Thursday, May 31, 2012

Are Vegetables Sexy?

American men and women tend to view meat, especially beef, as more masculine than vegetable-based foods and salads, according to researchers whose study was published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research. Their findings indicate that to the “traditional, macho, All-American male,” meat is a strong, macho food. Vegetables and salads are wimpy.

The newest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published in 2010, make an even harder push for an increasingly plant-based diet. Following this approach, we’re asking men to trade a food they view as masculine for a food they view as weak. I can see how this presents a problem.

So why can’t we just let our “All-American” men continue to be primarily carnivores if that makes them feel good? Well, quite simply, this will lead to a much bigger list of problems, namely increased risk of cardiovascular disease—one of the top causes of death in Americans. The larger portions of meat we’re accustomed to being served in America also contributes to the growing obesity and diabetes epidemics. Although we can’t attribute all health problems to diet and exercise, poor food and exercise behaviors are certainly major contributors. It is well-documented that plant-based diets, containing smaller amounts of meat, yield healthier individuals. More meat means more cholesterol, saturated fat and calories; which in the end means more obesity and heart disease.

So how can we make non-meat foods more appealing to men? How can we make vegetables sexy? Macho?

The researchers suggest that marketers and health advocates take men's attitudes into account when promoting products, such as soy products. “Men may find meat analog products more tempting if they more closely resembled meat.” I’m not sure this is even the answer. Using myself as an example: I’ve been a self-proclaimed “meat and potatoes” girl for as long as I can remember. But I also love plant foods (and by the way, they do make up the majority of my daily diet). When I choose a soy burger or soy “chicken” patty over meat, it’s because that’s what I’m in the mood for. Swapping one protein food for another, plant-based or not, doesn’t solve the problem that we’re just not eating enough of what we should: whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

As a dietitian, I think it’s manly when a male makes healthy food selections! If a man makes a positive food choice, he’s making a positive choice for his health. What’s more powerful than that?

We’re all human and all human bodies require the same basic fuels. Man or not, none of us need the huge quantities of meat promoted to us in our culture. Portions are just too big, especially for meat. The only way we can change is to band together and let our health goals be heard. Dine more at home where a wider variety of foods (and control) is available and let restaurants know that we like our fruits and vegetables!

Ultimately, have your meat and eat it too. Just make sure there’s other good stuff on your plate as well. And guys, don't be ashamed to fill half your plate with veggies! I think that's sexy.

Don't forget about my Father's Day give-away! Contest ends June 6. Visit RDbyyourside on Facebook to enter. More details here.

Photo credit:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Garden Expansion 2012

Thanks to the hardworking helping hands of Mr. Patton, my garden wish has come true! We more than doubled the size of our garden this year, expanding so that I could plant lots of veggies. Hurray!

This is my third year to have a vegetable garden and I'm still working on obtaining what I would call a bountiful harvest. We really worked hard on improving the soil this year, so cross your fingers for me! Here's what got planted last weekend for 2012:
  • 6 tomatoes (Big Boy and Better Boy)
  • 3 cherry tomatoes (Sweet 100s)
  • 3 eggplant
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 cucumber
  • 5 bell peppers (red and green)
  • Jalapeno pepper and chili pepper
  • Fresh herbs: basil, rosemary, parsley and mint
  • Strawberries...yet to come
Seriously! We really got all that into our new, compact, urban garden without taking up the entire backyard. You're looking at 2 partially in-ground beds that are 4x10 feet and a smaller bed that is 4x4. We were also able to add 2 smaller boxes, 2x2 each, between the bigger beds by adding just a board in between. We don't have a fence around our backyard, but what we do have is TONS of deer. Boy do they mess up my gardening plans... During garden year number 1, the majority of our plants were eaten by these deer, so last year we got smart and put up a fence. That was a winning decision, so the fence now encloses our entire garden, which is about 50 square feet total.

I've really grown (no pun intended) to love gardening; needless to say, that's why I've been expanding each year! Check out last year's garden here. I started as a beginner with just a potted tomato on my deck, and you can too. It's very rewarding, and not to mention tasty, to watch your own food grow from a tiny plant to something you put on your table. In the summer it means heaps of fresh, inexpensive produce, fewer trips to the store and some built-in exercise. It's a terrific teaching moment for the kiddos too--they love to watch their plants grow! Plus they might be able to do your watering :)

If you're considering the idea of growing your own garden, it's not too late to plant. Start with a cherry tomato in a pot on your deck or patio. If you're thinking about going bigger, try a small, raised planting bed. It requires a little sweat equity, but it's an easy, inexpensive weekend project. Whether you live in the country or in the city, we can all grow our own food. I encourage you give it a try! Gardening can give you a greater connection to the Earth and the food you eat.

I'll let you know how things turn out for me and my "light green" thumb this year. Keep your eyes open for some new fresh-from-the-garden recipes this summer!

Why do you love gardening? Any tips for newbies?

Don't forget about my Father's Day give-away! Contest ends June 6. Visit RDbyyourside on Facebook to enter. More details here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chili Rellenos Makeover

Here's the newest creation sparked by a recent co-op basket: Chicken Chili Rellenos made with poblano peppers. I got four poblano peppers in my basket and thought this would be a fun dish to try. You should be able to find poblano peppers at your local grocery store.

Typically a fried entree, this one needed a healthy makeover. I've never used poblano peppers before and quite honestly, they're a little high maintenance. I've seen Bobby Flay, of the Food Network, use them quite often in his cooking--and he swears by their unique and smoky flavor. It is delicious! This dish is easy enough for the beginning cook, but I would save it for a weekend when you've got a little more time to spend on preparing dinner. Using poblano peppers takes a couple extra preparatory steps, so allow yourself an extra 20 minutes. I promise--getting rid of their tough skin is much easier than it sounds! If you don't want to give the poblanos a try, green bell peppers would speed the process along and also be tasty.

Chicken Poblanos Rellenos
Serves 4.


  • 4 poblano peppers, washed
  • 4 small chicken breasts, 3 ounces each (may substitute canned chicken)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (may substitute 1 can diced tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat cheese, any type
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • Olive oil, for pan
  • Cooking spray
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder

Extra equipment

Gallon size zip-seal bag


  • Season chicken breasts lightly with each of the above seasonings. Grill chicken and whole peppers over medium heat. 
  • Cook chicken until just done (opaque in center with juices running clear), remove from grill and chop into small pieces. Grill peppers, turning once, until skin is blistered and/or charred.
Chopped chicken
  • While you've got the grill going, heat a pan over medium heat. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Saute onion until just translucent, add jalapenos and continue to sautee until they begin to turn golden. 
  • Add tomatoes, stir to combine. 
  • Add chopped chicken and stir. When liquid is almost gone, reduce heat to low.
Chicken mixture

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove peppers from grill and place in a gallon-sized zip-sealed bag (or a bowl covered in plastic wrap) for 10 minutes. Remove peppers from the bag and gently peel skin off. It should peel easily! Slice the tops off, remove the seeds and make one slice lengthwise so that the pepper unrolls and lays in one piece.
  • Place peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray (easier clean up!). Fill the center of each pepper with chicken mixture. Make sure to leave enough of the pepper around the edge so you can wrap the pepper around the chicken. Bring edges of the pepper together on top of the chicken mixture and secure with a toothpick. Sprinkle each Relleno with cornmeal and spray tops lightly with cooking spray. 
  • Bake uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until cornmeal begins to turn golden. Pull from the oven and top each pepper with cheese. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until cheese begins to brown. Serve with rice.

Now your fiesta can be a healthy one too with this nutrient-packed, low calorie version of the traditional Mexican Chili Rellenos. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Stick to Your Plan with Healthy Travel-Ready Foods

Gearing up for summer? For most of us, Memorial Day marks the start of poolside fun and summer vacations. Outside of work, it’s a relaxing, carefree time of year filled with outdoor activities and fun with friends and family. But travel can also present several obstacles for maintaining a healthy eating plan. You can conquer “roadblocks” by planning ahead with some smart meal options. The key is preparation! By bringing meal components and snacks with you on your trip, you can prevent temptation, make healthier choices more often and prevent extreme hunger. Plus you won’t have to rely on the limited healthy options available at fast food restaurants, gas stations and rest areas.

For day trips, make sure to take along non-perishable snacks in case meals are delayed. For road trips by car (or long days spent poolside), consider packing a cooler and reusable grocery bag with ingredients for meal and snacks. You’ll be able to dine whenever you’re ready without having to wait for the next stop. Of course it’s healthier than dining at a fast food restaurant, but also less tempting and less expensive. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a roadside picnic at an interesting locale along the way? Just don’t forget the silverware, plates and napkins. For air travel, take a few snacks in your carry-on bag and pack the remainder in a sealed, plastic container in your suitcase so they aren’t crushed during flight.

Select some of these items to pack for healthy meals and snacks while traveling:
  • Loaf of whole wheat bread or pita pockets
  • Sliced lunch meats, like turkey breast, ham or roast beef
  • Foil packs of tuna or chicken breast
  • Mustard
  • Pre-washed lettuce
  • Peanut butter and jelly (individual containers are available)
  • Low-fat yogurt or pudding cups
  • Pre-washed fruit, like apples, oranges, bananas or grapes (available prepared and packaged)
  • Fruit leathers
  • Pre-washed veggies, like baby carrots, celery, broccoli or cauliflower (available prepared and packaged)
  • Low-fat vegetable dip, salad dressing or hummus
  • Graham crackers
  • Pre-packaged peanut butter crackers
  • Whole grain granola bars, like Nature Valley®, Kashi® or Balance Bar®
  • Packets of oatmeal or quinoa-based cereal
  • Popcorn
  • Sugar-free drink mixes, like Crystal Light®
Pack these items in individual snack-sized plastic bags:
  • Whole grain and/or baked snack crackers, like Triscuits® or Goldfish®
  • Baked chips
  • Whole grain cereal for snacking, like Cheerios® or Wheat Chex®
  • Pretzels
  • Dried fruit
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Vanilla wafers
  • Animal crackers
  • Edamame
  • Low-fat popcorn (I love Naked Popcorn® by Rocky Mountain Popcorn Company)
Just a little planning and preparation will help you enjoy your vacation to the fullest while keeping up with your plans for healthy eating too!   

Photo credit:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Father's Day Give-Away

I recently awarded our Mother's Day Give-Away winner with a lovely gift package from Balance Bar. Read more about what our winner had to say about inspiring healthy eating here. I loved it!

We have not forgotten about the Dads--and know that they inspire healthy lifestyles in their own way too. So we're also hosting a Father's Day give-away in honor of the healthy Daddies out there! Thanks again to my friends at Balance Bar, I'll be giving away a terrific Father's Day gift package to one lucky winner. The only requirement is that you are (or someone you know is) a Dad who inspires his family to be healthy through physical activity. Visit my Facebook page to enter!

I may not be the sportiest one of the bunch (in fact, I know Mr. Patton must be laughing right now because I might just be the least sporty...) but I have fond memories of trips to the park, flying kites and playing Frisbee, baseball and putt-putt with my Dad growing up. He certainly helped me grow up healthy because the things we did together were most often physical activities.

Since the foundation of good nutrition habits is built when we're young, Dads can really make a difference for years to come. I want to know how you inspire your family (or how a Dad you know inspires theirs) to make physical activity an important part of their lifestyles. Is your Dad the bike-ride leader? Back yard baseball referee? Sports coach? Share the health by sharing your inspiring ways with others!

The most health-inspiring Dad will win this prize from Balance Bar (read my review on BARE bars):

  • 15 Balance BARE bars (5 Sweet & Salty Chocolate Almond, 5 Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter and 5 Blueberry Acai)
  • a BPA-free water bottle with a compartment for your BARE bar, a closeable drinking spout and dust cap
  • a Father's Day card featuring this quote, "You deserve a BARE hug!"
Your gift will arrive wrapped handsomely with a raffia bow. It's a prize valued at $27.00! Perfect for active fathers on-the-go. Win it by entering the contest on my Facebook page (or purchase the gift set here). I'll select one person who shares the most inspiring idea for helping to keep families active as my winner! The winning idea will also be shared on my blog on Father's Day. Entries are due by midnight on June 6.

Contest rules and requirements:
One entry per person.
You must submit your entry via Facebook. Only Facebook fans will be eligible to win the contest.
Name, address, email and phone number are required for entry so that the winner may receive their prize!
Winner will be contacted by email (
If you are the winner, your package will be shipped directly from Balance Bar.

Visit RDbyyourside on Facebook for more information and the official contest rules.

Photo credit: Ambro

Monday, May 14, 2012

15 Snacks That Make Calories Count!

I read an article last week reporting that one-fourth of the calories children consume come from snacks. It made me wonder: how many calories do I consume in snacks? Well in fact, according to my food journal, the answer is one-quarter. Interesting. So what's the big deal?

The study, conducted by health professors at two Universities, found that fourth- and fifth-grade students consumed 302 calories from calorically-dense, nutrient-poor snacks such as cookies, potato chips and candy, but only 45 calories from fruit and vegetable snacks. They found that many children have greater control over the foods they consume as snacks than those they eat at mealtimes. The researchers concluded based on their findings that more health education is necessary to guide positive snack choices.

I'm passing this information along because I think it's important news for adults and children alike. Do you realize how many calories you're consuming at snacks? Are these snacks rich in nutrients? Or are they "empty calories?" It makes sense to eat snacks throughout the day because it can help you keep your energy level stable and keep you from getting too hungry before your next meal. I would say it's appropriate for one-fourth of your daily calories to come from snacks too--but it's important to make those calories count. Snacks should come from the same healthy food groups from which we build our meals. It's certainly okay to eat enjoy treats sometimes, but most of the time make sure your snacks pack a powerful nutrient punch. Here's some ideas to get you started.

  • ½ of a sandwich (turkey, chicken breast, or lean ham)
  • ½ of an English muffin with 1 tablespoon Nutella®
  • 6 whole grain crackers and 1 piece light string cheese
  • ½ cup fat-free frozen yogurt with 1 tablespoon nuts
  • 2 rice cakes (4 inches across) with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • ½ cup canned fruit (in juice) with ¼ cup cottage cheese
  • 6 ounces non-fat or light yogurt with 1 tablespoon granola
  • Mini pizza: ½ of an English muffin with 1 tablespoon tomato sauce and 1 ounce part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • ½ pita bread with 2 tablespoons hummus
  • 3 cups light popcorn
  • ½ cup sugar-free pudding with 1 tablespoon walnuts
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 6 ounce non-fat or light yogurt
  • Small granola bar, made with whole grains and/or nuts and fruit
  • Small apple with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 1 cup baby carrots (my favorite afternoon snack!)
How do you make your snack calories count? What are your favorite nutrient-packed snacks?

Article source: Food Navigator, Image credit: Robert Cochrane

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jordan's Got the 'Goods!'

Congratulations to our Mother's Day Give-Away winner: Jordan from St. Charles, Missouri. She won 24 nimble bars (by Balance Bar), a fashionable pouch, headband and Mother's Day card (a prize valued at $54.98). Way to go, Jordan!

When asked how she inspires her family to eat healthy, Jordan shared this health-inspirational post:

"I inspire my family to eat healthy food as part of our daily life by teaching them why we eat veggies, organic meat and drink milk. I teach them what is in the food that we eat. Each night we talk about the food that I prepared for dinner, what vitamins are in each dish and how they benefit our bodies. My daughter is 4 and she can tell me what carrots do for her body and how kale and spinach can make her strong to play with her friends outside. She claims the healthy dinner gave her the energy to run faster then all of her friends. It's the best part of the day! And she loves food; good food. Now when she is offered a cupcake or chips at lunch she turns them down, claiming there aren't enough 'goods' in them and that she will be tired. Pretty smart little girl if you ask me. She will now choose an apple over ice cream (well most of the time that is :)."

I think this is such an easy, practical way to positively encourage healthy eating at home, especially in your kiddos. I selected Jordan's response because it captured the inspiration behind the GoodFood blog. Good food tastes good and it's good for you. It's that simple.

I'm with Jordan. Give 'em the goods, girl! Talk about healthy eating daily and why it's important. Your kids (and the rest of your family) will grow up loving good food too.

Happy Mother's Day! If you have any other ideas for inspiring healthy eating at home, please share with our community by commenting below.

And don't worry--we're not leaving the Dads out! Look for the Father's Day Give-Away post in the next couple of days. Submit your entries for a chance to win 15 Balance BARE Bars in 3 flavors, a water bottle with a compartment to hold your BARE bar and a 'BARE' hug Father's Day card.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa

Cinco de Mayo got me thinking about my love affair with seafood tacos. It all started with the shrimp tacos at Pujols 5 Restaurant, here in St. Louis. Then there were the shrimp tacos I ate on my honeymoon in Cancun. I fell in love with this dish! It may not sound very appealing, and admittedly I was a little skeptical about it myself at first, but believe me--it's delicious. And of course, nutritious and super simple to prepare!

This is the version I recently came up with at home using tilapia. As it often does, my inspiration for the accompanying salsa came from the ingredients I received in my biweekly co-op! Prepare the salsa ahead of time to allow flavors to marry.

Mango Avocado Salsa
Cut the following into small, bite-sized pieces:
1 cup tomatoes (any kind)
1 avocado
1 mango

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into quarters

Dash of the following:
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper

Add all ingredients in a small bowl. Squeeze the lime over ingredients. Add seasonings to taste. Gently mix to coat in lime juice. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Fish Tacos with Mango Avocado Salsa
Serves 4.

4 4 oz tilapia filets (fresh or frozen and thawed)
Seasoned and ready to go!
1 lime, sliced in wedges
4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Olive oil
Crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Chili powder
8 yellow corn tortillas (the thinnest ones tend not to crack)
8 tablespoons Mango Avocado Salsa
8 teaspoons plain, non-fat Greek yogurt or low-fat sour cream, for topping
Spring mix or lettuce, shredded, for topping

Place tilapia filets on a plate. On each side of the fish, season by repeating the following: drizzle olive oil, squeeze lime and lightly sprinkle each of the seasonings. Allow to marinate in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add fish and cook on each side for about 3 minutes. Flip the fish gently with a spatula, as tilapia flakes very easily. The fish is done when it is opaque in the center (white throughout and no longer pink). While the fish is cooking, warm tortilla shells in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Each filet will fill 2 corn taco shells. Split the fish between shells and top with lettuce, salsa and sour cream.

Enjoy with brown rice and a Mexican beer :)  It will make you feel like you're over-looking the ocean in Cancun!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's Our First Birthday!

The GoodFood blog published its very first post one year ago today, May 3, 2011. Now that's a cause for some cake! Over the past year, we've published nearly 100 posts--all with one message in mind: Healthy food does taste good and with Liz's practical advice, eating a healthy diet is achievable and it will help you reach your health and wellness goals. I hope my blog has served its purpose: inspiring you to work harder to make good food (as in healthy food) a major part of your life, push through the tough times when it's not so easy to maintain your goals and to try fresh and healthy recipes as a way to expand your healthy eating horizons.

We're growing rapidly, just barely falling below 2,000 pageviews last month. A record for us! We're forming partnerships with blog communities, fellow health professionals and vendors in an effort to keep the GoodFood blog useful and up-to-date. Help us continue to grow over our second year by passing along the GoodFood name and following Liz (RDbyyourside) on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest (looooove Pinterest!). Of course, if you're looking for more help with your diet, participate in one of RDbyyourside's events or meet with Liz personally for nutrition education.

Some highlights from this year included:
My favorite post of the year was Up and Running. It's a short, personal story about inspiration, hard work, pushing through barriers, persistance to achieve something important, and the beauty and peacefulness of nature. I know the obstacles to exercise that I faced were short-term (hopefully) and honestly, not too severe, especially compared to some people's struggles. But I believe that sometimes it's the smaller struggles we face everyday that keep us from leading the healthy lifestyle we want to. I gained a great deal of perspective from this experience and was reminded that we shouldn't take what we have for granted. In this case, I mean good health. And I love the picture of the sunset too :)

So thanks to all my followers and visitors. Here's to a year even greater than the last! I'd also like to know...

Have you read anything inspiring on the GoodFood blog this year?
What would you like to read more about or see more of in our second year?
Tell me what your favorite post was!
Any other feedback on how we can improve?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Creative Ways to Curb Your Kid's Sugar Intake

I think I've made my point about the "sugar battle" lately, with the ultimate message being that it is okay to consume sugar in moderation as part of a healthy diet. However these days, sugar can sneak up on you! It’s hidden in foods where you don’t expect it--or at least don’t expect that much of it. According to a recent report from the CDC, 16% of kids’ daily calories come from added sugar. While sugar-sweetened beverages are often targeted as the culprit, the report shows that 59% of added sugars are found in foods. Some common sources of added sugar include store-bought muffins, spaghetti sauce, cereals, cookies and granola bars.

This is concerning because kids are adding hundreds of extra calories to their diets each day by consuming these foods. Not only does this equal weight gain over the years, but more nutritious items are often displaced from their diets. If your kid grabs a bag of chips, for example, after school, they’re missing out on servings of fruit, vegetables or dairy they could be eating instead.

If your kids are already accustomed to eating sugar-laden treats regularly, you might be wondering how you’re supposed to turn the tables now. The first step is to clean up the obvious sources of excess sugar in your pantry. Most of the candies, cookies, snack cakes, frozen treats, sugary cereals and sugar-sweetened beverages should hit the road. If you decide to keep some in the house, take some advice from Blue Zones author, Dan Buettner: place them behind closed doors either on a high shelf or very low shelf. Out of sight, out of mind. Next, here are some ideas that will satisfy your kids’ sweet tooth…but they’re naturally sweet! No sugar added and packed with nutrition.
  • Trade sugar-sweetened yogurt for plain yogurt mixed with fruit and a touch of honey.
  • Freeze bananas or grapes for snacks.
  • For breakfast: enjoy unsweetened cereal with fruit sliced on top or make a parfait to go.
  • Prepare plain oatmeal and top with ground cinnamon and sliced bananas.
  • Buy a popsicle-making kit and get creative! Blend chopped fruit in a food processor, add some carbonated water and fill your popsicle molds for a delicious summer treat.
  • Find recipes for homemade granola and muffins; you control how much sugar gets added.
  • Trade cookies for graham crackers or animal crackers.
  • Package dried fruit in snack-sized bags for on-the-go snacks.
  • Freeze berries or lemon juice in ice cubes and let the kids add them to their water.
  • Send low-fat pudding topped with sliced strawberries for lunch at school.

Let’s face it--we’re born to enjoy sweet tastes. And it is okay to enjoy sweet treats as part of a healthy diet, just on a more occasional basis. That’s what makes them treats! Teach your kids good nutrition habits while they’re young, including how to enjoy all the foods that are naturally sweet-tasting. And remember, it’s never too late! If you think it’s time to make some serious changes, get a plan of action and talk with your family. If you need help formulating your plan, find an RD near you.

Photo credit: grour razvan ionut