Start Asking! Our Fertility Feature Series Continues!
Join the conversation as courageous women speak out all week to raise awareness about infertility.
April 24-30th marks Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness Week. This year’s theme is #StartAsking and we love it! It’s time to give infertility a voice and we’re excited that others feel the way we do! Once we started asking, we heard the stories about the heartache, pain and joy, related to infertility and it was powerful.
So powerful that Liz and I felt inspired to host a week long Fertility Feature series that includes very special guests as well as important media clips to help spread the message. Please join in the cause and click to share and spread the word as well!
Today we’re featuring the lovely and wonderful Alex Caspero as our guest. Please click here and head on over to Liz’s blog to read the interview with this outstanding woman, who’s photography and recipes on her site, Delicious Knowledge, make us drool.
Fertility Feature: Meet Jessica Fishman Levinson of Nutritioulicious + grab her recipe for this fantastic Salmon Waldorf Salad!
Today Liz and I are so excited to introduce you to dietitian and mom extraordinaire, Jessica Fishman Levinson. Her recipes, stories and blog posts can be found just about everywhere (see her bio below) and bless her heart for always putting that awesome nutritional touch on everything she writes. She’s a credible and valuable nutrition resource and we’re so happy she’s decided to contribute to our Fertility Series. Without further adieu, meet Jessica Fishman Levinson!
She’s Legit! Check out her amazing bio!
Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and the founder of Nutritioulicious, a New York-based nutrition communications and consulting business with a focus on culinary nutrition. She maintains the popular Nutritioulicious blog, where she shares weekly meal plans, family-friendly recipes, and nutrition tips. Jessica’s recipes and nutrition recommendations can also be found in numerous media outlets and health and lifestyle websites, including the monthly Culinary Corner column of Today’s Dietitian Magazine. Follow Jessica on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
And she’s sharing her story (and recipe!) with us!
I’m honored that Sara and Liz asked me to participate in their posts for Infertility Awareness Week. As someone who struggled with infertility, it’s a topic near and dear to my heart and I’m so happy that Sara and Liz started Fertility Fridays to bring attention to the often unspoken topic. When my husband and I realized getting pregnant was not going to be as easy for us as it was for many of our friends, I felt very alone and depressed. It seemed like everyone around me was pregnant or just giving birth to newborn babies and as happy as I was for them, I couldn’t help but feel jealous of what they had and the fact that we were going through treatments to help us get there. I remember sitting in the packed waiting room of the fertility clinic looking around at all the women and men who were sitting there with their heads buried in magazines and books and thinking to myself this is such a missed opportunity for people who are all struggling to come together, talk to each other, and find comfort in a shared experience. I hope that Sara and Liz’s focus on fertility helps other couples open up more about their experiences.
My story has a happy ending and I know I am lucky. Despite having to go through various treatments, we were able to conceive, which I know is not the case for so many others. Our four year old twin daughters are a blessing to us and I am forever grateful for them. I wish the same for all those who are suffering and struggling with infertility and know you are not alone.
We are so incredibly honored to have Jessica share her story! Just to prove how awesome and generous she is, she’s also got an amazing, fertility-friendly recipe for you. Visit her over at Nutritioulicious and grab the recipe for her Salmon Waldorf Salad!
Don’t forget to check out the other spotlight features of the week over on Liz’s blog too!
Stress is an almost tangible feeling that many of us experience on a daily basis. We’re desperately trying to meet work deadlines while attempting to make everyone happy. We’re over-extending ourselves to the point where we’re constantly anxious and tense, which leads to complete exhaustion. And that state of “being” is detrimental to the health of anyone trying to conceive. Think about it, that’s some serious weight to carry and when you add infertility to the equation, it only intensifies those emotions and feelings.
My advice? Stress less for fertility! Yes, that’s so annoying of me to say. In fact, I actually really dislike when people to tell me this, but listen, my advice is to take baby steps when it comes to stressing less. Baby steps are small changes, maybe even hardly noticeable, but they free up your time and your mind in small ways. Who wouldn’t want more of that?
Baby Steps to Help Stress Less for Fertility:
Stop the Mental Overload. Buy a notebook and pen to write down your thoughts and compile your lists. If you’re tech-savvy, you can certainly use your phone too for this. Jotting this info down on paper (or keypad) relieves some of that mental beat-down that happens when you’re trying hard to remember everything.
Breathe. Oh yes, you heard me right, breathe. It’s something we don’t often think about, but it’s the key to relaxation. Focusing on your breath and “being in the moment” really works, just ask any yogi! In fact, just ask Katie Cavuto over at Nourish. Breathe. Thrive. And read her awesome post all about the power of one amazing breath!
Exercise. Now, don’t go and run a marathon, but get out there (as long as your doctor ok’s it!) and use that breath to move your body. Exercise can boost your mood and beat stress and even the smallest amount can help. Move more, stress less!
Read. Put down the scholarly journal or work-related text and pick up a really great book. Reading fun or interesting novels can help relax you and quiet you. No way are you stressed when you are quiet and relaxed!
Make meals simple. Yes, stop trying to recreate the cover of Bon Appetit for dinner every night. And stop thinking that you have to cook every. single. night. You don’t! In fact, some of the best meals I’ve made have been leftovers or scraps of things left in my fridge. Make it easy and save the fancy cooking for when you have time to enjoy playing in the kitchen.
How About Some Simple Meal Ideas to Get You Started?
Don’t worry, I’ve got your back! These are all super easy and delicious! Stress less, my friends!
“Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Henry D. Thoreau, eloquently and prophetically proclaimed in his famous work, Walden.
That demand to simplify seems even more relevant today than it likely was in 1854, when Walden was first published. How many of us challenge that decree everyday? Adding more things that instead “complicate, complicate, complicate!” Ugh. Thoreau’s mantra is one I’m trying (somewhat successfully) to practice in my daily life. I’m not taking the easy way, but the smart, simpler way. Case in point, I recently got so frustrated with making healthy lunches for my family. PB&J was in the lunch box more than I would’ve liked. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that sandwich, but variety is a good thing.
Inspired by Thoreau, I decided to “simplify” lunch.
And with this Chickpea Hummus Wrap, I simplified on execution, but didn’t sacrifice taste or flavor! Yay! It all starts with a whole grain wrap and continues with layers of flavor. Canned chickpeas and pre-washed baby arugula keep things easy and fast. Flavor boosters like feta cheese and pepitas add a simple, yet tasty addition.
Luckily, the Recipe Redux theme for this month was how to get out of our “lunch rut.” How appropriate! Fortunately I figured out just how to do that with this Chickpea Hummus Wrap!
And here are the pretty picture of my Chickpea Hummus Wrap:
The Fertility Friday series celebrates the mighty mushroom.
Thank goodness this little fungi is a fertility-friendly food. Mushrooms boast some powerful nutrition – think Vitamin D, selenium and B vitamins such as riboflavin – all nutrients that are beneficial to fertility. In fact you can head on over to Shaw Simple Swaps to learn more about Vitamin D and selenium! But before you go, learn why I think you should include more mushrooms in your diet (even if you’re not struggling with infertility!). I’ve got a super simple recipe that starts with delicious sautéed mushrooms and ends with fresh thyme and toasted pine nuts! Yum!
Let’s focus for a moment on an underlying theme present in most of the foods and recipes we recommend for fertility. That theme is the power of a plant-based way of eating. The research shows that eating more plants is a great way to nourish and fuel your body for fertility. Plant foods contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients, all of which play a role in making you the most healthy version of yourself, while also preventing chronic disease. And mushrooms, while fungi, make plant-focused eating easy.
Here’s Why You Should Use More Mushrooms In Your Cooking:
Umami. Just what is that? It’s the 5th sense of taste and it’s just as important as it’s fellow tastes, sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Umami means “savory” and that’s exactly how mushrooms behave in food applications. They add a “meatiness” when there isn’t any meat and that can leave you feeling more satisfied. It’s an easy way for people to transition into eating more plant-based foods, which leads me to my next point…
Interest. If you want people to eat and enjoy their food, it helps if you keep them interested. At least this is what I’ve learned with my work as a chef and dietitian. If the food your prepare has just one note and that note is boring, than no way can you convince yourself or anyone else to eat it. This is where mushrooms can help. Since there are so many varieties, all boasting their own unique flavor, they can instantly add interest and intrigue to a meal. This is a win-win, because you’ll be getting more plant-based foods in while showcasing just how delicious and easy it is to do so. Which takes me to my final point…
Flavor. Remember my mention above about each variety of mushroom having it’s own unique flavor? The flavor difference is actually quite amazing and is something many people don’t take advantage of. Cremini mushrooms, for example, have mineral and earthy tones, while shiitakes sharply boast that umami savoriness. Think about how that flavor can boost the flavor of other foods too. Think how amazing sautéed mushrooms taste! That taste means you might need less fat or salt, both of which we don’t necessarily need more of in our diets.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, don’t forget to add mushrooms to your cart. Besides nourishing and fertility-friendly, they’re loaded with satisfying umami, adding interest and flavor to your nourishing fertility-friendly plant-focused way of eating.
Oh and before I forget! For my meat-lovers, have no fear! I’m not saying forgo meat, no way! It has a place on the fertility-friendly food list. But I figure we could all use a little more encouragement when it comes eating more plant-based foods.
Feeling lost? RESOLVE is a non-for-profit that helps people dealing with infertility. They’re a great resource and can even connect you with people in your area going through the same thing. You’re not alone! Feeling inspired? Why not be apart of National Infertility Week and share your blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts about your journey. Use the hashtag #startasking to make it easy for people to follow you on social media.
And here are the beautiful pictures of Sautéed Mushrooms with Bulgur
Finely chopped mushrooms sautéed until golden then tossed with bulgur, fresh thyme and pine nuts.
3/4 cup bulgur
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces mushrooms (cremini or a blend), cleaned and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (about 20g)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Place bulgur in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, then cover with boiling water. Immediately cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and let bulgur steam for about 20 minutes.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add the pine nuts and toast, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and reserve.
Turn heat down to medium, add the olive oil and butter to the skillet. Once butter has melted, add the shallot and saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Increase heat to medium high, Add the chopped mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt and continue cooking another 5 minutes.
Remove plastic wrap from the bulgur and drain any excess liquid. Add the mushroom mixture to the bulgur along with the toasted pine nuts, black pepper and fresh thyme and stir to combine. Garnish with extra thyme if desired and serve.
Strawberries are a delicious, nutritious treat, but now that they have moved up on the “Dirty Dozen” list, what should you do?
Strawberries recently moved up on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list. Just what does that mean for you? Read my article on Parents.com to learn just what prompted the changes and what you can do! Hint, don’t worry, you can still safely enjoy strawberries!
Love cheese? Sure you do! How about grilled cheese? Oh yes, of course you do!
Did you know that this delicious comfort food can actually be a nutritious choice, even when it comes to fertility? It’s true!
And here’s some amazing news, not only is it National Grilled Cheese Month, but it’s also Fertility Friday and that means it’s time to get started on this series of posts dedicated to nutrition and fertility. In last week’s post, I introduced you to this series and today, I present you with the goods I promised – delicious, nutritious insight on food and fertility. Once you’re done here, don’t forget to check out Liz’s post over at Shaw Simple Swaps for her amazing post and recipe. You don’t want to miss it!
Ok, back to that grilled cheese. First, let me say that I love that these two days are intertwining, because grilled cheese can be a nutritious, fertility food. Who knew, right? Well, I did, but let me explain. It’s all about variety and moderation and fertility friendly foods.
Let’s take my recipe for Sharp Cheddar Grilled Cheese with Broiled Tomatoes as an example:
Whole Grains: This recipe starts with a whole grain baguette base. Why whole grain bread? Well, because it is more nutritious than it’s refined, white bread counterpart. Whole grains have more vitamins and nutrients and even more fiber. See, I told you, more nutrition!
Fertility Focus – Whole grains help regulate blood sugar. Who cares about blood sugar? You should. You see, refined white breads, sugary cereals and candies can cause your blood sugar to spike quickly. Your pancreas has to work over-time to drive that blood sugar down. To do this, it sends out a handy hormone known as insulin to do to battle all of that sugar. This results in a high level of insulin in your bloodstream which have been indicated by research, to inhibit ovulation. So, no thank you white bread, white rice, chips and the like. I’ll stick with my whole grains!
Tomatoes: Who doesn’t love a sweet, juicy tomato? Ok, well, I didn’t until my early 20’s, but I’ve learned my lesson. These little red dynamos pack a serious nutritional (we’re talking Vitamin C and Vitamin A) punch. So eating them is a real win-win in my book! Tomatoes are also a great source of lycopene, a compound responsible giving tomatoes their vibrant red color. Lycopene just happens to also be a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants keep us healthy by preventing damage from free radicals. This is great health insurance, considering if free radicals are left to their own devices, they can do serious harm to our healthy cells and DNA.
Fertility Focus – Men, take note. Lycopene may offer some benefits in terms of fertility. More research is needed, but there is evidence that lycopene could help with not only sperm count, but also sperm viability. Seems like a good reason to eat more tomatoes to me.
Whole Milk Cheese: This recipe uses sharp, whole milk cheddar cheese because of it’s great flavor. Sharp cheddar is so brilliantly savory and rich, that you don’t need a lot of it. And here’s the good news, cheese might be a great fertility food (see below) plus it’s also a fabulous source of bone-building calcium.
Fertility Focus – The Nurses Health study revealed that women who ate ate least one serving of whole milk or dairy foods a day were less likely to experience infertility caused by an inability to ovulate. What does this mean for you? It means you can try swaping one serving of your typical low-fat or fat-free dairy foods with their whole milk counterparts. But tread lightly here, as those foods will still be high in calories. Bottom line, make this temporary adjustment but modify other foods in your diet to allow for the extra calories.
Amp up the nutritional value of your grilled cheese by adding delightfully delicious broiled tomatoes.
1/2 (15-ounce) whole-grain baguette, sliced in half horizontally
1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
dash Italian seasoning
Preheat the broiler.
Place the cut baguette on a medium-size sheet pan. Brush the cut sides of the bread with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Slice garlic clove in half and rub over cut sides of the baguette. Place in the oven and toast 1-2 minutes or until lightly browned.
To a mixing bowl, add the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and black pepper. Spread out onto a small sheet pan lined with foil. Broil for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Remove and reserve.
Sprinkle cheese evenly over bread slices, then dust with Italian seasoning. Place in the oven and broil 3-4 minutes.
To serve: Distribute the broiled tomatoes on top of toasted bread halves, cut as desired. Serve immediately.
For more fun and flavor, consider topping with fresh herbs before serving. Fresh, thinly sliced basil or freshly chopped parsley would be a fabulous addition!
I’ve got some exciting news for you. Today marks the official launch of the series “Fertility Friday.”
“Wait!” I hear you saying. “What in the world does that have to do with food and nutrition and YOU, Sara?”
Let Me Explain.
Great questions everyone and let me say, you just set me up perfectly to explain myself. Here’s the back story, I’ve struggled with infertility. To make a really long story, super short, infertility is a hard, stressful, lonely and emotional journey. But, I’ve learned some things along the way and those things have led to this exciting place.
Divine intervention happened a few months ago when I met fellow fellow dietitian Elizabeth Shaw. To make our long story short, we clicked. She shared her infertility struggles and I shared mine. We talked so much, both lamenting the fact that there wasn’t a book written by dietitians for people going through infertility. That bothered us, so we have taken it upon ourselves to write that book. It’s been a fun, crazy, emotional process, but we’re excited about it. We want you to be excited about it too. April 24-30 marks RESOLVE’s National Infertility Week, making this a perfect time to kick things off. To bring awareness to a topic that is near and dear to our hearts, we have decided to run a series of posts on Friday’s in April dedicated to food, nutrition and fertility. We’re calling it Fertility Friday. It’s our way of showing you the fun stuff you’ll see in our book, but also a great platform to get people talking about infertility.
We hope you’ll share in our excitement as we tackle a subject that deserves more attention. Let’s make it a point to support everyone’s journey, no matter how easy or hard. Let’s take the steps necessary to live the Infertility Awareness Week motto of #startasking. To you, I say, #askaway!
And don’t forget to check out Liz’s site Shaw Simple Swaps for her introduction to Fertility Friday!
Click here for more about National Infertility Awareness Week and RESOLVE.
That’s what everyone wants right, for everything in life to be a little easier? No lines at the post office, no red lights on the way to work or perhaps someone around who can clean your house and do your laundry? Well, sure that would be fine and wonderful, but it’s just not possible. The good news though? There is one area of your life that I can assure you can be easier, and that’s meal preparation.
“How?” you ask.
Just ask my friends at the Recipe Redux. The theme this month is simplicity and simplicity to them means recipes that contain less than 7 ingredients. Brilliant! My recipe for this month is super easy. I start with French green lentils, which are earthy and delicious and hold their shape and texture well. Then, I add fresh veggies in the way of bell peppers, cucumber and spinach. I jazz it up with a little fresh parsley and feta cheese and then use simple vinaigrette-based salad dressing to put that exclamation point on EASY! And there you go, in just about 30 minutes, you’ve made an amazing lentil salad that is not only delicious, but nutritious. Bravo!
And when you’re done making this recipe, check out the recipes below for more inspiration. They’re all super delicious and nutritious, less than 7 ingredients and EASY!
And Here are the Pretty Pictures of my French Lentil Salad:
A simple, yet elegant salad made with green French lentils, fresh spinach, cucumbers, parsley and feta cheese.
1 cup green or French lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups spinach, thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup seeded, diced cucumber
1 cup fresh parsley, cleaned, dried and finely chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup Balsamic vinaigrette or Italian salad dressing
Place lentils in a medium-size pot and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Set pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in salt and continue to simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Spread on a sheet pan to cool or, rinse in cool water.
To a large salad bowl, add the cooled lentils, spinach, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, feta cheese and cooled lentils. Drizzle dressing over the vegetables and lentils, then toss to combine. Add salt and black pepper, if desired.
It would be nice if someone just told you what to eat sometimes, right? I get plenty of clients telling me they would love a dietitian to follow them around and make their meal choices for them. If only we had the time! The good news is, I worked with Eating Well Magazine for their March/April issue to set up a 1500 calorie meal plan to help. This month’s meal plan is unique because it contains no added sugar. This is a challenge because many of the foods we eat (including bread!) contain sugar. Just to clarify, the sugar we want you to enjoy in moderation is the kind that gets added to foods. Things that are sweetened that aren’t naturally sweet. So fruit is not in this category.
This meal plan will set you up for success. You’ll get those 1500 calories all from whole foods and the day even ends with a delicious dessert! So while I can’t follow you around and tell you what to eat, you can use this meal plan as a guide. You’ll hopefully learn a few things from the plan and be more confident in your future food choices.