Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Yesterday it snowed in Colorado (after a high of 80 degrees the day before), but you bet I still made a smoothie! No, I don’t wear shorts in winter, why do you ask?

I love this Pumpkin Pie Smoothie at any time of year, but in the fall it really captures the flavor of the season (pumpkin, duh) for sure. I love it with vanilla protein powder, but feel free to make it with yogurt instead! Great for breakfast or a high protein snack.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie with Granola topping

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Top with granola or pumpkin seeds for fun! 

**This post contains affliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will be paid if you purchase the item linked.

2 Beet Smoothie Recipes

Earlier this week on my social media (find me on Instagram and Facebook), I posted that beets were the food of the week. There are so many great qualities about beets, but not that many easy recipes out there. So I decided to make my own smoothie recipes!

Beets have a very distinct taste that is dirt-like to some. They are full of fiber (4g per cup), folate, manganese, potassium, iron, and Vitamin C. In fact, they have as much potassium as a banana! Beets have been shown in studies to help reduce blood pressure and improve athletic performance.⠀

Beets can be eaten raw, pickled, roasted, steamed, or boiled. I love to add them to salads with some goat cheese, or add them to a smoothie.⠀You can buy them raw or already pre-cooked.

But wait! There’s more! The beet greens are delicious and nutrient packed as well. Don’t throw them away if you get them with your beets – just pick off and add to your next salad.⠀

Creamy ingredients like yogurt and banana can minimize the taste of the beets, as does celery. I tried both in these two recipes. I really like the taste of both, but the second one is decidedly more “healthy tasting”, as my mom told me. It tastes like a fancy juice at a cafe, but it’s got some extra bonus in there!

Beet Strawberry Coconut Smoothie
by Megan Salazar, RDN CSSD

Beet Strawberry Coconut Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz milk (I use Silk Protein Nut Milk)
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 raw beet, peeled and chunked
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Banana Beet Collagen Smoothie
by Megan Salazar, RDN CSSD

Banana Beet Collagen Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz milk (I use Silk Protein Nut Milk)
  • 1 raw beet, peeled and chunked
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 serving collagen peptides (I use Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

**This post contains affliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will be paid if you purchase the item linked.

3 Nutritional Considerations for Better Sleep

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Ah sleep. The almost cliche habit that everyone knows they need but can’t seem to get enough of. We all know we need anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep for best function, but many of us may struggle to get asleep, stay asleep or get good quality sleep to give our best throughout the day.

While you may not think that your nutrition is linked to your sleep habits (and vice versa), it really can play a role in your ability to get good rest and recover to do it all again tomorrow. Let’s walk through a couple of ways that you can affect your sleep positively.

Control Blood Sugar During the Day

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The quality and combination of foods can have a positive impact on your blood sugar regulation and therefore your sleep. Blood sugar is the readily available source of energy for all cells that is carried throughout the body constantly and controlled within a very tight range for the healthy individual. When you eat, blood sugar will increase, dependent on the type and amount of food that you consume. If blood sugar goes up quickly, like when you consume straight sugar, it can come down just as quickly and drop below the threshold of the preferred range for the body. When blood sugar is too low, cortisol is released (1).

If this is repeated throughout the day and on a consistent daily basis, this can lead to alteration of the response of many hormones including growth hormone and cortisol (2), which over time can lead to sleep disruptions (3). This occurs due to a change in the body’s response to the normal hormone fluctuations during the sleep process, making that individual more susceptible to arouse earlier and easier, with a decreased ability to get back to sleep.

So in order to normalize the body’s response to these hormones, balancing blood sugar responses during the day can be useful. A combination of quality protein, plentiful fiber, and healthful fats can slow the blood sugar response and eventual decline, which allows the individual to respond better to the hunger signal. In other words, when you eat a balanced meal, your blood sugar will slowly come down, allowing you time to make a better decision about what to eat at the next meal. Repeat this over several meals, and multiple days and the neuroendocrine system will respond better at night to increase your amount of Zzzzs. As always, consistency is key in this area and one meal/food is not going to have a negative impact.

Correct Nutrient Deficiencies

There are multiple studies that are now showing that having a deficiency of Vitamin D (4) can lead to sleep issues. Low serum vitamin D levels (<25 ng/mL) were associated with poor sleep quality, low sleep duration and sleepiness in several studies. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is obtained primarily from exposure to the sun. There are very few foods that contain Vitamin D and even then they have low amounts of it for absorption.

The best thing you can do is increase your light exposure by getting sunlight as soon as possible in the morning and as much as possible throughout the day. If sunlight is not obtainable – say it is the middle of winter or you work inside most of the day, supplementation is recommended. Supplements in oil form are the best absorbed and I personally use drops for myself and my family.

Vitamin B6 may be associated with insomnia as well. Vitamin B6 is a cofactor in the production of serotonin and melatonin. In general, a lower intake of vitamins and protein has been associated with insomnia, with significant difference in the intake of B12, iron and carbohydrates between normal sleepers and insomniacs (5).

Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for over 300 different functions in the body. Magnesium deficiency can increase oxidative stress and inflammation and therefore lead to poor sleep quality. Some studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium can improve sleep quality (6, 7), among other factors. Magnesium may also help reduce restless leg syndrome (8), which can also lead to wakefulness at night. Anecdotally, I regularly take a magnesium supplement at night to help mitigate my fibromyalgia and find it does help with the quality of my sleep.

Get Regular Movement

Practicing Pilates – one of my favorite exercises

It may not be all about food, but getting regular movement can greatly improve sleep quality. Whether it be a 30 minute walk (do it outside and get Vitamin D too!), an hour long bike ride, 20 minutes of yoga or 10 minutes of dancing, movement improves all systems of the body. Movement can impact your sleep regulation, your vitamin utilization, and hormone production, so without it, what you eat to improve your health will have less of a positive impact.

Do what you enjoy and are able to do for movement. If your why is not strong in this area, it will not be a habit that you will be able to sustain. If you don’t enjoy running, but like dancing, then go for a night out, break out in your living room or employ a video game like Just Dance for extra fun!

Getting better sleep is not something that will happen overnight, but having some strategies to try and habits to adjust may help in the long run. As always, what you repeatedly do will affect how your body functions in the long run.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you purchase after clicking on the link. I am not paid by the company to promote these products and my opinions are my own.

Health is 100% Personal

You’ve likely heard the saying that weight loss is “80% Nutrition and 20% Exercise.” While this may be true (that what you eat plays a bigger role in weight loss than exercise), I believe that most individuals that desire weight loss truly desire health more. They want to reduce the aching in their knees and back, they want to reverse diabetes or heart disease or an autoimmune condition, or they want to minimize their risk for getting diseases. While the surface goal may be to look better, the underlying root is often deeper and can also help them persist past challenges.

Health, however, is 100% personal. It is something that is not always related to weight loss, either. Everyone’s version of health and path to it can vary greatly. Just like we have different hair or skin color and we come in a variety of sizes, so too do we have different degrees of health. For some, health looks like optimal bloodwork, no disease, a body that works in all ways, and little dysfunction. For others, they are managing their dysfunctions as best they can, working with what they have, and surviving another day.

I think we all wish that our health was determined by our habits, but unfortunately cancer/autoimmunity/name your disease doesn’t care about the habits you have. Health can also change in an instant – one minute an individual is running a marathon and the next they are getting a heart attack. Disease has no prejudice and sometime no warning.

We have to treat health as something that is very individual. Habits can improve health and reduce the risk of getting disease, but everyone’s path to their version of health will look very different. So therefore everyone’s habits for health are individual and must be personalized.

If someone has been working out for years and is trying to add on more muscle or perform a certain exercise, their habit change will look different than someone that has never done formal exercise or lifted a weight. There is nothing wrong with either situation, just that each person will have a different goal based on where they are at right then and there.

So often, there are goals thrown out there that supposedly everyone should be doing – like 10,000 steps a day, drinking half your body weight in ounces, eating 3 or 5 or 2 meals a day. While these aren’t terrible goals, the shame in the should is brought out when someone who is only walking 2,000 steps a day tries to aim for 10,000/day their first week, only to fail at the huge increase in movement. Getting healthier is all about slowly improving upon the habits that you have to make a better version of YOU, not try to keep up with someone else.

Walking in the forest with my son

All that to say, don’t feel you have to keep up with Joneses – even in regards to your health. When you are ready to change, make a goal that will make you 1% better, such as going for 5 minutes longer on your walk, going to bed 10 minutes earlier, or adding 1 more vegetable to your dinner. Give yourself room to grow!

Have a goal that you need help working towards? Do you need to adjust your eating habits? I can help! Go to my main page to schedule an introductory call to learn more.

Who is Megan Salazar, RD CSSD?

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Photo courtesy of Afton L Dains Photography

I realized the other day that I haven’t really taken the opportunity to introduce myself and give my background to you. I have a lot that goes into why I do what I do and how that impacts everything.

Currently, I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with Board Certification in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).  I have a Bachelor in Dietetics from the University of Northern Colorado, as well as a Bachelor in Psychology from the University of Colorado (GO BUFFS!). I have 6 years experience with coaching individuals towards their goal of weight management, sports performance (like Half and Full Ironmans), gut health improvement, disease management, and hormone balancing.

But 10 years ago I was just starting my second Bachelor degree (the dietetics one) which led me to where I am today. The reason I started that degree is because 12 years ago I had just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia after multiple tests to try to figure out why my hands (especially my left) were constantly tingling and sometimes in pain. The doctors started me off with muscle relaxers and nerve blockers, all while I was downing NSAIDS (like ibuprofen) on a daily basis with no knowledge or education of what that could do to my body. I kept going back to the doctor complaining of the side effects of the meds (like insatiable appetite and weight gain) to which they responded with the testing. They thought I might have Multiple Sclerosis, so off to the MRI I went. That came back negative, so a trip to the neurologist was next with an EMG and nerve test. Inconclusive. So the neurologist insisted that I had fibromyalgia.

Mind you, I have little medical knowledge at this point, but from what I understood, fibromyalgia was a catch-all. To me, it was a we-don’t-know-what’s-going-on-but-can’t-call-you-crazy-so-here’s-a-diagnosis-diagnosis. Not to undermine people who do have issues consistent with fibromyalgia, but it was a brush off to me. I was devastated.

I had been discussing all of these issues with my dad, a very knowledgeable family physician who tried the Adson’s test (in short – hand on pulse while hand is down by side, then hand is raised above head to see what happens to pulse). My pulse went away quickly and completely. This is more indicative of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – which would also explain the tingling/numbness/pain. Main therapy is muscle activation/relaxation of certain muscles surrounding the shoulders. So while I am still in constant pain, I have learned better ways to deal with it – like chelated magnesium for muscle relaxation and curcumin to reduce inflammation, along with stretching, massage, and strengthening of the supportive muscles.

After all of this, I decided to make a change to my nutrition and started a popular weight loss program. I lost some weight on this, but decided that I didn’t really like the quality of the food that the program was recommending, so I started tracking my own calories with even more success – losing 30 pounds through it all. At this point, I was hooked on the process and knew that this was a new career path that I wanted to take (since my current one in the finance industry wasn’t very rewarding). I went back to school while working full-time to get my second Bachelor in Dietetics. It took me a while to get into an internship, but I fully enjoyed my varied experiences in a dialysis center, within a hospital, writing for a vegetarian group, working in a long-term care facility, and finally working in a school disctrict. It was the work within the school district that ignited a passion in teaching others what and how to eat properly. In that position and at my first job in a long-term care facility, I began to have a growing passion that I wanted to impact adults in order to impact the families around them.

For the next 6 years, I worked in a large fitness facility doing nutrition coaching of a variety of adults and metabolic conditions. I increased my knowledge further by learning how to do resting and active metabolic assessments using an indirect calorimeter, assessing someone’s basal metabolic rate or their heart rate zones, respectively. I also did some independent study to pass the test to become a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).

In those 6 years, I also went through the joy (and pain) of having 2 kids. Along with working full-time, I was pretty well exhausted – my sleep was starting to suffer, I wasn’t losing the weight after my second like I did after my first. I tried going low carb, then tried keto – only to have these back-fire on me with blood sugar that was on average too low. This can actually be more detrimental to health than high blood sugar. In this blood test, there were several indicators that my zinc was too low as well. I decided that it was best for MY body to implement more carbs again and once I did I began to gain back normal function again, in addition to losing some weight. Right now my goal is to grow a healthy baby, due in February 2019.

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Photo by Afton L Dains Photography

 

My own experience with my health has taught me over and over that there is not one right diet for everyone. And that there is a time and a place to implement certain dietary challenges – whether it be to improve blood levels or to decrease weight. Factors that affect this time and place are stress, lifestyle, time, personality, and desire.

This brings me to where I am today – I am committed to helping women get out of the revolving door of diets through science-based behavioral coaching. Including myself, so many women try several different types of diets to not see results, have the weight come back or gain more weight than they lost initially. I want to help them, and YOU, stop the cycle. Sorting through all of the information (and much of it misinformation) out there can be exhausting and you need someone by your side to walk you through the fire.