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

This particular game, in typical Super Bowl 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

MyPlate Guidelines

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.

Three 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.


MyPlate Guidelines Recipes

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

MyPlate Guidelines Recipes

As I’ve been focusing on carbohydrates in my research thus far, I wanted to build a “foundation of physiology”, if you will, to build all the dietary recommendations on. If you’re a science geek, I hope you’ll enjoy this with me. If you’re not a science geek and you’d rather mow grass with fingernail clippers than read about the way your body works, stop reading and come back tomorrow. I promise to post a delicious new recipe for you then. Now, on to the nitty-gritty.

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy in grains, fruits, dairy, starchy veggies (potatoes, beans, etc.), and sugar. Depending on the type of food, the carbohydrates are either long chains of molecules (complex carbohydrates), or short chains or single molecules (simple carbohydrates). Once you put these in your mouth, your body gets right to work. An enzyme in your saliva starts breaking the bonds between the molecules. It usually doesn’t get very far, because most of us swallow before it has a chance to break all of the chains apart. My sixth grade science teacher used a neat trick to demonstrate this breakdown by giving us each a saltine cracker and told us to chew on it for at least a minute. Eventually, it started to taste sweet because the carbohydrates were being broken down into their individual sugar bits…pretty neat, huh?

Anyway, then you swallow and the food goes into your stomach. Not much happens here in the way of breaking apart the carb chains, because your stomach contents are too acidic for the enzymes to work. After your stomach has done its thing, the food passes into your small intestine where most of the magic happens. Another enzyme (dispatched from your pancreas) goes to work breaking the rest of the bonds in the chains of carbohydrates. You are basically left with single molecules known as monosaccharides. You may be familiar with their individual names: glucose, fructose, and galactose. I’m only going to talk about glucose for now, because that’s the most prominent player in your energy pathways. Glucose molecules are transported into your intestinal cells and then pass from there into your blood through a variety of methods. If you have ever heard of someone testing their blood glucose or their blood sugars, they are essentially measuring how many of these glucose molecules are floating around in their blood at any given time. Some of the glucose then goes to the liver for storage, and some of it needs to get into your body’s cells to provide you with energy. To get out of the blood and into most of those cells, glucose needs help from a hormone called insulin.



Think of the glucose molecules in your blood as people walking on the street, and the cells of your body as locked houses. The glucose can’t get into the houses without a key – in this case, insulin (as you can see in my highly sophisticated diagram above). Once it’s in your cells, it can either be used to make energy right away, or stored away in long chains called glycogen until your body needs energy later.

If there is more glucose left over when all of your body’s glycogen stores are full, then your body converts the glucose into fatty acids and stores it away as body fat. Furthermore, that extra glucose actually tells your body to use less of your body’s stored fat for energy. Now before you go scolding your body for this process, remember that it came from the survival instincts of our ancestors who often lived in times of either feast or famine. While there was plenty to eat, their bodies stored fat to sustain them in times of hunger. The problem for many modern-day people is that they constantly live in times of plenty. When people go on low-calorie weight-loss diets, their bodies will start to use that fat (and unfortunately, muscle) to fuel them. Now I’m definitely not advocating that we all just run off and haphazardly quit eating carbohydrates to lose weight. There are definitely pros and cons to be weighed, and for now I’m an advocate of age-old moderation. In agreement with the information I referenced in previous posts, my textbook on metabolism states that (as of 2009) researchers have yet to determine the ideal balance between carbohydrate, fat, and protein intakes for fat loss. Clearly, there is a balance to be achieved.

So there you have it – a snippet of your body’s complex innerworkings. Maybe now you and your body will have more to talk about!

How Your Body Works

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!

MyPlate Guidelines

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?



MyPlate Guidelines

You may or may not know that energy provided through our diets (measured in calories) comes primarily from three different substances called macronutrients. If you’re not sure what they are, I’ll give you a hint – check the post title! Carbs and proteins each provide 4 calories per gram and fats provide 9 calories per gram. I mentioned on Monday that the MyPlate diet was leaning me in a more carb-a-licious direction than I’m used to. Left to my own devices, I tend to focus more on protein in my diet. For healthy adults, the Dietary Guidelines recommend that 45-65% of our calories come from carbohydrate, 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fats. Here’s an analysis of what I ate Monday and Tuesday on the MyPlate diet meal plan:

Distribution Chart

My fat intake for yesterday crept up because I chose to use my discretionary calories on cookie dough ice cream (yum!), but you can see that I’m still within the ranges for everything based on the plan. That’s all well and good, but where do these percentages come from?

An excellent question. The ranges are based on the Dietary Reference Intakes (formerly known as the Recommended Dietary Allowances) created by the Institute of Medicine. The process for creating these is similar to that for creating the Dietary Guidelines: experts, committees, research, deliberation, gigantic reports, and finally, the guidelines themselves. The guidelines represent what the experts have determined to be a safe, healthful, and adequate intake of any given nutrient. Each macronutrient plays a different role in the body.

  • Carbohydrates are anything that can be broken down into sugar in the body. Most of that sugar ends up in the form of glucose, which is processed to create energy.
  • Proteins are often referred to as “building blocks”. They make up the cells of the body and act as transmitters and transporters. If dietary carbohydrates are restricted, they can also be used for energy.
  • Fats provide a concentrated form of energy as well as components of hormones and other vital goodies. They also provide a medium for delivering fat-soluble vitamins to our tissues.

Since it is the first thing I noticed about my newly-adopted menu (and for the sake of not deluding myself to think you’d read 10,000 words on macronutrients), I am looking into the carbohydrate recommendations first. According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, the recommendations for carbohydrates are a range between the minimum amount of carbohydrate needed to provide fuel for the brain and maintain weight and a maximum recommended amount to prevent weight gain and decrease risk of chronic disease. It goes without saying that obesity and the loads of diseases associated with it are a significant problem in our country, so I looked further into the weight aspect of the recommendation.

We have all heard of low-fat, low-carb, or high-protein diets being promoted for weight loss. Just for context, the “low” and “high” qualifiers here are in reference to intakes that are outside of the recommended ranges I mentioned earlier. In the Dietary Guidelines 2010 Report, the authors wrote that “no optimal macronutrient proportion was identified for enhancing weight loss or weight maintenance” and that “there is strong and consistent evidence that when calorie intake is controlled, macronutrient proportion of the diet is not related to losing weight.” Two paragraphs later, however, they reported that twenty research studies showed no difference in macronutrient proportion for weight loss, thirteen showed that low-carbohydrate diets were more effective than either high-carbohydrate or low-fat diets, and six showed that high-protein diets were more effective than low-protein diets. So you might be having the same issue I am here – what is strong and consistent about the evidence? Nearly HALF of the total studies included are in disagreement with the conclusion. Now granted, not all research studies are created equally. The DGAC has a scoring system that rates the impact of the study based on the quality of the research, which may have led certain studies to be considered more relevant than others. Still though, I’ll have to look into the research articles myself a little more to see how it all really pans out.

In other news, I begin my traveling tomorrow to visit my friend Abbie in Lake Tahoe for a weekend snowboarding excursion. As I will be continuing my diet through the trip I informed her ahead of time of my situation. Fortunately, Abbie is an excellent sport and fully supportive of my diet plans. Thus, I will actually be flying all of my groceries to Lake Tahoe with me (thank goodness Southwest allows a free checked bag). I am sure at some point that I will end up straying from the meal plan, but I will still aim to eat MyPlate meals and meet my calorie goals each day. After all, adaptability is an essential life skill, is it not?

MyPlate Guidelines