5 Favorite Thanksgiving Foods: Skinny Version

The big turkey day is upon us in a few weeks and many cooks are already planning their menus for Thanksgiving. Across the country, people will eat dinner with family and friends in homes and restaurants. Many of my clients feel it is difficult to focus on health and wellness at this time of the year.  For Thanksgiving gatherings, I tell my clients it is “just one day” of dining. If you exercise control over the aftermath of the meal, then it should be viewed as a meal enjoyed with those that matter in your life, a time to be thankful, and a time to reflect.

Controlling the “aftermath” means that you get rid of the leftovers that may sabotage your healthy eating plans or plan appropriately to avoid having leftovers in the first place! With that stated, I think we can also think about the traditional Thanksgiving meal as having the potential to be a meal that can even offer health benefits to your diet. Here is a sampling of traditional Thanksgiving foods and the potential impact on your health:

Pumpkin 

Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene which is the plant derived form of vitamin A.  Consider offering your guests a slimmed down crustless pumpkin pie option in addition to traditional desserts.

Sweet potatoes.

This is another beta-carotene superstar. Keep the calories in tow by limiting the brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows used in traditional recipes.

Mashed potatoes

Potatoes are loaded with potassium! Slim down your recipe by limiting the butter used in your recipe. Consider using skim milk, low sodium chicken broth, or fat-free sour cream in your recipe to slash the fat and calories.

Cranberries.

This traditional side dish is loaded with cancer fighting plant chemicals, vitamin C, and fiber. No need to limit its use to cranberry bread and sauce. Consider using it in a fruit compote instead.

Turkey

Turkey is full of lean protein. Watch your serving sizes and the gravy added to your plate, and consider this a healthy meat option for your Thanksgiving gathering. Roast your turkey without the stuffing inside. Baking stuffing in a separate casserole dish will yield less calories.

Watch your servings sizes for all your foods and leftovers. Enjoy the day and the health benefits of a traditional Turkey day menu lightened up.  Top your meal with a nice family walk, and you will be slim and ready for the next round of holidays in December!

 Do you have any healthy Thanksgiving recipes to share?

Halloween Stew: Easy One Pot Comfort Food

This one pot stew was always fondly referred to as “Halloween Stew” by my kids because year after year I made this for my children to enjoy after trick or treating. This one pot meal can be prepped ahead of time and then popped into the oven. Head out to trick or treat and then return to a yummy one pot meal. It was always a pleasure, after a raw and windy October Halloween, to come home to this nutritious and already cooked one pot meal. It is comfort food at its best, and can be enjoyed throughout the crisp fall days ahead. Enjoy, and happy trick or treating!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lean beef (sirloin works well)
  • 12-20 oz. can of tomatoes with liquid
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in ½ cup hot water
  • ½ cup red wine (optional ingredient)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 cut up carrots
  • 2-3 stalks cut up celery
  • 4 or more large potatoes
  • 1 small package frozen peas
  • ¼ cup tapioca

Directions

Take the lean beef and cut into 1 inch cubes. Spray a large corning ware dish and the inside lid with a spray such as PAM. Place the beef cubes in the bottom of the corning ware. Lay all the vegetables (except the peas) on top of the meat. Pour the tomatoes, wine, tapioca over all. Bake for 3 hours, covered, in a 325 ° oven. Sprinkle the peas on top fifteen minutes before stew is done cooking.

5 Tips to Fight Winter Overeating

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

I have heard repeatedly from clients that all they want to do is keep eating because they feel so blue this winter. So, barring a vacation in the tropics or moving, here are a few steps that can be taken to lift your spirits and hopefully help stop inappropriate eating that can go hand in hand with the winter blues or even seasonal affective disorder (SAD):

Catch the rays when possible

Even the gloomiest areas in the Midwest will occasionally be sunny,  so be sure to capitalize on it even if you need to bundle up to do so.  Take a walk outside in those rays of sunshine and you will elevate your mood because the exercise and sunshine will affect the balance of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, and endorphins.

Consider blue light therapy

Along the lines of catching natural light rays, researchers are aware that certain light spectrum, such as blue light, seems to help alleviate SAD. Many free-standing blue lights are available for easy purchase online. When it’s a particularly bleak winter, these lights can be of benefit.

Check your vitamin D levels

Many Americans have inadequate blood vitamin D levels. Research supports that getting your blood vitamin D levels in the right range is ammunition in fighting seasonal affective disorder.  Bleak days and lots of warm bulky clothes limit the body’s ability to make the so-called “sunshine” vitamin, which can be produced by the body when sun shines on a compound on our skin.  If we cannot make it, we are able to supplement our diet with vitamin D.  During winter months, dosages in the 1000-1200 IU range are probably safe for most people who have limited sun exposure.

Control your eating environment

While waiting for spring weather and freedom from the winter doldrums, don’t undo previous successful weight loss with binge eating just because of SAD or depression.  Control your eating environment at home by ridding it of high temptation and high calorie foods.

Stock your kitchen with healthy, low sodium soups and entrees

They can nourish and “comfort” you appropriately through the rest of the winter. Increase  your consumption of fruits, veggies, and lentils to increase your anti-oxidants and fiber.  Don’t be afraid of opting for frozen fruits and veggies at this time of year. They are just as nutritious as the fresh varieties which are harder to buy in the winter.   When the warm weather comes, you will be happy that you did not pile on the weight due to winter blues.

Here’s to wrapping up winter. It’s almost March! Remember, an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By watching your diet this winter, you will be in a better position both mentally and physically for spring when it springs!

 

 

 

Leftover Turkey Scraps: New Comfort Food Recipe

Those turkey scraps that don’t fit nicely on a serving platter for Thanksgiving lend themselves very well to a favorite family recipe of mine. I would put these croquettes in the “comfort food” category. They are easy to make, use up all your leftover meat scraps, and are a healthy meat entrée. Enjoy the whole traditional bird on Thanksgiving, then enjoy this great leftover dish later in the week.Turkey Dinner

Take all those scraps of turkey and place into a food processor or a blender. This recipe calls for about 2 cups of shredded meat. The meat mixture will be mixed with a light roux sauce to bind it and then baked in the oven for a healthier alternative to a traditional fried croquette recipe.

 

For the croquette meat mixture you will need:

2 cups of chopped or shredded leftover turkey
dash of salt and pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
1 tsp. chopped parsley (optional)

Combine these ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Next, make the light roux sauce. 

You will need:

4 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1 cup milk

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and seasonings and blend. Slowly add the one cup of milk, stirring continually with a wire whisk until the mixture thickens. After the mixture thickens, add into the chopped meat mixture.You want the mixture to be firm enough to shape, so use only part of the sauce mixture initially, and then added the rest as needed. It is helpful to chill the mixture for awhile in order to allow for shaping the mixture into firmer patties.

After the roux sauce and chopped meat are mixed together, shape your croquettes into eight hamburger like patty shapes.

The next step is to coat the croquette patties with the bread crumbs. 

You will need:

1 cup fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter
one egg with 1 tbsp. water or alternatively you may use eggbeaters

Croquettes ready to pop in the oven

Place the butter in a shallow baking dish and melt.  Dip the croquettes into the bread crumbs, egg, and then back into the bread crumbs.  Next place the breaded croquettes into the melted warm butter and coat all sides. Preheat the oven to 350 ° and bake for about 30 minutes until crisp. This can be served with a dollop of any leftover roux sauce if not needed for the croquette mixture. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and enjoy that turkey again.

Nutrition information per croquette:

200 calories

9 grams of fat

15 grams of protein

15 grams of carbohydrate

360 mg sodium

Tip

If you would like to decrease the fat and calorie content further, skip rolling the bread coating mixture in the melted butter.  Turkey scraps can also be frozen to make this recipe at a later time. And, no turkey?  This recipe also works very well with leftover chicken.  Bon appetit!

 

 

Chronic Fatigue: 4 Diet and Lifestyle Tips to Tackle

It goes by many names: chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), myaligic encephalomyelitis (ME). Whatever you want to call it, it requires lifestyle changes to cope, and bed rest is not a quick fix for those that are truly afflicted. If you have this condition, you know who you are! You may also remember your life before the condition and after, that red line of health and when it was crossed and what triggered your seemingly endless fatigue.

http://www.phytodoc.de/files/bilder/erkrankungen/Muedigkeit.jpg

Even rest can’t help

Here are some tried and true tips to help this condition:

Manage your weight

Under the circumstance, this can be a huge challenge. If you are needing to pace yourself with rest, then you will be sitting more. Eating more nutrient rich low calorie foods will be your tool for weight management. It’s amazing what a difference there is in terms of calorie burn on days you are mostly sitting vs. being able to walk around all day when you may feel better. It’s important to match your calorie intake with calorie output.

I am a huge fan of fitness trackers for just this reason. Knowing real time energy output on bad days and then better days, helps immensely in weight management. The fitness tracker can guide you on how much you can eat on a given day based on your calorie burn.

Do eat a nutrient dense diet

Your calories need to “count” from a nutritional standpoint because there may not be a lot of discretionary calories for you to be eating if you are burning few calories due to your fatigue and limited activity. The better quality diet will only increase your chances of feeling better. There’s no guarantee, but it can’t hurt.

Too tired to prepare food?  Never cook for only one meal. Double batch and use your freezer. Don’t be afraid of a frozen meal such as Healthy Choice brand meals.They are always going to be healthier than what you might grab at a restaurant.

Consider certain supplements

The condition remains one that the established medical community cannot open a text book and find solid direction on how to treat. With that said, there are a few supplements that may be helpful. Consider CoEnzymeQ10, D-ribose, and probably a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement. I don’t uniformly recommend the latter to patients, but when calories need to be restricted to manage weight, it’s not a bad idea in my opinion. The CoQ10 and D-ribose are tied in with our biochemical energy cycle, and I personally find them to be helpful.

Know your boundaries

While boundary setting is not necessarily a nutrition tip, it is an important lifestyle tip. Learn to say “no” if you feel it will compromise your health.  Many of us are so eager to be normal, that it is very easy to overdue it when we feel on the normal end of the spectrum.  Both mental and physical pacing need to be first and center in your life. If you are reading this, you are probably all too familiar with the “crash and burn” cycle of both chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Doing too much at a time can result in being a limp rag doll later. Best to manage that precious resource called energy and pace yourself all day and every day-even when you may be feeling “normal”.

What tips can you share to live your best life?

 

 

The Old Diet Issue is STILL the New Issue: Easy Steps to Up Your Intake of Fruits & Veggies

I’ve had my nutrition practice for 29 years this month! Despite all the new ideas revolving around the best way to eat a healthy diet, some American food patterns haven’t changed in nearly 30 years-namely not eating enough fruits and vegetables. I often ask myself what is going on, because so many clients are adamant that they love fruits and vegetables. Reviewing their food records, however, tells another story. While they may indeed “love” fruits and vegetables, they are not eating enough of them. So, here are some very easy ways to continue tackling this very-longstanding dietary problem sans becoming a vegan:

Apples. Prepare another way! Fall is the time many families pick apples. All those apples do not need to be eaten raw, turned into calorie laden pie, or smeared with peanut butter. Instead, cut up an apple, zap it in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, and garnish with dab of whipped cream or ice cream (dab is the operative word here). Now you have a tasty apple disguised as dessert. This is a great way to get a toddler interested in and able to start eating apples even before all the teeth are in. And, for the older crowd, the calories are a lot less than apple pie.

Pumpkin. Eat crust-less pumpkin pie for breakfast!  My three kids loved this breakfast food when growing up. And, I still enjoy it myself.

15 oz. Can pumpkin pie
 1 can evaporated skim milk
 2 large eggs
 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
 ½ tsp. ground ginger
 ½ tsp. ground cloves
 ½ tsp. salt
 1/2 cup sugar
 1/2 cup Bisquick mix

Directions~
Spray Pam or vegetable spray on a glass pie plate. Mix all ingredients together. Pour into pie pan and bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Note: the texture of the crust-free pie is souffle like. The Bisquick mix adds enough texture to the pie to allow it to be cut into pie shaped wedges. Serve plain or top with dab of whipped cream or ice cream.

Berries.  While lots of people think of smoothies as a way to boost your fruit and vegetable intake, most people make it too complicated. I like to include one banana to thicken the smoothie, add a cup of berries, and 3/4 cup skim milk, soy milk, or orange juice. If you want to make it taste like cheesecake, add a small amount of cottage cheese. Straws are necessary. This is great for kids and adults on the run.

Spinach. Add it to lasagna, soups, omelets, or one skillet meals. This evening, my husband made an impressive vegan pasta dish with lots of tomatoes and spinach. It was a “keeper recipe” and used a lot of spinach. One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes.

Getting 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet has a huge impact on the overall nutritional quality of your diet.

What tips do you have for this age old eating problem?

Diet Savvy Strategies: 5 Effective Tips

 

 

Between “Dr. Google” and all the nutrition books available, it’s no wonder people are confused about how to eat. Many clients tell me it seems the recommendations are always changing, and it makes for a lot of confusion.  In reality, eating well is not difficult if you can remember some simple steps and strategies to get started.

Simple Steps & Strategies

Add plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables to your diet all day and each day.

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with anti-inflammatory compounds that can lessen your risk for diseases such as cancer and heart disease. The more colorful your diet, the richer your diet is in anti-inflammatory compounds.

Decrease your animal protein intake.

Most people eat way too much animal protein.  By decreasing your animal protein, you are decreasing your fat consumption which can be a good thing if you are trying to manage your weight.  Even if you are not trying to manage your weight, cutting down on animal protein will decrease saturated fat which can lessen inflammation.  And your kidneys, they can benefit from a lower protein intake as well because they do not need to work so hard!

Limit your restaurant and carry out food.  

I have never met a client that was able to lose weight and eat restaurant/carry out food on a daily basis.  Consumer beware: most restaurant/carryout food is higher in sodium, calories, and fat than the counterpart item prepared at home.  Check menus and nutrition information in advance of dining out. I had a client recently that ordered a so-called healthy salad at a chain restaurant thinking it was a good choice; unfortunately, the calories clocked in at 1400.  Good thing she was active that day!

Take advantage of convenience foods at the grocery store.

I guarantee a Healthy Choice, Kashi, or even Lean Cuisine frozen dinner is going to stack up with less calories, sodium, and fat that your average carry out meal.  The portion control eliminates the need to think too much when you are tired or your defenses are down.  Add a healthy beverage and a fruit/vegetable and your meal will be pretty nutritionally rounded.

Meals can be large snacks and you don’t NEED to cook. 

Is it a problem to eat cereal for dinner?  I don’t think so!  Have that cereal with milk or a milk alternative, some fresh fruit, an it’s a rather nutritionally adequate and satisfying easy meal.  By choosing a higher fiber unsweetened cereal you have improved the quality of your meal dramatically.  Not into cereal for dinner, then try a simple fruit smoothie made with some milk for another nutrient dense snack.  Ever think of adding cottage cheese to the smoothie?  It makes the smoothie taste like cheesecake!  Try my very creamy smoothie.

Taking charge of these simple steps and strategies make healthy eating easy.

What are your healthy eating strategies?

Magnesium: Would You Benefit from a Supplement?

supplements from a bottleMagnesium is everywhere in our diet

It is fairly abundant in green leafy vegetables, peas, broccoli, nuts, seeds, lentils, whole grains, fish, and bananas and even tap water. With that stated, most references will state that there is only a small percentage of people in the US not meeting their magnesium requirement. Interestingly, when my nutrition college students would assess their diets with nutrition analysis software, they almost never consumed the required 300-400 mg. of magnesium.  So, I guess that begs the question of what “nutritional” camp are you in? Do you implement healthy eating and try to eat a variety of foods on a regular basis, or do you shun whole grains, fruits, vegetables? Perhaps you are trying to eat a healthy diet, but have opted to decrease your carbohydrate intake along the way, which can also impact your consumption of magnesium rich foods since many carbohydrate rich foods are sources of magnesium.

Medical conditions thought to benefit from supplementation include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and GERD treated with certain medication
  • Menstrual pain
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Hearing loss
  • Hypertension
  • Leg cramps in pregnancy

Fibromyalgia

Tough pain times mean its best to tackle it toughly.  I am all too familiar with this pain and the impact on daily life since I have it. Most of the time I manage fairly well, but sometimes with extreme stress it will rear it’s very ugly head. Recent events in my life seemed to have triggered the pain to a increased level for an extended time period. I will now begin supplementing with magnesium as one type of adjunct therapy for my pain. There are many prongs of intervention and management for fibromyalgia, so keep in mind this is not meant to be a sole treatment recommendation for everyone suffering from fibromyalgia, only one potential aspect of management. Again, there are many aspects of management-far too many to address is this blog.

Guidelines

Keep some guidelines in mind when taking a magnesium supplement for any reason.  When selecting a supplement, you want to try and ascertain the product actually contains the labeled amount of magnesium, is untainted with contaminants, and it breaks apart for digestion. And lastly, cost per pill may be an issue. While you can figure out the cost per pill with a calculator, the rest of the list is a bit murkier to sift through. The vitamin industry is self-regulating, so go with a name brand as quality control will be high on their list oUSP logof concerns.  Take note if the USP logo on a supplement label is present. This logo assures the nutrient will actually be absorbed, rather than passing though your body undigested.

Additionally, keep these points in mind:

  • MAGNESIUM OXIDE-economical, but absorbed less effectively; may cause diarrhea in susceptible individuals
  • MAGNESIUM CITRATE AND MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE may be formulas that are better absorbed and may have fewer side effects if taken at higher dosages.

Lastly, remember these supplements are meant to supplement the magnesium you are consuming through your diet. If you are not clear on the amount of supplement you might benefit from, consult a qualified dietitian for advice.

Have magnesium supplements helped you with any of your medical concerns? Do you have a brand you trust?

 

 

 

Food Games: Do You Sabotage Your Diet Efforts?

Chess pieces on chessboardAre you a master at deception? Are you always having a conversation with yourself that manages to sabotage your newest efforts to finally lose weight?  If so, chances are pretty good that you have a dialogue in your head that needs to change.  If you are having the following self conversations, it’s best to redirect your dialogue to help you win at weight loss.

The Clean-Plate Game. 

You know this game:  eat it all up because some people are starving!  If you eat up all the food when not hungry, you are not helping anyone that is starving!  Or, you paid for it so you must eat it.  At home, put less food on your plate.  In a restaurant, ask for the people box prior to digging into the large plate of food, and acknowledge that while you still paid for it, you now have food for another meal so you doubled your value.

Skipping Breakfast Game:

You think you will eat less overall calories by limiting what you consume in the morning. Many studies indicate that when people do this, they manage to consume more total calories in a given day.  Other studies show that when people consume substantial calories in the morning, they use those calories to meet energy requirements more efficiently, and store less of that energy in fat cells.  Consuming the bulk of your calories at the tail end of the day is less productive for your body weight and energy levels.  You will just be hungry and crabby all day, and may over indulge at night.

Dining and Taking Out Food Game.  Do you really know what is happening in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant and take-out place?  I would venture to guess that this food has much more fat, calories, and sodium than you would find in your own kitchen.  Try to limit relying on outside sources for your food unless you are able to confirm with nutrition labels that it is a healthy option.

It’s for Company Mantra Game!

There are many variations to this one: there is also “It’s for the kids.”  Do the M & Ms really need to be in a bowl for your grandchildren and shouting to you all the time? I have grandchildren too, but I would not have a candy bowl sitting out all the time.  I certainly like the chocolate at well and I would not be able to stare it down.  Get the treats for kids, grandchildren, and company, but keep a limited stock that is purchased just prior to their arrival. Or, hide it from yourself.  Better yet, get a treat that does not pose a high temptation threat to you!

The Game of Willpower. 

I don’t feel that most people successful at weight loss can use the power of willpower.  Over the long haul, they should instead think “smart” on eating strategies:  keep a clean kitchen free of high temptation foods, keep small amounts or portion controlled foods that you conceptualize as treats, or if food is just too tempting to avoid once in your kitchen, just don’t put it into your grocery cart in the first place.  Willpower, in my book, is a short-term bandage fix that doesn’t really last long enough to help you achieve weight loss.

Taking a step back to evaluate the games you play in life will help you be successful at weight management.

Do you play any other games? Care to share your strategies for helping to “win”?

Belt Busters: Watch Those Drinkable Calories

 

 

Holiday calories

The festive month of December has arrived.  Along with extra calories from holiday cookies, candy, and restaurant fare, there are those often shrugged off or unacknowledged extra calories that creep insidiously into our diets from common holiday beverages.  Those beverages do not even need to contain alcohol, but many are alcohol based.  Without being mindful of those drinkable calories while you are humming holiday carols, you might be singing the blues come January 1.   Anyone hoping to avoid moving out a notch on the belt come January would be wise to be mindful of the extra calories from holiday beverages.

The good news is that there are some festive drinks that will do less damage to your waistline.  Your secret weapon here is to watch the portion size of your holiday beverage and be mindful of the calories contributed to your daily intake.

Taking it a step further by tracking all your calories (not just thinking about them), usually ends up really helping to keep the belt notch in one spot.

Here is a sampling of those calories:

  • 4 ounces of champagne- my favorite at only 65 calories a glass
  • 1 ounce brandy-65 calories!  Consider drinking on the rocks to give the illusion of a larger serving!
  • 12 ounces non-alcoholic beer-70 calories
  • 2 ounces Martini-120 calories
  • 5 ounces of wine (red or white)-120 calories
  • 12 ounces Light beer-varies from 50 -120 calories
  • 5 ounces Bloody Mary-125 calories
  • 2.5 ounces Cosmopolitan-130 calories
  • ½ cup low-fat eggnog-150 calories
  • 12 ounces Regular beer-150 calories
  • 10 ounces Irish coffee-160 calories
  • 2.5 ounces Chocolate martini-190 calories
  • 7 ounces Gin and tonic-190 calories
  • ½ cup regular eggnog-220 calories
  • 6.5 ounces Margarita-330 calories
  • 10 ounces Hurricane-380 calories
  • 6 ounces Amaretto Sour-420 calories

Portions sizes matter

Just as when selecting food for a healthy diet, portion sizes matter!  Multiple servings of some of these high calorie beverages, coupled with typical high fat snack foods often served along with these drinks will most likely blow your calorie intake to the North pole.  There’s an old saying, “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so enjoy your party beverages, but think about your choices as you enjoy the holiday spirit this month.  Doing so will make for a healthy and easier transition to 2016.