Beach Body without the Bloat

kayakingOne thing I’m REALLY missing about Michigan is that every apartment/condo complex has a pool and you’re never too far from a lake. My favorite pasttime from last summer was floating (not paddling) in a kayak down a river for 2 hours followed by a barbeque and bonfire. Unfortunately, it’s mid July in Calgary and I have yet to find a way to wear my bathing suit in public without looking like a nut. If this isn’t the case for you, maybe your worry is more along the lines of not looking like a beached whale thanks to bloating. While I sit here jealous of you basking in the sun by a body of water, I’ll kindly share a few tips that will help you keep a beach body without the bloat.

Watch the bubbles
I don’t recommend pop to anyone, even diet (did you know it’s just as bad, if not worse than regular pop?!) but even something like sparkling water can cause gas buildup and bloating. Instead, stick with a cool glass of unsweetened iced tea or add something fun to your water like lemon, mint, cucumber, or a melon slice.

Easy on the ETOH
Yes, it seems backwards to say this since alcohol causes dehydration, but it compensates for this by triggering water retention, leaving you feeling puffy. Stick with the recommended drinks above and moderate alcohol consumption.

Where salt goes, water goes
This would explain why snacking on chips may not be the best for that bikini body. Salt attracts water, so try to avoid a high sodium meal even the day before you plan to hit the beach. Potassium helps counteract salt, so choose foods high in potassium like fresh canteloupe, mangoes, or avocado avwhen you enjoy your picnic lunch.

Watch the carbs
Our bodies have quite the storage capacity for carbs. Every gram of carb stored is about 3 grams of water stored. We can store around 500-700 grams of carbs in our body…do the math and you’ll see that’s a lot of extra water weight. I don’t recommend avoiding carbs– always choose PFC (protein, carbs, fat) with every meal. Just don’t go eating a sandwich (bread = carbs), fruit (carbs), chips (carbs & fat), and pop (straight up carbs) for your lunch. Balance is key.

What are your favorite snacks/meals to pack for beach days?

Greek Chickpea Salad

I was doing my usual meal planning by browsing Pinterest for when I came across this Greek Chickpea Salad from a fellow dietitian, Amber, at Oats & Honey. I thought it sounded delicious with all the fresh herbs and feta cheese! I had to include Amber’s photo (above) because she did such a great job capturing the deliciousness of this dish!

20130204-210544.jpgUnfortunately I don’t like buying fresh herbs because recipes often call for a small amount and I never plan far enough ahead to use the rest before they wilt and get thrown out. I came across a coupon for a tube of fresh herbs by Gourmet Garden and thought I’d try it out. I chose the Italian blend because it’s got a little everything in it that many recipes call for- oregano, basil, rosemary, parsley, and thyme. I wish they would have used olive oil instead of canola oil but it’s such a small amount anyway so I’m not going to complain for the convenience.


Greek Chickpea Salad
Serves 4; serving size 1.25 cups

1 (15-ounce) can organic garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1/3 cup (about 2 oz) pasteurized feta cheese
1/3 cup pitted black olives, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together. Serve chilled. Pack in your lunch tomorrow. It’s a refreshing change from the mundane sandwich you pack every day.

Budget for Health side note:
Instead of using a tablespoon of each fresh herb, I stirred in 3 tablespoons of the Italian Herb Paste. Dave doesn’t like olives so I skipped those. If you’re like me and don’t have a zester, simply use a knife to shave a few pieces off the lemon and finely mince it. As for the garbanzo beans- I bought a pound of dried beans for $1.50 which yielded 6 cups cooked. I had plans to make hummus with the extra, so I just made the whole bag. Pretty sweet deal in my book considering beans usually run ~$1 per 15-oz can. If you do get the canned kind, look for “no salt added” on the label. If you can’t find that then just rinse the heck out of the beans to reduce the amount of sodium.

Nutritional Information (from Oats & Honey):
Calories: 198; Fat: 10 g; Carbohydrate: 17 g; Fiber: 4 g; Protein: 10 g; Sodium: 515 mg

20130204-210540.jpgWhat new dish have you tried lately?

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Pears

Instead of having some sweet potatoes with your butter and sugar, these spuds get the spotlight in this recipe. Sweet potato casserole usually makes an appearance next to the turkey on Thanksgiving but it’s often a calorie-bomb hidden under a pile of marshmallows. My sister-in-law made this dish for Thanksgiving the first time I celebrated with Dave’s family. They were oh-so-good that I didn’t think it was possible for them to be healthy. I’m not sure where she even got the recipe from but I’ve made it a handful of times throughout the year. The secret to this dish is the natural sweetness from the pears and guess what else? The sweetness from the SWEET potatoes. It’s crazy talk, right?

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Pears
(makes 8 servings)

5 lbs sweet potatoes
4 T. butter, room temperature
1 large can of pears (8 halves) (save 1/4 cup of juice)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 400. Pierce potatoes with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Bake till tender – about 1 hour.
2. While potatoes bake, puree pears and 1/4 cup of pear juice in a processor.
3. Remove potatoes from oven, peel, and place in electric mixer. Reduce oven to 350.
4. Add butter to potatoes and mash till smooth. Mix in pear puree, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Spread mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2 in. glass baking dish (spray with non-stick first!)
6. Bake at 350, uncovered, until just heated through – about 20 minutes.
7. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

What is your favorite dish to make for Thanksgiving dinner?

Photo source: Food Network

Healthy Halloween 101

Sad day. The post I had planned for today vanished like these banana oatmeal pancakes at breakfast this morning…

Here are a few tips for a healthy halloween:

Chew gum throughout the day to prevent you from mindlessly snacking or reaching for your coworker’s stash of M&M’s. This may be especially helpful whenhanding out treats tonight. You’ll have a bowl of goodies sitting in your lap but you’ll be chewing away at your gum.



Incorporate your favorite treat into your healthy lunch so you don’t feel guilty enjoying it. Having a planned treat may prevent the temptation of grabbing that snack staring at you from the break room and possibly going overboard with portions.


Fill up on vegetables with a low-fat dip like hummus or plain Greek yogurt with herbs stirred in. This low calorie option will help you stay full while allowing room for your treat to fit in your lunch.


Drink lots of water. Don’t waste your calories on the halloween punch.


Eatbeforeyou go out tonight so you don’t tear through your kids’ pillowcase when you get back from a night out. You can easily tack on 100 calories in just two fun size pieces of candy. Not so fun anymore, right?


DON’T buy your favorite candy to hand out tonight. This way you won’t be as likely to overindulge if you have leftovers.


What tips help you enjoy Halloween without overindulging?


Happy Halloween!

Why is pumpkin good for you?

Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin soup, pumpkin latte, pumpkin oatmeal…that list is starting to sound like a line from Forrest Gump. Pumpkins are used as an ingredient in drinks, desserts, appetizers, meals, and even as decoration around the house. We love to cook with it when fall rolls around, but do you know why pumpkin is good for you? Lots of vitamins, minerals & fiber…what’s not to love about this nutrition powerhouse?

Embedded image permalinkPumpkins are berries
Did you know pumpkins are actually giant berries?
Vitamin A
– Promotes healthy eyes, teeth. and skin. You’ll find 280% of your daily needs in just 1/2 cup!
Vitamin E– An important antioxidant that keeps the immune system strong
Vitamin C– While this vitamin has NOT been shown to decrease the severity or duration of a cold, it is important for the growth, development, and repair of all tissues in our body. It also helps promote iron absorption which is helpful to me since my hemoglobin is always low when I try to give blood!

Pumpkin packs a good source of fiber with 3g per 1/2 cup. Dietary fiber helps regulate our bowels, lowers cholesterol, helps control blood sugar levels, aids in weight loss since it helps fill us up without the extra calories…I could go on and on…

Banana’s usually come to mind when thinking of a potassium source, but pumpkins beat out bananas with 133% more potassium per serving. Read about getting enough potassium while you eat your pumpkin muffins.

Heart Health
Don’t be so quick to toss those seeds after a carving session. Pumpkin seeds are naturally rich in a chemical called phytosterols that have been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also contain the well known heart-healthy Omega-3s. Sprinkle them on your oatmeal or yogurt and stir some pureed pumpkin into your oatmeal!

What are your favorite dishes to make with pumpkin?
Have you tried my recipe for pumpkin-cranberry oatmeal cookies?

How to Make Kale Chips

Kale is the current hottie tot on the block. Health magazines are touting it as a superfood and Pinterest has been blowing up with recipes involving kale. When I saw a recipe for kale chips, I thought it was a joke. There’s no way baked leaves can taste as good as people are claiming. However, I’m an advocate for saying “don’t knock it till you try it,” so I decided to take matters into my own hands and make them myself.

20121012-143746.jpgI didn’t know how to make kale chips, so I browsed through a few recipes and decided how I wanted to make mine. Making the chips was so easy; the hardest part was not eating them all! I pulled the first batch out of the oven and actually said out loud “gross.” I thought they looked soggy but when I picked one up it was perfectly crisp! The Parmesan added a great touch. I brought the tiny portion that was left with me to work and encouraged coworkers to try them. As I predicted, they knocked kale chips before trying them but were happy to find out how great they taste! P.S. Save yourself an awkward interaction and check your teeth after eating them…those little buggers sneak in between the cracks of your teeth and don’t show up until you’re talking to someone.

How to Make Kale Chips
One bunch of kale
Parmesan cheese (grated)
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Separate Kale leaves, rinse, and dry with a towel
3. De-stem the leaves then tear or cut into bite-size pieces
4. Line baking pan with foil (for easy clean up)
5. Drizzle olive oil over kale on the foil-lined baking sheet and mix with your fingers until the leaves are evenly coated with oil
6. Sprinkle a teeny bit of salt and some grated Parmesan cheese over leaves
7. Spread leaves out on baking sheet so they don’t overlap
8. Bake for 18-20 minutes (18 worked for my oven)
9. Stop yourself from eating the whole batch at once

Before baking…


and after…


FYI, kale chips may not work too well with canned kale since the leaves are so wet but you can still use it like you would use spinach in casseroles, omelets, soups, etc. Just look for the “no salt added” on the label. I sauteed a can with some with fresh sliced mushrooms, onions, and garlic and added it to our sauce for lasagna. I totally forgot I put it in there, but at least my body appreciated the extra nutrition 🙂


Have you tried kale chips? What else have you used kale in?

5 healthy foods that get too much attention

What foods come to mind when you think of lowering cholesterol?
How about getting more potassium?
If you answered Cheerios and bananas, you have been well trained by advertising. While these foods are not bad for you, they have been given too much hype for the reason they’re consumed. I’ll discuss 5 healthy foods that have been given too much hype and I’ll offer better options.

Every commercial for this cereal promotes lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) because Cheerios contain fiber. If you look at the nutrition label you’ll find that ¾ cup of Cheerios contains 1 gram of fiber. Since the National Institutes of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program recommends 10-25g of soluble fiber per day, you would need to eat 10 bowls of Cheerios to even start reaping the benefits.
Better options: Bran flakes (5g per ¾ cup), raspberries (8g per cup), beans & lentils (7-8g per ½ cup cooked), apples or pears (4-5g per medium piece)

One banana contains about 120 calories and 487 mg of potassium. Take a look at other options and see how you can get more potassium without the additional calories.
Better options: Cantaloupe (473 mg per 1 cup; 60 calories), cooked spinach (839 mg per cup; 40 calories), Portobello mushroom (630 mg per mushroom, 40 calories)

Quinoa (say keen-wah)
The new super protein promoted in vegetarian recipes everywhere! Quinoa is a great source of protein (8 grams), fiber and iron but not without the cost of 220 calories and 40 grams of carbohydrates per cup cooked.
Better options: You could eat a cup of black beans for the same calorie content but get double the protein and triple the fiber along with a bigger boost of iron. If you’re aiming to get more iron, a cup of spinach has double the amount for a mere 40 calories per cup. Looking for other protein sources? One cup of plain Greek yogurt contains 140 calories and 23 grams of protein.

Coconut water
There is very little research to prove any magical benefits of this drink. Coconut water is low in carbohydrates and sodium and high in potassium, which doesn’t offer the best combination for vigorous exercise. Ounce for ounce, it’s way more expensive than your typical sports drink and wayyy more expensive than water (which is free!)
Better options: Eat a balanced meal or snack that contains protein and carbs before a workout and stay hydrated with water. If you just want to have a different flavor as you stay hydrated throughout the day, go nuts for the coconuts.

Chicken Breast
When I ask you to name a healthy meat, was your first thought chicken? It is a lean source of protein, but you don’t need to limit your diet to poultry.
Better options: You may have seen commercials promoting pork as a healthy and lean protein to incorporate into your meals. If you picture pork as a sausage or bacon strip, you’re a little off. Pork tenderloin offers 50% more antioxidants than chicken for a similar caloric value. Ground beef can be healthified by either purchasing extra-lean or by draining the fat and letting the meat sit on a bed of paper towels for a few minutes to soak up extra fat. Ounce for ounce, the beef has 3x the iron, 5x the Vitamin B12, and 6x the zinc than chicken. If you enjoy shrimp, they are a low-calorie option with less saturated fat than chicken and contain a good source of Vitamin B12.

What other foods have you noticed gaining a lot of attention?