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Planning a Festive Table of Favorites

Thanksgiving will usher in the holiday season which most likely will include lots of family meals and parties. When planning your gatherings you can create healthy meals and enjoy yourself. Many recipes can be lightened up on calories, while still offering tons of flavor. Keep these simple tips in mind as you plan your menus over the next month:

  • Include fresh fruit and veggies for your pre-game. When folks arrive, they are usually hungry, so while you are putting the finishing touches on the main event, keep it light – offer up a platter of freshly cut vegetables (bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, carrots) and a plate of sliced fruit (e.g. apple or pear slices).
  • Color – Don’t serve a plate of white food. Add oranges and greens to the table with fresh salads, sweet potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli or green beans. Remember the “My Plate” strategy of filling half the plate with vegetables, and a smaller portion with starches.
  • Use less butter and sugar. While some make the argument that “fat is back”, it’s still prudent to monitor the amount of fat (especially saturated fat) in your diet. Fat carries with it a lot of calories, so by using 3 tablespoons of butter over a whole stick, you can reduce the calories in a recipe by 70 percent! The same can go for sugar – in the sweet potato casserole recipe below, I reduced the sugar from a traditional recipe from 3/4 cup to 1/3 cup.
  • Make mini-rolls and muffins. If you are baking up rolls, or using frozen bread dough – go small. Baking smaller rolls helps with portion control and allows guests to sample everything. I use mini muffin tins to bake cornbread with cranberries or mini banana muffins to go along with the meal.
  • Offer sparkling waters or your own flavor-infused water. 

Sweet Potato Casserole

This has been a family favorite at our house since my children were small. My son is older now but still requests it. I use less sugar and marshmallows than traditional recipes, but it still has all of the fiber and beta-carotene goodness of the sweet potatoes. sweets

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup 1% milk

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

Cooking spray

1 cup miniature marshmallows


  1. Put a large pot of water on stove to boil over high heat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 9 by 13-inch pan with cooking spray, set aside.
  3. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 2 inch pieces
  4. Carefully put potatoes into boiling water and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and soft. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  5. Drain water and place potatoes into large stainless steel bowl and mash gently with a potato masher.
  6. Add sugar, milk, butter, salt and vanilla extract to bowl. Using a hand mixer or an immersion blender, mix potatoes for 1-2 minutes. Add eggs, continue mixing until well combined.
  7. Pour potatoes into prepared pan, spreading evenly, then bake in oven for 25 minutes.
  8. Remove potatoes from oven. Turn broiler on medium high.
  9. Pour miniature marshmallows evenly onto top of casserole, and place under broiler for about 1 minute (Watch carefully!) until lightly browned. Enjoy!

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Enjoying the Holidays with Balance

IMG_1137Weight management is an important part of staying healthy, preventing disease (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease) and feeling good. The holidays can be a wonderful time to spend with family and friends, and often food is the focus of many occasions.

You can enjoy your favorite foods without gaining weight if you set up an easy plan:

Don’t skip meals, but do eat light

To keep things balanced, do consider a healthy breakfast, lighter lunches and healthy snacks on days you know you have an occasion. Choose oatmeal for breakfast or a hard cooked egg and one slice of whole grain toast. Have a side salad with vegetable soup for lunch or a half a sandwich and cottage cheese and fruit.

Eat more fruits and veggie

This is a goal to strive for every single day, including when you are in the buffet line at parties. Most parties will include a vegetable platter or some fresh fruit. Add good portions to your plate and you’ll be sure to get the fiber you need. They will fill you up, and help you control your portions of other higher calorie snacks. In addition, make sure to grab an apple or a snack bag of carrots on your way out the door to work or for a shopping trip, to help keep hunger at bay while your’e busy.

Be mindful of portions, and slow down. 

It’s not what you are eating as much as it is “how and how much”. Take notice of what is being served from the buffet at parties. Make a mindful choice to choose a balance plate of smaller portions. If it’s a family style dinner, take a small portion of all of your favorites and put your fork down in between bites.

Stay hydrated.

Colder weather, and busier schedules, can sometimes get you out of your water drinking routine. Be sure to drink enough water through the day. And be sure to monitor your alcohol intake, limiting it to 1-3 cocktails per occasion (and never drink alcohol on an empty stomach).

Don’t “unschedule” your exercise.

This is not the time to let anything interfere with your exercise schedule. So be sure to make time to fit in at least 4 days of exercise(30-minutes or more) every week.

Get support.

Rather than wait until the new year, why not start working with a nutrition coach now?


Check out the Fall Squash Guide and more at Real Living Nutrition – Your Virtual Nutrition Clinic.


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So Many Ways to Cook an Egg

My parents lived through The Great Depression. Eggs were a staple in their diet. Inexpensive, versatile, easy to prepare. I was fortunate in my life to have a wonderful relationship with my parents, who, despite eating eggs, both lived 90 years.

Eggs from our backyard hens.

Eggs from our backyard hens.

A favorite lunch growing up was  something my mother called “onions and eggs”. This was simply sautéed green onions from the garden (it was a seasonal, springtime dish), scrambled with eggs. My favorite way to eat it was on fresh toasted bread, as a sandwich. It was delicious.

Nutritionist Marion Nestle recently wrote an article about cholesterol and eggs. She wrote this as part of a series she’s doing about “industry-funded nutrition research”. Her point seems to be that all industry funded research should simply be thrown out the window (and she doesn’t always include as much research in her review  that isn’t industry-funded).

I’m so tired of all of these blogs that bash certain foods or use fear-mongering tactics to get you to avoid food that is perfectly safe to eat.

There are so many cultural and demographical reasons people eat what they choose to eat, and there are even more ways that diets should be individualized when it comes to health and disease prevention or treatment.

Nestle includes in her article a graphic developed for an anti-egg campaign by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (a Washington DC based non-profit, i.e. activist group, advocating for vegan diets). In the article, she highlights a PCRM campaign that is using billboards that claim “Cholesterol Kills”, with a photograph of an egg on them.

TRUE: Eggs are high in cholesterol (each yolk contains about 185 milligrams)

FALSE: Cholesterol kills

FACT: Egg whites on the other hand are fat-free and cholesterol-free and offers about 6 grams of protein, and only 25 calories, per large egg white.

FACT: Eggs also provide about 6 grams of protein.

Even with an increase in egg prices at the grocery store (due to occasional Avian Flu outbreaks), eggs are a cost-effective source of protein, providing 12 grams of protein (per two egg whites) at only about 45 cents.

Eggs are an easy meal option for many busy moms. We often will have an egg scramble or omelet for dinner on busy weeknights. Frittata, egg burritos, and omelets are great vehicles for getting more veggies into your diet too! Have leftover spinach, mushrooms, peppers – or any veggies? Sauté them up and add 3-4 beaten eggs. Voila! Add some sliced fruit, and dinner is served.

The Perfect Hard Cooked Egg

Here’s the easiest route to perfect hard-cooked eggs:

  • Place 4-6 eggs in a small 2-quart saucepan (or up to 12 in a larger 4-quart saucepan)
  • Pour water into pot over eggs
  • Place pot onto burner, cook on medium high until water comes to roaring boil
  • Once boiling, turn off heat, cover, and set timer for 12 minutes.
  • After 12 minutes, drain, and rinse with cold water (no green ring!)

Don’t let these food politics folks burst your good nutrition bubble.

There is more than one path to a healthy diet. You can cook, eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods. Always strive to:

  • Eat more vegetables
  • Choose fresh fruit daily as a snack
  • Reduce your portions of meats (4-8 ounces total daily) and limit processed meats to occasional choices
  • Drink adequate water
  • Limit caffeinated, alcoholic, and sugary beverages
  • Eat together as a family

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Feeding Children: Does Health Food Lead to Healthy Lifestyles?

Before “healthy”, organic and specialty packaged food were available in the average supermarket, they were only available from “Health Food Stores” or via special order. Now more than ever before, everyone has access to a variety of choices. Just about every supermarket offers an Organic or Specialty Foods section, and they are growing bigger and bigger. They’ve become mainstream. In addition, however, they also offer even more choices in the area of snack foods (crackers, cereals, chips, cookies, bars). Often Organic brands, or foods labeled as more “natural”, are give the health halo, when in fact, they are really no better than similar non-organic products.

Has access to more variety made us healthier?

Where We Were, and Where We’ve Been

I participated on a calcium council during the years 2000-2004. The committee’s charge was to empower communities to support healthy food and beverage choices for children, and paid particular attention to the growing obesity problem. At that time there was serious concern about “competitive foods’ in school – treats that could displace healthier choices like milk or the school lunch.

myplateOver recent years, National School Lunch guidelines have encouraged more fruits and vegetables at lunch. Soda machines, and other unhealthy competitive foods, have gradually been removed from school cafeterias, but what has this achieved over the past 10 years?

  • Are children suddenly increasing their calcium intake?
  • Do they eat more fruits and vegetables?
  • Are they more fit?
  • Have they begun to eat the proper amount of calories for their age and body?
  • Do new parents have a better understanding about how to nurture their babies by providing proper early feeding guidance?

The short answer to most of the above is – No. The elimination of some “evil food or beverage” generally isn’t replaced with good eating habits that result in improved diet quality or healthy body weight. I’d conclude that these simple banning measures aren’t working.

Banning foods or beverages from a person’s diet, assumes that the food in question is the main cause of a problem at hand. Gluten is removed because some believe it’s causing weight gain in non-Celiac people. Sugar is removed because, while it’s void of nutritional value, it’s suspected to be “addictive” or “toxic” (it’s neither in normal quantities). Heck, even the esteemed Harvard Public Health is using the word toxic.

Families need to foster healthy habits and attitudes about eating, food and nutrition right from the start. There is too much focus on what to eat, and not enough focus on the eating environment that fosters healthy habits.

I would rather see a busy family sit down to a table that is properly set with dishes, forks and knives, serving a simple baked chicken, boxed rice, canned green beans, and a glass of milk, than worry about how much fat or sodium is in their meal.

It’s the sitting together at the table, taking time to prepare and eat a meal, and chatting about your day, that goes much farther in terms of long-term health, than planning out a “perfectly healthy meal” (that has many definitions).

Moving Forward

Perhaps the most profound impact the health care team could make is more emphasis on education where nutrition begins: Pregnancy and infancy.

We can’t go back in time, we can only move forward. The obesity battle will only be won if we step back and start from the beginning. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: It is not just about the food or beverages people choose to eat, it is about HOW they eat.

Not the what, but the how.

This approach is much more effective than trying to fix the problems that are already out of control (obese teens and adults), or screaming about how the junk food industry poisoning children. Sure, some young children and teens can modify their eating and exercise habits, but once those fat cells develop in infancy, they can’t be removed.

Prevention is and always has been the best method. We need to stress the importance of good nutrition right from the start by encouraging healthy eating for healthy pregnancies. Obstetricians can help ensure that women who qualify for WIC use that benefit.  Pregnant woman who don’t qualify for WIC should also be able to get at least two visits with a registered dietitian early on – so that young women have the opportunity to learn and clearly get the message that what they eat impacts the fat genetics of their child. The role mothers set early on, creates the healthy eating habits that child will take with him through life. That’s where it all starts.

A Thought on Food Deserts

The federal government estimates that food deserts affect over 23 million Americans who live in low income neighborhoods that are over a mile from a grocery store. Food deserts have been correlated with the obesity epidemic, particularly as a barrier to properly feed children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement about the issue. It’s no surprise to most dietitians that people have had to make tough choices (rent, utilities, medicine or food?) and healthy diets don’t always get top priority in crisis situations.

What if our government supported more programs that offered some entrepreneurial training and start up money to support the neighborhoods where food deserts exist? New York tried a “Green Cart Initiative” with some success.

What if we trained people to run healthy grocery stores that provided fresh meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables? If they were in the neighborhood, would neighbors shop there and support it?

What if we empowered those impacted by the food deserts with the tools to help their neighbors?

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Food Shaming 2.0

I was going to let it go. Just skip writing about it, but here I am.

I am so disgusted with the daily diet headlines that the popular media dishes out. Every day, good (and sometimes bad) studies get completely misconstrued, and often get more attention than necessary, by popular print and television news media.

As a registered dietitian-nutritionist, this has created a complete lack of trust for my profession, and other allied health professionals. There has never, ever, been one answer to “What should I eat?”. RDNs are trained to not only study food, digestion, physiology, diet therapy for disease and reduction of disease risk, but also the behavior of eating. In addition most of us are also are on the pulse of current research and peer reviewed nutrition journals – so when you say “did you hear about….blah blah diet news?”. Yes. I did. Three days ago.

Don’t Touch My Imported Italian Salami

If you’re like me, you enjoy food. It may even be part of your heritage.

When this story broke about the potential cancer-causing affects of processed meat (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, etc), I was amazed at the media frenzy. But then again, when reporters choose to use headlines such as “cause cancer!”, people look up. Overindulging in high fat processed meat isn’t healthy, so this news was no big surprise to any dietitians I know, but you shouldn’t conclude that “bacon causes cancer” either.

Some plants definitely have “medicinal” properties, and most meats don’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a variety of meat products within your diet, but as always I will emphasize continually striving to add more plants to your diet (ie, vegetable dishes).


So what? Are you going to not walk outside when the sun is shining? If you enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic cocktail, are you going to give them up completely? Should we all start cutting our own hair since hairdressers should close up shop?

Note the statement at the bottom of the above graphic:

The IARC’s Index only tells us how strong the evidence is that something causes cancer. Substances in the same category can differ vastly in how much they increase cancer risk.

So Dear Reporters: Stop it!

We are exposed to potentially dangerous substances every day. This doesn’t mean that occasional exposures to them are going to immediately result in tumor growth.

The fact is we know as much about cancer as we don’t know. This could also be said for other diseases of the brain, heart or endocrine systems. However there is a body of scientific study that does link high intakes of red meat and processed meats to cancer. This is nothing new, and it is not the same as saying “meat causes cancer”. In addition, dietary associations are strong with colorectal cancer, and possibly prostate or pancreatic cancer. These recommendations are based on epidemiological data on both animals and humans.

My Takeaway

  • Don’t eat hotdogs or bacon everyday
  • Your diet doesn’t depend on one food, it depends on including a variety of foods. Don’t eat the same thing day after day.
  • Balance out your lunch and dinner with a good helping of salad or other vegetable
  • Eat a piece of fruit for a snack daily. Cut back on that “in the name of protein” beef, turkey, or venison jerky
  • Enjoy small portions of meat if you so choose. Small = less than 8 ounces daily.
  • Exercise at least 4 days a week
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol to 1-3 drinks per day or less
  • Be aware of hazardous materials and avoid them as much as possible
  • Enjoy living every day you are blessed to be able to live it

And finally, look for the source and listen to actual nutrition experts. Here is what the recommendation really was: WHO/International Agency Research on Cancer Q&A on red meat

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Treating without Tricks: All About Attitude

Every year during the Halloween holiday you’ll read blogs and news columns about how to avoid eating candy. The advice can range from offering organic raisins or toothbrushes in place of candy treats, to leaving your sack of candy on the front porch where it will magically be exchanged for something else (a new doll, 50 bucks, an iPhone, or some other ridiculous thing).

I understand that folks are well-meaning when they try to moderate their child’s treat bag, but they may be doing more harm than good. Perhaps your child doesn’t like candy, so they’d rather “trade it in” for something else. Other children however get wind of these types of messages and are left confused, or worse, guilty. They may start labeling foods as “good” and “bad”.

With the growing trend of obesity among young children and teens, it’s easy to see why candy or soda or other “empty calorie” foods are targets. Unfortunately when you make a big deal out it, it becomes a bigger deal.


Do still consider safety and nutrition, and offer a plate of apple slices or some orange wedges for an afternoon snack, and do have a quick nutritious family meal to serve up before they go out Trick-or-Treating. It’s also okay to be aware of portions and calories. 

Be aware, but don’t obsess.

My advice is simple: Allow small treats, with a “no big deal” attitude. Don’t use a holiday as a time to teach the lesson of moderation – that can be done all year through by modeling healthy habits. And healthy habits include allowing yourself a treat while balancing out your week.

If you place a big bowl of candy out on Halloween and your child grabs a couple on the way out the door, don’t comment. Or when he or she arrive home after trick or treating, and dumps out the “loot”, don’t comment. And if you do comment, make it positive: “Wow, you must have had fun going door to door” or “The party was a success!” or “that’s enough candy to last you for months!”

Try this experiment

  • Be nonchalant about all of the junk and the treats, and see how your children react.
  • If you’ve never done this before, your child may very well eat twelve or more pieces of candy all at once.
  • Don’t say anything. They may not feel so good afterward. They may realize that you aren’t regulating them, and they will have to regulate themselves next time.
  • They may realize that they enjoy candy, but after a day or two, a one or two small pieces is enough.

Self-Regulating our food intake, especially of rich, calorically dense foods, is part of healthy eating and lifelong weight management. Let’s face it, many of us all have favorite foods that we could overeat. Learning when to stop is a life-long skill that will serve your child well.

A few days after Halloween, let me know how your experiment turns out!

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We Could Be Heroes: If We Create Teams

In the 1980s and 90s I counseled thousands of patients. I gained confidence and satisfaction in helping many of them reduce cholesterol levels, lose weight, and manage their diabetes. If they returned for their follow up visit, I knew they were ready to learn, and would be successful using the knowledge and tools I shared with them. There was nothing heroic about it, and there was no social media at the time for me to broadcast my accomplishments. Their progress would simply be reported to the patient’s primary care physician who would reinforce what I was doing when he or she saw the patient in the office.

Listening to the constant “good-food-bad-food” chatter circulating in today’s media, you may be surprised that I achieved these results by suggesting people switch to low fat milk, use less butter, eat more fruit in place of junk food, cut back on the portion of meat they were eating, add vegetables to their diet, and set new goals for physical exercise. I didn’t focus on “eliminating toxic food” or ingredients, but worked around their lifestyle, taking into consideration what they enjoyed eating, and what could still fit, while achieving the goals of weight loss, blood sugar control, or lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

I didn’t judge their grocery shopping habits, I suggested how they could modify a few things, reduce portions here or there, and add in some new foods. People are typically very receptive to this approach.

It’s what makes dietitians unique: Personalizing realistic meal plans for people that achieve positive health outcomes over time with follow-up support.

Nutrition Counseling Isn’t a Soundbite

Nutrition counseling delivered by qualified health professionals is an effective way to improve the diet and health of our population. It’s been one of the most underutilized care services in medical settings. Why? Mostly because there is inadequate reimbursement for it (i.e., the hospital doesn’t make money from it), there isn’t enough advocacy for it, and there isn’t consistent insurance coverage for nutrition counseling services.

In today’s media storm of self-proclaimed diet experts, there seems to be a constant battle for who has the right answer as to proclaim to be the health hero of this century’s obesity and health crisis. I’d say that this phenomena is fairly new, a 21st century (western world) problem. What’s has been happening over the past 10 years has been a hijacking of the profession of dietetics, and it is not doing public health any good at all (not to mention I do not like being lumped in with pseudo-professionals or quacks).

Stuart Miles

Stuart Miles

Instead of leaving dietary counseling and diet prescriptions to the registered dietitians, there is now a public argument going on 24/7 on social media about what the “cure” is for our health decline. A few loud voices hammer on and on blaming the food industry – soda, sugar, meat, dairy, “big Ag”, and a plethora of other players – for the nation’s health decline and rise in obesity.

I wish we could just get back to basics, quit arguing, and let dietitians do their job. There is no need to eliminate some favorite American foods – hamburgers, French Fries, a cold beer or fizzy drink. It’s a matter of offering counseling and support to people who need to make lifestyle changes.

Counseling and support. Not, “eat this not that” messages.

Hero Syndrome

During the 80s and 90s, most people didn’t know what a dietitian did (some still don’t), but as the topic of food politics became more mainstream discussion, more people wanted in on the scene. As the need for preventive care became extremely evident in the 90s, maybe some people thought it could be a worthy business deal. I question how much they are really in touch with the people they are aiming to help however. Who are these people?

  • High Profile Doctors
  • Television personalities
  • Journalists
  • Food Activists
  • Gym owners and fitness trainers
  • Other allied health professionals (nurses, physical therapists)
  • Naturopaths
  • Self-proclaimed health coaches
  • Chiropractors (who have always made nutrition recommendations to patients, and often included a supplement program as part of their practice)

So why have so many been so interested in changing people’s diets? I’m not really sure. Perhaps, unlike registered dietitians, they were unaware of how diet impacted disease?

Perhaps they want to take credit when something works? Well, it can’t be about taking credit. It has to simply be about helping people continue making healthy diet and exercise choices through their lifetime – and this takes ongoing support.

Dr. Oz, and the Food Babe know nothing about actually evaluating nutrition risk or what a nutrition assessment entails. High profile celebrities (Oprah had a personal trainer, who did get famous, but she never had a “personal dietitian”) dish out advice on television, but the people watching actually need dietitians to guide them through the changes they need to make.

Diets Should Be Individualized by a Health Care Team

Registered Dietitians are the most qualified health professionals to address any aspect of how diet fits into wellness or disease management. Success doesn’t happen with the dietary prescription, it happens with long-term follow-up. The field of nutrition and dietetics is vast, and there are many different specialists available. Ideally, every medical center and physician office in the country should hire a dietitian to fit the specific needs of the population they treat.

In addition to the primary physician, psychologists, counselors, and exercise specialists can be an important part of the team.

Let’s stop fighting over whose battle it is, who should help treat it, or who caused it….let’s work on creating effective health care teams that include a registered dietitian.

Who’s in?





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Food Bans Don’t Add up to Health

There’s absolutely no question that eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight is good for your health.

There’s also no question that there are no guarantees in life.

Even if there’s not one more bit of nutrition or fitness research done, I’m pretty darn sure that:

  1. Fruits and vegetables are filled with “good chemicals”
  2. You need adequate calories and protein to sustain your body and
  3. Exercise and maintaining muscle tone, is good for your health and well-being.

Recently there’s been a lot of discussion about whether partnering with food companies is a good or bad idea for health organizations and education. On the surface this may appear to be problematic, but if proper sponsorship guidelines are in place, dietitians partnering with food companies makes perfect sense. Dietitians help patients and consumers learn how to evaluate food and plan meals. They help them create realistic eating plans and encourage healthy eating behaviors and habits.

The “Eat This Not That” Mentality


While a recent story about Coca Cola stepping down from sponsorship of several organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition, there are other food companies involved in similar ways, including health-washed food products from the Organic industry, the reporter writing about the Coke sponsorship story interviewed like-minded individuals who are anti-soda, offering the public only one glimpse of a complicated story. The dietitians, pediatricians, and obesity experts quoted feel it was a victory to have Coke walk away from these organizations, and they often imply that this kind of news will result in improved health outcomes somewhere along with the way.

They want to give you the impression that it’s just about soda, and that if Big Soda is less involved in marketing to health professionals, people will drink less soda, and better public health results. But it’s not that simple. Many anti-soda groups also have an agenda with the USDA, and other brands within the food industry that may not be on their “approved” list, and are making a strong push for “Big Organic”. The recent stories about how Coca Cola partners with organizations or individuals is no different than the way other food companies (including health-washed food products from the Organic industry) are involved with health professionals.

Ashley Koff, RD, is a dietitian who offers a shopping service to clients with “Ashley Approved” food items. She partners with many Organic, non-GMO brands and products.

For instance, she recommends an organic frozen waffle product by Nature’s Path with these ingredients:

Water, brown rice flour*, potato starch*, corn flour*,soy oil*, tapioca starch*, evaporated cane juice*, potato flour*, leavening agent (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, non GMO cornstarch, and monocalcium phosphate), soy lecithin*, pear* and/or grape* juice concentrate, natural flavor, sea salt.

I don’t work for any specific company, but I have these in my freezer – Aunt Jemima Frozen Waffles. They contain:

Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sugar, Whey. Contains 2% Or Less Of: Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate [Soy Lecithin]), Whole Eggs, Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Chloride, Salt, Corn Syrup[ Solids, Corn Starch, Colored With (Yellow 5, Yellow 6), Fortified With (Reduced Iron, Niacinamide,, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Cyanocobalamin [Vitamin B12]), Natural And Artificial Flavor (Dextrose, Corn Starch, Natural And Artificial Flavors), Soy Lecithin.

There aren’t any unsafe ingredients in the Aunt Jemima® waffle (you can argue amongst yourselves in regard to artificial color or flavoring with FDA approved ingredients). This product is also fortified with B vitamins, and is not meant to be a gluten free product, therefore is made with wheat flour. The Aunt Jemima waffle is lower in sugar and fat however, and contributes 4 grams of protein to only 1 gram in the Nature’s Path Organic item. They are both perfectly fine to eat once in a while – choose one if you have Celiac disease, or choose the one that tastes best, or fits your budget.

There are many reasons to make different choices at the grocery store.

Too Many Voices

My point here is that it doesn’t matter what the food or beverage products is, in terms of sponsorship. All products are going to have an influence, and it’s up to the individual professional to distinguish this, and recognize it. While you can argue that a soda is not the same an an “organic waffle”, in many ways they are the same. They are processed, packaged, and your diet would be imbalanced over-consuming them.

You’d think that folks who are so passionately against sponsorship are truly interested in people’s health, would champion efforts to get more health care coverage for dietitian visits. After all, RDNs are the most qualified, registered health professional to provide appropriate nutrition assessment and counseling to patients. Why reinvent the wheel? Why not utilize the members of the health care team that are already there, and offer increases availability of their services in outpatient settings? It’s clear that one-on-one visit with a dietitian has much more influence than an ad in a magazine.

Dietitians have been in this business for nearly 100 years! And we aren’t in business to tell people which brands to buy, but to help them work within their own budgets and lifestyles towards better health. People were actually healthier before Michael Pollan wrote his books and Dr. Oz appeared on television…

Banning Cupcakes

chocolate cupcake

Some may argue that consumers are “more concerned than ever” about their health and the food supply. Many schools across the country have banned cupcakes or other treat items for birthdays or holidays in recent years. Yet children eating those same cupcakes (although smaller, and with less icing) in 1978 were at normal weights and a decent fitness level. If that’s the goal (normal weights, good health and fitness level), where have food bans and food shaming got us?

All of the efforts to ban cupcakes, tax soda, reduce sugar, have not led to better health of the population. In reality, more are sick, and obesity continues to be a common thread leading to disease. Children are nowhere near as healthy as they were during the 20th century (when they ate white bread, drank whole milk, had a simple supper of meat, potato and vegetable, and snacked on homemade cookies and cakes).

Flash forward, and you hear stories about how cake mixes and other packaged foods are “toxic” for your body and full of “chemicals” (and maybe even GMOs – BTW, the Non GMO Project’s Standard’s Committee includes representatives from the Organic Industry. Why doesn’t the New York Times run a story on that?). We see crazy images on Pinterest or Instagram showing the lovely kale salad you could offer your child after school. babyhatesKale

On the other hand, exercise science experts like Steven Blair are publicly shamed because they have used funding from the soft drink industry to educate young and old about the important of fitness. The lack of physical activity is a reality, yet efforts to bring that to the forefront got put down by the press, not to mention completely misconstrued.

The reporting on food and diet is out of hand. Frankly we need to get back to basics, allow trained professionals to provide and report on diet information, fitness, and nutrition…the general population would be better off, healthier, and definitely less pissed off.


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Up Close to Biotech – GM May Not be What You Think It Is

I was recently invited to a workshop about farming and technology, sponsored by the IMG_6845Monsanto company. My travel, hotel and meals were covered, however I was not compensated, nor paid to write this blog or any other social media communication.


Are you afraid of GMOs? Do you know what the acronym means? Have you ever been  on a farm? Recently? Have you ever spoken with a geneticist, toxicologist, animal scientist, or farmer? Did you know that modern farming is highly technical, and that essentially most farmers are scientists as well?

Knowledge Alleviates Fear – Distance from the farm may add to it.

I’m fortunate, in my work, to be able to get up close looks into the food industry, and have enjoyed learning more about agriculture over the past year. There’s always two sides to the story, and there is a lot of disagreement about the need or safety of genetically modified crops. Some people are completely against them, perhaps in favor of organic food or “natural” foods (a term without much meaning), while others feel the technology allows for more cost-effective farming and agriculture – for instance, pest resistant crops are more consistent, yielding more food or feed per acre. When the farmer can till less often, by using cover crops, and plant crops closer together (because of better weed management and consistent yields), the farmer is able to be much more productive and cost-effective (less energy use, less time, more output). 

GMO stands for genetically modified organism. GM crops have been on the market in the U.S. since the mid-1990’s. As of now, there are currently seven GM food crops available on the commercial market in the U.S, (as well as cotton):

  • Corn
  • Soybeans
  • Canola
  • Sugar beets
  • Alfalfa
  • Papaya
  • Squash
  • Cotton

Two additional crops, potatoes and apples, are approved to grow and sell and should be coming to the market soon. Using this GM technology is incredibly more precise than traditional cross-breeding. You can think of genetic modification as simply introducing one desirable gene into a sequence, whereas traditional plant breeding introduces multiple ones.

Did You Know….

  • Use of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides tripled from 1960-1980, but use of all have DECREASED since 1980.
  • Livestock consumes forages (grasses) and byproducts indigestible by humans, but in turn provide protein and calories consumable for humans.
  • Biotechnology supports the world’s food demands, not just your local area. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that world meat consumption has grown with increases in population. The average global per capita meat consumption is around 40-45 kg/year, more in developing countries. Biotech both increases efficiency in breeding, and increases animal health and welfare.
  • Nature, on its own, changes its genome constantly.

Who is Monsanto?

Monsanto, like any large corporation, is filled with people. You may know that Monsanto develops herbicide tolerant, insect tolerant, and draught resistant crops. What people don’t know, is that much of Monsanto’s work over the years (past and present) involves innovating farming technologies, such as improving tractor attachments and equipment, enhancing the machinery that makes planting and picking much more efficient (economical, time-efficient, fuel-efficient, and environmentally sound) for the farmer. In addition, Monsanto spends a lot of time and effort on non-GMO seed development for new types of vegetables that have better yields, better flavor, and in some cases, better nutrition profiles. Monsanto created “Round-Up Ready” plants to encourage lower use of herbicides (plants that tolerate small doses of herbicide, which kills the problem weeds, but doesn’t harm the crops. Unlike popular belief, plants aren’t “doused” but diluted concentrations are sprayed early in the crop’s life). Insect tolerant plants are those in which one specific gene is genetically inserted into the plant to resist pests to that plant (such as Bacillus thuringiensis Corn that repels the corn borer). The benefit of these methods include reduced tillage (and labor), conservation of soil and fuel, and overall reduced use of herbicides. I visited three cattle farms over the past year, including one in Iowa, and I’ve learned a lot about beef and dairy production by visiting each of them (and the other two are not connected to Monsanto). I think the best way to learn about any science or specialty is to speak directly to the scientists who work in that area daily. As a dietitian, I have a fairly strong science background, but I’m no biochemist or geneticist. In my experience over the years, every scientist I’ve met in person, is a really nice, laid back, super-smart, geek (I mean that in a good way). The smart men and women I met, on my visit to Monsanto’s Huxley Learning Center in Des Moines, work for the company because they have the education required, love what they do, and love the land. They truly want to work with farmers to help make their jobs easier.

“Biotech crops are most thoroughly tested crops in history of ag” says John Vicini, PhD, animal scientist, food safety expert.

Who to Trust? I say scientists, over Food-babe-types

There’s a huge trust and literacy gap between scientists and the public. A recent Pew Research Study showed that 88% of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) scientists think eating GM food is safe, while only 37% of the public believes that’s true. The question is, why is there such lack of trust when there’s strong scientific consensus that GMO crops are safe? While scientists attempt to communicate the facts about GMO, celebrities dish out nonsense. And it’s the science that often doesn’t get the ear of mass media. There is a sector of the public who want all foods with any GMO ingredients to be labeled as such. While they argue it’s a “right to know” issue, it seems unnecessary since there’s scientific consensus on GMO safety.

Unfortunately there are also extreme non-science-based-consumer-advocates (e.g. Food Babe) demanding food label legislation, misleading and inducing consumer fear while putting pressure on the biotech industry. Sadly, many anti-GMO activists will say just about anything, and many are spreading misinformation on a variety of food and nutrition topics. There’s this push-pull between “big food” and the “organic industry”, when in fact, there’s room in the market for both (and it’s completely unrealistic, and would not be energy-conservative, to grow and provide only organic crops). Presently, if consumers choose to avoid GMOs, they can choose certified organic foods (which are already GMO-free as part of the organic certification system).

There are a lot of GMO-haters out there and the Monsanto company in particular is often singled out even though they do other work and aren’t the only company working in biotech. I ask you this: If you are against GMOs, at least make an effort to speak with a scientists who studies them for a living, or read some of the science literature for yourself. Ask the scientists your questions directly. Progress doesn’t happen without some sacrifice, but in the absence of a plan, there is no progress. And not moving forward has a negative impact on the world as well. Consider asking intelligent questions and understanding both sides of the issue.

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Back to School with Breakfast

Breakfast is often viewed as the most important meal of the day. This can be debatable, as it wafflewfruitphotodepends on the day, but for school-age children and teens, breakfast truly is important in terms of good health and proper growth. Breakfast is an opportunity to include important nutrients such as calcium, protein and vitamin C. As a bonus, ensuring that your child gets a healthy breakfast each morning may help them stay on task during their morning at school.

Try these 5 simple tips to get breakfast into your children each morning before school:

  • Make it ahead. Try baking up egg cups or egg sandwiches on Sunday afternoon, then refrigerate or freeze. See the simple recipe below.
  • Stock up. If you don’t have it in the fridge or pantry, nobody can eat it! Keep easy breakfast items on hand daily: English muffins, hard cooked eggs, peanut butter, frozen waffles, cheese sticks, bananas, dry cereal, oatmeal, milk, instant breakfast mix, yogurt cups, yogurt smoothies
  • Plan in threes. Include a starch, a protein, and a serving of dairy for a balanced breakfast. If nothing else, offering a large glass of chocolate milk to your teen is better than sending him off on empty.
  • Add 4 ounces of juice for daily vitamin C. Fruit juices are high in sugar, so it’s the portion that counts. A small 4-6 ounce juice cup offers you all of the Vitamin C you need daily.
  • Use convenience. Don’t go for the mom-of-the-year award. I know you’re busy. A packaged granola bar (ones packed with nuts are great choices, but enlist your teen in choosing a favorite) or “breakfast cookie” paired with a glass of milk, is fine. A frozen waffle “sandwich” with peanut butter can be eaten on the way out the door. Wrap up the egg sandwich to go.

You don’t have to be the perfect parent each day, but do help your children prepare for the day ahead. Even teens need help. They are often in such a rush in the morning, that they won’t take the time to make breakfast – with some conveniences and some planning ahead, you can make a great team.


Easy Egg Cups


  • 4-5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • Add ins – minced bell peppers, onions, chopped mushrooms or spinach


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray a 6-cup muffin pan with nonstick pan on medium heat. Whisk eggs and milk together until well blended. Sprinkle in cheese or other additions, gently stir to combine.
  3. Pour eggs into muffin tin.
  4. Place into oven, and bake eggs for 20 minutes, or until firm.
  5. Remove from oven, and cool. Remove from muffin tins and store in refrigerator or freezer.
  6. To heat, simply place egg cup in microwave and reheat on 80% power for one minute.


A Note About Restrictions

It can take years to develop healthy habits, so giving your children a head start now will develop healthy lifelong eating behaviors. It’s my opinion that restricting or forbidding foods that may be considered “treats”, “sweets” or “junk”, doesn’t work. I prefer to allow these foods in portion-controlled servings, and not make a big deal about it. At first, you may find your child overeats the “once-forbidden” food, but in a few weeks, the novelty may wear down.




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