3 Nutrition Truths for the New Year

Happy New Year! I know it’s late, but I decided to sit out the first Internet wave of new year nutrition advice. This was intentional, but then the SEVEN snow days with my three kids at home kicked me completely out of commission. (Although extending vaca wasn’t half bad…if I’m honest!)

So, although I am somewhat late, at this point I hope you are like me and still mulling over what/if anything to do differently now that it’s January. If so, these are my deep thoughts and words of encouragement to help you keep it real for 2018with real food and real talk, as always! Because January is the peak of nutrition-related misinformation, in case you haven’t noticed.

But stick with me (if you want, subscribe to follow this blog via email, or follow @dvnorwood on Instagram or The Wandering RD on Facebook) and we’ll get through it together. Let’s start with three “nutrition truths” to help you wade through the media buzz and start your year off with steady, science-based steps in the right direction.

  1. Goals Are Still Resolutions (Do Set Goals)

So, new year. New you? Wrong. If you read the many wellness articles this year, most tell you not to set resolutions. Have you noticed lately the health and wellness conversation has shifted from always trying to improve yourself to accepting yourself?

I get the focus on self-love. I mean, I love you (ya know, as a neighbor) enough to want to help you figure this stuff out. So, surely, I want you to love yourself. But as with all things, a healthy balance is important. And to be our best, I believe we all can make small changes to our lives that would improve our health, wellness, relationships, productivity, etc. The important things in life are worth the effort—are they not?

Nothing explains what happens when we don’t put forth the effort as well as the scientific concept of “entropy,” which is the universe’s tendency for disorder (a.k.a. why our kids’ rooms get messier by the day.)

So, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals. And you can even call it a resolution, if you want. Because isn’t a goal still a resolution? “Resolutions” just have a bad rap because it’s human nature to want to change ourselves in grandiose ways and then drop the ball when it’s unachievable. So, if “resolutions” are a New Year thing, then maybe “goals” are better.

But the point is this: it’s never a bad idea to set realistic, small resolutions (a.k.a. goals) to improve yourself or your circumstances. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the current you. It doesn’t necessarily mean your self-worth is in jeopardy. If anything, it means you are investing in yourself, and isn’t that something we do when we can see our own potential?

And further, there’s no reason anything has to start on January 1st. I don’t know about you, but I’m still mulling my goals over and yes, it’s almost February. It’s great if you want to ride the wave of motivated people in January, but it’s equally great if you decide you’re ready to start something in September. Goals have to be realistic and practical. It helps to have a plan in place to be able to achieve them. And most importantly, before you even try, you have to decide which goals will be meaningful or you will fail and not even care about it—don’t ask me how I know this…

So, wait till you are fully ready, but go ahead and start to wrap your brain around what it is that would help you become the you that you’ve always wanted to be!

I was reminded recently in this NYT article that sometimes, for many of us, the hardest part of doing anything is starting…(unless it’s finishing, then read the book, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done. Ha! It’s a great quick read and I am not paid in any way to say this.)

  1. Diet is a Four-Letter Word (Do NOT Restrict Drastically)

About half of the population makes resolutions that involve losing weight and getting in shape. But have you heard? “Diet” is a “four-letter” word—literally, and figuratively. Yes, diet can be just a word that means “habitual nourishment,” but it has come to conjure up images of a very restrictive way of eating to lose weight. Research shows that’s bad because most people lose weight only to gain it back when they go “off” the diet, and often even more weight than they lost. So, bottom line: diets don’t improve your health if you gain back the weight (or more) and even decrease your metabolism in the process. And then there are the feelings of failure you’ll have to deal with, too.

So, if your goal is to restrict yourself so drastically that you can’t maintain it, then please, please, please change your goal to a more attainable, sustainable one. It’s okay to want to make changes to your diet, even to lose weight and/or improve other aspects of health, but consider smaller changes that you can incorporate to become lifelong habits.  That said—even a lower sugar, and/or lower carbohydrate diet can be maintained if you slowly make changes that become your new normal, which is especially helpful for preventing and managing obesity, prediabetes and diabetes.

  1. Mindfulness Isn’t Always Intuitive (Do Practice Mindfulness)

So, 1) set goals, 2) don’t drastically restrict—this begs the question: what’s a person to do?

Have you heard about Intuitive Eating? It’s often used in the same sentence as “mindfulness.” The principles promote a non-diet approach to eating, which involves ditching the scale, listening to hunger and fullness cues to determine food intake, and perhaps most importantly, finding other ways besides food to deal with emotions.

Let’s be clear, I am not at all against any of these things. But I do have a serious problem with the word “intuitive.”  If eating is supposed to be so intuitive, how are so many people doing it “wrong”? It appears to me that eating is not intuitive for a large part of the population, or there wouldn’t be a growing obesity and diabetes epidemic.

The problem may be this: it’s intuitive to eat what is available. Studies show people weigh more when presented with more variety and diversity of food options (think: buffets). And in America, we have a disproportionate amount of unhealthy foods available at our every turn.

Or the problem may be this: what if certain people with a genetic predisposition for overweight or obesity are biologically driven to overeat certain foods (such as refined carbohydrates and sugar)? It is far from conclusive, (and I talk about it in this comprehensive post about sugar) but there is a school of thought that refined carbohydrates and sugar could be addictive in some individuals. If it proves true, aren’t we judging and–even worse—alienating many people we are trying to help by telling them, or even trying to teach them, to simply “eat intuitively”?

I believe it’s not fair, accurate, or helpful to call eating “intuitive” in our food culture and that it does more harm than good.

Rant over!

That said, can one learn to eat mindfully? Absolutely.








However, it appears mindfulness may be harder for some people to learn and practice, perhaps due to one or more of the following:

  • our fast-paced culture,
  • our food supply,
  • differing genes,
  • and/or emotional issues (including eating disorders).

Some people can eat “everything in moderation” while others prefer to avoid certain foods because they can’t stop at a “reasonable” portion. It’s highly individual and we all know ourselves best, although sometimes need help and guidance teasing out all the factors that affect building healthy eating habits.

It should be noted it is impossible to talk about mindful eating without fully addressing the emotional aspects of eating, especially eating disorders, preferably with qualified therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, in addition to RDs.

Nonetheless, mindfulness for most everyone involves learning to incorporate more real foods, and far fewer processed foods, especially those with refined carbohydrates. I like to say it is a practice, because it is important enough to do the hard work and there is no room for perfection or guilt–just keep at it the best you can.

And you can always count on me to try to make practicing mindfulness as simple as possible with an ever-growing list of easy, real food recipes.  Stay tuned for a post with specific tips on how to practice eating mindfully!

Are You a Picky Pumpkin Eater?

Dietitians usually talk a lot about picky eaters like it’s a bad thing. Yes, usually we want people to expand their tastes to eat a variety of healthy foods. But picky is always a good thing if you’re picking easy, real foods over processed ones.

I love fall and I especially love pumpkin. Apparently I’m not alone in this–just look around any store. But while shopping at my usual grocery stores in the past two weeks, I realized how insane it has gotten with the variety of processed pumpkin products!  No surprise–as I am a self-proclaimed food snob–I found myself turning my nose up at most of them, even at Trader Joe’s!  So, it got me thinking: I am a picky pumpkin eater! (Say that 10 times fast.)  And I’m giving you permission to be picky about choosing real-food pumpkin products, too.

The food industry has done it again–responded to demand with a ridiculous surplus of unhealthy options. I can’t blame them; many people are eating them. But don’t let the gluttony of fake-flavored pumpkin products ruin fall–or your health! Simply try to pick the pumpkin products that are worth it, and when that fails, I’ll share how to make a few easy pumpkin products of your own!

The Origins of My Pumpkin Hoarding Problem

I don’t even need it to be fall to enjoy pumpkin. I frequently make pumpkin muffins throughout the year. My first fall living in Italy, I was pregnant with my third daughter and felt like making pumpkin ginger muffins. Maybe it was the hormonal cravings that just made me want what I wanted, when I wanted it. Maybe it was the appealing thought of ginger helping with my morning sickness. Maybe it was the nostalgia of the fall season and wanting to feel more at home while adjusting to life in a foreign country. But alas, I would soon learn there was no pumpkin to be had in the commissary in August.

Or September, as luck would have it. So, when October rolled around, I bought not one, not two, but–12 cans–of pumpkin.  In my mind, I needed to be sure it would last throughout the next 12 months.

Facebook actually reminded me of this TODAY! But the funny thing is I’ve been working on this post for several days, so I find it funny I seem to have an internal pumpkin circadian rhythm!  AND I just made apple crisp yesterday! Weird…

Anyway, if I recall, the 12 cans lasted longer than a year. Imagine my delight when I returned to the USA and I could buy canned pumpkin year round at most grocery stores.You would think I wouldn’t still have hoarding tendencies (although, for the record, I only have three cans currently). But alas, when many pumpkin products don’t meet my criteria, I have to resort to making my own and need a supply of pumpkin on hand!

(Note: if any local friends receive a “boo bag” soon that contains a can of pumpkin, check the expiration date…you might need to use it sooner than you’d think.)

How Do I Pick Pumpkin Products?

So, you may be dying to know which products make the cut. Or not, but I’ll tell you anyway. I have some self-imposed rules for trying seasonal pumpkin products. I just realized this season that I had rules, because frankly many products are simply disgusting–and honestly I’m always somewhat surprised and disappointed! The rules help with the disappointment–don’t waste your money if they don’t pass these rules!

So, here are the rules I follow for any pumpkin products I eat and recommend:

  1. They must taste like real pumpkin (kinda subjective, but you know “fake” when you taste it).
  2. They must not be overpowered by sugar or spice (particularly cloves)–it’s really not too nice!
  3. They should contain some real pumpkin and/or real food with some redeeming nutrients, if possible.

Of course, I will probably still try anything with pumpkin once! But to regularly eat and recommend a pumpkin product, I follow these general rules.

The Short List of Pumpkin Products That Pass:

  • I was over the moon when I realized my favorite full-fat Noosa yogurt in pumpkin flavor is available year round (I buy it at Target)! You can buy it as an 8-ounce tub or in smaller 4-ounce 4-packs (my preference). It’s a little high in sugar, but it has real pumpkin and full-fat yogurt with probiotics, calcium and vitamin D, so I love it as a treat. It’s frequently sold out though, so I hope I didn’t just shoot myself in the foot telling you about it…
  • Of course, Target’s Simply Balanced 4-pack of low-fat pumpkin Greek yogurt is a close second favorite. It is low fat (which I don’t think is necessary) and only available seasonally (which is bad), but lower in sugar than Noosa (which is great). Both of these yogurts are delicious treats and have the redeeming quality of containing real foods: pumpkin, protein from milk, and probiotics important for gut health, and I usually add a tablespoon of toasted nuts on top.
  • Once or twice during the season I do enjoy a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with one pump of syrup (usually there are 4). It is definitely not real pumpkin in there, but it tastes good. And everybody else is doing it.

What other store-bought pumpkin products do you think are worth it? Let me know what I’m missing in the comments!

My Favorite Homemade Pumpkin Products

As always, my store-bought list is kind of short, so I usually make a few homemade pumpkin treats to satisfy my nostalgic need for pumpkin in the fall. Here are some of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them, too!

Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats (Gluten Free)






Easy Pumpkin Spice Pancakes (Gluten Free, No Added Sugar)
Traditional Spiced Pumpkin Bread
Harvest Pumpkin Soup

Please share this post if you know any other pumpkin lovers who would like to try these recipes!





Halloween Has Enough Candy–Try These Festive EASY, Real Foods!

We LOVE Halloween in our house. Mostly because my oldest was born the day before Halloween. She’s turning 12 this month, so we have embraced Halloween as a party theme for many years–it never gets old! In fact, it’s now nostalgic tradition. It’s Oct. 1, so I’m sharing this early in case you want time to think about adding to your annual traditions!

Maybe you think it’s weird that an RD loves a candy-themed holiday. Of course, I have always tried to find real-food treats for our Halloween parties. Don’t get me wrong, my kids eat plenty of candy. I don’t restrict them, but try to steer them towards the good stuff (anything chocolate, am I right?) Alas, they gobble up the Nerds and Airheads just the same. Yuck, totally not worth it, IMHO! And although I try to get them to ration out the loot, on Halloween night, all bets are off…oh well! I am modeling imperfection and normalcy. (Most days. Sometimes I open up a can of crazy! Seriously, that’s what I tell my kids…they know when I’m not kidding.)

The past few years, we haven’t had a Halloween-themed birthday party, but we still get together every year on Halloween with neighbor friends for some “pre-game” grub prior to the trick-or-treating festivities. Living on base in Italy was so fun because of the close proximity of friends and small-town feel, but we were delighted to find that our neighbors here in Virginia Beach celebrate with some good, old-fashioned fun, too.

What does your neighborhood do to celebrate Halloween? Do you need something to bring to an annual Halloween potluck? Or will you be the host and start a new tradition this year? Whether you need a simple snack, a dippy appetizer, or a more hearty, protein-rich dish, try some of these easy, real food options. Some are ridiculously easy, which is my specialty, but they guarantee smiles just the same– especially the first option.

“What can I say, except ‘you’re welcome?!'” (Leave a comment if you know which movie that song comes from…I sing it all the time to my kids as a gentle reminder!)


Apple, Peanut Butter, Marshmallow “Teeth”

Feel free to substitute other nut butters, or use blanched almond slivers in place of the marshmallows for some spikey “teeth.”

Jack-O-Lantern Clementines

Be sure to have several Sharpies on hand, the wax seems to make them run out quickly. You could also draw on the flat top of orange segment fruit cups.

Cheese “Fingers” (Cucumber “Nails”)

You could use almond slices in place of the cucumbers, if you prefer.

Veggie “Skeleton”

Homemade garlic ranch dressing or tzatziki makes a great dip for these veggies.


Deviled Egg Spiders

Classic deviled eggs become a Halloween delicacy! (Learn from my mistake: be sure you have enough olives to have anatomically correct spiders!)

Appetizers or Main Dishes

“Candy Corn” Quesadillas

Fill your quesadilla with chicken and cheese, or just cheese, and then top with mozzarella cheese in the center of the tortilla, and cheddar to form a ring around the mozarella. Cut into triangles.

Oven-Fried Chicken Wings with “Fingers” in the Dip

Carrot “fingers” in the homemade garlic ranch or blue cheese dressing make these gluten free, oven-baked chicken wings festive for Halloween. Or skip the wings and stick the carrots in any dip–I highly recommend B’s homemade guacamole served with some corn chips.

“Mummy” Bagel Pizzas

Bagels, English muffins, or mini naan bread can be used to make these cute but creepy pizzas.