You Will Eat It and You Will Like It

Don’t worry, I’m not forcing my kids to eat. Or to like whatever they eat, for that matter.

But now that my kids are older, this phrase has recently become a joke in our family. Let me explain…

We eat as a family most nights. I prepare real-food meals that are nourishing and free of processed foods and usually refined carbohydrates. And to avoid having to cook every night, I often (usually one or two times per week) plan ahead in my meal planning to have leftovers.

As you can imagine, with three kids sometimes they are not well received–the first time around, or even less likely the second time around. (Frankly, sometimes even I don’t want to eat the same thing twice even if I liked it the first time!)

So one day, I quipped a comical response to the complaints, “you will eat it and you will like it”. We laughed, they ate what I served, and now they regularly mimic me saying it…

(Of course, they also love mimicking our visiting friend’s four-year-old, who took one bite of my cooking and exclaimed in disgust, “Blecck!” At least my kids had the good sense not to do that back when they were four!)

The forcefulness of my statement “you will eat it and like it” was definitely meant as a joke. But in all seriousness, I really meant to say “sorry, not sorry” if we don’t especially love what I’ve made.

The food I provide every night is what I’ve chosen to make and it’s usually good, but always nourishing, and well, edible.

And since it’s the only option on the menu du jour, we all have the choice to eat it or not–if we can make it to breakfast. (We eat kind of late, and got in the habit of not having snacks after dinner while the kids were little to encourage better eating at dinnertime. Turns out this is better for circadian rhythms and sleeping, too.)

Mindset Matters

But “you will eat it and like it” is also a way of saying, “If you try it and set your mind to liking it, you will.” Mindset is a powerful tool we can manipulate to shape our experiences in life. (And this is helpful in many ways beyond food.)

So, although I’m a little late posting this (thanks to some military detailer upheaval–more on that later), this is simple nutrition message #4 for National Nutrition Month!

Although it has nothing to do with food, you might be intested in the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. The book was recommended to me a few years ago by one of my girls’ favorite teachers and it is one of the most infuencial books I’ve read.

It helps you foster a growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset) to create motivation in education, business or whatever you do! It’s also vital to parenting, as we foster our children’s lifelong learning style.

What books have you read lately that taught you something new? I’d love to add them to my proverbial night stand and learn something new from you!

Mindful Eating or Counting Macros

I’m often asked to provide nutrition information for my recipes.
Honestly, I’m torn…

Yes, one of my main missions is to provide recipe inspiration for easy, real food and I do this to be helpful. I get that it is helpful for some people to have the nutrient breakdown of the foods they are eating.

But here’s the thing:

Counting nutrients in order to restrict them (calories or “macros” such as carbs, protein or fat) AND eating mindfully are mutually exclusive. You can’t do both.

In my opinion, the only people who need to be counting anything are people with diabetes who take insulin, which is dosed on the amount of carbohydrates eaten. (BTW, this can be done while eating mindfully.)

The rest of us would benefit more from practicing mindful eating without counting anything. Estimating calories is notoriously inaccurate even when we try. And research supports that dieting for weight loss is not sustainable and may lower your metabolism. Hence, if I provide nutrient information, I worry the information will be misconstrued and misused–and you will end up worse off.

So, here’s my third simple message for National Nutrition Month:

I do not want you to manipulate numbers and obsess about your food, which robs you of a significant amount of time, energy and joy–and can negatively affect your health. Rather, I want you to enjoy a more mindful, natural approach to eating.

I believe you can enjoy a more mindful, sustainable approach to eating when you mainly choose real foods from nature and use your hunger and satiety (along with blood sugar monitoring if necessary) as a guide to building long-term healthy eating habits (and other habits beyond food-related ones).

Because my audience includes people with diabetes and those hoping to prevent it, I am willing to provide nutrition information for each recipe–if you promise to use it wisely. Or better yet, ignore it if possible! Deal?

Take Action

  • If you’re a carb counter for insulin dosing, I would like to analyze the nutrition content of all of my recipes and update them with this information, however this is a time-consuming process. So in the meantime, if you have a recipe you’d like me to complete first, please leave me a comment and I will prioritize it.
  • If you’re a counter for other reasons, I hope you will consider another more liberating approach to meal time. You might want to start by learning more about the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating. Intuitive eating addresses mindful eating plus many other important topics, such as rejecting a “diet” mentality and focusing on non-judgmental, self respect. (If this resonates with you, there is also a book and a workbook.)
  • If you’re not a counter, maybe you struggle with the other extreme: “winging it” with meals throughout the week. You might want to reconsider meal planning. The best way to be mindful about what you’re eating is to plan ahead to eat a variety of real foods during the week.
  • Start small: here are two breakfast meal planning ideas. The weekend is the perfect time to meal prep to get ahead of the week. Have a good one!
Easy Egg Cups
Easy Egg Cups
Baked Oatmeal Cups

Registered Dietitian: Real Deal?

Happy Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist Day!

That’s a mouthful! It used to be just RD, now it’s RD or RDN. Consumers have always been confused about what exactly an RD is–and then they changed the name and made either one acceptable.

Yes, that’s even more confusing, but as I always say, “They didn’t ask me…”

So because I assume you are still left wondering, my simple message for National Nutrition Month–Week 2 relates to what an “RD” is:

An RD is a college-educated, internship-trained, national exam-certified nutrition expert. While lifestyle coaches are now a dime a dozen, we are the original lifestyle coaches—but as with any profession, the credentials are only the first box to ✅…

You must seek out an experienced, evidence-based RD with integrity who understands and personalizes an approach to match your needs.

In other words: not all RDs are the same.

Here are some additional criteria to look for in an RD:

✅ Experience and specialization in the area you are seeking help
✅ Evidence-based advice (with citations when appropriate)
✅ Emphasis on a sustainable, non-diet lifestyle approach
✅ Compassionate, non-judgmental communications
✅ Humility and a deference to promising research
✅ Employment of a growth mindset (we are all continually learning)
✅ Minimal bias (especially financial gain from products you buy)

Hope that is helpful. As always, I’m here for your questions!

The Best Diet: Low Carb, Mediterranean, or…?

March is National Nutrition Month. However, this year there’s no official theme or message from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, this was intentional to allow “greater flexibility in the promotion of health messages.” Well, as you know, I’m never at a loss for nutrition-related words. So, I will share one simple message about nutrition each week in March. This week’s topic? The best diet for you.

(Note “diet” in this post indicates a “way of eating” and does not mean a restricted-calorie eating plan.)

Searching for “The One and Only” Best Diet

Over the years I’ve actually thought long and hard about my “flexible” nutrition messaging and wondered if “easy, real food” is specific enough to be helpful to you, especially if you’re trying to prevent type 2 diabetes. “Real food” may seem too vague when we could be more specific. But I have never felt more strongly that my main message must remain this broad to be evidence-based and practical…

Because there are many ways to eat for your health. All of them include a variety of real foods. None of them include a plethora of processed foods.

There is no single best diet for health; eat real food.

So, you can stop searching for the one best way for everyone to eat. For the prevention of diabetes, research suggests it is possible to follow any one of these diets and achieve good results:

  • A lower carbohydrate diet
  • A Mediterranean diet
  • The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet
  • A plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet

But of course we all have different health risks, and what works for one person may not be practical or effective for another. Also, these may not be the only options that are effective, but they are the diets with enough evidence so far.

When you consistently make an effort to eat more real foods and minimal processed foods, it leaves room to customize (with your doctor and a registered dietitian, preferably) the best approach for YOUR HEALTH RISK and YOUR LIFE.

Take Action

Give Your Valentine Real-Food Love

Whatever your love language, nothing says love like a steady supply of homemade, real-food meals for your family. It’s the heartfelt gift that keeps on giving–day after day, week after week. In fact, I see it as the ultimate gift that nonverbally communicates your desire to have your loved ones in your life as long as possible! Now that’s comfort food.

That said, what are you cooking for Valentine’s Day? It is tomorrow AND it is a weeknight, so special doesn’t have to mean time consuming. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, silly) and make easy, real food.

Appetizers

Smoked Salmon Cucumber Roses (Diabetes Friendly)

Fast Fresh Salsa (Not exactly a Valentine’s tradition, but hey, it is red and you can make it as hot as you like it!)

Bacon Wrapped, Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates (Fancy, but made with only three ingredients!)

Main Courses

Pan Seared Scallops in Simple White Wine Cream Sauce (Diabetes Friendly)

New Fashioned Meatloaf (For extra credit, I recommend making heart-shaped mini meatloaves, or one large heart-shaped meatloaf on a cookie sheet.)

Instant-Pot Lemon Chicken Piccata (A classic, yet special as is!)

Turkey Taco Boats (I recommend using all red peppers for Valentine’s day, so they kind of look like hearts?!)

Desserts


Flourless Chocolate Lava Cake (Diabetes Friendly)

Flourless Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie (This is my favorite dessert of all time!)

Fresh Strawberry Cream Pie (This one is a little more time-consuming than my usual, but worth the effort and great for non-chocolate lovers.)

Disclosure: I was paid to develop the diabetes-friendly recipes pictured here for OnTrack Diabetes. Check out the Valentine’s Day recipe collection with recipe notes if you’re interested!

Game Day Real Foods for the Win

I may have said this before: I’m a fair-weather football fan. Meaning, I’m only in it for the super bowl, and more honestly, the game day foods. (Well, also the commercials and, this year, the half-time show…love Maroon 5.) You say “football” and I think “yummy dips, finger foods, and chilis”. After all, in my case, it’s only once a year that I’m watching!

But sometimes “game day foods” means “unhealthy storebought, processed and refined foods”–which is a compounded problem if you watch football every week.

So, score bonus points for good health with a real-food plan for your football party! To that end (zone), I’m sharing a variety of game day, real food recipes developed by fellow dietitians.

As you know, nutrition is very individual. So, there’s something here for everyone:

  • traditional to trendy choices,
  • many lower carb options,
  • some dairy free and/or vegan recipes (if that’s your preference).

Fortunately, I don’t have allergies or dietary restrictions, but I do believe everyone should be eating more real foods and fewer processed foods.

So all the recipes included here are:

  • minimally processed,
  • free of refined grains and sugars, and
  • gluten free.

Dips and Spreads

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (Dairy Free) from www.eatreallivewell.com

Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus from www.eatreallivewell.com

Pizza Dip (Vegan Optional) from www.nutritiontofit.com

Japapeno Lime Almond Dip from www.stephanieleenutrition.com

5-Minute Vegan Cheese Sauce (Dairy Free, Nut Free) from www.sinfulnutrition.com

B’s Homemade Guacamole (my recipe)

Easy Pico de Gallo from www.betsyramirez.com

Patriotic 7-Layer Dip Flag (my recipe)  Note: you could make the shape of a football on top with tomatoes and cheese, using the olives as the laces.

Freezer Friendly Classic Buffalo Chicken Dip (my recipe)

3-Ingredient Crackers (Vegan) from www.beekaynutrition.com (No, not a dip but you need something to scoop up all these wonderful dips!)

Easy, Filling Finger Foods

Pimiento Cheese Pepper Poppers from www.holleygrainger.com

Easy Japapeno Poppers (4 Ingredients) (my recipe)

Grilled Chicken Satay with Thai Style Peanut Sauce from www.triadtowellness.com

Potato Satay with Almond Lime Sauce (Vegan) from www.chefcatherinebrown.com

Oven-Fried Chicken Taquitos from www.hungryhobby.net

Harissa Cauliflower Wings (Vegan) from www.karalydon.com Note: these have a little flour in them so aren’t gluten free as written, but you could probably substitute a gluten-free all-purpose flour.

Oven-Fried Chicken Wings (my recipe)

Broccoli Hummus Snack Bites from www.healthy-inspiration.com

Avocado Deviled Eggs with Smoked Paprika from www.amydgorin.com

Chili

And if you really want EASY + YUMMY + FILLING FOR A CROWD, just whip up a batch of B’s “Gonna Get Through This” Chili. I promise it’s in a category all of its own, no matter what spice level you choose!

And as for the game, may the best team win! Whatever that means to you…

What Do You Want for 2019?

Well, have you thought about it?

No, I’m not exactly granting wishes…but I am offering to make your life easier! I want to hear your feedback (via a 2-minute multiple-choice survey) as I set some goals for TheWanderingRD in the new year.

If you’re subscribed to TheWanderingRD, I assume you are here for three reasons:

  • 1) You value your HEALTH,
  • 2) You value EASY REAL FOOD, and
  • 3) You value TheWANDERINGRD.

Thank you! It fulfills me to be able to “use my powers for good” and support you wherever you are in your journey of self-care.

But my simple assumptions are not specific enough to help you best…

So, please do us both a favor?? Take this VERY QUICK (5-question) survey so I can get to know you better! Your opinions will offer invaluable direction!

New year, same sensational you, only better than ever. So, what do you need help with most? How can I make your life easier? Take the survey and email me with any other comments!

Better together.

This New Year: Don’t Diet!

2019 is around the corner and so it begins…evidence in all types of media that diet culture is alive and well. It’s typical, but honestly a little surprising to me as an RD–because it’s never been more clear that diets don’t work in the long run.

But, as you know, thin is in.  In general, our society overvalues thinness and discriminates against people who are not seen as thin.  We don’t have to look far to see this weight bias everywhere–in Hollywood, magazines, and sadly, even health care settings. (Has your doctor ever told you to lose weight and failed to fully address the reason you made the appointment?)

The main reason this has become socially acceptable is because the assumption has always been that thin people are healthier.  And while there are statistics that link obesity to certain diseases, such as diabetes, it is definitely not that simple.

Maintaining Weight Loss is the Exception

Odds are good that you know first hand how hard weight loss is. Even if you don’t, consider that the U.S. weight loss industry is worth $66 billion because this is a very complex problem…with not much of a solution.

Losing weight and keeping it off forever is rare.  (There is a national weight control registry to study these exceptional people.)  Most people lose weight only to yo-yo up and down throughout their lives. Recent research confirms that restrictive weight-loss diets don’t work in the long-term and diets may actually predict weight gain.  AND, even more importantly, recent research reveals that yo-yo dieting appears to lower your metabolism in the long run (the Biggest Loser follow up study). 

What does this mean?

Odds are very good that after dieting you will not be able to sustain the restrictions, you will return to your original weight or exceed it, AND now you need to eat less and/or exercise more to maintain your weight. (Although maybe the nutrient profile matters…a brand new randomized controlled trial, the gold standard, suggests following a lower-carbohydrate diet may maintain energy expenditure to help maintain weight loss.)

In summary: you are worse off when you focus on weight loss.

And of course, many people develop disordered eating or eating disorders along the way.  Keep in mind this post doesn’t even touch on the many psychological ramifications of failed weight-loss attempts…

If Diets Don’t Work,Then What Does?

Well, first it’s important–albeit difficult–to come to terms with the fact that we are all different and our bodies are all different. I’m very sorry, but no amount of dieting (or exercising) is going to change this.

I love this Poodle Science video! It makes a really good point–you wouldn’t expect a Mastiff to look like a Poodle, even if it ate more like a poodle.

Now, of course, it’s a little different for people, but the idea is that we all have varied genetic make up and have far less control over our size than was once thought.  And that’s okay–we are who we are meant to be.

Avoiding diet culture often requires a continual redirection of your thoughts to overcome occasional relative comparisons and prevent them from becoming part of who you are.  The struggle is indeed real to prevent negative thoughts or societal influences from penetrating your sense of self worth…and even worse, affecting your behaviors.

Keep in mind, sometimes a lot of soul searching and often therapy is necessary to help us get to this point. But it’s a journey–I’m hoping you start today, if you haven’t already, and let it lead you to a healthier frame of mind regardless of your weight.

Now, I’m not saying we should give up on our bodies or the pursuit of health.  I believe we need to focus on forming healthy behaviors irrespective of weight in order to better our physical and mental health.

Lose the Pressure Instead of the Weight

How many times have you avoided doing anything at all to improve your health, because you’re fixated on and frustrated by your inability to lose weight?  However, if you don’t start a diet, you won’t be able to “quit” and then feel guilty and ashamed.

Diets don’t work because they fail you. You don’t fail them.

There’s no need for guilt and shame. Simply take the pressure off yourself! If you don’t focus on weight as your end goal, I believe you would feel more empowered about making changes for your health because your goals will be much more attainable and sustainable.

These are examples of far more immediately achievable, and therefore, likely more sustainable goals:

  • add 1 cup of vegetables to 3 meals a day, or
  • exercise 30 minutes 3 times a week, or
  • check your blood sugar 2 times a day (if you have diabetes), or
  • go to bed/wake up at the same time each day (for a regular pattern of 8 hrs of sleep), or
  • meditate for 10 minutes each day.

Notice we’re staying positive in our goals. Adding, not taking away. If not these, what healthy habit would you like to add to your daily routine?

If you happen to lose weight implementing a sustainable healthy behavior, then of course, that’s okay.

But when you focus on realistic goals rather than weight loss, you have more importantly created a sustainable behavior that carries with it proven lasting health benefits, such as improvements in the following:

  • blood sugar control,
  • blood pressure control,
  • mood,
  • body composition, etc.

What Do You Think?

Is it surprising I’m telling you not to focus on weight or losing weight? Is it liberating? Or are you doubtful this approach is healthy?

Honestly, as a health professional I have long known restrictive diets don’t work, but I was at first reluctant to let go of focusing on weight as a measurement of health risk–but then again, maybe that just shows you how deep weight bias runs.

But I truly believe we can make more progress toward better health if we can let go of our obsession with weight and instead focus on creating healthy behaviors one at a time.  Please leave a comment or question to further the discussion!

Happy New Year!

Plenty of Options: Meal Planning Monday Week 13

Sometimes you just need options. And flexible ones. By now even if you’ve tried some of my recipes, you may have noticed it’s not ideal following someone else’s (my) meal plans!  I actually feel strongly about why you should meal plan for yourself.

Simply put:

You are not me. We are not the same. And that is ok. I don’t provide meal plans for you to mimic week after week. Rather, I hope you look at my meal plans to get recipe ideas and to make real food a priority and a weekly habit. 

This week is a short meal planning week for me because my kids and I are leaving Thursday to visit my sister in D.C. and tour the White House, the Capitol and the FBI building (where she works).

So, instead of showing you what I’m eating (nothing spectacular, mostly leftovers from the weekend)–I’m giving you some of my most popular easy, real food recipes in these five categories: Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, Ground Beef, Vegetarian, and Fish.

Instant Pot: Instant Pot Pulled Pork Tenderloin (my most popular recipe)

Slow Cooker: Chicken Burrito Bowls (makes enough for a freezer meal or for leftovers)

Ground Beef or Turkey: Meatloaf Pizza (really tastes like pizza)

Vegetarian: Thai Yellow Curry with Baked Tofu (delicious for leftovers)

Fish: Blackened Fish Tacos (just yum!)

Buon appetito!

Cultural Food for Hanukkah: Meal Planning Monday Week 12

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. You may know I’m not Jewish, but I do love eating my way around the world and enjoying traditional foods of other cultures. I think it’s the best way to get to know people who are different than ourselves while relating–because in many ways we are the same.

Whatever our culture, we all have values and beliefs that are important to us…and we all eat. It makes the world feel a little smaller when we are able to respect others’ values and beliefs even if we don’t share them. (As the original melting-pot culture, we could do this more often!)

And when we show interest in others, share a table together, and try new things, we are making ourselves vulnerable and well, life meaningful!

Frankly, sometimes what we eat isn’t even all that different–I find that so comforting! Or maybe it’s just the carbs…but take bread, for example. I love how many cultures have some version of a food that is traditional and similar, yet different.

  • Pita bread (Greek or Middle Eastern),
  • naan (India)
  • Italian bread,
  • baguette (French),
  • the spongy (Ethiopian) flatbread called injera
  • and of course, America has corn bread…or Wonder bread (kind of embarrassing, but it’s probably most representative of our culture)?

Well, then there’s also Jewish challah bread. My daughter has a new friend from school who is from Israel, and her mother shared this delicious freshly-baked loaf of challah with me last Friday! And these new friends also invited us into their home this week to share a meal to learn more about how they celebrate Hanukkah…such a generous invitation and I am really looking forward to it!

Of course you may have noticed I don’t eat a lot of bread because I try to avoid overly processed and refined carbohydrates.  So when I do, it has to be worth it…this is worth trying and I’m hoping I have time to make French toast out of it for “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) on Friday (because my kids have been asking for French toast for a while).

But if you don’t have time for breadbaking this week, try these easy salmon potato cakes! The are a new, higher-protein take on potato latkes, a traditional Hanukkah food. Latkes are fried traditionally to commemorate the miracle of a one-day supply of oil lasting 8 days. So, these are still pan-fried in olive oil, because they taste best that way! But they come together quickly with canned sockeye salmon and you can use frozen hash browns if you like (I prefer fresh, but if I don’t have time I use Trader Joe’s brand because they are preservative free).

Meal Planning This Week

Monday (a busy night): Salmon Potato Cakes with sour cream, roasted broccoli and cauliflower

Tuesday (a busy night): Leftovers (Holiday concert night!)

Wednesday: Out for dinner (to a Hanukkah celebration with friends who are from Israel)

Thursday (a busy night): Instant Pot Chicken Soup (Not a Hanukkah food per se, but it’s easy and warms the soul like new friends! Plus I am making extra to have on hand for the winter.)

Friday: Cinnamon French Toast (with homemade Challah bread if time permits), and fruit

Buon Appetito! And Happy Hanukkah!