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Archive for November, 2014

Diet mistakes not to make on Thanksgiving

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “5 common diet mistakes not to make on Thanksgiving.”

You can also read it HERE.

‘Tis the season for overeating. This is the time of year that many of us give up healthy eating and tend to overindulge. However, with some smart planning and helpful tricks, the holiday season can be a time to enjoy special foods in moderation while still eating healthfully and not gaining weight.

Having spent the greater part of my career advising clients on weight loss, I have come up with common mistakes people make on the holidays that can derail their diets. Here are five common diet mistakes not to make this Thanksgiving.

1. Going hungry and skipping breakfast and lunch.

Many people skip early meals on the day of Thanksgiving in an attempt to “save up” calories and use them later. My advice: Don’t do it! You just may end up eating more. One trick to help keep your eating in check at the Thanksgiving meal is not to go hungry early in the day. It is OK to eat lightly, but I suggest you include some protein and fiber earlier in the day. Enjoy a yogurt with fruit or eggs and a slice whole wheat toast for breakfast and perhaps a salad with some kind of protein at lunch (beans, legumes, fish, chicken, hummus). Eating something before you get to the party will prevent you from being famished when you arrive at your guests’ house. It will be easier for you to pass up the high caloric appetizers, many of which you probably do not even like.

2. Wearing loose-fitting clothes

One sure way to avoid overeating is to wear form fitting clothes. When you wear loose clothes, you may not register that you are full, making it easier to overeat. Wear pants with a belt, a form fitting skirt, or your snug skinny jeans. These clothes will signal that you’ve had enough.

3. Treating Thanksgiving like your Last Supper

Thanksgiving is just one meal and I suggest that you not treat it like The Last Supper. Interact with the company, eat slowly, and savor holiday treats. I suggest that you enjoy your favorite foods in moderation, but I do think you need to exhibit some kind of portion control. While it is okay to fill up on salads, veggies, and turkey without meticulously worrying about amounts so much, I do suggest that you watch your portion of starch and do not eat every type of food available. Choose between the stuffing, sweet potatoes, and rice, and try to eat a portion that is around 1/2-1 cup (no larger than your fist), and making up no more than 1/4 of your plate. You can always get more turkey and salad if you are still hungry, and it’s best to save room for your favorite dessert.

4. Starting a diet and banning all treats

The holiday season is NOT a time to start a diet and to ban all of your favorite foods. While I do suggest that you avoid your trigger foods — foods that you tend to eat too much of — it is not a time to ban all foods, especially your favorite holiday treats. As a nutritionist, I think it is perfectly ok to have one portion of your favorite starch — approximately a half cup portion of rice ,stuffing, or sweet potato; and one small piece of your favorite pie. Skipping these foods entirely, may end up causing you to feel deprived which can end up leading to overeating later.

5. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach

While it is unrealistic to say that you will not drink at all on Thanksgiving, I suggest that you choose to enjoy a glass of wine or your favorite cocktail with the meal. Drinking alcohol tends to decrease your inhibitions and if you drink early on, you may end up overeating and having several drinks. Looking forward to a drink with dinner is the best way to avoid eating too much.

We would love to hear your common Thanksgiving mistakes and some tricks that have kept your weight in check.

Wishing you a happy — and healthy — holiday season!

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Healthy snacks to keep your hunger at bay

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post ” Healthy snacks to keep your hunger at bay.”

You can also read it HERE.

For the German translation, click HERE.

As a nutritionist counseling clients on healthy eating and weight loss, I am often asked about how to choose a healthy snack. Let’s face it: Most of us don’t just eat three meals a day without any snacks. Snacking can be a good practice if we make healthy choices. Snacking can be a great way to boost our intake of fruits and vegetables, and nutrients such as fiber, which so many of us fall short on. Here are a few tips for choosing a healthy snack: eat real food, keep it portion-controlled (and calorie-controlled), aim for a fruit or veggie serving, and try to get some protein or fiber in your snack to help you feel full and stabilize blood sugar.

Here are some healthy choices to eat if you get a snack attack.

1. Hummus and veggies

Hummus and vegetables makes for a great snack. Here is a good chance to get a dose of colorful vegetables including carrots, red and yellow peppers. All veggies are great choices. Hummus contains protein which will help keep you feel full. Aim for around a quarter cup serving of hummus and as many fresh veggies as you like.

2. Greek yogurt with fresh berries

Greek yogurt makes for a great snack as it is a good source calcium and protein. Choose the low-fat varieties which makes this tasty snack relatively low in calories. Top it with your favorite berries for a healthy dose of antioxidants and fiber.

3. Vegetable/bean soup

Soups make for a great snack. Eating soup is a great way to pack in several servings of vegetables. Soup is filling and takes a while to eat, and because most of us eat soup sitting down, we eat it mindfully. Great choices are veggie based soups such as minestrone, white bean, and lentil soup. One caveat: If you are eating it out, be sure to check sodium content, as many soups contain too much.

4. Part-skim cheese and whole grain crackers

Cheese and crackers can make for a healthy snack. The cheese contains protein and calcium while the whole grain crackers contain fiber which will help us stay full. A healthy portion is around an ounce of each. An ounce of cheese is one slice or if it is cubed, looks like four dice. Check the nutrition facts label on the crackers to see how many crackers constitute a one-ounce serving and be sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain (such as whole wheat, rye, or oats.)

5. Sliced apple with almond butter.

Apples make for a great snack — high in fiber and low in calories. Add a schmear of almond butter (approximately 1 tablespoon) for a serving of good fat and fiber which will keep you full and help keep your hunger at bay.

6. Mixed nuts and (low-sodium) vegetable juice

This is a great snack if you are on the run. Low-sodium vegetable juice (such as V8) is filling and chock full of nutrients such as potassium and vitamin C. Nuts contain healthy fats along with some protein and fiber; just be sure to keep your portion to 1/4 cup serving or one layer of your palm. A quarter cup serving also looks like a golfball.

7. Frozen banana and peanut butter

This is a yummy snack to keep in your freezer if you are craving a frozen treat. Peel a banana and spread it with peanut butter (no more than 1 tablespoon), place it in a baggie, and freeze. The banana contains fiber and potassium, and the peanut butter contains a serving of heart-healthy fats.

8. Air-popped popcorn

The great news about popcorn is that it is a whole grain, and unlike pretzels and chips, where a serving is one cup or less, a serving of popcorn is 3 cups. To avoid added fat and calories, stick to air popped popcorn. And feel free to drizzle it with parmesan cheese, garlic, or your favorite spice.

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Healthy habits to adopt now

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post “8 healthy habits to adopt now.”

You can read it HERE.

You can also read it in Portuguese at the Brasil Post HERE.

Eating healthy does not have to be difficult. In fact, if you develop a routine of adopting positive healthy practices, which you engage in regularly, eating healthfully can become second nature. Consider brushing your teeth. Most of us regularly brush our teeth so the practice has become easy to sustain on a regular basis. That is the goal of developing healthy eating habits. I teach clients to engage in a few practices regularly until they become second nature, and it feels unnatural not to do them.

As most of you know, I am not a fan of diets. The reason is that we follow a certain diet for a while, and then we fall off the wagon as we are unable to sustain it, and so often, end up discouraged. Better to adopt a healthy lifestyle you can sustain for the long haul.

One key, however, in adopting healthy habits is to know yourself. As bestselling author of the upcoming book on habits, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin says, “I’ve realized that the secret to good habits — for nutrition, or anything else — is to know yourself. For instance, some people do better when they give up a temptation all together, others when they indulge in moderation … You have to think about what works for you.”

Here are eight simple healthy habits which will help you to lead a healthier lifestyle.

1. Stock up on healthy foods.

We tend to eat what we buy and keep around the house. It is, therefore so important to stock up on healthy foods. Keep fresh fruit and veggies handy which you can grab and eat easily — baby carrots, apples, pears, berries. Buy whole grains instead of white bread products — oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat breads. Keep healthy protein options around — nuts and seeds, fresh turkey breast, and eggs. Try not to keep soda, cookies, and sugary cereals around.

2. Eat sitting down.

When you eat meals while you are sitting down, you tend to eat more slowly, enjoy what you are eating, and may even end up eating less. When you eat standing, you often do not even realize that you are eating. If you want a scoop of ice cream, instead of eating straight from the pint (and wolfing down the whole pint), place a portion in a bowl, sit down, and enjoy it. It’s also great to eat with others and enjoy the social experience of dining.

3. Drink water instead of liquid calories.

Limiting liquid calories — soda, sweetened drinks, fruit juice — is one of the simplest ways to cut out calories and sugar. Sweetened drinks like soda provide no nutritional value and are just empty calories. Diet sodas also provide no nutritional value, taste too sweet, and do not help most of us lose weight. So why even bother drinking them? Instead, get into the habit of opting for water or flavored seltzers. They will keep you hydrated without providing any calories. Try drinking a glass of water before eating each meal or snack, and you may just end up eating less.

4. Snack on fruit instead of chips.

It really is pretty easy to eat fruit if you keep it handy. Opt for a variety of fresh fruit in season, and plan for it. So often, we grab a bag of chips because it is convenient. Choosing fruit can also be convenient, if we set it up that way. The trick is to either know where to get fruit if you are out, or to stock it in your fridge, and bring it along if you are going to be out all day. Throw an apple in your bag on your way to work; this will help to ensure that you eat it if you need a mid-morning snack. Also choose a fruit with breakfast. Throw a handful of berries into your yogurt or oatmeal or have a piece of melon when in season. Fruit also makes a great after dinner snack.

5. Eat a colorful salad — or veggies — each day.

Eating salads are a great way to get a variety of nutrients without too many calories. (Of course, that means” dressing on the side.”) The different colors of vegetables impart different nutrients, so it’s best to choose a colorful variety. And fill up on what you like — you’ve got enough to choose from. Several top picks include romaine lettuce, kale or spinach topped with a colorful assortment of tomatoes, carrots, red peppers, beets, mushrooms, or cucumbers. If you don’t love salads or are not in the mood, another way to get your veggies is to have a vegetable-based soup or to eat steamed or sautéed dressing. You will still get so many of the healthy nutrients including antioxidant vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, and more.

6. Chew your food well.

When we chew our food and pay attention to what we are eating, we eat more slowly, and usually end up eating less. It takes at least 15 minutes for our bodies to register that we are full. Also, our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomach, and when we eat quickly, we often tend to eat too much and end up feeling uncomfortable and stuffed.

7. Put leftovers away.

Leaving leftovers sitting out on the counter signals “eat me.” It is so hard to resist temptation when food is just sitting around. Why tempt yourself?

8. To thyself be true.

It is so important to know yourself and recognize what works — and what doesn’t work — for you. I’ve counseled many different types of clients over the years, and some need an after dinner-treat while others end up overeating if they have one small cookie or piece of chocolate. In an email, Gretchen wrote me the following: “My sister’s Kryptonite is French fries, so she gave them up altogether — that was easier for her. But some people feel rebellious if they can’t have that one square of chocolate every day, and if that describes you, keep a chocolate bar in your desk drawer.”

So, take some time to reflect on what you like and on what works for you.

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