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      Halloween Candy Is Near - Do Not Fear!

      Halloween Candy Is Near - Do Not Fear!

      Author: Ashley Wentworth, M.S., RD

      It’s that time of year again—when parents are getting nervous about having all of the Halloween treats and candy around. Let’s explore what makes this scary for us.

      Isn’t Sugar Bad for Our Kids?

      Yes, there are studies that link excessive sugar intake to chronic health conditions and nutrient deficiencies in children. But the link isn’t as clear as we’d like it to be. For example, in a 2017 study in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, researchers state, Nutrition studies are inherently challenging because humans have complex activities, diets, and metabolism. In attempts to study a single nutrient such as sugar, it is impossible to isolate its effects completely, especially with the known limitations in self-reported diet data from children/parents and the short duration feasible with feeding studies.”

      In other words, it’s hard to tell what exact side-effects are from just the sugar and what is due to other compounds in food or from one’s biology or activity. It’s also difficult to say how much sugar is too much sugar for every person and make a recommendation for that across the board. 

      This is because sugar is part of the carbohydrate food group. Carbohydrates—or “carbs”—are often villainized in the media. But carbs aren’t bad—and in fact, are necessary for good health. 

      When we eat carbohydrates they are broken down into a form of sugar called glucose—and glucose is the body's preferred source of energy or fuel. This means our bodies primarily run on carbohydrates—and use carbs most efficiently as fuel compared to other forms of fuel.

      Eating high sugar foods can affect blood sugar levels and create a cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes in children and adults. This can look like irritability, moodiness, and extra energy or hyperactivity. Eating an excess of sugar can also lead to eating less nutrient dense foods. 

      It is important for growing bodies to have adequate nutrition from all nutrients: vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. It is also important for children and adults to be able to enjoy their food and eat foods that are fun, too. 

      Risks of Restriction

      While our first instinct as parents is to take the Halloween candy and hide it (after we’ve taken our own bounty of favorites from the bag), the results of restriction on our food choices and behaviors can be scarier than the perceived risks of eating too much sugar. 

      When we typically restrict something—whether we’re restricting from ourselves or the restriction is from an outside source—it makes that thing much more fun, appealing, and powerful to us. The rebellious child comes out. We all want to have what we’ve been told we can’t have. And it’s that pull to do something we have been told not to do. 

      This type of behavior is likely based in the reactance theory in psychology. According to a 2015 study in Frontiers in Psychology, psychological reactance is the reaction that occurs when we feel our freedom of choice is threatened. 

      Food restriction in our minds has the same effect and triggers reactance behavior. When you perceive that candy is “bad” and actively try to restrict it, your motivation increases to eat it. For example, we tend to crave the things that are “off limits” when we’re dieting. 

      Our biology also works very hard to keep us from starving from food restriction. When your body senses food restriction of any kind, it tends to ignite a domino effect of reactions inside your brain and body, including  increasing thoughts of food and hunger signals. This is your body’s way of protecting you from starvation. It’s trying to drive you to go find food.  

      Actively restricting foods or food groups, as well as mental restriction, can lead to overeating, binge eating, disordered eating behaviors, and eating disorders. 

      Why Halloween Candy Is Not the Devil

      Sweet treats, including Halloween candy, can fit into nutritious eating. Sweets do not cancel-out fruits and vegetables. Nutrition is about your patterns of eating over time - the big picture. It’s also about eating a variety of foods and paying attention to  your body signals around hunger, fullness, and preferences. 

      Allow children to trust their hunger signals. Remind them of previous experiences with candy - like if they ate too much and had a bellyache. Ultimately, it should be their decision on how much to have. Your job as their parent is to offer a variety of food options that includes nutritious choices from all the foods groups, as well as what I like to call fun or play food. Teach them how food works in their bodies—like when we eat just sugar and simple carbohydrates, we’re going to be moodier and have less energy in the long run. And teach them what hunger and fullness might feel like in their bodies. It might be hard at first but they will be able to learn when they’ve had enough food and will figure out what foods work best for their bodies.. 

      We do not restrict sweet treats at our house. We have something sweet most days. Because we are not restricting these foods, my daughter is able to enjoy them and learn how much is satisfying to her. She is able to stop eating when she has had enough and does not feel like she needs to eat more—because it’s readily available.

      Ideas to Handle Halloween Candy

      • Include meals with a variety of food groups in addition to candy.
      • Include fun foods as part of meals—this makes all of the foods feel the same, not that some are more exciting or valued as others. 
      • Include fun foods regularly—this will make them normal and not as exciting.
      • Keep it hidden or in sight, that part is up to you. We typically leave ours out for a few days and then put it in a cupboard. If my daughter thinks to ask for it she can have some. Leaving it out also signifies that they can have some whenever which can help make it less appealing over time. 
      • The more anxious you are about the candy, the more kids will pick up on that and think you’re going to take it away. This may lead to them eating more.

      Keep the big picture in mind. Enjoying sweet treats and fun foods is not going to make or break their health or nutrition!

      Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

      Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

      Author: Ashley Wentworth

      It’s back-to-school season which means many of us are fretting about what to send in our kids’ lunchboxes, myself included. Unless your child takes advantage of the school meal program for all of their school meals, planning and packing lunches can be daunting. It seems like a constant battle between sending foods that support them during their long school day, and ones they’ll actually eat.

      Here are a few ideas to help make packing for lunchtime easier.

      Pack Enough Food

      My first tip is to pack enough food. Many schools have time for a snack/breakfast in the morning in addition to a normal lunch period. This basically means packing enough food for two meals, especially if your child has a small breakfast at home or doesn’t eat before school. 

      Having enough food to eat supports their energy, concentration, learning, and growth. I know if I’m hungry I usually am not productive and have poor focus and concentration. Our kids are no different. Being hungry can also cause irritability (hello, hangry!) and is distracting. 

      Use School Programs

      Take advantage of your school’s snack and meal offerings. Some states have adopted universal free school breakfast and lunch meals which is a no-brainer to help with your budget. Look over the menu together with your student and pick out some items or meals for them to try.

      Make It a Joint Effort

      Include your child in the planning and packing process for their school meals. Have them help you come up with some items or meals they might like to have for the week or over the next few weeks. You can include these on your grocery list and then have them available. 

      Some families have kids pack their own lunchbox each day. 

      Offer Options

      Pack plenty of food and a variety of options. This will give them some different things to choose from. I know I don’t know what I want for lunch right when I wake up in the morning. Include items from all of the food groups, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, and fun foods can all be part of a school meal. 

      Try to help your student explore which foods help keep them full and satisfied during their day. 

      Kids go through phases of liking things and then not wanting them for a while, just like adults. If their tastes change, try to go with the flow and pick some new or different items to try. 

      Make It Easy for Them

      Kids often do not get a lot of time to eat lunch in school. Make it easier for them. For example, send oranges already peeled. Slice up apples. Have everything ready to eat so they don’t waste time peeling and cutting and end up with no time to actually eat.

      Handy Lunchtime Tools

      • Bento boxes are great with helping to include variety. There are many different compartments to have fun with. It also saves space to help include more food instead of containers using up the space.
      • Small cooler/ice packs are great to help keep things that need to be refrigerated stay cold during the school day.
      • We use our thermos a lot! We pack soup, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, shepherd’s pie, and more. 
      • Cookie cutters can be used to make food items seem more fun and appealing. Cutting sandwiches, cheese, or anything into shapes automatically makes them more desirable to little ones. 
      • I’m not sure about you, but I absolutely hate having a million plastic, zippered snack bags floating around the kitchen and the lunch box. We love our reusable snack bags! They certainly help save money as well. 

      Ditch the Guilt 

      When we think “processed” we usually think unhealthy, prepackaged food. But truth be told, most of the food we buy at the store is processed in some way. It’s ok to send processed convenience foods like dried or canned fruit for example. Fruits and vegetables don’t have to be fresh for every meal/snack. If your kids like them and eat them, it’s a win! 

      Food Item Ideas

      • Sandwiches!
        • Wraps 
        • Open-faced sandwiches 
        • Pinwheels
        • Sliders
      • Fruits and vegetables, canned, cooked, fresh, dried, freeze-dried, or frozen 
        • Write notes or draw pictures on bananas and oranges to make them fun
        • Try different cuts to keep things exciting—sliced, cubed, or cut into fun shapes
        • Send some kind of dip for fruits and vegetables if your child likes it better this way. We love mixing yogurt and peanut butter together for a quick fruit dip! Hummus, salad dressings, yogurt, or whatever your child enjoys.
      • Leftovers from dinner
      • Cheese—cubed, sliced, or string
      • Popcorn
      • Pretzels
      • Crackers
      • Nut butters if your school allows it, Sunbutter if not
      • Deli meat and cheese rolls 
      • Muffins or breads 
      • Yogurt
      • Homemade Lunchable style items

      There are no rules when it comes to packing meals for your kids. Choose foods they like. If it seems like they are getting bored with things, try something new. Almost anything can be sent as a school meal—think outside the (lunch) box. Happy back-to-school!

      Road Trip Snack Secrets, According to a Dietitian (and VitaMom)

      Road Trip Snack Secrets, According to a Dietitian (and VitaMom)

      Author: Ashley Wentworth

      So in all honesty, that title basically reads “my favorite road trip snacks.” If you’re headed out on the road with the family or friends, car snacks are a must! Read on to find out my secrets to staying satisfied and avoiding hangry meltdowns when you’re away from home.

      Whenever I leave the house, I bring snacks! If I’m only going to be gone a short time I’ll just take a granola bar. But if I’m going to be gone for a few hours, or going on a day trip or a long vacation, you best believe we’re loaded to the hilt with snacks—or even small meals. 

      Funny story: I once got my carry-on bag searched at security at an airport because of all of my snacks—a lot of them had twist ties that must have looked suspicious in the x-ray machine. My bag was literally filled with food and a few books. 

      You can still have balanced meals and snacks but, in my opinion, road trips and vacations are not the time to obsess over healthy food choices—it’s a time to enjoy with your friends or family, be in the moment, and make memories. Choose foods that help give you energy for your trip and let you have fun, too.

      Bringing foods from home can also save you time and money (um, yes, please!). Planning ahead will help you avoid stopping sixteen thousand times at convenience stores or fast food restaurants because you’re all hungry at different times or can’t find what you want. 

      Logistical snack secrets 

      Here are my logistical snack secrets for your family’s next road trip.


      We always go to the grocery store a day or two before we’re heading out with a list of snack items we want to bring. Having a plan helps us avoid forgetting someone’s favorite snack—and the impending meltdown.  

      Bring things you know most everyone in the car will like. It’s great to bring healthy foods like fruits and vegetables—as long as they won’t go to waste. Packing foods you hope your family will eat—but know they probably won’t—just presents you with wasted space, food, and irritable people on your hands (no thanks!). So, if your family doesn’t usually enjoy grapes (or whatever) then, don’t bring grapes on your road trip.

      Stick with What You Know

      Road trips are not usually the best time to try new, healthy recipes or foods (hello, upset tummies—and frequent, inconvenient bathroom breaks). Bring your tried and true snacks and foods. You can always try new things on the road if you feel like it, just go easy to avoid “vacation belly.” 

      Think Variety

      Bring a variety of items. Include things from all food groups to keep people satisfied, including sweet treats. I never go on a road trip without chocolate of some type (Mom Tip: Keep the chocolate in a container that will catch any melted chocolate if it gets left in a hot car!).

      By bringing a variety of foods, it also allows you to make small meals out of snack foods so you don’t have to stop as often to find somewhere to eat.

      Stay Cool

      Bring a cooler for things that need to stay chilled and bring a separate bag of shelf-stable items. We always take both! Letting things that need to be refrigerated stay at car temperature usually makes things not as tasty and can be dangerous—and another cause for upset tummies. Putting shelf-stable things in the cooler can cause them to be damp or get stale. I know it seems like a lot of space for food, but trust me on this one. 

      I like to use freezer packs instead of ice in our coolers when possible. They are so much easier to deal with than having to worry about stopping for ice all the time and it keeps things clean and dry. If you don’t have a way to re-freeze the packs though, by all means stay safe and use ice.

      Bottoms Up

      Don’t forget your fluids! Pack plenty of water to avoid paying for overpriced bottled water at convenience stores. If you’ll be away overnight or longer, a 5 gallon water jug with a pump is a total life-saver. Plus, you’ll avoid all the space and waste of plastic water bottles. If it will be hot, consider using sports or electrolyte drinks to help with electrolyte replacement. Using electrolyte powders can help save on cargo room. 

      Think Outside the Box

      Just because foods you like aren’t considered “snack” food or road-worthy, doesn’t mean you can’t bring them! You could easily figure out a way to make oatmeal (thermoses are great!) or bring a bowl for cereal if those are things you enjoy. 

      Also, don’t forget a trash bag of some sort for all the inevitable wrappers—they hopefully won’t get stuffed between the seats this way! 

      Another tip—bring baby wipes, wet wipes, or something to clean off sticky fingers!

      Bring On the Snack Ideas

      Here are a few of my family’s favorite road-trip snacks to give you some ideas of what can be packed.

      • Cheese: string, sliced, cubed, etc. 
      • Pretzels, chips, tortilla chips, crackers, etc.
      • Dry cereal
      • Peanut butter crackers
      • Pre-popped popcorn
      • Granola bars, protein bars, etc.
      • Nuts
      • Trail or snack mixes
      • Nut butters
      • Hummus or other dips
      • Yogurt
      • Salsa
      • Fruit: fresh, canned, freeze-dried, and/or dried
      • Sliced veggies
      • Hard boiled eggs
      • Cottage cheese
      • Bread and things to make sandwiches like deli meats or nut butter and jelly
      • Meat jerky 
      • Chocolate and other treats you and your family enjoy. Choose packages that are individually wrapped or small portions to make them last longer. 
        • Chocolate covered nuts and pretzels are some of my favorites

      Bottom Line

      There are no rules! Bring whatever you like. Make sandwiches ahead, make pasta salads, etc. Choose what fits your likes, wants, and needs. Snacks are one of the best parts of a road trip—have fun with them!

      Got Milk? Breaking Down the Differences between Dairy and Plant-Based Milk Products

      Got Milk? Breaking Down the Differences between Dairy and Plant-Based Milk Products

      Author: Ashley Wentworth

      What type of milk do you drink? Do you know why you’re drinking that kind? There are so many options now. Sweetened, unsweetened, flavored, filtered—the list goes on and on!

      Plant-based milk products are not new despite their trending popularity. Soy and rice milk have been around for quite some time as an option for those with vegan and vegetarian meal styles, religious preferences, lactose intolerance, lack of access to mammal milk (like cow and goat milks), and dairy allergies.

      Types of Milks


      • Full fat, reduced fat (2%), low-fat (1%), and non-fat (skim)
      • Ultrafiltered: Milk is filtered, water and some lactose are removed, lactase is added. This leaves milk with a higher protein content and lactose free.
      • Lactose free: Lactase is added to the milk

      Plant-Based Milk Products

      •  Almond
      • Soy
      • Coconut
      • Oat
      • Cashew
      • Rice
      • Hemp 
      • Flax
      • Hazelnut 

      What Is Lactose Intolerance?

      Many people choose plant-based milks due to lactose intolerance and dairy allergies. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), estimates show that about 68% of the population worldwide and 36% of the population of the United States cannot tolerate lactose. Lactose intolerance is least common in those of European descent, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine

      Lactose is the type of sugar found naturally in milk products from mammals. Lactose is made up of two sugar molecules that need to be broken down by digestion in order to be absorbed by the body for nutrition. In people with lactose intolerance, there is not enough of the digestive enzyme, lactase, in their intestines to break down the lactose sugar. Some people have some levels of lactase and can tolerate small amounts of lactose but others cannot tolerate any lactose. 

      Lactose intolerance is often associated with other digestive disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, food allergies, or celiac disease.  

      An intolerance or sensitivity reaction is focused in our gut and causes discomfort and symptoms such as bloating, loose stools, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, per the NIH.

      Lactose intolerance is different than a dairy or milk allergy. An allergic reaction uses the immune system to defend itself against intruders and results in symptoms like hives, rash, itching, swelling, respiratory distress, and sometimes as severe as anaphylaxis. 

      A milk allergy can also have symptoms similar to lactose intolerance that occur in the gastrointestinal tract like nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Usually, allergies are triggered by exposure resulting in an immune response to the protein components of food. The main proteins in milk are whey and casein.  

      Environmental Impact

      Many people choose plant-based milks based on the lower environmental impact compared to dairy milk. The BBC reported on a study that suggests that dairy milk has the most significant impact on the environment in regard to land use, greenhouse gas emissions, and water usage. The same study suggests that almond milk has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions but uses more water than other plant-based milk products.

      The dairy industry has been committed to making sustainability improvements when possible. According to New England Dairy

      • Manure from cows is used as fertilizer for other crops.
      • Restaurants and food companies can partner with farms to recycle food waste into feed for cows or for compost.
      • Anaerobic digester systems are able to transform manure into renewable electricity.
      • Dairy farmers can be great stewards of the land. They use rotation practices to reduce and prevent erosion, as well as injecting manure into the land to keep nutrients in the soil.

      The US Dairy Industry has these goals for environmental stewardship for 2050:

      • Achieve greenhouse gas neutrality
      • Optimize water use while maximizing recycling
      • Improve water quality by optimizing the utilization of manure and nutrient

      How Do the Nutrition Facts Stack Up?

      Despite the use of the word “milk” in plant-based milk products, their nutrition profiles are generally inferior and should not be used as a sole nutrition substitute for dairy milk. Many are fortified with nutrients that are found in dairy milk but always check the label to find out. 

      Milk has thirteen essential nutrients: calcium, iodine, niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, phosphorus, protein, riboflavin, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and zinc. Let’s see how different plant-based products compare (all are 1 cup servings or  246gm).


      Whole Dairy Milk

      Soy Milk, unsweetened

      Almond Milk, unsweetened

      Coconut Milk

      Rice Milk







      Total Fat







      12 gm




































      205 mg






      322 mg






      105 mg























      Pantothenic acid












      Vitamin A

      395 IU




      Vitamin D

      124 IU






      All nutrition data is from the USDA FoodData Central Database


      Which One Should I Choose?

      Here are some things to consider when deciding what type of milk to include in your meals.

      • Dairy milk is often less expensive, more accessible, and has more nutrition than plant-based milks. This is especially important for people that face food insecurity or have limited access to food.
      • If environmental concerns are a priority for you, a plant-based option may be the best fit. The closest plant-based option to dairy milk as far as nutrition is concerned would be soy milk. Many people have been avoiding soy in recent years due to concerns about soy consumption increasing risks for cancer, thyroid disorders, and hormone disruption. Many studies have shown that there is little to no link between soy and these concerns. In fact, soy has been shown to have a protective effect on many health concerns. 
      • Dietary preferences and allergies may be the deciding factor for you. Choose a product that best fits your needs—there are a lot of options out there! 

      Bottom Line

      There are many types of milk to choose from, including dairy and plant-based. If you’re using plant-based options in place of dairy, there is a risk of nutrition deficiencies—like calcium for example. It’s important to find other sources of calcium and protein if you’re eliminating dairy from your diet.

      Do Supplement Needs Change with the Seasons?

      Do Supplement Needs Change with the Seasons?

      Author: Ashley Wentworth

      Seasonal changes usually make us want to consider making changes in other parts of our lives to create that “fresh start” feeling. We often choose to make changes to our activity, nutrition, organization, wardrobe and more. Some of these changes help us simply recharge, and some are necessary—like changing out our winter boots for sandals when temperatures are higher.

      Are changes in nutrition necessary during season changes? Let’s explore!


      When spring rolls around, the days are getting longer and some of us winter hibernators may be starting to spend more time outside. Here are some things to consider for your nutrition when the sun is finally showing its face again. 

      Vitamin D

      Getting enough vitamin D, essential for bone health and many other functions, may not be as much of a concern in the spring as long as you’re spending time outside. Our bodies create vitamin D when exposed to the UVB rays of sunlight. There are a lot of variables involved in deciding how long you need to be outside to get the recommended amounts of vitamin D. Things like how far you live from the equator, your skin color, the season, and even the time of day can all affect how your body synthesizes vitamin D. 

      • In spring and summer months when more of your skin is likely exposed to the sun, you don’t need to spend as much time outside as you would in the winter when it is not as strong and your skin is more covered due to the cooler temperatures. Spending about 10-30 minutes in the sun a few days per week is thought to be enough for sufficient vitamin D levels.
      • Skin color can also affect our vitamin D. People with lighter skin manufacture vitamin D more quickly than people with darker skin. This means that people with darker skin need longer exposure to the UVB rays. 

      The sun is the best way to get vitamin D as there are not many foods that naturally contain it. As with most things regarding nutrition, it’s all about patterns! Vitamin D is stored in the body’s fat cells so it is not as important to be outside each day, but rather a few days per week. So take advantage of those sunny days! 

      Be sure to use caution with sunshine—too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight without proper application of sunscreen can lead to sunburn and increased risk of certain types of skin cancer. 

      Supplements* can also be a good source of vitamin D. Those who live in northern climates, have high risk of skin cancer, or have darker skin may benefit from vitamin D supplementation. 


      Cold and  flu season tends to linger into spring when the temperatures can be variable during the day. See the Fall section for more immunity boosting information.


      The days are long and the sun is strong. Don’t forget your sunscreen even on cloudy days since summer sun rays are much stronger than during other times of the year. Here are some things to pay attention to in summer months to keep your body healthy.


      When temps are higher and we’re trying to keep up with the kids, we sweat more and lose more fluids and electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that help maintain fluid balance, muscle contractions (including your heartbeat), and chemical reactions in our bodies. Electrolytes also play a large role in how we feel overall. If we lose too many electrolytes and fluids when it’s hot outside or through extreme exercise, we can experience:

      • Neurological complications, like seizures
      • Dehydration
      • Irregular heart beat
      • Dizziness
      • Dark-colored urine
      • Weakness
      • Muscle cramps

      Staying hydrated with plain water when you are losing fluids through perspiration is one of the best ways to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. But extreme levels of perspiration may require electrolyte replacement. You can find electrolytes in

      • Dairy
      • Bananas
      • Salty foods
      • Drinks or drink powders infused with electrolytes/minerals
      • Watermelon

      Whole Body Summer Support

      Summer schedules are usually hectic! Most of us are on the go and trying to spend as much time outside as we can. Our skin and bodies can usually use some extra healing power during the summer. 

      According to Dr. Thaddeus Gala, here are some must haves to support your skin and body in the summer months:

      • Antioxidants like fish oil and other omega 3 sources, vitamin C, and vitamin E are all anti-inflammatory and can help skin heal faster from sun damage and also help support your joints and muscles. 
      • Collagen works to repair joints and muscles, and is really what keeps your body held together. It can also help skin damaged from the sun heal faster.
      • Biotin supports your hair and skin. So, like collagen and antioxidants, it can help repair damaged skin. Biotin also works to heal muscles.


      Fall is like the perfect storm for germs. Temperatures are dropping, we’re spending more time indoors, and we’re gathering in crowds again for back-to-school and the start of the holiday season.

      Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a lot of information and research on supplements and nutrients that support immunity. Nutrient deficiencies, even if you don’t have obvious symptoms, can often leave small holes in our immune system which bacteria and viruses can take advantage of. Here are the most common dietary sources and key players that work to regulate the immune system, fight off infections, and keep your immunity armor strong:

      • Protein: Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, work directly to help fight germs.
      • Vitamin A: eggs, organ meats, leafy greens, and orange and yellow vegetables 
      • Vitamin D: fortified milk, salmon, tuna fish, and cod liver oil
      • Vitamin E: vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds
      • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, tomato products, and potatoes 
      • Folate (a B vitamin): whole grains, leafy greens, fruits, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy, and meats. 
      • Zinc (mineral): meat, fish, and seafood, eggs, and dairy
      • Selenium (mineral): whole grains, dairy, fortified grain products like cereals, and some fruits and vegetables 
      • Magnesium (mineral): nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains
      • Pre and probiotics: supporting our gut health can be a key factor in our immunity levels 
        • Probiotic food sources: Fermented foods for the win! Sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, tempeh, and other fermented foods contain helpful probiotics.
        • Prebiotic food sources: Having a variety of plant foods like fruits, veggies, grains, and beans will help you get the prebiotics your gut needs. Bananas, garlic, onions, and more are all good sources. 

      What About Herbal Remedies?

      There are a lot of herbal supplements on the market geared toward immunity, like garlic, echinacea, elderberry, and more. Most of these supplements and compounds need more research in human studies to be more specific in how they work to help our immune system and to determine safe and effective dosing. 

      Other lifestyle activities to consider to improve immunity include:

      • Being sure to Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and whole foods most of the time 
      • Getting enough rest 
      • Having a way to manage and cope with stress  
      • Moving your body most days 
      • Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and other substances
      • Hand washing


      Many of us tend to lose steam in the winter months due to shorter days, less sunlight, and cold temperatures limiting our outdoor activities. And let’s face it, spending a lot of time inside with minimal sunshine can also leave us feeling restless, tired, and blah. Can a change in your nutrition help you avoid the winter blues? Here are some nutrients to consider in winter.

      Vitamin D

      Many places in the Northern hemisphere do not get much sunlight in the winter and what sunlight there is has weak UVB rays that are unable to produce vitamin D in the body. Many medical professionals recommend a Vitamin D supplement during winter months. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about what dose is right for you.

      According to many studies, vitamin D has also been linked to mood. Vitamin D deficiency often can cause mood changes, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and fatigue. 

      If you think you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder or depression, reach out to your healthcare practitioner to discuss what treatment plan may be best for you.

      Energy Levels

      If you’re feeling extra tired and you’re getting enough Vitamin D, see if you are getting enough of the following vitamins and minerals: 

      • B vitamins: meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, legumes, leafy greens, seeds, and fortified cereals and breads 
      • Iron: fortified cereals, beef, spinach, beans, oysters
      • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, tomato products, and potatoes
      • Magnesium: nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains
      • Zinc: meat, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy.

      Bottom Line

      So, do you need to take different supplements during different seasons? Maybe! If you feel you may be lacking some of the nutrients discussed above, it may be worth looking into increasing food sources during season changes or considering a supplement*. 

      *This article is for educational purposes only. Always discuss supplements with your healthcare practitioner or a registered dietitian. There can be risks of having high levels of some vitamins, minerals, and supplements. 

      Author: Ashley Wentworth

      International No Diet Day - May 6

      International No Diet Day - May 6

      Author: Ashley Wentworth

      This is one of my favorite holidays! I practice No Diet Day every single day but this holiday gives me an extra chance to shout from the rooftops about how harmful diets actually are and that all bodies deserve respect.

      Diets have been around for a long time. Some of the first diets were recorded as early as the 1700’s. I won’t bore you with all of them but here are a few of note:

      We have not evolved much since then. Despite decades of advances and innovation in  medicine, science, and technology, we are no closer to finding safe, effective, long-term weight loss methods. Most current day diet plans include some sort of restriction, usually peddled by someone who has had initial weight loss with the plan. Restriction and dieting remain harmful to our physical, mental, and emotional health.

      The Truth about Long-Term Weight Loss

      A myriad of research tells us that there is no long-term weight loss solution. Many studies show that there is initial weight loss when embarking on a new diet or nutrition plan, but they often do not follow participants long term (>3-5 years). Following participants for such a short amount of time, usually somewhere between six weeks to one year, does not give us an accurate picture of how these methods play out in real life. 

      Dieting also wreaks damage on our health. Since diets and intentional weight loss do not work long-term, most people turn to diets off and on throughout their lives. One survey found that the average person tries about 126 diets over their lifetime. That’s a lot of diets! For an average person that roughly equates to about two diets per year. 

      The same survey also suggested that participants were confused about food, nutrition, and health. Here are some findings:

      • Over half of the respondents (52%) said they are “really confused” about which fad diets are sustainable over long periods of time and which are intended for more short-term periods.
      • One in five respondents said that they have no idea where to go for reliable dietary information
      • More than half are “baffled” regarding which foods should and shouldn’t be cut out of their eating habits.

      Another interesting note from this survey is that many people stopped dieting due to side effects like fatigue, weakness, and headaches. This should come as no surprise when dieting as these are all common side effects of not eating enough. 

      What Happens When You Diet On and Off

      Dieting on and off, or yo-yo dieting, causes us to start a cycle of losing weight during the diet and then gaining weight back after the diet. This is also known as weight cycling. This happens to 95% of the population according to a hallmark study done in 1959 by Albert Stunkard. There has been research done since this study, of course, but we still do not have any better answers. 

      Here are some of the effects of weight cycling on our physical, mental, and emotional health:

      These are all things we are trying to solve or manage when we embark on improving our health. Why, then, do we keep turning to diets to help us solve these problems when they just make them worse?

      Despite all of this research and evidence, most of us still believe that losing weight will definitively improve our health. But according to a 2014 review in the Journal of Obesity, “body weight is defended by a power biological system that reacts to a negative energy balance by lowering metabolism and increasing hunger, food preoccupation, and hedonic responses to food.” 

      All of that to say, our bodies choose a weight range they like to hang out in, where they feel healthy and comfortable—and it’s not based on weight charts, ideal body weight, or BMI. Once we start doing things that bring our bodies out of this range, our security alert system goes off (Warning! Warning!) and our bodies do everything they can to keep us from starving to death, including:

      • Increasing our hunger cues so we will go find food
      • Lowering our metabolism so we don’t need as much fuel for the same activity levels
      • Increasing our thoughts about food so we will search out food
      • Increasing satisfaction and pleasure of eating food so we will keep eating for adequate nutrition 

      The truth is, our bodies don’t know the difference between starving (not having enough food) and dieting (purposely restricting food) and it has a very powerful system in place to keep us eating enough. 

      How Did No Diet Day Begin?

      In the 1980’s and 90’s diet programs ran rampant—Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Oprah’s journey with Optifast, and more. After hearing about the lengths people were going for the pursuit of weight loss (like stomach stapling) and the detriments of anti-fat bias (suicide), Mary Evans Young decided that enough was enough. 

      Young knew that dieting and pursuing weight loss was unattainable for most people and she understood the pressure of feeling the need to try anyways. Like many others, she had a history of an eating disorder, and experienced bullying, as well as body image issues. 

      Young wanted to spread awareness and education to prevent more people from being harmed by the diet industry. So, in 1992 she created “No Diet Day” to “celebrate the importance of body acceptance, diversity, and respect for all body shapes and sizes.” No Diet Day is now celebrated internationally each year on May 6th.

      A few other organizations and movements with similar missions started to emerge around the same time including

      How Can I Celebrate No Diet Day?

      There are so many ways to celebrate! Choose what seems right for you. Here are a few ideas.

      Enjoy Your Food

      I mean, really savor it. Choose your favorite meals and fun foods today and more often in general. It doesn’t have to be a “cheat” meal. You don’t need to feel shame or guilt for enjoying your food. Eating is supposed to be fun! Try to bring some joy back into your nutrition. You don’t have to stick to having only “healthy” foods at all of your meals and snacks. 

      Share on Social Media to Spread Awareness

      Share how you’re celebrating No Diet Day! The more people that know about the holiday and what it stands for, the better. We all deserve more than a lifetime of dieting—126 diets is too many.

      Not sure what to post? The National Eating Disorder Association has some social media graphics to share. 

      Show Your Body Gratitude and Respect

      Even if you don’t love or even like your body, you can still take care of it in ways that feel good to you. The more you show your body respect the more you may come to appreciate it. You don’t have to intentionally lose weight to do the things you want and enjoy—stop “weighting!” 

      Recognize That All Bodies:

      • are good bodies, no matter what they look like.  
      • deserve kindness and respect. 
      • deserve access to quality healthcare. 
      • can have different health levels—and you cannot tell someone’s health status by looking at them. 

      Reflect and Evaluate Your Relationship with Food

      • Does the thought of food and eating stress you out most of the time? 
      • Do you feel out of control around food?
      • Do you have to track things like calories, macros, etc.?
      • Do you feel like you need to exercise to “burn off” your food?
      • Do you weigh or measure all of your food?

      If any of these statements sound like you, it may be time to check in on your nutrition and health goals. These thoughts and behaviors are examples of disordered eating. They may seem “normal” because many of us do these things, but this is only because disordered eating has become normalized in our culture. 

      Dieting takes up so much of our time, energy, thoughts, and money. As Mary Evans Young said, “What do you think would happen if you spent as much time and energy on your careers as you do on your diets?” This statement can be applied to anything in your life, not just your career.

      Dieting has proven to fail us—but makes us feel like we are the failures. This makes us feel shame, have low confidence, and lose self-trust in our bodies. It’s time to try something different and get our lives back! Happy No Diet Day!