A Snackdown That Stacks Up

When we hear the word “snack” we think fast, indulgent, delicious but not necessarily nutritious. The beauty of dairy is the versatility, simplicity and delivery of nutritional pow with a taste that wows. When time is short and hunger levels are high, dairy can be your go to and go with. Dairy foods are a complement to fruits, vegetables and whole grains to take snacking from ho hum to yum! Dairy snacks are tasty, versatile, easy and budget friendly.


Dairy is all about simplicity. A short list of ingredients that are long on flavor and nutritional benefits. Milk provides 9 essential nutrients, Yogurt provides 7 essential nutrients and cheese provides 6 essential nutrients that help your snacks to nutritionally stack up.


Dairy foods are ready to eat. They are great stand alone or combined with other foods such as a glass of low-fat chocolate milk and a banana with peanut butter.


Pour an 8-ounce glass of low-fat chocolate milk
Slice a small banana in half lengthwise and then cut each slice in half to have four pieces.
Spread 1 Tablespoon peanut over the 4 pieces.
Press 2 pieces together for a banana sandwich.

YIELD: 1 glass milk and 2 “sandwiches”

Calories: 334
Fat: 10.8 grams
Carbohydrate: 54.8 grams
Sugar: 37.7 grams
Fiber: 3.6 grams
Protein: 12.6 grams
Calcium: 312.2 milligrams
Potassium: 895.2 milligrams

Plain low-fat Greek yogurt flavored with taco seasoning, onion soup mix or vegetable soup mix makes a high protein dip. Cottage cheese can be enjoyed as is, combined with fruit, or mixed with salsa. Cheese pairs beautifully with fruit, works as a tortilla topper or adds the show stopping topping to mini pizzas.


Dairy foods are a great source of protein, which helps to make us feel fuller for longer. Many snack foods can be long on carbs but short on protein. A small dish of cottage cheese with applesauce and cereal is an easy protein–rich snack parfait. Yogurt is a ready to eat treat and an easy snack, but for a hack try plain Greek yogurt and add your own seasonings to taste such as cumin, chili powder, dill , garlic or onion powder and a little salt and use as a dip for bean chips and vegetables.


5-ounce container nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 packet Taco seasoning- or add your own herbs and spices if you want to lower the sodium content

Mix together and serve with cut up vegetables. If you want to use chips. Keep the portion to 1 ounce of chips.

YIELD: 1 serving

Calories: 252
Fat: 7.1 grams
Carbohydrate: 29.9 grams
Sugars: 6.9 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Protein: 19.5 grams
Calcium: 193.2 milligrams
Potassium: 487.1 milligrams

Dairy adds the creaminess and texture to a recipe. Oatmeal is not just a breakfast food, but is wonderful as a snack, and when combined with low fat vanilla Greek yogurt and pumpkin makes for a satisfying and tasty snack.


1/3 cup oats, dry
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1.5 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 TBSP chopped prunes
1/2 TBSP chopped walnuts

Mix together oats, pumpkin, yogurt, spice, and maple syrup. Eat right away or refrigerate and eat later. When ready to eat, top with prunes and walnuts.

YIELD: 1 serving

Calories: 285
Fat: 6.8 grams
Carbohydrate: 45.6 grams
Sugar: 19.8 grams
Fiber: 5.9 grams
Protein: 13.6 grams
Calcium: 131.7 milligrams
Potassium: 483.2 milligrams


The versatility of milk is that it can be consumed in a glass, or added to smoothies with fruit, or in a bowl of cereal for a quick snack that keeps your nutrition on track.


Cheese is a food that some people may limit due to the calories and fat. The good news is that there are several varieties of lower-fat cheese, but also several forms of full fat cheese to cut the fat and calories. Try cheese and fruit kebabs for a savory and sweet snack option. Alternate cubes of cheese with sliced fruit on toothpicks.


8 cheese cubes (% fat of choice)
4 strawberry halves
4 chunks of pineapple
Alternate cheese and fruit on skewers

SERVING SIZE: 3 skewers

Calories: 147
Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrate: 6.5 grams
Fiber: 0.9 grams
Sugar: 4.8 grams
Protein: 8.4 grams
Calcium: 203.5 milligrams
Potassium: 103.6 milligrams

How about a mini caprese snack pizza? Mini fresh mozzarella balls with tomato on a whole wheat sandwich thins with pesto makes for a delicious and satisfying snack.


1 whole grain sandwich thin
1.5 teaspoons pesto
4 cherry tomatoes. Sliced
2 fresh mozzarella mini rounds, or 3 to a package, – if you use the round- slice into 4 slices or if you use the 3 to a package, slice in half to yield 6 small slices

Open the sandwich thin and lay flat. Spoon and spread ¾ teaspoon pesto on each half. Arrange slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella.

SERVING SIZE: 2 halves

Calories: 289
Fat: 13.65 grams
Carbohydrate: 27.75 grams
Fiber: 5.15 grams
Sugar: 1.75 grams
Protein: 14.4 grams
Calcium: 122.5 milligrams
Potassium: 230 milligrams

Cheese can add the protein to salsa. Mix ¼ cup shredded low-fat Cheddar in ½ cup salsa and serve with vegetables for a flavor-rich, nutrient dense snack.


Dairy can be a great way to reuse, repurpose and renew your snacks. Add the leftover cereal crumbs to cottage cheese or yogurt. Use up that brown banana by mixing with milk in a smoothie. Sprinkle the last of the cheese onto a tortilla and top with salsa. Turn leftover oats into something dreamy by adding a little bit of creamy Greek yogurt.

Dairy ups your nutrition score in your pour, bowl or on your plate with variety, satiety and a taste that is just great! For more simple dairy snacks and inspiration, check out UndeniablyDairy.org.

This post is created by Leslie Bonci, registered dietitian as part of the Undeniably Dairy campaign, sponsored by the Innovation Center for US Dairy and America’s Dairy Farm Families and Importers. I would like to express my gratitude to the farmers and processors who make sure that their dairy products deliver on quality, consistency, and simplicity.

Noodle Prudding

Food is comfort. This tasty combo of noodles, dairy and prunes makes me remember my grandmother, Nana Polly.  Sweet, creamy, crunchy deliciousness. Like a fleece blanket for the tummy- cozy on up and enjoy

½ pound fine egg noodles
2 TBSP melted butter
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, low-fat
1 cup small curd cottage cheese, low-fat
3 eggs,
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup prune puree
½ cup 2% milk
½ cup diced prunes

2/3 cup pitted prunes
3 TBSP hot water
Puree in blender or food processor until smooth

½ cup chopped slivered almonds
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
Mix together in a small bowl and set aside.

Boil 3 cups of fine noodles, dry in 2 quarts boiling water for 3-4 minutes or until done. Drain and set aside.

In a blender or food processor, blend the eggs, Greek yogurt, Cottage cheese, prune puree, melted butter, ¼ cup sugar, vanilla and milk until smooth. Stir in the prune pieces.

Stir the noodles into the egg mixture and pour into a buttered 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle on the almond topping.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

YIELD: 12 servings
Per serving
Calories: 226
Fat: 7.3 grams
Carbohydrate: 33.3 grams
Fiber: 2.2 grams
Sugar: 13.2 grams
Protein: 10 grams

California Pruschetta

A new take on bruschetta bringing the smoky, creamy, chewy and crunchy taste delights in a few delicious bites.

Bean dip
1, 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 TBSP olive oil
dash of cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon smoked salt
1/8 tsp sea salt
8 whole pitted prunes

12 pitted prunes, sliced in half
12 walnut halves
Sea salt

Bean dip
Blend all ingredients until smooth in a blender or food processor.

Bruschetta- thinly slice a small multi grain baguette into ½-inch thick slices.
Lightly brush with 1 Tablespoon  olive oil and toast until lightly brown. Remove from oven.

Roast/toast walnuts and sea salt about 5 minutes in the oven

Spread each slice of bread with 1 TBSP bean dip
Parenthesize each walnut half with the prune halves.

YIELD: 12- 2/serving= 6 servings

Per serving: 2 pieces of bruschetta
Fat: 6.6 grams
Carbohydrate: 37.6 grams
Fiber: 6.7 grams
Sugar: 6.8 grams
Protein: 8.18 grams

Black Bean Dip

For an easy, tasty, nutrient filled alternative to high fat dips, give this one a try. Not only does it deliver on flavor, but you get a double dose of veggies with the beans and salsa as well as double protein from the Greek yogurt and the beans. And if you use bean chips and/or veggies for dippers you are an A-lister when it comes to eating well.

1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 5 ounce container plain non fat Greek yogurt
½ cup medium spicy chunky salsa
½ packet Taco seasoning mix

Pour all ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. If you don’t have a blender, mash the beans and then add other ingredients and mix well. Serve with tortilla chips and/or vegetables

Prep time: under 5 minutes
Yield: 3, ½ cup servings

Per serving: Bean dip + 1 serving of tortilla chips or with a cup of vegetables
Calories: 221-321
Carbs: 35-55 grams (62%)
Protein: 15 grams (19%)
Fat: 6.5 (18%)

A Male Meal – The Nutrition Steal For Father’s Day

Ever notice that that words male and meal are almost the same. For all the new dads, experienced dads, brothers, uncles and granddads in your lives I want to serve up some sane, helpful and healthful advice for Father’s Day.

Volume is not usually the problem, but the contribution of nutrients and distribution of eating over the day may not be the most protective and preventive. The “check” look of the day- little throughout breakfast to afternoon and then shoveling food in from dinner on may actually increase the risk of heart attack and stroke as well as increasing blood fats ( triglycerides) and blood glucose not to mention the indigestion that may accompany mass quantities of food followed by a chaser of a snooze on the couch.

Many men ( and women) consume a diet that falls short of the necessary nutrients. In particular: the vitamins A,D,E.C, and folate; the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber. Getting creative with produce on the plate, in the bowl and the glass can help dads go to the top of the nutrition class. Here are some stealthy strategies to healthy up the meals on Father’s Day.

Color it:
If Dad’s breakfast is typically bacon and eggs- it’s time to take it to the next level. How about a spinach, pepper, broccoli, avocado, red onion omelet with a side of sweet potato home fries, a whole wheat English muffin and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. This meal provides Vitamins E, A, C, folate, magnesium, potassium and fiber.

Dip it:
Dads love to dip, but it is time to think beyond queso and tortilla chips. Enter the macho nacho: black bean tortilla chips, with salsa, black beans, jalapenos, and plain Greek yogurt flavored with taco seasoning. Or you can make your own black bean dip with a can of black beans, drained and rinsed, ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt, ½ cup of salsa, and taco seasoning and serve with tortilla chips. Either way, dad gets fiber, calcium, potassium, folate and magnesium.

Grill it: Let’s add some thrill to the grill with taste and substance.
To tenderize that steak, burger or chicken, the necessary ingredient is acid, not oil. There are some wonderful flavored vinegars- smoky bacon, hickory smoke to add the taste without widening the waist. Rubs also provide flavor as do any combo of herbs. The grill is also not just meant for meat. Veggie kebabs, Portobello mushrooms, grilled corn, add the produce to the plate and also taste great. Grilled broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Brussel sprouts are amazing. And how about grilled pineapple or grilled watermelon to add some sweet and tart to the plate.
And let’s not forget about the art of the blend: Instead of a 100% beef or turkey burger, try a blend of 1 pound extra lean ground beef and ½ pound of finely chopped mushrooms to add flavor, Vitamin D and selenium.

Sip it:
It’s time to rethink the drink. Calories from alcohol, sweet tea, flavored coffee drinks and soda add up quickly. So here are some ways to score with the pour. Brew green tea and add chopped pineapple and mint. Tomato or Vegetable juice with a splash of Tabasco puts the produce in the glass. What about lickers instead of liquors? Think about popsicles made with pureed cantaloupe and added blueberries, or frozen iced coffee, or coconut water, pineapple and bananas as a way to find relief from the heat with a frozen treat. And the fact that these are booze free makes them lower in calories.

So when it comes to feeding dad on his special day , raise the bar to create a meal that is a great taste and health deal.


I hear caprese and I come running. The perfect marriage of tomato, herbs and cheese BUT with a flavor twist. Adding the watermelon sweetens the taste and capitalizes on summer’s bounty, mixing in parsley brings a little zip in the herb snips, the Parmesan crisps bring the savory and add crunch to this lunch, and the sweet/tart of the balsamic with the citrus sensation of the Blood orange olive oil make this a taste delight.


2 cups sliced assorted cherry tomatoes ( red, purple, orange, yellow)
2 cups sliced watermelon- in small chunks
2 TBSP minced fresh parsley
2 TBSP minced fresh basil
1 cup fresh mozzarella “pearls”
¼ cup crushed Parmesan crisps
Drizzle with flavored balsamic ( I use pomegranate balsamic)
Drizzle with flavored olive oil ( I use blood orange olive oil)

Mix together tomatoes, watermelon, parsley, basil and mozzarella pearls, sprinkle on the Parmesan crisps and drizzle balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste

YIELD: 4 ½ cup servings
Calories: 201
Fat: 12 grams
Saturated fat: 7 grams
Protein: 13 grams
Carbohydrate: 8.65 grams
Fiber: 1.2 grams
Sugars: 6.6 grams
Sodium: 169 milligrams

The Dos and Doses of Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been  garnering a lot of media attention. Why all the fuss? Research has shed light on the various functions of vitamin D, its role in health maintenance, and the fact that many people may not consume or produce adequate amounts, which results in subpar vitamin D status.

What exactly is vitamin D?  It is not a vitamin, but a prohormone that can be made from the skin in the presence of sunlight.  Vitamin D, like A, E, and K, are fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that they are typically stored over longer periods in body tissues compared to water-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin D exists in two forms—vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).  Vitamin D2 is added to foods, whereas vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin and occurs naturally in a few animal foods.

What makes vitamin D unique is that we can actually synthesize it with sunlight, which activates the pre-vitamin D3 in our body to the active form (calcitriol).  This conversion happens in the liver and kidneys.

To keep vitamin D levels from getting too high, the body has a very efficient “checks and balances” system in place. If calcitriol levels are high, the kidneys don’t activate as much vitamin D.  The body can also inactivate what is not needed so that excess vitamin D is excreted . However, this system can be overridden by extremely high doses, so it is important to follow proper dosage recommendations on labels or as directed by a health care professional.

Vitamin D is best known for its role in the maintenance, mineralization, growth and remodeling of bone.  Vitamin D deficiency can result in thin, brittle bones.  It aids in calcium and phosphorus balance and promotes calcium absorption in the gut.  It also influences gene expression.  Vitamin D also maintains many other aspects of health, including:*

  • Cardiovascular and metabolic health*
  • Skeletal muscle function*
  • Immune function*
  • Memory and cognition*
  • Digestive health*

Vitamin D deficiency is an increasingly recognized global public health concern.  It is impossible to know whether your levels are low unless you get a blood test.  The best marker of vitamin D status is the serum concentration of 25-hydroxy vitamin D, or 25(OH)D, which is also known as calcidiol.

About half of Americans are estimated to have suboptimal levels.  According to a 2011 study, 41.6% of adults in the U.S. were deficient in vitamin D.  Prevalence is higher among Hispanics (69.2%) and African-Americans (82.1%).  The Institutes of Medicine defines a Vitamin D-ficiency as serum calcidiol levels below 20 nmol/L.  Insufficiency is defined as < 50 nmol/L.  Achieving 80 nmol/L through supplementation may help to maintain healthy levels during the winter months.

Why do people have such low levels of vitamin D?

  • Little to no sun exposure
  • Other aspects of health, such as glucose levels, obesity, and kidney function can affect vitamin D status
  • Aging reduces the skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D
  • Darker skin reduces vitamin D synthesis from sunlight
  • Impact of genetic factors
  • Low fat diets reduce absorption

It is important to have your vitamin D levels measured.  We don’t wear a D-ficiency externally.

Status ng/mL nmol/L
Deficient <20 50
Insufficient 21-29 52-72
Sufficient ≥30 (>40 for bone health) 90-100
Toxicity >150 with hypercalcemia >374 with hypercalcemia

So how much vitamin D do we need? The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is the average daily level to meet the nutrient requirements of healthy people.  The Institutes of Medicine suggests 400 IU/day for first year of life, 600 IU/day until age 70 and then 800 IU/day . The Endocrine Society suggests children and adolescents may need up to 1000 IU/day and those over the age of 18 may need 1500-2000 IU/day to achieve serum D levels above 30 nmol/L.  So, is it realistic to meet our needs through food?  On average, vitamin D intake from foods in males is 204-288 IU/day, and for females it is 144-278 IU/day.

Who is at risk for low vitamin D Levels?

  • Those who consume little or no milk or fish
  • Vegans
  • Individuals who are sensitive to the sun (photosensitivity)
  • Those who have difficulty absorbing fat
  • Heavy sunblock users (SPF > 8 blocks 98% of vitamin D synthesis)
  • Those residing at high latitudes: Locations above 35 degrees N generally do not support vitamin D synthesis during the winter months
  • Individuals taking certain medications, such as anticonvulsants, antifungals, corticosteroids, histamine type 2 receptor blockers and theophylline

Supplemental vitamin D may be contraindicated with the following medications, which may increase serum concentrations to a potentially toxic level:

  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Some statins for cholesterol (Lipitor and Crestor, but not Zocor)

Food is important for fuel, but diet alone cannot correct a D-ficiency.  The following table lists food sources and amounts of vitamin D. Not everyone loves cod liver oil, has access to wild salmon or likes mushrooms. If foods on this list do not appeal, and your are D-ficient, a supplement is the way to get your needs met.

Food sources of Vitamin D

FOOD AMOUNT Vitamin D/serving (IU)
Cod liver oil 1 TBSP 1360
Wild salmon 3.5 oz 980
Raw maitake mushrooms, sliced 1 cup 786
Swordfish, cooked 3 ounces 706
Sockeye salmon, cooked 3 ounces 447
Sun dried shiitake mushrooms 1 oz 400-500
Canned sardines 3.5 oz 270
Farmed salmon 3.5 oz 250
Skim milk with D added 8 ounces 120
Orange juice with D added 8 ounces 100

Groups who may want to consider vitamin D supplementation include those who:

  • Train/work indoors or outdoors in early morning/evening in the winter
  • Live at >35 degrees N or S latitude
  • Reside in cloudy, polluted environments
  • Wear sunscreen regularly and protective clothing
  • Have very dark or very light skin
  • Carry excess body fat
  • Are seeking support for immune function*
  • Have difficulty absorbing fat-soluble nutrients

Individuals with limited sun exposure require at least 1500-2000 IU/day to keep serum vitamin D in the sufficient range (>30 ng/mL).   People who have digestive issues,  excess body fat, or are taking medications affecting vitamin D metabolism, may require more.  Individuals with deficiency may need 50,000 IU/week x 8 weeks to achieve a serum concentration of >30ng/ML followed by maintenance therapy of 1500-2000 IU/day.

Too much D may result in anorexia, weight loss, polyuria, and heart arrhythmia. In addition, vitamin D toxicity can increase blood levels of calcium, resulting in arterial calcification and damage to the heart and kidneys.

For athletes and active individuals, a healthy body is your best bet for optimizing performance. If your Vitamin D levels are less than optimal, you may be weaker, slower, and more prone to injury. In addition, frequent vigorous and/or high intensity exercise or two-a-day training sessions can adversely affect the immune system. An ill athlete cannot train and/or compete at optimal levels. For the athlete who travels, has erratic meal times or is not a regular consumer of fatty fish, dairy and mushrooms, it is extremely challenging to meet Vitamin D through diet. For these reasons, optimizing Vitamin D is a must for athletes and active individuals. Even in Filling the D gap can help athletes capitalize on a healthy supporting structure, and healthy immune system so you can give it 100% every day.*

No matter which supplement or level of D you choose, it is still important to have levels monitored to see the impact of supplementation.  More is appropriate in the absence of enough, but is not necessary in the presence of optimal.  To get the most out of your D supplement, remember that the presence of fat in a meal enhances absorption.*

Do your due diligence, know your D levels, and consider dietary changes and supplementation to customize and optimize your health.


  1. Forrest KYZ, Stuhldreher WL. Prevalence and correlates of Vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutrition Research. 2011;31(1):48-54.


As a registered dietitian I am always encouraging my clients to not just wear color, but eat it! Fruits and vegetables owe their beautiful hues to phyto ( plant nutrients)- so the vibrant red, orange, yellow, green, purple, blue and even white produce you eat is not just nice to look at but also provide head to tow benefits.

The US News and World Report ranking of the best diets of 2016 selected the DASH ( Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), Mediterranean and Flexitarian among the top picks. One of the similarities of these three plans is the emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

Ok, we all know that fruits and vegetables are good for our hearts, our waistline and our eyes, and our bones, BUT our skin can also benefit from an abundance of produce on the plate.

The skin’s wish list is for caloric balance- not too much but not too little, optimal intake of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fluid. At the same time, overconsumption of sugar may affect not just our waistline but our jawline, as excess sugar intake may increase the likelihood of collagen breakdown so the skin is not as elastic as it should be. Does this mean you can never have a cupcake? Of course not, but perhaps satisfying some of the sweet craving with fruits and vegetables can help your skin as well as what is within.

Antioxidants which are substances in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and oils protect cells from damage and disintegration. One of the antioxidants is carotene. Think carrots and sweet potatoes and that beautiful orange color. WE have a high concentration of carotenoids in the skin and they function to reduce UV light sensitivity. The skin carotenoids actually give us a healthy color that is a lot safer than tanning beds. Of note, if you eat a diet that is loo low in fat, you may not store enough carotenoids and your skin may take on yellow/gray tones. Ugh.

Studies have shown that eating enough fruits and veggies over an 8 week period of time results in measurable skin color changes. Ever notice that when you make the effort to eat well, people comment on how good you look? That is much more than your waist size!

The increase in fruits and vegetables results in increased skin redness which contributes to a healthy skin appearance. This can be due to the effect of lycopene ( a plant nutrient in fruits and veggies) and/or the effect fruits and vegetables on the skin’s blood perfusion. In addition the polyphenols in grapes, peanuts, tea and even wine may contribute beneficially to the health of the elasticity of the arteries as well as endothelial health. So to put it another way, 1 additional serving of fruit or vegetable daily ( ½ cup or a piece of fruit the size of a tennis ball) can change skin color in only 6 weeks.

We all know that drinking enough fluid is important. Dehydration or subhydration increases skin dryness. I always recommend minimizing calories in beverages so best choices are: water, milk, unsweetened coffee/tea, small amounts of fruit juice, vegetable juice. So what about alcohol? Excess consumption can increase the production of free radicals and increase the breakdown of collagen. Plus, excess alcohol is a source of calories, can elevate triglycerides ( blood fats) and increase the risk of breast cancer as well as compromise liver health.

I have a lot of clients who pride themselves on keeping their fat intake to a minimum. NOT good for the skin. Monounsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados decrease oxidative stress. Studies have shown that olive oil lowers the risk of severe photoaging and that the omega- 3 fatty acids in salmon, sardines, flaxseed keeps skin cell membranes strong and elastic. If you eat a very high carbohydrate and very low fat diet you may have a more wrinkled appearance and skin atrophy.

In a review of the NHANES ( National Health and Nutrition Examination study) women who had a more wrinkled appearance had significantly lower intakes of protein, dietary cholesterol, phosphorous, vitamins C,A, K, and linoleic acid. Take home message here- don’t nutritionally disrespect your body or your skin may show the neglect.


The end of 2016 was tough for a lot of us. Uncertainty about the future, a slew of tragic events and the roller coaster of emotions that often accompany the holidays. For me, the end of 2016 heralded a new beginning, the birth of our first grandchild..

We were visiting our kids in Boston over Father’s day when they told us we were going to be grandparents. In that moment, I think I experienced every possible emotion. The reality of becoming a grandmother and the realization that there is a certain connotation attached to grandma- old, comfortable, doting?

Worry that my own parents will be able to be participatory great grandparents due to declines in their physical and mental health.

Sadness that my only sibling who was a doting uncle will not be able to be a great uncle.

Guilt that we live in Pennsylvania and they reside in Massachusetts.

Envy that my daughter-in-law’s family lives in Massachusetts.

Fear that being a grandma results in targeted ageism that may make me less desirable in my professional world.

So now that he has entered our lives I have looked at this list again and have answered some of these questions.

With Face time, my parents have been engaged daily with their grandchildren and great grandchildren and it is amazing what even a small amount of screen time has done to boost their mental well-being

Quality is not necessarily dictated by quantity. We are learning to make the most of each visit with this little man, reveling in every moment and eagerly planning each additional trip. Oh and texts, photo sharing and Skype help too!

I am redefining not maligning myself. To be a grandmother is a privilege and an honor. To be able to have a lifetime of experience in raising two boys brings expertise to the table. Age is just a number not a character trait. Being active, finding fun, surrounding oneself with positivity are all ways to live life to the fullest.
I want to rock that rocking chair. Physical fitness is very important to me. Getting out every day keeps my mind sharp, my body fit, my heart strong and my mood bright. Lifting keeps muscles and bones healthy so that I can pick him up when I want or need to without aches or pains.
Flexibility through yoga will allow me to crawl on the floor with him without fear of achy joints or back a few hours later.

As I hold this precious little boy and experience all the joy, here are the words that come to mind.

Sweat equity is a good thing. We learn to appreciate when we actually participate

Life is not supposed to be easy- challenging oneself increases the enjoyment and emotional fulfillment

Be selective with your entourage. People who discriminate based on age, religion, gender, economic status are not part of my inner circle.

No one has to change the world, control what you can and find ways to make the best of every day.
Get your sleep, move your body, choose to nourish well, find the time to relax.

Wellness checkups are not only for infants. Do your due diligence and make sure your parts are in working order. Medical, dental, vision, hearing checkups are essential. It is not always obvious by how one feels if someone is in good health. Being proactive about health care can prevent a health scare.

Decide what skills and lessons you can pass on. For me, it is the concept of Big Gram’s hands- rescuing the recipes from the heart to fill a child’s food bowl with love. Teaching a child to cook by having them be an active participant in the kitchen, chopping, measuring, stirring, tasting is invaluable and has more tenacity than any toy ever will. Maybe it is a craft, or storytelling or the skill of playing the piano. We all have unique skill sets to offer and opportunities to enrich the lives of others, young or old.

So Joshua Jay Bonci, you have made Glamma ‘s heart so full. I am looking forward to being a part of your life in the kitchen, in the park and throughout your life. There will be some rocky roads, challenges, and obstacles, but know that my love for you will never waver. Thank you little boy for all of this joy.


Fashion and food are inundated with rules. Don’t wear this, don’t eat this. Let’s find a way to wear what flatters with food that matters. A “foodista” understands the appeal of fashion/food trends, the “look” on the body or in the bowl and the entire outfit/plate.

If we think of the plate as an undressed body, the goal is to pick the outfit, accessorize and complement with texture, color and personal taste. Start with plain Greek yogurt, add vanilla, a splash of lemon juice, and a drizzle of honey for taste, sprinkle in slivered almonds for texture and stir in sliced strawberries for color. As you are creating your food outfit, think about your salary and calorie cap. Dairy foods are available, affordable and there is minimal to little preparation with no waste.

Dairy never goes out of style. I love the idea of a white food or beverage as a stand-alone or add to. We can enjoy milk in a long lean glass, or throw that milk into a blender, add some ice and berries and create a feast for the eyes in a delicious fruit smoothie. We can enjoy a cup of vanilla yogurt, or we can take plain Greek yogurt, add taco seasoning and serve with cut up vegetables for the crunch, the gut ill and the eye thrill.

Fashion goes by the season, so why not apply some of these trends to eating. As the weather gets cooler, our milk can go into a pan, heated with vanilla extract and cinnamon for a delicious comforting treat. The summer Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes from the garden can become the winter thin crust pizza with a tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella and spinach.
A warm weather cottage cheese and peaches can be a cooler weather baked apple with cottage cheese, raisins and ginger.

Fashion can also be prohibitively expensive and if it is too trendy, the garment is more likely to be in the closet than on you. Everyone has their old favorites that they feel most comfy in. That is also true of food. Fancier is not always better, what tastes good to us is the most satisfying. Think oatmeal with milk, walnuts and berries, or a bean and cheese quesadilla with salsa, YUM!

And finally, repurpose. The sweater you’ve had for years, looks like a brand new top with a different belt or scarf. All of us can get in a food rut, so change the plate, bowl or glass. A smoothie can become a frozen dessert, canned black beans, plain Greek yogurt, salsa and seasonings is higher protein alternative to hummus.

So don’t put your white away after Labor Day. Dairy can help you streamline your prep time, lean up your bottom line and taste just fine.