Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Keeping holiday calories under control

Minestrone soup with a baked Parmesan crouton (a sliced baguette topped with Parmesan and broiled).

Most of us have had multiple holiday dinners to attend. That includes me. It started with several Thanksgiving meals, blossomed into a Friday night out with family on the Friday before Christmas, then continued on to Christmas Eve dinner, then Christmas. We haven't even made it to New Years yet! How can you possibly keep calories under control?
"Fancy" grilled cheese made with fontina, provolone, prosciutto and baby spinach leaves.
Before being flipped on the countertop griddle.

Here's some great ideas I picked up from my mom this year (where I'm positive I got my deep-seeded interest in food!). Each year, she hosts our family Christmas Eve dinner; usually with an Italian theme. I'm her assistant (or Martha, as she calls me. Yes, as in Martha Stewart). This year we planned a menu including: olive tapenade with pretzel thin crackers and multi-colored cherry tomatoes, homemade minestrone soup with a Parmesan crouton, spring mix salad with lemon vinaigrette, "fancy" grilled cheeses and an array of mini desserts. Our hors d'oeuvres and dinner menu included nutrient-packed foods that I would consider the perfect "comfort foods" for a chilly Christmas Eve. Bonus: much lighter fare than the typical holiday dinner. A lovely, festive and satisfying menu that's as simple and delicious as they come (and provides some much-needed calorie savings in the midst of the season).

Mini red velvet cakes dusted with powdered sugar.

My other advice for staving off the holiday bulge? Be active! When you're with family and friends, it's a great opportunity to get in some calorie-burning activity that's a little out of your normal routine. Go for a walk or hike, take the kids to the park or play a game that requires movement. This year after Christmas dinner, I was sweating to Dance Party 2 on the Wii! It felt great. Honey, you better not post that video on YouTube...

Mini shells with strawberry-rhubarb filling
and peppermint-flavored white chocolate pieces.

The holidays will involve food--and lots of it. But that's not what it's really about! I always try to remember to cherish the time with my family and friends. It helps me keep my hands out of the hors d'oeuvres! And if you do gain a pound, get right back on the horse after the holidays are over. It won't matter in the grand scheme of things.
Get the kids involved too! My nieces created place cards for our table.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, readers and fellow GoodFoodies!

Wishing you a joyful day full of fun, family and, of course, good food!


Friday, December 23, 2011

The gift of food

Yes, of course I give food for Christmas! Not the traditional Christmas cookies, but a unique treat that rolls out of my kitchen only at this special time of year. I love giving food because it's an affordable way to give a heartfelt gift to lots of people and I get to pass on some delicious-ness!

One of my very favorites is this recipe for Spicy Cheddar Appetizer Cookies that I found in Southern Living Magazine's December 2010 issue. It's not necessarily a low-fat treat, but it's savory and satisfying, so you don't need much. Each "cookie" contains only about 30 calories! It's super easy to prepare and FUN because you get to use cookie cutters :) After the cookies are baked and cooled, I wrap them in little cellophane bags, tied with a silver twist-tie and gift tag. I stumbled upon these cute printable gift tags this year on Pinterest.  There's three cookies per person; just enough for a little 100-calorie snack. Find nesting star cookie cutters like I used at Bed Bath and Beyond or Michaels. It's a lovely-looking, festive gift that's easy to give to the masses.

Spicy Cheddar Cheese Dough
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons half-and-half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Pulse first 5 ingredients in a food processor at 5-second intervals until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half-and-half, and process 10 seconds or until dough forms a ball.
Turn out onto a well-floured surface; divide in half. Roll each half to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with 2 1/2 - 3 1/2-inch assorted star-shaped cutters; place 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake 16 to 18 minutes; cool on baking sheets on wire racks 30 minutes.

Makes: 28 (3 1/2-inch) cookies or 72 (2 1/2-inch) cookies.

Recipe acquired from Southern Living Magazine, December 2010.

Do you give food gifts? What are your favorites?

Monday, December 19, 2011

5 strategies for staying on track during the holidays

Enjoy a sweet treat or two.
It doesn't mean you've blown it!
It's a wonderful time of year! It's also a time that many of my clients dread because it seems like it's so easy to sabotage healthy habits. All the parties and extra sweets coupled with inclement St. Louis weather leads to an average 2-4 pound weight gain just over the span of the holidays. Yikes! But don't give up just yet--we've got two weeks left.

Build your "offense" by remembering these five strategies:

1. Make smart choices. When you attend holiday get-togethers or dine out, keep your head in the game. Even though it might taste really good, it's just food. Order smart and you'll cut hundreds of calories. Or "eat like the French:" have a small amount of a richer dish and enjoy it slowly. After the party's over, you'll be glad you did.

2. Remember portion control. One or two cookies is okay. Half a batch is overdoing it just a bit! Remind yourself to pay attention to portions when you build your plate. Don't hang out by the hors d' oeuvres table or go back for seconds. And watch the egg nog too.

3. Keep up your exercise routine. No matter what! And yes, you can count holiday shopping marathons too. Exercise helps you to continue burning those extra calories and is one of the best "offense" strategies for keeping extra pounds at bay.

4. Don't let yourself go...into your fat pants, that is! (Or your "Thanksgiving pants" as Joey on Friends would have said). If you've got room to grow, you probably will. Stay in your skinny jeans and you'll stay more aware and more motivated. Plus they look much cuter with the season's hottest boots anyway :)

5. You've never completely blown it. As in: just because you had a scoop of ice cream doesn't mean you should go ahead and eat the entire container! Sure, we may take in some extra calories during the holiday season, but it's also the only time of year we get to enjoy seasonal treats and festivities. Don't deprive yourself from having fun. Indulge a little more than usual without going completely overboard. And if you do slip up, like most of us do as some point, it's not all over. Just get right back on the wagon.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rewarding experience today

I want to share this experience because it reminds me of why I'm a dietitian:

I've been seeing a patient with diabetes since June of this year. His average blood sugar started at 220, which is not controlled, and he had high cholesterol. He's had difficulty controlling his blood sugar and in fact, at one point, I thought he would need insulin to control diabetes. He's struggling financially and it's been a challenge to help him eat healthier foods (he used to eat fast food or gas station food at every meal, every day).

After our last visit, something changed! He decided to really work on changing his eating habits. He's down to dining out no more than 8 times a week (yes, still a lot, but much better than 21!) and his blood glucose and cholesterol levels have normalized. Seriously. He does not need insulin at this time and may even need to reduce one of his diabetes medications! (As a side note--sometimes diabetes medications are needed to help the body manage a health condition, like diabetes; but when we can avoid them, that sure is GREAT)!

When I see cases like these, I am reminded of how remarkable the difference [in health] can be when we put a little effort into it. We can make a difference; a BIG difference! I love watching the progress and seeing first-hand the results we strive for in practice.

I'm SO PROUD of my patient and so happy to be included on his road to living a healthier life. Yea!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I've joined the Around the Plate community!

I'm one of the newest Nutrition Experts on Around the Plate! Around the Plate is a community that brings nutrition experts and everyday people together online "to improve the way the world eats one plate at a time." Click the icon on the right to view this awesome sight run by registered dietitians. Check out other blogs written by dietitians, recipe gurus and healthy eating champions to find resources for healthy living. Thanks for welcoming me, Around the Plate team!

Medicare will cover obesity--but there's a PROBLEM!

Dear readers,

You may have heard the news recently – it was widely reported – that Medicare made a decision to cover Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity. In the past, Medicare has only covered nutrition counseling for diabetes and renal disease. While this is good news, there is a major problem with their ruling- it has excluded registered dietitians from directly providing obesity treatment for Medicare patients. This would be like deciding to offer coverage for physical therapy treatment but not by a qualifed physical therapist. I think I can speak for most dietitians in saying that we feel very passionately about our professions and have worked very hard to become “the experts in nutrition” in order to best help our patients.

Perhaps you’re asking, if not RDs, than who can provide this treatment? Nutrition counseling for obesity under Medicare will now fall under the primary care physician’s (and some other healthcare professional’s who are not RDs) responsibility. Granted, there are some MDs that are knowledgeable about nutrition, however in a recent survey of primary-care physicians, 78 percent said they had no prior training on weight-related issues. After all, this isn’t most primary care MDs specialty.

Number one: This ruling doesn’t make sense. Number two: This would take away the time that physicians have to care for the medical concerns of their patients. Registered dietitians have the knowledge, training, experience and time to devote to patients.

Please sign this petition to help us – registered dietitians, the nutrition experts. We need 25,000 signatures for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reconsider their decision. It won’t take long – maybe 2 minutes – to register for an account (free) and sign. Please note though that apparently the site has been a bit finicky – so if it doesn’t open in Internet Explorer, please try in Firefox, or another web browser. I signed yesterday! Here is the link: http://wh.gov/DWX.

Thank you so much for your time and help. Please forward this post to anyone you think might be interested too!

Liz Patton, RDbyyourside

Thursday, December 8, 2011

HCG off the shelves

I wrote about HCG back in August (see the post here). I'm pleased to find out that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now taking action too: they issued warning letters to companies who sell over-the-counter HCG products noting that they have not been approved as weight-loss agents and pose several health risks. Bottom line is that the claims made by manufacturers of these products (ie. miracle weight loss) are unsupported. Now the message will be heard loud and clear! Thanks, FDA.

I know from my clients that weight loss can be a struggle and maintaining your action plan for health isn't always easy. Sometimes products like HCG are a last resort or seem like they might help (these companies are really good at marketing!). Even if we don't want to believe it, a quick-fix approach is not the answer--and it could even be hazardous to our health. So formulate a long-term plan for health and weight loss. And stick with it! You can do it.

If you need help, visit my website for more information about nutrition counseling.

Source: Reuters

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

If you've carved pumpkins this year or cut up leftover pumpkins to use in recipes, don't throw away the seeds! They're great toasted. And so simply healthy: just a little oil and a little salt. That's it! Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of unsaturated fat and one of the few plant foods that is a good source of iron. I love to snack on them plain, but they're very versatile. Add the seeds to salads, sprinkle on yogurt or try in a homemade trail mix. I'd mix them with unsweetened dried cherries and mini chocolate chips for a sweet n' salty snack.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Now it's time to dig in to the "pumpkin guts" that you have set aside! Separate the stringy stuff from the seeds and place the seeds in a collander. After you've done the dirty work, rinse the seeds in the collander and get rid of any remaining stringy pieces.
Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan on the stove. For every cup of pumpkin seeds, use 4 cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt (more or less to taste). Mix all ingredients together and simmer for about 10 minutes. Spread about a tablespoon of olive oil on cookie sheet and spread pumpkin seeds in an even, single layer. Bake for 20-30 minutes until toasty and golden brown. Remove from oven, cool and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Creative ways to use your leftovers: Pumpkins & Pumpkin Bread

Remove the skin. It's really easy--it just peels right off when the pumpkin is still warm. Place pumpkin pieces in a food processor with a couple tablespoons of water and puree. You may have to do this in a couple batches.

Part Two: Pumpkin Bread
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups pumpkin purée (prepared above)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light margarine
  • 2 eggs and 4 egg whites, beaten
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together the flours, salt, sugar and baking soda in a small bowl.
2. Mix the pumpkin, oil, margarine, eggs, water and spices together in a large bowl. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Fold in the nuts.
3. Pour into two 9x5 inch loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake 50-60 minutes until a thin skewer poked in the center of the loaf comes out clean (mine took 70 minutes). Gently turn out of the pan, using a knife for assistance, and let cool on a rack.

This recipe makes two loaves. The product was fantastic and it refrigerates and freezes very well. Mini loaves would make an excellent holiday gift! 

Leftover pumpkins? Sure they made excellent holiday decorations, but they can be much more than that! If you've never cooked with fresh pumpkin, that would make two of us. But this year I decided to give it a whirl (I'm always up for something new with food!). Here's two easy and delicious ways to use your fresh pumpkins: pumpkin bread and toasted pumpkin seeds.

In the past, my focus in cooking has not been baking (and I've never made pumpkin bread before), so I searched the internet for a recipe and discovered an excellent blog: Simply Recipes (love this site, by the way!). I modified the author's recipe slightly to cut down on some of the fat, so you'll see my version below. This was the first time I've made baked goods with olive oil and now it's something I will be sure to do again in the future. Why make the switch? Olive oil apparently provides a similar buttery taste in your product and its a fantastic source of monounsaturated (heart healthy) fats versus its counterpart, butter. Use extra virgin olive oil so that the olive flavor is less potent.

Start by preparing the pureed pumpkin. Don't worry; it's not difficult, but it does take a little time. So save this recipe for when you've got at least an hour to work in the kitchen (most of your time will be spent on the pumpkin puree). I pureed two pie pumpkins and ended up with 6 cups of pumpkin puree. That's enough for 6 loaves of bread! I used 2 cups in my recipe and froze the remainder in 2 cup portions for later. I'll be looking forward to more bread :)

Part One: Pumpkin Puree
If you remember what it's like to carve a pumpkin, you'll know it takes a little strength and a sharp knife. I found that it was easiest to make the first slice alongside the stem, then cut around the stem to remove it. Then I cut the largest part of the pumpkin into three sections and the smaller part into two, ending up with five sections.
Take a metal spoon and scrape out the seeds and "guts." Place them in a bowl to sort through later (will be used in toasted pumpkin seed recipe).
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and place pumpkin sections so they're not touching. Roast for about 45 minutes until the meat of the pumkin is soft (a fork should easily poke through). Remove from the oven and cool, just long enough for you to be able to handle it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My blog has gotten a facelift!

Same trusted nutrition information, healthy-living tips and recipes, brand new-and-improved look! I'd love to know how you like it! Please explore and leave comments below or email me with any feedback (use the contact tab above). Subscribe to be a GoodFoodie so you don't miss any updates!

Creative ideas for your Thanksgiving leftovers will be back tomorrow! Stay tuned for my yummy pumpkin bread recipe.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Creative ways to use your leftovers: Cranberry sauce

I have a love-love relationship with leftovers. And Thanksgiving leaves some of the yummiest leftovers of the year! Many of the one-time-a-year dishes served at Thanksgiving dinner can be easily incorporated into everyday meals. In an efficient kitchen, nothing goes to waste! And leftovers are an amazing time-saver too. But cranberry sauce might be one leftover that you don't know what to do with; and this year it's my favorite! My so-simple recipe for cranberry relish, below, can be easily enjoyed post-Thanksgiving. If you don't want to use it right away, just freeze it in an ice cube tray for the perfect portion later on.

Cran-orange relish at Thanksgiving

With your leftovers, try a 1-2 tablespoon portion (only 20-40 calories) used as:
  • Jam/spread on whole wheat toast or waffles
  • Topping for Greek yogurt
  • Spread for turkey sandwich (also made with leftover turkey)
  • Side for roasted pork tenderloin
  • Mix-in for oatmeal
Relish atop plain Greek yogurt. Does this not look indulgent?
Well it is...but without the guilt!

Why worry about saving it? Cranberries are a great source of some very potent antioxidants (or phytochemicals), which have many health benefits and are shown to prevent cancer. It's better to enjoy fresh cranberries versus canned because you can control how much sugar is added (you could even substitute some sugar substitute)--and quite frankly, they're better!

Cranberry-orange relish
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 (12 oz.) bags fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
  • Zest, juice and pulp of 1 orange
  • 1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cranberries will start to soften and pop within 2-3 minutes. Stir until most of the cranberries have popped and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat to cool and thicken. Refrigerate.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Makes 16 (1/4 cup) servings.
Nutrition information, per 1/4 cup:
75 calories, 0g fat, 0mg sodium, 19g carb, 2g fiber.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine

Wait-don't throw your leftovers away just yet! And that includes your pumpkins, if they're still around. Stay tuned for more holiday recipes and creative ways to use them. Be sure to freeze any leftovers you won't be using immediately by TOMORROW (that will make 5 days in the fridge)!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Are you one of 1 billion?

Believe it or not, 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin," because it can be synthesized in our skin while we're out in the sun. We've known for years that inadequate vitamin D can affect your mood (heard of the winter blues??), but we continue to learn that it can affect much more.

Researchers have found that there are vitamin D receptors on the pancreas, the prostate, breast tissue, the colon, macrophages (which protect your immune system), the kidneys (regulate blood pressure) and the parathyroid gland. Woah! How many common health problems could be related to insufficient levels of vitamin D?

Although this subject has been getting tons of attention lately, I'm bringing it up now because I attended a great seminar last week on vitamin D. So good in fact, that I even found myself wondering if I could possibly have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Dietitians aren't perfect after all (however hard we may try)! But it makes sense--there aren't that many food sources that contain vitamin D, they're easily eliminated from people's diets and most of us don't go out in the sun that much any more. If you don't eat fish, don't consume several servings of dairy a day and/or aren't in the sun (with most of your body exposed) for at least 15 minutes per week, you could be one of the 1 billion with a low vitamin D level.

The good news is that this problem is easily remedied. The Institute of Medicine now recommends that people ages 1 to 70 consume 600 IU vitamin D daily. If you are overweight or obese, you might require 2 to 3 times more vitamin D! The best food sources of vitamin D are fortified dairy products and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines (double bang for your buck here--you also get a good helping of healthy omega-3s).

You can get all the vitamin D you need "naturally" by consuming three servings of fortified dairy products daily, fatty fish at least twice per week and basking in the sunlight without sunscreen (or yes...getting UVBs from the tanning bed) once a week. Give it your best shot because getting our nutrients from food is best, if possible. However, most of us would probably benefit from a low-dose supplement just in case we're lacking for the day. But this should be just insurance! A plain-old multivitamin typically contains 400 IU vitamin D and is a good back-up plan. But if you're already deficient in vitamin D, this won't be enough to increase your levels back to normal range. And of course, there are many causes of vitamin D deficiency, not just inadequate diet. If you feel symptoms of low vitamin D (muscle pain, fatigue, decreased immunity) or think you may be at risk, discuss vitamin D testing and supplementation with your doctor.

Although evidence-based and as accurate as possible, advice given in this column should not be used as a substitute for personal medical attention from your physician. Always check with your physician before making any changes to your medications, over the counter or prescription.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trying to diet? See how your plan ranks!

Last week, U.S. News & World Report released their evaluation of the Best Diets for healthy eating. Diets were given a "healthiness" score from 1 to 5 (5 being the best) for safety and nutrition. According to the panel's analysis, which included health experts and dietitians, the Dash Diet received the top ranking and the Atkins Diet came in at number 20 (out of 20). Surprising? Not really. The Atkins, Raw Food and Paleo diets (new trend...the paleolithic diet) received low scores because they were too restrictive to provide adequate amounts of healthy nutrients. Top-ranking diets, including also the Mediterranean diet and the Mayo Clinic diet, were similar in that they relied more heavily on vegetables, fruits and whole grains with a modest amount of lean protein, non-fat dairy and healthy fats.

Overall, this is a nice overview of popular diets with sound evaluations. We hear so much information relating to food and nutrition that it can be difficult to decide between myth and fact! It's good to have a reminder of what a healthy diet really is. Bottom line: if you're eliminating entire food groups or focusing on a single nutrient, your diet is not likely to help you achieve health and lasting weight loss. Click here to read the report. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The perfect time to STOP Diabetes is NOW.

That's right.  Even if the thought of diabetes has never crossed your mind. NOW is the time to start paying attention: before you develop diabetes or even pre-diabetes.

I'm bringing it up now because November is National Diabetes Awareness month, dedicated to all people who have any type of diabetes, including type 1 and type 2. And today (11-1-11) marks the first annual Type 1 Day (T1Day), a new campaign led by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. November 1st is a day especially dedicated to commemorating the lives, accomplishments and triumphs of people living with type 1 diabetes.

I think National Diabetes Month is also a time to recognize how big a problem diabetes is becoming in America. And also to realize that there is so much we can do to prevent and control it! Type 2 diabetes is very much a preventable disease, or at least a disease we can put off, even if the risk is in our genes. Not to mention, if you have diabetes, the risk of complications can be minimized by controlling blood sugars.

Did you know that...
  • Nearly 26 million children and adults have diabetes
  • 79 million people have pre-diabetes or are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes
  • Diabetes kills more people each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined
  • The CDC projects that 1 in 3 American adults will have diabetes by the year 2050 unless we take steps to stop diabetes.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, amputations and kidney disease.
We have to face it and take action now! There are simple steps you can take to improve your health and risk of diabetes. (I'll be sharing them throughout the month).

For starters, take this quick quiz to find out if you're at risk for type 2 diabetes. If you need help, don't be afraid to ask. I've spent thouands of hours helping people manage diabetes. If you're not local, there are diabetes educations programs around the country. Wherever you go, diabetes educators are here to help you learn, manage your health and provide support.

What do you think about the diabetes epidemic?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Make your own instant oatmeal!

Fall is in the air and I don't know about you, but that means I start craving warm and comforting foods to fill my belly! Others must feel the same way since one day in October is dedicated to a certain comforting superfood. Today, October 29th, is Oatmeal Day!

An insignificant annual celebration? No way! We really can thank oatmeal for a host of nutritional benefits--from weight control to diabetes management to heart health--all in its natural form, with minimal processing. Thanks to the fact that it's a whole grain, uniquely high in soluble fiber.

I ran across this awesome idea for creating your own instant oatmeal packets--instead of buying the pre-packaged ones available at the store, that is. Get the benefits of instant oatmeal  in the same convenient form by packaging your own. And I'm not talking boring, plain oats.  The mix-ins are included! It's good food that really tastes good too, no matter what your flavor preference. Your packets will be lower in sodium, added sugars and preservatives than their store-bought counterparts too.

Each packet you make will cost as little as 10 to 15 cents, saving you 15 to 25 cents per packet! It may not sound like much, but we all know those cents can turn into dollars real quick (and it sure beats the cost of picking up fast food on the way to work). Your savings could be more than $1.00 per store-bought package, debunking the common myth that healthy food is more expensive.

So improve your health and save some dough by clicking here!

Handout provided by Iowa State University.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A dietitian's pledge for Food Day

When I read this Food Day pledge (October 24) written by a fellow Registered Dietitian, Robyn Flipse, I had the overwhelming urge to share it. Her words are wise and urge us to get to the root of the obesity problem instead of vying for quick-fixes to make us healthy and lean. I couldn't agree more...and if I may, I would like to opt in on this pledge too.

Thanks for keeping it real, Robyn!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Slashing calories at your game day celebration

Here in St. Louis we're gearing up for Game One of the World Series tonight! And since football season is already in full swing, not only do St. Louisans have their minds on the game, but so do other sports fans around the nation. Watching your favorite team just wouldn't be the same without the tailgating fun that surrounds it--but these celebrations typically include high-calorie, diet-blowing snacks. Never fear! You can enjoy the fun and fill your gaming crowds' bellies with some healthier game day options without blowing your diet plan. Build your menu from some of the following selections to include delicious, healthy ingredients while slashing calories (and don't worry--nobody will know!):
  • White chicken chili with jalapeno cornbread
  • Turkey sliders (mini burgers made with ground turkey breast)
  • BBQ pork tenderloin sliders (cook the pork in a crockpot, then shred with a fork)
  • Mini roast beef sandwiches served with spicy mustard and horseradish sauce
  • Boneless wings (oven-baked chicken tenderloins: dip in low-fat buttermilk and roll in bread crumbs, then bake) served with choice of sauces and celery sticks
  • Layered bean dip with baked tortilla chip "scoops"
  • Veggie platter with low-fat salad dressing and hummus
  • Tomato, basil, and marinated mozzarella bites on a toothpick
  • Caramel apple bites (slice apples and drizzle with lemon juice to prevent browning, serve with caramel dip)
  • Chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks and chocolate-covered raisins (easy to make by melting chocolate in the microwave on low)
Do you have other healthy game-day crowd-pleasers that you like to serve? Please share by posting a comment.

And oh yeah...GO CARDS!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dietitian’s Tips to Make Halloween a Treat (Not a Trick)

To me, Halloween marks the beginning of the fall holiday season. Although Halloween is supposed to be spooky, it doesn't mean you have to dread its effects on your health or weight management plan! Let’s face it – resisting Halloween candy is hard to do.  But you can have a guilt-free Halloween while enjoying a few treats as long as you have a few tricks up your sleeve!  In fact, if you allow yourself a treat here and there, you’re more likely to stick to your diet.  With a little knowledge and planning, you can still enjoy the fun (and some candy) while maintaining your health and weight management goals.

Remember that all desserts and sweets should be eaten in moderation.  Although it is okay to treat yourself sometimes, desserts are a source of empty calories and fat.  And they don’t provide many healthy nutrients.  Limit yourself to one serving of dessert or less per day and make sure to count it as part of your meal plan or calorie goals. Here are some of my tips for handling Halloween temptations:
  • Purchase the candy you plan to give away only a couple days before Halloween so it's not in the house for long!
  • Buy mini or fun-sized packages of candy only.
  • Consider fun-sized, healthier options like chocolate teddy grahams, animal crackers or 100 calorie packs of cookies. Don't worry; I know kids don't want raisins and apples for Halloween...but these are snacks that kids like!
  • Throw away (or give away) any candy that you or your kids don't particularly like.
  • Out of sight, out of mind! Keep some candy in the pantry, on a shelf that you don't see as soon as you open the door.  Not in the candy bowl on the table!
  • Consider this a teaching moment with your family. Certainly allow kids to have a few more pieces of candy than usual on the night of Halloween.  But in the days following, set some limits about how much candy is allowed. It’s never too early to teach kids about food and nutrition. Remember, if you don't need it, neither do the kids!
  • Keep some candy, especially chocolate, in the freezer. It won't go bad as quickly and you'll have a little treat option for months to come.
  • Increase your activity level if you plan to indulge a little more than usual.
  • If you have a sweet tooth, don’t always reach for the candy jar! Instead try low-fat chocolate pudding, flavored yogurt, berries drizzled with honey or apple with peanut butter. These healthy “desserts” provide good nutrition too.
Happy Halloween! I know it's early, but we're planning ahead :)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Avocado Tomatillo Salsa

Once again, here’s a co-op driven recipe (I belong to a local co-op that delivers “surprise” baskets every other week). Seems as though the produce I received from my last two co-op pickups was just begging me to make Mexican! Included in my baskets were: tomatillos, cilantro, limes, avocados and tomatoes…so I thought, “how about a green salsa?” I created this recipe, which was friend-approved at our dinner get-together last night:

  • 2 large tomatillos, peeled, washed and cut into small cubes
  • 1 small tomato, cut into small cubes
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (I used one and the product had just a little “kick”)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 lime, rolled on the counter and sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt, dash
  • Fresh ground pepper, dash
  • 1-2 avocados, removed from peel and cut into small cubes (when ready to serve)

Add all ingredients, except lime and avocados, in a small bowl. Squeeze both halves of the lime over mixture. Mash with potato masher until about 1/3 of the ingredients are left in cubes and some juice has formed in the bottom of the bowl. Stir and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to let the flavors marry. When ready to serve, gently fold avocado into salsa mixture. Serve as an appetizer with baked tortilla chips.

The tomatillos add a unique, light tartness to this salsa and the avocados cool it down. Refreshing! This is a super easy-to-make recipe that's, of course, also super healthy. It’s lower in sodium than canned salsas and the avocados are rich in healthy unsaturated fats. Again, the co-op has nudged me to be a little more creative…I would be unlikely to purchase tomatillos on my own, but now I’ve created a new recipe that I’ll make again in the future!

If you have leftovers, remember you can always use them! I’m going to use my leftovers this week to top a grilled ahi tuna steak. I love it when I can enjoy my recipes twice in different ways and save myself some energy in cooking later in the week.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fresh From the Garden: Hearty vegetable soup

I’m going to wrap up this year's Fresh from the Garden series with a recipe using those extra veggies you may have frozen or canned over the summer. You can’t beat a hearty, homemade vegetable soup when you start to feel that chill in the air! I had some okra and celery (received from the co-op) that I’d chopped and frozen just for this cause. Canned tomatoes? Frozen corn or butter beans? Green beans? Whatever you’ve got—toss it in. There’s a host of options and a lot of leeway to get creative. Think stew beef, barley, chicken or rice as additional options. My favorite way to cook it is in the crock pot because then I can say I’m cooking dinner while I’m at work! Plus the slow simmer blends the flavors that make you just want to cuddle up at home. What could be easier for busy families? Plus it's a dish that all can enjoy. Mix up a batch of cornbread to go with it…now we’re talking comfort food!

This is really very much of a no-recipe recipe, but here’s a base to get you going:

  • 1 pound meat
  • 6 medium potatoes, cubed (swap these out for soup made with barley or rice)
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 2 cups okra, chopped
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 4 carrots (2 cups), chopped
  • 2 cups frozen, cut green beans
  • ½ large yellow onion
  • 32 ounces low-sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 44 ounces (3 cans) diced or whole tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Stove recipe:
Lightly brown meat in an 8-quart pot. Drain off fat. Add all other ingredients, stir to combine, cover and simmer for at least one hour, or until vegetables are tender.

If you’re cooking it in the crockpot, brown your meat first on the stove. Add all ingredients to the crockpot and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.

Makes approximately 28 cups (just 100 calories each!).

So that’s it for the summer harvest, but it doesn’t mean the healthy recipes end here. Subscribe to be a GoodFoodie and don’t miss a thing!

Are you interested in seeing how these recipes are used in a weekly meal plan? Need help with weight loss? Visit my website for more information about my services, including pre-designed meal plans, coming soon!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fresh from the garden: Roasted tomato tapenade

Served atop torn focaccia: also a delicious option
This tapenade is perfect for the cooling weather that’s ending our summer harvest. The roasting brings out the flavor in the tomatoes, so you can use your possibly less-than-desirable late-bloomers. I drew inspiration for this recipe from the August 2011 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. It’s surprisingly versatile—I would serve it at a special occasion, dinner party or casual Friday night at home. Dish it up as a perfect transition from cool, crisp summer dishes to warm and comforting fall ones.

Roasted Tomato Tapenade
  • 2 pounds (6 cups) red and yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced in half if large
  • ½ cup pitted Kalamata and pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 4-6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6-8 basil leaves, chiffonade (or 1 teaspoon dried)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange tomatoes in a single layer and drizzle with about ½ tablespoon olive oil. Roast on upper rack of oven for 10 minutes. Add olives, capers and garlic to baking sheet. Sprinkle with half the salt, half the black pepper and red pepper. Continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until tomatoes start to crack (or burst when lightly pressed). Meanwhile, whisk remaining olive oil, vinegar, remaining salt and pepper, and basil in a serving bowl. Remove tomato mixture from the oven and pour into bowl. Gently fold to coat with olive oil mixture (don’t worry if the tomatoes start to burst—it’s better this way!).

Serve warm aside toasted focaccia (I first tried this with rosemary focaccia—delish!!) or crusty French bread. Use leftovers on top of baked tilapia.

If you like olives or traditional tapenade, this deeply flavorful dish will soon become one of your winter faves! And don’t forget the wine J

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fresh From the Garden: Linguini with Summer Squash

I’m still harvesting my last squash from the vines (and beginning to get sad that my plants are starting to fade) and was lucky enough to get a few zucchini from my friend’s garden to make this simple and fresh pasta dish. Perfect for summer and an easy, two-pot meal that makes for easy clean up too!

The beginning of a colorful meal!
You'll need:
½ box whole wheat linguini
3-4 small chicken breasts, optional
2 yellow squash
2 zucchini
½ small red onion, optional
8-10 small mushrooms, optional
4-8 cloves fresh garlic (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)
8 basil leaves (or 1 tsp. dried basil)
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon
2 pinches of Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add the pasta. While the water is heating and the pasta is cooking, prepare your ingredients by following the next two steps. When pasta is al dente (just barely soft), drain in colander and leave at the side. Save the pot for use later.

If you choose to include chicken, cut it into bite-sized pieces and season with a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. If you'd rather not prepare it on the stove, you can throw it on the grill and add it later.

Roughly slice squash and zucchini (cut of both ends, then cut in half lengthwise, then slice to create slices that are half-moon shaped). Slice onion, and mushrooms if desired. Remove garlic from peel by pressing with the side of the knife blade and peeling.  Press again once peeled, then dice. Heat a large skillet on medium, drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil lightly across the bottom and swirl to spread. Add chicken bites to the pan. Turn once the sides begin to turn opaque (white). When all sides are opaque, add zucchini, squash, onion, mushrooms and half the garlic. Turn occasionally. When squash begins to soften and lightly brown, add salt, pepper and half the basil. Turn off heat.

Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium saucepan (that was used for the pasta) on medium heat. Add remaining garlic, salt, pepper and basil. Heat, while stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes. Add pasta and mix gently until coated. Add squash mixture and fold gently.  Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Enjoy along side a vegetable salad.

Serves 3-4.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fresh from the garden: Eggplant Parmesan Bake

Here's the next recipe in my Fresh from the Garden series: inspiration for creating healthy, delicious recipes from your garden-fresh produce.

I got two beautiful eggplants from my best friend’s garden and created this recipe (which I've already made twice I loved it so much).  I’ve already decided, by the way, that I’ll be planting eggplant next year in my own garden! This casserole-type recipe easily feeds a family of six or makes enough for delicious leftovers to take for lunch the next day (wink wink—now I’ve got you packing a lunch too). It’s a delicious, easy and time-saving dish that’s sure to please, even if you think you don’t like eggplant.

You’ll need:

  • 2 medium eggplant
  • Optional: ½ a yellow onion and a green bell pepper or 2 squash and/or zucchini (see how interesting it can get?)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, at least; toss in however much you like (I like about 8!)
  • 10-12 basil leaves, rinse and pat dry with a towel
  • Fresh ground pepper, if you have it, otherwise "regular" pepper
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, no added salt, or 4 cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 carton fat-free ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (trust me--you want this)
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, fresh chopped or from the spice jar
  • 1 can tomato sauce, no salt added
  • ½ cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, made with 2% milk

Spray the sides and bottom of a large casserole dish (9x12) with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Get a large cutting board. Slice the tops and bottoms off the eggplants, then slice in ½-inch to ¾-inch slices. Slice other vegetables into ¼ inch slices, if you opt to include them. Slide to the side. (The vegetables, not your feet).

Roughly chop basil and garlic—I like the pieces big and chunky.

Stir parsley into the ricotta or cottage cheese.

Layer the ingredients: start with half the eggplant, other veggies, basil, garlic and pepper, then 1 can diced tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh tomato), and all the ricotta or cottage cheese mixture.  Repeat; you’ll end with the second can of tomatoes (no ricotta on the top).

Pour tomato sauce over the top and gently shake the casserole dish so the sauce runs down in between all the ingredients.

Cover with foil or lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle breadcrumbs along the top. Place back in oven without foil for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake for another 15 minutes. Last time: remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice into six pieces and serve over top of whole wheat rotini noodles (2/3 to 1 cup cooked). No need to prepare a pasta sauce; the casserole provides enough tomatoes and juice to coat the pasta too. Enjoy with green beans, steamed broccoli or salad.

P.S. All of you who are freaked out by vegetarian meals (ie. sorry honey): this is one of them! I promise you won’t miss the meat.

If you try it, please let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jamie's Food Revolution catching on?

Chef Jamie Oliver
Over the last couple years, Jamie Oliver, chef from England, has brought his "food revolution" to America. If you've tuned in to his show, which airs on ABC, you've seen many doubts and criticisms come his way as he's tried to instill healthy food habits in a few of our nations' school kitchens and students. But according to this story, his revolution might just be making forward progress off camera too!

In Greeley, Colorado (P.S. Colorado is one of the least obese states in America according to the CDC), chefs and schools have started working together to bring healthy foods to the menu. They're making more meals from scratch, adding interesting spices for flavor and serving desserts only on special occasions. High-sodium, high-fat and preservative-laden convenience foods are getting kicked to the curb. By next year, the school plans to be cooking 100 PERCENT of their menu offerings from SCRATCH!

So parents and kids, raise your voice and make this a nation-wide movement! Read the New York Times story in which Chef Boomer and the Greeley school system squash the myth that healthy, truly homemade cooking costs more and has less taste (no pun intended). Fight obesity and poor health from its roots by teaching our children what good food really is. Go Greeley! Who's next?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fresh from the garden: recipe series

This post marks the beginning of my recipe series, Fresh From the Garden, featuring my own recipes made with garden-fresh produce (as promised). These recipes are simple, tasty and oh-so-fresh; just perfect for summertime.  If you’ve got the backyard garden going, you might not even have to go to the grocery store! This is the perfect opportunity to get creative in your cooking, so be experimental.  Cooking doesn’t have to be perfect. Subscribe to be a goodfoodie to be alerted of new posts or follow along for recipes using your summer harvest!

First up: Flatbread Pizza
Yes, a pizza that’s healthy! And you can get creative with this one by choosing your own mix of ingredients. There are nearly endless possibilities for whatever mood you’re in. It’s a fun and easy recipe to share with your spouse, family and/or kids because each person can make their own unique pizza.

Start with whole grain naan (Indian flatbread—you may have never seen it, but it’s available at most grocery stores) or whole wheat pita bread. Drizzle olive oil lightly across the top and bake on a cookie sheet or pizza pan at 425 degrees until it begins to turn golden brown (about ten minutes). You may also choose to sprinkle garlic and herbs on the bread before baking for extra flavor.

Remove from the oven and add your favorite toppings. This time I used sliced kalamata olives, capers, sliced tomatoes, a few turkey pepperonis, feta cheese, fresh garlic and fresh basil with a sprinkle of 2% milk mozzarella cheese. Think about your restaurant favorites; it doesn't have to be so "gourmet."

Bake for another 10-15 minutes until cheese begins to turn golden brown and starts to bubble.

Remove from the oven, cut and serve your individual pizza.

Other fun options:
  • Mix and match with your family—everyone can take a taste of each person’s pizza creation
  • Serve as an appetizer at your next cocktail hour or party (think bruschetta-style)
  • Give to the kids for a nutritious after-school snack.
This version was so good I made it two days in a row. Next time I’m adding slices of goat cheese in place of the feta! Anyway, I think you get the point. Whatever you choose, you may find you won’t need to order delivery anymore…wink, wink. Just try to keep the meats lean (Canadian bacon, ham, ground sirloin or turkey pepperoni) and go easy on the cheese. Fill it up with colorful veggies fresh from your garden!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

HCG: quick fix for weight loss?

My answer, of course, has always been "no." This article nicely sums up the reasons! If you've been considering using HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, otherwise known as "the pregnancy hormone") for weight loss, please click here to read more. Remember, although it takes a little patience and a lot of commitment, a balanced diet based in moderation along with exercise is the best way to be healthy and lose weight. Don't fall for the fad of a quick fix.

If you're looking for some help, get an RD by your side! Visit my website for more information on nutrition counseling.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Facing the facts

Last fall, a law was passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act requiring all restaurants with 20 locations or more to list calorie information on menus and menu boards for all menu items.  In addition, restaurants would be required to carry the remainder of the nutrition information (fat, saturated fat, sodium, carbohydrate, etc.) in the store.  The enforcement of this law has been delayed, but rumor has it that we will be expecting changes nationally by the end of the year.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal just made headlines: "1 in 6 changes order when menus list calories." 7,300 New York lunch-time diners were surveyed at 11 fast food chain restaurants 12 months before the law took effect. Nine months after the law became effective, diners were surveyed again.  Calorie intake was reduced by up to 80 calories at the top three restaurants studied.  This is a significant difference, since an intake of 100 calories less per day will result in a ten pound weight loss per year (currently Americans gradually gain weight each year).

As a health-conscious person and dietitian, I'm totally in favor of the new guidelines.  After years of familiarizing myself with nutrition information, I continue to be shocked by the calorie and fat content of many restaurant foods.  Currently a vast majority of the nutrition information can be found online or on apps, but it can still be difficult to locate in a timely fashion.  Seeing the calories in front of me when I'm placing my order definitely affects my choice.

The good news is that restaurants seem to be listening.  Note the 550 calorie meals at Applebee's, default low-fat milk at Starbucks and the upcoming changes to the McDonald's Happy meal (half-portion of french fries and addition of apple slices).  Still the decision rests in our hands.

So my question to you is: Will your order change when you have to face the facts?