Tag Archives: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Woman with basket of fruits, vegetables, and bread

The Vegan Experiment

The gauntlet has been thrown down and I said, “Challenge accepted!” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has issued a challenge to dietetics professionals to live a vegan lifestyle for five days.

I am not doing this for the Vitamix blender that is the prize in this contest (although I would gladly accept it). I am doing this because I believe that a vegetarian or vegan diet can be just as healthful and complete as a diet that includes animal products. In my work as a wellness dietitian at a university, I always make my cooking demonstrations vegetarian, and vegan when possible, to show the community that vegetarian/vegan meals can be yummy and satisfying. I decided I would “walk my talk” for five days.

I mean, anyone can do anything for a mere five days, right?

Let’s start with the basics: what is veganism?

There are many levels of vegetarianism. I think the definition that many people think of for a vegetarian is a person who eats no meats. However, some vegetarians still include fish (pescatarians) and some still include dairy and/or eggs (lacto/ovo-vegetarians). If carnivores (meat-eaters) on one very end of the scale, then vegans are at the other end. Vegans do not eat any animal products – meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, cheese, or butter. As a friend pointed out on my Facebook page, vegans may even decide not to eat honey since animals make honey.

For more information, see the Academy’s Web site, which includes a link to a PDF document that is their position on vegetarian diets. There is a wealth of information in the position paper.

Personally, I could easily become a pescatarian. For my health, since I have heart disease, I would choose to include fish due to the nice heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in some fish. But cutting out cheese and milk? I think I could live on tomatoes and cheese alone… so this will present a challenge.

Finally, since I am a registered dietitian, I am concerned about the nutritional quality of my vegan choices. I will have to do some planning. There are two things that I will be thinking about when I follow a vegan diet. One is to make sure I am combining foods in a way that makes complete proteins and the other is to get all the important nutrients about which vegans must be concerned (see the link to the Academy’s Web site above). Some nutrients are found mostly in animal products so vegans must have the knowledge to plan meals that include these nutrients.

I also personally tend to eat as clean as I can, so I doubt I will be including the packaged vegan alternatives. I have to look at the food labels; but the way I remember it, these products have a long list of ingredients that are not whole foods or natural flavors or preservatives. This is a personal choice; not a part of veganism.

I am beginning my planning this week. So far, I think I will try silken tofu as a scrambled egg replacement and I just bought a few bags of dry beans to play with. I would love any ideas so please post your comments and tell me about your favorite vegan recipes.

Wish me luck!

(Note: Free images from http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/)

Make your own pizza!

Skinny Pizza? Go For Homemade!

A new product, The Skinny Pizza, was announced in the latest issue of Food and Nutrition magazine. The information provided states this is a small thin crust margarita pizza with only 390 calories. Since it was listed in the “new products” section of a US-wide publication of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I assumed it was a new packaged food that would be available to most consumers.

I decided to blog about the nutrition content of this new product and to suggest alternatives for a whole food, non-packaged, homemade, low-calorie pizza because I know from experience that it’s fairly easy to make a mean homemade pizza!

It turns out this is not a packaged food. This is a menu selection from a pizza chain that has 25 locations. Only 18 of these locations are in the United States and 11 of them are in South Florida. Now, this called into question for me why this was listed as a new product in a magazine for dietitians with a demographic that covers the entire United States… But this is a topic for another day.

Let’s talk about “nutrition made easy” with a healthier homemade pizza!

Start by toasting either an English muffin, a pita, or this dietitian’s favorite, a Flat Out or other flat bread. You just want this to get a little bit crispy or the sauce will make the pizza soggy.

Once crispy, top with a little low-sodium tomato or marinara sauce, and by a little I mean a lot less than you think you need even if you like your pizza saucy like I do! If you want to keep it even more “clean,” then saute some chopped plum tomatoes in a little olive oil, garlic, and onion, mashing the tomatoes as they cook to make a bruschetta-like sauce.

Top with some shredded cheese, lean proteins, and as many vegetables or fruits as your pizza will hold and throw it back in the oven or toaster oven to warm the ingredients and melt the cheese. You may want to also saute the vegetables if you prefer a softer, cooked texture over a crunchy texture.

One of the favorite combinations in this household is chicken breast, BBQ sauce, red onions, mushrooms, a Mexican cheese blend, oregano, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes or Hot Shot! Another favorite is pineapple chunks and mushrooms.

The sky is the limit with combinations for this pizza and every person can get their own favorite combination! By limiting the portions, the amount of cheese used, and focusing on lean meats, vegetables, and fruits as toppings, you can keep this pizza low calorie, fiber- and nutrient-rich, and most importantly delicious!

I’m always looking for new flavor combinations and ideas so let me know what you put on your homemade pizza.


Pizza Rustica Launches Skinny Pizza. Available at: http://www.food-business-review.com/news/pizza-rustica-launches-skinny-pizza-081112. Accessed January 27, 2013.

Pizza Rustica Locations. Available at: http://www.pizza-rustica.com/locations. Accessed January 27, 2013.

Image from: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/.

A Healthy Plate from ChooseMyPlate.gov

Fill Your Plate with Color for National Nutrition Month

A Healthy Plate from ChooseMyPlate.gov
A Healthy Plate from ChooseMyPlate.gov

March is National Nutrition Month and what better way to celebrate than with a plateful of colors?

The Academy of Nurtition and Dietetics’s (formerly theAmerican Dietetic Association) theme for the 2011 National Nutrition Month is “eat right with color” to emphasize the importance of choosing a variety of foods to promote optimal health. Since different colors of food contain different types of nutrients, incorporating a variety colors provides a wide range of nutrients that our bodies need to function at their best.

Other guidelines for healthy eating include:

Enjoy 2-3 servings of fruit every day. These provide many vitamins and minerals in the form of phytochemicals along with fiber. Eat the skins when you can! Fresh fruits make a great snack food, frozen fruits add thickness to homemade smoothies, and fruits can be pureed to use in place of fats in baking.

Sneak in 5-7 servings of vegetables every day. It’s important to eat vegetables from all five categories – dark green, orange/deep yellow, starchy, legumes (peas and beans), and others such as onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, okra, green beans, and cucumbers. Vegetables provide many nutrients and fiber. Pile vegetables on sandwiches, add to sauces and frozen entrees, and puree to add to soups. Just be sure to not add on calorie-laden sauces!

Aim for making half of your grain selections whole. Whole grains provide fiber and carbohydrates necessary for energy and brain power. Replace processed, refined, white products with whole grain products when choosing rice, pasta, and bread. Not all brands taste the same, so don’t give up if you don’t like the first one you try.

Lean meats and dairy are good choices for protein. Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies; they are the basis for our enzymes and hormones and build muscle that enables us to move. Proteins are typically high in fat. The healthiest options are to choose lean cuts of meat, to remove visible fat and grease when cooking, and to look for low-fat or non-fat dairy products.

Last but not least are the fats. Fats are a major component of our cell membranes, they provide padding for our internal organs, and they help with absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins. Just be sure to choose the healthier mono- and poly-unsaturated fats found in avocado, almonds, walnuts, fatty fish, and canola, safflower, or olive oils.

Fill your plate with a variety of colors while following the above guidelines and you are taking a big step towards good health.

By the way… March 9th is Registered Dietitian Day. Have you hugged your RD lately?

Original publication date: March 2, 2011 at http://newmotivationcoaching.blogspot.com.

Image from: Choosemyplate.gov.