Happy Birthday, Julia, From NYC Registered Dietitian

Celebrating Passion, Flavor, and Health in 2018

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” ― Julia Child

If you mention Julia Child to anyone under fifty, they most likely know her through Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, which was an insanely successful blog, followed by a book deal, followed by a movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. 

It’s hard to understand the indelible mark Julia Child had on American cuisine. How did one woman change thousands of Americans’ eating habits? And why does that matter?

What Julia Child did was make her passion – French cooking – accessible to everyone. She turned spending time in the kitchen and the act of cooking – what was thought to be tedious and mind-numbing – into a place where art happened. She celebrated food, flavors, and the act of creating a meal, beginning to end.

Plus she made it so that anybody could pull off Boeuf Bourguignon. 

This year, I’ve spent a lot of time on the blog discussing not what Americans eat but how. And I wish Julia Child was here to teach us all to slow down and learn how to make a cheese soufflé. But since she’s not, I will try to take some of Julia Child’s most cherished quotes and add my nutritionist/personal trainer take. 

  1. “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” I think this speaks for itself.
  2. “A party without cake is just a meeting.” Enjoy cake! Food is history, tradition, and culture. Imagine a holiday without your grandma’s potato kugel, mother’s apple pie. Flavors have hundreds, even thousands, of years of history. Learn how to make your aunt’s favorite dessert. Teach your children, teach a friend. Share your stories and history with food.
  3. “The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook.” When we have a healthy relationship with food, we don’t fall into the diet fads and myths. Eating and food aren’t enemies, instead moments to cherish and share and nourish ourselves and family. 
  4. “You’ll never know anything about anything, especially something you love.” I love this. As a dietitian and personal trainer, it’s critical for me to keep up on the latest information and studies. With internet and everything being so available, it’s easy to get caught up in kale crazes and coconut oil. 
  5. “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” What we eat matters. Eating clean, eating healthy, and choosing in-season fruits, vegetables, and fish are easy ways to eat well. 
  6. “Life itself is the proper binge.” Binge on life, on experiences, on flavors, on connection. Fall in love with food, with your health, with your life again!

Today is Julia Child’s birthday. (She would’ve been 106 years old). This probably isn’t the most conventional blog post from a registered dietitian, but I think it’s an important one. 

Happy Birthday, Julia. 

 

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An Essential, Often Forgotten, Component of an Effective Training Program from NYC Registered Personal Trainer

How Sleep and Rest are Essential to Effective Training, Exercise, and Recovery

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Team Sky is one of the top cycling teams in the world. Its tour bus has been nicknamed The Death Star. While its daunting appearance – black and large-enough to be seen from outer space – and the relentless way the cyclists from Team Sky attack a race lend to the nickname, the bus is anything but a death star. It’s a refuge of comfort and rest.

With Team Sky’s innovative way of racing, focusing on marginal gains, having a bus that is a mecca for rest and recovery is a critical component of their success. They’re focused on short-term and long-term recovery for their athletes. No amount of rest is too small.

In the non-cycling world, it’s not uncommon to hear people brag about how little sleep they get. It’s almost become a badge of honor. Pulling all-nighters studying or finishing a report at the office have somehow become signs of undying dedication. Add a 5:00 am wakeup to get exercise in, and we’ve got a vision of a modern-day millennial.

Sleep, though, is an essential part of a healthy life and exercise regime. There’s a symbiotic relationship between sleep and exercise. The better you sleep, the better you’ll exercise. Just as the more active you are, the better you’ll sleep.

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Lack of sleep has some detrimental effects on athletes (of any level) including:

  • Slower muscle recovery
  • Mood changes
  • Decreased glycogen synthesis. Muscle glycogen, in post-exercise muscle and with adequate carbohydrates and rest, is re-synthesized to near pre-exercise levels within 24 hours, then increases to above-normal levels over the next few days. For optimal training, this muscle glycogen needs to be replenished daily. Without adequate rest and good nutrition, this doesn’t happen. 
  • Increased levels of stress hormones, in particular cortisol.

Good sleeping habits, on the other hand, are fundamental in an athlete’s recovery:

  • A good night’s sleep recharges your battery. The Central Nervous System takes charge when it comes to the body responding to pain, triggering muscle contractions, and response time. During sleep, your CNS gets a much-needed re-boot. Without sleep, after exercise, your body will feel more tired. 
  • Sleep helps recover your endocrine system and hormone profiles. As mentioned above, increased levels of stress hormones, in particular cortisol, can hurt performance.
  • During sleep, your muscles recover. During the day, your body’s central nervous system has to take care of a million things. Sleep is the body’s chance to slow down and focus on breathing, replenishing hormones, and tissue repair. During the day, the CNS has to use its resources for other things (like remembering to pick up the kids from school, working out a budget, and pulling weeds). Without sufficient sleep, you don’t give your body the time it needs to work on tissue repair, muscle recovery.

 

Team Sky is aware that every second of recovery is important, as it can shave milliseconds off the clock. So, here are 5 tips to get the much-needed rest your body needs to recover after exercise and, by doing so, improve performance levels.

  1. Have a sleep routine. What do you do to get ready to work out? Most of us have a routine. It’s a way to prepare the body to know what to expect. Do the same for sleep. 
    1. Turn off electronics at least an hour before sleeping. (No more late-night chatting.). Instead, read a book. Talk to someone (face-to-face). When we are exposed to artificial light, our melatonin levels lower because our bodies don’t realize it’s nighttime. Dim the lights and get your melatonin boost for a good night’s rest.
    2. Write down everything you want to accomplish the next day. This clears your mind of to-dos, unattended business, clutter. Stress leads to sleeplessness which leads to less time for the body to recuperate. 
    3. Take time to meditate. Breathe in and out deeply and fill your mind with positive thoughts.

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  2. Wake up! It just takes two days to get us off our sleep schedule. So, as tempting as it is to indulge in a lazy Saturday morning, resist. 
  3. Don’t exercise right before bed. Give yourself at least an hour to cool down between the time you exercise and go to bed. 
  4. Keep the bedroom cool. Unless you have other plans the best sleep temperature is no hotter than 69 degrees. A cool bedroom helps slow your heart rate down. Literally, night time is time to chill out.
  5. Snack your way to a good night’s sleep: What we eat has a huge effect on how we sleep. Everything from a healthy breakfast (avoiding sugars so we don’t put our bodies through ups and downs) to portion size can either make, or break, our sleep. Avoid caffeine in the afternoons. In the evening, choose foods with tryptophan (turkey, chicken, tofu, eggs or lentils) and combine with a carb for maximum snooze effect: chicken noodle soup, turkey slices on a whole wheat cracker, eggs on pita bread. Avoid alcohol at night as well. 

Sleep is essential to health, mental health, and improved results in exercise. Top athletes never dismiss the importance of sleep and rest, so why should we?

Have a good night!

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Gut Feelings, Gut Health from New York Registered Dietitian

Bring on the Kefir, Kimchi, Kombucha and Yoga!

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100 trillion.

That’s about how many bacteria live in our guts. These trillions of bacteria create their own eco-system called a microbiome. This microbiome has a macro-effect on our health. Executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Kelly Bilodeau, writes, “Researchers are beginning to link these tiny creatures to all sorts of health conditions from obesity to neurodegenerative diseases.”

Gut health is directly tied to mental health, weight maintenance, immunology, and the prevention of chronic disease. 

Though the research is astounding, we’ve become a nation of bacteria-phobes. With the overly common trend of slapping on anti-bacterial gel to rid the world, and our lives, of bacteria, our guts, and our health, can suffer. The key to health is maintaining a balanced microbiome. We simply need to add foods (prebiotics) that support the microbiome of good bacteria that live in the gut, which are the probiotics. 

That sounds way more complex than it really is.

So often we hear about probiotics, but as the Mayo Clinic article explains, there’s a symbiotic relationship between prebiotics and probiotics and our gut health.

The human body is a pretty cool machine. Prebiotics mostly come from plant fibers, complex carbohydrates. Prebiotics are high in special types of fiber that support gut health. Prebiotics are found in many food sources from the more common – sweet potatoes and kale – to the more exotic – dandelion greens and chicory root. The body can’t digest these fibers, so they pass to the digestive system as food for the microbiome and those trillions of bacteria. 

The magic doesn’t stop there. Probiotics are naturally occurring bacteria in the gut. Probiotics we consume have live bacteria that add to those trillions of bacteria we already have. Probiotics come from naturally fermented foods: yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, feta cheese, manchego cheese and more.

To maximize gut health, and overall health, there are several things you can do. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds.

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  1. Be intentional about food choices. Make sure you include prebiotics and probiotics  in your diet every day. Some recommended combinations include:
    1. An apple or oats with yogurt or kefir. (Choose the healthiest yogurts to avoid excess sugar).
    2. A mango and berry smoothie (using kefir). Add chia seeds for an extra punch.
    3. Onions and feta cheese.
    4. Dandelion greens and Manchego cheese salad.
    5. Garlic roasted veggies, green olives, and aged cheeses.
    6. Jicima and jacon with yogurt dip. (A refreshing summer snack!)

Some cooking (like cooking artichokes, garlic and asparagus – all great sources of prebiotics) damages the strength of those foods, so you won’t get the big prebiotic punch you hoped for. 

The list of prebiotics and probiotics is long, varied, and exciting. There are so many interesting food combinations to try. Make these combos part of your everyday meals and snacks and give your body the bacteria boost it needs.

  1. Be antibiotic aware. Antibiotics are often necessary. That said, many problems occur when we don’t complete the full course of antibiotics prescribed by our physician or use leftover antibiotics (self-prescribing) instead of throwing them out. So be smart about antibiotics. Don’t abuse or over-use them. Most people need a supplement to help boost their intestinal bacteria after finishing antibiotics. 
  2. Drink up! Steer clear of sugary drinks. Artificial sweeteners and sugar weaken the gut microbiome. If you’re looking for flavor, go for kombucha – a flavorful drink made out of naturally fermented tea leaves. And you can never go wrong with water, water, water … and water. Most of us walk around dehydrated. Our bodies need water, way more than we’re accustomed to drinking.

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  3. Get moving. There are few things more important to health than a movement mindset. Research has shown that a consistent exercise regime improves gut bacteria. 

Gut health is our health. By making some small changes in our exercise routines and diet, we can make a big difference in our health.

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Make Smart Summer Food Choices for Healthy Kids from NYC Registered Dietitian

Beware of the Kid Menu and Make Eating an Adventure

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It’s summer.

It’s hot!

Your dragging!!

You don’t want to cook and often the solution is takeout dinner. And somehow, over the years, take out for kids = packaged, fried, high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium food to mask a lack of flavor. Add this to the fact that many kids now live a more sedentary lifestyle, and we have a generation of  kids who aren’t as healthy as they could be. 

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Getting “fast food” is actually a great idea so you spend less time in the kitchen and have more opportunities to spend time with your family. Rethink the Kid Menu and try some of these smart, quick, summer meal choices you can get at most supermarkets or prepare in minutes!

  1. Buy a roasted chicken. This is a staple of most supermarkets. Removing the skin can reduce fat and sodium. Serve it with cut up summer fruits and topped with a dollop of plain yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon or drizzled with honey. Quick, easy, summery, delicious!
  2. Share the good stuff. When going out to dinner, instead of opening up to the kid menu, try having your kids share a meal off the regular menu. Perhaps let them pick out two meals and what they don’t finish can go home for eaten the next day. Get kids used to trying other flavors and textures by sharing tastes from your meal and encourage choices other than fried or cheesy menu options. 
  3. Order a half-size entrée (or regular-size and take it home). If we program our kids to think they should always eat what is offered on the kid’s menu they will start to believe it and only want that meal. Let your child pick from the regular menu and ask if they can do a half order. Guide your child’s choices realizing experimentation with food may result in an unfinished meal. Try to keep the experience fun and experiential rather than stressful.chickenstrips
  4. Switch up the bread basket. Look at the menu before you go. Find an appetizer everyone can agree on and order it immediately when you sit down to prevent your kids from filling up on bread. Try this at home, let the kids plan it, as a fun way to start your meal!
  5. Healthy doesn’t mean time consuming. Become a savvy shopper and save time on food prep. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables for optimal flavor and freshness (you will save money as well!). If you have a large freezer make large batches of soup, chili and sauces when before summer and freeze for later. Buy pre-cut veggies and fruits for quick go-to snacks and meal prep. Make eating colorful with better nutrition by being prepared so you are not always opening a package of crackers or chips! 
  6. Become food label literate as a family. Teach kids how to read a nutrition label. Clean eating is a new, healthy trend, but it’s important to understand processed foods are not all evil. Some processing is needed to take bacteria and germs out of our foods (like pasteurizing milk). 
    1. Processed foods are any food with a label (which means more than one ingredient was used to make it).
    2. Processed foods are foods that have changed from their original inception (like applesauce or taking bran and germ from grains to make refined breads). 
    3. The key to choosing processed foods is simple: If you don’t know what an ingredient listed on the label is, don’t buy it. If it comes “ready to heat up” try to buy products that have no added chemicals or artificial additives and are not packaged in plastic. Only heat food in metal, glass or paper containers.indian.restaurant.buffet
  7. Create a culture of food adventure. Kids’ options on most menus lack imagination, taste, and balanced nutrition. They take the adventure out of trying new foods. Eating out is an opportunity to expose ourselves, and our children, to new foods and possibly new cultures. New flavors, new presentations, new textures. Try to order a new meal or food each time you go out. Share it as a family. Talk about what you like about it, what you may not like. IF it is done in an environment that embraces change and accepts we all have different palates and taste buds it can be fun and stress free for parents and kids!

So next time somebody hands you the kid menu, kindly hand it back and start your family’s journey to more adventurous restaurant eating.

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3 Tips to Exercise and Work Smart in Summer from NYC Registered Personal Trainer

Beat the Heat and Stay Safe

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We’re smack in the middle of July and it’s hot. Hot, hot, hot.

With the temperatures rising, we have to take extra care while we exercise, work, and play. When we work out, work outside, or even up our activity level when it’s hot, our bodies’ core temperature rises. To lower the heat, we sweat. The evaporation of sweat cools down that core temperature. Nevertheless, when it’s exceptionally hot outside, our bodies might not be able to manage its automatic cooling system. They need help.

Heat exhaustion can happen suddenly or over a period of time. And it doesn’t have to happen after a strenuous workout. It could even happen while playing in the park with our kids. Other detonators of heat exhaustion are dehydration, alcohol use (alcohol is a huge dehydrator), and wearing inappropriate clothing that doesn’t allow your body to sweat and breathe.

If not treated, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke, which can be potentially life-threatening. So, while we want to remain active during these summer months, it’s important to stay cool and stay safe.

Here are 3 tips to exercise, work, and play smart during the hot summer months.

  1. Know the signs. Heat exhaustion symptoms include
    1. Heavy sweating
    2. Cool, moist skin … even goosebumps … in the heat of the day
    3. Faintness, dizziness, and fatigue
    4. Low blood pressure, and dizziness when standing up
    5. Cramps and headaches
    6. Weak pulse
    7. Nausea 
  2. Take action. Do not wait until it’s too late. As soon as you, or anybody you’re with, show signs of heat exhaustion, take action. Move to a cool area in the shade, lay the person down, and elevate the person’s leg above her heart. Drink water (not sugary drinks or alcohol, where they can get dehydrated more). Sponge the person down with cool water. And, when in doubt, get to a doctor.

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  1. Prevent heat exhaustion. The ideal is to prevent heat exhaustion from happening at all! Some things are out of our control (like work schedule); however, exercise habits and hours are within our control. 
    1. Exercise early morning, late evening. Avoid midday exercising during the hot summer months. If your only time to exercise is noon, wear a hat, sunscreen, and loose-fitting, appropriate clothing. 
    2. Hydrate! Drink 24 ounces of water two hours before working out. Get another 8 right before working out. And drink 8 ounces every 20 minutes while working out. After working out, cool down with more water. This same drinking schedule goes for those who work construction, road crew and more. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
    3. Acclimate to the temperature. Don’t jump from the airconditioned office to 100-degree weather and sprint away. Take it easy until your body gets used to the extreme temperature changes. 
    4. Know your body! Remember, “no pain, no gain” is a road straight to the doctor. Knowing your body, your limits, and knowing that these limits will be lowered during high temps, can save your life.
    5. The Devil Wears Wicking Fabrics: Forget fashion and get fabric-smart. If you work in the sun, wear SPF shirts and fabrics that wick away sweat. Do not wear cotton socks. Wear wool blends or synthetic fabrics that keep your socks from soaking up sweat (which not only messes with your internal temperature but can also cause uncomfortable blisters). Invest in a couple of good, quality wicking shirts.
    6. Never, never, never leave anyone in a parked car. In a parked car, temperatures can rise 20 degrees in ten minutes. That quick errand into the supermarket can be fatal.

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We’ve got a good five to six weeks left of summer heat. So if you can’t afford a trip to the Antarctic, it’s a good time to find ways to adapt your exercise schedule or change habits to ensure your safety. Keep in mind children under four and seniors, over 65, are more at-risk for heat exhaustion. Moreover, if you take certain medications, you might be at risk, so it’s important to talk to your health care professional to find out which medications can heighten the risk. 

Stay aware. Stay hydrated. Stay safe! 

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4 Tips to Improve Your Relationship with Food and Get Rid of the Cheat Day Mentality

NYC Registered Nutritionist Explains How a Cheat Day Damages Your Relationship With Food

I often ask my clients if they have “cheat days” with their partners or spouses. Or, do they have “cheat days” at school. Do my professional clients have “cheat days” at work, dipping into those enticing funds? Do the athletes I train have “cheat days” on the basketball court? They look at me like what I’ve suggested is crazy.

So, how, then, is our relationship with food less important than the relationships we have with our loved ones, our studies, our work, our sports? How is it okay to treat the way we eat and nourish ourselves with a concept of guilt and pleasure?

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As I discussed in an earlier blog, Americans are hard-wired to see food as the enemy. Dr. Linda Bacon writes in Health at Every Size, “When asked what came to mind upon hearing the words ‘chocolate cake’, Americans were most likely to connect it with ‘guilt’ while the French connected it with ‘celebration.’”

I had the opportunity to discuss cheat days with journalist Jennifer Still from Bon Appetit  and the way “cheat days” drive a market of food shame. Dieting is a billion dollar market, and much of this market is driven by guilt. Cheat days effectively categorize foods into good and bad categories, deprivation and indulgence. Food, then, becomes our reward and/or punishment instead of what it really is – our sustenance, health, and nourishment. 

“Cheat days” feed into the guilt mentality. ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) writes that over 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. That’s almost 10% of the population. We’re doing something wrong.

I’ve written this before, but it deserves to be repeated: oftentimes it’s not so much what we eat but, instead, how we eat and how we view food that are the major problems. No nutrition plan will work without addressing our feelings about food itself.

So here are 4 tips to improve your relationship with food and get rid of the “cheat day” mentality:

  1. Make meals matter: Whether you have a family, eat out with friends or eat alone, make mealtime, mealtime. Be mindful of the food you put in your mouth. Stop. Take three seconds. Observe. And proceed. Each bite allows you to do what you do every single day. 
  2. Pay attention: How do you talk about bodies? How do you talk about your own body? This can be a huge hurdle to healthy eating. When we talk about weight, we’re falling into the same trap of what we see on the media. Shift the conversation to health – health at every size. 

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  1. Build your body self esteem: Body shaming is a huge part of our culture. When you realize how you talk about your body, your weight, you can start to change that negative voice. Write down three things you love about your body (eg. Your hands, so you can hold your children’s hands. Your smile. Your eyes.) Add a new body part each week. Put down the fashion magazines, turn off the TV, and start paying attention to “real bodies” when you go to the park, the supermarket. See the beauty in diversity, not one shoved down our throats by the media.
  2. Listen to your body: You’ve had years abusing your internal system, so it’s time to listen to when you’re full, to the subtle cravings. As I said in the Bon Appetit article, our bodies are hard-wired to crave food as a way of survival. It’s the body’s way of telling us what nutrients it needs. So craving a wide-variety of foods is healthy and preferable!

This is just a start to re-adjusting your relationship with food, making smart choices based on nourishment and health, not guilt and punishment. So, get rid of the “cheat day” mentality and commence a healthy relationship with food. Not only will you start to enjoy mealtime more, but you’ll also begin to enjoy a variety of flavors and opportunities to connect with food in a different way!

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6 Eating and Exercise Tips for a Healthy Prostate from New York Registered Dietitian

Closing Up a Month of Men’s Health

 

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According to the CDC, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the United States and one of the leading causes of cancer death among men. In fact, out of every 100 men, 12 – 13 will get prostate cancer in their lifetime, and 2 or 3 will die.

Though all men are at risk, African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer are even more at risk, the former generally having a more aggressive form of cancer at a younger age. Other risk factors include age (the older men get, the more at risk they are) and being overweight.

All men should discuss prostate cancer, their individual risks of it, and possibly getting screened for it with their health care providers. Not everyone has symptoms, no screening is exact, but being aware of key symptoms like difficulty starting urination, weak and interrupted flow of urination, frequent urination during the night or difficulty emptying the bladder, erectile disfunction among others are red flags and can help with early detection.

As with so many other chronic illnesses and cancers, there are more things under our control than we imagine. So, here comes the dietitian and personal trainer broken record: A healthy, active lifestyle with good food choices is the best way to fend off chronic disease and cancer, including prostate cancer.

Adding a super kale shake to your diet won’t fend off cancer cells, but embodying a healthy lifestyle, an overall pattern of healthy eating, just might. Here are 6 eating and exercise tips to healthier living.

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  1. Be mindful when you eat. The goal isn’t “clean your plate”, instead eat until you’re sated. This means when it’s time to eat, eat. Sit down at the table. Turn off the phone, TV, computer. If you eat lunch at the office, leave the office and go to a nearby park (if possible). Make meals sacred, whether you’re alone or have a family. Each bite is keeping you alive and healthy. 
  2. Go for colors! Deep leafy greens, bright orange mangoes, dark purple cabbage and blueberries, bright red berries. Make fruits and vegetables a mainstay of your diet. Half your dinner plate should be piled with fruits and vegetables. The more variety, the better.
  3. Cut back on red meat and look for healthier sources of proteins (fish, eggs, chicken, and vegetable proteins like soy, lentils and beans). And keep processed meats to an absolute minimum (hot dogs, salami, bologna etc.)  Begin by substituting your burger and steak once/week with another healthier option. Make choosing white meats a habit. You might be surprised at how much you’re enjoying other protein sources.
  4. Go for whole grains, whole grain pasta and rice, quinoa, chia, heavy, hearty breads. Take simple carbs out of the picture, replacing them with complex carbohydrates. Substitute your white bread with wheat bread. These little changes can make a big difference over time.
  5. Olive oil, fatty fish, avocadoes are chock-full of healthy fats. Try to balance your diet with these healthy fats, cutting back on animal fats (butter, cream, red meats), and trying to eliminate trans fats (mostly found in packaged foods). Spread avocado, almond butter, or drizzle olive oil on your toast in the morning. These fats are full of flavor, and the variety will keep you healthy and engaged with your food!

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  6. Get moving! We’ve become a nation of professional sitters. We don’t even have to get up to change the channel anymore. According to Harvard Health, though a direct link between exercise and reducing prostate cancer hasn’t been proven, studies show that exercise reduces the probability of erectile dysfunction, improves symptoms of chronic prostatitis, and there is an inverse relationship between physical activity and prostate symptoms. Make movement part of your daily routine. Set a movement alarm on your computer at work. Get up every hour to walk around the office. Take the stairs. Walk to work, or bike. Make walking the first option or everything you do (save money on gas!). Learn to actively sit, great posture and a strong core can keep back pain away. Incorporate movement into everything you do.

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Healthy living is changing our habits, our lifestyle, to make healthy eating choices and exercise habits an integral part of everyday life. These overall patterns of healthy eating and exercise will not only protect us against prostate cancer but a whole slew of chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, mental health problems and more.

June, we celebrate the men in our lives. What better way to do so than with some positive lifestyle changes?

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6 Tips to Keep the Men in Your Life Healthy From New York Registered Nutritionist and Personal Trainer

Celebrate Men’s Health Month

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Last week, we talked about our favorite dads. This week, I want to continue discussing men’s health. June is Men’s Health Month, a month to help all of us understand the health challenges men face and how, through education and lifestyle changes, we can bring those fatality numbers down.

Though more males are born than females (105 to 100), by age 35, women outnumber men. Men have higher rates of suicide, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They are more likely to be overweight. And men are less likely to receive regular physical exams, as they are more likely to be uninsured.

Men’s health doesn’t just affect men. Early deaths can send families into poverty. In fact, more than 50% of widows living in poverty were not poor before the deaths of their husbands. 

Because of these facts, Men’s Health Month strives to educate and raise awareness about the health challenges men face, of all races, ethnicities, and religions. What can we do?

  1. Get an appointment. Give health. Give your favorite guy a checkup with a health practitioner, a community health center, or a registered dietitian. Schedule a time for him to see a personal trainer to learn about how to get moving more. Get him on track to healthier habits.

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  2. Rethink your favorite summer meals. Instead of grilling burgers and dogs on the barbecue, try some delicious, healthier alternatives. Teriyaki portobello burgers, buffalo chicken breast burgers, black bean burgers, or try something exotic like soft shell crab sliders. Finding creative ways to eat your favorite flavors can boost health.
  3. Talk about it. Men die from suicide 3.5 times more than women. And, shockingly, the highest suicide rates are in adults 45 to 54 years old. Men are less likely to talk about depression and seek out help for it. First and foremost, get help from a professional. Call a hotline. And start talking.
  4. Feed your brain for mental health. We really are what we eat. Food affects both the way our brains function and the structure of our brains. So by being mindful of what we eat, we can improve our mental health with good nutrition.  Replace simple carbs with complex carbohydrates. Reduce, or eliminate, refined sugars from our diet. Pump up serotonin with some great ProBiotics. Omega-3, found in salmon, chia seeds, walnuts, and more can help reduce chances of developing mental health disorders. And finally, drink up! Stay hydrated.

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  5. Change your after-work habits. It’s so tempting to fall into the couch and turn on the TV. Resist! 20% of your resting metabolic rates come from using your brain. As soon as we turn on the TV, we turn off our brains, lower our metabolisms, and put our bodies at risk. Everybody needs a break, but before turning on the TV, try:
    1. Going for a walk with the family or dog!
    2. Going to the park to play.
    3. Sitting on the floor to watch TV, where you won’t be so comfortable and will be more likely to move around.
    4. Charting your TV activity for a week … a “little TV” can be a surprising “lot.”
    5. Reading with your kids, playing a board game, doing a family activity that’s not centered around the TV.
  6. Be a tourist in your own town. How often do you miss local events, concerts, or festivals? Sign up at your local tourism bureau to get information about events that are coming up. Get a library card. Attend local events. Summertime is a great time to check out music festivals, culinary festivals, and sporting events. Most of them are free of charge! 

June is a month to celebrate the men we love – of all ages. Learn about heath risks and ways to make healthy lifestyle choices. Just a few changes can add many years!

Father's Day

Healthy Ways to Celebrate Dads from NYC Registered Nutritionist and Personal Trainer

Give the Gift of Health to the Favorite Men in Your Life

Father's Day

Tie cards, coasters, and hand-printed t-shirts are favorite gift choices for Father’s Day. It’s hard to find the just right gift to bottle up the love we feel in our hearts!

According to a study from The Guardian, 90% of men don’t wear ties to work (though those cards are cute), and according to the CDC, heart disease is the number one cause of death for men in the United States. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, a poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol. 

Why not give your favorite dad, step dad, uncle, grandpa, or big brother in your life something that can last a lifetime? Why not give the gift of health? 

Celebrate Father’s Day with these unique gift ideas.

  1. Join a local hiking club. (Yes, you can make the hand-print stamped t-shirts, matching even, to go with this!). Get your dad outside and moving. Discover your backyard with a weekend hiking group. Most are free, and you can choose the level of aerobic intensity you like.
  2. Cook up some fun. Sign up for father-daughter or father-son cooking classes at your local community center, YMCA, or favorite restaurant. Discover healthy, tasty new ingredients and recipes that are easy to make and share.Planetarium
  3. Don’t count sheep, count stars. Go camping. Take a weekend away from the madness of the city and sleep under the stars. The health benefits of fresh air and being away from artificial lights include improved circadian rhythms (you’ll sleep better! And when you sleep better, you are more likely to maintain a healthy weight). And for those who just are a bit too bug-averse, take your dad to the planetarium and discover the Milky Way. Explore space and time together (without the mosquitoes).Baseball Field
  4. Batter up! What better way to celebrate than with baseball? An afternoon cheering for your favorite team, out in the fresh air, is a great way to celebrate your favorite guy. Being a sports fan has some fantastic side effects including: community, getting inspired to get active, and even improve your brain. (It’s not easy to understand baseball stats!)
  5. Get technological. Some dads just love their video games. So take your dad to an intense laser-tag session at a local gym and blast away. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five days/week,  can improve mental health and reduce the risk of chronic disease and cancer. Tag! You’re it.Geocache
  6. Real-world treasure hunting. Download the geocache app and find treasure in your backyard. Wander around your neighborhood, the local park, or even nearby wilderness areas and find what people have cached away. It’s technological. It’s fun. It gets everyone moving, and hunting, and it’s addictive. Pack a healthy lunch or snack and go searching. Don’t forget to sign the log books.
  7. Book it! Reading, thinking, making … your local library has summer-long programming that includes Maker Spaces, read-a-thons, story time and more. Get a library card and share time together. Make it a weekly tradition to discover the programming and world of books your local library has to offer.

One in four men can suffer from heart disease that, with just a few changes in lifestyle can be reduced. So instead of that tie-card (which is lovely, by the way), why not give a gift that opens the door to opportunities to eat healthier, exercise more, and spend time together. 

Time is something we never get back, so fill it with great moments and memories with the favorite dad in your life.

Happy, Healthy Father’s Day!

woman-stress

7 Exercise and Nutrition Tips to Battle Stress and Depression

How Nutrition and Activity Can Help Mental Health

woman-stress

Stress is a normal part of everyday life. But when stress levels go through the roof, many moms can experience anxiety and depression. Some call it Mommy burnout. Some say it’s just a “phase”. But the reality is many moms, many parents, experience clinical depression and anxiety.

My first recommendation is to consult with your health care professional. Chronic stress not only wears down a parent’s body, physically and mentally, but it also has a direct effect on the way parents relate to their children. It’s important to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling.

May is Mental Health Month, established in 1949 in order to bring awareness to mental health, educate people and organizations about the importance of mental health, and help get rid of the stigma of mental health problems. 

Health, oftentimes, is compartmentalized. We have liver specialists, hormone specialists, brain specialists and more. The reality is, though, we need to begin to look at health holistically, including mental health. Everything in our organism is connected, and if one thing isn’t going well, this causes a chain reaction throughout the whole body. This year’s mental health theme is Fitness #4MIND4BODY. 

So, I’m concluding a month of celebrating mothers to give 7 exercise and nutrition tips to battle stress and depression and improve your mental health.

  1. Less is more: High levels of sodium, sugar, and all the un-pronounceable ingredients found in highly processed foods can bring a body down. Research shows that these kinds of foods actually can increase the chance of depression by up to 60%. Eating clean is a trend that can keep your body healthier. It boils down to ingredient awareness and choosing foods that are whole and/or minimally processed.

    greensalad

  2. Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, dark leafy greens, walnuts, flax and chia seeds should be on your mind when you head for the grocery store. Omega 3 fatty acids are a natural anti-depressant. Nutritionists recommend a minimum of two servings per week. Omega 3 supplements are a good option as well.
  3. Get your B Vitamins! B-group vitamins include folate, folic acid and vitamin B12. They help to regulate neurotransmitters, immune function, and amino acids. People with a diet high in B vitamins lower their risk of developing depression. So time to indulge! Folate and folic acid found in leafy green vegetables, legumes and whole grains are jam-packed with nutrients that. B12 is found in meat-based proteins, eggs and milk. Many breakfast cereals have Vitamin B12 as well, which are a good option for vegetarians.
  4. Take in the sun! Vitamin D is an essential nutrient found in fatty fish, eggs, and fortified breakfast cereals. It is also found in sunshine! Just 5 – 30 minutes of sunshine each week can fill your body with the Vitamin D. All of this sunshine helps decrease your risk of depression.

    strawberry-yogurt

  5. The belly-brain connection. Gut health = mental health. Prebiotics and probiotics keep our intestinal tracts healthy. 95% of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in our guts. So a healthy GI tract produces more serotonin which lowers anxiety and stress.
  6. Drink away your problems. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of good hydration. Our brains are 80% liquid and need hydration. Dehydration causes fatigue. Fatigue causes stress. Chronic stress wears down our bodies. And we spiral into an unhealthy cycle.

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  7. Walk it off. One step at a time can improve your mental health and decrease your chances of depression. Sedentary lifestyles and depression are bed partners. Exercise increases blood circulation to your brain, helping improve your mood. Depression and anxiety are a vacuum for energy. So oftentimes someone experiencing depression doesn’t exercise because, truthfully, her energy levels hit rock bottom. The only way to climb up from this abyss is by taking it one step at a time.

We’re ending a month of Moms. I hope I helped you discover ways to keep up your energy levels, spirits, and find healthy-eating short cuts while carving out time for exercise. Motherhood is tough, and so often in the madness we forget to take care of ourselves.

Being mindful of our needs is a great way to improve our mental and physical health.