It’s Tuesday! One day down, four to go until the weekend. We’ve got this. I had a wonderful time celebrating my birthday this past weekend. It’s hard to have a bad weekend when this is the view you wake up to: Aaron and I spent the weekend at the beach in Margate, NJ. Just as any good beach trip should, we came prepared. I loove me a good stout! We had a great time hanging out with Aaron’s aunt, uncle, cousins, and cousins’ kids. It’s funny to compare this year’s low-key birthday celebrations to last year’s wine tasting trip through Charlottesville with my friends. Maybe I’m growing up? Nah. Anyways, if I backtrack for a bit, I had a pretty exciting birthday at work on Friday too. Not only did my coworkers “surprise” me with an awesome cake (I say surprise cause I may have mentioned that I like chocolate cake…): but I also got to take a tour of a local community garden in the heart of DC! The garden is run by a local farm and agriculture education organization that works with DC high school students. Last week, they gave us a presentation of their work, including lunch made from items gown in the garden. We enjoyed open-faced sandwiches made with eggplant and turnips from the garden, kale salad, also from the garden, and pasta salad. The organization partnered with a local restaurant chef who worked with the kids to teach them how to use these ingredients. So cool. The community garden is located in Ledroit Park, pretty close to downtown DC. But walking around the garden, it didn’t feel like you were in the middle of a crowded, busy city. There were fruit trees, and Swiss chard, and kale, and blue cabbage, and asparagus! Did you know asparagus grew like that? I had never seen asparagus grow in person, so that was new! There were so many other parts to the garden too, including composting heaps, beehives, and a student garden. So cool. On, and I ate a flower! This was a Nasturtium. I had never heard of it before, but our tour guides told us we had try it. And it was spicy! Not spicy like a hot pepper, not where you need a glass of milk to clear out the spice, but enough that I needed a sip of water to keep it moving! Super interesting and not what I would have expected. I also had flashes of the final scenes from Into the Wild, and kept thinking, this is not a good idea, this is not a good idea. So far, I’m still kicking… Do you have a community garden near you? One of the greatest downfalls of my city apartment is that we don’t really get much sunlight on our patio, our only outdoor space. It’s too bad cause I would love to grow a few veggies, or at least have an herb garden! One day…
This post is gonna be a bit all over the place, but stay with me.
This week has FLOWN by. Normally, I sit here thinking, where is Friday? But this week has been jam packed. On a personal note, we had 3 wedding planning meetings, and I’m excited for all the things we have planned! I feel like the concept we have is really coming together and its nice to tell the professionals that we’re meeting with what we have in mind.
Aaron and I also had a professionally exciting week, so we celebrated with homemade surf and turf!
I made lobster tails, garlic and thyme seared lamb chops, seared scallops (I gave Aaron more), and sautéed balsamic brussels sprouts. SO good.
This may have been my first time cooking lobster tails, so I was a bit nervous. All I did was steam them- no seasoning, not even butter (I accidentally exploded the glass dipping container when I tried to melt the butter in the microwave, so it wasn’t from lack of trying to have butter…side note, I heated the butter in the dish for a minute! I can’t believe it exploded! The last time I did that was when I was a little kid and tried to melt chocolate chips in a plastic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bowl and didn’t realize I should mix the chocolate chips and therefore burnt the hell out of them…ok that was a big digression…anyways…). The lobster tails were my favorite part of the meal and they were just steamed! So good.
Why did I have such a good work week? Two reasons. I’m about to get all nutrition-nerd on ya!
First, we were able to introduce a food waste reduction project to our seniors centers, which has been in the works for several months now. It feels good to have the project finally on the ground and running!
Speaking of food waste, did you know that Americans discard about 40% of all food, from farm to table? That equates to $165 billion wasted and about 20 pounds of food per person per month. Think of how many people that could feed! As a nutritionist working with food security, food waste has been on the forefront of my brain for a while. You can ask Aaron, I always get sad whenever a vegetable goes bad in our fridge or we forget to eat a leftover. Anyways, it has been really exciting to work on this project and feel like maybe we can make a difference! I’ll keep you posted on how this goes!
I am also excited about a second program- this week and last week, we implemented salad bars into our wellness centers! In addition to their plated hot meal, we can now offer about 250-300 seniors a day a self-serve salad bar, complete with lots of fresh vegetables, cut fresh fruit, cottage cheese, and the works.
So far, this program has been a huge success. Many of our centers have reported running out of items on the buffet due to high demand (beets have been surprisingly popular!), and the first site where we started the buffet has reported that more people are attending our congregate meals, including both entirely new people and people who used to come but stopped! It is super rewarding and exciting to see how well received the salad bar has been in our sites. I even got a round of applause at a site today from the seniors
It was great to see that our seniors really do want to eat fruits and vegetables, even though I expect to continue receiving requests for fried chicken!
Finally, I got an email that I won a $20 gift card to Abe’s Market! Have you heard of it? They sell lots of wholesome, health conscious items, so definitely worth a try. I found it on a blog a few months ago and it looks interesting, but I’ve never purchased anything. If you have visited the site, any recommendations of what I should try?
Anywho, I’m ready for the weekend! Today is my birthday so I’m excited to celebrate this weekend! Aaron gave me one of my presents last night and I was OVER THE MOON: a Le Creuset braiser! I have wanted one FOREVER.
I have no idea what I’m gonna make yet, so send over you suggestions soon!
Hope you all have a great weekend!
One of the hardest questions that I get as a dietitian is “Is this healthy?”
I have defined what I believe to be healthy before, but essentially, I believe a healthy diet is composed of nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods, with lots of fruits and vegetables, and lean protein at each meal. There are plenty of potentially “controversial” foods that can spark the aforementioned infamous question, including whole-fat cheese, pork loin, and whole eggs/egg yolks (yes, I eat all three!).
What I do not think is a requirement to be healthy? Low calorie foods.
In some cases, foods really are low in calories and great for you! Most vegetables have very few calories and I thoroughly support overindulging in your veggies. Water is another no/low calorie food that makes sense to consume for obvious reasons. Herbs and spices are rarely a huge component to meals, but again, not many calories there. However besides these low calorie foods, very few ingredients are naturally low calorie.
Now let’s think of other foods that are marketed as low calorie. In this category, I often think of “diet” foods, such as sugary cereals, diluted juices, and super processed 100-calorie snack packs or frozen diet meals. When was the last time any of those items filled you up?? If I recommended any of these food types to you, I’d focus on high-protein and high fiber cereals, 100% real fruit juice but mostly real fruit, and nutrient-dense snacks, like apple slices with peanut butter or a handful of almonds. Oh, and I’d probably ask that you work on your addiction to the convenience of frozen diet meals, because how are those worth your money when you just want to eat again an hour later?!
So let’s go back to the point of this health claim. Why are people so focused on calories?
Yes, if you want to lose weight, your calories in (eaten) needs to be lower than the calories out (burned). However I think some people have taken this theory though and applied it unhealthfully. If you want to lose weight, you absolutely should cut down on the number of calories you consume each day, but I recommend that clients focus on moderating their intake of quality, whole foods, rather than adding in more processed, nutrient-void foods. A 200 calorie snack of roasted chickpeas vs potato chips are not the same.
At breakfast, for example, I suggest 300-400 calories, which is more than many dieters think to eat. Let’s say you have one of those low calorie cereals with 1/2 cup of skim milk (typically the serving listed on a cereal package) for breakfast at 7:30am. Most likely, you’ll be hungry again around…9am? Now let’s say your breakfast is a healthy mix of protein, healthy fat, fiber, and fruits or vegetables, such as my easy Fill You Up Workday oatmeal. Those 300-400 calories will hold you over longer in the morning and minimize your risk of overeating at lunch or impulsively snacking later in the morning.
For snacks, I am all about fruits and vegetables. I am one of those weird people that loves baby carrots to the point that I’ve eaten a 1-lb bag in one sitting and not thought anything of it. However, if you are really in need of a snack to get you through the lunch-dinner gap and not just tired/bored at work, a serving of fruit or vegetables is not enough. Why? Because these low calorie foods won’t keep hunger at bay for too long on their own. Although adding in 100-200 calories in the form of healthy proteins and fat, such as humus or edamame, may scare some dieters, your snack will actually do what it should: keep you satiated and energized until the next meal.
Really what it all comes down to, let’s stop focusing on the number. If a food has 550 calories vs. 400 calories, is the higher calorie worse for you? It all depends! If you are consuming 550 calories from a stir-fry of chicken, brown rice, and vegetables sauteed in olive oil, that’s great! If you are consuming 550 calories of Easy Mac for dinner? Less great.
Bottom line? Focus on quality ingredients over quantity of calories. A healthy diet should be one that contributes protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The right mix will fill you up to the point you need, just listen to your body’s satiety cues. By emphasizing wholesome ingredients mixed with lots of fruits and vegetables, you can stop focusing on the calorie number on the package and just enjoy your food.