Monthly Archives: February 2012

What a Difference a Year (and a Half) Makes!

If you would have told me a year and a half ago that I’d soon be quitting my job to go to back to school, I would have thought you were out of your mind! If you were to also tell me that I’d soon be adopting a dog, I would have also had the same reaction–you’re off your rocker!

What a difference a year and a half makes! I’m now back in college AND I own a dog. So much has changed in such little time, and I’ve never been happier! While most of my posts are about nutrition and my journey to becoming an RD, I wanted to post about one of my new-found passions–helping rescue dogs find their forever homes!

Growing up, I was never a dog person, mostly because we never owned a dog and I just wasn’t exposed to too many. When my husband and I got married, we talked a little bit about getting a dog, but it just never really seemed like a reality, mostly because I didn’t really care either way about having one. They seemed cute, but were they worth the responsibility??

Our lucky dog Fred

In late 2010, I started thinking about the idea and decided I would surprise my husband for Chanukah with the idea of getting a dog. He loved the idea and we started our search for the perfect pup. We knew we only wanted to rescue a dog, so we started our search by going to local animal shelters. None of the dogs we met seemed like a good fit for us. Then, we wound up discovering Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, a local organization that is dedicated to saving the lives of homeless animals. We went through all of the necessary channels to become qualified to adopt, and then attended our first adoption event. If anyone says love at first sight doesn’t exist, they are wrong! The first dog I saw was Fred, and I knew he was the one for us. Less than an hour later, Fred was ours and the rest is history!

Truly got adopted!

My husband and I recently starting volunteering with Lucky Dog at their adoption events as dog handlers. It is such a rewarding experience to help other dogs out there to find their forever homes. Last weekend, I helped a rescue miniature poodle named Truly find her new home. My husband handled a sweet dalmatian mix named Angel Lyn, who knew how to sit and even give a paw. She is still looking to be adopted!

Angel Lyn is such a good girl

Tomorrow, we’ll be driving Skip Jack to an adoption event out in Falls Church. Skip Jack is a retriever/basset hound mix that is SUCH a sweetheart and loves a good belly rub. We really hope he finds his new parents soon!

Skip Jack needs to find his home!

I’m loving our new-found passion for volunteering with Lucky Dog, and can’t wait to help future dogs find their new homes!

Have you recently discovered a new-found passion?

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MyPlate for Seniors

Two weeks ago I posted about how this semester I would be giving multiple presentations to seniors in Ward 4 in Washington, DC. My first presentation was about the importance of water and proper hydration, which went really well. Today, I decided that it would be beneficial for seniors to learn about MyPlate. When I polled the group last visit about whether they had heard of MyPlate yet, 100% of the group said they had never heard of it. Therefore, I felt a basic MyPlate overview would be a great second presentation.

Our original plan was to show a video called, Creating a Great Plate, which is a wonderful video that I actually used at different nutrition education event last fall. I highly recommend to anyone who is educating a group (Grade 6 – adult) about MyPlate.

Credit: ChooseMyPlate.gov

I knew they had a TV at the senior center with a DVD player, so I figured there would be no issue. However, the DVD player was not functioning properly, so we unfortunately were not able to play the DVD. With anything in life, you have to be able to roll with the punches because things aren’t always going to go according to plan, so we made sure not to let this impact our presentation at all!

We started out by going over what MyPlate looks like, what the food groups are, and how much seniors should be consuming daily. Unlike the Food Pyramid, MyPlate is very different because there are specific daily recommendations based on age and gender. It was important to illustrate that to the seniors so they understood how much they should be eating.

After we gave an overview, we challenged them to create their own MyPlate using the food models we brought. Who doesn’t love playing with fake food? It was also a great way to illustrate portion sizes. Additionally, we passed out some further reading material about MyPlate that was free to download on ChooseMyPlate.gov. I’d definitely recommend using as a resource.

Our next presentation is in a few more weeks, and I’m really looking forward. It’s so important to share our knowledge of nutrition with seniors, and other populations that may not have access to such information. It may seem so simple and basic to many of us, but for others, it’s something they may have never heard of or thought about ever before. It’s cliche, but knowledge is power!

Have you ever educated a group about MyPlate? What resources and tools did you use to convey the information? 

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5 Minute Breakfast Tacos (For Lunch!)

When I woke up this morning, I knew I had to really take advantage of my day off and maximize my time. I have a big food chemistry test tomorrow night, so my day would be spent primarily studying. I didn’t want to really think about dinner later, so this morning I prepped ingredients for crock pot recipe, and it’s been simmering for hours. Dinner, check!

However, around 12:30pm, I realized I had no idea what I was going to eat for lunch. I really didn’t want to take out too much time from my day to make something, so I looked in my fridge and was clueless. Nothing seemed easy, except for eggs. But then I realized my dinner tonight is Mexican-themed, and I have tons of extra ingredients. Why not make a quick and easy breakfast taco using eggs (for lunch!) and cross-utilize ingredients from my dinner recipe? The taco was assembled in 5 minutes, and my tummy was subsequently made happy.

5 Minute Breakfast Tacos

5 Minute Breakfast Taco

Yields 1 taco

Ingredients

3 egg whites

1 corn tortilla

3 tablespoons salsa

2 tablespoons cilantro

pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat skillet to medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Crack eggs and separate the whites into a bowl. Add pinch of freshly ground black pepper and mix gently. Add eggs to pan and scramble until cooked thoroughly. Meanwhile, heat corn tortilla for about 10 seconds in microwave and then place on plate. Once eggs are done, add to tortilla. Top with salsa and cilantro. If you have sour cream, cheese, avocado, onions, or anything else that might make these tacos delicious, feel free to add!

Who says you can’t have breakfast for lunch, or for dinner?

How have you cross-utilized ingredients to make multiple dishes? 

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A Farewell to Bisquick

On some lucky Saturday mornings, I treat my husband to chocolate chip pancakes. I could really just serve a plate full of chocolate chips and he would be completely satisfied, but that’s a whole other story! For the past few years, I’d make pancakes the easy way, using pancake mix by Bisquick. However, I would use the Heart Smart kind since I was trying to be healthier. The pancakes would come out just fine, nothing extraordinary, but we were satisfied with the taste, and I was happy that they were easy to make! But now after everything that I’m learning about nutrition, although the calories and fat may be lower, the flour is still enriched and bleached.

Bye bye Bisquick!

So why was this Saturday different from all other Saturdays? I woke up this morning and thought to myself, “Why not make the batter from scratch?” Making things from scratch is typically not my forte. However, I’ve really been cooking way more than I’ve ever cooked in my life, so I figured why not be adventurous?

Since I had no actual recipe, I went to trusty Healthy Aperture for some pancakespiration (yes, I just made up that word). I didn’t want to get too adventurous with toppings, so I was looking mostly at the batter recipes that I could simply add some chocolate chips to. I found two recipes that looked great, one for Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Pancakes and the other for Cardamom Pear Pancakes. The batter ingredients were a good start, but not exactly what I had available to me in the kitchen.

In the end, I used those batter recipes as a jumping-point off and wound up making the most delicious pancakes I’ve ever made from scratch, or ever! (Ok, I know it was from my first time making pancakes from scratch, but regardless, they were seriously delicious!)

Here is the recipe:

Seriously Delicious Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Seriously Delicious Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Yields 8 pancakes

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose white flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tablespoon Splenda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups non-fat milk

1 egg

1 tablespoon Earth Balance organic buttery spread (melted)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or more if you have a sweet tooth!)

Directions

A few of the ingredients I used

Mix all dry ingredients together, then add wet ingredients. Heat pan or griddle to medium heat. Grease with cooking spray  or butter (I used a little of the Earth Balance). Ladle enough batter into the pan for the pancake size of your liking and heat until bubbles form, then flip. Repeat with remaining batter. If you have left over chocolate chips, feel free to sprinkle a few on top.

I cannot tell you how nervous I was to be making these pancakes. I kept thinking how awful they were going to taste, but I completely surprised myself, and my husband! Although I would prefer to use only whole wheat flour, I need to experiment more before completely eliminating the white flour to ensure the taste is there.

Don't worry, I ate those last two bites

Thanks very much to Running to the Kitchen and Teaspoon Communications for the pancakespiration!

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Dinner Unplugged

When I was growing up, we never ate dinner in the dining room. I would always watch those perfect families on TV eating their delicious dinners and having their interesting conversations in the dining room, and wondered why we never had that. Instead, we dined at a table in the family room where our main focus was watching whatever was on TV at the time. I’m not sure I ever really paid attention to exactly what I was eating and how much I was actually consuming. I was more focused on scarfing down my meal and watching the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon!

When my husband and I started living together, guess what? We ate our meals in front of the TV! We owned a dining room table, yet still managed to prop ourselves on the couch and eat our meals at the coffee table. It never dawned on us until recently (a few weeks ago!) that what we were doing was so ridiculous. Although we grew up watching TV during dinner, it didn’t mean that we had to continue doing the same. Since I’ve recently started cooking a lot more, we’ve decided that we have a dining room table for a reason, so we should use it!

Our perfectly nice dining room table went unused for years!

Now that we’re eating our meals (mostly dinner) at the dining room table, we’re able to have more conversations about our day and really enjoy the food we’re eating. We are also paying attention to how much we’re eating, too! It’s a really nice thing to not have to compete with the TV anymore, and it’s actually been an easy transition for us. I hope we can keep this up when we eventually start our own family together.

In today’s world, we not only have the TV, but computers, cell phones, and all sorts of gadgets that distract us from reality. It’s so easy to get caught up in email, phone calls, TV shows, and even Twitter. However, it’s really important that we take time to unplug and enjoy the people around us, especially at mealtime.

Tips for Dining Unplugged

  • Don’t own dining room table? If you eat in the kitchen or at the coffee table, just simply make sure the TV is off while you’re eating.
  • Do you have too many TV’s in the house? Make at least one main room TV-free and eat your meals there.
  • Not ready to go cold turkey? Start with one meal a day and go from there.
  • Hesitant family? DVR the shows they will miss during the meal and watch them later (and then fast-forward through the commercials. It’s a win-win situation!)
  • Don’t just turn off the TV- put down your cell phone, computer, or anything that distracts you from enjoying your meal!

Check out this clip from the Swanky Dietitian about turning off the TV while eating, and other tips for eating healthy at home!

Have you ever thought about dining unplugged? What made you do it or what has prevented you from following through? 

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Childhood Obesity in a Nutshell

1 in 3 American children is overweight or obese. Does that surprise you? Kids are spending more time watching TV, sitting in from of the computer, and playing video games. Combine that with the large amount of junk food they are eating, and it really can’t be THAT shocking that kids today are out of shape and on the road to becoming an overweight adult.

This poster “Targeting Children with Treats” from Teach.com and MAT@USC was created in an effort to encourage nutritional standards for school meals. It really sums up the problem quite nicely.

What does everyone think of this poster? Do you think enough is being done to prevent and combat childhood obesity in America? 

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The Ups and Downs of Weight Watchers

I should really say that I owe my life to Weight Watchers. It enabled me to lose over 50 pounds. Considering I didn’t know how I should be eating, it was a good starting point for me. I went from eating burgers and chicken nuggets to salads galore. I really had no idea how many calories I was consuming daily, so being told I can only eat so many points each day really helped me to stay on track. It was almost like dealing with a checkbook. I started with 24 points a day, so it was a matter of eating all of those points each day, yet being able to save enough by the end of the day so I would still have enough for dinner and a snack. It was definitely a balancing act and it really forced me to plan out the meals for my day.

Another before photo. I promise I'm not trying to scare you!

Weight Watchers was a good to help me lose weight, but did the program really tell me how to totally eat healthy? Not necessarily. With the program, you can eat ANYTHING you want, as long as it’s within your points range. Want that donut? You can have it, as long as you have enough points. But that normally means sacrificing points for your other meals. Everybody should be able to enjoy a donut now and then (though I honestly don’t remember the last time I had one!), so I understand the flexibility of the program. They want it to be realistic for people. However, while I was on the program, I feel as if I relied too much on those frozen meals (which are PACKED with sodium). I was also afraid to eat too much bread (even whole-wheat, which is great for you). I remember someone offering me some strawberries (before fruits were free points), and I said no because I didn’t want to eat more points that day! How crazy was I to say no to something so nutritious? Instead of eating a well-balanced diet, I wound up eating the same food over and over again, primarily because I had memorized the points value, and I didn’t even know how to cook anything (which is worth talking about in a blog post). I was more focused on the calories than if something was actually nutritionally good for my body. That wasn’t necessarily Weight Watchers fault, but I guess I just wasn’t taught any better.

You have to understand that the people who work for Weight Watchers (which I used to be one of them), aren’t professionally trained nutrition experts. They are wonderful people and I truly respect them, but they obviously do not go through the rigorous coursework that RDs go through. We had occasional trainings here and there, but nothing too substantial. The advice we’d give to members was pretty much from our own experiences or from what we heard others tell us. We were there more as form of support and encouragement for the members. We never taught anyone about the importance of getting enough vitamins and minerals, or why carbs are so vital for your body (I cannot emphasize enough that carbs are your friend, not your enemy!!) It just isn’t the focus of the program.

It wasn’t until that I started my coursework in nutrition that I finally began to understand what I should be putting into my body. I no longer buy those frozen meals. They may be cheap, easy, and pre-portioned, but they really aren’t good for you. 100 calorie packs are a thing of the past (which used to be my crutch). Just because something is low in calories, or fat free, doesn’t mean you should be eating it! I now buy whole foods that are nutritious and nourish your body. It’s not to say that I don’t splurge now and then (because I definitely do!), but I’m now realizing as long as I’m eating a well-balanced diet and diverse array of foods, I’m going to be getting all of my macro and micronutrients.

I’m still ever-grateful for Weight Watchers in that it really changed my life and helped me start my journey to becoming healthy. I admire every person who joins Weight Watchers because I know they’re making such a great decision for their bodies and general well-being.

For all those people on the program, or thinking about joining, you should understand these food basics (that Weight Watchers doesn’t necessarily teach you):

  • For grains (which you shouldn’t be afraid of!), make sure they are whole-grain/whole-wheat. Go for brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal. They may be a few extra points, but they are way worth it. Your brain NEEDS carbs. They are packed with fiber (just drink enough water), lots of B vitamins, and minerals such as iron and magnesium.
  • For protein, go for the leanest cuts of meat. It’s a great way to get vitamin B12. Protein doesn’t just mean meat though! Beans, soy, and nuts are also excellent sources. Also, don’t be afraid to eat the egg yolk occasionally (also worth the points!) It has calcium, vitamin D, DHA, vitamin A, and lots more nutrients than the white lacks in.
  • For fruits and veggies, now that they are both free points, you should enjoy them! It’s better to eat the real thing than having the juice version. Don’t be afraid of potatoes, either! Sweet potatoes are PACKED with vitamin A and beta-carotene, and they taste delicious!
  • For dairy, you should make sure you stick to non-fat or low-fat. They’re packed with oodles calcium of vitamin D! And who doesn’t love greek yogurt? You’ll get tons of protein per serving.
Has anyone else had that “aha” moment for when they starting eating healthy?

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