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.

 

supermarket

Prevent Weight Gain and Live Longer with This One Tip from NYC Registered Dietitian

Yes. It’s THAT Easy

sandwich and fries

I feel a little like a snake oil salesman with that title, but it’s true. Just by making one significant change in your diet, you will live longer and prevent weight gain.

Ready?

Here it is: take those Frankenstein, ultra-processed foods off your grocery list and out of your diet. (We’ll get back to what this means in the next blog).

Now, you’re probably having a “no kidding” moment, but actually, what we’ve known intuitively for a long time has now been proven from some outstanding studies.

Harvard Health discusses a study by JAMA Internal Medicine which monitored the dietary habits of 45,000 adults 45 and older over a two-year period.

9 years later, “the researchers found a direct statistical connection between a higher intake of ultra-processed food and a higher risk of early death from all causes, especially cancers and cardiovascular disease.”

Moreover, it’s probable that these ultra-processed foods are key causes of weight gain. Again, dietitians, doctors, and nutrition experts have linked the obesity epidemic to highly processed foods for years. Foods with refined sugars and carbs and added fats can be addictive, causing people to overeat. But there was never a rigorous study to prove this … until now.

A New York Times health article discusses a study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism in which 20 weight-stable adults (10 men and 10 women) were put under the microscope. For 28 days, twenty adults received ultra-processed foods for 14 days and unprocessed diets for 14 days, to see how their bodies would react.  (The NYT article is fantastic, with images of meals, day-by-day).

supermarket

 

Interestingly, meals were matched by calories, macronutrients, sugar, sodium, and fiber. Subjects were instructed to eat however much, or little, as they wanted. Those who received the ultra-processed foods ate, on average, 500 more calories per day, with participants gaining and/or losing approximately two pounds, depending on the type of diet. 

Researchers also did the math. Eating an ultra-processed diet is less expensive. The unprocessed diet cost approximately $45.00 more, weekly, than the ultra-processed diet (about 40% more). (This adds up to over $2,300.00/year).

This is BIG NEWS. Ultra-processed foods put people on the road to weight gain and chronic disease. Period. But unprocessed diets are more expensive. The social, socio-economic, and medical implications are phenomenal.  There are a few basic things that local and national governments, the food and health industries need to address: 

  1. Access to affordable, healthy food options. Urban centers and even remote, rural areas are often considered “food deserts”.  This means that, geographically speaking, there’s no real access to affordable, healthy food options – particularly fresh fruits and vegetables. The Food Empowerment Project is fighting to change that and impact communities to provide them with this basic human right. There is an intrinsic elitism in healthy eating that must change.

    supreme-pizza

  2. School lunches gone wrong! Measures taken in 2010 in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act have been rolled back under the USDA Secretary, Sonny Perdue. The convenience trap of pizza with congealed cheese prevails and the childhood obesity epidemic is real – affecting mostly economically disadvantaged children.   Unfortunately, ultra-processed meals are big money for many.
  3. Nutrition literacy. As much as I love chemistry (it’s intrinsic in food science!) and Shakespeare, schools are missing a huge opportunity when they don’t teach nutrition literacy. Nutrition literacy is key to healthy living. It includes everything from learning how to read food labels, learning how to grocery shop, learning about urban gardens, making healthy snack choices, eating healthy on a budget. These are essential life skills. Any significant nationwide diet change can’t be made without accompanying education.

We’ve got a big task ahead of us, but it’s exciting. 

In the next blog, I’ll share how to avoid the Frankenstein food trap and how to make better choices. For now, next time you’re ready to grab that bag of chips, take pause. 

6 Tips to Bring the Mediterranean to Your Table

Get in the Mediterranean Mindset 

Mediterranean Foods

There are food and exercise celebrations every month of the year. And May is no exception. May is National Asparagus Month, National Barbecue Month, National Chocolate Custard Month, National Egg Month, and National Gazpacho Aficionado Month (Yes. This is a thing). 

I like this. In a world so focused on the negative, it’s fun to celebrate flavors and tastes. May also happens to be Mediterranean diet month!

When you think about the Mediterranean, it’s possible you dream about white-washed houses set against a deep-blue sea, sandy beaches, and Mamma Mia. As a self-proclaimed foodie, I think about Kalmata olives, feta cheese, fresh herbs, and olive oil drizzled over think slabs of multi-grain bread. 

mediterranean seaside

This month, celebrate your health and go to the Mediterranean … in your grocery store. (And, you don’t have to break the bank to do so!)

  1. Bring on the olive oil. Drizzle olive oil on toast. Use it to sautee your vegetables. Olive oil is the cornerstone of the Mediterranean Diet. It’s the Mediterranean version of vibranium. Its beneficial properties include reducing the risk of cancer, Type II diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. It’s also got a hand in lowering blood cholesterol and pressure. 
    1. Check origin. The label might say Greek Island olive oil when it’s really from New Jersey. On the bottom of the bottle, look for origin.
    2. Check harvest date. Olive oil would not survive Spam. It will last, maximum, two years. But only in ideal conditions.
    3. Check the seal of approval. Knock-offs abound! You want olive oil that has been approved by an association (eg California Olive Oil Council).
    4. Avoid free fatty acids and look for high polyphenol content. If the fatty acids are not listed on the bottle, don’t buy it.
    5. The price depends on the use. Purchase extra-virgin for dressings and dipping and cheaper oil for cooking.
  2. Go nuts and clear out crackers and chips. Almonds, cashews, walnuts and Brazil nuts are chock-full of good fats – great for your brain. Nuts are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (which lower your bad cholesterol). They’re full of fiber, protein, and necessary nutrients.

    mediterranean proteins

  3. Change up your proteins. Cut back on red meat. Replace steak with grilled fish. Shredded beef with fish tacos. Use beans and lentils in your soups and sauces. The Mediterranean diet is surprisingly low in red meat. 
  4. Replace simple carbs (like white rice and pasta) with whole grains. Whole grain breads and crackers, pastas and rice, quinoa, chia, fruits and vegetables are complex carbohydrates that feed our brains, cells, and give us the energy we need. Don’t erase carbs from your diet, no matter what diet craze says you should.
  5. Pile your plate … with fruits and vegetables. Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption. Make fruit your go-to choice for snacks and dessert. Add vegetables to everything (meatloaf, spaghetti sauces and more). Find ways to sneak fruits and vegetables into every meal, every snack.
  6. Get in a Mediterranean mindset. Enjoy the flavors, the meal. Be mindful of what you’re eating. Involve family and friends in shopping and preparation. Make meals matter. Find space to sit and eat and share and enjoy and celebrate together, whether it’s a picnic lunch at the park or a full-blown Sunday family meal. And if you dine alone, enjoy the time, the food, and the ritual of sitting down to a lovely meal. How we eat is just as important as what we eat.

In a month of food celebrations, go Mediterranean! Treat yourself, and your health, to a seaside diet that includes incredible flavors and nutrients.

Fathers Day

10 Tips to Get Moving and Get Heart Healthy from NYC Registered Personal Trainer

Weight is Not Always an Indicator of Health

cycling couple

Do not be deceived! A healthy weight combined with unhealthy activity levels (meaning a sedentary lifestyle), might keep you at risk. A recent Harvard Health article, discusses the weight deception – how people think that if they’re at the “normal weight,” they’re not necessarily in the clear for heart problems. In fact, about 30% of normal-weight people were just as at risk for heart disease and heart problems as their overweight counterparts, simply because they weren’t getting enough exercise.

The focus on exercise in this country oftentimes is on losing weight and weight in general, but a healthy weight isn’t an indicator, necessarily, of a healthy body. There are healthy bodies at every size. 

So, what do we need?

Doctors recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week for adults, and 60 minutes/day for young people ages 6 – 17. 

How do we cram so much exercise into an already jam-packed week?

150 minutes isn’t all that much. It’s 22 minutes/day. And consider the average child spends approximately 7.5 hours each day in front of a screen – watching TV, surfing the Web, or playing video games. Finding time to move is more important now than ever.

To celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, I’m going to give you 10 tips to help you increase your physical activity so you can get out and #MoveInMay. By developing some healthy habits, get moving, get heart healthy. 

Seniors Walking

  1. Fall in love with movement. Everybody has something they love to do. Find yours!
  2. Take the stairs. Yes. Always, always, always.
  3. Can you walk or ride a bike? Do it. Our knee-jerk reaction in the States is to hop in the car. Re-program your brain to think muscle-powered first.
  4. Get off the bus early. Get off one or two stops before your destination and speed walk the rest of the way.

    Fathers Day

  5. Make it a family affair. Take after-dinner walks. Play Frisbee, baseball, or tag in the park. Create a family step-challenge, tracking steps during the day. There are so many ways to involve the family and develop healthier habits.  
  6. Think outside the house. Join a weekend hiking club. Take dance classes. Sign up for swimming lessons. Get involved with the local YMCA. 
  7. Replace coffee time with a walk. Instead of meeting friends at a coffee shop, go for a walk together. 
  8. Talk to schools. For some reason sports and the arts are getting cut in many school districts. Stand up for your kids’ right to stand up and move. Physical activity reduces depression, improves cognitive function, and makes for healthier, smarter kids.
  9. At the office convince your human resources department to look for ways to work with local sporting goods stores, gyms, and indoor pools. 
  10. Hold yourself accountable for the exercise goals you make. Tell someone. Write them down. Make sure you’re reaching goals you set for yourself. 

Developing habits that include daily physical activity will positively impact your health, brain, and quality of life. #MoveInMay and the rest of the year!

Social Media Icons

NYC Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer Discusses Being Under the Influence

Big Concerns About Social Media Influencers Providing Bad Weight Management Information

Social Media Icons

Follower beware!

Ten years ago, we couldn’t have imagined the power of social media. Now, we know social media can influence everything from election outcomes to how we raise our kids. Google has over 130 trillion websites. Facebook has over 2.3 billion users, Instagram 1 bn users, and the beast just keeps growing. The buzz word now is influencer. Charisma, likeability, and popularity have replaced credibility. 

With hundreds of thousands of followers, top social media influencers are providing really bad weight management information. Weight loss is a billion-dollar industry. Before, profits were relegated to trendy diets, books, gym memberships. Now weight-obsessed celebrities and unqualified “nutritionists”  are cashing in via blogs, YouTube, and Instagram. Bad advice is just a click away. Before and after pics abound with meticulous documentation of weight loss tactics.

Followers who adhere to this bad advice – much of it is not only bad but downright dangerous – are paying a pretty hefty toll. Their health.  So, how do we know who to trust? I’ve created a litmus test on how to determine whose advice to follow.

Social Media Icons

 

  1. What are their credentials? Would you sky-dive with somebody who’s never done it before but just watched a lot of videos and had one successful diving experience? Ask yourself, then, why you’d put your health in the hands of someone without the right credentials. What to look for:
    1. Nutritionist is a non-accredited title. Basically, “anybody” can be a nutritionist. Look for “registered nutritionist”. Ask about coursework and accredited qualifications. Anybody can slap “nutritionist” on their name after a six-week online course.
    2. A registered dietitian is a nutrition and food specialist with a bachelor’s degree who is licensed by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Every dietitian is a nutritionist, but not vice-versa.
  2. Check sources. Is nutrition advice backed by credible sources? Some solid ones to look for are Nutrition Action, Harvard Health, peer-reviewed nutrition journals including American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Annual Review of Nutrition among others. Popular magazines like O, The Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Women’s Health are not places to get solid information about nutrition unless said articles are backed by sources mentioned above. Hold your influencers to a high standard. Sloppy research = sloppy advice.
  3. No Diet IconIs the focus weight loss? Diet fads and focusing on weight loss is simply bad nutrition advice. You all know how I feel about “diets”. Any good advice will focus on building a healthy relationship with your body and food.
  4. What is their bias? Kim Kardashian purportedly gets $500,000.00 US for any kind of product push on her social media accounts. Which products are influencers pushing? Why? Weight watchers? The Keto Craze? Detox teas? Juice cleanses? Shakes? What’s their agenda? They’re not just flashing brands because they really love them. They get paid A LOT to endorse products. Remember The Truman Show? Got it? Again, follower beware. 
  5. No skipping meals, cheat days or the famous 52. Our bodies need fuel. Our brains need fuel. As soon as someone brags about cleansing for a week to fit in a dress or indulging in a “cheat meal” … that’s a red flag. Unfollow! Not only are they not smart (buy a bigger dress!), they’re spreading dangerous ideas and body hate. Influencers should be building people up, not tearing themselves (and others) down.
  6. Beware of “onesize-fits-all” advice. It’s simply bad. Everybody’s body is different. Everybody’s needs are different. Not one thing works for everybody. If so, this wouldn’t be a billion-dollar industry.
  7. Do not follow any celebrity weight-loss advice. None. Zero. Zip. Period. (Unless, of course, they are your personal registered dietitian, have done an individualized evaluation for you, and created a nutrition and exercise plan based on your individual needs.)

When our kids are sick, we don’t scour Instagram for advice. Why, then, have we left the most important thing in the hands of others that simply are not qualified – our health? Always consult with your healthcare professional before diving into any radical nutritional and/or exercise changes. Your health depends on it.

Mental Health

Nutrition, Exercise and Mental Health from NYC Registered Dietitian

#4Mind4Body in Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health

In 1949, May was designated Mental Health Awareness Month by Mental Health America, with the intention of helping Americans better understand prevention, early identification, and intervention through a variety of information sources. 

The numbers are alarming. According to NAMI, approximately 1 in 5 adults (almost 44 million) experiences mental illness in a given year and 1 in 5 youth aged 13 – 18 experience serious mental illness in a given year. Millions of Americans live with mental health disorders every single day. Nevertheless, mental health disorders carry a stigma other diseases don’t. There continues to be a lack of understanding and compassion. Because of this, someone suffering with a mental health disorder is less likely to seek help. 

Though exercise and nutrition advice from this blog is not a substitute for visiting your health care professional if you think you or someone else is living with a mental health disorder, it’s been scientifically proven that the healthier we eat and live, the healthier our brains will be. Mental health problems are physiological, so it goes to reason that what we eat, what we put in our bodies, and how we use our bodies also affect the function of our brains.

Mental Health Facts

Here are 6 nutrition and exercise tips for better brain health in May.

  1. Get help immediately. Go see your healthcare professional if you think you or someone you love is living with a mental health disorder. Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you or someone you know is a suicide risk. 
      1. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 – 800 – 273 – TALK (8255)
      2. Crises text line: Text “MHA” to 741-741
      3. Find a support group. 
  2. Got a gut feeling? Gut health is directly linked to brain health. How so? 95% of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in our guts. Prebiotics and probiotics play a key role in keeping our intestinal tracts healthy. It’s the symbiosis of the two that really makes a difference.  Start up your day with yogurt and a banana. For lunch, have grilled asparagus with manchego cheese. Find ways to incorporate both into your daily meals.

    salmon

  3. Bring on the Omega 3! Omega 3 fats are essential throughout our lifetimes for optimal brain health. This Harvard Health blog discusses how Omega 3 can help treat depression and mood disorders. Fatty fish and fish oil supplements are the most common ways to introduce Omega 3 into your diet. Other options include adding chia, hemp and flax – these super seeds – to our salads, soups, and other foods.
  4. Vitamin B12 is one of the 8 essential B vitamins. “Essential” means that our bodies don’t naturally produce it, so we need to consume it. It’s key to keeping our brains and nervous systems working well – needed for memory, focus, and concentration. Long-term B12 deficiency can cause pernicious anemia (which is irreversible), memory loss, depression, anxiety, and, ultimately, permanent nerve and brain damage. Most at-risk for B12 deficiency are vegans and vegetarians, people over 60 (who can’t cleave B12 from animal foods), people who live with eating disorders. B12 is found in meat products, shell fish, fortified breakfast cereal, low-fat dairy products, and eggs. Check with your health care professional, as you might need to take a supplement.

    Sandwich

  5. Low cholesterol beware! Cholesterol has long been on the public’s watch list. Cholesterol – good cholesterol – is essential to many functions in the body. Too low cholesterol is problematic with depression and mood disorders. Stop. Don’t grab the bacon. I’m not saying you should start a high-fat binge. Simply put, the body needs good fats – avocadoes, nuts, eggs, olive oil, cheese, oily fish, chia seeds, even dark chocolate. Those who have unhealthy, too low-fat eating behaviors might be at risk for depression.
  6. Just walk away. As if walking could cure depression, right? Depression and mental illness physically suck energy from people. This is not imagined! That said, exercise boosts blood circulation which influences the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and consequently influences a person’s physiologic reactivity to stress. Simply put, movement improves mental health. 

Mental health awareness is key to prevention and treatment. These millions of people aren’t making it up! We need to start talking about it. We need to learn about how healthy nutrition and exercise choices help boost our brain health. We especially need to know that we, or our loved ones dealing with mental health problems, aren’t alone.

beautiful-skin

7 Tips to Eat Your Way to Healthy Skin from NYC Registered Dietitian

Inside-Out Beauty Tips

 

beautiful-skin

Summer is just around the corner, and we’ve already got our sights set on swimming pools, beaches, and spending time outside after this long period of hibernation. We’ll be shedding off layers of sweaters and jackets and getting our long-needed Vitamin D fix.

There are few things that are better indicators than health than skin, teeth, hair and nails. In fact, beauty is a pretty great side effect of healthy eating and exercise habits. Keeping skin healthy and protected is an inside-out, outside-in job, and there’s nothing more age-defying than great eating habits. 

Here are 7 nutrition tips to healthy skin. 

beautiful-skin

  1. Wear sunscreen. Every day. No exception. Winter, spring, summer and fall. This is a skincare tip that every single one of us, regardless of race, age, or gender, must apply. (Don’t forget your lips!! Apply a sunscreen lip balm.)
  2. Protect yourself from the sun, inside-out. Vitamins C and E can help reduce the effects of sun damage. We don’t have the ability to make our own Vitamin C, and it is essential for the synthesis of collagen, critical for brain function, required in the process of producing energy, and a highly effective antioxidant. Even small amounts of Vitamin C & E can protect indispensable molecules in the body from free radicals (sun, pollution, smoking). Free radicals age our skin. Guava, broccoli, papaya and peppers and a whole assortment of other fruits and vegetables are packed with Vitamin C. Vitamin E-rich foods include vegetables oils, olives, seeds, nuts, and asparagus. Five servings of fruits and vegetables, every day, can make your skin glow!beautiful-skin
  3. Think color! The more colorful your plate, the more variety of fruits and vegetables, the healthier your skin. For instance, carotenoids are yellow, orange, and red pigments synthesized by plants (pumpkin, carrots, paprika, tomatoes etc.) that maintain the integrity of the skin and protect the eyes from macular degeneration. Leafy greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens) are rich in skin-nourishing Vitamin K and anti-inflammatory properties. Purple veggies and fruits (blueberries, raspberries, beets and red cabbage) are packed with anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties – ideal for skin and sun protection. Each color brings something different to the table – flavor-wise – and something different to your body, nutrient-wise! A great way, and more economical way, to do this is to buy produce in-season.
  4. Let’s get some fats. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats (found in oily fish, walnut, flaxseed and rapeseed oils, sunflower seeds, and nuts) are essential fatty acids. This means our bodies do not make them but need them. (Essential is the key term here!). These powerful fats help our bodies keep our skin moist and glowing as well as produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which, in turn, help our bodies treat acne, eczema, and other skin problems. 
  5. Reduce sugar consumption. There are naturally-occurring sugars and added sugars, the latter being problematic. Sugar is, hands down, the number one cause of chronic disease and cancer in America. Sugar, too, takes a toll on skin. Simple carbs (refined sugars, white breads, and most of those highly-processed glossy packages at the grocery story) cause insulin levels to soar. This charge can damage collagen, impacting the elasticity of skin and causing to sag, all the while exacerbating skin problems. Find a way to curb the craving for sugars with healthy substitutes and see the difference in your skin.
  6. Drink up! When you’re dehydrated, your skin shows it (flaky, dry skin is one sign of dehydration). Good hydration – meaning water – keeps skin elastic and glowing. Steer clear of sugar-laden juices. Set clear water intake goals. Make drinking water part of your everyday health and nutrition routine.
  7. Ditch the diet. Please. Yo-yo dieting ages skin. When crash dieting, you lose essential nutrients for healthy skin. And weight cycling causes stretch marks and wrinkles. 

Healthy, glowing skin is a sign of great nutrition. So, pile your plate with color, drink up, and see the difference in your skin. Summer is almost here!

Kefir Smoothie

6 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Pantry from New York Dietitian

Healthy, Inexpensive Nutrition Must-Haves Without Compromising Flavor (No Fooling!)

Basil Tomato

Finally, FINALLY the first buds of spring are here. It’s been a long, long winter. Many of us feel like we’ve been stuck inside for the last few months, waiting out the storm. Our pantries, and perhaps eating habits, have suffered.

Oftentimes, when we think healthy eating, we think a high price tag and no flavor. 

It’s time to get in the Mediterranean frame of mind. Not all of us can take a trip to the coast, but we can all strip down. Well, peel off the heavy wool sweaters and clean out the pantries that might be glutted with not-so-flavorful-or-healthy food choices. So, clear out those chips and crackers for something way tastier and healthier that fits any budget, via the Mediterranean.

  1. Replace chips & crackers with …
    1. Baked corn tortilla chips. Everybody loves a chip. But packaged potato chips hit rock bottom on the nutrition chart. Baked corn tortilla chips are a great way to get the crunch without all the funky preservatives. AND, you can make them even healthier at home. Take your corn tortillas, divide them in eight triangles, brush with olive oil and lime juice, and sprinkle them with your favorite flavors. Bake for about 7 – 10 minutes and voila!
    2. Homemade sweet potato chips. Bake them in the oven, paper thin, for the crunch you’re looking for. Kale chips, apple chips, mixed nuts and more! Get creative. Snacking never tasted so good!
  2. Replace salt with spices … rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil. Americans already have too much sodium in their diet. Plant a small herb garden in your kitchen, on your balcony. What a great way to get the family involved in healthy eating, kids involved in taking care of things, and having fresh, flavorful food.
  3. Replace white, simple carbs with complex carbs. White rice, white bread, and white pasta can go, making room for whole-grain rice, bread and pasta, quinoa, chia and more. Complex carbs are essential to fueling our brains and bodies. Moreover, by skipping carbs – which is something many diets recommend, causing me incredible angst – your brain stops regulating serotonin and can cause crankiness. Don’t skip carbs, choose the right carbs.

    Egg Muffins

  4. Replace quick go-to-meals like mac & cheese with eggs. ‘Tis the season, and eggs with their magical properties are an ideal snack food. Protein, choline, minerals, cholesterol, lecithin, vitamins A, D, E & K … eggs are a power player when it comes to healthy eating. Omelets, frittatas, boiled eggs with whole-grain toast and more. Easy, tasty and healthy!
  5. Replace ice cream with yogurt, drizzled over fresh fruit or in a delicious smoothie. Replace sour cream with sugar-free yogurt to scoop over eggs or in creamy salsas.

    Kefir Smoothie

  6. Replace meat with legumes and beans in sauces, pastas, and soups. High fiber, low fat, beans and pulses are a great way to add texture and variety to your meals.

It’s time to go Mediterranean. Healthy, low-cost choices can turn your pantry from a high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar trap to a nutritional, flavorful experience! It just takes a little imagination.

No-More-Diets

New York Registered Dietitian Takes a Critical Look at the Keto Craze

Beware of the Fads in a Month to Debunk the Myths

No-More-Diets

Diet crazes abound, and in 2018 and 2019, it’s all about the Keto. Halle Berry and Kourtney Kardashian are poster girls for the Keto Diet. There are even articles dedicated to what Halle Berry eats in a 24-hour period. 

Let’s backtrack. For those who don’t browse the magazine racks in the checkout line, you might have heard about the keto craze but might not know what it’s really about. Some might be aware of the term ketosis. Ketosis happens when the body doesn’t have enough glucose for energy, so it burns fat instead.

How can this be a bad thing?

I just crashed my head against the keyboard.

The Keto diet is a bit of an Atkins’ diet recycled. The Mayo Clinic explains it’s a very high-fat, low-carb diet. Not just low – extremely low. Instead of following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommended 45 – 60% of daily calories coming from carbohydrates, the keto diet reduces carbs to 20 – 50 grams a day, between 10- 20% of what is recommended.

What does this mean?

As with any new diet, people who follow keto find results. But we have to take a critical look at why:

  1. Reducing carbs reduces the array of food choices necessary to get the nutrients we need. The keto diet all but erases fiber-rich grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits and starchy vegetables from our diets. This, then, can really affect our digestion and gut health. Americans are already low on necessary fiber. Fiber, found in complex carbohydrates, reduces the risk of constipation and helps with digestion. 
  2. With such a huge reduction of food options, people eat less. Lack of variety often leads to weight loss, but at the cost of our bodies missing out on valuable nutrients (point #1).keto.diet
  3. The less we eat, the slower our resting metabolic rate. And by severely limiting food options and losing weight too fast, we’re putting a huge kink in our metabolisms that are likely to never recover. 
  4. Any diet trend that focuses on weight loss and not health is problematic. And, precisely, this is the essence of the keto diet. This is a BIG ISSUE for me, as you all know by now. The focus of anything we do should be on whole body health and developing a healthy relationship with food. Just the word “diet” makes me uncomfortable. 

The keto diet has been used since the 1920s for epilepsy, with success. But by following such a restricted diet, we’re losing out on critical nutrients. More matters! Variety matters.

keto.blackboard

Before diving into any diet trend, please consider discussing it with your health care professional or a registered dietician. Remember, health first and health at every size!

Recommended articles:

 

Beauty in All Sizes

Why Weight is Not the Only Indicator of Health

NYC Registered Dietitian Busts Diet Myths

Beauty in All Sizes

I recently came across this Atlantic Monthly article, “Why it Was Easier to be Skinny in the 1980s.” Though I begrudge the word “skinny” in the headline, the article made a lot of sense. 

40 – 50 years ago, we ate, and moved, a lot differently. Even McDonald’s was a very different food – less processed and fresher than what we get at the golden arches today. Moreover, science is looking hard into the chemicals we are exposed to in the environment, our food, drugs, and additives like artificial sweeteners. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is looking at genetic alternations to the genome to see if these factors have made changes at a genetic level as well.

Group Fitness

And consider movement – or lack thereof. Everything from having to stand up to change the TV channel to having to physically get to a library to get information (librarians are the original Google), have bumped us down a notch (or ten) when it comes to movement. This is especially true regarding younger generations who, at one time, spent their summers outside but now have fallen into the allure of technology – video games, social media, and selfies. Oh-the-selfies! 

I’m not waxing nostalgic. But the changes in our bodies and how it seems more difficult to maintain a healthy weight warrants thought. Our bodies have changed, and the environment, technology, and thousands of other factors have added to this change. So many clients come to me with a goal of losing weight. But weight is far from being the only indicator of health, and dieting is not necessarily the best way to improve health. 

So, let’s tuck the word “diet” away, and talk about what really matters.

  1. Health is not a number. A person’s BMI is not diagnostic of a person’s body fatness or health. BMI doesn’t tell anyone how much muscle mass a person has or where body fat is distributed. Also, weight is not an indicator of health. Weight is simply the number that tells you how much pressure your body puts on your shoes. 
  2. Healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes. Though popular magazines and fashion shows want to force-feed us skinny, these covers are not a reflection of the beautiful body diversity of the world. Body diversity honors different ages, races, ethnicities and genders. Body diversity doesn’t stick us in a cookie-cutter world. It “challenges scientific and cultural assumptions,” as Linda Bacon writes. 
  3. What you eat matters. This is essential. The quality of the food you eat will make a big impact on your health. Eating clean, being aware of what is on your plate, where food comes from, is one of the biggest differences between healthy and unhealthy bodies. Plain and simple. Food quality and variety mean health. 

Adventure

This month take time to consider what your body is capable of – whether your legs take you through a hike in the park, a stroll in a museum, even through a rigorous spinning class. Celebrate the gifts of your body instead of its “perceived” flaws. Step away from the scale and out into life! You deserve it. Your body deserves it.