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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Simple & Delicious Brunch Makeover Tips

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.
  1. Minimize your beverage.  Make sure that 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.  Best to go with water and in that case - bring on a nice large goblet!  
  2. 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 like bacon just as much as the next guy, so I'd hate to give it up completely.  A slice or a link is enough to satisfy that craving, and then focus more on other brunch offerings. 
  3. Keep dairy low-fat.  Whether it is milk, yogurt, or cheeses, they offer great sources of protein and calcium - but don't need to burden your meal with extra fat.  
  4. Incorporate fruits and veggies.     
    • Fruit plate 
    • Fruits salads
    • Fresh berries to top waffles and pancakes
    • Hashbrowns (shredded potatoes or the loose hashbrowns have less fat than the formed, patty-style)
    • Roasted potatoes (a mix of sweet and white with the skins left on - yummy!) 
    • Mix vegetables into eggs, stratas and omelets  
  5. 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 to work in fiber through whole grains.  
With a few small tweaks you can still enjoy a hearty, filling and delectable meal.  After all, brunch should be a way to start off your weekend with energy - not leave you feeling sluggish with that 'garbage-gut' sensation.

Here is a link to loads of tasty, healthful brunch recipes:

If you have any links to your favorite brunch recipes, please add them in your comments.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Diet Watch: 5:2 Fast Diet

The 5:2 or Fast Diet originated in the UK by Michael Mosley and has grown in popularity in our diet-oriented culture. 

5:2 Regimen:

Simply put, you are to severely limit your calorie intake 2 days out of the week and eat 'normally' the other 5.  On the "fast" days men should eat no more than 600 calories and women no more than 500. 


Weight loss, reduced inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity.

Assessment from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist:

Practicality Rating: D

The low rating comes from the feasibility of working in 2 days each week to severely restrict your calories while going about your life at work and home.  Think about feeding children normally and trying to "fast", or at work where lunch meetings happen, or on weekends when social events are scheduled.  Maintaining this type of schedule is not practical or conducive to long-term adherence.  Also, this diet is not recommended for anyone under 18, pregnant women, diabetics, people on certain medication regimens (think about taking multiple medications that have to be taken with food), or anyone prone to eating disorders. More on this in the health rating section.

Health Rating: C-

I gave it a C- minus because if you are very careful, you could technically meet all your nutritional requirements with a lot of planning and self-control.  That being said, let me list the problems that arise from following this diet:
  • For a lot of people, the severe restriction 2 days a week is going to lead to unhealthy or binge eating on other "normal" days.  Not only does this ruin your healthy relationship with food, but can lead to disordered eating.
  • Not for those prone to eating disorders: That can be said for pretty much any diet, since it is the diet mentality that destroys all healthy, long-term, healthy weight maintenance.  But can you see the red-flag here?  Diets appeal particularly to those with eating disorders - and this one could be quite the siren-song for anyone suffering from an eating disorder.  
  • Balanced nutrition: When you are having 500 calories a day and enduring the deprivation, think of what you will crave and reach for the following day.  Salad, beans, whole grains and fish?  Most likely not.  Deprivation eating tends to lead to over-eating more empty-calorie foods such as fast foods, cakes, chips etc.  So getting all the calcium, fiber, iron, folate etc. from a few normal eating days a week is not that easy or realistic.  
  • Also, since this is not for diabetics, that rules out a huge segment of the population in need of weight management.  
  • Even though exercise is recommended on the fasting days, the reality is that it would be more difficult, and less appealing to exercise on those days and so overall activity levels may also decrease.  

Sustainability Rating: D

  • Because of the practicality rating, the restrictions on who can participate in this diet, and the health issues, I give the sustainability rating a D.  I have no qualms with an occasional, limited duration, true fast as it definitely does impart some health benefits.  However, a deprivation, pseudo-fast twice weekly is not the long-term solution to our weight-control and disordered-nutrition issues.   


Monday, April 22, 2013

GORP (Ugly name, but really tasty food!)

To satisfy more than one craving, try this Gorp recipe adapted from Cooking Light (Gorp stands for "good, old-fashioned raisins and peanuts")

Peanut Butter, Granola Gorp

Makes 3.5 cups
Serving size: open handful (1.5 Tbsp)
Serves: 9
· 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
· 1/4 cup maple-flavored syrup
· 1 cup low-fat granola with raisins (such as Kellogg's Low-fat Granola with Raisins)
· 32 tiny fat-free pretzels, broken into small pieces

· Cooking spray
· 1/2 cup dried cherries
· 1/2 cup 50% less sugar Craisins

Preheat oven to 300°.
Combine peanut butter and syrup in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at high 30 seconds or until hot; stir well. Place granola and pretzels in a large bowl; pour peanut butter mixture over granola mixture, stirring to coat. Spread mixture in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 300° for 15 minutes, stirring twice. Stir in cherries and cranberries; return pan to oven. Turn oven off; cool mixture in closed oven 30 minutes. Remove from oven; cool completely. Crumble apart and store in sealed container or zip-top bag.

Nutritional Information
Serving Size: 2 Tbsp. (open-fist handful)
Amount per serving:
· Calories: 85
· Calories from fat: 23%
· Fat: 2 g
· Saturated fat: 0.3g
· Monounsaturated fat: .9g
· Polyunsaturated fat: .7g
· Protein: 1.8g
· Carbohydrate: 15g
· Fiber: 1g
· Sodium: 63mg

Rule-of-Fist: Easy Portion Control for Cravings

In today's Studio 5 segment, I addressed common cravings and the two easy "rule-of-fist" measures to keep your portion control in check.  This easy rule amazingly applies to most snack foods, from potato chips to chocolate chips.
2 easy ways to measure:
· Open handful (not overflowing, but can't close into a tight fist) = 60-80 calories for larger-sized items (chips, crackers, pretzels)
· Closed handful (tight fist - completely shut, can't see what's inside your fist) = 60-80 calories for smaller sized things like nuts and candies.

Click on the link below for the full segment.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Diet Watch: Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet is currently one of the most popular fad diets out there.  I probably get asked more about the Paleo diet than any other diet trend. 

Paleo Regimen:

  • Fruits, veggies & nuts
  • Seafood, grass-fed meats and eggs
  • Avoid processed salt, sugar & oils
  • Avoid grains, legumes, potatoes & dairy products


  • Following an ancestral, caveman or hunter-gatherer diet is what our genes adapted to and thus must provide us with optimal health. 
  • Weight loss
  • Reduction in modern-day disease states

Assessment from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist:

Practicality Rating: C
  • There are quite a few foods that you can choose from to eat.  However, with the elimination of two major food groups, it makes cooking and eating in groups or with others a challenge.  
  • Having to revamp your menus, use new recipes etc. is also a hassle.  
  • It can also be an expensive diet to follow.

Health Rating: C-
  • First of all, the premise of the caveman as our health ideal is a bit of a stretch.  Also, unless you are careful to monitor your fruit intake, it can be difficult to maintain enough carbohydrate in your system to provide energy.  If this happens, your body has to resort to breaking down protein to do so, and this can add stress to the kidneys.  If you are using protein for energy, your body cannot use it to build muscle as you follow the intense exercise regimen that often accompanies the diet.  

  • Reducing your salt, sugar and processed fat intake while increasing your fruit and vegetable intake is certainly something we should all embrace, but increasing the amount of animal protein is not.  As Americans, we consume more protein than our bodies need - particularly animal protein.  This not only brings the potential for increased saturated fat and the disease states that follow (cardiovascular disease in particular) but excessive amounts of animal protein have been shown to increase cancer growth, and increase risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.  

  • Calcium and vitamin D are glaring omissions in this diet and not only affect bone health, but weight management, immune function and heart health.  

  • Any time a diet eliminates legumes - a red flag should go up.  High in fiber, protein, iron, and a host of other nutrients, dried beans are about as healthy as one food gets.  So the elimination of them simply because they don't fit the historical picture on which the diet is based seems rather foolish.  

Sustainability Rating: C-
  • Do you really want to give up grains for the rest of your life?  Does that even make good common sense?  
  • Do you want to live without yogurt or ice cream, or even the occasional chocolate chip cookie with a tall glass of milk?  I didn't think so.  
  • While you may find initial weight loss with the elimination of a lot of processed foods, there is a much healthier way to go about it without eliminating beneficial food groups.  

 Want to know how to healthily achieve weight loss, healthier heart, less risk of diabetes and other disease?  Contact me for a consult:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Diet Watch: The Juice Detox

I watch diets as they're trend ripple through Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter etc. and most of the time I just shake my head.  Occasionally I step up onto the proverbial soapbox and dissect the diet trend for my husband.  He patiently listens to my lectures, then reminds me that I should probably be addressing a wider audience, as he currently has his own personal dietitian.  So here the first of a series of blog posts addressing some of the current diet trends whose endorsements or promises may have caught your attention. 

Let me start by outlining some main points and claims of the diet.

Juice Detox Diet:


  • Strict juice (usually fruit, veggie, or combination) diet for anywhere from 2-7 days.  
  • Sometimes it is used in conjunction with periods of fasting. 
  • Solid foods are off-limits - especially grains and protein foods.


  • Rid your body of toxins
  • Higher energy levels
  • Clearer skin
  • Better intestinal function
  • Sharper brain function
  • Reduced abdominal fat
  • Weight loss
Assessment from a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (see blog post on RDN credential March 20, 2013):

Practicality rating: D-
  • First of all, let me say that I enjoy food and the whole sensory aspect of eating.  I also happen to live with people who require me to provide food for them on a regular basis.  On a practicality level - this diet doesn't make the grade.  I would hate having to cook real food for my family, while resentfully sipping on a green smoothie all week. 
Health rating: D- (didn't get an F because of it's short duration)
  • I tend to believe that for the majority of people (with the exception of some rare disease states) optimal health can be achieved through eating - yes, chewing- food.  Our bodies come equipped with organs designed to detoxify, namely the liver and the kidneys.  A juice detox diet does not provide optimal nutrient support for these organs.
  • It also doesn't supply your body with the needed variety and amounts of nutrients needed to function optimally.  Often these detox diets are very low calorie and don't provide adequate carbohydrates to fully fuel the body, forcing ketosis.  This is not a desired state for your body, but rather a back-up measure to prevent starvation.  Feeling tired, sluggish, with headaches is the result.
  •   The change in bowel habits  due to the diet can also be harmful whether it be excessive diarrhea which can deplete your body of the beneficial bacteria that keeps your gut healthy, and also contribute to dehydration.  Or, if bowel function slows and stops, that is neither healthy or desirable. Commonly reported symptoms include bloating, cramping and diarrhea.   Not my idea of good health.
  • Your body will start to use muscle stores to obtain the needed amino acids it needs and instead of "melting away fat" you may actually be losing muscle.  Also, remember that most weight loss is water weight and there is no magical diet that will effectively spot remove fat.  It is simply a marketing tagline.  
Sustainability rating: not applicable
  •  A true test for the sensibilty of any diet plan is it's sustainability.  This diet is meant to be used as a short term "detox fix" and not meant as a long-term change (thank heavens!).  For that reason I gave it no rating in this category.  Let me just say this - once you get back to eating "normally", you pretty much get your normal body back, minus a some muscle mass and healthy intestinal bacteria.  This then becomes basically a "2-steps back" type diet.  
Want to know how to healthily achieve weight loss, better intestinal function, higher energy and rid your body toxins?  Contact me for a consult:


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Homemade Ranch Dip & Mix Recipe

Baby Cucumbers, Tender Asparagus and Red peppers make great dippers

Making this homemade dip mix not only saves money (and a trip to the store) but sodium - as most dips contain almost double the amount of this recipe.  And there's nothing like a great dip to encourage veggie consumption!

Ranch Mix and Dip Recipe

Nutrition Info for Prepared Dip per 2 Tbsp serving:

  • Calories: 33.5
  • Fat: 1.9g
  • Carbohydrates: 2.2g
  • Protein: 1.9g 
  • Sodium:  123 mg

Ranch Dip Mix*:

1 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika (or plain paprika)
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder (or more if desired)
1 Tbsp dried chives
3 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp dried dill weed
Mix together and store in an airtight container.

Ranch Dip:

Makes 11  2-Tbsp servings
1 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
2 1/2 Tbsp dip mix
1-2 dashes hot sauce (optional)
Mix well and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or more.  Keeps in the fridge for 5-7 days.

*The whole amount of dip mix ingredients is enough to feed 32 people when you add a 24 oz. container of greek yogurt and 1 cup mayonnaise.
However, 1 cup yogurt, 1/3 cup mayo and 2.5 Tbsp dip mix serves 10-12.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Strawberry-Topped Angel Food Cupcakes

While traditional cupcakes can contain up to 300 calories, this recipe has half the calories and is a lighter way to enjoy the cupcake craze.

  • 1 box angel food cake mix
  • 2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin (knox or other brand)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 24 strawberries, washed and dried

Prepare angel food cake mix according to box directions.  Scoop into 24 foil cupcake wrappers - filling to the top of the wrapper.  There will be some leftover - so I usually bake the rest in a loaf pan lined with parchment paper and save for another dessert use (trifle).  Bake the cupcakes at 375 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool. 

Prepare stabilized whipped cream by sprinkling gelatin over 2 Tbsp. cool water.  Let sit for a few minutes until gelatin absorbs water.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds until dissolved.  Cool.  Meanwhile, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form.  Add vanilla and powdered sugar.  While cream is beating and fairly stiff - pour in the liquified gelatin.  Beat for another minute or so until well whipped. 

To assemble cupcakes:
Pipe stabilized whipped cream onto cupcakes using a pastry bag, then top with a washed and dried strawberry. 

Makes 24 cupcakes.
Nutrition info:
1 cupcake = 126 calories, 7.4 g fat, 13 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g protein