If you all follow us on Instagram, you know we recently celebrated Patrick’s birthday with his favorite dessert [aka carrot cake cheesecake]. This is now my 4th time trying out different recipes and this is by far my favorite. Just know, the cake is large and you will definitely have lots to share. If you’d like it to be smaller, we recommend cutting the recipe in half! This cake is a bit time consuming [about 2 hours] but well worth it for special occasions!
recipe adapted from: life, love and sugar
24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
20 oz peeled raw carrots
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
8 Medjool Dates, diced
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp all spice
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
whipped cream cheese frosting
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans and/or walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line the entire inside of a 9 inch cake pan with aluminum foil. Press it into the pan to get it as flat as you can. Grease [we sprayed olive oil]. You’ll use the aluminum foil to lift the cheesecake out of the pan when it’s baked and cooled.
2. In a large mixer bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar and flour together until combined. Use low speed to keep less air from getting into the batter, which can cause cracks. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Add the sour cream, vanilla extract and and cinnamon and mix on low speed until well combined.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
5. Pour the cheesecake batter into the lined cake pan.
6. Place the cake pan inside another larger pan. I use a larger cake pan, but you can use a roasting pan or any other larger baking pan. Fill the outside pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 1 hour.
7. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door closed for 30 minutes. Do not open the door or you’ll release the heat.
8. Crack oven door and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 30 minutes. This cooling process helps the cheesecake cool slowly to prevent cracks.
9. Remove cheesecake from oven and chill until firm, 5-6 hours.
10. Puree carrots in food processor.
11. Preheat the oven to 350°F.Line the bottom of two 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides.
13. In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light in color and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Don’t skimp on the creaming time.
14. Add the vanilla extract and vegetable oil and mix until combined.
15. Add the eggs one at a time
16. Add the egg white and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is combined.
17. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
18. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter and mix until combined.
19. Add the carrot puree to the batter and mix until combined.
20. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until well combined and smooth.
21. Stir in the coconut flakes and dates. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure everything is well combined.
22. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs.
23. Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the pans to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
Frosting + Assembly:
24. Add the cream cheese to a large mixer bowl and beat until smooth, then set aside.
25. Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon to another bowl and whip until soft peaks form.
26. Add the cream cheese to the whipped cream and whip until stiff peaks form. It will happen fairly quickly. Set whipped frosting in the refrigerator.
27. Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the two carrot cakes.
28. Place the first layer of cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake layer.
29. Use the aluminum foil to lift the cheesecake out of the cake pan, remove the foil and place the cheesecake on top of the cake.
30. Spread another cup of frosting evenly on top of the cheesecake, then add the second layer of cake on top. If the sides of the cake don’t line up, use a serrated knife to trim off the excess cake or cheesecake.
31. Frost the outside of the cake
33. Sprinkle nuts on top of cake.
First off, if you feel like you are “all over the place” with your thoughts on this topic, that’s because it’s a very challenging topic to study. It would be “unethical” to do the kind of studies necessary on humans to more definitively say if pesticides, specifically glyphosate [from round up], is safe for humans- that’s why, a majority of the research has been done on animals. Typically, I don’t love research that has only been done on animals but you have to take what you’ve got sometimes! HOWEVER, the fact that it would be “unethical” to do it on humans should tell you something right there. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the health effects of pesticides are not well understood, but their use has been associated with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and neurological effects. 
Glyphosate: a broad-spectrum contact herbicide to kill weeds in fields prior to the planting of crops. It was also approved for weed control in a variety of non-crop settings. Glyphosate use is the highest of any pesticide in the USA.
GBHs: glyphosate-based herbicides. They are always used as a mixture of glyphosate plus numerous other so called inert ingredients, which are added to alter the herbicide’s physicochemical properties and enhance its herbicidal action. Unfortunately, the full list of these chemicals, collectively known as adjuvants or coformulants, is treated as a “trade secret” by the manufacturers. The composition of GBHs are unknown. GBHs have been shown to be more toxic than glyphosate.
Pros of GMOs + Pesticides: We as consumers often reap the benefits of pesticide use with lower costs and a wider selection of food and clothing. As a way of conserving food supply and lower food costs, they also help to combat hunger and related problems in various parts of the world. 
What we know:
Current safety assessments rely heavily on studies conducted over 30 years ago 
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) made the decision in 2015 to classify glyphosate as a grade 2A probable human carcinogen followed an extensive review and evaluation of the weight of all available evidence.  The outcome was driven by: (1) limited human evidence from case–control epidemiology studies, including high-quality studies reporting a link with non-Hodgkin lymphoma 
(2) sufficient evidence from unpublished animal studies, which identified an elevated frequency of rare kidney tumors in male mice, hemangiosarcoma in male mice, pancreatic islet-cell adenoma in male rats, and skin tumours and other non-malignant growths in mice and 
(3) strong mechanistic evidence, such as numerous studies demonstrating that glyphosate is genotoxic and can induce oxidative stress in humans, human cells, non-human mammals and non-mammalian species. Some of these studies also suggest increases in lymphoma in male mice exposed even to the lowest doses evaluated (14.5 mg/kg/day). 
HOWEVER. Joint meeting on pesticides residues (JMPR) of the WHO used the IARC hazard assessment evaluation (the one mentioned above, concluding that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen) to establish a safe level of exposure for humans JMPR would not exclude the possibility that glyphosate is a human carcinogen, but concluded that it ‘is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet’. There is a lotttttt of drama with the conclusion JMPR came to as far as establishing a safe level of exposure. They drew their conclusions based only on studies of glyphosate alone; studies of GBHs were not included in the EFSA assessment. The problem with this, is that GBHs have been found to be more harmful than glyphosate alone. Also, studies conducted that suggest causal links between glyphosate and cancer in exposed rodents have been dismissed by agencies including the EPA and EFSA due to speculation about a viral infection in the animal colony, even though no adverse health effects of such an infection have been shown 
Epidemiology studies suggest associations between GBH exposures and adverse health outcomes including chronic kidney disease and some cancers 
Unexplained chronic kidney disease has killed thousands of rice farm workers in Sri Lanka and sugarcane workers in Central America; exposure to herbicides including GBHs has been documented in some of these populations. Some have attributed these issues to dehydration [AKA more research needs to be had before the blame can 100% be placed on pesticides alone]
A number of studies have evaluated the association between exposures to GBHs and other health effects in humans including cancer. In fact, some of the most compelling studies in human populations suggest associations between GBHs and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. 
Exposure to large amounts of pesticides is usually more likely for people such as farmers who may frequently touch and/or breathe in pesticides. 
The effects of long-term exposure to small amounts of these pesticides are unclear, but studies have linked them to a variety of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and neurological defects. 
Studies have shown preliminary evidence that chronic, low-dose exposure to pesticides increases the risk of cognitive impairments and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s later in life 
A study of 50 pesticides and more than 30,000 licensed pesticide applicators linked exposure of seven pesticides that contain chlorinated compounds (including two herbicides, two organophosphate insecticides, and two organochlorines) to increased risk of diabetes . Exposure to pesticides has also been associated with increased infertility in women and developmental problems in children 
Research also shows that pesticides may have a negative impact on the microbiome.
Where is it BANNED + why [from organicconsumers.org April 2018]
• Belgium: In 2017, the Flemish government banned individual use of glyphosate and voted against reliciensing glyphosate in the EU. • Bermuda: The island outlawed the private and commercial sale of all glyphosate-based herbicides. • Colombia: In 2015, the country forbid the use of glyphosate to eliminate illegal plantations of coca, often used to make cocaine, due to concern that the herbicide causes cancer. However in 2017, the country reinstituted its controversial fumigation program. But instead of using aerial fumigation, glyphosate is now sprayed manually, from the ground. • Netherlands: Dutch officials have banned all non-commercial use of glyphosate. • Sri Lanka: In 2014, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa mandated an all-out ban on glyphosate, following a study linking Roundup to Fatal Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), the second-leading cause of death among males in the country. Sri Lanka was the first country to issue a nationwide ban on glyphosate. • El Salvador: Passed a law banning glyphosate, citing the same study linking fatal chronic kidney disease to Roundup. • Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have stopped glyphosate use. • France: President Emmanuel Macron announced in Novemenber 2017, an outright ban on glyphosate, to take effect “within three years.”
Choosing organic + what it means:
I’m going to say something that you guys probably aren’t going to love + I certainly don’t love it either. While organic farming certifications prohibit the use of glyphosate, organic products do not always end up completely free of glyphosate residue. This is because glyphosate use has skyrocketed in the past decade, and it maintains the ability to adhere to water and soil particles long enough to travel through the air or in a stream to nearby organic farms. It’s presence in the environment is nearly unavoidable. 
How we see it:
The lack of conclusive evidence ruling out negative effects of chronic exposure to low doses of pesticides means that we should still work to minimize exposure to pesticides when possible . Would I choose a job where I am working with round up daily and in large quantities? Absolutely not. Do we choose organic when we can? Most of the time but honestly, not always. When we eat out, we know that we aren’t being served all organic, and we are both totally fine with it. Everything comes down to – how much you’re having. Many things become toxic when you over consume. Even vitamins! The problem is that the research is not wonderful as to what that toxicity threshold is for glyphosate and GBHs. “The verdict is still out about pesticides and fertilizers as far as the long-term impact on health. There are so many other variables in the environment. It’s hard to say it’s the pesticide on the peach that was the primary cause of a health-related issue,” says Kathy McManus [Registered Dietitian, Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital].
Our recommendations: We recommend that people eat healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic. Choose organic when you can/if you can, but don’t go broke over it + do not avoid fruits/veggies etc because of the possibility of glyphosate contamination. The benefits outweigh the unconfirmed risks. If you are planning on choosing organic but don’t know where to begin. I agree with Kathy McManus’s, RD from Harvard Health, recommendation to start with the dirty dozen + clean fifteen. The purpose is not to decide for you to choose organic but that if you WANT to choose some foods that are organic, to choose the ones that have a higher pesticide residue [typically those fruits and veggies without a tough skin and more surface area]. If you want to stick with conventional and wait for more research- that’s awesome too! Note: Research has shown that even those fruits + veggies on in the “dirty dozen” list are several orders of magnitude below levels required to cause any biological effect. As a result, the potential for synergistic effects resulting from pesticide combinations is negligible [aka even if you are choosing something conventional from the dirty dozen list, it’s still way under harmful limits]
2018 Dirty Dozen: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers.
2018 Clean Fifteen [these foods had low pesticide residue according to EWG]: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydews, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower and broccoli.
Organic + Being Judgey
Just don’t judge. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Kind of my personal thoughts on choosing organic or not choosing organic. If you’re buying fruits + veggies no matter what kind- that’s a win! If you follow me on instagram, I talk a lot about my “every day” folder compared to my “once in awhile”. Same goes with choosing organic. The answer is- we don’t know if it’s 100% safe and that’s why we choose organic most of the time! A lot of people don’t want to say “I don’t know”. But sometimes- that is the answer! Can you say 100% that someone’s NHL (non-Hodgkin lymphoma) was not caused by using round up every day of their lives. Chances are, you can’t. What we do know, is that choosing organic over conventional, has likely never harmed/killed someone. Plus, some people choose organic for other reasons (ex: animal welfare, environment, or they prefer the taste). My point: don’t judge anyone’s decision to choose organic or to not choose organic. It’s their body and their prerogative.
Towards the future:
There is current research oh glyphosate that is to be released from the EPA and FDA in 2019 on safety of glyphosate in diet.
Want to read a little more?? I found this on Mayo Clinic:
There is a growing body of evidence that shows some potential health benefits of organic foods when compared with conventionally grown foods. While these studies have shown differences in the food, there is limited information to draw conclusions about how these differences translate into overall health benefits. 
Potential benefits include the following:
Nutrients. Studies have shown small to moderate increases in some nutrients in organic produce. The best evidence of a significant increase is in certain types of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties. 
Omega-3 fatty acids. The feeding requirements for organic livestock farming, such as the primary use of grass and alfalfa for cattle, result in generally higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a kind of fat that is more heart healthy than other fats. These higher omega-3 fatty acids are found in organic meats, dairy and eggs. 
Toxic metal. Cadmium is a toxic chemical naturally found in soils and absorbed by plants. Studies have shown significantly lower cadmium levels in organic grains, but not fruits and vegetables, when compared with conventionally grown crops. The lower cadmium levels in organic grains may be related to the ban on synthetic fertilizers in organic farming. 
Pesticide residue. Compared with conventionally grown produce, organically grown produce has lower detectable levels of pesticide residue. Organic produce may have residue because of pesticides approved for organic farming or because of airborne pesticides from conventional farms. The difference in health outcomes is unclear because of safety regulations for maximum levels of residue allowed on conventional produce. 
Bacteria. Meats produced conventionally may have a higher occurrence of bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatment. 
As you all know, if you follow us on the wonderful world of Instagram, burritos are one of my absolute favorite foods. So why not bundle up a whole bunch, throw them in a pan and call them enchiladas! We made half with ground turkey meat and half with veggies and beans. You can always mix up your personal protein preference.
This was actually our first enchilada go around [homemade] and Patrick said, I really outdid myself aka a definite WIN!! They were so yummy, so easy and great for the whole week.
Note: We had some bell peppers in the house and stuffed them with all the left over ingredients! If you want to do this too, have some extra on hand!
Enchilada Sauce [it was a week night and we opted to use Trader Joe’s brand. It has 220mg of sodium per 1/4 C, not too bad because we definitely did not use that much on each enchilada]
1 small can of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
2lb ground turkey [or your choice of meat/beans]
1 Can of vegetarian refried beans [by choosing vegetarian, you are eliminating the lard/bacon fat that many regular brands contain]
You can use taco seasoning of choice [we like hot + spicy or our own homemade seasoning – see below]
2 sliced jalapenos
Mexican shredded cheese [can omit or use vegan cheese]
1 diced yellow onion
2 diced yellow, red or orange bell peppers
Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream to top
2 chopped scallions
purple potatoes [about 10 small potatoes- ours were about the size of a ping pong ball. if yours are larger, use less]
no salt added canned corn
Avocado to top
optional spicy taco seasoning [you can use this to season beans and/or meat]
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 ½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. red pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Spray 13 x 9 glass baking dish with olive oil + set aside
Bring pot of water to boil + add purple potatoes. Take them off heat once you are able to easily place a fork through it. Drain + set potatoes aside.
Follow instructions to cook ground turkey meat and add taco seasoning [if you are using beans in place of meat, sauté beans in a pan with taco seasoning as well]
Add diced onion and bell peppers to ground meat [or bean]/taco seasoning mixture and sauté until golden
Add chipotle chilis to ground meat [or bean] mixture
Dice purple potatoes. Ours were small to begin with and we diced them into fours.
Once bean or meat mixture is cooked thoroughly, take your first tortilla and layer with bean or meat mixture, then dollop refried beans, then sprinkle corn, then add purple potatoes. Add your enchilada [open side faced down] on your prepped baking dish
Continue until you use all of the tortillas
Pour enchilada sauce over
Then sprinkle cheese [vegan or regular] to taste on top
Sprinkle sliced jalapenos and chopped scallions on top
Cover with tin foil
Bake for 25 minutes
Take off tin foil, then broil for 2-5 min until top is browned
Allow to cool + enjoy with some delish avocado, hot sauce + Greek yogurt or sour cream!
We had two beautiful eggplants in our fridge this week and we’ve been making varieties of eggplant parm around the clock lately [or so it feels]. We wanted to try something new this time= so, we came up with- Eggplant + Hemp Meatless Meatballs!! They are super, SUPER yummy. They also happen to be gluten free, paleo, + vegetarian aka all the plant based goodness! This is one of those recipes that even if you’re not an eggplant fan, you’ll love. It’s a great option for Meatless Mondays or really any day of the week! Pair it with pasta, spaghetti squash, salad, crumble it up and make a tortilla- the sky is the limit [as always].
We doubled the recipe + it lasted about a week.
• 1 medium/large eggplant, diced
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 5 large garlic cloves, minced
• 1 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
• 1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
• sea salt and black pepper to taste
• 1 cup almond flour
• 1 tsp fresh or dried basil
• ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded [can sub for vegan Parmesan]
3 Place the eggplant, onion, and garlic on the baking tray and toss with the oil and a bit of salt and pepper.
4 Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, or until you start to see some charred edges.
5 Remove from oven and now reduce the oven temp to 375°F.
6 Scrape the roasted veggies into a food processor. Pulse 10 times — you want there to still be some chunks in the mixture.
7 Transfer the veggie mixture to a large bowl and stir in the almond flour, basil, hemp, Parmesan and egg white. Combine well.
8 Roll into golf ball – size balls. (I found it easier to do this with wet hands).
9 Arrange the balls on the baking tray (use the same piece of parchment paper).
10 Bake for about 50 minutes, without turning the balls over. You will know they are done when they release from the parchment paper without sticking. Make sure you let the balls cool before you try to release them completely; this will help them release more easily without sticking.
11 Enjoy your balls with your favorite pasta, sauce, salad, sandwich..
Lets be honest- we all love the top of the muffin the best. Whenever I make a batch in the house, I end up with a bunch of muffin stubs laying around. This is exactly why the blueberry muffie recipe was born.
You can either bake these in a regular baking dish or a muffin tin! The bottom layer is from another recipe we’ve posted: [Vegan] Dreamy Banana Date Bar – because why mess with perfection. The middle layer is chia seed jam and the top portion is a oat, hemp + almond crumble. It. is. delicious.
about sugar: Usually when it comes to sweet in a recipe, we say “to taste” often. This is because depending on what kind of sugar you use on daily basis- what’s sweet to me, might not be sweet to you! I have actually weaned myself off of Splenda and artificial sweeteners because I didn’t like that it took more and more for me to taste the sweetness. That is why you see pure maple syrup and pure honey in a majority of our recipes!
2.5 cups quick oats
2 tbsp ground flax
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup almond milk
2 overripe bananas sliced in half lengthwise then chopped up
8 medjool dates (68 g without pits), chopped
1/2 tsp salt
2 packets Stevia or 1/4 C Honey – to taste
We added hemp powder [Manitoba Harvest: Hemp Yeah, Max Protein]
recipe for base
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Add the oats, flax, coconut, protein powder [if you’re using] and cinnamon to a bowl and stir to combine.
Mix in the vanilla and almond milk. Fold in the chopped banana and dates. (Taste the dough and add a bit of stevia if you want them a little sweeter.)
Place in either muffin tin OR baking dish
Bake for 15 minutes.
Set aside, it will go back in the oven after the jam + crumble topping.
ingredients + recipe: chia seed jam
2 heaping cups of frozen mixed berries (or fruit of your choice)
3/4 C water
1-2 Tbsp of Pure Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
Place berries and water in a small sauce pot- turn on medium heat- and bring to boil. Stirring occasionally.
Use a fork or spoon to help the fruit breakdown
Once liquid has been absorbed and the jam is your desired consistency [we prefer some clumps of fruit], remove pan from heat and add maple syrup + chia seeds.
Whisk for about 5 minutes to make sure chia seeds don’t clump up on you
After the base has baked for 15 minutes, add a generous amount of chia seed jam on top. We put a generous amount but you might have extra jam regardless [yay!]
ingredients + recipe: crumble topping
1 C Rolled Oats
1/4 C Sliced Almonds
1/4 Hemp Seeds
1/4 C Honey or to taste
Mix above ingredients in a bowl
Crumble over chia seed jam
Place muffies back in the oven for 15 minutes at 350
PS: To switch it up and get a little crazy, you can always layer some jam in the middle + top too!
Intermittent fasting. You’ve likely heard of it or know someone who has tried it. Intermittent fasting is less focused on what you can and cannot eat and more so focused on when you eat. In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is the process of cycling through periods of fasting and “non-fasting” throughout the day aka voluntary abstinence from food or drink.
Example: Meals are eaten from 8am-3pm, with fasting during the remaining hours of the day. This is one method. Another is 5:2. The 5:2 diet calls for limiting your caloric intake to 500 calories two nonconsecutive days per week while eating a healthy diet in the normal caloric range (2,000 for women; 2,500 for men) the rest of the week.
We are going to get into the science and all of that good stuff BUT FIRST- lets conquer the “diet” culture issue.
It’s controversial- but it doesn’t have to be. Finding a diet that works means that it becomes easy for you and becomes your lifestyle. We are not all wired the same way which means not every type of “diet” will work for everyone. Intuitive eating works for us; however, we have seen patients that do well on ketogenic, intermittent fasting, weight watchers, etc. if you are following a diet correctly. If it works for you, if you find it easy, and you are able to create a lifestyle from it then go for it. A diet should be sustainable and make you feel healthy. It should not feel as if you are deprived. You should not be drifting away at work and obsessing about the foods you cannot eat. If this is you, you are on the wrong “diet” [and we don’t mean just being excited about your next meal- because who isn’t- no, we mean obsession].
But if your “diet” of choice is sustainable and keeps you from chronic disease/obesity- go for it. We give the word “diet” more power than it needs to have and to be honest we aren’t sure why. Diet: the kinds of food that a person habitually eats; therefore, technically, we are all following our own, personal “diet”. To try and put everyone in the same box, to try and say what works for one will work for all- isn’t the case, in our opinion.
With any lifestyle choice [including diet] moderation is key.
Example: with the ketogenic diet- make sure your sodium intake isn’t in excess. Be sure to watch your fat/cholesterol intake. With intermittent fasting- don’t be extreme, be moderate. Don’t fast for days [exceptions sometimes include religious purposes]. Fast because it fits in with your life and your schedule. Whatever makes your body feel good, is what is right for you.
In all honesty, Patrick and I have both seen people that have had wonderful outcomes with ketogenic, intermittent fasting etc. diets. We know of physicians and dietitians themselves on these diets. We know equally as many people who have gained weight from the diets and had a terrible experience. The difference between the people that do well and those who don’t is moderation. You shouldn’t be malnourished, obsessing, or wanting to binge on a gallon of ice cream whenever you get the chance. It should feel sustainable and simple. That’s what a realistic lifestyle change comes down to.
I love what a nutrition professor from Harvard University said,
“But intermittent fasting may have a beneficial effect on diet psychology for some people”, says Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “One of my patients felt strongly that he didn’t want to be bothered with tracking calories and filling out food records. Instead, he opted for a 5:2 fasting approach, which has worked well for him”. The main goal is to develop a healthy eating pattern that is sustainable, McManus says.
Before we get into details on intermittent fasting, right off the bat, unless working very closely with your physician, we would not recommend this lifestyle for diabetics [as meals and snacks with insulin schedule is crucial], pregnant women, or people with other medical illnesses. This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice, so please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.
Now back to details on intermittent fasting.
As with every diet, benefits are exaggerated and risks of taking the diet to an “extreme” are downplayed. That’s why knowing the science behind diets is important.
science behind intermittent fasting
“The idea is that during the fasting period, cells are under a mild stress and they respond to the stress adaptively by enhancing their ability to cope with stress and, maybe, to resist disease. Researchers compare this to vigorous exercise, which stresses, muscles and the cardiovascular system. As long as you give your body time to recover, it will grow stronger. There is considerable similarity between how cells respond to the stress of exercise and how cells respond to intermittent fasting.” – Mark Mattson, senior investigator for the National Institute on Aging, part of the US National Institutes of Health. Mark Mattson is also a professor of neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
findings from the studies
Participants who adhered to the diet lost 8% of their initial body weight over 8 weeks. They also saw a decrease in markers of oxidative stress and inflammation, and improvement of asthma-related symptoms and several quality-of-life indicators.
Intermittent restriction (fasting from 10-16hrs/day) was as effective as continuous restriction (5:2 method) for improving weight loss, insulin sensitivity and other health biomarkers.
Mattson researched the protective benefits of fasting to neurons. If you don’t eat for 10–16 hours, your body will go to its fat stores for energy, and fatty acids called ketones will be released into the bloodstream. This has been shown to protect memory and learning functionality as well as slow disease processes in the brain.
Even a single fasting interval (e.g., overnight) can reduce basal concentrations of metabolic biomarkers associated with chronic disease such as insulin and glucose.
IF [intermittent fasting] has been linked to warding off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
IF has been inked to improving memory and mood.
Per a study done at UF, intermittent fasting caused a slight increase to SIRT 3, a well-known gene that promotes longevity and is involved in protective cell responses.
The same UF study also showed intermittent fasting decreased insulin levels in the participants, which means the diet could have an anti-diabetic effect as well.
our take from this
We are going to be honest with you – it comes down to calorie intake. Whether it is ketogenic, intermittent fasting, weight watchers, low sugar, Mediterranean, etc- the above benefits are happening, to overweight and obese people, because they are losing fat. Getting rid of excess body fat will improve a person’s metabolic profile and lower cardiovascular risk but there’s no strong evidence that fasting adds health benefits beyond any other weight-loss strategy. If you are already a healthy weight- you already have those benefits mentioned above.
This is why it comes down to you. It depends on what works for you and what is sustainable. It depends on what motivates you. The second your “diet” becomes an unhealthy cycle of restriction and obsession, you lose every single health benefit. Happiness is moderation. Practice discipline without obsession. Do not let your diet define you. Focus on health and nourishing your body. Find your motivation to eat healthy whether that is to avoid chronic disease, feel better about yourself, or to just live your best damn life.
Our best diet recommendation: Increase your fruit + vegetable consumption to 10+ cups a day. Everything else is up to what works for you and what keeps you mentally and physically happy and healthy.
Ok guys. This is a Romano Family delicacy and it. is. so. good. Every birthday I am always asking for 1 of 2 things [+ my mom typically makes both]. It’s always either this recipe or the stuffed artichoke recipe. For my vegan friends, we just made this on Sunday without cheese and it tastes EQUALLY delicious. So you know to do with the recipe- kick out the cheese + you’re good to go. Plant based, delicious meal comin right up.
Two options for this recipe. The traditional family recipe calls for pan frying the eggplant; however, you can also bake! When I make this recipe at home we bake + it tastes the exact same!
From the Dietitian: Eggplants are an excellent source of fiber, folate, potassium and manganese, as well as vitamins C, K, and B6, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, and magnesium! For these reasons eggplants are beneficial for healthy skin + bones.
From the Doctor: Why I love eggplant- besides the great taste? It’s great for heart health. One study found eggplants reduced inflammation and improved ventricular function. This is because they are loaded with cardioprotective compounds known as phytonutrients. Also, eggplants lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, which in turn, aids in avoiding any plaque build-up [which eventually could lead to blocked arteries].
Eggplants are also an awesome veggie for diabetics due to the low carbohydrate, high fiber content.
1 or 2 eggplant [you can sub 4 or 5 zucchini- we have made it both ways and you can’t go wrong either way]
3 eggs beaten [for vegan friends, 1 C almond milk]
All purpose flour [feel free to use whole wheat, oat, sprouted flour, coconut- this is just to coat the zucchini/eggplant]
Make marinara sauce recipe above first [or your own red sauce recipe or jar of sauce per preference]
Cut off ends and peel eggplant or zucchini
Cut lengthwise [hot dog style] into slices of about 1/4 in thick
For eggplant, to remove any bitter taste, sprinkle with sea salt and place in a colander. Set aside for a 1-2 hours for best results; then, remove slices, rinse and pat dry [skip this step if you have a time constraint OR if you are using zucchini]
Lightly flour each slice of eggplant or zucchini
Then dip in beaten egg [or almond milk] making sure each slice is thoroughly covered with egg [or milk].
You can either pan fry OR bake.
For Pan Frying: Place about 1/4 C Olive Oil in a large pan, fry each slice, turning over so that both sides are lightly browned; then, remove from pan and place on paper towel to soak up excess oil. For Baking: After dipping eggplant in both flour + egg. Place as many eggplant as you can fit on a baking pan and bake for 5-8 min [you should be able to easily place your fork through eggplant]
In a large roasting pan- cover bottom of pan with a layer of red sauce. Place slices of eggplant or zucchini in a single layer, side by side to cover sauce; then, top the slices with mozarella and sprinkle with grated cheese. Begin again with sauce and repeat layers until all slices have been used.
Top with sauce and grated cheese.
Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes.
Top with red pepper to taste.
Hope you enjoy one of our favorite meals of all time. It is so worth the bit of work that goes into it. We promise! Once you do it once, you will find it easy the second time around. Also, making red sauce in large batches and freezing – saves lots of time and helps avoid the “oh no, I’m out of time- have to grab a jar of sauce” situation!
Mexican food is my absolute favorite. Definitely up there with sushi + Italian. My husband and I crave it almost on an every-other-week basis. So I knew I had to find a healthy alternative. I love burritos; however, I wasn’t about to indulge that often. At the same time- I wanted to satisfy our craving. Cue the spaghetti squash mexican casserole! Honestly this recipe was totally random. Didn’t see it on Pinterest, didn’t see a recipe- we just happened to have the ingredients around the house. Since then, we’ve probably made it about 20 times already. I just love it so much. But even more than I love it- my husband loves it. Every time I ask what he wants for dinner- this. is. always. the. response. When I’m tired of it- he never is! It’s a great family meal because it lasts awhile too. I make it for my husband often if I’m going away for the weekend because you throw it all together and boom it’s done and lasts! Also- I’m not a big rice fan- I actually prefer the taste of spaghetti squash. If you don’t like spaghetti squash- well before I even go there- try this recipe ONCE with the spaghetti squash and if you’re not a fan, you can always swap it out for some brown rice, quinoa or whatever sounds yum to you. We have a pretty good feeling you’ll like it though!
Of note, the beauty of this recipe is that you can really modify to your own preference! Meatless Monday? Leave out the ground turkey. Vegan? Leave out the cheese + swap the meat for beans. Don’t like corn? Leave it out!
One more thing- you will notice I don’t add salt and that is because the taco seasoning has enough for the whole recipe. No need to add.
2 Large Spaghetti Squash
1 Small Yellow Onion – diced [use half if a large onion]
2 Tbsp sour cream
1 Can Vegetarian Re-fried Beans
1 C Corn [canned, fresh or frozen- we use frozen]
2 Bell Peppers – diced
1 Can Black Beans OR 1lb Ground Turkey Meat
1/2 C Shredded Cheese [we use whatever we have- typically cheddar but have also used mozzarella]
1 Packet of Taco Seasoning Mix [we use McCormick Organics]
2 Jalapeño Peppers [optional] – sliced
Fresh Cilantro [optional]
Hot sauce [optional]
Preheat oven to 450.
Prep Spaghetti Squash: If my husband is home, he is able to cut the spaghetti squash in half. If he is not home, I will poke holes in the spaghetti squash with a fork (about 5 times) and throw in the microwave for 5-10 minutes (depends on size of squash). At this point, I am able to cut the squash in half. Then remove seeds (sometimes we save these and bake as a snack), drizzle with olive oil and pepper and throw in the oven for 35 minutes on 450. If you have trouble, check out: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-spaghetti-squash-in-the-oven-178036.
While your spaghetti squash is baking- whip up the ground turkey meat (if using- if not, skip to step 5).
Brown ground turkey in medium sized pan and follow instructions on taco seasoning packet.
In a large skillet (separate from turkey meat) saute bell peppers, onion and corn with about a 1 Tbsp of olive oil and pepper for about 10-15 min on medium just to soften them up
Once spaghetti squash is done baking, reduce heat to 375.
Scrape spaghetti squash out with fork, creating stringy/spaghetti like squash!
Place spaghetti squash in a 9 x 9 baking dish. Spread evenly.
Layer re-friend beans on top (doesn’t have to be spread perfectly even. as it warms in the oven, it will spread)
Then add either ground turkey meat or black beans on top (whichever you are using)
Lastly, add corn/bell pepper/onion mixture
Sprinkle cheese on top + add sliced jalapeño peppers on top
Place casserole in oven for 20-25 minutes at 375
Mash/Mix 2 Tbsp of Reduced Fat Sour Cream with 1/2 Avocado for topping.
Your done! We recommend a dab of hot sauce + fresh cilantro to top!
If you like salsa, throw some on top! When in Rome (or Mexico bahaha)
Alright!! Brain health. So important. It falls to the back of people’s minds sometimes because cardiac health is usually at the forefront and weight loss and yadda yadda yadda. Truthfully, they are all intertwined. What’s good for your brain, is great for your heart too and weight management AND your body as a whole- so that’s an awesome plus! Nutritional cognitive neuroscience is an emerging area of research and the goal is to basically understand nutrition’s impact on cognition and brain health across the life span. If we could see our brain (like we can see our skin, our hair, etc) you would see that it ages too! So if we’re going to take care of our skin and buy all kinds of lotions so on and so forth- we should definitely care about the healthy aging of our brains too! Alzheimer’s, dementia, memory loss – we all want to avoid these disease states. The research is clear: What you eat has a big impact on your brain. The right foods [and combinations of foods] can enhance memory, build new brain cells + even help ward off disease.
It is a critical time in our little world to discuss brain health. Why? Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide. We blame it on poor diet, isolation, and technology but you all keep reading and draw your own conclusions!
Of note, I know some of my dietitians were hoping for a clinical outlook on brain health and that will definitely happen too BUT will be saved for a different post!
First off, for my folks who prefer tables over reading- this is an AWESOME guide from PubMed on important food/nutrition for brain health [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/table/T1/]. For my people who love reading, read on!
the brain + nutrition
The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage because of its high metabolic load and its abundance of oxidizable material. This is why anti-oxidants and an anti-inflammation lifestyle are so important for brain health.
Berries: Have been shown to have strong antioxidant capacity. This is because polyphenols increase hippocampal plasticity by maintaining metabolic homeostasis. Futhermore, providing protection against oxidative damage and benefiting learning and memory performance.
Alpha lipoic acid [spinach, kale, broccoli and potatoes]. This is a coenzyme that is important for maintaining energy homeostasis in mitochondria. Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to improve memory deficits in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease and reduce cognitive decay.
Vitamin E. Vitamin Ehas also been shown to aid in cognitive performance, as decreasing serum levels of vitamin E were associated with poor memory performance in older individuals. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals, and has been shown to extend lifespan and improve mitochondrial function and neurological performance. This is likely because Vitamin E protects synaptic membranes from oxidation.
Curcumin [active component of turmeric]. This has been shown to reduce memory deficits in Alzheimer’s disease and brain trauma. Given the high consumption of curcumin in India, it is possible that it might contribute to the low prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in that country Curcumin is a strong antioxidant that seems to protect the brain from lipid oxidation and nitric-oxide-based radicals.
Olive oil + Green tea: Helps fight inflammation. And while inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, uncontrolled inflammation over time can damage the brain. “By intervening with these anti-inflammatory foods before neurons die, and you may be able to restore normal brain function,” says Paula C. Bickford, professor of neurosurgery and brain repair at the University of South Florida. You know what most people over 100 all have in common? They drink green tea. Yes. I kid you not. I personally adore matcha- but you pick what’s right for you!
Beets, tomatoes + avocados: These foods ensure that your brain receives the blood it needs to stay sharp. Studies suggest increased blood flow to the brain promotes neuron growth in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning and memory.
Nuts (especially walnuts) + pomegranates. These foods fight off amyloid plaques. While amyloid is required for brain cells to communicate, when it accumulates several thousand times beyond normal levels, it forms plaques. These plaques kill neurons while creating inflammation, which kills even more neurons.
Fish, blueberries, grapes, + dark chocolate. These foods increase the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth of new neurons. Scientists have compared it to “miracle grow” for the brain. “Stimulating the release of BDNF not only reverses the effects of aging, but also triggers the brain to make more neurons.”
Ginger. Bioactive compounds found in ginger increase activity of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in learning and memory.There is evidence that ginger can protect against age-related decline in brain function.
Onions + Garlic. Onions are rich in the antioxidant quercetin, which has been shown to protect against ischemic brain damage (a type of stroke) and may improve impaired memory. Garlic has been shown to enhance memory in a multitude of studies.
Dates. Studies have shown that increased consumption of dates has beneficial effects in lowering the risk, delaying the onset or slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. A diet rich in date palm (aka dates) was shown to improve memory, learning and reduce beta amyloid.
Tip: our favorite good for the brain smoothie? Blend 1 C almond milk, 1/2 combo of pecans and walnuts, 1 tsp cinnamon [or to taste- I like a lot!], 3 Medjool Dates, and ice to taste [I do about 1/3 C]. I make this drink at least 4 times a week because we looooove it!
exercise + the brain
Exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.
In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.
Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.
“Even more exciting is the finding that engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions,” says Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School. This is major!
sleep + the brain
Sleep is important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other.
Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.
Lack of sleep increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Why? Studies have shown that slow wave sleep disruption increases cerebrospinal fluid amyloid-B levels; therefore, many scientists believe chronic poor sleep during middle age may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s later in life.
social engagement + the brain
The “use it or lose it” theory of healthy aging suggests that the mental workout associated with social engagement could help to maintain your mind and memory. Because conversation is a particularly challenging activity, it engages multiple mental skills, including attention, listening, reasoning, language, and memory. “It involves mental gymnastics,” one researcher says. “And you also have to stay abreast of topics, like the news, weather, sports, or politics.”
How connected you are to other people can be as important to healthy aging as not smoking or maintaining a good weight.
Social engagement may also help to preserve your memory.
Dr. Suzanne E. Salamon from Harvard medical center says, “Talking and interacting with people takes energy and makes you work harder, which stimulates your brain.”
Unhealthy practices: Tied to technology, multitasking (in an unorganized fashion), information overload, “cruising on autopilot”
Practice challenging your brain- do not rely on technology to remind you of daily tasks. As awesome and great and innovative as technology is – we have to remember to use our brains to (use it or lose it).
Some ideas of how to challenge your brain (these are kinda silly- but I loved it and it gives you an idea of how to challenge your mind in simple ways)
brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand
shower with your eyes closed (but be safe!)
switch around morning activities
turn things upside down (literally). Ex: calendar, photo, clock – doesn’t have to be permanently
switch seats at the table- I know we all have a favorite spot BUT switch it up. Variety is the spice of life!
smell new things every once in awhile and become familiar. Ex: I purchased ylang ylang essential oil- this is something I have never smelled before but after using it for a week- my brain now recognizes it
Open the window in the car (see and smell new things) or spend more time outside
Play with coins and try to figure out by touch alone which type of coin you’re holding (at a stop light for example)
While at the grocery store, look at new foods you’re not used to picking up- read the label. This way you are getting away from auto-pilot (just picking up what you’re used to)
Challenge yourself to small talk- this one is the hardest for me!!! I like real, lengthy conversations where you delve into the juicy stuff (which is good too) but sometimes small take can almost be MORE challenging because you’re thinking of relate-able topics with someone new
Eat unfamiliar foods
Hope you enjoyed this read. As a dietitian who works in the Neuro ICU, I LOVE this topic. Feel free to email me with any thoughts/ideas!
I know we have done a lot of recipe posts recently but whenever I take it back to nutrition, I’m in my happiest place. Plus I wanted to give you some background info about me before my next post about nutrition + the brain. Neuro health is near and dear to my heart because- these are the patients I see!! I have the Neuro ICU and then I also have the Neuro stepdown unit (where they go when they leave the ICU). I also have the psych lockdown unit- but that’s a story for another day. Just for some background info…I started my career in dietetics in a 1200 bed hospital in Orlando almost four years ago. There, I started on general floors and after about 4 months-ish I moved to the VTICU and cardiac floors. I looooooooved these patients. The VTICU (vascular thoracic ICU- is where patients go after vascular or thoracic surgeries- CABGs etc.) is special because it’s also where I met my husband. At the time he was a med student doing an ICU rotation. I love the ICU setting for so many reasons. Typically, for nutrition, our interventions are clear cut in the ICU. This is because whether the Neuro ICU or VTICU, the patients are, a lot of the time, intubated (need ventilator support to breathe) and a lot of the times on enteral nutrition (aka tube feeding). Therefore, in the ICU it’s more math than diet education. We take into account- labs, disease state, height/weight history, medications, and nutritional needs when deciding what form of nutrition intervention these patients need. I know a lot of people hear dietitian and they think we are throwing around diet plans like little fairies- not the case. It just depends which unit you’re on. So moving on- I left the hospital in Orlando and we moved to northern Florida for my husband’s residency. I started on general floors again, moved to Oncology/BMT unit and then finally moved back to the ICU – but this time, Neuro! My heart has always been in the ICU. As a dietitian, sometimes you have to wait until certain units become available. So the Neuro ICU was the first ICU available and actually – I wasn’t that excited about it. Fast forward and it is by far my favorite patient population.
The Neuro ICU, and the hospital we’re currently at in general, has had a major impact on honestly even my daily life- both positive and negative. The negative- I’m finally now spinning as a positive though! It took me awhile but I was able to pinpoint why the current hospital I’m at was giving me SO much more anxiety than the previous hospital I worked at. I loved my first job but I did my job, went home and didn’t really think much of it. The patients I have now, have had SUCH an impact. I finally realized it came down to the type of patients I was now seeing. The hospital I currently work for is a Level One Trauma and we also have a Burn ICU. While my first hospital was gigantic – it did not have trauma. Everything but! I see a lot of patients with traumatic brain injuries from the worst of the worst kinds of accidents. It has in turn, increased my anxiety outside of the hospital. Driving, flying…you name it. I’ve had a pretty challenging time separating patients from personal life. But I’ve been working hard to spin it into something positive. I feel so thankful for my health and my family’s health every. single. day. There is something about seeing an innocent 20 year old, in the hospital for a TBI from a car accident, and they’re mind just isn’t there anymore. Seeing how this impacts their parents and their families… I mean it’s very, very heartbreaking. Not to say that patients in the hospital with other disease states don’t hit home too but for some reason or another Neuro has left a tad more of a mark.
Every morning I come to work- my office is on the same floor as the Neuro ICU- and I see these families that literally sleep there for weeks and don’t go home. We have showers in the waiting room and a lot of them will bring pillows, their kids, blankets, sleeping bags and just stay there…waiting on their family or friend to get better and sometimes they don’t/sometimes they do. There isn’t a morning though that seeing that doesn’t effect me. In the best of ways.
Patrick and I always say we wish we could give people just a glimpse into what disease and trauma looks like- people would change their lives immediately. Health is important – THE most important thing. Losing it, is not fun- to put it lightly. It’s agonizing. A lot of these families and patients (if not all) wish they had the opportunity, that most of you reading this blog have- to change your life for the healthier and be thankful for every day. We are all taught to worry about other things- our hair, our cars, our homes- really none of that is important in comparison to your health.
Ok I went deep with you all and now we can get on to Neuro Health!!! But I had to share my experience in Critical Care + the Hospital setting. If it motivates even one person- totally worth it!