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!


Just 8 Weeks to the New Year


Cold is no excuse to stop exercising.

With just two months left in the year, what is your plan to combat the stressors, the usual end of year “too much to do,” trying-to-fit-it-all-in-and-not-enough-time-for-fitness? Let it all go and then realize you need to “start all over” or be mindful of your actions?

I have a plan. I (almost) always have a plan – just ask my co-workers. I started last week (on Monday, October 31) with my updated plan for the rest of the year. It has three parts:

  1. 620,000 steps completed. Since this started last Monday, October 31, if I calculated correctly, that is an average of 10,000 steps a day through December 31st.  I am wearing my pedometer every day.
  2. Run 200 miles – about 30 miles a week. I run about 4-5 times a week.
  3. Bike 500 miles – about 55 miles a week. I bike about twice a week.

My plan isn’t to beat myself up or exhaust myself, but to stay calm and have an outlet for the stress that inevitably comes, combat temptations and ultimately be the same weight in January as I was in September.

Most of us can do it. I know. When we have the plan to do it, we can. I know many people who have done it.

Whether I will get all 700 miles and 620,000 steps in or not aren’t as important as the effort of trying. If I run 179 miles, bike 476 miles, and get 618,359 steps it is okay. I know that I worked towards getting those miles and steps. Failure would be not trying or putting in the effort and saying, “I’m too tired to do it today,” when I know I will feel better doing it.

What are you doing the next 8 weeks to help you get through the holidays ?

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.

I Buy Hard-Boiled Eggs – Go Ahead and Judge Me

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Would you buy these to save time?

I work with a lot of people who want to eat healthier (I am a dietitian after all, so this does make sense). Some of the biggest challenges of the people I work with are that they are busy and feel that they don’t have time to eat healthy or prepare healthy foods. Who isn’t busy these days? A few people aren’t, but I suggest you don’t admit that to the rest of us.

So, when I am helping people who are trying to balance work, family, “me” time, fitness, other activities along with a healthy diet, I believe that is it sometimes okay to have short-cuts such as microwavable frozen brown rice or vegetables: a quick, easy, convenient way to get healthy food on the plate for the family.

So, earlier this summer on our weekly trip to Costco, a new item caught my attention this fir the bill for “quick and easy”: pre-packaged, peeled, hard-boiled eggs. Two–dozen for $3.99. I often mention to my clients that a hard-boiled egg can be part of breakfast out-the-door or a quick afternoon snack. I suggest boiling some on Sunday for the week.  It isn’t hard to do (with Albuquerque’s high altitude it does take some practice to get it right), but it does take time, and it is sometimes messy when it comes to peeling. Also, the kitchen and fridge stink a bit after the boil.

These hard-boiled eggs were also useful on a road-trip we took in mid-August (in rural New Mexico and Arizona) when we packed a cooler of snacks to include our water, fruit, string cheese and these eggs. We had our breakfast at the hotel, had our snacks through the day and our dinner out in the evening.

Now, I know that some people feel this is a ridiculous item – pre-cooked, pre-peeled, eggs? How hard is it to boil and peel an egg?! No one is saying it is hard. It isn’t. Anyone who can navigate the internet and read directions can find out how to make a hard-boiled egg. Members of my family would make a two or three at a time, several times a week. So, rather than boiling some eggs here and there during the week, we have chosen to use less energy, and spend less money and save time by purchasing this convenience item. To some people think it is silly, but for us it gives us more time to wash the fresh fruits and veggies that we also pack for lunch and snacks. Also, it can cut your deviled egg preparation time down dramatically!

The big question for these pre-packaged eggs: how do they taste? Answer: if you didn’t know, you couldn’t tell. The whites aren’t rubbery; the yolks don’t have a greenish-gray line (maybe that would be the giveaway). They tastes just like…eggs. There are real eggs, so they taste like real eggs. Go figure. And, no they are no more “slimy” than regular hard-boiled eggs, which are pretty slimy in my opinion. Try picking up a deviled egg from a plate some time.

When it comes to convenience foods, sometimes I take shortcuts.  As a rule, the shortcuts are “real” food and help me cut down on prep time: frozen vegetables, frozen brown rice (6 minutes vs. 55 minutes), a rotisserie chicken vs. my own roasted chicken (10 minutes vs. 90 minutes or more). But as a rule I don’t take shortcuts that will substitute a processed food. For example, I make my own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches  (not the un-crustables in the freezer aisle) and I make my own cookies, brownies and cakes from scratch (so no buying cookie dough or a cake or brownie mix).

November 2 is National Deviled Egg Day – try this yummy recipe from Cooking Light: Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Herbs, and with the pre-packaged, pre-cooked, pre-peeled eggs, you get to skip Step 1, and go directly to Step 2. Quick and easy.

Okay, now…judge away. What convenience foods to you use?

Have a Happy Halloween

Starting now and over the next several weeks, it is likely  you will see many articles and news stories from dietitians and other health  experts on healthy holidays and avoiding holiday weight gain. As we reach a “difficult” time of year when many people give up for the next  couple of months, we truly want people to stay on track over the next couple of months

As the holiday season kicks off with Halloween there are differing views on how to approach it, especially if you have kids. Some say, “Let them enjoy it, it is just one day!” And others will say, “Let them pick their favorites and throw the rest out.” While Halloween is “just one day,” let’s be honest and acknowledge that Halloween celebrations are much more than one day and the loot collected on Halloween night last much longer than just one night.

For adults, even if we no longer have children at home, it is tempting if we have the candy to hand out. As someone who refused to buy the candy until just yesterday (the 29h), I still had to hide it from the family as soon as I walked in the door. Just having the candy around the house is a problem for many people. I know people who have already bought their Halloween candy three times.

Here are tips for you and your household, whether you have kids inside the house or not:

  1. Plan a “real” dinner. Have an easy to make, hearty soup and sandwiches, a Crockpot meal or even a pizza before the kids head out the door. So the kids don’t get the stomach ache, they should have something in their stomach before they head out for the treat-trek. Make sure you have some too. One of my favorites is Loaded Potato Soup. Very filling and everyone loves it.
  2. Don’t snack on the candy yourself. Many times the adults will give themselves a treat with each visit to the door. Chew on gum, or have a bowl of popcorn for yourself.
  3. Be generous. If it seems like you may have some candy left over, be generous  in the last half-hour, such as 8:30 – 9:00, or whatever your cut-off time is. If you run-out earlier, no biggie.
  4. Sort the candy. When the kids come home, let them sort the candy into three piles: what they love, what they hate, and what is just “okay.” If you have any left-over candy of your own, do the same.
    1. Keep what you love: Enjoy it throughout the next several days and weeks.
    2. Freeze the just “okay” stuff or think about donating it. If you toss it in the freezer, after a week or two, take it out and reconsider whether you really want it.
    3. Donate what you hate: There are many community buy-back locations or donation locations. If you can’t find one, Operation Gratitude accepts candy donations to send care-packages to troops serving over-seas. Consider shipping it to them. When kids hear about this program, many of them are very willing to get a group
      collection together and give a lot of their candy.
    4. Consider dinner and a movie OUT. If you have no kids at home, then this is an option to “avoid” the temptations of having the candy and the “trick-or-treats” altogether. Heck, it could be cheaper than the cost of the candy, and much more fun!

No matter what you do, enjoy and I get dibs on the dark chocolate candies your kids don’t want. I’ll send you my address.

Safe Grilling – How Do You Know?


Grilled Salmon with Citrus Tomato Salsa

When someone says “safe grilling” most people think of keeping the kids away when the match is lit or keeping a safe distance as you hear the “clicker” over and over again on the old gas grill until the “whoomp” of the flame lights up and the grill is safely heating with little damage to arm and facial hair.

In my household, safe grilling means being armed with the most essential grilling tool: the instant read thermometer. An instant read thermometer is different from a meat thermometer or a candy thermometer in that is reads the temperature of a food instantly (hence the name “instant read”). I have several of these for when I am cooking more than one food that needs checking and even keep one in our camper.

Do not put this thermometer in the oven or grill during cooking, but use it to test or check food intermittently when you think it might be ready. Trust me, you will destroy your thermometer if you put it in your meat and close the lid of your grill.

This tool helps you prevent over cooked fish and under cooked burgers. You can have perfectly cooked chicken breasts (not dried out) and just right steaks. Now you need to know what temperature “perfectly” cooked means.

  • All ground meat (such as burgers) = 160 degrees
  • All red meat (this includes pork) = 145 degrees (higher if you want “well-done”)
  • All poultry = 165 degrees
  • All fish = 145 degrees

An instant read thermometer costs around $10 and is found in the kitchen section of most big box stores. You don’t need to get fancy – you just need to use it.

When most people say they are grilling, they pull out the hot dogs, burgers or steaks. In our household burgers and hot dog rarely or never touch the grill (or even pass through the door) – it is steaks, chops, chicken or fish. Just a bit of oil or cooking spray and things are good. I love it because I don’t have the oven or broiled heating up the kitchen in the summer.

Below is a recipe for Grilled Salmon with Citrus-Tomato Salsa for your grill (or your broiler) – courtesy of the Unilever Kitchens. In exchange for me publishing this recipe, the folks at I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® are sending me two Bamboo BBQ Roll-Up Sets. I’m going to keep one (since I already told my husband about it – sorry), but the second one I’m giving away to one of my readers.

To qualify you need to comment answering all three of the following questions:

  1. What do you grill?
  2. When was the last time you grilled?
  3. How do you know you are cooking it safely?

Submit your comment by August 22 – I will choose one person at random and I will announce the winner on August 23. Hopefully, I will get your grill set to you in time for grilling on Labor Day Weekend.


Serves: 4, Preparation Time: 15 Minutes, Cook Time: 15 Minutes


2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 large navel orange, peeled, sectioned and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup sliced green onions
6 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. finely chopped, seeded jalapeno pepper (optional)
4 Tbsp. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® All Purpose Sticks
4 salmon fillets (about 1 lb.)


  1. Combine tomatoes, oranges, green onions, 4 tablespoons cilantro and jalapeno pepper in large bowl. Season, if desired, with salt and ground black pepper; set aside.
  2. Blend I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® Spread, remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro and, if desired, salt and pepper to taste in small bowl. Grill or broil salmon, brushing with cilantro spread, until salmon is opaque, turning once. Serve salsa with salmon.

NOTE: Recipe can be halved.

Nutrition Information per serving:
Calories 320, Calories From Fat 170, Saturated Fat 4.5 g, Trans Fat 0 g, Total Fat 18 g, Cholesterol 60 mg, Sodium 160 mg, Total Carbohydrates 13 g, Sugars 8 g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Protein 24 g, Vitamin A 30%, Vitamin C 100%, Calcium 6%, Iron 10%.


Regular or Diet?


Is yours diet or regular?

Today I attended (and was a co-hostess) of a baby shower. Of course we had the classic 7-Up and sherbet beverage. With some soda left over after the get-together I was offered a 2-liter bottle. I initially accepted then recoiled when I realized I was about to take “regular” soda. “No thank you, it’s regular.” In exchange I was offered the diet 2-liter instead and gladly accepted.

I’m not a big soda drinker, in fact, I often joke that I really only drink soda with alcohol. It just isn’t my thing. But when I do drink it, I personally choose to have “diet” since I would rather not have the calories that come with it. However, I know many people are fearful or don’t want “all the chemicals” of the non-nutritive sweeteners that are found in soda.

“Regular” soda is about 150 calories in a 12 ounce can, or 250 calories in a 20 ounce bottle. It is all sugar. No fat. No protein. In some cases it is high fructose corn syrup, in other cases is it “pure cane sugar” but it really doesn’t matter, it is still sugar. No better, no worse. And if you are drinking more than one a day, you need to stop doing that. In fact, the Coca-Cola Company has 7.5 ounce cans, which are nice, smaller servings, but you still need to have no more than one per day. Less is better, none is best. If you are drinking a 20 ounce soda each day and stop, changing nothing else you could lose about ½ pound per week.

“Diet” soda is zero calories.  Traditionally called diet, the Coca-Cola Company has the “Zero” line and Pepsi has “Max” as well as their “diet” versions, these are calorie free. But I tell people, while these don’t have calories this does not mean that you can or should drink these in unlimited quantities thinking it is okay. I’ve had clients who drink 4-8 of these things a day, and ask if that is okay. My response: you shouldn’t drink that much of anything unless it is water. So, even though it is “diet” and no calories, I don’t agree that it is a “free”-for-all.

If you are a soda drinker, enjoy the soda of your choice, regular or diet. However, consume NO MORE than one soda per day, preferably no more than 12 ounces, and less is better. If you can consume 48-64 ounces (or more) of fluid, then you should have no problem drinking more water. C’mon, you can do it.

Do you drink regular, diet, or no soda?

Disclaimer: no affiliation with 7-Up, Coca-Cola, or Pepsi. Bummer.