There are few things I like more than to have a leisurely weekend breakfast, especially on a rainy morning like we had over this weekend. One of my favorite breakfast foods has to be pancakes. Nothing says weekend morning like a pile of pancakes topped with berries and drizzled with syrup. Pancakes usually aren’t renowned as a healthy breakfast food however, since they’re usually made from enriched white flour, sometimes filled with chocolate chips, and often come with a side of processed breakfast meat. But there are still plenty of ways to make a healthier pancake so you can feel happy about incorporating this breakfast food often in your diet.
This weekend, I tried a new pancake mix I had read about on Carrots N' Cake called Flap Jacked. It’s made from whole oat and quinoa flour and has added protein to keep you fuller for longer. I tried a half cup serving mixed with just water and I was able to enjoy 3 fluffy buttermilk pancakes for just 200 calories, 6 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein! These definitely will be a weekend regular for me (although they’re so quick to make, I could cook them on a weekday!) Another whole wheat pancake mix I use often is Hodgson’s Mill Buckwheat mix. And of course if you don’t have any whole wheat mix in the house and don’t feel like changing out of your PJs to go to the store, you can always make pancakes from scratch. I usually follow a recipe similar to this.
Of course even if you have a healthy stack of whole wheat pancakes, topping them with extra syrup won’t do you any favors. My favorite way to eat pancakes is to top them with ground flaxseed, berries, and a drizzle of honey. Consider adding a source of protein on the side of your pancakes, too, such as egg whites or non-fat Greek yogurt.
Anyone else grow some monster zucchinis in their garden this summer? I’ve been able to pluck some quite a few from my garden within the past few weeks and have really been enjoying it. Zucchini is a very versatile veggie that is great in sweet and savory recipes. Zucchini provides you with vitamins C and A, and also contains potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber. It also comes in at about 20 calories per cup so is a great food to add low calorie volume to your meals! Here are some of my favorite uses for this summer squash.
Zucchini and Tomato Dish
This is great for a fast summer side dish to grilled chicken or turkey burgers!
1 or 2 medium to large zucchini, sliced thinly
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, minced
Saute garlic in small amount of olive oil until fragrant. Add zucchini and saute until zucchini starts to become tender. Add tomatoes and simmer.
Zucchini Basil Muffins
This is a tasty savory muffin that goes well with summer salads or a white fish.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I substitute non-fat plain Greek yogurt to reduce the calories!)
2 cups shredded zucchini (keep the skin on for extra fiber!)
2 tablespoons minced basil
Preheat oven to 425°. Grease muffin cups.
In a large bowl , combine flour, sugar ,baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, beat eggs lightly and star in milk and oil (or yogurt). Add wet ingredients to dry, juts stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently fold in zucchini and basil to the batter.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Lightly sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let muffins cool in tins 3-4 minutes and then turn onto rack to cool completely.
It’s amazing how much (sometimes reliable) nutrition and health information we can access on the internet. 50 years ago, you couldn’t google “gluten-free foods” or “carbohydrate counting” and find a number of articles to read. (And google wasn’t an existing verb or website back then of course, either) So it makes sense that I come across some knowledgeable clients who are pretty well-versed in healthy eating. If you’re looking for weight loss advice, your Google search yield will be almost endless. Which leads me to the point of this post – many people aren’t struggling with their weight due to lack of nutrition and exercise knowledge. I often hear from individuals that they aren’t sure how I can even benefit them as a dietitian, since they feel that they have “heard it all and know what to do”. So if more and more people have been able to find plenty of weight loss tips, exercise advice, and healthy recipes by simply performing a 2 second search on Google, why is there still an obesity epidemic in our country? It all boils down to motivation.
I love talking to individuals who have successfully lost weight and changed their lifestyle. I’m always curious to know what truly helped them stick to their goals and maintain motivation. Unfortunately, too often I see people lose 5-10 pounds then slowly gain it back. I wanted to share some tips I’ve gathered from my own experience and talking to others about how you can maintain motivation to stick to a healthy lifestyle, lose the weight and keep it off.
1. Take it one step at a time. If you’re skipping breakfast, not exercising, and eating out for dinner 5 nights a week, chances are you’re not going to drink a kale smoothie each morning, hit the gym 4 days in a row, and prepare 5 home cooked meals starting next week. I believe many people have an “all-or-nothing” approach and want to revamp their whole lifestyle at once or not do anything at all. Try setting one small goal for yourself each week. I think a great place to start is by increasing your water intake. Drinking more water boosts energy, helps keep your metabolism up to speed, and can help you eat less. Once you’re drinking enough to have you hitting the bathroom every 4-5 hours, then consider adding breakfast in a few days a week. Taking it one step at a time really helps you ease into new habits and make them stick. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself by doing a 180 on your current routine. You will get burnt out and give up.
2. Don’t wait until Monday. I hear this one a lot, too. “I haven’t starting losing weight YET or going to the gym x amount of times per week YET, but I’m planning to start on Monday” (or another date in the future, usually after a certain event that involves high calorie food). We always need that weekend to let ourselves go, huh? Even if you need to go to the grocery store and stock up on healthy foods or get your gym membership set up, why can’t you “start” TODAY? I’m sure there is something you can do to start moving in the right direction. You can always get started on exercise by doing some simple strength training moves at home or even taking a few breaks at work for 5 minute walks.
3. Which leads me to my next point: rarely is there an ideal time to get started. Life seems to never go as planned. It’s hard to start an exercise routine when you’re in the middle of moving to a new house, putting in longer hours at work, or on vacation. And I know having house guests or redoing your kitchen can lead to eating out more often. But still try to think of ways to promote a healthy lifestyle. Can you go for a walk on your lunch break at work and do some light strength training exercises in front of the TV that evening? Maybe even choose healthier restaurants or make the best of your options (order something lower in calories, ask them to hold the cheese, etc). I truly am sympathetic and I know it can be very frustrating when you are trying to lose weight and life throws you a curveball. Following a healthy lifestyle is not easy and you’ll need to learn to roll with the punches if you want to lose weight and keep it off for life. If you keep waiting for a “good” time to start, it may never come.
4. Expect setbacks and learn to work with them. It can be a major motivation buster to be faithful to your 5 day a week exercise routine for months or even years then be thrown off by a knee injury, illness or new work schedule. I’ve been there and know that lying on the couch complaining about it and watching Netflix doesn’t do a thing to help the situation (ahem). However, I try to keep in mind that there is always a boxing DVD that focuses on upper body only I can do in my living room. And when I work late and arrive at home hungry and tired, veggie omelets or frozen turkey burgers can be cooked quickly and will save calories and money over a call to Papa Johns. Try to develop habits and options that you can fall back on regardless of the stressors you’ll face in life. You may not always be able to lose weight when going through a rough patch, but you should be able to avoiding gaining through healthy habits.
5. Discover what you enjoy about a healthy lifestyle. You know what I hate? Running on the treadmill. I can suck it up sometimes, but I’d usually rather have a root canal. My point is, find your niche in exercise and healthy eating. This greatly improves your chances of sticking to a healthy lifestyle permanently. I’ve found that I love Zumba and blasting music while I pedal away on the elliptical. I also adore almond butter and blueberries. I’m sure the general population would rather eat a piece of cake over fruit and go to a bar instead of an aerobics class, but hopefully can still appreciate a juicy slice of watermelon and a good endorphin-pumping workout. If you hate raw vegetables-hey, that’s okay! There are plenty of great tasting steamed and roasted veggies to add low calorie sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your diet. And don’t drag yourself to spinning class three days a week if you dread it. Maybe Pilates is more your style. If I was limited to running on the treadmill for exercise and could only eat salads for meals, I’d still be on the couch watching Netflix! Choosing healthy foods and sticking to exercise may not always be the easiest or most enjoyable option, but the more you appreciate these habits and enjoy them, the more likely you are to make them a permanent part of your life.
Thanks for sticking with this post; I know it’s a long one. Please share any other thoughts or tips you have about staying motivated!
To lighten things up, here's a picture of my dog, Ripken, practicing his down dog with me.
My husband and I, like many people, seem to always be on a tight budget. I enjoy grocery shopping, but sometimes I am really torn between buying a product with better quality ingredients and another option that is less expensive but often not as nutritious. (Although I have to say, sticking with buying more whole foods and less snack foods saves an awful lot.)
One area of the store that is continually challenging to me is the produce section. The bulk of my grocery bill is from this part of the store, and rightfully so. Fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of your diet. But I’m often torn between purchasing organic produce which is inevitably more expensive, or buying the in season fruits and veggies that are on sale. I aim to buy organic produce included on the EWG's Dirty Dozen Plus list, but those $.59 bright red bell peppers just call my name. Every extra dollar adds up towards a vacation, right?
Just to give you more of a background on organic produce; it is grown without any pesticides and herbicides and has no genetic modifications (GMOs). The benefits of eating organic foods include avoiding residual pesticides as well as reducing air, soil, and water pollution. Since it costs more to grow organic foods in terms of labor and product loss, the cost is inevitably higher.
Eating more fruits and vegetables always trumps eating less to avoid pesticide residue on conventionally grown produce. Also, no one can really even say what the outcome of eating non-organic produce years after years truly is, since it hasn’t been studied long term. So if you can afford it, choose to at least buy the dirty dozen plus in organic; if it’s really not in your budget to go organic, still stock up on plenty of produce. You’ll still be stocking up on some of the healthiest foods in the store. In terms of produce, I always choose organic berries, salad greens, grapes and apples at minimum. Thoroughly washing your fruits and vegetables (organic or not) can also rid your produce of some of the residual chemicals and bacteria.
I have a dirty little secret. I try to eat healthy and avoid empty calories as much as possible, but I have a weakness for chips. Crunchy, salty, seasoned kettle cooked chips. While perusing the chip aisle at my local Kroger the other day, another crunchy snack caught my eye- pre-popped popcorn!
It seems to be a growing “health food” trend; Bags of pre-popped popcorn advertised as containing healthier ingredients such as chia seeds and more favorable oils. The packaging suggests that you can indulge guilt-free in this airy snack due to lower calorie content than its other salty counterparts. And it’s true; an average between brands comes out to between 30-60 calories per cup of popcorn. So if you were to treat yourself to a sizable 4 cups of this snack, you’d still come out ahead versus eating 10-15 chips. Anyone who’s met me knows that I’m a big fan of practicing "volumetrics" when eating. So are these new-styled classic movie snacks a good choice?
I say so! Popcorn itself is a whole grain and a good source of fiber. Most of these popcorn brands are popped with sunflower oil (a good source of omega 6) and have a limited amount of ingredients (dietitian thumbs up). I've been munching on this popcorn as a crunchy substitute for chips. There are quite a few brands to choose from. Here is a review of the options that I’ve seen.
-Chia Pop by Lesser Evil, 38 calories for 1 cup
Lesser Evil boasts using chia seeds in their popcorn (and other snacks). This increases the fiber content to 5 grams per serving! Also comes in Aged Cheddar and Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper.
-Fit by Indiana Popcorn, 30-40 calories for 1 cup
Sea Salt Fit only contains 3 ingredients: popcorn, canola oil, and sea salt! Other flavors include Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Parmesan and Herb, and Onion Dijon.
-Boom Chicka Pop by Angie’s, 35-60 calories for 1 cup
Another short ingredient list! Comes in Sea Salt, Lightly Sweet, and White Cheddar
How many of you have some of these colorful, hard boiled super foods in your fridge as you read this? Hopefully, you have some leftover after the holiday weekend. I was looking for a good protein source to go along with my whole grain waffles this morning and was happy to see some hard boiled eggs sittin’ pretty in the fridge. I chose to eat one whole egg and one egg white for a satisfying 12 grams of protein.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked whether eggs are “good” are “bad” from a nutrition standpoint. They are a source of dietary cholesterol, containing about 186 mg in the yolk. The way people respond to dietary cholesterol varies from one person to the next. Also, saturated and trans fat have more of an effect on most people’s cholesterol profiles versus dietary cholesterol. However, if you do have elevated LDL cholesterol, it may help to keep your dietary cholesterol, eggs included, in moderation; usually 3 whole eggs or less per week.
In addition to being a good source of protein, eggs contain Vitamins A, B6, B12 and D. Eggs are also an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient that contributes to fetal brain development and adult brain function. Additionally, eggs contain lutein and zeaxanthin which can help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. And all of these benefits come for about 15 cents and 70 calories a pop.
Consider adding eggs scrambled with veggies and wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla to your breakfast rotation. Also, try keeping hard boiled eggs in the fridge as a quick, portable protein snack or side.
And chia! These two little powerful seeds are foods I’m working to incorporate into my diet daily. If you haven’t tried these ancient tiny nutrition powerhouses, consider giving them a shot.
Ch-ch-ch-chia! This seed can not only grow grass hair on a ceramic Homer Simpson’s head but is high in omega 3’s and fiber. Chia was a diet mainstay back in the Aztec and Mayan cultures. Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico. Two tablespoons of the seeds contain 120 calories, 4564 mg of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, 10 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein!
Flaxseed was eaten in Babylon in 3000 BC. This seed is another great source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber! Two tablespoons of this seed contains 60 calories, 2400mg of omega-3, 4 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. Additionally, flaxseed contains lignans, a type of plant estrogen that may help protect against cancer. Look for ground flaxseed in stores to ensure you are able to fully reap the benefits of this food. You also may see golden or brown flax seed available; either is fine to eat.
Using the Seeds
Both chia and flax are quite versatile and easily to incorporate into many foods. Both seeds have a slightly nutty taste. My favorite way to eat flaxseed or chia seed is to mix it into my morning oatmeal along with some berries. You can also sprinkle either seed on top of any cereal, pudding, salad, or yogurt. Chia or flaxseed mixed with water can also be used as an egg substitute in baked goods and pancakes.
(Photo courtesy of
I thought the best way to start this blog would be to talk about one of my favorite topics- healthy snacking!
I truly believe snacking can make or break your weight loss efforts. Snacks that are low in nutrients can add extra empty calories to your "budget" for the day, but if you choose wisely, snacking can help you sustain your energy throughout the day and eat less at meals. It's probably best to not go more than 4-5 hours during the day without eating. At least consider an afternoon snack if there is a sizable gap between your lunch and dinner time.
Here are my suggestions for choosing a healthy snack:
Usually 100-200 calories is a good amount with at least 5 grams of protein
Choose a healthy carbohydrate (whole grains or fruit) combined with either healthy fat or protein. This is the best combination for stable blood sugar and energy!
Some snack ideas:
1 medium apple and 10 almonds
7 Triscuits and 1 low fat string cheese
Kashi snack bar (try Honey Almond Flax or Chocolate Almond & Sea salt chewy granola bars)
Kind snack bar (try Fruit & Nut Delight or Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate)
1 cup of grapes and 1 mini Babybel light cheese
1 oz Lean turkey jerky with 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup shelled edamame
1 5.3 oz container of Stonyfield Farm plain Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup blueberries and 1/2 TBS honey