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Holiday Tips to Keep the Weight Off

Happy official holiday season!  This is truly my favorite 3-4 weeks of the entire year.  I am a Christmas freak. I love everything about the tree, the lights, the smells, and even the snow (probably the only time of year I will comment fondly about snow).  I even have those ridiculous dancing stuffed animals for children that I play on a daily basis.  As much as I wish Christmas came 3 or 4 times a year, I think having it once is what makes it so special.

We lost my papa this year, and he had given me a bunch of old ornaments before he passed.  This picture is not the best, but I saved it because doesn’t the lighting here look like heaven is shining down on our tree?  <3

While the holidays are a time to indulge, there are ways to do it mindfully while not sacrificing your waistline.  I promise a recipe for you by the end of this week, but I wanted to do a special post with a few helpful tips in regards to the holidays.  After all, this should be a time of joy and not a time of fearing weight gain!

#1- Drink lots and lots of water.  This is the time of year where hot specialty drinks are everywhere.  It’s cold outside and having a warm drink to hold on to flavored with peppermint or candy cane or even gingerbread just can’t be resisted.  Coming from a girl who has ice-cold hands all year long, I get the appeal!  Well, if that drink contains caffeine (which most do- even hot cocoa!), it acts on the body as a mild diuretic.  This means that you will be left needing more water to replenish yourself than when you started that tasty drink.  As a rough rule of thumb, try to drink about 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of hot drink that you have.  Also, I know they’re delicious, but make them more of a treat then an every day occurrence to keep your calories under control.

#2- Self control.  We’ve all heard this one before.. “Now I know you’re in a room filled with plates of cookies but you need to control yourself.”  Well, isn’t that easier said then done!  Some things that I find helpful are to position yourself away from the food at a party.  If you’re the host, keep your food in one central location like the kitchen so people with dietary restrictions aren’t tempted by candy bowls right and left.  If you are engaged in conversations across the room from the food, you won’t be tempted to reach into a chip bowl mid-conversation.  If you are finding the temptations are hard to control, compromise with yourself.  If it’s 3 pm and you really want a scoop of that creamy looking crab dip, tell yourself that if you can make it to 4:30, you can have 2 scoops.  It’s OK to cheat a little during the holidays, but in moderation is always the key.

#3- Respond to true hunger. I think we can all say that we know the difference between “Oh sure, I can eat,” and “Get out of my way or I will eat YOU,” hunger.  If you find yourself about to reach into a candy bowl, literally ask yourself, “Am I hungry or am I just bored?”  I guarantee you that most of the time if will be boredom, or desire, but not true hunger.  Only put something in your mouth if you are truly hungry.

#4- Eat before the party.  Now this one might seem a little nuts to some people, but this is a theory of mine that I think really works.  A lot of times I notice that people will basically starve themselves before a big event where they know there will be a lot of food.  Bad idea.  This gives you license to justify eating whatever and however much you want at the party.  Now, I’m not saying to have a feast at 12 pm for a 1 pm party, but a snack with a good amount of fiber, protein and fat will really work to your benefit.  For example, try a piece of fruit, a small handful of nuts and a string cheese to keep your stomach from grumbling at the site of food at the party.  Fun fact… did you know that just the site of or smell of some foods gets your brain to signal your body that you’re ready to eat?  The thought of the food alone can cause your stomach to grumble and even your mouth to salivate!

#5- Watch (don’t eliminate!) your carbohydrates.  Now, gaining weight definitely comes from many places.  It can be high fat intake, low activity level or overindulging, but more often than not it’s people’s lack of control when it comes to carbs.  Here’s the bottom line- You NEED carbs to survive.  Glucose (broken down carbohydrate) is the primary source of fuel for your brain, and if your body doesn’t get it in your diet, your brain panics and will break down lean body muscle to get it.  Hence, the dangers of a low carbohydrate diet for too long.  Not to mention, with higher amounts of fat and protein in your diet, you increase the strain on your kidneys to clear the broken down protein and increase the damage to your heart from higher fat/protein meat sources!  Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now.  So we understand that we need some carbs in our diet, now here’s where the lack of control comes in.. when carbs are digested and absorbed by the body they pass through the stomach and are absorbed in the small intestine.  If the carbs are not paired with a protein or fat source, your GI motility is not slowed and your reaction to feel “full” comes much later then it should.  As I’m sure I don’t need to explain, this results in weight gain.  In addition, when you ingest these simple carbs, it causes an increase in your blood sugar, which triggers insulin to be released, which then causes your blood sugar to plummet.  Because of this insulin response, your blood sugar won’t remain steady and you will be back to being hungry again within 2 hours.  The lesson here is not to cut out carbs or go on some crazy diet, but rather to choose healthy sources of complex carbs; such as oatmeal, fruit & skim milk over simple carbs; such as candy, cookies and crackers, whenever possible.  Choosing balanced meals or snacks including protein and fat will help slow down your stomach emptying and steady your blood sugar to create that feeling of “fullness.”

I hope these were some helpful tips, and if you have any to share yourself, please comment.  I’d love to hear them!

FNCE Recap

I had optimistically planned to get in my Thursday post this week after FNCE (Food & nutrition conference and expo) and then school slapped me in the face.  As much as I love cooking and sharing new recipes here, school needs to come first (just for two more months!).  FNCE was great, while I learned a lot at the educational sessions, I didn’t think anyone reading would care too much about that.  In the expo hall, hundreds of companies came to share their products with us and give away free samples.  I had a lot of fun with this, and now have more food then I could ever eat!

My favorite free giveaway is at the bottom. Ellie Krieger’s new cookbook… and I got to meet her!

As for the samples, I’ve only tried a few of them so far, but I wanted to discuss the ones I did here as it may be helpful to you as a consumer.  I will add more as a go through my loot over the next month (or two!).
1)  Luna fiber bar- peanut butter strawberry

This bar REALLY surprised me.  I thought for sure that the weird combination of flavors would make me nauseous.  But I LOVED it.  Flavor wise, it gets an A.  It also has 7g of fiber which is good.  The ingredients list is long, which is usually a red flag, but after looking at them nothing was too alarming. They use all organic ingredients.. which, to be quite honest, doesn’t mean much to me in a bar.  If it has 11g of sugar, it has 11g of sugar, I don’t care where it came from. It’s not good for you either way.  The one good part though were the organic strawberries.  Since they are on the “dirty dozen” list, that’s a nice plus.  Overall: Would definitely buy again!

2) Jamba Granny Smith Apple Snacks

I may be biased because I am not the hugest fan of granny smith apples in the first place, but I was not a fan of these either.  Too tart for me.  I do however FULLY support the ingredient list: apples. Overall: Not for me, but could be for you!

3) Laughing Cow- Light Mozzarella, Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Cheese Wedges

This was SO good.  Each wedge comes in at only 35 calories and it would be a great cheese to spread on a whole wheat cracker.  Before FNCE I never would have thought to pick up laughing cow, but after trying this flavor and a few others, I will definitely be becoming a new customer! Overall: Delicious

4) Food Should Taste Good- any flavor

I loved this brand way before FNCE, but they were there and I want to spread the word about how great these chips are.  Their ingredient list includes flax seed, quinoa, canola oil and brown rice flour to name a few.  It is also certified Gluten Free which makes it a great healthy alternative for those people suffering from Celiacs disease or a gluten intolerance.  Gluten free products have fantastic advertising, I will give them that.  They usually show-boat themselves as a healthier alternative to non-gluten free snacks.  What’s a shame is that being gluten free has become quite a fad, and those falling for the fad are not educated on the correct science (key phrase!) behind a gluten intolerance.   If you look closely, a lot of G-free products are in fact much worse for you then their non-Gfree alternatives.  It is a shame for those that actually suffer from the disease, and Food Should Taste Good did an awesome job of making their product gluten free while also incorporating wonderful whole grains not containing gluten (i.e. quinoa!).  This is a gluten free snack I can definitely get on board with! Overall: Love it!
5) Smartfood Selects- Cinnamon Brown Sugar Popcorn

I think I visited this station 3 times a day at the expo.  I mean, this stuff is delicious, and I promise they are not paying me to say that.  The product contains 9g of fat per ounce.  While 7.5g of that is unsaturated fats, I still think that’s a little too high.  To give you a reference, 1 oz of Lays potato chips will run you 10g of fat.  This popcorn should be more of a treat, not an every day item.  I fear you’d also become addicted if it was! Overall: Awesome, in moderation.

Disclaimer:  These opinions are entirely my own, I was not paid or compensated in any way to review these products.

My Top Ten Kitchen Gadgets

This post is going to be a little bit different then my usual recipe posts.  I thought it might be useful for readers to see some of my favorite kitchen gadgets.  I can definitely say that most of the ones you see below I probably couldn’t live without.  Or, couldn’t live without happily.  If you think about it, you probably spend on average an hour per day in the kitchen (or at least I do).  Multiply that by 365 and that’s 365 hours per year that you’re in there.  In my opinion, let’s make it enjoyable and invest in gadgets that will encourage us to have more fun in the kitchen, and create tasty dishes with greater ease.

First up we have my newest and greatest.  The…

#1 Anti-Fatigue Mat

If you haven’t heard of them, they’re mats designed to relieve leg and foot pain associated with standing on your feet for long periods of time.  My kitchen is a ceramic tile and I can definitely say that after a half hour of chopping/prepping dinner my feet begin to hurt.  Know the feeling?  THIS is your answer :)

#2 Quinoa Strainer

It’s important to rinse quinoa before cooking because quinoa is coated with a substance called saponins which are naturally occurring plant chemicals that repel birds and insects.  The problem is if quinoa is not rinsed the saponins will give it a bitter taste.  At first I had a terrible time dealing with this.  I didn’t have a colander that had small enough holes, so half of my precious quinoa would end up delivering it’s nutrients to the drain in the kitchen sink.  This little strainer is the perfect size to keep the quinoa from slipping through the holes, and was a very valuable find.

#3 Crock Pot

I feel like this is so essential for a busy person.  I love love lovee going through my busy day knowing that it will end with dinner already hot and ready to eat in my crock pot.  Definitely look out for a crock-pot applesauce recipe from me soon. Fresh apples and cinnamon cooking all day in the crock-pot on a crisp day is one of my favorite parts of fall!

#4 Kitchen Scale

This may be an RD associated obsession and not so much for the average cook.  If I’m going to be telling people what a correct portion size is, I feel that I sure as heck better know what it is myself.  I also find it useful when writing recipes, instead of “eyeballing” or “guesstimating” which has the potential to be very detrimental to a patients health.  This way, an ounce is an ounce is an ounce.  No over-eating necessary!

#5 Garlic “Keeper”

I have to admit, I originally bought this because I thought it was very cute.  A little container shaped like garlic to hold my garlic?  Come on!  Well, it was a nice surprise when I noticed it kept my garlic at room temperature longer then in a regular dish or bowl.  I now use it for every clove that comes into my house, and I suggest that you do too.

#6 Steamer

As I’ve mentioned before, steaming is a very healthy, if not the healthiest way to cook vegetables.  The nutrients aren’t leached out in the cooking water, and no fat is applied in the cooking process.  These little metal steamers fit easily into any size pot and are a no-brainer investment.  Another bonus is that you don’t need to wait for a huge pot of water to boil as you only need a thin layer of water at the bottom of the pot to produce the steam.  So just remember, steam away for faster, easier, and healthier results.

#7 Mini Muffin Tins

What a great way to exercise portion control.  Want two muffins or cupcakes? Sure, go for it!  I find these little guys effective in tricking your mind to believe you’re eating more than you actually are.  If you’re like me, eating just one muffin seems cruel and unfair to all the other delicious muffins that may now go moldy in the hot summer heat.  Baking 12 mini-muffins will leave you with a lot less guilt then the regular size, and they’re cuter too!

#8 Silpat Baking Mat


These mats are awesome because you don’t need to grease a baking sheet or use parchment paper, just pop the cookies or whatever you are baking on the mat on top of the baking sheet and you’re good to go.  I also notice that they help to bake cookies more evenly.

#9 Spice Rack

I just love my spice rack.  What a great way to get tons of flavor into your cooking without added salt, fat or sugar.. all things most Americans get quite enough of.  The spices have a pretty long shelf life (usually a few years), and are a quick and easy addition to meals when fresh herbs may not be available.  There is a catch here.. I bought mine under the exciting promise that I would get unlimited refills for 5 years.  How fantastic!  No more spending $4.50 on a small jars of McCormick spices every few months.  Well, upon placing my order for the first shipment of my “free” spices, I was sad to see that the shipping for these two tiny jars was estimated at about $15.  So the lesson is, don’t be fooled by the “free refill” promise.  As I learned in Business school, there’s always a catch.  However, you can buy the grocery store spices and pour them into the jar on your spice rack to keep everything together and organized.

#10 Food Processor with shredder/slicer attachment

This thing is such a time saver.  It will take a block of cheese and grate it in 2 seconds flat.  No more sore arms from the hand grater!  I often use it to shred carrots, cucumbers, etc. for salads.  I really think it will slice anything you put in, and it’s nice to know I have the option if time is of the essence.

Please note that the pictures above are not the exact products that I have in my kitchen, and the websites listed below the pictures are just the sources, not the websites I bought them from.

Are there any great gadgets that I didn’t mention that you can’t live without??

Easy Steps to a Healthier You

I’ve done a similar post to this before, but it can’t hurt to reinforce some easy things you can do to eat healthier.

First up, right after you get home from the store, chop up your fruits and veggies (if they are chop-able) and bag them.  Then, you will be able to just grab them without thinking throughout the week.  It may seem silly to think it will cause you to eat healthier, but when they’re as easy to grab as chips, you’ll grab them!

Another good investment.. an air-popper.  You can eat a heck of a lot of air-popped popcorn with no (or small amounts) or butter and salt.  If you love crunchy snacks but are watching your calories, this is a great way to go.  It also pops in no time, which is a nice perk.

Another important tip?  Pack a bagged lunch, and plan your dinners for the week.  I’ve preached this before, but planning ahead really does make all the difference in how healthy you eat.  You’ll much more consciously plan a well balanced dinner on a full stomach then an empty one at 5:30 pm.

An EASY way to sneak some more physical activity into your life is to get out and walk in any way you can.  Pretend as though escalators and elevators do not exist, and always take the stairs.  Don’t sit in a drive through line, please.  I find nothing more aggravating then watching 10 cars sitting in a drive through line when there are tons of spots available to just walk ten feet inside to order.  It’s absolute pure laziness, and you’re better then that!  Don’t circle the parking lot for a spot, take the one in the back!  You get the hint :)

Look out for a new recipe on Thursday!

DIETitian

Alright so a healthy recipe will be coming this weekend (I just haven’t cooked it yet!), so to keep with my promise of Thursday posts I wanted to do a quick one about a common misconception of RD’s and why I feel it’s important to make a note.

I’m currently in outpatient rotations right now in my program, and yesterday I had my first very defensive, anti-RD patient.  It was a little unsettling, but it was an important lesson to learn.  “We” were people who always try to put him/her on a diet, and make him/her eat “disgusting” food like brown rice.  Obviously, this is not the kind of person that you want to suggest brown rice to, but rather something very basic like suggesting that they just eat 3 meals a day.  The RD I was working with handled the situation really well, and the patient began to relax.. a little.  The point here I feel I need to make is that I think we are so often viewed as the diet police, when in reality it is not like that.  If you are trying to make a healthier lifestyle change, often the best way to start is to make one or two simple changes in your life.  Here’s a few examples that I think I will encourage when I encounter a patient like that in the future:  walk 10 minutes more on your walk then you used to, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car far away from the store on purpose, have a problem with sweets? drink a bottle of water in between each cookie, Love whole milk? Mix it with half 2%, then after a few weeks, switch to full 2%, and so on (I bet you won’t tell the difference!).  Hate vegetables?  Add them into combination dishes in small amounts- i.e. toss tomatoes into your mac & cheese, etc.

These are all broad and may not apply to you, but I hope you get the idea that we aren’t the diet police.  If you are thinking about going to see an RD but aren’t sure, don’t be afraid that we are going to take away everything that you love to eat/drink.  We are taught to truly meet the client where they are, not where WE are as RD’s and lovers of healthy food, promise!

Practical Weekly Tips

I’ve been posting mostly dinner meals lately and I thought it would be good to give you some quick healthy options for during the day.  These are just two simple things I’ve been doing this week that help me to eat healthier and can help you too!  This weekend I spent $3.50 on these veggies:

Got home from the store, spent about 5 minutes chopping them up and tossed them in this Tupperware.  So far, every night when I come home and make dinner I’ve taken them out to snack while I’m starving.  It’s really been saving me from reaching for the goldfish, and then I get my half plate of veggies in before I even eat dinner.  I dip in hummus, but feel free to eat them plain or use a different dressing.  Doing this is a great way to keep healthy, because lets be honest, when we’re starving for a snack, we’re not going to take the time to chop up veggies.  So take 5 minutes to do this on the weekend and you won’t be sorry!

Another thing I wanted to share was my newest breakfast creation..

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

3/4 cup water (NOT 1 cup like package suggests- I find it wayy too runny)

1 apple diced

1 spoonful of reduced fat peanut butter

Directions: Combine water and oats, cook for 2 minutes and 10 seconds in the microwave.  Mix in spoonful of peanut butter.  Add sliced apple.

Delicious!  I love this breakfast (or lunch) because it is not soupy like oatmeal typically is, it includes a fruit, a protein, and a whole grain, AND it keeps me full for hours.  As I said, oats is a whole grain and a fantastic source of soluble fiber.  Soluble fiber “supports heart health,” as you also may know.  Sounds great, but what exactly does it do?  Well, what it actually does is it binds with the cholesterol in our blood and excretes it for us.  This is fantastic because we do not want extra cholesterol in our blood, it can lead to heart disease.  If your doctor has told you that you have high LDL levels, this is exactly what I’m talking about.  You want those down in normal range and oats can help! :) Oats also help control the movement of our digestive system.  I hope these tips are helpful!

Plan Your Meals

In this post I want to talk about the value of planning your meals (particularly dinner) on a weekly basis.  Not only will you save money by buying only the ingredients that you need, but you’ll also avoid figuring out what to eat after a long day of work when your starving to the point that you might strongly consider taking down and eating an entire cow if it happened to cross your path.  Personally, I sit down for about a half hour (yup, that’s all it takes!) once a week and make my menu. Then from the menu, my shopping list, and voila! We are all set to go.  The dishes that are more involved I leave for the weekend days, and quicker meals are planned for during the week when I know I won’t feel like putting in an hour of active cooking time after a long day of work and school.  It truly helps you to eat healthier when you are planning your meals in a sane state of mind and your stomach isn’t aching to be filled.

Here is the template that I use from Inspiring Nutrition: weekly_dinner_planner

Just fill it out and pop it on your fridge with some magnets!  Although, just today while I was browsing through Target, I found a great notepad for $1 that has Mon-Sun listed with the magnet built-in.  It was so cute, I decided it had to be my new menu planner.

Whatever you prefer, put it down on paper, so you and everyone in the house knows what to expect at dinner time.  I bet you are less likely to stop for a late afternoon snack when you can envision the delicious dinner that you’ve planned! :)