healthy eating

Self-Care During the Holidays

The holidays- the time of year that is supposed to be full of joy, love, and time spent with friends and family. What we don’t talk or think about when it comes to the holidays are all the ways that we forget about self-care, and the stress that we put ourselves through. The past couple of years I have started really focusing on self-care this time of year and I want to share some of my recommendations for self-care with you.

Stay active this time of year. Exercise is one of the best ways to destress. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long gym workout or a group exercise class, it can be as simple as a 30-minute walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood. You’ll feel refreshed and reenergized!

Attend fun events that you enjoy! How do you decide which events to go to when you have 15 different holiday party invitations?! Pick the ones that you will enjoy most and pass on the ones that you weren’t exactly thrilled about. It’s okay to say no, thanks! This goes for family events too. Surround yourself with people you enjoy spending time with! This advice goes beyond the holidays too.

Spend time planning for 2019. If you’re like me, you like planning and organization. Spend this time of year setting goals for yourself, personally and professionally, for next year. Reflect on what positive things happened and what things you’d like to leave behind in 2018. Doing this ahead of 2019 will allow you to bring in the new year feeling prepared.

Keep healthier foods front and center. You’ve likely noticed that you feel better when you are eating healthier foods, so the holidays are no time to leave your fruits and vegetables behind. Incorporate these into holiday dishes you may be making as well. Remember to stay hydrated too!

Get some sleep! Are you sleeping the recommended amount each night- 8 hours? If not, now is the time to start so that you can ring in 2019 with good sleeping habits. Remove distractions and allow your body to tell you when it’s time to rest. Getting enough sleep benefits your mental, physical, and emotional health!

So take a deep breath and take advantage all of the things this time of year has to offer! Take some time for yourself and practice self-care so that on the evening of December 31st you feel refreshed and happy, and not burnt out and grumpy.

Beyond the Headline: Does Eating Organic Really Reduce Your Cancer Risk?

The latest nutrition headline to catch on with the media is how eating organic can reduce your risk of developing cancer by 25%. So let’s unpack this- does eating organic REALLY reduce your risk of developing cancer?

Years of research between organic and conventional foods have shown that the nutritional value is similar. Purchasing organic is a personal preference just as purchasing conventional is. Often, organic items are not affordable for consumers so headlines like this may unnecessarily make shoppers who purchase conventional feel as though they are increasing their, and their families, cancer risk by not purchasing organic. No consumer should be shamed for purchasing fruits and vegetables for their families whether they are conventional or organic.

So now let’s break down the study. The actual absolute reduction risk reported in the study is a mere 0.6%. The author of the study herself stated that the study does not prove an organic diet causes a reduction in cancer but suggests that an organic based diet COULD contribute to reducing cancer risk. The results also discuss how a higher frequency of consumption of organic foods only led to a decreased risk of developing Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and breast cancer while there was no association detected for other types of cancer. Confounding factors must also be considered with this study like the fact that those who purchase organic tend to be wealthier, eat more fruits and vegetables in general, and consume less processed meat and alcohol- all which play a part in reducing cancer risk.

The issue isn’t with the study, it’s the reporting of it. An important aspect of reporting on this type of research is accurately interpreting scientific research. The American Cancer Society provides guidance on how to see beyond the headline of “scientists find link between X and cancer” or in the case of this study “X can reduce your risk of cancer by (insert insane percentage here)”. Their guidance goes beyond cancer related research and provides great advice on how to interpret any type of nutrition or health study that you might come across in the media- what’s the source, what did the research actually find, who funded the research, what about other evidence and what is the bigger picture, and who are the experts?

As a public health dietitian, I still encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables. It is a matter of personal preference to purchase organic and consumers should feel empowered to make the best choice for them and their families. While studies, and headlines, like these seem incredibly groundbreaking and hopeful, let’s all be good stewards of nutrition science and read beyond the headline to ensure consumers receive factual information without fear.

Balance

There are numerous ways to approach a healthy lifestyle when it comes to nourishment. Food is our fuel and without it, our body cannot function. As a dietitian, I've learned about so many eating patterns- yes, including those bizarre fad diets like the cabbage soup diet or the baby food diet (cringing as I type those), and what they really do to your body.  I’m constantly asked the question of “what do YOU eat” or when someone sees me enjoying a baked good I get asked “aren’t you a dietitian?!”. My response is always "balance."

I became a dietitian because I LOVE food and I enjoy sharing my passion for food with others-- not because I want to be the food police (seriously, please don’t use that phrase) or because I think everyone should lose weight. I truly believe in balance- meaning that you can enjoy the foods you love and still lead a healthy life. Does this mean that I consume a dozen cookies a day? No, but if I am out with friends or family and we pass by a delicious, local, ice cream shop, I will likely be the first one to suggest we go inside.

So much of our life involves food- birthday parties, office celebrations, weddings, summer cookouts, vacations, etc. Those celebrations or events allow us to indulge in the foods that we love with the people we care about. Yes, we can still make healthy choices during these occasions but we can also make them outside of these events and those daily, recurring decisions that we make allow us to practice balance. As we go through life’s journey, I encourage you to enjoy all of the delicious food along the way.