Meal Planning 1-2-3

Meal planning was a hard concept for me to start doing. I honestly never really meal planned until I had kids, because let’s face it, it didn’t matter if dinner was an hour late. The kids need to be fed by 6:00pm so there is time for bath, jammies, books, prayers and bed by 7:30pm.

Most nights we don’t even get home till 5:30-5:45pm so meal planning is most certainly part of my vocabulary. Additionally, when I heard the following statistic it changed my thought process for planning meals, “60% of Americans don’t know what they are having for dinner by 4:00pm, and 66% of Americans are overweight”.

With a little preparation, planning your meals in advance can help you save time and money at the grocery store or from dashing through the drive-thru at lunch or dinner. Developing a meal plan can also help you eat a more nutritious, well-balanced diet that includes nutrient-rich foods from each of the food groups. You may find that you can better manage your weight and health if you plan and prepare meals at home more often. 


Meal Planning 1-2-3

  1. Use the #plategoals image above as a guide.
    •Start with the main dish/protein and work from there.
    •Sometimes this main dish may already include a starch.
              •When I say starch, I’m thinking grain, bread, fruit or starchy vegetable.
    •Think about the color choices of your meal and try and color the plate.
  2. Start by planning 3 meals per week.
    •You can always slowly work your way up to more, but even planning 1 meal a week is better than not planning at all.
    •Print of our free Weekly Meal Plan template here!
  3. Spend no more that 1-2 hours total prepping and cooking these meals.

Here are a couple more tips for meal planning:

  • Don’t be afraid to get the family involved with the meal planning, especially the kids!
  • Try to avoid selecting different recipes that don’t fit together or else you’ll be buying a lot of different ingredients. Select one, look at the ingredient list and let that help you select recipe #2, and so on.
  • Save yourself some time and write your grocery list while you figure out your meals–and don’t forget to jot down quantities for each ingredient. Before you head to the store, take a quick inventory of what you have on hand and cross off the ingredients you don’t need to purchase.
  • By portioning your plate like the picture, you are getting in the food groups you need, but also portioning your plate correctly. This will help to fill you up without all the calories. Also, this almost guarantees for leftovers!

Megan Klemm

Fruit and Nut Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Dressing

Fruit and Nut Salad

Fruit and Nut Salad

1 bag lettuce mix
½-1 bag of spinach
¼ cup dried cranberries
4-6 strawberries (sliced)
½  red onion (sliced)
1 apple (sliced)
¼ cup nuts (your choice: pecans, walnuts, etc.)

Optional Add-ons:
Fresh grated parmesan cheese

Berry Poppy Seed Dressing

½-1  cup fresh berries (your choice: raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
1/8 cup honey
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
1 jar of poppy seed dressing 


  • Mix lettuce and spinach in a large bowl.
  • Mix in dried cranberries, sliced strawberries, red onions, apples, and nuts.
  • Puree fresh berries with olive oil and honey.
  • Blend berry puree with 1 jar of poppy seed dressing.
Fruit and Nut Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Dressing
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  1. Fruit and Nut Salad
  2. 1 bag lettuce mix
  3. ½-1 bag of spinach
  4. ¼ cup dried cranberries
  5. 4-6 strawberries (sliced)
  6. ½ red onion (sliced)
  7. 1 apple (sliced)
  8. ¼ cup nuts (your choice: pecans, walnuts, etc.)
  9. Berry Poppy Seed Dressing
  10. ½-1 cup fresh berries (your choice: raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
  11. 1/8 cup honey
  12. 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  13. 1 jar of poppy seed dressing
  1. Mix lettuce and spinach in a large bowl.
  2. Mix in dried cranberries, sliced strawberries, red onions, apples, and nuts.
  3. Puree fresh berries with olive oil and honey.
  4. Blend berry puree with 1 jar of poppy seed dressing.
Optional Add-ons
  1. Croutons
  2. Fresh grated parmesan cheese
Something to Chew

Can you control your diabetes?

World Health Day was celebrated on April 7 and this year’s theme was “Beat Diabetes.” Our department provides education for type II diabetes on a daily basis. I often find that patients are diagnosed without a clear understanding of what diabetes actually is. According to The World Health Organization, “Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.” Insulin is needed to help the body utilize carbohydrates, a main energy source found in some foods. Hyperglycemia, or elevated blood sugar, is common in uncontrolled diabetes and can lead to damage in the body over time. Damage may occur in nerves and blood vessels and may lead to problems with eyes, kidneys, and other areas of the body.

Can you control your diabetesAs a dietitian, I educate patients about foods that contain carbohydrates and turn into a form of sugar called glucose. Once carbohydrates in food turn into glucose, this has a direct impact on elevating blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It is important to balance carbohydrates with other foods that do not have an impact on blood sugar. I use the idea below for diabetic educations:

food plate ¼ plate foods that contain carbohydrates and turn into glucose, ¼ plate protein that does not turn into glucose, and ½ plate non-starchy vegetables that do not turn into glucose.

Many patients have a vague understanding of foods that are “bad” and those that are “good.” They are often told that they can never eat bread or rice again. They should avoid sweets and stock up on sugar-free items. With that being said, it is so beneficial to meet with a registered dietitian to build a better knowledge about nutrition and diabetes. The “how and what you eat” are very important factors in diabetes management. Physical activity is also an essential component.

The World Health Organization estimates that 350 million people worldwide have diabetes and this number is expected to double in the next 20 years. This is such an alarming number considering many cases of type II diabetes could be prevented with better food choices and increased physical activity.

Recommendations for prevention:

  • Eat a variety of foods, including those that contain carbohydrates, lean proteins, and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Use the plate method above as a guide at main meals. is a great resource when learning about the different food groups and healthy eating.
  • Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity weekly.

Click here to find out more information on World Healthy Day 2016 and diabetes.


Alana Scopel

Excuse me!

Breaking wind, backdoor trumpet, a misguided burp…if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am referring to a fart. Talking about gas may not be a comfortable topic for most people but somebody has got to do it! Let’s start with some quick facts.

  • The average person passes gas at least 14 times a day and, sorry ladies, there are no gender differences here!
  • Why do farts sound differently? That depends on the amount of gas, the force of which it comes out and the size of your sphincter when it escapes the body.
  • Did you know that the awful smell a good fart can produce only comes from 1% of the gas (hydrogen sulfide)? Ninety nine percent of our gassy expulsions are mostly odorless (nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, methane, carbon dioxide).

Talking about gas may not be a comfortable topic for most people but somebody has got to do it!

The two major contributors of gas include the action of swallowing air (when eating perhaps) and breakdown/fermentation of food by bacteria in the colon. Passing gas is a completely natural process since it’s the body’s way of relieving itself of unwanted gas and excess pressure in the colon. However, overproduction of gas can become quite a nuisance and be the culprit of some awkward elevator rides.

That is where my expertise comes in. Our diets are the most common cause of excessive gas production. When specific types of carbohydrates are consumed in excessive amounts, their byproducts act like fertilizer for bacteria in the colon. For folks with sensitive guts (those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome), these types of foods almost always cause a little extra rumble when consumed.  

If you feel that your gas is out of control, consider limiting some of these foods.

  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage. The sulfur component in these vegetables contributes to the production of hydrogen sulfide or what most of you know as “the rotten egg smell”. In addition to increasing the production of gas, these vegetables also contribute to more pungent-smelling gas.
  • High Fructose-containing Fruits/Products: Apples, pears, honey, soda (high fructose corn syrup). Fructose is another specific type of sugar that tends to overfeed the bacteria in the colon.
  • Allium Vegetables: Leeks, onions, garlic. All contain a specific carbohydrate known as fructan that basically throws a party for bacteria to feed off of in your intestines.
  • Lactosecontaining Foods: Especially milk, ice cream, yogurt and some cheeses. Some people do not have enough of the enzyme lactase. When lactose, the milk sugar, is not broken down properly, it can lead to excessive fermentation in the gut. A fart by lactose intolerance is described as one of the worst. The most common symptom is utter denial that the fart is yours!
  • Wheat-based Starches. Bread, pasta, bagels, pizza crust, cookies, cakes, crackers, pretzels, cereal. Wheat is another food that breaks down into fructan. Excessive fructan consumption can also contribute to abdominal bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation.
  • Beans and Legumes. Does this really need an explanation?
  • Chickory Root/Inulin. This is a form of fiber that is easily added to foods to boost its fiber value. This will often be one of the first ingredients in any Fiber One or Fiber Plus food product. Increasing fiber intake is wonderful for your heart and colon health; however, this type of fiber sometimes has a noisy consequence.

Keep in mind that not all of these foods will give you gas and there will certainly be foods not on this list that do. Your gut is like an individual thumb print. It is unique to you. Foods that you tolerate may be the main gassy culprit for someone else. I hope this list does not scare you out of eating any vegetables. If you do have a sensitive gut, you may continue to enjoy many of these foods, but you may need to have a limit on portion sizes. For example, try to keep servings of broccoli to no more than ½ cup.

Not all GI symptoms need to be treated with medication. Sometimes, all it requires is a few diet tweaks to improve gastrointestinal discomfort.

Amanda FiggeP.S. View a video of my “Doctor Is In” presentation on Irritable Bowl Syndrome.

Organic VS Non-organic

I have recently become more interested in researching organic vs. non-organic foods. I see oncology patients weekly and this topic is often discussed. Unfortunately, we know that the majority of food in our food supply is treated with some type of pesticide, hormone, and/or chemical.

Organic VS Non-organic

Ongoing research has tried to determine the effects these may cause or what they may do to our bodies once consumed. In the case of cancer, many studies state that consuming fruits and vegetables, whether organic or not, is more beneficial than not eating any at all. Other studies have stated that 99.99% of potential carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals consumed are naturally present in food and reducing our exposure to the 0.01% found synthetically will not reduce cancer rates.

A recent study did find that organic crops have more nutritional benefits than conventionally managed crops. Conventional crops typically have contact with high levels of synthetic nitrogen, which causes more sugar and starch production. This results in a lower concentration of nutrients, including antioxidants, in conventional crops.

It’s hard to deny that organic is generally more expensive, but this is because organic crops are not subsidized. For example, 1 pound of organic asparagus may cost $4.99 and non-organic $2.99. The $2 difference adds up at the end of the grocery bill, but there may be some foods that should still be purchased organic as much as possible. Some may be familiar with the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen.” These are lists of foods that are generally higher in chemicals and those that are lower.

Clean 15Dirty DozenImages via EWG

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I’m sure many of us have heard this and there is some truth behind this. Apples are high in fiber and have nutrients in their skin that are beneficial to our health. However, apples are the “dirtiest” fruit because they are treated with the most chemicals. Organic apples should be purchased as much as possible. If this is not feasible financially, it is important to vigorously scrub the skin with water and a fruit/vegetable brush. There are also fruit and vegetable washes available that may help to reduce contaminants on the skin.

Following apples on the list are peaches. The skin on peaches are nutritious, but are also doused with chemicals to prolong the life of the fruit. Peach skin is very delicate, so this fruit may be more difficult to brush. With this being said, this is another fruit I’d recommend purchasing as organic if possible.

Some “clean” foods include avocados, asparagus and onions. I would still recommend rising foods like asparagus before preparing. Another recommendation is to peel the outermost layers of food like lettuce, as they have likely been treated with the most chemicals. It’s also very easy to see which foods have been treated more heavily based on their appearance. If they look shiny or like they have a layer of wax on them, they have likely been heavily treated with chemicals!

Alana Scopel

“Oh, Pat!”: My Wheel of Fortune Experience

My Wheel of Fortune Experience

As you may recall from a post earlier this year, one of my biggest dreams is to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. I am an avid wheel watcher and always have been. As bad as it is to admit as a dietitian, I do not like to eat at the table at dinnertime; rather I often eat dinner parked in front of the TV so I can watch WOF as I eat. This summer, I received the opportunity of a lifetime and was offered a spot as a contestant on my beloved game show. Now that the show has aired, I can finally talk about my incredible experience!!!

Wheel of Fortune

“Oh, Pat! Oh, Pat!” Pink daffodils never smelled sweeter to Amanda! 😉

Posted by Wheel of Fortune on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How did you get on the show?

The Wheel-mobile is the show’s traveling audition team. I knew that it was coming to my area so I drug my husband to Decatur one Sunday to participate in the auditioning. While I was selected to go on stage and give a 30 second introduction about myself, getting an actual audition with the producers felt like a lost cause. My husband was also displeased that it felt like we wasted a whole day for nothing. I received an email for a call-back audition 3 weeks later and a week after that received another email that I was selected as a contestant. We flew out to Los Angeles 2 weeks later!

Do they pay for you to fly out there?

No. All expenses including flights, hotel and dining fees are the responsibility of the contestants. This is why all contestants are awarded a minimum of $1000 at the end of the show, even if they do not guess any puzzles correctly. This basically covers the cost of your trip.

What was it like backstage?

I got to the studio around 7:30am. From the moment we walked in, we were ushered through hair and make-up, went over hundreds of rules and waivers and also practiced spinning the wheel and calling out letters for a couple of hours. During the show’s commercial breaks, all contestants are quickly greeted by their hair and makeup artist and coach/producer instructing them on things to remember during the filming of the show.

Was the wheel really heavy?

YES! I didn’t think I would have a problem with the wheel since I am an avid crossfitter and lift heavy weights but it certainly took a lot of concentration and proper hand placement to give it a good spin every time.

What were Pat and Vanna like?

Even as a contestant, I was not allowed to ask for autographs or get my picture taken with them, but they were extremely nice to all the contestants. Pat is incredibly witty with his one-liners and quick comments to contestants, and Vanna is just as gorgeous in person as she is on TV.

Is it much different playing the game in the studio versus at home?

OMG YES!!! I’ll say confidently that I am a very good player when watching WOF at home. But when you’re standing there on your platform with a full audience, lights, cameras and a world of pressure on you, you forget what your own name is.

Did you really know the answer to the final puzzle and just waited until the very end to guess it?

No. I knew the second word was “daffodils” but for the life of me could not come up with the word “pink.” Part of the reason was because I started off pronouncing the long-I version of the letter instead of using the short-I pronunciation of the vowel. With literally one second to go, my brain finally fired correctly and I got PINK DAFFADILS out! Interestingly, I NEVER usually pick P and D when I’m playing at home. Usually, I go with C, M, B and G or H but for some reason, P and D were the first two letters out of my mouth.

What did you do to watch the show when it finally aired?

We had a viewing party at our house and the local news station stopped by to film our reactions and do an interview. It was so much fun commentating to everyone what thoughts were going through my head in addition to laughing hysterically at all my reactions — “the hormones the hormones” and “oh Pat oh Pat oh Pat!” It was also hilarious to see my ‘hunky hubby’ wave like the Queen of England when I introduced him in the bonus round.

If you recall at the end of the show, I was filmed talking to Pat and Vanna as the credits begin rolling. I was telling them my favorite quote: “Fate. It can only take you so far, but once it’s gotten you there, it’s up to you to make it happen.” Fate brought the Wheel-mobile to Decatur. But it was up to me to make it to the audition. Fate provided me the opportunity to be a contestant on the show but it was still up to me to remain calm, focus and use my noggin to solve the puzzles. And if fate ever blesses me with a baby girl, you betcha I’m decorating her room in pink daffodils!