Every question you’ve had for a dietitian, answered

Meet Chandler Ray, a registered dietitian of three years from Pennsylvania State University. Chandler has been passionate about all things health and wellness ever since she was young.

In high school she began to notice how the foods she ate affected her both mentally and physically. She always considered herself an active person, and started to realize she could perform better when her body was properly fueled.

Going into school, she was lucky enough to know exactly what she wanted to pursue, a career in nutrition. After graduating from PSU with a bachelor’s in nutritional science, she studied as a dietetic intern at the University of Maryland with an emphasis in nutrition informatics.

Once she fulfilled her dream of becoming a licensed dietitian she set off on a three month journey through Southeast Asia and Tokyo.

Upon returning from her trip, she moved to the California (she’s a born and raised East Coast girl) to begin her career. She also started her Instagram account @my_garden_bowl around that same to share healthy recipes and hopefully encourage others to live a healthy, more balanced lifestyle.

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Chandler’s Instagram account is a force to be reckoned with. With nearly 27 thousand followers, and growing every day, she manages and creates content daily. After visiting her page for the first time, I was captured by the images she takes all herself!

Aside from it being the prettiest foodie account I follow it’s also the most useful and realistic. With most Instagram foodies I feel like they’re always out to eat, or preparing food at home with outrageous and expensive food items.

I always find myself saving Chandler’s posts because the recipes are SO easy and look SO delicious!

She does a phenomenal job breaking down the recipes down to the inner workings. She usually starts off by giving the name of every food item, and where she bought it from. Then she gives a step-by-step guide including seasonings and preparations for each dish.

And I’m not talking just quick and easy lunch, she gives full recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, desserts, meal prep, and even some party favor foods.

Not to mention, all of her recipes save you so much money! She shops organic and fresh, but for a fraction of the price.

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Where do you get your inspiration for the food you make? 

“I get a lot inspiration from other foodies! There are so many bloggers and instagrammers posting amazing recipes daily. I also like that Insta is so visual. I can just scroll through my feed and get inspiration from the photos alone.

I also get a lot of inspiration from traveling and trying new cuisines. I spent several months backpacking throughout South East Asia and fell in love with the food. Asian food (especially Thai!) is my absolute favorite and I often recreate the meals I had during my travels.”

Do you ever fall off the healthy bandwagon? And how do you get back on?

“Personally, I focus on eating intuitively and listening to what my body wants. If I’m craving fries or ice cream, I have it! I don’t beat myself up about it because I know the majority of the foods I eat are wholesome and made with real ingredients.

I don’t stress about eating clean or organic 100% of the time, because strictness can get in the way of enjoying your life and for some lead to unhealthy eating behaviors.”

What do you think the best time for exercise is?

“In my opinion, there is no “best” time for exercise. The most important thing is that you find/make time and you do it on a consistent basis.

I personally prefer to work out early in the morning, but that’s what works best for me and with my schedule. Do what works best for you and try to stick with it!”

What’s your take on the intermittent fasting trend?

“I don’t normally recommend intermittent fasting to my clients, especially for people who have a history of eating disorders or problems with blood sugar control. Restricting food for extended periods of time can prevent people from tuning into their natural feeling of hunger/fullness and sometimes, lead to overeating.

It can also be hard to follow and not sustainable for the long term. However, if IF is something you are interested in doing, I would recommend seeing an RD first so they can create a successful and safe plan tailored to your dietary needs.”

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What do you think the most underrated healthy food is? 

“Hmm.. that’s a hard one. One thing that comes to mind it seaweed salad… it’s seriously one of my favorite foods but can be difficult to find unless you’re at a sushi restaurant or certain markets like Whole Foods.

Seaweed is packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that have significant anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits.”

What do you think the best focus/mood improvement foods are?

“Having a cup of coffee in the morning (for me personally) always improves my mood and helps me focus. I also love adding Bulletproof brain octane MCT oil and maca powder to my coffee for natural energy and taste.

Matcha green tea is another great option if you are more sensitive to caffeine. Omega-3 Fatty acids like wild caught salmon, hemp seeds, and chia seeds and antioxidant rich foods like berries are also great foods for brain health.”

How bad is alcohol for you?

“We all know alcohol is definitely not good for you. Alcohol is hard on our livers and can cause blood sugar issues, inflammation, and many other health conditions. If you’re trying to lose weight or address certain health issues, it may be a good idea to cut back on alcohol or eliminate it all together.

However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a few drinks here and there if it’s something you enjoy and it doesn’t interfere with your health goals. Just try and stay away from the sugary drinks packed with artificial ingredients… that goes for nonalcoholic drinks as well!”

How many times a day do you eat? 

“It’s different every day! I’m definitely more of a “three meals a day” type eater versus an all day grazer or frequent snacker. I always have to have a satisfying breakfast, lunch and dinner!

However, depending on the day- how hungry I am, how much I exercised, if it’s the work week or the weekend, etc. – I may eat more or less.”

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What are some of your favorite easy to make snacks/ cheap snacks that hold you over?

“My go-to snacks a majority of the time involve nut butter, homemade hummus (cheaper than store-bought), or avocado paired with raw veggies, seasonal fresh fruit, whole grain crackers or rice cakes.

I’m also obsessed with roasted chickpeas- I just toss them with a little olive oil and some spices, then roast in the oven until crispy. For my sweet tooth, I love plain greek yogurt mixed with pumpkin puree and cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice and topped with berries or cereal.”

What’s your focus in nutrition?

“My current focus in nutrition is nutrigenomics, which is the study of how individual genes influence our body’s response to diet and nutrition. With recent scientific advances, we are now able to understand how genes affect metabolism, food reactions, nutritional needs, and even eating behaviors utilizing genetic testing.

I give health care practitioners and patients recommendations on exercise, nutrition and lifestyle tailored to his or her genetic makeup. ”

What’s your top 5 tips to those looking to improve their diet and eating habits?

  1. “Avoid processed, junk food and eat whole, real food instead.
  2. Fill up on colorful veggies. Aim for at least half your plate to be vegetables.
  3. Replace saturated fats and trans fats with healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts and fatty fish like salmon and tuna.
  4. Don’t fear carbs! Complex carbs are a great source of fuel for our bodies. Aim for fiber-rich whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes.
  5. Drinks lots of water!”

What do you eat/drink as a natural remedy?

“I start almost every morning a big glass of water mixed with apple cider vinegar, lemon and turmeric. It boosts my metabolism and gets my digestion going first thing in the morning.

The turmeric also provides anti-inflammatory benefits and is full of antioxidants.”

What are your favorite places to shop for your groceries, do you have a number of places?

“If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know by now that I am obsessed with Trader Joe’s! TJ”s is one of the best spots to find staple healthy products at low prices.

I also stock up on fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market every Sunday. I am fortunate to live in California where there is an abundance of locally grown produce and products.”

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What’s your most common complaint you see in patients and how do you help it?

“The most common complaint I get from patients is being able to maintain a healthy weight and/or diet. I advise my patients to avoid ‘diets’ and to develop healthy eating habits they can maintain for a lifetime.

Strict diets can be used temporarily to lose weight but don’t often work for the long term. The key is to focus on food quality (real, whole foods), not calories.”

Now that’s a philosophy I can get behind!

You can follow or contact Chandler via:

Instagram: @my_garden_bowl

e-mail: mygardenbowl@gmail.com

Photos courtesy of Chandler

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