Monthly Archives: April 2010

Avec coconut oil!

Thank you for all your comments on my coconut oil post yesterday. Obviously it’s a hot and controversial topic. Several of you shared your positive experiences with coconut oil and while I don’t discredit any potential benefits, I simply summarized the scientific findings. I believe nutrition is a science and what I teach and believe is based 100% on research and science. While “I feel more satisfied after eating coconut oil” is without a doubt true, we cannot then correlate satiety with said food. Period. It’s a well-known fact that protein and fat provide more satiety than carbohydrates and we have to be able to differentiate placebo effect and variable factors in credible research (i.e. did you lose weight because of coconut oil or because something, subconsciously or not changed in your diet, lifesytle, intake, or exercise routine?). This is why so-and-so heard from so-and so-that blah blah blah is great to treat xyz nutrition-related problem.

Gracie pointed out that saturated fat has recently captured a lot of positive research attention. Some research is now finding saturated fat to not be as harmful to heart health as originally thought. Key word: some. But excellent point, you’re absolutely right in that statement.

Health is a spectrum and what works for some…doesn’t for others (Like why is my margarita-slurping, Twizzler-eating, pizza-loving husband thin and I am not?). And old wives tales and personal testimonies are not something that hold credence in a science-based practice. To me, anyways. But truly, I am open minded. And to prove that, here is a recipe which includes coconut oil! A delicious recipe, at that! 😉

Mocha Granola slightly adapted from How Sweet It Is

2 cups rolled oats, uncooked
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/2 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/4 cup shredded coconut Let’s Do Organic Low-Fat shredded coconut
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 Tbsp 1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 375º F.

Combine all ingredients together and mix until wet. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 1o minutes. Flip the granola and bake for another 5 minutes. Flip again and bake for a final 5-10 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Yield: 12 servings (1/2 cup each)

Nutrition Information (per 1/2 cup): 305 calories; 14.4 g. fat; 46 mg. sodium; 40.5 g. carbohydrate; 5.4 g. fiber; 7.3 g. protein

Really yummy granola! I can’t so much taste the coconut oil, so I’ll probably be trying another coconut oil-containing recipe soon. Since it’s in my arsenal now and all 😉

Today is the LAST DAY of the Do What You Don’t Challenge! I want to hear from all 77 of you participants! 😉 I have some yoga to get to today! But I assure you, it will get done! 😀

Question: What are you up to this weekend? Any fun plans?



Filed under breakfast, challenge, coconut oil, coffee, diet, recipe, trans fat, Uncategorized, yoga

Coconut oil: health food or health fad?

Firstly, I want to give a shout out to all the new readers of Prevention RD! In the past 2 days there’s been lots of new “faces” – so happy to hear from you! I am insanely behind this week on blog reading, but can’t wait to catch up with you this weekend! 😀 I didn’t know if Thursday would ever make it here, but I’m sooo excited to start my 3-day weekend!



If you buzz around the blogosphere you’ve definitely read something about coconut oil and/or butter. Tracey brilliantly asked me to share some important information about these foods on my blog, and I am so glad she did! This is a HOT topic right now!

My $0.02 on Coconut Oil

[Note: Due to MAJOR differences in nutrition components, I will discuss coconut water in a later post.]

Various fat sources are like various sugar (and sugar substitute) sources…they can all be a part of a healthy, balanced intake. Unfortunately, we (the consumers) hear something is “good” for us, and we become OBSESSED with this illusive idea of “super healthy foods”. Take for example, antioxidants. Cooking Light recently discussed the passing phase of “Super Foods” and “antioxidants” – we knew nuts, seeds, salmon, and berries were good for us. But we need not shun everything else. Same goes for sugar and sugar substitutes. Stevia is showing great promise as a 100% safe and all-natural, calorie-free sweeteners, but why commit to just one sweetener? Honey and agave sure have their place, especially with their low glycemic index. Food monogamy = no bueno!

I feel the same about fats, including tropical fats such as coconut oil and butter. If you simply Google “Is coconut oil healthy?” get ready to find a lot of coconut proponent sites. This is NOT where credible information is found…it’s where suckers go and money-making happens. There are no large-scale, valid, or reliable studies to date supporting claims that coconut oils and butters produce weight loss, boost energy, increase immunity, cure hypothyroidism, increase satiety, or decrease cravings. However, there are credible studies supporting heart-healthy diets which include a healthy balance of fats – saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat. A mixed-fat diet best supports a healthy ratio of HDL-cholesterol (the good) to LDL-cholesterol (the bad). Note: TRANS fat is never considered a healthy fat to include in the diet. Coconut oil should be never be hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated (check the ingredient list for these key words!), as that indicates trans fat content.

What we do know is that coconut oil contains a lot of saturated fat – 91-92% saturated fat — 4x the amount in Crisco shortening and 12x more than canola oil. The fat in coconut oil is in the form of medium-chain triglyercerides (MCT), which means little to most. In brief, medium-chain triglycerides are quickly cleared from the blood and are a completely oxidized for energy. While that is wonderful for critically ill patients unable to properly digest fats, that means little for the general, healthy population. Furthermore, MCT’s do not contain any essential fatty acids (omega 3’s and 6’s which are not made by the body). And for what it’s worth, the Food and Drug Administration, as well as the American Medical Association, endorse limiting saturated fats, and therefore tropical oils (but that’s not to say don’t include them in moderation).

Tracey’s Q: Is coconut oil healthy?
My A: Not really…nope.

Tracey’s Q: Is it just a fad?
My A: I’d say so. Unless people are just now learning they enjoy coconut?? 😉

Bottom Line:

  • If you choose to consume coconut oil/butter, choose a product which has not been hydrogenated (check the label!)
  • Limit your saturated fat intake to 7% or less of your daily caloric intake (11.5 grams for a 1,500 calorie intake; 14 grams for a 1,800 calorie intake; 15.5 grams for a 2,000 calorie intake)
  • Include a variety of fats from the diet – canola oil, olive oil, and flaxseed oil all contain both essential fatty acids, and contain WAY less saturated fat than coconut oil
  • Complete annual blood work with your medical provider – this should include a lipid panel
  • Never “marry” a food – variety is the key to success!

There’s so much conflicting information on health and nutrition…and it can be hard to decipher. And while some of it is confusing, or contains a lot of gray area, that’s the way the health industry goes. We’re all learning together. Always. But the more we learn, the more we can utilize in optimizing our health.

Me, personally? It’s ironic that Tracey asked this question this week, because I picked up some coconut oil on Monday at the store. I have several recipes calling for coconut oil that I’d like to try. My draw to trying coconut oil is simply pleasure…love coconut! Unless it’s to-die-for-good, it will likely be a one-time purchase for my kitchen! Personally, I’m canola oil’s #1 fan! 😉

Question: Have you used coconut butter or oil? Did you like it? Were you/are you weary to use it based on its saturated fat content?

Heart smart,


Filed under antioxidants, artificial sweeteners, aspartame, blog topic request, butter, coconut oil, fish oil/omega-3's, food safety, fruits and vegetables, glycemic index, healthy cooking, heart health, hydrogenation, MUFAs and PUFAs, research study, saturated fat, stevia, sugar substitutes, trans fat, Uncategorized

Cooking: chore or pleasure?

Good morning, Wednesday! I couldn’t be happier to have you here! 😀

Monday and Tuesday were busy, stressful work days…but followed up by delicious dinner delights! As I chatted with my mom on my way home from work on Monday, I distinctly remember her saying, “Take it easy tonight, Sugar…get you guys some Subways and relax.”

Oops. Sorry mom! 😉

Shrimp Scampi adapted from She Cooks and Bakes

2 1 ½ lbs pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
3 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine (I used white balsamic vinegar)
Kosher salt (approx. ½ tsp)
Fresh ground black pepper
5 Tbsp 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter 50/50 Smart Balance Butter Blend
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup minced shallots (I omitted this because I didn’t have any that day)
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Lemon wedges, for serving


Preheat the oven to 425º F.

Peel shrimp leaving the tails on, and devein the shrimp.

Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish.

Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 427 calories; 24 g. fat; 297 mg. cholesterol; 768 mg. sodium; 12 g. carbohydrate; 0 g. fiber; 37 g. protein

Result: Mr. Prevention LOVED it! He’s a sucker for all things shrimp & buttery, so this was certainly right up his alley. I was puzzled over the nutrition facts as there was lots of butter left in the bottom…and I do mean lots. So the nutrition facts aren’t as bad as they look, but I have no way of knowing exactly…so they’re correct if you get out every last drip of butter 😉 …which you shouldn’t, Smart Balance blend or not! 😀

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese slightly adapted from Waisting Duxie

12 oz whole wheat macaroni
1 head of cauliflower, coarsely chopped
3/4 (whole wheat) breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups 8 ounces shredded low fat sharp cheddar (I used 1.5% Cabot)
1/2 cup non-fat milk
cayenne (optional)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups reduced fat sour cream
1 Tbsp tsp mustard powder


Preheat the oven to 400º F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook until tender but firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. Steam cauliflower on top or add to the pasta for the last 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

In a skillet heat the olive oil, add the bread crumbs, 1/4 tsp salt, and pepper stir to coat all the crumbs with the oil (this will give a super crisp top) add the parsley, stir to mix well.

Return the pasta pot to medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Add the onion, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until soft about 5 minutes. Add the milk, sour cream, cheese, mustard power, and cayenne (if using) to the pot and stir until the cheese melts. Mix in the pasta and cauliflower. Transfer to the prepared baking dish

Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. Then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned. Let stand and cool for 5 minutes before serving. Yield: 8 large servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 320 calories; 10.1 g. fat; 18 mg. cholesterol; 521 mg. sodium; 47 g. carbohydrate; 6.4 g. fiber; 16.6 g. protein (54% carbohydrate; 19% protein; 26% fat — the recipe stats basically represent a well-balanced caloric intake).

Result: I really enjoyed this recipe! And the portion really is HUGE! I knocked the mustard down a bit, I think it fired back a bit taste-wise, but that’s the only thing! Mr. Prevention is a harder nut to crack, but he even appreciated the nutrition stats! Definitely looking forward to leftovers for lunch today!

Served with a salad:

Mmmmmmm! 😀

Health Update: My insulin levels and HbA1c (average blood sugar) checked out (phew!). But there’s still some unanswered questions (like, why do I have diabetic-high blood sugars after running?). The “diagnosis” of PCOS has not been negated just yet (:( ). Just keeping you all posted! Thank you again for all of your support through this roller coaster. Your warmth has been so much appreciated and I could’ve never expected such caring, amazing readers.

So, have you jumped on the coconut oil and water train? What’s all the fuss about? Check in tomorrow to find out!

Question: Is cooking a core or a pleasure to you?

Random Question: What was your favorite subject in high school?

I loved math…hated science. But ended up in a science-based career!

P.S. Lily says “THANK YOU, EVERYONE!” for all the birthday wishes and compliments on her cuteness (she has a bigger head now!)!! She enjoyed her bone cake thoroughly! 😉

Happy Hump Day!


Filed under blood glucose, butter, diabetes, diet, dietitians, dinner, dog, exercise, fruits and vegetables, garlic, healthy cooking, hormones, PCOS, pets, physical activity, recipe, reduced-calorie, running, salad, stress, Uncategorized, work

Birthday Bash!

I know I’m a bit obsessed over my Lily dog, but she’s my baby and always puts a smile on my face. 🙂 Mr. Prevention and I knew we wanted a bulldog YEARS before we got Lily. There was no doubt in anyone’s minds…this dog would be spoiled. Rotten.

We picked Lily up straight from the airport when we returned from our honeymoon last June. We knew the breeder and knew that Lily and her 6 sisters and 1 brother were in excellent hands. We went over several times to play with all the pups as they grew and our hearts belonged to Lily (who was named G’Dot at the time, standing for “Girl Dot” in reference to the dot on her head. Her brother also had a dot on his head and was appropriately referred to as B’Dot).

If you’re as proud a canine mama as I am, here’s a doggie cake recipe for you! Spoil your 4-legged son or daughter appropriately on their special day!

Hard to believe my baby is ONE today! Happy Birthday, Lily! I hope you enjoy your cake!

Note: I made one giant cake, cut it down the center length-wise and created 2 Bone Cakes by just cutting the shape with a knife. I think they’re cute 🙂

Doggie Bone Cake from Homecooked Em

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tbsp honey
1 mashed ripe banana
1 egg
1 1/3 cup water
tsp vanilla
1 tbsp baking powder


Mix all ingredients and bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean! And the frosting was a mixture of cream cheese, mashed banana, and peanut butter!

Candids from her first year:

Question: Do you have a pet? What are their names? Are you a dog person or cat person?

Happy Birthday Lily! 😉

P.S. Less than ONE WEEK left in the DO What you DON’T Challenge! Finish out strong, I’m going to want to hear from all (77!) of you on how you did!



Filed under challenge, dessert, dog, pets, recipe, Uncategorized

manic monday

I was on the red eye back to Tulsa last night (yuck!). I have a feeling after a mere 4 hours in the office last week due to the conference in San Jose and my doctor’s appointment, this week is going to be brutal! I was silly and checked my schedule for this week and next before leaving for the weekend and I have 16 patients on my schedule every day for the next 2 weeks. As in, no open slots! ::downing coffee::

Before I left Chicago, I knew I needed a game plan. I’ve had a few days to process my “diagnosis” (to be confirmed on Friday with an ultrasound), and I’m ready to do what it takes. Home was hard…restaurants, friends, etc. I mean, do you know how hard it is to say to Ron Pope and flan for this girl? But that’s reality and I made it work with my carbohydrate-controlled diet (you won’t hear me call it “low-carb” because it’s not).

I meal planned for the week and made a grocery list so that I can head to the grocery store after work today. It has been at least a week since I’ve been in the kitchen and that makes me sad!! 😦

But home was just what I needed after having my world rocked with this health scare. My 9-miler was a breeze — I did the 8 minutes of running (5.3-6.0 mph increasing 0.1 every minute) with 2 minutes of walking at 4.0 mph. I finished in 1:42:30 (11:23 min/mi). However, my blood sugar was NOT okay after my run and after some research, running and I may have to call it quits. It appears intense exercise raises my blood sugars not only DURING exercise, but for SEVERAL hours after exercise (thanks to hormones like glucagon and epinepherine for any nerds or curious minds out there). So frustrating! Just when you think you’re doing something right… Again, I can’t help but feel like this is a bad joke considering my DO What You DON’T Challenge goals were to increase my yoga/Pilates and weight lifting! Thank goodness this month has taught me to tolerate those activities 😉

Pictures from home:

Family dinner…salad included 🙂 Mmmm!

+ Gorgonzola 😀

I poached eggs for the first time!

My brother modeling his breakfast sandwich – hash brown, egg, and turkey bacon (loco!)

Celebrating Grannie’s 87th and Dad’s 65th birthdays!

Mom and lil brother at dad’s birthday dinner

Question: Have you ever poached an egg before?

Random Questions: How often do you get to see your family? How far do you live from your parents? How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Thank you again for all of your support with this PCOS business. I have received so many emails from readers, family, family friends, and complete strangers who have made this news so much easier to bear. Thank you, thank you. 😀

Hope everyone had an excellent weekend! Have a wonderful week! 🙂

Be well,


Filed under blood glucose, breakfast, caffeine, carbohydrates, challenge, coffee, diet, dining out, dinner, exercise, friends, grocery store, hormones, low-carb, PCOS, physical activity, restaurant, running, salad, stress, travel, Uncategorized, work, yoga

Guest Post: Healthy Snacking

The lovely Heather of Get Healthy with Heather is stepping in today 🙂 Thanks, Heather! I love the post! As someone who is needing to decrease meal sizes and adopt a regular snack schedule, it’s perfect timing!

I also wanted to take a second and thank each and every one of you for your support in my recent PCOS discovery. I have received so many heart-felt emails and comments from people suffering from PCOS or those who have someone near to them suffering from PCOS, or just all you sweethearts out there. All of your comments and emails and support and advice have made my heart smile. 🙂 I will get back to regularly scheduled blogging and blog-reading after the weekend. Promise!

Lots of love,

Hey there PreventionRD readers! I’m Heather of Get Healthy With Heather and I am very excited to be here on Nicole’s blog. I love reading about her creations in the kitchen, and learning nutritional info from her. What an inspiration she is!

A bit about me – I love all things food and fitness. When I’m not running, biking, swimming, strength training or doing yoga, I’m in the kitchen creating new, tasty meals and snacks for my husband and I. Today I’d like to share some of my favorite snack ideas with you.

I’m a huge snacker. There’s not one day that goes by where I eat just breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’d get way to grouchy if I went without my snacks. Snacks keep my energy levels steady throughout the day, and help me not feel deprived and overly hungry at my next meal.

I try to always be prepared with snacks on hand. You never know what might come up at work, or when you’re out running errands, and I don’t like to be stuck with a hungry belly yelling at me.

Today I’d like to share 9 snack ideas with you – 3 for at home, 3 for at work and 3 for on the go.

At home

Smoothies are a nice, quick and filling way to hold your tummy over. I like to combine 1 cup soymilk, 1 tbsp hemp protein powder, 1 small ripe banana, 1 tbsp peanut butter, a handful of spinach and a few ice cubes in the blender. Whirl away until it’s all combine and enjoy. Don’t let the green color scare you away; you can’t even taste the spinach.

Surprisingly salads have become an energy snack for me. I like to mix spinach and spring greens with pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries or cherries and my zesty orange dressing. Once you try a salad as a snack you’ll be blown away by how energized you feel.

Oatmeal doesn’t have to always be a breakfast thing. You can quickly make a mini bowl of chocolaty oats by cooking 1/3 cup of oats with 2/3 cup water (or milk choice) and adding in 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder with ¼ tsp vanilla. Sweeten your bowl of oats with some agave or even maple syrup if you want.

At Work (where most of my snacking happens)

One easy way I bring a small amount of peanut butter (or any nut butter) to work with me is in a ziplock baggie. I’ll put in 1-2 tbsp peanut butter and when I need to use it I just snip off a corner and squeeze it out onto my apple as I munch away.

Have you ever combined pumpkin puree with your favorite plain greek yogurt? It’s such a treat! Try mixing ½ cup plain greek yogurt with ½ cup pumpkin puree. Top it off with 1 tbsp each dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

Try out my easy Southern Black Bean and Salmon Spread on crackers or in lettuce cups. This spread keeps in the fridge for 1 week, so it’s ready to use whenever you need it.

On the go

Power up trail mix: Mix ¼ cup each almonds, walnuts, plain roasted soybeans, dried raisins, dried blueberries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and dark chocolate chips. Put 1/3 cup of the mixture in ziplock baggies to grab and go.

Sunrise Chia Bar – this bar isn’t very sweet, which is how I like it. You can add some sweetener to the wet ingredients to make it perfect for you.

Wraps are great on the go snacks too. Take a small whole wheat tortilla, spread it with ¼ of a smashed avocado, and add a handful of spinach and ¼ cup thinly sliced red bell pepper. Wrap up in foil or plastic wrap and it’s ready to go.

I hope you enjoy some of these snack ideas. Tell me, what’s your favorite snack at home, work or on the go?

Heather of Get Healthy With Heather


Filed under Guest Post, recipe, snack, Uncategorized

“feels like a bad joke”

What I didn’t mention after my diabetes conference was that my blood glucose was doing some funky things — normal-high fasting sugars with REALLY high readings after exercise. Something wasn’t right…

I immediately thought, “I’m not a high-risk patient for type 2 diabetes…but what else could it be?” After talking with some of the NP’s and PA’s at the conference, they suggested I get tested for PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). I continued to check my blood sugars and continued to grow increasingly concerned. WHAT was going on?

I saw my primary care provider today and he said with 99% certainty, I have PCOS. Lab work and an ultrasound will confirm this diagnosis.

What is PCOS? Here, a detailed explanation can be found.

But in short, PCOS is the most common hormone disorder among women of reproductive age. I have all the classic symptoms other than hertuism (excessive hair growth). I believe many of my menstrual symptoms have been masked by birth control, which I was put on for acne and irregular menses (2 symptoms of PCOS) 12 years ago. I have recently gained weight and now have clear insulin resistance and/or carbohydrate intolerance (2 more symptoms of PCOS).

And of course this is ironic because 1) I work in diabetes and 2) always joke that I don’t know if I want kids. Which of course now that I understand the potential fertility problems associated with PCOS, want kids more than ever. If only the idea of having kids…I want it. But, I now have “closure” that because of PCOS, weight loss is difficult, but must not be given up on. With PCOS, women are at much increased risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. 😦

Seriously, given what my past weeks worth of posts have been about, does this not seem like a bad, bad joke?

People at work were so supportive. And an email from Emily (a PCOS sufferer) had me in tears in the Denver airport. I’m struggling, and I’m distracted. It’s good timing that I am heading to Chicago this morning to be with my family this weekend. I have the strongest, most supportive family who has endured vicariously my struggles with my weight…since forever.

I am feeling rage, sadness, shock, and fear of the future and my health at this moment. I plan to throw my pity party and then do what I need to do: lose 30 pounds and eat a carbohydrate-controlled diet.

I may be around this weekend, we’ll see. But for now, I am just trying to process this news and do what I need to do mentally, physically, and emotionally to beat this condition’s odds.

Thank you for all of your continued support. It means so much 🙂


Filed under carbohydrates, diabetes, diet, PCOS, physicians, travel, weight loss