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
It’s January, which means it’s officially cold and flu season. When you’re trying to conceive or pregnant, you have to be extra conscious of what you’re putting in your body. Certain over-the-counter medicines may not be appropriate during this time; so it’s important do what you can to stay healthy. Hand washing, getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and managing stress are all helpful ways to do that. What about supplements? There’s plenty of info online about miracle immune support supplements, but what does the research really show? Here’s a quick summary of some popular immune support supplements and the ins and outs of what you should know while trying to conceive or pregnant:
Vitamin D: Vitamin D supplementation may help prevent upper respiratory infections, though the evidence is mixed. Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system, so you definitely want to avoid vitamin D deficiency as this may impair immune system function. Vitamin D also may affect fertility, so it’s a good idea to have your vitamin D level tested, so you can supplement at an appropriate level. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be toxic at very high doses, so make sure to discuss an appropriate dose with your healthcare practitioner.
Vitamin C: While there is currently no evidence that taking vitamin C once a cold starts helps reduce severity, people who take vitamin C regularly tend to have colds that don’t last as long as people who don’t take vitamin C. Also people who take vitamin C regularly and are under lots of physical stress (marathon runners, skiers, etc.) had lower incidence of colds in one study. Vitamin C is generally well tolerated and safe to take while try to conceive or pregnant, though high doses of vitamin C may cause diarrhea. Vitamin C supplementation is not recommended in people with a history of oxalate-containing kidney stones.
Zinc: Zinc deficiency makes it more likely that you’ll catch a cold or other infection, so ensuring adequate zinc intake is important. Make sure to avoid oversupplementing zinc. The daily upper limit is 40 mg. You should not take more than 40 mg daily except for short time periods as directed by a healthcare practitioner. Make sure to check all supplements for zinc content when determining your daily intake, as some prenatal vitamins have as much as 25 mg zinc.
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Vitamin D: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-D#immunity
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Vitamin C: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C#common-cold-treatment
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Zinc: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc
by Marie Davidson, Ph.D.
As I write this it is actually the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated in Christian tradition as the day the Wise Men arrived from the East after the birth of Christ, led to their destination by a star. The Merriam Webster Dictionary also offers these definitions of epiphany: “A sudden perception of the essential meaning of something;” an intuitive grasp of reality through something simple or striking;” and “an illuminating realization.”
Many years ago, as measured in ordinary time, but not all that long ago as measured in emotional impact, I experienced an epiphany that made all the difference to me as a suffering fertility patient. I dwelled in distress much of the time, my thoughts haunted by the many challenges of treatment, the succession of disappointments, and, worst of all, the complete absence of any certainty about how this fertility drama would turn out.
One morning, my moment of epiphany arrived quite suddenly. No wise men or wise women arrived, and no guiding star appeared, just a swiftly dawning realization of what I was really going through—right now—in my life. To this day I cannot say for sure what brought on this intuitive grasp of reality at that particular moment. I suppose it was the result of many, many months of efforts to not embrace my situation. My distress had served to only highlight my sadness and anger and to keep me from moving past that. It was just no longer a reasonable option to keep this exhausting process going. So, I had a serious, mildly humorous chat with myself.
This is what I said:
“OK, Marie, this is what’s going on in your life right now—you and your husband have been in a battle against infertility (and against each other, truthfully.) Infertility sucks, but it’s what you’ve got. You didn’t cause it, and you may or may not overcome it in the way you hope. You don’t know the end of this drama you are in because the screenplay isn’t finished. But there is something you can do, and that is to accept the role you’ve been assigned and act it out as skillfully and graciously as you can. Inhabit the script! Be the star in your own drama, dammit!”
Or something like that, it’s pretty close to the internal conversation I had. I definitely know I made a conscious decision to star in my own story. I would be the guiding star leading me to my unknown destination.
My life improved after that. Far from wonderful and still plenty of stress and anxiety, but I had a peace of mind that had eluded me for a long time. I rather think I excelled in playing myself—the woman who happened to be an infertility patient; the woman who accepted her inability to control the next act in the play I was starring in; the woman who was now able to experience the other parts of her life without the dark film of infertility blocking the view.
I did not know then that my life’s work would be a career counseling fertility patients. What a privilege it has been. A number of years ago, I met a woman who had come to talk about family-building options. She’d been through a lot of treatment with no success. I noticed how even-keeled she was as she spoke of her history and I commented, “You seem to be handling all of this pretty well.” She said, “Well, you should have seen me a year ago, when I was a complete basket-case.” I asked, “So, what happened?” Her answer was, “One day I decided to accept the basic background reality of my life.” I smiled. “You had an epiphany.”
Over the years, I have found it very useful to apply the same kind of epiphany to other life situations—the ones you can’t control but must live in and through. Whatever it is I struggle with, I try my best to be as skilled and gracious as I can be, even if I won’t win any Golden Globes. Strangely, the experience of an infertility journey can give you a valuable perspective on how to deal with the inevitable brick-bats of life.
Marie Davidson, Ph.D.
Fertility Centers of Illinois
Dr. Marie Davidson is a licensed clinical psychologist and patient educator. She specializes in counseling individuals and couples who are coping with infertility, and has provided counseling services to patients, donors, and surrogates since 1992. Dr. Davidson earned her doctoral degree at the University of Illinois in 1988. She facilitates patient education seminars on numerous topics such as considering egg donation and cracking the door to adoption, leads several women and couples support groups, and is widely published in the fertility field. She has been an invited speaker at many professional meetings.
Her personalized care and detailed understanding of the treatment process have been a welcome and supportive resource to many couples and individuals as they seek to grow a family.
By Christine Davis LAcMy first exposure to the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) happened after I had been hit by a car on my bicycle. It was a bad accident, could have been worse. As I was healing, I was introduced to a practitioner of reflexology who told me about the connections of his work to TCM. I picked up a book about reflexology, then another, then a third. I started practicing on myself, my family, and my friends. I was able to get rid of headaches, reduce allergies, aid digestion, relieve pain … all by touching someone’s feet! I was hooked. If you’ve ever seen or perhaps experienced reflexology, you know that there are zones, like a map, on the hands and feet (I later learned that the ears and even the whole body can be used similarly) that are a microcosm or imaging of the whole body. You can treat these zones with massage, acupuncture, and many other techniques to affect other areas in or functions of the body to achieve relief from symptoms and whole body wellness. Like a reflex, by stimulating one area, you get results in another.The reflex area that is most closely related to the reproductive organs in men and women is the inner ankle and around the inner heel of the foot. But let’s back up a second …. If you’ve experienced acupuncture before, you know that there are tiny needles inserted into specific points on the body to allow healing and wellness to be achieved. Did you know that those points are on pathways (we call them channels or meridians) that flow like a network throughout the body? The points themselves are known as access or entry points into the channel (the word for acupoint in Chinese is xuéwèi 穴位 which literally means “tiny hole.” So, when we stimulate these points, we are accessing that pathway that flows throughout the body to get blood and qi (pron “chee” – meaning function and energy) to move and regulate any problem that might be occurring on that pathway and it’s connections. The pathways/meridians are named for the primary organ that they connect with in the torso, that performs specific activities and functions in the body. The one that goes to the heart is called the Heart Meridian; the one that goes to the Lungs is called the Lung Meridian, etc.In TCM, the ability to reproduce is determined to by the health of the Kidney organ. Notice that I use a capital ‘K’ because in TCM, the Kidney is responsible for much more that detoxification and maintaining fluid balance as it is in Western-style physiology. In TCM, Kidney is kind of like your batteries. It contains your genetic material (not referring to DNA – this is TCM terminology, not Western), your fire. It’s what was received by you from your parents and what you pass on to your offspring. It is also your foundation energy source. When the Kidney is depleted, you might feel fatigue, difficulty sleeping, lethargy, low libido and might experience things like extreme weight loss or weight gain. When Kidney is not working correctly, you might have trouble with the emotions of fear or an overactive flight/fight response. Because the Kidney is your foundation/fire/most primal energy source, struggles with fertility are not uncommon when it is out of balance.Like a battery, you cannot get more material once it has been depleted and you were only given a certain amount to begin with. In TCM, we describe the process of aging by how the Kidney is functioning. How you live – getting enough rest, eating well, reducing stress, not abusing drugs/alcohol, having sex (but not too much!) etc – will impact how you preserve this material. However, TCM is an excellent way to help protect and preserve this material and to help it to be best expressed, particularly during the time while you are trying to conceive.So, this brings me to my favorite acupuncture point for fertility: Kidney 3. In the West, we use a numerical demarcation for each acupuncture point, but in China (and other Asian countries), there is a poetic name for each point. In Chinese, Kidney 3 is called Tai Xi 太谿 which means Great Ravine. It’s called that because it is in a depression between the medial malleolus (your ankle bone on the inside) and your Achilles tendon. Kidney 3 is located in the inner ankle, the reflex area for the organs of reproductive function and fertility. This point is known as the Yuán 源 or source point on the channel. Yuán points are critical for accessing the power of the organ for which the channel is named, addressing the root cause of the problem. While it is misleading to say that certain points are “good for” specific ailments or disease, we can say that the yuán point on the Kidney channel, Kidney 3, is very effective for all things Kidney – including fertility.I use Kidney 3 in almost every acupuncture treatment that I do for fertility. It’s that important! So, what can you do between treatments to help benefit this point and the Kidney channel / organ? It’s easy! Just gently massage the point each day. You can grab around to the other side of the ankle and get it from both sides if that’s easier. Use the pad of your thumb to perform gentle, rhythmic circles on the point. You can use a little bit of pressure, but not too hard. If you come for acupuncture treatment, you may also receive treatment with moxa on this point, an herb that has been charcoal-ized and is burned and held over the acupoint to warm it up.So, for trying to conceive or just wanting to get a boost of energy and help to promote longevity, make sure to include stimulating Kidney 3 a little bit each day! Learn more about the benefits of Acupuncture or schedule an appointment today!
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 Cassie Harrison, Yoga Team Lead RYT, RPYT
A new year, new you! We often make a New Year’s resolution at the start of a new year in hopes of making changes to improve our lives during the coming year. What starts off as a optimistic plan for the future, Go to the Gym More (i.e. You’re Not in Shape!) or Call Mom and Dad More (Guilt!) comes from a place within us that says we are not good enough and rarely works. What starts off a noteworthy concept, instead becomes a list of our faults. What about instead trading in those old and (albeit) familiar ideas instead for an intention or Sankalpa. A yogis new year’s resolution.
Sankalpa is an intention formed by the mind and heart, it’s what’s behind the emotion of the traditional new year’s resolution. To make a Sankalpa is to make an intention or to resolve (a resolution). A sankalpa allows you praise your effort rather than focus on what you are doing wrong. This is a change from how traditional new year’s resolutions tend to leave us feeling guilty and mad at ourselves for breaking them. Release yourself from holding onto the past and instead create an intention full of possibility for the future.
Start by looking at you resolutions (I know you already made them!) and note how they make you feel (anxious, mad, jealous!). You might need to journal about these feelings over the next few days before this last step. When ready, ask yourself how would you like to feel this year and turn those results oriented resolutions into something that will give this years journey more value.
Here are some suggestions of sankalpas given by Satyananada Saraswati in his book “Yoga Nidra”:
-I awaken the spiritual potential.
-I am a positive force in the evolution of others.
-I am successful in all that I undertake.
-I am more aware and more efficient.
-I achieve total health
Or from Catherine Guthrie at Yoga Journal:
-May I be Happy and Open to What Life Brings Me.
Be gentle on yourself, these changes don’t happen overnight. Make your intention/sankalpa a part of your daily ritual to remind yourself what you will accomplish this new year.
Join the Moon in any of our yoga classes to explore and support your sankalpa. Learn more about our free community classes (in Chicago and Highland Park), our Yoga for Fertility series (in Chicago, Highland Park, and NEW Long Grove option near our Buffalo Grove office!), how our Prenatal Yoga is unique and more! New additions are added to our Calendar every month!
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!
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!
- 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.
- Condorelli RA, et al. Myo-inositol as a male fertility molecule. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2017; 21(2 Suppl): 30-35.
By Anna Pyne LAc, MSOM, FABORMWhen 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: email@example.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
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