Stick With It

Tropical beach scene on a sunny day in Oahu, HawaiiFor many of us, summertime is when we generally stick to our healthy habits a bit better. The days are warmer and longer so more people are walking outside for exercise. Fruits and vegetables are in season making them more flavorful and less expensive. However; vacations, social gatherings and even stress can tempt us with too many less-healthy menu items.

Here are a few tips for sticking to your clean eating and exercise habits for making 2014 one of your healthiest summers yet!
• Take a picture of yourself with you when grocery shopping. I actually heard this tip on the radio one day. It sounded a bit kooky, but made total sense. Looking at photographs of yourself can be very motivating. It can help you reminisce on a time where you made healthier choices or it could also provide motivation to march right on past the ice cream aisle.

Leave yourself positive notes. Put up little sticky notes around the house, in the car, at the office. Sometimes these little messages are all it takes to brighten your mood and help you stay on track with your health goals. Here’s one to get you started, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m possible’”.

• Ask yourself what are the benefits and the consequences of consuming a certain food. If you’re debating on whether to have a certain food or not, it may be beneficial to ask yourself a few questions about consuming that item. Am I going to enjoy it? Will I feel too guilty about myself if I do eat it? Can I stick to a proper portion size? By eating this, will it help me reach my goal faster? Even I do this from time to time. Like a lot us, I tend to crave sweets at night. Sometimes, I indulge and other times I stick to a handful of trail mix or an apple + almond butter to satisfy my sweet tooth. One thing that helps me make the healthier decision is asking myself, “Will this Reese’s help me achieve my strength goals at the gym?”

• Get back on track as quick as possible. It’s happened to all of us; we have a bad weekend or maybe just a bad week of eating. Don’t throw in the towel after little slip-ups like these. They happen and the best approach to follow is to just get back on your healthy eating schedule as quick as possible.

• Monitor calories. Summer time is filled with fun food opportunities. There are fairs, carnivals, drive-in movies and vacations, all which can be accompanied with their share of less healthy food items. It’s not my practice to tell someone they can never enjoy a corn dog at the fair or popcorn at the movies; however, too much indulgence can lead to unwanted weight gain during this festive season. Simply tracking one’s calories can help you find a better balance between small summer indulgences and day-to-day eating. Two great calorie counting resources are and

Couple Bicycling on Rural Road• Find a buddy. Holding yourself accountable for healthy habits day-to-day can be difficult. Having a buddy to go to the gym with or to make sure you both pack healthy snacks and lunches for work can be very motivating for staying on track with being healthy this summer.

The Tunes of Summer

n-WORKOUT-WITH-MUSIC-large570The temperature is finally reaching the 80s here in central IL and it is officially beginning to feel more like summer. After what seemed like a never-ending winter, let’s roll down the car windows, hit the lake and crank up those summer tunes! If you’re like me, you typically listen to a bit more country music during the summer but this playlist can appeal to all audiences.

These songs either have a summer theme or just make me think of summer in general! This is a great playlist to enjoy with outdoor activities such as walking, jogging and going for a bike ride. Remember to always pack adequate fluids for your outdoor workouts and to wear appropriate skin care protection. Enjoy!

1. “Summer Nights” Rascal Flatts

2. “Boys of Summer” The Ataris (remake)
3. “Summer in the City” The Lovin’ Spoonful (I totally remember this on my mom’s “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”, anyone else?)
4. “Summer of 69” Bryan Adams
5. “Ain’t going down til the sun comes up” Garth Brooks
6. “Miami” Will Smith
7. “Walking on Sunshine” Katrina and the Waves
8. “Don’t Stop the Party” Pitbull

9. “Firework” Katy Perry (Liam Keegan Remix)
10. “Playin’ with the Boys” Kenny Loggins (remember this scene from Top Gun???)
11. “Summer Nights” Grease soundtrack
12. “You took the words right out of my mouth (hot summer night)” Meatloaf (karaoke anyone?)
13. “Suntan City” Luke Bryan
14. “Summertime” Kenny Chesney
15. “Up and Away” Can’t Stop Won’t Stop feat. June (my husband and I’s favorite boat jam)

16. “Timber” Ke$ha feat. Pitbull
17. “Six-pack Summer” Phil Vassar
18. “Sweet Home Alabama” Lynyrd Skynyrd
19. “Footloose” Kenny Loggins

20. “Escapade” Janet Jackson
21. “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” Jake Owen
22. “Kokomo” Beach Boys
23. “Escape” Rupert Holmes

Share some of your favorite work out summer jams ! Leave a comment.

It’s Fair Time!

SONY DSCThe FAIR—quite possibly the quintessential summertime event. It’s a place where first dates occur, magical memories are created and you can find clowns, magicians, rides, music and…every deep-fried and sugar-coated food imaginable! My fair food diet vice came in three short words. Tom. Thumb. Donuts. To be perfectly honest, I have probably consumed thousands of calories over the years from these sugary-sweetened mini treats. Fair food is notorious for being laden with fat, sugar and calories and we can’t seem to get enough of it! There’s just something exciting about eating food on a stick, deep fried in fat or doused in powdered sugar. Having the occasional indulgence is perfectly normal; however, eating fair food every day of the week might leave you with a few surprises when you step on the scale Monday morning.

Every year, there is a new and improved fried concoction that hits the fair grounds. First there was the fried Twinkie and then came the fried Oreo and fried Klondike bar. While curiosity may lead you to these fried wonders, remember that other popular fair foods are also fried such as the jumbo corndog, fries, elephant ears and funnel cakes. Fried foods are very high in saturated and trans fats.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 15 grams of saturated fat per day and no more than 2 grams of trans fat per day. Following a heart healthy diet is important for everyone, but these guidelines should be strictly applied by persons with heart disease and diabetes. Saturated and trans fats are the types of fats we strive to limit in our diets because they have been found to raise triglyceride and bad cholesterol levels.

Did you know a jumbo corndog and 2 fried Oreos contain a whopping 26 grams of saturated fat and 5 grams of trans fat.  That’s more than two days of fat consumption in one snack!

If you’re trying to be somewhat diet-conscience with your fair food choices, there are healthier options available. Grilled meats will contain less trans fat than fried ones. You can almost always find a pork chop sandwich vendor and my personal favorite is the BBQ stand for a pulled pork, chicken or turkey. You can even sneak in a serving of vegetables by adding lettuce, tomato and onion to your sandwich.  Vegetable kabobs or fire-roasted corn on the cob also make healthier choices. Fairs can be an excellent opportunity to walk around and get extra physical activity.

Am I telling you to never eat fair food again? No; that would be completely unrealistic and darn right hypocritical of me. Fairs only come around once a year and the occasional indulgence is perfectly fine. What I do want to highlight is the fact that we sometimes lose touch with what moderation actually means. For many people, healthy eating behaviors are thrown out the window come 5:00 on Friday and don’t get picked back up until Monday morning. If your weekends are already filled with high-fat, high-calorie foods from appetizers, pizza, horseshoes, burgers and fries, then it may be a good idea to lean towards the lighter options served out at the fair. For people who generally eat healthy (lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, portion control of carbohydrates) all summer long, having a corndog and lemon shake-up won’t kill the diet.



Grilling, Baking, Marinating — OH MY! Part 1

pork chop peachesWhile I just earned 50 brownie points from my sister for making a Wizard of Oz reference, for many people, food preparation, especially grilling, can be as scary as flying monkeys.(That’s another 50 points!)

Grilling is most commonly associated with the meats: chicken, burgers, steak and hotdogs. But did you know, this cooking method is also a wonderful opportunity to prepare fruit and vegetable sides too! And, summer is one of the most bountiful seasons for produce, making it easy to purchase fresh, colorful additions to your meals.

For vegetables, all you need is three simple ingredients: olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Zucchini, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and asparagus make excellent choices for first-time vegetable grillers. Simply brush a little olive oil on the vegetables, add your seasonings and in less than 10 minutes, your vegetables should be done! Adding fruits and vegetables to your grill plate has benefits of color, nutrients (vitamins, minerals and fiber) and they help make up a well-balanced meal.

Too often, I see grilled items being served with potato salad, beans and mac n cheese. While potatoes are a vegetable and beans are a good source of fiber, all three of these items are starches. A well-balanced meal should only contain no more than one starch item and most of the time, that role is filled by the bun (preferably whole wheat) used for meat.

When you grill fruit, you often intensify its flavor. Peaches, pineapple slices and apples are some of my favorite fruits to throw on the grill. They make fantastic additions to meals or add a new twist to healthy desserts. Season apple slices with cinnamon and nutmeg, grill and serve with 1 ½ cup scoop of frozen Greek yogurt for an instant hit with the family. Kabobs can be created using fruits or vegetables. Try marinating vegetable kabobs in Italian dressing or drizzle a little bit of chocolate sauce over cooked fruit kabobs.

Serving food on a stick is another secret weapon for getting kids of all ages to eat their fruits and vegetables.

This Lemon-Mint Pork Chop and Grilled Peach recipe is an Olympic Gold Medalist at our household.

  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 small red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 peaches, halved, pitted and cut into 1 inch wedges

1. Combine all ingredients except for peaches in a large Ziploc bag. Shake ingredients and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or overnight, preferred).

2. Grill pork chops on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, turning only once.

3. Place onions and peaches on grill and cook for 4 minutes, turning frequently until crisp and tender.

4. Divide among 4 plates and serve with a couple leaves of mint and parsley for garnish.


Smoothies: Summer Friend or Foe?

Peach Melba Smoothies for Two. (Gluten-Free) from Springfield Clinic's health library.

Peach Melba Smoothies for Two. (Gluten-Free) from Springfield Clinic’s health library.

With the craze of juicing, blending and vitamix-ing, what could possibly sound better than a fruit smoothie on a hot summer day? Consumer research shows that even though a large percentage of meals are consumed away from the home, fast food diners desire healthier menu options. In efforts to keep up with the trends, many fast food chains now offer smoothies. With buzz words like “pomegranate” and “low-fat” circulating through ads, a fruit smoothie has got to be a healthy choice, right? In fact, a smoothie just naturally sounds healthy. One important piece of information to remember is that a homemade smoothie is very different from one prepared for you at a fast food restaurant.

McDonald’s fruit smoothies have been marketed as fresh, low-fat and a refreshing way to quench one’s thirst. According to their website, the strawberry-banana smoothie is made with a strawberry-banana fruit base, low-fat yogurt and ice. A small, 12 ounce serving contains 210 calories, 3 grams of protein and 0.5 grams of fat. At first, this looks like a great option; however, this fruit drink also packs in 44 grams of sugar. To put things into perspective, one 12 oz can of Pepsi contains 26 grams of sugar. What I find curious with these numbers is the lack of protein found in the smoothie, considering low-fat yogurt is one of the main ingredients.

Blueberry Banana Smoothie (Gluten-Free) from Springfield Clinic's health library.

Blueberry Banana Smoothie (Gluten-Free) from Springfield Clinic’s health library.

A mango smoothie packs in 270 calories and 51 grams of sugar. Starbucks’ 16 ounce orange-mango smoothie comes in with 260 calories and 37 grams of sugar. However, unlike other fruit smoothies, this one packs in 16 grams of protein (mainly from the skim milk added to the smoothie).

Are these smoothies worth your money and calories? My vote leans toward no. It may be tempting to go with the larger size because of the better value, but your best bet is to stick with the smallest options available. Look for smoothies that are made with skim milk or non-fat yogurt for the additional bonus of nutrients from protein, calcium and vitamin D.

Smoothies can be a great way to incorporate nutrients into a healthy snack or meal. If you’ve got picky eaters in your household, smoothies are also a convenient way for sneaking in super foods like spinach and ground flaxseed.

How to Make a Smoothie:

Step 1: Start with fresh/frozen fruit. Popular choices include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, bananas, mangoes, kiwi and pomegranates. Fruits with a high water content such as watermelon, oranges and pineapple may also be used, but this may cause your smoothie to be more liquid in consistency.

Step 2: Add your liquid/base. This is an excellent opportunity to include a calcium and vitamin D source into these treats. Try milk or low-fat yogurt. If you are lactose intolerant, almond, coconut or soy milk may be used in their place. Yogurts, especially Greek, will result in a thicker smoothie. Try frozen Greek yogurt as a fun replacement.

Step 3: Add your sneaky extras. Adding one tablespoon of ground flaxseed will give your smoothie an antioxidant, omega-3 one-two punch. Extra protein may be added from peanut butter or whey powder. Greens like kale and spinach also blend very well in smoothies and do not offset taste.

If you need additional sweetness added to your smoothies, try natural sweeteners first like ripe bananas, honey, agave nectar, cinnamon or vanilla extract.

Step 4: Add ice and blend away!

Here are smoothie recipes that will satisfy any hot summer day:

School’s Out for Summer!

Well, maybe our kids have replaced the lyrics of Alice Cooper with the likes of One Direction and Taylor Swift, but the story remains the same. No more pencils, no more books, and a lot more freedom to eat, play and watch TV as children please.

appleIt’s important as parents to provide a wide variety of healthy, nutritious foods at home. By improving access to healthy food options and limiting unhealthy selections, you can feel more confident knowing that your children are consuming well-balanced meals and snacks at home. As a 12-year-old, my days usually started with a big bowl of sugary, sweetened cereal, followed by mac ‘n cheese, hot dogs and an unhealthy dose of soap operas. While I was also very active with swimming, riding bikes and jumping on trampolines, my diet certainly had room for improvement. It’s never too early or too late to teach your kids about nutrition and well-balanced meals. The simplest way to illustrate a healthy meal is using the plate method. The plate method encourages you to fill half your plates with fruits and vegetables, one fourth with lean protein and one fourth with grains (preferably whole grains).myplate

Here is a list of examples to help your kids put together healthy, well-balanced meals.


  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain cereal
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat or corn tortilla
  • Popcorn


  • Chicken
  • Fish,
  • Turkey
  • Lean meat
  • Eggs
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Beans


  • Low-fat milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cheese/string cheese
  • Smoothies


  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Pears


  • Green salad
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh green beans
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Red, yellow, green bell peppers
  • Cucumbers

Sweetened cereals like Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms are not the best start for the day because they lack many important nutrients and contain excessive amounts of added sugars. Here’s a tip for weaning kids away from these sugar-packed cereal varieties: encourage kids to mix a healthier cereal such as Cheerios, Bran Flakes, Shredded Mini Wheats or other high-fiber variety into their favorite cereal. This will help reduce the portion size of the sugary cereal and help improve the nutrient intake of fiber. Apple chunks, blueberries, banana slices, chopped nuts or dried fruit can be easily added to oatmeal to make breakfast more well-rounded. Whole grain tortillas spread with peanut butter and banana slices or eggs, low-fat cheese, salsa and beans make two great protein-packed breakfasts.celery

Lunch meals tend to be heavy on the starches. A turkey sandwich, chips, granola bar and dessert were the typical items packed in my lunch when going to summer camp.

The results of this lunch meal: Starch=5, Protein=1, and Fruits, Vegetables and Dairy=0.

To make this lunchbox healthier, we can swap the chips with low-fat yogurt, trade the granola bar for carrot and celery sticks with one tablespoon of low-fat ranch, and include a clementine for the dessert. Mac ‘n cheese is okay to eat still, but it should be featured as a side item rather than the entrée. Pre-cutting vegetables and fruits and measuring individual containers of peanut butter, hummus, yogurt or low-fat ranch for dips can make healthy selections much more accessible.

Another valuable lesson to learn early on in life is that snacks do not equal desserts. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be fun. Try to create snacks that include at least two food groups. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and whole grain cereal
  • Celery logs topped with peanut butter and raisins
  • Small oranges with low-fat string cheese
  • Slice apples to make a mini peanut butter, granola sandwiches
  • Top a whole grain cracker with low-fat cream cheese and grape halves
  • Mix yogurt with fresh fruit chunks

grapesSometimes, rules need to be enforced on how much screen time is allowed each day. It is recommended that kids spend no more than two hours per day watching TV, playing video games, on the computer, etc. If you find  your kids do spend excessive amounts of time in front of the TV, try setting limits like “TV may only be watched from 1:00-2:30.” Physical activity should always be encouraged in a positive light and never used as a form of punishment. Encourage safe, outdoor activities; it’s summer time after all!