Summer Sweatin': Part I

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Beach Feet

I love summer. I love the sunny days, the sound of the happy birds in the morning, growing tomatoes in my back yard, and playing outside with my family.  Beach or mountains – I’m 100% beach.  Sunshine or snow?  100% sunshine, palm trees, sand, and the beautiful sound of waves crashing as the salty breeze cools my face.  Summer just makes me happy.  In good ol’ NC, summer also means toasty temperatures and lots of humidity. If you’re headed outdoors to play, be sure to consider the following summer safety tips:

    1. Listen to your body and know the symptoms of heat stroke:
      • Fainting
      • Throbbing headache
      • Dizziness and light-headedness
      • Little or no sweating despite the heat
      • Red, hot, and dry skin
      • Muscle weakness or cramps
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
      • Rapid, shallow breathing
      • Confusion, disorientation, or staggering
      • Seizures
      • Unconsciousness

      If you suspect heat stress or stroke, seek cooler temperatures immediately and find someone to help you. If you witness someone with symptoms of    heat stroke, call 911 immediately and move the person to an air conditioned space or shady area and remove any unnecessary clothes.  Fan the person, apply a cool, damp cloth to their head, neck, arm pits, or back.  Heat stroke is a life threatening condition.

    2. Wear sunscreen.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be applied every 90 minutes to 2 hours you are in the sun and more frequently when you’re in the water or sweating.  Keep in mind, sunscreen may be sweat/water resistant, not sweat proof/water proof.  (Sunscreen companies are no longer even allowed to label their products as such.)  The thicker the better.  Sprays are also great, but tend to come off more quickly.  Hats are also excellent sources of shade for the face/neck.
    3. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.  Choose a pair of lenses that block 99-100% UVA/UVB rays.  If you’re driving with your sunglasses, gray, green, or brown tinted lenses to reduce color distortion and make it easier to see traffic light changes than pink or yellow tints.  Polarized lenses help reduce glare and are great if you spend a lot of time on/near the water or driving, however, they do make reading screens more challenging.
    4. Respect the water.  We have tons of gadgets and floatation devises for kids these days, but be sure not to get too comfortable with that puddle jumper at the pool or lifeguards watching your children.  Keep in mind your children are one of a whole pool of people to watch.  Wear a life preserver while boating.  While you don’t anticipate your baby jumping overboard for a swim, you never know what might happen.  My 15 month old and I flew out of a boat a couple years ago due to a bizarre freak incident.  Long story super short: the steering cable snapped and our boat did an unexpected 360 as we were headed home from an outing.  I was bruised and really sore, but my little guy popped right up to the surface of the water with the most beautiful, unscathed cry I ever hope to hear.  His life preserver saved his life.
    5. Exercise inside when it’s above 90 degrees.  Love to exercise outside?  Get it in early or later in the evening when temperature is not at its peak for the day and/or stay in the shade.  If you’re workout time is mid-day, workout in the air conditioner or pool to stay cool.
    6. Drink plenty of fluids.  Make sure you are hydrated when you start your workout by drinking plenty of non-caffeinated beverages 1-2 hours prior and continue to sip fluid during and after exercise.  If you’re really sweating, you may need to include electrolytes in your fluids during and after your workout.
    7. Wear technical clothing made for exercising the heat.  Cotton tends to hold sweat which can make you feel hot. Cotton also increases the chances of chafing.  (I’m not going to go into chafing a ton today, but Body Glide, Baking Soda, or Baby Powder can be life savers if this tends to be one of your summer-time troubles.)

Safety first to helps keep those fun summer memories fun! Check back on August 6th , for Summer Sweatin’ Part II for tips on cooling down after your workout.

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Are Your Medications Depleting You?


Did you know that almost 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription medication? More than half take at least two, according to a new study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic. And according to the CDC, the average American is on six different medications by the age of 65. Many of these medications are not only lifesaving, but they can help improve symptoms, ease pain and have many other positive benefits. However, they are not without side effects that may have a profound effect on our health, and more specifically, our nutrition status.

Many of us may gloss over the list of side effects from over the counter or prescription medications and may not realize that the side effects may cause depletion or even a deficiency of necessary nutrients. Poor diet alone can lead to nutrient deficiencies, add to that multiple medications and the results can be devastating. It might surface as a weakened immune system, anemia, fatigue, depression, osteoporosis, skin issues, even GI issues like gas and bloating.

Below is a list of commonly used medications grouped by use, the nutrients that are depleted and where you can find those nutrients in food.

I have made some generalities below for simplicity; each specific medication can have a different impact.
Know your medications!


Medications are a necessary component of many of our lives. However there are sometimes drawbacks. Here are some tips to follow to help ensure optimal health:

  1. Always read the package insert that comes with your medications (prescription or over the counter) to understand any side effects.
  2. Always follow your provider’s instructions on when to take medications.
  3. Eat a nutrient dense diet.
  4. Ask your Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist or Provider before starting supplements. All supplements are not created equal. You want to make sure you are taking a good quality supplement with the appropriate form and dose of certain nutrients.

If you have questions about your specific medications and the impact they may be having on your nutritional status ask your provider or a Registered Dietitian.

Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard and Turkey Sausage

Adapted from: Deliciously Organic
Serves 5


This is one nutrient packed dish! The lentils, turkey and Swiss chard are great sources of folate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, B5, B6, B12 and many other nutrients. This is one of those dishes that is even better the next day, plus it’s really easy!



- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry lentils
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Fire Roasted)
- 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1 pound turkey sausage, cut into 1/4-inch thick coins (I used a turkey kielbasa)
- 1-2 bunches of Swiss chard
- Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Stir in onion, carrots and celery. Let cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until onion is translucent.
  3. Add sausage and cook 10 more minutes until slightly browned.
  4. Increase heat to medium and stir in tomato paste and sea salt.
  5. Add lentils, tomatoes and stock.
  6. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, cook about 10 minutes or until all veggies are tender.
  7. Stir in chard and cook 2-3 minutes more.
  8. Season with ground black pepper and adjust sea salt to taste. Serve.


Nutrition Information per Serving: 370 calories, 13 g Fat, 3g Saturated Fat, 65mg Cholesterol, 1180mg Sodium, 34g Carbohydrates, 8g Fiber, 30g Protein

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Welcome to Inspirations

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Welcome. I'm so glad you're here! This blog will feature tips, stories, and fun to help you on your path to wellness.  Look for posts on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

What is "wellness"? Wellness is defined by the The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary as the condition of good physical and mental health, especially when maintained by proper diet, exercise, and habits. Take a moment and consider your personal wellness. What do you do to take care of yourself? Are you healthy? Are you happy? Energetic? Productive?

Wellness effects our day to day interactions with others. If we're feeling good, then we typically interact more kindly to others who reciprocate.  This makes us happier and starts the happy flame.  Happiness is contagious! Who is your favorite person in the world? Consider your last interaction with that person. Good or bad, consider your personal state at that moment. Were you well rested? Healthy? Had you exercised lately? Had you had anything to eat in a while? Were you happy?

I absolutely adore my sons. I have 2 boys, ages 3 years and 9 months. They require A LOT of energy on my part. A LOT. I work early most days of the week and I am "second shift" parent. This means, our quality time may contain giggles or tears or both any given day. I've noticed, though, the days that I slept the night before, ate properly, and/or get in a workout before I pick them up are much more manageable (and even fun!) Here are two of my recent afternoons:

Day One:

The night before I stayed up 1 hour later than I should have and then, this night, this glorious night, my infant decides to cut a few teeth (or 6.) I feel for him. While I don't remember this myself, it sounds quite painful. My husband and I are up at least 4 times rocking, cuddling, administering Tylenol and what not. In addition, our 3 year old wakes up at midnight with a bad dream, 1:30 a.m. to go to the bathroom and get some water (Does he really need more water?!), and then again at 4:30 a.m. because "it's daytime, Mommy." I have to be up at 4:50 to get ready for work. My sleep this night: maybe I got a solid 3 hours somewhere. Maybe. (It happens. It's temporary. We will get past this.) Coffee, must have coffee. I head to work, wait a little too long to eat lunch but I get a decent amount done and then head to daycare to pick up my angels. ANGELS?! Who swapped out my angels for these two teary, cranky boys today? At this point I begin my bedtime count down. It's 3:00. We're all tired and hungry. The 3 year old "forgot how to listen" this afternoon and at least 4 times breaks down into tears because "he doesn't know." I hardly get through cooking dinner because my infant needs comfort due to those sabotaging teeth. I continue to count down the minutes and seconds until I can get them in bed which takes twice as long because "listening ears" have taken the night off. And despite the fact this all sounds ridiculous, I love these two, their very smiles and "I love you, Super Girl" from my 3 year old almost brings me to tears. YES! I made it to bedtime. (Yes, that does cross my mind at least twice a week.) Happy dance!

Day Two:

Second night: Well, sleep is not much better, but I made a conscious effort to pack my lunch and snacks the night before so I have no excuse not to eat during the day. I go for a run and even get in a shower before picking up my little rays of sunshine. I eat a snack in the car on the way to daycare. In effort to make this day better than the last and pre-fueled before daycare pickup, we stop at the playground on the way home. We share a smiles on the swings. Backyard Boys Water Color PencilWhen I say it's time to go, the three year old doesn't ponder this request, but marches to the car "like an ant, Mommy." My infant falls asleep in the car on the drive home. So far, so good. But good, just like bad, is temporary. On the way into our house, my toddler skins his knee. Today, I'm energized from the playground and my afternoon snack and "Super Girl" quickly saves the day with a band aide. The tears last for only a few seconds. The dinner, bath, and bedtime routine go down without a hitch so much so that we get to read 2 stories instead of one. Tonight, I wish bedtime could last forever. Happy dance!...but this time, it’s about a fun evening, not relief….

Wellness plays a part in your every day. Taking care of you makes life easier, happier, and much more fun. What have you done this week to take care of yourself?

Until next time - Amanda (A.K.A. Super Girl in the Pack House)



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Raising the Protein Bar

proteinbars2Protein seems to be everywhere these days from television ads to magazines to grocery store shelves. With all the publicity surrounding protein, you’d think Americans weren’t getting enough of it while in reality, most of us consume more than enough protein.

Protein is an essential part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies. It helps stabilize blood sugar levels and keeps us feeling fuller longer so it’s very important to include plenty of protein in our diets throughout the day.

Protein comes in many forms (meats, legumes, eggs, nuts/seeds, dairy, etc) and while whole-food protein sources are among the best choices for meeting your protein needs, protein bars have become a mainstay for many Americans. They’re quick, convenient and can be eaten on-the-go and many of us eat them because we believe they’ll help "melt away the pounds" or "eliminate hunger."

But before you grab your next protein bar, be careful! Many bars today contain as much fat and sugar as a candy bar and are loaded with highly processed ingredients so be sure to always READ THE LABEL and CHECK THE INGREDIENT LIST.

Check out the video below to get the scoop on what’s really inside protein bars.


All Protein is Not Created Equal

When choosing a protein bar, be sure to read the entire ingredient list to see what type of protein the bar contains.

Soy protein isolate is the most common source of protein in bars because it’s cheap and easily accessible. However, this form of soy is potentially associated with negative health effects so it’s best to limit your intake.



Instead, look for whey protein isolate which is:

  • made from milk
  • easily digestible
  • very low in lactose or lactose free
  • utilized most efficiently by the body.


If you are unable to consume dairy, opt for 100% pea protein which is:

  • made from yellow split peas
  • easily digestible
  • utilized efficiently by the body.



Isolate versus Concentrate

When looking at protein sources or deciding which whey protein powder to purchase, it’s important to also consider if it is in the isolate or concentrate form.

  • Isolate is ideal because it contains 90-95% pure protein with minimal carbohydrates and fat.
  • Concentrate, on the other hand, is only 70-85% protein.

By choosing isolate, you’ll get a higher quality and quantity of protein.

Making Your Own Protein Bars

Now that you know what to look for and what to avoid in store bought protein bars, let’s explore an even better option…making your own! By making protein bars at home, you control the quality and quantity of ingredients and can save money.

Check out the difference between our homemade protein bar (recipe below) and a leading store bought bar. The nutrition profiles are basically identical, but why choose a bar with 5x more ingredients when you could have a clean, tasty alternative? Plus, you’re cutting costs by more than half…sounds like a win-win situation to me!


Powerful Protein Bars
Makes 6-8 Bars
Recipe from: He and She Eat Clean

This recipe has 4 ingredients, 4 steps and takes less than 4 minutes to prepare!



2 cups rolled oats, dry
½ cup natural peanut butter (or other nut butter of choice)
4 scoops whey protein powder*
½ cup milk or water**

Optional add-ins: dried fruit, drizzle of honey, dark chocolate chips, etc. (options are endless!)


  1. Line an 8x8 dish with parchment paper. proteinbar_step1
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients by hand until well combined. proteinbar_step2
  3. Press mixture into dish, using a spatula to flatten. proteinbar_step3
  4. Freeze for approximately 30 minutes or until set. Cut into bars and then wrap individual bars in plastic wrap or bags and refrigerate.
    - Cut into 6 bars if you are planning to use these bars as a meal replacement.
    - Cut into 8 bars if you are planning to use these bars as a snack. proteinbar_step4

* You can use unflavored, vanilla or chocolate protein powder. If using unflavored, add 1 tsp vanilla extract. Choose a clean whey protein powder (whey protein isolate is ideal) with minimal ingredients. If you are unable to consume dairy, you can use 100% pea protein powder.

** I prefer to use milk in this recipe for an added boost of calcium and vitamin D and for extra flavor. You can use skim or 1% milk or almond, rice or soy milk.


Nutrition Information per Serving (meal replacement size): Calories: 280, Total Fat: 13gm, Saturated Fat: 2gm, Cholesterol: 30mg, Sodium: 146mg, Carbs: 25gm, Fiber: 5gm, Protein: 20gm

Nutrition Information per Serving (snack size): Calories: 210, Total Fat: 10gm, Saturated Fat: 1.5gm, Cholesterol: 23mg, Sodium: 110mg, Carbs: 19gm, Fiber: 3.5gm, Protein: 15gm


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Double Duty Kitchen Tools

kitchengadgetsThere are thousands of kitchen gadgets on the market designed to make cooking easier, quicker and more efficient. However, most of these gadgets serve one specific purpose and take up prime kitchen real estate. After a few uses they end up being thrown in the back of a drawer or cabinet, never to be seen or thought about again.

Before you consider purchasing the next "latest and greatest" kitchen gadget, stop and ask yourself if any of the kitchen tools you already own could do double duty, giving you the same end result. You’ll be surprised how often you’re already equipped with the tools you need which can save you the cost and clutter of additional, unnecessary gadgets.

Cooling Racks- Not Just for Baked Goods!

Most of us use cooling racks for one purpose- cooling baked goods. However, they can actually be used in other ways to help save you invaluable time and space in the kitchen!

Instead of purchasing an egg or avocado slicer, try this double duty trick:

  • Place a cooling rack over a large bowl.
  • Press a hard-boiled egg firmly into the rack.
  • The egg will fall into the bowl and you’ll have perfect, evenly diced eggs ready for egg salad or to use as a topping on salads.
  • You can also do this with avocados. Simply slice the avocado in half, remove the pit, and follow the same steps. Homemade guacamole has never been easier!


Deli Lids- Not Just for Leftovers!

Do you waste precious time chasing grape tomatoes around your kitchen trying to cut them in half? I know I do! Instead, put those old deli lids (that you’ve likely lost the matching container for!) to good use with this double duty trick:

  • Place 10-12 grape tomatoes into the top of a round deli lid (make sure the side that has a raised edge is facing up so the tomatoes won’t slip out).
  • Place another deli lid, top side down, on the tomatoes.
  • Holding the lid gently in place to not bruise the tomatoes, slice tomatoes in half with a sharp knife.
  • Now you have perfectly halved tomatoes ready to be used in any recipe!


Tomato Basil Bruschetta Bites
Makes About 30 Servings


This recipe is a crowd pleaser and a perfect, fresh appetizer for the warmer months. Use the time-saving, double duty tip above to help prep the tomatoes!


12oz grape tomatoes, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced
½ cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 whole wheat baguettes, cut into 1-inch rounds (about 30 slices)


  1. Combine diced tomatoes (try double duty trick above!), minced garlic, olive oil and basil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  3. Slice bread into 1-inch rounds. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until slightly golden brown (not completely toasted).
  4. While bread is in the oven, place balsamic vinegar in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until vinegar has reduced by half, stirring occasionally (this will take approximately 15 minutes for 1 cup of vinegar). Remove from heat.
  5. Remove baguettes from oven. Top each round with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese and a spoonful of the tomato mixture.
  6. Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted, approximately 5-7 minutes.
  7. Before serving, drizzle with warm balsamic reduction.


Nutrition Information per Serving (1 baguette bite): Calories: 90, Total Fat: 2.5gm, Saturated Fat: 0gm, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 125mg, Carbs: 13gm, Fiber: 1gm, Protein: 3gm

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Nutritionist’s Picks for Best Food Tracking Apps

FoodDiaryScreenShotWhether you’re counting carbs for glucose management, crunching calories for weight loss or beefing up your protein intake to build muscle mass, food tracking apps can be an invaluable resource for your health and fitness goals. A novelty a few years ago, these apps are now in abundance giving us multiple options, large food databases and a myriad of features to suit any user’s needs.

These apps range in price from Free to Cheap and may come with additional fee-based options offering higher tech, upgraded features. User preferences vary from person to person so check out these top 4 apps and see if one would be a good fit for you.

Lose It

  • Sets a custom daily calorie budget to help you achieve weight management goals.
  • Tracks your food, exercise and weight.
  • Tracks major nutrients including carbohydrates, fats, protein, fiber and sodium.
  • Reports include daily and weekly summaries that can be printed or emailed.
  • Food database has thousands of restaurant, grocery store and brand name foods.
  • Has a barcode scanner for quick entry of new food products.
  • Allows you to build your own recipes and meals.
  • Can connect you with public groups for motivation and support as well as connect you with friends and family through Facebook or Twitter.
  • Integrates with Fitbit, Jawbone UP, Nike+ Fuelband, Withings and Fitbit Body Scales.

Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal

  • Gives you customized goals based on your age, gender, activity level, etc.
  • Allows you to enter your own goals if you’ve been given specific recommendations from a doctor or dietitian.
  • Food database has over 3 million foods.
  • Fast and easy food and exercise entry.
  • Remembers your favorite foods, allows you to add multiple foods at once, and allows you to enter your own recipes, foods, and meals.
  • Has a barcode scanner for quick entry of new food products.
  • Tracks the major nutrients including calories, fat, protein, carbs, sugar, fiber, and cholesterol.
  • Integrates with Fitbit, Jawbone UP and other activity tracking devices to monitor your daily step progress on the MyFitnessPal home screen.
  • Allows you to enter your own calorie amounts (if you’re using a Heart Rate Monitor).

Calorie Counter Pro by MyNetDiary

  • Provides up to 45 nutrients including carbohydrates, all types of fats, protein, sugars, fiber, sodium, cholesterol and vitamins.
  • Tracks exercise.
  • Nutrition database of 600,000 foods.
  • Has barcode scanner for quick entry of new food products.
  • Tracks daily steps, blood pressure, hours of sleep and work.
  • Has a Food Photo feature where you can take pictures of food labels and submit them for the Pro team to add to the database.
  • Has a Community Forum supported by a Registered Dietitian.
  • Integrates with Fitbit, Withings, Jawbone UP and Twitter.

Go Meals (Powered by Calorie King)

  • Its nutrition information database is powered by CalorieKing and includes 40,000 everyday foods and more than 20,000 restaurant menu items.
  • Provides calories, carbs, total fat, and protein data.
  • Has a Restaurant Locator for browsing restaurant menus to see nutritional information on thousands of food choices. Helps you pick where and what to eat. Includes a map and location of the ones closest to you.
  • Has a feature for tracking blood glucose levels. Meal and exercise tags as well as customized entry notes can be added next to your numbers. Tracks your highs and lows and is an easy way to share your readings with your provider.
  • Food intake is displayed on a plate which gives you an easy visual of the distribution of carbs, protein, and fat you’ve consumed.
  • Activity tracker lets you browse and log cardio and strength exercises and select intensity level.
  • Syncs with Fitbit.

Roasting Vegetables

Roasting vegetables has become my preferred way of cooking them. I roast all of ‘em!! Here is one of my family’s faves- Roasted Asparagus.

You can use any thickness of asparagus for this recipe. It all comes down to preference. The thick asparagus becomes creamy on the inside with a little bit of crispness on the outside. The thin ones become crunchy. We call them "healthy French fries" at my house. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Oven Roasted Asparagus
Makes 4 Servings



2 bunches fresh asparagus (about 2-3 pounds)
1 ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
⅓ tsp salt or seasoned salt
¼ tsp black pepper



-Trim the starchy bottom ends (about 2 inches) from the asparagus spears and discard. Wash and air- or pat-dry the spears.









-Spray a jelly roll pan with vegetable cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.

-Make 2 piles of asparagus on the pan.

-Drizzle the olive oil equally over both piles. Toss asparagus until well coated.






-Layer the asparagus in a single layer.

-Evenly season with salt and pepper.







-Roast in a pre-heated 400° oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. (Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your asparagus).

-For even browning, rotate the pan 180° half way through the cooking time.






Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories: 104, Carbs: 11 gm, Fiber: 6 gm, Protein: 6 gm, Total Fat: 5.5 gm, Saturated Fat: 1 gm, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 198 mg

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The Non-Toxic Kitchen: Safe Cookware

474320931_Cathy_blog_052014There has been lots of awareness-raising lately about the safety of our food supply including the tools we use to cook and store our food. Many nutritionists, health care providers and scientists agree that reducing exposure to toxins whenever possible makes good sense.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental health research and advocacy organization, suggests 3 types of cookware as your safest bets for clean, toxin-free cooking:

1) Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is considered a healthier alternative to non-stick cookware. And, chefs often prefer the performance of stainless steel over non-stick cookware. All Clad® is a well known premium brand with a reputation for great performance. Many less expensive lines make great options as well.

182657555_Cathy_blog_0520142) Cast Iron
Having been around for decades, cast iron is still considered one of the safest and most durable cookware options available. Cast iron performs beautifully and provides the health benefit of adding iron to your food. This cookware requires the unique step of “seasoning” to keep it performing properly, but, in spite of this extra maintenance, those who use it love it. You can still purchase cast iron cookware and it is now available pre-seasoned (though some say you still need to do additional seasoning). A leading manufacturer of cast iron cookware is Lodge®.

3) Enameled Cast Iron
Porcelain enamel covering cast iron makes this cookware beautiful, durable and safe. This cookware can be pricey so you could gradually build a collection by treating yourself to one piece at a time. Le Creuset® and Lodge® are two popular manufacturers of enameled cast iron cookware.

Glass Drinking Bottles

As more research is surfacing on the dangers of plastics like BPA and phthalates, another trend is emerging - glass drinking bottles. Being a fast paced person, I’ve steered clear of glass bottles in the past for obvious reasons. But, these new glass water bottles come with silicone covers to protect them from breakage which appeals to even the clumsiest of us. You can get them in a variety of styles and colors and all parts are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. Here are a few popular options:

174902626_Cathy_blog_052014Stainless Steel Drinking Bottles

If you prefer not to use glass drinking bottles, another safe alternative is BPA-free stainless steel drinking bottles. Here are a few good options:

For more information on the safety of plastics, click here for EWG’s guide to plastics.

An Alternative to Pasta - More About Vegetable Noodles

If you haven’t invested in one of the new kitchen gadgets that turn vegetables into spirals or noodles, you might want to jump on this bandwagon. Vegetables have never tasted so good!

I tend to love kitchen gadgets (at least the dishwasher safe ones) because they add some interest to the usual boring chopping of meal prep. AND, they intrigue my family members so they are willing to use them!! Help in the kitchen?.....Sweet!

I was playing around with my new Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer first introduced to me in Kelly’s Chews Strategically "Zoodles" post and decided to make zucchini noodles. I was so enamored with these beautiful "zoodles." What else could I do with them in addition to putting them under my pasta sauce? Here is what I came up with....

This is a perfect low carb breakfast that is packed with protein and a full serving of vegetables. We also eat this for dinner at my house.

Zoodles Breakfast Casserole
Makes 4 Servings



4 medium zucchini squash
4 large eggs
¾ Tbsp coconut oil
¾ Tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
⅛ tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp Panko bread crumbs, optional (Gluten Free Panko crumbs available here)



-Spiralize the 4 zucchini squash into zucchini noodles.







-Spray a medium sized glass casserole dish with vegetable cooking spray. Melt the coconut oil and ghee in the casserole dish.



-In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt, pepper and nutmeg until blended.


-Add the egg mixture to the casserole dish and blend with the oil and ghee.






-Add the zucchini noodles to the dish and toss gently using tongs until the "zoodles" are well coated and incorporated with the eggs.







-If you like a little crunch with minimal carbs (2 gm per ½ Tbsp) sprinkle 2 Tbsp of Panko crumbs evenly on the top.



-Bake in 400º pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.





Nutrition Information per Serving (with Panko crumbs): Calories: 167, Protein: 9gm, Carbs: 8.5gm, Fiber: 2gm, Total Fat: 11gm, Saturated Fat: 5.5gm, Cholesterol: 191mg, Sodium: 369mg; (without crumbs- Calories: 158, Carbs: 7gm)

If you don’t like eggs and prefer to have your zoodles as a side dish for dinner, here is a quick variation of this same recipe sans the eggs plus a little more fat.

Zoodle Bake
Makes 4 Servings



4 zucchini squash - spiralized
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp Panko bread crumbs, optional (Gluten Free Panko crumbs available here)


-Spray a glass casserole dish with vegetable cooking spray. Melt coconut oil and ghee in the casserole dish.

-Add the zucchini noodles, salt and pepper. Toss gently with tongs to coat with the oils.

-Sprinkle Panko crumbs evenly over the top if desired.

-Bake in 400º pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.


Nutrition Information per Serving (with Panko crumbs): Calories: 104, Carbs: 8gm, Fiber: 2gm, Total Fat: 7gm, Saturated Fat: 5gm, Cholesterol: 5.5mg, Sodium: 310mg; (without crumbs- Calories: 95, Carbs: 6gm)

Note: You can add more herbs and spices to either of these recipes as desired and add garlic, onion and peppers for additional flavor. I was just going for super quick and delicious here!

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Uncommon Super Foods

Super foods have been all the rage for the past few years. We’ve all heard about certain super foods that are darlings in the media like kale, blueberries, acai berries and salmon to name a few. What about other super foods that maybe aren’t so sexy like sardines, organ meats, and fermented foods? These are definitely super foods! They just aren’t very common in the U.S. right now, although they used to be.

Wild caught sardines are not only a good source of protein but they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, calcium, B12, iron, and many other nutrients. Since they are at the bottom of the food chain, they are also low in mercury and other contaminates like PCB’s, making them an especially good option for kids and pregnant women!

Canned sardines are the easiest to find around here. Choose ones that are packed in water or olive oil.

Honestly, I can eat sardines right out of the can, but I understand that not everyone is like that. If you’ve never tried sardines, buy the ones that say boneless and skinless to start with. They are just like canned tuna once you mash them up.

Organ meats
Organ meats are the original super food. In some traditional cultures, only the organ meats were eaten; the lean muscle meats (what we eat now) were given to the dogs. The liver was especially prized. Eating liver was thought to give you great strength and could have magical powers. Some believe it has an “anti-fatigue factor” as well.

Well, liver IS an amazing source of many nutrients- vitamins A, D, E, K, all the B vitamins (especially folic acid), copper and iron. It is also very high in CoQ 10 which is needed for energy production in the body- maybe this is the “anti-fatigue factor”?

Organ meats like liver were very common, even in the U.S., not too long ago. I have an old cookbook of my grandmother’s from the 1930’s and it is loaded with organ meat recipes. You don’t need to eat organ meats all the time or even in large amounts to get the benefits. A few ounces a week is enough, and that’s easy to do if you are mixing it in with other foods if you don’t like the taste. The recipe below is a great place to start to get the benefits of organ meats like liver. Choose organ meats from healthy animals, like pasture raised or grass fed local beef, pastured chickens, etc. (HERE are some resources).

Fermented Foods
Fermenting has been a traditional food practice in almost every culture around the world for centuries. With the fairly recent boom in research (and media) around probiotics (and our gut microbiome), fermented foods are getting a bit of a comeback. Fermented foods are loaded with probiotics (beneficial bacteria for our GI tract). Naturally fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and other fermented veggies are becoming more and more popular.

Probiotics have many health benefits like improving your immune system, improving your digestion, and some studies say that they can even help you lose weight.

True fermented foods will be in the refrigerated section of the store, so the majority of pickles and sauerkraut out there are NOT fermented, they are just in brine. You want to look for “live food” or “contains live cultures” on the label. Aim for a variety of fermented foods too, they all contain different strains of probiotics. You may also want to start slow, with small portions. If you’re not taking any probiotics or you’re not used to eating fermented foods, and you drink a whole bottle of kombucha, for example, you may end up with a horrible stomach ache. Go slow. Most traditional fermented foods were used like condiments with a meal, so try small amounts each day to build up a healthy microbiome. Oh, and don’t heat up your fermented foods, this will kill all the good probiotics.

Want to make your own fermented foods? Check out:

Grain Free Sardine Fish Cakes
Adapted from
Serves 2


This quick and easy recipe is a simple way to incorporate sardines into your diet, especially if you’re a little hesitant to try them. These little cakes were so good, they were devoured just on their own. They would also be delicious over a mixed green salad with a lemon vinaigrette. Yum!



1 can of sardines (around 84 grams when drained)
1 egg
1 ½ Tbsp of coconut flour
1 Tbsp of Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
¼ cup chopped green onion
? tsp of salt
¼ cup almond flour for coating the cakes
1 Tbsp olive oil


  1. Place the drained sardines, egg, coconut flour, Dijon mustard, parsley, green onion, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until all combined. Roll into small or medium sized balls (about 4-6) and flatten with the palm of your hands. Dip the fish cakes in a small bowl of almond flour. Evenly coat both sides. sardines_step1
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over low to medium heat. Cook the fish cakes, turning once.
  3. The cakes are done when both sides are golden and crispy.


Beef Liver and Onion Meatballs
Adapted from
Makes 4 servings


This is a good way to start loving liver! With all the spices in this recipe, you won’t even know it’s in there.



1 lb grass fed ground beef
¼ lb pastured beef liver finely diced, or ground in a food processor
½ cup onion, diced
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine ground beef and beef liver.
  3. Season with smoked paprika, garlic powder, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. Continue to mix with hands until meat is equally seasoned.
  4. Mix in the diced onion.
  5. Form meat mixture into balls, slightly larger than an ounce, and place in a baking dish. Bake meat balls for about 25 minutes.


Note: You can increase the amount of liver to increase the nutrient content to about 50% beef/liver ratio.

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Which Nondairy Milk is the Best?

This is a question I get pretty often. It’s not an easy question to answer either. It depends on what your goal is. Do you want a milk that’s low in calories or do you want one that’s high in protein? Maybe taste is your only criteria. Luckily, if you can’t or don’t want to drink cow’s milk there are many options in the grocery store these days.

The most common nondairy milks are soy, coconut, almond and rice. But if you peruse the aisles at stores like Whole Foods you will also find hemp milk, oat milk, flax seed milk, cashew milk, and a few others.

Most of the nondairy milks have added vitamins and minerals to mimic what would be in cow’s milk. Most add calcium and vitamin D; some add other vitamins too.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common ones:

Soy Milk

  • Mild "beany" flavor
  • 80-120 calories per cup
  • Typically 5-8g protein per cup
  • Read THIS blog for info on the controversies of soy

Coconut Milk

  • Mild coconut flavor
  • 45-90 calories per cup
  • No protein
  • Not the same as the canned coconut milks

Almond Milk

  • Typically a mild nutty flavor
  • Many people prefer this nondairy milk (taste wise)
  • 30-100 calories per cup
  • Very little protein (most around 1 g per cup)

Rice Milk

  • Mild flavor
  • Some brands can be gritty
  • 90-160 calories per cup
  • No protein

Many of the nondairy milks have added sugar. If you are trying to reduce your sugar intake make sure to buy one that is unsweetened. Almost all of them have some kind of thickener and some have preservatives as well. Carrageenan is one thickener that is in many "natural" foods. Some studies implicate carrageenan in certain digestive diseases and inflammation, but other studies show no adverse effects.

One thing to keep in mind is that most nondairy milks are highly processed; loaded with sugars, preservatives and artificial ingredients to enhance flavor and extend shelf life; and not exactly a whole, real food. If you want to try some of these, at least shop in the refrigerated section; these milks will typically have fewer preservatives than the shelf stable options. Pay attention to the ingredients! If it’s loaded with things you can’t pronounce, then its best to just put it back on the shelf.

Making your own nondairy milk is actually pretty easy, and I think they taste much better than the stuff on the shelves. Also, YOU control what goes in and what doesn’t go in (sugar, thickeners, preservatives, etc.).

Almond milk is a great one to start with. You can follow this same method with most any raw nut.

Almond Milk


1 cup raw almonds
3 ½ cups water (more if you want it thinner and less if you want it thicker)
Cheesecloth or a nut milk bag


1. In a large bowl, combine almonds with enough water to cover by a few inches. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight or up to 2 days (the longer they soak, the better the almond milk).

2. You will see that the almonds plump up!

3. Rinse and drain almonds, then place in blender or food processor with 3 ½ cups of water. Blend on low and work up to high speed for at least 1 to 2 minutes. If you are using a food processor, blend on high for 4 minutes, scraping down the sides halfway through.

4. Line another bowl with the cheese cloth and pour pureed almond mixture over the cheese cloth.

5. Gather on all corners to form a "bag" and start squeezing.

6. Continue to wring and squeeze until all the liquid is out and you are left with dry almond pulp.

7. Pour the almond milk into a glass container (with tight fitting lid) and refrigerate. You will want to use the almond milk within 3 days.


  • If you don’t have a very powerful blender, add just a little water to start with and then once the almonds are blended add in the rest.
  • You can add vanilla, cinnamon or other flavorings. You can also sweeten the almond milk if you want to by adding honey, maple syrup or even dates while it’s in the blender.
  • You can use cheesecloth, muslin, swiss voile or special nut milk bags to filter out the pulp.

Nutrition Content: the nutrition content is hard to determine since it will depend on how much water you use, how much pulp is strained out, etc. This recipe, using 3-4 cups of water, will be about 40 calories , 4g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 5mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate (1g dietary fiber, 0g sugar), and 1g protein per cup.

What to do with the pulp? Don’t toss it!!!

  • Use it to make crackers like THESE or THESE
  • Stir 1-2 Tablespoons into oatmeal or add to a smoothie
  • Dehydrate into almond meal (and use in recipes like THIS)

For a slightly more luxurious milk try...

Lavender Infused Walnut Milk
Recipe adapted from Mountain Rose Herbs



1 cup raw walnuts
½ cup lavender flowers
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 cups water (depending on how thick you want it)
Honey or maple syrup to sweeten (optional)


1. Soak walnuts in water overnight. Strain and rinse well. Place walnuts in food processor or blender with 2-4 cups water, lavender, and vanilla. Blend. While the food processor is running, drizzle in a little honey or maple syrup.

2. Line a bowl with cheesecloth and pour pureed mixture into bowl. Strain off as much liquid as possible and save your lavender walnut pulp!

3. You can store the walnut pulp in the fridge and use in oatmeal, smoothies, cookies, or recipes like THIS! Yum! Your walnut milk should keep in the fridge for about one week, the fresher the better!

Nutrition Content: nutrition content is hard to determine since it will depend on various factors such as water content, added sweetener, amount of pulp left in or strained out, etc.

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The Truth About Taters

Today is American Diabetes Association Alert Day®: a one-day "wake-up call" to bring attention to the increasing prevalence of diabetes worldwide. Whether or not you have diabetes, today is a perfect time to step back and think about your current lifestyle and what you can do NOW to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.

No More White Food?

When people learn they’re at risk for or have diabetes, the initial reaction is often "I can never eat white food again"- no potatoes, no pasta, no bread, etc. While there is some truth to this message, in reality we should be focusing on cutting back on the amount of refined, simple carbohydrates we consume.

Simple carbohydrates, also referred to as high-glycemic foods, are found naturally in fruit and milk and in processed and refined foods like sugar, syrup, honey, sodas, candy, cakes and sweets. They digest very quickly and provide a fast source of energy. When eaten alone, these foods cause a rapid spike in blood glucose levels, followed by an equally quick glucose crash. Over time, consuming a diet high in simple carbohydrates not only increases your risk for developing diabetes, but also robs you of energy and productivity.

In contrast, complex carbohydrates, or lower-glycemic foods, take hours to digest, allowing the glucose to slowly trickle into the bloodstream and be used more efficiently by the body. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods like whole grains, beans, oatmeal, legumes, some vegetables, etc.

Instead of completely cutting out "all things white," focus on choosing healthy sources of carbohydrates from complex carbohydrates and when you do choose simple carbohydrates, opt for naturally occurring sources like fruit and milk.

Remember to ALWAYS ANCHOR your carbohydrates with a lean protein or healthy fat! Check out our post on No Naked Carbs for more information on "anchoring."

Tame the Sugar Rush

Potatoes: to eat or not to eat? Americans consume an average of 130 pounds of potatoes a year, with white potatoes accounting for 32% of all vegetables consumed by adults. That’s a lot of potatoes and more than any of us really need!

Potatoes often get a bad rap, but in reality they’re a great source of many key nutrients including potassium, vitamin C, and vitamins B2 and B3. The problem comes in how much we eat, how we prepare them (deep-fried, au gratin) and what we pile on them (cheese, bacon, ketchup, sour cream). Most modern varieties of potatoes are also naturally high-glycemic.

However, the following tips will help "tame the sugar rush" that can be caused by potatoes:

  • Choose New Potatoes: new potatoes (small red, white or boiling potatoes) create a lower spike in blood sugars compared to old or baking potatoes like Russets, sometimes up to half as much! They also have thinner skins which make it more palatable to eat.
  • Eat the Skins: potato skins contain about half of the antioxidant activity of the entire potato and are high in fiber. Fiber slows digestion, giving potatoes a lower-glycemic value.
  • Pair with a Fat: add a source of healthy fat to your potatoes such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts or seeds. Fats help to slow the digestion process which, in turn, will lower the rise in blood sugars.
  • Let them Chill: allow potatoes to chill for at least 24 hours after cooking before eating. This process magically lowers the blood sugar response by as much as 25%! The cool temperature converts the starches into a more resistant form that is broken down more slowly. Re-heating does not impact the lower-glycemic status so bake today, chill tonight, and re-heat tomorrow!

The recipe below incorporates all of these glycemic-lowering tricks. Throw everything into a slow cooker when you get home from work and it’ll be done before you go to bed. Let it chill overnight in the fridge and re-heat for dinner the next night!

Source: Robinson, Jo. Eating on the Wild Side. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Recipe Adapted From: A Year of Slow Cooking
Serves 10


5 lbs purple and/or red potatoes, skin on, quartered
20 garlic cloves, peeled (about 2 heads of garlic)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Place quartered potatoes into a crock pot (leave the skin on for extra color, texture, and fiber).
  2. Toss in garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour in chicken broth.
  3. Cover and cook on Low 6-7 hours or High 3-4 hours. Potato pieces should slide off a fork and garlic should be golden brown and pretty shiny. If you have a lot of liquid in the bottom of the crock pot, drain off some of the extra liquid.
  4. Add softened cream cheese and use an immersion hand blender or potato masher to mash potatoes until creamy. Stir in parmesan cheese.

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  • About this blog

    The Employee and Family Services group at SAS includes the Health Care Center, Recreation and Fitness Center and Work/Life. Check this blog to find interesting recipes and nutrition facts, information on staying healthy and how to keep your work life and family life balanced.
  • Health Care Center Events & Services

    To view the Health Care Center's upcoming Corporate Health Services Seminars & Events schedule, visit us here.

    SAS Health Care Center has three registered dietitians to assist employees and covered dependents with their nutritional needs. For more information on our nutrition services, please call the Health Care Center at 919-531-8809.

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