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Eating Healthy

Clean Out Your Pantry

by Yvonne Best 5. April 2014

It seems as though spring is finally here! Now is a great time to clean out your pantry and fridge to prepare for the summer. Perhaps you can replace some of your existing foods with healthier, lower calorie options?

As a dietitian, many people ask me what I eat. I thought that for this blog post I would share with you some of the things that are in my pantry and fridge on a regular basis. I do like my sweets, but try not to keep them in the house!

In my pantry:

·         Kashi GoLean cereals – filled with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

·         Prunes – loaded with fiber to help keep you full and regular.

·         Tea bags (green and black) and coffee – contain antioxidants and can count towards your fluid intake for the day since they are made with water.

·         100% cacao baking cocoa powder – contains antioxidants, iron, and a little fiber. I like to make my own hot chocolate with a cup of milk, a teaspoon of this, Splenda and a drop of vanilla extract.

·         Unsalted mixed nuts – contain heart healthy fats and protein. Just watch your portion size and consume no more than a handful.

·         Canned tuna and salmon – a cheap, easy source of protein and heart healthy fats.

·         Canned pumpkin – filled with beta carotene, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. I usually make pumpkin pancakes with this on the weekends.

·         Spices (cinnamon, oregano, cumin, etc.) – filled with antioxidants and a great way to flavor your food without salt!

·         Oatmeal – a whole grain that provides fiber. Choose the oatmeal in the large tub (whether it be quick oats or ones that need to cook longer) over the pre-sweetened, packaged oatmeal.


In my fridge/freezer:

·         Tofu – the only plant protein that is a complete source of protein. I like to add it to my eggs, pasta, smoothies, etc. It takes on the taste of practically anything you cook it with.

·         100% whole wheat bread – loaded with fiber, which helps keep you full and your bowels regular. Just make sure you read the label to ensure that it is made with 100% whole wheat flour.

·         Greek yogurt – great source of calcium and protein. Some are fortified with vitamin D, too!

·         Raw vegetables: kale, red onion, garlic, spinach/green mixture – filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber.

·         Mayonnaise made with olive oil – a lower fat version of your favorite mayo. Creamier than light mayo.

·         Ground flax seed – providing fiber and protein, flax seed has a somewhat nutty taste. I like to add it to my yogurt, cereal, and smoothies.

·         Eggs – great source of protein, vitamin, and minerals. I like to eat mainly egg whites and only a few yolks per week.

·         Skim milk – a low calorie source of vitamins and minerals like potassium, calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Aim for at least two glasses per day of skim or 1% milk.

·         Salad dressing made with yogurt (you’ll find it in the produce section at the grocery store) – provides lower fat, lower calorie versions of some of your favorite flavors like ranch and Caesar.

·         100% whole wheat flour – I use this when baking. It contains more fiber than white flour.

·         All fruit spread (instead of jelly) – has less sugar and a little more fiber than regular jelly.

·         Vegetable burgers – with lots of different varieties, these can be part of a quick, easy meal. Just be cautious of the sodium content of some of them!

·         Frozen vegetables: spinach, eggplant, broccoli florets, edamame, pepper and onion mix, green beans – Just as nutritious as raw vegetables, frozen tend to be cheaper and obviously, won’t go bad as quickly! Make sure you are not choosing varieties with added sauces and salt.

·         Frozen quinoa blend – a great whole grain, even for those who cannot eat wheat.

·         Water pitcher with filter – I always try to have a bottle of water with me that I reuse. A pitcher with a filter (like a Brita or Pur pitcher) is an inexpensive way to ensure safe drinking water.



Feel free to post comments to share what's in your pantry!





Healthy Tips

Try a New Recipe this Spring Season

by Carolyn DePuy 26. March 2014

Although you wouldn’t know it by stepping outside, Spring is here! Celebrate by making a delicious salad inspired by the Spring Season. Pearl Couscous with Lemon Asparagus and Tomato acts as a great side dish or a nice lunch entrée. You won’t regret making this quick and easy recipe that’s RD approved!

Pearl Couscous Salad with Lemon Asparagus and Tomato

Servings: 5

Serving Size: 1 Cup

Calories: 170

Fat: 4 gm

Total Carbohydrate: 30 gm

Fiber: 5 gm

Protein: 6 gm

Sodium: 10 mg


  • 2/3 cup whole wheat pearl couscou
  • 3/4 lb thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
  • 1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup red onion, minced
  • 1-1/2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • Fresh cracked pepper, to taste


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add asparagus and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.

Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and rinse in a colander under cold water.

Add couscous to the boiling water and cook according to package directions.

Chop asparagus into small 1/2 inch pieces.

Drain the couscous and place in a large bowl.

Add chopped asparagus, tomatoes, red onion, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and pepper to the bowl. Mix together with the coucous and Enjoy!

Serve room temperature or chilled.

Recipe adapted from Skinnytaste.com

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Mindful Eating By: Nicole Goben, Sage Dietetic Intern

by Melissa Stopera 10. March 2014

Throughout a typical day we are constantly plagued by distractions.  We watch TV, surf the Internet, work, and use our cell phones, often all at the same time.  These distractions continue into our meal times, and can have a serious impact on how and what we eat.

Evidence shows that “mindless eating” triggers us to eat too much, too fast, which can cause poor health effects.  The largest concern is the potential to overeat. The brain plays a huge role in regulating hunger and fullness, so when the brain is tuned out we often consume more than our body needs at that given time. 

Mindful eating is defined as an awareness of “physical and emotional sensations while eating or in a food related environment.”  Mindful eaters do not eat out of habit or boredom, but out of physical necessity.  Once a mindful eater begins to eat, they focus on their food with no distractions.  With this being said, mindful eating can be a very important skill for weight loss and maintenance. 

Overall, remaining aware of your eating habits will allow you to better regulate your food intake, which is 100% necessary for weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some tips to help make you a more mindful eater:

  • Eat slower! Try eating with your non-dominant hand, taking sips of water between bites or setting your fork down between bites.
  • Make meal time special; turn off the TV, eat in a quiet place and use your nice tableware.
  • Rate your hunger before you eat to help reduce emotional eating.
  • Don’t fight cravings; acknowledge why you might be having this craving and think of a way to satisfy it in a healthy way.
  • Try a yoga class; the practice has been known to help people become more mindful eaters.


Upcoming Congestive Heart Failure Support Group: “Healthy Eating 101- A Lesson From Our Chef”

by Melissa Stopera 10. February 2014

Ellis Medicine offers a fantastic nutrition related support group for people and family members coping with Congestive Heart Failure.  This group provides an opportunity to learn from the following experts:  Registered Dietitian Yvonne Best & Manager and Chef of Dining & Nutrition Jason Belanger.

This support group, titled “Healthy Eating 101- A Lesson From Our Chef” involves a live cooking demonstration & tasting of low sodium, heart healthy recipes presented by Jason.  Yvonne will give a thorough presentation on Heart Health & nutrition related recommendations for dietary management of congestive heart failure.  This group is intended to be interactive, and will provide real life guidance to improving low sodium dietary compliance when dining out, grocery shopping, and cooking at home. 

The support group is scheduled for Thursday March 6th from 5:30-7:00PM.  It will take place at the Ellis Hospital Graham Auditorium at 1101 Nott Street, Schenectady.  This group is free of charge, but does require registration.  To register, please contact Diana Michaelson at 518-243-4401. 

Personally, I have experienced this group first hand, as last year I presented the nutrition related recommendations component.  We had a wonderful group with delicious food & conversation.  If you have any specific questions about this group, feel free to call me at 518-243-4345.  I highly recommend attendance.

Hope to see you there!


Healthy Tips | Recipes

Super Bowl Recipe

by Linda Crowley 28. January 2014

Roasted Chick Peas
Here is an easy recipe, just in time for the Super Bowl!  A true crowd pleaser which is also healthy!

• 2 (15 ounce) cans No Salt Added Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon chili powder
• ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

The key to having this recipe come out crunchy is drying the canned chick peas first.  Here is what I do before tossing the ingredients together.
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 
2. Rinse and drain the canned chickpeas thoroughly.  Rub them dry between several paper towels.  Discard and remove any loose skins and broken pieces.  Drying the beans to remove excess moisture will ensure success.
3. Sprinkle or spray the olive oil over the beans.  Spraying the olive oil on the beans will help to not overcoat.  Less is better.
4. Mix the spices in a bowl until well blended.  Add the spice mixture to the chickpeas and toss to well coat.
5. Spread the chickpeas evenly on a baking pan.  Bake for 20 minutes.
6. Remove from oven, stir well and continue to bake an additional 10-15 minutes.  Check frequently to not over brown but ensure they are crispy.

Store the roasted chickpeas in a re-sealable plastic bag or container.  Enjoy!
Yield:  8 – ½ cup servings; 1 serving = 109 calories, 15 gm carbohydrate, 4 gm dietary fiber, 5 gm protein, 3.2 gm fat

Let us know if you have any favorite (and healthy) Super Bowl recipes you'd like to share. 


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Heart Healthy Creamy Corn Chowder Recipe

by Yvonne Best 16. January 2014

Covering the Cardiac Care Unit here at Ellis, I often educate and counsel individuals about a heart healthy diet. Since the winter months are here, I thought I'd share a recipe from the American Heart Association that puts a healthy spin on a typically high-fat, high sodium soup.


·         Cooking spray

·         1 tablespoon margarine-type spread (like Olivio, Promise, Smart Balance, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)

·         ½ cup chopped onion

·         ½ cup diced celery

·         1 ¼ cups water

·         1 small baking potato, peeled and cut into cubes

·         1  14 ¾ ounce can no-salt added cream-style corn, undrained

·         1 ½ cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed

·         1 teaspoon sugar

·         1 teaspoon salt-free powdered chicken bouillon

·         ¼ teaspoon salt

·         1/8 teaspoon white pepper

·         1 cup fat-free half-and-half

·         1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

·         2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


Spray medium sauce pan with cooking spray. Melt margarine over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Cook for 5 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally. Stir in water, potato, both corns, sugar, bouillon, salt, and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.


Pour the half-and-half into a small bowl and whisk in the flour. Stir into the soup. Stir in parsley. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the soup has thickened, stirring frequently. Enjoy!


American Heart Association. (2012). Heart-healthy Recipes. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association.



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Focus on Realistic Resolutions this New Year

by Carolyn DePuy 30. December 2013

It’s hard to believe another year has passed. It’s time to reflect on the good and the bad of 2013, and start brainstorming resolutions to make 2014 the best yet.

As I was doing just this myself, I realized that for the first time ever, I successfully carried out my own New Year’s Resolution. According to a recent study*, I am one of only 8% of Americans who is successful in fulfilling their New Year’s Resolutions.

So what was my resolution? I promised myself I would floss every day. I made this promise as I sat in the dentist’s chair getting two cavities filled. I knew I never wanted to have that experience again.

So this made me think, why was this resolution the only one I had ever kept? What is the formula for success? After some consideration, I came up with this – a successful resolution must be Achievable, Simple, and Personal.


Step One: Make it Achievable
In this step, you decide your overall goal for the year. You must be completely honest with yourself. If you haven’t been to the gym in years – don’t make your resolution to go every day. Start with once a week. If you drink soda daily, don’t try to cut it out altogether but decrease the amount instead. Think of goals that are realistic and start small. You can always exceed expectations – but falling short will just frustrate you!

In this step, it’s also important to look at the barriers you may face while trying to achieve your goal. Think of what has stopped you in the past and come up with strategies to overcome challenges in the future.


Step Two: Make it Simple
In this step, decide on one simple thing that will get you to your ultimate goal. Don’t make your goal to lose 20 pounds this year. Think of simple steps to getting there – and make one of those your resolution.

Maybe your goal is simply realizing you don’t know where to begin. If this is the case, make an appointment with an outpatient dietitian to get your own personalized plan!


Step Three: Make it Personal
In this step you decide what motivates you. Do you want to lose weight so you have more energy throughout the day? Do you want to feel more confident? Finding what drives you will give you a reason to accomplish this goal. It will be in the back of your mind while grocery shopping, choosing what to order at a restaurant, and deciding whether or not to go to the gym after a long day of work.

This combination will set you up for success, whether it’s for weight loss, diet changes, or anything else.

I wish everyone a successful new year!

Be sure to stay tuned to Ellis’s Eating Healthy Blog to help you stay on track in 2014.

*University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology

**If you’d like to meet with a Registered Dietitian call 518.243.3333 to schedule an appointment. Ellis Medicine’s Registered Dietitian’s are nutrition experts that can help translate the science of food into practical solutions for every day healthy living. One simple step to achieving your goals for 2014!

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Healthy Tips

Rate My Plate

by Ashley Wojcicki 16. December 2013

Overall Grade: C-

If you are looking to engage in an endurance cardiovascular activity in the next 24 hours, this may be the plate for you with a mix of carbohydrates and fats.  However for an everyday lunch, it could use a little work.

It was a good thought including a salad, but perhaps next time, shoot for a salad with darker, leafy greens and preferably more veggies than croutons. Dark, leafy green can offer more for vitamins than romaine lettuce.  Caesar salad can be a perceived “healthy, low calorie” option, but when the cheese and dressing (usually full-fat dressing) are already mixed in, it can turn into a high calorie bomb. Here are some suggestions to keep out those “hidden calories”:

  1. Try to order salad dressing (low-fat if possible) on the side, and dip only the tip of the fork in the dressing first before having a hearty helping of veggies.
  2.  Minimize the amount of cheese and croutons added since both can be high in fat (especially restaurant croutons that are fried).

It was a good choice choosing only a half of the sandwich.  Chicken or tuna salad is a great source of protein, but beware of the large amount of calories that tag along with condiments like full-fat mayonnaise.  Next time, shoot for a sandwich on 100% whole-grain bread with more veggies, lean protein, and a low-fat or low calorie condiment on the side.   Hummus can be a good replacement for mayonnaise type spread.

I fully believe there is room in any diet for a little dessert.  Choosing a dessert that is fruit based, like this apple crumble, is certainly headed in the right direction, but keep in mind there is still sugar and fats mixed in, and can still be high in calories.  So always keep portions small, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to cut down on the carbohydrates (ie. breads, pasta, rice, potatoes) with your main dish. For example, eat only have half of the sandwich roll.

To end on a high note, it was a great choice to have water as the beverage. You can never go wrong with water!



Rate Your Plate

Control Calories for a Healthier Holiday

by Carolyn DePuy 25. November 2013

According to the Calorie Control Council, the typical number of calories in a Thanksgiving dinner can reach 4,500 calories – that’s 2-3 times the amount an average person should consume in an entire day. Strategies to prevent your meal from reaching this tremendous calorie level include controlling portion sizes and modifying traditional recipes to include lighter ingredients.

If you’re set on using Mom’s traditional recipes, it’s important to watch portions.

Examples of appropriate portion sizes include:

½ cup Mashed or Sweet Potatoes

3 oz Turkey

1 Dinner Roll

8 oz Milk

½ cup Cooked Vegetables

½ cup Canned Fruit

1 tsp Margarine


Also, remember to wait at least 15 minutes before reaching for seconds – it takes at least this long for your body to register it’s full. If you’re still hungry after the first round, go back for more veggies to avoid overeating.


If you’d like to challenge yourself with making some healthier recipes this Thanksgiving, here are some to try:

Mushroom Fennel Quinoa Stuffing

Servings: 7 - Serving Size: 3/4 cup - Calories: 136 - Fat: 4 g - Carb: 21 g - Fiber: 3 g - Protein: 5 g - Sugar: 1.5 g - Sodium: 113 mg


1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well

1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth (or low sodium vegetable broth)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3/4 cup fennel, diced

1/2 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup carrots, diced

8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms



Cook rinsed quinoa in broth according to package directions.

While the quinoa is cooking, Add olive oil and onion to a large sauté pan. Sauté for one minute.

Add the fennel, celery, and carrots, salt and pepper to taste

Cook about 12-15 minutes over medium heat, until vegetables are soft.

Add the mushrooms to the pan stirring for 5 minutes, then cook covered for 2 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released their juice and are cooked through.

Add the cooked quinoa to the pan and mix well.


**See Linda Crowley’s Blog Post "Make "Better Stuffing" This Thanksgiving" for another Stuffing Recipe to Try!**



Sweet Potato Casserole
Servings: 10 - Serving Size: 1/10th Casserole - Calories: 132 - Fat: 2 g - Protein: 1.5 g-  Carb: 29 g - Fiber: 2.7 g - Sugar: 10 g - Sodium: 15 mg



2 lbs sweet potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 tsp agave 

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch nutmeg

pinch allspice

8 oz can unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained

2 tbsp chopped pecans

1 cup mini marshmallows


Cut sweet potatoes into large chunks

Boil potatoes in a large pot covered with water until potatoes are soft if pierced with a fork. Drain and return to the pot.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Mash the sweet potatoes and add in raisins, agave, spices and pineapple.

Lightly spray a pie dish or casserole dish. Spoon in sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with pecans and marshmallows.

Bake for 15 minutes.


Skinny Pumpkin Pie
Servings: 8 - Serving Size: 1/8th pie - Calories: 172 - Fat: 6.4 g Total Carb: 31.4 - Fiber: 1.7 - Protein: 3.5 g - Sugar: 20 g - Sodium: 143 mg



15 oz canned pumpkin 

2 tbsp light butter, softened

3/4 cup light brown sugar, unpacked

1/2 cup fat free milk

1 large egg

2 large egg whites

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 frozen pie crust sheet, Pillsbury (thawed to room temperature)



Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly dust a large cutting board or flat surface with flour.

Roll out pie crust thinner than usual (the idea is to save some calories by removing ~1/3 of the crust when placed into the pan)

Place into a 9-inch pie dish, cutting off excess dough.

Place pumpkin in a large bowl.

Add softened light butter, and mix well.

Using an electric mixer, mix in brown sugar, milk, eggs, egg whites, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into unbaked pie crust.

Bake 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Serve with whipped topping and enjoy!


**Recipes Adapted from Skinnytaste.com – Check out this site for more recipes to “lighten up” your Thanksgiving.


Finally, staying active this holiday season can also keep your waistline in check. Some ways to incorporate exercise into your holiday are below.

•Instead of spending the day watching football, start your own game of touch football with the family.

•Go on a walk before or after Thanksgiving Dinner

•Have a gourd hunt (similar to an Easter Egg Hunt). The person to find the most gourds around the yard gets their serving of dessert first!


Using some of these tips and tricks can help you prevent weight gain during the holidays. Don't wait until January 1st to commit to being a healthier you!

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season!

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Make "Better Stuffing" This Thanksgiving

by Linda Crowley 25. November 2013

Can you guess which item on your Thanksgiving holiday table often tips the scales at 8 g of fat and 500 mg sodium per ½ cup serving? 

If you answered stuffing - you are right! 

Because I often serve Thanksgiving dinner for many people with special diets, I have attempted to perfect various tasty, lower fat and lower sodium items.  Whenever you can substitute whole grains, fruit and vegetables, the result is usually healthier or “better”. 

I don’t believe is “not having” an item, but I encourage smaller portions and modified versions.  This Better Stuffing recipe is a true pleaser at my Thanksgiving table.  It was adapted from a Food and Health Communications recipe created by a Dietitian/Chef.  Enjoy!

Better Stuffing 

Serves: 16/Serving Size:  ½ cup
Total Time:  55 min/Prep time: 5 min/Cook: 50 min


  • 1 box lower sodium chicken stuffing mix, prepared without margarine
  • 1 cup each: diced apples, onions and celery
  • 1 Tbsp soft Tub spread or margarine
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice, made without salt
  • 1 cup low sodium broth or no salt added stock

Sauté the apples, onions and celery in the margarine.  When they are soft (about 3-5 minutes), add the prepared stuffing (made with the season packet & boiling water – no margarine), cooked rice and broth.  Combine well and place in covered casserole or baking dish.  Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Nutrition Facts - Per ½ cup serving (makes 16 portions): 
172 calories, 32 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 3 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 130 mg sodium, 2 carb choices


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