Apr 16 2014

Top Ten Foods To Purge During Spring Cleaning!

Every year we collect all of our cleaning supplies and set aside time to clean our home from top to bottom.  One place we frequently forget to clean is our kitchen pantry.  This year we decided to make our pantry healthier during spring cleaning.  Here are the top ten items we recommend you get rid of during your annual spring cleaning extravaganza.

  1. Get rid of bottled salad dressing and make your own with oil, vinegar and spices.
  2. Ditch the sugary cereals and replace with healthier high fiber versions.
  3. Replace the mayonnaise in your fridge with Greek yogurt.
  4. Ditch the prepared meals in boxes like Hamburger Helper and start using your slow cooker to make healthier versions.
  5. Don’t drink those sugary sodas.  Throw them out or give them away and replace with a pitcher of filtered water with lime, orange or lemon slices.
  6. Replace traditional pasta with whole grain versions that are healthier and even taste better!
  7. Throw away candy and pastries and replace with fresh fruit.
  8. Love those potato chips?  You’ll love baked vegetable chips and whole grain crackers much more!
  9. Get rid of regular chicken broth and replace it with the low-sodium version.
  10. Give away the packages of microwave popcorn you’ve been hoarding and replace with 100 calorie per pack versions.

Don’t forget to check the expiration date of the items you do keep in your pantry and fridge.  Throw out anything that has expired and replace with fresh versions.  If you have products that are fresh that you no longer want to eat consider donating them to the local food bank rather than throwing them out.

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Mar 28 2014

Twelve Clever Ways To Use Greek Yogurt

greek yogurtIn my article “Greek Yogurt:  Worth The Price?” I discussed the differences between Greek Yogurt and regular yogurt.  In just about every comparison Greek yogurt wins although it is more expensive and generally has less calcium.  The many positive qualities of Greek yogurt has made it even more popular than ever.

Greek yogurt is incredibly versatile and given the health benefits it can be used in a variety of ways.  Listed below are our twelve  ways to use Greek yogurt.

  1. Use it in place of 1/3 or 1/2 of the butter in recipes for baked items to cut down on calories without sacrificing moistness.
  1. Replace milk in smoothies with Greek yogurt to increase protein and thickness.
  1. Strain Greek yogurt and use it to replace the butter in frosting.
  1. Make your own sour cream by adding a bit of salt to Greek yogurt.
  1. Ramp up the protein in tuna and egg salad by including Greek yogurt instead of mayo.
  1. Use Greek yogurt instead of mayo in your deviled eggs.
  1. Make your own salad dressing by using Greek yogurt instead of mayo and sour cream.
  1. Top creamy soups with Green Yogurt instead of sour cream.
  1. Use instead of sour cream when topping tacos.
  1. Use seasoning with Greek yogurt as a marinade for meat and seafood.
  1. Make Tzatziki with Greek yogurt, sea salt, chopped cucumbers and dill.
  1. Make a low calorie cheese sauce by mixing Greek yogurt with shredded cheese.

Greek yogurt is incredibly versatile and there are lots of ways to use it.  If you like a creamy soup try this recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup by the folks at Chobani.

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Mar 11 2014

Lunchables For Adults? Say It’s Not So!

Healthy_Foods_Nutrition_018Despite what your mother told you snacking between meals is a good thing if your snacks are healthy.  Adding a couple of healthy snacks, preferably high in protein, can increase the likelihood that you will stick with your healthy diet.  The problem with snacking is that finding healthy, affordable and portable snacks is difficult.

Oscar Mayer has stepped in to fill the gap with their new Portable Protein Packs.  There are four versions:

  • The applewood smoked turkey breast version comes with reduced fat marbled Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses and dry roasted almonds.
  • The applewood smoked ham comes with reduced fat sharp Cheddar cheese and dry roasted almonds.
  • The rotisserie seasoned chicken breast comes with reduced fat Cheddar cheese and dry roasted peanuts.
  • The slow roasted turkey breast comes with reduced fat Cheddar cheese and dry roasted peanuts.

Each pack has thirteen grams of protein.  The most important word in “healthy snacks” is healthy but these packs have loads of ingredients that may not be good for you.  For example some packs included cultured dextrose, modified cornstarch, caramelized sugars and carrageenan.  The also may not fit into your budget.

Although these packs are very convenient you can spend a little more time creating your own healthy inexpensive snacks.  To get some ideas read my post “Do-It-Yourself Snack Options“.

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Feb 23 2014

Five Hidden Sources of Gluten

The gluten free diet has become very popular for many people.  Trendy products in supermarkets, and gluten free menu items can now be found everywhere.  Anyone who wants to follow a gluten free lifestyle now has the ability to find more than enough choices. But for people who must follow a gluten free regime for life because of a medical condition, gluten avoidance goes beyond merely choosing foods known to be gluten free.  One needs to be extra vigilant about avoiding all sources of gluten.   Unfortunately, gluten may be lurking in places that one would never imagine. Even meticulous attention to the finer details of gluten avoidance may not prevent  incidental exposure to gluten from other places.

Here’s  my list of hidden gluten sources which can cross contaminate safe and otherwise gluten free foods :


1. The toaster:  If your toaster was previously used for toasting wheat products, this is a source of gluten contamination.  It is impossible to clean out the inside of a toaster adequately.  Purchase a separate toaster that is used solely for the purpose of toasting gluten free breads or muffins.  Alternatively, if you have a toaster oven with a removable tray that can be thoroughly cleaned, you may use that to toast the gluten free bread.


2.  Flour sifters:  The mesh screen found in flour sifters or mesh strainers are difficult to clean.  For the gluten free kitchen, these items should be replaced.


3. Wooden cutting boards, spoons, spatulas:  Wood is porous and if used with wheat products previously, small particles of gluten remain in the wood, despite cleaning.


4.  Colanders are often used to drain pasta. The small holes in colanders are difficult to clean and get completely free of gluten.


5.  Peanut butter, jam, or mayonnaise are just a few examples of foods that are spread on bread.  Knives that come in contact with bread, then go back into a jar will contaminate the spread .  Purchase separate jars of each, then label “gluten free ” for the person who needs to avoid  gluten.

If you have been maintaining the gluten free diet for a while, yet still experience symptoms, dig a little deeper to see whether you are exposed to gluten from a “hidden” source.  In addition to the suggestions I’ve listed here, don’t forget to check your medicine cabinet, vitamin, and mineral supplements as well!

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Jan 16 2014

Hydration is Important Year-Round

The importance of adequate hydration is really emphasized during the summer months because of the noticeable, increased sweating we experience.  But what about the winter months?  It would seem that because we don’t seem to sweat as much in the colder weather, our fluid requirements would be less, right?  Well, it turns out that our fluid requirements are roughly the same no matter what the temperature is. Your body loses water in the same way all year round: through sweating, breathing, and urinating.

Have you been getting in enough fluids during these colder months?

The Dietary Reference Intakes: adequate intakes (AIs) for water are:

Adult males (>19 years): 3.7 L/day

Adult females (>19 years): 2.7 L/day

If this sounds like a lot, keep in mind that water comes from other beverages besides water and certain foods that have a high water content. Variables such as activity level, exercise, and medications can all affect individual requirements as well, so consider these estimates.

The bottom line is, you should pay attention to how much fluid you get each day, whether you feel thirsty or not. If you have never really thought about this before, you may have no idea just how much fluid you actually consume on an average day.

blue AquaTallyI recently came across a really neat way to track your fluid intake on a daily basis:  Aqua Tally is a beautifully simple way to to track your hydration and using it is very easy.  Set the sliding indicator ring to “0″ each morning. The Aqua Tally holds 16 oz. (2 cups) fluid.  Each number on the ring represents 1 cup.  All you need to do is rotate the indicator ring for each cup you drink, allowing you to track how much water you have consumed.  It’s dishwasher safe, made of BPA free plastic, and works for hot or cold liquids.  If you think you may not be drinking enough fluids, this may be a good tool to help you get in more water!

Want to learn more about this unique drinking cup?  Check out the website for Aqua Tally.  If you decide to order one or more cups, receive a 25% discount by adding the discount code “wellness” after adding AquaTally to you cart!



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Dec 02 2013

Paying Homage to My Crock Pot

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are times when my e-mail box fills up even faster than usual, with the latest deals on everything, including all of those “must have” small kitchen appliances.  I’m intrigued by the soft pretzel or electric sandwich maker, but honestly I have neither the kitchen space nor the inclination to use either.  It seems like so many of these appliances are good for making just one thing. When I think about it, there are few small kitchen appliances that I even use for routine cooking. Most have either gone into permanent top shelf cabinet storage or will make their way to the next yard sale.

That is, except for my crock pot. I can think of no other small kitchen appliance that I have used more often.  My crock pot has earned a permanent spot on my precious and limited kitchen counter space simply because it is such a large part of the meal preparation in my house.  This low tech appliance has been around since the early 70′s, yet I continue to be surprised that many people have yet to discover the simplicity of this wonderful appliance.  Even someone who knows little about cooking can create a great meal with minimal effort.

Imagine putting some ingredients together into a crock pot, setting the temperature, then coming home at the end of the day to a delicious meal that is ready to serve.  Well, that’s the allure of a crock pot! There are other benefits as well:

  • Less energy usage than a traditional oven
  • Tenderizes less expensive cuts of meat or poultry
  • Can be used to make soups, stews, sauces
  • Great for incorporating low cost items such as beans or lentils
  • Easy cleanup

There are some basic guidelines for using a crockpot, which include setting the appropriate temperature for the dish you are making or cutting food into uniform pieces to allow for thorough cooking.  I have owned quite a few crock pots over the years, and have always found that the instructions that come with the appliance is the best resource for learning how to prepare meals in a safe way.  Most instruction manuals include recipes to help you get started too!

So, if you are tired of coming home at the end of the day with nothing planned for dinner, it’s time to consider using a crock pot.  Maybe you even have a crock pot stashed away that has never been used!  If so, take it out and give it a try.  There is nothing better than coming home to the welcoming aroma of a home cooked meal.

Here’s a recipe to get you started:

Slow Cooker Beef Pot Roast

3-4 lbs. beef chuck roast (fat trimmed)

1/2 cup chopped onion

4  small scrubbed red skin potatoes

4 carrots scrubbed and cut into 1″ chunks

2 cups low sodium beef broth

2 Tb. dried onion flakes

2 Tb. brown sugar

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 cloves minced garlic

Place meat, onions, potatoes and carrots in crockpot.

  1. Combine broth, dried onion flakes, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and garlic.  Pour over meat.
  2. Cover crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  So easy and delicious!

Need to buy a crock pot?  Here’s the crock pot that I am using:

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Nov 09 2013

“Fall” into Healthy Food Choices

Healthy_Foods_Nutrition_018The options you have with apples during this time of the year are endless! From sweet to sour to crunchy, there is a type of apple that is bound to fit anyone preference. They make the perfect snack or even dessert when baked with delicious seasonings. Part of their great nutritional profile includes dietary fiber and antioxidants such as vitamin C.

Pears, somewhat similar to apples in their nutritional profile, is another great seasonal food to integrate into your meals. Pears also contain fiber and vitamin C. To reap the full benefits of the antioxidants, be sure to eat both pears and apples with the skin still on. The skin is antioxidant rich and also contains much of the fiber.

Pumpkin, a winter squash, is a super food when it comes to the holiday season. Not are they only a cultural food, making Halloween spooky and fun, but their nutritional benefits are amazing. Pumpkin is high in fiber and vitamin A, and also contains various B vitamins, calcium and potassium. Pumpkin is a wonderful ingredient in desserts, most commonly pumpkin pie, but is also a great ingredient to include in other dishes such as chili’s, soups and even oatmeal. The possibilities really are endless!

There are many other kinds of winter squash to enjoy during this season as well. Winter squash differs from summer squash in that winter squash typically has a sweeter flavor and a savory texture. Two very common types are butternut and acorn. The beauty of winter squash is that once bought, they can keep for months in storage. This way you have the ability to enjoy them throughout the whole winter season. Just a few key nutritional points to emphasize are their omega-3 content and high vitamin A.

squash2A great recipe to try that also incorporates some of these wonderful fall foods is Winter Squash & Apple Bake. Apples and a handful of cranberries are all it takes to make any variety of winter squash something special!

Written by guest blogger Jaclyn Forbes. Currently working towards her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at Michigan State University. She hopes to achieve her goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian and share her passion for nutrition with others.

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Oct 24 2013

Tips for Managing Sick Days When You Have Diabetes

I just got my flu shot a few days ago, and that reminded me to start speaking with my diabetic clients about how to manage sick days. Of course, I hope that no one gets the flu this year, but with the season upon us, it’s better to be safe and know what to do.

People with diabetes need to be especially careful during times of illness, even if the illness seems minor. The mere presence of the cold virus or the flu is cause for an elevation in blood sugar, making  it more difficult to keep blood sugar in range.  Elevated blood sugar can lead to diabetic keto-acidosis, especially in persons with type 1 diabetes or older individuals with type 2 diabetes. Any illness that causes fever or loss of fluids can cause dehydration pretty quickly. Besides getting a flu shot, what else does the person with diabetes need to know about taking care of themselves if they become ill?

Prepare for sick days in advance by working with your diabetes educator or doctor, and learn what to do to have a plan in place.  Your plan should include how often to measure your blood sugar, urine ketones, what to eat or drink,  and when to contact your diabetes team.

Here are some frequently asked questions and tips that  may help:

  1. Should I stop my diabetes medications while I am sick?
    No. Unless otherwise instructed by your doctor or diabetes team, you will need to continue to take you diabetes medications:  insulin or oral medications. Because you blood sugar is higher, the insulin or oral medications are still necessary during this time to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis.
  2. How much fluid should I consume when I am ill?
    The more the better! Increasing fluids is recommended when you are sick. Fever, diarrhea or vomiting can cause dehydration.  Drink at least 8 oz. of calorie-free fluids (preferably water) every hour while you are awake to stay hydrated.  The extra fluids will help get rid of the extra glucose or ketones in your blood, so drink fluids liberally!
  3. My blood sugar is much higher than normal. What should I do?  Understand that an illness or infection increases your blood sugar.  Monitor your blood glucose more often throughout the day; you may need to check every 2-4 hours, especially if you blood glucose is greater than 240.  Check your urine for presence of ketones every 4 hours while your blood sugar is elevated.
  4. If I can’t hold down solid foods, what should I do?
    This can be a very big problem during an illness, but it’s important to try and stick with your usual meal plan if possible. If you can’t tolerate solid foods, try getting your calories by eating lighter foods such as (non-diet) Jello, crackers, soups, puddings or applesauce.  Aim for at least 50 grams of carbohydrate every 3-4 hours.  Use foods such as regular soft drinks, juices, sherbet, frozen fruit bars, regular sports drinks such as Gatorade® or pudding to obtain the carbohydrates you need.  Continue to drink plenty of non-calorie fluids.
  5. When should I call my doctor or diabetes team?
    • when you have been sick for more than a couple of days and aren’t getting any better
    • when you have been vomiting or had diarrhea for more than 6 hours
    • when your urine ketones show a moderate to large amount
    • when your blood sugar is more than 240, even if you have taken extra insulin as instructed by your doctor or diabetes team
    • when your blood sugar has been more than 240 (before meals) for more than 24 hours, even though you have taken your diabetes pills
    • when you are having symptoms that signal possible dehydration or ketoacidosis

    As with many aspects of managing diabetes, having a plan is in advance is vital. It prevents an illness from becoming a major problem.  Be prepared by knowing what to do, when to call your diabetes team and have the right things on hand so you can care for yourself and get well quickly!

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Oct 17 2013

Limitless Legumes

When following a gluten-free diet, it can be very temping to fall into the “gluten-free” packaged food trap. Although there are healthy gluten-free products out there, the truth is that not all gluten-free products are created equal. The gluten-free label on foods doesn’t necessarily ensure that you are making a healthy choice. What is extremely important in the gluten-free diet, and any diet for that matter, is that you are fueling your body with healthy whole foods.

Even though buying packaged gluten-free food may be easy and convenient, it is important to know that there are many alternatives to these foods that are extremely healthy and also gluten-free!

black-eyed peasLegumes are a great option,because they are naturally gluten-free and contain plentiful amounts of nutrients. The legume family is made up of peas, beans, lentils and peanuts. These edible plant seeds are naturally low in fat and high in protein. Another great benefit to including legumes into your diet is their high fiber content. Legumes are also typically a good source of calcium and iron as well.

Combining legumes with gluten-free whole grains such as millet, quinoa and buckwheat, provides your body with the full profile of essential amino acids (essential proteins) that humans need to consume through the diet. This combination of legumes and whole grains is an example of “complementary proteins”. Just another reason to incorporate legumes into your diet!

The versatility of legumes makes for endless cooking options! It is best to buy dried legumes and cook them yourself, although when in a pinch, canned legumes are also an alternative. When purchasing dried legumes, most require soaking before cooking. After soaking it is most common to prepare legumes over stove-top in a pot, but pressure-cooking is also an option, which additionally reduces cooking time. For stove-top cooking, fill pot with water (three to one ratio) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat once boiling to a simmer and cook for the duration of the required time.

Legumes are great ingredients for soups and stews. The blog Gluten-Free Vegan Girl contains many great gluten-free recipes that incorporate healthy whole foods including legumes. One of the great recipes you will find there that include legumes is her Healthy Vegan Mexican Bean Chili. You can try this recipe or another great gluten-free dish!

Instead of feeling limited by following a gluten-free diet, remember that there really are many great alternatives to buying packaged gluten-free foods. Including healthy foods such as legumes into your gluten-free diet is a great way to stay healthy and reap some pretty impressive nutritional benefits! What kind of legume dishes will you try?

Written by guest blogger Jaclyn Forbes. Currently working towards her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics at Michigan State University. She hopes to achieve her goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian and share her passion for nutrition with others.

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Sep 11 2013

Avocado Oil Has Health Benefits and Versatility

avocado-oil-200pxwLately, I’m loving avocado oil!  It’s a cooking oil I discovered rather recently, and I now find myself using it almost as frequently as my old mainstay, olive oil.

Here’s some things that may make avocado oil worthy of your attention:

  • Avocado oil boasts many of the same health promoting properties as olive oil. It is primarily composed of mono-saturated fatty acids (MUFAs), with a low percentage of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid.  We now know the mono-saturated fats are the type that we should incorporate into our diets more than saturated, trans, or even polyunsaturated fats.  Using MUFAs can provide you with certain health benefits like lowering your risk of heart disease.  Some research suggests that MUFAs may also benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control.  This is especially important if you have type 2 diabetes.
  • One thing that sets avocado oil apart from many other oils is its much higher smoke point.  When oils are heated to high temperatures above their smoke point, many cooking oils start to break down and create free radicals.  Free radicals are damaging to body cell structure.  Many oils (including olive oil) have low smoke points, making them unsuitable for certain styles of cooking that require high temperatures.  Naturally refined avocado oil on the other hand, has a smoke point of 500°, so you can stir-fry, barbecue, broil or roast using a very healthy oil at high heat, without risk of oil breakdown.

Avocado oil is not just for cooking: you can use it in salad dressings,sauces and in baking for a mild, nutty flavor.

If you are already using olive oil for it’s health benefits and good taste, here’s another option to add to your cooking arsenal: Avocado Oil.   With cooking versatility, a healthy source of fat, antioxidants, and no cholesterol, what’s not to like?  To learn more about avocado oil and where you can purchase it, visit Chosen Foods, the largest producer of 100% naturally refined avocado oil.


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