Justifying Junk Food

Last weekend I was at my grandparents house for Mother’s Day weekend and I made some chocolate chip cookies that had pecans in them.  My aunt made the comment on how she could have another cookie because it had nuts in it so it was healthy right?  She was joking of course because she knew that it wasn’t healthy for her at all, but we make these type of comments all the time.  I call it “justifying our junk food.”  You want ice cream? It’s good for me because it has calcium in it.  Those no bake cookies have oats and peanut butter in them so they have to be good for me too.  We all know that what we’re saying is not true when it comes to comments like that, but we make them so that we can feel better about eating that bowl of ice cream or that third or fourth cookie.

So can we really justify our junk food?  Maybe not.  I know I stress this point time and time again, but I feel like it is a point that everyone needs to hear repeatedly before it finally clicks.  Everything in moderation.  This way we can really enjoy our food and not have to make up some excuse to eat more of a not so healthy food item.  I know that it is hard to eat certain foods in moderation, but when we don’t we often feel guilty about what we eat later.

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Mother’s Day last weekend, and I hope that everyone has a great rest of the week! 🙂

How to Eat Healthy During Finals Week (or any time you are stressed)

Finals week is upon us and the lack of time and amount of stress makes it easy for us to make poor eating choices, such as going out and getting that cheeseburger, french fries, and soda.  According to DoSomething.org, it was found that the healthiness of our food choices decreases by 1.7% for every hour that passes during the day.  My theory on this statistic is that as the day progresses our brains get tired making it is easier for us to make poor eating choices rather than making healthier choices.  During finals week, or any time you are stressed, our brains are tired and are concerned with other things so it is easier for us to make poor eating choices.

In order to make healthy eating choices easier during times of stress, keep junk food out of the kitchen.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I usually batch cook during finals week so there is little clean up and all I have to do is heat up whatever it is that I have made for that week.  This makes eating out less tempting because the healthy food is already there and ready to go.  I also keep a lot of peppermint tea, fruit, and yogurt around for snacking.  These foods keep me more focused and I feel a lot better physically and mentally.  These healthy choices also help keep my self-esteem in tact.  Knowing that I made a healthy eating choice rather than an unhealthy one helps lower some of my overall stress whereas making a poor food choice may create more stress.

I hope that this inspire you to make healthy eating choices during times of stress.

Dining Out and Staying on Track

How many of you eat out at least once a day?  According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 57% of Americans dine out at least once a day.  This number has increased by 33% since the 1970s.  When looking up information on how to eat healthy when dining out, I came across this interesting statistic.  52% of Americans believe that doing their taxes is easier than trying to figure out how to eat healthy.  I can see how that could be true.  With all of the controversy that comes with nutrition, it can be very difficult to figure out what is true and what is just a fad.  There is also a vastness of information from the internet, magazines, television, word of mouth, the list goes on.  This can make the process very overwhelming.  I am here to tell you that making healthy decisions can be done, and it is a lot easier than most people make it out to be.

So first off, why is dining out becoming more of a standard way of living rather than home cooked meals?  Well we have become more busy.  A lot of people are trying to balance work and a family, work and school, or even work, family, and school.  This leaves little time to come home and make a descent meal, so it is a lot easier for people to grab food on their way home from work.  The problem with this, though, is that typically food from a restaurant is higher in calories, unhealthy fat, sodium, and is lower in nutrients.  Also, portion sizes are a lot larger than what we really need.  The picture below is a perfect example of how much our portion sizes have changed.  The portion sizes from 20 years ago are the sizes we really need and the present day portion sizes are about twice as much as we really need.  portion-distortion-visual

Since a majority of us turn to fast food and drive thru lanes I thought I would start off with healthy eating tips at fast food restaurants.

5 Tips for Fast Food:

  1. Order your burger without cheese, bacon, or “special” sauce.  These items add additional saturated fat and calories.  Cheese adds about 70-100 calories, bacon adds 30-50 calories, and “special” sauces add 80-100 calories.
  2. Try adding vegetables such as pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mustard, and ketchup.  These items help add additional flavor to your burger without all of the extra fat and calories.  They are also a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  3. Stay away from fried fish or chicken sandwiches.  You may think that these are healthier options than a burger because it’s chicken and fish, and those are supposed to be healthy right?  Well that’s not really the case when the chicken and fish is fried, usually these sandwiches are as bad or worse for you than the burger would have been.  Instead opt for a grilled chicken or fish sandwich without mayonnaise or any other mayonnaise based sauce.
  4. Instead of ordering French fries, try a baked potato with low-fat sour cream and chives(green onions), a side salad, or fruit.  If you order a side salad, be sure to order low-fat or vinaigrette dressings otherwise you can potentially make your salad as bad or worse for you than the French fries would have been.
  5. Last, but certainly not least, order water instead of soda.  If you absolutely have to have a soda, try ordering a kids size soda with a regular water.  This way you kick your soda craving without all of the calories and sugar.

And here are tips for dining out at a sit-down restaurant.

5 Tips for Dining Out:

  1. Plan ahead.  If you know that you’re going to be eating out with friends or family, it is a good idea to check out the menu online before you go out.  Now days they have online menus for just about every restaurant and a lot of them even include nutrition information.  By looking at the menu ahead of time, there is no distractions or peer pressure.
  2. Order water or unsweet tea.
  3. Order dressing on the side.  If you are ordering a salad, order it with the dressing on the side.  Typically restaurants will put way more salad dressing than you need on the salad, I don’t know about you but I don’t like my lettuce swimming in my dressing.  By asking for the dressing on the side you are able to add as much or as little as you like.
  4. Eat half and take the rest home.  Generally when we eat out we are served way more than we really need.  To avoid overeating, ask for a to-go box right after you order, this way you can pack up half right at the beginning and you won’t be tempted to over eat.
  5. When it comes time for dessert, choose fruit.

I hope that you learned something new about eating out!  🙂

Organic Food

We have been doing a lot of presentations this semester and one of my presentations is over organic foods.  I never got into the whole organic food deal, but after doing this presentation I have been looking into buying certain foods organic.  Before I get too far into this, I want to share with you the formal definition of organic food.  Organic food is “food grown or raised without the use of additives, coloring, synthetic chemicals (e.g., fertilizers, pesticides, hormones), radiation, or genetic manipulation and meeting criteria of the U.S.D.A. (United States Department of Agriculture) Standard Organic Program.  For a food to be listed as “organic” it must first go through a long, expensive process before it can obtain the official U.S.D.A. organic seal.  If the product has the seal shown below, you know that the product is 100% organic.  However, if the product says that it is organic, but does not have this seal, further research needs to be done on the product before you can truly know if it is 100% organic.


I mentioned earlier that I have started looking into buying certain foods organic, well that is because of a list called “The Dirty Dozen.”  This list consists of 12 foods that contain high amounts of pesticides and would be best purchased organic.  These foods include:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Sweet Bell Peppers

I was really bummed out when I first read this list because I regularly buy and eat most of these fruits and vegetables.

There is also a list called “The Clean 15” and these products are generally alright to purchase conventionally.  These products include:

  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Sweet Peas
  • Eggplant
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Honeydew Melon

I don’t eat quite as many of the clean 15 foods as regularly as I do the dirty dozen foods, unfortunately, but it is good to know that there are some foods out there that are all right to purchase non-organic.

This post just barely covered the surface of organic foods, but it is, in my opinion, all you really need to know about organic foods unless you just have a burning curiosity to know more.  I hope you learned something new from this and I hope everyone has a great week!

Chicken and Broccoli Bake

This recipe has recently become one of my favorites.  It’s incredibly easy to make and it requires minimal ingredients.

Chicken and Broccoli Bake

Makes 4 servings


Cooking spray

8 oz corkscrew pasta (I used whole wheat penne pasta)

4 cups of frozen broccoli

1 10.75oz can of fat-free cream of chicken soup

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cooked and chopped (I used 3 chicken tenders)-I would use 2 breasts if you like more meat

1/4 tsp pepper

1 Tbs Ms. Dash

Parmesan cheese (for the top)

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1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray an 8×8 baking dish with cooking spray.

2.) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the pasta.  Cook pasta according to package directions.

3.) While pasta is cooking, place frozen broccoli in a bowl.  Add about 2 Tbs of water to the bowl and cook in the microwave for about 5-6 minutes.

4.) Drain pasta and stir together cream of chicken soup, chicken, pasta, broccoli, pepper, and Ms. Dash in a large bowl.

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5.) Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the top with as much Parmesan cheese as you like! Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly (mine only needed 20 minutes).  Enjoy! 🙂

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Nutrition information:

Calories: 370

Fat: 6 grams

Carbohydrates: 52 grams

Fiber: 4 grams

Protein: 17 grams





How Much Sugar Are We Really Eating?

It’s that time of the semester again where they start piling on the projects.  One of my recent projects was a presentation over “How Much Sugar Are We Really Eating?”  This topic was very interesting to me because sugar is in EVERYTHING.  I had a lot of fun with this presentation and I think the class did as well.

First off I want to talk about some sugar basics.  Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that supplies 4 calories per gram.  Because sugar is a simple carbohydrate it is broken down more quickly than your complex carbohydrates (fruits and veggies), fats, and proteins it is a great, quick source of energy for our bodies.  Sugar also plays a role in food preparation by improving taste, as well as texture.  It provides sweetness, acts as a preservative in jams and jellies, allows the fermentation of yeast so that we get nice fluffy bread, and it causes the nice golden brown color on baked goods.

Sugars are made up of monosaccharides and disaccharides.  Monosaccharides are single units and are the most basic form of sugar.  Glucose, fructose, and galactose are the three monosaccharides.

  • Glucose is the most common type of sugar and is a component of all three different types of disaccharides.
  • Fructose is the sugar that is found in fruits (aka fruit sugar)
  • Galactose is a component of the disaccharide lactose that is found in milk.

Disaccharides are two monosaccharides joined together.  There are three disaccharides as well.

  • Lactose, which is your milk sugar and is composed of glucose and galactose
  • Maltose, which is found during the digestion of starchy foods such as potatoes and corn.  It is composed of 2 glucose units
  • Sucrose (aka table sugar), which is made up of glucose and fructose

One teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams of carbohydrate and supplies about 16 calories.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide suggests that we consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of sugar each day.  This may sound like a lot of sugar, but it adds up really quickly.  One 12 oz soft drink contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar and I know several people who consume at least 2 or 3 of those in a single day.


In case you can’t see, this breakfast cereal has 17 grams of sugar in a 1 cup serving.  17 grams of sugar is about 4 teaspoons of sugar.  If you eat this for breakfast you are already about halfway to the 9 teaspoon maximum.  I don’t know about you but I don’t eat my cereal dry.  Adding a half of a cup of milk adds an additional 6 grams or 1.5 teaspoons for a total of 5.5 teaspoons or 23 grams of sugar for breakfast alone.  This leaves you with only 3.5 or 13 grams of sugar for the rest of the day.

This website here is very, very cool.  We were shown this in one of my classes and I just thought that it was fascinating and really puts things into a realistic perspective.  Nursing Your Sweet Tooth

I think that everyone should be aware of how much sugar that they are eating because high sugar consumption has been linked with many preventable diseases.  In order to try to decrease daily sugar consumption, here are a few tips on enhancing the sweetness of you food:

  • Serve sweet foods (such as cakes, cookies, and some pies) warm.  The heat actually enhances the sweetness.
  • Add sweet spices such as cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, or clove.  I only add cinnamon to my oatmeal in the mornings and I think that it tastes great without the sugar.
  • Adding a pinch of salt to sweet treats helps enhance the sweetness as well.
  • This tip is more for cutting back on sugar rather than enhancing the sweetness, but reducing the sugar in a recipe by 1/3 is really helpful.  I honestly can’t tell a difference between the original recipe and the recipe with 1/3 less sugar.

With all of this said, however, sugar shouldn’t be avoided or looked at as something horrible.  Sugar is meant to be enjoyed, but not in the excessive amounts that we love to enjoy it in today.  It should be something enjoyed in moderation.