Healthy Plate

Small Bites During the Holiday Season Add Up

Check out this adorable little video from University of Nebraska - Lincoln (which has a fantastic nutrition program for those of you out there seeking a place to study nutrition).

It is so true and so important for us to remember that all those little bites and 'sneaks' of food during the holiday season contribute calories that can add up to weight gain over the next six weeks or so. A lighthearted way to think about your own small bites..

Tips for Healthier Cooking Practices

Creating a healthy lifestyle starts at the grocery store with food selection, but extends itself into the kitchen with the utilization of healthy cooking practices.  Here are some tips for ways to retain flavor and nutrition, but cut out excess fat, cholesterol, sugar, and calories.Photo courtesy of pinterest board

Cooking Methods:

  • Poach - immerse skinless chicken or fish in liquid
  • Roast - place meat on a rack so that the fat can drip off and use basting liquids that are low in salt and sugar (lemon juice, wine, low sodium juices/sauces)
  • Grill/broil - place meat on a rack for the same principle: fat drips off
  • Steam - place veggies over simmering water
  • Bake - can use covered cookwear with extra liquid, (or! use parchment paper to create a bag/covered pouch and place a cut of fish with some antipasti or chopped vegetables in - the vegetables will release fluid for the fish to cook in, creating a very lean meal)
  • Stir-fry - start with a little non-fat cooking spray or olive oil and sautee onions/garlic/etc.  Then build on that with vegetables (frozen is great for this), drained/rinsed beans, etc.  Top it off with your preference of whole wheat grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole whet pasta) for a healthy meal. 


Additional Food Tips:

  • Buy the 97% fat free ground red meat and turkey meat.  Per one pound add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water.  It will add moisture for a better end-product while keeping the lean profile and ensuring you're eating unstaturated fatty acids over the saturated ones.
  • Steam or bake vegetables for better nutrient retention as compared to boiling them.
  • Use one egg yolk with several egg whites for a healthier, high-protein version of your morning eggs.
  • Use your spice rack!  I know it can be intimidating, but using herbs and spices over the traditional use of salt in cooking is an important habit to create for yourself, and your family!


What tips do you have to share?!  You can also check out this pinterest board I made with smart and helpful tips and exchanges.  [The image at the right is on there!]  I am learning more and more about food substitutions in cooking (ex. greek yogurt for mayo or sour cream in recipes) and there are truly helpful tips available online.

Understanding Protein

Protein: the Macronutrient

Proteins play many roles in the body, from structural support, to acid-base and fluid balance, to enzyme and hormone creation.  When we consume proteins in the diet, they enter the body and break down to amino acids which are then absorbed by the blood supply to be used.  Dietary protein improves satiety and appetite control in the body.  Eating a meal balanced with a good source of protein will leave you satisifed with that feeling of fullness for longer.

Not all Proteins Are Created Equal

The digestability and amino acid profile vary in protein sources.  Generally speaking, animal proteins are more digestable (95-99% of protein molecules eaten are absorbed) than plant based proteins (70-90% of protein molecules consumed are absorbed).  In terms of amino acid profile; there are 9 essential amino acids (our bodies don't make these, we need to eat them) and 11 non-essential amino acids (we can synthesize these).  A protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids and some non-essential amino acids is considered a complete protein.

Complete proteins: animal meats (red meat, poultry, fish), soy products, quinoa, eggs

Incomplete proteins: vegetables, beans, nuts, nut butters, grain products, dairy   *This is why incorporating complementing protein sources is important in vegetarian diets to create a complete protein, for example eating rice and beans together.

Protein Consumption

In the United States, protein is often overconsumed (men average >100 grams daily and women >70 grams daily).  The recommendation for adults is 0.8 g/kg/day.  This increases with physical activity levels (usually up to about 1.3-1.5 g/kg/day for athletes).  Consuming a well-balanced diet usually meets daily protein needs.

Striking the right balance in protein consumption is important.  Protein is essential to many bodily functions and plays an improtant role in hunger and satiety.  On the other hand, a high-protein diet can increase the risk of heart disease, kidney problems, and calcium loss from bone.  Consuming too much protein from animal sources usually causes an increase in saturated fat consumption, which leads to high cholesterol and heart disease.  

Overall, balancing protein sources at meals with whole grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables is important.

All About Fiber

What is fiber?

One of the topics that I find myself talking a lot about with clients is fiber as it is essential to healthy eating.  Fiber is a nondigestible substance that reduces the risk of many chronic health conditions, including diabetes mellitus, heart disease, constipation, diverticulosis, obesity, and certain cancers.  It is found in fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, bran, oats, and whole-grain products.  

Dietary recommendations for daily fiber intake is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

Insoluble vs Soluble

There are two different types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.  Both types provide the health benefits detailed below, in fact getting a miz in your diet is the best approach.  Soluble fibers dissolve in water and are fermented by intestinal bacteria while insoluble fibers do not, instead they are more viscous.  Soluble fiber examples include the cellulose that makes up the meat of an apple or the lignins in beans.  Insoluble fiber examples include the pectins in vegetable skins or citrus fruits.

The Physiology Behind the Benefits

I personally feel that understanding the body and the science of good nutrition helps to motivate people to follow through.  I hope that at least one or two of these motivate you!

  • Fiber helps to moderate blood cholesterol levels.  How?  In the digestive tract fiber holds onto bile salts (a compound that helps digest fat) which end up being excreted instead of reabsorbed.  This means your body uses cholesterol from the blood to create new bile salts.
  • Fiber slows the release of food from the stomach during digestion, in turn this slows the absorption of glucose in the blood stream and improves blood sugar control.  
  • Fiber helps keep things moving in the digestive tract so that potential cancer promoting substances spend less time in contact with the intestinal lining.


Get Your Plate In Shape

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month, which is an annual campaign by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to bring health and nutrition messaging to the forefront.  As you may know (and if not I'll have to detail it in a blog for you!), Registered Dietitians are the premiere source for scientifically-based, sound nutrition advice.  So this is our month!  All month long I challenge you to consider how you shop, how you stock your pantry, how often you dine out and what items you gravitate towards, what kinds of fluids you're telling your body to run off of, and last but not least, how you build your meals.  What are you doing right for yourself?  Where is there room for improvement?

Get Your Plate in Shape

This year's theme is how best to get your plate in shape.  What that means to me is tackling the food groups one by one and ensuring that there is a balance of macronutrients at every meal.  After all, coloring the plate with all sorts of healthy items will inherently help ensure a balance of micronutrients in the total diet.  Here are some of the key messages:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Make at least half of your grains whole grains
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Vary your protein choices
  • Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fat and added sugars
  • Enjoy your food with portion control
  • Be physically active your way, most days

So this NNM, get your plate in shape!  I suggest visiting to learn more about the major food groups and the daily recommendations for each.  What are some ways your can help begin to meet the recommended criteria?