Posts for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Getting Ready for the Hunt

By Shannon Jones and Laura Del Guerra, Take Control Health Coaches


Hunting season is right around the corner, and preparing yourself and your equipment for hunting season increases your chance of success. Dietary indiscretions and inactivity can catch up with you quickly out in the field. Like any athlete, hunters usually have their own pre-season rituals, but here are a few tips to consider before heading out this season:

Get in Shape

  • Start getting physically active and increase activity gradually with walking, biking, swimming or hiking. Hiking with a light pack is the best exercise, as it mimics the hunting experience. Walk in public hunting areas, state parks, and state and national forests. Go off-trail, walk up and down steep banks, jump creeks, and push your way through brush.
  • Stretching after workouts can be helpful with improving your recovery and helping to prevent injuries.
  • If you are stuck inside, run or walk briskly up and down stairs, lift weights, and get the best workout that you can. You can use the local gym, or invest in a pair of dumbbells, stretch band or fitness ball. Find an online workout routine that combines both lower and upper body exercises. com has 10 Great Workout Routines for Western Hunting  and has Your 12 Week Plan to Get in Shape for Elk Hunting Season

Fuel Up

  • There is no better way to start the day then with a protein and fiber. Look for healthy simple ways to include these into your breakfast. If you need ideas, has a great article called Healthy Breakfast Ideas and Recipes
  • Hydration is especially important, and even when you do not feel thirsty; consume at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water. Consider a Camelback or other hydration device to meet your needs in the field.

Prepare Equipment:

  • Make sure your hunting equipment is in good condition. Get your gun sighted-in, and practice with it. If you are a bow hunter, this should be a year around activity to keep the muscles used strong and limber.
  • Take your binoculars and spotting scopes outside and make sure they are still clear and fog-free. If your eyes have changed over the past year, or you have a different vision prescription, it can drastically change the way things appear through a scope or through sights. Sharpen and oil knives and other metal tools that you will be using when deer hunting.
  • Check to make certain that your hunting clothes and boots still fit. Place your hunting boots into a tub of water to make sure they are still waterproof.
  • If you rely on an ATV, check or change the oil, check tire pressure, brakes, and make other recommended changes and adjustments.
  • Finally, make sure your hunting license is up to date, and all stamps are in proper order. Double check your hunting property for permissions, etc. You should have scouted before season and have these things lined up well ahead of time, but if not get it taken care of as soon as possible.


Stress Management Exercise

By Linda Hogg, RD, LN, and Julie Walker, Take Control Staff

Stress is one of the biggest roadblocks that exists when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle. It often keeps us from getting to what really matters in life, our health and wellness. We can try to exercise and eat right, but when we get overwhelmed with stress, we get distracted and tend to abandon any plans to put our energy into what truly matters: day-to-day action steps toward health and living well.

Stress roadblocks needs to be addressed head on. Otherwise, stress becomes common-place, never budging out of the way. Stress builds slowly, and since it creeps up on us, we may not see it building until it’s overwhelming. Before your stress builds so high that you’re paralyzed, use the following exercise to stay ahead of it.

Early in the morning, or by mid-day, make a quick list of today’s stressors. Divide a piece of paper into two columns: the first column is for things you have control over. The second column is for things you do not have control over. As you brainstorm today’s tasks, keep the process simple and quick. Examples of things you have control over include doing a chore, paying a bill, making an appointment – stressors where you can identify clear action steps, or that have simple solutions.

In the right-hand column, write down the things that you don’t have control over – only time could solve them, or possibly a decision or action by another person. The decision or action needed to make these go away would not be in your control. The uncontrollable stressors may consume your thoughts. They may even keep you up at night, when in fact, they need to be put to rest so you can focus on what’s controllable. If the list of uncontrollable stressors is overwhelming, take a moment to tear off that side of your paper, tear it up, and throw it away. Let it go for the day. Turn your focus to what can be wrapped up.

Ultimately, you need time to focus on what is controllable, and what actions steps you can take to chip away at those stressors. The practice of writing down your stressors makes them, well, less stressful. Often the list is shorter or more manageable than you imagine. If the list is larger than you imagined, take a moment to prioritize it. If you’ve over-committed your time for the day or the week, look for things you can reschedule or cancel.

When you take a few minutes to be pro-active with your stressors, you free yourself emotionally to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle habits. Eating healthy and exercising are two of the best ways to reduce stress. To get there, give this exercise a try. Take a moment each morning to inventory your stressors, and remove the roadblocks which build up if left unaddressed. From there, you can move on with what plans you have to make you more healthy!


Diary of a Take Control Appointment

By Julie Walker, Take Control Staff Member


If you’re new to Take Control, you may be wondering what you’re in for. The unknown can be intimidating, but we don’t want you to worry! Our program is designed to work with each person individually. This means that we’re taking each participant’s unique needs and goals into consideration.

Your initial appointment will be centered around identifying your needs and goals, and how you’re individually motivated. We’ll also try to identify obstacles and roadblocks to your goals. Once those things are established, you may get scheduled to meet with an exercise specialist and/or a dietitian. We’ve outlined the basic questions that come up with these types of appointments. They’re not scary or intimidating! Just another step on your journey to achieve your goals.

Exercise Specialist Health Coaching Appointment

Take Control lead health coach Shannon Jones explains the basics behind a coaching session with an exercise specialist. She says “our main goal is to build relationships with our clients so we can support them and their goals.” Shannon put together the following list to help you understand what to expect in an appointment with an exercise specialist:

  1. We will ask you about your current physical activity and exercise.
  1. We will not judge you, or have preconceived expectations.
  1. We will listen to you to find out how you feel about exercise, and to what level you already exercise, if any.
  1. We will ask you what you like to do.
  1. We will ask you what resources you have available, such as a gym membership, home equipment, a Fitbit, etc.
  1. We will ask you were you want to start, and help you take reasonable steps toward your goals.
  1. We will encourage you.
  1. We will help you make a plan that works for you, and that you can maintain.
  1. We will strategize and offer tools to help you make long-lasting, sustainable changes.
  1. We will evaluate your goals each month to make sure they are right for you.
  1. We will help you change your life, one step at a time.


Dietitian Health Coaching Appointment

 Take Control health coach Katie Delaney put together a similar list for coaching sessions with our dietitians. When people hear the word dietitian, it can sometimes invoke fear of scolding, judgment, or impossible standards. As Katie describes below, there is definitely nothing to fear! We are here to help, and to work within the parameters of what works for you:

  1. We will ask you about what you eat.
  1. We want to know honestly what your typical food day looks like.
  1. We will not judge you or have preconceived expectations.
  1. Knowing what you typically eat allows us to suggest possibly similar alternatives or improvements.
  1. You are free to take or leave these suggestions depending on your personal goals and preferences.
  1. We may talk calories, but generally our focus is quality.
  1. Keeping a food log can be a great tool to become aware of what you are eating.
  1. However, we are realistic and understand that a food log does not fit with everyone’s life.
  1. It’s important to ask yourself how your body feels, and learn to listen to the signals it gives you to identify what you really need.
  1. We will not suggest restrictive diets, cutting out food groups, or making impossible weight loss goals.
  1. We will give you facts and answer your questions.
  1. We have knowledge and resources to find accurate answers to questions to help determine fact from fad.


If you have any questions about any aspect of the Take Control program, don’t hesitate to contact us. Your coach or our main office are here to guide you and ensure you succeed!

10 Ways to Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

Alcohol is such an overlooked area of excess calories and unhealthy habits.  It’s so easy to be out with friends, having a great time and before you know it you’re a couple drinks in with excess calories that don’t match your health goals and piling on even more with some unhealthy food choices. Social events often come with heavy foods and alcohol all around.  If your health goals include the reduction of alcohol, try these tips to keep yourself on track and still able to socialize with friends:

1. Go in prepared – Eat something before you arrive so you’re not drinking on an empty stomach and the alcohol will be absorbed into your system more slowly.  If you’re cutting back to 1 drink per party as a goal, decide when you’ll enjoy it that evening and take your time – enjoy it.

2. Plan how to say “no thanks” – it will often make others’ feel uncomfortable if you tell them you’re not drinking for the evening. Especially if you’ve been part of the drinking crowd in the past. Drinking is such an accepted social activity these days that others will often self-judge their drinking if one of you suddenly changes habits.  Plan your response ahead of time – “It just doesn’t sound good to me this evening” or “No thanks, I just ate and I’m just too full to take in more calories.”   Prepare a response appropriate for you at each occasion. After using that at a few parties your friends will get used to it and stop questioning you about it. Avoid using the ‘designated driver’ title as your polite way of saying no – that statement creates self-judgement struggles of its own that can place your friends in a defensive position as well. 

3. Set a goal. Plan ahead. When you know you’re headed to an event where alcohol will be served, decide how many drinks you’ll have ahead of time. Having a game plan and sticking to it allows you the ability to enjoy the event within your own sense of moderation.

4.  Be picky about the party – with seasonal events, birthdays, weddings, summer BBQs, etc., there are often many social opportunities where alcohol is served. Do a quick assessment before you go, and ask yourself if the event will be any better if you drink while you’re there.  Drinking doesn’t always enhance the experience, so be selective about which parties include alcohol for you. If drinking doesn’t enhance the occasion, let the drinking go for that one.   

5. Drink slowly. Sip your drink or have “drink spacers”—make every other drink a non-alcoholic one, such as water, soda, or juice. Place a lime, straw, or umbrella in it so it looks more like something you ordered to keep others from thinking you need a drink in your hand.

6. Keep track – it’s easy to lose track of how many drinks you have at parties. Slide a napkin or toothpick into your pocket each time you start a new drink as a way to keep track.

7. Keep your hands busy – for some reason our hands always need something to do when we’re at parties. We feel uncomfortable if they’re just hanging at our sides or jammed in pockets. Hold a non-alcoholic drink like a glass of water, juice or tea in your hands. Consider holding a sweater or scarf in your hands as you chit chat – it could come in handy if the room gets chilly later in the evening.

8. Volunteer to help the host – Since there’s always plenty to do at parties, volunteer to help as another way to keep your hands busy. It’s a great way to mingle with guests and enjoy them before turning your attention to eating and drinking. You could be there for several hours, keep busy with more than just food and alcohol.

9. Avoid standing near the bar or food table – standing next to the bar or food table is the same as subjecting yourself to suggestive sales. When we see and smell food or drinks it can be a trigger to drink and eat when you’re really not that interested. Just find a different place to stand so it isn’t so suggestive to you.

10. Watch for peer pressure. We all fall victim to peer pressure and may have even been the source of peer pressure to others on occasion. Just remember, you do not have to drink just because others are, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to accept every drink offered. It’s just a party – the purpose of being there is enjoying time with friends so make sure that is your focus.

Be persistent. Most people who successfully cut down or stop drinking altogether do so only after several attempts. Setbacks can happen, but the process requires an ongoing effort and a fair trial. If one approach doesn’t work, try something else. Cutting out just 2-3 beers each week can add up to 12 per month – that’s a lot of calories!


Healthy Camping Meals

By Lindsay Watkins, RD, CLC, Take Control Health Coach

A weekend camping in the great outdoors is a great chance to get moving. Hiking, chopping wood, and even a quick swim can be great ways to stay active. Not only is it good for your body, but being outdoors can relieve stress and give us a much-needed break from technology.

Even though spending time outdoors can improve our health in several ways, it can make it tricky to choose healthy food options when camping. Hot dogs and s’mores over the fire, sugary drinks, candy bars, salami sticks, and chips – all foods that people have been eating on camp trips for generations. These treats taste good, but they also tend to be packed with sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats — ingredients that fall short of fueling us for physical activity, and make us crash later in the day. However, with a little planning and preparation, you can have healthy, delicious camp food that will keep you energized through all your activities.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Before going on your trip, make sure you plan and write down each meal, including snacks. This is very important, because once you hit the road, these choices are final. An organized menu also ensures everyone has enough food. Make sure to also write down and pack the correct cooking tools, plates and utensils, dish soap, paper towels, and cups. It’s usually a good idea to pack more than you think you need, just to make sure you don’t run out.

Pack the cooler with ice packs or large blocks of ice which last longer than smaller cubes. Or try freezing your drinks, which can act as an ice packs before they are consumed. Pack your cooler with harder, sturdier foods on the bottom; and softer, more squishable foods on top. Store non-perishables, even some fruits and veggies (apples, oranges, bananas, carrots) in a box or plastic container so they don’t get smashed.


Depending on your preference, breakfast can be simple or more complicated. Pre-measured bags of rolled oats are a great option, and can be easily cooked on a camp stove. Instead of dousing them in sugar, top with fresh or dried fruit, honey, and a few nuts for protein. Oats and nuts are both great sources of fiber, which will keep you fueled for your morning activities. Whole wheat pancakes (made from a mix to keep it simple) topped with yogurt, fruit, and pure maple syrup are another simple option. Eggs are easy to cook on a camp stove too, and are a great source of protein. Serve with lean turkey or chicken sausage and some chopped vegetables cooked in foil in the fire or on the camp stove. The veggie pack can contain potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, and whatever else you like. Chop and season the veggies, and add a little olive oil before you leave town to keep things easy. For a make-ahead option that doesn’t require any cooking, try overnight oats. In a small mason jar mix together ½ cup old fashioned oats with ½ to ¾ cup milk (depending how thick you like it), 1/3 cup plain yogurt, 2 tsp. honey or maple syrup, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Top with berries. This serves 1.


It’s best to keep lunch simple and no-cook so you can continue with your daily adventures, whether that’s lying by the lake or climbing the local trails. Whole grain tortillas and pita are great options, which pack easily. Stuff them with nut butters and fruit, hummus and veggies, or tuna. Buy the tuna packed in pouches rather than cans for lighter packing. Snack plates can also work well for lunch – think whole grain crackers like Triscuits, lean deli meat, cheeses, olives, veggies with hummus, and fruit like grapes or apples. Salads are a good option too, but be sure to consume your greens in the first day or so before they spoil.


If you’re out hiking or swimming, you’ll probably want to pack plenty of snacks, especially if you’re camping with kids. Certain fruits and veggies — such as apples, grapes, carrots and celery sticks are easy to pack, and a great way to sneak in some fresh produce. Try trail mix – separate ¼ cup servings into individual bags. Low-fat popcorn can be a good substitute for high calorie chips. Protein and granola bars are also options for easy snacking; just be sure to choose varieties that are low in sugar and preservatives. Or try making your own before you leave. Here are a couple ideas:

Peanut Butter Vanilla Protein Bars

No Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bites

Fruit and Nut Granola Bars



For dinner, try beans, corn, brown rice, salsa, and Mexican spices in whole grain tortillas. Or use whole wheat pita bread to make easy pizzas — just add sauce, cheese, veggie toppings, and toast in a pan over a cook stove until the bread is somewhat crispy and the cheese has melted. For a healthier burger, try lean ground beef or ground turkey with avocado slices on a whole grain bun. Have your burger with some of the veggies from breakfast. You could also pack some premade pasta sauce and have with whole grain pasta and your favorite veggies. Add beans or precooked chicken for protein. Kebabs are another easy and healthy choice. Another option is to make your meals ahead of time. Chili, stew, or soups reheat beautifully. For dessert, try grilled fruit like peaches with a little honey and nuts (Or go ahead: Have a s’more!).

Stay hydrated!

Remember to drink water throughout the day, and it’s a general rule to pack a minimum of 64 oz. per person per day. Check in advance what water sources will be available and whether you’ll have to bring your own.

Sticking with your healthy diet isn’t hard, it just requires a little thought and planning. And you’ll still be able to enjoy the outdoors, fuel your adventures, and stay on track with your diet. You may not be able to predict what the weather will be, but at least you can count on having healthy delicious meals while you’re out in the elements.


Using Costco or Sam’s Club for Healthy Meals and Snacks

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Costco and Sam’s Club are great options for buying food in bulk, especially if you live in a rural area and make fewer trips to the store. Both stores offer a lot of healthy options that can be convenient and easy to integrate into a healthier lifestyle. This includes fresh fruit, veggies, frozen fruit and veggies, and fresh meat. Besides all of those great whole food options, they have many packaged and convenient items that can also fit your goals.

When buying in bulk, look for pre-portioned servings, or plan ahead to take the time to self-portion bulk items. Portion size is often the biggest struggle for many people. If you buy in bulk, it’s important to spend 10 minutes when you get home and portion out foods for the week or the month. This will save you time later on, and will help keep your eating on track. Products that you should portion out include snacks like popcorn, crackers, and nuts.

Items that you can buy pre-portioned include hummus and guacamole. Use as a dip with vegetables, or add to a wrap for great flavor. Since they are pre-portioned, they are quick and convenient. Another healthy pre-portioned product is chicken salad made with Greek yogurt, the brands are listed below. Prepare the chicken salad on a bed of lettuce with vegetables, add to a whole wheat pita, or eat with whole wheat crackers and a side of raw veggies for a quick and easy lunch.

When buying in bulk, and particularly with pre-packaged products, be sure to check labels for sodium content. Especially if you have high blood pressure. Watch the sodium in cured or packaged meats. How do you know if it has too much sodium? A good rule of thumb is to look for something with less than 500 mg of sodium per serving. And think about how you’re combining your ingredients — if you add another packaged component to your meal, then the overall sodium may really increase. Consider adding fresh vegetables in place of another packaged item. For example, Aidell’s chicken sausage is great with a side of steamed vegetables, or on top of a salad. Jerky can be a great on-the-go snack, but ingredients matter. The brands I’ve listed below use less preservatives and better ingredients overall. Yes, they still contain sodium, so balance it by including lots of fresh foods, and stay hydrated with adequate water.

When shopping in any grocery store, it is always important to compare products. Some labels look “healthier” than a similar product, but may in fact have more sugar or sodium. Take a minute to compare similar product nutrition facts, and review the ingredients. For example, when I was at Sam’s Club, I compared two brands of squeeze fruit and veggie packs: Gogo brand and Purify brand. Purify brand had a lot more claims on the label, making you think it was the healthier option, but in fact it had a lot more sugar. So the better option is sometimes the one you don’t expect. Other foods that you would want to compare include granola bars, snack bars, cereal, and any snack food. Below I’ve listed several good products to help guide you through the endless options.

Here is a list of products that can be found at each store to help make eating healthier an easier process:

Sam’s Club

Freezer Section
Member’s Mark Alaskan Salmon Burgers
Mahi Burgers
Gardenburger Malibu Vegan Burger
Morningstar Black Bean Burger

Dry Goods
Planters Single Serve Heart Healthy Nut Mix
Member’s Mark Freeze Dried Sliced Fruit
True North Almond Pecan Cashew Clusters
Natural Oberto Beef Jerky
Epic Chicken Bites
Good Health Veggie Pretzels
Harvest Snaps – Baked Snap Peas
Creative Snack Company Coconut Bites
Skinny Pop Popcorn
Popchips – Ridges Asiago and Black Pepper
Crunchmaster Multi-Grain 5 Seed Cracker
Annie’s Popcorn
Nature’s Bakery Honey and Oat Soft Baked Bar
Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar
Gogo Squeeze Fruit and Veggie On The Go Packs
Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
Member’s Mark Almond Butter
Dave’s Killer Bread

Sargento Balanced Breaks
Sabra Hummus – Singles or Bulk
Yucatan Single Serve Guacamole
Chef Earl’s Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad
Babybel Cheese
Dietz and Watson Natural Turkey Breast


Freezer Section
Outshine Fruit Bars
Trident Alaskan Salmon Burgers
Trident Pollock Burgers
Morningstar Veggie Burgers
Hillshire Farm Naturals Deli Turkey
Kirkland Plain Greek Yogurt

Dry Goods
Bare Apple Chips
Kirkland Unsweetened Almond Milk
Stretch Island Fruit Strips
Golden Island Natural Jerky
Crunchy Rice Rollers
Vega Protein Powder
Kind Bars
Caveman Nutrition Bars
Kashi Chewy Granola Bars – Chocolate Almond Sea Salt
Premier Protein
Nature’s Path Chia Seeds
Premium Gold Milled Flaxseed
Hemp Hearts
Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice
Nature’s Path Flax Plus Pumpkin Granola
Kirkland Ancient Grains Granola with Almonds
Mary’s Gone Crackers
RW Garcia Sweet Potato Crackers
Love Crunch Dark Chocolate and Red Berries Granola
Tasty Bite Brown Rice and Lentils
Tasty Bite Madras Lentils
Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Mix
Kirkland Almond Butter
PB Fit
Adams Natural Peanut Butter

Rotisserie Chicken Pieces
Good Foods Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad
Good Foods Single Portion Guacamole
Kirkland Hummus Cups
True Story Organic Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage
Amylu Kale and Mozzarella Chicken Burgers
Aidell’s Chicken Meatballs
Aidell’s Chicken and Apple Sausages
Teton Waters Grass-fed Beef Polish Sausages
Columbus Meats Smoked Ham and Turkey Breast
Love Beats Cooked Beets
Organic Hope Hummus


Easy No-Cook Lunches, AKA the “Adult Lunchable”

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Packing a lunch is a great way to stay on track with your health goals. Sometimes it’s hard to get ideas for what to pack. Some office environments have limited kitchen resources, or you have limited time to cook.

Try no-cook lunches, or what I like to call “Adult Lunchables.” These are also referred to as Bento Box lunches. You’ve likely seen pre-made kid’s Lunchables at the supermarket – boxes of crackers, cheese, meat, etc. This is a healthy twist on that idea. The varieties are endless — you can pack anything you like, from the classic crackers, meat, and cheese, to more complex combinations with wraps or salads.

Adult Lunchables are both easy to put together, and easy to eat. Preparation is fairly simple — keep some go-to options on hand. I’ve put together some ideas in categories. If you pick an item from each category, it will help you create a balanced meal. The goal is to make it simple, but add variety without overwhelming ourselves.

For example, I put together a lunch with the following: 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup berries, 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter, and 1 cup of raw veggies. That combination includes protein from the yogurt, carbohydrates from the berries and veggies, and fat from the peanut butter. You can certainly add or subtract items and amounts to make sure you eat enough calories for your body.



  • Greek yogurt – ½ to 1 cup
  • Cottage cheese – ½ to 1 cup
  • Hard boiled eggs – 1 to 2 eggs
  • Canned Tuna or Chicken: one tin or pouch
  • Deli slices: 3 ounces, look for nitrate and nitrite-free options
  • Leftover grilled chicken or other protein: 3-4 ounces
  • Edamame: 1 cup
  • Chickpeas: ½ cup


  • Whole grain crackers: for example Triscuits (6-8 crackers) or a single serving based on the box of crackers you choose
  • Whole wheat tortilla: 8 inch in diameter, or look for high fiber options
  • Whole wheat pita
  • Serving of fruit: apple, banana, grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes), berries (1 cup of any variety), kiwi, orange, 2 cuties or mandarin oranges
  • Unlimited vegetables: carrots, celery, sliced cucumber, sliced bell peppers, salad greens


  • Individually portioned nut butters: peanut butter, almond butter, or keep a tablespoon with your designated jar and stick to 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • Servings of nuts: pistachios (40 nuts), almonds (23 almonds), cashews (16-18 nuts)
  • Avocado: ¼ to ½ of fruit
  • String cheese, or 1 ounce of cheese
  • Guacamole: 2 tablespoons
  • Olives: 10-12 small to medium sized olives of any variety.
  • Olive oil: 1 tablespoon
  • Salad dressing: 1-2 tablespoons
  • Hummus: 1-2 tablespoons

Below is a sample week with some combinations I put together to create a balanced lunch. This may also give you some ideas to build your own “Lunchable:”

6-8 Triscuits
3 ounces of deli slices
1 string cheese or sliced cheese
1 cup berries
Carrot sticks
1-2 tablespoon hummus

1 cup cottage cheese
½ cup blueberries
1 tablespoon almond butter
Cucumber slices
2 tbsp. hummus

Whole wheat tortilla
Lettuce or other salad green
Sliced cucumber, bell peppers, onion
½ of a ripe avocado
1 tbsp. hummus
Small apple or orange

Whole grain crackers
Chicken salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
¼ of an avocado
Celery and carrot sticks
Serving of grapes

Whole Wheat Pita
Tuna salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
Sliced cucumbers
1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter

Two hardboiled eggs
Grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes)
String cheese
1 cup Veggies sticks
2 tablespoons hummus

If you want something complex, especially with the summer weather, then prep ahead a veggie-rich pasta salad with healthy fats like avocado. You can also prep fresh fruits salads at the beginning of the week to accompany your lunch and save time.

For additional ideas and inspiration check out 25 Healthy and Photo-Worthy Bento Box Lunch Ideas from

What great lunches did you put together? Let us know in the comments below.


Sneaking In Veggies

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Many people don’t love vegetables. Of course we’d love it if everyone wanted to eat vegetables, but it’s hard to change your lifestyle for the long term if you’re doing things you don’t like. As health coaches and dietitians, we often encounter clients who are afraid that we are going to tell them they have to eat vegetables. We try to help people make small changes that are sustainable, and that don’t feel like punishment. There is no reason to force yourself to eat food you hate for a short while – because in the long term, you’ll just give up on the journey.

In order to help you find long-term solutions that you can stick with, we’ve put together some ideas to sneak vegetables into your meals, in ways that may work for you.

  • Smoothies. Add spinach, kale, zucchini, cucumber, beets, or any other vegetable to your smoothie. Pair with fruit, and you’ll have a hard time noticing the vegetables. A good combination is banana, berries, and spinach. For more smoothie recipes, check out our previous post “How to Build a Better Smoothie”.
  • Oatmeal. Add shredded zucchini or carrots to oatmeal. Zucchini works well because it is very mild in flavor and hard to notice. It also adds a lot of volume to food for little calories. Try shredded zucchini or carrots, walnuts, and cinnamon. Cauliflower crumbles is another option for volume and extra fiber.
  • Sauces. Add pureed vegetables to sauces, and you’ll never know they’re in there. For example, here is a great recipe on Food Network where butternut squash is added to macaroni and cheese.  You can add pureed squash, beets, or peppers to spaghetti sauce. Pureed cauliflower in a light Alfredo sauce works well. Add shredded vegetables for even more substance. Since these sauces already have strong flavor, you don’t notice the vegetables but still get the benefit.
  • Roasting. Sometimes something as simple as cooking vegetables a new way changes how you feel about them. Roasting vegetables is a fantastic way to start. Roasted vegetables taste quite a bit different from raw or steamed. This article from has great information about how to roast vegetables, including a chart of roasting times.
  • Mashed or “Riced”. One of the new crazes in cooking is mashing and ricing vegetables. Cauliflower is a favorite for ricing. Cut a head of cauliflower into small pieces and run it through your food processor. Then just heat it on the stop in a wok or frying pan. When you add sauces and seasonings, it closely mimics white rice. You can also add riced cauliflower to mashed potatoes – it creates more volume, and reduces the overall calories. Mashed sweet potatoes are delicious, and as mentioned above, mashed butternut squash can be added to macaroni and cheese, or other dishes.
  • Soup. Adding vegetables to soups is a great way to increase your vegetable intake. You can keep frozen vegetables in the freezer and add to canned or homemade soups when you heat them. Using vegetables in soups can completely change the taste of the vegetables. As they cook, they take on the flavor of the seasonings in the soup. Butternut squash soup with Indian spices is a great example. Mushroom soup, tomato soup, cauliflower soup – there is a soup for almost every vegetable. Vegetable soup combines many. Find some recipes that sound great and make a batch for lunches during the work week.
  • Seasonings and Spices. Experiment with different seasonings and spices to give your vegetables a new twist. Try citrus, such as lemon, orange or lime zest. Here is a great chart from for suggestions for each vegetable. Spices, herbs, and seasonings can make a huge difference in how vegetables taste.
  • Give it Another Chance. Be open to trying vegetables that you haven’t had since you were a kid. Taste buds change over time, in fact we lose taste buds, so our taste preferences also change. Things that once tasted bitter or bad may now taste great. When you give vegetables a second chance, you can discover more options, or you can confirm that you still in fact do not enjoy that vegetable.
  • Be Adventurous. Challenge yourself to try new vegetables. When you’re in the grocery store, buy something you haven’t had before. Look up a recipe or preparation method, and give it a try. You might be surprised by the options and foods you may not have known you liked.

In the end, stick with vegetables you enjoy, make them your staples. But keep these ideas in mind as a way to expand your vegetable intake. Your good health is not defined by how much kale you eat! Make good choices, but make sure they are choices that work for the long term to help you reach your health and wellness goals.

How to Build a Better Smoothie

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

It seems obvious, right? Put everything in a blender and turn it on? Yes, to an extent, but the order you place your ingredients in the blender, and the amount of each ingredient you use can make a big difference in texture and overall success.

One common mistake is to place all the frozen ingredients at the bottom, in direct contact with the blender blades. This often makes it much harder for your blender to work efficiently and effectively.

The ingredients you use can also impact the quality, taste, and nutrition of your smoothie. Below are some tips to build a better smoothie – one that is healthier, and has the right texture.

Step 1: Liquids

Always place your liquids closest to the blade. If you’re using a traditional blender, they will go in first. If you use a magic bullet, they will go in last. (Jump to Step 6 and work this list backwards.)

Liquid options: Water, coconut water, milk, almond milk, soy milk, or another milk alternative. You can use juice, but use it in small amounts or simply let the sweetness come from actual fruit. One fruit juice I do like to use is fresh squeezed lemon, it can add a tart and bright flavor to a smoothie.

Step 2: Powder and Spices (Optional)

If you like powders such as protein powder or greens powder, now is the time to add these. They are optional, but if you have a protein powder you like, it often adds extra sweetness, and you can skip honey or other additional sweeteners. Spices can be a fun way to add different flavors. Try cinnamon or turmeric.

Step 3: Yogurt, Nut Butter, or Sweeteners

Plain or Greek yogurt is a great way to add protein and creaminess to a smoothie. You can also try cottage cheese, which is also high in protein. Nut butters, like almond, cashew or peanut, will add a little protein and healthy fat. They also add great flavor, especially if you like combinations such as peanut butter and banana.

Step 4: Fresh Fruit, Vegetables, and Greens

Step four is your chance to get creative with fruits and vegetables. Use some of the leftover fresh fruit and vegetables in your fridge. If you are new to smoothies, start simple. Try spinach and bananas — an easy go-to for smoothies.

Step 5: Frozen Fruit or Vegetables
Frozen fruit helps thicken your smoothie, and really gives it the right texture. If you don’t have frozen fruit on hand, use extra ice cubes to create a smoothie consistency. Frozen fruit is also a great way to create more flavor options, especially when fruits like berries aren’t in season. Frozen fruit is easy to make when you have bananas or other fruit that is ripe but you don’t have time to use it. Cut up bananas or other fruit into slices, place in a freezer bag, and freeze. Because they are pre-sliced, you can use a few pieces when needed, or when you don’t have a fresh banana handy.

Step 6: Additional Ice

If you’re using all fresh fruits and vegetables, add additional ice to create a good smoothie texture. Ultimately, you want the ice and frozen components furthest away from the blade. This allows the blender to be primed from the liquid and creates a smoother consistency without interfering with the blade.

Once you have the order and the steps in place, making the perfect smoothie is easy, and a great addition to your weekly routine. The key to keeping it healthy is to be mindful of your ingredients. With the wrong ingredients, smoothies, like salads, can easily go from healthy to a calorie bomb. So be precise in how you add ingredients, and how much you use by carefully measuring items such as nut butter and other high-calorie ingredients.

Need recipe ideas? The following recipes might help inspire your next smoothie. You can add veggies to any of these recipes to increase your vegetable intake and boost the nutrients. You can also omit honey or added sweetener. If you choose to add sweeteners, be mindful of the amount.

Chocolate Banana Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond, soy, cashew, or coconut milk
1–3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
Honey or maple syrup, to taste
1 frozen or fresh banana
Ice cubes if using a fresh banana, start with 6-8 and adjust as needed

Strawberry Banana Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond, soy, cashew, or coconut milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
Honey or maple syrup, to taste
1 frozen or fresh banana
1/2 cup frozen strawberries

Creamy Orange Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond, soy, cashew, or coconut milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Honey or maple syrup, to taste
1 orange, peeled or 2 clementine’s, peeled
1 frozen or fresh banana
Ice cubes if using a fresh banana, start with 6-8 and adjust as needed

Green Smoothie

1 cup unsweetened almond, soy, cashew, or coconut milk
Honey or maple syrup, to taste
1 cup greens (baby spinach or kale without the stem)
1 frozen or fresh banana
Ice cubes if using a fresh banana, start with 6-8 and adjust as needed


Do you have a smoothie recipe you love? Share it in the comments below!

Kitchen Spring Cleaning

– Organizing Kitchen Zones for Healthy Success

By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

The kitchen tends to be the center of the household, and the place where everyone congregates. A kitchen usually serves many purposes: cooking, eating, a family meeting space, and often the place where kids do homework. Given the multi-purpose aspect of the kitchen, it can be a challenge to keep its focus on its essential function, creating nutritional meals.

A cluttered kitchen is distracting, and can be a roadblock to living healthy and making good nutritional choices. So this guide is designed to help you organize your kitchen in a way that re-focuses it for its true purpose. We’ll start by removing items that don’t belong, then move on to creating zones for specific purposes.

Step 1: The 10-Minute Toss

The purpose of a 10-minute toss is to quickly move things out of the way and create physical and mental space between where we are and where we want to be. Simply go through each cupboard and drawer quickly and efficiently, removing anything you no longer use or doesn’t belong in the kitchen. It should be easy, obvious, quick decisions without much thought or decision-making.

Quick purge items:

  • Anything broken, stained or chipped beyond use
  • Anything that belongs in a different room of the house
  • Anything you don’t like

Step 2: Set Up Zones

Once you’ve cleared the obvious items out of the way, assess the overall layout of the space and where your “zones” are. Because kitchens often serve as multi-functional spaces, it’s important to set it up for multiple uses for several people at once. Each zone is centered around a particular task.

  • Cutting Zone: Keep knives, cutting boards and any items used to prep meat and/or produce near the sink and garbage where you’ll be able to clean and cut them at the same time.
  • Coffee Zone: Create a section of your counter where you maintain your coffee fixings. Coffee maker, coffee grounds, tea and other hot beverages, mugs, silverware, etc. Anything that makes a quick cup of coffee easier
  • Cooking Zone: Pots, pans, and cooking utensils should be in the space near the stove and cooktop. Include cooking spray, oils, herbs and spices in this area so you don’t find yourself crossing the kitchen to simply add a dash of pepper.
  • Dining Zone: This space is designated for eating, and centers around your table or breakfast bar. Keep silverware, plates, bowl, glasses and napkins nearby you’re able to sit down and enjoy each bite without having to get up mid-meal for something you’ve forgotten. Try designating a specific area for dining that is as far away from the food prep area as possible, so you’re able to sit down and enjoy each bite. This allows you to take your time eating, and helps avoid the temptation of second servings. Include a source for soft music in your dining area – it’s a great way to slow down, relax, and enjoy the meal so you’re not racing through and overeating.
  • Storage Zone: Keep your food storage containers and wraps in one area near your sink where you’ll be emptying dishes at the end of the night.
  • Bill & Mail Center: Create an “in” box for items you bring into the house that don’t have anything to do with food. Choose a location away from the center of the kitchen, to keep the space clean and not contaminate food as you prep. Include pens, stamps, sticky-notes, etc. to make it simple to process the paper items and move them on to their next step. Place magazines immediately into a magazine bin so they’re available for reading right away. Sometimes we don’t get back to the mail pile for a while, and magazines can stack up quickly.

These are just a few simple ideas to organize the zones in your kitchen to make it more functional and supportive to your healthy lifestyle. Different households use their kitchens differently, and we all have different interests or time available for cooking and making meals. Create the appropriate zones that really work best for you and your lifestyle. Recognize the top 2-3 zones you might use most often in your kitchen and start there.