All About the FAT!


Go into any grocery store and prepare to be amazed by the multiple shelves of oil lined up in neat rows.  Choosing the right fat and/or oil for your health, budget and purpose can be overwhelming.

20150323_104136            20150323_104335           20150323_104308

Fats are categorized as saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans-fats.  The oils that you buy in the store are a mixture of first three types of fat.   Trans-fats are the really bad fats made from partially hydrogenated oil.

You may have heard that saturated fat is no longer bad for you. Wrong! The people, articles and websites stating that saturated fats are not detrimental to our health, are taking bits and pieces of studies and interpreting the results incorrectly.

Scientific studies show that saturated fat increases the bad (LDL) cholesterol resulting in an increased risk of cardiovascular incidents (heart attack, stroke, etc.)  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, World Health Organization and The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics recommend saturated fat intake be limited to less than 10% of daily calories.  The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have stricter guidelines suggesting the amount of saturated fat be kept to less than 7% for general population and 5%-6% for individuals with high LDLs.

Saturated fats are animal fats and tropical oils such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.  There are people who tout the benefits of tropical oils.  This is because tropical oils have a high percentage (44%) of medium chain triglycerides (MCT).  There are studies showing a heart health benefit of MCTs but these are very small studies based on fats with 8-10 carbon chain lengths, not the longer 12 carbon length chains found in tropical oils.   The carbon length of the MCT is an important differentiation in determining if a fat (tropical oils) is proven to be good for you. Additionally, coconut and palm oils contain a high percentage of long chain triglycerides (LCT) which is proven to increase the bad cholesterol (LDL). People recommending an increase in coconut oil/fat, do not understand the scientific research studies and/or human physiology and are recommending something that is not scientifically sound.

Polyunsaturated fats are the good ones. Many of the oils high in this type of fat are from plants and include omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in many types of fish. This type of fatty acid is demonstrated to reduce inflammation.   Omeg- 6 fatty acids are also commonly found in plant-based oils. It is important to have a balance of both Omega-3 and Omega-6 to keep the immune system working properly.

Monounsaturated fats reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and raise the good HDL cholesterol. Studies show that consuming 12% of total calories from monounsaturated fats reduces blood pressure and results in less fat tissue growth.

Trans-fats are available from two sources. The first being small amount from animal and dairy products. The second source are foods containing partially-hydrogenated oil.  Trans-fats are  created when hydrogen is added to oil making it solid. Think of natural peanut butter versus the usual solid peanut butter. Trans fats are used to make processed foods more stable on the shelf and to improve flavor and texture. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends and AHA recommend trans fats be limited to less than 1% of total daily calories.


So, to answer the question, “How much and what type of fat should I eat?”

Based on scientific studies, it appears the type of fat is more important than the amount of fat that a person consumes. Replacing saturated fat with processed carbohydrates is not beneficial. However, replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat and/or fresh fruit and vegetables is scientifically proven to improve health.

For general health and wellness:

  1. Saturated fat: 7-10% of total calories;
  2. Polyunsaturated fat: 5-10% of total calories
  3. Monounsaturated fat: 12% of total calories.
  4. Trans fat: Less than 1% of total

 The Fat Facts

Monounsaturated Fat Sources:                                           Polyunsaturated Fat Sources:
Sunflower Oil                                                                                 Soybean Oil
Canola Oil                                                                                       Corn Oil
Olive Oil                                                                                           Safflower Oil
Sunflower Oil                                                                                 Canola Oil
Avocado (flesh & oil)                                                                   Walnuts and Oil
Nuts                                                                                                   Flaxseed and Oil
Soybeans and Oil
Fish (trout, herring, salmon)

Trans-Fat Sources:                                                                      Saturated Fat Sources:
Fried foods                                                                                      Animal Products (Meat, Fish, Eggs, Dairy)
Savory snacks (microwave popcorn)                                    Olives, Coconut, Avocado
Frozen pizza, pizza rolls, snack food
Margarines, Spreads, Coffee creamer
Cake & Muffin mixex, Ready-to-use frosting

Okay, so I realize I’ve included a lot of boring info you probably did not need or necessarily want to know, but I share so you can see there is actual SCIENCE behind the recommendations for healthy fat consumption.  It is easy to read an article or hear someone speaking with authority and presume they know what they are talking about.  Stick with the facts and you’ll make good decisions!

Please let me know if you have any questions or want more info!


Turkey Burgers for Spring

Something about warm weather, sunshine and weekend afternoons make me want a juicy hamburger.  I like beef burgers–a lot, so  I wasn’t sure I’d find these burgers satisfactory, but my friend Jen came through again.  This is a great burger.  I’ve made it with ground turkey, ground chicken and fresh chicken sausage.  All good.


Ingredients for 4 burgers:
1# ground Turkey
1 cup bread stuffing mix, dry
1/2 cup chicken broth, fat free
5oz Spinach, raw

1.  Shred spinach in small pieces and combine with other ingredients.  Mix well.  Make into 4 pattys.
2.  Grill until cooked thoroughly.

Nutrition Info:  Calories: 196 , Carbohydrate: 7gm, Protein: 28gm, Fat: 6gm , Sodium: 376mg, Fiber 1.5gm.

All you need to do is add the bun of your choice.  You can go with a very thin, whole grain one and add tomatoes, avocado, onion for a healthy meal or go all out with a thick slice of cheese and a bun.  I ate my burger on a spinach salad with a side of garlic parmesan dressing.  I highly recommend that choice!  Enjoy


Peanut Butter, Oatmeal Energy Balls


Okay, so let’s be clear.  These are not low calorie.  The whole purpose of energy balls is to provide some carbs, protein, fat and calories to ensure you have adequate energy to mentally and physically perform the tasks ahead of you.  We like them before “active” adventures.  They are small, do not require refrigeration, easy to make and don’t fill you up so you feel yukky.   There are lots of energy ball with oatmeal and peanut butter on the web and pinterest.  Find one or two you like and think about them when you need have this type of snack on hand.

Ingredients:  Makes 12 Balls

1 c Old Fashioned Oats
1/2 c ground Flaxseeds
1T Chia Seeds
1/2 c Natural Peanut Butter (or any nut butter)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
3T Honey

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or food processor and mix thoroughly.  Roll dough into  balls and refrigerate until firm and maintain their shape.

Nutritional Info (1 ball): Calories:  185, Carbohydrate: 16gm, Protein: 6gm, Fat:12 gm , Sodium: 35mg, Fiber: 6gm.

A majority of the calories  are in the flax seeds and peanutbutter.  There are benefits to flax seeds but if you want to reduce the calories in these balls, the easiest way to do so is to decrease the flax seeds by 1/4c and increase the oatmeal by the same amount.  My girls prefer fewer flax seeds and like a few dark chocolate chips thrown in (of course).

These are a great option for between soccer games at a tournament or swim events at a long meet.  The kids are always hungry and asking for candy.  This may fill their sweet tooth, provide some healthy energy without the sugar drop that follows they empty sugar high.

Let me know what you think!



Teenage Girls. Enough Said.


I recently spent an evening with ten-14 year old girls. We talked a lot about diets, healthy choices, body image and sports. (Interestingly enough, Nutella came up in conversation, more than once or twice.)

Body image is so subjective and easily influenced by the things we see and the reactions other people have toward us.   On this night, our focus was on the importance of a healthy body versus a skinny body. This group was unanimous that girls who had muscles looked better than girls with no muscle.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune's girl soccer player of the year April Juarez at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente on Thursday, March 31, 2011. (SGVN/Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda/SPORTS)                                   Push Up girl

Girls are bombarded with pictures of wispy little things that can’t do a push-up, run a mile, throw a ball or consider playing a game of soccer.   It is perfectly acceptable if an active kid eats a healthy diet and is naturally thin, but it isn’t okay for any of us, but especially teenage girls, to be on crazy diets, eliminate whole food groups or feel like we need to “fast” just to fit into a pair of skinny jeans.

As our kids get older and become more responsible for what they eat, it is important to help them make the connection between food and performance, both mental and physical. This particular group of girls play sports (LaCrosse, Soccer, Volleyball) and they talked about how they felt and played better when they ate a healthy meal/snack before a practice or game versus when they ate a donut or candy bar.

Based on the food wrappers on the cabinet, crumbs on the floor and peanut butter smears on the counter top, I can tell my girls are starving when they get home from school.   They have soccer practice, dance or horseback riding four nights a week. They need a snack. It isn’t reasonable to go from lunch around noon to dinner around 6:30 pm without something to eat, but it isn’t healthy for candy bars to be the snack of choice.

Healthy snacks between meals ensures you have adequate fuel and energy to do the things you want to do.   Eating a snack with low nutritional value does not help you be smarter, stronger or healthier, but it can make result in weight gain, make you feel sluggish, tired and like you just don’t want to do anything! Too often, when a person realizes they have started to gain a little weight, they eliminate their snack, which is counter-productive. Dieting and limiting your food intake results in your body “hanging-on” to calories to prepare for the time of famine. You can’t lose weight when your body thinks it is starving!!

A few simple suggestions for snack time for you and your kids:

  • Make a list of your favorite snacks and place them on the fridge so don’t have to think about it. You can just choose from the list.
  • Control portion size by splitting out one serving size of snacks into plastic containers or baggies so you can grab and go and are not tempted to eat more than one serving.   (e.g., five whole grain chips, ½ c cherries or grapes, 1 oz cheese or cheese stick, 1 c popcorn, etc.)
  • Combine different food groups in your snack so you feel satisfied.  Include a cheese stick with fruit or add hummus to your chips or fresh vegies.
  • Half of the food you eat each day should be fruits and/or vegetables. Snack time is great opportunity to ensure you are getting in all of them.
  • Protein is an excellent for helping to stave off hunger. Make sure you eat lean meat or low fat dairy at snack time.
  • Eat 100% whole grain. There is no excuse not to do so. You can buy and portion out whole grain pretzels, crackers, bread, tortillas, etc.

Healthy Snack Ideas to Post on the Fridge:

  • Celery, Apples or Banana with peanut butter (2T = 1 Serving)
  • Whole Wheat Tortilla with Hummus (see recipe) spread on top
  • Cut-up vegetables with low fat salad dressing
  • Low fat yogurt or greek yogurt
  • Popcorn without butter (sprinkle with parmesan cheese)
  • Grapes, fresh or frozen with low fat string cheese
  • Rice cakes with lightly spread of peanut butter
  • Whole grain English muffin with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese
  • Cheese toast with whole grain bread & cheese toasted until golden
  • Whole grain cereal with milk
  • Whole wheat pretzels or crackers with a slice of cheese.
  • Smoothie
  • Edamame
  • Protein Snack Balls

This post is longer than my usual.  I hope you were able to make it through the whole thing!  After speaking with these great girls and as I think about summer, I realize that I need to make sure my girls have access to healthy snacks and begin to see the link between what they eat and how they feel/perform.

Let me know some of your heatlhy snack ideas for you and your kids!  I can add them to our fridge list.


Bannana Muffins to Love

My friend Jen makes eating healthy look easy!  She finds and experiments with recipes to find healthy ones that she and her family like and eat on a regular basis.  She is one of those people who really plans ahead so she isn’t stuck just grabbing something with more fat, calories and “junk” when she is busy.  She gave me the recipe for these bannana muffins and they are moist and yummy.

Ingredients (8 Muffins):
1C Wondra Flour (you can use any all-purpose flour, just keep in mind calories might change)
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
Dash of Salt
1/4C Unsweetened, Natural Applesauce
Honey, to taste
1 Egg
1 Overripe Bannana

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray.
2.  Stir together in a large bowl: Flour, Baking Soda & Salt.  Mix together in a small bowl: Applesauce and honey and then add egg & bannana.
3.  Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients and pour into muffin pan.
4.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Nutrient Info:  Calories: 98, Carbohydrate: 22gm, Protein: 3gm, Fat: 1gm, Fiber 1gm

I was tempted to use muffin liners, but Jen told me the muffin stuck to the paper.  I made them with non-stick spray and they slipped right out of the pan.   Add greek yogurt, skim milk or a cheese stick to add protein for a breakfast on the go!  Enjoy.

PS.  Don’t be suprised if you see one or two more recipes from Jen!

Hummus: Any Way You Want It!


Who doesn’t love hummus?  There are a lot of recipes with garbonzo beans and Tahini Paste.  I think these are okay, but I really like the fresh taste of using different kinds of beans with a variety of herbs and spices for flavor.   Avocado might be my new favorite addition to hummus.  It adds a delicious flavor and creamy smoothness.  Yummy.

If you like store bought, you will LOVE the versatility and fresh flavor of home made hummus.  It has good protein, healthy fat and fiber.  I make it about once a week and take it for lunch on a whole grain tortilla or with crudites.  I change it up constantly using different beans, herbs and spices so I don’t get bored!  This week I included fresh basil and parsley with the Northern Beans and cilantro, lime juice and chili poweder with Black Beans.  They tasted like Spring!

Great Northern Beans Reduced Sodium                                   Goya Black Beans in Can

Great Northern Bean OR Black Bean Hummus (6 servings)

1 Can Great Northern Beans OR 1 Can Black Beans
2T Garlic, chopped
2-3 T Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, Paprika

1.  RInse beans well in a colander.  (This prevents much of the GI distress some people believe are a result of eating beans.)
2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  It takes longer than you think to get it really smooth.


Nutritional Info (Great Northern Beans):  Calories: 96, Protein: 4gm, Fat: 5gm, Carbs: 10, Sodium: 390, Fiber: 3gm

Nutritional Info (Black Beans):  Calories: 122, Protein: 4gm, Fat: 5gm, Carbs: 12, Sodium: 375, Fiber: 4gm

Please give them a try and let me know what you think!



Road Warrior: Eating on the Go

I am in my car A LOT!  I probably average about one meal per day in my car!  Car meals can end up being the easiest way to sabatage your efforts to eat healthy.   Planning ahead is essential to avoid this not-so-healthy temptation.  I don’t just mean planning ahead the night before, but actually planning before your next trip to the grocery store. If you have the right stuff on hand, it is easy to be prepared for the next busy day!

Following are some easy, ready-to-go snacks/meals to purchase or prepare for the road warrior:


  • Hard Boiled Egg (7gm pro, 70 cal).  You can boil a few eggs and leave them in the fridge for about a week.
  • Cottage Cheese (15gm pro, 80 cal/4 oz).  Add fresh fruit if you want.
  • String Cheese, 2% milk fat (7gm pro, 60 cal)
  • Greek Yogurt (12-15gm protein, 120 cal/3/4 c).  Buy plain and add fresh fruit or honey or buy pre-flavored.
  • Turkey Slices with Whole Grain Crackers or Vegetables
  • Apples, Bannana, Celery w/ Natural Peanut Butter or Nut/Seed Butter  (no added sugar or oil)
  • Grapes, Plums, Apricots, Oranges
  • Almonds or Walnuts  (6gm pro, 160 cal or 4gm pro, 183 cal/1/4c)
  • Single Tuna Pack with celery, carrots, peppers or Whole Grain Crackers
  • Homemade Hummus (I’ll share a recipe soon!) with vegies or Whole Grain Crackers
  • Single serve Oatmeal with Flax Seed.  Add your own fruit or nuts.
  • Edaname (10gm pro, 120 cal/2/3c)
  • Freeze Dried Fruit or Vegetables
  • Roasted Chickpeas (5gm pro, 120 cal/1 oz)
  • Air-popped Popcorn (1 c = 35 calories).  Buy a brand with just a little olive oil & sea salt.
  • Jerky (turkey=9gm pro, 50cal/1 svg): Look for the 100% organic, grass fed, hormone free meat.  I’ve recently seen it available in bison, beef and turkey.
  • Nutrition Bars:  My favorite is LARABAR.  It has lots of flavors and has less than 5gm sugar.  Many of the bars contain a lot of refined sugars and isolated proteins.
  • Whole Grain English Muffin with a little red sauce (no sugar added) and mozarella cheese, baked for 10 minutes is a great breakfast.  Add a fried egg if you have time.
  • Smoothie with greek yogurt, frozen fruit, vegetable


Think about what meal or snack you are most likely to eat in the car and plan how you will do so without eating a bunch of junk.    I am better at planning my weekly “car menu” than I am for all of our other meals!

Okay, fellow road warriors, make it happen!!  Please let me know what you are doing for car meals and snacks, so everyone can benefit.  The more ideas, the better!!