Mindful Eating

With a busy schedule full of work, family and life obligations, it is easy to rush meal times while eating our food on the run. Many of us have mastered the skill of multi-taking, only to miss out on the opportunity to enjoy our food. Do you ever stop to notice the texture of the food that you’re eating or pay attention to your body telling you that you’ve had enough?  Mindful eating is a way to bring the focus back to the peace and joy that eating can provide.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is applying mindfulness to why, when, where, what, and how you eat. This means being aware of both the physical and emotional feelings connected to eating; it is the process of paying attention to the experience of eating.

One study suggests that applying mindful eating tools may help you to avoid overeating by being aware of portion control, taste, texture and sensations such as mouthfeel. By being mindful you will raise awareness to why are you eating (are you hungry or simply snacking?), what you are eating (is this food nourishing to your body?), and how you are eating (am I on the run, multi-taking, driving, watching TV, texting? Am I even enjoying my food?).

Individuals who apply mindful eating tools have reported an increase in self-efficacy; cognitive control, improved eating behaviors; and even decreased symptoms of depression. A mindful eating approach may increase consumption of healthful fruits and vegetables which have protective qualities to help fight against coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, and certain cancers.

Quick Tips For Eating Mindfully:

  • Observe your body: Notice hunger and fullness signals that guide you to start and stop eating.
  • Do not judge yourself: If you want to eat something, have it; as long as eating this food will not bring about any feelings of shame or guilt. If it will, recognize this and either avoid eating it or try to change your reaction to this food.
  • Notice your reaction to food. What do you like, what don’t you like? Try closing your eyes for a moment while you are eating to experience food in a new way.
  • Savor your food: While eating, notice all of the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of the food. Focus on each mouthful. Try to engage all 5 senses when you eat (sight, smell, sound, taste, touch).

Ask yourself, “Am I…” 

  • Physically hungry? Try using a scale of 1-10 (1 very hungry and 10 very full). Ideally, you want to eat when your hunger is mild at a 3-4 and stop when it reaches a 7-8.
  • Eating quickly or slowly? If you notice you’re rushing; take a deep breath and slow down.

Mindful Eating Resources:

  1. Intuitive Eating website: www.IntuitiveEating.org
  2. Miller CK, Kristeller JL, Headings A, Nagaraja H. Comparison of a mindful eating intervention to a diabetes self-management intervention among adults with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Health Educ Behav. 2014;41(2):145-154.
  3. The Center for Mindful Eating website:http://www.tcme.org/
  4. Tylka, T. Intuitive Eating Assessment Scale. J Counseling Psychology 2006(53):226-240.
  5. Mathieu J. What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating?J Am Dietetic Assoc 2009;109(Dec):1982-1987.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Carlyn Blevins for her contributions to this post.

Pumpkin Season: Benefits of Adding Pumpkin to your Diet

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Cooking, Food Labels, Holidays

Tis’ the season for pumpkin everything and that is actually a very good thing. Pumpkin contains many protective nutritional qualities.

Fun Facts about pumpkin:

  • Pumpkin belongs to the Curcurbitaceae family, which also includes gourds, squash, cucumbers and watermelons.
  • There are  many shades and sizes of pumpkins, some are best for decorations and some are sweeter and best for pies and baking.
  • In other parts of the world, winter and summer squash are referred to as pumpkins.
  • When cooking or baking with pumpkin, used freshly made or canned pumpkin. Avoid pumpkin pie mix, which is filled with sugar.
  • The fiber content of pumpkin helps you to feel full, promotes digestive health, weight control and prevents constipation.
  • Pumpkin if left uncut, should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to two months.

Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkin:

  • Low in calories per serving
  • Approximately 90% water
  • Fiber rich
  • Antioxidants: may help to prevent degenerative damage to the eyes.
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin A / provitamin A from Carotenoids (Beta-carotene)
  • B Vitamins: (folate, niacin, vitamin B6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin C: antioxidant support
  • Copper
  • Calcium
  • Potassium: provides a positive effect on blood pressure.
  • Phosphorus


Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant found in pumpkin, giving pumpkin its orange color. In the body, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements calls beta-carotene “by far the most important provitamin A carotenoid.” Current evidence on the nutritional benefits of beta-carotene suggests it may help protect against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, fight inflammation, delay aging/body degeneration and improve skin appearance. Multiple studies have concluded that a diet rich in plant food such as pumpkin, decrease the risk factors of chronic disease  such as obesity and decreases overall mortality.


Many Americans consume an average of 15 grams of fiber daily, falling short of the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber daily required to maintain health and a properly functioning GI tract. Adding pumpkin to your diet is a great way to increase daily fiber intake. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugar into the blood, aids in smooth digestion and promotes regular bowel movements.

What about the Seeds?

Pumpkin seeds are high in protein (7 grams per 1-oz), contain omega-6-fatty acids, and contain the amino acid tryptophan which helps the body produce mood-elevating serotonin. Pumpkin seeds contain fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, minerals and vitamin K.

Pumpkin Seed Oil:

Researchers also have looked into the potential health benefits of pumpkin seed oil, which is high in zinc, vitamin E, and magnesium.The main benefit of pumpkin seed oil is in the protective nutritional qualities benefiting the urinary and reproductive areas of the body, especially in the prostate.

Disease Fighting Properties:

Vegetables are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber and phyochemicals which play a vital role in the prevention of chronic disease. Researches state that the nutrition profile (carotenoids, pectin, oleic and linolenic acids) of pumpkin helps to improve glycemic and insulin response, decrease systemic inflammation and decrease cardiovascular disease risk factors. The plant compounds in pumpkin seeds and pulp are excellent for helping the absorption of glucose into the tissues and intestines, as well as balancing levels of liver glucose.

Nutrient Content:

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains

1.76 g of protein

2.7 g of fiber

49 calories

0.17 g of fat

0 g of cholesterol

12.01 g of carbohydrate

Recommended daily allowance (RDA) of:

200%: Vitamin A

19%: Vitamin C

10%: Vitamin E, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper, Manganese

5%: Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic acid, Niacin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus

How to Incorporate Pumpkin into your Diet:

Pumpkin may be incorporated into desserts, soups, smoothies, salads and even made into a pumpkin butter to be used as a spread or substituted for butter in baking.

Tip: Remember the only ingredient in canned pumpkin should be pumpkin.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Carlyn Blevins for her contributions to this post.

Tips for a Healthier Halloween

October 11, 2017 by  
Filed under Child nutrition, Holidays

Halloween is just around the corner – and it often comes with a SCARY amount of sugar in most households.

Did you know that the average American will eat just about 3 pounds of candy each Halloween season?

Nobody says you have to give up the sweet stuff, but here are a few tips for having a healthier Halloween!


Be Pro-Pumpkin..but without all the Sugar

The second it hits October you see pumpkin-flavored everything, everywhere. But most drinks and foods touting their pumpkin-flavors have just that, flavoring, and very minimal actual pumpkin.

Pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A and fiber – but only if you get the actual pumpkin! Try incorporating canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix which has added sugar) into favorite foods like waffles, oatmeal and home-made muffins.

Spiced pumpkin soup, homemade pumpkin raviolis made with won-ton wrappers and pumpkin smoothies with plain yogurt are other great ways to get a feeling for fall without all of that added sugar!


Scatter your Sugar – Use Nuts and Fruit

If you’re looking for something to nosh on this time of year, make sure to have fresh fruit and nuts on hand. You can make your own trail mix – even using a little candy if you want – but spread out the sugar by incorporating fruit and nuts.

Many dried fruits contain added sugar, so look for items that don’t – or incorporate fresh instead of dried fruit when you can.

When it comes to nuts, calories do add up quickly – but those calories also come with protein, fiber and healthy fats that will help keep you full when it comes time to go trick-or-treating


Out of Site…Out of Mind

Ever find yourself raiding your kids’ candy bag, just because it’s there? Same thing goes with the candy jar on the counter. You probably wouldn’t eat it if you hadn’t seen it! Studies show that a move as simple as moving tempting foods out of site can help cut down on overeating.

Sure, it’s fine to indulge your sweet tooth once in a while – but keeping your sweets stashed away (and in small portions) might help you cut back on the calories from sugar this holiday season!


National Nutrition Month: Put Your Best Fork Forward

March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is Put Your Best Fork Forward.

So how exactly can you go about leading with your best fork?

Small shifts in your food choices add up over time. So don’t stress if you don’t have a “perfect” diet – just work to make small changes that move you in the right direction!

Here are the key messages for this year’s month-long celebration of nutrition:

  1. Create an eating style that includes a variety of your favorite, healthful foods.
  2. Practice cooking more at home and experiment with healthier ingredients.
  3. How much we eat is as important as what we eat. Eat and drink the right amount for you, as MyPlate encourages us to do.
  4. Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.
  5. Manage your weight or lower your health risks by consulting a registered dietitian nutritionist. RDNs can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.

For more great information about National Nutrition Month, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ NNM website.


Getting Real About Holiday Weight Gain



An often-cited statistic is that the typical American packs on 1-2 pounds over the Holiday Season. While that might not sound like much, if you do this year-in and year-out, on top of other weight gaining factors…things could get heavy!

So why do people tend to gain weight over the holidays? A number of factors could be at play:

  • Stress – the Holidays can be stressful for many reasons, and some people turn to food when emotions run high
  • Greater availability – face it: you don’t see cookies and cakes and candy ever as much as you do around the Holidays, there’s just more bad food constantly in our faces!
  • Less activity – cold weather can be a deterrent for physical activity; if you’re not offsetting your calories with motion, pounds can creep up
  • Alcohol – the Holidays mean celebration, and many celebrations come hand-in-hand with alcohol and their added calories

With parties and gatherings galore, it can seem challenging to keep your health in check. So here are a few tips to help fight the heaviness that sometimes gets associated with the Holidays:

  • Make a plan – exercise earlier in the day if you know you have a party later; bring your lunch to work if dinner means drinks and food with friends…keep in mind that, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
  • Never show up hungry – you’ve likely heard this one before, but don’t show up to the festivities when you’re famished. Have a snack ahead of time to ensure you don’t overdo it at the party.
  • Walk it off – the Holidays are a great time to get together with friends and family, so why not get everyone together outside for a brisk walk after dinner? You can spend time together in places other than on your butt!

Whatever your holiday has in store – don’t forget that it doesn’t HAVE to involve weight gain. Stay active and savor small versions of what the season has to offer!

Holiday Weight Gain: A Worldly Problem

September 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Holidays, Obesity


Fall is upon us and the holidays are just around the corner. With the season of overeating just on the horizon, it bears mentioning that the typical American gains about a pound from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. That might not sound like much, but year in and year out, that pound adds up and can be a significant contributor to overweigh and obesity.

If it’s any consolation, N. Americans are not alone. In a letter posted in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, researchers posited that weight gain over the holidays is a universal problem. Whether its Thanksgiving in the US, Christmas in Germany or Golden Week in Japan, weight gain was almost an inevitability.

While the authors pointed out that most people lose about half of that holiday weight gain in the first few weeks of the New Year…half is not all…and half may still be a problem if you habitually put on weight in the holidays.

Here are a few tips to put in the back of your mind as we roll into holiday party season:

  • Don’t go to a party hungry – snack before so you don’t show up famished
  • Bring a healthy dish to share – of course ask the host ahead but why not contribute something you know you can safely eat?
  • Back your booze up with water – don’t guzzle high calorie cocktails, slow your roll with a big glass of water in between drinks
  • Relocate away from the food – out of sight, out of mind, don’t post up too close to the food if you default to grazing when you’re not really hungry

To Weigh or Not to Weigh?

January 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Holidays

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 4.17.13 PM

It’s the first week of January – so chances are, you’re still on board with your New Year’s resolutions. But did you know that approximately 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by the 2nd week in February?

Many folks resolve to eat better, exercise more and lose weight in the New Year. And if this description fits you, you’ve probably got a goal weight in mind.

So when it comes to weighing yourself, the big question is – how often should one weigh in to stick to a weight loss plan so you don’t become a mid-February resolution failure statistic?

The old school of thought used to be don’t weigh yourself too often or you’ll become neurotic about the number on the scale. But other data indicates that regular weighing is important to stay on track towards your goal. Who’s right? Or does the scale really even matter?

Weigh Every Day

Registered Dietitian and nutrition communications consultant Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD suggests weighing yourself regularly, stating, “If you weigh yourself every morning, that can really nip in the bud any weight gain, or start to show you some weight loss.” Giancoli recommends weighing in at the same time every day, preferably first thing in the morning.

Throw the Scale Away

On the other side of the spectrum, Lindsay Stenovec, MS, RDN, CEDRD, Registered Dietitian and owner of NutritionInstincts.com recommends her clients leave weigh-ins for doctor’s visits and get rid of their personal scales. Stenovec notes, “Most weight loss goals are made with health in mind, so I suggest that individuals focus on actual behaviors that impact their health – rather than weight change. Focusing on weight can actually sabotage healthy changes.”

Consistency is Key

However you decide to go about self-weighing or tracking other health-related behaviors, consistency is key. The National Weight Control Registry, a cohort of “successful losers” (those who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for 1 year or more) keeps track of common behaviors shared by those with successful weight loss experiences. The NWCR has found that 75% of successful losers weigh themselves at least once a week.

Thinking Beyond the Scale

While the number on the scale may matter if you’re working towards a weight loss goal – don’t forget it’s not your only barometer to health-related success. If you pick up regular exercise after a period of inactivity, you may not initially lose much weight as you convert fat to muscle.

Pay attention to other markers of success besides dropping lbs, such as:

  • Reduced waist circumference – can you notch your belt a little tighter or go down a pants size? If so you’re losing belly fat and that is a major accomplishment even if your weight isn’t reducing as quickly as you’d like
  • Lowered blood pressure measurements – regular exercise and improved diet can help lower blood pressure in people prone to high blood pressure; improvements in this metric are vital to reducing cardiovascular risk, even without weight loss
  • Improved energy level – do you feel more energized and less sluggish with your recent improvements in diet and exercise? If so congratulate yourself on improved quality of life, which in the larger scheme of things is probably more important than the number on the scale!


Hot Food Trends for 2016

December 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Dietary Patterns, Holidays

Rolled newspaper with the headline The latest Food Trends

With the new year upon us, it’s time to tackle what’s going to be trendy in 2016. Here are a few hot food items you’re sure to see popping up in the coming months:

Sprouted Grains

Sprouted grains are gaining traction for their increased nutrient bioavailability and whole grain nutrient cred. Look for sprouted grains in snack foods, or recipes that promote using your own.

Plant Based Diets

With the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans likely publishing in early 2016, there will be an increased focus away from animal foods and towards more plant-based foods. Look for plant based proteins like legumes, nuts and seeds to be big in 2016.

Sustainable Food Practices

Waste not want not will be big in 2016. A backlash against the incredible amount of food thrown away in the US that started in 2015 will likely continue into the New Year. Look for food rescue programs and imperfect produce to make a comeback.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods like kimchi and kombucha will be big in 2016. Advocates tout their digestive health benefits and probiotic content to get your gut back in shape.


Ancient grains had their day in the sun in 2015. For 2016 look to pulses such as dried beans and peas and lentils to be big. As a plant-based protein, these are great nutrition givers, but they also pack fiber and other valuable nutrients and are affordable to boot.

Good Fats

Good fats are back! The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans will likely highlight the importance of eating good fats vs. eating less fat. Think olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil instead of butter, lard and coconut oil. Avocados and nuts will likely get their day in the sun too as they are sources of heart-health unsaturated fats.

Getting Geared up for Food Day

October 6, 2015 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, General, Holidays


While we eat food every day, Food Day is a special day to think about what and how we eat. Food Day is on October 24 and the celebration seeks to “inspire Americans to change their diets and our food policies.”

Food Day was created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest but is championed by a diverse group of leaders in the food movement, public office, school settings and local organizers.

In addition to celebrating food, the Food Day movement has a number of national priorities that relate to our food system and “provide common ground for building the food movement”. Food Day seeks to:

  • Promote safer, healthier diets
  • Support sustainable and organic farms
  • Reduce hunger and improve food access
  • Reform factory farms to protect the environment and farm animals
  • Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers

To get involved this year in Food Day, you can:

This year as an added bonus, Food Day is partnering with EatingWell.com to host filmmaker Susan Rockefeller’s new film “Food for Though, Food for Life” that, “inspires us to think differently about what we eat, and to make changes that will positively impact our health, our communities and the environment”. The film will be available this month on the EatingWell.com website, available here.

Summer Produce Takes Center Stage

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With summer just around the corner, chances are you are firing up your grill and gearing up for backyard barbeques. If you want to make a splash this summer dining season, fix your focus on fruit.

Summer means peak season for lots of fruits (and veggies too!). For your next get together, why not gather up what’s fresh and in season? Check your local markets for apricots, blueberries, blackberries, bell peppers, melons (cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew), corn, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, nectarines, strawberries, summer squash, raspberries, peaches, plums, radishes, tomatoes, and zucchini.

Eating a variety of these foods will not only provide you with great sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, it will also add some festive colors to your plate.

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate seasonal produce into both sweet and savory dishes:

  • Corn and summer veggie sauté
  • Cucumber salad
  • Fruit kebabs with melon
  • Summer squash pizza
  • Stone fruit salad
  • Summer veggie omelet
  • Fruit smoothie with berries
  • Pasta with tomato and eggplant
  • Frozen melon pops
  • Tomato and corn salsa
  • Peach ice cream
  • Chicken with blueberry sauce
  • Zucchini muffins
  • Water infused with strawberry and mint

For more creative fruit and vegetable ideas check out Fruits & Veggies More Matters.

Special thanks to dietetic intern Megan Fobar, MS for her contributions to this post.

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