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5 Reasons to Celebrate Walk to School Day

Build Community, Movement Mindset, Health and Safety One Step at a Time

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Today is Walk to School Day, something most of our grandparents would laugh about. A friend’s grandma, for instance, grew up in North Dakota. She remembers she and her sister would hold onto their little brother’s hands so he wouldn’t get lost in the snow drifts during winter. The girls wore tights and dresses, walking in sub-zero North Dakota temperatures.

Extreme? Definitely. And probably not the safest thing to do. But this was in 1924, and there were no such thing as “snow days.” But the mere act of walking to school (or biking) goes beyond “toughening up” for those snow days. (Probably uphill both ways.)

The freedom to walk to school (or bike) is all about community.

Walking, and biking, to school are ways to promote healthier habits, detect problem spots (traffic and safety) in neighborhoods, and build community. So, instead of just making it once/year, make walking and biking to school a year ‘round commitment.

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  1. Develop a movement mindset. Kids need regular physical activity to grow, strengthen their bones, build strong joints, improve flexibility and mental health. How much is regular physical activity? You’ll be surprised to know that The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children between the ages of 6 – 17. 
  2. Get a common goal. Get the children’s school to start a walk-a-thon during the month of October. Raise funds for better school sports equipment or something activity-centered. What a fun way to keep exercise on the brain!
  3. Promote safety. Children must wear helmets when riding a bike. Teach them how to use the bike lanes and/or sidewalks when they can. Teach them necessary hand signals and that traffic signals, too, correspond to bike riders. Teach children to look both ways before crossing the street.

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  4. Minimize risk. Criminal Minds ruined parents for life. We see predators at every corner. In an age of over-information, over-reporting, there is a definite gap between our perception of safety and the reality. That said, I’m not recommending you send a five-year-old to walk alone to school. There are ways, though, to walk and ride to school and minimize risk. Start a neighborhood walking club where parents take turns accompanying the younger children to school. Create bicycle trains – where there’s a meeting point and everybody rides their bikes together. Take back your streets … together!
  5. Make it a community effort. Show your local politicians and city planners the need for lowered speed limits, bike paths, sidewalks, and traffic signals. Go to city council and school board meetings. Start a petition. Make muscle-powered transportation more visible, and viable. Get involved!

The freedom to walk, or ride, to school is a privilege, though it shouldn’t be. We can change the way we view our car-centric society, one step at a time. And by doing so, we’re creating a community of healthier, more active, children. 

Get moving. Get biking. Get involved in Walk to School Day. And wear out those shoes!

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8 Nutrition Tips for Vegetarians or Want-to-be Vegetarians from Registered NYC Dietitian

Celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month

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Not too long ago, vegetarianism was considered a radical choice. We’ve all had family members – mostly grandmothers and great grandmothers – who balked at the idea of becoming vegetarian. Some of my clients have shared how defensive others get when they mention they’re a vegetarian, as if their food choices were a challenge to family tradition. It’s not uncommon, especially in smaller cities or more rural areas, for vegetarians to struggle.

People choose to be vegetarian for many different reasons: moral decisions about not wanting to harm animals or the environment, health reasons, food intolerance issues, religious or cultural reasons, among others. Whatever the reason, the lack of support from family and friends, and even a lack of support from establishments (schools, the workplace, local restaurants and supermarkets) make the choice to become vegetarian challenging. Luckily, we’ve made a lot of headway. Going “veg” isn’t as radical as it was once considered. 

Not all vegetarians are the same. Vegans are people who don’t use or ingest any animal products – not even wearing silk or leather, or eating honey. Lacto-vegetarians include dairy products in their diets. Lacto-ovo vegetarians include dairy products and eggs in their diets. And finally pesco-vegetarians include fish in their diets.

There’s so much misinformation about what being a vegetarian is and how vegetarians receive adequate nutrition – from what seems like a very complicated diet. But I’d argue that everyone has challenges to meet dietary recommendations. They’re just different for vegetarians and meat eaters.

October 1 is World Vegetarian Day, and in October we celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month. Whether you’re a vegetarian or are considering moving toward a vegetarian diet, there are some nutritional challenges you need to be aware of. Here are 7 nutrition tips for vegetarians or want-to-be vegetarians.

  1. Know why you want to make this choice. If it’s to lose weight in order to avoid certain foods, it might not be the best route. Vegetarianism shouldn’t be considered a crash diet. 
  2. Change from an animal-based diet to vegetarian diet slowly
    1. Cut red meats out of your diet first. 
    2. Try one new recipe each week. 
    3. Start experimenting with vegetable-based proteins (beans, lentils, chick-peas) in your sauces and soups.
    4. Take a cooking class or get some books out of the libraries. Being a vegetarian in such a meat-centered community takes extra study to insure you get the nutrients you need.
  3. Make a list. What do you usually eat for meals and snacks? Now, investigate healthy vegetable-based substitutes for the meat products in your list.

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  4. Protein, protein, protein matters. One of a vegetarian’s biggest challenges is getting enough protein. A complete protein provides the eight essential amino acids (nine in children) our bodies need every day. Proteins create the nuts and bolts (amino acids) of every cell in our body that are necessary for almost all biological processes. There are some phenomenal plant-based complete proteins: soy beans and tofu, hemp, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and micro algae.  Incomplete proteins in plant foods can be mixed together to create a complete protein. Grains, cereals, nuts, or seeds can be combined with dried beans, peas, lentils, peanuts or peanut butter. And you don’t even have to eat them together … at the same time. The proteins from these foods go into the protein pool in our bodies where all the amino acids combine as needed throughout the day. Biology is phenomenal.
  5. B12, calcium, iron and fatty acids are must-haves for good nutrition. These nutrients are found in dairy products and meats. Vegans, especially, are at risk for not getting their fair-share of B12 and might need a nutritional supplement or nutritional yeast. Many plant foods, such as tofu, dark leafy greens and some legumes, are excellent sources of calcium. Some foods are fortified with these nutrients, so be on the look out!

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  6. Take soy off the black list!  Soy is a great source of protein, good fats, calcium, and iron (see above). You can use Tofu (extra firm) in pasta sauces and vegetarian chili recipes. Add soybeans to salads and soups.  Use soy beverages (unsweetened) for pancakes, oatmeal, and smoothies. That said there is good research out there to support that isolate soy protein is problematic. It is processed and added to foods. Read the labels.
  7. Vegetarian processed foods are still processed foods. I call them Frankenstein foods, those foods that have a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. The market abounds with “veggie burgers”, fake chicken, and other products that pass themselves off as the veggie version of the meat. These products are often jam-packed with sodium and aren’t healthy options.
  8. Get an appointment with a registered dietitian to support you and help you create a meal plan that gives you the adequate calories and nutrients you need. This is especially important if you’re transitioning from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian diet.

Now there are many Websites and organizations that support vegetarians with tips and recipes. Thug kitchen is funny, irreverent, and is like tough biker gang goes vegan. Other useful websites are the Mayo Clinic’s vegetarian diet pyramid, and the Vegetarian Resource Group. 

The more you know, research, and learn about vegetarianism, the less restricted you will feel. This will help you on your road to becoming, or continuing to be, a vegetarian.

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8 Easy-to-Follow Tips to Increase Your Fruit and Vegetable Consumption:

More Matters For Your Health

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When I create an individualized meal plan for my clients, oftentimes they’re shocked, and intimidated, by how many fruits and vegetables they should be eating. Most Americans eat way less than what’s recommended. In general, the American diet includes too many processed foods and too few fruits and vegetables.

But going from zero to at least half a plate chock-full of fruits and/or vegetables EACH MEAL can be overwhelming. Also, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. (Broccoli … again?) 

In September (and year ‘round) #MoreMatters. It’s a month to bring awareness of the deficit of fruits and vegetables in most people’s diet. Today, I want to dedicate the blog to how you can increase your fruit and vegetable consumption with these 8 easy-to-follow tips. As a registered dietitian, it’s my job to help you make the healthy choice the easy choice.

  1. Start with one. One apple, one pear, a plate of carrot sticks each meal. Just one addition is a great start to increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. Add at least one fruit and/or vegetable each meal, or, better yet, add one fruit and one vegetable each meal. For fresher fruits and vegetables, find out what’s in season and shop accordingly. This keeps things interesting and these in-season choices are usually less expensive. 
  2. You don’t have to see it … for it to be there. Call it the Sixth Sense Vegetable trick!  Add shredded carrots, pumpkin, and zucchini to your spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, and stews. Stick broccoli and cauliflower in the blender to thicken your sauces as well. Blend up your favorite in-season fruits with yogurt for a smart, and delicious, breakfast smoothie. Make frozen fruit pops for an early fall treat. And there’s still time for watermelon slush (Kids especially love anything food item that is called “slush”.)

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  3. Get cauliflower creative! Some new trends are cauliflower crust pizzas and substituting rice and potatoes for this cruciferous favorite. Or, try a creamy cauliflower sauce instead of sour cream. What can cauliflower not do? Well, be green. But that’s okay. It’s lighter than our carb favorites and packs a high-fiber, high antioxidant punch. 
  4. Frozen works! Frozen fruits and vegetables have just as many nutrients as fresh fruits and vegetables. Research has found that there’s not a discernable difference between fresh and frozen corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries, and blueberries. Though I always recommend to buy in-season, satisfying that berry craving in winter isn’t out of the question. Plus, it can keep your palate motivated to bulk up on fruits and vegetables. No excuses!
  5. Start the day with berries or fruit on cereal or in your oatmeal. Make a habit of having fruit first thing in the morning – a cut-up banana or handful of berries. 
  6. Keep it easy! Save time and prepare things ahead of time, keeping cut up fruit and vegetables in the fridge for a quick snack – making it just as easy to snack on fruits and raw vegetables as potato chips. Have hummus, yogurt, peanut butter, or guacamole on hand for a dipping treat.

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  7. Think in colors! Variety is the spice of life, and the key to good health. Make sure you get the colors you need: purple, green, orange, red, blue, yellow … and lots of them in your meals. The more variety, the healthier you will be! Plus, they add pizazz to an otherwise boring plate. Add crunchy red cabbage to an arugula and strawberry salad. Add chunky bits of mango or frozen strawberries to your favorite spinach salad. Mix and match and make the colors pop!
  8. Shop smart. Stay away from those inner aisles in the grocery store. They’ll suck you in with dazzling packaging and health promises. The healthiest way to shop is the parameter of the store. If you buy canned vegetables, rinse them out a couple of times because of the high salt content. Nutrition label literacy is key to making healthier choices.

Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake doesn’t have to break the bank or turn your eating habits upside down. These 8 easy-to-follow tips can help you get healthier and help get you to make smart snack and meal decisions (one vegetable, one fruit at a time!)

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6 Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer from New York Registered PT

What Can a Personal Trainer Do For you?

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Personal trainers are for Hollywood A-list stars, supermodels, and athletes, right?

Wrong.

There’s a lot of mythology around what personal trainers do and who should hire them. Plus, fitness apps abound, everything from do-good while exercising Charity miles to Fitbit (your own portable personal trainer). 

What can a personal trainer do for the normal people out there? When should you hire a personal trainer and make it worth your time and money?

  1. Personal trainers are an investment for retirement. Retirement can be tricky. Active retirees are more likely to live longer, healthier lives. After 30+ years of work, some retirees are at a loss as to how to remain active. There are four pillars to every senior exercise program. Being fit as a senior is simply the difference between independent living and assisted living. It can also improve common symptoms that come with age, like arthritis while keeping aging muscles and immune systems young. A good personal trainer will assess individual needs, create a personalized exercise program, and set goals to keep you motivated. All this will keep you more active and healthier. 
  2. Personal trainers are guides, creating personalized programs that fit into YOUR life. So many clients of mine have signed up for expensive gym memberships, arrived, ready to tackle the world, and pretty much gotten lost in the machines. Gyms can be intimidating places. A personal trainer can help you feel more comfortable at the gym or find ways for you to exercise in your daily life. In my experience, my clients who have to go out of their way to exercise simply don’t. A personal trainer will find ways to get you moving and exercising every single day.personal trainers
  3. Personal trainers are great for short-term goals. Do you want to run a marathon? Compete in your first triathlon? Or, are you simply trying to get ready to dance with your daughter at her wedding or take your family hiking to the Grand Canyon on your next vacation? When you have a finite goal, hiring a personal trainer is a smart thing to do. They keep you motivated and on track, setting reachable goals. 
  4. Personal trainers are great for when you hit that wall. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. It’s hard to push past that five-mile mark when running. Oftentimes, my clients don’t know how to push their bodies further. A personal trainer is a great ally when it comes to pushing you beyond your limits (safely) and getting you to the next level. 
  5. Personal trainers are teachers. The best trainers explain why your personalized exercise regime will help you reach your fitness goals AND they will teach you how to do them well, reducing the risk of injury, increasing their effectiveness. Form, posture, and technique are critical to a successful exercise program. 
  6. Personal trainers help develop life-long habits. By learning techniques and finding ways to make movement part of your daily mentality, you will develop healthy exercise habits.

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Creating individualized workouts, setting personalized goals, keeping you accountable, and teaching clients the most effective exercises to do to reach those goals aren’t things you can get on an App. Hiring a personal trainer can have some powerful, long-term effects. Remember, though, to ensure your trainer is certified from one of these organizations: ACE (American Council on Exercise), ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), ISSA (International Sports Science Association), or NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine). 

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4 Easy-to-Follow Tips to Make Time for Breakfast from New York Nutritionist

Don’t Skip Out on Breakfast

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For some reason, and as often as we read, hear, and even say, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” the idea is still met with skepticism. Breakfast continues to score pretty low on many people’s priority list. 

It’s normal. We’ve become a sleep deprived society, thanks, in large part, to poor sleep hygiene, more work demands to complete in less time, and the enticing world of electronics. Naturally, skipping out on breakfast to sleep in an extra fifteen minutes is too tempting.

Moreover, with the focus on getting out of the house (or getting the kids out of the house), packing lunches, making sure you’ve got your presentation for work ready, among the thousands of things that steamroll us in the morning, life can distract from the recognition of hunger. Many clients tell me they are not hungry in the morning. Breakfast can become difficult.

The biological reality is that, however, we need breakfast. Our bodies have been “fasting” for the last seven hours and need nourishment. Our brains need nourishment to work. To kick start our brain power, breakfasts should have fat (nuts, seeds, avocadoes, whole eggs), protein (fatty fish, nuts, dairy products, lean meats), and carbs (whole-grain breads, cereals, steel cut oats, quinoa). 

We’re not magical beings, though. And mornings will, most likely, always be busy. Just as you schedule meetings and doctor’s appointments, why not find a way to schedule breakfast? 

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Here are four easy-to-follow tips to make time for the most important meal of the day. 

  1. Who says breakfast has to be … breakfast? Leftovers are a hit in my house for breakfast. Heat up last night’s lasagna, or a bowl of soup for the morning. It’s a great way to use up leftovers and save time (brain time – what’s for breakfast, and prep time).
  2. Plan ahead. Try some easy, fast-and-friendly recipes that you can prepare ahead of time. 
    1. Overnight oats can be prepared the night before. In the morning, add cut-up fruit and nuts for a quick, nourishing breakfast. Or go instant! (Not the pre-packaged kind). Buy instant oats. For every tablespoon, add a half a cup of water or milk, a pinch of salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Serve with cut up fruit and a drizzle of honey. Five minutes!
    2. Make your favorite muffins (pumpkin, pear oatmeal, strawberry bran). Muffins from the store are basically cupcakes. Homemade muffins can use ½ the amount of sugar called for in the recipe and still pack that craved-for-sweet flavor without losing nutritional value. 
    3. Wrap up leftovers (black beans, chicken, cheeses and more) in a whole-wheat tortilla for a yummy breakfast burrito.
  3. Eat … later. Instead of eating in the midst of the morning flurry, plan to get to work fifteen minutes earlier and enjoy your breakfast there. Or, after the kids are out, sit down at the table, be mindful of the food you are putting into your mouth. Ten minutes of quiet eating can fill more than your stomach. It can fill your soul.
  4. Learn to listen to your body and its cues. With so many distractions, we often put our biological needs last. STOP. Stop. Take the time to listen and pay attention. Observe. Proceed. 

September is officially #BetterBreakfastMonth. Starting in World War I, the US Government urged citizens to eat a better breakfast. The need to stop and consider our breakfast habits holds true eve more today. Nourishing your body after a night is essential to start the day right. 

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NYC Registered Dietitian Celebrates The Slow Food Movement

Slow Food is Sustainable, Healthy, and Accessible

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Joyful living, passion, great films, magical seascapes, mountains, vineyards, rich flavors, and a history so decadent, seeped in art and architecture, Italy and Italians are models of great living. So it’s no surprise the Slow Food Movement was born in the 1980s in Italy’s capital. 

Carlo Petrini and a group of activists organized a demonstration against McDonald’s on the Spanish Steps in Rome in 1986, the site for McDonald’s next restaurant. Here was the birth of The Slow Food movement. Shortly thereafter, in 1989, the Slow Food Manifesto: International Movement for the Defense of and the Right to Pleasure was signed in Paris, making this an international affair.

Going back in time to experience the joy and traditions of food, slow food, is having its own Renaissance. In fact, since founding The Slow Food movement, there are over 100,000 members and 2,000 food communities that practice sustainable agriculture. Petrini has been voted one of the most influential ecologists in the world, most likely to save the planet, as well as been awarded The UN Environmental Award (Champion of the Earth). All because he believes every human being has the right to a pleasant meal.

As a mom, and grandmother, I understand our definitions of pleasure might vary. For many years, a pleasant meal was one I could eat while it was still hot. The Slow Food Movement, though, challenges the way we view food, and the toll our food choices have on the world and our health.

It’s hard to imagine a supermarket without packaged goods, a city without takeout and drive-thrus, a convenience store without microwave burritos, and how “essential” these conveniences are to our lives. The Slow Food movement challenges these ideas. It goes beyond sitting at the table with the family (which is important). It’s about eating clean, reducing our carbon footprint, supporting local farmers and agricultural projects, and providing accessibility to good, healthy food at a fair price for everybody.

I understand that a lot of this can feel overwhelming. Organic food products are more expensive. Also, “organic” doesn’t mean a food was grown sustainably. Many people live in places where they don’t have access to fresh foods. Most people don’t have a backyard where they can raise their own chickens. Many people don’t want to raise their own chickens. I understand. But there are some things we can all do to embrace this idea of Slow Food, improve the way we eat and view eating, and reduce the impact we have on the environment.

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  1. Bring your own bag. Something as simple as not using the plastic bags in the supermarket can have a powerful impact over time.  
  2. Get naked. Purchase products that have minimal to no packaging. Go straight to the butcher, for instance, instead of buying pre-packaged meats. Buy fresh produce, instead of packaged. 
  3. Meet your local farmers. Many communities, at least during summer, have farmers markets. Meet local farmers. Learn about their practices. And buy products, in season, from them. During winter months, you can still choose in-season fruits and vegetables to reduce your carbon footprint.
  4. Get a green thumb. Anyplace is a good place for a little herb garden. Basil, oregano, rosemary, mint … all can be grown in a small little herb garden in almost any space. For those who have space, grow a garden. All summer and fall can be a celebration of a harvest and sustainability.
  5. Pasture-raised livestock is more environmentally friendly and humane. If you can afford it, it’s a more flavorful, healthier, sustainable, and humane choice.
  6. Eat more … produce. Fruits and vegetables are healthier for your body … and the planet! 
  7. Order from the tap. Tap water, beer on tap (😊) … avoid the bottle and the waste.
  8. Make more. Cooking food takes energy. Instead of making pasta sauce or soup for one meal, make a double batch and freeze it. 
  9. Take the local meal challenge. What’s growing around you? Cook one local meal each week, using only local ingredients. Connect with local growers and producers.
  10. Eat together! Mealtime doesn’t begin when the food is served. 

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Food is culture. Food is tradition. Food is family and history and stories and connection. We all have the right to pleasure. And being conscientious of our food choices will help us make more mindful decisions and, in turn, make us healthier.

Slow down and enjoy your meals today!

Bagel Sandwich

Creative, Healthy, Easy-to-Prepare Lunch Ideas from NYC Registered Dietitian

Get out of the Back to School Lunch Rut

 

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Let’s be real. Life is busy. And finding time, and energy, to make healthy, varied, and balanced back to school lunches is a tall order for most. Sure. There’s always that parent who manages to make star-shaped sandwiches with a yogurt parfait. If that’s you, you can skip this blog because you’ve got it down.

I, too, was a working mom. I, too, had kids that complained about how boring their lunches were. And, I, too, felt overwhelmed. Back to school lunches, though, don’t have to be a family battleground. 

Here are 8 tips to creative, healthy, easy-to-prepare lunch ideas. Really! It’s possible.

  1. Get the kids involved. What do they want to eat? Have them help create the grocery list and do the shopping. They can pack their own lunches. Shift the responsibility of choosing, and quantities, to your child. 
  2. YOU provide the choices. Okay. As soon as I say, “Have your kids pack their own lunch,” we imagine bags of chocolates, soda, and tar-like fruit bars. There is a division of responsibility in eating. I refer to Ellen Sattyr’s work often. As a parent, you are responsible for what, when, and where. And your child is responsible for how much and whether.
    1. Have a list of lunch box choices hanging up on the refrigerator or in the pantry. Include a three-column approach: protein, fruit, carb. Let your kids mix and match.
    2. Trust your child to eat. Food isn’t about control, instead about nourishment, relationships, family and more. Some days kids eat non-stop. Others, they’re not hungry. Trust your child.
  3. Get trending. In-season fruits and vegetables are more flavorful, less expensive, and fresher. This guarantees variety, as well. Take advantage of August’s harvest before the chill of fall sets in. Berries, peaches, and avocadoes top the list. If you can, buy extra to freeze for a mid-winter surprise.
  4. Save time! 6:00 am is no time to be chopping up carrots or blending garbanzos for hummus. Roast a chicken on Sunday, cube it up, and use it in sandwiches and salads during the week. Make kebobs with roasted chicken and chunks of cheese, cherry tomatoes, and olives (for the more adventurous eaters). Spiral raw vegetables while watching your favorite show. Store them air-tight containers for a quick go-to snack or lunchbox item. (They will save 3 – 5 days).

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  5. Nothing’s better than leftover pizza. Leftover pasta salad? Leftover roast beef? These are your lunchbox friends. Clean out the fridge and give your kids lunchbox variety.
  6. Rethink the classics. Instead of sliced (boring) bread, wrap ingredients up in whole wheat tortillas, pita bread, lettuce (for wraps), whole-wheat pancakes and crepes. Bring on the inner Elvis with bacon, peanut butter, and raisins on a whole grain bagel. Go dipping with guacamole, hummus, or yogurt paired with cut up fruits and vegetables. Easy, quick presentations that are enticing and interesting can keep kids interested and eating well!
  7. Water! Water with lemon slices, strawberry slices, melon and mint are refreshing takes on this classic beverage. 😊 Steer clear of juice boxes and sodas that are usually packed with sugar.

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  8. Ideas. Okay, what’s for lunch? Here are just a few ideas to keep your lunches interesting and delicious.
    1. Turkey, bacon and cream cheese wraps.
    2. Fruit salad with yogurt and drizzled honey.
    3. Hummus with carrot sticks and pita triangles.
    4. Bagel pizzas (tomato sauce, chunky roasted chicken and shredded mozzarella).
    5. Sub sandwiches with whole-grain bread, leftover roast beef (or turkey, chicken etc.), bacon, and all the yummy toppings.
    6. Pasta salad with chunky chicken, cheese, raisins, shredded carrots, and other favorites.
    7. Homemade trail mix (peanuts, dried fruits, chocolate chips, granola, shredded coconut) with a yogurt and drizzle of honey.
    8. Crunchy PB sandwich wraps (whole wheat tortillas with cut up apples, peanut butter, and craisins. Add celery sticks for that extra crunch!).

Lunches can be healthy, inexpensive, and easy-to-prepare. It’s easy to fall into the same old sandwich rut. But with a few twists and adjustments, you can keep kids eating well while giving them the variety they need for a healthy diet.

Happy Birthday, Julia, From NYC Registered Dietitian

Celebrating Passion, Flavor, and Health in 2018

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” ― Julia Child

If you mention Julia Child to anyone under fifty, they most likely know her through Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, which was an insanely successful blog, followed by a book deal, followed by a movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. 

It’s hard to understand the indelible mark Julia Child had on American cuisine. How did one woman change thousands of Americans’ eating habits? And why does that matter?

What Julia Child did was make her passion – French cooking – accessible to everyone. She turned spending time in the kitchen and the act of cooking – what was thought to be tedious and mind-numbing – into a place where art happened. She celebrated food, flavors, and the act of creating a meal, beginning to end.

Plus she made it so that anybody could pull off Boeuf Bourguignon. 

This year, I’ve spent a lot of time on the blog discussing not what Americans eat but how. And I wish Julia Child was here to teach us all to slow down and learn how to make a cheese soufflé. But since she’s not, I will try to take some of Julia Child’s most cherished quotes and add my nutritionist/personal trainer take. 

  1. “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” I think this speaks for itself.
  2. “A party without cake is just a meeting.” Enjoy cake! Food is history, tradition, and culture. Imagine a holiday without your grandma’s potato kugel, mother’s apple pie. Flavors have hundreds, even thousands, of years of history. Learn how to make your aunt’s favorite dessert. Teach your children, teach a friend. Share your stories and history with food.
  3. “The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook.” When we have a healthy relationship with food, we don’t fall into the diet fads and myths. Eating and food aren’t enemies, instead moments to cherish and share and nourish ourselves and family. 
  4. “You’ll never know anything about anything, especially something you love.” I love this. As a dietitian and personal trainer, it’s critical for me to keep up on the latest information and studies. With internet and everything being so available, it’s easy to get caught up in kale crazes and coconut oil. 
  5. “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” What we eat matters. Eating clean, eating healthy, and choosing in-season fruits, vegetables, and fish are easy ways to eat well. 
  6. “Life itself is the proper binge.” Binge on life, on experiences, on flavors, on connection. Fall in love with food, with your health, with your life again!

Today is Julia Child’s birthday. (She would’ve been 106 years old). This probably isn’t the most conventional blog post from a registered dietitian, but I think it’s an important one. 

Happy Birthday, Julia. 

 

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An Essential, Often Forgotten, Component of an Effective Training Program from NYC Registered Personal Trainer

How Sleep and Rest are Essential to Effective Training, Exercise, and Recovery

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Team Sky is one of the top cycling teams in the world. Its tour bus has been nicknamed The Death Star. While its daunting appearance – black and large-enough to be seen from outer space – and the relentless way the cyclists from Team Sky attack a race lend to the nickname, the bus is anything but a death star. It’s a refuge of comfort and rest.

With Team Sky’s innovative way of racing, focusing on marginal gains, having a bus that is a mecca for rest and recovery is a critical component of their success. They’re focused on short-term and long-term recovery for their athletes. No amount of rest is too small.

In the non-cycling world, it’s not uncommon to hear people brag about how little sleep they get. It’s almost become a badge of honor. Pulling all-nighters studying or finishing a report at the office have somehow become signs of undying dedication. Add a 5:00 am wakeup to get exercise in, and we’ve got a vision of a modern-day millennial.

Sleep, though, is an essential part of a healthy life and exercise regime. There’s a symbiotic relationship between sleep and exercise. The better you sleep, the better you’ll exercise. Just as the more active you are, the better you’ll sleep.

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Lack of sleep has some detrimental effects on athletes (of any level) including:

  • Slower muscle recovery
  • Mood changes
  • Decreased glycogen synthesis. Muscle glycogen, in post-exercise muscle and with adequate carbohydrates and rest, is re-synthesized to near pre-exercise levels within 24 hours, then increases to above-normal levels over the next few days. For optimal training, this muscle glycogen needs to be replenished daily. Without adequate rest and good nutrition, this doesn’t happen. 
  • Increased levels of stress hormones, in particular cortisol.

Good sleeping habits, on the other hand, are fundamental in an athlete’s recovery:

  • A good night’s sleep recharges your battery. The Central Nervous System takes charge when it comes to the body responding to pain, triggering muscle contractions, and response time. During sleep, your CNS gets a much-needed re-boot. Without sleep, after exercise, your body will feel more tired. 
  • Sleep helps recover your endocrine system and hormone profiles. As mentioned above, increased levels of stress hormones, in particular cortisol, can hurt performance.
  • During sleep, your muscles recover. During the day, your body’s central nervous system has to take care of a million things. Sleep is the body’s chance to slow down and focus on breathing, replenishing hormones, and tissue repair. During the day, the CNS has to use its resources for other things (like remembering to pick up the kids from school, working out a budget, and pulling weeds). Without sufficient sleep, you don’t give your body the time it needs to work on tissue repair, muscle recovery.

 

Team Sky is aware that every second of recovery is important, as it can shave milliseconds off the clock. So, here are 5 tips to get the much-needed rest your body needs to recover after exercise and, by doing so, improve performance levels.

  1. Have a sleep routine. What do you do to get ready to work out? Most of us have a routine. It’s a way to prepare the body to know what to expect. Do the same for sleep. 
    1. Turn off electronics at least an hour before sleeping. (No more late-night chatting.). Instead, read a book. Talk to someone (face-to-face). When we are exposed to artificial light, our melatonin levels lower because our bodies don’t realize it’s nighttime. Dim the lights and get your melatonin boost for a good night’s rest.
    2. Write down everything you want to accomplish the next day. This clears your mind of to-dos, unattended business, clutter. Stress leads to sleeplessness which leads to less time for the body to recuperate. 
    3. Take time to meditate. Breathe in and out deeply and fill your mind with positive thoughts.

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  2. Wake up! It just takes two days to get us off our sleep schedule. So, as tempting as it is to indulge in a lazy Saturday morning, resist. 
  3. Don’t exercise right before bed. Give yourself at least an hour to cool down between the time you exercise and go to bed. 
  4. Keep the bedroom cool. Unless you have other plans the best sleep temperature is no hotter than 69 degrees. A cool bedroom helps slow your heart rate down. Literally, night time is time to chill out.
  5. Snack your way to a good night’s sleep: What we eat has a huge effect on how we sleep. Everything from a healthy breakfast (avoiding sugars so we don’t put our bodies through ups and downs) to portion size can either make, or break, our sleep. Avoid caffeine in the afternoons. In the evening, choose foods with tryptophan (turkey, chicken, tofu, eggs or lentils) and combine with a carb for maximum snooze effect: chicken noodle soup, turkey slices on a whole wheat cracker, eggs on pita bread. Avoid alcohol at night as well. 

Sleep is essential to health, mental health, and improved results in exercise. Top athletes never dismiss the importance of sleep and rest, so why should we?

Have a good night!

kefir

Gut Feelings, Gut Health from New York Registered Dietitian

Bring on the Kefir, Kimchi, Kombucha and Yoga!

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100 trillion.

That’s about how many bacteria live in our guts. These trillions of bacteria create their own eco-system called a microbiome. This microbiome has a macro-effect on our health. Executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Kelly Bilodeau, writes, “Researchers are beginning to link these tiny creatures to all sorts of health conditions from obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.”

Gut health is directly tied to mental health, weight maintenance, immunology, and the prevention of chronic disease. 

Though the research is astounding, we’ve become a nation of bacteria-phobes. With the overly common trend of slapping on anti-bacterial gel to rid the world, and our lives, of bacteria, our guts, and our health, can suffer. The key to health is maintaining a balanced microbiome. We simply need to add foods (prebiotics) that support the microbiome of good bacteria that live in the gut, which are the probiotics. 

That sounds way more complex than it really is.

So often we hear about probiotics, but as the Mayo Clinic article explains, there’s a symbiotic relationship between prebiotics and probiotics and our gut health.

The human body is a pretty cool machine. Prebiotics mostly come from plant fibers, complex carbohydrates. Prebiotics are high in special types of fiber that support gut health. Prebiotics are found in many food sources from the more common – sweet potatoes and kale – to the more exotic – dandelion greens and chicory root. The body can’t digest these fibers, so they pass to the digestive system as food for the microbiome and those trillions of bacteria. 

The magic doesn’t stop there. Probiotics are naturally occurring bacteria in the gut. Probiotics we consume have live bacteria that add to those trillions of bacteria we already have. Probiotics come from naturally fermented foods: yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, feta cheese, manchego cheese and more.

To maximize gut health, and overall health, there are several things you can do. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds.

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  1. Be intentional about food choices. Make sure you include prebiotics and probiotics  in your diet every day. Some recommended combinations include:
    1. An apple or oats with yogurt or kefir. (Choose the healthiest yogurts to avoid excess sugar).
    2. A mango and berry smoothie (using kefir). Add chia seeds for an extra punch.
    3. Onions and feta cheese.
    4. Dandelion greens and Manchego cheese salad.
    5. Garlic roasted veggies, green olives, and aged cheeses.
    6. Jicima and jacon with yogurt dip. (A refreshing summer snack!)

Some cooking (like cooking artichokes, garlic and asparagus – all great sources of prebiotics) damages the strength of those foods, so you won’t get the big prebiotic punch you hoped for. 

The list of prebiotics and probiotics is long, varied, and exciting. There are so many interesting food combinations to try. Make these combos part of your everyday meals and snacks and give your body the bacteria boost it needs.

  1. Be antibiotic aware. Antibiotics are often necessary. That said, many problems occur when we don’t complete the full course of antibiotics prescribed by our physician or use leftover antibiotics (self-prescribing) instead of throwing them out. So be smart about antibiotics. Don’t abuse or over-use them. Most people need a supplement to help boost their intestinal bacteria after finishing antibiotics. 
  2. Drink up! Steer clear of sugary drinks. Artificial sweeteners and sugar weaken the gut microbiome. If you’re looking for flavor, go for kombucha – a flavorful drink made out of naturally fermented tea leaves. And you can never go wrong with water, water, water … and water. Most of us walk around dehydrated. Our bodies need water, way more than we’re accustomed to drinking.

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  3. Get moving. There are few things more important to health than a movement mindset. Research has shown that a consistent exercise regime improves gut bacteria. 

Gut health is our health. By making some small changes in our exercise routines and diet, we can make a big difference in our health.