Redefining Healthy

When I first started my journey to become a registered dietitian, I had no idea I was getting into a field that would change and evolve as much as it does. Sure, my biochemistry and human metabolism notes are probably still relevant, but it seems like every other recommendation and guideline has been turned upside down.

Let’s take, for example, the low-fat craze of the 90’s. Remember those popular 100-calorie packs of refined grains advertising their low-fat contents (and the obvious fact that they only had 100 calories)? It doesn’t take long to start making a list of all the foods that started popping up on the shelves (and possibly in your home) that boasted being “low-fat,” “reduced-fat,” or even “fat-free.” You name it, it was probably out there: Fat-free salad dressings, cheese, frozen yogurt, candy. But does that make these foods “healthy?” According to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) definition of the food claim “healthy,” it does. Or at least did.

Twenty years ago, fat had become a villain and consumers wanted nothing to do with it. While the dietary guidelines emphasized saturated fat as the main culprit, most consumers assumed if one fat was bad, all fats were bad and should be avoided. Therefore, fat was replaced with carbohydrates. Instead of focusing on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (which are all good carb options!), the public deemed refined grains as good replacements, too.

Pretzels were good, but nuts were considered bad. Today this almost sounds absurd, but 20 year ago it was a different story. In order to use the claim “healthy” on the front of a package, the food had to meet the FDA’s criteria of being low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium with at least 10% of the daily value of one or more of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein, or fiber.

Up until September of last year, that was still the definition of the “healthy” food claim. The foods we now would consider “healthy,” like nuts and avocados, couldn’t be marketed as such due to their high fat content (albeit “healthy” fat). Yet, other foods were still able to use the claim that hardly seemed appropriate with the evolving evidence and new dietary guidelines in place.

With the possible change of the Nutrition Facts Label and a push back from the popular Kind bars who used the phrase “healthy and tasty” for one of their nut-based granola bars, the FDA is now declaring it’s time to redefine what “healthy” means.

Rather than focusing on the amount of fat, a new guidance has been released – until a permanent change in the definition can be made – that focuses on the type of fat in the product. Manufacturers may now use “healthy” on labels if the item meets any of the following criteria in addition to the other criteria for the claim: 1) it is not low in total fat, but has a fat profile made up of mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats or 2) contains at least 10% of the daily value of potassium or vitamin D.

In the meantime, the FDA is asking for public input until April 26th on what “healthy” should mean and how consumers understand the “healthy” food label claim before they make a definite change to the claim. For some, this may mean looking past the nutrients. Perhaps it means looking at what the food doesn’t contain instead, such as artificial ingredients or sugar.

Whatever is decided, it may take years until a new definition of the “healthy” claim is released. In the meantime, it’s important not to judge a food on its label alone. What may be “healthy” for one person, may not be for another person depending on his dietary needs. Rather than focusing on the marketing claims or captions on the front of the package, look at the ingredient list and Nutrition Facts Label to make an informed decision for yourself on whether that item can fit into a balanced, healthy diet that’s right for you and your family.

Orange-Sesame Salmon with Quinoa

Is it just me, or is this aaaamazing weather we’ve been having putting everyone in a better mood? I’m finally feeling like spring really is here and may just be staying around for a while now. It felt great to open up the windows and actually get some fresh air in the house. About time! Also, I think our neighbor’s kids were stationed on their trampoline in their backyard all day on Sunday. I’m not kidding, it was a really long time!

This fresh new season has me wanting fresh food! Orange-Sesame Salmon with Quinoa is that, plus it couldn’t be easier or faster to put together. I also love that it’s a recipe for a full meal — main and sides are all included. Even the vegetable is cooked right along side the salmon. I do a pretty good job of planning out meals each week for Philip and me, but to be honest, the sides are usually an afterthought for me. I love that this recipe is an all-in-one. :)

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Crock-Pot Hearty Italian Quinoa & Vegetable Soup

Am I too late?! Is soup season officially over? Have you had one too many soup variations this winter and are already dreaming of grilling anything that can possibly be cooked over a flame? Even if you thought you were over soup (don’t worry, I hear ya!), I have full confidence this soup will persuade you to give soup one last chance before you officially declare yourself done with soup for the season.

I think it was around late February when I thought I was over soup. It seemed like I was making soup on a weekly basis. My problem is that I have so many favorite soups I want (need?) to cram into a short season. Plus, the ease of making soup can’t be beat, especially when everything goes right in the Crock-Pot. Still, I was thisclose to scratching off all soups from our weekly menu planning. After weeks on end of one soup or another, it’s easy to call it quits.

Except, of course, when you spot a recipe that has Italian in the title (because, you know, anything Italian catches my eye these days), it’s a dreary spring day (ahem, like this entire past weekend), and the ease of a Crock-Pot soup after a busy day is too good to pass up, Crock-Pot Hearty Italian Quinoa & Vegetable Soup will have you making soup at least one last time no matter how many soups you’ve devoured this season…and it likely will win you over. It definitely did for me.

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My Current Thoughts and Ponderings…

Hey there! Welcome to another work week…with (more) snow! What?! I had no idea we were in for more snow until yesterday at church when a friend mentioned about the upcoming snow storm. I looked at my weather app (if you don’t have Dark Sky, you should!) and yep, sure enough, snow was in the forecast.

So here I am, like a typical Midwesterner, talking about the weather (sorry, it’s just what we do, I guess!). I don’t have any new recipes for you today since lately we’ve been enjoying some old favorites (last night we had one of my most popular recipes on here: Smoked Gouda and Roasted Red Pepper Tomato-Basil Bisque. Gosh, it does not disappoint! Philip said it was like we were eating at a restaurant. If you haven’t had it, I’m telling you, you must give it a try this week. It’s so simple to put together, too.

Anyway, instead of a typical blog post with a recipe, I thought I’d just share with you some of my current thoughts, wonderings, ponderings…should be interesting, huh? :)

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Chocolate-Dipped Gingersnaps

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Well, that nice weather we had a week ago was nice while it lasted but as soon as it left, the cold weather brought me a nasty cold of my own. I have a Kleenex box on my right and a pile of used Kleenex’s on my left. This weekend has been spent either working or just trying to survive and get better before another work week rolls around all too quickly. We can’t win them all, right?

But you know what I do have that has been making this bout of sickness a little bit better? My husband, yes, who has graciously been stocking me up with more Kleenex’s and helping out however he can (bless him), but also these amazing Chocolate-Dipped Gingersnaps!

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Green Edamame Avocado Hummus

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Welcome to another week, friends! I hope you had a fun weekend and that your week ahead is looking like a good one. Philip and I had an easy weekend with no real plans in the books, so we enjoyed our time together and did planning, instead, for future trips.

We’re blessed to be able to travel near and far, going on a few “big” trips each year. Well, this year we’re going on an even “bigger” trip (for us anyway…it’s all relative, isn’t it?) and we’re planning a 2–week long trip to Italy and Greece later this year. Wheee! After our little planning sesh Saturday afternoon at a coffee shop, I am even more excited. There’s still a lot to think through and plan, especially since neither one of us has been before, but the bare bones of our trip are there. Now the fun part of filling it all in can start next. :)

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Family Cooking Class + 5 Ingredient Chicken Enchilada-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

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Hey there, everyone! Were you getting worried I wasn’t going to show up in the New Year? ;) Well, whether you were concerned or not, never fear, it just took me a while to get back in the groove of things after an amazing holiday with family. I ended out my #yearoffun with one last trip of the year to Denver to be with my husband’s family. It was so much fun—our days were filled with hikes, a brewery tour, a whiskey tour (while interesting to learn the process of making a good batch of whiskey, I’ve decided whiskey just isn’t for me :)), and lots of good family time to bring in the New Year!

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Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Tabbouleh

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Is anybody else having trouble wrapping their mind around the idea that Christmas is less than 2 weeks away?! 2 weeks!! December always seems to fly by, but I feel like I was just celebrating my birthday, which was December 1st. How is it already mid-December?

I’m not sure how we managed it, but Philip and I were able to find a free weekend in December to make a trip to Illinois this past weekend to see his parents and grandparents and for me to connect with a friend in the area. We celebrated the start of a new season for him at his job, relaxed in front of the fireplace while the snow fell outside, and played a family favorite game—Rummikub. It was certainly a special weekend and it’s making me even more excited to see more family later this month!

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Today I’m excited to bring you a new recipe that is a holiday/winter twist on a traditional Mid-eastern vegetarian dish. Tabbouleh is traditionally a salad composed of the grain bulgur, parsley, tomatoes, green onions, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice. I love bulgur (whole grain for the win!), but this recipe is even easier to whip together because it involves no cooking of the grain. Instead, cauliflower takes its place and my favorite winter vegetable, sweet potato, is added in to give it a little heartiness and sweetness.

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A Thanksgiving to Remember

If you’re coming into this week with slightly tighter fitting pants, I hope your hearts are at least a little bit fuller as well. This past week Philip and I packed up and headed to Iowa to spend a few quality days with my family; I left feeling thankful and blessed for be a part of such a wonderful, loving family.

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Even though we were only there for about three days, we were able to fit in a lot of fun! I may be biased, but my niece (who is turning 5 this week) and my nephew (who’s 2) may be some of the cutest kids ever. They thought of all kinds of games for Uncle Philip and Aunt Kara to play and it was so much fun. From games to books to tea parties to running around, we certainly were not left “bored” for long. :)

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A Guiltless Holiday: Here is How to Do it

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For some, the holiday frenzy has already started. For others, it all begins this week. The five-plus weeks of holiday indulgence from holiday parties, family dinners, and the continuous smorgasbord of sweets in the office has officially hit. Stress, social eating, and schedule overload can be the perfect storm for overeating.

Most of us start the season with good intentions, thinking to ourselves that this year will be different. But as we see another plate of those Oreo truffles being passed around, our willpower collapses and the temptation can no longer be resisted. I know, I’ve tried doing that before in the past, too.

The good news is – you don’t have to resist! As a registered dietitian, I give you full permission to have that Oreo truffle, pumpkin pie, or Grandma’s fudge without the guilt or remorse. Finding a balance between restrictions and overeating, such as allowing yourself a treat once in a while, may actually be what you need to keep the weight off this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

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