Wellchat Episode VII: The Late Night Binge

Episode 7: Recorded previously, Cristin discusses Bluezones, the myths and realities of late-night eating, and some strategies to curb binges later in the day. Plus Neal shares some latest news regarding the MUS Wellness Incentive Program.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

Power Bite Video: Freezing Veggies

As we head into fall and our CSA shares, home gardens, and Farmer’s market bounties of fresh fruits and veggies start to wane, don’t despair! Cristin, with the help of Montana dietetic intern Anna Goodrum, demonstrates how to freeze fresh fruits and vegetables in order to preserve those delicious foods through the winter. The simple technique of blanching is also discussed.

Freezing fresh produce is a great way to prevent food waste, and prepare for easy meals down the road.

For those of you who participate in our MUS Wellness Incentive Program, a new round of challenges will begin next week (10/2). Get a jump on one of them by watching the latest Montana Meals offering!

Happy Eating!

How do you figure what is 20%?

In Episode 2 of the Montana Moves and Meals podcast, we discussed my first nutrition tenet: the 80/20 rule of moderation. This principle is meant to allow for some flexibility in one’s diet to include foods that we enjoy but that may not be great for us (the 20%), while maintaining a focus on eating for health (the 80%). By following this tenet, you lose the all-or-nothing approach to nutrition and the excuse that “the diet starts tomorrow!”

After we posted the podcast, I received the following question: “How do you figure what is 20%? 20% of the days? 20% of meals? 20% of calories?” Great question, and one that I felt deserved to be answered for everyone, not just for those who are comment readers.

First, determining the 80% vs 20% is really up to individual discretion. There are no hard and fast rules. But here’s my take:  I would say the percentages should be considered in the context of all of the food/beverage choices that you make over the course of a day. If you think about it, we make dozens of eating choices everyday – wheat bread or white? Salad or fries? Trail mix or chips? Milk or water? Opening the refrigerator door or not, etc. So, to follow the 80/20 rule, 80% of those choices are the healthy option; 20% of those choices are based purely on what you want.

I would judge the 80/20 breakdown over a day or even a couple of days as you might have entire meals that are mostly in the 80 or 20 category, but hopefully not entire days that are in the 20%. Determining the 20% doesn’t need to be an exact science; it’s more of just a basic guiding principle and reminder that most of our diet should consist of healthy foods, while still leaving room for foods that make us happy & satisfied. In fact, think broadly when considering this principle. Resist the temptation to categorize each and every food as good or bad, as it’s all too easy to extend this to a judgement about ourselves as good or bad for eating that food. We eat a variety of foods for a variety of reasons, and the food we eat has no bearing on our worth as a person. It does however, have a bearing on our health outcomes and health risks, and that’s why it’s important to prioritize healthy nutritional choices.

Hope this helps.

Happy Eating!



The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat

Well, we did it. We made a podcast. We’ve been talking about it for sometime now and we finally got it done! Let us know if you like it, give us some feedback, and we’ll make more! Have an idea for an episode? We take requests. Episode 1 is introductions and back stories. Even if you think you know us, if you listen you might learn something new.

Episode 1.  Neal Andrews & Cristin Stokes from MUS Wellness introduce themselves and the Montana Moves & Montana Meals programs in Episode 1 of their new podcast, The Wellchat.

National Nutrition Month: Put Your Best Fork Forward

“Nutrition, at its core, is simply about eating good food.”

I’m sure the readership of this blog knows that March is National Nutrition Month. I mean, it’s circled on your calendar, right?  Well, in case you haven’t heard, National Nutrition Month is a month intended for celebrating healthy, delicious food that nourishes your body. It’s also a month that all joking aside, even as a dietitian, I often overlook. So this year, I am going to be a little bit better, and acknowledge National Nutrition Month with a blog post!  

Each year, the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the largest organization of dietitians and nutrition professionals, selects a theme for National Nutrition Month. The theme for 2017 is Put Your Best Fork Forward. It’s a broad theme that allows a lot of personal interpretation, so here’s my take:

To me, the phrase Put Your Best Fork Forward makes me think about the actual act of eating. And not eating just anything, but eating wholesome, delicious food.

Sometimes in the world of nutrition, we get so focused on single nutrients or numbers that we lose sight of the bigger picture. We get lost in in the questions like “how many grams of protein should I be getting each day?” or “which calcium supplement is best?” that we forget that nutrition, at its core, is simply about eating good food. It’s about eating consistent meals throughout the day consisting of fresh, healthy ingredients that you actually enjoy. Gone are the days where healthy means only raw vegetables without dressing, light margarines, and nonfat/sugar-free everything. Instead, putting your best fork forward means food that is flavorful, colorful, and most of all, satisfying. It’s roasted vegetables with a generous enough serving of olive oil, salt, and pepper to bring out all the flavors, it’s whole eggs topped with creamy avocado chunks, and it’s your favorite cut of beef savored and served with garden carrots and locally grown whole grains. It’s food that, in reasonable portions, makes us both healthy and happy.

Put Your Best Fork Forward also means eating food with a fork. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, the healthiest meals (in our American diet and American way of eating, anyway) actually require utensils. Consider foods that can be consumed without utensils — fast food burgers, prepackaged granola bars, snack foods straight from the bag, donuts or pastries, etc. All can be eaten quickly, on the go, in your car, mindlessly in front of the TV, or at your desk as a distraction from work. Now think about a hearty, nutritious meal that has protein, veggies, and whole grains. You need a fork to eat what you just pictured, don’t you?

Put Your Best Fork Forward further implies a conscience decision to make good choices. Just as putting your best foot forward means putting forth solid effort and trying your best, putting your best fork forward means you are doing things on purpose to help yourself and your family eat a healthy diet. Good nutrition doesn’t happen by accident. It requires effort. Sometimes this news is discouraging to people. But remember that small actions on a consistent basis, like fitting in 3 servings of vegetables a day or planning out your dinner meals for the week, can produce big results like feeling less fatigued, bringing or keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure in a normal range, or losing the weight that has been creeping up over the years. 

The other part of making a conscience effort to eat well is to not get too discouraged when you make a poor food choice. Putting Your Best Fork Forward means that each time you eat something is another opportunity to provide your body with the nutrients it needs. So what if you gave into that candy bar craving? Get right back on track with your next bite, snack, or meal. Had a day at work full of junk food? Make an extra healthy dinner at home to balance things out.

So this month, in honor of National Nutrition Month, take a moment and consider, what does Put Your Best Fork Forward mean to you? And what can you do today to eat in a way that matches and honors your interpretation?

Happy Eating!


For more info on Putting Your Best Fork Forward, visit www.eatright.org


Power Bite: Basic Kitchen Knife Skills

In this Montana Meals Power Bite video, Cristin demonstrates how to properly and safely handle a chef’s knife, and demonstrates some basic cuts like slicing, chopping, and the julienne. Honing your kitchen knife skills are an essential part of cooking healthy meals at home!



Montana Meals: Basic Kitchen Knife Skills from Montana University Sys. Wellness on Vimeo.

The 2016 Outtake Video

Thank you all for following along with us for another year of health and wellness! Once again, we’ve had an outstanding time traveling around our beautiful state this year spreading Wellness education, getting to know you better, and hearing some amazing stories about how healthy behaviors have led to better health and quality of life.

One thing we really enjoyed this year was stepping up our short video production. We received a lot of excellent feedback from you guys about them, and one thing many of you seemed to like were the outtakes or post-scripts at the conclusions of the videos.

So…here is your holiday gift from us! This is all the funny stuff that didn’t make the final cuts (and there’s a lot). Thank you all so much for following along, keeping it fun, and letting us be ourselves! Much more to come in 2017!

P.S. This outtake video is rated PG  🙂

The 2016 Montana Moves & Meals Outtake Video from Montana University Sys. Wellness on Vimeo.


Santa’s Kitchen Wish List (Good boys & girls only)

All you good little boys and girls out there have probably put together your holiday wish lists.  And although the newest iPhone, or virtual reality set, or new skis might be cool and make you the envy of all your friends, if you are looking to make 2017 your healthiest year yet, consider adding a few of the following items to your holiday wish list. The following are my personal favorite nutrition-related tools that make healthy eating and cooking easier, more enjoyable, and more convenient.

Note: I am not getting paid to promote any of these items; this list is a reflection of my personal opinions only. With the exception of the Ninja slow cooker and Glasslock containers, I have no particular brand loyalty on these items. The links are provided as examples only.

  1. Chef’s Knife. Every cook needs a great chef’s knife. While there are hundreds of different types of knives to choose from, my favorite is this pink high-carbon stainless steel knife (as seen in Montana Meals videos!) This knife is lightweight, super-sharp, comes with a handy-dandy protector, and is the perfect size for chopping and slicing a variety of vegetables and meats. Really hard items like bones or frozen foods are best left to a butcher’s knife, but I think this knife is a great all-around tool.
  2. Slow cooker. Few things are better than coming home after work to a house that smells delicious, with dinner nearly complete. Even better than just a regular slow cooker, the Ninja 3-in-1 slow cooker switches to warm after the designated cook time, can sear meats in the pan itself (no need to dirty an additional pan), and can also function as an oven, using steam to prevent baked goods from getting dry. The Ninja 3-in-1 is pricey, but in my opinion, I think the convenience of this tool is worth the investment.
  3. Immersion blender: If you regularly make soups or sauces, or perhaps aspire to, I highly recommend an immersion blender. Avoid burns or big messes when transferring hot liquids from a cooking pan to the stand-up blender by blending the liquid in the cooking pot itself.
  4. Glasslock containers: I always suggest keeping healthy foods like pre-sliced veggies in clear containers at eye-level in the fridge, and these excellent containers will help you do just that. The lids seal very tightly, so these are also great containers for transporting your lunch to work.
  5. Salad spinner: A salad spinner may take up some precious kitchen space, but it’s an incredible tool when it comes to cleaning greens and keeping them fresh. Forget using paper towels to dry off your greens or herbs; just use the spinner to get rid of excess water after rinsing, then store the greens in the spinner in the refrigerator. Chances are, you’ll eat a lot more salads if you have clean fresh greens ready and waiting for you.
  6. Food thermometer: Keep you and your family safe by ensuring that all food is cooked to its proper temperature. There are lots of fancy food thermometers to choose from, but even a basic one will do. Here’s a handy guide on safe food temperatures from the USDA.
  7. Digital food scale: I remember buying my first food scale a few years ago because I had just received a cookbook as a gift that had all of the ingredients listed in weights rather than volumes. I never thought when I was buying my scale that I would use it as much as I do! I use my food scale frequently for measuring exact ingredients like flour when baking, when measuring fresh produce from my garden, and when cooking recipes that have ingredients listed in weights.
  8. Steamer basket: Steamed vegetables are an excellent, easy side dish. Just fill a saucepan with about an inch of water, place the basket with chopped veggies in the pan, cover, and bring the water to a boil until the veggies are brightly colored and soft, but not mushy. Or, be brave and try steamed collard greens as a wrap in place of a tortilla like in this recipe for collard-wrapped bean burritos. A steamer basket is the perfect stocking stuffer.
  9. Cast-iron Dutch oven: Cast-iron cookware is durable, can withstand high oven temperatures safely, retains heat, and unlike nonstick pans, doesn’t pose a threat when scratched. If you’re anemic, using cast-iron cookware is also a good strategy for boosting iron intake. Soups, stews, no-knead bread, beans, risotto, braised chicken, apple butter—the possibilities of what to cook in this pan are nearly endless!
  10. Prep bowls: Having all of your ingredients chopped, measured, and ready to go before you start cooking — what chefs refer to as “mise en place”—will help you be a more efficient home cook. These prep bowls of varying sizes can keep your cooking space nice, clean, and organized.

Happy (Holiday) Eating!


P.S.  I was just kidding.  No one is really buying a virtual reality set right?