Registered Dietitian Sets The Clock on Eating Habits

Late Night Eating Doesn’t Cause Weight Gain

aprilfools4.april29The other day, this cartoon was posted and liked and reposted all over the net. And as much as registered nutritionists agree that a healthy breakfast is critical to kick start your day and get your metabolism geared up, it reinforces this idea we have that late night eating causes weight gain.

I’ve heard clients swear off food after 7:00 pm, certain that their bodies would absorb it differently and put on the pounds overnight as if food transformed and became extra-caloric with sundown.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Weight Control Website “it does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.” In simple terms, what really causes weight gain is eating more calories than the amount that we expend in a day. Our bodies work on a 24 hour schedule. So if we eat three boxes of donuts in the morning and a salad at night, we’re not going to avoid putting on weight. Read more on this myth at WebMD.

We’ve been misled to believe that late night eating = weight gain. But consider cultures where people eat late. In Spain, dinner is normally served around 9:00 or 10:00 pm. These dinners usually have cheeses, olive oil, breads, cured meats, fish … banquets of rich foods. There isn’t an obesity epidemic in Spain.

So what about the added pounds?

Bottom line: Bad eating and lifestyle habits cause weight gain (or loss, in some cases). Imagine this scenario: You drink down a cup of coffee while getting your kids ready and out the door. You get to the subway just on time to get to work and once you walk in the doors of the office, you’re swamped. You don’t stop all morning, except, perhaps for more coffee. You skip breakfast (no, coffee doesn’t count), and, perhaps, even lunch.

By the time you get home, your hand is in the peanut jar. You’re eating crackers, cookies, and highcalorie snacks because your body is starving. You prepare dinner and sit to eat, not paying attention to how much you eat, because you’re too busy trying to fix Saturn’s rings for the science fair while watching a How-to video on solving polynomials. Kids are in bed, and you crash in front of the TV or back at your computer, nibbling on popcorn or homemade trail mix, cookies or crackers – all of which are high calorie snacks. In this scenario, you’ve consumed almost 90% of your calories after 5:00 pm. And because you are so over-hungry, you overeat.

Nighttime is relax time. Relax time often translates to TV time. TV dinners, snacks and eating in front of the TV is proven to be a high calorie activity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that “sedentary activities, such as watching television, may disrupt habituation to food cues.” In other words, when we’re watching TV or looking at the computer and not paying attention to eating, we don’t pay attention to our bodies and, often, overeat.

Late night eating, then, might be a cause of weight gain, but not because of the time of day the food is consumed. It’s more about the circumstances and habits, as late-night eating usually happens when we’re watching TV, are out at parties (consuming high calorie finger foods and alcohol), binge after starving our bodies during the day, are bored, or any number of reasons – none of which have to do with the actual time of day.

So the best way to maintain your weight and, in turn, be healthy, is by eating regular meals every three to four hours with healthy snacks in between. By doing this, you can regulate your blood sugar and control cravings and hunger which, often, are a cause for overeating. And when you sit to eat, sit to eat. Turn off the TV, put away the newspaper, and pay attention to the flavors. Give your body the time it needs to eat.

Want to know more? Check out these great sources: • The Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC)

Personal Trainer Debunks the Bulk Up Myth About Women and Lifting: Women Should Do Strength Training and Weight Lifting For Better Health

There’s been a longstanding rule that women should be careful not to lift if they don’t want to bulk up and end up looking like The Hulk.  It’s as if we’ve had this equation burned into our subconscious: lifting = muscle mass = bulk = Hulk (minus the green hue).

Personal trainers can talk until we’re green in the face to convince clients otherwise, but we can always tell there’s still a bit of fear when we recommend weight training.

Unless you have incredibly high levels of testosterone (levels only achieved through steroid use which is dangerous and illegal) and are wearing an avocado face mask, weight lifting will bring you no closer to Hulk-like appearance than any other exercise.

Women have 10 to 30 times less of the hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy (the body-builder bulk). In fact, the prevalence of steroid use in body building is indicative of how hard it is, for both women and men, to bulk up.

Weight lifting and strength training are, in fact, key for women’s health.  On top of not bulking up, women who do strength training and lifting will:

Become physically stronger without bulking up. Strength training can help you be healthier in daily life when lifting books, kids, groceries and more. My clients are surprised to find that women can increase their strength at the same rate of men. Additionally, strength training shows incredible benefits for back health and joint pain (like arthritis) because it builds stronger connective tissues and strengthens joints.

Lose fat and gain muscle. You will absolutely get definition when you strip away the fat through these exercises. And when you increase lean muscle, you also increase your resting metabolism, in turn burning more calories throughout the day.

Decrease your risk of Osteoporosis. Strength training is the only way through exercise to improve bone density in women.

Decrease  risk of diabetes and heart disease. Naturally, most clients who do strength training tend to have healthier lifestyles and incorporate cardio into their exercise regimes. With any exercise program, our bodies benefit by lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol, metabolizing sugars, in turn lowering our risk of Type II diabetes.

Personal trainers encourage lifting and weight training and really hope that through literature and education, we can  take the fear out of weight lifting and training.  It’s a phenomenal way for women to get healthier and tone up. Coupled with cardio and healthy eating habits, weight lifting and strength training are ingredients to a toner, healthier, better body.

So, let’s lift!

Make a Personal Trainer Cringe Today: The Lingering Stretching Myths That Just Won’t Go Away

Lean down. Grab your ankles. Wait. Hold it. Now repeat.

Does this sound familiar? It’s the sustained stretch that will insure you won’t get sore or injured during a warm up. It has been a mainstay of many exercise routines and rituals. Limber limbs equals safety.  Wait for it. Here it comes. There you got it … the cringe.

Beyond feeling more limber, studies published in American College of Sports Medicine Journal and Science in Sports and Exercise, as well as articles in CNN, NBC News, and more have refuted the stretching myths: stretching will prevent soreness and injury. It won’t, actually. But these myths seem to linger and won’t go away.

Stretching doesn’t replace a warm up, and most injuries happen when the muscles are in their normal range of motion. So stretching to origami-lengths isn’t going to prevent anything. In fact, if anything, stretching cold muscles can do more to hurt you than help you. Moreover, static stretches that are sustained for up to a minute can be harmful.

So stop. You can stretch, but know why and how.

Stretching doesn’t replace a warm up:  Save stretching for after a warm up – ten or fifteen minutes of walking or jogging. Or, better yet, after exercising when your muscles are warm.

How much? Unless you are a member of the Cirque du Soleil or Academy of Ballet, you’re probably not going to get your leg behind your head. That said, the key is to have both sides balanced – meaning, having an equal amount of flexibility on each side.

Pain does NOT equal Gain: No pain, no gain is probably one of the most irresponsible exercise myths out there. You can feel discomfort. But pain is bad. So when stretching, push your limits to feel tension, but as soon as you feel any pain, you’ve gone too far.

Consistency: Try to stretch a few times a week, focusing on major muscle groups. Remember to stretch both sides equally.

Stretch for a purpose: You might want more range of motion, increased flexibility to reach a ball, or just want to feel the tension eek out of your body. If you do specific stretches depending on your needs (hamstrings for soccer players, rotator cuffs and shoulder movement for swimmers), you can have increased benefits for the sport. Sometimes stretching just feels good, and that’s a positive reason for it.

Yoga and Tai Chi are movement-based stretching techniques that incorporate stretching, muscle strength, meditation and exercise.

Dynamic Stretching: Walking lunges, high knee jogs, swinging arms … all of these stretches are used to warm up. Dynamic stretches focus on movement … not a static, lengthening of muscle.  Research shows that soccer players who use dynamic stretches, instead of static, have a better range of motion.

Stretching has some phenomenal outcomes. It’s key, though, to know how stretching is beneficial, when to do it, and never use it to replace a warm up or feel pain. Keep your body, and personal trainer, happy.

Want to know more? Check out these great sources!

• Stretching Books on
• Muscle Stretches on
• Different Types of Stretching on


Registered Nutritionists Take Soy off Women’s Black List: Introduce Soy Back into Your Diet With These Simple Steps

As it seems to happen with almost everything, nutrition advice and news aren’t exempt from scandal, innuendo, and misinformation. For years, without the scientific backing, scientists and researchers were convinced soy consumption helped prevent breast cancer, taking their conclusions from the fact that women in Japan, China, and Singapore, where soy is a diet staple, had much lower rates of breast cancer than women in the States.

Fast forward to a study published in 1996, in which soy isoflavones and soy proteins – both contain compounds similar to estrogen (however much weaker) – were found to stimulate the growth of abnormal cells in breast tissue.  Another 1998 study drove the soy fear home when a particular strain of mice that received high amounts of isoflavones for a period of time developed breast tumors.  The alarm bells went off and soy was blacklisted from many women’s diets.

The first study results were based on fluids extracted from women’s breasts comparing two groups – women who ate no soy, and those who ate 37 grams per day – for six months. The problem is, measuring  breast fluid is incredibly tricky. And results are not reliable.

In 2013, Professor Gertraud Maskarinec put soy up to the test, but instead of concentrating on fluids, she took into account breast density (denser, more fibrous breasts are more apt to develop cancer, and the common progestin/estrogen combo given to women post menopause ups the level of breast density). After studying 82 women – half receiving two servings of soy each day, and the other less than three servings per week during six months – and neither group showed a change in breast density. Furthermore, Professor Maskarine debunked the mice studies, as mice metabolize isoflavones very differently than people. Though the mice developed tumors, people won’t.

Soy, a mainstay of many Asian diets, has proven time and again to be a defense against breast cancer. In fact, a US study that tracked women with breast cancer over a course of seven years found that those who consumed a minimum of 10 grams of isoflavones daily were 24% less likely to have a recurrence.

So, what’s up with soy? Soy is a great source of protein, good fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids), calcium and iron.  It’s time to bring soy back into our diets!

Replace high fat animal products (meat and milk) with soy products by using  Tofu (firm or extra firm) in soups, pasta sauces and stir fry vegetables. Silken tofu is great to use to prepare dips, shakes, soups, and sauces. This is a great way to heart health while not skimping on the proteins our bodies need!

Add soybeans to salads, soups, sauces and pasta to give your meal an extra soy boost. Or buy edamame (green soy which is divine) and steam and lightly salt to eat as a snack!

Soy beverages are great to use to make pancakes (replacing milk), oatmeal, add to tea or coffee, adding the creamy flavor you’re looking for. Make sure you buy a plain beverage (not sweetened or flavored) that is fortified.

Two or three servings of soy per day (approximately 20 – 24 grams) would be consistent with what is consumed in Asian diets, where it’s been proven to be beneficial. Plus, it adds pop and flavor to the tried and true recipes we’ve grown up with! Registered dietitians breathe a collective sigh of relief to be able to take soy off the black list and recommend clients put it on their shopping list.

Dietitian and Personal Trainer in NYC Debunks Diet and Exercise Myths: Celebrating a Month of April Fools!

I bet you’ve heard that 3500 calories equals a pound of weight loss. And don’t forget that soy causes breast cancer. Everyone knows stretching before exercising prevents soreness and injuries. And women really shouldn’t lift weights because they don’t want to bulk up.

April Fools!

This month, we’re going to be debunking myths – some of the most common – about nutrition and exercise, weight loss and weight gain. Age-old knowledge changes with information, science and research. It’s hard to let go of those old ideas, but, hopefully, through myth busting, we can understand our bodies, nutrition, weight loss, and health better.

Weight management and health isn’t an exact science. For years, we’ve been trained to think about weight loss as a balance between calories ingested and calories burned – specifically 3500. A simple equation of subtracting 3500 calories from our diets or by burning 3500 calories, we’d lose a pound of weight. Nutritionists call this energy balance.

Certainly, there is a direct relationship between energy balance and weight loss, but to put a “golden number” for people to shoot for, without taking into account that the human body is much more complex and interesting than that, we’ve oversimplified an incredibly intricate process.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published findings by an expert panel that studied and put this 3500 calorie-per-pound to the test. In their published article Energy balance and its components: implications for body weight and regulation, they came to a consensus that addresses energy balance/imbalance, energy intake and expenditure; interactions between the components of energy balance; how these interactions are regulated; food intake; exercise; the low metabolism myth; and the limitations of studying energy balance.

Basically, every body is a world in and of itself. So by taking a flat rate of calories per pound, we’re making a gross assumption that shifts in body weight are linear. This is erroneous. For instance, the more weight we lose, the less energy we need when we’re at rest, so our resting energy drops. This isn’t because we have slow metabolisms. It’s simply because our bodies are efficient. Why use energy we don’t need?

The study takes into account the seemingly infinite variables and has come up with an equation that can be used as a weight loss predictor. That said, dietitians are becoming much more conservative in weight loss prediction when working with clients as metabolism changes in the human body are much more complex than once thought. There’s a mystery element in weight loss that even the best dieticians, nutritionists and personal trainers can’t predict.

For now, they’re cutting back on the predicted 52 pounds of loss per year to 25 and then an estimated 22 in the following three years, when calculating metabolism changes. One thing, though, remains: today is a great day to make steps toward a healthier weight. Health is a lifetime goal, not one to be made just for bikini season.

Registered Dietitian in NYC Offers Tips for a Healthy Colon: Diet, Exercise, and Regular Screenings Can Save Your Life

March is colorectal health month.  Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the States and the one with the second highest mortality rate.  The CDC has created a Screen For Life campaign encouraging men and women after fifty to get regular screenings, as screenings can find precancerous polyps as well as detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stages.

But colorectal health doesn’t only deal with cancer. Other conditions can cause our colons to work improperly including diverticulosis, diverticulitis (when the diverticulii become inflamed and painful), constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease.

We often hear recommendations to drink more water, eat more fiber and move more. But do these recommendations impact our colon health? The American Cancer Society says there’s an irrefutable link between diet, weight, exercise and cancer. The Colon Cancer Foundation says that up to 75% of colorectal cancer can be prevented through lifestyle changes. We can, indeed, eat for a healthy colon.


Hydration and fluids:  Simply put, most people don’t get enough fluids in their diets. If we’re hydrated, we’re less likely to be constipated. Most dietitians and physicians recommend eight to nine glasses of water a day.

How?  Take a normal day and track how much water you’re actually drinking. You might be surprised at how little. Then set water goals. (There are even apps, Waterlogged and Daily Water,  you can download to track progress). Keep a bottle filled with water in your workspace and drink … constantly. Add a little lemon zest or fresh fruit to give it flavor. If you find yourself forgetting to drink set your phone or computer to remind you to drink every two hours during day.

Fiber: Like water, fiber helps prevent constipation. On average, Americans eat about 13 grams a day, when we actually need 25 to 35 grams. This stuff can make you gassy and bloated, so start the extra intake slowly, add 2-3 grams every other day (, while your body gets used to more fiber. And hydrate.  

How? Add fiber-rich foods into your daily diet. As a snack, eat apples, pears, bananas, oranges, mangoes, and berries. Add cooked beans to your leafy green salad, giving you a fiber boost (lima, fava, kidney, garbanzo).  Or, add beans to replace red meats in some sauces. Pick whole grains over refined carbs. Make sure your breakfast cereal has at least three grams of fiber per serving and top it with berries. Add fresh fruit to meals or snacks. Want your fiber and pasta, too? No problem! Try this delicious recipe for Pasta with Escarole and Beans.

Cut down on foods containing sugars, artificial sweeteners and refined carbohydrates. These can make you bloated and constipated.

Cut back on red meats and processed meats, especially the latter. Obviously, everybody wants their baseball game hot dog, which isn’t a problem. But when meats (think pepperoni, hard sausages, prosciutto, ham) are preserved by smoking, curing or salting them, or by adding preservatives (nitrates), carcinogens are formed. So indulge in the hot dog at the game, and make sure it’s not a daily treat.

Substitute fresh fish, a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, for red meat and cured meat.

Exercise: Exercise boosts digestion and is critical for health.  On a more micro-level, exercise increases muscle control and stimulates the body’s need to go to the bathroom.  When we maintain a healthy weight, our bodies work better. We can add little doses of exercise to our busy lives, every day.

How? Incorporate ten to fifteen minutes of exercise into your daily life by parking in the space farthest away from the grocery store. Take the stairs. Choose to walk before automatically getting in the car.  Take your children to the park … and play! Mall walk.  Take the dog for a walk (or offer to take the neighbor’s dog). Stretch and do yoga while watching TV.

As only ten percent of colorectal cancers are hereditary, we have a unique opportunity to make sure we’re healthy. By modifying our diets, maintaining our weight, and scheduling regular screenings after fifty, we can almost guarantee early detection and positive outcomes.

Registered Dietitian NYC Celebrates Green: And Not Just for Saint Patrick’s Day

Go Green Every Day!

Many of us “went green” on March 17th, celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day with corned beef, the “much maligned” spud (completely misunderstood), parades, and green beer. But by going green, just a little in our every day diets and our St. Patrick’s celebration, we can improve our health leaps and bounds. (And we can eat those potatoes).

Adding a daily dose of healthy greens to our diets means introducing a powerhouse of nutrients and vitamins to our bodies. Greens are essential, matching our needs better than any other food group. They offer some spectacular functions including:  fiber, proteins, antioxidants, calcium, beta-carotene, folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, caratonoids, vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxathin. That, in and of itself, is a mouthful. (Go here for a breakdown of all the nutrients in thousands of foods.)  The bottom line is registered dietitians and nutritionists, as well as personal trainers, give their clients the green light  to indulge! With greens, the sky’s the limit.

But when faced with bringing greens to the table, we have that age-old “ick” issue (especially with kids). There are great ways to incorporate greens in our family’s diet and add some new ones that fly under the radar, like seaweed and kale.

Green smoothies: Frozen bananas, fresh squeezed orange juice, blended with some leafy greens (spinach, seaweed, Swiss chard) all served in a beautiful cup with a straw can be a great way to entice your family.

Kale chips: Popeye would’ve eaten this super food up! Kale has  vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, folate, and potassium, among other properties. Its phytonutrients are believed to  help lower the risk of cancers, breast, prostate, ovarian, colon and bladder among them. So, move over, Spud (and spinach). Just for today! Get the recipe: Baked Kale Chips>

Mashed potatoes with kale: This Irish dish, colcannon, can be a hit! Kids loved mashed potatoes. Potatoes offer potassium, fiber and folate. Finely cut up kale and cut back on the cream (replacing with natural yogurt), to make a delicious, more balanced, high nutrient, dish. Get the recipe: Colcannon >

Puree, shred or finely chop: Zucchini, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, seaweed … then add to soup, spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, muffins, and quick breads to power up your dish.

Yogurt dips and sauces: Raw broccoli is delicious dipped.

Seaweed: Seaweed is a unique source of a nutrient most foods don’t have: iodine. At two tablespoons a serving,  we don’t need a lot for a bang. Stir a tablespoon in a smoothie, salad dressing, dips, and soup stock. When shopping green, pick up some seaweed for a change.

When adding greens to our meals, variety is key. Each green, from kale to seaweed, broccoli to spinach, brings something different to the table and our bodies in terms of flavor and nutrients. And by adding a daily dose of greens, we can celebrate St. Patrick’s all year long. Here are some great green recipes: Baked Kale ChipsColcannon

So, lift your green smoothie (or beer) and slainte! Erin go bragh!

Best Nutritionist News About New Dietary Guidelines Dramatically Restricting Sugar Use

Best Nutritionist News!  The Dietary Advisory Panel Aims to Curb Our Sweet Tooth and Get Americans Healthier:  Here Are Some Easy Ways to Reduce Sugar in Your Diet

It always feels like there are new “findings” that contradict old information. Fitness and health magazines bleed with radical headlines. He says, she says is overwhelming, especially when we’re unsure as to where the information comes from.

It’s important, however, to discern between fads and backed scientific data. Where does the information come from? Is it backed by years of benchmarked research? And, it’s key to remember that our knowledge changes with time, with research, with new technologies and advancements. So, luckily, we’re not back in ancient Egypt using dead mouse paste to cure toothaches.

The Dietary Advisory Panel – an appointed federal nutrition panel comprised of the best nutritionists, registered dietitians, physicians, medical doctors and professors of medicine and nutrition –  meets every five years to comb through the latest scientific and medical literature to prepare a report and dietary recommendations for the next edition of Dietary Guidelines.  The entire report can be read here.

Once the data has been reviewed, the panel makes recommendations that, though are not official guidelines, impact the diets of millions of people. For instance, these guidelines are adopted by the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture and taken into account when creating school program menus.

Two weeks ago, the panel released their recommendations, ones that have caused quite a stir. The long-time low-fat, low-cholesterol focus has shifted, leaving room for eggs and shrimp in our diets. But the big gulp has been about sugar. The panel recommend that no more than twelve teaspoons a day be consumed (for adults), as sugar has been a large factor in obesity and chronic disease in America.  Considering the average American consumes between 25 and 30 teaspoons of sugar each day, more than double the recommendation, this new information can radically shift the way Americans eat . (Just for perspective, one 12 ounce Coca Cola has 18.2 teaspoons of sugar).

As a nutritionist, registered dietitian and personal trainer in NYC, this report confirmed what, I believe,  we’ve all felt for a long time. The Guidelines Report stated that “Higher consumption of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages as well as refined grains was identified as detrimental in almost all conclusion statements with moderate to strong evidence.”

With our tongues geared to crave sugar, there are some practical, painless ways to reduce sugar in our diets.

Read Food Labels:  A lot of sugars we consume are because we’re not even aware of the sugars we’re consuming.  On food labels, ingredients are listed in order of how much each ingredient is used. If sugar, or any of its pseudonyms, are in the top five, that’s a red flag.  Watch out for: fructose, sucrose, molasses, corn syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, maple syrup.

Buy “unsweetened:” This way, we can control how much sugar we want.

Cut back slowly: The idea isn’t to slash all sugar from our diet. But we can cut back. Instead of using one packet of sugar in coffee, try 2/3 of a packet … Pretty soon our bodies will find things “too sweet.”

Find yummy replacements: Proteins + fats (yes, fats) are great snacks. Almonds. Eggs and avocados. Olive oil drizzled on brown toast with feta cheese. Cutting sugar doesn’t mean cutting taste. Think of the great flavors nature has: nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla bean … all “sweet” replacements. Plus, the flavor won’t be masked by the sweet.

“Diet” is not the answer: Replacing sodas with diet soda isn’t a way to cut sugars. Artificial sweeteners are ultra sweet and can kick in the crave even more.  Our bodies work in the way that, when we eat something sweet, they expect calories and nutrition. Fake sweeteners are tricky because they give neither.

raspberry lime iced tea recipeSodas aren’t our only nemesis: Water, water, water … is the best way to hydrate. Most bottled drinks have oodles of sugar, even “sports” drinks (almost seven teaspoons per can). For added flavor, add a squeeze of lemon. Or make this delicious Raspberry Lime Iced Tea!

Indulge! Say, “yes” to the caramel brownie or ice cream sundae. It’s not about being radical, it’s about changing our general diets while indulging in the occasional Nutella crepe. Our bodies will get used to the reduced sugar diet, and pretty soon, instead of eating a whole brownie, we’ll choose to share.

If we give our bodies the time they need to adjust, it won’t take long to reduce sugars in our diets and become healthier, feel better, and boost our energy with whole foods.

Registered Dietitians Hope that This Diet Trend is Here to Stay: Eating Clean, Getting Healthy

To celebrate March Nutrition Month, we’re going to touch on some of the latest, hottest topics about nutrition, diets, and feeling healthier.

Eating clean is one such trend, something we’ve heard from celebrities, nutritionists, dietitians and even our local, hip cafes. Eating clean, though, wasn’t a trend when our great grandparents sat down to dine. They may have lived tough lives, but their nutrition was privileged because it was, essentially, based on whole foods. (Whole foods meaning minimally or not processed at all). At its most basic level, clean eating is all about ingredient awareness. 

Clean eating is a pretty simple concept, actually, as the focus of health has shifted from fat content and calorie counts, to the pathway food takes from its origin to our bodies. Clean eating means we ingest as few processed and refined foods as possible, instead eating whole foods. It just makes sense.

But in a world of fast food, packaged potatoes, and everything quick and easy, consumers are finding clean eating hard going. So here are some basic rules and definitions to help navigate your way through the supermarket on the road to clean eating.

Processed foods:  Processed foods  are not all evil. Some processing is necessary to take bacteria and germs out of our foods (think pasteurizing milk). So unless you have a goat on your balcony, you’re probably going to need to buy feta cheese.

Processed foods are:

  • Any food with a label (which means more than one ingredient was used to make it.)
  • Foods that have changed form from their original inception (like a banana smoothie, or applesauce, or taking bran and germ from grains to make refined breads etc.)

Processed foods diet guide:

  • If you can’t pronounce something on a label, don’t eat it.
  • If it comes “ready to heat up,” take care to read the label and make sure nothing artificial has been added. You can eat clean simply by avoiding additives and pesticides.

Refined sugars: Here’s the scoop on sugar. Sugar is not the root of all evil. We want to sift through misinformation and give solid, researched data about how too much sugar can be potentially harmful to our bodies. Sugar is not addictive like nicotine, heroine, and cocaine, but there’s a part of the brain that responds to the reward behavior sugar creates. So, though it’s not addictive, people do crave it. There’s something on our tongues called the brix factor that is sensitive to sugar, so the more sugar we eat, the more our taste buds will be sensitive to it. So, our bodies create cravings, not addictions. There is now large population of people xperiencing something called NASH, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or fatty liver disease, because of too much sugar in their diets. Moreover, worldwide, eating too much sugar in our diets has had a huge impact on obesity. An integral part of clean eating, then, is reducing our sugar intake.

Grocery Shopping: We’ve got aisles and aisles of packaged joy! Grocery stores (and the food labels on the products on the shelves) are deceptively enticing. So, a rule of thumb is to shop the perimeter –  the outside-in. On the outside we have our fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products which should make up about 75% of what we eat each day. Then, when finished with the essentials, take a quick trip into the shiny packaged labyrinth to get products made from the whole grains aisle like pasta, barley, quinoa and possibly some dried or low-sodium canned beans. It doesn’t have to be costly to eat clean. It’s a matter of learning how to shop and being willing to return to the grocery store more often to replenish our fruit and veggie supplies.

It doesn’t need to be overwhelming. You can start by making small changes like reducing your intake of sugary baked goods and eating more fruit. You can start by cooking one to two meals a week and cutting back on pre-packaged meals. Before you know it you will have transitioned to a cleaner diet and you will feel more energetic and perhaps even drop a few unwanted pounds along the way.

Eating clean is trending. But registered dietitians everywhere hope this is a trend that’s here to last. The more consumers demand clean foods and transparency about GMOs in our food products (to be addressed in a later blog topic), the more companies will have to change. The more whole foods people consume, the more whole foods we’ll be supplied. In a scary age when we don’t know what we’re putting in our bodies, it’s time to stop, step back, and learn to eat better; learn to eat clean.

An easy, eating clean recipe, to get you started!

Feta Chicken with Zucchini

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 lb.)
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 medium zucchini
1⁄4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup (about 2 ounces) crumbled Feta

Heat the oven to 400°F. Drizzle 1⁄2 tablespoon of the oil in a small roasting pan. Remove the zest from the lemon in thin strips; set aside. Thinly slice the lemon. Place half the slices in the pan. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on top of the lemon slices and season with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Slice each zucchini in half lengthwise, and then slice each half into 1⁄4 inch thick half-moons. In a bowl, combine the zucchini, parsley, pepper, and the remaining oil, lemon slices, and salt; toss. Spread the zucchini mixture around the chicken and sprinkle the Feta over the top. Roast until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Divide the chicken, zucchini mixture, and the lemons among individual plates and sprinkle with the zest.

Preparation time: 20-25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Recommended Reading:

Registered Dietitian Discusses the Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders: Early Detection is Key to Prevention

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (#NED), and its theme is, I had no idea. This theme is particularly poignant because eating disorders remain to be taken seriously as a mental health issue, even though they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

According to ANAD  (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), an estimated 24 million people suffer from eating disorders in the United States. To put it in perspective:

  • The population of Chile is 18 million.
  • 24 million people would mean that the populations of Texas and Louisiana suffer from an eating disorder.
  • 24 million people need help to get healthy, yet, statistically, only 10% of men and women who suffer from eating disorders receive treatment, many of whom have to fight insurance to get treatment covered. The road to wellness must include a team: a doctor who is very familiar with eating disorder symptoms, a therapist, a psychiatrist for medication if needed, a registered dietitian or nutritionist, and if there is exercise abuse, a personal trainer or exercise physiologist.

There is so much misinformation about eating disorders, when they begin, who they effect, what they are. And caregivers, parents, and friends are scared when they see a loved one hurting. Oftentimes when the eating disorder finally surfaces, the road back to health is arduous and almost impossibly long. As with any disease, we know that prevention is key. Early intervention can stop a problem from developing into a full-blown eating disorder.

But the only way we can prevent and help detect an eating disorder early on is through education. “I had no idea,” hopes to educate. As parents, educators, care givers, and friends, it’s our responsibility to see, learn, respond and help. Some people who suffer from eating disorders are masters of disguise, while others won’t even recognize their behavior as being harmful.

We must be aware when our loved ones are most at risk and look for these early signs.

Most eating disorders and unhealthy food behaviors begin in early adolescence, in children between the ages of 12 and 14 years old. However, eating disorders in women over 50 is on the rise.

Eating disorders do not discriminate. It doesn’t matter your color, age, ethnicity, religion, gender, or race. Though more common in girls, boys, too, suffer from disorders and are less likely to ask for help since they believe it’s a “girl problem.”


Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is huge in this country and is contributing to obesity in the US. The symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Behavioral signs: inability to stop eating and/or eating quickly, eating when you’re full, hiding food to eat in secret later, eating normal when you’re around people but hoarding food to later eat in secret, continuously eating
  • Psychological signs: relieving tension with food, ashamed about how much food you eat, feeling detached while eating, feeling guilty and depressed about eating, feeling out of control about eating.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulemia

  • Physical signs include: rapid weight loss or fluctuation of weight, insomnia, change in menstrual cycle, lethargy, bruised knuckles and fingers (from vomiting), swelling around cheeks and jaw, bad breath, dental problems, hair loss, complaining of cold (body temperature regulation goes wonky), vomiting.
  • Behavioral signs include: dieting, eating in secret, secretive about food habits (saying she’s eaten when she hasn’t), food hoarding, frequent trips to the bathroom after eating, compulsive exercising (eg, going for a run when he’s sick or if it’s snowing etc.), calorie counting, food rituals (cutting food in small pieces, eating really slow, chewing food a certain number of bites, insisting on a specific “food time”), hiding uneaten food, wearing baggy clothes.
  • Psychological signs include: Using food as comfort or punishment (anxious eating or refusing food because of stress etc.), obsession about body image, weight, calories, rigid perspective of food as “bad” or “good.”

Next week, we’re going to discuss marginalized voices – those who are largely ignored when discussing eating disorders including women over fifty, men, and athletes. Education is the key to prevention.


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