img_0781I love pumpkin in the fall. Love it. Stereotypes be darned, I do not care. This scrumptious squash finds its way into curries, soups, muffins, cookies, pancakes, and steamers around my house as soon as the leaves start to turn.

Pumpkin takes a front seat in this seasonal smoothie that is filling, nutritious, and delectable. I started with the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie recipe here and modified it to boost the protein, control the carbs, and add some greens, because if you’re making a shake, why not add greens? You can’t taste them and it’s an easy-as-pie (…see what I did there?) way to get an extra serving of veggies.

Try it for a tasty breakfast that is (bonus!) carb-controlled, heart healthy, and contains servings from 4 different food groups.

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (you can definitely use dairy milk but carb-counters be aware it will add about 12 grams of carbohydrate)

1 handful spinach or kale

½ cup pureed pumpkin

¼ cup light vanilla Greek yogurt

1/8 cup plain whey protein (I love the bulk whey protein from Winco!)

½ medium banana

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp honey (or your sweetener of choice)

Instructions:

  1. Add almond milk and greens to blender. Blend for 30-60 seconds or until leaves have been completely blended and the mixture looks like green, frothy milk.img_0780
  2. Add remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Makes 1 16-oz serving. Contains 303 calories, 35.1  g carbohydrate, 14.6 g protein, 2.9  g fat, 0.1 g saturated fat, and 251 mg sodium. Includes 1 serving dairy, 1 serving fruit, 1 serving vegetables, and 1.5 oz protein.


The common cold has fogged my brain (or sapped my motivation) enough that I haven’t done much research in the last few days. I have a couple of MyPlate recipes stocked up that I had not yet posted, so I thought I’d grace you with one today. I present to you a fiance favorite: The Spinach Lasagna Roll-Up.

done

Ingredients:

10-12 lasagna noodles (you’ll only use 8 but you want to have extra in case some tear)

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

8-10 mushrooms, sliced

1 cup spinach

3/4 cup fat free sour cream

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

1 (15-oz) can no salt added tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Cook and drain the lasagna noodles according to the package directions, minus about 2 minutes (you want the noodles to hang together well for the roll-ups).cooked noodles
  2. While the noodles are cooking, brown the ground beef over medium heat and drain the fat (if you prefer a vegetarian option, these are deliciously mushroom-y without the beef too). Add in the olive oil, onions, and mushrooms and saute until soft.mushrooms and meat
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add in spinach, fat free sour cream, and 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella. Cook until cheese is melted and spinach is slightly wilted.spinach and meat and sauce
  4. Lay the lasagna noodles out on a plate. Spread a thin layer of the beef and mushroom mixture on each noodle. Roll the noodles up and place in a 9×13 baking dish.rolling
  5. In a bowl, stir together tomato sauce, basil, oregano, and garlic powder. Pour on top of lasagna roll-ups. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.sauce and cheese
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve two roll-ups with a side of veggies and some fruit for a complete MyPlate meal. Oh, and try not to splash sauce all over the edge of the plate like I did. =)plate

Two roll-ups count for 1/2 cup vegetables, 2 ounces grains, 2 ounces meat, and 1/2 cup dairy. They contain 457 calories, 58 g carbohydrates, 31 g protein, 13 g fat, and 280 g sodium.


Well, this is it! 21 days of MyPlate completed. Here are the stats for the whole project:

Weight changes: -1 pound

Waist changes: 0 inches

Average calorie intake: 1984

Number of days MyPlate food group guidelines were met: 13

Average cost of groceries per week: $33

Pros: The MyPlate diet is pretty easy to follow because you can quickly check just by looking at your plate. It promotes intakes of a wide variety of foods and as such is a good way to encourage balanced nutrition, control portion size, and get all of your vitamins and minerals.

Cons: As I mentioned in previous posts, not everyone agrees with the Guidelines. Some say they are too carb-y, some say too fatty, some say too loosey-goosey with restrictions on substances like sodium and saturated fat. Honestly, I can’t say I’ve read enough to develop my stance on those specific issues yet, but I’ll continue to research these topics as I move through the diets.

Observations: The diet was not drastically different from my normal way of eating, so I never really felt much different because of the foods I was eating. I covered a lot of the things I learned in my last post, but overall I gained an appreciation for the experience of tracking food and calories. It was pretty interesting to me to learn about the Guidelines, where they came from, and the controversies surrounding them.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get to research as much in those 21 days as I had hoped. There is so much information to read and only so much time. One of the great things about studying nutrition is that everything really is connected. As I move into my next diets I will come across concepts I started researching last month. And on and on. Please send me a message through the Contact page about any specific nutrition questions you might have. I’d love to learn more about what my readers what to know!

Collage

Keep checking back! Readers voted and chose the Paleolithic (or Paleo) diet for me to follow next. Send me a message through the Contact page if you have any specific Paleo questions you would like me to answer!


Today marks my last official day following the MyPlate diet. Starting in one week, I will begin on the next (vote in the poll on the left to say which diet you’d like to hear more about). I thought I’d sum things up a bit with a bunch of things I have learned, and that have already started to change the way I view food and work with my patients:

  1. My body regulates its calorie intake pretty well. I quickly realized that even if I wasn’t tracking my food throughout the day, I would end up eating 1800-2000 calories without feeling deprived or overfull. Bodies are cool like that.
  2. 1 cup is not as much as I thought. 0208140842aExhibit A: 1 cup of orange juice in a standard glass. Pouring appropriate servings took some practice.
  3. 2 tablespoons is a lot more than I thought. As the standard serving size for many condiments, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, mayonnaise, or any kind of salad dressing was waaaaaaaay more than I ever thought. I had always assumed I was eating more than that by default, but when I measured out 2 tablespoons of almond butter to eat with my apple I couldn’t even finish it!
  4. “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” mealsThis nifty little saying is something I had heard over time to flip the traditional “American” way of eating on its head. It makes sense because when you eat breakfast, you’re fueling your body for the whole day, so you need to eat more and eat well. At night, you’re only fueling your body for another hour or two. It worked beautifully for me when I was trying to get all of my food groups in. In the morning I was motivated to eat well and get all of my groups in and by the evening I was tired after work and more likely to go for something easy. It worked with my plan, rather than a common diet pattern of eating basically nothing for breakfast and lunch, then binging at dinner when you’re tired and starving. I heard a dietitian at a conference once refer to that as the “weight gain diet.”
  5. Meal plans can be helpful. They are also really annoying. It was a love-hate relationship for me. It was nice to know I had everything already bought and decided for what I was going to eat. However, making the grocery list, having no flexibility, and feeling like I “cheated” when I didn’t eat exactly what was on it were all big cons for me.
  6. Vegetables are really low in calories. Like, REALLY low. I knew this already in my brain, but putting 1 cup of spinach, 1/4 cup of mushrooms, half a tomato, and half a cucumber into your tracker and getting a grand total of 37 calories kind of drives that one home.
  7. Tracking everything you eat is exhausting. It was kind of fun in its way…for about a week. After that it became very tiresome, especially if I got behind and had to catch up. From now on, I think I’ll recommend that clients track for about two weeks, and then maybe one day each week just to keep in check. After a week or two you get a pretty good idea of how to do it in your head, anyway.
  8. Tracking websites and apps help with this a lot. My fitness pal screenshotsPersonally I like My Fitness Pal, but there are negatives to it also. One thing I really love is that you can enter in homemade recipes, calculate the nutrition facts, and save them to go back and use later.
  9. Eating three servings of dairy a day is really repetitive. milkYogurt, milk, cheese, yogurt, milk, cheese, yogurt, milk, cheese.
  10. Vegetables are not really as difficult to get in as I expected. They can go in most anything. My friend Abbie taught me this the weekend I stayed with her. Abbie puts veggies in everything – scrambles for breakfast, soups for lunch, and side dishes for dinner. Just chop, chop, chop and sautee, bake, boil, or steam. They add tons of flavor variety too.
  11. It is extremely difficult to eat less than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day. Except for when I was traveling, I cooked most everything at home from scratch. I ate a ton of fresh produce. I rinsed the canned beans. I stayed away from the packaged, the processed, the sodium-laden. It was a terrible struggle. I’ll have a lot more empathy for my heart failure patients from here on out.
  12. It is even more difficult to eat more than 35 grams of fiber per day. TONS of veggies, beans, and whole grains was not enough to get me there most of the time. I was about to start gnawing on cardboard in the evenings just to reach my daily goal.
  13. Eating MyPlate at restaurants is really not very tough (with the exception of limiting sodium). Portland mealMany places have fruit side dish options and milk as a beverage choice. The struggle here? Whole grains.
  14. Telling people you’re on a diet can be awkward. Most people were really supportive of me and the reasons I’m doing it, but that wasn’t always the case.
  15. Some kinds of exercise can make really big dents in your calorie intake. 0124141459Hiking, snowboarding, dancing, biking up hills, and plyometrics left my net calories for the day sometimes as low as 1400! I was shocked at how quickly these fun activities added up to big time calorie gaps.
  16. Other kinds of exercise make reaaaaaally teeny dents in your calorie intake. 0124141459Cycling through town or strolling with the fiance was not going to fit the bill if I was trying to even out an indulgent day.
  17. On a related note, it’s okay to have indulgent days. One weekend day out with Abbie I ate chicken wings at happy hour. You may have read about my Superbowl feast. In the end, it all averaged out. Some days were a little low, some days were a little high. I never really felt deprived at all during the entire three weeks.
  18. I don’t need to eat as much ice cream as I usually dish out. I still maintain that the half-cup serving size on the label is insulting and offensive, but two small scoops was enough for me. I rarely eat ice cream because I’m actually hungry…I just want to taste it.
  19. Starting small and working up with salt can go a long way. Make your meal and taste it. Add a little bit of salt only if you feel like you need to. I found that most of the time, I didn’t need to add any salt and when I did it ended up being only a pinch in the entire recipe.
  20. I’m really enjoying being creative with food. God gave us the amazing gift of thousands of different flavors in this world…and there are so many combinations to explore! I’m so excited about trying new foods, new recipes, and new ideas. Send me your favorites! I’d love to try them!
  21. I think it’s going to be hard for me to not pay attention to what I’m eating once the diet is over. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about being obsessed with their food once they have been on diets, and I can totally relate now. It’s a totally different animal to be completely aware of everything that goes down the gullet – keeping a mental tally of food groups, calories, and nutrients. Honestly, I’m really curious to see how it ends up going on this week off from dieting.

Thanks for your support and following along with me. Get ready to gear up for the next diet and don’t forget to vote!


Weight change: -2 pounds from last week (loss of 1 pound since beginning of MyPlate diet)

Total cost of groceries: $52. I made a big shopping trip last week with the hope that the groceries will carry me into this week, and it’s looking like they are going to.

Average daily intakes (7 days)*:

  • Total calories (goal=2,000): 2075
  • Net calories (after subtracting exercise): 2029 (I know, I know…I didn’t do very much exercise this week)
  • Carbohydrates (goal=45-65% calories): 260 g (50% calories)
  • Protein (goal=10-35% calories): 65 g (13% calories)
  • Total fat (goal=20-35% calories): 66 g (29% calories)
  • Saturated fat (goal=less than 10% calories): 19 g (8% calories)
  • Sodium (goal=2300 mg or less): 2439 mg
  • Fiber (goal=more than 25 g): 25 g

# of days food group guidelines were met: SIX! Much improved from last week. I made much more of a focus of getting all of my food groups in this week.

The good: Working on getting food groups in changed my focus from what I couldn’t have to what I could. I like foods from all of the food groups, so it was a treat to look at what was left on my checklist to get in for each day. Calories stopped controlling my meal intakes, because (somehow…almost like magic) if I focused on getting the right amount of each of the food groups, I ended up pretty darn close to my calorie goal for the day. Go figure! It’s like they did the math or something.

The bad: I’m starting to feel a little bit of the weariness of tracking everything I eat. It’s funny how when I meet with my clients once a week, and they get tired of tracking their food after only two meetings it feels to me as though they’ve given up so quickly. But now that I’m tracking, it feels like I’ve been tracking my food for twoooooo loooooooooong weeks. Puts a little perspective on it…I apologize to my clients for my naivety!

The ugly: That stinkin’ sodium! My average is only 139 mg over my daily goal, but you should have seen the individual numbers. My lowest day was in the 1,600s, but my highest was in the 4,000s! I’ve always told patients that sodium is tough to keep in check, but I had no clue how tough. Personally, I’m a salt-lover and I would eat a whole bag of tortilla chips with a jar of salsa if left unattended for long enough. I figured that my regular, pre-MyPlate sodium intakes would likely have been off the charts, but I expected once I was following the diet, eating more fresh produce, and cooking more often that it would fall in line. Drat.

*Intakes are rounded 7-day averages. The percentages will not add up to 100%.


First of all, I would love to shout a huge CONGRATULATIONS to the Seattle Seahawks for an epically awesome Superbowl win! I had a heck of a great time watching them all season.

This particular game, in typical Superbowl fashion, was watched by me at a party at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. With food. And drink. Lots of it. So I wanted to have a game plan. Here’s the play-by-play:

  1. Ask my bro what’s on the menu. I found out it was pretty much going to be meat, meat, and more meat.
  2. Ask my bro if I can bring something, and choose strategically. Since I knew what would be there I also knew what would not: fruit, veggies, dairy, and whole grains. I opted to bring a fruit salad so I would have an option for that food group. I also got sneaky and asked my mom to bring a veggie tray so I could get those in too.
  3. Think ahead. I knew where my weak points would be during the game (lunch and dinner times), so I targeted those at breakfast to get me started. One of Charlie and my favorite places to eat in Seattle is the Crumpet Shop, and he always gets a crumpet with ricotta cheese and orange marmalade. I replicated that with whole wheat English muffins, ricotta cheese, and some homemade peach jam. I topped that off with a fruit smoothie with 1 cup berries, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, and 1 cup spinach. Superbowl BreakfastThis yummy breakfast started me off with 2 oz of whole grains, 1 1/2 cups dairy, 1 cup fruit, and 1/2 cup vegetables – all of the groups I knew would be tough to get at the party. Though I used some Greek yogurt and dairy to get protein in this breakfast, I avoided meat and eggs because I knew there would be loads of protein at the party later.
  4. Scope out the goods and make a plan. The smorgasboard consisted of meatballs, chicken wings, chili, veggie tray, fruit salad, (whole grain!) chips with dip, pizza, chocolate chip banana bread, and a variety of beverage. I was actually able to follow MyPlate pretty well for the lunch half of the party (had to do it in two plates because they were small).superbowl plates
  5. Relax and enjoy it. Don’t go crazy, but for Heaven’s sake, don’t deny yourself everything you want to eat. I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 rule: eat nutritiously 80% of the time, and the other 20% will help you balance it out. Later in the day, I had two pieces of pizza, some whole-grain chips, and a couple of ciders. I ended up with all of my food groups, 300 extra calories for the day, a Seahawks win and a huge smile on my face. And I don’t regret a thing. =)superbowl collage

After dinner at my parents’ house I had about 200 calories and one serving of dairy left to go for the day so, logically, we started pursuing dreams of frozen dairy delights. I love ice cream. Love it. My sweet tooth really only has eyes for this cold creamy goodness. Since MyPlate tells me to avoid solid fats (such as the saturated fats in cream…sigh…) I began perusing Pinterest for healthier options. And I found…this stuff from Meghan on JaMonkey.

raspberry frozen yogurtThree easy ingredients + twenty minutes = sweet, refreshing yummy-ness.

If made with fat-free Greek yogurt, unsweetened raspberries, and stevia, this dessert contains 18 g each of protein and carbs, 1 g of fat, and 150 totally-worth-it calories per 1 cup (yes, one WHOLE cup!) serving. You can easily switch it up with nearly any fruit or real sugar if you prefer.

raspberry frozen yum! Any way you shake it, this stuff is GOOD. And easy. And will definitely be re-visited in my diet future.

 


Creamy chicken tortilla bake in an example of a MyPlate dinner with 1 cup mixed salad greens, a whole-wheat roll, and a cup of red grapes. I promise to work on improving my food photography skills in the future to better portray how delicious this really looked.

Creamy chicken tortilla bake in an example of a MyPlate dinner with 1 cup mixed salad greens, a whole-wheat roll, and a cup of red grapes. I promise to work on improving my food photography skills in the future to better portray how delicious this really looked.

Alright folks, here it is. Late in the day but as promised, a delicious new protein-packed entree. I’ve seen several like this on the interwebs, but this is my own personal design. One serving of this recipe will count for 3 ounces of protein, a half a cup of vegetables, and a half-serving of dairy on the MyPlate meal plan. For this recipe you will require:

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 large sweet onion

1 large green bell pepper

1 medium jalapeno pepper

1 can (15 oz) low-sodium black beans (drained and rinsed)

1 medium tomato (chopped)

1 can heart-healthy cream of mushroom soup

Ground red pepper or cayenne pepper to taste

2 ounces whole corn tortilla chips

1 cup shredded low-fat cheese (Mexican blends work well here)

1/2 tablespoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

  1. Bake chicken breasts at 400 degrees for 10 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  2. While chicken is cooling, chop onion and peppers. Saute in olive oil over medium heat until soft.
  3. Shred cooked chicken with a fork and place in a large bowl. Add sauteed vegetables, black beans, tomato, soup, and spices (some like it hot!). Stir well.
  4. Crush the tortilla chips with your hands and spread half on the bottom of a 9″x13″ pan. Spread half of the chicken mixture on top of that, followed by half of the cheese.
  5. Repeat layers one more time: chips, chicken mixture, cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with cilantro. Delicioso!

Recipe makes about 12 servings. Each serving contains 229 calories, 14 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 31 g protein, and 301 mg sodium. Nutrition info calculated using www.myfitnesspal.com.


Weight change: +1 pound

Total cost of groceries: $38 (I ate several meals with friends, but I have groceries left over too)

Average daily intakes (7 days):

  • Total calories (goal=2,000): 2102
  • Net calories (after subtracting exercise): 1790
  • Carbohydrates (goal=45-65% calories): 258 g (49% calories)
  • Protein (goal=10-35% calories): 82 g (16% calories)
  • Total fat (goal=20-35% calories): 80 g (34% calories)
  • Saturated fat (goal=less than 10% calories): 25 g (11% calories)
  • Sodium (goal=2300 mg or less): 2620 mg
  • Fiber (goal=more than 25 g): 28 g

# of days food group guidelines were met: NONE! Can you believe that? Even while following the meal plan provided by the USDA. In fact, I was closer to meeting the guidelines on the days I traveled and ate on the fly.

The good: This diet is not drastically different from the way I normally eat (kudos to my mom for teaching me to always eat something from each food group for every meal!). I’ve definitely upped my veggie intake and discovered several more delicious recipes. I don’t feel particularly different.

The bad: Following the meal plan isn’t cutting it, for a couple of reasons. I’m clearly going to have to pay more attention to getting all of the food groups in. Also, the meal plan did not allow for eating leftovers. I am a big leftovers-for-lunch kind of gal, so the plan made for extra prep time and some unused groceries.

The ugly: My digestive system has been a little more, um…frisky since I have been eating so many veggies. We’ll just leave it at that.

On to week #2!


Today is my third day on vacation while following my diet, and I thought I’d update you with a few tips I’ve accumulated:

  • Look for fruit and vegetable sides. Enough restaurants offer these as options that it’s not actually that difficult to find them. I was thrilled to find an epically awesome fresh fruit bowl (actually fresh and flavorful, can you believe that?) at a cafe in Portland with lunch, and a salad with dried cranberries and soup for dinner in the airport. Yesterday we went to a restaurant that didn’t have fruit sides, so I bought a bottled 100% fruit smoothie to drink instead.

Portland meal

  • Don’t look too hard. I was so focused on getting the seemingly elusive fruits and veggies that I ended up missing my protein goal for the first day by nearly half. Oops…overcompensated .
  • Try to choose low-sodium options. Every time I’m teaching about a low-sodium diet, I tell patients to expect to blow their sodium goal out of the water when they eat out. I did – the recommendation is for 2,000 milligrams of sodium each day, but I topped out at 3,300 on my traveling day (yikes!). The best way to keep that under control is to go for fresh options and avoid things like processed foods, breads, lunch meats, and soups. My biggest mistake? Soup for both lunch and dinner.
  • Pay attention. My body is really pretty good about telling me what it wants. I’m usually pretty good at ignoring it. My lunch portions, for example, were about the same as I might have eaten pre-MyPlate, but I got full part of the way through. I didn’t eat all the fruit and I gave my fiance part of my soup.
  • Work it off. If you expect to creep past your calorie goal for the day, find some activity to do to compensate. On my flying day, I was about 150 calories over. I carted my backpack and carry-on for a brisk lap around the airport during my layover and closed the gap some. Yesterday, Abbie wanted to take me to a delicious Mexican restaurant (with gargantuan portions) and I expected to be quite a bit over my calorie goal. But after snowboarding for 4 hours and a 40-minute hike with a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe, my calorie tracker actually put me at 500 calories UNDER my goal because of the activity I had done. And check out these views…totally worth it, right?

01241414460124141215