Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays 2011

Happy holidays! We often show love to each other and celebrate with food, and this year was all about the goodies! None of these are particularly "healthy" options - though the cookies are technically gluten-free - but this is where balance comes in. "Play" foods are important for us too!

I wanted to make a platter for my office and one for my husband's coworkers, since he just started at his new job (and let's face it: chocolate helps make friends). I also put a few of each treat in little grey felt "buckets" purchased from Target, each adorned with star-shaped cookie cutters. Check out the photos - and recipes - below!

For Greg's office:

For my office:

For my neighbors - aren't these little ($1) buckets cute?

To check out the gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chunk cookie recipe, go here. Instead of stuffing them with regular or small Reese's peanut butter cups, I used the teeny Trader Joe's chocolate PB cups mixed into the batter, plus chunks of dark chocolate cut straight from the bar.

No-bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Drizzle


2 cups sugar

1 stick butter

1/2 cup milk

1 cup peanut butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 cups oatmeal

Melted dark chocolate, optional


In a heavy saucepan bring to a boil the sugar, butter and milk. Let boil for 1 minute then add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal. Spread the mixture on a greased baking dish and let cool. Once cool, drizzle with melted dark chocolate. (Adapted from Food Network.)

I forgot a picture, so use your imagination!

Magic Bars

My husband is obsessed with Magic Bars. Of course, he calls them 7-layer bars; however, everywhere I go they're called Magic Bars, and technically they do not have 7 layers, so obviously I'm in the right.


1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
3 1/2 ounces coconut flakes
1 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 F. (325 F. for glass dish.) In 13x9-inch baking pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle crumbs over butter; pour condensed milk evenly over crumbs. Top evenly with remaining ingredients; press down firmly. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly before cutting. Store loosely covered at room temperature. Makes 24 bars. (Adapted from

Happy holidays from our (crazy) little home to yours!

Photo - Jessica Flecky, Flecky Fotography
Card - Rachel Harding, Just Us Three


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Truth About Healthy Holiday Eating

I always expect my consulting business to die down around December. Who wants to talk about nutrition during this time of year? Surprisingly enough, every year I get a slew of new clients who really want the added support and encouragement that a dietitian can offer during the stressful, and usually food-focused holiday season. Inevitably, we talk about how to handle holiday parties, family gatherings, and mall food courts. As fun and festive as these eating experiences can be, they tend induce a great deal of anxiety about overindulgence and weight gain.

Instead of offering my own suggestions, I'm going to share some of my favorite tips from the mindful eating experts. They might not be quite what you follow along!

1. Michelle May, MD, "Am I Hungry?" - "
Rewrite Those Ridiculous 'How to Prevent Weight Gain Articles'"

I love Dr. May's approach to listening to your body and giving it what it really needs. Here's what she says about the typical holiday eating articles:
"The onslaught has begun... I'm not talking about the holiday shopping frenzy, the incessant Christmas music (Winter Wonderland is particularly annoying here in Phoenix), or even the delicious food everywhere (for that I'm grateful). I'm talking about the onslaught of "How to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain" stories. Perhaps you recognize their formula:

Cheery opening + Fear mongering + Clever strategies =
"Newsworthy" story to attract fearful/hopeful eyeballs

I’ve already seen, read, and been interviewed for dozens of these stories this year. An online search for "prevent holiday weight gain" turned up 50 million entries. If you read one article every minute, it would take you 96 years to read them all - except that the number of articles would continue to explode while you were reading them!

These stories pop up on a rotating basis: New Year's, Super Bowl Parties, Getting Ready for Swim Suit Season, etc., and most follow a similar formula. (A notable exception during the Thanksgiving onslaught was this Huffington Post article quoting my friend Evelyn Tribole, co-author of Intuitive Eating.)

These stories must sell because they are often the teasers for the news (is this really NEWs?) and displayed prominently on the cover of magazines, ironically next to "Simple Sinfully Sumptuous Sugar Cookies." The stories go something like this (I couldn't resist reading between the lines):

  1. Eat before you go to a party so you won’t be tempted by all the goodies. (Really??? Do you also recommend maxing out your credit cards before you go Christmas shopping?)
  2. Wear tight clothing to the party to prevent yourself from overeating. (Feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious is a small price to pay to prevent yourself from enjoying your favorite food.)
  3. Drink seltzer water with a squeeze of lime in place of eggnog with rum. (I don’t know many people who love eggnog, but for those who do, this is like recommending crunching on carrots when you love potato chips.)
  4. Hold a glass and a plate so it’s impossible to eat. (You’ll look ridiculous trying to nibble off a rolling meatball or sneaking slurps from the side of your cheesecake.)
  5. Schedule a session with your personal trainer the next morning to burn off any extra calories that slipped by your radar. (The punishment must fit the crime.)"
Copyright © 2004-2011, Michelle May, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. May points out that so many of us punish ourselves for eating rich or less healthy foods, but this only causes us to restrict, feel deprived, and crave them even more. A more sane (and less punitive) approach would be to listen to our bodies, really enjoy those "special" foods at parties and family gatherings, and really take care of ourselves during this busy time. Here are Dr. May's tips for surviving the holidays:
  1. "Trust your body wisdom. Tune into your signals of hunger and satiety to guide your eating before, during, and after the party. Being either famished or already full when you arrive sets you up for being uncomfortably full when you leave.
  2. Treat yourself to pleasures besides food. Choose clothing that is beautiful, flattering, and comfortable so you feel and project your best.
  3. Eat (and drink) what you really love. And skip anything that isn’t fabulous! The first few bites are for flavor, the rest are for fuel. (After the first few delicious bites, the flavor begins to fade anyway so you're just eating a memory.)
  4. Love what you eat. Sensuously savor one small bite at a time, appreciating the appearance, aromas, flavors, and textures of your favorite foods as you eat them.
  5. Practice extreme self-care. Choose activities that are the most meaningful to you, stay active and schedule down-time to relax and enjoy the holidays! (For one of {Michelle's} favorite articles on this topic, check out {her} new blog,"
2. Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA and Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, Intuitive Eating - "Intuitive Eater's Holiday Bill of Rights"

I participated in supervision under Elyse during grad school to become an Intuitive Eating counselor. Elyse and Evelyn's gentle approach to listening to your body, eating foods you enjoy, and honoring hunger and fullness changed me from a chronic dieter to a mindful eater about 5 years ago, and I am so grateful for their insight and guidance. I really miss seeing Elyse on a regular basis, but thankfully I honor her and Evelyn's philosophy her every time I work with a client.

Below is the Intuitive Eater's Holiday Bill of Rights:

1. "You have the right to savor your meal, without cajoling or judgment, and without discussion of calories eaten or the amount of exercise needed to burn off said calories.

2. You have the right to enjoy second servings without apology.

3. You have the right to honor your fullness, even if that means saying "no thank you" to dessert or a second helping of food.

4. It is not your responsibility to make someone happy by overeating, even if it took hours to prepare a specialty holiday dish.

5. You have the right to say, "No thank you," without explanation, when offered more food.

6. You have the right to stick to your original answer of "no", even if you are asked multiple times. Just calmly and politely repeat "No, thank you, really."

7. You have the right to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast.

Remember, no one, except for you, knows how you feel, both emotionally and physically. Only you can be the expert of your body, which requires inner attunement, rather than the external, well-meaning, suggestions from family."

Copyright © 2010 by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD Published at

3. Karin Kratina and Amy Tuttle, Nourishing Connections - "Holiday Season Self-care Strategies" (from their "Stay Attuned e-zine", December 2009)

Check out the Nourishing Connections website to sign up for their e-zine, which offers great mindful eating tips and insight.

"Through the holidays, we may find ourselves wanting to use food after spending time - good and bad - with family or friends. Pausing for a moment to tune into our feelings and the reasons for our emotional eating will help us figure out how to take care of ourselves differently at the next get-together. In spite of (or because of) being in the midst of family and friends, we may have felt alone, or invisible, or taken advantage of. Or perhaps we had a wonderful time, and afterwards, we were hungering for more. Just as we practice tuning into our basic needs related to hunger signals and food preferences before and after eating, we can practice tuning into our emotional needs and wants before and after holiday gatherings. Being attuned to our needs and wants helps us to make nourishing connections and avoid depleting experiences. With a little self-care strategizing, we will be able to lessen our emotional eating after holiday gatherings arriving home satisfied and content.

Stay Attuned Tip

Think back to the last time you needed to use food after a holiday get-together. What were you feeling that led up to eating? In what ways did the food help with your feelings? Without judgment, write down some of the reasons you used food. Before each gathering this season, ask yourself: What do I want to experience or not experience at this gathering, with this group of people? What am I hungry for? Is what I want available from this crowd? From one person or others among the crowd? Who? If what I want or need is available, what gets in the way of my going after it? Will there be someone there who could affect my experience and undermine my satisfaction? Who is it? What can I do about that? Who in this crowd are my safe, nourishing people? Ask yourself, how much do I need and want of: Connection? If I have a good time with friends or family, yet I'm hungering for more afterwards, what will I do to manage these left-over feelings? Being polite and "nice"? What do I do that is nice but turns into selflessness? Cleaning up? Allowing myself to get stuck talking to a draining person? Spending more on gifts than my budget allows. Why do I give too much to others and not give enough to myself? How much is enough? To clean up? To listen to someone? To spend? What about quiet time? Pie? Alcohol? How much is enough? How much is too much?"

© Copyright 2009. Dr. Karin Kratina and Amy Tuttle. All rights reserved.


We only have a few weeks left of the holiday season. May you share laughs, love, and wonderful food with your family and friends.