Jazz Up Your Veggies


Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

If you’re like most, you’re probably falling short of your veggie intake. According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans are getting the recommended serving of vegetables and fruit. Seven of 10 leading causes of death in the United States are from chronic diseases, and vegetable intake has been shown to reduce risk of conditions including diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and stroke.

How Much is Enough?

According to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov:

Daily Recommendation
Children 2-3 yrs 1 cup
4-8 yrs 1½ cups
Girls 9-13 yrs 2 cups
14-18 yrs 2½ cups
Boys 9-13 yrs 2½ cups
14-18 yrs 3 cups
Women 19-30 yrs 2½ cups
31-50 yrs 2½ cups
51+ yrs 2 cups
Men 19-30 yrs 3 cups
31-50 yrs 3 cups
51+ yrs 2½ cups


Save Time, Make It Simple

  • Cut and store veggies as soon as you get home from the store
  • Blanch and freeze vegetables you won’t use right away (bonus: these are easy additions to soups, stews, pastas, stir fries and smoothies)
  • Stock your pantry with low sodium canned vegetables

Getting Your Family to Eat More

  • Offer a vegetable at each meal
  • Vary your veggies by offering a mix of new and familiar choices
  • Involve your children in the kitchen by having them wash, dry, peel and/or cut up vegetables
  • Ask your children what veggies they’d like to see in their meals and have them select items in the grocery store to try
  • Serve fresh cut veggies with a dip, such as hummus or low fat dressing
  • Add pureed vegetables to soups, stews and pasta sauces
  • Top pizzas with diced vegetables
  • Roast, grill and sauté vegetables with herbs and spices for more flavor
  • Grate vegetables and add to muffins and breads


For more information, visit our blogs and recipes written by Texas nutrition experts at www.eatrighttexas.org.

Dark Chocolate


Carla Ferrell, MS,RD

Dark chocolate is appreciated for its rich essence. It is used in many recipes to enhance the texture and flavor of candies, baked goods, and beverages. Its history also suggests potential health benefits such as reducing cavity formation, managing inflammation, enhancing mood, maintaining normal glucose levels, and improving cardiovascular risk factors. The potential health benefits of chocolate are based upon its composition (Badrie et al, 2015).

The seeds of the cacao tree will differ in composition and characteristics depending on their genetic disposition and country of origin (Badrie et al, 2015). The dried and fermented seeds (beans) are referred to as cocoa (Badrie at al, 2015). Cocoa is combined with cocoa butter and sugar to form chocolate, which contains a higher refined sugar and fat content (Badrie at al, 2015). Cocoa may exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity based on its high polyphenol content (Cooper et al, 2007). Polyphenol levels are typically higher in dark chocolate and lower in more processed sources of cocoa ( Cooper et al, 2007). The high polyphenol and heart-healthy fat content of chocolate is potentially beneficial for health, but the increased calorie, refined sugar, and high saturated fat content are characteristics of concern.

Research suggests that including dark chocolate as part of a healthy diet can have a positive impact on cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels (Noad et al, 2016). Since diets high in polyphenol content are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, the high polyphenol content of dark chocolate is hypothesized to be the contributing factor. The Polyphenol Intervention Trial (PPhIT) compared the effects of a low polyphenol (less than 2 portions of fruits and vegetables) and a high polyphenol diets (6 portions of fruit and vegetable, including berries and 50 gm dark chocolate) in patients diagnosed with hypertension (Noad et al, 2016). The findings indicate improvements in microvascular blood flow, a reduction in low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and a downward trend in systolic blood pressure in patients consuming the high polyphenol diet (Noad et al, 2016).

The findings in the PPhiT study noted cardiovascular improvements based on the overall polyphenol content of the participants’ diet. Additional research is necessary to isolate the effects of dark chocolate on these cardiovascular risk factors, overall heart health, and mortality. Current research suggests that adding dark chocolate to a diet high in fruit and vegetables, is well-tolerated and may help to lower cardiovascular risks in patients diagnosed with hypertension(Noad et al, 2016). Since research is limited, caution should be used in patients with multiple medical or chronic conditions. However, if dark chocolate consumption is going to be included as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, ongoing research is essential to determining specific recommendations for its consumption. (Badrie et al, 2015). Perhaps future guidelines will allow consumers to enjoy this “guilty” pleasure in moderation.

Badrie, N., Bekele, F., Sikora, E., & Sikora, M. (n.d.). Cocoa Agronomy, Quality, Nutritional, and Health Aspects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 55(5), 620–659.

Cooper, K. A., Campos Giminez, E., Jiminez Alvarez, D., Nagy, K., Donovan, J.L. and Williamson, G. (2007). Rapid reversed phase-ultra performance liquid chromatography analysis of the major cocoa polyphenols and inter-relationships of their concentrations in chocolate. J. Agric. Food Chem. 55:2841–284

Noad, R. L., Rooney, C., McCall, D., Young, I. S., McCance, D., McKinley, M. C., Woodside, J. V., McKeown, P.P. (2016). Beneficial effect of a polyphenol-rich diet on cardiovascular risk: a randomized control trial. Heart. 102(17)1371-1379.

A Healthy, Spooktacular Halloween


Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

More than 175 million Americans will celebrate Halloween this year. Knowing a few strategies will keep your family eating right all day long while still enjoying in the delights of the holiday.

#1. Start Your Halloween off Right
Breakfast is deemed the most important meal of the day for a reason. Themed breakfast ideas (that can be made the night before) include:
Ghostly pancakes or waffles—make whole wheat pumpkin pancakes or waffles then spoonful of non-fat vanilla yogurt and two chocolate chips to make a ghost.
Frankenstein yogurt cups—stir green food dye into your yogurt of choice. Fill up a small plastic cup then top with granola. Draw the face with a permanent marker on the cup.
Pumpkin fruit cups—draw your pumpkin face on the skin of the orange. Cut the top off, then gently carve out the inside with a spoon, filling with cut up fruit of choice. Serve with a satisfying protein like scrambled eggs or peanut butter toast.

#2. Snack Smart before Trick or TreatingBefore hitting the neighborhood, be sure to eat snacks that will give your family energy and satisfy their sweet tooth. Fill clean muffin tins with your family’s favorite snacks and invite your children to eat what they’d like before an evening of trick or treating. Ideas include berries, whole wheat cereal, hummus, mini pretzels, veggie sticks and cubed pieces of lean meat. Offer 100-percent fruit juice, milk or water as beverage choices to hydrate to feel great before going out.

#3. Consolidate Halloween Treats, Don’t Ban Them
All foods can fit into a healthy diet. After the big candy haul, ask the children to pile up the candy they enjoy most. Agree to donate the remaining candy to a local shelter or to troops overseas.
For family-friendly recipes and nutrition articles, visit www.EatRightTexas.org.

Crispy Green Beans with Tangy Shallot Sauce


Written By: Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

Yield: 4 Servings

Veggies don’t have to be boring! These crispy green beans are tossed in a tangy sauce that will have your family licking the bowl clean and asking for more.


  • 1 ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces of fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed (defrosted frozen green beans would also work)
  • 1 tablespoon orange-ginger stir fry sauce, like the La Choy brand
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon water (omit if using frozen green beans)
  • Red pepper flakes to taste, optional
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Sesame seeds for garnish


  1. Over medium heat, add olive oil and shallot to a large skillet. Pan fry the shallots until golden brown and fragrant.
  2. Add green beans, red pepper flakes, pepper and toss to coat. Sauté green beans for approximately 5 minutes.
  3. While green beans cook, whisk together orange-ginger stir fry, low sodium soy, and Worcestershire sauces in a small bowl.
  4. Add one tablespoon of water to green beans. Once water evaporates, drizzle sauce over green beans and toss to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low heat and sauté for 1 minute longer or until heated through.
  5. Spoon green beans into dish and sprinkle sesame seeds for garnish.

Nutrition Information:

67 calories, 2 g fat, 1 g monounsaturated fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 758 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 2 g protein

Creamy Potato Soup


Written By: Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD
Yield: 8 Servings

Traditional creamy potato soup with a major veggie upgrade! On the table in less than an hour, this
high-fiber soup is the comfort food you’re seeking on chilly nights.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 5 carrots, diced
  • 5 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 leek, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups 2% milk
  • 1 bunch kale, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 1, 15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • 4 strips of cooked bacon, roughly chopped

1. Over medium heat, heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add diced onion, carrots and celery and
cook for 3-5 minutes until onions are translucent. Add leeks and garlic, stir, and continue to
sauté until fragrant, approximately 1-2 minutes.
2. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and mix thoroughly. Add diced potatoes and stir until vegetables
are well combined. Pour chicken broth and milk over the vegetables. There should be enough
liquid to cover vegetables. Stirring often, bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cover.
Cook until the potatoes crumble when pierced with a fork, approximately 15-20 minutes.
3. With an immersion blender, food processor or blender, blend half of the soup until smooth.
Return to the pot. Add more milk for desired thickness if needed.
4. Over medium-low heat, add kale, beans, rosemary, thyme and bacon and cook for 5-10 more
5. Optional: gently pour in a swirl of cream (approximately one tablespoon per bowl) to serve.

Nutrition Information:

293 calories, 6 g fat, 14 grams cholesterol, 381 mg sodium, 47 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 13 g protein

Don’t Let Your Meat be Lonely- Grill the Rainbow


Authors: Rachel Kwan, Katy Bowen, Andie Gonzalez, Kate Hilliard, Carol Ireton-Jones, Corina Myatt, Christina Saliba, Celina Paras.

Firing the grill this summer and want to get out of that hamburger rut? Wow your friends and family by taking vegetables and fruits on the grill using these practical tips:

Go with the seasons– pop into the store and pick produce in season. Most vegetables are suitable for grilling. Try with Portobello mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, onions, bell peppers, broccoli, and asparagus. Fruits are perfect for the grill, too. Ideal grilling fruits are firm and barely ripe such as peaches, watermelon, pineapple, and apples.

Spice them up- grilling enhances flavor in a simple way. For vegetables, all you need is to coat them with a healthy fat such as olive oil and add some salt and pepper. If you are feeling a little more adventurous add herbs and spices- rosemary, parsley, garlic powder and cilantro pair well with many vegetables. Fruits can be grilled as is, and served as dessert. Grilling caramelizes the natural sugars in fruits enhancing their natural sweetness.

Keep it Simple- try gilling a batch of vegetables and enjoy them throughout the week on a salads, as a side dish or snack. Grilling is a cooking method that requires minimal dishes so it is an efficient way to meal prep for the week. Plus being outside is a great way to spend time with family and friends while enjoying the summer months!

Plan for Health


Plan for Health

By: Marleigh Brown, Nutrition Science Student, Texas Tech University

Revised by: Jennifer Leheska, PhD, RD, LD

Plan for Health


Each week has 7, 24 hour-long days which equals 168 total hours. How much of this time do we invest towards a healthy lifestyle? Just consider a 40+ hour work week, family and volunteer responsibilities, long commutes, and much more, and there is little time left at the end of each day.  If something is going to get done, it needs to be on the schedule! Therefore, we are wise to plan time to eat and what to eat, to maintain health.  A recent studya found that meal planning was associated with a healthier diet and less obesity in French adults. Lack of planning likely results in skipped meals, non-nutrient rich food consumption, and less variety in foods consumed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statisticsb, Americans typically spend about 68 minutes eating and drinking on a weekday and 34 minutes in food preparation and cleanup. This minimal time spent in preparation and cleanup may indicate eating more prepackaged foods, along with dining out. Eating is essential to life and what we eat is essential to health. Therefore, investing a few minutes in planning when and what to eat will be positive for health. The following are three things to consider in planning:

  1. Your Schedule
  2. Family favorites
  3. Tools

Your Schedule:

Which nights will you be home with time to cook? Which nights will you be going in many directions? A realistic meal plan is based on available time. Slow-cooker meals are great for busy nights, so your meal is ready when you arrive home. Cooking extra on the weekend is another solution. Finally, always keep a tray of washed, pre-cut veggies and fruit in the fridge that can be added to any meal or snack. 

Family favorites:

If you like it, you will eat it! Planning family favorites will create excitement and satisfaction around the dinner table.  Add a theme such as Mixed Up Monday, Taco Tuesday or Italian Night! This provides a starting point and allows you to base menus on sale items which will lead to variety of entrees from week to week. Implementing traditions in your meal plan gives you something to look forward to yet allows for quicker planning.


To start planning, simply use pencil and paper to sketch out two family favorite meals to prepare per week and when and where you will prepare them. Additionally, set a time to go grocery shopping. You may eventually consider an online menu planning platform in which you can store recipes and generate a grocery list, but the key to success is to start small and create a new habit before getting too technical. Just planning two meals each week will result in health benefits.

Eating healthy is much easier and more enjoyable when we spend a little time planning in advance to make it happen. It is not necessary to do it all at once, just start small and grow from there.

a https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28153017

b https://bls.gov/news.release/atus.t02.htm

Sheet Pan Salmon for Two


Written By: Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

Yield: 2 Servings

Date night made easy? We got you covered with this simple, quick recipe that is easy on the budget, full of flavor and packed with heart healthy fats.


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sage, minced
  • 1 teaspoon basil, minced
  • 2, 4-ounce fillets of salmon
  • 1 lemon, zested and cut into slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced and divided
  • 8 mini new potatoes (I use tri-color—purple, white and red)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups fresh green beans
  • 1 tablespoon almonds, or nut of choice
  • Crushed red pepper, optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh shreds of parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Pat dry fish fillets with a paper towel. Mix the softened butter, minced herbs, one clove of minced garlic, and lemon zest together. Spoon half of the mixture on the fish, then repeat with the other piece of fish. Place on lined baking sheet.
  3. Wash and pat dry potatoes. In a mixing bowl, add one glove of minced garlic, mini potatoes, half a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper then toss to coat. Add to baking sheet.
  4. Place the potatoes and fish in the oven for 25 minutes.
  5. While fish and potatoes cook, add green beans to the same mixing bowl used for the potatoes. Add remaining olive oil, the last clove of minced garlic, almonds, and crushed red pepper. Salt and pepper to taste and toss green beans to coat.
  6. After the fish and potatoes cook for 25 minutes, gently remove the pan from the oven. Add the green beans and return to the oven for 10 minutes.
  7. When potatoes are still warm, add fresh shreds of parmesan. Plate meal with slices of lemon. Squeeze lemon over fish or even the entire plate.

Nutrition Information:

407 calories, 16 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 6 g monounsaturated fat, 243 mg sodium, 77 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 28 g protein


Overnight Chia Seed Pudding



By: Celina Paras MSc, RDN, LD.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Yields: 2 servings


  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or low-fat milk
  • ¼ cup dry chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup fresh berries (i.e. blueberries, chopped strawberries)
  • sliced almonds or unsweetened coconut flakes, optional


  1. In a small bowl, combine the milk and dry chia seeds. Stir well and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator and let sit for 1 hour or overnight.
  2. The next morning, remove the bowl from the fridge. Top the chia seed “pudding” with chopped berries, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey.Enjoy!
NUTRITION FACTS Serving Size = about 3/4 cup(183g); Servings per container = 2; Calories 150; Total Fat 7g (13%); Saturated Fat 1g (5%); Trans Fat 0g (0%); Cholesterol 0mg (0%); Sodium 75mg (3%); Total Carbohydrate 13g (4%); Dietary Fiber 6g (22%); Sugars 1g; Protein 6g.


The Synergistic Effect of Food


By: Amanda Diaz, UTSA Graduate Dietetic Intern

Revised by Celina Paras MSc, RDN, LD.

The power of food can be quite remarkable.  Did you know that when certain foods are eaten together they can enhance nutrient power to provide even greater health benefits?  This concept is known as food synergy. This is not referring to some of the most popular food combos such as queso dip and tortilla chips. Although these foods taste great together, there are other food combinations more beneficial to your health.  Food synergy brings it back to the basics. By eating whole foods, or foods closest to their natural form, you can maximize the health benefits of the foods you eat. Here are some food synergies to keep in mind for healthier choices for you and your family.


Pre-and Probiotics – Feed Your Gut

Prebiotics is a term you have probably heard before, but are unsure what it is.  Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that protect your gut from foreign substances and pathogens.  Probiotics are found in yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, while prebiotics are in fruits, onions, garlic, asparagus, and whole-wheat foods. When eaten together, for instance,  yogurt and bananas work together to maintain healthy gut flora.1


Vitamin C and Iron

Iron transports oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body so cells can produce energy.  When iron levels are low you may experience fatigue, weakness, pale skin, and may find it difficult to maintain your body temperature.  There are two forms of iron, heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal meats such as beef and poultry and is better absorbed by the body.  Non-heme iron is found in plant foods such as spinach and beans and with the help of vitamin C found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and orange juice, can increase iron absorption.  Drink some orange juice with your steak.2


Fats and Fat-soluble Vitamins

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are classified as fat-soluble vitamins, meaning they need fat to be well absorbed.  Any fat can assist with absorption, but consider choosing a healthier fat such as monounsaturated fats. Nuts, avocado, nut butters, and some vegetable oils are great food sources of monounsaturated fats which are heart healthy.


Each vitamin plays an essential role in the body and can be found in various nuts, seeds, dairy products, fatty fish, and oils.  Vitamins A and E are antioxidants, while vitamin A helps your eyes adjust to light, vitamin E protects red blood cells and essential fatty acids from being destroyed. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium to build strong bones and healthy teeth. Lastly, vitamin K is needed for normal blood clotting.  To reap these benefits, cook vegetables with olive or canola oil. Avoid fat-free salad dressing, and instead reach for vinaigrette, and add avocado to your smoothie that has milk fortified with vitamin D.3


There is still so much that is unknown about how the components in food work together, which is why they continue to be studied. Combining foods that complement each other for a synergistic effect can provide a positive impact on your health.


1.         NCCIH. Probiotics: In Depth. 2018; https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm. Accessed March 27, 2018.

2.         Group E. Gut Health 101: What is the Microbiome? 2016; https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/what-is-the-microbiome/. Accessed March 27, 2018.

3.         Conlon MA, Bird AR. The impact of diet and lifestyle on gut microbiota and human health. Nutrients. 2014;7(1):17-44.

4.         Fijan S. Microorganisms with Claimed Probiotic Properties: An Overview of Recent Literature. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2014;11(5):4745-4767.



Crispy Curried Chickpeas


Written By: Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

Yield: 7 Servings

Serving Size: ¼ cup


  • 1, 15 oz can low sodium chickpeas
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • ½ tsp granulated sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Rinse, drain and pat dry the chickpeas. In a mixing bowl, mix chickpeas and olive oil until beans are evenly coated. Spread chickpeas into one, even layer across a large sheet pan.
  3. Combine salt, garam masala, cumin, cayenne and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle half the mixture onto the chickpeas, toss to coat, and roast for 50-60 minutes, turning the pan every 10-15 minutes until the all the chickpeas are crispy.
  4. While still hot from the oven, sprinkle remaining mixture and toss to coat.

The chickpeas will get crispy as they cool. Best eaten within one day. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in your pantry. Eat as a satisfying snack, toss in your favorite salad, or add to your favorite charcuterie board when you entertain.

Recipe Variations:

  • Use whatever spice mix you have on hand or make your own
  • Simply toss with cinnamon sugar or salt and pepper.

Nutrition Information:

220 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 344 mg sodium, 33 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 10 g protein

Spring Into Healthy Eating


Jennifer Leheska, PhD, RDN, LD

It is still Winter, but produce sections are blooming with fresh colors of the rainbow! Although, most fruits and vegetables are available year-round, they are most lush, flavorful and appealing when they are in season. Luckily the change of seasons has started to show as everything from the assortment of fresh berries to leafy greens and tomatoes is expanding. So, spring into healthy eating with these three steps:

  • Eat the colors of the rainbow
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies
  • Go for quality

Many have heard the expression, “eat the colors of the rainbow”, but what does that really mean and why is it a good idea? All fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, but the nutrients delivered often varies by color. Therefore, eating a variety of colors ensures the different essential nutrients are consumed. For instance, spinach is a great source of Vitamin K but not of Vitamin C. Whereas, red peppers are low in Vitamin K and high in Vitamin C. So, eat the colors of the rainbow for a nutrient rich diet.

Next, fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal to get adequate amounts of essential nutrients. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults eat 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit- and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables- per day[1]. Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 Americans are meeting this recommendation while 9 in 10 Americans are missing out on essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that reduce risk of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease[2].

Finally, go for quality! Consumers often get hung up on if they should buy organically grown produce and if the nutrient content is different. The truth is that conventional and organic produce are both safe and equal in nutrients. So, focus on selecting produce that looks appealing, free of defects and will have a shelf life long enough for it to be consumed. Frequent grocery shoppers see how produce quality can vary one week to the next. This has to do with the season, distance it is shipped and if it is nearing the end of its shelf life. So, buy produce that looks appealing to eat and will maintain that appeal long enough to eat it. When it comes to prewashed greens and other temperature sensitive products be sure to surround them with cold things in your shopping cart and get them back to refrigerated storage as soon as possible to preserve its shelf life. No matter how good you felt about buying it in the store if it is rotten by the time you want to eat it then you simply lose money and gain nothing.

Beautiful colors really attract the senses and enhance the overall eating experience. So, take away those winter blues and spring into healthy eating by focusing on eating the colors of the rainbow, fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, and go for quality.
[1] https://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables ; https://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html


How to Handle Picky Eaters


By: Alexandria Garcia, Graduate Dietetic Intern

If your child is a picky eater, you might view your kitchen table as a battleground. With common dislikes being fruits and veggies, it may be difficult for your child to enjoy balanced meals. However, the following tips are meant to help ease meal time tensions and expand your child’s food choices.

Keep Family First
Consider your family dynamic when working with picky eaters. Make family meals a routine, limit distractions, and value your time together. Discuss your nutrition goals as a family and choose ones that are the most meaningful and practical.

Exercise Your Child’s Senses
Engage your child’s sense of sight, touch, smell, and taste by grocery shopping and/or cooking together. Pick out something new and have fun by learning more about the food and how to cook it. Go through the motions of eating from plate to mouth one meal at a time. First, by lifting the food to the mouth and then touching to the tongue. Next, by taking a small bite, big bite, and finally, eating it all. This may slowly increase your child’s ability to try new foods.

Practice Patience and Positivity
Be patient because it may take over a dozen introductions to a food before your child will eat it. Avoid force feeding, which can create negative feelings toward eating. Mealtime shouldn’t be a family battle, so keep a positive attitude by having fun and creating a safe environment. Express your creative side by using veggies to make faces on pizza or using cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes. Lastly, let your child see you taste and enjoy healthy foods.

Increasing variety in your child’s diet will not happen overnight. Balance your goals and master one food at a time. Remember that it is ok for your child not to like all foods. However, be aware that your child’s picky eating habits may put their well-being at risk. Contact your pediatrician and registered dietitian nutritionist if your child is losing or not gaining enough weight.

Tanner A, Andreone BE. Using Graduated Exposure and Differential Reinforcement to Increase Food Repertoire in a Child with Autism. Behavior Analysis in Practice. 2015;8:233-240.
Nutrition Therapy for Selective Eaters. Public Home Page – Nutrition Care Manual. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/client_ed.cfm?ncm_client_ed_id=308.

Top Food and Nutrition Trends for 2018


By: Alexandria Garcia, Graduate Dietetic Intern

In the field of food and nutrition, trends will always be present. Whether it is a new “superfood” or “diet craze”, it is important to stay up to date. Here are a few of the predicted trends for 2018.

Reducing Food Waste
Sadly, about 40 percent of food produced for consumption never reaches a human stomach. However, consumers are growing more aware of how much food is being wasted. Reduce food waste in your household by only buying the food that you need. Use your freezer to store leftovers, if you don’t plan on eating them during the week. Try frozen fruits and vegetables if your produce doesn’t make it to your plate. Frozen produce is just as nutritious. Make sure to check nutrition labels for any added ingredients, like salt or sugar.
Groceries on Demand

The trend towards online food shopping has boomed and is predicted to expand. These options have made shopping easier. Key trends to watch for are more diverse meal kits, recipes on demand, voice-controlled assistants to help with your purchases, and more efficient food delivery. However, keep in mind that grocery shopping and cooking is a great way to have more control over what goes in your plate.
Food and Your Genes
Nutrigenomics, is the study of how your diet influences your genes. Growing interest and research in this field is may make personalized nutrition possible. Nutrigenomics may be able to explain how your body responds to different foods. This also includes explaining why some people may become obese. New research will continue to improve the overall quality of diets and health. For the meantime, focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.

Advances in science and technology have allowed for the consumers to be in control. With food being a part of your everyday life, being informed on these resources will allow you to be more aware of how your purchases impact the food system.

Source: Food Values, Technological Innovations, Savvy Consumers Will Power Major U.S. Food and Nutrition Trends To Watch in 2018. FoodInsight.org. http://www.foodinsight.org/2018-trends. Accessed February 2, 2018

Veganism: Plenty of Protein!


by Stacey Mattinson, MS, RDN, LD

A common misconception about plant based diets is that vegans can’t get enough high quality protein from plant sources. On the contrary, there are plenty of high protein vegan options! Let’s review how much protein you need, touch on complete vs incomplete proteins, and dive into ideas for plant-based protein.

How much protein do you need? To meet minimum protein needs, a 150 lb person would need to eat about 55 grams of protein daily (0.8 g per kg), or around 20 grams of protein per meal. Keep in mind individual protein needs vary and may be more than this amount.

Do complete and incomplete proteins matter? Technically protein needs are based off the body’s need for certain amino acids. Most plant sources of protein are incomplete proteins, meaning they don’t provide all the essential amino acids your body needs. It used to be recommended that for plant-based diet followers pair complementary incomplete proteins together at meals, but nowadays we know as long as you enjoy a variety of plant foods throughout the day, you should be able to get all the amino acids your body needs.

So, what plant foods are high in protein?

Soy. Soymilk is a great beverage option at 7 g protein per 1 cup and is a good source of calcium. Add this to your breakfast cereal or use it in a smoothie. Tofu and tempeh also both come from soy, and they offer 10 g or 15 g protein per 1/2 c serving, respectively. Make a tofu scramble or add tempeh to a stir-fry.

Beans. Beans are a very versatile source of protein. Each 1/2 c beans like pinto, black, kidney or garbanzo, or even edamame bean pods has 7 to 8 grams of protein. Use these as a side dish, appetizer or blend as a replacement for flour in some baking dishes. Lentils boast 9 grams protein per 1/2 c and work great in tacos, soup or curry.

Grains. Grains aren’t quite as robust a source of protein as other foods, but they still help contribute! Start the day off with 1/2 c oatmeal at 3 g protein or top a salad with quinoa at 4 g per 1/2 c serving.

Nuts & Seeds. Nuts and seeds provide a lot of calories per protein serving (so be careful with portion size for your waistline!) but are still very nutritious. Spread nut butter on toast at 7 to 8 g protein per 2 Tbsp, start the day with chia seeds at 5 g protein per 1 oz, or top your favorite dish with 1 oz nuts at 3 to 7 g protein, or pumpkin or sunflower seeds at 5 g protein per serving.

Use these ideas to power up with protein at each meal. Though every body is different, aiming for about 20 grams of protein per meal is a good start. Vary your protein sources to give your body the many different nutrients it needs.

6 Resolutions for Your Resolutions


Stacey Mattinson, MS, RDN, LD

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions for 2018?

While eating healthier and losing weight usually top the charts on New Year’s goals, we know that gyms have all but cleared out by mid-February and no one’s thinking about portion sizes once chocolate-dipped-everything rolls around on Valentine’s Day.

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, my primary objective with clients is long-term behavior change, so today I’m giving you 6 resolutions to realize every health goal you have.

6 Resolutions for Your New Year’s Resolutions
1. Be realistic. Set goals you’re 70-80% confident you can achieve.
2. Make it specific. Making a goal to “eat healthier” is too vague. A more specific goal, for example, would be to eat veggies at least twice a day.
3. Put a time limit on it. Identify a timeline for milestone achievements.
4. Quantify! Making your goals measurable makes tracking progress throughout the year more concrete. Is this something that you will do every day? Three times a week? For how long?
5. Make a plan for when, where, and with whom. Identifying the details gives you an opportunity to envision how to carry out your goal in real life.
6. Make a contingency plan. Think about how to overcome your typical barriers to healthy behaviors. What will you do if you sleep through your early morning workout alarm? Can you walk during lunch-time instead or hit the gym on your way home? What will you do if you have to travel?

Resolve to create smart goals with a “backup” plan this New Year. Beginning with a vision of success and thoughtful consideration of potential barriers leaves you more apt to achieve every health goal you have. Remember that if you miss the mark you can start right back over the very next meal.

Kiss Diet Resolutions Goodbye in 2018!


Jodi Schaeffer, MPH, RD, LDN

As we enter the New Year, many people feel they have eaten way too much over the holidays. Their clothes may not fit the way they want and a diet seems like the perfect easy fix.  But the truth is you should probably skip the “diet resolution” this year!  Statistics show that many dieters give up before the first week is even over, others quit before the end of the month and nearly everyone has abandoned their goal by the end of the year. “Diet resolutions” are often unrealistic and cause us to develop unhealthy relationships with food. Remember, food is not our enemy!  The truth is, nutrient-rich food keeps us alive, gives us energy and helps shape cultures and traditions.

One of the biggest challenges with most diets is that they focus on what not to eat instead of what to eat. If your goal is losing weight or just changing your habits, focus on which nutrient-rich foods you can add to your diet to replace some of the less healthy options.  A good goal is trying to live by the 80/20 Rule.  For 80% of the time, focus on fueling your body with whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables, dairy and water, as well as getting in exercise. Then 20% of the time, you can include foods that maybe should not be consumed every day of the week.

So instead of “diet resolutions,”shift your focus and try “lifestyle changes”!  Check out this handful of ideas:

  1. Eat breakfast every day. If you are in a rush, grab a container of low fat milk, granola bar, a string cheese or some yogurt filled with whole grain granola and fruit.
  2. Add a piece of fruit to your and your children’s brown bag lunch.
  3. Drink water throughout the day.
  4. Add color into your day with produce. Maybe Mondays are yellow with squash or a banana, while Tuesdays are purple with a plum and eggplant. Get creative and try new fruits and vegetables.
  5. Get moving at least 30 minutes a day. Go for a walk, give the car a good scrub or whatever gets the blood pumping!
  6. Get enough sleep; it helps the body stay healthy and cope with stress.

Have a Healthy, Happy New Year!

Winter Wonderland Cookies


(Oatmeal Chocolate Coconut Cookies)]

Recipe By: Jill Kuzniarek, MSN, RDN, LD

Yield: 24 cookies

Serving Size: 1 cookie

The ingredients for this cookie have been upgraded to provide more nutrition in every bite! The better-for-you cookie is naturally sweetened with apples, bananas and dates and has just enough chocolate chips to feel indulgent. These cookies are the perfect combination of chewy and soft… which makes them great for the holidays or any time you would like a sweet treat.


  • Cooking spray
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups medjool dates (pits removed)
  • 2 bananas, extra ripe (frozen defrosted work great as well)
  • ¼ cup milk (or vanilla unsweetened almond milk)
  • ½ cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons applesauce*
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour (alternatively, use White Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut shreds (or unsweetened coconut flakes)
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet or dark chocolate chips

Optional: ½ cup dried cranberries can be added to or replace the chocolate chips


  • Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a cookie sheet lightly with cooking spray.
  • In a large food processor, add the dates and bananas. Process until mixture is a smooth paste, 1-2 minutes.
  • Add applesauce and milk and pulse until combined.
  • Next, add your peanut butter, cinnamon and vanilla extract, pulse until combined.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, pulse until just combined. Scrap the sides of the bowl down if necessary.
  • Add the oats, shredded coconut and chocolate chips and pulse a few times just until combined. Make sure you don’t pulse the mixture too much, otherwise, the oats and coconut will be turned into more of a flour and they will lose their texture.
  • Use a cookie spoon (or regular spoon) to easily place cookies about ½ inch apart on the cookie sheet. The size does not matter, as long as they are the same size so they take the same amount of time to cook. Larger cookies will take longer to cook.
  • These cookies do not spread, therefore, use your spoon to flatten them down a bit until they are the form of a cookie instead of a ball. For two inch wide cookies, bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned and middle is no longer raw (the middle will still look soft). Cool on the cookie sheet 1 minute, then remove to a serving plate to prevent them from continuing to cook.

*You can buy unsweetened applesauce, I usually make my own. Take a medium apple, peel it, cut it into slices, add to a food processor with ¼ cup milk and process until smooth, you may have to scrape the sides of the bowl down with a spatula and mix once again to obtain a smooth texture. Use this in your recipe, omitting the ¼ cup of milk in the recipe. I do this first, then add the bananas and dates into the food processor bowl with the applesauce.


Equipment Needed:

Food processor or Ninja (bowl attachment)

1-2 Cookie sheets

Large spoon


Measuring cups

Cookie spoon

Serving Plate

Renal-Friendly Peppermint White Choco-Chunk Cookies


Recipe By: Avery Rhodes MS, RD, LD

Inspired by mint chocolate chip desserts, this festive cookie is sure to be a holiday favorite. With the use of white chocolate vs. milk chocolate this recipe low in both potassium and phosphorus, making it a safe choice for individuals with kidney disease.

Yield: 18 cookies

Serving size: 2 cookies


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 18 peppermint candies
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (135g) white chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces (113g) white chocolate, coarsely chopped


  1. Set the butter out to soften, this step will take approximately 30 minutes.
  2. Place 12 of the peppermint candies in a zip-top bag and pound with a heavy pan until finely crushed.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, butter, egg and peppermint extract. Beat ingredients at medium speed until creamy, scraping the bowl several times.
  4. Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Turn mixer to low speed and add flour mixture. Beat until well mixed. Hand-stir the crushed peppermint candy and white chocolate chips into the dough. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour to chill.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Crush the remaining 6 peppermint candies. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Shape the chilled dough into 3/4-inch balls and place on the baking sheet 2-inches apart. Using your thumb, make an indentation on each cookie and top with about 1/2 teaspoon of the crushed candy.
  7. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove parchment paper from baking sheet and cool cookies completely.
  8. If using, melt the chopped white chocolate in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after each until completely melted. Drizzle over cooled cookies. Allow time to dry. Store in a sealed container with parchment paper or waxed paper between layers of cookies.


Nutritional Information Amount Per Portion
Total Calories 190 Calories
Protein 2 g
Carbohydrate 20 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Total Sugars 12 g
Total Fat 7 g
Potassium 35 mg
Sodium 70 mg
Phosphorus 35 mg

Analysis via Supertracker.usa.gov

Chocolate Cherry Clouds


Recipe By: Marie Whelen, MS, RDN, LD

Thanks to the walnuts, three of these cookies provide a good source of omega-3’s which may

reduce the risk of heart disease.

Yield: 4 dozen

Serving size: 3 cookies


  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ½ cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder


  1. Preheat oven to 325° Line two half cookie sheets with parchment paper. Toss chopped cherries with walnuts to lightly coat cherries with walnuts and prevent them from clumping together.
  2. Beat egg whites on high speed of electric mixer until light and foamy. Gradually add sugar about a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until stiff peaks form when mixer blade is lifted. Add vanilla, and sprinkle cocoa over the egg white mixture. Beat at medium speed or fold by hand just until blended. It is OK to have some streaks of white at this stage. Fold in walnuts and cherries, taking care to avoid overmixing so that meringue will remain fluffy and light.
  3. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper and bake at 325° for 15 minutes. Cookies will retain their shape, so they can be spaced 1/2” apart. Allow cookies to cool in oven for approximately two hours. Store in airtight container for up to one week.
Total Calories 80
Protein 2 g
Carbohydrate 14 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Total Sugars 12 g
Added Sugars 11 g
Total Fat 3 g
Saturated Fat 0 g

Nutrition Fake News: Sorting Fact from Fiction


Brianna Crane, Graduated Dietetic Intern

Reviewed by: Celina Paras MSc, RDN, LD.

In a world of TV celebrities and social media giving health and nutrition advice, how do we know if what they say is true? Use this checklist to help you decide if the nutrition advice people are telling you is fact or fake news.

Question #1: Does it sound too good to be true?

Be wary of people telling you one product or food can completely change your health. If they say that it can prevent or cure many types of sicknesses, it is most likely not true. Food and nutrition does help our bodies stay strong and healthy, but we need more than one food or product to keep us healthy. Eating a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and lean protein is important for giving your body the nutrients it needs. If you hear celebrity advice about food and nutrition that sounds too good to be true, it probably is! No one food makes you 100% healthy!

Question #2: Is it a change you can make long term?

There are many food fads that may make you lose weight. Eating very low carb or greatly restricting calories may make you lose weight quickly, but it is not a healthy change you can make for the rest of your life. Also, it can do far more harm than good. Look for positive changes you can make that can last a long time like exercising for fifteen to thirty minutes every day or eating dessert only one time a week. Focus on what you can do, not what you cannot. Any diet that makes you worry about every meal or snack you eat may not be good for your body or your mental health.

Question #3: Is it expensive?

Celebrities make money by using their fame to sell products. If you watch TV, you will see many famous people trying to sell you something. Most have not studied nutrition and thus are not the best nutrition source. If a person is selling an item that is expensive, they are probably using it as an income, rather than a way of life. Be wary of what they tell you and question how much they know on the topic. Remember a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is the food and nutrition expert so check your facts before you pull out your checkbook!

If the advice or product you are being sold answers yes to any of these questions, step back and ask why. Will this this actually help you make a long term change that will not drain your wallet? If the answer is no, decide whether this product really is too good to be true that way you can know if its fact or fake news

Mini Cranberry Pecan Pies


Written By: Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

Yield: 18 mini pies

Serving: 1 mini pie

Mini desserts are the perfect vessel for enjoying the food you love in moderation. With less than 200 calories per serving, these mini pies can be made with your favorite pie filling or jam.


  • 2 discs of pie dough (store bought or homemade)
  • ¼ cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, cut in half
  • ½ cup sugar (or about ¼ cup of Splenda)
  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Generous dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. of milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350◦ Lightly grease mini-muffin tins. Roll out one disc of cold pie dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a 2 ½ inch cookie cutter or the top of a glass, cut 18 circles. You may need to use half of your other pie disc to get all the needed circles. Press each circle of dough gently into your muffin tins and place in the refrigerator to chill while you work on the next steps. You may crimp the edges by hand or with the prongs of a fork for extra embellishment.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, orange juice, flour, vanilla extract and cinnamon over medium heat. Stir occasionally until mixture is thick and cranberries are bursting. Cranberries should be cooked through and sweet. Spoon mixture into a bowl to cool.
  3. Optional step- Meanwhile, in a small skillet, add your chopped pecans and toast over a low heat. Once your pecans are fragrant they are ready to be taken off the burner. Keep an eye on the pecans to ensure they do not burn, this step goes by quickly. Toasting pecans adds flavor but is not required.
  4. Optional step- Roll out your second pie dough and cut remaining circles as needed. With remaining dough, use mini-cookie cutters to cut holiday themed shapes. You can omit this step all together if you wish. Omitting the top cut-outs will result in having more mini pies.
  5. Remove your prepared mini-muffin tins from the fridge. Using a teaspoon, add chopped pecans (enough to just cover the bottom of each pie circle) then top with a cranberry mixture. The filling should fill ¾ of each prepared pie cut out. Be careful not overfill, filling may bubble out and burn if you add too much. You might have extra filling and that’s okay– it’s delicious over oatmeal the next day!
  6. Add your cut outs to the top of each mini pie. Return to the fridge and chill for approximately 10-15 minutes.
  7. In a small bowl, gently whisk together the egg and milk. Brush a thin layer of egg wash on top of each mini pie. Place your tins in the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 25-30 minutes.
  8. Set your tins on a cooling rack. When cooled, gently remove your mini pies and store in an air tight container. For best quality, store pies up to three days at room temperate. Note: If you are using a custard filling (like pumpkin or sweet potato), store in the fridge.

Nutrition Information (for 1 mini pie):

134 calories, 6 g fat, 125 mg sodium, 17 g carbohydrate, <1 g fiber, 1 g protein

Grow Your Palate, Not Your Waist with Functional Foods


Brianna Crane, Graduate Dietetic Intern

Reviewed by: Celina Paras MSc, RDN, LD

Functional foods are foods that can give added health benefits along with being nutrient-rich.   Today, a large portion of health research is focused on nutrients in food that can help fight chronic illness. Here are some foods that you may already have in your home that can protect you against certain diseases.


Along with being high in protein, oats have soluble fiber. Recent research shows that soluble fiber can help lower total and bad cholesterol in the body if consumed on a normal basis. This is important because it can help combat your risk of heart disease. Try to eat oats without added sugar and sweeten with fruit. You can even make overnight oats so you are ready to go with a nutrient-rich breakfast in the morning! Other foods high in soluble fiber are beans, fruits with skins and flax/chia seeds.


Berries contain antioxidants, which can help prevent cancer. Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries can be a great addition to any meal. Add them to your morning cereal or oatmeal, top a tasty salad or add as a layer to your yogurt parfait. Worried about your berries going bad? Buy them frozen. They are less expensive, stay good for longer and have just the same amount of nutrients as fresh berries.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, trout, and herring contain Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are an unsaturated fat that can help reduce inflammation in the body that can cause disease. Fish can be bought and frozen to be used later for up to two to three months. Try adding spices such as dried basil, dill weed, onion powder, and oregano to get the best taste out of your fish. Fish goes great roasted veggies and whole grains!

Food can tickle your taste buds and improve your health too. Look at your pantry, fridge, and freezer and see if you have any foods that can help lower your risk of developing certain diseases. If not, stock up!


Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192

College Nutrition and Wellness Survival Guide


College Nutrition and Wellness Survival Guide

By: Claudia I. Martinez

Revised by: Celina Paras MSc, RDN, LD.

College is a time where stress levels rise! A lack of sleep, time and proper nutrition can become an issue to energy levels! It’s time to start creating better habits, and there is no better time than the present to begin!


With busy class schedules, multiple assignments, and long work hours, eating a balanced meal may seem difficult. You may think that cooking takes too much time and therefore go for the quick solution of purchasing fast food on campus. If fast food is your go to, make sure you are choosing nutrient-rich choices. In other words, be cautious about creamy condiments, sugar-sweetened beverages and aim for quality side items like fruit cups or salads instead of French fries or chips.

If you are short for time, but want to eat at home to save dollars and calories, meal prepping is a great way to make sure you are meeting your daily nutrient requirements. Some good options for meals include something as simple as turkey wraps with veggies or overnight chia seed pudding. Purchase non-perishable snacks such as popcorn, almonds, or nut butter, in which you can pair with apples, bananas, or even celery.

Physical activity

Eating well can be difficult in itself, but including physical activity into your daily lifestyle adds even more of a challenge. However, it can definitely be done! The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of either 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity 5 days per week or 25 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week to maintain health. In addition, muscle strengthening activities are recommended at least 2 days per week. College recreation centers usually offer great group exercises classes that can definitely help you reach the recommended physical activity. Even if these recommendations seem to be too much, set goals and aim to reach them. An activity as simple as walking or riding your bike to your class can go a long way.


The recommended sleep duration for adults falls between 7 to 9 hours. With this in mind, it is best to avoid pulling all-nighters and instead make sure you are getting restful sleep. If you feel tired throughout the day, take a 20 minute power nap and get back into it. Exercising and eating well help with getting a good night’s rest.


The recommendation for fluid intake is to drink enough to keep your urine a pale yellow color. A great way to estimate this is to take your weight in pounds, divide in half and drink that many ounces. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to drink at least 75 ounces of low to no calorie fluid a day. Then add 5-10 oz for every 20 minutes of exercise. Carrying a water bottle around and refilling it can help you make sure that you are drinking enough throughout the day. If you’re having trouble staying awake while studying for an exam or doing homework, drink cold water so your body doesn’t tire. As you drink more water, you will be forced to get up to go to the restroom, making sure you stay wide awake.

Remember! Eat nutrient-rich foods as often as you can, stay active, sleep enough and drink water. Make sure to set goals and do what works best for YOU. Setting reminders on your phone can help you with all of these things!

Christmas Wreath Salad


Clarissa Rivera MS, RDN, LD, CDE, Dietitian Diabetes Educator, Texas Diabetes Institute, University Health System

Preparation Time: 20 minutes Servings: 6 servings Serving Size: ½ cup salad with 1 Tbsp dressing
¼ cup walnuts, toasted 2 cups fresh Spinach ½ cup cherry tomatoes 1 low-fat Mozzarella string cheese, sliced into ¼” pieces ½ red bell pepper
2 cups plain Fat-Free Greek yogurt 1 packet ranch dressing seasoning ¼ cup fat-free milk

1. Arrange walnuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Toast walnuts in the oven at 350F for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside and allow to cool.
2. Arrange spinach, tomatoes, cheese, and walnuts in a circle on a plate.
3. To prepare dressing, mix together ranch dressing and Greek yogurt. Add milk and stir until dressing is at desired consistency.
4. Cut the bell pepper to form a ribbon and place at the top of the wreath.

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 75
Carbohydrate: 3.5 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 4.5 grams
Total fat: 4.5 grams
Sodium: 120 milligrams

Pomegranate-Studded Farro Salad



Written By: Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

Yield: 4 Serving

This crowd-pleasing whole grain salad pairs perfectly with your favorite protein for a complete meal.


  • 1 cup farro
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup raw almonds, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
  • ½ cup cow’s milk feta cheese
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Ground pepper to taste


  1. Rinse farro and add to a medium sauce pan with broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the farro is tender. Drain off excess liquid and set aside to cool.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cooled farro with pomegranate seeds, mint, almonds and feta.
  3. Whisk together olive oil and orange juice. Season with ground pepper to taste. No need to add salt unless you want to, the feta will add a nice salty bite. Drizzle dressing over salad and stir to combine.
  4. Farro salad is best at room temperature or cold and can be made ahead of time. If you are storing it overnight, add the mint right before serving so it isn’t wilted. Top with 3 oz. baked chicken (pictured), sliced steak, crunchy oven roasted chick peas or grilled shrimp.


If you’re unable to find pomegranate, blueberries, diced pear, strawberries, or dried cherries would also work well in this salad. The almonds could also be swapped out for your favorite nut of choice. I recommend no salt added pistachios, cashews, walnuts or pecans.

Nutrition Information:

443 calories, 24 g fat, 14 g monounsaturated fat, 540 mg sodium, 45 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 13 g protein

Protein Power Oatmeal


Written By: Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

Yield: 1 Serving

Eating 25-30 grams of protein at breakfast helps with weight maintenance, blood glucose control, and promotes lean muscle. Yet most Americans are falling short of protein at breakfast. Here’s a simple, protein-packed recipe that will fill you up and keep you satisfied all morning long.


  • 1 cup high protein skim milk (like Mootopia or Fairlife)
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • ¼ cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • ¼ pomegranate seeds
  • Liberal dash of pumpkin spice
  • Honey, sugar substitute or other sweetener of choice (optional)


  1. Continually stirring, heat milk over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Once milk comes to a boil, add oats, reduce heat to low, and continue stirring until mixture thickens, approximately 1 minute.
  2. Stir in a liberal dash of pumpkin spice.
  3. Top oatmeal with almonds, blueberries, and pomegranate seeds. Add a splash of milk as needed.

Nutrition Information:

458 calories, 22 g fat, 11 g monounsaturated fat, 125 mg sodium, 43 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 25 g protein

Humble Lemon Hummus


Lexi Endicott, Dietetic Student

Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 cups

2 c. chickpeas
¼ c. tahini
¼ c. olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse and drain chickpeas.
2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Nutrition Information/Serving
Serving Size: 2 Tbsp.
90 calories
6 grams fat
7 grams carbohydrate
3 grams protein
2 grams fiber

Keys to Healthy Snacks


Jodi Schaeffer, MPH, RD, LDN

When many people hear the work “snack” they automatically think candy bars and chips, but the truth is that nutrient-rich snacks are an essential part to a healthy eating plan.  Have a snack between meals can help keep you from being as hungry at the next meal, ideally promoting better portion control.  Plus, adding protein to a snack allows you to stay fuller longer because it slows digestion and helps to keep blood sugar steady. Research has shown that protein-rich snacks help diminish cravings and can help with weight loss because they improve satiety. So how do you get a protein-rich snack on the go? Here are some great ideas:

Cottage cheese has 20 grams of protein per 5-ounce serving. (Low or reduced fat options are lower in calories.) Added bonus of a serving of dairy!

Hardboiled eggs have 6 grams of protein per egg. They are very easy to prepare ahead of time and  easy to take on the run.

Peanut butter packet has 8 grams of protein per 1.5-ounce pack (2 Tbs.). Grab an individual squeeze pack for portion control and easy travel.

String cheese has 6 to 8 grams of protein per 1 cheese stick (part skim on the label is recommended). Added bonus of a serving of dairy!

Protein bars will have between 10 to 15 grams of protein (some up to 20 grams). Some brands have additional fat and sugar added to them, so you want to make sure you read the label and choose ones that contain whole grain and have at least 5 grams of fiber.

Low fat chocolate cow’s milk has 8 grams of protein per 8 oz (1 cup) serving. Chocolate milk is also perfect for a (I removed pre-workout) post workout snack, as it helps repair muscles and aids in re-hydration. Added bonus of a serving of dairy!

Hummus cup has 5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup serving. You can dip vegetables such as carrots, celery, cucumber, and grape tomatoes for added fiber, vitamins and minerals. Added bonus of a serving of vegetables!

Snacking can be healthy and a great way to get extra nutrients in your day!  Remember to include snacks that contain good sources of protein to help you stay fuller longer throughout the day and less likely to go looking for chocolate or jar of candy!

Simple Swaps for a Healthy Thanksgiving


Authors: Southeast Region Leadership Team

Foodies rejoice! You don’t have to pass up your Thanksgiving favs to live nutritiously (and deliciously!) this Thanksgiving. Simple swaps during Thanksgiving will help keep you feeling your best as you kick off the holiday season.

Make New Traditions

Being healthy during Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you should toss your family’s beloved mealtime traditions out the window. Blend new traditions with old for a healthy feast the family will love.

  • Choose whole grain dinner rolls.
  • Mash parsnips with your potatoes or try this cauliflower “mashed potato” recipe.
  • Limit oil and butter where you can.
  • Add flavor to your veggies by roasting them with fresh herbs.
  • Use sugar substitutes or fruit purees to reduce added sugar. We love this cranberry sauce that uses raspberries to add sweetness while upping the nutrition!
  • Use Greek yogurt to add creaminess to mashed potatoes, dips and casseroles.

Indulge Without Guilt

The urge to splurge during the holiday season is understandable, but you don’t have to sabotage your waistline to enjoy the delicious offerings that will surround you. Feeling stuffed should be left to the turkey alone, be sure to plan ahead to set yourself up for success.

  • Help plan the Thanksgiving menu. Be sure to balance out the menu with roasted veggies and seasonal salads.
  • Eat breakfast. Curbing hunger is a great way to prevent over-indulging later. Start your day off right with a balance of protein and carbs to leave you feeling satisfied and energized. Poached egg on whole wheat toast, whole grain cereal and low fat milk, and even a PB&J are all great ideas to get your day started right.
  • Practice portion control. Use smaller plates, bowls, cups and serving utensils; cut pies and cakes into smaller pieces.
  • Plan your leftovers. Not only will you reduce food waste, but you’ll have a plan in place to limit over-eating.

Get Active

It may be no surprise that people exercise less and eat more during the holiday seasons. Kick your holiday season off right by remaining active. The American Heart Association recommends exercising for at least 30 minutes each day. Avoid the urge to sink into the coach after your meal—instead walk the neighborhood with your family and friends!

You don’t have to set aside your family traditions to savor your food, family time, and your wellbeing. For more nutrition tips, visit www.EatRightTexas.org!

10 Minute Breakfast Sandwich (That’s Perfect for Dinner, too!)


Written By: Sarah Ryan, MS, RDN, LD

Yield: 1 Serving

Sometimes getting breakfast (or dinner) on the table in less than 15 minutes is a must. Here’s a sandwich that packs the nutrition, doesn’t break the bank, and is ready in no time.


  • Bread- choose a 100% whole grain bread that offers 3+ grams of fiber and is less than 100 calories per slice.
  • Vegetables- pile them high! Whatever you have would be delicious on this sandwich—tomatoes, leafy greens, and bell peppers would all be great add-ons.
  • Follow MyPlate- be sure to balance out the rest of your plate with an extra serving of fruit and veggies. Check out this MyPlate Daily Checklist for more.
  • Cheese-If you’re looking to reduce sodium, opt for a lower sodium cheese like Swiss or fresh mozzarella. Have lactose intolerance? No problem, many cheeses are naturally low in lactose including Swiss, Colby Jack, and cheddar.


  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread
  • ½ small avocado, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup shredded cheese of choice (or 1 slice of your favorite deli cheese)
  • Sriracha (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Begin by heating a small skillet over medium-low heat with ½ Tbsp. of olive oil. Once skillet is heated through, add your egg and cook to your preference. Sunny side, fried, and scrambled would work. Pictured is fried egg over medium. Add freshly ground pepper and remove your cooked egg.
  2. Add remaining ½ Tbsp. olive oil to pan. Place one slice of bread onto heated skillet (you can also do this on a grill pan or panini press). Sprinkle on cheese, lay slices of avocado, drizzle sriracha, top with cooked egg, then finish with second piece of bread.
  3. Once bottom piece of bread has browned and cheese is melted, gently flip sandwich. Finish browning second piece of bread, approximately 2 minutes or until toasty.
  4. Cut sandwich in half. Serve with extra side of fruit and veggies.

Nutrition Information:

465 calories, 25 g fat, 8 g monounsaturated fat, 849 mg sodium, 39 g carbohydrate, 10 g fiber, 20 g protein


Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites


Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Bites
Lexi Endicott, Dietetic Student

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 15 servings
Serving Size: 1 one-inch energy bite

1 c. old fashioned oats
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
¼ c. ground flaxseeds
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. agave syrup or honey
1 tsp. vanilla

1. In a medium bowl, combine oats, shredded coconut, cocoa, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.
2. Add peanut butter, agave, and vanilla to the bowl and mix until ingredients come together.
3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Roll into 1″ balls and place in airtight container.
*Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information/Serving:
115 calories
8 grams fat
11 grams carbohydrate
4 grams protein
2.5 grams fiber

Trick-or-Treat Tricks


Jennifer Leheska, PhD, RD, LD

Are you among the 70.6% of Americans who will have their light on October 31st to greet all the little ghost and goblins anxious to see how much candy loot they can pile on? The National Retail Federation expects Halloween candy sales to be $2.7 billion, and 95% of Americans will make these purchases. So, no matter if you are the giver or the receiver you will likely splurge on at least one Halloween treat. A single treat won’t increase your waistline or move the dial on the scale; however, Halloween is the starting point of a two-month marathon of special holiday treats and celebrations which can quickly add up and leave you wondering what happened come January 1st when your favorite pants are too tight. Here are three tricks to enjoy the holiday and avoid a spooky outcome:

  1. Be sneaky
  2. Try non-edible treasures
  3. Purge the treats

Be Sneaky:

Kids love special treats, but that doesn’t mean they only get excited about sugary candies with fancy wrappers and bright colors. Believe it or not, kids get excited about healthy treats if given the option! Most people don’t consume the daily recommended amount of fruit or veggies and often welcome fruit’s natural sweetness as a special treat. Worried healthy options won’t be well received? Do your own study and offer a bowl of one of the following options next to a bowl of traditional sugary candies and observe the selection.

  • Oranges and apples
  • Boxes of raisins
  • Fruit and veggie squeeze pouches
  • Popcorn or nut mixes

Try non-edible treasures

Children love little treasures. So, save on the extra calories and added sugar by handing out some of the following:

  • Pencils and erasers
  • Glow sticks
  • Bouncy Balls
  • Jump ropes

Purge the treats:

Chances are no matter if you have children or not you will end up with your own bowl full of loot. Halloween is the launch pad for the Holiday season which means there will continue to be a rapid influx of special treats over the coming months. When you combine that with cooler weather and fewer chances to be physically active extra pounds can creep on quickly. So, a simple solution is enjoy the candy for a few days then purge it to avoid the daily temptation. A fun way to do this is to incorporate the tradition of the switch-witch who comes to your home and switches the candy you leave with a toy or a book. Or donate it to a local organization who sends to military stationed overseas.

Don’t let those sneaky pounds creep on this Halloween. Instead, incorporate one or all of these tricks: 1) be sneaky; 2) try non-edible treasures and 3) purge the treats. This year make new traditions and help keep the neighborhood children and yourself healthy and happy.


Are you Drinking Your Calories?


Jodi Schaeffer, MPH, RDN, LDN
When it comes to weight loss, there are lots of diets promising fast results. Most people try to reduce their calorie intake by focusing on food, but another way to cut calories may be to think about what you drink. Drinks high in sugar are “empty calories.” Empty calories are calories that provide little nutritional value to your diet and can add up quickly. The good news is, with a few substitutions, you can save lots of calories and add nutrients back to your diet.
Look at the difference in these two examples:

Example 1:
• Breakfast: Medium café latte (16 ounces) made with whole cow’s milk: 265 calories
• Lunchtime: 20 – ounce bottle of cola: 240 calories
• Afternoon snack: Sweetened iced tea (16 ounces): 180 calories
• Dinner: 12 – ounce can of beer: approximately 150 calories
Total calories: 835 calories in beverages

The majority of these calories are “empty”, however, cow’s milk contains protein, vitamin D, and calcium which are good for bones, teeth and muscle repair.

Example 2:
• Breakfast: Small café latte (12 ounces) made with fat-free cow’s milk: 125 calories
• Lunchtime: water (from the tap, bottle or sparkling): 0 calories
• Afternoon break: 8 ounces of Chocolate cow’s milk (2% reduced-fat): 190 calories
• Dinner: 5 ounces of red wine: approximately 127 calories
Total calories: 442 calories

Half the calories of example one. In addition, better health choices, here is why:
• Chocolate cow’s milk: Low fat chocolate milk has less fat and calories than whole milk and contains protein, carbohydrate, calcium, vitamins and minerals we need for energy, muscle repair, strong bones and teeth and is great for re-hydration.

• Water: Most Americans do not drink enough water. Water is necessary to maintain the balance of body fluids (our body is composed of about 60% water), transports waste products out of the body, and helps control calorie intake by making you feel fuller. Drinking water throughout the day is essential to good health! Get a large “to go” bottle and fill it with ice and water. When you are finished, fill it again. Or get your own BPA-free glass or plastic re-usable bottle to carry with you!

Knapsack Nibbles for Back 2 School


By: Karen Geismar, Karen Beathard, Rachel Poland, Julia Jarrell, Tabitha Odom, Shelley Filipp, Carol Bradley


Now that summer has ended and we are back in school, what are the best choices to fuel your scholar? Why not try one of the following tips to involve your kids in choosing, tasting, and creating great snacks and healthy habits?

To start, get your kids involved. Get them interested by letting them pick out new fruits and vegetables to try at the grocery store. We all love choice and it will help them understand about variety within the basic food groups. Do a taste test with the new foods separate from mealtime. Current research has found it may take 10-20 exposures to a new food for some kids to accept it. By doing a tasting separate from mealtime, if your child rejects it at first or barely tastes it, they haven’t missed an important part of that meal.

Pick two! Pair two foods from different food groups. Protein choices include cheese sticks, nuts, boiled eggs, hummus, and yogurt. Pair one protein food with another choice such as celery or baby carrots, red bell pepper, grape tomatoes, berries, apple slices or apple sauce. The combinations are endless when trying to achieve variety. Keep a supply of these items in the fridge within easy reach of your child.

Make it easy! If you are short on time, buy pre-cut fruits and veggies and pre-prepped proteins, including nut and cheese portion packs. There are more and more options all the time. When time allows, portion out fruits, veggies, nuts and cheeses into sandwich or snack-size bags ahead of time.

Try one of more of these ideas to get your school year in gear and maintain healthy eating habits all year.

3 Easy Ways to use Avocado!


Hailey Morris
Avocado has been a very popular fruit in the past. It provides about 20 essential nutrients and is a great source of fiber. Avocados contain folate, potassium, Vitamin E, B-Vitamins, and folic acid as well. With all of these health benefits, people are always coming up with new ways to add the popular fruit into their daily cooking routine. Although this fruit contains healthy fats, it is important to realize that one large avocado has 30 grams of fat or more along with 300 calories or more. The AHA recommends consuming 20-35% total calories from fat. Because fat consists of more calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and proteins, being aware of how much you are eating during the day is crucial. Moderation is important, but do not limit yourself from the many benefits of avocado! Below are some delicious ideas that you can try!

1. Avocado Toast
You can spice up that boring toast by spreading mashed avocado on top and adding desired toppings such as tomatoes, radishes, etc. You can also slice avocados up and place them on top as well. Both options are great ways to start the day and even provide energy as a snack. You will be impressed with not only the taste of this snack, but the overall appearance will be sure to boost your mood as well.

2. Avocado Dressing
Do you ever get tired of store bought salad dressings? With so many options in the grocery store, it is so hard to figure out what options are the best choice for your health. Avocados can eliminate some of the confusion. There are so many recipes out there for avocado dressing. You can blend up the avocado and add it to yogurt for a creamy sauce on top of your salad. You can also add more flavors by adding avocado to some ranch for a creamy avocado ranch dressing. There are so many options, and sometimes-sliced avocado on top of a salad can do the trick as well.

3. Avocado Dessert
Avocados are becoming popular when it comes to the sweet stuff. They can replace the fat source in puddings, cakes, breads, etc. Avocados add a wonderful rich and creamy texture so why not try it out! Simply blend up the avocado and incorporate it into a recipe for a healthier option. There are so many recipes out there so do not be afraid to try something new!

Organic vs Conventional: That is the Question


Caroline Engle, Dietetic Student

In recent years, organic products have risen dramatically in popularity. A Gallup poll from 2014 stated that 45% of Americans seek out organic food when shopping. In 2016, sales of organic foods were about $47 billion, a $3.7 billion increase from 2015. Recent surveys suggest the main reasons consumers buy organic products over conventional is because they believe they are healthier and they want to avoid pesticides. So what’s the difference between organic and conventional?

Is one better for you?
Strict organic standards are defined by the USDA. The organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources and using only approved, non-synthetic substances. Conventional farmers also have to follow strict regulations. They can use some synthetic fertilizers and other approved substances. However, both conventional and organic farmers use pesticides approved by their respective guidelines. Both organic and conventional products are regulated to ensure the consumer is safe.

Is there a difference?
One of the main reasons consumers state they buy organic food is because they think it is healthier than conventional food products. However, studies show that there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient content or quality between foods produced by organic and conventional means. The main difference between organic and conventional is their farming methods, not their nutrient content.

Is one more expensive than the other?
While shopping, you may have noticed a difference in the pricing of organic and conventional products. One study found that on average, organic foods were 47% more expensive than conventional foods. These increased costs are due to organic farming being more expensive than conventional farming. Organic farms have to pay to be certified organic by the USDA and have to buy expensive fertilizers and pesticides that fall under organic regulations. Conventional farming is not as expensive, so the products are sold for less than the organic products.

The choice of organic or conventional food products is a personal preference. However, regardless of which one you pick, you can feel confident that you are choosing safe foods to nourish your family.

School Lunch Time Crunch


Southeast Region Leadership Team

Summer is ending and a new school year is on the horizon. As a busy parent, you might be feeling anxious as you pull together your family’s fall schedule. A nutritious lunch for your kids should be top of mind, and we’re here to help you get through the school lunch time crunch with three easy tips!

#1. Avoid the Last Minute Rush

Pack your child’s lunch ahead of time using MyPlate as your guide. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Make your own lunchables by cutting lunch meat and cheese into small squares and pairing with whole grain crackers
  • Keep drinks cold by freezing juice boxes, personal chugs of low fat milk, or water bottles. It’ll melt and be the perfect temp come lunch time.
  • Always add fruits and veggies. Bell pepper strips, carrot sticks, fresh berries, and apple slices tossed in lemon juice are all great options.
  • Check out ways to avoid brown bag boredom here!

#2. Keep the Clock in Mind for Food Safety

Insulated thermoses and lunch bags help keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Aside from keeping lunch tasting great, keeping food at the right temperature means avoiding foodborne illness. Be sure to add icepacks to your child’s lunch bags as well. For more information on reducing foodborne illness visit www.homefoodsafety.org.

#3. Save Time with School Lunch

Don’t have time to make lunch? No problem! Your child’s school offers an easy, stress-free and nutritious lunch every day. School lunch programs continue to offer balanced meals that help promote healthy eating habits and optimal nutrition.  Rest assured, your child’s foodservice and nutrition staff works hard to provide nutritious meals that result in less stress for you.

Regardless of how you feed your child lunch, nutrition doesn’t have to be time consuming. For more ideas to keep your family healthy, visit www.EatRightTexas.org!

Celebrate Kids Eat Right Month!!


Julia Jarrell, RDN, LD

August is Kids Eat Right Month, but how do you help your kids “eat right?” With all the conflicting information on social media, it can be complicated to sort through it all. Luckily, sometimes the simplest answer is best! Follow these three tips to make sure your kids are on the right track to lead healthy, happy lives.
1. Provide a unified message. Most schools teach USDA’s MyPlate, which is a simple way to make a healthy meal every time you make a plate. Reiteration is the key here and since children are being taught MyPlate at school, imagine how much more effective and impactful it will be if they hear the same message at home. Bonus! MyPlate is a great tool for adults to use, also! Find out more at ChooseMyPlate.gov.

2. Be a role model. You must model the behaviors you expect your children to exhibit. Trying new foods and making healthy choices are learned behaviors. Additionally, it is important to avoid discussing negative food preferences because that can influence your kids to not try new healthy foods. Children should not be taught there a good foods versus bad foods, as this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Rather, using terms like “sometimes foods” and “everyday foods” may help your kids understand how to make the best choices. When you are demonstrating healthy choices in your life, keep the discussion positive so that your kids will, also.

3. Offer Guidance. Advocating for balance, variety and moderation will instill better life long habits than focusing on diets and calories. Balance the “everyday foods” with the “sometimes foods” chosen on occasion. Eat a variety of foods to receive all nutrients. This includes fruits/vegetables (eat as many colors as possible), protein sources (fish, chicken, beef, nuts and seeds) and fat sources (fish, nuts, oils and avocados)! And finally, moderation- are you promoting your kids to eat appropriate amounts of all foods? Even healthy foods can be overdone.

Eating right is only half of the puzzle. Children should aim for 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Just like with food, consider trying new physical activity like gardening. Gardening can be a great way to increase exposure and acceptability to fruits and vegetables!
Teaching children about nutrition does not have to be complicated. With a little help from MyPlate and a focus on guiding your kids, you will direct them on a path to make “eating right” easy!

All Star Football Recipe Flips


Jennifer Leheska, Mindy Diller, Tiffany Quevedo, Jennifer Cash, Tina Maxwell, Tessa Henard, Lori Kiker

Are you looking forward to football season but not the extra padding that may come with your favorite football foods? This year make a touchdown pass with these three easy All-Star Football Recipe Flips!
1. Power up with lean protein! Protein is key in building strong muscles and bones and it makes you feel full for longer. Some of our favorite football party foods often lean towards higher fat protein options. Here are some simple tips to keep it lean.
• Try baked wings instead of fried.
• Choose low-fat cheese.
• Add in nuts, beans & seeds for flavor and added protein boost.
• Choose lean meats such as 90% lean ground beef, sirloin steak, skinless chicken breast and pork loin for your favorite meat dishes.

2. Tackle carb friendly options! We hear a lot about carbohydrates these days, but many people are confused about what these foods are. Most commonly you might think of French fries, cookies, cakes, bread, and pastries when you hear the word carbohydrate. Instead, look for friendlier carb sources that are higher in fiber such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. You may also like to enjoy your favorite beer or cocktail during the game that lends to added padding by the end of the season. No worries you can sack the carbs with these few simple tips.
• Fill up on whole food carbs such as fruit and veggies.
• Choose whole grain chips/ tortillas/ breads.
• Enhance your nacho experience with whole veggie chips using peppers or zucchini.
• Drink in moderation and know that the type of alcohol you choose can save you many calories. For instance, low carb beer can save you about 50 calories in each bottle.
• Choose light cocktail mixers and those with no added sugar.
• Don’t forget about sugar in your sodas and choose low calorie beverages.

3. Intercept high fat content! While fat is necessary in a healthy diet it is very easy to get too much. Plus fat is more calorie dense than carbs and protein, and you may be adding more calories than you realize during the game. So, earn a safety and stop the added fat from sneaking up around your waistline by following these few simple tips.
• Bake instead of frying your favorite game day foods.
• Add flavor with heart healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds.
• Try a tray of fresh fruit spears instead of high fat cookies and desserts.
• Choose tomato based sauces instead of cream dips.

So no matter how big or small the game may be, be sure to follow these touchdown tips for your All Star Football Recipe Flips.
• Power up with lean protein.
• Tackle carb friendly options.
• Intercept high-fat content.

Main Course Salads


Carol Bradley, PhD, RDN, LD, BCBA

When the weather is warm and it’s more fun to spend time out of doors, a salad can be quick, convenient, nutritious and delicious all at the same time! Start with a base of salad greens. To save time, there are many combinations of salad greens available, including chopped varieties. The more colorful greens are a fantastic source of many nutrients. For example, Romaine is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, plus folate, potassium and lutein.

Next, choose from a variety of fruits and/or vegetables. If you prefer a more standard salad with vegetables, many salad vegetables such as carrots can be purchased already shredded, along with cherry or grape tomatoes. Sliced red onion adds good flavor without being too strong and olives add healthy fats. Cottage cheese is a good source of protein and its creaminess allows you to use less salad dressing. Try adding a few black beans or a black bean and corn relish to increase the protein and flavor.

Fruits can provide a variety of textures such as crunchy apples or pears which are both good sources of fiber. Strawberries, blueberries, and mandarin oranges provide added color along with vitamin C and important antioxidants. Walnuts, pecans, or almonds can add additional crunch along with healthy fats. Top it off with your favorite cheese such as feta or bleu cheese for a protein source with calcium or try tofu. This type of salad is great with raspberry vinaigrette.

For meat lovers, these salads can also be a good way to use leftover meats such as grilled steak or chicken, roasted or rotisserie chicken, or tuna in the packets. Tuna now comes in flavors such as lemon pepper or hickory flavor. The possibilities are endless and allow you to make a quick, nutritious meal in a very short time without heating up the kitchen.

Having the ingredients on hand allows you to prepare a meal in minutes and is quite a savings compared to choosing the same salad in a restaurant. Choose your salad dressings wisely as they can add a lot of calories and sodium. Bacon is tasty but it also can be a significant source of sodium. Do your best to stick with fresh vegetables, fruits and meats for the greatest benefits. Creating your own salad is not only convenient but is a great way to spend less time in the kitchen and more time outside on warm days.

Eating Right on the Go!


by Carol Bradley, PhD, RDN, LD, BCBA
These days, we tend to pack so much into each and every minute. Being so busy can affect our food choices and our waistlines, but we can be healthy at the same time. When you plan ahead and choose wisely, you feel more energetic all day and are able to accomplish more. Current research says we need about 25 to 30 grams of protein every three to four hours to make us feel more satisfied and less likely to reach for unhealthy choices to bridge the gap between meals. Spacing our protein intake this way also helps maintain muscle as we age. How can you fit it all in and stay healthy? Planning ahead is the key.

Begin with breakfast, the most important meal of the day! Study after study has shown that people who eat breakfast tend to have a healthier weight. Breakfast is short for “break the fast” but when we eat too late at night, our body is digesting and using the energy from that last meal. We store fat at our waistline to be used during the night. If you are not hungry shortly after you get up, you probably ate too much, too late the night before and your waistline may increase over time. A good breakfast will also help you work better through the morning and make you less likely to overeat at lunch.

Short on time? A bowl of cereal and skim milk is the quickest breakfast you can make! For a healthy start with staying power, you can microwave oatmeal with milk instead of water, then top with dried fruit and nuts, or peanut butter. For more protein, choose 2 eggs (cholesterol in foods is no longer restricted to a specific amount), a slice of lean breakfast meat, 1 ounce reduced fat cheese, and toast; or eat Greek yogurt with your oatmeal or eggs and you should feel satisfied for 3 or 4 hours until lunch.

Next, to make sure you have a balanced meal in the right portions at lunch, pack it at home whenever possible. The large portions we get when eating out usually leave us feeing too full and cause our energy level to drop after lunch. Start with lean protein, such as 4 ounces (7 grams protein per ounce = 28 grams total) of chicken, tuna, leftover steak, or similar meat. Balance it out with whole grains, veggies and fruits. One cup of cottage cheese (26 grams protein) or Greek yogurt with fresh berries and nuts is great when you are in a hurry. There are also plenty of portable, pre-made items if you want the convenience. Read the labels to be sure they provide adequate protein, without too much added sugar, fat, or sodium. Most frozen meals fall short on protein and fiber and may leave you feeling hungry mid-afternoon.

When you do need to eat out, choose grilled chicken or fish when possible and add sliced tomato and other vegetables to a whole grain bun for added vitamins A and C and fiber; or choose a salad with grilled chicken or salmon. Why not try fish tacos with a side salad, instead of fries, a grilled chicken wrap or sushi for a change? Be sure to go easy on the dressing, condiments, and special sauces to avoid excess calories. Limiting fried foods will also keep calories down.

To make life less hectic at dinner time, prepare casseroles on the weekend to be reheated in 10 minutes in the microwave. Use smaller casserole dishes for faster baking and reheating. Add a premixed salad in a bag and your family will have a ready meal in minutes. Frozen chicken tenders (without breading) can be thawed quickly in the microwave and heated in a skillet with a variety of ingredients for a one skillet meal, ready in 20 minutes. For example, sautee’ fresh garlic, artichoke hearts, fresh spinach and mushrooms, and serve with rice or pasta. You can also use canned tomatoes in a variety of flavors, including Southwest and Italian. Add black beans, green beans, or fresh zucchini or spinach. It only takes 20 minutes from start to finish and there is less to clean up. Using your crockpot to make ribs or a meaty soup or stew, not only saves time; it also uses less energy and doesn’t heat up the kitchen.

Last but not least, plan for snacks to help provide a bridge on busier days when your next meal might be delayed, but don’t overdo it. Snacks should be fairly light, just enough to prevent that sinking feeling. Greek yogurt and berries, one-fourth cup of nuts and some cheese, hummus with baby carrots, or peanut butter on apple slices or celery can be very satisfying. Carry cheese sticks and nuts when you fly so you don’t have to pay $4.00 for a granola bar which doesn’t keep anyone satisfied as long!

So, what food choices do you make when you are on the go? Do you plan ahead and make mindful choices or do you just grab something out of desperation? By taking a little time to plan ahead, you can actually save time and look and feel healthier as well. It may take a little practice at first, but you are worth it!

Go Green in 2017


by Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD

Most people don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in their day, which is bad because vitamins and minerals (provided in fruits and vegetables) run metabolism and help your body fight illness and recover. Many people tend to think of juicing or cleanses when someone mentions eating more “green” foods. However, it’s important to consider “going green” as including more produce in general. By increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed in your daily diet, energy levels and recovery levels improve too! Each color of fruit or vegetable provides different combinations of vitamins and/or minerals so it’s important to include all colors.

Hydration levels also increase! Fruit and vegetables are made up of water along with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants helping you to recover from exercise, clear up skin and stay focused.

So how can you start including more “green” foods in your daily routine? Start here!

1. Hide veggies in other foods that you already like
a. Try spinach or kale in smoothies – it’s tasteless!
b. Chop up veggies to add to an omelet
c. Try making fries or spiralizing with zucchini, sweet potato or carrots
d. Fold spinach or arugula into casseroles
e. Put diced bell pepper, onion, and mushroom in your ground meat mix for burgers

2. Prepare them in creative ways
a. Roasted veggies: Cut them up, drizzle/toss them toss in olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper, and put them on a foil lined pan in the oven at 400 degrees F for 20-30 minutes.
b. Stir Fry or Sautee: Throw slices of your favorite green in a pan with some oil on medium high heat for ~5 minutes until they become soft and lighter in color.
c. Grill: Place asparagus, carrots, etc. into a foil pouch with olive oil & seasonings. Toss onto the grill while your meat or other food is cooking.

3. Increase the fun factor
a. Corn on the cob
b. Veggie kabobs
c. Celery sticks with PB or cream cheese
d. Stuffed bell peppers
e. Stuff Portobello mushrooms
f. Dip them – hummus, guacamole, bean dip

4. Jump on the cauliflower craze train
a. Mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes
b. Cauliflower pizza crust instead of flour crust

5. Try easy & new recipes
a. Make “Chips” with kale or chard: Remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Bake @ 400 F for 10 minutes.
b. Chop up strawberries and walnuts and sprinkle them over a bed of fresh spinach for a delicious salad.
c. Find lots of ideas on Pinterest by searching the name of your favorite green!

The Power of Fiber


By Lori S. Kiker MS, RDN, LD, CSO

Fiber is only found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. The fibers of a plant form the supporting structure of its leaves, stems, and seeds. Fiber, just like starch, is a chain of glucoses; however fiber has different bonds which cannot be broken by human digestive enzymes.

Inadequate fiber in the diet is associated with several diseases, whereas the consumption of recommended levels of fiber offers many health benefits.

Fiber has two forms, insoluble and soluble, each of which has a positive effect on your overall health.

Soluble Fiber either dissolves or swells when placed in water. It is found in beans, oats, peas, barley, broccoli, carrots, and potatoes, to name a few. Soluble fiber helps to reduce your risk of heart disease by binding with cholesterol in the digestive tract. Soluble fiber also helps with diabetes, as it may improve blood sugar tolerance by delaying glucose absorption.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is found in wheat bran, brown rice, nuts, seed, and the peelings of fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber helps with digestive tract disorders such as constipation, diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids by holding water in the colon, thereby increasing bulk and stimulating the muscles of the digestive tract so that they retain their health and tone. The toned muscles can more easily move waste products through the colon. Soluble fiber may also help prevent colon cancer by speeding the transit time through the intestines, thus limiting exposure to carcinogens.

Both types of fiber help with obesity by replacing calories from fat, providing satiety, and prolonging eating time because of chewiness of food.

The current average intake of fiber amongst Americans is 14-15 grams per day. The recommended intake for men is 30 grams per day and for women it is 25 grams per day. To prevent intestinal discomfort increase your fiber intake slowly. You can get too much of a good thing. Too much fiber can cause dehydration, malabsorption of nutrients, and intestinal discomfort.

As always it is best to get your fiber through the foods you eat, versus supplements. If you include a variety of whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetables in your diet, you get both soluble and insoluble fiber that you need.

Are You Nutrition Literate?


Do you know which foods go in what food groups? Did you know there are food groups? Do you know how to read food labels? The last time you went to the doctor did they tell you to eat healthy? What does that mean? And hardest, how do you make healthy eating happen in your busy life? The ability to do so depends on your nutrition literacy or ability to understand food and nutrition. Nutrition literacy is closely tied to health literacy. Health literacy is the ability to find, understand, and use health advice to stay healthy. Are you health literate and food literate?

October is National Health Literacy Month!

Learning how to stay healthy is now a worldwide public health goal. Healthy People 2020 lays out many goals that include eating healthy and moving more to live a healthy life. Learning how to eat right is part of health. But do we really understand how? A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you learn about and prepare healthy food. There are also many tips, tools and resources prepared by registered dietitian nutritionists or places that employ them to help make nutrition easier.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say we should eat food from all of the food groups to meet our nutrition needs. We should aim to balance calories eaten with physical activity to achieve/maintain a healthy weight. A great resource for doing these is MyPlate. On the MyPlate.gov website you can:

  • Test your food group IQ and use a variety of tips, tools, quizzes and resources to help you meet your nutrition goals. Such as:
    • Tracking your child’s growth.
    • Gaining the right amount of pregnancy weight.
    • Learning the right portions for the food you eat.
  • Find out your Body Mass Index (BMI) or height and weight measure and how that relates to your health.
  • Get recipes, cookbooks and menus that can help you prepare healthy food.
  • Use daily checklists and trackers can help you keep up with the calories and nutrients you are eating.

Another great resource for understanding your food and nutrition is EatRight.org, the website for and by registered dietitian nutritionists. This website has a wide variety of blogs, tips and tools to help you apply nutrition to your own life. Topics include:

However, there are many more topics sure to answer your nutrition question. Meeting with a registered dietitian nutritionist might be the best way to find the nutrition plan to meet your goals. You can find a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area through your local hospital, clinic, healthcare provider, local dietetic association or the EatRight.org tool.



“Kids Eat Right” in the Garden!


Karen Martin, MA,RDN,LD,FAND


Let them eat…dirt?  Summer pics of my grandkids are rarely clean and posed but are action shots exploring the outdoors and particularly growing their own food.  Not only are kids more likely to try foods that they have nurtured and watched grow, they are also cultivating a palate for powerhouse superfoods.

Consider the benefits:  Gardening is an activity the whole family can enjoy! Catch a few vitamin D revving rays, get a little dirty, get in some squats and lunges, connect with nature and enjoy a better than farm fresh harvest in your own back yard.

I love that some Texas MDs are taking Hippocrates call to “Let food be thy medicine” seriously and writing “Farmacy” prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables.   Co-op pick-ups are supported by a grant to provide a discount for boxes of fresh, organic produce.  Vegetables and fruits are loaded with health promoting and disease fighting phytonutrients and are naturally low in calories so this is the perfect food group to supersize portions without supersizing waistlines.  The last two decades have seen a rise in obesity and related diseases (Type II Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and orthopedic problems) that previously were not seen in children.  It is important to eat 5 fruit and vegetable servings daily.  More attention to the “Farmacy” or garden fresh foods may provide added benefit of controlling obesity-related diseases and decrease the need for pharmacy prescriptions in the future. Join the food truck craze and look for farm fresh produce food trucks that are available in many Texas cities.

Check out resources and recipes on www.kidseatright.org. Find a licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) focused on pediatric nutrition  for any special diet needs your child may have.  (Link to the TX directory here)

Let kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store. When planning your home garden, get the family involved and include kid-friendly favorites.

Here are some kid’s garden favorites:

  • Carrots–the harvest surprise factor is fun! Beta-Carotene is a potent antioxidant and converts to Vitamin A.
  • Cucumbers–they grow quickly! “Cucs” deliver vitamins K, C, B and many other vitamins and minerals.
  • Melons–large leaves, vines and fruit are sure to impress. Melons are loaded with potassium and vitamins including beta-carotene.
  • Okra—Flowers precede fruit + a math skill bonus with measuring skills since pods are best between 2.5-3.5 inches.

Studies show children need time and multiple experiences and exposures (15-20 times) when learning to eat a new food.  Including vegetables in a matter-of-fact manner as part of a family meal is the parent’s role in helping your child learn to eat new foods.  Limit fruit juice in favor of whole fruits.

Enjoy good nutrition and family time as Kids Eat Right from the garden, and produce section!

Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder


Adrien Paczosa, RD, LD, CEDRD – CEO/President of iLiveWell Nutrition

Understanding eating disorders and warning signs of eating disorders can be overwhelming and sometimes hard for loved ones to recognize. We hope to shed some light on this subject to support everyone who is involved in the recovery process. Keep in mind that recovery takes a team approach of a registered dietitian, therapist and medical doctor/psychologist. Eating disorders are not a phase of adolescence or an expression of vanity; they know no age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or religion, they are a true and very deadly mental health disease that requires early and adequate intervention which leads to the best clinical outcomes.

The number one cause of any eating disorder is unchecked dieting. We strongly encourage anyone wanting to change their eating habits to ALWAYS seek out a registered dietitian to help avoid falling into a dangerous eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and overeating disorders can have numerous combinations of signs, symptoms and causes. Additionally, several other eating and body image disorders are closely related to anorexia and bulimia, including orthorexia, body dysmorphic disorder, and exercise addiction.

Many people who suffer with eating disorders show no outward signs of struggling, and can be experiencing overwhelming internal feelings leading to harmful behaviors. Here is a very short list of behaviors to be mindful that may be cause for concern (note this is a VERY limited list):

  • Fasting and skipping meals regularly
  • Refusing to eat with the family or friends
  • Two skipped menstrual periods in conjunction with weight loss
  • Any binge-eating episodes
  • Any induced vomiting episodes
  • Discovery of diet pills or laxatives
  • Excessive exercise (more than an hour a day) and weight loss
  • Persistent and unremitting refusal to eat non-diet foods
  • Refusing to allow others to prepare foods
  • Extreme calorie counting or portion control (weighing and measuring food amounts)

Diet vs. Eating Disorder

—What is the difference between a diet and an eating disorder? It truly is the relationship a person has with food and how they view themselves. Below is an easy way to tell them a part.

Diet Eating Disorder
losing a little bit of weight in a healthy way trying to make your whole life better through food and eating (or lack of)… life won’t be good until a bit (or a lot) of weight is lost, and there’s no concern for what kind of damage you do to yourself to accomplish this
doing something healthy for yourself seeking approval and acceptance from everyone through negative attention
losing some weight in a healthy way so how you feel on the outside will match how good you already feel on the inside being convinced that your whole self-esteem is hinged on what you weigh and how you look


Getting Help

If you are a loved one may be concerned that an eating disorder is present please seek help. Here is a LINK for a free and anonymous screening. Meeting with a registered dietitian, therapist and medical doctor is key to a successful recovery.