Breakfast Parfait To Keep My Fire Burning!

As a child I never went a day without breakfast, which is why as an adult the idea of skipping breakfast is just crazy to me. The reasons to eat breakfast are endless, but here are some of the main reasons to eat breakfast according to the latest issue of Today’s Dietitian Magazine;

  • It kicks starts your metabolism. Think of your metabolism as aIt can’t keep burning unless you feed it fuel! If you don’t feed it fuel for several hours, it starts to die and that’s just not good.
  • Breakfast eaters are more likely to have a BMI under 25 (According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey)
  • There is a lot of research that shows apositive relationship between between eating breakfast and having a healthier nutritional intake throughout the day.
  • Some research shows thatbreakfast eaters are less prone to overeating at night.
  • Breakfast is the perfect opportunity to add a good amount of fiber, and hopefully one or two servings of fruits/vegetables into your diet.
  • Some studies show that eating breakfast may enhance memory and increase attention span.
  • Research has shown that eating breakfast, especially one that contains carbohydrates, can improve your mood.
  • Especially important for women who are pregnantor thinking of becoming pregnant, breakfast can be a great way to get the recommended amount of calcium and folic acid (for pregnant women the recommendations are 1000 mg calcium/day and 600 mcg folic acid/day).
  • If you are pregnanta prolonged fast can result in slow growth of the baby and maybe even preterm labor. Eat breakfast!

Many people think that breakfast has to be large. I had a client once tell me that she doesn’t eat breakfast, but that she has a piece of toast with peanut butter every morning. Ummm….that’s breakfast! It doesn’t need to be a giant meal, it just needs to be something. I have other clients who say they “don’t have time” for breakfast, and then a light goes on when I tell them they can have a banana, an apple, a yogurt, and/or a granola bar (on-the- go food!) and that would be perfectly sufficient.

The best breakfast is one that includes;

  • A whole grain
  • Some calcium
  • One or two servings of fruits and vegetables

I go through breakfast fazes. This summer I loved using fresh strawberries in my breakfast.Breakfast Parfait To Keep My Fire Burning! 2Last year I was on an oatmeal + almond butter + sweet potato + yogurt kick…..all year.Breakfast Parfait To Keep My Fire Burning! 3Here is my favorite breakfast, as of now; A Fruit and Yogurt Parfait!Breakfast Parfait To Keep My Fire Burning! 4Two layers of pumpkin, blueberries, plain Greek yogurt, granola, and unsweetened cocoa.


Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas (PART ONE!)

Several weeks ago my cousin Cheryl asked me for some ideas on easy, portable, high protein/low carb/high fiber lunches that she could pack for her lunches. I’m someone who packs a lunch every single day so I knew I could help!

The first thing I suggest is to picture the new logo from It doesn’t have to be laid out exactly like the actual plate in the logo, but you should try to include each of these components in your lunch.


Ok, so now you have that picture in mind, now it’s time to pack a lunch!Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas (PART ONE!) 6

Think portable fruits and vegetables (the more you eat, the better, especially non-starchy relish tray-type vegetables)

  • Apples, oranges, pears, clementines, bananas, berries
  • Cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, cucumbersQuick and Easy Lunch Ideas (PART ONE!) 7

Source: iStockPhoto

Think about dips for your fruits and veggies (you can eat them raw, but dips may help entice you to actually eat them!)

  • Hummus (savory, sweet,or untraditional), bean dip (both have fiber and protein)Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas (PART ONE!) 8
  • Homemade ranch dressing(use a ranch dressing dry powder packet and mix it into some high protein plain Greek yogurt)
  • Nut butters (have protein and fat to keep you full)

Think portable dairy or dairy alternatives (for some protein and calcium). They will last in your lunch box for about 4 hours, as long as it’s insulated.

  • Greek yogurt or regular yogurt (buy plain if you are watching your weight, then add fruit or unsweetened cocoa powder for flavor)
  • Soy yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Low fat sliced cheese for a sandwich

Think portable grain

  • Granola(make your own or buy it, look for 5-10 grams protein)
  • Quinoa salad(for more great quinoa recipes, buy this book!)
  • Whole wheat breadsandwiches (choose a higher protein bread, if you can, with more than 5 grams protein)
  • Whole wheat tortilla roll-ups (use low-sodium deli meat, nut butters, hummus or other bean dips, refried beans, anything!)

Think portable protein (always get some good protein in your lunch, about 20-30 grams. Keep in mind that some of your 20-30 grams protein can be found in the dairy and grain products listed above).

  • Nutritional yeast(sprinkle it on vegetables, salads, tortilla wraps, soups, whatever!)
  • Beef jerky(I know, loaded with sodium, but every once in a while it’s ok to have some high protein jerky!)
  • Hard-boiled eggs (one of my favorite lunch components. I’ll admit, I like to eat them with mustard! You can also add these to salads, or mix them with Greek yogurt and some spices to make egg salad)
  • Tuna(eat it out of a pouch, add it to a salad or wrap, or make it into tuna salad)
  • Tempeh (the name might sound unfamiliar, but this cultured soybean is easy to use and quite tasty, especially when turned into sloppy joes)
  • Edamame(such an easy source of healthy protein. I suggest the frozen kind. Just steam and eat! I put them in little containers and just eat them with a spoon, or my hand…)
  • Walnuts and almonds(add them to tuna salad, or snack mixes with cereal and dried fruit, or just eat them by the handful).
  • Protein barsare another option. You could could most bars as a grain and a protein, since many of them are more like meal replacements. Look for at least 10 grams of protein, and 12 grams or less sugar.Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas (PART ONE!) 9

Want more ideas? Check out Susan’s blog (another RD) to see what she packs in her lunch! And, stay tuned for part two of this post, which will discuss some more tips on packing healthy, portable lunches.

Question: What’s your favorite thing to pack in your lunch? More ideas would be helpful!


Summer Breakfast and Summer Reading

For the past two years, my breakfast has included a bowl of oatmeal with yogurt, pumpkin (or berries, or sweet potato), and almond butter. Even last summer I couldn’t give up my hot oatmeal breakfast. This summer, however, I have finally given up the hot oats and have switched to a cooler, higher protein breakfast……Summer Breakfast and Summer Reading 11

Every morning, after my coffee (I’m down to only 2 cups, or about 250mg caffeine!!!) and my workout, I grab a bowl and load it with the following; ~1 cup plain Greek yogurt and regular yogurt (combined), ~ 1/2 cup frozen blueberries or fresh strawberries, ~ 1/4 cup homemade granola, ~ 1 T unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 packet natural, calorie, and sugar-free sweetener.Summer Breakfast and Summer Reading 12

Delicious. This keeps me full for a couple of hours, and I look forward to it just as much as my oats!

I believe the key to a good breakfast is to include about 10-20 grams of protein, some whole grains, and a fruit or vegetable (hmmm, sounds like MyPlate, right?!). But of course, anything is better than nothing (well, maybe…), so if you aren’t eating breakfast I encourage you to start small and build up to a nice hearty and healthy breakfast. Do you know how long it takes me to throw together the above creation? About 3 minutes. No excuses.

QUESTION: Have you changed your breakfast lately? Or, have you been eating the same thing for a while now?

Are you a reader? I didn’t use to be, but over the last three or four years I’ve probably read over fifty books (for me, that’s unheard of). Summertime is a great opportunity to grab a great book, sit outside with some cold iced tea and relax. I recently read this book;Summer Breakfast and Summer Reading 13

This book kept me entertained, which is always an indication of a good book (my ADD kicks in if the book is boring and uninteresting). It’s about two sisters who have quite an interesting, yet loving relationship. Their mom passed away several years ago and there is some speculation that their father had something to do with her death. The sisters now live far apart from one another but Thanksgiving and their ill father bring them together for a couple of weeks. While the situation is quite awkward at first, it ends up being a very memorable holiday. Overall I rate this book a 7.5 out of 10. It was a quick read with a unique story and well-developed characters.

Two other books I’ve read this summer include peak No Evil and The Swimming PoolClick on the links to read more about them. Currently, I’m reading Gaining, which is about life after eating disorders. I’m learning more about myself and my past than I ever could have imagined. I have shed a few tears and had a few epiphanies along the way. I plan on writing an autobiography one day because I think it would be good therapy for me to write out my whole life story. I never thought my story was very unique, but I’m finding that it actually is. I mean, a dietitian with a history of an eating disorder?! Come on! And, you’ll soon find out that my becoming a dietitian actually helped me escape my ED. At first it fueled it, but in the end, it was a lifesaver.


Proposed Changes to Your Kid’s School Lunches

I know I’m a little behind on posting this, but better late than never! Have you seen the newly proposed school lunch guidelines? From the looks of these guidelines most children will be eating healthier than their parents! Is that sad? I think not. This is a great opportunity for kids to start better eating habits. The proposed guidelines were created due to the updated Dietary Guidelines, and they were created based on the following recommendations;

  • Lower saturated fat consumption
    • Lower sodium consumption
    • A new red/orange vegetable subgroup.

Here are some of the important changes that have been made to your kids’ (or future kids!) school lunches:

FRUITS and VEGGIES: What was once a 1/2 cup – 1 cup fruits/vegetables combined, is now 3/4-1 cup vegetables, and 1/2 cup to 1 cup fruit per day. There is also a requirement for lunches to include dark green and orange vegetables every week, plus legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and a limit on starchy vegetables (such as corn, and potatoes).Proposed Changes to Your Kid’s School Lunches 15

MEAT and MEAT ALTERNATIVES: For meat and meat alternatives, there is now a 1.6-2.4 ounce requirement (per lunch), which isn’t much different than before.

GRAINS: The new grain requirement isn’t much different than before, at 1.8-2.6 ounces per day, but my favorite part is that whole grains are no longer only “strongly encouraged” but instead half of the grains that are offered must be whole grain. Awesome!Proposed Changes to Your Kid’s School Lunches 16

MILK: The milk requirement is still one cup, but chocolate milk has to be fat free and there can only be skim or 1% white milk offered.

My final thoughts and comments:

– Why such precise ounce measurements?! Who wants to weigh out 2.6 ounces of grain?!

– The whole grain requirement is slightly weak, in my opinion, but I guess I shouldn’t complain. Compared to “strongly encouraged” this is a big improvement!

– Are they going to work on getting higher quality foods in the schools? I have this fear that the food will not taste good because schools have very little money to spend on food. This may backfire and make children hate healthy food. Not good.

– I still wish they would call the “Meat and Meat Alternatives” category “beans and meat” so as to stay consistent with the dietary guidelines and MyPyramid. Wouldn’t that make things a little less confusing?!

– I’m slightly confused about how they are differentiating the legumes from the starchy vegetables. They have a limit on starchy vegetables, but I don’t think they are counting peas, lentils and beans as starchy vegetables, because those are now required. I think I need to read more of the document to understand this.

– Want to share your thoughts or concerns about these new rules? The USDA is accepting comments from the public until April of this year.

** To read more details about the new school lunch guidelines, check out the USDA website and click on “Proposed Rule”, which is beneath Reauthorization 2010. **

QUESTION: What do you think of these proposed changes? If these rules were in place, would you feel better about having your kids eat school lunches?


A Candid Look At My Diet

Many of you commented on my last post about how you eat more fruits and/or veggies than the recommendation. Some of you also asked me if that was ok to do, and my answer is YES! The only thing I will say is that if you eat more than 3 servings (cups) of fruit you need to consider the sugars, especially if you are diabetic. It’s definitely true that the sugar in fruit is a much better form of sugar than that added to foods (“added sugars”) but it will still affect your blood sugars and I wouldn’t go much over 3-4 servings of fruit per day. The same is true with starchy vegetables. Since the starchy veggies (corn, beans, peas, potatoes, etc.) have more carbohydrates, you should watch your intake, but still remember they are much better sources of starches than let’s say…white bread or white rice. Remember, there are no “bad foods” only “bad food patterns”. Look at your diet as a whole, and don’t judge it on one specific food or type of food. If you haven’t read the new dietary guidelines yet, I really encourage you to check them out. It will take about an hour to get through the entire document, but it’s really easy to understand and filled with some fabulous information that will help you for years to come!

This brings me to the topic of today’s post. In the (almost) two years I’ve had this blog, I have posted a day of my eats only one time. I think it’s great that some people like to take photos of everything they eat, but it’s just not for me. However, I do find it to be fun, every….once…in a while, and even then I don’t take a picture of everything that goes in my mouth. I like to use these “day of eats” posts as an opportunity to teach! I do actually practice what I preach, so these posts are meant to help explain how I decide what to eat every day, and how I make sure to get all of my nutrients in each day. I also thought this would be a great follow-up on my previous post about volumetrics and nutrient density.

So I’ll start from the beginning of my day, when I wake up around 6:30am. I typically workout in the morning, before work, so I eat a little granola (~60 calories worth) and about 3 cups of half decaffeinated coffee. I used to eat my entire breakfast before working out, until I realized my workouts were just as effective when I consumed only about 60 calories (and some caffeine!) to get me going.

After my 60 minute workout, I eat my favorite meal of the day, breakfast!

A Candid Look At My Diet 18

I’m addicted to oatmeal in the morning, because it’s the best way to get multiple servings of whole grains (16 grams of whole grains = one serving and one serving of oatmeal contains 2-3 servings of whole grains!). And of course I like to get some dairy and a fruit or vegetable, so I top my oats with pureed pumpkin (or cooked sweet potato!), 2% yogurt, and walnut butter for some essential fatty acids (and more protein). Breakfast typically my largest meal of the day (~350-400 calories).

I pack my lunch every single day, so I’m not tempted to eat at work. The food at work is amazing, but I don’t want to spend the money, and I rarely sit down to eat while I’m working, so I graze all day on what I have packed in my lunch.

A Candid Look At My Diet 19

Check it out! Can you tell what I pack?

A Candid Look At My Diet 20

1 cup yogurt

~1/4 cup granola (homemade)

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes

2 clementines

~1 ounce veggie chips

~1/4 cup carrots

Almond butter

I tend to eat the yogurt and granola first. The yogurt gives me another full serving of dairy for the day, and the granola adds to my oil and protein intake (it contains almonds, walnuts, and peanuts) and of course my whole grains.

A Candid Look At My Diet 21

I eat my clementines (2 clementines = 1 cup fruit), and tomatoes (1/2 cup tomatoes = 1/2 cup vegetable) around 1pm, and my vegetable chips and carrots (carrots + chips = ~ 1 cup vegetable) around 4pm. I always dip my carrots in almond butter!

I work at a place that gives out food to customers just about every day, all day, therefore I tend to take a couple samples throughout the day, adding to my food intake. I only do this if a) I’m hungry and all of my lunch food is gone, or b) they are sampling a food I want to try! Just yesterday they were sampling maple and brown sugar fried bacon. You better believe I tried that!! Heavenly.

When I get home I usually have a glass of unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze (1 cup = 1 cup dairy/dairy alternative).

At around 7pm Nick and I sit down for dinner. I usually have 3-4 ounces of a protein, and then tons of vegetables. I will add cheese or yogurt to my meal if I think I need more dairy.

I eat a lot of egg whites because they are easy. Sometimes I mix one egg with my egg whites, other times I don’t. On this particular night, I didn’t.

A Candid Look At My Diet 22

Underneath all that green is about 3/4 cup of egg whites (~ 3 ounces protein), some canned tomatoes (~1/2 cup vegetable), 1 handful of raw organic spinach (~1/2 cup vegetable) and 1/2 cup spaghetti squash (1/2 cup vegetable). I added parmesan cheese and Frank’s Red Hot for flavor. Sometimes I add a dollop of plain 2% Greek yogurt.

This is a large volume dinner with not too many calories and loads of nutrients (putting into practice the concept of volumetrics and nutrient density!).

A Candid Look At My Diet 23

I have a beer with dinner 2-3 nights a week

My nighttime eats typically include:

– 1/2 cup frozen berries blended with 1/2 cup almond milk
(1/2 cup fruit, 1/2 cup dairy/dairy alternative)

– 2 plain rice cakes + 2 T nutritional yeast + 1/2 T walnut butter
(1 whole grain, 1.5 ounce protein, ~ 2 tsp. oil)

A Candid Look At My Diet 24

1 piece of Lindt’s 85% dark chocolate

The following is my estimated intake (based on of servings for each food group:

Grains: 3-4 ounces whole grains

Vegetables: 3.5 cups

Fruits: 1.5 cups

Dairy/Dairy alternatives: 3 cups

Meat and Beans: 4 ounces

Oils: 6 tsp.

Calories: ~2000-2200

This is pretty close to what is recommended for my age, height, weight, and activity level. I may be a little low in grains and protein, but on average I think I get plenty! This was also a very rare day for me in the vegetable category. I usually get about four or five servings a day.

Question: Do you eat the same thing on most days or do you like to change what you eat daily? I typically eat the same breakfast and lunch, but switch up my dinner and snacks. I really don’t mind eating the same thing every day (for a while at least). I tend to change my “obsessions” with the seasons!


Breakfast of Champs and Time Management Strategies for Living Healthier

Thanks for all of your comments about labels on my last post! I asked for your opinions as to some other changes that may be necessary, and I found that many of you agreed there should be nutrition facts on alcoholic beverages. I couldn’t agree more! I really don’t understand why they aren’t there in the first place, and how those companies get away with it. It’s strange…

I also received this comment on my blog, from an anonymous reader:
Gina, as you seem quite knowledgeable regarding all matter of food-related subjects, I have one rather profound question in my opinion) for you: Considering that over the past 30 years or so the number of professionals who deal in health-oriented professions (such as yourself) has increased exponentially in concert with our exposure to nutrition facts (e.g., witness fast-food chains’ relatively recent reporting of their meals’ nutritional information), why do we, as a nation, continue to live unhealthy lifestyles and gain exorbitant amounts of weight in the process? Wouldn’t you think that an influx of health professionals and an enhanced access to nutrition information would help alleviate some of the impacts associated with our pervasive obesity epidemic?

My thoughts: This is a fantastic question. As I read this question I couldn’t help but think about all of the “health professionals” that I know, many of whom don’t even practice what they preach. Think about it, how many times do you walk or drive by a hospital and see doctors and nurses outside on a smoke break? How many doctors, and even RDs, do you know who are obese, smoke, don’t workout, and/or have poor diets? I can actually think of a few off the top of my head! My point is, yes, there has been an increase in the number of people who are choosing health professions, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are teaching the right stuff (many doctors don’t even know anything about nutrition…they just give you your the lab values and send you on your way). Not only that but many health professionals, including RDs, cost a good amount of money (50-100 dollars per hour for RDs) to see. Where does this put the people who really need the help? Out in the cold because they can’t afford it. It’s the sad truth. I always want to help as much as I can by providing FREE dietary guidance when I am able, but it’s difficult. I wish it was easier. That’s why I created this blog, really. One last comment is that the number of healthy professionals has increased as their need for services have increased. Many people choose a career based on the fact that they know they can get a job, not necessarily based on passion for the field. Thanks for your question.

Breakfast Of Champions
Since I’ve been on this wheat free diet (FODMAPS) I’ve had to give my breakfast, and other meals, quite a makeover. For starters, I bought this wheat-free cereal.Breakfast of Champs and Time Management Strategies for Living Healthier 26Here it is up close. Looks great doesn’t it?? haha, maybe not so much, but it is actually quite delicious.Breakfast of Champs and Time Management Strategies for Living Healthier 27I love how the label highlighted some important facts; wheat free, low sodium, and low fat (although the low fat part wasn’t important to me)Breakfast of Champs and Time Management Strategies for Living Healthier 28And when I’m not eating cold cereal, I’ve been eating steel cut oats. I never thought I would turn into an oats lover, but reading all of your blogs, and dealing with this IBS diet, has caused me to eat oats more often. I can thank Coco for recommending the steel cut oats over regular oats. They are slightly less processed and have more soluble fiber than some rolled oats, and especially the instant oats. They also have a nuttier flavor and keep me full for a good about of time.

I don’t like having to wait 30 minutes every morning while the oats cooked, but thankfully each batch makes 4 servings. I put it in this container, and cut it into four sections after it sits in the fridge for a few hours. This way I have pre-portioned oats for four mornings.Breakfast of Champs and Time Management Strategies for Living Healthier 29 This is where the Breakfast of Champions comes in!

Steel cut oats
Purevia (~1 t)
Pumpkin puree (1/4 cup)
Skippy Extra Crunchy peanut butter (~1 T)

– Keeps me full for almost 3 hours (that’s great for me!)
– Provides 1/2 servings of vegetable, lots of fiber, and some healthy monounsaturated fatsBreakfast of Champs and Time Management Strategies for Living Healthier 30Time Management Strategies for a Healthy “At Home” Living
Source: Mark Forster, author of Do it Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management

1) If you have a tendency to mindlessly snack on not so healthy foods, and it bothers you, set aside some time each week and remove anything form your fridge, cabinets, freezer, etc. that you tend to binge on, in an unhealthy way. Leave a special treat for yourself that is portioned so that you don’t go overboard. If your spouse or child has a special snack that temps your binge reflex, ask them to hide it from you!

2) Set aside some time week to make a plan for what your meals will be for the week. Follow this by making a list of what ingredients you will need. The author suggests that if you don’t do this you will be tempted to eat convenience food (mom, if you’re reading this…..take this advice!!). I’ll add that you should check out Andrea’s blog for some great sample menus and weekly menu plans.

3) Set aside some time each week to pre-cook meat, poultry, etc. Put it in the freezer until you need it. Also pre-cook some vegetables so you and your family always have access to them when you are hungry or when you are looking for a dinner side dish. Preparing some fruit to snack on is also a good idea. I do this each week and it takes me about an hour. It’s very much worth it.

4) Slow down when you are preparing food, and take time to enjoy the process. Same goes for when you are consuming the food. Savor the food and enjoy it, rather than eating it so fast you can’t even appreciate the uniqueness and taste.

Life Update

It’s Tuesday, which means one day closer to Christmas! How are you doing on your Christmas/Hanukkah shopping? I’m about 80% finished, I’ve just got to buy Nick’s mom and sisters some things, and do major wrapping. This weekend my mom and I will be making pepperoni bread and chocolate dipped waffle cones! I have to say, I’m pretty excited about that. Thanks for reading, have a wonderful day!