Put it on a Plate

Ever get home after a long day and the last thing you want to do is put together a meal? If there are no plans to eat anytime soon, I can guess that your first move is to open the fridge or the pantry and just start picking at whatever looks good. The problem? There is not limit. You have the whole bag, container, or package at your disposal.

The amount of food you eat is just as important as the type of food you are eat. We often load our plates way too high or dig our hand in the snack bag a few too many times leading to overeating and that uncomfortably full feeling.

So, my number one tip for portion control is putting everything you eat on a plate (or in a bowl). Sounds easy enough, right? But think about how many times you have eaten straight out of the package. Maybe it was the whole bag of popcorn on the couch or standing in front of the fridge, fork in hand, eating straight out of the Tupperware container (I am frequently guilty of this one).

Instead of bringing the whole bag of popcorn with you to the couch, pour a reasonable amount into a bowl. Even if your “reasonable” amount is more than the recommended serving size, I’ll bet you it is a lot less than what you would eat if you ate straight out of the bag.

The same goes for meals… When you sit down for dinner, put a scoopful of each item on your plate at the beginning. Then you can visualize all the food you will be eating. If you put each item on your plate after you have finished the previous item, you can’t tell how much you ate in total.

See, if you can visualize the total amount of food you are eating in a given sitting, you are more likely to make more realistic decisions when it comes to portion sizes. Even if you just want some nuts, fruit, and a slice of bread for a snack, putting it on a small plate allows you to pick out a serving size that you think is reasonable.

In my opinion, eating healthier portion sizes is worth the 2 extra minutes and few extra dishes.

Diet & Exercise, etc.

As promised, I have a Dietetic Internship update and some other goodies to share. These first two weeks have been dedicated to orientation at the hospital. I, along with the four other interns, have sat through lots of HR trainings, lectures about hospital policies, gone on more hospital tours than I can count, and even had a few homework assignments already. Aside from that boring stuff, we did have some sessions that were more interesting and applicable to dietetics, like an intro to the Nutrition Focused Physical Exam, a taste test of the various supplements the hospital can supply to patients, and we did some patient-clinician role playing to prepare for talking with patients.

IMG_9871In other very exciting news, I officially can check “run a half marathon” off my bucket list. At 9:58am this morning, I crossed the finish line of the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Cleveland. Miles 10-12 were definitely a struggle and required a little walking, but I ran the first 10 and the last 1.3 without stopping. Considering my longest training run was 10 miles and I wasn’t planning on running the full 13.1 until October, I am pretty happy with how I did. I decided to run it two months early because I quickly realized, during week 1 at the hospital, fitting long runs into my busy schedule was not realistic.

Now, I am home, have eaten more food than I thought possible (Note: running 13.1 miles makes you very hungry!), and my legs are officially jello. Since getting up off the couch is not really an option right now, I thought I would also add something to this post that is maybe more relevant to you (as opposed to just leaving it as an update on my life).

Since I’m in the half marathon spirit, talking about workouts seems appropriate. While workouts and healthy eating are usually two peas in a pod, I have stayed away from writing about them too much because I have no background or credentials surrounding fitness or exercise. But, I do know a thing or two about the relationship between diet and exercise, which I can share that emphasize the importance of a quality diet:

  1. I’m pretty sure we have all heard that “You can’t outrun a bad diet” and “Abs are made in the kitchen”. While these phrases may seem silly, there is a little bit of truth to them. We, as a society often underestimate how much we eat and overestimate how much we burn during a workout (the cardio machines that give false calorie readings don’t help). So, it can be really hard to burn enough calories in a workout to compensate for the two extra cookies last night. Personally, those two extra cookies aren’t worth a whole ‘nother hour at the gym (see the graphic below)…I’ll stick to one cookie.

    food calories to workout convesion

    Calories in food equivalent to workouts (I think these workouts are a little but underestimated, but you get the point)

  2. Surprise! It isn’t all about the number on the scale. Maybe those extra hours in the gym are worth it to you (or you naturally have a fast metabolism) and you eat anything and everything you want. Just because you fall into a healthy weight category doesn’t make you immune to sodium increasing you blood pressure or saturated fat clogging your arteries.
  3. Diet and exercise are not one or the other. They are both important and you need to find a balance. Here are just a two examples… exercise can increase HDL (good cholesterol) which diet can’t do, and fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants that can reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
  4. A poor diet often leads to low energy, poor sleep, and negative mood meaning your workout (or any part of your daily life) probably won’t be that great or productive if your not eating well.

These are just a few examples of why a healthy, well-balanced diet are so important. Now, I’m not ragging on exercise (see #3), While the “diet pea” might fit very nicely in that pod with the “exercise pea”, sometimes they need to stand on their own and be recognized for their individual benefits. Trust me, after training for a half marathon, I get that after a good sweaty workout you feel like you deserve a giant chocolate bar and a bag of chips, but in reality, that isn’t going to work (not for losing weight or for overall health).

I hope this helps, eat more veggies, and stay sweaty!

Healthy Holiday Tips

 

Did you know that the average American gains about 0.5 to 1.5 pounds per year with the majority of the gain occurring between November and December. Can you guess why? Yep! Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are not very good at promoting healthy eating habits. All those chocolates, cookies, and endless buffets can make it difficult to avoid temptations, but it isn’t impossible. Here are some tips to have healthier holidays:

  1. Don’t skip meals: Have a big holiday dinner party tonight? Plan on eating a healthy breakfast and lunch, plus some healthy snack throughout the day and especially before you go. This will prevent you from becoming over-hungry and eating everything in sight once you get there.
  2. Keep your distance: Don’t sit yourself down next to the chips and dip, and choose the seat furthest from the buffet. This will make you less likely to go back for more.
  3. Fill at least half your plate with the healthy stuff: That means, at least half (more won’t hurt!) of your plate should have lean meat (white meat with no skin), non-starchy vegetables/salad (sorry, mashed potatoes don’t count), and whole grains.
  4. Be realistic: Don’t tell yourself to not eat any desserts at Thanksgiving dinner. When everyone is enjoying his or her pie, you are not going to want to sit empty-plated. You might also end up throwing your goal out the window and overeating dessert. Setting realistic goals (like only having half a slice of pie and some fruit) that are achievable can make you feel much better about yourself and encourage you to set and achieve your goals in the future.
  5. Don’t wait until new years to make a resolution: This goes right along with tip number 4. Set yourself some holiday goals to keep you on track, but don’t be unrealistic and set yourself up for failure. This is not the time of year to try to lose weight but maintaining your weight is manageable. Make some daily, weekly, and monthly goals to resist all the holiday temptations.

It is important to remember that it takes about 3500 excess calories to gain one pound (that means 500 extra calories per day for a whole week). One more cookie, an extra scoop of stuffing, or your favorite pie is not going to kill you, but it will add up. Pick and choose when to indulge and keep the rest of your days and meals light and healthy.

Finally, just because it is cold outside, doesn’t mean you can’t stay active. Holiday shopping, cleaning, and cooking means lots of walking and time on your feet, which can help keep off the holiday pounds. Try parking in the furthest spot from the store, taking the stairs in the mall instead of the escalator, or taking an extra lap around the grocery store before you check out. It might sound sill but all the little things add up!

Happy Holidays!

Peanut Butter Energy Balls + Olympics

I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen the past few days testing out some new recipes so expect lots of yumminess soon. Today I thought I would share one of my favorites: Peanut Butter Energy Balls. They are perfect to grab as a quick snack or to enjoy when you need a little sweet snack after dinner. They are incredibly easy and fast (and don’t require any baking). Just mix all the ingredients together, roll ‘em into balls, and enjoy!

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In Other News…

Guess what today is?! The opening ceremony of the Olympics (aka my favorite time of every other year); in fact, I am watching them as I type this! Seriously, I am obsessed with the Olympics. I have already downloaded 5 iPhone apps to make sure I’m always up to date on scores and medal counts, and my butt will likely be glued to the couch for the next few weeks watching everything from gymnastics to synchronized swimming to beach volleyball.

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Olympic Training Center 2010

On a more serious note, I attribute my love for the Olympics to my involvement in sports throughout my life. If I had not been an athlete myself, I would not have the same appreciation for all the athletes competing in the Olympic games. As a rhythmic gymnast, I learned the importance of being healthy a living a balanced life. I saw first had how eating habits could impact my energy and performance at practice and competition. These experiences are really what have guided me on my path in college to become a dietitian. Whether I work with athletes in the future, that is tbd.

Enjoy the games and go team USA!

Mixing and Matching Food Groups

Balance. That is pretty much they key word that people use to describe a healthy diet since there is no real consensus on what a healthy diet exactly is. But, I know that that is a little too vague and some more guidelines are helpful for creating well-balanced eating habits. It is impossible to tell you exactly what and how much to eat since that varies too much person to person, but there is a good way to keep the daily balance when it comes to snacks and meals.

This guide to balance refers to food groups. Remember that famous food pyramid? Yep, those are the food groups I am talking about. While that pyramid has now been redesigned into a plate (which I don’t really like, but that is for another blog post), the idea is still the same. The main food groups you should incorporate into your diet are grains, protein, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and fats. Fats are left off of the plate because most foods that I would consider healthy fats also fall into other categories (e.g. avocado could be classified as a fruit and nuts could fall into the protein category).

Food pyramidmy plate

Snacks
The key here is to incorporate two to three food groups into each snack. This allows the body to get nutrients from different sources and digest at different speeds. One food group will usually digest faster (giving you more immediate energy) and the other will digest more slowly (keeping you full longer).

Want some snack ideas?
-Yogurt and granola (dairy and grain)
-Apple and peanut butter (fruit and fat/protein)
-Hummus and celery or carrots (protein and vegetable)
-Cheese and crackers (dairy and grain)
-Avocado Toast (fat and grain)
-Oatmeal and berries (grain and fruit)

Meals
For meals, you want to combine three to four food groups (you could even try to do all five!). This allows for lots of variety (which means lots of different nutrients) and helps you meet your daily servings of each food group. It can also prevent over eating by helping you fill up on foods like vegetables before digging into the main, usually more calorically dense, part of your meal. Plus, it is important to get all the vitamins and minerals in vegetables that are sometimes forgotten during typically protein and grain rich meal times.

Need some meal inspiration?
Breakfast:
-Eggs and avocado toast (protein, fat, and grain)
-Yogurt with berries and granola (dairy, fruit, and grain)
Lunch:
-Sandwich with protein (egg salad, turkey, tuna salad) and veggies with hummus (grain, protein, and vegetables)
-Grilled chicken salad with quinoa and an apple (protein, vegetables, grain, and fruit)
Dinner:
-My favorite black bean burrito lettuce wraps with brown rice (protein, vegetable, and grain- also add avocado/guacamole for a healthy fat)
-Baked salmon with whole-wheat pasta and a side of edamame (or other vegetable) (protein, grain, and vegetable)

Fantastic Food Find + Paleo

Last Friday, I stumbled upon this pretty awesome little restaurant in the Glass Market in Copenhagen. Several glass sheds are filled with little restaurants, food stands, and farmers selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. After walking around for 20 minutes drooling over all of the delicious options, I convinced my friend that we had to eat at a restaurant called Palæo (Paleo).

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Inside the Glass Market

Paleo is a diet that consists of foods that could be found during the Paleolithic period (essentially the foods eaten by cavemen). The diet includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and meat and excludes sugar, processed grains, and dairy. While I am not a huge fan of following any specific diet, my mom, who is a true Paleo fanatic, inspired me to give it a try. Plus, after eating bread and pasta for every meal with my host family, I was in need of something different.

It took many questions to figure out what we wanted off of the menu written in Danish, but I decided on a salmon wrap with smoked salmon, guacamole, cabbage, spinach, and pomegranate seeds. The wrap? Since Paleo means no flour, it was wrapped in an omelet! While it wasn’t authentic Danish cuisine in any way it has been one of my favorite meals since I’ve been here!

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Like I said before, I am not a huge fan of following any specific diet, I do think the Paleo diet has some good principles. For example, wrapping my sandwich with egg instead of flour adds much more protein to make for a more satisfying meal. It also helps you steer clear of some of the crazy, zillion letter chemicals that can be found in lots of processed foods. Just keep in mind, you don’t have to follow a diet of any kind to be healthy. Using principles of diets like Paleo to guide your eating patterns while still including some sweet treats and bread is a great way to have a well balanced diet.

As for my study abroad adventures, I am currently on a study tour with my core public health class in Western Denmark (Odense and Vejle) until Wednesday visiting various health care institutions across Denmark. Next stop: Brussels, Belgium on Friday with friends. Can’t wait to eat tons of waffles and chocolate!

 

What is Healthy?

It has officially been a week since arriving in Copenhagen and I only went the wrong way on the train once! Last week was filled with orientation seminars and tours of the city, and I successfully survived my first day of classes on Thursday. So far, I am enjoying all of my classes with Danish definitely being the most difficult. Thanks to my host family, I’ve got built in tutors for that!

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My core class in the Public Health program is Health Delivery and Prioritization in Northern Europe. Our class discussion on Thursday and our homework for the weekend revolved around the definition of health. Think about it… health can be a hard word to define. After reading this excerpt from Stephen Holland’s book Public Health Ethics, I was reminded of a new meaning of health that is often overlooked.

“…raised blood pressure is a risk factor for all kinds of disease. Reducing alcohol intake can be expected to lower the patient’s blood pressure and therefore reduce the risk of disease. So, the doctor ought to persuade the patient to drink less. But, on a conception of health as well-being, things look different. Given the patient’s circumstances, it might well be that going to the pub or bar to drink beer is vital to maintaining the levels of well-being. Stopping drinking – even compromising the pleasure of drinking by harping on about its detrimental effects – might well be disastrous for the patient’s well-being. So, on this account of health it would be dubious of the doctor to persuade the patient to drink less.”

The World Health Organization defines health as “a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Coming from a nutrition perspective, I am always focused on physical health and preventing disease and often forget about the mental and social well-being part of health.

So what is the point?
What I am trying to say is that it is important that we enjoy what we are eating and have a positive relationship with food. Eating lots of fiber, vegetables, and lean meats is great for our physical health but sometimes it can be overwhelming and interfere with out mental and social well-being.

For example, if you are at a dinner party or a restaurant trying to eat only “healthy” foods, the “unhealthy” foods around you can be very tempting. This can cause anxiety and an unpleasant, stressful night for you. You might be proud of yourself at the end of the night for not having a single French fry, but was it worth all of the anxiety? Would it have been better for your mental and social well-being to have a few fries or a bit of ice cream?

Not only is your diet about balance, but so is your overall health. Every person is different so I am not going to tell you when and where you should be eating what, but keep in mind that your overall health is determined by a lot more factors that just the food that goes into your mouth. Making “healthy” choices doesn’t just mean eating salad for every meal. “Healthy” choices can also include having a piece of cake in honor of a celebration or having chips and salsa at the dinner party so you don’t feel isolated and hungry.