“Turkey Day” Food: Slimming Strategies for Favorite Foods!

Turkey DinnerThe big turkey day is upon us in a few weeks, so 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 it in a separate casserole dish.  This keeps your stuffing lower in calories as well.

Watch your servings sizes for all your foods and leftovers, and enjoy the day and the health benefits of traditional Turkey day fare.  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: A One Pot Meal for October 31

sitting on the fenceThis 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 to cook effortlessly while you step out with your kids to make the trick or treat rounds.  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. Fifteen minutes before stew is done cooking, sprinkle the peas on top.

Fish Oil: Good For Furry Friends Too!

Mollie2endless summer

My rescued Golden enjoying the summer shade a few years ago

As a practicing dietitian/nutritionist, I recommend fish oil to my patients all the time.  While my credentials and experience let me call myself an “expert” in human nutrition, I would never make the same claim for animal nutrition.  Animals are not humans, and while some aspects of human nutrition can and do cross-over to recommendations for our pets, I do not pretend to have the expertise in animal nutrition to know which principles of human nutrition would apply equally to our beloved furry friends.  Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3-fatty acids, which in humans, are documented as having the following general health benefits:

  • Lowers blood triglycerides, decreasing cardiovascular disease risk
  • Fights inflammation, a cause of pain and disease
  • Seems therapeutic for certain skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema, and just plain old dry skin

I have a very dear Golden Retriever that was rescued from a shelter at the age of one.  She is now a senior canine.  A recent trip to the vet along with a xray of her back showed osteoarthritis and disc degeneration.  The standard Rimadyl was started (an analgesic and anti-inflammatory) along with Dasuquin for joint support. While my options for therapy seemed limited, a vet tech at the office made a comment to me about fish oil.  He said human fish oil supplements were good for dogs, and the dosage would be the same as for humans.

Sounding like a benign and economical option, I did some reasearch.  Digging a bit into the literature, it seems fish oil supplementation for dogs is a very common practice.  As a practicing dietitian, I frequently run into incorrect supplement dosage recommendations made for people, and often those dosage recommendations are made by physicians.  For supplements to be therapeutic for humans, dosing does matter.  Too much of a supplement may foster a toxic situation or promote interference of other important nutrients essential to health.  Too little, and there may be no clinical impact.  So a bit of digging lent me insight into the dosing for dogs.  To figure out how much fish oil to give your dog, take your dog’s weight in pounds and multiply by 20.  So, if your dog weighs 75 pounds, the dosage of fish oil would be 1500 mg.

No special doggie fish oil is necessary.  Human fish oil supplements are fine.  Many pills are on the larger side, so you may pierce the pill and put on food.  Or, if your dog is like my dog, she will eat anything in a piece of bread.  Nature Made brand Fish Oil “pearls” are on the smaller side and 500 mg per pill.  This smaller size and dosage pill makes dosing and administration of fish oil easy!

I am hoping with this process to cut Mollie’s dander and ease her joint pain while also decreasing or eliminating her prescription medication.  For your beloved pet, please check with your vet before self-prescribing the fish oil because there may be health issues that need to be discussed first.

Making Weight Loss a Reality: 5 Surefire Simple Steps

Woman Stepping onto ScalePerhaps you started off the year with the best intentions, like most people.  You were going to hit the gym and lose twenty pounds by March.  Then the wind, snow, and winter doldrums came, and have not gone away.  Your best intentions for weight loss fizzled out as you became tired of it all, again (both the snow and the lost commitment).

It happens! But, this can be the beginning of the end of your weight loss hassles as long as you follow some historically successful suggestions.  Consider the following:

  • Know your “magic” number.  You need to eat fewer calories than your body needs in order to burn body fat, which is the objective in weight loss.  You do not want to lose water or muscle mass, you want to lose body fat.  If you take your current weight, and multiply by 10, this will be a good gauge of the amount of calories you should consume to cause weight loss.  So, if you weigh 135 and you wish to lose weight, multiply 135 by 10, and your good starting point is 1350 calories.  If you have a complicated workout schedule or need very specific guidance due to diseases such as diabetes, PCOS, and chronic fatigue syndrome, consider consulting with a dietitian to find the best calorie prescription for your circumstances.
  • Track your food.  It truly works!  If you know your magic number, but have no idea how much you are eating, you will stay fat.  My favorite tracking tool is MyFitnessPal because it is a very user-friendly app and makes tracking food a snap.  You can literally snap a picture of a bar code on a food item and the nutrition information will go to the data base.  Because everyone is on the go, using this app for food tracking eliminates the need to park yourself at the computer.  If you track your food as you move through your day, it will also be much more accurate!
  • Eat only foods you can really track.  If this means you avoid a restaurant because you do not have the nutrition information, so be it.  You want to be accurate with your food tracking, so make it a policy to eat only what you can intelligently measure in terms of calories.  MyFitnessPal has a large nutritional data base, but you won’t be able to accurately document your chicken parmesan from your favorite local Italian restaurant.  You will be guessing on the calories, and this is to be avoided.
  • Get a good digital scale.  Ok, you hate weighing your food, I know.  But the reality check here is that you don’t need to do it often.  For instance, I started tracking my food today, and weighed my portion of peanuts.  The label stated that 1 oz. of peanuts was 160 calories.  I knew I was not going to eat that many of my calories as peanuts, so I weighed out 1/4 oz.  I counted the peanuts as roughly 15, so now I know what a reasonable portion is for me.  Another point, leave the scale on the counter to remind you to use it!
  • Moving around helps.  Yes, exercise is great, but if you cannot exercise, that is not an excuse for not losing weight.  Exercise aids weight loss both in the short and long-term, but you can so undermine your gym time by not paying attention to what you put into your mouth.

No one ever said it was easy to lose weight.  Like anything important, it takes some effort and concentration.  With that stated, I believe anyone can lose weight, you simply need the right tools and commitment.

 

To Supplement or Not: 5 Facts To Factor

supplements from a bottleNews coverage over the last few days seems to be revolving around the weather, the holidays, Obamacare, and of all things nutritional supplements!  While I can’t comment about most of this current list of media topics, I do have a few words to say on the topic of supplements!  If you listen to the media hype over the last few days, there are some recurring  statements from the so-called experts being interviewed.  Some “experts” note most of our nutrients should come from food, come from “natural” whole foods put into pill form, or just be avoided altogether.  The truth and correct answers are most likely somewhere in between the primarily black and white general statements made by these so-called experts. Sadly, despite this topic of supplements airing over many news stations for the last few days, not one “expert” ever suggested that each person should be evaluated on a case by case basis in order to really assess the need and benefits from supplements. To determine if supplements are right for you, consider these tips:

  • Supplements are meant to fill in for dietary shortfallsIf you eat a healthy diet (include dairy or source of calcium, fish, plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains), there is a fairly good chance you can skip taking pills!  If you are lactose intolerant, hate dairy products, don’t eat any foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, or you are vegan, then you may benefit from a supplement.  Consulting a licensed/registered dietitian can help you sort out what you may or may not need to be doing regarding supplements.
  • Supplements are of benefit to your health if you have a documented deficiency of a nutrient!  Wondering if you should really be taking vitamin D supplements?  You should have a blood test to determine if you need to be taking a supplement.  Once blood work is done on my clients, most have turned out to be deficient.  Once a deficiency of any nutrient is determined, it is easy enough to replete the diet through both food and supplements (or sunshine in the case of vitamin D).
  • Be aware of upper limits of safety!  More is definitely not better for you in most cases.  In fact, many people who take multiple supplements forget that they may be doubling or tripling their intake of a given nutrient because it is in several of their supplement formulas.  Beyond a certain limit, it can be dangerous to take the nutrient. Some nutrients can even be toxic if taken in excess.  Your favorite dietitian can be your best resource for this information!
  • Food is your best source of nutrients.  Nature has an uncanny way of packaging foods and one food is loaded with many nutrients that actually work together to maximize your nutritional status.  With that stated, those people who eat a lot of processed foods and a limited diet may indeed benefit from specific supplements.  An evaluation of your diet and eating habits is the best way to move forward with accurate supplement recommendations.
  • Did you know there is no regulation of supplements?  If a supplement has been implicated in causing harm, it will be pulled from the shelves, but until then it is buyer beware!  With that stated, the savvy consumer choosing to take supplements should consider well-know brands that have a reputation to protect.  Using lesser known brands may result in less quality control.  Over the decades, some supplements have been known to be tainted with arsenic and lead.  Choosing a name brand product can potentially protect you!

Not all supplements are good or bad for that matter.  Not all people need supplements, and many people do!  Consulting with a professional who is educated on this topic and takes the time to evaluate your diet prior to making recommendations will be time well spent in improving both your health and nutritional status!

The Fat in Your Blood Your Doctor Doesn’t Talk About, but Your Dietitian Will!

Blood SampleAccording to a recent airing of the Dr. Oz show, triglyceride levels are the orphan fat that is not readily discussed during your doctor’s appointment. If your triglyceride value is elevated, your blood is thick like motor oil, which can contribute to deadly plaque formation and heart disease.  If you are in need of taming your triglycerides, here are some simple and effective steps:

  • Limit Alcohol— For some people, cutting out alcohol can elicit a marked decrease in their triglyceride levels.  While you may like it if your doctor tells you red wine is good for you, your dietitian knows alcohol can increase your triglyceride levels and I tell patients to eat grapes instead.
  • Choose Fats Wisely— Replace butter with equivalent amounts of olive oil, but don’t forget to swap the fats for each other. Simply adding olive oil to your diet on top of your usual butter intake will not assist you in improving your cholesterol or triglyceride numbers!
  • Cut Down on Simple Carbs—Carbohydrates are basically divided into two categories: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates tend to be sweet, such as soft drinks, desserts, candies, and syrup. Complex carbohydrates are found in bread, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables.  It is generally recommended that people with high triglycerides avoid simple carbohydrates. Some people are so sensitive to sweets that their triglyceride levels increase drastically when they eat too much sugar. In any healthful diet, complex carbohydrates should be in the 45-65% of overall calorie intake, but even too much high-fiber, nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates can aggravate triglyceride levels when eaten in amounts exceeding 60% of total calorie intake.
  • Eat More omega-3 fatty acids— Omega-3 fatty acids are found in most fish, but are more abundant in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring.  Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include tofu, soybeans, flaxseed, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Increase Physical Activity—Aerobic exercise can help with weight loss and can decrease triglyceride levels at the same time. In fact, both short bouts of aerobic exercise as well as long-term repetitive exercise have been shown to decrease triglyceride levels. Most studies find that the best bet is to do 30-45 minutes of moderately intensive exercise five times a week. First, get your doctor’s approval if you’re not accustomed to exercise.
  • Maintain or Get to a Healthy Weight—Studies have shown losing weight and maintaining an ideal weight to be associated with decreased levels of blood fats-including both triglycerides and cholesterol.

Do you have a success story about how you lowered your triglyceride numbers?

5 Tips to Trim Thanksgiving and Trim You Too!

Turkey DinnerWith 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.

Satisfries, new BK skinny fries

I am starting my semester this week teaching nutrition classes.  In this morning’s class, I was commenting on advertising driving our food choices and I then recalled the BK commercial I heard yesterday.  It touted a new fry, which is called Satisfries (most clever name), and I also commented to my class that I probably had not actually set foot in a BK for about 20 years!  I asked if anyone had tried the new fries, and no one had yet!  I thought, I will! 055

So, this afternoon between classes, I went to Burger King.  At my local BK, the product had only been out since yesterday.  The nutrition information was not available on the preprinted nutrition sheets, and limited info seems to be available online.

The sign advertising the Satisfries noted the calories of the Satisfries vs. standard fries as roughly150 calories vs. 226 calories respectively.  I am unclear on the size BK is citing these values for because even a small regular fry on the nutrition info provided by BK assigns 340 calories to a small fry.  Is there a serving size at BK less than a “small”?

The fat content is noted as being 40% less than the standard fry along with the 30% difference in overall calories.  What I do not know is any of the other nutrition information since that seems to be unavailable to the consumer at the moment.

I seldom eat French fries.  If someone offers me a fry, I will eat it, however, so I do know what a fry tastes like!  With that stated, my take on these fries was that they tasted fine.  No, not greasy like regular fries and they were salty (which is why I wish I knew the sodium content).  The photo shows that indeed there is a touch of grease on these fries, and while I could get very little concrete information from the person filling in as manager at my BK, the corporate website notes a coating on the fry which inhibits some of the fat absorption, hence the lower fat and calorie content.  I did detect a slight off flavor, but could not tell you if I would have detected the same off taste in their regular fries since I do not usually order fries at a fast food restaurant.  We all have different taste buds, so what I detect might be undetectable by the next person.

Will this help fight obesity? Probably not, but I am happy to see an attempt to make a classic fast food option more agreeable to those slightly more health conscious people who may be forced to hit a fast food chain due to travel or unforeseen circumstances.  It is nice to have a choice, so I give BK credit for that.  I hope to see more specific nutrition information in the near future.

To recap, the fries (small) cost me $2.19 and yield 150 calories and claim to have 40% less fat.  Sodium and saturated fat information seems unavailable to date so I will look forward to more nutrition information becoming available if this product survives the test drive phase of marketing.

7 Tips to Tackle Healthier Eating by TONIGHT!

We are all busy!  My new clients all seem to feel like there is no time to “cook”, they eat on theMan Eating Pizza run, and the end result is a poor diet that will eventually impact health and weight. Through my three decades of counseling clients, I have seen the American diet deteriorate to new lows.  If you would like to improve your diet by this evening and your health down the road, try these seven easy tactics to shape up your diet by TONIGHT!

  • Eat breakfast.  By starting the day with healthy fuel, you are more likely to get all your required nutrients for the day.  If trying to lose weight, you will use these calories efficiently, and not store as fat.  You can keep it super simple-a serving of fruit, slice of toast, along with juice or milk. 
  • Add fruits and vegetables to your day every day and ALL day.  Most Americans eat far less than the recommended 5 servings a day.  By adding fruits and veggies to your diet, you are adding compounds to your diet that decrease inflammation.  Decreasing inflammation can decrease your risk of disease. Start to tackle this by making sure you eat a serving of fruit and vegetables with every meal and snack and voila, mission accomplished!
  • Drastically decrease animal protein consumption.  Why? Animal protein is not just protein; it is also a significant amount of saturated fat.  By eating less animal protein, you will decrease your intake of fat, particularly saturated fat which is artery clogging and increases inflammation.
  • Avoid the fast food-restaurant trap.Dining out constantly is a sure-fire way to ruin your diet unless you constantly order salads with low fat dressing and fruit platters.  Most restaurant food is much higher in sodium, calories, and fat than the counterpart made or assembled at home.
  • Don’t be afraid of some convenience foods in the grocery store. I can almost guarantee that if you eat some brands of frozen dinner such as Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, you will for the most part be better off than going to the local fast food chain or diner.  Why?  The meals are portion controlled; you know what you are eating because you can see a Nutrition Fact Label.  We have been brainwashed to think that these meals have too many chemicals, etc.  There are many nutritional advantages to these items as a back up to a chaotic schedule that necessitates relying on dining out to get your meals consumed.  And, it is cheaper.
  • Meals can be large snacks that do not require cooking!  Throughout the years, clients have hesitantly told me that they would eat cereal for dinner because they are too tired to cook.  I think those same clients expect me to say “how awful”, when I actually tell them this is not a problem.  A bowl of cereal along with skim milk or milk alternative and a nice serving of fruit is actually a nice low-calorie and low-fat meal providing protein and carbohydrates in reasonable quantities.  You can also just serve yourself a smoothie made with frozen fruit and throw in some yogurt or cottage cheese to bump up the protein content.
  • Track your food.  Better yet, track your diet with a good app like MyFitnessPal.  It will allow you instant analysis of what you are eating, and more importantly, makes you face the music.  ALL my clients that have been tracking their food with this app are eating better and losing weight if that was the objective.  This app is free.

Do you have other easy and practical tips to keep your diet healthy?

Several Sumptuous Summer Salads: Kale with Quinoa and Penne Pasta with Feta Cheese

Penne with Chickpeas, tomato, and feta

Penne with Chickpeas, tomato, and feta

If you are tired of BBQ cuisine at this point and want to swap your grilled burgers for some interesting summer salads, here are several I can personally recommend.  I have not personally made the kale salad, but have certainly enjoyed eating it!  My friend served this kale salad at a recent gathering, and I asked for the recipe because it was not only delicious, but also loaded with anti-oxidants.  This salad is a wonderfully tasty way to consume kale and well worth the 45 minutes of prep time. Serve the kale salad with a slice of whole grain bread and a beverage and call it dinner.

Kale Quinoa Salad- Adapted from La Grande Orange Cafe in Pasadena.  Recipe analysis is for 4 servings with 420 calories per serving.

Champagne vinaigrette

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons minced shallots

Pinch kosher salt

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon chopped chervil

Ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, shallots and salt; set aside for 20 minutes to soften the shallot. Slowly drizzle in the oils while whisking to emulsify the vinaigrette. Whisk in the chervil and pepper. This makes a scant one-half cup vinaigrette; the vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 4 days.

1/2 cup quinoa
Salt
4 cups loosely packed julienned kale, from 1 large bunch
Champagne vinaigrette
3 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
2/3 cup red seedless grapes, halved
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup grated Manchego cheese
10 to 12 strips finely julienned preserved lemon

 

1. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a simmer. Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse well, then drain, and add to the simmering water. Cook the quinoa until the grains are translucent and tender and the germ has spiraled out from the grain, about 15 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Remove from heat and drain any remaining liquid. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and transfer to a baking sheet to cool. The quinoa can be made ahead of time and stored, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days before using.
2. In a large bowl, place the kale and one-fourth cup of the vinaigrette. Using your hands, massage the vinaigrette into the kale until the kale is softened, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. To the bowl, add the cooled quinoa, the sunflower seeds, bell pepper, grapes and Parmigiano Reggiano, tossing to combine.
4. Divide the salad among serving plates, evenly sprinkling over the Manchego cheese and garnishing with the preserved lemon strips. Serve immediately.

 

Penne With Chickpeas, feta, and tomatoes. This recipe is from Cooking Light and modified by the chefs in the Rose household!  Each 1.5 cup serving has 350 calories.

8 ounces uncooked penne pasta (try the tri-color version)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup shallots
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 15 ounce can chickpeas
3 cups cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup crumbled fat-free feta cheese
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
pinch of freshly ground pepper

 

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain the liquid, reserving 1/4 cup for later.  Heat a large skillet, add oil and then shallots and garlic; saute for one minute or less and constantly stir to avoid burning. Stir in bell pepper and chickpeas, saute 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and saute an additional 2 minutes. Stir in cooked pasta and the 1/4 cup reserved liquid.  Cook for 1 minute until heated through.  Add the fat-free feta and remaining ingredients; toss to combine and serve on your favorite serving platter.