Thankful for Health
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – being surrounded by family, friends and food and acknowledging the many things for which we are thankful. While it’s okay to indulge (it is a holiday, after all), it’s important to be thankful for our health, our ability to reach this season, and treat our bodies well so that they can continue to care for us. This year, I have a lot to be thankful for! I’m thankful for my fiancé, who keeps me strong, challenges me and loves me unconditionally. I’m also thankful for the fact that I’ll be gaining an additional family in a few short months, and thankful for my own family who has always supported me, through college and grad school, my initial endeavors as a dietitian, and always playing the role of guinea pig when I want to try out a new recipe! I’m thankful for my new home in Florida, all of my new friends, my old friends who continue to stay close regardless of being miles apart, and the ability to do what I love everyday.
I’m also thankful for my attitude toward food, as I’m aware that it does not come easy to many people, and it didn’t always come easy to me, either. Food should be enjoyed, not villainized, and celebrated for all that it can do for us, and we should aim to choose foods that will provide nutrition, as well as joy. In the midst of casseroles, cookies and pies, it can be difficult to navigate the Thanksgiving table with health in mind. Below are some tips so that you can eat your turkey (and pie), and enjoy it too!
- Start your day with some physical activity. Most of us consume more calories on Thanksgiving than on an average day, so burning some extra calories will help to offset the caloric intake to come. Also, exercise can allow you to burn some additional calories following your workout, although this amount is often small.
- Focus on veggies. That may seem difficult on Turkey Day, but there are so many seasonal veggies to choose from right now and they’ll help you to fill up with fiber, water and give you a good dose of vitamins and minerals! Some in-season veggies to consider making the star of the show include Brussels sprouts, kale, winter squash, cauliflower and cabbage. My favorite Brussels sprouts recipe is just as tasty as it is pretty!
- Turkey is a relatively lean protein, especially if you choose the breast meat (white meat). If you’re a turkey lover, feel free to enjoy the festive protein, keeping in mind that one 3 oz serving of poultry is approximately the size of a deck of cards.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking a glass of water and choosing foods that contain large amounts of water (like fruits and vegetables) can help you to feel more full, which means you may indulge less and keep portions reasonable. Also, if you’re drinking alcohol, make sure to alternate each drink with water and skip any high-sugar mixers.
- Choose whole grains over refined grains for side dishes. Try a recipe that features farro or quinoa (okay, so quinoa is technically a seed, but it’s consistency and properties are similar to a whole grain) for increased protein and fiber! Farro is my favorite, with a hearty, chewy texture that stands up to sauces and is also great on it’s own with some oil and veggies.
- Consider serving a veggie-based soup before the meal, such as my pureed roasted cauliflower soup. This seasonal soup tastes creamy and hearty, but it’s relatively low in calories and will fill you up so you don’t overdo it during the main event.
- Go for an evening stroll with some guests after dinner, which can help to stabilize blood sugar levels and add to your overall step count that day.
- Don’t be fooled by desserts with a health halo – an avocado brownie is still a brownie, although it is likely to be a better alternative since it will have increased monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Even if you offer some “healthified” dessert options, keep portions in check. Interested in sampling a few desserts because there are so many great options? Take small portions of a few and choose your favorite to possibly indulge in a larger piece. My favorite fall dessert? Pumpkin pie! Enjoy my favorite recipe here. More into chocolate? My chocolate goji bark is always a crowd pleaser!
I love any excuse to have some friends and family over, hover around the television and host a potluck or a party – so obviously I am planning something fun for Sunday’s Oscars! But snacking doesn’t have to be mindless, and it doesn’t have to break your calorie bank, either! These suggestions below are what I will be having at my Academy Awards party – and I promise they are winners!
These peanut butter balls taste like a rich dessert, but offer up filling fiber and protein, with minimal sugar! Also, they only take about 10 minutes to make from start to finish (plus some time to chill in the fridge). I love to keep these around and throw them in a bag for the day or snack on them at night when I want something sweet, and they stay in the fridge for about a week, or in the freezer for longer.
10 large, dried medjool dates, pitted
1/2 C natural peanut butter (only ingredients should be peanuts and a small amount of salt!)
1/4 C rolled oats
1/2 C unsweetened, dark chocolate chips
*Makes 15-18, 1″ balls
1. Soak oats in hot water for a few minutes (so that they soften)
2. Chop dates into small pieces and place in food processor or blender (I used my Magic Bullet).
3. Add peanut butter and oats. Blend until batter is course and ingredients are well incorporated.
4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Take a small spoon and scoop small portions of batter into your hands, forming small balls that measure approximately 1″ in diameter. Place each peanut butter ball on baking sheet and form rows of 3 or 4. Place baking sheet in fridge or freezer.*If you don’t want to make these chocolate covered, you are done after this step! I like to make about half chocolate covered and leave half plain, so continue if you plan to dip these in chocolate!
5. Melt chocolate chips. I prefer to use a double boiler (bring a small amount of water to a boil in a pot and cover with a large bowl. Add chocolate to bowl once water is boiling and allow the steam from the boiling water to melt the chocolate, stirring until chocolate is smooth). You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, but this often results in burnt patches. Place the chocolate in the microwave for short time segments if you prefer this method, and stir the chocolate often.
6. Take peanut butter balls from the fridge (they should be somewhat cool and solidified) and, using one at a time, roll each ball in the chocolate mixture, using a small spoon. Scoop ball up with spoon after it is coated and place back on baking sheet. Repeat for as many as you’d like dipped in chocolate!
7. Place in refrigerator to cool. They can be kept there overnight (or longer) or you can make these about an hour or two before your guests arrive (or you want to start eating them!) and take them out to serve once they are cooled. Enjoy!
Nutrient Breakdown for 1 ball (assuming recipe yields 16 servings): Calories 110 calories, Total Fat 7 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 11 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 26 mg, Calcium 3 mg
Sweet and Salty Popcorn
This popcorn is the easiest recipe you will ever make, and it is such a hit at parties! Also, popcorn is a whole grain and is a great, whole-food choice over snacks like cookies and chips!
2 1/2 C popcorn (*Note: Find a brand that simply uses popcorn, with perhaps some oil or salt – do not use buttered popcorn for this recipe! It should be simple, air-popped popcorn or very similar.)
1/4 C unsweetened, dark chocolate chips
1/2 tsp salt (if using unsalted or very lightly salted popcorn)
*Makes 5 half-cup servings
1. Microwave popcorn according to directions on box or bag. Remove popcorn from microwave and open bag to let steam escape and popcorn cool. place popcorn in large bowl.
2. Melt chocolate chips using double boiler method (listed above in step 4 of ‘No Bake Peanut Butter Balls’ recipe). Drizzle chocolate over popcorn by dipping a spoon or knife into the melted chocolate and gently flicking it over the popcorn.
3. If using unsalted or very lightly salted popcorn, top with salt. Set aside (or place in fridge for about 15-20 minutes), until chocolate has solidified and cooled. Serve at room temperature.
Nutrient Breakdown for 1/2 C popcorn: Calories 71 calories, Total Fat 4 g, Saturated fat 2 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 10 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 1 g, Sodium 233 mg, Calcium 0 mg
Popcorn on Fire
This savory popcorn is a good alternative to sweets – and you can snack on handfuls for minimal calories and fat!
2 1/2 C popcorn (*Note: Same rules as above recipe – air-popped and unbuttered!)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt (only if using unsalted or very lightly salted popcorn)
*Makes 5 half-cup servings
1. Combine all spices in small bowl and mix well.
2. Microwave popcorn according to directions on box or bag.
3. Once popcorn is all popped (and while it is still hot) open the bag drizzle oil over popcorn and mix with a spoon.
4. Slowly pour spices over the popcorn so that spices are evenly distributed. Mix well with spoon. Serve hot or at room temperature!
Nutrient breakdown for 1/2 C popcorn: Calories 65 calories, Total Fat 6 g, Saturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 3 g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 1 g, Sodium 234 mg, Calcium 1 mg
If you wanted other savory ideas, my dips are also great for entertaining! Find my buffalo-style cauliflower dip recipe HERE, my skinny spinach artichoke dip recipe HERE, and my guacamole recipe HERE! Also, veggies and pita with hummus is always a crowd-pleaser. Still craving something sweet? A fruit platter may just do the trick, without too much prep time (and without busting through the calorie budget)!
Looking forward to a night of fun, family, friends and food and fashion!
New Season, New Workout!
It’s time to get rid of the winter blues and shake up your workout routine! I know I’ve been sick of running on a stationary piece of a equipment, whether it’s the treadmill or the elliptical. With spring comes (hopefully) some warmer weather and milder winds, and I’m ready to take my workouts outside!
Why Change Things Up?
If you continue to do the same workouts, not only do YOU get bored – so does your body. And with boredom comes little change and a whole lot of untapped potential. Even though I switch up which machines I use regularly, I tend to get bored of the same old gym routine and I feel my body becoming acclimated to what once seemed to be a tough limit. Muscle confusion allows for better results, since your muscles are being continuously pushed to their limits and forced to learn new movements. Also, switching up your gym routine allows your nervous system (your brain, spinal cord and the neurons and other nervous cells throughout your body) to form new connections, which has major implications in the prevention of both physical and mental diseases. So, if you’re getting bored, chances are, so are your legs – time to hit the road and take things outside!
So Now, What Do I Do?
One way I was able to start switching up my workout routine was by hiking this past week, while I was in Arizona with my family. Not only were the views incredible, the burn was, too! My family and I hiked through Cave Creek and had a lot of fun while doing so. Overall, the trail was only about 3 miles, however, we reached some impressive elevations and certainly felt the incline in our steps. Even though some family members were apprehensive about the hike, everyone ended up having a really great time and now we are searching for places where we can hike while back home in the Connecticut and New York areas. I recommend finding a serene route near you and soaking up the tranquility nature can offer you – especially while being active!
Other ways in which I’m looking forward to switching up my workout? I want to get back on the court and pick up my old tennis racquet. I used to play tennis when I was younger and it was an activity I really enjoyed. Even though it’s certainly a workout, I always looked at it as something I wanted to do for fun, as opposed to something I had to do to stay in shape. This outlook is, in my opinion, what separates those who lead active lives from those who lead sedentary lives with scheduled spurts of activity built in to them. Finding something you love, whether it’s hiking, running, playing tennis, soccer, flag football, or any other activity or sport, is truly the key to sticking with your workout regimen, preventing boredom and progressing. Also, with the nice weather coming, I definitely don’t want to be spending time indoors when I don’t have to! I always feel a sense of clarity and – most importantly – FUN – when I take my workout outside and take in what nature has to offer.
And Remember To Always Challenge Yourself!
Mix up your fun activities with activities that really train you. Two years ago, I pushed myself to run my first long-distance race – a half marathon. My sister, who previously ran the NYC Marathon, convinced me to sign up with her and I was so excited to have her by my side during my first important race. This required some training and, for the first time, I was able to feel the difference that the beautiful outdoors made in terms of enjoyment while running. I alternated training runs between the monuments and the National Mall in DC, while I was finishing my last semester of college, and the beach and residential roads within my hometown in Connecticut once I had graduated. Ultimately, the race took place in a suburban Connecticut town and the scenic route through the beach was motivation enough to keep going and enjoy myself. Find YOUR race, YOUR challenge and YOUR motivation – and this spring, meet your fitness goals (and have fun while doing it!)
When Did Exercise Become Something We Have To Do?
I don’t know about you, but I used to love recess when I was younger. After sitting at a desk in school all day, I couldn’t wait to run around and play soccer, kickball, or even tag. Also, Field Day was definitely the best day of the entire year – a whole afternoon of obstacle courses and field games definitely beat being in class for hours. So when did moving around become something to dread? After sitting at work all day, why is that people aren’t more excited to go for a run, go to a spin class, play in a sports league, or do anything else that would be considered exercise? Or, dare I say it, fun?
These Guys Know How To Have Fun
Last week, I was fortunate to go to the Nestle Nutrition Institute PowerBar Sport Nutrition Conference. Just one day after the NYC marathon, I got to hear about all things “sport nutrition” with a focus on endurance training and performance. Also, I got to hear firsthand about research from some of the most respected researchers in the field, such as Louise Burke and John Hawley. Not to mention, some of America’s greatest athletes, including Josh Cox and Desiree Davila were there to share their training secrets. While the first day was all work, the second day included a substantial “recess”.
My graduate program volunteered to plan fun activities for everyone who wished to join in Central Park – many of whom had never been to New York City and were thrilled to be running around the grassy oasis. These men and women were dressed in workout clothes and ready to get down on their hands and knees – literally. Relay races consisting of wheelbarrow races, hula hooping, sprinting, push-ups and sit ups were just a few of the stations that we set up. Also, everyone resurrected their P.E. skills and got together for dodgeball. For a rest – and a healthy snack – different teams got to play NYC trivia and snack on apples (we called the activity “taking a bite out of the Big Apple”). Basically, everyone felt like a kid again, because working out became fun again. I think we can all take a cue from these amazing athletes and researchers and channel our inner child – the one who used to have to move around in order to stay sane.
So What Can You Do?
Find an activity you genuinely enjoy. Running is a great workout, but if it’s not something you’re going to get excited about doing, chances are it won’t stick. And ultimately, the best exercise is the exercise that you will continue to do because you genuinely enjoy doing it. So, join a soccer league, grab some friends and play tennis, swim, bike, hit the gym, and most importantly, have fun!
Game day usually means super sized portions, fried, greasy food, heavy dips, beer and a whole lot of couch sitting. Don’t let cheering on your team mean falling into these common traps. Defend your right to eat healthfully and serve up some grub that is sure to score this Superbowl Sunday!
A Healthy Alternative to Hot Wings
Baked chicken breast with hot sauce has all the taste of hot wings without all of the fat! Fuel up with protein and hot sauce and resist the urge to to overeat – lean protein will leave you feeling satiated, so you won’t feel the need to reach for extra snacks. Also, some research suggests that eating hot, spicy foods cuts food intake. Simply marinate chicken breasts in Tabasco sauce (approximately 2-3 Tbsp per 16 oz. of chicken breast depending on how spicy you like it) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Cut into easy-to-eat strips and serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing, or enjoy plain! Serve with light beer to cut the spice and keep calories in check.
Nutritional Score Per Serving (1 serving = 4 oz chicken breast with 1/2 Tbsp Tabasco sauce)
Calories 124 calories, Fat 1 g, Saturated Fat .5 g, Cholesterol 66 mg, Carbohydrates 0 g, Fiber 0 g, Sugar 0 g, Protein 26 g, Calcium 12 mg, Sodium 118 mg
Guacamole is a healthy dip that serves up tons of vitamins, minerals and healthy, unsaturated fats. Just be mindful of portion size – one serving is equal to 1/4 of an avocado. Nonetheless, this dip offers up satiating fiber and healthy fats that will take the edge off your hunger so you can focus on the game! Use this recipe from a previous blogpost to score some major points with your fellow game watchers:
Ingredients (serves 6)
2 avocados, soft
1/4 red onion
1/2 medium sized tomato
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 jalepeno pepper, cut lengthwaise
1. Cut each avocado in half, lengthwise. Remove large pit from each avocado. Remove inside of avocado with spoon and place in large bowl. Discard skin of avocado.
2. Mash avocado until soft and slightly chunky (I like to use a potato masher)
3. Dice red onion. Add to bowl with avocado.
4. Dice tomato. Add to bowl.
5. Remove seeds and wash jalepeno pepper. Mince pepper and add to bowl. Mix all ingredients together.
6. Add salt and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over guacamole. Mix and chill until cold (approximately 20 minutes or longer). Enjoy!
Nutritional Score Per Serving:
Calories 114, Fat 10 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Carbohydrates 7 g, Fiber 5 g, Sugar 1 g, Protein 2 g, Sodium 55 mg, Calcium 11 mg
Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream in recipes such as onion dip, spinach and artichoke dip, or any other creamy dip you desire! Greek yogurt contains less fat and more protein than sour cream, but offers a tangy, creamy taste so your friends won’t even notice the difference. Use crudite to scoop up the guac and the Greek yogurt dips, or substitute chips for baked chips, which contain less fat. These tricks will help you to fill up with protein and fiber, while cutting back on unwanted fat!
The Sweet Taste of Victory
Celebrate your team with a sweet taste of dessert, but don’t fear that has to mean sabotaging your healthy day. Some tips? Make brownies by substituting either applesauce or Greek yogurt for canola oil. Offer a fresh fruit salad, cut up dark chocolate bark, or make a dark chocolate fondu and use strawberries, bananas and other fruits to scoop up the chocolate-y goodness! Also, keep healthy grab-able snacks out throughout the day, such as almonds, pistachios or other nuts so guests can nibble without the fear of extra jiggle! Don’t let game day food stress you out – relax and enjoy the day with these healthy tips that are sure to score major points with your fellow fans!
This Thursday, my sister and I ran a turkey trot prior to celebrating Thanksgiving with our family. Not only was it great to run 5 miles before a day of eating, but it also made me realize that I have so much to be thankful for! While I was running, I was able to reflect on the blessings in my life, such as family, friends, and my opportunity to pursue the career of my dreams. Also, I was thankful for my body and my health – each step made me grateful that I was able to run and I was so proud that my legs carried me through another race.
This turkey trot was a local race that was organized by volunteers in my community. It was pretty cheap to register and the race included not just a wonderful morning outside, but also a t-shirt and a gift bag with virtual coupons and gifts from local businesses, as a “thanks” for running! There are often similar races throughout the country on Thanksgiving morning, along with random races throughout the year – some of them to benefit charities! These races are a great opportunity to train for longer races, enjoy the great outdoors, or just enjoy running with fellow runners. The best part? The community lines up along the sidewalks to cheer you on, which really keeps you going strong!
I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving, as we all have so much to be thankful for! Keep fueling your body with foods that make your body thankful! Remember – food is fuel for your run, your workout and your active life!