pumpkin-soup

5 Health Benefits of Our Favorite Fall Flavor from NYC Dietitian

Head to the Pumpkin Patch for some Seasonal Health! 

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pumpkin spice

We’ve all seen the memes making fun of the arrival of pumpkin spice lattes. There seems to be a bit of a love-hate of everything pumpkin in the world. (Not many aisle-crossers here). 

That said, as a nutritionist, I’ve got to shout out the health benefits of pumpkins (not the spiced lattes that pack 380 calories and way too much sugar in its 16 oz. cup, but the real-deal pumpkin). Pumpkins and squash, in general, are packed with nutrition.

It’s Halloween in a week (where many pumpkins meet their destiny as Jack-o-Lanterns) and we’re just 5 weeks away from Thanksgiving. Since we’ve got pumpkin on the mind, let’s talk pumpkin nutrition.

  1. Fiber up.  On average, Americans need 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day, but we’re only eating 13 grams. Pumpkin is a rich source of soluble fiber, which helps with digestion and reducing the chance of constipation, both of which improve colorectal health.  It’s also a heart-healthy choice.
  2. See well with the carotenoid antioxidants found in pumpkin. Carotenoid antioxidants are great for eye health and keep you young inside-out.
  3. Look good! The antioxidants and vitamin C found in pumpkin help your skin glow. (You can’t imagine how hard it is to refrain from making a cheesy Jack-o-Lantern reference here. Glow. Okay. Never mind). Anyway, not only will it keep your skin looking healthier, lutein, zeaxathin, and vitamin E in pumpkin help protect us against UV Rays. So this magical orange winter squash keeps us from becoming orange. (The puns must stop!)

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  4. Keep the winter bugs away. The body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A. Vitamin A can strengthen the immune system and fight off infections. In winter, we’re more prone to bugs because we’re often stuck in confined spaces with heating systems that recirculate the air. Add a drop in vitamin D (not enough sun!), and our bodies need to boost defenses during the long winter months.
  5. Don’t throw out the seeds! Roasted pumpkin seeds (for salads or snacks or on top of your favorite pumpkin soup), are great for gut health. They are packed with zinc (great for the immune system) and phytosterols (free-radical scavenging anti-oxidants). So when you’ve scraped out your Jack-o-Lantern, throw the seeds in the oven with a little sea salt and pepper.

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Some of my favorite winter recipes include pumpkin! Like butternut squash with pumpkin seeds and cranberries, pumpkin pancakes, oatmeal, and bran muffins to tempt the family out of bed on cold winter mornings,  or keep it simple. Roast pumpkin in the oven and scoop it out with a spoon. Drizzle with honey to calm your sweet tooth or make it spicy with chile peppers. 

However you choose to dish it out, keep pumpkin on the mind this holiday season. It’s for more than Jack-o-Lanterns and pies. (Though they’re fabulous as well.)

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6 Tips to Find Time to Eat Together as a Family from New York City Registered Dietitian

Celebrate Family Meals Month

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We’ve become masters of juggling schedules: work, sports, dance, robotics club. We’re just around the corner from school starting. Soon we’ll be dealing with science projects, reading logs, and the new way to do fifth grade math (nobody really understands it). Family calendars are full now. But somehow, in all of the chaos, many families forget to schedule one of the most important events of the day: meals.

August is Family Meals Month. The benefits of sharing meals in a family go far beyond nutrition. Family dinners are opportunities to talk, share, and listen to one another. Family dinners teach children about how to interact and discuss things that matter. Family dinners are opportunities to connect. This connection has some significant results. According to studies and The Family Dinner Project, sharing meals: improves academic performance, resiliency in children, strengthens self-esteem and, in turn, reduces the chance of alcohol and substance abuse, depression, childhood obesity, as well as teenage pregnancy. 

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It seems like a pretty tall order. The simple act of breaking bread together as a family can have such a profound impact in the lives of our kids. There’s a direct link in the nutritional health of children and adolescents with the number of meals the family eats together, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

When families eat together, children develop a healthier relationship with food, are less likely to engage in disordered eating, and are more likely to eat a greater variety of foods.

For something so important, we put so little emphasis on it. How come everything else seems to get in the way of a family meal?

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Here are 6 ways to find time to eat as a family.

  1. Family mealtime isn’t a Hollywood movie scene. As lovely as it would be to take out the crystal and linen tablecloth, most of us have mismatched dishes, chipped cups, and can barely scrape together a matching set of silverware. It’s not about how it looks, it’s about sitting together and sharing a meal, whether that be picnic-style at the park, in the living room, or at the kitchen table.
  2. Unplug. Now is not the time to be checking internet, returning phone calls, or watching the evening news. Unplug and unwind. Talk to each other. (Remember how that happens?) By doing this, you’re showing your children, your spouse, and the other people at the table that they matter. And they do!
  3. Schedule your meal. Just as you schedule a doctor’s appointment, coding club, or an after-school study session, schedule your family meals at least three times/week. No excuses! This should be a priority. 
  4. Redefine family. Whether you are sitting with your nieces, your neighbors, your best friend, your students, mealtime is a time to connect. It’s a time to share a moment and be grateful for each nourishing bite. 
  5. Share! Share the food prep, everything from planning to grocery shopping, preparing the meal to cleaning up. (Especially that last part!). A meal begins long before you sit at the table. Take this time, before sitting at the table, to shift from hyper-active mode to sit, relax, and share mode. 
  6. Be practical. Save time in prep to make quick, inexpensive meals. Buy in-season fruits and vegetables. If you get too many, cut up fruits and put them in quart-size freezer bags for later. (Peach pie in November? Yummy!) Label your freezer and fridge foods with name and date (to take the guesswork out of what’s in the Tupperware).  Make soups and sauces in bigger batches and freeze in family-size meals. There are many ways to save time in the kitchen!

Slow down. Take the time to connect with your family over a good meal. This is a pretty small investment for a phenomenal pay off. 

Bon apetit!

NYC Certified Personal Trainer Shares 6 Ways to Motivate Clients to Commit

Help the Most Skeptical Fall in Love with Exercise

NYC Nutritionist

We’re in a month of love. And just as many people are looking for that lifetime love, as personal trainers, we want to motivate our clients to begin a lifetime affair with exercise and fitness. The flash-in-the-pan, quick-fix diets and exercise plans end up doing us more harm than good.

So how can you motivate your clients to stick with it after the initial sparks have fizzled?

  • Together, with clients, make SMART goals (specific, measurable, agreed upon, reasonable, time-based): Usually when clients come to me with goals, they are too vague. Instead of, I want to get toned, help them come up with a SMART goal like: I will do 25 push-ups each day for the next two weeks.  Instead of, I want to get in shape, try: By the end of the month, I will run a 6-minute mile. These are concrete goals with specific timelines to help your clients focus and check things off their list.
  • Communicate with your clients: Be specific. Tell them where they’ve improved and what they need to do. As a personal trainer, we sometimes wear a psychology hat as well. Take the time to listen to their concerns and problems. Don’t brush them off with, “Not a problem. Don’t worry.” Some clients might be dealing with disordered eating, depression, or any number of other problems. Take the time to listen, and consult with a professional if needed.
  • NYC NutritionistTake a trip down memory lane: Sometimes clients don’t see the forest for the trees. They forget how far they’ve come. Take out the initial evaluation you did and show them what they’ve accomplished. It can be a long, lonely road, and they often won’t remember how many steps they’ve taken.
  • Be positive: This goes without saying, but the fact that I’m writing it means that it needs to be reinforced. Come to each training session with an upbeat attitude. Nobody’s perfect. We all have those days where we just want to crawl under a rock. But energy is contagious, and your clients need the best and brightest of you every session.
  • Spark the Dying Romance with Creativity: Just as with love, exercise needs a bit of spark and creativity. Change things up. Create fitness plans that fit into your client’s daily schedules. Teach your clients to look for exercise ops to help them shift their focus and see fitness everywhere. Have fun!
  • NYC NutritionistConnect: Consider building an online community with clients – a forum, fitness board, a Facebook page or Twitter account where you post articles, links, inspiring quotes and stories.

Falling in love with exercise is like any other kind of love – the passion doesn’t last unless you commit to a lifetime of work, patience, creativity, and goal setting. But once you’re in, you’re in!

Motivate clients to begin a lifetime affair with exercise with these 6 easy-to-follow tips.