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.