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Jan. 9

14 small and simple steps to be healthier in 2018

It is now a full week into the new year, a time full of promises and hope. Whether you want to lose weight, get in shape, or just be a bit healthier this year, small and simple steps can help you to improve your well being. As a nutritionist, I help people develop healthy habits and make better food choices. I tend to be more of a fan of taking small actionable steps to improve your health than I am of making resolutions which we often never act on.

As 2017 came to an end and 2018 just began, now is a great time to assess our lifestyle, diet, and habits, and consider the tweaks we can take that could improve our health and nutrition. While no one magic pill, food, or exercise can make you healthier, these small and simple steps can certainly help get you there.

Here, I share some of my favorites.

1. Be thankful.

Before you can resolve to be healthier and eat better, it’s so important to get your head in the right place and focus on being positive. The best place to start is by expressing your gratitude for the good in your life. To get you started, jot down 5 things you are grateful for each day.

2. Get fresh air.

Whether you live in a sunny warm climate or it’s cold and cloudy, get outside. While you may not be able to do a full workout outdoors, take a walk around the block and be one with nature. It boosts your mood and helps get you going.

3. Enjoy a berry parfait.

Whether or not it is healthier to eat breakfast first thing in the morning is still a topic of debate. I advocate starting your day with something healthy even if it’s not first thing in the morning. I recommend choosing a healthy protein, whether it’s eggs, yogurt, or nut butter and adding a fresh fruit or a whole grain. If you don’t like to eat a big meal in the morning, make a yogurt parfait—Greek yogurt, your favorite berries, and a sprinkling of walnuts and flax-seeds.

4. Prep in advance.

As a clinician for over 20 years, my most successful clients planned their meals and prepped in advance. A few simple tips: always keep a variety of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables on hand and stock your pantry with healthy choices including nuts, olive oil, beans, legumes, and whole grains.

5. Try something new.

Whether you decide try a new food (after all, there’s got to be a veggie you haven’t yet tried!), do a different workout, take a class, or travel a different route to work, changing things up gets you out of a rut. It gets you off to a fresh new start and the change is good for your brain too.

6. Be wise about portion size.  

Watching your portion size is by far the best way to watch calories without having to actually count them. Aim for approximately 4 ounces fish or poultry (a little larger than deck of cards or your palm). As for a healthy starch such as quinoa or brown rice, you do not need to skip it. Stick with a cup’s worth (your fist) as a side dish. And enjoy fresh fruits and veggies in unlimited portions. No one I know got fat from eating too many carrots or bananas.

7. Move daily.

Being active has been shown to have many health benefits, both physically and mentally. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, it improves your mood and outlook, lowers your heart rate and is good for your bones and your brain. Pick an exercise you enjoy and stick to it. Just don’t forget to breathe!

8. Eat a salad.

Eating salad may be one of the healthiest eating habits you can adopt today. Eating salads are a great way to get in a few servings of fruits and vegetables. They are packed with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They also fill you up so you eat less of the wrong stuff. Try mixing up your assortment of fruits and veggies to vary your nutrients.

9. Go fishing.

Fish is among the healthiest foods. It is full of nutrients, including protein and vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon is also one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for brain and heart health. Include fish in your diet at least twice a week.

10. Snack smart.

Enjoying a healthy snack between meals is a great way to prevent you from being hungry and then overeating it later. My favorite snacks include an apple or pear with nut butter, cut up vegetables with hummus, a handful of nuts and berries, or 1/3 avocado with whole grain crackers. And, as I tell my clients eat before you eat! Having a light snack before heading out to dinner will help you eat less.

11. Write it down.

Keeping a food diary is a great to track your food intake. It helps to keep you accountable as well as identify your triggers and weaknesses. You can keep a food journal or you can use an app. Choose the method that is less cumbersome for you. Keep track of what you eat, how much, as well as how the food is prepared.

12. Cook more.

Home-cooked food tends to be healthier than restaurant and store bought food, containing fewer calories and less fat, sugar, and salt. If you eat out most nights of the week (and that includes ordering in!) , tweak your routine by eating home a few nights. If you don’t cook regularly, you may think you don’t know how, but give it a try and experiment your mom’s favorite recipes.

13. Souper-size it!

I am a huge fan of eating soup either as a snack or as a n appetizer. What I like most about including soups in your diet is that they are filling and often times, you get to eat a large portion without too many calories. Perfect for volume lovers! In fact, people who eat a large vegetable-based soup as an appetizer often end up eating fewer calories at the rest of the meal. My favorites — minestrone, tomato kale, lentil soup, and white bean. Several caveats: skip the cream soups and go easy on salt.

14. Say no to liquid candy.

Liquid candy is a term used for soda, sweetened iced tea, fruit punch and the like. Not only do sugary beverages contain unnecessary calories, (all from added sugars!), you often don’t even realize you are getting any calories at all, and you often eat a not so healthy snack with it. A triple wammy! Drink water instead. Sparkling water is great too. And feel free to add lemon, cucumber, sliced apple or mint leaves for added flavor.

Happy New Year. Here’s to a healthy year and to 365 days of endless possibilities.

We’d love to hear your favorite New Year’s hacks.

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Dec. 18

Eat, drink, and be healthy this holiday season.

Below is my blog for Huffington Post “Eat, drink, and be healthy this holiday season.” You can also read it here. 

Photo credit: Liz Chibnik Rosenblatt

‘Tis the season for parties, family festivities, office goodies, and holiday cheer. With food playing center stage for so many of us, we shouldn’t allow it to get the best of us.

I’ve always advocated for participating in holiday events instead of abstaining. While it can often feel difficult to enjoy the holidays without gaining weight, I believe that you can partake in festivities and enjoy some of your holiday favorites without derailing your diet and your health.

Here are ten of my favorite holiday hacks to make this your healthiest holiday season ever.

1. Don’t diet.

I am always impressed when a new client comes to see me for nutrition counseling during the holiday season. If she/he is looking to lose weight, my typical response is: let’s focus on maintenance during the holidays and we can begin to work on losing weight after the holidays.

Whether you celebrate Chanukah or Christmas, holidays are holidays, and each one comes with food rituals which are OK to partake in. Of course, not in excess.

2. Stick to a routine.

One of the best ways to deal with the holiday festivities is to stick to a regular eating and exercise routine as best as possible. While it may be difficult to stick to a routine on some days, accept it, and try sticking to your routine on most days. For me, that means taking a vinyasa yoga class or swimming while choosing healthy foods most of the time. I do, however, always leave some wiggle room for my favorite holiday treats (yes, I love apple cobbler!) which I enjoy in thoughtful portions.

3. Plan for a treat.

Yes, you can enjoy holiday food, be it potato latkes for Chanukah or eggnog for Christmas. The trick: legalize it and incorporated it into your plan. My clients do much better when they allow themselves to enjoy a treat without fretting. The caveat: choose one favorite indulgence per meal and eat well the rest of the time.

4. Choose red.

Red is a festive color, so why not eat off of red plates this holiday season. Research found that people ate less snack food when eating off of a red plate than from a blue or white one. Thirsty? Similar results were found for beverages. Participants drank less from a red cup than from a blue cup. If you are the host, why not give it a try! The authors suggest that the color red may work as a subtle stop signal (like a red traffic light) which may guide us to reduce our intake.

5. Eat more, weigh less.

Good news if you are a volume lover. As I referred to them in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, volume eaters like a large portion of food. A solution: fill up on fruits and veggies which tend to be fairly low in calories (while also being nutritious.) Good options include berries, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli, and tomato- or broth-based soups. Begin your meal with a large salad. Just ask for the dressing on the side. This is a good message during the holidays and beyond—fill half of your plate with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies. You will never feel deprived.

6. Make your home portion friendly.

While you can’t control the rich holiday foods at a party or the large trays of cookies and candy at the office, you can control what goes on in your home. Remember this mantra—What you have in your house is what you will eat. Fill your home with a large variety of healthy fruits and vegetables, keep single servings of snack foods in the kitchen in case you get the munchies, and eat off of grandma’s smaller dishes. Store cookies in opaque containers and keep a fruit bowl out on the counter. These tips can be truly effective. And skip these portion pitfalls which can easily derail your diet.

7. Do a lap around the buffet.

I’m sure that you attend at least a holiday party or two where the food is served buffet style. At a buffet, scan and plan, instead of just diving in fork first. Check out what foods are being served and decide which options look best to you. Grab a plate and fill it mainly with healthy options (vegetables like crudités and salads, and healthy proteins like beans or grilled fish or chicken) and enjoy a small portion of one or two of your favorite treats. And finally, sit down and enjoy your meal. And, please do not eat standing and do not pick, s you may not even realize that you’ve even eaten.

8. Get social.

Remember why you went to a holiday party in the first place. It probably wasn’t for the food, but rather the good company. Enjoy friends and family and engage with them. Don’t make food the most important part of the gathering. When you arrive at a party, instead of running toward the buffet table, do a lap around and say hi to those around you.

9. Sip smart.

Who doesn’t love an occasional glass of wine at a holiday party? The calories add up quickly when we use oversize goblets, which is the norm these days.

New research from University of Cambridge found that wine glasses today are seven times bigger than they were 300 years ago. YIKES! And you know what that means—we end up drinking more. And, we probably don’t even realize it.

Want a glass of wine without excessive calories? Pour it into a smaller wine glass and you will probably drinking less.

10. Relax!

During the busy holiday season with life moving often at a frenetic pace, it’s good to slow down and chill. Take a yoga or meditation class, listen to your favorite music, or take a bath and drizzle in your favorite aromatherapy oil. A great way to beat stress is to spend some time outside in nature. Even if it’s chilly where you live, bundle up, and go for a walk in the park or a bike ride. There’s always tomorrow!

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy—and healthy—holiday season.

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Nov. 22

Fighting breast cancer one colorful vegetable at a time: a tribute to my grandmother

Below is my blog post “Fighting breast cancer one colorful vegetable at a time: a tribute to my grandmother.”

You  can also read it on Huffington Post HERE.

I first got interested in nutrition many years ago. While hardly as popular a field back then as it is today, my love of nutrition, the field which ultimately became my profession, was due, to a large extent, on my close bond with my beloved grandmother.

Grandma Ceil, as she was known to our family, was a fighter and a powerhouse. She was diagnosed with breast cancer (which no one ever talked about) around 1970, while in her 50s. An avid cook and baker, grandma loved to eat. And her love of food (not always the right ones!) showed on her waistline.

Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, while undergoing treatment, my grandmother became fascinated with nutrition and its relationship to health. So much so that she began practicing and preaching healthy eating to us.

Grandma Ceil lived with cancer for over 20 years and throughout her lifetime with us (she lived a full life till the age of 80), she was vibrant, upbeat, and never missed a family outing. She also made a point at talking to anyone who would listen (that meant me) about the latest nutrition information she had just received from the numerous health organizations she was contacting to find out more about diet and health.

Over the years, my grandmother’s preaching had a profound influence on me. So much so that I’ve spent a good part of my career educating and counseling individuals and families on healthy eating and disease prevention. Below I share some simple guidelines we can follow to help protect us from breast cancer.

First, I must preface by saying that preventing breast cancer, or any other cancer for that matter, is not an exact science. One can follow a super healthy eating and lifestyle program and still get breast cancer. (In fact one out of eight women will be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime. And not all have poor health habits.) We now know, however, that the following lifestyle factors can help prevent breast cancer throughout one’s life—and also improve health outcomes for breast cancer survivors. (There are currently more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the US!) So it’s not too late to start adopting them now.

1. Load up on colorful fruits and vegetables.

Lots of evidence exists that eating colorful vegetables—think red peppers, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, cauliflower, blueberries, tomatoes—is very helpful in reducing the risk for breast cancer. Colorful vegetables are rich in antioxidants including vitamin C, beta carotene, lycopene, and flavonoids and contain protective properties to fight cancer. These vegetables are also high in fiber and low in calories which can help keep your waistline in check, also important. The different colors often contain different nutrients so it’s best to eat the rainbow, so to speak. And don’t be afraid to vary it up and try a new fruit or veggie. You just may like it.

2. Watch your weight—and your waist.

Maintaining a healthy weight is super important in protecting against breast cancer. Where you keep your excess weight also matters. Excess fat around the mid-line (think apple-shaped) is associated with increased estrogen levels—which could set the stage for breast cells to mutate and ultimately become cancerous. So be sure to keep your weight—and your waist— in check with a healthy diet and exercise program.

3. Adopt the Mediterranean way.

Recent research published in JAMA Internal Medicine and The International Journal of Cancer found that adopting a Mediterranean diet—rich in whole grains, olive oil, nuts and legumes, fruits and vegetables—-may prevent breast cancer. It’s no surprise as the Mediterranean diet is a healthy lifestyle diet not only rich in colorful produce and healthy grains but is also low in meat, fried foods, and processed foods. Because managing weight is also an important factor to help fight breast cancer, before pouring the olive oil onto your salad and adding nuts as a snack, be sure to nix the cheese, croutons, butter, and fried foods. And, do watch your olive oil portion as the calories add up quickly (1 tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories).

4. Get moving today.

All types of exercise reduces a woman’s risk for breast cancer so choose one you enjoy and are likely to stick with. Aim for about 30 minutes a day at least four to five days a week. No excuses. Moderately intense activity including brisk walking (not window shopping!) and yoga counts as does more vigorous exercise including running and cycling. What matters most is that you keep moving.

For healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.

5. Don’t over pour…

…I am referring to alcohol, not water. While you may have heard that a glass of wine is protective against heart disease (although I don’t know anyone who got heart disease from a deficiency of alcohol!)) , that same drink (any kind of alcohol) may increase your breast cancer risk. And research shows that moderate drinking —just one drink a day for women—increases the risk.

So if you enjoy a drink, choose it wisely, on occasion, and don’t over pour. And even though wine goblets have increased in size, your drink should still be 5 oz.

6. Cook more.

Research shows that people who cook at home eat healthier and also manage their weight better than those who eat out (or order in) most meals. Home cooked meals are associated with diets lower in calories, sugar and fat, These are great for fighting breast cancer.

Finally, when going food shopping, try keeping the canned foods (canned soups, canned mushrooms) and foods and drinks which come in plastic containers (water bottles, juice containers) on the shelf. Stanford research confirmed a link between canned food and exposure to the hormone-disrupting chemical known as Bisphenol A, or BPA. While it may be difficult to avoid all canned foods and plastic products, try to use as little as possible. And, if you do buy such products, choose brands that are BPA free.

While we can’t change our age, gender, and genetics, it is estimated that healthy lifestyle practices such as I discuss above can help to reduce a woman’s breast cancer risk by about one-third. That would translate to 100,000 US women every year.

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Nov. 20

A city gal’s adventures on a rice farm

As a nutritionist, from time to time, I get invited on press tours for various foods or brands. If the food is healthy, and I recommend it to clients, I try to attend, provided my schedule permits. We learn so many interesting things about the products, while also getting to experience nature and see how they are grown (one of my favorite pastimes as a NYC gal.)

This tour was a Harvest rice tour hosted by Lundberg Family Farms in Richvale California to learn about how rice is grown, harvested, and more. When I mentioned to some of my NYC colleagues that I was going to a rice farm, their response, a rice Farm? Will there be cows?

My answer, yes and no. Yes, a rice farm, and no there will not be cows. Not all farms have cows!!

My experience was terrific. I drove on a rice harvester (a John Deer combine) and spent time with Grant (CEO), Bryce (VP agriculture), and Jessica (VP Human Resources and director of the Nursery) learning about rice and the Lundberg family traditions. We even saw rice cakes being made which was cool. And all of our meals contained Lundberg rice ingredients!

Lundberg Family Farms is a family-owned and operated business committed to producing great tasting rice while also supporting eco-positive farming methods. The company was founded in 1937 when Albert and Frances Lundberg moved to California from Nebraska. In the 1960’s, Albert and Frances’s four sons, decided to sell the rice they were growing directly to the public as it was grown so differently from conventional rice. Now, 80 years later, the third generation Lundberg family members with the help of their children (fourth generation farmers) are carrying the family tradition.  They are all about sustainable agriculture and have a no-waste policy. They don’t even discard the broken rice cakes; they feed them to the animals.

Being very close with my family, I loved seeing the cousins’ work together and care so much about the integrity of their brand.

 

Now, let’s talk rice nutrition (since I am a registered dietitian nutritionist). Here are 6 facts to know.

1.Rice is a member of the grain family. A ½ cup (cooked) serving of rice naturally contains 80-100 calories, mostly in the form of carbohydrates, with a few grams of protein and very little fat (unless added).

2. The healthiest rice to include are whole grain varieties which contain fiber, a carbohydrate that promotes a healthy colon, keeps you regular, and prevents some chronic disease. Choose brown rice instead of white rice.

3. While on the Farm, we learned that Lundberg produces 17 varieties of rice, of varying colors, blends, and grain type (long, short)! You can have more than brown rice to get your fiber fix! Wild rice, black rice, and red rice are also whole grains! My favorite: the wild blend rice—a mixture of brown rice and wild rice.

4. Whole grain rice is also rich in vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, and selenium.

5. Rice is gluten free and can be eaten for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.

6. Contrary to some opinions (Paleo and keto lovers!) that starch and grains should be omitted on a weight loss diet, whole grain rice along with other whole grains (quinoa, soba noodles, oatmeal, kasha) are not fattening and are a healthy addition to a weight loss program in thoughtful portions.

Have a very rice day!

 

 

 

Disclosure: I was not paid for this post or asked to write it. I was, however, invited on a Harvest Tour along with other media foodies, complements of the Lundberg Family Farms. The opinions are my own.  

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Sep. 26

Enjoy these 5 whole grains for better health

Below is my post for Huffington Post: “Enjoy these 5 whole grains for better health”

You can also read it HERE.

September is back to school time and the start of the fall season. It is also Whole Grains Month and there’s lots of reason to celebrate. Including whole grains in your diet is a great way to boost nutrient intake. Whole grains are packed with vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, and protective phytonutrients. Research shows that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers.

Including whole grains in your diet can also help with weight loss despite the Paleo movement and low-carb enthusiasts who shun even the healthiest of grains. Whole grains are actually relatively low in calories (approximately 80-100 calories per ½ cup serving) and are also rich in fiber which helps you feel full (and, therefore, stop eating!)

Despite the health benefits of whole grains, and the recommendations to eat at least half of your grains as whole grains (3 whole grain servings daily for a 2000 calorie diet), most Americans eat fewer than one serving per day. And, instead, we fill up on refined grains (yes, white bread products) which are devoid of fiber and other important nutrients.

Next time you decide which starchy carbohydrate to eat, I suggest you skip the white pasta and white rice and include healthy grains instead: brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, kasha, farro, whole corn, millet, whole wheat pasta, and kamut to name a few. If you happen to be following a gluten-free diet, no problem, as many terrific and versatile grains are now readily available on the market.

These healthy and tasty whole grains are worth placing at the top of your shopping list.

Quinoa

Quinoa, technically a seed and not a grain, is a nutrition treasure and has a protein content that is superior to that of most grains, because it contains all the essential amino acids. It is high in the amino acid lysine, which is important for tissue growth and repair. It is also rich in the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and copper, and a great choice if you are eating a gluten-free diet. Quinoa is also high in the antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol which are thought to protect against a range of chronic diseases. And it contains 5 grams of fiber per one cup serving. It is also versatile and can be added to salads, veggie burgers and chili. And, it is gluten free.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat brought to America by Russian and Polish immigrants who called it “kasha,” is a good source of the minerals manganese, magnesium, and zinc, as well as flavonoids like quercetin and rutin, which contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. A great choice for those following a gluten-free diet, one cup of cooked kasha contains five grams of fiber.

Growing up, my grandmother used to make kasha varnishkes — kasha, bow tie noodles, onions and fat. This version is not gluten free unless you use gluten free noodles. Unless it’s a nostalgic occasion, for a healthier version, I suggest sticking with the kasha and skipping the bow tie noodles.

Whole corn

Fresh corn on the cob. Popcorn. Corn cakes. Polenta. Yes, corn is a whole grain and can be extremely healthy for you when it’s whole. A good source of B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus, whole corn is high in fiber and gluten free. Contrary to popular belief, whole corn is not high in calories; a corn on the cob contains around 100 calories. Yellow corn is also high in antioxidants. One of my summer favorites: fresh corn on the cob from the Farmer’s market.

Oats

Enjoying oatmeal for breakfast is one of the most common ways to eat oats. Not only does it taste delicious, it is also filling, chock full of fiber, and lower in calories and sugar than many breakfast cereals. Oat bran is particularly high in the soluble fiber β-glucan which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, making it a great choice to prevent heart disease. Oats also contains magnesium and potassium, two minerals also good for your heart.

Farro

Farro is an ancient wheat grain that originated in Mesopotamia. Though we refer to farro as if it were one just grain, the term is Italian for “ancient wheat grain” and is often used to describe three different grains: farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer), and farro grande (spelt). Emmer wheat is the kind that is most commonly found in the U.S and Europe and it is sometimes confused with spelt, an entirely different type of grain.

Farro has a nutty flavor and a chewy texture and is a healthy alternative to popular grains, such as rice and quinoa. It is yummy as an ingredient in stews, salads and soups. It is very nutritious, rich in protein and fiber, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and antioxidants. Best to choose whole farro as opposed to the pearled variety.

 

Next time you have the urge to include refined white products at your next meal or skip the grain family altogether, think again and include these super foods on your plate. Here’s your permission slip to eat more carbs…the healthy way.

Want recipes, tips, and ideas on how to prepare whole grains? We’ve got you covered.

The Oldways Whole Grain Council (WGC) offers recipes and tip sheets on preparing whole grains.

No time to cook? No problem! My nutrition colleague, Ellie Krieger, award winning author, and producer and host of the cooking series “Ellie’s Real Good Food,” rounds up some new products that make whole grains a cinch to prepare.

Want to wake up with whole grains tomorrow morning? This expert roundup (me included) offers unique and novel ways to incorporate whole grains in to your breakfast routine.

Here’s to a healthy fall.

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Aug. 15

8 portion-control hacks that really work.

Below is my blog post for HufPost “8 portion-control hacks that really work.”

You can also read it here.

photo credit: Oleksandra Naumeko/Bigstock.com

As a nutritionist and portion-size researcher, I’ve helped thousands of clients slim down while eating foods they love with my “Portion Teller”program. My philosophy is simple. All foods are allowed—-some in unlimited amounts (non-starchy vegetables and fruits), some in moderate portions (whole grains, dairy, and healthy fats) and others in small portions (alcohol and sweets). To lose weight, it is necessary to eat fewer calories than you burn.

So where does portion-control fit in?

When you eat less, you take in fewer calories. However, as a portion-size researcher and clinician, the term “portion-control” doesn’t mean eating tiny portions. In fact a dieter’s worst enemy is staring at a half empty plate and being hungry—and hangry!—all the time. The key to successful weight loss is being able to distinguish between which foods you can eat plentifully and which foods you do really need to watch. It also means being able to correctly estimate how much you should be eating (and are actually eating) so that you can stick with a healthy food plan. And certain practices also make it easier to control your portions.

Below are my tips and tricks to helping you manage your portions while shedding a few pounds along the way without feeling in the least bit deprived.

1. Load up on colorful fruits and veggies.

I’ve said this before. No one got fat eating fruits and vegetables. While a banana may have more calories than a cup of cantaloupe, enjoying a banana will not make you fat. Similarly, while a cup of carrots contains more calories than a cup of lettuce, this orange sweet-tasting veggie will not fatten you up. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber and water helping you to feel full while also giving your body vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants good for your health.

Size it up: Fill half of your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal. Practicing portion control will feel a whole lot simpler.

2. Mix and match.

To practice portion-control effectively, you do not want to feel hungry. To avoid such feelings, I suggest eating foods that contain nutrients that promote feelings of fullness. Protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats do the trick. Therefore at each meal, try “mixing and matching:” eating a combination of foods to keep you satiated. Include protein-rich foods such as fish, chicken, eggs, beans, and grass-fed beef; fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains (brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa); and a sprinkling of healthy fats including olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.

Size it up: A yummy—and filling—dinner includes grilled salmon, roasted asparagus and cauliflower, and cup of quinoa.

3. Smartsize your dishes (and your spoons!).

Considerable research has shown that the size of our plates, bowls and even utensils (yes, spoons!) can play a major role in the amount of food we eat. The larger the plate the more we serve ourselves and tend to eat.

Eating off of a larger plate can actually be a good strategy for salads and veggies that we want to eat more of. And not all portion-control strategies are about eating less. However, for a pasta meal, I’d certainly suggest downsizing your bowl.

Spoon sizes and drinking glasses make a difference too!

In a study by Cornell researchers, nutrition experts given a larger bowl served themselves 31.0% more without even noticing. And, when given a larger serving spoon, their servings increased by 14.5%. And these are experts! Imagine how food novices would respond.

University of Cambridge researchers reported that people drank more wine when their glass was bigger. A larger wine glass may change our perception of how much wine constitutes a portion, perhaps leading us to drink faster and to order more.

Size it up: Want to enjoy an ice cream treat in the dog days of summer? Use a small bowl and a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon.

4. Make a fist and use your hand as a portion guide.

When you go out to eat, which Americans do quite often these days, you’re not likely to bring along a food scale and measuring cups but you always have your hand.

Since so many of us overdo our starch portion (think rice, pasta, and potato), I advise clients to make a fist and enjoy a healthy 1-cup portion instead of banning starch altogether.

This method is not an exact science (after all, we all have different size hands) but it sure does come in handy.

• a fist = 1 cup of rice, pasta, cereal

• palm of your hand = 3 ounces of poultry or meat

• 2 fingers (a peace sign) = 2 ounce of cheese

• bent thumb joint = 1 tablespoon of oil or peanut butter

Size it up: Want to include an occasional serving of red meat in your diet, without overdoing it? Think a palm’s worth. And, add lots of colorful veggies to round out your plate.

5. Don’t leave home without your checkbook and dental floss.

Visualizing everyday objects can also be a great way to estimate serving sizes. Check out these familiar items to help keep your portions in check. For additional visuals, check out my book The Portion Teller Plan.

• baseball = 1 cup of starch (rice, pasta, potatoes)

• deck of cards = 3-4 ounces of poultry or meat

• checkbook = 4 ounces white fish

• shot glass = 2 tablespoons oil or salad dressing

• package of dental floss = 1 ounce of a treat: a cookie or piece of chocolate

Size it up: No need to ban healthy grains from your dinner plate. Fill half of your plate with your favorite veggies, a quarter of the plate healthy protein (1-2 decks of cards) and the other quarter (think one baseball’s worth!) with healthy grain such as wild rice, whole wheat pasta, or whole sorghum.

6. Indulge, once in a while

As I tell my weight-loss clients, it is OK to include a daily treat to keep you from feeling deprived and to make your eating plan enjoyable. This practice makes it easier to practice portion-control and stick to a healthy food plan for the long term.

Size it up: Enjoy an occasional glass of wine with dinner or a cookie for dessert. Include a large bowl of mixed berries too!

7. Stock up on baggies and small containers.

comprehensive report from researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), University of Cambridge confirmed that larger portions and packages contribute to overeating. We tend to eat more when our food packages are bigger! And, we do not even feel more full.

Instead of surrounding ourselves with temptation, I suggest buying single-serving packages or pre-portioning your favorite snacks and putting them into baggies which you can grab when you are hungry.

Size it up: Keep small containers handy too so you can store leftovers in perfect portions.

8. Slow down, you move too fast…

Yes, this brilliant phrase comes from the lyrics of the popular Simon and Garfunkel song, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling’ Groovy). Here’s my food spin on it. When you eat slowly, you tend to be more mindful, and are more in tune with your body’s needs. You also end up eating less! A win-win!

Size it up: Savor your meal, enjoy your dining companion, and breathe in between bites.

I offer more portion hacks here and here.

We’d love to hear about your favorite portion tricks.

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Jul. 4

5 patriotic hacks to try this 4th of July. They are healthy too!

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post,  “5 patriotic hacks to try this 4th of July. They are healthy too!”

You can also read it HERE.

July 4th marks the official start of summer and a time for celebration—with family, friends, and of course, food. It does not, however, have to be a time for weight gain. First off, what you do every day (think portion control, more fruits and veggies, less junk food, exercise) is more important than what you do on just one day of the year (think July 4th, Thanksgiving, Halloween).

With that said, you can enjoy a summer barbecue with loved ones while also enjoying summer favorites, and still come out healthy and, perhaps, even down a pound or two! Let’s face it, it’s hard to have a holiday party without eating, but these simple hacks will help you eat less and stay on track.

Eat off of red plates.

This is the perfect trick to try this holiday. Researchers from the University of Parma, Italy, conducted a study that found that eating off of red plates reduced portion sizes. While the authors conclusion states, “Although the origin of the intriguing effect of the color red on consumption remains unclear, our results may prove useful to future potential explanations,” it can’t hurt to give it a try!

And, while you’re at it, use a patriotic tablecloth as well.

Choose a patriotic—and healthy—breakfast.

In my nutrition counseling practice, I recommend that clients eat a healthy breakfast to prevent hunger later on. If you are not a breakfast eater, no problem; it’s OK to keep it light and to eat something mid-morning instead.

Eating something healthy before heading out to a summer barbecue is one of the best ways to avoid overeating. Not only do I recommend this to my clients, but I practice it religiously.

Here’s a healthy patriotic choice to enjoy this July 4th (and all summer long): a low-fat yogurt topped with blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and red raspberries; include at least one blue and one red fruit. And in celebration of the holiday, top it with a sprinkle or two (1-2 teaspoons) of unsweetened coconut flakes.

Infuse your water to stay hydrated.

While we know we should drink more water to stay hydrated, easier said than done. especially if you are bored with the taste of plain water. Here are some tricks to try this Independence Day. Choose sparkling water or water and add fruit. Think red, white and blue this holiday!

I love adding watermelon cubes into my water or making ice cubes from the juice of watermelon. Another option is to throw in fresh or frozen blueberries, blackberries, red grapes, red raspberries, strawberries, or cubes of apple and pear (not exactly white, but close enough!).

Enjoy a (small) glass of sangria or red wine.

While it’s OK to enjoy a glass of wine or sangria, drink it out of a small glass. University of Cambridge researchers found that the larger the wine glass, the more people drink. This makes perfect size, as larger plates, bowls, and spoons, also lead to overeating.

To help keep your portion sizes in check, as I suggest in my book, The Portion Teller Plan, eat off of smaller plates, use smaller cutlery, and drink from a smaller glass this 4th of July holiday! Your waist will thank you.

Choose watermelon for dessert.

While your festivities will likely end with some sweet stuff—ice cream and cookies—with a little luck, it may often end with healthy watermelon slices as well. Watermelon is a delicious fruit, which will not only quench your thirst; it will also give you a boost of antioxidants (think lycopene!) And, remember, no one got fat eating watermelon, or any other melon for that matter, so please don’t skip this sweet tasting fruit. If you are not sure your guests will serve watermelon, offer to bring it along.

Here’s to a terrific—and nutritious—summer!

We’d love to hear your healthy summer hacks.
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May. 22

11 tips to make your grocery trip a whole lot healthier

Below is my post for Huffington Post, “11 tips to make your grocery trip a whole lot healthier.”

You can also read it here.

One of the best ways to practice healthy eating is to surround yourself with a variety of nutritious foods. Having spent a good part of my career helping clients get healthier, one of the first things we discuss is food shopping. If you buy healthy foods and ingredients, you will cook with them and eat them. If you bring lots of junk food into the house, guess what? That’s what you’ll eat.

Making smart choices in the grocery store really is the key to good nutrition, at least when eating at home. While some people love grocery shopping (I do and love seeing the new products!), others see it as an onerous chore. Picking up a few simple shopping tips, however, can make your trip to the market much healthier.

1. Shop from a list.

Before heading out to the supermarket, plan ahead, and take stock of what ingredients you need to prepare healthy meals and snacks for the week. You can keep a paper shopping list or keep a running list on your phone so you know you won’t forget it. You can also download your favorite smartphone app.

2. Enlist your family.

To be sure your family will want to eat what you serve, get them involved in the preparation, and ask them if there’s anything special they want around the house; keep it healthy, of course. This will help them feel like they are part of a team.

3. Don’t shop when hungry.

When you shop on an empty stomach, you tend to fill up on impulse purchases which are generally unhealthy. Eat a light meal or snack before heading to the market and you are more likely to skip to junk and shop from your list. This really does make all the difference.

4. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store first.

This is where you are likely to find healthy foods such as produce. Start by filling your cart with colorful fresh fruits and vegetables. This will set you up for healthy shopping habits for the remainder of your trip. Avoid the center aisles where the junk foods lurk; skip that section entirely or save it for last.

5. Choose the rainbow.

The different colors of the rainbow reflect the different vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Red produce, including tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruits, tend to be rich in the antioxidant lycopene while orange produce, including carrots and cantaloupe, tend to be high in the antioxidant beta carotene. Go for color, including white (think cauliflower, onions)

Considering organic produce? Check out the Environmental Working Group for a list of the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15. The dirty dozen, including strawberries, spinach, and apples, are the produce with highest levels of pesticides so you may want to purchase these in organic varieties.

In addition to healthy produce, fill your cart with healthy foods from the various food groups: whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, beans, legumes, nuts, and lean meats, and healthy oils such as extra virgin olive oil.

7. Choose packaged foods with a short ingredient list.

Choose minimally processed foods without lots of added sugar and salt. Choose foods that contain five ingredients or less and skip foods containing artificial ingredients, additives, and ingredients you can hardly pronounce. Frozen fruits and vegetables with nothing added are also great options to add to your shopping cart if you live alone and are worried your produce may go bad.

8. Don’t be fooled.

Read packaged food labels including the product’s ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance by weight so the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first. Review the serving size and the calories per serving. And check the sugar and sodium content.

Hopefully by next summer, (if the release new food labels are not delayed), you will be able to clearly see the calories and serving-size information along with a product’s “added sugars” on the package label.

For the time being, check out the sugars section and read the ingredient list for the added sugars (look for terms including sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, honey, corn syrup).

And, as I wrote here, don’t be fooled by certain terms which give off the impression that a food is healthier than it really is: multigrain, fat-free, and gluten-free. Gluten-free cookies are still cookies.

9. Don’t buy in bulk.

Stocking up on paper towels can be a good idea (if you have the storage space) and save you money, but buying food in oversize packages will probably cost you lots of calories. We tend to eat more food from large packages and we usually do not even realize it so I don’t suggest stocking up on jumbo packages of nuts, cereal, chips, and crackers. Try purchasing snack foods in single servings; it will help you eat less. If you must buy in bulk, stock up on small baggies too—and divide and conquer!

10. Try a new food.

Be adventurous; aim to try a new fruit or vegetable each week. There are also so many yummy whole grains besides the usual whole wheat breads and cereals. Try Ezekiel bread, amaranth, spelt, quinoa, and Bulgar. Try soba noodles or chick pea pasta instead of whole wheat pasta for a change. Variety really is the spice of life.

11. Yes, make room for a treat.

I am not a fan of deprivation, so I do think it’s ok to buy and enjoy an occasional treat. If you are buying a treat food for the family, follow the rule of ONE: bring one fun food into the house at a time. Want to splurge on ice cream? Stick to just one flavor. The more flavors you have around the house, the more you will end up eating. Stick to a portion-controlled amount and choose a splurge you love. And, there are certain foods you may not want to even bring into the house if you know you will be tempted to overeat.

Enjoy!

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Apr. 9

Spring clean your diet with these 6 easy tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “Spring clean your diet with these 6 easy tips.”

You can also read it HERE.

Spring is in the air. I love to be outdoors and listen to the birds chirping. With springtime comes decluttering; we clear out our winter sweaters and boots in exchange for spring dresses and sandals. With daylight savings time upon us, we can spend more time outdoors, which can boost our moods and also enable us to exercise outdoors while also being one with nature. Spring is also time for renewal and rejuvenation with the smell of flowers in bloom. As the season changes, since I am a nutritionist, I love to focus on helping others take on some new healthy rituals too.

Here are my top tips to help you recharge this spring. I hope you can give them a try, if you are not already practicing them.

1. Cook more.

You gain so many benefits when you cook at home. First off, home cooked meals are healthier and contain fewer calories than those eaten away from home. Research recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that eating out frequently was associated with a lower diet quality and more ‘empty calories’ as compared to cooking at home.

When we cook and measure out ingredients, we tend to become better at estimating portion sizes, which I promise you, will help you slim down. Cooking is also a great way to bond with family and friends. While eating out is lots of fun and very social, (and it’s always great to try new foods!), try to eat at least a few meals at home each week. It will help both you wallet—and you waist. If you don’t know how to cook, take a cooking class or turn on your TV; there are many shows which teach you how to prepare healthy foods.

2. Try a new food.

We often associate a new season with newness-new things (new shoes or clothes (for the current season), new habits, new rituals. How about trying a new food you haven’t yet tried. Give it a go. Whether you decide to make it at home or enjoy it while eating out, go for it. My tip: keep it healthy. Perhaps let’s start with visiting your local farmer’s market and trying a new seasonal fruit or vegetable to add to your diet. There’s got to be a fruit or veggie you haven’t yet tried and may really end up loving!

3. Spring clean your kitchen.

One of the best ways to get your diet in order is to de-clutter your kitchen and keep healthy foods around. Get rid of most of the junk and keep healthy foods at arms reach. As I wrote here, put out a fruit platter, keep the breakfast cereal stashed away in the cabinet, and keep healthy foods in the front of the fridge where you can easily see them. I love keeping assorted berries in a bowl as well as baby carrots and red peppers easily accessible. It is also best to store goodies like cookies in an opaque container so that they are not as tempting.

4. Eat the rainbow.

Besides helping us feel fuller on fewer calories, eating a colorful diet high in fruits and vegetables (both fresh and frozen) can give your diet a boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber which cut your risk of chronic disease and help fight aging. Eating the rainbow and choosing a colorful assortment of produce is best, as different health benefits exist from the different color spectrum.

I often counsel families and like to choose a “color of the week” where we incorporate produce of that color into the diet. For example, the color red is the “R” of the rainbow (remember the acronym “ROY G BIV”!). Let’s think of a bunch of healthy red foods and try including them into the diet this week—pink grapefruit, tomatoes, red raspberries, strawberries, and red peppers. Next week, think of the orange color scheme for “O” and all the healthy orange foods—orange, carrots, cantaloupe… It’s a lot of fun and helps to incorporate a lot of colorful produce. And guess what? Even white colored produce have lots of health benefits: think cauliflower and white onions!

5. Get outdoors.

This is a great season to get outside and play. Go for along walk with your dog, go for a run or a bike ride, or enjoy a structured hike. It stays light outside for longer this season so you can take advantage and exercise outdoors after work. Being one with nature is also so good for the soul, helps improve mood, and helps you feel centered.

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude leads better sleep, improved mood, better self esteem, better resiliency, and stronger relationships. Research has found that cultivating gratitude leads to better psychological and physical health. One ritual that I practice myself daily (almost!) is to write down 5 things I am grateful for each day. While certain things can certainly often be better, we must remember, that they can also be worse. Try looking at your “cup” as half full instead of as half empty. When we appreciate what we have, we also tend to ultimately get more out of life and relationships.

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Mar. 14

Healthy or hype? 5 food label claims that may seduce you to over-eat

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post: “Healthy or hype? 5 food label claims that may seduce you to overeat.” 

You can also read it HERE.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever purchased one food item over another because the nutrient claim on the package gave you the impression that it was the healthier choice? You may have been misled.

Many terms on food labels can confuse even the most educated consumers into thinking that a packaged food product is healthy when in fact, it is anything but healthy.

As I previously wrote, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be giving food labels an overhaul after 30 years (with updated serving sizes, disclosure of added sugar, and more), and even changing the definition of some terms manufacturers can use on labels (including “healthy”), it is still easy to be tricked into thinking a packaged food product is healthier than it really is.

Here are several—often misleading—terms that manufacturers often use on packaged food labels along with my tips on how not to be fooled. Such terms are often “health halos,” giving consumers the impression that the product is healthy thereby encouraging you to eat more than they may ordinarily consume.

1. Multigrain

When shopping for healthy grains, including bread, pasta, and crackers, looks—and words—can be deceiving. A loaf of bread, for example can be flavored with molasses or caramel coloring and have that brown “healthy” look but may not be any healthier than refined white bread. The term multigrain, for example, means that the product must contain two or more grains. But those grains may or may not be healthy whole grains.

Whole grains, including whole wheat breads and pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice contain more nutrients and fiber than refined products which have been stripped away of the bran and germ, the grain’s healthy components. The Dietary Guidelines advises that at least half of our grains be whole grains so read labels carefully.

My tip: When reading food labels, if you want to be assured that your product is healthy, look for the words 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat as opposed to multigrain. And be sure to read the ingredient list which tells a lot. According to FDA, “ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance by weight,” meaning that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first. The ingredient list tells you like it is.

2. Zero trans fat

Trans fat is just about the most unhealthy fat you can have. It is bad for your heart, is generally found in heavily processed foods, and the ideal amount to have is none at all. However, products are allowed to say that they contain “zero trans fats” if one serving contains less than 0.5 grams. This is deceiving because if you eat multiple servings—which so many of us do—the grams of trans fats add up quite easily.

My tip: Read the ingredient list and if “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” is listed, then the product contains trans fats, and I suggest you keep it on the shelf instead of adding it to your grocery cart.

3. Fatfree

The term fat-free can be notoriously misleading. Many products that bear this label are not as healthy as you might think and just because a label says fat-free, it doesn’t mean that the food product is calorie-free and that you can eat as much as you want. Fat-free products often tend to be loaded with sugar and are not healthy at all, despite what many consumers often think.

I’ve had many clients over the years that think they don’t have to pay attention to their portion size of fat free products. However, many fat-free cookies have just as many calories as their full-fat version. And many fat-free versions taste awful and just leave us wanting more.

My tip: Check the label for calorie content, and compare it to the full-fat version. And watch out for the added sugar.

4. Sugarfree

According to FDA, the nutrient claim sugar-free means that a product contains less than 0.5 grams of sugars per serving. These products, however, may still contain calories and carbohydrates from other sources. As many consumers often think, the term sugar-free doesn’t mean the product contains fewer calories than the regular version. Oftentimes, it contains more.

Sugar-free products often contain sugar alcohols such as xylitol, maltitol, or sorbitol which do contain calories (although fewer calories than table sugar) and may also cause stomach discomfort and diarrhea. Therefore, it is very important to practice portion control.

My tip: Compare the labels of the regular and sugar-free version and be sure to check the number of calories as well. And do not eat too much of either version. In fact, the sugar-free version will probably give you a stomach ache if you eat too much.

5. Gluten free

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye and should not be consumed by people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. These days, gluten-free products are very easy to find with the proliferation of new products regularly hitting store shelves.

Gluten-free products, however, are not necessarily any healthier than those with gluten and can often actually be less healthy and contain more sugar and salt, and less fiber.

While gluten-free products are important for those who cannot digest gluten, there is really no advantage for everyone else to buy them. And they certainly will not help you lose weight, unless of course, they are lower in calories than the regular version which is not necessarily the case.

My tip: Read food labels and compare the calories, fiber, sugar, salt, and ingredient list of the gluten-free and regular varieties. And remember gluten-free cookies are still cookies!

One final thought: Before turning to packaged foods, I’d suggest you aim to eat more whole foods—including fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, fresh seafood, and quinoa or brown rice—without fancy packaging and lots of added ingredients.

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