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Chicken Tortilla Soup and Digestion 101

Chicken Tortilla Soup and Digestion 101

Get warm with this Chicken Tortilla Soup and learn all about digestion!

5 benefits of Pomegranate & A Winter Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

5 benefits of Pomegranate & A Winter Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Add a burst or color and antioxidant to your snack boards, dishes, and this winter salad with pomegranate seeds. Pomegranates have amazing health benefits that you can find here!

On the Hamster Wheel That Is Leading to Illness? Here Are Five Ways to Hop Onto a Wheel of Healing!

On the Hamster Wheel That Is Leading to Illness? Here Are Five Ways to Hop Onto a Wheel of Healing!

Ever get in your car to drive somewhere different than your normal work route, to only realize you are on your way to work? It is like we are just driving through the motions and not thinking. It is crazy that our body programs these daily habits into our day.

Other habits that we do without thinking:

  • brush teeth
  • wear seat belt
  • looking at our phone
  • now wearing a mask!

I think we can all say we had to adopt new habits during this time from zoom to the way we go about our day (anyone getting extra steps because you keep forgetting your mask as you approach the store?).

Some habits come paired with other habits like putting toothpaste on the tooth brush before you brush or not sleeping and having no energy to exercise.

A pair of unhealthy habits can lead to more unhealthy habits and before we know it, we are on a hamster wheel that is going so quick that we don’t know how we got on it or how we are going to get off. Next thing you know we create an illness, that honestly no one has time for.

Covid may be a factor in a hamster wheel of unhealthy habits, but the wheel was occurring well before Covid. Covid may have exposed some of these habits when we were on autopilot before. Exposing negative aspects of our life is VERY difficult, especially when it is exposed without us expecting it. One month we are on our normal routine like nothing will ever change and the next month everything changed (for most of us). Without realizing we are on this hamster wheel, will only lead us going quicker on the wheel to disease, so look to it being exposed as a benefit that saved your future!

The hamster wheel of going and going but not really getting anywhere for our bodies to heal themselves. Our bodies are meant to heal themselves, but you have to nourish it properly for it to do it’s job. We stop thinking about how habits and actions will affect our body because it is what we need to get by and become successful or to survive in life.

Becoming successful is a great goal and should be for all, but if you become successful to only have your body begin to crash, how can you even enjoy your success?

OR maybe this resonates with you:

You worked for years for a good retirement, but the way you treated your body during those years only lead to a retirement in the doctor’s offices instead of traveling and feeling energized.

READ THAT AGAIN!

You don’t need to stay on that hamster wheel forever!

Now I understand many diseases and illnesses are not preventable, none of us are invincible and any of us can get or have an illness. But, many of the top causes of death can be prevented:

Top 2 causes of death in 2016: (per the WHO)

  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Stroke

** note I am sure Covid will be high on the next list **

The 2 top diseases have preventable measures with healthy habits:

  • Ischemic heart disease: decreased blood flow and oxygen to the heart due to arteries becoming narrowed (for more info: American Heart Association)
    • Risk factors out of your control:
      • age
      • male gender
      • genetics
    • Risk factors in your control:
      • no smoking
      • keeping cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL) and Triglycerides within normal limits– get lab work done annually
        • 2 things to focus on:
          • Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, fish, olive oil, grass-fed butter, avocado oil
          • Increase fiber: whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, fruits, veggies
      • prevent high blood pressure (the higher your blood pressure, the more work you are putting on the heart)
      • Keep moving and staying active!
      • Over weight and obese– especially abdominal fat= increase in risk
      • Controlling blood sugars to prevent diabetes (it increases your risk)
      • Monitor stress levels and find ways to de-stress
      • Limit alcohol
  • Stroke: different types but I am just going to go over the basics (see NIH for more info): it occurs when the brain doesn’t receive blood, which prevents oxygen and nutrients from getting to the brain
    • Risk factors out of your control:
      • Age
      • Gender: men or women at older age or with preeclampsia during pregnancy
      • Race: African Americans, Alaska Native, American Indian, and Hispanic
      • Genetics
    • Risk factors in your control:
      • Prevent high blood pressure
      • Controlling blood sugars to prevent diabetes (it increases your risk)
      • Smoking
      • Air pollution
      • Monitor stress levels and find ways to de-stress
      • overweight or obese
      • keeping cholesterol levels within normal limits (see above)

Have hope because you don’t have to be stuck in that hamster wheel!

It is time to break out of the unhealthy hamster wheel and time for healing and nourishment! Here are 5 ways to hop onto a nourishing wheel where you will be much more energized and will feel much better!

Here Are Five Ways to Hop Onto a Wheel of Healing!

WATER

Living on caffeine and not enough H20? Constantly grabbing caffeine can be beneficial, but also causes side effects if that is the only thing you are consuming. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and the adrenal glands release cortisol and adrenaline to give you that rush. Do you think most of us really need more cortisol in your bodies? Here are just a few side effects from too much caffeine (every body’s sensitivity to caffeine is different) include:

  • increased blood pressure
  • over working adrenal glands
  • diuretic (makes you pee)
  • flushed skin
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • diarrhea
  • heartburn

Ask yourself if your caffeinated beverage is replacing your water intake? Since it is a diuretic and is replacing your water intake, you may be dehydrated. It is important for caffeine to not replace your daily water intake of 1/2 your body weight in ounces.

Wheel of unhealthy habits: Poor sleep, then needing caffeine to get through the day, and leading to high anxiety.

Challenge to get on the wheel of healing: Start small like replacing at least one of your caffeinated beverages with water. Or better yet, start your day with water before your cup of coffee.

Long term goal: 1/2 body weight in ounces of water with your body not craving caffeine to get through the day or in taking a small 12 oz or less of caffeine to get by.

Nourishing foods

It is an obvious one, especially coming from a dietitian, but it so easily taken over by diets. When we start looking, smelling, and actually tasting our food we are aware of what it does for our body. Example 1: “I had that fast food and had to eat it quickly before my next event.” Often times, you don’t realize the taste or what you actually consumed. Example 2: “I took 15 minute to sit down and eat lunch, I noticed that I was missing color on my plate.” Here you are becoming mindful and can identify areas that need improvement.

Eating balanced looks like a colorful plate filled with non-starchy veggies, fruit, healthy fats, lean protein, whole grains or starchy veggies.

These foods provide nutrients that will feed the brain, your muscles, hair, skin, nails, and your organs to work properly.

Examples of key nutrients:

  • Brain health: omega 3 FA, iron, zinc, vit D, B vitamins, vit K, vit E, thiamine (Vit b1), coQ10, magnesium
  • Gut health (where most of serotonin is produced to help regulate emotions, appetite, and sleep): pro- and pre-biotics, fiber, omega-3 FA, glutamine, zinc
  • Skin, hair, nails: iron, biotin, omega-3 FA, vit D, zinc, protein, selenium, calcium, vit A, B vitamins, vit E
  • Heart: potassium, folate, omega-3 FA, fiber, vit C and E, vit D, CoQ10, selenium
  • Muscles: protein, magnesium, potassium, sodium, vit D, B vitamins, Omega-3 FA
  • Bone and teeth: calcium, vit D, magnesium, vit K, omega 3-FA, protein
  • Immune system: zinc, vit C, vit D, selenium, vit A

Wheel of unhealthy habits: Poor nutrition, affects your gut, which also affect your mood, which can lead to no drive to workout, and the wheel continues. OR you aren’t getting the proper nutrients and can’t sleep, which than throws off your mood and exercise routine.

Challenge to get on the wheel of healing: Start small like adding more vegetables and fruits to your current meal plan. Start decreasing the processed, high sugar, alcohol, and poor quality foods.

Long term goal: Consume 80-90% foods that are nourishing the body and 10-20% of foods that nourish your mind (aka your fav treats!). Focus on food as healing and fueling versus just for pleasure.

Peaceful Mindset

How we handle the daily stressors of life can lead to healing or increased inflammation. Increased inflammation can cause many illnesses from heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune, GI diseases, to name a few.

When we start stressing we activate our nervous system, especially the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) leading to ‘fight or flight’. Our adrenal glands release epinephrine and cortisol to conquer that stress. Our respirations and heart beat increase, we put our digestion on pause to provide our extremities with more blood flow to ideally run and kill our next dinner (back in the day). Our bodies are great that it functions that way, but isn’t meant for long term.

Long term stress causes:

  • Anxiety, depression, mood swings
  • High blood pressure and more work for the heart leading to stroke, heart attack
  • Decreased or increased appetite (anyone else an emotional eater?)
  • Reproduction concerns for both men and women:
    • Men: affects testosterone levels and declines libido
    • Women: absent or irregular menstrual cycles, difficulty conceiving
  • Changes in the gut
    • Increase in IBS and IBD (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis)
    • Gut bacteria changes
    • acid reflux
    • Increase or decrease digestion leading to diarrhea, constipation, or difficulty absorbing nutrients
  • Weakened immune system
  • Skin can show high cortisol levels from
    • accelerates the aging process
    • acne when the sebaceous glands produce more oil, leading to clogged pores, increased inflammation and bacteria
    • Eczema, psoriasis, rosacea

Wheel of unhealthy habits: Stressed leading to depression and no energy to exercise to feel better or eat healthy OR overwhelmed that you don’t get sleep and survive on caffeine and take out

Challenge to get on the wheel of healing: Start small by finding one small activity that can relax you from shrugging your shoulders and relaxing, 5 minute meditation or prayer, exercise, writing in a journal, taking a bubble bath, or focusing on breathing.

Long term goal: Creating boundaries to decrease the stressors in life or finding the thing that relaxes you and increasing the time to 30 minutes or more. For example: 20 min of walking daily and 10 minutes of prayer.

Get Moving!

There are so many things in our way of self-care, especially exercise. It is often seen as a chore for many and the last thing added to the to-do list. Now with the weather getting cold, our schedules getting busier, uncomfortable to be in the gym, child care not available, the excuses can go on forever. It is time for the quarantine couch potato to get moving!

Getting moving doesn’t have to include equipment and a gym. Since Covid many gyms and business have offered so many free ways to get moving. If you don’t like to do online, get the music or pod cast going and walk outside in nature, where you will get vitamin D. Getting out in nature and vit D will also help your mood!

Moving more than sitting will help:

  • Decrease inflammation
  • Protects the heart by lowering blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol
  • Builds muscles
  • Strengthens the bones
  • Decreases blood sugar
  • Release endorphins to help mood and increase energy

Wheel of unhealthy habits: To tired to exercise from the poor nutrition and lack of hydration.

Challenge to get on the wheel of healing: Start small by using the time you would be on socal media to walk instead. Add walking during lunch break or going for a 15 minute walk right when you get up or after work. Pack gym bag to go straight from work. Find a friend to join you.

finding one small activity that can relax you from shrugging your shoulders and relaxing, 5 minute meditation or prayer, exercise, writing in a journal, taking a bubble bath, or focusing on breathing.

Long term goal: Gets at least 30 minutes of movement in most days of the week. Finds an exercise routine you enjoy and look forward to doing.

Sleep

We have circadian Our bodies need rest for our brains. Our circadian rhythm We are now constantly looking at electronics which not only affects our eyes, but also over works our brain.

Poor sleep leads to:

  • Weakens immune system
  • Increases weight gain:
    • Reduces leptin (hormone that tells your brain you are full)
    • Increases ghrelin (hormone that tells you you are hungry)
  • Produces less melatonin (sleep hormone that helps our circadian rhythm)
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Heart disease

Wheel of unhealthy habits: Doesn’t eat the proper nutrition, so not able to get a good sleep. Not able to sleep, causing poor nutritional choices and need for constant caffeine, which makes you too tired to get physical activity so instead you are sedentary.

Challenge to get on the wheel of healing: Put the electronic down 1 hour before bed. Focus on getting your lunch or clothes ready for the next day or read kindle or book before bed. Try to go to bed 30 minutes earlier.

Long term goal: Gets more than 7 hrs of good quality sleep per night. Feels refreshed when wakes up and ready to take on healthy habits.


This may be overwhelming, thinking you need to accomplish each of these in order to get out of this hamster wheel of unhealthy habits that leads to illness– which is not true.

I encourage you to take 1 or 2 of the challenges to try this week and start to get on the healthier wheel of healing (and feeling better!).

Pumpkin protein ice cream

Pumpkin protein ice cream

When fall meets summer: vegan pumpkin protein ice cream along with maple coconut whip cream

Building a nourishing smoothie

Building a nourishing smoothie

Summer and smoothies go together like PB&J. Except the smoothies that are only fruit or filled with juices (read labels peeps!). ⁣⁣
⁣⁣
I hear my clients talk about smoothies, which usually consists of just fruit and fruit juice. These types of smoothies are fine once in awhile, especially if you eat very balanced.⁣⁣
Here is why they are not my fav:⁣⁣
⁣⁣
1) The smoothie goes down so quick and skips the first part of digestion: the mouth. ⁣⁣
2) The amount of fruit is much more than you would eat in a day. ⁣⁣
3) Elevated blood sugars without the addition of fiber, fat, or protein. ⁣⁣
⁣⁣
Bulk up your smoothie to prevent that blood sugar spike, get more nutrients in, and keep you full for a longer time. ⁣⁣
⁣⁣
🍌 fruit 1-2 servings (fresh or frozen): banana, berries, peach, pear, pineapple, mango, pipaya, açaí, etc. ⁣⁣
🥬 veggies 1-2 servings (fresh or frozen): spinach, kale, avocado, sweet pot., pumpkin, carrots, cauliflower ⁣⁣
🥜 protein: nut butter, protein powder (vegan or whey), tofu, Greek yogurt, milk (coy/soy/ripple), collagen, hemp seeds, cottage cheese⁣⁣
🥛 liquid 1 cup: milk (any), water, coconut water⁣⁣
🍫 additions: flax meal, chia seeds, cocoa nibs/powder, cinnamon, ginger, oats, coconut⁣⁣
⁣⁣

One of my favorites is chocolate peanut butter banana: 1 banana, 1 cup spinach, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tsp flaxmeal. 1 tsp chia seeds, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (I use Vega vegan protein powder or Garden of Life).

Other smoothies to try as a smoothie bowl:

Peach Crisp Smoothie Bowl
Strawberry Banana Smoothie Bowl

And if you currently pay $8 for a smoothie, just pay yourself because smoothies are so easy and cheap to make! Frozen veggies and fruit work great and are cheap. ⁣⁣

Jersey Fresh Corn, Avocado, Tomato Salad on Grilled Chicken

Jersey Fresh Corn, Avocado, Tomato Salad on Grilled Chicken

August already? How is this possible? My little nugget is 10 months old and we are still in quarantine. My July accountability group is ending Aug 10, I can’t believe we are 3 weeks into it. I have been enjoying the group so much and 

Avocado Beet Salad with Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette

Avocado Beet Salad with Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette

Summer in a salad filled with crabs, beets, avocado, goat cheese, and topped with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Sandwiches

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Sandwiches

Wait how is it July already? I have to say this working from home has spoiled me with the time with my family. My clients have gone back to their sites so I will be seeing some people soon! I am excited to see them in person. It will be strange with masks, but there is nothing like in-person sessions.

My July group coaching course is live and available to purchase (click here)! Make sure you sign up soon as I am only taking a limited amount of people. I am only taking 20 people, so I can get to know each of you better. Connection is so important to me, I don’t want anyone feeling like just a number. It is going to be so good and one you don’t want to miss. Also, it is at a discounted rate since it is my first one I am hosting.

If you are joining, start brainstorming some questions you would like to ask me. If I don’t have the answer right away, I will make sure to research for you.

I currently have a 6 year old client whom we are trying to get her to eat more. We got talking about Greek yogurt, which she consumes sometimes in a smoothie or on its own. She started getting uninterested in yogurt, so I suggested making summer frozen treats like Greek yogurt bark or Greek yogurt graham cracker sandwiches. I then went and made them for myself. It was a refreshing and lite snack.

These blueberry sandwiches are perfect for July 4th as well. Maybe make some raspberry or strawberry ones for red, blueberry for blue, and white peach for white!

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Sandwiches

Recipe by Chrissie Bittner, RD
Servings

10

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking timeminutes

Refreshing on a hot summer day. Switch the fruit for what is in season.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 tsp honey

  • 20 Graham cracker squares

Directions

  • Blend all ingredients together.
  • Place 1-2 tbsp of yogurt mixture onto a graham square and place the other square on top, gently push down (but not too much).
  • If you have extra yogurt, make bark: spread yogurt on parchment paper and top with cacao nibs or dark chocolate.
  • Freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.
  • For bark, cut in pieces and enjoy frozen.
Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce

Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Yogurt Sauce

Father’s day is tomorrow, which may look different this year. You may have to make dinner this year, unless you are lucky to get out door dining (if weather is nice). This is the first father’s day for my wonderful husband. He has been such 

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Hi friends!! Thank you for coming to my blog and reading my content. I hope I am able to inspire you to take care of your health with nutritious and delicious food. I love PF Chang’s chicken lettuce wraps, but do not enjoy the high 

Vegan Falafel & tzatziki bowl

Vegan Falafel & tzatziki bowl

Being a dietitian, most of my discussions are around food— all day!! Which always makes me remember flavors that I may have been missing out on. Today, my client brought up Zoe’s kitchen and automatically I thought of falafels and their salmon kabobs. Proud to say both my clients picked the roasted veggies, salmon kabobs, and they also got a cookie. Ok the cookie may not be the best choice. But, I encourage my clients to keep all foods within their nutrition plan and practice control and portions. My one client stated she would have eaten the whole cookie and now is able to eat a piece and put it away (Woohooo). When we eliminate food from our nutrition plan, we are more likely to over eat it (or another item) later on. I just say have a piece and put it away for another day..make that baby last a few days (plus saving you money!).

In the summer I found my love for falafels. I never had them before. One night we went to Bok Bar in Philadelphia (it is closed now due to the summer being over) and they were serving Mediterranean food. I had falafels in a gyro and my life changed! A few months later, I went to Zoe’s Kitchen and again had falafels on the side of some kabobs. Since I loved them so much, I figured why not make my own and bake them instead of frying them? So I did just that. After researching, they said to use dry chickpeas and soak them to prevent a crumbly falafel. To be honest, I always forget to do it, so a can is much easier for me. Yes, they were crumbly but in a bowl I break it up anyway, so no worries on my end. This tazaiki sauce is made with almond milk yogurt (by Silk), whether you have a milk allergy or going vegan this yogurt is delicious. Plain Greek yogurt would be a great choice as well.  I can’t wait to make these again and hope you enjoy as well!


Vegan Falafel & tzatziki bowl

Recipe by Chrissie Bittner, RD, LDN
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

Feel like you are in Greece eating these fresh, healthy falafels and tzatziki sauce!

Ingredients for falafels

  • 1 can chickpeas (or 1.5 cups dried)*

  • 4 green onions, chopped

  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • 2 tsp ground cumin

  • 2 tsp ground coriander

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp pepper

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil (depending if you need more to hold together)

  • Vegan Tzatziki
  • 1 cup Plain almond/soy milk yogurt

  • 2 tbsp fresh dill

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/2 cup cucumber, seeds removed and chopped

  • 2 tsp lemon juice

  • Sprinkle salt and pepper

Directions for falafels

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a baking sheet or use stone.
  • In a food processor, blend all ingredients together, and scraping the sides. Make sure to not over process.
  • Form into balls (about 1.5 inch), slightly flatten into a patty, place on tray, and spray with olive oil or brush with olive oil.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, flip and bake for another 10 minutes until brown.
  • Remove and let cool before enjoying in pita or in a salad.
  • Vegan Tzatziki
  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • It is best when sitting in the fridge for 30 minutes or more.
  • Enjoy topped with falafel.

Notes

  • *Dried chickpeas are better to prevent them from falling apart, but I didn’t have them on hand nor the time!
  • Falafel and tzatziki bowl (in picture) includes: roasted carrots and eggplant, spring mix, cucumber, red cabbage, grape tomatoes, whole wheat pita, falafel, and tzatziki sauce…DELICIOUS!

Have a terrific day!

Building healthy habits

Building healthy habits

Trying to find a title for a health group is actually tough. I called my first group July Accountability Group. I wanted a name that defined what the group was really about. On October 1, I will be starting my second group called: Building Healthy