Friday, December 3, 2010

The Holidays are Here

Before you start indulging with reckless abandon, take a moment now to think about your New Year's resolutions. If they relate to diet, weight, exercise, and fitness or general well being, then "Whoa Nelly."

Hold on tight, grab a pen and paper (remember those), and start writing down what you want to be when the new year rolls in:
  1. Thinner
  2. Fitter
  3. More in control
  4. Full of vitality
  5. A non smoker
  6. ......... (fill in the blank)
Notice there is no "Happy" on the list. Happiness is not a state in itself but comes from other actions like being committed, having purpose, feeling good, helping others, and reaching your goals (whatever they may be), to name just a few. There is no right or wrong here.

Of course if you can just stay in the present moment you will happy because you are not thinking about anything but the moment! Staying present is a very tough exercise especially with a Blackberry buzzing in your pocket.

Back to making what you want happen. Creating a vision is the first step to achieving success in any endeavor. You've got to really want whatever it is you want to achieve and you have to envision it before you can have it.

Once the desire is there, you make a plan. Then the work begins. Having a plan and not sticking to it won't get you there. That does not mean you can't be flexible and revise the plan as you go along. Also no plan is perfect. You don't have to do things 100% to see results. You just have to do your plan well enough that the old ways that were not working are replaced with actions that work.

It sounds simple but it is really hard. You may have to continually do battle with yourself until the new behaviors take on a life of their own. When this happens, the endorphins that flow from feeling happy (meaning achieving your goals) motivate you to keep going. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So go for it now and use this month as a laboratory for what you want to create in the coming year.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's Halloween

Tonight's the night! If you decide to indulge, pick out your favorite candy (or candies) and ENJOY every last bite.

Then...have a plan for tomorrow. Either throw away what's left or put it in the freezer (watch out if you love frozen Snickers) or ration it till it is gone. If you take the latter two approaches, compensate every day for the extra calories by reducing your intake of other sweets and carbs or upping your exercise.

Simple and it works.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A New Type of Birth Control

Here is another reason that BPA or bisphenol used in plastics should be avoided. According to a recent study involving Chinese factory workers, workers who had BPA in their urine also had impaired semen quality. This translates to a drop in semen concentration, drop in overall sperm count, and drop in sperm vitality and motility.

While many think that low dose exposure presents little concern, remember that BPA is everywhere. So while we might not be getting the intense exposure of a factory worker, small doses do accumulate. BPA is in baby bottles, plastic containers, dental sealants, and food and beverage container liners, to name just a few. If you eat take out, microwave in plastic, or eat and drink from cans, you are exposed.

Go to Target and purchase a set of glass containers for the microwave. Anchor makes good ones with tight fitting lids. You can also order them on Amazon.

The Health Nut believes the old adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Don't Let Halloween Turn You Into a Candy Witch!

Do you dread the candy holidays? They start in February with Valentine's Day and continue year round with the biggest fest happening on Halloween. What is a mother or father to do? (If you don't have kids, well then, you might welcome the chance to indulge!)

The good news is that kids usually forget about the candy after a few weeks. Sometimes letting them go nuts for a couple of days gets the major desire to gorge on sweets out of their systems. If you limit your celebration to one party, your chances of reducing the bounty are increased.

However, if you plan to go out trick or treating, here are a few suggestions to help you deal with the onslaught:
  1. Buy a limited quantity of the treats so you and your family won't be tempted to eat leftovers.
  2. Read the labels on the bags and look for candy without hydrogenated fats or palm oil. These are higher in trans and saturated fats. Obviously it is difficult to avoid sugar.
  3. Make young children carry their own plastic pumpkin or bag. When they start complaining that the container is too heavy, it's time to go home. (Of course this does not apply to infants.)
  4. When you get home, throw away any open wrappers or suspicious looking ones. There are many systems for sorting: likes and dislikes, chocolate vs non chocolate, etc. Sorting is so much fun!
  5. Plan ahead. Knowing the candy is coming, start to avoid fast food and cut down on other foods loaded with fat and sugar. Eat more fruits and veggies.
  6. Make a plan about the candy prior to trick or treating. Here are some suggestions:
  • Set a time limit on how much they can have in a day.
  • Set a time limit when the candy moves to the freezer.
  • Set a time limit when the candy will get thrown away.
  • For cavity prevention, be sure they either brush their teeth or rinse their mouths after eating candy.

Planning ahead and setting reasonable guidelines will help you avoid being seen as the witch this Halloween season.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why Stay Alkaline?

Here's proof that what often seems like wacky information can actually be sound advice. About forty years ago (yes that is right) when I was a student at the University of Arizona, I visited a "nutritionist." While the guy was not a "certified nutritionist," meaning he did not have a degree in nutrition from a university, he was a so-called expert in fasting and cleansing the body. For those of you who think cleansing is a new phenom, it has been around for thousands of years, though in many different forms and incarnations.

The nutritionist told me that I needed to keep my body alkaline. He had me test my urine every morning with PH strips to see whether I was more acid or alkaline. Keeping the body more alkaline, he said, would promote good health.

How do you make the body more alkaline? By eating lots of vegetables and fruits. Even acid fruits become alkaline in the body. Alkalinity promotes good bone health and promotes good kidney function. Too much acid in the bloodstream causes muscle wasting. "Muscle loss is the body's way of adapting to excess acid, so is bone loss" according to the recent issue of the Nutrition Action newsletter.

What foods create acidity in the body? Carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta, oats, sweets), even whole grains, proteins (meat, fish, dairy). Oils are neutral and luckily red wine and beer are slightly alkaline producing. Fruits and vegetables are highly alkaline. The PRAL or potential renal acid load lists foods that drop the acid load. Foods with a high negative PRAL (like fruits and veggies) neutralize foods with high positive PRALs.

This does not mean eliminate all animal protein or carbs. Your protein intake in grams should be approximately half your body weight in pounds. Interestingly, while animal proteins are acid producing, beans are less acid producing than the same amount of protein from beef. However, "the acid producing quality depends on how many sulfur-containing amino acids (protein's building blocks) are in the protein. There is a wide range in both plant and animal sources so it is misleading to refer to protein as plant or animal, unless you know the overall picture."

Limit your carbs to about 6-8 servings and make those whole grains (see my GoBeFull book for portions sizes; and increase your intake of fruits and veggies to eleven servings a day. While eleven servings seems like a lot of fruits and veggies, it is not that hard if you eat more salads, vegetarian entrees, and snack on fresh fruit. Raisins (watch the serving size) have the highest PRAL. Spinach is also really high.

Add in regular high impact, weight bearing exercise and Vitamin D (about 800 mg./day) to insure strong bones.

Just so you know, that wacky nutritionist who told me to stay alkaline went on to invent Juice Plus! Sometimes what seems like quackery in one decade turns out to be common sense in another.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Garden of Eatin'

Down on the farm this weekend, another health nut named Charlotte (no relation to Wilbur) and I picked pears, ate persimmons right off the tree, and cracked open black walnuts. We picked kale, cabbage, peppers, lettuce, and ate some strawberries left on the vine. Sounds fun doesn't it? Here are the details in case you are interested:

There is a giant pear tree that sits in the orchard. Its pears fall from the tree and land in both the orchard and in the pasture where the cows graze. The cows discovered the joy of eating pears when they landed on their side of the fence. When they finished the pears on their side,wanting more, they broke the pasture fence trying to get to the pears that covered the ground on the orchard side. There were hundreds of pears slowly fermenting and attracting tons of bees. Two little cows actually got out by rolling under the split rail fence which caused the big cows still in the pasture to freak and moo continually. Who knew cows liked pears!

We took hammers to the black walnut pods that are all over the ground only to find the nuts inside were soft, thin, and black (black is good) and basically inedible. There are so many on the ground that it is hard to walk and if you are not careful, your feet will come out from under you and you will fall. Falling is always good for a laugh.

We then moved on to the persimmons. Climbing the ladder I found the softest, persimmons I could reach. Trouble is unless a persimmon is perfectly ripe, the first bite is sweet and warm (warm from the sun), but then all of a sudden your mouth feels like you ate chalk. So much for all the persimmons.

Next we took the ladder over to the pear tree and started picking. We ignored the bees and the fermentation under our feet. (The cows on the other side of the tree in the field ignored us.) We picked tons of pears but got the pear picker basket (a long pole with an orange basket on the end, actually an apple picker) stuck in the tree. Charlotte climbed the tree and, while hugging the giant limb, used the pole that the basket used to be attached to, to try and reach the basket which was now entangled in the leaves. When that failed to work, we moved on to a branch trimmer with a long blade. Charlotte was great at holding the long pole and getting the blade under the basket and making it fall to the ground. It even had a pear in it when it landed! We took our bounty back to the porch and finished our Scrabble game and our beers (yes health nuts drink beer) and then went to the garden in search of some produce.

We picked kale, cabbage, hot red peppers (to dry), bell peppers, Poblano peppers, and some lavender and oregano. Cooked all the greens and peppers together in olive oil, added some fresh garlic, grated parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of pine infused balsamic vinegar. It was spectacular eating.

A day on the farm usually beats a day at the mall. I guarantee you will laugh more and spend less !

Friday, October 15, 2010

Baltimore Marathon

The Health Nut will be at the Baltimore Marathon this Saturday, October 16th, cheering on the runners. Keep your eyes open for the giant, wacky walnut!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Halloween Candy

Already checking out the Halloween candy aisle? Here are a couple of suggestions to get ready for the onslaught:
  1. Don't purchase the candy until the day of Halloween.
  2. Buy less than you need to avoid leftovers (we all over estimate.)
  3. Buy candy you don't love!
  4. Despite your good intentions, if you know you will succumb to temptation anyway, start preparing now by eating less fast food, avoiding artery clogging fats, making more vegetarian meals, and upping your activity level.

More to come on how to handle the candy when it comes home on Halloween night.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The End of Overeating

If you still struggle with binging and overeating, I would recommend picking up a copy of Dr. David Kessler's book, The End of Overeating. Dr. Kessler clearly explains the brain chemistry that plays a role in repetitive overeating or what he calls "hypereating."

While not a page turner, this book helps you understand how our over-processed, over-sugared, intensely salted, and extremely high fat diet leads to loss of control. The author clearly explains how these foods set up pathways in our brains that lead to what he calls the "cue-urge-reward-habit cycle" which becomes self-generating.

In the end, while his recommendations to conquer uncontrolled eating are nothing new, the book does free the reader from blaming him or herself and instead provides hope that there is a cure. Dr. Kessler reminds us once again that there is no magic bullet. The cure lies in consistently being vigilant, choosing "healthy" foods over processed foods, and staying active.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pump It Up

When the fall fashion catalogs start appearing in the mailbox, clients begin asking me, "How can I accelerate my weight loss?" Here are some tips that will get the results you are looking for:

  1. Up the intensity of your current exercise routine. Doing the same old routine all the time will not get rid of the inches and rolls. You've got to sweat and work harder! Maybe take up spinning or get on your bicycle and ride those hills. The cool weather and colorful leaves make outside activity glorious.

  2. Hire a trainer. I know trainers are expensive but so is buying the next size up in clothes. A good trainer will work you harder than you could ever push yourself. Plus weight training is good for your bone density and overall strength. If you are working hard, you should see results within a few weeks.

  3. Add sprints to your walks. Set a goal. Maybe after five minutes of walking do two minutes of fast running. This is a quick way to up your endurance.

  4. Cut carbs. For three days at a time cut out all breads, pasta, crackers, alcohol, etc. Then for the next two days add back one to two servings and then repeat the sequence. One serving of carbs equals: 1 slice of bread, 20 Wheat Thins, 1/3 cup of cooked rice or pasta. 4 pieces of sushi, 3 Hershey Kisses, 1/2 English muffin, 1 small baked potato, 1 fruit Popsicle. (See my GoBeFull book for serving sizes @

  5. Limit fruit to two servings a day: 2 T. raisins, 1 small apple, 20 grapes, 1/2 cantaloupe, and small mango.
  6. Eat lean protein: fish, chicken (no skin), turkey (no skin), Cabot 75% reduced fat cheddar cheese, lean beef, and beans.
  7. Eat tons of veggies.

It hit me the other day as I was walking up the stairs at the gym, dead tired from my workout, that working out hard and eating right is a small price to pay for the energy, enthusiasm, and excitement for life that fills me the rest of the hours of the day.

Mantra for the month: Pump it up!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lunch Box Lift Off

It is that time of year again when many of us have to think about packing our kid's lunch boxes. Bleary eyed from just waking up or dead tired from a day of work, packing lunch doesn't have to be one more dreaded chore. Here are some tips to help make the mundane more manageable:
  1. Find a lunch box the kid loves Make a special trip to pick one out. The more ostentatious the better! Avoid lunch boxes with plastic containers made from BPA plastics.
  2. Select a cool thermos for soups, mac and cheese, chili, and warm pasta.
  3. Plan a special day to bake some of his or her favorite treats. Instead of the usual mixes and boxes, start from scratch. Use whole wheat pastry flour, Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter, applesauce, dried fruits, chocolate chips, and oatmeal for healthier desserts. Freeze the leftovers and toss them in the lunch box.
  4. 100 calorie packs, while limited in calories, are made with the usual junky ingredients like too much sodium, bleached flour, and bad fats. They should not be tossed in on a regular basis. The health quality of foods is just as important as the calorie content.
  5. Make sandwiches on whole grain or white whole grain (don't ask me how but the companies say it is whole grain). Hummus, avocado, and pepper jack cheese all make great additions to any sandwich. A few spinach leaves or tomato paste add some strong antioxidants.
  6. Avoid processed meats with nitrites.
  7. Left over pizza makes a great lunch. Order whole wheat when ordering out or buy the new Kashi thin crusted whole grain pizzas. Wrap in foil. Kids love cold left over pizza.
  8. If there is no left over chili from dinner, Amy's canned chili is good. Add some grated cheese. Leftover soups go great in the thermos. Serve with Wheat Thins (low sodium) or baked chips and guacamole.
  9. Peanut butter and jelly is always a fav. Use the natural stuff. Add bananas and chocolate chips for fun.
  10. Today kids eat salads. Toss in some chicken, grated Cabot reduced fat cheddar, and dried cherries and mandarin oranges.
  11. Subway can also be a good fall back. Try a sub on one of their many whole grain breads. Stick to the chicken or turkey rather than the ham or salami. Add tons of veggies, a squirt of olive oil and vinegar and you are good to go. A bag of baked chips and an apple and it is one stop shopping.

Most importantly, mix it up. Add some puddings, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, carrots and ranch dressing. Think out of the box.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cooking with Kids

School is about to start and now is a great time to spend some of the last few weeks doing fun activities with the kids. How about cooking? You can practice making some of the delicious and healthy treats that they can take in their lunch boxes.

Forget the traditional boxed mixes and go for a recipe from scratch. You can always substitute whole wheat pastry flour for bleached flour, applesauce instead of oil, and use grated vegetables for moisture and added fiber. Cold pressed canola oil is a good choice when usiing oil.

If you are in a hurry at least choose a boxed mix with healthful ingredients. There are so many on the market today. No Pudge Fudge Brownies are my favorite. All you have to do is dump the mix in a bowl and add some non fat vanilla yogurt.

What about carrot muffins or zucchini bread? You can always add nuts and dried fruit like cranberries, raisins, or cherries to any recipe. Banana bread tastes great with chocolate chips and is fun to eat in a cupcake wrapper. Speaking of cupcakes, you can put any kind of dessert in a cupcake wrapper and it doesn't always have to have white bleached flour, trans fats, and tons of frosting.

Cooking with kids reinforces lots of skills learned in school: reading, counting, and measuring. Most importantly, cooking with kids gets them in touch with food. The more connected kids are with the food they eat, the more conscious they become about health and fitness. Making the connection between eating and health early in life is important because it leads to better choices down the road.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What's Fresh at the Farmer's Market?

The Health Nut has been very busy working in her garden. There are so many vegetables to pick and even more weeds to pull!

July and August are two of the most bountiful months for fresh fruits and vegetables. Now is the time to stop at one of the many produce stands and pick up some of this bounty. Here is what is in season now:

  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Summer Squash
  • Tomatoes


  • Apricots
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

Keep a supply of reusable bags in the car so you will be ready when you see a stand. Try sampling varieties that are not on your usual menu. Be daring! Once you get home the fun begins.

Sorting Veggies - Touching and smelling the produce is large part of the fun. Start by sorting the vegetables. Keep tomatoes in a bowl on the counter because once you refrigerate them, they stop ripening. Only put the really ripe ones in the fridge. All other veggies can go in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic bags (less aesthetic but they keep longer); however, no one seems to agree on eggplant. Some say to refrigerate, others say not to. I would leave the eggplant out and use it within a day or two. If after two days and the eggplant has not been used, then refrigerate. I like leaving as many vegetables out as possible because not only are they lovely but also because they are easy to grab for a snack. Plus seeing them is a reminder of what to cook for dinner.

Sorting Fruits - Cantaloupe, peaches, apricots, plums and kiwi can be left out if not ripe. Berries generally go in the refrigerator as do watermelon. Watermelon is best served cold. However, if the watermelon is not ripe, leave it out.

Easy Ways to Turn Produce into Meals - Grilling is one of the easiest ways to cook vegetables in the summer. (Always wash before cooking or eating.) You can either cook them directly on the grill or wrap in foil. I like foil best because I can add tomatoes and onions, fresh herbs like basil, thyme, fresh garlic, and a squirt of orange or lemon juice and make a complete side dish.

Eggplant, scallions, and summer squash can go directly on the grill. If you cook them directly on the grill, first rub the veggies with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Before heating the grill (after using a wire brush on the grates), rub the grates with olive or canola oil. Always remember to clean your grill before you cook. Rule of thumb: make sure to burn off all the grease, etc. after each use and then take a wire brush to the grates before you use the grill again.

There is much debate about the best way to cook corn. Corn can be cooked right in its husks on the grill or it can first be husked and then boiled for a minute or two in water and then finished directly on the grill. Or you can husk it and wrap it in foil. Cooked corn can also be cut off the cob and added to salads and salsas.

Parchment paper is another quick delicious way to cook vegetables. You can take fish and add tomatoes, green beans, onions, lemon zest, olive oil, and seasoned salt, roll it up in the paper and then put it in the oven. Zucchini pancakes, sauteed squash blossoms, and ratatouille are some quick ways to use zucchini which is so abundant at the moment.

Of course fresh salads and salsas are tasty ways to use fruits and vegetables together. Watermelon salsa with corn, chili peppers, onion and mango make a great combo. Peach salsa is good too. Experiment with dips like red pepper hummus and Babaganoush (made with eggplant) and serve with lightly steamed green beans, fresh cukes, and sliced tomatoes. Or use your favorite dressing as a dip. Fresh or lightly steamed veggies make a nutritious accompaniment to any summer meal. Sliced fresh cucumber, thinly sliced onions. and red pepper flakes mixed with seasoned rice vinegar make a good side with grilled fish and store bought sushi.

With the berries you can make fruit tarts and berry coulis (sauce) for ice cream and sorbets. Berry coulis is also good to drizzle on grilled fish and served with fresh lemon slices. Add berries to cereals or fresh yogurt and put them into smoothies. You can also freeze berries and pop them straight into your mouth for a refreshing snack. The options are unlimited. Caramelize peaches and apricots and add a dab of creme friache.

Yum, yum. Put on your running shoes and head out to the farmer's market.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Make This Memorial Day Meal Memorable

With summer on its way and swimming pools about to open, Memorial Day is always a favorite time to gather family and friends. Picnics laden with hot dogs, burgers, coleslaw, potato salad, and brownies come to mind.

This year as you put pencil to paper to start your shopping list for the annual picnic, STOP. Make this Memorial Day memorable by changing up the menu in some new healthier ways. Instead of throwing out the old favorites, take your favorite foods and make them shine with healthier ingredients.

Hot Dogs
Kids love hot dogs and why not? They are easy to hold and fun to eat. However the main problem with hot dogs is that they are loaded with nitrites and are high in sodium. Though it is only one day, in general kids should avoid foods with these additives. Studies show a higher incidence of childhood leukemia in heavy consumers of these products.

Many local grocers now carry nitrite free dogs. You can also dazzle your guests with veggie dogs. Buy a package and see if anyone notices!

If you have already signed up with a local farmer for farm fresh produce deliveries, you might ask if they also carry grass fed beef for burgers. Grass fed beef actually contains omega 3 fatty acids which are good for your heart. These compounds are in the grass and transfer to the meat. Grass feed beef is also lower in fat than corn fed beef.

If you do not have a source for grass fed meats, local stores are now carrying buffalo meat. Ted Turner has always been a visionary and once again he has led the way with bison. Bison (buffalo) is very lean and really delicious. Look for locally raised bison.

Serve whole wheat or whole grain buns with both dogs and burgers. The fiber in whole wheat buns helps bind up the fat in the meat so instead of it being absorbed into your bloodstream and deposited in your arteries, it is removed through your stool.

Coleslaw and Potato Salad
For a healthier version of these two salads, use olive oil vinaigrette instead of the usual mayonnaise. Or if you insist on making Aunt Betty's favorite recipe that calls for mayo, try Kraft Mayonnaise made with olive oil instead of mayo made with safflower, corn, or sunflower oils. These omega 6 fatty acids can cause inflammation in the body whereas olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and is good for your heart, brain function, and hormone production.

Try adding fresh veggies and herbs. How about using red potatoes with fresh green beans, pitted kalamata olives, onions, fresh parsley, and feta cheese with a vinaigrette dressing? Or try adding dried cherries or fresh basil to the coleslaw.

Holiday gatherings need beverages especially on hot Memorial Day weekends. In addition to sodas (or instead of sodas) add bubbly water, fresh sliced lemon and limes, and bottles of POM
pomegranate juice which is extraordinarily high in antioxidants. Cranberry and grape juices are also good choices.

How about a new type of sun tea? White tea, chai tea, and green tea make great ice tea. There are lots of choices of sweeteners to pick from.

Everyone loves brownies. For a lower calorie, but no less delicious brownie, try No Pudge Fudge Brownies. They are quick and easy to make. All you have to do is add some low fat vanilla yogurt.

While all parties require lots of preparation and work, at least when you finally sit down to eat this Memorial Day, your food will not only be delicious and healthy but memorable too.

Watch Moms Like Me Monday at noon on WUSA channel 9 when Peggy Fox talks with me about Memorial Day picnics. See the latest issue of Washington FAMILY Magazine for more tips on Memorial Day picnics.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sport Snacks - Make Them Healthy

Outdoor sports are getting ready for the end of the year tournaments. The weather is warmer and the humidity is rising. Before you run out to Costco to buy the standard fare, you might ask yourself, "Are snacks really necessary after a game or a practice?"

Here are some tips to snack on:

  1. Keep Kids Hydrated - Children need to drink fluids when exercising especially if the weather is warm. Plain water is always best for hydration. If you buy bottled water or have your own plastic water bottle, be sure to avoid BPA plastics and those labeled 3, 6, or 7. The numbers are on the bottom of the bottles.
  2. When are Sports Drinks Necessary? - Sports drinks are high in calories and sugar and are not necessary. This is not to say they should never be used, especially if your child is exceedingly active, sweats excessively, or has a diet low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The main function of sports drinks is to supply electrolytes. The problem with sports drinks is the amount of calories. A 12 oz. bottle of Gatorade has 310 calories practically a meal's worth. If you buy Gatorade, G-2 is a much better lower calorie version. If you are concerned about the calories, coloring agents, and preservatives, you can always go to R.E.I or other sporting good stores and purchase flavored electrolyte tablets and add them to your child's water bottle.
  3. Consider the Calorie Expenditure - You need to consider the calorie expenditure during your child's practice and games. If he or she is running long distances, doing intense short spurts, is a major sweater, and does not have a weight problem then sport drinks are probably fine even though not necessary. However, one bottle is usually enough to replenish lost electrolytes, and after that he or she should move on to water. If your child does have a weight problem or sits on the bench for most of the games, water would (with or without added electrolytes) be a better choice and forgo the unneeded calories. For instance, soccer, basketball, long distance running, and competitive tennis are more intense calorie burners than softball, fencing, or muscle conditioning.
  4. Nutrient Content of Packaged Snacks - Same consideration goes for packaged, refined starchy snacks. It is not only the calories in the snacks that matter but the quality of the nutrition in the snack. 100 calorie packs will control calories but your child is still ingesting refined flour, refined sugar, trans fats, and too much sodium. If dinner is right after practice then a piece of fruit is a good choice rather than a fruit roll up or granola bar. If you are not eating any time soon or your child did not have a snack before practice, than consider nutrient dense but calorie light snacks like a few whole wheat pretzels, trans fat free trail mix, or even 1/2 of natural peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread.
  5. Fruit, Veggies, Whole Grains, and Nuts -Fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts are loaded with minerals and electrolytes. Try to increase kid's intakes of these magnesium and potassium rich foods during the week, not just on practice or game days.

WARNING: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has just found that one in five teens now has elevated cholesterol levels. Exercise helps keep cholesterol low. Maybe teaching our kids not to eat junk is as important as teaching them not to drink and drive. It may save lives down the road.

Watch the MOMS LIKE ME segment (sponsored by Washington FAMILY Magazine) tomorrow at noon on WUSA Channel 9 to hear more about kids, sports, and healthy snacks.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Proof That Dreams Do Come True

One of my professors in college told us that it takes 20-30 years for new ideas to infiltrate all aspects of society and become accepted and ingrained. Witness the changes we've seen in civil rights, gay rights, women's rights, animal rights, etc.... The list is never ending.

Today I witnessed this in the food arena. What started as the "hippy dippy natural foods movement" in the sixties, has now, finally, worked its way into our most venerated and highly regarded institutions.

The Cleveland Clinic, perhaps one of the world's most prestigious cardiac care hospitals, has announced its kitchen has gone "green." Get ready for organic produce, healthy meals, reduction of dangerous chemicals used in cleaning and insect control, and real food/nutrition/wellness education in hospitals. This is an enormous "tipping point."

Thirty years ago I applied as a clinical dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. I was offered the job but instead took a job at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital (the county hospital) to be the administrative dietitian in charge of the kitchen. Disguised as a registered dietitian (because really there was a health nut inside that white lab coat), I tried my best to introduce whole wheat flour or at least get them to use unbleached flour in all those sweets they baked everyday. I also rallied to get rid of trans fats (Crisco) that they used in baking those unnecessary goodies. In general I tried to clean up the food they served. I even told them to stop using the government issued peanut butter since it was made with trans fats. Simple changes. I am sure they thought I was "weird."

Being a clean freak, I tried to institute new cleaning techniques in the kitchen using good old fashioned elbow grease instead of relying on insecticides to kill the roaches that climbed the walls to eat the dough stuck there from when it spewed out of the giant bread mixers.

Most importantly I tried to institute nutrition/wellness education to take advantage of the powerful "medical moment," the moment when someone who has not taken care of themselves says, "Aha." Most of my attempts did not come to fruition at the time, but today I am patting myself on the back because I played a part in this metamorphosis.

From having worked at Canyon Ranch, I know the Cleveland Clinic has worked closely with the dietitians there over the years to begin to make these changes. I am really proud of the Cleveland Clinic. Having grown up in Cleveland, I feel like they have done me proud!

I dreamed of the day when hospitals would serve food that would sustain life and prevent disease...and it has finally arrived.

Hip, hip, hooray!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Yum, Yum!

Just a quick note from the Health Nut. I just found the best light, airy snack called Brother's All Natural Crisps. I found them at Costco. They are freeze-dried fruit and they are awesome. They have strawberries and bananas, Fuji apple, and pears. Of course fresh fruit is probably better, but these are fun to eat when you feel like something dry and crunchy.

I like them instead of calorie laden energy bars. A couple of these with a drink are sure to quench both your sweet tooth and thirst. The calorie count is hard to believe but I will trust their labeling! 45 calories a pack.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Into Healthy Eating

The Health Nut has been out of contact for a while traveling and recovering from the flu. Even the Health Nut gets sick once in a while! I have also been crazily getting my garden ready for Spring. Thoughts of veggies (this year I have a fence and the critters won't be able to get in and nibble away) always get me hopping. Yes I think I am part rabbit as I have noticed my nose starts twitching when I walk through the produce department of any market or grocery store.

Speaking of produce, have you signed up for weekly deliveries from your local farmers? Check now because they book up really fast. Usually each farm has a convenient drop off point where you can pick up your order. Some farms also carry fresh eggs and hormone-free, grass-fed chicken and beef, and sometimes fresh flowers.

I am always asked if I think organic produce is worth the price. Yes I do. Research is just beginning to find out what role chemicals are playing in disease. So if you can, seek out organic. I have a different opinion of organic products in general, but that is for another blog.

There are so many options now. If you are too late to get on board with a local farm, you can always stop by the weekly farmer's markets that are cropping up everywhere. It is amazing how local produce is taking off. This trend it is helping to bring back small farmers and is obviously great for the environment; less fuel used for transportation and less chemicals in the ground, air, and water.

I happen to really like two farms outside Washington, DC. One is Water Penny Farm ( and the other is Mount Vernon Farm ( Both of these farms already have produce to sell. Dark green leafy vegetables are now in season. Dark pigmented veggies are some of the best cancer fighters around.

These farms are a 90 minute scenic drive from Northern Virginia. If you take Route 647 you can stop and have lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, 24 Crows. The food is AMAZING. This may sound weird but I still frequently think about things I have eaten there. I always try to stop by and see what is new from the kitchen. They also have an unusual gift shop in the restaurant.

So as you put away your winter clothes, get out your cookbooks and turn to the veggie sections. Just as the shoots are popping through the ground outside, new growth can also occur in the kitchen. Make a promise to try vegetables you hated as a kid. Brussels sprouts cooked in butter and olive oil with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar may change your tune. Or what about crispy kale or mashed up cauliflower? Arugala salad with dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese is a great way to incorporate the fresh produce that is coming your way.

Last but not least, put on some good soul stirring music and take a look around your kitchen. If you want, put on an apron and channel Betty Crocker or Julia Child. Spring clean ups are not only for the garden outside but for your inside garden as well, also known as your kitchen. Clean out your pantry, wash out the refrigerator, toss out old, expired food, and scrub those pots and pans. It is amazing how renewing it is to sit down to a meal of fresh farm produce in a sparkling kitchen.

Happy Spring.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day - Time to Think About Your Kid's Teeth and Gums!

Valentine's Day is so sweet and fun. I love this day and so do kids. CANDY front and center! Any day that revolves around love and candy is a sure winner with kids. Today kids send
e-valentines to their friends instead of making those fun, collaged valentine shoe boxes.

Just like sending valentines, going to the dentist has gotten more user friendly. However, most kids still don't look forward to their yearly checkups. As essential as these health checks are, what your child eats between visits is the most important part of building healthy teeth and gums.

In addition to brushing and flossing, the vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients in a healthful diet protect teeth from decay and keep gums healthy and tight.

The Main Culprit
We all know that sucrose or sugar is the leading cause of tooth decay, but not the only cause. Did you know that in addition to sugary foods like cookies, candies, and sodas, starchy foods (like refined bread and cereal) also play a part in tooth decay? When starches mix with an enzyme in the saliva called amylase, the result is an acid bath that breaks down tooth enamel and makes teeth more susceptible to decay. The longer the foods linger in the mouth, the acid bath is prolonged and the damage greater. That is why your mom always told you to brush your teeth after eating!

Dried fruit and juices can also be problematic. While we usually think of these as healthy foods and beverages, both their high sugar content (think stickiness) and their high acid content make them contributors to tooth decay.

Unlike dried fruit and juice, fresh fruit protects your teeth. Fresh fruit, especially apples, are a good choice. Although sweet and acidic, the increased chewing required when eating fresh fruit (and vegetables) stimulates saliva flow. Saliva flow decreases mouth acidity and washes away food particles. Now you know why apples are called "nature's toothbrush." They not only stimulate the gums but also increase saliva flow and reduce the build-up of cavity causing bacteria.

Gum Disease
More teeth are lost through gum disease than decay. Poor diet, meaning a highly refined diet, alcoholism, and certain medications all contribute to poor gums. Poor hygiene and not flossing can lead to bleeding gums, but lack of Vitamin C can also be a cause. Fresh fruit and vegetables are your best source of Vitamin C.

Munching on hard fibrous food such as carrots, celery, seeds and nuts, and whole grains all help stimulate the gums.

Healthy Snacks that Don't Attack
Think fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains, beans and other lean protein, and healthy fats:
  • Cut up veggies with hummus or guacamole

  • Cup of tea - Tea is good for your teeth because it contains fluoride. (If you are concerned about the pigments staining your teeth, you can drink tea through a straw!)

  • Fresh fruit with natural peanut butter

  • Cabot fat-reduced cheddar cheese with whole grain crackers or fresh fruit

  • Plain low-fat yogurt with fresh fruit and nuts

  • Whole grain pretzels dipped in spicy mustard

  • Turkey slices wrapped around asparagus or roasted red pepper and avocado slices

  • Hormone free turkey or buffalo jerky

Remember you can also protect your teeth by ending meals with foods that do not promote cavities or may even protect them. Aged cheeses help prevent cavities if consumed at the end of a meal. Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates the flow of saliva which decreases acid and flushes out food particles. Rinsing your mouth and brushing your teeth after eating are also good strategies to prevent cavities.

A bright smile is usually a good indication of a healthy diet.

For more articles and resources about "Nutrition for Healthy Teeth and Gums," visit the Washington FAMILY Magazine web site -

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


More snow, hooray! I am celebrating because outside my kitchen window on the deck, atop the glass oval table, is a giant six feet long x three feet high cake made out of snow. I want to rush out and poke in some colorful candles, light them, and make a wish but unfortunately I cannot open the door due to all the snow!

So instead I have to come up with some other entertainment. Here are some fun (depending on your point of view) things to do while you are stuck in the house. This is also a great time to get ready for spring which I am certain is only six weeks away:

Make some hot chocolate. If you don't have a mix so much the better. For a single serving: In a mug, add 2-3 t. of real cocoa, 2 T. Stevia, brown sugar, honey or maple syrup, and a dash of salt; Heat 1 cup of whole, 2%, or non fat milk, almond milk, or soy milk in the microwave at HIGH for 1-1/2 minutes or until hot; Gradually add the milk to the cocoa and stir well.

Hershey's will do but I just tried Schokinag European Drinking Chocolate and it is delicious. If I look outside I can pretend I am in the Alps sipping my chocolate between runs on the slopes.

Cocoa mass is full of antioxidants and studies show cocoa helps lower blood pressure. So drink up. For those of you looking for a way to incorporate ground flax seed into your diet, if you are not a cereal or peanut butter eater, try adding some ground flax seed to your cocoa. It is a new version of liquid Cocoa Puffs, but much better for you.

Make some brownies or cookies. If you have power, baking is always fun on a snowy day. I like No Pudge Fudge Brownies which you can find at many grocery stores. Literally all you do is add some non-fat vanilla yogurt and pop them in the oven.

If you are baking cookies or brownies from scratch, use whole wheat pastry flour or a mixture of whole wheat and white unbleached. You can always mix in some oat flour or spelt flour too. Land O Lakes Spreadable Butter is good to use for baking. Half butter and half canola or olive oil, depending which one you choose, this increases the monounsaturated fat content (heart healthy) and lowers the saturated, artery clogging fats.

Add tasty ingredients like dried cherries, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, or goji berries.

Clean your pantry: This is fun when you are done and the rewards last longer than the immediate gratification of a brownie or cookie. Look for bulging cans, expired dates, and open containers. Throw them out unless just opened. Use chip clips to keep bags sealed.

Check to see how long your cooking or salad oil has been in there. If longer than a few months, toss. Rancid oils are linked to inflammation. Buy small bottles and keep them in the refrigerator to avoid rancidity.

Don't be surprised when the olive oil gets solid. Just run it under warm water for a second to loosen, pour out what you need, and then pop in back in the refrigerator. Other oils like corn, canola, safflower, and soy won't harden due to a process called "winterization." This means the oil is chilled and filtered to remove the naturally occurring waxes and stearates before it is bottled and sold. They generally do not winterize olive oil. Winterizing is not bad.

Use cold pressed olive, toasted sesame oil, or cold pressed canola. Corn, safflower and soybean oils are high in omega-6-fatty acids and linked to inflammation. So if you have atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or arthritis or any other inflammatory condition or if you want to have optimal health avoid corn, soy, and safflower oils. Corn oil is linked to an increased incidence of mammary tumors in animals. Hey we're animals so connect the dots. Corn oil is used in most processed foods because it is cheap. Read labels and avoid it.

Take out your cookbooks: Stews, soups, rice dishes, and good old fashioned potatoes are great on a cold snowy day. Start browsing and mark the recipes that sound delicious. If you don't have any of the ingredients and cannot get to the store, make Stone Soup!

Look for recipes with exotic spices. The spices will not only wake up your taste buds but the aromas will warm up the kitchen. Indian, Thai, Italian all have hearty filling dishes.

Go for a walk: Snow storms can be transforming and I don't just mean to the terrain. I find the change of scenery is good for the soul. Seasons reflect the cycles of life and every season, no matter its severity, has elements of renewal. You don't have to wait for spring to find rebirth.

A snowy day gets you in touch with the wonders of life: the color of the sky against the frosted tree branches, the birds darting in and out looking for food, the kids laughing as they play in the snow. Talk to your neighbors, talk to your kids, and call your mom.

Life is fleeting, you've got to grab it while you can, even on a very snowy, stuck-in-the-house day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Eclectic Medicine Chest

Food as Medicine - This concept is finally grabbing hold in both mainstream medicine and in mainstream America. With this trend in mind, my trip to Costco yesterday was enlightening.

Costco represents the best and the worst of America. The best because we can see how productive we are as a nation (although many of the products are not made here) and how abundant is our food supply. And yes the prices are great. Yet, walking into a warehouse filled to the brim with over sized boxes of goods and with shopping carts to match confirms the obvious, we are obese in body and in mind.

Not only do you need a large vehicle to carry home all the items purchased, you also need a tremendous amount of storage space at home. I know many businesses purchase their goods at Costco, hence the large packaging, but for the average family it is overkill.

However, Costco gets a high five when it comes to stocking great products that promote health and wellness and for less money than Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. Plus it is great to be able to buy cleaning and household products at the same time. Take a friend with you on your next trip and share the bounty. Here are some products I like:

  1. Kirkland Whole Dried Blueberries - These are really good and have no sulfur dioxide added. However other than raisins, all of the other dried fruit did. Even though blueberries are high in antioxidants, remember that dried fruit is also high in calories so 1/4 cup equals a serving of fruit. Add to Irish oatmeal or with almonds for a quick pick-me-up. Good with plain yogurt too.

  2. Pacific Organic Chicken Broth - Great to have on hand for quick homemade soups and rice.

  3. Amy's Organic Soups - Both the lentil and minestrone look good and the sodium content is reasonable. Full of fiber and low in fat. Good for when you have no time. Add a salad and a hunk of whole grain bread dipped in olive oil and you are good to go.

  4. Home Foods Tofu - Good for all you vegans. Add to Pho soups, stir fry, and eggs.

  5. Brothers All Natural Crisps - Freeze dried fruit! Sweet and delicious. Throw these foil packs into your lunch bag, purse, or back pack. Keep in the car. Great for hikes too.

  6. Cheese - Lots of great low fat choices. Favorites include: Cabot reduced fat cheddar and Babybel Light.

  7. POM - With all the grim news on diet sodas being more addictive than cocaine, POM is a good way to kick the habit. Mix 1/4 cup of POM into an 8 oz. glass of bubbly water. Add a lime and you are good-to-go. Plus sodas are now linked to heart disease because of their role in elevating triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. POM is full of antioxidants and great for the brain. Other juices like grape, black cherry, and cranberry are also good.

  8. Fresh Produce - Here is where Costco shines, especially in winter when there is no local produce available.

  9. Olive oil - Lots of good cold pressed brands. Only problem is they come in huge bottles and unless you use lots of olive oil it may go rancid before you finish the bottle. Once opened, store in your massive Sub Zero to keep fresh or if you have a normal refrigerator pour into smaller bottles and share with friends. If the opened bottles are not used within about four weeks, store in fridge. Loosen oil under hot water for a second before using.

There are of course many other great products at Costco but beware of all the junk. Just like real life, you have to steer clear of trouble so forget purchasing sweets in bulk and read labels to avoid bad fats, refined flours, and additives. So, despite its flaws, shopping at Costco can contribute to your eclectic medicine cabinet, also known as your kitchen.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Keep The New Year Fresh

It is the end of the first of twelve months and just thought I pipe in with some ideas to keep the New Year fresh and alive. Remember all those great things you said you would accomplish, enjoy, and make room for?

Here are some ideas that will help wake up your brain and keep you motivated until the warmth of Spring is on your back:

Goji Tea
Instead of a caffeinated beverage in the morning, why not try some Gogi Tea? Gogi berries are off the chart in antioxidants and are a great way to wake up your system. Take about 1 t. of dried Gogi berries and put them in a coffee cup. Add hot water and let steep. You can eat the berries when they get soft and plump. Try this throughout the day as an antioxidant boost.

Change Your Exercise Routine

You might be thinking, "Why do that? I just got into a routine." Changing up what you do is a great way to stay interested in working out. For instance if you like yoga, now is the time to check out different studios just in case you need a change of scenery. Maybe you need a more zen-like environment, smaller class size, or a more convenient schedule. You generally pay by the month so now is the time to think about making a switch. Or if you are content, stay put and bring your hands together in Namaste to give thanks that you are healthy and are making the time to treat your body well.

Buy a Great New Cookbook
Purchasing a new cookbook is a great way to make meal planning and food preparation more fun or should I say tolerable. Cooking is enjoyable when you are in the mood, but if you are the chief cook and bottle washer, this task gets old. I love the new Canyon Ranch cookbook Nourish. The recipes are delicious and easy to make. The pictures make my mouth water. This might be a great Valentine's gift for your favorite cook, or for yourself if that cook happens to be you.

Get a Body Treatment
Don't wait for your next spa vacation to treat yourself to a luscious massage or pedicure. Once a month body treatments are a great way to relax and refresh. Some days it just feels awesome to either climb onto a heated massage table or stick your feet in hot bubbly water.

Coming soon, what is the best chocolate for Valentine's Day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Are Your Resolutions Still Happening?

We are almost two weeks into the New Year and where are you with your New Year's Resolutions? For most people the numero uno resolution is weight loss. Researchers have studied individuals who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept their weight off for at least five years. These "weight managers" have a few things in common. So whether you are still on track or have fallen off the wagon, here are some suggestions that will help you stick to your goals:

1. Keep a Food Diary

Awareness is the number one key to success when trying to lose weight. If you are aware of what you are doing, then you are paying attention. Paying attention means you are following what you set out to accomplish.

Most people fail to reach goals when they start to stray from their plan. Staying on the plan or, more importantly, getting back to the plan after a day, a week, or a month of straying is the key to success. The act of writing down your food intake actually makes you stay on your plan. It not only keeps you honest, it maintains focus and motivation. Food diaries work because they build new habits that allow you to see results. When you see results, you are motivated to stay within the structure you outlined in the first place.

I recommend keeping a food diary for at least a minimum of six months after you have achieved your weight loss goal. You have to build a system that keeps you accountable to yourself. Whether you keep it in a notebook (so old school!), a Blackberry, IPhone, or Droid, or on scraps of paper, the act of being accountable is HUGE.

2. Eat Breakfast
Many of us wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, "I will not eat today. I am sick of being fat." Those good intentions are usually gone by mid morning when two things happen: low blood sugar and the first donuts appear in the break room. Then it is off to the races. Do not think that eradicating the calories you ingest at breakfast will help you save on calories the rest of the day as it really has the opposite effect.

Eating breakfast not only sets your blood sugar pattern for the day but also helps prevent overeating after dinner when you start to crave sweets. Craving sweets at night is both a result of habit (wanting to unwind from a stressful day) and blood sugar fluctuations caused by erratic eating patterns during the day. Eating breakfast also gives you more energy throughout the day so at day's end you will be ready to hit the gym. Here are some examples of easy to grab, healthy breakfasts:
  • Egg white omelet with fresh spinach, topped with salsa and sliced avocado
  • Vitalicious Muffin Top with hot Chai tea with almond milk
  • Uncle Sam's Cereal (3/4 cup with a few raw almonds and 1 T. dried sulfur-free cherries)
  • Two slices whole wheat bread with almond butter and Polanar All Fruit
  • Miso soup with mushrooms and grilled salmon (think out-of-the box!)
  • Fage 0% yogurt with a 1 t. real maple syrup + 1 T. ground flaxseed
Eating more food earlier in the day fills you up with healthier food (unlike food you choose after dinner) and avoids drops in blood sugar that cause irritability and sweet cravings that lead to trips to vending machines and snack bar to seek out junk. The desire to eat sweets should signal that your blood sugar is dropping and that it is time to eat a healthful snack. Plus when you start off the day doing something good for your body, your body responds with better brain function so you are more likely to continue treating yourself well...and achieving your goals.

3. Exercise
Just remember, pounds only stay off if you exercise regularly, approximately one hour a day. The goal is not to revisit the weight loss ever again. Once the weight is gone, exercise is the key to keeping it off.

Exercise builds muscle and muscle increases metabolism so you burn more calories at rest. That is particularly good if you spend the day sitting on your rear end. Because exercise burns calories, it allows you some leeway in your dietary choices. No one eats perfectly all the time and thankfully exercise offers a buffer during stressful moments when you are traveling or have crunch times at work or at home. You may not lose weight when life is crazed but it will help prevent any further weight gain. Then once things calm down (and they always do), you get back on track and continue the weight loss program, in earnest, all the while never stopping your exercise routine.

Once you start, the endorphins begin to kick in. These endorphins (natural mood enhancers) not only reduce sadness, depression, and many other feelings that can derail us in our weight loss attempts, but also increase well being. This endorphin increase is real and not unlike the feelings you get on a beautiful sunny day. A regular dose of these brain chemicals can transform your life. The act of exercising (endorphin creation) is self-replenishing, meaning you may find yourself looking forward to your workouts.

Perhaps the key to keeping your resolutions alive is really as simple as one, two, three.