Packing in vacation calories

Packing in vacation calories

I recently returned from a lovely vacation to Denver with my family. This was a first for all of us and we were pretty psyched to go west. Every year we travel with my in-laws. While most people might cringe at the thought, I’m lucky to have a loving and versatile set of in-laws that understand my desire to avoid chain restaurants as much as possible.

Almost every year, we’ve done a beach vacation and we tend to be in the vacation house a lot of the time. This year was the exception. We had no pool or beach to hang out at, so we ate out daily, sometimes twice a day. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan our food very well. We bought our usual amount of hummus, blocks of cheese, cartons of yogurt, fruit, crackers, etc. And along the way, a cherry pie, fudge, granola bars and nuts for hikes, etc. By the end of the week, we had WAY too much food and had to eat or toss a lot of the perishable stuff. We overate to get rid of some of it, but it killed me to throw out perfectly good milk, cheese and leftovers. Here’s 10 mistakes we made this year and tips to avoid them:


  1. Don’t shop hungry. The rule applies at home as well as on vacation. You’ll be more likely to pick up impulse items like key lime pie.
  2. Plan at least one meal for home (i.e. breakfast).  No need to pick up multiple boxes of cereal or loaves of bread. Consider how many people are in your trip and how much you’ll actually eat.
  3. Buy non-perishable, healthy snacks. Nuts, dried fruit or low sugar bars (such as *KIND bars) can travel with you in the car or plane without a mess.
  4. Indulge in small servings of local food. No need for a large jar of local jam or whole peach pie. You’ll either eat too much or end up tossing it like we did.
  5. Split meals when dining out. Portions at restaurants tend to be big and while you can take leftovers home, who really eats the leftover burrito or pasta?
  6. Buy less booze. You can always go back to the store for another bottle of Malbec, but you can’t take it on the plane with you.
  7. Reel your kids in. My daughters will order multiple side dishes just to “try the food”. We ended up with half-eaten salads, pasta and other dishes. Just because you can order more doesn’t mean you should.
  8. Don’t over-snack your kids. It’s easy to keep kids quiet on long car rides by overloading them with snacks. When it’s time to stop for a meal, they may be less hungry. My girls ordered food but ate very little.
  9. Order water at meals instead of soda. It may be a treat for your kids to get soda, but they fill up on sugar and don’t eat as much of their meals.
  10. Enjoy small servings. My dad used to say, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”. A child’s size ice cream cone is fine, even for adults. Don’t get swayed by ordering more than you’ll eat. Better to return home lighter in your clothes than your wallet.

* Brand rep for KIND snacks, #client #sponsored #samples

Why I made T shirts (and more)

Why I made T shirts (and more)

I believe it was last summer when I was in Old Navy checking out T shirts. I have always loved T shirts- but not just any T shirts. I’ll only buy a concert T shirt if the look AND feel is cool. I have to like the design and feel good when I wear it. Like most women, I don’t like boxy, ill-fitting or scratchy shirts. I want something soft and stylish that also starts a conversation. If you haven’t already figured this out, I have a silly personality and like to make people laugh.

Back to Old Navy. They have some cute stuff, but what I saw on that late summer day was a shirt that said, “Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner” with images of a doughnut, a taco and slice of pizza. While this is cute, as a nutrition professional, I can’t really wear this without getting the old sideways glance. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the above foods in moderation, but I wanted some FOOD in my food T shirts.

Fast forward a month or so. I start thinking of all the food puns I’d thought up over the years and all the fun food shirts I’d seen while on vacation, at farmer’s markets or food trade shows. I thought to myself, “why can’t I make my own”? And so, I did.

I had met a guy named Chris Glass through People’s Liberty. Chris is a designer and photographer with his own line of T shirts called Wire and Twine His designs are simple, eye-catching and whimsical- just my speed. We met over coffee and I asked him what he thought of my ideas. At the time, I had a handful and he helped me narrow down the top 3 he thought “had legs” as he likes to say. Chris put together some ideas and voila- Peas Romaine Seeded, This. Is. The. Wurst and Praise Cheeses were born. We decided that unisex would be a good way to start without having to invest too much money. The brand I chose is 90% cotton and very soft.

Chris put me in touch with a few local printers but I’d hear the best things about Aaron Kent at DIY. I can’t describe Aaron any other way than to say he’s a character. He is a daredevil when it comes to sports and has a soft spot for the community, humanity and his 3-legged dog, Stealer (the healer). Aaron has been printing my Ts in his shop in Essex Place (Walnut Hills) since the beginning. I always enjoy our quirky conversations.

Now comes the hard part. I have to sell a fair number of shirts to break even. I made a “test batch” of Peas Romaine Seeded and gave them to 30 friends, family and foodies that get me and would enjoy the Ts. From there, I set up a pre-sale and sold 60 or so around Christmas. In addition, I connected with a friend that worked with the Dairy Council and pitched her a T shirt idea and “Eat, drink and be dairy” emerged. The Dairy Council has purchased at least 50 of them! I have donated a fair number of shirts to school, church and other raffles. To me, it’s a kick just to see people read them and smile.

I literally went door to door to several Cincinnati gift shops and small markets to ask if stores would carry them. I was lucky that a few people at the Epicurean Mercantile at Findlay liked them as well as Clifton Market I also have a handful of shirts at Kennedy Heights Arts Center. The shirts are “on consignment”, which means, if they sell, the store takes about 20% of the sale. If not, they are under no obligation to buy them.Typically when items are sold wholesale, the store buys them at 50% of the retail price.

Flash forward a few more months. I am struggling to keep some inventory at home for when I get a random order (about once or twice per month) and wanted to offer more ladies cut T shirts. I was also trying to figure out how to keep some shirts at stores and fulfill online orders. So I learned about POD (print on demand) from my web designer. I played around with a few and decided on

So if you’re looking for a T shirt, tote bag or mug for yourself or a friend, check out my online shop! It is a labor of love and I hope the items bring a smile to your face.

Raising girls in a diet-crazed society

Raising girls in a diet-crazed society

Now that my daughters (12 and 14) are old enough to realize that I counsel people about their food choices, I worry at times about what message they’re receiving about their own. What they hear from others is likely not the same as what I teach. Do they think carbs or dairy are “bad”? Are they avoiding potatoes and rice? They are fragile butterflies just emerging from the cocoon into a society that shames them for eating and God forbid, enjoying food. I’m trying to change that message.

In our house, no food is off-limits. While we may have bribed our girls with jelly beans during the potty training years, for the most part, we try not to reward the girls with food OR demonize food. Sure we encourage fruits and vegetables, but we also have our share of foods that other people might see as processed or less than healthy. Let’s face it- ALL food is processed in some way whether it’s milk, fruit or frozen vegetables. Our processed foods include things like boxed cereal, whole wheat crackers and yogurt. It’s not like we’re living on Little Debbie Cakes here, but we may have Oreos on occasion.

My husband recently became a fitness fanatic, but has never stressed that our girls need to work out. Obviously, we love when they participate in team sports, but they get a daily workout when walking the halls at school and to & from their bus stops. They go on walks with me when time allows, but we are not members of a fancy gym. Having rheumatoid arthritis and pre-diabetes, my girls recognize that I need to move to stay healthy. I wan them to see physical activity as a way to be healthy, not necessarily “skinny”.

We try to handle snacks like any other food. Are you hungry? Please eat something! If you’re eating because you’re bored, go find something to do. My girls know that we’re lucky to have a full pantry and options of things to eat at any time. But they recognize that food insecurity and food waste are real. They are developing a healthy respect for food. Take the food that you want to eat, but don’t overload your plate. They know I cringe when they throw away uneaten food!

Finally, we don’t use the D word (diet) or F word (fat) in our house. Being peri-menopausal is no picnic. I feel a little thicker than usual, but they don’t need to hear that. No one wants to hear “I’m on a diet”. I stress how lucky we are to be healthy, how nutritious food helps them grow and be strong But if we bake cookies or bread, we eat it. FOOD IS FOR EATING is often said in our house when someone has eaten the last apple or cup of yogurt or sometimes the cookie.

Bottom line- use neutral language about food. Use kind words about your bodies. Teach your kids that food is for health, but also enjoyment. Little ears are listening.


There’s something about dairy…

There’s something about dairy…

I am a proud dairy consumer and make no apologies for it. While the Whole 30, Paleo and multiple holistic health or other “coaches” may dis dairy, I am not in agreement. Give me yogurt, milk, and cheese please. Consider this- any time you remove an entire food group from your diet, you also take away vital nutrients that quite frankly, multi-vitamins do not replace.

While we can obtain calcium and vitamin D from non-dairy sources, calcium from milk is in much higher quantity than vegetables and can be easily absorbed. A diet high in calcium not only protects your bones and teeth, but may also help lower blood pressure. Research also suggests that low fat and fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, may aid in the prevention of diabetes. And finally, who wants to eat cheese-less pizza?

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Ed-Mar Dairy ( , located in Walton, Ky. The owner, dairy farmer and chief operator is Eddie Gibson, a soft spoken, but solid man. Ed is the 4th generation of farmers to manage the dairy. The farm sits on 130 beautiful acres once owned by Ed’s wife’s grandparents. The 45+ cows that live on the farm are bred (via artificial insemination) to bare a calf about every 18 months and feed on corn and clover grown on the land. They sleep comfortably in cool sand beds and are milked through a robotic milking machine (which saves time and labor cost) when they choose, a few times per day. Ed’s cows produce approximately 550-600 gallons of milk daily.

What you may not know, is that most traditional milk purchased at the store comes from local dairy farmers like Ed. Milk from multiple farms is combined, homogenized and pasteurized then distributed to local grocers. By FDA standards, antibiotics are NOT allowed in milk, so if a cow is ill and given antibiotics, the milk is discarded. In fact, if antibiotics are found in the milk, all of the milk is discarded and the farmer is fined. Don’t believe the myth that non-organic milk contains antibiotics.

In addition, traditional cows may be given rBGH – recombinant bovine growth hormone (a hormone used to stimulate milk production). Despite the rumors of rBGH not being safe for humans, according to the American Cancer Society, “Bovine growth hormone levels are not significantly higher in milk from rBGH-treated cows. On top of this, BGH is not active in humans, so even if it were absorbed from drinking milk, it wouldn’t be expected to cause health effects.”

The American Cancer Society also notes, “Of greater concern is the fact that milk from rBGH-treated cows has higher levels of IGF-1, a hormone that normally helps some types of cells to grow. Several studies have found that IGF-1 levels at the high end of the normal range may influence the development of certain tumors. Some early studies found a relationship between blood levels of IGF-1 and the development of prostatebreastcolorectal, and other cancers, but later studies have failed to confirm these reports or have found weaker relationships. While there may be a link between IGF-1 blood levels and cancer, the exact nature of this link remains unclear.

Some studies have shown that adults who drink milk have about 10% higher levels of IGF-1 in their blood than those who drink little or no milk. But this same finding has also been reported in people who drink soy milk. This suggests that the increase in IGF-1 may not be specific to cow’s milk, and may be caused by protein, minerals, or some other factors in milk unrelated to rBGH. There have been no direct comparisons of IGF-1 levels in people who drink ordinary cow’s milk vs. milk stimulated by rBGH.

At this time, it is not clear that drinking milk, produced with or without rBGH treatment, increases blood IGF-1 levels into a range that might be of concern regarding cancer risk or other health effects.”

If you buy organic milk, it will not contain rBGH, but will contain natural BGH since it comes from a lactating cow. However, it will also not be local milk. Since cows would have to grass feed at least 10 months out of the year, the weather in the mid-west can’t support this. Organic milk has to travel farther (i.e. from Colorado) in order to meet the standards set. Keep in mind, organic milk often costs 3 x as much as traditional.

Finally, the reason organic milk has a longer shelf life is that it undergoes an additional ulta-pasteurization. You can read more about the milk cycle here:

My takeaway here- support your local farmer. If you drink cow’s milk, it’s fine and seemingly safe to drink non-organic milk. Just don’t EVER drink raw milk. More on that here:

Get the “whole” truth

Get the “whole” truth

Though carbohydrates (read starches, grains, breads) have been demonized by the media and diet gurus over the past several years, the truth is- diets containing grains are healthier than those without.  Research shows that whole/unprocessed grains are higher in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and anti-oxidants than other plant foods.  Individuals that eat high fiber diets have a 22% lower risk of dying than those that eat lower fiber diets.

And did you know, healthy people that follow a gluten-free diet may RAISE their risk for diabetes? That’s because grains containing gluten are usually higher in fiber (which is protective against diabetes) than those that don’t.

What’s important to good health is balance.  Knowing what counts as a serving can keep your weight and blood sugar in check if you need to limit calories and/or carbohydrates.  Below are some ways to add more whole grains to your diet.

  1. Swap whole oats for instant oatmeal. The type in the tall cylinder is not only cheaper, but lower in sugar and salt than the instant type.


  1. Choose 100% whole wheat bread over “wheat bread”. ALL bread is wheat bread, unless it’s made with potato or other flour.  Look for the words “100% whole” on the label and “whole” in the ingredients. Whole wheat white is legit! Most bread is made using red wheat, but whole wheat white is made with white wheat. This is still a whole grain, but may have a lighter, softer texture.


  1. Choose brown rice over white rice. Individuals that have just 2 servings (about 2/3 cup) of brown rice/week have a 10% lower risk of diabetes than those eating white rice.


  1. Mix it up. Try quinoa, barley, bulgur, spelt, wheat berries and other whole grains.  No one says you have to eat potatoes and rice only!


  1. Eat whole pasta over white pasta. While the carbohydrate and calorie count is identical, the fiber is 3 x higher in whole wheat pasta over white.  Whole grain pasta keeps you feeling fuller longer, which may aid in weight loss.


  1. Choose breakfast cereal with 5 grams of fiber or more per serving. Shredded wheat and bran flakes each offer 5-7 grams in ¾ cup.


  1. Season grains with herbs, spices or various vinegars. This keeps the fat and calories lower while adding a little flare and flavor to your side dishes.


  1. Pay attention to serving sizes. What you get at a restaurant is likely 4 servings!  Go for ½ cup servings of cooked rice or pasta and read labels on cereal boxes for serving size.  They vary based on sugar and calorie content.
Confessions of a ginger junky

Confessions of a ginger junky

Contrary to popular belief, many dietitians (like myself), do not spend their entire lives prepping and planning meals. While we may peruse the grocery store a bit longer than the average bear, we like short cuts just as much as the next shopper. We’re busy wives and moms with work to do, too!

It was probably a few years ago that I discovered the simplest trick to seasoning my food. I am, hands down, a ginger junky. I’d always loved the spicy taste of ginger but found fresh ginger root to be a wee bit too spicy and less than convenient to use to grate and add to food. While buying “jarlic” (minced garlic in a jar), I found ginger paste!

Ginger paste (made by Spice World or Garden Cuisine) is a combination of ginger, fructose, vinegar and salt. It has a few other innocuous preservatives and contains 15 calories per tsp. It’s available in a 10 oz. tube or 4 oz. tube in the refrigerated section of the store, depending on the brand. Ginger paste has the consistency of applesauce and has a fairly long shelf life. I prefer the 10 oz. version because you get much more for your money.

This simple spice trick can be used in oatmeal, marinades, vegetables, fish or sweet potatoes. I’ve added it to leftover quinoa with cinnamon and chopped almonds for breakfast or tossed it in my stir fry. It’s one spice I always have on hand.

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