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Friday, August 3, 2018

Back to School, Back to Good Nutrition


When a school-schedule-routine-change hits, some healthy habits tend to fall through the cracks. Here are some tips for after school snacks, quick family dinners on school nights and packing power-lunches that will ensure you hit the ground healthy and running when that school bell rings.

The classroom as well as the playground can be hot this time of year and hydration becomes very important. Make sure both you and your kids aren't going to school without something to drink.  Water is always a great idea and there's Sportwaters and natural-ingredient sports drinks to help kiddos stay hydrated.  Choose what works best for your kid's personal preference and if possible, choose a larger bottle with a larger opening to make hydrating or refilling simple.


Another challenge with busy school schedules is avoiding the siren-song of the drive-thru on busy nights. One simple, cost-effective and quick solution is to think inside the can.  We talk a lot about the nutrition of fresh produce, but there is a lot of nutritional benefit to be found in canned foods.  Kids and adults who use six or more canned foods per week are more likely to have diets higher in 17 essential nutrients. Remember that fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested at the peak of ripeness and canned within only four hours, sealing in their nutrition and flavor – as opposed to the produce liquefying in your refrigerator drawer.  Recipes like a chicken burrito salad bowl comes together in a snap with ingredients you can always keep on hand in your pantry and definitely beats any drive-thru fare.


Reinvent old favorites.  If your child starts to complain about the lack of variety in his lunchbox but you both know they are too picky to try the adventurous lunch ideas you find online and on Pinterest, come up with ways to reinvent old favorites.  There’s nothing nutritionally inferior with a PB&J paired with some fruit and veggies - just  get creative with the presentation.  Go ahead and roll out the slice of bread, slather it up with heart-healthy nut or seed butter, whole-fruit jam and roll it up into cute little cylinders.  

Keep kiddos involved in the planning and packing of their lunches.  Not only should they have some say as to which fruit they are willing to eat, but are also their own portion expert.  Don’t overdo the portion sizes.  Sometimes a mountain of baby carrots looks too overwhelming to even try, but 5 baby carrots isn’t so threatening and is easily eaten.  Use the handful rule to keep portions age appropriate.  Remember that small kids with small hands only need small portions. Keeping it small keeps it from being overwhelming and tossed uneaten into the garbage can.  Food is only as nourishing as it is appealing, because if it doesn’t make into the mouth, it doesn’t provide any nutrition.   

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Orthorexia: When Healthy becomes Harmful


Orthorexia vs. Normal eating: orthorexia literally means “righteous eating” or an obsession with healthy eating.  Healthy eating or following a healthy eating plan is not the harmful part.  The harm comes when healthy becomes the all-consuming driving force.  Healthy is fine, but obsession isn’t.  There really is too much of a good thing, and that applies to healthy eating patterns. This pattern of obsessive healthy eating is a growing category of disordered eating that is fueled in part by social media.  So beware of what you consume not just from your plate, but from your phone as well. 
Eating behaviors fall on a continuum between apathy (don’t care about nutrition at all and make no effort to eat foods that make them feel healthful, vigorous and nourished) to orthorexic attitudes (everything must be the most nutritious food, and you only eat “good” or “healthy” foods).  Normal eating lies somewhere in between and allows for a healthful diet with “fun” foods as well.  Food rules shouldn’t be rigid or extreme, and people shouldn’t be judged for the way they eat.  
Answering yes to any of these questions indicate a tendency toward orthorexic attitudes and behaviors. 
1.   Do you ever wish you could just eat a food without worrying about its nutritional quality?
2.   Do you find it hard to eat food prepared with love by family or friends?
3.   Do you find yourself avoiding eating situations where you are not in control of the menu?
4.   Do you often label foods as good or bad (and yourself as good or bad depending on what you ate)?
5.   Do you feel in control when you stick your idea of the perfect diet?
6.   Do you find yourself having to follow more and more food rules instead of less?
7.   Do you put yourself on a nutritional pedestal and wonder how someone else can possible eat a certain way?
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Maintaining optimal nutrition requires balance, moderation and enjoyment so keeping healthy routines is great, just make sure they aren’t too rigid or restrictive.  

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Better Backyard BBQ

Summer is the peak season for lots of things, one of which is barbecuing. Unfortunately foodborne illness is one of those things that peaks during summer months.  Here are a few creative tips to keep the fun in your cookout while keeping your guests safe as you barbeque your way through summer.  

Think outside the burger box.  Try mixing up some of your main-dish mainstays.  Fresh pork tenderloin makes a great go-to for grilling.  It is an all-natural, lean and flavorful source of protein with some great versatility.  You can grill the entire tenderloin, slice it for grilled Cuban sliders, or you can dice it and kebab it for a speedier cooking time.  And since lean pork cuts like this fresh pork tenderloin are recognized by the American Heart Association as heart healthy food, you can feed your guests knowing that in a 3 oz serving size you’re delivering 22 grams of protein, minerals like potassium and zinc as well as b-vitamins all for only 120 calories. So get creative with your main.  


Pick sides.  This has two meanings.  First of all – don’t hesistate to toss some fresh produce on the grill to round out your menu in a fun, delicious and festive way.  The other meaning is to keep raw and cooked foods on separate sides of your grill.  Cross-contamination becomes a real risk, especially when we leave the comforts of the kitchen.  Keep wipes and water handy and be sure to keep separate surfaces for raw and cooked foods to avoid risk of foodborne illness.

Take a temperature.  Nothing is quite as disturbing as biting into a grilled chicken kebab and seeing pink. . . instead, take a minute to check the internal temperatures of your meat and poultry.  While ground beef should be cooked to 160 and poultry to 165.  Whole cuts of beef and pork are safe at 150.  Remember that most thermometers have the sensor in the tip, so make sure the tip is centered in the food.  

Set a timer.  Hot foods should stay hot and cold foods should stay cold, but that isn’t always easy outside.  A cooler with ice works great in a pinch in place of a fridge.  Insulated bags or coolers can help keep warm foods warm, but for extended periods of time, try wrapping bricks or larger rocks in foil and heating them on the grill after you’re done cooking the food.   Place them on towels in a cooler to provide decent hot storage for warm foods.  But the simplest way is to set a timer on your phone or watch.  You don’t want foods at room temperature for more than 2 hours, so once that 2-hour alarm goes off, make sure all food is safely stowed or disposed of.  

Truly, when it comes to food safety, it is much better to err on the side of caution than to risk the vengeance of foodborne illness later on.  

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Dark Side of Dieting


45 million Americans go on at least one diet each year. And while dieting is not a cause of eating disorders, it is often a precursor to disordered eating.  More than one third of dieters progress to pathological dieting and up to one fourth of those develop actual eating disorders. You may think that as a “casual” or “occasional” dieter, there is no risk or downside to going on a diet here and there.  Think again. Restrictive-diet behaviors not only carry serious psychological and physiological side effects for you, but spills over into the lives of those around you.  Consider these sobering consequences that come from the dark side of dieting:
  • 75% of women perpetuate unhealthy thoughts and behaviors about food and their bodies. It should come as no surprise then that half of all girls ages 9-10 are dieting.  Your thoughts about your body don’t just affect you.  To quote the musical Into The Woods,  “children will listen”.  Ask yourself: Would I feel comfortable if my 9 year old daughter or niece or sister or granddaughter said what I say about my body, my weight, or size? Would I want them to follow my eating/dieting behaviors?  If the answer is no, then you’d better stop.  Unhealthy and negative thoughts and behaviors are dangerous at any age.  
  • Dieting behavior leads to feelings of anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia (uncontrolled negative thoughts about perceived flaws in one’s body), and distrust of one’s body signals and cues, and ability to maintain good health.
  • Restricting calorie or nutrient intake can cause the body to slow down in an effort to conserve energy.  The body is designed to avoid starvation, and dieting sends a strong starvation signal because you are not responding to the body’s normal hunger and fullness cues. The body then becomes very efficient in order to maintain energy stores.  No wonder 95% of diets fail!
  • Diets that lead to quick, dramatic weight loss generally involve losing lean muscle mass as well as fat.  Less muscle means lower metabolism.  In addition, significant weight loss can lead to fatigue, tiredness and lethargy, all of which slow down metabolism even more.  Does dieting slow metabolism?  Yes.
  • Repeated dieting makes it harder and harder to lose weight.  The more you diet, the longer it takes and the more you have to restrict to lose weight that previously came off with less effort. Yo-yo dieting further slows and damages the system.   This is not what healthy looks like!
  • Dieting destroys your relationship with food and erodes your confidence in your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues.  The more we ignore these signals, the fainter they become until you may no longer feel sensations of hunger of fullness.  Food becomes a source of stress or fear instead of a source of enjoyment.  Not only is this not healthy, but not happy either!
True health comes when you treat your body with respect, respond to it’s cues and signals and accept your own individual picture of health for your individual body type.  Health and happiness are inseparable, so don’t let dieting come between you and happy health.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Health at Every Size

Funky Kids




Health at every size is a movement in healthcare that is gaining traction.  In a world where body shaming, weight stigma, and food fear and guilt are showing up in subtle and not-so-subtle ways on our feeds, pages, and inboxes, the concept of Health at Every Size provides a refreshing alternative.  HAES celebrates body diversity and honors differences in individuals, challenges the narrow cultural assumptions on weight, encourages finding joy in being physically active and eating in a flexible, mindful way that values pleasure and health.

It is some brilliant but scary marketing that allows a 66 billion dollar weight loss industry to continually grow when 95% of diets fail long-term.  Ironically and sadly, the success of the industry is built on the failure of individuals.  What’s more, the reality is that the more America diets, the less healthy we become. We accept all sorts of diversity in people, but very little diversity is accepted when it comes to body size.  

At this point most people raise the issue, “but doesn’t being fat mean you are unhealthy?”  Maybe yes, and maybe no.  Some health issues are governed largely by genetics and other factors outside out control, while other aspects of our health are well within our control through our behavior.  But let’s be clear.  Weight is not a behavior.  Think about that for a moment.  These are behaviors:
·      how we move and exercise
·      what, when and how we eat
·      how much sleep we allow
·      how we balance work and relaxation
·      how well we hydrate ourselves
·      how often we seek medical care
These are all behaviors that we can alter and improve. We can improve those behaviors, but body weight and size may or may not respond in the way we expect.  Fitness and fatness are not mutually exclusive terms, and it is important to realize that while every body is a good body, every body should and will look different.  Health doesn’t have a specific look or shape.  I recommend that everyone watch the Youtube video Poodle Science with their family as a way to start thinking about your views and perspectives on weight, size and shape.

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It’s important to understand that the term is Healthat Every Size, not apathyat every size.  This is encouraging healthful lifestyles, but in a gentle, individual approach that helps heal relationships with food and is based on self-compassion, not guilt.  If repeated dieting causes you to become a casualty from the war on obesity, embrace the new peace movement, Health at Every Size.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Brunch Better

Weekend brunch is a tasty tradition for many folks.  However, it can also be a calorie and fat-laden meal if you don't take care.  Here are a few tips to ensure that you not only optimize nutrition, but will also keep you from blowing your whole day's worth of calories before noon.
Minimize your caloric beverage.  If you are set on drinking juice, you serve it in a small glass.  A serving of juice is 4 oz and contains 60 calories.  So with just a few swigs, you've downed a bunch of calories without the satisfaction of actually eating.  It’s better to go with water.
Make meat a side dish, not the anchor of the meal.  Breakfast meats such as bacon, sausage and ham are typically high in sodium and saturated fat, so keep portions small.  I love bacon, but a slice or a link is enough to satisfy that craving.
Consider yogurt.  A great source of protein, calcium, vitamin D and probiotics, it pairs well with fruits and whole-grain cereals for a beautiful and tasty addition to your brunch.
Incorporate fruits and veggies.     
Fruit plate or salad
Fresh berries to top waffles, pancakes or yogurt.
Hashbrowns (shredded potatoes or the loose hashbrowns have less fat than the formed, patty-style).
Roasted potatoes or other veggies make a great savory breakfast side.
Mix vegetables into eggs, stratas and omelets  
Go with whole grains in baked goods.  From pancakes & waffles, to french toast, to muffins and coffee cakes, swap out at least half of the flour with whole wheat or choose whole grain bread that contains at least 3 grams of fiber per slice.  Breakfast can be a great way add in fiber through whole grains.  Oatmeal brulee is one of my favorite whole-grain brunch foods.
Oatmeal Brulee: Make traditional, quick or steel cut oats according to the package, stir in some chopped dried fruit of your choice while it cooks.  Add a sprinkle of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla or grate some nutmeg in to bring a bit more flavor to the party.  Dish up into bowls, sprinkle with brown sugar, and caramelize under the broiler or with a culinary torch.  Serve with some milk on the side.

A few small tweaks will leave you with a satisfied, delicious eating experience without feeling sluggish the rest of your day.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Healthy Easter Basket Alternatives

Easter is becoming a pricier holiday every year.  With almost 2 ½ billion dollars spent on the holiday, you might want to consider not just how much but where that money is going.  Baby boomers spend an average of $114 on Easter, GenX-ers spend $127 and Millienials spend $177.  And a lot of those dollars translate into extra empty calories.  So here are some tips and ideas to keep the candy content low, but the thoughtful factor high. 
1.    Don’t buy candy just because it is festively packaged or cute.
2.    Keep the quantity low when it comes to your favorite candy.
3.    Personalize your purchases to the individual. 
4.    Encourage activity and experiences not just calorie consumption.
Here are some examples of thinking outside the basket of peeps when putting together your Easter baskets. 

Sports-lover:  Encouraging outdoor activity is always a healthy way to go.  If you’ve got a serious athlete you might want to add in a water bottle and  some hydration options for electrolyte replacement. Drinkable yogurt makes a great recovery drink and for the athlete looking for a little extra protein, try some lower-sodium jerky.

Artist:  A few washable paints, sidewalk chalk or other art supplies are always a fun and exciting gift to inspire the artist in your family.  A few healthful snacks to keep them painting for hours on end are fine such as nuts, fruit (fresh or dried) are always a nutritious choice. My favorite choice is freeze dried fruit - that offers a sweet crunch.  Check your local dollar store for bargains when it comes to dried and freeze-dried fruits.

Game-lover:  A few fun games, or even just some traditional toys are a great way to relax and reduce stress for kids and adults alike!  Some popcorn and dark chocolate, or roasted almonds provide more nutritious, yet handy snacks.  Dark chocolate even contains polyphenols that helps protect the enamel of your teeth.

Foodie:  A gourmet salsa basket is a fun, fresh surprise that will be a tasty way for everyone to enjoy more veggies and fruit and inspire a little culinary adventure for the whole family.  Add some colorful blue corn-chips and you're set for a south-of-the-border snack during the Easter weekend.


Green Thumb:  A little nudge to get things growing indoors or out always improves one’s health.  Growing your own herbs in a window, starting your own sprouts, or trying a few veggies in your yard can be just the ticket to inspire more homemade meals, plus a few edible seeds like sunflower seeds, pistachios, and maybe some Corn Nuts might just be the perfect snack break for your favorite green-thumb.