Dietitians Celebrate Homegrown Health in National Farmer’s Market Week

Fresh, In-season Foods, Make for Healthy Eating

During the 1930s, in the middle of the Great Depression, two farmers from Southern California came up with an idea. They wanted to create a meeting place where local farmers could sell their fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products. So a dozen or so farmers parked on the corner of 3rd and Fairfax and sold their food out of the beds of their pickup trucks. Within months, permanent stalls were being set up and the Fall Festival at the Farmer’s Market was celebrated.

Today, the iconic Clock Tower that marked this space, where people came by the hundreds to shop for food, now sits on top of Starbuck’s  with the words “An Idea.” This “idea” brought the freshest produce to a community while supporting local farmers and agriculture.  Farmer’s Markets are much more than grocery shopping – they’re educational encounters, social gatherings, and a cornerstone of American culture and health. Every August, the USDA celebrates National Farmer’s Market Week to continue a tradition that promotes fresh, in-season produce, healthy eating, eco-consciousness, and community.

Many people believe that Farmer’s Markets are expensive, with goods unattainable for families in vulnerable situations. In fact, many products cost the same or less than those found in the grocery store. Buying in-season products is not only healthier but less expensive than buying strawberries in December in the supermarket. The USDA has developed a program that provides assistance and education through the WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).

As a registered dietitian, I shop every week at my local farmer’s market. There are good, elementary reasons for which shopping in Farmer’s Markets is healthier for us all:

  • Variety! Farmer’s Markets offer in-season products, most of which you won’t find in a regular grocery store: red carrots, lemon cucumbers, green garlic, purple cauliflower, flavored honey, herbs and spices – a beautiful array of flavors and colors that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fresh, fresh, fresh flavor! As a registered dietitian, I always tell my clients to fill their plates with color and variety – it’s the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need.
  • Eco and animal-friendly foods: The foods you buy at a farmer’s market aren’t being shipped around the world. Moreover, many of the meats and dairy products you purchase come from farmers that don’t use antibiotics or hormones – farmers who treat their animals humanely. Knowing where our food comes from is an important piece to our health.
  • Eating clean: At a farmer’s market,  you get the unique opportunity to talk to farmers who produce your food products. Knowing how your food has been raised, whether it’s been fertilized or treated with hormones – all of this information is available when you go to a farmer’s market. Plus, many post profiles and information about farm locations.
  • Taste:  Take a bite out of a freshly-picked tomato. Taste it. Savor it. That’s what real food tastes like.
  • Supporting local farmers: What better way to support your community than buying from families that produce food right next door? Local farmers provide nourishing food that is in-season, fresher and healthier than you can get in other places. And you support local families. It’s a win-win!
  • Recipes and cooking tips: The last time I went to a farmer’s market, I bought flowers for my salad. They were spicy, colorful petals I wouldn’t have dared purchase at the grocery store because I wouldn’t have known what to do with them. The farmers in the markets are often great cooks that love to share advice on how to cook what they bring to sell.
  • Cost:  Compare prices and surprise yourself with how reasonable the market is. Moreover, if you’re looking for organic foods, you can’t beat the farmer’s market prices. Eating healthy should be a priority, not a luxury. And eating in-season foods can give you more variety, less hormones and fertilizers, and better health. I always tell my clients, eating healthy saves a lot of money in doctor’s visits, medication and more.

Don’t be intimidated by the unique foods. Talk to the farmers. Get to know them and ask them, “What do I do with this?”  Going to your local farmer’s market is an opportunity to eat better, healthier, and connect with your community, all while grocery shopping. What was once a chore becomes an outing!

Check out the NYC Green Market

 

Registered Dietitian NYC Works with New Moms

Post-Partum Diet Tips for Breastfeeding, Bottle Feeding, and Vegan Moms

Preparing for your baby’s arrival is overwhelming. On TV, it’s portrayed as a fairytale of picking out special blankets, too-cute clothes, baby showers, and big welcomes. On the other extreme, parents-to-be might be struggling with finances, job stress, and not knowing how a new person will fit into the picture.

Most of us fall somewhere in between. But we’re never quite prepared for “The Opiniometer” – the non-stop feed of everybody else telling a new mother what’s best, what’s right, and what she’s absolutely doing wrong.  This holds especially true for the post-partum diet of a mother and baby – those first six weeks after the birth.

There are bits of wisdom in the practices of the generations before us. Quarentena, for example – the forty days of mother-child bonding in Latin cultures that include everything from eating soups and drinking herbal teas to eating chicken every day for forty days. Before we start to cluck, I want to emphasize there is no cookie-cutter formula for what’s best. As a registered dietitian who works with new mothers, I want to give you sound nutritional advice that will, hopefully, help boost your energy and quicken your post-partum recovery. Here are some tips for new mothers, those who are breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or both.

Weight loss should not be the focus of new moms. Think healthy. I know this is hard when your body doesn’t feel like it’s yours. It is. Just make sure you’re taking care of it.  That means eating three meals a day with two to three high energy, nutritional snacks.

Up the fluids. During labor, a woman loses an incredible amount of fluids and blood. Make drinking (preferably water) a priority. (10 glasses a day). This will also help soften bowel movements and keep you hydrated for breast feeding. Keep a glass of water next to you for breast feeding.

Avoid or keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. If breastfeeding, wait 2-3 hours before feeding to make sure the alcohol has left your body. (12 ounces of 5% beer, 5 ounces of 11% wine, 1.5 ounces of 40% liquor). This depends on your body weight. Also, pumping and dumping doesn’t eliminate the alcohol from your body. You still need to wait the required amount of time to make sure the alcohol is out of your system before breast feeding. Finally, alcohol decreases the body’s production of anti-diuretic hormone. So your body loses more fluids. So if you drink alcohol, up the fluids even more.

Keep caffeine consumption to a minimum (2 – 3 cups per day). Caffeine is a stimulant and can make a baby irritable and jumpy. Moreover, it acts similar to alcohol in that an increase in caffeine can cause you to get dehydrated quicker.

Breastfeeding mothers need more calories. A woman breast feeding a single baby needs on average about 2700 calories a day and a woman breast feeding twins needs about 3200. About 500 calories more a day than normal for each baby. You do not want to try to lose weight while breast feeding. You want to focus on getting adequate calories to nourish your body and feed the baby/babies. If you eat appropriately and well, you might lose weight, but it should never be your goal.

20 – 25% of total calories should come from protein.

30% of total calories should come from fat

Carbs take the rest.

All new mothers need to consider this combo when preparing meals, focusing on eating foods that are rich in iron, protein, and calcium for energy and milk stimulation

Protein: lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, and seafood low in mercury. Tuna, king mackeral, tile fish, sword fish and other fish listed to have high mercury content can be eaten, but I don’t recommend more than 6 oz per week.

Iron-rich foods include lentils, dark-leafy green vegetables, whole-grain products, and peas. The best way for a body to absorb iron is by combining foods high in iron with foods high in vitamin C (like citrus fruits).

Calcium is  found in dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese), as well as leafy-green vegetables and calcium-fortified or enriched cereals, soy milk, soy yogurt and more.

Vegan mothers need sources of protein like beans, tofu/soy and fortified almond, rice or soy milk for calcium and vitamin D. They will probably need a B 12 supplement and possibly a Vitamin D supplement. For iron, combine vitamin C  food sources with iron rich vegetables to increase absorption of this nutrient. Also, consider cooking in cast iron pots which leach their iron into the food being cooked. So cooking a bean chili with tomatoes in an iron pot gives a vegan mother a synergistic effect.

Sweet tooth? The best of the sweets is dark chocolate. Indulge in dark chocolate with sea salt, peppermint or caramel. Plus, dark chocolate is good for you. (Look for 70% cocoa content). If you’re not a dark chocolate fan, eat something you like! Treat yourself. You’ve earned it.

Get on an eating schedule. Put on a timer to remind you to eat. Have ready-made snacks in the fridge so you don’t have to prepare anything. Keep it simple and simply healthy. Have trail mix, delicious cheeses and whole-grain breads, cut-up fruit in bowls to mix with yogurt. Before the baby comes, make lasagna and chili and soups and freeze them in individual-sized containers so all you have to do is pop them in the microwave. Many new mothers, in the chaos, skip meals. Skipping meals will only add to your emotional and physical stress. If, however, you find you’re not hungry and have to force yourself to eat, this can be a sign of depression. Please contact your health care provider right away.

This beautiful, scary and chaotic time in life will settle.  These first 40 days of baby boot camp are a time to learn how to be a mom, adjust to this radical change in life, and focus on getting healthy by eating well.


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Personal Trainer NYC Finds Activity Everywhere for Long Summer Days

Take the Couch out of the Summer Equation

About thirty years ago, summer meant leaving the house after breakfast and returning when our parents hollered our names for lunch and/or dinner. It meant riding bikes, roller skating, going home for a pit stop to refuel, then back out to catch bees in jars.

Activity was an integral part of summer.

A free summer of heading to the local pond with the neighborhood kids to swing over it on a tire feels idyllic and naively nostalgic. And though we recognize that we can’t capture those endless summer days for our families, we do need to strive to make activity a part of our children’s summer.

As a personal trainer and nutritionist in NYC, one of my biggest concerns is the rise of childhood obesity due to malnutrition and the lack of activity. This chart, published by the US Chamber of Commerce, is one that I particularly appreciate because it lays the burden of childhood obesity not only on a family but also a community: businesses, chefs, health organizations, religious organizations, governments, schools and families.

We’re almost halfway through summer, and I want to contribute to this idea and give families safe ways to promote activity in their children over the summer. Let’s keep them moving and off the couch! As a registered personal trainer, it’s my job to find activity wherever I go, and I want to share these ideas.

I understand that many parents work, and summertime can be stressful to keep our kids from driving us crazy. But with just a few little changes in our daily routines, we can make movement a part of our lives, even in urban settings, and, in turn, our children’s lives.

  1. Join a community dance class – as a family. Learn salsa, country western swing, or join a zumba group and go with your children.
  2. Get a pass at the local swimming pool, or a swimming pool near your work. Meet your child there on your lunch break and have lunch together after a morning swim.
  3. Sign your children up for swim classes, tennis classes … any sport to get them moving and learning.
  4. Make after work time, park time. Two days a week, after work, meet your kids at the park, or pick them up and go to the closest park to have a picnic and shoot hoops, play duck-duck-goose, or throw a Frisbee.
  5. Find out about a local bicycle club and sign your kids up to go on group rides.
  6. Housework is exercise in and of itself: vacuuming, dusting, sweeping and mopping.
  7. Do a family project – painting a room, sanding an old table. Teach your kids how to do the basics and have them continue working on them over the summer.
  8. Put your kids in charge of the garden – weeding does wonders for muscles!
  9. New York City is a Mecca for museums, many of which don’t have an admission fee. Almost every community has an art or history museum. Plan a museum day each week, wander the hallways, and walk, walk, walk through history, geography, art and more!
  10. Trips to the grocery store, farmer’s market, even to buy a carton of milk, can be done walking.  In fact, most families I work with in the city don’t have cars. So it’s easier to take the car (or bus or subway or taxi) out of the equation. The more we walk, the better off we are. Soon our kids adopt this idea that we can walk to wherever we need to go.
  11. Go geocaching. Get your kids involved in treasure hunts right in their area. All they need is a GPS! Kids are remarkably savvy when it comes to technology, so after a couple of family finds, have them venture out and look for their own caches. When the focus isn’t movement, but they have to keep moving, they don’t even realize how much they’re doing.
  12. Find out about local events and festivals – Greek, Italian, Basque festivals that are held in parks. Walk around, enjoy a bit of culture, try the foods, and get out of the house!

Lazy summer days should mean active summer days – long days that spill late into the night. The best way to grow and stay healthy is to move and eat healthy. Find movement in small ways to bring movement to your family every day.


 

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Certified Dietitian NYC Tackles the Chicken Dilemma

How to buy, prepare, and stay safe for a healthy summer!

Summertime: brittle hair, sunscreen, and skin so dry it feels almost reptilian; when the last call is after ten o’clock and our kids oftentimes come in from outside and crash in their clothes. There’s nothing better! Those are memories we make; unfortunately, sometimes they are interrupted by vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, chills, and the icks from food poisoning. Symptoms begin anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated foods and last up to five days, sometimes so serious we need to be hospitalized.

Salmonella is the leading cause of food poisoning in the country – and because of summertime heat, outdoor activities, barbecuing and the dreaded chicken salad sandwich that’s been out of the fridge just a touch too long, our summers can turn from dreamy to nightmarish. As a certified dietitian, I can’t emphasize enough the necessity to buy good meat and apply the best preparation and cleanup methods to make sure your summer is free of salmonella. Moreover, buying organic chicken has health implications that go far beyond salmonella.

The key to a healthy summer is a healthy kitchen, and with these tips, you can keep bacteria and germs at bay:

  • Beware of “enhanced.” Chickens with that label are injected with a flavored saltwater solution, so you’re paying more for … water.
  • Look for the label USDA Certified Organic to buy birds that have not been fed antibiotics. “There is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting that the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals can pose a health risk to humans. If a group of animals is treated with a certain antibiotic over time, the bacteria living in those animals will become resistant to that drug.” (KNPB, Is your meat safe: Antibiotic Debate Overview, pbs.org)
  • Antibiotic free and No antibiotics administered or Raised without antibiotics are not independently verified by the USDA and not recognized as such. They depend on the campaign.
  • Ground turkey and chicken can contain loads of fat and skin – the most contaminated parts of the bird. Look for “turkey meat” or “chicken meat” when purchasing.
  • Avoid cross contamination. This is one of the key culprits for infection. Use one surface to prepare chicken with one knife. Once finished, wash all things, including your hands, that have been in contact with chicken. Also, separate meats in sealable bags and make sure there are no drips.
  • Don’t wash your chicken. Washing spreads juices and cross contaminates, increasing risk of bacteria and germs.

Be careful to thaw your frozen chicken in one of these ways, ensuring that the chicken is not over 41 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four hours and that juices, while thawing, are collected:

  • In the refrigerator.
  • In cold water.
  • In the microwave.
  • Cook your meat insuring the internal temperature is 165 degrees F. Use a thermometer to be certain. You can’t count on how done chicken is just by looking at the juices.
  • Reheat leftovers, to be safe, to 165 degrees F.
  • Enjoy a summer, and year, of healthy eating. It all begins at the grocery store!

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Nutritionist NYC Time-Saving Kitchen Tips for Healthy Cooking

Find Time to Make Healthy Eating a Priority

We live lightning-fast lives – constantly connected, constantly working, selfie-ing, sharing,  tweeting, liking, commenting and more. According to Neilsen’s Total Audience Report adult Americans spent an average of eleven hours each day plugged in – watching TV, on the computer, chatting on our smart phones, or listening to music. The New Age has become an age of electronics.

We invest time looking at photos from that one guy we kind of knew in 7th grade’s vacation, checking  stock shares, uploading pithy comments about politics, and creating cat memes, but we often don’t find the time to invest in preparing a quick, easy, healthy meal. In a 2012 poll, 52% of Americans (polled) stated doing taxes was easier than figuring out how to eat healthy; Americans consume 31% more packaged foods than fresh; and one in four Americans eat some kind of fast food every day. (Read More)

Shaving some of that time from the screen to give to our health, by taking time to prepare good meals for ourselves and our families, will bring not only focus back to our health but also will show our children the importance of sitting down at a table (not in front of the TV or in a car) to eat well, together.

Jamie Oliver came up with a brilliant 30-minute meal  series to campaign for quick, delicious, healthy meals that are doable.  A recent New York Times Article discusses whether to invest time or work and gets to the crux of the dilemma. “…[F]or everyday feed-the-family fare, you must be more efficient.” (Mark Bittman, When Cooking, Invest Time or Work. Not Both, nytimes.com)

The point is, we need to invest time – just a little bit – to become smart, methodical grocery shoppers and food preparers to be healthier. Do not despair! There are tips to make your meal planning, and preparing, easier. It’s so much easier to eat healthy than do taxes. Trust me!

  • Read recipes in full before starting to plan. You don’t want to get to the last moment of your preparation and see you’re missing a key ingredient.
  • Choose in-season fruits and vegetables! This is healthier and will save you time searching for blueberries in December.
  • Plan meals for the week  ahead. Shop your pantry and refrigerator! Take an inventory of what you have in your kitchen, then create a calendar of food and shopping needs. Write out a grocery list.  It’s harder to figure out “what to cook” than cook what’s on the menu. Plus, this will save money and waste. Use what you have and complement it with other ingredients.
  • Prepare your ingredients before starting to cook (like you see on those highly organized cooking shows). Chefs recommend using muffin tins or small bowls to have everything lined up and ready to go.
  • Prepare large batches of sauces, beans, soups and freeze half of them for later. They won’t lose flavor or vitamins, and they’ll be a life-saver for a last-minute meal later on! (Or, if you eat lunch at work, portion into single-serving sized containers and be the envy of your office).
  • Label your foods in the fridge and freezer! Take the surprise element out of what’s in the Tupperware.
  • Clean as you go! It’s overwhelming to see piles of dishes at the end of a meal prep.
  • Do you love morning smoothies? Prepare a large batch and freeze them in muffin tins to take out in the morning and throw in the blender for a great morning start. OR … bag up smoothie ingredients to just pop in the blender in the morning.
  • While watching your favorite TV show, chop or spiral raw vegetables and store in containers for  the week. (Tightly covered, they stay fresh 3 – 5 days in the fridge.)
  • Don’t put your nose up at canned ingredients. Some foods – like canned beans – can save you hours of prep. Look for low-sodium beans and rinse them off before using them to reduce sodium content.
  • Cook with your kids, your partner, your friends, your cat! Cook with the people you love to make this a family affair – a place where you can gather and share.

Take a little extra time to be healthy! You and your family deserve it.

Safe Grilling Tips from Registered Nutritionist

Keep Summer Traditions Safe with These Grilling Tips

Summers are synonymous with ice-cold watermelon, berry pies, and the smell of meat, chicken or fish cooking on the barbecue. And with the 4th of July right around the corner, we’re gearing up to grill.  Many Americans, though, don’t realize that the types of foods we grill, and how we grill them can cause cancer.  “High heat can cause the carcinogens heterocyclic amine (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to form.” (Mara Besch, Six Ways to Have a Healthier Barbecue, health.com).

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, produced when fats drip into coals and release smoke that clings to the outside of meat, are also carcinogenic. Consumption of HCAs and PCAs are directly related to colon and stomach cancer.  (Karen Collins, The Grilling Question, preventcancer.aicr.org).

So when you’re getting ready to grill this summer, grill smart and grill safe.  Done right, grilling our food is a great, lean way to eat healthy. Just follow these tips.

  • Grill your foods at low to medium low temperatures (HCAs begin to form at 325 degrees) . Make sure your coals are burning embers, not high heat. This will help decrease the char that forms on meat, which has a high carcinogen content.
  • Grill lean cuts of pork and steaks (trimming all fats) to reduce PAH smoke getting into your food. Or try grilling meat or pork on aluminum foil to reduce the PCA flare ups.
  • Flip your meat often, and keep it marinated while on the grill. “Marinating can decrease HCA formation by up to 96%.” (Karen Collins)
  • Use the spices that battle HCAs! Research shows that thyme,  sage, garlic, and rosemary can reduce HCA’s while grilling. (Mara Besch).
  • Well done is not the way to go. Those who consume well done meat are more likely to develop colon, breast, prostate, pancreatic, and stomach cancer.
  • Go for the fish and skinless chicken. Grill veggies! They don’t contain HCAs but have that same smoky taste that will curb the grilled-taste crave!
  • Cut back on sugars in your barbecue sauce. Try bold, less sugary, ingredients.  You can have a delicious barbecue without all the added calories and sweets. Try Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, tomato paste, and low-sodium soy to add punch to your barbecue flavors and cut back on the sugar.
  • Watch the sweets because the sweet burns. A little molasses or brown sugar to sweeten the sauce is a great idea; however, that blackened barbecue burn you get from the grill is often because of too much sugar in the sauce.  And burned barbecue foods have high carcinogen levels.
  • Grilling can be a healthy part of every summer and 4th of July celebration. It’s just a matter of taking precautions and following these basic tips to keep your summer flavorful and body safe!

Check out these great grilling recipes:

Happy 4th of July!

 

Registered Nutritionist Discusses the BMI Roulette

Health Isn’t A Random Number

BMIA person’s BMI – body mass index –  is determined by taking his weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of height in meters. (It sounds a bit like one of those math questions: If you take a person’s height, square it, and divide it into her weight in kilos,  how many cupcakes will you have left in Singapore?) This test, though, gives a nutritionist, dietitian, personal trainer or physician a number  that is virtually meaningless.

Did you read that right?

The ever-important BMI that we’re supposed to use to measure the level of fat in our bodies doesn’t, in fact, do so. Not necessarily. The BMI was invented by a Belgian mathematician, Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetlet, to aid the government in assessing the obesity rate of the general population in the early 19th century. It was a mathematical shortcut that, he assessed, should never be used to determine an individual’s level of obesity.  (Keith Devlin, Top Ten Reasons Why the BMI is Bogus, npr.org).

Though it can be used as a screening tool, our individual BMIs can’t be used to determine (just the number alone) anything concrete about a person. The BMI doesn’t take into account that muscle and bone weigh more than fat. Muscular individuals and individuals with high bone density will, invariably, score a high BMI. Moreover, measuring a person’s BMI doesn’t take into account waist size – the greatest factor that determines whether an individual is obese or not.

The CDC says that “A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness and having a low BMI can be an indicator of having too low body fatness. BMI can be used as a screening tool but is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.” (cdc.org)  It’s almost contradictory, explicitly stating the BMI is not diagnostic of a person’s body fat or level of health. The high numbers could be indicators, but aren’t necessarily so.

So, why after all these years (over 200 more or less) do we still hold onto this vaguely inaccurate diagnostic tool? It’s frustrating because even on government health websites, like the NIH, state that “the most common way to find out whether you’re overweight or obese is to figure out your body mass index (BMI). BMI is an estimate of body fat, and it’s a good gauge of your risk for diseases that occur with more body fat.” (nhlbi.nih.gov)

A registered dietitian, nutritionist, and/or personal trainer might measure a client’s BMI but will never use that measure as the sole indicator of a client’s level of body fat or health. More accurate ways to measure a person’s level of fat and health include:

Body Composition Testing: This is a huge part of any fitness goals process. Lange calipers are used to measure body fat as well as bioelectrical impedance analysis to measure total body water, fat-free mass and fat mass. Learn more>

Waist to Hip Ratio: Abdominal obesity is an indicator of obesity and increases disease risk.  “Long-term follow-up studies showed that so-called “abdominal obesity” was strongly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death, even after controlling for body mass index (BMI).” (Waist Size Matters, hsph.harvard.edu)

Fitness Assessment: Cardio, muscular and flexibility as well as posture muscle imbalances or weaknesses. A personal trainer needs to measure these things in her clients before starting on any program. Learn more>

Though the BMI might be an indicator of being overweight or obese, we can’t, as we’ve discussed before, reduce our health to a number. A more complete diagnoses must be made, using other tools, to determine our level of health.  Don’t play numbers with your health. Get the whole picture.

Best Nutritionist and Personal Trainer Advice for a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

Celebrating National Men’s Health Month

School is out! We’re gearing up for a summer planning camping trips, family reunions, lemonade stands, while squeezing extra minutes from our busy days to spend with our kids. Between juggling work, family, and trying not to set our roasted marshmallows on fire, our fathers, brothers, sons and uncles might forget the essentials – their health. June is National Men’s Health Month with a special focus on the week leading up to Father’s Day. Men’s Health Month aims to highlight men’s health issues, educate about preventable problems, and encourage screenings to detect and treat diseases common among men and boys. Today, we want to talk about the men we love and their hearts.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States for both men and women. In 2009, 1 in 4 male deaths were attributed to heart disease. (cdc.gov) And though some of it has to do with genetics, age, and gender, much of our heart health is under our control. By leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, men can greatly reduce their risk of heart disease.

There’s a checklist for those who are at greater risk for heart problems: high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, overweight or obesity, excessive use of alcohol, poor eating habits and inactivity. The CDC estimates that 49% of Americans have at least one of the first three risk factors. So it’s time to get heart smart.

Stop smoking and tobacco use: Smoking sky-rockets your risk for heart disease. But our bodies are grateful and, within five years of stopping smoking, your risk of heart disease drops to that of a non-smoker. (Mayo Clinic Staff, Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease, Mayoclinic.org)

Get in the Movement Mindset: Find ways to get thirty minutes of exercise every day, whether it’s walking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking the dog, gardening – any activity that gets your body moving is heart smart. If you can’t get in thirty minutes, don’t not do anything. Ten minutes of walking the dog is better than doing nothing. Over time you’ll build up your movement goals.

Diet and Nutrition: “At the heart of good health is good nutrition.” (American Heart Association). We’ve discussed the merits of the Mediterranean Diet (LINK OF BLOG POST HERE). The American Heart Association has a great list of the ABC’s of a healthy kitchen to get you in the healthy-eating mindset. Moreover, we suggest it be a whole-family affair. Heart health isn’t just for the men in our lives!

Stay hydrated! It’s recommended we drink between 1.6 and 2 liters of fluid (preferably water) each day (alcohol, sodas, and sugary drinks don’t count). When we’re hydrated our heart pumps blood more effectively and easily, keeping the strain on it to a minimum. Try out WaterLogged to keep you on track with your hydration goals.

Watch your waistline: Naturally, the side effects of eating well, hydrating, and exercising will be a healthier, hotter body. Being overweight, in particular if you have a heavy middle, increases your heart risk. Men with over 40 inch waists are considered overweight, and by dropping just 5 – 10% of their body weight can decrease, significantly, their blood pressure. (Mayo Clinic Staff, Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease, Mayoclinic.org).

Sleep well: The Harvard School of Medicine has a faculty that studies sleep. “Lack of sleep – especially on a regular basis – is associated with long-term health consequences, including chronicle medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease …” (Healthysleep.med.harvard.edu) Get your body in the habit of sleeping.

With some small, simple lifestyle changes, we all can live heart smart and longer. Don’t get overwhelmed and start big. Make adjustments and set goals so that each week, we incorporate a heart smart habit. For more information about Men’s Health Network and its campaigns, click here.


 

Best Nutritionist and Personal Trainer Apps

Go Technological With your Nutrition, Diet and Fitness Program

With the world, literally, at our fingertips, there are some practical, helpful nutrition and fitness Apps that make everything easy – from deciphering those cryptic food labels to keeping track of how much water you’ve had. The following list is one I’ve compiled over the years. There are others – virtually countless. But the ones I have here are the ones that are in tune with eating healthy – focusing on content not numbers – staying hydrated, and finding ways to sneak movement into our everyday lives.

Fooducate: This app goes beyond calorie counts and nutritional labels. By swiping a food item’s bar code, the app will help you understand the nutritional label. It grades the food product (A to D) and offers healthier alternatives. It’s almost like having a certified dietitian in your back pocket when you go shopping. Almost. 🙂 It’s been featured in Oprah, USAToday, the NYTimes, WSJ, and on ABC, Fox and NBC among others. It also won first prize in the US Surgeon General Healthy App Challenge.

HealthyOut Healthy Meal Finder: Many of my clients eat out a lot. Because New York City is a Mecca of delectable choices, it’s often hard to stick to a diet. I love HealthyOut because it takes a client’s profile and dietary needs – whether she has Celiac or high blood pressure – and finds the best meal options in restaurants nearby (with modification suggestions). It doesn’t, however, list ingredients so if you have food sensitivities, you need to ask. This, like Fooducate, is recommended by registered nutritionists.

WaterLogged: We’ve discussed how critical hydration is for health. As a registered dietitian, one of the most common problems I see are clients who are not hydrating. Waterlogged is the ideal app to track how much water you’re drinking with the added benefit of reminders. You can graph your progress and even take a picture of the water glass you use.

Runtastic: How many steps, of the recommended 10,000, do you take in a day? As a personal trainer in NYC, this is one of the best apps I’ve found to encourage, and challenge, my clients to get into a movement mindset. This is a fantastic app to track how many steps you take during the day. It works in your pocket, purse, while being held, on a belt. And it counts steps taken, calories burned, distance covered while charting your movement and activities.

Zombies, RUN!: This popular app finds a way to turn running, walking, and jogging into a game (no matter where you are). With your buds, you’ll hear your mission and music. When you are being chased by zombies, you have to speed up, winning supplies and tools to save the human race from destruction. The storyline is fun (there are over 200). It’s fantastic for interval training. It tracks progress, steps, calories burned, and is played by over a million runners/walkers around the globe.

Charity Miles: If you’re not convinced the best way to get fit is by saving the human race from zombies, Charity Miles is another option to run, bike, and/or walk and make the world a better place. There are corporate sponsors that offer $.10 per mile on your bike and $.25 per mile walking or running. The more you walk, run, or bike, the more money you make for your selected charity. There are some kinks to work out, as the app is new on the market and trying to smooth out problems. As a registered personal trainer, this isn’t the best app to use to track progress and miles, but I do love that someone can make money for charity while walking, running, or biking every day. In the next versions, I don’t doubt they’ll make it more user friendly.

There are literally thousands of apps out there to help you reach your diet, nutrition and fitness goals. These are just a smattering of the great selection out there – ones I find practical, fun, and easy to use and apply. If these don’t work for you, try out others until you find some good fits to help you keep on track to a healthier you.


 

Nutritionist in NYC Gives Tips to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Meatless Mondays and Eating In-Season Fruits and Vegetables are Healthy, Sustainable Eating Choices

If someone told you that you could improve your health, reduce your carbon footprint, and create a positive difference in your life and environment by making a few simple changes, you’d probably think it was an election year. June 5th is World Environment Day, and we want to take a little time to reflect on how the ways we choose to live, eat, and recycle, take a toll on our planet. With some simple changes, we really can make a difference.

Shrink That Footprint  has charted the different carbon foodprints of people depending on their diets: meat lovers, average, no beef, vegetarian and vegan diets. Not surprisingly, beef, lamb and cheese are some of the most carbon intensive things we eat, with out-of-season fruit and other meats not far behind. By going from a heavy meat diet to a vegetarian diet, we can reduce our carbon footprint in half.

But not all of us are ready to give up a good burger. That’s okay, too. There are ways to reduce our footprints by adapting our menus. A campaign that began back in World War I by Herbert Hoover has become a movement. Revived in 2003 by Sid Lerner, associated with Johns Hopkins and backed by thirty schools of public health, Mondays are going meatless. The Meatless Monday movement encourages people to cut back on meat consumption 15%. It’s as easy as one meatless, chicken-less, pork-less day in your diet.

The facts are irrefutable. Diets high in fruits and veggies and polyunsaturated fats lower your risk of cancer and heart disease. People who eat less red and processed meats are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and more likely to have lower body mass. Moreover “the meat industry generates one-fifth of the manmade greenhouse gas emissions.” (www.meatlessmonday.com)

It’s not only eating meat that puts a strain on our planet. It is also important to be aware of the fruits and vegetables we consume. Oftentimes we think mileage is the big culprit – pears imported from Chile or bananas from Colombia. When thinking about eating “green”, we also have to consider the production as it’s estimated 1/3 of greenhouse emissions from produce come from pesticides and fertilizers. Or, as one study reported, eating tomatoes from UK greenhouses in December takes more fuel than shipping the ones, at that time of year, grown in Spain under the sun. Another way to eat healthier while leaving a lighter carbon footprint is to eat fruits that are in season and, hopefully, from a local farmer. Make a seasonal meal!

Sustainable eating, as Harvard’s School of Public Health contends, is not only possible but responsible. It offers us an opportunity to feed ourselves with a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, fish and other products than we’re accustomed to. For instance, Americans tend to eat the same fish varieties while there are literally hundreds of possibilities. “If consumers branched outside the preferred species and requested, instead, what the fish market could supply that day, we would be participating in a more sustainable relationship with the oceans – which would encourage fisheries, food distributors, and supermarkets alike to use what the oceans can sustainably supply.” Read more here. 

What were once considered radical ideas of Monkey Wrench Gang environmentalists have now become part of our collective consciousness. We’re now more aware than ever of how critical it is to take care of our health and planet, and by making just a few adjustments, we can live better, longer, and make sure the planet does the same. Knowledge is power.

Facts about the meat industry (John Vidal, 10 Ways Vegetarianism Can Help Save the Planet, The Guardian):

  • Humans eat about 230 million tons of animals each year.
  • An estimated 18% of world’s emissions (more than all transport combined) are created by the meat industry.
  • It takes 1,000 liters of water to produce 1 liter of milk.
  • Up to 1/3 of fossil fuels produced in the US go toward animal agriculture. (When petroleum prices go up, riots occur not because people want to drive their SUV in the desert but because of how it effects our food availability).
  • 2/3 of manmade ammonia (which is a big contributor to acid rain) is generated by livestock.

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