The Body Image Continuum & What You Can Do

 As dietitians, we talk with people every day about what they eat and how they live their lives. Ultimately, we hear how they feel about themselves and their bodies. In our society, we are inundated with messages about food and an idealized body type. Children as young as three years old develop body image uncertainty due to conflicting messages in our media and cultural language. Some children, as young as 6 years old, begin to “diet” as they innately realize that our culture values a thin ideal. Elementary-age children may bully heavier kids, physically, and more often through exclusion and other power relationships.

What can we do as adults? How do we shift this culture, which breeds body image problems in our children? Here are three ways you can shift the conversation:

  1. Do not engage in fat talk. Refrain from comments such as “I’m so fat”, “My legs are huge”, “I’ve just got to lose this weight”. Shift the conversation to, “I need to move my body today”, “I’m going to eat the foods my body needs to be strong”, and “I’m going to get the sleep I need so that I’m feeling great tomorrow”.
  2. Health is not defined by weight. Talk with friends, family and children about what it really means to be healthy. There is ample research to show that body weight does not determine health. Health is determined by habits. Eating well, exercising, managing stress and getting adequate sleep is a more valid way to identify health. This concept stems from research that shows metabolic dysfunction in persons not engaging in healthy living habits yet who had commonly accepted, appropriate weights.
  3. Work to develop positive self-esteem and coping habits. In doing so, you are becoming a role model for the children in your community. This is particularly important for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles; as you know, children are always watching and learning. Children intuitively develop their own self-esteem and body image by watching and listening to you.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 26-March 3. Join the conversation to learn more about what you can do to change the conversation.

Diabetes De-mythed

By Katie Lehn, RD

Did you know that insulin resistance and diabetes are the leading causes of heart disease? Managing blood sugar is critical to preventing and managing heart disease. Thinking about blood sugar control, may pose a threat to the joy associated with eating, however, lowering your blood sugar does not mean one must create a list of forbidden foods. Rather it brings opportunity to create intention around food selections. Here are three myths we encounter in controlling diabetes and insulin resistance.

Myth: Cut out all carbs

  • People often feel the need to remove all carbohydrates from the diet. While they’re on the right track by becoming mindful of carbohydrate consumption, there is no need to eliminate all carbohydrate from the diet. Carbohydrate-rich foods are important sources of fiber and protective antioxidants and phytochemicals.
  • Rather than eliminating all carbs, choose unprocessed foods such as beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, winter squash, fruit, brown rice and oats as the primary sources of carbohydrates. Eat small amounts of these foods with three meals daily.

Myth: Use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar

  • Many people begin using Splenda, Sweet n Low or Equal. However, this is not a good choice. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to increased cancer risk, neurological symptoms like headaches and negative alterations in our gut microbiome. Additionally, artificial sweeteners perpetuates craving for sweets.
  • Train your tastebuds to appreciate less sweet treats. Experiment with preparing desserts using natural sweetness from fruit and spices. Check out our Nourishing No-Added Sugar Desserts Cookbook for ideas (it’s a free download!).

Myth: There is no joy in life when our food is changed

  • Take the focus away from food by suggesting alternate activities such as a hike, going to the park, playing a group sport (touch football, Frisbee, soccer), crafting or playing bored games.
  • Bring healthy food options to gatherings with family and friends. This way you know there will be at least one thing you are confident supports your goals.
  • Plan ahead. Make sure you keep to a normal eating schedule during weekend actives. Have a healthy snack option with you at all times in case of emergencies: nuts, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, natural jerky, fruit and nut bars without added sugar.
  • If you have diabetes, create your own “Diabetes Care on the Go Kit” to have ready for a spur of the moment adventure. This could include: a blood sugar monitor, insulin (if prescribed), a water bottle, emergency snacks, and a cold pack (to keep the insulin at the right temperature).
  • Another aspect of joyful living is exploring new cooking styles and flavors. Try these delicious, antioxidant-rich recipes:
    • Szechuan Green Beans is one of my favorite blood sugar friendly dishes. Why? Because everyone loves it, not just those with insulin resistance! This veggie-tastic dish is rich in anti-inflammatories, like the flavonoid, quercetin from ginger. Reducing inflammation plays an important role in managing blood sugar. Not to mention, it’s packed with flavor!
    • Garlic Rosemary Parsnip Fries are a personal obsession of mine. I love this recipe for diabetes because it encourages getting creative with unprocessed, carb dense foods. Parsnips are a less common carbohydrate choice and this quick & easy dish is a great way to try them out for the first time!

Want more? Begin your journey to a balanced life during a personalized session with one of our dietitians today.

5 Steps to a Nourished Heart

by Katie Lehn, RD

Celebrate American Heart Month by honoring your cardiovascular system. Whether you have heart disease personally, in your family history or not at all, these heart healthy habits will benefit you! Consider focusing on one of these five concepts throughout the month of February.

1) Get Active Daily

  • Find an activity you enjoy that gets your heart pumping. Get creative with your activity. Look for opportunities to get active in your community such as hiking clubs, fencing and dance classes. The Tucson community offers weekly events such as Meet Me at Maynard’s and the Tuesday Night Bike Ride. Know about more fun activities in Tucson? Please share them in the comments below!
  • Block time for exercise in your daily schedule and don’t back out. Create accountability by purchasing a membership, registering for classes ahead of time, making plans with a friend or entering a contest.

2) Kick Bad Habits

  • Smoking significantly increases risk for cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, take steps toward quitting. Be honest with yourself and seek support in this process if necessary.
  • Cut out hydrogenated fats. To do this: Read food ingredient lists and avoid any packaged food with hydrogenated oil. Also avoid fried foods when eating out.

3) Prioritize Stress Management

  • Stress contributes to inflammation and elevates blood sugar, which aggravates stress on our hearts and contributes to the development of heart disease. Make a conscious effort to adopt relaxation techniques into your daily routine. This could include breathing exercises, yoga, creative outlets (drawing, painting, playing music), journaling, meditation and simply spending time alone without distractions.
  • Adequate sleep also plays an important role in our ability to manage daily life stressors. Aim to sleep enough each night so you wake up energized, feeling well rested.

4) Emphasize Foods High in Heart Healthy Nutrients

  • Eat colorful vegetables with every meal and snack.
  • Choose unprocessed carb dense foods such as brown rice, corn, peas, fruit, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and beans instead of pasta, bread, crackers and other flour based foods.
  • Focus on healthy sources of fat such as fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
  • Incorporate beans and legumes daily.
  • Use spices and herbs liberally.
  • Limit added sugar.

5) Don’t Forget Chocolate!

  • Have your cocoa and eat it to! Cocoa is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. In honor of Valentine’s Day and to help jump-start your journey to a nourished heart, try out these no-added-sugar chocolaty treats:

Going Beyond the Calories

by Katie Lehn, RD

This time of year sparks a mindset of new beginnings. Unfortunately, resolutions often dwindle before we’re able to fully commit to them. This year, consider committing yourself to not only diet change, but to lifestyle transformation. Sign-on to not just one resolution, but a life aimed towards nourishing your body. In this sense, nourishment is not exclusive to food but encompasses our mind, body and spirit.

Cultivating a Mindful Holiday

As Halloween passes we are in full steam ahead to the holiday season. One must tread lightly; Halloween candy is on sale and this is only the beginning of many temptations to come. Take a moment to think back on your last holiday season. You may notice that health was not at the forefront, and you’re not alone! It’s easy to get distracted by all the ribbons, bows and sparkle of the holidays, but it’s not fair to use this as an excuse.

Cooking for One Made Glamorous

Just as autonomy does not equal monotony, cooking for one doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it’s far from it! It’s time to put a different spin on single life in the kitchen. Whether you find yourself alone in the kitchen every night or just on occasion when a roommate or significant other is away, cooking alone should, and can, be fun.

Sugar: Time To Get Serious

Do you have a sweet tooth? Chances are that you do. As a survival mechanism humans are programmed to prefer sweetness to other flavors. Couple this inborn preference with the U.S. food supply that provides excessive amounts of sugar, readily-available and in many different forms, and the result is the average person consumes 150-170 pounds of sugar ever year. Nutrition information is always evolving, and as we’ve learned that inflammation is at the root of all chronic disease, the impact of sugar has come under the microscope. Gone are the days when a spoonful of sugar was a benign treat.

Sugar contributes to the development of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and depression in many ways:

Fast Food: Sweet Pork Patties, Mashed Butternut Squash & Broccoli

Fast, delicious and healthy…this is what we are all striving for. Well, maybe not all of us; some of you have the flexibility to take your time in the kitchen, and that is a truly wonderful gift. But for many, fast food is a reality and the goal is to make it delicious for your mind, body and tastebuds.

This dinner meal nailed it, and I can proudly tell you that with this recipe I won the “Dinner Wars”! That’s right, I made it to the final round and won it all! Okay, okay, so Dinner Wars is not the newest TV cooking show, it is a game my kiddos made up at dinner. In this picture Sara, one of the Dinner Wars’ judges, is very carefully tasting her meal ready to provide her critique of the meal.

IMG_8986I may not have won a TV cooking show, but I did receive this compliment, “this is the best dinner ever Mom”, which is, hands down, one of the greatest things this Mom could hear.

Cool Summer Treats

Summer time in Tucson, Arizona (or anyplace for that matter) can be a challenging time for any ice cream fanatic, myself included. While I fully support the mentality of moderation, as the heat rises we may find ourselves being a little less strict on what really qualifies as moderation. It may go from 1 scoop per week to 1 scoop per day and even 1 scoop per meal! When we find ourselves start to slip, a substitution may be our best way out of the deep end. Deprivation is not a healthy way to live, so go ahead, have your ice cream and eat it too! Learn how in our next free class.

Chinese Takeout…Revamped

One of my favorite comfort foods is Chinese takeout and I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone in the struggle to find nourishing options. In my attempt to make a healthier choice while ordering in, I recently came across a delicious dish of Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce. Let me tell you, Old Peking does not skimp on the garlic! The aroma and flavor packed into this dish was pleasantly surprising but I was also disappointed finding it drenched in oil (and likely not a healthy oil at that).

This inspired me to create a Szechuan inspired veggie recipe to fulfill my craving for Chinese takeout. These green beans are in no way lacking flavor. It’s important to remember we can recreate our favorite foods at home in a healthier and often even tastier way. Have faith in your abilities to revamp those take-out favorites for the better. Try out these Szechuan Green Beans as proof. Proceed with caution, they have some kick!

Szechuan Green Beans


  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 4 scallions
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (adjust for desired heat)
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns, divided
  • 3 tablespoons olive or avocado oil, divided
  • Sea salt to taste


  1. Trim stems off green beans and place in a large bowl.
  2. Thinly slice scallions, using the both the white and green parts. Set aside in a small bowl.
  3. Mince garlic. Add to scallions.
  4. Remove peel from ginger using a paring knife. Grate fresh ginger using a fine cheese grater or mince finely. Add to scallions and garlic.
  5. Add red pepper flakes to scallion mixture.
  6. Grind peppercorns.
  7. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat. Add half of the peppercorns and stir frequently, until aromatic, about 1 minute.
  8. Add the scallion mixture and cook about 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and set aside.
  9. Adjust oven rack to the highest shelf. Preheat the broiler to high.
  10. Toss green beans in 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Spread green beans out in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until very lightly charred, about 3-5 minutes. Return to bowl.
  12. Toss green beans in half of peppercorn mixture. Plate green beans and top with remaining peppercorn mixture and serve.

Variations: Serve over brown rice and top with stir-fried shrimp to make this a complete meal.

No Oven Required Cooking

As the temperature climbs I am noticing myself starting to sweat in the kitchen. Which means it’s time to break out recipes that don’t require the oven heating up the kitchen. Don’t let the desert heat get in the way of preparing flavorful and nourishing meals! Learn to love summer cooking by getting creative and staying cool in the kitchen.