Weight for the Holidays

During my nutrition counseling days I used to be busy seeing people…right after the holidays. My dietitian friends and I used to joke around that no one goes to a priest right before Vegas, they obviously wait until after. Same for us…after the “holiday binge” people want to lose weight as their top New Years resolution. Here’s the thing…if weight loss is your resolution every year then whatever you’ve been doing isn’t working. I’ll be doing a series on weight loss for the New Years so stay tuned. Right now we aren’t talking about resolutions we are talking about managing your weight during the holidays.

Do you get nervous that you’ll gain weight during the holidays? Do you know you’ll gain weight during the holidays and just go “all out”? Have you ever thought that you weren’t in control of what you eat, especially around the holidays? Do you feel guilty about what you eat during the holidays because it may affect your weight loss/management goals?

If you answered YES to any of these question, this blog post is for you!

I consider the nutrition-holiday season, the time period from right before Halloween (when all the candy comes out) until New Years Day. You buy Halloween candy starting in September but you eat a few bags before trick-or-treat night. The Halloween candy that you have leftover after trick-or-treat lasts until Thanksgiving and then right after the Thanksgiving feast we move right on in to Christmas parties, cookies, candies, cakes, pies, snacks, drinks, celebrations, etc, etc, etc. See where I’m coming from? From September to January many people eat more calories than they do the other months of the year leading to weight gain.

On the other hand, what does a little Halloween candy hurt, why can’t I enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, who doesn’t eat a lot at Christmas parties? Sure…enjoying this time of year is great but over-indulging for a few months or weeks at a time can lead to unwanted weight gain. What steps can you take in order to feel good about what you’ve been eating but also enjoy these foods that come out once a year? Read on my friends…

Halloween is long gone and Thanksgiving is behind us, let’s focus on what you can do now until Christmas to manage weight.

  1. Eat regularly. Have a balanced breakfast in the morning, eat lunch, have nutrient rich snacks throughout the day, and a dinner with grains, lean proteins, and veggies. When it’s time to celebrate, you’ve eaten well all day so enjoy the party.
  2. Limit liquid calories. Calories from alcohol add up quickly and they do not fill up your stomach and satisfy hunger. The recommendation for healthy alcohol consumption is 1 drink for women and 2 drink for men per day. Keep in mind that other beverages have calories too. Eggnog, sodas, fruit punch, flavored coffee drinks, and many others are loaded with sugar and some even have fat.
  3. Give yourself limits that are set before all hell breaks loose. I love Christmas cookies. Like I would rather eat Christmas cookies with milk all day long than eat anything else. Because  I dream about doing that (perhaps someday when I’m 80), I set a limit for how many cookies I can have in a day during the season and keep to that. It allows me to have cookies but not an entire dozen 🙂
  4. Remember your vegetables. Instead of filling your plate with tons of carbohydrates (cookies, pies, cakes, potatoes, stuffing, corn…) and proteins (ham, turkey, cheese, meats…) fill up half of your plate with veggies (salad, green beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower…). If you going to a potluck bring a veggie tray or a big salad. The party guests will love it!
  5. Instead of the holiday season revolving around food remember what it is really about! The birth of the Savior, showing the love of God by being kind, and gathering with friends and family. Our family LOVES games and we enjoy gathering around the tables after dinner to play, laugh, enjoy each other, and have a great time together.

Look, focus on managing not losing weight during the holidays. Keeping your weight the same is just as successful as losing weight when you are surrounded by tempting foods. You’ve got this! You can have control of what you eat. Knowing what you ultimately want and keeping your mind focused on that goal is the key. During the holiday season what is your goal?

Remember to stay tuned in January for the New Years Weight Loss Challenge! I’m so excited for it and I hope you will be too!

Diabetes and the Holidays

As a dietitian I can appreciate how difficult the holidays can be for someone with diabetes. Year round is challenging for those that struggle with blood sugar control, but when you are surrounded by pie, cookies, candy, cakes, carbs, carbs, carbs the holidays can be down right scary.

I have a few tips for those with diabetes and pre-diabetes for this time of year and I hope it helps you get through with level blood sugars and feeling empowered!

  1. Remember it’s not just sugar that increases your glucose. Carbohydrates in any shape or form raise your blood sugars. That is not necessarily a bad thing but the amount is important! Sure the sweets make your glucose go up but so do potatoes, pasta, rice, sweetened beverages, crackers, chips, pretzels and many other foods. Watch your portions.
  2. One cookie may be fine but 3 cookies could make your sugars sky rocket. Know your body and know your limits.
  3. Test, test, test, test, test. Ignorance is not bliss. Know your blood sugars!
  4. Take your medicine/insulin. Again, testing is key but so is being compliant on your medications. If your body needs help controlling blood sugars and your doctor has prescribed you a medication to lower them…take the meds your body needs!
  5. Pair with protein. A meal of cookies, cake, crackers, pie, and fruit punch may land you a trip to the hospital. Lower your portion sizes, pick and choose the carbohydrates you really want to eat, and then pair those carbohydrates with protein. Things like cheese, meats, eggs, and Greek yogurt are great sources of protein.
  6. Don’t waste carbohydrates or calories. If you pick something to eat at a holiday party and it doesn’t taste good Do. Not. Waste. Carbohydrates! Politely throw it away and get something else that you would enjoy.
  7. Alcohol is not a carbohydrate. Contrary to popular belief beer, wine, and liquor will not bring your blood sugars up. Although there are “carbohydrates” on the label alcohol technically digests like a fat so it won’t send your glucose sky high. If you pair alcohol with a sugary beverage then count on the sugary beverage to increase your blood sugars.
  8. Eat regularly. Even if you are going to a big holiday party in the evening, eat a regular breakfast, lunch, and snacks to keep your blood sugars under control.
  9. HbA1c’s don’t lie. Even if your next doctors appointment isn’t until February the HbA1c blood test will tell your doctor an average blood sugar over the last 3 months. He or she will know if the holiday season was tough on your blood sugars! It’s like Santa…it sees you when you’re eating, it knows when you don’t take your medications, so for goodness sake be careful! 🙂
  10. Why do you care what your blood sugars are during the holidays? Because every time your glucose goes too high it impacts your body in a big way. It affects your eyes, heart, kidneys, nerves, and brain especially. Keeping it under control will not only make your doctor happy but it will also make your body happy.

If you need extra help this holiday season go to see your dietitian. Make an appointment to get a game plan for Christmas parties, cookie exchanges, family gatherings, and keeping blood sugars controlled in your every day life. Having trouble finding a dietitian? Check with your local hospital or Find An Expert.

Simply Eat Better

There is so much information out there about how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. The do’s, don’ts, rules, regulations, and laws are just enough to make you crazy! Much of the nutrition information out there isn’t even from someone legit. Side note: I’m not here to call out the fakes although some days I would like to, I’m here to give you feasible and educated information so that you can work through it to find whats best to move your health forward.

There’s no cookie cutter right way or wrong way of eating. There’s no perfect diet and that’s the great thing about nutrition! It’s always a journey to be better, to eat better. I don’t want to tell you what to eat, I simply want to give guidance and recommendations letting you choose what to change.

Here are 10 simple guidelines for a better diet:

  1. Eat less. Even if that’s all you change, just eating less will improve your overall health because chances are you eat more than you should. This not only helps with weight management but studies show that being overweight or obese increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. Try smaller plates, keeping food in the kitchen instead of on the table, and ordering smaller sizes at restaurants.
  2. Eat more often. Eating every 3-4 hours helps to keep you from getting ravenously hungry and lets your metabolism run smoothly. Small nutrient rich snacks in between meals are key. Think about foods like nuts, seeds, yogurt, string cheese, fruit, and veggies.
  3. Slow down. Enjoy the flavors of your food. It should take you 15-30 minutes to eat a meal. As a mom of  twins and a four year old sometimes when I give that advice I think HAH yeah right! But seriously food should be savored not scarfed. When is the last time you truly smelled, tasted, and felt what you were eating? Food is as much for nourishment as it is for the soul.
  4. Eat more vegetables. The recommendations are to eat at least 3 servings daily. If you can get more than 3 servings that is AWESOME! Eat up! 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup lightly steamed or raw are considered servings. Lunch and dinner are perfect for vegetables but there’s no stopping you from sauteing mushrooms and spinach with your eggs for breakfast or crunching on some snap peas with hummus for a snack.
  5. Eat just enough fruits. Shoot for at least 2 daily. Local seasonal fruits are packed with nutrients and super delicious! Blueberries in the summer, apples in the fall, tropical fruit in the winter, strawberries in the spring. Head to your local farmers market for the best deals and watch the sale adds in your grocery store for budgeting.
  6. Work in some whole grains. Don’t box yourself into just whole wheat. I mean, wheat is fine but branch out a bit! Think about barley, farro, buckwheat, quinoa, corn, brown and black rice…the list could go on! Whole grains provide tons of fiber, protein, and B vitamins. Get as whole as possible!
  7. Forget the fat fear. Fat should not be avoided! Especially plant fats. Eat avocados, olives, oils, nuts, and/or seeds regularly. Animal fats like butter, sour cream, and cream cheese are fine in small amounts. Try to buy organic animal products when possible. That’s a post for another day!
  8. Spice it up! Instead of adding a ton of salt to food try herbs and spices. I’ve used Gourmet Garden’s guide when trying new ones http://www.gourmetgarden.com/en/herb-guide.  I think it’s the most helpful pairing guide out there.
  9. Love the legumes. Beans, peas, and lentils are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients. Not only are they amazing for your health but they are budget friendly. Legumes go great in soups, salads, and side dishes. Because they are so high in protein you can use them instead of meat!
  10. Go to a dietitian and talk about your nutrition goals. When looking for the best nutrition advice do not go to a doctor, chiropractor, “nutritionist”, health coach, or any other self proclaimed nutrition guru. I promise that I have made right so many wrongs from past clients that have gone to these people about their diets first. Interested in seeing a dietitian, check out: http://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert. Look for the credentials “RDN” (Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist), “RD” (Registered Dietitian), “LD” (Licensed Dietitian), or “LDN” (Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist).

Diet isn’t a four letter word. Diet is simply what you eat day in and day out. Having a love hate relationship with food is no way to live. Enjoy food and be comfortable with it and around it. Health and wellness isn’t about torturing your body, starving yourself, avoiding food, and guilt trips. It’s about saddling up for a delicious adventure that will take you from where you are to a healthier you.

Final thoughts: I don’t know where each and every one of you are at on your journey through the wide world of nutrition but I do know this: I’ve been a dietitian for over a decade and I’ve talked to many people. The ones who are willing to take the guidance, take action, take the steps to improve their diet, and take accountability for choices are the ones who continue to progress towards a healthy eating pattern.

Nutrition Challenge: this week take a look at your diet and decide what you’d like to change about it. Work on one change that is most important to you.

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.

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!