The Always and the Sometimes


Food, that is!

Thanks to all of you for your insightful healthy living tips! I covered some of the healthy living basics in my last post, but you certainly picked up the slack. I’ve compiled all of your tips in the “Reader Tips” tab under “Simple Tips for Healthy Living“. Check it out to see your name … well, not in lights. Italics πŸ™‚

A common theme among your healthy living tips is the idea of portion control. I couldn’t agree more that portion control is an essential part of healthy living. While I emphasize that these healthy living tips (including portion control) are not designed for weight loss, they can help prevent unwanted weight gain. As many of us know, portion sizes have been growing steadily in the last 20-30 years, sometimes quadrupling or quintupling in size. As you can imagine, these larger portions can lead to significant weight gain. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that current portions are much larger than they need because large portions are now everywhere. That 8 oz. muffin at Local Coffee Shop? That’s about 3 – 4 portions. I interact with a lot of people in the community who have no idea that the pasta bowl they ate at lunch contains six servings of pasta.

I mention this portion distortion not to cause a fixation on portions, but to stress that it is important to be educated about what you eat. I think we all agree that free will in nutrition is essential, yes? (If you don’t agree with me, let me know in the comments!) By knowing as much as possible about what we are putting into our bodies, we are actively choosing how we nourish ourselves, rather than letting someone else choose for us.

In addition to the fun portion distortion quiz I recommended last time (if you haven’t tried it, check it out!), here’s a quick-and-dirty guide to portion sizes mostly using your hands (perfect for restaurants):

* The area and thickness of your palm is a portion of meat or poultry (about 3-4 ounces). You can also use a deck of cards if you’re planning on playing canasta later.
* 3-4 ounces of fish may be little larger – about the size of a checkbook.
* Make a fist. That’s about 1 cup.
* Your cupped hand can hold about 1-2 ounces of cereal or a snack food.
* Your cupped hand will also hold about 1/2 cup of foods like pasta, rice, and ice cream. How handy!
* Your thumb is about 1 ounce of cheese (I use this one all the time).
* Your thumb is also about 1 Tablespoon. I often use thumbs for measuring peanut butter and salad dressing.
* Your thumb tip is about 1 teaspoon – great for butter or tub margarine.

Of course, hand sizes vary from person-to-person, so just be aware that if you’re Robert Wadlow, this guide may not apply to you.Β  Be sure to look at nutrition labels for how many cups or ounces is in a single portion, and check out MyPyramid for a guide on approximately how many portions of each good group to eat per day (I say “approximately”, because MyPyramid is an estimation).

In my last post, I also mentioned a concept called “always” foods and “sometimes” foods. I try to balance my “always” and “sometimes” foods by eating the higher-fat, refined flour foods 10-20% of the time (I believe in steering away from a strict percentage to avoid over-restriction), and the “always” foods the rest of the time. So, what kinds of “always” foods do I enjoy? Well …

So dark outside …

Lunch! Taken at 5:45 am, this picture represents a typical Jessie packed lunch – a balanced combo, if I say so myself *polishes fingernails*Β  In the sandwich container is a mix of red bell pepper, green beans, and shiitake mushrooms, drizzled in Annie’s dressing (healthy fats and as many veggies as I can fit in my belly).Β  On the side: pomegranate siggi’s yogurt (2 for $3!), to be enjoyed with a crumbled peanut butter oat bar (nonfat dairy and whole grains).Β  To round out the meal: une pomme (fruit).

The siggi’s and oat bar, photographed two seconds prior to consumption:

Thank you, Bri and Taryn, for not giving me funny looks as I hunched over to get the best photo angle in a room full of people πŸ˜€

Now! Here’s a perfect example of a “sometimes” food:

What’s that, Jessie?? Why, it’s the

“I Meant to Fry Them But I Can’t Handle Hot Oil” Apple Cider Doughnuts
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, November 2007

1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk or skim milk
2/3 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
Veggie oil (if you want to fry them)

If you’re baking your doughnuts, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Boil apple cider in a saucepan for about 7-8 minutes, or until the cider has reduced to about 1/3 cup. Let cool.

I guessed that the dark ring of boiled-on apple cider would be hard to remove … and it was.

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 tsp cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix cooled cider, milk, butter, eggs, and 1 cup sugar. Stir cider mixture into flour mixture (the dough will be very sticky).

Roll out dough to about 1/2 inch thick, adding more flour if needed. Use a biscuit cutter or a rarely-used wineglass to cut rounds.

You can re-roll the scraps of dough, but just be aware that they will be tough.

I baked my doughnuts in the oven for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Beautiful! Sprinked with a combination of 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp cinnamon, these doughnuts were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

I’ve fried these doughnuts before and they’ve turned out great. Here are the frying directions for those interested: Heat 3 quarts of vegetable oil to 370 degrees F in a heavy pot over medium heat. Slide 10 doughnuts into the hot oil. When each doughnut floats to surface, turn over nd fry, turning once more, until golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Allow oil to return to 370 degrees F between batches (essential!). Allow the fried doughnuts have cooled slightly and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

… Okay, I have to admit something to you guys … I DID try to pan-fry these doughnuts before baking them, because I don’t like to handle large quantities of hot oil – and, because I couldn’t find more than about 2 Tbsp of vegetable oil in our kitchen. How did they turn out?

Never, NEVER try to pan-fry doughnuts. It just doesn’t work.

Finally, I am excited to be attending the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Boston this weekend! Held by the American Dietetics Association, this event brings together RDs and DTRs and other nutrition professionals, as well as fun guests, such as Anthony Bourdain (ever hear of him?) Needless to say, I am thrilled to meet a lot of new people! If you’re going to be in the area, let me know!

This upcoming weekend should be a lot of fun, especially as a special event is happening on Saturday, November 6 HINT HINT. Obviously, I will not be posting until I return from Boston in the middle of next week, but I’ll be sure to give you a recap of the latest and greatest in the field of nutrition!

Until then … zai jian!

Q: What are your favorite “always” foods and “sometimes” foods?


  1. Ohhhh I know what’s on November 6, I know what’s on November 6!!! But I’m not saying! *smug face*

    Baked doughnuts with apple cider, cinnamon and sugar? Sounds heavenly!!! πŸ™‚

    “Always foods” for me are fruit, yoghurt and small amounts of meat or eggs (I eat so little food that I definately need some animal protein, plus, my intake of meat barely exceeds one portion using the palm rule hehe)

    My “Sometimes” foods include things that are very very salty, like crisps and salami and that kind of stuff. I try to avoid those, but sometimes I just have to give in!! I also like sweets, but I don’t crave sweets as often as salty stuff!

  2. I thought that yogurt container looked familiar πŸ˜‰

  3. Jessie,

    Yo, Portion distortion that’s awesome. I will use that one again. Thanks for posting some very timely, useful, and important information. As this nation slips deeper and deeper in the abyss of fatness.

    Be well, G

  4. hey Jessie!

    thanks again for educating us on nutrition and healthy portion sizes. remember when you said you thought it was unfair cause you’re learning a lot more from my blog than i am yours. soooo not true, dear. i think in your last two posts, you gave and taught me more info on nutrition than my parents ever did in my lifetime. i have to thank you for all this info cause then i can pass this onto my kiddies. i loved your quick-and-dirty guide to portion sizes! as i was reading those tips, i was thinking that a lot of people probably don’t follow portion sizes because they don’t know how to measure them, not because they choose not to. i bet you just changed some people’s lives (including mine) with this post. after your last post, now i always compare my size of steak compared with how much veggies i have. i never did that before. last time i had a steak dinner, i even thought, “Jessie would be proud of me”…teehee.

    those apple cider doughnuts are looking delicious right now. the best part about them is that they’re baked, not deep fried, and they still look awesome. deep frying freaks the heck outta me too. especially now that i have two wee ones running around. kind of a good thing though cause i do love deep fried foods (blush). my “always” foods are veggies. i love my “ong choy” and have recently grown an obsession with roasted brussels sprouts. my “sometimes” foods? cheesecake, um…alcohol (teehee), DAN TAT! and the list goes on. i’m still deciding where durian fits. i think it’s under sometimes as it can give you a sore throat if eaten too many. gives your body too much “heat”. i don’t know the proper term, but you studied Chinese medicine so i think you know what i’m trying to say.

    have lotsa fun in Boston! Anthony Bourdain???!!! lucky ducky! Nov. 6th, got it! ok must end very long essay. have a fun and safe trip, Jessie. expect an email from me this weekend πŸ˜‰

  5. I hope you bring back a ton of new info from FNCE! And do a whole post on it!! πŸ™‚ Have a BLAST! I am so jealous! We will have to meet up at FNCE one of these years, for sure! Sad it wasn’t this year πŸ™

    The donuts…bummer! I guess deep-frying is best in that instance. πŸ™

    1. I will certainly be doing a whole post on FNCE!! πŸ™‚ It really is too bad we couldn’t meet up this year – maybe next time!

  6. I have to make those apple cider doughnuts cos I LOVE me some cider and fried doughtnuts creep me out πŸ˜›

    Thanks for all the priceless information on portion control Jessie – thank goodness my appetite is no longer what it used to be, but then, neither is my metabolism *sigh*

    My favourite always foods are unbuttered microwave popped corn, oatmeal, crisp, juicy apples, black coffee, lowfat low sugar soy milk and steamed fish with light soy. My favourite sometimes foods are cheesecake, cheese, double fudge brownies, bacon and liver pate.

    Hope you have a great time at FNCE – Anthony Bourdain? I am so JEALOUS!!

  7. Love your portion guide at the “finger-tips” :P…they come in handy! lol
    For me, it is always vegetables and fruits; sometimes whole grains and seafood (salmon, sardines).

  8. Yay for FNCE!! We definitely need to get together!

    I always use my hands when discussing portions with kids. I think it is a good visual for them.

  9. What a great post! Thanks for reminding me how important portion sizes are…and for sharing this doughnut recipe! I’ve been wanting to make some for a good while now, but I don’t like to fry! These look great.

  10. Julie Murdock says:

    On the topic of portion control (critical on Weight Watchers for me)…my nutritionist introduced me to a new product which has just come out, but it’s hard to find in stores. I ordered it online from since they offer free shipping. It’s definitely a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that product, and it really helps me with daily portion control, while making my cooking easier and tastier. I LOVE THEM. It’s really a nifty idea, and I recommend it if you like cooking at home but are struggling with eating right.

    1. Interesting product – thanks for sharing, Julie!

  11. I agree, a lot of people just don’t realize how many portions they’re actually eating, especially when they eat at restaurants. Education is key. Something funny (and kind-of sad), I recently showed a friend of mine who is trying to lose weight what an actual portion of rice is and she couldn’t believe it. She said she’d never be full on that, lol. Until I told her she can still enjoy a huge plate of food, just fill the rest of the plate with whatever raw or steamed veggies she wants. That being said, I really respect you for making nutrition your career! (You are needed! πŸ™‚ ) By the way, your baked doughnuts look awesome! I recently made a batch of baked pumpkin spice doughnuts…I love fall. πŸ˜‰ Hope you have a great weekend!

  12. WOW I didn’t know those tips! That’s so little amount of meat I can eat, my palm? I think I overeat meat for the entire life haha. Some tips are very helpful Jessie. Thanks for taking time to gather and share!

    You’re up SO early. I’m still in bed at 5:45 am :). When I pack my lunch, I always have food and snack/fruit. My lunch is usually leftover from dinner the night before.

    Is that the real name of the donut recipe? That’s funny and it caught my attention. The bake version sounds tempting for me to try. They look good and I like the sugar cinnamon topping!

    1. Haha! I made up the name of the doughnut recipe, just like all my recipes. I figure why not have a little fun with it πŸ˜‰

      I like to be asleep at 5:45 too, if I can – just not those days with early classes! Have a great evening, Tanantha! πŸ™‚

  13. This is a great post!! I think portion control is hugely important (especially when it comes to enjoying those “sometimes” foods) but it’s one of the most difficult things to do. Reading your guide, I realize that there are certain things I’m eating huge portions of (like peanut butter yikes)! I had never heard the thumb measurement before — I need to start using it. I think it’s even more difficult when you go out to a restaurant. They’ve done studies on this that show just how awful we are at guessing serving size and calorie amounts.

    Switching gears (a lot) — your doughnuts look awesome!! They seem to have come out really good baked. Did you feel like the taste was lacking at all? It could be a health(ier) alternative to friend doughnuts. πŸ™‚

    Finally, have fun in Boston!! The conference sounds so interesting! I can’t wait to hear about it. Have a great trip! πŸ™‚

  14. You really eat well rounded lunches, Jessie! luckily I don’t feel too bad because for the past months I’ve been into our salad bar lunches at work and they’re amazing AND healthy. What a GREAT combo πŸ˜‰

    Portion sizes have always been really hard for me.. I used to eat HUGE meals and sometimes still do, depending what’s on my plate πŸ˜€ but now that I eat 5-6 times a day I don’t need such big portions and I have noticed that my body is satisfied with less.. because it gets food more frequently.

    My always food is green salad, simple as that.. and my before always food was cheese but now it’s sometimes food.

  15. Love this portion distortion post! Especially the handy (literally) portion guides. I never knew the thumb peanut butter rule. And also the 1/2 cup ice cream one. Well at least now I’ll have an excuse to eat ice cream with my hands πŸ˜›

    Have fun at the RD conference love! Eat some JP Licks ice cream on Newbury street while you’re there! It’s the best ever.

    And yay for November 6th! Hee hee.

  16. I love the thumb-tip, that’s a good one! Already used the palm and fist ones.

    The doughnuts sound so yummy – despite your little pan-fry disaster! Oopsies! hehe I love when ppl post their disasters or bloopers to blogs!

    An always food for me is vegetables. Seriously I haven’t met a vegetable I don’t like. I start to feel really gross within a day or two if I haven’t gotten enough veggies. I also love to “beef up” any recipe I try w/ more veggies in it. A sometimes food for me is soda. I never drank it growing up, except for on special occasions. When I moved in w/ Johnny he had a fridge downstairs just for sodas and beer for entertaining. It quickly became habit to drink 2 or 3 cans of soda a day. Then I realized what I was doing and stopped immediately. Once in a blue moon I’ll grab one if I really have a craving to quench it – but other than that I’m much happier drinking water and tea!

  17. I have been searching and searching for a baked doughnut recipe and by golly – I think I found it! Thanks!

  18. I am so excited that donuts can be baked! I haven’t had a donut in forever because I just can’t eat something that is sugary AND fried.

    My favorite always food would be quinoa or brown rice. My favorite sometimes food would be chocolate frosting. No need for the cake. I just love the frosting!

  19. Hi Jessie! This is a great reminder…lately I’ve been feeling a little stressed and that can effect my eating in a not so fabulous way. Chocolate and coffee are not the most balancing foods unfortunately πŸ™‚

    My ‘always’ foods include oats, fruits, veggie soup, brown rice, peanut butter, and fish.

    My ‘sometimes’ foods include ice cream, chocolate, and muffins πŸ™‚

    Have a lovely weekend!

  20. Have fun in Boston!! You’re probably there right now, having a blast. I can’t wait to read about the fun time you have πŸ™‚
    I love giving people ideas about how to determine portions. You mention the thumb for a tablespoon or an ounce, but I like using 2 dice instead, since some thumbs are bigger than others. 2 dice=1 ounce cheese, etc. That always helps me!

  21. I love these cool tricks for portions! I’m the WORST at gauging amounts. THE. WORST. Ever. So I will definitely use these tricks. πŸ˜‰

    Your doughnuts look wonderful. Apple cider doughnuts are the best! Oh, and I’m terrified of frying, too, and not just for health reasons (well, I guess not wanting oil-burns counts as a health reason :P).

    My always foods are peanut butter, oats, EVOO in some form or another, air-popped popcorn (my usual source of EVOO actually haha), veggies, fruit (especially bananas) and raisins. Nuts are more like an “often” food haha.

    My “sometimes” food is definitely baked goods. I really don’t bake muffins and quick breads all that much (hmmm, maybe because I want to eat all of it when I do? ;)).

    This was a great post, Jessie! πŸ™‚

  22. Have fun at the conference!

    Always food: fruits and veggies. Sometimes food: pumpkin ice cream! (Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s a bit more than “sometimes” right now…)

    1. Actually, I’ve made these doughnuts before by frying them in an inch or two of oil and they turn out great! This time, however, I only had about 2 tbsp, so they turned out awful … good question!

  23. Great post Jessie! Those donuts look great – James and I had some similar ones last year in Boston and he’s been suggesting we make our own – now I have a recipe! πŸ™‚

    My always foods include things like:

    – oatmeal
    – fruit/veggie smoothies
    – chopped veggies
    – broth/veggie-based soups and stews (especially in the fall)
    – unsalted mixed nuts and seeds
    – fresh fruit (especially apples!)

    My sometimes foods:
    – ice cream (or lactose-free imitations)
    – alcohol (wine, or the occasional cocktail, cider, or beer)
    – cookies, cake, muffins, etc.

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