Good Habits For Weight Loss

January 8, 2024

It’s 2024 and each year around this time we typically host a show encouraging listeners to get back on track after some of the holiday food and lack of routine. Typically, when we have a show discussing weight loss, we focus on things like eating protein several times per day, drinking adequate water, or making sleep a priority – all habits that are important! Today we’ll explore research and tips for how preparing and cooking real food in your home are habits for both improved health and for weight loss.

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KARA: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We're a company specializing in life-changing nutrition education and counseling. If you've been a long-time listener of Dishing Up Nutrition, you may already know that we recently had a 20-year anniversary. Dishing Up Nutrition started airing live on FM 107, which is myTalk 107 back in 2004, I think it was.

I think myTalk originated in 2002, but we came along a couple years later. I just remember being in my car listening to the original cohosts of Dishing Up Nutrition in 2004. It was on a Saturday morning. And I soaked in every single word they were saying. Eventually, when I interviewed with Nutritional Weight and Wellness, and I met Dar and Kory and the other radio show cohosts, I was really starstruck. I couldn't believe I was meeting these women who hosted a weekly local Minnesota radio show. I think back to that day.

NIKKI: It's so cool. I did the same thing in my interview when Dar walked in. She's listening. She's laughing at us right now. But even with you, Kara, I mean, I remember listening to your voice and being very familiar with your voice before I started working here about five and a half years ago.

KARA: And then you meet someone and you're like, you're the one on the radio.

NIKKI: Yes. Oh my gosh. Yeah. It's kind of, it's, it's a cool part of the job for sure. So 20 years is a long time. Like you said, the length of our show is a good indicator that the nutrition message we deliver every week is timeless. And it's the opposite of those quick fixes or short term fad diets. It's a lifelong way of eating, and I tell that to my clients all the time. This is a forever plan; not a 12 week, not a six month. It's a forever plan.

KARA: There's no end to it.

NIKKI: There's no end.

KARA: Yeah. Yeah. And we'll talk more about, you know, how simple our eating plan is. And it's really just getting back to basics, but we're going to introduce ourselves first. And then we also want to share an exciting change that's being made to the show starting this month, January, 2024. I'm Kara Carper. I'm a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist. I'm really passionate about the NWW food plan. And I'm also honored to have been one of the earlier cohosts back in the day.

NIKKI: Yes. Yes. Well, Happy New Year, Kara and to our listeners. I'm Nikki Doering. I'm a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, and I've been around the block some too with nutrition counseling, been doing that for several many years, and it's a huge passion of mine.

I just love helping men, women, people, children, everyone. I like helping them improve their health with how they eat and their eating habits. It's been a joy sharing our message on Dishing Up Nutrition over the years. And I've had so many fun times. So listeners, we have a slight change coming up for you this year in 2024. And I think that you'll be pleased with our new formats. So Kara, would you want to explain what the changes are?

KARA: Yes, absolutely. So we'll have a recorded show available every week on Monday morning. The show will no longer be live, so we won't be going into the studio live. You can hear our Dishing Up Nutrition show on your favorite streaming platform, like Spotify or Apple. We will also have the, we'll continue to have the shows on our website.

NIKKI: Which is great.

KARA: It's kind of a change, but for the listeners not a huge change.

NIKKI: Yeah. And we'll only have one commercial break, which means the podcast will be a bit shorter and easier for listening. I know I love listening to podcasts when I'm commuting. And so shorter is nice because then you can get through more. So if you like to be alerted to new episodes each week, just make sure you subscribe or follow the podcast, Dishing Up Nutrition, whether it's on the Apple or Spotify or any other platform for podcasts, and like Kara mentioned also on our website, if you're not a podcast, app person on your smartphone.

Find Our Podcasts on Our Website Here

KARA: There's always the trusty website,


KARA: So Nikki had said, Happy New Year. It's 2024. Every year around this time, we typically host a show, encouraging listeners to get back on track after some of the holiday food, holiday drink, being in a lack of routine. So we're going to touch on that today.

Eat real food in balance for health & weight loss, not fad diets

NIKKI: Yes. And again, I'm just going to remind everyone, if you've been listening to us, you know this, but you're not going to hear from us about quick fixes, weight loss fixes, things that are instantaneous. That's just not us, right Kara?

KARA: Right?

NIKKI: There is no magic pill. There's no magic solution. There's no magic liquid shake when it comes to weight loss. However, preparing and cooking real foods in your home does work like magic and it both improves your health and it helps with weight loss.

KARA: So that brings us to our show topic for today. It's called “Good Habits for Weight Loss”. And usually when we have a show discussing weight loss, we focus on things like: don't forget to eat protein several times per day to increase that metabolism, or, make sure you're drinking about half of your body weight in water in ounces, or we remind you how important sleep is and that, of course, affects health and metabolism.

But for today's show, we're going in a little bit of a different direction. Helen, she's a project manager for Nutritional Weight and Wellness. And I can't remember if it was Helen or Dar, but as a team, they came across some great nutrition information.

Research shows having meals as a family is beneficial

NIKKI: And I'd love to share that information with you now. So research, we always bring up research in our show, cause it's an important part of the learning process and what we do every day today in our nutrition careers, but research is showing that less than 30 percent of families have meals together on a regular basis, despite the fact that having meals together as family has been shown to be hugely beneficial.

So this research comes from Harvard. I know in my house, we try and make this a priority and it's not perfect. And it never is with how busy lives are. And I know our listeners can relate to that, but I think the big struggle that I hear, you want to feed your kid and then you want to eat. And I think that's a very big, habit that we formed.

KARA: I think that you're right. Most people listening that have children or have had children in the home can really relate to that. And we know that kids who grow up having family dinners on a regular basis, they eat healthier. They have lower rates of obesity. Families that eat together on a regular basis eat significantly more fruits and vegetables. And fewer ultra processed foods, and there were two different nutrition journals that showed the same outcome in the research.

NIKKI: You're right, Kara. Those nutrition journals, they're called Pediatrics and then JAMA, JAMA, the Journal of American Medical Association. They found that when families sat down and ate together at least three times per week, the children ended up having much lower incidences of obesity and eating disorders.

KARA: Wow. That eating disorder piece too.

NIKKI: Yeah, that's huge. That's huge. Really, really interesting research. It makes me think about my son who's in first grade. And so he started eating at school in kindergarten. His food language changed because he was so influenced by his peers at lunchtime.

KARA: Can you say more about that? Sorry to interrupt. But food language?

NIKKI: Yeah, so like he came home and he would start using words like, yuck.

KARA: Okay, and he, previously he wasn't saying yuck.

NIKKI: Previously he was not saying that about certain foods. I was a lucky one. I didn't have a picky eater right away. But his preferences did change because he was so influenced by his peers. Thinking of that, we as families can influence our children in a good way. So not that I'm going to undo his peer, peer work is very important, you know, and it's not all bad.

It's wonderful when all the kids get to experience different foods from home or just in general. But I think, if I want to have some influence on food, what can I do at my table at home to help with that? Because they get influenced by us. And if your kids don't see what you're eating, they're going to start questioning, why is that?

KARA: I totally agree with what you're saying and I have a 12 year old and I'm just going to share a quick story about food and the food language and how that changes with starting school and being around more peers instead of like eating most of the meals at home.

So my daughter and I, we were looking at social media last night, my Facebook page, and we came across a picture of her first birthday and she's sitting in her high chair. And she knows the story. She said, mom, is that that yucky sweet potato thing that you made me eat on my first birthday? Because she had never had sugar.

NIKKI: Yeah.

KARA: And I was bound and determined when she was an infant. I made a sweet potato pie and I put some real heavy whipping cream with a little bit of maple syrup and vanilla, and she mashed it all over her face.

NIKKI: Cute.

KARA: And you know, now birthday parties look a little different.

NIKKI: Yes. Oh, they look way different. And I applaud you for…

KARA: But you try to minimize the damage done by all of the sugary cakes and the cookies and the brownies and the whatnot. So I just wanted to share that story.

NIKKI: That's so cute.

KARA: It changes for everybody.

NIKKI: Yup. And then I love that your daughter, “that yucky”, the food language, you know; ate it up when she was one.

KARA: But she was fine with it until she knew what she was missing.

NIKKI: Yes. Yes.

KARA: So. So the journal, Nutrition; that's the name of the journal, showed that the people that eat alone much of the time had a poor quality diet and ate fewer nutrients. And when we say nutrients, we're talking about vitamins, minerals, fiber, plant chemicals, and antioxidants. So that's more interesting research.

NIKKI: I mean, it makes sense. But it's also great to just hear and solidify with research. And Kara, that research also showed that much of the time those eating alone are eating in front of a screen, so it may feel like this trend has been around for a long time. I think of like TV dinners and everybody sitting in front of the with their TV tray, but it's actually a relatively new thing and it's just changed and morphed.

And it really wasn't that long ago, 20 years ago. So as long as our show has been on the, radio. It's not uncommon for each member now to be eating in different parts of the house in front of a screen, whether that screen's TV, the phone, the tablet. So although maybe family meals might have happened and a TV was present in the room, I think it's way different now when it's each individual person is maybe even eating at a different time in front of a screen in different areas.

It's morphed and I know that we struggle with this in my house too. My son will say, can I have the iPad or the tablet when we're sitting down to a meal or when he's sitting down to a meal, and my simple reply is nope. No screen times at the table.

And he doesn't argue, luckily. I'm pretty lucky there but yeah, sometimes it's just putting those boundaries up and especially if you're a family that feels that that is a habit that's formed that screen time at mealtime, just start reducing it a little bit.

KARA: And maybe it's a gradual process. If every single meal, you know the kiddos are in front of a screen, maybe you just reduce that to only dinner we're not going to have the screen. So we understand that it's easy to get into these patterns and habits with our busy lives these days.

NIKKI: Exactly.

KARA: So Nikki, it looks like it is time for our short break.

NIKKI: Okay.

KARA: You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition and our topic today is “Good Habits for Weight Loss”. If preparing and cooking meals at home seems intimidating, it can be helpful to have a couple of go to recipes and tips and shortcuts. One recipe that both adults and kids love, it's our wild rice meatball recipe.

It's on our website, and you'll never believe how quick and easy it is. It has six ingredients: ground beef, one egg, onion, wild rice, salt, and garlic powder or chopped garlic. So you'll want to either cook the wild rice ahead of time or I remember one of our dietitians, I believe it was Teresa, had mentioned she buys the precooked wild rice.

And that's kind of a shortcut and I encourage you make a double batch, at least a double batch. Those are going to get eaten quickly. Three meatballs is one serving for a meal. And to complete the meal in our Nutritional Weight and Wellness fashion, you could add a vegetable and a healthy fat. Other shortcuts would be to purchase pre-washed greens, maybe buy some cherry tomatoes, and then just add a nice full fat olive oil based salad dressing. It doesn't have to be complicated. So we will be right back after our short break.


NIKKI: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Nikki Doering, Registered and Licensed Dietitian, and I'm here with Kara Carper, Licensed Nutritionist. Before our break, Kara shared a quick and delicious dinner idea. If cooking at home is a new habit for you in 2024, it helps to have simple recipes.

Another recipe my clients love is our egg bake recipe, which is on our website, Most people do not have time in the morning while getting ready for work, getting ready for school. They don't necessarily are going to sit down and maybe have a breakfast with the family, but you can still provide something nourishing and healthy, even if you're not eating together.

So that egg bake recipe is really nice, and you can even put it into individual muffin tins and that way you have 12 little egg muffins, and they freeze really well and they get heated really easily in the microwave. I do this a lot with my kids. They love them. And, it's a huge upgrade to start the day with protein, healthy fat, and some veggies instead of something ultra processed and boxed like maybe, say, cereal.

KARA: Yeah. And with that recipe I love also the versatility. You know, I mean, just switching up maybe the meat or a different vegetable in your fridge that's going bad.

NIKKI: Yep. I always say if there's something going bad in your refrigerator, throw it into a soup or the egg bake or the crockpot.

KARA: Exactly. I love it. I want to give a shout out to a book that recently came out in October, 2023. Shawn Stevenson is the author and the name of the book is the Eat Smarter Family Cookbook. I'm pretty sure he has other books and I think one of them was just Eat Smarter.

NIKKI: Yes, I think you’re right.

The social contact connection to better health

KARA: And then the more recent one is this family cookbook. So some of the information from his book, the research was coming from University Brigham Young, and there were 148 different studies pulled together. So there were a total of 300,000 people being studied.

NIKKI: That's a huge study.

KARA: That's a lot. That's a big number. Those who were in close social contact with loved ones on a regular basis were 50 percent less likely to die from all cause mortality. And I'm wondering if you could explain what that means, the all cause mortality.

NIKKI: Yeah, that's a huge powerful statistic there. And it just means that 50 percent were less likely to die from any outcome. So any way a person could pass away.

KARA: All diseases. We're not just talking heart, it's cancer, you know…

NIKKI: Yeah, just by having that close knit of family, friends, even just social connections, it's just good to be around people and have a few close relationships.

KARA: And that it affects health so dramatically.


KARA: So, where do most people make social connections? You know, it's often around food. And if we are able to do this more and more at home with our families, the benefits are priceless. Cause of death goes down 50 percent and also rates of obesity go down.

Processed food increases risk of chronic diseases

NIKKI: That's good. Earlier this year, we hosted a show and we talked about the connection between ultra processed food and increased risk of chronic diseases. The show, if you're interested, is called Key Nutrients for Weight Loss and the date of the show is October 7th, 2023. So if you're interested in hearing more about how ultra processed food affects chronic disease risk.

What do we mean by ultra processed food?

But let's talk about that term a little bit: processed food. There's different variations of processed food. I mean, technically, if you cut a fruit or cut a vegetable, you’ve processed it. So, it's really concerning that 60 percent of the food Americans are eating today are called what's termed ultra processed food. So, let's explain what that means.

KARA: I think that's important to explain the difference because they might sound like they're the same, but ultra processed foods, they have been chemically altered. They often have artificial ingredients and chemicals added in. Sometimes they're deep fried. Well, the end product is totally different from the original ingredients, put it that way.

NIKKI: Yep. So foods like, think of pre-cooked frozen chicken nuggets or chicken nuggets from a restaurant. Those are considered ultra processed. Comparing those to cooking chicken in your own oven, where you would start by purchasing the chicken breast from the grocery store, or thighs, or whatever part of the chicken you really like. And then you would cook them in some olive oil, seasonings like salt, pepper, other seasonings, just to give it that yummy flourish of flavor.

Those chickens, chicken breasts or chicken thighs that you make at home are considered just minimally processed and it's food in its original form. You know where it all came from. There's no long chemical names. The ultra processed chicken nuggets, they don't even resemble real food because they contain those dozens of chemical ingredients on the label. Just flip over that box and check out that ingredients list. Sometimes it can be shocking.

KARA: And a lot of those ingredients are hard to pronounce. They're, they look like chemicals. They are chemicals. You don't even know what they are. So that's not a good sign. Chips are also a food that's ultra processed. Picture a bag of, I'm to trick our listeners here. Picture a bag of sweet potato chips. Well, you might be thinking, hmm, that sounds healthy, right? Sweet potato is in the word.

Well, the sweet potato chips have been heated to a high temperature in bad oils. A lot of other ingredients have been added. So the end result is something that's lacking in vitamins, lacking in minerals, hardly any fiber or other nutrients are left.

Now think about on the flip side, Nikki, a real sweet potato that you bake in your oven, even better if it has the skin still on it. A sweet potato in its original form has a lot of fiber, vitamins A and C and B vitamins; manganese, potassium, those are important minerals, and a lot more. I'm not going to list all of them, but you get the idea of the difference between an ultra-processed sweet potato chip and a real sweet potato.

NIKKI: Yes. So, okay, Kara, I have to ask, did you use the sweet potato chips as an example to make a point?

KARA: Well, I, I did. That's why I said I'm going to, I'm going to be a little tricky here because when people hear the word sweet potato, but also listeners, have you ever gone to the grocery store and seen a label and some, you know, maybe it's something in a bag that's dry and crunchy and it has the word sweet potato. It's easy to jump to the conclusion that that item is healthier than like a potato chip or a Dorito.

NIKKI: I've been fooled by that.

KARA: I know.

NIKKI: The billboard on the top, on the front of the box rather than the actual information on the back of the box.

KARA: Exactly. Yes. So sweet potato chips do not have any nutritional value. So I'm sorry to break that news.

Steps to start incorporating healthier habits

NIKKI: Shucks. You might be thinking to yourself, but my family hasn't been eating together at the table for years. How are we supposed to change all of this overnight? Our schedules are busy and I know my spouse and my kids will not be on board. So first of all, I just want to say there's no judgment, absolutely no judgment, because we've all been there, even us dietitians and nutritionists.

We understand how this can happen with packed schedules, being overworked, lack of support, just all the stress that happens. So start small. What is one real food meal you can make? Whether it's right now or making small improvements to get there. Is it a whole meal or is it just, I'm going to add some veggies to something instead of just, you know, what can you do to start small to help build that habit?

KARA: One small thing. Yes. We realize that some of our listeners are not having any family meals together. And so of course it would be overwhelming to say, hey, we're going to start having a home cooked dinner at the table every night this week. So I just encourage y'all look at your schedule, maybe choose one night, you know, maybe it's the night that there are no extracurricular activities or sports going on; one night where you can try it out, have dinner together.

Many of our dietitians recommend having family meals laid out so that people can kind of pick and choose like a taco bar. That's just one example. You would brown up some ground beef. That doesn't take very long. Add a little taco seasoning and then maybe set out some different dishes. Have cheese in one dish, olives in another, sour cream, salsa, lettuce.

At our house for taco night, I will personally make a taco salad. I like to use romaine lettuce, and then my daughter, she's over here and she'll have her ground beef and all of the fixings that she likes in a soft shell taco. And my husband likes hard shell tacos with all the fixings.

NIKKI: It sounds similar to my house.

KARA: It does? So we all are using similar ingredients and it's just one prep. But we're able to sit down and kind of eat what we want individually at the same time.

NIKKI: Yeah. And some of our listeners might already be eating together a couple times a week. So making small improvements from that routine could be adding one additional meal together each week. It may take your family a little while to get used to the new habit and the new routine. So have patience and just know that with consistency, the idea will catch on and it will keep getting better, easier, and more enjoyable.

And remember, the research found that having a minimum of three meals a week together as a family was the amount needed to see the biggest benefit with lower rates of obesity and eating disorders later in life. So, that is a good long term goal: three or more meals together per week and just figure out what that looks like for your family. Don't eat alone I think is the big message if you can help it.

So we had mentioned a statistic earlier in the show about ultra processed food. The stat was 60 percent of calories are Americans age two and older. So basically almost everyone, there can, those calories that they're consuming those foods that they're consuming are from ultra processed foods.

KARA: One thing that we haven't talked about yet today is research published in 2021 found that for our American children, again, this, this group was ages 2 through 18, 70 percent of the calories that they eat come from ultra processed foods. So I guess the point is that kids ages 2 through 18 are eating even more ultra processed foods compared to adults.

NIKKI: Well, and if you can just picture, listeners, picture right now what a kids’ menu is at a restaurant or when you take your kids to a family member's house. What do your kids eat? What's on those menus? What's the question? Chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, pizza, burgers and fries. That, I mean, you could put 20 menus in front of me and the children's menu will have those items on it.

KARA: It's not going to vary too much.


KARA: And so, Nikki, that's a really great point because my understanding is that in other countries, they don't have separate kid menus or with separate kid foods.

NIKKI: Yeah, that makes complete sense to me. I wish we did it here.

KARA: I’m not sure when that started, but it really has become a trend here in our country.

NIKKI: Yes. So the rates of childhood obesity have quadrupled since 1980. The increase in weight parallels the increase in eating ultra processed food. We see that in the research.

KARA: So a couple ways to get kids more excited about eating together as a family is to include them, just include them in some of the decision making. So what's on the menu? You know, and include them in some of the preparation and the cooking. Kids of all ages, they're just going to be more invested in the process if they have a little bit of a say, if they have some control. And they end up having a sense of pride, you know, they, kids do like to help.

NIKKI: Yes. And I'm definitely in that season in my house. I have a seven year old, that's my son, Max, and a 19 month old: Quinn, my daughter. And younger ones can wash a vegetable or set the table, and as they get older, they can actually help with chopping and doing more cooking. My son loves to crack eggs, and he loves to stir things.

So anything that involves that, and we're just building confidence around the stove, obviously, with adult supervision, and even my daughter, who's 19 months, she loves just seeing what's going on. She constantly is pulling on our pant legs or trying to climb up of course, 'cause she's in that phase, the cabinets to see what's going on on that stove.

So it's really good to involve your kids. They're more open to doing more and eating more when they're involved. One of the biggest things that I love to do is take out a cookbook and just go through it with my son, and he's seven again, and pick out a recipe and say, what do you want to cook together?

And we cook it together and he is so excited to try it. Even if I'm like, he's not going to eat this, I still cook it. And if he doesn't eat it, it's fine. But we did it together and it just opens up that door of just that habit around healthy eating behavior.

KARA: Yeah, there is something, there is really something to that when, you know, kids have a say in planning the menu or maybe it starts at the grocery store.

NIKKI: Yeah. 

KARA: You know what vegetable do you want to pick out? It's like they remember that and they feel important.

NIKKI: Yes, they do.

KARA: And then they want to partake a little bit more.


KARA: So if everyone in the house gets to have some input, that's a great strategy just to get them more engaged.

NIKKI: What we teach our kids while we are growing up and what we model by doing it ourselves is what they will take with them into the world. I think we can all agree that current rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's and more are only increasing. So these healthy eating habits around family centered meals or just cooking at home, that importance to instill that and just learning.

And even if you're not somebody that's ever cooked at home, so you're like, I don't know how to cook. What a perfect thing to do with your kids or the people that you live with to start just boiling some water and, you know, putting stuff on a baking sheet and turning on that oven.

KARA: Like you said, just start small. And I know you can all do this. I know our listeners can do this. So, are you willing to have one additional meal at home each week? Whether you live alone, maybe you have a large family, the health benefits of cooking at home are irreplaceable. We would love it if you could go to our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook page, type in what is your home cooked meal going to be this week, now that we're in the new year.

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I am putting our chicken wild rice soup on my list. So I am right there with you doing one additional family meal at home this week.

NIKKI: And I'm planning to do, I love our chicken and brussels sprouts and sun dried tomatoes recipe that's on our website. I love that one. So that's my commitment.

KARA: Thank you, Nikki. Well, our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food.

It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thanks for listening and hope you have a wonderful day and Happy New Year.

NIKKI: Happy New Year.

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