods until about 8-9 months, at which time she became interested in eating small pieces of soft foods. Laurel is now 1-year-old and I have yet to find a food that she does not like!
What about the common food allergens?
The current recommendations are to introduce the common allergen foods to your child between 6-9 months.* This includes eggs, peanuts (not whole nuts due to choking hazard), wheat, shellfish, tree nuts, and dairy (such as yogurt or cheese). Cow’s milk is not recommended until after 12 months of age.
*If food allergies run heavily in your family, consult your child’s pediatrician or a registered dietitian for specific advice and supervision before introducing these foods. Wait at least three days between all new foods to watch for signs of intolerance, including diarrhea, rash, or fussiness.
Ways to incorporate these foods include adding them to a puree with a food your child is familiar with. For example, I made a puree of cauliflower and added a few small dollops of peanut butter. Peanut butter and almond butter also pair well with several fruits, especially banana or apple. You can add wheat germ to a puree for wheat exposure, as well as added fiber. Scrambled eggs are easily incorporated into purees and are also a good finger food, as small pieces tend to be soft and easy for small fingers to handle. Add scrambled eggs to a puree of strawberries and the Vitamin C in the berries will aid in the iron absorption from the eggs, high five!
Does my child need water?
Your baby gets the water he or she needs from your breastmilk or formula. Since constipation is common when food is incorporated into the diet, feel free to offer your child 1-2 ounces of water from a cup daily. Offer the water after they have finished eating.
What about juice?
I recommend avoiding juice for at least the first 12 months of age. Children should be encouraged to consume whole fruits and vegetables. After 12 months, if you decide to offer your child juice, limit intake to less than six ounces daily and always encourage water intake.
If your child is underweight, I highly recommend avoiding juice. Children often fill up on this “empty calorie” beverage, then eat less food at meal times. On the flip side, if your child is considered overweight, I would encourage fruit and vegetable intake instead of juice, as juice provides the sugar without the fiber benefits of whole foods.
Are there any foods I should avoid giving my child?
Yes, you will want to avoid giving your infant (<12 months old) honey, under-cooked or raw meats, under-cooked eggs, and choking hazard foods, to include whole nuts, popcorn, raisins, large “chunks” of food, marshmallows, and whole grapes. I also recommend avoiding highly processed foods or any foods with added salt.
Can I season/flavor my baby’s food?
Although you might feel like plain carrots or plain broccoli is boring or bland, remember that your child has never tasted food. They do not have the mature and experienced palate that you have. This means that they might initially reject a food (ie. spit it out) just because it’s new and different. This doesn’t mean that you have to flavor it with salt, sugar, or butter to get them to eat it. Just put it aside and try again the next day. Refrain from habitually adding sugar, salt, or butter to their food just because that’s the way you like it. The best thing you can do for your child is help them avoid those habits from the start. If a baby starts eating plain, fresh foods, they will develop their palate to appreciate those pure flavors. After a couple months of trying a variety of foods and eating is established, feel free to add flavor to their food to include cinnamon, garlic, and mild herbs and spices. I recommend you always avoid salt, any seasoning with sodium, and anything too spicy.
Why make my own baby food?
The three main reasons I chose to make Laurel’s baby food were because homemade baby food is:
Fresh, which means better quality and taste. We all obviously want to feed our babies the best food possible. I figured that if I would prefer fresh food versus food from a jar, then I assume my child would too. My hope is that her exposure to fresh food from the beginning will develop her palate and foster a love for the flavors of whole foods. I think this can be lacking in children, and adults for that matter, today. I consider frozen fruits and vegetables fresh options, as they are flash-frozen shortly after they’re picked, which is usually at their peak ripeness. This means that the nutrients are locked into the food, nutrients that might otherwise be lost in transit from the farm to your grocery store. I actually preferred using frozen fruits and vegetables since it allowed for variety with minimal waste. For these reasons, frozen foods are wonderful options when making your baby’s food.
Cheap even when buying organic options. I bought a ton of frozen foods to puree for Laurel. Even organic options of frozen fruits and vegetables are cheaper than buying baby food jars. I also realize now that I would have wasted a lot of food (aka money) if I opened a new jar every time I fed Laurel, since she only took a few bites per feeding in the first few weeks.
Easyas long as you have a steamer basket and a blender. I didn’t use any fancy baby food making equipment, although I’m sure those things can be helpful. You don’t even need a food processor! All I used was a pot with a steamer basket and a blender. Writing this post now as Laurel is 12 months and I am no longer making her baby food, I have since purchased this food processor (which I used for the pictures you see). However, when I was making her pureed food from about 6-9 months, I used a regular blender.
Following the more detailed directions below, add food to your steamer basket or pot.
Once food is fork tender, transfer to food processor or blender.
Blended until there are no chunks remaining and food is completely smooth, transfer to freezer-safe container.
How do I make baby food?
Blender or food processor
Freezer-safe jars or ice cube trays (I prefer silicone trays like these)
1/4 c liquid (either water,* breastmilk or formula) *Water can be any type of clean water, tap or bottled
1 cup fruit or vegetable, fresh or frozen
Thoroughly wash, peel, and de-seed fruit or vegetable as necessary. Chop into smaller pieces.
Steam in steamer basket or boil in water until soft, about 5-7 minutes or until fork tender. You can also bake/roast vegetables in the oven.
Allow fruit or vegetable to cool slightly then add to blender or food processor.
Add the water, breastmilk, or formula into blender. For thicker puree, use less liquid. To thin the puree, add more liquid until desired consistency.
Blend until completely smooth. Scrape sides of blender with rubber scraper and blend again.
Carefully pour into ice cube trays or jars, cover, and freeze.
If freezing food in an ice cube tray, feel free to transfer the cubes into a freezer-safe bag after they are completely frozen.
Place 1-2 cubes in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 10 seconds. Stir and repeat as necessary.
You want to cook (steam, boil, or roast) most fruits and vegetables before pureeing, with the exception of banana and avocado, in order to make them easier to digest (break down the fibers), as well as kill any bacteria that may be present on the food.
Vegetables like carrots and sweet potato take longer to become fork tender than broccoli, for example. Keep this in mind if combining and steaming foods.
Wash all fruits and vegetables, even if peeling, to include avocado (in case bacteria is present on the peel). I keep a spray bottle with vinegar next to my sink to spray fruit and veggie skin before peeling. Always use clean utensils and equipment, including knives and cutting board.
I liked to make single-ingredient purees, even as Laurel got older, so I could combine them in different ways to prevent boredom. Example: spinach + pear for breakfast, spinach + cauliflower for lunch, cauliflower + sweet potato for dinner.
I would sometimes add small amounts of baby oatmeal to reheated purees as a way of thickening them and adding iron.
Label your baby food with the date it was prepared and the ingredient(s) used.
Homemade baby food, if stored properly, should be safe in the fridge for 48 hours (fruits/vegetables) or 24 hours (meats/dairy/fish/eggs).
Use frozen baby food within three months, ideally within one month for best flavor.
Did you make your baby’s food? What are your favorite baby food combinations?
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