Monday, December 31, 2012

Starting a Healthy New Year

Jump into a new year of health!

Tips for setting realistic goals:

Be specific.
  • "I want to start exercising."  How will you increase your physical activity?  Start off with walking 10 minutes a day before your lunch break, 3 days a week.  You can increase the length or exercise in short intervals throughout the day.  Before you know it you will be walking several miles! 
Set monthly goals.
  • 12 months is a long time to push your resolutions aside.  Setting goals each month will allow you to track your progress or set new ambitions. 
Be patient.
  • Long-term changes take time.  If you want to lose weight, avoid crash dieting, but rather aim for a pound a week. 
Accept difficulties. 
  • Expect challenges.  If you have set the same goal every year without success, think about what is stopping this goal from being achieved. 
Allow flexibility.
  • If one day you did not follow your diet or exercise schedule, it's ok.  Small steps will be more important in the long run to make lifestyle changes; toss the "all or nothing" mindset. 
Set new years resolutions that are important to you.  Have your friends join to start a new positive lifestyle with you.  Don't sit around waiting for tomorrow; take the time for yourself and your health today!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hearty Sweet Potato Soup

Enjoy this hearty vegetable soup to warm up a cold night. 

Sweet Potato Red Bean Soup

  • 2 15 oz cans of red beans
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium green squash, chopped
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar or red wine
  1. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Set aside in a bowl covered with water.
  2. Saute the garlic, onion, green pepper, black pepper and bay leaf in olive oil in an 8 quart pot. 
  3. When the vegetables begin to soften, add the tomato sauce and beans.
  4. Add the green squash, spices (basil, mint, rosemary), and vinegar.
  5. Stir and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the sweet potatoes and water. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Garnish bowl of soup with a sprig of rosemary.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Adding Vegetables to Tailgating

As the football season is in full force, I enjoy the fresh air and tailgating.  I will share some of my favorite tailing dishes to increase vegetable intake.

Quinoa Salad
  • 2 cups water + 1 cup quinoa.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat & simmer, covered for about 15 minutes until the water in absorbed 
  • Add grilled vegetables of your choice such as red peppers, yellow peppers, sweet onion, eggplant
  • Sprinkle with olive oil and garlic as desired
  • Prepped and refrigerated the day before and served cold at the tailgate.
Avocado Dip: a twist on guacamole
  • Combine 2 tablespoons of fresh dill with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium bowl
  • Add 1 large avocado and mash until smooth
  • Mix with 1 large cucumber, peeled and finely diced
  • Top with sliced grape tomatoes
  • Delicious with tortilla chips and on top of the bean burgers!
Bean Burgers
  • Use a food processor to blend 1 can of black beans drained & rinsed
  • Mix with 1 can of whole black beans also drained & rinsed 
  • Combine with an egg
  • Toss in finely chopped onion and garlic
  • Use whole-wheat bread crumbs to avoid a soup-like consistency, but try not to add too much as the burgers will become dry
  • Add preferred seasonings, I used smoked paprika 
  • Bake at 325 for about a half hour the day before to hold together.  Warm on a grill at the tailgate.
I complimented the food with my favorite pumpkin beer!  My meat-lover friends enjoyed the taste of this fall tailgate.  It is possible to eat healthy and share your recipes with others while still having fun!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy Harvest

October 1st kicks off Vegetarian Awareness Month with World Vegetarian Day.

Keep reading meat lovers, I am using this month to encourage you to explore meat alternatives.

  • A well-planned vegetarian lifestyle can be nutritionally adequate and appropriate during all stages of the life cycle.
  • Higher plant-based consumption may reduce risk of chronic diseases by lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fiber, and phytochemiclas.
Can I get enough protein as a vegetarian?
  • A plant-based diet can easily meet your recommendations for protein since most foods contain some protein.  
  • Vegetarian sources of protein: beans, lentils, soy-foods (tofu, tempeh, edamame), soy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), nuts, seeds, grains (rice, millet, quinoa), bread, vegetables.
But what about iron?
  • High iron foods: dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, bok choy), beans, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, tahini.
  • Add Vitamin C (tomatoes, bell peppers, citrus fruit) to a meal to increase absorption of iron sixfold.
  • Coffee, many herbal teas, and calcium supplements can inhibit the absorption of iron and should be consumed several hours apart from a meal high in iron.
Where do I begin?
  • Stay energized from plant-based food without meat for at least one day a week.
  • Some suggestions: Spaghetti squash, vegetable chili, black bean tacos, mushroom quesadilla, sweet potato soup 

As the season changes, fall brings harvest to delicious flavors such as winter squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and apples.  You can find fun for the day at local farms to pick-your-own.

Please check out recipes and reliable evidence-based guidelines for Vegetarian Nutrition ( from the Dietetic Practice Group.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Choose Snacks Wisely

Sometimes a busy schedule may leave limited time to prepare or even eat a healthy meal.  So take advantage of snacks to keep you energized throughout the day.  Snacking can reduce overconsumption the next time you sit down for a meal.  Avoid reaching for that candy in the mid-afternoon for a quick "pick me up" or stopping by the drive through of a fast food restaurant.  Maximize your energy with foods rich in vitamins and minerals.  Wash fruits and vegetables before storing for a ready to eat snack.  When purchasing pre-packaged food items, check the serving size and compare calorie, fat, fiber, and sugar contents of different brands.

Whether sending children to school with healthy snacks or an adult fueling a workday, try some simple snacks to stay focused and fight hunger.
  • Slice banana on whole wheat bread
  • Top celery stalks with peanut butter and raisins
  • Munch on bell peppers, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, and cherry tomatoes
  • Create a trail mix: dried fruit, nuts, and whole wheat cereal
  • Low fat cottage cheese with fruit and a dash of cinnamon
  • Dried fruit (no added sugar)
  • Unsalted vegetable juice
  • Reduced salt popcorn
Snack smart!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cheers To Beer

As craft beer gains popularity, a spotlight emerges on the potential nutrition benefits.

Craft brewing developed from the hobby of home-brewing with the intent to reintroduce the public to more flavor and traditions of beer when low calorie beers began to shape the American beer industry.  A majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery, so stop to sip some local brews.

Beer and Cheese
Try different pairings as an appetizer or share with friends at your next gathering.

  • Blonde Ale: Light cheese, Monterey Jack
  • Pale Ale: Mild Cheddar
  • India Pale Ale: Mild Bleu Gorgonzola 
  • Amber Ale: Light tangy cheese, Brie
  • Brown Ale: Aged Gouda
  • Stout: Long-aged cheeses, Cheddar, Parmesan, Gouda
  • Hefeweizen: Herbed spread, goat cheese
  • Pilsener: Mild white Cheddar
  • Lager: White Cheddar, Monterey Jack

Pair a craft beer to your meal
Look beyond the pizza, wings, and nachos.  You can accompany a cold beer with healthful food choices (more healthy recipes will be posted soon).

  • Blond Ale, Hefeweizen, Pilsener: Lighter foods, chicken, salads, salmon, sushi
  • Pale Ale: Burgers (especially my favorite veggie burgers!)
  • India Pale Ale: Strong spicy foods, curry
  • Amber Ale: Chicken, burgers, seafood
  • Brown Ale: Roasted or grilled foods
  • Stout: Spicy, BBQ
  • Lager: BBQ, chili, burgers

Beer styles are distinctive among different brewers as dishes change with cooking methods, spices, and herbs.  Taste buds vary among individuals.  So have fun, and try new flavor combinations!

Complexity of the ingredients
  • Some craft beers follow existing styles while others create new tastes with ingredients such as pumpkin, herbs, cocoa, spices, and fruits.
  • The nutritional content of a beer will vary with the brewing process, ingredients, and quantities used.
  • Although small amounts (and should not be considered a diet staple of nutrients), beer contains about 4% of its total calories as protein.  Beer supplies micronutrients of vitamin B12, folate, vitamin B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and selenium.  But do not swap out those veggie servings just yet.
  • Traditional beer is made from yeast, barley, hops, and water.  Now, gluten-free versions substitute barley with rice, sorghum, millet, or buckwheat.  
Natural preservative
  • Utilizing the preservative quality of hops can eliminate the amount of added (unnecessary) ingredients to enhance the shelf life.
  • Bitter compounds in beer stop the growth of some bacteria, making this a safe beverage to drink in any country while traveling.

Getting to know local brewers.
Added bonus: World class beer is more affordable than the "world's best wine."

**Moderate alcohol consumption is considered no more than one drink (one 12-ounce beer) per day for women and two for men.
  • Potential benefits of moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney stones.
  • More does not increase the potential benefits; overindulgence will have negative effects.

*Enjoy! But remember to drink responsibly.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Traveling Tips

Out of the home and on vacation can still mean healthy eating.  Resist the high fat/high sugar food choices by fighting the excuse of "we're on vacation."

Whether vacation means spending the day at the neighborhood pool, a trip down the shore, summer camp, or a planned destination, remember some key nutrition tips to fuel and replenish your body.  Healthy eating will allow you to enjoy your travels and still consume tasteful foods.

  • Check out local farmers' markets at your travel spot!  Fun for the family.  Taste the culture of the trip site.  Stimulate the senses, all the smells and sights of local produce.  Chat with locals and other tourists; food always makes great conversation.  

Refreshing boost of vegetables from gazpacho (cold tomato based vegetable soup) at Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Spain.  YUM! 
  • Snack Smart.  If your vacation is filled with activities like my recent trip, sometimes sitting down for a meal seems to get lost in the shuffle of walking around exploring the excitement of a new city, entering palaces, in awe over extravagant churches, and reaching tops of hills that overlook breathtaking city views.  When too much time passes between meals, tolerance levels drop along with the blood sugar.  Furthermore, smart snacking can significantly help in healthful aging and disease prevention.
Aim to consume snacks with the same meal guidelines: wholesome fresh foods.  Whole grains and fruits produce quick energy from complex carbohydrates.  Pair with lean protein or healthy fats for continuing power.

If treating yourself to packaged goodies, portion out your serving to prevent over eating.

  • Plan Ahead.  Pack easy to carry items in your bag.  Pack a cooler for a long car ride to resist stopping at a fast-food restaurant.  Many stores offer pre-packaged snack items (pre-sliced apples, nut butter packages, pre-packaged grapes).  With a little planning you can do the same and save on food costs!

Some Favorite Energy Boosters:
  • Small handful of almonds (or other unsalted nuts)
  • Handful of carrots and strips of bell pepper
  • Mini-snack box of raisins (or other dried fruit without added sugar)
  • Create your own trail mix (whole grain cereal, unsalted pretzels, dried fruit, unsalted nuts)
  • Kale chips (wash, cut, and thoroughly dry kale.  Lightly drizzle olive oil.  Bake at 275°F until crisp about 15 to 20 minutes, turning the leaves half-way thorough.)
  • Whole-wheat cracker sandwiches with peanut or almond butter
  • Apples

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shine in the Sun

Shorts, tank tops, and bathing suits crawl out of hiding as the sun sizzles to the start of BBQ season, also referred to as “Beer-B-Q” season. J

Social gatherings may be centered on eating and drinking, and lead you to consume more than if eating alone.  Use this as a positive time to share your recipes with others.

One more cocktail than planned, could lower your inhibition and leave your hand reaching for those foods you typically resist and often in large quantities.  
  • Think: Do you feel hungry?  How will you feel about this indulgence later?
  • Use a smaller salad plate rather than a large dinner plate to help control portions.
  • It’s OK to indulge in your favorite “unhealthy” foods, just remember, portion control.
  • Sit and eat.  Use a plate and utensils to be mindful of your eating and enjoy your foods and friends/family.
  • From a bowl of snacks, grab your initial handful, and let that be that.  Take small bites and eat one chip/pretzel/etc. at a time.

  • Watch the mixes.  Substitute tonic water with fresh squeezed fruit.
  • Sip and enjoy your beer.  The question for heavy vs. light beer leads to how much of each will you be consuming?  Heavier beers contain more calories, but typically contain more alcohol, so you drink a smaller amount.  Try from the large variety of microbreweries that have flavors to satisfy all taste buds.
  • Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water.  Water will help you cut calories and keep you hydrated, especially in the summer sun.

Optimize your nutrition this summer:
  • Limit over-charred grilled items.  The products caused by grilling and smoking foods may accumulate over time and increase the chances of cancer development.  If you do grill, add antioxidant-rich spices such as rosemary and thyme to your marinade to help reduce the cancer causing processes.
  • If you typically consume meals higher in animal products, take advantage of fresh local produce available.  Use summer as your time to increase plant foods into your meals.  Color your plate.  The more color, the more variety of nutrients to help you achieve optimal health.  Refresh your meal with a chilled soup such as cucumber-dill or gazpacho with lots of chunky vegetables.

Some of my favorites:
  • Strawberries: low in calories, high in fiber, great source of vitamin C
    • Snack up with a sweet treat: mix strawberries with low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • Asparagus: good source of iron, B vitamins and vitamin C
    • Quick side dish: drizzle asparagus with olive oil and bake
  • Melons: look for them starting in June for peak freshness.  Good source of vitamin C and potassium
    • A fresh fruit plate is a naturally sweet dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth
    • Create a fruit salsa for a fat-free salad dressing or top it on fish: dice mango, honeydew, cantaloupe with cilantro, onions and squeezed lime

Shimmer instead of burn in the sun, remember to wear your sunglasses and sunscreen!  Enjoy the weather and socializing with good food and beverages.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fuel for Exercise

I successfully completed my first half marathon (13.1 miles) on May 6th!  I proved to myself the capabilities of a positive mindset and nourishing my body. 

The final days leading up to the marathon, I drank plenty of water throughout the day.  The night before, I had a big bowl of whole-wheat pasta, mixed vegetables, beans, and cheese. 

I surprised myself by waking up to my alarm without pressing the snooze button, especially since it was still dark out, and I am not exactly a “morning person.”

Luckily, the weather was on my side.  Mostly cloudy and in the 60s, my ideal running conditions. 

The first mile was an adjustment.  I started at a slower than my usual pace.  At first, I felt rather claustrophobic, nearly touching someone in every direction.  I was used to running alone or with one other person along an empty path.  But I adjusted and the road widened, so the runners were able to spread out and set their own pace.

After that first warm up mile, I slowly gained speed each mile.  I grabbed water at every other drink station.  At mile 6, I refueled with a banana (yes, I ran 6 miles with a banana in hand… I have yet to find a running belt with a pocket for bananas).  This run was all about me.  I just cleared my mind and enjoyed the unfamiliar scenery.  When I started to feel tired, I drew a smile on my face.  Never underestimate a smile and telling yourself “you can do this!”

My body felt great during the run, the instant I crossed the finish line I already felt sore.  So I went off to the side to stretch.  (This is why yoga complimented my training).

As a beginner in the world of marathon running, I set my goal to simply complete the race.  Finishing in 2 hours, 6 minutes, and 24 seconds, my goal for the next race is less than 2 hours (that’s right, next half marathon).  Once you reach one fitness goal, set another.

*Special thanks to those providing support to the American Diabetes Association and helping me train (especially Tom).

My “Healthy Weighs” for Half Marathon Training
  • Pick a day for a long run.  Start off with 3 or 4 miles and gradually increase the mileage.  Try for at least a 10-mile run 3 weeks before race day.  Then ease up on the miles the last 2 weeks to avoid over exerting your body and maintain your strength for the marathon day.  

  • Avoid the excuse of being “too busy” during the week.  Run one or two shorter runs during the week and allow rest days in between.  Extend your runs as time and your endurance allows.  Motivate yourself, but not beyond what your body is capable.  Listen to your body; do not push through pain.

  • Visit a local specialty running store to invest in a pair of shoes that fit you.  Shoes are essential for preventing injury.

  • Before my workout, I like to eat an apple.  Fruit contains water, sugar, and fiber to give energy for exercise, not to mention the added benefits of fruit such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

  • Within a half hour after training, make sure you eat and drink water!  Even if your goal is for weight loss, your body requires nutrients and needs to replenish electrolytes.  I recommend a serving of low-fat dairy: either yogurt or milk for protein and essential nutrients. 

  • My favorite post-work out drink is dark chocolate almond milk!  Tastes delicious and beats the commercialized protein shakes. J

Friday, April 20, 2012

Prioritizing Yourself

Sorry for the delay since my last post.  Busy schedule: full-time job with hour commute, part-time class, and nutrition education to the community.  Does that stop me from living a healthy lifestyle?  In fact, a busy schedule keeps my healthy choices on track. 

I signed up for the Long Branch Half Marathon (coming up on May 6th) for my New Year Resolution.  This goal to complete my first half marathon motivates me to run at least three times per week.  I learned that on days I feel too tired, even a 10-minute workout helps boost my energy and clear my mind.  Regardless of how hectic my schedule becomes, I make myself a priority.  Usually, I am focusing on deadlines, ensuring perfection, and completing tasks for others, that I cannot even think straight.  Therefore, I decided to practice yoga for breathing and connecting my mind with my body, “me” time. 

I suggest that everyone set fitness goals and attempt new activities.  Get moving!  Try making your overall day more physically active.  Think twice before pressing that elevator button; take the stairs instead.  Park the car at the back of the lot to take those extra steps. 

My top three tips to reduce stress with an overbooked schedule:
1. Make time for yourself
When I spend my days for everyone else, I start to lose myself.  I always come back to the thought, why am I doing this?  It is important to reassess your goals and what makes YOU happy.

2. Keep a positive mindset
Recently I had to do a lecture at work.  Nervous at the thought of public speaking, I gained my confidence by realizing I am my own worst critic.  You are capable of what you allow yourself to be. 

3. When tense, simply smile
Just try it and see.  Plus you may help spread happiness to those around you J

Food provides calories, which is energy.  Selecting wholesome foods will keep the mind and body fueled for your active day. 

Power up during the day:
Oatmeal with milled flax seed, almonds, sliced banana
1% milk

Sip on green tea during my morning communte 

Mixed greens with kidney beans, chickpeas, walnuts, carrots, broccoli, peppers, onions, tomatoes sprinkled with olive oil and vinaigrette dressing
Soy milk

Scoop of peanut butter

Baked eggplant Parmesan with low-fat cheese
Small side of whole-wheat pasta with fresh tomato sauce
Scoop of ice cream
Almond milk

Whole-wheat crackers with cheese
Decaf tea

Note: you will not see any meat in my menus, but for those who consume animal products, choose lean choices and low-fat cooking methods (baked, broiled, grilled, steamed)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Love Your Heart

Aim to reduce your risk for cholesterol, blood pressure, heart attacks, and diabetes. 

The American Heart Association recognizes that “at the heart of health is good nutrition.” 

Check your Fats
  • You do not need to restrict overall fat intake, but instead choose the “better” fats.  The total amount of fat should be 25-35% of your daily calories.
  • Limit Saturated and Trans Fats:
    • Fatty meats, poultry skin, bacon, whole milk, cream, fried foods
    • Packaged foods made with hydrogenated oils and tropical oils (coconut, palm)
  •  Choose low fat dairy, lean cuts of beef (loin, leg, round), skinless poultry
  •  Select monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
    • Flaxseed (oil or ground), walnuts, salmon, soybean oils

How frequently and how much meat are you eating? 
Plan to eat more plant-based meals with beans and soy foods for protein.  Try Meatless Mondays?

Cut the Salt
  •  If you typically consume a high salt diet, give your taste buds time to adjust.
    •  ¼ teaspoon of table salt has ~600 milligrams of sodium.
    • Aim for less than 2,000 milligrams per day.
  •  Start with not adding salt to foods; then, avoid processed packaged foods high in salt. 
    •  Check the nutrition label.  Select foods with no more than 140 milligrams per serving.
    • Rinse off canned and frozen foods.
  • Add a salt-free herbal blend.
  • Table salt, Kosher salt or sea salt?  All salts have the same basic nutritional value and can add to your daily sodium intake.

Healthy Snacks
For those always on the go, keep a nutritious snack ready for an energy boost!
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Low fat cheese + whole-wheat crackers
  • Small handful of nuts or small spoonful of peanut butter

Fill up with Fiber.  Get 20-30 grams of fiber daily.
  • Whole Grains: Check the ingredients label! Aim for at least 3 ounces of whole grain foods daily.
  • Fruits & Vegetables: Aim for 5 servings a day.

Get Moving!  Engage in regular physical activity.

Remember: small, simple changes can add up to a beneficial difference and improve your quality of life.

As the American Heart Month ends, stay motivated towards your health and nutrition goals in March with National Nutrition Month®.