Lifestyle, Nutrition

Those Christmas Cookies Don’t Own You: Seven Tips for Eating Well During the Holidays

Christmas cookiesIt’s the holiday season and edible temptations are everywhere.  They even show up in the most unlikely of places, like this past Saturday when a trayful of homemade fudge greeted me at the hair salon!

It’s easy to see why so many people gain weight this time of year.  But you don’t have to be one of them!  Whether you’re traveling for an extended vacation or just need some help making it through a few holiday parties, here are some tips to make it through the New Year with your waistline intact:

1. Travel with healthy snacks.  It can be hard to find smart food choices at airports and rest stops.  Make sure you pack some healthy, portable snacks to take along during your travels, such as apples, carrot sticks, and almonds.

2. BYOS (“Bring Your Own Staples”).  If you find yourself away from home for a few nights and know your host will have few healthy food choices to offer, pack some staples with you or make a trip to the grocery store as soon as you arrive at your destination.  You’ll be armed with a figure-friendly alternative when the cinnamon rolls come out for breakfast.

3. Get plenty of sleep.  When we’re tired, we tend to eat more and have cravings because lack of sleep throws our hormones out of whack. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep each night to keep hunger, energy, and cravings balanced.

4. “Crowd out” bad foods with good ones.  Think fiber, water, and protein.  These are foods that make us feel full.  Here are three ideas to take with you to the dinner party:

  • Vegetables are mainly water, so eat a large salad at the start of the meal along with a glass of water before heading back to the buffet.
  • Lean protein is good choice for an appetizer because it takes several minutes for its sating effects to kick in. If you’re feeling the munchies when your host passes the tray of hors d’oeuvres, score yourself some chicken satay or turkey meatballs.
  • Not only does fiber make us feel full, it also keeps our hormones balanced, which keeps hunger and energy in check. Keep your eyes peeled for high fiber choices on the dinner buffet, including lentils and beans (especially split peas), raspberries, and green peas. But eat slowly: like protein, 15-30 minutes may pass before you feel its sating effects.

5. Don’t arrive at the party on an empty stomach.  If you know your healthy options will be limited, make sure you eat something BEFORE you go.  Again, think fiber, water, and protein.

6. Eat a cookie (but not a plate of them).  Don’t deny yourself things you love.  Learn to eat in moderation.  Not only should we be allowed foods we enjoy, it’s a more sustainable way to live and eat.

7. Learn from your mistakes.  Say at the end of the day you utterly fail.  The closest you come to eating a vegetable is the spinach artichoke dip.  You DO eat the entire plate of cookies.  How did you feel afterwards?  Pretty lousy, if I had to guess.  Take THAT experience with you moving forward.  One of these times you WILL succeed, and you’ll see how much better you felt.  That’s what leads to lasting lifestyle change.

Nutrition, Recipes

Salmon Tartines (and a nutrition lesson)

Happy Monday, everyone!  I’ve got another recipe for ya today: Salmon tartines.  For those with an interest in nutrition, I’ve got one of those too.

Salmon is one of those pregnancy super foods.  It’s a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote neurological and visual development for your baby.  It might also lower your risk of preterm delivery, preeclampsia, and postpartum depression.  Are you breastfeeding or planning to do so?  Omega-3s are also used after birth to make breast milk.

Omega-3’s are great for you even if you’re neither pregnant nor breastfeeding.  Before we go further, let’s step back.   “Everybody” knows that omega-3 fatty acids are good, right?  But just what are there anyway, and why are they important?  Here’s the simple version.

The Skinny on Omega-3’s

Omega-3’s are – wait for it – fat.  Fats do important things, like give us energy and enable our bodies to absorb vitamins and minerals.  Fats also build brains, make hormones, and make healthier skin.

Fatty acids are the building blocks of fat.  They come in two broad types:  saturated and unsaturated.  Consumption of saturated fatty acids is positively correlated with the risk of heart disease while consumption of unsaturated fatty acids is negatively associated with that risk.

Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of unsaturated fatty acid.  They are “essential fatty acids,” meaning our bodies cannot make them; they must be acquired from the food we eat.  Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, flax, and walnuts.  Foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids include vegetable oils and peanuts.

The problem with the diet of most Americans is that we consume too many omega-6 fatty acids relative to the amount of omega-3’s that we take in.  In fact, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio has increased substantially over time.  The rise in processed food consumption helps explain this shift, since processed foods tend to be loaded with vegetable oils.

When you consume too many omega-6’s and too few omega-3’s, you’re at a greater risk of developing a host of medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, and cancer, to name a few.  Conversely, you can reduce your risk of these conditions by increasing your relative omega-3 intake.

So the next time you’re considering hitting the McDonald’s drive thru for dinner, stop at the grocery store and pick up some salmon instead.  (And use it to make my recipe!).

Oh, and if you’re pregnant and worried about taking in too much mercury, don’t be.  The levels in salmon are relatively low and safe for pregnant women.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

When you find yourself at the seafood counter, try to get wild salmon, rather than farm-raised.  Why?  Because farmed salmon has a much higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.  This recipe calls for coho, but feel free to swap it out for another type (e.g. king, sockeye), but avoid farm-raised if possible. There are also environmental reasons to opt for wild salmon (assuming it’s sustainably fished), but that’s a topic for another blog!

Ok, onto the good stuff…

Salmon Tartines (serves 2)

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • ¼ cup plain, low-fat yogurt
  • ½ t dried dill
  • 2 t capers, chopped
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 6 oz coho salmon
  • 3 slices wheat bread
  • 1 cup arugula, packed
  • salt and pepper

Set oven broiler to high.

Mix garlic with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set aside.

Whisk together yogurt, dill, capers, lemon juice, onion, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Brush salmon on both sides with ½ tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle fillet side with salt and pepper.  When the oven is ready, broil the salmon for about 4 minutes on each side, or until the fish turns opaque.  Remove from oven.

Heat remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large, nonstick saute pan.  Add arugula and a dash of salt.  Saute arugula until it wilts, about 2 minutes, and remove from heat.

Cut bread in half.  Brush the half slices of bread with the garlic-infused olive oil.  Toast slightly under the broiler or in a toaster oven.

When the salmon is cool enough to touch, break it apart gently, using your fingers.  Stir the salmon into the bowl with the yogurt mixture.

Top each piece of bread with equal amounts of the arugula and then equal amounts of the salmon.

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Nutritional Information (per serving)*

  • Energy (calories): 406 calories
  • Total Fat: 20.8 grams (32% DV)
    • Saturated Fat: 3.7 grams (18% DV)
  • Protein: 25.4 grams (51% DV)
  • Carbohydrates: 28.8 grams (10% DV)
    •    Fiber: 2.5 grams (10% DV)

*Daily values (DV) are for the general population.  Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need additional energy, particularly in the form of protein, than non-pregnant, non-breastfeeding women.

Kids, Nutrition, Recipes

Move over, Quaker.

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I’m loath to feed my two-year old anything that comes out of a box.  It’s only a slight exaggeration to say I think Cheerios are evil.  We could talk more about that, but that’s another post for another day.

Instead I’ll step away from my soapbox (you’re welcome!) and share with you my make-ahead oatmeal recipe that works around the Cheerios problem.  It has a great mix of all the macronutrients and a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals.  Blueberries – an excellent source of antioxidants – are one star ingredient.  Two other heavy hitters are spinach and kale, which are loaded with vitamins and minerals.  The ground flax seeds and chia provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your little one’s cognitive development.  I only half-joke when I say I’d be ok if this was the only thing Siyona ever ate!  In fact, these oats often round out lunch or dinner at our house.

I’m guessing I lost a few of you when I listed spinach and kale among the ingredients.  I know it sounds strange!  But I promise you the flavor of the dark, leafy greens is pretty subtle.  And if you’re worried, you can always use less than I do.  Here’s another tip: I always have a bag of frozen spinach and a bag of frozen kale on hand in my freezer.  I toss them into SO many recipes to easily up the veggie content – soups, smoothies, stir frys, chili, even my chicken enchiladas!

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I do so love the Trader Joe’s!!  The wild blueberries are nice for this because they’re small.

It’s a little bit time consuming relative to making instant oatmeal, but you can make a big vat that you keep in the refrigerator for several days. (And, anyway, instant oatmeal is gross!)  Not only is warming optional, I actually prefer it cold.  The recipe is also very flexible.  I make my oats with water, but you could easily use milk.  I use almond butter, but if your child (or you! you can eat it too!) has a nut allergy, sunbutter would make a fantastic substitute.  And consider my quantities suggestions.  Do everything to taste.

So give it a whirl, report back, and tell me what you think!  I know I have at least one fan.  🙂

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And if you like this post, do me a solid and repost!

Souped-up Breakfast Oats

  • 1 ½ cup regular rolled oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 T almond butter (I prefer roasted and salted)
  • ½ mashed banana
  • 2 t chia seeds
  • 2 t freshly ground flax seeds
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ⅓ – ½ cup frozen chopped spinach
  • ⅓ – ½ cup frozen chopped kale
  • ½ cup frozen wild blueberries

Cook oats in water on stove top until desired doneness.  Kill the heat.  Add almond butter and stir until incorporated (do this BEFORE adding the frozen ingredients as it will blend better).  Blend in the mashed banana, chia, flax, and cinnamon.  Stir in the spinach, kale, and blueberries.  Cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

Lifestyle, Nutrition, Pregnancy

Putting the “Well” in WellMom

Welcome to WellMom, a health and wellness company that offers in-home personal training and private yoga for moms and moms-to-be!

Since this is WellMom’s first official blog post (yay!), I want to share a little bit more about the mission of WellMom, which is to help women be healthy moms, from pregnancy, through labor and delivery, and beyond.

Here’s a little story to help explain more about what that means.

A few weeks back I was looking through photos of myself for WellMom’s “About” page.  I came across a picture of me holding my now two-year old daughter, Siyona, just a few days after delivery.  I was wearing a fitted camisole and low rise jeans.

I looked amazing.

Before you get put off by that comment and close out of your browser, let me further explain.

I don’t say that to brag.  Sure, I stopped at the photo and considered it for my profile picture.  After all, isn’t it the dream to swallow a basketball, pop it out after 9 months, and slip right back into the same jeans you wore before you got pregnant? Didn’t my ability to stay fit during my pregnancy give me some extra credibility?

The answer is yes. And no.

Yes, I think we would be kidding ourselves if we said we don’t care what happens to our bodies during our pregnancy.  Even though what we want at the end of the day is a healthy baby, and even though we know that means we’re going to put on a few pounds, we sure would like to keep that weight gain to a minimum.  And, yes, there probably is something to be said for, “If she can do it, I can do it too, and maybe she can help me.”

But I didn’t choose that picture.  I didn’t want to.  I couldn’t.

Why?  For one thing, every person and every pregnancy experience is different.  I had a lot of things going for me that helped me slink right back into my pre-pregnancy jeans.  I was slim before my pregnancy.  Although I was tired sometimes, I didn’t have months of morning sickness and fatigue keeping me from my workouts.  This was my first child, so I didn’t have existing parental responsibilities standing between me and the gym.  I enjoy eating well and love to exercise.  These things just aren’t true for everyone.  Using that picture would have alienated the many moms and moms-to-be out there who are different than me.

Even more importantly, using that picture would overlook the “well in WellMom.  It’s not SkinnyMom.  It’s not even FitMom.  Yes, exercising regularly throughout your pregnancy does make you less likely to gain unnecessary fat, but it has so many other benefits too, both for you and your baby: you’re less likely to have a long and exhausting labor or to need medical interventions; exercise improves your baby’s ability to deal with the stress of contractions; exercise reduces stress, which is important both during pregnancy and after baby arrives.  And that’s just for starters.

A mom-to-be friend of mine recently submitted a blog post about her pregnancy experience that is relevant here.  She’s also a fitness enthusiast, but her pregnancy experience has been much different than mine was. She has gained more weight than she prefers, but she realizes that there are more important things to think about right now than vanity.

So, yes, please do exercise and eat well!  It’s good for you; it’s good for your baby.  If we work together, I will do my best to share with you my passion for exercise and healthy, good food. We will find exercises that you enjoy (you don’t have to run, if you don’t like to run).  I can show you that not all Brussels sprouts are created equal (there’s a right way to prepare these guys and a wrong way.  Do it the wrong way, and I won’t touch them either).  If your pregnancy experience ends up more like mine, then great.  You’ll have to buy fewer clothes after delivery.  But if you’re experience is more like my friend’s, be kind to yourself.  Honor your body and the miracle that’s taking place inside of you.