Oct 31, 2011

Halloween Loot: One Dietitian's Perspective

Now that the Trick-or-Treating is over, the real temptation begins (both for you and your kids)! Do you eat eat eat it all up tonight? Do you hoard it for the next month or so? Or do you (*gulp*) throw it away?

To be honest, I can only tell you what I would have done in this case since my son is too little to have accumulated anything significant this year. Our Halloween booty consists of a fun-size kit-kat and a jolly rancher. And yes, it's gone. Mommy ate it. What? He's only 1.

Handling leftover Halloween candy is (in my opinion) a matter of knowing yourself and your child. Are you or your child the type that has to have it all or nothing? Then enjoy a bit on Halloween and throw the rest away. Are you or your child able to have just one piece? Then have one piece and put the rest away.

Eating a healthy diet isn't just about fruits and vegetables, it's about understanding yourself and the art of knowing how to enjoy less healthy foods in moderation.

In other words, if the majority of your diet is balanced and nutritious and you have an occasional treat, don't sweat it. Enjoy it, savor it, and move on. Teaching your kids how to enjoy an occasional treat without overindulging will likely help them become healthier eaters in the long run.

Oct 26, 2011

Apple-Cranberry Granola

It's fall. In my opinion, there are certain liberties I feel I must take when Fall rolls around. Here they are in no particular order:
  1. I must go to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte, preferably once per week (guilty pleasure). 
  2. I must take advantage of the cooler weather and go jogging more often....to burn off the pumpkin spice lattes :) 
  3. Hanging out at home in a sweatshirt is totally acceptable and NOT frumpy (at least not for another 2 months). 
  4. I take every opportunity to wear scarves and boots, preferably together.
  5. I paint my nails fun colors like rust by Essie 
  6. I bake tasty things that make my house smell like one (or more) of the following: pumpkin, cranberry, cinnamon or apple. 
  7. I try to make these tasty creations healthy. Enter, granola! 

    If you've been reading this blog, you know I love making granola. Since store-bought varieties contain so much added fat and sugar, I decided about a year ago that I would start making my own. The first granola recipe I posted was Granola Love, which is still my favorite basic recipe.

    I further adapted my basic recipe to include yummy Fall ingredients like apple, cinnamon, walnuts, cranberries and pumpkin pie spice (why not?!). It's got spice. It's got flair. It's got a delicious flavor that celebrates all things warm and cozy in a fresh healthy way.

    • 4 cups rolled oats
    • 1/3 cup apple butter, prepared
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice 
    • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/2 cup walnut pieces

    Heat oven to 325F. I like to coat my baking sheet with aluminum foil and then use cooking spray for no-stick easy clean-up. Mix apple butter, canola oil and vanilla until combined. In a separate bowl, mix oats and spices. Mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients together (minus the flax seed, cranberries and walnut pieces), making sure to coat all the oats well....yes, you're hands will get a little dirty. Totally worth it. Bake mixture for 45 minutes, stirring granola every 15 minutes for even browning. About 15 minutes before granola is done, add ground flax meal, cranberries and walnuts (this helps make sure they don't overcook, dry out or burn).

    This recipe is super easy and super healthy.

    I'll name just a few health benefits of eating 1/4-1/2 cup of this good stuff everyday: the oats provide heart-healthy soluble fiber, canola oil and walnuts are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (also heart-healthy), and the spices provide an extra dose of antioxidants. Although there is added sugar in the apple butter and dried cranberries, limiting your granola serving to approximately 1/4-1/2 cup will ensure you're getting the healthy benefits of granola without overdosing on sugar.

    Go ahead, enjoy the comforting tastes of Fall in a healthy way!

    Oct 24, 2011

    Motivation Monday

    It's Monday people! It's a new week - let's get motivated!

    I know this may sound hard to believe, but even dietitians need help getting - and staying - motivated. It's no easy task, especially this time of year. Whether you're trying to eat healthier, exercise more, or lose a few pounds, there are always a variety of convenience excuses tempting you to forget about your health goals.

    Of course, the holiday season brings new temptations to the table (pun totally intended!) and forces you to make a choice - stick with your goal? Or dive head-first into the candy bowl? Before you pick option B, let me share a few things that motivate me to make better health choices each day.
    1. Having energy.
      • You feel more energized when you eat healthy. Period.
    2. Building confidence.
      • Making even just one healthy choice can lead to another because it gives you confidence to know you CAN do it!
    3. Setting an example.
      • When I think of my family and how much I want them to live healthy lives, it reminds me take the initiative and set a good example.
      There are so many more good reasons to eat well and stay active; improving your immune system, and preventing chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Sure, a lot of people try to eat healthy primarily to lose weight or prevent gaining weight. And certainly, maintaining a healthy weight is important. But by switching your focus to overall health and well-being (as opposed to the numbers on a scale), you are more likely to stick with your healthy lifestyle choices long term.

      Truth is, each person is unique and has their own set of motivations. What motivates you?

      Oct 21, 2011

      Parmesan-Garlic Biscuits

      Have I told you how much I love Pinterest? Seriously, I'm completely addicted.

      But unlike a normal addiction, I try to use my Pinterest obsession for good.  That is, good food. For example, I found this Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit recipe on Pinterest. Looks good. Had to try it.

      For me, biscuits are the ultimate comfort food. They remind me of my Grammy, who also loved biscuits and taught me how to make them. I remember visiting her house and being so excited to get in the kitchen and help her make her famous buttermilk biscuits. To my Grammy, the most important tool for a good biscuit is a pastry blender. This handy tool allows you to easily "cut" the butter into the flour mixture so the biscuit bakes up fluffy and flaky. Granted I had to change a few things from her original recipe since it called for ingredients like "crisco", but nonetheless, whenever I make them I think of her. 

      Last night, I further adapted Grammy's biscuit recipe to include garlic and cheese - two of my favorite ingredients on the planet. I made them last night for dinner and paired it with a bowl of savory pot roast. The combination was amazing, comforting and begged me to sit at the table for a few more minutes indulging in the deliciousness.

      Here is the recipe I used (Adapted from the recipe mentioned above and my Grammy's).

      • 1 cup of flour
      • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
      • 1/4 tsp salt
      • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
      • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed
      • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
      • 1/3 cup milk

      Heat oven to 475 F. Stir flour, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder together. Add parmesan cheese and cubed butter. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles course crumbs. Make a well in the center and add milk. Mix briefly until combined. Dough should be a bit sticky. On a floured surface, knead dough about 30 seconds. Roll dough out and using a biscuit cutter (or your hands!), form 2 inch biscuits and place onto lightly greased baking sheet (I use Pam). Bake for 10-13 minutes until golden brown. Serves 4. 

      Oct 17, 2011

      Meat: Well Done

      Last weekend my hubby and I enjoyed a great date night. There was chatting, drinking and of course eating. Unfortunately, what I ate didn't sit so well with me and I ended up sick the whole next day! No. Fun. I spent much of the day lying in bed racking my dietitian brain as to the source of food poisoning....was it the undercooked egg on my salad? The New York Steak? Truth is, I won't know for sure. But I do know that it was likely due to a food temperature issue. 

      As a dietitian who cooks for her family and works in a skilled nursing facility (i.e. nursing home), I know that food temperatures are super important to protect my family and the residents I work with. Cooking food to the proper temperature reduces the amount of nasty bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

      At the skilled nursing facility, I spend a fair amount of time surveying the kitchen, making sure all the food is cooked to the correct temperatures to ensure the elderly residents are served food that is safe to eat. At home, I know that children are at greater risk for food poisoning, so I make sure to prepare food safely.

      The temperature zone that bacteria grows the best is 41-135 degrees Farenheit and is known in Food Safety Nerd-land as the "Danger Zone". Okay, there's no Food Safety Nerd-land (except the one in my head)....but there really is something called the temperature "Danger Zone".

      The only way you can know for sure if your meat is done is to check the temperature. In my Safe Cooking 101 post, I encouraged buying a meat thermometer. Have you got one yet? They're so handy!

      Another plus to cooking foods to the correct temperature is that - in the case of meat products -  they're juicy and tender. Chicken doesn't deserve to be served dry!

      The pictures I took show you the minimum cooking temperatures for chicken, fish and cooked vegetables, but for a complete reference, check out this guide from foodsafety.gov

      I say all this because healthy food isn't healthy unless it's safe to eat. Happy - and safe - cooking!

      Oct 10, 2011

      Date Nights and Grocery Budgets

      Yay for date night!

      My husband and I had a great date night this weekend. Great food and great conversation reminded me again why I married my sweetie. With a toddler at home, date nights don't happen too often around here so we certainly enjoy them when they come around. Here we are on our last date night at a Thai restaurant, don't we look happy?

      This time, we ate at a delicious steakhouse with the. most. amazing. onion rings on the planet. Yes, I ate onion rings. It's date night, people! We also had other yummy things like new york strip steak, hamburger "slider" (really the size of a normal burger, but called a slider), and warm spinach salad with goat cheese. Amazing.

      Eating out at a fancy steakhouse also reminded me why we usually eat at home....it's not cheap!
      As much as I love food, I have to admit it can get expensive. Even eating at home is costly if not well planned. I am always looking for ways to stay within our grocery budget and thankfully another dietitian has dedicated an entire blog to the topic. The Budget Dietitian shares her simple tricks for slashing your grocery budget. Seriously, she feeds her family for about $75/week. She has my attention!

      On a less-then-ideal note, that wonderful date night dinner ended up giving me food poisoning. Naturally, this would happen as we rarely eat out! What?! Anyway, this unfortunate event reminded me how important food safety is and that I clearly need another blog post on that topic! More on that next time :)

      Have a wonderful week!

      Oct 7, 2011

      A Dietitian's Plate

      If a dietitian came to your house for dinner, would it make you a little nervous? Would you worry whether the meal you prepared was nutritious enough? I'm pretty sure this happens most times I eat at other people's houses for dinner and I'm SORRY! For the record, if I ever come to your house for dinner, don't be nervous. I eat real food and I don't judge. No worries.

      On to real food....

      So what does a dietitian eat for dinner? Sure, I can spout all the "eat this, not that" mumbo jumbo, but what does a dietitian actually eat? Even though I believe that all foods fit into a healthy diet, there are certain foods I chose to eat regularly and others I save for special occasions. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy sweets and junk foods like the best of them, but if I eat them everyday, two things happen: 1) my thighs expand and 2) I don't get enough vitamins and minerals. No good. 

      This is what I ate for dinner tonight: 4 oz baked talapia in lemon-garlic sauce, 2/3 cup apple-walnut rice pilaf and 1 cup steamed broccoli. Yes, I measure. I do this so I don't get halfway through my dinner and think "hmmm, how much did I just eat?" and then continue to eat 2 more helpings.

      Since I know my portions, I can just estimate most of the time, but occasionally I still pull out the measuring cups. Measuring your food (or simply paying attention to how much you're eating) is helpful to bring awareness to how much food you're consuming and how much your body actually needs. It also allows you to slow down, savor your food and enjoy your meal.

      Also, I dish out food for my husband, my son and I in the kitchen. By not having extra food sitting on the dinner table, it prevents reaching for seconds if we're really not hungry. Plus, it helps us connect with each other and pay attention to our internal signals of satiation (the feeling of fullness). Because your body needs time to start digesting food to realize it's "full", try to wait about 15 minutes after eating before going back for more.

      Happy and healthy eating!