Monday, June 27, 2016

Recipe Post: Fast On The Go Energy Bars For Your 4th of July Road Trip

For this recipe, I substituted the all natural honey I originally used with pureed dates.   The last recipe resulted in slightly crumbly bars acting more like a granola than an energy bar.  I learned my lesson here because I had used only a quarter cup of honey versus a half cup recommended in several other energy bar recipes.   The buttery smoothness and subtle sweet taste of the pureed date butter ended up making a delicious addition to these energy bars.  I hope you enjoy them as much I as did!

Making pureed dates into a sweetener was surprisingly easy; you simply do just that, puree it!  You first want to make sure the dates are pitted, and if not, I found that is incredibly easy too.  You can gently slice them down the long way and pull the pit out.

Before putting the dates in the blender or food processor, you will want to soak them in hot water for softening.  After a few minutes I then threw them in a food processor with a quarter cup of water.  Most recipes either included water or just the dates alone to puree; I used a 2:1 ratio for the whole dates to the amount of water used as I played around with the pureeing part.  For example, I used half a cup of whole dates (pitted) and a quarter cup of water in the food processor.   One simple recipe I found most helpful for making date puree was via the  food blog

In addition to the honey sweetener substitution, I also used steel cut quick-cooking oats instead of the rolled oats which I had run out of in my kitchen.  The steel cut version came out just as great in this recipe and the shape held together well.

No-Bake Energy Bars with Dates
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
9 bars
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
1/4 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup toasted (or raw) almonds, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seed butter

1. Line with parchment paper (or grease with cooking spray), a shallow square baking pan.
2. Place the dates (originally soaked in water) and the water in a food processor or blender. Puree and set aside.
3. Stir together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
4. Add in the pureed dates and sunflower seed butter.
5. Once thoroughly mixed, pour evenly into the pan and press down firmly.
6. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for at least two hours to harden.
7. Enjoy these bars for up to one week if kept in the fridge.

Two hours total time includes the time bars are kept in the fridge. This recipe couldn't be any simpler!

About the Author:
Kathryn Pfeffer is an RDN in Boston and writes her own blog at where she shares her culinary adventures bite by bite.  She is an experienced clinical dietitian in an acute and rehabilitation hospital in the Boston area and recently completed her first marathon in May. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Weight Loss and Health Trackers, Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

There it was on my food log tracker, I had an “extra” 200 Calories from walking the trail at work for 40 minutes.  Those magical ‘net Calories’ make me feel like I’ve gotten a bonus in my nutritional paycheck and was entitled to eat an extra 200 Calories…
This mentality occurs frequently in dieters and fellow food log aficionados.  “I burned an extra 7 Calories from making the bed!”
Unfortunately, all this food/activity logging can backfire.  Calories don’t always act like cash in your bank account.

The Nutrition Diva—Monica Reinagel (MS, LD/N, CNS), has a great article on her blog and podcast: “How Diet Trackers Sabotage Weight Loss.” 

Logging exercise or having a reminder to workout can build a great habit.  However, it’s not an incentive to eat more (unless your goal is to gain weight). 
Reinagel reports different ways that logging exercise can mislead your overall Calorie needs.
“If you use a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit or Jawbone or even a low-tech pedometer or step counter, you can use that to help you select the proper category for your lifestyle.
  • Fewer than 1,000 steps a day is sedentary.
  • Fewer than 10,000 steps or about 4 miles a day is Lightly Active.
  • Ten to 23,000 steps or 4 to 10 miles a day is considered Active.
  • More than 23,000 steps or ten miles a day is Highly Active” (Reinagel, 2016).
Currently, smart phones will track your movement (e.g. iPhones have the health app that can work well enough to give you a baseline or motivation to move more). 
In addition to getting a solid ballpark on your daily Calorie needs, the Calories burned from logging activities are frequently overblown (or they can get logged twice). 
Elle Penner, MPH, RD, is the Food and Nutrition Editor at MyFitnessPal.  She answers the common question “Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?”

Penner recommends the following mindful tips:
·         “Start with a hydration check.  Hone in on your hunger cues.  Don’t get stuck on the number.  Focus on high-quality protein and wholesome carbohydrates” (Penner, 2016). 

Let’s take fitness trackers and food logging habits with a proverbial grain of salt.  We know we can overestimate our exercise or portion sizes at times (and essentially cheat a little) but logs and trackers give us a picture of our eating habits and activity habits.  

Checking your steps may get you to take more short walks during the day.  Tracking your Calories may give you an idea of where you can add additional produce or other healthy foods into your diet.   

Your weight or body measurements may provide a more accurate or consistent measurement of progress outside of Calorie algorithms.  Consistency is key to starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

Penner, E.(January, 2016).   Ask The Dietitian: Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?  Retrieved from:
 Reinagel, M. (April, 2016).  How Diet Trackers Sabotage Weight Loss.  Retrieved from:

Gina Volsko MS, RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian and Health Data Analyst.  Follow her antics in health and technology on Instagram at gina.koko. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cereal Killer?

When I was younger, cereal was the go-to breakfast choice between my brother and I.  I wish I could say we chose the healthier cereals but no, it was usually Captain Crunch or Reese Puffs.  After finding the largest, clean bowl from the cabinet, I filled that bad boy up to the top and I was ready to seize the day.

I am proud to admit that I am long past those days of filling up on sugar for breakfast but since then I had this perception to avoid the cereal isle at the grocery store.  My dad calls me the “cereal killer” because I roll my eyes every time he grabs a few boxes for his breakfast that week. 

However, after attending my first Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Nashville this past year, I have a new view on cereal.  It was day two of FNCE and after the four hour drive to Nashville, exploring the city the night before, and attending two sessions in the morning with two more to go, the fatigue and “hangry” feeling was setting in.   I came across this large display of cereal but it wasn’t just a cereal booth. There were several food combinations to add to your cereal, combinations I never imagined. Brilliant! I thought to myself.  I chose a honey oat cereal (½ cup), with a ¼ avocado, 0% Greek yogurt, pistachios, and a dash of paprika and honey.  Not only way it delicious but a great source of protein (Greek yogurt), monounsaturated fat (avocado) and carbohydrates (cereal).  It was just what I needed to make it through the day.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing cereal and ideas to upgrade your breakfast:

1.      Fiber: Fiber is a key player when it comes to digestive health. Not only does fiber help prevent a spike in blood sugars so you don’t experience that crash feeling during the midday, it also promotes satiety.  Look for cereals with 7-8 grams of fiber per serving.
2.      Upgrade: Most cereals are lower in protein. Add 0% or 2% plain yogurt for some added protein to help you tackle your day!
3.      Added Sugar: I try not to think about the amount of sugar I consumed back in the day when I would eat about 4-5 servings of Reese Puffs for breakfast. Try to avoid cereals with loads of added sugar. I recommend keeping added sugars under 15 grams per serving but tailor it to your nutrition goals.
4.      Upgrade: To add some sweetness to your cereal, try 1 teaspoon of honey or your favorite fresh fruit.
5.      Upgrade: Don’t forget to add some the good fat too! My choice is always an avocado but nuts and seeds are a great option too!

Hopefully this gives you a different view on cereal or at least some different ingredients to add to your cereal! Also, don’t forget about serving size, most cereals have a serving size of ½ cup. Adding different ingredients with protein and fat will help fight off those hungry cravings till lunch!

Alli Bokenkotter, BS, is a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati Dietetic Internship. She was also the diversity and National Nutrition Month Chair for the Greater Cincinnati Dietetic Association. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Summertime Sports Nutrition- Golf Tips

Golf is finally returning to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this year after taking a hiatus from the games since 1904. I did not take up golfing until I was in my mid-twenties but I wish I had started much younger. I find it to be a wonderful game, particularly when you play in good (and patient) company as a beginner. An average game of golf can go for over three and a half hours, with players walking an average of over five and a half miles. This can be quite exhausting to the mind and body if you are not prepared for it, especially in the summer when temperatures are high. Here are some nutrition tips for golfers to make their round more competitive and safe.

1) Hydrate. If golf is to be played when temperatures are hot and/or humid, it is easy for someone to become dehydrated. Fluid loss from sweat combined with the increased energy expenditure from the sport itself makes water alone a poor choice for rehydration. A good tip for golfers is to keep sports drinks that contain both sodium and sugar with them, in addition to water, to maintain fluid levels for optimal hydration and sharpness. Also, beer is not considered a good source of fluid for hydration on the course. Alcohol can be very dangerous since it increases your risk of dehydration through increased urine production.

2) Do not skip breakfast. Eating before you head out to play a round of golf is critical for good performance. Skipping breakfast, or not eating a meal within 2-3 hours of beginning a round, will decrease endurance, attention, and alertness. A high carbohydrate meal is recommended, as well as the addition of healthy protein for added satiety.

3) Snack on the course. It is estimated that golfers can expend anywhere from 2000-2500 calories per round of golf when walking the entire 18 holes and carrying their own bag. During the round, if you are not a fan of sports drinks and prefer to drink water on the course, it is important to eat carbohydrates to prevent dehydration and the possibility of low blood sugar associated with dehydration. Good examples of carbohydrates that are portable, easy to transport, and gentle on the stomach are bananas, trail mix, and granola bars. Of course, if it is hot outside, make sure you have these items in a cooler or make sure to get your trail mix and granola bars without chocolate to prevent a melted mess!

And last but not least, don’t forget to have some carbohydrates and protein as soon as you are done with the round, as well as additional fluid to replenish depleted glycogen stores and help the muscles recover. Maybe the clubhouse has a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, which is a good choice for a post-game snack.

Allison Koch MA RD/LDN is completing her PhD in Nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She enjoys working with sports nutrition and weight management clients at Twitter @DietitianAlli

Monday, June 6, 2016

Self-Image and Fitness

The fitness industry is slowly taking on a new image and by that a more inclusive concept of what is deemed as "healthy."  

Those of us active in the fitness and nutrition industry know all too well the prototype body image of a woman with a lean physique or a man with large muscles selling supplements promising quick results.  Slowly but surely the fitness landscape is evolving as exercise trends in weight lifting continue to grow and people start to grow tired of quick fix gimmicks.  

The following articles were selected to further continue the discussion of what fitness and health mean. 

Jessi Kneeland writes for Greatest
"Many of us don’t actually expect “healthy” to feel good. Our culture has the majorly misguided idea that being healthy is no fun—that it’s supposed to be hard, painful, and require tremendous discipline and willpower to cope with suffering through a workout and forcing gross-but-good-for-you vegetables down our throats. But working out, once you find something you love, feels amazing. It’s often my favorite part of my day, and I try to help my clients see it that way too. Is it challenging? Yes. But I wake up on lifting days excited to have a challenge worth pushing myself for. Feeding myself nourishing food feels incredible, too. So does prioritizing sleep and being well-hydrated. Having a body, and all the habits that go into making it healthy, can and should feel absolutely pleasurable."

Neghar Fonooni in Girls Gone Strong writes:
" I wasn’t hustling for a low body fat percentage because I needed to be lean for any reason whatsoever. And, in the end, I wasn’t actually hustling for leanness at all—I was hustling for worthiness.

I didn’t own my worthiness.
Somewhere along the way, my inherent, implacable worthiness was challenged. It had become debatable, conditional, and controlled by external forces." 

Nia Shanks' Lift Like A Girl site features fitness as a cornerstone for building empowerment and self-esteem. "Fit is a tool of empowerment. Fit makes your life better. Fit builds you up.
The reward of a healthy lifestyle is the journey.  It has long walks, pink dumbbells, 5ks, yoga, and burgers.  It's about focusing on enhancing your life and not taking over your life. 

Gina Volsko MS, RDN, LD is a Columbus based dietitian, health data analyst, and weightlifting convert.  You can find her antics on Instagram as gina.koko.  She's also the SCAN blog coodrinator, if you're interested in blogging, send her an email at 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Join Us for Our June Twitter Chat tonight at 8 PM EST: Eating Disorders and Athletes

Join us tonight at 8 PM EST on Twitter for #SCANCHAT on eating disorders and athletes, follow us, @SCANdpg.