The Best Baked Oatmeal. Ever.

There’s something about warm oatmeal for breakfast in the morning that is so comforting, especially during colder months. I like to think of oatmeal as a blank slate where you can mix and match different ingredients to make the perfect combination. It’s a great breakfast option for families, individuals, picky eaters, you name it! That’s why when I saw Foodfitnessandfaith (fellow dietitian, go follow her!) post a photo of baked oatmeal, I knew I had to make it as soon as possible. Fiber-rich oats, popular super foods chia and flax seeds, bananas, and chocolate chips are the stars of this recipe. I added nuts and cinnamon for additional crunch and flavor and think you all will love it just as much as I do!

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Ground flax seeds and cinnamon

One of my best friends got married recently and she requested for me to make this for the bridesmaids to enjoy during the day-off morning getting ready. Needless to say it was a huge hit! This recipe can also be made in advance to enjoy for breakfast all week long (the easiest meal prep recipe you will ever make). I also like to top mine with peanut butter before serving. What are you waiting for? Go make it, I promise you’ll love this recipe!

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Baked Oatmeal Recipe*

Ingredients:

4 tbsp melted coconut oil or good quality butter (I like Vital Farms)

4 tbsp maple syrup

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp ground flax seeds

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ cup chocolate chips

¼ cup chopped pecans

2 bananas sliced lengthwise

Optional: nut butter for topping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 dish such as a Pyrex with butter or coconut oil. Whisk together oil or butter, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and milk until well combined. Add oats, baking powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, cinnamon and salt and mix until everything is combined. Pour mixture into baking dish and spread oatmeal evenly. Top with sliced bananas, chocolate chips, and pecans and bake for approximately 25 minutes until oatmeal is browned and chocolate chips have melted. Slice into 6-12 servings and enjoy! *Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week


Happy cooking!

Xx, Mary Claire

*Recipe adapted from foodfitnessandfaith

How to Conquer Daylight Savings Woes

We are just over a week into the big daylight savings change, and to be honest I am officially struggling. It doesn’t help that the weather has been dark, rainy, and straight up gloomy in Atlanta. Don’t get me wrong, I am so ready for the approaching holiday season and getting an extra hour of sleep has been nice. Leaving work with limited daylight left has been tough! Can anyone else who works typical office hours relate?!

I’ve been thinking, what can I do to help my body/mind ease into this transition a bit smoother? I came up with a few ideas and thought I’d share them with you all as well!

Don’t skimp on sleep

Although the amount of sleep required by adults varies, studies show the optimal night of sleep is between 7-9 hours. Less than 7 hours per night is actually associated with potential negative health effects such as increased risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. As the days get shorter, we might find our eyes getting heavy earlier. Don’t ignore your body’s natural cues!

If you have trouble winding down at night, a “nighttime routine” might be helpful. Think: hot tea, your favorite book or TV show (I don’t mean binging on Netflix for hours), light stretching, and hit the sheets! Mobile devices are notorious for admitting blue light which has been shown to suppress melatonin release (the natural hormone our body produces to manage circadian rhythm), so getting into a routine sans cell phone may be beneficial for optimal zzz’s.

Prepare cozy eats

I don’t know about you all, but my body naturally starts to crave warming foods around this time of year (think: chili, soups, stews, oatmeal etc). I love making a big pot of soup and pairing it with crusty bread for a hearty supper or making a bowl of oatmeal with warming spices for breakfast. Check out my Pinterest page for yummy recipes I’ve been digging lately!

Oatmeal topped with cinnamon, walnuts, blueberries, and blackberries

Oatmeal topped with cinnamon, walnuts, blueberries, and blackberries

Boost antioxidant-rich foods

As a Registered Dietitian, I am continually promoting real food intake, especially from fruits and vegetables, so this might seem like another no-brainer. Certain fruits and vegetables contain specific antioxidants that act as protectors of our cells at a microscopic level. Every day we are exposed to free radicals from the environment, sunlight, alcohol, cigarette smoke, etc. These free radicals (unstable molecules) can trigger oxidative stress thus damage our cells and could eventually play a role in disease. Antioxidants have been shown to counteract this stress by neutralizing oxidative stress. Some common antioxidants found in food/supplement form include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene, selenium, flavanoids, and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. There is mixed research on whether antioxidant supplementation offer the same benefits as those from real foods. In addition, some antioxidants if taken above the recommended dietary intake (RDI) can potentially cause the body harm. I recommend consuming real foods first.

Antioxidant rich blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and cacao nibs!

Antioxidant rich blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and cacao nibs!

Get out in nature

There’s something about spending time in nature that instantly boosts my mood. Whether that means taking the day to hike in the mountains or simply walking around town, these activities can do great things for well-being. Interestingly enough, studies show possible positive effects on physical and psychological stress when one spends time in natural environments. Furthermore, research suggests spending time in green spaces and other outdoor settings is linked to greater stress reduction, increased self-esteem and overall mood as opposed to indoor exercise. Grab a friend or go solo, and enjoy!

My love and I hiking

My love and I hiking

My friend and music producer, Joey aka  Pure Colors

My friend and music producer, Joey aka Pure Colors

How are you tackling shorter days in preparation for winter months?

Xx, Mary Claire

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/sleep

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/ask-the-doctor-right-amount-of-sleep

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5981243/




Music Festival/Camping Tips For Your Next Outdoor Adventure

Last weekend was the 5th anniversary of a music/camping festival local to Georgia called Imagine Music Festival. Some of my close friends and I have made the trip for the last few years and needless to say it was an absolute blast! If you live in Georgia you already know that summer in the south is still going strong with highs in the 90’s. This made camping challenging as it was quite hot. Luckily I had a few tricks up my sleeve to make my friends and I feel our absolute best throughout the weekend. I thought it would be fun to share some healthy tips and tricks that you can use whether you attend music festivals, camp, or spend time embarking on outdoor adventures in general! Here we go:

First, plan ahead. A little bit of forethought goes a LONG way when it comes to planning these types of trips. A few days before leaving, I made a list, headed to the grocery store, and prepped a few essentials for the weekend. Some items I made included: greek pasta salad, hard boiled eggs, and roasted asparagus. Pro tip: When you are going to be eating out of a cooler for the weekend, it helps to have everything already cooked/ready to eat. That way, items can stay cold over ice with no cooking necessary. If you are feeling ambitious, camping stoves can be a great tool for preparing hot meals, but we didn’t utilize one during this trip.  I also purchased some ready cooked and cut-up chicken breasts for quick protein options. Below are a few typical meals I ate throughout the weekend.

Roasted asparagus, greek pasta salad, grilled chicken breast

Roasted asparagus, greek pasta salad, grilled chicken breast

Whole grain bread, avocado, hard boiled eggs

Whole grain bread, avocado, hard boiled eggs

Next, snacks are important. Quality is key here. It’s so easy to grab bags of chips, cookies, pretzels, etc. and while these things are yummy at times they don’t fill us up and give us sustained energy (especially when you’re at a music festival walking 10,000+ steps & dancing to tunes all day). What I recommend: fruit, quality bars, nuts, trail mix, guacamole + crackers, etc. Also, fresh, cold fruit in the heat tastes AMAZING!

Perfect Bar  + apple

Perfect Bar + apple

I probably sound like a broken record here, but hydration is KEY. We all know how much water helps us function optimally and I get that plain water isn’t always the most exciting. Before our trip, I made one of my favorite drink recipes from a fellow dietitian I absolutely adore! It’s a blend of refreshing herbal teas, lemon, and fresh mint. Check out the recipe here, I guarantee you will be obsessed! This tea gives our liver an extra boost to do what it naturally does best: detoxify + metabolize.

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I also brought lots of kombucha and fresh watermelon juice. Watermelon juice is rich in essential vitamins/minerals such as potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. I often see a lot of electrolyte/sports drinks being consumed especially in the heat. Interestingly enough, watermelon juice has almost 6x the amount of potassium compared to popular sports drinks. (Potassium is crucial for aiding muscle contractions, maintaining normal blood pressure, and fluid regulation).

What do you do to get ready for camping/music festival/outdoor trips? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Xx Happy travels,

Mary Claire

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MACRONUTRIENTS PT III: FAT

I think it’s safe to say that we have all heard someone we know make a statement that goes something like, “Fats make you fat” or “Don’t eat too much fat or you’ll gain weight.” Throughout the years, dietary fat has been a widely misunderstood nutrient with tons of conflicting research that, to be honest, would make anyone confused. We have made it to the third and final post on macronutrients and today we are talking all things fat. Fats are the most calorically dense of the three macronutrients, meaning they contain more calories per gram. Don’t be scared of the higher calorie content! Fats are essential in our diet not only for their nutrition profile, but to help us stay full and satisfied in between meals.

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Fats are crucial in supporting our metabolism, keeping various body tissues healthy, immunity, hormone production, and the absorption of many other nutrients. When we consume fat, it is either digested and used for energy, stored in fat (adipose) tissue, or incorporated into other body tissues and organs. A lot of our body tissues are made up of fat, including our brains and parts of our nervous systems. Even our cell membranes are fat-based. This means that the fat we consume literally becomes part of our cells. Pretty cool, right? If fat is so crucial for our bodies to function optimally, why has it had such a bad reputation?! Let’s explore what fat is and where we can find it in our diets.

Dietary fat is primarily comprised of two molecules, hydrogen and carbon. Together these molecules form hydrocarbons (simple enough, right?). These hydrocarbons can be configured in many different ways which then can create different types of fat that all have unique properties. Wait, there are different types of fat? Let’s break it down.

There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Again back to high school biology class, you might remember studying these types of fats and their properties. Within these two overarching groups of fats, there are also poly-unsaturated, mono-unsaturated, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Wait, what?! Here’s the breakdown.

 

Saturated Fats:

Solids at room temperature

Primarily found in our diet from animal sources (milk, cheese, poultry, processed meats, beef, etc.)

Excessive intake of these types of fats are potentially associated with certain chronic diseases (ie heart disease) and even types of cancer.

 

Unsaturated Fats:

Liquids at room temperature

Found in plant sources

Research shows these fats to be beneficial as they can improve blood cholesterol levels, aid in inflammation, and reduce risk for stroke and heart disease.

-Mono-unsaturated fats: Unsaturated dietary fat found in plant foods such as nuts/seeds, avocados, olive and canola oils

-Poly-unsaturated fats: Second type of unsaturated dietary fat found in plant foods and some seafood. These fats are considered essential fatty acids. This means that our body cannot synthesize them internally, thus we need them from our diet. These types of fats are broken down into omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

-Omega-3 fatty acids: Important for cardiovascular function, immunity, brain development, and nervous system function. Sub-groups of this type of fatty acid include DHA and EPA (found in fish oils) and ALA (found in walnuts, chia seeds and flax seeds)

-Omega-6 fatty acids: Similar to omega 3-fatty acids as far as their role and function; these fatty acids also help stimulate hair and skin growth, regulate metabolism, and maintain bone health and the reproductive system. Be careful! The typical American diet tends to consume up to 20 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. This is largely due to the fact that we consume a lot of processed foods rich in soybean, palm, and sunflower oils. Try opting for more nuts/seeds and less processed snacks.

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So, what do I recommend? The key is to focus on whole food fat sources. Try incorporating a variety of fat types from nuts, seeds, fish, olive oils, avocados, etc. (rich in healthy fats) while avoiding processed, artificial, and factory-made foods (high in unhealthy fats). Keeping it simple is key. Adding sliced avocado, toasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, or canned salmon/tuna to a salad are great ways to incorporate added healthy fats into a meal.. Another idea is to drizzle olive oil over carrots or sliced sweet potatoes and roast them in the oven for a quick side dish! Tell me, how do you get your healthy fats in?!


Xx, Mary Claire

 

 

 

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5475232/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2016/12/19/saturated-fat-regardless-of-type-found-linked-with-increased-heart-disease-risk/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3471136/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-healthy-fats

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-fish-oil

MACRONUTRIENTS PT II: PROTEIN

Protein is such a hot topic in the nutrition, wellness, and fitness world. It seems many people are so concerned about getting adequate protein in their diets, and I am here to tell you I guarantee that you are! Throughout this post I am going to explain what protein is, what it does for us, how much we REALLY need, and where to get it. So, let’s get started.

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Protein is the second of the three macronutrients (check out my last post on carbohydrates here) found in foods from both plants and animals. It is largely made up of many smaller units called amino acids. If you remember your high school biology class, you might recall your teacher stating that amino acids are the "building blocks of protein." These amino acids fall under 2 categories: essential and non-essential. Simply put, essential amino acids cannot be made by our bodies, meaning we must get them from the foods we eat. Nonessential amino acids have the ability to be synthesized by our bodies; therefore we don’t need them from our diet every day.

So, why is protein so important? When we digest protein-rich foods, our bodies break down these proteins into individual amino acids which circulate in our blood stream until they are needed to produce important molecules (i.e. enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies). Protein also helps replace tired or worn out cells and aids in growth and repair, specifically within our skin, hair, nails, muscle, bone, and internal organs. This is one of the reasons protein is talked about so heavily in the fitness world. People who are more physically active (think: athletes, bodybuilders, weightlifters) often require more protein in their diet to keep up with their body’s demand, specifically for muscle repair and growth. People constantly (!!) ask me how much protein they need. As a general recommendation this is what I suggest:

0.8-1 grams/kilogram (g/kg) actual body weight for a healthy adult

(Example: A person who is 60 kilograms (132 pounds) would require a minimum of 48-60 g of protein per day.)

Keep in mind that this is the minimum requirement for basic protein synthesis. There are many other factors to consider when calculating protein needs, such as a person’s daily activity levels. Someone who is much more physically active might thrive on a higher protein diet. If you gain nothing else from this post please try and remember 1) not to compare what other people are doing and think you should be doing the same and 2) each and every person requires a diet that should be individualized for their specific needs and body!

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That brings us to our next question: what foods contain protein!? I mentioned above that protein can come from plant and animal sources. Thus, MOST foods contain some amounts of protein. If we are eating a balanced diet from a variety of foods, chances are we are getting adequate amounts! Some common sources are listed below.

 

Plant sources: Grains, vegetables (yes, vegetables do contain protein), beans, peas, nuts, seeds, soy products

Animal sources: eggs, dairy products, meats and poultry, seafood

 

Below are a few quick examples of the protein content within certain foods:

2 tablespoons peanut butter = 8 grams protein

1 egg = 6 grams protein

1 cup black beans = 12 grams protein

1 medium chicken breast = 26 grams protein

¼ cup almonds = 8 grams protein

1 cup lentils = 17 grams protein

 

While I understand everyone has certain financial constraints, I do recommend that people purchase high quality animal sources of protein when able. Look for trigger words on labels such as organic, grass fed and finished, free range, and wild caught. Research shows potential health benefits of choosing organic versus conventionally grown foods such as greater nutrient content, higher omega-3 fatty acids, less pesticide residue, and smaller occurrence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. But, what about the cost? I encourage you to research where the closest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group is in relation to where you live. Also, there are always seasonal pop-up farmers’ markets, even in big cities. For all my Atlanta people, check out this list of yearly farmers markets. Buying from these groups or markets are generally less expensive and you will be simultaneously supporting local businesses! Do some digging and let me know what you come up with!

 

Xx, Mary Claire

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/040715p40.shtml

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/rr-whey-too-much

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-protein

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/factsheets/Protein.pdf