How To Not Go Crazy… When You Just Want To Be Healthy

We live in a tricky nutrition world these days. You want to be healthy, but the steps to take feel really overwhelming. You post a simple Facebook post about wanting to get your health back on track and 87 well meaning comments later, you’re so overwhelmed that a quick trip to Sonic feels like the only reasonable response. Feeding yourself and your family well is really not all that complicated. But it feels like an insurmountable task because wading through the sea of health related advice and products out there to get to some kind of plan that makes sense is that complicated… it’s crazy complicated. Like, this dietitian wants to run and binge watch Chopped while eating Blue Bell straight from the carton instead of facing the interwebs sometimes complicated. This past week, as I’ve been talking to moms about feeding their families well (see my latest class on Raising Successful Eaters), one main theme has emerged. Moms are stressed out. They want to be healthy and have healthy kids but they don’t know where to start. Is the answer supplements? Or shakes? Or a gazillion smoothies a week? Should they try paleo? Or vegan? Or should they only buy organic produce from the farm down the road? Is a trip to the grocery store against the rules? And what about Chick-fil-a… cause seriously, how’s a mom suppose to make it through Thursdays without Chick-fil-a?  And don’t even get me started on the documentaries… The truth is, people have been doing just fine with this whole eating thing for a really, really long time. It’s gotten very complicated...

Emotional Eating – What it is and What to do

It’s one of the first things that many clients confess to me. Worried about my impending judgement, staring at their shoes in shame.  “I’m an emotional eater.  I eat when I’m happy (or sad or stressed or anxious or mad).”  Welcome to the club, my friend.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t from time to time.  The idea that we can disconnect food from emotion is actually pretty silly.  Milk is love to the newborn at their mother’s breast.  Chicken soup is comfort and care when you’re on the couch with the flu.  Wedding cake is joy and gratefulness that your best friend (finally!) found the one.  To disconnect food from life, relationship and emotion is foolishness.  But emotional eating can also be dangerous.  Emotional eating that is an escape from life instead of an enhancement of life is a problem.  When food is used to avoid or even worse to punish and beat down, it can become harmful. I once had a client who liked to drive through McDonald’s on her way home from work.  She had an incredibly stressful job in the healthcare industry and chicken nuggets were her medication of choice.  She’d order a 20 piece and the next thing she knew, she was pulling into her driveway at home with very little recollection of the drive.  This example, while extreme, shows the damage that emotional eating can do.  When we medicate our feelings with food outside of the bounds of our biological hunger, it takes a physical and emotional toll. In their book, Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch describe the different forms that...

Is My Kid A Normal Eater?

Toddlers and preschoolers tend not to eat how we think they “should.”  In fact, they tend not to do much of anything how we think they should.  Like how I thought my 4-year-old should lay quietly in his bed during nap-time yesterday when he thought is would be better to sneak scissors, give his stuffed animals haircuts and then cut off his little sister’s pony tail.  But that’s another blog for another time.  Back to how our munchkins make us crazy with their eating habits.  Young kids don’t eat according to My Plate charts, food group goals or serving sizes.  They can be ravenous one day and seem to run solely off the energy they got from two crackers and a spoonful of applesauce the next.  So, what’s typical?  And when should you be worried? Our kids all have vast and varied eating temperaments.  It’s important to acknowledge that kiddos will naturally eat differently based on their unique personalities.  With that in mind, all of these behaviors or within the realm of “typical” or “normal” when it comes to toddlers and preschoolers: Many kiddos do not eat set amounts day in and day out.  Instead of looking at how they are eating each day, look at their diets over the course of a week.  Chances are that they natural balance out pretty well. Most young kiddos prefer carbohydrates.  It’s age-appropriate that your kid only wants pasta (or bread or mashed potatoes).  This preference tends to go away as kids mature. Many young children change preferred foods on a whim.  They may suddenly refuse what was their favorite yesterday. Their...

The Trap of Perfect Eating

We strive day after day.  Words like healthier, better sourced, pure, whole and organic become the goals.  When it comes to eating healthfully, it can be easy to get caught up in the chase for perfection.  We attempt to make every meal and every snack as balanced as possible.  We try to buy the most pure – closest to the farm- ingredients we can get our hands on.  And none of this is bad, or wrong until it just doesn’t work for you. I’ve found time and time again that the person who gets caught up in the pursuit of the perfect diet finds it exhilarating at first.  But, eventually, this pursuit leads to one of two places.  The first end is burnout.  The feeling that it’s just too much and too hard to get it all perfect.  And if it can’t be perfect then it’s not worth it at all.  Instead of heating up a frozen bag of veggies for our family when getting the local organic ones just can’t happen, we eat no veggies at all.  Instead packing that cup of applesauce for lunch when those organic apples are just too expensive, we don’t eat any fruit.  Because somewhere along the way, we start to feel like perfect is the goal and if it’s not that, then it’s not worth it at all. The second place people tend to land is a little scarier.  The occasional person continues with their pursuit of the perfect diet with ever increasing commitments of time and energy.  The list of acceptable foods narrows.  The standard of purity rises.  It can even...

Holiday Eating – My Best Advice

I hate morning talk show segments on holiday eating.  OK, not the ones with amazing chefs demonstrating how to cook delicious, indulgent holiday recipes.  I’m talking about the ones that are meant to keep you skinny through the holidays.  The ones that make you fear all of your favorite family holiday recipes with “guess the calorie count” games.  The ones that give you low-fat alternatives that they swear are just as delicious as the originals.  The ones that pretend that one meal will make or break your health and that if you go to that party hungry, it’s all over for you. I hate them because they suck the fun and life out of joining together with your friends and family to break bread.  I hate them because they make an enemy out of your great Aunt Mary’s sweet potato pie.  But most of all, I hate them because I don’t think their strategies even work.  As a dietitian, there’s a few things that I’ve learned over the years.  First of all, labeling foods as “bad,” “fattening” and “unhealthy” is not an effective way to eat less of those foods.  In fact, food labels and restrictions tend to give a magnetic pull to certain foods that set you up for feelings of deprivation.  These feelings put you at risk for overeating and even bingeing.  Secondly, one meal (or day of eating) will not make or break your health.  Not even close.  And finally, entering a family eating situation with any goal other than to be grateful, enjoy the food and cherish your relationships is a good way to not...

The Different Types of Diets

When it comes to diets, there really is nothing new under the sun.  Same song, different verse.  But we keep falling for it.  Diets impose a set of restrictive rules that are aimed at over-riding our biology.  Diets tell you that what you naturally want is bad.  They say that your body does not know what it needs.  They say that when your body is saying it is hungry, it is mistaken.  What tastes good to you is wrong.  Food is not meant to be enjoyed but to be conquered.  In essence, diets tell the lie that food is your enemy and you are not to be trusted around it. When you go on a diet, you are employing a set of tricks.  These tricks are meant to get you to eat less than you want to eat.  Less than your body is telling you it needs.  Diets change on the surface, but they all pretty much follow the same ideas.  So, to help you recognize one of these sneaky guys before it gets you, I’ve made you a little list of the different types of diets.  You’re welcome. The Trick Yourself Into Pretending Like You Don’t Need To Eat Diet:  If you could only just get rid of that pesky thing called hunger then all of your weight loss dreams would come true.  So, when your body is saying “comida por favor.”  You pretend like you don’t understand Spanish and drink a glass of water instead.  Or chew gum.  Or go on a walk.  Or eat a piece of celery because you heard that it burns more calories...

The Diet Cycle

Dieting doesn’t work.  And if there’s one goal I have as a dietitian, it’s to get the word out.  To everyone, everywhere.  I can be very preachy and quite stubborn when I need to be, so watch out.  I’m gonna beat, beat, beat this drum. We like to think of diets as a race along a straight line.  We begin at the starting line at our current weight.  The weight that we’ve decided we must change.  We envision jumping across that start line on day one of the diet and steadily running the course, the pounds melting away day by day.  We cross the finish line weeks or maybe a few months later at our goal weight.  You know, the one we arbitrarily picked because it seemed liked the perfect amount of pounds that would maximize happiness while keeping a little booty for those cute skinny jeans?  After crossing the finish line, the race is over and we move on with our life, perpetually staying at our perfect new weight.  The things is, diets don’t go in straight lines at all.  They don’t even zig zag or squiggle.  Diets are more like circles that we spin around on over and over again.  They’re like never ending Merry-go-rounds rides that are cute and fun at first but the weird pink unicorn and creepy circus music turn really freaky really fast.  The circle has stages and they go like this: Stage 1:  You notice that superskinny mom in the pick-up line after school.  You know, the one who wears the fitted running pants that she actually works out in, not the...

What’s For Dinner Wednesdays – Easy(er) Spaghetti

  What’s For Dinner Wednesdays aren’t fancy recipes… they’re actually not recipes at all.  They are easy-to-make-from-your-head family meals that you can put together on a weeknight in a flash.  Because around here, there’s no time to follow a recipe on a Wednesday night…that’s weekend business. Okay, so spaghetti isn’t exactly a toughy.  It’s the perfect, make from your head weeknight meal.  But even super easy needs to get a little easier around here on Wednesday nights.  After school I take my daughter to dance class.  An hour away.  And yes, that makes me a crazy dance mom, but that’s for another post.  So, my husband is left to take care of our three littles, feed them dinner and get our house ready for our small group Bible study that we host exactly 13 minutes after I arrive home with our daughter from dance. Here’s one way I make a homemade meal work on these nights.  At some point in the day, I brown ground turkey or ground beef with onions and garlic.  I then put them in a crock pot and mix in whatever tomato-like products we have.  This time it was a jar of spaghetti sauce and a can of diced tomatoes.  I then added some Italian seasoning and a pinch of sugar.  You can add grated carrots for sweetness, mushrooms or any other veggies you like in your spaghetti sauce too.  Set to low and let it go. Then, I leave a pot of water, ready to boil on the stove.  This way, my husband just has to boil the noodles (I like half regular, half...

What’s For Dinner Wednesday – Mexican(ish) Crock Pot

What’s For Dinner Wednesdays aren’t fancy recipes… they’re actually not recipes at all.  They are easy-to-make-from-your-head family meals that you can put together on a weeknight in a flash.  Because around here, there’s no time to follow a recipe on a Wednesday night…that’s weekend business. Mexican(ish) Crock Pot So, today is the first day of second grade for my eldest.  Oh, and she has dance class tonight.  So, it’s a throw whatever I can find in the crock pot kinda day.  Here’s what I did… you can adjust this to whatever you have in the house.  Put chicken breasts (or whatever meat you have) in the bottom of the crock pot and season with salt and pepper.   Add any ingredients you have that go well in Mexican-type dishes.  I added some frozen corn, a can of black beans, a diced onion, some minced garlic and some chopped up tomatoes I had in the fridge.  You could also add canned tomatoes, canned green chilies or anything else that sounds good to you. I threw in all the Mexican-y spices I could find in my pantry.  Here’s what goes well in Mexican dishes:  cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder (if you don’t have fresh garlic), onion powder (if you don’t have an actual onion) and paprika. I cooked it on high for 4-5 hours because I didn’t get started until lunchtime.  Put it on low if you get going earlier than I did. Thirty minutes before dinner, cook up some rice and add some cream cheese to the crock pot.  Once the cream cheese is melted, stir it in and season...

What’s For Dinner Wednesdays – Asian(ish) Trout & Veggie Pasta

Welcome to my first installment of What’s For Dinner Wednesdays!  These aren’t fancy schmancy recipes.  They are easy-to-make-from-your-head family meals that you can put together on a weeknight in a flash.  Because around here, there’s no time to follow a recipe on a Wednesday night… that’s weekend business. Asian(ish) Steelhead and Pasta with Veggies This is a meal I’ve watched my sister throw together on many occasions so we gave it a go and it was a hit.  Season a filet of steelhead trout or salmon with a little salt and pepper.  Then, top with some butter, soy sauce and honey.  Bake or broil it however your family likes.  (I baked it at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes) While the fish is baking, boil a bag of pasta.  When there’s about three minutes left to al dente, add a bag of fresh veggies.  I used the pre-cut stir-fry mix from HEB.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it all together and return to the pot.  Toss with sesame oil, sesame seeds and salt and pepper to taste.   Easy peasy meal and a happy...