• Fertility Friendly Holiday Recipes!

    by Margaret Eich MS, RDN & Elizabeth DeAvilla RDN

    The holidays can be an especially challenging time for eating healthy. It’s easy to get off track even with the best of intentions when we’re constantly surrounded by sweets. We created this recipe packet to help you have some healthy go-to sides, desserts, and beverages to help you continue to eat nourishing and also delicious food during this time of year. All recipes are gluten free and dairy free or have a dairy free option. Before you dive into the recipes, here are a few tips to help you enjoy the holidays while still enjoying the foods you love:
     

    • Focus on adding instead of taking away. Instead of focusing on cutting back on sweets or on deprivation, focus on adding. For example, eating fruit after lunch and dinner would be a great habit to focus on, or filling half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. When we add in lots of healthy foods, it’s helps to crowd out some of the less healthy stuff.

     

    • Have other “treats” that are unique to the season like citrus and pomegranates or walnuts or hazelnuts in the shell. These are fun treats that are nutrient dense and delicious. Of course, you’ll still have some other real treats, but swapping these in some of time helps.

     

    • Choose some lower sugar options. Sweets and desserts are meant to be indulgent, so I don’t recommend “healthy” sweets that are modified so much that they don’t feel satisfying. Even cutting the sugar by a third or half in many recipes still results in a delicious and indulgent treat. Try making treats with fruits like dates and bananas, which are whole fruits with fiber and nutrients and can help cut the amount of sugar/sweetener you need to add. Cocoa Coconut Balls in this packet are a great example!

     

    • Use nuts and nut “flours.” Nuts contain healthy fat and are nutrient dense and provide your treat with flavor and the feeling of decadence without the refined carbs in white flour.

     

    • Focus on the treats you really love and forget the rest. You don’t have to try everything, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a polite “no thank you,” when offered a dessert or drink you’d rather skip.

     

    • Rethink your drink. Instead of overdoing it with pumpkin spice or gingerbread lattes or heavily sweetened hot chocolate, make your own at home. Combine warm milk or almond or flax milk, cocoa powder and/or cinnamon, vanilla, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Better yet, buy a milk frother to make your homemade beverage really feel like a treat! See the Healthier Hot Chocolate recipe.

     

    Table of Contents

    Side Dishes

    Cooked red cabbage with apples

    Red cabbage slaw with pecans

    Roasted root vegetables

    Black bean dip

    Roasted cauliflower

    Desserts

    Cocoa coconut balls

    Broiled grapefruit

    Candied pecans

    Beverages

    Healthier hot chocolate

    Peppermint nettle tea

    Side Dishes

    Cooked Red Cabbage with Apples

    This antioxidant-rich dish and is a great accompaniment to a holiday meal or just an easy side dish to reheat along with the protein you’re having during the week. Cabbage is fiber-rich and is in the fertility-friendly cruciferous vegetable family.

    Serves 6

    1 small head (or 1/2 larger head) of red cabbage
    3 medium apples
    1 medium onion
    1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    2 tablespoons water

    Cut red cabbage in half and remove the core. Coarsely chop and place into a large pot. Peel, core, and slice apples, dice onions, and add to pot along with cabbage. Stir to mix with a wooden spoon. Add apple cider vinegar and water. Heat over medium heat with cover on the pot until you hear the liquid boiling – about 5 minutes.  Turn heat to simmer, and cook for 1 hour or until vegetables are cooked down and soft. Enjoy!

    Red Cabbage Slaw with Pecans


    The gentle sweetness of the pecans nicely balances the flavor of the red cabbage. This is a great salad to make on Sunday and eat throughout the week. It’s also great for parties and potlucks. Cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables are rich in indole-3-carbinol, which may have a beneficial effect on hormone balance. Cruciferous vegetables are especially beneficial if you struggle with estrogen dominance, endometriosis, PCOS, or fibroids.

    3/4 cup candied pecans (see recipe below)

    1/2 medium head or 1 small head of red cabbage
    juice of 1 lemon
    1/4 cup olive oil

    Make the candied pecans first following the recipe below. While the pecans are cooling, cut the core out of the red cabbage and shred using the food processor shred attachment. You can also finely chop my hand. Finely chop the pecans, and add to the cabbage and stir until evenly distributed. Add lemon juice and olive oil, and stir until cabbage is coated with dressing. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

    Roasted Root Vegetables
    Serves 6-8


    This nutrient-rich side is loaded with beta-carotene, which is a vitamin A precursor and potent antioxidant. Butternut squash and carrots are also a good sources of vitamin E.


    ½ onion, chopped
    2 medium-sized beets, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
    6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
    2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    Salt and pepper
    Herbs (optional)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add all vegetables to 9×13-inch pan. Drizzle with olive oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and your favorite fresh or dried herbs, if desired. Roast for about 45 minutes, tossing every 10 to 15 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.

    Black Bean Dip
    Adapted from “Hurry-up Black Bean Dip” on epicurious.com

    Use this flavorful dip for vegetables, or spread on whole grain or nut-based crackers. Black beans are rich in folate, which helps prevent neural tube defects.

    15-oz. can of black beans (preferably organic beans in BPA-free cans), drained
    1 tablespoon onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, pressed
    2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1 tablespoon minced chopped cilantro
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Add all ingredients to blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Roasted Cauliflower

    Adapted from allrecipes.com. Herbs and spices contain potent antioxidants that may help protect eggs and sperm from free radical damage. This dish is also a great way to load up the holiday table with non-starchy vegetables. Emphasizing vegetables is a great way to optimize digestion and gut health.

    14 cup butter, softened, or ghee, or olive oil
    1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
    12 teaspon ground cumin
    14 teaspoon sea salt
    14 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
    1 head (large) cauliflower, leaves trimmed

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix butter, ghee, or olive oil, dill, garlic, lemon zest, cumin, salt, and black pepper in a bowl. Cut the cauliflower stem flush with the rest of the head so it stands upright. Spread seasoning mixture evenly over the top and sides of the cauliflower, place in a casserole dish, and cover with foil. Roast cauliflower until tender and cooked through, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer to a platter and spoon any liquid in the casserole dish over the cauliflower.

    Desserts

    Cocoa Coconut Balls

    These low sugar treats are a great way to keep the added sugar low, while still getting to have a treat. Nuts are a great source of satisfying healthy fats and cocoa powder provides an antioxidant punch!


    Makes about 20 one-inch balls

    1 cup pecans
    cup pitted dates (about 8 deglet noor dates)
    2 tablespoons coconut oil
    ¼ cup cocoa powder
    ¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
    1 tablespoon maple syrup
    ½ teaspoon salt

    Add all ingredients to the food processor or blender, and process for about 30-60 seconds until mixture sticks to the sides of the food processor. Roll into about one-inch balls. Store in the refrigerator.

    Broiled Grapefruit
    Adapted from williams-sonoma.com. Desserts don’t have to be all about sweets. Winter is a great time for citrus, and adding cinnamon to grapefruit provides a warming quality and may help lower blood sugar levels.


    Serves 1-2

    1 grapefruit
    ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

    Turn on oven broiler. Cut grapefruit in half and remove any seeds. Loosen grapefruit sections by using a small knife. First cut between the fruit and peel and then cut alongside each segment to loosen. Sprinkle cinnamon over grapefruit halves, and place under the broiler for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

    Candied Pecans


    Makes ¾ cup candied pecans

    1 teaspoon coconut oil
    ¾ cup raw pecan halves
    teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon maple syrup

    Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a small pot until melted. Add pecans and stir to coat pecans with coconut oil. Sprinkle salt onto pecans. Add maple syrup, and mix to coat pecans in maple syrup. Immediately remove from heat. (If you leave the pecans on the hot burner, they will likely burn.)

    Beverages

    Healthier Hot Chocolate

    This easy homemade hot chocolate recipe cuts the sugar from about 12 grams per packet of cocoa mix to 4 grams. This is a great way to keep the caffeine very minimal and still feel like you’re having a beverage that’s a treat. Higher caffeine intake has been associated with longer time to pregnancy among women trying to conceive.

    3⁄4 cup water


    1⁄2 cup whole milk or non-dairy milk

    1 tablespoon cocoa powder


    1 teaspoons maple syrup

    Combine water and milk, and heat until almost boiling in the microwave or on the stove. Stir in cocoa powder and maple syrup. Enjoy!

    Peppermint Nettle Tea

    Here’s another nourishing caffeine-free tea option.

    Dried nettle leaf

    Dried peppermint

    Mix nettle and peppermint in a glass Mason jar with 1:1 ratio for a supply that will last from weeks to months. Cap tightly and shake to mix. Use about 1 tbsp of tea leaves per cup of tea. Adjust based on flavor preference.

    We hope you enjoy these recipes these season! If you want to learn more about how nutrition can aid your journey, call us at: 312-321-0004.

     

  • A Tradition to Remember

    by Melissa Hinshaw LMT
    It’s that time of year when everyone is moving and shaking and buying and baking and trying to make all the parties and give families equal time.  Whether you are single, married, divorced, or in between, you know what I am referring to.  During this festive, yet chaotic time of year, how do we hold on to ourselves and what we deem important?   What do each of us hope for the holidays and what traditions do we want to hold fast to our hearts when the pace is so fast and we are trying to please so many?
    The pressure of the holiday season can be both exhilarating and stressful.  In my younger years, two small children at my hip,  one with Autism and not interested at all in Christmas, presents, Santa, or family gatherings,  by the end of the season I used to feel completely wiped out, angry, resentful, and  grateful that it was all over with.   I realized I had no boundaries during this time of year and I went with the flow and did what was expected socially and and within my own family even though it was, at times, not good for me or my family at all.  I wanted my younger son, who was ecstatic about Christmas, and presents, and Santa to experience the magic that I had growing up. My childhood home was a wonderland of smells, and tastes, and decorations and presents and nervous excitement while my four brothers and sisters and I awaited Santa’s visit.  Looking back, we rarely traveled around from this house to that house or attended gatherings that my parents felt pressured to attend or did much anything stressful except for getting the lights on the damn Christmas tree.  My mom was a pro…I think because she loved this time of year and you knew it when you were at my house.  I longed for this feeling again.  The feeling of holiday joy and giving and singing and snow. I wanted it to be simple.  I wanted to love Christmas again and I wanted my children to love it too.
    After many stressful and disappointing holidays with depression looming  each and every year beginning with Thanksgiving.  After many tearful conversations on the phone with my mom, having a glass of wine when the whole thing was finally over, and asking her, “How do I do this mom?  I used to love this time of year.  How do I make it special like you did, for my boys, one who could care a less and often falls apart over the holiday break,  and one who couldn’t get enough?”  “Melissa my dear, create your own traditions.  Do what works for your family.  Say, No, when you need to.”  She was right.  I needed to create Melissa traditions, Melissa style, and engage both of my children at their individual levels yet do holiday things we could  enjoy as a family.  I took her advice.  I created a few simple traditions that we have stuck with over the years. My youngest loves it while my older son complains and requires lots of cheerleading, but we do our activities together and it makes us feel like we are a part of the holidays.   We have pictures to remind us that we have done this before and we will do it again this year.   This is a big deal for me and I cannot completely explain my reasons. I just know that being swallowed up by others’ rituals and rules and schedules doesn’t bring me joy.  It brings me sadness and stress.  Of course I enjoy celebrating with other people and sharing what makes the holidays special for them, but that is reserved for a very few.  It is ok to have quiet during this time of year.  It is ok to find peace and joy in the simple.
    I encourage everyone to find one special thing to do with your partner, your kid or kids, or your best friend that brings you to a special place. Something that you can do each and every year…something to look forward to.  Something that you decide feels good and brings joy.  Something you can share a photo of to remind you what you’ve done and to remind you that you you will do it again.
    If you need to break that is okay, too.  We are here for you, take time for a massage before or after the holidays or start the New Year off with a cleanse!

  • Myo-inositol for Male Fertility?

    By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

    Myo-inositol is a supplement that we often recommend for lowering insulin and testosterone levels and promoting cycle regularity in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). We also recommend it for egg quality. Now evidence is mounting that myo-inositol may have a beneficial effect for sperm quality in men as well!

    Myo-inositol is a molecule that your body makes from glucose. Myo-inositol is also found in foods in foods like fruits, beans, grains, and nuts. It has half the sweetness of glucose, thus if you mix myo-inositol powder into some water, you will taste a slight sweetness. Myo-inositol is critical for cell growth, cell membrane formation, lipid synthesis, and cell signaling in your body.

    According to the research, myo-inositol seems to have a beneficial impact on mitochondrial function. If you remember from high school biology, the mitochrondria are the “powerhouse of the cell,” meaning they are responsible for energy production. The idea is that supporting the mitochondria helps ensure the sperm have adequate energy production to support proper motility. In the research, incubation of sperm from men with low sperm count, motility, and/or morphology with myo-inositol resulted in higher sperm motility. Myo-inositol may also have antioxidant effects.

    A recent study of 100 men with low sperm count and/or low sperm motility looked at supplementation with myo-inositol, alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid, betaine, thiamine, and vitamins B6 and B12 to determine the impact on sperm quality. After a 90-day treatment period, there was a significant increase in sperm concentration, progressive motility, total motile sperm count, and normal sperm morphology. Within 6 months of discontinuing the supplements, the partner became pregnant in 40 cases either naturally or via IUI of IVF. No adverse effects were reported in the 100 men following this supplement regimen for 90 days.

    This study has really striking results. Because multiple nutrients were used, we can’t be sure how much of the impact is due to myo-inositol compared to other nutrients. It would also be great to see a placebo-controlled trial with myo-inositol. For now, these results are looking promising for using myo-inositol to improve sperm motility in men with subfertility of unknown cause. Stay tuned as we learn more about this important topic! 

    References:

    1. Canepa P, Dal Lago A, De Leo C. Combined treatment with myo-inositol, alpha-lipoic acid, folic acid, and vitamins significantly improves sperm parameters of sub-fertile men: a multi-centric study. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2018;22:7078-7085.
    2. Condorelli RA, et al. Myo-inositol as a male fertility molecule. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2017; 21(2 Suppl): 30-35.

  • Auricular Therapy for a Stress Free Holiday!

    By Anna Pyne LAc, MSOM, FABORM
    When holidays are not the most wonderful time of year but in fact quite stressful you can turn to Chinese medicine for help. The main treatment modalities are acupuncture and herbs. There are also a number of different accessory techniques that can be used to help enhance a treatment. One that I find particularly useful in my practice, especially during the holidays, is auricular therapy, which is basically ear reflexology.
    At the time of your acupuncture session your acupuncturist can place a few ear seeds at specific points on the ear to help resolve stress. There is a band aid type adhesive that helps hold the ear seeds in place on the skin. They do not penetrate the skin like the acupuncture needles. You have to press on the seeds in order to stimulate the function of the ear points. I recommend patients press them at least twice a day if not more. I tell them you can make it like a little nervous habit pressing on them multiple times a day, not only for stress prevention but to also help treat it when it is happening. So when you are at that family holiday party and your sister just announces she’s pregnant while you have been struggling with infertility, you have the ear seeds to press to help you through the moment. One ear point I use frequently in this regard is called shen men, which is very effective at calming the spirit. If you have any questions in regards to auricular therapy and how it might help you during this holiday season do not hesitate to email me and ask at: anna@pullingdownthemoon.com or call the office (312)321-0004 to schedule a session with myself or one of our other skilled practitioners. My office hours are all day Tuesdays and Fridays.
    Be well,
    Anna

  • 3 Reasons Pulling Down the Moon’s Prenatal Yoga Class Is Unique

    by Kellie Greene RYT RPYT
    You’re pregnant, and you’ve been doing your research. Maybe you read our blog on the benefits of prenatal yoga, or maybe your care provider suggested you try some classes. Maybe you’re already searching for a prenatal yoga class that fits.
    PDtM has a unique environment for prenatal yoga; here are three things that make Pulling Down the Moon classes different than the rest.
    1) Classes start with a check in
    Our prenatal classes always begin by giving participants the opportunity to share the highs and lows of their week with other parents who are experiencing a similar journey. Many of our clients have had memorable fertility journeys prior to pregnancy; taking the time to share and listen to one another helps everyone feel connected, stay present, and focus on the practice.
    2) Instructors understand the range of emotions you may feel
    The staff at Pulling Down the Moon are compassionate, empathetic and understanding. The yoga space is a safe environment to share the good, the bad, the ugly. Pregnancy after a loss or a difficult fertility journey is not always filled with positive emotions. Often fear, anxiety, grief, and other emotions sneak in. We understand that you can feel joy for this current pregnancy, fear that your heart will be broken, and confusion at the conflict between these emotions — all at once. We get it! Most of us have been there ourselves, and we hold space for your feelings here.
    3) Classes provide realistic and practical strategies to manage emotions
    Unlike some of the approaches to prenatal yoga, we intentionally talk about your non-preferred emotions and come up with realistic and practical strategies for coping with and managing them. We will address fears around the birth, talk about ways to involve partners, and create plans that may involve massage, acupuncture, and alternative strategies to help with physical and emotional aspects of your pregnancy.
    In addition to providing a holistic health environment to help you on your fertility and pregnancy journey, yoga classes at Pulling Down the Moon provide a community environment for women to support one another and experience the journey together. From the bottom of our hearts, we wish you the best of luck in your search and hope you find the prenatal supports that work best for you!
     We will also be offering a special Prenatal Workshop in Chicago for the New Year, learn more here. Questions?  Call us at: 312-321-0004.

  • Guest Blog Feature: Considering Single Parenthood

    By Tiffany Edwards, PhD, MPH

    In my clinical practice, I see a fair number of single individuals desiring to be parents but also feeling ambivalent in their feelings of wanting to do it alone. Their desire for a child is very real and many times combined with a sense of urgency, as many feel that they have spent considerable time trying to find a partner and now have reached an age or space in their life where time is of the essence. In these conversations, there are often common thoughts, questions and concerns that come up. In this post, I want to address two of the more common topics, namely 1) feelings of regret or ambivalence; and 2) concerns about the impact of their choice on the child.

    It is not uncommon for many single individuals desiring parenthood to feel and express frustration and resentment for not having been informed and educated about their fertility options sooner and several will share feelings of regret for not having given more thought to or prioritized their desire to have a child earlier in life. Some will question if they should have worked harder in maintaining or salvaging old relationships or made different career or life choices. Much has been written about the concept of regret and this alone could be its own blog series, but I will share a brief thought on it and attempt to summarize what others have shared as well.

    • *It is important to realize that regret, remorse, guilt, whatever you might be feeling are all normal cognitive/emotional responses.
    • *Often what you are feeling is a sign that you are more keenly aware now, of your desires, needs and wants and what matters to you most.
    • *These feelings can serve to motivate you to take action, which is often when many single individuals seek out information or take the necessary first steps in considering parenthood.
    • *Avoid romanticizing the past and the “what ifs” and instead reflect on and appreciate your own unique lived experiences. Similar to the choice you may be facing now, you were once faced with opportunities and choices in your past and undoubtedly you gave the same care and consideration in making those, as you are doing now, and made decisions that were right for you at that time.

    Some intended single parents worry about how growing up in a single parent household may impact their child. They wonder if the child’s adjustment will be stunted or if there will be parent-child relational issues, both at a young age and into young adulthood, when feelings of resentment or who and why questions may be posed. Not surprisingly, much of the current literature indicates that there are often no significant differences found between children conceived through third party (donor or surrogate) and/or reared in single parent, same-sex or heterosexual households. You can find more detailed information and references for these research findings here.

    Of course, the decision for anyone thinking about parenthood is important, whether you are single or not. Feeling comfortable and confident in your decision is key. If you are struggling with this decision or simply want to be well informed as your move forward in your plans, there are a host of support options available to you. One such is Fertility Centers of Illinois’ No Partners Needed Support Group. This group provides women the opportunity to discuss and share their thoughts, questions, concerns and experiences in their attempt to create their family.

    I hope this information is helpful to you as you think about and move forward on your desired path!

    Tiffany Edwards, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Fertility Centers of Illinois

    Dr. Tiffany Edwards is a licensed clinical psychologist and patient educator specializing in counseling couples and individuals during treatment as well as egg donors and surrogates for those pursuing third party reproduction options.  Dr. Edwards earned her doctoral degree from Saint Louis University and a master’s in public health from New York University. She completed her pre-doctoral residency at Rush University Medical Center and two postdoctoral fellowships at Emory University School of Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. In her career, she has worked with patients to address a wide variety of psychological and health-related issues such as anxiety, depression, cancer survivorship, women’s health issues, stress management and more. In her role at Fertility Centers of Illinois, she counsels and supports patients, facilitates patient education seminars and leads support groups.

    Her caring, empathetic and supportive counseling approach aims to help patients move from fear and vulnerability to empowerment and hope on their treatment journey.

    Tiffany Edwards, PhD, MPH

    Clinical Psychologist

    Fertility Centers of Illinois

    https://fcionline.com/

    tiffany.edwards@integramed.com