Body Fat Basics from NYC Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer

Here’s the Skinny on Fat

It’s the New Year, and we’re two weeks into resolution territory. Many people have declared war on their pantries and, sadly, their bodies.

As much as I love the idea of making healthier food and lifestyle choices, I hate the extremism of the language and messaging of a billion-dollar diet industry that perpetuates the message that we are too “something” (usually fat) and absolutely not enough.

The idea that body fat should be the first to go is one that pervades much of our resolution thinking. It takes a very complex idea – body fat – and reduces it to something as simple as “this is bad.” This is problematic. As Andrew Schaeffer states In Defense of Body Fat, “There is of course still such a thing as having too much body fat. However, all too often losing body fat is viewed as always positive. This is an oversimplification. Body fat is not, contrary to popular opinion, bad by default.”

So how do we reconcile the fat mythology and drive to be lean – again driven by the billion-dollar industry – with maintaining a healthy body and body image? We get informed. So, today, I’m going to share some body fat basics with you: why we have body fat; why it’s important to have body fat; and how much body fat we should have (which is the million-dollar question).

 

 

Not all fats are the same.

Our bodies have many kinds of fat, each with a different function. Without getting too technical, it’s important to understand that some fats are essential for storing energy for later use, hormone function (estrogen, leptin, insulin, cortisol, and growth hormone), reproductive health, temperature regulation, vitamin absorption, among other things. Fats are found everywhere in our bodies – head to toe. (Well, probably not TOO much in our toes).

Essential fats are found in the brain, bone marrow, around organs, and nerves. Subcutaneous fat is stored under our skin (just as its name implies.) Pinch your side or under your arm. That’s subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is our belly fat. It’s pretty important, as it is the white fat that surrounds all major organs.

Basically, our bodies need fat.

 

How much fat should you have?

There is no magic number, magic percentage. A lot of people stick to this 12% – 25% range, relegating anyone who has over 25% to the “obesity category”. But, as Schaeffer explains, “these numbers are actually based on a misinterpretation of a World Health Organization technical report from all the way back in 1995. According to researchers who raised the alarm, the WHO technical report in question was actually referring to a Swedish study that reported average body fat measurements of middle-aged Swedes. The WHO never proposed these numbers as some kind of cut-off point with regards to defining obesity.”

Not all bodies are the same. And we seem to forget that. It’s easy to do when we’re bombarded with images of lithe models photoshopped to “perfection” on magazine covers. Moreover, we’re flooded with messages like this (what I gleaned from a quick google search – body fat resolutions):

Personal Trainer Reveals How You Can Drop Your Body Fat in One Week
Super-Intense New Year’s Resolution Weight Loss Miracle
5 Weight Loss Findings from 2018 That Could Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Uff. What your body needs depends on … everything. How much body fat you should have depends on your age, gender, and physical/athletic needs. The idea that all athletes need to be lean and fit is erroneous. Heavyweight athletes need more fat – lots more – than marathon runners. Though it seems obvious, it’s not the messaging we’re receiving. We constantly read and hear the refrain: fat is bad.

Too much fat is bad. That amount of “too much”, though, depends on each individual body.

In our drive for a no-fat body, we’re completely dismissing the importance of fats and how they play a critical part of the bigger picture. Our bodies are machines that need a balance of everything, including fats. But let’s not get carried away. It’s not about eating a dozen donuts and hailing praise to fats!

So, what’s the takeaway?

  1. Everybody, regardless of size or shape, will be healthier by making good nutrition choices and exercising. Period.
  2. Excess fat can be harmful. Just as too little fat can be harmful.
  3. Assessing how your weight impacts your health should be a discussion between you and your personal healthcare provider. Every body’s needs are different. You can’t rely on random numbers.
  4. Change our language – especially when we’re talking in front of children. Shift the conversation from weight and “fat” to health.
  5. Develop a positive relationship with food and exercise.

Stay informed. Don’t get sucked into the fads and memes. And, always, be healthy.

Happy 2020! I’m so glad to be back.

christmas-drinks

A Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer Christmas Wishlist

Last Minute Holiday Shopping? Put these on your list!

christmas-drinks

Christmas is two days away! And if you’re anything like many people I know, you’ve got a list of things to do and limited time and money to do them. Don’t panic! Really. Don’t panic. Here’s my official NYC registered dietitian and personal trainer guide to last-minute holiday shopping. 

  1. Give time. Hiking, ice skating, going to storytelling at the public library, coffee excursions, doing a puzzle together, re-discovering local museums and more are great ways to spend the holidays with the ones you love. The time spent standing in line can be spent with the people who make the holidays matter.sledding
  2. Give memories. So much of the stuff we wrap up and stick under the tree gets shoved in a closet and forgotten. Turning the focus from giving stuff to making memories. Plus, it’s way more sustainable. Consider giving baseball tickets or a city membership to the soccer club. Movie passes and museum passes are a great way to build relationships and memories.
  3. Give tradition. Teach your children, nieces, and friends your favorite family recipes and crafts. Create new traditions! Instead of wrapping gifts in paper or bags (that aren’t eco-friendly or recyclable), use brown paper and write the things you love most about the person. Small things make a big difference.christmas-gifts
  4. Give compassion. Have your kids take charge of a food drive, book drive, or organize a Christmas Caroling expedition in the neighborhood. This teaches compassion and gratitude. It makes a difference in the lives of others and builds community. We could all use a little more of that.
  5. Give learning. When our brains are active, we’re active. Share stories. Read together. Laugh together. Do crosswords. Sign up for a science club, astronomy club, art club, knitting club, or music classes. Find spaces to stretch your mind!
  6. Give health. Treat yourself or someone you love to an appointment with a dietitian or personal trainer in the New Year. Join the local YMCA, indoor pool, or local club – get a family membership. Make activity the gift.

Here’s to a healthy, happy, peaceful holiday and New Year. I’m so excited to share new ideas and information with you in 2020.

happy-new-year

hot cocoa

4 Ways to Keep Your Immune System Strong During the Holidays

Give Yourself the Gift of Self Care

hot cocoa

It’s the most “germiful” time of the year. It always seems somebody is sick during the holidays. And, it’s no wonder. Poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and stress – be it about time, finances, family – the holidays are a magnet for germs. And with all of the aforementioned problems, our immune systems take a hit.

One of the best gifts you can give yourself this season is the gift of self-care.

Here are 5 ways to keep your immune system strong under the barrage of bad weather and holiday stress:

  1. Recognize your triggers. Holidays can be really hard. While it seems like everybody is jingle-belling, many people feel a heavy sadness or anxiety. Recognize what causes you stress. If you hate long lines, try online shopping. If you feel pressured into cooking big meals or baking all week, consider a potluck, a cookie swap, or simplifying – baking a favorite batch of cookies and calling it a day. Money can be a huge stressor during the holidays. Be honest about your limitations and stick to them. Finally, say, “no.” It’s okay to not attend every holiday invitation you’re extended. Stay at home watching bad movies, sipping a hot cup of vegetable turkey soup, and relaxing.
  2. Get your zzzzs! Visions of sugarplums should be a priority every single night. Getting a good night’s sleep goes hand-in-hand with health, reducing stress, and fending off sickness. How we eat affects how we sleep. So developing a healthy sleep hygiene will make a big difference in our everyday life. Try high-potassium foods like bananas or sweet potatoes for an evening snack. They’re natural muscle relaxers. Steer away from high-sugar breakfasts. They can set our bodies up for a rollercoaster ride. Eat smaller portions, steer clear of alcohol a few hours before bed, and consider cutting out caffeine in the afternoons. These small changes can make a big difference in your sleep habits. And for those whose brains go into high-gear as soon as your heads hit the pillow: try writing down a list of things to do the following day. This will give you release and allow you the rest you need.salad
  3. Eat well!Vitamin pills and supplements don’t have near the impact on immunity as good, regular nourishment. Scientists have proven that people who are malnourished are more prone to infectious disease. During the holidays, we tend to eat more irregularly, indulge more in high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat foods, as well as drink more alcohol. I think we should indulge, as long as we’re taking care to continue with healthy eating habits. Every bite counts! There are foods that can give us an extra boost we need, in particular:
    • Instead of reaching for the Vitamin C (most people overdose, which is unnecessary), look for foods high in antioxidants that are high in free radicals that protect the body from aging and protect cells from damage by free agents. These foods, too, usually have a higher amount of fiber to keep your gut healthy.
    • Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to help boost your immune system. Think in-season! Winter squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, red and green peppers, kale, and dark leafy vegetables all have high levels of antioxidants. Make winter salads with walnuts and roasted chicken to give you the healthy antioxidant boost your body can use!
    • Kefir, Kombucha, and yogurt can give your gut a much-needed boost. Gut health is mental health and body health.couple hiking
  4. Exercise … enough. Stay active, warm, and fit during winter months. Moderate exercise boosts immunity, as opposed to high-intensity exercise that can lower it. Bundle up and walk (to the store, the park, around museums and more). Try an indoor activity like salsa dancing or Zumba. Instead of watching TV, play board games, do a puzzle together as a family … because when our brains are active, we’re active.
  5. People over 60, toddlers, and pregnant women … take care. If this is you, you’re more vulnerable and have a weaker immune system. Be aware and take extra steps to stay healthy.winter squash

This is a demanding season for many reasons. By maintaining an active lifestyle, eating well (don’t fall into the supplement trap), getting enough sleep, and keeping stress levels as low as possible (I know that’s a tall order), you’ll keep your immunity up.

Happiest of happy holiday seasons to you!

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

kindness

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.

kindness

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

halloween

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!) 😊.

halloween

  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

family meal

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.