6 Tips to Eat Your Way Through the Holidays Guilt-Free from NYC Registered Dietitian

Make the Most of Your Holiday Meals

They’re here!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and then it’s a steep slide into Hanukah, Christmas, New Year, and all the days that happen in-between: office holiday parties, end-of-the-year encounters, cookie swaps, neighborhood caroling and more. And most people’s holiday family recipes don’t include raw carrots and hummus dip.

Here are some easy-to-follow holiday eating tips.

1. Shed the guilt! What an exhausting, horrible feeling when dealing with food. Our relationship with food is the same year ‘round. There are no goods and bads (okay, except for those highly processed Frankenstein foods). There’s just food. I often hear clients say, “I’m cheating this month.” You can’t “cheat” on food. You simply have to enjoy it. When we take away that guilt trip and stop looking at food as a reward or punishment, we can really enjoy, relish, taste, and appreciate the food on our plates and palettes.

 

2. Eat like the French! (Or Italians, Spanish, Greeks). Europeans cultivate a beautiful relationship with food. Food is a celebration!

3. Be mindful when eatingOvereating often happens at the holidays because we’re hungry and feel guilt for wanting to be decadent and indulge. 

a.  Scan the snack line for the treats that look most enticing – perhaps something that reminds you of home, or something entirely new. 

b.  Ask about the food, its history, who made it. Food is such an important way to connect with others.

c.  Appreciate the flavors. One of the best parts of the holidays is trying interesting foods. You might not always like them. Try them anyway. Then try something else!

d.  When you feel full, put your plate down, grab a glass of sparkling water, and enjoy the people you’re with.

4. Beware of the beverage! It’s easy to get lost in a frothy cup of hot cocoa. It’s part of the fun. Often, though, people indulge in sugar drinks because they might have low blood sugar from not eating enough foods that provide energy, like carbohydrates. Listen to your body’s cues because it’s important to eat during the holidays. Also, it’s important to have food in your stomach if you’re going to drink any alcohol. Stay hydrated! If you feel like you’ve had too much holiday sugar or *cheer*, drink sparkling water with cranberries and lemon Enjoy a sprinkle of nutmeg in your coffee or on top of a cup of hot chocolate (made with dark chocolate). 

5. Don’t skip meals. Anticipating a delicious meal later in the day is no reason to skip your regular mealsIt just sets your body up for starvation mode and overeating, which is not healthy. Give yourself permission to try everything! Stay mindful of the flavors and enjoy. Indulge in your co-worker’s famous latkes since you only get to taste them during this time of year. Research supports that guilt-free eating reduces overeating.

6. Enjoy traditionThe holidays are about family history, tradition, and passing that along from generation-to-generation, bite-by-bite. What better way to learn about your grandmother’s history than through the tastes she shares from her childhood? The same goes for coworkers! Sharing a meal is a beautiful way to share one another’s stories and honor them. You can go a step further and create a family (office, classroom) cookbook with favorite recipes, something everyone can cherish.

I am grateful for you, my readers.

I am grateful for my family, my work. I am grateful for the meals we share.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

 

kindness

How Gratitude Can Improve Your Exercise and Eating Habits from New York Dietitian

Take Time to Give Thanks

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It’s November. Gratitude is trending. Which can feel like the kale craze without the bitter aftertaste. It can also feel a bit … forced.

I’m not being cynical. But I think it’s important to be real. Some days are simply … hard. And searching for that silver-lining is maddening. Also, some days, it’s just fine to be grumpy. But grumpy doesn’t negate gratitude.

Gratitude is defined as a “strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something for what that person or thing has done to help you.” What makes gratitude complex is that it takes mindfulness. Gratitude is pausing to notice. In a world that runs non-stop, this moment of pause, this moment of awe, can be hard to grasp.

A big part of health is not only what we eat, but how we eat. It’s not rushing to exercise, instead being aware of our bodies while we exercise to progress and get stronger.

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This takes mindfulness. Mindful eating and exercising can become part of our daily health habits. Mindfulness leads to gratitude – becoming aware of where our food comes from, thankful for the hard work people did to grow, harvest, and bring it to us. It’s about being aware of our bodies, their movement, their potential.

Gratitude, then, becomes an intrinsic part of our daily life – every time we move, eat, drink, play. Every bite and movement nourish us, and this is something to celebrate, even when we are grumpy. And by doing so, we improve exercise and eating habits. We shift from auto-drive to meaningful living.

How?

  1. S.T.O.P.: Stop. Take three breaths. Observe. Proceed. Digestion improves when we eat in a calm state. This means taking the time to sit down and eat breakfast, instead of taking everything to go, on the go. Everybody has time to sit and eat. I refuse to believe that we’re all so busy we can’t find those quiet spaces. There’s a Zen proverb: When walking walk. When eating eat. It’s pretty basic and fundamental for health.kindness
  2. Mindfulness reduces cravings. When was the last time you sat down to watch TV and eaten through an entire tub of popcorn or bag of chips? You probably don’t even remember eating them? When we take the time to look at our food before putting it in our mouths, we curb cravings. We listen better to our body signals. And we put the bag of chips down.
  3. The five senses. Think about the colors, textures, flavors, sounds, and smells of the food on your plate. Enjoy the cool, bumpy feel of celery and watery crunch in your mouth. Taking the time to really notice food is a great way to appreciate every bite.
  4. Listen to your body! Your body is talking to you all the time! The craving for movement (many athletes get that tingling feeling telling them to get out and run!), the tension and stretch of muscles while doing yoga, the slight burn when exercising, even the growl of your stomach when it’s hungry. Being in tune to what our bodies need and responding is key to better movement, better health.
  5. Be kind to yourself. November 13 (TODAY!) is World Kindness Day. Start with being kind to yourself. That inner voice in your head? Talk like a 4-year-old wearing a Batman T-shirt. You’re invincible and beautiful! All that other stuff that’s piled up over the years in your brain telling you otherwise needs to go in the trash.kindness

Gratitude is critical to appreciating our bodies – what they do for us every day. We are diversely abled, but I think all my readers can relate to many of these things: Our hands allow us to squeeze our favorite toddler’s hand; our arms allow us to hug;  our legs allow us to walk, run, jog, dance, play tag, zombie stomp; our eyes allow us to appreciate the colors of fall; our noses allow us to take trips back in time to our grandmother’s home, to the first time we held a puppy, to a backpacking trip.

So, raise your glass (cup) to gratitude. Even if you are feeling surly!

halloween

8 Tips to a Healthy, Happy Halloween from NYC Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer

How to Keep Things Less Sugary and More Nutritious

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Halloween is fun. It’s a time of fantasy and possibility. Its traditions go back thousands of years, and there’s no denying the magic in a holiday where everybody finds their inner child!

There is a way to indulge in Halloween without slipping down the sugar rush slide. Really! Whether you’re trick-or-treating or hosting a Halloween party, just by making some adjustments, you can cut back on sugar, boost your activity levels, and keep Halloween Healthy (ish!) 😊.

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  1. Eat your witch’s brew first. Every year, my mom used to make us witch stew before trick-or-treating. We always filled up on chunky vegetables in beef broth because, well, it was witch’s brew. (During the year, we refused to touch the stuff). Eating a healthy meal before trick-or-treating will curb the crave. No kid ever turns her nose up at something from a black cauldron!
  2. Remember portion distortion? The same thing happens when trick-or-treaters use pillowcases instead of a small little container. Keep the trick-or-treat bag small for little ones, just getting one piece of candy at each house. This also makes for more walking to fill up. Avoid the pillowcase trend as long as you can.
  3. Walk … a lot. Trick-or-treating is a great way to explore the neighborhood and walk, walk, walk …The more houses you visit, the more you walk! So, keep the car in the garage, put on your Fit Bit and see how many steps you can take on the 31st!
  4. Check out expiration dates. Beware of outdated and funky looking candy. Toss it.halloween
  5. Monster Mash Halloween Munchies! Instead of candy-only, get creative with frightening and fun Halloween snacks.
    1. Frankenstein avocado toast (pureed avocados always look ghastly and taste great!)
    2. A vegetable skeleton with crushed bone dip.  (sliced peppers, mushrooms for the spine etc. all to dip in creamy yogurt).
    3. Zombie brains dip (hummus!)
    4. Pumpkin bran muffin bites and silver dollar pumpkin pancake bites.
    5. Sliced apple nacho plate (thin-sliced apples with peanut butter and a drizzle of dark chocolate).
    6. Beware of the beverage! Stick to sparkling water with a drop of food coloring. Freeze lychees with a raspberry for the perfect frozen eyeball garnish.
  6. Be the cool sticker house. Instead of candy, get erasers and pencils from the dollar-store to hand out. Or stickers, temporary tattoos … anything ghoulish and ghastly and fun.halloween
  7. Set expectations. If your six-year-old comes home with a pillowcase of candy, and you say, “Okay, kid, hand over half,” there might be a problem. However, if you talk about what candy can be kept, what can be eaten, and what candy needs to be handed over before trick-or-treating, you can avoid the sugar-high meltdown. What to do with the rest? Donate it to someone who needs it, keep it for holiday baking, or freeze it for later use, throughout the year.
  8. Be safe. Always. Don’t let kids go trick-or-treating alone. Always make sure they’re in groups, preferably with an adult. Make sure costumes don’t trip them up. Some costumes are SO CUTE and so terribly unmanageable. The same for masks. If kids wear masks, make sure they can see well. Get younger kids in before it gets dark. Host a fun movie night with some Halloween classics (kid-friendly).

Halloween is always a sugar-fest. It’s once a year! But with these easy-to-follow tips, you can curb the sugar crave, boost the freak factor, and make a safer, more nutritious Halloween.

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Nutrition and Exercise Tips for Better Bone Health from NYC Registered Dietitian

Be Aware and Read About World Osteoporosis Day for Better Bones

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Osteoporosis is called “the bone thief.” It’s a condition that causes the bones in the body to become weak and fragile, which, in turn, puts people at risk for fractures and breaks. These breaks and fractures can cause long-term disability and even be life-threatening.

There are many myths about osteoporosis. The most common ones I hear from clients are: It’s inevitable. There’s no turning back. It only happens to women. Only old people are at risk. Broken bones heal, so what’s the problem? I’m thin and in good shape, so I don’t have to worry.

Osteoporosis, in fact, happens to both men and women. It’s natural to lose bone density. And some women have a strong genetic background that results in them getting osteoporosis even when they do everything “right.” It is the degree to which the osteoporosis continues that can be somewhat mitigated with these behaviors.

Starting from a young age, we can build bone mass. In fact, the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) has a great program for girls between 9 and 18 called Best Bones Forever!® to encourage young girls to eat Vitamin D and calcium-rich diets and exercise, as these are considered a girl’s formative bone-building years. Finally, those who are thin, in particular women, are more at risk for developing osteoporosis.

It’s not too late. Our bone-building years happen between 9 and 18. Between the ages of 25 and 30, we reach our peak bone mass. And when we turn 40, we start losing bone mass. Our bodies cannot build bone mass after that. That said, we can maintain!

So, what can we do for better bone health? A lot!

  1. Exercise! The only way to maintain bone density is through exercise. (In particular strength training). Exercise reduces the rate of bone loss. Beware of flashy headlines that talk about bone-mass building exercises. There’s no research to support these big claims. That said, strength training exercise can build muscle, conserve bone tissue, improve bone density, and keep osteoporosis at bay.gym exercise
  2. Stand (sit) tall. Good posture is essential for body and brain health. How you sit, walk, and move can make a huge difference in your life. Elongating your spine, strengthening your core, is key to reducing back pain and improving bone health.
  3. A diet rich in Vitamin D and Calcium is essential for bone health. Cheese, seeds (poppy, chia, and sesame), yogurt, almonds, and some leafy green vegetables are packed with calcium. And get your rays! Sunshine (use sunscreen) will pump your body with Vitamin D. Vitamin D is key to stabilizing moods, boosting energy and memory in people.
    1. Women under 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium every day. Women over 50 (or women no longer menstruating) need 1,200 mg of calcium each day.
    2. You should get at least 15 minutes of sunshine each day.
    3. Calculate your intake with this bone brochure.

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4. Quit smoking.
Smoking and excessive alcohol are risk factors for osteoporosis and bone fractures.

5. Talk to your healthcare professional and find out about what risk factors you have. Take this one-minute risk factor test from the International Osteoporosis Foundation. You might need a bone health assessment from your doctor.

Osteoporosis isn’t an inevitable downhill slide into crumbly bones. We have so much control about our bone health, and that begins with exercise and nutrition. We are, truly, what we eat and how we move! Learn more about osteoporosis and whether or not you are at risk. Then, start moving!

Kid Menu

New York Registered Dietitian Warns Against the Kids Menu Choices

Low Cost Kid Options Often Mean High-Sodium, High-Calorie, High-Sugar, and High-Fat Meals

Kid Menu

The kid menu at restaurants is often the first page opened when families go out to dinner. It makes sense. They’re “complete” meals with drinks, an entrée, and oftentimes even a dessert. Portion size is right. There’s less waste. And they’re always “kid friendly.”

But what does “kid friendly” mean?

Usually, kid menu options have fried chicken strips, mac ‘n cheese, grilled cheese, nuggets, and almost always French fries. Beverages often include apple juice, orange juice, or a soda.

With kids, on average, receiving 25% of their daily calories from fast food or other restaurants, it’s time to re-think the kid menu and what we, as parents, encourage our kids to eat when we go out.

Here are some tips to avoid the landslide of calories, sodium, fat and sugar when eating out with kids:

  1. Beware of the beverage! Most fruit drinks (from concentrate) have the same amount of sugar as do sodas. It’s easy to consume too many calories through a straw. New legislation in cities around the country is pressuring restaurants to take sugary beverages off kid meals. Until this happens, beverage beware. It’s smart to make water your go-to option for beverages.Kid Menu

     

  2. No, don’t take fries with that. Alas, the French fry dilemma. We all love a good plate of French fries. They are delicious. They’re heavenly golden potatoes, right? The New York Times urged us to re-think our potato-fry obsession. In the United States an average of 115.6 pounds of potatoes per person, per year – a third of which are eaten in the form of fries. Yikes. Instead of automatically going for the side of fries, try something else: baked sweet potato wedges, kale chips, or fresh-cut veggies. Once in a while, indulge in fries. But be aware of super-sizing or automatically order a deep-fried plate of calories and fat.Kid Menu
  3. Hold off on sauces. Ranch, ketchup, blue cheese, honey mustard – all are tempting dips for our kids. That said, they add calories, fat, and sugars – with little to no nutritional value. Replace these bottled wonders with guacamole, hummus, yogurt dip, mango salsa, even peanut butter. The more natural, the better. Remember to beware of Frankenstein processed foods.
  4. Skip the kid options all together. Instead, share a couple of appetizers and entrees with the whole family. This provides everyone with the chance to taste new things. As parents, we have an opportunity to model adventurous eating with our kids. Order something new for everyone. Have everyone try it and talk about the flavors, textures. Each time you go out with your family, have someone else order something completely new. Encourage variety.
  5. Breadbasket beware! Again, those garlicky, buttery breadsticks are hard to resist. But they also fill us up with empty calories and fat. Tell the waiter to forego the breadbasket and order an appetizer (something new and exciting) for everyone to share.

Eating out with kids doesn’t have to mean breaded chicken chunks, fries, and ketchup. It’s a unique opportunity to try new things, encourage adventurous eating, and teach children about being mindful of what’s on their plates and what’s going into their bodies.

Kid Menu

family meal

How Family Meals Improve Mental and Physical Health from New York Dietitian

Find Time to Dine Together as a Family and Celebrate National Eat Dinner Together Week

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Every day of the calendar year there’s a holiday. You can celebrate National Pancake Day (September 26), National Cherry Day (July 16), even National Tater Tot Day (February 2). A little “ew” on that last one. Anyway, many are about publicity – selling products. Others are about bringing awareness to a problem, a need. National Eat Dinner Together Week, for instance, is sponsored by the National Pork Board.

Regardless of who sponsors this food week, celebrated in September, I’m on board. I feel like we’re at this strange crossroads in life (this could be me waxing nostalgic) where our children and grandchildren are losing some fundamental life experiences – one of them the family meal.

Everybody’s busy. I get it. Kids have homework, sports, after-school activities, friends, screens and videogames. Parents have deadlines and bills and schedules to keep. In the crunch of fitting everything in, for some reason, family mealtime has taken a backseat. Eating dinner as a family, though, makes a huge difference in our children’s mental and physical health, as well as our own. So, this September, and every day (when possible), celebrate Eat Dinner Together Week.

Here’s why:

  1. Family meals help establish healthy eating habits. Children develop a better relationship with food. They are more likely to eat healthier options and try more foods. Everyone is more likely to get their fruit and veggie needs met.
  2. Family meals can help reduce childhood obesity. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and the epidemic of unhealthy kids is real. Carving time to sit together as a family is a very basic way to tackle this problem. Sitting at the table, we generally eat more slowly, listening to our body signals when we’re full. Instead of rushing through a meal, we sit together to enjoy the meal. Moreover, family meals generally have fewer ultra-processed, Frankenstein foods, which are proven to cause weight gain (as well as well as chronic disease.)
  3. Family meals help children improve self-esteem. Self-esteem, academic performance, and body image all improve when families eat together. Children develop a stronger sense of belonging. Family meals create safe spaces where kids can talk about their day, learn about their parents’ days, resolve issues at the table. Mealtime becomes a place where children learn to navigate the world. And, this, in turn, makes them better readers. (True!). They learn more vocabulary, debate about national policy, embellish stories about their days, and more.

    family-eating-at-the-table

Here’s how:

  1. Make mealtime a priority. Just as we calendar in after-school activities, doctors’ appointments, business dinners, meetings and more … so, too, should family meals be put on the calendar. Mealtime should be a sacred part of the day. This means phones and TVs are off. Everyone sits together – whether it be a picnic in the park, on the terrace, even in the living room or sitting at the kitchen table, island, or dining room table. It’s not about where the meal takes place, instead that it takes place.
  2. Teach mindfulness. The world is now warp speed. Sit down at the table. Pay attention to the food on your plate – the colors, textures, flavors. Say, “Thank you,” for the meal. Teach your children the same – to pause before eating, to be grateful.

    family meal

  3. Involve kids in planning meals and cleaning up after meals. Everything from grocery shopping to chopping vegetables to helping wash dishes. The meal doesn’t begin with the first bite. This, too, is part of mindfulness.
  4. Establish a “no-one eats alone” rule in the house. Whenever anybody is eating, somebody will be there to accompany them. It’s a great way to have children learn that mealtime is something to share. I recognize that sometimes schedules can be hard to juggle. There are some days that it’s simply impossible to get the family at the table all together. That doesn’t mean, though, that the person sitting at the table should eat alone.

I worry that children today aren’t taught the essentials to build a healthy, long life: breathing well, eating well, standing tall,  loving what their bodies are capable of, self-love have gotten lost to a blur of social media and screen time.

Stop. Take the time to establish the importance of family meals in your home.

NYC fitness trainer

7 Tips on How to Get Comfortable, and Maximize Your Workout, Going to the Gym from NYC Registered Personal Trainer

No More Gymtimidation

NYC fitness trainer

Okay. Fair enough. That was worth a big fat groan.

The reality is, though, that many people, including my clients, cringe at the thought of going to the gym. And I don’t blame them. When I say “gym,” the first thing that comes to mind to many is perfectly fit women and men in lycra, running on tread mills, lifting weights, with that glow-sweat going on. Add the equipment and machines and not knowing what to do, and gyms are intimidating.

In fact, I just went to a fitness magazine to brush up on ideas, and they wanted to add me to a mailing list. I was given two choices: YES, I WANT TO TURN MY LIFE AROUND and NO, I DON’T WANT TO BE FIT.

Health isn’t a black-and-white situation. It’s a journey, a process, and the infinite possibility to try new things, celebrate what your body can do. It’s for everyone, every age. Putting people down like that magazine did is what turns off many from going to the gym and trying new things. Going to the gym is for everybody.

Here’s how:

  1. Invest in a personal trainer. If you’re investing in a gym membership, invest in five-to-seven sessions with a personal trainer. A trainer can teach you how to use the equipment, explain which muscle groups each machine works, come up with an individualized fitness plan, and give you the confidence you need to continue working out without feeling so lost. This can also help you avoid injury.
  2. Take advantage of new membership offers. Oftentimes gyms offer packages to new members, including promotions, health assessments, or personal training. The first training appointment shouldn’t be intimidating.NYC fitness trainer
  3. Ask the right questions. Unfortunately, anyone can call themselves a personal trainer. There’s no trademark on that name. But not everyone can perform the functions of a trainer. Here are the questions to ask:
    1. What is your exercise and educational background? Are you certified by a nationally recognized organization? (They should have a certification from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), or the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)).
    2. Are you certified in CPR and first aid?
    3. Can you provide me with client references?
    4. How do you work with clients with goal setting?
    5. How do you chart progress?
    6. Do you require a physician’s release form? Will you update my medical history?
    7. How much do you charge per session? What are your billing and cancellation policies?NYC fitness trainer
  4. Listen to your body. This isn’t a competition. There’s no merit in hurting yourself. Keep to your plan, slow down if you need to. Consult your PT, reassess. And continue. With all new plans in life, there are ups and downs. Just keep at it.
  5. Don’t get too comfortable. Get un-stuck to continue progressing. I often see people at the gym chatting, reading a book, talking on the phone. It’s fine if you’re there to disconnect and do something different. Real improvement, though, takes mindfulness. If you’ve found your gym sessions have gotten easier – maybe even mechanic. It’s probably because you’ve plateaued.NYC fitness trainer
  6. Hydrate. Dehydration can cause cramping, and even heat sickness. Be aware of how much water you’re drinking. We all believe we’re drinking more than we are! Drink 24 ounces of water two hours before working out, another 8 ½ an hour before heading to the gym, and 8 ounces every 20 minutes while working out. AFTER working out, cool down and drink some more.
  7. Eat well! Health is an inside-out deal.  If you’re taking the time to go to the gym, take the time you need to educate yourself about nutrition. Then make the changes to reach your goals whether it’s to have more energy, feel less bloated, or improve blood sugar control.

Gyms are a great place to not only get in shape but find a community of supportive people who, also, want to get in shape. Not every gym is for every person. Find the right fit – budget, community, style – for you. No more … okay. I’ll spare you the cheesy word. It’s just so so tempting! Gymtimidation! I couldn’t resist.

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Delicious, Nutritious Back-to-School Lunch and Snack Ideas from New York Nutritionist

Forego the Family Battles with Kid and Teen-friendly Snacks

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Generations change. We went from baby boomers to gen X, gen Y, millennials, and now … this new so-far-unnamed generation going through primary, middle, and high school. Ideals change. The way we work changes. Technology changes. But there’s something steadfast through all of it: that good old lunch box smell – fermented something with milk-gone-funky, accompanied with the “What did you pack for my lunch?” whine.

It’s reassuring to know that some things simply don’t change. And the frustration of finding new things to pack, creative ways to cram nutrition in tasty bites, is a challenge we’ve all faced through the ages (with the exception of the 1970s Hostess craze).

School is starting, and so are the daily packed lunch and snack battles. I hope to relieve some of the stress with these easy-to-prepare (really!), economic, nutrition-crammed, delicious snacks. I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. There’s something for every budget and every finnicky eater.

  1. Share the challenge. You are not the only food preparer in the house. Research shows that the more involved kids are in their food prep, the more likely they will be to develop healthy eating habits. Get kids on board with everything from creating a shopping list, going to the grocery store, to mapping out a menu of lunch options. With the right guidance (you provide the choices), you’d be surprised how open they are to new flavors and ideas (in particular if they think it’s their own).
    peanutbutter
  2. Variety is the spice of life and often cheaper and healthier and better for the environment. Fresh,  in-season fruits and vegetables don’t break the bank, and ensures variety. This gives our bodies the wealth of nutrients they need. Enjoy the flavors of the August’s harvest. In fall and winter, eat pears, apples, and the crunchy fall fruits. Take your children to the Farmer’s Market.strawberry-yogurt
  3. Get creative. Try whole-wheat tortillas, pita bread, multi-grain bagels, or pumpkin pancakes instead of just … plain, sliced bread. Or, skip out on breads all together, and pack hummus, peanut butter, guacamole, or yogurt dips for fruits, vegetables, or pretzel sticks.
  4. Leftover roasted chicken, cubed and paired with your favorite cheese, leftover pizza, leftover taco makings, leftover pasta – all make for a great lunch to pack and snack on. It also ensures less waste.
  5. Muffins are a great way to give your kids a much-needed energy boost. Pear oatmeal, apple, pumpkin bran are great snack choices. Reduce sugar by 1/3 in the recipes. Your kids won’t know the difference.
  6. What’s for lunch?
    1. Roasted chicken and cheese wraps.
    2. Lettuce wraps! Chicken with a dash of teriyaki sauce in crisp lettuce leaves and sesame seeds.
    3. Fruit salad with yogurt (plain), and a sprinkle of sugar or drizzle of honey
    4. Bagel pizzas (Top a bagel with tomato sauce. Use your leftover roasted chicken, veggies, and melt mozzarella).
    5. Sub sandwiches with leftover roast beef (turkey, chicken, even meatloaf), on whole-grain breads or in a pita bread, with yummy toppings.
    6. Whole-grain pasta with edamame, cheese, tuna or leftover chicken, and other favorites. Toss with a light vinaigrette. 

      pita.sandwich

Lunchtime and snack time don’t have to be boring. Get organized with a grocery list and plan your week of lunches with your kids. Get excited about new flavors and re-inventing the classics. They will appreciate it, grumble less, eat healthier, and, hopefully, bring a little more peace to the rush-to-get-ready in the morning!

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Calories, Carbs, Fats and Building Muscle from NYC Registered Dietitian

Balancing Your Diet for Maximum Efficiency

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Last blog, I discussed why protein is a critical component of strength training and how much somebody should have to maintain, and build, muscle.

There are other factors in the equation that many don’t pay attention to. Mostly, I think, because of the media and TV perpetuating the idea of hyper-protein diets in those who want to build muscle. Too much protein is not only not necessary (the majority of people I work with aren’t elite athletes who are competing in the Tour de France), but it is also unhealthy. Too much protein can cause many health problems including problems with our gut health, bad breath (ketosis), excess urination (to rid the body of ammonia, a by-product of protein metabolism), which is not good for the bones.

Like everything I discuss – from nutrition to movement – life is about balance.

Anybody who is active – everybody who walks the earth – needs sufficient calories, carbohydrates, and fats to build strength and function.

Muscle is harder to build, and maintain, as we age. After the age of 30, everybody begins to lose muscle. But with the right exercises, and right diet, we can maintain muscle and even build. Strength training is a critical piece of fitness, and everybody should work to build muscle at least twice/week. 

So, where do carbs, fats, and calories fit in this equation?

Carbs are critical for muscles. Again, the body is about balance. When we eat carbs (put down the donut!) – complex carbs, like whole-grain pastas and rice, quinoa, fruits and vegetables, pulses (like lentils, beans, and chickpeas ) – our muscles receive the necessary fuel they need to function. Yes, you use carbs to lift those weights not protein! Men and women who are strength training two times each week need at least half of their calories from carbs each day.  (Just a note: An hour before weight training, it’s a good idea to not eat too much of a high-fiber carb … for pretty obvious reasons.)

bagel sandwich

Fats, too, are essential for the body to function well. Saturated fats (fats derived primarily from animal products but also coconut and palm oil) are fundamental in several body functions including the construction of cell membranes, organ padding, hormone production, immune function, and more. Unsaturated fats (like avocado, nuts, fish, the fats most common in the Mediterranean Diet), also build cell membranes, lower LDL cholesterol levels, and reduce inflammation. Fats should make up between 25 and 30% of your total calories each day. Steer clear of trans fats. Always!

And finally, we need to discuss calories.

A calorie is, simply put, a unit of energy. Each person’s caloric needs differ depending on their age, gender, size, activity level and metabolism. Basically, the body is a beautiful machine that uses only what it needs. Everything it doesn’t need gets used as energy or stored as fat. Too many calories cause weight gain. So, how much is too much? If you eat when you are hungry and stop when you start to feel full, you won’t eat too much. Yes, even if you only have 5 fries left and a bite of your burger, stop! Those extra calories add up over time and slowly increase your waistline. The more active you are, the more you’ll need. 

healthy.snack

Not all units of energy work alike. Every bite matters. If you fill your body with “empty” calories (fast foods, high-calorie coffee drinks that can cost you 1/3 of your caloric needs for one day), it puts into perspective what we’re putting on our plates, and in our bodies.  Choose your meals, and snacks, well!

Building muscle and strength training are critical to health – at any age. Fueling the body with the right balance of protein, carbs, fat, and calories is part of the equation.

salmon

The Nutrition of Building Muscles from NYC Registered Dietitian

Strength Training, Protein, and Sports Nutrition

push ups

There’s a growing popularity in strength training across the country – for every gender, ever age.

Strength is the new black.

Basically, strength training is the kind of exercise that uses resistance to build muscle mass, anaerobic endurance, and, in turn, strength. For top athletes, it’s critical to improve performance. But it’s not just for the elite. Strength training is one of the four pillars of a senior fitness program – to help prevent the loss of bone mass and density (and keep them independent). Everyone should participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice/week. And you don’t even need a gym! You can do squats, lunges, push-ups, crunches, planks and get a pull-up bar at home. Gardening, playing with kids, and carrying groceries are just a few everyday activities that build muscle.
Yoga Class

This begets the question: How strong should an individual be? There’s no right answer to the question, as it all depends on age, weight, gender, history of physical health, needs, ability and even interest level. To understand strength, professionals discuss the Strength-to-Weight Ratio (SWR). Utmost is a great blog to follow to understand more details about SWR, where athletes fall in on the spectrum, and what we should better understand about strength and building muscle.

As always, though, there’s a critical component to successful strength training that has nothing to do with the gym and everything to do with your kitchen. The nutrition of building muscles depends on getting the right number of calories, the right amount of protein, carbs, and fats. Building and maintaining strength, successfully, is an inside job as well. Today, I’m going to focus on proteins.

salmon

Proteins provides the amino acids that our bodies need every single day. The amino acids provided by eating protein are imperative for almost all biological processes. While strength training, we create tiny micro-tears in our muscles. Our body uses the amino acids surround to and repair the tears. This process of breaking down and repairing makes the muscle bigger. A critical part of strength training and muscle building is getting enough protein.

Put down the Balboa-style breakfast of champions. The iconic scene of Rocky drinking a glass of raw eggs has inspired many a bodybuilder to chug the eggs. Ick.

Americans, on average, eat more protein than they need (in fact two times as much.). With the inundation of protein ads — shakes, bars, and powders – you’d think we were deprived. So how much is enough or too much?

To build muscle mass, the body needs its total protein intake to be between 10 and 35% of its total calories – preferably lean protein. Keeping muscle mass requires a lot less protein than building muscle mass. Let’s break down the numbers for a 2000 calorie/day diet.

  • To build muscles, 200 – 700 calories must come from protein (50 – 175 grams)
  • A sedentary adult needs .8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight – which translates to 60 grams of protein for an adult that weighs 165 pounds.
  • The middle-age muscle dive … Once we hit our 40s or 50s, we start losing muscle mass as we age. To help maintain muscle mass, you’ll want to increase protein intake to 1 gram per kilo of body weight.Chickpeas
  • What does this look like on the plate?
    • 3 ounces of skinless, baked chicken, lean ground beef, grilled salmon have 26, 22, and 21 grams of protein, respectively.
    • 1 cup of yogurt, ½ cup of cottage cheese, 1 cup of low-fat milk have 12, 14, and 8 grams, respectively.
    • ½ cup of cooked lentils, ½ cup of cooked black beans, 1 cup of cooked quinoa and 100 grams of firm tofu have 9, 7, 8 and 9 grams, respectively.
    • That egg? Has 6 grams!

So, for most adults, with the exception of high-performing athletes, those wanting to build muscle, vegans or those with specific dietary needs, choosing 6 servings from the protein foods listed above will provide sufficient protein. Most will never need supplements to build muscle.

Beware of portion distortion because a body is an amazing machine that will only use what it needs. The rest gets used as energy or stored as fat.

This is just a start. Next week, I’ll discuss the other nutritional needs for strength training – what our bodies need to build healthier muscles.