I’ve Moved!


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While I am still blogging, I am doing it over on my website: ShelleyRael.com


Updated every Tuesday, and sometimes more often, you can find updates to these articles and new ones.

Thanks for visiting!






How Does Your Belly Measure Up?

Tape Measure

Use this to assess your risk for disease.

It seems that many Americans are in denial about their health. With two-thirds of our country classified as over-weight or obese and people looking to lay blame on everything or everyone but themselves, I find it alarming when people are surprised, no SHOCKED, when I tell them they are in the over-weight or obese.To classify people as over-weight or obese, we often measure their height and weight and plug it into an equation to find their Body Mass Index or BMI. It is a ratio of height to weight without taking into account gender or body fat percentage. Because of this, many health professionals look at risk factors for disease in other measures.

Measuring someone’s body fat percentage is the better way to assess their health status, but they are not always available in the privacy of your own home. For more on this, see more about measuring body composition/body fat in my earlier blog post “What Determines a Healthy Weight?”

Another way of measuring disease risk/health status is waist circumference. Gone is the measure of waist-to-hip ratio from the 90’s; measuring the waist circumference is the standard now.

Why measure waist circumference?

Excess abdominal/belly fat increases the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and heart disease – all preventable diseases. When taking into account a BMI between 25 and 35 the waist circumference can help find the risk for these diseases. For example someone with a BMI of 29 but a waist circumference below the cutoff is at less risk than someone with a BMI of 27 and a waist circumference above the cutoff. Someone with a BMI over 35 will very likely be above the cutoff points for waist circumference.

How to measure waist circumference?

Get a tape measure and wrap it around your waist making sure it is parallel to the floor and that the tape measure is not twisted. Do not measure over your clothing, no matter how thin the material. The “right” place to measure is at the top of the hip bone known as the iliac crest. Some people have trouble finding this spot. If you can’t locate the top of your hip bone, then measure the waist at the smallest part making sure you are measuring the waist on not the hips. If there isn’t a smallest part of the waist, you can use the “landmark” of your belly button. You want to make sure the tape measure is on the same parallel to the floor all the way around the body/waist; not lower in the front and higher in the back. Also don’t hold your breath.

One of the biggest mistakes made when measuring waist circumference is measuring underneath the belly. For example, men with larger belly tend to measure where their waistband sits. This isn’t the right place. Men often disagree with my measurement results when I tell them they have a waist circumference of say 42”, when they wear size 36” pants. Not the same…

Now what does that number mean?  

What is the result – without pulling too tight on the tape measure? For women >35” (88 cm) and for men >40” (102 cm) is “at risk.” This measure it the same no matter how tall you are. If you are close to or right at these measures, you need to make sure you don’t gain more weight/fat. If you are at risk, you need to work on losing weight now to help you lose body fat.

It is not possible to cut body fat in one specific part of the body without surgical intervention. However, adding strength/resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, and right calories can help reduce overall body fat, and decreasing belly fat in the process.

After working on your eating and exercise habits measure again in six to eight weeks. Make sure you are heading in the right direction.

Coffee – Still Pretty Darn Healthy

coffee beans

Research continues to show coffee is more beneficial than harmful.

Nearly two years ago I wrote a post for National Coffee Day admitting that I have my family hooked on coffee and that our coffee maker would be the one appliance replaced within a day. I freely admit that one morning without it would throw me  into a tailspin – only because of habit and morning routine not addiction. Really…

I often say that coffee is my “drug of choice” – which is a joke, but not. I joke in the sense that I choose no other drugs except alcohol, but if given a choice, I would take caffeine over alcohol (though I hope I never have to). Caffeine is stimulant, and the most widely used drug in the world. It is legal for everyone in the world, though some religions frown at its use.

Today, the health benefits of coffee now far outweigh the risks associated with consumption.

Along with its apparent role in improving brain health and reducing risk of type 2 diabetes, coffee consumption is showing to help prevent certain types of cancer including basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, liver cancer, breast, colon, and rectal cancers.

Most of the benefits are with regular caffeinated coffee, though some studies have looked at decaf coffee. Most of the time, decaf does not have the same benefit as regular, but it appears neutral rather than harmful.

Additional research shows that it is still safe for pregnant women to consume coffee and that there is no risk for the child later in life, with the most recent research showing no link between mother’s coffee intake during pregnancy and behavior issues in her child later.

Again, it is preferable to consume your coffee with little or no added sweeteners and fat. While the benefit of the coffee is not diluted with these additions to the coffee, it does add calories. So, I always tell people to take this into account when putting it in the “big picture” for your day. I like my formerly calorie-free coffee with added sweetener and half and half, knowing that I am adding calories per cup.

Hot or iced, black or as a “mocha” – enjoy your coffee knowing that it is helping your overall health more than it is harming your health.

I love getting locally roasted coffee when possible (since there is only one state that can grow coffee, I can’t get locally grown right now…).

Check out these Albuquerque, New Mexico Roasters.

How do you like your coffee?


A Toast to Your Bones

Toast to your bones – how alcohol can affect your bones.

In the nutrition world, there are often mixed messages about the benefits and risk of certain thing on your health. We hear something is good for us, then it is not, then it is… Most of the time, it is one of two things that create confusion: 1) new research helps us better understand the role of certain foods and lifestyle habits and their impact our health or 2) reports on the research are misleading and aren’t properly conveyed.The latest bit of information is alcohol consumption in women and their bone health. For years, excessive or too much alcohol consumption is well-known for its effect on bone health. This is primarily because it may lower our intake of calcium and it increases our risk for falls (leading to broken bones).

Now, a recent study, with 40 participants, conducted at Oregon State University found that moderate alcohol consumption may HELP reduce bone loss in post-menopausal women. As all of us age, our bones are still going through the process of “turnover.” Unfortunately, we don’t build up as much bone as we lose when we are older, and especially after menopause.

According to the research, the alcohol consumption appears to slow down the rate of turnover – which is a good thing. Even more interesting is that when the alcohol consumption stops, the bone turnover increased, and when alcohol consumption resumed the bone turnover slowed almost immediately.

Moderate alcohol consumption in women is one alcoholic drink per day. This doesn’t mean that women should have what adds up to being an average of one alcoholic drink per day – for example, this does not mean three drinks on Friday, three drinks on Saturday and another one on Sunday. This means that one drink equivalent per day, use it or lose it. What is “one-drink”? One-drink is one 12-ounce beer, one 4-5 ounce glass of wine (not 6 or 8 ounces), OR one 1½-ounces of spirits, such as vodka, rum, whiskey or tequila. More is not healthier. (Men get two drinks per day.)

BOTTOM LINE MESSAGE (as always): If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. This is true for men and women. Only moderate consumption is beneficial – not more.

Oregon State University (2012, July 11). Moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent bone loss, study suggests.


We all Scream!

A variety of ice cream

July 15 is National Ice Cream Day.

Sunday, July 15 is National Ice Cream Day (third Sunday in July). But does anyone need an excuse to eat ice cream?

Do you know why Baskin Robbins chose “31 flavors”? (Answer below.)

Who doesn’t like ice cream? With the seemingly endless varieties at the grocery store, the ice cream shops, the convenience store and the choice of “a la mode” with practically any dessert, there is something about ice cream that everyone can find a way to enjoy it.

Many people think of ice cream as a treat, something that they really enjoy, but feel they shouldn’t eat it. People often shy away from telling me that they eat ice cream thinking that I am going to tell them to stop…which I don’t. I say, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty. BUT yes, there is a catch: I don’t suggest that you enjoy a pint of ice cream every day. It is how much and how often you like to enjoy ice cream that is problematic or just fine.

A single serving of ice cream is one-half cup. Don’t laugh. That is four servings in one-pint of ice cream. Yes, that “small” container you eat from. Problem? The difference between the real serving and the full pint is around 700 calories for premium ice cream (230 calories in half cup vs. 920 calories in a pint) or 400 calories for other brands (130 calories in half cup vs. 520 calories in a pint).  Check out the Nutrition Facts label, the shop’s website or CalorieKing.com to find out how many calories in your favorites.

Ok, ok. I don’t mean to be a killjoy, but this is reality that people are often oblivious of. I love ice cream, especially making my own (last summer I had five flavors that I had made in my freezer). Because cold foods are usually less flavorful than warm-hot foods, ice cream needs a lot of fat and sugar to help it have flavor (and taste good). I acknowledge that many low-fat and/or low-sugar ice creams just don’t fill the need for some people. This is why I say have the REAL deal that you enjoy and satisfies you and not having a sub-par “ice cream” that you don’t really enjoy.

Some of my favorite ice cream recipes:

What is your favorite ice cream flavor, variety, or brand?

Answer to question: Baskin Robbins had 31 flavors so customers could enjoy a different flavor every day of the month.

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It is a Berry, Berry Nice Time of Year

Berries for Sale

July is Berry Month – go enjoy.

Many people love the summer season for many reasons – longer, warmer days, no school, vacations, cookouts and…summer fruit, including some of the best-loved fruit: berries, yummy berries. Loaded with vitamin C, potassium and fiber and not loaded with calories, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and cranberries are all part of this nutritious family of fruit. They are eaten fresh, frozen and sometimes dried – preferably without added sugar – and like so many fruits and other plant foods, they have many health benefits including disease prevention and anti-aging properties due to their many antioxidants and phytochemicals. Ranging from 25-50 calories per half cup serving, berries make a great snack or dessert by themselves or make a healthy ingredient to so many foods.

Strawberries: eight-medium strawberries are one serving and contain more vitamin C than an orange. While a botanist will tell us that strawberries are not true berries, we do think of them as berries and we are able to enjoy them year round.

Raspberries: are found as red, gold (looking like anemic red raspberries) and black. Most common to us as fresh are the red raspberries, though all of them are healthy in their own way. Raspberries contain twice the fiber of blueberries and strawberries and taste great warm right off the plant.

Blackberries: start red but turn “black” when they ripen. If you have ever enjoyed fresh blackberries you know that the full, shiny “fat” ones are just the only way to eat them since they have the best flavor.

Blueberries: aren’t really blue… Anyone who has eaten blueberries knows they have purple skin and green flesh. Touted as the fruit highest in antioxidants,  blueberries are often considered a superfood in the nutrition world. People enjoy blueberries fresh and in smoothies like other berries, but these are also very popular in baking (pancakes anyone?).

Cranberries: most people only think of cranberries during the winter holidays or when they are in the midst of a urinary tract infection (or when ordering a Cosmopolitan). Because the fruit is extremely tart most people prefer their cranberries with sweetener of some kind. This is why you often find cranberry juice cocktail and not pure cranberry juice and dried cranberries are also sweetened.

Don’t be shy about trying berries in new and different ways. While strawberry shortcake, blueberry muffins and smoothies are just fine and classic ways to enjoy berries, try new and different ways to use berries. Try this recipe from Eating Well: Filet Mignon with Blueberry Bourbon Sauce.

What is your favorite way to enjoy berries?

For more information and recipes check out:

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Dealing with Unwanted Holiday Guests – Avoiding Food Poisoning


Bring the turkey to temperature using a thermometer.

There are many hazards to watch for during the holidays, and while most of us think about drunk drivers and being trampled at the big box store, food safety can affect all of us.

If we are the one preparing the food, we are the one under pressure to get everything done at the time promised, especially if people are hungry, and may take short-cuts during preparation. Or, we may want to just relax after dinner and put the food away “later.” While this may be the fast-track to lose weight post-Thanksgiving, some people may have other plans for their holiday weekend instead of recovering from the food poisoning they got from the holiday meal.

One of my favorite cooking tools is my instant read thermometer. I don’t go by color or pressure (though sometimes a toothpick works, if I am baking). The instant read thermometer is my go-to tool during cooking. I also have a handy electronic meat thermometer that I use so my meat doesn’t become over-cooked and I don’t have to keep opening the over-door.

While it is likely too late to tell you not to leave the turkey out on the counter to defrost it, or even in the garage (in some places this could be okay, though it isn’t recommended) or inside the dryer for the quicker defrost (still not recommended, since you may have to explain this to the repair-person unless you used the drying rack). You can call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line® at 1-800-BUTTERBALL for help in this issue.


  • Cook the turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F. While your turkey may have come with one of those cute, red pop-up indicators, it is better to use a food or meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey.
  • Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If you have stuffed your turkey, the center of the stuffing must also reach 165°F. (If your bird has reached the 165°F, you can remove the stuffing and cook/bake it separately until it reaches 165°F on its own so your bird doesn’t get over-cooked and dry.)
  • Some meat, even in poultry, may still be pink, but it is safe to eat as soon as all parts of the bird reach at least 165°F.


While we like to linger at the table, relax in the living room, or even go outside and play, put off doing the dishes is okay, but putting off clearing the food away is not a good idea.

We need to refrigerate promptly! There are three numbers we need to remember:

  1. 2 hours: Refrigerate cooked foods, including the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and everything else within 2 hours after cooking. Keep track of how long foods have sat on the table and discard anything there two hours or more. To help extend this 2 hour serving time, put things out at the last-minute, and only put out as much as necessary.
  2. 3-4 days: Place leftovers in shallow containers and use within 3–4 days. Come Monday night, if you still have any Thanksgiving leftovers, guess what’s for dinner? After dinner that night, toss it.
  3. 165°F: Reheat all of your leftovers to minimum internal temperature of 165°F. You often hear “140°F” for food safety, this is the temperature for the first go round. For reheating leftovers, it’s higher…

One of the other great tools you can use is the freezer. If you realize that there is just too much food to plow through in your four-day window – ull out the ziptop bags and markers (to note the date) and freeze your turkey, potatoes and other holiday faves for next week, next month, or next April.

Happy Thanksgiving and hoping it is bacteria free!