Meet Pam Byrne, a Darien mom, and holistic nutrition and health coach. Pam answers some important questions and shares some great nutrition tips! Please visit her website at www.byrnehealthandwellness.com.
How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
Henry age 12 and Ellie 11.
When did you move to Darien?
We moved to Darien in spring of 2010 from Chicago. I grew up in New Canaan so I was thrilled to be back East and close to family.
What led you to start Byrne Health & Wellness and how long ago did you start your business?
I was diagnosed in 2011 with Celiac disease and another nasty autoimmune disease that affects my skin, heart and lungs. I was terrified by my diagnosis and was put on over 20+ medications over 2 year period, including 2 oral chemotherapies. I wasn’t getting better and was even sicker on some of the meds so I knew there had to be other options. I had always been into healthy eating and interested in nutrition and knew that taking the functional and integrative approach to my disease was my only choice. I slowly started integrating as many whole, unprocessed foods into my diet as possible. I loaded up on veggies on a daily basis and really started craving a more plant-based diet. I also began to notice that when I ate well and took care of myself (reduced sugar, limited my wine consumption, making sleep a priority) my autoimmune symptoms were non-existent. After a year or so of this lifestyle, I was able to put my disease in remission. I was also was able to achieve this through the help of an integrative and functional medicine Dr. At this time, I went back to school for health coaching and holistic nutrition. I had previously received my masters in counseling in Chicago, which was a great addition to my schooling in nutrition. BHW has been helping people feel better for over 3 years now.
HEALTHY TIPS FOR KIDS
How do you teach nutrition to kids and make healthy eating fun?
I make it simple. I include as many natural non-processed foods as possible and keep it fun and colorful. If you put fruit and fresh veggies out they will eat it. Plus who doesn’t love a dip! Veggies seem to disappear when I pair them with a hummus or healthy yogurt based dip. I also love getting the kids involved. I usually try to meal plan on Sundays or Mondays and always ask for requests. They love baking from scratch, we have taken to scouring cookbooks while we’ve been in quarantine. Our favorite recipes so far have been homemade tomato sauce with pancetta and sweet potato “chips”.
Are there any “junk food” style snacks you can make for children that are also healthy?
There are so many! Popcorn with coconut oil and salt and sugar tastes like kettle corn. Chex mix with dried fruit and dark chocolate. I also love anything that is non-bake. I have a nut butter bar recipe that is always a hit and the ingredients are interchangeable so you can make it as healthy and junky as you would like. I love making a greek yogurt based bark where you can add dried fruit and nuts. It’s so good and tastes like chocolate! I also feel strongly that kids should be kids and real deal junk food should be allowed every once in a while. Because of that mentality, one of mine still has her Halloween candy leftover, which is pretty impressive.
Do you have any favorite family-friendly dinner suggestions?
My kids LOVE tacos. Like a lot! To keep things interesting I will make a taco salad or a one-pot taco chili that works all year round. It’s also a great way to sneak in lots of veggies. The kids will eat it with a garnish of tortilla chips and my husband and I will put it on a bed of greens or cauliflower rice. You can serve it hot or cold – it’s a winner no matter what.
What are the best breakfast options to get everyone’s day started off right?
I have one sugar fanatic and one non-breakfast eater so it can be challenging. My goal is to always get them to have some kind of protein in the morning so they can avoid the mid morning crash – not always possible but I try! Oatmeal with yogurt, hard boiled eggs, banana with peanut butter, yogurt with fruit or a smoothie are our go to’s. I love the Vega Protein Made Simple smoothie because it only has 5 (all natural) ingredients. The kids like making their own and adding different fruits combos.
Kids are always drawn to sugar! What are some ways to keep their sugar consumption down?
Welcome to my world. This is a topic I struggle with on a daily basis with one of mine! I really try to limit the sugary junk food we have in the house so it make it harder for them to get their hands on. I love to bake so I usually have a baked good on hand that is considered the holy grail of treats (usually a banana or zucchini bread stocked with veggies or fruit) so they look forward to that as their desert. I cut down on a lot of kids granola bars and gummys years ago realizing they were like glorified candy for my kids. Their snacks are mostly salty based and if they are craving sweet they can have yogurt, fruit or popcorn with some sweetness. A favorite is frozen grapes…..so good!
HEALTHY TIPS FOR ADULTS
During this uncertain time, many people are stress eating! What are some ways to avoid that pitfall?
KEEP A ROUTINE. During this time of stress and uncertainty a routine is critical. Carry on like life is normal: exercise, shower, make the beds and start your day. This is not a snow day or a vacation, this is our new normal so we need to keep a schedule as possible for our kids and ourselves.
By keeping a routine that means keeping your meal times regular. Since the end to snack and stress eat is high right now, I recommend to all my clients to start tracking their daily food intake while you are at home. This holds people accountable and can be eye opening at times to see how all those little snacks, bites and licks add up throughout the day. My FitnessPal is great, as is a plain old notebook. Just something that allows you to reflect on your eating habits.
In addition, put on a pair of pants. With a button and a zipper. I LOVE my yoga pants and leggings, but when I put on my jeans I feel more productive like it’s a normal day and they keep me honest. Whether I like it or not.
What is your stance on caffeine, sugar, dairy and carbs?
I truly believe in 2 things. Everything in moderation and bioindviduality. That being said unless a client has a sensitivity or allergy I try not to cut out whole food groups. However, that’s when Bio individuality comes to play. That means that everybody responds differently to different foods. Some may metabolize caffeine well, while others it can create inflammation. I believe that one guideline for everybody should be to reduce sugar consumption. The way to start is by increasing protein intake and making sure you have a little fat in your diet. That will cut the cravings. For times when you are craving sweet, have some fruit, a few dark chocolate chips or a sweet herbal tea. These sound boring, but they really do help and after just 3 days of significantly reduced sugar, you will stop craving it.
Also, think about how you want to feel when you wake up in the morning. Do you want to feel groggy and bloated or do you want to feel happy and light? Now that is a motivator.
Are there any super foods you recommend for adults?
I believe in the power of veggies, particularly non-starchy veggies – greens for the win! They supply endless immune boosting nutrients and antioxidants. They keep you healthy and fill you up. What is a bonus with veggies, is that if you are not overloading them with oil or sauces, they can be an unlimited food in your diet. Fill that plate up and don’t be bashful. This helps prevent any feelings of deprivation…go to town on non starchy veggies!
Do ever recommend cleanses or is there another way to “restart” with healthy eating habits?
I don’t. I feel that strict cleanses lead to an all or nothing behavior. With every deprivation, there can will be a binge. What I find is that when clients do a strict cleanse, they tend to erase all of their hard work when it is over by going to town on whatever foods they missed. I do, however, believe that it’s healthy and needed to cut back on certain foods and give yourself a reset. Particularly after a vacation, holiday or weekend, it’s smart to start the week on the right food by cutting back on sugar and alcohol and aiming for regularly time meals that are proportioned, have lean protein and heavy on veggies (sensing a theme here?).
What are the top three things adults can do to improve their diet and general health?
- Find an exercise you love (walking, running, weight training, spin) and that way you will do it often. Aim to get movement in 4-6 times a week.
- Find some time EVERY day to get some me time. Self-care goes a long way.
- Create a diet for you and your family that is made of WHOLE FOODS. Think of eating as many fresh fruits and veggies as you can and as little foods out of a bag or box. That’s an easy rule that can make a huge difference in your health and your waistline. And remember, if you don’t bring it in the house, you won’t eat it.
- Meal plan and meal prep. I have clients aim to meal prep 2x a week – it can be as easy as having fresh veggies ready to eat for snacks or add to meals. Having protein on hand like hard-boiled eggs, chicken, ground turkey, tofu etc., will make for smarter healthier choices. Plan your meals ahead of time so you can be held accountable and limit your snacking.
- Stay hydrated. You should be drinking AT LEAST half your body weight in ounces every day. Be sure to add extra water for every caffeinated drink you have or if you are sweating in your workout!