Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Creamy Golden Oatmeal

Here's how you can use some of that leftover barley I was talking about (leftover from Beef and Barley Stuffed Peppers). I think you're allowed to be in love with your own recipes and I'm in love with this one.

This recipe for creamy oatmeal will make your breakfast a lot more interesting. It incorporates barley for some extra texture, golden raisins and crunchy almonds. Who said oatmeal had to be dull and boring?

This recipe serves one, but can be easily made for more! It's quick and easy enough for any weekday morning, but also fit to be savored on the weekend.

Creamy Golden Oatmeal

  • 1/4 cup dry oats, quick-cooking
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup barley, cooked (leftover)
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 1/2 to 1 cup skim milk, depending on desired consistency
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons almond, chopped

Place oats and water in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and add barley, raisins and milk. Stir. Microwave again for 1 minute. Remove, stir, then top with cinnamon and almonds.

Creamy deliciousness. Cooking the raisins makes them plump and soft. The cinnamon adds a touch of sweetness. To me, this is a warm, comforting breakfast at its finest. Good food definitely tastes good!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Product Review: Stonyfield Organic Yogurt

I often get the opportunity to try products and review them on my blog. Stonyfield recently sent me a coupon to try a complimentary sample of one of their organic yogurts. I love yogurt, so I was grateful! Here's what I thought about the low fat blueberry variety.

The yogurt was uniquely creamy, with a rich texture, even though it was low-fat. I'm picky about yogurt--the consistency can really be a turnoff. But Stonyfield's brand was smooth without a lot of extra stirring. It also had lots of berry flavor. I only wish it had contained more whole blueberries! Of course, I can always add some to it, but the label claim, "fruit on the bottom," makes me think there will be some chunks of fruit to mix around, and there were few.

The yogurt was really filling. I ate it for lunch yesterday with only an open-faced sandwich. Ordinarily, I would be hungry within a couple hours. But it lasted me all afternoon! It would also make an excellent, lasting, super-healthy snack choice.

I really liked the nutrient profile compared to other comparable brands. Even though the Stonyfield yogurt is not made with artificial sweeteners, it only has 21g of carbohydrate--similar to many yogurts that are made with artificial sweeteners. I'm not against sweeteners, I just don't like the aftertaste of many of them, so I especially avoid them in yogurts.

There are only 120 calories per 6-ounce container, 1.5g total fat and 1g saturated fat. Again, lower than many other comparable low-fat brands. Typically I purchase non-fat yogurt because the saturated fat is just too high in most low-fat yogurts, but that's not the case here.

A few other nutritional components of note:

  • The ingredient list is fairly short and all the ingredients are comprehensible; that's great because I like to know what I'm eating.
  • The 6-ounce container provides 25% of the daily value (DV) for calcium and 15% DV of vitamin D.
  • It's gluten-free, as yogurt should be. Again, no hidden ingredients that don't need to be there.
  • There are six varieties of live, active cultures. A great reason to enjoy yogurt--gut health.
  • Stonyfield's "Organic Promise" is that their yogurt comes from cows raised without the use of antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones and persistent pesticides.

I also can't help but mention that the cow with glasses on the front is adorable!

I have to admit, that for the most part, I buy plain, non-fat yogurt. I just prefer it. But I really liked the Stonyfield Organic brand. When I'm looking for something a little different, I would buy it again, but I would definitely have to add more fruit. For those looking for a product made with organic ingredients, this is a great choice.

Stonyfield yogurts are available at most grocers. Find out more about them and their products here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stuffed Peppers...And More Ways to Use Barley

My wonderful co-op, Community Helpings, has been delivering tons of green peppers lately! I love them, but I've gotten more than I can slice and eat for lunch before they spoil. Solution? Yummy stuffed peppers. If this is not one of your favorites, don't turn your nose up just yet--this recipe just might surprise you. Stuffed peppers are a versatile, tasty and filling dish that can also be super nutritious. And they're a cinch to make! The following recipe will make leftovers if you're a smaller family--which is great, right? Freeze the extra, eat it for lunch or make a second meal out of it a few days later. Nothing beats having the work done. I make stuffed peppers differently every time and this time I really had a craving for barley.

Talk about comfort food!

Beef and Barley Stuffed Peppers

  • 2 cups barley, cooked
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 6 green peppers, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds and stem removed (slice the pepper, then cup the seeds in your hand and pull, the whole mess will come out and it's faster!)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 10 mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cans low-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning mix (or basil and oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Prepare barley and rice according to package instructions. (You will probably have to use separate pots). Meanwhile, sauté onions in a medium to large-sized pot until they begin to brown. Add ground beef, season and stir. When beef is browned, scoop out any grease, then add mushrooms and tomatoes. Stir it all together. Lay peppers down in a large baking dish. When barley and rice are cooked, scoop out appropriate measurements and stir into meat mixture (you might have extra, depending on how much you prepared). Stuff the peppers--they should be heaping! It's optional to add a sprinkling of cheese across the top--I had a little extra Gruyere, so I used that this time.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese begins to brown. Enjoy!

A few extra comments: Whenever I cook barley, I always make extra. It takes so long to cook that I don't have time to do it often! In the winter, I love to add it to my oatmeal in the morning (P.S. Watch for a recipe coming up soon). You could always add it to soup or enjoy it as a side dish too. Making a big batch is a great way to save yourself some time during the week and it's easy to freeze for convenience.

I also said that stuffed peppers are versatile. What's that mean? You can stuff them a variety of ways and they're always a bit different! My husband's request this time was Mexican style. He suggested stuffing the peppers with yellow rice, black beans, the onion, ground beef and tomato mixture, and topping them with cheddar cheese. Good one, honey. Next time for sure.

Try the recipe and let me know what you think!

You'll always find my recipes included in my Pre-Planned Menus, available for purchase on my website.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Do the Products in Your Pantry Make the Grade? Try Fooducate.

I did some research this morning. In my fridge and pantry. With my iPhone.

There are a ton of food and nutrition apps out there and I have to admit that I have not tried them all. One of my colleagues recently told me about Fooducate. Since I love giving my clients more resources, and it was free, I thought I’d evaluate it. 

It was actually pretty fun. If I didn’t have to get to work on time, I could’ve spent all morning scanning every food in my house! It's very simple to use: You search for a food in the Fooducate database by scanning the barcode with your phone and the app gives the product a grade. Just like in school, a product will get an A, B, C, etc. Along with the grade, you get information about why the product was rated the way it was. Processing? Whole grains? Additives? The app will point out the benefits and flaws. 

I liked how comprehensive the database was. It had many typical brand name products as well as products made by Trader Joes. The only items I couldn’t locate were Schnucks store brand (St. Louis chain grocer), but I could search by hand for similar products (and you have the option of entering the product information to send to the creators to have it added to the database). It will also store the products you’ve searched for in a list, so you don’t have to search all over again if you want to re-read the details.

I do have, however, a pretty big problem with the grading system. You might think this would be a turn-off completely, but keep reading. Here are some of the products I scanned, which as a dietitian, I would deem very healthy. In other words, I would have given them all As. But here’s what Fooducate gave them:

Plain, quick-cooking oatmeal: B+ (what?!)
Skim milk: A- (why not an A+?)
Natural, unsalted peanut butter: A- 
Whole wheat spaghetti: A-
Apples: A- or B+ (unbelievable)
Lettuce: A- or B+ (again; unbelievable)

It was really hard to get an A. Too hard. Granted, everything we eat will not be given an A grade; and that’s okay. But based on my assessment of the healthy foods above, I think this is majorly disappointing and frustrating. If I find it frustrating (when I know the right answer) how will consumers feel? Probably like it’s too hard to find anything that’s good for you. I already hear that concern often enough.

That said, the “extra” information that Fooducate gives you about the product’s grade is very helpful. I found tips like:

“This product is minimally processed.”
“Multigrain is NOT necessarily whole grain.”
“Salty! Has over 20% of the daily max.”

I thought these tips were terrific guidance to help the user learn about selecting healthy foods and to steer them to other, healthier products, if needed.

All in all, this is a neat resource. I think the “tips” are enough to warrant downloading the app (the free version, at least). But–consumers still should have some foundational diet knowledge before using it! Although we should all know that fruits and vegetables are healthy for us, I’m met with misconceptions every day. Many people think they shouldn’t eat certain fruits and/or vegetables for one reason or another (ie. sugar content, pesticides) and the grading system could definitely cause more confusion. By the way, any fruit or vegetable is good for you, especially if it’s fresh.

If you choose to download the app, great. It’s a cool learning tool. But meet with your Dietitian first!

Photo credit: Supermarket by Ambro

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New 'Great For You' Logo is a Great Idea

Picture this: You’re standing in the cereal aisle at the grocery store and you want to make a healthy choice. But you’re faced with claims like, “Half your daily fiber needs,” “Lower in sugar” and even the cereals that look like they’re made with candy seem to scream out, “Made with whole grains.” What’s the best choice? If you’ve been in this situation before, you’re not alone.
As obesity and various nutrition-related health crises face many Americans today, health and food organizations have been looking for innovative ways to simplify the consumer’s decisions about food. This year, new initiatives will be rolled out in the grocery store, which can sometimes feel like a maze. 
We currently use the Nutrition Facts Label to asses the health of products in the grocery store. But I hear from many of my clients that it's very confusing. I spend a lot of time teaching clients to read labels so they can learn to make health-conscious decisions about the food they're buying. Organizations like the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) have proposed front-of-package labeling systems in an attempt to simplify the label and highlight important nutritional aspects. Some systems are already in place, and quite honestly, it doesn't seem to have helped.
The IOM and GMA have proposed new labeling systems that would rate packaged foods on a points scale: more points means it's a better choice. The rating, along with calorie information and nutrients to discourage, would appear on the front of packaged foods. Wal-Mart just brought their version to the table too--and if you ask me, they’re the bread-winner.
Wal-Mart recently unveiled the “Great For You” logo which will appear on its own brand products that meet certain nutritional criteria (or branded products that meet the standards). These criteria are based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the latest science. There’s a two-step process used to determine if a product will be able to boast the new logo. First, the scheme considers "foods to encourage," as listed in the Dietary Guidelines: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds and lean meats. If a product meets this first standard, then the amounts of total, trans and saturated fats, sodium and added sugars ("nutrients to discourage") are considered. This system also considers non-packaged foods, like produce, which of course should get the seal of approval.
Will the public like it? I hope so. We have to get away from labeling foods as “good” and “bad.” Consuming a "bad" food often leads to feelings of guilt and failure, even if it isn't eaten very often. The “Great For You” approach helps us focus on the positive by highlighting some of the foods that are the very best to eat. And, this seems like a simple solution that can help consumers quickly pick out the healthiest items at the store. As I always say: healthy eating shouldn't be that difficult.
So, you’re back on the cereal aisle. Select a box that’s marked with the “Great For You” logo. Done.
Get ready. It’s coming this spring.
To read more about the new logo, nutrition criteria or download a list of products bearing the seal, click here.

Photo credit: Ambro

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Homemade Whole Wheat and Flax Pancakes

Don't they just look like a bright, sunny, Sunday morning?

Pancakes are typically thought of as one of the "unhealthy" breakfasts. Not these! Forget the boxed mixes--you don't need them. Here's how you can whip up a surprisingly simple, super fluffy and healthy batch of pancakes this weekend. They're great when you're looking for something a little different for breakfast. You'll find them on my meal plans too!

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed (if you don't have flax, try this recipe instead)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 egg (or 2 egg whites)
  • 1 cup skim milk (if you use egg whites, use 1 1/4 cups milk)
  • Canola oil for the pan or griddle

  • Fruit (I love fresh or frozen blueberries), in the mix or for topping
  • Walnut pieces, in the mix or for topping
  • Syrup, honey or molasses, lightly drizzled on top
  • Butter or margarine, on top

Mix dry ingredients in a large a bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together wet ingredients, then pour into large bowl to combine with the flour mixture. Stir ingredients together, just until moistened. If you want to add nuts or fruit, do it now. Don't over-mix.

Heat a pan or griddle to medium heat--I prefer a cast iron skillet if you have one. Pour a drop of oil (about 1 teaspoon) into the pan and allow to heat. Spread it around by using a paper towel. Using this technique, you can evenly coat the entire pan by using minimal oil. Use 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour the pancake batter. When the batter begins to bubble, flip them over. Each side will only take 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve. Repeat process, including spreading the oil again with the towel, until your batter is gone.

Makes 10-12 pancakes, 4-inches each.

Try them tomorrow! Here's another tip: prepare extra so that you have leftovers. Then you'll have a special treat for breakfast during the work week.

Try the recipe and let me know what you think! Will you forget the boxed mixes from now on?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Product Review: Ultimate Food Tracker

What's one of the most essential components of weight loss success?

Keeping track. Logging what you eat, how much you eat, nutrition information, emotions and exercise is essential information-gathering. It enables you to compare, for example, how many calories you ate in a day to what your goal is. It helps you to realize, perhaps, that you lean towards eating in times of stress. Simply logging and reviewing your journal helps you overcome obstacles to health and weight loss success. It can help your dietitian work with you more effectively to reach those goals too. Not to mention, it sure does help you maintain accountability to your goals.

What's equally as important?

An easy way to keep track. There's a variety of ways to log this information and the right tool for the job is different for everyone.

If keeping track on paper (versus electronically) works for you, then The Ultimate Food Tracker made by Around the Plate could just be perfect. It's created by someone who definitely knows her stuff when it comes to food and nutrition, a Registered Dietitian. Since I'm a Nutrition Expert in the Around the Plate online community, I was given the opportunity to trial my own complimentary copy in order to pass along my opinion and review to my readers and clients.

The Ultimate Food Tracker is fun, yet discreet. The cover comes printed in a variety of styles and colors (you can even order your own custom style), but can also be easily disguised as a regular-old-notebook if you're not so keen on everyone knowing your dieting business. It's not bulky, and only 4 1/4 by 5 1/2 inches in size, so it's easy to tote around--essential if you're taking food journaling seriously. Each day has it's own page for recording what you eat and how much water you drink with separate sections for each meal and snack. There's already neat little lines to record whatever nutrient you're tracking, which makes it suitable for any nutrition plan. One detail that I particularly like is the line at the top of each page to record your goal. That way it always stays fresh in your mind! There's plenty of room in the margins to write whatever else you want, but the only two things I miss are: a dedicated space to write notes (how you're feeling that day or when you eat) and a line to tally up your daily totals. It's super clean and super easy, to use which makes it a very effective tool.

The Tracker also gives you some sound advice that all food journals don't, and again, it comes from the experts in the field. On page 2, you'll find advice on setting achievable goals and how to use the Tracker most effectively to do so. It's definitely a good choice to help you stay on the path toward reaching your nutrition goals (and a good buy at only $8 for a month of pages).

More information about the Ultimate Food Tracker is available in thePlate Boutique, where you can also order your own.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Doesn't Have to Be the Death of Your Diet!

Valentine's Day might be known for sweet, indulgent treats, but it doesn't mean this one day has to blow your dedication to your diet. Here are three ways to enjoy a treat with your Valentine while sticking with your plan.

1. Request a treat that's something besides food.
Is there a nice way to tell your special someone that you'd rather have a non-food Valentine's gift? Years ago I started asking my husband for a potted flower that I could keep on the window sill or plant in the garden. Potted herbs are also a great idea! I love getting these gifts because I can enjoy them for months (or years) to come. Plus they're easier on the pocketbook than a dozen Valentine's Day roses!

2. Make a healthier dessert.
One of my favorite Valentine's-themed desserts is strawberry shortcake. So delicious and it couldn't be easier to make! Buy the shortcake dessert shells at the supermarket, some strawberries and light whipped cream. When the berries are nice and ripe, slice them straight across (they look like hearts) and sprinkle them with a tablespoon of sugar or Splenda, if you prefer. Stir gently and refrigerate for at least an hour. When dessert time comes, spoon the berries into the dessert shells and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Yuuummmy.

3. Go for it--just in a limited quantity.
Restaurants and many grocers or specialty dessert shops sell desserts in a single serving. Buy one piece of your favorite dessert, maybe chocolate cake, to indulge in on Valentine's Day. I know it usually costs the same amount to buy nearly the whole cake, but the overwhelming point is: you don't have the whole cake leftover to eat.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Photo credit: Heart Apple by Clare Bloomfield

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Product Review: Nimble Bars

Nimble by Balance Bar is a nutrition and beauty bar specially formulated for women. Via the online community of Around the Plate, for which I'm a Nutrition Expert, I had the privilege of trying this brand new product! Thanks to Balance Bar I got to taste a complimentary sample of both flavors in order to give my honest opinion and pass this review on to my readers and clients.

Nimble claims to be both good for your health and beauty by supplying a balanced macronutrient composition (carbs, protein and fat) as well as micronutrients supporting bone health (calcium and vitamin D), energy (B vitamins) and both vision and skin (FloraGLO lutein and beta-carotene).

On first glance, the Nimble bar appears nicely well rounded. But I did have one question in regards to a component they loudly promote. What's FloraGLO lutein? I did a little research. It's a patented, purified form of lutein, proven to help maintain skin and eye health in the quantity of 10 mg per day. Yes--that's the amount found in Nimble. I perused the clinical trials, found on the FloraGLO specific site, and they're ligit. The trials on eye health were completed in patients that already had some form of eye damage and did reveal positive effects on eye health. Trials completed in regards to skin health also revealed positive results. Both lutein and FloraGLO lutein are GRAS, or generally recognized as safe, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Good enough for me.

My first priority is nutrition, of course, and I'm fairly satisfied with the nutrient distribution of the Nimble bars. They provide 40% of calories from carbohydrate, 30% from fat and 30% from protein. I would prefer a slightly higher ratio of carbohydrate to protein: 50% carb and 20% protein, but this could be balanced throughout the day by adding carbs from other foods. It's a nice combination for a balanced mid-afternoon snack or a post-workout snack too.

There are such high quantities of vitamins and minerals that I would not recommend consuming more than one bar per day and I would also recommend considering not taking your multivitamin on the days that you eat the Nimble bar. That's because too much of a good thing isn't a good thing. It's essential to eat a balanced diet to supply a variety of nutrients and you also have to remember that many of the foods we consume are already fortified too. Some vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they're stored in the body, and can become toxic if over-consumed. For example, Nimble bars contain 45% DV (daily value) of calcium and 50% DV for vitamin D. That's great! But again, exercise caution if you are already taking these in supplement form, as too much can be harmful. I would view the Nimble bar as your multivitamin. It could take the place. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about what your vitamin and mineral needs are.

There are 5 grams of fiber in Nimble bars--very high--coming from inulin. Women need about 25 grams of fiber per day to promote gut health, healthy cholesterol levels and stable blood sugars, so 20% in one bar ain't bad! Inulin also has other health-promoting properties: it increases calcium absorption, promotes the growth of "good" bacteria in the gut (in other words, it's a prebiotic), it's a soluble fiber (the type that helps lower cholesterol) and it has minimal impact on blood glucose. Not to mention, fiber keeps you full for longer.

The saturated fat contained in the bars (2 grams) just reaches the limit for me in a snack bar. That said, there's about the same amount of saturated fat in peanut butter or a reduced-fat string cheese, so it's still a viable snack option. Nimble bars are not made with hydrogenated oil, so that means no trans fat either.

The Nimble bar contains only 120 calories. That's equivalent to other small granola bars or a medium-sized apple. It's a moderate, snack-sized amount that's good if you're weight-conscious. And who isn't? At only 14 grams of carbohydrate, this is also an easy choice if you have diabetes and are controlling your carbohydrate intake.

Now for taste!

The Nimble bars are offered in two flavors: Peanut Butter and Yogurt Orange Swirl. Both varieties were quite tasty. Here are my thoughts:

  • They did not have an artificial or vitamin-y taste, like many vitamin-fortified food products have. And I've sampled many supplements over the years. I was pleased about that.
  • I usually don't like the taste of stevia (found in Truvia, the sweetener used in Nimble) and tend to avoid products that contain it. This is simply because of the aftertaste, and nothing else. Artificial sweeteners are also well-researched and GRAS. I hardly tasted the Truvia in Nimble and it left no aftertaste.
  • The bars were chewy with a nice, smooth texture.
  • They were slightly sweet; definitely not over-powering. Also a plus for me since I don't have the palate for super-sweet or artificially-sweet products.
Of the two flavors, my preference is for the Peanut Butter variety. It tastes like real, creamy peanut butter. Yum. The Yogurt Orange Swirl was also quite tasty; in fact it tastes exactly as it was described. To me that equates to the taste of a Dreamsicle popsicle. You know the ones with orange outer layer and creamy middle? The orange taste lingered for a while, but again, I wouldn't call it an aftertaste.
To sum it up, the Nimble bar is easy to carry and low enough in calories to eat as a well-rounded snack any time. I usually recommend whole foods for snacks, but sometimes it’s not as feasible an option. The bars would be a good choice instead for travel, an emergency stash for your purse or car or an extended shopping day. After eating the bar, I was satisfied for about an hour and a half, which is good enough to “hold me over” between meals. At $17 for a box of 12, the price isn't too bad, especially compared to similar products. If Nimble replaces your multivitamin, calcium, vitamin D and/or lutein supplement, it would be an extra-good buy. 

I would include Nimble as one of my snack options, but even though it's balanced, nutrient-packed and easy to tote around, don't forget that a balanced diet is still important otherwise.

For more information about Nimble bars, visit www.balance.com. They're available at retail locations wherever Balance Bars are sold, on the Balance Bars website or on Amazon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Helping Your Child Lose Weight as a Family

Childhood obesity is a serious issue.  1 in 3 children will develop diabetes by 2050, largely due to obesity. We need to tackle this problem quickly--and it starts at home. 
But weight management, especially in children, is also a sensitive issue. It can harm a child's self-esteem when parents tell their children that they need to lose weight, especially if they feel like they are singled out. It’s hard for kids to understand that being overweight isn’t just about what’s on the outside. We as adults know that carrying excess weight can seriously affect our health.
In my eyes there’s really only one solution: weight loss must be tackled as a family. And most importantly, the focus should be on getting healthier, not losing weight. I know this is easier said than done, sometimes because parents aren’t always ready for the challenge. But you can’t tell your child to stop drinking soda, or to limit the chips or to go outside and exercise if you’re not willing to do it yourself.
Children want to be healthy--they tell me all the time--and they're surprisingly willing to make lifestyle changes. Kids also have an increasing awareness of what’s healthy and what’s not. If you lead, they will follow. You’re the best role model they’ve got! Often I find that parents don’t know where to start or have unclear ideas of what is healthy to eat or how to plan healthy meals, and that can make starting off on the right foot difficult. Meeting with a registered dietitian is essential. Many dietitians, like myself, work with families together. Consider it and use these tips to get started:
Teach your kids what a healthy meal looks like. I recommend using MyPlate--it’s a great tool for children and parents as well as a great visual for my motto: healthy eating shouldn’t be difficult. They’re really aren’t a lot of rules. Download a coloring sheet and let the kids fill it in with examples to build a healthy meal. Give them crayons so they can use the right colors for each section. Work on this as a family to plan healthy meals together.
Try new foods. Make it fun! Let kids be involved in picking foods at the grocery or selecting a recipe. They’re more likely to try something new if they have a say in it.
Let kids help in the kitchen. Give each child an age-appropriate task. Even if it isn’t much, they will relish being involved. Let them help with planning weekly meals and packing lunches too.
Serve dinner from the kitchen. Put the appropriate portions on each person’s plate and package leftovers for later. No second helpings allowed. 
Plan some physical activities that everyone can do together. Go for a walk, play tennis, plan game night on the Wii or consider a family gym membership. Set some limits for “screen time,” which includes television, video games and computers. 
Every step you take towards better health matters for building a happier, healthier family. Sometimes they might test you, but in the end, your kids will thank you.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pear Blackberry and Goat Cheese Salad

I'm not a trained chef, but I do follow some of their rules in the kitchen! This one especially: create meals from what you have. That's how this salad was born. I had some pears and romaine lettuce in the fridge from our latest co-op pickup, some blackberries I snagged on sale at Sam's Club and goat cheese left over from last week's focaccia pizza. We don't waste food in this house! I've always got walnuts on hand since I eat them almost every morning for breakfast. Put it all together and I ended up with this refreshing and delicious salad. Good food!

Pear Blackberry and Goat Cheese Salad
Toss these ingredients together:

3 cups torn romaine lettuce
1 pear, sliced
1/2 cup blackberries
2 tablespoons (1/8 cup) walnut pieces
1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
1-2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing (this time I used Newman's Own light raspberry walnut vinaigrette that I had in the fridge)

What dish have you created from ingredients you found in the fridge?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Becoming One of the World's Healthiest Women from the Inside Out

This one is dedicated to the ladies, but you can apply the same principles too, guys.

You’ve heard, “Eat like the French” if you want to stay slim. In fact, there are similar habits found in some of the world’s healthiest populations, termed Blue Zones or Cold Spots.
There are definitely some takeaways from these super-healthy, long-living cultures: a plant based diet, moderation in portion sizes and an active lifestyle. Sometimes even a glass of wine at lunch! I’ve heard it from Blue Zones author, Dan Buettner, himself. So what's the secret of becoming one of the healthiest females? There's not one, really. Remember MyPlate and the Pyramids that came before it? Deep down, I think we know these things.
But something’s not working here in America. Perhaps it’s motivation? Maybe we don’t know how to put our plans into action?
We may not be among the healthiest yet, but in the 21st century, I see American women dominating in many aspects. In the words of Beyonce, “Who runs the world? Girls.” We’re working. We’re heading up the household. Taking care of the finances. And chauffeuring kids to soccer practice, ballet lessons and sports games. We’ve got a lot going on, but we can’t let our health fall to the wayside. To be added to the list of Blue Zones, we also need to consider the following. Think of these points as a foundation to build upon:

Food and exercise are top priorities.
Whether it’s just you, a plus-one or an entire family, healthy eating and activity are just as important as anything else. Make it a priority to learn about nutrition, and I mean from a registered dietitian, then enforce good nutrition and exercise habits in the home. Even if it’s just you, it is worth it to take the time! If you have children, helping them learn healthy lifestyle habits from the start is one of the best things you can do for them.
Have self-confidence.
Hold your head up high, ladies, and stand up for what you believe in. I know you want to be healthy. And it's more than skin-deep. We all have unique qualities that make us great and you should be who you are no matter what shape or size. Beauty comes from the inside--but a healthier you means you can perform better at what you do best.
Take time for yourself too. And don’t feel guilty about it.
Most women I counsel have one similar and enduring quality: they feel the need to take care of everyone else first, even if it means sacrificing their wants and needs. This translates to their health. You can care about yourself AND everyone else. You may even be able to take care of others better if you allow yourself some relax-time. Or exercise time. Or shopping time. Or all of the above.
The secret to health and longevity in America is more deep-rooted than just our food choices; it starts from within. Create your own Blue Zone. We can do this too!
Read the Huffington Post article for more Blue Zone-inspired recommendations. Also consider picking up Dan's interesting book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest.

Photo credit: Woman by healingdream

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wear Red for Women Tomorrow and Watch This Video!

Go Red For Women "celebrates the energy, passion and power we have as women to band together to wipe out heart disease and stroke." The American Heart Association (AHA) campaign started in 2004 as a way to dispel the myth that cardiovascular disease is "an older man's disease." In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death in American women. Go Red for Women, symbolized by a red dress, encourages women to take charge of their heart health.

Tomorrow, Friday, February 3rd, is National Wear Red Day. Support women and the cause by sporting some red! To learn more about cardiovascular disease, other ways to support the Go Red for Women campaign, and the signs of a heart attack, visit http://www.goredforwomen.org/ and watch this really cute and informative video featuring actress, Elizabeth Banks. When you link to the website, click on the third video called, "Just a Little Heart Attack."

If heart health is on your mind, schedule an appointment with me (use the Contact tab at the top of the page). You might also like my post that's scheduled for this Saturday, so keep an eye out! It's never too early to get help with the best strategy of all--prevention.

Have you had a heart attack? Do you have any comments or advice for other women? Or share pictures of yourself wearing red!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net