Flavor Boosting Bowls

Healthy lunchtime meals can become routine and uninspired.  Move over salad and make room for the new bowls, a heartier and more exciting lunch (or anytime) option.  They provide all of the nutrients and energy that you need in a quick, one-bowl meal.  Not only that, but they are easy to put together.  Start with the following basic ingredients:


Leafy greens

Raw or cooked vegetables, like broccoli slaw, roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant, roasted carrots, spiralized zucchini, beets, sliced red onion

Protein, like poultry, fish, egg, tofu, cottage cheese or beans

Dressing (homemade if possible), like olive oil and vinegar


Extras include: 

Herbs, like cilantro, parsley

Grains, like farro, wheat berries, quinoa

Nuts, like walnuts, almonds

Seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower

Avocado or other fruits, like blueberries, apples

Cheese, but since it is high in saturated fat, it should not be a part of every bowl 


To build your best bowl, start with the basics and add 2 or 3 extras.  For something different, check out the Poke Bowl, which is a truly delicious Hawaiian raw fish salad.  For a meal that typically has under 500 calories, these are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which will fill you up and keep you healthy.  Yum! 


The Good For You Barbecue


Summer is here, and we can look forward to warm sunny days ahead.  There’s no better way to enjoy the outdoors than a barbecue.  Barbecues offer fun in the sun mixed with many not so nutritious food and beverage options.  Don’t worry!  You can still have a great time without compromising your health and fitness goals.   Try the following tips for a fabulously healthy barbecue season.


BYO:  When possible, bring your own.  Try to bring a healthy dish, like raw vegetables with hummus for dipping, a fresh fruit platter with yogurt dip, low fat popcorn for snacking, or shrimp cocktail.  That way, you have an option that you know is healthy.  Traditional store bought pasta and potato salad are often loaded with fat and calories.  If you know that you will be tempted by the pasta or potato salad, make your own healthy version for the party.  You can reduce the calories by replacing some of the pasta or potatoes with chopped vegetables, like bell peppers, onions, cucumbers, celery, and carrots and using low fat mayonnaise and/or plain nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream.  


Stay Fresh:  We all know that fruits and vegetables are healthy.  Throw some vegetables, like portabella mushrooms, bell peppers, and eggplant slices sprinkled with a little olive oil and seasoning on the grill for a tasty alternative to meat.  The more that is added to fresh foods, the less we know about them.  For example, plain grilled chicken is healthy, but grilled chicken smothered in barbecue sauce can be a nutritional nightmare.  Most store bought barbecue sauces are high in sugar and calories.  Scan the barbecue for the freshest options and load your plate with those.      


Marinate:  Using herbs, spices, sauces and marinades add flavor without adding significant calories.  Fruit juice, Worcestershire sauce, low sodium soy sauce, grain mustard, garlic, ginger, vinegars (balsamic, red wine, cider) or lemon juice can be used to create dressings or marinades.  Adding fresh herbs, like basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and more will intensify flavors.  Homemade spice rubs offer another delicious grilling option with no added calories.  If you are looking for prepared rubs or spice mixes at the grocery store, watch out for added salt.

Portion Distortion:  Have a small salad or piece of fruit before leaving for the party. Skipping meals can have you arriving to the party as a hungry guest prone to overeating. Eating a little something beforehand can help prevent overeating the party goodies.  Barbecues are often served buffet style, which can make portion control challenging.  Scan the buffet, and choose what you really want before you start down the line. Choosing beforehand will prevent you from taking a lot of everything and ending up with a mountain of food on your plate.  Stick to one serving spoonful per dish, and don’t linger near the food table.  When standing next to food, it is very easy to reach down for another handful or second helping and mindlessly munch while you’re talking. Take a small plateful and then move away.  Try to make half of your plate fruit and vegetables, ¼ protein, and ¼ starch.

Beverage Smarts:  Skip the soda and juice, which are loaded with sugar and opt for sparkling water or water with lemon slices instead.   They are both refreshing and calories free.   As for alcoholic beverages, be careful of fruity cocktails, which are full of sugar, and frozen creamy concoctions, which pack on the fat and calories.   These drinks can contain as much as 500 calories.  For many people, that should be the total calories per meal.  If you do choose to drink alcohol, choose your mixer wisely.  Calorie free options include club soda with lime/lemon and diet soda.  Light beer ranges from 60 – 110 calories per 12 ounce portion and wine has approximately 100 calories per 5 ounce glass.  Whichever you prefer, pay attention to how many you drink.  Try starting with a calorie free non-alcoholic beverage and alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.       


Get A Move On:  In anticipation of eating a large meal, spend a few extra minutes during the day burning some calories.  Walk around the neighborhood, put a little more oomph into cleaning the house, get off the bus a few stops early and walk the remainder, or engage in some active play with your children.  Since the barbecue festivities take place outdoors, there are usually some outdoor activities, like volleyball, softball, touch football, Frisbee, horseshoes, croquet, badminton, bocce, and many more.  Join in the fun, and burn calories at the same time. 

Food Rescue

We all make many daily decisions about food, whether it is packing lunch, planning dinner, fueling for exercise, or grabbing a quick snack.  Each decision makes a difference for health, budget, and the environment.  March was National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme “Go Further With Food” encourages planning to reduce food loss and waste.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one third of all food grown is lost or wasted worldwide, and much of that waste occurs in the United States where about 40% of all food goes uneaten every year.  This is equivalent to approximately 60 million tons of produce worth $160 billion.  In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, wasted food takes up the most space in American landfills.  It is estimated that only 3% of discarded food in the United States is composted.  Sadly, some of this waste is about aesthetics.  People don’t want to buy “ugly” fruits and vegetables.  That is, if they even reach the grocery stores.  Much of the produce is left to decay in the fields or removed post-harvest for not meeting cosmetic standards.  After making it past harvest, foods risk being discarded by grocery stores, foodservice, restaurants, and households.  All of this waste adds up.  Thousands of pounds of food are thrown away due to low demand, food past the “sell by” date that is still safe and edible, or aesthetics.  On a positive note, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank program, Retail Rescue connects local and national retailers with its member agencies to turn “food waste” into donations.  This and other programs like it deserve to be celebrated.  According to the USDA, 12.8% of Rhode Islander’s (more that 56,000 households) and 13% of the U.S. (16.3 million households) are food insecure, which means that they often do not know where their next meal will come from.  Being part of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center team, this is close to my heart.  My LivFit program there is designed to help people turn pantry staples into healthy meals for their families with nutrition education and cooking instruction.  The program is free and open to all of Newport County.  The best way to become a part of the solution is to reduce food waste by planning meals, using leftovers creatively, composting, and donating to your local food pantry.  

De-Stress Your Table for a Healthy Weight

In addition to food and beverage choices, environment can have a major impact on healthy eating.   The following ideas will help you improve your dining experience to stay slim.

·         Eliminate distractions by turning off the computer, television, and cell phones during meals.  Play soft, soothing music instead, and dine quietly and slowly.  Making mealtime a relaxing experience aids digestion.

·         Set the table so that it looks appealing.  This makes dinner a special, enjoyable time.

·         Fill your glass (with water that is).  Drinking two cups of water before meals has been shown to promote weight loss.  Make water your beverage of choice before and during meals.

·         Have positive conversation and avoid negative comments and arguments.  Savor each bite and enjoy each other’s company. 

·         Have only the vegetable serving dish on the table during meals.  Keep all other serving dishes away from the table.  Better yet, refrigerate any leftovers after each person fills his/her plate. 

·         Use smaller plates and utensils.  Smaller plates mean smaller portions.  Average plate size has increased from 9 to 14 inches over the past 50 years.  Today’s typical American dinner plate used to be the serving “platter” for a family dinner.  Try using the larger plate for salads and vegetables and the salad plate for proteins and carbohydrates.  The same is true for utensils.  By using smaller utensils, you will take smaller bites, which leads to slower eating and allows time for your body to register feelings of fullness.

Stay Healthy Together

Stay healthy as a family by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.  Follow the guidelines below to get started. 

Eat A Rainbow every day.  Make colorful eating a game by having each family member track the colors that they eat during the day.  This makes nutrition fun and motivates everyone to eat fruits and vegetables.  A little healthy competition doesn’t hurt either.  Add a fun prize (not food) for the person with the most colorful diet.

Involve the entire family in meal planning and preparation.  Kids are more likely to try something if they helped make it.  This is a great way to introduce new foods and make them exciting. 

Snack healthy.  Fresh fruits and vegetables make great snacks, especially when served with a tasty dip, like hummus, peanut butter, or yogurt. 

Eat together.  Family meals are important for development.  Not only do they promote healthy eating habits and decrease the risk of obesity but they also improve social behaviors. 

Play together.  Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity daily.  Playing at the beach counts so get out there and build a sandcastle together.    

Keep your family fit and healthy through the summer by making nutrition and exercise accessible and exciting.



"My favorite aspect of my job is that I help people improve their lives.  It is truly fulfilling to see a client succeed and lead a healthier lifestyle. Don't Diet! EAT HEALTHY, LIVE HAPPY!"

                                                                                 -Yours In Health,

                                                                                   Kristin Niessink MS, RD, LDN

                                                                                   Phone: (401) 368-7614