It’s summertime which means cookout season is in full swing! Whether you are hosting or attending a cookout, it is always difficult to stick to your diet or a healthy eating plan with all the delicious temptations surrounding you. Just keep in mind there are a variety of alternatives to add a healthier menu to your cookout which go beyond the traditional hot dogs and hamburgers!

Healthy tips for your next cookout:


  • Ditch the Chips – Substitute potato chips and French onion dip for raw veggies accompanied by hummus, salsa or guacamole. These snacks are not only better for you, they taste great and keep you full! Still crave that crunch? Try kale chips or a pickle! [© Jenifoto406 |]
  • Grill Outside the Box – Trade your regular ground beef burger for a lean meat such as chicken, sirloin, fish, pork or skinless turkey breast. Other popular, tasty options are salmon (or any fish!), black bean, portobello or veggie burgers. Don’t limit yourself to meat. Pineapple, peaches and vegetables are great grillers, too! Or fill a skewer with mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes. [© stockcreations |]
  • Talking Turkey (Dogs) – Switch your regular frank for a turkey dog to get that great hot dog flavor at a fraction of the calories and fat. If you are on a reduced sodium diet, read the label. [© Trudywilkerson |]
  • Calorie Counting – Using 100 percent whole grain sandwich thins is an easy way to cut down the calories. Go even lighter by ditching the bun altogether or prepare meat that doesn't require a bun. You can also say no to mayo in your salads by using a lighter alternative such as Greek yogurt or vinegar. [© Cardiae |]
  • Be Fruitful – Dessert doesn’t have to be a sugary sweet. Replace cookies and cakes with a naturally sweet fruit or fruit salad. [© Photodeti |]
  • Sweet Drinks – Trade your sugary beverages for water and add flavor by infusing with lemons, fresh strawberries or other fruit, mint, ginger or cucumbers! Low sugar lemonade or teas are also great options. [© Evgenyb |]

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Okay, so last month, I confessed my juice reboot failure, but it wasn’t for pity or even to vent my frustration (well, maybe a little venting). It was to share how I’ve learned from my mistakes and turned those lemons into lemonade (or a healthful lemon juice blend).

First off, let me say how much easier it is to incorporate juices into your diet when the weather is warmer–it’s often refreshing to grab a juice or smoothie instead of a big meal on these warmer days. Secondly, when the hubby and I were going for the full, 3-day reboot, we were a little overwhelmed (and hungry). We are currently trying to incorporate just one juice or smoothie into our day. We may try a reboot again just for the “clean slate” effect, but one a day seems much more do-able for us. I should note that though we may choose a juice or smoothie for breakfast or lunch, we are not doing this as part of some fad weight-loss/meal replacement plan. We simply want to incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diet, and a juice or smoothie makes that easier to do.

Speaking of easy, here’s the biggest win we’ve taken from our juice fail: keep it simple. For the juice reboot, we purchased a nice juicer, since we figured the soluble fiber from the juice might be a little easier on my sad digestive tract than the insoluble fiber you get from smoothies made in blenders (and we didn’t want to have to purchase a crazy-expensive Cadillac of a blender). We are still using the juicer, especially for harder fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, and pears. But making juicing and smoothies more part of our natural routine has meant looking for quicker and easier ways to do it. We were pleased to discover that our very ordinary blender could handle the job (within reason).

We also took advice from our friend Cristina, who has some family trying out juicing and smoothies. She said that they started with other people’s recipes, but eventually started changing them up a bit and trying things that worked better for them. For example, when the hubby and I started making smoothies instead of just juicing, we used the very popular 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse as a blueprint. We were a little bummed that some recipes called for sugar substitutes, since we don’t really like things overly sweet and were more interested in just adding some healthier foods to our diet instead of just losing weight. We started tweaking the recipes a bit and came up with a very basic formula for the world’s laziest smoothie, as demonstrated in the video below.

Finally, as I mentioned last month, the original juice reboot called for us to go vegan a few days leading up to the juicing and a few days after. We were going to use it as a jumping off point for the VB6 diet, and did to a certain point. Now that we are having juice or smoothies once a day, we find it is a lot easier to stick to only vegan (or at least vegetarian) fare before 6 p.m. most days. Do we falter some days? Absolutely. But our new simplified and laid-back approach to juicing and smoothies takes a lot of the pressure off and helps us to keep the momentum needed to maintain the healthier eating habits we are trying to acquire.

  • It's amazing how good a well-seasoned avocado can taste!
  • Salad and vegetable broth--sigh--very vegan and satisfying, if not altogether mouth-watering.
  • Steamed broccoli, brown rice, and tofu, made delicious with a little help from their good friends Sriracha and soy sauce.
  • Avocado also makes a great vegan topping for a whole-grain bagel.
  • The little blender that could!
  • Hey, does my blueberry smoothie resemble planet Earth? Maybe just a little?
  • Yummy vegan chili (with a dollop of cheating sour cream).
  • Vegan tacos? Yep, and tasty.


Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.

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diabetes meals by the plate useThe overwhelming majority of type II diabetes is preventable. If we pay attention to our nutrition and exercise we can control our path toward or away from type II diabetes. If your family has a history of diabetes, obesity, or other endocrine disorders, you may be more likely to develop diabetes. Once thought to be genetic, science has revealed it’s our environment (and family’s lifestyle behaviors) that can lead to type II diabetes. What’s more, type II diabetes can be reversed nearly 9 times out of 10 with proper nutritional guidance and an adequate exercise program. While many walk the line of pre-diabetes, the likelihood of getting full-blown diabetes increases significantly if you do nothing to change your ways. I argue that many of us, particularly those who are overweight or obese, are at risk of developing diabetes. Dr. Mark Hyman has explained time and again that when it comes to your body, its sugar levels, and its inflammatory responses, you’re either diabetic or you’re not- much like you’re either pregnant or you’re not. If your blood sugars are out of the normal range, even by just a little, on a regular basis, you’ve crossed the line. Pre-diabetic seems to be a gentle way of saying, “you’re a diabetic, but we don’t have to give you medication- yet.” Thankfully, you have the power to change it; with the help of your doctor, and perhaps, an awesome endocrinologist, you can turn that diabetes train around and live a long, healthy life.

Diabetic Living and Better Homes and Gardens published Diabetes: Meals by the Plate in 2014. I find that this is a simple cookbook with a no-nonsense approach to balancing your nutirion, particularly if you’re struggling with managing your diabetic diet. The book is based on the template of 1/2 a plate of nonstarchy veggies, 1/4 plate of protein, 1/4 plate of starch or grain, and dairy or fruit on the side at each meal. Simple. Direct. Manageable.

My favorite recipes:
The Trattoria-Style Chicken encrusted with parmesan is particularly easy recipe to follow. It’s paired with a lovely spinach salad and spaghetti. See? You can have some carbs. Just not ALL THE CARBS.  (p. 16)
The Indian-Style Beef & Rice recipe is definitely a comfort food type of meal. The peach-grape salsa that accompanies the Indian-spiced beef brings just enough citrus to the flavor party. Even better? The Basmati rice with mint and lemon peel to boot. The skillet-roasted cauliflower and squash that’ll fill 1/2 your plate will fill you up and satisfy for sure. (p. 72)
And for the vegetarian option, I’m a fan of the broccoli cheese tortellini soup. How can something so decadent be less than 400 a serving? Anyhow, you get to whip out your Dutch oven for this recipe and the kohlrabi chopped salad is pretty inspired. (Considering I only ever eat kohlrabi in stews.) (p. 202)

I hope you’ll find the time to take care of diabetic diet, your blood sugars, and yourself. Enjoy and delight in a delightful cookbook that everyone can enjoy!

JP is the HCLS Editor & Blog Coordinator for Well & Wise. She is also a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch & STEM Education Center. She is a storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, cancer survivor, and liver transplant recipient.

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road trip snacks

[© Wavebreakmedia Ltd |]

9 Healthy Snack Tips for Your Summer Road Trip

Summertime means road trip time! Here are some great ideas to fight off those snack attacks, and keep your energy up, too!  Plan your snack pack before you hit the highway to avoid unhealthy fast food stops and remember that a small insulated cooler is a must have.

  1. It’s A Wrap! Sandwiches can add protein and hearty grains to your diet. Keep wraps made with meat and cheese or hummus or veggies in a cooler.  Other options, like peanut butter and jelly on whole grain, can be kept at room temperature.
  2. Keeping It Cool: Yogurt. Whether it’s in a tube, made into a low-fat smoothie or mixed with fruit or granola, keep these road trip snacks in the cooler. It’s great snack for kids and adults.
  3. Hot On The Trail. Make trail mix at home that keeps well in a storage container with a lid.  Combine granola, raw nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Add a few dark chocolate chips for sweetness or wasabi peas for spice!
  4. Healthy Can Be Gouda, Too: low fat cheese, string cheese, single serve cottage cheese or cheese cubes. There are many low-fat cheeses, or soy or nut-based cheeses for those who are lactose intolerant. Prep cheese slices at home before and toss in the cooler. Pair with your favorite crackers you portion ahead of time, making it “snack-friendly” for the car.
  5. Dip It! Veggie Style. Fresh veggies can be sliced and stored in an insulated cooler. Road trip choices include cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, broccoli florets, cucumbers, celery and snap peas.  Add peanut butter or hummus as a dip to add good fats and protein, too.
  6. Energy Bars….Sweet! Replace those candy bars with an energy or granola bar. Protein and fiber, now that’s a healthier choice.
  7. Fruits, For Sure. Trip-friendly fruits that have been washed and sliced at home are a quick go-to from the cooler. Grapes and berries are finger-sized already. Others can be cubed and stored in containers, or eaten whole.
  8. Thirst Quenchers. Healthy beverages kept on ice are really nice on the road. Water, seltzer, 100 percent vegetable and fruit juices are the way to go.
  9. Go nuts! Craving crunchy? Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, whatever your favorite nut may be. Or go for sunflower or pumpkin seeds, air popped popcorn or rice cakes.
Karen Sterner is special events coordinator at Howard County General Hospital. She is an experienced traveler, having taken many road trips with her family.

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FSND_posterSummer is finally upon us, so I will regale you with a brief and embarrassing winter tale. Way back in January, the hubby and I decided we were feeling kind of crummy and would do something to help us feel healthier. After some thought, discussion (mainly of howto add something to already overloaded schedules), and a bit of research, we had a breakthrough. We decided to embark on a 3-day juice reboot. Please note I said “reboot” and not cleanse. Neither one of us had the time, energy, or pardon me, stomach to deal with the actual cleansing part (read colonics and diuretics and other unpleasantries).

So, inspired by Joe Cross, who gave us the reboot option and is probably best known for Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, and after a quick juicer purchase, we began to juice our way back to good health. We found some good recipes. Joe has plenty of suggestions, plus, there’s an abundance of resources from the library. You can also find plenty of suggestions online too.We followed Joe’s basic pattern for a 3-day reboot, leading up to it by slowly going vegan, and, when the juicing began, having a breakfast juice, a morning snack juice, a lunch juice, an afternoon juice, a dinner juice, and a dessert juice. We stuck to it pretty well, but here are some reasons why I call it a juice fail:

  • Herbal tea was the only thing that kept me from freezing to death during our Winter juice trial.
  • Kale concoction was surprisingly delicious.
  • Coconut water provided a refreshing break from some of the heavier juices.
  • Yes, sweet potatoes can be juiced and they can be pretty tasty.

1. We decided to do it so quickly so that we could be ready in time to start it over a 3-day weekend that we weren’t 100% prepared. It takes a lot of fruits and veggies to make full servings of juice, so we were running to the store a lot.

2. Winter is a terrible time to juice. The amount of fresh fruits and veggies available is a lot smaller during these months and more expensive. Additionally, since most of our nutrients were coming from juices, there weren’t really hot meals to be had (though I would look forward to the herbal tea we’d have at bedtime with a fierce and humiliating desperation). Long story short, I was cold ALL the time during our reboot.

3. Aside from being cold all the time, I was also hungry and really missed chewing. I know how insane that sounds, but I do feel the cold weather affects appetite, and I think there was a certain loss of comfort from taking this on during winter, especially since we were so new to it.

4. Finally, although we both agreed that the reboot did help us “reset” some of our eating habits (and move away from some really bad ones we’d fallen into), the hubby and I were not as prepared to stick with some of the better habits. For example, we were going to use it as a time to transition into Mark Bittman’s VB6 plan. (Please note that the Farmers’ Market Chef, and I have mentioned Bittman before.)

But some positives did come out of this experience, some greater knowledge that we are applying now. Next month, I will tell you how we are turning the juice fail into a health win.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.

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women food desireNot too ago, I was a stress eater. Like many people, I would eat not just because I was hungry, but because it helped me forget things. Sometimes it was more like a zombie would eat than a human would. Other times it was not numbness I sought, but extreme pleasure.

I tried to stop, but it wasn’t until I got Invisalign braces that my eating became more structured and I found myself breaking bad habits and eating for the right reasons. Plus, I found music to be a much better, much healthier pain killer than food and, although I’m still a newbie with it, meditation became an ally.

The one thing, though, I never seriously considered in all of it (maybe because I didn’t want to) is that food would or could ever be a substitute for desire. Even so, I can’t help but find Alexandra Jamieson’s Women, Food and Desire both compelling and helpful. Alexandera Jamieson is a Holistic health counselor and co-star of the award-winning documentary Super Size Me. While some of what she writes can be a bit self-evident (“it’s time to start eating right” and ”women who overeat do so to find some kind of emotional solace” are among the few) there’s also the painfully real, which is not said nearly enough:

The intense pressure we’re under to be perceived as desirable, in an objectified way, has us either starving ourselves so we don’t have to feel how lonely or sexually unfulfilled we may be…When sex becomes too dangerous for us to fully enjoy, food becomes our version of safe sex.

But Jamieson is not just here to trouble us though with reminders of how scary sex can be or how unfair our society is to women. She wants to be our cheerleader as well and she becomes one in a non-irritating, warm and sincere manner. Though needing and eating food often makes us feel unwelcome in our own bodies, food instead “should delight us, ignite us and make us feel good.”

11375928206_90665a2e3e_zIt’s exactly because the author is on our side and not lecturing us or talking down to readers that I like this book so much. It may sometimes repeat things we already know, but in this case we do need to be reminded how dangerous criticism of ourselves and others can be, and that in doing so, we are “failing to see that person at all.” No one, Jamieson says, not even a mother, should (whether with cruel intention or not) shame us because of our bodies.

Jamieson stresses three common reasons why we may sublimate food for other things: off-kilter family relationships (so many of us know all about that), body alienation (whether we eat to lose ourselves in our own bodies or we don’t eat as a way to try and disappear), and sexual pleasure. It’s this focus that strengthens Women, Food and Desire  and makes it heads above other self-help books on women and food.

As if the empathy and sincerity isn’t enough, the writer also include the neuroscience behind cravings, how to break lifelong eating habits, and practical tips for food shopping. There is also advice on getting better rest and seeing exercise as something fun to do rather than an excruciating punishment to atone for some past sin.

Jamieson is popular with both readers and critics because she genuinely wants to help ease people into rethinking and recharging the way they see food and their bodies in a world where so many fashion magazines and TV shows hold up an “ideal” image of how women should eat, be, and look. Isn’t that refreshing?

Angie Engles has been with the Howard County Library System for 17 years, 14 of which were at the Savage Branch. She currently works at the Central Branch primarily in the Fiction and Audio-visual departments. Her interests include music, books, and old movies.

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