The Perfect Meal Plan

If you had to guess what’s in the perfect meal plan, what would you throw out there?

Berries? Berries are probably good as they are loaded with antioxidants, nutrients, sweetness (!!), fiber and serve as a fabulous source of carbohydrate.

Protein, something like wild salmon or grass-fed beef? Each offer the good omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for our health, immunity, lower elevated triglycerides, assist joint pain caused from arthritis, fight cardiovascular disease and combat inflammation. 

Tea! Surely tea. Research suggests that tea can aid in cancer prevention, increase endurance in exercise, helps us hydrate, serving up water with a delicate flavor, increase mood, concentration and potentially help with weight loss.

Superfoods?? Something like cocoa nibs. Offering a nice dose of fiber, healthy fat (stearic acid), antioxidants, and who would have thunk cocoa has over 300 healthy compounds? The best thing is, when we eat chocolate, cocoa or cocoa nibs, we can gain satisfaction from the flavor without it having to be a Snickers bar. Perhaps throwing some in a smoothie can be a home-run.

Non-starchy vegetables? For example, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, snow peas, zucchini, mushrooms! Getting the most nutrients per calorie, these foods rank top of the list. Furthermore, non-starchy vegetables can be eaten in large amounts without sacrificing waistlines nor create blood sugar swings.  They are low in carbohydrates, high in nutrition and have been associated with preventing many diseases, including cancer.

If you would have answered the question of “what is included in the perfect meal plan” with any of the above, I wouldn’t say you are wrong. But can I fully agree?

A perfect meal plan is unique to each person. For what works for one individual doesn’t always work for the next person. Some folk may need a diet higher in fat (maybe around 40%), or a diet focused on high protein (35%). No doubt, a diet high (200+ grams) in carbohydrates is likely rare.

Overall, a diet focused on whole, real food will be consistent from one person to the next. Some people may do best on 3 meals a day, some people may do better with only eating in a window of 10 hours (intermittent fasting), while some people may do best with snacks.

As a Registered Dietitian I don’t provide blanket meal plans based on someone’s height and weight. I individualize their meals based on their needs, health goals, taste and digestion. If you are eating a certain way, or consistently eating the same foods and not moving towards your current health goal, think about not only the ingredients you can change but the amounts, timing of day you eat and number of times you eat.

Education is motivation, invest in your health today and appreciate the journey of attaining wellness.

Cheers to you and good health,


What I’ve Eaten So Far Today

It’s been too long since I have captured what I have eaten on my blog, and when asked by a client today, I thought I’d share with all. Thirty-three weeks pregnant, with few to no cravings, yet, anything too flavorful or sweet upsets my stomach.

8AM – Breakfast – (Blood sugar 86 mg/dl)

Beet Protein Smoothie

– 1 large cooked beet (picked up some from Costco)

– 5 large celery stalks

– 1 tablespoon of soaked chia seeds

– 1/2 tsp of maca powder

– 4 ounces of almond milk

– 4 ounces of water

– 1 scoop raw protein powder

While making smoothie I had a spoonful of almond butter (I was starving)


10:30 – AM Snack – (Blood sugar 96 mg/dl)

Kind mini bar

1 oz of Kerrygold grass-fed cheese


12:15 – Lunch – (Blood sugar 111 mg/dl)

Romaine lettuce sandwich

– 2 large romaine lettuce leaves

– 3 ounces of Chicken Columbus brand deli meat

– 2 large green garlic stuffed olives, sliced for “sandwich”

– Yellow mustard

5-8 baby carrots w/ tahini dip

1/2 large organic apple

1 square of dark chocolate


3:30 – PM Snack – (Blood sugar 81 mg/dl)

Second half of organic large apple

1 hard boiled egg

2 strawberries


Overall, I have found that having set meal and snack times is important to control my blood sugar, portions and hunger. Overall, I am eating more carbohydrates during pregnancy, and focusing heavily on eating intuitively. One thing is for sure, I can’t eat spicy food like I used to!

Another T1 DM Using the Paleo Lifestyle to Manage Blood Sugars

photoI had the pleasure to connect with Shelby Hughes, a fellow type 1 diabetic, to talk about the great use of a paleo lifestyle to gain health, and more so find more ease in controlling blood sugars. Have a look at our conversation and please share if you have found similar things in your diet transition.

How long have you had diabetes? I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2008 at age 39 years old. Originally I was diagnosed with Type 2, but after changing my diet, taking oral medication and performing daily exercise wasn’t helping my blood sugars, I had additional lab work that confirmed I had the antibodies for Type 1.

What eating regime have you found to be most helpful in managing stable blood sugars and how did you come to find this diet? When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I researched online and found that many diabetics (both Type 1 and 2) had been successful following a low carb diet. When I switched to this type of diet, I did see improvement in my blood sugars. However, I was not able to maintain a low-carb lifestyle for a long period of time. Eventually I “fell off the low-carb wagon” and started eating a Standard American Diet again. My blood sugars were always on a rollercoaster!  In January 2013, after hearing about the Paleo and Primal lifestyle from an online friend with diabetes, I decided I would try a Paleo framework for eating. Initially I was going to do it for just two weeks. After two weeks, I noticed that my blood sugars were AMAZINGLY stable. I didn’t have lows, I didn’t have highs. I never looked back!

What main improvements in your health have you observed, diabetic-related or not? Besides having very stable blood sugars (I can literally count on one hand the number BOTH lows and highs I’ve had since starting eating within the Primal/Paleo framework. My sleep has improved (I was having terrible issues with insomnia last fall, before changing my diet). I have lost weight, but I think that’s mainly because I’m staying within or just below my caloric requirements and I’ve increased my exercise. But I do have tons of energy. I was never a runner, EVER, but I completed my first 5K in March and I’m training now for a 10K. In fact, I never liked exercising at all, but now it’s like I HAVE to move my body or I feel like I’m going to crawl out of my skin! Other changes I’ve noticed are that my skin breaks out less and I don’t get mouth ulcers (I was getting them weekly before I made the changes).

Do you find the diet realistic and something to maintain long term? Would you recommend it to others managing their diabetes? I honestly believe this is a lifestyle I can manage long term. There are so many good Paleo substitutes for my favorite “comfort foods” that I just don’t feel like I’m missing out. I make cauliflower crust for my pizza, I make muffins with almond and coconut flour, I make “pasta” with spaghetti squash or zucchini “noodles”. Many people think that Paleo or Primal means “low carb” but it doesn’t have to! I eat tons of fruit and starchy vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes. I am definitely eating carbs! And it’s funny…I’ve noticed that fruit and starchy veggies don’t spike my blood sugar like grains do. I won’t say that I’ll never eat another grain in my life…there may be a special occasion that warrants it! But since I love how I feel and love how stable my blood sugar is, it’s just not worth it to me to change back to eating a Standard American Diet.

What does a typical day of food look like to you? I’m a creature of habit, so I like to eat the same thing a lot of times.

Breakfast:  Green smoothie with fruits and veggies, a hardboiled egg, and bacon.

Lunch: a big (I mean big!) salad with grilled chicken, avocado, artichoke hearts, eggs, bacon, tomatoes, raisins, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, cucumbers, balsamic and olive oil dressing, and a nut flour muffin and fresh fruit.

Dinner: some kind of meat (pork, chicken, shellfish, beef), some kind of green vegetable (leafy greens or Brussels sprouts – usually whatever is fresh from the farmer’s market or available from our CSA bag) and some kind of starchy veggie or “grain-like” food – roasted butternut squash, acorn squash “fritters”, sweet potatoes, or maybe cauliflower “breadsticks.” I’m not really a “dessert” person, but I do drink a glass or two of red wine before dinner each night.

What is the best thing about the diet? One of the best things is that you can pretty much eat anywhere and get something that falls within the framework. When I first started, I had to go out of town for work and stay at a hotel. Of course that means eating out every meal. But you can get a big salad pretty much anywhere, and you can always ask that your “burger” or whatever be served without a bun. Of course now when I travel I plan ahead and pack snacks that can be meals: hardboiled eggs, homemade beef jerky, kale chips, homemade “larabars”, fruit, nuts, seeds, etc.

Any tips for someone getting started on this type of diet? Before I started, I bought the cookbook “Practical Paleo” by Diane Sanfilippo.  It has the most beautiful full page pictures of food and some great recipes. I bought the book and decided I would make something from it each week. Next thing I knew I had tried several new foods that my husband and I both loved, and it was easy to transition to the next step of eliminating grains. I also used many blogs on the internet – you can google any food and add the keywords “paleo” or “primal” and get tons of great recipes. Mark’s Daily Apple is another great resource for people wanting more information.

Anything in addition you’d like to say? I think some people get the wrong idea about the Paleo or Primal framework because like with all things, there are extremists out in the land of the internet. Also, depending on the source, different people have different ideas about what is “paleo” and what is not. I think that there is no black and white answer…it’s not about “what the cavemen ate,” it’s about nourishing your body with foods that you love and that help your body perform at its very best.

Thanks for sharing your insight Shelby! Perhaps your story will inspire others to seek change and gain health.

Cheers to you and good health,


Improving Your Digestion

Eating gluten free to cope with a GI ulcer or improve your digestion is a great start but may not get you the healthy small and large intestines you need and deserve. There are other proponents in our food system that need to be REMOVED (1st protocol in healing a gut). Clinical and experimental data points to food allergy as a primary cause of ulcers. Foods to avoid include:

  • Avoid grains – gluten free or not. Get them out, heal your gut, and increase your absorption rate of important vitamins and minerals. After 2 years, perhaps grains can come back in the picture.
  • Corn – avoid it like the plague. Be a food label guru as well. Corn sneaks into many processed foods.
  • No legumes – peanut butter, beans, hummus, all the above.  Here is a good explanation of why legumes, which have lectins, are not good for you gut.
  • Dairy – bon voyage.  Perhaps not forever, but at least for now, while your gut gets back to normal. Bottomline if you are eating dairy make sure it is full fat, organic and grassfed.
  • Fruit in limited quantities and depending on the type of systems the individual person is having. Fruit is composed of fructose and this can be harsh on a weak intestines. Until your gut is healed don’t make fruit the center of your plate.
  • Nuts & Seeds. While nuts and seeds are good in limited quantities, they are something that will need to be put on the back burner until things are looking better on your insides.
  • Vegetable oils – avoid and look closely at food labels. Canola oil is in everything.
  • Nightshades – these can be problematic for the time being, so avoid them until things heal.
  • Booze (wine, beer, liquor) and coffee
  • When eating vegetables, remove the peel, go organic and cook them well. A good meal/snack is a well cooked sweet potato with coconut oil.
  • When it comes to meat – spend the little extra for organic and free range/grass fed.
  • Overall consider a low FODMAP diet to heal your (See below for more information)

You want to REPAIR (second protocol to healing a gut) the ulcer and GI tract as quickly and best that you can. The ulcer is causing inflammation in your intestines, which can lead to inflammation in your joints and arteries if not addressed. After removing the above suggested foods repair the gut with bone broth, coconut oil, starchy vegetables (soluble fiber) like fruit and squashes, drink peppermint tea and some important vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins Supplements:

  • Vitamin D is essential. Buy a good Vitamin D3 supplement and consider taking up to 5,000 IU a day. This is above the RDA, however, vitamin D is crucial to gut health and beyond. They best is to get tested to see where your levels are at, supplement and again get tested 3 months down the road.
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C and E
  • Glutamine specifically L-glutamine which can be bought in a powder form and helps repair the lining of your intestines.

To progress the healing process you also want to REINOCULATE with specific food and supplements such as eating fermented foods (does not include kefir) like sauerkraut and fermented vegetables. We can easily make our own or here in Chicago there are some options at the Green City Market on Saturdays. If food isn’t a realistic option for you at this time, I recommend investing in a good probiotic. Please email me if you want assistance in this area.

The final step of healing your gut is to REINTRODUCE some of the removed foods after 4-6 weeks. Add one food at a time and assess how you feel, your digestion. sleep, mood, skin. Repeat the reintroduction of food every 3 days and I do NOT recommend ever reintroducing gluten containing grains.

Overall Tips To Improve Your Digestion:

  • Chew your food slowly and really enjoy each bite. While eating think about the flavor, the texture, the overall bliss of healthy food.
  • Minimize fluid intake at your meals. Too much liquid can deplete your digestive enzymes. Eat well cooked food when your digestion feels compromised. Eating raw produce and the likes is harder to breakdown.
  • Really find out what is going on in your intestines. Even attending many GP, Primary and even GI doctors, you may come out empty handed. Get a stool test, such as the Metametrix GI Effects stool test. Such test can be ordered by your doctor or can be ordered online (Forrest health).
  • Eat homemade bone broths, liver and egg yolks. There are other food options and I can help you.
  • If your digestion has never felt optimal, follow the steps above and consider eating a low FODMAP diet. FODMAPS are short-chain fermentable carbohydrates and stands for: Fructose, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharide and Polyols. I will have to extend another, more detailed post on a FODMAP diet, however, if you are showing intolerance symptoms to food consider a hydrogen/methane breath test. As my dietitian friend, Aglaee, describes this test, you should first drink a lactulose solution to determine whether you are more of a hydrogen or methane gas producer and then test for the specific FODMAPs by taking another breath test with either fructose, lactose or sorbitol. There are currently no tests to check for fructans and galactans. These tests can usually be ordered and sent by mail and can cost anywhere between $100-200 each.

If you ever have questions about diet and how it make be leading you to your best health or holding you back, don’t hesitate to ask. Email me at [email protected]