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I swear I haven’t been blog-fasting or social media-fasting on purpose, but I’m finally back in the game now.  Sometimes a woman just needs to catch her breath and remember her priorities. Mine happen to be three boys – four if you count my husband. The spring semester ended, but the summer semester is still in high gear. I’m teaching an online course for ASU in Nutrition and Health Communications that wraps up this week.

One of my favorite San Franciscans, Sarah Koszyk, interviewed me about my work in the spring for NutritionJobs.com.  This a great website for current and aspiring nutrition professionals! In the Career Resources section, click on the “Dietetic Career Spotlights” to read inspiring stories about dietitians on a variety of paths.

Back to grading papers! See you soon!

Leaning In…to a New Year

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Just another good night’s sleep

According to family lore, I never slept through the night until I was three. So this photo, which was taken of me at 6 AM the other day, doesn’t really surprise me. Payback is a…dirty diaper.

The benefit of having a pair of chubby toddler legs wrapped around one’s neck is that getting kicked in the face is not really an option. Suffocating, on the other hand, might be. 

I woke up to the sound of my husband’s chuckling and the flash of his iPhone in my face. I was instantly annoyed that a decent stretch of sleep had been interrupted because I had gone to bed at 1 AM, after working late and being up with our toddler, who had a cough and a fever. I decided to post the photo on Facebook and got 150 likes almost instantly. So, hey, this is just real life. No Photoshop here. 

At the hospital, Nov. 2013, ready to leave...

At the hospital, patient-mom selfie.

So what’s been going on around here since last fall? Well, things got really eventful for a while. Our preschooler Felix (sleeping perpendicular to me, above) developed a severe case of pneumonia in early November. He had a weak, persistent cough and an on-again, off-again fever that spiked to 106 degrees twice. We visited the emergency room at Phoenix Children’s Hospital three times within one week. Antibiotics – IV, IM, and oral – didn’t work on him. Finally he was admitted to PCH with an excess buildup of fluid on his lung. Felix ended up staying there for a week, with a surgically inserted chest tube draining the fluid from his lung into a tank under his bed. Life came to a standstill while we shuffled work, caring for our other two kids, and any other obligations around. His immune system was fragile for weeks after we brought him home. After he picked up a case of croup, we decided to keep him quarantined until he was completely well again.

A flock of baby T-rexes welcomed Felix home

A flock of baby T-rexes welcomed Felix home

Felix had been on powerful antibiotics for several weeks, which stripped the beneficial gut flora from his colon. (Also, the poor kid’s teeth turned yellow as a result of the antibiotics. They’re finally back to normal now, three months later) Taking the probiotic Florastor definitely helped to restore his gut health and support his immune system. I’m all for yogurt and fermented foods, but in an acute case like this, the Florastor did the trick.

Our friends, family, and neighbors were immensely supportive during those two months when we were immersed in the pneumonia/recovery situation.

 

I also began working full-time. Last fall, after teaching college-level nutrition courses part-time for a few years, I decided it was time to “lean in” (thanks, Sheryl Sandberg). I’m now a faculty member in the Nutrition Program at the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona Stage University. I’m teaching five nutrition courses this semester. I teach three courses in-person, and two online.

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Lehmann Brothers on New Year’s Eve

Juggling the five courses, with over 300 students, and our three kids has been challenging, But I really enjoy it. So far, things have been working out well. We have an amazing nanny and my husband’s parents help out with the kids. And I do miss the kids quite a bit when I teach one evening a week. But our reunions are happy and that’s what I like to focus on. I’m looking forward to spending time with them next week when we all have spring break together.

And nope, I still haven’t managed to get the kids out of the bed…

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Happy! Adrian, 19 months.

Restaurant Love: Calm Kids, Good Tips

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The national television news show “The List” asked me for tips on how to take young children out to a restaurant - without eliciting the stinkeye or getting kicked out, like the family in Katy, Texas…and I empathize, I really do. Sometimes it’s just a bad night for everyone.

I love going out to eat, but taking my three kids out can be challenging. Over the years, I’ve learned that three things continually save my hide.

1) Be prepared.  Advance planning is essential. With three kids aged 1, 4, and 7, I still have a few years left of doing pre-restaurant prep. From choosing a kid-friendly place, going early, calling ahead to check on the wait (correct answer for parents of toddlers: 5 minutes or less), to packing a restaurant survival kit with toys and snacks, a few minutes of strategizing can make a big difference. What not to bring: balls (too active), musical instruments (too noisy), and stuffed animals that could get dirty from spilled food and beverages.

By all means, bring the basics. Forgetting to bring a diaper bag to a restaurant is a sure sign to the universe that one is in need of some humbling.

This particular baby had recently started eating solids and was having unpredictable – umm, elimination patterns. So, of course, he produced a head-to-toe blowout diaper at the table. Fortunately, I was with one of my best friends, and we laughed for ten minutes straight because I was covered in baby poo. I had to “borrow” two cloth napkins from the restaurant: one to wipe the contents of the diaper off my pants and the other to wrap the baby’s body so that other diners wouldn’t lose their appetite watching us slink out.

2) Be a good role model. Our little monkeys will do as we do and not as we say. So, of course, it’s time to be on our best behavior. Save the diva/divo act for another day.

3) Be positive. This parenting jewel holds true in any situation, and particularly in public, where kids love to hear themselves praised for carrying out specific behaviors in front of other people. Use the presence of other diners and the waitstaff to your advantage. Tell other people that you’re so proud of your kids for staying seated, speaking quietly, trying that new Brussels sprouts dish on the menu and watch your kids glow from the positive energy.

Of course, if these tips don’t work, it’s probably a sign that a meltdown is imminent.  Ask for the check and some takeout boxes…and make plans to try again.

The art of eating out with kids takes practice. Hope to see you out soon!

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Why Dietitians Outweigh Diet Plans

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The national television show “The List” invited me to pick the best commercial diet plan out there.

Out of these three options that I was given – Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem - Weight Watchers is my favorite…not because it’s the most popular, but because it’s the most flexible:

  1.  A dieter can start with their pre-packaged, portion-controlled food, or not.
  2. There are in-person and online options for group support, which can be an important factor in successful behavior change for a lot of people.
  3. Dieters can go online or use the Weight Watchers app to keep track of points (every food is assigned a point value).  Many people find the Weight Watchers point system to be easy to use to guide their food choices.

But here’s the skinny: all of the diet programs out there on the $61 billion commercial weight loss market are still pre-packaged plans. Many people benefit much more from a plan that’s customized specifically for them, especially if they have a history of dieting, food allergies, cravings, or any health concerns.

There’s an even better choice out there for healthy and permanent weight loss: working with a dietitian who can tailor a plan that meets an individual’s lifestyle needs. From cooking demos to grocery store tours, from meeting one-on-one in a client’s home or office, to meeting by Skype or phone, there are many ways that a dietitian can work with a client.

Diets are short-term. So think long-term…

With a dietitian’s coaching, anyone who wants to lose weight will be able to get back on track all by himself or herself.

To find a dietitian in your area, go to http://www.eatright.org and click on “Find a Dietitian”. You can enter your zip code and find an expert to coach you through healthy weight loss all the way to true wellness.

 

Think out of the (cereal) box #yodel

Peach muesli. Photo by Jessica Lehmann.

Peach muesli. Photo by Jessica Lehmann.

 

I wrote about our family’s latest hot-weather breakfast favorite for Raising Arizona Kids: homemade Swiss muesli. It’s so delicious, you’ll want to yodel from a mountaintop!

Check out this video of Jimmy Fallon and Brad Pitt yodeling to each other in New York! And who doesn’t love the yodeling of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music?

Back to the recipe: this traditional Swiss cold breakfast of oats, milk, and fruit is simple for school-aged kids to make. Our preschooler enjoyed grating peaches (with my help) and choosing which toppings he wanted.

Muesli is a healthier, cheaper, customizable alternative to packaged cereals…it’s easy to vary the textures and flavors by using different combinations of nuts, seeds, and fruit. Feel free to experiment with the type of milk – soy, almond, rice, goat, hemp – and flavorings like fruit juices, vanilla, nutmeg, agave and maple syrup. For more protein, you could add plain yogurt or Greek yogurt.

For a gluten-free version, choose a reputable brand of oats like Bob’s Red Mill makes muesli an anxiety-free breakfast option. Fruit and milk are naturally gluten-free.

Click here for more of my breakfast ideas. Yodelay hee-hoo!

 

My First Blueberry

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I tasted a blueberry for the first time.

Well, technically I tried a wild, locally gathered blueberry for the first time at the farmers’ market in Harbor Springs, Michigan. The experience of eating a sweet, juicy, just-picked wild blueberry was so intense, I felt as though I had never eaten blueberries before. We ended up bringing home a quart of them.

Grocery-store blueberries, even organic ones, just can’t compare. Trader Joe’s sells frozen wild blueberries from Michigan, but they’re still a notch below the fresh variety.

One advantage of going to a farmers’ market is getting to try produce that’s in season, freshly plucked from the earth, and full of flavor. When I returned home with my family to the desert, I realized that there are still farmers’ markets that are open in our area, despite the oppressive summer heat. I felt compelled to write about these markets for Raising Arizona Kids magazine to encourage our readers to brave the heat and go early to the market. We may not have wild blueberries, but there is still plenty of seasonal produce available!

Here is a list of Arizona produce that’s in season this month:
Apples
Basil
Chiles
Corn
Cucumber
Grapes
Green Beans
Melons
Peaches
Pears
Pinto Beans
Plums
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Radishes
Summer Squash
Winter Squash (I know…it’s August…I’ll have to check into this one…)
Sweet Peppers
Tomatoes
Zucchini

(Source: https://students.asu.edu/files/AZ%20Seasonal%20Produce%20Calendar2.pdf. Accessed August 18, 2013)

 

Sad to Glad: Try 7 A Day

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Feeling blue? Head for the produce section or the farmer’s market. Get at least seven servings of vegetables and fruits into your daily diet and you’ll feel happier. Seriously!

According to recent research:

  • A joint Dartmouth University/University of Warwick study of 80,000 British adults that was published in the journal Social Indicators Research in October 2012 showed that eating seven servings of vegetables and fruits a day is connected to increased psychological well-being.
  • The British Journal of Health Psychology published a study in January 2013 that demonstrated that eating 7-8 servings of fruit and vegetables had a positive influence on emotions…and not the other way around. The 281 young adult subjects kept journals of their food intake and emotions for 21 days. Researchers analyzed the relationships between their fruit and vegetable consumption and the positive and negative emotions that were reported by subjects the following day.

Better Health with Green Drinks

I began drinking green drinks last fall when I was about eight weeks postpartum. My motivation was to make sure that my diet was nutritious for the benefit of my nursing baby. I began to notice the following health benefits…

  • I could feel immediately that I had more energy throughout the day. The B vitamins in the drink help the body utilize energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
  • I felt calmer and more optimistic, even with plenty of daily stress from work, family, and having a newborn. Click here to read about the research that supports a diet rich in plant foods with elevated mood.
  • My gastrointestinal health was excellent. Regularity was not a problem, ever.
  • I received a lot of comments on my healthier-looking skin, which I attribute to the vitamin A (for the regeneration of new skin cells) and vitamin C (for collagen production)
  • Thanks to the naturally delicious plant food flavors, my junk food cravings decreased dramatically, and my cravings for naturally delicious flavors increased! In essence, these green drinks retrained my palate.
  • The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals boosted my immune system.  I stayed healthy and fought off the germs that my kids brought home from school.
  • My dentist marveled at my healthy gums, which I attribute to the decreased systemic inflammation from the addition of the healing plant foods.
  • The high fiber content made it easy to manage my postpartum weight loss process from baby #3 more easily than ever.
  • I realized that green drinks make it very easy to meet the guidelines of the anti-inflammatory diet, which has been shown to decrease the risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease, many kinds of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity, and auto-immune diseases.
  • Receiving the flavors of the vegetables via breast milk probably helped my baby become more receptive to eating and drinking them later! Click here to watch him (at 10 months old) drinking his own green drink out of a bottle.

Green Drinks: Tips!

 

Getting ready to Vitamix a delicious green drink full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber!

Getting ready to Vitamix a delicious green drink full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber!

Blending up a vegetable and fruit-filled drink is a delicious, convenient, and easy way to transition to a plant-based diet. I noticed these health benefits right away when I began drinking my produce!

Click here for the full Happy Green Drink recipe.

Here are some tips that I’ve learned in the past year for making your green drinks faster, more varied, and more convenient:

  1. Feel free to improvise with different herbs, vegetables, and fruits. For example, you could try cilantro instead of parsley.Try adding beets, radishes, cucumbers, bell peppers, jicama, and carrots. I love to add grapes, kiwi, or pineapple, or seasonal fruit such as peaches, plums, berries, melon.
  2. Add a serving of protein to turn this drink into a meal replacement: try a scoop of protein powder (whey, soy, hemp), 1/2 cup of low-fat or non-fat cottage cheese or 3/4 cup of low-fat or non-fat Greek yogurt
  3. Experiment by adding chia seeds, a tablespoon of nut butter, wheat germ, a small chunk of ginger, 2-3 dates, oats, flax seeds…the possibilities really are endless.
  4. Substitute unsweetened almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, or skim milk for the water.
  5. For convenience, use frozen fruit, either store-bought or homemade. You won’t need to add ice if you use frozen fruit.
  6. Freeze slightly overripe fruit for increased sweetness and convenience. When I notice the bananas on the kitchen counter turning brown or the plums starting to get mushy, I slice them and add them to a plastic bag in the freezer.
  7. Try to use organic produce whenever possible to minimize exposure to pesticides.
  8. Vary the type of greens to maximize the different types of nutrients that each provides. For example, switch daily from baby spinach to kale to Swiss chard to romaine lettuce.
  9. To save time, put all of the ingredients for one batch in a gallon-size plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator so you can throw everything into your blender quickly.
  10. If you have extra, freeze it in a covered container with at least an inch of space left at the top for expansion. I use mason jars and ziploc freezer bags. On rushed weekday mornings, I’m often thankful to have a frozen green drink to defrost in a bowl of warm water.

I hope these tips make it easier for you to experience the health benefits that come with the green drink lifestyle!

FDA Defines “Gluten-free”

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Last Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published guidelines for the food industry that define a “gluten-free” food as one that contains less than 20 parts of gluten per million.

Consumers can breathe more easily knowing that buying a packaged food labeled “gluten-free” conforms to the recently established gluten limit. Three million Americans have celiac disease and according to estimates based on clinical practice and research, there may be up to twenty million more with non-celiac gluten-sensitivity.

Food manufacturers now have a standard that they can strive for. Last year, the American gluten-free food market surpassed $4 billion. However, companies have one year from the date of the FDA’s regulation being published to make sure that package labels are accurate before being subject to regulatory enforcement.

Anything, including foods and beverages that are naturally gluten-free (e.g. water, milk, juices) can be labeled as gluten-free. Remember that fruits, vegetables, eggs, seafood, tofu, meats, and dairy are all naturally free of gluten. There are many grains (e.g. rice, millet, quinoa) and flours (e.g. rice flour, coconut flour) that are naturally free of gluten, too.

Foods that are labeled “gluten-free” are not necessarily nutritious; there are gluten-free baked goods galore, for example. Continue to read the Nutrition Facts panel and the List of Ingredients on each packaged food to help you decide whether or not a particular food fits into your healthy diet.

Click here to read about the benefits of eating a gluten-free diet.