Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM
The value of your practitioner
Why do I need to come in to the office?
One of the beautiful aspects of acupuncture is that your body is seen and understood as the complete instrument that it is. Your acupuncture point system is endlessly evolving. If you have graduated out of weekly or twice weekly acupuncture sessions, or have fallen out of the habit of coming in to the office, this post if for you. It is also for those who are at the end of their fertility focus, may be on a break, or are wondering if they can use acupuncture for different reasons.
What is important about coming to see your acupuncturist is that they will assess the current state of your health and choose point combinations that will tune your instrument, or all out repair it. It needs to be done in the office every now and then, even though we send you home more educated, with homework, or with goals accomplished.
There are ways to make this easier and less stressful. Pull out your calendar! As you assess your healthcare plan for the next year, look at the entire year ahead. Break it down into quarters, seasons, and peak stress times. Book a sequence of appointments for at least 2 weeks before an event like a holiday, a change in season, or as the quarter winds down. Book 2 appointments the week before tax season or school starts. It is great to touch base with your wellness team to be reminded of how to stay on track. This will help you be at your best.
Women have the opportunity to use their menstrual cycle, also, for scheduling structure. The frequency of office visits depends on what is going on for you, and what your cycle or the year is like. Talk to your acupuncturist to find out what fits best for you. For some, it could be coming during your period, to help keeps things moving. For others, it could be better to come in before you ovulate. Reach out and ask us how we can help recharge your wellness routine.
Come in and see us then have a great Fall! Book and save in October with our BOO-GO special that includes a FREE follow-up session ($95 value)!
by Elizabeth DeAvilla RD
It’s finally (almost!) summer time, so you know what that means! Backyard BBQs with family and friends, picnics, and this dietitian’s favorite way to eat, alfresco! Many of us will turn to not only dining outside, but do cook our meals outside too, which means it’s time to fire up the grill. But before we do, let’s take a step back and make sure we’re still on the path to our optimal fertility.
While we all know that certain foods may affect our fertility outcomes, one to definitely keep in mind, especially with our guys out there, is that of the correlation between some of the more commonly grilled foods, and that of semen quality. In a recent study published in 2017 processed red meat was negatively associated total sperm count in young healthy men. Organ meat (liver from beef, calf, pork, chicken, and turkey) consumers were reported as having more normal sperm. Chicken however, did not relate to any sperm parameter in young men. So what does this all mean? The more processed meats, the worse off they are for our guys, chicken however, can have either no effect, while those organ meats can actually have a positive effect!
Now let’s get to the more important question, how are we cooking that meat? Most commonly, especially in the nicer weather nights, you’ll find the guys all huddled around the grill and this is where is can get tricky. Research has shown that the consumption of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals considered to be “genotoxic” or highly damaging to our genetic material. Studies have shown that higher levels of PAHs in the urine are associated with poor sperm quality and cancer in men, and sadly, grilling is one of those cooking methods that can create them. This is formed from the combination of not only the amino acids from the meat, but the addition of sugars and an extremely high temperature (think open fire!)
So does this mean I’m done with our Weber forever? No, no, don’t jump to any conclusions just yet.
- While we don’t recommend grilling on a daily basis, once or twice a week is a much better option.
- Consider adding a healthy vegetable, filled with those great antioxidants that can work to protect our cells and combat those nasty PAHs.
- Discard the charred! When meat becomes charred, increased PAHs are found.
- Control your temps while cooking. Many times, a drip of sauce or fat from the meat can cause a flare up of flame, this only raises the likelihood that PAHs will be formed.
- Avoid smoking meats, which prolongs the cooking process and adds to the PAHs found in the prepared meats.
Enjoy your summers, All! Try to keep those alfresco dinners healthy and fertility-friendly!
Want to learn more? Meet with a nutritionist today! (Elizabeth is available Tuesday evenings and every other Saturday, while Robin is available on Wednesday evenings.) Questions? Call us at: 312-321-0004!
Dietary habits and semen parameters: a systematic narrative review
- Ricci-S. Al-Beitawi-S. Cipriani-A. Alteri-F. Chiaffarino-M. Candiani-S. Gerli-P. Viganó-F. Parazzini – Andrology – 2017
Photo by Skitterphoto
by Elizabeth DeAvilla RD
While becoming parents as a couple takes two, preparing your bodies is definitely an experience that takes both teamwork as well as some independent actions.
Know that everyone has different needs
We all know that men and women have different needs, that’s a given, and we also know that reasons of infertility can be very different as well, I mean, our bodies are built differently, thankfully! Let’s say that we need to increase or decrease a certain hormone, well, in our partner’s case it may be the same story, but with a whole different food group! Being able to understand where certain problems lie, could lead to very different solutions. While there are definitely foods and supplements that work wonders for both, no matter the gender, just know that what one partner is following for treatment may not be applicable, or even supportive of the others.
I used to hate running with my husband, he was so competitive, and I found myself trying to race him all the time. I bit the bullet and finally let him in on how I was feeling and he had a great response, “Oh, I thought that was your pace!” It was something that we had never talked about, and never set that game plan. Now we’re able to go out, set a good, (tolerable!) pace and have an enjoyable time. We are able to act as a cheerleader, as well as give accountability when that couch looks oh so tempting as well!
Be that Cheerleader
We all could use that high five every once in a while, and who better to give it than the one working towards the same goal? In fertility journeys there are many hurdles, as well as small successes when you look for them. Following treatment plans, taking our supplements/medications, completing medical/therapy appointments, procedures, positive results for one/both partners are all great ways to celebrate when you can!
Want to learn more about how nutrition can help you and/or your partner? Schedule a nutrition consultation today! Save in February with our $99 Wild Card special for an initial nutrition consultation!
Questions? Call us at: 312-321-0004. Elizabeth is available on T/R evenings in Chicago and alternating weekend days including Highland Park. She is available for phone consults as well for your convenience.
by Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director LAc MSOM Dipl OM
February is American Heart Awareness Month. In western/traditional medicine, the heart is obviously a very important organ! If you have concerns about your heart, see your doctor!
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Heart is the most precious of all the organs. It is considered the Emperor/Ruler of the body and all other organs contribute energy to make sure that it can function as best as possible. The Heart is responsible for circulation of blood, but also stores the Shen (Spirit) which generates qi (pronounced “chee”) and is the root of life. The Heart is associated with the element of fire (remember in the English Patient when Hana reads “The heart is an organ of fire?” It’s true!), it’s flavor is bitter, it’s direction is South, it’s emotion is joy, it’s season is Summer, and it’s color is red.
Your acupuncturist is excellent at seeing how the Heart (in TCM physiology) is functioning. Changes in color, texture or coating on the tip of the tongue tell us about Heart health. The pulse that is felt on the left wrist right at the crease is the Heart pulse. It should be not too weak and not too strong, not too fast and not too slow. Like Goldilocks, the Middle Path is the way to health.
Here are some ways to keep your heart healthy:
- Laugh often. The Heart in TCM is associated with the emotion of joy. While too much joy (mania) can injure the heart, it is usually a great idea to laugh and smile as much as possible. Try Laughter Yoga – it’s a way to “fake it ‘til you feel it” to bring back joy to the moment.
- Place your hands over your heart and feel it beat. Say “thank you” to your heart and express gratitude toward yourself. It will feel silly at first, but the more you do it, the more you will see how powerful loving yourself can be.
- Daydream! Allowing your mind to wander at bedtime or other quiet moments can clear the spirit and heart of emotional & mental junk that can clutter your mind and muddle your ability to manifest your desires.
- Take long walks. This is good exercise which is great for your heart and clears the mind. Try clasping your hands at your low back as you walk to open the chest/heart area to the energy around you and brings the tips of the fingers, an area associated with the heart, together.
- Break a sweat! Getting your heart rate up (check with your doctor before starting a new routine) is the best way to keep your heart strong.
- Reduce sugar intake. Sugar has been strongly associated with increased rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other major health concerns.
- In an emergency situation involving the heart, while you are waiting for help to arrive, try opening and closing your hands making sure your fingers completely curl in and touch your palms. Open and close for at least 5 minutes or as long as possible.
by Cassie Harrison RYT RYPT
February. Romance is in the air…or is it? Students in my Yoga for Fertility class audibly groan at the mere mention of sex. Especially if I suggest they have more of it. I get it. When trying to conceive, more often than not, sex becomes a chore. A root canal, really anything, is preferred over seeking passion in the bedroom. Mind you, this suggestion isn’t just about sex, it’s more than that. It’s about regaining an intimate connection with each other. Reminding each other that we are not just pawns in the bedroom, but two people (who are both struggling and who need each other more than ever) to regain trust, love, and compassion. Join me on on a journey to find more quality time in the bedroom.
Let’s go down that rabbit hole to open your minds to the thought of sex. The folks over at SexLoveYoga said “We don’t leave room in our mind for sex. It’s filled with other thoughts, but none devoted to sex, not sexy sex anyway.” This begs the question, what kind of thought comes to mind when you think about sex with your partner? Wait, am I being presumptive? Have you even thought about it, that is, outside the window of time to reproduce? Let’s start there. Now that you thought about it, what came to mind? Still having trouble, maybe this webinar, Sex Kitten from Tami Quinn, Co-Founder of Pulling Down the Moon, and Dr Shameless of Vibrant will help remind you what sexy sex is, and no it’s not what you’ve been doing!
Now that you’re thinking about sexy sex again, let’s tap into desire. It’s there, but it’s buried under all the other stuff that’s entered your life recently. Doctor appointments, medications, shots, ultrasounds, you have literally placed your sex life in a petri dish, not sexy! In order to get back on each other, what I mean is, no I meant that! Desire will not happen on it’s own, you must create it. Kissing. Touching. Snuggling. Spooning (my personal favorite). Effort will need to be made by both of you to receive the other. It’s easy to take each others role for granted during the fertility process. If your sex talk resembles “It’s time, hurry get in here, now perform!” Add pressure to that and then…nothing, mood killed by pressure, followed by disappointment, because it feels like an opportunity missed. This doesn’t have to be your story. Repeat, this doesn’t have to be your story. Hold each other, then write or name out loud a sexy sex bucket list. Should that fail to get your desire flowing, there’s always partner yoga. You can do it anytime, anywhere according to https://www.badyogi.com/.
Conceiving, sex and love making, what do these three have in common? Intimacy! According to Google, sex is an intimate act (convenient!). You can also show intimacy through closeness, rapport, and companionship just to name a few. These literal textbook definitions form the foundation of your relationship, deep stuff… my point is you might not be ready to have sexy sex, but by opening yourself to intimacy, the kind that starts by touching in the kitchen, a kiss before running out the door, and sharing your feelings (open book is my philosophy!). This just might allow for a deeper connection between you and your partner, something I imagine is needed now more than ever.
If you can do anything for each other this Valentines day, more important than giving a box of chocolates (I can’t believe I said that…) is giving your time to each other. Try a free couples massage, acupuncture, essential oil, and aphrodisiac snack included Date Night event at Pulling Down the Moon! Try this fertility-friendly Dinner for Two at home! In all seriousness, remember to make time for each other, give each other a break (you are a team after all) and get back to your sexual roots and reconnect. Start, by thinking about sex again…now make it sexier.
*Visit Cassie in Buffalo Grove on Feb 28th at 6pm for the FREE “Yoga for Fertility Intro Workshop“! Learn breathing and relaxation techniques featuring Q&A with Dr Alison K Rodgers of Fertility Centers of Illinois!
by Alison Lautz, LCSW, CYT
Hi all! Happy February aka the ‘Love Month’ or for all my friends living in Chicago the ‘Get me the Heck Out of this Frozen Tundra Month’. I come to you not as a fellow fertility patient, but as a therapist, yoga teacher, support, and girlfriend.
It’s no secret that trying to conceive can take a real toll on your sex life and relationship. Struggling to have a baby when you want one can transform sex from a fun and pleasurable activity to just another task within our very busy lives. Mix in the complex emotions that infertility can cause for both partners, and it’s not a shock that many find their relationship adversely affected by the feat of getting pregnant. The co-founder and owner of Pulling Down the Moon, Beth Heller, once told me “A strong partnership can survive even the most difficult of fertility journeys”. Please take a moment to think about what that means to you. Then take some more time to think about some of the moments when you have felt stress or tension build with your partner during your journey to conception.
The stellar news is that you don’t have to let infertility destroy your sex life or negatively impact your relationship. You can keep your relationship strong, no matter what the outcome of your infertility treatments are, by putting your love and friendship before anything else. Don’t neglect the spark or butterfly feelings that you’ve always had in your relationship, that ‘tingle’ that made you want to commit yourselves to only each other. Keep having sex just for fun, respect your partner’s privacy, and look for other ways to cultivate intimacy and fun between the two of you.
- Keep the Fun in Sex
Many couples who are trying to conceive get so wrapped up in the baby-making logistics of sex (ovulation strips, basal body temperature, supplement regimen, fertility friendly positions) that they don’t remember that they actually used to enjoy sex before they decided to try for a baby. Even if you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for years, you should still have sex just for fun. Make a clear distinction between sex that you’re having for procreative purposes and recreational lovemaking. Reserve specific positions for procreative sex, or only have procreative sex when you’re fertile. Spice things up by having recreational love making in other rooms in the house and leave the procreative sex for the bedroom
- Respect Your Partner’s Privacy
When you’re experiencing any major life struggle like infertility, it’s healthy and normal to want to vent with your friends, co workers, and family. Please proceed with caution as sharing with your personal support networks could lead you to divulge aspects of your sex life or relationship that your partner wants to keep private. First of all, talk to your partner before you talk to your friends or loved ones. Ascertain whether your partner is uncomfortable with the thought of others knowing the details of your fertility struggles. You should still be able to talk about your frustration, sadness, guilt or other feelings about infertility, without divulging private details that could potentially embarrass your partner.
- Put Your Relationship First
Whether or not your fertility treatments are successful, you and your partner still want to stay married and happy, right? That won’t happen if you don’t put the relationship first. Of course, becoming parents is important, too, but you should make nurturing your relationship the main priority throughout the course of your infertility treatments. Continue to bond over trying new things together, taking trips (but avoiding the Zika), cuddling, cooking together, or just a much needed date night (try the FREE Valentine’s Day Date Night at Pulling Down the Moon!) on a regular schedule.
- Have some fun with something like a ‘Spontaneity Jar’
What does this mean? Each partner lists ten fun, random, yet still attainable things that they enjoy on slips of paper. When you have a free hour, it’s one partner turn to draw out of the jar. These “activities” can be as simple as go on a neighborhood walk for a glass of wine (I will be hosting a yoga & wine night March 7th!) or ice cream, massage each other (here is a how-to couples massage video!), watch a stand-up comedian on Netflix, or take a yoga class together. Or you can get really goofy, the possibilities are endless.
- Self Care
What does this mean to you? Please don’t neglect your body and mind during your fertility journey. You may need time with your girlfriends, a hot bath, an hour of quiet reading, a ‘sick day’ from work, a massage or spa day, a regular yoga practice, a support group (Shine is great), or talk therapy with a therapist outside of your inner circle who can offer unbiased insight and support.
Want to explore taking care of yourself with therapy or a regular yoga practice? Alison Lautz is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Yoga Teacher (including Yoga for Fertility and private yoga at Pulling Down the Moon Chicago) in private practice in River North. Alison has over twelve years of experience working in healthcare settings in the areas of perinatal mood disorders, adjustment to parenthood, loss, grief, infertility, anxiety, depression, chronic illness, sexual assault, domestic violence, life transitions, and relationship shifts. Here more from Alison on staying connected with your partner while TTC at this FREE Shine Together: In Person Meet-up with Shine Fertility at Pulling Down the Moon Chicago on Feb 12th!
Alison specializes in helping clients through life transitions, relationship shifts, depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and self esteem issues. She has a passion for working with women experiencing perinatal mood disorders, infertility, high risk pregnancy, perinatal loss, and adjustment to motherhood. Prior to starting her own practice in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, Alison worked for many years with pregnant and postpartum women at Northwestern Medicine’s Prentice Women’s Hospital.
Alison uses her warm personality, training, and experience to help clients find peace and success. This allows them to become the best version of themselves. She uses a client centered approach combined with a variety of therapeutic techniques including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Mindfulness, and Strengths Based Therapy. She strives to create a comfortable space which allows for individualized growth and change.
Alison is a Psychotherapist, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, an Accredited Case Manager, and a Registered Yoga Teacher. Alison obtained her Bachelors of Arts from University of Iowa followed by her Masters in Healthcare Focused Social Work from University of Illinois at Chicago. Please reach out to learn more about how Alison can help support you on your journey to parenthood.
222 W Ontario Street Ste. 310
815-341-9244 (call or text)
by Elizabeth DeAvilla RD
When it comes to setting goals for the new year, especially nutrition goals, there’s some tricks of the trade to keep in mind to help ensure success.
Making Positive Goals
When I set out to make goals for myself, I always get excited. it’s a new opportunity to take steps in health, education, fitness, emotional health, all for the better. One thing that I do try to keep in the back of my mind is what can I add to my life. I find that positive goals work best, not deprivation goals. Think of the feelings that you have when you make the goal of exercising for 20 minutes/3 days a week. I get excited about new workout clothes, about positive body image. Now think of the goal of giving up pizza. Not the same warm fuzzy feelings! Even as a registered dietitian, that “goal” sounds awful. Know that while we’re all trying to move in a positive direction, when we talk about giving up things that are commonly staples, even if just weekly staples, this can have a negative impact on our views, especially when it comes to food. If it’s something that weighing on you, maybe change that goal to incorporating more vegetables as pizza toppings, and everyone wins.
Making Smart Goals
We’ve all asked ourselves what can I do to give myself the best chance of achieving what I’m setting out to do? Start with changing the goal you’re setting. When our goals are ones that are commonly called Smart Goals, this can provide us with the structure to make even the most difficult tasks, a bit easier.
Specific: What is the exact goal that you’re looking to accomplish? When people come to me with the end goal of “being healthy” I have to take a step back. As a practitioner, my ultimate goal for patients is always health, but that is such a broad term. Is it achieving a healthy BMI? Is it lowering a certain laboratory value? Is it to finish a 5k? by setting a specific goal, this will help you and your team of experts devise the best game plan for success.
Measurable: Lets go back to the goal of “being healthy.” What does that even mean? Is it fitting into the pants we wore in high school? Bringing our blood pressure down to a healthy number? Take what you would like to achieve and put a number to it, a time line, give yourself some accountability. By this February 28th, I will have incorporated breakfast into my daily meals at least 5 days a week. Small supportive actions such as purchasing a calendar to track all the successes would make your successes even more visible.
Attainable: I once had asked a small child what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said a unicorn. Now in her head, as a 6 year old, this was totally attainable–in my current lifetime, not so much. When setting goals, we need to make sure that what is desired is actually something that we can accomplish, and do so in a healthy manner. Is it obtainable for me to grow 5 inches and become the next big super model, probably not, but achieving a healthy weight loss goal of 10lbs over the next 3 months? Totally do-able in my case.
Time Bound: Sometime in the next year, I’m going to run a 5K. We all remember how long a year is, right? 365 days to make a change, and lets be honest, “Tomorrow” is a pretty common date when we’re trying to make some changes. By changing that date to April 30th, this then allows for us to make that plan, and take the steps necessary with respect to time to allow for success.
Making Permanent Goals
They say it takes 2 weeks to make a habit, right? Well… sort of, first we have to get to where we want to be. In terms of that breakfast goal, yes, after a few weeks of incorporating that first meal of the day, your body will adjust, and you’ll being to feel those hunger cues bright and early. That “being healthy” goal? We’re going to have to establish a new baseline first. By taking the small steps that we outlined earlier, this will have the best chance of becoming a success. Lets start with incorporating more vegetables on our pizza, then maybe adding in those workouts a few times a week, then voila, we ran that 5k in April, and by May, we’re proud of our success! But it doesn’t end there! We need to keep up with our new health(ier) lifestyle, and this means maintenance. Maybe this would be continuing with the workouts (try a FREE Yoga for Fertility community class!) as we would with any other appointment that we make, by adding more vegetables to our grocery list every time we shop. Pretty soon these are all going to be more habitual and for that we all deserve a pat on the back.
By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
The New Year is here and it’s one of the most popular times of the year to do a “cleanse.” This often comes from wanting to “detox” after eating too much or too many sweets during the holidays. For many, it’s a way to try to jump start some quick weight loss. For women trying to conceive, any type of restrictive cleanse or eating plan truly isn’t appropriate. Fertility and pregnancy are “metabolically expensive” processes for your body, meaning that you really need adequate calories, protein, and nutrients for optimal function. Here at Pulling Down the Moon, we focus on a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates certain foods for a period of time in order to determine if certain foods are negatively impacting your health, but also to give yourself a period of time away from foods that aren’t serving you, which may help to reduce cravings in the long-term.
Here are few things we focus on:
- Modify the food coming in. Start by looking at the quality of food you’re taking in. Reducing/eliminating added sugar is a great way to help balance blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for many people. Eating more organic food is also important, as one study showed that eating more high pesticide fruits and vegetables was associated with lower likelihood of pregnancy and live birth when doing fertility treatments. In addition, higher intake of fast food has been associated with longer time to pregnancy. Choosing organic minimally processed meats, fruits, and vegetables, when possible, is a helpful component for a cleanse.
- Don’t focus solely on food. There are a number of chemicals in food packaging and personal care products, such as BPA, parabens, and phthalates that are hormone disruptors and thus may adversely affect fertility. It’s important to educate yourself about these sources, and start choosing more natural alternatives. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is a great place to start.
- Support digestion. A healthy digestive system is a foundational part of good health and fertility, as our digestive system helps us digest and absorb our food optimally. In addition, our gut can have a profound impact on the rest of our body. Supporting healthy digestion ensures regular elimination of hormones like estrogen that can play a role conditions like fibroids and endometriosis, when in excess. Drink plenty of fluids, include probiotic foods regularly, and include at least 5 servings of non-starchy vegetables per day. These vegetables provide food to nourish your gut bacteria, which may have a profound impact on our digestion, immune system, and health.
These are just a few aspects that we discuss during the ART Recovery/Prep cleanse at Pulling Down the Moon. Schedule an appointment today, if you’d like to discuss how a cleanse program might be helpful for you. Try it this month and save with our January special!
Remember that changes to diet and lifestyle are a lifelong process that last beyond a few week cleansing period. A cleanse or reset period can be a helpful jump start for more lasting change!
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
Cooked red cabbage with apples
Red cabbage slaw with pecans
Roasted root vegetables
Black bean dip
Cocoa coconut balls
Healthier hot chocolate
Peppermint nettle tea
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.
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
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
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.
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.
1⁄4 cup butter, softened, or ghee, or olive oil 1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated 1⁄2 teaspon ground cumin 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt 1⁄4 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.
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
⅓ 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.
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.
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.
Makes ¾ cup candied pecans
1 teaspoon coconut oil
¾ cup raw pecan halves
⅛ 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.)
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
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.
by Melissa Hinshaw LMTIt’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!
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