It’s okay to indulge — sometimes

If you can stick to your healthy eating plan consistently throughout the week, then having an indulgence once a week is perfectly fine.  

I do not have a perfect diet nor do I want to.  Perfection does not allow for holidays, birthdays, monumental celebrations or simply a normal Wednesday gone awry. A flawless diet does not exist because something is going to be sacrificed such as your social life, travel schedule or pure sanity. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a life without some of our favorite foods be it pizza, donuts, ice cream or my Aunt’s prized apple pie. While, this is not a promotion to make these foods a part of your weekly grocery list, rest assure that you can still achieve your health goals and still have a some fun along the way.

If you can stick to your healthy eating plan consistently throughout the week, then having an indulgence once a week is perfectly fine. Remember you are what you repeatedly do, not what you occasionally do. One indulgence won’t ruin your diet just the same that eating one salad won’t improve it. Studies have shown that being “too healthy” can bring its share of consequences. So personally, I welcome opportunities, when appropriate, to enjoy fun foods that I normally don’t consume on a regular basis (see chart above 🙂 ).  Here are some additional tips to help guide your indulgent behaviors.

Don’t write off your favorite treats. Making certain foods forbidden can have nasty consequences— both mentally and behaviorally. Sometimes telling yourself “no” does nothing but intensify those thoughts and cravings. Think of it in terms of a pressure relief valve.  The occasional indulgence can help relieve built-up pressure of cravings and bring you back to a happy equilibrium.

Make it count. Indulging can be defined by the act of pampering or spoiling oneself. It should be a real indulgence and not a pale substitute. While some substitutes may taste quite authentic, most will leave you lingering for the real deal and will not fully satisfy those specific cravings. On the other end, if something doesn’t hit the spot stop eating it! There is nothing worse than the feeling that you just wasted your special treat on something you did not truly enjoy. Be confident that there will be plenty of future opportunities to treat yourself.

Define when you will indulge. You have heard me preach before how strongly I dislike the phrase “everything in moderation”. This message is simply too vague and most walk away with the thought that it’s okay to eat something less nutritious on a frequent basis as long as it’s a small serving size. For example having a daily small portions of dessert is not practicing moderation, it is your habit. Reserve indulgences to special occasions and celebrations such as weddings, holidays, annual festivals, etc. Sorry, but making it through a Monday is not necessarily a good reason to treat yourself.

Plan ahead, when possible. Let’s say your indulgence is spending $$$ on a vacation. Leading up to and even after your trip, you are probably going to be a little more conservative with your wallet. This approach can also be applied to your eating habits. If you know of your potential indulgence ahead of time, try to make sure you have high quality meals and snacks all week. No need to decrease calories, but make the calories you do consume as nutrient-dense as possible.  

6 Steps to Bathing Suit Confidence

Summer is just around the corner and that means weekends will soon fill up with beach trips, pool days and afternoons in the sun. As a dietitian, I often get asked on what are some slimming secrets and increasing confidence tricks for being in a bathing suit all day. Consider some of these tips the next time you are packing up your sunblock and beach towels and heading outdoors!

Consider some of these slimming secrets for bathing suit confidence next time you are packing up your sunblock and beach towels for some fun in the sun!

1. Don’t Skip Breakfast/Meals.

Nothing good will come from this action so please do not consider it. Skipping meals or going long durations without eating signals your body to prepare for starvation and will slow down your metabolism. Just like your computer, your metabolism will go into “sleep mode” when not being stimulated for an extended period of time. This causes your body to aggressively store calories and will also offset your body’s hunger hormone levels. Basically, you will find yourself extra famished by the end of the day and will be more likely to overeat.

2. Avoid carbonated beverages and salty snacks.

Both carbonated beverages (even sugar-free ones) and salty snacks such as crackers, pretzels, Chex mix and the like can cause water retention and extra bloating. This is definitely not the recipe one wants for feeling svelte and confident all day in a swimsuit.

3. Do pack lean protein sources.

Foods that are high in protein will help you stay fuller longer. This will allow you to spend more time splashing and playing in the water and less time breaking to eat. Protein go-to’s can include eggs, lean meats, protein bars/shakes, low sugar Greek yogurts, unsalted nuts, white cheese varieties. Another perk to frequent protein intake is that it can also help ward off sugar cravings.

4. Focus on water for hydration.

Believe me, I know nothing sounds better than ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day but fueling your body with liquid sugar isn’t the best recipe for staying fit and trim. Confession: I’ll be the first to admit that plain water isn’t the most exciting thing in the world to drink. Take advantage of fresh produce this summer and create natural flavor enhancers by putting fresh cut fruit, herbs or vegetables in your water.

5. Fresh fruit and vegetables make great hydrating snacks.

Fresh produce is naturally high in water, fiber and antioxidants. Choosing fruit and vegetables as snacks help boost your nutrient intake. Natural foods do not have any added chemicals or junk in them, which can often be the culprit for bloated, upset stomachs.  Save yourself some time preparing fruits and vegetables and purchase pre-cut bags and containers from the grocery store to be beach-ready in a snap.

6. Above all- kick back and have fun.

Despite the season of being more active, I understand summer can amplify body image issues with wearing a swimsuit. With constant reminders of magazine covers touting to have the perfect bikini body, even the most confident of women can become over critical of themselves. Try not to let worrying thoughts about how you look overpower the fun you could be having with your friends, family and kids. Summer always comes and goes too fast anyways, so grab your shades, sunblock and let out a big “cowabunga”!

Pumpkins…a healthy treat, no tricks!

‘Tis the season for pumpkins! It’s hard not to notice the end caps at the grocery store that display pumpkin cookies, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin bread…the list goes on! Even coffee chains and fast food restaurants advertise pumpkin coffees and other items. Although these once-a-year items are a treat for those of us who look forward to them, many contain very little pumpkin and therefore contain very little nutrients that pumpkin provides.  So what is the health punch in pumpkin?

So what is the health punch in pumpkin?


Vision

The vibrant color orange in pumpkin comes from beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for vision as it helps the retina absorb and process light. Just 1 cup of pumpkin provides 200% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Beta-carotene has also been linked to healthy skin, as it helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays.

Healthy weight/digestive health

Pumpkin is a helpful aid in weight loss or weight maintenance. It is very concentrated in fiber, which keeps us fuller for longer which helps to prevent overconsumption at meals and excessive snacking. Fiber is also essential for a healthy digestive tract. I cup of canned pumpkin has about 7 grams of fiber, which is more fiber than 2 slices of some bread!

Immunity

Consistent vitamin C intake has been linked to a stronger immune system and may help prevent colds or help us recover from colds more quickly. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin C and can be eaten as a natural immunity booster!

How can pumpkin be incorporated into recipes? Add canned pumpkin to smoothies! It will add to the smooth texture and will also provide an array of nutrients. Pumpkin bars can be made with minimal sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg for strong flavoring agents. Lastly, canned pumpkin can be used to make creamy soup topped with pumpkin seeds for a bowl filled with fiber that will keep you fuller for longer!

Alana Scopel

Off to the Farmers’ Market

Off to the Farmers Market

Last night we kicked off another year of the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market at the Illinois State Fairgrounds! Time and time again, we share how important a well balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables is to you health. What better way to stock your shelves with fresh, local produce than by taking a trip to your local market?

The Farmers’ Market offers not only produce, but organic meat, eggs and plants for your own garden. Come on out and enjoy a night of fun and health. Stop by the Springfield Clinic tables on the following dates to meet us! For more information on the market, visit our website.

June9   |   July 14   |   Sept. 8   |   Oct. 13

5 Ways to Cure Your Cabin Fever

It’s easy to say “It’s too cold out” and retreat to the couch on winter evenings and weekends. It’s true that the winter months can be difficult to maintain our physical activity routines. If you live in the Midwest or other areas prone to snow, the weather can be an unpredictable hassle. It gets darker outside earlier, and this tends to make us more tired earlier than normal. We also tend to eat more “comfort food” during the cold months of the year. Our bodies can lose muscle mass within weeks of not utilizing them and we can also see changes in metabolism.

With all things considered, physical activity during winter is just as important as during any other season. Here are 5 ways to cure your cabin fever!

With all things considered, physical activity during winter is just as important as during any other season. Here are 5 ways to cure your cabin fever!

  1. Outside is not off limits! Just remember to dress in layers to help insulate your body. Top layers of clothing should be wind and water-resistant, if possible. Outdoor activities include, but are not limited to, sledding, skiing, ice skating (which can also be indoors), snowball fights, shoveling snow, building a snowman or fort, and walking the dog. If none of these are appealing, bundle up and go for a nice walk around the neighborhood!
  1. Use indoor locations as a place to walk. Churches with recreation centers, malls, and other department stores are great options if you don’t want to make a trip to the gym.
  1. Make a “gym” or place to work out in the convenience of your own home! Weights can be purchased inexpensively. Boxes or a step stool can be used as tools for cardio workouts. Jumping jacks and jump ropes count, too!
  1. Whether in your home or at work, use the stairs. We should really use the stairs vs. elevator any time of year, but using the steps during the winter will help increase physical activity that may be hard to fit in otherwise.
  1. Dance! Put on your favorite playlist and have a 30 minute dance session! Dancing burns calories, reduces stress, and is just fun!

Alana Scopel

7 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

This past summer, the American Chemistry Council stated that the American household wastes $640 on average per year in food without even knowing it. Just think of what we could do with an extra $640! Tons and tons (literally) of food get thrown away each year and this is often due to purchasing too much at the store or cooking meals that are too large. This also happens when dining out; we try to watch our portions when going out to eat, and sometime we forget our to-go baggy. Restaurants throw away guests’ leftovers and it adds to the pile of wasted food.

The average American household wastes about $640 of food each year. Save time, money, and food with these 7 tips!

Here are 7 tips for reducing food waste:

  1. Meal Planning. Plan ahead for upcoming meals. It’s helpful to choose recipes that have overlapping ingredients. This helps to reduce the amount of food purchased. Avoid buying or making too much food by preparing only 1 or 2 recipes each week. If a recipe calls for a rare or expensive ingredient, swap it out for something you have on hand or an ingredient you will use regularly.For information and tips on meal planning check out this previous blog post!
  2. Rotate Produce. Use the “first in, first out” policy. After going to the store, rotate “old” foods to the front of the fridge or pantry so these foods will be eaten first. The “new” foods that were just purchased go to the back of the fridge or pantry, unless of course these ingredients are needed immediately.
  3. Stretch the life of your fruits and veggies. Fruit that is past its prime can be used in breads or smoothies instead of being thrown away. Vegetables can be used to make stock and stale bread or crackers can be used in casseroles or to make croutons.
  4. Send home leftovers. If inviting guests over for a meal, send them home with leftovers. They get a nice meal the next day and this helps reduce food waste!
  5. Freeze it! Most leftovers will be just fine reheated. This includes meat, vegetables, fruit, and casseroles. Make sure to put leftovers in tightly sealed containers or wrap tightly in plastic wrap to prolong freezer life.
  6. Donate. Food banks are always grateful for donations. Canned items within “use-by” or “sell-by” dates are perfect contributions, but many food banks will also take produce or packaged items that have not been opened or tampered with.
  7. Compost! Food scraps can be composted and used to enhance your garden. If this is not something you want to do yourself, ask a neighbor or co-worker if they do this or know where scraps can be taken locally.Check out the infographic below from Craftsy!infographic on compost

 

Alana Scopel