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

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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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Best Nutritionist Information and Advice

New York City, If you Can Get Fit Here, You’ll Get Fit Anywhere

In New York City, there are over 45,000 registered restaurants, bakeries, catering companies, food trucks, specialty food bars, cafes and more. Bagels, hot dogs, Boerewors rol, samosas, haggis (yes, haggis), cou cou with flying fish, arepas de choclo, saltah – a world of food awaits us in the city that belongs to the world.

Everything, literally everything, is available (oftentimes for takeout).

Everything is now.

Everything moves at a sonic-speed pace that matches the average New Yorker’s caloric intake at a hot dog cart.

Over 8.4 million people live together in this amazing hub of ethnicity, culture, tradition, religion, food, exercise (or not), all juggling impossibly complicated lives and even more complicated information about how to live our lives better.

According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 34% of New Yorkers are overweight, 22% are obese. 40% of elementary school students are overweight. 1 in 5 kindergarteners are obese; 1 in 4 Head Start children are obese. Over 700,000 New Yorkers have diabetes (a third of whom don’t even know they have it).

And as our waistlines grow, so, too, do the lists of diets, fads, and get-fit-quick gimmicks. Everybody has become an expert at the best way to … fill-in-the-blank. Everybody is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer. Or, worse yet, we rely on information that’s been watered down and generalized, because Jane said so at soul cycle.

The relationships we’ve developed with food, exercise, and our health have become entangled in misinformation, social expectation, and unhealthy attitudes and habits.

I’m here to clear the air and provide my readers with accurate, up-to-date information they can count on because your health matters.

Your life matters.

Eating should be a pleasurable experience. We are made to enjoy food. Our tongues have 2,000 – 4,000 taste buds for the sole purpose of experiencing the gift of flavor. Salt, sweet, bitter, sour, umami … pleasure comes from the experience of seeing, smelling and tasting food. But many people get pleasure from eating as a way of soothing, reward, or distraction. Or they just don’t pay attention to what or how much they are eating. That’s when problems start to happen with our weight and health.

Learning about positive, functional ways to make nutrition, good eating, and health part of anyone’s lifestyle is what I do. 8.4 million people can’t apply a cookie-cutter fix to fitness. But we can all count on a reliable source to provide us with knowledge that comes from years of experience, study, and plain old common sense.

As a New York City-based registered dietitian, nutritionist and personal trainer, with over twenty years of experience, you can count on this blog as a source of dependable, medically-backed, useful, and applicable information. I’ll be providing you with recipes, book reviews, book recommendations, breathing and stretching exercises, and more how-to ways to navigate the world of nutrition and fitness in New York City. The best nutritionist advice should come from someone with qualifications and experience to back it. That’s what I offer!

Welcome to NYC Nutrition: He Said, She Said.