Stealthy and Healthy Snacks: The Skinny on Pistachios



It’s the weekend again and along with that comes my downfall with food.  Without the structure of the week, I find myself walking into the kitchen every hour or so looking for something to snack on even though I am not hungry.  Call it boredom, call it convenience, call it what you will, but the real reason I think I’m frequently drawn to the kitchen on Saturday and Sunday is because I have lost the mealtime structure of the week and allow myself to graze all day long.  Now, this may actually work for some people, but if I graze all day I definitely lose track of how much I have eaten.  I may walk into the kitchen around 8:00am for some cereal and coffee.  Then again at 9:00am for a banana.  Then again around 9:45am for a granola bar.  Hey, it’s 11:00am, time for some humus and crackers!  I think its lunch time, I guess I’ll have an apple, some yogurt, some chips…that sounds good.  Now it’s 1:30pm and I’m back in front of the fridge.  I think I’ll have some toast.  Now it’s 3:00pm, I think its alright to have ice cream now!  Hey, dinner time!  I’ll have chili, a roll, some veggies, and a glass of milk.  Yea, that sounds good.  Now it’s 7:00pm, evening snack time and I think I’ll have a few cookies.  It’s 8:30pm and for some reason I’m still hungry, so I think I’ll have some Gold Fish crackers and more milk.  And it just goes on and on and on.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I eat a lot more food over the weekend then I ever do during the week.  I lose the visual cues of eating without my meal times and as a result, I just keep eating.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  If I would just keep my meal time structure, then I would not have this problem, right?  Well, it’s the weekend and I don’t want to be limited by a time schedule for meals.  I do enjoy my flexible meal schedule but I do not enjoy the extra calories that are sneaking into my diet.  I need to find a stealthy and healthy snack that can help me minimize calorie consumption without my conscious decision to restrict foods and calories.

So what snack is that, you ask?  Pistachios!  During my time as a graduate assistant at Eastern Illinois University, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jim Painter (which I’m sure you know by now if you are a follower) who did a few studies with pistachios.  He found that the form of the food you eat can really make a significant difference on the amount of calories you consume.

Pistachios are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and phytosterols (which can help reduce blood cholesterol levels).  They are a great healthy snack that can keep you full and satisfied throughout the afternoon.  The best part about pistachios is the form in which the come.  Dr. Painter’s studies show that if you eat the pistachios with the shells instead of the pistachios without the shells, you can reduce your overall calorie intake significantly.  By watching the shells pile up, you can keep track of how much you have eaten and as a result, you will maintain your visual cues of consumption.

So it may seem like a simple concept, but after putting it to the test weekend I definitely eliminated the majority of my afternoon trips to the kitchen!  It looks like the pistachio is a stealthy and healthy snack that I can use to help me reduce my calorie intake and sneak in some good nutrition while allowing me to still maintain my flexible weekend eating schedule.


Karla J Kennedy-Hagan, Ph.D., RD; James Painter, Ph.D., RD; Carla S Honselman, Ph.D.,RD; Amber Halvorson, MS, RD; Kathy Rhodes, MS; Kaitlin Skwir, BS. (2011) Pistachio Shells as a Visual Cue to Consumption.  Appetite.


Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo-Be Stealthy and Healthy Wherever You Go!

 This year’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo was in beautiful, sunny San Diego, CA!  I was fortunate enough to have a few poster sessions this year as well as an opportunity to continue my work with the California Raisins.  I flew out west last week Wednesday with a few other girls in my dietetics program and our department chair, Dr. Painter.  We arrived in the afternoon and walked out of the airport into one of the best fall days yet 😉  I could get use to 70 degrees and sunny in the fall.  We had to spend a bit of time enjoying the weather and the sites before the conference started, of course.

So we grabbed a shuttle to our hotel, checked in, changed into our swim suits, and headed right for the beach.  It was so nice just hanging out, having a cocktail, and enjoying the cool ocean breeze.  Ah the memories.

The conference didn’t start until Saturday afternoon, so we had a few days to relax and play a little.  We toured Coronado Island, took a ferry across the bay, found another beach, and of course checked out the night life.  We were exhausted by the time the conference started and it was only Saturday.  We still had 3 more days to go!

The expo started on Sunday morning and part of my job was to work the California Raisin expo booth.  It was actually a lot of fun!  However, standing all day long is not always great for the feet.  I had two poster sessions while I was at the show as well.  The first was a poster on my master’s thesis.  My study was on Celiac Disease and the Gluten Free Diet (hence my previous post about gluten free).  I stood at my poster and got a lot of really interesting questions.  Many of which centered on me continuing the research.  PhD??  Um, I think I’ll wait on that a bit longer.

My second poster (the one I’m standing by in the photo above) is a study focused on fiber content of raisins using data from the California Raisin Marketing Board in 2008 and Sun-Maid Growers of CA in 2010.  The purpose of the study was to review the differences in the data and determine if raisins have enough fiber to make a “good source” nutrient health claim with the FDA.  We will see where that goes.

So I bet you are wondering now how this post is going to tie into being stealthy and healthy everywhere, right?  Ok, I’ll tell you.  As I’m sure you can all relate, traveling can present a huge challenge when it comes to choosing healthy foods.  It starts in the airport.  Once you get past security, all you see are Starbucks, McDonald’s, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!  These places are not always bad and you can usually find some good options; however if you are in a hurry, tired, starving, or all of the above, you may not always be drawn to the healthy choice.

Then you get to your destination.  For me, it was a food show!  I was surrounded by new products and tons of samples all day long.  It would be very easy to snack on something new at each booth as I passed by.  So I needed to come up with a stealthy and healthy option that would keep me full, keep me satisfied, travel with me conveniently, and stay good for 6 days.  Yikes!  That is a lot to ask of a snack food, right?  Wrong.  The perfect snack food just so happened to be following me around everywhere I went at FNCE.

Yup, you guessed it!  Raisins.  It is a perfect, shelf-stable, convenient, nutritious,           snack that seemed to be following me around everywhere I went.  Now, it was nice that I had access to snack packs while working the booth at the expo, but you have access to raisins, too in many places you may not think of.  You can get them in the airport at the convenient stands, you can buy them at gas stations, you can get them at the grocery store, etc.  You can buy them in bulk or snack pack size.  These little guys are a great snack that pack a big punch of nutrition!  A serving of raisins provides 8% of your daily value for fiber and is full of antioxidants!  A sneaky little snack of raisins can help you stay full and satisfied as well as give you the added nutrition other snacks do not.

So grab yourself a pack of raisins and sneak some health into  your busy travel or everyday life!

The Sunday Post-Gluten-Free Diet: Medical Treatment or New Fad?

For those of you out there trying to follow a gluten-free diet as a way to lose weight, you may want to give it a second thought.  Gluten is not a stealthy enemy, but instead can be a part of an overall healthy diet.  I wrote the following article to shine light on this diet fad to show that gluten is not hiding out in our foods to make us unhealthy.  Please read on and enjoy the Sunday Post.

The prevalence of Celiac Disease (CD) has grown drastically in the past few decades, and in turn has created an increased demand for gluten-free (GF) food options.  But all the increased attention and food choices has left the general public confused between using the diet as medical treatment for a disease or as a new fad diet trend.  Has there been an increase in diagnosis of the disease or is gluten causing people to get sick?  Are we, as humans, meant to consume gluten at all?  These and many other questions are being asked as people across the nation tune into the buzz on gluten-free.

Today, CD affects 1 in 133 Americans according to the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Research Center.  Researchers also believe that 97% of individuals affected by CD go undiagnosed.  Teams of researchers at Mayo Clinic believe that we are seeing the increased prevalence of CD because we are looking for it now.  Patients with digestive problems are being screened and CD is being diagnosed.  We are now finding what was always there.

Mayo clinic research tells us that young men today are about 4.5 times more likely have to CD than 50 years ago.  They also tell us that undiagnosed CD patients are 4 times more likely to die than non-CD patients.  This information may hinder the research aimed at determining if CD is affected by environmental factors leading to increased prevalence over time.  So you may draw your own conclusions, but it seems as if earlier diagnosis and treatment of CD is allowing patients to live longer, thus creating the appearance of a rise in CD over the last 50 years.

With more and more CD patients looking for GF food options, food companies are tapping into a new market.  It is as simple as the basic economic concept of supply and demand.  Demand for gluten-free products is increasing with the number of patients being diagnosed.  Thus, food companies are responding by increasing the amount of GF foods available to the public.  What seems to have consumers confused is the strategic placement of GF foods in the “health food” aisles at the local grocery store.  For individuals turning to fad diets for weight loss, an easy place to shop for seemingly low-calorie, low-fat, healthy foods is the “health food” aisle.

A common misconception of GF foods is that removing the gluten will make a product healthier, lower in calories, and lower in fat.  This, however, is not always the case.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.  In foods, this protein is responsible for physical structure and also aids in binding food together.  For example, bread is able to rise and keep its shape because of the presence of gluten.  If removed, the bread will be shorter and denser.  When you remove gluten, you usually need to substitute your product with a similar compound.  The gluten substitutes, however, may actually contain more calories than gluten-containing products.  In the case of binding foods together, a gluten substitute may actually be fat.  For flour, all-purpose wheat flour has about 100 calories per once with 0g fat.  All-purpose gluten-free flour has about 102 calories per once with 1 g fat.  These numbers may seem small, but when you are substituting gluten in all aspects of your diet it may start adding up.

So if you are trying to lose weight and think that cutting out gluten may help you cut calories, think again.  The gluten-free diet is intended for CD patients with a medical need for removing gluten (it is intended to allow for the intestinal walls to heal, helping the patient avoid malabsorption induced malnutrition).  If you are thinking of using the gluten-free diet as a new weight loss fad, you may be in store for multiple, and potentially severe, side effects.  Without proper nutrition counseling from a registered dietitian, cutting out gluten may also result in cutting out iron, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and fiber.

Strict adherence to a GFD is challenging and is a life-long lifestyle change for individuals diagnosed with the disease.  In theory, following a gluten-free diet will result in consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, gluten-free diary, and gluten-free grains.  It is not an unhealthy diet by any means; in fact, it can be a very healthy diet.  However, it is important to realize that gluten is not there to harm you if you do not have the condition.  Talk with your registered dietitian before jumping on the gluten-free band-wagon and be sure you are meeting all of your nutritional needs; with or without gluten.


Hidden Activity

Wow, it has been awhile since I posted last.  I guess I have been a little busier than I thought!  These past few weeks have been the start of my clinical rotation for my dietetic internship here in Decatur.  I started my first week with screening and assessment and then transitioned into diabetes for my second week.  I also did a rotation at the Illinois Department of Human Services in Rockford, IL.  That was a lot of fun because I was able to stay with my parents a few nights and my sister and brother-in-law a few nights.  I worked on some interesting projects while I was at IDHS, too.  I was able to write a few newsletter articles for a WIC program and I also helped put together a bulletin board that will be used at WIC clinics across the state.  I am back in Decatur now and have just started my cardiac rotation.  Today was my first day and I have to say it went pretty well.  I assessed five patients and was able to do some diet education with some of them!  I am still not the best at chart notes, but that will come with time and practice.

Since I’ve been so busy with starting my rotations, I have lost track of my exercise routine.  I have always been good about going running and working out, but lately I have fallen off the wagon.  I know it can be hard to fit in exercise during busy days and maintain a weight management/weight loss routine.  If you don’t have a ton of time after work (like me with my mountains of homework that never seem to go away), there are a few things you can do during the day to add in your exercise.

Working at the hospital gives me access to tons-o-stairs!  Whether you work in an office building with lots of stairs, or a building with only one flight of stairs, you can sneak in some exercise that will really add up at the end of the week.  Lets break it down:

I walk 7 flights of stairs at the hospital 4 times a day.  I go upstairs before and after lunch and come down stairs before and after lunch.  Walking up the stairs for 1 minute can burn around 6 calories.  If it takes me 2 minutes to walk up those stairs, I will burn 12 calories by the time I get to the top.  For the whole day, that is 48 calories!  If I do this every day for the whole work week, that’s 240!

I also walk outside with the dietitians on our lunch breaks.  Because we are dietitians and extremely detailed oriented, we calculated that we walk 0.5 mile each day after lunch.   We walk fairly slow, maybe at about a 2.5 or 3 mph pace and it takes us about 15 minutes.  That walk burns about 30 to 35 calories.  For the week, that is about 150 to 175 calories.

So each week, I burn 390 to 415 calories just by being active at work.  Remember when I said every little bit helps?  Well, just adding up my daily lunch walk and my trips to the 7th floor, I can burn about 1560-1660 calories a month!  If I was trying to lose weight, that would help me lose about 0.5 pound a month!   I’ve been burning those extra calories without even knowing it.  I was just going on the walk to see the sunshine and talk to my new dietitian friends.  I had no idea it was helping me stay healthy, too!  Everything counts.  There is hidden activity daily that can help you sneak a little more exercise and health into your life!

Tell me about the hidden activity you do each day that helps you stay healthy!

Sneaky Veggies!

I was sitting at the lunch table this afternoon with my co-workers (they count, technically we work together!  Just because I’m an intern and don’t get paid to do what I do, it doesn’t mean I don’t work, haha) and realized something.  I really, really do not eat enough veggies.  Now, being a dietetic intern and being surrounded by dietitians all day long, you would think I would be great at this!  Eating celery raw with no dip.  Munching on kale or okra just because they are healthy and I know I should eat them.  Well, here is another stealthy and healthy secret (that I’m sure you all already know), not everyone is perfect!  Just because I know the information, doesn’t mean I actually do it!  Knowing isn’t doing.  Period.  The real “meat and potatoes” is making the changes, not just knowing you should make the changes.

So I know I need to eat more veggies, but the question now is how?  I love salad and fresh veggies but sometimes I just don’t want to eat them.  I bet a lot of you have another problem that I do, and that is that I cannot eat them fast enough before they all go bad!  Well, I have found a great way to sneak in some green without really knowing it.  Also, you can really pile it in so that not only are you getting tons of veggies but you are also using up a lot of fresh produce before it spoils.

What is this stealthy and healthy veggie you ask?  SPINACH!

Boo…hiss…ok, hold your horses.  I know you are all making faces, turning up your noses, and (hopefully not) typing a new website into your search engine.  Let me should you how you can take dark green, leafy spinach from boring veggie to sneaky health benefits with a few simple ideas.

First, spinach wilts a TON when you cook it.  If you are making a one-pot dish (like soup, stir-fry, something in the crock-pot), add a few cups of spinach at the every end, put the lid on and let it cook down for about 5 minutes.  Your mountain of spinach will practically melt into your food.  When you remove the lid, you will think I just taught you a magic trick!  What once was a heaping pile of fresh greens is now blended into your meal.  The added spinach will add volume to your dish (making you feel full faster) as well as a lot of extra nutrients (calcium, folic acid, vitamin K, and iron to name a few).  Try adding 2 cups of fresh spinach to your next pot of soup or weeknight pasta dish and let me know how you like it!

You can also cook your spinach into your baked dishes, too.  Try adding spinach to your lasagna for all the added benefits of vitamin C and fiber.  It will help you sneak a serving of veggies into your cheesy pasta without evening knowing it!

If you are like me, you are probably getting between 2 and 3 servings of veggies each day.  Getting up to the recommended 5 servings can be a challenge, but if you can sneak in some spinach, you will be able to reach 5 and beyond!  One cup of spinach is equal to one serving of veggies.  You can easily wilt in 2 or 3 cups of spinach to your meals, which will help you reach your recommended veggie servings!

So try it out!  Grab a hand full of spinach and add it in.  It can be your secret veggie weapon and your secret ingredient.

Does Bowl Size Influence Self-Selected Portions of Yogurt in 3-5 Year-Olds?




This past weekend, I was able to attend the Society of Nutrition Education conference in Kansas City, MO.  It was mainly to present a poster but also to enjoy continuing education sessions and networking!

During my graduate studies at EIU (back while I was still in classes and before the DI started), I participated in a lot of research studies focused on mindless eating.  Mindless eating is Brian Wansink, PhD’s concept to explain why Americans are eating more than they think.  He published a book called Mindless Eating that I highly recommend reading if you have the chance.  It discusses how we are sometimes fooled by portion and simple visual cues to eating can have a major impact on the number of calories we take eat in one meal.  If you want more information on the book or where to find it, please let me know.

But I digress.  My original point behind this was that one of the research studies I helped conduct was accepted as a poster presentation at the SNE conference this past weekend.  It was called “Does Bowl Size Influence Self-Selected Portions of Yogurt in 3-5 Year Olds?”.  It was a really fun study to be a part of (working with the children of the child development lab at EIU was a lot of fun) and the results were rather interesting.

We hypothesized (based on Wansink/Painter’s concept) that children would self serve and then consume more yogurt from a larger bowl than they would from a smaller bowl.  However, there was no significant difference between how much yogurt was served and consumed from either bowl.  We found that children in this age group have 1 of 3 factors working for them that over-ride the environmental cues of eating that affect adults.  One could be that they have yet to out-grow their ability to self-regulate.  Two could be that they lack the fine motor skills to control their self-selection and the developmental skills to conceptualize the amount of yogurt in the bowl.  Three could be that (according to Jen Fishier) child in this age group are overwhelmed by larger portions and may in fact eat less than if they are served an appropriate portion for their age.  Overall, it was an interesting study and overall, we concluded that more research is needed in this area.

That’s me, the one on the right in the photo.  Sarah, another one of the researchers for this study, is on the left.

The concept behind this poster has been shown to work in adults and can be applied to a stealthy and healthy lifestyle.  The ice cream study, done by Wansink, van-Ittersum, and Patiner, showed that the larger your dinnerware (big plates, spoons, etc.) is, the larger you will make your portions.  This can help anyone “mindlessly” eat less just by switching your big dinner plate to a smaller one.  I cannot take the credit for this stealthy and healthy tip, it really belongs with the researchers listed below.  I have also copied a link to the 2009 story on the CBS Early show with Dr. Painter about this very topic.  Click below and read more about tricking yourself into being full and satisfied with a smaller portion and, without knowing it, a smaller waist line.;lst;4


1.Wansink, B., van Ittersum, K., & Painter, J. (2006). Ice cream illusions: Bowl size, spoon size, and self-served portion sizes. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 31(3), 240-243.
2.Fox, MK., Devaney, B., Reidy, K., & Razafindrakoto, C. (2006). Relationship between portion size and energy intake among infants and toddlers: evidence of self-regulation. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 106(1), 77-83.
3.Shelov, S. P., & Altmann, T. (2009). Caring for your baby & young child birth to age 5. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
4.Crain, W. (2005). Theories of development concepts and application. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.







Heat Wave Healthy Top 5

I’m sure this is true for the entire country, but it has been unbelievably hot here in central Illinois…too hot.  When it’s this hot, I find myself gravitating towards activities that involve the sofa and TV and not towards activities that involve my running shoes.  I am also avoiding using any appliance that will increase the heat in my already too hot apartment.  Yes, I live on the top floor of a rather old apartment in Decatur, IL.  I have a wall A/C unit (which I think was initially intended for a hotel room) which cools my living room and not the other rooms in my apartment (sorry kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom…you will remain in sauna like temperatures).

How can anyone manage to eat anything but ice cream and do anything but lean up against the A/C and watch TV all day?  Although those activities sound like a good time, they are not doing anything to help you make “deposits” in  your “healthy bank account”.  Because I do not foresee this heat wave leaving us anytime soon, I have come up with a few tips to help us all stay heat wave healthy.   Enjoy the Heat Wave Healthy Top 5!

5.  Avoid using your oven/stove (which will save on electricity and help you avoid adding extra heat to your house) by making a delicious salad for dinner tonight! Try a chickpeas, goat cheese,  and dried cherry spinach salad.  Maybe my favorite salad yet 🙂

4.  Staying hydrated in the heat is a necessity, but who really likes throwing back 2 liters of plain water everyday.  To make it easy, I fill a pitch with water and citrus fruits (lemon slices or orange slices) and keep it in my refrigerator.  That way whenever I want some water, its already there!  Plus, one lemon at the grocery store is a lot cheaper than non-nutritive artificial sweeteners (like those flavor packets) and provides the benefits of vitamins!

3.  Getting in the calorie burn may seem impossible when going outside to walk/jog/bike/roller blade may put you at risk for heat stroke!  Think of easy ways to burn calories while staying cool.  Cleaning your room or, in my case, finally putting away all of my laundry can burn up to 50 calories for 30 minutes.  You can also go shopping!  Beat the heat by walking around the mall and burn nearly 50-100 calories.

2.  Ice cream treats and popsicles are a must on hot days, but do you really need the 250 calories in your chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cone?  Especially when its too hot to burn the extra calories?  I love making my own popsicles with real fruit and fruit juice.  You don’t even need those fancy popsicle makers.  Just find some dixie cups and something for the handle (straws, popsicle sticks, a spoon, whatever works).  I like to put frozen blueberries on the bottom and fill the rest of the cup with pomegranate juice (be sure to read the labels on your juices-you are looking for 100% juice).  It is also important to remember to use the small (3oz) dixie cups.  Juice is high in calories (because of natural sugars in fruits) and can add up quickly.  This popsicle (1/8 cup blueberries and 3oz 100% pomegranate juice) is only 80 calories!

1. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  Slap on some sun screen and hit the sprinklers/pools/slip ‘n slide or whatever water sport you have.  Spend some time with your family and friends having a water balloon fight (~20 calories/ 15 minutes), jumping in the sprinkler (~7 calories per minute), or swimming in the pool (leisurely, not laps can burn 50 calories/10 minutes).  Not only will you stay cool, but you will burn some calories without even knowing it!  Afterwards, you can enjoy your delicious salad and fruit water for dinner and homemade popsicles for dessert.

Have a happy and healthy heat wave!

The Concept behind Stealthy and Healthy

The idea of sneaking in nutrition is something I’ve been thinking about and practicing for a long time.  It only recently occurred to me that sharing it via the blog world would make for a great blog and be enjoyable for me.  I have always loved writing and nutrition.  What better way to bring my two interests together than starting a nutrition blog! 

There is nothing more valuable than your health.  Without it, the quality of your life will diminish over time and your desire to “keep on trekking” will go right along with it.  Also, health is a funny thing.  Being healthy is a process that requires constant effort and maintenance.  You cannot have success without work.  You do not wake up one morning with a million dollars and expect to keep that million dollars for the rest of your life without spending a penny.  Think of staying healthy like keeping money in your bank account.  It takes time to build up savings and sometimes it can get low.  Some days you spend more savings than others, but you never let it get to 0, right?  (Well, I hope not).  Same concept should apply to your health.  You should always be “making deposits” so that your “account” never reaches 0.  Some deposits are big and others are small, but it’s all money, right? It all adds up to a larger total in the end.  Healthy practices can be big changes and small ones and they will all add up to make an overall healthier you.

Another concept behind Stealthy and Healthy is about the food itself.  All foods can fit into a healthy diet.  I have been taking nutrition classes for the past six years and I am planning on sharing the nutrition secret with all of you! (Please, be aware that this secret is my belief only and is not intended to replace any other advice you have received from a health care professional).  Are you ready for the BIG secret?  Should I keep you waiting and wondering?  …

Alright, I’ll tell you.  The key to a healthy diet and lifestyle is variety and moderation.  There you have it.  Simple as that.  Yes, I know–that statement is easier said than done.  So as we begin Stealthy and Healthy, I will encourage you to discover big changes and small changes that will help you increase the size and frequency of desposits you make to your health-bank account.  I will also give you tips to reach the overall goal of variety and moderation.  I am excited!  I hope you are, too.