Enjoy Halloween Treats—Avoid Sugary Tricks

From vampire bats to Kit Kats®, Halloween is a long-standing tradition celebrated with tricks and treats. In fact, it’s one of my favorite holidays. I have always found humor in dressing up in non-traditional Halloween costumes, even at an early age. Luckily, I have great friends and family that are willing to partake in my couple/group Halloween costume extravaganzas. 

 Routine consumption of “sugary tricks” can lead to high blood sugars, hypertension, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, gut problems—and the list goes on and on.

There is no “healthy” candy

As a dietitian, the most common question I get this time of year is, “What is the best/healthiest candy to eat”? Unfortunately, there isn’t an answer. But don’t worry! This is not going to be your typical “don’t eat candy” Halloween post.  In my eyes, it’s perfectly fine to eat your heart out in candy for a night (or two). Why? Because we are a product of what we routinely do, not what we occasionally do. This applies to all aspects of life, but especially to our health.  

Everything in Moderation

What I mean by this concept is that it is perfectly fine to enjoy some less-nutritious foods, such as pizza, donuts and candy, occasionally. The problem is that most people enjoy these foods far too often than what their metabolisms are capable of processing. I am more concerned with the “daily candy” our youth and adults consume. Routine consumption of these foods can lead to high blood sugars, hypertension, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, gut problems—and the list goes on and on.

Breakfast Candy

Cereals, Pop-Tarts® and pastries are some of the best ways to start off your day…. If you want a sugar and insulin surge. These habits lead to fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin control throughout the day, disrupt concentration and can suck the energy right out of you. Lower sugar options include eggs, lean breakfast meats, nuts, peanut butter, cottage cheese and small servings of fruit.

Liquid Candy

Juice, soda, sweet tea and sports drinks are simply sugar in a liquid form. Perceived benefits of caffeine, vitamins and electrolytes are far outweighed by the consequences of the rapid absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Not only does this sugar tidal wave spike insulin levels, it also increases preferences towards high-sugar foods, so the cycle unfortunately continues.

Fake Candy

Often, people gravitate towards items that are “sugar-free,” such as diet soda or sugar-free snacks, with the assumption that these products are healthier. I firmly stand my ground that low-calorie, chemical versions of sugar are no healthier for you than real and processed sugars. They may have a reduced nutrient density, but research shows that sugar substitutes greatly damage our gut lining. This can lead to leaky gut syndrome, propelling a host of other disease conditions.

Fruit Candy

Fruit roll-ups, fruit snacks and fruit-fillings are not fruit. They are pastes and mixtures created to taste like fruit. While these foods may appear to be healthier choices than other snack foods, nutritionally, they are no different than Skittles®.

Dairy Candy

Milk and yogurt contain both natural and added sugars. Calcium intake is important but not at the price of 20 grams of sugar, which is what you may find in a standard serving of yogurt (even Greek) and especially flavored milk varieties. Opt for low-sugar calcium sources such as unsweetened milk substitutes, broccoli, spinach, cheese, cottage cheese or whey/casein-based protein powders.

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.

3 Reasons Why You’re Late Night Eating

You may have heard the old adage once or twice that you shouldn’t eat after 6:00pm. In fact, most people are familiar with the health tip that eating late at night can be associated with weight gain. However, other health professionals argue that it’s the dietary intake over the course of the whole day that influences weight gain, not when those calories are consumed. While the debate on late night eating and the association with weight gain remains strong, I am actually most interested in the reason why you are eating so late.

3-Reasons-Why-Youre-Late-Night-Eating

Reason #1: I’m hungry! I can’t seem to feel full in the evening.

When patients describe this scenario to me, I look at two things: Are they eating often enough in the daytime and are they eating enough protein? It is very common to observe excessive hunger in the evening when people skip meals, especially breakfast. I understand that many people are simply not hungry in the morning, but this is most often the result of training your body into a bad habit of not eating within your first few waking hours of the day. In fact, not feeling hungry after getting up may indicate you already have a faulty metabolism. If food does not sound good, it is perfectly healthy to consume a protein shake instead.

Skimping on protein intake can also alter hunger and satiety levels, particularly if protein-rich foods like eggs, meats, cheese, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are being replaced by empty carb-rich foods such as cereals, white flours, crackers, chips, pretzels and granola bars throughout the day. Try to include a protein source with all your meals and preferably with your snack choices to achieve better feelings of fullness and more controlled blood sugars during the day and evening. High protein intake is a hot topic in research. Here is a great illustration depicting how protein can affect our late-night eating habits.

Solution: Don’t skip meals, and have a protein-rich breakfast every morning.

Protein ReducesSources: Authority Nutrition and NCBI

 

Reason #2: I’m bored.

Obviously, boredom is never a good reason to journey into the pantry. Many people eat out of boredom in the evenings from not having enough stimulation and others eat out of bad habit. Remember, we can condition our bodies into bad habits just as easily as we can form good health routines. If you feel a craving coming on, ask yourself, “Is my hunger above or below the neck?” Hunger above the neck merely means that eating something just sounds like a good idea. This may have been stimulated from seeing a food ad on TV or again, out of habit. If your hunger is below the neck and actually presents itself as tummy gurgles, then it is perfectly acceptable to have a late-night snack.

Ideally, you do not want to load up on carbs right before bedtime. A high-carb bedtime snack can cause a blood sugar and insulin spike during the middle of the night and actually disrupt your proper sleep cycle. Safer bedtime snacks include a good protein source along with a small carb source such as an apple with peanut butter or a handful of nuts mixed with some dry cereal or possibly some hard cheese slices with a handful of grapes.

Solution: Figure out if you are truly hungry or not first. If you do have some stomach pains, make sure you include a protein source with your evening snack.

 

Reason #3: My family has to eat late at night since we had a ball game out of town. What’s the best quick stop dinner?

Eating on the go is practically unavoidable in today’s society. Sometimes it’s unrealistic to avoid fast food altogether, but ordering from a window doesn’t mean your nutritious eating habits have to go out the other one! Remember to include a balance of proteins and healthy carbs with your evening order. Examples could be a burrito bowl from Chipotle, bowl of chili with a side salad from Wendy’s or a grilled chicken wrap or grinder. Try to limit fried menu items such as fried/breaded chicken, French fries, onion rings, hush puppies and added sugars from milkshakes, pies and cookies that are quickly available at most fast-food chains. Don’t forget that you can quickly stop at a grocery store and bring home rotisserie chicken, green beans and sweet potato salad for a quick sit-down dinner.

Solution: Choose lean proteins with veggies and try to limit consumption of excessive starches (breads, potatoes, noodles) and fried fats.

Amanda  Figge

5 Foods to Stop Eating After the Age of 10

While driving to work the other morning, I heard the radio DJ announce that there was a certain restaurant that doesn’t serve ketchup to individuals over the age of 10. Of course it was a steak restaurant and we all know the unspoken rule that you should never have to order ketchup when having a good steak. As comical as this was, it got me thinking… “Shouldn’t there be a list of other foods we should stop eating after the age of 10?” Here is where my thoughts took me.

Child at Breakfast

  • Lucky Charms and other “kid-friendly” cereals: This sugar-sweetened, low-fiber cereal may taste great, but it may require three bowls to fill you up. Plus, consuming this amount of simple carbs in one sitting will not only spike your insulin levels in the morning, it will often lead your body to crave more carbs later on in the day.
  • Spaghetti Os: This canned spaghetti meal became famous in the 1960s and it hasn’t lost any popularity points since. While the low-fat nature of the pasta may seem appealing, don’t be fooled by the fact that you are really just eating a can of processed carbs. Besides, who really wants to eat pasta that was canned 5 years ago?
  • Chicken Nuggets: This is a powerhouse in the diets of most American children, yet still quite appealing to most adults. One of the biggest downfalls when it comes to chicken nuggets is the fat content. Good, healthy sources of fat can be a part of anyone’s diet, but this is referring to the fats found in nuts, seeds, avocados, oils…not the ones from these little chicken bites. The other negative side of chicken nuggets is the fact they are very processed when compared to a natural piece of chicken.
  • Mac n Cheese and Hotdogs: I can recall one summer where I had this meal almost every day for lunch. When you put two processed foods like this together, you get high carbs, high fat (not the good kind), and high sodium. While this meal is simple to make, it is quite low in nutrients and often displaces opportunities to consume fruits and veggies.
  • Lunchables: The always-classic Lunchable is of course the meat, cheese and cracker combo. However, this has also been expanded to include nachos, tacos, and make-your-own pizza kits. The ones targeting older-aged children generally include a sub sandwich, chips and Capri Sun. Again, the main problem is that all of these food items are highly processed. Sugar-sweetened beverages and high-sodium sides are replacing nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.

While many of these foods may bring back some fond memories of your childhood eating habits, the bottom line is that they are very poor sources of nutrients, regardless if you are an adult or child. Just because we don’t consume most of these items as adults doesn’t necessarily make them appropriate for our kids, especially since childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high.

Water A few simple tips for helping your children form better eating habits and becoming healthy adults:

  • Pack water bottles instead of Capri Suns or juice boxes for beverages in lunch boxes.
  • Include at least one fruit and one vegetable in all lunches. Try to keep your starches to just one item per meal (bread, crackers, potatoes, pretzels, cereal, granola bar, pasta).
  • Choose snacks that include a protein component: cheese, cottage cheese, nuts, peanut butter, Greek yogurt. Even better, pair the protein with a fruit or veggie serving: cottage cheese + pineapple, peanut butter + celery, cheese stick + grapes.
  • Limit consumption of meals that come from a box and practice making more meals from fresh, wholesome ingredients.
  • If you do purchase packaged food items, try to choose those with 5 ingredients or less. At least be able to pronounce and understand all ingredients listed.
  • Don’t purchase food from the same place you get your gas.

 

Assorted fruit

Choosing the Right Time to Eat

Pasta PrimaveraAnother interesting area of research investigates whether the time of day calories are consumed influences weight loss changes at all. This happens to be a focus area for researcher, Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz from Tel Aviv University in Israel. In their recent study, overweight and obese women were provided a 1400 calorie diet and were followed for 12 weeks. The women in the study were split into two groups. The first group was the “big breakfast” group, consuming 700 calories a breakfast, 500 at lunch and 200 calories with dinner. The second group was the “big dinner” group, consuming just the opposite pattern: 200 at breakfast, 500 at lunch and 700 calories with dinner. Both groups lost weight (remember the golden rule is calories in vs. calories out); however, what was astonishing about this study is that the “big breakfast” group lost on average 10 more pounds and 1.5 more inches from their waistline than the “big dinner” group did. Researchers also noted that the “big breakfast” group experienced significant reductions in insulin levels, glucose and triglyceride fats.

Does this mean this gives us free-reign to go and order 2 donuts and a large chocolate-caramel coffee drink for breakfast every morning? Absolutely not. The quality of calories still plays a major role here. Plus, keep in mind that it may not be very sustainable to consume only 200 calories with dinner for an extended period of time. Two hundred calorie dinners would most likely look like a lean portion of protein such as chicken, egg whites or tilapia, and some steamed vegetables.

This study does illustrate some interesting health points as well as stimulate more questions regarding nutritional intake. It only makes sense that we should be consuming more of our calories during our active parts of the day, right? Unfortunately, it is well documented that breakfast is the most commonly missed meal of the day.

If you think about it, the majority of Americans are accustomed to enjoying a large dinner meal at night. And then what happens? We typically lounge by watching TV or reading, maybe perform a few chores, but ultimately we all go to bed to rest for the day. So why should we be consuming the majority of our calories for the day with our last meal? More research is still needed in this area, but it does give us a lot to think about when considering, “what are the best practices to achieve a healthy weight loss?”

calories chartIf you are interested in switching up your caloric intake patterns throughout the day, here are a few examples of squeezing in some extra calories with the breakfast meal. Remember to focus on quality, wholesome foods instead of adding processed sugars and starches for extra calories. Breakfast food never has to be “breakfast food” either. Feel free to experiment with non-traditional breakfast menu items too!

Eggs, oatmeal, smoothies and Greek yogurt are open canvases! Experiment with any combination of added nutrients from whole foods to paint a new breakfast picture each day of the week!

A New Spin on Breakfast in Bed

Romance-red-rose-newspaper-breakfast-in-bedWhat better way to pamper a loved one than by serving them breakfast in bed! However, many times these special meals consist of biscuits, donuts, toast, waffles, pancakes and syrup. We might have the best of intentions when making these menu items, but a heavy refined-carb breakfast may make one feeling sluggish and bloated a couple of  hours later. Not to mention, this wouldn’t make the best choice of food items for someone who has blood sugar problems. This is a new breakfast that I am absolutely obsessed with! I made this for my mom and sister while visiting them in Tennessee. There’s nothing better than starting off the day with a light, healthy, green and omega-3 rich meal!

Veggie Scramble with Smoked Salmon

Serves 4-5
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• ½ bundle of asparagus, cut into small segments
• 1 zucchini, diced
• 5 tbsp leeks
• 5 oz baby spinach
• 2 garlic cloves
• Pinch of salt/pepper
• 9 eggs
• 4 oz goat cheese
• 6 oz smoked salmon

photo 3

1. In a medium-large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Meanwhile cut and prepare vegetables.

2. Once oil is heated, add asparagus, zucchini, leeks, spinach and garlic sauté for about 8 minutes or until asparagus stalks become slightly tender.

3. While veggies are cooking, whisk together eggs and goat cheese. Pour eggs on top of cooked vegetables and let sit for about 1 minute. Then begin to gently push eggs around with spatula until cooked all the way through.

4. Add smoked salmon once eggs are cooked and continue to heat for another 1-2 minutes. You may season with a small amount of salt and pepper or dill and chives. I sprinkled a little bit of remaining goat cheese on my dish.

Simple, delicious and a slight gourmet touch!
Recipe adapted from againstallgrain.com