Friday, June 29, 2012

Get Your Grill On: Slimming Down the Sides

Summer picnics and barbecues are known for their side dishes just as much as they are for the main course. Popular meal additions include chips, potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans and festive desserts. These additions can provide more calories, fats and carbohydrates than you would expect. For example, one half cup of traditional potato salad contains about 180 calories and 10 grams of fat! It can really add up, especially if you like to have a taste of everything.

You can slim down your side dishes, even your family's traditional favorites, with a few simple substitutions--without sacrificing taste, of course. Trade full-fat mayonnaise or sour cream for low-fat mayonnaise or plain, non-fat yogurt. Substitute at least half of what the recipe calls for and you'll reap a significant reduction in fat and calories. You won't even be able to tell the difference! Omit the yolks in side dishes that contain eggs and use vinaigrette dressing versus mayonnaise in coleslaw.

Don't forget to serve veggies that you (and your guests) can fill up on! One cup of raw vegetables contains only 25 calories and is loaded with filling fiber. Eat your vegetables first and you won't be as tempted to overindulge in higher calorie sides. If you're not so keen on veggie trays or green salad, try marinating veggies in low-fat vinaigrette dressing or vingar. Mushrooms, cucumber, onions and green beans all taste great marinated.

Since you've already got the grill going, why not toss some vegetables on there too? Zucchini, yellow squash, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus and corn on the cob are excellent grillers (and you might be able to pull them straight out of your garden!). Brush vegetables with a small amount of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic before grilling to enhance their flavor.

What better time than summer to enjoy the natural sweetness of fresh fruit? For dessert, add some fruit to your plate. I'm not saying you have to skip grandma's cobbler or your aunt's famous cake, but maybe take a smaller piece. Here's a simple (and beautifully colorful) idea for fruit salad: in a glass bowl, alternate layers of cut strawberries and blueberries. Sprinkle lemon zest and a few chopped mint leaves on top of every other layer. Serve with a side of plain non-fat yogurt mixed with honey or Nutella (1 teaspoon honey per 1/2 cup yogurt or 1/4 cup Nutella per 1/2 cup yogurt). People won't believe it's healthy!

It's certainly okay to enjoy yourself (and the food)--hey, it's a party! But slim down when you can. You'll end up having a great time without any regrets.

How do you slim down your side dishes? Do you have any side dish "makeovers" to share? We could all use some fresh ideas to keep things healthy and tasty this summer!

Enter my Kellogg's give-away by July 3!

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thankful Thursdays

I got the idea for Thankful Thursdays recently from my twitter friend, @Gillian_Stephen. I thought it was a great idea that could help me remember to count my blessings and might also stimulate some great conversation on the blog.

So today will mark the beginning of Thankful Thursdays! I'll start the discussion on the last Thursday of every month either on the GoodFood blog, Facebook or Twitter--I thought this would be a nice time to reflect back on the previous month. Please join in the conversation! I look forward to finding out what everyone has to say. Make sure you follow RDbyyourside on Facebook or @RDbyyourside on Twitter. Feel free to comment on the little and the big things you're thankful for! It all counts.

It's been a very hectic, and stressful at times, month for me. Our subdivision and my Jeep were hit by a MASSIVE hail storm at the end of April and it continues to cause angst for my husband and I. In addition, the Jeep has had lots of engine trouble that keeps sending me back to the shop and is causing major snafoos in our travel plans. Through the craziness this has brought us, I try to remember daily, but especially today, that things could be much worse! I'm thankful that we are able to get this damage repaired, that we were not hurt and that we have the opporutnity to take several trips this summer to do lots of fun stuff! This week I'm also thankful for my absolutely wonderful husband. We celebrated our two year wedding anniversary on Tuesday.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Trans Fats: Is There a Difference?

Turns out there is. Emerging research may show us that some types of trans fats aren't harmful and dare we hypothesize...even beneficial. The verdict is still out on the latter, but this might be the time to equip yourself with the knowledge to tell the difference between bad and not-so-bad.

You've probably heard about trans fats before, mostly in a negative light. The trans fats that have received the most attention over the last few years are the ones that are artificially created, or "industrial." Most of these are found in convenience or pre-packaged products. Industrial trans fats are created through the process of hydrogenation; when a liquid oil is altered at the chemical level (I'm talking atoms, here) causing the oil to maintain a solid form at room temperature. Think of shortening or stick margarine. Industrial trans fats have been shown in research to be harmful because they raise total, and especially the "bad" LDL cholesterol, increasing the risk of atheroslcerosis (hardening of the arteries) and cardiovascular disease.

Some trans fats are naturally-occurring and seem to be less harmful, if at all. This is what I'll be looking to find out more about in the future. You'll find naturally-occurring trans fats in meats and dairy products--anything that comes from an animal that harbors bacteria in their rumen (stomach/gut). Don't get grossed out--remember humans have "good" bacteria in our guts also to help digest our food. At this time, these types of trans fats appear to be safe when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Nutrition facts labels don't differentiate between the good and the bad. I recommend steering clear of products that do contain trans fats on the food label, as usually these are the less healthy type. Secondly, check the ingredients in products for hydrogenated oil. Make sure products containing hydrogenated oils are limited in your diet. Even if they don't have any labeled trans fats, they do actually contain some of these health-harming fats.

I stumbled upon this new website that seeks to help educate consumers on the difference between naturally-occurring trans fats and engineered ones: I'll be keeping tabs on it for future information and research and thought I'd pass it along so you could too. If you have more questions about heart health and the different types of fats, make sure to ask your dietitian!

Enter my Kellogg's give-away by July 3!

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Get Your Grill On: Condiments and Toppings and Marinades...Oh My!

The first step towards healthy grilling is selecting lean cuts of meat. But what you add to that meat can also make or break your best laid plans. The calories and fat from typical add-ons like cheese, mayonnaise and bacon can really add up! Just adding a slice of cheddar cheese and two strips of bacon adds about 170 calories and 15 grams of fat. Yikes!

Instead have plenty of healthier alternatives on hand to build your own “better” burger or sandwich! Get creative with:
  • Lettuce, spinach or spring mix
  • Tomato (try some unique varieties like yellow or heirloom tomatoes for extra flavor)
  • Fresh or grilled onions
  • Sauteed or grilled mushrooms
  • Pickles
  • Salsa
  • Reduced fat cheese; the stronger the better because you can use less! Opt for sharp cheddar made with 2% milk, reduced-fat blue cheese crumbles or light feta.
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Reduced-fat mayo
  • Steak sauce
  • Relish
  • Canadian bacon versus bacon
  • Avocado or guacamole (limit to 1 tablespoon)
  • Sliced pineapple (even better grilled!)
To pack in even more nutrients, try eating your burger or sandwich on a whole grain bun or roll; they have more fiber.

Leaner cuts of meat tend to dry out more readily than higher fat cuts of meat. Keep meats moist and flavorful by using a marinade or rub. Mix up your own when possible as store-bought products can be higher in sodium.

Basic marinades contain a mixture of oil, an acid and seasonings. Make your own simple marinade with heart-healthy olive or canola oil, lemon juice, lime juice or Worcestershire sauce, a dash of salt, pepper, herbs and spices (my favorites are parsley, basil and rosemary or cilantro for a Mexican flair). The Mrs. Dash line of products boasts an array of pre-mixed seasonings to give you a head start in creating a flavorful product. Marinate meats in a covered glass container or plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours in advance of cooking. Don't use the same marinade to baste meat while cooking unless you bring the marinade to a boil first to kill foodbourne illness-causing bacteria.

Barbecue sauce is another popular addition to grilled meats, but use it sparingly because of its higher carbohydrate and calorie content. I suggest marinating meat with seasonings then brushing on barbecue sauce in the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking to add flavor with fewer calories.

By using some of these simple techniques, you’ll be surprised as to how much flavor you can add to your grilled meats sans the fat and calories. You'll feel better, maintain your health goals and look better in your swimsuit!

How do you get creative with sandwich add-ons?

Enter my Kellogg's give-away by July 3!

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bulgur Salad

If you're not familiar with bulgur, don't get nervous, it's just cracked wheat. That means it's minimally processed and contains all of its naturally-occuring nutrients. A whole grain! This salad, my spin on the Greek tabbouleh salad, is super satisfying. Weenie salads just don't cut it for me! In fact, this is one of my favorites for summer (especially when I can make it with the veggies picked from my garden). It's a very easy to prepare, meatless meal that's packed with vitamins, fiber and iron. I make enough for leftovers, so I've been eating it all week :)

Bulgur Salad

Makes 4 servings.


  • 1 cup bulgur (dry, not soaked)--I buy Bob's Red Mill which is carried at most grocery stores
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (get a mixture of red and yellow or mini Heirloom tomatoes for max flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, if available (dried is fine too)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground pepper, as desired
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained and rinsed--I buy Full Circle Organic because they're very low in sodium and no more expensive than other brands
  • 4 ounces feta cheese--I buy Trader Joe's Light Feta for a reduction in fat and calories
  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed and spun to dry
  • 8 Kalamata olives


  1. Pour bulgur and water into a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, or until water is nearly all absorbed. 
  2. Remove from heat and pour bulgur into a glass bowl. Place bowl in fridge to cool, occasionally stirring to release steam.
  3. Meanwhile, dice cucumber and quarter tomatoes. Finely chop parsely and mint. Cut lettuce into bite-sized pieces.
  4. When bulgur has cooled, fold in cucumber, tomatoes, beans, lemon juice, oil and all the spices. Stir well. Allow to marinate for at least one hour before serving. 
  5. Serve bulgur salad on top of lettuce, topped with 1 ounce of feta cheese, 1/4 avocado and 2 olives.

One serving contains about 400 (very filling) calories. Enjoy!

P.S. Traditionaly tabbouleh salad contains soaked, rather than cooked, bulgur. I like both, but cooking allows those grains to "pop" open and I love it. You'll find instructions for soaking bulgur on the package.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

BIG Breakfast, Little Biscuit: Infographic and Give-Away!

"Breakfast is brain food;" that's what my mom always told my sister and I. How right she was! Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day--it gets your metabolism going and gives your body energy so that you're starting off on the right foot. Did you know that studies show that adults who eat breakfast weigh less than those who don't? 

I think that breakfast can also be one of the most nutrient-dense meals of the day. That means packing lots of nutrition into one meal. I encourage my clients to include a whole grain food, fruit, dairy and some healthy fat (like peanut butter or nuts) into their breakfast to stay full and energized. What's even better is that it's easy to pack all that nutrition into one little bowl! I know that breakfast has to be quick and convenient too.

Check out the infographic below provided by Kellogg's Mini Wheats. It shows how Mini Wheats compares to other typical breakfasts. Then keep reading...Kellogg's is also sponsoring a contest on my blog!

Mini's little biscuits have 6 grams of fiber per serving and are chock-full of whole grains, vitamins and minerals. That's a BIG breakfast in a little biscuit. They are a great choice for both kids and adults, which is even better--you can enjoy breakfast together :) 

You might be asking, "But what about the frosting?" We've been hearing a lot about the so-called dangers of added sugars in the media lately. But if a little bit of frosting helps you or your child to enjoy a high-fiber, nutrient-packed cereal, then I say go for it! The benefits definitely outweigh the risks. 

Mini Wheats have been one of my long-standing favorites for breakfast. Try my version: 1 cup of Mini Wheats, 1/2 a sliced banana, 2 tablespoons of walnuts and 1 cup of skim milk. That's only 430 calories! It's a meal that can fit into almost anyone's diet.

To help spread the work, Kellogg's will be awarding one lucky winner with a terrific breakfast-inspired gift package! Enter my contest and you could win:
  • A plush white bathrobe,
  • A pair of plush white slippers and
  • A box of Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats!

    Enter the contest here. Yes! You can enter your name multiple times for more chances to win!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    No purchase is necessary. One winner will be selected at random using Contest ends on July 3.

    One of the perks of my job is receiving complementary samples of products or compensation for passing along my expert opinion as a Registered Dietitian. Please be assured that my opinion is my own and my review is not guaranteed to be positive solely because I have received compensation. I'm here to help you--the consumer--sort through the vast amounts of nutrition information available to find legitimate answers. This is my primary goal in providing product reviews and sponsored contests on my blog.

    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Leading By Example

    Congratulations to our Father's Day Give-Away winner: Michelle from St. Louis, Missouri. She won 15 Balance BARE Bars, a BPA-free water bottle that has a compartment for a Balance Bar and a Father's Day card (a prize valued at $27.00). Way to go, Michelle! Thanks for telling us how your dad AND brother inspire your family.

    When asked how a father she knows inspires his family to be physically active, Michelle shared this health-inspirational post:

    "My father loves to encourage everyone in our family to be active; and has for all of our lives. When we were younger, he practiced our favorite sports with us and took me, my brother and my sister for walks around our neighborhood. He also encouraged me to start running, which has become my favorite way to exercise. When my family hears how great I feel after going for a run, I think it influences them to get out and get active too. This fall, I challenged my brother to run a 5k on Thanksgiving with me. He had never run a race before, and we had an awesome time doing it! And then we got to tell the whole family about it at dinner that day. I think we'll have more runners in the family at the next Thanksgiving 5k!

    Now my dad leads by example by making sure to take time to work physical activity into his routine every day, whether by walking or weight lifting. Having a dad that is active encourages the rest of my family to lead active lifestyles as well."

    It's easier to be active when you join together as a family. It sounds like your dad's actions, Michelle, have come around full circle to help each of you influence each other to be active too. 

    I encourage everyone to brainstorm ways to be active with a buddy! It's a lot more fun when you share the time together. P.S. You can follow Michelle on her blog, Better with Berries.

    Happy Father's Day to my "Daddyo" and all the other Dads out there! If you have any other ideas for inspiring physical activity in your family, please share with our community by commenting below.

    Keep watching the blog for more give-aways from our sponsors who want to pass along healthy products to you!

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    Get Your Grill On: Keeping It Lean

    Traditional cookout fare includes hot dogs, bratwursts, hamburgers and, here is St. Louis, pork steaks. In short, these are all high fat, high saturated fat cuts of meat. The first step in keeping your cookout menu healthy is to look for leaner cuts of meat. Your heart (and waistline) will thank you! Foods high in saturated fat are known to increase cholesterol levels, which can lead to heart disease. Plus fat has more calories per gram than any other nutrient, so higher fat foods contain more calories. Here are some simple and effective swaps:

    Instead of regular pork or beef hot dogs, opt for reduced-fat or low-fat turkey franks. When I decide to splurge on a hot dog, my long-standing favorite is the Kosher brand Hebrew Nationals’s 97% Fat Free Beef Franks. Many processed meats, including most hot dogs, contain nitrates (a precursor to carcinogenic nitrosamines), and these still do. But the reductions in fat and saturated fat make it a better alternative if you plan to indulge in a dog.

    The hamburger is still is a very viable option for your cookout; just select lean ground beef! Look for at least 90% lean beef (90/10) or ground sirloin. If you can, purchase 94 or 96% lean beef for the greatest reduction in calories, fat and saturated fat. My favorites are Laura's Lean and Trader Joe's; they don't tend to be as crumbly and dry. Turkey burgers are another good substitute for beef burgers; just make sure you purchase ground turkey breast. Regular ground turkey isn’t necessarily lower in fat than ground beef. 

    To all my St. Louisan readers—I know pork steaks are a tradition here. But they’re also one of the higher calorie, higher fat cuts of pork! Swap the steaks for center cut pork chops or a tender and delicious pork tenderloin that you can slice and serve to your guests. If you’re buying beef steaks, also be on the lookout for the leanest cuts, such as sirloin, flank steak, filet mignon, top loin, tenderloin or T-bones. Use a marinade to help meats retain moisture and stay tender.

    Chicken can be a very low-fat, low-saturated fat grilling option too and is one of the least expensive lean meats. Select white meat chicken cuts, like chicken breast, and make sure to remove the skin before eating. The dark meat is higher in fat content, but is an excellent source of iron.

    Last but not least, consider fish! Fish is a heart-healthy, low fat protein food. Select any type of fish you like—halibut, tilapia, cod, salmon, scallops or shrimp. They’re all great grilling options. Try marinating in one teaspoon lemon juice per serving with herbs to add more flavor.

    When selecting meats to grill, bring home the leanest cut you can. Secondly, make sure to keep an eye on portion size. Most adults require only about six ounces of meat or protein foods per day in order to control calorie and fat intake. You can have your meat and eat it too…just choose carefully!


    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    Get Your Grill On!

    June 20th marks one of my favorite times of the's the official first day of summer! Of course, here in St. Louis it's felt like summer since March (I'm not complaining). Regardless, that means it's time to dust off that grill and gear up for outdoor cooking.

    Grilling can be a healthy way to prepare food, as long as you have a few tips in your apron. Over the next several weeks I'll be featuring a series of posts and recipes to help you keep your cookouts healthy. Stay tuned! The sizzling fun starts on Friday. Posts will include picking the right cuts of meat, using the best condiments and sauces, adding healthier side dishes and reducing the risk of cancer-causing potential in charred meats.

    Want to make sure you don't miss it? Subscribe to the blog and become an official "GoodFoodie" by entering your email address in the box to the right. You'll be notified by email when I publish each post.

    Friday, June 8, 2012

    Fueling Your Muscles During Exercise: What's the Best Option?

    Contrary to popular belief, all athletes need carbohydrates, not protein, to fuel their muscles before, during and after exercise. Endurance athletes need greater amounts of carbs to keep them going for optimal performance. Fruit, sports drinks and other supplements supply carbohydrates and are all potential energy sources. What's the best option? It’s a good question; especially since there are many available--and a lot of lingo to decipher on labels.

    In search of the best performance “fuel,” researchers at Appalachian State University compared the effects of a typical sports drink versus a banana on cycling performance. They found that during intense cycling, both options yielded comparable athletic performance, but that bananas have some additional benefits that sports drinks don’t. Bananas provide a "nutritional boost" due to their naturally occurring fiber, potassium and vitamin B6.

    For the study, cyclists consumed the amount of carbohydrate recommended for replenishment during exercise: either 8 ounces of a 6% carbohydrate drink (in this case, Gatorade) or half a banana every 15 minutes during a road race lasting 2.5 to 3 hours. Blood samples were taken from the cyclists before and after exercise and analyzed for more than 100 markers of metabolism, none of which were significantly different between groups. Cyclists who consumed the bananas reported feeling more bloated and full after their race, likely due to the 15 grams of fiber contained in the amount of bananas they consumed (at least half the recommended daily recommendation). Both fruit and 6% carbohydrate sports drinks are options recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for use during exercise.

    So the question remains: which fuel is best?

    Natural foods are a great fuel for our bodies. Bananas are cheap and easy to carry, peel and eat during exercise. Depending upon the type, intensity and duration of exercise you are performing, different commercial products or beverages may be more appropriate than whole foods. But whenever possible, fuel your body with food! It’s a more complete nutritional package with benefits that beverages and supplements may not have. Compare nutrients between foods and supplement options to make sure you select the best fuel for your particular type of exercise. Also be sure you don't over-do it on all the "extras" that can be included in supplements. In other words, avoid over-kill on nutrients. Taking in too much of certain electrolytes, vitamins and minerals may not have any added benefit or could even be harmful.

    One medium banana contains about 27 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 105 calories, and is a good source of potassium (422 mg) and vitamin B6 (0.43 mg). 

    Sixteen ounces of Gatorade contains 28 g carbohydrate coming from a sucrose-dextrose-fructose blend, 100 calories, 220 mg sodium and 60 mg potassium.

    Gatorade’s G2 line is an option for those looking to replenish electrolytes while sparing carbohydrates and calories. 

    If you are training for a race and plan to use fruit, sports drinks or other supplements to refuel, make sure you “practice” with the type of fuel you plan to use before the real race so that there are no surprises. Talk with your trainer and dietitian about your exercise, nutrition and refueling plans for optimal performance.

    Sources: Science DailyPLoS One
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    Monday, June 4, 2012

    Read My Guest Post on My Thirty Spot!

    Here's an opportunity to discover a great new resource and read a guest post on their site by me! My Thirty Spot is a lifestyle blog dedicated especially to women in their 30s featuring tips and stories related to health, beauty, fashion and more--all so we can "live the best 30 life we can!"

    Check out My Thirty Spot and read my guest post about my personal transition from twenty-something to my thirty spot.