Monday, December 29, 2008

It's that time of year again...

...when people make resolutions.

I'm not very good at that kind of stuff. I don't know if I've ever written down a resolution that I was able to fulfill. Maybe it is because I was really writing a wishlist, not a course of action. Not that there is anything wrong with writing a wishlist. (Maybe one day I will take those guitar lessons... I still want to.) Anyway, I wonder if that is why most people don't follow through on their resolutions, and in the end get discouraged.

As a dietitian, I cannot ignore the overemphasis on weight that new year's resolutions have. Even the retail industry has jumped on the bandwagon. From electronic stores to supermarkets, they all have something to help you "get healthy" this time of year.

So I figure I would shamelessly offer my own suggestions:

  • Don't make your weight your goal. Instead, take a look at one lifestyle change that you think you can make. It's your lifestyle, not your weight, that makes you healthy.
  • Break the change down into steps. Lets say your resolution is to cook from scratch more often. Instead of resolving to do it every day, try one or two more days a week than you currently do. Once you get comfortable with that, add another day, and so on.
  • If necessary, put off the resolution until February or March. By then, you may not be as fogged by the self-imposed guilt that comes from eating holiday fare. Then your decisions may be better thought out and easier to implement.
  • Don't wait until next January. Reflecting on improving a healthful lifestyle should take place more than once a year. Evaluate what is working and what is not. Don't just stop, find something that works for you and stick with it. If something is not working, then do something else. However, be realistic with this. Some changes take a while to get the desired result. I'm talking more about whether you are able to keep up with a change that you'd like, not whether that change is giving you the results you expected in two months.
  • Be honest with yourself. Check your motivations for why you are doing what you want to do. Do you want to lose weight so you will feel better about yourself? Do you want others to feel better about you? Should your motivation really be tied to these things? And where does your health really fit into all of this? Will you be satisfied if you don't reach your personal goal, but you feel better and are actually healthier than when you started?
  • Don't go on a diet.
  • Remember, we are always learning something new. About ourselves, others, our environment, etc. Don't try and have it all together by year's end.
  • Evaluate what is really hindering you from reaching your goal. Stress eating has become a new challenge to me. It is easier for me to remove the food as opposed the stress. Otherwise it can become quite the vicious cycle. My answer is to avoid having certain foods around the house (and oddly enough, I recently discovered that I can get the "kick" with celery! lol!) This way, I am forced to focus on the source of stress rather than compound it...

...which reminds me of the cycle of blah that I meant to post about quite a while ago:
Thankfully, my problem is not with ice cream.

By the way, I'd love to hear of your resolutions. Current or past, successes or failures. What did you learn from them?

Here's to a healthier year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

For you and us another year has fled,
And varied are the ways that God has led.
But if the year brought stress to you,
Or loss,
Christ came to bear them all
Upon His cross.
So Christmas joy is deep
And good
And strong.

Look up, our friend,
And sing a Christmas song!

-Ray and Anne Ortlund

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Perfectly cutout cookies

Ever made cutout cookies only to have them spread out so much they don't resemble the cookie cutters you used at all? The reason for this is there is too much shortening or too little flour in the recipe. In my case, I didn't put enough flour in. I was modifying a recipe to be gluten-free and thought the amount of flour looked right. I plan to post the recipe later on.

Anyway, here is my solution:

Right after pulling the cookies out of the oven, press the cookie cutters back into the baked cookies. You have to act quickly, but it works pretty well.

The scraps are just as tasty, and can be added in a parfait, if they last that long.

I read this comment on the recipe for the Best Rolled Sugar Cookies at

Put a sheet of baking parchment (now easily found in grocery stores) on my cookie sheet, then ROLL THE DOUGH OUT DIRECTLY ON THE PARCHMENT-LINED COOKIE SHEET. After making the 'cut-outs', appropriately spaced on the dough, I PEEL AWAY THE EXCESS DOUGH from around and between the 'cookies' and bake as directed. The parchment helps keep the bottoms of the cookies from getting too dark, eliminates any need for greasing the pan, allows you to remove the cookies from the sheet by simply sliding the parchment carefully off the side (which is especially helpful with extra large or delicate cookies), and CAN USUALLY BE REUSED IN BAKING THE REST OF THE COOKIES. I have also rolled dough out on the parchment without having it on the cookie sheet, done the cutting and trimming, and then slid the parchment onto the sheet for baking, which helps when you're short of cookie sheets -- the next batch is ready to pop into the oven as soon as the first comes out.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Two years have come and gone...

I thought this year I'd commemorate my second blogiversary as some like to call it. But I missed it.
Thankfully, Blogger didn't hold it against me and has finally removed my spam status! (Thank you VERY much!!!)
My first post was on December 6th, 2006 and it simply contained the definition of the word "nurture". Although I probably set up myself for failure by choosing a blog name that was hard to spell, the definition of nurture fit perfectly into the scope of my blog. Unfortunately, nurture.blogspot etc. was already taken (and never used).
But two years later, I'm still at it. And you're still here.
So thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


As I was writing a pretty serious email to some friends, my 6-year-old comes up snooping to see what I am doing. Looking at my signature file, he asked me, "Mommy, what does 'MPH road' mean?

I then attempted to explain to him what a registered dietitian was, but he left the room before I was able to regain my composure.


And while I am telling funny stories, my husband pointed out a really funny post at The Secret Life of Kat. Actually, this blog is a lot of fun to read all the time, but this post topped it off.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Psalm 131

Well, lately my posts have been more how God has been nurturing my spirit. So much has been going on that I don't know if I'll ever be able to put it all in words for this blog. But this Psalm caught my attention a while back:

A Song of Ascents. Of David. LORD, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever. Psalm 131

When it first caught my attention, I was still frequently nursing my daughter and I just was wondering what David meant by having a quieted and calmed soul. After all, nursing is a pretty effective way to comfort a child. But as the weaning process approached, I started to understand. There was a time that it seemed that if I ever had my daughter in my lap, she'd want to nurse. Of course it wasn't all the time, but if she was distressed, it was almost a given. Now, she'll be content just to be in my arms. The restlessness that used to come by being in my arms is now gone. And so it must have been with David, whatever he was wrestling with was now settled and he was able to have a calmed and quieted soul.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tributo a Iehovah (Jeová)

This song has been one of my favorites, but over the years, being away from the Brazilian community, it had almost been forgotten. It brings back good memories, but its significance is stronger now than ever. But God has a way of bringing things back to memory. It is on the same CD of the song I posted about yesterday. The video is the what I call the "remix" version, as opposed to the reggae style in the original recording. I will post the lyrics below (except it won't include the new rap segment) and the translation.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving.

Tributo a Iehovah (Jeová)
Autor: Adhemar de Campos
Eu sou grato por tudo que tenho
O tesouro maior deste mundo
Me foi dado como herança eternal
Maior prova de um amor tão profundo

Tenho vida, alegria, todo o tempo
Tenho amigos, família, muitos irmãos
Foi Jesus, meu amigo verdadeiro
Que fez tudo ao me dar a Salvação

Louvarei ao Senhor em todo o tempo
Seu louvor estará continuamente
Em meus lábios e também no coração
Jesus Cristo será sempre minha canção

Tribute to Jehovah

I am grateful for all that I have
The greatest treasure in this world
Was given to me as an eternal inheritance
The greatest evidence of a deep love

I have life, joy, at all times
I have friends, family and many brothers/sisters
It was Jesus, my true friend
Who did all things when He gave me His salvation

I will praise the Lord at all times
His praise shall continually be
in my mouth and in my heart
Jesus Christ will always be my song

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

His life in my life

During times of hardship, it is often hard to see where God is in it all. But as I have witnessed recently in my own life and have witnessed in the lives of many friends, God becomes more real and their walk with God becomes much deeper than ever before. I was reminded of this song this weekend, after I was talking with some dear friends of how some songs and biblical truths I knew from long ago have a much deeper meaning to me than they used to. I confess, I don't like being in the situation I am currently in, but my desire has been to allow God to be my joy, not my circumstances. I don't buy the philosophy of being thankful for what I have because things could be worse. I believe we are cheapening our praise to God when that is our motivation. I am thankful things are not worse, but I see people suffering much more than I am and ever have, yet their joy in the Lord is unshaken and very evident in their lives. That is what I desire more than anything else. It is a treasure no person or circumstance can take away and is worth more than any "better" circumstance or more prosperous situation. That is what I am thankful for -- a joy that can't be taken away from me. I certainly get downcast often, but just as the Psalmist said:

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation" Psalm 42:5 (emphasis mine)

A visit to my mother's this past weekend helped restore that hope in the Lord, and I feel once again a song in my heart. The following song was written when the author's child died, a grief I have not experienced first hand, but one that several friends of mine have. They also have come to these conclusions. The song was inspired by Job 42:5,

"I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you"
I found a video on it from YouTube with the Portuguese lyrics, but I have included the English translation below.

Supreme Goodness/ Supreme Being/ Greatest Treasure*
Author: Adhemar de Campos

Before I knew you from hearing of you, but now I know you by walking with you.
I know the God I have, my King, Lord and Father
I want you in my life more and more

Before I knew you from hearing of you, but now I know you by walking with you.
You are my Supreme Goodness/Being/Greatest Treasure, my King, my Lord and Father
I rejoice in your will more and more

You search and know my heart, Lord
You know that I am limited and count on your Love
Therefore, as your child, I come to give you praise
How good it is to have your life in my life

You search and know my heart, Lord
You know that I depend on you and count on your Love
Therefore, as your child, I come to give you praise
How good it is to have your life in my life

How good it is to have your life in my life
What glory it is to have your life in my life
I rejoice in having your life in my life

* I did not consult a dictionary for this. As I understand it, "bem" in Portuguese has several meanings and I think all can be applied to the lyrics to this song. First, it can be used in the context of a spiritual being (Supreme being), and it is also associated with goodness (Supreme Goodness). "Meu Bem" is also an endearing term among those who are close, such as husband/wife, mother and child, etc. Very much like, "my dear" in English.

[updated] After talking to my mother, she mentioned that the word Bem, often means possessions (or goods). I had totally forgotten about that meaning. She also explained that it is much like treasure. In fact, on the recording I have here at home, he starts by saying, "Jesus is our Greatest Treasure..."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Too blessed

My sister-in-law was reading one of the books from my kids' extensive Berenstain Bears collection, called Count Their Blessings. It is a cute story about finding contentment with what you have.
When she was done reading the book to A (my 4 year old), she asked him:

"So, are you going to count your blessings?"
"No." Answered A.
"Why not?" asked his aunt.
"Because it will take too long."

Have a great Thanksgiving week. Count your blessings... All of them :-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I need an e-break

Every now and then, I realize I need a break from the day to day internet habit. Tonight, I realized I need another one of those breaks. I won't be blogging for a while, although I already have a post scheduled for Thanksgiving. I'll pop my head out every now and then, but I don't intend to be reading blogs or my email much at all.

And hopefully by then, blogger will finally have removed my junk blog status :-)

I'll be back!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to get three kids to get along for hours...

... You deprive them of play-doh for at least 6 months.

Really. My kids (ages 2, 4, &6) have been sharing ONE container of play-doh for the last 2 hours! We inherited some toys a few years back and they are sharing those rather nicely too. This is without any arguing or yelling.

Pinch me please :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

America needs vegemite!!!

Warning: This is a rant, I have not exhaustively researched the topic and it is my opinion on the limited information I know. If you can enlighten me, I'll greatly (and humbly) appreciate it.

A childhood friend of mine living here in the US mentioned that she is running out of Vegemite. I mentioned to her that she could probably find some at World Market, but then a friend of hers said they stopped carrying it because of a FDA BAN on importing Vegemite.

According to Snopes, it is because it contains folate, a b-vitamin.

If you have ever tasted vegemite, it is a love it or hate it kind of food (or should I say condiment). Although, in my case, I sometimes like it, sometimes don't. Even if you love, love, love it, it is IMPOSSIBLE to eat too much of it. For goodness sakes, we are adding folate to other foods because of the potential health benefits to the general population . So why not allow Vegemite? And why did it take them until 2006 to notice this? Given I don't have a jar with me, I don't know if they added folate to it, or if it is naturally occuring [update: upon closer reading of the above-mentioned snopes article, it appears folate is added to Vegemite]. Neither do I know how much folate is in it to begin with. Nonetheless, many Australians have thrived on the stuff and if it were a health problem, I think it would be have been banned in Australia first.

I believe Marmite is an English product similar to Vegemite. I have never compared the two. Has the ban applied to Marmite as well?

This is a classic example of government regulation going too far and not doing what it is intended to do. The FDA can't make up its mind on whether or not high fructose corn syrup is natural and they are divided on the safety of Bisphenol A. These two substances have a much larger (negative) impact on this nation's health. On the other hand, unless you totally despise the thing and are forced to eat it, Vegemite consumption is NOT a health threat. Neither should its sale be considered criminal activity.

Well, that is enough to place the FDA into my hall of shame.

End of rant.

[update 4/22/2010] I saw some at World Market today!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Homeschool update

We had a good start to homeschooling. J was very excited about it, and it was going much smoother than we had anticipated. But as time went past, he started showing resistance to doing school, most likely because he'd rather be playing with his brother's new birthday toys. Still, we pressed on and once we would get started, he was fine. Then we took a break and when I told him we were getting back into school full swing, he was so excited. I expect a bit of resistance. I also use it to reevaluate what I am doing and see if I can incorporate certain activities that he really likes. In his case, giving him a craft is the coolest thing in the world.

J has started getting some favorite books and reading it to his siblings. Both my boys have had books read to them over and over again to the point they know it by memory, but I know he's really reading because sometimes he asks me how to read some words. It also is flowing a bit differently. It's fun to watch. This also provides for many quiet, tranquil moments with all of the kids together.

Last week, we commemorated my husband's great aunt's 96th birthday. The boys each made a card. I have been teaching A his letters and told him how to write Aunt Sallie. He wrote Aunt in the middle of the card, then started on Sallie below. Because his letters are still pretty big, he ran out of space. So, he wrote the LL, then ran out of space again so he wrote the I in front of the Ls. The card ended up saying ILL AUNT. Not quite the birthday wish we'd like to give. He ended up writing his name and wrote the letters wherever it would fit, so in the end the "ill" wishes were not as obvious, as there were letters everywhere.

N is already in the why stage. She just turned 2 in July. I didn't think that came until 3 or 4. She copies her brothers so much. She has really shown how much she does comprehend at such a young age, yet she still gets confused why she can't always get her way :-)

One other note: My kids are homeschooled, but I don't think it's a decision every family needs to make (but I'd encourage them to consider it). We do it because we want to and it is a good fit for our family.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election wonders...

Why do I have to get at least 5 calls today reminding me it is election day? Do I not realize the significance of this day, especially this election? Although I knew it was my stepdad's birthday today, I almost forgot to call him. I would much prefer a reminder for that.

And why do they declare someone a winner with 2% of precincts reporting? It sure does affirm the "every single vote counts" idea, doesn't it?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

I don't know much about PCOS, but dietitian Monika Woolsey and her network do. It was after a comment on my blog that I thought it would be a good idea to post about Monika's blog: InCyst on the Best. In addition to PCOS-related posts, there is a weekly commentary of The Biggest Loser episodes, and a lot of insightful posts relevant to anyone.

Also, Julia Schindlmayr, a graduate student at New York University is surveying women with PCOS about their dietary habits. If you have PCOS, I encourage you to fill out the survey. It will help us dietitians (and other health professionals) learn more so we can better serve women with PCOS. And pass the word on to anyone you know who has PCOS. The survey can be found at:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

They get it!

I just had to share a quick conversation I had with some trick-or-treaters last night. I would guess they were about 10 years old. One kid said, "look how much candy I got!" His stash was probably the size of a soccer ball. I answered, wow! Are you going to eat all of that? He said, "Yeah, I'll probably be eating it over the next 6 months."

One of the other boys said he was donating half his candy to kids with mental illness who couldn't go out to trick or treat. He also mentioned something about HIV. Nonetheless, it appears his mom has taught him well to think of others.

I'm glad I just happened to ask. I was so discouraged last year to see how much candy these kids got. It is so excessive. But thankfully I got to see that they're not that interested in eating it all. At least not all at once.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A range of "budget" meals

It seems like eating well on a budget is a hot topic now in the media. Here is a sample of some of the things I have come across:

A few months ago, Whole Foods Market launched a campaign to attract budget-minded consumers, called the Whole Deal. Since then the food chain has offered budget tours, published newsletters with healthy recipes with cost estimates.

This month's dinner for four suggestion is Sour Cream and Chicken Pasta. Although some find it high in fat, it can easily be cut back. The total cost to feed a family of four is $12.68 (3.17 per serving). That's if you don't add the green salad and bread as sides.

Apparently, in response to a KFC $10 meal special, USA Today also is featuring $10 healthy meals to feed 4. The article is not that user-friendly, but there are quite a few suggestions.

I just came across a blog called $5 Dinners. Check it out.

Save-A-Lot, a no-frills grocery store that has a similar working model as Aldi's (mainly generic, food not "shelved", but put out in cartons, etc.), also came out with a feed 4 for $4! The campaign started as fuel you family for less than a gallon of fuel. Thankfully, gas prices have gone down quite a bit around here.

Oh and by the way, my spam blog status still hasn't been cleared. Just so you know what I'm talking about, here is the word verification I need to publish or save this post (of course I'll need to enter another one because of the time lapse):
It's actually not that bad this time, but now look what it's like when posting a comment on another blog:
Big difference! Anyway, I'm going to appeal this again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Please help me figure this out...

I know that healthy means a lot of different things to different people, but I am always humored when I see announcements like this health screening/fall fest with trick or treating (i.e. lots of candy), pizza, and soda for all.

I've had concerned friends call me and ask if it is OK with me if they serve fried chicken (and other "evil" foods) when I come over to their house (I know one of my friends who did this reads this blog. Don't worry, you're not the only one, so I'm not singling you out). I appreciate their concern, given I am a nutritionist. There are probably some that would be offended. I'm not. I hardly ever eat fried chicken, so it doesn't bother me when I do. So just let me make it known that I do not customarily make nutritional analysis in my head of what my friends are eating. And if you know me, I L-O-V-E pizza.

But back to the health fair... I guess I just scratch my head sometimes when there are foods offered at health fairs that are high in added sugars and saturated fats, which is associated with poor health outcomes. Sure, that one pizza slice and soda won't kill you (And it sounds much more attractive than say, a roasted chicken dinner). It's the lifestyle and behavior patterns an individual has that promotes or hinders health. But I still am trying to work this all out in my mind.

Granted, I wouldn't be one to protest this generous offering (pizza ain't cheap nowadays), but am I being oversensitive? Maybe I have food discrimination. What do you think? Should these be mutually exclusive (i.e. never offered together), or not?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm a spam blogger?!

I believe my blog was flagged for "innapropriate content" and now I have to use word verification to save drafts and publish posts. After having this blog for almost 2 years and 140+ posts later, someone has decided there is something indecent about what I write.

My goodness, I average about 20 hits a day. Give me a break! It's not like I'm shaping the thoughts of the entire world!

I had this happen to my infant feeding blog, but I figured it was because I used the word "breast" in it too much and some search bot decided it was probably a spam blog. I requested a review and they "cleared" me in what seemed no time.

The nice thing is that the word verification turns off the auto-save feature, which often causes me more problems than not. The problem is that now they have accumulated all the word verifications that are most unidentifiable so that I have to try about three times before I can save a draft. And blogger seems to be taking much longer at reviewing this blog for appropriateness than they did with my other blog. Maybe it's because I post more often here that it seems like they are taking longer.

Well, now that I've said this, I bet blogger will read this now and drag this out a little longer. Please don't. I'm sorry. I haven't been trying to do wrong. Really.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Closing the Food Gap

Earlier this year, I read "Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the table in the Land of Plenty" by Mark Winne. If you have been following my blog this year, you may recall me reposting an interview Mark had with Parke Wilde of the US Food Policy Blog. I finished reading the book in May but it stirred so much in me that it's taken this long to write about it.

It is easy to tell people what we (or science) think they should be eating, but what is often overlooked is the reality people live in that hinder them from actually applying these recommendations to their lives. In particular, limited income areas are often at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing healthy food. In many cases, the supermarkets in their communities --if existent-- have a lower quality selection and higher prices. Also, many of us take for granted that we have vehicles to get us to grocery stores, farmer's markets and warehouse clubs. And the foods offered through food banks and pantries are most commonly of poor nutritional quality. The food system is so complex that even if people have the ability to get healthy food, they may lack the resources to prepare and consume it. Furthermore, lower-income communities are the ones most struck by lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is more to this disparity than calories in/calories out, or eating the "wrong foods".

Yet, what do I know? I didn't know hardship growing up. Although my parents came from humble backgrounds, they were able to provide opportunities for me and my siblings that kept us from ever really knowing want. Even during hard financial times (because we have gone through those), we were at a greater advantage than others because we still had a car, a nice home to live in, and staying at home afforded me to prepare foods from scratch. This year, I even had a small garden! I am an outsider. I hadn't even lived here a year, although my husband and I decided a long time ago we'd come here because we care about the city. Yet what do I know? Then I read the following:

"I do not feel that these facts negate my involvement or those of other privileged people in the long-running campaign to end hunger and poverty. Yes, I am privileged. Yet I have chosen to regard that privilege as a gift that I will share as best I can until it loses value or is no longer needed. And as as I use the talents God gave me--carefully honed as they were by education, opportunity, and an upper-middle-class upbringing--to make the lives of others at least a little better, I will pave the way for, make way for, and get out of the way of those whose voices more genuinely call out for change than mine ever could."(p.191)

Although I learned a lot from his experiences and insights, this phrase resonated so much to me. It reminded me why I pursued a degree in public health and why we moved here in the first place. I am so grateful for this book and its timing and today I had the opportunity to thank Mark Winne -- in person.

Last week, I found out that he was coming to speak to the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Food Policy Coalition. Although I had learned of the coalition this past April, I have waited on other life events to take part in it, not knowing what kind of commitment I can provide at this time. So when I heard of this event, I decided now was as good a time as any.

In addition to thanking Mark Winne in person, I was able to learn what is happening in Cleveland. There were people from all sorts of organizations, from grassroots to government. It dawned on me when I got there that I knew n-o-b-o-d-y and I didn't come representing any organization. I was totally on my own. So I signed in, got my bagel, and sat next to someone. By the end of the program, I didn't feel like an outsider anymore. There were people I wanted to talk to to follow up on what they mentioned during the session. In one of my conversations, I even found out about Ohio City Bicycle Co-op, where I will certainly take my bike to get it back in working order.

One of my assignments in graduate school was to prepare a grant proposal. My group proposed forming a coalition for the health district we were partnering with. Although our presentations all took place in the classroom, several public health figures were there as the panel for us to present with. Our idea of forming a coalition was not favorably seen upon and we were grilled for our suggestion. Certainly not all coalitions work out, but when they do work out, much more can be accomplished than all the initiatives working on their own. It also gives "little people" like me an opportunity to contribute. And it appears that the coalition I saw today is quite alive and well.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vitamin D in breastmilk

Yesterday, there were several reports in the news that the American Academy of Pediatrics was increasing the dose of vitamin D supplementation in infants.

There is growing evidence that rickets, the manifestation of severe vitamin D deficiency, can actually occur at higher circulating vitamin D levels as once thought. And there have been a flurry of vitamin D studies that are linking vitamin D deficiencies with many diseases, both chronic and acute.

Yet vitamin D is very different from the other known vitamins. The natural dietary sources are not widespread, and is most commonly found added to foods, such as milk. Our bodies were not designed to depend on dietary sources of vitamin D, it was designed to produce its own through sun exposure to the skin. However in the age of skin cancer, urbanization, and computer games, many people are simply not getting enough sun to produce it. The body's production also varies by skin color and age, so one cannot easily prescribe a certain amount in the sun, and some areas don't receive enough UV radiation in the wintertime to produce anything. Several groups have recommended conducting a vitamin D test to see if one is deficient (young and old alike). Although that is ideal, if your insurance company doesn't cover it, then you could be paying quite a hefty sum for a test.

So increasing the supplementation recommendation is a step in the right direction. Yet, another message some pediatricians have been giving out is a wrong step. And that is that "breastmilk is deficient in vitamin D". Over and over again, I heard reports of that in the news. It is important to note that if a mother has adequate vitamin D status, her milk may not be very rich in vitamin D, but it is rich enough to give to her baby. Whether that is enough for the baby is another story, but it isn't because breastmilk is deficient. It's because breastmilk wasn't designed to be the primary source of vitamin D. The sun was.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

O, for grace to trust Him more...

To say the last year has been a test of my faith is quite an understatement. I was hoping the test would be over by now, but it's not. And now more than ever I struggle with faithlessness.

Yet, it doesn't matter what I do, say, or think. Actually, many times I don't know what to think anymore. Then somehow my Lord shows me in one way or another that He is with us, as present as ever before, although my eyes would like to tell me He is far off, unaware of my circumstances and that He doesn't really care. And many times, I have complained that His presence isn't enough. Yet He keeps telling me it is enough, and it will always be.

Our family is going through hard times -- nothing I would consider tragic. I want so badly for God to act on our behalf, but He hasn't yet (as far as I can see). He has acted in different ways, just not where I'd like to find relief right now.

Somehow God is trying to teach me more about His grace. At this point, it is hard for me to say that God's grace is sufficient. And I think it has to do with me not fully understanding what grace is really about. I often have heard grace defined as receiving what we don't deserve. That makes it a bit easier to understand His grace in the context of salvation, but it has to mean more than that. Strength is associated with grace. God told the Apostle Paul that His grace was sufficient, and that His power was perfected in Paul's weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul also reminds Timothy to be strengthened in God's grace (2 Timothy 2:1). So I am learning that strength and contentment do not lie solely in my faith in Christ, but in His grace.

So here I am, trying to figure it out. Trying to wait on God and trust in Him. Trying to deal with the unknowns and cope with the knowns. I don't have the strength to do it myself. But Jesus says:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:18-30, emphasis mine)

Oh, Lord, I'm learning. Slowly... but still learning.

O, for grace to trust Him more...*

* From the hymn: 'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A call for breastfeeding mothers who are scheduled for biopsies

This is a message I am posting for Tanya at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. Feel free to pass this on.

Hi everyone,

I'm writing to ask for your help publicizing a call for moms who are breastfeeding and scheduled for biopsies to participate in an important study based at the University of Massachusetts.

I wrote about the study and how to participate yesterday:

The primary goal of the study is to identify molecular biomarkers for breast cancer. This could lead to breast cancer detection long before we notice lumps, and as you know, early detection is the key to survival.

Another benefit could be the development of a simple breastmilk test which could determine if breast cancer is present - at its earliest stages - through epithelial cells in the milk, and without the need for biopsies. Biopsies are obviously invasive and stressful, and to make matters worse, mothers are often told that they must wean before they can get one performed (I know that this isn't necessarily true, but it's fairly common to hear).

This study is a featured research project being promoted by the Dr. Susan Love/Avon Army of Women initiative, and you can read more about it here: (scroll down to "Molecular Biomarkers...")

I'd really appreciate it if you could blog (or post a note on your website) about this study and encourage mothers who are breastfeeding and scheduled for biopsies to participate. Contact information is in the blog post. Please pass this along to anyone else who might be interested in posting about it. The goal is 250 women who meet the criteria, and it may take some work to find them.

Thanks so much,


Monday, October 6, 2008

Depression-Era Cooking

In this series of videos, 91 year old Clara gives a wonderful demonstration of depression-era cooking.

Pasta with Peas

Egg Drop Soup

Poorman's meal

HT: Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Food-related resources for tough economic times

I got this in my email and I thought I'd share it here. Let me know what you think.

The descriptions are by Alice Henneman, MS, RD. Alice is an Extension Educator for University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County. Also check out their website at:

1) Basic Bean Cookery
(All jokes aside about "the musical fruit," beans are a great food to sing the praises of in ALL economic times. Cheap, tasty, convenient and good-for-you too. Tips and recipes)

2) Basic Foods for Fridge, Freezer and Cupboard
(Ideas and recipes for basic foods that will combine and re-combine into a variety of meals. It's like a buying an all-purpose wardrobe for your kitchen.)

3) Easy Ground Beef Recipes from Your Freezer
(Think beyond ground beef patties with these ideas -- plus make them when you have time and eat them later.)

4) Supermarket Savings
(16 tips that DON'T have you making every food from scratch. They could save you a couple of thousand dollars a year!)

5) Freezing Sandwiches
(Great for making up a batch of sandwiches at one time for thrifty sack lunches!)

6) Ingredient Substitutions
(Avoid buying foods you'll seldom use or wasting gas for a trip to the store for a missing ingredient)

7) Making a Meal with What's on Hand
(Some ideas of alternates for such staples as bread for sandwiches.)

8) Food Safety Checklist for "Planned-Over Foods"
(Making extra food for later meals can save time and money as long as you don't let it make you sick. Think of the George Carlin quote: “Leftovers make you feel good twice. First, when you put it away, you feel thrifty and intelligent: ‘I’m saving food!’ Then a month later when blue hair is growing out of the ham, and you throw it away, you feel really intelligent: ‘I’m saving my life!’”)

9) Cleaning the Kitchen Cupboard: Toss or Save?
(Learn how to save and manage your investment in kitchen staples such as flour, sugar, oil, etc.)

10) Reducing the Size of Recipes
(Avoid making more than you need by making less -- here are some tips for doing it.)

11) Food Storage Fact Sheet
(A food may still be safe, but no longer taste like something you want to eat if it's stored too long -- learn more about optimal storage times.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Six food mistakes parents make (NYT)

I read this article in The New York Times last week describing 6 mistakes parents make with regard to getting their children to eat well.

So here' the list of what the bad parents do (you know I'm kidding about the bad parent part, right?):

  1. Sending kids out of the kitchen. Certainly, when kids watch or participate in the meal preparation process, they will learn to try different foods and will learn to cook too. However, it's usually much more practical to keep them out of the kitchen. Usually by that time, I just want to be able to get dinner on the table with no interruptions or kids coming up to me right when I'm using a knife, or when I'm about to open a 500 degree oven. So, do you let your kids in the kitchen? What kinds of things do you let them do? Does anyone know of a resource with a list of age-appropriate activities for kids in the kitchen?
  2. Pressuring them to take a bite. I'm still on the fence about this. My 4 year old is very reluctant to try new things, and often says he doesn't like a food that I'm serving. If I encourage him to at least take a bite, then he may actually see he likes it. Nonetheless, I've heard stories of people gagging and making a terrible mess at the table because of this rule. So I think some discretion is advised. I guess there is a difference between pressuring and firmly encouraging? I definitely don't like the bribing approach, but that doesn't mean I haven't ever done it.
  3. Keeping ‘good stuff’ out of reach. I suppose when they say "good stuff" it's actually what's not very good for you. We like to have cookies and other snacks that we don't eat whenever we feel like it and keeping it out of reach is an effective way to keep us from eating something all at once. I don' t think it makes it more desireable because we put it out of reach. I think most people are drawn to those foods regardless. For the most part, I try not to even bring it home, or to get a smaller portion so that it will be all gone at once.
  4. Dieting in front of your children. Not being a dieter, this statement really was an eye opener: "Parents who are trying to lose weight should be aware of how their dieting habits can influence a child’s perceptions about food and healthful eating. In one study of 5-year-old girls, one child noted that dieting involved drinking chocolate milkshakes — her mother was using Slim-Fast drinks. Another child said dieting meant 'you fix food but you don’t eat it.'” Wow. Next time you think of "going on a diet," Think again. These so called diets don't really contribute to good health. A long term dietary habit contributes to good health. My hope is that my children will enjoy what they eat, but also learn to respond appropriately to their appetite cues. I also teach them that some foods are better for the body than others.
  5. Serving boring vegetables. It is really easy to prepare most vegetables, but it is also very easy to ruin them. I really like the Cook's Illustrated book, Perfect Vegetables (They recently released another one called The Best Vegetable Recipes, but they are the same). Another way to find good recipes is to go to a website that has reviews and go with those with the highest ratings. The ones I commonly go to are,, and
  6. Giving up too soon. I think that happens with many aspects of child-rearing. It can be hard to be consistent with many things we are trying to teach our kids. Yet, we should not give up. We want to teach them what is good and right. I think consistency is more of a determinant to success than the actual approach you take.

One important thing that was pointed out in the article's comments is that some children have sensory feeding problems and the above strategies are not for them. They need a totally different approach altogether.

So how bad are you?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Breastfeeding and the Registered Dietitian [updated Oct 2011]

[October, 2011 updated links. See also notes at the end of the post]

Welcome! This post is part of the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog's September Carnival of Breastfeeding and this month's topic is "learning about breastfeeding." In this post, I'd like to address breastfeeding in the formal education of a registered dietitian (RD), as well as the potential role of the RD in breastfeeding promotion.

For those who are unfamiliar with the RD credential, in the United States, registered dietitians are food and nutrition professionals who have completed an approved university degree, fulfilled certain practice requirements (also from an approved program), and passed a national exam. Furthermore, an RD is required to have 75 contact hours in approved continuing education over a five year period. So as you see, there is much on the plate of a dietitian. Just as the association between food and health is actually quite complex, the field of dietetics is very broad. So breastfeeding easily becomes such a small part of a dietitian's education and work.

Breastmilk is the most basic of foods -- infinitely and amazingly rich in nutrients, totally customized for the rapid growth and development of the human infant, and produced within the mother's own body. As basic as breastmilk is, it is far from simple. There is much more to breastfeeding than the milk alone. Yet somehow, this idea has been buried under other important dietetic concepts.

The amazing and somewhat miraculous properties of breastmilk might suggest that few if any obstacles exist in the mother-child nursing relationship. Unfortunately, this is not so. While most people believe that the act of breastfeeding is easy, there are several physical factors that could interfere with a positive breastfeeding relationship. Dietitians are trained to consider the challenges to healthy eating practices. Yet, when it comes to breastfeeding, it is common for a dietitian to be first confronted with obstacles to breastfeeding through personal experience. Although I have found breastfeeding to be relatively hassle-free, Margie Hirsch, a dietitian in family and consumer science, is undergoing a completely different experience. Margie stated, "Being a dietitian, I was so excited to provide breast milk to my infant because of all the benefits we learned back in college! I had nothing but problems from day one." Margie has persevered to breastfeed her two month old, yet she has gained empathy for mothers who struggle to breastfeed.

In a position paper titled "Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding", the American Dietetic Association encourages "universities to review and update undergraduate and graduate training programs."* Yet I believe that much progress is still needed in this area. I'm not advocating new courses on breastfeeding, but simply more predominance within the general dietetics subjects (though new courses would not be a bad idea). I believe that future dietitians should understand that there is more to breastfeeding than the fact that it provides the best infant food. A greater emphasis is required to:

  1. understand the barriers to the availability and supply of breastmilk,
  2. grasp the impact breastfeeding can have on the health of a society, and
  3. realize the valuable role a dietitian can have in breastfeeding promotion.

Currently, dietitians are placed in intermediary roles in support of breastfeeding. Neonatal and public health dietitians work regularly alongside lactation consultants, often in a collaborative team of health professionals. Registered dietitians desiring a more direct role should be encouraged to become lactation consultants (such as IBCLC). Nonetheless, it is not always necessary for dietitians to become lactation consultants in order to positively impact breastfeeding rates and duration. While it is unlikely that all dietitians will come in contact with pregnant and breastfeeding mothers through their employment, ninety-seven percent of dietitians are women. Many are or will be mothers and will be friends with other women who are or will be mothers. Therefore, any registered dietitian could be a unique and valuable resource to the breastfeeding community. One can loan their expertise by volunteering as a peer counselor, attending breastfeeding support meetings, and joining statewide or area-wide breastfeeding task forces. These are effective ways to extend the reach of a dietitian beyond the workplace. It adds value to the dietetic profession and strengthens the message of what a healthy lifestyle is all about.

In every profession, regardless of the level of one's expertise, there is always much to be learned. Dietitians need to learn more about breastfeeding because of its far-reaching health implications throughout the life cycle. More advanced training opportunities are needed for dietitians who desire more direct involvement in lactation support. My hope above all else is that all dietitians will fulfill their unique and valuable role in breastfeeding promotion, big or small.

I believe every little bit counts.

Special thanks to my husband Stan, Kimberly Mack, MS, RD, LDN (a neonatal dietitian), Michelle Scott, MA RD, IBCLC (in private practice), and Margie Hirsch MFCS, RD, LD for their time corresponding with me as I was pulling these thoughts together. Although they have contributed to my thought, this post does not necessarily represent their opinions.

Related reading:
Other carnival participants:
* the link is to the position paper updated in 2009, but the quote is from the position paper at the time this blog post was written. However, the 2009 position paper states something similar: "Conduct critical internal review of undergraduate  and  graduate  dietetic  training  programs  to  ensure that  lactation  physiology,  breast-feeding management, and cultural competence  are  incorporated  into curriculums." (p.13) The paper also encourages RDs to obtain a lactation-related certification as well as collaborating with other lactation professionals. (also on page 13).

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    The Very Hungry Caterpillar, revised

    As I mentioned in a previous post about my garden, I have had one major casualty. I was looking at the bell peppers in my garden when I noticed one of the plants looked really strange. When I looked closer, I found this:

    To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I love sweet peppers (especially the yellow-red colors) but they can blow my budget in just one trip. So my hope was to grow some myself. Out of the three plants, this one was the most promising, as it sported two peppers. Still, I quickly thought about how cool it would be to put this caterpillar in a bug keeper and watch it make a cocoon. I even was excited about sharing my beet greens with it.

    However, unlike Eric Carle's caterpillar, this one was quite particular about what it ate. It totally ignored those beet greens. In fact, I decided to look into it and it's called a hornworm. These creatures are very specific to pepper and tomato plants (as well as some other related plants). Then I also found out that this one doesn't make a cocoon, rather it digs itself into the ground and then submerges as a moth. Oh well, so much for that. So I set it on the sidewalk to fend for itself.

    Well, I'm just glad there was just one. It caused enough damage as it was. I would be really devastated if they were all over the place.

    On the bright side, I found out there was new growth on my hanging cherry tomato plant (the one I thought had died). A nice surprise!

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    School at home

    My oldest child officially started kindergarten two weeks ago. At home.

    For years, I have wondered if I could really do this. It sounded like a great idea, but would it work?

    I'm pleased to say that it is working out very well. Even better than I had imagined. I have been teaching him to read and write for a while now. Primarily because he showed an interest at an early age. But now we add science, language arts, math, etc. His favorite subject is science. He is always asking how and why about a variety of things. Now he is able to learn and discover more. I also like that I can work according to his abilities, and I can speed things up or supplement if he seems to be catching on quickly.

    One of my biggest concerns was that by being my son's teacher, I wouldn't be available to others. Because I knew many homeschooling moms when I lived in North Carolina, I was quite aware of how busy they were, and I often was concerned that I may have been interrupting them. But now here in Ohio, the few moms I know are not homeschooling, and they also are very busy. So it was a misperception I was attributing to homeschooling moms when, in fact, it applies to all moms. Also, when I realized that a regular school year is about 36 weeks, and that there are 52 weeks in a year, I figured I could get the work done. To avoid getting overwhelmed, I spread the first week of school over two weeks. I even did an activity with him last Saturday, then this past Sunday he was bored and said, "Mommy, you haven't done any school with me today!"

    And then there are the funny things he comes up with. My oldest is one who would fit the "think outside the box" personality. Here is a prime example for when I was teaching him about simile:

    Me: "Pat is flat like a......."
    J: "Cake"
    Me: (thinking he was trying to say pancake) "Well, most cakes aren't flat, but what kind of cake is flat?"

    (scroll down for his answer...)

    J: A ginger cake that has been hit by a baseball bat.

    I am so proud of him :-)

    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    Saving money on food

    In a previous poll, I asked what spending category your food budget fell in. 82 percent of responses were from the thrifty and low cost category. Some of you left comments on how you keep it lower. What about the rest of you (as well as anyone new to the blog)?

    How do you save money on food?

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    The case of the prickly cucumbers... solved

    As I have never grown cucumbers before, I don't know how they are really supposed to look. I bought seedlings from a local nursery and I don't know if it said what variety it was.

    Well, they are bumpier than what I would expect and they had these little pricks on them. So, although one looked big enough to harvest, I didn't know what to do about those pricks. How was I going to eat a prickly cucumber without peeling it? Well, after asking the local master gardener about it (he really didn't understand my question), I decided to just go ahead and harvest my cucumbers with the pricks still on them.
    As I was holding the cucumber, I found the solution to my case:

    The pricks rub right off.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    The Mercy Garden

    That's what I have called my vegetable garden. Here's why:

    • I didn't test the soil.
    • I didn't properly fertilize it (although I added compost mulch about 2 weeks later)
    • I didn't really turn the soil, I tilled it a little and put the plants in (at least a week after I bought them)
    • And I put the plants really close together
    So I knew I'd have to rely on God's mercy if I were to harvest anything. After all I did a lot of things wrong.

    But I had to do something. And I figured I didn't have much to lose.

    And so far, most plants have produced alright. My peppers haven't produced much, but at least they are producing (although I lost my most productive one, topic for another post). At one point, I thought my cucumbers (and everything else) had a wilting fungus disease. I initially thought it was just poor watering, but then I read a post about how hard it can be to prevent the fungus, and it seemed to come on so suddenly. Given that the author of that post lives in my area, I figured it may have already been in the soil. If anything, I knew the watering (or lack of) contributed to it, even if it meant the plant got weaker because of it. I also thought I had killed one of my cherry tomato plants. This one is in a container, and the soil dries out very quickly. I tried to be better at watering, but it was looking pretty bad. I wish I had taken a picture of it. Upon the advice of my master gardener, I added blood meal (he advised a general fertilizer, but I already had blood meal and read it was good for leaf production) to the container. Then we had a cool, rainy spell and when I went back to my garden, there was new growth on the plant. Now there are tons of flowers, which means more tomatoes! And also after that cool spell, the cucumbers looked better too. More new mercies!

    I have taken so many pictures of my garden so I can share it here, but I didn't realize it would take me all summer to post about it. So here they are in a slideshow:

    [update 11/13/09] bubbleshare, the service I used for the slideshow will be shut down as of tomorrow. I will repost the pictures at some point. If it's been a while, feel free to ask me where the pics are in the comment section and I'll get back to it :-)

    Friday, August 22, 2008

    Partners in slime and other stories...

    It's ragweed allergy season here and everyone but me has been congested. I've just been tired from successive interrupted nights, but for the most part, we have managed alright. Back in my daughter's first year, she had many colds. My youngest son also would get it and their noses were very productive. That's when I started calling them "partners in slime."

    Well, a few minutes ago, my oldest son alerted me to my daughter's slimy nose. After I was done wiping her, my other son comes up to me and tells me he has a "sloppy nose" too.


    I needed a good laugh.

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    My junior olympians...

    With the Olympics underway, I thought I'd share some accomplishments my junior olympians made at the playground the other day:

    J, age: 5.5, crosses the monkey bars by himself for the first time.

    A, age: 3.9, initiates training for proper swinging techniques (i.e. properly pumped his legs and leaned back and forth on the swing for the first time)

    N, age: VERY 2, shows sportmanship by allowing another little girl to hold her frisbee, then puts her hands out to encourage the girl to throw it to her (as opposed to going up to her, snatching it and saying, "MINE").

    Congratulations my dear children. You have made me proud. :-)

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Psalm 100

    When I got up this morning, I had to choose to dwell on self-pity, false assumption and uncertainty, or on the goodness of God. I chose the latter and then my mother called and mentioned this Psalm. How it nurtured my soul!

    Psalm 100 (ESV)


    Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
    Serve the LORD with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!
    Know that the LORD, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
    Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
    For the LORD is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    Two are better than one...

    ...because they have a good return for their labor (Ecclesiastes 4:9)

    Yesterday afternoon, a friend came over with her food processor so we could process our vegetables from CityFresh. Earlier on, I had been talking to her how I always am lured into thinking if I had a processor, I would use up the vegetables better. She mentioned she had a processor and didn't use it because she doesn't have kitchen counter space, and said I could borrow hers. Well, given she had the processor and no counter space and I had some counter space and no processor, I then proposed that she bring it over and we could use it together.

    We did get some processing done. I finally shred 3 cabbages accumulated over the last month, made fresh salsa, sliced cucumbers, and julienned summer squash. The boys (hers and mine) also made some veggie faces. We finished off the evening by grilling some chicken and the corn we also got from our share. Later that evening, I made hummus (she let me borrow it).

    Sure, it was nice to have most of my vegetables in more useable condition, as well as tasting fresh salsa and hummus. But I must say, the highlight of the day was the sharing of resources, the conversation, and watching our kids have fun with one another. Although we didn't really have much of a plan, we had a lot of fun. I also get energized interacting with people. Usually (like tonight) I am so ready to wind down, so I often want to put off cleaning the kitchen. Last night, however, was not the case. Cleaning my kitchen was an act of gratitude and appreciation for the generosity that was extended to us, as well as the opportunity to share with one another, without demanding or expecting anything else in return.

    This was a great antidote to the pull of commercialism. And so often, we live lives in parallel with others, but not in community. By combining our resources, my friend and I were able to accomplish more than we could have individually, with the added bonus of the satisfaction that only comes from companionship.

    I wouldn't trade this for having a food processor any day.

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    Make believe...

    Tell me something...

    Does adding vitamins, artificial sweetener (oh, sorry, it's derived from "natural" sugar) and natural flavors and colors to water make a product healthy?

    Well, as the woman at a store demonstration told my 5 year old: "It's healthier than soda."

    I turned around and politely said, "not necessarily." And then went on my way.

    I wanted to say that a nice cold glass of water accompanied by a cup of fruit and vegetables was healthier than soda, but I just wasn't in the diplomatic mindset at the time. So I walked away, because I know the woman was just trying to do her job. I was proud of my son, though because he seemed to listen to my explanation and take my word for it, rather than from a stranger.

    And we do drink soda, just not very often.

    I'd just rather eat something as junk every now and then rather than pretend something is healthy.

    Friday, July 25, 2008

    Blog meets world...

    This past weekend, I had the privilege of meeting Donna, one of my blogging friends. We both have a friend in common, and when I moved to Ohio, this same friend told us we should meet.

    So we finally did. And we had a great time.

    Some people have a way of talking about things that demonstrate how down to earth they really are. Donna is one of those bloggers, so I had no reservations in getting to know her. Reading her blog also made me feel like I had a jump start in getting to know her. Our entire family had a great time and my kids were really well behaved (but they made up for that this week *grin*).

    And I can't leave the food out of a nutrition blog! I had fogotten how simple and tasty kabobs can be, and I actually made couscous, something I hadn't prepared before. I was surprised at how simple it is and it cooks very quickly, so it beats cooking rice for 20 minutes in the microwave, especially on a hot day.

    Anyway, I figured I'd record how I made the couscous so that I can make it again:

    A's Couscous

    2 cans vegetable broth
    1 tsp cumin
    1 tsp ground ginger
    3/4 cups raisins
    1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
    1 10oz package plain couscous (approximately 1 1/2 cups)

    Bring broth, cumin and ginger to a light boil, remove from heat and stir in raisins, garbanzo beans and couscous. Let sit for 5 minutes, then toss with a fork.

    I dont' know if our host family cared for it, but my picky son loved it (could it be the raisins?). He ended up eating leftovers and has asked me to make it again.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Just beet it!

    I don't believe it's necessary to get into the details about the nutritional benefits of beets. After all, the "eat it because it's good for you" is what eventually sabotaged its "superpower" status. Eat it because it's good: to the palate and for the body.

    I remember growing up liking beets. For the first 13 years of my life, I only recall eating the canned/pickled type (but I like sour tastes). It was when we moved back to Brazil that I was introduced to the other facets of beets. I remember eating them raw, shredded with a bit of olive oil, salt and vinegar. The texture is similar to that of a carrot. Actually, one of the places I often ate lunch would serve a plate of shredded carrots and beets. Also, beets were used in juices. Although they may add tons of sugar, fresh juice is a normal part of Brazilian life (as I know it). So it was common to see beets paired with oranges and carrots. And then there's ice cream... ha ha, just kidding ;-)

    Interestingly enough, a discussion about beets has independently started taking place on a dietitian's listserv. Monika blogged about having never eaten it and then when she reluctantly tried it, she was surprised it was actually good. Others mentioned eating them raw and shredded like I do, putting them in smoothies, pureeing it and adding it to chocolate cake (hmm, we have a birthday coming up...) So I am glad I am not alone. Even if it is in a self-selected group of dietitians. I guess I should ask them what to do with the beet greens. [update: I added beet greens info in the comments section] Also, one of the women at the City Fresh pickup makes beet pancakes, much like potato or zucchini pancakes.

    Oh, I better warn you that beets stain quite a bit. I remembered to put on an apron to keep from staining my favorite shirt, but I forgot about my hands. After washing thoroughly (not scrubbing too hard, though), I significantly reduced the stain by rubbing baking soda onto my hands and nail beds. I rinsed it off and probably 10 minutes later my hands had no trace of beet stains! Great, because I really didn't want to be seen in public with those red hands... especially when I was going out on a date with my husband.

    Anyway, here is what I did with the beet root:

    I peeled them, shredded them, segmented an orange, drizzled some olive oil and red wine vinegar and added a bit of salt. I liked it but there was one problem: My olive oil is rancid (and we bought a week ago). So even though my mother in law and I liked it (my oldest son ate it too and he asked for more, but didn't finish it), I just didn't want to blow my only shot at getting my husband to try beets (a quick disclaimer: he's not a picky eater. His beet memories are that bad) . So given I don't have any more oranges, I will add pineapple and use canola oil instead. If that doesn't work, I'll just have to accept the fact that I'm going to outlive him ;-)

    Tuesday, July 8, 2008

    City Fresh

    About two weeks ago, I stumbled across an initiative in our area called City Fresh. It is a style of community supported agriculture (CSA), in which we pay for a share of produce in advance, then we pick up our food share at a designated place and time. There are so many advantages to a CSA. Here are just a few: it keeps small, local, growers in business, reduces (if not eliminates) the need for pesticides, reduces fuel transportation costs, the cost is pre-arranged (no surprises), it's fresh and convenient. Usually, the disadvantage is that most CSAs require a payment up front for the whole season (say, $400-500), an amount which is not usually available to limited-income families. Also, a family may not need to get produce every week (in my case, I have a garden, but I only have herbs and cherry tomatoes available right now), and shares usually fill up pretty quickly. The difference about City Fresh is that there is a weekly commitment (signed up a week in advance) there are multiple pick up sites, and limited-income families (including seniors) pay half price for the share. They even accept the Ohio Direction card (aka food stamps). So last week, I checked it out and signed up for a full share. A full share is enough produce to feed a family of 4 for a week. It cost me $20(that's the full price). Here is what I got:

    zucchini, yellow squash, radishes, green onions, beets, potatoes, cabbage, sweet onions, green beans, mixed cooking greens, romaine lettuce, baby leeks, and 1pt maple syrup.

    I enjoy being part of a system that makes quality food available to people of all incomes, and doesn't take you too far away from home to buy it. My biggest challenge in providing nutrition counsel is my awareness that sometimes these very foods are not available in low-income areas, let alone affordable. And, being community-based, some volunteers and participants are people I have met through other activities.

    I am really excited about the maple syrup. I haven't bought some in a while so when I had to choose between mulberries or maple syrup, it was a no-brainer (not to mention there is a mulberry tree right at the pick up site).

    Best of all, it has forced me to plan my meals and snacks around vegetables, not meat (or another protein source). I have wanted to make this change for quite some time, but just haven't done it. As much as you may hear me talk about eating more fruit and (especially) vegetables, I often find myself planning meals around the entree, and the vegetables become an afterthought, if not forgotten. I get easily distracted and often times when I think dinner is served, I realize I haven't prepared the vegetables or salad. My well-intentioned salad greens often get spoiled before I get around to using them.

    I love having foods that I don't normally buy. I rarely buy beets, cabbage, radishes, cooking greens (such as kale) or leeks. It's not that I don't like these foods. It's either not on my radar, a little pricey, or (in the case of beets) hard to find a decent-looking sample. I am sure my husband is secretly dreading eating the beets this week, but I promise it won't resemble anything he was forced to eat growing up. So far, this is what I am thinking of using some of this stuff for (I hope to update with recipes at some point):

    • Feijoada (brazilian black bean stew), with mixed cooking greens and rice.
    • Beet and orange salad
    • Grilled italian sausage with sweet onions
    • Grilled chicken, with potatoes, and green beans
    • Pasta salad with grilled chicken, grilled squash, leeks and cherry tomatoes (from my own garden)
    • Romaine salad with radishes and cherry tomatoes

    I still need some ideas for the cabbage and the beet greens. I may make something and put it in the freezer. Any suggestions?

    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    Taking charge of your own health

    Last week, my friend Nicole shared how she and her family resolved not to eat out for a month and how it has changed their lifestyle for the better. They now eat foods that are less processed and her husband lost the taste for a food that he used to eat every day.

    I have heard this kind of story several times. One of the earliest changes in my life was when my mother resolved we would eat salad every dinner time and she made us eat it. Not much later, I missed eating the salad if I were over a friend's house. Ultimately, it sparked my interest on the connection between food and health.

    I am always encouraged when I hear of people taking charge of their health, not by dieting or doing some gimmick, but by daring to do things differently. Dieting as we know it is all about deprivation, but a lifestyle change is the realization that our old habits and lifestyle is what is depriving us. Our quality of life has changed so that we see what we were really missing before.

    What lifestyle changes have you made (or are in the process of making) to improve your health?

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    A deeper appreciation...

    My oldest son has his first loose tooth. It just happened that the day before I was reading to him about milk teeth. Then the next day he tries to open a plastic wrapping with his teeth, my husband tells him not to do so because he could break his teeth, then all of a sudden he looks up in dread. His tooth was loose. He didn't want it to fall out and I think he wasn't sure if it was broken or that another would grow in its place. He was quite distressed.

    We don't do the imaginary stuff to make our kids behave or feel better about things (such as Santa, Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy). But given how distressed he was I became very appreciative of the Tooth Fairy concept. Instead, he talked to Grandma on the phone and I pulled out my toothless pictures so that he could see that Mommy got all her teeth back and so will he. He's a lot more accepting about the idea now.

    I remember when my first tooth came out. I was eating an apple, walking along the school grounds at lunch, when I bit it, and the tooth came out. I don't remember any blood. I remember being excited that it came out.

    The bottom line is that my little boy is growing up. This little boy who changed my life when I saw him for the first time, wondering why I even thought of waiting for him. Sure, we have already had some tough times. Our personalities clash quite a bit, but we are both learning how to live with one another and we are enjoying one another's company. Soon he's going to lose his first tooth. He's not that little baby anymore. Maybe this whole incident made me appreciate the tooth fairy but, come to think of it, it made me appreciate my son all the more.

    Sunday, June 15, 2008


    This father's day was special because only a few months ago, we weren't sure if my father-in-law would still be alive. Thankfully we have been blessed with more time to enjoy his company. I am equally thankful for the legacy he has passed on to his sons. One of the first things that caught my attention when I first met my husband was how highly he spoke of his father. (My pastor often would say that one important thing to look for in a spouse is how he/she treats his/her parents.) Last December I prayed that my children will know him from their own experiences, not just our memories.

    We started the day with a big brunch, then simply relaxed and enjoyed one another's company, appreciating the relationship we have with one another and with our Heavenly Father.

    As I said last year to my husband, father, and father-in-law:

    You are irreplaceable.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    Hey now, hey now, don't dream, it's over...

    In keeping with the 80s music theme for my last post's title, I just had to remind myself that this is not a dream. The heatwave is over. It's comfortable here again and I can use my stove if I wish

    I discovered that I wasn't the only one suffering, but Jaime at Cheap Healthy Good is a much better trooper about it than I. She offered some advice here that I will try next time (probably not the cottage cheese, though).

    Last day to vote on the food costs survey!

    Monday, June 9, 2008

    The heat is on... (and my stove is off)

    So I survived the winter in Northeast Ohio, but it turns out that the summer will be a bigger challenge.

    Most homes here (including ours) do not have air conditioning and for the past few days, our minimum kitchen temperature is about 85 degrees (farenheight). Needless to say, baking pizza in a 500 degree oven is out of the question, and cooking anything else is not appealing to me right now.

    So I have to make a meal plan that uses the grill, crockpot and microwave more (or no cooking at all). I feel like I'm starting all over. Any suggestions???

    (By the way, don't forget the poll on food costs)

    Thursday, June 5, 2008

    Poll: How much do you spend on food?

    On a monthly basis, the USDA calculates the cost of food at four levels. The most recent calculations are for April 2008.

    This is how much they estimate a family of 4 with two preschool kids would spend to provide a nutritious diet:
    Thrifty Plan: $115.80/wk or $501.60/mo
    Low-Cost Plan: $146.70/wk or $635.50/mo
    Moderate-Cost plan: $179.90/wk or $779.60/mo
    Liberal Plan: $222.70/wk or $964.80/mo

    How do you compare?

    If you have some extra time, see how much it would be for your household, then come back and submit your answer on my poll.
    You can find estimates for other months here.

    The results are in.

    Here's the breakdown in percentages (granted my sample size is very small, only 23 responses)
    Thrifty: 39%
    Low: 43%
    Moderate: 4% (1 response)
    Liberal: 8% (2 responses)
    Don't track: 4% (1 response)