“Christmas” and “cookies” are words that should always be together, right? But sometimes with all the cookies we make and receive around the holidays, we want something a little healthier to offset icing and sprinkles! Try out these apple “cookies” for something nutritiously sweet!
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup chocolate chips
Using an apple corer, remove the core of the apple.
Slice the apple into thin rings.
Spread peanut butter over one side of the apple slice.
Sprinkle pecans and chocolate chips on the peanut butter.
During the cold and dreary winter months, food can almost feel a bit lacking as we crave the summer’s bountiful abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. But lucky for all of us, there are plenty of lesser-appreciated foods, such as root vegetables, beans, frozen fruits and vegetables—even the canned variety.
I totally get it, as the temperature outside (and in my office) continues to drop, it’s tempting to curl up with your favorite comfort food. But keeping our bodies well nourished is crucial to not only prevent weight gain but also to keep our immune systems fighting against all those pesky germs.
The key to remember is: “If it’s not there, you can’t eat it.” So you’ve got to make sure these better-for-you foods that I mentioned earlier are readily available, whether that be in the house, at work or—believe it or not—in the car. How do we make this happen? Well, for starters, grocery shopping.
Maybe you’re like me and are not a fan of grocery shopping. In the winter, especially, it can be a dangerous expedition with all those bags and grocery cart! Plus, the coats, coats, coats, coats—(I’ve got 3 kids, so I feel like coats take up the whole grocery cart!)
To try and make this expedition or triathlon as painless and accident free as possible, I strive to plan our meals for the entire week. I include leftovers with this meal planning too. I list all the ingredients needed and see if I have what we need already in the cabinets or fridge. Yes, its tedious and one I do after the kids go to bed, but saves trips to the grocery store. Plus, I try to find recipes with similar ingredients for the week. For example, if you have carrots for soup, think about other ways you can have the carrots, such as roasted for a side, shredded in a salad or cooked in the slow cooker with a roast.
Meal planning is important because it saves you time and money. How many times have you made a trip in the in the snow, only to get home and realize you forgot an ingredient (or more!) meaning you have to either go back to the store, figure out something completely different—or giving up and running through the drive-thru for dinner. Planning ahead will save you the hassle!
Maybe this could be the time to try out the drive up or delivery services offered by many local grocery stores. You could also try some of the meal delivery services, but I encourage to be cautious when selecting one (and this is a whole blog most in itself).
Stock the Pantry
While it may be more expensive in the short-term, the more you have pre-stocked in your pantry/cabinets, the more things you have to get creative with later. I like to have canned beans, different kinds of rice (brown, jasmine, basmati, wild), quinoa, oatmeal and dry roasted/unsalted nuts.
Look at Sale Items
Keep an open mind to clearance grocery items. You may be surprised to find that a random item could spark an idea for a meal or snack. Out-of-season fruits and vegetables can be expensive, so watch for sales, but don’t be afraid to substitute in-season fruits or vegetables in your recipe.
Don’t Forget about Snacks
I encourage you to stock up on snacks and stash them in lots of places, especially in the car. Some examples are: trail mix, protein bars (that have at least 20 grams protein), whole wheat crackers, squeezable unsweet applesauce, unsalted/dry roasted nuts, roasted chickpeas, hardboiled eggs, string cheese, snack size bags of popcorn, hand fruits and vegetables (grapes, apples, blueberries, baby carrots) just to name a few.
So while you curl up next to the fire this winter, be thinking about how you can plan ahead, try something new and have food available—and don’t forget to eat every few hours.
I want you to party in style this holiday season, but we have to remember, not to party party! If we go overboard—and many people feel that the holidays are an excuse to do so—we can easily wreak havoc on our gut, immune system, cognitive function, blood sugars and waistline. So here are a few tips of the trade to hopefully help you make it through without the fuzzy brain feeling this December.
Tip #1 Choose only one of the 3 “C’s”
Cake, carbohydrate or cocktails.
Don’t choose all of them, but one of them. We all know what cake is, but what is a carbohydrate? Well a carbohydrate is one of the following…
And of course cocktails. This doesn’t just include a mixed drink, but beer and wine as well.
Tip #2 Contribute a dish
Remember, if it’s there, you will eat it—and if it isn’t, you can’t. So bring a dish that you know is better for you to fill your plate with. I highly recommend some kind of non-starchy vegetable. In the winter, we typically prefer our non-starchy vegetables cooked, but they don’t have to be. Wondering what is a non-starchy vegetable? Here is a list for you.
Tip #3 Practice mindful eating
Set your intention to feel better when you’re done than you did when you started, then eat with attention to your food and your body.
Think about how you want to enjoy the holiday. Then take yourself mentally through the food event. Imagine yourself enjoying the food and walking away when you are satisfied and not stuffed. It is quite miserable when you are stuffed: You don’t seem to enjoy the company or atmosphere as much. Plus, you typically end up falling asleep and not spending time with loved ones.
Tip #4 Use the Amazing Space Trick
As you fill your plate, maintain a little border of space between each food item, just enough so you can see some plate.
To test this, we made two plates with turkey, dressing, gravy, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and green beans. One was portioned how the average person in the United States plates their food, the other, according to the space trick. Guess how many calories were saved with the same types of food, but with space in between each food item: about 700 calories!
Tip #5 Have a response plan
Food is complicated, however the common ingredient in every person’s favorite comfort food is love. It’s the truth. There’s no substitute for thought and love and care. Not even time. So, when you eat a person’s food, they feel loved and so many times this can hinder your health goals.
As they say, “Why don’t you have more,” “There is plenty left” or “One bite isn’t going to hurt you”: Well, one bite or the second helping can. So be prepared with a few responses, such as “This is delicious, but I’m full” or “I’d love to take some leftovers” (they don’t have to know what you will do with the leftovers when you get home) or “No, thank you”—even if you have to repeat it.
Tip #6 Find something besides food to enjoy with family
One thing to remember is that children are no different from adults when it comes to overindulging during the holidays. Unlike adults, most children don’t have the understanding of how choosing a sugar cookie over broccoli can lead to weight gain. So, my personal goal for my family around the holidays is to get us out of the kitchen and enjoy other traditions together besides food.
Some other ideas may be to watch a holiday movie together, play board or card games, sing with a karaoke machine, play on a gaming system, moving around (soccer, a walk through the neighborhood, ice skating or a family tournament of Just Dance) or volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter. Activities like this can make more lasting memories than a boat of gravy.
The bottom line is:
If you are practicing the healthful, mindful eating throughout the year and being physically active, then the holidays will simply be a celebration. Once the celebration is over, it’s back to the same routine. Have a safe and healthy holiday season!
If you are a label reader, you may have noticed some changes to food labels recently. In 2016, the FDA announced the food label would get a makeover—with the hopes that this new label will make it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices. The current nutrition label is more than 20 years old. The changes that will be made, according to the FDA, are based on updated scientific information, new nutrition and public health research, more recent dietary recommendations from expert groups and input from the public.
The changes you will see include:
increase in type size for “Calories,” “servings per container” and “serving size”
bolding the number of calories and serving size
including “added sugars” in grams and as percent Daily Value
updating the list of nutrients permitted or required
Let’s take a closer look at why these changes are happening and how they will affect the way we read food labels.
Serving sizes are based on amounts of foods and beverages people are eating, not what they should be eating. The previous serving size requirements were published in 1993, and how much we eat and drink now has changed. For example, the reference amount used for a serving of ice cream was previously 1/2 cup but is changing to 2/3 cup because that’s more likely the amount someone will eat at one time.
Package size also affects what people eat. So for packages that are between one and two servings, such as a 20-ounce soda or a 15-ounce can of soup, the FDA now requires that calories and other nutrients be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting.
For certain products that are larger than a single serving but that could be consumed either in one sitting or over time, manufacturers will have to provide “dual-column labels” to indicate the amount of calories and nutrients both per serving and per package. Examples would be a 24-ounce bottle of soda or a pint of ice cream. The hope is with dual-column labels available, people will be able to more easily understand how many calories and nutrients they are getting if they eat or drink the entire package at one time.
You will also see “Added sugars” in grams and as percent Daily Value. Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugar. The FDA will continue to require “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat” and “Trans Fat” on the label but will remove “Calories from Fat” because research shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.
The FDA is updating the list of nutrients that are required or permitted to be declared. Vitamin D and potassium will be required on the label. Calcium and iron will continue to be required. Vitamins A and C will no longer be required but can be included on a voluntary basis. Vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium are required to be shown in actual amount and percent Daily Value. Other vitamins and minerals can be shown as well in gram amount. The footnote is also changed to better explain what percent Daily Value means. It will read: “*The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.”
As a follow-up to my school breakfast post, I want to share my strategies for healthy school lunches. As I said, we are not morning people. There is not much time to get everything ready and everyone out of the house. My philosophy: Prepping and planning are key. If it is not there, we can’t eat it, so make sure it is there.
My goal is to go to the grocery store every week or even two times a week, but honestly, that is not always possible. To get the most bang out of my time and wallet, I make a list on my phone. If I make the list on a piece of paper, it never fails that that piece of paper is sitting on my counter when it is time to shop. I make my list from staples needed and from my meal planning.
I strive to plan all three meals each day. Ugh, you may be saying—yeah, its work, I’m not going to deny that. If I don’t plan, then we don’t eat or we don’t eat well. I also plan for two kid’s breakfast, a child lunch and family dinner. For myself, I make a shake daily for breakfast and leftovers for lunch—so it’s not as horrendous as you may think.
To plan the lunches, first we go through the monthly school menu and pick out what days my son wants to eat school lunch. Yes, I let him eat school lunch—even on hot dog day. Most days he takes his lunch, I know what healthy foods he is eating at home, so to me it balances out. I ask him what foods he would like in his lunch; I’ll listen, but typically veto many options. When kids think they have input they are more apt to eat it 🙂
I like to keep the #plategoals ( ½ of the plate is non-starchy vegetables, ¼ is whole grains/fruits/starchy vegetables and ¼ is lean protein) in mind when packing lunches. Offer variety and keep portion sizes small. Remember there is no “parent fail” if you don’t get a veggie in their lunch, however, encourage them to snack on some after school and to include them at dinner. I try to include at least two colors of plant-based foods at lunch. Not only does this boost the nutritional quality, but it also makes the meal more colorful and fun! Examples: orange carrots and frozen pineapple tidbits, plum tomatoes and green grapes, black bean dip and frozen mango chunks.
On those rare days when I have an extra minute, I try to label a container or two with little post it notes, like “magnificent mango” or “tasty hummus”—it may help the lunchbox come home empty.
I plan, make my list, grocery shop, have it at home, prep it and send it. What do I send it in? I like containers, like these, that have the three compartments. They make it easy to have multiple items in the lunch box without colliding and smashing. I am not a fan of the character lunch boxes; nothing against the characters, but they are just not big enough for the containers. We got a lunchbox this year that fits the containers, lays flat, and the handle on top to hold the containers flat. If the handle is on the side, making the container on its side, it always leaks.
If your child’s school doesn’t have a refrigerator for cold lunches, then you need to make sure there is also room for an ice pack to help keep the lunch cool. If the lunch doesn’t stay cool then bacteria grows and the not so good happens—you get the idea.
When the lunchbox comes home, wipe it down and wash the container to use again. Those lunchboxes can come home nasty at times and fill with lots of bacteria. Don’t forget about the box and wiping down the ice pack.
Here are some quick, simple healthy foods my kids will eat.
Bread, tortilla, flat bread, English muffin, bagel, day old Jimmy John bread and pita pockets.
To help mix it up I try to add fun shapes to the sandwich by using sandwich cutters or cookie cutter and sandwich kabobs.
Bagels with cream cheese, quesadilla, nachos, ravioli and pasta.
Applesauce, fresh fruit (apple slices, grapes, orange slices, cutie or pear), or canned fruit, canned in light syrup.
Salad with salad dressing in a small cup to drizzle on, raw veggies with ranch dressing or hummus to dip in, or cold roasted vegetables.
Whole-wheat crackers, pretzels, goldfish crackers, or baked chips.
One cookie, rice Krispy treat, Oreo, or tootsie roll.
I want to emphasize that I don’t make these packed lunches fancy! I am about simple, quick and easy—all made possible by planning and prepping. There is no foolproof way to make sure your kids will eat their lunch while at school, but you can at least know you are doing your part for their health. Happy Back to School!
August is Kids Eat Right Month—what a great time to help kids learn about nutrition and better food choices! As a dietitian mom, you would think my kids are poster children. They definitely are not, especially my middle child. Goodness, do my children love their sweets, snack foods and treats; it can be a challenge to get them to eat right. I have discovered the best way to get them eating healthy is getting them in the kitchen to help and learn.
Having a 16-month, 3 year old and 6 year old it is limiting on what they can and can’t do in the kitchen. Often times it ends up being a much BIGGER disaster when they help, but it makes for good teaching and fun memories. Our two older children have their own apron with their name on it along with their own cooking utensils that I feel are safe and age appropriate to use. This helps to entice them into the kitchen. I try to get their input on what we should cook/make for the snack or meal we are working on.
To help things go smoother, I try to stock better-for-you choices in my pantry/snack drawer (yes we have a snack drawer), and then the kids have the choice to take it upon themselves to experiment.
That is what cooking – and creating – is all about: the discovery and the delicious result.
CLICK HERE to print off the Kid-Friendly Kitchen Tasks for Every Age PDF!
Here are a few of the things we like to make together in the kitchen.
1. Trail Mix
Whatever we have in the cabinet, pantry and snack drawer (within reason) the kids can grab and mix. Some ingredients they like are pretzels, raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, cereal, whole-grain goldfish crackers, almonds and mini marshmallows.
We start with a base of water and ice, and add from there— fresh or frozen fruit of any kind, Greek yogurt, Sugar Free/Fat Free pudding powder. I also have a shake product we use from a former weight management program I worked with and we like to add that as well.
We lay out whole wheat tortilla and then the kids use their age appropriate knife to spread peanut butter on the wrap. They sprinkle a few chocolate chips and lay a banana in the center. The kids with assistance from me roll up the tortilla. Either they eat like this or I will cut in to pinwheel size for them to eat.
4. Watermelon and Blueberry Salad
I slice the watermelon into thick slices and the kids use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the watermelon. We then throw in any berries we have—blueberry, raspberry, blackberry and even grapes.
5. Chocolate Chips Banana Bread
This may not be the healthiest of recipes, but it is a huge hit in our house, and we only make it a few times a year.
What You Need:
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
½ cup low fat sour cream
¾ cup mini chocolate chips
2 medium bananas
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease loaf pan.
Mix together melted butter and sugar, and add in eggs and vanilla.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt, then add to butter mixture
Add in sour cream, bananas, and chocolate chips. Spread in loaf pan.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until baked through.
Cool on wire rack in pan, and remove from pan to finish cooling.