the celebration-food bandwagon: taking rides in moderation

So what has happened between now and my last post on April 7? DESSERT! Yes, my friends, that fateful Easter day was April 8 and that means dessert has been back in my life. I’ve given up desserts for every Lent since I was about 15, which makes Easter day a delectable feasting of cakes, cookies, chocolates, you name it. And did this RD dig in?

HECK YEAH, SHE DID.

I’m sure this dessert bounty served-up on holidays sounds familiar to many of you out there.There will always be Aunt Millie’s famous pumpkin-roll at Thanksgiving dinner and that tall cake oozing with chocolate for your mother’s birthday. No way around it, food is an integral part of our celebrations year ’round. While many people embrace this time to eat, drink, and be merry, there are others who worry about how much they will go “out of control” and “overdo it”.

So what are we to do during these times? How do we find a balance between enjoying ourselves and not going overboard?

The trick is to do exactly that. Enjoy yourself. Eat the foods you want to eat. There are no bad foods out there, only “bad” portions. I hold a firm belief that eating smaller portions of a full-fat treat is much more nutritious than eating multiple servings of its fat-free counterpart. I’m talking mostly about those fat-free desserts out there or that dessert your friend made who describes it like this:

“Oh, I substituted applesauce for the oil, and bananas for the eggs, and I took out the walnuts that were supposed to be in it, and replaced the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. And….it’s a cake!! And it’s good for you!”

Yes, it may be a cake, but now it tastes like a granola bar cake. Or a brick. Also, many times when someone says that a food is “good for you”, we often take that as an invitation to eat more of it. Just because a food is fat or sugar free doesn’t mean we need more of it in our bodies. Another reason why we may eat more of a dessert that has been given a healthy make-over is simply because the fat is no longer there. Fat is extremely important since it sends messages to the satiety centers in our brain, telling us to stop eating because we are full.

The same goes for sugar. I’ve recently eliminated artificial sweeteners from my diet because I had the tendency to drink multiple servings of diet pop/Crystal Light each day. However, when the craving for a Coke hits me like a brick wall every few weeks or so, gosh darn-it, I drink that Coke! In fact, as I write this, I’m drinking one right now. The trick, however, is to stop at ONE CAN. For me, this is easier to do since I am much more satisfied after drinking a Coke can of sugar rather than aspartame.

And if you’re a multiple-can pop drinker out there and want to reduce your intake, try this visual: imagine your pancreas working very hard to keep up with your sugar intake by shooting out enough insulin to keep your blood sugar levels normal. And a pancreas working very hard isn’t necessarily a happy pancreas. Lately, thinking of how much harder the body has to work when we eat higher-fat and higher-sugar foods has helped me to make healthier changes, and maybe this will work for you, too 🙂

And one last thing…if you DO go overboard with a certain food: no feeling guilty, bad about yourself, or the F-word…fat. Your eating choices for one day, one week, or even one month do not define you in any way. Food does not have that power over you, and you have the power to live a healthy life: eat your favorite foods in reasonable portions, get in your fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, make half your grains whole, consume three servings of dairy, drink plenty of water, and exercise. It’s as simple as that, and it’s never too late to make a healthy change in your life.

These nutrition opinions are meant for healthy individuals without diet restrictions due to a medical condition. As always, please consult your own doctor or dietitian to make nutritional recommendations for your individualized needs.

about being a registered dietitian

Maybe some of you have noticed something different about this website, and I am happy to announce that I am now a Registered Dietitian! I took my exam on April 24th and successfully passed. It was an exciting day, but also a bittersweet end to my academic career. All I could think of was the fateful question that I’ve been asked since I was about 4-years old:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

My answers have changed too many times over my lifetime and have ranged from a doctor, nurse, mommy, musician, paleontologist, marine biologist, nurse anesthetist, among a slew of other possibilities. To think that I can finally answer that question and have actually become a profession feels wonderful!

Now that the schooling is done, I have actually come up with a mission statement. No, not for a new organization, but for myself and for whatever clinical or community nutrition position I end up in:

I want to teach others how to love themselves and the body they are in through making healthful food choices. I want to teach them to find inner peace, and how to use their surroundings, their environment, and their thoughts as starting blocks for healthy lifestyle changes. I want to empower others, and I want them to use that power to teach others the same.
This is what I want to do with my life, and that, my friends, is what I have decided to be when I grow up.
Also, if you haven’t done it already, I suggest crafting your own personal mission statement for life and your career, or future career if you are still in school. It’s a great way to focus your thoughts on what you want to accomplish in this world.

whole grains = good for the soul

Last Monday, I did a whole grain spiel for the high school kiddies. We talked about how to identify if a product is a whole grain (there’s a lot of misleading food stuffs out there!), good sources of fiber, what fiber does in our bodies, what happens to a whole grain when it is refined, among other things, like how whole grains keep you fuller for longer, which helps you maintain a healthy weight.

Oh, and for the record, saying “poop” in front of high schoolers definately works if you need to get their attention.

And then we made homemade granola bars to celebrate whole grain goodness! My friend and fellow MPHer, Mita, and I came up with this recipe during our food service rotation at Dexter School System. We tested it out on Dexter High’s finest guinea pigs…erm, I mean students…and we got rave reviews from them! The students on Monday also confirmed to the deliciousness of this granola bar, so I’d say that this recipe is a winner. The great part about these granola bars is that you can mix and match ingredients to make a different recipe every time! Some other delicious additions include:

Dried cranberries
Walnuts
Almonds
Diced dried apricots
White chocolate chips
Carob chips
Almond extract (instead of vanilla)

These granola bars are great for a quick and easy breakfast as you’re racing out the door. They’re a scrumptious pseudo-energy bar, as well. They also can be dipped into nutritious things like yogurt, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese. Top one with fruit! Zap it in the microwave! (This will make it warm and cookie-like). Use your imagination!

Chocolate-y Raisin Granola Bars

3 cups oatmeal
½ cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup raisins, chopped
½ cup chocolate chips, chopped
2 tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
½ cup canola oil
½ cup applesauce
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup honey
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, raisins, chocolate chips, cinnamon, and salt.
Make a well in the center, and pour in the egg, oil, applesauce, vanilla, and honey. Mix well.
Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut. DEVOUR.

we interrupt this program for an important message

Well, not a super important message but more like a disclaimer. I have gradually been entering RD-Exam-Studying-Hibernation-Mode, which means two things:

 

1. Cramming things into my brain
2. Fewer Miss Nutritionist posts
As for number 2, I apologize, but I very much so want to pass this exam on the first try. Nothing like a 100% pass rate on the first try from UM SPH’s past dietetics classes to get your boo-tay in gear for studying.