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Neily’s Rockin’ Health Trail Mix – You’ll love it!

It’s time to update a post from a few years ago about my homemade trail mix. I’ve Neily's trail mixbeen making this for years and if you’re a client (or friend or family member) or if you have attended a talk I’ve given, you likely received a bag (or three) of Neily’s Rockin’ Health Trail Mix. I came up with the idea at the request of a client looking for a healthier afternoon snack, something other than plain nuts.
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Homemade 4-Bean Soup – in honor of National Homemade Soup Day!

I love Mondays! Really I do—especially because I work for myself. My boss is the best!

One of the reasons for my love of Mondays is Meatless Mondays! After enjoying a beautifully cooked steak and piece of salmon Sunday during my friend Walker’s Super Bowl party, it was time to lay low on the animal protein. (Love that about being a flexitarian—I don’t deny myself red meat, it’s my occasional treat.)

Walker super bowl party

I volunteered to bring soup to Walker’s party—perfect time of year for that. AND this week there is a special day for homemade soup. Join me in celebrating National Homemade Soup Day today won’t you? Continue reading

Are you “hypoglycemic” or do you just need to have a snack?!

Fruit and Nut Granola Bars - nutrition babes

Mid-afternoon snacks—Interview with The Nutrition Babes

The Nutrition Babes ( and I had the opportunity to meet in Philadelphia at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual conference in October, 2012.

Kathy Siegel, RD, CDN and Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RD are registered dietitians passionate about better health through balanced nutrition, exercise, and cleaner living.

They had a lot to say when I asked them about what to do when people get that mid-afternoon slump. (To see the video interview, scroll to bottom or click here.)

Neily: Over the years I’ve had patients and clients tell me how fatigued they are, light-headed­—they claim they’re “hypoglycemic”.  It often happens mid-afternoon. I tell them I think you just need to eat.
Kathy: Absolutely…
Neily: Tell me about some ideas of what to eat.
Kathy:   This is a big problem. This is when everyone is headed towards the candy bowl—I am just going to grab something little now…But we have to plan and prepare a little bit before we get to that point.You are having more of an early lunch and yes around 3 o’ clock that’s when you really start hitting it. You have to incorporate a snack because there is no way you are going to be able to go from lunch to dinner. And if you don’t incorporate that snack you are going to end up driving home, getting home and that’s it. You’re heading towards the cabinet or refrigerator and grabbing the first thing there.You want to have a healthy dinner and want to be able to prepare it when you get home.  You need to incorporate that snack when you are not so hungry in the evening. We have some great ideas for high fiber, high protein snacks. Lauren, maybe you want to discuss that.
Lauren: Definitely. We have so many snacks.  Again protein and fiber so easy… a little preparedness and just bring it with you.In a little cooler you can have some whole wheat crackers with a little bit of low-fat cheese or some edamame (boiled soybeans) —its a high protein and high fiber snack all by itself.Something like cottage cheese with some berries or Greek yogurt with berries. Or even Greek yogurt by itself is going to have enough protein. The berries are going to have the fiber. Or a little high fiber cereal you can sprinkle in.We have a lot of recipes on our website that are great little snacks. We have make-your-own granola bars—you can play with the ingredients however you want. But we have got fruits, nuts and oats and it makes a great little package when you play with the amount of sugar you want in it. You can really control it (what you eat) instead of purchasing something in the store.

There are great little mini-muffin recipes. We sub out Greek yogurt for a lot of oil or applesauce for oil. We always use whole wheat flour and fruits and sometimes nuts. Again, you get the protein, the fiber and they are really yummy. With a little preparation, you can come up with some great snacks. You just have to think ahead.

Kathy: That is the key: the planning. So either, if you have some time on the weekend, you want to do the shopping then and you want to think about the week. Keep things at your desk: packets of oatmeal, great fiber. A lot of offices will provide basics­ like milk or you can run down to the cafeteria and get some skim (nonfat) milk, sliced cheese, hard-boiled egg, something else to have that protein and then you have the fiber from the oatmeal.Some whole-wheat crackers, pretzels, things like that—that are shelf-stable and you can keep on hand, at your desk. There are a lot of great options.You have to remember to just go for the right things: the protein and the fiber in the afternoon.Eat your snack on the drive home, if it is convenient—a cheese stick or some milk in a cooler or thermos. Just don’t go home too hungry. You will sabotage it.
Neily:    You walk in that door and…
Kathy:   That’s it. We have all done it. But just with a little planning…
Neily:    Planning, fiber and protein. Great ideas. Their website is You can get all those ideas, recipes and much more!


Are you keeping a food log?

Food journaling

I acquired a client when a dietitian left Cooper Clinic where I worked. Joyce was awesome. Ate healthy, lots of fruits and veggies, kept a food log. But weight loss had stalled. She had already lost a significant amount of weight and we figured she just hit a plateau. Plateaus can last weeks or months. In reviewing her food journal Joyce had written one cup of Kashi GoLean cereal for breakfast and a snack was one tablespoon of peanut butter with an apple. I asked Joyce if she measured the cereal and peanut butter. No, she used to but got away from the habit. I asked her to measure everything for the next two weeks. Be honest. Two weeks later she was down three pounds. Her eyes had deceived her. It happens. A lot.

 food journal


Does sugar ‘feed’ cancer? Should we limit red meat? That & more with RD Karen Collins

Karen Collins photo (150x146)

Does sugar feed cancer? Limit red meat? That & more..

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN and I had the chance to talk in Philadelphia at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference. I wanted to take the opportunity because of her expertise in cancer. (To watch the video click here or scroll to bottom.)

Neily: Karen is the nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research. And you have been there how long?
Karen: Over 25 years.
Neily: Over 25 years. Fantastic. Let’s talk about some of the key things people need to know about the causes of cancer and also about some of the myths that might be out there. For example, does sugar cause (feed) cancer?
Karen: It’s one of those things you hear a lot—sugar feeds cancer and in the really technical sense it does because cancer cells, just like every cell, uses sugar for fuel but that’s talking about blood sugar.
Neily: Like glucose.
Karen: Right. So, where people get mixed up is when they are thinking that every little bit of sugar that they might consume in their diet is not directly siphoned off to cancer cells. What we know is blood sugar and the stronger driver are high insulin levels. If we can maintain a normal blood sugar and keep the insulin levels good, that’s the key.
Neily: Great. So, the added sugar in the diet—not the healthiest food but it’s not going to feed the cancer. Good message. Ok—red meat.
Karen: Yes. Too much red meat does increase risk of colorectal cancer.
Neily: Just colorectal cancer?
Karen: Yes. That’s the one that has the link right now. There is potential for others but the link now seems to be colorectal cancer. And a lot of people think that as long as they are choosing lean red meat, that they are protected. That is a guideline in terms of decreasing the risk of heart disease but the link of red meat to colorectal cancer does not seem to have to do anything with the fat content. It’s the higher content of a form of iron called heme iron, which is a readily absorpable form and it’s good in the sense of meeting our iron needs but too much causes some concerns because it seems that these high levels of heme iron can cause cancer-causing compounds within the gut and damage colon cells.
Neily: And recommendation for red meat per week?
Karen: No more than 18 ounces a week. This is for those who want to eat it. Some people choose not to eat it and that’s fine. But for those people who want to, it’s not like that they have to totally give it up. We don’t have that data but the data shows to keep it at no more than 18 ounces per week.
Neily: So, we are taking that meat and grilling it. Let’s talk about the char when you char-grill.
Karen: The char. That’s a problem. The char, the black substance, is really concentrated…a concentrated dose of carcinogens is in that char. If you suddenly think of it that way, it doesn’t taste that good. You could still grill. But there are several steps you can take to make grilling safer.

  1. One is, aside from the char, in the real intense heat of your grilling, whether it is on your gas grill or char grill, it doesn’t make any difference because the risk is the same. It’s that high temperature. So, turn the gas grill down, let the charcoal grill cool down a little bit. And just cool it enough so it takes a couple of minutes but at that lower temperature, fewer of these carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amine forms.
  2. You want to have less smoking because it’s in the smoke, there is a concentration of another kind of carcinogen. If you have less fatty meat grilling, you don’t have so much dripping on the coals, then you don’t get so much smoke. So, kind of multiple benefit.
  3. And the third thing is if you marinate. Whatever it is—the meat or the chicken or something like that before you grill it, that actually has been found to decrease more than 90% of the heterocyclic amine that otherwise forms.
Neily: So marinating is a very good thing.
Karen: It is.
Neily: That’s good to know. Let’s talk about a different kind of red meat, in the processed meats, lunch meats, deli meats things like that.
Karen: Processed meats are even more strongly associated with colorectal cancer risk than red meat is. And so, the recommendation there is to really avoid it as much as you can. Minimize the consumption.
Neily: Specifically…
Karen: When we talk about processed meats, we are talking about meat that is smoked, salted, cured or has added preservatives like nitrates and nitrites. And it is not a red or white thing as far as we know. So the concern will be the same if it is turkey hot dogs or turkey bologna or something like that. And really, the recommendation is to minimize it as much as you can.
Neily: So, bacon and sausage—find alternatives. What about Canadian bacon?
Karen: Canadian bacon will be the same thing. It’s leaner but it’s still cured. And it is that curing process—curing and smoking, that gets us..
Neily: So, ham as well?
Karen: Ham is too. So you want to think more about fresh meats, using chicken and turkey more.
Neily: I have seen lunch meats or deli meats that are nitrates and nitrites free. Is that something to be looking for on a package?
Karen: Well, it could be better but see here is the problem. It’s the four pieces that makes something processed. So it might be nitrite-free bacon but it is still smoked, you have still got these potential concerns about these polycyclic amine carbons that are coming from smoked food. So, really, it’s minimizing that whole category and looking for fresher alternatives.
Neily: And organic. Not necessarily when it comes to that because organic food doesn’t have anything to do with if it’s smoked or anything. So someone is not necessarily safe if they are going organic.
Karen: It could be a health halo that it sounds really good but it really comes down to looking for that salting, curing, smoking. And I think also, beginning to think more about vegetables. Roasted vegetable sandwiches. It doesn’t always have to be the Dagwood sandwich with the pile of meat that high. You can look at what you have made for dinner and think about other options and ways you can make extra vegetables for dinner and what you could do with them for lunch. So, there are a lot more options than just what most of us think of just because we get stuck in a rut.
Neily: So, those are some things that people shouldn’t do. What should they do to prevent risk of cancer? A plant-based diet?
Karen: There are several things—the main pieces are a predominantly plant-based diet, which means focusing your meals around vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Doesn’t mean there is no room for animal food if you want them. But these foods should be the largest part of your meal. And we need to learn to make them taste so good that we want to eat them a lot instead of having them be the thing that is sort of sitting there. So, focus on those…
Neily: I have a great video on roasting vegetables. (click here)
Karen: Excellent. The other thing to remember is, sometimes we get so focused on the foods that we are eating that we forget that it matters how much we are eating. So, even if it is healthy food, if you are eating more than you can burn up in activity, it’s leading to an unhealthy weight. That’s really not healthy eating. Because what we are finding now is that the research that is strongest in terms of nutrition’s impact on cancer is, is how it affects your body composition, the extra body fat, the extra body weight.
Neily: So…

  • sugar does not cause cancer,
  • red meat should be limited,
  • processed meat especially should be avoided
  • don’t char your meats

Good stuff.

Karen: And love those veggies…
Neily: Love those veggies! Eat a plant-powered diet. Again Karen Collins, nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Vitamin D. Do you need to supplement? An interview with Todd Whitthorne of Cooper Aerobics Center

Chemical structure of cholecalciferol, aka vit...

Vitamin D – part 2 w/ Todd Whitthorne, Cooper Aerobics Enterprises – Do you need to supplement?

To watch video scroll to bottom or click here.

Neily: I’m with Todd Whitthorne—an executive at Cooper Aerobics Enterprises in Dallas. He also oversees the supplement line Cooper Complete. We are outside today appropriately because we are talking about the sunshine vitamin—vitamin D.
Todd: Yes. The vitamin that’s not a vitamin.
Neily: Exactly. And why is that?
Todd: Most vitamins we can’t manufacture; we have to get in supplements or ideally in food, obviously. But vitamin D we can make and we’ve been making it for a long, long time. When that sun hits our skin, beautifully we manufacture vitamin D. We synthesize it in the kidneys and liver and what is interesting is that it’s really not a vitamin. It’s a steroid hormone and it is so important in all aspects of overall health because about 10% of the human genome is regulated by vitamin D. So, it’s just a messenger hormone. It flips on the switch or turns off the switch depending on what’s supposed to happen within the cell and if your bucket is low in vitamin D that’s a problem. And a lot of people have empty buckets.
Neily: I get from my clients how do I know if I need a supplement or not and the answer is…
Todd: There’s only one answer and that’s to get a blood test because you can never ever guess what your vitamin D level is. You have to ask your doctor. Sometimes doctors will do it; now more and more routinely doctors will automatically measure it. But not all doctors are created equal so you have to ask. The test is called 25 hydroxy-vitamin D but just ask your doctor for a vitamin D test; he’ll know what you’re talking about and get it measured.
Neily: Okay.
Todd: The data is really fascinating. We know at the Cooper Clinic where we see about 7,000 patients a year that 82% of our first time patients are lower than we would like them to be in vitamin D. The cut point—the bare bones cut point for vitamin D is 30 nanograms per milliliter and the research indicates nationally in NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 77% of American adolescents and adults are low in vitamin D. That means they’re below 30, sometimes below 20 and even in the single digits. So don’t be surprised if you’re tested and it’s really really low. But it’s not where you want to be. You absolutely want to get your blood level vitamin D up to at least 30. You can do it from the sun or from supplements as you certainly know. And the great thing about vitamin D supplements is they are cheap. They are not expensive.
Neily: Right. So, the bottom line is the only way to know is by getting a blood test from your physician.
Todd: Exactly.
Neily: Great take-home message. Thanks Todd. Thank you for watching Neily on Nutrition and we’ll see you in the next video.

Disclosure: I was employed at Cooper Clinic from 2004 – 2009 but have no financial affiliation.

Thanks to my RD peers for the inspiration!

I have finally entered the 21st century with the rest of the progressive registered dietitians I know.  Forgive me as I attempt to get up to speed.  Welcome to Neily on Nutrition!

What can you expect?  Likely whatever is on my mind.  Which often may be prompted by things I see, hear, or read and feel the need to react to.  It might be silly.  It might be serious.  I do expect a lot of what I will be writing about will be nutrition and health in the media. There is so much information on the internet who knows what to believe.  I will try to keep you abreast of what’s hot in the nutrition news.  Although I make no promises because I’ve no idea where this blog is headed!

Being a registered dietitian, I do have a passion for food – eating it, making it, talking about it.  So expect me to muse on various culinary inspirations.  I grew up in the kitchen at my mother’s side.  She’s a fabulous cook and taught me everything I know.  I remember her telling me to “go in the garden and get our salad.”  Ah, to pick fresh lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and enjoy the freshness of it all.  Although I really took it all for granted back then.  When I was out on my own, buying tomatoes for the first time and expecting the deliciousness of what I grew up with.  Reality set in.  What a disappointment!

My wonderful mother – Monet Fennema – and me in Grand Rapids, Michigan September 2009

I long for the days to pick my salad from my own garden.  But I live in Texas now, not the Midwest.  I know it’s possible but you do need sun which I have none.  A wonderfully shaded backyard but not conducive to growing things.  Unfortunately too I was not blessed with a green thumb.  And then I have Great Danes that I’m sure would have a field day playing.  Hmmm, but I can always dream and what’s that saying?  In dreams become realities.

Thanks for reading and I do hope you stick around and read more!  Cheers!

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