Nutrition in the New Year!

I hope your holiday season was joyful and that you’re excited for 2020. January marks a time of inspiration, aspiration, and intention, especially in terms of diet and exercise. Here are my Top 3 Nutrition Guidelines to keep in mind on your journey towards better health.

Plate Your Veggies First

Whenever possible, go for veggies first (especially those greens!) and then plate your protein, fat, and other carbs (bread, pasta, etc). This doesn’t require measuring, counting, or calculating, it’s simply a hack you can use to get your veggies in and keep your blood sugar stable.

By prioritizing getting your veggies in first, you’re not only getting vital vitamins and minerals but fiber and hydration too! Contrary to popular belief, protein doesn’t have to be the star of the show! Instead of plating around a piece of meat, plate around a big serving of vegetables. Better yet, include some plant-based protein such as beans, lentils, or quinoa for a double-whammy!

Snack on Fat

Do you need snacks between meals? What do you usually choose? One of the quickest and easiest snacks you can have (which is great for busy workdays/environments too!) are nuts and seeds. Unlike a single piece of fruit or packaged granola bar (which is almost always loaded with syrups and sugars despite the “healthy” labeling), a small handful of nuts or half an avocado can fuel you for hours. That’s nice, steady blood sugar from meal to meal without energy slumps or sugar cravings! 🙂

Focus on One Meal at a Time

When deciding what to make or order to eat, consider what you’ve already eaten (or plan to eat that day) and try to fill in any nutrient gaps. Did you go out for pancakes and mimosas? Make sure you get some veggies and whole food sources of fat and protein in your later meals! Are you having pasta for dinner? Maybe add some chopped spinach to your eggs in the morning (I call those sneaky greens because they wilt down so much you can get a whole serving and hardly notice it!) or add broccoli florets to your pasta. A not-so-nutritious snack or meal doesn’t ruin anything…you can clean it up next time you eat.

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

Ginger Molasses Cookies

The holiday season is about sharing good times with the people you love, and sometimes that means sharing desserts. Here’s a recipe I absolutely love for the holiday season. It’s super flavorful and uses several ingredients that make these cookies even easier to love.

Sprouted grain flour provides more fiber, protein, and micronutrients than regular all-purpose flour. It’s easier to digest and lower in gluten!

Grass-fed butter provides omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin K2.

Pasture-raised eggs naturally provide omega-3 fatty acids and significantly more vitamin E, and vitamin A. Chickens are omnivores and should not eat strictly vegetarian diets!

Blackstrap molasses provides vitamins and minerals including iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin B6, magnesium, and selenium.

Adapted from a recipe on


4 cups (20 oz) sprouted grain flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1.5 teaspoons ground cloves

1.5 teaspoons ground ginger

1.5 cups (12 oz, 3 sticks) grass-fed butter, softened

1.5 cups (11.25 oz) granulated sugar plus extra for rolling cookie dough in (you can swap this for coconut sugar or even do half and half!)

2 large, pasture-raised eggs

.5 cup blackstrap molasses


Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a couple large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and creamy ~2-3 minutes. Add molasses and eggs, and mix until well-combined ~2-3 minutes.

Stir dry ingredients into wet, and mix until combined.

Dough can be rolled and baked right away, but your cookies will be slightly thicker and chewier if refrigerated for a bit. If you like them that way, chill for 20-30 minutes (or up to several days) before rolling into balls.

Roll dough into balls (around an inch) and then dip and roll in extra sugar. Space cookies an inch or so apart on the cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes. Be careful not to over bake if you want a soft, chewy cookie.

Move cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely. These cookies stay soft and chewy at room temperature for several days in a sealed container, or you can freeze them!

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

5 Ways to Relieve Back Pain So You Can Sleep Better

5 Ways to Relieve Back Pain So You Can Sleep Better and Improve Your Life

by Cheryl Conklin

Living with chronic back pain involves daily challenges. From getting out of bed in the morning to getting comfortable when you go to sleep at night, back pain can be very frustrating. Fortunately, there are five ways you can relieve pain and enjoy better sleep—improving your mood and quality of life, too.

Start a Pre-Sleep Stretching Routine

Many back problems are related to muscle or ligament strain, Mayo Clinic explains, and symptoms may worsen at bedtime. The good news is, stretching each night or practicing simple yoga poses can help relieve muscle tension and help you wind down for bed.

People who do yoga regularly also report feeling more relaxed and peaceful overall. Part of it is the deep breathing routine, experts note, which helps reduce your fight-or-flight stress response.

If back pain—and other life challenges—are stressing you out, yoga can be a calming influence. It can even help you produce more oxytocin and endorphins—your body’s happy hormones.

Make Time for Exercise

Exercising is healthy for your body, but you might shy away from it while you deal with back troubles. But if your doctor agrees it’s safe for you to exercise, working out could help strengthen your core muscles and lessen back pain and tension.

One study found that people who exercised over six weeks experienced more effective pain relief than those who attended physical therapy for the same period. Specifically, core stabilization exercises were influential in reducing pain perception.

Even adding moderate exercise like walking or swimming to your routine can also expend energy that would otherwise keep you up at night. Getting your body moving can help work out stress and prepare you for deeper and better-quality sleep.

Swap Out Your Mattress

An old, lumpy mattress does nothing to help your back pain. In some cases, your bed might be contributing to chronic back problems—especially if it’s too firm, Harvard Health notes. Harvard’s experts note that “very hard” mattresses contributed to inferior sleep experiences.

Clearly, the right mattress can make a significant difference in both your sleep quality and comfort level.

Consider your sleeping style and shop for a new mattress that suits you. For example, people who sleep on their sides tend to prefer Purple mattresses. Conversely, WinkBed mattress options offer extra spinal support for back sleepers.

Make Your Sleep Routine Regular

A regular sleep routine has plenty of benefits for your health—such as a lowered risk of certain diseases. But making sure you get regular—and adequate—sleep can also decrease your sensitivity to pain. One study found that “extending nightly sleep” helped adults reduce their pain sensitivity and increase daytime alertness.

Also, keeping a regular schedule helps solidify your body’s natural rhythms. Your circadian rhythm—AKA, your internal alarm clock—regulates your sleep and wake periods. Catering to your body’s instinct to sleep when it’s dark and get up when it’s light out can help you prep for more restful sleep.

Plus, sticking with nature’s plan can help you feel drowsy at bedtime—even if your back pain typically keeps you up. Overall, you’ll sleep more deeply once your body recognizes and accepts regular sleep patterns.

Improve Your Sleep Posture

Sleep posture—which the University of Rochester Medical Center says is a real thing—can have a significant impact on your pain level and sleep quality.

To keep your body aligned while you rest, use pillows or other positioning devices to keep your spine in its natural curve. Also, keep your body in alignment when you turn or roll over, instead of twisting or bending.

Getting quality rest is vital for your everyday functioning—and for improving your back pain. With these five tips, you can get deeper, better sleep, and start feeling more like yourself again.

Issues with Acid or Digestion

Do you keep a packet of Pepto-Bismol in your bag or Tums by the bed? Do you experience bloating or excess fullness after eating? Heartburn or acid reflux? If you said yes to any of these, then 1) you’re not alone, and 2) there are a number of ways to feel better without chemicals or other harsh medications!

You may be surprised to learn that heartburn and other acid problems are actually a result of LOW stomach acid and not excess! Stomach acid is necessary not only to break down food in the stomach but to allow food to move from the stomach to the rest of the digestive system. When you have low acid, food stays in the stomach for too long and eventually begins to rot. It’s gross, but it’s true! Low stomach acid production can result from a number of issues, but stress, eating too quickly or while distracted, and poor diet are a few common examples.

Here are a few natural remedies that may help reduce or soothe indigestion and heartburn:

Raw, fermented apple cider vinegar (ACV) with the mother: Add a teaspoon or two to a glass of water and drink before a meal. The acidity of the vinegar stimulates natural acid production in your stomach. I recommend ACV to my clients who experience indigestion as well.

Fresh lemon juice: Add a squeeze of lemon to your water (hot or cold) between meals. Similarly to vinegar, the acidity in the lemon helps with acid production and digestion.

Raw, fermented sauerkraut or vegetables: Add as much sauerkraut or other raw, fermented vegetables to your meals as you like. The naturally occurring bacteria and yeast from the fermentation are great for your gut and can help ease digestion.

Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness as you prepare or wait for your meal as well as while you eat. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment. When you are present with your meal and eliminate distractions and stress, you actually stimulate the digestion process — acid production included! Take a deep breath before you enjoy that first bite. Notice the smell, colors, textures, flavors, and any sounds. Try putting your utensils or food down between bites.

Of course there are many other ways to remedy issues with acid or digestion; however, these are some great tricks to help get you feeling better.

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

Happy October!

We’ve officially entered fall, and don’t we know it…it’s getting darker a little earlier and there’s Halloween candy EVERYWHERE! Though goblins, ghosts, and vampires make for scary stories, the real monster to be aware of is sugar.

Within the last century, there’s been a growing pandemic of elevated blood sugar levels which is wreaking havoc on our bodies. 200 years ago, the average American consumed around 10 pounds of sugar per year. Today the average American consumes around 160 pounds of sugar per year. That’s the same as the average adult female!

Why do we need to worry about sugar intake? Other than the fact that it’s highly addictive, sugar intake affects our ability to maintain blood sugar balance. When we continue to bombard our bodies with sugar (glucose), we end up with overworked PALs (pancreas, adrenals, and liver) and excess glucose in the bloodstream. If this goes unchecked, it can lead to Insulin Resistance, Type 2 Diabetes, or other diseases. It shortens the lifespan, enables degenerative disease, affects mental health and well-being, and reduces the overall quality of life. Yikes! Talk about scary!

Unfortunately, sugar is hidden in all kinds of foods, and it’s extremely important to read labels and learn ways to limit intake, but we have a tendency to overeat obvious sugars too. Sweets are commonly used as rewards, comfort, and meal replacements. Halloween is an especially devilish time of year when stuffing ourselves and our children with “snack size” candies is not only accepted but encouraged. How can you make a difference this Halloween? Themed school supplies (such as pencils and pencil top erasers), temporary tattoos, and small toys are just a few examples of sugar-free treats you can offer your kids this season. If tricks are more your style then toothbrushes make for a great Halloween offering too! 🙂

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

Enjoy the Fall Harvest

Summer is slowly coming to an end and soon it will be time for the fall harvest! Though the warmth and fresh greens of summer are wonderful, I certainly look forward to cozy fall sweaters and soups. In the next few months, as our leafy greens and summer squash harvest come to an end, we may notice more winter squash and root vegetables becoming available. Hearty, complex carbohydrates like butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, leeks, and potatoes become more of a focus and that’s perfect for the changing weather. Not only do these starchier carbohydrates taste delicious and comforting, but they’re loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Not to mention that they’re often sweet and oh so satisfying on a chilly day.

Two of my favorite ways to enjoy the fall harvest are in a veggie medley of roasted squash, beets, and Brussels sprouts. Simply clean, cube, toss in avocado oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400 for about 20-30 minutes or until soft. Depending on the size of your veggies, you may choose to move the veggies around and roast an additional 10-20 minutes. I like to drizzle mine with balsamic vinegar and garlic reduction for some extra yum!

Another way to reap the benefits of winter squash is in a soup or puree! Roast your winter squash of choice until soft. Scoop the flesh out and move to a food processor or use a stick blender in a bowl to puree the squash until smooth. I like to add butter for some extra staying power and flavor. From here the choice is yours—blend with bone broth and add meatballs or other savory elements for a savory soup, or top with cinnamon and a bit of maple syrup for a sweet snack/side. What an amazing way to get tons of nutrition and show yourself some love!

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

Why we need a sense of calm

What are you doing at this moment? What did you do during your last meal? Were you scrolling through social media? Multitasking at work or school? Driving from one place to the next?

We live during a time when efficiency and multitasking are expected in order to be the most productive. And as a result, we put meal-times and self-care to the wayside!

Systematically, humans are designed with two modes, sympathetic and parasympathetic, however, it’s more likely that you’ve heard them referred to as “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” respectively. The sympathetic and parasympathetic are two sides of the autonomic nervous system which controls blood flow, hormone production, and basically everything else in physical function. We and most other living things on this planet developed this two-sided nervous system as a way to monitor energy use so we can handle danger when needed.

The sympathetic state, or “fight or flight,” prepares the body for danger by diverting blood from the digestive system out to the muscles where it may be necessary for speed or endurance, increasing the heart rate, and stimulating the production of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. The parasympathetic state, or “rest and digest,” pulls blood into the digestive system, relaxes the muscles and heart rate, and stimulates the immune system, digestion hormone/enzyme production, as well as reproductive hormone production.

Most of us are living in a constant state of fight or flight, whether we realize it or not! And as you can imagine, this has a negative impact on our ability to digest food and feel well. One way we can support our bodies is by eating meals without distractions. Set your phone down, turn off your computer or TV, and close your book during meal times. Instead, try taking a few deep, belly breaths before consciously using all of your senses. What does it look like? Can you smell each of the ingredients? Did you hear it cooking? Or does it make a sound when you cut or bite into it? Is it hot? Cold? How does it taste? By taking deep breaths, you immediately bring a sense of calm and safety to your body which opens the door to “rest and digest.” Consciously being present and feeling each of your senses while you eat furthers your movement into that parasympathetic mode. As you relax, digestion becomes easier and your mind even becomes primed for the next part of your day.

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

Drink Your Water!

…the benefits of staying hydrated

by Jeri Winterburn, Group Exercise Director

I hear it so often — “I know I just don’t drink enough water!”

The average adult body is made up of about 60% water, so it makes sense that drinking fluids is a crucial element to the proper functioning of many different systems. Besides maintaining the health of the heart, brain, and muscles, fluids help transport nutrients to the cells while also flushing bacteria. However, it is relatively easy to become dehydrated throughout the day and various activities. Dehydration can occur by not drinking enough water, through excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting or exercise. When this happens, it is common to feel faint, have a headache, experience crampy muscles or to feel tired.

Fortunately, restoring water balance in the body not only relieves these uncomfortable symptoms but has many additional benefits as well. Almost everyone is familiar with the “8 by 8” rule, which is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day. 8 x 8 is just easy to remember, as The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume about 2 liters daily, and men to consume about 3 liters. Adjust accordingly per activity level and for any factors causing more rapid dehydration.

Drinking enough water and staying properly hydrated can:

1. Flush toxins & prevent illness

While the kidneys naturally filter waste from the body, they require adequate water intake to function properly, according to WebMD. When the body is dehydrated, the elimination of wastes is diminished. Conversely, when the body is hydrated, healthier functioning and transportation of nutrients are restored. Some medical experts believe proper hydration can help prevent joint diseases like rheumatoid arthritis since water reduces inflammation and promotes cartilage health. Proper water consumption can also protect against kidney stones, constipation and urinary tract infections, according to the Nutrition Reviews journal.

2. Promote weight loss

According to several studies published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Obesity, dieters who increased water consumption lost more weight than groups who did not. This may be due to the fact that thirst is often disguised as hunger.

3. Improve skin complexion

Skin cells, like all cells, are made up of water. Therefore, if the skin is not receiving adequate hydration, it will appear dry, tight and flaky, and fine wrinkles will be more pronounced, according to The American Academy of Dermatology. Whether or not it’s true, many celebrities claim that water is the secret to their glowing, radiant skin.

4. Increase energy levels

After vigorous exercise and perspiration, it is especially important to rehydrate to replace lost fluids as well as to reduce soreness. According to the Journal of Athletic Training and Nutrition, studies have found that staying hydrated before, during and after exercise can not only reduce fatigue but also improve endurance. For those who feel too tired to work out, research published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that regular, low-intensity exercise reduced fatigue by as much as 65% and increased energy by 20%. Combined with proper hydration, energy levels can significantly rise with even just a little effort.

5. Lower the risk of heart attacks

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women, according to the NIH. When the arteries become narrowed and blocked with cholesterol and plaque, the risk for a heart attack increases. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that drinking more water has been linked to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease.

6. Boost cognitive functioning

Instead of reaching for a sugary snack in the late afternoon to get a little mental boost to finish up a task, try having a glass of water instead. A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that drinking water may enhance brainpower. Study participants performed better and faster on a series of cognitive tasks after drinking water versus those subjects who did not.

7. Improve mood

Dehydration is known to cause headaches, which might explain why it’s common to get cranky when one strikes. Research supports this theory, as a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that even mild dehydration had a negative effect on mood. Therefore, a glass of water might work double duty in helping prevent headaches as well as promote a sense of refreshment that naturally enhances mood, as well.

Now we know “why” we need to make proper hydration a part of our daily lives – here is the one habit that has helped me the most:

Every morning when I get up – I get out a large glass (always the same one) – and fill it with water and a few ice cubes. Giving myself about 30 minutes to finish it, I immediately fill it again – if I am at work, it’s my favorite water bottle – when the last drop is gone – I fill it again. If you aren’t one to guzzle water – keep sipping away at it and be sure it stays on your counter, desk or in your sight the entire day. I swear that over time, it will become an easy habit. When your bottle is empty – fill it up again.

Summer heat, exercise, and sweating will take a toll on how you feel. This is an easy way to stay hydrated, and feeling your best through the next few, hot months. Give it a try!

Tips to surviving those summer gatherings

Is summer in the Pacific Northwest GLORIOUS or what?? As we bounce from BBQ to BBQ and enjoy these long, sunny days, it can begin to feel a bit overwhelming to ‘get back on track’ when we know there are so many more opportunities to socialize in the near future. We’ve touched on tips to survive holidays and gatherings before, but they certainly bear repeating!

Drop the RESTRICTION mindset and remember that you’re making CHOICES to reach your goals! Studies on willpower have shown that when people go into diets or settings with the mindset that they’re not allowed to have something, it becomes the focus of their attention and depletes their willpower. What’s more is that when willpower diminishes, blood sugar decreases, and you actually become hungry… especially for that little something which you’ve been denying yourself! Here are some tips to sustain your blood sugar and willpower:

– Load up on fat, protein, fiber, and greens! Eat veggies first or before you get to the gathering so you’re not as hungry.

– Find a high protein/fat snack to munch on if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the goodies you’re trying to avoid. Even a handful of nuts before you sip beer or munch on chips will help keep your blood sugar stable.

Stay physically active, but don’t go overboard! As a member of Bellingham Athletic Club, you have access to wonderful facilities! If you find yourself tight on time or unable to get to the gym, a simple walk will do, too. Plus you’ll get the added bonus of some Vitamin D! If you did eat or drink more than you would have liked to, don’t destroy yourself in the gym the next day. Put that extra energy to use the best you can, and simply move on.

Avoid any sort of crash diet or restriction after overindulging. We know that unsustainable methods yield unsustainable results…that’s the yo-yo effect! The day after a fun and food-filled get-together, focus on hydration and high-quality food like leafy greens and protein! These are healthy habits for your everyday life as well.

Shelby O’Hagan, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)
Rebel Yum Nutrition

Enjoy those summer vegetables!

In the Pacific Northwest, June through October are some of the busiest months for harvesting veggies, especially leafy greens! Lettuces, cabbages, peas, beans, broccoli, artichokes, peppers, tomatoes, etc are all in season and most delicious during the summer months. A few members of this in-season harvest are especially awesome due to their levels of sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane is a chemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage which has been shown to protect the stomach-lining, regulate blood sugar, and have anti-inflammatory mechanisms that are shown to slow aging and fight cancer. Wow! This wonder-chemical is produced by cruciferous vegetables as part of a defense mechanism found in plants to protect themselves from herbivores. Damage to the plant activates the defense mechanism, so research is being done on cooking methods to find which is most productive.

Studies on broccoli have shown that boiling or microwaving (though I hope you’re not microwaving any of your food as it destroys the nutrients) significantly decreases sulforaphane production. Instead, it has been shown that chopping into small pieces and leaving to sit for up to 90 minutes before stir-frying produces the most sulforaphane. Leaving it to sit is important as it gives the plant time to produce the chemical. Other studies have shown that adding mustard seed (which is a potent source of myrosinase, the enzyme which kick-starts sulforaphane production) to a chopped/cooked cruciferous vegetable also optimizes sulforaphane availability.

If you’d like to learn more about nutrition and how to get yours in order, please visit my website at or email me at