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 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!

Holiday Dinner Guest and Diet Restrictions


Having guests? Have a plan for their dietary restrictions.

If you are hosting Thanksgiving this week, have you dared to ask your guests if they have any diet restrictions? A friend was telling me about her family gathering that included vegetarians, a family member with a wheat allergy, and another with a dairy allergy. Oh, and a couple of family members were diabetic.

What to do with so many dinner guests and their diet restrictions?

  1. Ask! When you invite people over, especially if they aren’t family, or are new family members, ask if they have diet restrictions that you should know about. Even with you usual family, double-check – you don’t want to forget that your niece has the nut allergy and cook the chestnuts in the stuffing inside the turkey. Then she may not eat the stuffing or the turkey due to cross-contamination.
  2. Bring a dish to share. Not sure how to make a gluten-free pie crust? When your guests say, “what can I bring?” invite your guest that is now eating gluten-free to his or her own pie, so they can have some dessert too and so everyone can see how tasty it is. And now, one less thing for you to worry about.
  3. Integrate the “special” food into the meal. Rather than making the mashed potatoes with milk, try it with olive oil (instead of butter) and soymilk (instead of milk or cream). This will fulfill the needs of both the vegetarian and the dairy allergy. And, don’t make two separate batches, just the one for everyone will do. We don’t need to make our guest feel like they have “special needs.”
  4. Include veggies! Whether someone needs low-fat, wheat-free, dairy-free, diabetic-friendly, or all of these, fresh or steamed seasoned veggies will fit the needs for everyone (green beans are always safe!) and it will help balance out the carbohydrates of the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and stuffing.
  5. Offer alcohol and soda-alternatives! Stay in the Thanksgiving mood with cranberry juice, a squeeze of lime and seltzer and even the kids will think they are toasting with the adults. Also, plain water will do just fine too.

While we want to accommodate all of our guests, we don’t want them to feel left out either. Make everyone fit in as best as you can and try not to have the separate dishes for someone unless it is essential. Just keep in mind that some people do have very specific diet restrictions, and they aren’t all in their head (usually).

If you are hosting Thanksgiving this week – good luck to you. And enjoy the time you have with your friends and family however many you have coming over. And, please, leave the cleaning to someone else!

Do you hear what you want to hear?


Are you always being honest with yourself?

A friend told me the story of her mother’s recent visit to the doctor: In reviewing the result of the patient’s blood work, the patient’s blood sugar control was not a good as it should be (referring to the hemoglobin A1C results). The patient promised to be better and the doctor conceded to let her continue with her lifestyle changes and no medication as a result of this visit. The doctor’s instructions/orders: no desserts except for birthdays; the patient agreed. No problem, just birthdays.

What the doctor didn’t know: this patient has six children, all married, 17
grandchildren, many of whom are also married, and 23 great-grand children! With that much family, she averages a birthday a week, sometimes more. This doesn’t include the birthday’s she celebrates with her friends – she can’t leave out her friends. Giggling about this, she also said she could perhaps stand outside Wal-Mart and ask everyone when his or her birthday is, so when she had her dessert every day, she could say “This is for Tracy’s birthday, the woman I met at Wal-Mart.”And she honestly was not going against her doctor’s wishes.

Many of you have heard the story of my grandmother, of when diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 79, asked her oncologist, at the same appointment he was giving her treatment options, if she needed to quit smoking. He told her, “I’d like you to.” (Personally, I think he was just stunned by the question.) She said, “He didn’t say ‘yes’.” She did quit a short time later but it was only because you can’t smoke in the ICU.

The point I am making here is for both the practitioners AND the patients/clients:

Practitioners: We must be literal with our patients. And, be careful with what you say, and how you say it. If we aren’t careful with what we say the patients, knowing full well what we mean, will take our words literally. We need to be specific. For example, don’t tell someone  they can have a hamburger “once in a while” or “on occasion.” Your “once in a while” or “on occasion” may mean one a month while their “once in a while” may mean every 48 hours.

Don’t speak in jargon. We must admit that we do speak in jargon, and may not realize it. Ask our patients and clients if they understand what we are saying.

Patients/clients: A lot of times our patients/clients know what their health professionals are telling them, but they choose to believe otherwise. If you truly don’t know what your practitioner is telling you, ASK. Do you really think that a hamburger every other day is fine? If you don’t know what your practitioner means by “once in a while” then ASK him or her. Really.

Also, when you don’t give your health care practitioner the truth, aren’t forthcoming, or have led yourself to believe something that isn’t entirely correct, you aren’t helping yourself. And we can’t help you be healthier. By this I mean don’t say, “I exercise all the time,” when you really mean, “I was an athlete in high school” or “I sit in a chair on the side-line of my kid’s soccer game and watch them exercise.” Driving you kids around to their activities makes you active but that isn’t exercise. (I am a parent, I know.)

Both sides need to get better with communicating, getting more clear with what they mean, and being more honest with themselves and their healthcare providers.