Body Image

I swore that I would be as open and honest with you as possible. Here it comes. Any dietitian will tell you they either struggle with body image issues or are currently struggling with their body image. Unfortunately we are the experts in food and nutrition and that means we should know exactly what to put in our bodies to make us look like we know what we are doing. Well guess what? We are human and we are living life just like everyone else. We have body image issues just like the rest of the millions of women and men out there…the struggle is real.

Here’s the deal. I had twins 7 months ago. What a truly significant blessing it was/is to have these little guys in my life! I also have a 4 year old who is just as spunky as she is cute. I will never blame my body image issues on my children. It’s not their fault. [Side note if you are blaming your children for the way you look, stop right there and re-evaluate those thoughts and what you are saying to your kids about that.] Throughout both pregnancies I gained an appropriate amount of weight for each a singleton and a twin pregnancy. Not surprisingly I don’t look like I did when I was 25 and this week, for some reason, I’m really bothered by that.

I was heavily convicted today about my self talk. As a Christian I want to ensure that how I’m portraying myself would be the same way Jesus would portray me. At one point this week I referred to the size of my clothing as “fatty”. I’m ashamed! That is the same exact thing I counsel my patients not to do and here I am being super negative towards my body. Here’s what I was convicted of: God loves my body so much and I felt Him wondering why I didn’t love it the same. I’m pretty sure if God could be offended, He was at that point. HE MADE ME!!!!! I was basically bullying my body, the body that God has created specially for me, in this time, at this moment. She ran circles around the boys in the neighborhood as a little kid. This body has hiked mountains and walked down the aisle to her best friend at their wedding. She carried 3 healthy babies and mourned for another. This body has taken me through 33 years of life and has yet to let me down. Why would I treat it with such disrespect? This body is a temple and I have been verbally vandalizing it.

Rant time (I promise it’ll circle back to the main point): I am sick and tired of pyramid diet and exercise schemes. I’m sick and tired of people talking about getting skinny. I’m exhausted just hearing what the next great eating plan, fad diet, shakeologizing, orthorexic (look it up), body image crushing, social media promoting, “health expert” has to say about how you should eat, what you should look like, or how amazing life is because you’re drinking an unknown substance before a workout. Listen, I know I’m offending a lot of people here and if the above is your thing and you stop reading at this point that’s fine but I encourage you to hear me out.

YOU DON’T NEED ANY OF THAT STUFF TO BE EXACTLY WHAT GOD MADE YOU TO BE

My body image issues are just like yours. Secrets out, I don’t need a magic shake, an expensive workout video, a wonder-pill, a diet of starvation and exclusion. I need to be filled with joy that God made me. I need to be healthy NOT because society says so but because God wants me to honor His temple by how I treat it. God led me to become a dietitian and I’m so grateful. I love my profession and everything we stand for. A diet that promotes overall wellness was never intended to make people skinny. A way of eating healthfully is intended to prevent disease and promote well-being. Sure, weight management is recommended to prevent many diseases and promote holistic wellness but it’s not the end-all-be-all. I’d much rather have an individual who is “overweight” that eats well, exercises regularly, manages stress appropriately, and loves their body as opposed to a person who is “skinny” starves themselves, exercises only because they ate something that had too many calories, is stressed out because they are worried about how they look, and hates their body. Don’t let the devil lie to you and say that the only thing that matters is how you look. It was a rough week and I don’t wish that on anyone.

Final thoughts: This isn’t a typical post for me. I just want to make sure we stop beating ourselves up over our body. These things are pretty amazing. Feed it well, not because you’ll look better but because you’ll feel better. Move your body more, not because your belly won’t hang over your pants but because it will ache less. Manage your stress, not because it’s cool to “have it all together” but because worrying less about the small stuff allows us to fill up on the little joys that make life so amazing.

Challenge: be good to yourself and others, be positive to yourself and others. Kindness matters. Be kind, be gentle, be brave, and do something great because in the end of life it is not going to matter how much you weigh, what size of clothes you wore, if you ate 100% organic or “clean” or how many burpees you could do…it’ll matter how you treated yourself and others. Jesus loves you just the way you are…He’ll meet you in whatever capacity you find yourself. Allow Him to fulfill your life, not food/exercise/materialistic stuff.

Garlic Lemon Green Bean Almandine

My aunt has huge gardens. She’s on vacation this week so my mom and I harvested tons of cucumbers and green beans. Thank you Aunt Nancy! In any regard we’ve been having a lot of cooked green beans and my daughter’s favorite, creamy cucumbers. Tonight for dinner I decided to try out something else.

Who doesn’t like a good green bean almandine? It reminds me of a fancy dinner but you know me, simple is the way to go! So here it is:

Garlic Lemon Green Bean Almandine

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 3 tablespoons organic butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (I buy whole almonds and just cut them with a knife – its cheaper)
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Steam green beans until slightly crunchy
  2. While green beans are steaming, melt butter over medium high heat in a large skillet
  3. Cook garlic and onions until onions are transparent
  4. Add the slivered almonds to the skillet
  5. Place green beans over the butter, garlic, onions, and almonds
  6. Cook beans until desired texture and then season with salt to taste

NOTES:

  • If you don’t have fresh green beans, frozen works just fine
  • You can use canola oil or olive oil blend for cooking instead of butter

They came out fantastically! Crunchy yet tender. The almonds gave it a nutty flavor without being too over powering and the lemon and garlic gave it a zesty undertone. Refreshing!

Crunch, zesty, flavorful
Crunch, zesty, flavorful

Final thoughts: I love taking typical foods and putting a twist on them. Sometimes my recipes are trial and error. I dream of a delicious BBQ sauce recipe that I don’t have to dump. It’s been a few years in the making. These green beans came out delicious in the first try and sometimes that’s the luck! Once you get the hang of cooking, making up recipes gets easier because you can go with the flow! My wonderful friend and dietitian side-kick Heather once said “baking is a science but cooking is an art” and it is so true! Cooking doesn’t require the exact amounts of anything for it to turn out delicious!

Challenge: make up your own recipe!

Quick Family Dinners

I do not have children in school yet but as a stay at home mom with 2 babies and a preschooler I need quick dinners. Let’s be honest, all the moms out there, we are surviving! I had a goal when I first became a mom and that was to feed my children the best that I could as often as I could. You see, as a realistic dietitian, I know that sometimes a fast food meal is completely acceptable because we are surviving but I don’t want to give my kiddos fast food as a norm. I also cannot afford to spend hours in the kitchen preparing gourmet meals because I have 3 kids 4 and under. So what do I do? I cook quick and healthy. I thought I would share some tips for making quick and healthy family meals along with a few recipes.

  1. Set it and forget it! Slow cookers are incredible. I swear a working mom had to invent this thing. When I’m doing a slow cooker meal I put the meat and the marinade in the crock the night before and then throw the crock in the refrigerator until the morning. My most recent slow cooker recipe was chicken breast, fresh tomatoes, and a McCormick spice mix (mojito lime) made like the directions on the pack. It was superb! The spice mix was great and except for the corn syrup was all spices and salt. I served it with corn on the cob and creamy cucumbers (sour cream and vinegar…more on the vinegary side).
  2. You go grill! I love using the grill…actually I love making marinades for the meat and veggies that my husband takes and grills. I make a wonderful adobo pork tenderloin that gets grilled. I use the adobo sauce from the canned peppers, lime and orange juice, splash of red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, turmeric, some fresh herbs (whatever I’ve planted that season) and salt/pepper. I adapted my recipe from Eating Wells chipotle pork and I must say, since playing with the recipe I cannot give the precise measurements that I use but, wow…delicious every time! I would serve that with red skinned potatoes in olive oil and fresh herbs cooked on the grill and a delicious summer salad.
  3. Turn around turkey. Ground turkey is versatile. We add canned sloppy joe mix, taco seasoning (without hydrogenated oils), make turkey burgers and turkey meat loaf . I also add ground turkey to spaghetti sauce for a nice meat sauce and even do turkey meat balls. However you make turkey remember to incorporate whole grains and/or veggies to your meal to round it out.
  4. Fast cooking fish. Most fish cooks very quickly. Baked fish can be done in less than 30 minutes. Shrimp, mere minutes. Select only wild caught and sustainable. We’ll talk about more specifics on why in a later post but wild caught is better for the environment (and your body) and sustainably caught means we’ll have more fish in the future. In my usual meal planning holster I shoot for haddock, cod, tuna, salmon, and shrimp.
  5. Survival night. Yep we have a survival night. That can be anything from left overs to PB&J with cut up veggies or grilled cheese with tomato soup. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be gourmet. Make sure your meal is balanced with proteins, grains/starches, and vegetables…even if that means it is a salad and sandwich night.

Final thoughts: make sure your quick and easy meals have a protein (animal or vegetarian), grain or starchy vegetable, and a non-starchy vegetable. Fill your plate with that non-starchy vegetable and check out my blog on having a balanced diet for more information on what that means!

Challenge: make a meal plan this week using recipes that are quick, easy, and healthy!

Spinach, Kale, and Artichoke Dip

I’m a sucker for warm dips. From buffalo chicken, to crab, and spinach artichoke dip. There’s nothing better to eat on a brisk football Saturday or Sunday than a savory warm dip! I watch the Food Network a lot…by a lot I mean some of the cooks/chefs are no longer guests in my house but members of the family (Guy, I’m talking about you!). I’m inspired by their passion for food and cooking as well as their funny personalities. Lately I have been watching Nancy Fuller who has a show called “Farm House Rules”. Many of her dishes are high fat, calorie, salt, sugar, etc but the reason I like her is the love she puts into her food. The other day she was making spinach dip and it inspired me. I wanted to make a rendition of warm spinach and artichoke dip that is packed with nutrients, has a little less calories, and a little less fat but still tastes amazing!

When I’m creating recipes I take ideas from many different sources. Whether it is just general knowledge of food science and nutrition or it is various recipes that I have read I tend to tie all of that together and viola, a new recipe. I sent my husband to the store for these ingredients and let him run wild on the brands. I don’t usually have a specific brand that I’m attached to because I’m a budget shopper and try to select the least expensive yet healthiest option.

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Missing from the photo is chopped frozen kale.

In any rate I heated a medium pot over medium-high heat, added oil, garlic, and onions. I sauteed these until the unions were soft and began literally throwing in the other ingredients. It was pretty simple and took me about 10 minutes overall. I made it in a pot but you could also make it in a slow cooker for game day and keep in on warm the entire day stirring it once in a while. Notice my shortcut garlic and short cut onions. Those are staples in my house (check out my blog on kitchen short cuts).

Nutrition Lesson: Unlike a typical spinach artichoke dip I used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, 1/3 less fat cream cheese (neufchatel cheese…an actual French cheese), and part skim mozzarella cheese. I do not like fat free options unless it’s yogurt or milk. Especially when something should have fat (sour cream is literally cream [fat] that has been soured) it probably needs that fat to be that product…follow me? All cheese needs fat to keep it together including cream cheese. If you completely take out an essential ingredient like fat you have to add other things to it. There’s way too many food additives in what we eat so my tip is either use an alternative ingredient (like Greek yogurt) or use the real deal and just eat less.

Back to the recipe. I enjoyed playing with this recipe. It was the first time I’ve made it and it turned out pretty good! The only changes I would make would be to add even more veggies including artichokes (probably 1 1/2-2 cans), cooked cauliflower, shredded carrots, and shredded zucchini. I think they would be fantastic additions to this and boost those antioxidants!

Spinach, Kale, and Artichoke Dip
Ingredients:
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/3 cup diced onion (add more if you like)
8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese
16 oz plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 oz shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1, 14 oz can artichoke hearts in brine, chopped (save the brine)
8 oz chopped frozen kale (defrosted and drained)
10 oz chopped frozen spinach (defrosted and drained)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Directions:
Heat canola oil over medium high heat in pot. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and diced onion. Saute until onion is tender. Lower heat to medium – low heat and add cream cheese, yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. Add chopped artichoke hearts and the brine and mix. Place kale and spinach in the cheese mixture and mix. Sprinkle nutmeg, pepper, and salt and mix. Allow dip to cook until ingredients marry (about 5 minutes). Place in serving dish, slow cooker, or keep warm on the stove until service.

NOTE: this is definitely a make ahead dip! Make it ahead and keep refrigerated until the party. Take it out and place into a small slow cooker. Serve with whole grain tortilla chips (corn, wheat, mix of grains). Nutmeg may seem weird but it adds another dimension of flavor!

Dietary restrictions: this recipe is gluten free (get GF tortilla chips), vegetarian, nut free, and soy free

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Final thoughts: Eating healthy doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or fun. This recipe isn’t the lowest in calories but it is better than the original and also provides some nutrients through the veggies, probiotics with the yogurt, and and protein with the cheese. Enjoy!

Challenge: even if you don’t make “healthier” versions of your game-day favorites, just simply eating smaller portions. This will help your overall health!

Healthy Kitchen Shortcuts

I have 3 kids, 4 and under. Don’t be alarmed, two of those are twins. My goal as a wife-mom-dietitian is to provide the best food I can for my family. That means making healthy, homemade meals in between diapers, spit up, and toddler problems.

Cooking dinner tonight I came up with this blog post. You can read about me in my bio section but I like to get as fresh and as local as possible. But let’s get real, sometimes we are looking for healthy AND quick. Taking shortcuts has been my go-to since having children.

Here are the 5 quick and healthy items I keep in my kitchen always:

  1. Minced garlic. Yep, I buy the garlic in the glass container and I LOVE IT! Almost everything I cook has garlic in it. Any time I need a clover or two I get in my refrigerator, grab a spoon and boom, it’s done! Fresh garlic is delicious but when I need a time saver (which is daily at this point) I go with it!
  2. Diced frozen onions. Similar to the garlic, I could grow my own onions, dice, and freeze them and someday I will. But right now I need diced onions without having onion juice all over my hands when the babies are screaming. Frozen diced onions it is! This only works if you’re cooking, if you are making a dish that isn’t cooked (summer salsa, salads, etc) then use fresh onions.
  3. Frozen veggies of all types. When I’m making vegetable soup in the winter I buy frozen. If I have any fresh then of course they go in the pot but frozen is so much better than fresh in the winter. All year long I keep frozen broccoli and cauliflower bulk bags in my freezer. Corn isn’t a veggie but that’s also a staple frozen food that we keep on hand.
  4. Lemon and lime juice concentrate. There’s nothing better than fresh lemons or limes but in a pinch, concentrate can be a recipe saver. You can use the concentrate in any recipe that calls for lemon or lime juice so it works well in fish and chicken dishes, salsa, sauces, and tea.
  5. Quick grains like quinoa, farro, and brown minute rice. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and farro (pronounced fare-oh) are whole grains packed with fiber, protein, and nutrients. All three of these power packed grains cook completely in about 15 minutes unlike regular brown rice or other grains that may take about an hour to cook. To flavor these up toast them in a dry pan first and then cook with vegetable or chicken broth or stock.

I’ve learned, after having twins, that sometimes shortcuts are A-OK and you have to be A-OK with the shortcuts. Cooking healthy doesn’t have to mean preparing a gourmet meal, using tons of ingredients or ingredients that you have to find at a specialty food store, or spending hours in the kitchen.

Final thoughts: We unfortunately do not live on a cooking show set where there are tons of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs/spices, and any ingredient we so desire. Sometimes we need shortcuts to make our lives easier especially when cooking for our family day in and day out. Use some shortcuts to make your life simpler!

Challenge – if you are overwhelmed with cooking and menu planning for your family, figure out which shortcuts would work best for you and run with it! Share your shortcuts with us!

Simply Salad Dressings

Salads…mmm. I love salads. They definitely falls into my favorite foods category. I enjoy any kind of salad too – lettuce, vegetable, pasta, potato, fruit, bean…really, any! I think it’s the flavor combinations that I like. There’s nothing more delicious than a good salad dressing that brings out the best tasting salads. Not just any salad dressing but a good homemade

Sure, I have some store bought salad dressings in my refrigerator for parties and a good ranch dressing is a staple in my refrigerator to mix with buffalo sauce! My every day salad dressings are homemade. I like them better than any store brand plus it’s simple whole ingredients. Similarly to my mother, I don’t really have a salad dressing recipe but I’ll let you in on the delicious secret: as long as you have the basics, you can make a delicious homemade dressing yourself.

Here’s what you need:

  • Acid:
    • Vinegar – balsamic, red wine, white wine, even a simple apple cider vinegar works well!
    • Lemon/lime – fruitier salads pare well with lemons and limes.
  • Oil:
    • Canola: tons of omega-3 fatty acids
    • Olive: great source of mono-unsaturated heart-healthy fats
    • Other oils: grape seed, avocado, nut oils (walnut, almond)
  • Herbs:
    • My favorites: chives, parsley, basil
    • Others to try: cilantro, thyme, sage, rosemary, mint
  • Spices:
    • My favorites: turmeric, black pepper, paprika, celery seed, garlic
    • Others to try: coriander, cayenne pepper, chili powder, oregano, poppy seed
  • Salt:
    • Types: kosher, iodized, sea salt, pink hymalain
    • Salt substitutes: check with your doctor first but these go well in salad dressings
  • Sweet:
    • My favorites: honey and sugar
    • Other alternatives: agave, stevia, maple syrup
  • Others:
    • Dijon mustard makes an appearance in 90% of my homemade salad dressings
    • Mayonnaise is a great emulsifier and is a source of healthy fats
    • Spice/seasoning mixes: Mrs. Dash, Italian dressing seasonings, McCormick’s Salad Supreme. I may use any number of these depending on the salad and my taste mood at the time.
    • Fruit. You can make a great strawberry, pomegranate, blueberry, peach, or plum vinaigrette dressing just by simmering the vinegar with the fruits to get out the flavor.

Mix any of the above combinations based on your flavor profile.

Here is one of my favorite vinaigrette to make.

Amanda’s Herbed Vinaigrette

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 + cup canola oil (I pour in a little over 1/3 cup and you could also use olive oil)
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/8 cup fresh chives
2 teaspoons honey (more if you want to balance out the acidity…I like mine more acidic)
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced onion (fresh or dried)
1 teaspoon oregano (I use dried)
1 teaspoons minced garlic (shortcut)
1/2 teaspoon salt (less if you have high blood pressure, CHF, or are sensitive to salt)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Pour vinegar and oil into a salad dressing carafe (a mason jar with a lid would work). Place all herbs and spices in jar and shake. Let set for at least 1 hour to allow the herbs and spices to marry into the vinegar and oil.

Notes: you can also use white balsamic, white wine, or champagne vinegar for this recipe.

Pour over your favorite vegetable salad and enjoy!

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OTHER IDEAS:

  • Feta vinaigrette: red wine vinegar, olive oil, feta cheese, dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and pepper – goes great with a Greek quinoa salad or your favorite Greek tossed salad
  • Strawberry poppy seed vinaigrette: diced strawberries, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, poppy seed, honey, salt, and pepper – pairs well with a strawberry spinach salad

Final thoughts: It is important to have fat in your diet. If you are choosing store bought dressing (which is totally fine I have an array in my frig) make sure you select ones that do have fat. Fat free salad dressings tend to have a lot of sugar and other additives. Purchase regular salad dressings and just eat less!

Challenge: have fun with dressings! Make those fruits and veggies pop with excitement and flavor!

10 Minute Pressure Cooker Pork Chops

If you do not have a pressure cooker but love quick cooked meals, seriously consider getting yourself one. No joke these things are amazing! They take quick cooking to a whole new level! I know some people (my parents) have a pressure crock pot and love it. I don’t have one yet but it could be on my wish list (hint hint). This recipe uses a standard pressure cooker but I’m sure you could also use a pressure crock pot. Now just to give you some perspective, I made these pork chops in less than 10 minutes. Sure you can grill thin cut pork chops in about 10 minutes but my entire meal (starch and vegetable) was included in the whole pot!

I started out with a nice marinade. Actually I threw the first try down the drain because it was way too sweet and I wanted more of a tangy bite to these pork chops, especially since I was cooking them with green beans and potatoes. This marinade came out tasty and was quick!

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic (short cut)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

I mixed all of that together and then put it in a zip close bag. I placed 4 boneless pork chops into the bag and mixed it around until all of the pork chops were coated. Let marinate all day (or for at least an hour).

About 15 minutes before I warmed up the pressure cooker I took my meat out of the refrigerator. Animal protein always cooks better when it is close to room temperature. I took my pressure cooker out and placed it on medium high heat. When that was heated I poured some canola oil in the cooker and waited until that heated up. Two chops went into the hot oil at a time until each side was sealed (about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes each side).

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After the pork chops were sealed on each side I put them aside and placed the veggies in the pot.  After the veggies were in I put 1/2-3/4 cup of water into the cooker as well. This is a super important step! If you don’t add enough water the bottom of your pan along with the vegetables will burn!

The pork chops went on top of the veggies and the pressure cooker was sealed. My pressure cooker allows for high or low pressure. I put it on high. As soon as my red tab popped up (if you have a shaking pressure cooker start the time as soon as it starts to shake) I put the timer on for 5 minutes and let it cook.

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After 5 minutes I took the cooker off of the hot stove and let it set 1-2 minutes before running it under cold water. You’ll know the pressure is lowered when the popper goes back down. Read your instruction manual to know exactly when the pressure has been relieved. Vola! It’s done and it was delicious!

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Pardon the picture lighting and the lack of creativity…oh and the circa 1980’s plates (you know you’ve eaten on some variation of this pattern of plate before). All my fancy food picture dishes are packed away for our move and we are just surviving at this point in our lives. This is real life people!

Final thoughts: I know you are focused on the recipe but please note how I plated the food. First the plate is a salad plate, not a large dinner plate. Also, the green beans take up half of the plate, the potatoes about 1/4 of the plate, and the meat is about the size of the palm of my hand. This is truly important because you can make the healthiest meal on the block but still eat too much!

10 Minute Pressure Cooker Pork Chops
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 thin cut boneless pork chops
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 medium red onion
3 cups baby potatoes
1/2 pound fresh green beans
1/2-3/4 cup water (check your pressure cooker instructions)

Directions:
Mix apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, garlic, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Pour into a sealable bag. Place pork chops into the bag and allow to marinate at least an hour (preferably 8-10).

Heat pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Pour oil in pan and wait until that heats. Place pork chops into pan and sear on each side (about 1 1/2-2 minutes each side). Remove pork chops and add onion, potatoes, and green beans into the pressure cooker. Pour water over vegetables and place the pork chops on top. Seal the pressure cooker and allow the pressure to build up until a tab pops up or it starts to shake (again read your instruction manual). Set time for 5 minutes after the pressure is built. Take cooker off of the heat and let set for 1-2 minutes. Run pressure cooker under cold water until the pressure is relieved.

Dietary restrictions: gluten free (check your Worcestershire sauce), dairy free

Open the pressure cooker, plate, and enjoy!