Category: healthy alternatives

The Smart Pantry – Three Tips For When You Forgot To Plan

The Smart Pantry – Three Tips For When You Forgot To Plan

I have a love hate relationship with grocery shopping. Since I can remember, I have always done my grocery shopping once a week. I like planning my meals for the week and buying all the ingredients. However, the grocery store is really a land mine of temptation. At every turn there is an isle or an end cap display of something that looks really yummy. It would be torture to go to the grocery more than once a week. It takes a lot of will power at the grocery, and I never go when I am hungry. 

I also make sure to buy a few healthy extras each time, just in case, because sometimes  I am short a meal, and I find myself with no plan for dinner. Poor planning  happens to everyone, but rather than call Papa (John that is) I will “throw together” a mish mash of items. At times like these I try to use a one-two-three approach to making a balanced meal:

1. Make it “Whole” by picking whole grain version of pasta, rice or bread.

2. Make it “Lean” or “Extra Lean” by searching for cans of tuna packed in water, skinless chicken breast, lean ham or extra lean beef.

3. Make it “Colorful” by using a variety of fruits and vegetables.

There is always something in the fridge and pantry that can be used for dinner, and when I use the one-two-three approach, even though it wasn’t planned, I can feel good about what I am serving and eating.

Cut Calories – Tips To Tweak Your Menu

Cut Calories – Tips To Tweak Your Menu

The littlest swaps or tweaks can make a big difference. There are all sorts of ways to cut calories here and there, but here are some of my favorite food swaps you can make to cut 150 calories from your menu.

1. Use mustard instead of mayo on sandwiches. There are so many different kinds of mustards that can add incredible flavor to any sandwich.

2. Buy 6-inch low-carb, whole-wheat tortillas instead of the 10-inch flour ones. Not only will you lose calories, but you’ll also get four times the fiber!

 3. Avoid soda and juice and drink water instead (or unsweetened tea). One can of regular soda contains about 140 calories  Surprisingly a glass of juice contains almost as many calories, and like soda contains mostly sugar.

4. If you need a potato fix, try a baked potato instead of french fries. Potatoes are not the enemy, but don’t go crazy with butter and sour cream.

5. Keep 100-calorie popcorn snack packs on hand to eat instead of a bag of chips from the vending machine.

6. Skip the grande Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks and opt for a small latte with skim milk instead.  Save that coffee dessert for a cheat day.

7. Trade in a normal bagel for a toasted whole-wheat English muffin.

8. Load your pasta with veggies to cut calories but not bulk. Instead of two cups of pasta, try one cup of whole-wheat pasta and one cup of cooked veggies. (Remember to cook whole-wheat pasta longer for the best taste).

Eating Smart – Tips For Healthy Eating

Eating Smart – Tips For Healthy Eating

This week is National Women’s Health Awareness Week.  Healthy eating begins with learning how to “eat smart”.  It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat.

 Take time to chew your food: Chew your food slowly, savoring every bite, especially if you are eating something really yummy. I tend to rush though meals, forgetting to actually taste the flavors. Time to reconnect with the joy of eating.

Avoid stress while eating: When we are stressed, our digestion can get out of whack. Avoid eating while working, driving, arguing, or watching TV.  If you are stressed, most likely you are not paying attention to what or how much you are eating.  You don’t get a chance to enjoy your food, and you may unconsciously eat way too much. Don’t be the person who eats an entire bag of chips while watching TV, driving, or surfing the internet and then wonders where they all went. 

Listen to your body: Ask yourself if you are really hungry. You may be thirsty, you may be bored. Get up and do something to take your mind off the ‘hunger’ or try drinking a glass of water first.

During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. This is a big one.  By taking a few minutes before you feel full, you can cut serious calories from your diet without feeling deprived.  You must really pay attention to how your stomach is feeling, and stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly. I started doing this, and it has worked every time.  I am always amazed that even though I don’t feel full, if I stop eating, within a few minutes I feel full and sometimes stuffed.  Eating just enough to satisfy your hunger will help to feel your best, rather than stuffing yourself into a “food coma”!

 Eat early, eat often: Starting your day with a healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, and eating the majority of your daily calories  earlier in the day gives your body time to burn those calories. Dinner should be your smallest meal of the day. Also, eating small, healthy meals throughout the day can really help keep your metabolism going strong and ensure that you don’t become “famished” and binge on crap snacks.

Welcome to awareness week. Time to become aware of how you eat, not just what you eat.

My No Junk Food Journey – Want to Come Along?

My No Junk Food Journey – Want to Come Along?


I wrote this post as a participant in the Eat, Play, Love blog carnival hosted by Meals Matter and Dairy Council of California to share ideas on positive and fun ways to teach children healthy eating habits. A list of other registered dietitians and moms who are participating in the carnival will be listed at the bottom of this post or can be found on Meals Matter.


If you are reading this on my website, you have probably figured out that I have a thing for fitness and nutrition… okay more of an obsession really.

I also have a shocking secret. I am not proud of this, but it is time for me to come clean. My kids eat Popsicles for breakfast. (I know… GASP) Breakfasts and snacks have become a free for all of low nutrient, high fat, high calorie foods. I still have control over lunches, and they are packed healthy. Dinners are okay too, but I am verging on a short order cook… something I swore I would NEVER DO.

I have been guilty of buying way too many snacky foods, which of course becomes the kid’s first choice food.

But, change is a comin! I decided to throw out every snack food that was unhealthy and replace it with healthy choices. Not a single unhealthy snack is left in our house.

I am the boss. I am the gatekeeper of the food.  Theses are my new daily affirmations, as I embark on the ‘no crappy food zone’ plan.

Being obsessed with my own nutrition, I must practice what I preach.

Kids will eat what’s available. That’s why I must control the supply lines. Kids can’t eat what is not there. A side bonus is that I will not be tempted by the kid’s rice crispy treats anymore (I know… another GASP).

If you want to join me on my no junk food journey, here’s what we will do:

1. Work fruits and vegetables into the daily routine. Be sure you serve a fruit or vegetable at every meal.

2. Make it easy for kids to choose healthy snacks by keeping fruits and vegetables on hand and ready to eat. Other good snacks that my kids love include low-fat yogurt blended with some low fat milk to make a shake/smoothie, peanut butter and apples, or whole-grain crackers and cheese.

3. Choose whole-grain breads and cereals so kids get more fiber. Don’t be fooled by kids’ cereal marketing. Read the ingredients.

4. Be sneak by adding chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups. Pureeing is also a great way to add veggies. Pureed sweet potatoes go un-noticed in Mac-n-Cheese or chili!

5. Limit sugary drinks, such as soda, juice, and fruit-flavored drinks. Serve water and low-fat milk instead. Make the “juice is for play dates only” rule.

6. Don’t be a short order cook. Repeat… Don’t be a short order cook.
No separate meals.  Keep serving healthy choices until they become familiar and liked.

We can do this.  No Junk Food.

Do you have a shocking secret that you want to share?

Don’t stop here! Join the carnival and read other Eat, Play, Love blogs from dietitians and moms offering the best advice on raising healthy eaters. And if you don’t get enough today, for more positive, realistic and actionable advice from registered dietitian moms, register for the free, live webinar Eat, Play, Love: Raising Healthy Eaters on Wednesday, May 18.

The Best-Kept Secret for Raising Healthy Eaters, Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD 
Feeding is Love, Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN 
5 Quick Ways to Prepare Veggies with Maximum Flavor, Dayle Hayes, MS, RD 
The Art of Dinnertime, Elana Natker, MS, RD
Children Don’t Need a Short Order Cook, Christy Slaughter
Cut to the Point – My Foodie Rules, Glenda Gourley
Eat, Play, Love – A Challenge for Families, Alysa Bajenaru, RD
Eat, Play, Love ~ Raising Healthy Eaters, Kia Robertson
Get Kids Cooking, Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN  
Kid-Friendly Kitchen Gear Gets Them Cooking, Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD 
Kids that Can Cook Make Better Food Choices, Glenda Gourley
Making Mealtime Fun, Nicole Guierin, RD 
My Top Ten Tips for Raising Lifelong Healthy Eaters, EA Stewart, RD
My No Junk Food Journey – Want to Come Along?, Kristine Lockwood
My Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters: Eat Like the French, Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD
Playing with Dough and the Edible Gift of Thyme, Robin Plotkin, RD, LD
Picky Eaters Will Eat Vegetables, Theresa Grisanti, MA
Putting the Ease in Healthy Family Eating, Connie Evers, MS, RD, LD
Raising a Healthy Eater, Danielle Omar, MS, RD
Raising Healthy Eaters Blog Carnival & Chat Roundup, Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
Soccer Mom Soapbox, Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD 
Teenagers Can Be Trying But Don’t Give Up, Diane Welland MS, RD
What My Kids Taught Me About Eating Mindfully, Michelle May, MD

Healthy Claims on Pre-Packaged Foods: Buyer Beware

Healthy Claims on Pre-Packaged Foods: Buyer Beware

Does adding vitamin C to cocaine make it healthy? Of course not!

Just like adding “whole grains” to Lucky Charms cereal and Pop Tarts does not make them healthy.

Just like adding omega 3’s to Country Crock does not make it healthy.

Just like adding canola oil to popcorn or French fries does not make them healthy.

Companies often reformulate some of their product slightly so they can be considered “better for you”, but in essence they will still contain all the same crap as before. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lucky Charms and French fries, but they can’t be considered healthy or even close to it, even when I read that whole grains have been added or canola oil was used. If I eat Lucky Charms, it is on my cheat day. Same goes for French fries.

Sometimes we need convenience over quality. I am definitely guilty of this. When we are shopping for the pre-packaged or processed stuff, the labeling and marketing can be overwhelming, and even a bit deceiving. When you really need that convenience item, it is easier to justify buying it when it says No Trans Fats, or Whole Grains, or Calcium Enriched, etc. When you really want a “snack” it is also easier to justify it when the label says enriched with Omega 3’s, Made from Whole Grains, etc.

Some people really believe that these additions like Whole Grains, Omega 3’s (or even subtractions like NO Trans Fats) make the food healthy. I know a few of these people. So for those people, it is not your fault… you don’t know what you don’t know. You have been bamboozled by advertising. So I return to the analogy – Does adding vitamin C to cocaine make it healthy?

I am certainly not saying to never buy processed or pre-packaged foods. We can’t live without them (at least I can’t). So for those of you who are justifying buying pre-packages stuff, recognize that you are justifying, and don’t deny that you are making a poor food choice. For those of you who don’t know, now you do know. Pre-packaged or processed food is not healthy… even if the packaging makes you think it is.

Just like with most things, there are choices and then there are better choices. So when you need that pre-packaged convenience, look for products from Odwalla, Morningstar, Health Valley, Boca, and my favorite is Kashi. These are the ones I look for when I need a pre-packaged choice.

Still, Buyer Beware.  Just because you choose a product from a company that has a healthy reputation, you must read the label no matter what.

As I was looking online for general nutritional info, I came across a blip that said Kashi owned by Kellog. This can’t be right, I thought. I must have misread it. I googled it and found that many of my favorites are owned by major, familiar corporations.

Here are a few examples of the “healthy, organic” industry structure.

• Heinz owns Hain, Breadshop, Arrowhead Mills, Garden of Eatin’, Farm Foods, Imagine Rice and Soy Dream, Casbah, Health Valley, DeBoles, Nile Spice, Celestial Seasonings, Westbrae, Westsoy, Little Bear, Walnut Acres, Shari Ann’s, Mountain Sun, Millina’s Finest, etc.

• Kraft owns Boca Foods and Back to Nature.

• Coca-Cola owns Odwalla.

• Pepsi owns Naked Juice.

• Hershey Foods owns Dagoba.

• M&M Mars owns Seeds of Change

• Kellog owns Kashi and Morningstar Farms

• General Mills owns Cascadian Farm

• ConAgra owns Lightlife

I will still buy Kashi, Odwalla, Boca, and Morningstar when I need a specific item, but I am going to start reading the labels on these choices as carefully as I read the labels on the bagel bites I buy for the kids. Knowledge is always a good thing.



As Christmas break approaches, I know we will make a few trips to the movies. The movie theater is somewhat of a danger zone for me for overeating. That popcorn smells better than anything, and we usually try to smuggle in a few boxes of other treats as well. Temptation at every corner.

Here is a reality check – a large popcorn (32 ounces) from the movie theater comes out at 4,200 calories and 290 grams of fat—and that’s without the extra squirt of butter. Okay, so no more popcorn for us, but movies are almost as much about the food as they are about the film. So here are my tasty alternatives:

1. Microwave popcorn — make sure it’s at least 94 percent fat-free. (Six cups of Pop Secret 94 Percent Fat Free Butter has 110 calories and 2 g of fat.) If you opt for air-popped, pep it up with nonfat butter spray, flavored salts, or a sprinkle of butter substitute.

2. Pretzels – great because they’re naturally low in fat. You can buy a soft pretzel at most theatres(just make sure they are not dipped in butter) or smuggle a handful of salted twists (one ounce of Rold Gold Tiny Twists has 110 calories and 1 g of fat).

3. Smart Cookies – There are several 100 calorie bag of cookies that include many of my childhood favorites. Also try animal crackers or Nilla Wafers, both with 3 g of fat, or Fig Newtons (two bars are 210 calories, 4.5 g of fat).

4. Cereal – small boxes of dry cereal like Fruit Loops have just 80 calories and .5 g of fat.

5. Sweets – If you really want to indulge in candy there are a few “good” options. Twizzlers (a 2.1-ounce serving has 200 calories, 1 g of fat), Junior Mints (a 1.84-ounce serving has 210 calories, 3.5 g fat), and gummy candy (a 1.5-ounce pack of Gummy Bears has 150 calories, 0 g fat).

Enjoy the show… and the food!

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