Time to grow

Look! I have a little forest!

If you haven’t already, it’s time to plant seeds indoors for your vegetable garden. I’ve planted my tomatoes and peppers already. It’s really easy to do. Home and Garden centers have trays and seed starting soil. All you do is put 2-3 seeds in each cell, keep moist and give it some light. The picture here shows a standard shop light I have just hanging right above it.  Easy!  You don’t have to spend a lot of money, you can even use paper cups rather than buying trays.  Read your seed packets for more detailed instructions.

Clean teeth, no toothbrush

Okay, so I don’t have a toothbrush, but I feel I need one after what I just ate.

Here are my top three ways to clean your teeth without a toothbrush! (1) chew on some sugarless gum. Something minty usually feels better. (2) bite on some sharp cheddar cheese, it really works! (3) eat an apple or apple slices. If you plan ahead, you can have the cheese or apple AFTER something sweet. That will reduce your chances of plaque build up.

Also, to help make sure your breath stay fresher, drink lots of water. It dilutes any smells that my be exuding from your body like onion and garlic.

So there you have it! A little more approachable after a mouth threatening meal!


A fish story

How do you feel about fish? I find it hard to imagine living without them.  When I was younger, I was fascinated with tropical fish. I’ve owned fish tanks all the way up until I was 25 and enjoyed fishing as a sport. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fond of eating them!

Fish oil is one of the latest health crazes that really has some solid research backing it up. A drug company has even created a high dose version for prescription use. The main component people are looking for in fish oil is Omega 3 fatty acids. So, the fattier the fish you eat, the more you get. Some say it reduces inflammation in the body which is the source of many health issues. The primary list of health claims is prevention of heart disease, improvement of rheumatologic conditions, improvement of hair, skin and eye health and increase in brain function. There are many more.

When I became a dietitian, I forced myself to eat canned tuna but never acquired the taste for it. Sure, I could load it up with mayonnaise, relish and diced celery to make it palatable, but was it really as healthy then? One day at Trader Joe’s, a store that carries specialty foods, I looked for canned tuna and was amazed at the selection of canned fish. This was the first time I saw white albacore tuna and found it much tastier. Try it if you haven’t. Another canned fish I tried was salmon.  I enjoyed it so much I tried it fresh which was even better, then tried raw sushi which I liked even more.
Some of my friends tell me they won’t eat fish or take fish oil because of the risk of mercury poisoning. While it is true that some waters have contaminants like mercury, if you only eat fish twice a week you should not become poisoned. If, like me, you tend to eat more, look for wild caught versions of fish over farm raised. It’s also been said that European waters are much cleaner than the 
United States. There are doctors that say that the benefits you get from eating fish outweigh the risk of poisoning. If you are pregnant, however, heed your doctor’s warnings and avoid fish just in case.

My eating fish was not an overnight progression, but now I’m a fish junky and eat it 2 or 3 times a week. When I’m traveling, I eat it almost every night! I’m that addicted now. And I can feel the difference in my body. My skin is soft, my hair shiny, my eyes don’t dry out like they used to, and I’m more awake, even after a long day.

Now I know I said this was a fish story, but I swear it is not a lie!



Travel Eating

Eating healthy while traveling takes some thought, but is easier than you think. If you’re like me, you have eating patterns that when broken require some thought to make sure you are covered nutritionally. I’m currently stuck in a hotel for a few days due to weather, and there are not a lot of places to eat close by. Here are my tricks. Avoid fried food because that will leave you feeling full but not satisfied. For breakfast, instead of ordering a large meal of pancakes, eggs and bacon, I choose a continental style breakfast, or healthier a la carte items that allow me to build myself a healthier (and tastier!) breakfast. Don’t forget to get some protein through a single egg, yogurt or a small amount of nutted granola as examples. Fresh fruit is filling and great with breakfast too. Especially if you are in a hot tropical place! It’s also my favorite dessert. Pick something with fruit over ice cream or heavy baked items.

For lunch and dinner, focus on what entrees offer the most vegetables. Salads are great, but most restaurants add a lot of fatty toppings (i.e. cheese, bacon, and dressings). You can ask for those to be removed, replaced with lighter toppings, and make sure to add a little protein here as well. You can find a number of hot dishes that are full of veges instead. Vegetarian alternatives are usually a lighter fare.But my favorite is a dish that has broiled/baked fish, chicken or small cut of steak, with a side of rice and steamed seasonal vegetables. This covers a good portion of your food groups, is light and does not leave you over full.  If it’s a large meal, you can take half of it back to your room if you have a fridge and microwave. I always look for rooms with this amenity. It not only helps me keep my diet straight, it also saves me money when I split my meals. Even better is if you think ahead, get your breakfast foods from a grocery store, and eat your breakfast in your room. It will keep you on track and save you time and money to boot.

Exercising also helps when you travel. If you are feeling overly full and tired, getting on an exercise machine and starting at a slow pace helps you feel better. You will burn a few calories and get the blood flowing, especially after flying or being on the road for a long time.

So I’m still stuck in my hotel but looking forward to my next meal. I’ll walk a little farther to get more options and burn off those extra calories. Wish me luck!

Why not sugar?

Why not sugar?

How do you feel about sugar? I’m kind of a fan, myself.

The market for artificial sweeteners was spawned from concerns that sugar leads to weight gain. Technically, sugar can mean glucose, sucrose, fructose or even lactose, the sugar found in milk. Some common sugars include cane sugar, powder sugar, honey, corn syrup, dextrose, molasses, or the latest craze, agave syrup.

Did you know these sugars all range only about 12-20 calories per teaspoon? They also don’t contain any fat. Honey, brown sugar and molasses even contain some nutrients. So why are artificial sweeteners so popular? In reality they really don’t save you that many calories, unless you eat a lot of sugar.

Nutrasweet is 2 calories per teaspoon
Splenda is 5 calories per teaspoon
Stevia is 0 calories per teaspoon
Saccharin is considered a non-caloric sweetener

The only reason I would be concerned with sugar is if I had diabetes, blood sugar health issues or if diabetes ran in my family, but I don’t. That being said, if I need a sweetener, why wouldn’t I want to add a teaspoon of an all natural sugar to my food? It’s only 15 calories, tastes oh so good and has none of the downsides of “sugar alternatives”!


Do you have your seed catalogs yet?

Yes! It’s that time of year again! Time for all gardeners to open the gardening catalogs that are coming in the mail and dream of warmer weather, blooming flowers and off the vine fresh fruits and vegetables! I can’t wait!Vegetable bed

For those of you who aren’t serious gardeners, this is the time of year to order your seeds and grow them indoors to plant outside in the spring. It’s easier than you think, cheaper than buying the plants and very satisfying when you get your first ripe tomato off your own vine! It tastes like nothing you’ve ever bought!

I’ve gotten a lot of great advice on which seed catalogs to use.  I would have to say the best so far have been Territorial Seed Company on the west coast, Johnny’s Selected  Seeds on the east coast. and Burpee seems to be the one used most in the mid section of the country.  I’m sure there are a more.

There are a lot of specialty catalogs as well.  The Tomato Growers Supply Company has the best selection of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in my opinion. Raintree Nursery in the northwest has a ton of options for fruits and berries and ships live plants. ISONs Nursery & Vineyards in the southeast is comparable for the other coast.

I hope you are as excited as me my gardening friends!  And for those of you who aren’t gardeners……..just browse the catalogs and see if you it doesn’t make you want to get out there and grow your own food!

Broiled Jerk Shrimp

Jerk Shrimp

I’m always trying to find quick lower fat ways of getting in my protein.
Try this recipe. You can also use a grill.

Toss 1 1/2 lb. peeled, jumbo-sized raw shrimp with 1 Tbsp Jerk Seasoning (below), 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt.

Arrange on a broil pan and broil at top heat for 3 minutes on both sides.

Baste shrimp with a combination of 2 Tbsp honey and 2 Tbsp brown mustard.

Jerk seasoning: 2 Tbsp dried onion, 1 1/2 tsp thyme, 2 tsp allspice, 2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 Tbsp oil

Best sports drink

What is the first thing you drink right after you are done working out? After water, I bet you drink one of those carbo loaded sports drinks….right?
I read a tidbit the other day that chocolate milk is considered the best drink after a workout. The carbs replace those lost during the workout and the protein from the milk speeds up recovery and builds muscle. Carbo sports drinks replenish carbs but do nothing for muscle recovery. Calorie-free drinks do even less since they don’t contain protein, and also lack carbs needed to replace the ones you burned off.

Who would have thought? Chocolate milk….the sports drink of champions?

Weight Loss Resolutions

Many people I know make resolutions every New Years to lose weight. Have you also made this resolution?

The question I get most often from repeat resolutionists is “what diet works best?”. The first answer I give is “don’t diet”. I believe in healthy lifestyle changes, not in diets. To me this means researching tips and tricks for improving the way you eat and exercise and permanently adding each improvement to your daily regimen one step at a time. This way it becomes part of your life, not a temporary diet that you eventually end and will more than likely result in gaining your weight back.

If you are anything like I was when I was younger, you may say….”but, I need something more structured than that!”, and that may be true. If that’s the case there are programs I feel give good guidelines you can learn and apply ongoing for a simple healthy lifestyle. The initial learning is the hard part, but isn’t a long term healthy lifestyle worth it?

Do you remember the USDA Food Pyramid? The USDA recently did an upgrade which is now called My Plate. The website is available for use. To me, this is the basics of nutrition and really is the basis for long term weight loss. No deprivation, just a healthy balance of foods with a variety of fruits, vegetable and grains, adequate protein and dairy with fats, sugar and salt in moderation. The trick is to eat 4-6 small meals a day (no deprivation) and get a balance of food in to make your body work for you.

You may not have diabetes, but The American Diabetes Association follows similar guidelines and has a lot of good information free on their website as well. The American Dietetic Association (for us dieticians) also has great information.

If you are truly looking for a fully structured, consumer based weight loss program that has long term capabilities, I feel Weight Watchers is the closest to your medically prescribed diets. They even have a website program too. It may cost you a little, but it’s money only spent once if you commit to stick with it. It more likely costs less than paying for multiple programs and diet aides that just don’t work long term.

Of course, before you start any weight loss program, you may want to check with your doctor. They may have other suggestions, or if you have special needs, may prefer a different approach.

If you have a weight loss resolution, good luck with your weight loss goals this year! And hopefully next year  you won’t be making this same resolution, but making a new one to take a trip to some tropical island wearing a new bikini you only dreamed of wearing last year!

Happy New Year!