Thursday, June 30

Staying Healthy on Vacation

Recently I asked the Advanced Wellness Centre's nutritionist, Paula Schnurman how to stay healthy while traveling this summer. Her answers are the basis for the article "On the Road: Simple Strategies for a Happy, Healthy Vacation" published in this month's issue of The Health Journal. Click on over to read all about it.

Happy travels!

Tuesday, June 21

“Nothing’s More Important than Family”

This is one of my husband’s favorite movie lines. While I’m not sure Don Carleone actually said this in The Godfather, Michael likes to pretend he did because he always delivers it while impersonating Marlon Brando. With a deep, guttural, whisper of a voice Michael says, “Nothing’s more important than family.” For added emphasis he shakes his right hand and kisses the tops of his fingers. And then he throws in a couple of Godfather slaps to someone’s cheek and finishes the scene by repeating the sound “eh?” a few dozen times.
The newest member of my family.
Holden, born May 2 to my sister
Cathy and her husband Troy.

We get it honey. Family’s important.

Good social relationships are important, not only for your mental health, but your physical health as well.

A recent study by Brigham Young University (BYU) has demonstrated that strong social relationships will help you live longer. (Unless of course you’re an enemy of the Carleone family. Then your life expectancy is only until Saturday, before mass.)

The BYU study found that “people with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships.”

The researchers went on to state that, “…the influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity.”

Weak social relationships are as risky to your health as smoking and alcohol consumption. Yikes!

I’m blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful extended family. But for those of you that have less than stellar relations with your family (it happens), strong friendships count toward a healthier life as well.

And you don’t need that many friends for it to affect your life in a positive way. A British study found that the magic number of friends to be happy was 10.

Dr Richard Tunney, of Nottingham University, quizzed more than 1,700 people about their satisfaction with their lives and the state of their friendships. Those with five friends or fewer had just a 40 percent chance of being happy. In other words, they were more likely to be unhappy than happy. When participants reached ten friends, they were more likely to be happy than unhappy.

Don’t worry. If you’re like me and the number of friends on your Facebook page is appallingly low, the study found that old friends are no more likely to make us happy than new friends. So it’s never too late to up these numbers!

I don’t need any research to tell me spending time with people I care about is healthy. I simply think about what I like to do most and it’s sharing a good meal and good wine with good friends.

With that we’re off this weekend to Cape Cod, MA. To get healthy by spending time with some old friends. I’m pretty sure there will be wine involved, so I’ll be sure and drink red. To really boost my health.

Wednesday, June 15

Snack Attack

It happens every day around 4:00 pm. I start wandering around the kitchen, opening and closing the pantry door, then shuffling over to the fridge and stare blankly into it. “God I’m hungry,” I think. But I don’t want a full meal just a little something to tide me over until dinner.

If I’m not careful this is when I’ll pound down a pound of cheese, squirt whipped cream directly from the can into my mouth or dig through the freezer for my stash of raw cookie dough and devour, I don’t know, six or seven cookies.

I don’t mean to overeat at this time or reach for bad food options, but when I’m hungry it’s really difficult to make good choices.

This is exactly why experts say you should eat five small meals a day—three main meals and two snacks—to keep your blood sugar level even throughout the day.

Knowing that my afternoon snack attack erupts regularly, like Old Faithful, I stock my house with good choices. Saving the whipped cream and cookies for quiet moments of celebration.

Here are some of my favorite healthy snacks that keep me feeling satisfied without ruining my dinner, or my waistline.


Fresh Fruit

This is always my go to option for me and the kids. (One of the myriad of reasons they hate me. “Can I have a snack?” they ask me. And my consistently irritating reply is, “Sure, there’s plenty of fruit in the fridge.” It’s amazing how often they decide they’re really not that hungry.)

This week I’m stocked with peaches, strawberries, kiwi, blueberries and cantaloupe. And here’s a trick to get your kids (and spouse) to eat more fruit…cut it up. I’m telling you, it’s magic. There’s something about a fresh fruit salad that makes people want to dig in.

Don’t have the time or inclination to slice and dice it yourself? Buy it pre-made. Just eat it quickly. I find that the prepared fresh fruit salads in the grocery store are more ripe than the whole fruit so they spoil faster.

Fruit and Yogurt

Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt. Try drizzling some honey on your favorite plain, fat free brand and for an added kick throw on some fresh fruit. Or for a real treat, make a smoothie with frozen fruit. Click here for my favorite recipe. (Scroll down, the recipe is at the end of the article.)



This is another staple on my kitchen counter. The problem of course is that nuts are pretty heavy in calories so you have to be really careful about how much you eat. Limit yourself to a single handful. If you can’t stop at one handful, nosh on pistachios—you can have around 50 nuts for just 160 calories.


Popcorn is a naturally high fiber food. Snacks with fiber are great choices because fiber is one of those nutrients that makes us feel full. Popcorn will fill you up and, an entire bag of Act II 94% Fat Free Popcorn has only 130 calories.


Protein Bars

Bars can be really filling and delicious but you have to READ THE LABELS. Just because it comes in a bar form doesn’t mean it’s good for you or that it’s low calorie.

I find that I need about 10 grams of protein in a bar otherwise it doesn’t fill me up. And I keep the calorie count to around 200 per bar. (If you’re not careful you can pick up a bar that packs over 400 calories! That’s the same as a Chick-fil-A fried chicken sandwich. Yikes!)

Also, more protein is not necessarily better. Those bars that tout “30 grams of protein,” typically have a lot more calories and they are really designed for bodybuilding, not weight loss. Plus, most of them taste horrible.

I like Zone Perfect, Balance, and Kind bars.

Cheese and Crackers

I have to be careful with this snack and only pull out the number of crackers I want to eat, otherwise I keep reaching into the box and pulling out more!

My favorite combo is a Triscuit Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil cracker paired with low-fat Havarti cheese. Triscuits are 100% whole grain so enjoying six crackers gives you 22 grams of whole grains (45% of your recommended daily allowance) plus some dietary fiber.

Thursday, June 9

Food Spotlight: Avocado

The Subway restaurant chain recently announced plans to add avocados to its mix of sandwich ingredients and all I can say is, “It's about time!”

In addition to being creamy and delicious, avocados are packed full of nutrients including fiber, potassium, vitamins C, E, K and B6 and folic acid.

In the past avocados have gotten a bad rap because of their fat content. And yes, they are high in fat. (An average avocado has 29g of fat, which is 45% of the recommended daily allowance.)

BUT…it’s the good fat. Avocados contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. The same one found in olive oil. Thus avocados have the same heart healthy benefits as olive oil. They lower blood cholesterol levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein, the bad stuff) and raise levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein, the good stuff), for a total effect of lowering cholesterol overall.

It’s not all wine and roses though. With all that fat comes high calories. (A whole avocado contains 322 calories. That’s the same as consuming two and a half bananas.) So, as much as it pains me to say this, we should eat them in moderation.
I like to dice one and add it to a salad or put slices on a sandwich. And of course, there’s guacamole. My favorite store brand is Wholly Guacamole. They sell a three-pack at Costco. Don’t worry, you don’t have to eat it all within a week, guacamole freezes really well. Just don’t defrost it in the microwave. Defrost it in the refrigerator.
For a real treat, make your own guacamole. My family loves this recipe. Enjoy!


2 ripe avocados
1/2 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, stems and seeds removed, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
A dash of freshly ground black pepper
  • Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avocado from the peel with a spoon, put in a bowl.
  • Using a fork, mash the avocado.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. (Note: Depending on how spicy you like things, you might want to start with half of the jalapeno pepper)

Tip: The best method for preserving leftover guacamole is to vacuum-pack it. I have a Food Saver machine which works great. If you don’t have something like this, place the leftovers in a bowl and press plastic wrap over the entire surface of the guacamole and up the sides of the bowl, eliminating as much air as you can. It’s the oxygen in the air that makes it turn brown. Or, you could just eat all of it. Which is what I tend to do.