Don’t Put Bacon in Your Ears.

Hi loves, it’s been a little while. I usually get daily inspiration with the weird stuff I hear people say about nutrition. I still do get that inspiration, but I’ve already written about most of it, so I’ve been struggling a bit! Ha.

Recently, an esteemed non-nutrition colleague asked me a question. As I directly answered his question, it became blatantly apparent he didn’t care at all about the answer. I would say that happens regularly – someone asks me a nutrition question and continues to argue when they don’t get the answer they wanted but rather the answer that is supported by science. But that’s another topic for another day…

Anyway, the question was “is bacon good for you?” The real answer was longer than what I’ll say here; but in summary, I will say that bacon can be a very useful food full of nutrients (primarily saturated fat) that helps improve health depending on what is consumed with it.

Is bacon good for you?

Bacon is not independently “good for you.” Bacon is especially harmful when consumed with zero fiber and few nutrients (think white bread and a pile of oil-covered hash browns…or a keto diet). However, when you have bacon along with dark leafy greens, perhaps some tomatoes…well now bacon is helping you absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Bacon is also providing some protein and fat to help keep you satisfied longer after that meal.

Vitamin C from the vegetables helps you to use the nitrate found in the cured bacon to produce nitric oxide to open up your blood vessels, which helps your blood pressure and circulation. The potassium in the vegetables helps to balance the sodium content of the bacon so that it doesn’t bother your blood pressure. The fiber in the vegetables helps to reduce absorption of some of the fat so that your body only absorbs what it needs. I could go on, but I’m pretty sure you get the idea.

Good quality matters when it comes to bacon (and all foods). If at all possible, try to get bacon from pasture-raised pigs. Uncured bacon still has nitrates despite claiming to be “nitrate free.” But the nitrate is from celery powder, a natural form of nitrates like spinach and beets; so it’s a better option.

Back to the question of “is ___ food healthy?” No food is independently, absolutely good or bad for you. All foods can contribute something helpful or harmful depending on how they are consumed. The poison is in the dose, right?

As usual, specific health conditions require a more comprehensive discussion. However, there is no such thing as a “cardiac diet” or a “diabetic diet.” It’s not like suddenly we have to change everything we’re eating because we just had a heart attack as penance for our wrongs. It’s that we were supposed to be eating to support heart health since childhood

Speaking of childhood…this morning I told my toddler not to put bacon in her ears. And to keep you safe, put your bacon in your belly with vegetables…not in your ears.

What to Put on the Plates You’re Spinning

How to still eat healthy when you feel like life is drowning you

Hi guys, it’s been a while! Since my last post, I graduated with a Master’s degree and just yesterday I re-joined the military as a Captain in the Army Reserve. That doesn’t sound all that complicated until you throw it on top of the regular stuff: a 40-hour/week regular job, wifehood, motherhood, home maintenance, laundry, and a new doctorate program starting up this month. Because I’ve used the phrase “spinning plates” to capture the status of my life right now, I thought it would be fitting to write up a little ditty about how I keep up with nourishing my family during these chaotic times. (Confession: I don’t always keep up; but I do an “ok” job and so can you.)

First and foremost, I would be sorely remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the tribe of amazing people that make it possible for me to continue to push forward in my career. I have an absolutely amazing husband that somehow knows how I need help before I even ask him (I am starting to think he can literally read my mind). I have the world’s best nanny/friend/sister/other-mom-to-my-kids who does so much to help keep my kids clean, fed, happy, and so much more. There are many more people I’d thank in my figurative Academy Award speech (don’t you guys practice that? Just in case?), and I’m guessing you all know who you are. But despite the amazing load of help and support I get from so many directions, there is still a considerable bucket of responsibility I hold; part of my duties include procuring and preparing rations for my littles, my other half, and myself.

Without further ado, let’s talk food. First of all, if you find yourself wondering when the heck you are going to have time or energy to gather the food you are expected to cook, please look into online grocery ordering. I use King Soopers’ Grocery Pickup (formerly ClickList) almost exclusively for my grocery shopping. I order online, then I pull into one of their designated parking spots to have it delivered right to my car. It is the best thing in the world. Apparently, Walmart does the same thing. You could also pay a little extra and have stuff delivered to your home, which is mind-blowing to me. Anyway, I’ve only used the online order and pick up option, and it is an absolute lifesaver. I’m sure you have your hesitations, but the first few times are often free; so check it out.

Work smarter not harder when it comes to prep. I recently had a day where I had two slow-cookers simmering away simultaneously. One contained a beef chuck roast and carrots and one contained chili. If you can spend a little time on a weekend preparing anywhere from 1-3+ meals at the same time, you have just created homemade TV dinners to help you survive the week. Making spaghetti? Triple your ingredients so you have leftovers intentionally. Remember, when you make several meals at once, you only clean the kitchen once. On a Sunday, I might make a tuna casserole, enchiladas, and a whole roasted chicken. Monday night for dinner we heat up one of the leftovers. Home-cooked goodness ready in about 2 minutes per plate.

If you’re not into leftovers, there are many ways to make a healthy meal that involve minimal prep but a little forethought. One of my absolute favorite easy meals consists of a handful of baby greens (I typically adore arugula), some of that leftover roasted chicken, a handful of blueberries and cottage cheese. My littles are not really “salad people” just yet, so I might give them a little bit of the leftover chicken, cottage cheese, some raw vegetables, fresh fruit, and whole grain crackers. These are just ideas to get you thinking; it’s not like I’m saying you “have to” have chicken or cottage cheese…just examples of what we literally do at my house.

If you’re not confident in your chicken-roasting skills, you can pick up a rotisserie chicken and do the same things I mentioned previously. If you’re not into meat, you could substitute hummus or seasoned beans in all of the above examples. Healthy does not have to be complicated, expensive, or gourmet. Just the other night for dinner, we had tuna sandwiches made with avocado mayo and Dave’s Killer Bread, and a mountain of raw vegetables on the side. You could have hummus, Triscuits, and baby carrots for dinner and it meets the specs of a healthy dinner. I really like my little makeshift caprese salad with (you guessed it) arugula, fresh mozzarella slices, fresh tomato slices, and a little extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar splashed on top. YUM.

Some other tips to take advantage of include the prep that is already done for you. For example, for a slightly higher cost, you can purchase pre-diced peppers and onions in the produce section to have ready for your super-quick egg scramble in the morning. I buy “baby” greens because the leaves are small and I don’t have to cut them up before making my salad. You can grab a vegetable tray like you would for a party for grab-and-go side dishes or snacks. Some grocery stores have salmon that’s already been marinating and stuffed mushrooms ready for the broiler. If you have the means, sometimes these little shortcuts are very useful. If you don’t have the means and/or you don’t want to shell out the extra cash for someone else to prep stuff for you, set up a little DIY factory the same day you get your groceries. Get out all the produce you bought, wash it, and slice or dice RIGHT THEN. Your future self thanks you for doing this, I promise.

Sometimes the meat is the most time-consuming part of cooking. Therefore, I like to do that way ahead of time. I already mentioned cooking up a whole chicken during your batch-prep day. However, sometimes I will also brown a bunch of grass-fed beef or bison and add [homemade] taco seasoning, then freeze it for later use as super-fast taco night. Remember earlier I mentioned the chuck roast in the slow-cooker? Well, that wasn’t meant for dinner that night; rather, I was actually only cooking it in anticipation of making sandwiches and casseroles with that luscious, tender, slow-cooked goodness. Most weeks, if I don’t roast a whole chicken, I will throw several chicken thighs/legs/breasts in a couple pans and let them roast for about an hour and a half during the evening while I am doing homework or watching TV. Once they are done, I let them cool and now I have cooked chicken for salads, sandwiches, quick casseroles, soups, whatever. Simple.

Non-starchy vegetables

A healthy meal consists of mostly non-starchy vegetables (think leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc.) and protein-rich foods (eggs, meat, fish, nuts, beans, etc.) with a little healthy fat (avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, tuna, salmon, butter, etc.) and a little bit of good-quality carbs (100% whole grains, starchy vegetables [potatoes, corn, peas, beans], milk, yogurt, fruit, etc.). Try your best not to overcomplicate things. Eat foods with few ingredients. Speaking of ingredients, that is about the only useful information on the Nutrition Facts label as far as I’m concerned. Get to know what it is you are actually eating. Eat more plants. Eat meats that don’t have so many things done to them. Simplify your meal planning, shopping, and prep, and your sanity will come back to you! Don’t forget to ask for help from others when possible. Odds are that people want to help you. And ordering a pizza once in a while isn’t the worst thing in the world…

xoxo – Casey

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