Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Strap Yourself to the Wagon: 5 Ways to stay Fit Throughout the Holidays!

1. Warn someone in charge of cooking and planning events that you have certain goals tactfully and in advance.

I informed my step mom a week before going home that I am getting ready for a contest. It's better to make the person preparing food aware ahead of time rather than refusing to eat anything upon arrival. Offer to prepare all of your own food or help with food prep to make yourself useful and ensure that your food is acceptable.

2. Just toss the cookies at home NOW!

This applies to pies and holiday candies too; they're not fresh now and you will consume them if they are easily accessible. Step away from the dessert table! Play with you niece; show off the three chords you can strum. Crappy food is totally not the point of the season!

3. Always have lean protein and cut veggies ready to eat now! Bring the token veggie platter to parties and stick to that.

Healthy alternatives need to be available to choose the healthy food! Be proactive and ensure that you have what you need on hand!

If you really need something sweet, bring a few pieces of hard candy and have one if the urge strikes. They are only 20 Calories and will last far longer than a cookie!

4. Think of yourself as a role model for relatives that want to live healthier.

If people can see you following a plan, it may give them more motivation. Tune out naysayers and stick to your goals!

If you have a relative who has been seriously interested in exercising, get bundled up and go for a walk or a sledding adventure. Show your loved one that fitness is a lifestyle that should begin before the New Year and continue indefinately!

5. Change your gym schedule so that it works during this time period.

Right now I am with my family in NY. Usually I work out in the very late afternoon or early evening; it's the time that usually fits well into my schedule and I feel pretty strong at that time. However, in NY, my parents get out of work at in the evening, and I am not going to ditch them every night to maintain my normal gym schedule. As such, I've shifted to morning workouts, even though I hate it. Compromise a little so that you can keep a regular schedule without conflict or guilt.

Give yourself the time to treat your body well--it will thank you!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ten High-Protein Foods: Ten Tasty Solutions

1. 1% Cottage Cheese: Berry High Protein Frozen Whip (EASY)

- Combine ½ cup cottage cheese, ½ cup frozen raspberries, and 1-2 packets of artificial sweetener in a mini food processor; process until completely smooth, 2-4 minutes eat immediately.

Nutrition: 125 Calories, 19 g protein (72% of calories), 10 g carb, 5 g fiber 1 g fat

2. Frozen Chicken Breast Tenders: Make-Believe Wings Dipped in Blue (EASY)

- Cook 10 tenders in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes until done

- Combine in mini food processor, ¼ cup cottage cheese, ¼ cup of fat-free sour cream
and 2 Tbsp of hot sauce (or to taste)

- Cut up cooked chicken and mix with hot sauce

Serves 4

Nutrition: 146 Calories, 26 g protein (75% of calories), 3 g carb, 0 g fiber 2.5 g fat

3. Chocolate or Vanilla Whey Protein: Post work-out Dessert (EASY)

- Combine in mini food processor, 1 scoop (1 oz) chocolate whey protein, ½ banana (frozen, cut into chunks), ½ cup frozen pinapple, 1 tsp BCAA, 1 tsp creatine

- Process until completely smooth, consistency of cool whip

Nutrition: 204 Calories, 25 g protein (49% of calories), 24 g carb, 2 g fiber 2 g fat

4. Canned Tuna: High Protein, Low Fat Tuna Salad (EASY)

- Combine one can tuna, ¼ cup fat-free sour cream, and 4 wedges babybel light garlic and herb cheese

-Optional: Also add 1 chopped celery stalk and 2 Tbsp chopped onions

Nutrition: 381 Calories, 55 g protein (61% of calories), 14 g carb, 0 g fiber 9 g fat

5. Egg Substitute (Like Egg Beaters): Low- Fat Roasted Vegetable Frittata

- Roast 3 cups chopped fresh veggies: onions, mushrooms, pepper, zucchini are all good: spray cookie sheet with spray oil, place veggie in a single layer, salt, pepper, and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and place in oven at 350 F for 30-35 minutes

- Combine one container of egg substitute (2 cups), roasted veggies, 2 Tbsp fresh
chopped basil (or 1 Tbsp dried), and ½ cup shredded 75% fat-free cheddar cheese

- Pour into small cake pan (sprayed with oil), cover with foil and bake at
350 F for about 30 minutes or until set in the middle.

Serves 4

Nutrition: 126 Calories, 17 g protein (72% of calories), 8 g carb, 1 g fiber 2.6 g fat

6. Egg Whites (Fresh): Strangely Wonderful Egg White Foam Breakfast

- Microwave 1 cup frozen strawberries until hot, stir and add ¼ tsp of ground cinnamon and 2 packets artificial sweetener

- Combine in very clean glass bowl, 3 egg whites, 1/8 tsp cream of tartar; beat white into foam with hand mixer until stiff peaks form, gently scoop into large frying pan, pre-warmed on medium heat and sprayed with oil, cover with lid (egg whites should not fill more than half the frying pan)

- Flip once bottom is set, about 1.5-2 minutes (this takes practice)

- Pour strawberry mixture over egg white and enjoy immediately

Nutrition: 95 Calories, 11 g protein (55% of calories), 12 g carb, 3 g fiber 1 g fat

7. Defatted Soy Granules: Protein-Packed Pancake
- Soak ¼ cup of soy granules in ½ cup of egg whites or egg substitutes for 5 minutes
- Add 2 Tbsp of pancake mix, 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder, and 2 tsp fresh lemon juice

- Cook like pancakes

- Top with mixture from # 6, if desired

*If soy granules are new for you, start slowly; they have LOTS of fiber!*

Nutrition: 264 Calories, 34 g protein (59% of calories), 28 g carb, 9 g fiber 2 g fat

8. Fat-Free Ricotta: For the Chocolate Chaser (EASY)
- Combine in mini food processor ½ cup fat-free ricotta, ½ tsp vanilla extract, 1 Tbsp regular cocoa, and 2 packets artificial sweetener

- Process until smooth and enjoy immediately

Nutrition: 144 Calories, 20 g protein (54% of calories), 13 g carb, 3 g fiber 3 g fat

9. 97% Lean Ground Beef: Pseudo Chili (EASY)
- Combine in large soup pot: 1 lb beef, 1 can (14 oz) fire-roasted tomatoes, 1 large jar (24 oz or thereabouts) salsa, 1 can of black beans (well-rinsed), 1 can kidney beans (well-rinsed), red pepper flakes and hot sauce to taste

- Cook for 1 hour and enjoy

Serves 4

Nutrition: 394 Calories, 40 g protein (48% of calories), 52.5 g carb, 16 g fiber 4 g fat

10. Partially Defatted Peanut Flour: Peanut Sesame Salad Dressing (EASY)

- Combine: 1 Tbsp partially defatted peanut flour, ¼ cup low-calorie sesame ginger dressing and 1 tsp sesame seeds

- Pour over high-protein salad

Nutrition: 79 Calories, 1 g protein, 4 g carb, 1 g fiber 7 g fat

Find link to my high-protein and healthy recipes here

Friday, December 14, 2007

Creating a New Career: Get into Nutrition!

Hi Jean,

I am looking to get into the nutrition field; I am currently an archaeologist that loves the concept of my job more than the actual job, unfortunately. My interest has always been food and archaeology. I want to study food as much as possible, and how we, humans, should be eating healthier. I also would like to start out with just a nutrition certification, to make sure this is what I really want to change to, but am finding the number of programs out there overwhelming, and sometimes unreliable. Could you offer any insight on what I should do to narrow my search?Thank you, any time you have is much appreciated!


It's great to have the courage to follow your passion; too many people feel trapped in a career because it seems unwise to get a whole new education. My mom started going to community college as a high school drop out when I was 10. By the time I graduated from high school, she had earned her law degree from Cornell and now she has her own firm. Its worth it to pursue your passions!

That said, few "nutrition certifications" have credibility among other professionals. In fact, it is illegal in some states to give diets or nutrition information without being a registered dietitian! The registered dietitian (RD) credential is a four year dietetics-specific nutrition degree and about a 1000 hour internship; the whole process takes five years, starting from scratch, but it will make you an official "expert" in nutrition and you will able to accept insurance for some conditions. Find more information at read more at:

Another option is the diet tech credential (DTR), which is a two year credential, but you cannot do as much with it. Information about diet tech is available at above the link above as well.

On the other hand, it's smart to test out the new career choice first, so if I were in Bethany's position, I would start by taking a well-reviewed introductory nutrition class at a university that would also count toward the dietitian requirements. I would review the professors evaluation on websites and make sure good things were said about him or her; it's a shame to be turned off by a bad teacher! You will gain more relevant and true knowledge there than in a certification class or book. Too often, quick certification books are not thorough enough to make the material "understandable" without background a lot of knowledge. Secondly, I would find someone in your area that had the job that you think you would like to do and ask to shadow them for a few days or intern with them.

Also think about exactly how your background would allow you to stand out among teams of jaded dietitians, or many who are struggling to build a private practice (since most clients must pay out of pocket). I have found that my opportunities increase with more graduate education, and the majority of dietitians have a master's degree. It can be tough to stand out and highlight the value of your services!

Many people do extremely well in the nutrition field with limited/no education, however, so your passion for it is an important part of what can take you far. People are attracted to passion and confidence more than a framed piece of paper.

If you feel unmotivated by your life, think about what would make you happy and follow; you only have one life, so don't waste it making ends meet. Many community colleges have career counseling and reasonable credit-hour rates; financial assistance is usually a possibility

If your goal is to get a four year degree or graduate degree, graduating with mostly A's from junior college, along with community involvement, will make you stand out to top universities-- my mom is living proof! And to the moms out there, don't feel like you are not doing enough for your kids! Giving unconditional love, consistent boundaries, and taking charge of your own life is good parenting. My mom NEVER made a bagged lunch for me or attended ANY of my track meets, but she made her best effort to be home when I got off the school bus and demonstrated how striving for personal goals will completely change your life!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Back to Nature: Protein Packed Peanut Butter Pudding

I have received emails from a number of people expressing concern about artificial sweeteners. So I decided that I would write a few recipes and highlight a few products that are "all natural."

What does natural mean?

Essentially, natural products are not made in a lab. For example, vanillin, the chemical that makes vanilla taste distinctive, can be extracted from a vanilla bean with a solvent (like alcohol). On the other hand, the vanillin compound itself can be created in a lab and dissolved in alcohol. They are both tasty products that add flavor to food, but the bean extract is a "natural" product and the lab-created version is "artificial."

And directly from the FDA:

Foods are natural "if they contain no artificial or synthetic ingredients, and if they are minimally processed"

By this definition, every artificial sweetener is a synthetic and unnatural product. Furthermore, a sugar source like honey is more natural that a sugar source like white granulated sugar because it is less processed.

Below is a recipe for high-protein peanut butter pudding; the whey powder used contains the natural non-nutritive sweetener Stevia and a little honey (in contrast to my usual 700 packets of splenda) is added to enhance the flavor of the recipe.

Protein-Packed Peanut Butter Pudding


1 cup no salt added* cottage cheese

2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder

2 Tbsp Peanut Butter

2 Tbsp Honey

1/2 cup canned pumpkin or no-sugar added applesauce


1. Add all ingredients to a mini food processor

2. Process until well-combined, stirring down the sides occasionally.

3. Chill for at least 2 hours

4. Enjoy!

Serves 4

Nutrition: 140 Calories, 17g protein, 5.5g fat, 16g carbohydrates, 1g fiber

* If you cannot find no salt added cottage cheese, the flavor may be too salty for you. If you are using regular cottage cheese, try increasing the canned pumpkin to 1 cup and decreasing the cottage cheese to 1/2 cup.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sweetly Sinister ?

Hi Jean,

Just wanted to see what your take is on the artificial sweeteners that seem to be in just about everything out there these days. I lost over 100 lbs last year and the diet drinks etc..definitely played a huge part in controlling my calorie intake. But I just completed a certificate as a Nutrition and Wellness Specialist as well as a Personal Trainer and the info I rec'd about artificial sweeteners was eye opening to say the least! I have totally eliminated every trace of Splenda and any product with aspartame from my home and refuse to consume it. A sort of cleansing if you will and maybe feeling a placebo effect but I feel fantastic and more lean than before. What do you think ? Should people who are trying to look the leanest and best they can benefit from this type of body cleansing ?
John Miller

This is an interesting kind of question and one that frequently finds its way to my inbox. Please refer to my blog here about artificial sweeteners in general and where you can find them.

I have seen a multitude of websites with anecdotal reports that causes headaches, seizures, etc; however, these findings are certainly not supported in research. If negative claims were well-supported, aspartame would not be in the market. I believe this because there are many other good-tasting economical artificial sweeteners on the market and the food industry is not dependent on aspartame exclusively.

That said, credible people have made the claim that some artificial sweeteners are hazardous or just not optimally healthy. Also, they are typically packaged with highly processed and chemical-saturated foods, which are wise to avoid. For instance, dark sodas have excessive phosphorus, which may have negative effects on bone density and health. Furthermore, artificial sweeteners are packaged in hot chocolate mixes, highly processed diary, cereals, bars and other items, many of which are not labeled as "diet." Generally speaking, highly processed food and beverage should be avoided. If you eradicate artificial sweeteners from the diet, you may be cutting out a lot of other "junk" type food, which could make you feel and look leaner.

Also, eating high amounts of artificial sweet products may cause you to develop an extreme sweet tooth, so some people satisfy their sweet cravings with a small hard candy instead of copious amounts of Splenda in the coffee ;-)

On the other hand, a credible and academic article entitled "Aspartame and its Effects on Health" was published in the British Medical Journal. It's a good read if you're concerned about the scientific stance on aspartame.

Also, when you are looking at a site that highly anti-artificial sweeteners, look at what the authors may be selling on the site. Are there teaser articles and a link to a book that tells you the "full story?" Are there links to buy natural Stevia products instead? Every "expert" needs a niche or an angle--artificial food additives are an easy target. Commercial interests often sit behind extreme and sensational viewpoints and those commercial influences are important to consider when you make your own decision about products like artificial sweeteners.

In terms of my own use, I limit aspartame and use Splenda and saccharin a little more freely. I eat very few processed foods, so the bulk of my artificial sweeteners come straight from some kind of packet. I will typically have Splenda or Sweet N' Low Brown in my oatmeal and coffee in the morning, and I often won't have it again for the rest of the day. I cut my diet soda back to about 1-2 can/month about 6 months ago to limit the dye and acid exposure on my teeth. Generally speaking, artificial sweeteners can be very useful for appeasing a sweet-tooth as long as your diet, on the whole, is healthy and unprocessed.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Low-Cal Pie Filling; Taking Pseudo-Dessert to a New Level!

I was walking through my localgrocery store yesterday when I got distracted by, well, pretty much everything. But one item in particular had me inspecting nutrient labels and scheming new recipes in force.

The product was a Spelda-sweetened cherry pie filling; "no sugar added." So I purchased it and opened the can about three seconds after arriving home. These little cherry bits are absolutely wonderful in a red #40, sucralose-packed kind of way. I just ate it out of the can and added it to my oatmeal in the morning, but you could also:
  • Add it to sugar-free jello in place of cold water

  • Spice it up a little and add it to a homemade graham cracker crust for a totally passable healthyish dessert

  • Mix it with cottage cheese or ricotta cheese for a cherry cheesecake treat

Upon online investigation of online purchase options, I didn't see anything close to the $1.99 deal offered in my local HEB (the large Texas grocery chain); however, I found several other lite fillings. When you are searching, however, make sure that you opt for "no sugar added!" Some manufacturers have simply cut the sugar added by a third, which is still considered "lite," but it the energy content is much higher than the mere 35 Calories per 1/3 cup in the "no sugar added" version.

You may be able to find a store locator for this particular product here

Cheapest online price here

Other interesting Splenda-sweetened pie fillings and other products here

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Easy Oatmeal Spice Mix

I have oatmeal for my very early mornings (like 4am) and found myself pouring from about 5 different containers to flavor it, which was time consuming (and I really want that extra 5 minutes of sleep)! Then I decided to combine all of the following into a sigle spice bottle to cut down on time and save money:

3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon ground nutmeg

1 Tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

5 Large splenda packets (1 box) (drink mix for pitcher)

The spices can be purchased in a bulk spice section; the drink mix cup equivalent large Splenda packets are the cheapest way to get sucralose in the regular grocery store. I just sprinkle this right on my oatmeal concoctions and eat! Easy as pie, but a lot healthier ;-)

I Gotta Leave 5 Minutes Ago But Gotta Eat Healthy Oatmeal

3 Tablespoons old fashioned oats (30g)

1 cup unsweetened frozen raspberries (240mL)

1 cup high-protein milk (240mL)

1/2 oz of walnuts (15g)

a hearty sprinkling of splenda spice mixture

Nutrition: 333 Calories, 22 protein, 37 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 12 g fat, 350 mg calcium, 4 mg iron, 84mg vitcamin C

This mixture is also tasty on sweet potatoes and canned pumpkin. Mmmmmm...

Monday, December 3, 2007

High Protein Frozen Fudgie Bars

This recipe is great for when you are in the mood for a frozen treat!


1 16-oz container fat-free cottage cheese

½ cup reduced-fat sour cream

1 scoop whey protein (about 26g)

7 tablespoons sugar-free hot cocoa mix

3/4 cup of frozen raspberries*

2 tsp vanilla extract

a whole lot of Splenda (I used 15-20 packets)


1. Process together until very smooth, about 5 minutes

2. Place into popsicle mold, and freeze completely, about 4 hours.

Makes 10 popsicles

Nutrition: 90 kcal, 11 g protein, 7 g carbs, 2 g fat, 183mg calcium

* Substitute 1/2 cup of high-protein milk if you don't like fruit

Nutrition: 90 kcal, 12 g protein, 5 g carbs, 2 g fat, 181mg calcium

Saturday, December 1, 2007

If I Had to Eat at McDonald's...

The following is the first in a series of blogs that will describe what I would order if I was FORCED to eat at various fast food restaurants. The blogs will offer a dietitian's point of view concerning fast food choices. All options will be less than 35% calories from fat and a reasonable number of total Calories (200-500)

Due to the time demands of daily living, it's difficult to spend limited free time preparing healthy food. Fast food restaurants are a source of quick and tasty calories; however, they pose several nutritional complications-- most fast food menu items are high in fat, calories, and refined carbohydrates. Fast foods are also generally low in vitamins, minerals and fiber. But with a little nutritional strategizing, you can eat quickly without sacrificing all of your nutritional goals!

Food producers and chefs often load fast and processed foods with fat and strip the food of vitamins and minerals. Therefore, it is best to limit food prepared in restaurants and prepare the bulk of the food in the home. Many foods, like brown rice and unbreaded chicken tenders, are easy to cook in bulk and carry in plastic ware. Easy and portable sources of the major nutrients are as follows:

- Fruits: Bananas, Oranges, Apples, and Pears

- Starch: Whole Grain Bread, Rye Crispbread Crackers, Whole Wheat Bagels, Brown Rice, Low-Fat Microwave Popcorn, Whole Grain Cold Cereal

- Vegetables: Carrots, Celery, Broccoli, Cauliflower, String Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Bell Peppers

- Dairy: Shelf Stable (Organic) Carton Milk, Low-Fat Plain and Light Yogurt, Cottage cheese, Whey Powder

- Flesh: Chicken Tenders, Extra Lean Deli Meat, Beef Jerky, Tuna Can/Packets

- Other: Soy Milk, Soy Nuts, Hard Boiled Eggs, Dry Protein Powders (Egg and Soy), Edamame

- Nuts: Peanut Butter, Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews, Pecans, Walnuts

- Other: Cheese, Mayonnaise, Salad Dressings

Though grocery shopping and bringing healthy foods exclusively from home is the optimal way to eat, it is highly delusional to believe that the majority of people will follow that advise. As such, best breakfast, lunch and dinner fast food choices are offered below:

Breakfast: A sausage biscuit breakfast sandwich from a fast food joint contains 60% of its calories from fat and 600-800 Calories! Eww! Pick something better! In general, avoid added butter, cheese, and mixed dishes, like omelets. All of the following have less than 35% Calories from fat:

McDonald’s: Hotcakes, Plain Bagel, English Muffin, Canadian Bacon, Ham N’ Egg Bagel, Ham N’ Cheese Bagel, Fruit and Yogurt Parfait with Granola, Apple Dippers, Fruit and Walnut Salad

Lunch/Dinner: The average fast food burger contains between 40-50% of total calories from fat! In general, avoid added mayonnaise (and other oil-based condiments), cheese, and high-fat meats. Generally speaking, the best option is to order a non-breaded chicken or cold-cut sandwich with no cheese, mayonnaise or dressing. If the restaurant is a chain with a low-fat menu, items not included in that section are unlikely to be suitable. All of the following have less than 35% calories from fat:

McDonald’s: Grilled chicken Classic Sandwich, Plain Hamburger, Honey Mustard with Grilled Chicken Wrap, Premium Chicken Breast Sandwich, Chipotle Chicken Wrap, Chicken Fajita Sandwich, McVeggie Sandwich, Any Grilled Chicken Salads (without dressing/croutons), Small Vanilla Cone

Monday, November 26, 2007

Turn up the H.E.A.T.! 4 Ways to Intensify Your Workouts!

Higher reps!

Increasing your repetitions is one of the many ways to get more from your workouts. As some of your muscle fibers get tired with the first few reps, your body must continually recruit more and more fibers the more repetitions of an exercise you do. Some suggestions:

- Really work the muscle to failure, not just to the point where it's kind of unpleasant to lift the weight again. Failure means that you CANNOT move the weight, despite you best effort!

- Super-set a smaller muscle group immediately after a large group in at the end of your workouts. For instance, sometimes I'll do a dumbbell chest press and then move directly into kickbacks.

- If it really starts to burn too much or you have an achy joint. Stop for a few seconds and then finish five more reps.

Expect to advance and succeed. Research shows that optimism and visualization of success significantly improve athletic performance; this is something I practiced before I even realized research was done on such topics!

- Don't settle for little weights; you are strong and can do more, even if it's only 2.5 or 5 lbs more! Certain parts of your muscle will never be challenged if you don't take the weight up every so often! This will mean fewer reps and more rest between sets on you heavy lifting days!

- Choose to go up in weight and actually see yourself effortlessly cranking out 10 reps-- see it and then DO IT!

Attention--pay attention to the muscles that you are working! I see way too many ballistic lower back exercises disguised as bicep curls in the gym! What muscle are you working? Are you getting a full range of motion?

- Close your eyes, ignore the hottie next to you and your own reflection, and actually feel which muscle you are working!

- Most muscle damage is done on the way down (eccentric); the rep is not finished until you reach the bottom, so keep the weight controlled and focus on the movement until your weights are in the starting position again!

- How is your range of motion? For example, on bicep curls (easy target) are your arms fully extended at the beginning or is there still an angle in your arm? Do you reach a full contraction at the top; do you extend all the way down again?

Time between sets. Reducing the time between sets is another highly effective may to intensify workouts!

- Actually time how long you are taking between sets; reduce that amount of time by 30 second or a minute when you want to intensify your workout!

- Do not get into conversations when you are working out; it's okay to be a little cold. During your workout, it's down to business!

In essence, you can intensify your workouts by adding 1) more reps (or overall volume); 2) heavier weights; 3) and reducing time between sets. But none of these strategies will help if the exercises are not performed effectively!

Friday, November 23, 2007

How (Pseudo) Sweet it is: Artificial Sweetener Review

So what's sweetening your toothpaste? I'll give you a hint; it's NOT sugar! Even if you avoid artificial sweeteners, you have have hidden sources in your diet! Below is a review of the artificial sweeteners that are currently available for use in the US, including; what they are, where they come from, uses, and where they go in your body!

Artificial sweeteners that come in packets contain mostly starch filler- all artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar (hundreds or thousands of times sweeter). If manufacturers didn't add starch to the packet, you wouldn't be able to see the sweetener- try adding that to your coffee ;)

Saccharin (Sweet N' Low/pink packet)
- 500-600 X sweeter than sugar
- First artificial sweetener, invented in 1879
- Approved by FDA for human use
- Many taste bitterness
- Mostly used in packet form and as pharmaceutical additive

"Anybody who says saccharin is injurious to health is an idiot"
-President Theodore Roosevelt

Concerns about saccharin developed several years ago after rats that were fed massive amounts of saccharin developed bladder cancer. On the other hand, anything in massive amounts will kill you or give you cancer. For instance, mega-dosing Vitamin C increases your risk of cancer; beta-carotene consumed in reasonable levels increases the risk of cancer in smokers; marathoners are far more likely to die of over-hydration than dehydration. The point is that saccharin consumed in reasonable amounts (a few packets a day) is well within the approved safety zone. It's been around for over a hundred years, so saccharin has the history to back up its general safety. I can't taste the bitterness in saccharin and it's super-cheap, so it is my artificial sweetener of choice.

Sucralose (Splenda/yellow packet)
- 320-1000 time sweeter than sugar
- A derivative of table sugar (the disaccharide sucrose), approved by the FDA in 1998
- Available in packet form and is increasingly added to foods
- bars, diet and non-diet drink mixes, cocoa mixes, coffee drinks, sugar-free sports drinks, yogurt, sodas, many other foods
- Probably the best tasting
- Sort-of heat stable

Sucralose has enjoyed immense popularity since its introduction in the late 1990s. Our tongues sense sweetness when the electronegative groups of sweet substances bind to receptors in our taste buds- sometimes this sensation goes horribly wrong when the artificial sweeteners structure is a little off or also activates bitter receptors. Sucralose has less of this problem because the developers kept most of the structure the same as sugar, but just knocked off a couple parts and replaced them with chloride, another electronegative group. Because of this change, our highly specific intestinal enzymes cannot break it down sucralose passes through the digestive tract without changing. I like sucralose and I use it sometimes, but saccharin has a longer history and is less expensive.

Aspartame (Equal/NutraSweet/blue packet)
- FDA approved for some uses in 1983
- 180 times sweeter than sugar
- Two amino acids bound together
- Those with PKU (phenylketonuria) cannot have aspartame
- Used in packets, most diet sodas, many diet drinks, and some other foods

Let me just take this opportunity to explain why the PKU warning on aspartame products does not apply to you. PKU is an inherited disease, which is tested for at birth. The individuals with this condition are lacking an enzyme that allows the body to convert excess phenylalanine, the essential amino acid, to tyrosine. As a result, toxic levels of phenylalanine accumulate and the person becomes mentally retarded. People with PKU have to drink elemental (no real whole food ever) formulas to get their nutrition.

That said, though aspartame is fully approved for food use and considered safe by the government, some people report headaches when they have it. Furthermore, a break-down product of aspartame is formaldehyde, a highly toxic substance. Though the levels of formaldehyde produced are very tiny, do you really want it there at all? I don't. So though it is officially safe, I do limit the amount of aspartame in my diet.

Acesulfame Potassium (K)
- 100-200x sweeter than sugar
- Found in a huge number of food products, very common in sports nutrition products, drinks
- Often used in combination with other sweeteners

- 8000-13,000 times sweeter than sugar
- Approved in 2002, not used much in this country
- I found it in a packet in combination with Acesulfame K; it wasn't too bad

- 30-50 times sweeter than sugar
- Not approved for use in USA, used as part of "sugar twin" in Canada
- Once I smuggled some over the border and felt all scandalous

- 250-300 times sweeter than sugar
- Most common natural non-nutritive sweetener
- Not approved for food use in US

Many people like the idea of using Stevia because it comes straight from a plant and has less impact on blood sugar than some other sweeteners, which is probably due to the fact that it tastes very little like sugar. In my opinion, its lack of sugar taste makes it a poor choice for use as a sweetener. It kind of has a weird tingly thing going on- I've often heard in reference to drinks made with Stevia "It's got something in it- its weird- I can't decide if it's gross." On the other hand, many people like it because it's sort-of heat stable, and it is a natural product. It is not approved for food use because of some apparent concerns about its potential to be a liver carcinogen, but the evidence is inconclusive. Most likely, no one is willing to fund the research for Stevia because it doesn't taste very good and it may not produce good returns as an investment, since there are currently many adequate sweeteners. You can buy the refined powder as a "supplement" in the US, however.

Sugar Alcohols
- About as sweet as sugar
- Roughly half as many calories as sugar
- I am anti-sugar alcohol
- Used in many "sugar-free" "low 'net carb"' products

Wait a second while I climb onto my soap box. Okay, here we go. There are many different kinds of sugar alcohols made from different kinds of sugar, basically just one chemical group is changed- some of the sugar alcohols can be absorbed better than others- all are converted to regular sugar or used as energy when they are absorbed.

The two main issues that I have with sugar alcohols are the following 1) They will give you nasty stomach pain, bloating, and gas in large amounts (bars that have them contain them in large amounts) 2) They totally still count as carbohydrates and are not healthier than sugar.

Sugar holds water. Sugar alcohols also hold water. Sugar alcohols have ½ the calories of sugar because they only absorbed about half way, as such the sugar alcohols that are not absorbed hold water in your intestines and the unused carbohydrates are worked on by the bacteria in your large intestine- all of this leads to massive bloating and abdominal unrest. If you do not experience this problem, it means that you have absorbed all of the sugar alcohols, and the calories in the product are essentially the same as sugar. The bottom line is that after eating a product that is high in sugar alcohols you are either 1) bloated and unhappy or 2) consuming a lot of processed carbs that are absorbed and used by the body. If you have unexplained stomach pain, you should 1) stop chewing so much gum 2) stop eating sugar-free hard candy 3) double check the ingredients of your favorite bar for sugar alcohol, "other carb", xylitol, sorbitol or one of the other many "ol" compounds and eradicate them from your diet. Rant over.

In short, sugar substitutes can be useful used in appropriate amounts. Furthermore, there is a noted "synergistic effect" when substitutes are combined, which results in a product that tastes more legitimately sweet. Among all, I would stick to saccharin (sweet n' low) and sucralose (splenda) for your sweetening needs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Protein-Packed "Pumpkin" Pie

I have a massive sweet tooth; I love pie! These truths are what led me to eat not one, but two and a half, entire pies one Thanksgiving. It was quite a nasty aftermath!

As such, I was motivated to create a pie recipe that was not a total heart attack in a Pyrex dish. From that vision, the recipe below was born! Enjoy!

"Pumpkin" Pie

Pre-heat oven to 350 F


1 graham cracker crust

2 cups slow-cooked, skinned sweet potatoes (yams), not packed

1 cups low-fat cottage cheese

1 cup low-fat (1%) milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon molasses

2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoons nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1 1/2 packets of "pitcher mix" splenda (1 packet = 1 cup sugar sweetness)


1. Combine all of the ingredients, except for the crust, in a food processor.

2. Process until completely smooth

3. Pour mixture into crust and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the center is not gooey

4. Allow to cool completely in the fridge.
Serves 8

Nutrition: 210 Calories; 8 g protein; 29g carbs; 2g fiber; 7g fat

~ As a alternative no-bake pie type thing, omit 1/2 cup milk and the eggs and add to the crust

~ This recipe is a little over-spiced, mostly to compensate for the lack of sugar; you may prefer a little less spice

~ To cut the fat grams, use fat-free cottage cheese and milk; you may also make your own graham cracker crust with only 2 Tbsp of butter for the whole pan (that'll give you about 2-3g of fat from the crust vs. 5g); you may also make the no-bake version and add a crumbled graham cracker to the top

~ To cut the carbs, eat only the no-bake pie custard without the crust or try canned pumpkin instead of the sweet potatoes!

~ For added sweetness, try sprinkling a little Sweet N' Low Brown to the top of the baked pie :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

HEALTH: 6 Ways to Nourish the Body with Food

1. Holistic

Food choices should be “close to the source,” which means that they should be mostly unprocessed. For instance, fresh turkey breast is a holistic food; 96% lean turkey deli meat is not. Even though the deli turkey is lean, it has been through a factory, exposed extensively to preservatives and chemicals; hence, it is not the best choice for your body.

In like manner, grains like brown rice and old-fashioned rolled oats are healthy, but 10-minute brown rice and instant oatmeal are weak choices. The carbohydrates need to be included in your diet, but it is essential to get them in a whole form!

In terms of fruits and vegetables, fresh and frozen, with no sugar or salt added, are good options.

Low-fat, no salt added cottage cheese = good; Velveeta = bad

2. Equilibrium in nutrients and food groups

Nutrients include all food components that are required to keep your body healthy and alive. Vitamins and minerals are nutrients, as are carbohydrate, fat, and protein. It is important to ensure that a minimal amount of all nutrients are taken over the long term. As a very general rule of thumb, you need the following as a minimum in your diet: 125g carbohydrates (the minimum required by organs); 0.5g protein/lb body weight (just a little about the current RDA); about 35g fat (consisting mostly of unsaturated fats). Your diet will likely include even more carbohydrates, protein, and fat, but the point is that a healthy diet does not eradicate any given component!

Eat a variety of foods and colors to ensure dietary equilibrium. A mark of a healthy diet is one that does not restrict specific kinds of food groups. For instance, grain, dairy (low-fat), nuts, and meat (lean) are all good to eat. Highly processed packaged and fried foods don’t really fit into a group, so they should not make up a significant part of your diet!

3. Adequate Volume and Calories

Nourishing a healthy body and/or building muscle requires adequate calories. The brain receives signals based on the dietary energy level and content, which, in turn, affects immune function, hormone release, and countless bodily functions.

Your body will give you several warning signs if you dietary energy level is too low. For example a sudden drop in heart rate, feeling freezing cold all the time, brittle hair and nails, aging quickly and exceedingly dry skin all may indicate that you are being too restrictive. In this case, your efforts to loose weight or become healthier are completely counter-productive because your body is trying desperately to conserve fuel; i.e. your metabolism is moving a crawl and your calorie-burn is low. Eat enough energy to build yourself and maintain the stamina needed for an action-packed life!

4. Loaded with Energy Early in the Day

Studies prove that breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight. Also, “breaking the fast” is important to maintain lean mass; eating is the first thing on my mind when I wake up!
In general, I tend to have about ½ to 2/3 of my daily calorie intake eaten by the end of my “lunch” meal.

5. Timed Properly

Eating one colossal meal per day is unacceptable; many people follow this pattern; skip breakfast; muffin at lunch; enormous unhealthy dinner. This method is a recipe for guaranteed failure.

Some nutritionists believe that everyone needs 6-8 “meals” per day. This rule is kind of silly; different people respond better to different eating frequencies. I personally do eat 6-8 mini-meals per day; however, some people have enough trouble eating four times a day.
In short, you need to eat balanced meals containing protein, carbohydrate, and fat, which are spaced evenly apart, at several times points during the day. Protein and carbohydrate give the body anabolic signals, which will help you maintain lean mass as you go throughout your day; fat is needed to absorb all fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and at least 5-10g should be taken in at each meal.

6. Hits the Spot

Some people “eat to live.” But that sure doesn’t describe me! Food should not be selected purely based on function. To some extent, eating whole, natural foods is an acquired taste, but you will develop the taste for it! So experiment and find healthy foods that are satisfying to you!

Also, some foods have no real redeeming nutritional value, but are still important to have every now and then for satisfaction (e.g. my occasional DQ splurge)!


Healthy eating habits are not developed overnight, so try every day to eat what is best for your body. In time, healthy eating will be intuitive and enjoyable!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Banana Berry Frozen Mousse

I love to "disguise" foods that many people find unacceptable :-) In this recipe, lumpy cottage cheese is transformed into a delicious, high-protein dessert!


1 16 oz tub (no-salt-added) low-fat cottage cheese

1 ½ cups frozen mixed berries

1 cup frozen bananas chopped, slightly thawed

8 packets artificial sweetener


1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.

2. Blend until smooth.

3. Enjoy immediately!

Serves 4 (1 cup)

Nutrition per serving: 130 calories, 15g protein, 18g carb, 2g fiber, 1g fat, 0.5g sat fat, 40mg sodium, 315mg potassium, 50 IU Vitamin A, 25mg Vitamin C, 70mg calcium,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sugarless Almond Meringue Cookies

I developed the following recipe for mother’s day when my mom was on a low-carb diet and her sweet tooth had been neglected for nearly a month. I found that I needed about double the Splenda sugar equivalent to get an acceptable taste.

This recipe will require making an egg white foam and a hand mixer.

4 egg whites (fresh, room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ tsp cream of tartar
1½ cups Splenda

Pre-heat oven to 275 F

1. Beat egg whites and extracts at a medium speed until thick and foamy.
2. Add the cream of tartar.
3. Slowly add the Splenda about ¼ cup at a time until stiff peaks form (turn mixer on high about after all Splenda is added).
4. Place large spoonful of the mixture on a large cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.
5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden and completely dry*
6. Turn the oven off and allow cookies to cool in the oven for one hour.

Nutrition: Variable based on the size of the cookies, but the only nutrition in the recipe is from the egg whites (about 12g protein total) and some starch mixed with the sucralose sweetener in Splenda

* Meringues cookies do not fair well in humid environments; do not set out on a plate. Will keep for a week or two in an air tight container.

For more details about how to make an egg white foam click here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Peanut Butter “Fudge”


½ cup Peanut Wonder

½ cup Peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

10 packets splenda


1. Combine all by hand or in food processor

2. Wet fingers and press into small square Tupperware

3. Chill for 2 hours; cut into small pieces

Makes 12 pieces

Nutrition: 97 kcal, 6g fat, 6.5g carbs, 0.5g fiber, 4g protein

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Low-Sugar Protein Jell-o

1 large box of strawberry-banana sugar-free Jell-o

2 cups water

3 cups frozen strawberries

3 scoops chocolate whey protein

2 heaping Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp rum extract

½ tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

6 packets sweetener

1. Heat 2 cups of water in microwave until boiling

2. Add ingredients strawberries, still frozen, through cinnamon to food processor or blender, if you do not have a large food processor

3. Pour gelatin into boiling water and stir to dissolve; pour over ingredients in food processor or blender; process for 2-3 minutes, until smooth.

4. Pour into a bowl and cool for 4 hours.

- Would be great layered with protein pudding on previous blog and fresh strawberries added to the top

- Use raspberry Jell-o with frozen raspberries

- Try orange Jell-o with vanilla protein, yum

- When properly blended I promise this is good!

Nutrition (1/3 of recipe, about 1.5 cups): 200 Calories, 30 g protein, 17 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 2 g fat

Friday, November 2, 2007

Hearty Vegetarian Chili

This recipe comes together in not time at all, so it is perfect for busy and fit people.


1 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 10 oz package mushrooms, chopped
2 14 oz cans of chili-flavored diced tomatoes or 28 oz large salsa
½ 24 oz jar of low-fat spaghetti sauce
1 14 oz can black beans, drained, rinsed
1 14 oz can kidney beans, drained, rinsed
½ cup textured soy protein
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp chili paste of choice
Water as needed


1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or large pot on med-high, sauté onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms for 5-10 minutes.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients in the recipe and heat to a simmer. Set heat on low and allow chili to simmer for 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours.

3. Add water as needed.

Makes 6-8 servings

1/8 of recipe: 275 Calories, 34 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 10 g fiber, 4.3 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1200 mg salt, 660 mg potassium, 95 mg calcium

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Homemade HI-Protein Yogurt

Making yogurt at home is easy, requires little active time and saves loads of cash. You can easily culture a whole gallon of the most fancy schancy yogurt as long as the container reads "Contains Live and Active Cultures." Here, the traditional yogurt recipe gets ramped up a little with the addition of whey. I also like to add vanilla and Sweet N' Low Brown to the milk once it has cooled a little.

*You will need a candy thermometer*


1 quart of low-fat or 2% milk

2 scoops unflavored or vanilla whey or soy protein powder

4 oz of plain commercial yogurt (with live and active cultures)

heavy bowl



Preheat your oven to 100 F or start a hot water bath set-up. Alternatively, heat your oven in the warming mode and shut it off as you start to cool the milk (see below).

1. First, heat the milk in a large saucepan, stirring constantly so a skin does not form. Heat the milk slowly until it comes to a simmer and keep it there for about 5 minutes. DO NOT allow the milk to go into a rolling boil or burn.

2. Take the pan off the stove and allow the milk to cool to about 115 degrees F. The milk should not fall below 100 F during the whole culturing process.

* Heating the milk to a simmer is important because it kills harmful/competitive bacteria, so you healthy cultures can dominate!*

3. While the milk is cooling down, purée 2 scoops of whey with 1cup of warm milk; blend until smooth and add back to the milk mixture.

*Avoiding clumps here*

4. Once the temperature has reached 115 F, whisk in 2 tablespoons of store-bought yogurt containing live and active cultures with ½ cup of warm milk; add the mixture the rest of the warm milk and stir thoroughly.

5. Cover the bowl, wrap it in a towel. Place the entire thing in the oven which has been turned OFF for 20 minutes or so. Alternatively, you may also fill a small cooler with hot tap water and set the yogurt dish inside.

*I like to use a stain-resistant tupperware, since it is heat resistant and has a cover that thats. Also, the tupperware eliminates the need to transfer the yogurt when it has finished culturing*

* Adding the yogurt starter before the milk is adequately cooled will kill your little friends! So be patient!*

6. Allow the yogurt to set for 4-8 hours; the longer you leave it the 1) harder it will be; 2) more acidic it will be (sour); and 3) more healthy culture it will contain.

Serves 4

Nutrition (with 1% Milk): 170 Calories, 16g carbs, 20g protein, 2g fat

Random Side Note: If you happen to happen to be overtaken by an impulse-spending urge and buy a bag of cultured cheese, do not melt it! This will also kill the cultures that are useful!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Moment of Brilliance: High Protein Rice Crispie Treats!

I've been working with the women's basketbell team since July and, to my horror, many college athletes do not eat anything for hours after their workouts! Needless to say, the players are not going to compulsively mix things after frequent workouts and tote a cooler all day. I suspect that many recreational exercisers are the same!

It is generally accepted that a carb to protein ratio of 3:1 to 4:1 is preferred after a workout. Also, high glycemic carbs (the cereal and marshmallows both fit into this category) are recommended to promote an anabolic insulin spike after a workout! Considering all of this, a rice crispie treat with a little protein boost can be the perfect portable post-workout snack!


3 Tbsp Butter
6 oz minimarshmallows (1/2 12oz bag)
3 Scoops Vanilla or Cookies 'N Cream Whey
3 Cups Rice Crispies


1. Lightly grease a small square baking pan
2. Combine whey and cereal in a bowl
3. Melt butter over medium heat
4. Mix in marshmallows, stirring constantly until all melted
5. Remove from heat and quickly mix in cereal and protein
6. Press in to pan with damp fingers
7. Cool 15 minutes; cut and enjoy!

Serves 8

Nutrition: 190 Calories, 10 g protein, 27 g carbs, 5 g fat

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