Taking Time with Meals and Snacks

food-clock

With the “spring forward” time change upon us, I thought I’d talk a little about timing. For some folks, timing and length of meals and snacks can make a difference in weight gain or weight loss.

Timing Your Meals

When it comes to the timing of our meals and snacks, avoid going longer than 4 hours without eating anything (ideally you want to try to eat about every 2 ½ to 3 hours). If you’re in a meeting or running errands during a meal time, make sure to at least have a snack (trail mix, peanut butter crackers, pretzels, etc.,)  to tie you over until you can get an actual meal. If you’re going out with the girls for dinner or any other meal, try to avoid being ravenously hungry when you get to the restaurant. To do this, have a snack such as a small peanut butter sandwich or an apple about 30 minutes to an hour before going out to eat. This snack will help curb your appetite so that you’re still hungry enough to enjoy your main entrée but you’re not so hungry that you mindlessly eat copious amounts of chips and salsa, bread and butter, or any other pre-entrée items that are usually served at restaurants.

Taking Time with Your Meals

Are you a quick eater?  Hectic schedules and society in general tend to make us eat quickly out of necessity. Unfortunately though, rapid eating leaves little opportunity for our body to provide us the sensation of fullness. It takes about 15-20 minutes for our brain and stomach to communicate that we’ve eaten something and give that full feeling. Often times, we end up eating so quickly, that within the first 5 minutes of eating, we’ve already eaten the volume of food it takes for our stomach to feel full BUT since the brain and stomach haven’t had time to communicate yet, we keep on eating and eating until about 20 minutes later we feel that “overfull” feeling (I call it gross full or that level of fullness that makes us want to unbutton our jeans or take off our Spanx) since our brain and stomach have finally caught up with us.

Slow down your pace of eating so that it takes you at least 15-20 minutes to eat your meal. One way to accomplish this is making sure to put down the fork in between every bite of food. Sometimes we end up eating so quickly and we end up already having the 4th bite of mashed potatoes ready to go on our fork before we’ve even completely swallowed our first initial bite!  Other ways you can slow your pace of eating include taking a sip of water (or other low calorie beverage) in between bites of food or even having conversation in between bites of food. Slowing down your pace of eating not only helps with getting full off of a smaller portion size but also allows you to take time to really enjoy and savor each bite of food.

And…..March is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”  By timing our meals and taking time with our meals, we can really enjoy and savor how delicious and healthy food can be. I’ll be having more upcoming posts about National Nutrition Month, including my upcoming trip for the Alabama Dietetic Association annual meeting so stay tuned!!


I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month

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4th of July Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Hi friends! Today I wanted to share a few quick tips to help you keep up healthy habits during the 4th of July holiday. Cookouts are infamous for copious amounts of red meat, alcohol, and high calorie side items; luckily though, cookouts also provide great opportunity for enjoying fresh veggies and fruit, especially on a hot day!

  • Do NOT show up to the get together famished.  Though “saving up your calories for the big meal” sounds like a great idea, it can do more harm than good by setting you up to eat overly large portions.If your cookout or gathering is at lunch, make sure to have breakfast beforehand….if it’s in the evening, have a light breakfast and lunch- you get the idea 🙂 Having a snack 30 minutes to an hour before eating can help avoid eating “with your eyes” and let you take your time to enjoy the foods that you really want to eat.
  • Eat slowly…take at least 15-20 minutes to consume your meal. It takes about 15-20 minutes for our brain and stomach to communicate that we’ve eaten something and give that full feeling. Often times, we end up eating so quickly, that within the first 5 minutes of eating, we’ve already eaten the volume of food it takes for our stomach to feel full BUT since the brain and stomach haven’t had time to communicate yet, we keep on eating and eating until about 20 minutes later we feel that “overfull” feeling (I call it gross full or that level of fullness that makes us want to unbutton our jeans or take off our Spanx). Putting the fork down in between every bite of food or taking a sip of a low calorie beverage between bites can help you pace your eating.
  • Build your plate using the plate planner method: 1/2 of your plate as veggies, 1/4 of your plate with starch, and 1/4 of your plate with protein (try also using a smaller plate if available). Often times we make about 3/4 of our plate something starchy like mac n cheese and potato salad with a hunk of meat on the side and no veggies in sight. Making a plate that has non-starchy vegetables as the star can help you feel full (from the water and fiber content of the veggies) without excessive calorie intake. This brings me to my next point…
  • Eat the ‘healthiest foods’ first. Having those veggies full of water and fiber can help slow digestion and provide that feeling of fullness. Additionally, having something that contains protein and some fat (maybe in the form of olive oil in a salad dressing) can help you feel full sooner.
  • Make sure to drink ample amounts of water throughout the day. If your cookout is outside, chances are you may get dehydrated more quickly outside due to the heat. If your “non-water” beverages contain alcohol or caffeine, these can also exacerbate the need for water due to their natural diuretic effects. If you need to be more convinced on the need to hydrate in the heat or strategies for naturally flavoring your water, check this out. Also, if you’re wanting to be mindful of calories from alcohol, be sure to look at my previous article comparing calories from different types of alcoholic beverages.
  • Be mindful of foods that do not provide fullness. Potato chips, crackers, and other types of refined carbohydrates can pack on unnecessary calories without providing a sensation of fullness. This can lead to mindless eating of these munchies. Instead, choose items that have a high water and fiber content, like a salad or some fresh fruit. If you want something salty, having an item with protein such as peanut butter, nuts, or hummus can be a nice option.
  • Try to be active during the day. Sure after eating a big plate of food, we totally want to crash on the couch. Instead, think about going for a family/friends walk in the afternoon or playing a game of flag football. These activities can keep you from being sedentary during the day and also allow you to socialize with your friends and family you’ve been wanting to spend time with 🙂

I hope you find these quick tips helpful 🙂 Please feel free to share your own strategies when it comes to holiday eating. And for those of you doing some traveling for this summer holiday, please check out a post from my fabulous RD friend, Cindy at Newlywed Nutrition— she has some great tips for eating healthy on the road including the best choices at gas stations as well as how to pack snacks for your car.

Happy 4th of July, friends!


My Recipes Nutrition Search

myrecipes search

Do you have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or any other chronic health condition that makes you more conscious of the calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, sodium, etc. in the foods that you eat? If you do, I invite you to check out the awesome nutrition search at www.myrecipes.com. Just click on the nutrition search as seen below and this will take you to this nifty page. You can search for recipes based on your health needs and set parameters for calories, fat, fiber, cholesterol, etc. How cool is that? ANNNDDD….many of these recipes are pulled from Cooking Light and tested by their very own registered dietitians.  Have any of you ever used this before?


Counting Calories in Your Alcohol


Happy Friday folks! With summer in full swing and 4th of July holiday cookouts just around the corner for many of us, I wanted to share a quick post concerning calories in alcoholic beverages. With many of my patients, calories from alcoholic beverages tend to be an afterthought when it comes to accounting to daily calorie consumption. However, I’ve also got a few folks who account for their calories from alcohol so much that they skip meals and snacks so they have enough calories allotted for weekend drinking. This is something we should definitely avoid doing. The way to find a nice balance is making sure you eat routinely throughout the day and be mindful & aware of your liquid calories so you can plan your drinks accordingly. Below I’ve listed a few quick tips (this list could go on forever) to keep in mind while when drinking, especially if you’re outside on a hot day:

  • Avoid Drinking on an Empty Stomach– in fact, make sure you have a meal or snack with a nice mix of carb, protein, and fat (maybe some delicious cheese and crackers) to help slow down the absorption of alcohol and avoid getting sick
  • Stay Hydrated in Between Alcohol Drinks– this is going to be really important on a hot day, especially as the alcohol will serve as a diuretic, making you even more dehydrated. If you’re going for a mixed drink that includes both alcohol and a carbonated, caffeinated beverage, water intake is going to be even more important, so drink up on the H2O and water containing foods such as delicious watermelon
  • Watch What You’re Munching On While Drinking– ever notice that at some bars they put out salty snacks like peanuts or Chex mix? Salty snacky foods like this promote us to drink more as a way to combat or even complement the salty goodness we’re eating so make sure you watch any “mindless” eating that may occur while drinking that can attribute to unnecessary calorie consumption
  • Have a Designated Driver– I know this doesn’t have anything to do with nutrition per se, but I care about your safety and had to include this quick PSA

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I wanted to share a few beautiful and HELPFUL graphics from Wine Folly which is a GREAT website for all of you wine loving enthusiasts!

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But what if you’re a beer person? They’ve got you covered!

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If you’re wanting to go with a “lighter” choice in alcoholic beverage, the folks at 213 Pounds to Happiness share their favorite lighter alcoholic beverages.

goodchoices

For a complete listing of calorie content in some of your beverages of choice, including liquors that may not be addressed above, please visit CalorieKing.Com which I enjoy recommended to my patients often. I like to consider a “one stop shop” in terms of looking for the nutrition information on various food items, including commercial restaurant dishes. This tool can be especially helpful when looking up calories in beverages…especially alcohol!

Last but not least…please drink responsibly, friends! This includes but is not limited to drinking and driving, drinking while pregnant, and drinking in excess. Okay, that was my last PSA 🙂 Happy Friday folks!


Balsamic Basil Summer Pasta Salad

balsamic basil summer pasta salad

Today I’m going to share a recipe of one of my most favorite pasta salads. I originally got this recipe from a close family friend after she brought it to my parents’ house for a family get together.  If I’m ever tasked with bringing something to a potluck, especially on short notice, this is my go-to item. Any of my friends, family, or co-workers that have been to a potluck function with me have likely tasted this at some point in time. Some of the things I love most about this salad is how well the basil enhances the taste of the pasta along with the sweet and salty tones of grape tomatoes, feta cheese, and olives. Overall however, I really like how this dish is so quick and easy to make!  P.S. this would be totally great dish to bring to an upcoming 4th of July get together 😉 😉 😉

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When I headed to Publix to pick up the ingredients, I spent a good bit of time trying to decide which pasta to pick up. I noticed that Dreamfields pasta that boasts 5 grams digestible carbs/serving (still very questionable on this) had a penne rigate, but since I had tried their pasta before with some sundried tomato chicken sausage, I figured I’d go with something else.

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I noticed the Barilla Plus pasta had a decent bit of protein per serving but not necessarily as much fiber. Though the Dreamfields contained less sodium as well, I found myself going with the Barilla, since I was accounting for cost as well 🙂

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$1.19 vs. $3.79 per box sounded like a great deal to me!  The Barilla also had about an ounce more in the box compared to Dreamfields.

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Getting all my ingredients together: fresh spinach (on sale!), Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (sale!), Barilla pasta, fresh basil, 1 container grape tomatoes, slided olives, and crumbled feta cheese (yuuummmm)

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You want to start by cooking your pasta per package directions— I always like my pasta al dente.

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While your pasta is on the stove, start prepping your other ingredients. Wash your grape tomatoes thoroughly, slice length-wise and set aside.

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Next you’ll want to grab your basil- wash it down and dry thoroughly with a paper towel. I like to get the basil leaves, put them in a little stack and roll them up for quick cut as you see below. Fancy folks like to call this technique, chiffonade.

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You can place your chopped up basil in the same bowl as your tomatoes.

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You’ll do the same chiffonade technique with the spinach. I personally like to remove the stems from the spinach leaves. I bought a 9oz bag and ended up using about 1/3-1/2 of the bag. It’s more so personal preference as to how much spinach you want in there. You are also more than welcome to add more than one package of basil, or enhance the flavor by adding dried basil in addition to the fresh that has been chopped up. I used a good bit of spinach simply because I wanted me and my husband to get a good serving of veggies from this dish 🙂

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Once your pasta is done cooking, drain and let cool.

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I only waited about five minutes before I decided to proceed with the pasta. You’ll put your pasta in a large bowl (you want something big enough so that you get mix up the ingredients pretty well) and add your balsamic vinaigrette…I only use about 1/2 of the bottle so that the other 1/2 can be saved to add to the pasta the next day if needed. Don’t worry about seeing some of the dressing towards the bottom of the bowl or the pasta not appearing to absorb it; once you add your other ingredients, everything tends to mix pretty well.

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Next you’ll add your feta cheese— you can use plain crumbled feta cheese but sometimes i like going with the flavored ones like basil and tomato. I bought two 4 oz cartons and ended up using about 1 1/2 cartons. Again, it depends on your preference for how much cheese you want in there. Letting your pasta cool down can also be helpful in preventing the feta from getting “mushy” in your pasta. *I should have waited for my pasta to cool a little bit longer. Oh well, c’est la vie.

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Next you’ll add your bowl of chopped of veggie/herb goodies and mix well.

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Drain your olives and add those in too.

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I decided to do a little bit of fresh ground black pepper and mixed again

So there you have it! I used Newmans Own Balsamic Vinaigrette simply because that’s what the original recipe that was given to me called for. I’ve used the Publix brand tangy balsamic before and was really just not a fan. If you have a personal favorite balsamic or like to get fancy and make your own (I wasn’t feeling too motivated when I made this dish to get fancy with it) then I’m sure that would be super delicious too! I primarily made this dish this past week per my husband’s request… he told me he noticed that I don’t make a lot of the things I used to whenever I was “pursuing him”/dating him, which included this pasta salad…hahaha. I”ve included the recipe below for your use. If you make it, please let me know how you like it or anything you did to enhance it. I’m always looking for tips 😀

Balsamic Basil Summer Pasta Salad

Ingredients
1- 14 oz box penne pasta (or whichever you prefer)
1 package fresh basil 2/3-1 oz)
4 oz fresh spinach (I bought a 9 oz bag from the grocery store and used about 1/3-1/2 the bag)
4-6 oz crumbled feta
1 small can black olives
16 oz bottle Newmans Own Balsamic Vinaigrette (or any other brand you like)
1 container grape tomatoes
ground black pepper, to taste

Directions
Cook pasta per package directions, drain and set aside. While pasta is cooking, prepare other ingredients: slice grape tomatoes length-wise and set aside, chiffonade entire package of basil and about 4 oz of spinach (or as much as you’d like), set aside with tomatoes. In a large mixing bowl, add pasta and about 6-8 oz vinaigrette. Next add feta cheese, mix, then add remaining ingredients and mix well.

The pasta usually tastes best after chilling in the fridge overnight so the flavors can meld. The leftover dressing can be mixed in just prior to serving  as needed.


Hydrating in the Heat

It’s hot, y’all…or at least it is here in my neck of the woods in Alabama. With this heat though, I wanted to write up a quick post encouraging us on the importance of staying hydrated throughout the summer. If you’re physically active in the heat, it’s even more important to be mindful of hydrating yourself properly. Outside temperature raises our core body temperature so just think how much more our body temp is raised when we’re exercising in the heat! I’ve mentioned on here before that sometimes our body will mimic the feeling of hunger to prompt us to drink more water. Waiting until you have the classic dry lips and parched mouth before drinking anything is waiting way too long.

Here are some common signs of dehydration:

  • nausea (ick!)
  • dark-colored urine or infrequent urination (you want your urine to be a light lemonade color vs. dark yellow…please note that some supplements/vitamins will discolor urine to a funky color)
  • constipation (if you’re trying to kick up your fiber intake for any reason, make sure you up your fluid intake as well or you’ll be doing more harm than good!)
  • dry lips, mouth, and skin
  • increased body temperature or hard breathing
  • headaches
  • apathy

It’s easy to sweat off a couple pounds during exercise in the heat. As appealing as this sounds in terms of quick weight loss, think about weighing yourself before and after workouts to determine how much sweat/fluid loss occurred. You’ll want to make sure you drink about 2 1/2 cups water for every pound of weight loss during exercise.

BUT WHY DOES OUR BODY NEED WATER?!

  • removes waste from our body
  • keeps stools softer (yay!)
  • improves/enhances mental function
  • carries nutrients, oxygen, and glucose to the cells giving you energy
  • helps strengthen muscles

If you’re struggling to make sure you’re getting enough fluids throughout the day, buy yourself a cute and fun water bottle as a way to have water as a convenient beverage choice. This may sound silly, but also using a smart phone device with an alarm/calendar to remind you of various points in the day to have your water (it sounds silly but we use our phone for everything else, why not use it as a way to get into a hydration habit?) can be helpful as well. A lot of my patients aren’t crazy about plain water and also want to avoid artificial sweeteners from products such as Crystal Light, Mio, etc. If that’s you, try naturally flavoring your water with slices of your favorite fruit(s) to steep in a cold iced picture of water throughout the day (think about when you go to the spa and you see the containers of water infused with slices of lemon and lime). One of my favorite “odd” combinations is letting a pitcher of water steep with slices of strawberry and mint leaves. Freezing cubes of 100% fruit juice to use to ice down your water can be a great way to get fruit flavor in your water bottle as well.

If you already drink a good bit of water but want to make sure you’re staying well hydrated in this heat, incorporating fluid rich foods can be a helpful way to maintain hydration. Having fresh fruit such as watermelon and citrus fruits with a high water concentration can be a nice hydrating treat during the summer. Salads with wonderful refreshing crisp lettuce and water-rich broccoli can also enhance your hydration. Dairy products such as yogurts and milk have a high fluid content (85-89% water) that can provide a super tasty way to stay hydrated as well! 🙂

*Avoid beverages with high concentrations of sugar, alcohol, or caffeine as these will counteract your hydrating efforts due to their diuretic properties!

Below I’ve included a very short clip encouraging folks to include water-rich foods in their diet to stay hydrated this summer.

What’s your favorite way to stay hydrated in the summer? Any tips for flavoring your own water at home or keeping yourself on task with drinking fluids?


Blueberry and Vanilla Yogurt Smoothie

WHITE SMOOTHIE

Let me start off by saying that I am generally not a smoothie person. My husband and I make them every now and again but overall, it’s not generally a “go to” item for me. I have nothing against them at all but I usually have trouble creating the perfect consistency, whether it be too thick, too thin, or too chunky to easily sip through a straw. Long story short, I just don’t find them convenient for me; perhaps with a little behavior/routine change I’ll have different thoughts in the future on this 🙂 However, earlier this week I decided to whip one up for me and the hubs as a drinkable breakfast. Based on my recent grocery trip and what we had in the fridge, I decided to go with a Vanilla Yogurt and Blueberry Smoothie as seen below:

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Yes, I did use NASCAR glasses for our smoothies… I am not ashamed at all  (okay, maybe just a little 😉 ). Overall it was pretty tasty and wasn’t as much of a hassle as I thought to make. Below I’ve listed the recipe. I’ve got a few other things in the fridge this week that could be used for some smoothies including kale, so if I can convince my husband to drink it, I would like to get in more of a habit of making them, especially after having such as positive experience with yogurt and blueberry one that I originally found on prevention.com.

Vanilla Yogurt and Blueberry Smoothie
(INGREDIENTS BELOW YIELD ONE SERVING— “DOUBLE” QUANTITIES FOR 2 PEOPLE 🙂 )

1 cup skim or soy milk
6 oz (80-calorie) vanilla yogurt
1 cup fresh blueberries
1-2 Tb ground flaxseed
Handful of ice OR 1 cup frozen blueberries

Combine milk, yogurt, and fresh blueberries plus ice OR frozen blueberries in a blender along with ground flax. Blend for 1 minute, transfer to a glass.

For one serving

For one serving

After analyzing this recipe, the calories are a little higher than I typically have in a breakfast, but thankfully a lot of this comes from naturally occurring sugars. Calorie count could be reduced by using less milk and using a lower sugar content yogurt— I’ll probably make these adjustments this weekend. Overall though, fiber and protein content are great which I could tell from how well it kept me full that morning. 

If you try out this recipe, let me know what you think! Also, please feel free to share any smoothie recipes that you swear by so that I can join the smoothie band wagon 😉


Monday Mind-Pick: What’s Your Definition of Healthy?

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Me and my 5 lb fat model after a lunch and learn presentation today.

Since it’s Monday, I thought I’d take advantage of today and do a little Monday Mind-Picking. What I want to know from my readers today is, “What’s Your Definition of Healthy?” when it comes to food/eating? This summer with work I’m doing a series of group nutrition presentations to help my clients with summer weight loss goals. I believe a lot of times our biggest gamechanger with our eating habits involves our own personal definition of what we consider to be a healthy food.

I know that my dietitian colleagues will likely have their own definition of “healthy” and I too will share my intepretation soon as well, but I’d love for you all to comment today on what your definition of a healthy food is. As tempting as it is to Google the phrase “healthy” or “healthy food” today, I encourage you to just share what comes up off the top of your head.  Say for example, would you consider iceberg lettuce healthy because it’s low calorie and it’s a vegetable? Or would you consider a potato unhealthy because it’s white and a starchy carbohydrate?  These are just a few examples of some things, but I’d like for you to provide your own food examples as well.  I’d like to use your responses to create a series of posts this summer that will correlate with some of the information I’ll be sharing with my Summer Slimdown series at work.

The more responses the better so please feel free to comment 🙂