Cheap, Healthy Lunch…No Thinking Required

5 02 2018

I’ve just been bragging to my colleagues: my tasty, healthy lunch only cost $3.25. It wasn’t a skimpy amount of food either: a salad, a yogurt and a wheat roll.


Myia Welsh

I’ll tell you all day that watching my nutrition is important. My actual behavior says something else entirely. When I think about the day to day choices I’m making, I’ve noticed that I’m more motivated by 1) convenience and 2) saving money. I’m not kidding. Since I did the calculations for that post about the low per serving cost of oatmeal, I actually like it more. Once you know what your “hook” is you can use it to your advantage. But I digress…

Let’s talk lunch. I usually find that I have failed to pack a lunch the night before, and I’m scrambling around at noon making terrible, very hungry, decisions. That’s no way to live, and no way to maintain my weight goals. My current solution: salad kit. A bagged salad kit (Like this one) with everything included (toppings, dressing, etc.) will give me the bulk of my lunch for two days. I add a wheat roll from my grocery store’s bakery and a yogurt from a four pack.


Salad Kit $3.99/2 servings = $2.00 per serving

Yogurt individual serving pack $3.99/4 servings = $1.00 per serving

Wheat rolls from the bakery $2.99 per dozen/12 servings = $.25 per serving

Total per lunch: $3.25

Last time I went to a local chain restaurant for a salad (braving a whole lot of temptation from the other goodies on the menu) I walked out paying around $8.00, plus the cost of a drink. That’s easily a $5 difference PER DAY. $25 per week. $100 per month. Potentially $1,200 per year. For that kind of savings, I’ll eat salad all the way to the bank!


I can get all this at the grocery store when I do my regular shopping. So, no additional planning or stops required. There is really no other packing either. I bring the items in with me and put it all in the staff fridge at work. When lunchtime rolls around I put half the salad stuff in my bowl and seal the remainder off with a binder clip until tomorrow. Done. No decisions. No thinking about what I “feel like” eating (because the answer is always a burger and a milkshake). And by the end of the work week, I’m still on track with my calories.

Setting yourself up for success

I know that if I’m left to go find myself some lunch, I’m probably going to make choices that aren’t so great. I’m guessing that I’m not the only one. Thinking about how to set yourself up to auto-pilot your way to your weight loss goals is worth a little attention. The weeks will tick by no matter what, so what can you do to help yourself make better food choices along the way?



Are you Super Bowl Ready?

2 02 2018

This picture shows an american football manufactured by Wilson lying on a football field. The football has the typical brown and redish color with some white lines painted on it and white laces on the top.

Big food events can be big fun, but they can also be a big challenge when you are trying to eat healthfully. Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving as the single event with the highest food consumption in America According to the American Institute on Food Distribution. This Sunday, American football fans are estimated to consume:

1.35 billion chicken wings This is enough for every man, woman and child in the US to have 4 wings each. While chicken itself is a healthy, lean source of protein, chicken wings are mostly deep fried, fatty chicken skin. Not exactly what we mean when we say “go lean with protein”. Instead of your standard chicken wings, why not try these ideas:

Grilled, boneless chicken tenderloins tossed with Frank’s Red Hot buffalo sauce, or

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs:

139 million pounds of avocados (mostly in the form of guacamole): Now, I love some good guac, and the fact that avocados are an excellent source of heart healthy monounsaturated fat sure doesn’t hurt.  They are actually higher in potassium than a banana, and they are very versatile (Did you know they are a great baking substitute to swap out some of the butter in your recipes?). However, these health benefits do come with a calorie price tag. One medium avocado has 232 calories and 20g of fat, so when indulging in your favorite guacamole, go easy on the chips (or try raw veggies instead!) and watch portions. Try this great guac recipe and load it up with veggies!

11.2 million pounds of potato chips: Who doesn’t love potato chips? But eating them with reckless abandon? Not such a good idea. Swap out your potato chips for tortilla chips which are whole grain and usually low in sodium, baked chips which are lower in calories and fat, or better yet, raw veggies which will go great with your favorite dip. Try these swap outs with this super easy dip recipe:

4 million pizzas:  Yes, Dominos actually expects to sell 12 million slices on Sunday. Admittedly, pizza is my favorite food and I have a tough time messing with it, but here are a few tips that I really like:

Go thin: A thin crust will have less calories than a deep dish crust.

Go veggie: Load your pizza up with your favorite vegetables, which are high in nutrition and low in calories. Skip the fatty, salty meats that just add lots of calories, unhealthy fats, and sodium.

Go creative: Make a party event of making your own pizzas for the game. Try using whole grain flat breads or even cauliflower for a crust (seems to be all the recipe rage lately). Try part skim mozzarella, or use parmesan and feta cheese. The strong flavors in parm and feta go a long way, so you can use less. Try different toppings like fajita vegetables and seasonings, or make a “Hawaiian” pizza with lean ham and fresh pineapple. Here are a few great ideas:

Tomato Basil Pizza:

Zucchini Pizza Boats:

Fajita Pizza:


Over 50 million cases of beer: Ok, beer has some documented health benefits, but all alcohol should be consumed in moderation (moderation is defined as 1 drink per day for women, and 2 drinks per day for men). Beers with higher alcohol content are also higher in calories. Some darker beers like stouts and porters may have 180-280 calories in 12oz. So go “light” or keep drinking to a minimum. Remember, the more you drink, the more likely you are to overindulge in food as well.

~3.8 million pounds of popcorn: Popcorn is great. It is whole grain and low in calories, unless you load it up with extra stuff, like butter, cheese, chocolate, or sugar.

Try these recipes for popcorn seasoning:   Feel free to cut back on the salt if you need to. Make your popcorn fresh with a little of your favorite vegetable oil and just season to taste. Or, if you are in a hurry and want to buy popcorn, try Skinny Pop or Cape Cod Sea Salt seasoned bagged popcorn in the chip isle for something simple and low in calories.

As for me, I am a die hard Eagles fan, born and raised in Chester County PA, so some hometown Philly treats will be included on my Super Bowl spread….can you say cheesesteak sliders (tiny bites of this monster classic), and real Philly soft pretzels, dipped in simple mustard, of course! We’ll be keeping in mind that it’s the guys on the field getting all of the exercise, not us. So make some smart swaps or smaller portions this Sunday and share them here with us!

Oh, and Fly Eagles Fly! #GoBirds!


Cathy head shot

Cathy Shaw is a registered, licensed dietitian with the PEIA Weight Management Program

Make Some New Traditions This Thanksgiving…

21 11 2017

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I enjoy looking for NEW traditions when it comes to recipes for the holidays. Green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, broccoli casserole, mashed potato casserole….yeah, I need a break from the “casserole” section of the cookbook! While I love our traditional family recipes (it would not be Thanksgiving without my mom’s stuffing!), I also enjoy trying new foods and preparing them in different ways. I guess it’s the “foodie” in me! I have been on the look out for some great fall recipes to spruce up your Thanksgiving table this year, and I think you’re gonna like them! I have personally made all of these dishes and found them to be healthy, flavorful, and totally delicious. They are a great way to change up your Thanksgiving menu, or at least add some really tasty vegetables to your plate!

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Soup: Literally one of the easiest soups I have ever made! This comes from Gimme Some Oven. Simply add the ingredients to the crock pot and 4 hours later, you have soup! Having an immersion blender is key….this little gadget makes blending in the crock pot a breeze (I use this to blend up my apples for apple butter too). It is super handy, small and inexpensive. Get one!


Kale Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette: They key to eating kale in a salad is massaging it with a little olive oil! Who knew you had to massage kale? The real deal of this recipe is the pumpkin vinaigrette. Literally one of the best dressings I have ever made! You could simply make the dressing and add it to any salad. This recipe comes from Parents Magazine. Feel free to substitute goat cheese for Feta if you have it on hand…it’s fabulous!

Stuffed Acorn Squash: This is something I had never made before. This squash is stuffed with a cranberry apple dressing that is to die for! I actually substituted sweet Italian turkey sausage for the pork sausage and it turned out great. This is so satisfying it could be used as a main dish if you like. Want it to be vegetarian? Omit the sausage or use vegan sausage. This recipe comes from Happily Unprocessed.



Wild Rice, Pear & Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Walnuts: Registered dietitian, Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition, does it again! I just love her recipes. They are simple, family friendly, and nutritious! I literally made this one night after working all day, and paired it with some all natural Al Fresco sweet apple chicken sausage for some extra protein. This dish was such a wide variety of flavors. Very pleasing to the palate! Give it a try…

Balsamic Green Beans: One of my tried and true recipes from Southern Living Magazine. This beats mushy canned green beans, hands down! The balsamic vinegar with a hint of  brown sugar really kick this up to the next level…—southern-living.html

So where did I get the motivation to try some of these new things? Well, the Shaw family joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) program through a local farm this year (Harmony Farm), and we were able to get our hands on lots of fresh produce! We got a wide assortment of local, seasonal produce weekly, which gave us a break from buying it at the store. My sister-in-law even referred to it as having Christmas every week! Recently, our haul included some beautiful acorn squash, kale, butternut squash, and green beans. Having great ingredients on hand always inspires me!

So from our family to yours, have a bountiful and blessed Thanksgiving holiday!


Cathy Shaw, RDN, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian for the WV PEIA Weight Management Program, and loves to be wild and wonderful in West Virginia…

Cathy head shot

Fueling Your Family for Back to School

29 08 2017


Who is feeling the stress of “back to school”? We sure are. Dealing with a new school, new teachers, bus schedules, the dreaded “parent paperwork”, high school sports, college classes, bills, etc. Oh, and the “we need to go shopping for a homecoming dress”. Whaaaat?? Throw in our own full time jobs, managing a home, and trying to squeeze in some family time, there seems to be very little time left to focus on healthy behaviors.

I hear you. I’m there. The struggle is real.

But, nourishing our bodies and treating them with kindness and care helps give us the energy we need to deal with those hectic, stressful days. Taking a few minutes to do some meal planning at the beginning of each week will save time and reduce the stressful feeling when you hear those horrifying words: “What’s for dinner?”.

I know you panic every time you hear those words! You’re tired, you’re hungry, and you don’t want to think. So, here are 5 tips to keep you and your family on track at dinner time…

  1. Check your schedule for the week. Who needs to be where, when? How many evening meals can be eaten at home? How many need to be on the go? How can you use leftovers to save time?
  2. Plan your evening meals. This should take no more than 10 minutes (maybe up to 20 if you’re getting all fancy and looking up recipes!). To keep meals simple, just use your plate. Plan a protein, vegetable, fruit, and whole grain or starchy veggie (you know, corn, peas, potatoes…). Have a serving of dairy if you like (great source of protein, calcium, and other nutrients). Want an easy example? Check out the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate here: D Harvard Healthy Eating Plate
  3. Try to stick with whole foods if you can. And yes, whole foods can be easy and convenient! Use products like pre-cut vegetables and fruit, frozen vegetables and fruit, bagged salad, minute brown rice, frozen quinoa, canned beans, fresh ground turkey patties, etc. Get some quick and easy ideas for a stocking a healthy pantry here: The Good Pantry
  4. Check your inventory and make a grocery list! Yes, grocery shopping is necessary to be sure you have everything on hand that you need! Check out this blog and meal planning worksheet from Real Mom Nutrition! Sally does a bang up job helping parents navigate their way through hectic days and meal planning pitfalls. Take a few minutes to surf through her web site….it’s great!
  5. Prep some things ahead. Chop vegetables and fruit for recipes and snacks. Brown or pre-cook meats for tacos, sauces, soups, casseroles. Set out kitchen gadgets you will need like the crock pot, food processor, skillet, or casserole dishes. I find the more I prep ahead, the smoother our evenings go. Taking time on a Sunday evening to get organized helps me a lot.

Above all, apply the KISS principle (keep it simple, silly)! Dinner doesn’t have to be gourmet, but it should be easy and nourishing. You and your family need to reboot after a long day of work, school, practice and other activities. Putting good fuel in the tank helps give us the energy to face another busy day.

What will you do this week to help get a simple healthy meal on your family’s table? We hope you share your ideas with us!

Cathy Shaw RDN, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist for the WV PEIA Weight Management Program

Cathy head shot

Take Action: Setting Your Own Positive Path

28 02 2017

Negativity could be called ”the white elephant in the room,”  but do we really have to  notice that white elephant, or can we create our own safe haven of positivity in which we place a shield of armor, around ourselves so that any negative feedback simply bounces off of us and has no effect? In actuality, most information is neutral, and we make this information either positive or negative based on our experiences. If you have been dealing with weight loss issues throughout your lifetime, you have more than likely tried numerous diets and or nutritional programs without success. The positive news is that you are now in the PEIA weight management program, which is not a diet but a lifestyle change. In other words, through proper diet and exercise you can attain your goal without feeling as if you have to deprive yourself of the things you love. The key is moderation rather than deprivation, being healthy rather than being the skinniest person in the room, and l knowing what works for you in order to attain these goals. Now let us focus on your own positive journey to the best you.

First, you must make realistic goals over the short-term that evoke small changes without feeling overwhelming. How many of us have entered a weight loss program and have been really excited and motivated when first starting to implement the program? We make huge goals set over the long-term but have no concrete way to attain those goals over the short term and therefore, set ourselves up for failure rather than success. For example, you may want to lose 50 pounds and set that goal, but if you do not really understand how you are going to get there or how long it is going to take, you may not be successful because you do not have a plan.

Planning is crucial to any successful change. Change takes effort and effort takes planning. Not only should you have a Plan to A, but you should also have a Plan B in case Plan A is unsuccessful. For example, you decide to go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. However, your cat gets sick on Tuesday night, and you end up having to take her to the vet Wednesday after work. Well, you think to yourself, “there  goes one of my gym days.” This is not necessarily the case if you have a Plan B (a day when you can go to the gym if plan A is unsuccessful). If you have a Plan B, you can still attain your goal.

Secondly, you must stay accountable to yourself. Research shows that people who are most successful in managing their weight keep some type of log in reference to diet and exercise. We recommend My Fitness Pal, but this does not work for everyone- you need a method that works for you. Also, remember that small change is most successful. Instead of saying to yourself,” I don’t want to keep a log of my diet and exercise because it’s too time consuming to do every day,” why not strategize to log diet and exercise for two days over the next six weeks.  This gives you a chance to get your feet wet without drenching them. Also, making a habit of logging only certain days helps to keep you honest. Maybe, if you were logging your diet and exercise every day, at times you might be more likely to forget about that extra piece of pizza and not log it. If you only log two days a week, you might be paying more attention to accountability on your “logging days” and less likely to forget to enter foods.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do not beat yourself up for mistakes made or slip-ups in your journey. Making mistakes means that you are trying and practice makes perfect. Perhaps, it is those mistakes, which cause us to learn the most about what not to do, and what works for us.  Best of luck everyone and remember- you can do this!  This is your journey, and only you can make it a success


Jessica Woodfork MA, NCC, LPC

Health Behavioral Specialist

Get Motivated, Get Moving

17 02 2017

Instant gratification- in today’s society it is a mainstay of life. However, although we may want instant gratification, it is in some cases very hard to attain, and if attained, hard to maintain. For example, some fad diets promise unrealistic goals in very little time with no real effort. Is this a realistic lifestyle change or a promise, which will go unfulfilled or last only a couple weeks? A lifestyle change takes commitment, effort and time. It also takes motivation to begin to move forward, which leads me to the topic of this blog.

As I was talking to participants this February, a certain topic came to the forefront of the conversation time after time: the ability to motivate themselves. Some reasons for a lack of motivation included: the cold gray weather as well as stagnation in weight loss and/or some weight gain. The question is what motivates us to achieve our goals. The answer is different for everyone, and you have to pick something that works for you. There are, however, some general guidelines to what best helps motivate people.

Many of us have workout friends-those individuals who go with us to the gym and participate in exercise making it tolerable or even fun. That we are in this together helps to motivate some people to a result of success. Another motivation booster is an event: the big wedding coming up, the summer vacation or the ocean cruise. These are all events in which we want to look and feel our best, so this can help motivate us to change. Lastly, someone who we deeply admire or love can help motivate us to do great things.

For me, my motivation has always come from a person who I loved and admired, my mother. My mother developed non-smoking lung cancer at the age of 49. She was a non-smoker and had no symptoms except for a cough; however, when she was finally diagnosed the cancer had spread throughout her body. She was an avid exerciser and healthy eater in her adult years. She remained steadfast and positive throughout her illness, and three months after being diagnosed with terminal cancer she ran a 10k race. She continued her fight for almost a year, at the end knowing the outcome but still persevering to get well. Her death was the most adversity I have ever faced in my life. However, her strength, positivity and enduring spirit has set a precedent in my life. I can never give up and will always do my best to accomplish my goal no matter what. This is my strongest motivation to always do my best to succeed.

In closing, whatever motivates you to reach the top of the mountain is what you should use to succeed in whatever your goal may be in your future. So the next time you need motivation, think about what makes  you your best and use that to motivate you through your journey.


Jessica Woodfork, MA, NCC, LPC

Health Behavioral Specialist

Do You “Break” the Fast?

9 02 2017


Have you heard the saying, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper”?  If you haven’t, maybe you’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day…but why?


Breakfast provides the body and brain with fuel after an overnight fast.  Without fuel, you are essentially running on empty.  Think of it this way.  You wake up in the morning and need to drive your car to get to work.  Your gas tank is empty.  How far are you going to get?  The same goes for our bodies.  Without providing our bodies the proper energy needed to jump start our day, we won’t get far.  In fact, research shows that breakfast improves memory, concentration, and focus throughout the day.


Breakfast is also an opportunity to feed your body good energy and sources of calcium, iron, B vitamins, protein, and fiber.  Research shows that if these nutrients are missed at breakfast, we’re less likely to meet our need for these on that day.  People who skip breakfast are also more likely to grab a mid-morning snack that’s high in fat and added sugar.


Kick-starting your morning with a meal can be good for the waistline too.  Research shows that people who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight than those who do not eat breakfast.  Better yet, breakfast has also been shown to decrease the risk for hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.


Follow these tips to get the most bang for your buck in breakfast:


  1. Don’t skimp on the protein. Protein increases satiety and may result in less total calories eaten in a day.  Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cow’s milk, soy milk, eggs, oats, and quinoa are excellent sources of protein!


  1. Add fiber. High fiber foods takes a long time to digest, keeping you fuller for a longer period of time.  Aim to choose a food that has at least 3 g of fiber per serving.  Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as whole grain bread, bran cereal, oatmeal, unsweetened granola, and shredded wheat.


  1. Try to eat within the first hour of waking up. No appetite?  Try drinking a liquid breakfast such as a homemade smoothie or instant breakfast beverage that has less than 10 g of sugar per serving.


Feeling like there’s no time to eat breakfast in the morning?

We often put effort into packing a nutritious lunch or preparing a healthy dinner yet somehow we tend to let breakfast slip through the cracks.  The good news is breakfast doesn’t have to be an elaborate meal that we sit down to eat.  It can be a meal that we eat on the go or even at the office.  So if you find that your mornings are a rat race just to get out the door and get to work on time, know that there are ways to fit breakfast into your busy schedule.


Grab N’ Go Ideas:

  • Peanut butter and banana sandwich + fruit + milk
  • Whole grain bagel with egg and avocado + milk
  • Greek yogurt + fruit
  • Cottage cheese + fruit
  • Smoothie made with Greek yogurt, banana, berries, and low-fat milk
  • Hardboiled egg + fruit + milk
  • Oatmeal mixed with milk and topped with fresh fruit and nuts



Honey Lime Quinoa Fruit Salad by The Recipe Critic


Blueberry Bliss Breakfast Bars by Inspired Edibles


Sunbutter (or Peanut Butter), Banana, and Chia Seed Toast by Skinny Fork


Author of the blog today is Cassie Raugh, a Dietetic Intern with WVU Hospitals, Inc. working with Cathy Shaw RDN, LD of the PEIA Weight Management Program