Monday, October 19, 2015

Aiming for a healthier halloween for your kids? Try out the "Switch Witch" this year!

My friend Bridget informed me of a new fictional character recently.  This character is called the "Switch Witch" and she comes out on trick-or-treat night after the kiddos are in bed.  Her role?  To switch out their Halloween candy for another gift, such as a book, game or new Lego set.  I tested the idea out on my 7-year-old son, and this is how the conversation went after I mentioned "the Switch Witch" and what her role is:

"Oh, I hope I get a Lego set!"
My response?  "Even if she takes ALL of your candy?"
His reply:  "Yes, because candy isn't healthy."

Ha!!  I guess, as a registered dietitian, I've taught my son well!  Of course, everything in moderation, right?  I think I just might test out the "Switch Witch" this year and see what happens...after I let him indulge a little on trick-or-treat night.  Best of both worlds!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Kale Chips

'Tis the season to put the gardens to rest.  For most who garden and plant kale, this usually means an overabundance of it.  At least that's what it means for my friend Louise, who was giving out free bunches of kale after church today!  I gladly took a bunch and knew right away what I'd do with it...Kale chips!  Something that's healthy and that my 7-year-old actually loves.

There are so many recipes out there if you just google "kale chips."  But here's the one that I've used and that works for me:
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Cut or tear kale into bite-sized pieces, getting rid of any large stems.

  • Wash and dry kale.  The drying part is important, otherwise your chips will be soggy.  I used a salad spinner and then blotted them dry even more with paper towels.
  • Massage kale with olive oil until it is thoroughly covered.  Sprinkle desired spices in and mix up with your hands.  I find this method works better to evenly distribute the spices versus sprinkling them on afterward, or mixing with a spoon.
  • Lay kale in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  
  • Put in the oven for 15 minutes, center rack.  Rotate and put in for 10 more minutes.
  • Enjoy!

Here are the ingredients I used (but feel free to change up the spices or add more or less to your taste):
  • 1 Large Head of Kale
  • 1 Tb Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • About 1/2 tsp of each:
    • Garlic Powder
    • Himalayan Pink Salt
  • About 1/4 tsp of each:
    • Black Pepper
    • Paprika
The only issue?  They were gone way too fast between me, my husband and my 7-year-old son.  YUM!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pack a quick, easy & healthy school lunch

As the school year approaches, parents may find themselves busy again and wondering how to keep their kids healthy while they hit the school cafeteria.  Although public schools have come a long way with school lunches, they still may not measure up to parental standards when it comes to a fresh, balanced meal.   However, it can be difficult to find the time to pack a healthy lunch at home.  Here are some tips that may help to make your child’s lunch healthier and easier on you (or them) to put together. 
kids eating healthy while at school.
·         Review the school lunch menu with your child and see if there are options on certain days that are agreeable to you both in terms of health value and foods that your child likes.  Circle these options as days where you won’t have to pack a lunch. 
  •  Be sure that a lunch you pack offers something from each food group; 
  • Grains/starches, which might include whole grain bread for sandwiches, healthy whole grain snack crackers (Wheat Thins, Triscuits), popcorn.
  • Fruit – any fresh fruit, unsweetened applesauce or fruit that is canned in juice (not syrup).
  • Vegetables – carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes.  Pack some light dip or hummus for dipping.
  • Protein – this could be sandwich meat (turkey, tuna fish – avoid processed lunch meats such as bologna & salami) or it could nut butter in a sandwich (if the school allows) or it might even be a string cheese stick or a few slices of cheese. 
  • Keep sugary snacks to a minimum. 
  • Prep lunches for the week on Sunday.  Cut up any veggies or fruits that need cutting.  You can have separate bins in your refrigerator and cabinets for each lunch component.  In the bins, place baggies with single portions of each food in baggies or containers.  Label each bin with the food group i.e. “School Lunch Fruits,” “School Lunch Veggies.”  Going a step further, you can even freeze sandwiches;  Just be sure not to freeze fresh vegetables and fruits and if you do use mayonnaise or mustard, place it between the meat or cheese slices to prevent the bread from getting soggy.  This makes lunches come together in a snap and your child can even throw together his/her own lunch, picking a food from each bin.
  • Don’t forget the ice pack!  Keeping foods cold is important, especially meats and cheeses, to prevent food-borne illness.  
  • Always make it a point to provide a healthy after-school snack!
Hopefully these tips take some of the rushing around out of your schedule and put your mind at ease about providing a healthy school lunch in a manageable fashion!  

Monday, June 15, 2015

How often should you weigh yourself?

How frequently to weigh yourself seems to be a topic of debate among individuals trying to lose weight and among professionals.  The frequency advised to weigh yourself ranges from "not at all" to "every day," depending on who you listen to.

Weekly Weighing

The advice to weigh weekly tends to be the most common.  Weight Watchers, for one, encourages people to only weigh themselves at weekly meetings/check-ins on their scale.  The theory being that you are seeing a week's worth of effort reflected and a bigger change than if you were weighing yourself daily.  For some, this proves to be less frustrating that weighing oneself daily and only seeing small changes.

Daily Weighing

The daily weight advice is controversial but also becoming more popular.  The theory behind daily weights is that it helps you to recognize how your weight might fluctuate day to day, based on the foods you eat, fluid retention and other factors.  This also helps some to "stay on task" with their goals.  If you overindulge one night, the scale will show it the next morning.  For some, this is a motivator to get right back on track again with their goals.  The controversy lies in the risk of becoming too obsessed with your weight and/or too frustrated at not seeing enough of a change in the right direction daily.  This approach is not recommended for those with a history of eating disorders or significant body image issues. 

No Weighing

The advice to stay off the scale is recommended as part of the "Intuitive Eating" approach, pioneered by book authors and Registered Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.  The theory behind not weighing yourself at all is to take the focus completely off the number on the scale and focus more on the act of  tuning in to your body's queues for what foods to eat and how much.  The theory is that eventually, your body will migrate to the healthy weight it is meant to be at and that the number doesn't really matter at all.

Bottom Line

Personally, I've tried all three approaches.  Although my goal is to maintain, not lose weight, what works best for me are daily weights.  They do help me keep focused and on track with (or quickly resume) my goals. I truly believe that this method has helped me to stay at my preferred weight.  Bottom line, despite the fact that I have chosen to weigh myself daily, I have no recommendation at all about frequency except to do what motivates you the most.  What motivates each of us is personal and individual.  If you're not sure, try each approach for a month and see how it works for you.  One piece of advice remains constant though; do choose the same scale to weigh yourself on and try to weigh yourself at the same time of day for consistency. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

How about a Shamrock Smoothie instead of a Shamrock Shake?

Six years ago, when I was living in Minnesota, we had a unique friend named Nickolai who was hanging out with us on good ol' St. Paddy's Day.  After celebrating for some time, he came up with the intense craving for the well-known McDonald's Shamrock Shake.  He found a responsible individual (me) to drive him to McDonald's, which I did against my better judgment.  To my chagrin, Nickolai proceeded to order not one but two large Shamrock Shakes.  He drank the first shake, all 840 calories and 24 grams of fat.  He then decided he did not feel so well and tried unsuccessfully to pawn off the 2nd shake on other revelers.  Now, every time I see the Shamrock Shake advertized under the lovely yellow arches, I think of Nickolai.  When I looked up the nutrition information on McDonald's web site, I was actually surprised that a 22-oz shake only has 24 grams of fat (that's still a lot, but less than I expected). Of course there are healthier alternatives...

Green smoothies (nicknamed "Shamrock Smoothies" in honor of the holiday) are on the rise these days, with people trying to find creative and easy ways to add fruits and vegetables to their diets.  My husband and I have a favorite recipe; but, unfortunately, we do not remember where we found it.  Regardless, we have modified it from its original form: 

Ingredients for 2 servings:

1 large handful of kale
1 large handful of baby spinach
1 banana
2 kiwi fruits - skins left on but ends cut off
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Instructions:  Add kale and spinach to blender container (they should fill it up about halfway if you have a standard 6-cup container), add banana, kiwi fruits and flaxseed.  Fill blender to the half-way mark with water (more or a less, depending on the consistency you desire).  Blend until smooth.  Enjoy!  You will be surprised at how little of the veggies you actually taste and how much of the fruit.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:  Calories:  185, Total Fat:  5.6g (Primarily Polyunsaturated with 2400 mg Omega-3), Protein:  7.3g, Sodium:  64mg, Carb:  33g, Fiber 10.2g  Excellent Source of  Potassium, Vitamins A, C, B6, K, Good Source of Vitamin E, Calcium and Iron (non-heme).
Of course, very many modifications can be made to a smoothie recipe.  The sky is the limit.  I'm not always a fan of experimentation with recipe ingredients (for fear of bad results), but smoothies are the exception.  For instance you could add Greek yogurt or protein powder and then it would potentially count as a complete meal/snack, containing carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat .  I also often add mixed frozen berries, which add a nice taste but detract from the aesthetics (turning the smoothie more of a brown versus a green).  You could add any fruit or vegetable you desire depending on your taste and the nutrients you desire.  There are a ton of recipes on the internet as well - just Google "green smoothie" and you will see, although I cannot necessarily vouch for the nutritional value of what you may find! 

So, why not do something healthy for yourself on St. Patrick's Day and find a new green smoothie recipe to add to your traditional Irish fare. Of course, if you like to take the opportunity to enjoy the ever-famous Shamrock Shake, I won't hold it against you.  You may not want to attempt to drink 44 ounces of it though...after drinking 44 ounces of green beer. 

Photo Courtesy:  Jennifer "SweetOnVeg"

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Sleep-Weight Connection

Ok, so we’ve all heard that we need to “eat less, exercise more” to lose weight.  That’s a given.  But, are you aware that getting enough sleep can also be crucial?  The sleep-weight connection is actually multi-faceted, making sleep quite an important part of the equation.  Part of it may seem obvious;  You’re exhausted...Are you more likely to grab a yogurt and go to the gym or grab a couple of chocolate chip cookies and sit in front of the TV?  The other part that’s not so obvious is the fact that lack of sleep during the weight loss process actually alters our hormones and by hormones, I mean the ones that can heavily impact appetite, hence weight...leptin and ghrelin.  Leptin tells us when to eat and ghrelin tells us when to stop.  Well, guess what?  When you’re sleep deprived, leptin increases and ghrelin decreases, attacking your appetite at “both ends” so to speak.  Oddly enough, according to one study, the hormones were only impacted in those that had been trying to reduce caloric intake...i.e. those that were trying to lose weight.  So, what may seem like “loss of inhibitions” during sleep deprivation may in fact be more related to your hormone levels!  So, what do experts recommend?  Try to get at least 7.5 hours of good quality sleep each night and not only will you feel more energetic, you may also notice that you’ll be more successful in your efforts to lose weight.   

Monday, February 16, 2015

Create a Vision Board to Help You Lose Weight

Whether you want to call it a "vision board," "dream board," "motivation collage" or some other creative name, what I am referring to is a visual that can help you to achieve your goals.  Have you ever stopped in your tracks on your way to grab a second helping of ice cream because you saw your "Shape" magazine out of the corner of your eye?  Have you pulled out a pair of jeans or a bathing suit and hung it up on your wall as incentive to stick with your goals?  A vision board is like that, only a more "in your face" approach.  It's something that you would want to post where you will see it frequently - perhaps in the kitchen or on your smartphone or even as your computer wallpaper.  

So, what goes on a vision board?  The sky is the limit!  As long as they are things that motivate YOU.  This could include a picture of a thinner you, an inspirational quote or a picture of an outfit you'd love to wear someday.  You could write down all of the reasons you want to lose weight or be healthier or if you have pictures of those motivators, even better.  It could include pictures of healthy foods you enjoy eating.  Be creative!  The only rules are that the board should be inspirational and motivational for you, enough so that it could stop you in your tracks while on your way to consume an extra helping of dessert.  You also need to post it somewhere you will see it very often (maybe even in 2 or 3 places)! 

So, what will go on your vision board?!

Photo Courtesy:  WiseWellWoman