Archive for July, 2010

Label Reading 101 – Focusing on Sodium

July 30th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, knowledge is power. This notion truly applies to gleaning a greater understanding of what’s in your food. The food label is your friend, so why not get to know it better. I suggest you pick up a package and learn more about some basics of the food you’re bringing into your house. You may end up changing your ways from what you discover. Today we’ll focus on sodium.

If you’re a newby to this, I suggest starting within the confines of your own home first. Trying this right off the bat in the freezer section of the supermarket might result in frost bite!! So be kind to yourself.

Ok, so take some packages of dried goods out of your cupboard, go get your reading glasses and get comfy. Consumers often make decisions on the fly by looking at splashy text, symbols and pictures on the package. Let’s focus on a few parts of the label to begin with – the nutrition facts table and the ingredient list focusing on the sodium. We’ll focus in on calories and fat another time. I suggest you not let the package design sway your decision but the product content.

I think people get psyched out of reading labels when they focus in on too many nutrients all at once. It’d help to develop a baseline comfort level of understanding how to read a label and build on that with time. Sound good to you?? That’ll be my approach.

Package Serving – How much of a product are you dealing with here? We need to find perspective. Is it 1 pizza, 1 bag of cookies, 1 can of soup, 1 box of cereal? Get an idea of how much is in the package and think about who in your household eats that particular food.

Nutrition Facts Table

Serving Size – Now, what is the defined serving size for that particular food on the nutrition facts table? Is it 1 slice of pizza, 2 cookies, 3/4 cup of soup, 1 cup of cereal? All of the numbers in the nutrition facts table are based on on this serving size. Now think about who eats what, how much of it do they have during a typical meal/snack. You see Grandad might have 2 cookies with his tea, your 17 year old son who doubles as a jock eats 3 slices of pizza at one go. You see where I’m going with this?? How many actual servings are consumed? You then need to multiply by 3, for the pizza example with your son. Got it??

Food Frequency – Now is this food an “everyday” food (or frequent), such as eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast each morning, or a once in a while food, let’s say pizza night is Friday night. All foods fit, but “everyday foods” nutrient profiles should generally be better for you than those considered a treat, which you indulge in once in a while. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care what’s in a “once in a while food”. But let’s stick with looking at labels of foods you eat regularly. When you get the hang of this review all of the food labels you bring into your home.

Ingredient List - By law this is listed by all ingredients in that product by weight from most to least. Now take a look at some of the products you’re focusing on. Are you seeing some trends here?

Note the following additives contain sodium: monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite/nitrate, sodium propionate and sodium sulphite. Are you surprised of the amount of sodium in the foods you and your family eats regularly??

Comparing Products at the Store - After orienting yourself to what info is where on food labels in the comfort of your own home begin comparing products you use with other brands in the grocery store when you need them next. You can start by choosing alternatives that have lower sodium right away.


I’m not getting into total amounts per day right now to keep things simple. My approach is a behavioural one – substitute a lower sodium food for a higher sodium one. Try incorporating the advice in yesterday’s post to lower sodium in your family’s diet further. You’ll be well on your way to retraining your palate to be used to lower sodium foods in no time!! I’ll build on this exercise in future posts and wanted to get you started. Once you get used to it, it’ll become second nature.

I have made snap decisions myself by making assumptions like choosing a pepper based rub for bar-be-quing – wrongo!! When I compared labels, that one had higher sodium per serving than the others. The nutrition facts table IS your friend, so get acquainted with it!!

Do let me know how it’s going for you and if you have any questions??

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Foodie Fundamentals, Miss Behavin', Nutrition News, Policy for the People | No Comments »

The Hippy Hippy Shake – Cutting the Salt

July 28th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We have all heard the term “old habits die hard”, haven’t we? There is now a movement by a number of governments around the world to inform and help consumers to reduce the salt in their diets. For me, like for many, seasoning with salt is a cooking way of life. Like many, my initial reaction was that it’s everybody else’s problem but mine. After all I’m a dietitian, right? Wrong!! In reality, it’s likened to  George Castanza’s line “It’s not you it’s me!” Actually, it’s everybody’s…mostly. Well I swallowed the hard truth tablet on this one and realized I needed to change my ways. Yes old habits do die hard, but die they will with a pinch of effort.

Take Stock

For me the first step was making a mental note of the foods I was bringing in the house. The best way to do this is to take out those reading glasses and read the food product label nutrition facts table. Next I took stock of my cooking habits. And yes, the Hippy-Hippy Shake of the salt shaker was ingrained in my cooking robot and needed to dance it’s way out.

Recondition Your Palate

The next thing I tried was to use less gradually. What this does is help retrain your palate to get used to using less. If old habits die hard for me, they surely do for hubby boy, Yoda-Man who LOVES his food to the max. The last thing I wanted at home was a line-up at the complaints department desk, if you catch my drift!!

Small Changes Mean A Lot

What I’ve also tried is a number of strategies to change things up with food preparation:

  • Use a salt shaker with really small holes, when I use the salt shaker
  • No longer put the salt shaker on the table when we eat
  • Put the pepper mill on the table when dining, instead (ours is the size of a hockey stick!!)
  • Try a greater variety of garden herbs when cooking – basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, ginger
  • Use paprika or cinnamon for a different flavour while using less salt in cooking
  • Add lemon or orange juice or the zest (grated peel) to pump up the flavor of various recipes
  • When available, use products with a lower sodium content to replace a higher salt ones
  • Try garlic and herbs in place of meat rubs for bar-be-queing
  • Rinse canned vegetables before using
  • Use fresh or frozen veggies and fruits instead of canned when possible
  • Try unsalted versions of foods – crackers, pretzels, nuts, trail mix
  • Create your own salad dressings easily with oil and balsamic vinegar (see post on June 23)
  • Prepare larger portions of meat for dinner and use the leftovers for sandwiches in place of using cold cuts in sandwiches
  • If I do use cold cuts, try the extra piquante (spicy hot) and use a smaller amount
  • If you choose to eat out, look up the menu and offerings on-line and decide on better choices before you go

The statistics show that we really do take in so much more sodium than we need. It’s simply staggering. This also holds true for kids of all ages, even toddlers. Trust me on this one folks. So making small regular changes can make a vast difference over time. Once your taste buds get used to having less salt it’s a snap to stick with. The May 19 post addresses this topic as well.

Do weigh in on strategies you use so we can all learn from each other.

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Foodie Fundamentals, Miss Behavin', Nutrition News, Policy for the People | No Comments »

The Family Tree – Leverage Your Lineage

July 27th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , ,

Living healthfully to get a handle on risk factors certainly helps with fighting the odds of disease. It’s true. We really don’t know what “genetic cards” we’ve been dealt but there is certainly wisdom in getting a handle on the health issues ingrained in your own family tree. It is better to do this when you’re younger than when you’re pushing 50 like me, but any time is a good time for a reality check and paradigm shift. Trust me, you don’t want a wake up call….

Take my family tree for instance – we have heart issues, stroke, diabetes, not to mention eye issues and thyroid problems. My hubby – Galdolf the Grey has heart issues and stroke on his side of the bella familia. Both sides have family members who are long livers and some very short livers. It’s a game of roulette deciding what your focus should be, but an important exercise nonetheless. It’s not a good idea to think, “well I look like my Dad therefore will follow his health path”, not so fast. Our genetic make up is much more complicated than that.

When I reflect on my own situation for instance I know I have a thyroid condition and feel I have a tendency to have heart issues if I don’t take charge of the key risk factors. I also feel I could have adult onset diabetes later on if I let myself slides (which I’m not planning to do, of course).

So, the focus of my routine is to exercise regularly, eat properly and manage my weight. That’s a trifecta of wisdom to manage the gamut of potential issues. My doctor says I’m healthy as a horse. It’s hard to know if I’ve been hardwired healthy or am managing my risk factors as well as possible.

Now, if you’re lucky to be blessed with family who are long livers all round you still need to take stock. We live in a world where there are multiple epidemics – obesity and adult onset diabetes. Also, life has changed dramatically from your ancestors who may have eaten more healthfully and did regular activity as a way of life. We now live in an obesogenic society with numerous conveniences (see my post on May 27). So, if you don’t make a concerted effort to do regular activity and have a handle on your weight you may be asking for trouble.

It’s so easy to make excuses, isn’t it? It’s just as easy to tune your attitude in and take charge (see post on  June 8). I have suggested you take the RealAge test on April 13. The link to the right will get you there. I still stand by that today. It’s an thorough test looking at all risk factors and provides sage advice.

I used to work in a children’s hospital and had many patients who were heroes in my life. Many didn’t have time on their hands to work out their options. They were simply given grave news and needed to deal with it, likity split. So whenever I find myself making excuses I think of the little heroes in my life and give myself a kick in the pants, pick up and move on. Hopefully you will do the same.

Talk about information overload, there is a bounty of solid evidence on many of the major risk factors from heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and more. It’s true, knowledge is power and using it to your advantage is powerful. Being an ostrich by poking your head in the sand will not help your cause or be a good example to your family. Take charge of your BODY AS TEMPLE!! After all you don’t want to be the smartest person in the graveyard.

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Miss Behavin', Nutrition News | No Comments »

Follow the Loser – Tips & Tricks to Dine Out By

July 26th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , ,

It’s the height of summertime. I love dining outdoors when the weather’s great. How about you? I thought it would be timely to tap into our successful weight loser logic on strategies they use when eating out.  Continuing on the “successful weight loser” theme written about July 6, 12 and 19, here are more juicy tips.

As I mentioned last week my good friend and colleague and I conducted a survey on successful weight losers a few years ago. These women provided pearls of wisdom on many aspects of their lives and today the spotlight is on how they approach dining out:

  • I do my homework before I go to the restaurant by looking up nutritional information and decide what I’ll order. This takes the guess work out for when I get there.
  • The portions have gotten out of hand. I either choose something from the kids menu or I just cut my plate in half and eat that portion only, bringing the rest home.
  • I eat lighter during the day. If I’ve over-indulged, I try and cut back the next day, and increase my activity level.
  • If there’s wine at the meal, I have a spritzer first, or alternate drinks with sparkling water. I choose to spend the calories on the food rather than the beverages. If I do choose to have wine, I’ll begin drinking it after the food arrives.
  • I have found that because I have maintained my weight for about 6 years now, that I don’t have to think about controlling my appetite. I use strategies that have become second nature to me such as make sure to put down my fork and talk to the company I am with.
  • I stop and monitor if I am hungry and decide if I will continue eating or not.
  • I box up any extra food left and take home for someone else to eat, or for my lunch the next day.
  • I am watchful of portion sizes. I don’t mind asking for a container to take the remainder home.
  • Serving size is my biggest challenge. I try to eat slowly and talk lots!
  • I try to take an extra walk during the day. I am to eat less and keep busy during the day , plus I drink lots of water.
  • I wear a fitted waistband!
  • I try to avoid being overly hungry for the meal. I’ll eat something before I leave home like a piece of fruit, or some yogurt, or even some bean salad so it will stay in your system for a while. So if I’m not that hungry I’ll eat less.

There are 3 other posts on this topic – March 29, April 22 and 25 to provide further strategies to get you equipped for managing your weight while dining out. For many TGIF is followed by TGIS then TGIS, then TGIM….. If you’re eating out way more than usual, paying attention to the finer details will surely help you manage your weight more effectively while getting maximal enjoyment from eating out.

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Miss Behavin', Successful Loser Logic | No Comments »

Tuning in On Tuning Out – Stimulus, No-Response

July 25th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

With all the talk about reaching a higher level of consciousness I wonder if we can ever achieve this when people tune out with the many electronic devices available now – music, phones…. Don’t get me wrong we all need a sweet escape from our daily grind to regroup, but does everyone on this planet put earplugs in with music 24/7? It’s getting a little nuts, don’t you think?

It’s cuckoo to the point where people’ll walk into traffic being so zoned out. I think Apple should create a safety app to put people using these devices in a different worldly dimension to go with their checked-out state. That’ll keep them out of harms way!  My biggest pet peeve with these is seeing someone pushing a baby carriage with earphones on – “Hello McFly”!! You don’t need to be Mother Hubbard to know the pusher of the carriage needs to be tuned in with the bundle of joy in the carriage. They might need to start putting warnings on the handle “Avoid pushing while listening to music. PAY ATTENTION for goodness sake!!”

Funny, when I reminisce back to the 70′s, my sister and I had the first prototype of these. (Ok, so I’m a bit of a hypocrite.) Her and I used to get up religiously at the crack of dawn and jog the same route in opposite directions and meet half way. Well, I was much slower so it wasn’t quite half way, so let’s not split hairs…. Anyways these big clunky headphones allowed you to listen to the radio. It was never quite on the station, so sounded very lispy and sometimes changed channels when you turned the corner. I think we still have calluses on our ears from these big honkin’ things.

They do; however, come in handy when flying. You know the drill, you’re travelling on business alone and get stuck beside Chatty-Cathy. You know this person??!! I have made the mistake for the last time to openly admit I’m a dietitian under these circumstances. I end up doing a long assessment for the duration of the flight. “….well, I have been experiencing diarrhea…..I ponder ” Hmmm my assessment on that is your verbal diarrhea has trickled down from your mouth to your colon…. ” Now when I travel my code occupation is “Funeral Director” (wink, wink) if I don’t have earplugs with me.

Like everything else we need to find a balance yet again on where to draw the line on this. On April 22 my post was on this theme. If you find a sacred release when playing Plants versus Zombies or Doodle Jump on your i-Phone that’s your business. If people in your household are now non-communicato with each other at the dinner table, in the car and too many places in between you might want to unplug to reconnect. I’m just sayin’……

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Francy Rants, Funnies By a Foodie | No Comments »

I Got a New Drug…..Burn-Off-Alot

July 22nd, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , ,

I heard that the FDA is considering approving a new anti-obesity drug. Perhaps it’ll be called Burn-Off-Alot! Because we live in a land where anything seems possible, we assume someday someone else will solve our dilemmas. The proverbial “they”….. Alas, “they” and we already know the solution to this Rubics Cube problem – burn more calories than you consume, repeat day after day, month after month until your weight is where it ought to be? It’s reality, albeit a harsh one for some.

Look, we can compare life to a game of Snakes and Ladders. Remember that one?? You roll the dice, hit a good tile with a ladder on the game board and move ahead a bunch of spaces…get a bad roll and you hit a snake and fall behind a bunch of spaces. Well a drug like this is like hitting the tile with the snake that really looks like a ladder, which eventually turns into a snake. Got it? Every miracle weight loss solution is the same. Not a ladder to success but a snake of a deal wrought with failure….eventually.

I find the most unfortunate part of this is that the user bares the brunt of the problems and feels something’s wrong with THEM when they yo-yo to lose then regain weight. The only thing wrong with this notion is the search for a miracle solution when there isn’t one.

The other thing we need to remember is we live in a land where ultra-slimness is idolized. I’m not sure if we even know what “normal weight” looks like if we bumped into it. I don’t know about your TV set or magazine advertisements, but mine are chocked full of images of skinny wenches. Aren’t yours? Anorexia nervosa is NOT in, nor has it ever been. If a Martian came down from outer space and took a look around, they might have a good argument on their hands on this topic. We’d all be better off finding a realistic comfortable weight to shoot for then stay there. Check out what the range of weight for your Body Mass Index is at the link in the right margin.

Now if this drug comes onto the market I can hear the laundry list of disclaimers already:

Burn-Off-Alot works best when you follow a 1,200 calorie/day diet and exercise 30-60 minutes/day. Avoid all fast food drive thrus while using Burn-Off-Alot. Avoid eating pillow sacks of junk food in front of the TV, especially after midnight or any serving the size of your head while taking Burn-Off-Alot. Drink enough fluids while taking Burn-Off-Alot. Jumbo Slushies do not qualify as one of these fluids. Burn-Off-Alot may cause sensations of satiety (i.e. feelings of fullness) so stop eating when you feel this sensation. Keep out of reach of children, especially the skinny ones….

The next thing we know the competition will launch False-Hope-to-Slim then Skinny-Genie-Tonic with the claim “magic in a bottle”. Whatever you do, don’t fall for it….

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Francy Rants, Funnies By a Foodie, Nutrition News, Successful Loser Logic | No Comments »

Food Revolution Easy-Peasy Pizza Pie

July 21st, 2010 1 Comment Tags: ,

I’ve got a super easy and fast pizza recipe I use from time to time. My good friend Joan loves it, while hubby boy (who’s a bit spoiled) loves my other pizza posted on May 14. I use a different combo of veggies every time I whip this up using what’s sitting idle in my refrigerator.


Whole grain pizza shell or flat bread (store bought)

3-4 crushed garlic cloves

1 peeled, sliced white onion

1 bunch of green onions with stems, cleaned and chopped

1-2 cleaned and sliced peppers (any combo of red, orange or yellow)

5-8 washed and sliced mushrooms

3-4 chopped sundried tomato pieces

4-5 cherry tomatoes washed and sliced in half

Top with shredded cheeses combination to your liking (asiago, mozzarella, goat’s, parmesan, romano)

Few slices of salami or prosciutto (optional)


Preheat the oven according to the package directions for the pizza shell – I’m guessing to 425F degrees. Now, in a sautéing pan add some olive oil at the bottom and heat to medium low. Add the garlic and prepared onions and cook to soften. Then add the peppers and mushrooms and allow them to cook through until soft then add the sundried and plum tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and allow to simmer a few more minutes.

Prepare the pizza pan with canola oil on the surface or pan spray to avoid sticking. Put the pizza shell on the pan then pile on the sautéed mixture you just prepared. Top with cheeses and pop in the oven for the time the instructions suggest (my guess is 10-20 minutes). Check on how it’s doing in 10 minutes though. Serve piping hot with a side salad (see post on June 23).


Last year when the concept of this blog was taking shape in my mind I was on a vacation in Vermont. We were at a place with a kitchenette where we’d alternate eating in and out from day to day. This is one recipe I choose to prepare while away. The funny thing was our pad wasn’t equipped with a pizza tin/cookie sheet. So, I asked the staff to please bring me one. This lovely student employee showed up with a frying pan!! Now I’ve read a lot about the lost art of cooking, but that was simply ridiculous. This is why I post recipes and simple cooking ideas, because if I can do it, anybody can.

On a different note some of these packaged pizza shells have a package of tomato sauce included. I think they’re made for mangé cakes and quite franky, I’m not one, so I don’t use it!! If you want some meat with your pizza add a few thin slices of salami or prosciutto on top before popping it in the oven. A glass of rich red cabernet goes swimmingly with this as well.

Cheers bella!!

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Food Revolution Recipes | 1 Comment »

Weighing In on Weighing In

July 20th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

Well today marks my 100th blog post. Ok I’m exaggerating…it runs in the family!! My friend Cara wrote 1 of the posts on April 22. Who knew I had so much to say! I will admit that family members have been much kinder after launching T & T. Actually I told them “everything you say and do CAN and WILL be used against you”….things have been looking up….truly :-)

I came up with this idea last summer before seeing Julie & Julia. As I mentioned in my post on Kirstie Alley July 5th, seeing her yo-yo weight situation got me all fired up to get this concept off the ground, for she is not alone. Also, the lost art of food preparation and cooking became obvious to me last summer (which I’ll explain in tomorrow’s post) so this is why I include information on the ease of making food. I’m clearly not a chef.

One thing that this new routine does for me is keeps me in the present moment. Music to Erchart Tolle’s ears!! I continually search for new topics to write about and I search my soul more now than ever and I feel more in touch. Some days though, my soul just needs a holiday from all of the searching…. I find I read and listen more intently. I even find myself giggling in the middle of the night when a funny idea comes to mind. Hubby boy understands me and just rolls over and grunts.

Hats off to you my loyal Thick and Thin Blog readers and trusty commenter’s who weigh in on topics you feel passionate about. If you’re too shy to comment give yourself alias and join in on the dialogue. I need more ammo to get me through the next 100 posts so please weigh in on topics you wish to read about, or anything really. Do pass this link on to your friends and colleagues who can relate because we’re all in this together, aren’t we? Through Thick and Thin.

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Edit-Storial By A Foodie | No Comments »

Follow the Loser – Tips & Tricks to Vacation By

July 19th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

It’s the height of summertime which often equates to vacation time or holiday mentality when it comes to eating, drinking, activity and well, being merry. Continuing on the “successful weight loser” theme written about July 6 and 12, I felt it timely to include this theme.

As I mentioned last week my good friend and colleague Cara Rosenbloom and I conducted a survey on successful weight losers a few years ago. These women spilled a lot of beans on this (and many other) topic(s) on how they approach vacationing. Here are some of their pearls of wisdom to vacation by.

On Eating, Moderation & Balancing:

  • Plan ahead and have some of the things you love but don’t overindulge.
  • I never go to an eating occasion hungry.
  • Lose the “all or nothing” mentality that comes with vacation eating/drinking “amnesia”.
  • I make sure I have healthy snacks on hand.
  • Balance what you eat. My tip… before you go to those meals…the edge is off your appetite so you have less tendency to overeat.
  • I eat what I want, but small portions and in moderation; if I overeat I exercise longer the next day.
  • Maintain food limits 80% of the time and enjoy drinks or desserts 20% of the time.

On Activity and Exercise:

  • Keep exercising, even on vacation. If you overindulge one day, eat better the next few days to compensate.
  • On holidays I’m usually more physically active because I’m out of the office.
  • Exercise first thing in the morning every day.
  • Exchange my regular routine with other things like walking on beach, stretching and spot exercises.
  • I actually like working out when I’m away. It’s a new gym or a new place to run. And I feel extra-proud of myself for having done it! Still, I’ll eat everything (in moderation), because… it’s a VACATION!

These women appear to have their routines down pat where balance and moderation are keys to success. They don’t “fall off the wagon” by any means but partake in the holiday eating while continuing activity to offset the intake. Very wise words to follow, don’t you think??

There are 3 other posts on this topic – May 17 & 18 and June 13 to help you with strategies to get equipped for managing your weight while away and returning home. Don’t let your diet dictate your vacation plans too any extreme. We live in a wonderful world so get out there experience it and enjoy it to the max!!

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Foodie Fundamentals, Successful Loser Logic | No Comments »

Stepping Up to the Plate….

July 18th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , ,

When it comes to family functions we all need to step up and take a turn once in a while. Or at least offer to bring something…and for sure lend a hand in the process. We finally got over the hurdle in my family having everybody bring 1 or 2 “dinner parts” to take the pressure off of the hostess. Proud Italians don’t give in without a bit of a fight, but now we have the routine down pat, mostly. I find the older I get the more tired these things make me. So my Mom who’s 77 and Mother Dearest who’s 80 might even feel it more than me. They never admit it, that’s for sure!! It’s so important to make the time to get together.

I offered to host last weekend’s Sunday dinner with 9 in attendance. I’m was finding the heat leaving me feeling whacked out with PMS’ing raising her ugly head, yet again. I decided to simplify even more than usual. Here’s what we had that made it so cinchy:

  • Butcher prepared shish kabobs
  • Pre-peeled corn on the cob
  • Roasted peppers
  • Roasted prepared parisienne potatoes
  • My one sis brought a big green salad
  • My other sis made a berry Humble Crumble (I think she’s been reading my blog!!)
  • I added a bowl of seasonal juicy cherries

My Mom brought eggplant parmesan and Mother Dearest  brought borscht. I say when you’re over 75 years old you can bring whatever you want even if it was feeling like it’s 95 degrees in the shade!! Everything was terrific.

Early afternoon I sat in my yard to relax and take a load off. My flowers looked lovely and the birds were singing and fluttering about. How nice it is to share this time of year with loved ones, because it really doesn’t get any better than this.

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Foodie Fundamentals | No Comments »