aruba, jamaica, ohhh I wanna take your smoothie to bermuda

I’ve been on a huge smoothie kick lately! Probably because we’ve been getting a snap shot of what is to come this summer….think 80-90 degree days with a decent amount of humidity. Mmm mmmmmmm, nothin’ like a Michigan summer! Stack that up against doing workouts and long-runs, and a girl’s bound to crave something frosty and cool.

I don’t really have a set recipe for making smoothie-deliciousness. Basically, I  just take an inventory of what is in the fridge and go from there. However, I aim to have these goals in mind:

Components for Smoothie Success

1. Fruit (fresh or frozen)

2. Protein (yogurt! milk! milk alternatives!)

3. Calcium (from the yogurt and milk)

This guy had fresh strawberries, pineapple, non-fat plain yogurt, and a few drizzles of honey. Another smoothie that I made the other day, and fell deep in love with, consisted of an orange, some more pineapple, a strawberry yogurt, and ice. Woweeeeeeee, I felt like I was on vacation with that tropical drink melting in my hand. All I needed was an umbrella in my drink.

Smoothies also make an excellent post-workout snack since they are like a mini-meal in a glass with a great source of carbohydrates and protein! After strenuous exercise, it is important to consume carbohydrates as soon as possible to jump-start an important process called muscle glycogen synthesis. There is a 15 minute window after exercise where our hungry muscles are able to quickly take up carbohydrates, breaking them down into smaller parts so it can be stored in our bods to use as energy for future workouts. Waiting to consume carbohydrates several hours after your workout makes this process up to 50% less efficient, resulting in tired, unfed muscles. Not good, especially if you do this day after day, which means you are also compromising the quality of your workouts!

And one more tip with smoothie making: I like to try to use frozen fruit instead of ice so my smoothie doesn’t get watered down as it melts a little. Sooooo delicious!!

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my love: on feeling strong

I just have a few words to say to y’all:
I love weight-lifting.
Like a lot. Not that I’ve just started weight-lifting, mind you, its beginning goes back to the good ol’ high school days. The days when I didn’t want to lift more than 30 lbs x 3 sets per weight machine for fear that I would begin to look like a man. Which is totally impossible, by the way. That’s what steroids are for, which are no where near my bod. I don’t know what high-school-me was thinking.
Anyway, since my transition back into suburbia, I was unable to run during the daylight hours since I was at my rotations during the few hours of sunlight that we get in the oh-so-lovely Mitten winters. Leaving me with a few solutions:

 1. Running in the dark alone after work. (not happening. I is a scaredy cat.)
2. Running in the dark with my man after work. (sometimes happened, but I couldn’t see him everyday, so what’s a gal to do?)
3. Becoming a gym rat.
I chose option 3 and tried out a slew of gyms before settling on Planet Fitness. And that’s when I began to fall in love with weight-lifting those fateful, bleak December days.
Weight-lifting is awesome – especially when you’ve been at it for a few months – because you can see such measurable changes in how much more you can lift, the tone of your abs, your legs, your arms, your boo-tay, THE IMPROVEMENT IN YOUR RUNNING!!! (most important measurable change, in my opinion), the list could go on and on. Way empowering, my friends, for real. Do be warned, however, that if you take up weight-lifting, you may gain a pound or two or three or a few more. But do not fret, for these are muscle-pounds! Pounds that make you feel strong and go RAWR!
I love feeling strong, and I encourage you to feel and be strong, too.

Also, apparently pure barre is all the rage these days. And apparently there is a studio in Ann Arbor. I’m contemplating on trying out a class for kicks because it sounds like a pretty intense cross-training workout. However, as I watch the testimonial video, I hear words like “pilates” and “yoga”…two things that I cannot tolerate…or perhaps I never gave them a fighting chance. Regardless, I think I will give pure barre a try because it sounds pretty swell. If anyone out there has any pure barre testimonials of their own, I’d love to hear ’em!

Photo creds: Rocky

it’s the most wonderful time of the year

No, it’s not Christmas yet, but….FARMERS MARKET SEASON! Well, soon, at least. The time where beautiful produce and homemade treats strut their stuff and beg to be bought and devoured. Farmers markets are a fun and nutritious way to include foods that are locally grown or prepared into your life! Most of them take place on the weekend, but some also are open during the week, as well. So get out in the sunshine, grab the fam or a friend, and take a trip out to one of these markets. Or make a point to hit up all of ’em during the summer. Better yet, bike or walk there if you live in the vicinity. And don’t forget your reusable grocery bag!

Most cities in Michigan seem to have their own local farmers market these days, but here is a crash course of some to check out in the area:


Washtenaw County
Westside Farmers Market – Ann Arbor
This is an all-volunteer run farmers market that opened its doors in 2005. Located in front of Zingerman’s Roadhouse, this market has about 30 stalls of delicious produce to try. Vendors here tend to have free samples, too! Make sure to stop by Inchworm Microgreens to try some sunflower sprouts, Dick and Diana Dyer’s (two favorite people of us UM-SPHers 🙂 garlic booth, and Food Gatherers’ Super Carrots! (pictured to the right). Open June 7-September 27.

Kerrytown Farmers Market – Ann Arbor
This market is extremely popular with University of Michigan students and faculty due to its convenient vicinity right smack in the heart of Kerrytown. You’ll get a good Ann Arbor vibe from this market as well as some delicious local offerings from farms in the area. Open year ’round, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Check their blog for hours since they change throughout the year. While you’re there, be sure to take a peek into Sparrow Market and maybe even have lunch or a sweet treat at Zingerman’s Deli – but expect a line, especially during football season!

Ypsilanti Farmers Market – Ypsilanti
In the words of one of my former classmates, the Ypsilanti Famers Market is “the best farmers market in the world.” It’s a great snap shot of public health in action since it stemmed from a community needs assessment revealing that Ypsilanti needed increased access to local foods. Since 2006, the Ypsilanti farmers market keeps getting bigger and better. Open from May-October, its vendor’s stalls opened this past Tuesday.


Oakland County
Home Town Harvest Farmers Market – Royal Oak
Open Thursdays 8am-2pm at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital. Ideal for your lunch break if you’re in the area! Check out the Market Memos on their website for a low-down on what’s fresh each week.

Auburn Hills Farmers Market – Auburn Hills
Opening June 7, this is a small farmers market to hit up after work since it’s open from 3-7:30pm. Enjoy cute lil downtown Auburn Hills as your peruse the vendors that are selling soap to jewelry to produce!


Wayne County
Eastern Market – Detroit
I like to call this one the Mother of All Farmers Markets simply because it: 1. Draws in the most people each Saturday – over 40,000 market goers each week!      2. Has about 250 vendors     3. Is an awesome Detroit tradition. This market has been up n’ running since 1891. The Eastern Market is open year ’round on Saturdays from 5am-5pm. And you can get some wicked-good steals if you’re there in the last half hour when vendors are trying to get rid of their goods before closing time.

Wyandotte Farmers Market – Wyandotte
Opens June 14 and will be providing local foods to the Downriver area until October 18! This market also offers many entertainment perks, such as kids activities, live music, cooking demos, and even a bakeoff on Farmers Fair, the last market day of the year!

Do you have any favorite farmers markets you like to frequent?
I’d love to hear about them!
Happy farmers marketing!

if all the raindrops were hot chocolate, oh what a rain that would be

It’s been raining for most of the day in the Mitten today. I actually love rain during the day (though sometimes it can get to be a little much), and the perfect rain seems to be the one that comes on those Saturday mornings, the ones where you magically don’t need to do any work that day and can justify laying in bed for an extra hour or two.

Yeah, yeah, keep dreamin’, I know.

Rainy day about a month ago à la my backyard.
So what is one of the perfect companions to any rainy day? Rainy hot chocolate, of course! Standing outside with my mouth open wide….ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah! 
Erm…..anyone else out there familiar with this song?
Anyway, this hot chocolate tastes creamy and is absolutely delicious. Today when I made it, we had this guy in the cupboard:

  
Mr. Hershey’s Special Dark! So I decided to whip up a mug – dark chocolate style – and man, was it GOOD. Not to mention full o’ antioxidants and flavonoids. There is research floating around, however, that consuming dark chocolate with milk reduces your body’s ability to absorb the antioxidants. Also, Dutch processed cocoa usually is lower in antioxidant content than naturally processed cocoa. And the jury is still out whether or not dark chocolate successfully reduces blood pressure. Many studies out there are either inconclusive or have determined that you would need to eat a lot of dark chocolate to experience those health benefits.Regardless, dark chocolate is known to promote feelings of satiety since it’s so rich and oh-so-satisfying, so why not include it in your balanced diet today? And as always, it’s important to watch your portion size since it’s easy for the fat content of chocolate bars to add up!
Honestly, when I make this hot chocolate, I always eyeball the proportions and make it “to taste”. Feel free to play with it and make it your own!

 Creamy Hot Chocolate
2-3 tsp. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
  1-2 tsp. sugar
3-4 tsp. hot water
12 oz. almond or soy milk (this is what makes it creamy and delicious!)

In a small bowl, mix together cocoa and sugar. Add hot water and mix to make into a chocolate-y paste. Heat in microwave for about 10-20 seconds. Pour chocolate-y mixture into microwave-safe mug of milk. Mix vigorously to combine, and heat mug of chocolate-y goodness in microwave, about 2-3 minutes. Devour.

A splash of vanilla or peppermint extract would also make this hot chocolate amazing. Or a dollop of whipped cream!
Nutrition Information
I usually don’t like to focus on calories, but wanted to include this to prove that this hot chocolate is better than the rest 😉
Made with Silk original almond milk, 2 tsp. sugar, and 3 tsp. dark cocoa powder:
Calories –  140 kcal
Fat – About 4g
Protein – 2.5g (Use soy milk or skim milk for a protein boost!)
Sugar – About 19g (If sugar is a concern for you, try preparing with unsweetened almond or soy milk)
Fiber – 3.5g
Iron – 16%
Calcium – About 65% DV

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.

operation: carrot-apple juice

I want to understanding juicing, I really do. Especially since I’ve heard so many health claims out there about having more energy, eating clean, etc. etc. when you juice it up. Funny how we don’t hear about these claims during graduate school, huh? Or maybe we did and I missed that day. Regardless, many nutrition sites out there boast the benefits of juicing and that it is the thing to do to get your bod in prime health.


The claims state this: Cooking destroys food’s nutrients and enzymes that our body would otherwise use for bodily functions. Therefore, juicing allows us to absorb all of the nutrients that these fruits and vegetables have to offer in their raw form. Juicing is easier on your body, specifically the digestive system, since drinking your extra large salad per se will elicit fewer gastrointestinal symptoms than eating it by the forkful. Juicing makes it easier to get in your fruit and vegetable servings each day.


Doesn’t this mean that digestion would be easier due to less fiber in the resultant juice? I’ve never actually seen a juicer, but I would be curious to find out where all of the fiber is going – either sitting helplessly among the crevices of the juicer machine or in the juicee, AKA person drinking the juice. I would like to think (and hope) that when juicing, the ENTIRE fruit or vegetable is sucked through the juicer (without seeds and stem, of course) with the peel in order to get that fiber in the juice. And if there is fiber left behind in the nooks and crannies of the juicer, hopefully they are dumped into the glass of juice for consumption.


However, as I Google-image search “juicing”, I pull up various juicy pictures, some including more fibrous-looking beverages than others:

That green one on the right looks like it has fiber in it, the others…not so much.


However, I do suppose that if you are going to drink juice, making your own fresh juice without added sweeteners is the way to go. Not to mention the fact that juicing allows for an endless array of juicy combinations. Spinach, apples, bananas, oranges, carrots, wheat grass, celery, cucumbers, fennel, lettuce, mangoes, and the list goes on and on. This means that you are getting the nutrients from these fruits and vegetables (in a novel way) that you might not necessarily be inclined to consume if you were to eat them whole.

But. What about the fiber?

Fiber or not, I thought I’d give it a whirl. Already knowing that I like the combination of carrots and apples together, I cut up an apple, chopped up a carrot, splashed in some almond milk, and threw it all in the blender, since I do not own a juicer. Then I would be sure to get my fiber, too! Disclaimer: Yes, yesss, this very fact might mean that I had an inaccurate first time “juicing” experience without the correct equipment, but it was the best I could do.

Before…

…and after!

I was hopeful, yet skeptical. “It doesn’t look so bad!”, I thought as I peered into my glass.

“And you like the color orange,” I reminded myself.
However, perhaps my mistake was staring at my fibrous drink, which was happy to see me, and chock full of vitamins A, C, and approximately 10% calcium, for a few seconds too long.

Because it soon began to look like this:

Please cue the music before proceeding to following image…
GULP.

And I don’t mean gulping down my carrot-apple juice. Maybe adding a little Winnie the Pooh action would help?
Nope. Not delicious.


Sigh. It would’ve been so much easier to eat my carrots and chomp through an apple.


However, I want to try a decent juice from a juicer, I really do! So, fellow readers, if you know of a delicious juice concoction for a first time juicer, hit me up! I want to taste what all the rage is.



who, me cook? (part 2)

I have to say…after all that complaining about cooking, hem and hawing, bippity boppity boo, my pasta creation came out DELICIOUS the other night. However, I did swap the gorgonzola cheese for garlic and herb goat cheese from Trader Joe’s, and oh my goodness, was it a party in our stomachs or what. I ended up putting a dollop of the goat cheese on top of the cooked pasta and mixing it in to create a sort of creamy brothy sauce. Also, whole wheat angel hair was not to be found in my house, so regular pasta had to do this time!  Here is the low-down so you can make this, too:


Olive Garlicky Pasta
Get it? I-love-garlicky-pasta? Hehehe…

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 (mine were 5.75 oz. dry wt per can) cans black olives, drained and roughly chopped
2 (15.5 oz.) cans butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 oz.) bag spinach, rinsed
32 oz. low-sodium broth (I used chicken broth)
1 (1 lb.) box angel hair pasta
Goat cheese (I used Silver Goat Garlic & Herb)
Salt, pepper, and spices to taste

Set a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove.

In a large skillet (it is best to use one that is a tad deep, too, about 1-2 inches), heat olive oil and add garlic. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add olives and beans, and saute with a wooden spoon, until oil and garlic is uniformly incorporated among them. Add pepper and any other spices you chose. Basil would be delicious in this!

Add spinach to oil and garlic mixture. Depending on how large and deep your pan is, it may be helpful to add spinach in two separate additions. A lid placed on top of the pan will help the spinach to cook down more quickly. Once spinach is cooked, mix into the oil and garlic mixture until evenly incorporated.

At this point, hopefully the large pot of salted water is boiling. Add pasta to pot and cook according to directions on back of the container.

While pasta is cooking, add broth to the oil and garlic mixture. Let simmer.

When pasta is done, drain and place in serving bowl. Stir broth mixture into pasta. Devour. But not before you top with a dollop of goat cheese. Then devour.



Mix and match your favorite beans, add-ins, and cheeses to make it your own delicious dish! Since I have dreams of pasta with luscious chunks of gorgonzola mixed in, that is what I will be trying in this next.

Okay. And I haven’t dreamt of gorgonzola pasta….yet.