Handling the Holiday Stress

It is amazing how the holidays kind of sneak up on us every year. It is that time again, the calendar is starting to fill up with holiday activities and family gatherings. This is a beautiful and exciting time of year, but it can also be stressful. There is so much pressure that we put on ourselves to bake ALL the Christmas cookies, send out Christmas cards, purchase gifts for ALL the people in our lives, participate in ALL the festive happenings around the city and of course see every family member that you don’t see the rest of the year.

All of this stress that we put on ourselves can leave this joyful time of year, feeling somewhat depressing and just plain overwhelming. That is why I think there are some easy tips for you to remember through the next month to help you feel less stressed and consumed in all of the hustle/bustle of the holidays.

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De-Stressing Your Holiday Season

  • Prioritize your time. This is huge. All of us want to be able to do ALL this things this time of year, but that isn’t always realistic. Make a list of things that you want to do and then go through that list again and prioritize what the most important things are to do for this year. Maybe going to see Santa, doesn’t make the cut this year or maybe it is focusing on doing an activity with a close family member who will actually be in town on a specific day. If you aren’t able to do all the things that you would love to do this holiday, that is ok. Make sure you prioritize and make time for the really important things/memories.

  • You can say “No.” Sometimes family obligations are intense this time of year. Lots of families want to get together and spend time together, but some times that isn’t feasible. Especially if you have work obligations or small children, it is hard to get time to spend with all those family members. You don’t have to feel like a terrible person, if you have to say “no.” That is alright and your family will understand. That is the beauty of family, is that they might be temporarily frustrated or disappointed, but they will always love you and there will be opportunities to see them and get to spend time with them in the future. Don’t put additional stress on yourself if you can’t make a family obligation fit into your schedule. Go easy on yourself and give yourself some grace and the power to say “no.”

  • Make activities family affairs. If you do have a list of things you want to do this holiday season (decorate the house, make cookies, wrap gifts, volunteer somewhere, etc) make those activities family affairs. Include your children, your spouse, your extended family and do those activities together. I know sometimes cooking with children takes more time and is messier, but that way you are getting some quality time together while doing things that you would be trying to do on your own. So much of what we like to do over the holidays is centered around others, why not spend some of that time actually doing those activities with those people we care about.

  • Make time for you. I know this is a crazy concept, but take some time each day for you. It can be something simple, like sitting in peace and quiet for 15-20 minutes on the sofa with no expectations for yourself. Give yourself some grace and love. It can be take an extra warm shower or getting a new mask to use and try it out afterwards. This time is important to help handle stress and give you a chance to reset.

Enjoy the holiday season and find ways to help you feel less stressed. It is a wonderful time of year, but stress can often make seen overwhelming and less fun. Hopefully some of these tips and tricks will help you enjoy the holiday festivities more!

Thanksgiving and the Kick Off to the Holiday Season

This week is Thanksgiving and you know what that means … lots of delicious food and time with family and friends. I love the holidays and the next month is filled with fun activities, birthdays and celebrations. Thanksgiving is a great time to kick off this festive time of year and enjoy some amazing food along the way.

I have posted in previous years about tips and tricks to help make healthier choices this holiday season. Last year’s post was focused around an article that I read in the New York Post about Thanksgiving favorites. The year before that I read a handout from MyPlate and put together some Healthier Holiday Options blog post. It did a similar topic in 2015 as well and enjoyed providing some recommendations on how to stay on track on Thanksgiving. So if any of those topics sound interesting check out those previous posts!

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Lots of years I feel like the mantra around the holidays and trying to be healthy is negative. Lots of time I feel like we hear what to avoid and what not to do. I don’t love that message. I think that we should focus on what Thanksgiving is about - being grateful for what we have and getting to celebrate those blessings with our loved ones.

A Grateful Look at Eating Healthy this Thanksgiving

  • So much food! This is often what people find the most overwhelming and as the main stumbling block starting here in November with Thanksgiving …. there is so much food that we love to eat. I say we celebrate that fact. We have lots of food. That is such a blessing. Lots of people all over the world and even in our country struggle with food insecurity. They don’t know where their next meal will come from. On this day, we sit down to a huge table, filled with food and we celebrate having plenty. This tradition has been passed down from the pilgrims. This one day we take what we have and we share it and we enjoy it. I think we focus on the fact that we enjoy this day and all that comes with it. This isn’t to say that you stuck yourself to bursting, but enjoy your holiday favorites. If you really enjoy pumpkin pie or homemade mash potatoes, then get a serving of those favorite foods and savor every, single bite. The other amazing part to Thanksgiving is the left overs. This is another opportunity to share the bounty that we all have with others. If you know of a family or individual who would benefit from a home cooked meal, take some of those left overs to them. That is a great way to get to show others some love and demonstrate the mantra of the holiday.

  • Mandatory family time. Some times the pressure to see family and friends or the disappointment of missing that opportunity is stressful for people. Instead of focusing on how much of an inconvenience it is to see family or travel to a different city, take this chance to appreciate the fact that you have loved ones who want to see you and spend time with you. There are lots of people who don’t have those special people in their lives and having this expectation to see family and friends should be celebrated and looked at as a positive thing. Yes, it means giving up something, traveling and taking time away from what you might want to do, but it is means so much to see those people who you love and care for.

  • Chance to give back. I love working to give back during the holidays and it all starts with Thanksgiving. There are so many different ways to volunteer at a food pantry, serve a Thanksgiving meal, participate in a run/walk event where the proceeds goes to a food pantry or homeless shelter. There are countless ways to share some of the blessings you have with others. I think we sometimes question if there is still good people wanting to help one another in the world and I think the answer if yes. Take this Thanksgiving as an opportunity to show others how you care and want to help and support your community. We have so much and being able to share a small piece or part of that with others is a great experience. One of the traditions that my family has done for the last 5 years is participating in the Broad Ripple Drumstick Dash. My parents and I have been going and we love being able to exercise in the morning and then encourage our feast later in the day. We have enjoyed being able to involve our other family members (my husband, our son, my cousin and other friends). This is a great way to exercise, be active and then support a local food pantry.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and the start to the holiday season. Try not to stress about all the food, but embrace the day and enjoy, in moderation these amazing foods. Find some ways to give back to your community and show love to your neighbor. Being thankful for all the the blessings of the season.

Halloween Tricks and Treats

Something about fall and the cool crisp air makes me love Halloween. It is kind of the start to the holiday season and of course you doesn’t love a cute kid wearing an adorable costume. Halloween means delicious candy will find its way into your house, if it hasn’t already. Lots of times we think that those “fun sized” candy bars are perfectly size … and they are if you only eat 2 not 15. Every year I feel like the fun-sucker when it comes to Halloween candy. I love a small amount of candy, but it is definitely a treat that can be over done. There are lots of neat food items that you can pass out that aren’t candy - pretzels, popcorn, crackers, fruit cups, etc.

I enjoy reminding people of ways to provide trick-or-treaters with goodies that aren’t always food related. There are amazing little goodies that you can find at your local dollar store that are inexpensive and the kids will love them!

Non-Food Related Goodies

  • Whistles, kazoos, or noisemakers

  • Bouncy balls

  • Finger puppets or novelty toys

  • Bubbles

  • Spider rings or mini slinkies

  • Vampire fangs or other Halloween themed goodies

  • Mini notepads or coloring books

  • Playing cards

  • Bookmarks, stickers and stencils

  • Crayons, markers or other writing utensils

  • Glow sticks (bracelets, necklaces or rings)

Why would you want to go through the trouble to pass out non-food related goodies? Well lots of kiddos will end up with tons of candy by the end of Halloween. Most of those goodies will get eaten by themselves or their families. Some candy is fine, but most of us don’t need ALL that candy. Some children have food allergies or intolerances and that means that they can’t eat a lot of that candy that they get. That is definitely less exciting for a child who can’t eat what you give them and makes their parent’s worry that they might accidentally eat something they are allergic to. Offering non-food treats is helpful because ALL of the kids that you pass those items out to will be able to enjoy them.

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The Teal Pumpkin Project - I have talked about this initiative over the years, but I wanted to bring it up again. This is a movement to provide safe, non-food related treats for children. Putting a teal pumpkin on your doorstep means you have non-food treats available, such as glow sticks or small toys. This simple act promotes inclusion for trick-or-treaters with food allergies or other conditions.

  1. Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.

  2. Place a teal pumpkin in front of your home to indicate to passersby that you have non-food treats available.

  3. Add your home to the Teal Pumpkin Project map.

  4. Spread the word! Share the Teal Pumpkin Project with your friends and family.

I encourage you all to become a supporter of the Teal Pumpkin Project and work to help provide healthy and safe treats for children this Halloween!

Healthy Benefits of Fall Themed Foods

Well fall has officially arrived in Indiana this week. Monday the weather was mid-80 degrees outside and then by Wednesday the weather shifted and by Thursday the high was mid-50 degrees. It was a big shift and needless to say it finally feels like a cool, crisp autumn day outside.

With this shift to cooler temperatures there are variety of fall-themed food items that start making their appearance in grocery stores this time of year. I love the pumpkin flavoring and of course baked apples. I wanted to talk about some of these fall flavors and tease out what some potential health benefits would be for these food items.

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Fall Flavors

  • Pumpkin - You can find so many different types of pumpkin flavored food items, from bagels, to cream cheese and even your coffee can have pumpkin flavoring. Most of these pumpkin flavored food items are not any healthier than their regular food alternative. The health benefit that is gained from pumpkin is from eating fresh pumpkin puree and putting that in food items. The deep orange color that you commonly see in pumpkins signifies a large amount of carotenoids. Caroteniods act as antioxidants and can be converted to Vitamin A. The Vitamin A is helpful for eye sight and prevent the growth of cancerous cells. Antioxidants are helpful in decreasing inflammation in the body and protect from free radicals throughout the body as well.

  • Cinnamon - This spice comes from tree bark and is very fragrant and this smell is due to the oily part of the bark that releases that smell. This spice is loaded with antioxidants to help protect from free radical damage in the body and can act as a natural preservative. There have also been some studies showing that cinnamon could help with cholesterol levels and reducing high blood pressure or helping with blood glucose control (need to consume 2 teaspoons/day). From the initial research, you have to consume a large amount of cinnamon (120mg/day) and I am not sure that is realistic for the average person. Some cinnamon can definitely make whatever you are making taste good, but I am not sure I would bank on a large antioxidant intake from what you sprinkle on your coffee.

  • Cranberry - These deep red colored berries are commonly seen around the grocery store this time of year. This little berries are packed full of Vitamins C, A and K and are low in calories. They are also rich in proanthocyanidins, which are an antioxidant that help to fight off diseases. Cranberries can help with treatment of kidney/urinary tract infections or other issues. When it comes to dental wellness, the proanthocyanidins help prevent bacteria from attaching to your teeth. These berries are not super sweet so often people add lots of sugar. This is often where the additional calories come from. So try to enjoy your cranberries with limited added sugar.

  • Squash - This is food is technically a fruit and not officially a vegetable. Squash contains high amounts of Vitamin C, Magnesium and antioxidants. This is such a versatile food that can be used as a side dish or a main entree. You can serve certain types of squash cold or warm. This can be a diabetic friendly food, because it has a low glycemic index and isn’t as starching as a potato or pasta. The antioxidants help to boost the body’s immune system and helps with glucose regulation and insulin release. Folate is found in high levels in squash and this nutrient is important for pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects. The potassium amounts in squash are high enough to help with vasodilation and help with blood flow throughout the body and overall blood pressure.

  • Ginger - This spice is popular to add flavor to various dishes and recipes. This spice can be helpful for nausea and helping with morning sickness for pregnant women. Daily consumption of ginger (2g/day) can help with muscle soreness. This isn’t an immediate affect, but can help with soreness over time.It is hypothesized that ginger, like cinnamon, would help with blood sugar control (2g/day) and could be a helpful supplement for diabetics. If you experience indigestion often, ginger could help with this problem. Some further research is needed, but these are interesting findings and might be helpful for some people.

These are just a few of the common fall flavors that you might see at restaurants or at the grocery store. Hopefully this information is helpful as you consider any of these food items and their health benefits.



Mother's Day

First of all I want to wish a very Happy Mother's Day to ALL the moms out there. Even if you aren't a Mom, you deserve some love as well, because I am sure you are also a daughter, maybe a sister or an aunt. I am thankful for all the amazing women in my life from my mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and friends. There are so many amazing women I have gotten to meet and learn from. Thank you for being amazing mentors and a support system to one another. 

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I have had to opportunity to celebrate Mother's Day three times now in my life. The very first time was when I was in my first trimester of being pregnant. Needless to say, I was not feeling up for celebrating Mother's Day. I was also struggling with the idea of being pregnant. It was still so over-whelming with accepting that we were all of sudden pregnant. That was my first Mother's Day. The next year, William was 4 months old. He of course was adorable and I was so happy to get to be his Mom. This year is fun as well, because now William is 16 months old. It is so neat to get to be a Mom and have such a wonderful son.  

I just wanted to share this little bonus, Mother's Day post and just get to say that I am thankful for all of you and hope that you enjoy your day and time with all the women in your life that mean so much to you! 

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Finding Balance with Easter Goodies

Easter came early this year! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter yesterday. Often this holiday is filled with candy and sweet treats, just like Valentine's Day. It is so easy to pick up a bag of candy for those Easter eggs and find yourself eating all of those bite size goodies. Two weeks before Easter, I picked up a bag of bite size candies and totally found myself snacking on them at night. Terrible, I know! It was just so easy to pop one in my mouth. Honestly, I didn't need to buy a bag of candy 2 weeks before Easter, because really, did it make it to Easter? Nope! Sure didn't! 

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I am sure that you all had some delicious goodies leading up to Easter and now that the day has come and gone, you probably have some of those candies sitting on your counter or in your cabinet. How do you find balance with those goodies and making healthy choices? 

I am a dietitian who does believe that all foods can fit in a healthy diet. Now I don't recommend you purchase candy, when you don't need it, like I did two weeks ago. I would tell you to enjoy a piece or two of candy for the holiday, but don't bring it into your house if it is going to be a stumbling block for you. If you have little ones in your house, then you might think you have to purchase candy to fill up those Easter eggs with, but I am here to tell you that you don't have to put candy in those eggs. We  put Goldfish crackers, grapes and some other little food items in our eggs for William. Instead of having him find candy (which he doesn't need) we decided to try some healthier alternatives. You might think goldfish aren't exciting or fruit is lame, but this kid loves both so I think he will be excited. 

The two take aways from this post are 1) Those extra treats from Easter, come up with a game plan. Definitely enjoy them, in moderation and then if you have to, throw the rest away. Don't feel guilty about that. If it is going to be a stumbling block for you. Get get of rid it and get rid of that temptation.  2) Your kids goodies don't have to be candy. There are lots of things that you can give your child for Easter that isn't just candy. Don't feel like you are depriving your child anything. I think teaching kids to celebrate with items that aren't food is an important lesson as they grow up. 

Hopefully you all had a wonderful Easter and enjoyed the day! I have included some pictures below from our time with family over the weekend! 

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New Year, New You!

Setting goals for the New Year is always a tradition. You look at your life, decide what you want to work on in the new year and then come February you are find yourself back in your old habits. Nothing ends up changing and maybe you are wondering if you should even make resolutions this year. 

Well I have some tips for you as you plan for setting goals for 2018. I think you should set goals for yourself. What do you want to accomplish this year? Where do you want to be at the end of 2018? Hopefully this suggestions will set you up for success and help you reach those personal goals! 

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Writing Goals for 2018

  1. Write down your goals.
    • May sound so simple, but posting your goals and looking at them frequently will help keep you focused on what you want to accomplish.
    •  Some people make “vision boards” and what I love about these is that it shows pictures of your goals. Either write down your goals or create a vision board with what you want to accomplish and post this in a post where you will see it on a routine basis.
  2. Set SMART goals. 
    • Specific - Avoid anything too broad. Write your goal to clearly state your goal. “I want to increase the number of days a week that I exercise.”
    •  Measurable - After you decide on your specific goal, you need a time frame associated with that goal. “I want to go to the gym 3 days during the work week.”
    •  Attainable – Whatever goal you set for yourself, make it something realistic. If exercising 3 days during the week isn’t possible, adjust that goal and set it at 2 days a week. Start with something realistic that you know you can accomplish.
    •  Relevant – Make this goal for yourself that is something you really want to accomplish. If a goal about fitness isn’t really important for you, then set your New Year’s Resolutions around things that you feel passionate about.
    •  Time-based – Give yourself time limits for your goals. “I want to go to the gym 3 days during the week for the next month.” That way at the end of the month you can evaluate if you met your goal or not. If not, then change around your goal and try again.
  3. Hold yourself accountable.
    • In this say of social media, it is totally possible to post about your goals and that can serve as a way to help hold you accountable.
    • Have a support group that can follow up with you and help keep you on track. Going to the gym with a friend or planning on running a race with a friend can help keep you focused on your goals.
  4. List out your obstacles/challenges. 
    • Just like you write out your goals with what you want to accomplish, write out what challenges you might face.
    •  If you know what might keep you from accomplishing your goals that will help you in successfully meeting your goals.
  5. Plan a time to re-evaluate.
    • Lots of times people make goals in January and totally forget about them in February. Put a reminder in your phone/calendar to look back through your goals and see if you accomplished.
    • Take this time in February to revamp your goals to help set yourself up to be successful going into the rest of the year.
    •  Plan to check back in each month to see how you are doing and if you are meeting those goals you set for yourself.

2017 Year In Review

It has been a wonderful 2017. It has been a BIG year for RDAnna. Got use to life as a parent, came back to my full time job after maternity leave, my husband graduated with his Master's, he landed his first job out of graduate school, we moved and you all have gotten to be apart of it. I have been able to share lots of posts with you over the year and here are some of the fun 2017 recaps and highlights. 

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Blog Statistics 

  • Published 48 blog posts in the last year. 
  • The most people on the website were in February of 2017 when 238 people were checking out my website. 
  • 51% of people viewing RD Anna are doing so on their phones. 
  • 55% of people are getting RD Anna from social media links. 
  • There were more people (2000 page visits) in the last year visiting RD Anna compared to the previous year. 

Favorite Blog Posts

Media Segments 

  • Had to chance to work with FOX59 throughout the year last year to do several nutrition -related segments. 
  • Also got to do a New Year's story with RTV6 which was a great way to end 2017 and looking forward to 2018! 

Goals for 2018 

  • I am excited to be able to continue to bring you guys a weekly blog post each week. I love blogging about nutrition topics that I run into in my personal life. If there are topics that you want me to address or look up, let me know. 
  • I am hoping to continue to work with local news outlets to serve as that nutrition resource for St Vincent in mass media. 
  • I am excited to be working on writing a chapter in a Nutrition Communication book that will be published in 2019 with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Hopefully I can share about that experience here on the blog as well. 
  • I will be to writing test questions for a national board exam (CSPCC - Certified Specialist in Pediatrics in Critical Care) and I will definitely share that experience with you as well. 

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to share our Christmas card with you for 2017. I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and thank you for taking time over the last year to read my blog. I have really enjoyed having a place to share nutrition advice and wellness information with you all. It is so great to have a platform to share from and I am glad that you all take the time to read what I write. It is amazing to see how this blog has changed over the years and I am eager to see what the future holds.

Hope you have had a wonderful holiday season and a very blessed New Year! Looking forward to a great 2018! 

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Healthier Holiday Baking

I am a sucker for a good Christmas cookie. I love baking around the Holiday Season and having an excuse to eat a delicious little Christmas cookie is just what I want to do while sipping hot tea on the sofa. Have you thought about what you are putting in those yummy little treats that you make each year. There is normally quite a bit of sugar and fat that is goes into making a yummy, Christmas cookie. There are some ways that you could make some healthy substitutes and work on making your holiday treats a little bit healthier. I found some of these recommendations from Eating Well Magazine.

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  1. Add Some Fiber
    • Lots of times people don't think about adding a little bit of additional fiber to increase the "bulk" of the cookie. This an easy way to work up on your fiber intake and this can benefit your heart health. You can replace some or all of your flour with whole wheat flour. This is a simple substitute that would make your breads or cookies even healthier. If you make that switch you add get 4 times the amount of fiber compared with the all-purpose flour.
    • If you don't like whole-wheat flour or are gluten free, you could try rolled oat flour as well. This would increase your fiber intake and also could be gluten free.
    • They other thing you could add could be flaxseed or chia seeds. Obviously, both of these options could change the texture of the cookies or bread, but if you add a little you could give a little boost to your fiber intake per cookie. 
  2. Cut Down on Added Sugar
    • Any type cookie or quick breast, typically calls for lots of added sugar. Cut down on the total amount of sugar you add into the recipe and try to replace with some extra flavor enhancers (almond, vanilla, orange or lemon extract).
    • Play with the recipe to try cut down the sugar a little bit at a time. You could also use "natural" sweeteners like agave, honey or molasses. That is still treated as sugar, but is a natural source that you could use. 
  3. Add a Vitamin Boost
    • Flaxseeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. This is a great additional to a cookie that has texture, like oatmeal or a highly flavored cookies (gingersnaps or something with molasses). That will help to hide the texture and the flavor from the flaxseeds. You could also use flaxmeal for a smoother texture. These omega-3 fatty acids are great for heart health and can help with cholesterol levels. 
    • You could also work to decrease your use of processed trans fats by using canola or olive oil. These also have more heart healthy fats.

There are lots of way to tweak and change your favorite holiday recipes around to make them a little healthier. Obviously, if you want to keep your recipe the same and enjoy it this one time a year, that is fine too. I don't want to be a Scrooge about it, but I also want you to know that there are ways to make small changes that can have big impacts on your overall health. 

Managing The Holiday Stress

This was a very timely topic for me this week. I wasn't able to sleep the other night, because I was thinking through everything that I needed to do. Working full time outside the home and then coming home, there is SO much to do. Having the time to get things done is tough. With limited time that means that often stress levels can go up and even more so around the holiday season, because we like to try to "special" things like bake cookies, put up special decorations or spend more time with family. All of these "special" things are great, but can increase your stress level. 

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So what can you do to help manage your stress around the holiday season? Here are some helpful tips and tricks that you will hopefully find helpful. 

  • Make a "To Do" List
    • This is such an important and simple things to help clear your mind and decrease worrying about all that you have to do. Simply taking the time to put your thoughts onto a piece of paper helps you take those concerns and set them aside. You don't have to worry about forget anything, because you wrote that "To Do" List down and you can come back to it when you have time. When you are able to come back to that list and start accomplishing things, check off what you have gotten done so you can experience that sense of accomplishment. 
  • Prioritize Your Activities
    • This is easiest to do, after you put together your "To Do" List, take a look at what you need to accomplish and then rank them in order of what NEEDS to happen first. There are always something on that list that takes priority compared to other items. For example, I had to get leaves raked in my yard and the lawn mowed one last night by the weekend. That was a task I wasn't wanting to do, but NEEDED to do before the weekend. So I needed to take time and do that activity before I go out Christmas decorations. I would have much preferred decorating for Christmas, but in terms of priority levels, decorating fell below the leaf raking. 
  • Embrace the Mess
    • In the craziness of life, things gets messy. Sometimes your house is a disaster and some times that needs to be ok. If you have made out your "To Do" List and you have other things that NEED to happen first, then do those things and bump cleaning down on the list. Or if you have the ability to get help with cleaning through someone coming into your house or even have your spouse help you. Sometimes delegating this task is helpful. For example, I have embraced the fact that when William is up and wake the house will have toys everywhere. Then at the end of night, we walk around pick up toys and that is when things get cleaned up. So embrace the craziness and then try not to stress too much about it. 
  • People First
    • This is a life motto that will always make you happy. Put people in your life first. Relationships with people you work with, people in your family, and your friends are important and that will bring you more happiness then anything else. When you make time for people, that is always the right choice. Taking the time to go out of your way to see that friend (you only see a hand full of times a year), that friend who lost their mother, your aging grandparent or a friend who might be lonely .... that always is the most important thing. 

With the craziness of the holidays, remember that you are not perfect and things won't go perfectly and that is OK! The main things are taking time for those people you love and everything else will get done and it will be a fantastic end to the year! Now excuse me while I go tackle my "To Do" List - first up, Christmas decorations.

Healthy Thanksgiving Favorites

It is the time of year ... Thanksgiving is THIS week. Can you believe it?! I know I kept having to look at the calendar twice because I couldn't believe that we are already starting the holiday season. 

I came across the article and I thought it was hilarious in the New York Post. I felt like I could relate to this, because I always feel like people think I am just slap their favorite foods out of their hand. That is not the case. I love delicious food and I don't want to be known as a "health freak who is ruining Thanksgiving."  I totally agree with having tempeh instead of turkey if you are doing it because of dietary restrictions (vegetarian or vegan), but if you are doing it because you think there is something magical about tempeh compared with turkey then unfortunately that is not quite true. I love tempeh, but I also enjoy turkey and on this Thanksgiving I am planning on cooking a turkey and serving that at our luncheon. 

Image used from the New York Post Living Article.

Image used from the New York Post Living Article.

Lean protein source - Turkey is a healthy, lean meat. The white, breast meat is particularly lean and has less fat compared with the darker, more fatty meat. But overall turkey is a lean bird and is a healthy protein source. The turkey itself is a great protein item, where the additional calories come from is often what we put on top of the slice of meat. The additional gravy or cranberry sauce is where the additional calories are hiding. Now that doesn't mean you need to eat your turkey without a tasty topping, but work to make sure that you topping it with a moderate serving of gravy. 

Colorful veggies - Thanksgiving just like any other meal where you should be aiming to fill 1/2 your plate with lots of colorful vegetables. There are lots of traditional Thanksgiving foods that can be healthy - sweet potatoes, pumpkins, green beans, and collard greens. One of the easiest way to prepare all of these veggies is to throw them in the oven or in a pan and roast them. Add some salt, pepper and if you want a special kick add some cumin. If you prefer raw veggies, put together a colorful salad and then serve that alongside your turkey and sweet potato casserole. 

Mix in Whole Grains - We all love our bread at our Thanksgiving feast. From the stuffing, to the rolls, to the chicken with noodles. There are lots of sources of grains at Thanksgiving. Why not try to substitute some of those with whole grains. Make whole grain muffins/rolls or add in some whole wheat bread to the stuffing recipe. This is helpful for diabetics and to help with fiber intake. 

Sweet Treats - I really enjoy all of the delicious pies for Thanksgiving. I think that in moderation these can be a great way to celebrate the holiday. I love cutting pies into 12 pieces compared with 8 pieces, because you can enjoy a smaller slice of pie and still enjoy the flavor. Or if you want to sample multiple types of pie, try a 1/12th of a pie and this will equate to 1/8th of a pie if you end up with 2 pieces. There are also ways to make your pie healthier, but more often than not, I find that moderation of your serving size is the most realistic way to stick with following a healthy lifestyle.

Move your feet - There are lots of Thanksgiving Day races available. That is such a fun way to fit in a work out and then enjoy a delicious meal. There are so many races in every town around the country. If you are worried about burning calories and the holidays that is a great way to get more steps in on Thanksgiving. 

 

Halloween Goodies

Crunchy leaves, spooky decorations and lots of sweet treats. That basically sums up this time of year. Halloween is just around the corner. With a little 10 month old running around our house, Halloween is even more exciting. We have a great family costume planned - it includes a farmer, a pig, a spider and a spider web. Any guesses ............... if you were thinking Charlotte's Web you would be right! 

When it comes to Halloween goodies we tend to reach for lots and lots of candy. In fact, Americans will end up purchasing 600 million pounds of candy on Halloween. For those trick-or-treaters that come to your door, their number one choice for Halloween treats is chocolate. About 157 million people participate in Halloween and 141 million purchase Halloween candy. That equates to 45% of the US population handing out candy to trick-or-treaters (source). So it is obvious that lots of people are purchasing candy, the kids that are trick-or-treating love it and we are eating lots of extra calories around this time of year. 

Have you ever wondered how many calories are in some of your favorite candy bars? Want to know more - CLICK HERE for the article. 

  • Reese's Cup (110 calories) - You would need to run 7 minutes (at 10 minute per mile pace) 
  • Butterfinger (85 calories) - You would need to do 10 minutes of Zumba
  • Regular M&Ms (67 calories) - You would need to do 9 minutes of jumping jacks 
  • York Peppermint patty (60 calories) - You would need to do 25 minutes of yoga
  • 3 Muskateers Bar (63 calories) - You would need to do 26 minutes of pilates 

Do you have to hand out sugary treats? No, there are lots of options for things that you can pass out at your house. I love highlighting the Teal Pumpkin project every year, because for lots of families Halloween ends up being stressful. For families who have food allergies or food intolerances this is tough to have to sort through all the candy and pick the "unsafe" treats. The Teal Pumpkin Project has some great resources in terms of signage for your house, ideas for non-food related treats and spreading the word about food allergies. Last year I put together a great blog post with more treat ideas and a video about the Teal Pumpking Project - CLICK HERE to check it out. I loved this infographic and just had to share it with you. 

Teal Pumpkin.jpg

If you think the Teal Pumpkin Project is a neat idea, but you also want to hand out candy, that works too. That is what I do every year. I have a bowl of goodies filled with non-food related treats and then another bowel with candy goodies. That way I have options for everyone and I feel better about the large amount of candy that all these kids are eating on Halloween. 

Welcoming in the New Year

The New Year is upon us. 2017 is just about here! That means time to think about your goals for the New Year. What are you wanting to accomplish in 2017? What did you struggle with in 2016 and want to work to improve? 

To set yourself up for success it is helpful to make sure that the goals you have for yourself are able to be accomplished. Being able to take the time for write "SMART" goals can help ensure that you are successful. 

SMART Goals 

  • Specific - Set a goal that is specific. Avoid something vague or too broad. How else will you be able to tell if you have accomplished your goal, unless it is specific? For example, if you want to work on being more active then make your goal specific by saying what type of activity you want to do. "I want to be increase the number of days per week that I run." 
  • Measurable - After you have determined your specific goal, then plan a time line. Take a moment to figure out over what duration in time you want to work on accomplishing this goal. For example, determine the time you want to meet this goal. "I want to plan on running for 3 days each week for the next 3 months." 
  • Attainable  - Whatever goal you have in mind, make sure that is able to be accomplished. Don't set too lofty of a goal or you won't be able to accomplish it. For example, make sure that you are able to meet your goal parameters. Running for 3 days a week is possible for me, because I have done this before, but if I had never run before this might be too much. "I will plan on running 3 days a week for the next 3 months." 
  • Relevant  - Make whatever goal you are aiming for to be relevant to what you want to accomplish. This may seem like a no brainer, but if you don't care about your goal, then you will for sure not accomplish it. My goal is about running, now if I didn't like running, then I would make sure that my fitness goal was about something else. That goal should be relevant to what you are interested in and care about. "I will plan on running (outside or at the gym) 3 days a week for the next 3 months."
  • Time-Based - Make sure that your goal is time-bound. This means that you are able to put a start/stop time on the goal and that will be allow you to re-evaluate your goal and see if was accomplished. For my example the end of the goal is at 3 months from when the goal was set. That gives me 3 months to try to accomplish this goal and then if at the end of the 3 months, I can re-evaluate and determine if I met the goal.  "I will plan on running (outside or at the gym) 3 days a week for the next 3 months."

Hopefully some of these tips and tricks are helpful to you as you look forward to the New Year and set some goals for yourself. I am not the biggest fan of New Year's Resolutions, because most of the time they don't stick, but that is often due to the fact they are not SMART goals.

What goals do you have for yourself? How do you want to change and be more healthy this next year? 

 

Healthy Habits

This is the time of year when healthy habits seem to fly out the window. The weather is cold, it is dark early in the evening and we are all busy running around getting ready for Christmas. Amongst all of this craziness it is important to try to keep up with some of those healthy habits that will keep you feel better about yourself. 

Prioritize Your Fitness:

This is what I wanted to focus on and encourage you ... stick with a fitness routine. Don't let this lapse. There will be days due to travel or family obligations that you may not be able to do your normal workout routine, but make a point the day before or after to be active. There are lots of fun runs that happen around this time of year. Sign up for one near you and get out and move! If you enjoy the gym and haven't been in awhile, pack up your gym bag and head over after work today. If you have exercise equipment in our house, then change your clothes and go use it. The perk to being active during the holidays is that it allows you to consume additional calories and then will help to prevent extra weight gain during this time of year. You will feel better about yourself as well and this is worth it. All of us need to feel good about how we look and feel and simply taking some time to be active can help in your confidence level. 

Navigate the "Holiday Treats" in Moderation: 

I think the most challenging part of making healthy food choices over the holidays is the food. There is so much of it and a lot of it is "special" and not what we normally consume. I am not saying that you can't have some of your holiday favorites, but watch the portion and space those cookies out. If you find having these treats in your house is too tempting, make sure to keep them in a storage space, which is off the counter. Try to get these tempting goodies out of your house as soon as possible. Give them away and then you will not have to deal with the on going temptation from now until Christmas. If you feel adventurous you can work to make some "healthier" swaps in those recipes. This may take some practice, but could make your favorite treats a little more friendly for your waist line. 

Make the Holiday about the People: 

This time of year, is about giving back and the people we interact with. This is the main focus. I know it can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget about time with family and friends. Enjoy this time with your loved ones and make this the main focus. Try not to stress about the decorations, the cleaning, the cooking or the gifts. Decreasing your own stress level is good in terms of helping to keep you healthy. 

Enjoy this festive time of year and hopefully the end of year will come to a close on a positive note! 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I wanted to make sure that I shared a post on Christmas to wish everyone, who takes the time to read this blog, a very Merry Christmas and hope you have a wonderful holiday season! I know I appreciate everyone who follows along and reads what I have to share on RD Anna. It means so much and I hope that you find the information helpful/insightful. 

I had to share our Christmas card this year with you all! Our little chihuahua did a great job during our maternity photo shoot back in October. 

Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

All of us, enjoy all the food that is associated with the Holiday Season - everything from the cookies to the turkey. It is so much fun to gather with family and friends, celebrate another year and eat delicious food. For all of the time that goes into making a gorgeous holiday spread, you want to make sure that your meal or appetizers do not end up making your loved ones sick. That is why food safety is so important, especially this time of year. There are some great handouts and information available from the CDC and FDA. Food borne illnesses are a serious issue in the United States causing ~76 million people to become sick each year. The most common food borne diseases associated with meat, poultry and fish are Salmonella, Campylobacter and E coli. Pregnant women, older adults, infants, young children and those with a weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe infections. 

4 Steps to Food Safety

  1. Clean - Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching or preparing any food. This is the best way to prevent the spread of food borne illnesses. This also applies to all your kitchen equipment and utensils - clean them with warm water and soap, especially in between working with meat and produce.
  2. Separate - Keep your meat and produce items separate. Use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood and then use a different one for fresh produce. This helps to prevent cross-contamination. Remember to keep the juices of these fresh meat items away from any already prepared foods as well. 
  3. Cook - When you are cooking your meat and poultry items make sure that you are getting the internal temperature of those food items to a safe level. This will ensure that all the microorganisms are killed. Use your food thermometer and make sure that you insert the thermometer correctly into the food item. The AND has a great page on how to properly calibrate your thermometer and use it correctly! 
    • Turkey, stuffing, casseroles and leftovers to 165F 
    • Beef, veal, lamb roasts to 145F 
    • Fully cooked ham to 140F 
    • Fresh ham, pork and egg dishes to 160F 
    • All leftovers should be cooked to 165F 
  4. Chill - Once your meal is over, getting your food put away and properly cooled is important. Your refrigerator should be kept at 40F or below to prevent bacteria growth. Any type of egg dish always needs to be kept in the refrigerator. Get your leftovers in the frig within 2 hours of them being out on the table and never defrost your food at room temperature.

Holidays, Moderation and Stress

Now that Halloween is over and we are into November, the holiday season has officially started.  This means lots of gatherings with friends and family and of course food! Celebrating holidays is very tightly associated with delicious meals and sweet treats. It can be challenging to always navigate this time of year in a healthy way. In addition, to the tasty food temptations, we normally are under additional stress to plan a Pinterest perfect party or give that one of a kind gift to our family members. Being able to balance the stress of the holiday season in a healthy way in terms of our minds and body is very important. Hopefully some of this information will help give you some peace of mind.

Tips for Handling Stress in a Healthy Way –

  • Stick to a budget. We all love to spend money during the holidays from clothes, to gifts, to food and travel expenses. It can be an expensive time of year. Take some time now to plan what you can realistically afford in terms of gifts this year. Think about your travel expenses and make sure that you set aside some money for those additional costs. Having a plan will help ensure that you are successful in sticking with it. There are ways to give gifts to co-workers or family members that are more cost effective, like baking goodies to give out or putting together fun gift baskets with items from thrift shops or the dollar store. The goal is to determine your budget ahead of time and then stick with that goal. This will help decrease that stress about money and stretching yourself too thin financially.
  • Plan ahead. This ties in to the previous point about putting together a budget. Figure out how you want to structure your time during the holiday season. What goals/traditions do you really want to do and then what things are not necessary to accomplish? If you are able to take time off, how are you planning on spending that vacation time? Have a plan in place so you know what to expect and that helps you feel less stressed. Have conversions with family ahead of the holidays to determine what days you will get together and mark that on your calendar. By looking at your schedule ahead of time, you can work hard to not over book yourself and still enjoy the holidays with lower amounts of added stress.
  • Don’t abandon your health. This can be challenging during the holidays to not totally throw healthy habits out the window. Take time to work in some physical activity into your vacation time from work. Go on a walk with your family or play in the back yard with your grandkids. If you have a pet, take the dog for a walk or head to your local park. Even, shopping at the mall could be made into some extra physical activity by walking some extra laps in the mall or parking really far from the mall entrance. Try to break up your sitting intervals, even when you are traveling by stretching, getting up and moving around. In addition to exercise, try to set yourself up for success through what foods you are eating. Before you head to the holiday neighborhood party, grab a healthy snack: a cheese stick and an apple, so that you aren’t famished and don’t over indulge on the holiday cookies.  If you are going on a road trip to see family, pack a healthier lunch with you so that you aren’t tempted to stop at the drive through to grab a bite to eat. Taking a little bit of time to plan through how you can stay active and make healthy choices, will go a long way this holiday season in helping you feel better about yourself.
  • Take a moment for you. More often than not, the holidays have us rushing around to see family and friends and not taking time for ourselves. There are some holiday traditions or fun things that you probably love about this time of year and making sure that you pause, and enjoy that moment is important. If you love to watch Christmas movies while drinking hot chocolate, plan one night where you sit on the couch and watch the whole movie, while sipping on your hot chocolate and you enjoy that little tradition. Finding time to take a moment will help you to feel grounded and enjoy the holiday season amongst all the hustle and bustle. 

This time of year is so special and being able to manage your health and stress levels in a healthy way will help to ensure that you finish 2016 off right and greet 2017 on a positive note. Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful as we gear up for the holiday festivities. Remember, stick to your budget, plan ahead, don’t abandon your health and take a moment for yourself over the next month and half. By utilizing some of these recommendations, you will feel better and enjoy this wonderful time of year! 

Holiday Food Makeover

It is the time of year. The holidays are under way. Halloween has just wrapped up and now November has started. That means that Thanksgiving is coming at the end of the month and then Christmas next month. I love the holidays and all the festivities that come with the holidays (the food, the family get togethers, the travel, etc). One of the big ways that Americans celebrate is with food. That means that most get-togethers include food and normally the options aren’t the healthiest. This can be overwhelming for people to know how to navigate that holiday spread and know how to make smart choices. 

If you have the opportunity to cook food for your Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday get together then consider making some healthy swaps to those recipes. 

  1. Tweak the sweets – This incorporates making healthy options available for desserts. You can definitely include your traditional pumpkin pie, but also put together a fruit salad, which is a healthier option. This is going to have less added sugar compared with the pie and will have more fiber from the fruit, making a much friendlier diabetic choice. 
  2. Cheers to good health – Make sure to watch out for added sugars and calories in festive holiday drinks. This includes regular soda, sweet tea/lemonade, and alcoholic drinks. There can be a lot of added calories hiding in these beverages. Make sure to space out your drinks with glasses of water. Set a goal to make every other glass, a glass of water versus only drinking sweet tea or that delicious mixed drink.
  3. Bake healthier – If you are in charge of cooking food for your next holiday party then consider some healthy swaps you can make when baking. You can substitute applesauce or bananas for the fat source (like the butter or oil) in various dessert recipes. You can also use greek yogurt in place of sour cream. These simple substitutions can help to decrease the overall calories in the dish you are putting together. 
  4. Spice it up - Lots of us love to use salt to enhance the flavor of the food that we are preparing. This isn’t always the best thing for our heart health. Consider using over spices to add flavor that don’t contain salt, like sage, garlic, pepper, Italian seasoning or cumin.  
  5. Brighten your meal – As you load up your plate, make sure to fill your plate with ½ fruits and vegetables. Your plate should be colorful and not just filled with starches like white potatoes, yellow corn and a white roll. Brighten up that plate with over colors from the rainbow such as orange carrots, green salad, red cranberries and yellow squash.  
  6. Skim the fat – When your recipe calls for a full fat item like heavy cream, butter or whole milk, consider using skim milk, low fat cheese or margarine instead. This will help to decrease the overall fat being added to the dish and cut the overall calories. If you feel like the flavor would be jeopardized with this change, then add in some extra spices that are not just salt. 
  7. Swap the grains – If you just have to have your dinner roll with your holiday meal, consider using a whole grain roll in place of just a white roll option. This is more diabetic friendly, because the whole grains will break down to simple sugars slower and this will help prevent a sharp blood sugar spike. This can be applied to crust of pies even. You could use half the flour in your pie crust as whole grains and then the other half white flour. This might change the texture of the pie, but might be a fun, new way to make a traditional recipe a little healthier. 
  8. Go easy on the gravy – When you ask for the gravy to be passed over to you, make sure that you don’t send your turkey swimming in it. Use the gravy in moderation. If the meat or potatoes have good flavor, they might not even require gravy poured over them. This is just an extra calorie source and not always necessary if you are trying to make healthier choices.

Scary Halloween Facts

Today is Halloween! October 31st! That means if you haven't already, you will have little ghosts, goblins and princesses showing up to your door and asking for treats and goodies. I hope you were able to read the post from last week about the Teal Pumpkin Project and possibly put together some allergy-free treats for your trick-or-treaters. 

I also wanted to share with you some scary Halloween nutrition facts, because it is fun and ends up being eye opening. These statistics are brought to you by Daily Burn

  • Americans spend ~$7.4 billion dollars on Halloween candy, costumes and decorations each year. 
  • Americans purchase 90 million pounds of chocolate during the week of Halloween. 
  • There are 41 million potential trick-or-treaters between the ages of 5-14 years old in America.
  • Each year, 35 million pounds of candy corn is produced for the Halloween/Fall season. 
  • If you ate an apple cider donut, you would have to do 54 push-ups to burn it off (~330kcal). 
  • Do you love the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte? If you drink a tall (~380kcal) you need walk for 134 minutes to burn off those calories. 
  • Did you know there are 10.5g of sugar in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and this happens to be American's favorite Halloween candy.
  • You would have to do 17 minutes of burpees to burn of 1 bite-sized Snickers bar (~160kcal).
  • Wondering how much your pillowcase can hold in terms of candy - 1,690 pieces of candy to be exact. 
  • On Halloween, children collect any where from 3,500-7,000kcal worth of Halloween candy in their pumpkin pails. 

I don't want you to know that I don't love Halloween, the treats, goodies and decorations. I love celebrating holidays, but I think it is important to remember that you or your child do not need ALL the Halloween candy. Trying to keep moderation at the fore front of your mind is the main message. Enjoy your time trick-or-treating, taking pictures and dressing up. Just try to be active, burn off those extra calories and make sure you have a healthy dinner before you head out. Have a safe and wonderful Halloween!