Breakfast Cereal

Cereal: It is the “go-to” breakfast. Whether you pour a bowl at the table in the morning or dump some in a bag as you are running out the door, it is a pretty classic breakfast. In fact, grain-based breakfasts have been found to help people lose weight better than those who eat a traditional eggs, sausage, and toast breakfast.

Unfortunately, those grain-based cereals can be more like sugar-based cereal. Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Coco Puffs, and Lucky Charms and even cereals like Kellogg’s Smart Start, Kashi, and Raisin Bran that are all marketed as “healthy” have heaps of sugar in them… sometimes more than a chocolate chip cookie!

I know that makes finding a healthy cereal very confusing, so here are my top 4 tips for choosing a healthy cereal to start your day with.

  1. It should have less than 10g of sugar per serving
  2. At least 3g of fiber per serving
  3. At least 5g of protein per serving
  4. The first ingredient should start with the word whole (ie. Whole wheat, whole grain, etc.)

If your cereal box doesn’t meet all 4 of these, put it back on the shelf and try another one of the other 500 cereals in the aisle. The one exception is protein. If your cereals falls a little short on protein, that is fine, but I would recommend having a side of eggs or low sugar Greek yogurt on the side.

I’ll also mention that portions are a big deal with cereal. The serving size is usually ¾ to 1 cup but we often dump 2-3x that in the bowl. Try measuring out your cereal for a few days. You might be shocked by how much you are actually eating.

Here is a list of some good cereal options:

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 6.55.42 AM.png

National Nutrition Month + Healthy Ice Cream

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.59.02 PM

Happy National Nutrition Month! While I probably should have written this post for the beginning of the month, I figured it is still March so it is still acceptable. Each year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics runs a campaign for the month of March that focuses on the importance of “making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits”. This years theme: Savor the Flavor of Eating Right. The message: healthy eating can and should taste good. I am definitely a fan of this year’s theme because there is no way to have sustainable healthy eating habits if you do not enjoy what you are eating. With this in mind, I though I would share this healthy and delicious ice cream recipe that won’t break the calorie bank. Plus, you can make it will all natural ingredients. Hope you enjoy!

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.55.04 PM

Study abroad update: Dublin was absolutely amazing and is definitely near the top of my list of favorite cities. This week I’m headed to Prague, Czech Republic and Nuremberg, Germany 🙂

IMG_0088

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Bread for Lunch?

This post is a little different. I wanted to share this little anecdote about how studying abroad has changed the way I describe healthy dietary patters- so here I go…

“The buns are in the oven”. This is what my host mom told me around 11:00am on my first day after arriving in Copenhagen. She explained that homemade buns (rundstykker) are a traditional Danish food- which are basically just big bread rolls. Each family has a unique recipe and the fluffier the buns, the better. Around 11:30am she asked me to help set the table. I put out plates, forks, knives along with the butter, jams, cheese, honey, and Nutella she pulled out of the fridge and cupboard. As the fresh buns came out of the oven just a few minutes later, my host parents, their three year old son, and I sat down at the dining room table for what I thought was a little, traditional mid-morning snack. My host mom cut the buns in half and passed them around the table until we each had a hot bun on our plate. We all helped ourselves to the toppings in the middle of the table easily spreading them as they melted over the warm crumbly surface. For the next hour or so, we sat around the table talking and getting to know each other. I had a total of one and a half buns, as I didn’t want to fill up on bread before lunch—even though they were delicious and I could have had many more. Over the course of the hour that we sat there, my host mom and dad had three or four buns each and continuously offered me more. When they finally finished cutting, spreading, and eating each bun and our conversation had come to a breaking point we cleared the table and washed the dishes. I went to my room to finish unpacking my luggage and take a nap to catch up on my jet lag. I was expecting a nice hot lunch to be ready when I woke up an hour later. Much to my surprise, I woke up from my nap with no food in sight. I didn’t want to ask my host parents when our next meal was because I was starting to get the feeling that lunch was the buns that we had had earlier. As the clock neared 3:00pm and my stomach started to grumble, I went in the kitchen and grabbed an apple to hold me over until dinner. Fast forward to the evening when I went to pack my lunch for Monday, my host mom suggested that I take some leftover buns with butter and cheese for lunch. It finally clicked! Apparently that meal of bread, butter, and cheese was actually a typical Danish lunch. I began to have a slight internal panic attack when I realized that I would be having a light, bread-filled, and protein-lacking lunch for an entire semester.

Among other things, getting used these light Danish lunches (which are almost always filled with bread) was has been a major food obstacles that I have had to overcome since coming to Denmark. Coming from living in a university apartment where I can buy and eat whatever I want (I try not to eat lots of processed food and simple sugars/grains), to not being able to choose what food is in the house and becoming accustomed to eating bread at every single meal has not been easy.

Now, almost two months into my new Danish eating habits, I actually have a newfound appreciation for the diet patterns. At first, it was difficult to overcome the uncomfortable feeling of eating mostly bread for lunch, but I have actually discovered that eating nut and seed filled rye bread actually fills me up quickly and keeps me full throughout the day. These rye breads with lots of nuts and seeds, which are very common in Denmark, have a lot more nutrients—including some protein—than most bread in the long American grocery store aisles. I have had to add an American touch by having peanut butter on my rye bread to make up for some of the protein and healthy fats I am lacking during lunch, but other than that, I have realized that the Danes actually are not crazy just having bread and some toppings for lunch. It has taken some getting use to but I now feel good about eating all of the wholesome grains in bread for lunch every day.

Eight weeks ago, when I realized I would be having bread for lunch everyday, I nearly had a panic attack. I would have never predicted that, today, I actually look forward to my rye bread sandwich everyday for lunch. As a nutrition major at school and an aspiring dietitian, it is fascinating to learn about the various eating patterns of people around the world. Throughout my education, I have always been taught that bread is full of empty calories and should not be the main part of any meal. Not only has living in Denmark given me new cultural experiences, but it has also changed how I look at diet choices of those in different counties and given me a fresh perspective on what healthy eating is defined as.

Study Abroad Update
It has been 3 days since returning from Riga, Helsinki, and Stockholm and had some really interesting (but some boring) lectures on health care. It is definitely interesting to see how cultural differences (such as Latvia’s conservative views on HIV/AIDS and family planning) can have such a large impact on the health care that is (or is not) provided to the citizens. Some unique food experiences on my trip included traditional Swedish meatballs (which were delicious) and reindeer (which was not so delicious)!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tomorrow will take me to Dublin, Ireland for the weekend as my next stop in this amazing adventure!

Vacation Eating and The Hunger Scale

Vacation usually means lots and lots of delicious treats! I love trying new foods so going to new restaurants and countries with new types of food is so much fun for me. Vacation also usually means a week or two of indulging and then its back to a relatively well balanced diet. My dilemma… I have quickly realized that this “vacation” is not just a week or two. I am abroad for over four months so having loads of sugary treats everyday is not the wisest decision. The past week has made me discover that just because I am in a foreign country does not means I can eat whatever I want, all of the time.

Over the weekend, some friends and I took a quick trip to Brussels, Belgium. I don’t know what you think about when I say Belgium, but the first things that came to my mind were chocolate, waffles, and French fries. With only 48 hours, we all took advantage of these amazing treats… so much so that we all felt pretty sick for the next few days. While a few days of salad, vegetable overload, and some trips to the gym got me feeling right back to normal, I have realized that this pattern of overeating and then “cleansing” does not make me feel my best.

IMG_9060.jpg

Belgian Waffles!

The biggest thing that I have forgotten about in all of this is the hunger scale. This guide here is a good way to know when and how much you (and I) should eat. If “1” is starving and “10” is miserably full, you should always be between 3 and 6/7. I know that recently I have been hitting 9/10 (and possible an 11 in Belgium!) way too often and it doesn’t feel good.

hunger scale.png

It is probably going to be difficult to say no to the homemade cakes my host mom makes, along with the flakey chocolate-filled pastries on every street corner, but if I want to survive these four months without endless stomach aches, I have to remind myself that I am going to be here for quite some time, and I don’t have to stuff my face with everything that is in front of me. (But, of course, a treat or a bite here and there will never hurt!) I also have to remind myself how much better I will feel if I don’t go to bed feeling like a roly-poly every night.

Meal Planning

Happy Sunday! When I’m not living with a host family in Denmark, Sunday is usually my meal planning and grocery shopping day to get ready for the upcoming week. Being busy with class and homework makes it difficult to just “run to the store and grab something”, especially when the good grocery store is a 20-minute drive from my apartment. That is where the meal plan comes in. Every Sunday I sit down and figure out what I am going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks each week. This makes it super easy to put together a grocery list of everything I need, and it prevents me from coming home at the end of a long day and having a box of crackers and a spoonful of peanut butter for dinner. Here are some reasons why I make a meal plan (and you should too!):

  1. Less food waste. If you have a plan for what you are going to eat and only buy those things, much less ends up in the dumpster. Similarly, you won’t buy things you don’t need. We have all gone to the store and thrown items in the cart “just in case” we need them. But, if you already have a plan for what you are going to make for the week, there is no guessing what you “might” need.
  2. Saves you trips to the store. When you go to make your favorite pasta dish for dinner Wednesday, you will already have all the ingredients because you thought about it before hand. No more last minute stops at the store because you don’t have the ingredients you need.
  3. Eat healthier. Instead of grabbing for the cookie jar because there is nothing else in the house, you will have all the healthy snacks you bought based on your meal plan. You are also more likely to stick to a healthy diet when you have it written down.
  4. Creating a grocery list is easier. Most people already know that you aren’t supposed to go to the grocery store without a list. With a meal plan, it makes it easy to know exactly what you need and how much so there is no more aimless wondering through the grocery store grabbing each item that looks good.

Here is a template for a meal plan that I found on Google and there are tons more to choose from (or make your own!).

meal planner.jpg

To my surprise, my host family asked me to help them create a meal plan for dinner this week. I guess meal planning is popular in Denmark, too!

Happy planning!

Zucchini Pizza Bites

Craving some late night pizza? Ready to call the delivery man? STOP! Try these Zucchini Pizza Bites. They are super yummy and will be done before the delivery man shows up.

Using zucchini as your pizza crust gives you and extra serving of vegetables and significantly decreases the calorie count compared to regular pizza.

pic

I’ll admit, it is not the same as fatty, oily pizza, but they are a great alternative. They also are a little messy, but nothing a little napkin won’t fix.

recipe 

How to Make Healthy Choices at Restaurants

No matter what I am eating or where I am, you can probably catch me taking a picture of the food I am about to eat. My iPhone camera roll is filled with hundreds of pictures of restaurant meals, home-cooked dinners, ice cream cones, and the clean plates afterwards.

What’s my favorite kind of food to snap a pic of? Restaurant food! I love going new restaurants, trying new foods and taking pictures of the overfilled plates piled with loads of yummy goodness.

That being said, restaurants can definitely be huge deal breaker when it comes to eating healthy. The long menu with many greasy, gooey, delicious options (that are very photogenic) can be tempting and make eating healthy a challenge.

Eating Out Choices

Use these tips to make your restaurant visit happy and healthy:

  1. Look at the menu ahead of time. Pretty much all restaurants have a website with their menu. Take a peak and plan what healthy item you are going to have. If you already know what you are going to order, you are less likely to be tempted by the unhealthy options once you get there.

Also, knowing what you eat will help you plan your food choices for the rest of the day. If you know you are going to have chicken and pasta for dinner at a restaurant, you should try to squeeze in some extra fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the rest of the day.

  1. Eat a balanced meal. No healthy choices? Try to get a meal the combines fiber and protein. While some grilled chicken with vegetables and brown rice would be ideal, if breaded chicken is the only option that is still better than having a bowl of white pasta, which has little nutritional value.
  1. Make menu swaps. Instead of French fries, get roasted sweet potatoes. Swap pita bread for fresh veggies. Making these small changes can make your meal significantly healthier by decreasing calories and increasing nutrient content. My favorite menu swap is ordering grilled veggies in place of french fries to go with my chicken or fish dish to create a well balanced meal.
  1. Don’t overeat. Restaurants often serve outrageously large portions, so don’t be afraid to ask for a to-go box. You might even want to do this before you start eating. Food tastes better when you aren’t forcing it down your throat so take your leftovers for lunch tomorrow. That’s one less meal you have to cook, too!
  1. Most importantly, eat something you will enjoy! There is no point in ordering a boring salad if you aren’t going to enjoy it. If the restaurant is known for their burgers and that is what you want, go for it! But maybe you have to make some adjustments throughout the rest of the day. Eat a smaller lunch if you are going to have a big dinner, or ditch the late afternoon bag of chips and save the calories for that burger.