Friday, February 24

French White Bean Stew

French White Bean Stew
As the cold weather continues to ensnare us I find myself craving comfort food. For me, nothing is more satisfying on a cold winter day than a piping hot bowl of soup.

Below is an outstanding recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook. (Even my picky nine-year-old liked this one!)

And unlike most soup recipes, it's fast to prepare, about 45 minutes from start to finish. With a loaf of crusty whole grain bread to go with it, it's a full meal.


French White Bean Stew (serves 4)

1  tsp canola oil
8  ounces turkey kielbasa, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
8  ounces Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated, stems chopped fine and leaves cut into 1/2-inch pieces (If you don't like chard, you can substitute fresh spinach or another leafy green)
1  onion, minced
2  garlic cloves, minced
1  TBLS minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
2 3/4  cups low-sodium chicken broth
1  (14.5 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1  cup dry white wine
2  (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed (Substitution options are: navy, white or Great Northern beans)
1  bay leaf
    salt and pepper
1.  Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the kielbasa and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Stir in the chard stems and onion and cook until the onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, and wine, scraping up any browned bits.

3. Stir in the beans and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the beans are tender and the broth is flavorful, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves and continue to simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes.

4. Discard the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Friday, February 17

Eat Treats and Be Merry

Janelle and her Valentine's Day haul
Valentine’s Day morning Janelle, my third-grader and resident sugaraholic, skipped onto the bus holding a bag full of valentines for her classmates and a decorated shoebox ready to receive the day’s bounty. Aside from Christmas and Halloween this is her favorite holiday. Who can blame her? Who doesn’t like chocolate? I can walk by bowls overflowing with Jolly Ranchers, Nerds, Fruit Rollups, even candy bars, these don’t entice me. But a box of chocolate confections, well, those will make me pause and most likely, indulge.

Seems I’m not the only one tempted. This week Americans will purchase 58 million pounds of chocolate candy worth $345 million. And that’s just the chocolate. We’ll spend another $103 million on other candy, for a whopping $448 million in total.

Since I author a health blog, I’m sure you’re bracing yourself for the onslaught of discourse about how bad candy is for you, how many empty calories it contains, blah blah blah. I hate to disappoint you, but no, that’s not what’s on my mind this week.

Actually, Valentine’s Day reminds me that there's a place in life for all kinds of food.

The reason that most diets fail is that they’re too restrictive. No one can maintain a lifestyle that forbids an entire food category, especially if it’s one they love.

I can imagine what would happen if I forbade Janelle from ever having chocolate again. She’d cry, tell me how unfair it is, sulk around the house for days and then, probably start sneaking it. She’d eat it at friend’s houses or eat it behind the closed door of the pantry. I’d turn her into a closet eater by labeling chocolate as “bad.” And worst of all, chocolate would be elevated to forbidden status, which only makes it more desirable.

Instead, I believe in the philosophy that all foods are available to me, some, like candy, are simply to be enjoyed occasionally and in moderation.

This is the same position championed by the American Dietetic Association which states,

“… all foods can fit into a healthful eating style. The ADA strives to communicate healthful eating messages to the public that emphasize the total diet, or overall pattern of food eaten, rather than any one food or meal. If consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity, all foods can fit into a healthful diet…The value of a food should be determined within the context of the total diet because classifying foods as "good" or "bad" may foster unhealthy eating behaviors.”

The trick is moderation and making sure it’s only an occasional thing, not a habit. It goes back to my 80/20 rule—80 percent of the time do the right thing (eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats), 20 percent of the time splurge a little. 

Enjoy your treats this week, then get back on track. It’s all part of a healthy lifestyle.

Friday, February 10

Come on, Get App-y

My computer has this annoying habit of freezing on me a couple of times a week. I’ve upgraded the hard drive, changed the fan setting to prevent overheating and done a thousand other things and yet, always at the most inopportune time, the whole thing just seizes up. My only recourse is to reboot. It makes me want to hurl the thing out the window or better yet, go all Office Space on it. (If you haven’t seen the movie Office Space I recommend it. It’s a quirky comedy about the ridiculousness of corporate America. Think Dilbert in movie form. The scene I’m referring to involves a temperamental printer and a baseball bat.)

The first screen of my iPhone.
My favorite app (a/k/a obsession) is
Words with Friends. The icon with the "W."
I think I need a 12-step program.
Yes, technology can be immensely frustrating, but it can also be amazing. Thanks to my iPhone I have a computer the size of a piece of toast in my purse. I can Google until my heart’s content, check email, schedule appointments, or dictate an article idea all while sitting at a traffic light in my car.

We all need help reaching our goals so why not use technology to assist us? It’s definitely made our lives easier, I say, how about making our lives healthier too.

But with over 500,000 apps for the iPhone and 375,000 for Android, which ones do you choose?

Hopefully, the following list will help you out. Below are some of the most popular health and wellness apps.


There are hundreds of apps that will help you track your calories. It’s really a matter of finding one that suits you. The perennial favorites are:
  •   Lose It! (Free, for iPhone, Android, Nook Color, Nook Tablet)
  •  Calorie Counter - MyFitnessPal (Free, for iPhone, Android)
  •  Calorie Tracker ($2.99, for iPhone, Android)
  • Weight Watchers Mobile (Free, for iPhone, iPad, Android)

Restaurant Nutrition (Free, for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android)
Keep yourself on track by looking up calories and other nutrition information while dining out.

Fooducate (Free, for iPhone, Android)
Ever wish you could have a dietician grocery shop with you? Fooducate is the answer. Loaded with a bar code scanner, the app can identify over 200,000 products. Foods are graded from a D (the worst) to an A (the best) and healthier alternatives are listed for you. Now that’s a great app! No wonder Apple chose it as Best Health & Fitness App in 2011.


Epocrates Rx. Drug interactions are a huge concern. Download the free version of this and you can check the interactions between up to 30 drugs. (Free, for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Palm, Windows Mobile)

Glucose Buddy. This app lets you enter your glucose numbers, food consumption and activity levels and links to an online account at Plus you can print out all the information for your doctor. (Free, for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad)


Runners must love data because there are hundreds of apps dedicated to running. You can log your miles, map your route, check your average speed, even compete against yourself from a previous run. Just one more reason why I’m not a runner! For those that love it, the most popular apps are:
  •        RunKeeper (Free, for iPhone and Android)
  •        Nike+ GPS ($1.99, for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
  •        Runmeter GPS ($4.99, for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)

And for beginning joggers, nothing’s better than Get Running (Couch to 5k) ($2.99, for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) The preset training plan is designed to get beginners from zero to running a 5k (~ 3 miles) in nine weeks. It starts off really slow and builds over the nine weeks. For Android users it’s called C25K (Free).


White Noise ($1.99, iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Blackberry, Android)
Does it sound like an episode of Law & Order is happening outside your window? Try this to drown out the chaos of modern life. Choose from 40 different sounds like rain, crickets and ocean waves to help you relax or fall asleep. 

Sleep Cycle Alarm ($0.99, for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad)
Set the alarm to your normal time and place your iPhone next to your pillow. The app monitors your movements during sleep and wakes you up during your lightest sleep phase, any time within 30 minutes of your set alarm time. You wake up when your body is naturally ready to.

Saturday, February 4

Support ‘Hos

While support hose are a fabulous invention and worthy of a blog themselves, that’s not what I’m talking about.

The ‘hos I’m referring to are your girlfriends. The women that at a moment’s notice babysit your kid while you run your other kid to the doctor. The ones that listen to you complain about your hair, husband or mother-in-law with sympathy and compassion. The wonderful women that celebrate your successes with enthusiasm and offer a shoulder to cry on during life's inevitable downturns.

These women are a key component to our happiness and research suggests, they’re also a powerful tool in achieving our health goals. Numerous studies have been conducted demonstrating that support from others increases our chances of losing weight and maintaining that weight loss.

A recent study from Stanford University School of Medicine concluded that “Women who ‘never’ experienced family support were least likely to lose weight (45.7% lost weight) whereas women who experienced both frequent friend and family support were more likely to lose weight (71.6% lost weight).” 

Now that February has begun, the shine of our New Year’s Resolutions is probably wearing off. In fact, research suggests that by January 31st  we will have given up.

If you’re struggling with your healthy resolutions, how about enlisting a friend for support? Join a gym together, agree to walk a couple of times a week, or if you’re really motivated, sign up for the Monument Avenue 10k. You don’t have to run, you can just walk it. I’m doing it this year with my oldest daughter Amanda (14 years old) and my son Grant (11 years old).

Me (in orange) and Lizzie (giving the thumbs up)
as we approach the finish line.
My friend Lizzie got me to actually run it a couple of years ago.

Trying to lose weight and needing a goal Lizzie had signed up for the 10k and asked me if I’d join her. Of course, my immediate response was, “Um, no.” Not because I don’t love her, but because I hate running. Really, really hate running.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” she urged me. “It's easy. We don't have to run fast. Please,” she begged. “I need someone to do it with me.”

“Okay, fine,” I said, not at all enthused, but it was for Lizzie and hanging out with her a couple of times a week to jog and chat actually did sound like fun.

Dutifully we trained and to my surprise it actually got easier. We didn’t set any land speed records, but we plodded along and consistently increased the distance we ran every week.

Race day arrived and we were off. Within five minutes of starting, Lizzie pulled a muscle in her hip. Limping and clearly in pain she slowed to a walk/jog.

“Go ahead without me,” she told me. “I’m going to finish, but it’s just going to take me a long time.”

Woo hoo! We did it!
Channeling my best Tom Cruise impersonation from Top Gun I looked at her and said, “I will not leave my wing man.”

After all, this is why I signed up. To help her achieve her goal. I wasn’t about to ditch her in the final hour.

We trotted along, waved to the crowd, enjoyed the live music from the bands lining the street and eventually finished the race, only slightly faster than the 10,000 people walking the course! But we did it. She reached her goal and I helped her. We made a great team.

Everyone needs support ‘hos. I count on Lizzie to get me to my Friday yoga class and I depend on the trainers in the In8 program to maintain my workout routine. I can’t do it alone. You don’t have to either. Find support where you can either with a commercial program or rope in a like-minded family member or friend. You’ll not only have more fun, but statistically, you’ll also more likely to be successful.

Now that’s a win-win!