Pioneering Healthier Communities

Our Mission: Influence and empower all families in Marshall County Iowa to choose healthier lifestyle.

The reason: overweight and under-activity have been identified as two of the county's most pressing health issues.

The consequences: there are elevated rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. And more of it is being observed in children.

Eat Smart



Natural May Not Mean Healthy

By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

When at the grocery store, people can become overwhelmed with choices. In some grocery stores, the bread isle alone feels like the length of a football field. For those looking for nutritional standouts, the simple task of buying bread can suddenly become complicated and even stressful. In an attempt to influence buyers, food packages boast various claims to separate themselves from other similar products. Many of the claims common on food packaging are aimed at the health conscious consumer.  While some health claims must meet specific regulatory standards, other claims do not. For example, a popular claim in every isle is that the product is "natural" or "all-natural."  Why?  Marketing research shows that "natural" sells. The word "natural" now appears on one third of all food packaging because it implies health and responsibility. The word is especially influential when paired with a picture or a farm stand or a fit body striking a yoga pose. Meanwhile, "natural" does not necessarily mean much of anything and while "natural" foods may appear to be healthful, sometimes they are anything but. "Natural" junk food is still junk food. In fact, the word "natural" could technically be used to describe products like tobacco which have been proven harmful. "Natural" foods may be as high as or higher in unhealthful fats and added sodium and sugar than others not carrying the label.  They may also be high in preservatives. Other products labeled "natural" may be among the most healthful in the store.  The word "natural" does not really tell consumers much of anything.


What are health-seekers to do? Consumers should look at the front of a food package for what it is, packaging. They then need to turn it around to review the nutrition facts panel to learn what is really inside. The nutrition facts panel is the best way to make the healthiest choice from the many options within food categories at the grocery store. Consumers should use the nutrition facts panel to understand serving size in terms of calories and nutrients. They should use it to avoid trans fat, limit saturated fat, added sugar and added sodium. The nutrition facts label should be used to compare healthful nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber and more. Finally, food ingredients (especially the first five) should be scanned to help determine the overall healthfulness of the product. Additional information can be valuable for individuals eating to manage or prevent disease or allergies.

2012 Food Trends Worth Trying

By Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.

The latest research on food trends includes many that are not only "hot" but also nutritionally beneficial.  Five healthful food trends picking up momentum this year are listed below.

1. Local Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables- Most fruits and vegetables are not grown where they are consumed. In fact, most fruits and vegetables travel about 1,500 miles before they reach a dinner table.  And while it is nice and healthful to enjoy foods like cantaloupe during an Iowa winter, picking and eating them at their peak is best, when possible.  Reason being, locally grown produce does not need to be harvested early to offset transportation time and therefore almost always has the edge on nutrition and flavor.   

2.  Whole Grains- Whole grains are a buzz word in the food world right now which is good news for health seekers.  Whole grains are superior as they contain all parts of the grain in the same proportions they are found in nature.  This means, their healthful protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals are still present and not lost in processing.  In a food world that used to be dominated by highly processed, white carbohydrates, mainstream access to quality whole grains like quinoa make a healthier eating more adventurous and tasty.

3.  Plant-Based Dairy- American dairy products are typically made from cow's milk.  Current trends include an increase in popularity of plant-based dairy, made by pressing a variety of plant-based foods.  Examples include almond milk, rice cheese and soy ice cream.  While, low fat dairy from cow's milk is very healthful for most, plant-based dairy offers more variety and supports movement towards a more plant-based diet.

4.  Lower-Sodium - American’s in general consume too much salt thanks to our food supply which has become highly processed.  Manufactures are beginning to address this hazard by offering lower sodium versions of popular salty items like commercially canned vegetables, meats, soups, sauces and more.  In addition, many recipes are getting made over with trendy spices and herbs to replace or decrease salt. 

5.  Smaller Packages- Food packaging has grown over the few past decades.  Incidentally, so have Americans.  People can buy ice cream by the bucket, chips in bags bigger than a pillow case and liter portions of soda intended for one.  Studies show people eat more as a result.  Health seekers should welcome the smaller packages/portions so that when they chose to indulge they can do so responsibly.         



UNrefine Your Carbohydrate

By Christine Jacobson, RD, LD

About 25% percent of calories in the North American diet come from sugar!

Unrefined sugars come primarily from fruits and vegetables. Unrefined starches come from all whole plant foods - grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Unrefined starches have not had nutrients and fibers removed with processing and therefore provide many health benefits.

Refined carbohydrates are sugars and starches that have had most of their nutrients and fiber removed with processing. Refined sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, honey, syrups, jelly, candy and beverages that are mainly sugar like sugar-sweetened pop and Kool-Aid. Refined starches include white flour, white rice, and all concentrated starches such as cornstarch.

Potential adverse health effects of refined carbohydrates include impaired blood sugar control, increased triglycerides, overeating and overweight (foods low in fiber are less filling and can more easily contribute to overeating) and increased risk for constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders.  

Populations that rely on refined carbohydrates as a dietary staple experience high rate of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  About 25% percent of calories in the North American diet come from sugar. While it is okay to eat small amounts of refined carbohydrates, these foods should not be a staple in an otherwise healthy diet.

Quick tips to UNrefined your carbs:

  • As a general rule, reserve white flour and refined sugar products as occasional treats. Choose unrefined carbohydrates more often.


  • More than half of your grains should be whole grains.


  • Rethink your drink. Sweetened beverages should be limited (enjoyed on occasion as a treat).


  • What is ideal? Aim to eat no more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar per day.


Easter Candy UNWRAPPED


Five peeps 160 calories

Five marshmallow chicks (circus peanut style) 136 calories

Eight robin eggs malted milk candies 170 calories

Four Lindt chocolate carrots 210 calories

One Spongebob Squarepants hollow egg 300 calories

One small (1 ounce) chocolate bunny 140 calories

One medium hollow (1¾ ounce) chocolate bunny 160 calories

One large (7 ounce) chocolate bunny 1050 calories

Write Your Way to a Healthier Weight

By Christine Jacobson

The majority of Americans are considered overweight.  Looking on the bright side, they can take comfort in knowing they are not alone in their struggles.  As many people know firsthand, weight loss can be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging.  Often times, in the end, they only learn what does not work for them (long term).  After all, long term success is not typical with popular weight loss strategies.  And while there is plenty of data regarding weight loss failure (long term), the good news is more research is being done on those who actually succeed.  Researchers are studying large groups of real people who have lost weight and kept it off long term in effort to identify safe and effective strategies that may work for others.

Experts agree food journaling is helpful among those trying to achieve a healthier weight.  According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute "record keeping is one of the most successful behavioral techniques for weight loss and maintenance."  According to the Harvard School of Public Health, "It's easy to eat more than you plan to. A daily food diary (journal) makes you more aware of exactly how much you are eating."  Americans must learn to eat mindfully if they want to manage their weight and nutritional health with long term success.  Food journaling helps people select and consume food more mindfully.  In terms of weight management, calories are like money.  It is best not to overspend too often.  Food journals helps people stay on budget and support their efforts to meet and maintain their weight and body composition goals.  Food journals are also helpful in monitoring for progress and exposing opportunities for improvement.  Food journaling is most effective when combined with an overall healthful and calorie-appropriate diet and active lifestyle.


Quick Food Journaling Tips

All you need are a little time every day and some diligence.

1.  Find a method that works well for you (examples include a notebook, an online database or a cell phone app).

2.  Food journals do not need to reflect “perfect eating.” They are most helpful when estimations are as accurate as possible for what you are tracking.

3.  Keep it simple. You do not need to track all aspects of your nutritional health all of the time. Stick to the basics… the food or drink, the portion consumed and calories consumed for that portion.  

Be Blue

By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

Blue Zones, a book written by Dan Buettner, takes a close look at very specific regions around the world where people live the longest.  In his book, the author and a team of scientists identify and explore nine common characteristics of people living and thriving in these regions, the “Blue Zones.”  Such common characteristics include certain dietary practices, movement (physical activity), a sense of purpose and more.  The dietary practices of these aging all-stars tend to be similar in the following aspects.

People living in Blue Zones tend to… 

  • eat plant based diets,
  • eat smaller portions and
  • drink alcohol in moderation.


The plant based diet common in the Blue Zones includes ample fruits and vegetables, quality carbohydrates and minimally processed foods.  The result is a diet rich in healthful antioxidants, fiber and vitamins while being low in added sugar, salt and unwanted fats.   While the diet common to the Blue Zones is plant based, it does include adequate premium protein sources such as legumes, nuts, seeds, low fat diary, fish and seafood, poultry and lean meat.  Including these protein rich foods promotes a lean body and a healthful balance of dietary fat.  Eating smaller portions, with an appropriate amount of calories, promotes a healthy weight.  Their moderate intake of alcohol is primarily from antioxidant rich red wine. 

While these dietary practices are common in the Blue Zones studied, they should not be limited just these regions.  People all over the world would benefit from eating similarly.   The benefit of these dietary practices is optimal when the other common characteristics like movement, a sense of purpose and more, also become a way of life.   

Suggestion:  Add Blue Zones, by Dan Beuttner to your Holiday Wish List. 


The Mediterranean Diet

By Christine Jacobson RD, LD

The Mediterranean diet is a model of eating that tends to be associated with good health.  It is based on the dietary patterns typical of people living in the Mediterranean region in the 1960's.  The Mediterranean lifestyle, including diet, has received much attention as the people in these regions are all-stars at aging and lifelong wellness.  As a group, they live longer than most and have exceptionally low rates of heart disease.  Given this, they have been studied by researchers interested in learning more about what makes people in this region so healthy.  Based on their findings, Mediterranean dietary practices are summarized and encouraged for wellness seekers in other cultures to adopt.  In addition to the below, physical activity at a level that promotes fitness and a healthy weight is also part of the Mediterranean lifestyle.


Highlights of the Mediterranean diet follows;

  • An emphasis on plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
  • Minimally processed foods.
  • Fresh fruit as dessert.
  • Olive oil as the primary fat.
  • Foods low in saturated fat (and an overall diet which is also low in saturated fat).
  • Yogurt, cheeses and low fat dairy.
  • Small to moderate portions of fish and poultry. Other varieties of (preferably lean) meats are eaten less often.
  • Red wine in moderation.


 Ways to include Mediterranean dietary practices in the typical American diet:  Replace vegetable cooking oil and animal fat in recipes with olive oil or canola oil (also rich with healthful monounsaturated fat); Enjoy fresh berries or a seasonal fruit as dessert; Add dried beans to a favorite casserole or soup recipe.



How About Them Apples!

By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is a well known saying that may just be true.  Several recent studies have shown apples, when eaten regularly, may have many whole body health benefits.  One apple has five grams of fiber, supplying twenty percent of the daily fiber recommendation.  Apples are rich with protective antioxidants.  They are also low in calories and high in moisture which makes them an ideal snack or side for people trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.  Apples are convenient, shelf stable and ready to eat.  In the fall, when other fruits are out of season, apples are widely available, economical and at their best.  When selecting apples, their skin should be shiny, not dull.  This is important as dull appearing apples won't be as crisp and tasty.

Autumn Apple Dip

1 (8 ounce) package fat free cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup toasted chopped walnuts

¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

8 medium sized apples, sliced

Combine cream cheese, vanilla, brown sugar and

cinnamon.  Beat until smooth and creamy.  Fold in toasted

walnuts.  Slice apples just before eating (or coat with

lemon or canned pineapple juice to keep from browning).

Enjoy 1/8 recipe and one medium apple for 163 calories.

Nutrition EXTRA: Walnuts are a source of Omega 3 fatty acids, a healthful fat. Walnuts are one of the top sources of antioxidants.  They are also a source of protein.  It is helpful to know, heat over time will cause walnuts to become rancid and taste bad.  Walnuts can be kept fresh longer with cold storage.  People should store walnuts cold and enjoy them at their best.  Waiting to shell or chop walnuts until ready to use will help maintain their great flavor.


Hydrate with Water

By:  Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.


Water is the primary chemical component of the human body.  People need to consume the right amount of water to keep their bodies healthy.  This is especially important when people live in hot climates, like Iowa in August, and when they are active.  Sources of water include beverages and food, especially foods high in moisture such as fruit.  While all beverages contain water, beverages like fruit drinks, sports drinks, sugary sodas, sweetened tea and sweetened coffee also contain added sugar.  High fat beverages such as many flavored coffees contain unwanted fats.  A diet consistently high in added sugar and unwanted fats can be harmful to the body as it promotes excessive weight gain and other nutrition related health problems. 

People can best determine if they are drinking enough water by paying attention to their urine every time they urinate.  In the morning, some people’s urine may be darker if they do not get up to urinate during the night.  This is normal; their urine is darker as it is more concentrated when they first empty their bladder.  After that, a person’s urine should be light in color and nearly odorless for the rest of the day.  Urine should look more like lemon juice and less like apple juice.  If urine is darker than usual, it could mean that person would benefit from drinking more water.  An exception includes eating asparagus.  After eating asparagus, some people may notice a specific smell to their urine.  This is temporary and harmless.  The smell comes from natural and safe chemicals found in the asparagus.  It is also important to note that some urine may appear consistently dark for reasons unrelated to hydration (like certain vitamins or medications).  People should enjoy healthful beverages, especially water, throughout the day and follow up with their physicians about questions or concerns with their hydration status. 




By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.



Check out the new MyPlate icon provided by the USDA!  The MyPlate icon is easy to understand and is intended to help deliver healthy eating messages that highlight important consumer actions based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.



Getting Started with MyPlate



MyPlate Icon

MyPlate is part of a larger communications initiative based on 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help consumers make better food choices.

MyPlate is designed to remind Americans to eat healthfully; it is not intended to change consumer behavior alone.

MyPlate illustrates the five food groups using a familiar mealtime visual, a place setting.

The website features practical information and tips to help Americans build healthier diets.

It features selected messages to help consumer focus on key behaviors. Selected messages include:

o Enjoy your food, but eat less.

o Avoid oversized portions.

o Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

o Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

o Make at least half your grains whole grains.

o Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen

meals—and choose foods with lower numbers.

o Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

ChooseMyPlate.gov1 includes much of the consumer and professional information formerly found on

1 MyPyramid resources will remain available to health professionals and nutrition educators in “Tips and Resources” section of the new website. A new website will be available in Fall/Winter 2011.



Boost Your Metabolism with Protein

By Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.

Eating all types of food will give your metabolism a small boost.  This boost is called the thermogenic effect which happens naturally with eating as the process of digestion requires energy.  Of our primary sources of energy (protein, carbohydrate, fat and alcohol), protein boosts the metabolism the most as it takes the most energy to digest.  Protein not only has the greatest thermogenic effect, but it also helps optimize metabolism by promoting lean body mass.  When protein rich foods are eaten throughout the day as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle, muscle is promoted and protected.  Having muscle and achieving and maintaining a lean body will keep your metabolism running high.  This is because the muscle in our bodies is really good as turning food into energy (as opposed to storing it as unwanted body fat).  The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will run.  A high running metabolism is helpful with maintaining a healthy body weight and more.

Examples of quality protein sources include (and are not limited to) the following.

  • Lean meat and poultry,
  • Fish and seafood,
  • Nuts, nut butters and legumes,
  • Egg white,
  • Many low fat or non fat dairy foods like skim milk, Greek yogurt and string cheese.


Boost your metabolism with protein rich meals and snacks like these.

  • Breakfast - Peanut butter and banana rolled in a whole grain tortilla. Water to drink.
  • Lunch- Salad made with mixed greens, fresh vegetables, garbanzo beans, walnuts, sunflower seeds and a hard boiled egg (may use whites only). Skim milk to drink.
  • Supper- Grilled salmon, asparagus, brown rice and fresh berries. Skim milk to drink.
Snack ideas that contain protein- String cheese, dry roasted edamame (soybeans), 1/2 turkey sandwich with mustard, Greek yogurt.



Grilling Season: Beyond Burgers and Chicken

By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

It is outdoor grilling season!  For health seekers this can be a real treat.  The outdoor grill cooks up delicious and healthful meal while getting to enjoy the sunshine, landscape and fresh air.  Burgers (most healthful when made from lean ground beef or turkey) and chicken breasts tend to be a staple in the summer for those who eat smart.  And while these items are quick and easy, people may benefit from more variety to keep their grilled fare interesting and sustainable all summer long. The grill is not just for burgers and chicken breasts.  It is a fabulous backyard appliance that can be used for almost all categories of food.  Not only is it versatile, but also adds flavor and dimension from the cooking method itself (without added fat and salt).  Below are some ideas to please a single diner, a family or a crowd. 

Pizza on the grill- To keep it quick and easy, use premade whole wheat crusts and add toppings of choice. You can also use pita bread for personal size pizzas.  Add toppings to crust. Toppings may include sauce (such as tomato, pesto, barbeque, or plain olive oil), sliced veggies, lean meat like Canadian bacon or diced chicken (or no meat) and a small portion of reduced fat cheese (such as Part-skim mozzarella).  To grill, place the assembled pizza directly on the heated grill and close the lid until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.  Enjoy! Kabobs on the grill- Select your favorite lean meat (such as chicken, pork loin, or sirloin), seafood (such as shrimp) or vegetarian protein (like firm tofu) and cut into large pieces (1-2 inches square, smaller pieces will cook faster).  Marinate the above in a zip lock bag for about 30 minutes or per package or recipe directions.  Mrs. Dash brand marinades are available in local grocery stores and are salt-free and delicious.  In a clean work space, wash and cut pieces of fresh produce.  Examples may include pineapple, onion, colored peppers, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, summer squash, asparagus, zucchini and broccoli.  Thread your ingredients onto skewers, using ample vegetables.  Place directed on heated grill and rotate occasionally until meats are thoroughly cooked and safe to eat.  Enjoy!



Eat Well, Save Time

By Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D

Lack of time often is a very real and significant challenge for many people seeking wellness and working to improve their diets.  People often consider themselves too busy to cook healthy meals on a regular basis.  After all, a healthy lifestyle should include time for exercise and other commitments like a career, duties at home, church activities, volunteering, carpooling, meetings, and so much more.  It often leaves people wondering, who has time to cook a decent meal?  When time is limited, planning and preparing meals ahead can be a great solution.  Instead of preparing meals everyday, prepare several meals at one time.  Freeze any meals to be enjoyed later in the week and simply thaw and cook them as needed.  When successfully preparing several meals at one time, planning is key.  Before going to the grocery store, write one a list of meals for the entire week.  Make a list of meals and all ingredients needed. 

Purchase groceries accordingly. Choose meals for later in the week that freeze well.   At the store, make substitutions for fresh produce and other foods according to what looks best and what is on sale. Planning will save time and money at the grocery store and limit waste.  A sample meal plan follows.

    • Sunday – Orange-glazed salmon, steamed snap peas (from frozen), and orange slices.  Monday – Chili (can heat in the crock pot), crackers, pineapple slices (fresh or canned), and raw veggies.Tuesday- Lemon rosemary chicken (can be done in crock pot), brown rice (reheat, from dry), and steamed asparagus (fresh or frozen). Wednesday – 15 minute tortellini and spinach soup with leftover chicken and asparagus, tossed salad using packaged lettuce (i.e. spring mix), and pear slices (fresh or canned).Thursday – CARRY OUT hard shell tacos, grapes, and baby carrots.Friday –. BBQ pork (crock pot) on whole grain bun, broccoli slaw, and apple slices (or unsweetened apple sauce).
    • Saturday – Lasagna, remaining salad mix, and any remaining fruit (fruit salad). 

 After the shopping is done, a person should put his or her groceries away.  Meats that will not be used by the date noted on the package (i.e. pork loin with the sample meal plan above) can be frozen.  Fresh produce can be washed and prepared (cut, diced, sliced or left whole) so they are recipes ready or ready to eat. This will save time later. At the time of food preparation, people should clean their hands and entire workspace to ensure safe meals.  An example of tasks needed to quickly prepare the above meal plan follows.  

  • Prepare foods Peel and slice fresh pineapple. Store in refrigerator, covered. Slice oranges for this evening’s meal. Cover and refrigerate. Prepare brown rice per package directions, refrigerate. Place skinless chicken breasts in zip lock bag with lemon juice, rosemary, olive oil, onion. Let marinate in refrigerator for 1-2 days. Make extra chicken to use in soup.Prepare 2 pounds of 93% ground beef with one chopped onion until cooked well. Use 1 pound hamburger for lasagna. Prepare lasagna per recipe. Freeze.Use 1 pound hamburger for 3 bean chili. Prepare according to recipe. Refrigerate.Clean your hands and your work space. If possible, ask someone else to set the table! Make salmon (15 minute recipe), snap peas for this evening’s meal.Finish clean up.
  • Enjoy the home cooked and healthful meals, clean kitchen and time!

Quick tip: Save time and limit waste by enjoying leftovers for lunch when possible. 



Eyeball Right-Size Portions

By Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.

What a person eats is very important. How much they eat is also key.  Eating too much of any food will be stored as body fat.  Eating too little of nutrient dense foods may limit the benefits of such selections.  Right sizing portions of a variety of foods will promote a healthier weight and a balanced diet.  While measuring cups and food scales are most accurate, they are not always available or practical.  Eye balling portions can be helpful and done anytime, anywhere. Refer to the list below for examples.


Grain products

1 cup of cereal flakes = fist

1 pancake = compact disc

½ cup cooked rice, pasta or potato = ½ baseball

1 piece of corn bread = bar of soap


Fruits and vegetables

1 cup salad greens = baseball

1 baked potato = fist

1 medium fruit = baseball

½ cup fresh fruit = ½ baseball

¼ cup raisins = large egg

Dairy and cheese

1 ½ oz. natural cheese = 6 dice

½ cup ice cream = ½ baseball

Meat and meat alternatives

3 oz. meat, fish, poultry = deck of cards

3 oz. grilled or baked fish = checkbook

2 Tablespoons peanut butter = ping pong ball

Fat and sugar

1 tsp butter (or margarine) or sugar = 1 finger tip

Above list adapted from & University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.





By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

 Studies show people eat more on the weekend than they do during their work week. These extra weekend calories consumed typically include added fats, sugars and salt.  This may contribute to unwanted weight gain over time and can increase risk for nutrition related health problems.  In the end, even when people eat smart 5 days a week, the results of their efforts can quickly be undone with mindless and excessive eating on the weekend alone.  Identifying an individual’s weekend weakness(es) and negotiating specific resolutions to change is one way a person can overcome habits that hinder their progress towards wellness goals.  With a 7 day commitment to better health, personal goals will more likely be realized.  Common Weekend Weaknesses and Possible ResolutionsWeakness: Snacking on the go (i.e. in the car). Resolutions:

  • Ask yourself. “I am really hungry?” and “what can I afford (in terms of calories)?”
  • Plan ahead and bring your own on the go snack. Examples may include fruit, baby carrots, almonds, dried cereal, or string cheese.

Weakness: Eating out… more often and more indulgently. Resolutions:

  • Do your homework. Order smart. Include nutrition as a factor. Smart-size your meal. Share, ask for lunch portions, or take half home.Say “no thanks” to the extras if they are a challenge for you (i.e. chips). If you bring home take out remember to balance it with fruits and vegetables (skip the fries, grab raw veggies instead). Eat out less often.
  • Choose restaurants where you can succeed.

Weakness: Big meals are a weekend tradition for many. Resolutions: Control portions.

  • Put leftovers away immediately; freeze for later in the week. Prioritize and indulge responsibly.
  • Make big family meals more about family and less about the meal.

Weakness: The extras (appetizers, desserts, snacks). Resolutions:

  • Share with friends. Control portions (do not eat chips directly from the bag). Order/choose less often. Prioritize your indulgences.
  • Chew sugarless gum instead.

Weakness: Calories from beverages. Resolutions:

  • Order non-caloric beverages like tea, water and/or diet soft drinks. If you want to enjoy alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation and choose simple drinks like a light beer or a glass of wine (about 90 calories) instead of more complicated drinks like margaritas (300-500 calories), etc. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water or dilute wine with sparkling water.
  • Limit refills on pop, etc.



By Chris Jacobson, RD, LD

When working to improve nutrition, people should not only consider what they need to limit or avoid but also what they should include more often in terms of food selections.  “Superfoods” are the “all stars” of healthy eats.  Superfoods are not only healthy but are also delicious and can add variety, interest and flavor to our meals and snacks.  They are the foods people should eat more often to protect and optimize nutritional health.  While superfoods are amazing as individual foods, our diets will only be “super” when they become a regular part of an overall healthful eating pattern.  Below are the “top ten best foods” identified by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (2009).


  1. Sweet potatoes - contain carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
  2. Grape tomatoes (and other tomatoes) - contain vitamin C, vitamin A, phytochemicals and fiber.
  3. Skim milk - provides calcium, vitamin D, other vitamins and protein without harmful fats.
  4. Broccoli - contains vitamin C, carotenoids and folic acid.
  5. Wild salmon – contains protein and is rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
  6. Crisp breads (whole grain rye crackers) - typically contain no added fats and are rich in naturally occurring fiber.
  7. Brown rice (includes quick cook brown rice) - contains fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, copper, zinc and phytochemicals.
  8. Citrus fruits – contain vitamin C, folic acid and fiber.
  9. Butternut squash – contains vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber.
  10. Spinach and kale – contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, lutein and phytochemicals.   


A SUPER meal idea: Baked wild salmon brushed with low sodium soy sauce and orange juice, steamed broccoli with red pepper flakes, brown rice and fresh orange slices.

A SUPER snack idea:  Garlic hummus spread on crisp bread topped with quartered grape tomatoes and/or a glass of skim milk.

A SUPER tip: use healthful food preparations (and recipes) when getting superfoods ready to eat.



Lower Cholesterol with Phytosterols

By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

The first approach to lower blood cholesterol should be a heart healthy diet. This is best done by replacing unhealthy fats (trans and saturated) with healthy ones (omega 3 fatty acids, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), and increase dietary fiber by eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Additionally, it is wise to be physically active and work towards achieving and/or maintaining a healthy body weight. If these strategies are not enough, a person can try adding dietary sources of phytosterols consistently in his or her diet and at a level that is recommended.

Phytosterols are found in plants. Because phytosterols have a structure that is similar to cholesterol, when they are eaten they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive system. As a result, cholesterol absorption is blocked, and blood cholesterol levels are lowered.  In addition to a conventional heart healthy diet, consuming phytosterols in recommended quantities has been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol). Based on benefits demonstrated by the consistent consumption of phytosterols, The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends people with high cholesterol consume 2 grams of phytosterols each day. Phytosterols occur naturally in some plant foods (such as vegetable oil, nuts, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables). However, the intake of phytosterols from these food sources is not enough to lower cholesterol. Many manufacturers now fortify foods with therapeutic doses of phytosterols and promote them as cholesterol lowering products. The following list includes some common foods and dietary supplements fortified with phytosterols.

  • Benecol spread
  • Benecol Light spread
  • Lifetime Low Fat Block Cheese
  • Lifetime Low Fat Cheese Slices
  • Minute Maid Heart Wise Orange Juice
  • Oroweat Whole Grain and Oat bread
  • Promise active spread
  • Promise activ Light spread
  • Rice Dream Heart Wise Rice Milk (original or vanilla)
  • Smart Balance Heart Right Buttery Spread
  • Smart Balance Heart Right Light Buttery Spread
  • Silk Heart Health Vanilla Soymilk


Comparison Shop and Be Selective 

By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

Many times people look at the price of food and beverages before they place items in their cart and take them home.  It’s a good idea, especially with so many options available.  Many people know what they like, know what they need, know about how much money they can afford to spend and they select accordingly.  This practice is helpful to people and families who need to stay within a budget while getting their basic needs and preferences met.  By taking this process one step further, people can also improve on their personal wellness by selecting better choices in each of their favorite food categories.  Take commercially made breads for example.  In many stores a shopper has a huge variety to choose from, even at different price points.  Typically, it is easy to see how different breads vary in color, base ingredients and price.  A shopper must take a closer look to understand how products differ in nutrition.  While the nutritional differences among breads may go unnoticed at the store, it is important to know they will not go unnoticed in the body.  Even small differences in like products can add up to make a significant impact on a person’s nutritional wellness over time.  Making informed selections helps to ensure such an impact is a positive one. 

People should make nutrition part of their selection process.  To save time, shoppers should first identify a few similar products that “look good” to them and are within their budget.  Next they should compare the nutrition facts panel on each individual package and select the most healthful.  If none of the products are consistent with their personal wellness goals they should broaden their search, if possible. 

When comparing the nutrition facts label of products, consider the following;

  • Understand the serving size of the product and make adjustments for portions different from the serving size listed.
  • Select products that are appropriate for calories.
  • Select products that limit saturated fat and sodium.
  • Select products with no trans fat.
  • Select products with fiber.
  • Select products which contain healthful nutrients, such as vitamin A,

vitamin C, calcium and iron.

  • Review the ingredient list for quality.  Select products which avoid added hydrogenated oils and limit added sugars.




Chocolate… How Sweet Is It?

By Christine Jacobson, R.D, L.D.

 It is February so it just seems fitting to explore and explain the nutritional aspects of chocolate. After all, we probably have all heard from the media and others that chocolate provides health benefits, right? It is true. Milk and dark chocolate are made from cocoa beans which contain large amounts of plant chemicals that provide heath benefits to our bodies. Specifically, they help protect us from heart disease by lowering blood pressure, inflammation, platelet clotting and the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol). Chocolates also provide healthful dietary copper and magnesium. These are all good things!

Given this, when selecting chocolate with health in mind, choose those with the most cocoa (the highest percentage) that you will enjoy. Milk chocolate products made with a low percentage of cocoa will not provide the same health benefits discussed above. In this case, the cocoa is diluted with other ingredients and therefore the health benefits are also diluted. Also know that white chocolate does not contain cocoa at all so none of the health BENEFITS of chocolate discussed above applies. Before improving your heath by loading up on chocolate, it is very important to know that chocolate is loaded with both fat and calories. Just one ounce of dark chocolate (a relatively small piece) provides about 160 calories and 8 grams of total fat. Practice careful portion control with this potentially healthful indulgence or the benefits will be greatly overshadowed by the health consequences of weight gain. 



Avoid Trans Fats for Heart Health

By Christine Jacobson, RD, LD

Trans fats are a type of dietary fat that is typically man-made (or artificial). While most trans fats are man-made, there are small amounts of trans fats that are considered natural as they occur naturally in beef and dairy foods. Man-made trans fats are created when hydrogen gas reacts with liquid oil causing it to become stiff and hard. Trans fats are commonly included in commercially made pastries, donuts, cookies, crackers, icing, potato chips, stick margarine, margarine spreads, microwave popcorn, and other processed foods. About 80 percent of trans fats in the American diet come from man-made partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.Many food manufacturers started using trans fats in their processed products a couple of decades ago to help promote a longer shelf life. For example, a potato chip made with trans fat will look pristine and stay fresh-tasting and crisp longer when trans fats are used.  Health experts and researchers have since learned that trans fats are a harmful substance in our food supply as they raise the risk of heart disease, increase total cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol (HDL). Trans fats cause harm to the human body because they are hard fats. The harder the fat, the more it will clog arteries which can ultimately lead to a heart attack or stroke. While saturated fat and animal fat should be limited in the diet for similar reasons, trans fats are worse. Ideally, trans fats should be avoided as even in small amounts trans fat can cause damage. In addition to being harmful, we now know they are also not helpful. In other words, trans fats do not provide anything the body needs.                 

People should read nutrition facts labels on processed foods to identify trans fats so they can be avoided. Reading the ingredients portion of the label is especially important as manufactures can call their products "trans fat-free" and list zero grams of trans fat if there is less than 0.5 grams in one serving. Reading labels and selecting foods without ingredients like hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils is the only way of knowing harmful trans fats have not been added.  




Fish for Omega-3’s

By Christine Jacobson, RD, LD

Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that should be included as a regular part of an overall healthful diet. Eating omega-3’s from marine food sources like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and quality fish oil supplements) is best as they contain higher amounts of EPA and DHA (two types of omega-3’s). EPA and DHA are long chain polyunsaturated fats that are almost exclusively found in marine life. Some fish have more EPA and DHA than others. Typically cold water fish have the most as they tend to be fattiest. It is important to include sources of EPA and DHA in the diet as they promote heart health. Both the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association recommend that Americans eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week, totaling about 8 ounces of seafood to provide a beneficial supply of EPA and DHA.  Research studying the effects of eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids not only has demonstrated benefits to heart health but also suggests additional benefits to the body including benefits to the brain and possible protection from certain types of cancer. 


Mediterranean Salmon


Vegetable oil spray
4 salmon fillets (about 4 ounces each)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
14 ounce can stewed tomatoes

1 can whole black olives, drained (optional)

Cooking Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray a 13x9-inch baking pan with vegetable oil spray.

Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels.

In a small bowl, combine the Italian seasoning, oil and pepper. Brush the seasoning mixture over both sides of the fish.

To assemble, pour the stewed tomatoes in the baking pan, covering the bottom. Add olives. Place the salmon on top in a single layer. Lightly mist with vegetable oil spray.

Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve over no-yolk wide egg noodles or whole grain pasta tossed in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Serves 4.



By Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.


Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. There are many factors relating to diet that affect one’s risk for developing this disease. Traditional dietary recommendations that are generally agreed upon as part of a heart healthy diet by health professionals and researchers include the following;

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid trans fat.
  • Eat only minimal amounts of saturated fat.
  • Eat high fiber foods.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat less added sugar (including foods and beverages with added sugar).


Additional and more contemporary recommendations to promote heart health with diet and lifestyle include (and are not limited to) the following.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are definitely beneficial. Eating omega-3’s from marine food sources like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and quality fish oil supplements) is best as they contain higher amounts of EPA and DHA (two types of omega-3’s). 
  • Foods containing phytosterols (plant sterols, plant stanols) are beneficial. Foods with naturally occurring phytosterols and those fortified with phytosterols (such as Benechol spread) are relatively new diet therapy to lower bad cholesterol (LDL). If you have high cholesterol, consider eating 2 grams of phytosterols daily. Eating enough of them (about 2 grams per day) consistently is very important.
  • Soy foods are possibly beneficial. When reviewing a large body of research, studies do not tend to agree on soy’s ability or inability to positively affect risk factors for heart disease. It is best to eat soy if you enjoy it as soy is a generally healthful food may provide some protective benefits. Do not depend on it alone to reduce your risk of heart disease.


  • Tea is possibly beneficial. Tea is rich with the antioxidant (polyphenol) that has been linked with a decrease in several chronic diseases including heart disease.  It is helpful to know that most of the research on tea has been done on green tea.  Enjoy tea as part of an overall healthful diet.  If you are sensitive to caffeine, try decaffeinated tea. Do not depend on tea alone to reduce your risk of heart disease.  


Stay tuned for upcoming articles at for more information on omega 3 fatty acids, phytosterols and trans fats.


The above article was adapted from: Eating Heart Smart By Marie Spano, MS, RD Today’s Dietitian Vol. 9 No. 2 P. 28


Cooking for a Healthy Weight

By Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.

Eating at home can be a helpful strategy when working to achieve and maintain a healthier weight.  When people cook for themselves they have more control over ingredients, preparation methods, and portions.  Such factors can impact the healthfulness of a meal, how much is consumed and the total energy and nutrition it provides.  Eating the right amount of energy (calories) from a variety of foods as an overall healthful diet will support progress towards a healthier weight.  Important considerations when cooking for a healthy weight follow.

Shop smart:

  • Plan ahead
  • Keep meal plans simple
  • Include a variety of foods
  • Choose healthful ingredients
  • When possible, select foods that are minimally processed
  • Read food labels

Prepare healthfully:

  • Choose recipes that are healthful
  • Use healthy cooking methods (such as broil, grill, bake, boil, slow cook)
  • Add flavor with spices, herbs, broth
  • Limit added fat, sugar and salt
  • Make healthful substitutions (such as using low fat dairy products)

Enjoy a balanced diet:

  • Eat balanced meals and snacks throughout the day
  • Eat a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthful fats
  • Enjoy right-size portions
  • Drink beverages with minimal or no added sugar and/or fats (examples of best choices include water and skim milk)
  • Stop eating when full



A New Year, A New You

By Chris Jacobson R.D., L.D.

The New Year is a popular time to resolve to improve one’s life.  The changes you make not only can have a positive impact on you but also on your family. Resolve to be a healthier family in 2011 and consider practicing the following healthful habits until they become a part of your lifestyle.


  • Eat right-size portions of foods and beverages.
  • Eat breakfast everyday.
  • Offer at least one vegetable at lunch and supper.
  • Offer fruit at every meal.
  • Select 100% whole grain products more often (like brown rice, cereals and breads).
  • Make water or low fat milk (like skim milk) available at meals.
  • Try one seafood and/or vegetarian meal each week.
  • Include your kids when planning and preparing one meal per week.
  • Eat meals at the table. Turn off the TV and enjoy meals as a family.
  • Be a positive example. Kids notice.
  • Be active more often. Play!


Family Wellness Challenges for 2011…

  • Try a vegetable you have never tasted every week (or month).
  • Try a fruit you have never (or rarely) tasted every week (or month).
  • Try a new activity every week (or month) as a family (like sledding, yoga and freeze tag). 

Happy New Year!


Christmas Dinner

By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

Enjoying a holiday meal without over eating can be a challenge given all of the delicious options available at most gatherings.  The key is to enjoy right size portions and prioritize indulgences.  Be especially mindful and selective when it comes to appetizers, drinks and desserts as they may be higher in calories and tend to have little impact on our satiety (feeling of fullness) at holiday feasts.  Savor a favorite in each category.  An example of a delicious and balanced Christmas dinner that won’t add pounds to the scale follows. 

  • Wine (4 oz glass) 96 calories. Red wine offers more healthy antioxidants. 
  • Turkey(about 3 oz, skinless white meat) 107 calories. Turkey is a lean protein.  White meat is lower in calories and saturated fat. 
  • Gravy (2 tablespoons) 16 calories.
  • Stuffing (1/2 cup) 170 calories.
  • Green beans tossed with lemon juice, bacon pieces and seasoning (1/2 cup) 35 calories.
  • Pumpkin pie (1 slice without whipped cream) 316 calories. Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A. Pumpkin pie tends to be lower in calories than other pies. 

 Meal total: 740 calories

Calorie Information of More Common Holiday Foods

Adapted from article Holiday Food Shockers by Elizabeth Daeninick, MS, RD 12/06, updated 11/07


  Roasted Turkey - 6 oz mixed meat, untrimmed:

350 calories

  1 cup stuffing:

340 calories

  3/4 cup turkey w/ gravy

375 calories

  1 cup mashed potatoes:

240 calories

  3/4 cup candied sweet potatoes:

365 calories

  1 cup green bean casserole:

180 calories

  1/2 cup cranberry sauce:

210 calories

  1 roll with butter:

120 calories

  2 glasses wine, punch or cider:

200-250 calories

  1 slice pumpkin pie without whipped cream

315 calories

  1 slice pecan pie:

500 calories

  1 cup Egg Nog:

400 calories

  1 serving (3.5 oz) peanut brittle:

485 calories

  Lindt chocolate truffle ball:

80-90 calories

  2 shots (3 fl oz) liqueur:

300 calories

  2 small shortbread cookies (1.2 oz):

120 calories

  2 small pieces fudge (1.2 oz):

140 calories

Merry Christmas!


Food Journaling

By Chris Jacobson R.D., L.D.

A food journal (diary) is a record of everything a person eats and drinks over time.  A person can use online tools, printed journals or a standard notebook to organize and store the information.  A person may also just write the information on scrap paper or come up with his or her own format.  No matter the method, experts agree that food journaling is very helpful. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, "record keeping is one of the most successful behavioral techniques for weight loss and maintenance."  According to the Harvard School of Public Health, "It's easy to eat more than you plan to. A daily food diary makes you more aware of exactly how much you are eating."

In our culture, people must be selective and learn to eat mindfully when managing their weight and nutritional health.  This is especially important during the holiday season when more treats are available and unplanned opportunities to indulge become something we can plan on.  Food journaling helps people be more selective and mindful with their eating, and as a byproduct, they are more likely to make progress towards their goals.  It is important to understand that a person’s food journal does not need to reflect “perfect eating.”  Instead, food journals are most helpful when they reflect “accurate eating.”  When they are reasonably accurate, food journals reinforce knowledge, help monitor progress and identify opportunities for improvement.  They do not need to contain every last detail of a person’s diet but should include basic and relevant information about what a person is working on in terms of his or her nutritional health.  People can keep their food journals simple and still experience great rewards.

The following basic information may be included in a food journal to detect eating patterns;

  • the date, time and/or place of food and beverage items eaten,
  • quantity of food and beverages eaten,
  • feelings while eating,
  • physical activity.


QUICK TIP: People should keep their food journals handy so information can be easily recorded throughout the day.  This will not only save time but also improve accuracy.






Holiday Weight Gain

By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D. 

With the extra food, excitement, stress and distractions that come with the holiday season, it becomes easy to overeat and spoil personal wellness goals.  While the holiday season tends to be a popular time to take a break from healthful habits, it may also be the most important time to stick with them.  The holiday season alone accounts for about half of the weight gained over an entire year.  It is helpful to understand that research shows adult weight gain usually happens slowly, over time.  For many, a couple pounds of weight gain each year (half from the holiday season) becomes a twenty pound weight gain over a decade.  In the end, despite good intentions, weight gained during the holiday season does not usually go away after the New Year.  Research shows that body composition also changes during the holidays (body fat increases and lean muscle decreases) making future weight management more challenging.  For those who do lose their holiday pounds, unfavorable changes in body composition do not typically improve.  Avoiding weight gain during the holidays will serve those seeking wellness best not just come January but all year long, and longer.

What to do…

  • Write down what you eat in a food journal or using on-line tools.
  • Make changes in your home, work, and eating environments to reduce the number of opportunities you have to over eat (and drink).
  • Prioritize your indulgences. Pick your favorite, enjoy it and move on.
  • Pay attention. Say “no thank you” when you are offered food and are not hungry.
  • Maintain a regular exercise program during the holiday season.

More Real Life Solutions…

  • Don’t go to a dinner or a party hungry, especially if there is a buffet.
  • Remind yourself how you would like to feel at the end of the night. Do you want to feel energetic or sluggish?
  • Allow yourself to drink alcoholic beverages at your celebration, if desired, but don’t drink more than two.
  • Drink water between caloric or alcoholic drinks.
  • Work sweets and holiday treats into your plan.
  • Add more fruits, vegetables, and foods high in moisture to your holiday mix.
  • Help your host clean up after a holiday meal, it will keep you moving instead of sitting. 



The Gift of Good Health

By Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.

This holiday season consider giving gifts that encourage life long wellness.  Below are thoughtful gift ideas that promote positive nutrition along with the enjoyment of food and movement.  Keep these gift ideas in mind when writing a personal wish list as well.  After all, below are gifts that will continue to give healthfully in 2011 when resolutions are declared. 

Food gifts for the host or hostess

  • A bowl of bing cherries.  Tip: place cherries in a hand painted ceramic bowl or pottery dish.  For a more economical package, use a festive disposable food container.  Package the gift like a fruit basket with clear plastic and tie with a ribbon.  
  • A small crate of Clementines.  Tip: embellish with a small ornament, gift tag and ribbon.
  • A bottle of red wine.


For the teacher;

  • The children’s book I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child with a bookmark made by his or her student.
  • A reusable water or sports bottle.  Tip: fill it with scratch and sniff stickers, new highlighters or a homemade bookmark.
  • A package of microwave popcorn and the animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas on DVDTip: read nutrition labels and select microwave popcorn with no trans fat and little or no saturated fat.


For the cook;

  • A slow cooker (available in a variety of sizes).  Tip: Include your favorite slow cooker recipe as the gift tag.
  • Flexible cutting boards.
  • A cookbook.  Tip: select a cookbook with nutrition facts listed for each recipe.


For the grill master;

  • A cedar plank for salmon.  Tip: Include a simple grilled salmon recipe as the gift tag.
  • A vegetable grilling pan.  Tip: include a vegetable grilling guide (downloadable from the internet). 
  • A meat thermometer. 


For someone who loves to read;

  • The book Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner.
  • A subscription to a food or health related magazine like Cooking Light or Self.
  • A handcrafted bookmark made from a recipe card. Tip: include a special handwritten recipe.


For the active person;

  • A gift card for downloadable music.
  • A speedometer or stop watch.  Tip: include an inspirational quote on the gift tag.
  • A subscription to a sports or fitness magazine.





“Break the Fast” With Breakfast

By Chris Jacobson R.D., L.D.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I am confident that most of you have heard that message before.  It’s true.  Breakfast is a crucial part of a balanced and healthful diet.  In fact, breakfast is a common denominator of many scientific studies that look at the habits of healthy people, those who are able to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight, and/or of people who regularly eat enough fiber.  Studies also demonstrate that people who eat breakfast tend to perform better at school, at work and at play.   Yet breakfast tends to be the meal that gets skipped or skimped on most frequently.   Many people who attempt to improve their nutritional wellness often tend to focus on cutting back.  Instead, to improve your diet, EAT! Eat a well-balanced and substantial breakfast everyday. 

Breakfast Ideas

  • A bowl of cold cereal with low fat milk and a glass of 100% orange juice. Tip: select cereals that contain whole grains.
  • Cinnamon raisin toast topped with peanut butter and thinly sliced apples.
  • Oatmeal with dried cherries and chopped walnuts.
  • Blueberry toaster waffles cut into strips. Dip in low fat yogurt. Tip: select toaster waffles made with whole grain and real blueberries.
  • A piece of leftover pizza (such as vegetable or Canadian bacon and pineapple).
  • Make your own breakfast trail mix and eat it on the go. Include nuts, whole grain cereal and dried fruit.
  • An English muffin (toasted) with one slice of reduced fat cheese and lean deli meat. Enjoy with fresh fruit or 100% fruit juice. Tip: select 100% whole grain English muffins.
  • An open face bagel sandwich with cooked egg and sautéed green pepper. Tip: select 100% whole grain bagels. Use only egg whites (remove egg yolks) to reduce cholesterol and saturated fat.
  • A PB and B Breakfast Tortilla. See recipe below.

PB and B Breakfast Tortilla

1 Banana
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
1 Whole Wheat Tortilla  

Lay the whole wheat tortilla flat. Evenly spread the peanut butter on one side of the tortilla (avoiding edges). Peel banana. Lay the banana in the peanut butter, and then roll. Pick up and enjoy!  Variations: Use almond butter or soy nut butter. Add raisins. 


A Thanksgiving Meal Your Body Will Be Thankful For

By Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

The Thanksgiving meal has the reputation of leaving participants stuffed fuller than the turkey.  This does not need to be the case.  In fact, with right-sized portions of traditionally served Thanksgiving foods, your body may even thank you for the feast.  After all, many of the traditional foods are very healthful.  An example of a well-balanced Thanksgiving meal with health benefits may include…

  • Turkey – a lean source of quality protein.
  • Cranberry sauce – cranberries provide antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
  • Stuffing – a complex carbohydrate. Quick tip: use 100% whole grain bread to boost fiber and nutrition.
  • Sweet potato – a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin A.
  • Relishes, salad or cooked vegetable – provides fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
  • Pumpkin pie – pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A.

Enjoy the meal and the people you share it with.  While the food is an important part of the holiday, other aspects, like family, are too.  To help move you out of the dining room and encourage you to stop eating when it is appropriate, follow the meal with a planned activity.  Flag football, a walk and/or a bike ride are all activities that will help balance the energy in (calories) with energy out (physical activity).  In addition, calorie-saving tips include…

  • Simplify the menu. The more variety of food offered, the more people eat.  A simple menu (like the one listed above) will save on calories and money.
  • Drink plenty of zero calorie beverages like water, coffee and tea throughout the day.
  • Right-size your portions.  Quick tip: cut the pie into 10-12 pieces instead of 6-8. 

REMEMBER to keep your Thanksgiving meal delicious AND SAFE.

-Wash hands properly and frequently.

-Plan ahead and defrost the turkey in the refrigerator.

-Cook your meats thoroughly. Use a meat thermometer.

-Use separate cutting boards and utensils for preparing meats and produce.

-Place leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours after serving.


Fiber Basics

By Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.

Fiber is not one specific food, but rather the part of edible plants (like fruits, vegetables and whole grains) the body can not digest.  Most Americans would benefit from eating more fiber in their diets.  A fiber-rich diet may help people age-well, feel satisfied, manage their weight and promote bowel regularity and a healthy gut (digestive tract).  There are two types of fiber.  Both are healthful for different reasons.  Soluble fiber is more effective in lowering cholesterol.  It is found in dried beans and grains, such as oat bran, oatmeal and rye.  Almost all fruits, such as apples, grapes, peaches, oranges and pears contain soluble fiber.  Most vegetables also contain soluble fiber.  Insoluble fiber is found in whole grain products, such as whole wheat flour, breads and pastas.  Cereal grains like rice, wild rice and seeds are high in insoluble fiber.  Insoluble fiber also has health benefits, especially with the gut.  Eating an overall healthful diet which includes both soluble and insoluble fiber-rich foods is best.


How much? Women should consume about 25 grams of fiber everyday, men need about 35. For kids (18 years and younger), take their age and add 5 grams. For example, an eight year old should consume about 13 grams of fiber per day (8 years + 5 grams = 13).

Need more? Fiber intake should be increased slowly (a few grams a day every few days and as tolerated). People should drink plenty of fluids when eating a fiber-rich diet.

Examples of fiber-rich foods…

  • oatmeal
  • brown rice
  • whole grain pasta
  • whole grain bread
  • beans
  • 100% whole grains
  • whole grain cereal
  • whole grain seeds like chia and flax
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • nuts


Let’s talk numbers*…                                        

½ avocado, medium = 6.7 g fiber

½ cup winter squash, cooked = 2.4 g fiber

1 pear, medium = 4.5 g fiber                    

1/2 cup baked beans = 5 g fiber             

½ cup All Bran cereal = 10 g fiber         

Oatmeal, average, 1 packet = 3 g fiber   

1 cup brown rice, cooked = 3.5 g fiber

25 almonds (1 oz) = 3.5 g fiber


*Information from the The CalorieKing - Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter (2009 edition).




“Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables”

By Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.

Did your mom ever tell you to “eat your fruits and vegetables”?  Mine did and she was right.  Fruits and vegetables are amazing!  Each one is nature’s work of art, adding color, texture, and dimension to meals and snacks.  Not only are they beautiful and interesting, they are also very nutritious.  In fact, the produce section of the grocery store doubles as a health food section.  Fruits and vegetables, as part of an overall healthy diet, may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.  Fruits and vegetables tend to be lower in calories and contain fiber which is a helpful combination for those wanting to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.  Fruits and vegetables are also important sources of many healthful nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium. Vitamin A prevents night blindness, fights infection and may reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Vitamin C helps to heal cuts, promotes healthy skin, fights infections and helps the body absorb iron from food.  Because vitamin C is not stored in the body, it is best to eat foods rich in vitamin C every day.  Potassium may lower blood pressure, promote heart health and may help prevent kidney stones.

Many fruits and vegetables are available year around.  However, when you eat those in season, there are few foods more delicious.  Choosing fruits and vegetables that are in season can help keep fresh produce economical as they tend to cost less when they are most abundant.  During autumn, in season fruits and vegetables include the following:

  • Acorn squash
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Cranberries
  • Endive
  • Grapes
  • Guava
  • Kohlrabi
  • Kumquats
  • Mushrooms
  • Pears
  • Pomegranate
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash

Note: The above list was adapted from  Refer to the website for a more comprehensive list of seasonal fruits and vegetables. 



Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.

Trick or treat is a night when kids load up on candy and other low nutrient foods. For parents, managing how our kids eat their bucket of sweet treats can get sticky. After all, we are the ones escorting our kids door to door gathering these goodies. It hardly seems fair not to let them enjoy the treats when they are done. As a dietitian and mother of three (ages 5, 6, and 8), I consider Halloween an opportunity for my kids to learn how to indulge appropriately and practice other healthful habits. It also serves as an example of why eating well most of the time and being active is so important. Some people may be surprised, because I am a dietitian that my kids get to participate in trick or treat night at all. They do because it is fun and because my husband and I help our kids manage their kid’s sugar stash that works well for our family and may for yours too.


We plan to take our kids door to door trick for treating one night and in one town. This allows for the chance to participate but does not create access to additional opportunities to load up on candy and dilute the activity. When offered candy, we ask our kids to only take one piece which helps limit the amount they collect and gives them practice developing good manners.

We do not make inappropriate comments about how the treats we help them gather will “rot their teeth” and “make them fat.” Instead, we consider it an occasion for our kids to collect tasty treats and teach enjoyment in moderation rather than promote an unhealthy relationship with food. Having that been said, I do admit that when someone gives our kids an item like a fun pencil or play-dough, I can not help but smile and do a silent cheer.

When we get home (and after inspecting the treats for safety) our kids will be allowed to eat as much as they want and stop when they decide they are done. This is not a challenge for them to eat as much as they can, but rather an opportunity for them to sort and enjoy their treats, as they wish, and for us, the parents, to not make it a bigger deal than it is. They will also be allowed to discard any treats they do not care to eat.

Our kids will eat their treats in the kitchen where our meals are eaten. They will practice the healthful habit of eating at the table and not in front of the television or computer, especially while consuming high energy and low nutrient foods like candy. When they are finished, they will be responsible for their own garbage and brush their teeth. Their candy will be stored in the kitchen.  The next day, our kids are allowed to eat candy as desired in the kitchen, but not to replace meals.

After that, they get to pick one treat per day and choose when they eat it. They can eat it after breakfast, pack it with their lunch; or eat it as a snack, the decision is theirs to make. They understand our expectations and will be reminded if they request another piece, “that looks delicious but you already ate your Halloween treat for today so you can choose that one tomorrow if you want.”  Eventually, our kids stop asking for their treats (or run out), and after awhile the candy goes away without questions asked.

This is what we do and what I recommend other parents of healthy, active kids to consider as well. Certainly you can make adaptations to the above to better fit your life and expectations. Just keep in mind that treats are not “bad,” they are “treats” and should be enjoyed as “treats” rather than a regular part of our diet. This way, on trick or treat night, we can allow our kids to indulge knowing that it is an exception and, if active, we can be confident those extra calories consumed will be burned as energy. Happy Halloween!

10 non-food treats to offer at your house…

  • Mini play-dough containers
  • Stickers
  • Pencil grippers
  • Fun temporary tattoos
  • Punch balloons
  • A cool toothbrush
  • An orange peeler
  • Chapstick
  • Pencils
  • Quarters or coins


Portion Distortion

By:  Christine Jacobson, RD, LD

Portion distortion refers to one portion of a food or beverage which actually contains two, three or more servings. In other words, it’s A LOT of food or drink. So what is the problem with generous portions? Food tastes good so the more the better, right? Portion distortion is not just a problem, it is a big problem. In this country, beginning in the 1960's, the portion size of foods and beverages has increased significantly. In grocery stores and restaurants, in recipes in cookbooks, portions have gotten bigger. Because portion distortion has become so prevalent, large portions are often expected and seem normal. The average size of plates, bowls and drinking glasses have also grown in recent decades. Even the cup holders in vehicles have been redesigned to accommodate the almost bucket sized cups of beverages available on the go. As a result of these modifications, Americans have gotten bigger too. People tend to gage what they should eat with how much they are served. So even if a person knows the portion of a food is too big, he or she is still likely to over consume. While portion distortion is not the only contributor to our nation’s obesity epidemic or why someone becomes overweight, it is significant. It is time to right-size food and beverage portions. Here’s how.

  • Learn what and how much you should be eating. Need help? Talk to a registered dietitian or participate in local wellness programs like Healthy U at the Community Y of Marshalltown.
  • Use the Nutrition Facts Label on food packages to determine serving size. Weigh or measure your food to determine your portion (and calories consumed).
  • When possible, use nutrition facts for restaurant meals. 
  • Buy high calorie treats in smaller packages.
  • Don’t clean your plate. Restaurant meals are generally too big. Take half home and enjoy your selection again tomorrow.
  • At restaurants, order a small portion, share with a friend, ask for petite cuts of meat, make healthful substitutions and/or order a kid-sized meal.
  • Remember liquid calories count and refills add up fast.
  • Make healthful substitutions in recipes.
  • Enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Put the food away. Take one serving and put the rest away.
  • Be mindful of your eating. Eat at the table and not in front of the TV or while distracted. Stop eating when you are full.
  • Use smaller plates, serving spoons, utensils, cups, etc.
  • Offer less variety of high calorie and/or low nutrient foods.


The Importance of Eating Together

By:  Christine Jacobson, R.D., L.D.

While making the time to eat together as a family can be challenging, research continues to make evident the value in doing so. According to research, children who eat with their families:

  • Are more likely to have healthier diets
  • Are more likely to eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Are less likely to drink soda
  • Are less likely to eat fried foods when eating away from home
  • Have better academic scores
  • Have increased self-esteem.

While the benefits of eating together are clear, enjoying a homemade meal and pleasant conversation at the dinner table is not always easy. After all, the realities of life often include working parents, challenging schedules, athletic events and practices, extracurricular activities, homework, church, and let’s face it, screen time (such as facebook, television and/or video games). Often, it is just easier to adopt the “come and go, eat when you can” approach to mealtime. While this may solve the complicated logistics of getting family members fed, the very real benefits of eating together are lost. The question becomes, how can busy families do both, eat together and keep up? The solution is to make family meals a priority and keep them simple.

Make a commitment to eating as a family. With all of the other demands and “things” competing for our time, the reality is, if parents do not decide family meals will be a part of their usual routine, they probably won’t be.

Meal time does not need to be elaborate to be healthful. Strategies for busy families include:

  • Plan ahead. Plan meals for the week, including the best time to eat as a family. This will save time in making those decisions later on. It will also simplify the process which means less time managing schedules and deciding what to make at the last minute.
  • Cook once for two or more meals. When there is time to prepare a home-cooked meal, double the recipe and freeze half for another day. Or, using the example of tacos and spaghetti, cook double the lean ground beef (including common ingredients like minced onion). Use half of the meat mixture to prepare tacos and the other half for spaghetti to enjoy the next evening. Not only is time saved on food preparation, but also on clean up and dirty dishes.
  • Have “no cook meals” ready for when time is very limited. Sandwiches made with 100% whole grain bread and lean deli meats spiced up with spreads (like mustard, hummus or reduced fat mayo) can suffice. In addition, make available ready to eat vegetables (like baby carrots) and fresh fruits (like grapes). Serve with low fat milk and a complete, well balanced meal is ready in minutes. 

Remember, when it comes to family meals, the key is eating together.



Be Selective, Eat Mindfully

Christine Jacobson R.D., L.D.


My name is Christine Jacobson. I am a mother of three school-aged kids, a member of this community and registered dietitian at the Community Y of Marshalltown.  I look forward to contributing the nutrition content for this website, Pioneering Healthier Communities. My goal in doing so is to share simple, sensible and economical strategies regarding well balanced diets, lifestyle behaviors and a positive relationship with food. In doing so, I hope to inspire progress towards a healthier community and promote the enjoyment of healthful eating, one member and one food selection at a time.

Please know that some of the recommendations, strategies and ideas I contribute may be a better fit for you than others. Everyone cannot and will not do everything, all of the time, but you can change some things. In doing so, be intentional. Choose to change and practice behaviors that you can fit into your lifestyle and that are consistent with your wellness goals. With repetition, they will become what you do. Sustainability and satisfaction are essential. No matter how healthful a food or behavior may be, if you do not practice it, you will not benefit from it. The good news; there are endless small but significant behaviors and healthful foods we can select, modify and negotiate to better fit our limitations and realities. Many of the concepts I plan to cover are not new. My mom, like many of yours, told me to “eat your vegetables” and I plan to tell you to do the same. After all, it is good advice. We need to get back to the basics and become more deliberate with our food selections. We have so many choices and opportunities to eat in our culture, that if we do not become mindful and selective, we will likely over consume. Strategies to encourage mindful eating include;

  • Limit distractions. Eat at the kitchen table when possible, and not at your computer or on the couch. Turn off your television during meals. Instead, enjoy quality conversation and the food in front of you.
  • Slow down. By slowing down, you allow your body time to feel full and cue you to stop eating when it is appropriate.
  • Savor your food. Enjoy each bite. Notice the appearance of your food selections, the texture, the flavors and tastes. By doing so, you are present in your meal experience and gain enjoyment and satisfaction, more appropriately. It may keep you from consuming food for reasons other than physical hunger. 


Be mindful. Be selective. Be intentional. Do not just consume. Overconsumption (especially from so many of the foods so widely available – foods high in salt, high in added sugar and high in unwanted fats) can be harmful. Doing so promotes obesity and/or may increase the risk of nutrition-related disease. Instead enjoy your food selections appropriately and the nutritional benefits that come with doing so.