Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fruit Snacks????

Someone recently said to me “if it is fruit shaped, has a fruity taste, and the label says fruit, it must be fruit” Now I know that this person was deliberately trying to raise my blood pressure, and I gave her a pretty hard time about it (sorry Mom).  What’s interesting to me is that what my mom said as a half-joke, is really the way many consumers think. And why shouldn’t they? The FDA allows such labeling as “made with real fruit” and “fruit snacks” for products that simply have some boiled down, concentrated juice-syrup in the ingredient list. Furthermore, these items are sold in the “snack” section of most supermarkets adding credence to the “snack” part of the label. It’s misleading!! Fruit snacks are nothing more than candy made to look like a “healthy” snack for kids (adding Dora the Explorer to the mix doesn’t help). 
I’m picking on “fruit snacks”, but the same logic applies to many other foods. Fortified “waters” for instance; the ingredient list on these is not significantly different from diet sodas, water, “natural flavors”, “natural colors”, and aspartame. Sure there are some minor differences in caffeine, vitamins, herbal infusions……but really they’re the same. Yet they are not sold near the sodas are they? They are in the isle with sport drinks and bottled water.
This kind of misleading labeling goes on throughout the grocery store. Check out this article for an excellent illustration of misleading labeling Ninie Ways Nutrition Labels Mislead. You’re better off choosing foods that don’t have labels (from the produce section). For other items, keep it simple. There should be only one ingredient on a milk label. There should be less than 5 ingredients in things like pasta and bread (except for the extensive and stupid list of vitamins and minerals added to “enriched flour”).
Your healthier diet starts with you distrusting claims made on food labels. The ingredient list is the most important thing on any label, after that, calories, sugar, sodium, and fat.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Will Anyone Miss the Food Guide Pyramid? Probably Not

The Food Guide Pyramid has FINALLY been decommissioned! I can remember as a student having anxiety about trying to teach about the pyramid. Which is ridiculous, the whole point of the Pyramid was to educate consumers about making healthy food choices. You shouldn’t need a professional to explain it.  
A very good Dietitian taught me during my internship to use a plate model, and I found that it was easy for me to teach, and easy for patients to learn. The best part of a plate model is that you don’t need any fancy graphics. If you have a paper and pencil, you can draw one in about 15 seconds. It’s also easy to modify for special diets like diets for celiac disease, diabetes, heart disease, food allergies, and weight loss.
The new My Plate program pictures a plate divided into sections with half the plate full of fruits and vegetables. A small amount of dairy, protein, and grains complete the plate. Check out these articles for more on the My Plate program. USDA press release, and
I am extremely happy that the USDA has seen the light and found a simpler way to educate the public about healthy nutrition. It gives me hope. Maybe honest, simple, straight forward food labels will be next…..
A girl can dream;)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


My long weekend of dietary debauchery has ended. I haven’t entered a single meal, snack, or beverage in to my food diary since Friday morning. I didn’t have to. I knew what I was doing. It’s called “self-sabotage”. A short list of my nutritional transgressions include, a snow cone,  Senor Tequila's Enchiladas Suprimas, half a pan of double fudge brownie(s), a chili-cheeseburger, onion rings, at least 5 of my husband’s delicious smoked ribs….. You get the picture.  There’s more, but I can’t bring myself to put it all in print.
I have no apologies for straying from my normally healthy diet.I am a Dietitian. We are totally human. There are two schools of thought about “permissible indulgence”.  One of my college professors ate exactly 2 tablespoons of ice cream every day.  I know a lot of people who have tiny portions of their favorite treat every day. And as long as the portion is small, it doesn’t interfere with your nutrition or total calorie count. I like to include a small treat into my weekly meal plan (not daily). However, the real indulgences for me are holiday meals and eating out (see previous blog for more on this).  So my idea of “permissible indulgence” is this; a 2-3 day binge on my favorite un-healthy foods limited to 2 or 3 times per year. If it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, I may eat pumpkin pie for breakfast, and (my favorite!!) a sandwich made of leftover ham, sweet potatoes, and home-made dinner roll until these items are gone, YUM!!!
So, I’ve used up one of my food benders for the year. I feel bloated, tired, and a little like I should be working out right now instead of typing.  Starting today, it’s back to my usual healthy and tasty diet. I will be completing my food diary (I like to keep my calorie count between 1300 and 1500 per day). I will continue my routine workouts. There will be lots of fruits and veggies, lean meat, and whole grains, and I will LOVE every bite!!
The moral if this story: No matter what your goals are, If you stray from your path, don’t berate yourself and order another banana split. Just tell yourself, “ok, that was fun, and now I’m done”, and then get yourself back on track.
Happy eating, friends!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gym Anxiety and Motivation Deficiency: Totally Curable Conditions

Ok, I’m going to tell you a story about this woman I know who was not overweight, but in pitiful physical condition. I, I mean SHE, couldn’t run around the block much less 5K like her friends. This woman had terrible gym anxiety. The weights, cardio machines, benches, and contraptions were intimidating. This anxiety translated into really limited workouts; 20-30 minutes on the elliptical machine or treadmill a couple of times a week…..that was about it.
So, how does a person get over these mental and physical hurdles? My answer was a personal trainer. In just 6 weeks of working with a Philip Nation twice a week, I was getting a solid, well rounded workout. And probably the most valuable lesson learned after 12 weeks was that I am stronger and can do a lot more than I ever thought I could. How many times did I say “I don’t think I can pick that up”? His response: “just try it”. Almost every time, he was right.
Today I am running 2 miles 2-3 times per week and strength training 2 times per week. My favorite jeans fit beautifully, and that muffin top is almost goneJ
Is it pricy? Yes. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY WORTH EVERY PENNY!!
How do you get started with a personal trainer? I’ll start by recommending my personal trainer Philip Nation. Yes the story above is about me, and Philip is responsible for my improved strength, cardio endurance, and confidence.
Check out Body Masters Fitness & Training. I love this place! The membership is affordable, and it is far and away the cleanest gym I’ve ever been in.  And they can help connect you with a trainer that can meet your needs.
Another option is a local boot camp. I recommend Tulsa Adventure Bood Camp.  It's a lot of fun and appropriate for all fitness levels.
If you’re more self-motivated than I, get some friends together and try a Couch to 5K program.  

Invest in your fitness. You are totally worth it, and it WILL pay off in the long run.
**I have not received any compensation for these endorsements. They are just great people, places, services!

Monday, May 16, 2011

I let my son eat school lunch?!?!?!

School is almost out here, and my son is very tired of eating his box lunch every day. And to be honest, I’m pretty tired of making it. Last Friday, for the first time in 2 years, I let him skip the cold box lunch for the school lunch. I had reservations about this because the lunch menu is rarely healthy and balanced. In this last month of school, processed instant mashed potatoes, chips, tater tots, or French fries will be served 9 times. Some kind of extremely processed meat (hotdogs, little smokies, steak fingers, fish sticks…) will be served a total of 11 times. Out of 18 school days this month, that seems excessive.  I don’t want to be unfair. Milk and salad bar are available daily. Of course children can choose from plain milk, chocolate milk, or strawberry milk. Guess what the average first grader chooses (by the way, flavored milks can contain more sugar thank a regular soda).
 I do see some improvement since my school days, but considering the rapidly increasing rate of obesity in children it seems that more proactive changes are needed. This article highlights the USDA’s new rules for school breakfast and lunch offerings While I appreciate the need for taking “baby steps” in making big changes, I worry that my children will be in college by the time a truly healthy school lunch is offered.  
So, my hat’s off to all you moms and dads who pack healthy lunches for your kids every day.  Keep up the good work, and enjoy your summer break! I know I will!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Farmer's Markets

I can’t believe my family has waited this long to get to a farmer’s market this year! The Cherry Street Farmer’s Market officially opened on April 4th (Wednesday) this year.  Why do I LOVE the farmer’s market? There are so many reasons. First, I like giving my kids an opportunity to see and talk with the farmers, bakers, and shop owners that grow and prepare the foods we eat. They are so much more interested in the healthy foods I want them to eat when they have an idea of where the food comes from. Second, there are no Twinkies, Hoho’s, pop tarts, or sugary cereals. These abominations do not exist at the farmer’s market, because they come from factories not kitchens. Third, there is the opportunity to support local farmers and businesses.  And last but not least, fresher than fresh produce! That lettuce has not been on a truck for 3 days, held in the back room for a day and sitting in the produce cooler for 2 more days.  It was picked yesterday (maybe this morning).
So get a little closer to the source of your food. Check out one of these local farmer’s markets soon!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Leggo Your Eggo!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Can I eat out in Tulsa and still Loose Weight?

Tulsa is full of great restaurants. We have wonderful little neighborhood eateries. We have an abundance of chain restaurants. We have fabulous gourmet spots.
I am a Dietitian. I live in Tulsa, and I LOVE to eat out. So how does a Tulsan with all these options eat healthy while eating out?
First of all, eating out should be a treat.  Keep it to a minimum. No more than 1-2 times per week. Second, fast food is not real food!!! You should not pay money for it. It should not go into your body. Save your money for a good meal at a real restaurant.  
Now, how to achieve your weight loss goals while enjoying those outings
Let’s start with chains. Most have online menus with nutrition information. Before you leave your house, check out the menu and decide on your order. This can also be done with your smart phone on the way;)  It is so much easier to make a good choice without the noise and smells of the restaurant to distract you. Avoid appetizers and desserts (way too many calories).
·         Ordering a salad is not automatically the safest choice. A lot of big restaurant salads have more calories than a cheeseburger! Example; Applebee’s Crispy Shrimp Cesar Salad is 1030 calories. The Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger is 970. This salad can be turned into a better choice by ordering the half salad with dressing ON THE SIDE, bringing the calorie count down to less than 400. Most restaurants put way too much dressing on salads. It’s better if you control that.
·         Look for special low-cal menus or special notations for low-cal items. 
·         Ask for steamed veggies instead of French fries or mashed potatoes.

The same rules apply to local restaurants of all kinds. The main difference is that you cannot always view these menus online (I usually try anyway).  Servers at local restaurants can be very helpful. They are usually knowledgeable about the menu, and can give you an idea about how dishes are made as well as portion sizes. 
·         Plan on sharing with a friend. If portions are known to be large, ask a tablemate to split an entre with you.
·         Plan to take some home. Ask your server to bring a to-go box with your food. Put at least half of your food in the box right away.  Don’t wait until you are finished eating. Many studies have shown that people eat 90% of the food on our plate, no matter how much food that is.
A little preparaton and forethought can make your dining experience enjoyable without ruining your weight management plans. So, go out, have a good time, and don't forget to get to the gym tomorrow;)

Monday, April 18, 2011


Are you getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet?
            Let’s face it, most of us don't (and no, French fries don’t count). In 2009, the CDC reported that less than 1/3 of Americans consumed 2 or more servings of fruit per day. Fewer than 20% of Oklahomans met this goal. Only 26.3% of Americans consumed 3 or more servings of vegetables per day*.  
                We all know that fruits and vegetables are full of valuable nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fiber, water, and cancer fighting antioxidants. Improving fruit and veggie intake can help with weight loss too, helping you feel full and satisfied without many calories. Here are some suggestions on how to bump up your intake of these valuable and tasty foods.
                Improving your fruit intake is easy. Fruits are the very BEST fast foods. Most require little or no preparation, just rinse and eat. Try adding a half cup of fresh berries to a cup of fat free Greek yogurt for your breakfast. Have a piece of fruit as a snack, or with your lunch. Voila!! that's 2 fruits today!
                Like fruits, many vegetables can be consumed with minimal preparation. Start with a big, colorful salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, red and yellow bell peppers, onions, black beans or chick peas, and a home-made vinaigrette. Add two ounces of grilled chicken or steak to the top, and an apple on the side, and you have a healthy and satisfying lunch or dinner. Change it up to suit your taste. Try different ingredients like almonds, walnuts, fruits and berries (fresh or dried). The possibilities are limitless.
                Try some meatless meals for dinner. Vegetarian cookbooks, magazines, and websites are excellent resources for new and interesting recipes. I have several favorites including this vegetarian stuffed bell pepper.


  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (16 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 medium green bell peppers


1)       In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, beans, rice, 1-1/2 cups cheese, corn, onion, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, pepper and salt; mix well. Remove and discard tops and seeds of green peppers. Fill each pepper with about 1 cup of the vegetable mixture. Place in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
2)       Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover and cook 15 minutes longer or until peppers are tender and cheese is melted.

Recipe obtained from; modified by Amber Carson, RD/LD

          Remember that the USDA recommendations of 2 fruits and 3 vegetables per day is a minimum. This dietitian believes that 5 of each daily will make up a very healthy diet.
Happy eating,
*State-Specific Trends in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults --- United States, 2000—2009 Weekly; September 10, 2010 / 59(35);1125-1130KA Grimm, MPH, HM Blanck, PhD, KS Scanlon, PhD, LV Moore, PhD, LM Grummer-Strawn, PhD, Div of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; JL Foltz, MD, EIS Officer, CDC.