Make Packing Snacks Easy- To Go Snack Ideas

I get asked a ton of questions about what I feed my kids as a dietitian. I guess I don’t think it’s that different than others but that’s probably because I became a dietitian because of my mother. She cooked all the time, instilled in us a love for vegetables and trying new foods, and we always had a balanced meal. I can remember watching her chop vegetables as a kid and thinking “someday I’ll be able to chop as fast as her.” So, I guess I feed my kids a lot like my mom fed us. I involve them in cooking most days, they measure/dump/stir, crack eggs and watch me mesmorized as I chop asking if they will learn to do it that fast. Someday girls!

While I’m a dietitian and know the science behind food and do hold opinions on many, in general, I feed them how I eat. Mostly homemade and a focus on fresh fruits and veg but not all homemade or without processed foods. Lets face it, it’s 2016. That means there are good processed options AND it’s about MODERATION. Pringles, oreos and “daddy’s cereal” aka Captain Crunch Peanut Butter (yes he’s in his 30’s and this is his cereal of choice) can all be found at our house on occasion. To give my husband credit he rarely eats dessert and would choose savory over sweet any day. Cereal is just his sweet thing.  Lets briefly talk kids snacks. This could be a novel in itself but here are a few tips and snack ideas. I do hope it helps and please share any I missed.

A few things to remember about kids, snacking and nutrition

  1. A kid knows when they are full (or should be learning it if they haven’t already). I chose what the snack is (or we do together) but whatever is chosen is chosen and they decide how much to have.
  2. If my kids are hungry really close to a meal I encourage fresh fruits and vegetables (as they would have had these with the meal)
  3. It is best to have scheduled snack times but I will say that worked while my kids were in full time daycare but now that I’m home full time it’s not as scheduled as each day has it’s own schedule.
  4. Talk to your kids about food and food groups. I will say things like “You can have that as your grain, lets have a fruit or vegetable with it.” You’ll be amazed how they’ll pick up on it.
  5. Never talk “GOOD” vs “BAD” food. This is my PET PEEVE. It gives kids a reason to push back on food.
  6. Remember: what you pack when you are out at playdates, the park or running errands is what they’ll eat. I know obvious but i had to say it. Invest in some nice small snack size Tupperware or compartment Tupperware to put fresh cut up vegetables and sliced fruit or berries in it (just remember to take it out of your bag when you get home or it will go bad). I try to always have a grain option and fruit in my bag when we are out.
  7. Lastly, the evening snack. UGH, this one gets me as it can be for hunger or a delay tactic. I think it’s best not to give in once on the way to bed.  I often offer something in the evening about an hour before bed. Lets face it though push come to shove, moms tired, kids are whiny I do give in. At that point my rule is always ONLY a fruit or vegetable or nut as the kitchen closed.
  8. Okay one more thing. You are going to see a Costco and Trader Joe’s trend here. Lets face it when my kids can finish a double container of raspberries in a day we have to buy fruit in bulk. Also, I love Trader Joe’s products and I’ve always lived a mile from one.

On-the-Go Kids Snack List

  • Homemade Trail mix: this can be fun to pack for a special outing. Have your kids help make theres. You can make this with anything but here is a list of ideas
    • Dried unsweetened cereals, dried or freeze dried fruit (with minimal added sugar), any nuts (peanut, almond, cashew, pistachio, soynut), popcorn, goldfish, mini chocolate chips (it’s fun to do honey roasted peanuts as a sweet treat too) or our kids favorite if we are doing a sweet is dark chocolate almonds
  • Fresh Fruit- think outside the norm here
    • strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peeled sliced oranges (I cut mine in wedges with the skin on and they love them this way. Grandpa taught them how to make an orange peel smile while they eat too), clementines, apples (sliced or whole), bananas (although not great for packing when you’re out), grapes, mango slices (also can be found pre-sliced at some stores). We also have our fruit we buy seasonally: watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, cherries, nectarines, plums, pluots
  • Fresh veggies (if you cut these when you bring them home you are more apt to serve them and eat them)
    • Cucumbers sliced or mini cucumbers (no cutting necessary the kids eat them like a pickle), carrots, bell pepper sticks, jicama sticks (some stores sell these pre-cut which is how I buy them at Trader Joe’s), snap peas, cherry tomatoes, etc… these are just the common ones my kids eat. They will also have radishes, cauliflower or broccoli raw at times but not their favorite raw choices.
  • Freeze Dried Fruit- my kids love the strawberries and went through a phase where they liked the mangoes too
  • Dried Fruit-Cherries (if you are buying dried fruit try for ones with low added sugar)
  • Plantain chips (we just found these at Trader Joe’s and the girls loved them)
  • Nuts: almonds, peanuts, cashews, soynuts
  • Cliff Z Bars- We’re fans of the iced oatmeal cookie flavor
  • Popcorn (we make fresh popcorn all the time as an evening snack or for outings)
  • Pretzels and mini hummus cups (I get mini hummus cups at Costco but you can also put a little hummus in a small container and pack it)
  • Pirates Booty
  • Fruit Leathers (I get the Stretch Island Organic ones in bulk at Costco)
  • Veggie Straws – do they count as veggies…no do not let yourself think that. FYI-Veggie Straw brand is much saltier than some of the other brands that have created a version of this item
  • Mini rice cakes
  • Graham Crackers – if I’m at home I sometimes do this topped with peanut butter and honey
  • A scoop of nut butter- my oldest loves having a scoop of peanut butter as a snack. We also sometimes let her top it with a few chocolate chips (the spoon only fits like 5-8 chocolate chips)
  • Animal Crackers-I buy the Kirkland Organic Animal Crackers from Costco
  • Peanut butter or cheese cracker sandwiches (love the ones from Trader Joe’s)
  • Pickles or Green Olives-while high in salt this is a funto mix in at times
  • Dried cereal in a bag
  • Roasted Chickpeas. Have you ever made these? So good! My kids love when I roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you want a recipe email me or look at it on pinterest. Super easy and easy to pack
  • Goldfish
  • Applesauce- My 2nd and 3rd love them and I love that they can stay in my bag as a backup option
  • No Bake Granola Bites – my second loves when I make these (recipe on my website)
  • Homemade mini muffins or bars – my kids aren’t big into bars and don’t eat muffins often but I have friends who make healthy homemade options and their kids devour them

Additional Snack Ideas if Home

  • 1/2 English Muffin with nut butter or PB&J on it
  • Chips and fresh mild salsa- great way to get veggie intake. My kids use the chips as a spoon to eat the salsa
  • Chips and guacamole
  • Homemade smoothie
  • Yogurt

Hard Boiled Eggs

I’ve featured eggs as the food of the month before but it only seems appropriate to discuss them again with Easter this Sunday.  So, how do you make the perfect hard boiled egg? Well, that depends on how you like to eat them.

Hard Boiled Eggs -Cold water Method

Since I learned how to make hard boiled eggs hard boiled eggI’ve always made them with the cold water method. You take as many eggs as you want to boil, put them in a pot, fill the pot with water to cover them then turn the stove on and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the stove off and cover and let sit until your desired preference (for me it’s 8 minutes). Most people overcook their hard boiled eggs so let me help by showing you how long to leave an egg in the water to meet your hard boiled egg eating needs. Here are the description of each cook time per epicurious and also a chart if you are more of a visual learner.

  • 4 minutes: eat-it-with-a-spoon-out-of-the-shell soft
  • 5 minutes: firm white, runny yolk
  • 6 minutes: nice and gooey yolk, starting to set
  • 8 minutes: fully set yolk, but still sort of gooey and golden (my favorite)
  • 10 minutes: firmer pale yolk, a bit soft in the middle
  • 12 minutes: almost completely hard-boiled yolk, with a touch of golden goo still in the middle
  • 14 minutes: completely hard-boiled crumbly dry pale yolk

I read an interesting article on epicurious of two people who compared the hot method to the cold method and they claimed the hot method allowed easier peeling after. See the article here for the details.

Hard Boiled Egg-Hot Method

Bring the water to a boil THEN add the eggs, cover and let sit in the water for the same amount of time as above.

Now lets discuss just how long you have to eat all those pretty eggs in your fridge next week.

This is a common question and important one for food safety and taste. I recommend eating them all within 6-7 days of cooking when they have been stored in the fridge. They are a great source of protein and pack a ton of vitamins and minerals. Try having them for breakfast, as a snack, on a salad or use your leftover colored eggs to make egg salad.

Lastly, what helps make an egg easier to peel?

Searching on pinterest I found a lot of things people claimed you can add to the water to make them peel easier. I haven’t tried any of the ways listed. When it’s okay to have a little crack (not when you are planning to decorate them) I recommend taking the eggs out of the hot water at your desired time and putting them in an ice bath. Once in the ice bath lightly tap them on the side of the bowl or against each other to let some of the cold water get between the shell and the egg for easy peeling. Once cooled you can store them in the refrigerator.

It Starts with the Crust

Our family loves eating pizza and we usually make it weekly. With three out of four of us not being able to eat cheese we’ve been making our pizzas homemade for years. The reason I love making pizza from scratch is you can customize it for your family.  Our daughter loves pepperoni so we top hers with some of that and mushrooms, olives, peppers or spinach. What an easy way to get whole grains, vegetables and protein into one meal. Plus you can serve it with a side of cooked veggies or cut up fruit.

My critique of a good pizza often comes back to how good the crust was. The thinner and crispier the better and nothing is better to me than Wells Brothers Pizza in my hometown (Racine, Wisconsin). The crust is thin, crispy and delicious.  Having homemade pizza with the perfect crust can be hard to come by. I have tried a lot of brands of pizza dough on the market and have found a few new obsessions worth sharing. One pre-made crust, one dough you roll at home and two recipes to start from scratch. I’ve found now that I’m at home with the kids I love making dough from scratch. The kneading is rather therapeutic mostly on days when our 2 1/2 year old is extra feisty and the rolling and assembly is a great way to get kids in the kitchen cooking with you. Plus, the end results are a win for everyone. Yum, yum, yum.

My Favorite pre-made crust: Angelic Bakehouse Flatzza-Sprouted Whole Grain Pizza Crust

These crusts are made in Cudahy, Wisconsin by Angelic Bakehouse and can be found at select Whole Foods Regions and Sprouts Farmers Markets (located in 10 states). I pick them up at the Milwaukee Whole Foods but good news for my Minneapolis friends and other American readers. You can buy them on Angelic Bakehouse’s website. I promise you will not be disappointed. They also have a Flatzza wrap that I imagine is just as delightful that I will have to check out next time I’m at Whole FoodsFlatzza Crust

  • Why I love them: They are super thin crust, come in a two pack and are made from sprouted whole grains which are higher in protein, have a lower gylcemic index and are said to be easier to digest.
  • Nutrition: 110 calories, 5g protein and 3g Fiber in 1/4 of the crust
  • Check out all the types of grains on their ingredient list: Whole sprouted grains of red wheat berries, quinoa, oat groats, rye berries, barley, amaranth, and millet, water, wheat flour, sunflower oil, vital wheat gluten, 100% domestic honey, oat fiber, cultured wheat, salt, molasses, yeast.

Favorite Pre-made Dough Choices-Whole Foods Pizza Counter or Trader Joe’s Ready to Bake Pizza Dough

  1. Whole Foods Pizza Counter
    1. Did you know you can go up to the Whole Foods Market pizza area and ask to buy some of the dough to take home? This was news to me but a great way to get a fresh homemade dough
    2. Why I love this product: Fresh choice that required no work
  2. Trader Joe’s Ready to Bake Pizza Doughpizza-dough
    1. This has always been a staple for us for grilled or baked pizzas. They have a regular, whole wheat and garlic & herb crust choice. Personally, I love the added flavors in the garlic & herb one for a classic pizza creation. The other two are great choices when it will be topped with lots of flavors.
    2. Why I love these: Whole wheat option if desired, cheap, easy to roll out and easy to find as Trader Joe’s have always been close to where I’ve lived

Favorite New Pizza Dough recipes from Seriously Delish Cookbook:

I received the Seriously Delish cookbook from Jessica Merchant’s How Sweet It Is blog for Christmas from one of my best friends. I love getting knew cookbooks and this one has been a big hit so far. Included in the book is the authors favorite pizza crust and a 100% whole wheat version of her favorite pizza crust that I have made with the help of my little sous chef and will definitely make again.

Pizza Crust


  • 1 1/8 cups warm water
  • 3 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil in a large bowl. Mix together with a spoon and let sit until foamy (~10-15 minutes). Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and the salt, and stir with a spoon until the dough comes together but is still sticky, Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and work the additional 1/2 cup flour (you don’t need to use all if it is not needed) into the dough, kneading it on a floured surface for a few minutes.
  2. Rub the same bowl with a few drops of olive oil and place the dough inside, turning it over to coat. Cover the bowl with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for ~1 1/2 hours.
  3. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and remove it from the bowl. Place on a floured counter and, if it is sticky, knead a few tablespoons of flour into it until it is silky smooth.

100% Whole Wheat Version


  • 1 1/8 cups warm water
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil. Mix with a spoon, then let sit until foamy, about 10-15 minutes. Add in 2 cups flour and salt, stirring with a spoon until the dough comes together but is still sticky. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and work in the additional 2/3 cup flour, kneading it on a floured surface for a few minutes.
  2. Rub the same bowl with olive oil then place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for about 1-1 1/2 hours.
  3. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and remove it from the bowl. Place on a floured counter and, if it is sticky, knead a few tablespoons of flour into it until it i silky and smooth



How Much Sugar is in Your Non Dairy Milk?


Our family drinks almond and soy milk and I’ve always switched around getting vanilla and unsweetened. Recently I decided to look at the sugar content of our vanilla and chocolate milks in the fridge. I was rather surprised to see how similar they looked. It made me wonder just how much sugar we were consuming just from having a little milk. Especially for Elena who drinks 1-2 cups a day. As always I was surprised but not surprised on what I found out and have changed our standard milk purchases since. I’m fine with sugar when I expect it like in baked goods, chocolate and other desserts but hate to see such high amounts in daily meal staples.

I chose to compare a lot of common brands and brands from the stores I shop at (Trader Joe’s, Pick N Save, Target). While there are many many more types of milk this list is a good start. I summed up what I found and will show the breakdown below


The vanilla flavored soy milks I compared contained 30-42% of the calories from sugar. Yes, SUGAR alone. Even more surprising the original Silk soy milks still contain 22-24% calories from sugar. Even when you think you aren’t getting a flavored one sweetener is often added.  The lowest choice in this category was Silk Unsweetened Organic Vanilla Soy milk which contained only 4% of it’s calories from sugar.


Even more surprising were the almond milks which contained 65-73% calories from sugar when they were vanilla flavored. All except the Silk Almond Milk Unsweetened Vanilla which contained 0% calories from sugar. To put it in perspective that’s more sugar than the two chocolate soy milks I looked at which had 57% and 37% calories from sugar. Also, the original Silk almond milk still contained 46% calories from sugar (more than the vanilla flavored soy milks I looked at). Wondering why the almond milks are so much higher? Part of the reason is that they are lower in calories so any sugar adds up quicker. I’m also guessing it requires more sugar to make it marketable for most peoples palates.

Before you grab your next container of soy or almond milk think about what you are choosing. If you want a vanilla flavor I recommend going with ones that are unsweetened vanilla to get less sugar. This means less calories which won’t fill you up as long so try having it with other whole foods.

Soy Milks -from least to most percent calories from sugar

  1. Silk Organic Unsweetened Vanilla Soy Milk: 80 calories, 1 g sugar (5% calories from sugar)
  2. Silk Soy Milk Original: 110 calories, 6g sugar (22% calories from sugar)
  3. Silk Organic Soy Milk Original: 100 calories, 6g sugar (24% calories from sugar)
  4. Trader Joe’s Organic Soy Milk-Vanilla (the non refrigerated big purple container): 130 calories, 14g sugar (21% calories from sugar)
  5. Trader Joe’s Organic Soy Milk-Vanilla: 90 calories, 7g sugar (31% calories from sugar)
  6. Simply Roundy’s Organic Vanilla Soy Milk :100 calories, 8g sugar (32% calories from sugar)
  7. Silk Soy Milk-Vanilla: 100 calories, 8g sugar (32% calories from sugar)
  8. Silk Soy Milk-Very Vanilla: 130 calories, 15g sugar (46% calories from sugar)
  9. Trader Joe’s Organic Soy Milk-Chocolate (the non refrigerated big brown container): 130 calories, 12g sugar (37% calories from sugar)
  10. Silk Soy Milk-Chocolate: 120 calories, 17g sugar (57% calories from sugar)

Almond Milk -from least to most percent calories from sugar

  1. Silk Almond Milk-Unsweetened Vanilla: 30 calories, 0g sugar (0% calories from sugar)
  2. Silk Almond Milk-Original 60 calories, 7g sugar (46% calories from sugar)
  3. Blue Diamond Almond Breeze-Vanilla: 80 calories, 13g sugar (65% calories from sugar)
  4. Roundy’s Almond Milk-Vanilla: 90 calories, 15g sugar (67% calories from sugar)
  5. Silk Almond Milk-Vanilla: 90 calories, 16g sugar (71% calories from sugar)
  6. Silk Almond Milk-Light Vanilla: 60 calories, 11g sugar (73% calories from sugar)

soy milk comparison

Appalled and Deceived

I know, I know, I know. I hear the voices already. I should have known better than to assume, but I’m guilty. I have been buying light syrup for the past decade (or at least since I started to buy my own groceries back in college). We ran out of syrup last week and now that my daughter loves whole wheat banana pancakes I knew I better get out and replenish our supply. While I’ve always been aware (or so I thought I was) of the foods we eat and what’s in them I guess syrup just slid by since we use it so infrequently (french toast, pancakes and waffles are an infrequent breakfast at our house).

Since I learned I was going to be a mother I have been more conscious of eating natural foods… or lets just say less of the processed ones. I am human. So, on Thursday morning I headed to the syrup aisle to look at what to buy. I flipped to the ingredients and literally was appalled…high fructose corn syrup was the #1 ingredient in most of the products. So, I then flipped a “Natural” one around to see “corn syrup” was number 1 (yes, while that is natural it is still sugar as the main ingredient…no matter the form).

Great, so I’ve been eating pure SUGAR with my breakfast for a decade. Now don’t get me wrong I LOVE sugar but I would rather have it in a sweet dessert and enjoy the pureness of maple syrup which is sweet all on it’s own. My reaction was something like a cartoon character when their jaw drops to the ground. The grocery store employee must have wondered why I continued to check each label. At that point I knew I was going to get the 100% Maple Syrup but I coudln’t stop looking at all the big brands lists and claims on the labels…

Yes, I was appalled because I tend to have the pancakes, waffles or french toast with my syrup. Yes, I LOVE syrup!!! Why eat the stuff if you can’t load it, right??? Well, I’m a changed women. A pure maple syrup buyer for life. Yes, its more expensive but its so delicious and we got to try it out this morning. We made homemade whole wheat banana pancakes for breakfast and just as I expected when you have the real thing you need so much less of it since the flavor is so full. Elena, Ryan and I all approved!

New Seeds on the Block

Seeds have been surfacing as “health” foods for many years now. One of the first big players on the block was flax seed. Now if you go in most grocery store you will be able to find chia seeds and hemp seeds. Here is a brief overview of the seeds, their nutritional benefits and ways to use them. Each seed has nutritional benefits and what’s important is to find one that has a flavor you enjoy (pictured above from left: hemp seeds, chia seeds, milled flax seeds).

Hemp Seeds

These seeds contain all the essential amino acids making them a complete protein and a good source of protein for vegetarian and vegan diets. One serving of raw shelled hemp seeds (3 Tbsp) contains 11 grams of protein They are also a good source of Vitamin E, Magnesium, Zinc and Phosphorus. My mom recently bought these in the raw shelled form and I first wondered what the benefit was I now can see the benefit of this natural protein source.

  • You can find it as hemp milk, hemp protein powder, hemp oil or as raw shelled hemp seeds.
  • If you use the whole hemp seed try mixing them into hot cereal, yogurt or a smoothie (I personally enjoyed it in a smoothie).
  • They are small seeds with a bland flavor and are softer than many other seeds so they mix well into dishes.

Chia Seeds

Yes, I know what you are thinking…cha-cha-cha-chia and yes you are correct these are the seeds from the chia plant. Chia seeds, much like flax seeds they are a source of Omega-3’s.  They are also a great source of fiber. One Tbsp provides ~5 g Fiber and ~8% daily recommended amounts of calcium, thiamin and phosphorus. I personally have never tried chia seeds (I have seen them on salad bar lines in grocery stores) but I plan to buy some soon.

  • You can use the seeds to make a gel to use as a thickening agent in soups, smoothies and baking. To produce the gel it’s a 9:1 ratio of liquid to seeds. ~1/3 cup chia seeds would absorb 3 cups of water. From what I’ve read you mix this together and let it sit for 30 minutes (stirring occasionally to prevent clumps). Once the gel is formed it can be stored in your fridge for up to two weeks.
  • You could also do 1 Tbsp of ground chia seeds with 3 Tbsp of water in place of an egg in baked goods.
  • Besides using the chia gel or putting them on top of salads you could use them similarly as hemp seeds in smoothies, yogurt or hot cereal.
  • The flavor is supposed to be very mild (I can’t say much more until I try them myself).

 Flax Seeds

Flax seeds have been around the block for some time now. You may have seen my previous post highlighting flax seeds. They are known as a great plant source of Omega-3’s, fiber and antioxidants (they contain antioxidants called lignans). You can read more about them from my previous post but here is a recap

  • Purchase them ground, milled or as flax oil. The oil will provide you with the Omega-3’s but no fiber. Ground or milled flax seeds are they type I buy. They will provide the Omega 3’s and fiber.
  • Milled and ground flax seeds are great for smoothies, oatmeal and yogurt and can be used in baking as well. 3 Tbsp of Flaxseeds can be used in place of 1 Tbsp of fat or 2Tbsp flaxseed + 3 Tbsp water can replace an egg when baking.
  • They provide a nutty flavor.

Pantry Makeover: Five Healthy Swaps to Improve your Pantry

A big key to eating healthy is having a pantry packed with healthy choices. Often times things sit in our pantries way to long and we forget what is there. Take some time this summer to look through what’s been lingering and how your items stack up for your health. There are many very easy changes you can make to the typical pantry staples to improve your nutrition. Here are five great ones to start with:

  1. You’ve heard everyone everywhere preach the importance of whole grains. The question is how well are you doing on this. If you already made the switch from refined pasta noodles and white rice to whole grain noodles and brown rice you’ve made great progress but it’s time to get creative. Try quinoa in place of white rice in dishes. Quinoa is cooked the same as rice and has the same texture plus it has 2 more grams of fiber and double the protein in every ½ cup
  2. Next, exchange your Italian bread crumbs for Japanese Panko breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs are coarser, lighter and most would agree they coat your food better. They contain less calories and tend to absorb less oil when cooking.
  3. If you’re craving a salty add in to salads, pizza or pasta try artichoke hearts instead of reaching for green olives. Not only will you cut out fat (five green olives contain 2 grams of fat where 2 artichoke hearts would give zero grams of fat) you will also consumer more antioxidants.
  4. Another easy switch is to choose chunk light tuna packets over canned albacore tuna to cut down on the mercury you are consuming. They both have great nutrients and protein but chunk light tuna may contain up to 1/3 less mercury. For guidelines on how much tuna is safe to eat visit the NRDC or see my post on mercury in fish.
  5. Lastly, look at the soups you store in your pantry. Most people have cream of mushroom soup on hand for casseroles. Trade in Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup for Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom soup. This line of soups is certified by the American Heart Association and will cut out 5 grams of fat and  your sodium intake in half for each ½ cup serving (870 mg sodium vs 410 mg sodium).




Cooking Oil Guide

There are so many varieties of oil available to buy at the store it’s hard to know which one is best for your recipe? To help out I decided to break down some common plant oils based on facts, taste and fat breakdown. One thing to remember is a fat is a fat. No matter what type of oil you choose the calories are still from fat so make sure to limit the amount you use. One teaspoon of a plant based oil contains ~ 120 calories and ~14 grams of fat (which means a Tbsp contains ~360 calories, 42 grams of fat). While they are all fat the types of fat they contain range and many contain healthy fat. Remember you want ones that have majority of the fat from monounsaturated fatty acids or polyunsaturated fats (aka Omega-3’s) and not ones that contain a lot of saturated fat.

Now, deciding which oil to buy may not be simple and can range in cost, taste and cooking uses. Lets take a look.

Canola Oil

  • Lowest saturate fat content of any oil.
  • High smoke point which makes it great for many types of cooking including sautéing and baking
  • Neutral flavor
  • Fat breakdown: 28% polyunsaturated fat, 64% monounsaturated fat and 7% saturated fat

Olive Oil

  • High in monounsaturated fatty acids which are great for our heart
  • Good thing to know: If you are using olive oil with heat use a plain olive oil not a fancy extra virgin olive oil with a high price tag. I was told by a chef that cooking it takes away the extra virgin aspect of the olive oil and is a waste of the good expensive stuff. Save fancy Extra virgin olive oils for finishing dishes, dipping or dressings
  • Depending on the type you buy it can range from a mild to a more robust flavor
  • Fat breakdown: 11% polyunsaturated fat, 73% monounsaturated fat and 14% saturated fat

Sesame Oil

  • Contains a good balance of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
  • High smoke point so great for sauteing or stir frying
  • Has a strong flavor that adds a great toasty sesame flavor to any dish (I love to use it for sauteing green beans)
  • Fat Breakdown: 42% polyunsaturated fat, 40% monounsaturated fat and 14% saturated fat

Peanut Oil

  • Like sesame oil, peanut oil contains a good amount of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
  • Great at high smoke points and a healthier option to deep fry foods as it allows less oil absorption by the food
  • Contains resveratrol, a heart healthy antioxidant thats also in wine
  • Mild, neutral flavor
  • Fat Breakdown: 32% polyunsaturated fat, 46% monounsaturated fat and 17% saturated fat

Coconut Oil

  • High in saturated fat but new research is trying to show that it’s a different type of saturated fat that may be less harmful. This is still under debate so until the research comes out use sparingly.
  • A great substitue for butter if you are baking vegan as it solidifies at room temp.
  • Fat Breakdown: 2% polyunsaturated fat, 6% monounsaturated fat and 86% saturated fat

While not an oil, I wanted to show you butters fat brekadown for comparison: 4%polyunsaturated fat, 28% monounsaturated fats and ~68% saturated fat

Note: The fat breakdown of oils will vary slightly. Numbers for this article were taken from Cooking Light March 2012 “Time for an Oil Change?” article

Nutrition Tips for Pregnancy

I have come upon the next stage of life when nutrition is not only important for me but also for the baby that I’m carrying. I’m currently 34 1/2 weeks pregnant with my first child and being a dietitian nutrition has been very important to me during this pregnancy. You may think this means I never indulge but that’s not true. Those who know me know my favorite thing to preach is “everything is okay in moderation.” So, yes I have cravings and while some have been healthy, celery, clementines and any other type of cold fresh fruit like pineapple and berries, some have been less healthy like my constant desire for desserts – and not the usually little dish of ice cream I want a cookie, cake or brownie.  It can be tough to manage the healthy and non healthy cravings and still make sure you get all the extra nutrients you need while you’re expecting. The extra pressure to have good nutrition for you and your little one shouldn’t cause added stress. Here are a few tips that I found helpful to guarantee a healthy diet during pregnancy.

Be familiar with what your body needs

It’s true women need more calories during pregnancy but they are not “eating for two.” Your calorie requirements increase by ~300 calories per day during your second and third trimester (notice that it doesn’t start right away). Not only do you need more calories but your body also needs more protein, folic acid, calcium, iron and Vitamin C. While it’s important to get nutrients from our diet it is also recommended to take a Prenatal Multivitamin everyday if you are trying to get pregnant, pregnant or plan to try soon.

  • Sources of Protein: Meat, fish, beans, tofu, nuts, dairy products (Try to consume 75-100 grams of protein per day)
  • Sources of Folic Acid: Green leafy vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains
  • Sources of Calcium: Milk, pasteurized cheese, yogurt, tofu, almonds, salmon, eggs
  • Sources of Iron: Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beef, seafood and poultry
  • Sources of Vitamin C: Citrus fruit, mangoes, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers

Know the foods to avoid during pregnancy

The reasons to avoid these foods are because of the risk of food borne illness which in some cases can be fatal to a fetus.

  • Avoid unpasteurized eggs and dairy (milk and cheeses), raw shellfish or sushi with raw fish in it
  • Also, it is advised to avoid shark, swordfish, mackerel and tile fish as these are fish that tend to be very high in mercury. See my post on Mercury in Fish for more details on the amount of mercury in specific fish you enjoy.
  • Most practitioners also encourage avoiding cold lunch meats, hot dogs, soft cheeses, refrigerated meat spreads and smoked seafood (unless they are reheated to 160 degrees). This is because they can carry a bacteria called Listeria that women are more susceptible to get sick from when pregnant. Listeria puts your baby at risk of a premature birth, miscarriage or death
  • Lastly, pregnant women should avoid alcoholic beverages

Focus on the delicious foods that are great for you and the baby

I have been happily surprised to find that my taste buds are heightened pregnant so food has an even more appealing taste. I can see why pregnant women enjoy eating so much! One of the foods that has an increased appeal has been fruit.

  • Try to aim for what your body needs: 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables. I have found fresh berries and sliced pineapple delicious. I can’t stop myself from eating a whole bowl if they are cut up. I also add dried cherries to my oatmeal and salad. At first vegetables didn’t sound as appealing but once I approached the second trimester my love for them returned and with the warmer weather we have been grilling peppers, mushrooms, onions and zucchini for dinner constantly.
  • Consume Omega 3’s rich foods such as walnuts, flax seed or salmon. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA) “Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia and may increase birth weight and gestational weight.” Good food sources of these fatty acids are salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies. The APA also says that quality fish oil is safe to take during pregnancy. Ask your gynecologist about taking a fish oil supplement and how much they recommend.

Indulge but not at every meal

I’ve never been a juice drinker but since I’ve become pregnant I’ve craved Simply Grapefruit Juice. It’s 100% grapefruit with no additives. This doesn’t mean I sit down with a huge cup though. I pour myself a 4 ounce glass with breakfast when it’s on hand (4 ounces of 100% juice = 1 serving of fruit). I figure the craving was my body’s way of telling me I need more Vitamin C and it’s a very healthy way to get it. I also mentioned dessert. Yes, I eat a lot more dessert now but I’ve made sure my weight gain has stayed in the recommended range for my pregnancy and I try to limit it to once a day and not all day.

Continue with light exercise

This will be good for you and your baby and according to my practitioner will help during childbirth. Discuss what you can do with your doctor. I’ve enjoyed walking and prenatal yoga throughout my pregnancy thus far. It feels good to move and stretch as my body is growing. Another great exercise would be to spend some time in a pool if you have access to one at a gym.

Getting ready for your glucose tolerance test and unsure what to eat?

You can still eat a meal in the morning before the test but try to have something rich in protein and not too high in carbohydrates. Here are a few options:

  • 1 piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a glass of milk
  • 1 or 2 eggs with 1-2 pieces of whole grain toast

Have another question regarding nutrition and pregnancy? If so, post a comment and I’ll address it (or attempt to).


Antioxidant Rich Foods

I have a handout of the top 20 antioxidant rich foods at work and have been meaning to post about it. The list was put together by nutritionists with the USDA who examined the antioxidant levels of more than 100 different fruits, vegetables, spices, cereal and more. The information was published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in 2004 (goes to show how long I’ve been procrastinating this post).

While a lot of people will pay a fortune for the new “fad” food or “miracle berry” a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans will give you the antioxidant your bodies craving.  The best news is you don’t have to spend $40-120 for those “fancy” juices to get your antioxidants, just head to the supermarket. What else makes me happy is that four different beans made the list, a nut and a ton of delicious fruits that I love! So, what should you eat? The answer, a balance of the foods listed below and other plant base nutrient rich foods. While this list ranks foods by antioxidant content per serving it doesn’t directly correlate to each foods overall health benefits so use it as a guide but don’t limit yourself to it. So many other vegetables like kale, spinach, tomatoes and bell peppers, just to name a few, are loaded with nutrients too even though they don’t show up below.

As for the 2004 list cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries were ranked highest among the fruits studied. Beans, artichokes, and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables and pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts ranked highest in the nut category. As for spices: ground cloves, cinnamon, and oregano were the top three.

Top 20 Antioxidant Rich Foods According to the USDA (2004)

20. Gala apples -1
19. Plums – 1
18. Black beans (dried) – 1/2 cup
17. Russet potatoes (cooked) – 1
16. Black plums – 1
15. Sweet cherries – 1 cup
14. Pecans -1 ounce
13. Granny Smith apples – 1
12. Red delicious apples – 1
11. Strawberries – 1 cup
10. Raspberries – 1 cup
9. Prunes – 1/2 cup
8. Blackberries – 1 cup
7. Artichokes (cooked) – 1 cup hearts
6. Cranberries- 1 cup
5. Blueberries (cultivated)- 1 cup
4. Pinto beans- 1/2 cup
3. Red kidney beans – 1/2 cup
2. Blueberries (wild)- 1 cup
1. Small red beans (dried)- 1/2 cup

Glad to see the list but curious to know more about what antioxidants do for our body? Read on – I tried to keep it as simple as possible.

Antioxidants are substances that protect against oxidative damage to our cells caused by free radicals. First, it’s important to know that free radical damage is impossible to avoid. It can come from inside our bodies (stress, etc…) and outside our bodies (pollution, etc…). What we want to do is protect against what the free radicals do in excess in our bodies. Free radicals are unstable cells since they are missing an electron. They desperately want to be stable so they go around our body taking electrons away from healthy cells, which, in turn causes a chain reaction of more unstable free radical cell development. Luckily, in come antioxidants which act as a hero since they have extra electrons. They graciously give up an electron to the free radical cells in order to make them balanced and stable thus decreasing free radicals in our body which in turn decreases all sorts of damage to our bodies.

Gifts Ideas for a Healthy Kitchen!

If you’ve ever walked into a kitchen store you’ve probably seen kitchen gadgets and appliances on every wall. Having the tools to prepare healthy food is key in maintaining your waist line. Wondering which ones to start with. Today, I’m featuring a few of my favorite items and items I aspire to have. Just in time for  the holidays in case you still needed a gift idea for that hard to buy person or are thinking ahead for great wedding shower/gift ideas for someone starting their kitchen collection. As you will see they range in price.


This fancy blender is known for being the creme dela creme in the cooking world. It can make amazing pureed soups and blend ANYTHING. From my friends that have it nothing compares. It would be great for a new mom to make baby food or for someone trying to follow a healthy diet. It can process whole foods and is used in many restaurants nationwide.

Magic Bullet

This mini blender is great for smoothies and dressing and is very convenient for an on the go person. It is available at many stores for a great price. I use mine year round and love how easy it can chop ice and frozen fruit. It makes getting my fruit intake in easy all winter and it’s great for a breakfast on the go. Just as seen on TV it’s that simple. I have official become a smoothie fanatic thanks to this amazing gadget. Great for families, college students and people cooking for one.
$50 at Target or

Microplane Zester & Citrus Press

Wondering how you can add more flavor without fat? Think citrus. Citrus zest and juice can add extra flavor to dressings, sides and lean proteins. The microplane zester is also great for adding shaved cheese or garlic to dishes and could also be used to shave chocolate. This is my favorite kitchen gadget and a great gift for any new or seasoned chef
Zester: ~$14 at Target or or $15.95 at Crate and Barrel
Citrus Press: $16.95 Crate and Barrel

Pampered Chef Measure, Mix and Pour Salad Dressing holder

While many companies have salad dressing holders I love Pampered Chefs because they give recipes on the outside for people who are new to making dressings. This product is always in use at our house with a homemade vinaigrette dressing ready for salads or marinating. It’s a great way to cut the additives and salt in dressings.
$12 Pampered Chef

Garlic Press

I know I already told you my favorite gadget it the mircoplane but I may have to correct myself and say that is tied with my garlic press. Another great way to add flavor to dishes without adding more butter or oil is using garlic or fresh herbs. While I love garlic I’ve always hated peeling and dicing the little cloves. Besides how long it take your hands smell after. Not anymore. This Pampered Chef garlic press lets you put the clove in unpeeled and the outcome is minced garlic. So, go in your cupboard and toss out your can of minced garlic and get the real stuff with more flavor and less pickling.
$16.50 at Pampered Chef

Food Scale

If you’ve never been good at eyeballing portion sizes or know someone who struggles having appropriate portions at their meals a food scale is the perfect item for their kitchen. This will eliminate any room for error. These vary in style from just showing the weight in grams or ounces to having more nutritional information available with the scale as well.
Perfect Portion Digital Food Scale: $49.99 at Target

Fighting Fruit Fatigue

You may remember I talked about fruit fatigue at the beginning of the month in my choose cherries post. Well today I discussed ways to fight fruit fatigue on Twin Cities Live. Try new ways to to eat fruit instead of only eating apples, bananas, oranges and watermelon. Many fruits are available year round in dried, juice, frozen or canned forms. The recommended amount of fruit for adults is 1-2 cups per day. Only one if 5 Americans are getting enough fruit each day, are you? I hope so and if not read on for some great ways to increase your fruit intake for a long, healthy life.

I showed viewers ways to cook with dried cherries, tart cherry juice, pears, grapefruits and grapefruit juice! I was also lucky enough to be accompanied by my cousin Jess who took so many lovely pictures during the segment.  Check out the finished dishes below (recipes linked at the bottom). I highly recommend the cherry chili for a delicious warm winter dish, the smoothie for breakfast or a snack, the baked brie as a Christmas party appetizer, the salad as a dinner party starter, the grapefruit slaw served with tilapia or cod and the ginger grapefruit spritzer as a party cocktail!

Prepping the food before the show
Cherry Chili and the Yogurt Cherry Smoothie ingredients ready to make live
Candied Walnut, Pear and Leafy Green Salad and Baked Brie en Crout with Pears
Grapefruit Slaw and Ginger Grapefruit Spritzers

Twin Cities Live Segment: Fruit Fatigue Link

Recipe Links

Cherry Chili
Cherry Yogurt Smoothie
Candied Walnut, Pear and Leafy Green Salad – try topping with goat cheese
Brie en Croute with Pears – I used croissants in place of the frozen pastry puff
Grapefruit Slaw – I topped it with grated fresh ginger
Ginger Grapefruit Spritzer

A Gluten Free, Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Have you ever hosted a dinner party for friends or family members that have food restrictions you aren’t used to you and you can’t think of what to make? Most people have been there as I have and if you said no to this question don’t think it won’t happen as Gluten Free diets and allergies are on the rise.

Take my Aunt Nancy’s Thanksgiving challenge this year. Please two men who like meat, a vegetarian daughter, a daughter with Celiacs who is strictly gluten free and isn’t a huge meat eater and her own cravings. Sounds like a lot; I agree. The good thing is she owns a ton of cook books, is well read and loves to explore new recipes which means her meal will still rock the house! Her menu will inspire you to think outside the box for your holiday meal this year and remind you to include everyone, even those with food restrictions.

The Reeves/Postorino Gluten Free Thanksgiving Menu

For the Vegetarian

  • Triple-Corn Spoon Bread -A Cornbread Casserole that you can make with gluten free cornbread (a tradition in the Reeves household) Source: Cooking Light November 1997
  • Gravy: Using gluten free baking mix (see below pie recipe for this) to make a roux. Once that’s cooked, add vegetable broth and season appropriately to finish it.  This will likely be a little thinner that gravy made with flour
  • Gluten Free Stuffing- My AUnt plans to make one of the rice recipes from this link: 5 Gluten Free Stuffing Recipes from the NY Times
  • Mashed Sweet and White Potatoes (mixed together- a great combination for those who haven’t tried it)
  • Roasted Parsnips, Carrots and Onions
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Pumpkin Pie with Gluten free pie crust (see recipe below)

For the Gluten Free

  • Same as above + Turkey

For the rest

  • All of the above + Rolls
My Aunt tested the pie crust this weekend and here is her advise.  Roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper sprinkled with gluten free baking mix. The crusts were crumbly when they were warm but they firmed up nicely overnight. Overall, she said they passed the test although my Uncle thought they were more sweet than regular crusts (likely from the sugar that’s added to the mix). Either of the below gluten free baking mixes will work, one requires a food scale and the other uses standard kitchen measuring devices.
Gluten Free Pie Crust
2.5 C gluten free mix (see below)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar (optional; use if making a sweet/dessert pie)
8 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6 T shortening
4-6 T ice water
-Combine dry ingredients.  Add butter and shortening and cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add ice water, 1-2 T at a time until the dough can be formed into a ball.  Divide dough in half.  Flatten each half into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Can also be frozen.
-To make crust, roll out between two pieces of parchment paper.   Add filling of your choice and bake (at time/temp as per pie filling).

Gluten Free Baking Mix 1

From the New York Times
2 C oat flour
2 C brown rice flour
2 C sorghum flour
5 T corn flour or corn meal
1 C potato starch
1 C arrowroot powder
Store in dry sealed container.  Use in place of regular flour.

Gluten Free Baking Mix 2

200 gm brown rice flour
150 gm sorghum flour
50 gm potato flour
250 gm sweet rice flour
150 gm potato starch
100 gm arrowroot flour
100 gm cornstarch
Store in dry sealed container.  Use in place of regular flour.
Comments and debriefing from my family to follow post-Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Food Fact: The average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 this year is $49.20 which is up 13% from last year according to the American Farm Bureau Federation

Healthy Soups

I am presenting my first cooking segment on Twin Cities Live tomorrow, Wednesday October 12th. I’m going to make two of the soups I’ve blogged about before: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup and Spicy Tuscan Soup.

People often think of soup and picture cream based options. While these may taste good they are high in fat and calories. I’m going to show broth based soups that are healthy but still flavorful.

Tips for Making Healthy Soup

  • Use water or low sodium broths as your base
  • Try adding a small amount of skim milk or 1% milk to soup to add creaminess without much fat
  • Start with onions, garlic, carrots and/or celery to get lots of flavor without calories
  • Think fresh herbs and spices for added taste instead of loads of salt
  • Choose lean meats. Try making chicken chili or choose a lean ground beef or ground turkey breast (make sure it says turkey breast otherwise the turkey may contain some of the skin and not all breast meat)
  • Load up on vegetables: zucchini, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, corn, peppers, kale and beans are great additives to soup
  • When adding beans, look for low sodium varieties. If these aren’t available drain your beans in a strainer and run cold water over them for a minute to wash off some of the sodium


Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Source: Barefoot Contessa

-To make this recipe healthier I use olive oil to sautee the onions instead of butter and I use a low sodium chicken broth (I’ve also made it with vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
-Don’t have a food mill, don’t worry. I used a food processor to blend the tomatoes and basil in the end. An immersion blender would also work. 


Spicy Tuscan Soup 

Adapted from Zuppa Toscana, Olive Garden


  •  2 medium russet potatoes (or 3 small ones)
  • ½ small white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of Spicy Italian Sausage (in bulk, not with casein) or for you can substitute ground turkey breast and add extra crushed red pepper or for a Vegetarian soup use meatless crumbles instead of sausage
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 ½ cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • ½ cup milk (I used skim but use whatever you have in your house)
  • 4 cups chopped Kale (ripped off the vein)
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes


1. Poke holes in the baked potatoes and microwave them for 6-8 minutes (until tender). Set aside to cool.
2. Heat dutch oven to medium high and add onion and sausage to the pan. Cook 5 minutes then add garlic and continue to cook until meat is brown
3. While the meat is cooking rinse and chop the Kale and peel and dice the potatoes
4. Add broth and milk to the onions and meat once the meat is brown
5. Add kale, garbanzo beans, salt and crushed red pepper flakes
6. Simmer for 30 minutes and serve.


My hospitals organization, HealthPartners, has launched a new healthy campaign called YumPower. I am excited to be a part of an organization that promotes healthy living to their employees but also provides employees and community members with the tools they needs to practice living healthy on a daily basis. For those of you not from Minnesota or who haven’t heard of YumPower it’s a website with tools to help people eat better and teach people to look at food in a fresh new way. You can sign up to a get a weekly healthy eating text or check out their site this fall for cooking videos, a phone app, recipes and healthy tips for eating healthy in or out.

To help promote the new campaign they are hosting a cooking contest. The criteria state they are looking for a recipe that contains at least two fruits and/or vegetables, are creative and delicious, are quick and easy to make and if possible only use whole grains, lean meat and healthy fats (aka no trans fat please).

I can already think of some of my favorite dishes that would work for the contest and I encourage you to submit some of your healthy recipes. Often times we don’t give ourselves credit for the baked chicken we whipped up with whole grains even though it’s tasty enough to fit in a cook book. The best part is, celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern will be judging the top five finalists recipes in a cook-off.

I’d love to hear the recipes you submit. Share them on my blog or email me separately! Good luck

Serving size vs Portion size

While many Americans use the words serving size and portion size the same way they actually have different meanings. A serving size is the portion that is recommended by the USDA as a serving of that food group, whereas a portion size is the amount we actually choose to eat. A portion size can be more or less than the actual serving size and has history has shown our portion sizes tend to be too larger. Nearly 34% of American adults are obese which has tripled in the past 30 years. Even more scary 17% of children are now categorized as obese.

Want to see how our portion sizes measure out? What my Twin Cities Live Clip from yesterday.  Also, see what standard serving sizes measure out to and how to visualize that on your plate.

  • Chopped Vegetable: 1/2 cup –> Looks like 1/2 baseball or a rounded handful for adults
  • Raw Leafy Vegetables (salad, kale, spinach, etc..): 1 cup
  • Fresh Fruit: 1 medium piece or 1/2 cup chopped for other fruits –> Looks like the size of a baseball or 1/2 baseball if chopped
  • Dried Fruit: 1/4 cup –> Looks like the size of a baseball
  • Cooked pasta, rice or hot cereal: 1/2 cup –> Looks like 1/2 baseball or a rounded handful for adults
  • Potato: 1 small –> Looks like the size of a computer mouse
  • Meat: 3 ounces (boneless, cooked, ~4 ounce raw) –> Looks like a deck of cards
  • Dried Beans: 1/2 cup cooked  –> Looks like 1/2 baseball or a rounded handful for adults
  • Nuts: 1/3 cup
  • Cheese: 1 1/2 ounces (2 ounces if processed) –> Looks like 4 dice
  • Butter, Oils: 1 tsp –> Looks like 1 dice
  • Peanut Butter: 2 Tbsp
  • Bagel: 1/2 small –> Looks like 1/2 a hockey puck
The new MyPlate website has recommended amounts of each food group that we should consume based on age. For a personalized list of how much of each food group you should consume go their webpage.

Gluten Free Diets: Facts vs Fabrications

Gluten free diets are all the rage these days. According to a report from packaged Facts, the gluten free food and drink market had a 30% growth rate from 2006 to 2010 reaching $2.6 billion in retail sales last year. They also mention that the products are often consumed by people who do not suffer gluten intolerance. I’m sure you know someone who avoids gluten in their diet or have heard this topic discussed by celebrities. To think 10 years back barely anyone was talking about this protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  The fact that gluten free diets have become more popular is apparent at grocery stores and on restaurant menus and the growing population of these foods available at stores is staring to make consumers wonder if they too should be avoiding gluten. While there is a real need for gluten free diets and the awareness has helped those people who have to medically avoid it, there is also a lot more for people to learn about gluten before following the trend.

Most people who require a gluten free diet have a disease called Celiacs and when gluten is consumed it causes and immune reaction that destroys the vili that line our small intestines which leads to symptoms and possibly malabsorption. There are also another group of people who avoid gluten because of an intolerance causing symptoms after digestion. I do see some benefit to avoiding  gluten for those people who have family members with Celiacs who are asymptomatic but carry the antibodies. But, for the rest of the population who haven’t had issues eating gluten for years why cut it out?

Fact, false or fabrication of Gluten Free diets for people without Celiacs or intolerance

Gluten free diets lead to weight loss: Fabricated

The idea that gluten itself will lead to weight loss has never been scientifically proven for people who don’t have Celiacs or a gluten intolerance/sensitivity. Yes, people who cut out gluten may eat less cakes, cookies, crackers, breads and sweets if they don’t go looking for the gluten free version, but the weight loss that would accompany this would be from a loss of calories not from the digestion of gluten itself.

Gluten Free diets will give give you more energy: Fabricated

Often times when people go gluten free they cut out a lot of processed foods and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Having more fresh foods in your diet vs processed will often give your body more energy since the foods being consumed are needed by the body not in excess. This can occur for anyone weather they eat gluten or not if they being to follow  more well balanced, healthy diet.

Gluten Free diets are healthier for everyone: False

Eliminating gluten from your diet can lead to eating less fortified and enriched food and if not done properly can lead to iron, calcium, thiamine or folate deficiencies. In addition, if a gluten free diet is being followed and a person isn’t eating the required servings of fruits and vegetables they be lacking on fiber intake.

Facts about gluten intolerance

(from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinalsee link)

• Prevalence of gluten intolerance for average, healthy people is 1 in 133
• Prevalence for people with first-degree relatives (parent, child, sibling) who are celiac is1 in 22;
• Prevalence for people with second-degree relatives (aunt, uncle, cousin) who are celiac is 1 in 39.
• Celiac disease affects at least 3 million Americans.
• A significant number of people with celiac disease – 60% of children and 41% of adults, according to one study – do not exhibit any symptoms, which include but are not limited to diarrhea or constipation.
• The average length of time it takes for a person with symptoms to be diagnosed with celiac disease in the United States is four years.
• Once diagnosed, gluten intolerance is for life, and the only treatment is elimination of gluten from the diet
• Gluten intolerance is not the same thing as wheat allergy or gluten sensitivity, neither of which is an autoimmune disorder. There is currently no diagnostic test for gluten sensitivity, though researchers, including those at the Celiac Disease Center in Chicago, are working to develop one.
• Celiac disease and type 1 diabetes often run together. There is about an 8% to 10% overlap. Some research suggests that untreated celiac disease might even cause type 1 diabetes, she said.
• Upon diagnosis, people with gluten intolerance are often intolerant of milk. With healing of the intestinal surface, the lactose intolerance often goes away.

So what should you do if you feel you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. See your doctor and get screened and assessed for Celiacs. I recommend doing this before cutting out gluten on your own as cutting it out can make it very hard to go back to a diet with gluten in it again and the change requires a lot of dedication and label reading.

Eating Healthy on the Road

Eating healthy on the road can be done! If you prepare ahead of time and pack healthy snacks you can save money and make eating healthy more convenient and easy. Below I listed some foods rich in fiber and/or protein that you can pack for a trip to help fill you up. If you prefer to make a pit stop at a fast food restaurant or gas station and aren’t sure what to buy then check out my mini section of what to choose. First, make sure to stop before you reach the point of starvation when the inhibitions to eat unhealthy go down and any food sounds good to eat.

Healthy Foods to Pack in a Cooler

  • Sandwiches on whole grain bread
  • Yogurt
  • String Cheese
  • Cut up Vegetables or baby carrots
  • Fruit: orange slices or berries

Things You Can Bring with that Don’t Require Refrigeration

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Fruit: Bananas, apples
  • Almonds, Walnuts, Peanuts or other nuts
  • Trail mix (watch your portion size, you may want to buy the pre-portioned single servings to make sure you don’t over indulge)
  • Whole grain crackers (watch your portion of snack foods in a large container as it is easy to eat more than one serving at a time)
  • Oatmeal packets: you can almost always find somewhere to get hot water

What to Choose if you are Eating out on the Road

  • Choose calorie free beverages. Reach for water when you are thirsty. Energy drinks, juice and soda and some coffee drinks like iced mochas add a lot of sugar and calories to your daily intake.
  • If you are at the airport a lot of times a coffee shop or food stand will have some healthy options for travelers.

Twin Cities Live’s Fast Food Eat This, Not That


Eat This

  • Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken= 320 calories, 9g Fat,  960mg Sodium
  • Newman’s Own Creamy Southwest Dressing (100 calories, 6g Fat, 340mg sodium)

Not That

  • Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken= 430 calories, 20g Fat, 920mg Sodium
  • Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing (170 calories, 15g Fat, 530mg sodium)

Save 180 calories, 20 grams of fat

Eat This

  • Hamburger= 250 calories, 9g Fat, 520mg Sodium

Not This

  • Angus Bacon & Cheese= 790 calories, 39 g Fat, 2070mg sodium

Save 540 calories, 30 grams Fat, 1550mg sodium

Eat This

  • Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait (7 ounces) = 160 calories, 2g Fat, 85mg sodium

Not This

  • Hot Carmel Sunday= 340 calories, 8g Fat, 160mg sodium

Save 180 calories, 6 grams Fat, 75mg sodium

Eat This
  • Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap= 260 calories, 9g Fat, 800mg sodium
Not This
  • Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich= 620 calories, 29g Fat, 1200mg sodium
Save 360 calories, 20 grams Fat, 400mg sodium


Eat This

  • Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki 6’’ sub = 380 calories, 4.5g Fat, 900mg sodium

Not That

  • Chicken and Bacon Ranch 6’’ Sub = 570 calories, 28g Fat, 1080mg sodium

Save 190 calories, 23.5 grams Fat, 180mg sodium

Eat This

  • Chicken Tortilla Soup (10 ounces) = 110 calories, 1.5g Fat, 440mg sodium

Not That

  • Chili Con Carne Soup (10 ounces)  = 240 calories, 11g Fat, 950mg sodium

Save 130 calories, 9.5 grams Fat, 510mg sodium

Eat This

  • Roast Beef 6’’ Sub = 320 calories, 5g Fat, 700mg sodium

Not That

  • Big Philly Cheesesteak 6’’ Sub = 520 calories, 18g Fat,  1370mg sodium

Save 200 calories, 13 grams Fat, 670mg sodium


Eat This

  • Grilled Chicken Go Wrap = 260 calories, 10 grams fat, 730mg sodium

Not That

  • Asiago Ranch Club with Spicy Chicken = 670 calories, 34g Fat, 1830mg sodium

Save 410 calories, 24 grams Fat, 1100mg sodium

Eat This

  • Small Chocolate Frosty = 260 calories, 6g Fat, 115mg sodium

Not That

  • Small Carmel Frosty Shake = 680 calories, 15g Fat, 330mg sodium

Save 420 calories, 9 grams of fat, 215 calories

Eat This

  • Sour Cream and Chives Baked Potato = 320 calories, 3.5g Fat, 50mg sodium

Not That

  • Medium Natural-Cut Fries = 420 calories, 21g Fat, 460mg sodium

Save 100 calories, 17.5 grams of Fat, 410mg sodium

Other Tips to Help You Be Healthier on Vacation

  • Start out with a breakfast that isn’t all carbohydrates
  • If you are headed on a trip where you know you will be eating out for most or all of your meals then balance your day. If you are planning to go out to a fancy dinner that night then eat a light breakfast and lunch. Avoid ordering dessert every night. Or if you are doing a big breakfast one day then think small and simple for lunch and dinner that day.
  • Share meals at restaurants that offer large portion sizes. Since most of the time when you are on the road you don’t have a refrigerator it is a great way to stay leftover free.
  • Explore your destination on foot. Ask at your hotel about places within walking distance or other scenic things near by you could visit on foot.
  • Think of activities that aren’t all sedentary. Think of renting bikes, going for a swim or walk on the beach.

The USDA Unveils MyPlate

You’ve probably heard by now that the USDA Food Guide Pyramid has officially been retired and replaced with MyPlate. Like many dietitians I’ve spoken with I am very excited about the new USDA MyPlate.
Using a plate for meal planning is nothing new in the nutrition world. Many methods we use for educating patients with diabetes or for disease prevention are already using plates. Take the American Institute for Cancer Research for example. They promote “The New American Plate,” which recommends 2/3 of our plate’s be filled with plant based foods and 1/3 dairy and milk products. The good thing is now the USDA’s My Plate correlates with these methods, which syncs and simplifies the message we are sending to consumers about healthy eating. In addition, the new MyPlate will be a great teaching tool for the public, especially kids, since it is easy to practice and apply to the way we eat.
A few changes were made to the USDA recommendations besides the shape. First, the former meat and beans group is now displayed as the protein group. Next, they changed the milk group to the dairy group and lastly they no longer display the fat group on their visual. The new group names are more inclusive and recognizable and make the overall look of the plate simple and neat. The elimination of fat on the plate is not to say that we don’t need essential fats but more to show us that we don’t need to make room for fat on our plate at each meal. Most Americans following a healthy diet get enough essential fats from natural foods such as nuts and fish. In addition, fat is often part of our plate from cooking our food in oils or from added fats like salad dressings.
There are a few main points made on the USDA’s MyPlate website but the two I I was happy to see are the things we should all focus on to consume healthy meals: choosing appropriate portion sizes and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.  As the website states: “Enjoy your food, but eat less.” In addition, they recommend a lot of other important tips like watching the sodium content of food, choosing water, making half your grains whole grains and choosing skim or 1% milk.
Overall, it’s a great change but making the meals will still require a lot of effort. Luckily it summer and fruits and vegetables are readily available for us to start practicing!

Frozen Entrees

We have all had days when cooking is the last thing on our mind and we are scrambling for something quick to eat that doesn’t throw off our healthy eating. My husband and I always have a few frozen Kashi and Amy’s meals on hand for the mornings we don’t have time to make a lunch (or the nights he’s traveling and I’m too lazy to cook for one). While frozen meals are quick and easy options for lunch they can also be loaded in fat and sodium so reading the food label becomes a must. It can be hard to know which packages are healthy options and which ones to stay away from.  Before you decide to go out for lunch read on to see some healthy frozen meal options and my recommendations for choosing healthy frozen meals. You may not be able to meet all the recommendations so prioritize what means the most to you.

Recommendations for choosing healthy frozen meals

  • 300-500 calories
  • 10-17 grams of total fat or less (or 30% of total calories from fat or less).
  • No trans fat and if possible low in saturated fat
  • Less than 600 milligrams of sodium
  • 4 grams or more of fiber
  • 10 grams or more of protein
*Another thing to think about when choosing a frozen meal is will it fill you up. Some meals have larger serving sizes than others. If you choose a favorite dish that has a smaller serving size you may want to add more vegetables, beans or chopped nuts to the top for increased protein. You could also pack a piece of fruit and yogurt to go with it.
Helpful hint in browsing the freezer section:Look for packages that use whole grains or say “double the veggies” as a start.

A Few Good Single Serving Frozen Meal Choices

  • Kashi-Lemongrass Coconut Chicken
  • 300 calories, 8g of fat, 680mg Sodium, 7g fiber, 18g Protein — meets all recs but sodium
  • Kashi-Black Bean Mango (vegan option)
  • 340 calories, 8g Fat, 380mg sodium, 8g Protein, 7g Fiber — meets all recs but protein
  • Lean Cuisine Spa Cuisines -Chicken in Peanut Sauce (uses whole grain noodles)
  • 280 calories, 6g Fat, 550mg sodium, 21g Protein, 5g Fiber — meets all recs & no artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Healthy Choices -Asian Beef Terriyaki
  • 290 calories, 5g Fat, 570 mg sodium, 16g Protein, 3g Fiber — meets all recs but fiber
  • Smart One- Thai Style Chicken Rice Noodles
  • 260 calories, 4g fat, 570mg sodium, 14g Protein, 2g fiber — meets all recs but fiber
  • Amy’s- Light in Sodium Indian Mattar Paneer (organic vegetarian option)
  • 370 calories, 11g fat, 330mg sodium, 13g Protein, 6g Fiber — meets all recs
  • Amy’s- Light and Lean Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas (vegetarian option)
  • 240 calories, 4.5g Fat, 480mg sodium, 8g protein, 4g Fiber –meets all recs

Interested in finding healthy frozen family sized meals that taste good too? Watch Twin Cities Live today, May 26th at 3pm on Channel 5 to see a few healthy and non-healthy family frozen meals and what the experts thought of the taste!



People assume I know how to cook everything since I spend a lot of time in the kitchen but to there surprise I’m just like everyone else and I have so many foods I have yet to try and so many more to master. I’m still nervous cooking new foods especially things like lamb and tofu. These are both foods I love to order when I go out to eat but making them at home is very intimidating.

Tofu is my favorite addition to Asian dishes. I  love the texture and way it picks up the flavor in whatever sauce you add it to.  It’s also a great protein substitute for vegetarians, vegans or people who have trouble chewing meat.

Earlier this month my husband was traveling for work and I had time and no critiquing audience to try to prepare tofu on my own (two musts for a new food item). There are three main types of tofu available (firm, extra firm and silken).Not knowing what to buy I went with a firm tofu from Trader Joe’s. I was lucky because my check out clerk saw it and gave me some tips on her favorite way to prepare it.  Since I was a new tofu cook I went with her suggestions. I was told to first cover it in paper town and a plate to get all the water out (I ended up doing this a few times until the tofu felt dry) and then cook it in a pan without oil. I was worried it would stick but just like she told me it didn’t. I cooked it on each side until slightly browned and then tossed it with brown rice, broccoli, snap peas and soyaki sauce. To my excitement my whipped up meal of the vegetables left in the fridge, brown rice and tofu was tasty, simple and a definite remake for when my husband is here (finished dish pictured). I’m happy I tackled my first encounter with cooking tofu. Just like anything with cooking the more I prepare and cook it the more creative and confident I am with it.

Tofu’s Health benefits

  • Rich source of isoflavones (may help reduce the risk of cancer and osteoporosis)
  • lean protein source (low in fat and calories and cholesterol free)
  • good calcium source
  • 1/2 cup of tofu (~4 ounces) contains ~94 calories (4 ounces of ground beef is ~330 calories), 10 grams of protein and 227mg calcium

I’m ready to try more tofu recipes. Any suggestions? (Aunt Nancy I’m sure you have some good ones)

Vegetable and Herb Garden

This is a long overdue email but I’ve been busy in the yard weeding and planting my garden. One of the best perks of home ownership and a yard is the ability to have a garden. This is the second year I’ve planted an herb and vegetable garden. With all the imported and shipped vegetables at grocery stores you never know how many miles they’ve traveled before they reach your kitchen.  I love being able to go in the backyard to get herbs or fresh vegetables and know they only traveled a few yards before we eat them. It doesn’t get any closer than that.
The first thing to know about vegetables and gardening is ANYONE can do it! I’m not a gardening expert but I’ve learned a lot from family and friends and had a plethora of vegetables last year. A successful garden doesn’t have to come with experience. Trial and error along with water, sun and some TLC are the best ingredients for starting your own garden. If you don’t have a yard a good idea would be to get a pot for herbs or a tomato plant. We cleared the space for our vegetable garden last year from a preexisting bed of hosta flowers. After much work removing the hostas and sharing them with neighbors and friends my mom graciously helped me till the space with shovels and mix in peat moss.  My husband finished it off with the toughest job; digging a trench for a fence to keep our dog and neighborhood rabbits out.
Last summer we had great results with: kale, green beans (although the rabbits ate them all before we did), spring lettuce, cilantro, yellow squash and zucchini from seeds. We also had great outcomes with bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, basil, rosemary and oregano that we bought as plants. On the other hand our snap peas, onions, eggplant and cucumbers didn’t do well.
This summer I decided to keep a lot of the vegetables that grew well and we love such as: kale, peppers (habanero, jalapeno, banana and bell), green beans, zucchini and tomatoes. I also decided to try arugula, butter lettuce, one last shot at  cucumbers and expand our herbs to basil, oregano, dill, sage, mint, rosemary and a row of cilantro. After wishing I had more than 8 tomato plants last summer (we had no trouble eating them) we went up to 12 plants this year. That means we will have an endless supply of homemade salsa (likely spicy with the addition of our habanero peppers) and a few pots of  marinara sauce, tomato soup and tomato juice for Bloody Mary’s during football season.
I’m sure you will hear me talk about all the food I prepare this summer from my garden so stay tuned.If you are looking for more information on gardening check out some of the resources below:
American Institute of Cancer Research: When to Plant Foods that Fight Cancer
University of Minnesota-Extension: Planting the Vegetable Garden

Juice Boxes

As a lot of my friends begin their journeys into parenthood it’s a great time to talk about juice. We can all think back to our childhood days and having juice boxes at lunch, during sporting events or maybe at a picnic or party. Juice boxes were a rarity in my house but I always relished in the times we had them. Little did I realize the parent have to do all the hard work in figuring out what kind to buy.  While my husband would be shocked to hear me write about juice since I often say adults don’t need it (not that we can’t enjoy it) I do think it is a good option for kids when the right kind is bought and the right serving is poured. Juice lacks the fiber and nutrients of real fruit but it is still a good source of Vitamin C and a way for picky kids to get a serving of fruit (if you buy the 100% juices). Before you go crazy buying juice for your kids beware of some downsides to juice. First, drinking too much of it can cause children to get to full for meals and also load them up on calories. According to theAmericanAcademy of Pediatrics, drinking too much juice can lead to obesity, tooth decay or cavities, diarrhea or other GI issues such as bloating or gas. It’s important to know how much juice children should have each day. Most people agree that infants under six months of age are not recommended to have juice unless it is prescribed by a doctor to help with constipation. Once a child is six months old through the time they are six years of age juice should be limited to 4-6 ounces per day and not given to children in bottles or sippy cups. It’s best to give it at a meal or set snack so the kids don’t suck on it all day and cause more damage to their teeth. Older children should limit juice intake to 8-12 ounces or less per day and adults should limit their juice to 4-6 ounces per day. One way to make juice go farther is to dilute it with water. I also recommend buying “juice” glasses that range from 4-6 ounces to help with portion control. In addition to juice, another newer option on the market is coconut water. While my friends reminded this weekend that it isn’t cheap it is a good alternative to juice. It is lower in calories and sugar than juice and rich in electrolytes for rehydrating. Most products I’ve seen are 100% pure coconut water and have no other ingredients added. One Coconut water at Trader Joe’s (11 ounces) contained 60 calories.
Now, what to look for when picking out juices boxes for your kids. First, make sure you pick a juice that is made from 100% fruit juice. Next, take a peak at the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t have a lot of added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. I did some research on some of the main brands on the market and broke them down into three categories for you.

Good Name Brand Choices

Juicy Juice

  • All Juicy Juice products are 100% juice
  • All Natural, no high fructose corn syrup
  • 6.75 ounce slim juice boxes (apple) = 100 calories
  • 4.23 ounce fun size juice box (apple) = 60 calories

Juicy Juice Sparkling Fruit Juice

  • Lower in sugar (20 grams per can) than regular juicy juice
  • 1 can = ~8.26 ounces = 90 calories and 1 serving of fruit

Minute Maid

  • All natural, 100% juice
  • 1 juice box = 100 calories

Capri Sun 100% Juice Pouches

  • All natural, no artificial color, flavors or preservatives, 100% Juice
  • 1 pouch = 80 calories = 1 full serving of fruit

Next, Tier of choices

Not as good as the ones listed above but still better than some of the options on the market. While these products have added juice they don’t use high fructose corn syrup.

Capri Sun

  • Sugar added as second ingredient behind water and before juice

CapriSun 25% less sugar

  • Sugar is the second ingredient. Less sugar but not 100% fruit juice.1 pouch = 60 calories,  16g Sugar

CapriSun Sunrise

  • 2nd ingredients is sugar (before juice concentrates
  • 1 pouch = 60 calories

Juice Boxes I wouldn’t recommend

These juices used high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener and had more added sugar

Capri Sun  Roarin’ Waters

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup and splenda added
  • 1 pouch = 30 calories

Sunny D Orange Juice and blends

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup added to sweeten it. Listed as the second ingredient
  • 8 ounces = 100 calories


  • Use High Fructose Corn syrup and sugar to sweeten
  • Juice from concentrate
  • 1 bottle = 6.75 fluid ounces = 90 calories

Butter or Margarine???

What’s the better choice?

Since this is a common nutrition question I’m hoping I can debunk it for everyone. First, let’s remember that whichever you choose, margarine or butter, they are both fats so we want to use them sparingly.
Now to the answer. Like all things nutrition there isn’t a simple black or white answer since fats aren’t all created equal. Some are better for you than others. If you want the most natural form of fat then butter is your choice but it’s made from milk fat which means it’s higher in saturated fat and not good for our hearts in large quantities. If you are a butter lover and looking for a healthier version try whipped butter which is lighter from the added air. Or, try a butter and olive oil blend, like Land o Lakes Butter with Olive Oil which has 3g less saturated fat than regular butter.

If you have high cholesterol or want a more heart healthy, low calorie spread then margarine may be your choice. Margarine’s are made from vegetable oils and usually vegan. If you’ve ever walked through the margarine section of the grocery store you know there are lots of brands and all different phrases used to lure you in to buying a product. Even for me choosing which margarine to buy is a daunting task. The first thing to remember is to avoid the stick margarine’s as they usually contain trans fats which aren’t good for our heart. Once you make it to the margarine’s in a tub section pay attention to the nutrition facts labels. Choose one that is trans fat free such as Country Crock, Smart Balance or Promise. Next, think about what your health risks are. Are you overweight? If so, a “light” margarine may be your best choice since it cuts down the calories. Or maybe you have high LDL cholesterol. Benecol, Promise Activ and Smart Balance Heart Smart all contain plant sterols which are natural plant extracts that compete with the absorption of cholesterol and can result in a decrease of LDL cholesterol by up to 20%. My senior research paper was on plant sterols and after receiving a high LDL cholesterol read 3 years ago I tested this out by taking 2 grams of plant sterols each day for 3 months and my LDL went down by more than 10% and has stayed normal! Other margarine options on the market contain omega-3’s and flax seed oil which may be good to try if you don’t consume fish often.

So, the final answer. If you love butter use it sparingly or try a whipped or mixed blend to make it healthier. If you have heart health history in your family or are vegan go for a tub margarine. I keep them both on hand and use butter for baking, potatoes and a few other dishes, margarine for breads and olive oil for most things I saute.

Check out Twin Cities Live on channel 5 tomorrow, Monday April 25th @ 3pm. I’ll be on discussing this topic with the hosts John and Elizabeth and having them do a taste test of margarine vs butter on toast and baked in cookies! Do you think you’d be able to tell the difference?
(For my new readers I post all my TV segment on the right side under TCL segments after they air)

Nutrition Break Down per serving

                                                                                      Calories          Total Fat         Saturated Fat
  • Stick Butter                                                     100 kcal            11g Fat              7g Sat
  • Stick Margarine                                            100 kcal            11g Fat              2 g Sat + 2.5g trans fat
  • Land O Lakes Butter with Olive Oil          90kcal              10g Fat             4g Sat
  • Land O Lakes Whipped Butter                   50kcal               6g Fat               3.5g Sat
  • Promise Regular Spread                              80kcal               8g Fat               1.5g Sat
  • Promise Light Spread                                   45 kcal                5g Fat               1g Sat
  • Smart Balance Omega-3 Spread                80 kcal              8g Fat               2.5g Sat       (Contains EPA/DHA and ALA)
  • Country Crock Original                                 70 kcal              7g Fat               2 g Sat
  • Country Crock Light                                      50 kcal              5g Fat               1.5g Sat
  • Smart Balance Heart Right                         80 kcal              8g Fat               2.5g Sat       (Contains 1.7 grams Plant Sterols)
  • Smart Balance Heart Right Light             45 kcal              5g Fat               1.5g Sat fat   (Contains 1.7 grams Plant Sterols)
  • Promise Activ Spread                                    70 kcal              8g Fat               1 g Sat Fat   (Contains 1 gram Plant Sterols)
  • Promise Activ Spread Light                         45 kcal              5g Fat               1g Sat Fat     (Contains 1 gram Plant Sterols)

Easter Candy Calories

Easter is the second highest time of year for candy sales, behind Halloween, and my personal favorite time of year for candy choices! In my eyes everything from the egg and bunny shapes to the pastel colors and flavor choices outshine the Halloween options. Most of the popular Easter candies come in mini egg shapes that are lower in calories than larger chocolate bunnies but they are also easier to over indulge in. Another popular choice (the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy to be exact) are the cute marshmallow shaped Peeps which come in the form of Chicks, Bunnies or Eggs.

As I walked through the Easter candy aisle at Target a few weeks ago I was curious how the calories compared in some of these delicious treats so behold my Easter candy calorie list.

Chocolate Candy

  • 1 Large  Solid Milk Chocolate Rabbit (based on my calculations using the calories in small bunnies) 12 ounce = ~2000 calories
  • 5 Nestle Butterfinger Nest Eggs Easter = 210 calories
  • 12 Cadbury Chocolate Mini Eggs = 190 calories (My favorite)
  • 1 Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg= 190 calories
  • 12 Hershey’s Whoopers Robin Eggs Mini Malted Milk Candy = 190 calories
  • 5 Nestle Crunch nest eggs = 180 calories
  • 1 Cadbury Cream Egg =150 calories (My brothers favorite)
  • 1 Brach’s Chocolate covered marshmallow egg = 43 calories

Non-Chocolate Candy

  • One package of Peep’s Marshmallow Chicks = 150 calories
  • 35 assorted Jelly Belly’s = 140 calories
  • 4 Chicks, Ducks or Bunny sweet tarts = 60 calories
…by the way I went with the cream filled mini Cadbury Eggs but am still having regrets for not choosing the mini Cadbury eggs pictured above.

Mercury in Fish: How much fish is too much?

A coworker asked me a great question that prompted me to do some further research. Should I worry about the mercury in fish? First, the most serious threats are for pregnant women and children but still the answer isn’t clear. Yes, you should worry, but no eating fish isn’t dangerous. A lot of things factor into how much fish you should eat including what type of fish you’re eating and how much.

After  researching I learned some great guidelines for getting omega-3 rich proteins from fish without going overboard on mercury. The biggest thing I learned was that canned chunk light tuna contains less mercury than canned albacore tuna. I also learned that at my weight I can have a can of chunk light every 3 days (if I wanted).

Here is a great list of mercury levels in fish from the Natural Resource Defense Council. Their website also has great guidelines for eating tuna safely based on your weight.
Note: These guidelines are not for pregnant women, if you are pregnant I recommend going to The American Pregnancy Association for guidelines on what fish are safe to eat during your pregnancy.


Enjoy these fish:
Crab (Domestic)
Croaker (Atlantic)
Haddock (Atlantic)*
Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub)
Perch (Ocean)
Salmon (Canned)**
Salmon (Fresh)**
Shad (American)
Sole (Pacific)
Squid (Calamari)
Trout (Freshwater)


Eat six servings or less per month
Bass (Striped, Black)
Cod (Alaskan)*
Croaker (White Pacific)
Halibut (Atlantic)*
Halibut (Pacific)
Mahi Mahi
Perch (Freshwater)
Tuna (Canned
chunk light)
Tuna (Skipjack)*
Weakfish (Sea Trout)


Eat three servings or less per month
Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
Sea Bass (Chilean)*
Tuna (Canned Albacore)
Tuna (Yellowfin)*


Avoid eating
Mackerel (King)
Orange Roughy*
(Bigeye, Ahi)*
*Fish in Trouble! These fish are perilously low in numbers or are caught using environmentally destructive methods. To learn more, see the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute, both of which provide guides to fish to enjoy or avoid on the basis of environmental factors.
** Farmed Salmon may contain PCB’s, chemicals with serious long-term health effects.
Sources for NRDC’s guide: The data for this guide to mercury in fish comes from two federal agencies: the Food and Drug Administration, which tests fish for mercury, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which determines mercury levels that it considers safe for women of childbearing age.
About the mercury-level categories: The categories on the list (least mercury to highest mercury) are determined according to the following mercury levels in the flesh of tested fish.
  • Least mercury: Less than 0.09 parts per million
  • Moderate mercury: From 0.09 to 0.29 parts per million
  • High mercury: From 0.3 to 0.49 parts per million
  • Highest mercury: More than .5 parts per million

Food with Benefits

Ever wonder if your favorite food has unique benefits for your health? I took a look at some new and old research done on food with health benefits for Twin Cities Live. Take a look at what these foods may be doing to better your health.

Twin Cities Live Clip: Food with Benefits

Food to help prevent cavities: Raisins and Black Tea

  • Raisins are loaded with naturally-occurring chemicals (the strongest being oleanolic acid) that are powerful antibacterial agents which prevent plaque formation and, therefore, keep the apparition of cavities and tooth decay at bay.
  • Raisins natural chemical compounds  are very powerful antibacterial agents that can inhibit and destroy specific oral bacteria.
  • **Researchers concluded: “Raisins are perceived as sweet and sticky, and any food that contains sugar and is sticky is assumed to cause cavities. But our study suggests the contrary. Phytochemicals in raisins may benefit oral health by fighting bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.”

Food to help you sleep better: Peanut Butter Sandwich or Half a Turkey sandwich

  • A light snack before bed may help promote sleep. Eating a food rich in tryptophan along with a carbohydrate can help calms the brain and allows you to sleep better.
  • Tryptophan is an amino acid that plays a role in the repair of protein tissues and in creating new protein. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin in the brain and serotonin is a natural sleep-inducing chemical. It also enhances the brain’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that regulates your body’s natural inner clock.
  • **Good sources of tryptophan include turkey, peanuts, bananas, milk and soy milk.
  • **Remember not to overdue it on the calories before bed as this may cause better sleep paired with weight gain.

Food that can help decrease PMS symptoms: Spinach and Fortified Cereals

  • A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed women who ate more spinach and fortified cereal had about a quarter lower risk of PMS. The researches aren’t sure if this is from thiamine and riboflavin or if the women who ate more of these vitamins had other habits that helped decreased the symptoms. The women who got their B vitamins from supplements did not have the same results.
  • Either way it should prompt women to look at how much thiamine and riboflavin are in their diet.
  • Women who reported eating about 1.9 milligrams of thiamine per day were less likely to come down with PMS. The rates were the same for women who ate about 2.5 milligrams of riboflavin per day compared to women who ate around 1.4 milligrams per day. That’s about two to three bowls of fortified cereal, three quarters of a cup of dried beans, or about three ounces of red meat, for thiamine.

Food to help your Eyesight: Fish

  • A dietary analysis done by Harvard suggests women who ate fish regularly had a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • There preliminary data shows that fish oil, rich in Omega-3’s may not only prevent against cardiovascular disease but also protect women from getting age-related macular degeneration. The author of the study said about 9 million U.S. adults over the age of 40 have experienced some degree of AMD.
  • The study found that women who ate one or more servings of fish every week had a 42 percent lower risk of AMD than those who consumed fish just once a month or less.
  • **Try adding salmon, mackerel, sardines, canned tuna or other fish to your weekly meals. If you like them all go with salmon. It’s also good for cognitive function and our skin

Food that will help your skin look healthier: Low-Fat Dairy Products

  • One the most important components of skin health is vitamin A and one of the best places to get it is low-fat dairy products.
  • Milk and low fat yogurt are both high in vitamin A. Yogurt also contains acidophilus, the “live” bacteria that is good for intestinal health. A lot of experts say that good digestion will also help us have healthy looking skin.

Food to help prevent wrinkles: Avocados and Olive Oil

  • A study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition showed that people with high intakes of olive oil had less wrinkles than those who had high intakes of butter.
  • Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, almonds and avocados. Avocados contain about 50% of its calories from monounsaturated fats and also contain fiber and healthy B-vitamins so eat up, but in moderation since fat contains more calories than protein or carbohydrates.

The Dish on Detox Diets

A common question I get from friends is regarding my opinion on detox diets. With Hollywood stars prompting detox diets I think it’s important to pass on some important information regarding these diets.

What is a cleanse diet?

Cleanse diets or Detox diets (short for detoxification) are marketed as diets that remove environmental and dietary toxins from our bodies. They range in what they require you to do but are usually only used for a short period of time. The names “cleanse” and “detox” can be used interchangeably.

Do we need to “detox” our bodies?

Our bodies have a natural process of neutralizing and eliminating any toxins that may enter through stool or urine excretion. A body that is lacking in nutrients may not be as efficient at this. If we follow a healthy diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and moderate amounts of fat we are providing our body with the fuels it needs to function and therefore would have nothing to cleanse. While most American’s don’t get the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day I still don’t think a quick-fix “detox” diet is beneficial. Detox diets lack many nutrients and adequate calories and protein for energy and can be dangerous.  A recent study by American researchers also concluded that detox diets do no more than the body’s own natural system to get rid of toxins. They concluded that most modern books and detox kits serve up “empty promises”.

What are the benefits and drawbacks?

 I’ll start out by saying that I am not a supporter of people doing the extreme “detox” diets although some people who have done them report improved energy, regular bowel movements and improved digestion (this is likely from changing their diet to have less excess fat and calories and not from a special “detox” going on internally).  That being said the best way you can cleanse your body is to follow a balanced diet. The same one doctors and dietitians have been recommending for years.  Avoid sugar-filled beverages, processed foods and sweets and focusing on staying hydrated (from water), getting all 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, choosing whole grains, beans and lean proteins and not over consuming calories. This would allow our bodies to have more energy. If you are on a “detox” diet that still allows you to consume a variety of foods, get all your nutrients and eat enough calories it may be beneficial to help you change bad eating habits. I do have some friends that cut out meat, processed foods and sweets for a few days each year and consider that their “detox.” Yes, in that case when you are eating real food and enough calories but cutting back on fat it’s safe. Most of the “detox” diets that are marketed online and television use juice concoctions or other items limiting essential vitamins and minerals and substituting supplements with expensive price tags. Remember, nutrients are always better from the real food and not a pill!
As I’ve began to explain above there are many drawbacks to “detox” diets. They usually lack key vitamins and minerals in addition to calories and protein. While weight loss may occur while doing these diets it rarely stays off once people return to their normal diet (since no lifestyle changes were made). If you are doing the diet because you are a person who eats fast food, junk food or candy daily, following a detox diet for a few days just to go back to your regular eating habits seems hypocritical. Also, they can be very dangerous if done for extended period of time or for people who need adequate nutrients for growth such as children, teenagers, pregnant women or breastfeeding women. Lastly, most of the pills, teas and juices that are sold with a label saying they “detox” our bodies have no scientific foundation to support their claims.

Tips for jump starting a diet without a “detox” diet

The most important thing to remember about a diet is that it should be about the long-term changes. You should work on making healthy diet changes you can stick with and not changes that will only last a few weeks.
  • Start one step at a time. An easy jump start would be to focus on hydration.  Change to water or another calorie-free beverage and aim for 8 cups a day. Next, find the time of day when you tend to have the least healthy food choices and try to make them healthier. I don’t recommend people saying “I’m never going to eat (fill in the blank) again,” as this just makes us want to have the forbidden food even more. Diet is about moderation.
  • I also tell my clients to make positive goals. Say “I will make sure my breakfast contains whole grains” instead of saying “I won’t eat white toast or pop tarts for breakfast.”
  • Another tip that is backed up by research is to track your daily intake. Keeping a food record of what you eat either online or on paper will help open your awareness to your diet.

New Dietary Guidelines for Sodium

The New Dietary Guidelines are out. While there were a few changes I think the most important one to touch on is the decrease in recommended sodium intake. The average American consumes ~3,400 mg of sodium per day which is more than double the amount recommended by the new dietary guidelines. It’s time to try harder and pay more attention to nutrition labels because the new guidelines for healthy adults ages 9 to 50 years old are for 1,500mg or less of sodium per day. Healthy adults 51 to 70 have the harder task of 1,300 mg or less of Sodium per day. Currently, only 15% of Americans consume 2,300mg of sodium or less per day.

Here’s the scoop on salt.

Sodium is an essential nutrient for our body but it is needed in relatively small quantities. Consuming excess salt can lead to high blood pressure which can cause cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure and kidney issues. According to the new dietary guidelines there is evidence that lowering sodium intake will in turn lower blood pressure.
Salt is used in many methods of food processing including curing meat, baking, retaining moisture and enhancing flavors. Adding salt to your food at the table and during cooking is only a small part of the total sodium that we consume. Most of the sodium that is consumed is from processed foods. The Institute of Medicine set Adequate Intake levels for sodium intake for Americans based on age.

Adequate Intake (AI) Levels for sodium by age

AI for healthy adults 9 to 50 years = 1,500 mg per day.
AI for adults ages 51 to 70 years= 1,300 mg/ day
AI for older adults ages 71 years and older= 1,200 mg/day
AI for Children ages 4 to 8 years= 1,200 mg/day
AI for Children ages 1 to 3 years =1,000 mg/day
The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for adults 14 years and older is 2,300 mg per day. The UL is the highest daily nutrient intake level that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population. Americans should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg or 1,500 mg per day (of course this depend­s on age and other individual characteristics).

Common Sources of Sodium in American Diets

(Based on Frequency of Consumption and Sodium Content)
Yeast Bread (lower amounts of sodium but frequently consumed) = 7% of the sodium in the U.S. diet
Pizza = 6.3% of the sodium in the U.S. diet
Chicken & Chicken Mixed Dishes = 7% of the sodium in the U.S. diet
Pasta = 5.1% of the sodium in the U.S. diet
Cold Cuts = 4.5 % of the sodium in the U.S. diet
Condiments = 4.1% of the sodium in the U.S. diet

Tips to help decrease sodium consumption

  • Consume more fresh foods
  • Cut back on processed foods. The less processed foods we eat the better off we are
  • Always look at the Nutrition Facts label for information on the sodium content of foods. You may be able to make small cut backs in your sodium intake by switching brands of a food you commonly eat.
  • Cook and prepare foods at home that way you can determine what’s added. Most of the time the amount of salt can be cut back in recipes (with the exception of baking).
  • When purchasing processed foods look for “Low Sodium” or “No Added Salt” varieties.
  • When eating out ask that salt not be added to your food or look for lower sodium options

Check out my clip on Twin Cities Live to see how much sodium are in some common meals.

I am also going to post a website I found that gives low sodium food products by category. I found it very interesting and helpful to see the lower sodium options for processed foods. Low Sodium Food Directory

Breakfast Bar Breakdown

You can find cereal bars on the counters of grocery stores, gas stations and even some coffee shops reminding us that breakfast is an important meal. The question is: Are they healthy? In short, they can be. Having breakfast is the key to having a good metabolism and energy level throughout the day. If you choose wisely a breakfast bar can be a good grab-and-go breakfast option.

Here are some tips on picking out a healthy bar

  • Make sure that the cereal or granola bar you choose does not contain any trans fat.
  • Choose a bar with whole grains as the first ingredients.
  • Be aware of the amount of sugar in the cereal bar you choose. Try to avoid bars with a lot of added sugar as they can turn out to be more of a dessert than a breakfast (Note: Bars with fruit in them will have more sugar since fruit contains natural sugar. Look at the ingredient list to figure out the source of sugar.)
  • Lastly, if you plan to have this be the only thing you eat for breakfast make sure to get one with some protein and probably 200 calories or more so it will keep you full for a longer time.

If you like to cook, try making your own variety.  I usually don’t post recipes I’ve never made but this one looked like a good option and since I’ve never made homemade breakfast bars I thought I would link it in case others wanted to try it too (I’ll definitely let you know how they taste after I make them and please post any good recipes you have).

Homemade Breakfast Bars

A Few Commercial Breakfast Bars & Granola Bars broken down

LaraBar –Peanut Butter Cookie (other flavors available)

  • 220 calories, 18g sugar (32% calories from sugar) , 4g Fiber, 7g Protein
  • All natural, no added sugar and only three ingredients (Dates, Peanuts and salt)
  • Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Vegan, Kosher
  • 1 bar = ½ serving of fruit
  • My Vote: Good Natural Bar choice that has adequate calories and protein to keep you feeling full longer. Higher in fat and sugar but both from natural sources (the peanuts and dates). This is my absolute favorite as it is made from whole ingredients and keeps you satisfied. 

Kashi TLC (Tasty Little Cereal) Cereal Bars- Ripe Strawberries  (other flavors available)

  • 110 calories, 9g Sugar (32.7% calories from sugar), 3g Fiber, 2g Protein
  • Contains 7 whole grains
  • Made with real fruit
  • My Vote: Good option to have before work or in the car to get you started but likely isn’t enough calories to sustain you until lunch. Try pairing it with a glass of milk, piece of fruit, yogurt or nuts if you plan to have it  keep you full until lunch.

Quaker Oatmeal To Go Bars- Brown Sugar and Cinnamon  (other flavors available)

  • 220 calories, 19g Sugar (34.5% calories from sugar) 5g Fiber, 4g Protein
  • 20% of your daily Vitamin A, B6, Calcium and Iron
  • First ingredient is whole grain rolled oats (second ingredient  is high fructose corn syrup)
  • Also, available are Oatmeal To Go High Fiber Bars with 210 calories, 13g Sugar, 4g Protein, 10g Fiber
  • My Vote: More substantial in calories so it will likely last you longer although the second and third ingredients are added sugars. They are a dense bar and feel more like a meal and they can be heated and taste good warm. If you are going to choose this one I’d recommend going with the High Fiber version since it contains less sugar and more fiber.

Nutri-Grain SuperFruit Fusion Flavored Cereal Bars-Cherry Pomegranate (other flavors available)

  • 130 calories, 13g sugar (40% calories from sugar), 3g Fiber, 2g Protein
  • First ingredient is whole grain oats then whole wheat flour
  • Contains Antioxidant rich fruits
  • My Vote: Good option before work or in the car to get your day started. Also, a great option for a mid morning or afternoon snack. Like the Kashi TCL Bar they likely will not supply enough calories or protein to keep you energized until your next meal. Try having some mixed nuts, a piece of fruit, glass of milk or a yogurt along with it.

Fiber One Bar- Oats &Chocolate (other flavors available)

  • 140 calories, 10g sugar (28.5% calories from sugar), 9g Fiber, 2g Protein
  • Great source of Fiber and made with whole grains
  • Contains the least sugar compared to the other bars shown today but most has been added and is not from a natural source such as added fruit.
  • ~140 calories, 2g Protein, 9g Fiber, 10g Sugar
  • My Vote: A great option for people with a sweet tooth as it tastes like a candy bar or cookie. This bar also packs in a lot of fiber without a lot of calories and will keep you full longer than some other bars on the market. I will warn people that the fiber used makes some people feel gassy. Try half a bar first before consuming an entire bar in one sitting to see how you feel.

Heart Health

We’ve all heard the heart healthy tips before: go to the gym, try a spinning class, order the salmon instead of the steak, lower your cholesterol, put down the cigarette, watch your weight and stop with the salt shaker. February is American’s Heart Month and a perfect time to focus on heart healthy eating. Let me share some shocking statitstics about the prevalence of heart disease in America from the American Heart Association.


  • Heart disease is the #1 killer of American Women over 20 years of age (about 1 death per minute)
  • 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease
  • On average 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day (that’s 1 death every 39 second)

The first thing to be aware of are the risk factors are. Here is a list from the American Heart Association of things we can control to help lower the risk of heart disease.

  1. Exercise
  2. Cholesterol
  3. Diet
  4. Blood Pressure
  5. Weight
  6. Blood sugar
  7. Smoking: Okay it’s sick that I still have to write this. For anyone out there that still smokes… STOP! You are increasing your risk of heart disease, lung problems and cancer. This one goes out to a few special friends I know…you know who you are…

Following a healthy diet and exercising can help you achieve 6 of the 7 risk factors noted above (all but smoking). I could write a 10 page post on ways to adjust your diet to be heart healthy but instead of boring you I’ll leave you with the basics since the diet I promote on my blog is focusing on healthy fats and fiber rich foods

  • Cut back on saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol
  • Eat lots of fiber rich fruits and vegetables – aim for 5 servings a day
  • Choose whole grains -at least 1/2 your grains should be whole grains, if not more
  • Eat fish at least two times a week- fatty fish are best (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel)
  • Limit Sodium – put down the salt shaker. 1 tsp of salt has 2,300mg of sodium (more than recommended in a day)
  • Limit added sugars

If you have a family history of heart disease or multiple risk factors you may benefit from following the
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Diet which gives you a total fat and saturated fat goal.

  • 1,200 calories per day (consume less than 40 grams of fat and have less than 9 grams of that be from saturated fats)
  • 1,500 calories per day (consume less than 50 grams of fat and have less than 12 grams of that be from saturated fats)
  • 1,800 calories per day (consume less than 60 grams of fat and have less than 14 grams of that be from saturated fats)
  • 2,000 calories per day (consume less than 67 grams of fat and have less than 15 grams of that be from saturated fats)
  • 2,00 calories per day (consume less than 73 grams of fat and have less than 17 grams of that be from saturated fats)

Food of the Month

Love is in the air. I can tell it’s February and Valentine’s Day is approaching from the plethora of magazine advertisements and TV commercials sharing the “perfect gift” to buy your loved ones. If you are like me then there is no need to step foot into a jewelry store when you can just buy chocolate. What better food to feature this month than the one and only chocolate! While I still wouldn’t consider chocolate a health food a small amount each day may be beneficial towards our health. Let me explain why. Cocoa beans contain flavanols which are a good antioxidants that can help reduce cell damage to the heart, lower blood pressure and help the lining of blood vessels. In addition, one study showed it lowered LDL cholesterol (a.k.a bad cholesterol) by 5 points. Not a significant decrease but a trend down from indulging in a chocolate craving is great to hear. Flavanols are more abundant in dark chocolate bars ranging from 50-80% while milk chocolate bars only contains 15-25%.  For the most benefits choose dark chocolate bars with 60% cocoa and limit yourself to one or 2 squares a day as it is high in calories.

If you are new to trying dark chocolate start with a lower percent cocoa and work your way up. The higher the cocoa content the more bitter the bar will taste. I think most dark chocolate lovers would agree it’s an acquired taste but much more satisfying than milk chocolate.

Brands I like

Chocolove Chocolate Bars

Multiple varieties of dark chocolate bars that range from 55-77% cocoa with ginger, peppermint, sea salt, almonds, cherries, chilies, raspberries or orange peels added for extra flavor.

Trader Joe’s 10% Dark Chocolate 100 Calorie Bars

High percentage of cocoa and pre-portioned packages. Great to keep around for chocolate cravings. I usually find them near the checkout.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds and Dark Chocolate Covered Edamame

A great balance of protein, fiber and dark chocolate decadence.

Feeling creative or want to design the perfect chocolate bar for you Valentine this month. Check out to design your own bar. You get to choose the type of chocolate, mix ins and name of your creation. It doesn’t get much better than that.


Remember the saying “good things come in small packages?” That’s definitely the case for this super food. Flaxseed is small but a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber and can help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and lower the risk of some cancers. There are a few types of flaxseed available in stores and they aren’t created equally so it’s good to know your facts before buying.

Whole flax seed

  • Provides our bodies with fiber (~ 1.2 grams of soluble and 2.4 grams of insoluble per Tbsp) but we are not able to break the seed apart to get the healthy omega-3 oils.

Flax Seed Oil

  • Gives our bodies the Omega-3 benefits but is no longer filled with fiber.

Ground or “milled” Flax Seed

  • Supplies us with both fiber and Omega-3 oils.

Some people prefer to buy whole flax seed and grind it themselves using a coffee grinder to the freshest product. If you buy whole flax seed it can be stored for a long time.  Milled or ground flaxseed goes rancid quicker and is best to buy it in small quantities. Most people agree it will stay fresh for 3-4 months in the refrigerator and some research shows that it can be stored for 128 days at room temperature before becoming rancid (I’m still a little skeptical of that?).

Flaxseed adds a nutty flavor and can be scooped on top of cereal, yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, applesauce or used in place of fats or eggs in baked goods. I’ve done the side by side comparison using flaxseed in place of an egg in chocolate chip cookies and found that I liked the flaxseed filled cookie better. It made the cookies dense and added a nutty flavor.

Baking Conversions for Flax seed in place of Fggs or Fat

  • 3 Tbsp ground flaxseed = 1 Tbsp Fat
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 Tbsp water= 1 egg

Another unique way to cook with flaxseed is to use it to coat chicken or fish before cooking for a crunchy result (great option for people with Celiac’s disease or others on a gluten free diet). Need more help? Type “flaxseed recipes” into Google, Epicurious, Cooking Light or any other recipe search engine and you will find more creative ways to add this healthy seed into your diet.

One point for MINNESOTA

The Women’s Report Card for 2010 was just sent to my email and I am proud to say I live in Minnesota. It turns out Minnesota was the state with the smallest percentage of women that get no leisure time physical activity at 16.4% (that means 83.6% of women get leisure physical activity). Nice work!

This helps me get over the decreased number of women who are consuming 5 fruits and vegetables per day. Minnesota went from 29.6% in 2007 down to 26.3% in 2010. The winner for this category went to Vermont with 35.9% meeting the 5 servings a day.

Wondering where your state ranked? Check out the National Women’s Law Center website to find out.

Diet and Pregnancy

Everyone’s life is filled with seasons of celebrations. As a young adult my life has been in wedding season for the past few summers and will again be filled with eight beautiful weddings of close friends and family members this summer and fall. I can’t think of many things more fun to celebrate…that is until the next wave hits. I feel the air shifting and the next era of celebrations approaching: babies. A few of my friends already have little bundles of joy, some have “buns in the oven” and a lot of people around me keep talking about the time approaching. With all the talk about babies and pregnancy I thought I’d make my next post about nutrition and pregnancy. Some things, like avoiding alcohol, are well known to women but there are other things that aren’t common knowledge. I’m sure this topic will come up again in more detail down the road when I am pregnant but for now I’ll just answer some commonly asked questions about eating during pregnancy.

I was told to avoid cold lunch meats, hotdogs, soft cheeses, refrigerated meat spreads and refrigerated smoked seafood unless it has been reheated (to 160 degrees). Why is that?

Listeria is rare type of bacteria found in water and soil that pregnant women are more susceptible to that can be found in ready to eat foods. Listeriosis puts you and your baby at risk of a premature birth, miscarriage or death.

What other foods should I avoid?

Unpasteurized milk, raw shellfish or eggs. Also, shark, swordfish, mackerel and tilefish are high in mercury and should be avoided. Canned, chunk light tuna is usually lower in mercury and can be eaten in moderation.

What’s the scoop on Caffeine during pregnancy?

Caffeine is a stimulant, which increases blood pressure and heart rate which aren’t recommended during pregnancy. It can also increase your risk of dehydration since it is a diuretic. Caffeine can cross the placenta to your baby and your baby’s metabolism can not fully metabolize it so it is important to limit the amount of caffeine you are drinking. The less caffeine you consume the better.  Experts have stated that a moderate level of caffeine (150mg – 300mg/day) has not found negative effects on pregnancy. Discuss it with your doctor if you have further concerns

I’ve heard that Omega-3’s are good to take while you’re pregnant. Is this true?

Yes. Omega-3’s are not synthesized by our bodies and they are essential for health and development. Omega-3s are essential for neurological and early visual development of babies and they are also used after birth to make breast milk and most diets are lacking in Omega-3 intake. The two most beneficial Omega-3’s to consume are EPA and DHA. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA) “Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia and may increase birth weight and gestational weight.” Good food sources of these fatty acids are salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies. The APA also says that quality fish oil is safe to take during pregnancy. Ask your gynecologist about taking a fish oil supplement and how much they recommend.

What about Flax seed as a source of Omega’3s?

Flax seed contains Omega-3’s but in the form of ALA. While this was once thought to convert to DHA and EPA most studies now find that the conversion is inefficient and rarely occurs.

I always hear people say I’m eating for two? How many more calories do I really need during pregnancy and what other nutrients do I need more of?

You will need more nutrients when you are pregnant but your calorie requirements only increase by about 300 calories per day during your second and third trimester. You will also want to focus on getting 75-100 grams of protein per day. It is also important to focus on getting enough Calcium, Iron, Folic Acid and Vitamin C.

Know someone pregnant who has more questions? Submit a comment and I’ll make sure to answer it. Oh yes and one last important thing. If you plan on getting pregnant soon or are pregnant make sure you are taking a multivitamin.

New Years Resolutions

January, a month filled with credit card bills, overstuffed bellies and new resolutions for the future. It can be difficult finding a New Years resolution that you can stick with for 12 months, or even better, for life. In a fast paced world where we set high expectations for ourselves there are so many things to choose from; working out, eating healthy, spending time with family, training pets, being a good friend, gardening and supporting the community. That’s just a short list of things that come to mind for my life. Living a healthy life is about balance to our mind, body and spirit so diet shouldn’t be our only focus. This year I’m planning to “stress less about the small things” and “spend more time with my husband” but that’s not why I’m posting. I wanted to share my resolution from last year for you to try.

A report done by the Produce for Better Health showed only 6% of Americans consume the recommended vegetable intake in an average day and 8% of the recommended fruit intake. These shockingly awful numbers inspired my resolution for last year and I’m proud to say I’m still doing it. My goal was to eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and I highly recommend you try it as well. Most days it comes easy especially in the summer when I’m overloaded with fresh produce from my garden and crop share. There are still challenges like the days when I’m on the road, in the mood for comfort food, at a tailgate or lacking groceries when consuming fruits and vegetables becomes difficult and choosing to seek out these plant products has to be a priority. If this sounds like too steep of a challenge start with 3 servings a day and work your way up to 5 servings/day (or more) as the year progresses.

Maybe my suggestion above is not for you then I strongly encourage you to follow these steps to set a focus that will ensure a healthier life.

  • First, think about your life as a whole. What areas are you satisfied with and what can you work on. Maybe you’re weight isn’t an issue but your stress management is or you are successful at work but not as good of a friend as you want to be.
  • Next, Set a realistic goal. If you want to lose weight don’t say “I’ll give up chocolate.” Instead say focus on what you can do to get there; I’ll go to the gym 3 days a week. If you already go 3 days a week then up the ante and be more specific. I’ll go to the gym 5 days a week and lift weights at least twice a week.
  • Write it down! I remember my dad reading me a study done by Harvard back when I was in high school that confirmed graduates who wrote down goals with time frames to achieve them were more likely to reach them and had higher salaries than classmates who didn’t.
  • Have a game plan for how you’ll reach your goal and enlist support from friends and family. For my goal my husband and I picked a day of the week for the two of us and I let him know I was trying not to sweat the small stuff (that way he can remind me if I get back into my old ways of stressing over small things).
  • Lastly, Give it time. Lifestyle changes don’t become habits overnight.

If you have a New Years resolution you want to share I’d love to hear it. Post it below.

Christmas Gift Ideas that Promote Health!

Unsure what to get a friend or family member for Christmas? What about a gift that can improve their health. Here are some last minute gift ideas that will benefit your loved ones health.

Magic Bullet

  • This mini super blender makes having more fruits easy with how quick it can make a smoothie or protein shake that’s grab and go. It works great even with frozen fruit.

Stability Ball

  • A great work out tool for balance and strength. They help strengthen your core and can be used for multiple exercises for a reasonable price. Some even come with an instructional DVD. As a bonus gift you could throw in some free weights to use with their stability ball.

Entry fee an Athletic event

  • If you have a friend or family member who always talks about doing a 5K race, bike race, triathlon or half marathon but never signs up. Paying their entry fee may be the motivation they need to train. Or maybe you want to give a person new to working out a goal. Try entering yourself and them into a 5K walk or run that’s a few months out so they have something to work towards.

Gift card to see a registered dietitian or personal trainer

  • Help someone get healthy by connecting them with an expert who can help them set an individual plan for them for eating and meals or assist them with a workout routine. Call your doctors clinic to find out if they have dietitians available or where to go.

Gift card for a local co-op

  • Who doesn’t want a gift card for food shopping and what better way then to let them try out a local co-op.

Money towards joining a CSA

  • Only 6% of Americans consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables a day. Here’s a way to help someone get more fruits and vegetables into their home. Pay their fee to join a Community Supported Agriculture program. You will get fruits and vegetables that are local and in season to cook with weekly. It’s a great way to try out more fruits and vegetables without having to go grocery shopping.
  • I’m a cooking light fanatic. They give light versions of great recipes that are always loved by my friends and family

All New Complete Cooking Light Cookbook

  • I’m a cooking light fanatic and what better way to share healthy recipes then to get their cookbook. This book has light versions of great recipes that are always loved by my friends and family.

Thin for Life by Anne Fletcher, MS, RD

  • She shares inspiring stories and secrets from people who have lost weight and kept the weight off. She also gives 10 keys to success with weight loss. A motivating book that shares advice from an expert as well.

A reusable stainless steel water bottle

  • Hydration is key for good health. Did you know that water makes up more than ½ your body?
  • There are varying recommendations for water intake. Most people have heard of 6 to 8 8 ounces glasses of water a day but that varies per person based on physical activity, age and if you are sick or not. For most people drinking when you are thirsty will keep you hydrated.
Gift card to a spa
  • We live with stresses all around us. While some stress is okay, being overstressed can be detrimental to our health and also contribute to difficulty losing weight
Heart Rate Monitor
  • Great for active people or for beginners. A lot of new heart rate monitors come with GPS and can track your pace, location or speed and some even count calories. This small device can be a very motivating tool.

Link to the Twin Cities Live clip on this topic

Fending off Holiday Weight Gain

 Most website claim that the average holiday weight gain is 5 or more pounds from Thanksgiving to New Years and surveys show that the average American reports a 5 pounds weight gain. The good news is a report in the New England Journal of Medicine actually showed the average American only gains one pound during this holiday season (although they did find that those already overweight tend to gain more). The bad news is most people don’t lose the weight. While it’s just a pound now imagine adding 5 pounds in the next 5 years. Here are some tips for fending off holiday weight gain and how to tackle the holiday parties.
  • Continue your exercise routine. If you have plans after work try switching to a morning routine.
  • Don’t eat more in anticipation for a New Years diet. When people anticipate a diet they tend to overindulge on high fat, unhealthy foods before they start. If weight loss is your New Years Resolution make sure to focus on overall lifestyle changes that can start now and will last throughout the year and not an unrealistic change that won’t last through January.
  • Watch your portion sizes. It’s okay to have dessert but watch your serving size.
  • Don’t skip meals. When you skip a meal you usually arrive at the next meal over hungry which leads to overindulging.
  • Think Moderation: Remember that weight gain comes from excess calorie intake over time. Having some unhealthy foods such as a holiday dessert won’t immediately cause weight gain. It’s indulging too often or eating too much that cause weight gain over the holidays.

Tips for Tackling Holiday Parties

  •  Don’t arrive starving. Have a healthy snack before you go.
  • Use a plate for dips and finger foods. This will help control your portions.
  • Stay hydrated with water.
  • Choose your drink wisely. If you choose to have alcoholic beverages limit yourself to 1-2 drinks and stay away from drinks with high calorie mixers such as egg nog, cider, flavored martinis and punch. Choose wine, light beer or if you want a cocktail make sure it is made with a low or no calorie mixer like club soda, diet soda or tonic water.
  • When you are at a holiday party with a buffet, prioritize. Most buffets have a wide range of foods and so many of us try to sample each one to be polite. The truth is you don’t have to sample everything available. Choose what you would enjoy the most and pass up the filler items.
  • Lastly, if you’re the host don’t make food the only focus. Holidays are a great time to catch up with close friends and family. Try setting up the food in a different room than you will be socializing so people don’t continue to pick at the food just because it’s in arms reach.