slicing the apple

getting to the core of nutrition and health

Registered Dietitian, Cynthia Gay, Shares 1 Week of How She Eats Right

March is National Nutrition Month!  This year, West Virginia dietitians have been promoting 31 Days of How We Eat Right through various outlets including social media and the press.  You can receive the tips and recipes we’re sharing by liking the West Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Facebook Page.

Today, guest blogger and registered dietitian Cynthia Gay will share with us a week’s worth of recipes that help her and her family Eat Right!

Thanks so much for the opportunity to share a few of my favorite recipes!  Here are a few snapshots of meals I like to prepare throughout the week.


Monday 1
My favorite meal is “Friday Fish”. I crush crackers or chips for coating and bake the fish while we put groceries away. The meal is light and we go out after dinner for coffee.


Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Pasta
Tuesday 1Complete this dish with fruit and skim milk on the side and you’ll have the full spectrum of nutrition from MyPlate.

Ingredients to serve 3-4: 2 turkey sausage links (mild), 1 green pepper, 1 small onion, 1 cup dry whole wheat pasta, 1 can no added salt tomatoes, and Italian seasoning to taste.


Herb Roasted Chicken

Wednesday 1I buy small chickens and season with Mrs. Dash. These bake in less than 2 hours.

Wednesday 2


Sesame Salmon

Thursday 1Sprinkle with sesame oil and bake. These pieces of salmon with the skin can easily be separated from the skin and will serve 3.


Meatballs and Whole Wheat Pasta

Friday 1Ingredients for 17 meatballs: 1# 92% lean beef, 1/4 cup wheat germ, 1/3 cup skim milk, 1 egg, 2 Tbsp. diced onion, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, 1/4 tsp. Mrs. Dash, 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning. Allow 3 per serving.

Friday 2


Saturday 1

Saturdays are the perfect day to mix up your breakfast routine.  We love this pita-omelet sandwich.

Made with 1 egg, a little skim milk, 1 slice of swiss cheese and lots of vegetables. This meal is served on a whole wheat pita with skim milk as a beverage.


Crock Pot Roast Beef and vegetables.

Sunday 1Buy beef that has “loin” in the name. I use low sodium beef bouillon cubes in the broth.Sunday 2

Cindy Gay is a registered dietitian and manager of the “Healthy Cafe” at WVU Healthcare, Health Sciences Center Cafeteria. Her career goal is to entice customers to making healthy food choices. By using whole foods to make recipes from scratch, the Healthy Cafe features many fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low to moderate calorie and sodium foods and limits added sugars.

The recipes featured in this post are foods made at home, where she follows the same principles.

The Healthy Cafe menus can be viewed here:
Click on the HSC Healthy Cafe, then each menu item to view the nutrition facts. Nutrition labels have been posted there since 2004.

How to Get Your Family to Eat Right

Mother Father Son and Daughter (8-11) Having a Picnic and ChattingYou’re finally taking steps down the right path with your health.  You’ve started working exercise into your day, even if it’s just a ten minute walk.  You’re avoiding fast food and coffee houses with cream-laden temptations.  You’ve even added a serving of vegetables at lunch.  You’re on your way to success…until you get home.  There, your spouse keeps sugary sodas within easy reach, your kids want the pantry stocked full of chips and snack cakes, and lifting the remote or game controller is the only physical activity anybody is planning for the rest of the evening.

Family is often the number one barrier people face when trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle.  It’s very hard to make real and lasting changes when you don’t have the support and participation of the rest of your household.  Your family members aren’t trying to sabotage your efforts, but when they bring their unhealthy habits into your home, it becomes a temptation and a barrier to your success.

When people ask me what they can do, I tell them the most effective thing they can do is bring their family on board with the healthy changes they are making in their own lives.  “Healthy” is a lifestyle, and your family needs to be part of it.

Motivating someone else to change with you can be difficult.  Here are a few tips to make the process easier and more effective:

1. Create buy-in.  People don’t change because someone else tells them to; they change only because they want to.

2. Start with a family conversation.  Bring your family together to discuss the changes you are making and let them know it’s important for them to participate.

3. Answer the “why” question.  Not with “because I said so.”  Children, especially, will call into question these new changes.  Prepare yourself beforehand to give truthful and personal answers that focus on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for you, your spouse, and your children.

4. Bring your family into the decision making process.  Just because you initiate the process, does not mean you get to make all of the decisions.  Get their input, challenge them to make real change, but don’t ask them to do more than they are ready to do. Questions to ask include:  What changes are you willing to make?  How can we help each other?

5. Deal with resistance.  Don’t let this turn into a fight, but do encourage participation.  If your spouse is resisting any change, focus conversation on the benefits to the whole family when they make a change.  Try suggesting an easy and convenient change, just for the sake of participation with the group. Examples may include: one less soda per day (or week), ordering small instead of medium or medium instead of large at restaurants, or going for a 5 minute walk on their lunch break.  If children are resisting, try suggesting some fun options, such as increasing physical activity by taking them to a playground or a facility with indoor play equipment.

6. Make it convenient.  You’re making headway by getting the gang on board; now help them succeed, just as their changes will help you succeed.  Have healthy pre-made snacks that are convenient to grab-and-go, pre-plan for days that are rushed and leave little to no time for healthy food prep, and offer words of encouragement and motivation.

7. Keep the momentum.  Making small changes is sometimes the best you can do with your family, but don’t let it stop there.  Revisit #4 every few weeks and continue to make more healthy changes.

In the end, remember that your spouse is an adult and your children are children.  You should not “boss” your spouse, but as a parent, you do have the responsibility to make healthy choices for your children.

You have more influence than anyone else to create change in your household, so be encouraged and make some changes!

I might become a vegetarian…

It has been TOO LONG since I have posted on here.  I’m sure you’ve been there, life fills up and certain things have to be moved to the “procrastinate” or “expendable” category in order for sanity to be maintained.

I’ve been motivated to come out of my blog hibernation by a few articles I’ve read recently pertaining to meat.  I’m sure many of you have heard of the “recent” pink slime controversy or have heard that red meat is bad for you.  It’s hard to discern what part of all this is true, hype, or assumption.  I try to always be cautious in my interpretation of new studies by asking two questions:  1. Are there other studies that back this new one?  2. How reliable is the study in question?

While I’m still meting out the answers to these two questions with the studies on red meat, one thing I do know for certain:  I am now less comfortable with eating commercially processed or packaged meats.

It is fact that the meat industry does treat meat with a variety of chemicals to sterilize and preserve it.  This alone is a good reason to cut back on the cold cuts.  For more information on that, check out this article in the Huffington Post written by fellow RD, Andy Bellatti.  It’s unclear, however, to what extent these preservatives affect our health.

Lucky for me, I’m not so addicted to meat that I wouldn’t consider the benefit of becoming something of a semi-vegetarian.  Take the Dean Ornish diet which has been proven to reverse congestive heart failure and to prevent other forms of heart disease, as well as cancer and diabetes.

The Dean Ornish diet falls perfectly in line with what many experts agree is the optimal disease prevention diet.  According to the  National Institute of Health, this diet is “consisting of a lot of fruit and vegetables, lots of fish, less salt and sugar, more unrefined cereals, beans and nuts.”  These foods are generally high in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, healthy fats, and many other beneficial properties.  And don’t worry, it’s not hard to get enough protein and iron even for a vegan, as long as the basis of your diet isn’t heavily processed food.

By the way, I fundamentally hate the label of “diet” given to any form of healthy, balance eating because the term has more often been used to describe fad food practices that are, more often than not, extreme and unhealthy.  Dean Ornish and other balanced vegetarian or vegan “diets” use the word simply to mean “way of eating.”

I like to take this perspective when it comes to dealing with certain unknowns:  choose the route of least risk and greatest possible benefit.  I think most people can appreciate this logic, even if the words “vegetarian” or “vegan” are interpreted as dietary blasphemy.  While it may not yet be concrete in the collective health community’s mind that red meat and poultry are better left as “sometimes foods”, no one can argue the health benefits of a largely meatless diet whose protein comes from fish [classified separately from “meat”] and plant based sources.

So for now, I think I’m going to start phasing out red meats, limiting poultry and opting for more [fatty] fish, beans, and lentils…and maybe some soy :)

Easy Tips for Creating a Successful Family Mealtime

Check out this short video clip with some helpful tips on creating a successful family mealtime!

Sarah’s Heart Healthy Trail Mix

The count down has begun and the holidays are just around the corner.  Along with this joyful, festive season comes hectic lifestyles, extra spending, and more calorie filled temptations than we dare indulge (but then sometimes we do).  Just like you, I’m trying to figure out how I will navigate these obstacles this year and emerge on the other end of New Years without an extra 5 pounds and a hole in my pocket.

This year, my secret weapon is a trail mix I’ve created packed with heart healthy ingredients that help to naturally lower cholesterol.   Each of the ingredients, whether through dietary fiber or phytosterols, actually helps to lower cholesterol by as much as 20% when consumed in the recommended amounts.  The recommendations for dietary fiber are 20 – 35 grams per day with at least 5 – 10 grams being soluble fiber.  If you aren’t currently getting much fiber in your diet, I suggest easing into the recommended amounts to avoid digestive discomfort.  Consuming 2 grams of phytosterols per day through whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes is necessary to receive the cholesterol lowering effects.  Getting enough phytosterols is reliant on a healthy, well-balanced diet where the majority of your grains are whole, including rice (brown rice is a whole grain).

As an added bonus, this little 100 calorie snack is a great for those trying to watch their weight.  The protein and fiber in this trail mix help slow digestion which makes you feel full for longer without tipping the calorie scales.

This mix can be a thoughtful and delicious present, a healthy option at holiday gatherings, and a grab-and-go snack for those busy shopping days.  My total grocery bill was about $30 and the ingredients produced enough to make about 15 batches (60 servings).  That equals out to about 15 gifts at $2 a piece…not bad.  And who doesn’t love something homemade?

Recipe:  Makes 1 batch (4 servings).  One serving equals 1/4 cup.

2 T   toasted soy nuts

1/4 cup + 2 T  Life cereal

2 T   raw almonds

1/4   cup  Puffins Original Cereal (available at Kroger)

2 t    dried blueberries or Craisins

2 t    raisins

1 t    almond oil

1 t    milled flax seed

Toast soy nuts in a pan on medium heat for about 1 minute or until slightly browned.  Mix ingredients in a bowl and spread on baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.  Allow to cool and serve.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think via the comments box!

Three Ways You May Be Hurting Your Self Motivation

Making any health-related change is as easy as learning which behaviors to change, right?

Maybe for the elect few with iron-clad will power.

For the rest of us, self motivation is a precarious thing, more often resembling an amusement park ride than the ‘I think I can’ resolve of Thomas the Train. It seems the greater our initial motivation, the steeper that first drop into defeat and the longer the ride through the ups, downs, twists and turns of our seemingly failure laden quest for success. Many of us are good at deciding to make a change…until after day one. Make it a week and you’ve done better than most. Rarely, it seems, can we make any lasting change.

So, what gives? Several things, actually.

1. You’re an overachiever.

Take a look at the goals you set for yourself. Are you trying to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks? Is your motto 50 pounds lost or bust? Think that you will move your cholesterol level down 50 points by the next time you see your doctor?

It’s not your intentions that are off, it’s your goal setting. We tend to focus our motivations on the here and now, and we want fast and dramatic results. Realizing that this will only set you up for failure can be a major first step to victory.

Give your bigger-is-better goal setting trend a make-over by focusing on realistic, short term goals that have your long term goal in mind. Want to drop 50 pounds? Put that big, looming number to the side and just focus on the first five pounds.

2. You’ve lost your self confidence.

You really want to succeed, but past failures and seemingly insurmountable odds tell you, you can’t.

There’s an easy fix and it’s tied to your goal setting savvy.

If past failures can tear down self confidence, then future successes can build it back up. Try setting mini-goals you KNOW you can achieve. With each new success, you can gradually build up your self confidence which will increase your self motivation.

For example, if you’re trying to build an exercise routine, start with the mini-goal of walking 5 minutes per day, 5-6 days per week. Next week, bump it up to 7 or 10 minutes. Before you know it, you’ve eased yourself into a healthy new habit.

3. You have a bad attitude.

Your attitude can really make or break your self motivation.

We all have that inner voice that rears its ugly head every time we reach for success. It would have you believe: “you can’t do this” “you’re fat” “you have no control over your health.” These self depreciating lies can quickly become the pin that pops your balloon of self confidence. The more you allow these thoughts to enter your thinking, the more you will believe they are true. Saying it out loud is even worse.

Start becoming aware of your thoughts. Work on replacing the negative with positive, never say negative things about yourself, and encourage yourself with motivating mantras or sayings.

One personal mantra that has always worked for me is “there’s always time for a run.” Anytime my busy life would tempt me to think that exercise is the expendable part of my day, I recite this. Constant repetition has convinced me of it’s truth and has kept me on track with my physical activity goals countless times over the years.

Strong self motivation may have been the missing factor in past health improvement attempts that didn’t result in lasting change. Empower yourself and succeed with your health goals by working on these three factors of self motivation: focus, self confidence, and attitude.

Cutting the First Slice

Blog created:  Check!   Excited to post:  Check!

I thought with my inaugural post I might give you a top ten list of what you will find on this new window into the heart and soul of all things nutrition and health.

1.  No myths.  Nutrition myths are like rotten apples…who wants one?

2.  Practical nutrition.  If you can’t use the info, I’m not blogging about it.

3.  The 411 on trending health topics.

4.  Motivation.  Let’s make your nutrition glass half full!

5.  A leg up on weight control.  This is truly my personal passion–to help everyone love that number on the scales.

6.  Tips, advice, and what works for me.

7.  Links to helpful websites and online tools.  Just to give you a little more ammo in your health arsenal.

8.  No spamming.  Unless I’m hacked.

9.  An occasional recipe.  Only if it’s a favorite and packed with yummy benefits :)

10.  A little bit of me.