Fall Dinner Rotation

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on October 19, 2016

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It’s that time of year when the weather gets cool, fall activities are in full swing and the newness of school wears off (for better or worse). I love this time of year although I get a little anxiety thinking about the impending holidays. I just try not to think about it.

I definitely equate fall with moving from the grill to hearty choices like chili, soups and casseroles. I want to experiment with new soups like this non-dairy tomato soup from Ellie Krieger, and some simple casseroles. I also plan to include spaghetti squash to replace noodles (some of the time, at least) and use pumpkin and butternut squash in muffins and all kinds of squash roasted even though I’m the primary squash fan in the family.

Every beginning to the fall season, I hold onto summer fruits as long as I can until I get a string of bad produce. I officially will not buy strawberries, cantaloupe or blueberries anymore. It’s all about apples, pears, grapes and kiwi. See this list for what’s in season.

Deep Work

As I think about my writing goals, I’m well aware that I’ve fallen behind on the publication of my next book (How to Raise a Mindful Eater). To give you an idea, the book was supposed to be out by summer and my second book done by now. Granted, it’s a research-based book with interviews, but I don’t seem to be getting any faster than the last time around. So when I heard about the book Deep Work by Cal Newport– that is all about working deeper for maximum quality and productivity — I was intrigued. The definition of Deep Work according to the book is:

Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capacities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill and are hard to replicate.

When you think about it, the distracted society in which we live is an extremely new phenomenon. If we are frustrated when working on something — or just bored — we can pull out our phone and check Facebook or the news. And if our phone is next to us and on, we hear texts come in that add to the distraction. This not only means we get less done, we get less quality of work done for the same amount of time. That’s why we feel busier than ever.


One concept in the book that got me thinking is “attention residue.” When you are working on something and take a break by checking email or Facebook, it leaves a residue that can interfere with concentration when you go back to your more difficult, contemplative work. This is another reason why I’m walking for breaks instead of going to one of my distractions. I’m still reading the book so I don’t have all the answers yet, but I realize that staying concentrated on something difficult is a learned skill, and one I definitely want to master.

The writing of my upcoming book was not easy. It took a lot of research, reading and thinking to find simple ways to explain complicated concepts. I’m happy where it ended up but I wonder if more deep work would’ve sped along the process. I also want to help my kids with this skill as children today are at higher risk for distraction compared to previous generations. Calpert has books on helping adolescents with studying skills so maybe as my kids get older, I’ll check them out.

Do you find it hard to concentrate on work or the projects you want to get done?


I try to do favors for people whenever I can. A researcher from the University of Palermo (Italy) is conducting a survey on consumer knowledge and preferences about extra virgin olive oil. This survey takes less than two minutes and is anonymous. Go here to help him out!

I talk about How to Raise a Mindful Eater on the Wholify podcast. Please ignore any dates of publication (I think I say early October). I’ll be out with the preorder soon and the book should be available shortly after that.

I love this idea for banana dipped in yogurt frozen pops for Halloween from Mom’s Kitchen Handbook. Must try!

Really interesting article over at NY Times Well Family about new programs for helping prevent addiction in kids. We need more ideas like this!

You often hear about the risks of childhood obesity in terms of poor self esteem and emotional problems. A recent study reveals this may be due to weight-based shaming rather than BMI. The lead researcher of the study said:

“The widespread misconception is that anyone who is heavy is likely to feel distressed because of their weight, yet our findings suggest that demeaning peer responses to weight is the primary social factor underlying these emotional problems. In other words, heavy weight by itself is not causing emotional problems, but weight-related peer mistreatment does.”

Another reason we need to teach all children about size diversity.

Psy Blog showcases a really simple way to boost health and well-being: be in nature. 

Got a child whose lunch comes back empty? Some good tips here from Extreme Picky Eating.

Well that’s it for now. I’ll be sharing exciting news any day now so if you want to stay in the loop, be sure your signed up for my newsletter.

Want to create your own family dinner rotation? My latest book What to Cook for Dinner with Kids helps you step-by-step through the process.

What to cook for dinner with kids e-book


Over Forty? 5 Health Investments You Need to Start Making Now

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on October 12, 2016

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I had Little D three days before I turned 40. So when the big moment arrived I was nursing and, of course, sleep deprived. The changes in my body became noticeable shortly after this seminal moment. My body was changing in terms of composition. Fat slipped into new places even though it felt like not much had changed in terms of my habits.

As I’ve gotten deeper into my forties, it’s become clear that the same things that worked for managing my health when I was younger have lost their zip. For example, exercise has always helped me mentally. And while it still does, the stress of life seems to weigh heavier and just going for a run no longer makes everything magically better.

What I’m learning is that while my body and needs are changing, I need to change too. Doing the same thing one’s whole life and expecting the same result is lunacy. It’s easy to cling to what we know, even when it’s no longer relevant. And it starts with the most important change: cultivating a healthy life isn’t about getting into that red dress (or black pants for men?), but enhancing health and well-bring for the rest of our lives. So here are 5 investments I beliee everyone over 40 should make that will pay dividends in the years come.

1.Become a Moving Machine

This one is kind of a “no duh” as my son would say, but I have always favored structured workouts over walking. I’m very consistent about making it to exercise class and running but after stopping my work at the hospital, my body movement has slowed way down. When I thought about how this has changed, I realized how walking used to naturally be part of my day. Many of my jobs have been in hospitals where I walked non-stop. Also, I used to take the stairs all the time because I hate elevators. When I lived in New York, I walked to the subway and train, and all weekend long.

So I’ve made a conscious effort to move my body as often as I can. Instead of taking breaks from work checking Facebook or the news, I go for two laps around my complex (1/2 mile). This not only clears my mind, it helps me be more productive. I’m also walking/running with my kids at the morning school running club, which I love. And any chance I get, like when my kids are playing, I’m walking. I like how much more tired I am at night from a day of movement.

2. Nurture That Muscle

I’ve always participated in some type of resistance training but it’s been somewhat half-hearted, like spending an hour on the cardio machine and rushing to do 10-mnutes of weights. The past few months I’ve been taking more time to do strength-training activities between classes at the gym and free weights. I love feeling strong and can now actually do push-ups and my core is not the lost cause it once was. I also try to ensure I spread my protein intake out through the day, as research shows it helps build muscle mass when you are older, compared to a more erratic intake.

Here’s why it matters: The first thirty years our bodies build — and maintain — muscle easily. But lean body mass slowly decreases after 30 at about 1% per year. Although this starts in our 30s, we usually don’t see the cumulative effects until after 40. Something called sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass related to aging) is a health issue in people over 60. It pays to invest in lean body mass for a strong and healthy body for years to come.

Me fresh at 40!

Me fresh at 40!

3. Enhance Mental and Emotional Health

My alarm goes off at 5am. I lie in bed awhile longer and finally get up, make some coffee and turn on the computer. I’m tempted to get started working right away but most days I don’t. Instead, I either sit in silence or listen to a guided meditation. Later in the day, I practice mindfulness when walking and doing chores, and have added a gratitude practice. None of this is magic — and I definitely falter some days and even weeks — but I keep coming back because every day I do this I take one tiny step closer to the peaceful life I want to live.

At midlife, the stresses of life can add up whether it’s worrying about finances, tending to children or taking care of sick parents. In fact, the American Psychological Association’s Stress in American Survey found that while stress has declined in certain groups, it’s actually gone up in parents. When you take care of others it can leave less and less for you.

Research reveals that practicing mindfulness (also a form of meditation, traditional meditation and practicing gratitude and self compassion contributes to health in a multitude of ways. More importantly, it makes people feel calmer, more engaged and happier. If you’re looking for some inspiration in this area, try one of these to get started.

Head Space App

Tara Brock Guided Meditations

Tony Robbins Gratitude practice (on the Tim Ferriss Show)

4. Turn Up the Quality in Relationships

In his well-received TED Talk, Dr. Robert Waldinger reveals the surprising result of a 75-year Harvard study examining what makes people happy and healthy. The study has followed 724 men with 60 men remaining and has evolved to include the men’s children and wives. The study reveals that people in the most satisfying relationships at age 50, are the healthiest in their eighties. “The lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder,” Waldinger says. “The clearest message that we get from the 75-year study is this: good relationships keep us happy and healthy, period.” It’s not the number of relationships that count, Waldinger reveals, but the quality.

This has been a key focus for me as well. With my kids, I’ve been learning better ways to communicate through taking a Parent Effectiveness Training class, and making sure we have one-on-one time. Also, being kinder to my husband, who works so hard for our family (so I resist yelling at him when he fails to take out the trash). I’m calling and checking in with my mom more often, too. I’m trying to regularly meet friends for coffee or lunch and saying yes to requests to get together more often. The more I put into relationships he better I feel because quality relationships are what feed the soul.

 5. Say Yes to Food

When I first started off nutrition counseling in my twenties, I found that many of my clients (mostly women) said their eating problems started after 40. What I found was they started to gain weight for the first time, and dieted or restricted (or both), and began to feel out of control with their eating. So when my sister in law started to gain weight for the first time around 40, I told her to stay clear of dieting! Although the word “diet” has become a bad word, most people still do it in the form of taking something away: no sugar, no grains, no alcohol, no fat, no sweets. It’s all about the no’s, which ironically makes these foods even more desirable in the longrun.

But focusing the yes’s has the opposite effect. As we get older, we naturally crave sweets less and find excess drinking doesn’t agree with us. If we tune and listen to what our bodies really need, I think we’ll find it prefers mostly quality. Investing in a good quality diet should feel good, not be a constant struggle.

After 40, it just makes sense to make long-term investments in health and well-being that pay off both now and later. It’s like a 401K plan for your health. And you will never regret the day you started contributing.


3 of My Family’s Favorite Smoothies  

September 29, 2016
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I love smoothies and make them frequently throughout the week. When I’m too lazy to put out a fruit or veggie with lunch, it’s smoothie time. When I fear Little D might have trouble going number two, it’s smoothie time. When it’s hot outside (like it has been the past few days), it’s smoothie time. […]

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Inspired Family Breakfasts with Rise and Shine (Book Review and Giveaway)

September 14, 2016
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This giveaway is closed Compared to the Holy Grail of family dinners, breakfast is the forgotten meal. Maybe it’s because when kids are in school it needs to be fast and something that will fill them up. But it’s such a great opportunity to nourish and start the day on the right foot. Since revamping […]

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Back to School Dinner Rotation

August 30, 2016
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Yesterday was the first day of school. And for us it wasn’t just the first day of school, but the first day at a  new school. The kids did well but I know it will take them awhile to get in the swing of things (and me too). This summer was long but fun. I […]

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Trader Joe’s Easy Three-Bean Salad

August 23, 2016
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My husband and I went to a party this past Memorial Day. Everyone brought a dish and I immediately went for the bean salad. Later on, I discovered it was a Trader Joe’s creation. If you regularly shop at Trader Joe’s, you know they’re always featuring an easy recipe to taste. So the next morning […]

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This Simple Change Will Instantly Make Your Family Healthier and Happier

August 5, 2016
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I recently went to see Bad Moms, a movie about a stressed-out mom who gives up on both her jobs as a professional and a mom. I don’t want to give it away if you haven’t seen it, but it’s the movie’s message I want to talk about. There is a point in the movie […]

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5 Things I Frequently Say to My Children When They Eat

July 21, 2016
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The other day I was saying something to my children about food when I realized I say it all the time. Then I made a list of the other things I frequently say during mealtime. In short, I try to teach important lessons using common sayings with a bit of humor. So here are the […]

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What Most Poeple Get Wrong About the Great Moderation Debate

July 8, 2016
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Over the past few years there’s been a growing number of articles against eating in moderation. “Like any overly simplistic attempt to reduce a complex aspect of human physiology to a simple rule, it just does not work for the majority of people.” Greatist.com “Don’t eat everything in moderation. Eat as much healthy food as […]

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How I Fall Back in Love with Health Again (and Again)

July 1, 2016
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I’ve been conscious about my health since I graduated high school. This was the time I realized how eating well, sleeping soundly and being active made me feel. This lifestyle gave me more energy to live life. I felt ten times better. It was a secret I couldn’t wait to share with others, which is […]

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