How ‘Normal People’ Eat: Dietitian Marcia Crawford

Marcia Crawford

Fort Wayne dietitian Marcia Crawford ran a nutrition column called “Eat Right” in The News-Sentinel for years.

Now she’s got a blog, a book and a series of cooking videos on Youtube. (See below for her shrimp linguine video.)

What she doesn’t have, not surprisingly, is a weight problem. Here’s what Marcia has to say about creating a healthy lifestyle for the whole family:

Q. You don’t look like the type of person who’s ever had to worry too much about her weight. Should I hate you?

A. All four of my grandparents came from the Mediterranean region so that’s the diet my parents were raised on and the one I grew up with. That’s my “norm” so to speak which is pretty darn healthy at its roots. The diet is plant based with a bit of fish; you can’t get much healthier than that.  So, if you need to hate somebody, it would have to be my grandparents. 

Q. What led you to study nutrition and make that a career?

A. I had these two great teachers at Snider High School (Mr. Buzzard and Mr. King) who taught chemistry and biology so I found the sciences fascinating and had a good foundation for college level courses in those subjects leading into biochemistry.  And then to be honest, I had a home ec teacher who told me NOT to go into the field of dietetics because there was so much science required and it would be too hard for me – so, a bit of motivation there as well.

Q. What led you to write The Care and Feeding of an Almost Adult? (I love the 5-minute Chocolate Mug Cake, by the way.)

A. I have been teaching the Almost Adult for 30 years – college students who are out on their own for the first time making their own food choices.  Every semester, the students are assigned a dietary self-analysis; they note how poorly they eat and then explain it away that they don’t have the time, money or skill to cook.  So, I thought, I’ll fix that!  The book (and videos I made with my almost adult son) is meant to show that it does not take a lot of time, money or skill to eat well. But it does take a plan.

Q. What is your “Almost Adult’s” favorite recipe in the book?

A. Our son enjoys salmon on the grill (hold the lime); he might have answered that he loves the stir fry especially if it has fewer vegetables in it!

Q. Given your career, is your family predisposed toward being health conscious, or do they secretly crave the junk food you warn against?

A. Our family is quite health conscious and it’s a way of life; it’s not just in the nutrition realm, no one smokes, everyone is active…but those aren’t daily decisions we have to make. We’ve created an environment that encourages good habits. I got a new bike for my birthday and we’re taking a biking vacation this summer, not because it’s good exercise but because it will be fun.  

Whenever there is a food craving, we pretty much satisfy it. I think the longer you deny a food craving, the more you eat “around it”, the worse it gets. Big food binges can be a result. But, we are truly satisfied with smaller portions of foods that someone would identify as “junk”.

While my husband and I don’t eat fast food, our son does and if I know he’ll be eating a fast food lunch, I’ll make sure to hit 100 percent of his fruit and vegetable requirements for the day at the meals he eats at home.  Fast food is acceptable – but not most days.

Q. What do you eat for breakfast?

A. I eat a majority of my calories at breakfast. An egg most days (sometimes topped with salsa or at the very least hot sauce!), toast (either sour dough, English muffins, rye or this morning we had a cranberry/walnut bread from Honey On The Table), fresh fruit, sometimes oatmeal or cold cereal with skim milk in addition to everything else and then at least 4 cups of black coffee.  A scone or biscuit is an occasional weekend breakfast addition.

Q. What’s your biggest weakness, and how do you deal with it?

A. My right central incisor (the big tooth in front) is my sweet tooth; I would have it pulled, but I don’t think it would look good aesthetically. I deal with it by having acceptable sweets in the house.  Sweets that already have a built-in portion like cookies. I can be very satisfied with a single cookie (and my skim milk).  Sweets I love that aren’t self-limiting, like a carton of ice cream, I don’t keep in the house; that would be a food that doesn’t have a natural stopping point for me.  So, if I have an ice cream craving, I would go out to buy a single dip or a cone and be very satisfied with that portion.

Q. Does it bother you to get overly full?

A. I cannot stand that feeling of being stuffed.

Q. What do you do for exercise?

A. I walk on an elliptical or a treadmill in the morning; I take Pilates instruction from Mindful Movement weekly which has been very helpful for my inflexible back. I play a bit of tennis (not well) and I love biking in good weather.  Other than biking, I’m an indoor exerciser which eliminates any excuse for not exercising – too hot, too cold, too dark, too light…

Q. So I’m guessing you’re a “scale” person more than a jeans person — or do you use multiple methods to monitor your fitness level?

A. I am a scale person.  If I need back up information, I get it from my pedometer. My diet is rarely the contributor to a few pound pick up; it’s more apt to be a drop in exercise. So, I’ll get out a pedometer and prove to myself that I’m slacking off and it’s a fun gadget that motivates me. I’m also a patient, realistic person, so, to me, the scale is helpful.  To many people, the scale can be a real negative.

Q. What’s your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant?

A.  There is this fabulous spinach and arugula salad with goat cheese and toasted walnuts at Honey On The Table…but I had blackened scallops (from the appetizer menu) as an entree the other night at Baker Street, which I also love.  Wait, I just thought of the pizza at Biaggi’s or the chopped apple salad at Catablu Grille, well now you’ve done it…because we have someone who has homework to do, weeknight dinners are almost always eaten at home.  It’s faster, cheaper, and healthier for us; eating out is a treat.

Q. Imagine you’re on Death Row and you’ve got one final meal of your life. What do you ask for?

A. So, I’m not dying of natural causes? Well, it begins with a glass of cabernet and would finish with a DeBrand’s sundae but honestly, in between it would look just like any other dinner I enjoy – a salad and a great grilled fish.  Wait, I’d have a second glass of wine.

Q. Anything you’d like to add?

A. The family meal could be one of our strongest allies not only to help manage our weight. Good nutrition is just one of many healthy by-products from families eating together. McMillen Center for Health Education (I serve on their Board of Directors) is a great resource for helpful tips for The Family Table.

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