Back to School Breakfast Ideas

Ready or not, school is back in session. And sending your kids to school well-nourished is one of the most important things a parent can do for their child. There’s ample research showing that children who eat breakfast are more focused, perform better academically, and have a lower risk of obesity. But what constitutes a good breakfast? Is it Tony the Tiger (They’re greeeeat!) and the “whole grains” and “reduced sugar” that the cereal box proudly touts? How about the easy bagel-and-cream cheese? How do you feel about your child washing it all down with a glass of chocolate milk first thing in the morning?

Unfortunately, none of the above-mentioned ideas fits the nutritional bill. These typical breakfasts are too high in carbohydrates (even worse – the refined carbs), and too low in fiber and protein. Breakfasts with this nutrient composition cause a rapid spike in blood sugar (which means a boost of energy – yay!)followed by a crashing blood sugar and energy level, leaving kids zoned-out and/or irritable in class. Not exactly what your child’s teacher wants.

The ideal breakfast is one that is a balance of good carbs (whole grains, fruit, and vegetables) and lean protein. The carbs give you energy and the fiber (from the carbs) and protein make that energy last longer. No blood sugar crashes in sight. Round out breakfast with water, tea, or nonfat milk to fully hydrate and wake up the brain. 

The following are a some delicious and nutritious (and kid-friendly) breakfast ideas that will leave your child energized for hours.

Breakfast burrito

Scramble 1 egg + 2 egg whites in a nonstick pan that’s been coated with cooking spray. Add some salsa (green or red) and 1 tbs. grated parmesan cheese. Heat up a whole grain or corn tortilla and wrap the egg/salsa combination up inside. Optional: add a spoonful of guacamole.

Yogurt Parfait

Mix 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt with 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract,  1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon,  1 tsp. agave nectar, and 1 tsp. orange zest. Layer 1/2 cup yogurt in a glass, followed by 1/2 cup berries (preferably organic), and 1/4 cup granola. Repeat with remaining yogurt, another 1/2 cup berries and top with 2 tbs. slivered almonds and 1/2 tbs. ground flaxseed or whole chia seed.

Stuffed French Toast

Coat a nonstick pan with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 sliced banana and cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden; remove from pan and place on 1 slice of whole grain bread. On another slice of bread, spread 1 tbs. almond butter (or natural peanut butter). Close up the sandwich. In a shallow glass or plastic container, mix 1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute), 1/4 cup nonfat milk, 2 dashes ground cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Dip the sandwich into the egg mixture (1 minute on each side). Coat a nonstick pan with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat until hot. Add the sandwich and cook 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Optional to serve with pure maple syrup (limit to 1 tbs.) or all-fruit jam.

Super-Smoothie #1 (a complete meal in a cup)

In a blender, place 1/2 cup orange juice (or pineapple, pomegranate, or tart cherry juice), 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt, 1 cup frozen fruit chunks, 1 tbs. ground flaxseed or chia seed, and 1/4 cup rolled oats. Blend and add ice to thicken or water to thin out to desired consistency.

Super-Smoothie #2

In a blender. combine 1 cup nonfat milk (or lite vanilla soymilk, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, or rice milk), 1 scoop vanilla or chocolate whey protein powder, 1 banana, and 1 tbs. almond or peanut butter. Blend and add ice to reach desired consistency.

6 Tips to Beat the Battle of the Bulge

Toss Out Temptation – Everyone has a list of “trigger foods” – which means an open bag is an empty bag. Before you revamp your eating program, go through your pantry, fridge, and freezer and toss out these “trigger foods.” If it’s not staring you in the face, the odds are you won’t want it. If you have family members that will throw a fit if you throw out their favorite snack food, make them keep that food in a place that you won’t find it.  If it is a perishable item, buy the smallest quantity available – one serving portions if possible. Put their name on it with a magic marker and put it on the bottom shelf of the fridge, behind the bottles of milk, tea, and water, where you won’t see it. Out of sight, out of mind.

Turn on the Water Works – To make sure you get enough fluid everyday, choose water-rich fruits and veggies in addition to your water and tea.  If you have a choice between a vegetable full of water, like baby bok choy and shiitake mushrooms or one that’s on the starchy side like fresh corn, go for the water- stuffed one. Water helps to flush out toxins and make you feel more energetic. Water, herbal tea, green tea, and sparkling water are all great choices. Again, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Put a bottle on your desk so you remember to stop every so often and take a sip or two.

No Starvation, No Deprivation – Eat every 3 hours to maintain a steady blood sugar and energy level. This requires you to be prepared – take meals and snacks with you to work and on the go. Also, make sure your plate is well-balanced – One-half should be vegetables and/or fruit, one-quarter lean protein, one-quarter whole grain. Adding a small amount of healthy fat (i.e., avocado, olive oil, nuts, nut butters) will help you stay fuller for longer periods of time.

Portions are Important — Read the label on the foods you eat to learn what a portion or serving size is. Fast food restaurants are notorious for super-sizing portions way beyond what is required. A serving of fruit means ½ cup of berries, or a small whole piece of fruit. A serving of vegetables, other than leafy greens is ½ cup as well. A serving of greens is 1 cup. A slice of bread is a serving. A half-cup of cooked whole-grain pasta or rice is a serving. Protein (fish, chicken, pork, or beef, tofu) is 4 ounces, about the size of a deck of playing cards.

Get Back on the Wagon Immediately – Everyone has a tendency to slip up and have that extra cookie, bag of chips, or serving of ice cream, now and again. Forgive yourself but don’t use it as an excuse to trash the entire day’s worth of eating right. You have the choice to get right back on the wagon. So don’t wait. And write it down!

Food Journaling – Writing down what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat is important to your success.  Journaling provides feedback, which allows you to make the necessary changes to help you reach your health and wellness goals. Remember to write in your journal immediately after you eat. If you wait until the end of the day, you’ll likely forget much of what you ate or drank.

Banish Belly Fat

Belly Fat. Spare Tire. Muffin Top. Call it what you want, but it’s a major health hazard. Fat that’s stored around your midsection raises your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this kind of fat is very metabolically active and is easier to lose than the fat that’s stored in your derriere.

So, how did that belly fat get there in the first place? When you gain weight it’s simply a matter of math – you’ve consistently taken in more calories from food than you’ve burned off through activity. Let’s say that you eat pretty healthy, but you drink a 12 oz. regualr soda every day. That 140-calorie soda will cause you to gain 14.4 pounds a year.  What if, instead of a soda, you enjoy a daily 350-calorie iced blended, flavored coffee drink (with whipped cream, of course) – that’s 36.5 pounds a year you’ll gain!

Simply put, if calories in are greater than calories out, you’ll gain weight, which will go straight to your middle. There are certain foods that increase your weight and body fat more than others – partly because of their hormonal effect in the body and partly because these foods are addictive, causing you to eat more of them and have an even higher calorie intake. These foods include:

  • Saturated fat and trans fat: fried foods, “snack” foods, animal fat (marbled meats, poultry skin), high fat dairy foods, pastries (cookies, cakes, cupcakes, doughnuts, etc.)
  • Sugar – table sugar, soda, candy, ice cream, cookies, brownies, etc.
  • White flour products: cereal, crackers, bread, tortillas, bagels, pasta, rice.
  • Alcohol

Other (non-food) factors that influence weight gain and belly fat include lack of physical activity, inadequate sleep, stress, depression, hormones, and age.

How to Banish Belly Fat

Are you ready to banish the belly fat for good? It’s easier than you think. Check out these belly-fighting tips and get started right away. Your belly, bikini, and health will thank you.

  • Fruit and vegetables: fresh (preferably organic) or frozen (without added sugar or salt). Dried is good, too, but watch those with added sugar and mind the portion size, as they are high in calories and can contribute to weight gain.
  • Beans and lentils
  • Soy foods: Real soy foods, like tofu, soy beans, soy milk, and soy nuts
  • Omega-3 rich foods: wild Alaskan salmon, Pacific halibut, black cod/sable fish, barramundi, tuna, walnuts, ground flax seed
  • Monounsaturated fats: avocado, olive oil, almonds, pistachios
  • Lean protein: fish, skinless chicken and turkey breast, eggs, egg whites, nonfat or 1% dairy, bison.
  • Water
  • Green Tea
  • Regular exercise: a combination of cardio and strength training are key for burning calories, improving your heart health, and increasing your lean muscle mass. The more active muscle tissue you have, the higher your metabolism will be. Yoga, pilates, and tai chi are great for balance, stability, and core strength.
  • Sleep: Try to get at least 7 1/2 hours of sleep a night. Turn off the TV, computer, and cell phone an hour before bed so that your brain can produce enough melatonin so you can fall asleep quickly.
  • Deep breathing and meditation: reduce your stress and stress hormones by quieting your mind a few times a day. Close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply, and focus on a mantra, such as “calm” or “peace.”

Funny Holiday Eating Tips

In the spirit of keeping things “light” for the holidays, I thought I’d share these funny holiday eating tips. Enjoy and have a good laugh!


1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table
knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave
immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It’s rare… You cannot
find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has
10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going to turn into an
eggnog-alcoholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have
two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy.
Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed
potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or
whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car
with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your
eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people’s
food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s.
You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the
time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while
carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted
Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near
them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of
attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind,
you’re never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you
don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three.
When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory
celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or
get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention. Re-read tips;
start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this
motto to live by:

“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving
safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in
sideways, chocolate in one hand and wine in the other, body thoroughly used
up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO WAH what a ride!”

~Happy Holidays~ 

Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

The holidays are upon us and I’m sure that there are some people out there who still haven’t done their holiday shopping (you know who you are!). Here are some great gift ideas that will help to nourish the mind, body, and spirit of the lucky recipient.

Consultation with a Registered Dietitian: A meeting with a nutrition specialist is the best place to start when trying to meet your weight and health goals. But, beware of people who claim to be “nutritionists” but have no formal education or degree in the field. To find an RD in your area go to and click on Find a Dietitian. Even better, check out my other website,, as U Rock Girl will be offering Personalized Nutrition Consultations beginning in 2011! Check back when the new website is launched on January 1st!

Personal Training Sessions: Whether you’re new to exercise, recovering from an injury, or just want to take your workout to a new level, working with a personal trainer will help you meet your goals. Make sure to find someone who is certified by ACSM, ACE, NASM, or NSCA.

Cooking Lesson:If you don’t know how to cook, it’s going to be pretty difficult to eat well. One or two cooking lessons (private or as part of a class) will give you the kitchen confidence you’re looking for. Look to a culinary school, stores like Sur La Table and William Sonoma, community classes, as well as private chefs.

Spa gift card:Nothing says, “Aaaah” like a massage, facial, manicure, or pedicure. Look to hotels, day spas, and your local esthetician for gift cards/certificates for a much-needed pampering servince.

Fitness Gear:

  • Hula hoop
  • Pedometer
  • Kettlebells
  • Heart Rate monitor
  • Stability Ball
  • Yoga mat
  • Water Bottle

Saucony Ulti-Mitt II  It’s a glove! It’s a mitten! It has an LED light on the outside so running outside at night becomes less dangerous! These comfortable and smart glove/mittens make working out in the great outdoors during the colder months a reality. ($40)

Mini Emergency kit for her   Don’t you hate it when you’re out and you lose an earring back or need some dental floss, STAT! This mini-emergency kit will rescue you every time. Contains 16 must-haves: Hairspray, Clear Nail Polish, Nail Polish Remover, Emery Board, Lip Balm, Earring Backs, Clear Elastics, Sewing Kit, Double-Sided Tape, Stain Remover, Deodorant Towelette, Pain Reliever, Tampon, Breath Freshener, Dental Floss, and Adhesive Bandages. ($12)

Sephora Endless Color Blockbuster  187 beauty products (shadows, blush, liners, glosses, mascaras) all in a compact carrying case. ($48)

RuMe CUFF– At first, it looks like a cuff for your hot cup of coffee or tea, protecting your hands from burning. But a closer look reveals a zippered pocket where you can store keys, money, an ID. No purse needed! Or slip it on your arm when you go out for a run or to the gym. What a handy place to stash everything!

The Cooking Guide Apron –  Not sure how many teaspoons equals one tablespoon or how long to cook a 5 pound chicken. Well, flip up your apron because the answers are there!

Measure Up Portion Control Bowls –  Do you pour your cereal into the bowl with using a measuring cup? How can you be sure how much rice you really ate? These serving bowls have pre-measured portion lines on the inside of the bowl to help keep you on track. So go ahead and pour a heaping bowl of vegetable soup! –  I’m a big fan of shopping from sites that serve a purpose. The Greater Good site has multiple links that benefit hunger, children’s literacy, animals, women’s issues, and my favorite – breast cancer. Buy from them and make yourself (and someone else) feel good.

For Kids:

Silver Master Pogo Stick by Flybar   Hop your way to fun and fitness and get a little nostalgic in the process. Supports up to 160 pounds. You might have to fight your kids for this one! ($50)

Hyper Dash  This fun game will have your kids running all over the house as they set up the targets and listen for the commands. Don’t tell them, but it’s actually educational as it has them practicing their math while they’re having fun! ($20)

Healthy Kids Plate   This one is great for younger kids. It’s a beautiful plate that helps to teach them about nutrition and proper portions at each meal. Just like we always say at U Rock Girl – 1/2 the plate covered with fruits and veggies, 1/4 whole grains, and 1/4 protein. ($4.99)

Splurges – Helpful or Harmful?

Monday through Friday, you do great with your eating. But when the weekend comes around, you let loose. Cookies – sure, I’ll have another. Apple martini – I thought you’d never ask! Pizza – why stop at one slice? Does this sound familiar? Then Monday morning rolls around and you step on the scale. To your horror, it’s up a few pounds.

The negative thoughts and emotions start flooding your head. How could that have happened? Why did I let myself do that? When will I ever learn that partying it up on the weekend just undoes all my hard work?

Next comes the promises, many of which are extreme and quite unrealistic. 

  • I’ll never eat _______ again.
  • I’ll juice fast for the next two days.
  • Slash the calories – pronto!
  • Cancel all plans for next weekend that involve socializing and food.

O.K. Let’s get back to reality. What you should do is have plan and be consistent. Having a sound eating plan means including some of those “forbidden” or “trigger” food once and a while, but in small portions. That way, you never feel so deprived that you end up binging on them. The occasional piece of cake or pint of beer will not cause you to gain actual fat weight, provided the overall calories you take in stays pretty close to what you normally consume. If the scale is up the day after a small splurge, it’s likely just water retention. Just sweat it out and chug-a-lug the water to get the fluid moving.

The other is that consistency is key. Aim for consuming approximately the same number of calories every day of the week. Then, when you weigh in on Monday morning, the scale smiles back at you.

Is School Making your Child Fat?

School yard gardens can help

Now that most kids around the country are back at school, it’s back to the age-old discussion – do you make their lunch or let them buy the lunch from the school’s cafeteria?

Schools are supposed to comply with specific nutritional guidelines, as set out by the National School Lunch Program. Lunch is supposed to contain no more than 30% of calories from fat and 10% from saturated fat, should have a source of protein and a serving of calcium. While this is all well and good, the unfortunate truth about school lunches is that they do not make the nutritional grade.

Have you ever seen what’s served in the cafeteria? I have – first-hand, as I spent 6 weeks during my nutrition field hours in a public school cafeteria. Pizza, Chicken tenders and french fries, hamburgers, salad with full-fat dressing. Kid-friendly (so it sells), but not figure-friendly. And what about the “extra” stuff that is also sold, but not as part of the school lunch program? Schools also sell cookies, candy, baked goods, soda, and sports drinks. These items are not only big sellers, but an added source of revenue for schools. The bottom line is this: if your child is eating from the cafeteria, he/she is likely taking in close to 1,000 calories of high sodium, high fat, low fiber calories during lunch.

What to do?

As most parents, I’m sure you are an advocate for your child, including decisions regarding their health. Take charge of this situation by saying “No” to school lunches and “Yes” to brown-bagging it. Whether your child is in pre-school, elementary, middle, or high school, they will benefit physically and mentally from a healthy, homemade lunch.

Making lunch doesn’t have to be a time-consuming ordeal. In fact, make it easier on you by getting the kids involved. Sit down with them and make a list of all of the things they would like to eat. They may need a little help from you with some ideas, but you’ll walk away from the discussion with options so that you’re not making the same thing every day.

What to pack?

Every lunch should contain a source of whole grain: whole wheat bread/English muffin/pita bread/tortilla, brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain pasta.

Lean protein: turkey breast, chicken breast, hard-boiled egg, beans, hummus, light string cheese, light shredded cheese.

Fruit & Veggies:Make sure to include 1 piece of fruit;1 snack-size baggie of veggies with hummus/black bean dip/guacamole/salsa; layer veggies onto your sandwich or stuff them into a pita or wrap; a bottle of Fruit 2 day.

Water: Keep them hydrated by packing a 1 liter bottle or 2 (16 oz.) bottles. A great trick to keeping the food nice and chilled is to freeze a bottle of water and then use it as the ice pack. The ice will thaw during the morning, leaving your child with water to drink and a lunch kept nice and cool.

Snacks: Always pack a snack for your child, as they do need a mid-morning pick-me-up. Good ideas include fruit, nuts, or a healthy energy bar. My favorites include Kashi, Lara, Kind, Pure, Zing, and Gnu. Stay away from bars that are coated in chocolate or full of candy bits.

Skip the treats: Kids do not need dessert in the middle of the day, so keep the cookies, candy bars, and the like out of their lunches.

The bottom line: Kids spend very little time eating lunch, as they’d rather be off with their friends playing (elementary school age) or “hanging out” (middle & high school). Knowing this, please don’t pack too much stuff. Usually a sandwich/salad/pasta salad and a piece of fruit is enough. If you pack the main course full of healthy, well-balanced stuff, then they’re good to go.

Worst Kids Meals

Worst fast-food kids meals


McDonald’s Mighty Kids Meal, consisting of a double cheeseburger, french fries and chocolate milk, has topped a list of the most unhealthy fast-food kids meals complied by dietitians at the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The group said the McDonald’s kids meal has 840 calories and 37 grams of fat. The group analyzed the content of fast-food meals marketed to children. It ranked the top five meals with high levels of fat, cholesterol and sodium. The rest of the list, in order:

  • Wendy’s Kids Meal (chicken sandwich, fries and chocolate Frosty) : 770 calories, 34 grams of fat
  • KFC Kids Meal (popcorn chicken, potato wedges, string cheese and soda): 800 calories, 1,800 milligrams of sodium
  • A&W Kids Meal (cheeseburger, fries and soda): 780 calories, 9 grams of saturated fat
  • Burger King’s BK Kids (breakfast muffin sandwich meal): 95 milligrams of cholesterol

If you absolutely have to stop by somewhere fast to get your child a meal, why not try Subway or Quiznos for a small turkey sandwich on a whole wheat roll, with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mustard. Add a bag of apples and some nonfat milk or water and you have a complete, well-balanced, low-fat, high-fiber meal. Even if you have to stop in at a traditional fast-food joint, they all now offer something with some health benefits. Try a grilled chicken sandwich on a whole wheat bun (hold the cheese and mayo), some apple slices, and a bottle of water. Or how about a yogurt parfait? The low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola is actually a good bet. Some even have salads in which you can choose grilled (instead of crispy) chicken and low-fat dressing. You just have to ask for it. Yes, kids will eat a salad if you give it to them. Ask my 3 kids – they love salad.

Just because kids meals are designed for kids, doesn’t mean you have to give it to them.




Marvelous Melon

Did you know that August 3rd was Watermelon Day? Well, it’s not too late to honor the fruit that seems to epitomize summer – picnics, seed-spitting contests, messy, juicy faces. Read more about watermelon and why you should be eating it right now!


On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than mini watermelon popsicles. Just cut up a watermelon into bite-size pieces and place on a cookie sheet. Stick the cookie sheet into the freezer for at least 30 minutes. When the watermelon is frozen, remove the cookie sheet from the freezer and stick toothpicks into each piece.  Enjoy!

$ave Money by Sweating

Do you want to save some money? Then get sweaty. That’s right – workout.

Did you know that people who workout regularly have a lower risk of depression and better manage their emotions. So, instead of spending approximately $1,200 a year on a therapist, you can sock that money away in an interest-earning CD and have more dough for later.

How about exercise helping you kick the urge to smoke? A recent study found that a 10-minute bike ride cut smokers’ cigarette cravings. So, if you choose to exercise instead of smoke, then you’ll save about $1,500 a year that would have gone up in smoke.

The most obvious reason that exercising saves you money is your overall health. People who exercise regularly have lower blood pressure, less risk of developing diabetes,and reduced rates of cancer and heart disease. Less medical tests and medications, and fewer hospital stays and days in a nursing home means reduced health care  costs and more money you can use on that retirement trip around the world!