Monday, December 28, 2009

Stick To Your Guns - Make Your Resolutions Happen

How many times have you made the same New Year's resolution to lose weight and get into shape? And how many times have you watched your resolve and commitment evaporate by the end of January?

This year consider a new plan of action:
1. First and foremost ask yourself, "What do I really want to accomplish and is it realistic?" Yes it is possible to lose 100 lbs, lower your cholesterol, and find serenity all in one year but will that make you look like Angelina or Brad? Are you willing to work hard even though in the end you will still be just you?

2. What are you willing to do to achieve your goals? In the beginning you may think you will jump through any hoop to get what you want, but is your action plan sustainable?

3. Are you willing to be patient? Can you accept a pound a week weight loss? Can you handle weight fluctuations? Can you wait 10 months to lose 40 pounds? Can you start thinking "health" instead of "weight"?

Resolutions are just the beginning. They give you an idea of what you want. But to arrive at your destination it takes more than an idea. It takes ACTION. Your action plan is the road map and following the map is the key to success.

#1 Soul Search
Soul searching is important because in order to be successful you have to buy into your new belief system. You have to believe that the program or "structure" you set up is going to work. You have to believe that your program will allow you to successfully change the habits that have not worked for you in the past. You have to believe you can do this even after a bad day or two or three...or week....or month.

Are you prepared to have what you want? Are you really ready to do what it takes to lose weight? Will you be able to let go of using your weight as an excuse for not doing things? You need to ask the hard questions and then listen to your inner voice. If the inner voice (you) gives you grief, ask yourself again, what do I really want? Are you ready to take this on?

#2 Make a Sustainable Plan
Once you make the decision about what you want to accomplish, you have to explore the reality of making it happen. Remember we are not after perfection, but rather sustainability. You don't have to get it right all the time; you just have to do enough to see results. The key is to keep on going even when you blow it and have a bad day or week. Remember, once you stop you are out of the game, and when you are out of the game there can be no progress. So getting back to the plan as soon as possible is the key to success and paramount to achieving your goals.

Let's start with exercise. We know unequivocally that physical activity is one of the most important keys to long term weight maintenance. That means you have to find something you like or are willing to do at least four to five times a week. (The idea is to put into place enough healthy habits so you do not have to revisit the weight loss again.) Choose from yoga, weight training, walking, running, spinning, Pilates, or even the big game in tennis. The possibilities are endless. Find a good gym or health club with lots of options and/or enlist the help of a personal trainer. Exercise builds endorphins, fights depression, speeds up your metabolism, and is the key to longevity. Plus it takes on a life of its own and spurs you on to keep repeating the behavior. It is a gift that keeps on giving!

Next find a registered dietitian/nutritionist who can help you design a healthy eating plan. Remember it takes time to change life-long food habits. My successful weight loss and weight maintenance clients are those that no longer approach weight loss as a diet. Together we create a sustainable program where there is no demarcation between being on or off a diet. You are learning new strategies and constantly adjusting what works for you. You begin to find balance. Food is your friend and has the power to keep you full, healthy, and satisfied.

#3 Have Patience
One of the first things my clients want to know is how many pounds they will lose each week. They cannot get the weight off fast enough! The key is patience. You have to lose weight the same way you will maintain weight otherwise you will be at a loss (no pun intended) when the "diet" is over. Focus on the behaviors instead of the weight. When you lose weight slowly, you decrease the chances of revisiting the weight gain and making the same old resolutions next year.

If you stick to your guns now and enlist the help of a registered dietitian/nutritionist and exercise professional your chances of success are almost guaranteed. So strap on your holster and get ready for a showdown (with yourself.)

Happy and Healthy New Year to All,


Monday, December 14, 2009

Life is Short - Eat Some Chocolate

Some recent tragic, unexpected deaths have left the Health Nut feeling philosophic. Life's transiency is on my mind. The temporary nature of it all makes me realize how important it is to live for today yet still have an eye towards the future (just in case we make it until a ripe old age.)

Before I continue, I just need to say that my heart goes out to all my friends and their families who have been devastated by the recent loss of loved ones. May their memories give you strength and sustain you through these difficult times.

Death makes me question life. After I ask, "What's the point if in the end we are lying with our friends sleeping in the dust?" I am most often filled with a reaffirmation and a commitment to make each day the best it can be. For me that means to love my family and friends, do what I am willing to do to repair the world, and stay true to my beliefs.

Which leads me to why I still think it is worth it, even in the face of our eventual extinction, to eat well. I believe that eating well makes each day better because we are functioning at a level that allow us the energy to be our best and tackle what is our chosen earthly mission. Plus eating low on the food chain and more plant based is good for the planet.

Hopefully if we take care of ourselves on a daily basis, we will be more independent and less of a burden on our families as we age. Plus I want to be kicking up my heels and howling at the moon as long as possible and that requires being steady on my feet and having my faculties.

Will I regret not eating French fries, sometimes avoiding Godiva chocolate, or drinking less red wine when my final moments come? Maybe. But I strive while I am here to strike a balance between indulgence and sensibility where I can literally "have my cake and eat it too."

I think you only have to do enough of the right things to create homeostasis or equilibrium where your body, mind, and spirit all function in harmony. A bit of nourishment on all levels creates balance. For each person it will be a different mixture. And just like junk food binges, we all have moments or months or even years of being out of whack. Life is for figuring it all out.

So for this Health Nut, being a little less spontaneous and more focused on healthy eating actually allows me more spontaneity in other areas my life because I have the energy and desire to be ready for what comes my way. Does that make sense? Maybe about as much as one day we won't be around.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Training to Eat for the Holidays

The holidays are fast approaching. This festive time of year is filled with good fellowship, food, and fun...and lots of calories and overindulgence leading to weight gain and then to weight loss resolutions. How can we make this year different?

If you put some simple practices into play now, you can avoid that beginning of the year regret.

Tip One: Make awareness part of the holiday spirit. Ask yourself, "Where do I want my weight to be on January 2nd?" Jot the answer down on a piece of paper and post it where you can see it every day. For example, "I want to weight 135 on January 2nd." Now don't lose sight of that goal.

Tip Two: Set into motion actions that will lead to achieving your goal. For instance, continue your exercise program. If you don't have one, now is the time to start. Don't wait until the first of the year to begin. Exercise is a great calorie burner. Exercise also increases endorphins which promote a sense of well-being, something you will need lots of at this stressful time of year.

Tip Three: Set a carbohydrate limit for the day. Allow yourself a daily total of four to six carbohydrate servings. Since there will be sweets and alcohol everywhere, plan to make your meals lighter in carbohydrates. Here are some examples of one carbohydrate serving:

One slice of bread, one roll, one corn tortilla
10 tortilla chips
8 stick pretzels
One alcoholic drink (no matter what type)
3 Hershey kisses
1/4 of a medium order of French fries

Keep a food log. This helps you know how many carbs you have eaten and how many you have left. One plan is to limit carbs during the week and fill up on salads, fresh veggies, and lean protein with limited amounts of whole grains and healthy fats. Use two servings of fruit to satisfy sweet cravings.

Here is a sample menu:

Egg while omelet with spinach and Cabot 75% reduced fat cheddar cheese, topped with salsa and sliced avocado
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal or whole grain cereal with sliced fruit and almond milk plus 1 t. ground flax seed
2 slices (40 calories each) whole grain bread with 1 T. natural peanut, almond or cashew butter with Polaner All-Fruit
*Coffee or Skinny latte

Large salad with lean protein - grilled chicken, low fat cheese, shrimp, salmon, tofu. Add sliced avocado or dry roasted or raw nuts
Vinaigrette dressing (preferably made with olive oil)
Fresh veggies with 1/3 cup hummus plus 5 Triscuits or 20 Wheat Thins
If you did not have any carbs at breakfast (oatmeal, cereal, toast) sandwich on one slice whole wheat bread with nitrite-free turkey with olive oil mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle
(If non meat eater, avocado and Cabot 75% reduced fat cheese)
Chipotle bowl with chicken, 1/2 spoonful of beans, no rice, salsas but no corn salsa, grilled onions and peppers, no sour cream, lettuce and pay extra for some guacamole

Fresh salad with vinaigrette, lean protein of your choice (chicken, fish, tofu, low fat cheese), and steamed or roasted veggies (non starchy)
1/2 cup rice with roasted veggies and salad
1/2 cup of whole grain pasta with red sauce or garlic and olive oil, steamed veggies and salad

Use your two servings of fruit. Add 12 raw almonds or cashews or 1 T. natural nut butter with each fruit serving.
*Coffee is a calorie free food but can lead to hunger pangs, so limit intake.

Tip Four: Have a plan before you attend a party because once you get there good intentions can quickly fly out the window. Alcohol besides adding calories diminishes your ability to stay focused on your food goals. Set a number of drinks for the night and stick with it.

You never want to go to a party hungry. Telling yourself you won't eat all day so it is okay to indulge at the party is a formula for disaster. At the party avoid fried foods, any appetizer that sits on bread, creamy dips, and limit sweets and alcohol. That leaves veggies and protein. Save the carbs for your set amount of alcohol or a bite or two of something incredible.

Or you can always cast your fate to the wind and come the New Year begin yet again!

For more articles and resources about how to "Train to Eat for the Holidays" visit Washington Family Magazine at

Monday, November 30, 2009

Time to Cleanse

I keep hearing and seeing ads for body cleansing. The advertisers tell you how to rid yourself of years of toxic accumulations by drinking their special potions. They say the accumulations are like "Spackle in your intestines" and when you rid yourself of them you will drop those ten extra pounds that have been haunting you for years and your energy will reappear.

I actually agree that cleansing is a good idea especially around this "excessive" time of year. In fact today I was cleaning out my nutrition files and came across years of materials that I have been saving. Stuff from 25 years ago! What surprised me the most was that much of the health and wellness information available back then is pretty similar to today's current research.

The main difference is there is a "wellness mindset" that is now mainstream and starting to appear everywhere. That same information is being translated into action and intertwined throughout the institutions that serve us: healthier menus at fast food outlets; whole grains in the grocery store; corporate gyms; healthier school lunches; more alternative medical choices. Awareness and consciousness about health (emotional, physical and spiritual) has increased a thousand fold.

Which leads me to my point. Most of us know the basics of how to stay healthy and well because information is everywhere and if we don't know, we can go to the Internet and look it up (another reason to throw away my paper files!). But it is not "knowing" that fosters change or cleansing. A look at the current statistics on obesity and disease confirms this.

So what I came away with today as I threw out pounds and pounds of paper was that each of us makes a choice about how we want to live. A week on cleansing powder will not clean you out permanently; it is a temporary fix. Permanent cleansing is a daily ritual, one in which you decide that your actions can lead to something bigger down the road. It is the accumulation of actions that determine how successful you are at reaching your goals whether they be dietary or life goals. So cleansing becomes an ongoing, vibrant and conscious way of living.

That doesn't mean you never overindulge (hello holidays!), but it does mean that you are continually seeking balance, living somewhere between today and eternity. Creating a life that gets you to where you want to be. It is helpful to map out where you are going because then you have a better chance of arriving at your destination.

So yes an occasional colon cleanse is good for the body but a guided, daily cleanse that comes from healthy living is good for the soul.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turkey Time

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it is time to talk turkey. Whether you go frozen, organic, free range, or totally vegan, preparing the meal can be fun. It can also raise lots of questions both emotional and practical.

The emotional question is usually, "How do I approach a day/weekend of overindulgence without going off the deep end?" While I am usually "GoBeFulling" it fulltime, on Thanksgiving I just enjoy the day. I love the leftovers too.

If I am preparing the meal, I try to use the GoBeFull ( principles relying on whole food ingredients, avoiding preservatives, bad fats, etc. If I am at someone else's house I just eat what I want and be thankful that someone has taken the time and energy to prepare a lovely meal. I also try to remind myself, that I don't have to be a glutton and eat until I cannot move!

The next day I am back to my normal exercise routine with a satisified smile. On the run I use self-talk to remind myself that Thanksgiving does not have to mean the start of four weeks of intense eating and drinking. A little indulgence is a good thing, too much and you will have to deal with the sluggishness and extra poundage come the new year. Awareness is the key to success.

Luckily for the easier-to-deal-with practical questions, The University of Nebraska has put together everything you need to know ( for a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Be sure to click on the Kids' Corner at the bottom of the page for some fun activities.

"Thanksgiving is a special time for giving thanks and focusing on family and friends. If you're hosting or thinking about hosting a Thanksgiving meal at your house, the following links may be helpful.

NOTE: Turkey meat will be safely cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F; however, the meat may still be slightly pink. Some people prefer cooking turkey to a higher temperature (whole turkey to 180°F in the innermost part of the thigh; turkey breasts to 170 degrees F in the thickest part) for meat that is more well done. For additional reasons turkey meat can be pink, click HERE.

Quick links to different sections
Planning ahead for Thanksgiving Day
Where to call for help on Thanksgiving Day
How to prepare a turkey
Food safety questions
Carving a turkey
How to make turkey gravy
Pumpkin pie
Tips for traveling safely with Thanksgiving foods
Recipes for leftover turkey
Preparing meats other than turkey
Kids' Corner (Thanksgiving coloring sheets, games, jokes)

Planning ahead for Thanksgiving Day
1. Countdown to the Thanksgiving Holiday (source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español PDF
Plan ahead to ease the countdown tension for your Thanksgiving meal.

Where to call for help on Thanksgiving
1. Toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline
The hotline will be staffed with food safety specialists on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time to answer your turkey questions.

For food safety questions year round, you may speak with a food safety specialist — in English or Spanish — from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern time on weekdays.
Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at:1-888-MPHotline1-888-674-6854Or send an Email to: Web page link for Hotline

How to prepare a Turkey
1. Let's Talk Turkey–A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey (source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español
Every facet of getting a turkey from the store to the dinner table is included — buying fresh vs. frozen, safe thawing methods, stuffing, roasting, storing leftover turkey and reheating the leftovers.

2. Turkey Basics (Source: USDA)
Turkey Basics: Handling Cooked DinnersWeb page link PDF En Español En Español PDF Recommendations for take-out, deli-prepared, or convenience turkey dinners.

Turkey Basics: Safe CookingWeb page link PDF En Español En Español PDF Roasting instructions and approximate cooking times.

Turkey Basics: Safe ThawingWeb page link PDF En Español En Español PDF A turkey must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. Learn three safe methods.

Turkey Basics: Stuffing Web page link PDF En Español En Español PDF For safety, prepare stuffing or dressing for the turkey according to these directions

3. Stuffing and Food Safety (Source: USDA)Web page link PDF
Read this before you stuff a turkey!!!

4. Oven Bags (Source: Reynolds)Web page link
A turkey will cook faster in an oven bag with less cleanup afterwards. For more information about using oven bags, check this link. Directions for specific oven bags are included when you purchase an oven bag. NOTE: A thermometer can be inserted through a hole in the oven bag so you can tell when your turkey is safely done.

5. Poultry: Basting, Brining, and Marinating (Source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español En Español PDF Don't compromise food safety when looking for new and interesting ways to prepare old standards like chicken and turkey.

6. Turkey: Alternate Routes to the Table - roaster oven, grilling smoking, deep fat frying, pressure cooker, microwave (source: USDA) Web page link
Turkey preparation methods other than the traditional method of roasting a turkey in the oven are described: electric roaster oven, grilling (covered charcoal grill and covered gas grill, smoking a turkey, deep fat frying a turkey, microwaving a turkey and cooking turkey in a pressure cooker.

7. How to Cook a Turkey the Day before Serving It Web page link
Details and tips for preparing your turkey a day before serving it are given.

8. Turduckens Require Safe Food Handling Web page link PDF En Español En Español PDF (source: USDA)
"Turducken" — a layered poultry dish especially popular during the holidays — requires safe food handling and thorough cooking to prevent foodborne illness.

Food safety questions
1. Is Pink Turkey Meat Safe? (source: USDA) Web page link PDF
Well-done, safely cooked turkey meat may sometimes have a pink color. Learn why here. (source: USDA)

2. No-Show Guests Jeopardize Food (source: USDA) Web page link
When guests encounter emergencies and the meal must be delayed or cancelled, food must be handled "just right" to remain safe.

3. "Panic Button" Food Safety Questions (source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español PDF
During the holidays, people are busy and can sometimes forget that unsafe handling and cooking can lead to foodborne illness. Here are some questions callers have asked regarding the safety of their holiday foods.

4. Types of Food ThermometersWeb page link
Learn the difference between different types of food thermometers and how to use them.

5. Brilliant Buffets (source: page link Check the TWO links for downloading pages 1 and 2 of a related holiday brochure by clicking HERE
Learn tips for setting out food safely at holiday buffets.

6. Ask Karen (source: USDA)Web page link
An automated response system that will answer basis questions 24/7/365.

Carving a turkey (click on link at top of blog to play video)
1. Carving the Whole Turkey Brochure (source: NE Dept. of Agriculture Poultry & Egg Division)PDF En Español PDF
It may be easier and less intimidating to carve a turkey in the kitchen than at the dining table. This brochure includes step by step instructions for both methods. Several recipes using turkey meat are given.

2. Carving A Thanksgiving Turkey - - Carving a turkey in the kitchen
This video shows how to carve a turkey in the kitchen and get the most meat from your turkey.

How to make turkey gravy (click on link at the top of the blog to play video)
1. How to Make Turkey Gravy
This video gives some of the easiest instructions I've seen if you have never made gravy before.

If you should end up with some lumps in your gravy, here are some methods to remove them:

Try breaking them up by whisking the gravy vigorously with a wire whisk.

Pour the gravy through a mesh strainer.
As a last resort, try pureeing the gravy in a blender or food processor or dip an immersion blender into the gravy to smooth it.

Another possibility is to use an instantized flour, such as Wondra, that has been formulated so it doesn't lump. As a back-up, if you have never made gravy before, you may want to purchase some ready-made gravy in a can or or jar ... just in case.

1. Stuffing and Food Safety (Source: USDA)Web page link PDF

2. Almond Brown Rice Stuffing (source: USA Rice Federation) PDF
This recipe tastes like the traditional stuffing only it is made with rice.

Pumpkin pie
1. Light Pumpkin Pie (source: Food and Health Communications)Web page link
This pumpkin pie saves 100 calories per slice from the traditional version and tastes identical!

2. Pumpkin Ice Cream PieWeb page link
This frozen pie can be made in advance and removed from the freezer on Thanksgiving Day.

Tips for traveling SAFELY with Thanksgiving foods
1. Thanksgiving on the Go - if you're traveling and taking food (source: Web page link

2. Thanksgiving Travel (Source: Pat Kendall, Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist at Colorado State University) Web page link
Some excellent tips for traveling safely with a turkey.

3. Traveling with Food to Gatherings of Family and FriendsWeb page link
If people are bringing food to a Thanksgiving meal, consider assigning foods based on how far they have to travel.

Recipes for leftover turkey
1. Thanksgiving Leftover Recipes (source: National Turkey Federation) Web page link
Enjoy turkey the day after and beyond with these delicious sandwich, entree, soup, salad and appetizer ideas.

2. Turkey Anytime: A Recipe for Turning Leftovers into Planned Over's (includes 10 quick recipes)PDF link

Preparing meats other than turkey
1. Roasting Those "Other" Holiday Meats (source: USDA) Web page link PDF En Español En Español PDF
Rather than turkey, some families choose a rib roast; others, a ham; and some will have a butcher arrange a crown roast of lamb. For special holiday meals, the cook wants everything perfect — and perfectly safe.

1. Thanksgiving Coloring Game (source: Web page link
Kids can "color" Thanksgiving pictures online.

2. Thanksgiving Coloring Pages (source: Web page link
Choose from several images to print and color.

3. Thanksgiving Mazes (source: Web page link
Choose from several mazes to print and solve.

4. Thanksgiving Dinner Place mats (source: page link
Your hand print becomes the turkey's feathers.

5. Thanksgiving Quiz (source: page link
Do you know the answer to questions such as what the pilgrims ate the first Thanksgiving?

6. Thanksgiving Jokes and Riddles (source: Web page link
Can you guess the answer to riddles such as why was the turkey the drummer in the band?"

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beans for Just Beans

Today I stopped by Baja Fresh and had the cheapest, most delicious lunch. For $2.88 I had a huge plate of black beans topped with a large side of fresh guacamole and three different kinds of fresh salsa. Sprinkled on top was fresh chopped cilantro.

I could barely finish the entire plate of beans. I left with a full stomach and lots of nutrients about to circulate through me! Black beans are really good for you. Here is what the experts say:

"Black beans are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, as are most other legumes. In addition to lowering cholesterol, black beans' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as brown rice, black beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein. You may already be familiar with beans' fiber and protein, but this is far from all black beans have to offer.

Sensitive to Sulfites? Black Beans May Help
Black beans are an excellent source of the trace mineral, molybdenum, an integral component of the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which is responsible for detoxifying sulfites. Sulfites are a type of preservative commonly added to prepared foods like delicatessen salads and salad bars. Persons who are sensitive to sulfites in these foods may experience rapid heartbeat, headache or disorientation if sulfites are unwittingly consumed. If you have ever reacted to sulfites, it may be because your molybdenum stores are insufficient to detoxify them. A cup of black beans will give you 172.0% of the daily value for this helpful trace mineral.

A Fiber All Star
Check a chart of the fiber content in foods; you'll see legumes leading the pack. Black beans, like other beans, are rich in dietary fiber. For this reason, black beans and other beans are useful foods for people with irregular glucose metabolism, such as diabetics and those with hypoglycemia, because beans have a low glycemic index rating. This means that blood glucose (blood sugar) does not rise as high after eating beans as it does when compared to white bread. This beneficial effect is probably due to two factors: the presence of higher amounts of absorption-slowing protein in the beans, and their high soluble fiber content.

Soluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach forming a gel that slows down the metabolism of the bean's carbohydrates. The presence of fiber is also the primary factor in the cholesterol-lowering power of beans. Fiber binds with the bile acids that are used to make cholesterol. Fiber isn't absorbed, so when it exits the body in the feces, it takes the bile acids with it. As a result, the body may end up with less cholesterol. Black beans also contain insoluble fiber, which research studies have shown not only helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation, but also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

Loaded with Antioxidants
Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry indicates that black beans are as rich in antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins as grapes and cranberries, fruits long considered antioxidant superstars.

When researchers analyzed different types of beans, they found that, the darker the bean's seed coat, the higher its level of antioxidant activity. Gram for gram, black beans were found to have the most antioxidant activity, followed in descending order by red, brown, yellow, and white beans.

Overall, the level of antioxidants found in black beans in this study is approximately 10 times that found in an equivalent amount of oranges, and comparable to that found in an equivalent amount of grapes or cranberries.

Promote Optimal Health
A study published in Food Chemistry and Toxicology suggests not only that black beans may help protect against cancer, but that whole foods naturally contain an array of compounds that work together for our benefit. When researchers fed laboratory animals a 20% black bean diet to see if it would cause any mutagenic or genotoxic activity, not only did black beans not promote cancer, but a clear reduction in the number of pre-cancerous cells was seen, even in animals who were simultaneously given an agent known to promote cancer, the mutagen, cyclophosphamide.

In an attempt to identify the bean components responsible for this protective effect, the researchers tested a single commercial anthocyanin, but instead of being protective on its own, the flavonoid, at the highest dose administered (50 mg per kg of bodyweight), actually induced DNA damage. The moral we draw from this tale: the synergy of compounds brought together by Mother Nature in the creation of whole foods is highly likely to be of greater benefit than a single extracted compound.

Lower Your Heart Attack Risk
In a study that examined food intake patterns and risk of death from coronary heart disease, researchers followed more than 16,000 middle-aged men in the U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Italy, former Yugoslavia, Greece and Japan for 25 years. Typical food patterns were: higher consumption of dairy products in Northern Europe; higher consumption of meat in the U.S.; higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and wine in Southern Europe; and higher consumption of cereals, soy products, and fish in Japan. When researchers analyzed this data in relation to the risk of death from heart disease, they found that higher consumption of legumes was associated with a whopping 82% reduction in risk!

Check out Baja Fresh for lots of bean dishes. Chipotle and Anita's are also good choices.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nutrition and School Performance

Now that the Halloween candy is almost gone and the first semester more than halfway done, this might be a good time to start thinking about nutrition and school performance.

As parents one of our major concerns is how well our children perform in school. Our worries often lead us to consult therapists, tutors, and other specialists. Good nutrition is another important, powerful tool to help our kids reach their potential. While we all know that breakfast is crucial for feeding the brain and stabilizing blood sugars, recent studies show that certain types of fats in the diet might actually improve brain function.

Why do we want to feed kids more fat when most people say to cut down on fat?
You want to start by looking at the total fat in your child's diet. A fat free diet is not ideal for kids. Fats are important for brain function and hormone development, but not any type of fat. It needs to be healthy fat from Omega-3-fatty acids and monounsaturated fat. The problem is many children get too much of the wrong fats called trans or hydrogenated fats. They also get fat from animal foods in the form of artery clogging saturated fats. Researchers think this imbalance of too much trans and saturated fat and not enough Omega-3 and mono fat might play a role in decreased brain function.

What foods contain these healthy fats?
Monounsaturated fats or MUFA’S are found in olive oil, olives, sesame seeds, avocado, and nuts like almonds, pistachios, and peanuts. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are also high in Omega-3-fatty acids. Ground flax seed is also high in Omega 3’s.

What is a hydrogenated fat and why should they be avoided?
Hydrogenated fats are solid at room temperature. Oils start out liquid. Food manufacturers shoot hydrogen into the oil to make it solid (think Crisco). Food companies rarely hydrogenate the healthy fats like olive oil and sesame oil because of expense and taste, but rather manipulate the cheaper and less healthy oils like corn oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil. Eating too much trans fat and too little healthy fat can cause a ratio imbalance and researchers think this discrepancy causes problems and may affect learning.

How does this translate into eating?
Kids need more nuts and natural nut butters, the kind with the oil on top (refrigerate after opening). If your school has a no nut policy, then serve those foods at home. Cook with olive oil; pack olives as a snack; dip veggies in hummus made with tahini or sesame paste; snack on guacamole and baked chips. Serve more fish – smoked salmon (nitrite free) on a whole wheat bagel with low fat cream cheese; grilled salmon; pan seared halibut; grilled shrimp and other fatty fishes like tuna, though experts currently recommend limiting tuna to a few times a month due to elevated mercury levels.

What should be avoided?
Avoid anything with hydrogenated fat or partially hydrogenated fat. These fats are found in commercially fried foods like French fries, nuggets, and in commercially prepared products like frozen foods, cereals, candy, and baked goods. It is also recommended to cut back on saturated vegetable fats like palm kernel oil as well as excess amounts of animal fat.

Generally kids benefit from a more plant based diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, moderate amounts of protein, and a little junk just to keep them happy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

FDA Halloween Safety Tips for Parents

Take these simple steps to help your children have a fun – and safe – Halloween:

  • Children shouldn’t snack while they’re out trick-or-treating. Urge your children to wait until they get home and you have had a chance to inspect the contents of their “goody bags.”
  • To help prevent children from snacking, give them a light meal or snack before they head out – don’t send them out on an empty stomach.
  • Tell children not to accept – and especially not to eat – anything that isn’t commercially wrapped.
  • Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys.
  • Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.

And follow these tips for Halloween parties at home:

  • If juice or cider is served to children at Halloween parties, make sure it is pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy harmful bacteria. Juice or cider that has not been treated will say so on the label.
  • No matter how tempting, don't taste raw cookie dough or cake batter.
  • Before going "bobbing for apples," an all-time favorite Halloween game, reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  • "Scare" bacteria away by keeping all perishable foods chilled until serving time. These include, for example, finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frostings. Cold temperatures help keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying. And don't leave the food at room temperature for more than two-hours.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shopping at Target

After my Sunday run to Whole Foods, I stopped by Target. While I don't usually buy groceries there, I decided to browse the aisles. I am happy to report I found some healthful products on the shelves. The next time you are there, you might want to pick up a few. The ones listed below pass the GoBeFull (GBF) test. For those of you who don't recognize GBF, it stands for eight keys to health and fitness:
Olive oil (and other healthy fats)


Unrefined grains (and other healthful carbs)
Lean protein

The Target I went to does not carry produce but they did have some frozen veggies that could work in a pinch. Just check the salt content. Here are some tomato products that are high in antioxidants:
Archer Farms Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce
Archer Farms Salsa
Classico Sauce
Muir Glen Tomato Products
Newman's Own Sauce
Pace Salsa
Rao's Tomato Basil Sauce

Olive oil
I use the words "Olive oil" to mean healthful fats. The products I am recommending do not have any Trans fats. Monounsaturated fats like almonds, pistachios, olive oil and canola oils are the ones I like best; I prefer cold pressed. The products mentioned contain mostly mono fats but some have polyunsaturated fats, like soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower oil, which are less preferable. Unlike mono fats which can reduce inflammation in the body, polyunsaturated fats or Omega-6-fats can increase inflammation.
Archer Farms Cashew Cranberry Almond Blend
Archer Farms Dry Roasted Pistachios
Archer Farms Raw Almonds
Emerald Cocoa Roasted Almonds
Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter

Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans
Bush's Black Beans
Kashi Black Bean Mango Frozen Entree

Grocery shopping burns calories! Next time I will check out the exercise equipment and report back.

No fresh produce.

Unrefined Grains
While some of these products are 100% whole grain, others are made from unbleached flour or a mixture of unbleached and 100% whole grain. I did not include any products with bleached flour. Bleached and unbleached both have had the germ and the bran removed. Bleached means they treat the flour with powerful bromine bleaches and should be avoided.
Amy's Pizzas
Archer Farms Arrabbiata Whole Wheat Penne Rigate
Archer Farms Blueberry and Multigrain Pancake Mix
Archer Farms Flaxseed Waffles
Archer Farms Spinach and Goat Cheese Frozen Pizza
Alexa's Spicy Sweet Potatoes
Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Pasta
Kim and Scott's Gourmet Frozen Pretzels
Kashi 7 Grain Waffles

Gluten Free Products
Midel Crackers
Bob's Red Mill
Nature's Path

Lean Protein
I only like to buy hormone-free meats and poultry which Target does not carry. I did not see any tofu. I saw lots of products made with textured vegetable but generally try to avoid those too.
Silk Soy Milk
Cabot Omega 3 DHA Cheese

Read them any time your food comes in a box or a container! Look for fiber - you need 35 grams per day; look for unrefined grains; healthy monounsaturated and Omega-3-fats and no Trans fats; avoid foods with lots of preservatives.

Happy Shopping.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Candy Wars

No matter how hard you try, it is almost impossible to avoid candy at Halloween! Candy at Halloween is like eggs at Easter, gelt at Hanukah and candy canes at Christmas. It is a fact of life. So this year, instead of battling with the kids over when, where, and how to eat the candy, here are some suggestions that might help sweeten this ghoulish holiday.

Limit the container size: With young children it is easy to control the amount of candy by limiting the container size. Pick a small plastic pumpkin with a strong handle or a mini-sized shopping bag. Make a rule that kids have to carry their own candy. This will help limit the amount. When they start complaining that the container is too heavy, it’s time to go home.

Separate the candy: It is always fun to separate the candy when kids get home. They can make piles of ones that are not acceptable, like unwrapped or damaged candy, types they love, and kinds they dislike. Throw out the inedible candy and tell them you or dad will take the candy they don’t like to work. That leaves only the candy they want.

You can take this sorting process a step further and look for candy that contains partially hydrogenated or Trans fats. These types of fats are artery clogging fats. So if much of the favorite pile is full of hydrogenated fats, this would be a good time to cut back on other artery clogging fats like French fries, nuggets and burgers.

Limit the amount: The first few days most kids go hog wild eating candy but then it usually tapers off. In fact, by week two many kids have forgotten about the candy all together. If the candy obsession lasts more than a week or two, it can be helpful to set up guidelines to deal with the remaining supply. Limiting candy to a piece or two after dinner is a good idea. If it is not gone by Thanksgiving, throw it out! After the first few days, do not allow your kids to bring candy to school. Many schools will have policies prohibiting bringing in Halloween candy at all.

Brush your teeth: This is an opportunity to explain to kids how cavities form. Tell them they need to brush their teeth within a few minutes of eating candy because the sugar in the candy reacts with bacteria in their mouths to form acids which attack the teeth causing cavities. If you have not already banned sodas from the house, this might be a good time to start.

Adjust snacks: Since you know your kids will be eating candy, if not theirs probably someone else’s, make snacks healthy. Offer sliced fresh fruit, Trans fat-free popcorn, low-fat cheese sticks, fresh veggies and hummus, or whole grain pretzel sticks. Don’t keep sweets like ice cream or other sugared snacks around at this time.

Adjust meals: During the first week or so, make meals that are lower in carbohydrates to adjust for the extra candy intake. Avoid pasta, potatoes, rice, and breaded foods. Don’t send packaged snacks to school. Eat more protein, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts.

Avoid extra calories: Obviously candy contains calories and carbohydrates. Here is a helpful hint: 15 grams of carbohydrate equals one serving of carbohydrate or the equivalent of one slice of bread. Look on the label of a candy package in their pile. See how many grams of carbohydrate are in one package or one piece. If you know 15 grams is one serving, you can figure out how many carbohydrate servings your child is eating in candy. The average young child who is fairly active needs about 90 grams of carbohydrates from grains, beans, breads, potatoes, crackers, and sweets. That is about six servings in a day. So if you figure they are eating two to three servings of carbohydrates from candy, 30 - 45 grams, limit the healthier carbs to about three servings per day. A serving is usually 1/3 cup cooked of pasta or rice, ½ of a baked potato, ½ cup of cereal, 1 tortilla, or ½ cup of beans.

While this may seem like a lot of work, it beats the alternative of turning into a witch by disallowing candy. Candy at Halloween, as long as kids are eating other healthy food, will not permanently ruin your child’s health. This balanced approach leads to happy memories and a cease fire.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Is it Safe to Eat the Dark Green Leafy Veggies?

Health news is constantly changing. Just when we should be eating more greens, news comes out that greens might contain E. coli and be deadly. So what are we to do?

I would still eat the dark greens. You cannot avoid all risks. Here is some information from KidsHealth that might help:

What Is E. Coli?
E. coli is a common type of bacteria that can get into food, like beef and vegetables. E. coli is short for the medical term Escherichia coli. The strange thing about these bacteria — and lots of other bacteria — is that they're not always harmful to you.

E. coli normally lives inside your intestines, where it helps your body break down and digest the food you eat. Unfortunately, certain types (called strains) of E. coli can get from the intestines into the blood. This is a rare illness, but it can cause a very serious infection. Someone who has E. coli infection may have these symptoms: bad stomach cramps and belly pain vomiting diarrhea, sometimes with blood in it

One very bad strain of E. coli was found in fresh spinach in 2006 and some fast-food hamburgers in 1993. Beef can contain E. coli because the bacteria often infect cattle. It can be in meat that comes from cattle and it's also in their poop, called manure. Cow poop in your food? How does that happen? Not on purpose, of course, but it can happen if the manure is used for fertilizer (a common practice to help crops grow) or if water contaminated with E. coli is used to irrigate the crops.

Heat can kill E. coli, so experts recommend that people cook beef (especially ground beef) until it is cooked through and no longer pink. Choosing pasteurized juice is another way to avoid possible infection.

Lastly, some experts recommend washing and scrubbing vegetables before eating them. But others say E. coli is hard to remove once it has contaminated produce, such as spinach, lettuce, or onions. The solution, they say, is to take more steps so that E. coli doesn't come in contact with crops.

So continue to eat the bright leafy greens. They are good for you and help fight disease. Look at it this way, if in the very rare case you do come into contact with E. coli, your resistance will be stronger and the effects possibly will be less harmful!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's Time to Boost Your Immunity

I am basically a skeptic but the swine flu alerts are beginning to make me nervous. Since the vaccine is currently not available, I am putting my "immunity boosting" plan into effect now.

Germs and viruses are everywhere so building the body's resistance to infection is what we are after. Just like plants, strong healthy bodies are more disease resistant. Plants derive their resistance from the nutrients in the soil. The stronger, well nourished plants are more likely to avoid being eaten by bugs. Even though harvest season is around the corner, now is the time to nourish the soil for next year's plantings.

So to fight off the coming flu season, let's enrich our bodies (our soil) now. Here is what to do:

Eat vegetables: At least 5-6 servings a day. Vegetables, especially the dark green and orange ones, are high in Vitamin A. Vitamin A keeps the mucous membranes healthy. Viruses tend to enter the body through mucous membranes so keeping them strong is the first line of defense (after washing your and hands and covering your mouth.) Vitamin A acts like a shield.

A large entree salad is approximately four servings. Think dark green and bright orange colors. Broccoli, spinach, kale, yams, carrots, pumpkin, summer squash, green peppers and even avocado are all high in Vitamin A.

Use veggies in stir fry, casseroles, and as toppings on sandwiches and pizza (whole grain of course). Drink V-8 or fresh vegetable juices. Fajitas, ratatouille, eggplant Parmesan are also good choices. Tomato paste is a great way to boost Vitamin A. I like Amore's paste in a tube. You can mix it in sauces, dressings, and spread on sandwiches. Great on grilled cheese.

Eat Fruit: Just like veggies, there are lots of Vitamin A rich fruits. Eat about three servings a day. Mangoes, papaya, apricots, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelon, kiwi, oranges, and blackberries all contain Vitamin A. Guava is high in Vitamin A and so are gooseberries.

Add them to cereal, yogurt, or cut up in salads. Bring them for snacks and keep some in the car for the times you get really hungry. Now that the weather is cooler, foods can be safely kept in the car. Carry a container of cut up fruit, a fork and a napkin and have at it when you are stuck in traffic. Add a handful of nuts and you won't be starving when you get home; so no excuses not to exercise!

Eat Nuts: Though hard to resist, nuts build resistance. Some contain reasonable amounts of Vitamin A. Try pumpkin seeds, pistachios, pecans, chestnuts, pine nuts, and walnuts. Add them to salads, trail mix, cereal, baked goods, or eat them out of your hand for a quick snack. Eat about 1/4 cup of nuts every day, preferably raw or dry roasted.

Emerald has some awesome nut choices. I like their Cocoa Roasted Almonds, perfect for when I get chocolate craving. Lately I have been using almond milk on my cereal and in my tea. Almond Breeze makes a good one.

Finally, add in a few servings of whole grains, 4 - 6 oz. of lean protein, and a carton of low fat yogurt. Remember to exercise and get plenty of rest. Now the bugs should be less likely to bite you this flu season.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fruit and Veggie Recipes

Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Prep time: 10 min
Total time: 30 min

1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained, finely chopped
1 pkg. (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup canola or olive oil light mayonnaise
½ cup shredded Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese
½ tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients until well blended.

Spoon mixture into a 9 inch pie plate or quiche dish.

Bake 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with assorted cut-up fresh vegetables and/or whole grain crackers.

Most hot dips can be assembled in advance. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Mexican Chicken Salad
Serves 6 to 8

1 pound chicken breasts, steamed and shredded
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups kidney beans, drained

Combine the dressing and chill overnight if possible:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cloves garlic, mashed

When ready to serve, toss together in a salad bowl:
4 cups chopped iceberg and romaine lettuce mixture
½ cup scallions

Heap marinated chicken and beans on lettuce. Top with:
2 cups grated Cabot 50% or 75% Light Vermont Cheddar Cheese

Garnish with:
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 large avocado, sliced
Guiltless Gourmet baked chips (approx. 25 chips), crushed

Toss together before serving.

Roasted Vegetable Soup
Serves 4
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Preheat oven to 425° F.

In roasting pan, toss 6 beefsteak tomatoes, halved and cored; 2 leeks, white and pale-green parts cut into ½ inch pieces; 4 carrots, cut into ¼ inch pieces; 4 garlic cloves; and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Roast in a single layer (tomatoes cut sides down) until tender, about 1 hour. Using tongs, peel off tomato skins.

In saucepan, bring vegetables, 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium vegetable broth, and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

In batches, puree in blender. Stir in ¼ cup chopped fresh basil.

Balsamic Zucchini with Pine Nuts
Serves 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Preheat broiler.

4 lbs. medium zucchini, cut diagonally into ¾ inch thick slices
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ t. salt
½ t. coarsely ground pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ oz. finely gated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (roast these in a 350° oven until browned, about 5 minutes)

Toss sliced zucchini with oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Arrange in one layer in two shallow baking pans (1 inch deep).

Broil 1 pan of zucchini 3 to 5 inches from heat, without turning, until browned in spots and beginning to soften, 4 to 6 minutes.

Take pan from oven and drizzle 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar over broiled zucchini and shake pan a few times, then continue to broil until most of the vinegar is evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Sprinkle ¼ cup Parmesan cheese over broiled zucchini and put back under broiler until cheese is melted, about 1 minute more. Cook remaining zucchini in the same manner. Cool to room temperature and serve sprinkled with pine nuts.

Balsamic zucchini (without pine nuts) can be made 3 hours ahead and kept at room temperature or chilled and covered. Sprinkle with pine nuts just before serving.

Cranberry Sauce
2 3/4 c. water
1-2 c. sugar or Stevia or Splenda depending on desired sweetness
2# package fresh cranberries (pick off stems)
3 sliced Red Delicious apples cut thin (core and seed)
2 thin sliced navel oranges
2-3 sticks of cinnamon
10-12 cloves

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cook and mix very gently until the mixture comes to a boil. Then cook for 5 more minutes (lower the heat a little) without mixing. Take off heat and add the thinly sliced oranges. Let cool. Refrigerate and serve.

Fruit Crisp
Serves 6
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 60 Minutes

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350° F. Have ready an unbuttered 8 x 8 inch baking dish, a 9 inch pie pan, or a 10 x 6 inch oblong glass baking dish.

Thaw any of the following frozen fruit or use fresh fruit:

Blend 2 cups dry Uncle Sam’s Cereal (Giant or Whole Foods) until looks like bread crumbs.

Stir together with a fork in a small bowl:
1½ cup blended Uncle Sam’s Cereal
3 tablespoons Land O Lakes Soft Baking Butter, melted

Whisk together thoroughly in another bowl:
½ cup packed sugar or Stevia or Splenda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Spread one-third of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of the baking dish. Distribute half of the fruit in the dish. Sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture and then with 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Cover with another third of the crumb mixture, the remaining fruit, the remaining sugar mixture, and 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cover with the remaining crumb mixture. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until fruit is nearly tender when pierced with a skewer, about 30 - 40 minutes. Uncover the dish. Increase the oven temperature to 400° F and bake until the cobbler is browned, about 10 minutes. Serve warm in bowls. Add frozen yogurt if desired.

High School Kids Need More Fruits and Veggies - Is There Anything We Can Do?

Once again the news is telling us high school kids don't get enough fresh fruits and vegetables. CNN had a piece on this topic just this morning.

With all the issues teens have on their plates, telling teenagers to eat more fruits and veggies seems juvenile and downright silly. Yet if we want our kids to be healthy and strong to deal with the stress and strain of high school, we need to get our message across.

So what is a parent to do? Here are a few tips that might help them eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and benefit from the nutrients and phytochemicals that will flood their systems:

Tip One: Since teenagers eat tremendous amounts of fast food, casually suggest that you go out to eat at their favorite restaurant. Let them order whatever they want. If you know ahead of time, you can review the menu and find something healthy with the most veggies possible. As you're eating together, you can talk about how delicious your meal is and what other healthy items that you might like to try the next time you return. Subway is a great place to pile on the veggies as they have tons of choices. Noodles and Company also offers lots of healthy items.

Tip Two: While we don't want to focus on the negative, if your child is having skin issues like acne, a diet high in fruits and veggies is one more tool in the arsenal to fight blemished skin. The next time they bring up the subject of skin, you might say that you read that eating carrots, spinach, broccoli, and avocado can sometimes help keep skin clear. You might mention that both Chipotle and Baja Fresh offer salads and freshly made guacamole. Additionally, avoiding trans fats, fried foods, and increasing healthy monounsaturated fats also helps. Japanese restaurants are also a good choice. Obviously expensive, but full of veggies and Omega 3 fats from the fish.

Tip Three: Take the time to serve more veggies at dinner. Steam an array of veggies and serve them with an easy to make cheesy artichoke spinach dip (see recipes on next post). Or try Dr. Praeger's Spinach Pancakes served with applesauce and a little sour cream. Soups are a great way to get in high potency veggies. If you bring in take out, make sure you are choosing dishes with lots of veggies. Even pizza provides a veggie opportunity. Artichoke hearts, tomatoes, olives, green pepper, onion, and spinach are now available. Some pizza places now offer whole wheat crust. Add a salad and you are set. Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza, and California Tortilla also have items with lots of veggies and whole grains.

Tip Four: Stock the fridge with V-8 juices and sparkling apple juice. Ditch the sodas. Make your own trail mix with dried cranberries, raw almonds, dry roasted peanuts (more healthy fats), mini chocolate chips and whole wheat Chex cereal. Bake carrot cake (use whole wheat pastry flour), carrot muffins, or banana bread. If you pack their lunch, add more veggies on their sandwiches: a few spinach leaves, roasted red peppers, thinly sliced tomato. If they balk, just smile! Whenever you make a recipe, increase the amount of veggies. More chopped or diced veggies won't affect the taste or texture.

Tip Five: It is not too late to model good eating habits. Like mom always said, "Actions speak louder than words."

Happy Trails.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Help - My High School Reunion is on the Horizon

My 40th (YIKES) high school reunion is on the horizon. Am I in a panic? Not really, but I do seem to be shopping a lot!

I have had a few phone calls from friends saying, "I am coming to the reunion even though I am fat." While we all know it's what's on the inside that counts, sprucing up for a reunion can make that first moment of entry a little bit easier. Once inside and connecting with old friends, we realize none of the exterior stuff really matters. Truly we are all grateful just to be here.

But if you are lamenting your physical state at the moment, here are some tips to help get you ready for the big weekend. All it takes is a bit of motivation, some concentrated focus, and the willingness to follow through on whatever goal you set.

Before you begin, take a breath and then put in your mind's eye the vision of you walking into the reunion. Don't let go of that mental picture. Now you are ready. If you have six months, this will be a piece of cake (you can eat cake after the reunion!) If you have only four weeks, you can still see results.

The Yes Group:
  1. Tons of veggies (the non-starchy kind)
  2. Lean protein - fish, chicken, lean beef, egg whites, low fat cheese
  3. 1/4 cup of raw nuts daily
  4. 2 pieces of fruit (no dried fruit)
  5. Two carb servings per day. Choose any two from this group: one slice bread, 1/3 cup rice, 1/2 cup of cereal, 5 Triscuits, 1/3 of a wrap, 1/2 cup of beans, 1/4 of a bagel, 1/2 hamburger bun, 1/2 small baked potato, 1/2 corn cob, 1/3 cup hummus
  6. Move everyday. Start today: garden, bike, walk, run, climb stairs, tennis, golf (no cart)

The No Group:

  1. No alcohol
  2. No deep fried food
  3. No soda
  4. No sweets (remember this is only for a limited period of time)
  5. No dried fruit

That is it! Simple and easy - especially if you tell yourself it is for a limited time.

From past reunion experience, it seems like the good times get magnified and the not so good times fade. Seeing old friends (no pun intended) connects us to the cycle of life. When you face your past, you are free to live in the moment.

If you have a reunion in your future, this month, next year or in five years, the time to start getting ready is now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Outstanding in the Field

Farm dinners are all the rage and constantly in the news these days. Last night I attended my second Outstanding in the Field farm to table dinner. Held at Ayrshire Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, this amazing 880 acre property is a combination of working farm and refurbished, regal turn-of-the-century estate.

Over 150 people turned out to dine alfresco, tour the gardens, and converse with the animals. Some people I talked with had travelled from Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Outstanding in the Field was started by Jim Denevan, a quintessential, laid back California chef who had a vision of combining farm and food. Probably the pioneer in this quickly expanding niche, Jim told us the evolution of Outstanding in the Field while standing on a hillside overlooking majestic fields dotted with livestock (whose family members we were soon to eat!) Jim contacts organic farms around the country and then pairs them with local renowned chefs to create an unforgettable experience. He travels in a wacky 1960's bus with ten staff members.

Usually the table is set out in the fields, but due to threatening rain, the cascading table was set inside a giant paneled, chandelier laden barn. The rain arrived not long after we sat down to eat.

The dinner is five courses (including dessert) accompanied by different local wines. The barn was ablaze with light and abuzz with conversation, no doubt inspired by the setting and the continuous pouring of wine.

A few times something tickled my leg and when I looked under the tablecloth there was one of the many cats that roam the property. All in all it was a sensuous, relaxing, and wonderful evening that was well worth the drive and the price.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What's For Lunch?

As the weather begins to cool and the telltale signs of autumn appear, most moms swear they hear the wind whispering, “It’s time to think about packing lunch again.”

This age old ritual is usually approached with a mixture of love and dread. Dread because not only does it take time but also because it is hard to find healthy foods the kids will actually eat. Instead of trepidation, think of this as a great opportunity to upgrade the health quotient of your children’s lunches.

Start by setting a few nutritional goals for the school year. Two or three can make a huge difference in your child’s health. It is not necessary to commit to a major overhaul. Here are some suggestions:
· Increase whole grains with breads and snack foods
· Avoid processed meats
· Avoid partially hydrogenated fats
· Increase fresh fruits and vegetables
· Cut down on refined sugar
· Reduce sodium
· Increase healthy fats

Let’s start with sandwiches, a major staple of kids’ lunches. These can be made healthier by using whole grain breads. Look for soft products where the first ingredient is 100% whole grain. If your child balks, tell him that whole grains are good for his/her heart and are full of fiber and will help him/her poop! You can try white whole wheat bread, but it is best to get kids used to eating hearty whole grains that are naturally brown in color.

If your child eats a lot of processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, ham, and turkey, switch to brands that are nitrite-free. Studies show an increase in childhood cancers in heavy consumers of processed meats. Giant, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s all carry brands that are free of these chemicals. While your wallet may feel the difference, your kid’s will not notice a change.

Add veggies. Even a few spinach leaves or a tomato between two lettuce leaves can add fiber and phytochemicals to their diets. Veggies are low in calories and great disease fighters.
Pack snacks made from whole grains like Snyder’s Honey Wheat Pretzels, Guiltless Gourmet Baked Tortilla Chips, Whole Grain Wheat Thins, or cheesy popcorn. Avoid snacks made with white bleached flour and hydrogenated vegetable oils. While the 100 calorie packs are good for calorie control, they are loaded with these less than ideal ingredients.

Kids need fat for brain function. They need monounsaturated fats like olives, olive oil, natural peanut butter, almond or cashew butter, avocado, and canola mayonnaise. These fats are important to counteract the over abundance of trans fats and saturated fats in fried and processed foods which are sadly, often the mainstay of many kids’ diets.

Pack cut up veggies with cheese sticks or ranch dressing, fresh fruit with a small yogurt, or whole grain crackers and veggie dip. A small container of black olives and cut up carrots is always fun. Child sized Cliff Bars are a good choice for after school athletics if the workout is intense. Hummus, whole wheat quesadillas, and baked beans all make good filling snacks.

Don’t worry that you take the time to pack a healthy lunch and then your child eats other kids’ less healthy food. The important point is that you are modeling what healthy eating looks like. In the long run, a little junk food never hurt anyone! In fact, don’t completely eliminate their old favorites, just pack them less frequently.

If your children are resistant to the new foods, engage them in the process. Bring them to the store and start reading labels to find foods that meet the goals you have set. Tell your kid’s that you care about their health and together embark on new tastes and textures. Model good eating habits by eating the foods you want them to eat. When kids see you eating fruits and veggies, they will be more likely to try them. It turns out that packing lunch is really a family affair!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

End of Summer / Beginning of Fall bounty

Hard to believe summer is winding down. A few yellow leaves have floated by and all the squash has been eaten by bugs! The good news is that gardens are overflowing with end-of-summer bounty. There are tons of peppers, corn, and tomatoes at all the farmer's markets. Lots of zucchini for those whose gardens did not get infested with squash boars. Plenty of basil too.

Great time to make a corn, cilantro, green chili and tomato salsa. Or how about a quesadilla (whole grain) with grilled tomato, onion, and zucchini topped with some grated low-fat Cabot pepper jack cheese? You can pile on the fresh salsa you just made.

Basil is everywhere. Now is a good time to make pesto and freeze it for an early fall dinner. When the temperature drops, use it on pasta, in white bean soup, or spread it on crusty warm bread with sliced tomatoes.

Pears are about to be ripe and there is nothing more delicious then pears with Gorgonzola. Add some toasted walnuts and dried cherries and toss in some spinach. Yum!

Hummus with sliced green peppers and tomatoes from the garden are a good snack. Just keep a napkin handy.

Soon gardens will be full of root veggies and greens. Cannot wait to start planting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fudd's Does it Again

I checked out the cookie from Fudd's and they use no hydrogenated oils. I will see what kind of flour they use but in the meantime, I applaud them.

Elmer Fudd would be so happy.

Fuddrucker Goes Healthier

Needed to grab a quick bite last night so ran into Fuddrucker's for their veggie burger topped with grilled onions and mushrooms. I usually toss the white flour bun but I may start eating it because, lo and behold, they now offer whole grain buns. They also have sides of real guacamole.

They have even added grilled salmon (with a poster proclaiming salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids!) and few more delicious sounding salads. Though still deep fried, they now offer sweet potato fries which have a few more nutrients than white potatoes.

Here is how I usually, in true Health Nut fashion, eat my veggie burger (works for all burgers):

I ask for pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms and now a side of guacamole at the counter. Then I add tons of lettuce leaves or chopped lettuce, sliced tomatoes, chopped onions, sliced red onions, pickles, salsa, ketchup, and spicy mustard.

Since I eat it like a salad, I pull out the paper lining the plastic dish and throw it away. Otherwise add paper to the list of toppings. The burger is not only yummy but filling.

If you are watching your cholesterol, you can forget the cheese and substitute the guacamole which is high in monounsaturated fats and good for your heart. Ask for the veggie burger instead of the beef burger. They also have turkey burgers which are lower in fat than beef burgers.

To be graphic, when you eat a burger with a whole grain bun, less of the fat will be absorbed into the blood stream and more fat will be bound up with the fiber and eliminated via your colon. Hence good for the body.

Fudd's is a good place for kids because of all the options. I will have to check out the ingredients in their cookies. Let you know that next time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Airports can drive you nuts!

Having spent lots of time in airports lately, I am happy to say there is an abundance of healthy food around. I think we've reached a "tipping point." Here are some suggestions:

Starbucks has lots of good choices from packaged nuts to some new breakfast items. In addition to oatmeal that comes with dried fruit and nuts, they have a whole wheat wrap filled with egg whites, spinach, and feta cheese. They also have whole grain English muffins with turkey bacon and eggs. They have fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits too.

Even fast food kiosks now carry fresh salads, some completely vegetarian with good cheese, nuts, and fruit. I found cut up veggies with cheddar cheese cubes and ranch dressing. There are burrito places springing up where you can get a bowl, forget the flour tortilla, and add chicken, grilled peppers, onions, salsa and guacamole.

Try to avoid lots of caffeine when flying and instead choose bottled water or herbal tea. You will be more likely to sleep on the plane and wake up refreshed and ready to go.

I found many variations of chicken Caesars and kabobs. These are always a good choice. The newspaper and magazine outlets now carry healthy energy bars like Cliff and Luna instead of the ones with processed flours and sugar.

For those of you who want to be more food conscious, it appears that the days of treating the lack of decent foods in airports as an excuse to overindulge are gone.

Happy trails.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Fruit and cheese is a great summer snack. Try some of the new lowfat Cabot Cheeses that are on the market. They come in lots of flavors and contain 3/4 of the fat in regular full fat cheese.

Keep some raw almonds, cashews or sunflower seeds in the car for those moments when you are famished. They will satisfy even the worst cravings. We all need healthy fat in our diets and nuts and seeds are a quick way to get them.

A few pieces of sushi make a good snack as well as a bowl of edamame sprinkled with kosher salt. The salt will also help replace lost electrolytes. (Never leave sushi in the car!)

Last but not least. Fruit popsicles are a great summer cooler offer. Each popsicle has the calories of 1 1/2 servings of fruit. You can substitute a pop for some fruit.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Fruit is now bountiful and delicious. There are so many varieties to choose. The dark pigmented fruits have the most vitamin A and help fight infections. Might be good in keeping the flu away.

Just remember, even though fruit is healthy, it is loaded with sugar. If you are watching your weight, limit fruit to no more than 4 servings a day. A slice of watermelon, one peach, 20 cherries, and 17 grapes all equal one serving. Skip the dried fruit as it is loaded with sugar.

Here is a refreshing drink. Take one cup of watermelon, 1/2 cup of ice cubes and 1/4 cup of lemonade and blend well. This is approximately three servings of fruit. Fresh fruit drinks are better than bottled juices because in fresh juice or smoothies you blend the whole fruit and get the fiber and bioflavonoids that lie just below the peel.

If you are exercising outside and sweat a lot, fruit is good for replacing electrolytes lost in your perspiration. If you find you are waking up with muscle twitches or cramps, a supplement containing magnesium and potassium might help.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Health Nut Says...

The GoBeFull principles are simple to learn and easy to apply. It is a six-week nutrition and physical education program designed to help overweight children and their parents develop a healthy lifestyle. The eight keys to dietary success, abbreviated as GoBeFull, form the basis of the program:
  • Greens
  • Olive Oil
  • Beans
  • Exercise
  • Fruit
  • Unrefined Grains
  • Lean Proteins
  • Labels