Category Archives: Family Food Tips

Is Nutrition an Assignment? How to keep ‘Back To School’ in your own lunchbox.

I have not yet sighed any relief from our kids being back in school. We’re still adjusting to three different school schedules in three different towns for our four children. What I always do plan are my nutrition choices – following my own 80/20 rule.


As I looked ahead to this fall I decided between the kids and my practice I was determined to keep making time for exercise that makes my body feel good. So, finally, I joined a doubles tennis league and I love it!

Every Wednesday morning after I drop my daughter off at school, I play an hour and a half of doubles with some great ladies, before getting to work. While I realize getting to play at all is a luxury and certainly something I could not entertain full time in the clinic – I have made it a priority.

When does nutrition go from priority to an assignment? If nutrition and eating healthfully are an assignment – judged by ourselves or others – how likely are we to stick to our best choices?

I often get asked what I eat. How do I stay fit. Full disclosure? Here we go…

I exercise at least 4-5 hours each week, and always have since age 15 or 16. Exercise helps me control my endless energy and some anxiety. And it makes me feel great about myself! For me, now in my mid-40’s, I include a mix of hot power yoga, doubles and singles tennis, weights, and other aerobic activity – like barre or a less impactful class. My joints are not what they used to be!

For eating, my body has also changed. My weight is higher than it was at a younger age – and I’m comfortable with it. My daily nutrition includes eating at least 5-6 times a day comprised of 3 meals and 2-3 snacks.

Breakfast is non-negotiable and varies daily. I love fresh baked goods from one of the local bakeries or coffee shops in town and can often be found stopping at one for a scone or a muffin. In my own ‘lunchbox’, if I’m home, it’s always eggs, a carbohydrate in the form of a whole grain, some cheese or hummus and likely a vegetable. Snacks are usually fruit – apples are a favorite this time of year – and this can vary with what’s in season. Because of the anaphylactic allergies we have at home to peanuts and tree nuts, I keep peanut butter in my office and consume quite a lot of it at work with fruit in the afternoons.

We eat dinners out about 1-2 times per week at one of our local restaurants and I cook the other nights. We are still getting our CSA delivery (community supported agriculture), which helps us have veggies ready to go. When I cook dinners for our family the balance is always protein (beef, chicken, turkey, fish, sausages), fat, carbs (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, pasta, risotto), and veggies – across the board. If there are leftovers I may take these in for lunch the next day or save them for our youngest who sometimes eats dinner earlier than the rest of us. Alternatively, one of the boys or my husband may eat this for lunch the next day.

Friday is always take out pizza, Cesar salad, then chocolate and wine. Wine in general for me is about 1-2 glasses on the weekend nights and maybe 1 with dinner during the week. I drink at least 2 liters of water a day and about 2-3 cups of tea – coffee just gives me more energy than I need. Occasionally, I will splurge on a large cookie from a local bakery…and a couple times a month I’ll order a cheeseburger and fries for a meal out. Nearly every night I do have chocolate as a treat – and usually from England as my husband brings it home for me from his travels.

What I have learned from the fat-free days to the gluten-free and sugar-free trends, is that our bodies change and nutrition choices needn’t be an assignment. Nutrition is best as a choice for nourishing, fueling, and feeding your body what works for your own energy, lifestyle, likes and dislikes.

September is always a great time of year to reset any New Year’s goals before holiday season quickly approaches. Making time to grocery shop, plan and prepare meals, and exercise as a balance need to be and stay a priority. Keeping your priorities in your own ‘lunchbox’ over making nutrition an assignment is your best bet.

Savor the Flavor – While Getting Back On Track

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This month Jenna, Katie and I are sharing ideas about National Nutrition Month. For even more information, please visit the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics website.

Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few tips to Savor the Flavor, and to help you get back on track with your nutrition goals:

  • Emphasize fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products. (There may be room for full-fat dairy in some diets – ask me if you have questions about this!)
  • Include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, or nuts every day. Try to include a source of protein at every meal and some snacks.
  • Read nutrition labels and choose foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
    • Added sugars can be confusing – this does not include the natural sugars found in fruit and yogurt. Fruit and yogurt provide us with important vitamins and minerals so it’s great if you include these foods in your diet!

Make Your Calories Count & Think Nutrient-Rich Rather Than “Good” Or “Bad” Foods

When we label foods as ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘fattening,’ or even ‘healthy’ it shifts our focus from providing our bodies with a source of fuel and nutrition to a focus more centered on our body image. Listen to your body and think of how the food you provide it makes you feel.

Choosing foods that are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients can help you to stay healthy, manage your weight (gaining or losing), and have the energy to stay physically active. Remember to limit your use the words ‘should’ or ‘sorry’ and try not to place blame around nutrition, exercise, and your body.

Focus On Variety

Fuel your body by eating a variety of foods from all the food groups to ensure a balanced diet and adequate nutrition. Balanced nutritional choices do not need to be about restrictions and limitations.

  • Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen, or canned.
  • Include more dark, green vegetables like leafy greens and broccoli.
  • Try orange veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes.
  • Vary your protein choices with more fish, beans, and peas.
  • Eat at least 3 ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta each day. Whole grains provide our body with energy in the form of glycogen – we need this to maintain our energy and fuel our bodies!

Know Your Fats

Look for foods low in saturated fats and trans fats to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Avocados, olives, fish, nuts and seeds are all sources of healthy fats. Check the Nutrition Facts label for total fat and saturated fat content – mono and polyunsaturated fats are healthier choices!

Even health care clinicians can get off track with new habits. March and National Nutrition Month can help us all reset and keep up with our new 2016 habits. With spring nearly here, we hope these steps can help resurrect any New Year’s nutrition intentions (or resolutions) that may have gone by the wayside.