Chicken and broccoli with peanut sauce

This tasty meal is gluten free, dairy free, sugar and flour free, and anti-inflammatory! My kids love it, as does David!


2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp green onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, diced

1 Tbsp jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and diced

2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger

2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into bite size pieces

4 cups broccoli, washed and cut into bite size pieces


1/3 cup natural peanut butter

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp honey

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add green onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno. Saute for 2 minutes. Add chicken breast. Saute chicken breast until cooked through – 8-10 minutes.

Add broccoli. Cover pan with lid, reduce heat, and cook 5-7 minutes until broccoli is crisp-tender.

Whisk sauce ingredients together in a separate bowl. Pour into pan with chicken and broccoli. Remove from heat. Stir until coated. Serve over brown rice.

anti-inflammatory diet

Post Anti-Inflammatory Diet – Week 2

David and Betsy have anti-inflammatory updates for you! Seems like they need to back-pedal on the splurges a bit to get the full benefit of anti-inflammation! They are still searching for the proverbial line, and will continue to keep you posted.

David and Betsy have updates for you! Seems like they need to back-pedal on the splurges a bit to get the full benefit of anti-inflammation! They are still searching for the proverbial line, and will continue to keep you posted.

And Betsy is thinking about next steps. What would you like to see and hear? What would help you in your journey? Let her know!

Don’t miss the future of “Your Healthy Family Starts with YOU!”

anti-inflammatory diet

Anti-Inflammatory Diet – 8 Days Later

Hey anti-inflammatory diet fans… Did you miss us? We’re back!

Tune in as David and Betsy give a brief update on how they’re eating and feeling 8 days after ending the anti-inflammatory diet!

What happened when David added back pizza? What is Betsy’s biggest struggle? We doubt you will be surprised. 🙂

Are you interested in joining our anti-inflammatory community? Betsy will be adding people who have commented or interacted during the anti-inflammatory diet journey! Feel free to ignore if you’re not interested, but also feel free to add other people who you think would enjoy being part of the ongoing quest to feel our best!

anti-inflammatory diet

Anti-Inflammatory Diet – David’s Perspective

After a month on the anti-inflammatory diet, David reflects on how he feels and how the whole diet experiment has gone. He now knows firsthand what it’s like to be a patient of his wife, Chicago’s Northsore pediatric dietitian, Betsy Hjelmgren.

“I’m in!”

Admittedly, I hadn’t thought it through.  I’d just decided that I was in, a surprisingly casual response from an otherwise circumspect middle aged suburban dad. I’d long been aware that these jeans had been tightening and that I hadn’t been feeling healthy. Injuries had replaced exercise. A month later I’m shocked I’d made that initial commitment.

I needed a “reset.”  And I knew it.

But what the hell is the anti-inflammatory diet?  

If there’s one thing I know, my wife Betsy is smart. Twenty years of wedded bliss have taught me that when it comes to nutrition, diet, or anything related to food that to her I defer.  

Betsy made an audacious claim that my diet could be impacting how my joints felt.  What? For years I have had aches and pains. My knees hurt. My back hurts. Years of athletic game play had created a perennial state of ache.  

But I don’t diet. I just don’t. That’s for other people.  

Growing up, I knew to eat fruits and vegetables. I knew to avoid “junk food,” limit soda and steer clear of processed foods. Logically, I’d always made the connection between food and weight. I viewed my weight as a sign of my overall health. It never really occurred to me to consider what role the actual food I was consuming was playing. I figured if I stayed active and avoided too much junk food, I’d be fine.

During our first “vlog” my eyes opened wide. Betsy made it abundantly clear what this diet was going to entail.  Half of the foods I love were banned. How was I going to do this? No flour. No sugar. No Omega 6 oils (what the hell is an Omega 6). Avoid processed foods. It didn’t really dawn on me what I was getting into. I was skeptical. But I was in. I can do anything I put my mind to. But, in layman’s terms this came to mean…

  • No cereal (other than Cheerios)
  • No soda
  • No chips
  • No bread
  • No pizza
  • No ice cream.
  • No cakes, pies, candies.

What the hell?!

Anyone who gets to truly know Betsy knows that if you are all in with her, she’s all in with you.  When she knows someone is counting on her, she comes through every single time. This was going to be difficult. But we were doing this together.

Betsy acknowledged that current research about the anti-inflammatory diet is not conclusive.  There’s a grey area when it comes to what is allowed and what’s banned regarding this diet. Betsy allowed small amounts of honey and the aforementioned Cheerios. Had she not, I’m not sure I would have made it through the month.

Was I perfect during August?  No. A couple of times Betsy corrected me for eating something I shouldn’t have. Who knew that BBQ sauce would get the banhammer?  I freely admit that a couple of times I knowingly dribbled a little ketchup (contains sugar) on my hash browns. One night I also snitched two fries from Alyssa. Other than that, my conscience is clean. I needed to be imperfect. I know myself, and had I been completely obsessive about this diet, there would be little chance of long term success. If I am going to suffer through a month of this, there had to be a long term benefit. 99.9% compliance would have to do.

The lessons I learned were many.

Without question, I have developed a fundamental appreciation and high level of empathy for any human being required to go on ANY sort of restrictive diet.  THIS. IS. HARD.  

I eat too much. My calorie consumption has always focused on the wrong things. It’s not just about a few late night oreos or an extra serving of chips at lunch. Stuff I thought was ok like granola bars and fruit snacks are processed and unnecessary. Historically, I’ve tended to fill up on foods that serve only as filler and offer little nutritional value. This had to change.

Now that I have hit the month-long reset button, the big question remains…  How will this play out moving forward? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s easy to say that I will most certainly continue with many of my new “good habits.”  I would love to say that I am always going to substitute fresh fruit for pancakes and syrup, but I am not sure that’s wholly realistic. The thing is, I don’t miss a lot of the foods I haven’t eaten this month. I don’t think it will be difficult to eliminate soda from my general diet. I don’t think it will be difficult to eliminate most sweets. I am hopeful that I can limit my intake of processed foods to perhaps a third of what they used to be.  

Although Betsy argues that this was not about weight loss, for me it certainly was.  My goal weight is 198 pounds. On August 1, I tipped the scale at 218 pounds. On August 31st, it read 209.5 pounds. I’m very happy about this, especially since I haven’t been able to do more than walk all month due to a knee injury suffered ironically on August 1st. 

The big question remains, do I feel less inflamed? Has the diet had a noticeably positive impact outside of the aforementioned weight loss?  

The answer is a resounding YES.

About 4 weeks into the diet, I realized that I had not been lethargic for almost the entirety of the month. August had been completely void of that typical late afternoon malaise. Perhaps this is because I haven’t been eating a lot of sugar, I can’t be sure…  but there was a noticeable and legitimate improvement. There have been little to no early/late afternoon slumps. Without question, I feel better. I actually feel healthy.

But what about the inflammation?  Within 10 days my back felt noticeably better. Granted, I did have to take a 5 day dose of Prednisone during the middle of the month for unrelated reasons, but that was after I had already noticed an improvement. Did the arthritis in my right knee disappear?  No. But my general health and well being is noticeably improved this month. I have a “pep in my step” that I hadn’t felt in many months – maybe years.  

Who’s this diet for?

Would I recommend this level of a restrictive diet for just anyone?  No, not directly. It’s WAY too restrictive, and no offense, only I have unfettered access to Betsy.  But I do think that anyone can learn from our experiences and make noticeable and simple changes to their eating habits and lifestyle.

It’s easy to eliminate soda.  

It’s easy to eliminate chips and other non-essential junk foods.  

It’s easy to limit the sweets.  

It’s easy to reduce bread intake by having open faced sandwiches.  

It’s easy to substitute ground chicken for ground beef.  

It’s easy to eat a piece of fruit instead of a baggie of fruit snacks. 

While it’s definitely NOT easy – for me – to eliminate pizza for a month, the fact is that I DID eliminate pizza for an entire month.  And if I can eliminate pizza for a month from my diet, anyone reading this can eliminate anything from theirs. The restrictiveness of this diet has reminded me what it means to be healthy and has inspired me to make changes that benefit my long term health.  

Looking ahead, on September 2nd I plan to begin a slightly less strict version of the anti-inflammatory diet.  Why? Because I feel good and I don’t want that to end. My joints DO feel marginally better, and by sticking with this to a certain degree I believe I will lose another 10 pounds by the end of the calendar year. Ten less pounds on these knees can only help.

As for September 1st?  Pizza. That day is reserved  for copious amounts of glorious pizza.  


anti-inflammatory diet

Anti-Inflammatory Diet – Day 31

I have a long list of aches and pains. The first significant issue began the last time I edited a chapter of the Nutrition Care Manual for the (former) American Dietetic Association, which must have been around 2009. I remember noticing, after hours of sitting in the office chair, that it hurt. What exactly? I wasn’t sure.

Breakfast –

  • Coffee with half-and-half
  • Oatmeal with cinnamon, pecans and raisins
  • Mixed berries and cottage cheese

Lunch –

  • Omega-3 trail mix (lots)
  • Apple
  • Cheese

Dinner –

  • Chicken and veggie kebabs
  • Brown rice
  • Watermelon
  • Red wine

Snacks –

  • Dark chocolate, 78% cocoa

Totals –

  • Betsy – 2,565 calories, 106g protein
anti-inflammatory diet

Anti-Inflammatory Diet – Commencement

Join Chicago-area pediatric dietitian Betsy Hjelmgren and her husband, David, as they venture on their own nutrition journey this August. Their vlog contains all the laughs, fun banter and tips you would expect from a great couple attempting a restrictive diet rollercoaster. Tune in as Betsy learns to truly appreciate the difficulties clients and families face when embarking on a new diet with nothing but a few handouts and some encouragement from others!

I have a long list of aches and pain. The first significant issue began the last time I edited a chapter of the Nutrition Care Manual for the (formerly) American Dietetic Association, because I remember noticing after hours of sitting in the office chair at the old house, that it hurt. What exactly hurt? I wasn’t sure. But it was in the area of my lower back, right side, and sometimes it seemed to radiate to the hip. That was about 2009.

In 2008, my youngest child was born. Amidst a huge crisis of what I perceived as multiple near-death experiences, I developed an auto-immune bleeding disorder that first appeared when I was about 7 months pregnant, and led to me nearly bleeding out during delivery, and again three weeks later when the scare presumably came off the cauterized end of my uterine artery. Does that have anything to do with the aches and pains? Probably not. But after several weeks of steroids and several units of transfused donor blood, who knows.

Regardless. Fast-forward a year, and my lower right back and hip hurt.

That began a decision tree. It went like this (and usually still does): maybe I should take a break from running. No. Maybe I should see a doctor. No. Maybe it will get better on its own. I was young. Only 34. But time passed, and it didn’t get better. So eventually I saw my primary doctor. She ordered an x-ray, and diagnosed Degenerative Disc Disease – DDD – D3 – arthritis in the spine.

So I decided I would avoid movements that worsened the pain, but keep on with my everyday life, since there was nothing much that could be done about it.

Well, the pain slowly worsened. And time passed. One day in 2013, as I was driving around seeing patients, I noticed that I kept reclining my seat further and further in the car to straighten my hip. But nothing I did made it more comfortable. So finally, I set out to see a specialist about the lower right back pain. After an MRI, it was determined that my labrum (hip cartilage), was torn and needed to be repaired. So in May 2013, I had that hip scoped and repaired. And then I was 60% better. Not satisfied with that outcome, I found an amazing physical therapist and began also treating the DDD. By fall 2014, 1 1/2 years post-surgery, I felt pretty good.

I worked my way back into a rigorous exercise routine, running, lifting weights, taking classes at the gym. And I decided 3 years later that I wanted to run a marathon – something I had done in my 20’s, and swore to myself I would repeat. But as I increased running, other things began to hurt. So I decided, in 2018, I’d run a half-marathon instead and see how that went.

As 2018 began, I started training. I increased running mileage, kept doing classes at the gym and weights for strength. But in June, I started hurting again; now in the right elbow and left ankle. I saw OT and PT. Had therapy for tendinitis in the ankle and elbow both, and began improving. But it wasn’t enough. So I pulled out of the half-marathon plan 6 weeks before the race, cut back on running to rest the ankle, and quit the classes at the gym and my beloved Jillian Michales DVD workouts.

Slow as molasses, the tendinitis improved. I began lifting some free weights again, using much lighter weights. One day in April 2019, I woke up and my shoulder hurt like hell. I could barely tolerate my arm hanging freely at my side. I waited two weeks to see if it would improve, but when the pain began keeping me up at night, I called a specialist. He diagnosed synovitis – inflammation of the joint fluid in my shoulder. He prescribed steroids, which made me feel better everywhere! For 10 days. But once they were out of my system, the pain returned. Plus new pain – tendinitis in the other elbow.

A friend suggested maybe I had low pain tolerance. However, seeing that I’d given birth to a 9 pound baby three hours after the epidural wore off, I assured him I had a grasp on pain and its severity.

And I do have a strong family history of arthritis.

But I was having inflammation everywhere, chronically, in new places and often after no apparent cause.

Something had to change.

Now I admit, I’m a health nut. I’ve been a dietitian for 20 years, and I live and breathe healthy eating and exercise. So what was I doing wrong?

I dove into the research on inflammation. It appears as if there are two sides to inflammation when it comes to diet: foods that increase inflammation (avoid these); and foods that decrease inflammation (so add more). And there were many opinions about which foods belong in which category.

I started noticing patterns – The SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) for inflammatory bowel disease – lots of fruits and vegetables, no added sugar or grains. The Mediterranean diet to decrease heart disease and inflammation of the cardiovascular system – lots of fruits and vegetables, fish, and low sugar. The Paleo diet – no processed foods – thus lots of fruits and vegetables, no flour or sugar. And so on and so forth.

What seemed to be a common thread here is that diets high in fruits and vegetables , which limit or eliminate processed foods, tend to produce healthy results. And as David says, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

So based on some of the current studies on diet and inflammation, it struck me. I’m the perfect candidate to try this. But I didn’t want to.

David had been talking about his own aches and pains, as well as his rising BMI. And he was debating if he was going to make some dietary changes.

So one day, driving home from a visit to the lake in Wisconsin, I said to him “I have an idea” and presented this proposal: “Let’s go for one month start to finish, avoiding inflammatory foods and adding anti-inflammatory foods.” He said “Let me think about that.” And four hours later, it was on.

Based on what I was reading, I made some guidelines:

YES to:

  • Fish 1-3x/week
  • Added turmeric and fish oil supplements
  • Oils low in omega-6 (olive, avocado)
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains (but no wheat)
  • Lean and vegetarian proteins (poultry, nuts, seeds, legumes)
  • Dairy, but only unsweetened
  • Red wine – 5-10 oz/day
  • Dark chocolate – 70% or more cocoa

NO to:

  • Added sugar or sweetener of any kind
  • Flour or refined grains
  • Wheat
  • Omega-6 high oils (safflower, sunflower, soybean, cannola, corn)
  • Sweet drinks including juice
  • Processed meats
  • Red meat allowed maximum once a week

So we started this on August 1, 2019.

Some things were particularly difficult, including:

  • eating enough food – especially carbohydrates, and especially on work-out days
  • exercise when I hadn’t eaten enough carbs
  • meals when I was in a hurry – not having convenience items to grab
  • cooking from scratch on late nights that I worked
  • not being able to eat my favorite foods – especially in social situations
  • not having bread as a vehicle for my peanut butter

But we learned that even though we generally eat pretty healthy – or so we thought – there are added sweeteners and sugars in everything! And omega-6 rich oils, that I assumed were okay because they weren’t saturated fats – were also EVERYWHERE! Even things that I had previously counted as healthy were no longer options, such as Triscuits, Raisin Bran and fruited Greek yogurts.

So here’s what happened. Within the first couple weeks, nothing. But I did notice that my skin looked nice. I also noticed that digestively, I felt great. No reflux, no constipation, no indigestion. But other that that, it was a lot of work for not a lot of results. But by the 3rd week, I noticed that my aches and pains were decreasing. And by the end of the month, my pain was about 80% reduced, especially in arthritic places. However, considering the amount of effort required to get to feeling 80% better, I started thinking – how much wiggle room is there to eat more freely, but still see results?

I don’t know where that line is.

So, tomorrow we will begin making some slow additions. For me, I am adding back sprouted grain bread and whole wheat pasta first. I need something for my peanut butter, and a way to carbo load before a big run.

But I’m keeping the weekly fish, dark chocolate, red wine, and fruits and veggies.

I am continuing to avoid added sugar and sweeteners, but I will allow myself to have dessert once a week because, well, I love ice cream and I want that pleasure.

Red meat? I don’t really care about it. I will eat it if someone serves it, but I don’t plan to really go out of my way for it.

Refined white flour and the omega-6 oils are out for good.

And why not continue the supplements? That’s easy.

So we will report back to you. In a month. And then continue to periodically bring you updates.

Thank you for your support and encouragement! It has been a valuable experience.

Send your anti-inflammatory diet or any pediatric nutrition questions or comments our way! Let’s chat!