Sunday, December 30, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 1...

We're almost there. Just one day left until the New Year!

The start of the new year is an opportunity for a fresh start. Have you thought about your resolutions for 2013 yet? Do you want to improve your diet? Exercise more regularly? Cook more meals at home? Make more time for family and friends?

Whatever goal you decide to set for yourself, set yourself up for success by making it realistic. We may start the New Year off excited to work on our goals, but that excitement can wane fairly quickly as we get back into the hustle and bustle of daily life. Think about what you can realistically achieve. Once you achieve that goal, you can always set a new one!

Click here to read more about setting realistic goals for lifestyle changes.

This marks the end of our countdown to the New Year! I hope you have a fun New Year's Eve and ring in the New Year with healthy, happy aspirations. See you in 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 2...

2 days left!

I hope this post finds you relaxing at home, cozied up in your pjs, enjoying some time away from work with family and friends. If so...that calls for a special breakfast! Try one of these recipes--all perfect for breakfast on a wintery Saturday at home.

How about a fancied-up version of the Egg McMuffin? This "green eggs and ham-"inspired recipe is egg, ham, cheese, tomato and Spicy Spinach Pesto on a whole wheat english muffin.

Scroll down for more tips from our New Years countdown.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 3...

3 days to go...

Make a date tonight with your honey and/or kids to go ice skating. It's a fun and romantic way to spend a winter night. Plus it will keep you moving at a time of year when we could all probably use an excuse for more exercise. If your town has an outdoor ice skating rink, that's even better! Bundle up and enjoy an activity that never gets old, no matter how old you are!

Scroll down to read more tips from our countdown.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 4...

4 days to go...

Do you have some yummy holiday leftovers? Don't let them sit in the fridge and tempt you into re-creating the holiday feast time and time again. Pack them away for freezing in portion-controlled containers or get creative by turning them into some new meals.

Get some ideas here in my article on Yahoo! Shine.

Scroll down for more tips from our countdown.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 5...

Only 5 days 'til the New Year!

Go outside today and burn off some of those extra Holiday calories!

Do you have snow?
  • Build a snowman
  • Go sledding
  • Go skiing or snowboarding
No snow? It's still a great time to enjoy winter activities.
  • Go for a walk--in the neighborhood, at a park or on a local trail
  • Go ice skating
  • Hit the post-Christmas sales! Walking while shopping counts too :)
Scroll down for more tips from our countdown.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 6...

Merry Christmas! Enjoy yourself today!

You can have fun, enjoy the food and festivities, and be mindful of your calorie intake too. Here are a few tips for portion control at the festivities today:
  • Socialize away from the appetizer table! Take only one small plate-full including lots of veggies. Don't graze.
  • Alternate between alcohol and a calorie-free beverage; this helps you limit the amount of calories you take in. Choose wine, light beer or alcohol mixed with a calorie-free mixer.
  • Eat one plate at dinner. Try to make 1/4 meat, 1/4-1/3 starch and the rest veggies (about 1/2 your plate).
  • Take one small piece of your favorite dessert.
Scroll down for more tips from our countdown.

Related posts:
Keeping Holiday Calories Under Control
5 Stratagies for Staying on Track During the Holidays


Monday, December 24, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 7...

It's Christmas Eve! 7 days until the New Year...

Are you ready for Christmas tomorrow? Share your favorite recipe with me and the GoodFood community by commenting below or posting on Facebook. Snap a pic of something you've prepared or just dish about your favorite recipe. I'd love to see which foods help you celebrate the holiday season.

I'll get the ball rolling:
The centerpiece of our Christmas meal is prime rib with homemade horseradish sauce. Mmmm... I've been a steak and potatoes girl for as long as I can remember, so needless to say, this is one of my favorites.

Scroll down to read more tips from our countdown.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 8...

8 days left...

During the holiday season, you're probably taking in more calories than usual. After all--we're surrounded by yummy treats and seasonal foods that only come around once a year! So what's the best way to balance extra calories so that you're weight management plans don't soar out the window? Physical activity, of course!

Tonight go for a walk and take in the beautiful sights of the holiday season...Christmas lights and decorations, the sparkling snow on the ground or winter's evergreens. It's a great way to experience the magic of the season and burn some calories too.

Scroll down for more tips from our countdown.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 9...

9 days to go...

Looking for a last minute Christmas gift? Check out the awesome food-lover's gifts in The GoodFood Shop. From cookbooks, to kitchen gadgets to gardening and exercise gear, you'll find something perfect for the health enthusiast on your list. Everything in the shop has been handpicked by RDbyyourside and all purchases support the GoodFood blog. Last day to order to get your gift by Christmas Eve!

More about the GoodFood Shop: My shop is set up through Amazon. If you have an Amazon account, you're good to go! Your purchases will be processed through Amazon. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you'll get free standard shipping and 1-day shipping for as low as $3.99. Plus a portion of your purchase goes to the GoodFood blog. Your support is appreciated!
Scroll down for more tips from our countdown.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Countdown to the New Year! 10...

We're summing up the holiday season and the year 2012 with a countdown of holiday and cool-weather tips, ideas and activities. Check back each day for a quick idea for finishing off your year healthfully!

10 days to go...

Here's your first tip:

If you're finishing your holiday shopping this weekend, pack a snack to take with you to the mall so you can keep your energy level up while avoiding temptation at the food court. Here are some healthy and totable snacks:
  • Dried fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Whole grain granola bar (I like Nature Valley, Kashi, Balance Bar, Lara and Kind bars--find many of these in the GoodFood store)
  • Whole grain snack crackers, such as Triscuits
  • Peanut butter crackers

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Eat Mindfully, Lose Weight. And More!

Mindful eating (or avoidance of mindless eating) is a phrase that is becoming increasingly popular. Brian Wansink was one of the first notable authors to write about the concept in his published book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, in 2006. Lilian Chueng, D. Sc., RD is the co-author of Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, published 2010. She writes about attaining a healthy weight while leading a life that is more satisfying by practicing mindful eating.

Mindful eating is a simple-sounding strategy; briefly it means paying attention to what and how we eat. According to Cheung, instead of dieting, which is difficult to adhere to long-term, practicing mindful eating becomes rewarding in more ways than just your waist measurement. Aside from losing weight by consuming smaller quantities of higher quality foods, mindful eaters find themselves gaining energy, emotional stability, compassion, gratitude and joy through learning to enjoy and appreciate food more.

Since the holiday season seems to revolve around food, it is the perfect opportunity to practice “mindful eating.” Mindful eating creates a healthy relationship with food and also speaks to the compassion, joy and giving of the holiday season. So amidst all the decorating, parties and gift-giving of the season, take a moment and be mindful of your food. You'll benefit in more ways than one. Here's how to get started:

7 Principles of Mindful Eating (featured in the book, Savor by Lilian Chueng and Thich Nhat Hanh)

1. Honor the food. 
We take food for granted because it is so easy to attain. Chueng notes, "You press the button on the vending machine and the food just comes out." To be more mindful, remember where your food comes from and how it came to you. Think of how it was grown–the sun, the rain and the farmers who cultivated it–and also the drivers who brought it to the store and the supermarket employees who stocked the shelves. It’s really had quite a journey!

2. Engage all your senses. 
Notice the beauty of the food you eat, how it smells, tastes and feels. Think about the flavors and textures in the foods you eat as well as how these flavors complement each other when combined. How do you feel when you look at and eat your food? Do you feel differently when you eat a home-cooked meal made of fresh ingredients versus a fast-food meal?

3. Be mindful of portion sizes. 
Large portion sizes drive us to eat too many calories, which can in turn lead to weight gain. We have the innate desire to want to fill our plates and finish what's in front of us–so using a larger plate means you’re more likely to eat more. Don’t allow “your eyes to be bigger than your stomach.” Start with a modest portion size on a plate no bigger than 9-inches.

4. Chew. 
That sounds easy! Focus on chewing your food thoroughly and not eating too fast. The longer your food is in your mouth, the more you taste the flavors. When you swallow your food, you no longer taste it. Chewing thoroughly also helps begin the process of digestion and leads us to the next principle...

5. Eat slowly. 
Yes, you’ve heard it before. But how often do you practice it? Eating slowly allows you to take more time to chew and taste the food you’re eating. It also gives your stomach a chance to signal your brain that it is getting full, so you eat less.

6. Don’t skip meals. 
Skipping meals usually backfires, causing you to get hungrier and eat a larger portion at one sitting than you would at multiple meals spread throughout the day. Eating regularly also helps keep blood sugars stable and the metabolism working, aiding in weight management and loss. Always begin the day with an energy-sustaining breakfast containing whole grains, protein and whole fruit. Eat throughout the day and don't go too long between meals.

7. Eat a plant-based diet. 
Chueng notes, “Research shows that eating red meat increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. A recent study by Harvard School of Public Health also found that red and processed meats may contribute to weight gain.” Plant foods are very nutritious, low in fat and high in fiber.

Watch Dr. Cheung discuss the 7 Practices of Mindful Eating here.

Are you ready to try mindful eating? Challenge yourself to try one principle at a time. There couldn't be a more perfect time to start. 

Source: Huffington Post
Photo credit:

Enter my contest to win Chobani Greek yogurt!

Buy the books discussed here:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Win Chobani Greek Yogurt!

Photo courtesy of Chobani Greek Yogurt:

Chobani has whipped up six new blended Greek yogurt flavors and they want you to try them! They're sponsoring a giveaway here on the GoodFood blog. One lucky winner will receive six 16-ounce containers of Chobani in the following fantastic new flavors:
  • Low-fat Mango
  • Low-fat Vanilla Chocolate Chunk
  • Non-fat Black Cherry
  • Non-fat Blueberry
  • Non-fat Peach
  • Low-fat Pineapple
I am a major Greek yogurt-lover and eat it every day--plain, with fruit, with granola or nuts and on top of potatoes, chili and soup. But these new flavors have inspired me in a whole new way. And the deliciousness doesn't stop there--you'll find tons of recipes featuring Chobani's yogurt on their website. It's a great way to cut the fat and boost the nutritional value of appetizers, main dishes and sweets. Yum.

Enter the contest using the handy little Rafflecopter widget below. No purchase is necessary and the more actions you take, the more entries you get! The winner will be selected on December 14th, so you'll get your yogurt just in time to whip up some fantastic holiday dishes. Check out the recipes and get prepared.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Half Your Plate Video Winners!

The USDA recently sponsored the MyPlate Fruits and Vegetables Video Challenge inviting participants to create short videos showing how they add fruits and veggies to their diets without spending lots of money. "Make half your plate fruits and vegetables" is one of the key messages found in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, highlighted by the release of MyPlate last year. I was so pleased to see so many great videos, many of them from our nation's youngsters! I hope they inspire you to find new ways to add fruits and veggies to your diet too. Check out how the winners do it:

Click here to view the rest of the winning videos.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shop the GoodFood Store on Small Business Saturday!

Looking for the perfect gift for the foodie on your list? Check out the GoodFood Store for hand-picked items they're sure to enjoy. You'll find cooking gadgets, appliances and utensils, handy storage and prep solutions and my favorite healthy-eating cookbooks. No matter if you're looking for a big gift or some stocking-stuffers, you'll find great options here.

The GoodFood Store links up with, so you don't have to set up a new account. Just sign in using your Amazon ID and password. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you'll also get free shipping!

By shopping in the GoodFood Store, you're supporting small business. A small portion of each purchase you make goes to the Good Food Tastes Good blog and will help us keep going strong (and that's no additional cost on your end). Your support is very much appreciated.

So do something good for the food-lover, clean-eater or nutrition buff in your family! Shop the virtual GoodFood Store in your PJs this Saturday. Happy shopping and happy eating!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cranberry-Orange Relish

The Thanksgiving turkey just isn't complete without the accompaniment of cranberry sauce. As soon as I start to see bags of cranberries in the produce department at the grocery store, I get excited! Fresh cranberries are a seasonal treat and, to me, are another sign of the holiday season.

Cranberries have a unique tart flavor and also offer many health benefits. Per 1 cup raw, cranberries contain only 45 calories and 12 grams of carbohydrate, while packing in 4 grams of fiber! They also contain markedly high levels of antioxidants--nutrients that fight free radicals and help prevent disease. To enjoy cranberries after the fall/winter season, freeze leftover cranberry sauce for later or use dried cranberries year-round.

This Thanksgiving, don't settle for the canned cranberry sauce (that still looks like a can when you get it out). It's so easy and quick to whip up a fresh cranberry sauce at home! Here's my favorite recipe--it has a hint of orange.

Cranberry-Orange Compote
Serving size: 1/4 cup. Serves 16.
Prep time: 10 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 (12 oz.) bags fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
  • Zest, juice and pulp of one orange
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. 
  2. 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. 
  3. Stir until most of the cranberries have popped and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat to cool and thicken. 
  4. Refrigerate.
Nutrition information (per 1/4 cup):
Calories 75 | Total fat 0g | Sodium 0mg | Total carbohydrate 19g | Dietary fiber 2g.

Liz's Tip: Substitute a granulated sugar substitute (like Splenda) for the sugar to reduce calories and carbohydrates.

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine

Wishing you and your loved ones a fantastic Thanksgiving filled with love, laughter, fun and fabulous food.

Related Posts:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Don't Let the Holidays Weigh You Down! How to Use All That Food to Your Advantage

Thanksgiving is in one week. WHAT?! Where did this year go?

I feel safe saying that most of us love the holidays, but those fond feelings are often accompanied by worry...about weight management plans, dieting, blood sugar control or heart health. Well don't worry. You can enjoy the holidays and stick to your health plan at the same time--it just takes a little forethought and advanced planning.

Maintaining your weight (or losing weight) is all about balancing the calories you take in and the calories you burn. Although a Thanksgiving meal can add up to several thousand calories, this one meal won't make or break your weight loss plan. The keys to maintaining your weight throughout the holidays are:

1. Healthy selections
Make smart selections that have fewer calories and less fat such as lots of veggies, white meat vs. dark and beverages with fewer calories. If you're in charge of a dish, choose something healthy to bring.

2. Recipe modifications
Use simple recipe swaps that reduce calories, fat and sugar. Click here for a free downloadable list of simple recipe substitutions.

3. Portion control
Love your grandma's pumpkin pie? You only get it once a year, so go for it! Just have one slice and skip other desserts. Or take a very small portion of a couple.

4. Managing leftovers
The Thanksgiving feast shouldn't last for days on end. That's how calories can really add up over the holidays! Click on the link below to get tips on managing leftovers--use them to your advantage and save yourself some time in the kitchen over the busy holiday season!

5. Exercise
Do not, do not, do not slack off on exercise just because of the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Yes, you may have some additional tasks on you, wrapping, cooking, etc. but that is no excuse to let exercise go completely. Burning calories is key to balancing the ones you eat! Click on the link below for some fall/winter activities that burn calories and don't even feel like exercise.

Just because you choose to indulge a little on Thanksgiving (and you should) doesn't mean you have to go off the deep end and continue the pattern until the New Year begins! Think ahead, make a plan you can stick to and enjoy time with those you love.

Read more about these tips in my Yahoo! Voices article: Don't Let Thanksgiving Leftovers Weigh You Down This Year!

Photo attributed to LeeBrimelow via Flickr. Use of this photo is subject to Creative Commons license. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Diabetes: Protect Our Future

November is American Diabetes Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of diabetes.

World Diabetes Day, sponsored by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), is celebrated annually on November 14th. The campaign, symbolized by a blue circle, aims to educate, engage and empower youth and the general public on diabetes. The 2012 World Diabetes Day campaign marks the fourth year of the five-year focus on “diabetes education and prevention.”

The IDF states that "there is an urgent need to continue to widen the awareness of the factors responsible for the global diabetes and the solutions that are required to counter it."

"The World Diabetes Day 2012 campaign will link the urgent need for action to the protection of the health of our future generations. Particular focus will be placed on highlighting the importance of education--for health professionals, people with diabetes and people at risk--in reducing the impact of diabetes throughout the world."

The slogan chosen for the 2012 campaign is:


"The 2012 campaign will have a special focus on children and young people as the driving force for the promotion and dissemination of education and prevention messages that we hope will inspire and engage local communities to recognize the importance of early awareness of the risks and dangers of diabetes. The aim is to build awareness among children and young people of the warning signs and risk factors for diabetes and that in many cases type 2 diabetes can be prevented through healthy eating and physical activity."

The three key messages of the campaign are:
  1. Access to essential education for everyone
  2. The way we live is putting our health at risk
  3. People with diabetes face stigma and discrimination.
So today, wear blue or pin on your blue circle. Represent IDF's mission to spread knowledge about diabetes care, prevention and a cure.

To learn more about the 2012 WDD campaign, click here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Recipe Swaps: Simple Substitutions for Healthier Recipes

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, if you're like me, you're mouth has started watering just thinking about your favorite family recipes! Even though it is okay to indulge a little on Thanksgiving, calories can really add up, so it is important to improve what you can. With the right substitutions, you can reduce the calories, fat, sodium and sugar (while pumping up the nutritional value) of your favorite recipes without sacrificing the taste you love. The bottom line is this: healthier recipes start with healthier ingredients.

In this free download, you'll find suggestions for some simple ingredient swaps. Some ingredients you can substitute completely without risking a big change in your final product, like brown rice for white rice or Greek yogurt for sour cream. But in other recipes, especially baked goods, you'll want to start by substituting a little at a time to see how it will impact your final product. For example: sugar helps baked goods rise and brown. If you try substituting mashed bananas for sugar, start with half first to see how everything turns out.

Download Recipe Swaps here for free!

Try these recipes in which some simple ingredient swaps were used. Can you tell?

Whole Wheat and Flax Pancakes

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

Friday, November 9, 2012

Marion Nestle: Kids Don't Need Kids' Food

Marion Nestle is a foremost expert on nutrition in the United States and a role model of mine. Her common sense approach to nutrition--that's based in fact--is one that I also strive for in my practice. I was again pleased to read her comments on accessibility to healthy food and parental influence published in the October 2012 issue of Childhood Obesity. I thought it was very much worth passing along.

Here's an excerpt from Jamie Devereaux's interview with Nestle, entitled Kids Don't Need Kids' Food:

Devereaux: "Further to the discussion of packaged food: Do you think diets can be healthy and still include packaged foods?"
Nestle: "Can the typical American diet progress to a diet entirely free of packaged foods? And what would it take to get there? Why does it have to be 100% one way or the other? That makes no sense to me. Right now, the default diet is largely based on foods that are processed or pre-prepared. I would like to see a better balance between foods cooked from scratch and those made by someone else. I’m not sure what the exact balance is but the idea would be to change it over time to make a greater percentage of food intake come from fresh, relatively unprocessed foods."

Devereaux: "Finally, if you could shape the discussion of healthy food access for children in America—how would you frame it and what would you focus on?"
Nestle: "Kids don’t need kids’ food. If adults are eating healthfully, kids should be eating the same foods that adults eat. Babies don’t need commercial baby food. Older kids don’t need kids’ products. Families can all eat the same foods, and that should make life easier for all concerned. If you don’t want your kids drinking sodas, don’t bring them home from the supermarket. Teach kids to eat real foods early on, and they will be great eaters throughout life."

It's hard, if not impossible, to find a person who eats a perfect diet. Do we even know what perfect is? But if we strive to eat mostly good, wholesome foods that have been minimally processed, I think Nestle would agree, that we'd be much healthier.

With all the nutritional "clutter" that's out there, it can be difficult to figure out what's right. Just keep in mind that there really are no tricks. No secrets. All of us, no matter our age, should aim to keep healthy eating simple. Ask yourself these questions the next time you are eating: "Did it grow in the ground or from a tree? Can I recognize the ingredients?" Let that be your first guide. We all like to indulge every now and then in something this isn't quite as good for us. What's the harm really as long as it isn't a regular thing?

To read the entire piece, click here.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Fall Project: Finally Success!

For a little background, my project this fall is to grow a fall garden (ha--like I only have one project). I'm still a relatively new urban gardener and have only grown during the summer season until this year.

{In my previous posts, you can read about how we expanded the garden space this year, my first attempt at growing seedlings (which failed big time) and my beginning success at sowing seeds into the garden.}

I planted lettuce, spinach, radishes and kale from seed--all cold weather-withstanding plants. I got them into the garden in mid-September, which is a little late, but the temperature is still only barely dipping into the 30s here in St. Louis. About six weeks later...I finally have some edible success!

I can't explain how excited and proud I was to pull my first radish out of the ground this past weekend! I've successfully grown tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers and herbs, but for some reason this was different. Maybe because it was new. Or because I finally succeeded at something that takes such great patience. Or because it's kind of like a little surprise to pull a radish from underneath the soil when it was just a root a week ago. It always amazes me!

My spinach and lettuce are also off to a great start. I was also able to trim some baby greens for a nice salad too.

The rewards of gardening are so great. I love the awesome tasting produce that I can walk out into the backyard and pick. It's so beautiful! (And not to mention cheap.) Gardening is a great escape too. I love being out in nature picking edibles that were once just seeds. It feels good to be self-sustaining in some way, even though it's just in my little piece of this big, convenience-driven world.

I've still got some picking to do this year, but I know I'll be eagerly awaiting spring when I can do it again. I learn more every time I give it a go and I hope my journey toward successful urban gardening has inspired you too! Stick around to find out what I do with my fall harvest.

If you're working on your green thumb, check out these two sites that I love:
My Urban Farmscape
How to Garden Advice

Related Posts:
Garden Expansion 2012

A Fall Garden (And How To Plant Vegetable Seeds)

Damage Control

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Last Minute Healthy Halloween!

If you've procrastinated and still aren't all set for Halloween this evening, you're probably not alone. I'm going to officially admit that I don't even have a costume this year! I still feel like I'm pushing through one of the busiest, most non-stop years of my life and Halloween just didn't take precedence. We don't have any kids (yet), so we'll be holding down the fort and handing out treats to our neighborhood trick-or-treaters (while I sand the wall in the bathroom from the new light fixture we just installed...). I guess I could pose as a contractor :)

Although Halloween typically revolves around candy, there are some alternative healthier (and still fun) treats that you can hand out on this sweet holiday. Check out some of these recipes through today's Around the Plate blog link-up below. You'll find recipes and ideas for healthy treats provided by other dietitians and foodies that are posting in the blogosphere.

As a dietitian, I believe any food has a place in a healthy diet in moderation. So if you choose to have your candy and eat it too, you'll also find tips for enjoying it in a healthy way. Click on the picture below.

Happy Healthy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash and Brown Rice

I love fall produce! Don't you? Some of my favorite vegetables are the ones that are seasonal in fall: butternut squash, spinach, kale, broccoli...and butternut squash again. It's silky, rich flavor is so satisfying. Plus it's easily prepared and versatile too. Yum yum.

Butternut squash is a starchy vegetable, but not your typical one. It falls on the spectrum between zucchini and potatoes with only 80 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrate per cup. Plus it's high in filling fiber--a whopping 5 grams per serving! On the inside, it's another one of those veggies that is deeply-colored, meaning it's packed with antioxidant vitamins. Bright orange veggies are know for carotenoids, which can help you retain good vision. One serving of butternut squash supplies an enormous amount of vitamin A; I'm talking over 200% the daily value, and 30% of your daily vitamin C needs.

Here's one of my most favorite butternut squash recipes yet--an original of course. It's okay to love your own cooking, right?! This recipe is substantial enough to be served entree-style either as a vegetarian meal or with some grilled chicken. If you haven't tried butternut squash, this is a good starter recipe for you. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Brown Rice
Serves 6.

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice, dry
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves, rinsed
  • 6 cups butternut squash (1 medium squash)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add rice, pepper, thyme, garlic powder and half the salt. Return to boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until water is absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare squash by peeling, scooping out seeds and cutting into 1/2 inch cubes. {Don't toss your seeds out! See link below for roasting.} Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat squash. Sprinkle with remaining salt. Roast at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. Squash should be tender, easily pierced with a fork but not mushy, and starting to brown. Pull from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  3. When rice is done, tear spinach leaves and stir into rice. Allow leaves to wilt.
  4. Heat a small skillet on medium heat. Toast pine nuts in the dry skillet, turning every 30 seconds until lightly golden. Watch them, they'll brown quickly!
  5. Gently fold squash into rice and spinach mixture. 
  6. Add pine nuts and stir once more. Serve!

Nutrition Facts: Calories 274 | Total Fat 5g | Saturated Fat <1g | Cholesterol 0mg | Sodium 112mg | Total Carb 53g | Fiber 4.5g | Protein 5.5g.

Download the recipe here!

Related posts:
Toast your squash seeds for a delicious snack using this recipe.

Butternut Squash with Haricot Verts

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Secrets of a Good Night's Sleep

There's ever-mounting evidence that poor sleep may play a major role in obesity. "Tired" cells don't use insulin as well as the cells of a well-rested body, ultimately causing disturbances in metabolism of fat and hormone balance. {Read more in Part 1 of this story: Are Groggy Cells Making You Gain Weight?} Bottom line: simply not being well rested may cause weight gain and increased hunger.

We all lead busy lives. You're not alone if you feel like there just aren't enough hours in the day! But setting aside time for adequate sleep is just as important as making that appointment for work or your kid's soccer game.

The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. But if you're running (or your mind is running) right up until the time you hit the hay, you may find it difficult to get adequate sleep. The foods and beverages we choose in the latter hours of the day can also affect the quality of our sleep and how quickly we fall asleep too.

Here are some ways to promote getting a healthy night's rest:

1. Pick foods that promote rest and avoid those that don't. 

It's tough to go to sleep when you're tummy is growling. That's one reason why the "don't eat after 7:00" rule is really a myth. A little food in your stomach may actually help you sleep. Just make sure to keep your evening snack small. Several snacks or a big meal will not only add unnecessary calories, which can promote weight gain, but will also be tough on your digestive system, making it more difficult to get to sleep. Set aside a calorie "budget" for your bedtime snack. If your dinner is only a few hours from bedtime, you may not need a snack.

Opt for complex carbs at bedtime, not protein. Higher-fiber carbohydrate foods release glucose into the bloodstream slowly, so they're perfect for promoting rest. Protein is harder to digest and may be higher in fat. So skip the high-protein snack and opt for dairy or starchy types of carbs, like a warm glass of milk or crackers.

Foods containing tryptophan, a sleep-promoting amino acid, make great evening snacks. That's why you might have heard that drinking milk before bedtime can help you fall asleep (or why you feel so tired after that Thanksgiving turkey). Foods that are high in tryptophan include nuts and seeds, oats, dates and dairy products.

Foods rich in the minerals magnesium and potassium help the body relax. Good sources of magnesium include nuts and seeds, whole grains, peanut butter, bananas and milk. Potassium-rich foods include raisins, bananas, oranges, milk, yogurt, apricots and cantaloupe.

Consuming too many high-fat foods is never a good idea, but before bedtime, high-fat foods are an especially poor choice. They are more difficult to digest, may make you uncomfortable and can cause indigestion. Some research shows they may even interrupt your sleep cycle. A big meal, or one that's high in fat, may take 6 hours to fully digest.

Watch the spicy stuff. Spicy foods, similar to chocolate, caffeine, acidic foods and high-fat foods, can cause stomach upset and indigestion, especially before bed or when lying down. Avoid these at least two to four hours before bedtime.

Caffeine, even in moderate amounts, can make it difficult to fall asleep. Thank you Captain Obvious. But aside from coffee, don't forget about less obvious caffeine sources, like chocolate, colas (even diet) and tea. For better sleep, stop drinking caffeine at least four hours before bedtime. Check your evening beverages to make sure they are decaffeinated. After all, a mug of hot tea can be help you wind down--just make sure it's decaf.

Limit alcohol before bedtime too. It may help you fall asleep faster, but it leads to frequent awakenings, less time spent in the "deep sleep" cycle, night sweats and vivid dreams. If you're consuming alcohol in the evening, make sure to also drink water. For a good night's sleep, it's best to avoid alcohol at least four hours before bed.

Drink your H20...but not too close to bedtime. Staying hydrated is very important to overall health. But waking up for even just a few minutes to go to the bathroom interrupts sleep enough to make you tired the following day.

2. Exercise.

Exercise is beneficial for cardiovascular health, weight management and well-being. You may not know that studies show exercise helps facilitate a restful sleep too. Burning energy through exercise helps fatigue your body so that it's easier to fall asleep. As body temperature falls after exercise, your body will begin to relax. So exercise in the evening may not really be a bad idea. Try exercising at different times of the day to find out which time is best for you. But as I always say, "Anytime is a good time for exercise."

3. Wind down.

Even if you get into bed on time, it can be very difficult to fall asleep when you've got stuff on your mind. Ease your worry and clear your mind by:
  • Keeping a journal to relieve stress and let go of the worries you've faced during the day.
  • Make a list of things that you need to get done tomorrow or that you want to remember.
  • Start getting ready for bed an hour before you plan to hit the sheets. Get in your jammies, wash your face, brush your teeth and perform other nighttime rituals.
  • Read a book. I like reading fiction before bed. It takes my mind off the "real world" and gives me a chance to indulge in something a little less serious. Plus, even the most interesting book starts to make me weary at bedtime!
  • Put down the electronics and turn off the TV. The bright lights can keep your mind stimulated and keep you awake.

4. Schedule sleep.

Set up your own sleep schedule. Try to go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time every day and night. Get your body into a rhythm and you'll find it's easier to fall asleep on time and get up feeling good.

We hear about diet and exercise a lot when it comes to our health and weight management. But don't forget that sleep is just as important! If you think you may not be getting enough (or quality) sleep, start taking steps to solving this problem. Try my tips above or contact your doctor. Your body (and your waist line) will thank you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Trick or Treat?! Calories in Halloween Candy Revealed

How do you "survive" a holiday that seems to revolve around candy? Even with the best intentions, when candy is littering the house--in your kids Halloween buckets, in the basket you plan to pass out, at parties--it can be tough to avoid overindulging.

Sure it's okay to treat yourself occasionally, but to make sure you're not really tricking yourself, find out how many calories are in that candy! Since "fun" size candies typically don't come with a Nutrition Facts label, refer to the following list to make sure you're not eating more calories than you think. Those little treats can add up quickly.

Download a free Halloween candy list here! (a GoogleDoc)

To give yourself a hand, here are some additional tips to help you minimize the temptation to over-do it:
  • Make sure there is a limited quantity of candy in your home. In other words, try to estimate only the amount you need so there aren't bunches of leftovers. Try not to open candy bags until trick-or-treat time.
  • For your Halloween candy handouts, buy candy that you don't particularly like. You won't feel as much like snagging a piece!
  • After trick-or-treating, weed through the candy buckets and get rid of things you (and your family) don't like. 
  • Don't leave buckets or bowls of candy in plain sight. Instead, put them on a high shelf in the pantry or cupboard where you don't see them all the time.
  • Freeze chocolate candy so that it's out of sight, out of mind, but still available for the occasional treat.
  • Set some limits about how many pieces you, your spouse and your kids are allowed in a day. 

This is a special time of year! Part of the fun includes some special treats and foods we don't eat often throughout the rest of the year. But remember, most of what we eat should be doing something good for our bodies. Candy is a treat because it doesn't have much nutritional value and can often times come packing a lot of fat and added sugar. Enjoy yourself, but keep it within limits so you're taking care of your health too.

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Related post:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Are Groggy Cells Making You Gain Weight?

We've known for a long time that adequate sleep is important in helping you think clearly, perform efficiently and feel your best. Over recent years, scientists have noticed that there are also correlations between sleep and weight. In a new study, published in Tuesday's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers took a closer look at our bodies' response to too little sleep...and how it can definitely affect your health in a multitude of ways.

Lack of sleep makes you feel groggy, but did you know that it makes your cells groggy too? Here's the low down:
  • Your cells use insulin to help break down food into fuel for your body. 
  • Metabolically "tired" cells (resulting from lack of sleep) have a 16% decreased response to insulin.
  • "Tired" cells also have 30% decreased insulin sensitivity, or the ability to use insulin properly.

When cells don't use insulin as they should:
  1. You may be fatigued from lack of energy.
  2. Fat cells don't metabolize fats from your diet as well, which means they are left in the blood stream. That can be a cause for high cholesterol and triglycerides which increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. Fats in the blood may get stored in other tissues, such as the liver, too.
  3. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes, a disease in which the body cannot process glucose efficiently, and can lead to serious complications.
Lack of sleep can also be a culprit when it comes to weight gain because it decreases levels of a "fullness hormone" called leptin. When leptin levels are low, your brains sends you a signal that says, "I'm hungry." An increased appetite can easily lead to overeating, or at least eating more calories than our body needs. Combine that with lack of energy to prepare a meal and you've got two strikes against you. This imbalance of satiety (fullness) hormones is also related to the cells' decreased sensitivity to insulin.

Those who participated in the study were sleep deprived for only four nights, enough to impact their fat cells' response to insulin. You can image the kind of effect chronic sleep deprivation and sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, could have on your body and your health.

Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Do you get enough? 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sundried Tomato and Goat Cheese Grits

Grits. To me they are one of the ultimate comfort foods. They remind me of my grandma, who prepares our family's favorite cheese grits--a holiday tradition. They're not necessarily a healthy item, but they sure are delicious. They also remind me of a more recent favorite dish, shrimp and grits, which I cannot pass up on a menu when I see it.

There's something about grits that just makes me feel warm and tingly inside. They're surprisingly versatile. Grits can be dressed down and casual, like traditional breakfast grits with salt and butter, or dressed up in a variety of ways for dinner meals. I love them both ways. Their ease of preparation and warm goodness makes them a great addition to your fall meals.

This simple and surprisingly fast recipe can be enjoyed any time of the day. The flavors make it ideal to accompany eggs at brunch or chicken at dinner. You won't have to waste a lot of calories on this side dish either. Since the goat cheese is rich and creamy, you don't have to add a lot to get the indulgent taste of cheese grits.

Sundried Tomato and Goat Cheese Grits
Serves 4.

  • 3/4 cup white grits (like Quaker Old Fashioned Grits)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons sudried tomatoes, chopped (the dehydrated, not the marinated kind)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Several grinds of fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 ounces goat cheese

  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add grits, tomatoes and seasonings. Stir.
  2. Cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened. 
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in goat cheese and serve immediately.
Liz's tip: If you have leftovers (definitely make leftovers), add a splash of milk and stir before reheating. This helps to prevent the grits from getting too thick.

Nutrition Facts (per 1/4 recipe): Calories 148 | Total fat 3g | Saturated fat 2g | Cholesterol 6mg | Sodium 241mg | Carb 26g | Fiber 2g | Protein 6g.

Download the recipe here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Loving Fall: Tips to Invigorate Your Routine

It's really starting to feel like fall in St. Louis. I find the beginning of every season to be really exciting, but I especially love the beginning of fall. Particularly because the weather is so nice that it such a great time to be outdoors--where I love being the most. Take advantage of the fall season as an opportunity to freshen up your routine. Here's how I change mine up.

I love exercising outdoors in the fall. Especially this week when there has been a cloudless sky, bright sunshine and perfectly cool fall air. You know, that type of weather that's warm enough to exercise in shorts and a tank top, but breezy enough to not really get sweaty? I love looking at the beautiful colors that Mother Nature displays during fall too; it makes my workout a lot more interesting. Even my drive to work gets a little more pleasing as I overlook the tree-filled hills of Missouri changing colors.

I love pumpkins! I don't know what it is, but I could decorate my house with tons of them, except for the fact that Mr. Patton holds me back (which as much as I hate to admit it is probably a good thing). This year, our best friends grew a pumpkin patch on their farm in southern Kentucky and let us come out to pick pumpkins. It was so much fun and I got to pick lots of pumpkins! Mr. Patton was pleased because my obsession with pumpkins didn't knock our budget at all this year :) (Thanks, you know who!) Stay tuned for when I turn our pumpkins into delicious recipes to enjoy later this fall.

Fall means it's time for the annual St. James Art Fair in Louisville, Kentucky (my hometown). Attending the art fair has been a family tradition of ours for as long as I can remember. This year my aunt invited lots of family to town so we had an especially fun time! I love discovering new artists and adding unique pieces to our home--it's something I look forward to every year. This year I found Spirit Dancing who creates these beautiful "smoosh pots." I bought two...and will probably be back to their booth next year. Check out their shop on Etsy for your own taste of St. James.

I love campfires--the smell of them, the food you cook on them and the camaraderie that happens around them. My favorite things to cook over the campfire are Hebrew National beef hot dogs and s'mores. (Yes, both indulgences). For my friend's recent baby shower I was asked to create a "s'mores bar" for which I designed several "gourmet" s'mores:
  • Double dark chocolate: chocolate graham crackers, dark chocolate bar, roasted marshmallow
  • Turtle: chocolate or honey grahams, almond chocolate bar, caramel pieces, roasted marshmallow
  • Caramel apple: cinnamon grahams, caramel pieces, apple slices, roasted marshmallow
  • Peanut butter: honey grahams, Reeses cup, roasted marshmallow.
We have a bunch of leftovers, so we'll be roasting marshmallows over our little fire pit tomorrow night. S'mores only have about 110 calories each and have about 5 grams of fat. If you can enjoy only 1 or 2, they're a practical option for dessert at your fall parties.

I love hearty, fall foods that warm me up as the temperature drops. I use the crockpot to prepare dinner often during the fall and winter. Hello, chili! I also include more fall veggies, such as butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale, in our side dishes. They're hearty, filling and a refreshing change. Start with some of these recipes and keep watching the blog as a I share some of my other fall recipes over the next few weeks.

Fall is a great time to invigorate your meal plan and exercise habits. Branch out from your routine a little bit and try some new things. Healthy eating and routine exercise are a lot more fun when you're not doing the same old, same old thing all the time. Fall is the perfect time to make a change! Spice up your fall routine by:
  • Checking your grocery for fall veggies. If you're not familiar with how to cook them, find a new recipe and try one new food or recipe a week.
  • Begin an outdoor activity like walking, jogging, hiking or biking. 
  • Use your crockpot to prepare healthy "comfort" food and keep the grill going on nights when the air isn't too cold.

What do you love about fall? How to you invigorate your routines?