Your food environment can set you up for success or it can make healthy living a struggle. Last week, we gave you a checklist for your countertops and your pantry. In part TWO of the spring cleaning series, we have a checklist for your FRIDGE.
It’s all about visibility and convenience. The most visible foods are the ones we eat first. Research tells us that we are 3 times as likely to eat the first thing we see then the 5th. So, if there is any question at all, you’re going to choose that piece of chocolate that is front and center of your fridge instead of the veggies hidden in the back or in a drawer – the beer drawer as Lucy calls it. =)
Here are 6 fridge-hacks that will make your fridge your friend. You can choose to do them all or tackle one at a time, it’s up to you!
1. Take the veggies out of the crisper drawers and place them at eye level. Put the less healthy items in the drawers. When people did this for just one week, they reported eating almost 3 x as much produce as they did the week before.
2. Better yet, cut them up first. Making fruits and vegetables convenient to grab-and-go increases your chance of eating them. Keeping a bunch of oranges in your fridge is one thing, but cutting them up so they can be devoured quickly makes them even more attractive.
3. Keep foods you want to eat in clear packages and at eye level. If you want to eat your salad or your vegetable leftovers the worst thing you can do is put them in aluminum foil. Instead, use clear containers that make the food visible.
4. Keep foods that you don’t want tempting you, wrapped in foil and placed in the back. Same concept as above, we eat what we see. Maybe you still have some girl scout cookies or a whole pie in your fridge that you don’t want to eat. Wrap them up and send them to the back so they are out of sight, out of mind.
5. If you are a soda drinker, moderation is important. Keep 2 or fewer cans in the fridge. This slows down how much you drink because warm soft drinks aren’t as tempting. You could even keep sodas in the garage or some other inconvenient place.
6. Always stock at least 6 single-serving, easy-to-grab, nutritious snacks. Snacks containing lean protein will sustain and satisfy you like cottage cheese cups, Greek yogurt, cheese sticks, and boiled eggs. Other great snack options are single servings of hummus, guacamole, and nut butter for pairing with your precut veggies.
Any easy way to eat 3x as much produce: keep the veggies out of the drawers and put them at eye level instead.
*These suggestions are based off research from Brian Wansink, author of Slim By Design.
Food for thought:
Which fridge-hacks will help you the most and why?
Have you already implemented these tricks?
What worked well for you? Tell us in the comments below.
I originally heard this phrase, “do first what is most important,” from pastor Kendrick Vinar at Grace Church. It applies to all parts of life. Especially important when we are distracted by shiny objects all day, every day. (Yea, I’m looking at you Pinterest and my shiny new iPad)
Often, folks tell Kristen or me about how they want to live healthier, eat better, include more exercise, and manage their stress; however, they just don’t have time.
Then there are examples like a Jeanie. Jeanie is a dental hygienist at a busy community dental clinic and has been trying to lose weight for the past six months. Each time we meet, Jeanie has a new kitchen tool or smartphone application that is going to fix all her unhealthy habits. Then, the next month there is another new program or app that she’s found. Most of these tools have helped her figure out what is not going to work. It wasn’t until the celiac diagnosis that inspired Jeanie to make some real some changes. For those of you unfamiliar with this disease, Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that damages the small intestine after ingesting gluten. It occurs in 1 out of 133 American’s – about 1% of the population – and has contributed to some of the gluten-free craze, which is currently sweeping our nation.
Back to Jeanie’s story, after being diagnosed she quickly made many changes to her schedule to make time to cook, which she previously assured me she had no time for. She found support groups and contacted her favorite dietitian to get started. Then, she bought a cookbook with a gluten-free meal plan to help learn how to cook/eat without gluten. For her health, Jeanie knows this diet and lifestyle change needs to become permanent, unlike previous efforts that have come and gone. That’s why she has put this at the top of her priority list and made taking care of herself and her health most important during this transition.
Too often, I see people putting their health at the bottom of the proverbial to-do list.
| She has put this at the top of her priority list and made taking care of herself and her health most important during this transition. |
Food for thought:
What is at the top of your priority list? That’s easy to figure out by looking at what is on your calendar or to-do list.
What habit or shiny object is currently taking your time or energy from focusing on your health?
If you gave up a “bad habit” during the Lenten season, do you really need to re-introduce that habit, food, or beverage just because today is Easter?
Sally was feeling sluggish and exhausted all day long. No matter how healthy she was eating, she always felt hungry, craved sweets and even experienced shakiness in between meals. It was frustrating, to say the least.
What could possibly be going wrong? A closer look at her diet and it became clear that her healthy eating patterns were full of unwanted sugars and sometimes lacking in healthy fats. She didn’t realize it but added sugars were in almost everything she was eating. Foods that seemed healthy on the surface were actually not very nourishing and she lacked balance at her meals. After cleaning up her habits a bit and focusing on more natural foods she was feeling more sustained and her cravings were significantly decreased.
Your turn. Are you ready to clean up your eating environment? Spring is when we tend to open our windows at home, clean out all the dust and clutter from the colder months and welcome in fresh air, good energy and sunshine. Below is a checklist of things you can do to clean up your eating habits and food environment, starting with your pantry and countertops. Pick one or check them all off, it’s up to you!
Ditch the cereal and switch things up with an egg and veggie omelet, our high protein cookies or a Greek yogurt parfait. Protein is just as important at breakfast as it is at dinnertime. We should evenly distribute our protein intake throughout the day instead of overloading at our last meal. Cereals just don’t have much protein to offer and often contain lots of sugar. If you need more convincing, a Cornell study found that women who had breakfast cereal sitting on their counters weighed 20-lbs more than their neighbors who didn’t. At very minimum, keep your cereal tucked away in your pantry. Use it to make a fun trail mix or as an afternoon treat.
Find at least 2 foods in your pantry (or fridge) with added sugars and seek alternatives to these products. Start checking the ingredient lists on your foods and you will soon realize that sugar, much like salt, is added to just about everything. Some surprising places you will find sugar is in your pasta sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, fat-free salad dressings, and canned beans. Added sugars are also abundant in yogurt and whole grain products. Women should keep their added calories to 6 teaspoons or 25 grams per day.** If we aren’t careful all those little doses from unsuspecting places can add up! Then we won’t have room for a teaspoon in our coffee or a piece of dark chocolate. (GASP!) We don’t want to miss out on that, now do we?
Keep your favorite junk foods out of the house or at least hard to reach. Out of sight, out of “stomach.” There are certain foods that we tend to overeat, especially when stress hits. These foods are different for everyone. You might not be able to resist ice cream, while someone else may be more tempted by a bag of potato chips. Whatever foods seem to tempt you the most, should be the ones you keep out of the house. These foods aren’t forbidden, we just don’t want to make them readily available and convenient. But what if you have hungry kids or unwilling family members? Keep all tempting snacks in a hard to reach, inconvenient cabinet – not at eye level. Wrap items in the freezer, like ice cream, in aluminum foil. They will be less tempting when you can’t see the package.
Only keep 1-2 sodas in your fridge at one time and make water easily accessible. Occasionally, a sweet drink is fine but when you are doing it regularly you are putting yourself at risk for health concerns and sugar crashes. To cut back keep sodas off your counter and only one or two in your fridge at a time. In the same study mentioned above, those with soft drinks sitting out on their counter weighed 24 to 26-lbs more than those who didn’t.
To end on a positive note: those who had fruit on their counter weighed LESS and likely ate more fruit. So, clear off those countertops, hide the junk and put the nourishing fruit on display!
It’s all about setting yourself up for well-balanced success. Bring on the good energy and life-sustaining eating habits! Happy cleaning!
Food For Thought: Will any of these spring cleaning tasks work for you? Why or why not? Which one(s) will you try today? Comment below.
*These suggestions are based off research from Brian Wansink, author of Slim By Design. Check it out!
**The American Heart Association recommends reductions in the intake of added sugars. A prudent upper limit of intake is half of the discretionary calorie allowance, which for most American women is no more than 100 calories per day and for most American men is no more than 150 calories per day from added sugars.
I love eggs for breakfast. With just the right amount of protein and fat, they are satisfying and delicious until… the burnout. Have you ever grown tired of eggs? What about your family? Maybe you make a not-so-great batch of eggs one morning and your 4-year-old then declares that she no longer likes eggs. Sigh. Only later in the week to request that I make eggs like Denny’s does. Haha. Denny’s eggs coming right up! Okay, so maybe that only happens to me…
Anyhow, burnout happens. I hear from the tribe that you need more ideas. Great news! I’ve got the perfect alternative. These protein-rich pumpkin cookies have 8g of protein, 4g of fiber and only 2g of added sugar. They are made from real food ingredients and do not contain gluten, artificial sweeteners or protein powder. You can’t beat that. See complete NUTRITION FACTS here.
Great for little kids. Just one cookie will meet nearly the entire day’s worth of protein needs for your little one (based on myplate servings). It is also extremely rich in iron, an important nutrient for this age group. Not to mention you’re squeezing in a tiny serving of vegetables without them noticing. Blending the pumpkin seeds and the oats really helps make these a kid-friendly texture.
Great for big kids. This can be an on-the-go breakfast or after school snack. Would also be great for replenishing after a sports game or practice.
Great for adults. Use it as an afternoon pick-me up, a breakfast paired with fruit, or a post-workout snack when you have a really strenuous session.
They are light, fluffy and will resemble more of a muffin top than a cookie. I’ve been enjoying them with my morning coffee and they hold me over very well. How will you enjoy them? As a breakfast or a snack? Both?
Protein-Rich Pumpkin Cookies
These cookies pack in protein, iron, vitamin A and fiber – all from real, natural foods! Enjoy for breakfast or snack.
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (no sugar added)
1/2 cup almond butter (natural)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs chia seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (processed into a powder)
1/4 cup oat flour (to make throw old fashioned oats into the food processor)
1/4 cup Raisins
1 tsp baking soda
In a small bowl, beat the pumpkin and almond butter using a hand-held mixer until smooth. Add eggs and mix well. Mix in the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, and chia seeds. Add baking soda, oat flour and pumpkin seed powder mix until combine. Fold in raisins.
Scoop onto lined cookie sheet making 12 large cookies.
Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.
You can leave pumpkin seeds whole or blend them in a blender or food processor to form a flour.
To make oat flour: blend old fashioned oats in a blender or food processor until a flour consistency is reached.
This recipe was modified from a recipe by The Lean Green Bean. http://www.theleangreenbean.com/sweet-potato-protein-cookies/
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: Because it was free range.
Hearing about people’s diets is one of my favorite parts of being a dietitian. I sure do hear about a lot of baked chicken! Of course, people tend to highlight what they consider to be the healthy parts of their diet when talking to me because they may think, “what would a dietitian want to hear?”
Perhaps, everyone is eating pounds and pounds of baked chicken every week?! If that’s you, and you are ready to eat something else, I have great news. There are a plethora of other healthy proteins besides the boneless skinless baked chicken breast. If you want to stick with chicken, that is your choice. After all, I really enjoy sardines.
Anyhow, for those of you looking for fun, delicious, simple, and well-balanced protein options that don’t include baked chicken, keep reading.
At Well Balanced Nutrition, we strongly encourage incorporating protein with every meal. Ideally, we recommend a happy and healthy protein source such as organically fed and free-range poultry and grass-fed locally raised beef or other meat. You might be thinking “oh my gosh, that stuff is so expensive!” It’s true. The good news is the protein should only be 1/4 of your plate. Ultimately, the price will even out because the rest of your plate will be covered with those yummy fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates .
It’s Monday morning, you’ve decided this is the week, “I’m going to be healthy and lose weight!”
You start with a fruit and vegetable smoothie, a handful of 7 almonds for a mid-morning, a tossed salad with grilled chicken and light dressing at lunch, and a piece of fruit in the afternoon.
Then you arrive home, it’s 5:30 PM, what’s your first stop? Straight to the pantry… because you’re starving!!
Handful of pretzels, check
A bag of snack size Doritos (bought for the kid’s lunches), check
Leftover cookie from the weekend, check
Now it’s time to cook dinner. Still trying to eat right, you prepare broiled salmon with asparagus and brown rice. Feeling hungry and unsatisfied at the end of the night you find yourself back in the pantry for couple more handfuls of this and that and you’re finally done.
You ask yourself, “What happened?? Today was supposed to be different!” This is what I call upside down eating as shown in the inverted pyramid.
When we start the day trying so hard to be good we typically deny our body calories.
What is a calorie? More specifically, what does a calorie give you?
When we deny our bodies the energy they require to do life we end up getting hungry signals from our body to make up for the calorie deficit at the end of the day.
Flip your pyramid upside down
Eat more energy in the morning. Yes, that means breakfast. Some find benefit by eating breakfast like a king but for people that are not hungry I recommend breakfast 1 and breakfast 2 – these include light options such as yogurt, a handful of nuts, a piece of fruit, whole-grain crackers with peanut butter, or oatmeal.
Eat when you’re hungry. The first step, identify what hunger feels like in your body. If you just ate, it might just be thirst. I recommend having 16 oz of water and reevaluating after 15 minutes. For the mid-afternoon crash, have high protein non-trigger foods such as unsalted nuts, cheese stick, or low-sodium deli meat. Drinking coffee or tea to postpone eating will likely lead to overeating later.
Become more mindful. If you’re standing at the desk, answering emails, taking phone calls, or rushing to a meeting you are likely not in tune with the calories you are consuming. Can you take 30-60 seconds to pause before inhaling the food to thank your body and the creator for providing this nourishment?
Food for thought:
As a non-breakfast eater for 3 years I know this can be a challenging concept. For me, it was all about starting small – that’s where breakfast 1 and 2 helped!
When are you eating the most energy (calories)?
When do you need more energy?
Tell us in the comments below what you’ll do to flip your pyramid this week!
It’s rare that I meet someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth. Some of us struggle more than others with sweet cravings. How do we indulge our sweet tooth in a healthy way? Here are some thoughts.
First, we must take a mindful pause before we eat. Until we are fully aware of our emotions, senses, and actions, we can not get a true sense of our needs. Sometimes we are hungry and we need to eat. Other times we may be frustrated, tired or bored and looking for an escape from those uncomfortable feelings. Obviously, food will only solve the first problem and we all know that uncomfortable feelings won’t go away by eating chocolate (although, that would be awesome!). So, the next time you get a craving for something sweet, take a mindful pause to assess your needs.
Indulge When It’s a Worthy Experience
Next, ask yourself is it worth it? A well-balanced diet has room for treats. Some treats are delicious AND nutritious and some are less healthy. When you want to indulge in a less healthy treat it should be special and worth every bite. It should be an experience that makes you want to close your eyes and simultaneously say, “mmmmm.” The candy from a jar at work… although delicious, probably not very special. You just throw it in your mouth and go about your day. Those calories don’t really seem worth it. But a melt-in-your-mouth s’more when you are on a family camping trip or a decadent homemade pie you only get once a year around the holidays… those are the kind of treats that might be worth it. It’s your decision to make. When you decide it’s totally worth it, go ahead and take it all in and bask in each and every sensation.
Fruit, Vegetables and Chocolate
Third, incorporate some delicious AND nutritious treats in your routine for a more satisfying daily diet. Dietitians really have a knack for combining healthier ingredients like fruits and vegetables with their chocolate! So in honor of #NationalNutritionMonth, here I highlight some tasty treats packed with healthy perks from real, quality food ingredients including my own recipe for Chocolate Banana Nut Muffins.
“An ooey-gooey fudgy brownie bite filled with healthy fats and chocolaty goodness.”
And here is my latest creation. I had bananas that were past their prime so I baked these chocolate muffins. They aren’t overly sweet so they made a good breakfast or snack. But if you wanted to dial up the sweetness a notch, just add your favorite chocolate chips and/or try adding some whipped cream cheese icing and voila! Your muffin is more like a cupcake!
Chocolate Banana Nut Muffins
These muffins are a delicious for breakfast, snack or dessert. Each muffin has 3 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Add healthy fats with optional walnuts or bump up the fun factor with some dark chocolate chips.
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2-3 teaspoons cocoa powder
3 ripe bananas
1 egg (whisked)
1/3 cup butter (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup walnuts or dark chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Fill a muffin tin with liners and spray with non-stick spray.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cocoa powder.
In separate bowl mash bananas. Add vanilla, egg, and melted butter.
Fold in flour mixture, and mix until smooth.
(Optional) Fold in walnuts or dark chocolate chips
How much sleep you get, how you wind down at the end of the day, the quality of your sleep, and how you wake up in the morning has A LOT to do with your weight and general well-being.
Don’t take it from me! Here is more information from Health Ambition on how our sleep patterns affect our weight and wellness.
-Our sleeping patterns affect our hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin, regulating hunger cues which control our appetite.
-Studies show sleep deprivation leads people to choose higher-calorie foods and an increased caloric intake for the day.
Improving sleep hygiene:
There are plenty of external factors affecting sleep patterns, and some that you can control.
Get in a routine – Yes, I know it sounds boring, but I tried to get in bed and on my way to sleepy town by 10:30 PM every night. Preferably earlier! Each time you disrupt your routine – a.k.a. weekends – it can cause a jet lag like effect on your circadian rhythm.
Remove the blinking, glowing, distracting, and other light disturbances. I’m looking at you Wi-Fi router, digital alarm clocks, TVs, and glowing A/C adaptors. These subtle yet bright lights in the bedroom can affect our sleepy hormone levels and circadian rhythm. If you absolutely cannot move them I highly recommend adopting an eye pillow (or childhood “blanky,” like me!) to block out the light disturbances.
You don’t really need to know the time. If you must get up at a particular hour, set an alarm on the phone, and don’t bother looking at the time if you wake up unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Each time we look at the clock it starts a story in our minds about how “I didn’t get enough sleep, I must fall back asleep to get ‘enough’ sleep!”
Consider meditation. Meditation is a powerful tool for living a well-balanced life. It’s less about emptying your mind of all thoughts because that is unrealistic. Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on one calming thought. I find it useful to focus on my breath or start counting backward from 1000. Yep, that can be considered meditation. So go ahead and count the sheep and let yourself enjoy a restful night, waking up feeling refreshed. No matter how many hours of sleep you got.
Food for thought:
Did you notice I didn’t include a specific number of hours to sleep each night? That’s because it’s different for all of us! I need at least 7 hours to feel great, but my hyperactive business lawyer can function normally with 5 hours of sleep.
Try an experiment next weekend: Go to bed when you’re tired, and wake up when your body wants to wake up.
How many hours did you sleep?
How can you improve your sleep hygiene this week?
Let us know how you’re sleeping in the comments below 🙂
How in the world did we go from using chia seeds to grow green “fur” on Chia Pets to eating the seeds as a health food? Is this hype or are chia seeds really a health food?
In history, Mayan and Aztec cultures consumed chia seeds for their supernatural powers. I don’t know about supernatural powers, but I can speak for their nutritional power. They are small and mighty! Just one tablespoon of chia seeds pack in 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat (much of which is Omega-3)… all for only 80 calories. WOW!
Why are fiber, protein, and omega 3 fat good for us?
The right kind of fiber – found in foods like Chia Seeds, supports our body’s waste removal systems. Dietary fiber can increase the size and weight of our poop! It can even soften stool. Chia Seeds are a healthy and natural fiber that can help you have healthy bowl movements regularly.
Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet because it provides the body with the building block, or amino acids, that are necessary for muscle and bone health and development. Having a tablespoon of Chia Seeds is a great way to get a dose of protein in a salad or a sandwich that may be lacking in protein. The average American should eat between 25 and 45 grams of protein at each meal- depending on activity level.
Lastly, Omega – 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for heart health! We need to protect our cardiovascular system and Chia Seeds provide a great source for Omega 3s that don’t taste like fish. Anyone else over the fish oil burps? Get the Omega 3s you need and check the fish oil at the door. Omega 3s reduce blood pressure and triglycerides that can cause heart disease or strokes. I’ll take the tablespoon of chia seeds with that please!
Let’s shine the light a little brighter on these nutrition qualities:
Chia contains both soluble and insoluble fiber- making them a great aid for maintaining a healthy cholesterol level and digestive tract.
Chia seeds contain 3 grams of complete protein – meaning they contain all the essential amino acids. Three grams of protein may seem like a small amount but pair it with the 4g of protein in a tablespoon of almond butter or 1/2 cup of milk and you now have more protein than a large egg.
Chia seeds have an impressive amount of calcium as well!
Wait, there’s more! The dry seeds deliver more antioxidants than blueberries.
First of all, what are antioxidants? We hear antioxidants a lot in today’s diet news but what do they really do?
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation – which is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals in the body. Free radicals have been associated with Cancer because they cause damage to cells in our body over time. Antioxidants like those found in Chia Seeds can work to reduce free radical reactions allowing our body to live in proper homeostasis.
When it comes to Chia Seeds, the ORAC value (antioxidant level) almost doubles when the seeds are soaked overnight. How? Because when you soak them, it initiates the early stages of sprouting, and that creates more bioavailable nutrients. (So cool!) Ideally, you would soak your seeds in water or a plant-based milk.
You’ll notice white and black chia seeds are available. White seeds have fewer antioxidants than black seeds but still contain more than most foods. Some people prefer white seeds because they aren’t as noticeable in baked goods and smoothies. Given that some variety of Chia Seeds are black, it is easy to spot them in yogurt, or on a salad, but in a smoothie or baked good they tend to blend in with other seeds or the color of the baked good making them less obvious and adding great nutritional value to your snacks.
Chia seeds have a very mild nutty flavor that won’t be noticed in smoothies or baked goods too, making it easier for some to eat. They can be crunchy if they are dry, so baking or soaking allows the seeds to become soft. These components add to the ease of enjoyment when adding them into your daily meals. That mild flavor goes well in smoothies, yogurt, cereal and even makes a great pudding-like treat.
So it turns out these trendy seeds are truly a health food! They are versatile, user-friendly, exceptional and a unique low-calorie source of omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants, complete protein, iron, calcium, and magnesium.
We recently made these for a health fair held for City of Durham employees. We were honored to be there and meet so many wonderful people! We got rave reviews on these treats so we thought we’d share with everyone here. I didn’t snap a photo of my own and I owe full credit for the photos in this post to www.thebigmansworld.com. This recipe was modified from one on their beautiful site.
3-ingredient Cereal Treats
These are a fun alternative to your typical Rice Krispy treats. The nut butter adds healthy fats and protein, while the whole grain cereal adds more fiber than the rice cereal. Using the Truvia Nectar can help you save on calories and sugar.
2 cups whole grain cereal (such as multi-grain cheerios)
1/3 cup honey or Truvia Nectar (Nectar is sweeter so you will use less)
1/3 cup natural nut butter (almond butter or peanut butter)
On stove top, melt honey or Truvia Nectar and nut butter over low-medium heat in a sauce pan.
Add the cereal and stir until combined.
Press and flatten mixture into pan.
Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until well set.
Cut into 10 squares/bars.
1/10 of this recipe provides:
5g of total fat
0g sat fat
This recipe was modified from http://thebigmansworld.com/2016/03/16/healthy-3-ingredient-no-bake-cereal-bars/.
Photo credit: http://thebigmansworld.com/2016/03/16/healthy-3-ingredient-no-bake-cereal-bars/
Photo credit: Bigmansworld.com
Let us know if you tried these, what you thought and if you modified them to your taste preferences!