Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Quote of the Day....For Holiday Discussion

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."

-Carl Sagan

Monday, December 21, 2009

What is BPA?

As I previously mentioned, last week I took at cooking class at a reputable establishment in Chapel Hill. During the class, the instructor demonstrated how to cure salmon by adding salt and herbs, wrapping it in plastic wrap, and then allowing it to marinate/cure for a few days.

While the instructor showed how to wrap the fish, a participant shouted out a question about plastic wrap and BPA. "Couldn't we use something else that doesn't contain BPA and doesn't clog up our landfill?" (At this point I leaned over to my co-worker who lives in Raleigh and has never been to said establishment before and whispered "welcome to Chapel Hill.")

So what is it and should we be as concerned as my fellow cooking class student?

According to the Mayo Clinic:
"Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in polycarbonate plastic food and beverage containers and in resin linings for cans. Research has shown that BPA can leach into food from these containers and cans. Because BPA appears to cause health problems in animal studies, some scientists are concerned about the risk BPA poses to humans."

Basically, it is the reason why Pyrex glass storage containers and those metal water bottles have become so popular: to avoid BPA exposure. (And to reduce plastic in the landfills....but since this is a food/nutrition site, I'm focusing on the health effects.)

Where is it found?
  • Water bottles
  • Plastic food containers
  • Infant bottles
  • Compact discs
  • and as coating on food cans (amongst other places)
Why are people concerned?

Mainly, there is concern because there is such widespread exposure. The NHANES survey found detectable levels in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people age 6 and older. Data from these surveys are considered to be representative of the US population.

Should we be worried?

While more studies are needed, an NIH group concluded that there is some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses and children. There is minimal concern for effects on the mammary gland and an earlier stage for puberty for females. There is negligible concern for exposure for pregnant woman resulting in fetal mortality or birth defects.

It should be noted that other studies have shown a possible link between BPA and reproductive disorders, breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even obesity (although I'm sure that's a stretch.)

In my opinion, it's better to be safe than sorry, especially when there are easy/feasible alternatives. If you agree you can do the following:
  • Avoid plastic containers with the #7
  • Don't microwave plastic food containers
  • Don't wash plastic containers in the dishwasher
  • Reduce your use of canned foods (a good idea anyway!)
  • Try to use glass, porcelain or stainless steel whenever possible, especially for hot foods or liquids
  • Use infant formula bottles that are BPA free and look for toys that are as well
Personally, I use pyrex glass storage containers for my leftovers (even though they tend to disappear when I let Sir Cakewalk take them to work.) I also have 2 non-BPA containing water bottles that I use when working out. When I'm in the office, I use a glass or mug to get water from the fountain. It's cheaper and safer than buying individual plastic water bottles. (Which I personally find a little silly anyway.)

Now go forth and be informed!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Realistic Bookshelf

Now that I have my own office, I have my own bookcase for all of my diet/food/fitness related books. I'm movin on up!

I have books that I hated, books that were great, books from school, books for fun, books for cooking, books for dieting, and everything in between. I like to keep all of them for referencing, even the ones I didn't like or don't agree with....because someone else is bound to read them and ask me about the such and such diet.

I pride myself on my knowledge of diet trends and diet books. I started reading them when I was probably 10 years old, and have continued to do so. So, if you have questions about a book Oprah mentioned, or something you saw at the bookstore, ask me! I can break it down for you, tell you the pros and cons, and maybe even loan you my copy, if it's worthy of being lent out.

While I have read many many many more and while I have more packed away some where in the depths of my basement, here are the ones I currently have on my professional bookshelf:

  • The Human Body Atlas
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Complete Book of Personal Training
  • Muscle Mechanics
  • SPSS for Windows
  • Chocolate
  • Candy making
  • Celebrate with Chocolate
  • Ultimate Fitness
  • Get with the Program
  • You Are What You Eat
  • Fat Flush
  • Thin for Life
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • The Master Cleanse
  • Abs Diet
  • How We Eat
  • Zen of Eating
  • Intuitive Eating
  • War on Fat
  • Calorie Counts
  • Gastronomical Me
  • Fat Land
  • The Science Fiction Weight Loss Book
  • Diet For A New America
  • Diet For A New World
  • Slow Food Nation
  • 8 Weeks to Optimum Health
  • The Zone
  • Food Politics
  • Moveable Feasts
  • Heal Your Heart
  • Atlas of Food
  • Environmental Nutrition
  • Introductory Foods
  • Introduction to Statistics
  • Arnold’s Fitness For Kids (my very first fitness/health/nutrition book... I got it as a kid)

For books I highly recommend, please see the Realistic Reading List

Or, if you have a book you'd like to me to read or would recommend, please let me know!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Re Sip P : Canned Junk Cakes aka Tuna Cakes

Per my previous post, I hate canned tuna. When my Dad was single he made tuna noodle casserole for my sister and I every time we came to stay with him. To this day, we both hate the dish.

So I didn't touch a can again until I came across a recipe for "spicy" tuna cakes that doesn't include mayo. (Mayo is half the reason I won't touch tuna salad and the like.) I've since changed a few things to make it my own and I often change it up with different ingredients for something different. I invite you to do the same.

This recipe is:
  • EASY
In fact, this is one of my go-to recipes when I need to make a quick dinner.

Ok, are you ready for it? Are you on the edge of your seat? Ok.....drumroll please.

Tuna Cakes

You will need:
  • One can of tuna (any kind) packed in water.
  • One egg or the equivalent of egg substitute
  • One small onion or half an onion (this you can adjust for your own taste)
  • About a tablespoon of green pepper
  • About a cup of breadcrumbs (try the seasoned ones for extra flavor, but stay away from panko)
  • Any herbs you have on hand, fresh or dried
  • A tad of cayenne
  • S & P
  • Oil for cooking (a few tablespoons of any variety, although I would recommend not EVOO (although I often use EVOO because I always have it on hand)) (())()()))((( Ok, no more parentheses. ;)
To make:
  1. Open the can of tuna and drain
  2. Place the tuna in a bowl
  3. Add the egg to the bowl
  4. Dice the onion and want these fairly small or the cakes will fall apart...but they don't have to be miniscule
  5. Put the onion and pepper in the bowl
  6. Chop your fresh herbs and add to the bowl (a small handful total) or sprinkle your dried herbs in (about a tablespoon total if dried), along with S & P, cayenne and any other seasonings you want to try.
  7. Mix ingredients in the bowl with a fork so they are relatively well distributed (it will be quite liquidy at this point)
  8. Add breadcrumbs, about a quarter of a cup at a time and mix as you go. I don't actually know how much to add, it always depends on the batch and I never measure. I just add some, stir and mix, and then add more until the mixture is no longer liquidy and can easily be formed into patties. A cup should be sufficient, but play with this a bit.
  9. Heat some oil in a saute pan. I like to start with a tablespoon heated over medium high.
  10. While your pan is heating, use your hands to form patties like a hamburger.
  11. As the patties are ready and the pan is hot (you know its hot and ready when the oil shimmers and runs around the pan like water), place a few patties in.
  12. Allow the patties to brown but not burn on one side then flip. Allow them to brown on the other side. These cook quickly and tend to burn, so keep an eye on them. If you find them starting to burn, turn down your heat or add a bit more oil. I also like to pick the pan up off the stove and shake it a bit to make sure no patties are sticking and to distribute the oil around the pan.
  13. Once they are lightly browned on both sides they are done! Remove from pan with a spatula and place on a plate with a paper towel. (This allows any excess oil to drain off, which is better for you and prevents soggy patties.)
  14. Serve! I like them plain or with a little sauce such as cocktail, chutney, etc. Try with your favorite.
This makes about 4 patties. I serve two per person with a side of veggies for a quick, healthy dinner.

As I said, you can play with this recipe to suit your needs. You can leave out any of the ingredients except the egg, tuna and breadcrumbs. And you can use another fish or canned product if you'd like.


Something's Fishy

Last night I was reminded of how much I love fish, of how easy it is to prepare well, and of how many people have misconceptions about it.

As I kid I thought that fish=frozen fish sticks or tuna noodle casserole. I hated fish. (I still hate tuna noodle casserole.) I did eat shrimp, but only fried, with extra cocktail sauce, thank you. I don't even know when I began trying it prepared different ways, but it was around the time of my undergraduate years. Then, I was fortunate enough to get a job at a well regarded seafood restaurant. I learned more and tried more there than I did in many of my classes.

I learned that:
  • All fish are not created equal. Some have a stronger flavor but some are soooo mild. Tilapia and mahi are very mild. Salmon is very strong flavored (even when fresh it will have a distinctive smell and taste, see next bullet.)
  • Fresh fish should NOT stink. If you think fish smells, you have not had good fish. (Other seafood does smell, mussels in particular.)
  • The flavor of fish can change the longer you cook it. A well-done tuna steak will be grey (sooo appealing), and taste much like the canned junk. (Although I do have one recipe for the canned junk that makes it edible. Will post later, I promise.) If you leave it less cooked than medium, it will have a totally different flavor. You may like it, you may not. But I have seen many fish newbies take a bite of seared tuna with a red center and smile with surprise and delight.
  • Many fish taste like chicken, only better. I know it is the golden child of nutritionists everywhere, but I hate chicken. Even if I weren't a vegetarian, I wouldn't eat it very often. A fresh fish filet like tilapia, grouper, mahi, etc can be prepared in many of the same ways chicken can, but will have more flavor and won't be tough or dry (if cooked properly.) In fact, if you think you don't like fish but you eat chicken, I dare you to try a good tilapia filet with your eyes closed. You'll probably think its the best poultry you ever ate. Again, you may not, but you never know until you try.
  • Fish is not hard to prepare. My favorite way to cook it is to sear it in a hot pan then finish it in the oven. In other words, you get a pan nice and hot with a little oil. Then you plop in the fish. When it's a little brown on the bottom, flip it and brown the other side. But don't leave it too long and don't let it cook all the way. Then, you put the whole pan in the stove (make sure your pan is able to be in the oven...some will melt), until the fish is to the desired doneness. If you don't have a heat proof pan, you can delicately transfer the fish to an oiled baking sheet and use it. Now that I have a grill, I'm going to start grilling more fish using a similar principle. You can also bake it, broil it, or put it in a nice soup. Or, once in awhile, you can fry it. Have you had fried grouper sticks???? Yum!
  • The taste/quality of your fish depend on where it came from and where you bought it. If you can, I would buy fish at a seafood market or specialty store like fresh market, earthfare or whole foods. Ask the fishmonger about the fish, where it comes from, what's in season, etc. You can request the cut you want and the size you want. You don't have to settle for what they have on display. And they often know some ways to prepare it or might have some tips about fish in general.
Fish is also very good for you. While mercury content can be a concern for certain populations (ill, pregnant), most people can eat fish a few times a week without worry. It's packed with protein and omega-3's and it's low in calories.

And what inspired all of this? What reminded me about the fishy business of fish preparation and consumption? I took a cooking class with an expert on the stuff. My friend sitting next to me shared that the fish we ate in the class was more than she had ever eaten and that she had no idea it tasted that good and could be prepared so easily. She even ate cured Salmon like a champ. She left inspired! And I hope you will feel the same now.

I thought about including a recipe here, but I'd rather not. Honestly, the manner of cooking a fish filet that I described earlier is my favorite preparation. You don't need any extra bam! or fancy ingredients. You can add a sauce if you like, but none is needed. I will, however, include a few recipes in the future. And stay tuned for a canned junk recipe. ;)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is it worth it?

I just received a link for this website:

I'm still checking it out, but it seems to have some good info on organically grown food.

I used to be up in the air on the subject of organics. I even debated on the side of "against" in a mock debate in graduate school. And I think I won. But since then I have read more, seen more, and heard more. The most interesting information I saw was at a national conference last year. Two professors spoke on the subject to a packed room. They showed study after study to support their views that organically grown food is better for you. They showed that it's better for you in that organic foods likely have a higher nutrient content AND because of the potential risks of eating food that has been treated with pesticides and chemicals. I'm sorry that I can't remember the names of the presenters or provide more concrete details of their studies....because it was enough to finally convince me that organic growing was important.

I'm not saying that everyone needs to run out and spend tons of money buying only organic food. But I am saying that there is more to this argument than a hippie desire to be more natural.

What do ya'll think?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thought of the Day

Ulcers are caused not so much by what we eat as by what's eating us.

Reader Question: Motivation to Conquer Holiday Temptation

Do you have any tips or tricks for how to get motivated again with eating correctly at this time of year when you have so little time to spend on yourself?

Thank you for the question. And yes! I do have some suggestions:
  • First, I would say that trying to start a new diet or return to a rigorous eating plan now, may not be the best idea. Then again, I never recommend starting an extreme "diet" as opposed to making sustainable lifestyle changes, but that's another matter. But that doesn't mean you should gorge yourself with goodies until 1/1/10 either.
  • Next I would say the word that no one ever seems to like or fully understand, even though we all know its the answer to most questions: BALANCE. Eating healthfully without starving or depriving yourself to the brink of insanity is all about balance and weighing your options and priorities. Now I know you were not looking for a big philosophical/psychological response. But this concept has practical, day to day applications, especially this time of year:
  1. Decide in advance what some of your favorite holiday treats are. These are the things that are part of your holiday celebration....not just something to nibble on mindlessly.
  2. Have something in mind? (I hope it isn't something with coconut, ew!) ;) Now, can you think of a way to make or purchase a slightly healthier/lighter version of this thing? If not, feel free to email me and maybe I can help you. I don't mean just pull out the sugar and add artificial junk. Nor do I mean taking out all of the flavor. But there are options for making foods better for you, and sometimes they even taste better than the original!
  3. If you really can't make a lighter version of the real thing, than you can have the real thing! But here is what you must do in exchange. Decide when you are going to indulge in said thing. Do you have a party coming up? Is it something you eat Christmas morning? Know when you will be consuming this treat. Then, for the rest of that day, monitor what you else you eat and curtail any further indulgences. For example, I love my sister's cakes. She is working on finding healthy versions of some of them (and might even open her own healthy options bakery in the future), but for now, if I want the treat, I have to eat the real thing, butter, sugar and fat and all. So if I know she is bringing dessert for dinner, I will cut back a little the rest of the day. I'll make sure I eat a good breakfast. I'll eat a lighter lunch packed with veggies. And I'll refuse second helpings at dinner. Then I can eat her dessert guilt-free.
  4. Now, when you actually go to eat your treat, don't just slap a hunk on your plate and then inhale it. Start with a modest portion (if you need help with portion sizes, and most of you probably do whether you know it or not, email me.) Then, eat slowly and really enjoy each bite. Don't watch tv, don't slurp it down with a beverage, and don't talk with your mouth full, ew! Just enjoy! Even if you do eat a little more than you probably should, it won't break the caloric bank, because you've kept your spending to a minimum all day.
  • You can follow a similar procedure any time of the year. For example, I LOVE McDonald's fries. Did you get that? An RD admitting to loving Mickey D's fries. But, when I have them, I don't also have a burger. Instead, I get a small fry and a side salad with light dressing for a light meal or snack. To make it a full meal, I might put some lean protein on the salad (most often from my own kitchen not from McD's.) For the rest of the day, I also watch what I eat....I don't necessarily count every calorie and morsel (although this can be useful if you are trying to lose weight.) But I do try to choose more veggies and fresh foods and less processed, calorie dense crap-ola.
  • Basically my advice is to just put a little thought into each bite. Is this bite good for you? If not, is it worth it and can you "afford" it, ie did you save up for it today? Or, can you make a different version that is just as good? Typically anything processed can be homemade and it will save calories and increase flavor.
  • When you are at parties and there is a lot to choose from, take stock of the choices first and weigh your options. If there is a green salad, fill your plate with that. Then, add in a few other goodies to accompany it.
  • Remember to consider alcohol. These calories need to be budgeted in as well. Again, if I know I want to enjoy a glass of wine or two, I will scale back the rest of my day. Or, I will just have a small amount and enjoy it.
  • Before I go further, I should clarify one thing. When I advise you to watch your caloric budget and to account for the good stuff by cutting back a little I DO NOT mean starving yourself to make room for alcohol or fatty/sugary treats. It is never good to go without food. Nor is it good to overindulge. And combining the two can wreak havoc on your body! When I say "cut back" I mean, make a turkey sandwich at home for lunch rather than eating a burger out. Eat a large salad rather and a small portion of pasta rather than the other way around. Eat some oatmeal, fruit and yogurt for breakfast rather than a bo-han-gu-lays.
  • The last thing I would say is to remember that this time of year won't last forever, but temptations will always be around. We are always busy. Eating healthfully takes a little education and a little work. So go slow and make small changes that are permament lifestyle alterations. Even if you only set two small goals for yourself for this season, think about how great you'll feel if you accomplish them! So think of a couple of ways you could eat better that wouldn't be too hard to achieve, even now. And commit to them. You may have some setbacks, but you may find its easier than you think! Some goal ideas:
  1. Limit sodas (give yourself a specific number/amount, it's easier to stick to) and drink more water.
  2. Bring your lunch to work every day. Don't eat out.
  3. Eat breakfast.
  4. Eat a salad first. Then eat the rest of your meal. It will help fill you up.
  5. Eat at least 5 veggies a day. (You can choose a number that is higher or lower if that works better for you.)
  6. Walk for 30 minutes a day if you are currently not exercising.
  7. Switch to low fat mayo...or switch any product to a low fat version.
  8. Check Realistic Nutrition every day for new posts and comments.
I hope this helps. If you have any other questions/thoughts/suggestions, please comment or email me!

Good luck!

Happy Holidays!

And now a picture I can't get out of my head...dang it!

Good thing I had veggies and healthy soup for lunch today...looks like I'm gonna have to make a big withdrawal from the caloric bank later. ;)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Using It All

Last night I did a bit of cleaning...and the same time!

I got my order from Papa Spuds in and it included (amongst other things): Kale, red potatoes, broccoli and cilantro (all local and mostly organic.)

I chopped up the potatoes and broccoli and sauteed them with an onion. Then I set that aside.

While that was browning in the pan, I took the broccoli stem and onion bits and put them in a big pot of water on the stove. To this pot I then added:
  • a hunk of ham leftover from thanksgiving
  • part of the turkey carcass from tday
  • a couple of carrots that weren't bad but weren't crunchy anymore
  • the stems of the cilantro
  • the stems of some other herbs I had lingering in my fridge
  • any other veggies I had that weren't being used or parts of veggies that were otherwise not usable
  • AND some salt and pepper.
I let this simmer for a few hours. Then I strained it and put the liquid into a slow cooker.

In the slow cooker, I also put broccoli florets, red potatoes, chopped kale, an onion, S&P, and hot sauce. I let this cook all day today. I haven't tried it yet...but it smells good.

Finally, I put the sauteed veggies back in the pan and poured an egg mixture over it. The egg mixture had mostly whites and few yolks, a touch of cheese and S&P. Then I let it cook, flipped it, and served a frittata of sorts. I say "of sorts" because it was rather ugly. I am not a good flipper. Nor am I am good frittata maker...heck I can't even spell the word. But when I make them they always taste good.

So there ya have it. That's how I used my weekly veggie order AND used up any leftovers and nearly bad produce to make two easy and quick homemade dishes. I say "quick" because even though I let things cook for long periods, I really didn't spend much time in the actual kitchen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reader Question

A reader recently posted this question:

"Here's a question for ya...super foods. what are they and how much should we eat per day/month? I recenlty caught a few minutes of some health show on TV which basically went over that it's not necessarily the calorie content of foods that contribute to health adn weight gain, but also the hormonal impacts (some reduce the feeling of hunger, some induce it, etc). Thoughts?"

Ok, there really are two questions/issues here.


First, you ask about super foods. Super foods are regular foods that have even more health benefits than the average food. These include various fruits, veggies, nuts, teas, etc. These foods are supposedly good for you because they contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc. But guess what? All fruits and veggies contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and in varying and differing amounts. That is why we dietitians ask people to eat a wide variety of fresh produce in appropriate quantities (ie enough servings per day.) That way you will reap all the health benefits these foods have to offer in the form in which it was intended.

Calling one food or another a "super food" is a little bit silly. It often leads to the overeating of one particular food at the expense of the rest OR it leads scientists to try to extract the healthy properties from the food and putting into a pill or supplement form. This rarely if ever provides the same benefits derived from just simply eating the food as part of a varied and balanced diet.

It is true that some foods provide some additional health benefits than others. For example, cranberries are often recommended when a UTI is diagnosed. But often times, to get the promised effects, one would need to consume more than the recommended serving. It's never wise to consume too much of any one food. Even eating too many carrots can have adverse health effects!

So my advice would be to ignore the hype about super foods. I know it isn't sexy, but the adage of eating more fruits and vegetables and a balanced, varied diet is still your best bet.


Next, you ask about the calorie content of food affecting weight gain versus hormones. I'm assuming you are asking about leptin and ghrelin. Leptin suppresses food intake while ghrelin promotes the intake of food. Much is still unknown about these hormones and their role in energy balance in the body. But, basically, if they are functioning correctly, then leptin signals the brain to suppress the appetite and burn calories while ghrelin decreases hunger and fat burning, and these hormones are relatively balanced and proportionate and act accordingly to keep calories out matching the calories in. But, this may not be the case in the obese, for whom these hormones may be imbalanced, affecting the body's ability to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

If you really want to know more about these hormones I can break out my thesis...I wrote a good deal about them several years ago and examined the research on their potential effects in relation to processed foods, artificial sweeteners and other artificial additives/ingredients. But I doubt anyone really wants to read that. ;)

So instead, I would say not to worry about this, especially if you are not overweight. Until more is known, there are more important things to focus on when choosing a healthy diet or watching what you eat. But if you are overweight or know someone who is, please let this be a reminder that losing weight is a difficult and complicated endeavor. This is just one manner by which your body may be fighting your hard efforts. But don't lose heart! It is not a lost cause! Stay tuned for more tips, hints, and recipes to guide you on your path to weight loss or better health. If you would like to know more, you know where to find me. Remember, you are not alone and I am here to help.

I hope this answers your questions. Keep sending them my way!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Really Reasonable Re-sip-ees For The Holidays

As I mentioned before, for Thanksgiving I wanted to try to make as much from scratch as I could. It was a very successful endeavor!

Personally, I made sweet potato casserole, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes from scratch the day of the meal, in addition to the turkey, broccoli and putting together a salad. It was much easier and quicker than I expected and everything tasted delicious!

Cooking with whole, unprocessed foods can be easier than you think. You just need to do a little extra prep and research before making them for the first time.

I love and and sometimes for recipes.

For stuffing I made my boss's tried and true recipe:
  • I purchased a loaf of bread from TJ's a few days before Turkey Day.
  • The day of the meal, I cut it into squares.
  • Then I spread the squares on a sheet pan and cooked them for about 10 minutes while the turkey was cooking. (I'm not sure of the exact time and I was using convection so results may not be the same for you....I just kept checking on them until they were slightly brown and crispy.)
  • Transfer cubes to a baking dish.
  • Chop an onion and a few celery stalks and saute them for a few minutes using a tablespoon of butter.
  • Pour these items and the melted butter over the bread cubes.
  • Finely chop a few herbs and sprinkle them into the cube mixture. Almost any herbs will do. I prefer fresh and I had rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley on hand. (No I wasn't going to Scarborough Fair.) But dried ones will work too.
  • Pour broth or stock over the cubes and gently mix just to moisten. I used about a half a cup. Again, this is something you just have to guess and check. So add a little at a time until it's at the consistency you like.
  • Finally, add a can or 1 cup of fresh cranberry sauce. I used canned and saved the fresh stuff for serving by itself. You can vary the amount of this you add as well. Just be sure to use enough to serve as a binder for the dish but not so that its all soaked and bright red.
  • Put the baking dish in the oven and bake until crispy on the top. Yet again, I cannot tell you how long or at what temp since I was using a convection oven. (Does anyone else have one too?) I would suggest about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. But play around with it.
If you'd like any of my other wildly successful recipes, just ask!

Did you make a healthy version or a from scratch version of a holiday favorite?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Time to work off the turkey!

Now that we've all had our share of turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc etc etc (all healthy versions of course)'s time to work off the extra calories and stay on the healthy habit wagon. This is no time to get sluggish or throw in the towel!

So how much physical activity do adults need?

According to the new CDC guidelines, to reap the health benefits, you need:

  • 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups
  • 75 minutes of vigorous activity every week AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week
  • An equivalent mix of moderate and vigorous activity every week AND muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week
For even greater health benefits, it is recommended that you get 500 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous activity PLUS muscle strengthening activities.

I would also like to add my own recommendation for stretching. I think just 10 minutes of stretching a day can make a big difference. Even if you don't do a formal stretch routine, although those are nice, try doing a few moves at your desk throughout the day. For specific suggestions, tune in later or check out my ESMM blog posts.

So what counts as moderate or vigorous activity?

Moderate activities include:
  • Brisk walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Using a stationary bike or biking on a relatively flat area
  • Or anything that gets your heart rate up, causes you to sweat, but doesn't cause you to lose your breath.
Vigorous activities include:
  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Riding a bike on hills or taking an indoor cycling class
  • Playing basketball
  • Or anything that gets your heart rate up, causes you to sweat, and causes you to breath should only be able to speak a few words without catching your breath.
So what are muscle strengthening activities?

  • Traditional weight lifting with free weights or gym machines
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Body weight exercises such as squats, lunges, push ups, etc
  • Yoga
  • Or anything that engages specific muscles to the point where its hard to do another repetition or hold on any longer without assistance
So how does one fit in all of this fitness?

Personally, I have found that using my lunch break forces me to get my bootie in motion and helps break up a long day of sitting at my desk. Some days I take a class at the gym (a convenience I know most working people can't afford), other days I get on the treadmill or elliptical and do intervals while watching tv. On nice days, I take a long walk around campus or the surrounding neighborhoods.

Even if you can only get in 20 minutes of walking before chowing down on your lunch, it can count towards your weekly and daily total. You might take 20 minutes during lunch, another 10 during your afternoon break, and then take a walk after dinner.

Or try finding a new activity or class to enjoy. Join a kickball team, join a running group, try a spin class (they are only as hard as you make them), go for a hike, play volleyball, take a dance class, try Wing Chun or another form of martial arts, go swimming, get a fun workout DVD from netflix, walk the dogs, train for a race or event, bike to work.....

Find something you enjoy doing, and do it consistently, keeping in mind the time recommendations from the CDC. It doesn't have to be painful or boring. The health benefits will be endless. AND if you are trying to lose weight, meeting these guidelines will help you on your journey.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Great book!

"Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high..."

I just finished listening to the book "Animal Vegetable Miracle" on CD and I loved it! I would highly recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about what it means to eat organically and locally. The author also discusses other food topics including cooking, gardening, vegetarianism, GMOs, etc.

It's a non-fiction work about one family who decided to eat as locally as possible for one year. It is very well written, with good content but also a good story. It isn't preachy, although the authors (the family wrote it together), do express their views on certain political topics related to food. It has a good bit of satire and humor and feels like fiction.

The audio book was great. It was read by the author, who has a lovely voice. I used it to keep me awake and from getting bored during my recent travels. It can be checked out from the local library as soon as I return it. ;)

It has inspired me to learn more about my local farms and farmers, to learn how to make my own cheese (for fun not as a necessity), to make my own bread, and to cook more often with more whole foods, to think about my vegetarianism (although change will be unlikely for personal reasons), and it has inspired me to teach more people about the American food system.

But you don't have to take my word for it.....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pics or lack of a new blogger, I am sure to make plenty of mistakes. You've probably already caught a few typos. Add to the list that I accidentally deleted most of the pictures featured in previous posts. I'll work to get them back ASAP. But for now, if you go back and look or if you are reading some of these posts for the first time, please be patient with the lack of visual stimulation.

Thank you.

That is all.

Eat Smart More More Maintain Don't Gain Holiday Challenge

Join the Eat Smart, Move More... Maintain, Don't Gain Holiday Challenge!

This year's Challenge will run from November 23 through December 31, 2009.

The six-week challenge provides you with tools, tips and ideas to help you maintain your weight throughout the holiday season. Each week, you will receive free weekly emailed newsletters containing tips to manage holiday stress, ideas for fitting in physical activity during the busy season, and resources for cooking quick and easy meals when time is in short supply. A calorie
counter, food log and activity log are also available for download to help people track their progress.

In 2008 over 5,400 people from all 100 North Carolina counties and 47 other states took part in the Challenge. At the end of the program, 79 percent reported maintaining their weight.

Sign up now for the fourth annual Eat Smart, Move More...Maintain, don't gain! Holiday Challenge at

And look for my words of wit and wisdom as the week 6 expert blogger!

I'm baaaaack

I hope you haven't missed me and my poetic ramblings on all things nutrition and food tooooo much. ;)

Where have I been?

Over the past several weeks I was traveling near and far across NC for work purposes.
I visited (not including places I passed through):
  • Fayetteville
  • Lumberton
  • Wilson
  • Asheville
  • Marion
  • Edenton
  • Windsor
  • Williamston
  • Swan Quarter
  • Washington
  • Bath
  • Louisburg
  • Franklinton
  • Chapel Hill
At each place and while on the road I tried to not only eat as healthfully as possible, but also to eat as locally as possible by dining in local establishments and trying local specialties. I also took note of things like the number and type of grocery stores, especially in the more rural areas, the types of restaurants or eateries, and farms.

Here are some of the things I did/tried/saw:
  • In Wilson I was forced to eat at Quizno's. Not exactly a local eatery. But it posed a challenge, and I am always up for a challenge. They didn't have the tomato soup they advertised, so I had to settle for chicken noodle. I didn't get a sandwich, but they do have smaller ones now, for those watching their portions. And you get to tell them what you do and don't want, which is one reason I like these types of can easily leave off the mayo and high calorie extras without being high maintanence.
  • In Asheville I ate at Universal Joint. It used to be a car repair shop! The menu had a great selection, including healthy, local and vegetarian options. They also had a nice selection of microbrews. I indulged in a local pumpkin ale.
  • I didn't eat in Marion, but while driving on the back roads to get there, I saw many a farmer selling his wares. I really really wanted to get some apples, but had no cash.
  • Edenton is a tiny town right on the water. It is very cute. I ate at the Nothing Fancy Cafe and got to have a plate of "sides" and homemade cornbread for $5. I got local greens, bean soup, green beans, and mashed potatoes. Yum!
  • In Windsor, which is in Bertie County, I got to try Bertie county peanuts. They are grown, harvested, prepared and packaged in Bertie County. I went to a warehouse store where I had tons of flavors and styles to choose from. I got sea salt and pepper and a dark chocolate peanut bar. Soooooo yummy! Some of you might be gettin some nuts for Christmas this year!
  • In Williamston I ate at The Hitchin Post. I was glad to see that even at such an establishment in a relatively rural area, the salad bar had mixed greens and spinach rather than just iceberg.
  • I barely made it to Swan Quarter and back. Many of the roads into town were flooded due to last weeks storms. From what I saw, this is one of the tiniest towns I've ever seen. No restaurants, no grocery stores, no gas station, no stoplights. The person I was visiting told me she actually lives 25 minutes away. The grocery stores and Walmart are another 30 minutes away.
  • I got to stay a little longer than planned in Washington or "little washington." The brakes in my state vehicle wore out and had to be replaced. But I still managed to see some sights and eat some food. I got to eat at a restaurant downtown on the water called Down on Main for two meals. For dinner I had shrimp and veggie kebabs. For lunch I had a grilled tuna steak sandwich. It never ceases to amaze me how many places located near water or the beach advertise fresh seafood but serve no such thing. My sandwich tasted ok, but it wasn't fresh fish. I was also surprised by the confusion I caused when I ordered soda water. I even clarified by calling it carbonated water or fizzy water. Neither the hostess who took our drink order or the server knew what I was talking about. Finally, I said, "the stuff that comes out of the drink machine but doesn't have syrup....ask the bartender, he might be able to show you." Finally I got what I ordered. LOL.
  • To kill time I drove to Bath, the place where Blackbeard died. There was only two eateries in the small town. One was closed and the other was a little scary. So I kept driving before stopping for lunch. But the town was very cute. Many houses had pirate flags flying and the ABC store was called "Ye Olde ABC Store."
  • After my meeting in Chapel Hill, I got to visit Maple View Farms for the first time. I've had their goods before, but never been. I bought milk, buttermilk for cornbread and fresh butter. I also had a kids size cup of fresh pumpkin ice cream for $1.25!
During my time on the backroads I saw a lot of crops and farms. I saw lots of cotton and collards. I really wanted to purchase some of the latter, but would have no way to cook them when I got home (see previous kitchen post.) I thought a lot about what it takes to acquire food when you're outside of an urban area, and what it means to eat locally out there. I'm coming to admire traditional farmers and local food makers more and more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How do you cook without a kitchen?

As those close to me know, I have no kitchen at the moment. I mean, I have the physical room, but it has been stripped of almost all appliances, cabinets, and even the kitchen sink. I do have my fridge, thank goodness, and a limited supply of electric outlets.

Some might think this would pose a challenge to a cook such as myself. HA! While it has not been easy, I am managing to "cook" and eat relatively well with limited culinary support.

Here are some sample meals I whipped up/put together:

The Wendy's Special
I purchased plain baked potatoes, one cup of chili and side salads from Wendy's. At home I topped my potato with salsa and a bit of previously made guacamole and Sir Cakewalk's with the chili (he eats meat, I don't). On the salad I used a bottled light dressing and sprinkled it with feta cheese. I didn't have to make or cook anything, it was healthy, it only cost around $5, and I had no dirty dishes to wash in the tub after.

Pizza Night
Last week we bought a small thin crust pizza while it was on sale, knowing we might need it when our kitchen was gutted. We cooked it in the toaster oven, which we plugged into an outlet and rested on our washer in the basement (space is a hot commodity.) While it was cooking, I put some mixed greens into two bowls. The greens were a bag of organic herb mix from Trader Joe's. I'm not usually a fan of salad from a bag. They are over priced and often go bad very quickly. But, sometimes it is nice to use when you can't prep the veggies yourself. On each "salad" I added a little red wine vinegarette from a bottle. We each had a bowl of greens that didn't need any additional veggies (which would've required a cutting board, knives, etc), half the pizza and a glass of red wine from TJ's. Total cost was about $8, including the wine, but not including the dressing because I already had it. It did dirty a few dishes, but it was worth it.

Slow Cooker Soup
I have not made this yet, but I might soon. If I did, I would plug in my slow cooker. Then I would put in a few cups of water and a few bouillon cubes. I would add some frozen veggies like lima beans, corn, or any other veggies from leftovers left in the fridge or maybe a can of tomatoes. I would finish it off with some basic herbs (whatever I can reach from the box where I tossed everything.) Then, I would leave it to simmer while I head off to a hard day's labor.

It's Electric!
If you have an electric wok or skillet, now is the time to use it. These things are pretty cheap appliances and are great to cook with. I love using my wok for a quick and healthy stir fry. You could also use the skillet to make eggs for an easy "breakfast for dinner" meal, to make a sauce for pasta (assuming you have the means to cook the pasta itself), or really to cook about anything you would cook in a standard pot. Most heat very quickly and evenly, are nonstick and easy to clean.

The Last Resort
If all else fails, I can always go out to eat. To save money and watch the portion sizes, Sir Cakewalk and I like to share entrees. If we're looking for something quick, we might share the Blazing Noodles with tofu and veggies from Pei Wei. Otherwise we might split a dish at our favorite ethnic restaurant.

Putting together a healthy meal does not have to be time intensive or require slaving over a hot stove. I mean, that's good fun, but not always feasible, right? So look for easy ways to make a meal at home...even if it requires a bit of "cheating."

Luckily this is all short lived. Soon I will have a beautiful, spacious, new kitchen fully equipped for hosting dinner parties and/or cooking classes!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What will be on your Thanksgiving table?

This year I get to host Thanksgiving for the first time. It will be the coming together of two families (mine and Sir Cakewalk's) and their quirky holiday traditions and the beginning of some new traditions.

The primary holiday food tradition in my family centers around one thing: green bean casserole. I know many families include this in their sides line-up, and I know that when made the "traditional" way it's just a bunch of processed and canned junk with little nutritional value, but for us it has special significance. It was one of my favorite dishes made by my grandmother, who passed away over a decade ago. None of my biological grandparents are still living, so keeping any little tradition alive is important to me. (This is also why I might make mincemeat pie this year, which my mom just told me her mom always used to make....even though the name of it scares me.)

But gb casserole has even more meaning for my sister and I. I have been a vegetarian for the better part of my adult life, and my sister doesn't eat read meat. During many a holiday meal, the only thing we really had to look forward to was the gb casserole. Thus, it had to be made exactly to our specifications, which we honed over the years to exactly fit our tastes. To me it is the ultimate comfort food and something I cannot do without during any holiday meal.

Did you know that green bean casserole has only been around since the mid 1900's? Stay tuned for a post about it's history and cultural significance.

I will also be considering all of the personal preferences of those sitting around the dinner table when putting together the menu:
  • Vegetarian
  • No red meat or pork
  • Can't eat peppers
  • Doesn't like mushrooms/onions/brussel sprouts/greens
  • Diabetic
  • Diet friendly
  • And the list goes on.....
But despite all considerations, I have had a tremendous amount of fun putting together my holiday menu. I have allowed for any and all input from participating parties, but made some stipulations of my own:
  1. I want as much of the food as possible to be homemade. Nothing canned, boxed, or pre-fab...within reason. Exceptions will be made for the gb casserole which has to be made with a certain type of canned green bean and a specific canned soup. ;)
  2. I want to incorporate as much local produce and items as possible. I will be using my papa spud's order for this, and also visiting the farmer's market, Maple View Farms for dairy, and trying to find a local turkey if possible.
  3. I want to incorporate as much organic produce as possible. Hopefully, by purchasing some things locally, this will not be too difficult.
  4. I want to put a spin on old favorites (unless it is someone's favorite dish that cannot be altered.) To find ideas, I'm scouring my favorite books and websites including Eating Well, Whole Foods, Animal Vegetable Miracle, The Healthy Kitchen, Best Recipe Cookbook, etc.
  5. Special diets will be considered. If someone is diabetic, watching their weight or vegetarian, I want to make certain they have ample choices for good food.
So without further adieu, here is my Thanksgiving Menu, which still might change a bit here and there. If you'd like to know what recipe I'm using, or if you have ideas to share, please contact me.
  • Turkey (Local or at least free range)
  • White wine gravy
  • Green salad (Local greens and homemade dressing)
  • Light southwestern cornbread stuffing
  • Green bean casserole
  • Homemade mac n cheez (haven't chosen a recipe yet)
  • Homemade rolls.....or rolls from Le Farm
  • Collards from VA
  • Brussel Sprouts sauteed with a touch of butter and light mustard sauce OR Sauteed broccoli with garlic
  • "Light" parmesan mashed potatoes
  • "Light" sweet potato casserole with ginger, spices, honey and orange zest
  • Baked okra (Rice House recipe)
  • Ginger cranberry relish or cranberry/cherry marmalade
  • Mincemeat pie
  • Pumpkin flan
  • Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Looks good, don't it? ;) I can't wait to cook a somewhat FLOW menu for family in my new kitchen and sit down to a scrumptous meal. Then we will duke it out over Tripoley!

What are you having?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Food Club

I would love to start a cooking/eating club (once our fancy new kitchen is complete.)

My idea would be to have one dinner at a member's house once a month, with a different member hosting each month. That person could cook something based on the vegetable of the month, or a new recipe they want to try, or a recipe they love to make and want to share. I think it would be fun if some people helped to make the meal and take some of the duties off of the host...making it a more hands-on activity.

The group would be different somehow than just a group getting together to eat....although that is always a nice thing. Maybe by adding a nutritional or experimental element. Or maybe by making it kinda like a book club and having the group do a little research ahead of time on the main dish or some highlighted item.

I think it would be a great way to learn about new foods, try new things and recipes that you might not otherwise try, and have fun with others.

Is anyone doing anything like this now?

Anyone have any other ideas on how to make the group unique and interesting?

Does anyone in the Raleigh/Cary/Durham area want to start one with me?

Ewwwwww!!!!!!!! But true.

This is one way to get the point across. (As seen on the NYC subway.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Vegetable of the Month: Greens

Many in the nutrition field affectionately call these guys "green leafies." While all veggies are good for you and you should strive to eat a wide variety of them, green leafies have some of the most nutritious bang for your buck. They provide Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, and Fiber...amongst other things. They have no fat (unless you use it to cook them) and are very low in calories. Plus they taste great when they are prepared properly.

Growing up I hated green leafies. In fact I hated many vegetables (even as a vegetarian) but that's another story. What I eventually realized is that your tastes can change AND that liking some things is all in the preparation. Veggies taste completely different depending on whether they are canned, frozen or fresh and depending on whether they are overcooked (as most green leafies usually are), cooked with fat, or cooked with various seasonings. Check out the cookbook, "Best Recipe" for information on greens and how to cook the various types. Now, I haven't found a green leafy I don't like, assuming they are made well.

Here are some of my favorites:

Collards are apparently the oldest known greens in the cabbage family dating back to ancient times.

I learned how to cook them by asking the person who sold them to me at the farmer's market the first time I decided to make them myself. It was easy and tasty.

  1. The night before you cook them, pull the leaves off of the center stalks and tear into rough pieces. You don't need to chop them or make them perfectly sized. Rinse them in a colander.
  2. Soak the greens overnight in a large pot of cool, salted water. This will make your kitchen smell! It does not mean the greens have gone bad. And it is not an indication of the taste or smell of the future cooked greens. I promise!
  3. Before calling it a night, prepare the vinegar "sauce." Mix half a chopped onion into a cup of white vinegar. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate.
  4. When ready to prepare, drain and rinse the greens, set aside.
  5. In a large skillet with a lid, saute chopped garlic and onion with a little olive oil.
  6. When the onion is soft and browned, add the greens.
  7. Add some broth, either chicken or vegetable. The amount depends on the amount of greens. I usually add a a half cup and make sure that moistens them enough. If not, I add a little more.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and allow to simmer just until the greens start to wilt, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to overcook.
  9. Remove from heat and plate up. Allow each person to pour the vinegar/onion over their greens.
  10. Eat!

Swiss Chard
I first had swiss chard in a soupish chicken concoction a friend devised and convinced me to make. Basically, you boil a large pot of broth and add chicken breast chunks, chopped chard (leaves and stem), onion, potato, carrot and whatever else you want. Allow to simmer for awhile until the chicken is cooked and very tender. Drain all of the items unless you want to eat it as a soup. Shred the chicken with a fork, and place some on each plate along with a ladleful of the veggies. This can easily keep for days or can be frozen as a soup and thawed later for more than one meal.

I love throwing chard into a soup or simply sauteing it. Also try Rainbow Chard.

Other greens include:
  • Mustard
  • Turnip
  • Broccoli Rabe
  • Kale
  • Beet Greens
  • Tatsoi (see previous post on CSA for a recipe)
  • Spinach (Did you know many kids will eat and love baby spinach if served raw? If you think you don't like it, have you tried it raw?)
So be like Popeye this November and Go Green!

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man,
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.
I'm strong to the finich
Cause I eats me spinach.
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.

Except....don't eat spinach out of a can like he does...YUCK!!!!!!!

Do you eat with FLOW?

Before posting further on FLOW, I would like to get some general feedback, opinions, questions, etc from you. Feel free to answer any of the following questions, or comment on anything else you deem relevant. This will help me gauge where to take the conversation next.

  • Do you care about fair trade?
  • Do you know what fair trade means or how to identify if something is fair trade?
  • Do you try to eat local foods?
  • What does local mean to you? 100 miles? Within the state?
  • Which is more important, eating local or eating organic?
  • Do you know what organic means? Do you understand all the organic lingo on nutrition labels and packages in the grocery store?
  • Should WalMart be allowed to sell organics?
  • Are organics only for the rich?
  • If we try to eat organic, should we also purchase other household items that are organic? Where do we draw the line?
  • Do you try to eat whole foods?
  • Would you like to incorporate more whole foods into your diet but don't know how due to time or monetary constraints?
  • Have you read/seen any of the following? If so, what did you think?
  1. Fast Food Nation
  2. Animal Vegetable Miracle
  3. Omnivore's Dilemma
  4. In Defense of Food
  5. Super Size Me
  6. Food Inc
  7. Slow Food Nation

Alright, shoot.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Go with the FLOW

I have not yet heard or seen the phrase or term used except jokingly by Sir Cakewalk. So I would like to now unofficially coin the term "F.L.O.W." If someone has already laid claim, I extend my apologies.

What is FLOW?

I'll get to that shortly, but first some personal info. I have been received a resurgence of inspiration from the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." I have been listening to it on audio CD during my travels around the state this week. It has brought back some of the passion about food and food culture that I felt during my graduate studies. And while I have no intention of becoming as extreme as the author and denouncing all food that isn't produced within a certain radius of my home, I do want to include even more local and organic foods in my meals than I currently do and begin making some food at home, like bread and cheese.

I intend to post more about this topic, how it has inspired me, the controversies and debates it brings about (I know a lot about all angles of the arguments and do not think it is a simple cut and dry matter), my plans and goals, etc. But I will break it up into more manageable bites.

For now I will simply explain FLOW and give you the 2 second wikipedia explanation of each point....again, more to come in future postings.

F = Fair Trade
"Fair Trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability."

L = Local
"The local food movement is a collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies - one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place."

O = Organic
This definition will prove a bit tricky. And since most of you have a vague notion of what organic means, or should mean, I will leave it for later.

W = Whole Foods
This definition is also quite tricky. Many define whole foods as just the opposite of processed foods. But any food that has been altered via chopping, cooking, baking, milling, etc has been processed, technically speaking. That is, even frozen vegetables and homemade bread are "processed." The best definition I found stated that whole foods are fresh foods that have not been technologically altered or processed by any means other than those of standard cooking procedures. Or, I like to use another concept that I coined, featured in my thesis, the whole food/processed food continuum. This idea at least takes into consideration that some foods can be mildly processed but are still free from chemical additives or technological alterations and that some foods are just more processed than others.

Now, don't get upset or start worrying that you have to abandon all your current habits and eat with FLOW in order to be healthy. I simply want to start opening the discussion and sharing what I know about each of these concepts so that I can hopefully inspire you.

Monday, November 2, 2009


For most of this week I will be out of town on business. There will be a fair bit of coming and going, so I might have a chance to post, but not as frequently as I would like.

So I would like to give you the floor this week. Please email me or comment on this post with any nutrition / food questions or thoughts you might have.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's time to play What's In Your Pantry?

I love going to the grocery store. But I know many of you do not. And many of us are watching our wallets and don't want to spend money going out to eat multiple times a week.

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You come home from a long day at work. You're super hungry. You need to make dinner and you don't have time to go to the store (or at least not enough time for a major trip with a long shopping list.) You look in your fridge. You've got some leftovers from last night's meal, some milk that's teetering on going back, a half an onion and a bagel. You look in your pantry. You've got a few cans of beans, (because the Realistic Nutritionist advised you to stock up), some spices, sugar and hot sauce.

What on earth can you make for dinner?

One of my special abilities is being able to throw together something edible with a limited stock of food stuffs. I would like to share this ability with you to help you put together a meal (hopefully healthy and tasty) with what you've got....or by maybe making one quick trip to the store.

If you'd like to play, send me an email titled "What's In Your Pantry", and list around 10 things you have in your pantry, fridge and/or freezer. Try to list any meats you may have, any fresh produce (even if it's only half an onion or if it's about to go bad), canned items if you have them, and a few spices/sauces/seasonings you have on hand. The more information I have, the better. So feel free to give quick descriptions of each item, amount, etc. And feel free to list as many items as you'd like, but the list does not need to be exhaustive.

I will choose one or two emails and will try to come up with a recipe for you and post it here.

Also, if you have any examples of What's In Your Pantry success stories, or relevant recipes, please share!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wanna run a half marathon in the spring?

A fellow RD, who has WAY more experience in the area of physical activity/fitness/sports nutrition/etc than I do sent me the following information.

Half Marathon Training Program with the Human Performance Lab at Meredith College
Test yourself, train right, meet new people, and have fun in this comprehensive program targeting the Raleigh Rocks or Tobacco Trail Half-Marathons, beginning on January 5th, 2010.

Participants receive:
  • A cardiovascular fitness assessment ($175 value), which includes VO2max, lactate threshold, heart rate and pace zones, substrate utilization, body composition analysis, and estimation of resting metabolic rate.
  • A 12 week training schedule based on your fitness level and goal (beginner, intermediate, or performance).
  • Two coached workouts per week, including one on Meredith's new track, with morning and evening training times.
  • Expert clinics on physiology of training, nutrition, running shoes, injury prevention and more.
  • Training hat and shirt.
  • Professional coaching by the laboratory staff.
The program is limited to 30 participants.
The cost is $300 or $200 for Meredith faculty, staff, students and alumni.
Race entry is not included.
Contact the lab for more information.

Meredith HPL

RD = Nutritionist = Nutrition expert ?

If you read my profile, you may have noticed that I have some letters after my name.

I am an MS RD. But what does that mean? And why does it matter?

MS means that I have a Master of Science in Nutrition (in addition to the coursework equivalent of a second undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics.)

RD means that I am a registered dietitian.

Now, who can tell me what an RD is or what the credential means? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Is an RD just another way of saying "Nutritionist"? Is there a difference?

A RD is a health professional who has completed at least an undergraduate degree in nutrition, including a rigorous course of study in the areas of biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, medical nutrition therapy, and food science. We must also complete an internship, much like a medical doctor, which includes at least 1200 hours of supervised practice. Mine was a full-time job for 9 months. Then, to officially become an RD we must pass a national board examination, kinda like the bar exam. It tests us on basically every piece of information we ever learned during our education and training and requires months of study and preparation. Then, to keep our registration current we must complete continuing education courses regularly.

By the time we get to be an RD, we have specialized knowledge in nutrition, beyond most medical doctors or other healthcare professionals.

Many people call themselves a "nutritionist" or "nutrition expert" or "nutrition counselor" but do not have the RD credential. These people may have no educational background or supervised practice in the field. Their advice may not only be inaccurate or outdated, it could also be medically dangerous.

Have you read a diet book lately?

Take a look at the author. Is it a RD? Probably not.
It's probably a journalist (ex. Good Calories, Bad Calories), a medical doctor who may or may not have specific nutrition expertise (ex. You On A Diet), a personal trainer with absolutely no formal nutrition education or training (ex. Making the Cut), someone with just enough nutrition background to be dangerous but not a legal practitioner (ex. Fat Flush Plan), or just an average person who decided to publish their thoughts (ex. Skinny Bitch.)

I'm not saying some such books cannot be helpful and that they are all full of inaccurate information. I even endorse some books that have valuable information that were written by people outside of the field. But how does the average person know the difference?

One last thought and then I will conclude my lecture and step down from the soap box.

If you enjoy watching TV shows that follow people losing a significant amount of weight in a very short period of time (which is not healthy), please take note of who is giving the nutritional advice to the contestants before trying it at home.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fun! I mean, if you like that kinda thing.

If you want to know the nutrient content of your food, the best source is the USDA.

Now they have a fun website where you can put in a food and it will give you all kinds of info.

My Food A Pedia

Or check out The Nutrient Data Laboratory for more extensive info.

You asked for it, you got it! Readers questions answered.

A reader asks:
"What are examples if the healthy kinds of granola bars. I love thise peanut butter or chocolate chip chewy granola bars, but I know they have little to no nutritional value. I'm not sure what would be a good alternative? Thoughts?"

Good question!

The first thing to consider when purchasing a processed or convenience item (and you're considering the nutritional value) are the ingredients. I first look for high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils, aka trans fat. If it has these, I put it back...unless it's something I really have to have. Granola bars often have both or at least one of these.

Next I consider the caloric content per serving/bar. Many granola bars are pretty high in calories (and thus have a lot of sugar.) I would try to stay around or under 150 calories per bar.

Finally, I would look at fiber. I would say that the primary nutritional benefit of a granola bar would be fiber. So if it ain't got none, why bother? I would aim for at least 3 grams per bar. However, I would stay away from the "high fiber" bars. These are often pumped full of additional fiber that isn't natural to the product. This type of fiber may not even provide the health benefits of the naturally occurring variety. It also can cause considerable stomach discomfort and force frequent bathroom trips (if you know what I mean.)

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend any specific products/brands to you. Instead, I suggest reading labels.
Become a label investigator. Pick up a couple different brands/types and compare their labels. When it comes to granola bars and most processed foods, the simpler the better. Look at the ingredients....does it have a lot of them? Then its heavily processed. Does it have fiber? Is it relatively low calorie?

Of course, you can always make your own. Here is Alton Brown's recipe:

Thanks for the question! And good luck!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Just pull out the innerds!

If you are watching your caloric intake, but love bagels, try this trick:
  1. Slice the bagel in half
  2. Toast said bagel
  3. Flip the bagel open like you're gonna make a sandwich
  4. Use your fingers to pull out the dough in the middle on each half, leaving the crusty exterior, making a moat of sorts on each part.
  5. Fill the moat with mustard, veggies and low fat meat.
  6. Enjoy your low cal sandwich.
Bonus: Your toppings won't spill out everywhere like it usually does when you eat a bagel sandwich.

Re Sip P of the Week!

Don't have time for a 30 minute meal? Try this Sixty Second Supper!

It's tasty, quick, cheap, nutritious and totally awesome. Read on after the recipe for more exciting info.

Instant Black Bean Soup
  • 3 15 ounce cans of black beans (low sodium if possible)
  • 1 jar of salsa (any style or hotness you'd like)
  • 2 cups of broth (any type you'd like...chicken or vegetable work best)
Rinse beans to remove excess salt. Place beans in a medium pot. Add salsa and broth and stir. Bring to a boil then serve!

If you'd like, you can add hot sauce, a dollop of low fat sour cream (or greek yogurt), a little shredded cheese, or chopped green onions. You can also play around with the amounts of the main three ingredients to get the soup where you like it. Trust me, you really can't mess it up.

Aforementioned additional information:

Why is this recipe totally awesome?
  1. Black beans contain a hefty portion of fiber and protein. They are also cheap. Try buying a few cans whenever they are on sale and store them away for later. You can use them to make a bean dip or toss them into a salad, or add them to other soups for extra nutritional power. You can even make a tasty side dish by leaving out the broth and just mixing beans and salsa.
  2. Salsa tastes great, is low in calories and is made of.....shhhhhh....vegetables. I put salsa on just about anything and everything. One of my favorite uses is as a baked potato topping. When I'm short on time (and/or money), I make a quick meal by buying a $1 baked potato at Wendy's. Then I get it home and add a ton of salsa and maybe a sprinkle of cheese. Look for other good recipes using's more than just a dip for chips.
  3. Broth can make anything taste good....even bitter greens. Broth is super cheap also. I don't buy the already made stuff, I use bouillon cubes. That way I always have some on hand for soups or sides. Try sauteing (sp?) greens with some onion or garlic then pouring a little broth on them and allowing them to simmer. It will add a great flavor and cut down on some of the bitter taste. Or, use it instead of water when making rice. Or, make soup!
  4. Soup is a great way to use low fat, low calorie ingredients to fill you up with tons of nutrition. You can also use it to get rid of leftovers and produce that's about to go bad. Saute an onion and/or garlic. Then add broth. Finally, toss in whatever veggies or low fat meats you have on hand, such as squash, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, celery, beans, green beans, corn, lima beans, broccoli, chicken breast cubes, beef cubes....or anything, really. Add salt, pepper, hot sauce if you want it, and whatever herbs you like (use a good bit because they cook off while the soup simmers.) Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes, but for as long as you'd like....the flavors will come together the longer they linger in the pot. ;) Last night I made a vegetarian borscht with the beets I got for Sir Cakewalk. With the power of the broth and other veggies, I actually liked it! Yay for soup!
If you have healthy recipes using black beans, salsa, or a soup idea....please share!

Have a good week!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Turkey, pumpkin pie, parties, oh my!

Worried about packin on a few pounds over the holidays?

Join the Eat Smart, Move More....Maintain, Don't Gain Holiday Challenge at:

Get healthy holiday recipes, tips for navigating parties, support from other participants, and advice from nutrition and fitness experts.

Yours truly will be blogging on the site as one of the nutrition experts. I'm gonna be a bloggin fool!

Fresh Produce: Signed, Sealed and Delivered to Your Door

Joining a CSA is a great way to get fresh fruits and veggies on a regular basis (albeit seasonally) while also supporting local agriculture.

CSA = Community Supported Agriculture

Here's how it works:
A farm offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. Shares can be shared, sorry for the redundancy, by more than one person or family. So if you are uncertain about being able to use all the produce before it goes bad or if the price tag seems a bit steep, consider going halvsies with another family.

To find a CSA in your area check out this cool website:

You can also use the site to find farmer's markets, healthy grocery stores, and other eating establishments in your area.

As an alternative to the CSA, if you are in the Raleigh/Cary area, consider using Papa Spud's at

I just signed up with Papa Spud's about a week ago and I love it! For about $20 a week you get a bunch of fresh produce delivered to your door. Unlike the traditional CSA, where often there is no choice in what you receive, this service allows you to pick your goodies from a large selection of fruits, vegetables, breads and other products. They even have organic dog biscuits! Many of the items are local and/or organic, but not all, so they are able to offer a large variety each week.

This week I received:




Beets well as local garlic, oranges, salad greens, and local honey. Plus, I was able to use some of the items for more than one dish. I used the greens from the beets to make a light version of Alton Brown's Beet Green Gratin. It turned a weird shade of pink...but it was tasty. And I still have the actual beets left for another meal. Although, I have to admit, I don't like beets. I got them for Sir Cakewalk. So if anyone has a good beet recipe, please send it my way!

One final note on Papa Spud's. If you join and give them my name, we both get a little bonus. So if you sign up, let me know!

Now go eat your F&V! (Local and/or organic if you can.) ;)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vegetable of the Month: Rhizomes

According to the CDC's website on nutrition, the vegetable for October is (are?) rhizomes.

What are rhizomes? I'm glad you asked.

Rhizomes = Gingerroot, Galangal, Tumeric

Honestly, I have no idea what galangal is. But I have used gingerroot and tumeric in many recipes. In fact, two nights ago I made greens with a soy and ginger sauce (see recipe below). Even if you don't typically like greens, I would highly recommend trying this easy recipe. For mine, I used Tatsoi...but you could use spinach, kale, or any green leafy you like, except maybe turnip greens or collards.

Where/how do you buy/cook with gingerroot?

I buy mine as needed at my local grocery store. It's usually near the garlic in the produce section. The pieces tend to be much larger than what you need, so don't be shy about breaking off a small piece. Usually all you need for a recipe is a piece about the size of your thumb. It's priced by the pound, and should only cost you about $.15.

When you get it home, peel it, chop it up and toss it into your new favorite recipe.

Soy & Ginger Greens
In a small bowl combine the following:
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (you can use other vinegars as well, so use what you have on hand)
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lime or lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne or a dash of hot sauce (optional)
Saute the greens in a hot pan with a dash of EVOO or cooking spray just until wilted. Add the contents of the bowl and stir gently. Allow to heat through, then serve!

Welcome to Realistic Nutrition!

With this blog I hope to share with you:
  • Current news related to nutrition and health
  • Diet and diet book reviews
  • Healthy recipes
  • My $.02 opinion on all nutrition matters great and small
  • Answers to your most burning nutrition questions/dilemmas
  • Anything else I'd like related to nutrition, eating, or physical activity
I hope you will share with me and any readers I may acquire:
  • Your nutrition questions/dilemmas
  • Your favorite healthy recipes
  • Anything else you'd like related to nutrition, eating, or physical activity
Thank you for reading! I look forward to hearing from you!

The Realistic Nutritionist