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