7 “Health” Topics You Won’t Find On This Blog

This week I got really angry. Like, “write a super-long, frothing-at-the-mouth Facebook rant and then delete it” angry. Like “go for a run to shake the anger and come back still feeling angry” angry. And it all had to do with what passes for “health” in this day and age.

As a freelance health writer, though I’ve been getting plenty of great work lately, I continue to stay open to new publications and previously unexplored avenues. So a couple weeks ago I responded to a call for new contributors from the health editor of a major women’s magazine. (One you’ve definitely heard of.) It seemed like a really exciting opportunity to even be considered for creating content for this magazine. I felt like if this came through for me, I really would have hit the big time.

And, in a way, the opportunity did come through: I received an email from the editor with an invitation to pitch her some story ideas. But when I read the description of what she (and the magazine) want to cover in their newly revamped Health section, that’s when my anger–and, underneath it, my sadness–began. Because every. single. item. on her list was something that stands in direct opposition to my integrity as a licensed nutritionist, or just as a thinking person who cares about the truth.

When I chose nutrition as a career, I never expected that one of the challenges I’d face would be frequent tests of my personal and professional ethics. Sure, maybe I would have predicted that some wacky supplement company might occasionally want me to sell their bogus product or that I might encounter some nutritional charlatans here and there. But to see the opinions presented as facts, the controversies for controversy’s sake, and the outright lies that major publications want to pass of as “health journalism” really grinds my gears, and it’s happening ALL the time. There is so much bad, biased, faddish, and nonsensical advice going around–and since my mission is to share evidence-based, trustworthy health information, that makes me mad.

So here’s a bit of a manifesto about what I personally (and this blog) stand for when it comes to nutrition and health. Here are 7 topics you won’t find me writing about–here or anywhere else–and why.

1. Foods to remove from your diet. These days we love to hate certain specific foods. I believe many people want an edible scapegoat to point to as the culprit behind their health problems. It’s the gluten! It’s the dairy! It’s the lectins! While it’s true that there are some things most of us probably shouldn’t be eating much of, if ever (like Flaming Hot Cheetos, let’s say), we’re all products of our overall diet and our entire environment. As a nutritionist, I find it more valuable to focus on general patterns that to demonize individual foods. Unless you have an allergy or disease that’s actually aggravated by a certain food, I don’t believe in totally ousting one thing or another.

2. Detoxes and/or cleanses. I’ve said it on this blog before, and I’ll say it again: Your body is already equipped with its own detox system. It’s called your liver and kidneys. Yep, believe it or not, your body does a pretty awesome job of filtering out toxins on a daily basis. So you really don’t need to do anything special to help it do so harder or more efficiently. If you’d like to change your diet to be healthier, that’s fantastic! (If you want to do it in the long-term, even better!) But slow and steady usually wins the race, not of a blitz of über-health followed by a return to poor nutrition.

3. Fad diets. The only time I’m interested in writing about fad diets is when I get to expose them. (Which I’m all too happy to do!) Though I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, I myself subscribe to a mostly Mediterranean diet and feel confident that a lot of basic nutrition advice can be applied to most people. Eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meats, and not too much sugar. Is it exciting? Nope. Is it good for you? I believe it is.

4. Nutrition buzzwords: Mmm…adaptogens. Yes, they’re a real thing, and no, I don’t care to focus on them. See “fad diets” above.

5. Celebrity trends. Just because someone’s butt looks amazing on TV or they have a million Twitter followers doesn’t mean their health habits are something we should emulate. So what if Kim Kardashian dropped 20 pounds by eating baby seahorse heads? That doesn’t make it a good idea. Reliable health information comes from professional, (and usually credentialed) sources.

6. Fat positivity. I absolutely think that practicing compassion toward ourselves and our journeys of health is a wonderful thing. But I see the body positivity/anti-fat-shaming movement often crossing a line into celebrating actually unhealthy behaviors. Healthy weight leads to better health outcomes. As a nutrition professional, I cannot, and will not, deny this.

7. Pointless complaints. I’ve literally seen a health publication asking for articles about how, because the media has given so much attention to unhealthy thinness and obesity, medium-sized women are being marginalized. Real issues of health inequality exist, I am 100% sure, but my personal mission around nutrition and health has far more to do with highlighting what we can do for our wellness than stirring up pointless unrest. Aren’t we all angry enough already?

To see some health topics I DO love to talk about, check out my Nutrition page!

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken

Remember those Arby’s commercials that ran awhile back promoting roast beef sandwiches on the premise that they were “Good Mood Food”? These ads always drove me nuts, because even before I was a nutritionist, I could tell you that eating processed red meat on a processed white bun slathered with overly sugary barbecue sauce was not going to be put me (or anyone else) in a good mood. In fact, the opposite is true.

Basically every time I eat fast food–no matter how tasty it sounded when I was really hungry–I always end up feeling super gross afterward. It’s one big reason why, in our family, fast food restaurants have become a last-resort destination reserved primarily for road trips. In the words of my husband, “I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s.” (Then again, I totally get that for some families, eating out at more expensive restaurants isn’t financially feasible. We all have to make the best choices we can with the resources we have.)

Thankfully, the American people apparently also saw right through this ad campaign, naming it one of the worst of 2011. (Luv’s diapers’ “Poop! There is is!” topped this list–though I find this one kind of disgustingly charming, don’t you?) We all know that, except under certain circumstances like after a REALLY rotten day at work or a beloved cat dying, junk food leaves us full of regret, not good vibes. So thanks but no thanks on the feeble attempt at deception, Arby’s.

Healthy food, on the other hand, does actually have the power to lift our spirits. Research around the Mediterranean diet shows that this eating plan centered around fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, and seafood is linked with lower risk of depression. And I for one can say that I feel far better about myself when I’ve made healthy food choices.

That’s where this Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken comes in. My kids and I had this for dinner the other night as an easy, light meal while my husband was out of town. Often, without my husband to feed, I go easy on myself by heating up something frozen or getting pizza. But once this salad was made, I realized it had hardly taken any time and, with its bed of greens, lean chicken, crunchy almonds, pops of juicy pomegranate, and olive oil-based dressing, I actually felt really good about eating it. Plus, I had some awesome healthy leftovers for lunch the next day. I’d say that’s the REAL Good Mood Food.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this shaved Brussels sprout salad could also make a nice healthy side dish (without the chicken, perhaps) for the main event. I’d love to hear how eating it makes YOU feel!

Print Recipe
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken
A delicious, colorful salad that serves as a light dinner or hearty side dish.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
as a main dish
Ingredients
For the dressing:
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
as a main dish
Ingredients
For the dressing:
Instructions
Make the salad:
  1. In a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, shred Brussels sprouts. (I like to leave some larger bits for textural variety.) Pour into a large serving bowl.
  2. Add diced apple, pomegranate arils, cranberries, almonds, chicken, and goat cheese to Brussels sprouts and toss to combine.
Make the dressing:
  1. In a small measuring cup, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Spend With Pennies.

Share this Recipe

Butternut Squash, Apple Cider, & White Cheddar Soup

According to my husband (and various news outlets) this October has been the rainiest on record here in Phoenix. And we are not mad about it. Rain, rain, do NOT go away! While I think I would get sick of overcast skies and waving windshield wipers if I lived somewhere like Portland, where it’s constant, I’m happy to soak it up while it lasts here in the desert. After all, rainy weather is SOUP weather, and who doesn’t love a warm-you-up-from-the-inside-out bowl of comfort? Especially when that bowl contains the magical mix of butternut squash, apple cider, and white cheddar?

Seriously, the combination in this delicious soup is like if someone held a contest for a meal that represents the Ultimate Flavors of Fall. Earthy with squash, rich with sharp white cheddar, with a hint of sweetness from the cider–oh, and did I mention pumpkin ale goes into the mix, too? Mm-hmm. Even my nine-year-old, who claims to hate butternut squash, grudgingly admitted this soup was goooooood. And unlike some soups that need to simmer for ages before they’re ready, this one doesn’t take long to cook. To make it extra quick and easy, start with a bag of pre-cut squash from the produce section of your grocery store. Rounded out with cheesy toast and a side salad, it’s the perfect dinner for a rainy day.

As for me, I’ll just be over here enjoying my soup weather as long as I can…


Print Recipe
Butternut Squash, Apple Cider, & White Cheddar Soup
Cozy up to a bowl of this unique soup with the perfect blend of fall flavors!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. Melt butter over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add butternut squash, onion, garlic, and salt. Saute until squash has softened slightly, about 8 minutes. Add pumpkin ale, apple cider, and broth. Simmer another 10-12 minutes or until squash is totally softened. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Whisk in white cheddar until melted, then stir in nutmeg.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Cooking For Keeps.

Share this Recipe

Decades Dinner Party

In our family, when it comes to birthdays, I usually do my best to make the day special for whichever kid we’re celebrating. The many birthday parties of the last few years have included a Butterfly Tea Party for my daughter, a Star Wars party for my middle son, and a Pokemon-themed party for both my boys. But sometimes…I want a party for me.

To ring in my 36th year, my husband and I invited a group of fun friends to a Decades Dinner Party. Everyone was asked dress in the theme of a decade of their choice and bring a shareable dish from their era. (We promised to be the 1920s.) After dinner, we would have an evening of dancing in the backyard studio my husband recently built to house his musical projects.

I knew it would be an enjoyable time, but I had no idea just how memorable it would turn out to be! Our friends BROUGHT IT. From incredibly creative costumes to spot-on potluck sides, I was thoroughly impressed with their efforts.

So here’s the lowdown on this themed party, with food and decor suggestions for throwing your own Decades Dinner Party!

The Decor

1920s dining room

I don’t know about you, but as much as I love the glitz and glam of the 1920s, I don’t own a whole lot of household items that look like they came from a hundred years ago. I condensed everything I could find around the dessert table in my kitchen dining room. In addition to a Tiffany-style lamp and art nouveau print I happen to have, I went for a gold-and-black theme with table decor, plus some candlesticks. Then I tacked pages of 1920s-era posters torn out of an art book on the wall.

1940s bathroom

Much like my lack of flapper-era materials, I don’t own much (if anything) that screams 1940s. Not to worry, however! I deemed my bathroom the World War II zone–don’t think too hard about that–by printing off some funny old propaganda posters that seemed bathroom-appropriate.

1960s living room

The ’60s were a bit more doable for me, since we still have our trusty Yellow Submarine head-in-the-hole board leftover from our Beatles Singalong Party. (It’s not the kind of thing you let go of too easily.) This prop conveniently set the scene, with pictures my kids drew of the Beatles in its windows. From there, a tie-dye table runner seemed only natural. A ’60s centerpiece was a bit more difficult to come up with, but I ended up with this trippy ‘shroom house, a pink cake pedestal, and chunky colorful flower stickers all found at Michael’s.

To complete the look, I made a “Groovy” banner and scattered retro records around the room. (I knew hanging on to my mom’s old record collection would come in handy someday!)

1980s family room

Nothing says ’80s like bits of pop culture like Troll dolls and Rubik’s cubes. These toys graced the mantle in the family room, along with some throwback posters. Instant ’80s!

The food

Okay, I’ll admit I was enjoying the party a bit too much to get food photos. Nevertheless, as 1920s hosts, we provided:

Al Capone’s Secret Recipe Pizza–just pizza with a themed name–an easy main dish!

Waldorf Salad–a concoction from the Waldorf Hotel of apples, grapes, celery, walnuts, and a creamy dressing

Shrimp Cocktail–very popular in the 1920s, according to the Internet

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake–also popular in the early 20th century as commercial canning made “exotic” fruits like pineapple readily available

Of course, with the theme of the ’20s, we couldn’t do without some bootleg booze. To let everyone make their own gin cocktail, I provided some mixology instructions and a variety of ingredients.

Though I was expecting mountains of Jell-O as potluck sides, our friends thought way outside that box, bringing sloppy joes from the ’70s, broccoli salad from the ’80s, and apple pie from the ’50s.

The photo booth (and costumes!)

Who doesn’t love a photo booth? We set up a backdrop and photo station so guests could capture their amazing costumes. And they did not disappoint!

Some of the guys

Early ’90s perfection

Ultimate groovy ’60s

Some sweet ’70s

Spot-on ’60s

A ’50s Pink Lady and her favorite Greaser

So many kudos to these friends who came from THE FUTURE!! (The Zombie apocalypse-era is looking gooooood.)

…and your hosts, rocking our ’20s attire

Last but not least, group photo!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to the not one but TWO couples who got super creative and showed up from the past (the cave people in front) and the future.

The dancing!

What can I say? To me, dancing makes a party. It was so fun to jam out to a playlist of songs from every decade from the 1920s through the ’90s.

I’d say the blurriness captures the ’60s vibe, amirite?

Apparently my dancing is 90% arms.

Obligatory ladies’ dance circle

My husband and me working on our 1920s moves.

After this party, I really don’t know what I’ll do to top it on my next happy birthday. Thanks again to the dear friends who made it so much fun!

Amazing All-Purpose Tahini Sauce

In the past, I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid using tahini. It’s just so expensive, I thought, and what on earth would I do with an entire jar of sesame paste? Sure, I like hummus like any red-blooded Millennial, but I just couldn’t see making that much of it from scratch.

Little did I know that tahini can be used for other things besides hummus.

A few weeks ago I came across this helpful post on Babble that set me straight. Twenty-eight ways to use tahini that AREN’T hummus? The mystery! The intrigue! Turns out the sesame flavor and smooth texture of tahini lends itself to salad dressings, pestos, and even…brownies? While that particular suggestion may be going a bit too far for my tastes, the idea did broaden my horizons. When I ended up buying a jar at Trader Joe’s (for only around $3–far cheaper than I expected) it was with plenty of options on my radar.

This amazing all-purpose tahini sauce started its life as a dressing for a to-die-for roasted cauliflower salad over at Budget Bytes, but in my house, it’s turned into so much more. This week I put it on baked salmon, dipped pita in it, and have been seriously considering its possibilities as a sandwich spread. (With a bit of deli turkey, sprouts, and cucumber, it sounds like Mediterranean perfection.) I could see it working well on grilled chicken, as a veggie dip, or on falafel.

And, if you’re really adventurous, I suppose you could even use it in brownies.


Print Recipe
Amazing All-Purpose Tahini Sauce
A tangy sauce that works perfectly on fish, chicken, or just for dipping!
Servings
(makes about 1 cup)
Ingredients
Servings
(makes about 1 cup)
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a measuring cup, mix all ingredients until well combined. Keep covered in the refrigerator.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Budget Bytes.

Share this Recipe