Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Day At the Beach

As the summer begins to slip away, I find myself making excuses such as, “oh, it’s really too hot out” or “I can’t wait for fall fashion”. However- you know, and I know, that all I am doing is trying to make the painful end of summer a little more bearable. It’s like when you pick a fight with someone before you leave so it is easier to bare being apart (sorry, Mom :) ).

What I am really going to miss the most is my favorite part of summer: a day at the beach! Nothing is better than a full day of walking, reading, swimming, laying, chatting, snacking, and playing; all under the beautiful sun and mixed in upon layers of soft sand. Plus- guess what? A day at the beach can be amazing for your health and body, if done the right way!

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

I don’t know about you, but when I hang out in the sun all day, I simply feel less hungry. Rather than desiring a hot and juicy burger, I crave cold foods, such as watermelon, gazpacho, and salads. Plus, there is something about sitting in your finest bikini that says, “maybe I shouldn’t have seconds.”

Think of all the exercise you can do at the beach without even realizing it. Perhaps you go for a long romantic walk on the beach, or jump into a heated game of beach volleyball? Then take a dive into the ocean to cool off. Finally as the sun is setting, you jump onto a paddleboard and sail across the sea. Sound like a plausible day for you? Guess what: you just burned a ton of calories!

Here are how many calories you burn per hour (approximately and differing based on sex/weight) doing everyday beach activities:

Beach volleyball- 427 calories

Walking- 207 calories

Swimming- 236 calories

Frisbee- 177 calories

Fishing- 236 calories

Paddleboarding (beginners)- 300 calories

After all of these activities, I gather you will be a bit hungry. So jump onto your towel and whip out the cooler. Here is a Your Secret Ingredient list of what to fill it with.


1. Gazpacho soup (blend tomatoes, cucumbers, salsa, Worchester sauce, garlic, lemon juice, and any other fitting ingredient; serve cold, topped with chopped cucumbers and red peppers.) Bring in Tupperware and serve into paper cups with spoons

2. Hummus and vegetable sandwiches (cucumber, pepper, lettuce, tomato) on whole grain bread

3. Homemade pita chips with Salsa Verde (chips: simply cut whole grain pita bread into small triangles and place on a baking sheet; spritz with non-stick olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt, bake in the oven on 425F for 12-15 minutes) (salsa: take tomatillos- AKA little green round chili peppers- and char them directly on the flame; place in blender and add salt while blending)

4. Watermelon with mint for dessert

Extra Snacking for watching the sunset:

5. Cheese, crackers, and grapes. Bring whole grain crackers such as Triscuits of Whole Food’s 365 whole grain cracker mix. Pack 2 oz per person of your favorite low-fat cheese or 1 oz per person of your favorite full-fat cheese and plus about 10 grapes per person, washed and stored in the damp paper towel in a zip-top container.

6. Wine (a light and fruity red may be easier to transport because it does not need to be freezing cold- plus, yes we are dietitians and must tell you that resveratrol, a main component in red wine, is a powerful antioxidant and good for your health when consumed in moderation). For a non-alcoholic option, make your own unsweetened iced tea or flavored water like cucumber mint water stored in water bottles.

So now that you have your cooler ready to go and a plan for a fun-filled day of exercise in the sun (with plenty of sunscreen protection). Be sure to hit the beach as much as possible to soak up every last moment of this hot summer- it’s good for your health!

--Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Monday, August 8, 2011

What to Keep On-Hand: Your Kitchen Staples

Planning meals during the week, especially during the summer, can be challenging. Going away for the weekend leads to poor grocery shopping and frantic weeknight meals. The best way to prevent this is to be prepared...Here is a Your Secret Ingredient Kitchen Staples guide to keep a healthy, well-stocked home.

Why Have You Done A Good Thing?

Eating more foods from home leads to well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. The more fresh foods you have at home, the better! Keep these items on hand for convenient snacking and cooking.

Pantry Staples

1. Grains

· 1 loaf of whole wheat bread

· 2 grains and 1 box of pasta (½ your stocked grains should be whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, farro, wheat berries, whole wheat cous-cous, millet, barley)

· Oatmeal; choose rolled or steel cut oats or unsweetened instant oatmeal

· 2 boxes of cereal

2. Snacks

· 1 jar of all natural nut butter

· At least 3 snack choices for the family (refer to Your Secret Ingredient Snack List for ideas)

3. Cooking Supplies:

· Dried Herbs/Spices: (salt, black pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, cumin, chili powder, oregano, herb de provence, dried bay leaves)

· 1 bottle of olive oil, 1 bottle of canola oil (optional: 1 bottle of specialty oil, such as avocado oil, for salads)

· 1 quart of low-sodium chicken broth

· 1 jar of approved tomato sauce; 1 quart of pureed/crushed tomatoes

· 2-3 cans of low-sodium beans; 1 package of lentils

· 1 container of trans-fat free whole wheat bread crumbs

· 2-3 cans of low-sodium soup

4. Optional Baking supplies (all kept in air-tight containers)

· Baking soda (a separate box from your fridge and freezer supply; change every month)

· Baking powder (change every month)

· All purpose flour and whole wheat flour

· Rolled oats

· Sugar; white and brown

· Honey/Molasses

· Vanilla

· Dried fruits

· Canned fruit purees – 1 can of applesauce, pumpkin or sweet potato puree

· Variety of nuts

· 1-2 16 oz bags of dark chocolate chips

Freezer Staples

1. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

· 1 package of de-shelled edamame

· 2-3 packages of frozen non-starchy vegetables (of different varieties)

· 1 package of frozen fruit

2. Dinner Choices

· 1 dinner’s worth of left-overs (such as frozen soup, casserole, meatballs, chili)

· Homemade sauces such as tomato or pesto. Keep small portions of sauce in ice cube trays for individualized cooking

· Frozen protein: keep 1 package of chicken breasts, frozen fish filets from Trader Joes, and/or frozen shrimp

· Homemade or Packaged Veggie Burgers/Homemade Turkey or Chicken Burgers

3. Breakfast Options

· 1 box of approved frozen waffles or muffins (1 breakfast item) or homemade whole wheat/fruit muffins

· 1 loaf of whole-wheat bread and/or breakfast bread such as Thomas’s Whole Wheat Bagel Thins

4. Miscellaneous

· 1 container of freezer packaged baking soda

· 1 Your Secret Ingredient frozen dessert option

· 1 package of unsalted stick butter (for baking)

Refrigerator Staples

1. Dairy

· Eggs (hardboiled if your family likes them and raw)

· 1 container of low-fat milk

· A few containers of low-fat yogurt

· Whipped unsalted butter or trans-fat free margarine such as Smart Balance light

· Pre-portioned cheese such as low-fat string cheeses

· 1 container of low-fat cottage cheese

· Dip, such as hummus

2. Meals and Proteins

· 1 open jar of all natural nut butter

· Pre-portioned nuts

· 1 package of in-house made cold cuts such as from Whole Foods

· 1 store-bought or homemade rotisserie Chicken

· 1 night’s worth of dinner (cooked ahead of time for the week)

3. Produce

· 3 varieties of fruits, 4 varieties of vegetables (including easily snackable veggies like baby carrots)

· 2-3 fresh herbs, onion, garlic, and lemons for cooking

4. “After School Corner”

· 2 types of washed/cut up fruit

· 2 types of washed-cut up vegetables (baby carrots, snap peas, raw broccoli, pepper strips, green beans, baby cucumbers, roasted vegetables)

· Dips (bean, veggie)

· String cheese or other pre-portioned cheeses

· Yogurt

· Nuts (depending on age of children in the house)

5. Beverages

· 1 pitcher of homemade flavored water (mint and cucumber, basil and strawberry, berries, watermelon or other melons, pineapple or citrus, etc)

· Homemade unsweetened iced tea (with or without caffeine; caffeine free for children under the age of 15)

· Cold water or seltzer

6. Miscellaneous

· 1 container of fridge baking soda

· 1-3 jars of approved condiments

For a printable version of this list, click here...

--Amy and Sam, MS RD CDN

Monday, August 1, 2011

Nature’s Italian Ices

Growing up, when I went to the pool or hung out by the lake, I always wanted something cold. From the snack bar, I was allowed the always-refreshing Marino’s Watermelon Italian Ices. Although still a personal sweet treat favorite, I now often turn to the natural alternative: watermelon!

Why have you done a good thing?

Watermelon is a wonderful delicious, nutritious, and hydrating fruit for summer. On a hot summer’s day, having some watermelon is a great way to stay hydrated and make sure you are having enough fluids. Watermelon also provides a wonderful amount of vitamins, including vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and lycopene (yes, like tomatoes) which is a great antioxidant helpful to prevent cancer, found in all red fruits and vegetables. Best yet, a whole cup of watermelon is only 50 calories, making a great bang for your bite and an awesome poolside treat.

How to pick a ripe watermelon

Look for a very round melon heavy for its size and without bruises. Try to roll it around and find the “couche” which is the spot where watermelons rest on the ground while growing (should be flatter than other spots). If you can’t find one, the melon isn’t a good choice.

How to eat watermelon

Other than obviously good ole’ fashion watermelon slice at a BBQ, there are plenty of ways to eat watermelon.

v Freeze slices for your own homemade ices. Or blend together watermelon, ice, and lime juice for a great fresh slushie!

v Make a simple summer salad of watermelon, red onion, jicama, spinach, salt/pepper, and a good olive oil

v Hate the taste of water but don’t want to drink a lot of calories? Try adding a slice of watermelon to pitcher of water overnight. Makes great subtle tasting flavored water! Add fresh mint or basil too for an even better taste

v Have watermelon, basil, and tomato skewers at your next party!

v Add watermelon to your next Greek salad (goes great with Feta cheese!). Super simple; watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese, salt/pepper, olive oil, mint, lemon juice.

v Puree a cup of watermelon with low-fat plain Greek yogurt and fresh mint or basil for a great breakfast smoothie.

v Try watermelon salsa (click for full recipe and grocery list!):

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp honey

3 cups cubed watermelon

2 tbsp fresh cilantro or parsley

Pinch of salt and pepper

Optional: splash of hot sauce

Mix all together and top fish or chicken with this great dish!

Don’t be afraid to try different varieties of watermelon (including even yellow watermelon). Check out this site for pictures of watermelon species

--Amy Santo, MS RD CDN