Sara Bloms, a Registered Dietitian and colleague of mine located in Minneapolis, MN has served consumers in a variety of ways over the past 13 year. From creating innovative solutions that assist and empower consumers to eat well and live life better, to working with restaurants and food producers on improving the nutritional value of their offerings, Sara’s work has benefited many. She has been featured in local and national publications and has appeared on local news segments providing her expertise on a variety of nutritional topics.
Sara and I have worked together on several projects and I am happy to share that she will be writing the Forward for my upcoming cookbook. I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Sara and talk with her about cooking and eating for better health and wellness from a dietitian’s standpoint. Here are her thoughts.
Photo: Sara Bloms
Is there one dietary approach that is best for most people?
SARA: People have many different dietary needs. I do believe that, in general, adopting the mindset of abundance rather than a restriction – including plenty of vegetables, fruit, healthy proteins, fats, grains, legumes and such – is good. While there may not be one universal “diet” that everyone should be following, there is one approach to eating that we can all benefit from and that’s Mindful Eating. It’s an approach of limiting distractions, listening to your body and learning how to include your favorite foods in more healthful and sustainable ways.
Can food really help boost our immune systems, improve mental health, and reduce the chance of chronic diseases?
SARA: Absolutely! There is intense research right now around the microbiome and how it plays a key role in immune function, inflammation and overall health. The microbiome are trillions of microbes that live mostly in our intestines and what we eat plays a large role in determining what kinds of microbes live in our intestines. Diets that are high in fiber with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes support the growth and maintenance of beneficial microbes, reducing chronic inflammation and associated suppressed immunity.
It often seems like there is a lot of scientific information about nutrition, and that it changes quickly or sometimes conflicts. How can those of us who are not RD’s sort through it and determine what is valid?
SARA: It can be really challenging, especially with social media and 24-hour news that overloads us with data. The key is to approach nutrition claims with skepticism and curiosity. Ask yourself:
- Is the evidence based on testimonials?
- Does it sound too good to be true?
- Is it a sensationalized headline with no reference to a large research study?
- Does the conclusion seem too simple for the complex issue?
- Are they trying to sell something?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s most likely not a credible claim.
What are the top three things home cooks can do to improve the meals they are preparing from a nutritional standpoint?
SARA: One, when having a meal, even a snack, make sure that it contains a carbohydrate, protein and fat. An apple as a snack will not keep you full and you’ll most likely need to munch your way through the afternoon right into a larger portioned dinner.
Two, try a meatless day. I’m not saying meat is bad at all, but legumes have a lot to offer and often don’t get their day in the sun unless we make a meatless day a priority.
Three, vegetables don’t have to be boring – add some spices, a little parmesan cheese, trying roasting to bring out their flavor, etc. Highlight vegetables to be more than a side dish or afterthought, make them a compliment or main part of the entree. By making them a focal point, you’re more likely to increase their serving size and enjoy them more. Your microbiome will thank you!
What is your favorite “go-to” meal to prepare in your home? Do you have a favorite “prepared” healthy food item you use to make meal prep easier?
SARA: As a quick lunch option, I’ve started dabbling in my take on the Scandinavian open-faced sandwich, “smørrebrød”. I change up the toppings but some of my favorites are rye bread with:
- hummus, cucumber and parsley
- roasted tomatoes, burrata and basil
- avocado, hard-boiled egg and everything seasoning
My favorite “prepared” healthy food item is frozen brown rice. I have two little kids and they don’t have the patience to wait when I forget to start the rice early enough.
What are three ingredients you always have in your pantry or refrigerator?
SARA: Everything seasoning, plain yogurt, and good olive oil
Any last words of advice to share?
SARA: You don’t need to cut out foods or change your appearance to be healthy. Try to focus on enjoying your food, whatever food you decide to eat. Keep in mind that everyone’s needs are different. If you need to scrub your social media feed so when you go there the content you see doesn’t leave you feeling bad afterward, do it. Create a space where you are inspired – to cook, to enjoy your food, whatever else brings you joy.
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