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Tarynne Mingione, RD

Tarynne Mingione, RD

Registered Dietitian

Tarynne works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Nutrition Care Clinic as a registered dietitian at Swedish Hospital. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University, where she also completed her dietetic internship. She has also worked as a diabetes camp dietitian, health educator at Microsoft, and former board member of the Greater Seattle Dietetic Association. Tarynne has paired her strong passion for travel with her expertise, serving on medical teams in Sierra Leone and Guatemala, and traveling to over a dozen countries in the past year learning about the relationship between food and culture. She appreciates a holistic approach to achieving optimum wellness, and is excited to assist others in improving their health.

Blog Posts by Tarynne Mingione, RD

Sugar – Healthier Alternatives that Still Satisfy A Sweet Tooth

 We laugh at the scene in Elf when Buddy douses his spaghetti with maple syrup, but this probably isn’t too much of an exaggeration of how much sugar Americans are consuming (the USDA estimates roughly 32 teaspoons of sugar daily, nearly 100 pounds annually). Like Buddy demonstrates, this is way too much. Rather than remind you (and myself) of the horrendous health effects that excess consumption of processed sugar can have, let’s instead dissect the refined sweet stuff stashed in your cupboard, and then examine the alternatives that have a bit more to offer our taste buds and overall health.

Healthy Highlights of Chocolate

Flip the calendar to February and just like Pavlov’s dogs, you may immediately salivate for dark chocolate, bright red roses and heart shaped everything. You may think that Valentine’s day is a romantic holiday fueled by Victoria’s Secret, florists and chocolatiers, but there is a reason for everyone to celebrate this Heart Healthy Month. For the 40 plus percent of people flying solo this season (the ones that rolled eyes at the heart encircling the 14th on the office calendar), there are reasons why you too should read on and learn of the health highlights of this ‘guilty pleasure’.

First - learning the language of chocolate and discovering the nutrients hidden in this gift from earth can empower you to look beyond the diet taboo and instead intentionally enjoy the benefits chocolate has to offer (perhaps innocently on more than one occasion per year).

Within the fruit pods of the Theobroma cacao tree lie cacao beans, the preliminary form of chocolate harboring the health benefits which transform the reputation of this guilty pleasure into an innocent delight. Cacao refers to the tropical tree (see image below) and bean, and is not to be confused with the term cocoa.

There are approximately 20-60 cacao beans per pod, which are removed from their pods, undergo fermentation and then are dried, roasted, and crushed. The resulting nibs are separated from their shells. You can purchase cacao nibs at natural foods stores (Whole Foods, PCC, Madison Market). These nibs are then ground to extract cocoa butter while producing a brown paste known as chocolate liquor during the extraction process.

When further extraction is performed, the cocoa mass that results can be ground to produce unsweetened cocoa powder. Unsweetened chocolate, the most commonly recognized form of chocolate by consumers, is made by mixing heated chocolate liquor with cocoa butter and sometimes lecithin. Bittersweet, semisweet, or simply sweet chocolate has sugar, vanilla and lecithin added.

Now that you are more fluent in the language of chocolate, you can advance to learn of the nutrients and other components in chocolate contributing to its health benefits.

Rather than Resolutions, Establish Healthy Habits

I’m all for a new year to spark good intentions, but the group of 100+ gym members that magically appear in January and hijack my stair climber only to stand at the top and text have proven again that the majority of these resolutions only last through February. That’s good news for my quads, but rather than brainstorm overly ambitious feats, why not establish healthy, realistic habits that everyone can carry out through next Christmas?

Healthy Weight

Let’s resolve to the BMI instead of the cover of People magazine to determine what a healthy weight is.

BMI (body mass index) calculation uses weight and height to determine one’s relative risk of disease. This number correlates with body fatness, but it’s important to remember that it is not a direction measure as it reflects both muscle and fat. (Click here to calculate your BMI.)

BMI is an inexpensive, quick and easy to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems. However, it doesn’t take into account frame size, bone density, muscle mass (highly trained athletes have high BMIs due to increase muscle mass), or body fat (women have more body fat than men, also older people have more body fat than younger).

Ideal Body Weight

So the BMI is one method for determining what your risk is at your present weight. What about if you want to know what your ideal weight range is? I recommend using this method (known as the Hamwi method):

  • Men: 106lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 6lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
    • Example: 5’ 10” = 149-183 pounds
  • Women: 100lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 5lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
    • Example: 5’ 3” = 104-127 pounds

Like using the BMI, you have to consider the interpretive standards for this calculation also. If you consider yourself to have a small frame, then use the lower end of this range; whereas if you have a large frame then you would use the upper end of this range.

How do you achieve an ideal weight?

If we want to reach or maintain a healthy weight, consuming a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity is essential.

What is a Healthy Diet?

It took me 4+ years and an expensive degree to develop a confident answer to this question…but to save you time and money, let’s look at the straightforward responses of two of my favorite authors:

Happy (Healthy) Holidays!

The more that has been done to a food, the less it has to offer you. Fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, legumes and whole grains, enjoyed as close to their natural state as possible this holiday season, will keep your energy levels high, your appetite content, and weight gain off your worry list.

Reunite with Your Appetite

These next few months feel like the fast-forward button is stuck on…work demands remain high, yet family and friends require a significantly greater share of your attention. I fully support the extra shot of espresso to fill your tank this season, as long as you put the brakes on and slow way down at the dinner table.

It takes at least 20 minutes after you start eating for your stomach to signal your brain that it’s receiving food and to slow production of hunger hormones (ghrelin) and kick up production of leptin (satiety hormone). If you are shoveling food in your mouth like you are training to take on Takeru Kobayashi (hot dog eating champ), you are going to end up miserable. Slow down. Take time to chew thoroughly, put your fork down between bites, breathe, and enjoy the company.

Speaking of company…unfortunately when we are graced with the presence of loved ones, we tend to eat much more than we would by ourselves. Eating with just one other person encourages you to eat about 35% more, and in a group of 7 or more, you’ll eat roughly 96% more than you would if you were eating alone. Now you have an excuse not to invite that bizarre cousin right? Kidding. For those of us blessed with large families and parties of friends, make sure to pace yourself with the slowest eater at the table (anyone in a highchair is fair game), start eating last, and determine how much you are going to eat before you sit down. We eat about 92% of what we dish up in the buffet line, so now is the time to be chintzy (not on your Uncles gift). If there is a choice in plate size, go for the smaller one. Just a two-inch smaller diameter plate (from 12 to 10”) reduces your consumption by 22%. Stop eating when you are no longer hungry, not when you have reached the point where you are too full (it’s too late).

Put Vegetables on the Guest List

During the holidays we do a fine job getting our fix of fruits (apple pie, wine), grains (gingerbread), and meats (duck, turkey, or whatever other animals we aren’t willing to prepare the other 360 something other days a year). What about our true friends that are packed full of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber), while contributing few calories and little fat? Vegetables! Displace 20% of your plate with these guys and you will save a couple hundred calories. There are 3,500 calories per pound, so do the math: Over the next two month celebration marathon, that’s a new years resolution besides losing weight gained over the holidays!

Embrace the season – focus on seasonal winter vegetables, such as:

Pomegranate Orange Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup 100% Pomegranate Juice
  • Juice and zest of one orange
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions:

  1. Whisk entirely and serve immediately.

Preparation Time: Less than 5 minutes.
Yields: 1 cup of dressing

Substantial Spinach Salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups washed and rinsed baby spinach
  • 2 ripe pears
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 4 baby Clementine oranges
  • 1 Tbs dried cranberries
  • 1 Tbs pistachios (shelled, dry roasted, salted)
  • 1 Tbs dry roasted almonds
  • 1 Tbs dry roasted pecans
  • 1 Tbs dry roasted walnuts
  • Fresh cracked pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut pear into small cubes and place in bowl and cover with lemon juice (to prevent browning). Let sit 5 minutes.
  2. Peel Clementines and cut individual segments in half.
  3. Pour pear bowl over greens.
  4. Add oranges, cranberries and nuts and toss salad completely.
  5. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper if preferred. Add dressing if preferred.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes.
Yields: 4 servings (Nutrition Facts is for ¼ of recipe above).

Acorn Squash with Cranberry Quinoa

Ingredients:

For Squash

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cayenne

For Quinoa-

  • ½ cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley, rinsed and patted dry
  • ½ cup toasted pecans (see note below)


Instructions

  1. To roast squash: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut acorn squash in half. Using a spoon, remove seeds and stringy flesh.
  2. In small bowl, whisk honey, oil and spices and brush onto exposed sides of squash. Place (face down) on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes or when flesh is soft and tender. Meanwhile while squash is roasting, prepare quinoa.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa, broth, spices, salt and pepper to a boil then reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Once all liquid is absorbed, stir in honey, cranberries, parsley and pecans.
  5. Spoon carefully into roasted squash and serve immediately.
  6. To toast pecans: Preheat oven to 350F. In a single layer, spread pecans on rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 10 minutes or until fragrant.

Recipe Notes: A hearty dish with a heavy serving of Vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. Quinoa is a complete protein, so there is no need to add any meat entrees to round out the meal. Quinoa may also be spooned over tender baby spinach. Add a festive vinaigrette to greens if needed.

Preparation Time: 55 minutes total.
Yields: 2 servings (Nutrition Facts is for one-half of acorn squash plus generous ¾ cup quinoa filling).

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