Archive for the ‘Kathy Searles – The Lunchbox Specialist’ Category

Maple Products for Athletes

Monday, February 20th, 2017

callie and maple products 006It won’t be long before the sap rises and maple syrup season arrives. Here are a few maple themed products from New England that can be used for sports fueling and hydration.

Drink Maple is described as “pure maple water, straight from the tree.” It is from Concord, MA and is marketed as a sports drink. An 8 ounce portion has 25 Calories, 6 grams of carbohydrate, and 40% of the daily manganese requirement. (Manganese does not have any particular known benefit for athletic performance.) This product has a little more body and sweetness than plain water.

Untapped, based in Richmond, VT, offers maple waffles and 1 ounce packets of maple syrup. The waffles are made with organic maple syrup and have 140 Calories and 20 grams of carbohydrate. They are a little drier and crumblier than I expected, but the maple flavor was pleasant. The Slopeside Syrup is billed as “all natural athletic fuel” and has 100 Calories, 26 grams of carbohydrate, and 60% of the daily manganese requirement. These could be used as carb sources during cross-country skiing, running,  cycling, or other activity.

Brown Cow maple whole milk yogurt is distributed by Stonyfield yogurt in Londonderry, NH. It provides 130 Calories, 23 grams carbohydrate, and 5 g protein. It is a “cream top” yogurt with a pleasant mpale flavor. It would make a good recovery snack.

If you are looking for a change from standard sports drinks and gels give one of these a try!

​© 2017 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

Become a Competent Eater

Friday, October 28th, 2016


Would you like to take the worry out of eating? That’s just what Ellyn Satter, a Registered Dietitian and Family Therapist, recommends in her Eating Competency Model. Satter developed her model after seeing that though people often feel guilty or worried about food, they often don’t actually follow published nutrition guidelines. Her mission is to help people feel joyful and confident about eating.

Competent eaters demonstrate the following behaviors:

  • Feeling good about food and about eating…and not worrying about feeling good about it
  • Liking a variety of foods and enjoying learning to like new foods
  • Trusting themselves to eat the right amount (and allowing body weight to reflect genetics and lifestyle)
  • Taking time to eat regular meals and snacks and paying attention while eating


The Eating Competency Model has been studied and found to be associated with stable or improved BMI, improved diet quality, increased physical activity, and better physical self-acceptance. To help yourself become a competent eater, try the following:

  • Eat rewarding, regular, and reliable meals
  • Pay attention while you eat
  • Eat what you want and how much you want


For more information visit


©2016 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

America’s Original Superfruit – Cranberries are Good for You!

Friday, October 21st, 2016


Fall is cranberry season! One of the highlights of last week’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Boston was the opportunity to learn more about America’s Original Superfruit™. This tart and tasty fruit is native to North America, and European settlers learned to use them from Native American populations. They grow on vines in sandy soil.

Most cranberries are harvested by the “wet” method. The growing areas, called bogs or marshes, are flooded with fresh water and the cranberries float to the top. Each berry has 4 air chambers that are their flotation devices! (The air chambers also make fresh ripe cranberries bounce if you drop them!) Some berries are also harvested with mechanical pickers.

Milwaukee Nov. 8, 2006. (Photo Andy Manis)

Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C. They are also rich in polyphenols, particularly proanthocyanidins and quercetin. These naturally occurring plant chemicals give cranberries their “superfruit” status. Cranberries are associated with decreased inflammation, infection fighting, and healthier arteries. These properties make them a good food to promote a healthy brain, heart, urinary tract, and digestive system.

The MyPlate healthy eating guidelines recommend making half your plate fruits and vegetables. Cranberries can help meet your goals. They are naturally low in sugar- even lower than lemons – and require some sweetening to be palatable. 4 ounces of cranberry juice, ½ cup fresh berries, or ¼ cup dried cranberries is equal to one serving of fruit.

Cranberries can be used in so many ways. Most of us are familiar with cranberry juice based beverages. If you want less sugar you can buy unsweetened juice and lightly sweeten to taste. Dried cranberries make a good snack on their own and are also great in chicken salad, wrap sandwiches, oatmeal, granola, and yogurt or tossed on green salads. Fresh cranberries can be made into cranberry sauce, salsas, or barbecue style sauces. You can find many recipes at the US Cranberries website. Share your creations on Facebook!

Information for this article comes from the US Cranberries web site and from a presentation at FNCE given by Johanna Dwyer, DSc, RD, Professor of Medicine (Nutrition) and Community Health at Tufts University Medical School

© 2016 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN


Injured athletes can heal faster with sports nutrition

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

athlete with back pain

Injuries can interrupt training and competition for even the most experienced athletes. When injuries occur, attention to sports nutrition can help get you back in action sooner. It can be tempting to slack off on your usual attention to eating well, but this is definitely not the time to indulge in junk food!

Three key nutrients for healing are calories, protein, and water. It can be challenging to adjust your calorie intake when injured. You want to promote healing, but avoid unwanted weight gain. You will need to consider how much your training volume has decreased and how aggressive your rehab regimen is. Calories should not be restricted too much, because you need to protect your existing muscle mass as much as possible. When you don’t eat enough calories, muscle may be broken down. There is also a calorie cost to the body’s healing process, and too few calories may slow things down. Focus on eating nutrient dense foods and avoiding highly processed and high sugar foods. Check your weight frequently and adjust your intake up or down based on trends that you notice.

Protein can also help protect your muscle mass. Proteins such as whey protein are high in branched chain amino acids (leucine, iso-leucine, valine) which are key for building muscle protein. You will want to spread your protein intake through the day. Be sure to plan a recovery snack for after each rehab session that provides some healthy carbohydrate and high quality protein. Examples might be cottage cheese and whole wheat crackers, yogurt and fruit, or cereal and milk.

Maintain good baseline hydration. Water is important for normal cell function and delivers nutrients for healing. As always, the quick and easy way to monitor hydration is checking your urine color. When you are well-hydrated your urine should be a pale yellow color like lemonade.

For more information about nutrition for injured athletes check out this information from the NCAA. If you aren’t sure about how to eat to maximize your recovery, consult with a board certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD.) A CSSD can help you to develop some meal and snack ideas to keep your recovery on track.

© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

An apple a day…

Sunday, November 1st, 2015


In my recipe box is a mimeographed recipe attached with yellowed tape to a file card. It is the first recipe that was “mine,” and it comes from my seventh grade home economics class way back in 1967! When the ripe apples arrive each fall, this Apple Crisp recipe still gets the call to spice up our meals.

Apples are a consumer friendly fruit. They are convenient to carry around for snacks and lunches. In the refrigerator they store and keep well, and they will even stay fresh for a day or so in a fruit bowl at room temperature. A wide variety of preparations are possible from salads to desserts to side dishes.

Two of the ways I like to use apples as a side dish are:

  • Waldorf salad – cut up apples, halved red grapes, chopped celery, chopped walnuts or pecans, and some dressing (I use mayonnaise thinned with a little milk and lightly sweetened)
  • Sautéed apples – sliced apples sautéed in a little butter, lightly sweetened with maple syrup and seasoned with a sprinkle of cinnamon

The health benefits of apples are amazing, and support the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” A 2004 review from Cornell University looked at how the phytochemicals (natural plant based chemicals) in apples affect disease risk. Apple intake was associated with decreased risk for lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, asthma, and type II diabetes. In one study of overweight, middle-aged women in Brazil apples were even associated with weight loss. Apples are a good source of fiber (about 4 grams per apple), including soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol levels.

The phytochemicals in apples (called flavonoids) are concentrated in the peel, so whenever possible include the peels in your preparation, as in the examples above. The concentration of beneficial phytochemicals differs among types of apples. Fuji and Red Delicious apples are two varieties with the highest levels.

Now, back to my treasured childhood recipe. Recently I have been substituting Quaker oats for the flour, and if I slice the apples thinly, I can leave the peels on. I also often add some chopped nuts to the topping. Please share any variations that you try!

Apple Crisp

Peel and slice: 2 apples
Season with: 1 tbsp. lemon juice

Work with pastry blender into crumbs:

¼ c. all-purpose flour
¼ c. light brown sugar (packed)
2 tbsp. butter
½ tsp. cinnamon

Place the sliced apples into 6” pie tin. Spread crumbs over apples evenly. Bake in 350° oven for 20 minutes or until tender.
Serve hot or cold, plain or with whipped cream or ice cream.


© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

Will fish oil be the concussion treatment of the future?

Saturday, October 17th, 2015


Does it seem like more and more kids are getting concussions? There has been an increase in the number of concussions in student athletes over the past several years. This has led to interest in potential nutritional approaches to prevention and treatment. In 2011 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released their report “Nutrition and Traumatic Brain Injury,” which was focused on treating military TBIs. The report identified some nutrients of interest for future research both for these serious injuries and for mild TBI (concussion.) These include omega 3 fatty acids, choline, creatine, zinc, resveratrol, curcumin, and other plant based anti-oxidants.

In mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) there is inflammation and damage to cell walls and axons that transmit nerve impulses. Animal studies have shown that omega 3 fatty acids given before and after TBI reduce the effects of a concussion and enhance recovery. There have been a few human case studies which have shown dramatic improvements with very high doses of omega 3 fatty acids. This has led to hope that nutritional interventions can help to restore normal brain cell function and reduce inflammation in the brain following TBI.

Dr. Michael Lewis has developed “The Omega Protocol,” which he believes is a tool for management and recovery from TBI. This protocol advocates very high doses of fish oil (source of DHA and EPA, the important omega 3 fatty acids.) He stresses that this is a therapeutic use of fish oil, not just a nutritional use.

While a lot more research is needed before uniform recommendations can be made about nutritional treatments for concussion, there are some good general nutrition guidelines for optimum brain health and function.

  • Eat breakfast every day for improved cognitive function and alertness
  • Include plenty of brightly colored fruits and vegetables and spices to provide plant phytochemicals that protect cells
  • Include foods such as fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, and canola oil that are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids
  • Include good sources of iron such as lean meats, legumes, and leafy green vegetables to maintain normal blood levels of iron

It will be exciting to see if nutrition will eventually become a key player in treating concussions. The IOM report cautions, however that nutritional interventions don’t stand alone, but are complementary and supportive of other therapies.

Please note that the photo is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement of any manufacturer, product or dosage.

© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

Sports Nutrition Tips for Cross-Country Runners

Friday, September 25th, 2015


If you’re on the cross-country team you are participating in one of the more popular high school sports in the US. You may find it challenging to meet your nutrition needs as you try to balance a lean physique with adequate fueling and hydration. Here are some tips to help you get your best performance:

Every Day:

  • Eat a generally healthy diet with lean proteins, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy.
  • Be sure to eat plenty of healthy carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, whole grains) because carbs keep the glycogen level in your muscles high. Glycogen is fuel for your running.
  • Be sure to get enough calories. When you don’t eat enough you are at risk for getting fatigued or injured. Female runners who start missing menstrual periods are likely not eating enough.
  • Maintain good baseline hydration. Drink some water when you get up in the morning and have some milk, juice, or water with each meal and snack. A free and easy way to monitor your hydration is to be sure your urine is a pale yellow color. If it gets darker, drink more!

Before a Practice or a Race:

  • Before practice have a snack with some easy to digest carbohydrate such as pretzels or crackers. Before a race or meet have a meal 1-4 hours before competing. The longer the time between eating and competing, the more you can eat.
  • Pre-game meals should contain lean protein and easy to digest carbs. Avoid greasy, spicy or fried foods. Think turkey sandwich and fruit, not burger and fries.
  • Drink 12-16 ounces of water about 2 hours before a race. Top this off with another 4 to 8 ounces before the race.
  • Before an all day meet try to find out what time your particular group will run. Time your food and water accordingly.

During a Practice or Race:

  • During practice sessions or longer training runs plan on some water or sports drink.
  • During your actual race you should not need any extra fluid or carbs because cross-country runs are completed in less than an hour.

After a Practice or Race:

  • You want to replenish your muscles and replace fluid losses, so you need protein, carbohydrates and fluids. Chocolate milk is considered a good recovery drink – that’s because it has all the nutrients you need for your muscles to recover! (But on a typical practice day you can just go home and eat dinner for your recovery meal!)

One last tip…try everything out during practice so you don’t get surprised on race day. Running can affect your digestive tract, and you don’t want unexpected nausea or diarrhea to derail your results.


Have a great season!


© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

What should I eat on vacation? 4 tips from the pros.

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

west virginia and shower 2015 010 What do Registered Dietitians eat on vacation? I recently made a trip with 5 friends from my dietetic internship and thought it was interesting to see some trends. This trip started out with a car trip to our central destination, Pipestem State Park in southern West Virginia. From there we did long day trips to Beckley and to the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. Based on my observations of how this group of RD’s combined vacation fun and healthy eating principles, here are 4 tips for eating well on vacation.

Plan Ahead. The group looked ahead to have healthy car snacks and breakfast foods for in-room meals. The snacks included plenty of water, whole grain crackers, Kind Bars and fresh grapes. One couple likes to breakfast in their room when they travel, so they brought oatmeal packets and high fiber cereal and used hot water from their room coffee maker. Another group brought some pumpkin bread to share for breakfast. I also noticed that the RD’s were looking at the day as a whole. For example some passed on a dinner dessert because they had a lunch dessert. When we were planning an early lunch day, everyone ate lightly at breakfast.

Try New Foods. The members of the group took advantage of being in an unfamiliar locale to sample regional favorites. We sampled fried green tomatoes, excellent local barbecue, southern style biscuits, grits and locally brewed craft beers. My own favorite was the chilled peach soup at the Greenbrier. It was served with a dollop of whipped cream, raspberry coulis and a crispy almond macaroon and could have been dessert instead of an appetizer!

Include Fruits and Vegetables. I observed lots of side salads with meals. Group members usually chose plant based options such as coleslaw or fresh fruit as their side dishes.

Practice Portion Control. The group kept an informal eye on portions. Some chose to share entrees. Some did not eat the full portion served. (This was tough! We did not have refrigeration in our rooms, so what we did not eat had to be discarded.) Sometimes we were able to choose the smaller of two portion options. At one restaurant everyone was able to order breakfast from the children’s menu to get appropriate portions! How have you applied similar approaches when traveling? Share your thoughts and insights at Lunchbox Nutritionist.

© 2015 Kathleen Searles


Fighting the Freshman Fifteen: 8 Tips

Friday, August 7th, 2015

001Students are heading off to college over the next few weeks. For this week’s post, Erica Carneglia, a dietetics student from Miami University offers her perspective on avoiding the dreaded “Freshman Fifteen” pounds of weight gain. If you are a returning student, use her suggestions to make this year healthier than last! 


  • You still need to eat breakfast, lunch, AND dinner. Just because your mom isn’t there to call you to breakfast, that doesn’t mean you don’t need it! Try to spread your calories out into 3 or more intervals. In order to keep your metabolism going, your body needs an even flow of nutrients. When your metabolism isn’t moving, your body can start to store fat, which is where you can run into problems. 
  • Establish a schedule. Creating a routine in college can be a lot harder than it sounds, especially when your class schedule changes almost every day and you never know when a nap is going to sound like the best idea in the world. That being said, it’s important to make sure you fit all of your meals into your busy day in order to maintain that balanced flow. Having a routine can keep you on track on some of your craziest days!
  • Breakfast always has and always will be the most important meal of the day. You’ve been hearing this for years, and frankly that’s a good thing; you need it in order to stay full throughout the day and prevent major snacking later on. More specifically, skip that bagel or croissant and try to get plenty of protein at breakfast. This will keep you full longer, keep your muscle maintenance at an optimal level, and allow you to start your day alert and ready for whatever the day throws at you. Some Greek yogurt with fruit and granola is a great option, and if you have some extra time grab an egg white omelet from the dining hall with plenty of leafy greens and bright vegetables!
  • Think about what mom would say. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Stay away from fried starches, processed meats and pastries! They tend to be higher in saturated fats and sodium, and lower in vitamins and minerals. Lean meats, fruits and vegetables all provide more nutrients for fewer calories, which can sometimes be exactly what you need.
  • No, vending machines are not healthy when no one is looking. Save those quarters for laundry! Try and get healthy options from the dinning hall in the morning to bring to class with you, such as almonds, or anything else that can be stored without refrigeration.
  • Go get that fro-yo with your friends. It’s all about moderation. If you have a sweet tooth and know you’ll down a couple bags of m&m’s if you don’t have any chocolate for a week, have a little bit! If it’s unrealistic for you to completely cut something out, don’t do it. Find similar, healthier options that you can have in moderation and substitute for your favorite sweets.
  • Try out that new spin class. Taking time to workout in college is hard, especially if the gym is on the opposite side of campus. If you’re new to working out on your own, sign up for a few group classes and try out as many as you can before you find one you like. That way, you can make a schedule and attend the classes weekly, keeping you active throughout the week.
  • Skip that midnight pizza delivery to the dorm. Almost everyone gets hungry late at night. What’s important is not that you’re eating, but what you are eating and how much. Try and keep the portions small and nutrients high! Unbuttered popcorn is great, and sometimes some sliced apples with peanut butter will do the trick as well!  

Follow these tips and your skinny jeans will still fit in May!

© 2015 Erica Carneglia








Summer Salsas

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

20150627_180036 (1)Are you finding it challenging to meet the My Plate recommendations to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables? Consider trying a fruit salsa to highlight summer’s grilled meats. Mangoes, peaches and pineapple are all good fruits to use for your base. If your meat is grilled plain, add some heat to the salsa with diced hot peppers such as jalapenos. If you are using a spicy rub, keep your salsa cool. Last weekend I used these ingredients for a salsa to accompany grilled chicken with a chipotle rub:

  • diced mango (check out this cool video about choosing and cutting mangoes!)
  • diced red pepper
  • diced red onion
  • chopped cilantro
  • juice of one lime
  • touch of maple syrup

This weekend I used peaches and added some finely diced jalapenos to serve with grilled pork chops. Be creative and share your ideas with Lunchbox Nutritionist!

© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN