Thursday, August 26, 2010


Goal setting is very important when it comes to changing behavior.  There are good ways to set goals and there are not so good ways.  As a dietitian I often try to encourage patients/clients to set goals in order to help them lose weight, control their blood glucose, or just eat healthier.  Many books give the example of SMART goals as the best way for people to change their behavior.  SMART goals are:
Action based

Instead of setting the goal to "eat more fruits and vegetables" a SMART goal would state:
"I will eat at least 1 fruit or vegetable with each meal 4 days a week."
"I will ask for a side salad instead of french fries when I eat at restaurants."
"I will choose a fruit or vegetable for snacks instead of granola bars and crackers while at work."

Sometimes you might have to do a little research in order to create a SMART goal.  Maybe you want to loose 20 pounds before your class reunion, but it's only 10 days away.  This is not realistic or timely.  So  change your goal to Losing 2 pounds before your class reunion by getting 30 minutes of physical activity each day before the party.  Then, if losing the remaining 18 pounds is still important, learn about other healthy ways to lose the weight by talking with a dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or reading reliable books and articles.

Of course the next step is to keep yourself accountable in meeting your goals.  It's easy to cheat on goals when you do not track them.  One of the best ways to do this is by using a chart or log book.  I recently set the goal to meet more people at work and be more personable.  I tend to clam up a bit when first meeting people, and don't consider myself a great conversationalist.  So to break out of my shell I set several small goals that were all related to my big broad goal:
1. Smile at every person I see in the hallway at work.
2. Say 'Hello' to as many people as I can.
3. Have at least one non work related conversation with someone each day I'm at work.

Currently I only work part time, so I created a chart with slots for each day I work and lasting 6 weeks.  Each day that I met my goals I put a sticker in that slot. (Yes, those are fruit stickers)

It's also important to reward yourself for meeting your goals.  I've been wanting a Vera Bradley bag for about 2 years now and decided this would be my reward, especially when I found out that the bag I wanted was 1/2 price.  I bought it early, and Ryan hid it from me so I wouldn't be tempted to open the box.  I met my six week goal on Monday and found my new messenger bag hidden in a suitcase in our closet.
 This brings me to a second point about holding yourself accountable.  Many people find it helpful to have a "cheer leader."  Some one who can help encourage you if you are having difficulty staying motivated, or someone to report your successes to.  Many days after work during dinner, Ryan would ask me who I talked to and what we talked about.  It's also important to be honest with yourself.  If you do not meet your goal for a day, don't give yourself credit for it.  This happened to me one day, so I got an X in my box instead of a sticker and then added an extra day at the end.  However, don't give up!  Setbacks happen, but they do not mean failure.  If you do not meet your goal for a day or two; regroup and remind yourself of the why goal is important, talk to your support person, and get back on track.  This may happen several times, and that's ok as long as you learn from your mistakes and continue to make progress.  On days I was having difficulty thinking of good conversation starters I imagined my friend Lucy who is very friendly and never seems to have difficulty talking to new people.  Actually, during my internship we would joke about how she was always coming home from the grocery store or coffee house having made a new friend.

The best part about setting goals, is that they will slowly become habit.  I found myself wanting to talk to more people even on my days off.  While running errands around town I tried chatting up the grocery store cashier, meeting new people at the gym, and even conversing with our waiter whenever Ryan and I went out to dinner.

So the next time you want to change your life, or just a small area of it; try setting a SMART goal and reach for the stars!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I ate my very first sardine (or should I say tin of sardines) on Tuesday.  As an RD I know that they are a good source of omega 3s, protein, and calcium but I'd never been overly interested in trying them. My grandma used to feed them to my cousin, but never offered them to me....I'll have to ask her about this. Earlier this summer I came across several recipes using sardines, and even heard an episode of Splendid Table where they were discussed.  So naturally I figured it was time to get over my fear of tiny fish and try them.  I did a little research and figured that the oil packed ones were the best way to go for the first time.  I also read several recommendations to stay away from the "cheap" brands and be willing to spend a couple $ on a tin. (King Oscar cost about $3.50 per tin)

While Ryan was away this week I mustered up the courage to make something with my sardines.  For some reason I thought they still had heads and couldn't quite picture myself eating them on crackers while they were staring up at me; which is apparently the most popular way to eat them.  Surprise! they don't have heads.  But below is the basic recipe I followed in order to create a sauce to cover up my now headless fishies.

1 tin sardines packed in olive oil
1 small onion diced
1 clove of garlic minced or pressed
1 tbs flour
Salt, Pepper, Chili flakes, Fresh parsley or dill, oregano, thyme
1/2 cup milk
1 tbs panko bread crumbs
1 tbs grated parmesan cheese
Favorite crackers or toast triangles

Heat a small skillet over medium heat, when hot add the oil from the sardines.  SautĂ© the onion until translucent.  Approximately 8 minutes, add the garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Add the flour and cook till lightly brown.  Stir in the milk and bring to a simmer until the sauce thickens.  During this time add any other seasonings you like.  Place sardines in an oven safe dish and pour prepared sauce over them.  Top with the bread crumbs and cheese.  Broil in an oven until the top is browned.  Serve with crackers or toast triangles.

This recipe can easily be doubled and serve approximately 6 people.  This would actually be a very good appetizer if you were hosting a dinner party.  I didn't use all of the sauce, and since it was my dinner I ate the whole tin of sardines along with some leftover potatoes.  I used my leftover sauce to make some salmon salad today and served it over a bed of romaine lettuce and leftover onions and peppers from Thursday night's dinner.  Sometimes the best way to save a dollar is to combine several leftovers into one meal.

 Nutritionally speaking the whole dish (minus crackers or toast) contains 360 kcals, 12g fat (9 of which is unsaturated), 30g carbohydrate, 32g protein, 2g fiber, and 660 mg sodium.  Amazingly it also provides more than 100% of your daily value for vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and selenium.  This is great since for the most part, almost every American is vitamin D deficient.   Vitamin D deficiency is now being linked not only to osteoporosis and other bone diseases, but also to diabetes, heart disease, and several types of cancer.  This dish is also a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, manganese, niacin, phosphorous, riboflavin, thiamin, and zinc.  These little fishies pack quite the nutritional punch.  If you like tuna and/or canned salmon, you will more than likely enjoy sardines.  So eat up!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Networks and knives

I am now the proud new member of the Nutrition Blog Network created by Janet Helm who blogs on Nutrition Unplugged.  NBN is a network of blogging RDs, so you know the information, topics, and advice posted is most likely good and accurate.  When reading anything, even if posted by a fellow RD, I still take my one of my college professors favorite sayings and put my 'critical thinking cap' on and delve a little deeper into what is being said (or typed).  I've only looked at a few different blogs so far, but it's funny how similar many of our views are on food and nutrition...and yet so different at the same time.  Much of it depends upon where we live and what stage of life we are in.  I encourage anyone who is interested in nutrition, health, or well-being to check out some of these blogs.

In other news I received my very first Wustof knife last week.  It's a 7" Classic Santoku and is the first really nice knife I have ever owned.  For those who do not know, Wustof is a German made brand of knives that even great chefs get giddy about.  Santokus are Japanese style knifes:

one to five inches shorter than the traditional chef’s knife, which typically measures between 8 -10” in length while the santoku is traditionally 5-7”.  Its shorter length equates to a lighter knife and a reputation for nimble movements and swift chopping on the cutting board. The santoku’s blade is also straight and is level with the handle instead of dropping down as is so commonly found in traditional chef’s knives, which also happen have curved blades. Finally, santoku knives made of harder steel than their Western counterparts.

click here to read more and learn what kind of knife is right for you.

 I cut up a watermelon last Thursday and thought it was going to take forever like it does with our other knives.  Boy was I wrong.   I had that mellon sliced, diced, and put away in about 15 minutes.  My point here is that sometimes it's worth it to spend a little extra on kitchen gadgets if they are going to make your life easier and make cooking more enjoyable.  You do not have to spend a fortune, somewhere between $70-150 will buy you a fabulous knife.  Just remember to take good care of it, store it properly and have a professional sharpen it for you every once in a while.  Otherwise, even a $300 knife won't last too long.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ginger Cookies

Normally we do not keep sugary treats around the house; except for the occasional pint of ice cream.  But those can take more than a month to finish off some times.  However... about a month ago I was at the gym and had the TV turned to Food Network(what an oxymoron, gym time and food tv).  Of the three shows that aired while I was there, every one of them made cookies.  This of course gave me a massive craving for COOKIES!  But not just any cookie, Ina Garten's ultimate ginger cookie.  I printed off the recipe and planned to make it that weekend, but no local store carried the 'crystalized ginger' that the recipe calls for.  So I waited till my trip to Jacksonville where I picked some up at Whole Foods Market.  Of course it was just my luck that the day I planned on making them we went to Publix and wouldn't you know it, they reorganized the store and put in a bulk foods bin where they now carry candied ginger.  Candied/Crystalized ginger are the same thing, it's raw ginger that is sliced thinly or into chunks and boiled till soft in simple syrup.  It is then rolled in granulated sugar to keep it from sticking to itself.

The batter gets quite stiff.  I was glad to have my trusty kitchen aid mixer around.

The recipe is very easy, and surprisingly there is no butter involved.  Ina apparently makes very large cookies, because her yield is only 12, where as I made smaller ones and ended up with 24.  
These are some of the best cookies I've ever had.  My other top favorites are my mom's snow ball cookies that we only make at christmas time, and Ryan's mom's white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.  The double chocolate chip cookie from Panera is right up there too.  But these truly are the ultimate ginger cookie.  Crunchy around the outer perimeter, and still soft in the middle.  The bits of candied ginger are not over powering, but keep the cookie moist.  They also work well as a palate cleanser after a very garlicky meal.  I made these in the afternoon, and that night I couldn't help but walk to the gas station and pick up some vanilla ice cream.  It was heaven!  The crunchy cookies and creamy vanilla goodness were just perfect.

This past week Ryan told his coworkers about these amazing cookies and I have now been entrusted to bake up a double batch for their summer BBQ.  So here I am baking away, and just happy that as the cook I'm always allowed a little nibble.  It's a good thing we canceled cable at the apartment and that I can no longer watch food network on my days off, otherwise we might be run over with cookies, pies, and egg soufflĂ©s.  I might be an RD first, but my inherited sweet tooth and inner foodie are not far behind.

So here is the nutrition information whether you wanted to know or not.  If not, stop reading now.
1 cookie (Batch of 24)
120 Kcals, 2.7g Fat, 1.5g Protein, 23g Carbs, 0.4g Fiber,  250mg Sodium

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Purple Cabbage

Ryan and I are having dinner with friends tomorrow night and volunteered to bring a side dish.  So after much deliberation we decided to bring cole slaw.  Unlike the southern slaw that many of the locals make (finely shredded white cabbage with mounds of mayo dressing) I whipped up what I'm hoping to be something fabulous.

1 head purple cabbage shredded
1/2 cup raisins (dark or golden)
1/2 cup diced dried papaya, about 3 strips
1/4 cup store bought poppyseed dressing (trying to keep it extra simple)
*Mix all ingredients together and let sit 30+ minutes, may be made a day ahead.  It will serve between 6-8 people depending upon the size of your cabbage.

After fighting with our new food processor for about 15 minutes I finally figured out how to shred the cabbage.  I think a group of engineers had a hay-day figuring out how to put all the pieces together.
Not only is this recipe healthy, but it's also very affordable.  I'd say the whole recipe cost less than $3 or 0.375 cents a serving  It's hard to figure since I did not buy the raisins or papaya today.  Nutritionally, a serving(1/8) of a batch contains about: 130 kcal, 3.7g fat, 24g carb, 4g fiber, 2.5g protein, 95 mg sodium
Compared to the average cole slaw which contains on average 200 calories, 15g fat, and 356 mg sodium, I'd say my recipe is quite the improvement.  

Why use purple cabbage instead of green/white?  Antioxidants of course!  Anthocyanin to be precise, is what gives the cabbage its distinctive color and is believed to help prevent/fight cancer.  As well as the fact that it's low in carbohydrates and high in fiber; making it a perfect food for people with diabetes or those who are watching their weight.  This is as long as the cabbage is not covered in butter or salad dressing.
1 cup of raw red cabbage:
5g carb, 7g fiber, 3g protein, 68% RDA for Vitamin C.

The next time you head out to a BBQ or potluck, think about adding red cabbage to the menu.  For more reasons to eat cabbage, check out the links below.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rice Cooker

Rice cooker given to us as a wedding present.

This has to be one of my new favorite kitchen gadgets.  For the past year we could never get our rice to cook properly.  Yes, I was following the directions on the bag, but no matter what I did it always ended up over cooked and mushy.  But thanks to our new rice cooker, we may never have to endure another bowl of mushy rice again.  However, it has burnt our quinoa twice.  I think we just need to turn it off a little sooner than the directions say.  Other than that, it's been nice being able to focus on cooking the rest of our dinner instead of worrying about the rice on the stove.

To add a little pizzaz to your whole grains, try substituting up to 1/2 of the liquid with salsa, diced tomatoes, or pizza/pasta sauce.  Other nice additions after cooking include, lemon juice, minced garlic, and any freshly chopped herbs.