My favorite Valentine’s Day candy is without a doubt the heart shaped Snickers. This particular Snickers tastes 100% better when it is shaped like a heart, than in its traditional bar form. Don’t believe me? Go try one.
Happy Valentine’s Day. And you’re welcome!
Wait, am I reading this right? Is this a dietitian peddling Valentine’s candy? I mean I guess I am, but I’m sincerely telling you that you can take my word for it, or you can try one for yourself. And I’m also telling you that I’m a human and I eat candy too. I will follow that by saying that I try to do so…in moderation. Because that’s what dietitians do. We encourage all foods. (Even Snickers.) In moderation.
That word - moderation - may be boring, but it's a huge component of a healthy diet and a healthy relationship with food. All foods.
When I say all foods. I mean it.
We cannot stay in ketosis for the rest of our lives. We cannot eat like cavemen from now until our nursing home days. (Can you imagine the nursing home diet orders in 2060? I am laughing out loud, just thinking about it.) Low carbs forever? No, thank you. We also cannot grow 100% of our own food, 100% of the time. We cannot avoid all GMOs, gluten, sugar, dairy, grains, and meat and cannot possibly keep up with Every. Single. Thing. that Kim Kardashian or Gwyneth Paltrow or fill in the blank famous person who doesn't have a degree in nutrition says is bad!
Because there aren’t bad foods. Just bad reputations about foods. Food doesn’t have to be put on a good or bad list. You do not get to be the Santa Claus of foods. Broccoli, nice list. Gluten, naughty list. You get the point.
Should we be eating more fruits and vegetables? Yes.
Should we eat less often? Yes.
Should we eat smaller portions? Yes.
Should we eat in moderation? Absolutely yes.
As the science of nutrition evolves, we are continuously learning new things. Researchers are currently looking at the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting and even how the bacteria in our intestines influence our health. It’s fascinating. And also, sometimes confusing. While the science is emerging in some areas. It’s considered more solid in others.
Other areas, including added sugars.
Current research shows, here in the U. S., more than 13% of our daily calories come from added sugars, and it's even more (17% of daily calories) for children, adolescents, and young adults. Yikes. Maybe you’re asking, why is that bad? Well, added sugars are simply a source of calories. That’s it. They don’t add any other nutrients to our diets.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published every five years, reviews current nutrition research and provides recommendations for the healthy U.S. population. The most current report recommends we keep added sugars to no more than 10% of calories in our diet.
So, what in the world does that mean? That means you have to do math, I guess. And some people hate math, so I’ll do a little for you.
If you’re eating 2,000 calories per day, 10% of calories from added sugars would be 200 calories from added sugars. Again, what does that mean? It means more math.
Carbohydrates (which is the category sugar falls into) have four calories per gram. So, 200 calories divided by 4 calories per gram is 50 grams of added sugar. That would be your maximum amount of added sugars per day if you were eating 2,000 calories per day. 50 grams of added sugar. But not all of us need 2,000 calories. Making that number likely smaller for a lot of people. 1,800 calories per day would allow 45 grams of added sugars and 1,500 calories a day would be about 38 grams of added sugars.
I would assume it’s safe to say that you don’t think of your food in grams. Who does? Making the new FDA compliant nutrition facts panel your BFF. This new format makes it clear and easy to see how many grams of added sugars are in your favorite foods.
If you look right below total sugars, there is now a line that shows you exactly how much of the sugar is added by the manufacturer - "includes Xg added sugars".
Added sugars, confusingly enough, can be listed on a food label as other things besides sugar. When reading the ingredient statement, here are a few examples of common ingredients to look for: agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, cane sugar, cane syrup, evaporated cane juice, fructose, sucrose, turbinado sugar, molasses, maltose, malt syrup, invert sugar, honey, corn sweetener, dextrose, maltodextrin, and fruit juice concentrate (depending on how it’s used).
How does the amount of added sugars in your diet stack up?
Limiting added sugars is a fast and easy way to help you make room in your diet for other foods that offer more nutrients. Reading food labels and making simple swaps is an easy place to start.
At the store, compare food labels and choose foods with lower or no added sugars. Try looking at and tackling your added sugars one meal at a time. Is your oatmeal sweetened with sugar? What about your yogurt? Are there lower sugar versions you could try? Or maybe your added sugars are in the liquid form? From coffee creamer to sweet tea and soda, some simple swaps to your beverage choices could be all that you need to cut back your added sugars.
Remember the guidance does allow some added sugars (moderation!). Pairing moderation with mindfulness and listening to your body will take you a long way. It might even take you to Walgreens to buy a heart shaped Snickers this Valentine’s Day.
If you enjoyed the read or have questions, please let me know. I would love to hear from you, and as always, thanks for stopping by.
Happy Valentine's Day.
To keep our credentials, dietitians are required to have 75 hours of continuing education every five years. Most medical professionals have similar continuing education requirements as do several other career paths including teachers, real estate agents, and lawyers. We all understand why. BECAUSE THINGS CHANGE. In our collective fields of study – things change, a lot. The way teachers teach (and the things teachers teach), the laws that govern our states, the science of food and nutrition, advances in medical science – they change! So of course, yes, we need continuing education to stay well-informed.
Personally, I make time for it. I schedule it. I sign up for it. It’s on my radar. Professional development. Check.
So why then, is personal growth and development not on my radar? Or spiritual growth and development? Hooray for you if it is on your radar! But as an adult, it hasn’t always been on mine.
I don’t know if it has to do with maturity level, life experiences, a mid-life crisis (perhaps?) or all of the above. But the idea of personal growth didn’t resonate with me until I went back to school in 2016. During that time, I didn’t have an extra minute to devote to personal growth but the amount of time I spent on school made me realize that if I had time to pursue a Master’s degree, while working full time and being a wife and mother too, then I had time once I was done with school to work on my personal and spiritual self.
And that’s what I’m doing now. Or trying to do. I’m figuring things out as I go. I’m listening to podcasts, I’m reading books, I’m challenging myself physically and spiritually. I’m making lots of lists because they bring me joy (and also motivation) and trying to figure out what my next decade will look like. (Happy New Year by the way!)
Most of the podcasts I listen to are women who inspire me. These are women I’ve never met inspiring me to be my best self every day. (Thank you, BTW, Jen Hatmaker, Gretchen Rubin, The Big Boo Cast, and Jamie Ivey...because I'm certain all of you read my blog.)
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing John Register, a Paralympic athlete, speak at a work conference. I was so engaged in his inspirational story that the only notes I took down during the entire hour-long presentation were this:
Inspiration leads to motivation.
Motivation leads to action.
Action leads to results.
Those will either inspire or create your new normal every day.
If you look at the narrative that John provides, these women are doing just that for me. Leading, inspiring, and motivating. I see this narrative that he describes as a continuous cycle, and I envision us all like little dominoes. Focusing on and changing ourselves for the better, can help motivate and lead to changes in others. That’s really very powerful when you stop and think about it.
As I move through 2020, focusing on myself, I am hoping to accomplish these #20for2020 goals this year, inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, Happier with Gretchen Rubin:
I will leave you with this quote from Brené Brown, another inspirational stranger in my life.
“People may call what happens at midlife ‘a crisis’, but it’s not. It’s an unraveling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re ‘supposed’ to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.” – Brené Brown
Cheers to a new year of being who you’re supposed to be, friends.
January 1, 2019 seems like at least 100 years ago.
2019, at times, was a blur. It was full of big events including a surgery, big excitement including a first trip to Walt Disney World, and I’m very happy to report, big success in the form of new habits.
My 2019 New Year’s resolutions included reading more books, becoming more tech savvy, and implementing a new morning devotional routine.
I would like to credit one of my favorite authors with helping me put several new practices in place this year. If you haven't already, check out Gretchen Rubin's website, podcast (Happier with Gretchen Rubin) or any of her books.
One of Gretchen’s tactics for making habit changes is this: “Identify the problem.” This first step has been a game changer. It’s so simple, and so obvious. But it really has worked for me in 2019.
One of my goals this year was to read at least one book per month. Around April and May, I had exhausted the list of books I was interested in reading. It wasn't that I didn't have time to read. I would find myself in the library feeling completely overwhelmed (shocking I know). Sometimes, coming home with at least six books only to find…I had zero interest in any of them.
Asking friends for recommendations sometimes played out and googling “Top books of ______”, worked some too. But it was requiring a lot more research and energy than I was interested in putting forward.
I channeled my inner Gretchen Rubin, and thought "What exactly is the problem here?" Finding books I was interested in.
There are probably several things I could've done but the obvious one to jump out at me: Join a book club! And then later in the year, another solution: find a reading partner. I’ve done both this year and am happy to report (drumroll please), I read a total of 17 books this year! (My goal was 12!)
If you like to read and are looking for recommendations, I thought I would share my 2019 reading list (in no specific order):
If you’re looking to read more in 2020 and need a little help (or whatever it is your resolution is), take the Gretchen Rubin approach and first, identify the problem. It's a great way to get you on the path to new habits next year!
I hope your 2020 is full of joy, health, and happiness.
Happy New Year, friends!
I saw a meme on Monday that said, “Just remember: it might be Monday but it’s a short week that ends with pie and shopping. We can do this.” And I’ve never felt more understood in my life. This is easily one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s a short work week for me that involves cooking, food, and family. It’s finally ok with the world to decorate for Christmas. AND black Friday is within reach. Who could ask for more?
Today I’m sharing my Black Friday shopping tips AND my first official Holiday Gift Guide: Kitchen Edition. So, grab a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice), a blanket, snuggle in on the couch, and keep reading!
The first year my sister and I decided to shop on Black Friday was a BIG learning experience. We went completely unprepared with purses too big, shoes too hot, no game plan, and spent at least two hours in line at Kohl’s together solving the world’s problems. You live, you learn.
If you’re planning to shop in person this Friday, here are my top 5 tips for a successful Black Friday:
Speaking of shopping. I put together a few fun gift ideas for the chef in your family, including links to each. If Black Friday shopping at the store is not your jam, then you’re just one click away from starting your Christmas shopping! Congrats, and here goes:
That’s it for the very first Faith, Food, All the feels Holiday Gift Guide! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
I wish you all a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Travel safe, be safe with your food, and please download the app “Is My Food Safe?” to help you answer questions like “Is it done yet?” and “Time to toss?”. It’s an excellent tool for any home cook.
My final tip to you: "Stuff your turkey, not yourself." I saw this on Instagram last year and thought it was cute. Practicing mindful eating this week may help you stay on track with your health goals.
Teal probably isn’t the first color you think of when you think of Halloween but, the color’s popularity this October is on the rise. Is teal the new orange? It just might be! The Teal Pumpkin Project®, which started in 2014, is a colorful way to raise awareness around food allergies and promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters. With estimates of one in 13 children having a food allergy, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), it’s pretty likely one of those little monsters, superheroes, or princesses at your door this year will have a food allergy. Wouldn’t it be cool for them to see support from a stranger? I think so too! That’s why I’m participating in the #tealpumpkinproject and hoping you will too.
Here’s what you need:
That’s it! It’s easy, it’s fun, it's inclusive, and it adds a fun pop of color to your front porch!
Click over to FARE’s website or follow them on Instagram for more information on the project and additional allergen resources:
This week, I’m sharing my dinner menu and some fun tips to get your family engaged at meal time in honor of National Family Meals Month™! As a Mom, and a dietitian, I am so excited to be a part of this movement to raise awareness around the benefits of family meals.
Fun Facts on Family Meals (1)
I thought it would fun to share my menu this week, including short cuts or tips when it comes to meal time for our family and also some tricks to get your family engaged at mealtime.
Monica's Menu, Meal Tips and the Rules of Engagement:
Monday: Jambalaya with corn on the cob and sliced fresh veggies.
As you are settling in to your back to school routine, September is the perfect time hit the reset button on family meal time or tweak your routine just a little. No one knows better what will work for your family than you. If dinners are hectic with too many schedules to work around, maybe breakfast or lunch would be easier? Do that. Make that work. And have fun!!
I love this recipe for a family meal: appetites, eaters, food, time & place!
If you’re with me, Raise Your Mitt to Commit™ to one more meal at home per week. That’s it! For more information about this movement, follow The Food Marketing Institute Foundation at https://www.fmi.org/family-meals/our-mission
I hope you enjoyed the read and would be happy to hear any meal tips, tricks or fun things your family does at mealtime too?
(1). Food Marketing Institute: https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-month/meals-matter
Give me all the coffee memes. Every. Single. One. I love humor + I love coffee…so combine those in a million memes and I will double tap every time. I enjoy them ALL. My love of coffee has blossomed over the past several years. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but in the more recent years of my adult life I have become (gasp) somewhat of a coffee snob. The first step is admitting it, right?
My favorite coffee is Saturday coffee. Amiright?! But seriously, if we're talking brands, I'm truly a Starbucks fan as a weekly treat, a McCafe kind of girl to keep with my daily budget (their K-cups are perfect for me), but I'm truly a Joyhouse fan when it comes to local businesses. I just wish they were on my path to work. (Sigh.)
A few years ago, on a trip to Haiti, I touched my lips to the most delicious cup of coffee I had ever had (pictured). I initially wasn’t sure if it was the coffee or the sugar cane that I was enjoying the most, because I am usually a Splenda girl, not a sugar girl, but I can say without hesitation now. It was certainly the coffee that I was enjoying! During that trip, and subsequent trips after, I bought several bags of Haitian coffee to bring back to the U.S. I stored them in my freezer until eventually, those bags ran out. Funny how that works. Brew coffee, drink coffee, run out of coffee.
Lucky for me, Joyhouse, a local coffee shop, sources their coffee from Haiti. If you’re in my area, go in, have some coffee and thank me later. If you’re not in my area, order the coffee online, brew it at home, and thank me later.
Not only is this coffee delicious, there’s an amazing story behind the business model. “Drink coffee. Change a life,” this is the mantra for Joyhouse. Their coffee creates jobs for people in Haiti and a portion of the profits go back to Haiti by supporting organizations that provide “shelter, nutrition, education, medical care, and sustainable jobs”, according to the Joyhouse website.
I love the model for this local business. I love their Haitian coffee. I love helping others. So, join me in celebrating National Coffee Month and go check out this coffee and the story at https://joyhousecoffee.com/ .
I'm always up for trying new coffee, so send me the name of your local favorites! I would love to try them if I can. Cheers to the upcoming weekend, Saturday coffee, and coffee memes! Here are a few of my favorite. Happy Friday!
For me, nothing tastes more like summer than fresh cut watermelon. It’s easily one of my favorite summer foods and brings back sweet (pun intended) childhood memories like fork fighting with my sister over the biggest, juiciest pieces, and seeing who could spit their seeds the farthest.
July is national watermelon month and I can’t think of more deserving summer fruit. Packed with water and phytonutrients that give it that beautiful red color, my favorite melon is shining bright this July. According to the Watermelon Board, 80% of Americans buy watermelon because it tastes good but less than half of those folks know much about the health benefits of watermelon (1).
If you fit into that statistic, well then, prepare to be informed! Watermelon is delicious and nutritious, so cut yourself another slice and pull up a chair.
It’s summer. Which means it’s hot and humid here in Arkansas. Appropriately named, watermelon, is 92% water, making it an easy food to quench your thirst this summer. Pack some up for the park, a hike, the lake, the pool, or anywhere you’re planning to work up a sweat or soak up some sun. Speaking of sun, that brings me to my next point.
Watermelon contains high levels of lycopene, an antioxidant carotenoid that gives it its red color. Lycopene has been studied for various health benefits including possible roles in reducing the risk of heart disease and various cancers AND…protection to skin from harmful UV rays (2). As a redhead who loves watermelon, this is fantastic news to me! Lycopene levels in watermelon are higher than any other fresh fruit or vegetable, giving it the fun title of Lycopene Leader.
So, add another slice to your plate, throw some on your salad, or drop another piece in your smoothie! In addition to lycopene, you’ll be adding potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A and for a 1 cup serving…only 45 calories.
While peak watermelon season is considered April to October, July is National Watermelon Month and August 3rd is national watermelon day! Next time you’re in the grocery store, find the perfect melon without dents or bruises, look for a creamy yellow belly (no need to thump it) and put it to your cart!
If you have questions like “How do I pick a good watermelon?” or “Why is my seedless watermelon full of white seeds?”, you can visit the Watermelon Board’s website for answers AND really more than you ever thought you needed to know about watermelon, from fun recipes to fun facts! (i.e. Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.) Nature’s canteen sounds heavy to me! #wimp
Because watermelon is naturally sweet, there are millions of ways to serve it up deliciously. Here are a few of my favorites:
Bonus for my dietitian friends, check out the toolkit the Watermelon Board put together. It's full of awesome content, including recipes and cooking demonstrations.
Happy July, friends. Go enjoy the rest of your summer and share your favorite watermelon recipes with me! I would love to try them!
(1)2017 Watermelon Purchaser Survey, conducted by MyPoints.com, Inc, August 2017.
There are 22.6 million posts on Instagram using the hashtag #plantbased. And millions more if you combine other hashtags for plant-based food (i.e. #plantbaseddiet #plantbasedmeal #plantbasedrecipe…you get the point). At my grocery store, shelves seem to be transforming weekly with new plant-based choices that didn’t used to exist.
I say “Bravo!” to more plant-based options because you all know by now (as I’ve said it before), we as a population aren’t getting enough fruits and veggies in our diet. BUT fruits and veggies aren’t the only thing we aren’t getting enough of. Dairy products are on that list too (milk, cheese and yogurt), which puts us in quite the conundrum. With new plant-based dairy options in the marketplace, right beside those familiar foods we are used to seeing, is it common knowledge that they are nutritionally different?
Here's why I ask. The perfect example fell right into my lap a couple of weeks ago, or rather right into my grocery cart. My online grocery order came with a substitution for the yogurt I normally purchase. I ordered a whole-milk vanilla yogurt. And the substitution that was chosen for me was a vanilla almond milk yogurt. A vegan, dairy-free, gluten free, soy free “milk yogurt”, according to the package.
I could have turned down the substitution when I picked up my groceries, but I was so intrigued by it (Why would they give me a dairy free sub for a dairy item? Do they not know the difference?), and I was too lazy to go in and pick something different if we are being real, that I opted to accept the sub, compare the nutrition, and give it a try.
You are on the edge of your seat awaiting my thoughts. I can tell.
Let’s talk nutrition facts first. I’ll let you have a look at the differences here:
Siggi's Whole Milk Vanilla Yogurt (serving size 1 container 125g):
Cal: 130, Total Fat 4.5g, Sat Fat 3g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 20g, Sodium 60mg, Total Carb 11g, Fiber 0g, Sugars 8g, Protein 12g, Vit A 4%, Vit C 0%, Calcium 10%, Iron 0%
Kite Hill Almond Yogurt (serving size 1 container 150g):
Cal: 160, Total Fat 10g, Sat Fat 0.5g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0g, Sodium 10mg, Total Carb 22g, Fiber 2g, Sugars 18g, Protein 3g, Vit A 0%, Vit C 0%, Calcium 4%, Iron 2%.
While there are several differences in the nutrients, personally the three that impact my purchase decision the most are these: sugar, protein, and calcium. While Siggi’s is lower in sugar, high in protein, and a good source of calcium, the plant-based option disappoints on all of these. In a slightly larger container, the almond based version is over twice the sugar, one quarter the protein, less than half the calcium.
That makes this plant-based substitution very different from a nutrition perspective. And nowhere near an adequate substitution for me personally.
One thumb down from me for nutrition.
I know what you’re thinking. Maybe what it’s lacking nutritionally, it will make up for in taste! I’m sorry to say that’s not the case either.
Make that two thumbs down.
With sugar as the second ingredient (and coming in at 18 grams per serving), it was too sweet for me. I did like the vanilla flavor, but the sweetness was too overpowering…and then there was texture. It was runny, kind of like a melting milkshake and my banana slices sank right to the bottom. For comparison, my spoon will stand straight up in my favorite yogurt. I am giving it the benefit of the doubt that it could make a great smoothie ingredient given the texture and sweetness.
At the end of this experiment, my takeaway is this: All yogurt is not created equal.
Items placed side by side on shelf, doesn’t make them equal. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans notes that “Other products sold as “milks” but made from plants (e.g., almond, rice, coconut, and hemp “milks”) may contain calcium and be consumed as a source of calcium, but they are not included as part of the dairy group because their overall nutritional content is not similar to dairy milk and fortified soy beverages (soymilk).”
Did you hear that? Their overall nutrition content is not similar to dairy. While some substitutions may be a better fit for your diet or lifestyle, make sure you know what nutrients you’re looking for, not what hashtag they fit into.
My tips for you this week: read package ingredient statements, use the nutrition facts panels to look at nutrient content, and don’t allow substitutions for your favorite yogurt when you order groceries online (ha ha!)! You never know what might end up in your cart!
Thanks for stopping by! While we’re on the subject, what’s your favorite yogurt? I’m a Siggi’s #fangirl myself and they’re not paying me to say that. It's just that delicious in my book.
You need to know this about me, if my birthday falls on any day besides the weekend, I’m a “birthday week” kind of girl. (Birthday month, is a little too extra for me, just so we are clear on where I stand.) In my opinion, you can’t truly celebrate your birthday on a Wednesday. It’s just not fair. It’s a work day. And it’s a bit boring.
So, this past weekend I kicked off my birthday week. Saturday evening, I had friends over to watch the Razorbacks play baseball, eat barbecue, and really just hang. We watched our kids play. We ate chips and dip. Talked. Caught up. Had birthday cake! It was all so nice (except the part where we lost the game). But nice enough to make me think, “Dang, we don’t do this enough.” And then wonder why. “Why don’t we do this enough?”
The next day, Father’s Day, was a break in my birthday week. You other mid-June babies know what it’s like, having to share your birthday week with a Dad or husband. So, anyway, it wasn’t my day. It was his and I let him have it. Sort of.
What I actually did on Father’s Day was say “yes” a lot. “Sure, that sounds great.” “Yes, let’s do that.” But I also said yes to myself. At lunch, I said “yes” to a mimosa and a brownie sundae (#birthdayweek)! After lunch, I said “yes” to a nap on the couch. And then a movie after the nap. After dinner, I said “also yes” to leftover birthday cake. You guys, it felt amazing and a little weird because I don’t say “yes” as often as I should. Especially to myself.
I decided a few months ago to approach this birthday the way I approach life in general. With a list. On this list, you’ll find things like “take a girls' trip" and "have more 'yes' days” because, in the words of one of my favorite artists, “you just get so many trips 'round the sun, yeah, you only, only live once.” Thank you, Kacey Musgraves.
This list is about growing, learning, connecting, having fun, and knowing that life is short, y'all. Who is going to push me to do more and be more if I don’t push myself?
So here it is. In no order. My 40 things…before I turn 40!
I am looking forward to this year and forty more if I am so lucky. I’ll leave you with this quote that I am in love with right now: “When you’re on your path, the universe will conspire to help you.” - Paulo Coelho
Cheers to my birthday, more "yes" days, and finding your path!