We wanted to learn more about Stacie Haaga, RD, CLT to find out how her passion for food started and why it's so important to her. Here she shares her history, her go-to recipe, and where you can can find her on weekends. We are inspired by her knowledge and can't wait to learn more from her in the coming weeks. Stacie has developed Eat Like A Girl Group Nutrition Program which will start on Wednesday, September 28th 2016 for an 8 week session.
Where did your passion for nutrition come from?
My passion for nutrition came from my passion for eating! I have always loved to eat and started cooking with my mom at a young age. I would often pretend that I was on a cooking show and then, when I was 16, I actually submitted a cooking video to Oprah - two seconds of it made it on her show! Fortunately, I did not let the fame go to my head and decided to study what I love- human nutrition, foods and exercise- as a student at Virginia Tech.
Tell us about one of the most challenging nutritional cases you have managed.
Each client presents a new challenge because no two clients are alike! Some people who come to me are just interested in cleaning up their diets and losing weight, but my most challenging clients present with one or more autoimmune disorders, including thyroid conditions, Celiac disease, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Irritable bowel disorders, asthma, eczema, arthritis, reflux, sinus infections, headaches, candida/yeast overgrowth, unexplained weight gain/loss, and chronic hives are typical symptoms that I see and help manage through nutrition therapy. I’ve also had a handful of Lyme disease patients that have found relief in working with me - that’s a real area of interest for me given the high incidence of Lyme disease in our area. I use an integrative approach - taking into account the whole mind and body - when working with clients and even the most challenging clients have seen improvements in their quality of life.
What are the some of the benefits of implementing better nutrition on a daily basis?
Food is medicine and good nutrition is really the foundation for good health. There are a lot of contributing factors to one’s health - genetics, environment, stress to name a few - that we don’t always have control over. But our diet is a factor we DO have control over so I think that eating well is a no-brainer as preventative medicine. Really, changing one’s diet is much less expensive than paying for prescription medications over the course of a lifetime! It can effectively manage so many chronic health conditions. I also think a nourishing diet gives you the energy to lead an active lifestyle - it’s essential for me to keep up with my kids! And it doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to be deprived in order to eat a healthy diet. I’m all about finding balance and enjoying food. It’s a great feeling to eat something really tasty that also makes you feel good and energized, not bloated and foggy.
How has proper nutrition affected the way your family eats?
As a new mother and dietitian, I was really frustrated that my first child was a picky eater and that meal time was always the worst time of the day. Somehow I thought my children would be different because of my background in nutrition! But, like a lot of families I work with, we had many battles over food. And then one day, I picked up a book on my shelf that I had read before I had kids called Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family by Ellyn Satter, RD, PhD and it changed our family meal dynamics. That was the start of our own “family meal revolution” - meal times were finally enjoyable! We continued to improve once removing refined sugar and processed foods from the house - the variety of foods we eat expanded and my kids took interest in the foods they were eating. They started to eat more, wanted to know more about food, wanted to help me in the kitchen, and despite discovering some food sensitivities along the way, they now have a really healthy relationship with food.
What is your favorite go-to recipe for your family?
We love lettuce wraps! I generally don’t follow recipes unless I’m baking so when I make lettuce wraps, I use what I have on hand - pureed/small diced veggies and ground beef/chicken/turkey. Then I add seasonings depending on the mood. So maybe some Mexican flavors like salsa, cumin, oregano, and a little cocoa powder, or we’ll go with Asian using tamari (gluten free soy sauce), lime, ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, maple syrup and peanut butter. Then we wrap the filling with some butter lettuce leaves or eat it with a fork. The kids go to town! Then we finish up with some banana “ice cream” - I blend frozen bananas and coconut milk with cocoa, strawberries, maple syrup or vanilla, depending on what flavor the kids want. It’s such an easy, healthy treat!
Where can we find you on the weekends?
In my yard. I’m usually doing the “original HIIT” that involves moving mulch, pulling weeds and digging in the dirt! Five years ago I knew nothing about gardening but now, I love the exhausted but content feeling I have after a day spent working in the sun and having something beautiful to look at as result. We follow yard work with pizza night and a kids movie - my husband makes the grain-free pizza crust and homemade sauce, then we sit on the floor to watch the movie while we eat. It’s something we all look forward to and is a nice change of pace from our usual meals at the kitchen table.