Archive for October, 2010

Healthy Halloween. Sounds like an oxymoron, right?  Well, yes, generally Halloween is filled with candy corn, fun sized snickers, and cupcakes with giants mounds of orange frosting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about having a fun Halloween and enjoying a little bit of candy. BUT, I’m not about having a week long sugar fest. So here are some tips for having a slightly “healthier” Halloween.

If you’re having a Halloween party or going to one here are some great snacks to choose/make:

  • Apple slices with low-fat caramel or yogurt fruit dip. Fruit, enough said!
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds, just put them in the oven and add a little bit of salt. Delicious!
  • Hot (or cold) apple cider
  • You can make a fun vampire blood punch with 1/2 cranberry or Pomegranate juice and 1/2 sparkling water. You can also add in some pomegranate seeds and fresh squeezed orange or lemon juice.
  • Crudite. Otherwise known as veggies and dip. But be careful because ranch/onion dip is not your friend. You definitely need to check your veggies to dip ratio and make sure that its not 1:1.  One trick to make it healthier is to make your own dip and use plain Greek yogurt and the seasoning packet, or you could do half low-fat sour cream and half Greek yogurt. I’m telling you, know one will know the difference. It tastes almost exactly the same and it is aproximately a million times healthier than regular sour cream or ranch dip.

As far as “healthy” candy goes, none of them are healthy per say, but there are a few choices that won’t set you back as far as the others. For example,York  Peppermint Patties are fairly low in fat and have less than 150 calories for the big size one. Hard “choking” candies, as we like to call them in our family, are also a good choice because they take longer to eat and they only contain sugar, as opposed to a lot of sugar and a lot of fat. Some that I recommend are jolly ranchers, lollipops, and sweet tarts.

Last but not least, if you do “accidentally” eat more than just a few of your favorite candy, throw on your tennis shoes and go trick or treating with the kids.  A vigorous walk is just what you need. In fact, how about you mix it up with some lunges, squats, and you can do bicep curls with the kids candy bags when they start whining that they are too heavy to carry.  Of course, I think that if the kids bags are so heavy that they can’t carry them, its probably time to stop trick-or-treating, so instead you can bring along light weights or a pumpkin! I definitely recommend finding a smaller pumpkin than the one I used…

Basic lunge with pumpkin twist

Squat. Make sure your back is straight. No scary kitty backs!

Bicep curls with candy bag

And I’ll leave you with the best thing about Halloween. Lil’ babies in costumes- my niece to be exact! Happy Healthy Halloween!


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I have never been a fan of eating in the car. EVER. Nor do I endorse eating standing up, eating while watching TV, or even eating on the couch. I like sitting at the dining room table and just enjoying my food. Even if its just me, I will still sit and eat at the table. That said, with my crazy schedule and awful commute, I find it nearly impossible to not eat on the go, and I’m sure there are many people out there that have to resort to eating in less than ideal conditions. If you have a long commute home after work there is no sense in not having an “on the road snack.” Being ravenous for dinner when you get home will just lead to overeating. Here are 5 healthy foods to bring along with you. These are meant to be just for snacks, not actual meals.

  1. Fruit!- Yep, just plain old fruit is one of the best snacks to bring along with you. This really is the best choice for numerous reasons. First off, most people do not get the recommended 2-3  cups of fruit per day. It’s sweet and delicious and packed with fiber to tide you over until dinner time. Additionally, you can easily hold it in one hand, so you can drive/ text/ or flip off people  with the other hand :). Some fall fruits to take on the go include apples and pears. Bananas and oranges are also always good choices, but oranges can be tough to peel and may leave you with a sticky steering wheel :(.

2. Granola/Cereal/Nut bars– Ok people, so Granola bars are a good choice. They’re portable, won’t rot or make your car smell, and they can’t be crushed by your labtop, nutrition books, or gym shoes. Above I’ve displayed two bars, both of which I like, but one is a much much better choice. Can you guess which one? The cheerio bar tastes pretty good, but ahh! Look at that ingredient list, INSANE! No single food product should have that many hard to pronounce ingredients. On the other hand, I just discovered these fabulous Mrs. Mays TRIO nut bars. They are so so good, and have a much shorter and easier to pronounce ingredient list.  There are many bars on the market, many of which make a great snack. Some things to look for which choosing a bar. Less than 10 grams of sugar, some protein- 3- 1o grams would be ideal, and if it has a couple grams of fiber that would but a plus too.

3. Popcorn!– I usually forget about this one, but it really is a great healthy snack food ( as long as its not swamped with butter and salt). Popcorn is awesome because the serving size is 6 cups popped! WOA! That is awesome. You can eat 6 Cups of this brand of popcorn for only 130 calories. Now that should keep you busy for a while.








4. Trail Mix– Trail mix is great because it doesn’t go bad and you can get some Omega 3’s if your mixture has walnuts. I highly recommend buying trail mix from Trader Joes, or even better yet, make your own! I would recommend a mixture of nuts, dried fruit, your favorite high fiber cereal, and if you have to throw some chocolate chips in their go for it. No, I’m not going to insist that its dark chocolate like all the other anal nutrition people out there, because quite frankly I think dark chocolate is gross and its really not that much better for you than regular chocolate. You could try carob chips though if you wanted…

5. Coffee/ tea– Ok, so I know its not really a food, but it can provide you with something to sip and keep your mind occupied as you stroll 5 mph down the 405. I know, I know, a lot of people try to kick the coffee habit, but there are so many studies showing that its actually good for you. I read one study that shows that people who drink at least 1 Cup of coffee a day have decreased mortality from all causes. Woa. Thats kinda funny. My Epidemiology teacher thinks it may be due to other factors, for example people who can afford to drink coffee everyday can also afford health insurance…. but regardless coffee and tea (as long as it doesn’t have 7 creams and sugars) have a high antioxidant level and can help you stay awake. So I say drink up! BUT, watch out for those crazy 500 calorie coffee drinks from the Cafe type places ( AKA Starbucks).

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I’m so exhausted. Found out today I have to have ANOTHER colonoscopy. Fabulous. (Don’t ask why, its a long story). Must be some kinda record for 23 yr olds. Needless to say, my creative juices are not flowing. But I just wanted to get this post out for Stephanie Bailey before I forgot to do it!

There are many types of artificial sweeteners out there on the market. These products may also be called sugar substitutes or noncaloric / non-nutritive sweetener. I know that some people claim they don’t use them, but really artificial sweeteners are in a lot of foods that you don’t even realize. For example, diet coke, light yogurt, and those sugar free or light coffee beverages all contain sugar subs.

First, we have the ever popular Splenda. The chemical/generic name of Splenda is sucralose. Sucralose is simply regular table sugar (sucrose) which has chlorine added to it. Sounds scary, right? Well, when I think of eating chlorine it kinda gives me the heeby geebys and I imagine drinking pool water. But actually, it turns out, small amounts of chlorine are not so bad for us and it’s in many common things that we eat all the time. So, the truth is that Splenda is made from REAL SUGAR, just as they advertise, but it has been chemically altered. My take on splenda is this; if you like using it, go for it! Personally, I think it tastes nasty. But that is just my opinion. Splenda does not have calories and it will not harm your health. Here’s an interesting tidbit: the reason that Splenda does not have calories is because when the chlorine is added, the molecule becomes too large for you to absorb and it simply passes through your GI tract. Pretty cool, right? hahahah, I may be the only person on the planet that thinks that’s cool… Anyway, has anyone ever tried baking with Splenda? They say that you can, but I’m a bit weary. But I would be willing to give it a try. Send me your recipes!

Next we have aspartame. There was a lot of hulabaloo about aspartame in the 90’s and how it gives you cancer. That myth came from a study that fed huge quantities of aspartame to mice. These mice ate only aspartame and nothing else for like a year.  And guess what?  Some of these mice did get cancer. There have never been studies proving that aspartame gives humans cancer, and let me tell you the FDA really does vigorously test products for safety. So again, aspartame is safe. Aspartame is also known as Equal. Aspartame is also found in diet drinks, diet jello, diet hot chocolate, diet anything really. If you like the taste of Aspartame go for it.

Lastly, are these new “natural” noncaloric sweeteners that are coming out such as Stevia. Stevia is also marketed as Truvia. This is a pretty cool product. It comes from the Stevia plant. I was pretty excited to try this stuff, but o sooo disappointed when I tried it. It does not taste like sugar. It leaves this awful taste in my mouth! BUT, we all have different taste buds and if you’re interested try it! Some people may like it. It is very very sweet, I think that may be why I don’t like it. Start off by using just a little bit and see how it goes. I did eat it on a strawberry one time, and it tasted just fine on that, but I usually don’t feel the need to put sugar on my strawberries.

In conclusion,  artificial sweeteners are safe, calorie free, and leave a bad taste in my mouth. The first parts are fact, the second part solely opinion. I think that they are definitely practical for people with diabetes or people with high blood glucose. They can also aid in weight loss. For example, I think that switching from regular coke to diet is a great move! Although, of course as a future dietitian I would have to advocate switching from coke to water or nonfat milk as the best move. But baby steps is best! Additionally, there are studies that show that people who use sugar substitutes do not weigh any less than their regular sugar using counterparts. However, this is more of a which came first the chicken or the egg dilemma. Are they fat because they are using sugar subs., or do they use sugar subs because they are fat? I will leave that for you to ponder. As for me, I will stick to small amounts of regular sugar and have my occasional diet 7 up.

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Last weekend I was feeling some pressure from my mom to use the weird (but delicious!) vegetables that we get from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) http://www.underwoodfamilyfarms.com/CSA_Program.html. I had planned on making soup, but since the weather likes to have bipolar disorder it was 95 degrees and soup just did not seem right!  I was also seriously pressed for time and didn’t have the patience for the chopping and brewing required for soup. So, it was the morning time, what is quick and delicious? Pancakes! panqueques is espanol- well kind of, my coworkers told me that Latino people really don’t eat pancakes and panqueques is basically a made up word, but I thought it was fun to say nonetheless.

Heres what I did. First I cooked the acorn squash in the microwave.


Butternut squash from our CSA


Then I drizzled on some cinnamon sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Have you ever used pumpkin pie spice? It is seriously amazing stuff. Next I pureed it in the food processor. Oh yes, I forgot to mention you don’t eat the green outside shell, but in the center is a yellow orange color. The flavor is similar to a sweet potato. Its actually really sweet and delicious!

Then I put together a combination of bisquick, whole wheat flour, milk, 2  eggs, a little oatmeal, and a touch of brown sugar. I whipped it together until it was the consistency I wanted. I didn’t measure anything in order to save clean up and save time. When making pancakes I always thought it was necessary to measure since that was what my Dad did, and then one time I saw my old friend Liz White just pour the Bisquick in and I was like omgosh, why have I been measuring for nothing? So, needless to say, I don’t have a recipe for you. Only ingredients.

Mmmm. They were delicious! So, I would like to take a minute to talk about the nutritional content of pancakes. They are not exactly a nutritional powerhouse. BUT, if you top them with fruit (Yum!) and add a little acorn squash inside, you’re starting your day off with a good source of carbohydrates, some fiber from the whole grain wheat and fruit, vitamin A from the squash, and you just ate foods from 3/5 food groups! Buen provecho!

Additionally, one of the worse aspects of pancakes is the syrup. 1/4 cup of syrup has 210 calories. Eeek! That is why I strongly advise adding fruit for flavor whenever possible. Ooops, I forgot to mention I added one rotten banana in the pancake batter too. That totally helped sweeten ’em up. What are your favorite toppers to add to pancakes? Do you have any secret ingredients? Also, if that isn’t really a butternut squash, sorry! CSA gives you a mystery box every time! Below are some pictures of my doggies, Max loves pancakes! and Roxy pretends to love them and then barfs them on the floor.


Maxy and Roxy waiting anxiously for their panqueques


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First off, I would like to say that this post is going to be more of a personal post and it is dedicated to my good friend Jaymee Zeller because she insists that I have to write posts about my life. I know that this needs a separate category, which I currently do not know how to do, but after my wordpress date with Janelle, I will know how to do everything.

So, I started my day off with a wonderful 2 hour and 15 min drive to Beverly Hills. I love when it rains in LA! Not. Actually, I did used to love the rain… Anyway, so I leave my house at 6:15, get to work at 8:30. Then its time to head to Virginia Rd. Elementary for Healthy Habits for Kids (the nutrition curriculum that I teach). Well, today traveling to the school was a daunting task since its pouring rain and I have to bring A LOT of supplies with me. I wheel around this rolley cart that has all my food supplies, materials, and lesson plans etc. Since the streets of Bev. Hills are flooded today I have to carry my cart, and lemme tell ya, this is no easy task considering I’m also carrying my purse, umbrella, and coffee cup.

So by the time I get to my car I’m soaking wet because I can’t properly hold my umbrella when I’m lifting my 30 pound cart. (ok, so I have no idea how much it weighs, but I’m a strong girl and its hard). Anyway, I’m driving out of the parking lot, and I can barely see because my glasses are soo fogged up and I’m so freaking hot because I’m rushing and wearing layers and I’m stressed. So I’m driving, I can’t really see, cars are honking. Not to sure why. Turns out I was in the middle of two lanes. Hahah. Fabulous.

Alright, on to lunch time. This is when my day gets REALLY good. I swing by taco bell before I go to my school. So, I’m already having some serious guilt about eating at taco bell before I teach my lessons, but I was so hungry and I’m in a “food dessert” as they like to call it and TB is my only option. I order my bean n cheese burrito, pay for it, and leave. YEP, I left without getting my food. Great. Whatever, I just go to my school hungry, all my papers are wet, and I forgot to bring the food allergy forms again! Ahhh!!!!!! Peanut allergies are no joke in elementary schools. So I get to school, I look like a mess and the children greet me with “Ms. Mason, you look different, whats wrong with your hair?” Apparently they are not into the Jew fro this weather has given me.

After I teach I go back to my office. I decided to park on the street because its closer than my assigned parking that I have to pay for. Bad Idea. I got a $60 parking ticket. Just what I needed! Anyway, that was my day. How was yours? I hope it was better than mine. Ha! Also, yay or nay or personal stories? Tell me the truth because I can personally write Jaymee a letter if you would rather hear about nutrition and I love posting about nut.

* Note, I love Jews, especially considering aprox. 3/5 of my best friends are Jews and I was Jewish for a while in high school and college.

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There is a lot of talk about sugar. Especially that high fructose corn syrup variety. But whats the truth? Is one better than the other? Is brown sugar nutritionally superior to white? How about sugar that comes from corn?  Will it make me fat, give me diabetes, brain cancer? Believe it or not, I have been asked one version or another of all of these questions at some point in time. In fact, a lady in my grocery store tour program didn’t ask if HFCS gives you brain cancer; she insisted that it did. FYI- I have no idea when the actual correct time to use a semicolon is, if this is improper please feel free to let me know.

I’m going to cover the simple basics of  four different types of sweeteners: white sugar, brown sugar, high  fructose corn syrup, and agave nectar. I realize that there are many more sweeteners and sugar varieties out there, practically anything ending in -ose on your food label is one form of sugar or another.

White Sugar versus Brown Sugar. There is a big misconception out there that brown sugar is better for you  because it is “more natural.” This is false. Brown sugar is simply white granulated sugar which has had molasses added back into it. White sugar or sucrose is made from sugar cane or beets. I’ve done a random poll of my family to determine where this myth was formed, and I just can’t get to the bottom of it. My dad believed the myth because thats what his mom told him.  My mom knew it wasn’t true (she’s so smart!) but thought perhaps the myth stemmed from the fact that other brown products like whole grains and whole wheat pasta which happen to be “brown” are healthier for us.

High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS. This is by far one of the most controversial products on the market right now. HFCS is literally in everything! But is it a problem? In terms of pure nutrition, calories, and percent carbohydrates it is identical to table sugar or sucrose. Yes, it is slightly higher in fructose, but you know where we can also find fructose. In fruit! So, the real problem is that HFCS is soo cheap (because it is made from corn, and corn is subsidized by our government). Due to its cheapness it is being found in more and more foods and the prices of these foods can be driven down because corn is cheap. The increase in HFCS has mirrored the increase in obesity as is demonstrated in the graph below. But it’s important to remember that correlation does not mean causation and there are several other environmental and genetic factors which come into play for obesity. Agave Nectar. Last but not least is agave nectar. it can be found at specialty foodstores like Traders Joes and Whole Foods. This is a fairly new product and many of you may not have even heard of it so I’m going to keep it short and sweet. Basically, this is just a new type of sweetener, not any healthier than sugar, but if you’re a foodie type person its fun to experiment with. However, I just want you to know your not doing your body a favor by using this over table sugar. Here’s an awesome article from the LA times about agave http://articles.latimes.com/2009/mar/30/health/he-nutrition30/

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These days, its seems that everywhere I turn I see some supplement or energy drink companies pushing B vitamins as the miracle cure for more energy.  Are you tired after you eat lunch? Have you’ve been up all night cramming for your final or partying?  Why don’t you drink some red bull, or how about an energy shot? or if you’re really brave (and really dumb) you can even get B-12 injections!

The truth is that B Vitamins do NOT give you energy. They do, however, assist in the metabolic process by helping  convert the food we eat into adenosine triphosphate, more commonly known as ATP. ATP is the usable form of energy in the cell. So, the connection is made that the more B vitamins we consume, the more energy we will have, and the more we can work/study/party without ever having to rest. Yes! Well, this would only be true if one was actually deficient in B vitamins.

In reality, B vitamins -riboflavin (B2), thiamin (B1), B12, pyroxidine (B6), niacin, and folate are abundant in American’s diets. They are found in commonly consumed foods such as whole grains, cereals, tortillas, meats, poultry, milk, and vegetables- even potatoes! and I know that Americans love them some french fries! Many foods these days that aren’t even considered very “healthy” are loaded with B vitamins such as kids sugary cereals. These foods are generally “enriched” meaning the vitamins have been striped from the product during the processing and then put back in. Nonetheless, they are in there, and you are paying a lot less for 1 cup of that cereal than you are paying for “energy drinks.” The moral of the story is get your B vitamins from food, not drinks/ supplements.

So you may say, but Heather, I feel soo energetic after I drink my Go Girl! Well, let me tell you, that’s because along with the B vits in your drink their is a ton of caffeine. Most energy drinks have about the same amount of caffeine as coffee, if not more. Caffeine is a cardiac stimulant which may lead to increased heart rate and a feeling of alertness or more energy. So, if you absolutely need to stay up, I would reach for a cup of coffee before an energy drink; at least you’ll get some freaking antioxidants (I’ll discuss these later).

One last thing, a few years ago my college roommate (who I absolutely love) started taking a B vitamins supplement which gave you amounts of the vitamins which greatly exceeded the RDA or Recommended Daily Allowance. Then she said to me “Heather, my pee is neon green, it almost seems like its glowing.”  Her urine was green because she was pissing out about $20 worth of B-vitamins that her body could not absorb because you cannot absorb vast quantities of vitamins at one time.

What are your thoughts on energy drinks? Have you ever peed green? If you have any supplement/ vitamin questions I would love to answer them!


Nobody needs 2000% of their daily value of anything!


For some trustworthy info on B- vitamins look here


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