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. 

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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.

teenagers

5 Tips to Continue Healthy Eating Habits for Teens from New York Registered Dietitian

Support Healthy Eating in Teenage Years

teenagers

One day, we have happy, energetic kids who are ready to take on the world with sidewalk chalk and stuffed animals. The next, we have beings that eat all our food, want to huddle in their bedrooms with devices stuck in their ears, and roll their eyes at everything we say. What happens?

Teenagers happen.

The teenage years are tough (on everyone). And feeding teenagers can feel almost impossible. Here are some tips, though, to keep your teenager’s body healthy which, in turn, might help with everything else.

  1. Beware of diet fads. Teens are especially vulnerable to new diet trends they pick up from magazine racks and friends. I knew a friend’s daughter who once went on a tomato soup diet. Beware of disordered eating, look for the signs, and sit down and talk with your teens about their bodies and body-positive behaviors.

    love.your.body

  2. Social media beware! Teens are bombarded, daily, by social media influencers and so much negative, downright bad, information. It’s hard to counter all this misinformation with parental advice. A great way to steer teenagers in the right direction would be to provide them with accurate information from body positive influencers – talk to them in a language they understand. The Self Love Project,  Serena Williams, and Not Plant Based are just a few Instagram accounts that promote positive body behavior and ideas.
  3. Iron, calcium, folic acid and protein … oh my! Teens have those famous growth spurts and need a variety of nutrients to keep them healthy and strong.
    1. Iron is important for both boys and girls, though girls more after they begin menstruating. Good sources of iron include meat, fish, poultry, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
    2. Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health. Low-fat milk, dairy foods, dark green vegetables, fortified juices and cereals are all great sources.
    3. Protein is essential for everyone. Proteins help maintain, repair, and rebuild healthy muscle and bone. The amount needed depends on a teen’s height and weight, activity level, and gender. On average, teenage boys need approximately 52 grams of protein each day, while girls need 46 grams. What does that look like?  A 3 oz. chicken breast, piece of meat, or fish has about 20 grams of protein – almost half of what teenagers need. It’s not hard to get enough! The key is focusing on lean meats. Other sources of complete proteins are eggs, milk, soybeans and quinoa. Try experimenting with vegetable-based proteins to change things up!

      fast food

  4. Beware of the lure of fast foods! The teenage years are notorious for kids falling into the fast food, soda trap. One fast food meal (a double cheeseburger, French fries, and a milkshake) is laden with sugar, sodium, hydrogenated fats, chemicals, and can have up to 2000 calories – all the calories needed in one day. Giving teens some simple tips to choose better food when going out – even when hitting some of those greasy-spoon joints – will help them stay healthier. Choose baked items over fried; avoid creamy dressings and bacon bits on salads; say “no” to supersizing; opt for water. Certainly we all go out for a favorite fast food treat once in a while. It shouldn’t be the norm.

    healthy.snack

  5. Make healthy eating a priority. Pack a healthy lunch the night before to avoid the “don’t have time” excuse. Make sure everybody is sitting down to eat a good breakfast. Taking time to eat as a family is the best way to model healthy eating behavior. So much is out of our control. Teenagers spend more time out of the house than in the house. Having a meal a day, together, is a great way to connect with our teens and get a gauge on eating habits.

Healthy eating habits don’t just “happen.” They are taught and learned from the time we’re born. Carrying those eating habits throughout the teenage years can be challenging, but with a solid base, teens will make good choices and be healthier!

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5 Nutrition and Exercise Tips for People with Fatty Liver Disease from NYC Registered Dietitian

A Common Health Problem Can Exacerbate Without the Right Care

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If you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know I don’t even like to use the word “fat.” It carries a lot of baggage – more often unfounded than not. There is one thing, though, that is a red flag for health and many more Americans have it than they are probably aware: fatty liver disease. 

Many relate fatty liver disease to alcoholism. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), though, is the most chronic form of liver disease in the United States, affecting between 80 – 100 million people. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s the fastest growing liver disease in the Western World.  

In the most basic terms, NAFLD is characterized by having too much fat stored in liver cells. Something so seemingly basic can lead to heart disease. If left untreated, and in more serious cases, similar to alcoholic fatty liver disease, the liver can become inflamed followed by scarring and irreversible damage. It’s not something to take lightly. 

First of all, always consult with your health care provider. It’s essential to know the numbers. Those who are overweight or obese, have high triglycerides and/or cholesterol, have metabolic syndrome, hypothyroidism, hypopituitarism, or Type II diabetes are most at risk. That said, with the right diet and exercise, those with NAFLD can stop the disease from progressing and, possibly, reverse NAFLD’s effects, which is of the utmost importance because there is no cure.

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What are you eating? Most of us aren’t aware of what we’re actually eating during the day. Start by doing a food log for five days. There are many apps to help you with this first stage of diet awareness. Once you have a clear idea of what you’re consuming, you can take the right steps to improve your health. These simple changes to your diet can make a big difference:

  1. Reduce sugars in your diet! 
    1. Read food labels and become label literate. So much of the sugars we consume are because we’re not aware of what we’re eating. Ingredients in food labels are listed from highest concentration to lowest. Watch out for words like fructose, sucrose, molasses, corn syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, barley malt, dextrin, dextrose etc.
    2. Good bye simple sugars!  Sugar has been on my watchdog list for many years now. By eliminating simple sugars from the diet, you’re giving your liver a break. So, it’s time to really cut back all those processed desserts.
    3. Reduce sugar intake on the whole. As well as cutting simple sugars, hopefully completely, from the diet, reduce sugars. This means, eating more vegetables than fruits. Restrict fruit intake to three cups/day. Be sugar-aware about your fruits. Berries and summer fruits are generally lower on sugar and give you the extra perk of high antioxidants. Beware of tropical fruits – in particular pineapple, mango, and bananas which are jammed packed with flavor and sugar.
  2. Cut back on alcohol.  And, when possible, cut it out of your diet completely.

    coffee

  3. Hydrate with water. For juice-lovers, it’s time to cut back and drink water. Lots of it. Juices are basically liquid sugar (even when they’re fresh). Store-bought juices can have the same amount of sugar as a Coca Cola. And great news for coffee and tea lovers! Drink three cups of coffee or tea each day. When our bodies intake caffeine, we make a chemical called paraxanthine that slows the growth of scar tissue involved in fibrosis. 
  4. Go Mediterranean or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). This means you want to amp up your complex carbs and restrict your fats intake. Replace saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. 
  5. Get moving! Exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, Type II diabetes, and obesity which are all risk factors for NAFLD. So, get moving and get healthy!!

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Get tested. NAFLD can be a silent disease and many might not even have symptoms for it. Ask your doctor about your risk factors and connect with a registered dietitian to help you create a meal plan you can stick to. Awareness and education are half the battle. Being mindful of what you’re eating to make changes to your diet and exercise plan is the first step. Take charge of your health!

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10 Affordable Ways to Eat Healthy from New York Registered Dietitian

Cutting Ultra-Processed Foods out of Your Diet Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

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The last few blogs have been dedicated to how bad ultra-processed foods are for our bodies. Moreover, based on research, eating healthier comes with a higher price tag. It’s a double-whammy. 

But eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. It simply takes a little more time and planning. Here are 10 affordable ways to eat healthy.

  1. Plan ahead. This is our fatal error when it comes to snacking. Mid-morning munchies creep up on us, and we have nothing but vending machines and convenience stores to go to. Worse yet, we go grocery shopping without a list while we’re hungry. The lure of the center aisles will suck us in! Pack a snack the night before. Take an inventory of fruits and vegetables, snack items, and make a grocery list. Don’t do last-minute shopping or snacking.

    slow.food

  2. Slow down. Have you ever noticed we’re all in a hurry, all the time? The Slow Food Movement challenges the idea that everything has to be fast … and now. Returning to the slow pleasure of a good meal is a great way to avoid the heat-and-eat phenomenon we’re living today. 
  3. Make more. Sauces, soups, chili and stews – make more quantity and freeze for the next week. This saves time and energy!
  4. In-season fruits, vegetables, and seafood  are less expensive and more eco-friendly. Also, more variety in your diet provides your body with more needed nutrients.
  5. Waste less food by getting organized. Keep leftovers in clear Tupperware bins on a designated shelf. If there’s too much of one thing, freeze half of it (label and date it). Use food with a close expiration date first. When vegetables are getting older (broccoli and cauliflower, for instance), put them in a food processer and freeze them to add to sauces and soups later. Over 50% of all produce is thrown away in the United States (almost 60 million tons).
    sandwich
  6. Re-invent the sandwich. Sandwiches have been given a bad rap. They can be, though, incredibly nourishing, healthy, and economical. Whole-grain bread, pita bread, tortillas and bagels are all good options for carbs. Roll a whole-grain tortilla with peanut butter and apples. Pile pita bread with roasted chicken, cheese, and greens. Include crunchy veggies, sprouts, and fruits on your sandwich for texture and an added punch of nutrients. Replace packaged ham with roasted chicken chunks.
  7. Replace packaged chips and crackers with delicious finger foods: cut up carrot sticks, jicama, celery, cherry tomatoes … all to dip in a yogurt sauce and/or homemade hummus.

    carrots broccoli

  8. Drink up! Forego the sweet stuff (which is costly and unhealthy) for a glass of water. Add lemon slices for a refreshing zing. Avoid bottled water – costly both on our budgets and the environment. Get your own water bottle and fill up. 
  9. Satisfy your sweet tooth and re-train your taste buds with these smart substitutions. 
    1. Replace ice cream with fruit salad.
    2. Cut the sugar in your baking recipes by a third.
    3. Go grainy – for waffles, French toast, and pancakes (or even with a big dose of pumpkin!)
    4. Bake favorite fall fruits with a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon, dollop with yogurt.
  10. Healthy eating has long-term benefits and savings. 
    1. The average cost of hypertension treatment for patients not covered by insurance is between $740 – $1,200 more per year.
    2. According to the American Diabetes Organization, those with diabetes have medical costs 2.3 times higher than those who do not.
    3. Chronic disease and cancer treatments are skyrocket high, including with insurance. According to the American Cancer Association, treatments add up to thousands of dollars each year.

We have to change our chip (pun intended … yes, groan!) for healthier eating options. Our future depends on it.

One of my favorite quotes is from Brian Andreas: “Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.” Make healthy eating one of those important things. 

mochaccino

Deciphering Labels and What “Processed” Means from NYC Registered Dietitian

Understand What You’re Eating to Eat Healthier

teaspoon of sugar

Last week I discussed two studies that proved ultra-processed foods can shorten a lifespan and make you gain weight. Over the years, convenience has been edging out nutritious choices. Convenience stores have popped up all over urban American, replacing supermarkets and Farmer’s markets, and the sugar industry pulled a doozy on us. Basically, we were misinformed for generations! Generations of people are paying hefty price for these lifestyle changes and bad information – our health.

So, let’s set the record straight on processed foods and unprocessed.

  1. Not all processed foods are bad. Processed simply means a food has changed from its natural state. Any processed food, then, has a label. Applesauce, for instance, is processed. Pasteurized milk, canned vegetables, feta cheese (unless you have a goat in your yard), are all processed foods.

    nutrition.label

  2. Don’t believe them! I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I don’t believe what the packaging is selling. This means we all have to become label literate. Reading nutrition labels is the first step to healthy choices. Ingredients are always listed from most predominant to least predominant. The more ingredients, the more processed. And once you start getting into unpronounceable ingredients, put the package down. It’s simply not healthy.
  3. Don’t be deceived. If you take a close look at the images from the NYT article, many meals look “healthy.” Turkey meatballs with marinara sauce, quesadillas, chicken salad sandwiches – all seem healthy. But understanding their origins, reading labels on the “heat-and-eat” packaging would tell a different story. Eating clean and ingredient awareness is key.
  4. What will the kids eat? Oh, the convenience of the kid’s menu … baskets filled with fried chicken and chips and a couple of limp carrot sticks. It’s time to retrain our taste buds, as families. Getting our kids to be adventurous with food starts with us. Trying new flavors and textures – instead of the go-to chicken basket – takes mindfulness and intention. And with summer, we’re in luck! What better time to kick bad habits than the season where fruits and vegetables abound? 
  5. Know your sugar names. Sugar has more aliases than Jason Bourne: brown sugar, corn syrup, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, syrup … oh my! The thing is, as Americans, we consume way too much sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six added teaspoons of sugar per day (for women) and 9 (for men). How does this translate on the food label? There are four grams of sugar per teaspoon. That means, women and men shouldn’t eat more than 24 grams/36 grams of sugar per day, respectively. What does this mean in our daily choices?

    mochaccino

  6. Beware of the beverage! It’s summertime, which has become synonymous with frappuccinos, mochaccinos, and sweet coffee drinks. If you’re not going black with chunks of ice, your body is in for a doozy of a sugar rush. Coffee drinks can have 2 ½ days worth of sugar for women if nothing else they eat has any added sugar. (Which is unlikely). 
  1. A Starbucks Bottled Mocha Frappuccino beverage has 31 grams of sugar. (7 grams over recommended DAILY consumption).
  2. A 16oz. vanilla Frappuccino has 67 grams of sugar (the light version has 39). 
  3. A bottle of chocolate milk has 26 grams of sugar.
  1. Visualize what you’re putting in your body. Sometimes numbers are hard to visualize. So, next time you eat or drink something with added sugars, add four teaspoons per gram in a glass or cup. Now, mix it with water and try to drink it. Yep. Try a sip of Coca Cola. You’ll see how the manufacturer alters the products so our taste buds can handle all that sugar. Your teeth will hurt doing it, but it’s a powerful, powerful way to visualize the sugar going into your body. 

Simply knowing what we’re eating will make a huge difference in how we shop, and what we choose to put on our plates and in our bodies. Educating ourselves is the first step to health.