Gas it Up: Give your body the energy it wants

Let’s talk about how the body gets energy. “Glucose” is a fancy word for sugar, and it’s best known as a fuel for our body. All food is broken down into our bodies for fuel, but glucose is the body’s main energy source. Just like we need to put gas in our cars to go, we need to put gas in our bodies too. And just like we have different octanes of fuel for our cars, we have different octanes of fuel for our bodies.

Beneficial glucose

The best source of glucose is found in a macronutrient known as “carbohydrate.” And when you think of carbohydrate, you’re probably thinking about bread, rice or pasta. But in addition to these foods, fruits and a few vegetables are also carbohydrate sources.

These fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and lean proteins, are the best fuel to nourish our bodies instead of depleting our energy levels. These foods are permissible AND beneficial.

Less beneficial glucose

Processed foods, such as cake, doughnuts, cookies, sugary liquids and some white foods are among the types of foods that may be permissible but are not always beneficial. These carbohydrate sources are most often found in the center aisles of the grocery store. Let’s break down two of these foods/ingredients.

Enriched white flour

You see the word “enriched,” and you’d think this would be better for you. Bogus! Enriching means stripping the grain, removing most of its natural nutrients, then replacing some of those nutrients during processing.

When enriched foods came to the market, there were good motives. This food processing technique came about to better preserve foods for longer periods in order to prevent food famines. But now, when you see “enriched” on a food label, know that this will give you some quick energy, but your gas tank will quickly be on empty.

White sugar

Yummy in my tummy!—is what I always think when I think about foods made from white sugar or sucrose. Sucrose provides an immediate blood sugar surge. Your metabolic system lights up, and the body produces insulin and raises your serotonin levels (happy hormones).

Raised insulin levels can cause you to overeat while also causing you to be as hungry as you were before you started eating. In addition, your body will become more resistant to the sugar, causing you to feel the need for MORE sugar and unnecessary calories to elevate your mood while emptying your gas tank and causing you to crash just as quickly. What a vicious cycle.

How can we get more “good” fuel?

Focus on retraining your taste buds. Yes, you can retrain your taste buds! Try to remove or at least limit these permissible but not beneficial foods and then replace them with foods that will provide you with more clarity and energy, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Your body will thank you!

Do your eating habits need a check-up?

Check-Ups. Our bodies need them, our eyes and teeth need them and even our cars need them. You know what else needs a nice check-up from time to time? Your diet.

Check-Ups. Our bodies need them, our eyes and teeth need them and even our cars need them. You know what else needs a nice check-up from time to time? Your diet.

If you are unsure of where to start, keep a food diary for 3 days and include at least one weekend day. Once completed, evaluate what your typical routine looks like and see where improvements can be made. Questions that you can ask yourself can include:

  • Do I eat too much fast food?
  • Do I not cook enough at home?
  • Can I increase how many fruits and vegetables I am eating?
  • Am I skipping breakfast too often?
  • Do I eat too much bread?

Do what works best for you and if you can, incorporate a friend on your challenge so the two of you can continue to motivate each other all month long. Eating healthier never has to be complicated. It can be as simple as choosing to eat something green every day or trying out a new vegetable with every grocery trip. Hopefully, you will come out of your challenge with some new tools to assist with living a healthier lifestyle. You may just surprise yourself how easy eating healthy can be!

For the past several months, my body has been enjoying the benefits of an increased metabolism from being a new mom and breastfeeding. While my overall eating habits have been good, my sugar intake had gone way up. For example, most mornings I would have scrambled eggs with ham, cheese and veggies paired with a delicious Mel-o-Cream donut. With the stress of being a new mom, I found myself also consuming cookies and almond milk literally every night. And I don’t mean 1-2 cookies…I’m talking more like 5-6 cookies at a time. One morning I thought to myself, “Gee it would be really great to just skip the eggs and have two donuts instead.” That’s when I knew my sugar intake was getting out of control and I needed to do something about it.

See, I am also a sugar junkie just like the vast majority of Americans. Sugar is very addicting regardless of the form it comes in such as bread, pasta, cookies, granola bars, pretzels, crackers or chips. When excess carbohydrates are consumed, your body releases large amounts of insulin to shuttle this extra glucose into storage. These large shifts in insulin levels can actually make you crave more carbohydrates and more calories! Additionally, large amounts of carbohydrates (particularly processed forms) can upset your GI system and affect your sleep patterns.

After I finished my last homemade chocolate chip cookie, I knew my eating habits needed a re-boot. I decided to take on a 30-day challenge and of course, incorporated the help of my husband. We have done this in the past and always come out of our month-long food adventure happier and healthier. The purpose of a 30-day challenge is to adopt habits that hopefully will become lifelong behaviors. The first time we took on a challenge, we cut out processed foods by doing the Whole30, and you know what? It forced me to become a cook and now I love making meals for my family every week! Staying away from processed foods for 30 days pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to utilize cooking techniques, vegetables, spices and a variety of proteins we previously had never had before.

My husband and I evaluated our eating habits and each chose an area to work on. My problem was my sugar intake and his was chips and sweets. Let me remind you that the occasional cookie, donut or bag of chips from time to time is perfectly fine! However, my sugar intake had gotten out of control since I was consuming these types of items every single day. I didn’t embark on anything too complicated given the fact that I am breastfeeding and would also have a little extra stress of returning to work. For my challenge, I simply chose to go a whole month without cookies. It was as simple as that! Now, fast forward 30 days.

You’ll be happy to hear that I survived my month without cookies! I swapped my morning donuts for a serving of sweet potatoes and choose protein bars or an apple with peanut butter instead of cookies as a bedtime snack. My goal was not to lose weight but rather help my body wean itself away from daily high-sugar intake. I can say that I feel great, my gut feels amazing and my body is back to craving much more wholesome foods such as fruit, peanut butter, nuts and veggies. It is so refreshing to remind my body how good it feels when it’s not craving processed sugars.


Amanda  Figge



3-Ingredient Crock-Pot Shredded Italian Chicken

Hello, my name is Megan Klemm and I’m so glad to be writing this guest blog post, but more so, I’m finally here as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator for Springfield Clinic! I’m also a very busy mom. So how do I manage to put a decently healthy meal on the table with my hands full and working part-time? My secret is a crock-pot! I love to make all sorts of meals in the crock-pot, and many times you can make a complete meal all in one.

How do I manage to put a decently healthy meal on the table between working and being a mom? A crockpot!

In our house we follow the plate method (¼ plate carbohydrate, ¼ plate protein, and ½ plate non-starchy vegetables) to plan our meals and make sure we get in each food group, especially at dinner time. The recipes I use ones where you can throw everything in the night before or the morning of, set the crock-pot and walk out the door. If the recipe takes too much prep time, you can be assured that I will not use that recipe. Additionally, if the recipe says to cook less than 4 hours, I’m not going to use it either. It would be burnt by the time I got home.

I’ve gone so extreme as to have a crock-pot meal almost every night of an entire month. I did allow 1-2 nights a week for leftovers and if the leftovers can be frozen, I will do that to stretch the meals for another time.

My quick clean up secret is CROCK-POT LINERS!!! They are fabulous; the 2 brands I have used are Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners and Crock-Pot Slow Cooker Liners. Don’t use your crock-pot without one!

Try this 3-ingredient shredded Italian chicken recipe. It’s popular because it’s so easy and scrumptious!

Carbohydrate: buns
Protein: chicken
Non-Starchy Vegetable: broccoli, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower mix, brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, or lettuce salad with spinach, romaine, and/or kale.

3-ingredient crock-pot shredded Italian chicken
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Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
6 hr
Prep Time
1 min
Cook Time
6 hr
  1. 4-6 skinless boneless chicken breasts (to make it easy, I often don’t thaw the chicken beforehand)
  2. 1 packet dry Italian Dressing
  3. 1 jar pepperoncini, juice and all (my family doesn’t like spicy, so I use the whole pepperoncini, so I can take them out after cooking)
  4. Whole wheat buns
  1. Line crock-pot with liner. Spray liner with cooking spray.
  2. Place frozen or thawed chicken breasts in crock-pot.
  3. Top with 1 packet dry Italian Dressing and jar of pepperoncini, juice and all.
  4. Cook on LOW approximately 6 hours (I’ll tell you, I’ve let this cook 8-10 hours before, with no problem).
  5. When you get home, take 2 forks and shred the chicken. At this point, I take the pepperoncini’s out, as my family doesn’t like spicy. Use the whole or sliced pepperoncini depending on your preference.
  6. Serve on whole wheat buns.
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 Interested in learning more?

Join us for Doctor Is In, a free lecture open to the public  on Wednesday, February 3rd featuring three Springfield Clinic dietitians.

  • Time: 6:30pm
  • Location: Springfield Clinic Main Campus EAST, 2nd Floor ASC waiting area
    1025 S 6th St, Springfield

Register today!


Megan Klemm

Holiday Drinks are Contributing to Santa Belly

One of the first things that come to mind during winter is getting cozy with a nice, warm mug of                                                (fill in the blank). Many people don’t realize how many of their daily calories come from beverages, and this is especially true during winter months. Every year, retailers come out with holiday drinks to get us in the holiday spirit. A 16 oz salted caramel hot chocolate made with whip cream from Starbucks has 480 calories, 17 g of fat, and 71 g carbohydrates. McDonald’s white chocolate mocha with whip cream has 320 calories, 11 g of fat, and 47 g of carbohydrates. These calorie amounts would be more ideal for a meal vs. a drink that we sip as we do holiday shopping! 

Many people don’t realize how many of their daily calories come from beverages and this is especially true during winter months.

Here are a few tips on enjoying these drinks in a healthier way:

  1. Skip the whipped cream. As this does add a decorative touch, whipped cream is high in fat and calories. Almost 100 calories can be deducted with this change alone!
  2. Forego any additional toppings such as chocolate shavings or sprinkles.
  3. Many coffee shops have the option of adding “flavor shots.” Unless they are sugar-free and calorie-free, these shots will add just that! Always order the smallest size. Some of the larger drinks can be upwards of 600 calories!

A healthier alternative would be loose leaf tea. Depending on the ingredients, most loose leaf teas are virtually free of calories. These can be flavored with lemon or a drizzle of honey once brewed. If needing an afternoon pick-me-up, choose black coffee. Plain coffee is low in calories and high in antioxidants. Lower calorie, lower sugar lattes can be made using soy or almond milk, with Stevia or Truvia for an added touch of sweetness! You can also download our “Rethink Your Drink” tip sheet for more ideas.

Almond Milk Cold Buster
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  1. 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  2. Pinch of cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, cayenne, pepper, and ginger
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 1 dash Stevia
  1. Heat almond milk in saucepan and add all ingredients. Use a whisk to mix.
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Alana Scopel

“Weight Watchers made me Gain Weight!”

“Weight Watchers made me gain weight!” You would be surprised how many times I have heard this statement. Weight Watchers is a weight loss program that focuses on sensible eating habits to promote slow and steady weight loss. The entire program revolves around “counting points,” and as long as you stay within your recommended daily allotment of points, you should lose weight every week. Points are now calculated using an equation that factors in a food item’s total amount of calories, fat and fiber. Generally, the higher the fiber content and lower the fat content of a product, the lower it will be in points. Fruits and veggies are considered “free points,” so they are unlimited on the meal plan. No food is considered off-limits as long as you count your points for the menu items consumed.

I simply want to inform readers that it is not the right meal plan for everyone and if it didn’t work for you, here’s why..

The program was launched in the 1960s by housewife Jean Nidetch, who had lost weight and recruited the help of her friends to help her keep the weight off. Since then, the methods have observed quite a few changes, but the basic principal of community support and consistent accountability remains solid.

I am not here to bash Weight Watchers. In fact, you can’t ignore the fact that it consistently tops the charts of “best weight loss plans” because many people are quite successful with it. I simply want to inform readers that it is not the right meal plan for everyone and if it didn’t work for you, here’s why:

Calories In vs Calories Out: This is based on the most basic principle of weight loss. In order to lose the pounds, you must reduce the amount of calories you eat and increase your activity level. With Weight Watchers, the total calories you need to consume a day equals your determined amount of points allowed. As you achieve weight loss milestones, your points goal will decrease. I have had several patients state that they are at the lowest level of points, exercise every day and still cannot lose a single pound. Does this sound like you? If so, that’s because more and more we are learning that the type of calories one consumes plays a very important role in metabolism. Another factor may be that you are not getting enough protein or enough fat on the limited amount of points/calories. Plus, it’s never fun (nor a good idea) to starve your metabolism in order to achieve weight loss!

Too High in Processed Food: Since Weight Watchers is such an established corporation, they have their own line of products from cereals to cheese to ice cream novelties. They list the point value on the front of the packages and make it extremely convenient for the on-the-go Weight Watchers participant. Even though these food items are low in calories and perfectly portioned, it still does not negate the fact that they are very processed and contain an astounding amount of chemicals and preservatives in them (just like all of our processed foods)! Sometimes, in order to lose weight, our bodies need to focus on nature’s ingredients and cut out the ingredients that are added in at a factory.

Too High in Carbs: When I have evaluated eating plans that follow the Weight Watchers methods, I often note that it is quite saturated with items like whole wheat bread, low calorie cereals, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, brown rice, beans, 100 calorie portions of popcorn, baked chips and crackers, pretzels, fat free yogurt, skim milk and perfectly portioned sweets. What do all these foods have in common? Carbs! Sometimes, our metabolisms do not respond well when our diets are too high in carbohydrate intake. High carbohydrate food items can cause blood sugar spikes, insulin spikes and leave you hungry and feeling deprived all day long!

Again, I want to reinforce that Weight Watchers is not an all-things-terrible meal plan. It has certainly helped thousands of individuals achieve a healthier lifestyle. I am just reinforcing that it is simply a meal plan. Not all meal plans work for everybody; just like vegetarianism and the vegan lifestyle are not right for everyone. If you have tried Weight Watchers or any other meal plan and feel you were not as successful as you should have been, please consider contacting your Springfield Clinic dietitian. It is our job to find the best meal plan that will work for you and your metabolism!




Fueling a Fall Sports Athlete: Part 2

Last week I talked about how important hydration for athletes, and this week I’ll go over power foods that will fuel the body for optimal performance. 

Fueling a Fall Sports Athlete- Part 2

Two key players in an athlete’s diet are carbs and protein. Ideally, the two should often be consumed hand-in-hand. While fat is still incredibly important in the diet, carbs and protein work together to fuel and recover working muscles.

Carbohydrates help open up cell doors to allow glucose and amino acids into the muscles. Athletes need a consistent source of carbs in the diet to maintain adequate muscle glycogen stores. Sources of carbs can include: vegetables, fruits, sweet potatoes, beans, rice, oats, as well as other grains such as pasta, cereal and bread. Try to focus on more natural sources of carbs and less on processed, sugar-sweetened carbs.

Protein assists with muscle growth and repair. It stimulates synthesis and growth within the muscle and can prevent excessive breakdown and degradation of the muscle fibers and tissue. Protein can be found in meats, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, nuts, peanut butter and additionally in supplements such as protein powder and bars.

Athletes should strive to eat every 2-4 hours. Consistent protein intake throughout the day can assist with good blood sugar control. This will help prevent any midday crashes in blood sugars and energy levels as well as properly fuel an athlete for an after-school practice or game. Prior to a big sporting event, it’s best for the athlete to consume familiar foods consisting of quick digesting carbs and lean proteins. High fat or high fiber foods may be too slow to digest and can cause an upset stomach when exercising. It would be recommended for an athlete to avoid pizza or fried foods immediately before a sporting event.

Eating protein and carbs within 30 minutes after a heavy workout or game will provide the greatest benefits to recovering muscles. During this period of time, there is increased blood flow to the muscles creating a better opportunity for nutrients to be absorbed. The enzymes that produce glycogen are also most active during this time frame so your muscles can quickly replenish their energy stores. Try to shoot for a goal of 15-45 grams of protein with a carbohydrate source as your recovery snack/meal.

Examples of recovery protein can include:

  • 3 eggs/6 egg whites
  • ¾ cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3 ounces chicken, meat, fish
  • 3 ounces hard cheese
  • 6 Tablespoons peanut butter
  • Protein bar
  • 1 scoop of protein powder

Carbs can be enjoyed from fruit, sweet potatoes, rice, unsweetened cereal, whole grains, milk or a combination of foods! I recently gave a sports nutrition presentation to a local football team and made these Peanut Butter Energy Bites. They were gobbled up instantaneously!

Peanut Butter Energy Bites
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  1. • 1 cup dry, old-fashioned oats
  2. • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  3. • ½ cup peanut butter
  4. • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  5. • ½ cup chocolate chips
  6. • 1/3 cup honey
  7. • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Stir all ingredients on low in a mixing bowl. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Once chilled, roll into whatever size balls you prefer (1 ½ inch diameter is a good goal). If not consumed immediately, they can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container and will be good for up to 1 week.
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Amanda  Figge