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6 Tips for Grocery Shopping with PCOS

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) causes elevated insulin levels in the blood, resulting in difficulty maintaining a healthy weight due to the tendency of the body to store fat.  Did you know that if you lose 5-10% of your current body weight, you can help significantly reduce symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?  Don't start crash dieting to improve symptoms, but start shopping smarter!

Grocery shopping, in general, can be a big pain but if you are grocery shopping with PCOS, things can get a bit trickier. I am here with some tips to make things simpler.

  1. Fuel Up Before Shopping! This is a rule for everyone to live by: don’t shop when you are hungry. Those donut holes look a bit more tempting when you haven’t eaten lunch yet (public bulletin: there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a donut hole).
  2. Fortify Your Cart with Calcium & Vitamin D!  Calcium is an important mineral for women with PCOS since it is known to promote egg development and menstrual cycles. Almost more important than calcium, Vitamin D is key for calcium absorption, egg maturation, and insulin resistance. Some foods high in calcium and/or Vitamin D include: milk, eggs, salmon, tuna, cheese, and fortified cereals.
  3. Find The Farmer's Market.  Produce & meats pack the most nutrition when purchased local because the food items do not lose nutrition in the transportation of the food items to the grocery stores and on the grocery store shelves.  Check out your local farmer's market and research local farms near your home that sale grass-fed, hormone free meats!  Since its winter, what are the best items to look for to help fight PCOS? Kale and Turnip Greens!!!  Kale is great for any diet, but can be extremely beneficial for women with PCOS. Turnip Greens are low in oxalic acid so there won’t be any calcium absorption inhibition. Other vegetables high in calcium: broccoli, collard greens, arugula, and okra. One key tip: take advantage of all these beneficial greens and make some beautiful salads.
  4. Fight Oxidative Stress!! Eat a Variety of Colored Vegetables To Fight Oxidative Stress. Brightly colored vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants which fights oxidative stress. Women with PCOS have been found to have a higher rate of oxidative stress which leads to physiological stress.
  5. Fire Up The Grill!! Purchase Organic, Grass-Fed Meats. Grass-fed meat tends to be leaner and contain less hormones than standard meat. The livestock is also protected from genetically modified grains and pesticides which can negatively affect hormone balance and PCOS.  Lean protein sources also help maintain steady energy levels and curb cravings.  Some protein foods, like wild-caught fish, can get a bit pricey but some cheaper options include: beans, turkey, pastured eggs, organic yogurt, and  nuts/seeds. When deciding on which proteins to choose- it is better to choose protein with little to no saturated fats (items listed above, with exception of egg yolks, are great options)
  6. Figure Out Plan Ahead of Time!  There are many websites that compile a shopping list that you can print out and bring to the store and check off items you need to purchase. This makes things much simpler and prevents impulse purchases. I made one myself and I am attaching it here: Grocery List. My grocery list is based on what I usually purchase, there are modifications and write-ins that can be made to your liking! Try to make a weekly meal plan and only purchase what it planned for that week. With the shopping list printable comes a budgeting section. Prepare ahead and decide what you want to spend and try not to exceed that limit. If you find some huge deals and have leftover money, save it for a rainy day and after the end of the month see how much you saved!

Therese Bridges

6 Local Birmingham Eats

Support our lovely city of Birmingham by eating local!

Babalu

The best part about their food: locally grown! One of my favorite dishes involved their delicious grits that are grown in Wilsonville, AL, McEwen & Sons. They were the perfect amount of flavor underneath the Braised Beef Short Rib, which was also amazing. The portions are the exact right amount for full satiety without being too large.

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When you taste their food you can tell that it is made with care and fresh, fresh, fresh! Their food items are made daily and even their margaritas are made with fresh ingredients (I highly recommend their baba-rita).

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They are partnered with Jones Valley Teaching Farm, a non-profit organization, to promote the education on locally grown foods. Jones Valley Teaching Farm is dedicated to educating the young community on what these fresh foods can do for your body! They provide many opportunities to volunteer and get involved here.

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Sprout and Pour

Sprout & Pour has been around Alabama for some time at various farmers markets but has just opened a storefront in the heart of Edgewood!  Sprout & Pour is family owned and uses fresh and local produce to make their cold pressed juices and serves up whole food smoothies!  Many juicing techniques lose key nutrients in their methods, but Sprout & Pour utilizes a cold-pressed method that preserves the vital nutrients in the local produce they use to create their nutrient dense treats!!

Galley and Garden

The galley is the kitchen and the garden is the area for you to enjoy your delicious meal. The chef, James Boyce, originates from Huntsville and owns three successful restaurants there. The restaurant has only been open for a short time and already has stirred talk around the town. The menu features modern American-French style with southern influences. I recommend trying the Grilled Hearts of Romaine salad and Pan Roasted Gulf Mangrove Snapper.

Dreamcakes

Dreamcakes is a locally owned bakery in the heart of Edgewood!  This bakery shares the cupcake love by sending cupcake trucks around the city!!! The creative team at Dreamcakes are consistently impressive at serving up whimsical excitement throughout the year with cupcake flavors and festive treats!  For example, during a pit-stop in October, the Wednesday special was the Sorting Hat cupcake. The Sorting Hat is Harry Potter themed and underneath the chocolate dipped topping is a SURPRISE FLAVOR! Nothing gets me like a hidden surprise inside a delicious cupcake.  Besides cupcakes there are cakes, brownies, chocolate strawberries, macaroons, and oatmeal crème pies. The shop is quaint and in the perfect area to eat outside and walk around to shop locally afterwards.  NutriFocusRD urges everyone to experience this unique & delectable bakery!!!

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Oli.O

Another family owned operation, Oli.O sells fresh olive oils and balsamic vinegars. These oils are from all over the world including: Spain, Italy, South Africa, Australia, California, and more! The shop provides tastings so you can see which oil or vinegar your taste buds prefer! One of my favorite new things to test out in recipes is infused olive oils and Oli.O has some great varieties like: chipotle, cilantro and roasted onion, organic basil, organic butter, and more! If you check out their website, they provide some recipes for your everyday needs.

Hotbox

Hotbox is considered a “permanent food stand” in the courtyard of Parkside in Avondale. I love the Avondale area, especially on a warn day when you can grab a dish at surrounding restaurants and eat at Avondale Brewery. Hotbox would be perfect for that very idea! Their menu has so much variety I would not know how to describe it besides: my perfect menu. Spicy soba noodles, beets and bok choy, carnitas tostada, and pork belly drunken noodle are on the top of my list. My mouth is watering as I type…

Therese Bridges

Wild-Caught Pesto Cod with Tomato & Olive Relish - Dinner in Less Than 15 Min!

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Time.

It seems to be the most common and prevalent barrier between people eating a nutrient-dense diet and fueling their body to do the activities that are taking up so much time!

How many times have you justified going through the drive-thru window b/c of no time? How many times have you skipped a meal due to a “lack of time”? How many times have you microwaved an unappetizing tv dinner due to a time crunch?  

Food Myth: “To eat “healthy” or nutrient dense means I must spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking, dirty up a lot of dishes, and eat bland foods.”

NutriFocusRD has news for you!!

THAT IS A LIE!!!!! And I can prove it!!!!

Last week, I started with fresh, nutrient-packed ingredients and had dinner on the table on 14min and 23 seconds flat! Yes, I timed it and proud of it!!! I wanted to see exactly how long it would take to prepare and serve a balanced, tasty meal. And I was extremely surprised!!!

I proudly served up Wild-Caught Pesto Cod topped with a Tomato & Olive Relish on a Bed of Wilted Organic Spinach. I finished off the dish by pairing it with warm slices of Rosemary & Sea Salt French Baguette!

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So no more excuses… It’s time to make health our priority so we can enjoy our loved ones, hobbies, and activities to the fullest!!!! I’ve shared the recipe below!!! Bon Appetite!

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 Wild-Caught Pesto Cod Served with Tomato & Olive Relish:

Ingredients:

  • 4 Wild-Caught Cod Filets (Frozen – Allow to Thaw Before Cooking) (Can also use tilapia, mahi-mahi or other white flaky fish)
  • 4 Tbsp Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • Cooking Spray
  • 4 Tbsp Homemade or Store Bought Pesto
  • 1-2 Small to Medium Sized Tomatoes
  • 8 Kalamata Olives, Pitted & Sliced
  • Garlic Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • French Baguette
  • Sea Salt
  • Dried Rosemary
  • Organic Baby Spinach or Frozen Spinach Leaves

Directions:

Pre-Heat Oven to 425 Degrees.

Pat fish dry and place on a baking pan covered in cooking spray. Top each cod filet with 1 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese. Place in oven to cook for 8-10 minutes.

While fish cooks, prepare relish, bread, and spinach. For relish, dice tomatoes and place in small bowl. Add Kalamata olive slices to the tomatoes. Season with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Toss with EVOO and sit to the side.

For bread, slice French baguette into single servings. Drizzle each slice with EVOO and sprinkle with sea salt and dried rosemary. Place in heated oven with fish for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté spinach on the stovetop in a skillet over medium high heat with a drizzle of EVOO. If you purchase frozen spinach, place in microwave.

When fish is done cooking, top each filet with 1 Tbsp pesto. Place each pesto cod filet on a bed of wilted spinach and garnish with Tomato Olive Relish. Serve the Rosemary & Sea Salt French Baguette on the side! Delish!    

Merry Kitchen - Safety Checkpoints to Ensure a Happy Holiday- Part 2

Safety Checkpoint #3

Work cautiously with meat by using separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/fish products and an instant read thermometer.

Cross contamination can occur if uncooked meat, poultry, and fish are placed on the same cutting boards as produce and cooked foods.  To prevent cross contamination, designate different cutting boards for uncooked meats, produce, and cooked foods.  I recommend using plastic cutting boards because cutting boards made of wood can harbor bactoria in the pores of the wood.  One effective way to prevent illness when cooking with meat/poultry/fish is to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the dish. The USDA Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures are listed below:

  • Beef, Veal, Lamb, and Fish -  145°F
  • Pork and Ground Beef - 160°F
  • Poultry -165°F..

Safety Checkpoint #4

Avoid unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and cheeses made from unpasteurized milk that are aged less than 60 days.

Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep or goats that has not been pasteurized.  If a product has been pasteurized, it has been heated to an extremely high temperature for a specific length of time in order to kill harmful bacteria that may be present. Harmful bacteria that may be present include salmonella, E. coli and listeria. Pregnant women, children, and the elderly populations are the most at risk due to a weaker immune system.  Some cheese are not pasteurized, but are considered safe because they are aged 60 days or more and are placed in a salty and acidity environment during the cheese making process which makes it difficult for pathogens to grow or survive.

TALKING TRUTH ABOUT TRANS-FATS!

What are trans fats?! This is a question I hear quite frequently from clients, family members, and friends so I thought writing a blog about it would be a great way to make us all smart food consumers that will ultimately benefit our health! Trans-fats were invented in the 1950’s by grocery manufacturers.  Since trans-fats are more solid than oil, it allows food to stay fresh longer, have a longer shelve life because they are less likely to spoil, and have a less greasy feel.

Trans-fats are created by a process known as hydrogenation.  Hydrogenation is the process of infusing oil’s fat molecule with hydrogen atoms, which creates a denser molecule and raises its melting point, so that the oil becomes solid at room temperature.   Typically, they appear on food labels as “partially hydrogenated oil” usually with vegetable or palm oil.  Partially hydrogenated oil means that the hydrogenation process was stopped short of a full solid, creating a creamier, semi-soft consistency, much like margarine.

How do you know whether food contains trans-fat? Read the ingredient list located on the back of all food products!  Fortunately, in 2003, the Food and Drug Administration adopted regulations requiring all manufacturers to include trans-fat content on their packaging. This regulation has been mandatory for all food manufacturers since 2006. Look for the words "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oil, which is another term for trans-fat, or shortening. Although the content of trans-fats are listed on the nutrition label, it is important you read the ingredient list due to a loophole most food manufacturers revert to so they can label their foods with 0g of trans-fats.  If a serving of food has less than 0.5g of trans-fats, the label may state zero!  If you read a food label and you notice the terms "fully" or "completely" hydrogenated oil, then the product does not contain trans-fats because the process used to make fully or completely hydrogenated oil does not result in the same trans-fatty acids. Small amounts of trans-fat do occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, but it's the processed trans-fats that are linked to increased health risks.

Recently, trans-fats have stolen the spotlight and people want to know why! The negative health implications that are related to trans-fats are so staggering that it is imperative that all Americans know what is in their food.  Trans-fats have been found to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. If your LDL level is high over time, it can cause an accumulation of fatty deposits on your artery walls which is known as atherosclerosis.  The deposits are referred to as plaque and can reduce the blood flow through your arteries.  A blood clot may form if the plaque tears away from the artery which can block blood flow to the heart or brain.  If blow flow to the heart is stopped, a heart attack occurs and if blood flow to part of the brain occurs, a stroke occurs.

Other health implications related to high trans-fat intake includes, a weakened heart, increased risk for diabetes, an increased triglyceride level, an increase in Lp(a) lipoprotein, and an increase in inflammation, which plays a major role in the formation of fatty blockages in heart blood vessels.

What should consumers do?! There is good news! Trans-fats are appearing less on grocery store shelves and some restaurants are working hard to reduce/ban the use of trans-fats in their establishments. Although most restaurants are not required to list trans-fat content, there are some establishments taking the initiative to make their food healthier for their customers.  In October of 2008, Chick-Fil-A announced they were eliminating trans-fats from every menu item. Other chains, such as McDonald's and KFC, have dropped trans-fats from cooking oil and many other products.  Some cities, such as New York City, have banned restaurants from using trans-fat and California became the first state to ban restaurant chains from using trans-fats for cooking or frying in 2008.  According the Food and Drug Administration and American Heart Association, there is no question that all individuals should limit trans-fat intake.

In summary, BE A SMART SHOPPER! Read labels and buy products with the smallest amount of trans-fat. Begin shopping for healthy fat sources that contain monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fast (omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids).  A healthy diet contains 25%-35% of your total daily calories from fat. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive, peanut and canola oils, fish, flaxseed and flaxseed oils and is considered a healthier option than saturated fat. Nuts, fish and other foods containing unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to protect the heart from cardiovascular disease.  Omega-6 fatty acids can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol and can be found in vegetable oils, meat, eggs, and dairy products.