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Monday, October 23, 2017

Controlling the Candy Craze

It’s on your co-worker’s desk, the stash in the break room, it’s in your kid’s backpacks and probably clogging up your pantry, to say nothing of calling your name from the grocery store aisle.  Candy is everywhere this time of year, so how do we navigate this real-life candy land?  You have to be proactive and intentional. 

Placement – if you’ve already stocked up for the holiday, where are you keeping it? Keep it stashed out of sight or reach.  I like the freezer since that really requires some real drive to get your candy fix. 

Replacement – instead of a candy dish, fill your bowl with sweet cherry tomatoes, or nuts.  Keep that fruit bowl out on the counter and make healthful choices convenient and appealing. 

Prioritize – If you don’t absolutely love it, don’t eat it.  Life is to short, and blood sugar too tenuous to waste it on mediocre sweet.  I much prefer a little bit of dark chocolate to an entire milk chocolate candy bar.  If it’s not your favorite, don’t waste calories on it. 

Plan – decide when and where you’ll enjoy your Halloween candy fix.  It might be a better idea to include one piece of Halloween candy in your lunch each day, than thinking about it all day long, and diving head first into the bag when your get home.  Take advantage of the small, portion-appropriate package size to help you moderate and quench those cravings in a small but satisfying way.


Candy isn’t evil, it just needs to be kept in the cameo category – making small occasional appearances in your diet instead of stealing the nutritional show. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Cold-Weather Calories


On average, people eat 86 more calories in the fall than in the spring, consume more saturated fat (processed foods), and are more sedentary.  So how can you enjoy your favorite cold-weather comfort foods without the extra cold-weather calories?

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water.  If you’re not a water drinker, choose your flavor wisely.  Avoid drinking sweet as it feeds your body’s sweet tooth – that addiction center of the brain.  If you struggle with plain water, try a sparkling water. 
Remember that a typical can of soda has 40 grams of sugar, so switching your beverage can make a big impact on your health habits. And with holidays around the corner, it makes a tasty way to serve a festive beverage without adding excess calories into your party. Try a splash of lime juice over ice, a few pomegranate seeds, mint leaves and top it off with a flavored sparkling water. And if you crave the soothing effect of a hot beverage, keep it simple and stay away from the caloric add-ins (cream, sugar, etc).

Be mood aware.  Shorter days mean less sun exposure and whether you are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder or just miss the light and warmth of spring and summer, food cravings – especially simple sugars and processed carbohydrates may crop up.  How can you combat this? Be sure to get plenty of Vitamin D, and then keep your serotonin levels up with whole grains and complex carbohydrates.  The good news is that seasonal foods we naturally gravitate to this time of year like yams, sweet potatoes and squash are great ways to keep those serotonin levels up. 

Take time to cook.  It may feel like your entire day is gone when you leave for work and return home in the dark, but you still have the same 24 hours.  Use them wisely – 20 minutes in the morning to put something in the crockpot before work will save you money and calories by keeping you out of the drive thru on the way home (plus you’ll have delicious leftovers you can have for lunch, saving even more money and calories). 

Keep seasonal produce on hand to make meals and snacks more balanced, flavorful and nutritious.  Nothing boosts your immunity quite like a regular healthy dose of fruits and veggies.  Don’t forget the freezer section if the fresh produce gets a bit pricey.  The vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other antioxidants found in fruits and veggies will go along way to keeping your immune system as healthy as possible.

With all these healthful habits in place, the occasional seasonal treat or dessert won’t derail your efforts at keeping those cold-weather calories in check.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Pumpkin Spice: The Science Behind The Crave

This flavor combination is reaching pop-culture status, but is there any benefit to this craze? Definitely.  The components of the spice component of pumpkin spice include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cardamom and cloves.  These spices contain all sorts of varying amounts of vitamins, minerals essential oils and other compounds that help control blood sugar, reduce inflammation, improve digestion as well as other health benefits.  As for the pumpkin part of the equation, you get loads of vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and potassium.  It is beneficial in reducing blood pressure, lowering risk of certain cancers risk, and eye health. 


So science behind the spice is solid, but we run into problems when those pumpkin spice treats come in high fat and high sugar foods.  When navigating the world of pumpkin spice use common sense.  Don’t fall prey to the halo-effect of pumpkin spice labels.  A donut is a donut and you’re talking lots of fat and sugar regardless of a pinch of cinnamon and just enough pumpkin to turn it slightly orange.  Some of the highest calorie pumpkin spice foods include: lattes, donuts, cookies, ice creams, muffins and cookie butters. 


So how can you healthfully indulge that pumpkin spice crave that starts creeping up on you as temperatures drop and you can’t wait to pull out your fall wardrobe?
1.    Read your labels.  There are snacks out there that maintain a balance between nutrition and flavor.  Anytime you can keep your fiber up (3g or more), sugars down (10g or less), and a healthy balance of fats (10g or less) you’ve most likely found a healthy way to savor the season.
2.    Watch portion sizes.  You may find that some foods are just seasonally very important to you that don’t fit in the healthy nutrition profile just mentioned.  If that is the case, make them occasional foods and consider cutting down the serving size.  Sometimes a few bites or sips of a richer pumpkin spice food is all it takes to satisfy the craving.

3.    Make your own.  Cookies, bars, muffins and ice creams are often so much healthier when you make them yourself.  This way you can be generous with the spices and the pumpkin and moderate the excess sugars and fats.  But still, be portion aware.  If that plate of pumpkin cookies just calls to loudly to you tempting you to polish it off at one sitting, then keep some out, and put the rest in airtight containers in the freezer to enjoy on another stormy afternoon. 

Want a pumpkin spice fix? Try this nut mix recipe packed with healthy fats, protein and delicious crunch.



Pumpkin Spice Nut Mix

Preheat oven to 250℉.  In medium mixing bowl, whisk together:

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
Mix in:
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup cashews (roasted without salt)
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts (without salt)
(You can substitute any nut or seed you like, just shoot for 3 cups total)
Stir well to coat.  Spread on baking sheet covered with a baking mat or parchment paper.  Bake 1 hour.  Let cool, break apart and store in an airtight container.  

1 1/2 oz. serving (2.5 Tbsp) contains:
135 calories
5 g protein
3 g sugar
11 g fat
36 mg sodium
2 g fiber


The point is that the same rules apply whether its pumpkin spice season or not.  Keep a good balance, keep treats occasional and be portion-aware.  That way you can stay healthy regardless of the weather report and the cravings that follow.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Baby Step Your Way Back into the Kitchen


With restaurant spending exceeding grocery store spending for the first time ever, we should all sit up and take notice of our food preparation habits. Cooking and convenience don’t have to be mutually exclusive terms.  If you want eat out less, but lack confidence in cooking, here are a few simple ways to get you started-up not stressed out in the kitchen.

Plan.  Mapping out a simple list of family favorites, simple meals or even recipes you’d like to try may sound overly simple, but if you don’t write (or type) it down, it will remain simply wishful thinking instead of delicious dining.  Starting with a food-map or menu is the foundation for the next steps in the process – finding recipes, making a grocery list, and even planning any make-ahead preparations to allow time for dinner prep on a busy weeknight.


Choose convenience foods carefully.  Quick-cooking grains, frozen, canned, or even prepped produce may be just the ticket to simplifying your cooking experience.  If the thought of washing, peeling, and julienne-ing carrots makes your eyes glaze over, it’s probably best that you purchase match-stick carrots.  If rinsing, soaking and slow cooking beans or legumes makes you dread that batch of chili, go with low-sodium canned beans. 


Start with what you know. If making bread from scratch to accompany your chicken noodle soup makes you hyperventilate, start with frozen dough.  Home-cooked family dinners need to happen, and if that means a bag of salad, store-bought dressing, a loaf of French bread and a simple homemade soup – then great!  Start where you are, and get used to the routine of cooking on a regular basis.  Once that becomes more of a habit, then start to tackle one recipe or cooking skill at a time.  The slower the change the more permanent it will be, so be patient!


Incorporate produce.  Whether it’s a microwaved or crock-pot baked potato or washed and sliced fresh fruit at dinner, enjoy the convenience of produce.  Most fruits and veggies require little to no cooking, and give you more bang for you buck when it comes to flavor and nutrition than most other foods.  So even if you do pick up some Chinese takeout, steam up some broccoli, or slice up some oranges to balance out your meal. 



Remember that comparison is the enemy of contentment so don’t compare your cooking abilities to the deluge of cooking competition shows and amazing pins out there.  Start where you are and gradually build up your cooking confidence and your health at the same time.