Thanksgiving diet tips

mindful eating tipsI hate diets. When I say diet, I’m talking about a way of eating that cannot realistically be carried out for the rest of your life. I launched Budget for Health 3 years ago with the hope that I can educate people how to eat right. It doesn’t have to be expensive, you don’t have to make everything from scratch, and you don’t have to be a chef.

Choosing to eat healthy is a daily decision. There are immediate and delayed gratification components; if you eat carbs without any protein or fat to go with it you will be hungry an hour later craving more carbs. If you start your day with a good breakfast (Example: eggs & veggies cooked in butter or coconut oil) your blood sugar will be more stable and you will be in a better mood and more productive since you’re able to focus. As for delayed gratification, losing weight doesn’t happen overnight. Healing your gut doesn’t happen overnight. You won’t see results from daily decisions but they do add up and will greatly affect us in the long run.

thanksgiving scale

With that rant, let me offer you a handful of “Thanksgiving diet tips.” Don’t throw your hands in the air and hope 2015 will be a better year with eating right. You can enjoy food and still avoid the 10+ pound weight gain that catches so many people over the holidays. I’ll be totally honest- these are specific tips I have to implement myself. Yes, I am a dietitian, but I am also human and LOVE food. We are in this together!

Verbalize a goal
I literally have to say out loud to Dave “I will only have one dessert tonight” or else I will take one of each dessert and maybe get a second of the dessert I especially liked. I end up reaching for a second brownie and giving Dave a look that says “I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me.” Saying a goal out loud to someone other than yourself provides accountability. We become a team and practice self control together.

No grazing
Too often I’m not even hungry by the time dinner starts because I filled up on all the appetizers. Instead of chatting by the food, move to a different room. If that’s not a feasible option, pour yourself a glass of water and mindlessly sip on that rather than mindlessly reaching for more chips and spinach dip.

Use a plate
This ties in with grazing. Put what you want on your plate, walk away from the food table, then eat the food on your plate. Confession- sometimes I eat WHILE I’m moving through the food line just so I can fit more on my plate. I can’t be the only one who’s done that, right? If I do this right, I can always go back for seconds once I evaluate if I’m actually still hungry or just want to eat more because it’s so good.

Give yourself grace
That doesn’t mean overindulge. Sometimes you go in with a plan and the plan fails. Instead of throwing your whole game plan to practice portion control out the window because you ate 3 pieces of pie, start over at the next meal.

What tips help you to practice self control at potluck-type events?

How to reduce inflammation

This topic is from of a series of questions I received from speaking at a friend’s MOPS group. Be sure to check out my responses to the other nutrition topics:
Healthy Snacks for Kids
How to get kids to eat vegetables
What supplements should I take?

How to reduce inflammation
This will be a short post on my part because for this topic, how to reduce inflammation, I couldn’t think of a better person to refer you to than Cassie Bjork at Healthy Simple Life. Cassie is who I originally learned the acronym PFC (stands for protein, fat, carbs) from and I look up to her as a fellow dietitian because she’s making great strides in the nutrition world when it comes to debunking myths.

Inflammation and food insensitivities
Cassie recently shared a few articles on inflammation and she addresses food insensitivites like dairy or gluten that can be the cause of chronic inflammation. If you read her article, what is inflammation and why you should care about it, I’m sure you will be hooked and continue reading through other great articles she’s got for you.

What Supplements Should I Take?

This topic on supplements is from of a series of questions I received from speaking at a friend’s MOPS group. Be sure to check out my responses to the other nutrition topics:
Healthy Snacks for Kids
How to get kids to eat vegetables

This question was for the moms but it really applies to all of my readers as well:

What supplements should I take?

If you walk into a GNC store they might try to sell you 40 different supplements. I personally recommend 4 supplements for everyone. Since this is not a one-on-one consultation I won’t share how much to take because the need varies from person to person but I will share what I recommend taking and why.

Vitamin D
We need Vitamin D in order to absorb Calcium but if you don’t get 20 minutes of direct sunshine every day then you probably aren’t getting enough Vitamin D. Tanning beds don’t count! If you tend to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) then Vitamin D can help with your mood. Learn why we need Vitamin D and start taking some sunshine.

Fish Oil
Inflammation, joint pain, brain health, mood stability… there are a lot of good reasons to take fish oil every day. Look for an EPA: DHA ratio of 600:400 mg and make sure it’s from wild caught sources.

Healing the gut can alleviate all sorts of problems. To clarify the difference between prebiotics and probiotics: PRObiotics contain live cultures of beneficial bacteria that help to recolonize the digestive tract with good bacteria. PREbiotics are components of food that feed the pre-existing beneficial bacteria in our gut. Taking probiotics on a daily basis helps to lay a good foundation of bacteria in your gut. You can find probiotics in foods like kefir, miso, kombucha, or sauerkraut but if you don’t eat these on a regular basis then I’d recommend a probiotic

We don’t absorb vitamins and minerals as well from a pill as we do from food itself so take note that this is not a replacement for food nor is it an excuse to not eat your veggies. I view a multivitamin as coverage for what you don’t get enough of from your food intake on a daily basis. See my tips for choosing a multivitamin if you want to learn more.

What supplements do you take?

How to get kids to eat vegetables

cut up vegetablesThis topic, healthy snacks for kids, is from of a series of questions I received from speaking at a friend’s MOPS group. Be sure to check out my responses to the other nutrition questions moms asked:
Healthy Snacks for Kids
How to get kids to eat vegetables
What supplements should I take?

Show of hands: who hated eating veggies as a kid? I don’t remember any certain veggie I avoided but I did hate tomato-based sauces. I’d ask for naked noodles with butter and parmesan, I refused to eat lasagna, and I remember rinsing BBQ sauce off my chicken. It’s a tough topic that doesn’t have a straightforward answer: how to get kids to eat vegetables. I haven’t had a problem with Nora because she’s only 10 months old and eats whatever we put in her mouth so far. With that said, I don’t have much advice from my own experience but how about I share a list of ideas that have worked for other moms?

Smoothie pops
Smoothies can be made as a balanced PFC snack but there’s something to be said for chewing your food. When possible, I vote chewing over drinking because the enzymes in your saliva kick start the digestion process for carbs. Instead of a drinkable smoothie, you could make smoothie pops. You can get the fancy popsicle makers, pour your smoothie into an ice cube tray and stick a toothpick in it, or use these freezie pop molds.

Let ‘em eat dip
Fat is a vital part of a balanced meal so you are welcome to let your kids enjoy dip as their fat source. It’s better to make your own than to get store bought in order to avoid the cheap, processed oils they use (usually canola). Options are hummus, nut butter, adding your homemade seasoning to full fat Greek yogurt (french onion mix, ranch, curry, taco seasoning), mix some honey and mustard together, or try this amazing sunshine sauce.

Veggie tray
Kids like options, so prep a variety of veggies, enough for the whole week, and let them choose from the assortment. You kids might respond better to “pick whatever you want” from a veggie tray rather than being told they must eat their broccoli.

Vary the cooking method
If they don’t like steamed kale, maybe they’ll like it in a salad with dressing (remember, they need fat!), kale chips, or you can add greens in to sauces or blend it in your pesto. Think outside the box with the way you prep veggies too like roasting, mashing, cutting in sticks or wedges.

Bring on the butter
Everything is better with butter. Or cheese. Cook your veggies in butter, top them with melted cheese, or add a little bacon. It adds much more flavor compared to eating plain vegetables.

Take a multivitamin
This certainly isn’t a substitute for eating vegetables but I view multivitamins as an aid to bridge the gap for days when we just don’t get enough vitamins and minerals from fruits and veggies.

What tricks have helped your kids to eat more vegetables?

Healthy snacks for kids

This topic, healthy snacks for kids, is from of a series of questions I received from speaking at a friend’s MOPS group. Be sure to check back for my responses to the other nutrition questions moms asked.
Healthy Snacks for Kids
How to get kids to eat vegetables
What supplements should I take?


Let’s get right into it- kids are mini adults, right? So why don’t we feed them smaller portions of the same food adults eat? If you’re a loyal Budget for Health follower you know I’m an advocate of incorporating all three macro nutrients at meals and snacks- protein, fat, and carbs. You can learn more about eating right in the link I just shared because this post will solely be a list of healthy snacks for kids. These can count as a meal, too; just adjust the portion sizes accordingly. Since kids have different appetites I am not going to include portion sizes because I definitely don’t want you to become an advocate of the clean-plate club.

I’ll label the foods as protein (P), fat (F), and carbs (C)

Healthy Snacks for Kids

  • Grilled chicken (P) with roasted veggies (C) in olive oil (F) (sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, squash)
  • Canned wild salmon (P) mixed with avocado (F) and diced mangoes (C)
  • Chicken salad (P) made with raisins, diced apples (C), & almond butter or mayo (F)
  • Leftover soup- broth/meat (P), melted cheese or cream (F), veggies (C)
  • Plain, full fat organic Greek yogurt (P&F), frozen fruit (C)
  • Full fat cottage cheese (P&F) and peaches or pineapple (C)
  • Tuna (P) mixed with hummus (F&C) & veggies (C)
  • Hardboiled egg (P) and peanut butter (F) on a banana (C)
  • Deli meat (P) cream cheese or avocado (F), pickle (C) to make pinwheels
  • Deli meat (P) and cheese (F) on whole wheat crackers like Triscuits (C)
  • Tuna, chicken, or egg (P) salad made with mayo (F) with cucumbers & peppers (C)
  • Homemade larabars (PFC)
  • Homemade Protein balls (PFC)
  • Hardboiled egg (P) and a smoothie pop (FC). Add avocado to smoothie for fat.
  • egg bake- eggs (P), butter (F), veggies (C)
  • Skewers- meat (P) cheese (F) and veggies (C)
  • Baked zucchini boat (C) topped with cheese (F), tomatoes (C), and meat (P)
  • sweet potato banana muffins- egg (P), peanut butter (F), sweet potato & banana (C)Watch out for: granola bars, fruited yogurts, & fruit snacks. They’re often LOADED with sugar. The best foods don’t have health claims on the package because they don’t come in a package!

What other healthy snacks for kids can you think of?

What we ate: October 2014

I’m thinking about doing starting a new tradition at Budget for Health. What do you think about me sharing some of the meals I make each month? Of course I’ll only share the tried and true delicious ones. It won’t be a full list of every single meal and snack we ate because, let’s be honest, if I did that then 50% of the list would be eggs, eggs, aaaand eggs. I’m not one to make up my own recipe so I’ll gladly support those who did create them by including the links to the recipes.

butternut squash, roasted seeds, chicken curry stew, banana bread

Butternut squash chili
I never thought about putting squash in chili. It was a great decision.

Roasted squash seeds
Just pat them dry, season how you wish, and bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Chicken curry stew
This recipe will likely show up every month because it’s so easy to make and it’s delicious.

Whole wheat banana bread
I bought a lot of bananas so I could make a lot and freeze it. I made two differnt-sized loaves and a big batch of muffins

homemade barbeque sauce

BBQ chicken with homemade BBQ sauce
The recipe for the sauce is from the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook. Since the recipe is only shared in the book & not on Lisa’s website I’ll just say you should buy the cookbook!

Salmon cakes
This is another recipe from 100 Days of Real food. I liked them but I have to say that I like the Thai Peanut Salmon Burger recipe from Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean better.

Taco bowls with homemade taco seasoning

Mom’s homemade meatloaf

marinated saladVeggie salad
We ran out of greens during the week so I improvised and made a simple salad from the toppings: bell peppers, kalamata olives, and avocado. I added some frozen corn and used olive oil and red wine vinegar for the dressing. I pack our lunches after dinner so it marinaded in the dressing overnight and it was delicious!

Indonesian foodIndonesian food
I didn’t make this food but I definitely participated in tasting all of it! A friend of mine is from Indonesia and made this feast for some friends to try. The spread included (from left to right) chicken rendang, sweet and salty tempe, urap (salad), soto ayam (dish with hardboiled eggs. We filled a bowl with the toppings and poured hot broth over it), and sekotang (not pictured but it was a delicious dessert!)

Would you like to continue seeing what we ate on a monthly basis?
I’d love your feedback!

My 3 favorite homemade spice blends

I have a stash of herbs and spices that I use just about every day. I keep them on a spice rack that came with a set and the rest are in a rectangle shower caddy in my cupboard. I never knew how to cook with herbs or spices before I was married. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I lived in the dorms for 4 years as an RA/mentor and never had to cook for myself! I’ve gathered some delicious go-to recipes over the years and many of them include using herbs and spices to add flavor.

Making your own blends is cheaper than buying from the store since you have to do the work yourself but it’s really an easy process. All you need are some measuring spoons and a mason jar or empty spice containers. I usually make a big batch that will last me a few uses so I don’t have to make the spice blend every time I need it. I’ll share my 3 favorite homemade spice blends and their recipes.

Poultry Seasoning
I’ve become a big fan of making a whole chicken in the crockpot ever since I tried it this summer and learned how easy it was to do! The recipe called for poultry seasoning and I didn’t have any on hand so with a quick google search I found a recipe from Peace, Love, and Low Carb that has been my go-to for chicken recipes.

photo credit: Rachel Schultz

photo credit: Rachel Schultz

Taco seasoning
I sure use this a lot. We make tacos a few times each month because it’s a quick and easy PFC dish. My college friend Rachel Schultz has an amazing blog and takes beautiful pictures of her recipes (not like my iPhone snapshots of a half-eaten plate of food). She kindly shared the recipe for her homemade taco seasoning here at Budget for Health. I usually multiply her recipe by 4 and store it in a mason jar. For every pound of meat I use 3 Tbsp taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water. I stir it in to the cooked ground meat and let it simmer until some of the water has evaporated. I wrote this ratio on the lid of my mason jar because I’d forget how much to use every time.

Curry powder
I found this recipe when I was making one of my favorite dishes, coconut chicken curry stew. Side note: if you haven’t made this, you should. I’ve probably made it 20+ times in the past year because it’s my go to recipe for Meal Baby recipients and I always make an extra batch for us to enjoy or freeze for later use. It called for curry powder which I did not have on hand so I tried out a couple curry powders and stuck with this one. I use 2-3 tsp of the curry powder in a batch of the chicken curry stew. This recipe makes 5-6 tsp so you may want to double or triple your batch if you plan to use it often.

Mild Curry Powder


  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger


  1. Mix spices together and store in an airtight container
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What are your favorite spice blends?