A Well-Nourished Life from the Perspective of a Registered Dietitian

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What does a well-nourished life look like for you as a wife, mom & R.D.?

This year has been a journey back to a well-nourished life for me, as I have transitioned from working full time outside of the home (as an RD in the world of Food Service Management), to working full time within the home, caring for my young children. And it has been more of a challenge than I expected! Perhaps, if I’m honest, in part because my expectations of what a well-nourished life looks like, have changed. This journey has prompted me to pause and realize a well-nourished life looks different in each of the seasons of life. Simply pausing is a good start to a well-nourished life in my experience!

Ultimately, for me, a well-nourished life is centered on nourishing my body, mind and soul.

Care for the body is important for many reasons. Three key elements: eating, exercising, and sleeping – all significantly impact how we function, and at least for me, also influence my emotional and mental health.

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As a Registered Dietitian, I am naturally a supporter of healthy eating. The evidence and health benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, nuts and seeds, lean meats/protein and avoidance of processed foods – continues to grow. But that’s not to say enjoying some chips or your favorite ice cream should be avoided at all costs. Balance is key. Learning to listen to our bodies is key. I have strived to help teach my kids (ages 2 & 6) to listen to their bodies when it comes to hunger and satiety. I have had some proud mama moments when my 6-year-old stops eating a cinnamon roll or cake as he feels full or suspects more will make him not feel well. This self-regulation is so important to learn and I strive to encourage it. All members of my family get “hangry” when we are hungry or beyond the point of hungry….and the anger starts to flare! So regular eating times are crucial for us to avoid this. Plus, fueling our bodies with nutrient dense foods supports energy for keeping active.

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Exercise and activity have tremendous benefits for our body. In addition to muscle strength and disease prevention, it boosts our mood as well. Even though getting to the gym is not feasible on a daily basis right now, I do prioritize 3 designated gym days and it so helps center and focus myself throughout the week. The other days I strive to just move my body as much as possible through my normal day. Playing with and chasing my very active kids, vacuuming, grocery shopping, etc. My kids actually love to join me in exercise so we often do push ups or jumping jacks or simply have a dance party to get our hearts booming (as my kids say)!

My eating fuels my exercise and my exercise supports my sleep quality. Sleep is an area I am personally striving to get more of! I recently decided to set a goal bedtime, which is a challenge sometimes (most days!). The evening when the kids are asleep is the quiet and calm time of the day, where I typically enjoy a few moments with my husband, watch a show, or catch up on the long list of to-dos (uninterrupted by the needs of the kids). In the end though, listening to our bodies when it comes to eating, exercising and sleeping is critical. Sometimes running that extra mile after you had a poor night of sleep may not be the best idea. Check in with your body. It will often have something to say.

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Care for the mind is also so vital. This one has become more apparent to me upon my recent transition to working full time caring for my family in the home. I love being home with my kids and managing the home front. But my mind needs a challenge. For me, in this season, that has been reading both personal and professional education books/articles or listening to a podcast or webinar on a new topic of interest. I have a list of books (another to-do list) to read, as reading more is a personal goal of mine (it is going slowly, but remains a goal!).

I’m currently reading Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. Both are very encouraging and thought provoking for me in this season. Nutrition Action is a favorite newsletter I subscribe to, put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It is a great resource for science based health and nutrition advice and it’s unbiased.

Care for the soul is, without a doubt, a necessity too. This can look different each day or week, but for me, finding quiet moments for time in prayer or reflection and intentional gratitude are key for nourishing the soul.

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Practicing gratitude has been a tremendous way to keep my mind and soul focused on the positive and helped minimize anxious thoughts or getting discouraged depending on what is happening in life. For me, reflecting each night on the day, taking a moment to says thanks, and letting go of any regrets or things I could have communicated and handled better, is helpful as I lay my head to rest. Each morning starts with a moment of thanks for a new day; it is typically very brief as my daughter calls my name. But the quiet moment of thanks nourishes the soul; instills life and joy as a new day unfolds.

Nourishing the soul has also come through life in community for me. I have found such comfort, support and joy from my dear group of friends, many of who are fellow moms. Prioritizing time in community, whether at a play date, school function, or church gathering (whatever it may be), has been so nourishing this past year!

From your perspective, what is one thing busy moms can do to increase a sense of health and happiness?

Speak kindly to yourself and extend yourself grace. There is only one of you and you are uniquely made and have a purpose!

We live in a culture that promotes the message that we are never enough, perpetuates the treadmill of constant striving to complete our to-do list(s), and urges self-sufficiency through a seemingly silent fear or judgment if you, God forbid, need help. But, if we are honest, the list is never completed. The notorious invisible bar is always being raised higher. So how do we find sustenance in the midst of daily chaos life?

For me, combating this cycle and demanding culture, entails finding the delicate balance of allowing others to support me (yes its true) and supporting one another. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Advocating for what I need and what my family needs, or does not need in some cases.

I just mentioned how being active and exercising is a key component in my view of a well-nourished life. While it certainly is, I recently had a season of life where exercise was not feasible for many reasons. For a while I had the mindset that I was not caring for my body and carried the guilt and unkindness toward myself each day. But when I was honest with myself and acknowledged that sacrificing even more sleep or time with my kids was a bigger detriment, I decided to extend myself grace and let it go. Rather than focusing on whether or not I had exercised that day, I considered it a bonus if it happened. I worked in other small forms of activity. It may not seem like much, but simply letting go, extending myself grace in this area, made a huge impact on my overall sense of health and happiness.

Do you have a favorite recipe you would be willing to share?

Absolutely! I have a passion for baking and these are a cookie favorite!

Aunt Sandy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pudding

1 ½ cup margarine or butter
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 package chocolate chips

Cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees.

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