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Self-care begins with gratitude

When Annette brought up writing an article on self-care, my mind immediately went to the word gratitude. In my eyes, one of the best forms of self-love and care is to take a moment out of your day to give thanks for what you already have. It is a practice that reminds you to think about the positive things in your life. I find that it also helps to give me a sense of purpose. Having daily gratitude practices can significantly improve one’s mental health. And that is what self-care is all about!

            I popped on to PubMed and decided to search the word “gratitude” because I was curious if there was any sort of scientific background on the effects of daily gratitude. Why? Because I am a science nerd, of course! To my surprise PubMed had dozens of articles on the positive effects of gratitude and how it is involved in mental health research. A 2017 study measured the effect of gratitude on a person’s mental well-being and found that it may be a way to improve, “emotion regulation and self-motivation through resting-state functional connectivity and motivation-related brain regions (Kyeong 17)”. This means that after the individual performed a gratitude meditation, their neural network had a positive effect on their anxiety and depression levels.

            Everything I read came to a similar conclusion; that while gratitude needs to be studied more, it still results in a positive effect on mental health, even months after the study is performed. This goes to show that we all could benefit from incorporating more gratitude into our lives. In this article I am going to highlight five different ways you can sneak some gratitude into your day.

  1. Morning journal prompts

Waking up and expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to start your day. While even simply thinking to yourself, “I am thankful to see another day” is a great way to practice gratitude, an even better way is to start a daily morning gratitude journal. This is something that I have done for over a year now and I truly think it has changed my life. You can use a gratitude journal that you find online, they have a variety of ones out there with different sorts of journal prompts, or you can just use a small notebook of your own. I like to leave it on my bedside table with a pen so that I can write in it as soon as I wake up. Just jot down 3-7 things you are thankful for that day. Some days are really simple for me, such as being thankful for my family and puppies, but most days I do try to be more detailed with the entries.

  1. Long nature walks

Nature walks are another time to express gratitude. While I usually love listening to music or a podcast while I walk, recently I have tried to go on walks without my phone. This way it encourages me to look around and think about my surroundings. It is a great opportunity to take a second and feel thankful for the present moment. You can be thankful for the beautiful scenery around you, the sunshine, the fresh air, and the trees. Nature gives us all a lot to be thankful for and nature walks are the perfect time to slip some gratitude into your day.

  1. Give thanks before a meal

I know this is a more obvious one for many of us, but to others it might not be thought about. I grew up saying a prayer before every meal and giving thanks for the food on our plates. This is a great time to practice gratitude for the food that you are able to have in your life. If you choose to not take part in a prayer, you can simply think to yourself about how grateful you are to have food to eat, clean water to drink and a safe place to enjoy it. I love expressing gratitude for the opportunity to have fresh produce and nutritious meals. It is a luxury and it can be easy to lose sight of that. So next time you are about to eat, even if it is just a snack, consider taking the time to give thanks.

  1. Do a yoga flow

Moving your body is another amazing thing we should be grateful for. I think this one can be easy to take advantage of. We do not always think about how grateful we should be to have limbs that move fluidly. Taking time out of our day to stretch, breathe, and flow can be another ideal opportunity to practice gratitude. While you are doing some yoga stretches, think about how thankful you are to have a beautiful body that can move in the ways you want it to. Feel grateful for your breath, flowing through you, in the exact rhythm you tell it to. These might all seem like small things, but we have to remember that not everyone has these capabilities. This is why that during a yoga flow is an essential time to take a second and express gratitude for your body and mind.

  1. Bedtime routines

There is no better time to give thanks than at the end of the day. Even if you felt like you had a bad day, there is always something good you can pull out of every single day. This is why showing gratitude before bed is crucial. My favorite way to do this takes only a few seconds. While I am lying in bed, I ask myself what went well today. This technique is a great way to reflect on the day you had and pick out the parts that went nicely. It allows you to go to bed on a positive note, feeling grateful for the day you just had and ready to take on another one.

While these five things can be done in tandem, you can also just pick a few to try. I truly believe incorporating even one of these gratitude practices will help you have a more positive outlook on your life. Gratitude really is one of the most important habits, especially during hard times like we are all experiencing in the world currently. There is a lot to be sad about, and that’s totally okay, but we all still have something that we can say is a true blessing. I hope you all take these methods along with you, because your life is a gift!

Resources

Kyeong S, Kim J, Kim DJ, Kim HE, Kim JJ. Effects of gratitude meditation on neural network functional connectivity and brain-heart coupling. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):5058. Published 2017 Jul 11. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05520-9

Kini P, Wong J, McInnis S, Gabana N, Brown JW. The effects of gratitude expression on neural activity. Neuroimage. 2016;128:1-10. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.12.040

Davis DE, Choe E, Meyers J, et al. Thankful for the little things: A meta-analysis of gratitude interventions. J Couns Psychol. 2016;63(1):20-31. doi:10.1037/cou0000107

Emmons RA, Stern R. Gratitude as a psychotherapeutic intervention. J Clin Psychol. 2013;69(8):846-855. doi:10.1002/jclp.22020

Tala Á. Gracias por todo: Una revisión sobre la gratitud desde la neurobiología a la clínica [Thanks for everything: a review on gratitude from neurobiology to clinic]. Rev Med Chil. 2019;147(6):755-761. doi:10.4067/S0034-98872019000600755

Guest Blogger:

Woman with red hair smiling against white backgroun

My name is Kathryn Durston and I am a current dietetics student at Western Michigan University. My main point of focus is holistic health and farm-to-table food. I plan to open up my own private practice one day and share my love for health with my community. In my free time I like to go hiking with my two dogs, hang out in my garden bed, read books about wellness, study for school on my front porch, write blog posts for my up-and-coming wellness blog and do yoga/workout. I would love to network with nutrition professionals and I am also looking to be a virtual volunteer for experienced RD’s. Connect with me on instagram at @naturallykat or by emailing katdurston@gmail.com.

Z is for Zucchini

We made it!  Food Fun from A to Z!  Zucchini has been in the spotlight lately. We’ve seen everything from zucchini noodles to zucchini fries to zucchini chips. This green veggie is a good source of fiber and vitamin C. Zucchini is a versatile vegetable with a mild flavor that can play a part in a variety of dishes. You can:

 -Add chopped zucchini to soups or stews

-Include chopped zucchini to your spaghetti sauce along with peppers and onions.

-Add shredded zucchini to your burgers and meatloaf

Of course, you can always keep it simple with a side dish of sautéed zucchini.

Simple Zucchini Saute

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 large zucchini chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes optional

Instructions
 

  • Add olive oil and garlic to a large skillet over medium heat
  • Add zucchini and Italian seasoning
  • Cook until tender, about 10 minutes
  • Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
  • Top with parmesan cheese. Serve warm.

Notes

Have fun with shapes. Chop zucchini in circles, half moons, pie shapes or julienne. 
Photo courtesy of Delish.com

Y is for Yogurt

Yogurt is a fermented dairy product and a great source of probiotics, protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. Yogurt is a very ancient product, so it is unknown when it was first made. However, it is believed that milk products as a whole were incorporated into the human diet as early as 10,000 BC, when milk producing animals started to be domesticated.

A fun fact about yogurt is that the word “yogurt” comes from the Turkish word “yoğurmak” which means to thicken, coagulate or curdle. Yogurt used to be used to cure a variety of symptoms and illnesses such as, diarrhea or cramps.

I love yogurt because it tastes delicious and keeps me full. This recipe is one of my favorites and incorporates other ingredients that contribute to the great taste and is perfect for any occasion!

Fisberg, Mauro, and Rachel Machado. “History of Yogurt and Current Patterns of Consumption.” Nutrition Reviews, vol. 73, no. suppl 1, 2015, pp. 4–7., doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuv020.

Yogurt Apple Dip

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup of vanilla Greek yogurt
  • – ½ cup of creamy peanut butter
  • – 1/4 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • – 1 tablespoon of honey
  • – 3 apples any kind is fine. I prefer the green ones

Instructions
 

  • Combine the yogurt and the peanut butter together in a bowl.
  • Fold in the cinnamon and honey until fully incorporated
  • Slice up the apples

Notes

Dip the apple in the dip and enjoy!!

Hailey Fruck is an Intelligence Analyst in the Air Force and an aspiring Registered Dietitian. She is a part- time Food and Nutrition student at the University of Alabama. In her free time she enjoys cooking, running, and spending time with her husband, Justin, and her three beautiful dogs, Captain, Scarlet, and Maverick.

X is for Xigua

Let’s be real. Foods that begin with the letter X are few. We were forced to broaden our search beyond the English language.  Xigua, pronounced She-gwah, is Mandarin for watermelon.

Below is a yummy watermelon salsa recipe. Watermelon and salsa are not two foods you would normally put together, but that is why this series is all about “food fun”. Try it. You will not regret it.

Xigua Salsa

Xigua Salsa

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup finely chopped seedless watermelon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped peeled cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice

Instructions
 

  • Mix watermelon, cucumber, onion, bell pepper, and basil.
  • Add honey and lime juice and toss to coat. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

Notes

Recipe and photo from https://offtheshelf.typepad.com/off-the-shelf/2012/08/x-is-for-xigua.html%20

W is for Waffles

The National Museum of American History’s Domestic Life collection houses waffle irons from the early 18th century through the mid-20th century.

Waffle making started in America with the Dutch colonists in the 1620s. However, the first waffle at The National Museum of American History’s Domestic Life is from the 18th century and is formed by two hinged plates at the end of long handles. The collection also features a waffle iron from the 1920s that was offered in a set of kitchenware. During this time, waffle irons were used at the kitchen table and offered with most kitchen sets.

International Waffle Day is August 24th. This day is significant because on August 24th, 1869, the U.S. Patent Office issued a patent for the design for an “Improvement in Waffle-Irons” from Cornelius Swartwout. Startwout’s design is similar to waffle irons used today besides the fact that waffle irons today are not typically made out of cast iron, or require a fire for heat.

Waffles are my favorite go-to breakfast!  I like to throw in some sort of small seed, usually flaxseed for some Omega-3’s!

Colby, Yve, and Facebook. “Pass the Syrup and Enjoy a Slice of History for National Waffle Day.” National Museum of American History, 28 Aug. 2017, americanhistory.si.edu/blog/history-waffle.

Waffles

Waffles

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 cups of wheat flour
  • – 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • – 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • – 1 teaspoon of salt
  • – 2 eggs
  • – 1 ½ cups of warm milk
  • – 6 tablespoons of unsalted melted butter
  • – 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • – 2 tablespoons of flaxseed ground

Instructions
 

  • Turn on your waffle iron and heat it up
  • Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and flaxseed in a medium-sized bowl
  • Combine the eggs, milk, butter, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl.
  • Slowly whisk in the wet ingredients to the dry, be careful not to overmix! You want a smooth consistency but not too smooth.

Notes

The ground flaxseeds provide a pop of Omega-3

Guest Blogger: Hailey Fruck is an Intelligence Analyst in the Air Force and an aspiring Registered Dietitian. She is a part- time Food and Nutrition student at the University of Alabama. In her free time she enjoys cooking, running, and spending time with her husband, Justin, and her three beautiful dogs, Captain, Scarlet, and Maverick.

V is for Vanilla

It is hard to believe such great flavor comes from these tiny little vanilla beans.  Watch this video to learn the long journey of the vanilla bean from plant to plate.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQl-oHeII6w

As we are approaching the end of the alphabet, we thought everyone would want to enjoy a nice cup of coffee after all these yummy foods from A to V (so far).  Below is a recipe from Taste of Home for homemade vanilla coffee creamer.

Vanilla Coffee Creamer

Vanilla Coffee Creamer

Ingredients
  

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 can (14 ouncesweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream 2% milk or heavy whipping cream
  • Dash salt

Instructions
 

  • Split vanilla bean lengthwise. Using the tip of a sharp knife, scrape seeds from the center into a small saucepan; add bean.
  • Add remaining ingredients to pan; cook and stir over medium heat 5-7 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
  • Discard vanilla bean. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days. Stir before using.

Notes

© 2019 RDA Enthusiast Brands, LLC

U is for Udon

Udon is a thick noodle made from wheat flour.  You will often find it on the menu at Japanese restaurants.

Udon noodles are a flexible stable. They can be quick and simple served in a yummy broth with some leftover chicken and veggies. If you are feeling fancy, you can check out some of the Udon recipes from Allrecipes.com here. http://dish.allrecipes.com/quick-weeknight-meals-starring-udon-noodles/ Our favorite is the Kimchi Udon Noodle Stir-Fry below. You can use store bought kimchi or make your own. Check out K is for Kimchi for the recipe.

Kimchi Udon Noodle Stir-Fry

Ingredients
  

  • 2 (7 ouncpackages fresh udon noodles
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 strips bacon chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped kimchi
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 4 scallions diagonally sliced

Instructions
 

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook udon in boiling water, stirring occasionally, until noodles are tender yet firm to the bite, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain.
  • Mix honey, soy sauce, sriracha sauce, and rice vinegar in a bowl. Set sauce aside.
  • Place bacon in a large pan and cook over high heat until fat is rendered but bacon is not yet crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add kimchi and garlic; cook for 1 minute. Add the sauce, udon noodles, and sesame oil; stir well. Remove from heat and transfer noodles to a plate. Top with scallions.

Notes

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2019 Allrecipes.com

T is for Tofu

Trying Tofu for the First Time: A Food Adventure

One of the best aspects, though sometimes difficult, of getting married is finally having to cook for oneself and one’s partner. I joyfully took on this task almost four years ago. Now, one of my favorite hobbies is searching for new recipes. Over time, I have become increasingly adventurous in the types of new foods I am willing to try.

I had wanted to cook with tofu for a very long time. There are many reasons why, but the primary one has been to increase the sustainability of my diet. Even one meatless day a week can help reduce your carbon footprint and reduce use of natural resources. A plant-based meal can be delicious, satisfying, and nutritious.

Every person has different food needs and wants, depending on health, culture, lifestyle, and many more factors. For myself, I know a completely vegetarian or vegan diet is not compatible with my life. Still, I have been increasing the number of plant-based meals I eat per week. A great and easy start to this pattern was Meatless Monday. And then one plant-based meal turned into 2-3 a week. Getting to this point meant looking for a new plant-protein to add variety and interest to my meals. It became time to try tofu.

Throughout the year, I had accumulated in my mind tidbits of information on how to best prepare tofu. I knew that tofu is stored and packaged in water, which needs to be pressed out before cooking. I also knew that tofu does not absorb oil marinades well and works better with acidic marinades. The last tidbit I remembered picking up somewhere is that tofu really benefits from a light coat of cornstarch to crisp up when pan-fried. With this information in mind, I began my tofu adventure.

I chose extra-firm tofu for my first experience.

For the first step, I did some research. Websites like The Kitchn are a great source on ways to prepare tofu for newbies. Here I have cut the tofu into 5 even-sized blocks in preparation for pressing.

To press the water out of the tofu, place on napkins on a dinner plate. Top with more napkins, another dinner plate, and a heavy object. My makeshift tofu press is a bulky textbook, a bit much. But The Kitchn says you could simply use a 28 ounce can or heavy cast iron skillet (if being more practical is more your thing).

I pressed the tofu for about 30 minutes and then cut into squares.

The marinade I used is a simple one that I have used on chicken before: 1 tbsp paprika and the juice of 1 lemon. Add 1 tsp of cayenne pepper if you like spice. Total marinade time was 30 minutes.

I added 1 tbsp of corn starch and mixed well so that all of the tofu cubes were lightly coated.

I heated 1 tbsp of canola oil in a nonstick pan and then added the tofu.

I let the tofu crisp on each side, flipping about every 5-10 minutes.

For my final step, I added barbeque sauce. The sauce heated and adhered to the tofu. Served with rice and steamed veggies.

Final Thoughts:

Once I got past the very different texture, I liked it! If you try tofu, keep in mind that it is not a meat substitute, it is a plant-based protein. The reason for making this distinction to yourself is that if you expect the texture of meat from tofu, you might be disappointed. Something else learned from this experience is that tofu absorbs a marinade really well. The acidity of the lemon and pop of the paprika shined through the sticky sweetness of the barbeque sauce. Next on my cooking adventures is baking tofu to see how the texture changes!

 

Ruth Jimenez is a California native and current Texas resident in the Fort Hood area. She is a second-degree student, currently enjoying the third semester of her food and nutrition major with the University of Alabama. Her career aspirations are to become a registered dietitian and recipe developer. In her spare time, Ruth enjoys the occasional Netflix binge, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, and sharing pictures of food on Instagram.

Disclaimer - Any link included in this post does not imply my endorsement, sponsorship, or approval of that website or its owner. I do not endorse and I am not responsible for the opinions, statements, errors or omissions provided by these links referenced in my website or its content.

References Sites:

https://www.earthday.org/take-action/about-meatless-monday/

http://sites.psu.edu/dusgreenteam/2017/01/16/the-envirionmental-impact-of-meatless-mondays/

https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-crispy-tofu-without-deepfrying-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-201265

S is for Salmon

Did you know salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids? Omega 3 fats are considered essential meaning your body cannot make them so they must come from the foods you eat. The Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have been linked with several health benefits including decreasing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, improving the function of cells that line your arteries and lowering the risk of heart arrhythmias.

Fresh salmon has a very short shelf life. When picking out fresh fish it is important to get it as fresh as possible. If the fish is already filleted, the fish should be a bright shade of red-coral color. The fish should not look dull, slimy or have bruising. If you are purchasing a whole fish, look for clear eyes and red or pink clean gills.  Below is a quick easy way to enjoy salmon.

BBQ Salmon with Peach Mango Salsa

Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

Salmon:

  • 2 fresh Salmon filets
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Salsa:

  • 1 mango diced
  • 1 peach diced
  • ½ avacado
  • 2 tbsp minced cilantro
  • Minced jalapeno
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Lime zest and salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • Set the oven to broil at 500 degrees.
  • Combine the brown sugar, paprika, garlic, chili powder, salt and olive oil.
  • Rub the spice mixture on the salmon
  • Place salmon in the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon. Salmon should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees
  • For the salsa combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Plate and serve with desired side.

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lennon

Sarah is a Siena College alumna and current dietetics student at the University of Alabama. She expects to complete the DPD program within the next year and pursue a dietetic internship shortly after. She aspires to someday complete the necessary requirements to be a registered dietitian. 

R is for Raspberries

Although they are small, raspberries contain a ton of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C is one of the most abundant vitamins in raspberries. Vitamin C is an essential dietary component and needs to be consumed through diet. Vitamin C plays an important role in a number of functions including protein metabolism, production of collagen and many more things. Raspberries also contain folate, vitamin B1, potassium and many other nutrients. 

Ever notice that your raspberries spoil quickly? Next time you buy raspberries hold off on washing them. Washing raspberries makes them more prone to spoiling. Also place the raspberries in the fridge to help slow down the spoiling process.  

With a recipe like this though, the raspberries won’t be around long enough to spoil! 

PB & J Smoothie

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup Raspberries
  • 2 tbsp Peanut Butter or any other nut butter
  • 1 cup Milk of choice
  • ½ of a banana
  • 1 cup of ice optional

Instructions
 

  • Combine the raspberries, peanut butter, milk, banana, until smooth.
  • Add ice and continue to blend if desired. Frozen raspberries can be substituted and ice can be omitted.

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lennon

Sarah is a Siena College alumna and current dietetics student at the University of Alabama. She expects to complete the DPD program within the next year and pursue a dietetic internship shortly after. She aspires to someday complete the necessary requirements to be a registered dietitian.