Friday, December 9, 2016

Tips for Using Winter Fruits and Veggies

The cold weather has been creeping upon us, which means that winter is right around the corner. Though we have to embrace this cold weather, there is something we can look forward to --- winter vegetables and fruits! Yes, those delicious, hearty vegetables that amp up our soups, and fill our homes with a distinct aroma while roasting, and those sweet fruits that we look forward to helping build our immune system! You may be wondering what’s so special about these fruits and vegetables, and what on earth am I supposed to do with them? Well, you have come to the right place, because today's post is all about that!

Winter Squash
Winter squash is typically the first vegetable that comes to mind for this season. What is wonderful about these vegetables is that they are harvested in the fall and can last through the wintertime. There are a variety of squashes that fall under this category, such as butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, sweet pumpkin, and delicata squash. These vibrant squashes are rich in antioxidants (vitamin C and E), potassium, and fiber! Roasting these vegetables brings out their natural sweetness and fills your home with a delicious, nutty aroma. Winter squashes also make excellent soups and side dishes to help warm you up during the cold weather!

Clementines, Mandarins, and Tangerines
Now, you may be wondering what the difference is between these 3 fruits since their names are often used interchangeably. Tangerines and clementines are a type of mandarin. Clementines tend to be sweeter, easier to peel, and are usually seedless. Tangerines, on the other hand, are a bit more sour and contain seeds. Both fruits have great antioxidant properties with more than a day’s worth of vitamin C! These immune-boosting fruits are great for this time of year when cold and flu season is in full effect. These little guys last around a week in the fridge, and are great to keep on hand as an on-the-go snack!

Kale has grown in popularity due to it being labeling as a “superfood.” This dark, leafy green is a member of the cabbage family, and has a bitter taste. Kale is very versatile when it comes to cooking since it can be used in soups, roasted into kale chips, eaten raw in a salad, or sauteed in a stir-fry (just make sure you cut the tough rib out). This green is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of calcium and potassium. Below is a delicious and simple kale chip recipe that is sure to satisfy your crunchy snack cravings.

Simple Kale Chips

2 cups kale leaves (washed, de-stemmed, and torn apart) )
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste*

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place kale leaves on a large baking sheet. 
3. Drizzle kale with olive oil and spices*.
4. Bake for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on them so they do not burn. 

*You can use any combination of spices for your kale chips, such as: garlic powder and parmesean cheese, hot pepper flakes, cayenne pepper with lemon zest, or your favorite seasoning blend! 

Post is guest written by Christine Farinella - Current dietetic intern with the University of Delaware  that holds a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition & Dietetics from West Chester University. 

References: - - - -

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Healthy Holiday Tips

As we are nearing Thanksgiving, instead of ditching your healthy eating habits until January, create a balanced strategy to help avoid that dreaded weight gain. I have been saying to all of my clients this week to focus on incorporating healthy foods and habits versus just letting everything go for the next month and a half. With all of the stress of this season, having a well-fueled body can really help to get you through the day. Think about how much better you may function/feel with a good night's sleep and well-balanced breakfast? One thing is for sure is that this can definitely help you to walk away from tempting treats versus if you skimped on the healthy food when you woke up.

I don't think of the holidays as a time to be super stringent with your healthy diet. I mean, in all honesty, that is why I promote a healthy lifestyle versus a quick-fix-diet because of the fact that you can splurge every once in a while and not feel guilty for "going off your diet." It would be unrealistic to say to someone to avoid every sweet and treat at holiday dinners and parties.

So, what does a healthy lifestyle look like during the holidays then? It starts with realistic expectations. Don't say to yourself that you are going to aim for a 10-pound weight-loss from now until January if you KNOW that you probably won't reach that. All that does is set yourself up for failure and disappointment. Instead, try and focus on weight maintenance. Another realistic expectation may be to keep up with your gym or walking routine or continue to eat veggies and fruits every day (if you already are doing this consistently). It is hard enough to change your habits, let alone making major changes during the stress of the holidays.

Also, trying aiming for meal balance when you go to parties or settle down for dinner. Try to incorporate 1/4 of your plate as lean protein (turkey, chicken, fish, beans, tofu), 1/4 as whole grains/starchy (brown rice, quinoa, potatoes with the skin on, etc) and 1/2 as non-starchy veggies (broccoli, asparagus, salad, cauliflower, green beans, brussels sprouts, etc). If you know your having stuffing and mashed potatoes, try skipping the extra carbs in the rolls. Try really slowing down your meal and enjoying what is on your plate. Practice portion control with smaller scoops and plates. You can always go back for more later.

If your not in charge of the cooking this year, try just bringing a healthy side or dessert. You can still enjoy what is offered; however, at least you know you have one healthy option to fall back on. Something like veggies and hummus or fresh fruit with a light dip can be a quick and simple alternative. Don't go crazy trying complicated and new "healthy" recipes. Even doing simple swaps like brown rice for white rice in a casserole or plain Greek yogurt for sour cream, or using 1/4c less sugar in baking and adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract can all add up!

In the end, remember that the holiday season is about being with family/friends, not just the tasty food. To be your best self, you need to fuel your body properly and maybe even spending a little time recharging those batteries (i.e. sleeping more, going for a walk, reading, taking a long bath, etc)!

Happy holidays!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Oatmeal Recipes Galore!

Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast to make. Oats are packed with soluble fiber, which help to work to clear away compounds in your intestines that can contribute to high cholesterol. Soluble fiber can also help with blood sugar regulation and weight management.

During one of my recent cooking classes, I made a few oatmeal varieties and the participants loved it! Hope you enjoy them as much as they/I did :)

Cocoa-Banana Oatmeal
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (can also use coconut, soy, etc.)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (I also used steel cut and it worked great!)
1 small banana, mashed
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (can sub in vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon almond butter (can sub in peanut butter)
1 tablespoon sliced almonds (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, bring milk to a boil.
2. Add remaining ingredients (except sliced almonds) and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
3. Top oats with sliced almonds and serve!

**You can also add in a sweetener of your choice if the banana is not enough for you. You can also add in ground flaxseeds for a boost of healthy fats, fiber, and protein.

Nutrition Information: 368 calories, 15g fat, 153mg sodium, 54g carbohydrates, 14g sugar, 9g fiber, 9g protein

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (can also use coconut, soy, etc.)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (I also used steel cut and it worked great!)
1 small apple, diced
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar (can eliminate for lower sugar recipe)
Dash cinnamon

1. In a large saucepan, bring milk to a boil.
2. Add remaining ingredients and cook for about 5-7 minutes.

Nutrition Information: 257 calories, 6g fat, 152mg sodium, 49g carbohydrates, 18g sugar, 8g fiber, 6g protein

One last comment about these recipes. A lot of the sugar is coming from natural sources like the banana and apples, so don't be too concerned about those numbers. Also, with having fruit/nuts, you are also boosting the fiber content of the recipe. Remember, to leave the skin on with your apples since that is where a lot of the fiber and nutrients are. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Why Going Low-Carb is NOT the Best Idea

Have you been told by a medical professional, friends, family member or even a figure on the Internet that you should be following a low-carb diet for Diabetes or weight-loss? This is something I hear from clients quite frequently. With my experience in counseling and also the research, I am here to tell you that it is perfectly okay to eat carbohydrates if you have Diabetes or want to lose weight. Shocking, I know! Below are the top 4 reasons I have for not following a super low-carb diet based on the majority of things I hear from clients. 

1. Low-carb means no fruit!
One of the first things people tend to do when cutting carbs is cutting the fruit out! Fruit is packed fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; even those “deadly” bananas! I don’t know how many people come to me with Diabetes saying they can’t eat fruit. Let me just say that when I look at the food diaries of these patients, most are not overeating the fruits. Aim for whole fruit over juices and eat the skin if possible since that is where a lot of the nutrients and fiber lay. Just see below at just some of the research touting the benefits of fruits and vegetables! 
 ---->“In Chinese patients with Type 2 diabetes, higher dietary fruit intake was associated with a lower burden of carotid atherosclerosis as reflected by lower carotid intima-media thickness and prevalence of carotid plaque.”1
 ---->“Fruit and vegetable intake may decrease oxidative stress and inflammation in this group of patients. An increased intake of fruit and vegetables can therefore be beneficial for patients with type 2 diabetes, since these patients are documented to have raised oxidative stress and inflammation.”2
 ---->"Plant-based diets, especially when rich in high-quality plant foods, are associated with substantially lower risk of developing T2D."3

2. Food quality is still an issue.
Something else fun that happens when people cut the carbs is that they tend to still eat the same junk-food (chips, breads, etc.), but in smaller amounts. Less carbs does not change food quality. If you just decrease the unhealthy carbs but don’t add the healthier ones, you are still not feeding your body right! Let’s say for example you normally have a sandwich for lunch. You since cut back to ½ a sandwich; however, now you are hungrier. So, you end up doing some more lunchmeat or loading up on extra peanut butter. I’m not saying that it is okay to eat the chips, white breads, cakes, and cookies. What I am saying is that whole grains, beans, quinoa, etc are all great carbohydrates that can be incorporated into a healthy meal plan. The reality is that most people are not consuming enough whole grains (see research article below) and eating whole grains and beans are a great way to help decrease disease risk!
 ----> “Including pulses in the diet is a healthy way to meet dietary recommendations and is associated with reduced risk of several chronic diseases.”4
 ---->“Average intakes of whole grains are far below recommended levels across all age-sex groups, and average intakes of refined grains are well above recommended limits.”5
3. Low-carb to carb-binge
A couple things tend to happy with a low-carb diet. The first is that many tend to overload on the protein, which most people are getting enough if not more than enough of their recommended intake. Secondly, most people tend to crave the carbohydrates so much that they binge on them in about a week or two and end up stopping "yet another diet." Hey, I am not saying you won’t lose weight eating low-carb, what I am saying is that this is not typically a sustainable diet. 

4.  Most low-carb diets don’t get enough fiber.
On the same topic as point #4, less carbs usually means less fiber. As I said, most people sub in the protein for less carbs. You know what most people are NOT getting enough of in their diet? Fruits and vegetables! What do fruits and vegetables have in them besides vitamins and minerals…FIBER! One of the most cut-out-veggies is the beans! Did you know that a half-cup of chickpeas has about 5g of fiber and a half-cup of kidney beans has 8g of fiber? Fiber is beneficial because it can help to decrease cholesterol levels, improve GI function, and also decrease your risk for heart disease. See the research below for more reasons to get in the fiber!
 ----> "High fibre may be better than high protein for weight (fat) loss in obesity.”6
 ----> “A high-fibre bean-rich diet was as effective as a low carbohydrate diet for weight loss, although only the bean-rich diet lowered atherogenic lipids.”7 
----> “Increasing fiber intake lowers blood pressure and serum  cholesterol levels. Increased intake of soluble fiber improves glycemia and insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic and diabetic individuals.”8

So, what should you do now? Start by tracking your food intake. Maybe, you are eating too many refined carbohydrates (cookies, white breads, etc). Maybe, you are also eating too much in one sitting (3 cups of pasta). Maybe, your meals are unbalance (heavy in carbs or protein). Start by checking out your food log and seeing where you can incorporate a better meal balance. 

Aim for meals to have lean proteins, fiber-filled carbohydrates (whole grains) or starches, and some non-starchy veggies. An example of a balanced meal could be: tofu (protein), broccoli (non-starchy veg), and a red potato (starchy carb). Another example could be fish, sautéed spinach, and brown rice. Another example could be quinoa (protein + starchy carb), mushrooms and tomatoes (both non-starchy). A snack could be an apple and peanut butter or veggies and hummus. The options are endless! 

Bottom line here, instead of eliminating a food group and possibly making yourself miserable aim for meal balance and portion control. If all else fails, find a Dietitian to help you with meal planning since we are the experts when it comes to nutrition :)

Additional Links

1. Chan H, Yiu K, Wong C, Li S, Tam S, Tse H. Increased dietary fruit intake was associated with lower burden of carotid atherosclerosis in Chinese patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetic Medicine [serial online]. January 2013;30(1):100-108. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 29, 2016.
2. Åsgård R, Rytter E, Basu S, Abramsson-Zetterberg L, Möller L, Vessby B. High intake of fruit and vegetables is related to low oxidative stress and inflammation in a group of patients with type 2 diabetes. Scandinavian Journal Of Food & Nutrition [serial online]. December 2007;51(4):149-158. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 29, 2016.
3. Satija A, Bhupathiraju S, Hu F, et al. Plant-Based Dietary Patterns and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women: Results from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. Plos Medicine [serial online]. June 14, 2016;13(6):1-18. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 29, 2016.
4. Mudryj A, Yu N, Aukema H. Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism [serial online]. November 2014;39(11):1197-1204. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 29, 2016.
5. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015
6. Adam C, Gratz S, Ross A, et al. Effects of Dietary Fibre (Pectin) and/or Increased Protein (Casein or Pea) on Satiety, Body Weight, Adiposity and Caecal Fermentation in High Fat Diet-Induced Obese Rats. Plos ONE [serial online]. May 25, 2016;11(5):1-16. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 29, 2016.
7. Tonstad S, Malik N, Haddad E. A high-fibre bean-rich diet versus a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. Journal Of Human Nutrition & Dietetics [serial online]. April 2, 2014;:109-116. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 29, 2016.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Facts About Erythritol

If you have been choosing more reduced calorie beverages or plant-based sweeteners, you may have noticed the products being made with sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are a type of reduced-calorie sweetener and no, they do not contain any alcohol! You can find sugar alcohols in baked goods, candy, ice cream, beverages, and even some plant-based sweeteners. Often these products are promoted as being lower calorie, having "no added sugar," or being suitable for Diabetics since they have a lower carbohydrate count. According to the American Diabetes Association, "Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar and have less of an effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) than other carbohydrates."1 Some commonly used sugar alcohols include erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. While sugar alcohols can have a laxative effect in some people, not all sugar alcohols are created equal. 

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is about two-thirds the sweetness of regular sugar; however, it only contains one-twentieth of the calories. It is found naturally in pears, melons, and grapes; however, mostly all of the erythritol used in the industry is produced by fermenting glucose with various yeasts.2 Erythritol is often blended with stevia leaf extract, monk fruit extract, or other sweeteners in beverages to help reduce calories and also mask any aftertaste.

One of the benefits of using erythritol is that it does not cause tooth decay because it is not digested by bacteria. Also, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "Erythritol's relative safety is due to its being mainly absorbed in the bloodstream and excreted unchanged in the urine. Other sugar alcohols stir-up trouble in the colon where they attract water (leading to diarrhea) or are digested by bacteria (causing gas)."2 In a study published by the National Institute for Health, it was found that erythritol was well-tolerated in feeding studies (mixed into the diet at concentrations as high as 20%) without any toxicological effects even after a high-dose exposure. 3 Similar to the statement by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, when erythritol was given to humans it was rapidly absorbed and excreted without changing metabolically, which again means little to no diarrhea or gas (like your other sugar alcohols).

While the sensitivities of people may vary, most adults can safely consume up to about 50g of erythritol per day.2 Just for reference here, 1 packet of Truvia® contains 3g of erythritol, a 12-ounce can of Zevia® Zero Calorie Soda contains 4g, a 18-ounce Bai® Antioxidant Infusion beverage contains 8g, and an 11.5-ounce can of Bai Bubbles® contains 12g.

Stevia plant


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Red Flags for a Fad Diet

"Lose 10 pounds in a week!" "Easy to lose weight fast!" "Lose weight without exercising!" "Weight-loss solution!" "Best new weight loss program!" "Lose up to 1-inch overnight!"

You have probably heard or read something similar to the phrases above; supplements, meal plans, or weight-loss programs that are promising you the results that you are looking for. Most people I see that try these fad diets and supplements are miserable, lacking nutrients, and going broke from spending so much money on these quick-fixes! While these programs or supplements MAY work, it is likely short-term and not typically something you can maintain long-term. To be honest, most of my clients end up yo-yo dieting following the newest weight-loss fad and never reaching a happy and healthy lifestyle that they can maintain.

So, how do you know if something is a gimmicky, fad diet? Check out my fad diet red flag list below!

#1- Promises of quick weight-loss
This goes for any program saying they will help you to lose 10 pounds in the first week! Most of the initial weight that you lose is going to be water weight! A good weight-loss goal is 1-2 pounds per week. This slow and steady weight-loss will help you to make those small changes that will become habits and also help you to keep the weight off.

#2 - Claims of this product or program being the only weight-loss solution
Seriously though, if there was a magical food or program that made all the fat melt away and help you to lose every pound you ever wanted, don't you think everyone would be taking it? There is no miracle pill or food. Period.

#3 - Rigid diet plans
Rigid meal plans can definitely work short-term; however, not so much in the long-term. Most people end up craving their favorite foods, bingeing, stopping the diet plan, re-gaining weight, and then starting all over again. Going super low calorie or limiting the foods that you eat can be time consuming (planning wise), overwhelming, and down right stressful. What will work is a flexible and realistic eating pattern that works for YOU. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

#4 - Super foods that will decrease this and that disease
Apple cider vinegar cures Diabetes. Eating kale makes you lose weight faster. Eat only grapefruits to cut the belly fat. Seriously, I have heard them all! What is ironic to me is that I see some doing shots of apple cider vinegar for breakfast and then eating a cheesesteak for lunch. Makes sense, right?! Yes, these foods may have awesome nutritional and health benefits; however, none of them will fix all of your diet issues and ailments. Instead of focusing on one particular food to eat, work towards a variety and balance of your meals.

#5 - Insanely high prices
Eating eating does not need to cost hundreds of dollars per month. I have seen so many supplements and products that cost double what you would find in a regular grocery store. Again, I am not saying all of these programs are horrible or do not work; however, I would challenge you to see if you could find something similar in nutrition at your next shopping trip for way less money. Just a side note here. Healthy eating does not have to be expensive. Canned or frozen veggies can be so cheap! Healthy eating on a budget does take planning; however, you don't need to buy exotic ingredients to be healthy! ***I am going to do a blog post on this later :)

There are so many more red flags for fad diets like only eating one food for days or eating a specific combo of foods or eliminating exercise. The reality is that there is no magical food or supplement. It takes a lot of effort to change your eating habits and start eating healthier. Get off the diet wagon and head towards a healthy lifestyle change that will incorporate nutritious foods, exercise, and overall wellness that will work for the long-term!

Watch more on fad diets and weight-loss programs here --> YouTube-Fad Diets

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tips for Decreasing Your Cholesterol

Maybe you just heard from your doctor that your cholesterol is high and now you have to either take medications or try and bring it down before your next appointment. So, why is this important? Elevated cholesterol levels are just one of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Having too much cholesterol in the blood will lead to a build-up in the walls of your arteries.  This then leads to "hardening of the arteries" and subsequent slowing of the blood flow to the heart. If this blood flow becomes cut off by a blockage, you could find yourself with a heart attack.

Below, I have 5 tips to get you started on the journey to lowering your cholesterol with your diet!

Tip #1: Increase Your Fiber Intake
Not only does fiber fill you up, but it also binds to cholesterol and excretes it from the body. Aim for at least 25g per day if you are a female and 38g if you are a male. You can find fiber in foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. One thing to remember with fiber is to not go from eating only 5g per day to 25g day in one shot. Slowly increase your intake and drink lots of fluids to avoid any GI discomfort!

Tip #2: Opt for Healthy Fats
Everyone has been demonizing the fats and it is really the type of fat you want to be mindful of. Include more healthy fats like nuts, seeds and avocado, which contain the unsaturated fats that decrease inflammation in the body and also increase your HDL (good cholesterol).

Tip #3: Watch Trans and Saturated Fats
Trans fats are pretty well known for the negative effects on your health; however, the jury is still mixed on saturated fats. While new research shows that saturated fats don't necessarily increase your cholesterol, they also don't offer any benefits like the unsaturated fats do. You can find trans and saturated fats in baked goods, chips, fried foods and more.

Tip #4: Decrease Your Refined Sugar Intake
More and more research studies are showing a link between refined sugars and an increased risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association also found that sugar increases triglycerides in the body. The AHA recommends no more than 24g of added sugars per day for women and no more than 36g for men. This means watching out for the cakes, cookies, ice creams, and sugary beverages.

Tip #5: Make Time for Exercise
Exercise helps to increase your good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease the bad (LDL). It also helps with weight control and decreasing blood pressure. Aim for at least 30 minutes per day (if not more) and mix it up between the cardiovascular (biking, walking, running, swimming, etc) and resistance (push-ups, chest press, leg press, etc) exercises for the greatest benefit!
**As always, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Hopefully, you can find something in this list to start working on to help manage your cholesterol levels. Remember, the best way to start is by evaluating your current diet or exercise program and setting goals for improvement!

Resources: NIH

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tips for Motivating Yourself to Lose Weight

How many of you reading this post have a general idea of what to do to achieve a healthy diet, yet still aren't doing it? Ever think about what is holding you back from jumping in and getting going? Maybe, you tend to start eating healthy and by the end of the week or even day you give up? I would say this sums up the majority of my clients. Recently, someone said to me, "I know I should eat more fruits and vegetables, I just don't do it." A lot of people simply lack the motivation to lose weight or improve their diet.

So, how do you get yourself motivated? Start by being honest with yourself. It is easy to convince yourself that you are eating enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. Want to put this to the test? Keep a food diary for 1-week and see how your perception is measuring up to reality. If you are drinking enough water, eating at least 3 fruits and 4 veggies per day, limiting the refined/sugary carbohydrates and getting in lean proteins, then kudos to you :) If not, start by picking one aspect that you can change to improve your diet.

Going along with that, motivate yourself by really giving healthy eating your all. It is great to do small changes in order to break the bad habits; however, don't make changes that are so small you don't see any results. Minimal changes will only mean minimal results. Do you really think that will keep you motivated on your healthy lifestyle journey? Instead, go in strong and build the momentum that will push you through the rough patches. By really giving your best effort, you are more likely to see improvements and success faster, which will only motivate you to keep going. Also, those first few successes will really prove to yourself that you can do it. One thing to remember here, don't expect to give it your all and see results the next day. I always say to my clients, "You did not get to this point overnight. It is going to take time for you to get where you want to be." That being said, set small goals for yourself (monthly or even weekly) to keep pushing towards something positive.

If you feel discouraged throughout this journey, remind yourself, "Why am I doing this?" Maybe, it is to control your Diabetes, look better for the summer, feel good about yourself, have more energy, reduce knee pain...The list goes on and on. If you are only losing weight or changing your diet because your doctor told you to, stop now and think of one reason why it is important to YOU.

Everyone always says that you should find support when trying to lose weight or eat healthy. Now, this doesn't mean you need to go out and find a support group or pay money online. You can find support and motivation in friends, family, and even social media. Join groups on Facebook, follow healthy bloggers, look for other people in your shoes, create an Instagram dedicated to healthy living, etc. There are so many ways you can find the support you need to motivate you daily!

My last piece of advice for how to motivate yourself is to stop the negativity. Stop that train of thoughts that starts with, "I'm such a failure..." or "I'll never lose weight..." or "I'll never be as thin as I was back..." These statements are not productive and certainly won't motivate you. Change that negativity into something that is productive like, "I did not eat such a healthy lunch, but for my dinner I am going to plan better and have..." or "I did not lose weight this week, but I do have more energy from eating better..." or "I looked great in my 20s and am going to look great in my..." You are your biggest motivator and supporter, so don't let your inner demons sabotage your health.

Give yourself the best chance you can to succeed by really giving it your all. Build your momentum, get excited, and motivate yourself to start (or continue) on that healthy lifestyle journey!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tips for Choosing Protein Supplements

While I love protein bars and powders for convenient on-the-go snacks or meals, let's face it, a lot of what is out in the market is, dare I say it, pure junk. My main issues with most bars/powders are the laundry list of filler ingredients and high sugar content. Below are some tips for choosing the best protein supplement for you and a no-bake protein bar recipe I love, love, love to make!

Check the Protein
The first thing you want to do with any protein bar is to of course, check the protein. If you are going for the bar as a snack, aim for around 7-10g of protein. If it is a meal replacement, try to look for more than 10g. Protein helps to stabilize your blood sugar, which is great for not only Diabetics, but also, those who just want to keep their hunger levels at bay. I use a plant-based powder with a blend of brown rice, hemp seeds, pea protein and chia seeds for a great amino-acid profile. If you use milk products at home, look for a whey protein and/or whey isolates for good quality.

Check the Sugar
I can't stand when I look at a bar and see 20g of protein and then 20g of sugar. Really? I'm not going to mention any names, but I even saw a company use the disclaimer of, "Not recommended for Diabetics." Unless you are a marathon runner or some other super high intensity athlete, never choose a bar with that much sugar in it, especially if the third ingredient is cane syrup and not even a naturally occurring sugar. So, what should you look for then? You want less than 10g of sugar if it is a bar and less than 5g if it is a powder. Most of my clients (and myself) use the powders in a smoothie with fruit and a type of milk (almond, coconut, cow's). You are already getting the sweetness from the fruit, so you really don't want a ton more in the powder.

Read the Ingredient List
If you look at the ingredient list and see added sugar as one of the first 3 ingredients, you might want to think about choosing another bar. Ingredients are listed by weight, so the first few are the most prominent in the item. Added sugars would be things like: brown rice syrup, honey, cane syrup, cane sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, etc. These are different than natural occurring sugars like dates or raisins, which are typically less refined, with a slower effect on your blood glucose. They also come packed with other vitamins and minerals that your refined sugars will not. This same idea also goes with healthy fats. Try to aim for bars that use whole foods like almonds, chia, flax, coconut, etc, instead of oils. Again, you will get more nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber) with the whole food source.

Almond Protein Snack Bars
Yield: 10 bars

1 cup raw almonds, reserve 1/4 cup(I used slivered - easier to food process)
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups quick-cook oats
1.5 scoops vanilla protein powder (you can use chocolate too)
2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons SunButter (sunflower seed butter)*
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips, melted (optional)

1. Spray an 8 by 8 inch square pan with cooking spray.
2. Food process 3/4 cup almonds.**
3. Add remaining ingredients, except the chocolate chips. Food process until smooth.
4. Using your hands, press the mixture into the prepared pan. Top with chopped almonds and drizzle with optional dark chocolate.
5. Let pan sit for about 15 minutes in the fridge before cutting. Once cut, store in the fridge for up to 1-week. Enjoy!!

Additional Notes
*I used the sun butter as a little added flavor. You could also use almond or peanut butter. If you notice your mix to be a little dry and not sticking together, add a little more of the nut butter.
**If you want to skip this step, simply use 1/2 cup almond butter. I also didn't food process my almond to a butter, but left it a slight bit crumbly. You can do either or for your recipe at home!
***You can also use dates or raisins instead of the honey/maple syrup. Try adding in chia, flax, or hemp seeds for a fiber, protein, omega 3 boost too!

Nutrition Facts (1 bar): 170 calories, 8g fat, 54mg sodium, 88mg potassium, 18g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 7g sugar, 8g protein

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Common Weight Loss Issues

Being a dietitian, I get a ton of clients who are trying to lose weight. I would say 90% of them have tried some sort of diet before (most being a short-term crash diet type) and about 80% ended up gaining back the weight they lost (plus some). Losing weight and changing your eating habits is not easy. Anyone who says that it is is either lying to you or trying to sell you a supplement (and also lying to you)! It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to change your diet and really stick with it.

Most people that approach me about weight loss are facing the same questions: what should I do, how should I do it, and how long will it take! For starters, DO eat more fiber (fruits, veggies, whole grains). One of the first things I ask any client or potential client is, "What do you eat during a typical day?" Almost none of them are eating enough fruits and vegetables. I would say the average is 1-2 fruits and 0-1 veggies per day. Fruits and veggies are packed with fiber and nutrients. Add fresh fruit to your cereal, add a side salad to dinner or pack some hummus and veggies. There are tons of ways to add in the fruits and veggies, it just takes a little planning and effort.

Limited water intake is another huge issue I see with clients trying to lose weight. Most Americans are just not drinking enough water. It's usually high calorie beverages or little to no fluid at all! For those of you who hate the taste of water, try seltzer water or adding fresh fruit to plain water. I love the combos lime, mint, and cucumber or strawberry basil.

Healthy food tastes bland. Ever heard that statement before? I get it all the time! "I can't eat healthy because healthy food just doesn't taste good." Another favorite of mine is, "I hate fruits" or "I hate vegetables." First off, make the healthy food taste better! Most people think you need to steam vegetables and not add anything else. Think again! Add some lemon, herbs, spices, etc. Roast your veggies! Make a fruit smoothie! Try a new recipe! Healthy food only tastes bland if you make it that way. Get creative in the kitchen and don't be afraid of trying new things. Side note here, don't think that you need to cook everything from scratch or use only fresh options for a meal to be healthy. I love using frozen veggies instead of fresh because they are way more convenient to use and I don't have to worry about them going bad quickly.

Try not to fool yourself when you are trying to lose weight. I don't know how many clients say to me they are so frustrated with their lack of weight loss and they just want to give up. Had it not been for me (or someone else pushing them along) they may have just walked away from it all. Again, honest moment to yourself, are you really trying that hard? Did you go overboard with the weekend festivities? Are you sleeping enough? Drinking the right kinds of stuff? Eating the right foods? You get where I am going here. I would say 99% of the time, there is ALWAYS something more you can do if you feel like your weight-loss just isn't going the way you planned. Take the time to assess what you are eating and drinking and what your activity looks like. Also, when you start to change your eating habits, don't expect to see the pounds melting off of your body in 1 day or even 1 week! I always say to my clients, "You didn't get to this point overnight." A good weight-loss goal is 1-2 pounds per week. Any more than that and I question whether or not your eating enough and if it is another one of those "fad diets."

So to sum this all up, be honest with yourself and take the time to really change those habits for the long-haul and finally get off the weight-loss, weigh gain wagon!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Conventional Vs. Organic Produce

One of the debates going on now is whether or not organic produce is more nutritious than conventional produce.

As per the USDA, "Produce can be called organic if it's certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for 3 years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include more synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.""Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used." Organic farms and processors support animal health and welfare, do not use genetically modified ingredients, separate organic food from non-organic, and preserve natural resources.

There are some minimal differences in the nutritional profile between organic and conventional produce with organic being higher. This difference, however, is not substantial enough to fully say that all organic is better than conventional. There is some alarm being raised with the pesticide use on conventional produce. Pesticides are regulated by the EPA and are mainly used to protect the produce from bugs and extend their shelf life. There has been some links in research from exposure to pesticides to cancers and brain/central nervous system defects.

Before you start throwing away everything in your fridge, know that there is a threshold for the amount of pesticides you can consume safely. Also, different fruits and vegetables have varying levels of pesticide residues. I love the Safe Fruits and Veggies pesticide calculator because you can see how much of the item you would need to eat in order to see any negative effects from the pesticides. For example, a woman would need to consume more than 2332 servings of kale in one day to have any sort of effect of the pesticides even if the kale had the highest levels of residues. For women and potato consumption, the amount is more than 7379 servings in one day to see any harmful effects.

Check out the link below for a complete list of the dirty dozen (produce with the highest level of pesticide residue that are best to buy organic) and clean fifteen (produce with the lowest level of pesticide residue).
-->Dirty Dozen (best to buy organic) --> LINK
--> Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen Cards --> LINK

One of the biggest complaints about buying organic is that it is more expensive than the conventional. While this may be true, think about how much of the produce you consume that is on the dirty dozen list and if you could spend a little bit more money in this area than in other areas (like on snacks or treats). I don't want those of you reading this to think that if you can't afford organic, that means you should avoid fruits and vegetables. That is certainly not the case! Fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of so many diseases. Also, it is way better to eat a conventionally grown apple than it is to eat potato chips or donuts.

One way to keep your produce safe is to make sure it is washed thoroughly. For conventional or organic produce, the FDA recommends washing fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating or cooking, using a brush to scrub produce with hard surfaces, and cutting away any damaged or bruised areas. If you buy lettuce or greens in a bundle, the recommendation is to toss the outer layer. By following these steps, you can decrease, if not eliminate, the pesticide residue on your produce.

Below are some other great links I discovered for pesticides and safety levels along with organic practices and standards!

Risk Level Calculator --> LINK
Research on Pesticide Residues --> LINK
Organic Standards USDA --> LINK
Introduction to Organic Practices --> LINK

Eating fruits and vegetables (conventional or organic) is way better than eating the processed junk foods. Finally, organic chips and pretzels are still just chips and pretzels. So, don't be blinded by the use of the word organic for covering up junk!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Health Benefits of Chocolate

I am sure many of you reading this post have heard about the health benefits of chocolate. Does this  mean you have free reign to eat as much as you want? Let's slow the wagon down for just a second.

I'll start off by saying that while chocolate can be good because of the antioxidant content, I wouldn't go as far as saying it is "healthy." Depending on the type of chocolate you get, you are still looking at something with a higher content of calories, fat, and sugar. Also, I would much rather someone aim for getting their antioxidants from berries (that have fiber and other nutrients) than a piece of chocolate.

Indulging in the occasional piece of dark chocolate can definitely be something that fits into your diet; however, there are some tips for choosing the right kind of chocolate to reap the benefits. Let's break down the research to see what benefits (besides good taste) chocolate has to offer.

Dark chocolate can decrease your risk of stroke, lower the "bad" LDL cholesterol, and decrease your risk of heart disease. Some studies have been showing that continued consumption of chocolate decreased the risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. There are also some suggestions that cocoa flavanols may reduce some measure of age-related cognitive decline. Most of these health benefits can be attributed to the flavonoids, which help repair damage from environmental toxins and antioxidants, which help to decrease inflammation and fight free radicals in the body. The antioxidants may also help to lower blood pressure. These antioxidants and flavonoids can also be found in fruits and vegetables, with high concentrations in apples, cranberries, and onions. Tea and red wine also contain flavonoids.

In terms of which chocolate is better, you want to aim for a minimum of 60-70% dark chocolate. One ounce of dark chocolate with 60-69% pure cocoa contains a good source of manganese, copper, and magnesium. There are also trace amounts of phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, calcium, and B vitamins. There is no recommendation for the amount of chocolate per day; however, keep the maximum to 1-ounce per day to avoid spiking the calories and saturated fat. If you are wondering about white chocolate, it contains zero cocoa solids and cocoa powder (ground cocoa solids), so it really isn't considered chocolate at all. Basically, it is just a combination of sugar, cocoa, butter, milk and soy lecithin. This pales in comparison to dark chocolate which is at least 35% chocolate liquor (cocoa solids + cocoa butter).

While chocolate has been showing some promising health benefits in the research, it is important to remember that the type and quantity does matter. So, stick with at least 60-70% dark chocolate and limit yourself to 1-ounce per day. If you don't think that you can stick with a small amount, aim instead for getting your antioxidants and flavonoids from fruits and veggies!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Probiotics 101

You may have been hearing a lot on probiotics and their influence on gut health. With so much information out there, it can be confusing choosing foods or even supplements with the best probiotic source that will benefit you! My goal is that you will have a better understanding of what probiotics are, the benefits, and how to choose a supplement (if you go that route) after reading this post. So, let's get started!

What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Probiotics allow healthy bacteria in your GI tract to thrive while inhibiting or destroying toxins released by other bacteria. The healthy bacteria in your gut help to digest food and also synthesize some vitamins.

Benefits of Probiotics
There are a lot of benefits associated with probiotics. They include: decreasing IBS symptoms (bloating, gas diarrhea, constipation), regulating intestinal transit, boosting your immune system, aiding in dairy digestion for those with lactose intolerance, restoring bacterial balance (especially after taking antibiotics), decreasing the amount of harmful bacteria in your gut that can cause inflammation, and reducing diarrhea associated with antibiotic use for acute illnesses.

Foods That Contain Probiotics
Probiotics are mainly found in fermented foods like miso, kimchi, tempeh, fresh sauerkraut, and kombucha. You can also find probiotics in yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and some soft cheeses. Look for the phrases, "live and active cultures" or "contains probiotics" if you are choosing a dairy food. Not all yogurts will contain probiotics and frozen yogurts contain little to none. Some common probiotic strains include: Lactobacillus, Bifiodobacterium, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

What to Look for in Supplements
If you are going with a probiotic supplement, there are a few things you should look out for. First, is to avoid any probiotics that are not "live." Second, look for supplements that say the number of live organisms is guaranteed through the expiration date; if not, you may not know how much of the probiotic has already degraded. While there is no recommendation for probiotic intake, the general rule of thumb is to take at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFU) daily.

Daily consumption of probiotics is the best way to reap the benefits!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Why Calories Don't Really Matter

One of the first things I hear when someone is trying to lose weight is that they need to start counting or watching their calories. It goes back to the the old saying of "calories in, calories out." If you eat less, and exercise more you'll lose weight guaranteed. Makes sense right? Well, not so much.

A calorie is a measure of energy and everything you eat has calories in it. We need those calories to survive. Most Americans are consuming way too many calories and they are mainly the heavily processed, refined types. I see so many food diaries that have a ton of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats in them. Let's face it, you can be eating a restricted diet of only 1,100 calories and still end up with Diabetes and Hypertension. Why is this? Because all calories are not created equal! It really boils down to the food quality. Let's say you have 100 calorie pack of baked chips and 100 calorie pack of roasted almonds. You would probably say that the almonds are better for you (and your right); however, would your answer change if I gave you a 150 calorie serving of almonds? Maybe. The reality is, your body processes these foods differently. Fat and protein are slower digesting, which means you stay fuller for longer (and more satisfied). Refined carbohydrates (like in the chips) have little to no fiber, minimal nutrients and basically just spike and drop your blood sugar levels leaving you hungry an hour (or less).

I often think of calorie counting as restriction, free-range to eat the overly processed food-like-products, and a band aid on the true issues. Let's explore those points. I have a lot of people tracking their intake for appointments**. One big thing I see with clients is that they get to the end of the day, have "no calories left" and end up going to bed hungry without eating dinner. Skipping meals and eating super low calorie won't help with continued weight loss. You are just slowing down your metabolism to compensate for the minimal calories, burning calories less efficiently, and probably making yourself miserable.

On to the overly processed food-like-products. Again, we are talking about food quality. Ever think or hear something like this before, "I have 100 calories left for the day. A piece of chocolate is only 40 calories. I can eat that instead of a medium apple, which has 120 calories and save myself 80 calories, while sticking with my recommended intake." Better yet, "I can eat a to go breakfast sandwich, a bagel with cream cheese and a frozen dinner meal AND stay within my calories." No. NO. NO!

Lastly, most clients I see are overeating from stress, boredom, or heightened emotions. Just counting calories and sticking to a magic number isn't going to fix these issues. Eventually, you may end up stopping the calorie counting and returning to your old habits. You have to focus on changing these behaviors first before any healthy eating plan can stick.

While you do want to watch how much food you are eating, think of calories as more of a reference than the end-all-be-all. So, ditch the calorie counters and go for the whole foods approach. Focus more on adding quality foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Skip the processed junk and your body will be sure to thank you later!

Click to Watch

**Food journaling and tracking your intake can be a great tool for identifying areas of missing nutrients, meal skipping, and overall food quality. I don't want this to be mistaken for the ridge calorie counts. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Tips for Mindful Eating

One big thing I have been talking about with my clients is the concept of "Mindful Eating". Mindful eating is about being present in the moment and stopping to think about your food choices. Mindful eating includes ideas like: tasting and savoring the food you eat, slowing down your meal time, and asking yourself if you are eating because you are truly hungry or just bored/stressed. Mindless eating can lead to weight gain because of the excessive calorie intake of mainly unhealthy foods. I mean lets face it, most people are not mindlessly snacking on carrots or celery, right?

There has been a lot of research about how your food environment influences your eating habits and affects how mindfully you eat. By food environment, I mean how your kitchen is set up or what you have on your table or the snacks you choose to keep at your desk at work. If you store unhealthy foods like chips or pretzels on the counter and bury the fruit in the drawer of the fridge, you are way more likely to choose the chips when you come in your house hungry. Same as if you have chocolate and candy in your desk drawer but left your roasted almonds in your car, you are way more likely to choose the candy when hunger strikes at work. How you set up your food environment can either help or hinder your chances at achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Below are some tips I have used with clients that can help improve mindfulness with eating!

Don't Leave Food Out
Avoid leaving high calorie snack foods on the counter. If you are putting anything out, make it fruits or vegetables.

Put Healthy Foods at Eye Level in the Fridge
Wash and cut produce and store in clear containers. When you open the fridge, make your fruits and veggies the first thing you see and you are more likely to eat them.

Hide or Eliminate Unhealthy Foods From Your Cabinets
You know yourself better than anyone else. If you can't keep chips hidden in the back of the cabinet without eating the whole bag at once, then don't buy them at all.

Don't Eat and Cook
I get so many people who tell me they snack while cooking! Chances are they end up forgetting how much they ate and being stuffed up on unhealthy foods before they even get to dinner. If your not snacking on veggies, then put away the munchies! Try chewing gum, using mouthwash, or sipping an unsweetened beverage instead.

Use Smaller Plate and Bowls
This is one of those things that everyone says; however, it does work!

Leave Leftovers on the Stove
This goes along with using smaller plates and bowls. I mean you may have a smaller plate, but still refill it more than if you just ate the regular size. By keeping leftovers away from the table, it forces you to get up for seconds. During that time, assess your hunger level and think about if you are truly hungry or just want more. You can also pack up the leftover before you eat, so you are less tempted to overindulge!

Turn off the TV
Watching TV and eating is one of the biggest drivers towards mindless eating. People end up eating more and again it is not normally the steamed broccoli when they do. So, turn off the TV and pay attention to what you are eating and maybe even the conversation at the table.

Force Yourself to Sit
Do you find yourself wandering around the kitchen munching? Or grabbing a bag of chips or crackers and eating right from there while standing? Instead of standing and eating from the container, which makes it easy to lose track of how much you consume, portion out your food and take the time to sit and enjoy it.

Hopefully, you find one strategy that can help you to eat more mindfully and improve your diet in a healthy way!

Watch "An Overview of Mindful Eating"

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cut the Salt Habit

You may have heard from your doctor or dietitian that you need to reduce your sodium intake to help decrease your risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. High levels of sodium in the diet causes fluid retention, which makes the heart work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Excessive intake can also lead to bloating and weight gain.

So many clients tell me that they are not consuming that much sodium because they don’t add salt to their foods. In reality, the average American adult eats more than 3,400mg of sodium per day, which is more double the American Heart Association’s recommended limit! According the CDC, 65% of sodium consumed comes from the food bought in retail stores, 25% comes from restaurants, and 10% comes from home cooking. Your body needs less than 500mg to function properly. The current dietary guidelines recommend less than 2,300mg of sodium per day for adults and children with a further restriction to 1,500mg for those with pre-hypertension and hypertension.

Help to keep your heart healthy by knowing what and where to look for sodium in your favorite foods. Check out the tips below for ways to cut back on your sodium intake!

Look at the Nutrition Facts Panel
Always be sure to check the nutrition label of packaged foods. Compare different brands to see if one is lower than the other. Remember to check the serving size and servings per container because if you consume more than what is recommended, you will need to double or triple the sodium content!

Set Meal and Snack Sodium Limits
Aim for less than 500mg of sodium per meal and less than 250mg of sodium per snack (or side dish) as a rule of thumb. 

Aim for Low-Sodium or No-Salt-Added
More and more companies are putting the words “no-salt-added” on the front of their package. While this won't guarantee the product is "low-sodium" (less than 140mg per serving) it is a great step. Try buying canned sauces, vegetables, and beans with this statement and again always check the food label.

Rinse Your Canned Foods
Drain and rinse canned vegetables and beans to cut the sodium by approximately 60%. 

Limit Highly Processed Foods
Luncheon meats, cheeses, cakes, cookies, and restaurant foods are almost always loaded with sodium, along with more calories and fat. Try to limit your portions of these foods and compliment them with more fresh fruits and veggies. 

Watch Your Sauces/Condiments
Sauces, gravies, salad dressings, ketchups, can all be ladened with salt. Look for low-sodium options. If you are going out to eat, ask for these items on the side and use sparingly. 

Opt for Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium. Try to make at least half of your plate veggies and add fresh fruits to your snacks!

Cook More at Home

When you are cooking at home, you are able to control how much sodium goes into your meals. Experiment with fresh herbs and spices for flavor. Also, try adding citrus (like lemons or limes) to boost the natural flavor in foods. 

Just a reminder, a food label can claim a meal/main dish is "healthy" if it contains less than 600mg of sodium, which is still a lot. Be the salt sleuth and take control of what you eat!

Check out the American Heart Associations article on table salt versus sea salt: