Sunday, November 29, 2015

4 Steps to a More Mindful Meal

A few weeks ago I suffered a terrible cold.  I ran through tissue after tissue with no relief.   I’m not here to tell you all the lovely details, but interestingly enough, the inconvenient icky-ness confirmed some truths about the food experience that I’d like to share.

If this had happened to me before, I had not noticed or do not remember.  This cold made itself at home in my head and I couldn’t taste a thing!  Oh my goodness, it was frustrating.  To bite into one of my favorite meals of the day, breakfast, and not taste the oaty-ness of the oatmeal, the subtle sweetness of banana, or the nice vanilla touch of yogurt was terrible!  Oh, and the usual punch and complexity of flavor in our sweet potato taco pockets for dinner, not to be found…travesty!

All of this to say that I became very in-tune to my hunger and fullness cues.  When the joy of flavor was gone, I could rely only on my actual fullness to lead me to call it quits at a meal.  It became very lucid that I often (mostly at dinner) ate beyond my fullness “satisfied” cue.  I served my plate and finished to the end, usually, but without the temptation of taste, I was led to stop short of an empty plate.  Although I will always prefer to taste my food, it was a great reminder that I need to remember to listen to my body when it says, “I’m full.” 

Pushing your hunger and fullness cues to the deep dark depths of your mind is a mistake when it comes to trying to better control your intake and your calories for weight management/loss.  When you can identify when you’re satisfied, but not stuffed, and you practice stopping when you are, you’d be surprised at the portion control it leads to.

4 steps to a more mindful meal:

1. Decide to take your time:  decide before you dive in that you’re going to take your time.  No rushing through a meal and being disappointed that it’s gone before you’re satisfied.  Your decision becomes your plan.

2. Be present:  turn off the television and put away your computer and phone.  Since when did food and the eating experience become a hassle that gets in the way?  You will have trouble tuning into your hunger-fullness cues if you’re engulfed in tech instead.

3. Put your fork down between bites:  savor each bite by avoiding the distraction of your next bite.  You will better taste and experience each bite if you’re not reloading your fork for the next one. 

4. Let it settle:  how often do we shovel in our meal and hit the road running to the next thing on our agenda?  Do you remember what you had for lunch?  Take a moment at the end of your meal and just be still.  Be still to appreciate the flavor, to be thankful that you’re blessed to be full, and to realize the joy that experiencing food can bring.

Don’t wait for a taste stealing cold to be more mindful at your meals. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Getting to Know You

“Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…" (movie, anyone?)

I was a guest speaker this week at a local university to talk about becoming a Registered Dietitian.  I so enjoyed my visit and it gave me my topic for this week.  After my planned presentation, I held an open forum of sorts for nutrition questions.  I received great questions and several pertaining to what exactly I do on a daily basis.

I love these questions because it gives me an opportunity to describe how healthy does not have to be complicated…because, believe me you, that is not my style.

I think the expectation is often that I eat gourmet meals with all organic foods and never falter from my healthy path.  Au contraire.  I simply take a couple simple steps to set myself up for success throughout the week, live balance and moderation daily, and don’t beat myself up over some off-days. 

Setting myself up for success:

1.     Plan  (Know what lunches and dinners look like for the coming week and base your grocery list off of that.  If the healthier options are available you will be more likely to eat them).
2.     Pack (Packing lunch can be more convenient and tastier than constantly trying to find somewhere to eat out, not to mention cheaper).
3.     Eat frequently (Eating more like 5-6 times a day instead of twice makes a big difference.  If you eat 3 balanced meals and 2-3 small snacks, you’ll be satisfied and have so many more opportunities to get great nutrition).

Balance and Moderation:

Eat all food groups, choose moderate portions, eat mindfully, and indulge with grace on occasion. 

For more about eating mindfully see my post from January “Picture This” at

For more about “indulging with grace” see my post from May “The Perfect Diet” at

Don’t beat yourself up:

You’re going to have tough days, rough days, and days you just don’t eat like usual.  Don’t let that bring you down and curtail your healthy eating efforts.  Accept it, live through it, and cheer up, it happens to everyone!  One bad day does not ruin a lifestyle of healthy habits (even if you’re working your way to get here).

I also got a question about measuring portions.  The questions was "Do [I] always measure everything?"  To be honest, there are about 3 things that I do always measure.  Nuts, peanut butter, and ice cream.  Why?  Not because I’m a dietitian, but because I know me.  Nuts, peanut butter, and ice cream would contribute way too many extra calories to my intake if I didn’t take care to monitor my serving.

Should you measure everything, always?  No.  Measuring your portions is a great way to start building awareness of what and how much you are actually putting in your body.  It is a good exercise to get you moving in the right direction and to help you better understand what recommended serving sizes look like, but overtime you’re going to get the hang of things, I promise.

The key is to get to know YOU.  When you better understand what triggers cravings and overindulgences, you will be better able to work with them and make improved decisions.  You may very well end up with a couple particular items that you need to measure routinely too.  

Plan, pack, don't beat yourself up, and get to know YOU.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hot Now

Alrighty y’all…well, it’s been a little while.  Wonderful life has been happening and has forced my hand into taking a hiatus from blogging.  While I haven’t been writing every week, believe me you, there is something weekly I could write about…food, food, food, good recipes, sweet temptations, mind challenges, exercise wins and shlumps (for more about shlumps see my post “Feeling Shlumpy” from November 2, 2014), big events, rainy days, and more food, food, food!

Today I had a moment that inspired me to hop back into the blogger's seat.  We were on the way home from church and as we sat patiently at an intersection I saw the famous glowing bright red sign --- Hot Now.  Yes, you guessed it, Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Well, I had been awake since before sun rise and it had been plenty of time since breakfast that I was just hungry enough to be tempted.

I wasn’t in the drivers seat, and didn’t mention anything to the hubby, so soon we were off and way beyond those sweets, that tempting red sign, and a moment that very clearly reminded me that self-control is such an important piece to avoiding the, maybe all too familiar to you, fall off of the wagon.

In that Hot Now moment, I felt like it would have been so easy to roll through the drive through and grab a couple classic glazed doughnuts without a second thought.  “I never have them anyways,” “it’s such a perfect lazy rainy weekend for doughnuts,” it’s been a while (a long while),” and the justifications could go on.  In reality today, I just had this feeling that I could have grabbed those treats without being phased…weird.  But then I could see that continue…if I ‘don’t care’ whether I give in today, what does it matter if I give in to every little food temptation that I have.  This thought process would not be good for a sweet tooth like me…that extra scoop of ice cream I want, the candy corn I, never fail, stop and consider buying from September 1 to October 31, and those lovely hot, too expensive, lattes from the coffee shop…I would quite quickly have way too much sugar and be replacing important protective nutrients in my diet with it.  Having moments when you practice self-control and say “no” are important to keep you confident that you can, confident that you remain the driver’s seat, not food.

I relate this to a mom and dad saying “no” to the frequent request of their kid’s ‘need’ for all the new cool toys and games.  We must hear “no” from time to time, even if it’s from ourselves, to be reminded that we do not ‘need’ everything that we want.

Self-control requires practice…practice in tempting food situations, practice in our tempers, practice in our words, practice in our faith, practice, practice, practice…practice makes permanent.

I encourage you to practice self-control and avoid making rash “I don’t care” food decisions.  Will treats be had?  Of course, but with control and without letting it be a first step into a path of  “yes” to every want. 

Feels good to be back this week.  Stay well and be joyful!

2 Peter 1:5-8 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Building an Unshakable Habit

It’s difficult to build a habit.  I think anyone would tell you that.  However, habits are not impossible to build.  When something is really worth it, when you can see the positive impact it has, and you practice, practice, practice…you can do it.  An old gymnastics coach used to say, “Practice makes permanent.”  Isn’t that the truth, whether positive or negative? But man oh man it can take some crucial mental power to make it through the rough terrain of the beginnings of a habit.

For instance…2 weeks ago I was 5 weeks into a stellar workout routine (5 days/week).  I had been consistent and non-wavering in the fact that I would get my workout in each day.  I was stubborn and pretty proud of those 5 weeks, but then week 6 happened.  Where did my stubbornness and drive go?  I lost interest and enjoyment in the workouts I was doing, thus 5 days/week turned back into 3.  Working out 5 days/week is definitely a habit worth keeping in my book so a new strategy is on the horizon, but for the time being, push ups in the morning and evening, as you’re never without the ability to do these (as my dad would say - the floor always pushes back), and a few stretches and squats throughout the day are keeping me primed and ready for a new routine.

That is an example in my life where I didn’t quite make it to a solid built habit, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on trying again.  I’m going to take what I know worked against me before and use it towards new strategies to drive success on the next go round. 

How about an example of a habit that takes time and commitment, but that is now so firmly built and tough to shake that we would go to great, even interesting, lengths to avoid breaking it. 

This short story begins with a pre-planned week night dinner.  We’ve built the habit of planning our meals for the week so that we can shop for the right foods and prevent restaurant outings due to “having nothing to eat.”  Let’s be honest, most of the time when we say that there’s just a lack of convenience or appeal, not nothing.  This particular evening, baked chicken, asparagus, and couscous was on the menu.

Much to our surprise, our apartment complex shut off the water that day due to a busted pipe.  Yikes!  Do you realize how often you use/need water?  I sure did that day and most people would have readjusted their plans and headed to dinner at a local restaurant.  Not us J.  We like our nutritious homemade dinners and were not going to let a little lack of water get in our way, but we did have to get creative.

Partially through prepping the food, I turned to my husband and laughed, pausing for a moment to realize what we were doing to make this happen.  I was swirling small batches of asparagus in a bowl of water (from a water bottle left in our fridge), conserving what water we had to get them all rinsed, and Aaron was trimming the chicken with his hands wrapped in plastic wrap held closed by rubber bands to avoid getting chicken on his hands (no water, remember?).  Ha!  Anyone else may have left homemade dinner off the table that night, but this homemade habit was too strong! 

What a silly example, but one that reminds me that if you hold tight to the “why” of a habit and practice, practice, practice, eventually that healthy habit becomes one that you have a tough time breaking.

Your two takeaways –

1. Reflect on the reasons for your struggle to build a particular habit and use that knowledge to approach it differently, lessening the barriers and strengthening your motivators.

2. Keep the “why” of a habit in mind and practice…you’ll eventually reach permanent.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cool, Crisp, Crowd Pleasing Chicken Salad

The summer heat is here and that means lots of outdoor festivities, picnics, and fun, but it probably also means lots of cookouts, potlucks, and classic summer dishes to eat.  Does that reality stare your controlled eating plan down? Do those events and dishes intimidate and threaten to put a stop to your good intentions of keeping your intake balanced and nutritious? No need to fret.

1. Take each event and meal one at a time (don’t save up to overindulge, dread a potluck event, or feel guilty for days after a not so good food choice day).  Instead plan and do your best.

2. Do build your plate with nutrition in mind – lots of fruits and veggies, leaving a little less room for some of those less than ideal nutrition dishes.

3. Eat slowly.  Take your time and put your fork down between bites.  You’ll enjoy your meal and be thrilled that you’re not through eating while everyone else still has half a plate left.  That’s a recipe for a second round that typically ends in feeling overstuffed and disappointed.

You can always lighten up some of your dishes too.  If you are taking something to an event, be the one to provide something on the lighter side.  Then, no matter what, you know you’ll have a lighter option (you’re staying in control).

We’ve had success with a light version of chicken salad this summer.  We’ve been making it to have for lunch throughout the workweek.  It is SO tasty, but packs less fat and calorie punch than the classic.  Check out the recipe below or from its original source (  I used reduced sugar dried cranberries and did not use parsley, otherwise I followed the recipe to a T. 

This recipe is super easy to make and is so cool, crisp, and tasty!  This one has been hubby, mom, dad, and brother approved. 

       2½ cups chopped cooked chicken (I shredded)*
       3 stalks celery, chopped
       1 cup chopped apple
       ¼ cup dried cranberries (reduced sugar or no sugar added)
       ½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
       2 tablespoons Hellman's light mayonnaise
       2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

       Place the chicken, celery, apple and cranberries in a bowl and stir to combine.
       In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, mayonnaise and lemon juice.
       Add to the chicken mixture and stir to mix well.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*A note on preparing the chopped chicken to make things even easier: boil your chicken breasts until cooked through, drain, and then return to a large pot to shred using a hand mixer.  Using the hand mixer shreds the chicken like a charm.  The time saved is worth the couple pieces of flying chicken you may encounter.

Nutrition is not too shabby – for a satisfying 1 cup serving, you’re looking at about 235 calories, 5 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 213 mg sodium (with a ¼ teaspoon or less added salt), 6 grams of fiber, and close to 30 grams of protein.

Use this recipe to enjoy for yourself or as a crowd pleasing, lighter option, at your next summer event.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Help From Above

Craving: a great or eager desire.  I enjoyed a snippet on the radio recently from Proverbs 31 Ministries (highly recommended for the ladies out there) that talked about redirecting your cravings for food.

Do you feel like your cravings for foods (whether sweet or salty or something totally off the wall) control you to a certain extent?  Those temptations elicit a little battle within, between what you are trying to accomplish (well controlled eating) and the enjoyment of that something.  This battle usually consumes way too much of our time and brainpower.  Plus, what usually wins?  I have found it all too often to be the craving.  We can take better control of our cravings with some help from above.

Can there really be a connection between our cravings and Christ?…you bet.  I was encouraged by the following radio podcast from Lysa TerKeurst that I decided I’m just going to share in its entirety with you below (or follow this link to listen:

“I believe God made us to crave so we’d always desire more of Him.

God made us to consume food, but food was never supposed to consume us. In the Bible, Jesus broke the vicious cycle of being consumed by cravings when He quoted God’s words. We can do the same thing! When we feel deprived and frustrated and consumed with wanting unhealthy choices, we can rely on the words we read in the Bible to help us.

Jesus, without hesitation, quoted truth from the Bible when He was tempted. Truth is powerful. The more we saturate our hearts with truth, the more we’ll be able to resist temptation and direct our cravings where they should be. To God and God alone.”

As in all things, we should follow Christ’s example.  To conquer your food cravings while growing in your relationship with Christ and walking more firmly in truth is something special.  Let’s make God our number one desire, let scripture be our weapon of choice against temptation and watch our craving battles fade.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Hungry Shopper

I went to the grocery store hungry this week.  Very bad idea and even worse, I was breaking one of my own rules.  I wanted to get my errands run while I was out so I planned to go straight to the store after working out.  It was a Zumba much fun and a great work out (highly recommend)!

Right after exercise I was not all that hungry, but by the time I was in the grocery aisles, I was definitely ready to refuel.  I think deep down I knew that was going to happen, but I ignored my gut feeling and failed to plan and prepare to avoid shopping hungry.

To trim our grocery budget, we’ve been using 3 grocery stores recently – sounds crazy and we may not do it forever, but it works for us now and saves us money.  Because I am going to 3 stores, I always take a list with me and plan on sticking to that list so that I am able to get in and get out.  I’ve also already scoped out sales so I don’t have to spend too much time comparing prices when I am there.

This trip started out a typical trip, but I soon realized that my hunger was slowing me down.  I kept stopping to look at foods that were not on my list and dreaming up possible dishes to use new ingredients (hunger brain)…everything sounded good.  It is not my idea of fun to spend an entire day at the grocery store, but it was shaping up to be one of those days.

Positive self-talk and a little tough love got me through the rest of my trip.  “No, you don’t need that, Dana.  Put it down.  Keep moving.  Stick to the list, only the list.”  The hardest was at grocery store #3.  It is the quickest because it’s the most expensive and we really only get our meats and a few other select items there.  However, it is also the only store with samples riddled throughout.  You’re hungry and all of a sudden every fruit, cracker, cheese, meat and sweet sample is calling your name.  I was able to abstain, but it wasn’t easy.  I kept reminding myself that my lunch would be worth the wait…the most amazing lunch ever.

Well, maybe not the most amazing, but pretty darn good and fresh (a large salad with extra veggies and cottage cheese and a half sandwich).

What’s the point of this story?  Don’t put yourself through the fight it takes to stick to your list, save money, and avoid all the samples when you are super hungry.  If you do not go hungry, all of these things become quite manageable.

What will I do in the future?  Either come home and eat an early lunch before heading to the store or pack a small snack in the car to tide me over until lunch.  Both options are incredibly easy to achieve, I just lacked the planning to execute this week.

Ultimately I spent more time than I wanted at the store, spent more money than I wanted because I bought non-list items that now sit in my pantry without a plan, and had a challenging afternoon of food temptation.  Lesson re-learned.   Do not go grocery shopping while hungry.