Back-to-school Breakfasts: Tips & Tricks

Back to school they go! On top of shopping for school supplies, arranging schedules, and all that goes in to preparing our kids for the new school year, it can be challenging to put together quick, easy and healthy breakfasts and lunches. Today, I’m going to share with you my dietitian breakfast tips.

Try these quick, easy and healthy breakfast tips and tricks to make back-to-school mornings a breeze.

In my household, we are not morning people. We push getting up until the last possible moment, hit the snooze button 6 times and then say, “CRAP, we are late!”. You would think after the first week of doing this, we would start to change our habits, but unfortunately, that is not the case. This all leads me to why quick, easy and healthy breakfast tips and tricks will make back-to-school mornings a breeze.

I know you are wiggling in your chair right now trying to figure out what I feed my kids. Let me preface by stating I can’t make this happen without PLANNING and having the food available. If the food isn’t there, we can’t eat it! Here are some things I like to keep on hand for breakfast and 6 of our go-to breakfasts.


CLICK HERE TO PRINT OFF ALL 6 RECIPES!


  • Fruit: fresh, frozen and canned
  • Whole Grains: quick oats, 100% whole wheat break, English muffins
  • Eggs & Dairy: eggs, milk (cow’s milk, almond milk or soy milk), light/non-fat greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese
  • Vegetables: salsa, tomatoes, frozen peppers and onions

Banana Pops

Ingredients

  • popsicle sticks
  • bananas
  • Greek yogurt
    • Substitute: peanut butter or chocolate hazelnut spread
  • unsweetened cereal
  • optional: mini chocolate chips or coconut shreds or raisins

Instructions

  1. Peel the banana, cut in half and insert popsicle stick.
  2. Dip the banana in yogurt, or coat with a knife.
  3. Roll in cereal and optional items.
  4. Place on parchment or wax lined cookie sheet and freeze. Keep in the freezer until ready to eat.

‘Pop Tart’ Toast

Ingredients

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 tsp. butter or peanut butter
    • Substitute: chocolate hazelnut spread or cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. jelly/jam

Instructions

  1. Lightly butter/peanut butter both pieces of bread.
  2. Spread the jam/jelly onto one slice of the bread leaving about a ½ inch border. Then top with the remaining slice of bread.
  3. Cut the crust off the bread and seal the 2 slices of bread together using the tines of a fork. Put in the toaster and then the ‘pop tart’ is ready.
  4. You can also add fresh fruit for more flavor and nutritional quality.

Tortilla Wrap

Ingredients

  • 1 egg (can be whole egg, egg substitute or egg white)
  • Fillings: cheese, avocado, tomato, salsa, jalapeno, etc.
  • 1 whole-wheat tortilla

Instructions

  1. Scramble an egg.
  2. Mix in cheese, avocado, tomato, salsa, jalapeno—really whatever you like mixed with a scrambled egg.
  3. Place this inside a tortilla, wrap as a burrito and eat.
  4. Freeze up to one month. Microwave to thaw and cook.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

These are a treat in our household, and what is fabulous is the kids don’t even know there is a vegetable in it.  

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  3. In a bowl, mix together eggs, oil and buttermilk.
  4. Add in all of the dry ingredients, including spices. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Stir in zucchini.
  6. Fill the prepared muffin tin liners about 3/4 of the way.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the center muffin comes out mostly clean. Let cool.
  8. Divide into freezer Ziploc bags and freeze or leave some in fridge for the next few days.
  9. Serve a fruit or yogurt.

Egg and Cheese Mini Muffins

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray miniature muffin pan thoroughly with cooking spray or grease with butter.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and pepper.
  4. Pour egg mixture into prepared pan, filling cups about 2/3 full.
  5. Sprinkle cheese evenly among the cups.
  6. Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until eggs set.
  7. Allow to cool in pan for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack. When completely cooled, muffins can be wrapped in plastic and frozen.
  8. When ready to eat, simply microwave each mini muffin for 15-30 seconds, or until heated through.
  9. Serve these with fruit.

Freezer Ready French Toast Sticks

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf bread
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • butter

Instructions

  1. Slice each slice of bread into 3 sticks.
  2. Mix the eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon.
  3. Heat griddle to a medium-low temperature and heat butter on top of griddle.
  4. Put slices of bread into the egg mixture and place onto the griddle until griddle is full.
  5. Cook on each side until browned.
  6. Remove and set on a plate. Repeat cooking steps until all are done.
  7. To freeze: Lay cooked sticks on a greased cookie sheet. Freeze for at least a couple of hours. Then put in a freezer bag. Microwave for about 10-15 seconds when ready to eat. I don’t typically serve with syrup when in the car, as it can make a big sticky mess.

Food storage tips

Food

We have a 30-minute drive to town so we are typically eating our breakfast in the car. Rubbermaid TakeAlongs square food divided storage containers makes it great to have multiple items at breakfast without meshing and getting all over the car.

Beverages

Having a spill-proof cup is necessary for breakfast on the go in the car. Our go-to beverage for breakfast is milk or Carnation Instant Breakfast Light Start mixed with milk.

Should you be counting your calories?

The other day I was with a patient and she said, “Megan I’m frustrated with you”. That took me aback for a minute; I felt our sessions had been going well and she was working towards her goals. She went on to tell me I had not given her a calorie count to follow.

 

Now, this is not the first time I have heard this. We hear so many times calories in=calories out, so we must count our calories, right? NO! That is not so and I am not a dietitian that recommends calorie counting to my patients and here is why.

Our bodies are very complex. Trying to simplify the way our bodies work by tracking a single a calorie, is not necessarily effective.

Counting calories can leave you feeling hungry, deprived, upset, and eventually, right back to your original weight or higher. Not only can you feel exhausted and empty as you restrict your body of what it needs, but also any weight you do lose ends up coming back anyway once you start “eating” again. It’s a lose-lose situation. Not only do you not achieve the desired result, but you also feel defeated and terrible about yourself!

So what counts?

Eat healthier by cutting back portions and adding in non-starchy vegetables.
Remember your #plategoals— ¼ protein, ¼ carbohydrate and ½ non-starchy vegetables. Try this approach to every meal; it eliminates the need to count calories! The #plategoals method can provide half the calories of a typical meal, with the same volume, if not more— and get this, 1-2 times the nutrients.

 

Eat every few hours.
Snack between meals; be sure to include a protein and a carbohydrate. This frequent eating, not grazing, helps to fuel your body and boost your metabolism.

Here are some great snack ideas:

  • One half banana or one medium apple with 1 Tbsp nut butter
  • ½ c lite peaches and ½ c low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2 Tbsp hummus and ½ c sugar snap peas
  • 5 reduced fat Triscuits® with 1 oz low-fat cheese
  • One half of a whole-wheat pita stuffed with ½ c lite tuna or egg salad
  • One whole multi-grain English muffin topped with tomato sauce and 1 oz low-fat mozzarella cheese, then baked
  • 10 multi-grain Wheat Thins® with 1 oz low-fat string cheese
  • One small baked potato topped with salsa and 1 oz low-fat cheese
  • ½ c fruit blended with 1 c fat-free/low-fat yogurt and 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • ½ c goldfish crackers made with whole grain and a medium apple
  • Whole-wheat tortilla, topped with ½ c apples and low-fat cheddar cheese, and then heated in microwave
  • 9oz angel food cake or reduced fat biscuit with 1 c strawberries
  • One small baked sweet potato, topped with ½ c pineapple tidbits
  • 3 c low-fat popcorn with 2 Tbsp nuts

Start today by simplifying your health and weight goals by no longer counting calories, but making sure your caloric intake is sourced from the right types of food.

Click here to print off Easy “Mix and Match Meals” using the #plategoals method.

 

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.  

8 Habits of Happy People

We are all looking for more, chasing something, wanting something—a promotion, a new car, a bigger house or relationship. This drive lends to the beliefs that “When I get a promotion, then my life will be better. When I get a significant other, then I will be happy.” It is true that these things will make us happy at first— but that happiness is fleeting.

Genuinely happy people have positive ways of navigating through life’s difficulties. Try some of the habits of happy people and see how they work for you.

There is a mistaken notion that major life events dictate your happiness or sadness. This is very common and referred to as impact bias. Impact bias is our tendency to overestimate our emotional response to future events. This is in essence the “whenthen” that people are stuck in that prevents them from being truly happy in the present.

Happiness that lasts is honed through habits. Genuinely happy people have positive ways of navigating through life’s difficulties. Try some of the habits of happy people and see how they work for you.

  1. Appreciate the small things.

Practicing gratitude for what we have is key to being happy. We get daily reminders of how wonderful life can be and paying attention to those can change how you view things dramatically. A good meal, the warm sunshine, a laughing baby, the smell of coffee in the morning and the love from a pet are all things that we can enjoy. Appreciating these little things can really help put into perspective what we really need to be happy.

  1. Surround yourself with happy people

Happiness is contagious. Being around happy people can stimulate your creativity, build confidence, and just put you in a better mood. Being around negative people has the opposite effect. Do you want to surround yourself with people that are having pity parties? Remember that misery loves company and negative people will only bring you down with them.

  1. Stay Positive

Bad things happen to everyone— including happy people. Happy people do not dwell on the negative; instead, they find a silver lining, create meaning, learn a lesson, grow from the experience and find some gratitude.
Examples:
You have to work the weekend. At least you will get overtime and can pay off some debt.
Your daughter totaled the car. Be grateful that she is safe and you have insurance.

  1. Practice kindness and help others

Taking time to help other people not only helps other, but also helps you too. In a Harvard study, employees who helped others were 10x more likely to be focused at work and 40% more likely to get a promotion. The same study showed that people who consistently provided social support were the most likely to be happy during times of high stress. Small random acts of kindness can make a big difference. Saying “thank you” to the cashier, opening the door, returning a grocery cart for someone, smiling, offering a compliment are all ways to practice kindness.

  1. Avoid gossip

Happy people know that happiness and substance go hand in hand. They have deep conversations and avoid gossip, small talk and judging others. They focus on meaningful interactions and engage people on a deeper level to build emotional connections.

  1. Make an effort to be happy

Not everyone wakes up feeling cheerful and blessed every day, and happy people are no different. They make a concerted effort to adjust their moods. They work at being happy despite some of the pitfalls in life that happen. Happy people are evaluating what they can do to make themselves feel better emotionally instead of getting in the “poor me” rut when things do not go as planned.

  1. Have growth in mind

People that have growth in mind believe that they can improve with effort, learn from past mistakes, embrace and make changes. People that do not have growth in mind feel that you are whom you are and cannot be changed— can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Happy people believe in learning new things about themselves and are able to utilize that to solve problems.

  1. Prioritizing

Happy people know how to prioritize what is important in life. People sometimes get so caught up in making a living that they forget to have a life. Happy people make time for what makes them happy such as family, friends, self-care, vacation, sleep, etc. In the quest for success, it is important to know and be aware of what can make us achieve true happiness.

Author Annie Dillard stated, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Happiness is not something that we stumble upon or find; it is something that we manifest. It is an internal reward and we can tap into it anytime that we want. It is not something external that we can pursue, not if we want it to last. Happiness can be achieved with the right habits and even investing in just a few of them can make a big difference in your mood and outlook.

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”!

5 Hidden Sources of Sugar

Cutting back on one’s sugar intake is always one of the best first steps to take towards healthier eating habits. However, sugar can be found lurking in every aisle of the grocery store. You know to limit sweets, soda and candy but watch out for some of these hidden sources of sugar that could be sabotaging your health.

Salad Dressing

You’ve heard the phrase that a perfectly good salad can be ruined by its dressing. This is especially true when that salad dressing is nothing but a spoonful of sugar. Believe it or not, a serving of salad dressing can have more added sugars than a candy bar. Beware of fat-free salad dressings as these are usually the ones with the highest amounts of added sugars. Classic ranch, Italian and unsweetened vinaigrettes are good low-sugar choices.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has become America’s excuse to eat ice cream for breakfast. You read that right. Most Greek yogurt options contain more sugar than ice cream. I know what you’re thinking. “But Amanda, I thought Greek yogurt was supposed to be healthy for me”. You’re right, it was when it originally debuted on store shelves a decade ago. However, most people couldn’t get past the thick, tart taste of natural Greek yogurt, so to boost sales and increase palatability, manufacturers began adding more and more sugar to their products.

Nutella

Nutella just sounds fancy and sometimes fancy-sounding foods are mistakenly taken as healthier options. There is nothing fancy about the amount of sugar found in Nutella. In fact, it’s nearly all sugar; it’s even the very first ingredient listed on the nutrition label. Putting Nutella on toast is no different than covering your toast in maple syrup. You’re much better off with toppings that provide protein and/or healthy fat like peanut/almond butter, mashed avocado or my favorite, an egg!

Granola/Granola Bars

Granola bars gained popularity decades ago because they were the perfect low calorie/low fat snack. Remember low-fat usually translates to high-sugar. Food manufacturers have known this for a long time. If you can’t flavor something with fat, you need to enhance taste with sugar. Even organic, whole-food bars fall victim to being high in sugar. Swap your granola bars for a low-sugar protein bar. Your insulin levels and waistline will thank you. 

“Energy” anything

In the world of food marketing, the word “energy” is code for sugar. Fancy labeling and flashy packaging may make items like energy drinks and energy bars look enticing (especially for athletes), they are simply expensive versions of soda and candy bars. Save yourself the $$ and blood sugar crashes and choose items that naturally provide sustainable energy such as lean proteins and healthy fats. Combine cottage cheese, cheese, nuts or hard boiled eggs with fresh fruit for well-balanced food choices.