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The Runner's Guide to Nutrition
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Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise, and for good reason! Running doesn't require lots of special gear, coordination, and can be done almost anywhere. However, avid runners know that good nutrition and running go hand in hand. Making sure you are fueling your body correctly is essential to get the most out of your runs, prevent injury, and aid in recovery. Whether you are new to running or have been racking up miles for years, here is a quick reference guide to the ins and outs of running nutrition.Pre-Run: Exercise requires energy and water. Having a small snack 30-60 minutes before your run ensures that you have the energy you need to complete your miles and really push your muscles. Aim for a snack with a mix of carbohydrates (15-20 grams) and protein (7-10 grams) such has an apple and cheese stick or graham crackers and peanut butter [1]. Also, make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Nothing makes the miles seem longer than being dehydrated.During Run: Snacks: You may think that only marathon runners need to worry about nutrition during runs, but that simply isn't the case. Any time a run exceeds 60 minutes you need to start thinking about snacking during your run. After approximately 30 minutes your body will be running low on energy stores and electrolytes which can lead to fatigue, reduced performance, and increased risk of injury. Mid run snacks are all about easy to digest carbohydrates. While some people prefer to use special prepackaged supplements, it's easy to get the energy you need from simple foods like dried fruit, pretzels or other light crackers, or bananas. You can have one big snack per hour, or snack all along the way. Whatever snack you choose it's best to aim for 30-60 grams of carbohydrate for every hour you run. Hydration: It is essential that you maintain proper hydration during runs, even during the winter. Sipping on water, sports drinks, or coconut water throughout your run helps keep you hydrated and electrolytes in balance better than just chugging water before and after your run. Aim for three to six ounces of water every 15-20 minutes while running. Running water belts, water backpacks, or even hiding water bottles along your route are great ways to make sure you have what you need to stay hydrated [2]. Be sure to follow any snacks and/or energy supplements with plenty of water as well. Post Run: Providing your body with the nutrition it needs to replenish and rebuild your muscles is critical to recovery and improving future runs. Post run snacks should be a mix of carbohydrates and protein to rebuild muscle and energy stores within the muscle. Aim for 12-15 grams of protein and 35-50 grams of carbohydrates [1]. Low-fat chocolate milk makes a great post-run snack with a great balance of carbs, protein, and electrolytes. Other great post run snacks can include fruit and yogurt, pb&j sandwich, or a hummus wrap. Try to eat within 15-45 minutes of completing your run.Running for Weight Loss: Running is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and reduce the risk of Type II Diabetes [3]. Running can also be an excellent addition to a weight loss program if you keep these key things in mind:~Running makes you hungry: Running is a high intensity sport that burns a high number of calories compared to other exercises. Also, as we've mentioned in this article, you need to fuel correctly to make the most of your runs. In order to reach your weight loss goals you have to pay attention to total daily calories. Be sure to include all your pre/post/ and mid run snacks in your daily meal plan. In addition, make sure that you aren't eating too few calories. If you are decreasing daily calories in addition to running you may be eating too little and setting yourself up for failure.~You may actually gain a little weight at first: When you first start running you may experience a slight weight gain. Running, like all exercise, breaks down muscles in order to rebuild them stronger. However, this initial breaking down process can cause the muscle to retain fluids and thus increase the scale slightly. As you continue to run this process begins to even out. In addition, the large muscles in your legs involved in running burn more calories sitting still than fat does. So the more you build these muscles, the more calories you will be burning on a daily basis, increasing your ability to lose weight. ~Muscle weighs more than fat: As you build more muscle your weight may go up or stay the same even as you lose inches and improve your body shape. Muscle weighs less than fat but takes up much less space. Therefore, make sure that you have multiple measurements to track your progress and don't focus solely on the scale.Working with a Registered Dietitian is a great way to ensure you are able to maximize your weight loss efforts while still meeting all of your nutritional needs. Running is awesome for the mind and the body; but the next time you lace-up make sure you are maximize your results by pairing your runs with awesome nutrition! References: 1. http://www.eatright.org/resource/fitness/sports-and-performance/fueling-your-workout/top-snacks-for-....2.http://www.runnersworld.com/hydration-dehydration/prevent-dehydration-while-running3. Warburton DE, Nicol CW, Bredin SS. Health benefits of physical activity: The evidence. CMAJ. March 14, 2006; Vol 174: 6.  Picture Credit: 
The Return of Traditional Diets
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Since the early 1900's, new methods of production, processing, and preservation have drastically changed how people eat, especially in the United States. In a little over a century we have gone from eating foods with very few ingredients to foods that contain dozens of ingredients. This change from whole foods to highly processed foods has been paralleled by an increase in chronic diseases [1,2]. However, in recent years we have seen a resurgence in the interest of traditional diets. Traditional diets refers to those diets followed for thousands of years by indigenous populations around the world. Research has shown that individuals who follow a traditional diet have lower instances of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, obesity, and depression [2,3]. Some examples of Traditional Diets are the Ayurveda Diet (India) and the Mediterranean diet (circa 1960); however, traditional diets include the eating patterns of any indigenous people world wide [2,3]. Traditional diets are composed of the foods available to a population in the local environment and season. While the actually foods of each diet may vary widely by location, almost all traditional diets have major similarities that account for their beneficial effects on overall health [2,3].1. High in plants: Traditional diets are typically high in fresh plant foods including leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and root vegetables. Fresh plant foods are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals which are lost during processing and production.2. Include Fats: From olive oil and nuts to fresh fish, traditional diets include fats. Our bodies need fats (especially mono and polyunsaturated fats) to function correctly. Not getting enough fat in the diet can lead to decreased feelings of fullness (causing increased intake and weight gain), and increased risk of mental illness and depression [4]. 3. Protein: Almost all traditional diets include some form of animal protein.  Often, diets included a range of animal proteins from sources such as fish and other aquatic life, birds, eggs, some dairy, large game, reptiles, and insects. In addition, the majority of the animal was consumed, not just the large cuts of meat. 4. Mindfulness: Another component of traditional diets is a mindfulness and connection to food. Individuals are more aware of how the food was procured and therefore more mindful during eating. Many traditional diets (such as the Ayurveda diet) are closely related to spirituality and religion. A great emphasis is placed on the effects of eating, not just on the body but on the soul as well. Therefore, individuals may be less likely to eat past fullness or to waste food by eating too much at any one time. 5. Minimal Processing: While traditional diets rely on natural processing techniques such as smoking and fermentation to preserve foods, overall processing of food items is minimal. Foods are free from the plethora of added sugars, salts, fats, and chemicals seen in contemporary diets. It is important to consider that traditional diets are also associated with an overall higher level of daily activity and exercise which contributes to decreases in chronic disease [1-3]. Are you interested in switching to a more traditional diet? You don't have to follow a strict manual of what to eat and what not to eat. Seek out fresh fruits and vegetables and a variety of protein sources. Don't try to cut fat out of your diet but instead include an appropriate amount of healthy fats like those found in plant oils and seafood. Reduce your intake of overly processed items by checking the label. If an item has more than five ingredients you might want to select a less processed choice. On the most basic level, the return to traditional diets is a return to whole foods. References1- Popkin BM. Nutritional patterns and transitions. Population and Development Review. Vol 19, No 1; March 1993: 138-57.2- Willett WC, Sacks F, et al. Mediterranean diet pyramid: a cultural model for healthy eating. Am J Clin Nutr. Jun 1995; 61:1402s-1406s.3- Jacka FN, Pasco JA, et al. Association of Western and traditional diets with depression and anxiety in women. Am J Psychiatry. 2010; 167:1-74- Sathyanarayana Rao TS, Asha MR, et al. Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian J Psychiatry. 2008 Apr-Jun;50(20): 77-82Photo Credit: Harsha K R via www.flickr.com   
Nutrition and Mental Health
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Millions of Americans are  affected by mental illness [1]. From Depression and Anxiety Disorders to Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia, it's very likely that either you or someone you know is affected. Unfortunately treatment for these conditions often rely solely on pharmaceuticals and rarely take into account perhaps one of the most significant factors in prevention and treatment of mental illness: Nutrition. Mental illness and Nutrition are linked by many different routes including genetics, changes in societies and typical diets, food insecurity, antioxidant effects on damage to brain tissues, long term nutritional deficiencies, and nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood [2]. Ongoing research is providing strong evidence that nutrition has a huge impact on the prevention and treatment of many of the most prolific mental illnesses. Let's take a closer look at a few of the most well understood connections between nutrition and mental illness. Depression: One of the most common mental illnesses worldwide, Depression affects more than 350 million people [3]. Depression is typically characterized by loss of interest and productivity, increased sadness and anxiety, poor appetite, and depressed mood [2-4]. Multiple studies have shown that the diets of individuals diagnosed with Depression are typically deficient in many important nutrients including: essential vitamins, minerals, certain amino acids, and omega 3 Fatty acids. In addition, individuals with Depression frequently favor foods high in added sugars and fats which increase oxidative stress and damage to neurons and other brain tissues [2-4]. Interestingly, many of the common nutritional deficiencies seen in Depression are important elements in the healthy production and maintenance of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine [2-4]. Supplementation with these essential nutrients has been shown to significantly decrease symptoms and in many cases result in compete recovery [2-4]. In addition, diets high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fish have been shown to reduce the risk of Depression [3-4]. Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia: Another set of mental illnesses that affect millions of people worldwide are Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of Dementia. Frequently affecting older adults, Dementia impairs memory, the ability to complete daily tasks, thinking, and emotions. Most Dementias are progressive in nature. Middle-aged obesity has been shown to increase an individual's risk of Dementia as they age [2-4]. It is thought that poor diet choices high in added sugars and fats increase the oxidative stress and damage to brain tissues. In addition, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases can cause damage to the blood vessels of the brain and thus increase the risk of Dementia. Research in long term nutritional deficiencies indicates that Dementia in later life is frequently linked to a lifelong history of poor nutrition [2-4]. However, some Dementias are reversible and are the result of specific nutritional deficiencies such as Vitamin B 12 [5]. Elderly individuals are at increased risk for poor nutrition due to decreased appetite, inadequate access to food, and other risk factors. Therefore, it is important to rule out specific nutrient deficiencies during the diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease and other Dementias.   Schizophrenia and Schiozoaffective Disorders: Studying the victims of famines worldwide has long linked Schizophrenia and related mental diseases to poor nutrition and low caloric intake during pregnancy [6]. Now, new research is showing certain nutritional interventions may result in decreased symptoms for people diagnosed with Schizophrenia and related conditions [7]. Treatment is individualized but seeks to correct blood sugar problems caused by traditional pharmaceutical treatments, improving levels of essential fats, providing essential vitamins and minerals especially B6, B12, and zinc, increasing antioxidants, and diagnosing and treating any food allergies [6]. Many other areas of mental health are also being investigated for their connections with nutrition including: Attention Deficit Disorders, Hyperactivity, Bipolar, Seizure disorders, and many more. What we eat really does have a BIG effect on our bodies, and our minds! What can you do? The evidence is clear, eating a balanced healthy diet over a lifetime can help prevent the risk of some mental illnesses. Focus on eating whole foods whenever possible, avoid added fats and sugars, and get those fruits and vegetables! Maintaining a healthy weight is also important. Working with a Registered Dietitian is a great way to ensure you are meeting all your estimated nutritional needs and get help overcoming any challenges you may be facing with your weight. References: 1-http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers2-http://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Public/Nutrition-and-Mental-Health-1.aspx3-http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/99/1/181.long4-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3848350/5-http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/156816266-http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=497518&resultclick=17-http://www.foodforthebrain.org/media/485129/nutritional_interventions_for_the_adjunctive_treatment_o...  Photo Credit: HUSO via https://www.flickr.com/photos/hus0/