Monday, December 30, 2013

Tips for Keeping Your New Year Resolutions

It's that time again! What time do you say? Time to start making your New Year Resolutions! Recently, I was asked to make a resolution for a video. What did I say? Absolutely nothing. I don't know what "firm decision to do or not to do something" I want to make (Google definition). Sure there are things that I want to do or change; however, do I really need to wait until January 1st to do them? Why can't I just start now, or January 2nd? I feel like if I think about something I want to change or do, I should just start when I get the idea. I think of this epic resolution time as procrastination. "I'll start my diet in the new year; I'll be nicer in the new year; etc, etc. But this is just my opinion :)

Anyway, for those of you on the New Year Resolution boat, here are some tips to help you stick to the ones you choose. Whether your resolutions are for a weight loss or simply a healthier lifestyle, it is important to keep a few of these tips in mind.

Make Your Resolution Something You Truly Want! 
---Don’t just do what everyone else is doing; you may end up not fulfilling your true goals.

Start Small! 
---Make a list of long and short-term goals.
---It takes a lot of work to change a behavior, so small steps are important.
---Be specific as to what you want to accomplish to make your goals more attainable.

Pair Up! 
---If your resolution is to start exercising, join the gym with a friend or take a walk with a neighbor.
---This will also tie in with keeping you motivated.

Plan Ahead! 
---If you are trying to eat healthier, plan your meals so you won’t have to worry about snacking on unhealthy foods.
---If you are starting an exercise plan, set a time each week when you will you be exercising and stick to it.

Keep Track of Your Progress! 
---This will help you to stay motivated.
---It is certainly difficult to alter or change a behavior, so every bit of motivation will be beneficial.
---Also, you can look back at where you started and see how much progress you made.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself! 
---Don’t give up on yourself when you “fall off the wagon.” Think of these days as learning experiences.
---Also, you could think about ways you could handle them differently in the future.
---For example, if you know every Thursday there are cookies in the break room and you always eat multiple cookies, either don’t go in there on Thursdays, bring your own snack, or take one cookie and leave the room so you won’t overindulge.
---While it is important to be healthy, it is also important to be happy. Indulging every once in a while can help you to live a healthier lifestyle and not just “be on a diet.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What are Black Soybeans?

I've been hearing a lot about black soybeans in the news (This is mostly due to Dr. Oz's show). I wanted to do some investigating to see how good they really are.

What Are They?
Black soybeans are simply a variety of soybeans, which are seeds from a plant. I found it to be very interesting that mature, dried soybeans can be a variety of colors, including black, brown, and blue. Fresh, undried, soybeans are always green in color.

What Are The Health Claims?
"Eating black soybeans helps you to lose weight, easily, lower cholesterol, and fight inflammation."

What Does the Science Say?
The National Institute of Health's study shows that consumption of various beans may inhibit oxidative stress. Black soybeans showed the greatest improvement in risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. This study was only conducted on rats thus far. The most consistent effect of soybeans on blood fats has been a moderate lowering of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Comparison to Regular Soybeans
Black soybeans have less calories, total fat, carbohydrates, and sugars. Regular soybeans, on the other hand, have more fiber and protein.

Health Benefits
Soybeans, in general, are a good source of Vitamin K, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Folate, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Fiber. Black soybeans, however, have a higher antioxidant content.

To sum it all up, all types of beans are a great choice for both a vegetable and protein source. Black soybeans have a slightly higher antioxidant content; however, it is not such a big deal if you eat regular soybeans in their place.

Final Bean Tips
-Throw some beans into a soup or stew for a protein boost.
-To use as a simple side dish, cook (sauté, stir-fry, boil, etc) and season with olive oil, onions, and garlic.
-Make "nuts" by roasting chickpeas in the oven. Mix 1 can of chickpeas with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Spread over a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Enjoy as a quick snack!


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Bean Brownies Recipe

Today, I tried my first kick at black bean brownies. To be honest, before I made them, I was pretty skeptical of how good they would taste. I mean a sweet treat with black beans? Sounds a little weird. Well, was I pleasantly surprised by the end product. A little bit different texture than a real brownie, but just as good!

I definitely suggest giving the recipe a try; however, I wouldn't tell anyone they were made with black beans until after they tried one :)

Black Bean Brownie Recipe
1 (15.5oz) can black beans, rinse and drain
3 eggs
3 tbsp oil or 1/3c melted butter (my first try I used the oil and had a good result)
1/4c unsweetened cocoa
dash of salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2c sugar (some recipes say 3/4c, but I think 1/2c was sweet enough)
2 tbsp chocolate chips (optional, you can use more/less)
**You can also try adding nuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 inch square baking dish.
2. Mix all ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips. Pour into prepared dish.
**I pureed the black beans first. I didn't want the brownies to be chunky and I wanted the flavor to mix well.
3. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts (1 brownie):
Calories: 41
Total Fat: 2g
Monounsaturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 15mg
Sodium: 55mg
Potassium: 15mg
Total Carbohydrates: 5.5g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 3g
Protein: 1g

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cereal Vs. Ice Cream

This past week I had the privilege of leading a nutrition supermarket tour. When my tour group came to the cereal aisle, many of my participants had a very eye-opening experience about all of the sugar in "healthy cereal" products. In talking about carbohydrates and sugar, one woman had a very interesting comment, "With that much sugar, I could have just had my bowl of ice cream for a snack. I thought I was being healthier by having cereal."

After the tour, I was curious to see how cereal, a so called wholesome breakfast, really stacked up to a bowl of ice cream. Here begins my investigation:

Raisin Bran (w/o Milk)(1 cup): 
-Calories: 190    -Total Fat: 1g       -Sodium: 210mg    -Total Carbs: 46g
-Fiber: 7g    -Sugars: 18g    -Protein: 5g  
-Additional Vitamins and Minerals

Raisin Bran (with skim milk)(1 cup): 
-Calories: 230    -Total Fat: 1g       -Sodium: 275mg    -Total Carbs: 52g
-Fiber: 7g    -Sugars: 24g    -Protein: 9g

Special K (with skim milk)(3/4 cup):
-Calories: 160    -Total Fat: 1g       -Sodium: 205mg    -Total Carbs: 33g
-Fiber: 3g    -Sugars: 16g    -Protein: 6g
Choc Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream (1/2 cup):
-Calories: 160    -Total Fat: 9g      -Sodium: 65mg       -Total Carbs: 20g
-Fiber: 0g    -Sugars: 14g    -Protein: 2g
-Vitamin A and Vitamin C

Chocolate Ice Cream (1/2 cup):
-Calories: 150    -Total Fat: 7g       -Sodium: 45mg    -Total Carbs: 19g
-Fiber: 1g    -Sugars: 14g    -Protein: 2g
-Vitamin A and Vitamin C

So, we have similar calorie ranges, especially with the ice cream and Special K cereal. The ice creams have a higher fat content and lower protein content; however, they have less sugar, calories, and sodium. The cereals have more sodium, carbohydrates and sugars; however, they also have fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

What does that leave us with? Well, the cereals are a good source of fiber and protein, at the expense of too much sugar and sodium intake. I'm not sure how many people really measure out their cereals in the morning anyway. Most of the time, cereal is just poured in the bowl and eaten. Unless you measure your cereal (kudos to you), you will be likely multiplying all of the nutritional information by 2.

In terms of which is a "healthier snack," I would go for what tastes better. In the end, they both have a high carb/sugar content, as opposed to healthier snacks (like veggies, nuts, seeds, or fresh fruit). I really suggest checking the sugar content of your favorite cereals. If you have never took notice of the nutrition label, you may be surprised at how much sugar you are consuming. While cereal does have extra vitamins, minerals, protein (mostly due to the milk added), and fiber, it is not a significant amount to make a difference if you are eating an overall healthy diet. Most cereals are "enriched" with vitamins and minerals anyway, so they aren't really a "natural" source to begin with. Depending on the cereal, and ice cream, you choose, you may even end up with more skewed results than I found.

Some final advice:
1. Always read the nutrition label! Look at the ingredient list too. Ingredients are listed by weight, in descending order.
2. If sugar is one of the first 4 ingredients, skip it!
3. Compare products. Check out all of the nutrients and see which is the best option.
4. Be mindful of portion sizes. Read the serving size and compare it to what you are normally eating.
5. If all else fails, have a little splurge and enjoy what you are eating!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

There's been a lot of hype about chia seeds lately. What are they? What are the health benefits? How the heck do you eat them?!

Let's jump into the research and see what these seeds can do for you!

What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds come from the desert plant "Salvia hispanica,"which is grown in Mexico.  They are powerful antioxidants that fight off free radicals in the body.

Fun fact: the word "chia" means strength and these tiny seeds were thought to be great energy boosters.

Health Benefits
Chia seeds are an excellent source of:
 -Omega-3 Fatty Acids (4,915mg per 1oz.); help to improve brain health and decrease inflammation in    the body.
 -Protein (4g per 1oz.); energy source; needed for muscle and blood formation.
 -Fiber (11g per 1oz.); helps improve digestive function; decreases inflammation in the body.
 -Calcium (18% of Daily Value in 1oz.); needed to keep bones healthy and prevent osteoporosis.
 -Phosphorus (27% of Daily Value in 1oz.; ); aids in energy metabolism; also needed for bone health.
 -Zinc (7% of Daily Value in 1oz.); boosts immune function.
 -Manganese (30% of Daily Value in 1oz.); essential mineral needed for bone formation; helps your body use essential B vitamins.

Research has shown chia seeds to help improve blood lipid levels (decreasing LDL and triglyceride levels) and decrease blood sugar spikes by slowing digestion.

How to Eat
There are many ways to eat chia seeds. They can be eaten raw (sprinkled on salads, cereal, sauces, vegetables, yogurt), baked in dishes (breads, muffins, etc), or  mixed with water to form a gel (good as an egg substitute).

To Use As An Egg Substitue
-Mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Granola With Chia Seeds
-Combine: 1 cup oats, 2 tbsp chia seeds, 2 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spread evenly onto a sprayed baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees F for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Top 5 Foods for Healthy Skin

Looking for a healthy skin boost? Try out these power-packed foods!

#1- Almonds
Almonds are a great source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects your body from UV-induced free radical damage to the skin. Vitamin E has been shown to have anti-inflammatory roles in the skin and helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.  When combined with Vitamin A, Vitamin E has been shown to protect against skin cancer.
**Try out almond butter for a quick snack!

#2- Flaxseed
Flaxseed is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation in the body and promote healthy-looking skin. Omega-3s have been studied as a wrinkle fighter, due to their ability to attract water to skin cells and plump up the skin.
**Add some flaxseed to your next smoothie! 

#3- Cooked Tomatoes
Cooked tomatoes contain the phytochemical, Lycopene, which helps to eliminate skin-aging free radicals (cause by UV-rays). Lycopene improves skin’s texture by stabilizing the DNA structure in the nucleus of skin cells. Lycopene also inhibits the activity of the enzymes involved in collagen breakdown, thus, strengthening skin.
**Add tomatoes to a stir-fry!

#4- Spinach
Spinach is a great source of Folate (Vitamin B9), which is needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver function. Folate helps to repair and maintain DNA, which will boost your skin cells’ ability to renew themselves (decreases look of aging). 
**Try a spinach salad for lunch! 

#5- Tuna
Tuna contains the antioxidant, Selenium, which helps to buffer the skin against the sun. Selenium also helps to preserve elastin, a protein that that keeps your skin smooth and wrinkle-free.
**Add tuna to a salad or stir-fry!

Looking for ways to incorporate these skin-boosting foods? Try out the Spinach Salad below!

Spinach Salad
Mix 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. flaxseed, 1 clove garlic, salt and pepper in a small saucepan and heat until warm. Drizzle over 6 cups of baby spinach. Top with 1 can of tuna, ½ medium tomato (diced), and sliced almonds.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Give Your Meal a Nutritious Boost

Looking for some ways to boost the nutritional content of your meal? Try out some of these quick and easy tips!

-Have leftover chicken from dinner? Forget your traditional cereal breakfast and go for a protein-packed, filling meal.
-Top oatmeal or cold cereal with sliced bananas, strawberries, or blueberries for some vitamins, minerals and fiber!
-Whip up an omelet with cancer-fighting veggies. Add avocado for some healthy fats.
-Instead of adding sugar to oatmeal, try some cinnamon instead.
-When making waffles or pancakes, sneak in some protein powder for a quick boost.
-Blend together a quick smoothie with fresh fruit and nut butter for a filling treat!

-Add extra veggies to your soups and salads.
-Add avocado slices to your sandwich for a boost of Vitamin E, Potassium, healthy fats, and Folate.
-Top spinach salads with tomatoes or fresh oranges. The Vitamin C in the oranges/tomatoes will help you to absorb the iron from the spinach.
-Food process mixed nuts, coconut oil, and cocoa powder for a nutty spread.
-Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf (or muffins) to add nutrients and fiber.
-Bread chicken in coconut or almond flour for extra fiber and protein.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Juicing Recipes and Pulp Muffins

This week, I had the pleasure of trying out a Ninja blender and Jack LaLanne juicer for a smoothie/juice table at work. Let's just say I am very much addicted to the both! I tried out a bunch of different recipes and combinations; however, there were a few that went over really well with the members (that I had come by my table), my family, and myself.

Strawberry Pineapple Smoothie
-1 mango
-1 banana
-1 cup berries
-1 cucumber
-1 cup pineapple
-1 orange
-2-3 cups of spinach/kale

*Since there is a lot of fruit in the smoothie, I suggest blending spinach, kale, and water, then adding in fruit to taste. Once you get over the green color, it is really great! I liked the mango taste better, so when I made it a second time, I added more mango and eliminated the banana.

Bunny Juice
-10 carrots
-3 apples
*For this recipe, I used the juicer. I did the carrots first, then added apples to taste.

Apple Banana Berry
-2 apples (juiced in the juicer first)
-2 bananas
-2 cups of berries
-water and ice
*For this recipe, I didn't add vegetables because of the green color. I was serving to kids, so green didn't go over so well. You can add spinach/kale, cucumbers, or beets for a vegetable punch.

Green Machine Juice
Juice 2 lemons, 1 cucumber, and 2 apples. Add to a blender with 2 cups spinach/kale.

My Experimentation Phase
(The monster is a prop for a nutrition class)
After using the juicer, I didn't want to just throw away the pulp, which contains all of the fiber. So, I decided to make muffins! Besides muffins, you can use pulp for vegetable stock, sauce for mac n' cheese, or mixed in another smoothie drink.

Juicer Pulp Muffins
-4 cups of pulp
-1/4c honey (I used a little less than 1/4c)
-3 eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1 cup coconut or olive oil ( I used about 1/2-3/4 cup because my pulp was a bit thinner)
-3 cups flour (I used 2 cups coconut flour and 1 cup white flour. You can also use almond flour.)
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon nutmeg, or cinnamon (I used both, plus a little extra)

1. Mix together the first 5 ingredients. 
2. Add flour, baking soda, and cinnamon to wet ingredients. 
3. Grease muffin pans. Bake muffins at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Apple-Carrot Pulp Muffins
-2 cups pulp
-1 1/2 cup almond meal
-1/4 cup flaxseed
-1/2cup coconut palm sugar (I eliminated this)
-1 teaspoons baking powder
-dash salt
-dash cinnamon
-4 eggs
-2 teaspoons vanilla
-1/4cup honey (I used only about 1 tablespoon of honey)

1. Mix together all wet ingredients. 
2. Mix together all dry ingredients. Add wet to dry. (Can also add chopped walnuts).
3. Fill paper lined muffin tins with pulp mixture. 
4. Bake 25-30 minutes at 325 degrees.

I found the juice to be both filling and nutritious. It is a great way to sneak in some fruits and vegetables with cancer-fighting antioxidants. For a protein boost, try adding almond milk or protein powder to the recipes.

 Happy juicing!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Healthy 1-Dish/1-Pan Meals

Big, elaborate dinners are nice; however, they are not very realistic for the on-the-go parent or family. Below, I complied some 1-dish, crockpot meals that I found to be quite tasty! If you don't have the time to prep all the ingredients in one day, try prepping some the night before. Then, the day you are cooking, you will just have to throw everything together.
Package leftover portions into dishes that you can freeze and take to work/school for a quick, healthy meal.

Balsamic Chicken and VegetablesIngredients:
•               1/4
cup bottled Italian salad dressing
•               2
tablespoons balsamic vinegar
•               1
tablespoon honey
•               1/8 - 1/4
teaspoon crushed red pepper
•               2
tablespoons olive oil
•               1
pound chicken breast tenderloins
•               10
ounces fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces, or one 10-ounce package frozen cut asparagus, thawed and well drained
•               1
cup purchased shredded carrot
•               1
small tomato, seeded and chopped

1. In a small bowl, stir together first 4 ingredients. 2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken. Cook for 5-6 minutes. Add half of the dressing mix to the skillet and transfer chicken to a serving plate. 3. In the same skillet, add asparagus and carrots. Cook for 3-4 minutes and add to serving plate. 4. Stir remaining dressing mixture, add to skillet. Cook for 1 minute. Drizzle over chicken. Sprinkle with tomato. **Baking Instructions: Mix all ingredients and pour over chicken breasts. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes (until chicken is cooked through).

Greek ChickenIngredients:   1 pound carrots, cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces, or 3 cups baby carrots   1 pound (3-4 medium) yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut lengthwise into                      1 1/4-inch-wide wedges   2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed   1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth   1/3 cup dry white wine   4 cloves garlic, minced   3/4 teaspoon salt   1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered if large   1 large egg   2 large egg yolks   1/3 cup lemon juice   1/3 cup chopped fresh dill   Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation1. Spread carrots and potatoes over the bottom and up the sides of a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Arrange chicken on top of the vegetables. Bring broth, wine, garlic and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour over the chicken and vegetables. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours on high or 4 to 4 1/2 hours on low.2. Add artichokes to the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk egg, egg yolks and lemon juice in a medium bowl.3. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving bowl using a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid into the egg mixture. Whisk until smooth. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining cooking liquid in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, whisking 2 or 3 times, until slightly thickened and sauce reaches 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in dill and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables and serve.

Apple-Spinach ChickenIngredients: 2 teaspoons vegetable oil4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves1/4 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon black pepper1 garlic clove, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard1/2 cup apple cider1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced6 cups fresh baby spinach or chopped Swiss chard  Preparation:1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, and add to skillet. Cook 5-6 minutes on each side or until well browned. Remove to plate, and keep warm.2. Add next 4 ingredients (through apple slices) to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, stirring often, 5 minutes. Return chicken and juices to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes.3. Add spinach to pan, and toss until wilted, about 1 minute. Serve hot. 

Eggplant and Chickpea Stew Ingredients:  1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms  3 cups hot water  2 large eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds each)  3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided  2 large onions, thinly sliced  6 cloves garlic, minced  2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled  1 small (1-inch) cinnamon stick  1 teaspoon salt  1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper  1 bay leaf  1 cup chickpeas  1 28-ounce can tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped  1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Combine dried mushrooms and hot water in a bowl. Stir well and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve lined with a paper towel and set the liquid aside. Finely chop the mushrooms.
3. Meanwhile, peel eggplants, if desired, and cut in half lengthwise. Brush the cut sides liberally with 2 tablespoons oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down, and roast until tender, about 25 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut into 1-inch cubes and transfer to a 4-quart (or larger) slow cooker.
4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, cinnamon stick, salt, pepper, bay leaf and the chopped mushrooms; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the reserved mushroom-soaking liquid and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker and stir to combine with the eggplant.
5. Cover and cook until the chickpeas are very tender, about 4 hours on High or 7 to 8 hours on Low. Remove cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir in tomatoes and parsley.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Looking for some healthy ideas for the most important meal of the day (breakfast if you were wondering)? You have come to the right place!

Skinny Pancakes Recipe 1
Ingredients: 2 egg whites, 1/2 banana, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2c uncooked oatmeal, dash cinnamon
        *Optional add-ins: fruit, honey, unsweetened coconut, protein powder, etc.
Directions: Blend together all ingredients. Cook in a frying pan over medium heat.

Protein Pancakes Recipe 2
Ingredients: 1/2 banana, mashed (or 1/4c applesauce), 1 scoop of protein powder, 2 egg whites, cinnamon to taste
        *Optional add-ins: fruit, honey, unsweetened coconut, etc.
Directions: Blend together all ingredients. Cook in a frying pan over medium heat.

Protein Pancakes Recipe 3
Ingredients: 1 egg white, 6 oz. plain greek yogurt, 1/4 c almond or coconut flour, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda
Directions: Stir together dry ingredients. Stir together wet ingredients. Add wet to dry ingredients. Cook in a frying pan over medium heat.

3-Ingredient No-Bake Bars
Ingredients: 1 cup natural peanut butter, 1 cup honey, 3 cups of oats, protein powder (optional)
Directions: Heat peanut butter and honey in a saucepan on low heat until liquid. Mix in oats and protein. Press in a 9x9 pan and refrigerate overnight.

Breakfast Add-Ons
-Add fruit to pancakes, cereal, or toast.
-Add flaxseed and granola to yogurt.
-Add protein powder to your smoothie.

Ideas for Breakfast On-The-Go
Let's face it, you don't always have time to make fancy breakfast meals. So, what do you do instead? One option is to make a large batch of protein pancakes, bars, or muffins and store in the fridge/freezer to use all week. Another option is to make a quick smoothie (fruit, yogurt/milk, peanut butter, ice, protein powder). I use the magic bullet. It is the perfect size for 1 smoothie and the cups are portable! Another option is to make a trail mix to snack on while you drive.

Happy breakfast eating!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fresh Fruit and Yogurt Pops

Looking for a healthy summer treat to cool you off? Try some fresh fruit and yogurt pops!

-2 cups of fresh blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and sliced bananas
-2 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
-8 small paper cups (or popsicle trays)
-8 popsicle sticks
-aluminum foil

1. Blend together all ingredients until smooth.
2. Fill paper cups (or popsicle trays) 3/4 full with fruit mixture.
3. Cover tops with aluminum foil.
4. Poke a popsicle stick through the center of the foil on each cup.
5. Freeze for at least 5 hours.

Nutrition Information (per serving)
*Altered slightly based on type of yogurt used
70 calories, 240mg potassium, 12g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 8g sugar, 4g protein


Adapted from:

Monday, July 8, 2013


While reading up on carbohydrates, I found some interesting facts about glycogen!

What is Glycogen?
Glycogen, a polysaccharide, is the main form of carbohydrate storage in animals. Glycogen is stored primarily in the liver and muscle tissues. Glycogen is readily converted to glucose as needed by the body to satisfy its energy needs.

The Difference Between Liver and Muscle Stores
Liver glycogen stores are more readily available for energy and blood sugar maintenance. The central nervous system relies heavily on liver glycogen for energy. Muscle glycogen stores are used solely for muscle fuel because muscle lacks the enzyme G-6-P needed to make glycogen available to other tissues.

Glycogen Storage
Glycogen forms hydrogen bonds with water molecules. This means about 1 gram of carbohydrates is stored with about 3 grams of water.  "The 70kg "average man" stores only an 18-hour fuel supply as glycogen compared with a 2-month supply stored as fat" (Mahan). Fun fact: if all human energy stores were glycogen, humans would need to weight an additional 60 pounds!

Glycogen and Exercise
About 150 grams of glycogen is stored in muscle. This number can be increased five-fold with physical training. If carbohydrates are consumed immediately following strenuous exercise, about 50% more glycogen can be stored.

Glycogen and Animals
In a well-rested animal, the glycogen content of the muscle is high and at slaughter residual glycogen converts to lactic acid. This lactic acid causes meat to become tender. With high stress levels during slaughter, epinephrine and stress hormones cause depletion of glycogen stores. The lactic acid level is then reduced and the meat quality is altered.
Mahan L, Escott-Stump, S. "Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy." Saunders. 2004. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

How Many Carbohydrates Do You Really Need?

Eating healthy should be simple, right? It is apparent that the information given to consumers is mixed and inconsistent. A prime example of this inconsistency is found with carbohydrate recommendations. The recommendations for carbs pushed from the government skyrocket to 300 grams a day or more! The USDA pushes 6oz of grains per day for females and 8oz for males. Once we translate ounces into grams of carbohydrates, you will discover that the numbers do not add up to the recommended 45-65% of carbohydrates also pushed by health professionals. Let's delve into this carbohydrate mystery!

Just to start us off, the AMDR is set in place for the macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein) to help prevent chronic diseases. The AMDR for protein is 10-35% and the AMDR for fat is 20-35% (both ranges are for adults).

Version 1 (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges)

Let's take a 25-year-old female at 130lbs with a calorie intake of 1800kcals. Activity level is low.
   Grains: 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates
               810-1170 calories from carbohydrates
               To get grams, we divide by 4kcal/g: 203-293g of carbohydrates 

Version 2 (USDA:
Let's take the same 25-year-old female from version 1.
   Grains: 6 oz. equivalents. 1 ounce of grains is about 15-20 grams (1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of pasta).
               6 oz x 15-20g/oz = 90-120 grams

Already, a huge inconsistency of 113-173grams! After seeing the whooping difference, my next thought was maybe included in the AMDR are the fruit, starchy vegetable, and dairy groups. Let's see how those groups factor in.

Version 2 (USDA: + fruit, vegetable, dairy
    Fruit: 2 cups per day. 1 cup of strawberries is 12g of carbohydrates. 1 cup of apples is 15g.
             If there are about 15g of carbohydrates per cup, that leaves us with 30g of

    Vegetables: 2 1/2 cups per day. This number is then broken down into different categories of
                       vegetables to be eaten throughout the week. 1 cup of broccoli is 4g of
                       carbohydrates. 1 cup of green peas is 12g of carbohydrates.  Non-starchy
                       vegetables (broccoli, greens) generally provide about 5g of carbohydrates
                       and starchy vegetables (corn, peas, potatoes) about 15g of carbohydrates per

          If our 25-year-old female is consuming 1 cup of starchy vegetables a day (15grams) and
          1 1/2 cups of non-starchy vegetables per day (10g), her grand total of carbohydrates from
          vegetables would be 25g.

    Dairy: 3 cups per day. 1 cup of milk is 12 grams of carbohydrates.
               1 cup of yogurt is 15-20 grams.
           If our 25-year-old female consumes 1 cup of milk (12g), 1 cup of yogurt (18g) and
           2-ounces of cheese (0g), her total carbohydrates from dairy would be 30g.

    Total Added Carbs: 30 + 25 + 30 = 85g

Now, if we have 90-120g of carbohydrates to start with and we added the 85g we would end up with a range of 175-205 grams. This still doesn't add up to the AMDR of 203-293g!

Version 3 (AMDR Method 2)
Another method used to calculate the grams of carbohydrate is to subtract the protein and fat calories from total calories and use the remaining calories for carbohydrates.
      1800 kcal x 15% = 360 calories from protein, 90g from protein
      1800 kcal x 20% = 360 calories from fat, 40g from fat
      1800 kcal - 720 calories = 1080 calories for carbohydrates, 270grams. This number falls in the
      range of carbohydrates found in the version 1 AMDR.

Both the MYPlate and AMDR are pushed by most (not all) health professionals. Mostly, the AMDR is used to prescribe diets for patients and clients to help them reach a healthy weight and decrease chronic disease. Seems ironic to prescribe excessive carbohydrates to clients or patients who are either suffering from a chronic disease or working to prevent one. Also, studies have shown that a diet full of excessive carbohydrates leads to diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. It is time to rethink what you are eating and cut back on the carbohydrates.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tips for Decreasing High Blood Pressure

The first leading cause of death in the US is heart disease and the third leading cause of death is stroke. Having high blood pressure (hypertension) increases your risk of developing both heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure can also result in congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder and contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). While genetics plays a role in the development of high blood pressure, there are still things that you can do to decrease your risk.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood on the walls of the vessels during contraction and relaxation. The numbers in your blood pressure reading tell how hard your heart is working to pump blood. A blood pressure of less than or equal to 120/80 is considered normal. A blood pressure of 140/90 or higher is considered high. 

Weight Reduction

As body weight increases, blood pressure rises. The single most important factor in decreasing high blood pressure is weight reduction. Losing just 5 pounds can decrease blood pressure! 


Eating excessive amounts of salt causes your body to retain more water. The increase in fluid circulating in the body causes an increase in pressure on the blood vessels. The blood vessel walls begin to thicken and the heart has to work harder to move fluid around, leading to high blood pressure. Aiming for 1,500mg of sodium can help to manage high blood pressure. Sodium is found in processed foods like deli meats, soups, and frozen meals.


A diet high in potassium helps to protect you from high blood pressure. Potassium inhibits the reabsorption of sodium in the body. It is recommended to consume between 2,000 and 4,000mg of potassium. Potassium can be found in many fruits (oranges, tomatoes, bananas, raisins, apricots) and vegetables (potatoes, peas, beans, broccoli, spinach).

Chronic consumption of more than 1 ounce per day of alcohol has been associated with higher blood pressure. Intake should be limited to 1-2 ounces of ethanol per day. This translates into 1 12-oz beer, 4oz wine, and 1oz of hard liquor.

Physical Activity 

Physical activity decreases your risk of high blood pressure by as much as 50%. Regular physical activity helps to strengthen your heart. As little as 30 minutes per day of physical activity can decrease blood pressure by 10mmHg.  Physical activity also helps with weight management.

Lastly, smoking cessation is an also a very important change to make when decreasing your risk of high blood pressure.

Happy heart health!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Increase Your Metabolism

Let's set the scenario. You watch one of your best friends (spouse, boyfriend, etc) eat whole pizzas all the time, but, they never gain any weight! You, on the other hand, eat one piece of pizza and the next day, your pants don't fit! A little exaggerated, but I am sure most of you understand the feeling of seeing some people eat anything they want and never gain an ounce.

We are going to break down what metabolism is and what you can do to influence it. While genetics plays a role in your metabolic rate, there are still many things that you can do to help!

What is Metabolism?
Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories.

Factors Affecting Metabolism
1. Body size: Tall, thin people have higher metabolic rates than short, wide people.
2. Exercise
3. Age
4. Gender: Men have higher metabolic rates than women do. Sorry women.
5. Hormones
6. Exercise
7. Food/beverage intake
8. Sleep
9. Cold exposure: Studies have shown that frequent cold exposure (cold showers, cold drinking water, less bundling in the winter) increases metabolism.

Your metabolism slows down as you age. What can you do about that? One thing you can do to avoid weight gain is to decrease the amount of calories you consume.

Women, your metabolism fluctuates throughout your menstrual cycle. This is the reason why at certain weeks you are eating everything in sight. Pregnant women, during the second half of pregnancy, metabolic rate increases due to fetal growth and the mother's increased cardiac workload.

Athletes with greater muscle mass have a 5% higher metabolic rate than non-athletes. This is largely due to their increased fat free mass.  By participating in strength training exercises (chest press, overhead press, lat pulldown, etc), you are increasing your resting metabolism. This means that you are increasing the amount of calories you burn after exercising. This effect can last for up to 24 hours.  High intensity interval training has also been shown to increase metabolism for 2-3 hours after exercise.  Lastly, having more muscle in general will boost your metabolism because of the calories needed to maintain them.

Food/Beverage Intake
Spicy foods and caffeine both stimulate your metabolism. Meals with chili may increase metabolic rate as much as 33% for a span of 3 hours. By ingesting caffeine every 2 hours for 12 hours, your metabolism is boosted by about 10%. Green tea has also been well known for the benefits of EGCG, which boosts metabolism. What's the catch? You can only reap the benefits of green tea by regular consumption of 5-6 cups of green tea per day.

It is important to try and get in about 7-8 hours of sleep per night. While resting, your body burns calories performing basic processes (repairing damaged tissues, breathing, pumping blood). Your resting metabolism accounts for about 65% of your daily calorie burning.  With chronic lack of sleep, your metabolic function becomes altered and slowed.

To sum it all up, the major factors in increasing metabolic rate are exercise and sleep. While coffee, spicy foods, and green tea can help boost metabolism, the amount you have to consume on a daily basis  is quite high. The best ways to boost metabolism are to be mindful in caloric changes (decreasing calories as you age), using strength exercises, and getting enough sleep every night.
Mahan L, Escott-Stump, S. "Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy." Saunders. 2004.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Eat This, Not That: Supermarket Edition

There are thousands of options when you go to the grocery store. Just peak down the cereal aisle and you will see at least 50 different options. Which ones are the healthiest?! Welcome to Eat This, Not That Supermarket Edition!

Eat This: Kashi GOLEAN
               140 calories, 1g fat, 0g saturated fat, 6g sugar, 10g fiber
Not That: Post Banana Nut Crunch

               240 calories, 6g fat, .5g saturated fat, 12g sugar, 4g fiber
-Two key things to look for on the cereal label are high fiber and low sugar.

Eat This: Dannon Light and Fit Strawberry Yogurt
               60 calories, 0g fat, 90mg sodium, 7g sugar
Not That: Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Strawberry Banana

               150 calories, 1.5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 95mg sodium, 26g sugar

-Two key things to look for in yogurt are low sodium and sugar and high protein.

Breakfast Meats
Eat This: Banquet Brown'N Serve Turkey Sausage
               110 calories, 7g fat, 2g saturated fat, 380mg sodium
Not That: Banquet Brown'N Serve Original Links

               200 calories, 18g fat, 6g saturated fat, 490mg sodium

-Two key things to look for with breakfast meats are low saturated fat and sodium.

Peanut Butters
Eat This: Simply Jif
Not That: Skippy Creamy

               -Both have similar amounts of calories and fat; however, the natural peanut butters don't have added sugars.

Eat This: Campbell's Healthy Request Tomato Soup
               90 calories, 1.5g fat, .5g saturated fat, 400mg sodium
Not That: Campbell's Tomato Bisque Soup

               130 calories, 3.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 880mg sodium
-Two key things to look for in soups are low sodium and saturated fat.

Eat This: Raw Pistachios or Whole Natural Almonds
               -Pistachios provide phytosterols that decrease bad cholesterol
               -1 oz. almonds provides half of the Vitamin E you need in a day
Not That: Planter's Dry Roasted Peanuts

               -Peanuts are the lowest nut in nutritional value with minimal antioxidants.

-Don't worry about the fat content for nuts. Most of this will (should) come from the monounsaturated fatty acids.

Frozen Entrees
Eat This: Healthy Choice Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
               300 calories, 5g fat, 2g saturated fat, 430mg sodium
Not That: Maria Calendar's Fettucine with Chicken and Broccoli

               630 calories, 37g fat, 15g saturated fat, 900mg sodium
-Two key things to look for with frozen entrees are low sodium and saturated fat.

Eat This: Athenos Traditional Feta 
               80 calories, 6g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 330mg sodium
Not That: Treasure Cove Blue Cheese

               100 calories, 8g fat, 5g saturated fat, 380mg sodium

-Two key things to look for with cheese are low saturated fat and sodium.

When reading a food label, remember to look at the protein, fat, fiber, salt, and carbohydrate content. Also, sugar should not be one of the first 4 ingredients listed on a food label. 

As a final note, try to shop the outside perimeters of the grocery store as much as possible (that is where all the healthy foods are)!

Zinczenko D. Eat this not that. New York, NY. 2008. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Eat This, Not That

So, you skip the homemade dinner and opt to go out to eat. But what do you choose?! Although what is available to you may not always be the healthiest, some choices are better than others.  Now, on to eat this, not that!


Eat This: Grilled Cajun Lime Tilapia
               310 calories, 6g fat, 0g saturated fat, 1,250mg sodium
Not That: Grilled Steak Caesar Salad
               1,295 calories, 82g fat, 26g saturated fat, 2,199mg sodium

Burger King
Eat This: Croissan'wich Egg and Cheese
              300 calories, 17g fat, 6g saturated fat, 740mg sodium
Not That: Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit
               530 calories, 37g fat, 12g saturated fat, 1,490mg sodium

Eat This: Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich
              270 calories, 3.5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 940mg sodium
Not That: Chicken Caesar Cool Wrap
               480 calories, 16g fat, 6g saturated fat, 1,640mg sodium  

Dunkin' Donuts
Eat This: Ham Egg and Cheese English Muffin
              310 calories, 10g fat, 5g saturated fat, 1,270mg sodium
Not That: Multigrain Bagel
               500 calories, 15g fat, 7g saturated fat, 930mg sodium

Olive Garden
Eat This: Chicken Giardino
              448 calories, 11g fat, 1,670mg sodium
Not That: Stuffed Chicken Marsala
               1,315 calories, 86g fat, 2,550mg sodium

Outback Steakhouse
Eat This: Prime Minister's Prime Rib
              730 calories, 39g fat, 65g carbohydrates
Not That: Ayers Rock Strip Steak
               1,450 calories, 85g fat, 87g carbohydrates

P.F. Chang's
Eat This: Ginger Chicken and Broccoli
              660 calories, 26g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 45g carbohydrates
Not That: Kung Pao Chicken
               1,240 calories, 80g fat, 10g saturated fat, 58g carbohydrates

Ruby Tuesday
Eat This: 7 oz Top Sirloin
              464 calories, 24g fat
Not That: Turkey Burger
              1,171 calories, 58g fat

Additional Swaps and Tips

-Look at the paper they are sitting on. A dark stain means they are loaded with fat.

Movie Theaters
Eat This: Popcorn (10 cups)
              550 calories, 31g fat, 5g saturated fat, 972mg sodium
Not That: Nachos (6-8 nachos with cheese)
               608 calories, 34g fat, 14g saturated fat, 1,736mg sodium

Eat This: Dannon Light and Fit Strawberry Yogurt
              60 calories, 0g fat, 0g saturated fat, 90mg sodium, 7g sugar
Not That: Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Strawberry Banana
              150 calories, 1.5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 95mg sodium, 26g sugar

When eating out, remember, it is not always about the calories. It is also important to consider the protein, fat, and carbohydrate content of the meal. Stay tuned for an "Eat This, Not That" supermarket edition!

Zinczenko D. Eat this not that. New York, NY. 2008. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Snacking and Healthy Eating on the Go

Scenario 1: From the minute you get up in the morning, you are running like crazy, whether it is with your job, your family, your hobbies, or all of the above. You may have just enough time to grab breakfast in the morning. If not, your stomach is grumbling leading to the perfect setting for that salty, fatty, not-so-good snack. Scenario 2: You don't eat all morning and before you know it, your stuffing cold leftovers into your mouth at the fridge. Scenario 3: You experience both scenarios mentioned before, depending on the day.

Whatever your scenario may be, here are simple tips and recipes to help you curb the cravings and snack healthy!

Let's start off with a brain buster question. Are 100-calorie pack snacks "healthy?" Truth is, no. They are basically 100 calories worth of carbohydrates. Since simple carbohydrates turn into sugar in your body, they are basically 100 calories worth of sugar. While they are better than eating chips out of the bag and help with portion control, they are no match for the endless possibilities of healthy snacks.

Tips for Healthy Snacking
1. Design your snacks like mini-meals. Include protein, fat, and healthy carbohydrates.
2. Resist the urge to snack when you are bored or stressed. Try going for a walk or reading a book to get your mind off of food.
3. Don't snack in front of the TV. This leads to mindless eating and lack of portion control.
4. If you are one to eat from the chip/pretzel bag, take out a serving and put the rest away in the cabinet.
5. Make snacking interesting! Try something new and different (like macadamia nuts or avocado slices).

Tips for Snacking On-The-Go
1. Pack your snack the night before, or at the beginning of the week. If you are making non-perishable items (trail mix or homemade granola bars) portion out a serving so they are easy to grab on the way out.
2. Remember to read the nutrition label. Sugar should not be one of the first 4 ingredients!
3. Choose high-fiber snacks like fruits and vegetables to keep your fuller for longer.
4. Stash carrots, peanut butter, and crackers in your bag or desk drawer so you always have healthy food nearby.
5. If the vending machine is all you have as an option, opt for nuts (protein and fat) or a lower sodium food.

Simple Snacks for Home or On-The-Go
-bananas dipped in yogurt, rolled in nuts, and frozen
-bananas dipped in peanut butter and frozen
-apples and peanut/almond butter
-apples and cheese
-trail mix with dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, etc
-hummus (mashed chick peas, olive oil, garlic) and vegetables
-avocado deviled eggs (hard boiled eggs, yolks mashed with avocado and spices)
-smoothie made with protein powder or peanut butter
-mini sandwich with tuna or egg salad
-yogurt with blueberries and granola

Hopefully, these tips help you to curb those cravings and snack healthy. Happy snacking!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

How to Read a Nutrition Label

"Heart healthy!" "Low fat!" Confused on how to read a nutrition label? Well, you have come to the right place!

Why should you read a label anyway? For starters, it helps you determine the nutritional content of the product. It is also helpful for those with food allergies or intolerances. Reading the nutrition label helps you to see how the food fits into your overall diet.

One of the first things you want to look at when reading a nutrition label is the serving size. Many people consume over the amount suggested. You want to note the size of a single serving and how many servings are in the product. If you are doubling the serving size, you will need to double everything listed on the food label. For example, 20g of carbohydrates would then be 40g of carbohydrates.

As you look further down the label, you will see calories, calories from fat, total fat (includes saturated, trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats), cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates (includes fiber, sugars, and other carbohydrates), protein, vitamins, and minerals. To the right of these nutrients, you will see "% Daily Value." This is shown to see how the food fits into your overall diet. If a product says it has 5% of the daily value, it is considered a low source. 10% of the daily value is a good source and 20% or more of the daily value, it is considered a high source.

"Other carbohydrates" refers to the amount of starch in the product. Some products do not list "other carbohydrates." This number is found by subtracting both sugar and fiber from the total carbohydrates.

In general, you want to keep cholesterol, sodium, fat (trans and saturated), and added sugars low. Ingredients are listed in order from the greatest amount to the least. If sugar is one of the first 4 ingredients, toss the product aside and opt for something else. Sugars add calories with little to no nutritional value. You want to focus on foods that offer high amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats, potassium, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Labeling Terms and Tips
-"No" or "Zero" trans fat means that a product must have less than .5g per serving of trans fat.
-When a product says "lean" it means that total fat must be less than 10g and saturated fat must be less than 4.5g.
-A product that says "calorie free" has less than 5 calories per serving.
-"Low calorie" means that the product has less than 40 calories per serving.
-Fruit drink usually just has a lot of added sugar, little to no real fruit, and no fiber. Skip it and opt for a piece of fruit instead.
-"Sugar-free" or "fat-free" does not mean the product is low calorie or that has a high nutrient value. Most of the fat-free products just substitute sugar to make the product palatable.

Hopefully, this has helped you to see that reading a nutrition label is not as hard as it may seem. Just a few final tips: the fewer ingredients, the better and if you can't pronounce most of the ingredients, you might want to opt for something else.