Back to School Begins with Breakfast

When it comes to learning, breakfast may be just as important as taking notes in class and completing assigned homework. A good diet actually changes the brain by creating more brain cells, strengthening communication between cells, and improving blood flow which leads to more glucose and oxygen delivery to the brain. What does this mean for students? A growing body of research shows kids who eat breakfast have:

  • more energy
  • better memory
  • improved problem-solving skills
  • improved mathematics skills
  • better scores on standardized tests

Yet statistics show up to 40% of kids and teens skip this meal. How can you serve a nutritious meal in a hurry? Check out my tips from today’s segment on Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live

Simple Ingredient Substitutions for a Healthier 2013

Looking for a lighter start to 2013 and a way to recover from weeks of overeating during the holiday season? I shared my favorite ingredient substitutions with Tracye Hutchins of CBS Better Mornings Atlanta on January 2nd:

Simple food substitutions for healthier 2013.


CBS Better Mornings Atlanta

And, here are the recipes featured in this segment:

Turkey Meatloaf
1 lb. ground turkey
4 large egg whites or 2 whole eggs
4 oz. uncooked Old Fashioned oats (measure on a scale)
Vegetable soup mix
1 cup chopped onions
8 oz. mild salsa
2 cloves minced garlic

Mix turkey meat and egg whites until mixed throughout. Add salsa, onions and garlic. In a separate bowl mix vegetable soup mix with oatmeal. Combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients into a loaf pan and cook for 45 minutes at 375°F, midway through cooking, top with aluminum foil if top of meatloaf is cooked.

Blueberry Muffins
1 cup 1% or skim milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup applesauce
1 cup oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (or ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup all purpose flour)
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 cup oatmeal
2 Tbsp. melted light soft spread (butter substitute)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray or use muffin liners. Mix ¼ cup oatmeal with 1 Tbsp. melted soft spread and 1 Tbsp. brown sugar and set aside (streusel topping). Combine all wet ingredients. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Blend wet and dry ingredients together until just moistened, do not over mix. Add 1 cup frozen blueberries. Let sit for 5 minutes.Top with streusel topping. Fill muffin cups until 2/3 full and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Creamy Light Mac n Cheese
Recipe modified from: Sidney Fry, RD, Cooking Light September 2011

3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 [1-pound] squash)
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 Tbsp. plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) Cabot 50% light Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound uncooked cavatappi
Cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 375°.
Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Cabot Light Cheddar, Pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Krista Ackerbloom Montgomery, Cooking Light 
September 2007

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (14-oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8-oz.) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-oz.) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 (13.5-oz.) package baked tortilla chips or whole grain crackers (about 16 cups)


Preheat oven to 350°. Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, sour cream, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and next 6 ingredients (through spinach) in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.

Healthy Hash Brown Casserole
Recipe courtesy of Aimee Fortney, Not the Perfect Cook
Makes 6 servings

Cooking spray
4 Russet potatoes, about 2 pounds total, peeled and cut in half
1 medium white onion, peeled and cut in half
8 ounces Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar or Sharp Extra Light Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups), divided
1 cup Cabot 2% Plain Greek-Style Yogurt or Plain Greek-Style Yogurt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat 9-inch square or similar baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In food processor fitted with grater blade, grate potatoes and one onion half; transfer to large bowl.
3. With hand grater, grate remaining onion half directly over bowl, scraping all juice and onion from inside grater into bowl.
4. Add 1 cup of cheese and yogurt, black pepper, red pepper and salt; stir until potatoes are coated. Spread mixture in prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese.
5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden.

Disclosure: Cabot Cooperative Creamery Spokesperson



Stay Warm with Comfort Foods

Everyone has at least one favorite dish they fall back on when the weather gets cold and they crave warm foods and the comfort of family dishes passed down from generation to generation. And though they satisfy your taste buds, traditional comfort foods aren’t always good for your waistline. Savory meatloaf, creamy mac n’ cheese, hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and lamb stew are all notoriously high and fat in calories. However, I had the pleasure of stopping by CBS this morning in Washington DC to share my 3 favorite tips for choosing lower calorie comfort foods that will keep you warm all winter long.

Here’s the video:

1. Choose Comfort from Classic Dishes

Homemade Mac ‘n Cheese is a household favorite for both kids and adults alike. But, your grandma’s recipe is probably packed with butter and full-fat cheese topped enriched macaroni noodles. You can lighten this up, make it seasonal and make it taste so much better at a fraction of the cost by using either whole wheat noodles or better yet, cubed butternut squash with a mix of cheeses including 50% reduced fat Cabot Cheddar and grated Pecorino Romano cheese – both of these are full flavor cheeses so you need less to achieve incredible taste. For a little crunch (and extra fiber), top your mac n’ cheese with whole wheat Panko.

2. Set it and Forget it

If you don’t have a slow cooker, ask for one this holiday season. Lower cost ones are just $25 and work very well. The beauty of a slow cooker is that you can throw everything in, set it and forget it until you come home to the wonderful smell of dinner in the air. Though there are several single dish meals you can make, this delicious easy black bean soup is both high in fiber and protein plus it’s budget friendly at just about $1.65 per serving.

3. Ring the New Year a Little Early

Southerners often turn to blackeyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day for good luck. Well, why not take this Southern tradition and improve your luck all winter long with this low cost comfort dish?  At just $1.65 per serving, this Black-eyed Peas and Greens dish from combines high fiber, nutrient rich black-eyed peas with turnip greens and flavor from vinegar, low sodium chicken broth and turkey bacon for an award winning, easy-to-make meal.


Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Meal Ideas

You’ve seen them. The people who faithfully go to the gym day after day and spend quality time on the cardio equipment and in the weight room. Yet their bodies never seem to make any visible changes. They are training. But they aren’t training smart with a plan that is specifically designed to meet their goals, lifestyle and current state of conditioning. A plan that helps them progress and not just maintain. But, even with the best training program, a person’s progress will be limited if they don’t eat a diet that provides the energy they need while also facilitating training adaptations and helping improve recovery. And though eating well means choosing nutrient-dense foods 90 – 95% of the time, the most important meals for an athlete are pre- and post-workout:


In order to sustain your energy levels through your workouts, your body needs food. If you have just 2 hours before you hit the gym, track or field, opt for a lighter snack. Four hours beforehand, opt for meal that is higher in carbohydrate, contains some protein for staying power and is low in fiber and fat (both slow digestion and who wants their stomach busy digesting food when they are about to run sprints?). Lastly, don’t try something new before workouts that may make you a little queasy. For example, spicy food can give you heartburn and greasy food may make you sick to your stomach. Think familiar and easy-to-digest.

Half a cantaloupe with cottage cheese

Snack examples:

  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Banana spread lightly with almond butter or peanut butter
  • Yogurt
  • Granola bar
  • Pancakes or waffles


The main purpose of eating after you workout is to turn a catabolic environment into an anabolic one. In other words – your post-workout meal will facilitate the processes underlying muscle growth, re-hydrate, help curb excess inflammation and restore muscle glycogen. In addition to improving recovery, your post workout meal will help you make training gains.

Post-workout meal ideas:

  • Protein pancakes (Simply pancake mix with added protein powder.)
  • Protein shake
  • Low fat chocolate milk (you’ll need more protein than this if you are lifting weights)
  • Bagel, bread or pita with melted cheese
  • Tunafish or turkey sandwich

Eat so you can train well, don’t hit the gym or run a few extra miles as an excuse to eat more food that doesn’t fit in your training program.

Written by: Rachel Rosenthal & Marie Spano

You Booze, You Lose. How Alcohol Can Wreck Your Athletic Performance

It’s called a beer gut for a reason. But, over drinking will do more than just cover up those abs you’ve been working so hard for. Take a close look at how it will wreck your athletic performance:

Athletic Performance & Recovery

Alcohol has a number of effects on the body that can impair performance and delay recovery by:

  • Impairing muscle growth in the short-term – decreasing gains you’ve worked for in the weight room and on the field
  • Disrupting your sleep cycle, which impairs how you learn and retain/recall information (slowed reaction time on the field several days after consumption)
  • Decreasing blood testosterone levels for up to 24 hours after consumption which decreases aggression, lean muscle mass, recovery and overall athletic performance
  • Causing nausea, vomiting and drowsiness for several days after consumption

Body Fat

  • Alcohol interrupts your sleep cycle, which decreases your body’s production of HGH (human growth hormone). HGH promotes muscle mass while decreasing fat mass, is critical for recovery (by stimulating protein synthesis) and is important for immune system functioning.
  • Alcohol suppresses testosterone production.
  • Alcoholic drinks are high in calories and metabolized first, before food so extra calories from food are stored as body fat. Because your liver is busy processing alcohol, fat metabolism is delayed.
  • Alcohol also inhibits your body’s absorption of vitamins B1, B12, folic acid and zinc.


Alcohol is a diuretic that leads to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. And, dehydration can increase one’s risk of muscle cramps and other muscle injuries.

For all of the younger athletes reading this who feel peer pressure about drinking, think about this, the effects of 3 drinks will last a few days. Drink on Thursday and your reaction time on Saturday will still be impaired (and it may be impaired on Sunday too). Need an out? You just got one. Need another out? Use my all time favorite response when someone asks if you want a drink, “That’s a Clown Question, Bro.”


  • J Clin Endocrin & Metab 1980;51:759-764.
  • Firth G. Manzo LG. For the Athlete: Alcohol and Athletic Performance. University of Notre Dame; 2004.
  • J Am Acad Dermatol 43(1 Pt 1):1-16.

UGA vs. Georgia Tech – Tailgating with Georgia’s Finest Foods

UGA vs. Georgia Tech is one of college football’s most intense rivalries, dating back to 1893. It has been described as Clean Old-Fashioned Hate complete with taunting, pranks and a sea of gold, navy, red and black. But, you can do even more to show your school pride by choosing Southern foods from each side of the football battleground. Just follow these 3 easy tips I discussed on CBS Better Mornings Atlanta. You can see the video by clicking here.

1. Drink Wisely - if you are going to drink alcohol (and no I don’t encourage drinking and if you are an athlete, I’ll tell you a number of reasons to cut down or cut out alcohol), at least choose local brew. Georgia Tech fans have several beers to choose from Red Brick Brewing Company’s lineup (formerly Atlanta Brewing Company). UGA fans should support Athen’s based, Terrapin Beer Company.

And of course, responsible drinking means alternating every alcoholic drink with water or another non-alcoholic beverage so you stay sober and avoid a hangover the next day.

2. Step Up Your Seasoning

Gourmet chefs rely on the best marinades they can find and, if you live in Atlanta and you are looking for healthy flavorful seasoning blends, turn to Mo’Spices Low Sodium Abodo Seasonings out of Marietta. Abodo is the perfect blend of Latin Spices and seasonings that will transform your food into a delicious dish (see recipes below). But, even GA Tech fans can’t get enough of UGA graduate Gena Knox’s Fire and Flavor line to spice up their burgers, poultry, fish and other dishes. Fire and Flavor has an extensive lineup of seasonings, easy brining kits (they have me sold on brining!), cedar planks and more. I can’t wait to try several of the recipes in Gena’s two cookbooks.

3. Put Some New Recruits in the Game

If you’ve been bringing the same ol’ same ol’ chips, dips and brownies to every tailgating party this year, it’s time for a change and to put some faith in new recruits that are proven winners at the Taste of Georgia contest in 2012. Lauri Jo’s award winning Muscadine Pepper Jelly pairs well with cream cheese served with whole grain crackers. If your guests want chips though, she also has a fabulous salsa. And, if you want a delicious grab and go treat that combines two favorite Southern foods, check out Grit Bits and Gourmet Goodies Vidalia Onion Grit Bits.

White Bean Chicken Chili  (recipe from Monique of Mo’s Spices & Seasonings)


  • 1 lb. 98% lean ground chicken
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (I added 3 onions but I love onions!)
  • 2 cups cooked Navy beans (I used canned Navy beans and rinsed them well to rinse the sodium off for my guests who need low sodium meals)
  • chili powder to taste
  • Mo’Spices Adobo (season to taste)
  • Mo’Spices Seasoned Sea Salt (season to taste)
  • No Salt or Organic Ketchup, to taste
  • olive oil


  1. Saute’ onions in oil until translucent
  2. Scoop onions to the perimeter of the pan, add ground chicken and brown
  3. Season browned chicken with Mo’Spices Seasoned Sea Salt
  4. Add navy beans to the browned chicken and onions
  5. Mix in chili powder and Mo’Spices Adobo (I don’t love chili powder so I left this out completely)
  6. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium
  7. Add ketchup and mix well (I left this out too and let people add ketchup as desired)
  8. Simmer for about 10- 15 minutes

Four Fast Breakfast Ideas

By Rachel Rosenthal, Dietetic Intern and Marie Spano

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it jump starts your metabolism and spikes muscle protein synthesis (when you wake up after an overnight fast your body is breaking down muscle tissue). But, it this meal is often the hardest to fit in with morning time constraints. Start you day off right with a healthy breakfast and chances are you will eat well all day long. It’s easy if you make sure you combine this powerful trio:


  1. High Quality Protein. Choose a breakfast that contains 20 grams of protein if you are 30 years of age or younger and 30 grams if you are over 30 or want to lose weight. Research shows that consuming protein at breakfast is especially important for keeping us satiated (full) for a longer period of time.
  2. Carbohydrate. After an overnight fast your body needs carbohydrate, your primary source of energy to fuel your brain and body, throughout the day. What type of carbs? That depends on your goal. For weight loss, opt for slower digesting, nutrient-rich, high fiber carbohydrates. High fiber fruits, vegetables in your omelet and old fashioned oatmeal are all great options. If you want to gain muscle, breakfast is an ideal time to indulge in sweeter, yet still healthier options to give your body the energy it needs asap so there’s less chance you are breaking down muscle tissue for energy. Flavored Greek yogurt or a whey protein shake made with higher protein soy milk and fruit are both good options.
  3. Water. Your body hasn’t had anything to drink in hours. Drink a full glass of water before you eat, regardless of what else you are drinking.

Looking for a little morning inspiration? Check out these four fast breakfast ideas from Rachel Rosenthal:

  • Tastes like Homemade Cinnamon Oatmeal: This meal will be ready in about 3 minutes. Mix plain instant oatmeal with water, milk, or your favorite milk substitute. Once it is cooked stir in walnuts to add some healthy fats and blueberries for more flavor. Finish it off with a dash of cinnamon, which has been shown to have various medicinal qualities, like helping with blood sugar regulation. Now pop it in the microwave. All natural, no sugar added. If you can’t think of a protein-rich food that goes alongside this dish, cook your oatmeal in egg whites!
  • Not so Plain Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt and by adding a few ingredients you can have a super fast protein packed meal on the go. Add ground flaxseed for it’s omega-3 content and nutty flavor; mix in ½ cup of all bran cereal for texture and to satisfy your hunger for hours (fiber slows down digestion). And if you like a little sweet taste without the calories, add stevia and raspberries.
  • On the go Smoothie: Smoothies make great, go-to meals. Mix  unsweetened almond milk, unflavored protein powder of your choice, crushed ice, a banana, and a tablespoon of natural peanut butter in a blender. If you are feeling adventurous you can add some chia seeds for some extra omega-3 fatty acids and for a little staying power (chia seeds are loaded with fiber). Blend, pour and go!
  • California Toast To Go: Toast your favorite kind of whole wheat bread, then add a few slices of avocado, fresh sliced mozzarella and grape tomatoes. Drizzle some olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and you’re done. If you want more protein and have the extra time swap the mozzarella for scrambled eggs and make it a sandwich for the road.

There are tons of options out there for breakfast that do not take much time, but are packed with protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals to start the day off on the right foot. All of these recipes can be tailored to your liking by switching out different fruits or nuts to make them your own. I hope these recipes inspire you to have more fun with breakfast and enjoy it even on the go.