Behind the Scenes of lettucetalk

Today’s post is taking a little detour from the usual nutrition babble. I’d like to take some time today to take you behind the scenes of lettucetalk, to help you get to know me (Casey), and to explain a bit about why I write the way I do. This post is long, so don’t fall asleep. I think it’ll be worth the read though, so buckle up.

Passionate doesn’t adequately describe my feelings toward nutrition and helping people improve eating habits. Many of you know that lettucetalk is not my “main gig.” In my regular practice, I have a huge following of loyal patients who have achieved major success in health improvements as a result of my guidance and their hard work. My focus with all those whom I counsel is building trust, rapport, and using motivational interviewing mixed with professional advice to empower these individuals to take charge of their lives. I am not mean to these patients, nor am I condescending. I let their circumstances guide the direction of my intervention strategies. And it works.

The intent of lettucetalk is more than me just spewing out snarky nutrition advice. I will let you in on a little secret – lettucetalk is like a therapy for me. Some of you exercise to burn off stress (good on you!); some of you scream loudly or punch things. My release has been this blog. That is not a joke. I like to think I’m a loving and kind person; unfortunately, among many of my flaws, I’m a smart ass and I’m very easily annoyed. Hence, lettucetalk!

My expression here is my meager attempt to channel my discontent into something productive rather than punching people. I assume it is more socially acceptable to write than to punch. However, because humans are so incredibly defensive about eating habits, I think some people feel that my written word is a punch in the face.

It has recently been brought to my attention that my “credentials” (as the person annotated using quotation marks) do not make me “smarter than everyone.” Using the word “smart” implies a dichotomy between “smart” and “stupid.” This is not a binary situation. What we are talking about here are levels of expertise versus information from non-reputable sources. While I realize I am definitely not “smarter than everyone,” I will say that I have made my life’s work continuously striving to be the best I can be as a nutrition professional. I take my profession very seriously by diving into the actual literature on any hot topic in nutrition and by analyzing and interpreting the quantity, quality and methodology of any studies on whatever topic is in question. I unapologetically stand firm on the fact that although a Google search can be helpful to get some ideas, it does not properly provide individualized nutrition advice, especially in the setting of a complex past medical history.

I will also stand firm on the fact that I am well aware that I am not an expert in all subjects. I am able to reluctantly admit when I don’t know much about something. I don’t know much about houseplants; I know less about insects; and I’m really bad at building things. But nutrition? I can confidently say that I know more than most about it. I have dedicated my professional and personal life to being an expert in one field, nutrition. There are things I still don’t know about it, and I constantly learn more. General nutrition is a BROAD subject, so I will admit when I don’t know the latest on a particular issue; but then I will find out and discuss later with you.

If this is the first lettucetalk post you’ve ever read, welcome! If you’ve been reading for a while, you already know I take on a certain “tone.” This “tone” has been the target for some significant criticism. The problem is, that “tone” is a part of me. If I were to change how I write, that would imply changing a part of who I am. Some of the feedback I get about lettucetalk is positive, and that it really is a dose of point-blank advice that many people appreciate. Some of the feedback is that some are offended by the condescension they perceive.

Despite what I was just saying about the awesome clientele with whom I have the honor to work, I have a smaller percentage of individuals who are outright nasty to me when their shoddy nutritional habits are called into question. I literally hear bogus nutrition advice spewed out from unqualified individuals in a way that I would describe as an absolute, concrete declaration. I hear it in line for coffee; I hear it from well-intended non-nutrition healthcare providers; I hear it while sitting in just about any waiting room. I get that not everyone knows a lot about evidence-based nutrition. What I don’t get is how so many can make these absolute declarations and openly give advice with no expertise whatsoever.

The major point I’m getting to here, and in many of my posts, is that I reach a boiling point from hearing the nonsense circling all around me day after day. EVEN WORSE is when I am actually asked for my professional [evidence-based] opinion on a matter, give it, and I’m met with arguments from people. Sorry, science? I don’t even know what to say anymore. Sorry you’ve gotten outdated/wrong advice from all the non-nutrition experts lately?

Again, if you know me personally and/or if you’ve read my “About Me” page on this blog, and/or if you’ve read most of my posts, you will know that I have my own struggles. I used to be pretty fat and didn’t understand why. I remember sitting in one of my undergrad classes learning to calculate BMI (body mass index) and charting my own. I thought “no way! I’m not obese!” But I was mathematically. I get that being called out on your shortcomings sucks even when it is in your own mind let alone from someone else’s mouth. I was so deep in denial as well as so consistently overweight (I weighed in at the same weight, to the decimal, month after month…weird huh?!) that I thought that being at that [overweight] weight was my destiny. It wasn’t. I continued my studies and learned to apply the stuff I learned to ME. I had to get some slaps in the face myself to snap out of the denial. Some of the way I write is to give others a similar slap in the face to help them snap out of whatever their own denial is. Denial, when coupled with poor nutrition, will slowly destroy you from the inside out.

Speaking of a slap in the face of reality, I am becoming blatantly aware that I will never be able to please everyone. I will unintentionally offend people. Sorry. I will help more than I offend though, which makes my heart sing. I am me, and I cannot change that. I know some people will not like what they read from lettucetalk, probably out of their own insecurities and defensiveness. I am familiar with insecurities myself. I am most defensive about things I’m insecure about. I have enough difficulty dealing with my own insecurities; I know for a fact I cannot help you squelch yours. I cannot stop sharing my passion in the only way I know how (by being me) for fear of criticism because people are defensive.

Quote of the day: “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”              – Aristotle

I will reinforce the fact that nobody can force you to follow lettucetalk. My distinct hope is that each and every follower reads my posts because he or she wants to. What I don’t want is people to follow just to criticize. If you are offended by my tone, then lettucetalk is not designed for you.

If you do like what you hear, enjoy a little snarky humor, and find lettucetalk educational, then you are the audience to whom this is all intended. Please comment, share with your friends, and keep on keepin’ on. I truly am grateful for my loyal fan base and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

We are in this together. Life is hard. Sometimes the only motivation I have to eat healthy is that I know someone is watching. Sometimes I’m going to give advice that you don’t want to hear. At some point you have to decide what’s more important: your feelings or your health. You can do this. You can eat healthy, still keep some of the “junk” treats once and a while, yet still remain healthy overall. You can do it. You can take small steps toward big changes. You can. I did. I have to continue to do so in order to not revert back to my old self. I will help you in every possible way I can so that you can achieve your goals and, most of all, feel good inside and out. Embrace the hard parts, get proper advice along the way, and celebrate the small victories. If you need someone to help you celebrate your victories, I will be here for you with open arms. And booze 😉 jk…?

xoxo – Casey

Breakfast at Casey’s

Not Your Momma's Breakfast Ideas.png

Hello again! A while ago, I brought you some tips on breakfast. Today you’re getting a whole bunch more!

I think lesson number one when it comes to breakfast is to be creative. We were all taught what a “good breakfast” is by listening to marketing when we were kids. A good breakfast is not a giant bowl of cereal and a huge glass of juice, contrary to popular belief (too much carbohydrates and zero protein or fat).

A good breakfast is not different from any other meal, really. We need a good amount of protein-rich food(s), some vegetables when possible (creativity counts!), some fat, and a small bit of carbohydrate-rich food. More on creating a healthy plate here. More on doing it inexpensively here.

I’m about to share with you some of my favorite healthy breakfasts. These also happen to be approved by my littles. Here goes:

Overnight Oats.
These little guys are the coolest thing ever. You’ll especially love them if you hate doing food prep. All you need is a mason jar and, well, the ingredients of course. There are possibly thousands of ways to make them. I keep mine simple by using recipes like this as a template. This site gives a bunch of cool options as well. At minimum, you’ll need old-fashioned rolled oats, milk (dairy or non-dairy), vanilla, salt, real maple syrup or honey, and either nut butter or chopped nuts. I also add chia seeds, ground flax, and wheat germ to mine for a little extra nutritional zing. However you want to do it, you add all your little dashes of this and that (the dry ingredients), then you fill the jar with milk level with the dry ingredients. Then you put it in the fridge and have breakfast ready in the morning! Google overnight oats and you’ll find all sorts of concoctions. Protein (nuts, seeds, nut butter, milk, Greek yogurt, etc.), fiber-rich carbs (oats and stuff), and fat (nuts, seeds, nut butter, milk, Greek yogurt, etc.).

Energy Balls.
Yeah, funny name; I know. But this is one of my absolute favorites because a) it is easy; b)  I can make a big batch and use during the week and/or freeze the rest; and c) my littles LOVE them; and d) no baking required. Like overnight oats, there are thousands of ways to make these no-bake balls of joy. My current favorite is this one. You’ll have to peruse the recipes out there and see what strikes your fancy. Recipes like this contain protein (peanut butter), fat (peanut butter) vegetables (pureed pumpkin), and fiber-rich carbs (oats and seeds). They are not super pumpkin-ey either, just in case you’re wondering. Seriously they are so amazing. Good for snacks or breakfast or dessert! If you don’t like the pumpkin idea, there are a zillion other versions of energy balls that are probably just as tasty.

Eggs.
Yeah, yeah, you’re thinking “big surprise.” These little fellas do not deserve the bad rep they have gotten. Eggs are incredible sources of nutrients, and you should eat the yolk. Although the yolk is rich in cholesterol, most people don’t absorb that much dietary cholesterol. If your cholesterol is high, it’s partly because your body is producing too much (read more here). Egg yolks also contain vitamin D, vitamin A, and choline, to name a few of their awesome contributions to health. Anyway, eggs can be your best buddy. A creation that has blown my mind recently is a couple eggs fried in butter on top of some fresh arugula, sliced tomatoes, and avocado. Yep, for breakfast. Protein (eggs), fat (butter, avocado), vegetables (greens, tomatoes). Flavor perfection. Think outside the box with your eggs. Try an egg sandwich on whole grain toast with a schmear of avocado and a slice of tomato. YUM. If you’re feeling adventurous, do a little batch-assembly of some breakfast burritos using eggs, peppers and/or greens, maybe a little bacon, and a bit of cheese. Wrap those little guys up, place in individual freezer bags, and keep them in the freezer for some variety whenever you feel like it.

Cottage Cheese and Fruit.
Lest we forget the oldies but goodies. So long as you tolerate dairy, this is a classic breakfast. Buy the full-fat (4%) cottage cheese, and top it with some freshly cut peaches or pears. For less fuss if you’d prefer not to have to cut anything, use raspberries or blueberries…or both. Protein (cottage cheese), fat (cottage cheese), fiber-rich carbs (fruit). If you prefer more savory cottage cheese, try it mixed with some greens (you may be surprised how tasty this is – I was).

Homemade Toaster Waffles.
Please leggo of your Eggos and get some nutrients in your body instead. I’ve spoken before about my favorite nutrient-rich pancake and waffle mix here. The reason I love Kodiak mixes so much is that they are made with wholesome, real ingredients and are rich in fiber and protein as a result. The way you mix up a batch can increase the protein and nutrients as well. I like to use whole milk and eggs combined with the mix. I also add wheat germ, chia, and flax usually. I often mix up a gargantuan batch of batter on a weekend morning, and make fresh waffles or pancakes for my family. They eat their share, and the remaining pile is placed in freezer baggies and tucked away for busy weekday mornings. Place the frozen pre-cooked waffles in the toaster, turn the heat to the lowest setting, and perfection awaits you. Protein (waffle mix, milk, eggs), fat (2% or whole milk), fiber-rich carbs (waffle mix, added seeds, etc.).

woofles

Writing this, albeit in the middle of the afternoon, is making me hungry! That reminds me to mention that the rules with breakfast are that there are no rules. Have some leftover chicken and a banana for breakfast; who cares! Have breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast; who cares! When you can embrace creativity with your food selections, you win.

Let me know how it goes in the comments!

xoxoxo
Casey

 

 

 

Part 2 of Unhealthy Stuff that is Fed to Most Kids

With Father’s Day around the corner, I bring you the sequel to my original post regarding the junk that I see kids fed all too often.

Part 2 of Unhealthy Stuff that is Fed to Most Kids-3

As I always mention in nearly every single post…it’s not that you (or your kids) “can never have ____ food.”  The point is that if you (or your kids) are eating these foods as a routine rather than a fun, seldom, treat…THAT is the real problem.

Brace yourself for what follows, it’s quite likely to offend some of you.  If you’re easily offended, then I suggest you stop reading now.  However, if you’re open to knowledge of how to raise healthier kiddos, then keep going.

 

Pancakes.  Waffles.  Muffins.

Ok, stop freaking.  I’m not saying they ALL suck.  It all comes down to what exactly is in them.  Nearly all “standard versions” of these foods are the equivalent of feeding your kids birthday cake for breakfast.  (White flour and sugar with frosting aka fake-syrup.)  If you can either make or find a mix that is based in 100% whole grain flour, less added sugar and perhaps add ground almonds (or other nuts), flax, chia, wheat germ, or all sorts of other cool nutrient-rich things, then maybe you can turn things around here.

Also, if you’re going to use syrup, invest in REAL maple syrup.  At least you’ll get a little nutrient bang for the buck.  The most common fake-maple-flavored corn syrups that most people use are a sad, sad, sad excuse for consumable food-like product (read the ingredients).  You might say “but those [better] mixes and real syrup cost too much!”  Well, how often are you eating these foods anyway?  Perhaps getting some variety in your breakfasts could be useful.  Also, sometimes there is a reason that some foods are super cheap…because they provide you with nothing useful.

 

Kool-Aid.  Capri Sun.  Sunny Delight.  Soda.

C’mon, really?  I’ve said what I think of juice in the last post on the matter of kid foods, but these juice-like drinks are even worse.  Artificial flavoring, artificial food dyes, artificial sweeteners (in the “low sugar” versions)…notice a trend here?  Your kids’ brains were not designed to thrive on artificial foods or drinks.  Most regular versions are a sloppy mess of added sugar.  All this does is not quench our thirst, making us want more…and more…and more…because our body is trying desperately to find water.  We also pave the way for a rollercoaster of blood sugar, leading to craving MORE sugar all day long.

PLEASE teach your kids to search for water as a main beverage.  Their growing bodies, brains, and kidneys need this habit so very badly.  Guess what the most common cause of UTIs and kidney stones is?  Yes, that’s right; it’s dehydration.  What will you often notice when you provide water for your kids?  They drink it.  It’s really interesting.

Save the sugary beverages as a rare, occasional, novel treat, and your kids will grow into adults with good habits.

 

Popsicles.  Snow cones.

These suck for all the same reasons outlined in #2.  I know many of us grown-ups have fond memories of sucking on these cold treats in the Summers of our childhood.  However, if that’s what you’re thinking, think about this:  how many health issues are you currently battling?  High triglyceridesElevated blood sugar Difficulty losing weight?

Look, I’m not saying that your beloved popsicles “caused” any of these health issues directly.  But these, along with a lot of our other lifelong habits, most certainly (and significantly) lead us toward the chronic health issues we face as adults.  If you don’t believe that, then you’re in complete denial of science, including epigenetics, inflammation, etc.  Save your kids from these same issues; it’s your job.  Their lifelong habits start when they are teensy little toddlers.

 

lunchable

 

Lunchables. 

What’s wrong with these portable-little lunches, you might ask?  Well, there are so few nutrients in them they shouldn’t even be sold as food.  There are many different versions of these things, so I’m going to speak broadly here.  Most contain some kind of white-flour, super-preserved, fake-butter-flavored cracker on which your littles put a meat-like product (usually made from cow and/or pig eyelids and rectums leftover from meat processing).  And lest we forget some sort of sugary beverage pouch and multi-fake-dyed dessert.  YUM!

Take a look at the ingredients on the side of the box sometime.  It’s hard because you’ll have to squint – they’ve managed to fit the 7,000 ingredients onto that teensy little panel on the side of the box.  It doesn’t matter though, because most of us wouldn’t recognize many of those ingredients anyway; they’re not real food.

At the very least, you can DIY these little lunch-boxes with 100% whole grain crackers, good-quality deli meat, and real cheese.  Or, what about a tuna sandwich with a good-quality mayo (soybean oil should not be the base…try to find avocado oil or olive oil based mayo) on 100% whole grain bread?

 

Boxed Mac & Cheese.

Ok, ok.  I actually have some of this (Annie’s brand) in my pantry right now.  But here’s the thing – most versions of boxed mac & cheese are composed of white-flour pasta and artificially cheese-flavored powder that has artificial orange coloring to make it appear more orangey.  Gross.  IF you must buy boxed (which, like I said, I have used sometimes), at least use a better brand without fake junk in it and add some vegetables.  Our favorite is peas in our macaroni at my house.

Furthermore, have you ever attempted to make homemade macaroni?  It seriously doesn’t take me but 5 minutes longer to make than when I make boxed, and that includes hand-shredding some real cheese.  Do not—I say again, DO NOT—use Velveeta.  Please.  You can (and should) use whatever 100% whole grain noodle shape you want.  You make a roux with butter and flour; add whole milk and whisk together.  Then add shredded cheese and whisk until smooth.  All the while, your noodles should’ve been cooking and will be done by the time your sauce is done.  You drain the noodles and stir in the cheese sauce.  Google homemade mac & cheese and I bet you’ll find 10,000 recipes with exact steps.  Try it with extra-sharp white cheddar – I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

kids

Kids learn what you teach them.  Teach them to not only eat healthy foods, but to find ways to make them super tasty.  Eating healthy doesn’t have to suck!  If it does for you, then you’re doing it wrongFat isn’t “fattening,” and can really take your vegetables to the next level.  Not all whole grains are “grainy.”  You don’t have to love ALL vegetables, but you have to find ways to eat more of the ones you do love.

Your kids depend on you 100% for the foods you provide to them and the habits you teach them.  You and I cannot take this lightly.  Life can include treats, but by mere definition a treat is something that happens infrequently as a novelty.  Please feed their little bodies and brains things that are useful to them and nourishing; and teach them how to make that taste absolutely awesome.  If you need help doing so, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist.

 

xoxo – Casey