Pediatric Cancer Moms: The Most Amazing Moms I Know

I joined the pediatric cancer club in 2016 as the grandmother of a child with cancer. Never in my wildest dreams (nightmare) did I think pediatric cancer would become a family tagline. Never. We are all healthy, and while we often had some unique medical concerns, cancer was not one of them. Since 2016, the sheer grit, talent, and perseverance of what is called the “cancer”  mom continues to amaze me.

 

“Cancer” moms are resilient and generous

Google “cancer” mom and you get information on mom’s with cancer, not mom’s with children who have cancer. Even google can’t handle that search. Now, if you ever hear an adult cancer survivor talk of their journey, they often say the cancer was a “gift”. I certainly don’t see pediatric cancer as a gift, but it has opened my eyes to the absolute strength of those moms as well as the phenomenal generosity of others.

Can you imagine wrapping up brain cancer treatment of your son and then soon after donning a long red gown to attend a fundraiser to support pediatric cancer patients? This “cancer” mom  pulled this off with such elegance that you would never know her son was just wrapping up treatment. Time after time I see poised, strong, and resilient “cancer” moms moving through life with grace and boulder-like strength.

Helping others with the pediatric cancer challenge

A central theme with cancer moms is to help others going through the same experience. It might be the worst emotional trauma on earth to a parent, and so many of these moms (and dads) only want to help others in any way they can to lessen the pain for others. It is not about themselves, but always other families. Here are some amazing ways these moms have helped other cancer families:

  • There is a local cancer mom that is a photographer. She offers to take photos of the cancer warrior children during the holidays. She reaches out for toy donations and then all these children receive toys along with the precious family photos.This act of generosity is priceless to those dealing with pediatric cancer.
  • There is a Chicago area charity called Cancer Kiss my Cooley (CKMC). The purpose of this organization is to create special moments and lasting memories for families living with pediatric brain tumors. The founders of CKMC lost their son, and their son Carter only wanted “everyone’s dreams to come true.” The organization was named after a phrase that Carter used to say during treatment. His backside was called his “cooley” which is Italian slang for “rear end”. He would sing “cancer kiss my cooley” during treatment and hence the legacy name of this organization. There is a mom (and dad) behind this special organization.
  • There is a mom that runs marathons and she is my daughter. She ran two, and runs her third in October, 2019. These marathons are to raise funds for brain cancer research. And then there are the toy drives so that children receiving brain radiation can have a gift after each treatment. And, other children receive Christmas gifts at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Why does her running matter for research? Only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer and only a small fraction of that is slated for brain cancer research.

A toast to all moms

So, I give a toast to all moms this Mother’s day. But for cancer moms, I will toast you and also thank you for making lemonade from lemons. It really does take a village to fight and support pediatric cancer. On this Mother’s day, consider your blessings if your children are healthy, and support those that are not with a shoulder to lean on or a donation in your community.

To read more or donate:

Cancer Kiss My Cooley

Lurie Children’s Hospital

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

10 Easter Egg Safety Tips: Keep Your Eggs Safe to Eat

Easter egg safe eating tips

Easter Egg Safety: Keep it fun to hunt and safe to eat!

Keep in mind Easter egg safety during the holidays

The egg hunt is on! But, if you want to eat those Easter eggs after the Easter hunt, you need to be thinking about Easter egg food safety. Families all over the country will buy, dye, and hunt for eggs in the next few days. If you handle the eggs properly, those colored eggs will be safe to eat in the upcoming week. Add the leftover eggs to a salad, eat as a snack or a even a quick breakfast.

Nutrients in an egg.

A hard boiled egg has only about 80 calories, but is rich in many nutrients, including protein, phytochemicals, many B-complex vitamins, and vitamins A, D, and E. If eggs are from chickens fed an omega-3 rich feed, the hatched eggs will also contain omega-3 fatty acids which we need more of in the American diet. Another nutritional perk of eggs hatched in 2019, is they are significantly lower in cholesterol. Today’s eggs have an average of only 180 mg. of cholesterol, down from about 220 mg. cholesterol in years past!

Here are ten tips to keep those eggs safe to eat after Easter

  1. When purchasing your eggs, make sure there are no broken or dirty eggs. The shell keeps the inside of the eggs free of bacteria and a broken shell can allow for bacterial contamination.

  2. Be sure to check the date stamped on the carton. Avoid purchasing eggs which are stamped with a “sell by” date close to the purchase date.

  3. After purchasing, refrigerate eggs immediately at 40° or less.  Avoid putting eggs in the refrigerator door, as temperatures will be inconsistent and may not meet temperature guidelines.

  4. For eggs already in your refrigerator, you may safely use them for both coloring and eating even if the sell-by date has already passed. In fact, they can be safely eaten 2-4 weeks past that stamped “sell by” date. If your eggs are typically stored in another container in the refrigerator, and you have no idea how long they have been there, it is best to pitch them and start with fresh eggs for coloring if you plan on eating them.

  5. Consumers should not wash egg shells prior to hard boiling.  When the chicken lays an egg it has a protective film coating to protect the inside of the egg. Washing the shell can actually remove that protective film, and hasten the likelihood of bacteria moving into the egg.

  6. Cook the eggs thoroughly.  Place your eggs in a pan of water and bring to a boil. Just as water boils, remove from the burner and cover with a lid.  Let eggs remain in the hot water for 9 minutes for medium eggs and 15 minutes for extra large.

  7. After cooked, refrigerate the eggs within a 2-hour period.

  8. Use a food safe dye so you can plan on eating your Easter eggs!

  9. Do not plan on eating Easter eggs which have been placed on the ground.  This becomes a perfect recipe for making you ill as the bacteria from the ground can enter the cooked egg. Stick with the plastic version for egg hunting in the yard.

  10. If you are hiding real Easter eggs, pick clean areas to hide them inside your home. Bacteria lurks there as well.

    Leave cooked Easter eggs out for no more than 2 hours.  Safely eat your leftover Easter eggs for up to 7 days.

Do you do anything special with leftover eggs?

Chocolate Ice Cream Cake Roll: A Versatile Holiday Recipe

IMG_3109(1)

Cake ready to serve.

I have been making this sponge ice cream roll cake for over 4 decades. It has become a favorite holiday recipe and even the in-laws and grand kids ask for it each holiday. It was passed down to me from an Aunt and I hope my own daughters eventually make it to keep it in the family. For now, they will assume it’s my job!

  Here’s what I like about it:

  • I love that it can be made in advance of the holiday. Whip it up and put in the freezer.  I’d say it could freeze for months, but it will most likely never last that long.
  • I call this a chameleon recipe because it can be changed so many ways to suit dietary needs or taste buds.  You can use a gluten free flour mix and make it a gluten free recipe. After cutting out most wheat, I have used gluten free baking flour for this recipe and no one can tell the difference. I still get a treat and no one is the wiser. You can also use lactose free ice cream and make it lactose free as well. You can even modify this recipe and make it a vanilla roll or put a different flavor of ice cream in the roll. There’s pretty much something for everyone.
Chocolate Ice Cream Roll Cake (about 10 servings, 
depending on your greediness)

Ingredients:

6 eggs, separate the egg whites into one bowl and the egg yolks
into a second bowl
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. cocoa
4 Tbsp. sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
confectioner’s sugar-have at least a cup to spread on foil
and use to wrap up the roll
About 3 cups of ice cream

Get Ready to Bake

Preheat the oven to 325 ⁰. Grease a 15.5 x 10.5 jelly roll pan with vegetable spray. On top of that, insert a piece of wax paper onto the pan and spray that as well.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and add ½ tsp. cream of tartar. Gradually beat in ½ cup sugar. Set aside.  Beat the egg yolk until thick. Add ½ cup sugar. Mix the cocoa and flour and add to the yolk mixture. Mix and then add the salt and vanilla. Fold the egg yolk mixture gently into the egg white mixture.

Spread in the well greased jelly roll pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, just until the surface springs back when touched lightly with finger (be sure to avoid over baking as it will crack while rolling up).  Loosen the edges with a knife and then immediately turn upside down on a large sheet of foil that is sprinkled with a generous amount of confectioner’s sugar. At this point, layer your ice cream on top (don’t wait for it to cool). I usually put at least a quarter inch of ice cream across the top, but it can be more. If the sponge cake starts to stick on the foil, just roll some confectioner’s sugar on that as well.

IMG_3106

The warm sponge cake topped with ice cream and ready to roll up.

To make this a vanilla roll, I just replace the 4 Tbsp. cocoa with 2 Tbsp. of flour (so a total of 6 Tbsp. flour) and follow the rest of the recipe.

~200 calories, 8 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein~ Happy Easter

 

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?

Baked Beef Stew: Perfect for Halloween

Halloween beef baked stew recipeThis one pot beef baked 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. You can prep this ahead of time, even the day before Halloween. Head out to trick or treat and then return for a yummy and nutritious one pot comfort 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 this recipe as a prep ahead comfort food on Halloween and all Fall for that matter. Happy trick or treating.

Ingredients for “Halloween beef baked stew:

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

1/2 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

1/4 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.

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!

 

 

5 Tips to Trim Thanksgiving and Trim You Too!

Turkey Dinner

Healthier Thanksgiving menu

With Thanksgiving around the corner, here are 5 simple ideas to trim your calorie count on Thanksgiving without feeling like you gave up your favorite holiday foods. If you keep in mind that most of the calories are lurking in hidden fats in your meal, you can eat slightly larger amounts of other foods, and not worry about adding another notch to your belt or wearing stretch pants for the rest of the week.

Turkey

Turkey is a lean meat. Just watch your portion size and keep in mind that a normal serving size looks like a checkbook or deck of cards. Skip the extra fatty gravy (or make your own low-fat gravy), and avoid eating the skin.  And, don’t be afraid to experiment with some of the packaged dry gravy options.  They have virtually no fat, and I have never had a guest complain about these types of gravy!

Stuffing

Avoid stuffing the dressing inside the turkey cavity. When you cook the stuffing in the turkey, you are adding more fat by virtue of turkey drippings. Dish out fewer calories and lower the overall fat content of your stuffing just by baking in a separate casserole dish.

Potatoes

Why not make your mashed potatoes with skim milk, fat-free sour cream, or broth? All these options will slash your fat and calories if making from scratch! If you order the potatoes from carry out or a restaurant, chances are they are loaded with both fat and sodium.

Alcohol

Choose a light beer, champagne, or dry wine.These are all lower calorie options to toast the November holiday.

Pumpkin pie

Have you considered a crustless version? Or, have one with crust and be the sneaky one eating the crustless version. Virtually all of the fat and calories end up in the crust, and the rest of the pie is full of health enhancing beta-carotene, fiber, and protein. Cut the sugar slightly and cut the calories more.

Here’s my recipe!

Do you have other tips for a healthy holiday dinner? Have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Cheers to a Healthier BBQ Menu this July 4, 2013!

MP900384725It hasn’t seemed to be much of a summer yet in the Midwest.  We have had a lot of rain and not a lot of warm days, but the calendar says July 4th is around the corner.  For my family, it will mean back yard grilling and feeding a crowd.  Feeding a crowd on a holiday does not have to mean your health goals fall apart.  We are a pretty health conscious crowd, so here is what I am thinking as possible menu items for this week:

For an appetizer, try fat-free/low-fat easy bruschetta.  My husband just whipped this together last night as part of an easy Sunday night meal using some not too tasty dried out bakery bread.  He toasted thin slices of the dry bread, and then ladled his tomato mixture on top. He mixed diced tomatoes, fresh garlic, and balsamic vinegar  together (to taste, no oil included).  Topped with fresh basil and a pinch of fresh Parmesan cheese, it was wonderful and fat-free with no guilt issues returning for a third serving!

For the entrée, consider the following:

  • Jenni-O brand turkey brats-saves you at least 10 grams of fat and 100 calories over the standard counterpart. When we eat brats or serve brats to a crowd, we never eat the standard product and quite frankly, after soaking in beer and onions, one cannot tell the difference.
  • Fruit and/or vegetable and meat kebobs will save you calories by cutting down on the amount of meat consumed.  The quality of this meal will be improved by substituting the fruit and/or vegetables for the meat which adds healthy anti-oxidants from the fruits and vegetables while cutting down on saturated fat from meat.
  • Instead of standard burgers, consider grilling marinated boneless/skinless chicken breasts.  Pound the breasts to about a 1/4 inch thickness, marinade in your favorite mixtures, grill up and serve on whole wheat hamburger buns!

For side dishes, consider:

For dessert:

  • Strawberry shortcake served with angel food cake, fresh diced berries, and light cool whip or whipped cream
  • Or, just indulge in your favorite ice cream at this point since you ate so much healthy food the rest of the day.

For your beverages:

For the beverages, remember they can be loaded with calories from both sugar and alcohol.  Consider having your bar and cooler stocked with:

  • Diet tonic water and lemonade which will mix well with alcohol for a reduced calorie cocktail
  • Diet pop
  • Lower alcohol and calorie beer as well!

Happy 4th of July and enjoy the summer!

Mother’s Day Reflections from a Dietitian Mom and Grandma

As I contemplate the upcoming weekend and Mother’s Day, I realize that I know and respect an awful lot of amazing mothers. These mothers are my clients that I have come to know very well over the years, my friends, my relatives, and finally, my children.

These mothers always put mothering at the top of the priority list even as they pull off multi-faceted roles as wedding planners, secretaries, doctors, teachers, nurses, dentists, lawyers, administrators, and so on. The similar theme with these strong women who are amazing moms is their tenacity in nurturing and their instincts for being the driving force and support for their children.  It does not matter how old those children are, the “force” is still there. That “force” exhibits itself in various forms for various situations, but it is ever so present.

Remember to appreciate YOU

So to all those amazing mom’s out there, mom’s of little babies and adults already on their own and out of the nest, please take care of yourselves. Remember. YOU are worth your weight (no pun intended) in gold.  It’s necessary to replenish yourself to continue giving all that you give to others. Over the decades of counseling clients (as well as being a mother myself), I have realized that we can get “spent” very quickly as we go about our daily tasks of keeping our lives in line with ideals, and juggling all we do in a 24-hour period.

To keep up your pace, remember some guidance of self-care for YOU

  • Mange your diet as you would manage your business, your children, and careers!  Eating is meant to keep you well, strong, and the best you can be. It needs to be planned out as the rest of your life is planned. The outcome of this planning makes the effort worth it!
  • Feed yourself the same quality of diet you want your babies and older children to eat. Kids of all ages have a keen eye on what you are doing, and will learn to imitate your food behaviors and patterns of eating eventually, be it good or bad.
  • Take the time to eat; it is the only fuel and nutrients you will take in.  Just thinking you should eat, or taking supplements, will not give you the energy to carry on, only good quality food will do so.
  • Make sure you take the time to actually enjoy your food. Sit down at the table and teach your toddler that mom needs to enjoy her meal.
  • When sharing your meals with your children, enjoy the experience. One day they will cook for you and pick up the dishes without being asked. Remember, you are a role model, and what goes around comes around!

If you are reading this, you are probably a mother or know a wonderful mother.  I salute you all and wish you a wonderful day and upcoming week. Happy mother’s day to all those truly remarkable women called “mom”.

5 Weight Control Tips for December Damage Control

Woman Stepping onto ScaleWeight loss in December is not usually the objective for my clients.  Most of my clients simply hope to hold the line on their weight.  The challenges of the holidays are numerous:  shopping which leads to more frequent fast grab lunches at the mall, office parties, stress-related eating, and family or friend gatherings during the holidays.  Here are 5 tips to help you manage the tipping point on the scale:

  • Try to eat a healthy meal before hitting the mall.  If your shopping period is an all day affair, then plan your restaurant meal in advance.  Use the Internet to preplan your options at your mall restaurant by reviewing the nutrition information online.
  • For office parties and gatherings, try to have a healthy snack of fruit or veggies prior to the festivities.  If you are feeling a sense of fullness, it will be easier to resist some of those high temptation goodies which are sure to be available.  If you are having lunch catered in, see if you can find out the menu so you can preplan how you will handle the meal to meet your health and weight objectives.
  • You can help your stress-related eating by simply controlling your eating environment at home.  Make sure your kitchen is full of healthy food options which are easy to prepare as opposed to a kitchen full of high temptation baked goods and candy.  If you must bake for the holidays, keep those baked treats where you cannot easily get to them.  Better yet, store them at skinny friend’s house.
  • For gatherings with family and friends, contribute something to a potluck which meets your dietary objectives.  Make it something healthy, but something you can enjoy as well.  Fresh shrimp, a fruit platter, or crackers with reduced fat cheese spreads are good options.
  • Watch those alcohol calories!

An ounce of prevention is probably worth much more than a pound of cure.  It is much easier to avoid weight gain, than to undo those unwanted December pounds come January.

Wishing my readers a happy and healthy holiday season and 2013.