Put Your Best Fork Forward

In some parts of the country the trees and daffodils are blooming and some are still under a blanket of snow. No matter what, the calendar has turned a page and it is March. March is National Nutrition Month. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the nutrition experts (it’s members) celebrate the whole month bringing emphasis to nutrition everywhere. This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”.

nnm17_socialmedia_nnm-graphicClick on the link above and learn many simple ways to make your meals healthier. Learn how to read and make sense of the new Nutritional Facts Label on the foods, or  how to julienne vegetables. There are videos, recipes and even a way to find an expert near you. Getting personalized nutritional coaching is essential to prevent or delay the onset of chronic illnesses. If you have already been diagnosed with a chronic condition, call a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist today to help you manage it with best, evidence-based scientific knowledge.

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can translate the science into practical tips that you can make part of your lifestyle and sustain for long term. There is no one diet that fits all. Fad diets come and go. Most fad diets are just that; fads! If you are looking to improve your health and wellbeing consult a health care provider who is specifically trained to do so: a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist! Many states have licensure of nutrition professionals to ensure public safety. Wouldn’t you want your health care provider to be licensed?

North Carolina has licensure and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who are licensed to practice Medical Nutrition Therapy have a Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (LDN) credential. Look for it when you consider getting help with your diet! You want to put your best fork forward, today and everyday.



Win over the cravings

We have all been there. You crave something and go in search for it. A lot of times it is the “sweet tooth” directing the cravings and the search. It could be after a meal or mid afternoon snack time or even late at night.

Over the years of practice and experience from my clients I have narrowed the “win” over the cravings in just 3 simple strategies. Depending on when and where you can choose what fits best.

  1. Chewing Gum/Mint: Simply popping one in your mouth after lunch or dinner will change the feeling in your mouth and take your mind off the sweet tooth. mintgumEspecially after a spicy (Thai/Indian) meal, cool water followed by a mint works wonders. If you happen to be in a restaurant, and the dessert menu appears, it gives you some time  to think about it. Don’t even open that menu! Stock up on your favorite flavor of the gum or mints. Keep one in every purse and at your desk.
  2. Water: Drink plenty of water all day long. Especially after a meal to change the taste in your mouth. It also helps clean some leftover food particles from your teeth and gums. Cold water helps to calm your palate after hot, spicy foods. Warm water (plain or flavored with lemon, lime or herbal tea) is a great between meals to quench the snack desire. Go ahead put on that kettle and make yourself some calming tea!
  3. Brush your teeth after every meal. Want to reduce the urge to eat something more? Brushing immediately after a meal has the same effect of eating a mint but lasts longer. toothbrushpasteThe fresh, clean feel in your mouth will help you keep the sweet craving at bay. If carrying a toothbrush and paste around is not an option, think of the little finger brushes and travel size toothpaste you can tuck away. It also gives you an excuse to walk away from the table and keep some distance between you and the food.

Pick the strategy that works best for the occasion, place and your liking. The most important part is “self control” and these are just the tools to help along. Once you exercise the control, you will feel empowered and likely do it again. You can win over the cravings.

Matters of Heart

Besides Valentine’s Day, February also remind of other matters of heart. February is also American Heart Month. It is a great time to remind us of the resolutions we may have set last month or commit to a heart healthy lifestyle beginning now.

About 1 in every  4 deaths in the US is caused by heart disease and it is the leading cause of death for men and women according to the Centers for Disease Control. The American Heart Association has created a movement, Healthy for Good,  to inspire lasting change in your life. The key is to do it one step at a time, slow and steady.

Here are some simple steps to consider.

  1. Eat a rainbow of colors. You have heard this before. The more colors on your plate the more nutritious your meal. SuperFoods1Most colorful foods are fruits and vegetables. By making at least half your plate full of colorful fruits and vegetables you are not only increasing your antioxidant intake but also making the meal appealing to your sense of sight. Deep and dark colors, such as dark leafy greens, beets, tomatoes, asparagus, carrots, oranges, berries are the nutritious bunch.
  2. Make educated choices. Learn about good sources of energy, protein, good fat, vitamins and minerals. Whole grains, lean protein (skinless poultry, fish, beans and nuts), unsaturated fats (olive oil, peanut oil, avocados), fruits and vegetables are still the foundation of a heart healthy diet. Learn some basic skills of cooking. Read labels. Even when you eat out ask for the nutritional information of meals. Make the best choice you can.
  3. Be mindful. Slow down. Breath. Sit down to eat your meals. Eat meals away from your desk. Focus on the mealtime and don’t multitask. Being mindful of the sight, smell, texture and taste of your meal will make it more satisfying. Enjoy every bite!
  4. Move, move and move. Move until you can’t! Well, almost. Make a plan to intentionally engage in some exercise every day. runnerstretchingThere are guidelines of making it at least 150 minutes a week but don’t stress over it. Just get started! Even if it is starting to walk the dog. You can split the daily exercise into multiple times. You don’t have to do it all at once. Just do it!
  5. Enjoy life. While eating better, moving more, learning a new skill and being more mindful don’t forget to enjoy life! What do you love to do? What is your favorite way to spend time with family, with yourself? Make time for the joyful moments in your life. sunsetyogaYour personal relationships give far more contentment than reaching any other goal (weight loss, running a marathon, climbing mountains, earning a large salary etc.). Spend time with your loved ones and enjoy life! Your heart will thank you.

“Super”Bowl: You can be the winner

Can’t believe it is February already! And the Super Bowl is almost here. No matter which teams are playing the game; most folks have a SuperBowl event planned. You know the deal: pizza, beer, nachos, seven-layer dip, chips, loaded potato skins etc. etc.

Well, my famisuperbowlly is no different in that we always participate in the SuperBowl party. It is fun to spend a cold February Sunday with friends. Where we differ is what we offer to bring to the party and what we do before and at the party. My best friend makes incredible homemade Chicago-style pizzas. The very first year I attended a SuperBowl party there I just looked at the pizza and I knew it would not be something I could eat (size & ingredients I usually don’t consume). I do love the party atmosphere.

So here are my tricks to get through the SuperBowl party:

  • Eat a small meal or a snack before going to the party. This way my tastebuds don’t take over when I arrive at the party. I can resist the chips and nachos or settle for just a taste.
  • Bring a large salad for the crowd. All guests bring something anyway and I always offer to bring a salad. That way I can be sure that I can load my plate with the salad and still have a little room for pizza.salad-and-water-1024x683
  • Drink a glass of water alongside your favorite drink. Whether it is a beer or wine, always accompany it with water. It helps slow down the guzzling and keeps you hydrated. Drink a glass of water for each can of beer or glass of wine.
  • Ask for an alternative. Since the host is my best friend, I just ask her for a veggie pizza or even just a cheese pizza. That way I don’t have to eat the ingredients I don;t want to and can still enjoy.
  • Leave at Half-Time. I know this may sound weird. Dessert is usually coming out at halftime and if I am getting ready to head out the door, I can avoid it or take a bite and leave before being tempted for more. Most of the times by half-time the result of the game becomes clear and it is late enough that I want to be home to be in bed on time. After all the next day is a workday.

I can always come away as the winner at every SuperBowl knowing that I did not ruin my healthy eating plan. Plus I wake up with no bloating or discomfort the next day. You can be a winner too at this SuperBowl.

Snack attack

Almost every day there are times when I am hungry but don’t really want a whole meal. This generally occurs mid-morning and especially mid-afternoon around 4 pm. Our bodies have a natural cycle and eating every 4 hours meets the needs. For those who are early risers and thus eat their breakfast early in the morning, naturally their bodies are ready for more fuel by mid-morning, others not so much. Most people find the mid-afternoon snack time the most challenging, including me unless I plan for it.

Depending on where I will be at that mid-afternoon snack time dictates what I eat. Especially if I am going to be out and about, I want to have my snack with me. Otherwise this snack attack will take me straight to a coffee shop for pastry. That pastry will definitely give the “pick me up” calories but I know it won’t last. Not to mention all of those calories will come from refined grains, sugar and fat. To avoid giving in to such impulse snacks planning is key.

Here are some snacks I plan:

  1. A granola/cereal bar: as a snack I want to make sure it has 200 calorkindbarsies  or less, some protein and some fiber. Some my favorites are Kind (nut and spice ones), Lara Bars and even the Nature’s Path Macaroon Crunch.
  2. An apple and some nuts (fistful) or low-fat cheese stick: a no-prep snack that is easy to carry and delivers the right crunch, taste and nutrients.
  3. Dried Apricots and Almonds: a snack-bag size zipped bag works perfect to tote these around. A serving would be 4 apricots and a fistful of almonds.
  4. Lightly salted cashews (fistful) and 2 dates: Again, a wonderful mix of taste, texture and nutrients.
  5. Greek Yogurt: Especially if there is refrigeration available, keeping greek yogurt handy is so easy. siggisorangegingerThere are lots of flavors and it lasts a while if you don’t happen to eat it right away. My favorite is Siggi’s Orange Ginger or just plain vanilla.
  6. Need something warm? A mocha using skim milk does the trick. Sip away and enjoy the warmth.coloredpeppersticks
  7. Cut up colored peppers and take some along with low fat cheese stick or light spreadable cheese wedges. They are so handy!
  8. Keeping a jar of nut-butter around is also helpful as it can be paired witappleandnutbutterh fruit or vegetables. I love the combination of apple and peanut butter.
  9. Boiled eggs can also make an easy snack. I keep them unpeeled so they are easy to tote around. Pair them with a few Triscuit crackers to add a variety of texture and taste.
  10. When it comes to vegetables my personasugarsnappeasl favorites are sugar snap peas and edamame. Fresh sugar snap peas don’t much prep other than washing. Edamame is available frozen, either whole bean pods or shelled beans. Either way a minute in the microwave oven and you have a snack ready.

Be prepared for the snack attacks. Expect them. It’s natural.

We all scream for…

Last weekend we were celebrating my husband’s birthday. His favorite Blueberry Pie was on the menu. Blueberry Pie is best when served warm with simple vanilla ice cream. I am not a person who will buy ice cream routinely but for special occasions I give in. Especially when I know that there will be enough people to eat it up and there will not be any or much leftover in my fridge.

So I make sure to add it to my grocery list. When at the grocery store, I start looking at all the Vanilla Ice Cream possibilities. It was mind boggling. When did so many ice cream or ice cream-like items take up an entire aisle of the store? Anyway, I was looking for the simplest. Just Vanilla Ice Cream! Well, so I thought. That did not simplify my task. So what does a Registered Dietitian do? Check out all the Nutrition facts labels, including the ingredient lists. You may be surprised to know that ice cream can contain a lot more than milk, cream, sugar and vanilla.

Here’s what I found. There were three different kind of “Vanilla” in just one brand. French, Natural and Homemade Vanilla. Let’s take a look at each one.

Here’s French Vanilla. I personally like to see the specks of Vanilla Bean so I am not a fan of French Vanilla. I wanted to check it out anyway for the nutritional facts.

With claims of no hormones and gluten free, it seems promising. Check out the ingredient list: corn syrup, egg yolk, rum, gums, natural flavors and so on. What is “Natural Flavor” anyway?

And here is Homemade Vanilla. It says “It’s how homemade should taste”. Let’s see if the ingredients are what would be in a homemade recipe.

In addition to the milk, cream and sugar there’s also corn syrup, egg yolk and gums. I can see egg yolks in a homemade recipe but I would definitely not consider corn syrup.

Then there’s Natural Vanilla, with great claim of No Artificial Growth Hormones. And I have to flip it to see the ingredients. The front of the box claims “made with fresh cream, sugar and milk”.

The ingredients list has a few more like vanilla bean, natural flavor, tara gum and natural vanilla flavor. This is the only one I found with the least umber of additives. Looks like a good choice for the day. I did not have the patience to check out all other brands in the freezer.

You get the idea. Check out the ingredients in addition to the claims on the front label and the calorie, fat content. Look for the least number of additives and words you can pronounce. I scream, you scream, we all scream for Ice Cream!


Mindfulness: Listen to your tastebuds

Being mindful includes listening to your body. When we are hungry (or sometimes just think we are) we need to ask ourselves “what am I hungry for?”. Answers can be hot, cold, sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy etc. These are all descriptions that speak to our senses. If we can satisfy this need we can gain satiety with much smaller amount even when it may no be the healthiest option. Plus, while exploring the answer to “what do I really want to eat?” it gives us time to make better decisions than succumbing to the impulse.

There are times when I want something crunchy to accompany my meal. Chips are commonly served with sandwiches to add the variety in texture. There are so many options for chips these days. No matter what, almost all potato chips are “empty calories” meaning they are providing only calories and not any nutrients. There are healthier options and they are simpler than you think to implement.

Two of the nutrient packed chips that are easkale-chipsy to prepare are: Kale Chips and Sweet Potato Chips. The only equipment you need is a knife and oven. Both provide a healthy dose of nutrients (Vitamin A, Vitamin K, B Vitamins, Folate, Calcium, Iron, and antioxidants).

To make Kale Chips, buy fresh kale (I prefer organic greens), wash and let the water drain from the leaves. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the leaves in half crosswise, remove the rib portion if too hard. Place all the leafy pieces in a large zipped bag.
Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 tsp sea salt and shake to coat all the leaves. Place the coated leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet, bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy!sweet-potato-chips

To make Sweet Potato Chips, wash and peel sweet potatoes, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Put the slices in zipped bag, add the olive oil and salt. Shake to coat the slices. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes, turn and bake for another 8 minutes. Enjoy!

Both of these can be altered by adding garlic powder, thyme, rosemary or chili flakes. Listen to your taste buds and choose the flavor.

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