Pumpkin Spice Energy Balls

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I love when two things that are great on their own come together to make something even greater. Like peanut butter and chocolate, chips and salsa, champagne and orange juice. Am I right? And now, pumpkin spice and energy balls! Oh yes, a match made in heaven and just in time for the fall pumpkin season. These healthy pumpkin spice energy balls are quick, easy and make a great snack or sweet treat.

Pumpkin is the hot flavor right now, thanks to the #PSL trend and I’m getting right on that train. I can’t go anywhere without seeing a pumpkin flavored food or drink. And for good reason, really. All of the warm, delicious spices that come with pumpkin flavor like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove. I think those spices elicit a warm cozy feeling reminiscent of cold nights by the fire and family feasts at holidays.

So, let’s talk more about pumpkin and the nutritional benefits because there are a few.

·      Beta carotene – an anti-oxidant that is a precursor to Vitamin A, which protects against inflammation and helps keep eyes and skin healthy

·      Vitamin C – fights free radicals and increases immune health

·      Fiber- regulates blood sugar, decreases LDL, helps with digestion and keeps you feeling full longer

·      Magnesium (very common nutritional deficiency)– essential for bone and heart health

·      Low in calories and carbohydrates – about 50 calories and 10g carbohydrates per ½ cup

I actually made these pumpkin spice energy balls by accident, which is probably how many great recipes are born. I was making the cinnamon energy balls, yet again, for another baseball tournament (for the boys between games when they have a double header) and saw some leftover pumpkin puree I used for a test recipe. It was going to be cold that night at the games and pumpkin sounded good so I made another batch, changed it up a bit and added the pumpkin. I didn’t have high hopes for them but they ended up being a big hit with the boys and the parents.

These pumpkin spice energy balls can be totally customizable. You can use a different nut, add nut butter, add oats or oat flour in place of almond flour, use honey instead of maple syrup or leave the sweetener out, add collagen powder or use all cinnamon instead of pumpkin pie spice. I love when I’m able to customize a recipe to fit my dietary needs or taste preferences.


Pumpkin Spice Energy Balls - Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free

Healthy, quick and easy pumpkin spice energy balls make a great snack or sweet treat.

Makes: 12-15 balls

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Prep time:

Cook time:

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 2 Tbsp pure pumpkin
  • 1/8 cup almond flour
  • 1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Instructions:
  1. Add almonds, pepitas and dates to food processor. Pulse until you get small crumbles.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until well mixed.
  3. With wet hands, roll into balls. Place balls on parchment lined plate or baking sheet and refrigerate.
  4. Store in airtight container for 1 week.
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Happy fall ya’ll! I hope you have a great fall season. I’m planning to enjoy the great weather we are having and get in all the essential activities like the pumpkin patch and apple orchard. And of course enjoy some pumpkin treats like these.

Cheers!

Lin

My Gluten-Free Journey

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"Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination." - Drake

 

Hey everyone! I’m back to writing after taking the summer off to be with my kiddo and travel and figure some things out. Honestly, I’ve also been struggling with what to write and how to write it. I’ve been pulled in lots of directions personally and professionally with health and nutrition and it is probably time for me to start to niche down more, even with my writing. My experiences have fueled my passion to help others. Others that are like me when I was dealing with health issues I didn’t know as much about, lost and not sure where to turn.

Previously, I was writing more about intuitive eating, which I’ve really loved on a personal level. I may still write more about it here and there but my heart is pulling me in a different direction with the types of clients I want to see and the work I want to do. If you want more on IE, let me know and I can point you in the direction of some great IE dietitians!

I am getting more into the integrative and functional side of nutrition as well as the food sensitivity piece. Basically, getting to the root cause of illness and using a more natural approach to health and healing. I am finding that a lot of people with autoimmune diseases, GI disorders, acne, chronic inflammation among other problems are really struggling to feel better with conventional medicine alone. Lifestyle and nutrition, among so many other things, can play a huge role in symptom improvement in these areas but it’s hard to know where to start. I am learning so much and have so much more to learn that it has been a bit overwhelming but exciting at the same time.

So, as I’m doing more writing and working on creating new recipes, you will probably see me reference gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, AIP, etc because it is where I am and will hopefully help others out that might be needing the same. I have been gluten-free for almost a year now and I thought I would share with you why and how it is going for me.

Last summer I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. I got the call from my doctor’s office and was told that my medication was called in and I would go back in 6 weeks for more bloodwork. I was given no other information, not even when or how to take the medication, which I don’t think is abnormal. BTW, the medication is pointless if you aren’t taking it correctly so it’s a pretty important piece to tell someone that is just starting on it, right? So, I made it my mission to learn more (not an area I have done much work with), do what I could to help myself, and seek out another opinion.  

I started reading books and listening to podcasts about thyroid health and learned so much. I, thankfully, did not have thyroid antibodies so I did not have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis but I treated it as such until I had a better handle on my levels and what it all meant. This was when I decided to remove gluten from my diet.

As some of you who may have done similar things know, it was a hard adjustment. I also went mostly dairy-free and later, pulled a few other things out. The hardest adjustment for me was traveling and eating out. We don’t eat out frequently but it is the perfect date night for my husband and I or just a night that I don’t have to worry about feeding all 4 of us who eat very differently. I just make sure I check out menus before we go and do the best that I can. We traveled to Belize not long after I went gluten-free and that was much harder than I expected but we made it work…but not without a few breakdowns.  

I wasn’t sure if going gluten-free was going to help my hypothyroidism and I’m still not 100% sure that it did because I can’t necessarily correlate the two things. What I did notice was that it improved my Raynaud’s disease over the winter. I didn’t have near as many episodes, even though I was out walking my dog in the cold almost daily. I also avoided the painful bumps I get on my fingers called chilblains, until later in the season. Unfortunately, once they start it is hard to get them to go away. The biggest improvement I saw was with my mood and anxiety. Again, not 100% better but enough to say that I was prepared to continue with my gluten-free lifestyle and it’s been about a year since I started.

That is briefly my gluten-free journey. One of my biggest hurdles is calming all the negative talk and worry in my head. I worry about what others think because I don’t have celiac or another diagnosis that absolutely warrants a gluten-free diet. I worry about other dietitians judging me. I worry about what to say when someone at a restaurant asks if I need gluten-free for an allergy…because I don’t but I don’t want to discredit those who do. I worry about if the little bit of gluten I ingest by accident is causing me problems that I can’t see.

I also worry about the content I'm writing and the recipes I’m creating and what you all might think because they are now gluten-free. #Truth. It doesn’t mean that I think everyone should be gluten-free or that it is a cure-all. But, this is where I am and where I’m going right now. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below or shoot them over in an email. 

Thanks for following along! 

Lin

Fresh Strawberry Oat Crumble

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Berry picking season is finally here! Yay! Berry picking is an activity we discovered we could do in Kansas City just a few years ago and I look forward to it every spring and summer now. The strawberries come first and usually have a pretty short picking season. Then, we pick the blueberries. Sometimes multiple times. Blackberries are also an option but we have yet to pick those. I'm putting it on my list this summer because they are one of our favorite berries. 

I took my son last week to Benny's Berries, which is a little strawberry patch not far from where we live. When we got there we received a large box for picking and were given specific instructions on how to pick the strawberries to make them last longer and to get the best ones. The redder the better! Whenever I pick berries I always tell myself just a few more and we'll be done...and maybe just a few more on the way out. Anyone else? We ended up with  7 1/2 pounds of strawberries in a pretty short amount of time. 

Eating the berries fresh is our favorite but this crumble I made twice last week might be our new favorite. The first time I made it I ate about half the pan because I couldn't stop. It's so good and I think I have a thing for crumble topping! Good news if you do too because it is on the bottom and the top! It's a very easy dessert with just a small amount of added sugar and can be totally gluten-free. We added a little ice cream on it this last time and it was perfection. 

Fresh Strawberry Oat Crumble

Ingredients:

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  • 2 cups oats (gluten-free certified if needed)

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose or gluten-free flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

Directions:

1. Mix all dry ingredients in medium bowl.

2. Add coconut oil and mix until incorporated with dry ingredients.

3. Spray 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish with coconut oil spray or grease with small amount of coconut oil.

4. Add half of the crumble mixture to pan and press down with spoon or fingers. 

5. Spread sliced strawberries out on top of crust. 

6. Top strawberries with remaining crumble mixture. 

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. 

8. Enjoy!

If you picked strawberries this season and you are looking for a great recipe, give this one a try. It is light, slightly sweet and the perfect end to a great summer day.

Lin 

Food Sensitivities and LEAP Therapy

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“Some things cannot be taught; they must be experienced. You never learn the most valuable lessons in life until you go through your own journey.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

Hey everyone, I am going to switch things up a bit with this post. I love talking about intuitive eating and similar topics and will continue to discuss those as they are super important so stay tuned for more. But, I'd like to shift gears for a bit and talk about food sensitivities and a program I will be using in my practice called LEAP Therapy. It uses MRT, or mediator release test to test for specific sensitivities to foods and/or chemicals. I'm super excited because I recently finished my training and am now a CLT, or Certified LEAP Therapist.

I posted the quote above because my personal health issues and experiences have pushed me to learn more about the integrative and functional side of nutrition. This means really digging down to the root cause of health conditions and diseases. Food sensitivities can be one of the reasons for some health problems and symptoms, which are often overlooked. So, I will tell you a little more about food sensitivities, who might be affected, and why MRT and LEAP therapy are recommended. I will also link to their website for more great information. It's about to get a little sciency up in here. 

What is a food sensitivity?

A food sensitivity is a type of immune reaction in the body to toxic substances, in this case, specific foods or chemicals. The immune cells release mediators, or inflammatory chemicals, which cause inflammation and other symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, diarrhea, or skin issues to name just a few. A food sensitivity is not the same as a food allergy. Food sensitivities are an IgG immune reaction. Food allergies are an IgE immune reaction. Simply put, they involve different things and different cells. A food allergy can cause immediate symptoms and those symptoms can be life-threatening. A food sensitivity causes delayed symptoms, sometimes up to 72 hours after ingesting the food. The delayed onset of symptoms can make diagnosing the food sensitivity very difficult. These are also both different from a food intolerance like lactose intolerance. 

Are you still with me? Just hang on a little longer.

Who might be affected by a food sensitivity?

There are some common conditions where food sensitivities are most likely in play. Determining the culprits can have a huge effect on the condition, symptoms, and quality of life. Here are some of the most common conditions where the MRT and LEAP therapy can be very useful:

  • IBS-d (diarrhea predominant)

  • Migraines

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis

  • Lupus

  • Celiac disease

  • Hashimoto's disease

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Skin issues like eczema

  • Acid reflux

  • ADD/ADHD

If it's autoimmune or inflammatory, food sensitivities are good to get checked out.

What is the MRT? 

MRT is the mediator release test that can determine the specific food sensitivities. It measures the quantity of mediators (inflammatory chemicals causing problems) released when exposed to 170 different foods and chemicals. It then breaks the foods into green (non-reactive), yellow (moderately reactive) and red (reactive) categories. The foods it tests for can range from common sensitivities like wheat and corn to ones you might not suspect like spinach and blueberries. There are multiple chemicals it tests for including food dyes and ibuprofen as well as naturally occurring chemicals like tyramine and caffeine. If you are really struggling to find answers with your condition, the MRT takes the guesswork out of figuring out what foods will make you feel the best. 

What is LEAP Therapy

LEAP (lifestyle eating and performance) therapy uses an individually tailored "ImmunoCalm diet" based off of the MRT results. It is broken down into phases starting with your least reactive foods for a few weeks, then adding in other tested foods then untested foods one at a time. This allows for the immune system to calm down with the hope that more foods can be better tolerated down the road. It isn't a quick process and you might feel worse before you feel better but it is worth it if your quality of life improves. The LEAP therapist, aka me, is there to help you through the process, design your eating plan and phases, give lots of help and support and get you the best results as quickly as possible. 

So you might be wondering if I plan to do the MRT and the answer is yes. I am actually pretty excited about it. I have been going to a functional medicine clinic because I am hypothyroid, have reynauds disease (neither of which are autoimmune), can't seem to lose weight, am constantly puffy and bloated and I've been dealing with some really bad back and hip pain for over a year. After running some tests my labs showed that I am pre-diabetic, have markers of inflammation in my body (can affect insulin resistance and blood sugar as well as cause fluid retention), and am low in some nutrients. I have tried an elimination diet but it is really hard for me to pinpoint trigger foods when I add them back in. I suspect I have a problem with chicken, corn and dairy but to be honest, I'm not really sure and it's really hard to determine if feeling tired today is due to something I ate 3 days ago. 

So yes, I am going to do the MRT to pinpoint any foods and/or chemicals that are causing my body problems that I can't figure out. I really hope it's not coconut or avocado or almonds or bananas. Otherwise, I think I can deal.

So that is a little bit more about my new CLT title and why I decided to do it. I am very excited to help people that really need the help. I'm excited to put puzzle pieces together to get to the bottom of a condition and use nutrition to heal. I will be back with my results and how things are going. Meanwhile, feel free share this with others and to comment with any questions you have and I'll do my best to answer those. 

Lin

 

A Letter to Fitness Instructors

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Hey all! I hope you are having a great week! This post is a way for me to get out something that has been weighing on my mind lately and to hopefully make a difference.

I have been taking some awesome group fitness classes at the same studio(s) for the past 3 years. I can't even believe I have been going that long since I was so scared to go in the first place but here I am, still taking my place at the barre most days of the week. They offer a wide variety of classes, none of which are easy. They are fast-paced, high energy, kind of addictive and I like them. Maybe I like them too much. I started because I wasn't happy with my body but I've continued because it makes me stronger and better in many other ways. I've mixed up my schedule over the past 3 years with different classes, different times and different instructors trying to find which ones suit me best. I have a few instructors that I prefer and I few that I tend to avoid, but I think that is the same for most everyone. I need someone that plays great music, can keep my attention for the full hour and puts me in a great mindset. I don't think that is too much to ask for (eye wink, tongue out emoji).

Over the last year or so I have been paying much more attention to what is said by the instructors during classes, and it's mostly great. But there have been times that I've thought to myself, "wow, did you really need to say that"? Maybe because of my work with Intuitive Eating. Maybe because I feel that no one should feel guilty about their body size or what they ate or drank last night. Maybe because I feel exercise is not a form of punishment. I am more aware of my previous disordered eating and thinking toward food and exercise, maybe even some orthorexia behaviors. This has made me a little more sensitive to the words spoken during these fitness classes. I know that I am not the only one that is dealing with orthorexia and disordered eating. There could also be some women in the classes with a full-blown eating disorder. So, words matter. They matter a lot to someone who could very easily be triggered by those words to continue the disordered behavior.  

So what kinds of things might be unmotivating or triggering in a fitness class? 

  1. Talking about being there to workout because of something you ate or drank the day(s) before. Food shaming. 
  2. The instructor talking about their own guilt due to eating or drinking habits.
  3. Talking about burning calories as motivation to keep going. 
  4. Showing or talking about a big calorie burn after class. 
  5. Saying that cardio is the most important part of the class. 
  6. Talking about needing to earn something by working harder (earning a meal, a drink, a relaxing day, etc)
  7. Talking about fitting into skinny jeans or a bathing suit and tank top for summer. 

So, I am certainly not saying that these types of comments are causing eating disorders or disordered eating. I am also not saying that I hear them often where I personally do fitness classes. These comments can, however, trigger someone who is already experiencing it to continue with those behaviors. They can change a mindset from positive to negative pretty quickly and put the focus on negative thoughts and behaviors vs. positive ones. And, to the fitness industry, I get it. I get that people are coming in to change their body. I get that people want to be leaner and stronger. I get it. But I think if the focus is on the good stuff, they will want to keep coming back and if they are taking classes like I do, their body will change. 

Here are some eating disorder statistics from The National Eating Disorders Association:

  • Between 3-4% of women and 1% of men will suffer from anorexia at any given time.
  • The best-known environmental contributor to the development of eating disorders is the sociocultural idealization of thinness.
  • Among overweight and obese adults, those who experience weight-based stigmatization engage in more frequent binge eating, are at increased risk for eating disorder symptoms and are more likely to have a diagnosis of binge eating disorder.
  • There is a strong link between exercise compulsion and various forms of eating disorders. 
  • An estimated 90-95% of college students diagnosed with an eating disorder also belong to a fitness facility. 
  • 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years.
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What are some positive, motivating comments that can be made in fitness classes? There are lots of ways to do this. Dig into the mindset, the psyche, and the heart. We all go to work out for different reasons but we all have a heart and mind in addition to our body. I reached out to one of my fitness instructors a while back to thank her for having positive comments on mind, body, and soul instead of how we look. She nails it every single class! She made a comment in last week's class that she is "bored with focusing on looks" and instead we should be "loving ourselves and our people well", which I totally appreciated. Here are some other ways to provide motivation in a positive way:

  • Share a positive quote or a word to think about for the day
  • Encourage participants to set a goal or intention for the class 
  • Tell the class how great they are doing or how strong they look. It doesn't have to be individualized. 
  • Talk about how lucky/grateful they are to be moving their able bodies.
  • Tell them it is just as effective to do a modified form of the exercise. 
  • Anything else motivating and encouraging that doesn't talk about looks, size or calories/food. 

I love fitness and I love being part of a fitness community. I have my own reasons for going to work out and they might be different from the next person. No matter what those reasons are, we deserve to feel good, positive vibes each time we walk through those doors. Let's put the focus on well-being and not just on calories, food shame and body size. Words do matter and can make a difference in someone's life and their struggles.

Positively,

Lin