Sweet Treat


When it comes to sweets it’s not about not eating them it’s how often and how much.  Treats should be “treats” so that means you eat them less frequently.  Eat what you really enjoy and bake your own.  Use real ingredients (even butter in your

 cookies).  One home baked cookie with strawberries and a glass of skim milk is a real treat!

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A lunch bowl with  boxed macaroni and cheese

  The base is salad mix from a bag, topped with leftover boxed macaroni and cheese (I used Annie’s) and then some leftover steamed broccoli.  I just added black pepper and hot sauce and heated in microwave.

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DIY Sushi

My son and daughters love sushi.  As a family, we never need to ask “where do you want to go for dinner” because we always end up at our favorite Japanese restaurant.  I love it because it’s one of the healthiest dining out options but since all three of my kids can eat their weight in sushi, it’s not always the most economical.

My son and I took a cooking class a few years back to see if we could make our own sushi but the procedure seemed so daunting, especially perfecting the art of making sushi rice and then there’s the issue of dealing with raw fish, so we thought it best to leave this up to the experts.  However, I decided, with my youngest daughter to give it another try.  We agreed on California roll, no raw fish to contend with, and we bought all of the ingredients at a regular supermarket…Nori (seaweed), sushi rice, avocado, cucumbers, fake crab, rice vinegar and ginger.  We both watched a few You Tube videos on making sushi and we read the recipe on the back of the rice bag.  Nothing sounded hard but I don’t think we were very confident that our California roll would taste anything like sushi from our favorite Japanese restaurant.  To our surprise, it tasted exactly like it.  Not only was it easy to make but we ended up with 6 rolls (36 pieces) of sushi.  It was fun, healthy, economical and a great party idea…DIY Sushi.

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Insidious Sodium

Does anyone really know or care about the amount of sodium in their food?  Probably not.  Even as a dietitian, I was not as aware as I should have been about where it lurks in our food.  Recent reports have made me pay attention.  9 out of 10 of us eat too much sodium (on average about 3500 mg/day) and 9 out of 10 of us will develop high blood pressure in our lifetime.  High blood pressure leads to lots of nasty things so keeping it low is a good idea.  One way to do this is to cut back on your salt intake.  The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,  soon to be released, may issue new sodium limits for all of us.  Currently, sodium levels are set at about 2300 mg/day but 1500 mg may be the new goal.  It’s not the salt you’re adding to your food, it’s not from the fruit and vegetables your eating or the milk you drink.  It’s not even the meat, poultry or fish that’s causing your salt intake to be so high.  Almost 80% of the sodium you eat is coming from processed and prepared foods.  It’s the frozen waffles and sausages for breakfast, the deli hoagie with chips at lunch, the pretzels for snack and the frozen dinner after work.   Even your fat-free salad dressing is guilty.  Sodium is insidious.  It sneaks up on you without you knowing it.  One innocent dinner out at a chain restaurant could cost you 6 days worth of sodium (that’s almost 9000 mg).  It’s time for all of us to start reading those food labels and start spending more time in the kitchen.  We may not be able to make our own raisin bran but we can make our own salad dressing.  We can grill fresh chicken breast rather than microwave processed chicken nuggets.  We can even make our own pizza which can cut sodium in half compared to ordering it out.  Your goal is to reduce your sodium intake by 1000 mg/day.

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Sometimes Food

I was recently asked to answer some questions for an article for a local magazine.  One question was something about the food I would choose to eat if I’m going to “blow my diet”.  First, let’s clear something up.  I’m not on a “diet” nor would I recommend a “diet” so I can’t “blow my diet”.  I love to eat fresh, light, delicious food.  I eat pretty much what I want, which most of the time is  healthy foods…lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fish, nuts, fat-free dairy etc.  But if I’m hungry for an ice cream sundae, I’ll have one.   I go out to my favorite sweet spot, Dairy Queen, and I order a small vanilla sundae with strawberries and peanut butter sauce and I thoroughly enjoy it.  It’s like I tell the second graders when I’m teaching about nutrition, there are sometimes foods and everyday foods.  Focus on the everyday foods and the sometimes food can easily find their place.

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The Inconvenient Cake

My daughter was hungry for cupcakes last night so she went to the pantry to look for cake mix.  To her disappointment, we did not have any.   I told her that cakes can be made without a mix.  Her response, “you can, how”?  Now I’m not THAT old but I do remember making cakes without a mix.  In fact, my grandmother and aunt never used cake mixes.  I learned how to make a cake from scratch when I was younger than my daughter and throughout my adult life, would on occasion, skip the box and get out a recipe.  My daughter, a budding foodie, got out her new Joy of Cooking and found a recipe and began her first attempt at making an “inconvenient” cake.  Three hours, twenty dishes and utensils later, and lots of grumbling about how this is not worth it, no matter how good the cake is, her cake finally came out of the oven.  She says she will never do that again but the cake was so good, I think everyone who ate it will try to convince her otherwise.

How does this connect with nutrition you might ask?  There was a time when cakes were made and eaten only for special occasions.  They were not convenient to make so you did not eat them often and you certainly were not eating cake everyday.  You ate them once in a while and enjoyed a small piece and rarely would there be enough leftover for seconds.  That’s how it should be.  We should enjoy delicious treats once in a while, not worrying about the fat and calorie content, simply enjoying the taste of a cake that’s made from scratch and not from a box.  Maybe the introduction of Betty Cocker’s first cake mix was the beginning of the downfall of a more normal way of eating; leaving us food obsessed and overweight.  I think there’s a lesson in here somewhere.  Next time you want cake, make it inconvenient and delicious.

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Eat less by eating more?

A recent report tells us that only 12% of us can estimate the number of calories we eat each day.  And my experience as a dietitian has shown me that most of us underestimate how much we eat but as much as 40% and we overestimate how much we exercise by about the same amount.  That leaves us with a lot of extra calories with no where to put them except around the middle.  One trick to eating less is to eat more.  More volume without extra calories.  Both of these pictures show 1600 calories.  One is a total diet plan with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains (volume and loads of nutrients without  a lot of calories).  The other is more typical of the way we eat.  Dense calories from fat and sugar.  On the one plan you can eat a substantial breakfast (whole oat cereal, blueberries, walnuts, fat free milk), lunch (a huge sandwich with whole wheat bread, shredded carrot, red pepper, spinach, tuna), snack (dried apricots and Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey) and dinner (whole wheat pasta, sauce, Parmesan cheese, grilled chicken and zucchini, skim milk and strawberries with dark chocolate and fat free whipped cream for dessert).  The other is one medium size frozen pizza (easily eaten at one sitting) and a 12 oz. soda.  I guess it’s your choice.

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