Spending FoodDay Teaching MyPlate

I was honored to be able to spend today, Food Day, teaching “How to Build a Healthy MyPlate” to a group of elementary kids from Haycock Elementary School in my local neighborhood of Falls Church, VA.  Food Day is a nationwide grassroots effort that strives to support healthy and sustainable eating.  What better way to support this message than to through nutrition education with our local youth.  I was greeted by about 30 enthusiastic kids in Haycock’s after school child care program.  They crowded in front of my food display and were eager to learn.  I wanted the kids to know why eating healthy is important for them.  Eating healthy foods helps them to:

  • Have energy to run and play
  • Grow strong muscles
  • Build strong bones
  • Feed their brains to stay sharp

“Who likes to eat vegetables?”  Most of the room raises their hand.

“Who can can help me name some foods that are fruits? vegetables? grains? protein? dairy?”  The kids don’t miss a beat.  They throw out answers as if we’ve been practicing all day.  I even get corrected by a student who reminds me that tomatoes are technically a fruit since they have seeds.

We walk through all the components of MyPlate 

  • 1/4 Fruits – bananas, berries, oranges, apples, pineapple, grapes
  • 1/4 Vegetables – peppers, spinach, carrots, onions, squash
  • 1/4 Protein – beans, shrimp, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, tofu
  • 1/4 Grains – preferably whole grains, bread, cereal, rice, pasta, couscous, quinoa
  • 1 serving of low-fat dairy – milk, cheese, yogurt

They pass with flying MyPlate colors.  It’s time to step up my game.  I mention that MyPlate doesn’t always have to look so nice and neat.  What if we took each MyPlate group and mixed them all together? In one bowl we mix together:

  • 2 cups canned drained diced tomatoes (Fruit/Vegetable)
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion (Vegetable)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped mandarin orange segments (Fruit)
  • 1.5 cup cooked whole-wheat couscous (Grain)
  • 1 can black beans (Protein)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cheddar cheese (Dairy)
For zest and flavor:
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
Serve with a handful of multigrain Tostitos and Viola!  Carla’s MyPlate Salsa!   I was so impressed with how adventurous the kids were.  They lined up to get their taste and I heard so many compliments that I was beaming from ear to ear.  I didn’t even have leftovers to bring back home.  Everyone thought it was delicious, but don’t take my word for it – try it at home with your family!  Happy FOOD DAY!
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October 24, 2011 at 9:49 pm 1 comment

Maintaining weight on vacation doesn’t have to be an oxymoron

For the first time ever (with the exception getting a stomach bug on my last trip to India), I came back from vacation without gaining weight.  It wasn’t exactly an accident, but didn’t make myself crazy about counting calories either.  Here are a few simple tips that worked for me and hopefully you can use on your next vacation.
  1. Prioritize exercise amenities (and use them!) – What do you look for when you research hotels?  Free wi-fi, a lovely view?  Add whether or not your hotel has an exercise room to your top list of priorities.  They are becoming more common, but you can easily review the hotel amenities on your travel or hotel website to confirm.  This of course means you also have to prioritize packing your workout clothes.  They take up a lot of room, but the results (more energy and less jet lag in addition to weight maintenance) were worth it.  Try to get your workout out of the way in the morning so you can have the rest of the day for fun.  When that doesn’t work, head for a walk or to the gym when travel companions are napping to get your energy boost.  Working out on vacation is a must when you are gone longer than a week (I learned that the hard way).  It helps you maintain your muscle mass, keep your weight in check and restart your workout routine when you get back home since you won’t be starting from scratch.
  2. Hoof it – One of the best ways to explore a new city is on foot.  You stumble upon the best finds and it helps you get oriented with your new surroundings.  You’re going to burn extra calories while getting a first-hand view of your vacation destination.  You can look up walking tours of your destination before you go for a little guidance.  Be sure and pack comfortable walking shoes.  I cannot say enough about my Teva Kayenta Walking Sandals. I have them in Walnut and find I can wear them with shorts, skirts and dresses.  They are comfortable for a long day of hitting the pavement and look stylish as well.
  3. Eat local – This is always a great idea whether you are at home or on vacation.  We visited one of the local markets in Istanbul and found a dazzling array of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Figs were in season so I snacked on those between meals.  We ate local specialities (even when they looked strange) which were made with fresh local ingredients.  Eating local on vacation means that you are going to taste the best your destination has to offer and typically enjoy a high nutrient content meal since your food hasn’t had to travel a long way to your table.  Every location has its specialities, but for those who tend to gravitate to tropical destinations (like me!) you are mostly likely going to get your fill of juicy fruits and vegetables and the freshest seafood.
  4. Go meatless – I didn’t follow this 100% of the trip, but when I had the option, I opted out of meat at most meals.  This was easy to do given our destinations of India and Istabul, but it’s still a choice you make.  The vegetarian dishes were so flavorful, I didn’t feel like I was missing out.  When I did have “meat”, I opted for the fresh seafood that was plentiful and better prepared since they were local specialities.
  5. Indulge in moderation –  One of the reasons I’m a little surprised we didn’t gain weight is that we didn’t really deprive ourselves of indulgences.  I had my champagne cocktails and ate my baklava, but I was careful to do it in moderation.  Dessert was still a special treat, the ice cream was portioned to one scoop and the baklava was bite-size.  Drinks were alternated with water and were limited to prevent hangovers and ruin the following day’s workout and sightseeing.
  6. Give yourself a break and enjoy your vacation – It’s about enjoying your vacation not deprivation.  So if you go a little crazy one day (like I did on my food tour – more to come on that!) don’t beat yourself up over it.  Reset your intentions for the next day to get a little more exercise and listen to your hunger/fullness cues.  If the scale moves a little higher  than it was before you left, that is OK too.  Look back on your wonderful memories and then make a plan to double-down on your workouts and get back on track with healthful eating.
I hope you have enjoyed your summer vacations as much as I have and that you can use these travel tips on your next vacation (or staycation!).
Leave me a comment if you have your own healthy travel tips that you would like to share!
Bon voyage!

August 29, 2011 at 5:28 pm 2 comments

My #KISS #Nutrition Message: Cook at home, balance your plate, getting moving and be the change.

When you are in the throws of studying nutrition and surrounding yourself with others who are nutritionally minded, it’s possible to forget who really needs our message – and how complicated those messages can be.  I was in the chair of my favorite stylist last week who is a working mom with two lovely children and is just trying to make the right food choices for her family.  Her previous client was telling her she needed to buy organic foods for her family (most likely with the implied “if you want to be a good mother”).  Health messages are confusing and with limited time (and money), it made me really think about what are the key nutrition messages I want to be sharing to help focus the conversation and eliminate the noise.  In the business world, we call it the elevator pitch.  If you only have a few minutes riding up the elevator (or chatting at a party) with a person, what would your message be?  The other business mantra that kept swirling in my head was “Keep it Simple, Stupid” or KISS which speaks to the clarity and focus of the message.  I want to have clear, succinct, actionable messages that my friends, family and soon-to-be clients can understand and act on to make healthy changes in their lives.

It made me ponder what my elevator pitch should be.  I do buy many organic/grass-fed/cage-free/farmer’s market items, but I that isn’t where I would start given what I know of my friends, family and the public in general.

So this is what is important to me:

Cook at home

I don’t think we are cooking at home as much as we should.  Don’t get me wrong, in my family, we go out to eat and even order take-out a few times a week, but it is still a special occasion.  A recent study shows children are eating more and those calories are being eaten away from home.  Cooking at home let’s you control what you put in your meals.  You are bound to use less salt and sugar as a result.  It’s reconnects you with your food.  It helps you take pride in serving your family something you made with love.  It is the first step in sitting down and having a meal with your family which is a critical component of family communications and keeping childhood obesity at bay.  I usually look up Cooking Light recipes from MyRecipes.com if I need to shake things up a little. Strive to try one new recipe, order takeout one less day a week or sit down as a family one more night than you usually do.

Build a balanced plate

The conversion of MyPyramid to MyPlate provides us with a valuable visual tool to help spread the message of “eat more fruits, vegetables and whole-grains.” The MyPlate approach is perfect KISS message.  When you meal plan, it helps you think about how to balance your plate across all categories.  It makes you think twice about steaming some veggies or tossing a salad to add to that turkey burger or chicken and pasta your were going to serve alone.  It helps with portion control as well.  We are talking about a 9-inch plate, so there is only some much that can be piled on there.  Also if 3/4 of the plate is filled with fruits, vegetables and whole-grains then there is only so much room for protein.  Hopefully, it also reminds us to swap out soda for serving of low-fat dairy.  If you start with a balanced plate, it really does crowd out the other stuff that is less nutritious.

Get moving and step it up

And by that I mean exercise.  I don’t think it is possible to live a healthy life without exercise.  You need to “step up” what ever you are doing now by getting off the couch, taking the stairs, adding 10 minutes to your walk/run or going to the gym one more day a week. You can’t do it by diet alone. There are so many wonderful benefits to exercise, I argue you wouldn’t want to do it by diet alone.  It’s going to boost your metabolism, help you sleep,  give you more energy and yes, you might even lose some weight while you are at it. You don’t have to join a gym – though not a bad option if you can afford it.  Walking or running is a great way to start.  Buy a video if you need to build your confidence at the beginning. The important thing is that you keep moving.

Finally, take charge and make a change

You need to be an active participant in living a healthy lifestyle.  No one else can do it for you! Don’t be passive and let the fast food marketers and food package designers tell you want to buy.  You will need to work to make it happen.  This can be something small such as visiting your local farmer’s market, trying Meatless Mondays, packing your lunch or reading the nutrition label on the snack bar you have every day.  It can be more more involved like looking up nutritional information on restaurant websites before you go, tracking your calories or packing snacks when you travel.  Before you know it you’ll be wanting more.  You might educate yourself by reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food or watching Food Inc.  Maybe you’ll wanted to plant herbs or a small garden.  Everyone has their own evolution, but it starts with you  making one small change and then another.

It makes me think of the Mahatma Gandhi quote:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” …and I would add “in yourself”

I’m sure every dietitian (or to-be dietitian) has their own elevator pitch depending on their experiences, but here is mine –

Cook at home, balance your plate, getting moving and be the change. 

Hopefully that is KISS enough for you 🙂

Keep It Simple Clipart from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/92501682@N00/5067471752/

August 3, 2011 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

My Summer To-dos from July/August 2011 Women’s Health Magazine

I typically only buy magazines when I travel so I’m at the mercy of what happens to be out when I’m running through Washington Reagan National Airport.  Sometimes I feel underwhelmed when I read the same old articles, but I must say the July/August 2011 issue of Women’s Health Magazine had me dog-earring pages like there was now tomorrow.  So here are my Top 10 faves from the magazine that I’m adding to my summer to-do list:

  1. Buy Invisible Zinc (pg. 48) – SPF 30 water resistant sunscreen that give you the physical blocking power of zinc without the white mess.
  2. Pimp my Smoothie (pg. 86) – These smoothie recipes seem perfect to beat this summer heat.  I especially like the Apple Mojito Lite at only 107 calories.
  3. Try the waffle topped with greek yogurt and blueberries for breakfast (pg. 92).  I have some whole-wheat waffles in my freezer that seems too plain to get excited about, but this high-protein, high-antioxidant add is right up my alley.
  4. Pick up a bottle of Mas de la Dame Rose du Mas 2010.  The description of cherry, raspberry, lavender and thyme seems like a awesome combination.  Chill it and have a refreshing happy hour just in time for the weekend.
  5. Freeze some pops (pg. 98) – Perfect summer heat treats that also tantalize your taste buds.  I’ll be trying the Thai Iced Coffee (70 calories) and Pomegranate Swirl (50 calories!) and soon as I find some popsicle trays.
  6. Grill up some chicken kebobs (pg. 100) – Easy weeknight grilling recipes that seems to have the perfect blend of sweet and spice.
  7. Check out www.fitbie.com.  (p. 115) I’m not sure what it’s all about, but I’m a sucker for healthy living/nutrition websites.  I’ll check it out and report back if I find something good.
  8. Get my bikini body! (p. 122)- Ok, let’s be realistic, I’m not sold that doing this alone is going to have lightening fast results, but I needed something to shake up my routine.  I’m adding this to the end of my current cardio workout (gotta shed that fat with cardio before you can see those toned muscled underneath).  I’m on Day 4 and it’s definitely using muscles I haven’t used in a long while.  I added cobra pose and modified child’s pose to Day 3 and I thought it really enhanced my stretch day.
  9. Bulk up my salad (p. 130) – I can’t even pick a favorite salad recipe.  They are making me drool as I type this.
  10. Chill out with some mediation (p.143) – Truth be told this is one that’s been on my list for a while, but the approach seemed simple and achievable.  I like the idea of starting small…maybe even 5 minutes and work your way up.
Bottom line, if you are staring at the Women’s Health Magazine with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley on the cover, buy it!  it’s worth the read and you’ll want to cut out some recipes to try this weekend.
Good luck staying cool this weekend!

July 22, 2011 at 9:19 am 1 comment

Indulging in the Flavors of Puerto Rico

So my family and I had a wonderful time exploring the flavors of Puerto Rico.  When I think back on our eating escapades I remember seafood, fresh fruit and MOFONGO!

Catch of the Day

I didn’t make a conscious effort, but I believe I had seafood at every meal we had out.  In general, I try and stick to that rule since that means I get to control where my meat and poultry come from.  It’s an even better idea in Puerto Rico when most of the seafood is freshly caught from the surrounding waters.

Fruit, Fruit, Everywhere

It was so easy to get your daily dose of Vitamin C in Puerto Rico.  The fruit was gorgeous and delicious.  One of my favorites was mango we picked up from the local supermarket.  You had to pick around and find a ripe fruit, but my mom cut up slices for an afternoon snack after the pool and it was sweet heaven.  Fruit was everywhere!  You could buy Coco Frio (cold coconut) on the roadsides stands.

We found some in during our drive through El Yunque Rainforest.  You need to have the right tools.  Our vendor uses a machete to cut off the top.  Then all you need is a straw to reach the refreshing and electrolyte-filled coconut water. Best of all, you find local fruit featured prominently in their fruity drinks where they add coconut, mangos, apples, citrus and more to homemade sangria, mojitos and margaritas.

Los Kioskos

Another great way to sample the local fare is to hit the kiosk food stands strewn throughout Puerto Rico.  We were lucky to be close to a popular set of kioskos in Luquillo.  While we had been told there would be mostly fried food options, we had one of our best meals in at Tapas 13 where we were able to sample small plates of yucca sticks, spicy garlic shrimp and calamari.  Walking through the stands was an adventure for the senses and we felt like locals partaking in this rustic experience. 

And for the grand finale! Mofongo!

I was told this was a must-have dish for our Puerto Rican experience.  I had heard of the dish, but had never tasted it.  I’m glad my first time was authentic.  We hit a beachside restaurant and I ordered my first Mofongo Relleno de Camarones (Stuffed Mofongo with Shrimp).  Mofongo is made by mashing plantains (typically fried first to soften) and then filling it with a thick soup of protein, garlic and vegetables.  I was momentarily disappointed when my plate arrived with only two shrimp on top only to “crack” into the mofongo to find a dozen shrimp swimming inside a garlickly broth.  It was delicious and fresh – reinforced by the plantain delivery they received during our meal.  

I arrived home a little sleep deprived and very well fed.  I’d recommend a trip to this tropical destination that is closer than Hawaii and where you don’t need to use your U.S. passport…just be sure you bring an adventurous appetite!

Safe summer travels to everyone!

July 19, 2011 at 7:12 pm Leave a comment

Taking Eat2Win Global…well, sort of

Hey there. I’m coming to you from my iPhone 4. You got that right, my iPhone 4. No, I’m not texting this whole blog, but using my new Apple Wireless Keyboard and my iPhone WordPress App to write this test blog. I’ll be traveling to Puerto Rico, India and Istanbul over the next two months and I thought it would be great to share my food experiences from across the world. In any event, I think I am ready to pack and bring the worlds dishes to you.

Stay tuned if you are interested in international cuisine!

July 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm Leave a comment

I’m having an Eat2Win day :-)

So I didn’t think I’d have time to blog today, but I was having such an Eat2Win day, that I wanted to shout it out!

7:15 AM Woke up.  Finally caught up my sleep from my hectic weekend.  It’s so important to get enough sleep for your body to repair itself and ensure that your hunger hormones don’t get out of whack.

8:00 AM Broke my fast with a banana and coffee.  I call it my AM snack.

10:00 AM Breakfast – Smear of natural crunchy peanut butter and apple butter on whole wheat toast with skim milk.  Healthy fats and carbs to fill you up plus some fat-free dairy.  Good pre-workout meal.

12:00 PM Spinning interval workout (65 mins). I didn’t intend to go that long so I have to thank my Tivo and Oprah re-runs.  My workout is my ME time and I get to catch up on what I call ME TV.  This could mean Oprah, Ellen, American Idol, Top Chef, Friday Night Lights  (read:  all the TV shows my husband won’t watch with me).  Today it was Oprah re-runs.  I did 6 interval of 7 mins moderate intensity and 3 mins out of my seat high intensity with a 5min  cool down.  We were in perfect sync.  I fast forwarded through commercials during my moderate intensity segments and always made it through my high intensity minutes without hitting a commercial.  Just when I thought I was done, Oprah brought out Bon Jovi and I had go another interval and sing a little It’s My Life from the Australia episode.

It also could have been the shot of OJ I put in my water bottle.  You need fuel if you are going to extend your workout.  I also use G2 which is low cal and has some sodium and potassium to replenish your electrolytes.  Most important is that your are drinking before, during and after your workout.

1:15 PM Recovery Lunch – Morning Star spicy bean burger, whole-wheat tortilla, 1 slice reduced-fat pepper jack cheese, cilantro from the garden, 1 pack 100-calorie Wholly Guacamole, spinach, tomato, 6 multigrain Tostitos with a glass of skim milk.  I smear about 1/2 of the guacamole over the bean burger and enjoy a few chips with the other half.  It’s about a 500 calorie lunch with a mix of carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein which is going to stimulate muscle recovery and replenish my glycogen stores.

4:30 PM Wrote this blog and had a PM snack – Chobani Nonfat Greek Yogurt.  Yummy and great source of protein.

Key takeaways from today:

  • Don’t skip breakfast! You need it to wake your metabolism up and kick it into high gear.  You are not doing yourself any favors by starving yourself until lunch.
  • You need to fuel to win.  If you don’t eat, you won’t workout as long and hard and you want to.
  • Eat after you workout to help your body recover with a mix of carbohydrate and protein
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Have a snack.  It will help sustain you and ensure that you aren’t ravenous come meal time
  • Sleep does a body good (not to mention milk)
  • Do something fun when you exercise…get outdoors, dance, walk with a friend…or watch your ME TV!
I hope you had a great day as well.  If not, there is always tomorrow.
Now off to figure out dinner!

June 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

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