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All in a Day’s Eatin’

In Meal Ideas, What I ate today on January 10, 2012 at 7:36 PM

Friends, family, and clients regularly ask me what I eat on a regular basis in the effort to acquire new healthy meal ideas.  It has been quite some time since I wrote a column for the “What I ate today” category, so I am going to share with you a recent day, now that I am back on track with my usual healthy eating routine after a rather harried and indulgent holiday season.   As I reflect back on 2011, I am quite pleased with my ability to keep up with my healthy eating and exercise resolutions :  On most days, I ate at least two pieces of fruit and at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables;  I also managed to make time for exercise on most days of the week by performing strength training for 60 minutes 2-3 times a week; cardio (elliptical/treadmill/walking outdoors) for 45-60 minutes 2-3 times a week; and Bikram yoga twice a week for 90 minutes.  By constructing and following through on such a balanced exercise program (cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, and flexibility), I am feeling stronger and fitter than I have in a long time.  This is a fabulous way to begin 2012, as I am highly motivated to maintain these healthy habits and am free to focus my New Year’s resolutions on other pursuits—one of which is learning to play the steel drum.  My trip to Grand Cayman last April inspired me, and I am so excited to play authentic Caribbean tunes.  Making music is so much fun and stress relieving!!  (although my husband shudders at the thought…) I already have the drum and training videos in hand—now I just need to find time to practice.  Dig out those earplugs, Sweetie!  Camp Hatchery 5 O’clock Fridays will never be the same again! 

I will now provide examples of a meal plan I would follow on an average weekday.  Notice how I call it a meal PLAN.  Yes, healthy eating requires some forethought to decide what you will eat and how  you will get it into the house.   I spend one hour a week to plan menus and then shop from my list.  If I fail to take the time to do this, I inevitably eat more junk and restaurant food.  As a general rule, I prepare my own meals and snacks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner most days.  If I have an erratic schedule or am away from home most of the day, then I will pack food along with me so I have control over my appetite and choices, as opposed to “winging it” and risking being over-hungry and grabbing unhealthy options.  As a forty-something woman who is very active and desires to maintain her current weight and musculature, I aim for 2000-2200 calories a day.  My meals generally fall between 400-600 calories depending on my choices that day, and snacks between 150-250 calories depending on the  timing of my meals.  (Calories will be posted in parenthesis in the plan below.) Since I pretty much have a “calorie reference file” in my brain from my years as a dietitian, I typically don’t need to count calories for myself.  However, for the average person looking to manage his or her weight, counting calories and building up a “calorie reference file” in your own brain is a smart thing to do!  The more enlightened you are about your food choices, the easier it is to eat healthy and be mindful of portions, thereby keeping extra pounds at bay.

7 AM Breakfast  (460 calories)

2 slices of Ezekial sesame seed bread  (160 calories)

2 Tbsp. Parkers’ natural peanut butter  (210 calories)

1 cup blackberries or large clementine  (70 calories)

coffee with 2 Tbsp. fat free half & half (20 calories)

If I am doing Bikram yoga on this day (the kind where you sweat profusely in a 105 degree heated room while doing strenuous postures for 90 minutes), I will add 16 oz. of plain coconut water for energy, hydration, and electrolyte replacement.  This contributes an additional 150 calories for a total of 610 for breakfast.  Believe me,  I need all the help I can get, as it is often mind-over-matter to put myself through such torture!   Namaste!

10:30 AM  Morning Snack  (150-200 calories)

Plain Greek yogurt – 6 oz. (120 calories)

2 tsp. honey  (40 calories)


medium organic Bartlett pear  (100 calories)

2 wedges Laughing Cow Light Swiss cheese (70 calories)

1 PM  Lunch  (555 calories)

pita pocket sandwich filled with cheddar, avocado, and spinach:

1 Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Pita Pocket  (160 calories)

1/2 medium avocado (140 calories)

1/2 cup raw organic baby spinach (5 calories)

slice of Applegate Farms organic cheddar cheese (80 calories)

handful of baby carrots (40 calories)

large organic Fuji apple (130 calories)


4:30 PM Afternoon Snack  (200-250 calories)

Larabar —my fave is peanut butter & chocolate chip  (230 calories)


“Just a handful” pack of Trader Joe’s Trek Mix—almonds, cashews, & cranberries (210 calories)

These two choices are great “grab and go” options during busy times in the afternoon.  I stash them in my purse or work bag along with a stainless steel water bottle to help me stay energized and hydrated.  Both of these options contain adequate amounts of protein and calories to tide me over until dinner, thereby giving me the strength I need to resist takeout and cook dinner after a long day!

7-7:30 PM  Dinner  (540 calories)

5 oz. baked Rainbow trout drizzed with honey and chopped pistachios  (365 calories)  (recipe to follow!)

1/2 large baked Acorn squash drizzled with 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and pepper (175 calories)


9:15 PM  Evening Snack  (200 calories)

5 cups Skinny Pop popcorn  (200 calories)

This was a case of good old-fashioned stress eating here. I did NOT need this snack as I was not really hungry at this point.  I was watching the new season of The Bachelor, and all that girl drama was stressing me out!!! LOL  Good thing the bag was almost empty when I started, or 5 cups easily could have become 10!  Kidding aside, this is all too easy to do.  I’m making an example of myself here.  Always pre-portion your snacks so you don’t suffer from hand-to-mouth syndrome and get carried away while watching TV or engaging in other distractions.

Total Calories for the Day:  2135

If you are older than me, less active than me, or looking to shed a few pounds, 2000-2200 calories a day is mostly likely too much to meet your needs.  If you are interested in trying out this ready-made healthy meal plan, I will now offer suggestions on how to trim some calories to better suit your needs:

At breakfast, eat once slice of toast instead of two, which will then cut the peanut butter portion is half as well.  This will save you 185 calories.  (Always aim for a minimum of 300 calories at a meal, no matter what age or size you are!)

For morning snack, eat only one cheese wedge instead of two with your fruit.  This will save 35 calories.  If eating the yogurt, add one tsp of honey instead of two to save 20 calories.  These might seem like such minor changes, but at the end of the day, all these little calorie cuts add up!!

For lunch, eat the sandwich and vegetables as is, but save the apple for your afternoon snack.  This saves 130 calories at lunch, and will then provide a lower calorie snack choice for the afternoon.

If you are planning a late dinner (7 pm or later) or a late afternoon workout, a 200-250 calories snack in the afternoon is appropriate for most people to help curb your appetite and/or fuel your exercise session.  The more energy you have, you can exercise harder and burn more calories and the more likely you will feel like cooking dinner upon your return home.  You don’t want to show up at the gym starving only to have a lackluster workout, nor do you want to arrive home ready to raid the chips and cookies!  This afternoon snack may very well be your most important choice all day.

At dinner, you can save 140 calories but substituting a cup or two of steamed vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, or asparagus for the acorn squash.

In the evening, limit yourself to 3 cups of the Skinny Pop popcorn and save 80 calories.

For daily totals, most women looking to lose weight will do well aiming for 1500-1600 calories a day, while men desiring weight loss should aim for 1700-1800 calories.  Every person’s needs are different, but making the effort to track your calories, cut down portions, and choose healthful foods will ultimately result in some weight loss.

So there you have it!  A day in the life of a dietitian.  Multiple servings of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats (from nuts, peanut butter, olive oil, avocado) were all well represented.  If you have any questions or comments about any of my food choices, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Happy and healthy 2012 to you!


Let’s Be Real

In What I ate today on January 17, 2011 at 10:04 PM

Healthy eating is all about planning ahead and making responsible choices throughout the day.    It is not about deprivation, guilt, and eating celery all day long.   If you were to keep track of everything you ate for a few days, and then went back to review it, you could probably label each of your choices as either “good” or “bad”.    If you are one who strives for perfection, even the slightest diet infraction can ruin you emotionally for the rest of the day…or week…or month.   This comes from the ever-present inner judge inside many of us—that nasty little voice that nit-picks at every single stinking thing we put in our mouths.  I challenge you to free yourself from your inner critic and give yourself permission to follow the laws of moderation.  No judgment needed.  As long as your overall diet is loaded with healthy foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and lean protein sources, there is no need to stay away from modest portions of your less-than-healthy favorites.   If your diet is not full of the aforementioned “good” stuff, then you need to focus on getting those items in first, before making room for the goodies.

As a dietitian, I prescribe to the food philosophy that everything has it’s place in a healthy, balanced diet.   If you have read previous postings under the “what I ate today” category, you have learned that I do my best to eat my fruits and veggies every day, but I am not overly restrictive and hard on myself for occasionally including favorites such as chocolate, desserts, pizza, wine, and hamburgers.   I follow healthy diet guidelines 80% of the time—meaning 4 out of 5 days I am eating pretty well (NOT perfect), which then allows for that 20% of indulgence without negatively impacting my weight or overall health.

Since it has been some time since I blogged about my own food choices, I will now share with you what I ate today.    While it may seem obvious that  my inner judge struggles to get a word in edgewise during the commentary, I shut her up pretty darn quick.  Let me show you what I mean:

Breakfast at 7:30 AM

1 package McCann’s instant maple & brown sugar oatmeal + 1/3 cup plain Irish-style oats + added cinnamon

3/4 large banana

Senseo coffee with Land o Lakes Fat Free Half & Half

12 oz. plain coconut water

Comment:  I enjoy the maple/brown sugar flavor of the oatmeal and then add plain oats to bulk up the fiber, dilute the sweetness, and provide a bigger portion.  If I were to eat just one packet of instant oatmeal, I’d be hungry in an hour.  If I were to eat two flavored packets, I’d be in sugar overload.  For optimal hydration without a lot of sugar or calories, I include coconut water at breakfast instead of juice.  I am a regular practitioner of Bikram Yoga, which makes good hydration mandatory.

Snack 10:30 AM

6 oz. cup Yoplait Greek Style yogurt (Honey Vanilla flavor)

Comment:  Yeah, yeah, I could have had plain yogurt, and added my own fruit or flavoring, but this was a quick “grab and go” option today.

Lunch 1:30 PM

Tuna salad sandwich (Wild Planet Albacore, organic mayo, & pickle relish;  on Wonder Stoneground 100% whole wheat bread)

1 cup raw carrots & 1/2 cup raw snap peas

medium-sized pear

5 dark chocolate covered almonds


Comment:  if I choose to have a sandwich at lunch, it is usually Parker all-natural peanut butter and jam or tuna salad.  The Wonder Stoneground 100% whole wheat bread is not necessarily the “best” bread available at the market, but I am currently enjoying it and will likely change things up again soon.  I tire easily of sandwich bread.  I try to include raw vegetables at lunch every day whenever possible.  The chocolate covered nuts have been around since Christmas–I’ve enjoyed a FEW every day without judgment!!  Now they are finally gone….

Snack  5 PM

3/4 cup Chocolate Cheerios with 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Comment:  I was STARVING and couldn’t wait another two hours until dinner, so I chose to have a pretty substantial snack.  I was having a  chocolate craving (my blood sugar felt like it was dipping low), and instead of raiding the Hershey bars in the freezer, I chose the cereal to tide me over better until dinner.

Dinner 7 PM

4 oz. rotisserie chicken (skin removed)

fist-sized baked potato with Tbsp. Land o Lakes Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil and a dallop of Light sour cream

steamed asparagus with 2 tsp. of butter/canola spread


Comment:   I was not feeling up for cooking much tonight, so I stopped at the market and picked up one of those “hot and ready” rotisserie chickens, so I only needed to prepare the side dishes.  Since dinner was at 7 PM, I will likely not eat an evening snack tonight.

So there you have it—an overall balanced day with a few goodies sprinkled in there along the way.   If you found yourself judging my food choices, it is highly likely that your inner judge is alive and well.  Work hard to get rid of that pesky little voice in order to ENJOY eating a balanced, realistic diet!

Any questions or comments?  Feel free to ask.

Confessions of an Irish Nutritionist

In Dining Out, What I ate today on March 22, 2010 at 5:06 PM

Being of Irish descent, I look forward to celebrating my heritage on St. Patrick’s Day by eating corned beef and cabbage, drinking a pint or two of Guinness, and listening to some traditional Irish music at a local pub or restaurant.  This year was a little more social than others—St. Paddy’s Day turned into a weeklong celebration beginning with the “St. Practice Day” party at Bluefinn on Saturday, March 13th and concluding with a  small dinner party at home on Saturday, March 20th.  While having so much fun, I was ignorant to my consumption of 2485 calories in alcoholic beverages over the past week.  (This figure does not include a few extra desserts that popped in as well…) I’m not shy to admit that I have always been a “social drinker”, consuming anywhere from 1-4 alcoholic beverages over the course of a week, depending on my activities.  Things got a little out of hand this week as I had more social activities scheduled than “normal”.     It is important for me to point out that despite my excessive caloric intake, I never got intoxicated, as I paced my consumption over the course of an entire evening.    Even someone who drinks moderately can end up with excessive calories that are likely to be ignored.  Most people acknowledge that fast food and desserts are “fattening”, but are less likely to consider alcohol intake into their dieting strategies.   It is my hope that  you will learn from my carelessness this week…

 A serving of alcohol is considered 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. wine , or 1.5 oz. of distilled spirits.  Generally, this amount of regular beer will contain 150 calories (200 if it’s a pint);  most table wines will contain 100-110 calories a glass (185 calories if it’s a dessert Port);  and 1 oz. of 80 proof liquor contains about 85 calories .  Mixed drinks are bound to get you into the most trouble as they usually contain multiple shots of liquors/sweetened liquers/juices/soda, etc.

Let’s take a look at my St. Patrick’s Week—YIKES!    Remember that I am revealing this to help you, so please forgive me for my sins…

Sat. March 13th:  Out to dinner with friends and then Bluefinn for St. Pat’s party:  Pint of Pale Ale with dinner (200); 2 pints of Guinness at bar (335—fyi: Guinness is lower in calories than all other regular beers); Kamikaze shot (235)—thanks a lot, Lisa!  😉  Wow… 770 calories.

Tues. March 16:  Out for Sushi dinner at Kona Grill with hubby:  2 Cosmopolitans    350 calories

Wed. March 17:  Pint of Guinness in honor of St. Patrick’s Day   170 calories

Thurs. March 18:  Hosted a jewelry party for friends:  2 glasses of Chardonnay   200 calories

Fri March 19:  Out for dinner and music with friends:  6 oz. Pinot Grigio (130 cal) with dinner; later in the lounge: Snickers Martini for dessert (455 calories!!! I should know better… contained Frangelico, creme de cocao, Bailey’s, 1/2 & 1/2);  and 5 oz Red Zin (110 cal) by the end of the evening.  That darn dessert martini killed me…695 calories worth of alcohol for the night.  I don’t even have anyone to blame for my lack of discipline—my friend Laura wanted to order the “Oatmeal Cookie” martini, but she decided to PASS ON IT!  Smart girl.  I should have followed her lead.   (Of course, we should never blame anybody for our own transgressions, right??)

Sat. March 20:  dinner party with friends at home:  2 glasses Pinot Grigio (200 cal) during appetizers & dinner; 1 glass of Pinot Noir (1oo cal) while playing Rockband on XBox.   My friend Angela needed help finishing off the bottle of red, right??   300 calories.

Total alcohol calories for the week:  2485   (FYI:  it takes 3500 extra calories to gain a pound of fat)

OUCH!!!  Time for detox… I have sworn off alcohol for the time being and will not allow myself any desserts for the whole next week.  Daily exercise is also on the agenda.

Got a night out planned soon?  Here are some suggestions to help keep you from consuming too many calories from alcohol:

1.  Don’t drink alcohol!   Of course, the best calorie-saving choice, but if you desire to do so, alternate alcoholic beverages with a large glass of water to help keep you hydrated and slow down your pace of drinking.

2.  Avoid calorie bombs such as dessert drinks (see above);  fruity, frozen concoctions (Pina Coladas can contain up to  800 calories depending on the size); and drinks with multiple alcohols and mixers (a Long Island Iced Tea typically contains 780 calories per drink!!)  Even an innocent looking Bailey’s Irish Creme shot to mix in your coffee has 130 calories in it…

3.  Choose diet mixers instead of regular soda and juices (an 8oz. Vodka Cranberry has 200 calories)

4.  Turn wine into a “spritzer” or a lager into a “shandy” to dilute the alcohol content.  (alcohol has 7 calories per gram)

5.  Plan alcohol into your daily calorie “quota”.  (i.e.  instead of those two Oreos, have a glass of wine, NOT BOTH!!!)

6.  Don’t skip meals or drink on an empty stomach—this increases the rate of alcohol absorption which can lead to low blood sugar and the resulting increase in appetite, also known as  “the munchies”.  Alcohol also reduces your inhibitions so you are more likely to throw your diet goals out the window and overindulge.

A final note:  drinking in  “moderation” is considered no more than 1 drink per day for a woman and no more than 2 drinks per day for a man.

I have learned my lesson.  Have you???

A Less Than Typical Monday…

In Dining Out, What I ate today on March 9, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Today was going to be a busy day, so I decided to wake up at 6:30 AM, brew some coffee, and head down to the basement to enliven myself with 45 minutes on the elliptical trainer.  This afforded me the opportunity to watch “The Today Show” and catch up on all the Oscar wins from the previous night.  (The Hurt Locker was an amazing movie…)   As I have mentioned before, having equipment readily accessible to me in my basement makes it possible to roll out of bed (literally) and start my day with vitality and energy.  Please note:  I RARELY feel awake and motivated to exercise at this hour of the morning…but, I know that when I am finished working up a sweat, I am going to feel great and be ready to embrace the day.  (Exercise is my “happy pill”.)  I even go as far as have my coffee cup on a stool next to my exercise machines.  Every 5 minutes, I stop and take a sip—whatever works, right???  Keeping thoughts of how great I will feel when I am finished, along with setting my “sweat” clothes out the night before, is enough for me to stick to my plan.

Eating breakfast post-workout makes it very easy to eat healthy:  7:45 AM

2 Barbara’s Bakery Shredded Wheat Biscuits

1 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk

hard-boiled egg

clementine orange


I had a doctor appointment in Ann Arbor this morning scheduled for 10 AM.  This was a routine visit, and it usually takes a maximum of two hours from start to finish.  I am in the habit of bringing a snack with me wherever I go, so I washed up an apple for the ride home around noon.

Well, things don’t always go as planned now, do they???  I was not prepared for the LONG wait this morning: the doctor didn’t see me until 12:30 pm.  Grrr…  I was getting hungry sitting out in the waiting room for so long.  Ideally, I should have packed nuts with me, as they are handy to stash in my purse to keep hunger at bay as needed.   By the time I left the doctor’s office around 2:15 pm, I was famished!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say, this glitch threw my whole day off.  Good thing I didn’t schedule too many work commitments for today, or I would have really been in trouble.   I still had many tasks to accomplish yet, so I decided to stop at Olga’s Kitchen on the way out of Ann Arbor, rather than waiting until I got home to eat.  (there is a new one located right off of Plymouth Rd. near US-23, for those of you Ann Arborites who are familiar with the area…) 

I LOVE Olga’s Kitchen.  For fellow enthusiasts, you know it is all about that soft, warm & sweet Original Olga bread—forget those “low carb ” or “almost completely fat free ” options that they advertise.  If I go to Olga’s, I’m gonna get the real thing, gosh darnit 😉  Let’s talk about this luscious bread for a moment, shall we?  Can you take a stab at how many calories you think are in one piece?  Looks innocent enough, doesn’t it?  A slice of regular sandwich bread typically has about 80-100 calories; a typical Greek-style pita has about 160 calories (equivalent to two slices of bread).  Both are reasonable.  However, ONE piece of Olga bread has 320 calories in it.   YOW!  That is equivalent to nearly 3 1/2 slices of regular bread!!!  How on earth does it have so many calories???  I’ve looked up the recipe—it is a concoction of fat, sugar, and refined wheat flour.  No wonder it is so soft and moist—sugar acts as a humectant, attracting and retaining moisture—that is predominately why so many breads contain HFCS, and why those without added sugars tend to go stale and hard very quickly.  Yep, Olga bread is essentially dessert.  Who knew???

When I go to Olga’s, I get either a salad with chicken (plus side of Olga bread) or the Original Olga sandwich (lamb/beef, tomatoes, and Olgasauce).  Fortunately, Olga’s website provides the nutrition facts.  I decided to order the “Apple Pecan Chicken Salad” yesterday— a salad with chicken, fruit, and nuts sounds virtuous enough,  doesn’t it?  Not so fast my friends!  If I were to eat the entire salad, it would have loaded my belly with 810 calories, according to the website.   Add the 320 calorie Olga bread, and my lunch would have been out of the ballpark at 1130 calories…

Because of my excessive hunger, nothing hit the spot better than the Olga bread.  Ate the whole darn thing—being overly hungry is a dangerous thing…  Fortunately,  I had the smarts to wrap up half the salad to take home for next day’s lunch.  So, half salad and bread cost me 725 calories.  Consider this:  the Original Olga sandwich has 650 calories.  Hmmm…it appears that a salad on the menu is more fattening than a lamb and beef sandwich.  Eye opening, isn’t it?  The calories in the salad come from pecans, fresh apples, dried cranberries (usually coated in sugar), feta, chicken and a more than necessary amount of balsamic vinigrette dressing tossed in.  Despite the perceived health benefits of these ingredients, the calories add up fast.

Dinner  7:30 pm was at home

3 oz Bell and Evans chicken breast grilled with 1.5 Tbsp. BBQ sauce  (the chicken breast was actually 5 oz, but I chose to only eat part of it and save the remainder for a salad topper later in the week)

1 cup steamed redskins with a slathering of “Spreadable Butter with Canola Oil”

1 1/2 cups steamed fresh asparagus


As you can see, I had a challenging food day.  Hopefully you will learn from my mistakes and take away the importance of using the nutrition information chain restaurants provide before you head out for your next meal.

A typical Sunday at home

In Dining Out, What I ate today on March 8, 2010 at 9:06 PM

By request, I am going to start generating more entries that involve my own food choices.  Since I have a sporadic schedule and dine out very frequently, it may be helpful for you to see that even a dietitian needs to be mindful of what she eats and make conscious choices to be healthy every day.  While I have been successful maintaining my weight over the years,  it has not come easy.  If I paid little attention to what I ate, how much I ate, and when I ate, I’d gain weight just like everybody else.  So, let’s analyze what I have been eating lately, shall we?

SUNDAY March 7, 2010

Breakfast:  10:30 AM

3 egg omelet made with sauteed spinach & tomatoes (in olive oil) and 2 Tbsp. feta cheese

3 slices of center cut pork bacon 

2 slices of whole wheat toast with a small amount of “spreadable butter w/ canola oil”

1 cup mixed fruit  (cantaloupe, honeydew melon, pineapple, grapes)

coffee with fat free 1/2 & 1/2


Hmmm…this seems a bit unhealthy now, doesn’t it???

My husband likes to make breakfast for me on weekends.  Sweet of him, right?  Of course!  He likes to make traditional “big breakfasts”, which often include 3-egg omelets and bacon.    He finds joy in cooking for me, so I am most certainly not going to scoff at what he chooses to make.  Fortunately, he is considerate of my desire to eat healthy, so he usually makes me a veggie-filled omelet, and includes a side of fruit as well.  With my natural tendency towards high cholesterol, I really should limit my egg and bacon consumption.  We don’t have bacon every weekend, but if I do have it, I limit my serving to 2-3 slices…  I don’t particularly like turkey bacon, but it is lower in saturated fat and would be a healthier choice for my cholesterol.  Obviously, I am FAR from the perfect eater!!!!

After breakfast, I went to my health club and did circuit weight training for 60 minutes.  By continuously alternating between upper body and lower body exercises, I can transition from one exercise to another without rest breaks.  This keeps my heart rate elevated and allows me to burn more calories during and after my workout 🙂  I encourage you to give this method of weight training a try if you haven’t already.

Lunch:  2:30 pm

I am a sucker for Jimmy John’s subs, and there is one just up the road from the gym.   How convenient, eh?  We had already decided before I left the house that I would bring home a couple of subs with me–this afforded me the opportunity to “prethink” my order—a critical factor if you want to refrain from impulsive, unhealthy choices.   At JJ’s, I always order one of two subs:  #1 Italian (678 calories) or #5 Vegetarian (473 calories)—I looked the calorie counts up online some time ago.  Since I had just worked out, it made the most sense for me to try to keep my lunch under 600 calories—why spoil all that hard work, right?  I always substitute vinegar and oil for the mayo, so that probably saves me about 75 calories off the caloric “cost” of the sub.

Upon getting home, I added a handful of tortilla chips and a pickle to my plate.   Water to drink.

Total “damage”— 400 calorie sub, 140 calorie chips, 10 calorie pickle spear = 550 calories.  Great!

Now, if I would have chosen the Italian sub today, my whole lunch would have contained over 800 calories… not exactly ideal for weight management and it would have essentially negated all the effort of my workout. 

Some friendly advice:  Do NOT look at “exercise days” as a license to overeat.  If you do that, you will still gain weight despite the exercise.

Dinner:  7:30 pm

1 1/2 cups of homemade spaghetti with meat sauce:  whole wheat rotini with Piedmontese ground sirloin, marinara sauce, and 2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese.

Tossed salad with greens, cucumber, tomato, and a couple tbsp. of Ken’s Steak House Lite Northern Italian dressing.

No bread with this meal to sop up the sauce—too many carbs and too many calories!!!

Bite-size peanut butter cup for dessert


No snacking was necessary today—by waking up late, my meals were pushed close enough together.  Like most people, it is not unusual for me to consume more calories on weekends than on weekdays.  The secret to weight maintenance is keeping calories in check on weekdays to afford yourself a little more freedom of choice on weekends.  Sounds like a reasonable trade-off, right?  Note how I said “a little more freedom”—giving yourself too much freedom is dangerous for weight control, especially if you are someone who loves to eat and you keep too many “vices” within reach…

If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to ask.

The Pitfalls of Travel: Part 3

In Dining Out, What I ate today on January 22, 2010 at 9:00 AM

SUNDAY:  Dum dum dum dum dum…Kevin & Jen’s wedding day!   I witnessed my very first Russian Orthodox wedding—gorgeous! I would love to blog about how awesome this couple is and why I am so happy that they found each other…but that is not why you are here.  So back to my feeding frenzy!!!

As expected, the breakfast buffet was up and running again.  I checked it over since some places prepare more special recipes on Sunday mornings.  They must of missed the memo that Kevin was getting married…  I ended up ordering  the  “Jogger’s Breakfast”.

The wedding ceremony didn’t start until 3 pm so we decided to grab lunch at Panera Bread so we could fiddle with our laptops a bit.  I often get a Greek salad with chicken there, and intended to do so this time as well—it was wise to “eat smart” after the torte from last night, and I had no idea how many goodies were  in store for me at the reception.  I chose the whole grain bread to go with it, but it didn’t interest me much, so I only ate a few bites of it— just because the bread came with my meal, DOES NOT mean I have to eat it…  I ate the entire salad though.   

Panera Bread has many healthy, nutritious options available, but beware of the portions—calories abound if you get a whole sandwich, a bowl of cream-based soup in a bread bowl, etc.  I encourage you to look up the nutrition info online to see what I am talking about—most nationwide restaurant chains will provide it on their websites.  The best options are the “you pick two” in which you get a 1/2 sandwich and cup of soup or a 1/2 salad and soup or sandwich.  The combinations are endless, which prevents palate fatigue if you eat there frequently.  The broth-based veggie soups are going to be lower calorie and chock full of vitamins.  The best sandwich options are made with grilled chicken, turkey, or ham (sans cheese) on whole grain bread.  Be mindful of cheeses and heavy dressings on the salads.  Skipping the bagels and pastries is highly recommended!

The wedding reception was buffet style.  The appetizers were out first—a variety of cheeses, breads, and crackers; raw vegetables & dip; tossed salad; shrimp cocktail; cauliflower soup.   The best way to handle this scenario is to select a small plate, check out all your choices, and then put ONLY your preferred items on the plate—do not go back for refills.  Remember, this is just the first course…  I chose my favorite cheese (baked brie) and just enough crackers to accompany it, raw asparagus, carrots, and yellow peppers, a couple of shrimp, and a small cup of cauliflower soup. 

The main course consisted of an Indian buffet—some of the items I could not even identify!!!   Only fill your plate with items you are going to enjoy or things you are interested in trying.  I selected some protein (tandoori chicken & shrimp), rice with a little yogurt sauce, roasted vegetables, a small scoop of the cheesy, spicy spinach (wanted to taste it), and one piece of Naan bread.  I also had a glass (or two) of white wine with my dinner.

Now what is a wedding reception without the cake, right?  Since we were having so much fun gabbing and laughing at our table, it took us quite some time to make it back to the cake table once it was served.  The cake was part vanilla, part German chocolate.  By the time we went to get some, there was plenty of the vanilla, but only one piece of the chocolate left…Voldemort went gunning for it!   He knows I don’t waste my time on yellow cake— he snagged the final piece and we shared it 😉

This wraps up my weekend eating adventure.  Hopefully you have learned a thing or two about making healthier choices at airports, buffets, and restaurants.  As you can see, I do not deprive myself of my favorite foods.  The key is not wasting calories on foods I don’t care about, and setting limits on the ones I am likely to overeat.  Just because something is put in front of me, it doesn’t mean I have to eat it.  Just because a restaurant serves large portions, it doesn’t mean I have to be a member of The Clean Plate Club.   Think before you eat: decide on what is going to nourish your body while giving you the most satisfaction.  Eat slowly so your stomach has time to communicate with your brain that you are full.   Enjoy the social aspects of food—when you are out with others,  focus on the conversation, rather than eating everything on the table in front of you!

The Pitfalls of Travel: Part 2

In Dining Out, What I ate today on January 21, 2010 at 9:02 AM

My journey continues…I am still at the airport with a belly full of sub.  I’m feeling tired, so I decide to go to Caribou and get a small coffee (with 1/2 & 1/2) to take on the plane with me.  As I am purchasing the coffees, my “travel companion” (who has asked not be named…so I will call him “Voldemort”…) is drawn to the See’s Candy kiosk.  He buys TWO dark chocolate with almond bars—keeping the second one secret from me… Voldemort insists we need something sweet to go with our coffee, right?  No need to argue with that!!!  So, as we are waiting at the gate, 1/2 a candy bar and the coffee go down the hatch.

On the plane, we are offered our choice of beverage and “freebie” snack—cookies, pretzels, or peanuts.  I always request water–no point in getting junk calories from sugary juice & soda.  I’ve tried the cookies before–they have a “cheap” taste to them—my guess is a bunch of artificial ingredients.  Certainly nothing worth the calories.  As for the pretzels, I have always found them to be a bit stale, plus the salt just makes me more thirsty (it is easy to dehydrate on planes to begin with–don’t need any extra help with that).  So, I go for my beloved peanuts—I will even have the gall to ask for 2 packs!  Each pack has 70 calories and my rationale is that a 140 calorie snack is reasonable to tide me over to my next meal.  Since we were in the back of the plane, it had been quite some time since I finished my lunch.  Provided you don’t have a nut allergy, peanuts are a great snack choice as they are loaded with heart-healthy fats, protein, and vitamins.  The cookies and pretzels just provide “empty calories”—leaving you wanting more and more.  I already enjoyed some empty calories sharing the dark chocolate bar with Voldemort.  Eating a reasonable amount of good quality chocolate is a much better way to indulge, in my opinion.

Once settled in our hotel, we met the groom for dinner at a local Irish Pub.  Since we were celebrating his last few nights of bachelorhood, we started with “adult beverages”—beer is the most obvious choice at a pub.  However, the fish dinner special (Sole) caught my eye and beer didn’t seem like a good match.  They had quite an extensive martini menu, so I ended up ordering a Cosmo (no surprise there!)…a standard sized Cosmo has about 180 calories, so it was a good thing that I ordered the fresh fish dinner as opposed to the pub burger or deep-fried fish and chips.  I ordered a salad for an appetizer.  The fish came with rice pilaf and primavera vegetables, but I didn’t finish all the rice.  By the way, I ended up ordering another Cosmo… (they go down just a bit too easily!!)

After dinner, we ended up back at the hotel bar where a group of others joined us for shots—oh my…first the Irish whiskey (yikes!)…then the Sambuca (the bartender couldn’t get his hands on any coffee beans)…then the pint of Guinness…then the shot of Bailey’s IC on the rocks…then…o.k. you get the picture.  I overindulged WAY too much that night—but it was a bachelor party right?  Now I was regretting not bringing my workout clothes—it would have been nice to sweat out all the alcohol and a chunk of those calories in the morning… Oh well.  I just made sure to drink water in between to help stave off a hangover.

SATURDAY:  The hotel breakfast buffet…

The Hilton entices its guests with a 30% off breakfast buffet coupon on weekends.  I ALWAYS check out the buffet offerings before I commit—I have been disappointed too many times in the past.  This buffet was no exception—scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, english muffins, croissants, bagels.  Ho hum.  Nothing interesting about it.  The “all you can eat” buffets typically lead to overeating, so it is best to avoid them whenever possible.    I perused the basic a la carte menu instead.  After the previous night’s indulgences, I desired to eat a healthy, balanced meal, so I ordered the  “jogger’s breakfast” consisting of two eggs, sauteed spinach, a large serving of mixed fruit, and a couple slices of wheat toast.  YUM!  The perfect amount of food with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein.  A great way to start a day!   What’s the point in saving 30% off a buffet that I wasn’t going to enjoy anyway???

Since we had no where to be until the rehearsal dinner that evening, we drove downtown to Fanuiel Hall.  Anyone try driving around downtown Boston?  Geez!  I think we went around in circles 10 times before we got the the right place…  Anyways, while we were watching a stunt man unravel himself from ropes and a straight-jacket while hanging upside down 20 feet off the ground, Voldemort spotted a Bertucci’s Pizza sign beckoning in the distance.  It was time for lunch!

Bertucci’s pizza does not exist in the state of Michigan.  I fell in love with this place back in the 90’s when I lived in Baltimore, MD.   I was so excited to finally eat their roasted eggplant and artichoke pizza for the first time in at least 10 years!!!  (you can tell I love food, can’t ya??)  We had two size options for the pizza: individual or large.  We assumed the large would be too big for only two people to share—either we would have a bunch leftover (which doesn’t work when staying in a hotel) or we would end up stuffing ourselves silly.  The waiter informed us that the individual size was really more like a “medium” and had 4 large slices.  Perfect.  It came with an unlimited tossed salad so we knew we were going to have more than enough food.  It was as tasty as anticipated.  I left my beloved Bertucci’s feeling happy and satisfied 😉

Since I overindulged in “adult beverages” the previous night, I opted to drink only water during the cocktail hour preceding the rehearsal dinner. ( This time it was more about my stomach’s rebellion, rather than trying to save calories!)  We had the choice of haddock or ribeye for our entree.  Since I had fish last night, I opted for the ribeye.  It came with a bowl of New England style “chowda” to start, roasted potatoes, and green beans.  The steak was huge–my guess would be about 8-10 oz.  Way to much for only one person.  I ate about half of it. 

Then came dessert….the most amazing Boston cream chocolate torte I have ever tasted!  Yep, I ate the whole thing.  I’d like to blame my lack of resistance on my friend Patty’s bad influence, as she was sitting right next to me, but I would be lying.  We savored every last bite of it!  Yeah, she and I could have shared one slice of the torte to keep us both from getting a sugar buzz… No, I couldn’t have shared my slice with Voldemort–not only did he eat his own piece of torte, but he moved on to his neighbor’s when it went uneaten!!! 

So, that was Saturday.  It was easier for me to enjoy that yummy dessert because I had made reasonable choices at both breakfast and lunch.  If I had stuffed myself on several trips to the breakfast buffet and trying to polish off a large pizza at lunch, I would have felt pretty ill eating the whole dessert.  Sunday would be another day, and another opportunity to make balanced choices.

Hmmm…this travel blog is getting to be a bit longer than anticipated.  However, I do still need to discuss the wedding reception buffet, so that will covered in “The Pitfalls of Travel: Part 3″… I bet you can hardly wait 😉

The Pitfalls of Travel: Part 1

In Dining Out, What I ate today on January 20, 2010 at 10:12 AM

I went to Boston this past weekend for a wedding and because I was staying in a hotel for three nights, I got more than my share of restaurant meals.  My activities included throwing the groom an impromptu bachelor party Friday night—first at an Irish Pub, then back at the hotel bar (a few too many alcohol calories that night).  Saturday involved a jaunt downtown to Fanuiel Hall–where I ate lunch at Bertucci’s Pizza (my all time favorite pizza that I miss from my years of living on the East coast…), and then the rehearsal dinner that evening.  Sunday entailed the wedding and reception, which of course, enticed me with appetizers, a buffet, and cake!  So, I had quite a plethora of food choices to make, even at the airports.

I will share with you some of  the decisions I made in the effort to maintain some balance in my overall food intake.   Hopefully you will learn a nugget or two about what it takes to manage the barrage of food involved during such celebratory occasions. 

 Since I am too cheap to pay the extra $25 to check a bag, I brought only a small carry-on and ended up having to leave  my workout clothes at home because my dress took up too much space…it was either the dress or the running shoes, and I figured I’d be a bit embarrassed donning my running gear at a black tie event!!!  So, the dress won this time around.  But, I didn’t allow myself to be lazy for 4 whole days:   I hopped on the treadmill for 40 minutes before my flight on Friday and then did 30 minutes on the elliptical last night upon my return home.  So, I really only missed 2 days of exercise–which is fine by me.  I enjoyed the break 😉

FRIDAY:  Detroit Metro Airport—I needed to eat lunch before my flight.

 Back in the early o0’s,  Detroit Metro airport received the prestigious distinction of having some of the worst food choices on the planet—I remember reading about this ranking in a national magazine.  It made me proud to be a part of the second most obese city in America—with selections like Cinnabon, Burger King, McDonald’s, Mrs. Field’s Cookies, Starbuck’s (serving only pastries at the time), and Coney Island, the airport certainly helped to keep metro Detroiters looking their best… 

Fortunately, with the opening of the new terminal, some healthier establishments have taken root.  No matter my destination, it never fails that I will have a flight at either gate A1 or A 78—the furthest distance away from the Delta/NWA central ticketing area.  I could take the tram, but if I have some good walking shoes on and am not carrying too heavy a load, I enjoy the looooooooooong walk down to the gating area.   My all time favorite place is called “PB & J”—down near A1.  All they serve is peanut butter sandwiches—smooth or crunchy PB, 5 choices of bread, and just about any other condiment imaginable to pair with it.   My choice is always the same:  crunchy PB with sliced banana on wheat and a bottled water.   Very convenient to take on the plane since it doesn’t get cold or spoil.  Sometimes I will trek all the way down to one end of the terminal just to get my sandwich and then head all the way back to the other end to catch my plane!!!  Yep, I’m THAT crazy…    However, if time is running short,  and my gate is at the opposite end, I settle for Boars Head sandwiches near A 78.  They have a bunch of salad and sandwich options that make it easy to find healthy choices.  I was a bit too rushed to order a salad on Friday, so I settled for a ham and swiss sub on whole wheat with lettuce, tomato, and balsamic dressing.  No chips—I was getting more than enough carb from the sandwich bun– it was huge!  I ended up tossing about 1/3 of it away—I will know for next time to split it with my travel companion!

So, the next time you have to grab a bite on the “fly” at Metro airport, try these healthier options…fyi—Taco Bell is right next door to Boars Head and Quizno’s is right next to PB & J.  RESIST people, RESIST!!!

There is still so much more to write but my fingers are about to fall off and I don’t want your eyeballs to go bugging out of your head…I will continue my culinary journey in “The Pitfalls of Travel: Part 2” coming soon!

Planning ahead to stay on track…

In What I ate today on January 13, 2010 at 9:31 AM

My work and leisure schedules are never the same from day to day.  I work in a variety of different settings performing any number of tasks—teaching classes, counseling, computer work, etc.    My time may be very open or very congested depending on how many programs or clients are scheduled.  I may work morning, afternoon, and/or evening on any given day.  Therefore, it is important for me to pre-plan my meals so that I can stay prepared and energized for whatever the day has in store for me.   I go grocery shopping once a week to make sure I have plenty of healthy foods available at all times.  I carry food along with me depending on where I am going and how long I will be there.  I also plan for emergencies by carrying some nuts, trail mix, or a granola bar just in case!  Life is rarely predictable, don’t you agree??

Many of you marveled at how well orchestrated my meals and snacks were on a previous entry.   Not so on this day, my friends…. 

Breakfast at 7:45 am:

2 shredded wheat biscuits  (Barbara’s Bakery)

1/2 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk

3/4 cup blackberries

1 hard boiled egg

coffee with fat free 1/2 & 1/2


Lunch at 12:30 pm:  

large salad made with romaine lettuce, dried cherries, chopped pecans, feta, and grilled chicken; EVOO & cider vinegar dressing with Italian herbs

12 Triscuit “Thin Crisps” crackers

bite-size peanut butter cup


Dinner at 5:15 pm: 

1 cup homemade chili  (leftovers from yesterday—consisting of Piedmontese ground sirloin, diced seasoned tomatoes, red beans, black beans, chili seasoning) topped with 1/4 cup shredded cheddar

Trader Joe’s 70% dark chocolate 100 calorie bar

Snack at 9:00 pm:

Macintosh apple

Analysis:  I didn’t have time for snacks between meals today.  My breakfast held me over well (high fiber, high protein) such that I was not starving come lunch time.  I will often have a large salad with protein at lunch–which takes a little longer to eat—thereby slowing me down and helping me “fill up” without overeating.  (It takes 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal that your stomach is full—if you eat too fast, you can easily overeat).  My high protein/high fiber lunch also stabilizes my blood sugar keeping me from having any food cravings during the afternoon.  I had an early dinner today because I was not going to be home until about 9 pm.   If I would have waited until I got home to have dinner, it would have consisted of a boatload of Whirley Pop popcorn!!!  Whew–  escaped that “nutritional no-no”.   (hate to break it to you, but popcorn does not make for a balanced, nutritious meal…sorry!!)  So, my evening snack consisted of an apple instead.  I made this choice because I only had one fruit today (the blackberries at breakfast) and usually try to get two servings in a day.  Having goals such as this helps me to make better choices—especially when I am tired and more vulnerable to eating “junk foods” after a long day…

A weekend peek & restaurant strategies

In Dining Out, What I ate today on January 10, 2010 at 10:33 AM

Most people eat differently on the weekends than they do weekdays.  Schedules are different.  More social opportunities including alcohol and restaurant meals exist.  Stopping “for a bite” while out running errands is not uncommon.   Skipping meals more frequently when involved in home projects and losing track of time occurs.   More time is available for preparing a bigger, more leisurely breakfast.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  It is not unusual for someone to consume more calories and/or make more unhealthy food choices as a result of any these factors.  Recognizing these patterns is what can help lead you to change your habits on the weekends too…

Here is what I ate today.  Not as stellar as my last report…

10:00 a.m.:  coffee in bed  (no kids to wake me up early)

Breakfast at 11 am:  2 slices of Ezekial Sesame toast with 1 tbsp. ” Land O Lakes Butter with Canola Oil”

6 oz. cup Peach Chobani Yogurt

another cup of coffee with fat free 1/2 & 1/2


2:00-2:50 pm:  50 minutes on the treadmill

Lunch at 3 pm:  tuna salad on 100% whole wheat Arnold Sandwich Thin bread–tuna made with relish, lemon pepper, and light Miracle Whip; slice of sharp cheddar cheese; tomatoes.  (sandwich heated in convection oven, not grilled on stove)  I normally would have added a handful of baby carrots to my plate, but I was being lazy after my workout, so I didn’t bother…

Dinner at 8:00 pm:  La Marsa Middle Easten Restaurant

1/2 order of Shish Kafta (ground lamb and spices)–about 4 oz.

1 cup rice pilaf

green tossed salad with Greek dressing with 2 “hot pocket” pita breads (YUM!)

“Power Mix” vegetable  juice—carrot, celery, beet, radish

Snack at 10:00 pm:  shame on me….I am eating half a frozen Hershey chocolate bar as I am typing this NUTRITION blog!!!  and drinking mint & chamomile tea.  I do love chocolate…I probably get a little bit every day.

Analyzing this day, my late breakfast threw the timing of all my other meals off.  I did not eat a single piece of fruit today.  Normally I eat fruit at breakfast,but since I woke up late, I didn’t want to take the time to prepare and  eat too much.  Since I got involved in various tasks around the house, I made no time to grab a healthy snack between meals.  (sound familiar???)  Ideally, I try to eat every 3-4 hours to keep me from being too hungry at my next meal.  I really could have done without the chocolate bar so late at night…I was not hungry after my filling dinner—I was just craving a “little something sweet” to have with my tea…probably should have had a fruit!!! 

The restaurant issues:  large portions abound so I split a meal with my dining companion (usually it is kafta lamb or tawook chicken at mid eastern places).  Then there is the bread basket….DO NOT ARRIVE TO ANY RESTAURANT STARVING!!!  Especially if you really like the bread they serve.  A basket teeming with 6 mini pitas, piping hot out of the brick oven, were plopped on our table first thing.  It is hard to resist grabbing one when it is warm, so we munched on one while deciding what to order.  Then I had a second with my salad.  Even though a third pita was technically “mine” if the basket was split in half, I resisted having a third.  I waited for my main course to come and was having rice, so I didn’t need more starch, and by the time I finished, I was full.  The bread was cold, and no longer so tempting.  It is important to monitor your hunger signals—eat something ONLY when you are genuinely hungry.  In this case, by eating slowly and allowing the tempting little pitas to get cold, the bread lost its desireability.  I saved about 70 calories from the bread I didn’t need. Plus, it is bread made with white flour.  No nutritional benefit whatsoever.  Yeah, I know, I made up for those 70 missing calories by eating the chocolate later—but at least I stopped at HALF the bar 😉

I am not trying to be hard on myself.  I do not feel “guilty” for the choices I made.  I know I achieve balance overall—I don’t eat like this all the time.   I am using my decisions as an opportunity to educate you on the types of choices we ALL have to make. 

I welcome any critique you would like to provide in terms of what  I could have done differently today.  It is always easier to point out what someone else is doing and then learn from their mistakes 😉

Well, Van Halen is jammin on the XBOX so gotta go grab my guitar now…


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