Surviving Summer BBQs

01 Jul 2016 no comments operator

When the sun comes out, it seems so do the unhealthy barbecue foods. Potato salad, pasta salad, hamburgers, and other temptations can be hard to stay away from. Replacing them with more balanced alternatives can be a great way to enjoy your summer barbecues without ruining your progress and destroying your goals.

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Come Prepared

Offer to bring a side if you’re going to be tempted by the other choices. People will thank you for providing a healthy alternative!

A good one to bring is pasta salad. Typically carb heavy and full of unhealthy fats, pasta salad is a staple during the summer. Swap out your regular pasta for black bean spaghetti or zucchini noodles, or a combination of both. Top it with a light pesto, add some veggies, and grilled shrimp for a light and delicious (yet filling!) summer side dish.

You can also use the Vegetti for a tasty zucchini or cucumber salad. These recipes came straight from the Vegetti recipe booklet:

Cucumber Salad

  • 4 cucumbers
  • 1 small white onion, copped fine
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp dried dill

Spiral cut cucumbers using Vegetti, and add onions. Combine vinegar, water, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, pour over cucumbers and onions. Stir in dill, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Zucchini Salad

  • 3-4 zucchini
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, parsley, oregano, chives (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)

Use the thick side of the Vegetti to make zucchini strands, then chop into 1-2″ long pieces. Combine zucchini and 1 teaspoon of salt in a sieve. Toss and add the rest of the salt, and toss again. Set aside. Combine lemon juice, herbs, and extra virgin olive oil in a bowl and whisk. Rinse zucchini and pat dry. Add to the bowl and toss. Add red onion, walnuts, and pepper.

Quinoa salads are also a great alternative. They’re higher in protein than other grains. This Green Goddess Quinoa Salad pairs perfectly with barbecue foods.


The main meal of choice at all barbecues are burgers. Getting creative with your burger can help you pack in extra protein, vegetables, and reduce the saturated fat. Whole Foods recently shared a bunch of great burger recipes, including an apple cheddar burger (with 19g of protein!) and a southwest veggie burger (with 10g of protein!) Swap the bun for a protein up carb down Flatoutbread for an extra 12g of protein and only 10g of net carbs.

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Remember (As Usual)…

Protein first! Fill yourself on lean protein, veggies, and lots of water. Make sure to stay on top of your goals and track in a diary or an app, such as MyFitness Pal, to stay accountable. Hydration is also crucial in the summer heat. Last but not least, enjoy yourself!!


Sugar Cravings

01 Jun 2016 no comments operator

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We already discussed reasons why you should cut sugar out of your diet, but how exactly do you do this? It can be really difficult to beat a sugar addiction. A sugar detox can be really rough, especially during the first few days. Here are some tips to help you overcome your sweet tooth.

  1. Remove refined carbohydrates and sugars, and replace them with complex and natural forms.
  2. Snack on fruit when a craving strikes.
  3. Do something to distract you and boost your mood (which is why you’re probably craving sugar anyway!)
  4. Eat multiple small meals, rather than 3 larger ones, to prevent blood sugar from dropping.

Nourish your body with nutrient-dense foods first, but remember that it is all about balance. It is okay to splurge occasionally after your sugar detox, but keep it under control. Find healthier sweets like dark chocolate, Arctic Zero ice cream, Yasso frozen yogurt bars, etc. Keep portion sizes small. Remember, it is a snack, not a meal!

Underlying Reasons for Sugar Addiction

There are some conditions that can contribute to sugar addiction and cause you to constantly crave sweets. Hormonal imbalance and unhealthy gut bacteria are a few examples. We discussed in a previous post how gut health can be restored through probiotics and fermented foods, such as yogurt and sauerkraut.

Sugar cravings can also be a sign of a chromium, magnesium, or zinc deficiency. If you have reason to believe there is a more serious issue causing your sugar addiction, you should consult your doctor.

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Muscle and Metabolism

01 Jun 2016 no comments operator

A common misconception about metabolism is that what we are born with is what we have to live with. Many people believe they have been “cursed” with a slow metabolism, and others are lucky because they were born with a fast metabolism. There are actually things you can do to change your metabolism, and the number one best thing you can do is to build muscle. The worst thing you can do for your metabolism is accumulate excess fat.


Muscle uses a lot of energy, even when not active. Our bodies use calories as energy, which means that muscle burns a lot of the calories we consume. The higher your muscle mass, the faster your Basal Metabolic Rate will be, or the amount of calories you burn while inactive.

This seems simple enough, but our BMR slows as we age. This means that as we get older, we have to work towards keeping our metabolism where it is, and build muscle mass to keep it there. Otherwise, we will build fat rather than muscle, which slows our metabolism.

Another good metabolism tip is eating 5 small meals a day rather than 3 larger meals. This benefits you in multiple ways. First, it keeps your metabolism going throughout the day. Second, it prevents blood sugar crashes, which can contribute to fat storage. Third, it prevents excessive hunger which can lead to overeating.

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Stigma, Judgment and Obesity

01 Jun 2016 no comments operator

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of US adults are obese. 25-30% of New Jersey’s population is obese. The disease is sweeping across the nation, as is the stigma of those individuals.

There is a lot of discrimination and judgment towards individuals struggling with obesity. This stigma of being “lazy” and “unmotivated” can do damage to the individual’s self esteem, and actually decrease motivation to change their lifestyle. Fear of being judged can lead to an overweight individual avoiding the gym or even leaving the house.

Many people have a negative image of what the typical obese individual’s life is like. It is common to say things like “simply cutting out soda could help you lose so much weight” when it is not this easy at all. They are perceived as weak, unmotivated, lacking in self-discipline, and responsible for their situation. Really, they are often struggling with deep-rooted problems related to food, and were raised with unhealthy habits they are not responsible for.

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Changing your lifestyle is far from easy. Especially when you struggle with an unhealthy relationship with food. No one has a perfect relationship with food to begin with, but unhealthy habits can spiral out of control in certain situations. Negative emotions can often cause overeating and obesity. Obesity can then cause isolation from family and friends, negative body image, poor self esteem, and lack of motivation. This can lead to depression and other mental health concerns, which can then cause overeating. It is a harmful cycle that is hard to break.

It may seem helpful to try to motivate an individual who is obese by saying the change is easy, but it is hurtful. The change is not easy, and they need support and understanding rather than criticism.

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Reframing our understanding of obesity as a disease rather than a personal responsibility can be motivating for individuals with obesity, because society can better understand what they are going through. Understanding what causes obesity can help challenge the stigma of individuals with obesity.

Obesity can be caused by the environment, but that doesn’t mean it is the individual’s fault. The standard American diet greatly contributes to unhealthy habits such as huge portion sizes and relying on convenience food. Also, some individuals lack access to healthy foods and a healthy lifestyle. For example, if they live in an unsafe neighborhood and do not feel comfortable walking, or if they do not have the money to join a gym or buy healthier options.

Our genes can also increase the likelihood of obesity. Some individuals store fat more readily than others, and it is common that the family will also struggle with obesity. Family is another influence, because we tend to continue our childhood habits. Parents with obesity will raise children with unhealthy habits, who will cary those onto their children.

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Also, some health conditions can contribute to weight gain. For example, thyroid conditions are fairly common throughout the United States and can slow down metabolism. Medicines such as antidepressants can increase appetite and contribute to weight gain as well.

These are just a few of the many factors that can contribute to obesity. It is important to keep these in mind in order to prevent stigma of obesity and those suffering from it. These individuals require support, and therefore fighting the stigma can help them become healthier.



01 Jun 2016 no comments operator

Sugar doesn’t have as horrible of a reputation as it deserves. It contributes to many medical conditions and obesity, yet the only conditions we tend to consider are diabetes and tooth decay. There are many reasons to avoid sugar other than these, and many reasons why avoiding sugar can be difficult.


Types of Sugar

Sugar is pretty sneaky and is hidden in many foods like yogurt, condiments, sauces, dried fruit, granola bars, and many other seemingly sugar free foods. It also hides under deceiving names like glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, saccharose, and many others.

All carbohydrates are made up of sugar as well. Our body digests them in the same way, so carbohydrates also count as sugar.

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The Effects of Sugar

When we consume sugar, our body produces insulin to help digest and balance what we are eating. Excess glucose can cause damage, so insulin is released suddenly to prevent this. When we consume sugar too frequently or at dangerous levels, our bodies become resistant to the effects of insulin. This is what leads to type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Sugar is made up of two parts: glucose and fructose. Glucose is the piece that is vital to our metabolism and energy, but our bodies produce it naturally. Fructose on the other hand can only be metabolized by our liver, and it gets turned to fat. Therefore, sugar greatly contributes to weight gain. It also causes us to overeat because of our brain’s constant demand for more, and because insulin tells our fat cells to store more fat rather than burn it. Our fat cells release leptin to inform our brain that we have stored fat and therefore require less food. But, fructose causes leptin resistance, and the brain is unable to tell the body has a decreased need for food because of the stored fat. This increases hunger and decreases the body’s ability to burn fat.

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Sugar Addiction

Sugar activates taste receptors in the brain that activate our reward system. The reward system is what tells you whether or not you enjoyed something and want to do it again. Every time you eat sugar, your reward system releases dopamine, and makes you want to repeat the action.

Alcohol and drugs have the exact same affect on the reward system as sugar. This means you continue to crave sugar because your brain wants to release dopamine, and that you build a tolerance and need more each time. This is why it is so easy to become addicted to sugar.

Mental Health

Blood sugar spikes, anxiety, and depression all have similar symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, shaking, difficulty thinking clearly, and mood changes. Sugar crashes affect our hormones and neurotransmitters, causing them to become unbalanced and affecting our mood. It can inhibit our body’s ability to cope with stress and lead to anxiety.  Also, high levels of sugar can contribute to inflammation, which is also linked to mental illness.

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Blood Sugar

Maintaining a stable blood sugar level is extremely important to avoid all of the previously mentioned issues. Consuming protein and fat together with carbohydrates can help slow down the absorption of sugar. Also, highly processed/ refined sugars and carbohydrates should be avoided. Complex carbohydrates are high in fiber and are metabolized more slowly than processed carbohydrates, and therefore do not spike blood sugar levels or get stored as fast as easily. Complex carbs include sweet potatoes, starchy vegetables, and lentils. Replacing refined white sugar with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup will stabilize blood sugar levels as well.

Exercise is another great way to manage your blood sugar. Our bodies use glucose as the preferred source of energy, so when we exercise, any excess glucose will be burned off first. It can also reverse insulin resistance, and of course burn stored fat.

Stress is also a concern when discussing blood sugar. When we are stressed, we release cortisol, which raises blood sugar levels. We also crave comfort foods when stressed, which tend to be processed carbohydrates and sugars.

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How Much is Too Much?

For reference, there are about 4 grams of sugar in 1 teaspoon.

According to The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, sugar makes up 13% of calories for the average American diet. The American Heart Association reports that this is the equivalent to about 270 calories, or 20 teaspoons of sugar.¹ The maximum suggested amount would be 10% of caloric intake in sugar, or about 6-9 tsp depending on the individual.²

Enjoying the occasional sweet is okay. Life is about balance. As long as majority of your food is coming from nutrient dense sources and you are not sacrificing nutrients for sugar, then you can enjoy something sweet from time to time. Make an attempt to choose sweets that are unrefined, like fruit or something sweetened with honey.

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Importance of Healthy Habits at a Young Age

25 May 2016 no comments operator

Habits can be hard to change. This is why its important to set healthy habits for teens and adolescents that they can follow throughout their life. Knowing from a young age how to follow a healthy lifestyle will prevent obesity and the temptation of fad diets, which are never a long-term solution.

Refined Sugar and Carbohydrates

One of the main concerns of the adolescent/child diet is sugar. Of course, even adults are guilty of this as well, but it is even more prevalent for the younger population. Sugar leads to unhealthy blood sugar fluctuation, and can cause illnesses such as diabetes and obesity.

The traditional American diet consists of refined and processed foods that easily lead to weight gain. Children and adolescents are likely to eat convenient foods that require little preparation, which leads them to boxes of cookies and chips. Teaching them at a young age that there are convenient alternatives that are much healthier will set a trend they can adhere to throughout their lives.

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Healthy Snacks

Most children snack with lunch and even when they come home from school. Snacking is a healthy way to keep the metabolism going, but what you choose to snack on is extremely important. Here are some healthy alternatives to sugary, refined, processed foods-

  • Nuts and trail mix (without the candy!)
  • Yogurt with seeds, berries, coconut (choose unflavored yogurt with no added sugar)
  • Fruit with nut butter
  • Vegetables with hummus or guacamole
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Protein shakes
  • Protein bars

Try to include protein in snacks, which curbs hunger and won’t lead them to keep snacking.

It’s also helpful to avoid keeping unhealthy choices in the home, which can be very tempting. Stocking the house with healthy options that are conveniently prepared can lead to better choices.

It can also be helpful to bring your child/adolescent food shopping with you. If they are able to pick out the fruit they like, they are more likely to eat it. Consider letting them help prepare dinner with you, so they can learn how to do this on their own and enjoy it.

*Tip: for younger children, making cute shapes out of their food makes it more fun and enjoyable!

Physical Activity

Being healthy doesn’t just mean nutrition. It also means maintaining a moderate level of physical activity. Again, this can be made fun by allowing your child to choose what they want to do. Would they prefer to play a sport, go for a family walk, or maybe swim during the summer months? If you make it an activity the whole family engages in, it can be enjoyable for everyone.

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Remember, children look for role models. Show them healthy habits, and they’re likely to follow in your footsteps! 🙂


The Body’s Reaction to Stress

25 May 2016 no comments operator

When we become stressed, our body systems react in unusual ways. Chronic stress can be very harmful to the body and to our health. It can lead to anxiety, high blood pressure, disrupted sleeping patterns, and can even weaken the immune system. Chronic stress causes inflammation in the body, which can lead to serious medical conditions and even depression.

Musculoskeletal System

Stress can cause muscles to tense, which can lead to headaches and migraines in the shoulders, head, and neck. Tension in the jaw, such as TMJ, can cause serious discomfort. Stress can lead to loss of strength, muscle spasms, and other conditions that are uncomfortable. This can cause the individual to lose motivation for physical activity.

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Stress causes an increase in heart rate, stronger muscle contractions, and an increase in stress hormones. Excess cardiovascular stress can increase risk of heart disease.

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Endocrine and Nervous System

Adrenaline, epinephrine, and cortisol are well known stress hormones released by the body. Fluctuation in hormones can cause an imbalance in blood sugar, weight gain, immune system dysfunction, gastrointestinal issues, fertility issues, cardiovascular stress, and inflammation. This increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases.

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Stomach issues are a symptom of stress that most of use are aware of. We tend to eat more or less than usual when we are stressed, especially comfort foods. The foods we rely on for comfort are often unhealthy, and can lead to heartburn or acid reflux. Stress can affect our digestion and lead to diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and stomach pain. Chronic stress can even lead to stomach ulcers. It can also lead to an increased use of tobacco or alcohol.

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Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress

Relying on food for comfort can be detrimental to our health. There are healthier alternatives to relieving stress, such as meditation, reading, writing, exercising, or engaging in a personal hobby. Relieving stress in a healthy way is extremely important for not only our mental health, but our physical health as well. Maintaining a low level of stress can decrease inflammation and can help you manage medical conditions. Find your own ways to relieve stress and keep them in mind during stressful situations to prevent turning to food for comfort.

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LEAP Food Sensitivity Testing

25 May 2016 no comments operator

Oxford Biomedical Technologies offers a unique food sensitivity testing called LEAP. It tests for inflammation caused by certain foods, food chemicals, preservatives, and additives. This individualized blood test provides you with a list of foods that cause inflammation for you specifically.

The LEAP testing comes with a nutrition plan that outlines what foods you should avoid, what you should limit, and what you can eat. These foods are organized through colors; red being avoid, yellow being limit, green being non-reactive.

Why is it important to know my sensitivities?

Eating foods you are sensitive to can cause inflammation in the body. It can be hard to determine the symptoms that are being caused by your eating habits, when those symptoms have been there for a long time. For example, GERD, IBS, migraines, ADD, depression, arthritis, and obesity are just some of the conditions that can be cause by inflammation. Therefore, it is important to know what exactly is causing the inflammation so you can work on the conditions. The LEAP testing provides you with an individualized list of inflammation causing foods that you should avoid, and foods that you are able to consume regularly.


How do I get the testing?

Lauren Carey at LBS Nutrition LLC is a certified LEAP therapist, meaning she is qualified to administer treatment of food sensitivities through this testing. Lauren works with a phlebotomist who will administer the blood test.

What does the LEAP testing include?

The LEAP test includes:

  • A list of foods and additives you are highly sensitive to, moderately sensitive to, non-reactive to, and foods that cross-react between the categories you react to
  • An elimination and rotation diet outline: a rotation diet means not eating foods within the same category within a 4 day period, which reduces the likelihood that you will react to those foods
  • Alternatives and substitutes to the foods you are reactive to
  • Menu ideas and recipes
  • An opportunity to decrease inflammation, optimize your nutrition, and prevent/treat inflammation causing conditions

What do I do after I get the test results?

You will be provided with a nutritional plan to follow. This is not a diet! This is what you will stick to in order to keep inflammation levels down. By sticking to the plan, your symptoms will slowly decrease, and it will become easier to follow.

After 3-6 months of eating according to your plan, you will reintroduce some of the yellow foods (somewhat reactive) to test your reaction to them. The dietitian will provide you with a detailed plan of when to reintroduce which foods.

You will also follow a rotation diet to prevent reaction to foods. This will begin a month after you begin the process. If you eat a reactive food too frequently, your body will lose the ability to break it down and digest it.

The LEAP test is tailored to your individual needs. Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all plan, and it is important to determine the best plan for your specific concerns.

For more information about LEAP testing, contact LBS Nutrition LLC or visit


Protein and Weight Loss

25 May 2016 no comments operator


Protein is extremely important for weight loss. At 4 calories per gram, protein boosts metabolism and keeps you feeling full longer than any other type of food. It reduces appetite and hunger, leading to fewer calories consumed throughout the day. It is a source of energy that is important for fueling our body.

Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Our hair, skin, eyes, muscles, and organs are all made from protein. It is important for building and repairing muscle and bones, and it preserves lean muscle mass. It also makes essential hormones and enzymes for our body.

Protein is a macronutrient, meaning we need large quantities of it. Unfortunately, our body can’t store protein like it does for sugar and fat, so we need a high protein diet to keep up with our body’s needs.

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Protein comes from both animal and plant sources. Animal sources are important for B12 and iron levels, while plant sources have less saturated fat. A combination of both plant and animal protein ensures the best nutrition. You should try to include protein in every meal and in snacks to stay full.

Animal sources should come from lower fat meats or fatty fish. You should aim for 8-12 ounces of fish per week from low mercury sources such as salmon, shrimp, pollack, tuna, tilapia, or cod.

Plant sources of protein can come from soybeans, black beans, tofu, seeds, nuts, and vegetables.

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Protein shakes are a great supplement for protein as either a meal or snack. You can make a shake from either plant protein, such as pea or rice or hemp, or animal protein such as whey. Whey contains high levels of essential amino acids that stimulate protein synthesis, and are absorbed quickly. Many people have an allergy to casein, which is the other component of dairy milk, and can tolerate whey. There are three different types of whey protein:

  • Concentrate: contains lactose, higher bioactive compounds
  • Isolate: lactose free, fat free
  • Hydrolysate: pre-digested, more expensive

*TIP: Lauren’s favorite shake contains unsweetened almond milk or reduced fat milk, peanut butter, banana, kefir, chocolate protein, and ice.

Some other great protein sources

  • Wheat Germ: 2 Tbsp: 4 grams protein
  • White bean powder (chick pea flour): 1/4 cup: 6 grams protein
  • Teff grain: 1/4 cup: 5 grams protein (and fiber!)
  • Tahini: 1 Tbsp: 3 grams protein
  • Nutritional yeast: 1/4 cup: 8 grams protein
  • Dry milk solids: 1/3 cup: 8 grams protein
  • Hemp seeds: 1 Tbsp: 3-4 grams protein
  • Flax seeds: 1 Tbsp: 2 grams protein

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The Importance of a Healthy Gut

25 May 2016 no comments operator

Our digestive system and gut bacteria are vital to our nutrition and health. An unhealthy gut can lead to an unhealthy immune system, unbalanced hormones, and an impaired nervous system. Even if you eat a seemingly healthy diet, your body may have issues absorbing the nutrients if you don’t have the proper bacteria living in your gut.


Why gut health is important

Hippocrates was right in saying that all disease begins in the gut. An unhealthy immune and nervous system can lead to disease such as diabetes, obesity, and even contribute to poor mental health. Research has shown that an unhealthy gut can even contribute to autism spectrum disorder symptoms.

On the other hand, a healthy gut helps us digest food properly and protects us from infection.

How does our gut becomes unhealthy?

Antibiotics, caffeine, alcohol, viruses and parasites, and unhealthy choices (refined and processed foods, sugar) feed the bad bacteria in our gut. When the bad bacteria overpowers the good, it can be detrimental to our health.

Our gut has a slightly perforated lining, but when our intestine becomes too perforated, it allows nutrients and food particles to leak into our blood stream. This causes inflammation in the body, because it doesn’t recognize these foreign substances. Healthy gut bacteria prevents this from happening.


How do we rebalance our gut?

  1. Remove any foods that feed bad bacteria, or any foods that feed inflammation. This means any foods you know you are sensitive to, such as dairy, gluten, soy, or anything that came back from LEAP testing.
  2. Feed the good bacteria with probiotics and fermented foods. These are extremely important for gut health, and these foods should be consumed after repairing the gut to maintain it.

Probiotic and fermented foods

You don’t have to have a perforated gut or unhealthy gut bacteria to benefit from probiotic and fermented foods. Consuming healthy bacteria to balance the bad bacteria is always beneficial. It can support our immune system which keeps us from getting sick and also improve digestion.

Some probiotic food sources include

  • Kefir: similar to yogurt, kefir contains more probiotics
  • Yogurt
  • Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut
  • Kombucha: a fermented slightly bubbly drink

When consuming yogurt or kefir, be cautious of the sugar content! As previously stated, sugar can feed unhealthy gut bacteria. Look for a plain flavor and add your own nuts, seeds, berries, coconut, cinnamon, honey, etc.

Some of Lauren’s favorite yogurt and kefir brands are Siggi’s, Fage, and Evolve Kefir.